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Home Coming

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It's his worst nightmare come true as he struggles uselessly to help his father. There is blood seeping out of his body and Stiles can only stare in horror. Despair washes trough him and a sudden jolt of utter hate. He wants to scream but his body seizes up so badly, trying too hard to move, that it comes out mostly silent.

Scott and Derek arrive, but it's too late. Too fucking late. 

And then the two of them are gone chasing the Kanima and Matt, not knowing that Stiles has watched everything. That he is still there lying helpless and hidden on the floor and still can't move properly. Mrs. McCall is at his father's side now, performing first aid, crying and whispering, "Come on, Stilinski, come on," in between breaths. 

Stiles somehow knows it's too late, can feel it in his bones. He knows his worst nightmare has just come true. He's killed his father like he killed his mother. His body starts to feel numb again, but this time not from the poison. This time it starts from within, like a slow fire burning him up.

It's only later, after they found him, after Melissa McCall took him to their house instead of his own home, that Scott realizes Stiles has seen it all.

Scott says he is sorry and doesn't know what else to say and Stiles can't bring himself to care or to answer. 

The next days Scott looks guilty and averts his eyes quickly when he looks in Stiles direction. On the first day he only whispers. On the second day he tries to make a small, pointless joke. On the third day he says that he is scared, because his best friend hasn't said a word. Stiles is never quiet, not even in his sleep. Now he is utterly silenced.

Mrs. McCall doesn't talk to her son about what happened either, most of the time avoiding Scott altogether, instead putting all her energy into Stiles. Part of him thinks she uses him as an excuse to not have to interact with her son, but another part knows that she genuinely cares about him.

It's her, too, who takes care of the funeral. She wants him to go, but Stiles doesn't. Can't. It'll just destroy the tiny bit of himself he has still left. He hadn't been able to go to his mother's funeral either, because the mere thought of going had brought on a panic attack. In the end his Dad had agreed to leave him at home, the old lady from next door watching him. She had died too, four years ago, he remembers dimly. 

When Scott wants to stay with him because nothing can make Stiles move out of the house, he pushes him away and storms into the guestroom set up for him. He bangs the door shut, right in Scott's face and locks it. It takes Scott half an hour to realize that his presence is not wanted at all. 

Stiles eats and he sleeps and he dresses himself and helps around the house, all the while not talking and feeling empty, except for the burning feeling of being utterly worthless and the raging hatred that grows with every passing hour.

In his nightmares he watches his father die over and over again, and then starts watching himself tearing into Matt and ripping him apart, tearing out his still beating heart with his bare, human hands.

It should matter that he knows Matt is dead, that he drowned and Stiles can't take his revenge no matter what, but it doesn't. It should quell the urge to kill, but does so only momentarily. Stiles thinks too much and talks too little, his mouth still shut. Mrs. McCall forces him to get professional help but it doesn't help much, he doesn't say a word there either and is given meds he doesn't take. 

When he thinks about Matt and killing him, his thoughts circle to what brought the whole mess on in the first place. Matt using the Kanima for revenge. Jackson turning into the Kanima because Derek bit him. Derek biting Jackson because he was the new Alpha and needed a pack. Derek being the Alpha after killing Peter. Peter who had tried to kill them all because he wanted revenge on Kate Argent. Kate Argent burning down the Hale house and killing almost everyone inside because of the beliefs she was raised with. Gerard Argent raising his daughter to be a monster. It's a chain reaction inside Stiles head and his hatred shifts from Matt to Gerard. But he is still too human, too helpless to do anything.

It's the night of the Lacrosse championship, some time after they found Matt's body, when Peter Hale stands in the McCall's spare bedroom at night. Scott isn't there, neither is Mrs. McCall and Stiles knows that Peter knew that too. They are at the game, Scott because Jackson is playing and Melissa because she finally decided to support her son, and probably because Stiles' silence starts to weigh on her too.

He thinks he should be surprised seeing Peter alive and well, but isn't. For a moment he thinks that he has finally gone mad but deep down he knows he hasn't entirely lost it and that Peter is real.

"Hello Stiles," Peter greets him nonchalantly and smiles pleasantly. Stiles just stares at him, still mute and Peter sighs. "You know, I hoped for... well any reaction at all, I have to admit. Especially from someone who is usually as expressive as you." Stiles stays silent, because there are too many things he wants to say and nothing seems worth breaking his silence for. But he sits up from lying on the bed, eyes fixed on Peter.

Peter quirks his eyebrow at him and keeps talking for the both of them. "You know, after I had to watch my entire family die, I was in a catatonic state. Unable to speak, to move or to do anything, unwilling even. The chance of getting revenge, though, now that enabled me to break the spell, as they say," Peter continues and kneels in front of him looking intensely at him. "Is that what it would take to get you back to talking?" he murmurs.

Stiles takes a shaky breath, head buzzing with questions of why and how, mouth moving, but still no words coming out.

"Do you know why I am here?" Peter asks and Stiles nods and then shakes his head. Because, yes, he knows that Peter is here to offer the bite again and no, he has no idea why Peter would do that, after everything. Killing Stiles for throwing a Molotov cocktail at him seems to be a more logical approach than this.

Peter just hums and takes Stiles' hand, lifting it up gently and moving Stiles' wrist towards his head. "I like you, Stiles. You are clever and resourceful and I think after what you had to witness you might just be a bit more sympathetic towards my own motives," he mutters against Stiles' skin and Stiles can't help but shiver in anticipation at the breath ghosting over his skin.

"You know I need a new pack and I know what you need, what you want, so the question is simple: Yes or no, Stiles?"

Stiles watches in fascination as Peter's fangs come out and he doesn't pull his hand away this time. He licks his lips and finally a word comes out of his mouth.

"Yes."

Peter bites down.

That night Peter doesn't let him take his revenge. Doesn't use him to regain control in Beacon Hills. 

Peter is still weak and no match for either Derek or Gerard and the Kanima. He is, however, still strong enough to make Stiles do what he wants. Stiles learns that one fast. He'll learn how to fight back too, but that almost comes too late. Peter wants to regain his power and return when he is strong enough to reclaim Beacon Hills. He never will. 

After all, why reclaim something that couldn't measure up to the pack and territory he and Stiles created?

 

                                                        

 

Ten Years Later

 

The first thing Stiles did when he came back to Beacon Hills, was to call Scott.

Of course Scott didn't answer.

He could have called before, he had been on the road for two days straight after all, but every time he had tried to make himself dial the number that was still stuck in his head, he had never been able to go through with it. Always thinking that Scott had probably changed it anyway after ten years or perhaps he wouldn't pick up when he saw a number that he didn't know; that perhaps the number Stiles remembered wasn't the right one and he would end up talking to some stranger, or worse someone he did know, and he really wasn't in the mood for that.

In the end though, Stiles knew himself well enough to know that he just hadn't called because he had feared that Scott would pick up, and he really had no idea what to say or how his best friend (former best friend?) would react.

It was really ironic, he mused, how he was afraid of Scott's reaction, when he could face rabid, murderous Alphas and things ten times worse than that without breaking a sweat.

But, well, Scott didn't answer.

His voice-mail however did.

Stiles swallowed and left a message. "Hey Scott, uhh, at least I hope this is still Scott's number, if not, never mind. So yeah, it's me Stiles, hope you remember me, I guess you do though. Listen, I'm sort of coming home, well actually I'm already back in Beacon Hills. I want to – have to talk to you, well...just call me back, okay? Call me back, please."

Smooth, Stiles, smooth, he thought and rolled his shoulders to get some of the tension out of them. Spending several hours non-stop in a car wasn't exactly the most relaxing thing in the world. Being back also didn't help much. At least he was alone for now, so it didn't really matter if he was a bit more clumsy with his words than usual.

Two of the three members from their pack Peter had insisted on sending with him were staying one town over, because Stiles had the distinct feeling that it was better if he showed up alone at first. No need to bring everyone if you weren't even sure there would be a fight. He had already sent Jameson to Beacon Hills beforehand, just in case he needed some help after all. 

There was a war going on already, but so far it hadn't reached California. And if they played it right, it wouldn't ever get here. Or at least it wouldn't stay here. It was the main reason why Stiles had come back.

He parked right in front of the welcome sign to get his head clear before going anywhere else. It wasn't like he was just here for fun or no other reason than to visit old friends, even though he wasn't sure if he could call any of them friends anymore, not even Scott. He had a plan to carry out.

It would be easier, he thought, if he knew what place Scott held in Derek's pack. But since he hadn't been in contact with any of them for the past few years, and Beacon Hills, like the rest of California, had been left out of the war so far, Stiles had no idea how things were.

The only one who had been in contact with Derek was Esther, but she hadn't gotten much out of him. Except a big no, without any thanks, for her question whether he wanted to join the Alliance. At least some things never change.

That Esther hadn't gotten much more out of him surprised Stiles. After all, the old Alpha knew how to get something out of everyone. He respected her for that, but never allowed himself to let his guard down around her, less so in the last time than usual. Despite her old age, she was the perfect nominal leader for the Alliance, with her cunning mind and iron control. He used to trust her, had started to during his years in college spent in her territory, but as of late he couldn't anymore.

From what Stiles knew, Derek had built a relatively small, but stable pack. He also had his pack secluded from pretty much everyone else and thanks to the geographic location of Beacon Hills, the Hale name and the presence of the Argents, he had managed to hold his territory and keep everyone else out. The last major attack on his authority lay years in the past, when an-Alpha pack had challenged him. Stiles had never really gotten the appeal of an Alpha pack, because hello Alphas, but whatever.

It was hard enough to get the Alphas leading the Alliance to work together and usually it was their Second-in-Commands leading the interactions between packs. This way no one felt treated disrespectfully, left out or, most importantly, threatened. So far. Stiles shuddered to think about a pack consisting of only Alphas, especially if it involved Peter. It would have turned out pretty ugly and bloody for everyone involved.

To play intermediary had put a lot of pressure on Stiles, even though he wasn't officially Peter's Second. Peter's actual Second, Alex, had enough to do as it was with the rest of the pack and everyone else always assumed that it was Stiles' position either way. Not that Stiles complained. He got around and could observe how other packs functioned, met different people with wildly different characters and histories and had learned how to sneakily guide them into the direction he needed them to follow. It also gave him an occasional break from Peter, which he sometimes needed.

At the moment, though, it wasn't exactly what he wanted or needed. Ever since Amber Lake they had spent too much time separated from each other and there always seemed to be someone from another pack present when they were together. Stiles would have been fine with it, if Amber Lake hadn't also forced them to separate from most of the pack to keep them safe. If Amber Lake hadn't changed so fucking much. Changed things they needed to talk about, if not now at least when everything was over and until then they had to find a way to make it through, without breaking. The silent communication thing they had going on, the silent way of making plans together without needing to talk, wasn't going to cut this one.

He played absentmindedly with the thin bracelets on his right wrist and reminded himself that this wasn't the time to think about it. He had to concentrate on what he had to do in Beacon Hills instead.

When he finished his mission here, he would take a time out from Alliance business for at least a few day, he swore to himself, and get Peter to spend some time with him, to talk a few things through. That was, if neither of them died. Stiles felt something tighten around his heart. He pushed the thought aside of how much danger Peter was in right now. Besides, he reminded himself staring at the welcome sign of Beacon Hills, Peter wasn't exactly easy to kill.

But first things first. Deciding where to go.

Alan Hart, the youngest of the Alliance leaders, had found out that Scott McCall and Allison Argent had never really left town but Stiles he had no idea if the two had somehow mended their relationship or if it had all gone down in flames. Sadly Hart's computer skills only got him so far, when clearly someone else had purged the Internet of most traces concerning the Beacon Hills pack. Danny. probably, which brought up several question that Stiles quelled, because they weren't important at the moment.

He hoped the best for his best friend.

He also had no idea how the relationship was between the local hunters and werewolves, or how it would affect his mission. But since apparently the Argents and Derek's pack hadn't killed each other by now, he took an educated guess and figured that it would be at least okay-ish.

Another thing he did knew was that Lydia had stayed as well instead of going to university and being on her way to winning the Fields Medal. Stiles only hoped that she had recovered from the the things Peter had done to her. That, too, was something Stiles really didn't want to think about too much.

Then of course there was Jackson, who was still in Beacon Hills as well, and, if the website of the school was anything to go by, he was coaching the lacrosse team and teaching biology (and if that wasn't sufficiently terrifying – those poor kids). It was a bit surprising, considering that Jackson had always seemed like he would grow up to be a successful and nasty businessman. Perhaps it was part of his self-discovery process and if so Stiles wasn't one to judge unusual life choices.

At least it meant Jackson wasn't the Kanima anymore and Derek had followed Peter's suggestion in the end. Though Stiles had no idea whether that meant Jackson was now a werewolf, part of Derek's pack or perhaps even dating Lydia again. The last thing wasn't really on his priority list of interest, still, the thought came up. He had spent his entire youth with having a crush on Lydia Martin after all and hey, if he wasn't allowed to be a bit shallow from time to time, he might as well go crazy.

Stiles ran his hand over his short hair in frustration. Too many unknown variables to make a solid plan on how to go on. Then again, he wasn't exactly the person who made a plan and then jumped into action, but with the whole war going on he had come to appreciate having a good solid plan before shit happened. And a back-up plan. Always have a back-up plan. And a back-up plan for the back-up plan.

All that didn't exactly help him to decide where he should go first, but since he actually only had three viable options, Stiles came up with a rather short list either way. He could go to the old Hale House, to see if Derek had rebuilt it and jump right into business. Somehow that didn't seem like the best option. The Animal Clinic seemed like a slightly better idea, but then again it was rather late and he wasn't sure if Deaton was still there or would be willing to give some advise. Then there was of course Scott's old home and even if Scott didn't live there anymore, perhaps Mrs. McCall still did.

The thought of seeing either of them again after ten years made his stomach churn and he was afraid of how they might react to him.

As much as he wanted to pretend that there was a choice as to where to go, there really wasn't and he was just stalling for time, when there really wasn't any left. He knew where he wanted and needed to go first but it didn't make the tight knot in his stomach loosen in the least.

He texted Jameson the McCall address before finally, after so long, driving back into Beacon Hills.

Chapter Text

A gentle breeze came through the open window.

 

Scott laughed at Allison's joke, which in turn made his little girl gurgle happily against his chest where he held her closely. Chris smiled contently at them, taking another bite from Melissa's apple pie.

 

Scott felt happy and relaxed and was glad for the time out he got with his family. The last months had been a bit more worrisome than usual. There was news of the war spreading out and several Omegas who were victims of it had passed their territory, bringing news of what was happening. Chris and Derek seemed sure it wouldn't reach California, at least for some time, but the increasing number of fugitives passing through was unsettling.

 

Derek had gotten a request from the Alliance to join some weeks ago, but had refused, for which Scott was grateful. It was a bit unsettling though, so he was glad he could just forget about it and spent an evening with his family at his Mom's place.

 

Of course then the doorbell had to ring.

 

His Mom raised an eyebrow at him. "Thought no pack business tonight?" she teased and Scott raised on of his hands in defense.

 

"Not my fault. It's probably someone else."

 

"At this time?" Chris said and got up to get the door but Melissa was faster, standing up and motioning him to sit down again.

 

"Don't worry, I'll get it."

 

Scott heard her walk to the door, but didn't pay to much attention, because he concentrated back on the wriggling baby in his arms.

 

He did however pay attention when his mother called for him. Voice excited and a bit shocked, but not in distress.

 

"Oh my god, Scott. Scott come here!"

 

He exchanged a puzzled look with Allison, who just shrugged and wordlessly offered to take Vicky from him.

 

"Scott, get your ass over here now!"

 

This got him to hurry. There was another voice, somehow familiar, but for a moment he couldn't place it.

 

Then he was in the hallway and felt his heart stop.

 

For a moment he couldn't believe his eyes, because there in the door of his old home stood, like he belonged there, like he always had – "Stiles," he breathed out, slightly shocked. “What are you-” doing here, he wanted to ask, but couldn't.

 

"Hey," his best friend said. “I tried calling, but you weren't answering your phone.” Stiles looked slightly sheepish and apologetic.

 

He seemed different, Scott noted, not just because he was older than the last time he had seen him, but because of everything else about him. Stiles looked more mature, more confident despite his posture and there was something in his eyes that made him look stronger than ever. He wore simple jeans and a shirt with a Beatles motif, but filled it out more with broader shoulders and a stronger body. There were several thin friendship bracelets wound around his wrist. But it wasn't really what caught Scott's attention. There was something odd about Stiles, and he could have placed it more easily if he hadn't still been stunned by Stiles' sudden reappearance.

 

Melissa just rolled her eyes at them. "Honestly, boys," she said and just like that Scott got out of his paralysis and strode over to Stiles, pulling him into a crushing hug.

 

The dizzying feeling of relief that flooded through him was stronger than he expected. Scott had never stopped wondering where Stiles had gone to, what happened to him, if he was even still alive and well. At first he had thought he had left with Erica and Boyd, because they had tried to run away the same night, but then the two had come back, without any knowledge of what had happened to Stiles. So it was good to feel him, solid and warm and alive, pressed against himself. By the way Stiles hugged him back just as fiercely, he figured that he had missed him too.

 

But then Stiles' smell hit him. The familiar one, the old one he had been so accustomed to, and the new one. The new one was decidedly familiar too, but in a different context.

 

He pulled back and looked bewildered at Stiles. "Dude, you're a -," he said and Stiles disentangled himself to rub at his neck.

 

"Yeah, sort of a long story. Except not really, just..." he broke off and his eyes wandered to a place behind Scott, before his lips split into a bright smile. "Allison!" he said and his eyes flickered back to Scott. "So you guys are still together, back together, whatever?" Scott's had to smile so hard at this, it almost hurt.

 

The next second Stiles' eyes widened as he realized what Allison was holding. "And you have a baby. Oh my god, dude, you have a baby," Stiles said, like it was the most marvelous thing in the world.

 

And the parental pride over having a daughter swept away the questions he had concerning Stiles' new state of being. “You bet. Her name is Vicky.”

 

Stiles raised an eyebrow. “Vicky,” he mouthed. “Really?” Scott ignored the question and turned towards Allison and their baby girl. He noticed that her smile was welcoming, but there was an edge of concern and caution in her eyes. "Hi, long time since we saw you," she said, not sounding accusatory, but curious.

 

“It's been some crazy years for me," Stiles admitted. "So," he continued and gestured at Vicky. "You two, baby. Does that mean I missed the wedding?"

 

"No, not yet." It hit Scott then, that Stiles hasn't missed it, that he could still keep his old promise and that thrilled him, because he had given up hope on that by now. Years ago, when they were both ten years old and each of them had lost a parent, Stiles and Scott had sworn to be each others best man. Stiles had probably been the only boy his age who wanted to get married (to Lydia Martin, of course) and while back then Scott hadn't wanted to get married ever, he had promised it too. Neither of them had ever thought they wouldn't be at each others side by the time one or both of them got around to marrying.

 

"We didn't want to be a cliché," Allison said. "She was unplanned and we didn't want to do a shotgun wedding."

 

"Not for lack of trying on my part," came a dry voice from behind her and Scott could see Stiles tense up at seeing Chris.

 

"Uh, hi, Mr. Argent. Nice to see you?"

 

Chris gave him a hard smile. "What brings you back?" he asked with one of his best interrogation voices and Scott watched Stiles swallow, but before he could answer his mother interfered.

 

"Okay, I hate to break up this nice welcome party in my hallway, but we were just having dessert," she said, ushering them back into the kitchen. "So why don't you join us and I'll get you some of the lasagna and apple pie before you can get around to stealing it from the oven," she asked Stiles. Scott seriously loved her then, because it got Chris to relax and Stiles to brighten up at the mention of his favorite dish.

 

"You are the best, Mrs. McCall, seriously the best." His best friend smiled at her adoringly and his Mom waved it away.

 

“Don't I know it.”

 

Within a minute Melissa had them seated again, this time with Stiles wedged in between herself and Scott with a big helping of lasagna in front of him and a piece of pie at the side. Stiles gave an appreciative moan at the first bite and through a mouthful uttered, "Seriously the best thing ever. Man, I didn't even know how much I missed this. It's delicious," he complimented Melissa, sounding so much like the boy Scott remembered that it had him grinning.

 

Melissa rolled her eyes at him, but took the compliment quietly. She had never made any of it herself, just bought it at the store around the corner, but Stiles had always insisted she did something to it to make it taste far better than the stuff he had bought there.

 

Just then Stiles pointed his fork at Scott and waved it between him and Allison. "So you, Allison and a baby, how come? Spill! Last thing I know was the two of you not really talking to each other.” He swallowed and is voice sounded a lot more serious and regretful all of a sudden. "And the whole Kanima-Jackson thingy, I guess you worked it out then?"

 

And it got Scott talking, with additions from Allison's part and some comments from Melissa. The only one who didn't say a word but watched Stiles with a frown was Chris, who Scott ignored in favor of filling Stiles in about what had happened.

 

He started with Gerard's plan of turning himself into a werewolf and killing Derek to become an Alpha and how Scott had tricked him with mountain ash, which brought a proud smile to Stiles face. How Derek had suggested stopping Jackson through involving Lydia and let her bring the human side of Jackson out, which, miraculously, worked. Stiles huffed at that, but had a half smile on his lips and Scott eyed him questioningly, because it almost seemed like he already knew more about this than he should.

 

He didn't say anything, and Stiles just urged him on to get back to the story of him and Allison. And so it all came out, how they split up, how Allison worked through her feelings of hatred and revenge towards Derek, how Scott waited for her while also trying to work things out with the pack. How he ultimately joined it because of the Alpha pack and how the two of them got back together, despite it all, and how Allison and her Dad basically belonged to the pack now, too. Stiles listened, eating and nodding along. It felt good to finally tell someone, to tell Stiles, all of this. Stiles who would understand how hard it had been for Scott to combine his family and his pack.

 

When he finished he felt slightly drained but content and Stiles spoke up quietly while also changing the topic. "So how's Lydia?"

 

And Scott snorted while Melissa sighed, because this was typical Stiles. "She's fine. Oh, she gets trained by Deaton so she can be our next emissary," and Scott halted, before continuing. "If you know what I am talking about.” Stiles just nodded and looked kind of relieved and sad at the same time.

 

"Thought she would go off to get a major in mathematics and win the Fields Medal, but I guess being the apprentice of magic is pretty cool too," he offered and the look on his face vanished, replaced by a carefully constructed look of relaxed happiness.

 

"She's doing an online course in mathematics, so don't count her out for the medal," Allison spoke up, their daughter still in her arms, having fallen asleep.

 

"Is she still dating Jackson?" Stiles asked, his focus shifting from Scott to her.

 

"Broke up, but they still get along," Allison answered and Stiles nodded thoughtfully. "So, now it's your turn talking," she continued and her look changed to something closer to the one Chris had thrown Scott's best friend earlier. It made Stiles squirm.

 

"Yeah man, your turn," Scott agreed, smiling challengingly at him. "What's up with the..." and he stopped, because he wasn't sure how much Stiles wanted Allison and Chris to know. Considering he still knew them primarily as hunters, Scott wouldn't hold it against him, if he didn't want to spill that secret in front of them.

 

"Werewolfiness?" Stiles offered though and shot a quick assessing look at Chris, who shifted in his seat to a position from which he could act more easily, but at least he didn't look like he was about to attack.

 

"Not you too," Melissa said and looked at him with something close to exasperation. Scott saw the flicker of guilt passing over Stiles' face. He played with the thin bracelets on his wrist, before answering.

 

"Yeah, me too."

 

And then Stiles' pose shifted, to something more thoughtful and almost business-like, something he had seen in Stiles before, but never so serious.

 

"What do you know about Mom and the Alliance? And I am not talking about the band," Stiles said, his humor falling flat in the suddenly tense room.

 

Scott looked at him, uncomfortable and surprised, because of all the things he had imagined Stiles to be doing, being involved in a werewolf war wasn't among them. Stiles didn't look back, but instead at his plate, where he played with the rest of his food. Just like he had when they were twelve and he had told Scott of a plan to break into Mrs. Morrison's house to get her cat out. Knowing Scott wouldn't like it, but wanting him in anyway.

 

“Wonderful, so I guess you already know the basics?”

 

“Yes we do,” Allison said, voice colder now.

 

Stiles shot her a short look while Scott just shook his head at her. He knew she was worried about their family and friends, and if the stories the passing Omegas had told them were anything to go by, she was rightfully so. Scott was worried too, but he wanted to listen to Stiles.

 

“Okay,” Stiles said. “Quick fact check?”

 

“Uh,” Scott said before anyone else could intervene. “Mom is a mad monster and no one who knows her name dares to speak it, 'cause she is kind of like Voldemort?” Allison and Chris both rolled their eyes at him, bringing out the family resemblance, while Stiles just nodded.

 

“She has three sons and everyone just calls them Big Brother, Little Brother and Baby Brother.” Scott wondered, not for the first time, who came up with those names and why anyone would like being called that. “They try to eradicate any other pack around their territory? Though last we heard was that it spread out even further,” he admitted, eyes carefully trained on Stiles, who silently urged him to go on.

 

“And the Alliance is a, well, loose alliance between other packs,” he finished and saw the tiny, proud smile on Stiles' lips, the kind he always had when Scott figured something out and suddenly Scott felt like he'd been hit in the chest. Something told him that Stiles probably had more of a hand in the Alliance's business than Scott would have ever guessed. Or maybe he was just interpreting things the wrong way.

 

There were four main Alphas leading the Alliance and Peter Hale was one of them, if what they had heard from the Omegas and Chris' contacts was true. He wondered briefly if it had been Peter who had turned Stiles but vehemently pushed the thought aside.

 

Derek had told them, when everything had finally come out, that the last time he had seen Peter was the night of his resurrection, the same night as the disaster at the police station had taken place. Weeks before Stiles had disappeared, and Scott reminded himself that there were a lot of other Alphas involved in the war and Stiles could belong to any of them.

 

He wanted to ask Stiles directly but something in Scott's throat clogged up and before he could bring himself to ask, Stiles started to fill them in on a few more details.

 

“Yeah, basically. Mom, or Eris Lafayette, would like to get rid of every other Alpha and include some of their Betas into the packs of her sons – or outright kill everyone. Unless they run really fast. And it's not about her original territory anymore, or that of her sons. It's about everything they can get their claws on.” Stiles carefully put his fork away and looked up at Scott.

 

“We think she might have gone mad when her mate died a few years ago. She's grown increasingly aggressive since then. And losing her oldest boy a few weeks ago probably didn't help in restoring her marble collection,” he grimaced. “She and the other two have been really lashing out, eradicating two smaller packs and one bigger in less than three weeks. But so far the Alliance is holding her at bay.”

 

It looked like either Chris or Allison were about to say something to that, but Stiles continued. “And yeah, that's holding her at bay.” There was a hard feature around his mouth that Scott had never seen. No one said anything for a moment and Scott had the distinct feeling that his family was allowing him to continue this conversation with Stiles at his own pace.

 

“So I guess this isn't just a friendly visit after ten years?” Scott asked him, feeling disappointed. The overwhelming joy of having Stiles back made place for a grim acceptance that this was a business visit from another pack, which never bode well.

 

Stiles gave him an apologetic look. “Sorry, bro,” he muttered. Scott looked away and down on his own half finished pie, no appetite left.

 

“Alpha Grey called a few weeks ago,” he started, voice a bit unsure over the name, because Derek had mentioned it only once and shortly too, but Stiles nodded. “We are sorry, but if you want help, we are not going to offer it. Beacon Hills is neutral ground and we are staying out of it.”

 

Stiles looked appreciatively at Scott and somewhat sad too. “I guess you are Derek's Second then, speaking for him?” Stiles asked, not unkindly.

 

“It doesn't work that way in our pack,” Scott started but Stiles just stared at him and Scott sort of crumbled out of old habit. “Yeah, well sort of, though nominally it's Isaac,” he gritted out. Stiles looked like he got it. Scott knew he couldn't, because Stiles hadn't been around when they first formed their pack and Scott wasn't going to discuss it with him now. Not this and not the unpleasant memories this topic brought up about Deucalion and the Alpha pack and what it had cost to stop them.

 

But that was in the past and Scott focused on the present again and why things worked slightly differently for their pack in the now and then either way. Unlike the others, Scott had a family outside of the pack, even though Allison, Chris and his Mom were considered part of it. He was also the only one besides Jackson who didn't live in the renovated Hale house. Which was why he was a bit less connected to them than everyone else, but still close to everyone. It was mostly on Isaac to act in Derek's place when he wasn't around, but most of the time Isaac deferred to Scott, as did the rest of the pack in Derek's absence.

 

“Good. For you and Derek.,” Stiles said thoughtfully. Scott had the distinct feeling that the good wasn't just aimed at him, but more to himself. “Isn't it a bit cold already for the baby?” Stiles suddenly changed the topic while giving a hand sign to Chris and Allison, who apparently got what was suddenly going on. Allison and her father slipped away from their places in front of the window, both pretending to be fussing over the baby in her arms, before Chris made his way towards the window, while keeping close to the wall.

 

“What?” Scott asked quietly, but Stiles just looked at him in frustration, shaking his head and Scott immediately shut up, while Stiles continued talking conversationally as if nothing was happening.

 

“Either way, last I remember he really could have done with someone like you in his pack, balancing his temper out. Especially with the whole Kanima and Argent situation going on.” Stiles enunciated the names of their old threats in a way that told Scott this wasn't aimed at anyone in the room. His mother also had gotten up, throwing him a confused look, but Scott himself could only shrug.

 

Chris reached the window and silently closed it, while Stiles slipped a phone out of his pocket, typing something short into it. “You don't have anyone of your pack lurking around the house, right?” he asked and Scott shook his head. “No, why? What's going on?” But Stiles had already pressed the send button and was looking at him with a deadly serious expression.

 

“Scott, I'm not here to ask for help, I'm here to offer it. You've got a pilot fish in your garden and we are lucky that he is probably stupid or really new to this. There is very likely another one in front of the house. The one in the back is going to be taken care of.”

 

“Not traveling alone, then,” Chris asked at the same time as Scott's mother asked the same question that bothered Scott.

 

“What's a pilot fish?”

 

Stiles looked exasperated at them. “Nope, first rule of the Alliance: never travel alone. Well fifth rule, actually, but never mind,” he explained before turning to Melissa and Scott again. “And a pilot fish is like, like a pilot fish. A smaller fish in the wake of something bigger and badder. They usually don't do anything, except checking out the situation, doing reconnaissance,” his eyes caught Scott's and there was something desperate in them. “It's why I'm here, Scott. Okay, so originally I just wanted to talk to you guys, but change of plan and all that,” he said urgently.

 

Scott swallowed and Allison took over the conversation. “How bad are we talking?”

 

“Baby Brother's right hand man level kind of bad? Though we thought he'd be here later. So probably at the moment just pilot fish and one of his Bishops-” he stopped again, mouth working for a second to find the right words to explain things. Scott had the distinct impression that he was frustrated with them not understanding what he was talking about. “Betas who are in charge of a group of other werewolves and answer directly to one of the brothers or their Seconds. They tend to move faster,” Stiles lifted his hands as all of them opened their mouths.

 

“You've got pilot fish around the house, so all questions have to wait. 'Cause if either of them gets away, they'll have information about your family and how to attack this house, should it come to a fight. And they just would,” he rattled on, sounding bitter and as if he knew exactly what he was talking about and Scott felt like he had been slapped.

 

His family was in danger. His daughter. “Okay, so what do we do?”

 

“Since Jameson is going to take care of the one in the back, we need to catch the one in the front.” Scott noticed how Chris reacted to the name, his eyebrows furrowing in suspicion and a sharp thoughtful look in his eyes, as if he knew the name, but wasn't too sure what to think of this turn of events. “Pilot fish usually are fast and tricky to catch,” Stiles explained, “so we have to move fast, especially since the woods are near.”

 

“Can they usually outrun a compound bow?” Allison asked easily, shifting Vicky as if to hand her over to Melissa.

 

“No,” both Scott and Chris said at the same time. Allison shot them an annoyed look.

 

“Allison, if you let go of Vicky now, she's going to wake up and cry and that might startle this... pilot fish,” Melissa intercepted before any of the others could say something stupid that would more likely result in Allison following her head, than to deter her from going hunting.

 

“Fine,” Allison agreed grudgingly. “Go!”

 

Scott smiled at her, relieved, before his attention shifted back to Stiles. “Got a plan?”

 

“Always.”

Chapter Text

Climbing out of a bedroom window was something he might be getting too old for, Chris mused. But it was the quickest way out without being noticed immediately. Scott had taken the window from the upstairs bathroom half a minute earlier, to find a way to get unnoticed into the forest close to the house.

Stiles, meanwhile, played distraction and left through the front door, loudly saying his goodbyes to Mrs. McCall and Allison. Chris could hear him stop talking just before the door closed, and in the same moment he lowered himself to the ground.

The newly returned runaway would lure the enemy into the woods, and Chris was going to make sure that whoever was lurking around the house wouldn't return from the woods, in case whoever it was decided to turn around before Scott and Stiles caught them.

Having the boy – the young man now – back, was slightly disconcerting. Chris had always had his doubts where the mouthy youth had vanished to, but now that Stiles was back, a werewolf and clearly involved in the ongoing war, his suspicions had grown. Apparently Scott, however, hadn't caught on so far.

As far as he knew from the contacts he still had, there were four major Alphas and their packs leading the loose Alliance against the woman who had earned the trivializing title Mom: Dannika Hart and now her nephew Alan, Esther Gray, Jermaine Otsoa – and Peter Hale.

Esther was the driving force behind the Alliance, after an old friend of hers and their pack had been killed by Mom. She was a very old, but still incredibly strong Alpha, as far as Chris remembered. He had met her once and she had earned his respect immediately. She respected their code and usually handed a werewolf who broke it over to the hunters, if she didn't deal with them herself.

Esther was one of the few werewolves that had helped him follow the code, reminding him that not all shape-shifters were monsters. Back when he had met her, her Second had been her granddaughter Angelica, but from what his contacts had told him, she had died about two years ago, a few months after the founding of the Alliance, leaving her daughter Armandine to take over in her place. Esther's pack had never broken the rules of the code and ensured the surrounding packs followed it as well. Killing her would result in a power vacuum that no hunter was willing to risk.

The Harts were a pack with billions to their name. Not because of some bounty, but because they owned one of the largest computer supply firms in the country. Dannika's mother had invested in it decades ago, when computers were first introduced. Since then they had survived any competition without ever making it to the top. A deliberate act, Chris suspected.

Dannika, like so many, was rumored to have died at Amber Lake, making her nephew the new Alpha. Which was a fucking surprise, as one of Chris' older acquaintances had put it. According to him, Alan didn't look much more than a thin boy with glasses fresh out of puberty and was as old as Chris' daughter. Not to mention that there was nothing on him that would suggest werewolf, let alone Alpha. No physical strength, compared to other werewolves, no dominant or aggressive behavior. But sometimes those weren't the things that made an Alpha. And if Hart had been close to his aunt when she died, he might just have been lucky in earning the red eyes.

Then there was Otsoa who had given every hunter who ever met him a headache. He was boisterous, loud, outright aggressive, getting into fights all over the place. But so far no one had managed to proof that he was a threat according to the code. Even then it would be hard to get to him and his pack, because Otsoa owned a security firm that had a lot of influential customers.

Except for Peter Hale's pack, there was something all those packs had in common: they were old and more public than most packs. Which guaranteed them a higher immunity from being targeted by hunters, even though they were easier to locate. Most hunters tended to avoid the law enforcement, which would be hard with packs like these, as ingrained as they were into the society around them.

It was easier to take out a pack in hiding, one that drew as little attention to itself as possible. It had been one of the reasons why it had been so easy for Kate to kill almost the entire old Hale pack and get away with it for years. They had been to isolated from the town itself and too little involved to get anyone asking more questions than necessary.

Chris had always loved his sister, but the knowledge that she had killed a pack not responsible for murder, who had children with them when she burned down their house, still made him feel nauseous.

Peter apparently had taken inspiration from the other packs he had allied himself with. Insinuating himself into their midst, making it more possible for him to keep hunters away from his new pack, since most wouldn't risk going against an ally of the more powerful packs. If rumors were true he had also insinuated his pack into the local police force of his new territory. Chris wondered if that had been Stiles' idea, if he was part of Peter's pack.

But it wasn't the possibility of Stiles' choice in pack that unsettled him the most. The most unsettling thing was Stiles himself. He remembered Stiles as an odd boy who got involved in things he shouldn't be, who seemed hapless and clumsy. Who, the moment he was cornered, lashed out with words. Who Chris had watched throwing a Molotov cocktail at a mad Alpha who had easily brought down three hunters and two other werewolves. A boy who was also willing to do anything to protect his friends and family, the people he was loyal to.

Chris couldn't say, though, what kind of man he had grown into. He had seemed nice enough earlier, still close enough to the person he had been ten years ago, but there had been hints of something, someone different. Less clumsy and more competent, harder and even more dangerous.

And then there was also the topic of Jameson. He knew exactly two people with this surname, both hunters, sisters, who he remembered as being admirably competent, even frighteningly so. Their association with werewolves would be unusual, but not out of question. Stiles had used a sign language, which was normally used by hunters and based on the military sign language. The last Chris had heard of the Jameson sisters was that one of them had been bitten by an Alpha, before both of them had disappeared. Supposedly Alicia had died, but no one seemed to know for sure.

This, however, wasn't the time to muse over things like this. It was time to concentrate on the hunt and while Chris wasn't as young as he used to be and nominally retired, he was still good at this. You couldn't simply stop being a werewolf hunter, even when your daughter lived with one and you were, albeit grudgingly, also considered pack by the local werewolves.

He slipped through an opening in the hedge, which separated the McCall residence from the forest and kept in the shadows while making his way along the forest line. The pilot fish had followed Stiles in the woods and Chris could barely make out their shadows, but there was no doubt that someone else was behind Stiles in the darkness. Like Chris he used the wind direction to keep himself from being scented out and followed Stiles as he followed the invisible trail that would ultimately lead to the Hale house.

They were about a hundred yards into the forest, Chris firmly planted between the werewolf and his way out of the forest, when Scott attacked from the left. He dropped from one of the trees and sprinted towards their prey, barking low and startling him. Instead of charging, the other werewolf rolled to his side, letting Scott's momentum carry him past him, before jumping up and running Chris' way.

He took aim and in the second it took him, he had been spotted. The pilot fish changed his direction, moving in a fast zig-zag maneuver and Chris' first two bullets missed him. But then Stiles was there, blocking the path, and the man darted back towards Chris' direction and also closer to Scott, who had caught up with him.

Chris' third bullet didn't miss and a wolf's bane laced bullet planted itself firmly in the man's shoulder, right above his heart. The werewolf howled in pain and anger and then Scott was on him, forcing his right arm behind his back and gripping him tightly around his neck, claws digging into his throat, but without drawing blood. They had agreed to first questioning him, before deciding what to do with him exactly. Scott hadn't been too keen on outright killing him, if he didn't pose a danger.

“Here we go,” Stiles said and jogged over to where Scott was holding the pilot fish, dropping down on all fours in front of him to look him in the face.

Chris also drew nearer but kept his distance, keeping an eye on their surrounding in case there were more than expected, his gun firmly trained on the unfamiliar werewolf.

“So who are you working for? Not for Marlowe directly. So one of his minions. Howard? No? Kim? No?,” Stiles rattled down names, which Chris assumed were names of the more powerful Betas in Baby's pack, probably listening to the pilot fish's heartbeat to draw conclusions. And not for the first time he wished he knew the actual names of Mom's children and their subordinates.

“Perhaps Jerry? I heard he got transferred after Big Brother's death. Oh, sorry, Jeremiah. Hah!” he uttered triumphantly and the captured man scowled. “So the little rat is here. I'm surprised he shows anywhere at all, after his stunt at Amber Lake.”

The words Amber Lake left a bad taste in Chris' mouth. He hadn't heard details about it, because most hunters didn't exactly know what had happened there and those who knew would rather not talk about it beyond 'the worst thing I've ever seen' and 'all of them rabid and bloodthirsty, all of them'. It was already considered to be the worst fight between werewolves in over two hundred years and the first one its size in the United States. There had been hunters who had deliberately retreated from it than to stay there, and those were the ones who lived to tell the tale.

A battle between werewolf packs was always a lucky chance for hunters, because they would take each other out and whichever pack remained was weakened enough to be eradicated more easily. Few hunters had dared to take part in this fight though, the risks were too high and the involved packs still too powerful.

One of the good things coming out of the battle though, had been the death of Big Brother, Kieran Lafayette. Though Chris still hadn't gotten reliable information on which one of the Alphas had taken him down.

The man spit at him. “What's it to you, kid?”

“I waited for him to show. More importantly,” Stiles said calmly, “what's it to you whether to tell me or not. From where I stand you look like you've got a poisoned bullet in your left shoulder, which will kill you in about half an hour and have an Argent and a member of Derek Hale's pack holding you captive.” Chris noticed with not little satisfaction that apparently the name Argent still inspired fear in werewolves, as the man's eyes flickered towards him, scared.

“So here's the thing,” Stiles continued. “Since Scott behind you isn't too keen on spilling blood, we might make a deal. You tell us what we want to know and we get that bullet out of your shoulder and let you run.”

The man laughed harshly. “Members of the Alliance don't let someone like me simply run.”

“Yeah well, I didn't say simply. We'll let you run, how far you get is up to you.”

Scott looked bewildered at his former friend and Chris squinted his eyes in thought. Stiles sounded honest and threateningly enough to convince even him. Their captive would be hunted, but he would be given a chance to get away from here.

The man clearly thought about it. “Heard stories about Amber Lake though, don't know if it's worth getting away.”

“Yeah,” Stiles said and there was suddenly something hard and cold in his eyes. “Stories are all you've heard though, 'cause Jerry was a coward and hiding, huh?” He lowered his voice so that Chris had a bit of trouble hearing the next words. “So deal or not, and I promise I won't be the one following you.”

“Don't make deals with members of the Alliance I don't know.” Chris noticed interestingly that Stiles seemed to be surprised by that statement, as if he was used to being recognized. “So how about you answer me something first, pretty child. Who the hell are you?”

Stiles craned his head to the side and back, looking the man in front of him over with a deliberately wolfish gesture. Like he was more attuned to the animal he could easily turn into than someone who had been bitten usually was.

“Just someone who would really love to talk to him or rip his spine out,” he said, leaving a direct answer out. It was enough however to make the man in Scott's grip squirm away uncomfortably.

“Stiles?” Scott asked quietly, looking questioningly at him. He too had heard the stories Chris had gotten from other hunters, and a few things from passing Omegas who had lost their pack at Amber Lake.

If the name Argent had inspired fear in the pilot fish then Stiles' name filled him with terror. He managed to mask it over quickly, but not entirely.

“So the Alliance sends its favorite Knight,” he spit out. This gave Chris pause. He remembered the lessons about chess from his mother. The knight, the only piece in a chess game that didn't move linear, that could jump over other pieces and which always alternated between black and white squares. Best suited for playing closed positions on the board. Probably a fitting description for Stiles as well.

Just like that the boy got up again, dusting off his hands and looking down calmly at the captured man. “Nah, came here out of my own accord. So third time's the charm and after that I'm done asking nicely. Deal or no deal?”

The man let out a rasping laugh. “Sorry, kid. Heard enough stories to know better than to make deals with Peter Hale's boy.”

Scott froze up at that, loosening his grip and Chris considered redirecting where he was pointing his gun. He had heard stories about Peter's boy before, too, but never been given a name to go with it. “What the hell?” Scott whispered and looked shocked at Stiles.

The man laughed again and rasped out, “Your friends don't know? That's precious.”

“Scott, watch out!”

The pilot fish had ripped himself away from Scott and lurched towards Stiles. Chris fired on instinct. The bullet lodged itself into the man's chest and the impact pushed him backwards, but didn't kill him. Instead he lifted his own clawed hand and drove it straight through his own chest.

Chris cursed and Scott backed away, staring in horror. Stiles was cursing too, taking a few steps backward.

“Won't get any information from me, clever boy,” he gurgled out, before collapsing entirely, hand still buried in his chest.

“Fucking pilot fish,” Stiles gasped out, looking pissed and disgusted at the same time. “Crazy. All of them.”

Chris aimed his gun at him. Scott's eyes flickered from the dead body to Stiles and back and then to his soon to be father-in-law, before finally settling on Stiles again who had went still and raised his hands in a gesture of peace, facing Chris.

“So Peter Hale,” Chris started, voice low. “Anything you want to tell us, Stiles?”

The boys shoulder dropped, his whole posture going limp, making himself look harmless, but Chris was now certain that he was anything but.

“About that-” he said, but Scott interrupted him.

“Peter? He's the one who turned you?” Scott asked disbelievingly, and sometimes Chris just wanted to smack him over the head. Stiles looked almost equally frustrated.

“No, the werewolf fairy did. Of course it was Peter, who else do you think?” he snapped and there was something close to hurt in his voice.

“Why?” Scott asked confused and Chris was of the opinion that that wasn't the most important question here.

“Cause he needed a pack and I was up for grabs?” Stiles answered and it confirmed some of Chris's suspicions. Ever since he had first heard of the Alliance and that Peter Hale was one of the founding members, he had an inkling that Stiles disappearance years ago was somehow connected to Peter's mysterious return to life, that until then none of them had known about except for Derek and Lydia, and probably Deaton too.

Derek had grudgingly admitted to his uncle having been resurrected years ago, the night Matt had killed the Sheriff. Stiles had disappeared not long after. Scott obviously hadn't caught up on to the close correlation of both events, having been too mad at Derek for keeping something as important as Peter's return from the dead from him for years.

Chris had understood Derek though, not that he had been glad about not knowing either. At the time of Peter's resurrection there had been bigger things to deal with, like the Kanima and Gerard and the Alpha pack. Later, with Peter gone from Beacon Hills, it probably hadn't seemed like Derek needed to bring it up. Not when it would've caused a rift in the tentative bond between him and Scott that they had built after Stiles disappearance.

It wasn't like Derek was the only one to blame, because Lydia clearly hadn't told anyone of what had happened to her. Chris always suspected it had brought them closer as friends too and the shared secret was one of the reasons why she had decided to stay here. She only told Allison after everything had come out, and through Allison, Scott and Chris had heard her side of the story too.

Chris knew that Lydia and Derek had their own suspicions, about how Stiles had probably not vanished out of his own accord. They had once and very briefly discussed it, but they had all been in agreement. Because what could they do? There had never been anything concrete to confirm their theory – until now. And tracing a boy throughout the country without knowing where to start wasn't exactly an easy task. Less so with Derek building a new pack and securing his territory and the Argent name not bearing the same weight it once had, thanks to Kate's and Gerard's actions.

Neither of them had ever had the nerve to tell this to Allison or Scott, though. Chris had been unable to burden his daughter's boyfriend even more with doubts about his friend's whereabouts.

Before Scott could say anything more Chris spoke up again. “So Peter Hale is your Alpha and sent you here.”

“I wouldn't say sent, really. It was partly my idea, you see,” Stiles started and it seemed like he would just keep talking if no one stopped him soon. A means of distraction from something else, though Chris wasn't entirely sure what.

“And look,” he said and turned to Scott again. “You guys are in danger and I really, really need to talk to Derek. So can we please stop pointing guns at Stiles and also ask questions later? Because suicidal pilot fish are never a good sign. Ever. And neither is Jerry. Trust me on this.”

“He's right,” came a new voice from behind Chris and he saw Scott's eyes widen. So this was what the distraction was for. Chris didn't bother to turn around and instead kept his gun trained on Stiles. “Now lower your weapon, before I blast your brains out, Argent.”

“Jameson,” Chris greeted her, a grim smile flashing over his face.

He hadn't heard or seen her in years, but the harsh tone of her voice was something he would have recognized everywhere. It was hard to forget a hunter of her caliber. So he lowered his gun and put the safety on, putting it slowly away. There was no use arguing with her. He knew she would do just as she said without a moment of hesitation and would pull the trigger if she only so much as thought he was going to be a problem.

“You okay, kid?” she asked Stiles as she came into Chris' peripheral vision, her own shotgun still aimed at him.

“Peachy keen,” Stiles replied and gravitated closer to her. “Got the other?” he asked and Jameson nodded, her dark eyes still focused on Chris, while Stiles got between her and Scott.

“Who are you?” Scott decided to jump into the conversation, looking both frustrated and concerned.

“Scott, meet Jameson, one of the best hunters I know,” Chris introduced her wryly. “Though she seems to have switched sides.”

Jameson barked out a laugh. “You are one to talk, Argent.”

“I've got my reasons,” he told her. “Never knew you'd consider working with werewolves after what happened to Alicia.”

“Oh, I'm doing it because of her. And her little girl,” she said.

“I thought she was dead?”

“Not so much as we wanted everyone to believe. You know how strange hunters can be when one of them gets bitten and doesn't go for the heroic suicide.” Her words hit him harder than he'd like to admit. The memory of Victoria, lying in his arms with a knife in her heart, flashed before his eyes.

Jameson shrugged. “And most werewolves don't exactly appreciate former hunters running around. Thought we'd join a nice pack,” she flashed him a hard grin. “Heard you did the same.”

“Wouldn't say I joined it, but I'd hazard a guess and say I got the better deal.”

“Okay,” Stiles drawled out. “It's nice that you two are catching up and all, but really guys? Bigger fish!” he said and pointed at the dead werewolf between them. “Now please be so kind and takes us to your leader.”

Chapter Text

It wasn't exactly a surprise that Stiles was Peter's Beta. Derek had suspected it ever since he had just disappeared the very night Derek had last seen Peter. And one of the Omegas who had passed through their territory, looking for shelter, had given him a name to associate with the shadow everyone seemed to know as Peter's boy.

Derek had considered telling Scott, but in the end had decided against it. It would've only complicated things and drawn them into the war that Derek had tried hard to stay out of, because there was no way Scott would have stayed here with his pack, when there finally was a trace of his best friend. And so much success in all of that, he thought bitterly. He only hoped that Scott didn't react too resentfully to the news of Derek keeping secrets from him again. They had overcome their differences and struggle and formed the fractured Beacon Hills' pack into a real pack, together.

Derek had always waited for Peter to show up again one day. It had been a constant threat in the back of his mind throughout the years, though nothing of primary concern. In time, the longer he had been the Alpha and come to be more adjusted and comfortable in his role, he had been content to know that if Peter ever resurfaced in Beacon Hills, he and his pack had grown strong enough to take care of him. But Peter had never shown and now, instead of coming here himself, he had sent Stiles.

Stiles who hadn't been Derek's friend, who he hadn't trusted or particularly liked, but who had been the first human who Derek had let closer than any other human after Kate. Stiles who had saved Derek's life several times and who he still felt like he owed, after everything, especially after the debacle at the police station ten years ago.

If anyone else from the Alliance had shown up here, he would have flat out shot them down and sent them home. If it had been Peter he wasn't sure if he had let him get away at all. As reasonable as it would be to listen to what the Alliance had to say, especially with an emissary from their opposing side asking for an “audience”, as the young man had put it eloquently, Derek wasn't exactly reasonable when it came to the man who had killed his sister and betrayed his fragile trust.

Instead of anyone else, however, it was Stiles who was here now and who wasn't easy to ignore.

Peter played it well, he thought cynically as Stiles made his way from his car over to him, followed by an older human woman with dark skin, who looked like she could take down Jackson easily, despite being far smaller and older. A hunter, Jameson, who Chris had mentioned when he called Derek a few minutes ago, to warn him of the situation. Scott was also with them, but when they stopped, he made his way over to Derek and Isaac. Derek raised a questioning eyebrow at him, but Scott shook his head minutely and mouthed, “Later.”

“Hello, Derek,” Stiles greeted him easily with a small wave, keeping an appropriate distance for official meeting between different packs. “Isaac.”

“Stiles,” Derek said, his voice carefully neutral, while Isaac offered a wary, “Hi.”

“I like what you did with the house, it looks way better than I remember,” Stiles offered, smiling, gesturing at the rebuilt Hale house and Derek took the compliment with a curt nod. It was, next to his current pack, his personal pride. The rebuilding and remodeling had been a catharsis he had needed to move on from his past and focus on his new pack, his new family.

“Can't say the same about you,” Derek replied and Stiles put his hand over his heart in mock hurt. “Ow, kick a man when he's already down from a cross country trip to visit.” His body language, his face, were open, but there was something guarded about his eyes, which were scanning the area and taking everything in.

“You are not exactly here on a friendly visit, so I'm not bothering with niceties.” And with that Derek came to the point. Stiles nodded and his demeanor changed, though not overtly. He still kept a loose stance, his face still friendly, but suddenly everything about him was more alert, more commanding.

“Okay,” he nodded. “Derek Hale, in the name of my Alpha, Peter Hale, I've come to ask for an audience in order to ask for an alliance and offering help concerning the threat Lafayette's pack will be posing for you and your pack in the very near future, as well as asking for your permission for us and our allies to enter your territory to fight against an enemy who has threatened and attacked our packs for a long time.”

“Neat, did you learn this speech by heart?” Isaac said, slinking in front of Derek after shooting him a short look for permission. Derek decided to let him handle it for now. Beside him Scott had grown tense and Derek shifted to get a bit closer to him, to make him relax.

“You've got no idea,” Stiles joked. “You could probably wake me up in the middle of the night and make me recite it.”

“It's interesting, because the guy who was here earlier, gave almost the same speech, he just exchanged a few words,” Isaac said casually and Stiles eyes snapped back to Derek.

“Jeremiah was here already?” he asked, obviously aiming for calm, but coming over more urgent than he probably wanted to.

“He was,” Derek informed him. “Now do you have any other less generic things to say to me than he did, because if not, I am telling you the same I told him before he convinced me to hear him out. Get out of my territory, or I'll make you leave it in pieces,” he growled.

Stiles held up his hands. “Okay, okay, jeez, Derek. Look I'm here because-” but he didn't finish, because suddenly there was a loud crash and a howl from the forest Derek couldn't place. All of them turned into the direction, ready to fight, Jameson with a knife she pulled out of her sleeve and the rest of them claws and fangs out in a second, except for Stiles.

“Jen,” he yelled, making a step into the direction of the tree line, looking distressed and angry.

There was a curse coming from who was certainly Erica and then Derek's Beta stepped through the dark trees, a girl dangling from one hand who couldn't be older than sixteen, if even that.

“Look what I found,” she said and threw the girl to the ground in front of the small group. “Hello, Stiles,” she said, directing a fanged smile at him. “One of yours?” Then Erica moved towards Isaac's side, leaning against him.

Derek narrowed his eyes at her. “Anyone else out there?”

“No one Boyd, Jackson or I could find,” she shrugged and Derek turned his attention back to Stiles and the girl. Stiles looked angry, but mostly disappointed at the young werewolf and Derek saw her flinching away from him.

“What did I say about staying in the motel, Jen?” he demanded, voice tight. The girl pushed her sleek dark hair from her eyes and looked up at him, caught between shame and defiance.

“It was boring there and the woods are so nice here, I wanted to run,” she said biting her lip. “And then I smelled them and Jeremiah and you and...” Stiles just rolled his eyes and she broke of.

“I was bored,” Jen admitted and got up from the ground in an impressively fluid motion, her simple gray dress fluttering around her thin body and her almost yellow eyes turned in fascination towards Derek, fixing him with a unnerving stare. “He smells like-”

“Yeah,” Stiles interrupted her and put a hand on the scruff of her neck, pulling her back, where Jameson grabbed hold of her and looked sternly at her. Stiles addressed Derek again.

“Sorry about that,” he said apologetically. “Jen isn't quite good at following orders and staying inside.” He threw her a sharp glance and she flinched away. “Especially not when she hasn't run around for some time.”

Derek had the distinct feeling that the girl was a born werewolf like him, used to range the woods and he wondered what she was doing here with Stiles. Born werewolves usually never left the pack they were born into and would hardly ever join another pack even if their own was gone. Derek would know.

“She is young,” Derek conceded, not without a note of displeasure at both her presence and her age, but Stiles smiled gratefully at him and then addressed someone who probably wasn't in the clearing.

“And while we are at it, breaking every rule of proper werewolf negotiation and breaching another packs territory, which, I might add, is always stupid, I think I should introduce you to the last member of my little entourage,” Stiles said, looking pleadingly at Derek, apparently in an attempt to ask him quietly to not rip out their throats.

There wasn't a sound except for the soft wind rustling through the leaves, there was a motion in the corner of his eyes that could have been mistaken for the leaves moving with the wind and then Scott cursed. Isaac and Erica both made a surprised sound. Derek gave a low growl, both impressed and aggravated at the intruder.

The man with light blond hair who had just appeared from the trees didn't look like it should even be physically possible for him to be so quiet. He was taller than Derek or Isaac and more muscled and massive than even Boyd was.

“Derek, this is Gregor, he's a member of my pack and usually responsible for looking after Jen. Sorry,” Stiles said, throwing a questioning glare at Gregor, who mumbled an apology, looking for all his bulk and strength oddly afraid of Stiles.

“Was too concentrated on writing on my thesis and noticed too late she was gone,” he said with a gentle voice. Gregor turned to Derek, seemingly becoming even more submissive and somehow this appeased Derek. “My apologies for entering your territory uninvited. Please let me receive any repercussions you might deal against my pack for my trespassing. I was just following orders to take care of one of my own, in which I failed.” The big man slunk behind Stiles, eyes lowered and neck bared.

All of them made an odd picture. A mismatched band of people. The aged hunter with white streaks in her short curly hair, the girl who moved more like a wolf than a human and the big man who was cowering behind his leader. And that was what Stiles was. Standing protectively in front of them all, while acting relaxed enough in this strained situation to look as if he knew they had his back. It made Derek narrow his eyes at him and a thought shot through his mind, old words his father had once taught him. An Alpha needs at least three Betas to form a stable pack.

He was about to throw Stiles and the others off of his property and tell them to not return, because quite frankly his temper was at the verge of bursting and he had enough of people suddenly trying to involve him in a war that he had hoped to stay out of and who unwittingly or purposefully challenged his authority as the Alpha of Beacon Hills. But then the door opened and Derek didn't even need to look around or smell who was joining them now, because the stunned look on Stiles face said it all.

Derek loved his pack and his adviser as well as Deaton's apprentice and valued them enough to call them pack as well. Sometimes however he hated how strong the need for any of them was to get involved in everything.

“Lydia, wow,” Stiles spluttered and from the looks he was given from his own pack, they weren't quite used to seeing him like that, but silently amused. “You look...fantastic. More than that.”

She quietly stepped next to Derek, Isaac making room for her, and he saw the deceivingly nice smile she had donned for Stiles.

“You look somewhat different from what I remember,” she said sweetly, her eyes scanning him and his pack members calculatingly.

He shrugged. “Some things changed.”

Lydia's eyes landed on Jen. “And some things don't,” she put a hand to her waist, throwing her long red hair back. “Like Peter Hale using young girls for his own ends.”

Her words made Stiles flinch and Derek's lips lift briefly in an aborted snarl. The girl in question however growled lowly before suddenly cocking her head and staring at Lydia with a scrunched up nose. “You smell odd,” she said apropos of nothing, and it drew a giggle from Erica in the otherwise rather tense situation.

“Rude,” Stiles muttered and cuffed the back of her head.

“Sorry,” Jen offered Lydia, still looking at her with the half-yellow eyes, not sounding particularly so.

Lydia didn't reply and Derek decided to stay quiet as well. Unsurprisingly though Stiles started talking.

“He isn't using her. She just can't be kept at home, Jen goes where she wants to be,” Stiles explained calmly. “And believe me we tried.”

“Not exactly the sign of a good Alpha, not being able to keep a Beta under control,” Derek said.

Jen's head swiveled in his direction and so did her unflinching glance. “He's not my Alpha, Abedabun is,” she said stubbornly. The name sounded familiar. And then it clicked in Derek's head. It had been one of the first things he had heard about Mom, about the threat she posed, almost three years back.

“She is dead, so is her pack.” Jen snarled at him, leaned closer towards Stiles who put a reassuring hand on her neck and looked Derek in the eyes.

“God, Derek, at least try to be a little bit nice. She was the only one who got away. Hid in the woods for almost two years.”

Derek wondered briefly why his uncle hadn't forced the girl to accept him as her Alpha, because he could have done it easily, but decided to not think too closely about it. His uncle would have his reasons and most of them would involve playing with people's minds. Even before the fire Peter had been more calculating and manipulative than anyone else in the pack, but he had also been kind and loving when it came to his family. The latter attributes Derek doubted his uncle would ever regain.

“The wendigo came and ate all of them and I ran. Then the wolves found me. Stiles and Gregor found me later,” the girl said, eyes suddenly distant, so Stiles took over again.

“And yeah, we're talking actual wolves here.”

“The wendigo?” Scott intercepted for the first time since their arrival, his voice oddly rough and Derek saw the outlines of horror on his face. He wasn't the only one who felt that way. Erica openly stared and Isaac had looked to the ground, while Lydia's face was still carefully vapid, but her left hand was now clenched.

“Mom,” Stiles answered Scott, but his gaze held Derek's.

Derek cursed inwardly and was caught between sympathy for the girl and an even deeper distaste for his uncle for sending her here to manipulate him. Derek knew how it was to lose everyone, how it felt to hold on to a dead Alpha, even when there was a prospect of someone new. Of running and not being able to stop until you reached someplace or someone where you simply couldn't run anymore.

He had wanted to distance himself from both the appeals of the Alliance and Lafayettes, at best hear them both out and sent them away with nothing, but gaining more information about their intentions. Trust Peter to prey on his weaknesses and that of the people around him.

The group Peter had sent to Beacon Hills wasn't picked at random, Stiles alone was proof enough of that, but Peter had played it even lower than simply sending back an old acquaintance, someone Derek and his pack knew. He had sent people they all could in some way connect with, he was sure. He didn't know Gregor's story, but was already convinced that he would get along well with Boyd and Isaac. Then again, perhaps it hadn't been Peter's plan alone, considering that he hadn't known his Betas back then. Stiles on the other hand had.

“Look,” Stiles started again, voice quiet but steady. “I know you don't want to have anything to do with us or the war. But if you are going to give Jerry a chance to talk, then please give me a chance too.”

Derek nodded. “Fine. Come back tomorrow at ten.” He let his gaze wander over the other three. “Alone.” Hopefully by then he would've already gone through the meeting with Jeremiah, because he didn't think he could stomach more than one hour of talking with that little bastard. The man himself had seemed nice enough at first glance, but there had been something slimy about him, that Derek didn't like at all. It wasn't like Stiles gave a particularly trustworthy vibe, but there was still an earnestness to him that Derek had always respected.

“Okay,” Stiles said, hesitating for a moment. “I have a few notes for Dr. Deaton from Ms. Morrell. Can we head there, or do you want us out of town until tomorrow?” There was another question underlying the obvious one, because the working and living place of an adviser was neutral ground and if he or she offered sanctuary to a werewolf even the Alpha of a territory couldn't say anything against it.

Derek paused, thinking about it, but his gaze shifted back to the young girl. He wanted to distance himself from her and her story. A few years back, when he was still crushed under his own guilt and grief, he might have been able to convince himself to do so.

Stiles and the members of his pack were in danger here, because of the bigger pack approaching. Perhaps he had gone soft over time. Scott would undoubtedly call it nicer and not regard it as a weakness. Though right now his Beta seemed to be a bit distant himself, not focusing on his former friend directly and while being physically next to Derek not feeling like he was close at the moment.

In the end it would be Deaton's decision of what to do with Stiles and the others for the night.

“You can go there,” he said, mouth curling sourly. “But not on your own.” Derek looked at the woman standing next to him and Lydia nodded in understanding, though she didn't seem particularly happy about it. “Lydia will bring you there.”

Before Stiles could answer him, Derek turned away and went back inside the house, followed by his Betas.

He sent Erica back outside to join Jackson and Boyd on the lookout for more pilot fish or other nosy werewolves not belonging to their pack, though he doubted that Stiles had brought more. Then he ordered Isaac to wake up two of their newer members, Ruth and Sam. When everyone else was gone he steeled himself for the inevitable outburst.

Scott grabbed him by the jacket. “Did you know?” he said, voice rising with each word. “Did you know that Peter took Stiles?” Derek snarled and grabbed Scott's wrist, twisting it and forcing him to back down.

“Scott, calm down,” he ordered, voice steady.

Scott glared up at him, rubbing his wrist. “Did you?” he asked, more quietly now. Derek's face went hard and he turned away, unable to look at the betrayal in his Beta's face.

“I didn't.” Scott huffed disbelievingly at that. “No listen, I didn't. I had a hunch, but nothing definite.” Well, he did have a very strong hunch, but no need to tell Scott that the last time he had seen Peter hadn't been the night Lydia had resurrected him, as he had told everyone else.

“You could've told me either way. I thought we were past all those stupid secrets!”

“I wasn't sure! And if you had paid a bit of attention to all of it, you would have noticed it as well,” he said harshly and regretted it the moment he saw Scott going pale, but went on, more gentle now. “And even if I had told you, what would you have done? What would you have had me do? Try to find them?” Derek reached out to Scott and grasped his shoulder and his Beta leaned into it, but also looked away. “I tried, Scott. There just wasn't any clue. Not until the start of the war. Did you want me to go then? To get us all involved?”

Scott blinked at him slowly and then pressed his eyes shut. Like he knew what Derek was saying was right, but wasn't quite ready to accept it. “We are going to be involved in it anyway now,” he said instead of giving an answer. Derek let go of him and nodded slowly.

“I am afraid so.”

Scott sagged. “Okay,” he said quietly. “What are we going to do about that?”

“We've got a plan for situations like that,” Derek reminded him. “And we'll talk to both Jeremiah and Stiles tomorrow and see what we can get out of them.”

“Are you going to accept Stiles' offer?” he asked, and there was something hopeful in his eyes, which hurt Derek even more.

“I don't know, depends on how he and Peter stand to each other. Because I can't bring myself to trust my uncle.”

“It's Stiles,” Scott argued. “Surely he wouldn't-”

“Wouldn't what? Screw us over if it was in the interest of the Alliance?” Scott glared at him. “You don't know that. It's been ten years and he's been with Peter all this time. And he knows how to get into people's heads in case you have forgotten.”

Besides, Derek didn't really trust Stiles either. Scott might have been blind to the darker sides Stiles had presented even as a teenager, Derek had not. The single-minded loyalty towards those few people he had loved, which in itself hadn't been so bad, if he hadn't been willing to sacrifice everyone else for it, if need be. Hell, Derek had seen him throw a Molotov cocktail at Peter and had been there when he had convinced his father to arrest Derek for the murder of his own sister. And then of course there were those other things, the other stories, the new stories about Peter's boy.

“You told me what this pilot fish called him, you've heard the stories Harold and Sebastian and Luise told us, when they passed through here.”

Scott looked defeated.

The stories about Mom and her boys were gruesome. Most of them were probably exaggerated, but even if only a few of them were true, they were bad enough. But the stories of the Alliance, though decidedly better, had also given Derek a bad aftertaste, especially the ones about his uncle. And then there had been the stories about the boy who was constantly at Peter's side, who his enemies almost feared as much. A ruthless and cunning pair when it came to their enemies and a great asset to their allies – if they didn't turn on them.

“We're going to talk to him tomorrow, okay?” Scott nodded. “Go home, Scott. To your family. Tell Allison and Chris to prepare and tell your mother to get the mountain ash barrier up if she hasn't already,” he said.

“I will,” Scott said and turned to go, stopping at the door. “Derek? No more secrets, please.”

Derek nodded. “Go home, Scott. Sleep.”

He couldn't really make that promise. He was the Alpha and sometimes there were things he had to keep to himself. Most things they shared now, trusted each other and it had been a long way until they had fully reached that point were neither of them had to force out what they knew and needle the other into admitting what they knew. It hadn't been easy though.

Derek trusted Scott and knew Scott trusted him, that they had each others' back after all this time and he didn't really want to keep everything close or to lie to him. Still, there were things that would make things between them more complicated. And Stiles might just be one of them.

When he had disappeared years ago it had left a deep cut in Scott's life, something Derek suspected had never really healed and something he knew had changed Scott. It had left an empty space in Derek's life too, much to his chagrin. Ten years ago he hadn't really wanted to let anyone in, but Stiles had been one of those people who had wheedled his way into Derek's life.

But however much it had hurt both of them, it ultimately brought Derek and Scott closer together. Scott had realized that he had just as much left as Derek after they had defeated Gerard and the Kanima, after Jackson had been saved by Lydia. And that had been close to nothing. With the looming threat of the Alpha pack they had bonded and finally worked as a team, as a pack.

Stiles' return could endanger all of it. Derek couldn't say how much impact he would have on them, but either way there would be some. It made him worried and moody in a way he hadn't been in some time.

He was thrown out of his thoughts when Isaac returned and rapped on the door frame. He raised an eyebrow at Derek. “Everything all right with Scott?”

“Mostly,” he replied curtly. “Not really, but we'll deal,” he added after Isaac gave him a not so convinced look.

“So what are we going to do? Prepare for worst case?”

Derek pushed past him and gave Isaac a grim smile. “That's exactly what we'll do.”

Just because they hadn't been involved in the war so far, just because they hadn't really expected to be involved, because they were too far out, didn't mean that they hadn't prepared. After all, the past few years had taught them to be prepared for anything, otherwise it was going to bite you in the ass.

Literally, some of the time.

Chapter Text

Lydia tapped out an irregular rhythm against the door handle of the car and stared into the dark woods. She noticed the nervous and curious glances Stiles threw her from time to time, but chose to ignore them. They were driving on their own, Jameson and the other two following them in her car.

Stiles had tried to initiate conversation at the start, but had quickly fallen silent. She couldn't quite remember him ever shutting up so easily, though admittedly she hadn't known him very well. Still, he looked better and more normal than she expected from someone who had spent ten years of his life with Peter Hale.

She had only had him in her head for a few weeks and most of the time she hadn't even been aware that someone else had lived inside it. A lot of it she had never been able to remember, like the two days missing in the woods. Other things she remembered like they were a dream. The charming boy in her garden giving her a flower, her birthday party. And then of course there were the nightmares, that still hadn't gone away completely – Peter rising from his grave, smiling.

Peter had told her back then that she was strong, and Deaton often said the same. But there were nights, now just once or twice a year, but still there, that she didn't feel strong at all. More like she would go out of her mind in any minute. Moments when she felt an itch, like the pain of a healed scar, across her whole self. The part where Peter had made himself at home inside her mind and torn himself out again.

Sometimes she still felt the emptiness of him inside her, the black hole that were his emotions, and the space that he had left behind, that allowed her to breathe freely now.

Lydia had once dreamed about a perfect life, going to one of the best colleges in the country, finding a handsome and wealthy husband, being successful in her own career while being a good wife as well. She had never dreamed about eternal love like most girls her age, but had almost found it in Jackson. Except they had never meant to be together forever. The most fascinating thing was that it didn't hurt losing him as a boyfriend, because she still had him, just in another way. He was her best friend, now, which was far healthier than their previous relationship.

So instead of having at least a handsome and rich husband, Lydia Martin had a cat.

Discovering the existence of werewolves had pretty much destroyed any dream she ever had, but she wasn't one to complain. She liked her life and she loved the people she was taking care of, the crazy people that made up the Hale pack. Derek's pack.

Once Peter had told her that sometimes the people closest to you can be the ones holding you back the most. The truth was, despite every passed chance of greatness for herself, it had never felt like they were holding her back. On the contrary, sometimes she felt like they were making her more than she could have ever been without them.

Lydia never gave Peter much thought anyway, never dared to, for the sake of her sanity. Right now she was just glad that he hadn't taken her away from Beacon Hills and had opted for Stiles instead. She wasn't ashamed to admit that much.

After she had finally been clued in about the supernatural world and her closest friends' participation in it, she had tried to stay out of it as much as possible. Until it became painfully obvious that this wasn't an option, and they were in over their heads, and they needed someone to think clearly for them on those occasions they couldn't. It had put her on Dr. Deaton's and Ms. Morrell's radar. Lydia had never been stupid, though, and she realized quickly that the role she had taken on wasn't the one originally meant for her. She had filled a role that had been meant for someone else and had been forced to let go of the role she had wanted for herself. The one she could have had, if things had gone differently.

The role of the game maker, the adviser, the last minute rescue. That hadn't been her, but she had gotten used to it. Had to, because the one who should have filled that place in the pack was gone. Still, she hadn't simply grown into it. She had made this her own, had carved out her place in Beacon Hills and turned it into what she wanted it to be.

“Why you?” she asked him conversationally, while admiring her perfectly manicured nails.

“Huh?” he asked unintelligible and looked over to her, mouth partly open. Seriously, how was this the same guy who had other werewolves whispering in awe of his deeds? It was almost like the ride to the winter formal years ago, except that he was less twitchy and quieter. And the car was definitely more comfortable.

She turned to him, frown on her face. “Why did Peter take you with him? What's so special about you?” she asked flippantly. Asking the painful questions and targeting where it might hurt was always prone to get her the answers she wanted to know in the end, she had learned.

Stiles turned back to look out on the street and his face twisted.

“I don't know-”

“Don't give me that,” she cut him off, looking back outside, seemingly uninterested in his words again. “You've always known more than you let everyone believe. Always been more observant than most and able to hide it. Don't think I didn't notice at least that about you. Especially after the dance.”

“Me? Observant? Nah, that was just me being kind of a stalker.” He shrugged it off.

And didn't deception have a particular kind of feel to it? Lydia just turned her head in his direction again and simply looked at him, her fingers drumming on the dashboard.

“Really, that's all you're giving me?” she pouted mockingly.

His eyes flickered back to her and then he pressed his lips together. “Perhaps because a recently orphaned teenager with a restraining order and a penchant for trouble running away is more plausible than the most popular girl in the school going missing again.”

She took a sharp intake of breath at the sudden honesty and the picture it painted in her head. Having had Peter in her head for weeks was one thing, the simple thought alone of being in his grasp for years was something else. Lydia had sometimes wondered why he hadn't taken her or if he would return. Hoping he really had just needed her for his resurrection and nothing more, being afraid he hadn't.

“Shit, sorry Lydia.”

Her control snapped back into place instantly and her smooth mask she wore for people who didn't matter to her slipped back into place.

“Oh don't worry. Rather you than me,” she said, smiling sweetly at him. Stiles gave her a tired smile in return. “Yeah.”

“So how much do you know about how he came back?” she continued, her voice sharp.

“The basics,” he said and Lydia wondered how much that was, how much Peter told him.

“You know after everything he did, why should we trust him? After what he did to his family, to Scott and to me.” She looked him over. “And whatever he did to you.” He better consider his answer well, because she was the adviser to the Hale pack, and if he couldn't even convince her, he could very well forget on ever convincing Derek, who had learned to listen to her input when it came to the hard decisions.

“It's been ten years. Things change. People too,” he started, almost softly.

Lydia rolled her eyes. “Please, don't give me such a predictable speech.”

He smiled brightly at her, which threw her off. It wasn't what she had expected. “You were always more intelligent and observant than you let on.” Something about the tone in his voice, the praise, made her shiver. She remembered Peter standing next to her in her living room, threatening her and making compliments. She resolutely pushed the thought aside.

“Look, the pack coming here, they're bad news, really bad news. And whatever they say or promise, they lie. Because all they want is everyone else dead.”

“And you of course aren't ever lying to anyone? Because you never did that,” she said almost scathingly.

“No, I'm not saying that, but at least I don't want anything to happen to you and everyone else in Beacon Hills. And whether you believe it or not, Peter would prefer it if Derek and his pack stayed alive as well.”

She twirled her hair around her finger. “And how exactly are you and that little substitute of a pack going to be of any help against a pack that is at least thrice the size of ours?”

Stiles glanced over to her and there was admiration on his face.

“Because we know things about Baby Brother and the people in his pack that you don't.”

“You could have called and given us the information,” Lydia said flippantly.

“It doesn't work like that,” Stiles simply answered. “We can't just hand out things like that, without being sure it won't get back to them.”

He drove into the parking space in front of the veterinary clinic and jumped out of the car fast enough to rush to the other side and open the door for her, smiling at her. Lydia rolled her eyes, but returned the smile.

Beside them Jameson parked her car and the other three piled out.

Lydia opened the door with her key and switched on the light, wondering briefly if Deaton was even here. “Alan?” she called, just in the moment he slipped out of the next room. The low door between the entrance and the reception, laced with mountain ash, was closed. Apparently, either Chris, Allison, or Derek had already called him.

“Hello, Lydia,” he greeted her with a warm smile that didn't change when he caught sight of Stiles behind her. “Stiles, it's been a long time.”

“Hi Dr. Deaton,” Stiles greeted, making a move forward as if he wanted to shake his hand, but lingered in front of the barrier. Behind him Jameson ushered Jen inside. She looked around fascinated and Gregor gingerly stepped in behind them.

“And I see you brought some friends.”

Deaton looked them over, face unreadable but pleasant. Meanwhile, Lydia jumped on the counter, letting her feet dangle, watching the scene before her unfold with a bored look on her face. She was interested in seeing how this would play out, but had a guess of how it would end. Bringing a young girl was a rather genius move when it came to emotional manipulation. It had affected Derek and the others already and it hadn't even left her cold, so she doubted Alan had a lasting chance against the somewhat disarming kid. Considering that his life was helping hurt animals and the girl in question moved around like a nosy and harmless puppy, Lydia was fairly certain that he didn't.

“Right, this is Jameson,” Stiles introduced the hunter who walked over to Deaton with poise and firmly shook his hand. Lydia noticed how his eyes narrowed the slightest bit, but his face remained otherwise unreadable. “A werewolf hunter traveling with werewolves. It seems to be a trend,” he said, friendly, and she just snorted. “You have no idea.”

“Gregor,” Stiles continued unperturbed, pointing at the hulking man in the background. He nodded timidly, eyes flickering briefly over to Deaton before fixing on the girl again, apparently trying to make up for his earlier failure of taking care of her.

“And this little rascal is Jen.” Stiles grabbed her by the back of her neck and pulled her back from the aquarium standing next to the door. It was meant to calm and distract nervous pet owners. Apparently it worked perfectly on young werewolves as well. As soon as her attention was redirected, she fixed her yellow eyes unerringly at Deaton.

“You are like Ms. Morrell,” she said, looking fascinated. “But different,” she added and gave him a half smile in return to his amused one. Stiles patted her head and she leaned into it. “We have to work on your human introduction skills a bit more,” he said with a sigh, but sounded fond.

“She is a rather unusual young lady,” Deaton commented.

“Apparently she was raised by wolves, after an attack,” Lydia supplied tilting her head to take in their reaction. There was no sign of a lie or a deception regarding the girl's story.

“I see,” Deaton said. He moved his head to the side and watched intently as Jen followed his movements. “But I guess you didn't come all this way for simple introductions,” he continued, his eyes wandering back to Stiles.

“No, I-,” Stiles trailed off, looking through his pockets, before fishing out a rather pitiful looking letter, which had seen better days. He looked slightly embarrassed about its state. “Ms. Morrell wanted me to give you this.”

Deaton held out his hand over the invisible mountain ash barrier and Stiles stepped forward to hand the letter to him. Lydia leaned over so she could read what was apparently written in Latin inside it as well and Deaton allowed it. Still, the words made little sense to her, though she was perfect in Latin.

Remember Arlington. I think I found a way to make it work. Three times and the amulet is the charm. But it needs something else. What do you think? Take care of the pups for me. Love, M.

At least the last part was pretty clear.

She raised an eyebrow at him, but he deliberately ignored it, folding the paper again and putting it into his breast pocket. It only meant she would pester him another time about it and get her answers then.

“I take it you are looking for asylum?” Deaton asked, focusing on Stiles again, who spread his hands, as if caught.

“Just for the night, if that's possible? It wouldn't even be for all of us, but I'd rather keep Jen and Gregor as safe as possible as long as I can. If you want, Jameson and I-”

But Deaton had already opened the small door to let them in. “It's fine, Stiles. This is not a motel, but for once you can all spend the night here. Just please try not to aggravate the animals too much.”

The smile that lit up Stiles face was honest enough, Lydia decided. He ushered the others through and Jen almost immediately darted off when her presence startled the dogs slightly. Scott's continued presence at the clinic and Isaac's often visits had somehow lead to them not going off every time a werewolf entered Something Lydia wasn't sure was a good thing. But at least they still reacted to an unknown presence.

Apparently though Jen and Gregor had a calming effect on the animals, as they calmed down immediately, when they got closer. It was pretty amusing to watch her sway back and forth, calmly transfixed by the animals, the big guy shadowing her.

Stiles and Jameson stayed back with Deaton and Lydia and watched the two of them fondly.

It was Stiles who broke the amused silence. “Can you help Ms. Morrell?” he asked quietly.

“I could, but I'm not sure how wise it is,” Deaton admitted.

“Will you?”

Deaton crossed his arms and his eyes followed Jen, making a decision. Lydia refrained from making a scathing remark at how easily he was manipulated by a pretty face. “Aconitum anthora would do the trick, I believe. But it won't work for long and only on the full moon.”

Stiles nodded, his mouth suddenly set in a grim line. “It has to be enough. Thanks.”

“Don't thank me yet, Stiles. For this kind of thing there is always a price to pay.”

“Isn't there always?” Stiles smiled ruefully. “We'll pay up, though, we always do.”

Lydia decided that she hated the feeling of being left out of a conversation. She also hated the feeling that there was something about to happen on the full moon, which was tomorrow.

Jameson at her side had already pulled out her phone and seemed to be texting someone.

“Well, if this is all,” Lydia interjected, smiling brightly. “I think I should head home. I take it you'll be fine?”

“Of course,” Deaton said mildly.

Stiles shuffled nervously from one foot to another, before holding his hand out. “Well, then goodnight. See you tomorrow?”

Lydia ignored the offered hand. “See you tomorrow. Be there on time,” she said, jumping from the counter. Stiles nodded.

“Lydia, wait a moment. Take my car.” Deaton held her back.

“It's just a few minutes from here,” she argued, but knew it was useless. He was already getting his keys, joining her and escorting her outside.

“Stay the nights at Derek's,” he instructed her once they were at the car.

“Really?” she asked, slightly miffed.

“Please.” And curse Alan and his gentle smile and concerned look. He was just as much of a manipulative bastard if need be as anyone she knew. She snatched the keys from his hand and stalked over to the driver's side.

Alan rapped on the window and when she lowered it, he leaned in and placed a small bag on her lap. “A little something for a safe journey,” he explained, when she raised an eyebrow at him.

“You think it's going to be that bad?”

“Better safe than sorry,” he said in lieu of an explanation. Which was enough to let her know that it was bad, but still not bad enough for him to actually stop being cryptic and just say what he meant.

“I see.” Lydia pursed her lips and pondered if she should say what was on her mind.

“Derek might need to work with the Alliance. Or one of the brothers.”

“Yes,” he simply answered.

“Which one would you choose?”

“It's not my place to say, is it?” Lydia just threw him a look that said she wasn't in the mood for his nonsense.

“There are always advantages and disadvantages no matter which side he chooses. But there is one side he already knows.”

Lydia didn't look at him. There was a moment of silence, before he said. “But that's not really what you wanted me to tell you, is it? And not really what you wanted to tell me.”

She smiled briefly. “Stiles, he saw something in me that I didn't want others to see,” she admitted and then her soft smile twisted into something bitter. “So did Peter.”

Alan looked at her compassionately. “And so did I,” he reminded her.

Lydia nodded and tried to order her thoughts.

“You know I never saw anything special in Stiles, until the winter formal, when he told me all those things no one else seemed to notice,” she contemplated. “I don't think anyone ever saw anything more in him than the hyperactive annoying loser.” Her eyes settled on Alan and she watched his reaction sharply. “But he wasn't like me, he didn't hide whatever made him special on purpose.”

“Most people don't, but yes, I don't think he was truly aware of his potential,” Alan agreed with her. He got a look on his face like he was reminiscing about something. “I once gave him a task only someone like you and him could fulfill. It took some persuasion to convince him that he had it in him to do something extraordinary.”

“What do you think of him now?”

“He has grown. I don't think he is unaware of his abilities anymore. But he seems a bit unsettled.”

Lydia nodded thoughtfully. “It's a pity you didn't take him under your tutelage when you could. At least we'd know how he turned out to be.”

Alan gave her a sad smile. “I regret it, too.” Something bitter passed his face. “But someone else seemed to have noticed his potential as well.”

“Really,” Lydia said in mock surprise. “I wouldn't have noticed.”

Alan didn't smile anymore, his face serious now.

“Peter was always observant and good at getting what he wanted.”

“Did you know him?”

Deaton nodded. “For a long time.”

Lydia took a deep breath. “How was he? Before...” She pressed her lips together not really sure, whether she wanted an answer at all, not quite sure what the question was.

“Before the fire?” Deaton finished for her, gently. “He could be manipulative, deceptive even. Most of all, though, he could be charming. I can remember him being indifferent towards people who didn't interest him. But not always uncaring. And when it came to his family, he was loving and very protective.”

Lydia shuddered. There were things she didn't want to think about when it came to Peter Hale. It was easier to remember him as a monster than to think that he used to be a person too. It would make things easier to know he had always been cold and cruel. Dead on the inside. Instead, now Deaton made him almost sound like – another thought she really didn't need to follow, but had to.

“A bit like Stiles,” she said carefully, realizing that perhaps she had noticed more about Stiles Stilinski than she would have ever admitted back in High School.

“A bit, yes,” Alan agreed.

“Makes one wonder how much Stiles has become like his Alpha,” Lydia said with a clipped voice. There was a thoughtful pause between them and then Alan's face took on an expression that Lydia knew always ended in him bringing up unpleasant contemplations.

“Perhaps we also should wonder how much Stiles has influenced Peter.” There it was. The thing neither of them wanted to consider. Because it was easier to see Stiles as a victim who had been lured in by the Big Bad Wolf. “He always seemed to have a rather strong mind of his own.”

Unlike me, Lydia thought bitterly, but Deaton caught her stray thought. “You are exceptionally strong, Lydia. You know that,” he reminded her.

“Of course,” she said and forced a cheery smile on her face. It didn't seem to convince Alan, but he smiled in return.

“You really should spend the night at the Hale house,” he suggested.

“For my own safety? Because I am oh so strong.”

Alan looked at her earnestly again. “For your safety and for the Hale pack. There's a lot going on tonight and nothing seems to be quite good.”

She sighed. Of course he had to be reasonable, while finding a way to boost her self-confidence in an underhand way.

Lydia was about to turn the ignition, but stopped.

“What was this about earlier?”

Alan studied her carefully, deciding whether he should tell her now or not.

“The amulet is used as a focus point, but it needed to be laced with something to give it more power for this particular spell.”

“Which would be?”

Alan smiled at her impatience and she was pretty sure by now he was just talking in a mystical way to annoy her.

“There is a legend that addressing a turned werewolf three times by their Christian name could cure them. It seems like Morrell has found a particular spell which might be able to render a turned werewolf human for one night, the night of the full moon.”

Lydia remembered what he had taught her about the power of true names. Nothing could be more powerful than a true name used correctly. But it was a difficult procedure to use and if one made the slightest mistake, the magical backfire could kill someone.

“Could Ms. Morrell use it here?”

Alan shook his head. “Otherwise I wouldn't have given the information away.” Lydia wasn't entirely convinced. “She can use the amulet only once and there aren't many left out there, least of all available to her. And the distance of the spell is limited. If she were close enough to use it here, I would know.”

Lydia didn't question that. He usually had a good instinct when someone like him came close enough to Beacon Hills to cause damage.

“Why would they even need a spell like this? The brothers and Mom are born werewolves.”

“Ah, but some of their pack members aren't,” Alan reminded her.

Lydia weighed the information and came to the conclusion that it wasn't the most relevant thing right now. Interesting, of course, but not relevant to the situation at hand.

“See you tomorrow,” she said crisply, and turned the ignition. “Don't let the werewolves bite you.”

“Goodnight, Lydia, and safe journey.”

Lydia drove back to the Hale house in Dr. Deaton's car, the now open bag of violet wolfsbane powder in the seat next to her, in case one of the foreign werewolves got funky ideas about attacking her. When she arrived, Isaac nodded to her and pointed with his thumb over his shoulder towards the front door. “He's in his room, pacing.”

Lydia rolled her eyes. “What else?” she muttered under her breath and Isaac grinned. She flashed him a smile as a thank you and went inside. The house was dark and quiet and Derek's grumpy thoughts seemed to bring the shadows back of the ruin it used to be. How utterly charming. She went into his room without knocking and Derek gave her an annoyed look, as if he hadn't heard her coming a mile ago. It probably was simply because she had texted him beforehand that Stiles and his posse were staying with Deaton.

“What do you think?” he asked brusquely, which made Lydia put a hand on her waist disapprovingly. Derek made an effort to relax himself. “So?”

“I think it doesn't matter so much as to what I think, but what you think,” she said and it was on Derek to roll his eyes in frustration. “No seriously, you first.”

Derek clenched his jaw and she let have a minute to calm down enough to use his words properly. “I don't trust either Jerry or Stiles. I don't even know what they want exactly or what the price is, or what their game is. It doesn't matter which side I choose, it just feels like either way we're screwed.”

He started to pace again and Lydia held her tongue, waiting for him to continue. Derek had made progress in the whole communication process, as they all had, but he still needed to be pushed into talking sometimes.

“Jerry is a rat, there's no doubt about it. And while I think Stiles means it when he says he wants to help us, there's something more to him. Something I don't like,” he pressed out between clenched teeth. Lydia forced herself to uncross her arms and step towards him, putting the tips of her fingers on his muscular arm.

“Something like Peter's shadow,” she suggested and met his eyes. For a moment she felt lost.

“Yes,” he answered, looking at her with soft eyes, a silent understanding passing between them. Her fingers slipped away, but Derek looked less tense now.

“We probably should see how it's going tomorrow,” he said, looking far away, before admitting out of nowhere, “I'd rather place my bets with Stiles, though.”

“Me too. If nothing else he's the devil we know. And if he still loves Scott as much as he did back then and has at least some feelings left for me, he won't screw us over entirely and feed us to the wolves,” she said, a tight smile plastered to her face. “Deaton seemed to think we should give him a chance, as well,” Lydia added as an afterthought.

Derek nodded. “Still, we should be prepared for a double-cross.”

“We could double-cross him first,” she suggested lightly and Derek huffed out a laugh.

“We could, but Scott won't like it and we don't need any trouble within the pack right now.” Sometimes she forgot how reasonable Derek could be when he wanted to, and she knew how hard it must be right now for him. She pouted, but didn't mean it. “Sometimes you're no fun.”

Derek grimaced. “I'm hardly known for being fun,” he reminded her, and she just waved him off.

“Shush now, you are lots of fun, just don't tell anyone.”

It brought a small smile to his face. “I won't,” he said, resting one of his strong hands on her shoulder and squeezing lightly. “Now go to sleep, I'll need you at the top of your game for tomorrow.”

She raised an eyebrow at him. “For the negotiation with Jerry or Stiles?”

Derek looked at her earnestly. “Both,” he admitted, and ran a hand over his face. “And for keeping Scott in check.”

“So he didn't take the news well? Big surprise.” She waved it off. “He'll come around, don't worry.”

Derek gave her a grateful smile. “Bed now,” he ordered.

Lydia flipped her hair over her shoulder as she turned to leave. “You know I'm a grown woman?” But there wasn't real malice in her voice. It was Derek's way of telling her that he cared. But before she went to bed, she called Allison, filling her in on what had happened.

Surprisingly, it was one of those nights where she didn't have nightmares about burned corpses and worms under her naked, dirty feet and people screaming for help while their flesh boiled.

Chapter Text


All he is now is instinct and the urge to kill, slay, and taste blood. The blood of his enemy. The blood of the werewolf who had taken his brother, who had threatened his pack – his family.

There he is. Fighting and snarling. His Alpha is there too, a giant, horrible, black beast with gleaming red eyes. A lighter, more human form is at his side, pack too. The other two in the clearing aren't. They aren't enemies either.

It doesn't matter. His enemy is there and he will bleed. Die. Like his allies had. The evidence is still dripping from his jaw.

The others are losing, despite their greater number. Then he is lunging at the monster that smells like blood, death, and ash. That smells like his Alpha, except not. Because his Alpha is-. He was...

It didn't matter. All that matters is that flesh gave way to his teeth and claws and doesn't knit itself together fast enough before he tears at it again. Then he is flying, long slashes on his arms and torso, but the second he hits the ground he is up again.

The others are closing in on the enemy again. His Alpha attacks, tears out flesh and sinews.

He is back too. And then the other Alpha who isn't his is there as well.

Finally, the enemy falls. And he just keeps on biting junks of flesh out of him, rips it out with his claws. His Alpha and the other deliver the killing blow, one on each side of their enemy's throat, ripping it out.

It is over.

Except, it isn't. The kill did nothing to satiate him.

His pack mate is whimpering, hurt. The enemy had done that. He is scared. But that was his doing, not the enemy. Then the other Beta who isn't his pack moves over to his pack mate. A threat. Threats are not tolerated. He lunges again.

There is blood. There are screams. His Alpha growls, the only sound that makes sense, Back off. It throws him off for a moment. It isn't just aimed at him. The other Alpha has her hands on both Betas now, hauling them off the clearing. He growls. Wants to follow. His pack. Not hers. But his Alpha stands between them, snarling at him.

He'd done wrong. Not that he understands. His Alpha growls again, it reverberates through the clearing, shakes the ground. Makes him cower in fear and whimper. A command. Shift back.

No.

No, because there are memories now. His human side trying to push through. Fragments. Memories from years ago, when he was so much younger.


---

“You do as I say. Do we understand each other?” He nodded frantically. His eyes burning with tears and hatred. Everything to make his Alpha stop.

“Yes,” he bit out.

---

His Alpha is a threat too. Is dangerous.

---

“You are a clever boy, aren't you? So you know to never do that again, never defy me.”

He whimpered and nodded, too scared to speak.

---

His Alpha is keeping him from his pack, keeping him from protecting them.

---

“Never again, Peter. Do you understand that? Never again. Because you hurt them, I'll kill you. You lose it, I'll kill you. Never do that again. Do we understand each other?” His Alpha looked oddly pleased at those words. Scared and angry, but pleased. Proud even. “Of course.”

---

He attacks. His Alpha reacts. Instead of fighting back he evades him. Another growl. Another command. Stop!

No.

He is aggravated now. Wants to fight. Wants more blood. He lunges again. This time they collide. Claw at each other, bite until there is blood on his tongue.

They fought before. Used to fight a lot more than these days. But usually with words. Rarely with fangs and claws and then usually not drawing blood. It's just as vicious as now, but different.

His Alpha brings him down, pins him to the earth and growls again. It just makes him more feral, more angry and he pushes until he is free.

His Alpha backs away. He is thrown for a moment when his Alpha shifts. His form becomes human, but his eyes are still glowing red. Like embers of a fire. Like blood. His Alpha crouches and talks. The words distract him. He's unsure now on how to attack.

“Stiles, listen to me. You need to stop.”

He doesn't think so. He jumps again, but his Alpha rolls to the side.

“Stiles, stop!” He does for a moment, transfixed by his Alpha's human voice. “This is not what you are. What you want to be. Listen to me, Stiles. You are not an animal.” The words bring a memory back that's even older than the ones before. Back when he was human. He whines.

“You are Stiles. My clever, dangerous boy.” He should find the words insulting. But he understands them now. Knows they are meant as a compliment. “The one who would give everything to protect his pack, his family and friends. Remember?” He remembers, which is why he attacks again. But his Alpha – Peter – is fast.

“You scared Gregor, your pack. Is that what you want? Is that what Angelo would've wanted?” His Alpha's voice cuts through the rage. Fills him with guilt. He whines again. “Come on, Stiles. Come back. You're not feral. You can't be. You're my clever boy.” There is something in Peter's – his Alpha's – voice that is almost pleading. Another memory comes back.


---

“A penny for your thoughts?” he asked and sat down on the porch of their new house, next to his Alpha. After two years of wandering around the country, they had finally settled down. There was a look on his Alpha's face he couldn't decipher. It was partly irritated, partly thoughtful and partly content. There was still a hollowness, a darkness to him too.

“It's nothing. Just... Pack, family,” he answered quietly. It was an unusually short and open answer. His own gaze wandered over to the child playing in the grass with Angelo, and Gema laughing as Alex smiled. He leaned in closer so they wouldn't hear. “We are your pack now,” he said equally quiet.

He finally meant it.

His Alpha looked over to him, a small smirk on his lips. “Is that so?”

He fidgeted and played with the four thin bracelets on his wrist, right above his Alpha's mark. “Yeah,” he said. “And we'll protect them together.”

His Alpha presses his arm against Stiles, forcing him to look up. There was a fierce look in his eyes, dangerous and deadly. But it was not nearly as burned out and hollow as it used to be.

He wasn't like the ruin of the Hale house, some parody of something that used to be beautiful and now just waited to be demolished entirely. He wasn't a thing. Maybe he would never really heal, never regain his humanity. However there were new things growing roots into him, bringing him back into the world of the living.

“Yes, we will,” Peter said.

---

Then everything else comes back too. The good memories and the bad ones. The laughter and annoyed screams on Sundays, when everyone from the pack is home.

Gema's soft smell of summer and her hard slaps to his head. Alex sprouting zen-like phrases that somehow always make sense. Gregor helping Jen to figure out how to act human.

The burned corpses of other packs. Chunks ripped out of their half eaten carcasses, too big to be caused by a normal wolf.

Angelo's relieved, bloody and bruised face when he saw Stiles coming to his rescue. The blank look only seconds later when his head was severed from his body.

Stiles crumbles, turns back to his human form and starts shaking. Peter is there in seconds, holding him.

“I found Ramirez and I just -,” his voice breaks at that. “I failed them. I failed Angelo,” he sobs into Peter's naked shoulder and Peter takes his head between his hands. His eyes are wet too and empty. There is a look there that makes Stiles want to run and never look back for fear of knowing what it means.

“No, I failed them. I failed you, too,” he says and there is nothing gentle in his voice. Stiles tries to fling his head from left to right, but can't. This isn't just about their pack. He blindly grasps for Peter's hair and tugs their foreheads together.

“Peter-” His voice gives out and Peter lifts his own head and kisses him on the forehead, draws him back into a tight hug again.

“Shh, Stiles, it's okay.” He gently rocks him back and forth. “It's okay, I understand. I know.” And Peter does. “You'll be fine, Stiles. You will be.”

Unlike Peter, he just might be, given time and no more losses. But there will be. Someone else will die, because Mom is still out there and two of her sons and all their nasty little minions. He doesn't know whether he says it out loud or not, but Peter answers him either way.

“We'll make them pay. It'll be okay. Hush now, my clever boy.”

And Stiles nods.

 

A bloody Stiles is comforted by another werewolf


A Few Weeks Later

The negotiation went like shit. And Stiles was phrasing it nicely in his head.

So far Derek had not said a single word. Lydia was pretending to be bored and once in a while she threw out some sharp questions, cutting like knives. As for Scott, he didn't seem to be able to look at Stiles for longer than a second and shifted uncomfortably in his chair, like he wanted to be somewhere else. Stiles totally felt for him; he did. Because there were other places he'd rather be, too. Including the torture rack Big Brother had kept before his dead.

Stiles had known that he had to plan things carefully, because this wasn't like negotiations with any other pack. Those were people who had known him and Peter from a time when they hadn't been the team they were now. They knew Stiles better as the bumbling, rambling teenager who got into trouble and not the young man who was known for his cunning and loyalty towards Peter.

They knew Peter as the monster that he had been. It wasn't like he could just tell them the same stories he told everyone else; he couldn't make them believe that Peter was trustworthy and sane. And the truth was Peter was neither. Not really and he probably never would be. But he was good at pretending when it counted and Stiles was good at pretending to believe in his fearless leader.

In his own way he did, but he knew better than anyone that sanity had partially left the building of Peter's brain. But then again Stiles sometimes thought that he hadn't much sanity left either.

He loved Peter and he loved their pack even more. And those two things had made it possible for him to keep Peter in check most of the time – and for Peter to keep him in check too. It was what made it possible for Stiles to convince other packs during negotiations. What made him pull through the most horrible negotiations and come out on top.

Stiles had been subjected to some horrifying negotiations before. Some had ended in blood and gore and dead bodies. However, nothing came close to this mess. It seemed like his own brain wasn't working too well around his old friends and every time he tried to get his game on, Lydia or Scott brought up something from the past, that threw him off.

Derek was just silently watching him. He had clearly taken a page from the old book of how to be an Alpha and decided not to communicate with someone below his rank who wasn't part of his pack or interested in joining it. Usually, though, these kind of Alphas tended to be absent from negotiations until the final part of sanctioning the results their Seconds had agreed upon, at least in Stiles experience. Clearly, Derek preferred to sit just through all of it, silently glaring ahead.

He'd say that this was kind of eerie; but after spending nights of having Jen just stare at him for hours and spending ten years with Peter, it wasn't that bad. Either way, it was impractical when it came to actually getting anywhere with this thing that was not, under any circumstances, a negotiation. An interrogation, maybe.

It was definitely an interrogation. Lydia was the bad cop. Scott was the good cop (who really didn't do his job). Derek was the silent observer making a suspect crack through his silence, so that Stiles would talk. Good thing it wasn't exactly working on him so far.

He wondered if he had done the same thing with Jerry. So, he asked, “Did Jerry get the same treatment?”

Lydia smiled her fake sweet smile. “We're not here to talk about him. It would defeat the purpose of making an impartial choice.” God, he remembered why he had loved her so much.

Stiles answered her smile with one of his own fake ones. “Super! Then, I hope you didn't talk to him about me either, and let's get to the negotiation part of this negotiation.”

“No, we didn't talk to him. He had some very interesting things to say about you anyway.”

Stiles stretched his arms, trying to hide the tension building in him, and slouched in his chair.

“I bet he did. He always has. Told you some good stories about himself too, I hope? The way he basically screwed over everyone he did make a pact with? How he's always the first to run when things get dangerous?” He lifted his hands when he saw her opening her mouth to retort. “Wait! Wait. No talking about those things, I get it. They might get in the way of your impartial decision making.”

Lydia looked pissed. Scott was trying to slip out of his chair and to the floor in an attempt to not look at Stiles. Derek just glared. Stiles just knew it had been a stupid idea coming here. It was never good if you were emotionally involved. Not that they had many other choices.

Admittedly there had been others. Esther could have done this. Or Armandine. They would've worked as well. But for Stiles, this wasn't just about the original plan. For him, this was about keeping Scott and his family and Derek and his pack safe, too. For making sure at least they were somewhat kept out of this war. It was one of the reasons why Peter had also agreed to let him go, despite everything else, despite the cracks in their foundation ever since Angelo's death and Amber Lake. Despite Stiles unstable set of mind as of late.

Surprisingly, it was Scott who talked first. His eyes flickered towards Stiles, but only for a second, before fixing on some invisible spot on the table between them. “He said you screwed over a pack in Idaho.” There wasn't anything accusing in his tone, but it still hit Stiles hard.

There was, however, something accusing in Lydia's tone.

“He also said that you really lost it at Amber Lake. Now, why should we work with some rabid dog?”

There could have been a smart remark about Lydia hanging out too much with Chris Argent in him, Stiles was sure, but their words brought everything back. The memory of Amber Lake, of Sheppard's involvement in Angelo's death, was still too fresh.

He used to be able to keep his calm. Use his loose mouth to manipulate people into doing what he wanted. Guiding them into the direction he wanted them in and let them think it was their own idea. Stiles knew how to play people. Had learned it from the best and what he hadn't learned from Peter he had taught himself or already known. He didn't use charm like Peter, instead he pretended to be disarmingly and cruelly honest, while twisting the truth until you had to use Obi-Wan Kenobi's definition of it. Form a certain point of view it was the truth, if you stood on your head and twisted it about 180 degrees. But for that, he needed to be somehow in his right mind.

It didn't feel like he was anymore. There were too many emotions running high: Anger, frustration, disappointment and, most worryingly of all, love for those people he was talking to. For Scott and Lydia, and even Derek. People he had once cared about to different degrees, but he cared about nonetheless. He had trusted them even, as far as he had been able to.

Now, though, they were throwing accusations at him he couldn't entirely deny and bringing up incidents he wanted to forget. Things Stiles didn't want to think about and still did half of the time.

The betrayal he felt when Scott brought up Sheppard was almost blinding and he had to remember that Scott didn't know. Had no idea why Stiles had done it. Lydia threw oil into the flames by adding the disaster at Amber Lake just a few seconds later.

There was a moment when everything was tinted red. Stiles took a deep breath, ran his hands over his head, closed his eyes to gain a few seconds, trying hard to calm himself down.

Shit, he thought. It had been such a bad idea coming back home.

He hadn't shifted in any way, the dark alloy of emotions still contained under his not so fragile skin.

God, he missed his pack and the calming effect they provided. He missed talking to Alex, especially, who was always a good source of advice and peace. Alex would have handled this here far better than Stiles, would've been able to worm a way inside Derek and convince him to let them help. But Alex wouldn't have been able to do the other thing, the main reason why he was here.

He missed Gema, who he still couldn't quite look at, because of what he had let happen to her younger brother, but who didn't blame him and who would have smacked him over the head for his stupid behavior right now. He missed her little boy and the way he still would hug Stiles, though usually saying with nine years he was too old for this, when he felt that he needed it. Like now. But it was better they weren't here. They were safe, hidden away.

Most of all, though, he missed Peter.

Everything was clearer with Peter around, more in focus. It wasn't just because of his Alpha powers, because of their bond as pack. It was because he could measure himself against Peter and align his own actions to Peter's, balance them out or amplify them. Stiles could see how this negotiations would pan out if Peter was here, could see it so clearly his heart ached.

Peter would lean forward, resting his forearms on the table, fixing Derek with his eyes, while pressing his knee against Stiles leg, telling him without words to calm down and hold it together. His words would be soft spoken, but delivered as solid facts, appealing to Derek's rationality. And Stiles would play along, distract Lydia's and Scott's attention and then taking his turn and appeal to Derek's emotional side.

They'd play them perfectly and at least Lydia and Derek would know it, but still be unable to parry. There was a rush in how well Peter and Stiles were attuned to each other in such situations, in general, that it made them close to invincible.

But Peter wasn't here. He couldn't bring Stiles back from the edge. Stiles was alone in this and had to make do.

He thought of his pack to calm himself down, but the worry about them diminished the effect. Thought of Peter, but that just made it worse, because everyone in this room had lost something because of him. And, of course, because Peter was in danger too. He had his own plan to carry out, together with the rest of the Alliance.

Stiles thought about the guilt he carried, the one thing that anchored him the most.

Something he discovered during the first full moon after he had been turned. Peter's sharp words had cut through the animalistic rage that night, reminding him how he didn't want to hurt someone who took care of him, how he didn't want to hurt innocent people by mauling them in his state of no control. It had brought back the memory of the people Stiles blamed himself for disappointing, for getting hurt or killed and it had pulled him back into control.

Guilt, however, was a fickle anchor to have. Especially when it was new and raw and hurt too damn much. Stiles wondered if the guilt he felt over Angelo's death would ever dilute, if it would ever dull to the point where it wouldn't crush him. Like the guilt over his father's death almost had. It would become bearable, he knew from experience. But it would take time, years. First, however, he had to make it through it all without getting crushed.

“The truth?” he asked, more rhetorically than earnest, but Lydia huffed.

“From you? Would be nice for a change.”

Scott tried to look away again.

“The truth is, that yes, I sold Sheppard out. Because he sold us out first. Because he handed over another pack to Big Brother and also someone from my pack. Someone I loved like a brother. So, yeah, I'm not even sorry about that one.”

He zeroed in on Lydia. “And about Amber Lake? I lost it there. And it won't happen again. Ever. Because I almost hurt someone I care about. So not ever happening again.” He deliberately left out that it had been Peter he had almost ripped to shreds, that he had almost attacked Gregor as well, and that he had lost it because a few weeks before Amber Lake he had to witness Angelo getting beheaded after Big Brother had tortured him for days. Waiting with his execution for Stiles or Peter to arrive.

Lydia tried to keep her facade up, but her mouth turned down in an derisive sneer. Scott didn't try to look away anymore.

“Not even if Peter made you do it? Lose control and just kill?” Scott asked and Stiles gaped at him for a moment.

“No?” Scott didn't look convinced. “Why would he – he wouldn't do that and even if he tried to make me I still wouldn't do it.”

“Yeah, because he never did something like that.” Scott sounded almost vindictive.

Oh, yeah, there was something Stiles had almost forgotten. He sighed. “Look, Scott. This isn't- he just wouldn't do that anymore, believe me.”

“No, I don't believe you,” And now Scott was truly looking at him. Confusion and hurt, mixed with incredulity and a sort of pleading look as if he wanted Stiles to understand something.

“This is still the same guy who killed his niece. Who forced the bite on me. Who almost made me kill you! Who attacked and mentally tortured Lydia and kidnapped you!” Scott almost made it sound like the last one was one of the worst things Peter had done.

“Yes, he did. I was there. I know what he did. But the past ten years I was there, too. You weren't.”

“Jesus, Stiles,” Scott breathed. “Do you even know what that does look like to me, to us?” And there was that pleading look again. Stiles got it, he did, he knew that it looked like he had developed Stockholm Syndrome. If he was honest, he wondered this himself sometimes, but usually it ended with, it doesn't matter. This was his life, and despite all the bad things going on, he wouldn't change it.

“He forced the bite on you, kidnapped you and you've been spending the last ten years with him and now you just sit there and act like it's nothing. Like you actually choose this.”

Realization dawned on Stiles. He had forgotten this. Or never really given it much thought. But here it was. Scott and Lydia never had been given a choice, when it came to the bite. He had. Twice. And had been given so many other choices as well.

“I have,” he said, and something inside his head just clicked. Made him dizzy with realization. Tipping points. Fucking tipping points. “Peter didn't force the bite on me,” Stiles said and looked cautiously at Scott. “He asked. And I said yes.” He swallowed and watched the pleading look drain out of Scott's eyes.

“Why the hell would you do that?”

“Because all I could think of was, that if I had said yes the first time he asked me, my Dad might still be alive.”

He looked at Scott, who stared back. “He asked you- when?” Scott sounded confused. Stiles tried to block the other two in the room out. It was hard. Lydia's face was closed off, a perfect mask, but she was pale now. Derek hadn't moved at all, except for the way he almost seemed to perk his ears in interest. He was less readable than Lydia in his own way, yet this was news that shook him up as well.

Stiles just wanted Scott to understand, but that wasn't happening. Anger welled up inside of him, again. “The parking garage. When he made me find Derek for him. Why do you think he told me that the bite can either turn you or kill you?” If he wouldn't know that Scott was smart in his own right, he would've called him stupid.

Years ago, he hadn't told his best friend exactly what had occurred in the parking garage when Peter had forced him to find Derek with the help of Scott's phone. The offer had been something private. His own little secret he wasn't entirely willing to share. But he had dropped enough hints so Scott could get it, if he wanted to.

“But that – why?” Scott spluttered, getting angry too.

Stiles just stared incredulously at him. “Oh, I don't know. Perhaps he saw something in me, that no one else in this town did. Perhaps because he meant it when he said he liked me. You tell me, because clearly you have such a good insight into everything.” He hadn't meant to come over as bitter as he did and regretted it the moment Scott flinched and looked away again.

“Enough,” Derek commanded.

“Yeah, that's right,” Stiles said and stood up. “Enough is the right word, because clearly this so called negotiation isn't going anywhere.” This was him flouncing and he partly felt bad about it except not. He wasn't going to get himself in any kind of mental state that would allow him to keep his calm around any of them. He felt that there were too many things between them and nothing was getting sorted out or would be the way things were going. “But I am.”

He started to walk out of the living room, away from the big dining table they had been sitting at, but Scott's voice was stopping him.

“So you're just leaving?” he asked sounding angry and desperate. “Just like you left me all those years ago,” Scott accused him.

Stiles didn't want to let it out, but he couldn't stop himself. He turned back to Scott. “And you never came looking for me! I was your best friend, your brother, and you never came. You just let go,” he regretted his words immediately, because of the hurt look on Scott's face.

Derek was trying to step between them, but Scott was faster, putting himself in front of Stiles. “You could have told me, you could have returned.”

The dam broke entirely. The rage and disappointment that had built up over the years, that he thought forgotten, just burst out, fueled by the sly whisper of Peter's voice from ten years ago. You must be so unimportant to them, your friends. Even to your best friend who you would have given anything for to protect. And he can't even bring himself to come looking for you. God, how much he would give to punch Peter in the face for that one right now.

“Scott, how? I was sixteen, out of my mind and as you so nicely pointed out a psychotic, resurrected serial killer kidnapped me after turning me into a freaking werewolf. I had no phone, no car, no money, nothing. And I was too afraid of losing control or running accidentally into hunters to even contemplate running away from him in the beginning.” It wasn't like Peter would have let him either. Stiles shook with the intensity of his emotions, of letting it all out.

Scott looked taken aback and Derek obviously had decided to let this scene play out, while Lydia was still the only one poised at the table, unmoving and perfect.

“Then why are you so loyal to him now?” Scott yelled back. “When he clearly – !” He seemed too angry and hurt to finish his sentence, but Stiles had a good idea of what he wanted to say.

“Because this shit? It was ten years ago. Because a lot of things happened since then. A lot of things changed. Because we worked for it. And it cost us a lot of effort, a lot. I'd love to explain it to you, but I seriously doubt you'd get it.”

He wanted nothing more than to storm out again and he was halfway doing so, when he just turned back around and walked back to Scott, getting into his personal space. And it all spilled out, the things he had carefully locked away for years. “You know, all those years, through all the crap we put each other through, through all the crap everyone else put us through, Peter never once let me down. Never used me to become his personal weapon of revenge. And he could have.”

He let the thought hang there to sink in and watched the horror of understanding dawn on Scott's face. “He could have made me do everything he wanted and I would've let him.” Stiles jabbed his finger into Scott's chest. “He didn't and he wouldn't now. I wouldn't let him anymore.”

Somewhere deep down he still had enough sense left to not let it slip that one of the main reasons why Peter wouldn't was because Stiles would rip him apart if he so much as tried to turn Stiles into his personal attack dog.

With everything else drained out of him, the only thing left was the razor sharp clarity he had first felt when he had gone up against Peter for real the first time. Not in confusion or in fear or in despair, but because he had a plan and it was going to work. He let his mouth work for him. Cut his words into weapons and threw them all at Derek.

“Okay Derek, here is the thing. You want to stay out of this war as far as possible? Not gonna happen. Because your uncle and Esther ripped out Big Brother's throat,” he said. His focus slipped entirely from Scott and to Derek.

“And no matter how many arrangements you make with Jerry. It. Won't. Hold. So yeah, maybe, if you're lucky Jerry will keep his promises,” Stiles said. “But do you honestly think that Marlowe or the brothers or Mom will keep to the promises one insignificant little pawn of theirs has made?”

“Stiles,” Derek interrupted his rant, voice angry but restraint, quiet yet still commanding.

“Oh no, Mister, I'm not done here. And look, this is not just about your pack. This is about a lot of other packs as well. So you will sit down and think your options through and give me an answer in one, no make it one and a half hour. If you say no, I'll go back to my pack, my Alpha and do everything in my power to protect them. If you say yes, I'll stay and fight to keep your pack safe, to keep you out of this war as much as possible.”

He took a deep breath and stared Derek right in the eyes. “And I'll do something more. Something Jerry can't, but I can. I give you a promise and keep it. I'll promise you that neither Peter nor anyone else from our pack is ever going to harm you or your pack. I'll make sure of that.”

Derek's jaw was working hard and his hands clenched into fist. The look on his face however did the trick and suddenly Stiles just felt exhausted. “Just think about it, okay?” he said more softly this time and turned to leave. All the clarity was gone again and he just felt stupid for letting it all out, for showing a part of himself that he hadn't meant for anyone to see.

It had been a mistake to come back here. It confused him and didn't help him at all with the other things he already had to deal with, and apparently, it made him lose his cool, which was not okay. He needed to be in control, now more than ever, but it was like being back in Beacon Hills only made it slip away faster. It was like he was an insecure sixteen year old boy with little to no self-esteem and severe trust issues again. Stiles hated it.

But he had been the one to insist on coming here, and, of course, Peter had encouraged it. That should have been a clue. This was not just Peter trusting him with an important mission; this was him testing Stiles. It was also one of the times what Stiles called tipping points of their relationship. Moments when their relationship could go either way, depending on what either one of them chose and wanted it to be.

This was seeing whether Stiles remained with Peter and their plans or whether he chose the people he had once left behind. Stiles hated this even more. Not because this was Peter making him choose and prove himself, but because Peter should know better. He should know Stiles. There were already so many tipping points between them right now. All he wanted to do was go back and give Peter a piece of his mind and perhaps a fist in his smug face.

Then again, he needed to be here. Or at least someone who had been there when Big Brother had died.

Dammit, I should've let Esther or Armandine handle it all, he thought. Either one of them would have worked just as well. Then again neither him nor Peter exactly trusted the other Alpha and her Second anymore.

“Stiles!”

He turned and saw Lydia standing in the door, face still pale and expressionless, but a malicious glitter in her eyes.

“Jerry let it slip this morning that Little Brother has caught Peter,” she said coolly. “Perhaps you should know.”

Stiles closed his eyes against the sudden vertigo. He blinked up at Lydia's pretty form, her red hair gleaming in the sunlight, like she was an enchanting witch. “I know,” he said with some difficulty, his voice sounding oddly neutral in his ears and calmer than he felt. “Armandine, Alpha Grey's great-granddaughter, called me during the night.”

“Doesn't that bother you? Your dearest Alpha caught by the enemy.”

He took a deep breath and tried hard to keep his heartbeat even. “Of course it does. But what can I do? I'm here,” he said, making a sweeping gesture with his arms and let the momentum carry him until he was standing with his back to her. Stiles didn't wait for another word from Lydia and got into his car.

So, apparently, they knew about Peter and that Marlowe was really coming here. But neither Lydia nor Scott had mentioned that the pilot fish hadn't known he was here. Or that Jerry couldn't have known either that his boss was coming their way. Perhaps Jerry had kept it to himself. Another card to play. For now, however, it was in his best interest that they had no idea.

Once he was far enough away from the Hale house he fumbled for his phone in his pocket and called Jameson.

“Hey, kid,” she greeted him curtly and somehow her hard voice made him relax. “How did it go?”

“Don't know,” he admitted to her. “I might have made a mistake. Again.”

She huffed. “The great salesman of the Alliance has made a mistake during an important negotiation? Since when?”

“This place is messing with my head. It's probably something in the water.” He sighed and rubbed the bridge of his nose. “Just listen, we might need to leave in a hurry, so prepare everything and make sure Jen doesn't get out. Prepare the big guns too, we might need them.”

“Okay,” she simply said, effective as always. “And Stiles, relax and get your ass here. We'll figure it out.”

He gave a short laugh. “Nah, I'm coming back later. Give me an hour. I need to do something else first,” he told her and hung up.

Only one place left to go.

Chapter Text

The revelation that Stiles was part of Peter's pack, Peter's boy as the pilot fish had put it, had come as a cold dose of reality. It had brought Scott back from the happy, clouded place of having his best friend back, to the reality that of course it had been silly of him to assume Stiles was still the same.

It had also brought the grim possibility with it, that he couldn't and shouldn't trust his former best friend, because Peter was dangerous and got into people's head. From what Scott had seen, Stiles wasn't half as harmless as he made himself appear.

Then again Stiles had always been the one who had put things together others couldn't, always had been the one Scott had felt could protect himself and Scott from whatever the universe threw at them. Even when Scott had been the one bitten and stronger and Stiles still just a human.

As a werewolf Stiles seemed even more dangerous and focused, but also almost feral. His words left them all a bit shaken, Scott especially.

Derek came over to him, after Lydia had left. “Scott,” he said softly.

“Don't,” he gritted out and ran his hand over his face. “Please, don't,” Scott pleaded.

Derek gave him a scrutinizing look, but left him alone. He didn't want to push Derek away, but he needed a bit of space to think. To allow himself to think about all of this.

Looking back he should have guessed what the others obviously had, after Derek and Lydia told them Peter had come back from the dead. It was kind of obvious. Well, at least really suspicious. Because he knew Stiles better, knew that he wouldn't have just run away, not without any kind of warning. No matter what, Stiles always used to have Scott's back, even when he was the one who could use help.

Scott should have figured this out. Especially after Stiles had turned up a werewolf and told him about the Alliance. But the truth was that he hadn't wanted to. He hadn't wanted to see this. Because when Lydia and Derek had come clear about Peter, it also had been the time they had first heard about Mom. The first stories about a clever young man usually at Peter's side. Scott hadn't wanted to associate the same stories with his best friend, with the boy he had grown up with, who was like a brother.

Of course no one had told him. He couldn't even blame this on Derek if he wanted to. Derek hadn't been the only one who had his suspicions, everyone else had had theirs too, if their reactions were anything to go by. Neither Allison nor Chris, let alone Lydia, seemed to be surprised by Stiles membership in Peter's pack.

They all had wanted to protect him, he realized. Part of him loved them for that, but mostly he just wished they'd told him. He could have handled the truth. Not well perhaps. Not at first either. But he could have.

It wasn't like he thought that either Lydia or Chris owed him the truth, they were both friends and family, but not as close that he could begrudge them their secrets. Allison he could understand as well, he knew and loved her too much not to. If there was anything that could hurt her like this hurt Scott, he probably would have tried to keep it from her too, no matter how much he shouldn't.

But he wished Derek had told him. Because for them it was a step back. Derek always had his trust issues and they probably would always be there to some extent, but he had gotten better. He wasn't half as closed up as he used to be. Except for the last few hours since Stiles had appeared at their doorstep.

There was a rustle at the door and when Scott looked up Allison was standing there, crossbow slung over her shoulder, a gun at her hip. They had left their daughter at his mom's place, Chris, Isaac and Jackson standing guard. “Derek said it didn't go well,” she simply stated.

Scott moved over to Allison and pulled her into a tight hug, listening to her steady heartbeat to calm himself down. Stiles' words had stung deep. He was glad Derek had sent her in.

“So it really went bad?” Allison asked and Scott nodded, burying his face in her soft hair.

“It's just.” He grimaced. “All so messed up.”

She patted his back and he told her everything.

“Oh, Scott,” she said compassionately and a bit pitiful.

“What?” he asked her, confused.

She entangled herself from him and crossed her arms in a defensive gesture, shoulders hunched. “Maybe you should talk to him.”

“We already did,” he grumbled.

“Alone,” Allison added. She brushed her hair back and pursed her lips, like she always did when she wanted to say something she had thought hard about and didn't like it. “He used to be your best friend. Not even in the way that Lydia is my best friend, but – he was your only friend for years. And no matter how little I like who he chose to follow or who he seems to be right now, he deserves to talk to you about those things like adults, like friends. You deserve it,” she said, looking stubbornly at him.

Better than anyone, Allison knew how much Scott had missed Stiles, how much his disappearance had shaken him. She'd been there with him after all. And she was right.

Scott needed to talk to Stiles alone, without anyone else around. Just them. Like it used to be for the first sixteen years of his life. Just Scott and Stiles.

“I don't know where he went,” he said sheepishly.

“Probably back to Deaton's,” she suggested and handed him her phone. He smiled gratefully at her and called his former employer. His smile turned into a frown when he listened to Dr. Deaton.

“He isn't there and Jameson has left with the other two,” he told her after he hung up.

“You could always scent him out, couldn't you?”

Scott thought about it and nodded slowly. “Maybe?” Allison sighed. “Okay, think, Mr. McCall, he used to be your best friend. What would Stiles do?”

“I don't-” he broke off, thinking it through. “You are the best, Ms. Argent. Have I told you that?” He smiled at her again and kissed her cheek.

“Almost every day,” she sighed. “So where are we going?”

“We?”

“I'm getting you there and wait in the car, but I'm not letting you out on your own. Not during times like these,” she said and patted her crossbow.

“Okay.” Scott kissed her gently. It was a relief, knowing she would be around when he talked to Stiles. If things went horribly wrong at least she would be around to calm him down and support him.

When they came outside, Derek was talking with Lydia in low voices, while Isaac leaned against a tree on the border of the clearing, listening and watching for intruders. Derek looked sharply at him when he walked over to them.

“I wanted to go and talk to Stiles. Just as friends,” he explained and with an afterthought added, “Is that okay?” Over the years Scott had learned that Derek preferred it when someone asked for his permission when it came to things like this and he had also learned to respect that. It didn't matter that he would go through with it either way.

“Not on your own,” Derek said sharply, eyes narrowed. Scott motioned behind him, where Allison was standing casually, stance strong, but relaxed. “Allison is coming with me.”

Derek looked over to her and there was a moment of silent communication between them that Scott never quite understood and which always made him feel a bit cranky. There was a sort of understanding between them, a mutual respect, that had never made it into actually liking each other. Scott was glad for that, because it meant he never had to choose between them, after deciding to join Derek's pack. After he had lost Stiles. He would always choose Allison, but that wouldn't mean leaving Derek and the pack behind wouldn't hurt. And he had lost too much to lose this too.

“You've got one hour.” Derek's eyes wandered back to him, his gaze hard.

Scott gave him a half smile. “See you then.” He was about to follow Allison to their car, when another question burst out of him. “Have you decided what you'll do?”

Derek's jaw worked hard before he bit out an answer. “Not entirely, but I'll let you know.” Scott nodded. “Or Allison, seeing as she is the one with the phone.” Scott gaped at him for a moment and than just shook his head, smiled back. At least Derek hadn't lost his ability to make small jokes. It was hard enough to get him to the point where he allowed himself to make them in the first place.

Scott let Allison drive, because he was far too jittery to do so. When they reached the graveyard, Allison laced their fingers together while he stared out of the window.

“What if he isn't here?” he asked her, fidgeting in his seat.

“Then we'll find him. But perhaps you should just go out and see if he is here first,” Allison said calmly. He looked over to her and squeezed her hand.

“What if he doesn't want to talk to me?”

Allison rolled her eyes and disentangled their hands. “Just go,” she said and gave him a light shove. When he didn't move immediately she leaned in and kissed him softly. “It'll be fine okay? And now go!” she commanded and he grinned.

“Yes, ma'am,” he said and scrambled out of the door. “You'll be okay?” Worry about her safety took suddenly over, like it always did when there was a potentially dangerous situation in Beacon Hills. Allison patted her holster. “Absolutely,” she said and made another shooing gesture.

He followed the meandering way through the old graveyard, passing newer and older headstones. He caught Stiles scent a few feet in and by the way it flitted across the graveyard he knew that Stiles had been unsure of whether to visit his parents' grave or to just go again.

Scott knew exactly where to go, not just because he had been here at the funeral, but because he had made it a habit to come here twice a year. He never felt comfortable doing so, because he felt guilty for never finding out what happened to Stiles, but he felt obliged to do so. Stiles' Dad had been like a father to him too and he had loved him more than his own Dad. His mother always came with him, bringing flowers for a friend as she said.

When he came closer to the grave close to the forest, he heard Stiles voice. Talking softly and quietly to his dead parents. “...you would have loved her. Though we broke up, I guess we were too much alike. And hey can you imagine two of me?” When Stiles noticed him, he stopped and stiffened, almost getting up. Scott thought for a moment Stiles would bolt, but he settled down again after seeing Scott.

They watched each other slightly warily before Scott reached him and sat down next to Stiles. They just staid there for a minute in slightly uncomfortable silence.

“I thought you were safer,” Scott finally said and swallowed. “When you left. We were all in so much danger and it cost you your Dad. So I thought, wherever you went would be safer than here.”

Stiles left out a soft sigh and nodded. “It's okay, Scott, I get it. And I'm the one who should be sorry for what-”

“No, let me talk,” he interrupted Stiles, needing to get out what he wanted to say. “I knew you liked to ignore problems until they went away and when they didn't then sometimes you went away instead. Never long, so I thought...I thought...”

“That I would come back,” Stiles said quietly.

“Yeah.”

“But I didn't.” It was a simple statement, not even tinged with regret. There was something sobering in that for Scott, which made him stop worrying about the last few years.

“No,” he said equally quietly. “And I looked for you. Not as hard as I could have.” As he would have, had he known with whom Stiles had disappeared. “But I did. I even had Danny check all of your online accounts.” Scott didn't mean it as an excuse of what Stiles had accused him of earlier, never coming for him, didn't even mean it as an accusation of his own for Stiles doubting him. All it was was the simple truth.

“I know. It still hurt though, at the beginning, when everything was-” Stiles broke off, like he usually did when it became too much for him to talk about something personal and played with the thin bracelets on his wrist. “But I shouldn't have...,” Stiles started but trailed off.

Scott lips quirked into a half smile. “Taken the bite from Peter?” he suggested.

Stiles shook his head. “Left without leaving a message.” He looked over to Scott and his eyes were earnest. “Look I don't regret taking the bite, I don't even regret leaving with Peter.” Scott shot him a skeptical glance. “Not anymore,” Stiles amended. “But I shouldn't have left you behind like this.”

“Can't argue with that,” Scott said but threw Stiles a honest half smile, which he reciprocated. And just like that it was okay. Like the ten years hadn't been such a long time. Like they were still best friends.

“Were you talking about your girlfriend?” Scott asked gesturing at the headstone. It was better to change the topic if he wanted to keep Stiles talking at all and he wanted to. It had been too long since he heard it and he missed it. Missed Stiles just chattering on about nonsense, before diving into the more emotional stuff. Something they had rarely done when they were teenagers and too often then when they had been drunk on stolen alcohol.

Stiles grimaced and went back to picking on his bracelets. Scott wondered what they meant to him.“You heard that?” Scott shrugged.

“My ex, first girlfriend to be precise, back in college, but we broke up years ago.” There was a short pause as if he couldn't decide whether to say the next thing he did. “We are still writing, though, occasionally.”

“Cool,” Scott said smiling at him and meaning it.

“Yeah. She's great. Funny and intelligent. But the two of us together was just too much. We almost got each other thrown out of college, so you can imagine...”

Scott laughed quietly. “I can.” The trouble Stiles could get into on his own was legendary, but a girl with the same skills at his side was probably more than the world could take. “So first girlfriend? Any others you want to tell me about?”

Stiles shook his head, huffing out a laugh. “Nah not really, not many worth mentioning. But yeah some other girlfriends. Boyfriends too,” he added and glanced over to Scott as if to see if that was okay. Scott wanted to slap him over the head for that.

“Neat. Anyone worth mentioning there?” he teased and Stiles groaned.

“Seriously, you want to talk about my love life?”

Scott shrugged. There were other things he wanted to talk about, but this was a much more comfortable topic. Besides, he really wanted to know about this. “You know all about mine.”

“Dude, that's because you only ever had one girlfriend all your life. Which is impressive. And romantic and all that.”

“It is,” Scott said and couldn't help the sappy smile on his face. “Not everyone finds their soulmate. Especially not that early in life.”

“Oh my god, will you stop? It's like being in high school again,” Stiles complained, but didn't mean it. Scott laughed at him and Stiles jabbed him in the side. “You totally did that on purpose,” he said accusingly. Scott didn't disagree.

“Okay, okay, I cave.” Stiles lifted his hands in surrender, before running them over his hair. “Secrets of Stiles Stilinkis' Sordid Sex Life, you've been warned.” He looked up, trying to find a topic. “Okay, here is one. I sort of but not really dated Alan for a while?”

The name triggered something in Scott's memory, but he couldn't quite place it. “And you have no idea who I'm talking about,” Stiles said slightly disappointed.

“Sorry, bro.”

“No it's fine, totally fine. Given that you've been left out of this war so far – and thank god for that – it's no surprise. Alan as in Alan Hart the new Alpha of the Hart pack. One of the Alliance leaders.”

There was something Chris had mentioned, Scott remembered suddenly. “The nephew of Dannika Hart, right?”

Stiles grinned proudly at him. “Exactly.” He bumped him in the shoulder. “He's kinda dorky and a real nerd. He and I came up with the whole Alliance naming business, though Esther put her foot down when we wanted to attach Rebel in front of it. But I guess he'll turn out to be a great Alpha once he gets used to it.”

“Your Alpha was fine with that, you dating someone like Hart?” Scott asked, carefully avoiding Peter's name.

“It's not like Alan was the Alpha then, and no one suspected he would be the next one, what with all his other aunts around. And let me tell you, they are scary beyond anything else. Except Esther. Or Mom. But yeah, Peter was fine with it. He usually is,” Stiles hesitated and then continued. “It's not uncommon when several packs are close together that their members mingle and Alan and I weren't exactly serious about it. It was a good distraction, though, which I guess we both needed.”

Scott knew that Stiles never really talked about something important concerning himself, so he figured it hadn't been the deepest relationship Stiles had been in, but still this was more than he thought he'd get. “Any other members from your pack that mingled with the others?” he asked teasingly.

“Oh crap, not another interrogation, this morning was bad enough,” Stiles whined and made it sound fake, but there was a sudden tension there that let Scott knew he might've pushed too far for the moment.

“That bad?” Stiles nodded. “Thought so. Derek can still be quite intimidating,” Scott admitted.

“Still. You mean he isn't always?”

Perhaps it was time to give Stiles a bit about their pack too. “Usually just with non-pack members. He's become less scary to the rest of us in the last years. I mean we even got some new members.” Scott looked over at his best friend. “You'd like them.” It was one of the things that hurt, knowing that Stiles would get along with his pack, that he would've fitted right in with all of them.

Stiles smiled almost sadly. “That's good.”

There were things Scott wanted to ask. About Peter. About Stiles. But it still felt like Stiles would just close up if he asked them outright now. It had always been difficult to get Stiles to talk about something personal. He could chatter about anything for hours if he wanted to, but as soon as it got too close about his own feelings he could snap shut faster and harder than a crocodile with something in its mouth. Scott had learned that early on and usually had just waited for Stiles to tell him what was going on when he was ready. But he had also learned to navigate the murky waters of Stiles' difficult emotions when he felt like he needed to. Mostly though it was like playing Minesweeper on the hardest setting. No matter how careful you were, there was a good chance you clicked on one of the bombs unintentionally and then it was over.

Scott and Stiles talking in front of gravestones.

They sat there in silence again, this time more comfortable, until Stiles shifted to pull out his wallet.

“You asked about Sheppard's pack earlier,” he said quietly and opened the wallet to show him a picture. Scott took it and looked at the four people in it. A young girl not older than eighteen, a boy even younger who could only be her brother, eyes reflecting the light, a baby in his arms and a blur of hair, hidden against his shoulder, making the fourth person unrecognizable. “And about pack mingling,” Stiles continued pointing at the boy in the middle.

“That's Angelo, he is... was-” Stiles stopped, taking a ragged breath, features tensing up hard. Scott reached out just far enough to touch their hands together, offering comfort. Stiles didn't pull away, which was good and he relaxed a bit. “The picture is old, eight years, I think, he was thirteen then.”

Suddenly it was Scott who felt sick. Stiles head whipped up and he stared at Scott wide eyed. “No, I know what you are thinking and no. Peter didn't turn him. Didn't force the bite on him either.”

“Oh,” Scott said weakly. He forced his sudden rage and shock down. “How then?”

“There was this pack in El Paso or rather a gang, really, maybe there still is. Anyway, they turned their members really young, like at ten years old or something?”

Scott shuddered. “Yeah,” Stiles said compassionately. “Well, their Alphas don't get old, when they turn eighteen, they get challenged and killed. It's nasty business. Especially since they kill their girlfriends too. Preventing them from maybe giving birth to an heir and turning the gang into a family business or some crap like that.”

“Holy shit,” Scott muttered. “And I thought we've been fucked up.” Stiles smiled wryly, but he continued with his story.

“Peter and I ran into them when we passed through. That's how we met Angelo and his sister Gema,” he tapped at the pretty girl in the picture. “There was a skirmish and when we left, they followed us.”

Scott doubted it had been a simple skirmish and he also wondered where Stiles sometimes got his words from, because really. He looked back at the picture, at the girl and what he assumed was her baby. Stiles looked a bit far off, remembering things and by the frown on his face not entirely good things.

“We had to take them in,” he said and shrugged. “It was the kind of moment you realized that Peter really wasn't the worst Alpha you could get. And I mean it's not like the first year with him was easy. But he's improved since then,” Stiles tagged on. Scott couldn't say anything that wouldn't come off as aggressive or skeptical and would surely put Stiles back into his shell, so he bit his tongue. He was just glad Peter had never been able to force him to join his pack.

“You trust him, don't you.” Scott couldn't help the feeling of defeat at his realization.

“With them, yes,” Stiles said. Then shook his head, but not in a gesture of negating his words, but to get his head clear.

“Anyways,” Stiles brought himself back on topic. “Angelo. He was dating Corvin's goddaughter. Sheppard didn't like it. So-” Stiles looked downright sick now.

“He handed them over to the brothers,” Scott finished for him slowly. Stiles breathed out slowly, his hands balled into fists.

“To Big Brother. They were visiting Corvin's pack, when he did,” Stiles said.

Scott squirmed uncomfortably on his patch of grass next to the headstone. “What happened to his girlfriend?”

“The same thing that happened to the rest of Corvin's pack. Except she didn't die because of the attack. But apparently it's not uncommon for a Beta to go insane when they lose their entire pack and have no new Alpha around to ground them.” Stiles gave a humorless, ragged laugh that send chills through Scott. “And Jameson has a similar attitude towards rabid dogs as Chris. Especially when it comes to them being a threat to people she likes.”

Scott didn't respond, just sat next to him while Stiles pulled himself together again. Stiles hid his face in his arms resting on his knees. All of this was nastier than he could have imagined, had ever wanted to imagine.

“He wasn't even the first we lost from the pack,” Stiles admitted quietly. “But it was the worst. It's why I lost control at Amber Lake. Why I yelled at you earlier.”

He wanted to put his hand on Stiles' shoulder, but couldn't quite bring himself to do it. Something about Stiles body language told him that it wouldn't be a good idea.

“But it was the worst,” Scott guessed.

Stiles whole body shook when he moved his head in a nod. “He was like my little brother. He was one of the first three.”

Scott had learned some things about the bonds between werewolves, about pack hierarchies and connections between pack members. He understood a lot of them now, but usually had difficulty telling where the difference between them and a human bond was. The one thing he had never gotten though, was the connection between the first three Betas of a newly formed or reformed pack. One of the many things he would never get, because Peter had forced this life on him.

Even though Derek had bitten Jackson before Isaac, Erica and Boyd, he had been the last of them to properly turn into a werewolf and join them, while Scott had only joined after that during the Alpha pack crisis. So the threeway bond had formed between them. From what Isaac had tried to explain to him, the connection was stronger than it was between the other Betas of the pack. They were closer, each emotion amplified or reduced through the other. To lose that would be a terrible thing.

Isaac hadn't tried to run away with the other two back then, because of Scott's words and because of Derek. There was another thing Scott would never quite get but it was something he was thankful for – the connection between the first Beta an Alpha turned and them. It had been something Peter had tried to use to control him, force him into submission several times during the beginning of his sophomore year. He turned the connection into something twisted. Scott wondered if Stiles had taken his place instead. He was the first Beta Peter had turned with their consent, if Stiles told the truth.

“Him, Alex and me. Gema too, though she is human, and it'll make four, but never mind,” Stiles continued. “It was just us, for the first two years, before we found a territory and expanded. And I promised Gema I'd get him back to her.” Scott hadn't expected to get that much from Stiles. Apparently his best friend had grown to be more open than before, not much, but enough to make Scott feel pleasantly surprised.

“I'm sure you did everything you could. Everything you should,” Scott said, not sure what else he could offer. He was better with other people, but seeing Stiles grieving always made him feel kind of helpless.

Stiles wiped his face and looked at him again. His brown eyes clear again and dark. “I did,” he simply said. It scared Scott for a moment and he looked away. When he caught his best friend's eyes again, whatever had been there just a second ago, was gone.

“You wanted to ask something. The whole time actually,” Stiles said as if nothing had happened. “Shoot.”

Scott took it at face value and figured it was his best time to get it out before Stiles retreated back into himself again. Though he did seem to be more willing to talk about personal things, than in the past. More self-secure in sharing.

“The pilot fish, what he called you.” Scott tried to voice his thoughts carefully.

“Peter's boy,” Stiles supplied. Scott nodded.

“Oh man,” Stiles said and craned his head back to look up into the sky. “That actually started as a joke.” There was more to it, Scott was sure, but knew better than to press now. “We used it to our advantage though. At the beginning,” Stiles explained and Scott wasn't sure he got it. But apparently Stiles saw that and kept talking.

“Calling me that made me look more harmless. Because at best I really was just a boy in the eyes of everyone else. At worst I was Peter's trained dog. Either way it made people underestimate me. Which was useful. But I guess it kind of stuck. Even after they realized I'm not as harmless as I look.”

Scott was still doubtful.

“Look, buddy. It's really nothing big.”

“It's not like you are, right?” Scott ventured.

Stiles smiled wryly. “Come on,” he simply said, in lieu of a real answer and Scott watched him rub his thumb over the bracelets on his right wrist again. “Anything else you wanted to ask?”

Scott decided to not dwell on the former topic and gestures to the bracelets. “What's up with these things?”

Stiles lifted his arm and held it out to Scott to see better. Each one had a different color and pattern. “They're from my pack. Alex started it, made the first one, said we were family now, so I should wear it.” He pointed at one that seemed particularly worn. “Angelo and Gema thought it was stupid, but made one too, one for her kid as well,” he explained and pointed at the next three, just as worn. “And then it became kind of a tradition for every new member to make one for me.”

“There are a lot,” Scott said. He couldn't quite count them, because Stiles took his arm away and they were partially overlapping, but if he guessed there were more than ten.

“Not all of them are still alive,” Stiles said bitterly.

“Did Peter make one too?” he asked, half in jest and half to steer Stiles away from the memory of his lost pack members.

Stiles laughed, rubbing his wrist. “Nah, he didn't need to.”

Scott wanted to ask what he meant by that but there was a soft sound he almost ignored. Except Stiles was suddenly up, head swiveling to make out the direction. Scott got up more slowly, enhancing his senses to figure out what the threat was.

“Now look what we found here, sir,” a malicious female voice said, before the woman it belonged to came out of the forest. Next to her, another man came into view, older than her and with a cold look and a terrifying smile plastered on his face.

“Stiles, what a pleasant surprise,” he said in a falsely cheerful voice.

Stiles waved at him, smiled brightly, but the look in his eyes was hart and dark again. “Hello, Marlowe.”

Scott knew they were in more danger than he could completely fathom right now. He had never seen Stiles so rigid and ready to bolt.

“And who is this lovely young man at your side?”

“Marlowe meet Scott. Scott, run!”

He grabbed him by the arm and they both started to sprint. But others had come out of the trees, some faster then them, closing them in.

“Now, now. It's not polite to run, when we haven't finished talking,” Marlowe called and Scott saw Stiles turn and snarl effectively at him.

He took in the werewolves around them. Eight now, with the woman and Marlowe. Neither of them seemed particularly in control, except for their leader. There was saliva dripping from the mouth of one of them.

Scott had fought a few fights in his life, even against Alphas and come out on top. But he suspected it wouldn't turn out so well for him here.

Stiles posture however gave him confidence. He was ready to attack. And when he growled at the werewolf who had inched closer to them than all the others, the man reared back.

Chapter Text

There were few werewolf packs, all in all, and they were rather widely scattered. Mostly because of the increase in hunters in the past decades and because their territories became bigger, except for those packs who settled in bigger cities. Big cities promised easier kills and easier ways to hide them, but made it harder to keep a fixed territory. As far as Allison knew there were some packs who acted like gangs in some of the major cities all over the country.

Packs like theirs in Beacon Hills were becoming rarer, mostly because the old families extended their territory and had defended the already acquired territory for decades, establishing their borders early on.

It was harder to establish a new pack, as she had seen with their own. But at least they had the advantage of Derek's family having claimed this part of California as their territory for years, before Kate had killed almost all of them. When something like that happened, an entire pack annihilated, new packs, smaller ones or those just newly formed would come, looking to built a new territory on old foundations.

It had been querulous times when they had had to defend Beacon Hills against a lot of other packs and different creatures who hadn't gotten the message that the old Hale territory was still occupied. These days, though, they were mostly left in peace.

From what she knew Mom's pack had been one of the oldest in Michigan, claiming most of the Upper Peninsula as their territory. A strong pack, which kept the peace with an iron fist, as her father had told her. Involved in politics too. One of the packs hunters avoided to attack, because of their local influence. They could keep the peace between different packs around their territory or under their protection or rally them against each other or against the hunters. Any threat to them would also make them call the human law enforcement and influential businessmen and politicians of the area to their aid.

But then it had gone sideways when the old Alpha died.

Perhaps it had gone sideways before his death.

Because the brothers had split early from the main pack, establishing their own territories in different states, taking over different packs and bringing them together to form their own bigger pack. They had spread out wildly all over the map and made pacts with other Alphas, the more aggressive ones. Which was why the war was now all over the States. No fixed borders and war zones shifting from one place to another. Coming closer to California for months now.

Before the war, however, things had never escalated, never resulted in the death of humans, as far as her family's contacts could say. Then Mom had gone insane after the loss of her partner.

As Derek had once explained it to her, there was a connection between every member of a pack. The connection between the Alpha and their Betas was stronger and allowed a certain kind of control. The bond between mates could override it though, if their connection was strong enough. Something she thought might be the reason why Scott had been able to defy Peter years ago, although the two of them hadn't been exactly mated.

Still never really would be, because Allison refused to take the bite no matter how much she loved Scott. It felt like that would be too much of a betrayal towards the family who had raised her, no matter their shortcomings. And besides, from what she had heard about the bond it wasn't too different from a marriage. A conscious act to stay together for the rest of their lives, a decision made by two people. Except with an added psychological and emotional impact, which she doubted Scott and her really needed.

Then there was the bond between the Alpha's mate and the pack. Which was on a more emotional level. Something that could influence a pack just as much as the Alpha's bond, if not more.

Mom had lost it and slowly her pack and her sons, who despite being Alphas in their own right, were still connected to her, had lost it too. Grown more cruel and aggressive than before. Though with the way things stood, Allison wouldn't be surprise if they hadn't been the most sane people on the earth before.

People weren't normally what they seemed to be at first glance.

Years ago she wouldn't have thought of herself as a vengeful person. The death of her mother had proven her different. Since then she had learned how to not let vengeance take her over, to not let it control her, but how to control and channel it to protect the people around her.

She would have gladly unleashed it on Peter for taking Stiles away and for other even more personal reasons. She still saw her aunt's throat getting slashed open in her nightmares and knew the sounds Lydia made when she had her own nightmares.

Stiles could also be glad that she had learned to control herself and be reasonable, because he chose to go away and not come back. It had hurt Scott deeply and she had been the one to be there for him. Had worried with him over Stiles' whereabouts and his health.

The trouble was that she knew Scott still cared about Stiles, still loved him. If it had been up to her, she would have told him to stay away from Stiles, let the hour pass and see what Derek decided without complicating things. But this wasn't about her. This was about Scott getting the answers he needed.

The first few months after Stiles had vanished, they all had been too occupied by the Alpha pack, to be too concerned about Stiles. Scott had been distracted and soldiered on, in good faith that Stiles just needed some time for himself, sort things out on his own after his father's death. Scott had told Allison how he had withdrawn even from Scott after his mother's death, until one night he had just sneaked inside his room and curled up next to him on the bed.

Allison knew that he had figured it would just be like this again. But then Stiles hadn't shown up at all. And months later, after the Alpha pack had been defeated the cold, hard truth had settled in. She had been the one to watch Scott crumble. Not outwardly, never when anyone else was around, but in the silent minutes before they fell asleep together, or that one morning when she found him just standing in front of the kitchen sink, utterly lost. That one moment when he realized that Stiles wasn't coming back.

Allison knew of the suspicions her father, Derek and Lydia had, when it came to who had been with Stiles when he left. Like them, she had never been able to voice those thoughts to Scott, because she knew how much that would have upset him. To know now, that he had gone willingly, made her furious at Stiles, when before she had always been worried too.

But the thing was, he was still Scott's best friend.

So as much as she wanted to put an arrow into Stiles, it was better if Scott talked to him on his own. Just so that he wouldn't start guilt tripping himself. And Allison knew that Scott would just do that. Wonder where he'd gone wrong that Stiles would just leave him for Peter. Wondering if he could've done more to find Stiles.

There was another car pulling up next to her, bringing Allison out of her thoughts. She instinctively tightened her hold on the crossbow her father had given her a long time ago, lying next to her on the passenger seat. When she saw who got out of it she relaxed a bit but didn't let go of her weapon. There was a short knock against the passenger window and the woman peering inside had her hands raised in an universal sign of peace.

She lowered the window. “Jameson, right?”

“And you are Argent's little girl.”

“What are you doing here?”

“Looking for Stiles,” Jameson answered. “I'm guessing you're doing the same.” She looked sharply at Allison as if to assess whether she was a threat to them or not.

“Scott is talking to him now,” she said calmly, eying Jameson with the same caution. The woman didn't feel like a threat, but anyone who worked with Peter Hale willingly was marked as a danger in her eyes. Still, her father truly respected Jameson, which he never did with anyone who wasn't a good person as well as a good hunter.

“Good,” Jameson said and scanned the area for potential threats.

There was a moment were Allison wasn't sure what to do with the situation. She tucked her hair back behind her ear.

“Did you bring the other two with you? Lydia and Scott told me about them.”

“Gregor is getting Stiles, Jen is still in the car.” Jameson looked over at the darkened windows of her jeep. “Hopefully,” she added dryly.

“You're already planning on leaving?” Allison asked. “I thought you were here to help,” she couldn't help but to taunt her slightly.

“Heard your Alpha might not want it,” she said calmly. “So we better not chance it.”

Allison didn't know why she got defensive about this right now in front of another hunter. “He's not my Alpha.”

Jameson snorted. “You're married to his Second, I'd say he is.”

“We're not married yet. And is that what you call Peter? Your Alpha,” Allison replied coldly and Jameson barked out a laugh.

“No, but my sister is and my niece probably will when she's old enough to make her own decision about it,” she answered honestly and matter of fact.

“Will you tell her about what he did in the past?”

“That he saved her life from being shot at the age of two or getting mauled by the Alpha who turned her mother when she was pregnant?” Jameson parried. “Or about killing the woman who burned his former pack?” There was no accusation in her voice or heat. She just coolly rattled down things like some people read a grocery list.

“I was more thinking along the line of killing his own niece to become the Alpha, killing innocent people and attacking a bunch of high school kids.” Allison was surprised her own voice kept as calm as it did. Someone outside of her family and pack bringing up Kate, always got to her. She had met other hunters, but most of them had told her what a great hunter her aunt had been and what a pity it was that she was gone. Jameson was the first one to bring Kate's mistakes up. Allison found herself grudgingly respecting her for that.

Allison had loved Kate. She hadn't just been her only aunt, but her favorite as well. That wouldn't have been different if she had others. The Kate she remembered was always more like a big sister to her and a good friend. That she had deliberately murdered innocent people, children even, couldn't quite change it, no matter how much Allison wanted to hate her for that.

More than she could blame Kate, however, she blamed Gerard. She had no doubt that what her grandfather had tried to do to her, manipulating her into becoming his weapon, was what he had done to Kate. Just that he had been more successful with her. Still, when Kate had done what she had done to the Hale family she had been old enough to make her own choices and considering that Allison's father had turned out to be like he was, she couldn't lay all the blame on Gerard for Kate's behavior.

“She'll get to know that too,” Jameson said reasonably.

Allison frowned. “And you are okay with that? Someone like him taking care of your family.”

Jameson shrugged. “These are dangerous times and at least I know if anything happens to them he's not averse to bloody and well planned revenge.” Allison studied Jameson's face carefully, but it seemed to be carved out of mahogany. If it was meant as a joke than Jameson's humor was as dry as graveyard dust. Allison doubted it. Jameson's eyes scanned her more effectively than she had been able to do with her. “My sister is everything to me, so is my niece.”

Allison nodded and thought about her little family and the bigger pack surrounding it. “So is my family,” she said levelly. They understood each other and the tension between them vanished. If she had met Jameson under different circumstances she would have immediately liked her, Allison thought. She seemed to be the kind of hunter Allison could work best with.

There was a howl coming from the direction of the graveyard and Allison immediately jumped out of the car, aiming her crossbow at Jameson, who had her gun trained on her as well.

She knew that howl and knew what it meant.

Scott was in danger.

There was another howl, but this time not from Scott.

“Get that damned thing out of my face,” Jameson said calmly. “Whatever is going on, it's not Stiles or Gregor attacking your husband.”

“Fiance,” Allison corrected her and kept her weapon up.

Jameson rolled her eyes and lowered her own instead.

From the car came a loud whine.

“Stay inside, Jen,” she ordered harshly and locked the doors.

“And you stay in front of me,” Allison ordered Jameson while she rounded the car to make her way towards the graveyard where Scott was.

Jameson nodded, her face hard as stone now.

“You're aware that I don't know the way?”

“You'll manage,” Allison said and Jameson snorted.

They stayed away from the main paths and slipped through the headstones, trying to find a way that blew the wind in their faces and not carry their scent towards the fighting werewolves. Jameson occasionally turned around and Allison signaled her where to go. The closer they came to the fight, the less Jameson had to ask for the way. The sounds of the werewolves were getting louder.

Allison heard Stiles yell something and then there was a panicked shout from Scott. “Stiles, watch out.” Then there was a new roar and other people shouting as well.

So they weren't fighting each other, which was a relief.

When they were close to the Stilinski family grave, she and Jameson crouched behind a massive black headstone and they peeked around.

Jameson cursed under her breath and Allison tried to assess the situation.

Scott was wolfed out, eyes glowing, face twisted and more hairy than usual, fingers turned into claws. He was crouching between Stiles, who lay on the ground, and a female werewolf who grinned manically at them. There were two other werewolves circling them and one lying already bleeding on the grass. Three others were in a fight with a man who was clearly having the upper hand, simply because he was massive.

Gregor, Allison thought and realized that Lydia hadn't exaggerated how big he was.

There was a man leaning casually against the headstone of Stiles' father, smiling, and Allison wanted to shoot him for that alone. Jameson pointed at him. “That's Marlowe,” she whispered with cold venom in her voice.

Allison aimed at him, but Jameson put a hand on her crossbow. She shook her head.

“We need to get the boys out of here,” she said. “Marlowe isn't easy to take out and it'll make Baby Brother more aware of your pack than you want him to.” Allison grimaced. Of course this was the last thing they needed.

Before she could do anything, Stiles had slipped in front of Scott, lightning fast, and the woman went down, blood spilling from her throat. Marlowe's smile vanished and Allison decided to shoot the werewolf standing between her and Scott.

Jameson apparently had decided to take out one of the werewolves attacking Gregor and put a bullet right inside his head. The two of them moved out from their hiding place, covering each others' blind spots. It was easy to work with the aged hunter as she acted in the same way her father usually did during an attack. Most hunters were more erratic and unorganized and it was a welcome change for Allison, especially since she had taken a break from hunting, since she got pregnant, and really couldn't need to get accustomed to working with a new hunter who didn't work in the same way she was used to.

It turned the attention of every werewolf to them. Marlowe looked interested. Scott panicked.

“Allison, get out!”

She loved him, she really did. But sometimes his over protectiveness got on her nerves.

“We get out of here together,” Jameson said in her stead, shooting one of the werewolves behind Stiles. Allison decided that she really started to like her.

Marlowe started to move into their direction. He hadn't shifted, but there was something dangerous about him that alerted Allison even more.

After Gerard had betrayed them and Allison come to her senses, she and her father had left Beacon Hills for some time. Her father had told her the truth why Derek had bitten her mother and he had taught her about the code. They had decided to add an extra clause for them to it and deciding on a case to case basis whether to hunt a werewolf or not, even if they had caused the death of a human.

In the following years she had gone hunting with him a lot of times, mostly helping other hunters out who followed the code and were trying to kill rabid Omegas or bloodthirsty packs. Occasionally they had helped out in Beacon Hills too, but normally just when Derek had asked for their help. It was part of the original truce between them, Derek and his pack taking care of any threat to the town's citizens, while the Argent stayed out of it for most of it, unless it was unavoidable. The pact had changed over the years, especially since they had all grown closer.

Allison still went hunting from time to time, more often than not without her father at her side. Scott didn't like it too much, but accepted it. This was part of her family heirloom after all, no matter how many times she had wished it wasn't. But there were werewolves out there who weren't like the Beacon Hills' pack.

It wasn't her only reason for going hunting. There were also hunters out there who were far too dangerous to be left to their own agenda and new hunters who didn't see why they should follow the code. Allison had made it her personal mission to beat some sense into them, too.

All those years, however, had also taught her a lot about werewolves. Which ones she had to look out for, which ones killed because they were rabid and feral and which ones killed because they enjoyed it. It had taught her that the most dangerous ones were the ones in full possession of their mind.

Marlowe was one of those and he was also experienced. If Jameson thought it would be better to turn the other way than to attack him without a plan, it was reason enough for her to do just that. Hunters like Jameson tended to know what to do, Allison knew.

“Gregor!” Stiles yelled and put himself between Marlowe and them. From what Allison could see he was less wolfed out then the rest of them besides Marlowe who had just started to change. Stiles eyes weren't glowing and the only thing changed about him were his claws and a few more sharp teeth in his mouth.

The massive man threw the two werewolves attacking him away like they were rag dolls and leaped towards Stiles.

“I've got it, boss,” he said and Stiles nodded.

“Leaving it to the pawns, I see,” Marlowe jeered and Gregor growled. “Don't listen,” he said to Stiles, whose face was pale.

“Everyone go!” Stiles ordered and Scott threw him a questioning look, while Jameson already backed away from the fight, eyes still fixed on their attackers.

Allison decided that it was better to get away and regroup and to let the others, especially Derek, know what had happened. Gregor looked like he could handle himself in a fight.

“Scott,” she said quietly and it was all it took. He threw a last look into Marlowe's direction and ran towards her. Knowing that Scott was behind her, she turned and followed Jameson.

When they were halfway to the cars she heard a muffled shout and turned to see Stiles evading one of the werewolves Gregor had thrown away. The other one was already lying over one of the headstones. Scott wanted to make his way back to his best friend, but Allison's arrow soaring past him stopped him. It buried itself deep into the werewolf trying to get up again, finishing him for good. She shot another one at the one still attacking Stiles, but he batted it away. But it distracted him long enough for Jameson to run a bullet through his heart.

There was a loud howl coming from Marlowe's direction and they all looked at each other before taking off again.

“My car,” Jameson called back to them.

When they reached it and Jameson unlocked the doors, Jen immediately sprang out of it. Allison saw Stiles racing past her and slamming the girl back inside, scrambling in behind her.

“Scott, backseat!” she told him and climbed into the passenger seat.

Jameson started the car and drove backwards even before Scott was entirely inside. Allison saw that the backseat was a tangle of limbs and that Stiles was still trying to keep the girl in. Scott finally managed to close the door, just as they got to the street.

Jen was screaming for Gregor, while Scott yelled at Stiles who was trying to get through to the girl with words. “What the hell was that?”

Allison pressed her eyes shut.

“Everyone SHUT UP!”

At her outburst everyone went quiet. In the rear view mirror she could see Jen's eerie amber eyes focus on her and Stiles gaping. Scott looked slightly indignant.

Jameson at her side had the tiniest smirk on her face. “Hale house,” she said more quietly to her and Jameson nodded.

Behind her Stiles started to talk to Jen again, this time more calmly. “Jen, he stood his ground against Big Brother for five minutes, alone. He knows how to get away in case he has to. He can handle Marlowe,” he said and Jen whined. Allison saw him pull her close and pet her hair. “I know, kiddo. I don't like it either.”

“So what was that?” Scott asked again.

“An invitation for tea obviously. What did it look like, dumbass?” Stiles said and Scott rolled his eyes in frustration.

“Yeah, but why did they attack us.”

“Not you,” Allison interrupted them. “Stiles.”

“Sorry,” Stiles muttered at that, confirming Allison's statement. They weren't after them. Attacking someone from Derek's pack while the outcome of the negotiations wasn't yet decided would be simply foolish. Attacking someone from the enemy lines as important as Stiles, however, was something else.

“It doesn't matter, they attacked Scott too,” she said and reached for her phone, which was thankfully still securely tucked away in her jacket pocket. She wasn't sure if she meant it as an attack on Stiles or if she simply didn't care what had caused it, but Marlowe had broken their truce.

Lydia answered after the second ring. “We have a problem.”

“Funny,”Allison said. “I was going to say the same. Marlowe just attacked Scott and Stiles at the graveyard.

“Wonderful,” Lydia said falsely cheerful. “I know what caused it. Come back here and I'll tell you. Bring Stiles too.”

Allison looked into the mirror and saw Stiles sitting there, face unreadable, but body tense, the girl pressed to his side. “I will.”

“Good.” Lydia didn't sound too pleased at all.

“We might be there in about five, ten minutes,” Allison told her. “Prepare the barrier and get the rest inside.” She rubbed her forehead. If Marlowe wasn't averse to attacking someone from Derek's pack and one of their official guests, than he meant trouble. “And tell them to get some weapons. Let the others bring claws to a gunfight.”

In the backseat she saw Stiles' eyes narrow in concentration. Through the phone she heard Lydia sigh and could almost see her rolling her eyes. “Of course, dear. Like I would've done anything else,” she said sarcastically.

Allison smiled. “Just making sure, darling.”

The rest of the drive was relatively quiet and thankfully over quickly. By the way Jen's head whipped around and Stiles tensed up the moment they arrived at the Hale house, Allison guessed that Lydia had put up the barrier around the house.

When they piled out of the car, Erica and Boyd were standing already outside and Allison assumed that Ruth and Sam were at the back of the house. Lydia came into view and her eyes were fixed on Stiles, her look hard and unyielding.

Scott was thankfully keeping calm and his gaze flickered between all of them, but he did walk closer to Stiles. Meanwhile, Stiles maneuvered Jen in front of him, shielding her from Erica and Boyd while focusing on Lydia. Like he knew what was going on. Jameson put herself in front of them and Allison delegated them inside. She didn't know what had made the situation from earlier even worse, but she would figure it out in time.

The moment they went through the door Derek slammed Stiles against the wall.

“You bastard!”

Chapter Text

Stiles' heartbeat jumped, and he smelled of fear. But he didn't look surprised at all. He knew exactly what this was about, and just for that Derek wanted to rip his throat out.

“What are you doing?” Scott yelled. Derek sensed him step closer, perhaps to pull him away from Stiles. He didn't need this now. Thankfully Allison realized this.

“Scott,” she said quietly, putting a hand on his shoulder and stopping him.

The girl, Jen, seemed equally as shocked as Scott, but it only took her a second to recover, before crouching down and growling at him, her features already transforming into something more wolflike.

“Don't,” Stiles said calmly, eyes flickering between her and Derek, holding out his hand to make her back away. Jameson pulled her back by the scruff of her neck and didn't say anything, but like the girl she seemed to be ready to attack at any given moment.

“You bastard,” Derek repeated and bashed Stiles' head against the wall. He had wanted to give Stiles the benefit of a doubt, wanted to believe that Stiles hadn't known what was about to happen but it was clear that he had planned for this.

“Jerry was here half an hour ago,” he said, forcing his voice to keep calm and quiet. “Do you know what he told us?”

“Nope, no idea, not the faintest,” Stiles babbled.

“Do you know?” he repeated more loudly and it made Stiles flinch, but he still held Derek's gaze.

“I have a pretty good guess.”

Scott looked between them. “What's going on,” he demanded.

Behind them the door closed and Lydia spoke up, her voice sharp and clipped. “Baby Brother is coming here. Because Stiles is here and he wants him dead for what he did at Amber Lake. So the negotiations are over. If we don't hand him over to Baby Brother he'll kill us all.”

“He'll kill you anyway,” Stiles said flatly. “Or do you really think he'll let you and your pack live?” He was looking intensely at Derek.

“How about we hand you over and see what happens,” Derek said vindictively.

“Handing me over won't change anything. You want to know why?”

“I can't really say I do.” Of course this wouldn't deter Stiles from talking.

“See the thing is, you're Peter's nephew. The man who killed Mommy's favorite. And whether you like it or not, you're his family.”

Derek snarled, but didn't disagree. He knew that. Had always known that. It was a tie he could never cut entirely, and he hated it.

Stiles kept running his mouth, his words tumbling out, almost tripping over each other with the speed he was talking. “If Baby Brother gets here, he'll kill you. And he'll enjoy it. He'll play with your Betas until they beg for mercy, because that's what he thinks is fun. Then he'll leave the rest of them for Mom, and believe me that's not going to be pretty.”

It sounded like Stiles didn't just know how utterly gruesome what they did to people was, hadn't even just seen it, but had experienced it. From the corner of his eye Derek saw Jameson resting both hands reassuringly on Jen's shoulders. Jen made sound that was caught between a snarl and a whine.

“The best part? They'll do it all and say it was retribution for Amber Lake, because never mind that you weren't there, never mind that you haven't been involved so far. You being related to Peter is more than enough reason for them to do that. Not that they ever needed a reason.”

Stiles' words cut into him. His words reminded him too much of the speech his father had once given to him about hunters, why it was so important to stay hidden. Derek wondered if Peter had given him that kind of information too, if Stiles chose his words deliberately to trigger those memories.

The worst was that they brought back the memory of the fire and Kate as well. Of what he had brought on his family, his pack. Jen made another sound, grieved and it sounded so much like the ones Laura had made on occasion, when they were alone in the middle of the night, after their family had died.

“Shut up!” Surprisingly it was Scott who shouted at Stiles. His eyes were wide and shocked. Derek was both thankful for his presence and wanted him as far away as possible from here. It didn't matter how this would go, Scott would be hurt in the end.

“What the hell, Stiles?” Scott asked.

“He knew that coming here would alert Baby Brother. Would make him come here, too” Derek said as calmly as he could bring himself to be. “He lead him here on purpose.”

Scott looked between them, mouth opening as if to defend Stiles, but the look on his best friend's face made him shut up. Stiles wasn't looking at Scott, but wasn't focused on Derek either, guilt and stubbornness making him turn his head away slightly.

“I don't know why and I don't care,” Derek said to him. “All I know is that if Baby Brother hurts anyone from my pack, it's your fault, Stiles.” He would kill him personally and without hesitation if that would change the situation.

But Stiles was right, even if he killed him, even if he handed Stiles and the other three members of his pack over to Marlowe or the brothers, Baby Brother would still attack Derek's pack. And no matter how good their security measures were, how well they were prepared, this was a different caliber than they had dealt with in years. Besides, while they could protect themselves, their little pack, the rest of Beacon Hills would still be in danger. From what he had heard, the brothers and Mom weren't averse to killing innocent bystanders and humans.

Mom was another thing that worried Derek. Should they be able to drive one of the brothers away from Beacon Hills, and Derek didn't doubt that they could between all the preparations they had made and their experience as a pack, it would bring them to Mom's attention.

She was a threat like nothing they had ever faced. There had been revenge seeking, rabid Alphas in the past, his uncle included. There had been Kanimas and Alpha packs. There had been a lot of other nasty things. But from everything Derek knew about her, she was far more dangerous than all of them put together.

What had happened to Mom was unusual. Normally the death of a life-long partner wouldn't drive a werewolf mad, not when they still had a pack to ground them. Sometimes it would cause them to die in a short time after, but not always. Usually, though, it would leave an empty space, perhaps make them more unstable than they were before, but not for long.

If it happened that an Alpha became more feral after their mate died, it would usually lead to them being overthrown. They wouldn't have to be killed, necessarily, because if the entire pack decided on a new leader and stood together, it could lead to an Alpha falling to Beta or even Omega, leaving their powers to the next leader.

Either way the loss was not meant to turn you mad.

Of course, there were rumors. That the bond in itself hadn't been healthy. Hadn't been entirely consensual. Being forced into this kind of bond could drive someone mad. Being freed from it would only result in nothing anchoring the one left. It wasn't something werewolves liked to talk about, a bond as cherished as this being forced on another. The mere thought was so revolting that most didn't speak about it.

There were legends out there, the kind you didn't tell your children about. Peter had told him and Laura this one, though, behind their parents' backs in the dark of the night because they had pestered him into it.

Unlike the bite being forced on someone for turning them, a bond of this nature would drive someone mad after being imposed and was impossible to break. An Alpha's mate could influence the pack on an emotional basis, and someone who was mad would bring the rest of them down too, especially when the Alpha was not right in their mind either.

Stiles was looking back at him again. There was pain in his eyes. “I know,” he said softly. “Believe me, I don't want Baby Brother coming after your pack, either.”

“You lead him here.” Derek emphasized every word.

“It wasn't my idea, my choice to do this,” Stiles pleaded. “Look they would've sent someone here either way, knowing that Marlowe was on his way to negotiate with you. It was the best chance to get one of the brothers out of hiding. If it hadn't been me, it'd be someone else and they probably wouldn't have stayed around.” Derek didn't knew who 'they' exactly were but hazarded a guess that Stiles was talking about the Alliance leaders. “And he isn't here yet.”

Derek got that there was a greater plan behind all of this. Something he couldn't grasp, because he wasn't in the Alliance and didn't know what was going on. He had the feeling that leading Baby Brother here had something to do with Peter being caught by the other brother the night before. Perhaps had even something to do with Esther calling him weeks ago.

“I meant what I said earlier,” Stiles continued. “I'll do anything I can to make him stay away. To keep you and your pack safe. I've got a plan, okay? You just have to let me do this and maybe help me a little bit.”

Derek's eyes were flaring up red and he had to use every ounce of restraint left to not just kill Stiles that very second. “Help you? After what you did?” He slammed him into the wall again. “I don't think so.”

Stiles' hands closed around Derek's wrist. “Fine, fine!” His voice sounded high pitched and almost panicked, but there was something unyielding in every other aspect of his body. “How about you figure out how to get rid of him on your own then,” he suggested, but there was something in his eyes that made Derek uncomfortable. “Just like you did with the Kanima, isn't that right Scott?”

Scott looked like he didn't know what was going on and Derek felt a pang of panic coursing through him. He just knew that Stiles knew exactly what had happened during the night of the Lacrosse championship ten years ago. Who had given Derek the information he needed to defeat the Kanima. But he couldn't have Scott find out about this now. Not when everything else was in danger.

He glared at Stiles and pushed him against the wall one more time and then let go. Stiles spread his arms and raised his eyebrows. “What? We talk,” he said as a matter of explanation. Derek was sure he didn't mean Scott and wondered what else Peter had told Stiles, how much they really shared.

“Derek?” Scott asked and his eyes were still flickering warily back and forth between the two of them, a calculating look on his face.

“What is it?” Derek demanded, throwing him a sour look.

“Let Stiles handle this, just follow his plan, whatever it is,” Scott said quietly and cautiously.

It had been years since he had wanted to show his dominance in any physical form towards one of his pack members, since he had felt threatened in his status as Alpha and felt the need to prove himself at all costs. There was no need to in their small pack, not after they finally started to trust each other. He was well aware that he let his Betas get away with more than most Alphas would. But there simply hadn't been a good enough reason to force his status on them. Which was fine, since they usually didn't interact with other packs or Alphas, which could lead to his leadership ability being called into question. However, right now he wanted nothing more than to put Scott into his place for making the suggestion in front of everyone.

Apparently, though, Scott noticed his bad mood and quickly kept on talking. “No listen, if Stiles takes care of it than we won't have to.” And we won't have to reveal all the security measures we've taken over the years, Derek thought, following Scott's thoughts. They'd still be a secret, should they really need them.

“And if whatever Stiles is planning doesn't work out, we can get rid of them on our own. All of them,” he said, visibly forcing himself to keep looking at Stiles.

Derek blinked, mildly surprised at Scott's willingness to sacrifice his best friend. But he had to admit that Scott was right and that he would have just done that, if he hadn't let his anger cloud his judgment.

Stiles mouth hung open, making him look slightly shocked, but to Derek's surprise it changed into a look of respect for Scott quickly.

Derek nodded. “Well then, tell us what your amazing plan is.”

Stiles shrugged. “Get Marlowe and Jerry here and talk to them.”

“Talking. That's it? All you do is go out there and talk to them and that'll make Baby turn away?” he asked sarcastically.

“Yes,” Stiles answered cheerfully. “Talking. It's really effective, you should try it sometime.”

Derek just glared at him.

“Well and when Marlowe is gone, I need to talk to Jerry alone.”

“No.”

Stiles blinked at him.

“I'm not letting you and that little rat talk on your own. I don't trust you to not plan something against us,” Derek said.

“Okay. Then I just need to talk to him without anyone from his pack around or knowing where he is.” It was a surprise that Stiles gave in so easily, and it didn't do anything to make Derek worry less about whatever it was Stiles wanted to talk to Jerry about.

“Fine,” Derek agreed.

Something was happening outside. Not something as big as an attack or a real disturbance, but something unsettling. Every werewolf in the room tensed up. The two hunters didn't need more than a second to adjust their stances as well and Lydia raised a questioning eyebrow at Derek, who nodded towards the door where Isaac came in, slouching, but face serious. “Marlowe's here, Derek. He wants to talk to you.”

He nodded and turned to Stiles. “Here's your chance. Talk to them and make them leave,” he said darkly. “If not-”

“Yes, yes, you rip my throat out. I know,” Stiles said, not really bothered by Derek's threat, but he seemed tense at the thought of facing Marlowe. He looked over to Jameson who was still firmly holding a now snarling Jen by the shoulders.

“Take care of her.” Jameson squinted at Stiles, as if this was an unnecessary order. Stiles threw his hands up before clapping them together. “Okay then, time for the show,” he said, but didn't sound convincing. There was a nervous energy about him. But then he shook his head and he looked more together again.

Derek gestured for Stiles to go outside first. “Scott you're with me, the rest of you stay inside.”

If this went sideways, Stiles would be in the first line of fire this way. Derek had his pack to protect, so he didn't mind. A long time ago, before the fire, Peter had taught him something, laughing while he said it. But it had stuck, and now Derek used it in less innocent ways than to let his sister or cousins steal cookies for him. If you want something done, find a way to let someone else do it for you.

But he wouldn't let Stiles out of his sight as long as he was here and it was better to take Scott with him, because it was clear that even with what had transpired now, he still wanted to be there for Stiles.

The mountain ash barrier Lydia had created was holding up perfectly, but then Derek didn't expect anything less from something she had done. Five years ago, she had come up with the idea to put a permanent ring of mountain ash around the house, protected by pipes, which could only be closed at specific points and which were rearranged so that they could cover the tunnels spanning out from under the house too, if need be.

A handful of Marlowe's werewolves were slinking along the borders of the invisible barrier, some of them still looking beat up. The man Derek supposed was Marlowe stood calmly at the edge of the clearing, facing the front door. Jerry was standing beside him, but he looked less self-confident than Derek had seen him during their last two meetings. He looked more like a beaten dog with its tail between its legs. His posture towards Marlowe was absolutely submissive, but not for the right reasons. There was no respect or even love there, just fear.

Perhaps Marlowe hadn't liked it that Jerry hadn't attacked Stiles the second he had heard he was here, or perhaps Jerry had done something else wrong. Either way Derek didn't care one bit. There was something about Jerry that made his skin crawl.

“Hello Marlowe!” Stiles greeted him, his smile falsely happy. “It's been some time. Half an hour or so. How have you been?”

“Oh, Stiles, my dear,” Marlowe said, smiling too, but with too many teeth. “It's been nice. Can't say the same for your pet dog.”

Derek saw uncertainty flicker over Stiles' face for a moment. Something Marlowe and Jerry didn't miss either. Stiles tilted his head and watched Marlowe carefully, before breaking out into a laugh.

“That was a good one,” he said, gasping for air, and Derek wondered how in hell this kid, no, this man, was going to get Marlowe and his Alpha to leave them alone. “Nah, Gregor is fine.”

“Just so,” Marlowe admitted, still smiling. “But enough of this chattering.” His eyes fixed on Derek and Marlowe tipped his head in respect. “I'm here to talk to Alpha Hale.” Derek didn't do him the favor of responding, and it was Stiles who kept on talking.

“But you just were talking to his Second.” Stiles actually managed to put on a quite convincing pout.

There was a flash of anger in Marlowe's eyes at this impertinence, but Derek found himself a bit amused against his will. Stiles could be annoying if he wanted to be and when it wasn't directed at him, Derek could even enjoy it.

“You aren't, and from what I've heard you aren't anything anymore at all to your Alpha, not after your little stunt at Amber Lake,” Marlowe said slyly and Derek wondered what he was talking about. Stiles threw him a brittle smile. Perhaps things between him and Peter weren't so well after all.

Marlowe focused on Derek again. “And I meant Alpha Derek Hale,” Marlowe said to him and Derek had no intention of letting himself be drawn into this conversation. Scott was standing at his side now, on the verge of saying something, but holding it back. After all this time he apparently knew how to read Derek's body language, and decided to stay out of this too.

“But I see he already has made his decision,” Marlowe continued his smile slipping for the first time. “A pity. We could've worked together so nicely.” He brought his smile up again in a last attempt to draw Derek in, without success.

“Now we'll have to kill you and your tiny pack,” he said, and his smile turned into something insane.

Stiles rolled his eyes. “Honestly, always with the blood lust. It's getting kind of old. Can't we just have a nice cup of coffee?”

Derek found it interesting that Stiles' comment apparently brought the tiniest smile to Jerry's face. It fell away fast enough, before Marlowe could catch it.

“And you're always talking. Do you honestly think it will save anyone, your constant babbling?”

“It just might,” Stiles answered, his heartbeat steady.

“How cute. But then again, even without the talking you are quite useless when it comes to saving someone.” Marlowe turned to Scott, and Derek wanted to step between them, just so that this man wouldn't be able to look at his Beta.

“I've heard you two talking, sadly not loud enough to hear anything, but you seemed like old friends. Do you know what happens to the boy's friends?”

“Now come on, a walk down memory lane, really.” Stiles sounded more annoyed than anything else, but despite the slouch in his shoulders there was a sudden sharpness to him. He didn't like Marlowe talking to Scott any more than Derek did, it seemed.

“Why not?” Marlowe told Stiles casually. “Did you know, the first few days Big Brother tortured Angelo the kid told him that Peter would have all of our heads for torturing him? Or so I've heard.” Stiles was suddenly ashen. Whatever they were talking about had shaken him to the core, and Derek could smell the mix of guilt and fear and rage drifting from him. “But the next few days he screamed for you. He must have been so happy to see you coming to his rescue. Too bad it didn't last long.” Marlowe's smile turned predatory. “But you have to admit he made such a nice corpse.”

For a moment Derek thought Stiles would lose it. Scott took a step into the direction of his oldest friend, face pinched in horror and worry. He apparently knew already more about what Marlowe was talking about than Derek. He saw the anger building in Scott too, and wanted to give a warning growl to step back, to stay out of this, because this wasn't their pack's business.

But then Stiles relaxed and smiled. Sharp and cold like shards of glass. “It's so nice to know that you still remember Angelo, Marlowe. But I'm sure we are not here for reminiscence,” he said pleasantly. “Let's talk business, shall we?”

He tapped his finger against his lips and then bounced on his feet as if in thought. “No wait, wait. Why don't you let Jeremiah talk, while Baby listens in. He's listening in right?”

One of the other werewolves unwittingly gave the answer away by freezing up and Marlowe stared at him, making him shrink away. “So he is. As always. Nice. Hello there you big creeper! Now Jeremiah.” Stiles turned to the younger man on Marlowe's side. “You've been dying to say something, but Marlowe wouldn't let you, isn't that right? Hey, Baby, listen in on that, because you should,” he said with a raised voice.

It wasn't Jerry though who spoke up though, but Marlowe. “What is there to say? You are Peter's backup-plan, like always. And you've decided to get his nephew involved.”

Stiles smiled. “Wow, you are so wrong it almost hurts. Come on Jeremiah, be a man, speak up.”

Jerry's words were almost inaudible as he spoke; in the few hours Derek had known him, Jerry always seemed to be able to put his words eloquently and never lacked any.

“I don't think he's a backup-plan,” Jerry mumbled.

“Don't be stupid,” Marlowe hissed and Jerry flinched.

Stiles, however, looked pleased. “You know, he isn't. He's a coward and a snake, but definitely not stupid. A shame no one ever listens to him.”

“What are you saying?” Marlowe's voice sounded more stilted, and Derek heard a small whisper coming from his direction. Only when Marlowe turned his head to the side a bit, could he see the small earpiece. Baby was talking through his Second.

“Why don't you ask Jeremiah? Come on, he's got an idea.”

There was a pause and Marlowe's eyes flashed blue, before giving Jerry a hard look. “Talk.”

“He isn't the backup-plan. He's more like a distraction, even though I don't-” Jerry broke off, understanding dawning on his face. Derek felt uneasy. Stiles just smiled and focused on Marlowe again, after giving Jerry a wink.

“See, as I was told earlier, Little Brother has my Alpha. Very likely inside his secret stronghold in Oregon. Where you've all been hiding too after Amber Lake, like scared little pups. Except it's not so secret anymore, since the Alliance now knows where it is. And there is no one else to help him defend it, no back-up, because his remaining brother is on his way here,” Stiles had raised his voice and pronounced every word clearly, so that Baby could hear them without a doubt.

“Peter on the other hand, has back-up. Just imagine the damage he can do.” Stiles' mouth stretched into grin. “I guess if you're fast enough, you might get back there in time to prevent the worst.”

“You little-” Marlowe spit on the ground.

“Yeah,” Stiles said drily. “Now run. Run, Baby, run.”

There was a louder noise coming from Marlowe's earpiece, though Derek couldn't say whether it was a curse or an order or perhaps both. Marlowe's lips stretched into a smile, or a terrible copy of one. It looked like it was molded out of plastic and then glued to his face as a punishment. He nodded in Stiles' direction.

“Very well, this round goes to you.” He then focused on Derek again. “You'll hear from me, Alpha Hale,” he promised and made no attempt to hide the threat.

“Marlowe, you really think he knew about Peter's plan?” Stiles spoke up. “Let's pray your successor is more intelligent than you are.” At this Jerry, who had watched the whole exchange with interest, perked up. His eyes flickered towards Stiles, looking like he was trying to dissect his words. Then Marlowe turned and barked an order at the other werewolves and Jerry turned away too.

When they were finally out of earshot, Stiles turned to Derek. “Can Lydia take the barrier down for a bit?”

“Jerry seems to be with Marlowe. And I'm not willing to risk my pack attacking him, just so you can talk to him,” Derek said, arms crossed.

“Marlowe won't let him go with them. Jerry is a threat to his position now. And Jameson sabotaged his car tonight. So he won't be going far for some time,” Stiles explained and looked a bit tired. “But this isn't about him. I need to find Gregor. He got away from Marlowe, but I don't think he's in a good condition or he'd be here already.”

Derek understood Stiles' need to look for his pack mate first. “Fine,” he huffed.

“And then I need to talk to Jerry,” Stiles reminded him.

“What do you need him for anyway?” Derek asked. He was willing to at least listen to Stiles' reasoning, before turning him down. After all he had kept his promise and made Baby Brother and Marlowe turn away from Beacon Hills. Then again, he had brought them here in the first place.

“Mainly to get some information about a few things, and to make sure that no one from his side comes back here ever again.”

“Through talking,” Derek deadpanned and Stiles nodded.

“Exactly.”

Derek didn't know what he could possibly say to someone he had called insignificant earlier that could make their Alpha stay away from Beacon Hills, but it wouldn't hurt to let Stiles try. If it worked out, than that was one problem less Derek had to deal with, and if it didn't, he could still take care of it in his own way.

He got Lydia to lower the barrier and to his surprise, it was Jen Stiles took with him to go looking for Gregor. Derek ordered everyone else to stay on lookout for unwanted guests.

When they were as good as alone, Scott came over to him, his voice lowered so the others wouldn't overhear them. “Can we talk?” There was a look in Scott's eyes that told him whatever this was about now, wasn't exactly good.

“What is it?”

“Alone,” Scott said pointedly. Derek decided it was better to get through this now, before Scott decided that it didn't matter who could listen in. He led him back to the house and closed the door to the kitchen, so they were undisturbed.

“About what Stiles said earlier,” Scott said and Derek furrowed his brows in confusion. Stiles had said many things in the past hours. But there was only one thing Derek had dreaded to hear.

“About you figuring out how to defeat the Kanima,” Scott continued. Derek felt a pang of fear surge through him. Not this.

Scott was the most powerful and respected of his Betas, slightly more so than even Isaac and usually the others would easily turn to him for advice or direction in Derek's absence. He was also the least connected to the pack and not just because of his family. Scott had always slightly stood apart, always following his own will no matter where it led him. In this case it had him made a part of Derek's pack, but under different circumstances Scott would've made a good Alpha himself. Even if he had ended up as an Omega he would not necessarily be weaker for it, not with a family like his own.

Derek had always been aware of that. A lucky chance and some misfortune had pushed them together all those years ago. But if Scott wanted to leave now, there would be nothing Derek could do. It was his own fault after all. He had kept Peter's resurrection and him leaving Beacon Hills the same night Stiles went missing a secret.

Scott took a deep breath. “It took me a bit to get it.” He looked Derek in the eyes, observed his reaction closely. “You got that information from Peter right?”

Derek didn't need to answer, because it was clear Scott saw that he was right. He still felt compelled to explain himself.

“He came to me, right after Erica and Boyd left. Wanted to offer some advice and join my pack.” Derek's hands clenched into fists. “Said he needed an Alpha. I almost believed him,” he gritted out.
Back then, he had still been too riled up by his pack abandoning him and the death of Stiles' father, because he had been there a few seconds too late, to trust Peter even the tiniest bit. To let him in. Part of him had wanted to, though. To have Peter at his side, to have his uncle helping him. If things had gone differently, he just might have allowed him to stay.

Derek was glad he hadn't. It would've have been a mistake, he knew that now. Because clearly Peter had his own plans. Pretending not to be an Alpha anymore and trying to wheedle his way into Derek's pack must've been part of it, and whatever it had been would not have ended well for Derek or the remnants of his little pack.

“But I threw him out.” God, he had basically thrown Stiles to the wolves that night. Just like he had handed his family over to Kate on a silver platter.

Scott said something that surprised him. “I understand.” He stepped over to Derek and put his own hand over Derek's fist, making him relax. “It's not your fault. Whatever happened to Stiles, you know that? That was Peter. And it was also Stiles' decision.”

Derek squeezed his biceps with his other hand. A silent thank you. Scott pressed his hand shortly in affirmation, but let go immediately. He took a step back and looked at Derek with hard eyes.

“But you need to get that you can't keep stuff like that from me,” he said. “You know I'd do almost everything for the pack and for you and that I won't question it when you tell me to jump.” Derek wanted to retort to that, but Scott continued. “Okay, at least not always. But I only question you when it comes to the important things. You're my Alpha. My brother. I trust you.” Scott said calmly. “But you need to trust me too. I thought you did.”

Years ago he would have thrown a fit because of what Derek had done. It made him feel even more guilty for not trusting his Beta with this, because Scott wasn't about to leave the pack or him in a moment of rage anymore.

Derek opened his mouth to say that he did, but it wouldn't be the whole truth. He trusted Scott, yes, but there were still secrets he preferred to keep to himself. “It's complicated,” he said instead.

“I know that!” Scott sounded downright frustrated. “I get that you need to have your secrets, that you can't share everything with me or anyone else, because you are the Alpha or because it's personal. But things like that, things that someone else could use to get between us, between you and your pack, these are the things I need to know. So others can't manipulate you like this.”

Derek looked away, jaw working hard. Scott's voice softened. “Stiles wouldn't use it to do major harm, he wouldn't have gone through with telling me.” Derek doubted it. “But others like Peter or Marlowe or Jerry, they would use things like this to hurt all of us. You know that we can't let that happen.”

“Yes,” Derek snapped. “I know that. I know that better than anyone. It's just-” His voice broke. He didn't trust easily, not after Kate's and Peter's betrayal, but if he couldn't trust his pack, who else could he trust? It wasn't even like he didn't want to trust them. He wanted to, and usually he did, nowadays. But there were times when he couldn't bring himself to do it. Times like this, when something or someone from his past popped up unannounced and brought back all the emotions and memories he didn't want to have.

“I know this isn't easy for you and you've actually gotten better at sharing since the whole disaster with the Alpha pack. So I guess I just wanted to remind you of that.” Scott's eyes had softened as well.

Derek nodded.

“And if you can't talk to me or don't want to, then at least talk to Lydia or Isaac.”

“I will,” Derek agreed and Scott smiled weakly. Derek felt relieved. He hadn't been aware of how much of a burden this had been, keeping this particular secret from everyone, especially Scott.

“Okay,” he said.

There were noises outside, but nothing like earlier when Marlowe had appeared. Apparently, Stiles was back, his little substitute pack whole again. Gregor leaned heavily on Jen, who didn't seem to mind his weight in the slightest. There were still deep red marks covering his pale skin, indicating how badly Marlowe had hurt him. Stiles' brow was furrowed in worry, but Gregor gave him a tired half smile, which smoothed out the lines on his forehead.

“I guess it's time to catch Jerry,” Scott said, and watched Derek carefully, like he wanted to know whether he was going to really help Stiles out.

Derek just gave a curt nod.

Chapter Text

Getting Jerry was fairly easy, if the short time it took Allison, Scott and Jameson to bring him back to the house, was any indication. Lydia had watched Stiles take care of his pack mate, while they waited. Stiles went over his wounds, making sure they healed properly, while talking soothingly to Jen.

He was making a call when they heard the others coming up to the house. "Have to go," he said before hanging up and, to her surprise, turned towards her first. "Ms. Morrell sends her thanks for Deaton's help," he told her.

"She shouldn't before she hasn't tested the theory," Lydia said.

"Well, we'll see how it goes tonight."

"So this spell is for Marlowe, I guess," she said, though she didn't really care as long as no one used it against her pack. Stiles nodded.

"Yeah, taking him down is almost as important as taking one of the brothers down. We'll get to him when he is on his way back to the stronghold."

Stiles went quiet when the door opened and Derek came out of the living room. Jerry's eyes flickered between them.

"Alpha Hale, what-"

"Shut up," Derek said and Jerry immediately just did as he was told. At least something about him that made him more likeable than Stiles.

Derek motioned for them to get Jerry into the room, Stiles following them. Gregor watched him warily and put a hand on Jen's shoulder to keep her still. Lydia decided to see for herself how this would go.

"Everyone, except for Stiles, out." She heard Derek order before she walked through the door herself. There was a short protest from Scott, but it was easily put down by both Derek and Allison. When they past her, she slipped through the door before Derek could slam it in her face.

She raised an eyebrow at him in challenge. "I'm staying," she said. Derek rolled his eyes but didn't disagree. Leaving Derek alone with both Jerry and Stiles wasn't the best idea, she felt.

After they had thought Jackson dead after the Lacrosse game all those years ago, she had made her way to the McCall house, in the hopes of finding Stiles. He had been the only person she had felt would be available and listen to her, though she hadn't known how well he had dealt so far with his own loss.

She had found the front door open and everything in order, but no Stiles around. His phone had been on the nightstand though, sitting there with several unread messages from Scott. She had made her way to the location he had texted Stiles, walking, because she hadn't driven to him and the cab the nurse had called earlier for her already gone.

It had been Derek though who had picked her up, who had clued her in on everything, who had told her about the legend he had heard once and how it might help safe Jackson. The thought of what might have happened to Stiles only came later, when everything had settled down somehow.

She had trusted Stiles back then, even though she had barely known him. She realized now that there was no ounce of trust left. And she surely didn't trust Jerry. So something about leaving Derek with them alone rubbed her the wrong way.

Jerry seemed to try and figure out what was going on, but still kept quiet. Stiles looked over to them, waiting for Derek's permission to go on or for him to say something to Jerry first. Derek however seemed to have decided that he was done with talking to either of them and played the Alpha silence card.

So it was on Lydia to talk. She walked in front of Jerry looking coldly up into his, admittedly handsome, face. "Now you will carefully listen, Jerry. Stiles over there wants to talk to you." She pointed at his not quite so handsome face. "I don't know what about. I don't quite care. But if I just get the smallest indication of you or him planning anything against the people I protect, it's not Alpha Hale you have to worry about." She smiled disarmingly at him.

Jerry tipped his non-existent hat to her. "Of course, my lady." Lydia turned in time to see Derek and Stiles roll their eyes at him in annoyance. Lydia didn't mind his flattery, because unlike some men, Jerry could actually make it sound sincere.

She leaned against the wall beside Derek, putting him between her and the other two werewolves in the room. His relaxed posture became more convincing with her standing beside him and in relative protection. Typical, Lydia thought. It was like Derek to always feel the need to protect the pack, especially the honorary human members. Especially her, too.

Jerry's eyes wandered over to Stiles who was regarding him coolly. "So, this is your show?" he asked him.

Stiles shrugged, rolling his shoulders to get some of the nervous energy out that seemed to cling to him. He looked over to Derek and Lydia. He caught her eyes for the briefest moment. There was something vulnerable in his brown eyes, something almost apologetic, as if he was asking her for forgiveness. She saw the moment he made a decision she was not privy to, when his eyes skimmed over Derek. The set of his jaw became harder, while his whole body language became more relaxed, but the look in his eyes seemed to become even sharper.

This was Stiles. The Stiles he was now, not the boy who had left them all behind and returned unsure of his place in Beacon Hills.

"You sound surprised."

Jerry had watched Stiles' change with interest and now adapted to him easily. From the little bit she had seen from him earlier, he was a master in changing his own behavior to adapt to every situation, but unlike Stiles, he had no underlying integrity left to him. Still, it looked like she was going to see the real Jeremiah too now.

He spread his hands and smiled at Stiles. "Not really. I'd be more surprised if it wasn't."

Stiles gave him an easy, insincere smile in return. "Aw, thanks honey."

"So you wanted to talk to me," Jerry said.

Stiles took a few slow steps closer to him, looking relaxed and forcing Jerry into a more submissive pose, almost making him back up, but for once it seemed like Jerry was at least trying to stand his own ground.

"I have a proposition for you."

"And here I thought you'd never ask," Jerry sighed theatrically, but involuntarily took a step back.

"Not that kind of proposition. I really don't think we've dated enough for that one," Stiles said and smiled contently at Jerry's behavior. "No, I'm going to give you a choice. Make the right one and you might get out of this war alive, no matter which side wins."

That obviously caught Jerry's attention. "I wasn't aware you were in any position to make promises like that," he pointed out, but still looked interested in what Stiles had to say. Lydia wondered in what kind of position Stiles was. He had sounded confident enough earlier, his place in Peter's pack secure.

There was a discrepancy between how Stiles had acted before, how he was here with three other pack members and how he acted now and the things Marlowe and Jerry said about his role in Peter's pack.

"I still have connections," Stiles said simply. Jerry raised an eyebrow.

"That, you do. So, your offer?"

"You'll convince the brothers and Mom that coming to Beacon Hills again would be pointless. That it'll bring them no advantage and that it wouldn't even serve to hurt Peter in any way to attack Derek Hale's pack. He clearly doesn't care about him, or he wouldn't have sent me to get them involved."

"Doesn't he?" Jerry asked, curious. Lydia didn't think that was a question needing to be asked, because the answer was a clear no.

"Does it matter?" Stiles countered.

"You care," Jerry pointed out. "Because, from everything I found out about you here, they probably were your friends."

"Yeah, but that's not the point." Stiles had backed Jerry up enough towards the opposite wall that he could push him against it. Not like Derek had slammed Stiles earlier into the wall, but by simply resting a hand on his chest in a warning. "The point is, you are going to convince them to stay away from here."

"And if I don't?"

Stiles rolled his eyes. "You really need to ask? After everything we've been through, Jerry?" He leaned in to whisper into his ear, but still loud enough for even Lydia to hear it without sharp werewolf senses. "I'll make sure you won't see the end of this war alive."

Jerry did look afraid, but around Stiles he also seemed to develop a bit of courage for talking back.

"Honestly, your threats are getting weaker Stiles. Rumors have it you should watch out for your own back before threatening me. Your Alpha doesn't seem to be too pleased with you in the last time."

To Lydia's surprise, his words made Stiles back off slightly, a wounded expression crossing his face for just the split of a second. Jerry was watching him now like a dog that had smelled blood, a greedy glimmer in his eyes for more information.

"Well if I go down, I'm going to make sure I'm taking everyone within my reach with me, and trust me you'll be in it."

"Is that why Peter is keeping you away from your pack and himself? I've heard he even has a new favorite, that pretty little red-head." Well, at least Peter seemed to have a type, Lydia thought coldly. The way Jerry was talking, however, made her think that perhaps Stiles had played over how damaged his relationship with Peter was or perhaps he was playing the wounded werewolf now. She couldn't quite tell and Stiles' face didn't give her much of an answer either. From the look on Derek's face, he didn't seem to be able to tell either.

"Pretty? You think Megan is pretty? Oh well, it's your taste, I guess. And just fyi? Our pack is out of reach of everyone, including your bosses. I'd really recommend you not trying to threaten any of them. You know how well it went the last time." It seemed to be part of an older conversation between the two of them, Lydia guessed, because Stiles words didn't really fit to what Jerry had said before.

The man in question smirked. "Of course, but at least Peter knows where they are and doesn't let you in on it," he said slyly.

"Back to the original topic," Stiles said sourly.

Jerry gave him a curd nod, lips still curled into a triumphant smile. "The problem is that I don't think you are in any position to offer deals anymore or make threats."

The next second Jerry was on the floor screaming and Lydia couldn't even tell what exactly had happened. Stiles took a step back, blood on his left hand. Derek had taken a step back as well, almost pressing Lydia to the wall. She tapped him lightly on his lower back and he grudgingly moved slightly away from her, allowing her to see what was happening next.

"Say that again," Stiles said calmly. He curled his left hand around Jerry's throat, merely touching his fingers to the flesh there, before forcing Jerry to stand up again. His eyes were still the same deep brown as before, his look calculating and searching. He wiped his hand clean on Jerry's expensive shirt.

“You know a little bird told me you and Armandine aren't exactly over,” Stiles continued. Apparently the Alliance's sordid business had soap opera levels of interactions, Lydia thought mildly fascinated, pondering how Alpha Hart's Second had gotten into a relationship with someone like Jerry.

“And while you aren't the only one noticing certain discrepancies between me and my Alpha,” Stiles said, choosing his words carefully. “Others have different opinions on our little break. And Esther likes me. She doesn't like you particularly, but I'm sure she can be convinced otherwise.” His words were spoken without any particular inflection, like they were merely observations.

Jerry glared at him. “I guess the safety of Beacon Hills isn't the only thing you want?” he asked. Stiles shrugged.

“It's my main concern, but if I get some useful information now and then from your new position, well, it can't hurt.”

“New position?” Jerry asked, unconvinced.

“There'll be an opening from tonight on, I'm sure you can work it in your favor,” Stiles said and Lydia wondered if he wasn't a bit too confident that his allies would take down Marlowe tonight.

Jerry pondered over the new information. “Let's say I agree. What makes you sure I can convince the brothers and Mom to stay away from here? They do have pretty stubborn minds of their own.”

"Because, you are the clever one, aren't you?” Stiles said it like was an inside joke to which only he was privy. “You'll find a way. So, what do you say?”

“Fuck it,” Jerry cursed. “I'm in.”

Stiles offered his hand to Jerry. “Great, deal?”

Jerry nodded and cautiously shook it. “Deal.”

“Now get out of my sight and Beacon Hills,” Stiles said coldly.

Jerry rolled his eyes. “No sense of sweet talk after you get what you want.”

“Nope, not with you.” Stiles smile was sharp and Jerry returned it before spinning around to face Lydia and Derek.

“Well, goodbye then and if everything holds, until never,” he said and bowed to the two of them. Derek didn't respond and Lydia gave him a cool smile.

Jerry stopped at the door, floundering for a moment, before turning around and fixing Stiles with a thoughtful look. “Stiles, a word in advice?” Stiles gave him a short nod. "You are spreading yourself too thin. Caring too much about other people. It might make you too vulnerable. Easier to be taken down.”

"No," Stiles said. "It makes me more dangerous." At least a radical different approach concerning the people closest to him compared to Peter, Lydia thought. Jerry tilted his head and then nodded, a small smile quirking his lips.

“That it does.” With that, he finally left.

Lydia raised an eyebrow at Stiles. “So you don't get along with your Alpha as well as you wanted us to believe. Or do you want Jerry to believe something different?”

He opened his mouth to answer, but just in that moment his phone rang. Stiles slipped it out of his pocket and looked down on it before holding up a hand. “One moment, need to take this one,” he said mouth drawn into a thin line of worry.

“Megan? You've got impeccable timing. What's the news?”

Again Stiles behavior differed from his reaction before. Instead of seeming hostile of the woman, Jerry suspected taking over Stiles place, he seemed to be glad to hear from her. Lydia watched as Stiles sagged down in relief against the dining table, his mouth splitting into a smile. “Hey, you,” he said a bit more softly, apparently greeting someone else who wasn't Megan.

Derek however was suddenly alert, conflicting emotions flickering over his face before settling into a dark frown. Lydia had a pretty good idea who was on the other end of the line.

“So everything worked out?” Stiles asked and nodded along the answer, which Lydia couldn't hear, but she was sure Derek was listening in.

“Yeah, here too. More or less. Jerry has agreed, but you know how he is.” The next answer brought a small, grim smile to Stiles face. “Exactly. So we just have to wait and see how the whole thing with Marlowe turns out. Oh and apparently our little charade has reached the ears of people outside the Alliance. So, it works. And tell Megan she is doing a damn good job at replacing me,” Stiles added almost cheerfully.

There was another pause again, and Stiles eyes flitted over to them, accessing for a moment whether to give his answer in front of them or not.

“Alan asked me to come over when everything is over and Esther made some comments before I came here, to visit her too. I guess I'm sending Jen and Gregor to her to buy some time and Jameson to Alan, before making my rounds.”

Stiles leaned back against the table, his eyes wandering to the ceiling.

“About that. I was thinking of taking a day off at the cabin. You coming too?” Stiles tapped his foot, waiting out the answer. “No I haven't thought about that,” he said sarcastically. “Why ever would I need to think of an explanation for them? I wouldn't even know what to tell them.” Stiles rolled his eyes at whatever was said next, then fixed his gaze on Derek.

“Yeah, well, I don't think he wants to say hi,” he said, the tiniest smile on his lips and focused back on his phone. “See you later.”

He hung up and shrugged. “I guess, that's it then,” he addressed them. “Business is over.”

“Little Brother is dead then?” Derek asked neutrally. Stiles shook his head. “Not yet, no. But Peter got away and we have some really good new information to work with,” he admitted.

Lydia wound a strand of her hair around her finger, pursing her lips. “I take it you and him aren't as much at odds as Jerry and Marlowe believe.”

Stiles spread his hands. “What can I say. The rumors surrounding us might be exaggerated.”

“Why are you pretending it then?” she asked bluntly. “As tactical advantages over the enemy go, it's not bad, but not very useful in your position.”

It wasn't Stiles who answered her. Derek had a thoughtful look on his face, eyes narrowed on Stiles. “It's not meant to be a ruse for the brothers or Mom,” he said and Stiles eyes narrowed too. He nodded slowly, encouraging Derek to go on. “It's for the other members of the Alliance.”

“You caught me,” Stiles said. Lydia turned interested towards Derek who continued, more for her benefit than anything else.

“Peter caught a lot of attention from others. Establishing a territory between some of the major packs and then bringing down one of their biggest enemies must challenge their authority. They'd probably want him out of the way.” There was a humorless little smile on Derek's face.

Lydia raised an eyebrow at that. It did made sense. The other main leaders of the Alliance came from established packs, old families with lots of history to their name and their territory. While the Hale name was still one of the oldest in California, the fire had destroyed almost any reputation it once had to it.

Peter had settled in the middle of territories ruled by old families. He was a new Alpha with a young pack. They wouldn't have perceived him as a threat, at first. He had no authority in the long run among them.

But he did help create the Alliance, his boy functioning as one of the main intermediaries. Then, he brought down Big Brother, not on his own, of course, but his mere presence there was enough to add to his reputation immensely. A new Alpha with a barely established pack managing what the old, respected werewolf families hadn't, would not go over well.

“So you want them to believe that it'll be easy to take him down, should the need arise.” Lydia said. A rift in the pack was a terrible weakness, easily to exploit, she knew from experience.

Stiles shrugged. “Yeah, that's the gist of it.”

She narrowed her eyes at him. “Why let us know this, though? If this little plan of yours falls through, you'll be in quite some trouble.”

“Aren't I always,” he sighed, but looked her directly in the eyes. “See it as insurance.” His focus slipped from her to Derek. “I made you a promise earlier. If I can't keep it, you can use it against me – us.”

“It's a lot of trust. We could use it either way,” Derek said coldly.

“You could. I'm just hoping you won't.” Stiles words came out honest enough and even though she had no supernatural werewolf powers, she could tell he wasn't lying. It made her heart ache for a moment that she had not thought in any good way of him so far.

Derek nodded slowly and Stiles smiled at him. It made her sober up again. No, this wasn't about trust and giving them insurance. This was just another game, another plan to manipulate them. They could use this information without being prompted to, but it wouldn't go down well with Scott, if he found out and in the end he always did. Even if he didn't it was also a betrayal of trust. Something Derek wasn't good with, no matter which side of the betrayal he was on. It was a test to see which way they would go, should they really get involved in the war.

It was Lydia who answered him and not Derek. "We won't. As long as you keep your promise and make sure that no one from your pack is ever going to hurt us.” She took a deep breath. “But if you break it, then I will use it, and more. I'll bring your pack down. And I'll start with you."

Lydia wished she could use the spell Deaton had helped Ms. Morrell with. But that would require knowing Stiles' real first name and how to pronounce it. Five years ago she had considered using a spell to find him, based on the same construct of using the power of a name. It hadn't worked.

Building the spell in itself wasn't hard, it never was. In the end magic really was just a form of science yet unexplored by modern society and it always followed the same rules. The applications of those rules however was harder, especially for her. She was at heart a rational person and believing in the supernatural clashed with the scientific beliefs she was raised with. Believing in something wasn't always easy, even when you knew it existed. And she would have needed his real name too, to make the spell work.

All the official records of it had been expunged. The old school records had apparently been destroyed years ago and other official records had went missing in the town archive. There was nothing online either, no matter how hard she had Danny digging. Scott told her what he remembered, but since Stiles had been Stiles since forever because no one could pronounce his real name except for his parents, even he wasn't sure. The name he had given her didn't even exist, neither did variations thereof. There were some names that were similar, but Scott hadn't been able to tell which one it could be.

The main trouble, however, was that the name had to be pronounced perfectly right. The more complicated a name the more complicated it was to get the cadence and emphasis right. Stiles real name was apparently so convoluted that it was near impossible, especially when she had never heard him or his parents say it.

She still had other, more available resources at her disposal though.

"I'll end you. And then I am going after Peter and I will make sure he never comes back again," she said calmly. "Understood?"

Stiles met her eyes again. No fear in them, but no challenge either. It almost frightened her. "Understood," he simply said.

Lydia tells Stiles what she thinks

Chapter Text

Jameson drove off with Gregor and Jen, getting them to Esther, before driving on to visit Alan. It was a good way for Stiles to buy some time and placate both of them before going there himself. He had no doubt what Esther wanted to talk to him about. Replacing Peter with himself because she was under the impression that Stiles wouldn't be as dangerous as Peter just because he was younger.

He doubted that Alan wanted to talk about the same thing, but that he was simply worried about Stiles. It was something Stiles could and would exploit, even though he didn't like it, because he actually liked and cared for Alan too.

Just when Jameson and the others had gone Scott came over to him. He looked slightly sheepish and again couldn't look directly at Stiles. “Hey,” he said, hands in his pockets.

“Hey,” Stiles answered.

They both opened their mouths at the same time to say something more; there was an awkward silence. It was interrupted by Stiles phone ringing.

“Sorry,” he muttered, looking down at the unknown number. “Have to get this one.” There were a couple of people who had his number, but there were only a few who would call from a number Stiles didn't have. One of them, ironically, was Jerry. The others were his pack. He might not know where they were exactly, but at least he got the updates on how they were and when they moved to another hiding place.

They had split up after Amber Lake. Alex and Gema took the kids and most of the other members, who weren't directly involved so far, with them to an unknown and constantly changing location, away from their main territory. It was a calculated risk, leaving their territory open like this. But unlike Esther or Jermaine they couldn't secure their main house against someone like Mom or one of the brothers.

The only ones left in their territory were Brad, an aged police officer who had been dragged into all of it through Gema and who was still human, and Camden, one of the younger werewolves Peter had turned, who worked for the police as well. Someone had to stay behind, just in case other packs got any funny ideas, and the two of them had refused not only to leave the territory behind, but to leave their jobs behind.

Gregor had come with Stiles because his scent had been all over Big Brother's corpse too and Mom would probably remember the scent of the one girl who got away. It was why Jen couldn't stay with the rest of the pack, even though Stiles would have preferred it. What he could do was to keep her as far away from the main action as possible.

Jameson wasn't someone who would stay in hiding and protect the pack when there were other things she could do. Her sister going with Alex and Gema was more than enough to keep the rest of them safe.

Stiles expected Alex or Gema on the other end, but instead got her son.

“Hey kiddo,” he greeted him. “Everything okay?”

“Yeah, everything's okay. Mama just wants me to tell you that we are moving again.”

Stiles furrowed his brows, it was a bit too early for that and usually Gema would call herself. He fought down a moment of panic. “Okay, any reason she told you?”

He could practically hear the shrug on the other end of the line. “Just that Oliver got in trouble with these two women.”

Stiles let out a sigh of relief while simultaneously rolling his eyes. Typically, Oliver was going around breaking hearts left and right and it ended badly.

“Great. Would you tell Alex to tell him to cut that out?”

“Mama and Alex are doing it right now, it's why I'm calling.”

Well that made sense. It would explain why they didn't want Pedro around when talking to Oliver. That one could get nasty.

“Okay, that's good. Anything else I need to know?”

“Nope, we're doing fine.” The good thing about Pedro was that Stiles believed him when he said it. Not that the kid couldn't lie, but he tended to tell Stiles the truth. “How about you?” Stiles glanced over to Scott, who pretended not listen to in on the conversation.

“So far, okay, going to meet up with our dearest Alpha.”

“Okay. Say hello to Uncle Peter from me okay?”

“I will, kiddo.” Stiles said and ignored the taken aback expression on Scott's face.

God, he missed this kid, missed all of them. And he worried constantly about them, especially after what had happened to Angelo. But it was good to have them, to have his pack, his new family. Years ago all he really had was Scott and his Dad. They were the only ones that really mattered and he had always thought losing them would drive him mad, and it almost had.

Now he had so much more and Stiles had never felt more aware of it than now. But it didn't feel like he had more to lose, just more to build on should he lose anyone of them, more to draw him back from the same edge Peter had gone over years ago.

“Bye, Stiles.”

“Bye, Pedro.”

Stiles hung up. Scott looked confused. “Gema's son,” he explained to him. “Just wanted to check in and know how things are.”

“Pedro? Really?” Scott asked weakly.

“Dude, you don't get to judge Gema's choice of naming her kid. You named your daughter after the woman who tried to kill you.”

“She was Allison's Mom,” Scott said defensively.

Suddenly they both grinned at each other. This whole conversation was just too awkward and stupid not to. Stiles spread his arms and on cue Scott hugged him.

“So this is it,” Stiles mumbled into Scott's shoulder.

“We'll see each other around,” Scott said. “Hopefully under different circumstances.”

“Can't promise you that, but I'll try.”

“There is no try.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Sitles muttered. “Do or do not, I know.”

Scott squeezed him again before letting go. “Be safe, okay?”

Stiles shrugged. “Another thing I can't promise, but I'll do my best to stay alive.”

“And if something's up, you can always call, you know?”

“That only works if you answer your phone, dumbass.” Stiles laughed and Scott smiled. “And you call me if there is anything, okay?”

Scott nodded. “I'll see about that.”

There was another awkward pause where Stiles tried to find the words he needed to tell Scott something that had been going through his mind, even though it was stupid and probably unimportant, but it mattered to him. He rubbed his neck and squinted to the Hale house behind Scott.

“You know, about the promise we made when we were ten-,” he broke up, swallowing. God, this was such a stupid thing. He wasn't even sure if Scott remembered.

“You being my best man, and me being yours.” Scott finished for him.

“That one, yes.”

“I was thinking about that too,” Scott admitted. “And I thought, well at first I was happy, that you're back, but-,” This time it was Scott who stopped himself, looking away. Stiles heart actually managed to sink and feel lighter at the same time. This wasn't going to be easy.

“It's not a good idea anymore, is it?”

Scott looked at him with a crooked smile, not entirely happy. “No,” was all he said and Stiles shared his smile. “I was thinking maybe I should ask Isaac.”

“Good choice, I guess,” Stiles offered, not knowing what else to say, because he didn't know Isaac well enough for any commentary. But whoever Scott chose, was good enough in Stiles' book.

“Yeah,” Scott said a bit awkwardly, “you can still come, you know? I'd be happy if you did.”

Stiles chuckled. “Not a lot of other people probably.” Scott looked expectantly at him. “But I'll do my best to be there. And if I don't make it, you're going to get the world's ugliest congratulations card ever.”

It made Scott smile brightly at him. “That's good enough for me.”

They bumped fists, and Stiles got into his car.

When he passed the town sign, he briefly remembered leaving Beacon Hills the last time. It had felt like a relief to finally get out, but also like leaving home. It didn't feel like he was leaving home now.

The drive to the cabin took him several hours, with only a short pause to get his legs stretched and to grab a bite to eat. If Peter had taken one of Hart's helicopters, he would probably already be there. Though Stiles doubted that he would give away the location of their little refuge and land it right there.

The cabin was an old hiding place, which held some bad memories, but also a few good ones. Peter had bought it right after they had left Beacon Hills and it had been the place where he had taught Stiles how to control the change. They had used it on few occasions after, sometimes just to take a break from everything. It was in the middle of the woods, surrounded by nothing in an area free of tourists or big game hunters, so it was the perfect place. Of course, being a cabin in the woods there had been so many jokes made about it over the years.

The drive there gave Stiles time to think about a lot of things, some he really didn't need to think about now.

Sending him to Beacon Hills with three other members of their pack wasn't a coincidence. It was Peter's way of making him an offer. Stiles could take it, perhaps should take it, but the problem was that he didn't feel ready for it.

Never before had Peter made it as clear that Stiles could leave, if he wanted to. Not even when he had let him go to college in another packs territory. But leaving wasn't so much the problem as wanting to leave. He hadn't really wanted to leave for years now. Their pack, the way it was established now, was perfect for him. For both of them.

But all of it was now in question, or would be in the near future, latest after the war. Stiles wouldn't let it become a problem now, he couldn't afford it and neither could Peter. It was his own fault though, because he'd been the one who had been reckless at Amber Lake. Who had let his control slip. Things like that happened, sure, had happened in other packs before and would after, but it shouldn't have happened to them.

Not when Peter and him had finally managed to find a way to coexist without using threats of any sort to keep the other in line, without constant fighting. It had taken them too much time and effort to get there in the first place and Stiles was never going to deny that it had been hard.

The first year, especially, had been hell. Peter had abused him that year and Stiles had let him, partly unable to defy him and partly unwilling to. Stiles was never going to sugarcoat it. It wasn't something that he would ever forget, or even forgive. He would accept it though, as part of their shared past and a reminder of how things should never ever become again. What happened to him back then hadn't been important in his own mind, he hadn't thought himself worth enough, but these children Peter had taken in had been. When Peter had threatened Gema and her unborn child and had physically intimidated Angelo, he had drawn the line.

From then on things had changed. As things stood, however, the pack they had built was in danger and not just because of the war.

He felt an itch under his bracelets and absentmindedly scratched his wrist, pressed his blunt fingernails in the reminding scar of the bite Peter had given him. The need to rip it out, to overwrite it, was there again, but it still wasn't stronger than the old imperative it carried of belonging to someone.

The bite wasn't just a way of turning a human. It wasn't a sign of someone being bitten by an Alpha. It was a sign of ownership. The bite meant that you belonged to a certain Alpha, the one who had turned you. At least it should.

It was also a sign of submission, of accepting someone else's authority. Even when you became an Alpha of your own, the mark wouldn't necessarily vanish; it wouldn't mean that you were superior or even equal to the Alpha you had belonged to. Alpha packs functioned on this, one Alpha claiming the other Alphas as their own, forcing them to submit to a certain degree, just never enough to make them fall to Beta. It was a delicate balance, hard to maintain.

An Omega could break free from the bond imposed on them. Like Scott had. Their decisions and actions could overwrite the bite in different ways. Cutting the mark out was one way, letting another Alpha claim them was acceptable as well. Cutting all ties to the one who turned them, though, was most common or having an Alpha reject the one they had turned.

Ultimately, the bite wasn't something easily erased. There was a reason why someone agreed to it in the first place, and that reason was never something insignificant so the bond the bite created couldn't be either.

Letting someone deliberately bite you, even when you had already been turned, was a sign of acknowledging someone's superiority or acknowledging them as an equal, depending on the situation.

When he pulled up to the cabin, he saw Peter leaning casually against the wooden door, a little smirk on his face. Even before Stiles got out of the car he could see that despite his relaxed pose, Peter was on alert, his eyes fixed on Stiles and every other sense attuned to their surroundings.

“No one followed you?” he called over when Stiles made his way towards him.

“Everyone did, they should be here any second, all of them, even though I'm not sure who they are,” Stiles gave back, which only deepened Peter's smirk. “Anyone followed you?” he asked Peter, just to annoy him a bit too.

“Yes, I was actually stupid enough to give Hart our location by landing just on top of the cabin,” Peter answered and Stiles couldn't help but smile. It was easy, exchanging quips like this, an old routine they could fall into without complications. A nice, clean way to avoid the elephant in the room, until everything was over, Stiles thought cynically. He was relieved, though; any other reaction from Peter to the two of them being alone would've been worse.

When he finally reached him, there was a moment of hesitation from Stiles' side that had Peter rolling his eyes in annoyance and pulling him into a tight hug. “Welcome home, Stiles,” he breathed into Stiles' ear, and Stiles couldn't help but grin and wrap his own arms around the man who was still his Alpha.

This wasn't home, not exactly. Home was too loud Sunday breakfasts and never quiet enough nights because someone was always haunting the house. Home was the pack they had built over the years. Home was the one thing he feared losing in this war no matter what else happened. But this was close enough, closer even than having Jameson, Gregor and Jen around.

“It's good to be home,” he answered and held on long enough to feel the muscles in Peter's back shift under his hands, long enough to feel him relax. When he drew back he didn't look at Peter, instead focused on the silent woods around them. Should they fight here, no one would ever find their bodies.

“Can we talk when all of this is over?” he asked and felt Peter go more rigid again.

“We could always talk now.”

Stiles shook his head. “I – can we just pretend nothing changed until this stupid war is over?” He had always been a fan of ignoring things, even when he could acknowledge their existence.

Strong fingers curled around his jaw, forcing him to look at Peter who studied his face carefully, tilting his head to the side, considering his answer.

“Of course,” he said mildly, his hand falling away and the barest hint of a smile on his face. Stiles let out a sigh of relief.

Peter motioned for him to get inside. “I've made us something to eat. I hope you like chicken with green peas and homemade curly fries,” he said as if he didn't well know that it was Stiles' favorite and Stiles groaned.

“Best Alpha ever,” he said and grinned at Peter.

Perhaps they really could pretend long enough that nothing had changed.

Chapter Text

Some Months Later

For Megan sleeping in on Sundays meant getting up at 8 o'clock sharp, not one minute earlier and never a minute later. She was like a very precise atomic clock in her own way. Peter usually waited for her to make coffee before getting out of bed himself. It was better to leave her alone with the coffee maker as Camden, Oliver and several others had learned the hard way.

She had her rituals, and it wasn't wise to disrupt them. Jen was usually the only one who dared and who was the least unsettled by Megan's rare outbursts. She would prowl around the kitchen for a few minutes before vanishing out of the back door for an hour or two, depending on the weather.

Pedro would usually follow soon after, crashing on the couch and watching cartoons, often joined later by Jen. Gema was always in her son's wake and would take the coffee Peter poured her, always giving him a bright smile before retreating to the kitchen counter to read the newspaper.

Alex would appear some time later, drinking some green tea before settling down on the floor next to the couch to meditate.

Camden and Oliver would make their way downstairs around ten and set the table for breakfast, getting it ready around the time Jameson and her family would usually come over from their house, followed by Brad who always brought fresh bread and doughnuts.

Stiles was usually the last one to stumble down the stairs. He was a late night person and the only time he was up early was when he hadn't gone to sleep at all or slept badly, something that had happened with increasing and worrying frequency.

There had been other rituals too, but Peter avoided thinking about them and the people who had upheld them before their deaths. There was no use dwelling on those they had lost, though clearly the others would disagree. Stiles was, as always, the only one who knew about his thoughts on this matter though, but refrained from saying anything.

It wasn't so much that he hadn't cared about them, hadn't regretted their deaths, as he simply found that he had no capacity inside him to mourn for them. They were dead and wouldn't return and what use was it to waste time weeping for them? He had wasted enough time being crushed by his grief for his family before nothing had remained of the man he had once been.

It didn't mean that he didn't care for his new pack, didn't love them in his own way. They were his in a way his old pack had never been. Peter would've done everything for them and had loved them so much it had hurt even before he had lost them. He had belonged to them, more than they had belonged to him, each one of them owning a part of him and the fire had destroyed it all. And he couldn't even regret that because he liked being the person he was now. Liked the clarity he had and the absence of constant emotional pain, loving like this brought. It was something he left to Stiles, who, after everything, still had the capacity for it. Something Peter was thankful for.

What Peter had now instead was a fierce pride for the pack surrounding him and the savage feeling of being content at calling them his. He sometimes wondered if these emotions were worth less than the ones he used to have, when he was still a brother and an uncle and a son and a nephew and a cousin.

There was a need to fill the empty places in their pack, especially the legal support Ramirez had provided as a lawyer and Helen's expertise in leading small companies, but Peter wasn't going to push it, not when Stiles didn't seem to be ready. He would bring it up in his own time. Until then, Peter had already made his choices in who he wanted in his pack.

It was the Alpha's prerogative to turn whoever they wanted. But ever since he had bitten Stiles, things had always been a bit more complicated. The first person he had turned after Stiles had been Alex, but then Alex had come to him, asking for the bite. Peter had agreed because he had a weakness for clever little things, and someone who had figured out the existence of werewolves on their own was too good a chance to pass up.

Taking in an orphan with little to no social interaction, just like Stiles, hadn't gone down well with him. Peter in turn hadn't taken well to any insubordination back then, and finally their conflict had escalated when he had lost his temper with Gema and Angelo too.

In the end he would always get who he really wanted, but he would run it by Stiles and get his confirmation, more often than not making him the one to deliver the offer. They had settled into their little dynamic with an astounding ease.

Peter had never given it much consideration because it had seemed natural from the beginning. But so far, there was only one person he had ever personally offered the bite to. Everyone else had asked him, been clued in by someone else from the pack or had already been turned and requested to join his pack – their pack.

It was something he regarded with no little satisfaction and was sure Stiles did the same. It intensified the connection the bite had created between them in the first place. Not in a way that could be explained away by supernatural reasons, but through the simple knowledge that they were the only ones who shared this like a secret. It didn't make it necessarily easier to assert control over Stiles, but it made it easier to know what would make keep him in line. Something that, admittedly, hadn't been much of a concern in the past few years. Peter knew there were lines he himself shouldn't cross if he wanted to stay alive and keep Stiles around.

As of late, however, their dynamic had shifted and Peter wasn't so sure he wanted to keep Stiles around. Of course he wanted Stiles, what he had to offer. His sharp mind and his compassion for the people around him, the ruthlessness when it came to outsiders, his voice of reason in difficult times, and his intuition when it came to people's characters. But Peter wasn't sure if the price it now brought with it, ever since the mess at Amber Lake, was worth it anymore.

He watched Stiles stumble down the stairs, late as always, making a straight line for the coffee, before collapsing into his seat, on the other end of the table, right opposite of Peter's. It had always been a telling choice, one seldom allowed in other packs. Someone of equal or almost equal status, a mate or a second Alpha tended to occasionally sit at the other end of the table as the Alpha, though usually they would sit at the same end of the table.

Sitting opposite was usually regarded as a challenge. At first Stiles had meant it to be, for years, however, it had been a sign of stability, for balance inside their pack.

It wasn't the only anomaly in their seating order. Alex, as Peter's Second, was supposed to sit at his right, but instead preferred a place in the middle of the table, right between Stiles and Peter. Always the mediator.

Angelo used to be the one sitting at his right side instead, but now it was Megan. Megan who was the same age as Angelo but nothing like him. She was a rigid, proper, and often quiet slip of a girl, useful in her own way and a welcome rational presence.

The chair at his left side was still empty though, but Peter was sure he would find someone soon enough to fill the place Helen had left. He had briefly thought about giving it to Camden but despite being older than Megan he was also thoughtless in a way that Peter wasn't willing to suffer in this position. Alicia would be a good choice, but he doubted Jameson would be thrilled about it, and right now they didn't need any strife within the pack.

Gema was sitting at Stiles right side as usual, and the chair left of him, empty for the last three weeks, was now occupied by Jameson. Peter approved of his choice, though neither of them were werewolves. Both were strong in their own right and balanced each other out perfectly. Jameson was more efficient while Gema was more passionate about everything they did, playing perfectly into two of the main character traits Peter liked about Stiles.

Those character traits had been among the reasons why Peter had wanted to take Stiles with him, after his own nephew had turned him away. The passion with which Stiles could throw himself into anything that caught his interest and with which he would protect the people he cared about, accompanied by a pragmatic, if not ruthless – and back then, unhoned – efficiency that would allow him to take measures to ensure the safety of the ones he loved.

It was something that had always made Stiles dangerous, but also more powerful. Perhaps there was more to lose with people around you cared about, more dead weight to drag you down and make you vulnerable. But, in the end, being alone was worse, way worse, wasn't it? And Peter would know about being alone, having been left alone and stuck inside his own head for nearly six years. So Stiles approach of utilizing people to increase his own strength wasn't the worst way. In fact, it was essential for an Alpha. Stiles would be a great Alpha, there had never been any doubt about that for Peter.

They weren't equals, despite the way they treated each other most of the time. Not really. Not yet.

But that might just be the thing needed to keep Stiles around. It wasn't like it couldn't work. If anyone could make this work, it would be them.

Peter knew that half of the pack would follow Stiles, should he decide to leave and Peter might just let him. A true fight between them would be ugly and end in death. But if it came to that, if he should be forced to kill Stiles or for Stiles to kill him, well, he couldn't say that those were outcomes of their relationship he had never considered.

He couldn't even say that it was in any way upsetting. If Stiles managed to kill him, he'd be proud of this man he had helped create. The willingness to kill the Alpha who had turned him would just prove that Stiles was ultimately his creation. And should he manage to kill Stiles, well, the boy obviously hadn't learned enough.

It wasn't something he would enjoy though. After the fire, he had never minded killing someone and most of the time even enjoyed the intoxicating rush of power it gave him, taking someone's life. But to him Stiles meant an opportunity at life, not just being, but feeling alive, too. And life, no matter which form, had always been something Peter aspired to have. As they said, you'll be dead long enough.

He watched Stiles throw his head back and laugh at something Gema had said, eyes crinkling with mirth. Over the table their eyes met and Stiles swallowed his laughter, though his smile never left his face as he winked cheekily at Peter. That is the moment when Peter just knows. Knows that he wanted to keep this sharp-witted, dangerous man at his side, whatever the price.

It's just then that Stiles excused himself from the table, something he didn't usually do, but no one commented on it. When Peter followed him a few minutes later, he could feel the apprehension of everyone around him, even though they did their best to pretend nothing was happening. Like him, though, they knew that this is the morning Stiles and he made their decisions for the future of the pack.

Jen was the only one who actively watched him get up, and he put a hand on her slim shoulder to squeeze it briefly, making her concentrate back on her breakfast.

When he came outside, Stiles was sitting on the front porch, meticulously undoing his bracelets and arranging them on the stairs. Peter couldn't see the bite on his exposed wrist so much as feel it, smell it, taste it. His own mark left on Stiles. It was satisfying.

Stiles didn't look up when he stepped behind him, but instead kept on undoing his bracelets.

“Jen,” he said out of nowhere, puzzling Peter for a second. “She'd make a good left hand. She's grown up quite a bit since we found her and she'd be a good counter balance for Meg.” Only then he looked up, squinting against the morning light, eyes almost werewolf amber.

“She's still very young,” Peter countered. “And she has quite a weakness for you.”

A melancholy smile graced Stiles' lips. “Not anymore, not after-,” but he broke off. Another wound still too fresh to be talked about. “She likes you better anyway. And neither I nor Alex were that much older, let alone Angelo,” he finished his line of thought. Peter nodded in agreement. Yes, the girl would be a good choice, a bit too young and too inexperienced, but also still malleable and more intuitive than anyone else in their pack.

Stiles finally got up, dusting off his jeans and climbing the final stair so he could stand in front of Peter.

“But I suppose this is not what you wanted to talk about,” Peter said calmly, but couldn't keep the amusement out of his voice.

“I don't think we need to talk,” Stiles said, watching Peter. He was right, they didn't. Both of them knew what was at risk and what was offered and what possibilities they have. Still, Peter couldn't help but tease him a bit.

“No? Then what is it that you do want?”

Stiles eyes flickered downwards for a moment, and Peter's breath hitched momentarily when Stiles reached out and took his right wrist in his hand. Lifting it up slowly, while watching Peter intently.

Peter in turn almost instinctively took hold of Stiles' own wrist, letting his fingers trail over the mark he left there before pressing his claws into the soft skin, renewing it.

“An answer,” Stiles said, the look in his eyes turning almost mischievous but still staying serious at the same time. Peter watched with fascination as their color changed from soft brown to bright red. Big Brother hadn't been the only Alpha Stiles had brought down that day at Amber Lake.

Werewolf packs weren't like real wolf packs. There usually wasn't an Alpha pair to rule the entire pack, just like Omegas weren't the lowest in the hierarchy, but lone wolfs. A true Alpha pair was rare in werewolf hierarchy, because there was no distinction between female and male members of the pack and no need to impose breeding rights.

In werewolf packs the shared Alpha position usually lead to confusion and unsure authority. An Alpha would usually pick a mate to balance themselves out and to stabilize the pack, but the roles were still different than from a normal wolf pack's alpha pair. Two equal Alpha's ruling one pack was unusual, but not impossible.

And, well, after everything, they just might be able to make it work.

“Yes or no?” Stiles asked and his lips quirked up into a smile.

Peter mirrored Stiles' smirk and let his own eyes turn to the color of blood. As if there ever was an answer needed.

Do you want the bite