Peter Hale's grip is rough as he slams Stiles into the car. He's furious, he has been all night, and maybe it's self-centered of him, but Stiles thinks it's almost as if his rage is directed at Stiles personally. Except apart from being friends with Scott, Stiles hasn't done anything to Peter. He hasn't been strong enough to try to attack Peter like Derek and he isn't denying him as an alpha like Scott is. And Peter can't really be so worked up over Stiles' sarcasm. That's just a whole new layer of insanity.
"Username and password, Stiles," Peter says, his fingers digging into Stiles' neck, though thankfully not with his claws. It's the first time he's used Stiles' name all night; Stiles had started to assume his possible murderer hadn't bothered learning it. Which, well, he doesn't know if it's better or worse to be killed by a guy who actually does know his name. Peter had barely said a word on the car ride over. Now the only thing he wants is for Stiles to break into Scott's phone. "We've reached the stage where if you don't tell me what you know, I'll dig my claws into your neck and see if I can't bleed it out of you."
"Allison," Stiles spits out. The hand at his neck lifts and Stiles is able to stand up, glaring at the man. Peter doesn't look at all perturbed, and fuck, it's not like Stiles can do anything to him. Maybe with a molotov cocktail or something, but right now he's got nothing but his brains. He may as well use them. "His password's also Allison."
Peter's glare lessens out of sheer disbelief before he turns to see the results. The Hale house.
"Still want him in your pack?" Stiles asks, swallowing. "Scott's a good guy. You know he is. He's never going to forgive you for killing all those people. And Derek isn't going to forgive you for killing his sister. You can't make a real pack through blackmail."
"And you, Stiles?" Peter asks, raising an eyebrow. "Do you blame me? You, the son of Beacon Hills' most upstanding sheriff?"
Stiles swallows. "You're to blame." But Peter's waiting for a real answer, his blue eyes boring into Stiles, and Stiles can't find any mercy in that gaze. Any mercy Peter might've had has long been burned away in the fire that took his family and six years of his life. Stiles doesn't know what it's like, to lose ten people all in one swoop. He's never had a large family. It's always been him and his mom and his dad, and then it became him and his dad. "I think you should've gotten your revenge legally." It's the truth, but it's a truth. The whole story is… "But anyone evil enough to burn an innocent family alive doesn't deserve my excuses."
For the first time all evening, the anger bleeding over into everything Peter does is muted. He tilts his head, a curious expression flashing over his face. "Interesting. You're not lying."
"What's the point?"
"To attempt to gain my favor and keep your life," Peter says, a hollow smirk on his lips.
Stiles mostly succeeds in not shuddering. "If you're gonna kill me, you'll kill me. I can't stop you. You've already killed five people. What's one more?"
Peter inclines his head. There's a dark satisfaction in his voice as he says, "Six people."
"My bad," Stiles mutters. "Was he or she just as guilty for the fire?"
"He may not have set it, but it was his role to cover up any evidence that was discovered in the months and years afterward and help the town forget. The investigation went nowhere under his watchful eyes." Peter's lip curls as though he's just ready to bite at whoever it was. "Although I suppose you're correct. I didn't kill him directly; I gave him a choice between his hand or mine."
Stiles isn't going around biting people and killing them, but… "That's unforgivable."
It's not a question, exactly, the way Peter spits it out, but Stiles answers it all the same. "Yeah. What he did is wrong on every level. The law, it's there to protect innocent people like your family. Your family didn't do anything wrong. It's Kate and those monsters who deserve to rot in hell. And you killed them, but… that's between you and any god you might believe in. What Kate and the others did was infinitely worse."
"I wonder how long that will ring true for you," Peter says, so very carefully.
"Forever." Because fuck anyone who'd burn children alive or turn a blind eye. "But it's a different story if you go after people who didn't do anything to your family."
"I'm only interested in the responsible ones." Peter holds out his hand and demands Stiles' keys. He ignores Stiles' cry as he bends them in his grip and hands them back, their fingers barely touching. Peter's skin runs hot, while Stiles is just barely keeping in his shivers from stress and the cold winter air. "Go home, Stiles."
"I need to help Scott."
There's something less cold than there's ever been in Peter's eyes as he looks at Stiles. "You're needed more at home." As he turns toward the nurse's car, he says, "Your father did a decent job with you. I hadn't expected him to."
The door slams shut and Peter drives away toward Kate's future corpse.
I hadn't expected him to.
I hadn't expected him to.
Stiles' ears ring. His hands start shaking and they don't stop. The investigation went nowhere under his watchful eye.
Getting home is a blur. His house key had been on that key chain, but the back door is unlocked because Stiles keeps forgetting to lock it even after dozens of reminders from his dad. It's good, because Stiles' next stop would have just been breaking the closest window and getting hurt as he crawled through. He's already seen so much blood tonight. Lydia's body lying so still on the field flashes through Stiles' eyes as he looks through the rooms. Living room, den, kitchen, hallway, Stiles' room, master bedroom—
Why is there always so much blood?
His dad had been sitting on the bed, his legs hanging off the side closest to the door. Peter had probably stood where Stiles is standing now, in the doorway, maybe half transformed and half insane. John's body had fallen backwards onto the bed, the gun dropping next to him, the bullet through his temple and out the other side. Stiles knows there's going to be no pulse, there can't be, but he can't stop himself from taking his dad's wrist, his hand shaking almost too much to register the chill of his dad's skin.
There is a thick folder next to his dad that Stiles flips open. He goes through the papers quickly at first. Then, muffling a sob, he takes the folder and sinks down onto the floor. It takes half an hour to go through the evidence. Some he already knows. He's snooped through his dad's files on the animal attacks. But the rest… it's been added recently, printed out earlier today. No folds, no slightest bit of wrinkle. The papers had been added to the very top of the file. A gift for whoever found the body. A motive, a reason, a suicide letter. Claudia Stilinski's hospital bills, experimental treatment and all, paid by a subsidiary of Argent Arms.
It takes nearly more than he has left to give for Stiles to reach for the phone and call 911.
"911, what's your emergency?"
"Hey, Betty," Stiles says. Out of the corner of his eye he can see his dad's body, but he can't make himself turn away.
"Hey, kiddo. What's your emergency?" Betty's too experienced to question whether he has a serious issue, but only just. Last time Stiles had called it had been with a thinly veiled question about werewolf sightings, and when he was a kid, he'd sometimes not seen the difference between calling 911 and calling his dad, who to Stiles' young mind had been the full representation of 911.
Fuck, Stiles can't let himself think about that.
"I'm calling in a suicide," Stiles says, unable to keep his voice steady. "My dad's. We're at home."
The first police car must've been patrolling nearby, because it arrives two minutes after the call. Betty's doing breathing exercises with him, but Stiles is beyond panic. He opens the door for Jeff and hangs up the call. Jeff hugs him tightly and Stiles hates how warm and real he feels. After telling Jeff where to look, Stiles slumps down onto the couch. He stares down at the beer stain that his dad had never been able to get out of the patch of carpet next to the couch until Jeff returns.
"I saw the papers," Jeff says, sitting down next to Stiles.
"It's his version of a suicide note, I think," Stiles says, rubbing at his eyes.
Jeff's words are quiet even in the silent house. "Do you want it gone?"
Jeff's a good cop, Stiles knows, but he's worked with Stiles' dad for over a decade. That and the scandal of a county sheriff being bribed over the most horrific loss of lives the county's had in living memory... It's going to be huge. It's going to be a big fucking mess. For the department, the community, for Stiles. For Derek, too, as the last surviving member of the Hales who isn't a psychopath.
Do you blame me?
Stiles picks the one choice he can live with.
"My dad left it for me. I think maybe he wanted to be open with the truth in death as he couldn't be in life. I—" Stiles can't speak, he can't breathe, but he has to. "I love him. I love him so much, but I won't hide."
Jeff nods decisively, squeezing Stiles' hand. "Alright."
Stiles sits there as the rest of the Beacon Hills police department goes in and out of the house. Even an ambulance comes by, unneeded as it is. Someone takes the quilt from the armchair and wraps it around Stiles' shoulders. He's handed a mug of coffee, but he can't force it down.
A moment he's tried not to think about all these years digs into Stiles' skin. A few weeks after his mom's funeral, Stiles had walked into his dad's bedroom without knocking. John had just been sitting on the floor of the master bedroom, holding his gun and staring at it. Unlike too much of the first year after Claudia's death, he'd been stone cold sober. Stiles hadn't really understood what was happening; he'd barely understood death, let alone suicide. He'd just asked his dad when dinner was going to be ready and John had gotten up and hugged him and made a big pot of spaghetti. And that had been that, until a few years later he'd remembered the moment and thrown up into the nearest toilet and couldn't find a way to ask his dad about what happened.
Stiles knows the story now: that after everything—everyone, because the Hales weren't things, because his dad's integrity means so little compared to the ten lives snuffed out that night—his dad sacrificed to save his mom, it hadn't been enough to save her. He's numb, but he's also so angry, at his dad and at Peter and mostly at Kate.
It doesn't even help when Scott calls him from the same phone Stiles broke into hours ago to say that it's over. Peter is dead.
Everyone's dead now. Peter, John, Claudia. Everyone who was involved, everyone who Stiles could rage at, is dead now. His dad bought a plot at their cemetery when they'd buried his mom, so Stiles now has two matching graves to go to whenever he wants to wallow in his pain or yell into the air. If he'd only known… If his dad had just told him the truth days ago, Stiles would've never been able to look at him the same way, but he would've done everything he could to keep his dad alive. His dad had loved his mom so much that he'd given up his conscience to try to keep her alive; Stiles would've done the same to protect his dad.
His dad had known it was coming, Stiles realizes, sinking his face into his hands. It couldn't have escaped his dad's notice that everyone he'd been bribed into protecting was dying. And yet he'd stayed.
And the worst part of it all is that he can hate Peter, but he can't erase the part of him that had said unforgivable and meant it. His hatred isn't a clean thing, it can't be. It'll always be marred by another unforgivable fact—that Stiles understands why.