It takes Peter almost a year to come to terms with the fact that he has woken in a world where he has nothing left.
He wakes - fully, instead of the in-and-out drifting he’s had to endure for what seemed like an eternity - to nothing. To silence, broken only by a mechanical beeping noise, the whir of a fan, and the thud of his own heartbeat. Then to cold hands and clinical voices and the push and pull and prod of other people’s whims. The place inside him where his pack bonds used to be is empty. His body is a scarred paralyzed ruin.
No one visits.
It takes two months for him to even just regain mobility of his head. Another month before he can twitch his fingers and lift his arms for a few seconds. It takes nearly nine months for him to be able to move himself around in a wheelchair.
His nurse brings him the news when he finally manages to find his voice five months in. It comes out a hoarse croak that hurts his throat, but it’s enough for him to demand to know what happened to his family. His nurse is reluctant at first, telling him he should wait, then checking with his doctor, then another doctor, then a psychiatrist of all ridiculous things, but Peter is persistent when he wants to be, and eventually she caves and brings him several newspaper clippings.
The first is of the fire, four years ago. Ruled an accident. Case closed.
The second - dated about three years after the fire - is of the case being reopened. New evidence found, courtesy of an anonymous tip to Sheriff John Stilinski, the most obvious of which was the accelerant found in the burnt out shell of the Hale house. No sign of any electrical malfunction despite what the reports from both the fire department and the insurance investigator said.
The third has ‘Arson Conspiracy’ as headlines, with an article that lists a good dozen people involved, including Kate and Gerard Argent, and their respective newly issued warrants, wanted for crimes including arson, murder, and - in Kate’s case - statutory rape. Laura and Derek were tracked down by the FBI and asked to make a statement. If Peter were strong enough, the paper would’ve shredded between his hands at this point.
The fourth sees the whole thing go international as the local police and the FBI begin a deeper investigation into the Argent family and their connection to a string of cold cases gone unsolved over the past fifty years at least.
The fifth is dated just a year ago - Gerard and Kate along with a bunch of mercenaries arriving in Beacon Hills and confronting the police station with a hail of gunfire. Nobody’s sure if it was revenge for forcing them to become fugitives or a desperate attempt at destroying whatever evidence they could find. Either way, half the police department were killed that day, including the Sheriff. On the other hand, most of the mercenaries were either injured or killed, and both Kate and Gerard were taken out as well. It was nothing short of a massacre, but the main instigators of the Hale fire - and quite a few other murders - were brought down because of that shootout. The Hale fire case was officially solved and closed.
The last newspaper included several articles that expounded on the rest of the Argents - anyone so much as suspected of being linked to any of the murders were either placed under house arrest or actually arrested. Most were tried. There was one particular incident reported in detail - Victoria Argent, Gerard’s daughter-in-law and Argent matriarch, was found dead in her house right here in Beacon Hills by a storm of police after a gunshot was called in. Apparently, she and her husband and their daughter had moved here to deal with the fallout of Kate and Gerard’s killing spree. Christopher was found sitting at the dining table, gun already disassembled, and confessed readily to the murder to the officers on site. Their daughter was fortunately out of the house at the time.
A record of his trial was printed word for word, and according to him, Victoria had become more and more paranoid the longer the investigation into the Argent family lasted, and when she caught wind of the police finally finding evidence against her for the murders of at least three families, she attempted to run. When Christopher tried to stop her, she attacked him with a kitchen knife. In the ensuing struggle, Victoria was killed.
Christopher Argent was cleared of all charges on the basis of self-defense. No amount of digging could link him to any murders either, and the jury was more sympathetic upon hearing that his daughter was kept out of the “family business” of mercenary work, unlike the other Argent children in the family. Most of those were either in juvenile detention centers or foster care. But Allison wasn’t groomed for it, wasn’t even aware of what her family did, and while Christopher was heavily fined for not coming forward with suspicions about his family, his lawyer managed to circumvent a prison sentence for him. Last anyone heard, he’d moved away with his daughter after Laura Hale filed a restraining order against him for herself and her remaining family, which included Derek Hale and the catatonic Peter Hale in Beacon Hills, California.
Peter reads it all, once, twice, three times, until every word is seared into his brain. He doesn’t even notice when the pages slip from his fingers and onto the floor, thoughts split in multiple directions as he stares blankly out the only window in the room.
He doesn’t cry. He thinks that’s something that’s been burned out of him, and he’s never been prone to tears anyway. Honestly, aside from an initial spike of rage, he doesn’t feel much of anything at all. Just a numbness that goes all the way through to his bones.
He wonders if Christopher really did manage to refrain from following in his father’s footsteps, or if he just had a really good lawyer. He wonders why he cares.
He wonders where Laura is, where Derek is. He wonders what use Laura thought filing a restraining order against the only Argent not found guilty would be when it wasn’t mentioned at all that she even tried to get one against Kate or Gerard.
He wonders if she did it just to spite him. Talia never forgave him for dating a hunter, even after Christopher broke up with him, and Laura learned her prejudice from her mother. But then, it doesn’t seem as if she left her brother behind so apparently it’s only consensual relationships that his dear niece would condemn. Or maybe just her Uncle Peter.
The wheelchair creaks under the grip of his left hand. It doesn’t bend, and when he lets go, he’s left thoroughly exhausted, hand shaking. But he imagines - for one insane moment - how good it would feel to have Laura’s throat crushed in his grasp, and he almost laughs out loud. It would probably have come out more than a little hysterical.
Maybe none of that’s true. Maybe there’s a perfectly good reason why Laura hasn’t so much as called, why the doctors and nurses tending to him haven’t even offered to call his remaining family the moment he was cognizant and even moving, however limited. Maybe Laura really did want to protect him by filing that restraining order, and even without it, there’s no guarantee that Chris would’ve come see him anyway. He came to Beacon Hills to mop up his family’s mess, not to visit Peter. And they haven’t laid eyes on each other in… almost two decades.
But he’s tired, and his mind feels almost sluggish. He doesn’t want to think about it. He’s woken to nothing, and he has nothing left to strive for, no pack, no vengeance, not even much of a life.
He wonders why he had to wake up at all.
A year later, he can walk for short periods of time, with the help of a cane, although he still needs a wheelchair the rest of the time. The doctors are reluctant to release him, but Peter’s had more than enough of white walls and the smell of bleach and death, and he’s healed well enough by now that they can’t force him to stay, especially after he went out of his way to purchase a cheap, wheelchair-friendly flat thirty minutes from the hospital.
He’s put Laura and Derek out of his mind, or at least buried them as deep as he possibly can. Once, only once, he set aside the tattered remains of his pride and asked his nurse if Laura’s been called. His nurse told him - with almost more pity than he could bear - that Laura never left a phone number. That was the last time Peter ever mentioned his family, even when his psychiatrist asked “How do you feel about that, Peter?”.
He feels like ripping out the throats of every person on the planet - how about that?
He ignored her for five sessions straight until even she gave up and focused on shrinking other parts of him instead.
The evening before he finally checks himself out, his nurse comes by to see him. Melissa is her name. Despite how much her sympathy for him makes his teeth ache, he admits she could’ve been worse. She’s professional but kind, and she doesn’t try to get him to talk. She’s certainly better than his last nurse who treated his lack of mobility with a condescendence that made him want to sink his claws into her. He was glad when she was transferred to a different hospital and Melissa took over.
“Peter?” Melissa waits until he looks at her, and then she smiles a little and extends an envelope towards him. “I know you know what happened to your family. You know the Sheriff - Sheriff Stilinski - his part in it?”
Peter frowns and nods. He remembers Sheriff Stilinski. Dead wife, one kid, decent at his job. A memory surfaces - Cora, fifteen, inviting a friend over from school for a project. His name was apparently Stiles, all gangly limbs and a puppy’s attention span, but when he saw one of Peter’s interns’ mock-case files that Peter was going over with a red pen at the dining table, he’d raked a clever-quick eye over it, snorted, and then proceeded to quote half the law book to prove why the intern-as-the-defense-attorney wouldn’t be able to defend his client out of a paper bag.
(He wasn’t wrong. Peter briefly wondered how it would go over with his sister if he fired the intern and replaced him with a fifteen-year-old. Probably not well.)
That was the first and last time he saw the Sheriff’s son, but Stiles still made a lasting - if amusing - impression on Peter. Pale with pretty brown eyes and quicksilver intelligence lurking behind them, he’d grow up into something gorgeous, Peter was sure. Still, he was Cora’s age, Cora’s friend, and so it wasn’t hard for Peter to… not forget him, but set him aside as something not too important in the greater scheme of things. Who knew, three and a half years later, his father would be gunned down while investigating the Hales’ murders?
“I do,” He rasps out now. “What does that have to do with…” He glances at the letter, making no move to take it.
“He doesn’t,” Melissa shakes her head, and something like grief passes over features in a way that makes Peter wonder if she knew the man on a personal level. “But his son does. Stiles. Stiles was the one who found the accelerant in the Hale- in your house. I think he was friends with one of your nieces? When people started saying it was an accident, he insisted it wasn’t.” She shook her head. “I never knew why he seemed so certain. But he was right, and it took him a while - almost three years of snooping around - to get enough circumstantial evidence together to take to his father and get him to reopen the case. Stiles was John’s ‘anonymous tip’.” She glances down at the envelope. “When the Argents moved here, their daughter started dating my son, who was also friends with Stiles. He was invited to dinner with them a few times. After… everything, before Christopher Argent left, he gave this to Stiles, who gave it to me to give to you if you happened to wake up. I probably shouldn’t because of the restraining order, but… Stiles gave me his word that it was harmless, and… well, I thought you might appreciate one thing still waiting for you.”
The look she gives him makes Peter wonder exactly what Stiles told her, or even what Chris told Stiles.
Finally, carefully, he reaches out and accepts the letter. It’s thin; whatever’s written inside certainly isn’t very long. “Why didn’t he just ask your son to pass it on? You said he’s his daughter’s boyfriend, right?”
Or maybe that’s exactly why.
Melissa grimaces. “They aren’t together anymore. And Mr. Argent was… protective of his daughter.”
She doesn’t say anything else, and Peter doesn’t really need her to. He traces the sealed flap of the envelope. “...Where is Stiles?”
Stiles, who insisted. Stiles, who was certain. If Derek went and told a hunter he barely even knew all about their pack and their house’s weaknesses just because she let him put his teenage dick in her, Cora’s far more likely to tell a trusted friend about what she is. Of course, unlike Derek, she lucked out with Stiles. Or maybe not. She’s still dead after all.
“Stiles left as well,” Melissa sighs, and now she just looks tired. “His father was killed here. Stiles didn’t stick around for much longer after that. He told me he was going to travel, see the world.”
Peter says nothing else, and after a minute that fast becomes awkward, Melissa nods and backs out of the room. “Good luck, Peter. I wish you the best.”
And then it’s just him again, him and this letter that he half wants to toss out the window, if only because of how it made his heart jump upon hearing who it’s from.
He hesitates for a moment longer before slitting one side with a claw and retrieving the single page of regular lined paper inside, with only barely half a page filled in a hand that Peter still recognizes.
If you’re reading this, then it means you survived, and Stiles found a way to convince Melissa to give this to you. I did drop by to see you before your niece had the restraining order filed. I know it doesn’t change anything, but for what it’s worth, I’m sorry
for my family.
I’m leaving tomorrow, and I thought I’d at least leave an address you can find me at, just in case you might need anything. Anything at all. I’ll help if I can, so you can come find me, or not. It’s your choice. But I’ll be waiting for you.
I ho- Get be- Take ca-
…Well, Chris never was particularly eloquent when it came to verbally expressing his emotions.
Something stings his eyes, and Peter has to blink hard several times to get rid of it. The letter crumples in his hands, and he hastily loosens his grip again before he tears it.
Stupid. He hasn’t seen Chris in almost twenty years. They shouldn’t even mean anything to each other anymore. But Christopher was the only meaningful relationship Peter’s ever had, despite how young he’d been, how young they’d both been, and time hasn’t blurred those memories, even if it has dulled the pain.
He shouldn’t get his hopes up. He should know better. He does know better. But maybe… maybe he still has something waiting for him beyond a crippled existence in a town full of ghosts and strangers.
Even after over two years of this place, Chris still finds travelling around by boat rather strange. It’s the quickest way to get around though - half the places around the Harbour is only accessible by water, and while there are back roads for cars, pretty much nobody drives. It’s bad for the environment, and it would actually take Chris three times as long to get to work if he had to drive all the way around the Harbour just to get to the mainland instead of cutting straight across. If nothing else, Chris has learned a lot about boating since he settled here.
The small ferry boat he bought isn’t particularly fast most of the time, but it wasn’t built for speed anyway, and it serves its purpose. It’s durable, with a very quiet engine, and enough seating space to fit ten people comfortably, which helps when somebody pays him to ferry them from dock to dock. Otherwise, he drops anchor at the dock and heads to the nearby tourist resort for the day, doing maintenance on the boats available for people to rent, and whatever other odd jobs the kitsune owner likes to slap him with for her own amusement.
Chris never complains. It’s never more work than he can handle, and the fact that she hired him at all was something to be grateful for. He knows he only got the job because Stiles put in a good word - or a hundred - on his behalf.
She never keeps him too long past his shift either, and as the sun sets, Chris busies himself with pulling up the anchor and heading home. The waters are quiet this time of day. Somehow, they’re pretty quiet even in broad daylight in the middle of summer at the height of the tourist rush. It’s nighttime that’s loud, when the noisier nocturnal wildlife wakes up. Thankfully, the house is pretty well-insulated, and anything that gets through is background noise to Chris by now.
He steers further into one of the coves that make up the Harbour, carefully navigating around a darker patch of water where he knows a pod of selkies like to lurk. It’s only another five minutes before the dock built on the beach outside the house comes into view, and then the house itself once he’s past the last copse of trees that stretch between it and the neighbour’s. He pulls up beside the dock, switching off the engine, dropping anchor again, and tying up the boat before heading up the steps leading to the house. The place is built on stilts of course, with a large balcony overlooking the Harbour.
The lights are already on inside.
“I’m home,” He calls out as he steps inside, toeing off his boots and shutting the door behind him and setting his bags on the counter. He doesn’t get a reply, and when he wanders into the living room, it’s to the sight of papers strewn all over the wooden floor and a body half-sprawled over a beanbag chair, half-hanging off one side, cheek smushed against one of the pages, and a brush still dangling from his fingers as he snores away.
Chris rolls his eyes even as a fond sort of warmth wells up in his chest. If somebody told him even just a year ago that he would end up in a relationship with a man almost twenty years his junior, he would’ve called them crazy.
He owes Stiles a lot, he knows that, even though Stiles would probably say they’re even. But it’s doubtful Chris would even have a job right now if not for Stiles, and certainly not one that pays as well as his current job does. Almost two and a half years ago, he’d looked up Allison’s college fees and cringed. After so many fines and seized assets, well, they weren’t bankrupt, but they were pretty damn close.
Allison told him she could go to one that wasn’t as expensive as Cornell. She was even still waiting on a few pending scholarships and loans, but they both knew she wouldn’t get any of them. Not since the Argent name became synonymous with serial killer. He couldn’t even get a job in Beacon Hills anymore, and the government had long since terminated their weapons contract with their family. He doubts he’d get a decent job anywhere else.
So she told him she didn’t have to go to college.
Chris thought he’d die of the shame.
Then Stiles showed up on his doorstep in the middle of the night and proceeded to… well, fix everything. If there’s one thing Chris could say he was grateful to Scott McCall for, it would be bringing Stiles along.
Stiles didn’t have to. Chris knows that too. He’d heard that one of those Hale kids who died - burned to death - was his friend. But he’d come that night and told them he was leaving for his mother’s hometown where her house and a whole community full of people who knew him were waiting for him.
He offered Chris a guaranteed, well-paying job there. And he offered Allison a loan from the trust fund his mother left him, to be paid back when they can afford to.
Chris put up a token protest. Allison did too. But they both knew they were going to accept, and Stiles knew it too if the way he told them to stop wasting his time and start packing their bags was anything to go by. There was a strain to his expression and a rawness in his eyes, one that Chris can still remember to this day because it was a pain and grief and rage that festered inside him, never fading, and it looked wrong in someone so young.
Just another crime to drop at his family’s feet.
So they packed, they left, Chris managed to pull the few strings he still had left to get their surnames changed discreetly to Nowak (“Sure, why the fuck not. I’m short on family these days.”), and Allison was shipped off to Cornell while Chris moved to the coast with Stiles.
He couldn’t cut all his ties with Beacon Hills without leaving something for Peter though. They moved back to that town after the stunt Kate and Gerard pulled, but Chris would be lying if he said something in him didn’t jump at the chance to make sure Peter was alright. For a certain measure of alright of course. Comatose and scarred required a pretty broad stretch of the definition.
The restraining order made him snort. Three years, during which his sister or father or really any other hunter could’ve strolled into the hospital to finish Peter off and then gone for celebratory coffee at the local Starbucks, and Laura never filed one. What use was it now? Did she honestly believe he’d waste his time going after her or Derek?
But it was just another reason he couldn’t stay, so he wrote a letter, and Stiles promised him he’d make sure Peter got it if the werewolf ever woke up.
(Chris still isn’t sure what he hopes for more, that Peter would survive and wake up, or just pass away in his sleep. He doesn’t know which would be kinder.)
The Harbour suits him more than he thought it would. There’s as much wildlife as there is civilization out here, and it only took Chris about a week to realize he has a family of fae who owns a bakery in town for neighbours on one side, and a lone vampire with a penchant for always blaring opera whenever Chris is outside doing yard work on the other.
Another week, and he discovered that the entire area was populated with the supernatural. Stiles laughed his ass off when he saw the stunned look of dawning realization on Chris’ face.
But Chris got used to it. He had all his gun licenses revoked after his trial so he doesn’t carry anymore, and sometimes, it still makes him uneasy, makes his hands twitch, makes the hairs on the back of his neck stand up. But admittedly, he doesn’t need guns here. Some of the locals still treat him indifferently or even downright coldly, and Chris can’t say they don’t have the right, but nobody’s gotten violent, and some have even relaxed enough for Chris to talk to without them staring at him like they’re afraid he’ll put a bullet in their skull at the first opportunity. He’s on genial terms with most of the staff at the resort, and he could almost call a few of them friends.
He knows a lot of that positive reception has to do with his connection to Stiles. He didn’t really think what it would mean to take Stiles’ mother’s last name, only that it was about as different from Argent as possible, and Stiles didn’t mind.
But the fact that Stiles didn’t mind apparently means a lot to the people around here, and it actually took Chris months before he realized that by carrying that name, it was something of a claim and an assurance to the people and a declaration of protection all in one.
So he owes Stiles a lot. A good man would take that into account and see it as another reason to not jump into bed with Stiles.
Chris gave up on being a good man a long time ago. These days, he just tries to be better.
And Stiles, Stiles is bright and strange and appealing in ways Chris sometimes still can’t wrap his mind around. He knows Stiles knew about the supernatural long before the fire that killed the Hales, knows he comes from supernatural roots, knows the locals around here trust him enough to let him into their homes and work on their wards, knows he can wield magic as easily as Chris can assemble a gun blindfolded.
And he knows Stiles basically solved the Hale case single-handedly, because even if the general oblivious populace will never credit him for it, the supernatural world still whispers about this boy-mage who tore down an age-old empire built on bloody prejudice and senseless murder for the sake of a friend. It’s the kind of loyalty most supernatural creatures can appreciate and respect on a level most humans never really feel.
Chris admires it though. Has learned to cherish it too, to want it, to want Stiles.
(And sometimes, he can’t help but think Peter would adore him for it too.)
Nowadays, the Harbour is home because Stiles is here. It’s comfortable between them, in a way Chris has only ever felt with Peter and never with Victoria. And it helps that Stiles is both legal and an unstoppable force of nature when he’s after something he wants. Living in close quarters didn’t exactly help maintain distance either. And probably most damning of all, Chris didn’t really want to resist anyway.
In front of him, Stiles lets out a snuffle-snort and rolls onto his side, which almost dumps him off the chair. Chris quirks a smile and crouches down to scoop the younger man up into his arms before he hurt himself. The movement wakes him with a jerk, and it takes a few seconds before recognition sets in and Stiles cracks a yawn instead. There’s ink smeared on his cheek.
“You’re home,” Stiles mumbles. “Whaz for dinner?”
Chris eases him down on the couch, only to get tugged down after him. “Fish and chips from Kaylee’s. You know I still can’t believe were-pelicans exist.”
This time, it’s Stiles’ turn to roll his eyes, although it looks equally as fond as when Chris did it. “You deal with the supernatural. You’d think you’d have more imagination than thinking anything doesn’t exist.”
“Does whatever it is you’re working on exist?” Chris glances pointedly at the floor.
Stiles makes a face. “It will soon. Hopefully.” He yawns again. “But a break might be good. I’m hungry, let’s eat first.”
He wriggles to his feet, and then leans down again to press a kiss to Chris’ lips before sauntering off in the direction of the kitchen. He yelps and then laughs when Chris reels him back in for a more proper welcome home.
Chris never thought he’d have this, and it’s the main reason why - so long as Stiles wants to stay with him - he’ll never be that good man who’ll insist Stiles find someone better.
Peter checks into a resort run by - at last count - at least fifteen different supernatural creatures on an autumn Monday morning, a year and a half after he woke up from his catatonic state. He cannot believe Chris is within fifty miles of this place and nobody’s turned up dead yet.
He eyes the werewolf working behind the front desk suspiciously but takes the key given to him without another word and sets out for his room. Ground floor, because he can manage stairs but it still leaves him breathless most of the time, and he may not need a wheelchair anymore but it’s just easier to be able to limp through the front door without any hassle.
Some people give his scars a double-take but at least nobody stares, which is already better than what he had to put up with back in Beacon Hills, and then the airport when he was finally strong enough to travel.
The room he gets has an open floor plan with a single separate bedroom, all spacious wooden floorboards and expansive windows that let the sunlight through. He doesn’t have a car - he got a ride on one of those shuttle buses - but the shopping outlet is only a twenty-minute walk away, possibly thirty for him. It shouldn’t be that difficult, and it’s not like he has to go every day for groceries.
He gets settled in and then ends up sitting on the veranda outside for the rest of the day. He doesn’t get hungry much anymore. He drinks some water and eats the other half of the sandwich he bought last night at the airport. Mostly, he stares at the docks below where boats are lined and the water sparkles under the sun. the murmur of voices carry on the wind, and despite the activity and bustle around the resort, there’s something peaceful about the place.
It’s nearing evening when Peter sees him. Maybe fate does exist because the very man Peter came to find walks out along the docks with what looks to be a toolbox in hand, dressed in shorts and a form-fitting shirt, taller and older than the last time Peter saw him, but unmistakably the same man.
Peter watches him almost unblinkingly as he clambers around one of the boats with a wrench, talking to a coworker from time to time. When he’s done, he packs up and heads back in, and Peter finds himself clambering unsteadily to his feet, torn between following and staying put.
He fetches his cane and heads for the entrance of the resort instead, hanging back in an out-of-the-way corner under the shadows of a tree. It doesn’t take long for Chris to appear, a bag slung over one shoulder and a coat draped over his arm. He doesn’t see Peter as he leaves the resort and turns left out on the road, gravel crunching under his boots.
Peter follows. It’s a struggle to keep up even with Chris’ unhurried but steady pace, and he’s breathing hard by the time they reach another dock where only a few boats are anchored. Chris is already standing in one of them, unwinding the rope from a hook on the dock and reeling up the anchor, clearly preparing to leave the mainland.
Peter hates himself for it but his feet are already lurching forward before he can stop himself, sending rocks skittering noisily across the dock, and a moment later, Chris’ gaze snaps up and pins him in place.
Green eyes widen, and a rare wave of shock flits across his face. “...Peter?”
Well, in for a penny, in for a pound, right?
Peter straightens as best he can. “Christopher.”
Chris stares for a moment longer before hopping from the boat and striding towards Peter like he’s on a mission, only to stop short a few feet away, arms half-rising like he wants to touch, and then they fall back to his side. Silence drops between them, and it’s awkward in a way Peter doesn’t remember the two of them ever being.
“You’re awake,” Chris says at last. “You came. ...I wasn’t sure if you would.”
Peter shrugs. “I had nothing better to do.”
A flicker of a smile teases at one corner of Chris' mouth but never quite surfaces. “When did you wake?”
“About a year and a half ago,” He shrugs again. “I’m still healing.”
Chris winces like Peter struck him, which wasn’t actually his intention, but he’s also not sorry about it.
“You already said that.” Peter cuts him off, not at all interested in apologies or touching those issues in any way at all. “...Why the hell did you pick this place of all places to move to?”
Chris frowns but relents and lets the subject change. “I didn’t. Stiles’ home is here. He invited me along and… I never left.”
Stiles? “Stiles?” Peter says out loud. “Stiles Stilinski?”
Chris arches an eyebrow, and that at least is familiar. “Do you know any other Stiles?”
Peter stares. “So you… live with him.”
Chris does that blink-twice-rapidly thing that means he’s nervous even though not a speck of it shows anywhere else. “Yes.”
Peter is… not quite sure what to say, for once. So many questions suddenly pop into his mind.
Stiles is here.
Chris on the other hand pauses in thought before asking, “Would you like to meet him?”
Would Peter like to meet him? Of course he’d like to meet him. It was already a secondary goal for Peter, one that was arguably only second because he had no idea how to track down Stiles. Except apparently he doesn’t have to.
“Why not?” He says casually. He lets his gaze slide to the boat behind Chris. “You need a boat to get there?”
Chris looks amused this time. “A boat can get you most anywhere around these parts. Come on, there’s plenty of room.”
Peter’s never ridden a boat before, not once.
But the engine is quiet, the waters are calm, and the wind that kisses his cheeks and tousles his hair is pleasant.
He closes his eyes and leans back in his seat. He doesn’t need to check to know Chris is watching him.
The house is as cozy as it is big. It’s old but sturdy with an old-world charm to it, and inside, Peter comes face to face with the young man who made sure his family would have justice.
“Mr. Stilinski,” Peter greets, smiling as pleasantly as his scars allow. “I’ve heard a lot about you.”
“Mr. Hale,” Stiles, still in pajama pants and an oversized shirt, peers at him from over a box of cereal, looking for all intents and purposes like he’d just gotten out of bed. Still, as Peter predicted, he’s grown up well, lean now instead of lanky, and muscled but not overly so. He has pale skin and plush lips and gorgeous brown eyes that somehow seem brighter than a regular human’s should be, like sunlight off a glass of whiskey if Peter wants to be poetic about it, and sharp with that same intelligence Peter remembers. And he’s taller. He has maybe an inch on Peter now, and he’s settled in his own skin in a way Peter wishes he himself still feels. Somehow, the fire robbed him of that too.
Stiles’ gaze darts over Peter’s shoulder to Chris and then back again. “You staying the night?”
Peter considers this for a moment. “...Well, considering I have no idea how to operate a boat, unless Christopher here is willing to make another trip out, I suppose I will be.”
He waits for Stiles to refuse, or at least protest, because surely Stiles knows his history with Chris, and Peter already suspected before, the moment Chris said they were living together in that tone, but now he can smell the faint whiff of sex in the air, with a cinnamon warmth layered on top of it that means feelings are involved.
Stiles only grunts and goes back to unboxing his cereal though. He doesn’t even smell displeased, just sleepy and distracted, like he’s thinking about something else.
He watches as Chris steps around him and makes his way over to Stiles, settling in his space with an ease that spoke of familiarity and intimacy. He plucks the cereal from Stiles’ clumsy attempt to get the bag open, rips it open himself, and pours it into a bowl for him even as he makes a face at it. “There’s enough sugar in this to give anyone a heart attack, Stiles.”
“I’m not an old man like you, old man,” Stiles grumbles right back, shuffling over to the fridge to get the milk. “And I deserve all the sugar. I just spent half the night and the whole morning warding Leilani’s hometree. I’m exhausted.”
“I don’t think it works like that,” Chris says dryly, but he passes the bowl to Stiles anyway and even fetches him a spoon.
It’s all terribly domestic, and Peter refuses to name the hot stab of emotion that punches through his chest.
He… probably shouldn’t have come. Somehow, a part of him had expected… well, it hardly matters now.
But then, Stiles looks at him again, swallowing a mouthful of cereal before jabbing his spoon at him. “Far be it from me to care about any law-breaking, but I seem to recall a pesky little restraining order between you two.”
Chris blinks like he forgot and only just remembered. Peter’s lip curls. “I had it dismissed. Laura had no right.”
Stiles stares at him for a moment longer before shrugging. “Okay, well, good to know we won’t have police knocking down our door anytime soon. Chris, why don’t you show him the guest bedroom?”
Chris makes a noise of agreement, moving back towards Peter, and for a split second, Peter almost wants to tell him to take him back to the mainland. He doesn’t want to stay here.
But the words don’t come, and it’s easier to follow Chris than to stay in the kitchen with Stiles watching him like he knows exactly what Peter is thinking.
It’s not that Peter is jealous.
Okay, it is absolutely that Peter is jealous. He’s self-aware enough to admit it, if only to himself.
But it’s not that he’s so jealous that it makes him not like Stiles. Even though he doesn’t know the boy - man - very well, he thinks he could like him. Does like him already in some ways. Because if Stiles has accomplished even half of what Peter has put together from the newspapers and his own conjecture, then he is very worthy of Peter’s respect, and normally, he’d be all over someone like that. You don’t meet intelligence and cunning and underhanded ruthlessness all wrapped up in a pretty package every day.
Besides, Stiles gave his pack closure. Got justice for them when the whole world - including Laura and Derek - would rather turn a blind eye or were too stupid to see past that farce of an “accident”. He’s grateful, he honestly is, and he’s never been one for excessive gratitude in the first place.
But by that same token, it’s what makes Peter’s hands clench and his teeth itch. Stiles got revenge for Cora, for the Hales. So what’s left for Peter to do?
And now, now it’s clear Stiles has somehow fallen into a relationship with Chris as well. Which just makes Peter even more irritated with himself because Chris hasn’t been his in a long time, so it’s not like Peter has any claim to him, any right to feel… anything.
And clearly, Chris has moved on as well. He probably offered to help Peter out of guilt. Peter should never have come, but he didn’t have anywhere else to go, and he was pretty sure he was going insane back in Beacon Hills, surrounded by reminders of what he’s lost, and unable to even step out on the street without whispers and stares following him around.
“Peter?” There’s a knock, and then the door swings open to reveal Chris with an armful of towels, an extra blanket, and a change of clothes. “Since you didn’t bring anything, I figured you might need thes-”
“A little young for you, isn’t he?” Peter bites out before he can stop himself, and Chris goes still.
And then straightens, and it’s even worse than Peter thought because there’s not a hint of shame anywhere.
“He was almost twenty when we started,” Chris informs him with a level of calm that does nothing to hide the steel behind it. “And he’d put me through the floor of this house before he’d ever let me do anything to him that he doesn’t want, and that’s not even touching what the rest of this place would do to me if I hurt him.” He pauses, picking his words. “This was Stiles’ mother’s childhood home. Stiles spent every summer and winter break growing up here. The people know him. He was born into the supernatural, even if he isn’t quite one himself. So,” Chris sets the towels and clothes down at the end of Peter’s bed. “If you have a problem with Stiles, I’d advise against taking it out on him.”
Peter bares his teeth, flashing a glimpse of fangs. “Please, Christopher, I’m not a caveman. I know better than to hit my problems to make them go away.”
And it’s not, Peter realizes with a dawning sense of bitterness, it’s not Stiles he has a problem with. It’s Chris, who promised - however inadvertently, carelessly, without meaning to at all, it seems - that he would be waiting for Peter.
And now Peter’s here, and of course even this part of the world has moved on without him.
“I’ll call you when dinner is ready,” Chris says at last when it becomes clear Peter isn’t going to say anything else.
Peter only moves after the door shuts behind Chris. He looks around, taking in more of the room than he did when he first entered. It comes with a bay window, with a cushioned seat and a view that overlooks the Harbour. There’s an armchair in the corner, closet, desk, bookshelf, even an attached bathroom, and the bed is soft. The floor is hardwood but there are several rugs placed aesthetically around the room, and the walls are a matching light warm beige.
He could do worse, he supposes. It’s certainly better than the single mattress and mostly empty two-room flat he rented back in Beacon Hills.
But the company…
He sighs. Well, he might as well stay the night, and free food is free food, even if he’s not that hungry. He can leave first thing tomorrow.
Dinner begins as a slightly tense affair, and the only one who seems oblivious is Stiles, who grouches through the cream corn soup before finally waking up enough to enjoy the main course. Chris has always been a surprisingly good cook, considering it’s probably not something Gerard would’ve approved of his son learning beyond the necessities.
Peter finishes the soup and nibbles on the chicken salad he’s pretty sure Chris made specifically for him. He can’t stomach the pasta so he doesn’t ask Chris to plate him a portion, and Chris doesn’t ask him if he wants any.
He spends most of the meal avoiding looking at Chris, which isn't too difficult when Stiles comes alive and starts chattering about everything from his latest job (“Leilani asked us over for a midnight snack sometime.”) to theme night at the local nightclub next week (“Vlad’s doing ballroom this time; I dunno how he’s gonna pull that off at a nightclub, but immortal fogies have to get their laughs in somehow, right?”) to a couple hunters rumoured to have been trekking through the woods a couple miles up north (“Not anymore though; the ents got them. When will people learn?”).
It’s easy for Peter to get drawn in, fascinated by the picture Stiles paints of the Harbour and its surrounding towns. He’s only been here for less than a day, and he spent most of that time at the resort. He knows the place is rife with the supernatural - that was easy enough to discern - but he didn’t know that there seems to be an entire community populated by creatures most regular humans would run screaming from.
“Doesn’t that get problematic?” He interjects abruptly after listening to Stiles tell them about the night market taking place in three days when the dwarves would be selling some of their pieces. “You said the local chain of jewelry stores is run by a dragon clan, right? Dragons and dwarves don’t usually get along, as far as I know.”
Stiles blinks at him, visibly surprised, and then his whole face lights up like Peter just handed him something priceless. “There’s been a few scuffles,” He agrees. “But nobody’s actually been killed in like… fifty years. So long as they both respect each other’s home territory, they can tolerate each other everywhere else, even if they have to cross paths. These days, they mostly just sneer at each other’s metalwork, but they don’t actively sabotage each other's wares.” He actually looks a little wistful here. “Shame though. Mom told me their fights were epic. The dwarves once tunnelled into a jewelry store just to replace one brown tourmaline gemstone with crystallized dung, just because one of the dragons said their collection of sapphires was shoddy. It took the dragons days to notice, and when they finally did, well, the way I heard it, there was a lot of attempted mauling and attempted beheading involved. On both sides. Nobody died though, so you know, all’s well that ends well. But I would’ve loved to see it.”
Peter laughs, a short huff of a sound that barely makes it out into the open before his mouth snaps shut again with surprise. Stiles doesn’t bat an eye though, just grins and asks him if he wants to go to the night market in a few days. The resort will be bursting at the seams with guests so Chris will no doubt have to pull a night shift, and Stiles usually pitches in when they need an extra hand, so Peter might as well go take a look since he’ll already be there anyway, and Peter is agreeing before he can think better of it.
The rest of dinner goes the same way. Stiles carries conversation like he was born for it, and no matter how hard Peter tries, he always forgets himself and starts asking questions again, or volleying lore between them, because he’s never been in a place like the Harbour before, never even knew a place like this existed, and even just hearing about it makes it all seem strange and new and exciting.
He didn't think anything in his life could be that anymore.
He looks around at the end of the meal, surprised again to find he’s polished off the salad and even eaten a bit of the coffee cake for dessert. Then he catches Chris’ eye, and the man is smiling ever-so-slightly, something knowing and soft in the curve of his lips. He hasn’t talked much throughout dinner, although he did grumble about his boss’ latest task for him, sending him off to find a bucket of sea salt ice-cream of all things because she wanted it. Stiles cackled like he expected nothing less. Peter just wondered what kind of boss Chris has.
Stiles is the one who cleans up, gathering dirty plates and cutlery and taking them to the sink to wash. Chris drops a kiss to Stiles’ temple - one Peter pointedly does not look at - before telling them he was heading outside to make sure “the fucking pixies won’t take the boat for a joyride again”.
Stiles snickers, absolutely delighted.
Peter watches Chris duck away down the hall before tearing his gaze away again. He’s tempted to slip out as well, back up to his temporary room, but he lingers in the doorway instead, listening to the gentle clink of porcelain in the sloshing water.
“I meant to thank you,” He says abruptly. “For what you did for my family.”
Stiles doesn’t turn around but his hands stop scrubbing. “Cora was my friend. It’s what friends do.”
“Most friends wouldn’t go quite as far as you did,” Peter tells him in sardonic tones.
Stiles does turn around this time, a frown furrowing his brow. “Then they’re not very good friends, are they?” He turns back and starts washing again. “Anyway, you don’t have to thank me. It’s not like I did it out of the goodness of my own heart. If Cora and I weren’t friends, I probably wouldn’t have given the case a second look. Or if I did, it would just be because I saw something that didn't add up, and it would bug me until I solved it.”
Peter shrugs. Fair. He’s not that altruistic either.
“Thank you anyway,” He says, and gets a hum in response. He wonders if Stiles is embarrassed.
He takes his leave then, limping up the stairs and into his designated bedroom, shutting the door behind him before breathing out a deep sigh.
It’s been a hell of a day, and he may not have done much but he’s tired down to his bones. A shower and sleep sound perfect right about now.
He can think about Chris and Stiles some more in the morning.
“Do you want him?”
Chris freezes in the process of coming out of the bathroom, steam curling out after him. Stiles is sitting up in bed, pillow stuffed behind his back, an open book in his hands. Chris hovers in the doorway, uncertain of what to say. He has two answers - one would be a lie, the other might be unforgivable.
“I don’t think I’d mind,” Stiles continues conversationally, and it’s all Chris can do not to gawk like an idiot.
His jaw works for a moment before he tentatively prods, “You wouldn’t?”
Stiles shrugs, still not looking up, and Chris doesn’t know how he can be so casual about this. “Well, you were his first. Not that you’re an object to be owned, but whatever you wrote in that letter you left for him clearly got his hopes up, and Peter doesn’t strike me as the kind of person who hopes for things like this, especially after he lost pretty much everything in the fire.” Here he does look up, and apparently this is what Stiles is judging him for. “You should probably take responsibility for that.”
Chris splutters a little. “I’m with you. I would never cheat-”
Stiles snorts and finally sets his book aside entirely in favour of levelling a flat look on Chris. “Don’t be an idiot. It’s not cheating if I know about it - which I do, or I will - and I’m okay with it - which…” He cocks his head in thought. “I think I am.” A sly grin pulls at his mouth. “I mean I thought he was hot back when I was fifteen. And now I find out he’s smart too.” His grin widens. “So! I’d be okay with it if you share.”
Chris… does not say what he probably should say. Instead, the first thing he blurts out is, “You didn’t think he was smart when you were fifteen?” Because that’s basically one of Peter’s defining traits.
Stiles waves a hand. “He hired a shitty intern. That usually just doubles your workload, you know?”
Chris snorts. “Well, I did think you might like him. But…” Stiles raises an eyebrow. Chris sighs. “It’s not very conventional, is it?”
Stiles rolls his eyes so hard his whole head moves. It’s a very Peter response. “Is anything in this place conventional, Chris?”
Chris frowns and looks off to the side for a moment. No, of course not. And if he’s honest, he doesn’t much care about that. It’s…
“I don’t want to force you into a choice like that,” He says at last. “Just because he’s here… I admit, when I wrote that letter, it did occur to me that if Peter wanted it, and if we could both make it work after… everything, I would’ve liked to try. But I met you, I got to know you, I-” He grimaces, and he’s never said this before, but at this point, it’s one of the only things he still has faith in. “I love you,” He says, looking Stiles straight in the eye. “I’m not giving you up just because Peter walked back into my life.”
Stiles stares at him, silent and assessing, like he’s weighing the truth of Chris’ words. And then he smiles a little, then wider, even ducking his head for a moment, and when he looks back up, there’s a hint of a blush pinking his cheeks.
“I love you too,” Stiles tells him, bright and happy in a way he doesn’t usually show the world, and Chris is making his way over and reaching for Stiles before he’s even consciously aware of it. He’s already pulled on a pair of pants, and he regularly forgoes sleep shirts anyway, so he rolls into bed at Stiles’ insistent tugging, and they settle together easily, Stiles half-octopused over him.
“It’s not a choice you’re forcing on me though,” Stiles murmurs against his chest. “I mean I’m perfectly capable of kicking him out, even if he does kinda pull at the heartstrings right now. But… yeah, I do like him. He likes you. And you very obviously still have some feelings for him. I think the next logical step here is to make sure he likes me too.”
Chris snorts out a laugh this time. “There’s nothing logical about that, Stiles. But if that is the next step, I don’t think you’ll have to work very hard. He already likes you.”
“For the Hale case thing, right?” Stiles sounds distinctly disgruntled. “Yeah, he already thanked me for that.”
“No, actually,” Chris corrects. “You charmed him at dinner. Trust me, he wouldn’t have responded the way he did to you tonight if he didn’t like you.”
Stiles shifts his weight a little, his chin kneading thoughtfully against Chris’ shoulder. “I kinda figured he just wanted to pick my brain. But you definitely know him better than I do so I’ll take your word for it. And I guess we’ll have to watch out for PTSD and other issues. Make sure we don’t push too hard. Werewolves like being provided for, right? We can try to hit those instincts, but you know, be sneaky about it. Hey! Don’t laugh! I can be sneaky!”
Chris runs a mostly apologetic hand down Stiles’ back. He thinks about it though, thinks about Peter staying, and not just that, but with them, here in this house, in this community, in their life. He thinks about feeding Peter until the werewolf looks less skin and bones and hollowed out grief. Thinks about Stiles dragging him around and introducing him to fae and vampires and various shifters and who knows what else. Thinks about teaching Peter how to work the boat, maybe buy a second one because he’ll need it. Thinks about Stiles falling into a research haze and taking Peter with him down that rabbit hole because knowledge for the sake of knowledge was always more Peter’s thing - and now Stiles’ too - than Chris’.
And he thinks about all three of them piled on the couch watching a movie, or taking the boat out for a day to explore the coves and bays in the Harbour, or going into the town and being recognized, not just as separate entities but also a unit.
Stiles props himself up with one elbow, and the moonlight trickling through the curtains make his eyes gleam in the dark. “How ’bout it?” He asks, but he says it like he knows Chris is imagining it.
Chris takes a deep breath, then reaches up to cradle Stiles’ face. “Are you sure?”
Stiles does him the courtesy of thinking about it again, really thinking. “...I want to try. I think… I think we could be good together. I don’t take to people easily, you know that, but Peter… I like him, and I’ve only known him for half a day. And you two - I don’t think you noticed but he looks at you like- like he’s drowning and you’re the last shore on the horizon. And you look at him like you’d move the earth itself just to get him on dry land again. Or at least feed him a lot until he doesn’t look half a meal away from starving.”
Chris makes an amused noise at the back of his throat, but he also pulls Stiles closer as the younger man lies back down.
“Alright,” He says, and he has to clear his throat when his voices out hoarser than he expects. “Alright, let’s try.”
He feels Stiles nod, and then a smirk curves against his skin. “Do or do not. There is no tr- ow! Chris!”
He dissolves into laughter as Chris heaves another sigh, debating the merits of shoving Stiles out of bed.
Peter wakes to sunlight and chirping birds and opera at volumes that should be illegal. He rolls out of bed and stumbles downstairs, wondering who the fuck decided Verdi’s Rigoletto was a good idea this early in the morning.
He reaches the open front door just in time to hear Chris holler, “Shut up, you old geezer! I’m just getting the paper!”
As if in response, the opera gets even louder.
Chris stomps back inside, stopping short when he finds Peter staring at him like he’s lost his mind. Then he sighs and slams the door shut, thankfully muting most of the noise. “Vampire neighbour. He likes opera. That, or he likes torturing me with opera. Probably both.”
Peter thinks about that for another moment before deciding it really is too early to deal with this. He heads back upstairs, although now that he’s up, he should probably get ready for the day.
When he comes down again, the opera’s - thankfully - gone, and there’s breakfast on the table. Chris is plating the last of the bacon while Stiles is propped up in the corner with a large mug of coffee in his hands.
Peter slowly takes a seat, surprised when his stomach gives a gurgle. He still doesn’t feel that hungry but he finds he does have an appetite. Chris joins them, and Stiles scowls himself into a more or less upright position, and they eat. Peter manages an egg, a bit of bacon, and a slice of toast. It’s nowhere near a full meal for the average healthy werewolf but it’s already more than he’s been eating for breakfast since he left the hospital. And it helps that Chris can somehow make even normal breakfast foods taste extra good. Not that Peter’s ever going to tell him that.
The last of the coffee disappears before Stiles leaves his restless dead impression behind. He stretches, rolls his shoulders, and then asks Peter, “So what are you doing today?”
Peter pauses between sips of his tea. “I don’t really have a plan.”
Except leave. He was going to do that today, wasn’t he?
“Then hey, why don’t you come with me?”
Peter glances at him, startled. Stiles explains, “I’m heading into town to check the security system for the local music center. If you have nothing else planned, you can come with me, sightsee a bit, and I’ll even introduce you to the siren who runs the place.”
Peter blinks once, then inclines his head, almost smiling when Stiles beams at him. Well, he might as well. Even if he decides to leave, he’s going to need to book plane tickets first, and that always takes a bit of time if he wants good seats. He slants a look at Chris, who catches his eye and waves a hand in response. “I have work. You two have fun.”
“Hey, I’m working too, you know.”
“Half the time, I honestly can’t tell,” Chris says in deadpan tones, and then forges on while Stiles pouts, “The resort’s seeing more traffic this week anyway so I’ll be busy.”
“We can swing by during your lunch break,” Stiles interjects, losing the pout as he glances questioningly at Peter, who shrugs and nods again. “The restaurant at the resort serves pretty good food. You’ll love the halibut.”
“You could try something else, you realize.”
“But the halibut, Chris.”
Peter lets their banter wash over him. Something about it makes him relax, and he doesn’t even remember until he stands up and reaches for his cane, only for his sleeve to ride up and reveal his scars.
If he goes with Stiles, people will see, won’t they? Somehow, he forgot that when he agreed.
But he doesn’t take it back. It feels a bit too cowardly to refuse just on account of that, and soon he finds himself making his way back down the steps leading to the dock where the boat is anchored.
“Do you not own a car anymore?” Peter asks as he steps onboard after Chris.
“Not anymore,” Chris shakes his head as he fishes out his keys. “There’s a road out back but unless you live on the mainland, nobody here drives. Boats or kayaks are what most people use. Unless they prefer to swim.” He glances at Peter. “I could show you how to operate this over the weekend. It’s pretty easy once you get the hang of it.”
It’s on the tip of his tongue for Peter to say he won’t even be here come weekend. Certainly not still living in this house. But the words stall behind his teeth, and before he knows what he’s doing, he’s already nodding his assent. Hastily, he throws in a tight smirk, “Don’t blame me if I crash your boat, Christopher.”
Chris quips back without missing a beat, “Don’t worry; it’s insured.”
Peter snorts, then turns away sharply to look out over the water.
What is he doing?
“Okay, I’m ready!” Stiles thunders down the stairs, a bag thrown over one shoulder. He waves at a shadow that Peter can just make out in the neighbour’s window, and then swings onto the boat with little regard to how it rocks, dropping into the seat beside Peter. “Let’s go!”
Chris starts the engine, and the boat pulls away, cutting through the water easily. Stiles leans back and tilts his face towards the sun, eyes closed, smiling, and Peter finds himself following his example. He hears the lap of water and the call of birds, and he hears the rustle of wind through the trees.
He thinks he’s beginning to understand why even someone like Chris would find his peace and build a life here.
Peter… Peter wonders if he could do the same.
A week passes in what feels like a blink of an eye, then two, then three, then four. Peter never does move out of the guestroom in that time. In fact, after a week, Stiles idly remarks that it would be easier if Peter just brought all his things to the house, and he wouldn’t have to waste money keeping the room at the resort. Chris agreed, and Peter figured he might as well since it was offered.
Chris teaches him how to steer the boat, and he and Stiles both take him out kayaking in a quiet little cove where the sand is some of the finest he’s ever walked on. He still tires easily, and his scars sometimes ache if he paddles in the same position for too long, but he still learns.
Stiles takes to introducing him to pretty much every local they come across. He seems to know all of them, and they all seem to know him. They seem to know of Peter too, which isn’t that much of a surprise. What is surprising is the way they greet him - never shaking his hand because werewolves don’t like that, but warm and genuine when they say they’re glad to see him on his feet again.
“Some of these people had family who were killed by the Argents too,” Stiles reveals to him on the side. “Or they lost friends to those hunters. But you survived. You survived,” He repeats, suddenly fierce in a way that makes Peter go still, unable to look away from the burn of narrowed amber eyes. “And now you’re living here, you’re living, even though I’m sure it has to be hard sometimes, but you are. And they admire you for that.”
Peter is quiet for the rest of that day. And the next time Stiles introduces him to someone, he makes a point to be a little more open, to try to see the person in front of him as more than Stiles’ acquaintance, to see them as someone he might wave to himself one day.
Of course, they don’t always go out. Chris, as Peter soon learns, likes trying new recipes, and he keeps pushing the results at Peter, asking him for his opinion, so Peter takes a bite of this and a bite of that, and passes verdict each time. More often than not, the creations really are divine, so it’s not exactly a struggle to play taste-tester. Of course, if it keeps up, Peter might actually become the first fat werewolf in history. That, or the first to die from a food coma.
Stiles on the other hand has irregular work hours and even more irregular research binges. Not that Peter can blame him - the first time he pokes curiously at some of the texts and papers in the attic that Stiles calls his research room even though he’s just as likely to turn the living room into a cross between a library and a hurricane, Peter ends up absorbed in a book detailing the history of the Harbour and the first creatures that made this place a safe haven for the supernatural. By the end of the day, he’s devouring every last word about the Nowak family line - one of the Original Seven who was responsible for the wards embedded into the ground to redirect unwanted attention and preserve the land. Hunters never leave alive. Suspicion never falls here. The place has never seen drought or plague or famine. Even when towns half a mile out starved from a hard winter, the Harbour remained safe in every sense of the word.
No wonder people here know Stiles, treating him almost like a much beloved prince. He’s practically royalty in these parts.
Peter’s still working his way through Stiles’ library. He’s half-convinced more books just appear every time he turns around.
On nights, if they feel like it, sometimes they break out board games or cards or movies. Peter smirks his way through Monopoly, Chris is terrifying at poker, and Risk gets very intense. Stiles sucks at pretty much everything they play except Go Fish and Scrabble, much to his dismay.
In-between, so gradually that Peter doesn’t even realize, he starts accepting touch again. At first, it’s just the brush of Stiles’ shoulder when the younger man sits beside him on the boat, then it’s Chris’ hands on his as he teaches Peter how to manoeuvre his way through the water in a kayak, then it’s Stiles falling asleep half-sprawled on Peter’s legs because better that then letting one of his hosts curl up on the floor after he nods off in the middle of a research session, then it’s Chris pressing a hand to his back (the way he used to do when they were young) as he guides him through a throng of annoying tourists. The day one of them - Peter can’t even remember who did it first - reaches out and casually but deliberately swipes a hand over his shoulder in a scenting gesture, the only reaction Peter has is to scent them right back.
It’s easy, is the thing. The sort of easy that creeps up on you, and you don’t even know it until you find you can’t live without it.
And so a week passes, two weeks, then three, then four, spent with Chris or Stiles or both, learning, healing, living, and it’s only then that Peter finally realizes, much too late - it’s not just Chris he’s fallen for (all over again), it’s Stiles as well.
He figures it out on an average afternoon, sitting on the balcony with Stiles and a chess game between them. Chris is inside making lunch.
“I didn’t mean for this to happen,” Peter chokes out, hands tight around the drink in his hand. He makes himself set it aside before he can break the glass.
True to form, it doesn’t take Stiles long to guess what he’s talking about. It’s probably written all over his face. Peter’s certainly feeling thrown enough for the slip.
“Weeelll,” Stiles draws out. “Do you mind?”
Peter stiffens, then snaps his gaze up. “What?”
“Cuz you didn’t mean it but we sure did,” Stiles continues, so blasé it would’ve tricked anyone except Chris and now Peter, because Peter knows him now, and he recognizes the nervousness twitching in the tap-tap-tap of his fingers and the jittery up-down of his left knee. He can’t smell it because Stiles is wearing one of his scent-canceller runes again, but he doesn’t need to.
And then the words catch up, and for a long minute, all Peter can do is stare. Out of the corner of his eye, he sees Chris step through the door, blank-faced to hide the apprehension underneath. Distantly, he can almost hear somebody laughing at him, and it actually sounds a lot like himself.
“Have you been seducing me?” Peter exclaims incredulously.
Chris coughs in that way that says he’s embarrassed and doesn’t want to show it. Stiles considers it for a moment before cracking a shameless smirk. “Pretty much. Did it work?”
Peter flounders for words. So undignified. “You could’ve just said!”
“We didn’t want to scare you away,” Chris cuts in, and Peter bristles a little at the implication that he’d be scared of anything, especially something so mundane, but then Chris takes three strides forward and crouches down beside Peter’s chair, and Peter almost flinches away. Now that he knows, it’s…
“We wanted to leave the choice to you,” Stiles interrupts, and it’s one of his rarer, entirely serious moments as he regards Peter with an absolute calm that makes him seem ten years older. “Stack the cards of course, but you… you needed to heal, and the Harbour is good for that, and we didn’t want to crowd you, but we also wanted to, well, make you happy.”
He flushes this time, as if he didn’t mean to say it quite so baldly, and Peter thinks, adorable, before he can smack himself for it.
“You can leave,” Chris picks up, and he’s older, with more lines on his face, a beard and a gravity about him that came with the knowledge of how much life can hurt, but his eyes, his eyes are still the same, clear green with the piercing quality of a hawk. “You can leave anytime. But I want you to stay. Stiles does too. I hope we’ve made that clear over the past few weeks. We want you to stay with us.”
Peter’s pulling him in before he even finishes, and the last word is a rush of warmth over Peter’s lips before Peter presses them to Chris’. They kiss, slow but thorough, familiar and not, and Peter doesn’t even realize he's forgotten to breathe until he has to pull away gasping. Chris’ hands are large and calloused around his face, and the sweep of his thumb over his scars is so, so gentle.
Movement flickers in Peter’s peripheral vision, and for a moment, he thinks Stiles is getting up to leave. He jerks his head in Stiles’ direction, only to find the younger man smiling softly at them, dressed in sweats and a shirt with a stupid meme on it, and Peter wouldn’t stop the way he reaches out for him even if he could. A pale hand slips into his own scarred one, chess pieces clack to the ground, and then Stiles is settling in his lap and catching Peter’s lips in an enthusiastic first kiss. It’s different from Chris’ but just as passionate, and the grip Peter has on Stiles’ hips is nothing short of possessive.
They’re both breathless when they part, and one look at Chris’ blown pupils tells him Chris probably didn’t feel too left out.
“Yes then?” Stiles nudges him, gaze intent on Peter’s face. “You’ll stay, right? This means you’ll stay?”
Chris sighs. “Stiles-”
Peter doesn’t let him finish, reeling him in for another short, blistering kiss, and then giving the same to Stiles.
He grins, half-fanged, eyes flashing, a hand curled around Chris’ wrist, another around Stiles’ hip. “I’m not sure yet. I guess you’ll have to continue convincing me.”
Stiles’ mouth drops open tantalizingly for a moment before he closes it again and snorts, but a mirroring grin curves his lips, and he leans in this time to drop a chaste kiss on Peter’s jawline before resting his head on his shoulder. “Yeah, I guess we’ll have to do that.”
Then his foot swings out and catches Chris in the calf. Chris winces and shoots a faintly exasperated look at Stiles, but it melts into a quiet, warm smile for Peter.
“We were never going to stop,” Chris tells him, and then a twist of his wrist pulls him out of Peter’s grip, only for him to slot their fingers together instead.
Peter leans back in his seat. He thinks a part of him is still reeling. But Stiles is a solid weight in his lap, and Chris a steady presence at his side, and for now, Peter holds them both a little closer.
For the first time since the fire, he lets himself look to the future and see more than the grey existence he’d resigned himself to when he woke up in that hospital so long ago.
Later, in bed, with Chris on one side and Stiles on the other and Peter between them, all the tension drained from him, heavy from sleep and wrapped up in his two lovers’ embrace, Stiles listens to both of them breathe, and he recalls the one time, just once, in the past four weeks that he wanted to tell Chris to get rid of Peter.
It wasn’t even Peter’s fault. But he came down the stairs one morning to find Chris and Peter on the balcony, and they were talking. He didn’t even know what about, but whatever it was, it made them both smile, and the way they looked at each other, it was as if the whole world and everyone in it could’ve ceased to exist, and they wouldn’t care so long as they still had each other.
It wasn’t even jealousy, Stiles is pretty sure. But in that one moment, all he felt was an overwhelming sense of outsider-looking-in, the exact same way Beacon Hills made him feel his entire life, and he hated it.
He’s glad now, very glad, that he didn’t say anything in the end, and maybe he has Peter to thank for that. The werewolf must have smelled him or heard him because he turned, and the smile he offered Stiles that morning was as bright and precious as the one Stiles saw him give Chris, and it took his breath away. It soothed something in him, even more so when Chris immediately held out a hand to him, and the hurt that made his throat close up even as a snarl of rage roared up inside him faded in the face of both of them.
Peter mumbles something and shifts a little under Stiles’ arm. Stiles presses a kiss to the back of his neck, and he settles, breaths evening out again. He looks over Peter’s shoulder and meets Chris’ drowsy gaze.
“Go to sleep,” The man whispers even as an arm reaches past Peter and drapes over Stiles waist.
Stiles snuggles closer, closes his eyes, and sleeps.