Actions

Work Header

Safe Place to Hide Away

Chapter Text

Stiles was in pain, and running as fast as he could from the crumpled remains of his Jeep and out of sight. His leg was broken, impeding his escape, but he couldn’t spare a thought about it right now. There was other damage that he was aware of, in a distant sort of way, but again he couldn’t dwell on it. He needed to get away, get somewhere safe, and fast.

The Pack knew that hunters were in town, with Chris Argent away in France trying to wrangle the rest of his family into accepting Allison’s new code outside hunters deemed it the perfect opportunity to strike. There had been skirmishes before, and the Pack had prevailed but it seems like the hunters were trying different tactics now. Going after Stiles alone, ramming into his Jeep, Stiles had no doubt that he would have been taken hostage or killed outright if the crash hadn’t fatally injured him that is.

He shifted into his smaller form without a second’s hesitation. Human Stiles would not have made it out of there unscathed. Being a cat, or kitten in his case, provided him with the means to slip out of sight before the hunters descended on his Jeep to look for him. He was still close to the center of town, too far away to make it to his house or even Scott’s and Derek’s loft was in the opposite direction, he would have to head back towards the hunters to even try to attempt to make it there, it was too risky in any case. Peter Hale however had an apartment a little ways ahead in the direction Stiles was running. He could make it there, the hard part then would be convincing Peter to help without revealing himself.

It was an internal struggle he’s had for a while, ever since werewolves became something more than just stories his mother had told him at night when she was explaining the different creatures that kept themselves hidden from the world, whether or not he should tell the Pack what he truly was. His mother had told him many times how important it was to keep this part of himself hidden from others, ever since he fully shifted at only five years old. Not even his father knew the truth, about him, about his late wife. For all she loved and trusted Noah Stilinski it was so ingrained in her that she keep her true self secret and by extension for Stiles to keep it secret as well.

He was like other shifters in many regards, had all the heightened senses of sight, hearing, smell, taste and strength. His healing was slightly different however, slower than a werewolf’s but so much faster than a normal human’s. His injuries just from tonight would take at least a day or more to fully heal; his broken leg could be longer than that by at least another day. Shifting back to human would only extend the healing process, that was another difference he figured out, staying shifted allowed him to heal faster than staying human did.

Control though, that was something else entirely. Stiles had impeccable control; he didn’t feel the pull of the moon or the rage and bloodlust of other shifters like wolves or coyotes. No, his was a much simpler animal to bear. Though he didn’t have a true Beta shift like the rest of the wolves, or the rest of the shifters he had first-hand experience with at least. It was something in between, he could access his claws and fangs and shift the color of his eyes but the rest of his appearance was very much human. More subtle, and handier in getting out of sticky situations, especially when he finds himself tied up by this witch or that hunter more often than not. And shifting into something so small and unassuming allowed him to escape places unnoticed. The Pack would probably flip their shit if they really knew how many times Stiles has been kidnapped in the last few years alone.

His mother had taught him well, taught him everything she knew about being a werecat. She was the Alpha of their very small Clowder, and fuck if that still wasn’t the weirdest word Stiles had ever heard, but wolves had Packs and cats had Clowders, it just is what it is. When she died the Alpha power transferred to him; it definitely wasn’t the rush of power that he had seen in Derek when he killed Peter, no it was like a warm blanket curling around him and keeping him together in his grief. He could have his own Clowder if he wanted, the power was there in his bite and he could turn people like any Alpha shifter could, but it was never something he wanted. Cats might not be solitary, but the need for a Clowder was never there, and Stiles had his Dad, Scott and Mrs. McCall and that was enough to satisfy his human and animal sides.

He had been worried when wolves popped up that he would be sniffed out, that they would just know from sight or scent but it was never an issue. His mother had always taken great care in teaching him how to hide his scent, to keep his animal side hidden, it wasn’t an easy thing when he was just a Beta but as Alpha it was as natural as breathing. When Stiles was human, that’s all he ever smelled like and when he was a cat there was no trace of anything to do with Stiles, metaphorical ships passing in the night and never meeting.

Stiles remembered asking her before why no matter how much older he got since he was five that he was still so small when shifted. Even his mother’s shifted form was still that of a much younger cat than her true age would imply. She had just laughed and run her fingers through his hair, explaining that the cat ages at a much slower rate than the human, that he would be her adorable little kitten for quite some time. At eighteen though he would have hoped he would have looked less like a tiny kitten and more like teenaged cat at least. It would at least have made his next tasks easier, if he was bigger.

Looking up at the apartment building there was no clear entrance in sight. There was a door to the building that was locked to discourage trespassers so going in the front without someone opening the door so he could slip inside was out of the question. Not like he would have been able to open said door even if it wasn’t locked, being all of a few pounds. He rounded the building, keeping to the shadows just in case and spotted a fire escape. It wasn’t ideal, especially with a broken hind leg and a pain in his ribs that decided to make itself known now that he took a moment from his adrenaline-fueled escape run.

He eyed the fire escape ladder and the dumpster with disdain. It might be easier for him to shift to climb the ladder but he risks exposure to do so. It’s dark out, early evening, but the area is lit enough that a pale naked teen climbing a fire escape won't go unnoticed. Why Peter had to live on the third, and top, floor of the building is anyone’s guess but it makes this next part way more difficult than it has any right to be.

Stiles hops up to the low window ledge, balancing carefully and trying to take as much weight off of his leg as he can before jumping up to the edge of the dumpster, though not without enough pain that has him biting his tongue to keep the sound from leaving his body. He takes a moment to breathe through the pain as he inches carefully to the edge of the dumpster and closest to the ladder. Once he’s pushed the pain away as much as he’s able to he springs towards the ladder, catching the second to last rung with his front paws and pulling himself up to stand precariously on it.

At least he only has to climb the ladder to the landing, the second floor of the apartment building, and then he can use the steps like normal. He places his injured leg down on the rung, testing how much weight he can put on it before the pain is too great, and when he has a handle on that he balances and stretches, inch by torturous inch, until his front paws meet the next rung and he can pull himself up, he can barely meet the distance with his tiny body. He repeats this over and over and over until he’s collapsing on the landing from exhaustion and pain. He pants and tries to take in breath after breath around the ache in his lungs and the almost crushing feeling of his ribs. Stiles can't stay here though, he’s too exposed, and he’s not safe.

He hauls himself upright with incredible difficulty, and hops up the stairs one by one, focusing on reaching the top at all costs. He fumbles on the last stair before the landing and almost slips off it completely to tumble back down, but he digs in and rights himself at the last second. He makes it to the landing and drags himself over to the window, Peter’s window, and the lights are on so that must be a good sign, Peter has to be home, Stiles didn’t even give a thought to what he would do if the wolf wasn’t.

He focuses enough to hear Peter’s heartbeat, the rhythm strong and steady and soothing, before he starts scratching at the window and meowing, or trying to meow though his throat is so dry and scratchy. He’s losing strength fast, his scratching becoming weaker the longer he’s at it and surely Peter should have heard him by now, but he hasn’t come to the window yet. The pain is beginning to overwhelm him and he’s on the verge of passing out, he hadn’t thought it was this bad when he was running from the Jeep. Maybe he’s dying. He’s not sure if he can really tell at this point.

He rests his head against the cool glass as his eyes slip shut, his one paw still scratching faintly at the window but he’s long since stopped trying to meow. The window opens just before he slips into unconsciousness and it jolts him into a semi-alertness, Peter’s hand catching him before he would have tumbled into the room. He’s floating one minute, limp in Peter’s hand and then pressed carefully to the wolf’s chest the next.

“And what are you doing little one? Hmm?” Peter murmurs as he runs a careful finger along Stiles’ head. God, Stiles would purr if he could at the contact, but he’s too busy trying not to pass out. He can feel Peter taking his pain as he holds him and moves around the apartment.

He meows quietly, trying to thank Peter in some way, nuzzling into his chest a little with his head.

Safe.

He’s safe.

Peter makes a phone call but Stiles is too tired to care and the pain-drain is too much to fight against so he just closes his eyes and relaxes, slipping away into unconsciousness.

 

 

-------

 

This is how I imagine Stiles as a teeny tiny kitten.

Kitten!Stiles

Chapter Text

Cold

Cold and hard

Cold and hard and not Peter

Stiles wakes with a growl in his throat, he keeps his eyes from flashing but reaches out with his other senses. Two human heartbeats, other cats, dogs, the smells of medicine and antiseptic. The quiet voices come into focus, Peter and Deaton.

“Easy little one,” Peter’s soft voice is saying, gentle fingers stoking along his head again, ignorant of Stiles’ growling complaints.

Stiles tones down the growl, a little, he’s still not pleased with being in Deaton’s office. He opens his eyes finally and assesses the room, Deaton is standing in front of him and Peter to his side, still carefully petting his head.

“I can sedate him for the exam; it would probably be easier that way.” Deaton says in a calm tone.

Stiles hisses at the man as he moves towards him with a syringe in his hand. He doesn’t really have the energy to fight but he will if it means Deaton doesn’t stick him with whatever is in that syringe.

Peter extends his strokes along Stiles’ back in an attempt to calm him, “I don’t think that will be necessary, he’ll behave.” Stiles stops baring his teeth at Deaton but switches back to a low growl.

He can't help the involuntary whine when Peter’s fingers run over a particularly painful spot on him though, and Peter takes his hand away like it was burned. Stiles looks at him, missing the contact, and whines softer until Peter goes back to petting his head lightly. Everything hurts but the contact is too nice so Stiles purrs quietly under Peter’s touch.

“Alright little one,” Peter says as Deaton moves closer to the exam table, Stiles doesn’t stop purring, doesn’t really want to, but he glares at Deaton regardless, “the doctor is going to examine you, I’ll try to make sure it doesn’t hurt too much.”

Stiles can feel Peter taking his pain again and relaxes into it. He doesn’t want Deaton’s hands on him but if Peter brought him here, with as much as Stiles knows he dislikes the man, then he’s probably in worse shape than he initially thought.

Deaton checks his legs over, one at a time, and Stiles can't help the whine and growl when Deaton gets to his broken leg, he doesn’t lash out though and Peter taking his pain helps but it still spikes with each movement Deaton puts his leg through before Peter is able to drain it away. Once his leg is assessed Deaton moves on to feeling the rest of his tiny body, paying close attention to his spine and ribs, finding the spot Peter had touched earlier and pulling another whine from Stiles. He finishes the exam a few pokes and prods after.

“I should do x-rays, and he needs to have the blood washed from him, he probably has some cuts that need to be cleaned, but on initial exam his left hind leg is broken in two places and one of his ribs is broken as well which concerns me more since the break is so close to his spine. The rest of his ribs are probably only bruised or slightly fractured since his breathing is so labored.” Deaton tells Peter, and shit Stiles didn’t realize he was that bad off, he knows he can heal the injuries but if that rib shifts it could cause damage to his spine and that is not a fun prospect, or it could heal wrong entirely.

“I’ll get him cleaned up, set up what you need for the x-rays and to set his leg and whatever needs to be done for his ribs.” Peter tells Deaton with a hint of steel in his voice as Stiles is lifted from the table and placed back against the wolf’s chest.

“I really think you should let me sedate him, it would be easier for him that way.” Deaton says as Peter heads to the sink and turns on the tap.

Stiles actually doesn’t mind taking a bath as a cat, not that he’s ever had someone to bathe him, but he’s not water phobic like most regular cats are, this bath however, is probably going to be painful and no fun whatsoever. And as much as Deaton is right about the sedation making things easier Stiles is worried that he won't maintain his shift through it. Sleeping, yes that’s easy, unconsciousness, also a yes, but sedation was never something Stiles had experienced before, at least not while he was already shifted. He’s terrified that they’ll sedate a kitten only for Stiles to shift back into his human form. That is definitely not the way he wants the Pack or anyone to find out, because he has no doubts that Peter or Deaton would call the rest of the Pack in if the small chocolate brown kitten they’ve been treating suddenly becomes Stiles-shaped.

Peter must sense his fear and apprehension, even if he can't find a reason why a kitten would be feeling that way, because he says, “I think we’ll be fine, he’ll need something to numb the leg completely before you set it though.”

Stiles can hear Deaton’s huff of disapproval as well as the feel the simmering annoyance radiating from him. Stiles doesn’t give a fuck though, it’s not like he’s ever liked the man.

The water is warm as Peter sets him in it carefully, keeping him gently held in the palm of his hand while his other hand works water and a mild soap through his fur. The cuts from earlier have long since healed over enough to stop bleeding but Stiles can see how discolored the water is getting as Peter works meticulously to clean him. Once the water running off of him is clear Peter deems his work to be done and sets Stiles on the counter as he rubs a small hand towel over him to try and dry him. Stiles tries his best to hold back whines and whimpers when Peter inevitably encounters a sore spot or has to touch his broken leg at all, but all the while Peter is drawing his pain away and shushing him softly.

Stiles has to honestly admit to himself that he’s never seen this side of Peter, would have never imagined him capable of such softness, such delicacy of care. It’s nice; it feels like a secret just between the two of them, even if Peter will never know that Stiles knows this about him. It tugs at something in his heart, it makes him want to tell the wolf what he is in the hopes he would have his acceptance. For as much as he loves his dad and Scott he’s never really wanted to tell them as strongly as he wants to tell Peter. Peter has been remarkably better since is resurrection and has been working with the Pack under Derek being the Alpha instead of plotting and scheming. He’d been making amends, apologizing to Lydia and Scott and Derek and actually meaning his words, Stiles could practically taste the sincerity of his words when he had spoken to them.

The Pack had been relatively well functioning. Sometimes Stiles felt a little like an outsider though, being perceived as the weak human, and Stiles knows that he’s never done anything to change their opinion on that, not really. He could fight better, run faster, and be more graceful and less of the flailing klutz they knew him to be but it came with him risking his secret. His mother’s words just held too much weight for him to reveal himself at the end of the day. Until Peter first caught and held him after almost falling into his apartment he didn’t realize how much he missed simple touch.

The wolves were always so affectionate with one another, even Derek would slide a hand down his Beta’s arm or ruffle their hair and the Betas behaved like a pack of puppies most of the time, all piling on top of one another. Allison was always included because of Scott and also lately because of Isaac as well and Lydia because of Jackson and Allison too. Derek steered clear of the blatant puppy piles but always sat close by and surreptitiously would grant light touches here and there. Peter was always removed from this, either leaving before a Pack meeting would devolve into a cuddle fest or sitting completely away from the group. Stiles didn’t realize he did as well. It’s not like anyone ever reached out for him, and most of the time he would be too engrossed in the movie or TV show to care, but looking back on it the loneliness is kind of overwhelming. To be surrounded by a group of people and still feel so alone, it makes him whine low and sorrowfully and he’s not even aware he’s doing it until Peter holds him closer to his chest, petting his head and rumbling deep and soft in his chest, a feeling more than an actual sound.

“Shh little one, you’re okay, I’ve got you.” Peter whispers close to his head. Stiles can scent his concern and worry with a hint of confusion and just rubs his head up and down in little movements on the wolf’s chest.

Peter holds him for a few more minutes until Stiles feels calmer and then carefully sets him back down on the exam table telling him, “stay still little one, just some x-rays, you won't feel a thing.”

Stiles lets Peter arrange him on the table, Deaton making minor adjustments to his positioning before they both back away. He’s not uncomfortable, not really, but he’s feeling raw and twitchy. He holds still as best as he can as Deaton slides the portable x-ray into position and takes the images. Once the machine is moved again Stiles curls into a more comfortable position, as much as his body allows him to curl in on itself that is.

He blocks out Deaton talking to himself as he views the images, he’s still so tired and right now it’s not worth the effort. He does perk up several minutes later when Deaton goes to point out and explain various things to Peter.

“See here,” Deaton points to an image on a screen that Stiles can’t see, “that’s the break in his ribs. The good news is that it’s father away from his spine than I originally thought and the break isn’t a complete one. It doesn’t appear his lungs are affected in any way; his breathing difficulties are most likely due to pain since he’s been breathing easier when you’ve been taking the pain from him. I can give him a mild pain killer to help with that, but there is no way to brace the ribs, he’ll have to be kept as calm and immobile as possible while it heals to prevent further damage. The hind leg is a two part break but it’s clean, no splintering or bone fragments that would need to be removed with surgery. I can set it and as long as it stays immobilized it should heal fine on its own.”

Ugh, it’s bad, but Stiles will heal, he’ll just be down for at least two days while his body puts itself back together again. Although he is so not looking forward to Deaton setting his leg, that’s going to hurt like a bitch. Just thinking of the devil makes him come, Deaton approaching him with a syringe again, and Stiles growls and hisses.

“Deaton” Peter says in a warning as he makes his way back over to Stiles, petting his head.

Deaton huffs, the only outward display of his annoyance, “it’s to numb his leg, a topical cream won't penetrate deep enough and you’re refusing to let me sedate him to do this properly.”

Peter nods and doesn’t stop petting Stiles but Stiles can't stop growling, he hates needles, okay, hates them, and he’ll growl and hiss about it all he damn well pleases. He feels the pinpricks of the needle even through the pain-drain Peter’s doing but he doesn’t move, he knows how important this is, knows his leg needs to be reset. He still doesn’t like it.

He loses count after the sixth injection along his leg, the pain is minimal, it’s never really ever been about the pain, pain he can handle to a certain extent, no it’s the weird wrongness of a foreign object just entering his body without his say-so, the way he swears he can feel his skin part at the intrusion and the liquid running into his skin or veins and then having his skin seal up again a few moments later. He’s glad for his fur, even if he feels like a puff ball after his bath, because at least that will hide the evidence of his rapid healing. It’s just something he’s never been able to describe correctly to explain why he loathes needles so much, it’s just too wrong, too other, for him to put into words.

After a few minutes have passed, time enough for the injections to start working and thoroughly numbing his leg he feels Deaton moving it around, it doesn’t hurt, not yet or not really, just an ache. He stops his vocalizations long enough to focus on what Deaton is doing, to try and anticipate what will be happening next, to brace in some way for the pain. He feels Deaton’s fingers, assessing the lines of the first break and moving himself into position, with a dull thud, not a sound but a feeling the first part goes into place, the pain was intense for a white hot second before Peter took it away. He’s still panting through it regardless, like he ran several miles. He whines as Deaton moves his fingers further down and feels at the second break, he doesn’t want to do this anymore, and the hand that was petting his head has moved down to the side of his face, cupping his head oh so gently, Stiles licks at the skin nearest his mouth, an almost unconscious movement but it settles something inside him.

Deaton slides the bone back into place and Stiles just bites, hard. It doesn’t register, his mind blanks with the pain, so much worse than the first time, and he can only feel the growl in his chest and wonder at why it sounds so distorted, the taste of warm copper on his tongue and the ache creeping into his jaw are what bring him back to awareness. He unclenches from biting down on Peter’s thumb and the wolf moves the appendage away slowly, like he’s more worried about startling Stiles with any sudden movements than he is with the fact that Stiles just bit him. Deaton has slid the x-ray machine back in place and Stiles can hear the machinery working and taking more images, but he doesn’t concern himself with it, he doesn’t do much more than breathe.

The images must be satisfactory because now Deaton is wrapping his leg, and splinting it in some fashion if what Stiles can hazily feel is correct. Peter is back to petting at his head, he must not be to mad at being bitten if he’s still voluntarily touching Stiles though, so maybe Stiles didn’t freak out and fuck up too badly. He likes nice Peter, gentle Peter. He doesn’t want to drive him away already.

A small saucer of water is placed in front of him and he lifts his head enough for a drink, lapping at the cool liquid and relishing in how it soothes his throat and chases away the lingering tastes of coppery blood. He can hear Peter’s “there you go little one” above him as the wolf’s fingers stroke through his fur, running the length of his body but always so careful to avoid the broken rib. Stiles purrs softly in exhausted contentment.

“The pain killer should help him sleep, I can keep him here, I have a secure place for recovering animals.” Deaton says somewhere out of Stiles’ sight. He tries to growl but it feels off, sounds off. Fucker must have drugged Stiles’ water. Yeah, Stiles is going to get him back for that shit.

“No. I’ll be taking him home with me. Should I need your services again I’ll let you know.” Peter answers coolly as Stiles is lifted and rearranged back on his chest, safe and secure in his hand.

“If you insist,” Deaton replies.

Peter follows Deaton out to the reception area, Stiles can only assume they are settling the bill, but he’s too tired and the pain is such a small and distant thing right now that Stiles can’t keep his eyes open. He’ll only close them for a few seconds. Just a few.

Chapter Text

Stiles wakes slowly to the feeling of vibrations under his body and the smell of chicken cooking. Peter is humming a song, the sound is quiet in the apartment and soothing, and the chicken is making his mouth water and his stomach rumble in its emptiness. He’s starving. Can't remember the last time he ate, maybe it was this morning, since he can't remember having lunch and the hunters slammed into him before he made it home for dinner.

“Ah, hungry are you little one? Food will be ready in just a few minutes.” Peter murmurs to him.

He stays there, nestled into Peter’s chest as the wolf moves about the kitchen, eyes closed and purring softly. He drifts.

The cool touch of wood stirs him and he takes quick stock of his surroundings, Peter has set him on the table, a small plate of diced up chicken in front of him and a bowl of water next to it, the wolf sitting in a chair with his own plate and glass right beside him.

“Eat up little one,” Peter tells him but Stiles eyes him as he hovers an eye dropper over the water dish, clear liquid poised to drop in the bowl below.

Peter catches his look, “it’s only the pain medication. And you’re safe here. No more trips to Deaton I promise.”

Stiles watches him intently but doesn’t make a sound of protest as Peter squeezes out a few drops of liquid into the water.

He focuses on the chicken in front of him instead, inching closer with the limited movement of his hind leg. Stiles takes a bite of the chicken and chews it, it’s plain as is expected, but at least it was grilled and not boiled. Boiled chicken does not taste good. He eats the chicken and trills happily to Peter for the food. He can hear Peter chuckle and it’s such a nice sound, a pure sound, he’d like to hear it more often.

Stiles polishes off the chicken and then laps at the water briefly. He doesn’t really like the drugged feeling of the pain meds but he can't really avoid it at this point, nor can he really expect Peter to take his pain away all the time, so he accepts the necessary evil that it is. Before he gets too out of it from the drugs he takes some time to groom himself and to try and tame the fluffy ball of fur that he currently is. He can't do as much as he would like with his limited range of motion and he’s wary of damaging his ribs more so he settles for what he can reach comfortably and then just moves himself closer to Peter before laying down.

He raises his head enough to look at Peter and then meows at him until Peter’s free hand is under his chin and giving him glorious scritches. Stiles trills and purrs at the attention.

“Needy little thing aren’t you.” Peter admonishes gently, but there is a smile gracing his lips and a fondness in his eyes that he can't hide from Stiles.

They stay like that for a while, Peter having already finished eating before Stiles, until the drugs are kicking in and Stiles’ head is resting more heavily on Peter’s fingers.

Peter scoops him up and rests him back on his chest, Stiles clinging to alertness by a very thin thread, as Peter cleans up the dishes and loads up the dishwasher. He checks over the main rooms in the apartment, making sure the door is locked and windows closed and secure before turning out all the lights. Stiles has to resist letting his eyes shift to better aid in his natural feline night vision as he’s carried to Peter’s bedroom and set on the comforter.

He watches lazily, hazily, as Peter changes into just a pair of sleep shorts, catching a glimpse of his toned ass before it’s sadly covered up. The rest of the wolf however is on full display. Under other circumstances Stiles would have to work to hide his attraction and subsequent arousal at the bared lightly tanned skin but he’s simply too exhausted and drugged up to appreciate it fully right now.

Peter picks him up again; folds back the bedding and settles himself under the covers, setting Stiles in the center of his chest. It’s almost perfect, almost. Stiles inch worms his way up Peter’s chest until his head is firmly under the wolf’s chin, his nose pressed into the wolf’s throat, there’s a small growl when Stiles touches him there but it cuts off when Stiles licks his skin gently, and he can scent the surprise from Peter but he’s undeterred. Nuzzling his head tenderly into the underside of Peter’s chin he begins a low purr and slips into sleep.

Perfect and safe and content.

He misses Peter’s final comment before the wolf falls to sleep as well, stroking along Stiles’ back, “well aren’t you just a wonderful little thing.”

Chapter Text

Stiles wakes up slowly, warm, so, so warm and feeling more content then he thinks he has any right to be. He stretches and flexes out his limbs, feels the aches and flairs of pain, the fact that his leg is immobile, and his sleep-heavy mind is slow to come up with the reasons why. It takes longer than it should, considering Stiles’ ADHD, but his mind has always processed things slower in this form, its always been a comfort to him, a way to escape his overflowing thoughts for a few hours when he shifts. Before he can work himself into a panic, remembering the car crash and the run for his life, a heavy but gentle hand is slowly making its way down his small body and soothing him with its touch.

And he remembers, fully, as consciousness creeps back in, and he knows he’s safe here, that the body he’s lying on, the wild-pine-fresh rain scent seeping into his nose, the deep even breaths and steady beating of a heart in his ear, it’s all Peter, and combined it rattles around in Stiles’ brain as safety, and comfort, and hints of home, a home he hadn’t allowed himself to think of before, but one he could get inexplicably lost in.

It feels so good, better than anything has felt in so long that Stiles just wants to bask in it, soak it all up and bottle it away so he never forgets. The pain in his body is almost non-existent to this overwhelming feeling and he feels overly emotional, like if he was human he might be in tears. His heart tugs at him, recognizing something he hasn’t even named and he can't put too much thought into it, not really, he’s feeling too fragile, too vulnerable, while at the same time feeling so thoroughly protected and safe. Cared for. He nuzzles the throat of the wolf under him, their positions having not changed since they fell asleep, purrs and drags his tongue over the skin under his mouth.

Peter’s heart skips, a singular beat out of rhythm, but Stiles notices, hell he can't help but to notice, the majority of his senses taken up by all that is Peter. The wolf’s chest rumbles, in a rough sort of growling, but low and calming, as close to a purr as Stiles thinks he can get. It only amplifies his feelings, makes the as yet unnamed thing in his heart grow, and Stiles sinks into it, sinks into Peter and just lets himself exist in Peter’s presence.

Stiles couldn’t tell you how long they stay there, him purring, Peter rumbling and stroking the soft fur on his back, avoiding his ribs, always so careful and gentle. Eventually though the spell is broken, Peter getting up, a firm hand supporting Stiles to his chest the whole time and Stiles doesn’t even move. Contenting himself to just being wherever Peter has him. Apparently that is to the bathroom with Peter going about his morning routine all the while holding Stiles to his bare chest single-handedly. Stiles doesn’t so much as twitch when Peter turns on the faucet for the shower, but before he even forms the thought of Peter trying to shower with him, and in hindsight he’d think about how silly of an idea that was, Peter is putting him down on the floor of the bathroom.

Stiles gets his feet under him, sitting haphazardly due to his splinted rear leg, and then Peter is speaking to him and pointing out something on the floor.

“I have a litter box for you,” and this is the thing Peter is pointing at, “don’t go making a mess on the floor. I’ll be out of the shower soon.” Peter gives him a quick little scratch behind the ears before turning and divesting himself of his shorts and stepping into the shower.

As much as Stiles remembers the little ass show from the night before, he’s able to turn his head away now, trying to give as much privacy as possible, since it’s not right for him to spy on Peter like this, the man can’t consent, and it’s not like Stiles ever thinks he would have a chance with seeing the older wolf like this with his permission. He only turns his head back when he hears the click of the shower door close, and is very thankful for the opaque nature of the glass obscuring his view.

He hobbles over to the litter box, and he gets it, he does. Peter thinks he’s a cat, therefor it’s normal to give a cat a litter box. That is how logic works. However Stiles has never once had to sink so low as to using one, preferring to keep that shred of dignity intact, and thus he turns his nose up at it now. He has mastered the art of using the toilet and he’ll be damned if he’s prevented that now.

Stiles surveys the room all while testing the weight he’s able to bear on his broken leg and the amount of movement he’s able to achieve. Under normal conditions, this would be an easy feat, but in his current state he’s having to try to calculate height and jump distances and chances of success versus either falling on his ass or falling in the toilet itself. He glances back over at the unassuming litter box. The bane of his existence. It would be so much easier. It would, he knows, again, that’s logic for you. But that would also mean that Peter would have to deal with it. And that’s a level of shame and embarrassment that Stiles doesn’t think he could reconcile himself with, whether or not Peter ever found out about Stiles being the cute little chocolate kitten he was currently taking care of.

The jump is made, just barely, but Stiles is able to right himself and breathe through the pain, and most importantly, he thinks, he didn’t alert Peter. Stiles balances and is able to do his business, in the most dignified way this form allows, and is even able to work out a way for him to flush as well. The water only just starting to swirl and drain when the shower door wrenches open quickly, Peter’s eyes zeroing in on Stiles’ and a small smirking smile making it’s way onto Peter’s wet and slightly flushed face.

“Well aren’t you a clever little one,” the wolf remarks before retreating back to his shower and closing the door.

Yes, yes I am’ Stiles nods and thinks to himself. Pleased with Peter’s praise and with his own relatively small accomplishment.

He makes his way out of the bathroom, Peter having left the door ajar, and hobbles around in the bedroom before going to explore the rest of the apartment. He’s never been here before, not really. He only knew where Peter lived in the last six months or so, having finally tracked down the rental records and linking back the shell company Peter uses to pay his expenses with back to the man. He knows Peter values his privacy, almost to paranoia, but it’s not like Stiles had ever intended to do anything with the information. He only knows it like he knows most everything else, because he needs to know, it’s that insatiable curiosity that drives most of his research binges.

So yes, he knew where Peter lived, had it ingrained in his brain along with the rest of his horde of information about the people important to him in his life, and he may have seen a potential layout of the building and it’s apartments but he’s never been here, doesn’t think that anyone else actually knows where Peter lives either. And the mystery that is Peter Hale is like catnip to Stiles. Making him hungry for every little thing he can get his hands on concerning the man. What once started out as a way to protect himself and the Pack against a potential enemy grew into something more, something other. Peter unknowingly carved out a place for himself inside Stiles’ heart and Stiles would do anything for those he cares about, including Peter.

He’s not sure when the shift happened, the change from enemy to reluctant ally, then real ally into research partner and acquaintance, to something resembling tentative friendship. Hell, he’s not sure that Peter would call them friends, but Stiles likes to think they are. Wishes at times that it could be more.

Because Stiles isn’t blind, and he isn’t stupid, and he sees Peter. He thinks he can understand the wolf better than most, he gets his dry humor and sarcasm, is able to keep up with his cunning mind and appreciate when Peter knows to go for the throat versus when to gather intel. And that doesn’t even scratch the physical being of Peter. Because the man is objectively gorgeous, and Stiles has had any number of fantasies starring the wolf, but he always makes sure to rein it in in his presence. The last thing he wants to do is broadcast all his lustful feelings to a bunch of werewolves, the object of which wouldn’t be receptive to him.

The side of Peter he’s seen in the last day though, it makes his insides gooey. That tug in his heart insistent and demanding attention, demanding recognition and validation and Stiles isn’t sure he could survive naming it. A crush is one thing, sexual objectification – while not exactly good, can at least pretend to be innocent when you aren’t inflicting yourself on that person – but this unnamed thing, the word on the tip of his tongue and the edges of his brain could be the thing that tears Stiles apart from the inside out.

How would he survive it? How would he go about like nothing has changed? How could he bear to look Peter in the eyes again and not word-vomit his unrequited feelings all over the man? And Stiles is used to rejection, he is, lords knows Lydia has been rejecting him for over half his life as well as anyone else that Stiles has tried to put himself out there for. But he doesn’t think he could handle Peter doing the same.

He ruthlessly shoves all unnamed and feelings away, locking it up in a box in his mind and his heart, resolving himself to keep with the status quo. Nothing good can come from a change like this Stiles thinks to himself. He goes back to Berkley in a few weeks anyways; he can use the endlessness of school as his distraction and try to get over it – over Peter – before he lets it take root even more.

He wasn’t aware of the time passing, of things happening around him as he was lost in his own spiraling thoughts but suddenly he’s being scooped up, he squeaks out a startled sound, and is then being pressed to Peter’s chest, the last of a chuckle shaking his chest.

“Silly little thing, just sitting in the middle of the floor, what were you doing, hmm?” Peter mumbles out softly, his thumb sweeping across Stiles’ backside as the rest of his hand holds him firmly.

Stiles’ tail twitches, swishing back and forth on Peter’s arm in time with the thumb rubbing his fur. God it’s nice. He wishes he could say that he wishes it wasn’t, but in this he’s wholly selfish. Stiles hasn’t been pet since his mother was alive. He’s shifted before, many times, but never around another person, and has always run whenever anyone happened to come across him. He missed this. So much. Too much. In distancing himself as a feline though, he also didn’t realize he had done the same as a human too. And now Peter has indulged him, petting and stroking and scratching him so gently, so carefully, and Stiles is realizing how starved for that contact he really is.

The sad thought crosses his mind and he wonders if the same is true for Peter as well.

For how much Peter is touching him, he thinks it might be.

He purrs and drifts, eyes closed and just soaks it all in, he knows it’s only temporary and with the way he’s becoming addicted, the withdrawal will be a bitch. He focuses on the sensations, etching the feeling into his brain for later recall. For when memories will be all he has left. Because above all else, he knows this can't last.

The day passes by uneventfully. After Stiles’ refusal to eat the kitten chow that Deaton had so helpfully provided Peter yesterday, and that’s where the litter box came from too apparently, Peter had fed him more grilled chicken and water laced with a drop or two of medicine to keep Stiles relatively pain free. Stiles was just content to curl up on Peter’s chest while the wolf watched TV or read at length. Stiles can't remember a time he was so happy to just be, to not think, not worry, to just exist in another’s presence. Night comes hours after they ate dinner together and Peter once again settles Stiles on his chest, he inches his way under the wolf’s chin, nuzzling into his throat and relaxes into blissful sleep.

Chapter Text

The next day is much the same, but Stiles is feeling wholly better, his ribs have healed and his leg feels astronomically better. He could probably lose the restricting brace but he has no way to tell Peter that, and that would be too much of a tip-off to the savvy wolf anyways that the kitten he’s caring for isn’t quite what he seems. So Stiles deals with the impediment as well as he can instead of trying to chew or claw the thing off himself.

In the afternoon though, Peter gets a call.

It’s not hard for Stiles to listen in on the conversation, proximity to the phone making it so he doesn’t even have to stretch his supernatural hearing.

“Hey Peter,” Derek says from the line with a sigh, voice small and tinny through the connection.

“Nephew,” Peter greets, not unkindly but not overly warm and welcoming either. “To what do I owe the pleasure?”

“Look, have you heard from Stiles?”

“Stiles?” Peter questions.

Stiles can hear the huff from the Alpha before he says, “yes, Stiles. Have you seen him, or talked to him?”

Stiles can hear Scott in the background asking impatiently “well?”

“No,” Peter gets out slowly, “I have not. Should I have?”

“Dammit” Scott curses distantly, and Peter can obviously hear it as well as Stiles can because he says, “Derek, what’s going on?” His tone doesn't give anything away, but Stiles can hear the slightest of upticks in the normal steady rhythm of Peter’s heartbeat.

“Parrish was on patrol the other day and found Stiles’ Jeep. Looks like he was in an accident but no one has been able to locate Stiles.” Derek responds.

“When?” Peter asks a little sharply.

“Huh?” Comes the unintelligent reply from Derek and Stiles doesn’t even need to look at Peter to know the wolf is pinching the bridge of his nose in irritation.

“Derek, when was Stiles’ car found? How long has he been missing?” Peter grits out with as much patience as he can muster. Stiles can scent the worry and concern and annoyance from the wolf. He purrs and bumps his head against Peter’s chin in comfort.

The hand that was holding him is back now, stroking his fur, and Stiles can feel the tenseness leaving Peter in slow increments.

“Yesterday, but Parrish thinks the crash happened before then. The scents were older, fainter, he estimated at least an additional day maybe two but he couldn’t be sure.” Derek says, and then asks in a confused tone, “Peter, what the hell is that sound?”

Stiles didn’t realize he was purring loud enough for it to be picked up by the other wolf, but he must be, Peter answers with a distracted sounding “nothing” anyways, and Stiles knows the man well enough to know he’s running through a thousand and one possible scenarios.

“When was the last time someone talked to Stiles or saw him?” Peter asks instead.

“No one could be sure since it’s summer break, but at least four days from the last text Scott has.” Derek answers.

“Just, the Pack is looking and the Sheriff’s department too, so can you keep an eye out as well?” Derek’s tone is gruff but sincere in his request.

“Of course Nephew,” Peter answers back. “Let me know if you find him.”

“Okay. Thanks” Derek replies and the call ends.

Peter puts the phone down on the couch and Stiles can feel the tenseness, there are emotions that he can pick up, but just barely, like Peter has such a tight control on them that he can't sparse what they could be or mean. He’s trying to focus and misses Peter placing a call, only tuning back in to hear the line ring and ring.

When it picks up it's to Stiles’ own voicemail message cheerfully calling out “you’ve reached Stiles, leave a message, or you know, text like normal people.”

Peter sighs at the message but waits for the beep, “Stiles, it’s Peter, call me.”

The call ends and Peter tosses the phone to the side, curses under his breath “fucking hell Stiles” and Stiles feels guilty as shit.

While he’s been off in la-la land, playing house pet to Peter Hale, he’s been worrying his dad, his friends, and he’s a fucking piece of shit for putting them all through that. He should have just gotten fixed up and then snuck out the minute he was able to. He shouldn’t have let himself get lost in the comfort and safety that Peter was offering when it wasn’t his to keep. It was a fantasy of something he can never really have and instead of facing reality like a goddammed adult he’s been hiding away in the literal lap of luxury.

“Shh, shh, little one,” Peter’s voice comes out so soft and soothing and Stiles doesn't know why, why he’s saying that “what has you so upset, hmm?” and that only adds to the confusion, whines and whimpers in the air around him and it takes Stiles too long to realize it’s coming from him. Vocalizing the distress he’s feeling, the guilt and shame, and Peter, fucking Peter, is trying to calm him down.

He cuts the noises off as soon as he comes to recognize that he’s making them, he shudders in Peter’s hand and pushes his head into his chin and just remains still and quiet. He can't do anything right this moment, not without arousing Peter’s suspicions, he just has to wait until Peter is asleep or leaves or something so he can sneak out like he should have done already.

“Little one?” Peter questions, his gentle hand petting down Stiles’ back.

Stiles doesn’t move, doesn’t make a sound aside from his breathing. Peter tenses further, and Stiles has a fleeting thought that Peter has figured it out, that he knows. But Peter just picks him up carefully and holds him a little ways from his chest so he can look at Stiles fully. Peter is frowning as he looks Stiles over, and the confusion is plain on his face as well, but it doesn’t seem like he finds whatever he’s searching for and settles Stiles back on his chest.

“I don’t know what’s wrong, but it’ll be okay,” Peter says softly, resuming stroking Stiles’ fur.

And Stiles feels a little bit gutted by that, he doesn’t deserve Peter’s kindness. Yet he craves it, like he craves the man’s touch, his attention. He wants so much, but he can't have it, shouldn’t even have it now.

The rest of the afternoon passes by with Peter getting increasingly agitated and exchanging a series of texts with someone that Stiles isn’t able to see who it is or what the messages are. Peter is gentle and careful with Stiles but he’s taken to pacing the apartment after dinner, the tightness to his shoulders is noticeable and he’s been muttering under his breath, too quiet even for Stiles to hear more than snippets of something with the inclusion of his name here and there.

There is another call before Peter is getting settled into bed, from Erica this time.

No greeting, Erica cutting right to the chase, “I’ve checked over every inch of the Jeep, there’s the faint scent of the hunters who attacked us a few weeks ago and blood, Stiles’, but I can't tell if that is older or because of the crash.”

“Has the Pack been able to locate the hunter’s camp?” Peter asks calmly, but Stiles can scent the worry that Peter can no longer keep so tightly under wraps.

“Not yet, tricky fucking bastards keep moving, we’ve only found the last place they’ve been so far.”

“What’s the Pack think?” Peter asks next.

“Pretty much everyone thinks he’s been taken by the hunters,” Erica answers back.

“And you?”

“I don’t know for sure. Something seems off. The Jeep was near the center of town, but the road he was on had the Preserve on one side of it. I don’t think they got him, or at least not initially. I think he got away and maybe ran into the woods to hide. I mean, aside from you and Derek, Stiles knows the Preserve the best out of any of us.” Erica says slowly.

“I think you might be on the right track, but if that’s the case, then where is he?” Peter states in response.

“I don’t know,” Erica says dejectedly, “I can't find a trail from the crash location since we didn’t know about it earlier, all the scent trails from the Jeep were washed away with the rain the other night. I only scented the hunters because it was inside the Jeep.”

“Which begs the question again, where is he?” Peter responds.

“What if he’s hurt? What if he got away and is holed up somewhere but is too hurt to make it back? I found his cell in the Jeep, wedged under the seat; it must have gotten stuck there in the crash.” Erica says.

“It’s possible he found a place to hide in the Preserve, I wouldn’t put it past him, but you’re right, if he was uninjured he should have made it back by now. And that’s assuming he didn’t get found by the hunters.” Peter reasons.

Erica sighs on the other end of the line.

“We’ll find him. I can head out tomorrow and search in the Preserve from the crash site. What mile marker was it?” Peter asks.

“Mile maker 36 on County Line Road. Can – I mean – do you mind,” she huffs and then, “I want to come.” Erica finishes determinedly.

“I’d never turn down help for something like this, meet me at the site at 10 and we’ll go from there, and thank you for letting me know what you found out from today,” Peter says sincerely.

“Okay. And yeah, of course, anything for Stiles,” Erica says easily and it warms Stiles’ heart as much as it twists the knife in his gut.

“Good night Erica,” Peter says with Erica answering in kind and the call ends.

Peter takes Stiles with him to bed, the third night now, and settles him on his chest. Stiles tries not to let the guilt overwhelm him and resolves to fix this tomorrow while Peter is out, and finally drifts off to sleep.

Chapter Text

Stiles is woken by Peter setting him down on a pillow as the wolf heads into the bathroom. He’s still lethargic from sleep and stretches and yawns himself into a more alert state. He knows he can't stay here any longer; he has to get back to reality and let people know he’s okay so they don’t have to worry about him anymore. He’s already worried them unnecessarily for long enough.

He doesn’t really have a plan though for getting out of the apartment without making himself known to Peter. He can't shift back, Peter would scent that Stiles had been here if he did and that’s a piece of information that he knows Peter would use to unravel his secret. Especially considering ‘human’ Stiles had never set foot in his den.

He follows Peter from the bedroom after he’s dressed and into the kitchen, Peter’s mind seemingly elsewhere and not paying attention to the chocolate fluff ball tottering after him through the apartment. It’s a strange feeling for Stiles, since he’s been here he hasn’t really had the opportunity to walk around the place much, Peter preferring to keep him close, holding him to his chest and taking Stiles with him wherever he goes. From his position only scant inches from the floor, he gets a new appreciation for how much bigger everything seems in comparison to how small he is in this form.

Peter is in the kitchen, cooking something for breakfast, and Stiles can't focus on trying to find a way out when he’s overcome with hunger at the smell of cooking meat. He twirls around Peter’s feet and meows quietly until Peter almost stumbles and is forced to pay attention to him. It’s a little manipulative, but Stiles can't be bothered to give a fuck. He misses the wolf’s attention when he doesn’t have it, and in a shorter time than he’d like, he won't have it at all anymore.

He wants whatever he can get away with while he can still have it. It makes him feel even guiltier, but he ruthlessly shoves the feelings away and resolves to deal with it later, or never, never sounds like a good plan.

Peter curses under his breath but bends down to pick up Stiles, speaking softly as he does, “sorry little one, I didn’t mean to forget about you, I’ve had a lot on my mind since yesterday.”

Stiles purrs, butting his head against Peter’s chest as he’s settled in what’s become his usual spot now. ‘No worries’ the action says and Peter seems to read that just fine, holding him steadily to his chest in his large hand with his thumb stroking Stiles’ backside. Stiles’ tail flicking back and forth on Peter’s arm, returning the affection.

Before long they are seated at, and in Stiles’ case on, the table and eating their respective breakfasts. Peter gives Stiles his pain medication in his water dish again, but Stiles can't afford to lose time due to the effects of the drugs and has to carefully lap up water from the dish, sticking to the edges and trying to avoid Peter’s watchful eye. Stiles can scent and taste the way the medication dissipates in the water, spreading out from the point with which the drops entered and keeps from lapping up a concentrated dosage. Luckily Peter is too distracted to pay attention to Stiles not behaving normally, or well, normally for a regular cat that is.

Peter clears away the dishes and takes Stiles with him to the couch, setting him down on a cushion and crouching down so he’s more level with Stiles.

“Alright little one, I need to go find a friend. Just rest here and try not to get into anything. I’ll be back soon.” Peter says as he pets down Stiles’ back carefully, having trained himself where was okay for his hand to go, avoiding any of the hurts that he previously discovered on Stiles from the vet visit. Not that Stiles isn’t already healed, but again, Peter doesn’t know that.

Peter sighs, and before he stands up again he leans over and kisses the top of Stiles’ head. Stiles has to suppress the burst of emotions that threaten to break from his iron-willed grip so as not to give himself away. He’s left sitting a little stunned and has to mentally give himself a shake to snap out of it.

Peter is already at the door though, shoes on and keys in hand and with a last glance at Stiles Peter leaves and locks the door behind him.

Stiles waits, hearing stretched out wide, listening to Peter take the stairs down and exiting the building, the open and close of his car door, the rumble of the engine and the sound of the vehicle driving further and further away until not even Stiles can hear it anymore. The snap back from his singular focus is disorienting, everything, every sound around his hearing range coming at him all at once and he has to take a few moments to filter everything back out, to let it all recede into the background. To relax into it to avoid from getting overwhelming and going into sensory overload.

With Peter now gone from the vicinity, Stiles has to make his move. He’s stayed too long and this might be his only opportunity to make a clean escape while leaving with his secret intact.

Part of him hurts to do it like this, to just leave without a trace, and he doesn’t want to even think about what Peter would think, coming home to find Stiles gone. He can't afford to think about it, if he does, he might just find a reason to stay. And he can't stay. This wasn’t what it was supposed to be. He was supposed to find a safe place, to heal up a little and then go home. He wasn’t supposed to see this side of Peter. Caring and gentle, soft and open, vulnerable.

He can't afford to think about how Peter might feel because part of it is hitting too close to how he feels. Except he knows who Peter is, knows who he’s been spending time with, who’s been unknowingly carving a place for himself inside of Stiles’ heart. But Peter doesn’t. Peter hasn’t a clue, and it’s not fair to him, in all the kindness Peter has shown him in these few days, to deceive him like this. Especially since Stiles is sure that as a human he wouldn’t have been treated like he has been. Peter may be going to look for a ‘friend’ but Stiles is pretty sure he barely counts as that on a good day. He’s never been the easiest person to be around, and he doesn’t need his enhanced sense of smell to know when people, or his friends, are frustrated with him.

‘Shut up, Stiles’ might as well be his name for as many times as Derek tells him that. And the rest of the Pack too, having taken their cue from the Alpha.

Point is, escape is now and the rest he’ll deal with, or ignore forever, later.

It doesn’t take long to spot it, the same window that he came in at, that leads to the fire escape, has been left open. Not much, mind you, and Stiles can only assume that Peter either didn’t realize it was open or didn’t think that he would need to shut it to keep Stiles in. The window is only open an inch, maybe an inch and a half, but Stiles has worked with worse and this should be relatively easy in comparison.

Probably the only thing that will be difficult will be dealing with the binding on his hind leg.

He makes it off the couch and up on to the window sill, from there it takes a bit of maneuvering to push the window up with any part of his body he can use. By the time he’s worked it open enough so his head can fit through he’s sore and panting. Stiles has to take some time to collect himself before making his way out and onto the fire escape.

With the hardest part done he limps down the stairs, movements limited with his bound leg. When he reaches the ladder he curses the world and his small form for making everything way more difficult than it has any right to be. Hopping and clinging haphazardly to each rung, steadying himself before doing it all over again he makes his way to the lowest window ledge before leaping to the dumpster and then finally down onto the pavement.

It’s exhausting. Stiles is exhausted and has only just begun to leave Peter’s apartment and he doesn’t even want to think about the daunting task ahead of him of making it across town and to the suburbs where his house is. He could really just use a nap on a warm chest right about now.

He pushes on though, he has to, the guilt of what his dad and friends are going through with him missing driving him to move. He scurries away from the buildings, from strangers with potentially grabby hands and to one of the roads that will lead him home. It’s going to be a long walk though.

Stiles stays to the shadows, as much as the broad daylight can provide, and treks along as fast as his little legs can take him. It’s been hours now. Hours with nothing more to do but put one paw in front of the other and maintain a forward momentum. It’s late into the afternoon before he makes it to his neighborhood, and finally, fucking finally, to the backyard of his house. The cruiser is missing from the driveway, and while at that moment it’s a relief, it still sends a pang to his heart thinking about his dad and how wrecked he must be with Stiles missing.

He slinks up to the back porch and over to an innocent looking flower pot before he claws off the binding on his leg. Once off he shifts, and pulls the key from underneath the pot, put there specifically for this reason, and gathers up the binding from the deck and makes his way inside. At least there are no neighbors who can see a naked Stiles from the outside or inside the house before he’s able to go up the stairs to his room. His leg is a little sore still, a residual ache in his muscles, but it’s not enough to cause him concern.

As a product of secrecy and paranoia, he buries the vet binding under old takeout containers in the trash and then retreats to the bathroom for a much-needed shower. He feels coated in grime after the long walk and cranks the tap to as hot as he can stand before stepping under the spray. Stiles stands there for long minutes just letting the water flow over his skin, turning the usually pale color a vibrant red from the heat. Before the temperature drops too much he scrubs away the filth, and reluctantly Peter’s scent too, from his body and washes his hair.

When he’s finally clean and brushes his teeth he gets dressed in his room. He lost his cell phone in the Jeep, knew that even before hearing Erica tell it to Peter, and sees that it hasn’t magically appeared in his room thanks to his dad and decides he’ll just have to walk to Scott’s house to let him know he’s okay.

Not that he has a good story for where he’s been this whole time. Although, he could spin what Erica had told Peter, that he was hiding out in the Preserve from the hunters after the crash. Unfortunately, an injury would really help sell the tale and he’s without any right now. He’ll just have to make due, blame his paranoid tendencies and that he thought he kept hearing hunters in the area where he was that prevented his escape until now. It’s thin, but Stiles resolves himself that it should work.

Before he leaves he replaces the key at the bottom of the flowerpot and heads down the road towards Scott’s house a few streets over. A third of the way there his stomach growls viciously and he wishes he thought to eat before leaving the house or had time for a nap, because what he wouldn’t give for a nap right now. But he didn’t and he’s not turning around, he’ll just convince Scott to order food once he gets there.

It isn’t until he’s a little over halfway to Scott’s that he gets the prickling sensation on the back of his neck that he’s being watched. Seconds later and he can hear the slow approach of a large vehicle, most likely an SUV, but it’s too far away for a regular human to reasonably be able to notice it. It would be too conspicuous for him to turn around and check, but he has a feeling in his gut that he knows exactly who is stalking him.

He picks up his pace as much as he can without it being obvious, lengthening his strides subtly. He can't run, he can't shift, all any of that would do is let whoever is tailing him know that he is something other than human. His mother’s words, her teachings, echo loudly through his head ‘no one can know, no one can ever know’. He can’t do a thing except let them get closer as he tries to close the distance between himself and Scott’s house.

They’re quiet, he’ll give them that, if he wasn’t focusing on them he wouldn’t have heard the opening and closing of the passenger side door as someone exits the slow-moving SUV to tail him directly on the sidewalk. Still too far away for it to be ‘normally’ noticeable.

The barbs of the Tazer hit his back, he wasn’t expecting it, but he wouldn’t have been able to do a thing to avoid it even if he was, he jolts, muscles spasming, as the current flows through him and he has to let himself succumb to it, toppling over and hitting the ground hard. He has just enough control of the fall to avoid smacking his head against concrete but the rest of his body takes the full impact. Nothing is broken, but things definitely should bruise, and conscious of that he slows his healing, effectively cutting it off, preservation of his secret is of the utmost importance.

It takes only moments for the SUV to speed up to where he dropped and the electric current isn’t even cut off until a hunter is right beside him, Stiles gets a look at the man, tries to vocalize a ‘what the fuck’ before he’s ruthlessly punched in the side of the head, the back of his head connecting with the concrete after all, and his vision goes from gray to black quickly as he loses consciousness. Fucking hunters.

Chapter Text

When he does come to he’s tied to a chair, the room is empty, concrete floor and walls, single door in or out and no window that Stiles can see without being able to turn around completely. His head throbs in time with his heartbeat and the back of his neck feels tacky. His arms are tied behind the chair, bound at the wrist and to a rung of the chair itself. Each ankle is strapped down to a leg of the chair as well, efficiently immobilizing him.

He twists his hands, testing the rope; it’s rough on his exposed skin and digs in harshly. No doubt he’ll have a good case of rope burn later. He works to keep his healing suppressed, remembering his mother teaching him to visualize it like a switch in his mind, determinedly turning it to ‘off’ for the duration of his stay at Hunter Inn and Suites.

Stiles still feels twitchy from the Tazer and he can't help that his mind goes back to the last time he experienced an electric current running amok through his muscles and lighting up his nerves. Gerard. It all comes back to that prick. Surprisingly enough, for as many times as Stiles getting kidnapped is a regular occurrence – not that the pack is privy to this information however – before this group of hunters Gerard was the last one to shock him. The man did enjoy his torture techniques and didn’t mind that Stiles was ‘human’ and couldn’t really take what he enjoyed dishing out to the werewolf inclined.

He still has nightmares sometimes, years later now, about the hours he spent in Argent’s basement. Can still hear Erica’s and Boyd’s screams intermingled with his own. The three of them never really talked about their time spent there, Stiles supposes there wasn’t a reason to, they all lived through it, and they all know what the other experienced at Gerard’s hand. The man wasn’t indiscriminate after all, what he dished out to one he happily did to the other two in his clutches. It was only luck that Gerard got called away to go play Master to the Kanima before he brought out torture toys that would have put into question Stiles’ lack of scars after their encounter.

As it was he had to dislocate his thumbs to slip the shackles and free himself before he could free Erica and Boyd. They had made it out of that basement that night and they just never talked about it, as far as Stiles knows the Pack doesn’t even know what really happened. Erica and Boyd had checked up on his healing for a few weeks after the attack but never in front of anyone else. It’s possible that his dad and the rest of the Pack believed his story about getting jumped by a rival lacrosse team. Erica and Boyd healed in hours after they escaped and then tucked metaphorical tail and ran back to Derek to beg his forgiveness.

Derek has been better since then, bringing everyone into the Pack, even Scott after the idiot’s betrayal. Stiles gave him hell for that, stood up to him for Derek, made him realize how not okay that even remotely was. It took a long time, months after, with Stiles working as their mediator before they could come to an agreement, to tentatively building trust with one another before Derek extended the offer of Pack to Scott and for Scott to accept without reservations.

With Scott came Melissa and with the Pack actually functioning well, Stiles finally asked permission from Derek to tell his father. The guilt from lying had just been eating away at him and destroying their relationship. Derek agreed easily and even went with Stiles and Scott and Melissa to let the Sheriff in on the supernatural secret. When Noah calmed down, put his gun away and was given proof, he accepted it better than Stiles could have anticipated. He wasn’t thrilled, he wanted to pull Stiles from all involvement, but he knew that Stiles wouldn’t go willingly, and he had proven something to the Pack, had been there and helped from the beginning and saved most, if not all, of their lives a few times. Stiles was Hale Pack, is Hale Pack, and Noah could do nothing to change that. As the lying stopped and open communication, well for the most part at least, reigned Stiles was able to build their relationship back up again and they were now closer than ever.

Well, most of the lying stopped, but Stiles has mostly stopped feeling guilty about not telling his dad the truth about himself for a long time now. That he wants to tell Peter more than his dad at the moment is a thought that he doesn’t want to examine too closely. He doesn’t want to know what that would mean about himself.

He’s not left with his spiraling thoughts for too long; eventually, the door opens to reveal two bulky looking hunters that wouldn’t look out of place among a weightlifting competition. Stiles knows that this isn’t going to be good. He’s heard four so far and has now seen three, the guy who Tazed him not currently among the two in front of him, and a woman’s commanding voice from another room.

The two don’t speak to Stiles as they take up positions on either side of him, he gets a moment to look warily between them and tries to start to speak, the word “what” barely out of his mouth before he’s hit with stunning synchrony. The hunter on the left landing a blow to his cheek and the one on the right a punch to the gut, Stiles’ head snapping to the side as all his breath his forced from him. The pain radiates out hotly from the points of contact and he has to gasp in a breath to try and breathe enough to process through the pain.

He doesn’t even get to attempt a word before they are at him for a second time, striking the same cheek again, and then a blow to his lower ribs, his neck straining with the aftereffects of the force of the hit and the definite feeling of bruising on his ribs. He’s barely caught his breath before they hit for a third time, one on each of his sides.

They work him over with ruthless efficiency, blow after agonizing blow, with no time to recover much more than a small breath in between. The pain is consuming and taking up all of Stiles’ focus and he has to struggle just to remain conscious. He can taste blood in his mouth, feel it dripping from a cut somewhere near his eye, his lip is split and he knows he felt more than a few ribs crack and give way under the onslaught. He’d scream out his pain if he had breath to do so but can’t manage more than pained grunts, his head lolling towards his chest when one of the hunters isn’t grabbing his hair to hold him upright for another hit.

He doesn’t notice the presence of a new person, missed the opening and closing of the door, but suddenly there is a voice over the internal sounds of Stiles’ blood rushing in his ears and the frantic pounding of his own heart.

“Enough,” the voice says, the female he’s only heard before now, it’s commanding but not sharp, firm in its order to be obeyed without question.

The attack ceases instantly and Stiles takes the precious time to gasp in air to his deprived and burning lungs, swinging his head just enough to spit out the saliva and blood that had been gathering in his mouth onto the floor to his side.

It hurts, everything hurts, his shoulders are pulled tight, wrists rubbed raw from the rope, ribs broken and face hot and swollen so much he can barely see out of that eye. His vision is spotty and the multitude of his injuries throbs to the beat of his heart in his chest. He doesn’t register the men moving away and the woman stepping closer, losing little chunks of time in his struggle to handle the pain.

But she’s in front of him now, crouching down to his level and lifting his chin up with a firm hand. She tilts his head this way and that and the movement causes bile to rise in his throat. As hungry as he was before he’s glad now that he hadn’t eaten, he would have only thrown it all up at this point.

She tsks, at him or at something else Stiles isn’t sure.

“Poor thing, if you only knew where you belong we wouldn’t have to do this to you. This is the price you pay for the company you keep,” she utters in a deceptively warm voice like she feels sorry for Stiles.

Stiles would scoff, would make a comment, but talking would take too much energy, and he’s not feeling stupid or reckless enough to goad her into another beating. He stays silent instead, because as much as people may complain about his mouth nonstop, he actually does know when to keep it shut, thank you very much.

“Cut him loose,” she says next, retracting her hand and letting his head fall back to his chest. He has to contain his surprised reaction at the statement, but it’s not like he’s very threatening right now, so it’s a moot point.

When the ropes are gone he has to fight just to stop himself from toppling over out of the chair, but he gingerly brings his hands to his lap, flexing his fingers to restore the circulation.

“You and I will talk later. But think on this, your association with the pack has led to where you are now. Do they really deserve that loyalty? Do you deserve to be injured and bleeding on their account? To die for them?”

Stiles immediately knows the answer, he would do anything for his Pack, and they would do the same for him, but again he keeps silent. He watches the three of them leave and hears a metal bolt sliding into place when the door is closed. As carefully as he can manage it he levers himself from the chair and goes to the furthest corner of the room and sits down, eyes trained on the door, he gets as comfortable as he can be surrounded by concrete and resolves to not move again until it isn’t so fucking painful to do so.

He’s tempted to allow himself to heal, but it’s been so long since he’s had to mentally direct his healing to one bodily location while avoiding others and he doesn’t think being on the verge of passing out is the time to try it again. If he healed too much they would know. Instead, he closes his eyes and breathes as much as he can with the restriction of his broken ribs.

Chapter Text

Stiles doesn’t know how much time has passed since he took up residence in his corner of the room, he’s fairly certain he passed out, but again he doesn’t know for how long. He comes to slumped over on his side with his knees drawn up, he’s cold, the concrete leaching any body heat from him and making him shiver. Shivering, as it turns out, is painful as hell on Stiles’ abused body.

He’s barely managed himself back into a seated position when the door opens again, revealing the woman from before. Stiles watches as she goes to the center of the room and straddles the chair he was previously bound to, staring directly at Stiles, assessing him.

She leans down and rolls a water bottle to him, it comes to a stop next to his thigh, and as thirsty as he now realizes he is he makes no move to take it.

“It’s sealed and un-tampered with,” she prompts after watching him closely for a few minutes.

He regards her with the caution she deserves and warily takes the bottle and cracks the top open. He drinks slowly, having experienced what would happen if he guzzled the water down like his dry mouth and aching throat wants him to do. After a third of the water is gone he screws the cap back on and sets it to his side for later. The last thing he wants to do is throw up with the way his ribs feel.

“Have you thought about what I said?” She asks calmly.

“What do you want?” Stiles counters with a rasping voice.

“I want the Pack, the Alpha specifically, but you already know that.” She gives back easily.

He hums a little but says nothing else. He did know, but it’s nice to have confirmation.

“What they are is unnatural,” she says now, as if he prompted her for an explanation, “all I’m doing is restoring the natural order of things, making sure the Alpha can't hurt any more humans, make more abominations, more monsters to fill the world with.”

Stiles snorts, he can't help himself because she is so thoroughly convinced in her cause, she’s radiating her belief in her convictions so strongly it practically drowns out all the other scents in the room.

“You don’t agree I take it?” She asks, and she’s curious where he thought she might be condescending.

“No. I don’t.” Stiles answers curtly.

“Alright,” she states, like she’s giving him a pass, “what do you think then?”

“I think the majority of the ‘monsters’ of the world don’t howl on a full moon.” He snarks.

She chuckles, “I’ll give you that one. Humans fuck shit up enough on their own without being supernatural. But my point still stands, werewolves are dangerous; they have too great an advantage over the majority of humans in all things and could kill or turn without thought or mercy. However they came to be in existence never should have happened but it’s my mission to correct that oversight, that error and restore the natural balance in the world.”

“So you’re fanatical? Great. I’m still not buying what you’re selling.” Stiles replies sarcastically.

“It doesn’t have to be like this. You’re human; you belong with us, not the wolves who wouldn’t give a damn about what happened to you.” She states.

“I am human, but it’s never been wolves kidnapping and beating me. No, that’s always been something that other humans have done.” He sneers. “And you know nothing about my Pack, whatever you have seen of other wolves, of other Packs, we aren’t like that. We care about each other, we care about this town, and we protect it and each other.”

“I can see you are deep in your delusions. They have you so brainwashed that you don’t even notice. But if they did care then where are they?” Her tone is borderline pitying and Stiles hates it.

“They will come for me. And when they do you’ll be wishing like hell you never laid a finger on me let alone stepped foot in Beacon Hills.” Stiles spits venomously.

“I’m truly sorry that that’s what you have to say. Remember this conversation for later; remember that it doesn’t have to be this way between us. I only want to know where the Alpha and pack are and then you would be free to leave. You only have to ask, to tell me, and it will all stop.” She says, pitying notes still in her voice and in her scent but her heartbeat gives no indication of a lie, before rising from the chair and leaving the room.

“Fuck,” Stiles curses under his breath. He has no doubt that the Pack will find him, but he’s not looking forward to the underlying promise the hunter left him with, he knows that the men from before will be back and the beatings and pain will resume anew. He just wishes his Pack could hurry the fuck up for once, especially since he can't get himself out of this like the times he has before.

No, the hunters planned this all too well. The room is too secure and he’s noticed that of the four he’s identified that not all of them are in the building at the same time. Even if he wasn’t in too much pain to shift and fight his way out it would leave him open for exposure until he could track down the fourth hunter and kill them. Because Stiles is nothing but honest to himself, he would have to kill them, he can’t afford Scott’s sunny optimism that people can change, he’s more practical and knows when to neutralize a threat rather than letting it fester and come back to bite him on the ass. In this, he and Peter are very much aligned.

And bite him on the ass it would. The men here might be muscle but the woman is dangerous in her extremist ways, and smart, and she spins a tale that would easily draw followers to her and expand the extermination efforts of werewolves. So no, when all of this is over the hunters need to die; well, if they don’t happen to do that in the process of the Pack rescuing Stiles that is.

For now, all he can do is sit and wait.

Chapter Text

He’s lost time, and reality crashes back around him with a pained shout from a kick to the ribs. The two men waste no time, one hauls him upright with a grip under his arms, Stiles’ feet barely under him to support himself with when the other starts laying into him. The man delivers hit after hit like Stiles is nothing more than a fleshy punching bag. Stiles had a moment, in the beginning, to try and lash out, kick out at his forward attacker or back to the man holding him, but the hunter wrenched his arm behind him so hard it damn near popped out of socket and was enough to deter Stiles’ retaliation efforts.

He zones out from the repetitive nature of the abuse and slumps in the other hunters hold, not bothering to try and hold his own weight. The onslaught continues regardless and Stiles just clings to consciousness as best as he can.

Again the beating only stops when the woman comes in and puts a halt to the proceedings. The difference this time is Stiles is left to gravity’s lack of mercy when the hunter holding him abruptly releases him. He hits the cement hard and must pass out for a little bit because it’s only him and the woman when he can open his eyes. Well, his one eye, the other having swollen shut from the previous round.

She’s sitting next to his crumpled form and he doesn’t even know if it’s worth the pain to try and sit up at this point. He holds no power here, he doesn’t feel the need to try and preserve his dignity by putting himself in more pain to do so. They hold different ideologies, he respects her in the sense that he knows she holds the power in this situation and he knows to be cautious in his dealings with her, but he knows she thinks he’s delusional so she’d never respect him unless he came over to her way of thinking.

Instead, he watches her watch him. Eventually she sighs and holds up a bottle in front of his face, the water bottle he had from before, and she unscrews the cap and brings it to his lips, tilting it enough so he can take small sips, the excess running down the side of his face at the awkward angle he’s in.

Stiles stops before she does, keeping his mouth closed because he’s feeling too nauseous from the overwhelming pain to continue drinking. She takes the physical cue, recaps the bottle and sets it aside.

“Do you want it to stop now?” She asks.

“Fuck you lady,” Stiles croaks out.

He watches as she hangs her head and shakes it. She gets up and moves to the door, before she shuts it behind her she says, “we’ll talk again later.”

Stiles drifts in and out of consciousness. He welcomes the blackness as a temporary relief from the immeasurable amount of pain he’s in. He does small self-assessments when he’s awake, nothing feels permanently damaged, though he has several broken ribs and is fairly sure he’s more bruising than pale skin. His head is slightly concerning, he knows he probably has a mild concussion at least and his eye being swollen shut isn’t doing anything to stop the paranoid thoughts that he’s going blind.

He tries to think about how long he’s been here and work that out to how much longer he has until the Pack finds him but he can't make heads or tails out of the passage of time so far. He thinks he’d be hungry if he wasn’t so sick from the pain, but that isn’t a good indicator of time either. Slowly his mind just starts to spin, too many thoughts to process at once but Peter underlying all of them, he just wishes Peter – and the Pack – would hurry their furry asses up already. Find me, Peter, fucking find me already. He sinks into the blackness more than he probably should.

 

*~*~*

 

Peter is livid. Has been livid and will probably continue to be fucking livid until Stiles is found. It’s been four days since he met Erica at the site of Stiles’ crash and spent the day searching the Preserve for him. Then, he comes back to his apartment and the kitten he’s been taking care of is gone. He doesn’t remember leaving the window open, but it’s the only place in the apartment where the kitten could have gotten out from. So he spent the night looking for a tiny chocolate kitten thinking the fucking worst. And no sign of him. No sign of Stiles earlier either.

Oh, Peter caught the scent of the kitten, so intermingled with his own he could have tracked it for miles, but then it started to pour, and with the rain the scent washed away in a matter of half an hour. Leaving Peter at a crucial intersection that could have led to the Preserve, to the suburbs or to the other side of town and no indication where to head next. He hopes that the little thing had found a nice home, some loving family to take him in. As much as Peter enjoyed having him around, obviously it wasn’t what the kitten needed or wanted.

No matter how much Peter might have wanted or needed. No matter how attached he had gotten to the small animal in such a short amount of time. No matter how much the little thing was helping him in ways the kitten would never know, in ways Peter wasn’t even sure he could name.

By the time he walked back to his apartment, it was past midnight and he was soaked to the bone and freezing in a way he had never experienced before. He had taken a hot shower to warm back up and collapsed into bed and a restless sleep.

The next day he and Erica searched again but they still were unable to find anything and tracking by scent was useless with the fact it rained twice since Stiles’ crash. It didn’t stop them from looking in every conceivable hiding place they could find in the hopes of finding Stiles. And then doing it all over again the next day in what was becoming a fruitless attempt at finding something, anything. But after three days of searching and coming up empty each evening, they knew they had to change tactics.

On the fourth day Erica suggesting starting from Stiles’ house, Peter didn’t see the point, was already beyond frustrating with finding nothing, but no matter how he snapped at her she just tugged him along until they were climbing into his bedroom window.

It was a bit of a break. A small clue. Stiles’ scent was there, and really that should be a given, but it was fresh, only days old instead of the over a week the Pack was suspecting he had been gone for. Peter couldn’t make sense of it. If Stiles had been home, if he hadn’t been with the hunters for that whole time then why not say something, why not call someone? And where the hell was he from the time of the crash to when he was back at home? And where is he now?

“I don’t know!” Erica says harshly, at the end of her rope, and it’s then that Peter realizes he’s been asking his questions out loud.

Peter just shakes his head, she’s on edge, he’s on edge. They snap at each other because the cause of their frustrations isn’t here for them to take it out on directly and they have too many questions without answers.

He doesn’t expect her to speak but she does, taking a seat on Stiles’ bed as he paces the room. “Alright, let’s think this through. WWSD.”

“W – W – what?” Peter asks in his confusion.

“What Would Stiles Do,” Erica says offhandedly. “So, he’s run off the road, the hunters crashing into his Jeep. He gets away, because I really don’t think they got him then.” Which lets Peter know that she thinks they do have him now; it makes his gums itch, his fangs wanting to descend and tear into anyone who would dare harm Stiles.

“He takes off, injured or not, hides out in the Preserve. He stays there, maybe they were patrolling in the area and it wasn’t safe for him to come out, it’s not like the Pack has been checking, but eventually he can leave, and makes it back home. How old do you think his scent is right now? You have a better nose for it than I do.” Erica asks.

Peter takes a deep inhale around the room, “three days, maybe four, but I wouldn’t say more than five and the scent is too faint to be less than three days.”

“Okay, so three maybe four days, and the crash was three or four days before that, so he was out in the woods for almost three days…” she trails off and mutters “Jesus” under her breath, “it’s doable, and Stiles is stubborn enough to sit tight and wait it out long enough until he feels it’s safe to leave. So, if that’s what happened, and he makes it home finally, seemingly escaping the hunters, then what?”

Peter’s been looking around the room and notices now the towel at the top of the clothes hamper recently saturated in Stiles’ scent, pointing to it he says, “looks like he showered, but why do that first and not call someone?”

“Maybe he couldn’t? His cell was in the Jeep and I think the Sheriff still has it.” Erica reasons.

“No landline though? Or why not use his laptop to try and get a message out to someone instead.” He says and waves a hand to the laptop in question.

“He wasn’t thinking right?” Erica says on a shrug, “He’d been missing for days at that point, he knows how we’d be worried about him,” Peter nodding along and effectively proving her point without trying, “so what does he do?”

“No phone, no Jeep, running on instinct,” Peter muses, “so who’s closest to the house?”

“Scott?” Erica questions, “you think he would’ve headed to Scott’s house?”

“It’s an idea.” Peter runs a hand through his hair to try and control his frustrations, “I mean, it’s only conjecture and speculation at this point, who knows what the hell Stiles was doing or where he was, and we won't know for sure until we ask him, but it makes a sort of sense, and I could imagine Stiles doing it.” Peter states.

“He heads to Scott’s then, but obviously he doesn’t make it. The hunters have been looking for him, and catch him by surprise when he’s walking to Scott’s?” Erica questioningly concludes.

“It makes as much sense as anything else could. It still doesn’t get us closer to finding him though.” Peter says frustrated.

“No, but we’re working on a better timeline at least. I just had this gut feeling that he wasn’t taken before, but the same feeling is telling me he’s in trouble now.” Erica says uneasily.

“In that, I agree. Which means we need to find him sooner rather than later. Has the Pack had any luck in finding the hunter’s hideout?” Peter says.

“No, nothing yet, Boyd’s been keeping me well informed but everything so far hasn’t gone anywhere.” Erica looks up at him and narrows her eyes, “something wrong with your chest?”

Peter hums distractedly, “what?”

“You keep rubbing your chest, what’s up?” Erica replies.

Peter looks down, seeking visual confirmation, and yes, he is doing exactly as Erica stated, but he doesn’t know why. He takes a minute and focuses internally, latching on to the foreign feeling which has been manifesting as an ache – not unlike heartburn – in his chest and causing a physical reaction. It’s like a bond, similar to a Pack bond, but wholly its own. He can't for the life of him remember where it came from or when, but the more he thinks on it the more he feels uneasy. There’s a vague direction to the feelings and a gentle tugging sensation, which again, is similar to Pack bonds and then not. He’s never felt anything like it before, not completely.

Pack bonds, when they are good and strong and reciprocal can do a number of things. It can allow for a general emotional check between bonded, can assist in locating a bonded, and in extremes – the highest of highs and lowest of lows – can project and receive feelings so strongly that they can be mistaken as originating within oneself. Peter had Pack bonds like that growing up and before the fire. His bonds now are thin for the most part and easily ignored or forgotten with the rare exception of Erica’s which has been growing stronger. He’s never had a bond with Stiles though because bonds tend not to form with humans.

Though if he had to take a guess now, he’d guess that this new and strange bond connects him to one Stiles Stilinski. And Peter is nothing if not resourceful. He focuses more intently on it, trying to decipher what all it can tell him. He’s not surprised or deterred by the fact that it isn’t much, the key to bonds are their reciprocal nature, he won't get more than Stiles is willing to give and vice versa. And he largely suspects that Stiles is unaware of the fragile bond between them.

Direction though, which is surprising, is something he gets a generalized sense of, a pull wanting to lead him along. Vaguely back toward the industrialized area of town. When he opens his eyes he’s greeted with Erica staring at him intently.

“Back with me Peter?” She asks with slight amusement.

He nods, goes to the window and leaps out of it, Erica following behind him and without question. “I think I have my own gut feelings about where Stiles might be.”

Erica snorts, “I don’t care what it is as long as we can bring Batman home.”

“True,” Peter says succinctly and they climb into his car and head off toward the tug he feels and Peter prays to every deity he can think of that Stiles will be at the end it.

Chapter Text

The closer they get the better Peter is able to pinpoint where Stiles, he’s assuming its Stiles until receiving confirmation otherwise, is. He circles the block once, can't do it again without raising suspicions and then parks just at the edge of his and Erica’s hearing and scent range.

Erica’s been watching him intently as he’s driven but hasn’t said a word yet. She’s still watching him now as he nods over to a smaller abandoned building almost a block away. “What do you hear?”

Erica closes her eyes and he lets her have her time to focus, he’s impatient but he’s already gotten a cursory feel for the building and knows he can't rush this. For now, they have time, even if it makes him anxious and uneasy to be so close and not doing anything.

“Four heartbeats, human. One is slower than the rest though, sleeping?” Erica answers her words measured and careful with her focus.

“Focus on the slow one, what’s different, what’s familiar?” Peter asks. He already knows the answer but he needs her to know it too.

He watches as she strains her hearing, taking slow, even breaths, remaining calm. “It’s, slow but erratic. Like it’s not used to being slow, but it is, it,” she opens her eyes, shakes her head and looks at Peter, “it doesn’t make sense?”

He nods, because it does, but she probably isn’t used to having the particular rhythm so thoroughly memorized.

Peter watches when her understanding clicks into place, “Stiles,” she breathes out on a whine and then she’s moving, fast, but not faster than Peter, he grabs her arm and holds her back from opening the door.

“Stop, you have to stop, we can't rush in,” he gets out quickly but she’s already turning on him and shoving him off.

“What the fuck do you mean we can't rush in? He’s in there! We shouldn’t be waiting; we should be going to get him, not being out here and fucking around. What the fuck Peter?!” She snaps at him viciously.

“Just listen to me for a minute, trust me,” he grits out, “right now he’s okay, but we don’t know who all is in there or what traps could be set. We need to be smart about this. Stiles would tell us to think before going in half-cocked and you know that.”

She huffs but relents, “if they hurt him before we go in there I’m taking it out on your ass.”

“Of course. Now, focus again, scent, what do you smell?” He asks as calmly as he can, trying to work himself back from the edge he’s been on for too long.

Her jaw clenches but she rolls down the window on her side and takes a few deep breaths. It’s longer this time before she answers and Peter watches as she hesitates, debating with herself and taking more inhales of the outside air. Finally though, minutes later she seems to come to a response. “Men, three distinct scents, Stiles, and a woman.”

“And therein lays the problem. We have four hunters and a Stiles and only three hunters are currently present. We need that fourth hunter, at least to know who it is so we can track them down. Because I’m not going in there to ask them any fucking questions to figure out who it is. We need a clean sweep on this.” Peter says with determination.

“Fine,” Erica says reluctantly, “so we wait? We just sit here and wait?”

“For now. If something changes with Stiles before the fourth hunter comes back we go in, but for now, we wait.” He responds.

“I don’t like this,” Erica says petulantly and slumps down into the leather seat.

“I don’t either,” Peter reveals.

He takes a moment to monitor the building before pulling out his cell phone and dialing Derek. Thankfully Derek picks up after only the second ring.

“Peter,” the greeting is gruff.

“Nephew,” Peter responds coolly.

“What is it?”

“I know where Stiles is, park over on the corner of 28th and Vine. Bring Isaac and Boyd but leave Scott if you can. We have to wait for the fourth hunter to show before we can go in.”

Once upon a time, Derek wouldn’t take direction like this from Peter, but he’s come around to the fact that Peter is good at this, at the planning, at looking for tactical advantages, at eliminating threats. Derek doesn’t like it, he’s not Scott-levels of sunshine and optimism and thinking everyone can change if given the chance, but he doesn’t enjoy killing. He’ll do it, he’ll do what it takes to protect his Pack, but Peter knows he feels guilt over taking human life. Luckily for Derek, Peter has no such guilt, especially when it comes to someone who has harmed, or threatens to harm, the Pack. It is what made him an excellent Left Hand to Talia. And though it may not be official, he’s been allowed to reprise his role as Left for Derek.

“Do you know if he’s okay?” Derek asks a little softer than before.

“Not yet, his heartbeat is strong, but slow, he could be asleep or unconscious. I don’t know for sure yet and can't risk getting closer until we can strike.”

“Should I call his Dad?”

“Do you want to deal with holding the Sheriff back? Or worse yet, police procedure and hostage negotiations?” Peter asks with a hint of sarcasm.

“I take it they aren’t leaving that building alive then Peter?” Derek asks on a sigh.

“No, they took Stiles and have been a threat to the Pack for weeks before that. This is what I do, Derek, I eliminate the threats and they have made themselves enemies of the Hale Pack and taken one of our own. I can't let them live.” Peter answers with steel in his tone, no room for arguments, Derek being the Alpha be dammed.

Peter feels Erica’s hand on his, giving it a brief squeeze before she removes her hand again. He doesn’t flinch at the contact, but just barely. He tries not to think about whatever it is that Erica thinks she knows.

“Okay. You know how I feel about it, but I won't stand in your way. Scott is going to have a conniption fit over it, you know that right? And I don’t know how Noah is going to explain this away, half the department has been looking for Stiles now.” Derek’s tone is resigned.

“I’ll deal with that later, and help him with a cover story to pass along for whatever reports he feels he needs. But I’ll do all that when they are dead and buried and Stiles is home safe.”

“Alright, I’ll text you when I park.”

“Leave Isaac or Boyd the keys, in case a hunter runs we can have them trailed.” Peter says as an afterthought.

“Okay. See you soon.” Derek responds and then the call disconnects.

Peter breathes out and takes a moment to reign in his emotions, he let himself get a little more heated than he would have liked with Derek and he can already see Erica quirking an eyebrow at him in his peripheral. He doesn’t want to talk about it. He’s been keeping a lid on his emotions so the damn puppies wouldn’t find out and say or do something stupid, but he has a feeling that Erica might be trying to decipher the clues he’s unwillingly given to her.

Erica eventually just gives him a small smile and closes her eyes, her focus solely on Stiles in the building. He thinks that’s the end of it, but then Erica says softly, “I care about him too.” He doesn’t say anything in response, what would he even say? He’s caught out, for some of it, but he’ll deny it all if he has to.

Derek sends a text less than 20 minutes later, he’s parked and waiting.

Time passes slowly; the activity in the building is minimal. He’s been able to discern that Stiles is in the east side, lower level, and that the hunters, all male, are concentrated in the north corner, utilizing a room, or rooms, on the ground floor. Since he’s been listening no one has ventured to where Stiles is, which is good, but Stiles hasn’t really moved much either. If Peter was an optimist, he would say Stiles is sleeping. But Peter has never been known for his optimism and can only conclude that Stiles is passed out or drugged unconscious. His fangs itch in his gums and his eyes glow under their thin skin covering.

“Car,” Erica says her voice slightly raspy from disuse hours later.

Peter nods, because he can hear it too, he sends a text off to Derek, ‘get ready’, and watches, listens and scents the air to see if this is their missing huntress.

Chapter Text

Gunfire, snarls, growls and the thudding of bodies hitting walls or floors is what Stiles comes conscious to. He doesn’t know how long it’s been. Measuring time has proven elusive, and eventually, he’s had to stop trying to keep from losing his damn mind and obsessing over it. He’s been starving, despite the amount of pain he’s in, for longer than he can count. But no one has been back to his room since the huntress the last time.

It was probably another tactic of hers, if the beatings weren’t making him compliant then perhaps good old-fashioned starvation would. The only thing his thoughts have been focusing on is the wish that Peter would find him, because Peter was safe, and Peter would help him. And Stiles likes Peter, probably more than he should, and definitely more than the wolf would want him to. It’s not like he can help who takes up residence in his heart though. Nor is he sure he would try to stop it if he could.

So in pain-filled, starvation fueled delirium, he’s prayed and wished and hoped with everything he could that Peter would come for him. Rescue him. And bring him back to the comfort and safety he’s been missing for longer than he would like to ever admit.

He knows the Pack is here, he might be struggling to make sense of what he’s hearing and trying to sit up through the haze and weakness of hunger and pain is making him want to slip back into blissful unconsciousness, but he can't allow himself that reprieve. Not when he’s so close to getting out of here finally. He can hear Derek’s and Peter’s growls, Erica and Isaac taunting a hunter or two before taking them out, a body slamming against a wall with a thud. There are gunshots, a few of which Stiles is sure have hit their mark, but it doesn’t seem to deter the Pack from wreaking havoc on the hunters holding Stiles.

He listens for as long as he can, it seems all at once endless and over so quickly. Suddenly Peter’s voice is barking out a sharp “Erica, lower-level, east side” while Stiles can hear a pained scream cut off by a wet gurgle.

He can only imagine the scene from the sounds filtering to where he is.

The bolt is sliding free from its hold and the door to his room is swinging open, Stiles pulls himself unsteadily to his feet, dizzy and vision wavering, in case he needs to fight whoever is going to be coming into the room. He refuses to die when the Pack – when Peter – is so close to setting him free.

Blonde curls are bounding their way to Stiles’ side and Stiles flinches back away from them, his brain not coming up with immediate recognition, head still pained and more than likely concussed. Excuse him for not being the sharpest right now. But the blonde slows down and looks at Stiles fully, hands out in a display meant to be non-threatening. And when the room stops spinning and his vision is less gray he can finally see that it’s only Erica. And that makes sense now, with Peter directing her where to go just moments before.

Erica comes to him slowly, and he shifts his stance, intending to come toward her as well, but he’s dizzy, so fucking dizzy, and almost stumbles to the floor. She grabs him quickly around the waist and he bites his tongue to keep from screaming in pain as she compresses ribs that are more broken than whole at this point in her effort to keep him upright.

Falling might have been less painful.

“Easy Batman,” she says softly, but she doesn’t realize that her grip is what is causing his face to screw up in pain, and he has to force himself to soften his features, make them more neutral, still biting his tongue and now squeezing his hands into fists to act as a counterpoint.

If she knew she’d make him go to the hospital. And the hospital is the last place Stiles wants to be. He could heal the majority of his injuries if he just has a little time to himself.

For now he mumbles out a quick, “I’m fine,” and lets her get an arm around him and his over her shoulders so she can walk him out of the room. The stairs might be literal hell as they walk up them agonizingly slowly until they make it back to the room where the rest of the Pack is waiting. He gets a quick glance at the absolute carnage that has taken place before Derek and Peter are fighting for his attention right in front of his face.

“Are you okay?” Derek asks at the same time as Peter says, “You’re hurt,” with a growl and a flash of his electric blue eyes.

“I’m fine, I’m fine,” Stiles mumbles out but he’s panting from the effort it’s taken to get up the stairs, regardless of how much Erica had taken his weight. And all that has done is exacerbate his injuries and he’s feeling back on the verge of passing out again.

Stiles doesn’t get to say much else because Peter is slightly shouldering past Derek and to Stiles’ other side and then Stiles is weightless, his head lolling, vision fading to black before coming back to normal – or as normal as it can be with only being able to see clearly out of one eye – with his head resting on Peter’s shoulder and Peter holding him in a bridal carry of all things.

Stiles would protest on principle alone, he is no fucking damsel, but it’s nice and he doesn’t hurt so much all of a sudden and he’s safe.

So maybe he won't be protesting like he thought he would.

Instead, he breathes in Peter’s wild-pine-fresh rain scent as his nose is almost buried in the wolf’s throat, nuzzling there unconsciously before he realizes what he’s doing and stops, and is then content to just be. It helps in blocking out the overpowering scents of blood, wolfsbane, and gunpowder that the rest of the room is saturated in.

Stiles closes his one good eye but he still listens to the rest of the Pack. Peter hasn’t moved since picking Stiles up and it hasn’t escaped Stiles’ notice that it’s because Derek seems to be blocking his path.

“Peter,” Derek says and there is a warning there in the way he says Peter’s name.

Peter doesn’t care or isn’t affected by it because he says curtly, “I’m taking him home.” Like the wolf doesn’t expect to be challenged on this by anyone else.

“Boyd, Isaac and I will do clean up, promise,” Erica’s voice pipes up from somewhere on the side of Stiles and Peter.

Stiles knows he would never be meant to hear it, being ‘human’ and all, so he has to repress a chuckle when Isaac says under his breath, “I didn’t promise shit.” But Erica growls at him all the same and Isaac isn’t stupid enough to fight Erica on this.

“You remember what I taught you?” Peter directs at Erica.

“Of course. It’ll be cleaned up as if you had done it yourself. Now, take him home.” Erica finishes firmly and Stiles imagines she has her hands on her hips and is challenging Peter as much as she’s challenging Derek into letting Peter pass.

Peter goes to move, Stiles can feel him taking a step, but then there is a hand on Peter’s arm, brushing up against Stiles’ body as well, and Peter is growling, Stiles able to easily feel the vibrations against his side from the wolf’s chest.

“Peter, let me know if he needs to go to the hospital.” Derek says, his tone leaving no room for argument, but he then adds, a little softer, “I’ll stay with the Betas and clean up, and then I’ll call Noah. You’ve got about an hour. Text me where Stiles is before that.”

“Okay,” is all Peter responds with and then Stiles is being carried out of the building like a rescued fair maiden.

He might not mind if Peter was always playing the role of the dashing prince.

Peter settles him into the passenger seat of his car and then he’s sliding into the driver’s seat and the car is pulling away from the street. Peter’s hand is holding his wrist, and Stiles knows that the wolf is still pulling his pain, he feels too good otherwise. He’s waiting for the other shoe to drop.

“You need a hospital,” Peter says quietly, and there it is, Stiles thinks.

“No hospital, I’m fine,” Stiles tries to rally but it’s a weak argument and he knows it, especially since Peter can feel exactly how not fine he really is.

“You’re in a lot of pain Stiles,” Peter says as a counter.

“I know, but no hospital,” Stiles says because there is no point in even trying to lie.

Peter huffs, and he sounds frustrated, hell, Stiles can smell his frustration, but he remains stubborn.

“No hospital Peter, I’ll be fine. I’ll heal.” Stiles says instead.

Peter growls, and Stiles is speaking again before Peter can say something else. “I don’t want to go, I don’t want dad to know how hurt I am. I can't stand to worry him like that. I probably have a concussion and a few cracked ribs, but I’ll heal and I’ll be fine. And my dad doesn’t need to know”

Peter growls louder, “he’s a grown man Stiles, and he’s your father, he’s going to worry regardless.”

“I know!” Stiles almost shouts, ending on a groan of pain for the strain it puts on his ribs. “Dammit Peter, I know, okay. But that doesn’t mean I’ll ever stop trying to protect him. It would hurt him to know how badly I’m hurt and I just, I can't do that to him, okay. Don’t ask me to, because I can't, and I won't. And, and it doesn’t matter because I’m nineteen and if you take me to the hospital I’ll refuse treatment and leave and be pissed at you for taking me in the first place.”

“You are a stubborn asshole,” Peter grinds out and Stiles quips back a quick, “I know.”

“Fine, but if you aren’t getting better I’m taking you anyway and having you declared mentally unfit to make your own medical decisions. And I’m stopping at Deaton’s and getting you painkillers.” Peter says as he changes lanes and heads towards the Vet’s office.

“Fine,” Stiles says as well and rests his head against the cool glass of the window.

He closes his good eye and must pass out for a little because the next thing he knows Peter is opening his door and carrying him into his house, up the stairs, and into his room.

“Can you stand for a shower? Or do you want me to run you a bath?” Peter asks as he sets Stiles down onto the bed.

Stiles looks up at him, blinking sluggishly, and weakly holds up his hand for Peter to help him stand. Peter tugs him carefully up by the hand and then curls his free hand around Stiles’ hip to keep him steady. Stiles is dizzy, hungry, but the pain level is better than before. Wolfy-pain-drain will do that to a person. He knows the feeling won’t last long but it should allow him to shower unassisted.

He moves his hand to grip Peter’s arm but allows the wolf to keep a hold of his hip, and nods towards the bathroom door. Stiles steps and Peter steps back, walking backwards into the room, as Stiles presses forward. He’s shaky and unsteady and probably would have struggled greatly without Peter’s help but Peter isn’t mean enough to call him out on it. Instead, he helps Stiles silently, holding him just strong enough for Stiles not to topple over but still giving him a sense of independence.

When they make it into the bathroom Stiles leans against the counter for the sink and Peter lets him go, turns around and starts the water for the shower. Soon the room is filling with steam.

“It’s hot, but I don’t think it will be too hot,” Peter says and there’s a slight hint of uncertainty to his tone, and he’s asking, “do you want to check it?” before he ducks his head and looks away.

“I trust you,” Stiles answers instead.

Peter nods, and Stiles is surprised by how much he can scent Peter’s happiness-relief-contentment at Stiles’ statement. So much so that Stiles has to work to keep his own scent unaffected and his face neutral so as not to give anything away to Peter.

Then Peter is in front of him and lifting him carefully by the hips until he’s sitting on the counter. Too quickly and Peter is dropping down to his knees before Stiles and Stiles barely holds back the strangled-squeak of ‘what the fuck’, though the same definitely can't be said for the burst of arousal that is now on the steam heavy air.

Peter slips off his shoes and socks in Stiles’ confusion and warring emotions and then is standing again with a wicked smirk on his face.

Peter’s hands are back on Stiles’ hips, hot and heavy, and it’s a wonder Stiles never noticed it before. It’s all he can seem to focus on now. And Peter is stepping in closer and lifting Stiles again, like Stiles weighs nothing, and then Stiles’ bare feet are touching the tile of the bathroom floor. And Peter’s hands are blazing a trail along the skin of Stiles’ sides as his shirt is lifted.

Before the shirt is up to Stiles’ ribs his brain comes online a little more and he squeaks out a very unsteady, “Peter?”

Peter stills his hands, brushing against Stiles’ skin, radiating heat, but looks up into Stiles’ eyes at the question.

“Shh, I’m helping sweetheart. Unless you want to do it on your own?” Peter’s voice is smooth and low and nothing so sinful has ever been directed Stiles’ way. He’s not quite sure what do to. Nor is he sure of why this is happening now. Because Peter has never looked at him twice before. And now all of a sudden he’s talking in a voice dripping with suggestion and removing Stiles’ clothes.

It’s a lot to process all at once and Stiles is still sure he has a concussion. So it’s not like he’s in tiptop shape to be analyzing what is going on here. But it’s also not like he’s missed Peter coming on to him in the past, because Peter hasn’t. It’s never been this, whatever is going on between them right now, between them before. Peter may have called Stiles a friend, but Stiles knows that they’ve barely been operating in the friendship category so he has no clue how things have apparently escalated so quickly.

Stiles relents though, with a small nod, and Peter continues to lift his shirt up and over his head. When the clothing is removed Peter’s eyes trail down Stiles’ chest and the wolf is growling low in his throat. Stiles doesn’t need to look to see what Peter is seeing, he has no doubts that he’s a mess of dark bruises, but it’s strange that Peter seems so affected by it.

“I should have ripped them apart slowly,” Peter grits out, one hand carefully sliding over Stiles’ skin and leaving goosebumps in its wake. Stiles shivers at the contact, Peter’s hand so hot against Stiles’ cool skin.

“It’s over now, they’re dead,” Stiles says, because he isn’t sure what else there is to say, what else he could say, that wouldn’t give away his own feelings.

“They are,” Peter says, his hands going down, unbuttoning Stiles’ jeans and sliding down the zipper.

Stiles can't help that his heart rate spikes uncontrollably at the action. It’s not like this, in any scenario, has ever happened to him. A part of him thought that college would open him up for opportunities to get naked with another person, but that has yet to happen. He could have, before, on a few occasions, but something was always holding him back and rejecting any offers before they got farther than a few kisses.

Now his heart feels like it’s going to beat out of his chest as Peter carefully slides Stiles’ jeans off his hips until they are pooling on the floor around his feet. He stops Peter though, with a hand on each wrist, before Peter can do the same with his boxers.

It’s too much, too intimate, and Stiles isn’t sure what it means, if anything, and he doesn’t know how to feel about that. He knows what he wants it to mean, but he doesn’t know if Peter is on the same page as him.

“Sweetheart?” Peter says as he looks up into Stiles’ eyes, regardless of the fact that one is mostly swollen shut Stiles can see the wildness to Peter’s own gaze, speaking to something that Stiles can barely wrap his mind around.

“I –” Stiles has to clear his throat before he can continue, his voice ragged. “I can do that part.”

Peter nods and doesn’t break eye contact, doesn’t breach the unspoken command of ‘no peeking’, as Stiles slides his boxers down his hips to join his jeans on the floor. Peter holds out his hands and Stiles uses them to steady himself enough to step out of the tangle of clothing and over to the shower. Peter pulls back the curtain, always keeping his eyes at Stiles’ collarbone or above, and helps Stiles step into the shower, closing the curtain behind him.

Stiles can hear Peter gathering up the clothes and before the wolf leaves the room he utters a quick but quiet, “stay?”

He hears Peter freeze and rambles on before he can think better of it, “I just, if I fall or something. I’m still a little dizzy and the pain-drain helped but I’d feel better, I think, if I knew you were there.”

“Of course, I’ll be right here if you need me, sweetheart,” Peter answers easily.

Stiles listens a little more to clothes rustling and then Peter taking a seat on the closed toilet lid.

He breathes a slightly easier knowing Peter is right on the other side of the curtain. Stiles steps into the spray and it’s so hot he can feel his skin flushing in response, and he didn’t realize how cold he actually was until now. He braces himself against the front of the shower, forehead resting on his arm, and lets the water cascade down the back of his head, his neck and his back, warming him from the outside in.

Stiles must stand there for a long time because Peter is prompting him, “Stiles, are you okay?”

“Fine,” Stiles mumbles out quietly but stands a little straighter. It takes a bit of effort but he’s able to shampoo his hair and clean himself off with his body wash, careful of applying too much pressure to everything that hurts or bending over too much and risking falling over on his face. When he’s rinsed clean he turns off the tap and turns towards the shower curtain.

“Can you hand me a towel?” He asks into the silence of the room.

“Sure,” Peter responds and then the curtain is pulled back just enough to fit the towel through.

Stiles dries himself off haphazardly and then secures the towel around his waist before pulling the curtain back. Peter is standing there, waiting for him, and helps him step out of the shower. He gives his arm over to Stiles, the act an echo of a gentleman from a bygone era, and Stiles threads his own through the space gripping Peter’s bicep firmly and lets Peter slowly lead him back to his room, grateful for the help and the lack of comment about needing it.

Peter sets him on his bed and goes to Stiles’ dresser, pulling out clothes from drawers like the wolf knows the layout to his entire bedroom. He comes back with boxers, soft cotton pajama pants and a long sleeved shirt that’s a size too big but Stiles bought specifically with lazy comfort in mind. He sets them all next to Stiles on the bed but seems to hesitate for a moment.

“Do you want help?” Peter asks.

Stiles gives a slight head shake, “I think I can manage.”

Peter stares at him, like he wants to argue, wants to force the issue, but then decides against it. “Okay, get dressed. I’ll make you something to eat.”

“Okay,” Stiles answers and watches Peter leave the room, pulling his door almost completely closed and heading down the stairs. Stiles doesn’t move until he can hear Peter in the kitchen, rummaging around in cupboards and cabinets.

It takes him longer than he would like but he manages to get on his boxers and pants and slip the shirt over his head. The pain is returning, still muted, but it will only get worse unless he takes medication or Peter takes more of his pain. He works to get himself comfortable in bed, exhausted from the lack of adrenaline that was a constant fixture while he was captive. He lays down, his bed soft against his abused body after so long with only concrete around him.

He drifts.

Chapter Text

He’s fucked up, he’s pushed too much, he’s letting his emotions rule his actions and he’s risking ruining everything.

Peter couldn’t help it, the minute he saw how badly Stiles was hurt, it was all he could do to keep his control, keep his composure, and not run out of that room and take Stiles back to his den. Derek has had his suspicions, but Peter has worked hard to keep them from being proven correct. He's not sure how well that is working now. He’s fairly certain his little display has only added fuel to that particular fire.

He knows that Derek wouldn’t approve. Hell, there’s not many in the Pack that would. Scott surely would riot if he knew. Maybe Erica might support him? She’s been warming up to him lately, wanting to know more about being a wolf, wanting to know the ins and outs of Pack hierarchy, and especially wanting to know what sort of things that Peter has done, or may need to do, as Left Hand. She’s been a surprisingly good study. And has proven to Peter that she would do what is necessary to protect the Pack, and maybe even more importantly, to protect the secrecy of the Pack.

So he divulged a few secrets here and there, told her how to properly dispose of bodies and clean up potential crime scenes. He didn’t ask her why she wanted to know. Could sense that something happened that she hasn’t shared with the rest of the Pack that drives her to know the things she asks Peter. Whatever her reasoning though it’s been nice to have someone else on his side. Stiles takes his side more often than not when it comes to how to deal with threats as they are presented, and while Erica might not be as vocal as Stiles is in Pack meetings, she definitely pulls her weight when the shit inevitably hits the fan because Derek was swayed to try a non-violence approach by the likes of Scott and sometimes Isaac.

And if he wanted to do it right, he would need his Alpha’s approval. No matter how much that grates on him that it would be his Nephew of all people that would have to give it. And that’s not even touching the more human aspects of what he would need to ensure that everything worked out in his favor. Because the last thing he wants to do is cause stress and make Stiles choose, if he had to be honest with himself, he doesn’t think Stiles would choose him over the Pack or over his father, and realistically, he would never want Stiles to anyway. His loyalty is one of the most attractive things about him.

But it might not matter, because he's fucked up. And before he’s been able to come up with a suitable plan, before he’s made amends and made himself a worthy suitor for Stiles’ affections, the whole thing could be crashing down around him.

Stiles was hurt. In so much pain that Peter could barely keep up with taking it. And in short, he was losing his ever-loving shit over it. Erica knows, or is on the way to knowing, about how he feels. Derek most certainly has had all his suspicions confirmed. And Peter is going to be told off before he can even ask to court the young man.

He’s been waiting so long. He’s known that he wanted to be involved in Stiles’ life pretty much since he met the boy. Initially, all he wanted was a strong Beta when he was lost to madness and running on instincts. It might have been a blessing to be put down before he got the chance to do something irreparably stupid though, and while it hurt, he respects Stiles for seeing the threat Peter was at the time and helping to end his life. He can't imagine that was easy for someone so young. Not that burning for a second time was a picnic for Peter either.

But then he was back, admittedly having to fuck with Lydia’s mind to do so, but it was the only option to him and Peter is not one to not capitalize on a presented opportunity. There was still too much for him to do. He’s worked hard since then though, to apologize, to explain, and to make whatever amends that Lydia has asked of him. The same for Derek. He knows that nothing can ever make up for killing Laura, for using Lydia’s mind, but he’s done what he can and has been nothing but sincere in his efforts.

He knows though that it hasn’t been enough, not yet. Derek allows him to act as Left Hand, barely, but he’s still looked at warily by the rest of the Pack. No one fully trusts him. And Stiles is valued. Far more than Peter ever would be. Stiles is the heart of the Pack, he keeps them all together, takes care of them without most of them even realizing he does so. He keeps up on the research for any and all things that they come into contact with and devises strategies for handling a potential enemy that Derek will actually listen to most of the time. Well, until Scott interjects with rainbows coming out of his ass and claiming that everyone and everything can change given a chance. But the point is, Stiles is integral to the Pack, and Derek, having finally learned how to be a good Alpha, with the potential for being a great Alpha, would never do anything to jeopardize that. And Peter poses a risk to that careful dynamic.

Don’t even get Peter started on the Sheriff. In the eyes of the law, he’s a murderer. That alone would keep him from Stiles in Noah’s opinion, he’s sure of it. Add in the age difference and everything else Peter has done in his life and he’s really surprised that Noah hasn’t put a bullet between his eyes yet. Noah would never consent to Peter seeing his son, and Stiles wouldn’t do anything that could potentially upset his father, holds the man in too high regard, and so they would be over before they even began.

It doesn’t stop Peter from wanting though. He suspects nothing ever will.

Wolves may not have soulmates, may not have one specific person that is destined by fate to be with. But if they did, Peter thinks Stiles would be it for him. He can't imagine feeling the way he does about anyone else. Has never felt this way about anyone before.

He’s tipped his hand though. To Stiles of all people. To the one person he has been so careful to keep in perfect control around. And he has no clue what Stiles is feeling, what he’s thinking. He seemed receptive, for a moment, with Peter on his knees, but that could be a product of youth and inexperience and not actual want. Worst of all, Peter could barely help himself, and he knows that Stiles saw too much when he looked into Peter’s eyes, but he can only hope that Stiles will forget, leaving Peter to make a better impression the next time.

For now, he makes broth. At best count, Stiles probably hasn’t eaten in at least four days, possibly closer to seven and Peter needs to get something into him so he can take a painkiller and rest and heal. He finds his way around the kitchen and is able to get some chicken broth warming on the stove while he spreads butter on a few pieces of toast and then plates everything up on a tray for Stiles.

He sends his required text off to Derek letting the Alpha know that Stiles is at home, knowing his hour is coming to an end sooner than he’d like. He’ll have enough time to make sure Stiles eats though before the Sheriff gets home. With that accomplished, he carries the food up to Stiles’ room.

When he gets there he has to set the tray down and gently shake Stiles’ shoulder to wake him since the boy has passed out from exhaustion. He wishes he didn’t have to, could just curl up next to Stiles and take his pain while he sleeps, but he knows that he needs to eat more. Peter helps Stiles sit up and then places the tray on his lap and takes a seat on the bed next to him, content to be in his boy’s presence for as long as he’s allowed.

 

*~*~*

 

Stiles doesn’t even remember falling asleep, but he must have if Peter is waking him up and also apparently bringing him food. Stiles wasn’t really sure that Peter was serious when he said he was going to make him something to eat, really he thought the wolf would use it as an excuse to leave before Stiles’ dad showed up, Stiles can't imagine it would be too much longer before he’d be home. Derek had to have called him by now.

Stiles lets Peter help him sit up so the tray can be set on his lap.

“Thanks, Peter,” he says quietly as he blows a breath over the spoon to cool the broth down enough to sip it.

“Anytime sweetheart,” Peter answers easily.

Stiles raises an eyebrow at Peter, “you keep calling me that,” he says and takes another sip of broth.

Peter lifts his head and looks back at Stiles, “I do. I can stop if you want me to.”

He shakes his head a little, mindful of his concussion, “no, you don’t have to. Just, you’ve never called me that before.”

“I don’t suppose I have, no.” Is all Peter says in response.

Stiles can tell that he’s not going to get anything else from Peter on the subject and just lets it drop, eating his broth and toast instead and drinking down his Gatorade. As much as he thinks he would have liked to eat a giant cheeseburger and curly fries, this is infinitely better. It’s easy on his stomach and with only two-thirds of it down he gets a real sense of how long it’s been since he’s had a meal. Eventually, he has to stop or risk making himself sick.

Peter just hums and looks over what Stiles ate, and what is still left with a bit of approval. Then the wolf hands over a pill and lets Stiles know it’s one of the painkillers from Deaton. Stiles accepts it and washed it down with his drink.

“Thanks again Peter, you didn’t have to do all this,” Stiles says into the growing silence. Peter had set the tray aside and was just sitting next to Stiles but not saying anything, it was slightly unnerving.

“It was nothing sweetheart,” Peter says and then folds down the covers a little, “Lie down and get comfortable, you need rest.”

Stiles would argue, but his belly is pleasantly full and warm and he’s as pain-free as he can be right now, so he does as he’s asked without grumble or complaint.

Peter sits back down at his hip and takes Stiles’ hand. “I’ll take your pain until you can sleep. Just rest, your dad will be home soon, and I’m sure some of the Pack will be over later as well.”

“I don’t need a babysitter,” Stiles says, because he’s sure that’s what’s about to happen, wolves sent to watch over the ‘fragile human’.

“No, you don’t, but the Pack was worried, and they’ll want to be close, to see that you are okay. It’s instinct.” Peter states calmly in response.

“I’m not weak,” Stiles mumbles, his body and mind losing the fight against sleep as the softness of his bed and the effects of food and pain-drain overwhelm him.

“No sweetheart, you are anything but weak,” Peter says.

“’Kay,” Stiles slurs and allows himself to relax into the mattress.

Before Stiles is able to fully fall asleep he jolts at the sound of the front door slamming shut.

Peter soothes him quickly, getting out a quiet, “it’s just your father. Stay here and rest, I’ll go talk to him.”

Stiles nods, and the medication is hitting him hard and he lets himself succumb to the effects, pulling him into sleep.

Chapter Text

Peter takes the tray and heads out of Stiles’ room, closing the door behind him; he meets the Sheriff at the bottom of the stairs.

“Sheriff,” Peter greets.

“Hale. Where’s my son?” The Sheriff questions firmly.

“He’s upstairs, resting. May we talk for a moment before you go up?” Peter asks.

The Sheriff looks put out, like the last thing he wants to do is talk to Peter, and Peter understands that, he does, but in the same sense he wants to give the man a moment to calm down before he rushes up there and wakes Stiles again.

“Fine,” the man says with obvious reluctance, and backs away from the stairs, following Peter instead to the kitchen.

Peter starts cleaning up the dishes from earlier, putting the leftover broth in a container and into the fridge, buying himself some time before he actually has to talk to Stiles’ father. He knows the man won't be put off for long though.

All too soon Noah is asking, “What happened to him? Is he okay?”

“He’s resting now. He’ll be fine, from what I saw he should have no lasting damage.” Peter says evenly, keeping a tight lid on his own temper at the flashes of images of how badly bruised and beaten up Stiles is.

Noah snorts, “And you’re an expert on human healing?”

“No,” Peter says calmly, “but we had humans in our Pack before. I might not have the medical knowledge of Mrs. McCall or even Deaton, but what I do know works in a pinch.”

“So what happened to him?” Noah asks firmly.

Peter takes a breath, finishes washing the last of the dishes and placing them in the drying rack before turning to face Noah.

“He was beaten, that much is obvious. One of his eyes is swollen shut, most likely from a blow or two to the face. He said he probably has a concussion, and I’d likely agree, though it’s most likely mild as he doesn’t seem cognitively impaired. He has bruises and he hadn’t eaten in days at least. I got him to eat some broth and toast and that seemed fine, as well as taking a painkiller from Deaton. I’d been taking his pain before then. At most he’ll be in pain for a while, sore, but the swelling around his eye would be the most concerning. If that resolves itself then he should be fine, but if it looks worse than I would say he’d need a hospital.” Peter answers, working to keep his tone even an as unaffected as possible.

“Jesus,” Noah mutters under his breath, “why the hell didn’t you just take him to the hospital as it was?”

“I tried, he refused,” Peter says.

“He’s a damn child, he doesn’t get to refuse!” Noah responds angrily.

“No, Sheriff, he isn’t. As he so helpfully reminded me he’s nineteen and were I to have brought him to the hospital he would have refused treatment and left. I thought it better that I listen to him and just bring him home instead. He was adamant about his views on this.” Peter responds and keeps his anger in check.

Noah sighs out, running his hand through his hair in obvious frustration, “damn stubborn kid.”

“I agree, Stiles is very stubborn when he wants to be.”

Noah sits down at the table in the kitchen and gestures to an open seat for Peter to take. Peter sits down as well and just waits for the Sheriff to speak again.

After several long minutes pass, Noah finally asks, “Where was he?”

“I only know where we found him, the hunters had him kept at an abandoned building in the industrialized part of town.”

“And what of the hunters?” Noah asks but Peter can scent the resignation, as if the man already knows the answer but has to ask it anyway.

“Dead,” Peter responds succinctly.

“Am I looking for animal attack victims?” Noah asks, casting a wary glance at Peter.

“No. There’s nothing for you to find.” Peter says coolly.

“Christ,” Noah says and shakes his head, “how the hell am I going to explain that? I’ve had half the department looking for him. I have to make a report of some kind; this shit doesn’t just magically go away no matter the supernatural creatures involved.”

“Stiles was kidnapped but managed to escape when the assailants lowered their guard, Stiles is known for being cunning and creative, and the people who took him didn’t know what they were getting into. He made it to a phone; I believe some of the payphones still work in that area and was able to get a call out to Erica or myself or you to come and pick him up. He refused treatment at a hospital, since he’s stubborn and that is also well known, and all he has to work with is vague recollections of the men who took him, no faces since they all wore masks.” Peter spins his tale.

“So he could make a statement, and give a general description of his attackers, but that doesn’t answer the question of where are they now? Won’t they be coming back? It’ll be an open case.” Noah says to poke holes in Peter’s story.

Peter sighs, “it’s not perfect, I know, but it will be mostly satisfactory in terms of police procedure. And it’s not like they will be coming back around for him.”

“I’d have to put patrols out looking for men who don’t even exist, Peter. This is a clusterfuck. And please don’t remind me that you’ve committed murder, again.” Noah says wearily.

“It’s hardly murder, they took a member of the Pack, so it was Pack justice,” Peter says a little more strongly than he’d like.

“Pack justice doesn’t work in the human justice system!” Noah says sharply. But then he takes a deep breath and seems to calm himself.

“Look, I’m glad they can't hurt anyone anymore. And I doubt I would have done much different if I’d have been there, probably would have put a bullet in each of them for hurting my son. But it doesn’t make it easier to explain away. We don’t live in a society that abides by the rule of ‘an eye for an eye’, and granted, I’m not a one hundred percent believer in Scott’s optimism that everyone can change, some people are just evil, but we need to find a better way. I could have arrested them on kidnapping, assault and probably attempted murder. They could have faced human justice instead, is all I’m saying.” Noah finishes tiredly.

“And if they killed him before you had men in place to subdue them, to arrest them?” Peter asks coldly.

Noah smacks his fist down on his thigh and says harshly, “dammit Peter, the same thing could have happened with the Pack going in for him!”

“It wouldn’t have, we knew exactly where the hunters were, exactly where Stiles was, and precisely what to do to win and get him out of there,” Peter responds, meeting Noah’s hard gaze unflinchingly. “If the police had gone in you wouldn’t have had the advantage of our senses to ensure his safety. Regardless of Parrish’s skills, he’s one person and mostly untrained in his supernatural side. You all would have been going in blind. And if something had happened to you, in your attempt to save Stiles, I couldn’t even imagine what that would do to him.”

Noah blows out a breath and lets his head fall to his hands on the table. “I’m all he has left, and he’s all I have left.”

“I know,” Peter says quietly.

“He’s safe now,” and it sounds like a question so Peter replies, “Yes, he’s safe.”

“Good,” Noah says and gets up and goes to the fridge, he opens it and pulls out two bottles, clinking them together as he returns to his vacated seat. “Guess the least I can do is get you a beer for saving my son.” And with that, he hands a bottle over and pops the cap on his own.

Peter’s lips turn up in a small smile, “you know this doesn’t do anything for me right?”

“Oh, shut up Hale and take the damn beer.” Noah grouches, but then stills and looks at Peter closely, “and my thanks, for taking care of him.”

“You don’t need to thank me; I’d do anything for Stiles,” Peter says and takes a sip, it isn’t until he’s swallowing down his mouthful that what he said really registers. Noah is already looking at him with narrow eyes; he didn’t miss what Peter had said, not in the slightest.

“I think,” Noah begins carefully, watching closely as Peter sets his beer on the table, Peter having to fight to keep his face blank, “I think that I already knew that.”

Noah doesn’t say anything more, just continues to scrutinize Peter for a few long moments before nodding, seemingly to himself and relaxing back into the chair, taking a long drink from his bottle.

The moment is broken a few minutes later by Peter’s phone buzzing in his pocket, he uses the distraction to try and seek some mental distance between himself and Noah, because honestly, that man sees too much. And Peter has been less than on top of keeping himself in check these last few days.

There’s a text message from Erica, letting him know that the clean-up is done and as soon as she and Boyd take showers and change they’ll be over to check on Stiles.

Peter relays the information to the Sheriff, that Erica and Boyd will be here soon, and the Sheriff says, “Yeah, those two stick to him like glue whenever he’s hurt.”

Peter can't say he’s ever really noticed that before. He knows that Erica has been out of sorts since Stiles has been missing but he can't remember her, or Boyd, doing what the Sheriff is implying.

“What do you mean?” he asks, if nothing else it will satisfy his curiosity.

Noah waves a hand, slightly dismissive, “just that any time Stiles is remotely hurt for whatever reason or other those two always come around, stay the night at the house until he’s feeling better.”

“Since when?” Peter asks.

Noah hums, and seems to take a moment to think back, “they thought they were being sneaky, that I didn’t know they were there, but it was before I knew about all the supernatural bullshit. Since that lacrosse game, where Stiles got jumped, I peeked in to check on him a lot later in the night and noticed that he had a girl and boy in bed with him, but they weren’t doing anything, oddly enough Erica and Body were fully clothed and on top of the covers. But they were all sleeping so soundly that I didn’t have the heart to wake them and demand to know what was happening. They came around for a few weeks after that until Stiles was back to feeling better. I thought the kid was in a three-way relationship or something and just wasn’t ready to tell me, and since nothing appeared to be happening I didn’t make a big deal out of it.” Noah shrugs and takes a drink.

“After you all informed me about werewolves and Stiles was tossed around by that witch you were all after, Erica and Boyd came back. Erica caught me checking in on them that time, and she just said ‘we’re Pack’ and curled up next to Stiles and went back to sleep. So I let it be. I’ve asked him about it since then, and he’s told me that Erica and Boyd are dating, but that he’s not dating them, and that it’s just Pack comforting Pack, but he even seemed kind of miffed about it all. Like he never expects them to show up, but they always do. I guess it just is what it is.” Noah concludes at last with a one-shoulder shrug.

“Interesting,” is all Peter can think to say. There’s more to the story, more that Noah obviously doesn’t know, but it’s something Peter’s not sure he knows either. The lacrosse game was the night that they fought the Kanima – Jackson – and ultimately Gerard. Stiles had shown up with Lydia and Lydia’s love had transformed Jackson into a werewolf. Gerard was poisoned by Scott with Mountain Ash and Scott forced Derek to Bite him which caused Gerard to reject the Bite, but ultimately the hunter got away. Peter suspects that Christopher might know where his father is, but he’s been unable to devise a suitable plan for making Chris reveal Gerard’s location.

But Peter only saw Stiles in the warehouse after he rammed his Jeep into the wall and delivered Lydia. And then the next day Erica and Boyd showed up back at the old Hale house begging Derek’s forgiveness. Now Peter suspects that there is more to what happened that night. The question is, what is he going to do about it?

Noah’s been watching Peter as he turns over the new information and then says, “You’ll tell me whatever it is you find ‘interesting’ about that.” And it’s not a question but a direct command so Peter just nods his acquiescence to the order.

Noah stands then, beer finished and rinses it out in the sink before depositing the bottle in the recycling bin, Peter follows suit, drinking the last of his down.

“I’m going to check on him. You coming up?” Noah offers.

Peter says a quick “yes” and follows the Sheriff up the stairs and into Stiles’ room.

He knows the minute that Noah sees Stiles’ face because he’s hissing out “fucking bastards,” under his breath. Peter watches as the man goes to his son’s side, brushing his hair from his forehead and checking over every visible inch of him.

“I’ll have him ice that eye when he’s awake, it should help with the swelling,” Noah says on a quiet sigh.

Peter just nods and tries not to intrude.

Noah finally walks away and heads back downstairs with Peter following. Peter takes a seat on the couch and Noah in his armchair, they don’t speak, there isn’t much to say at this point that hasn’t already been said. Instead, Noah just tips his head back and stares at the ceiling closing his eyes.

After about twenty minutes of sitting in silence there is a small knock on the door, Noah tilts his head to the side and looks at Peter.

“It’s Erica and Boyd.” Is all he says.

The Sheriff nods and says in a normal voice, “door’s unlocked, lock it up when you kids come in.”

Peter watches as Erica and Boyd come into the living room and wave a quick hello at the Sheriff before quietly making their way up the stairs and into Stiles’ room. He listens as Boyd and Erica get settled on Stiles’ bed, hears the boy stir briefly before Erica is shushing him and telling him to go back to sleep. Eventually, the three of them settle and their heartbeats and breathing go slow and even with sleep.

Noah has been watching Peter again, studying him. Peter might have found it unnerving before, but now, he just hopes he holds up to whatever measure he’s being judged against.

“They asleep?” Noah asks, breaking the silence.

“Yes,” Peter answers quietly.

“Good,” Noah nods, and then stands, “I’m headed to bed myself.” Then he eyes Peter, something knowing about the look before he says, “Are you staying here with the Pack as well?”

It catches Peter off guard and he has to take a breath before he can answer without risking stumbling over his words. “No, I should head out.”

“Alright,” Noah says easily and heads towards the stairs, “make sure the door is locked on your way out,” and with that the man heads up, trusting in Peter to follow through.

Peter makes a circuit of the lower level and checks all the doors leading to the outside as well as the windows to make sure they are all locked and secured before he leaves as well, locking the door behind him and heading out into the night.

Chapter Text

Stiles is having no fun the following day, oh he’s happy as shit to finally be home and to know that the hunters are dealt with once and for all, but now he has to wade through the bureaucratic bullshit that comes with having a Sheriff for a father who has put more than half the station’s force into looking for Stiles for days. So Stiles has to make an ‘official’ statement.

Luckily, even though his dad looks like it’s the last thing he wants to be telling Stiles, his dad coaches him on what to say for his statement, apparently he and Peter talked while Stiles was resting. Stiles isn’t sure what to make of the two of them sitting down and having a conversation, but since his dad looks alright it must have gone okay. Also, the story was Peter’s idea, from what he’s been able to get from his dad, and even though the man is clearly pained about having to bend the rules and have his own son file a false police report, he knows that the truth is not an option.

The story, as Stiles is told it, goes a little like this: random assailants grabbed him after running his Jeep off the road and held him but Stiles never saw faces nor was he able to figure out why they took him. For a while he was just held and then the assault portion came later. They didn’t divulge any information aside from repeating ‘you’re a message’ and ‘you brought this on yourself’, Stiles is lead to believe that means it has something to do with his dad, the Sheriff, not for running with a Pack of wolves. They thought him too beaten down to attempt escape and therefore they lowered their guard and Stiles was able to find his opening. He got out and found a working payphone, when he couldn’t reach the usual suspects of his dad, Scott or Melissa; he called and got a hold of Erica. Erica came and picked him up and took him home after refusing treatment at the hospital. Of course, Erica will have to come in and corroborate his story, of which his dad already assured him she will. Then with Stiles and Erica at home, she called Noah until he fingers and he rushed home as well calling off the search.

It’s nowhere near perfect, and there are holes that could be poked into it, but his dad said that he’d put Parrish on the ‘investigation’ and the end conclusion will be that after a few weeks they seemed to have moved on, most likely scared of being caught out since Stiles had ‘escaped’.

Stiles agrees with his dad that the whole thing is a fucking mess, but at this point it’s unavoidable. Now it’s just the matter of tying up all the loose strings so his dad doesn’t have another unsolvable open case on his reports and tarnishing his and his department’s record.

Stiles hasn’t divulged where he was before he was really taken by the hunters, and for now, it seems like no one is asking for that piece of information. He’s surprised that his dad hasn’t, that Peter hasn’t, but he’ll happily work under whatever assumptions they have going and leave it alone. It’ll be less he has to lie about in the end.

He knows if his dad was given the option he would have sent in officers to arrest the hunters, and granted, a good case could have been made against them but it would have kept them alive, kept her alive, and that, that was too dangerous a thing to consider. He imagines her running her hunting empire from within the confines of a 6 by 8 foot cell. Gathering supporters by word of mouth, by preaching her ‘truth’ and convincing people to carry out her cause. He thinks it would be akin to mob bosses running things for their syndicates. Either way, it would spell trouble for werewolves as well as other shifters in general, and to top it off, it’s not like they would be likely to be given life in prison over it, there would always be that chance that they would be free. And if Gerard has proven anything to Stiles, it’s to never judge a hunter by their age.

Once everything is all hashed out and breakfast is eaten, Stiles is able to finish his normal morning routine and also grab another shower. It’s better than the last one, he’s able to stand on his own which is a marked improvement and since Erica and Boyd had been taking his pain for most of the night he’s not feeling as terrible as he should be. He knows it will wear off soon though and makes sure to take some of the pills that Deaton had given to Peter. All he really wants to do though is shift and curl up on Peter’s chest.

That, however, is not a currently available option to him.

And, since Peter saw the damage to his body, and the wolves have taken his pain and registered just how much of it he was really in, it’s not like he can heal much of it himself using his shifter abilities. No, instead he has to suppress his healing and let himself heal at normal human slowness.

Well, for most of it. No one really knows that his ribs are actually broken, some in more than one place that he’s been able to feel and figure out, so he can try to find some time away from everyone else so he can focus on isolating his healing and directing it to his ribs and taking care of the worst of it. Pretending to breathe as if your breathing isn’t affected is too much of a pain in the ass for Stiles to deal with. He’ll damn well take the time needed to clear his mind with meditation and focus on targeted healing, it’s no fun, and he enjoys the instant gratification of total healing overall, but he can't afford to be sloppy in this, to give anything away, and leave clues for too-clever wolves to find.

Boyd and Erica stayed with him overnight, as seems their weird ritual of doing when Stiles gets hurt, but they left after the Sheriff woke Stiles up for the day in anticipation of going to the station for his statement. He knows that Erica will be called in later for her portion. He misses Peter though. After he fell asleep, aside from waking briefly when Erica and Boyd arrived in the night, he hasn’t seen or talked to the wolf. He doesn’t know if that’s good or bad. But he could just be overthinking it all anyway, it’s not like a huge amount of time has passed.

When he’s ready he goes with his dad to the station and is lead into the interrogation room by Parrish so the deputy can take his formal statement. He reiterates what his dad wants him to say while still making the words his own; it’s being recorded, so he knows that he can't sound like he’s reading from a script. He describes his kidnappers, their builds and such, but keeps it to a minimum and keeps the story simple. Parrish has to call in a tech to take photos of him as evidence and Stiles wants to refuse but he knows he really can't. When it’s over and Parrish has all the needed information Stiles’ head is throbbing and his swollen eye hurts worse than his ribs.

Parrish releases him back to his dad and his dad picks up some easy fast food on the way home. Stiles would normally complain about the crap food his dad will soon be eating but he just doesn’t have the energy right now. He wants a reprieve from his pain (Peter) and a warm body to lie next to (Peter) and he’s hurt and annoyed that he will have neither.

They eat quietly and then his dad just hands him over an ice pack and nods towards the stairs. He takes it with thanks and presses it gingerly to his eye as he walks up the stairs. He swallows down another pain pill, changes into something soft and comfortable and crawls into bed, ice pack resting on his eye and feeling like the coldness will seep into his brain.

His dad comes up before he’s completely drifted off and says he’s going back to the station, to be there for when Erica arrives, and he’ll be back as soon as he can. He returns Stiles’ cell phone, connecting it to the charger and leaving it on Stiles’ bedside table before leaving the room and closing the door shut behind him. It doesn’t take Stiles long to fall asleep after that.

Chapter Text

It takes a day before Stiles is alone for long enough to dedicate the time needed for meditation to allow him to focus on directing his healing. It’s something that he knows is unique to his line, something his mother told him made them special. But in practice, it’s a bitch to do, especially for someone with ADHD like Stiles.

One would think that being a shifter that Stiles wouldn’t have ADHD, but it doesn’t work like that. Brains are tricky, to say the least, when thinking in terms of a shifter’s ability to heal. At most, it can slow a degenerative condition down, but it can't heal it, not really. It didn’t save Stiles’ mom, that’s for sure, but that’s a story for another time. The point it, Stiles has ADHD, and while his medication can help; it’s still hard for him to focus as he needs in order to do what needs to be done.

It takes well over an hour before he can get centered enough, in line and in tune with his other side to be able to mentally pick and choose what he wants to happen, to have that finite control over his abilities. He has to turn his focus inward, picturing in his mind what he wants to happen and then giving just that smallest of nudges to direct the healing. Of twelve pairs of ribs, he isn’t surprised that only two made it out unscathed, not after the very through beatings he received. He takes each rib individually, feeling along his skin and muscle with his hand, pressing on the break and using that pinpoint of pain as the focal point. Healing each break and fracture one by one.

He’s sweating, exhausted and in so much pain he can hardly stand it, but he never made a sound. And now he can at least breath normally again. The breaks might be healed but the pain of pressing on each one will take longer to fade. Since he’s re-suppressed his healing he no longer gets the benefits, and pain reduction would have been one. Unfortunately, he’s also nauseous now and doesn’t trust that he could keep a pain pill down and the food he’d need to even be able to take one.

Instead, he curls up on himself on his bed and tries in vain to sleep the worst of the aftereffects off.

He sleeps or passes out, eventually, until his dad comes home and fixes dinner. Stiles eats what he can and is glad it’s something as simple as chicken noodle soup, his stomach still not too keen on the idea of food. He stays on the couch for a little, catching up with his dad and just generally enjoying his presence until his dad finally just tells him to go upstairs to bed since he looks worse than before and threatens that if he’s not showing signs of improvement that Stiles is going to the hospital the next day.

Just before he’s able to nod off again, Erica and Boyd slip into his room through his window and curl up with him on the bed. Erica, with her head ever so lightly resting on Stiles’ chest, soft blond curls tickling the underside of his chin and Boyd wrapped around her from behind, his arm flung across her and resting on Stiles. Both of them leeching his pain. Sleep then comes hard and fast. He doesn’t even dream.

 

---

 

The next day Derek shows up, first of his ‘official’ visits from the Pack members. With Erica and Boyd doing as they please, of course. Stiles chalks it up to his dad requesting time for Stiles to rest, especially after he had seen the aftermath of Stiles’ attempt at healing himself, not that he knew what had happened.

The sourwolf popped into Stiles’ room through the window, gave Stiles an assessing once-over and then said gruffly, “glad that you’re safe” and the words were barely uttered, Stiles not even having time to adequately reply and then Derek was making a quick escape back out the window.

He followed up better later through text messages. Not that the texts were anything more than a quick ‘how are you’ or ‘are you healing okay’ or ‘if you need something let me know’. But Stiles supposes it’s the old saying of ‘it’s the thought that counts’ and when he thinks of it like that it means a lot coming from Derek. Derek has definitely improved on being an Alpha and checking in like this with Stiles is another way it shows. Well, aside from the annoyed frustration and ‘shut up, Stiles’, whenever Stiles gets to be too much, too Stiles, but Stiles guesses that’s hard to translate in text format.

 

---

 

Lydia’s visit a day later was memorable because after she made sure he wasn’t dying she berated him for getting taken in the first place.

“You’re too smart to get taken by hunters Stiles,” she had told him sternly, hands on her hips.

And it burned, because he was, and normally he can avoid capture or escape on his own when he can't. If the Pack only knew how many times he’s had to deal with situations like this they would lose their minds. No matter that Lydia and Allison are human and just as breakable as Stiles is perceived to be it’s never either one of them that is looked at by everyone else as the weak link, as the easy one to take and extract information from.

He was glad that Lydia couldn’t smell the rising anger surrounding him that he was unable to lock down as effectively as he normally could.

“They Tazed me, Lydia, what did you expect me to do?” he had asked coldly.

The conversation had died out from there, she had cooled slightly in the face of his anger and just made mention that she was glad that he was okay and that he couldn’t do that to her, to them, the Pack. He had replied that he was surprised that everyone had even cared that much but that only seemed to make her angry again, saying that he was an idiot and then leaving in a huff.

He wasn’t sure what to make of all that anyway.

 

---

 

Scott came with Isaac and Allison in tow the day after Lydia; they stayed long enough to watch a movie before leaving again with promises to come back soon.

 

---

 

Scott did manage to pull himself away from them two days later and visit on his own, gaming with Stiles like they used to do before everything supernatural infested their lives. Stiles could tell it was different though. They’ve been growing apart for years as Scott grows closer to Allison and Isaac. Stiles still isn’t sure what is up between the three of them, and the last thing he ever wants to do is to try to use his sense of smell to figure it out. Scott claims they aren’t dating, that he’s not dating either of them, having not gotten back together with Allison since their breakup back before the Alpha Pack stormed into town, but Stiles remains unconvinced.

Though it’s not Stiles’ life either; and it’s not like he would judge Scott for being with one or both of them.

The visit was nice though, even if now Stiles could tell there was a widening gap between them. He just tried to live in the moment and enjoy the time he could spend with his childhood best friend and let the rest of the world fall away.

 

---

 

It takes almost a week before Peter comes back though, since the wolf had returned him home in the first place, and the visit is brief, Peter staying long enough to fix him lunch and for them to eat together before the wolf is leaving once he’s sure Stiles has a painkiller in him and is relaxing on the couch with a show or movie.

Stiles wishes he would stay longer.

There was such a charged moment between them when Peter first took him home and was helping to clean him up, it felt like, to Stiles, that it meant something, or was on its way to meaning something. But Peter showed no indication of it when he visited. The wolf was nice, and caring, and Stiles supposes that much is very different than ‘normal Peter’ to warrant mentioning, but it wasn’t the same, it didn’t feel the same. Instead, it felt like there was some strategically placed distance between Stiles and Peter that Stiles didn’t know why it was there, and had it always been there, or was this distance new? Stiles just wishes it would go away. Wishes he could have asked Peter to stay. Wishes he could have curled into the wolf’s body and soaked up all the comfort and warmth that Peter could provide.

But he didn’t, and now he can't because Peter is already gone.

Seeing Erica and Boyd that night feels like a consolation prize he doesn’t want. The minute he thinks it though he realizes how shitty that is. For whatever reason they are there, they are looking out for him, taking his pain and giving him comfort with their presence. And it helps, it really does, and he sleeps better with them around. But it doesn’t stop the heart from wanting what it wants, and he loves Erica and Boyd both in his own way, even if he doesn’t understand what they are doing, has never understood it in all the times they have found out he’s been hurt, but right now, all he really wants is Peter.

He's stopped trying to pretend he doesn’t.

But that doesn’t mean he’s brave enough to act on it.

 

---

 

The days in between visits and after they taper off continue mostly like this: Stiles taking it easy, resting more often than not. He needs it really, and for once he’s taking the time for himself and not complaining about it. Erica and Boyd making their nightly visits and leaving again once Stiles is awake and heading for breakfast.

Doesn’t mean he doesn’t miss certain people, or one person in particular, more than others.

 

---

 

His Jeep makes a reappearance in his driveway a week and a half since he last saw Peter. He can honestly say that he hasn’t thought about it at all. He feels a pang of guilt over that, it was his mother’s and one of the few tangible things he has of hers that doesn’t immediately make his dad smell like grief. He’s hidden the rest to protect his dad’s feelings.

He intercepts the tow-truck driver as the man is dropping it off the back of his truck.

“Hey man,” Stiles greets as he steps down from the porch.

“Hello,” the man replies.

“What’s all this?” Stiles asks, coming to stand closer to the truck. The flatbed is tilted towards the driveway and the driver is using the automatic winch to lower the Jeep to the ground.

“Just making the delivery, got ‘er in town last night so I could deliver ‘er this morning.” The man states with a friendly gruffness.

“Oh yeah,” Stiles says, “where’d the Jeep come from?”

“Picked ‘er up at a specialty shop in LA,” he says.

‘LA’ Stiles mutters under his breath, he has no clue why the Jeep would have been all the way down there.

“You Stiles?” The driver asks.

“Yeah, that’s me,” Stiles says and walks around the truck, taking in the state of the Jeep. The damn thing looks brand new, but he’d know his mom’s Jeep anywhere and can tell that it’s not a replacement, but rather that it has been impeccably refinished.

“Good, I got a form for you to sign when I’m done, says that I delivered it to you like I was paid to do.”

“Okay,” Stiles answers easily and stands back to watch as the man works. It doesn’t take much time and then all four wheels of the Jeep are resting in the driveway and the man is tilting back the truck bed and then rooting in the cab for some paperwork.

“Sign here,” he points out the signature line with a pen and holds it while Stiles signs his name.

After Stiles signs, the man gives him a carbon copy from underneath the form and fishes out the keys from his pocket.

“Here ya go, have a good day,” he says as he gets back into his truck and drives away.

Stiles is left standing dumbfounded, clutching the keys to the Jeep and alone in his driveway.

It takes him a minute to snap out of it and when he does he goes to the driver’s side door and gets in. He places the key into the ignition and turns it over; the engine coming to life with a purr it’s never had before, not even when he can remember his mother driving it.

He wipes away the tears that have started to run down his cheeks and takes a deep breath.
Stiles shuts the car off and pops the release for the hood. Distantly he knows what he’ll find, but the confirmation steals his breath away. The engine has been completely rebuilt and looks all shiny and new. There’s not a speck of duct tape to be found anywhere.

He numbly makes his way back inside the house and takes a seat on the couch.

Hours later his dad arrives home, Stiles hasn’t moved an inch.

“Hey kiddo, I see the Jeep is back. I didn’t even know you had it taken to the shop.” Noah says as he walks into the living room.

“I didn’t,” Stiles’ voice is scratchy with emotion and when he wipes a hand over his cheeks it comes back wet from tears.

“Kiddo? You okay?” His dad asks in concern.

“I didn’t have it fixed,” Stiles says, avoiding, “I didn’t even think about the fact that it needed to be fixed.”

“Someone obviously thought about it. Does it run okay? It looks really good, I think better than even when your mom had it.” Noah asks gently.

“Yeah,” Stiles sniffles a little, “it runs perfectly.”

Noah hums, and looks over Stiles consideringly, “wonder who could’ve had it fixed.”

Stiles meets his dad’s eyes, “I think I know, I just don’t know why, or what it means.”

“I think son,” his dad says slowly, taking time to speak carefully, gently, “that you’ll find the answer to that when you ask.”

“Yeah, dad, maybe,” Stiles says.

Noah sighs fondly, “ah hell kid,” he states, taking a seat next to Stiles on the couch, “c’mere” and he pulls Stiles into a hug.

The easy affection does little to stop the renewed tears from spilling down Stiles’ cheeks, but his dad seems to understand, maybe even better than Stiles does right now, and just holds him through it.

Stiles knows what he wants it to mean, he just isn’t confident that that’s what it does mean.

He misses Peter even more now, and that’s not even touching what Peter did for Stiles by having the Jeep fixed.

Chapter Text

Derek calls a Pack meeting two days after the Jeep is delivered, a little over three weeks since Stiles was rescued, and by now Stiles has been able to rest and heal up. All lingering aches and pains, byproducts of having to use ‘normal’ healing, have gone away. The dark black-blue-purple that used to decorate the majority of his chest and sides and the side of his face have all faded back to Stiles’ usual paleness.

Boyd and Erica had continued their nightly watch over him until the last of the bruising had disappeared. He’s not sure he’ll ever understand those two.

The meeting goes well, Derek addresses the fact that the hunters who took Stiles have been dealt with, that there are no issues in terms of law enforcement and he’s heard no talk of retaliation by other hunter groups over their disappearances (deaths).

Once the formalities are over with Derek lets his Betas have run of the meeting and soon enough a movie is chosen and Stiles offers to raid the kitchen for popcorn and snacks, really he just wants a few moments to talk to Peter in relative privacy and the wolf had retreated that way when the movies were being discussed.

Peter hands Stiles the box of microwave popcorn before going back to making a plate for himself. Stiles utters a quick ‘thanks’ but then sets the box on the counter and turns fully toward Peter.

“Thank you,” Stiles says.

Peter glances over at him, eyebrow arched, “you already said that.”

Stiles swallows, still feeling overly emotional about the subject, but needing to express his gratitude, he takes a breath before he speaks, “For the Jeep. Thank you, Peter, for having the Jeep fixed.”

Peter waves a hand in a dismissive gesture, turning back to his plate, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Stiles doesn’t have to be focused on the trip in Peter’s heartbeat to register the lie. He forges on as if Peter didn’t say anything at all. “The Jeep means a lot to me, so really, thank you.”

Stiles knows what he wants the action to mean, but the silence feels damning, like all of his thoughts and revelations are now only one-sided and now he’s not sure he thought this through right. He’s not sure where he stands in all of this. He wants; he’s pretty damn sure he’s realized that he might be falling in love with the wolf, but he still has to hold back and part of him is dying because of it. Even if they were together, Stiles could never be fully honest. Could never be completely himself. And the longer he stands there with Peter not saying anything is causing his anxiety to rise, making him feel wrong-footed and insecure.

He babbles, “I, I don’t know how much it cost you, and I don’t know how I’ll be able to do it when I go back to college, but I’ll pay you back Peter. Every cent. I’m just, um, I’m really glad it wasn’t destroyed. And like I said it means a lot to me. And you really didn’t have to get it fixed like you did – not, not that I’m not grateful. I am, truly. And it’s much more than I ever could have done. I just. Thank you.” Stiles finishes weakly, feeling defeated and Peter is just looking at him but he hasn’t said anything.

Peter makes a move, Stiles just barely catching the twitch of a muscle in Peter’s arm, but then the wolf stills. Face unreadable, but eyes staring at Stiles’, no scent clues as to what the wolf is feeling, and Stiles is just lost.

He thought. He thought there were moments. That they meant something. But…

“Nonsense sweetheart. You owe me nothing. I know the Jeep’s importance to you.” Peter says warmly.

Stiles nods, feeling just the tiniest bit relieved.

“Thank you again, Peter,” Stiles says, expressing his gratitude with those words as much as he can.

“You’re welcome sweetheart,” Peter says, gathering up his plate, and brushing his hand across Stiles’ shoulder, gently, before leaving the room.

There’s a bit of hope that fills Stiles at the gesture, at the subtle scent-marking. He breathes out a sigh of relief and goes back to his secondary reasoning for coming into the kitchen.

 

*~*~*

 

Peter has to retreat from the kitchen after seeing Stiles, avoiding the Pack gathering in the living room area of the loft and instead takes the spiral staircase upstairs to a study that he uses more often than Derek.

As much as he wants to see Stiles and spend time with the boy he’s had to pull back, create some much-needed distance between them. It still isn’t time yet. He hasn’t done enough, hasn’t proven himself.

Sometimes, he wonders if it will ever be the right time.

Sometimes he wants to run, to scream, to howl out his deficiencies and insecurities. To rage against the unfairness of the world. To let himself spiral unchecked in his feelings of self-loathing for all his failings.

He’s self-aware enough of knowing what he’s done wrong and when. And while he might not apologize for all the sins he’s committed, it doesn’t mean he can't improve, can't be better. Stiles makes him want to be better, to try harder, to be less bitter and angry.

Stiles makes him want to be soft, be vulnerable and open. Makes him want to be the type of wolf to take in stray chocolate kittens and wrap them in love and affection for no other purpose but because it’s good, and nice, and gives him a warm feeling in his heart. He wants to share that with Stiles.

Not that he’d ever lower himself to letting anyone but Stiles ever see him like that. He does have an image to maintain after all.

He still misses the tiny little creature that scratched at his window and dug a hole for itself in Peter’s heart. He’s looked. Off and on for days (weeks), whenever he wasn’t looking for Stiles and then redoubling his efforts when Stiles was back home, safe. He still hasn’t caught a glimpse or a hint of his scent on the air.

Peter isn’t a man of faith, doesn’t put much stock into hopes and prayers, but he does hope, that if nothing else, that the kitten has found a safe place, found a home. Even if he’s not with Peter. No matter how sad Peter feels about that.

He doesn’t venture back downstairs until the movie is long over and the Pack has left, the rumble of an engine of the last car making its way down the street and away from the loft. Until Derek’s heartbeat is the only other one besides his own.

He imagines that his nephew will leave him be and doesn’t think twice about trying to actively avoid him. Instead, he descends the staircase to clean up his plate from earlier and then leave for the night as well. Intent on going back to his apartment alone.

Peter is in the kitchen, rinsing his plate before putting it in the dishwasher when he hears Derek approaching. He sighs and hopes that whatever it is that he wants it’s over and done with quickly. But Derek doesn’t continue coming towards him and Peter is left to ruminate over what the other wolf might be thinking.

There are a million things that could be running through his nephew’s head and really, for as much as they have been getting along better lately, purely with the Pack’s benefit and stability in mind, it’s not like Peter actually knows Derek anymore. Or could guess what it is that the wolf is thinking. Truly, Peter hasn’t got a clue what Derek could say. Sometimes it hurts, and Peter would never admit to it that it does, but it does. They used to be close. More like brothers than uncle and nephew. But that seems like such a long time and too many tragic losses ago.

When Peter is feeling melancholy he sometimes wishes they could be like that again. Could be that close and have the bond they used to. But that was before Paige’s death, before Derek found comfort in the arms of a huntress and their family burned to ashes. Before Peter was abandoned by the last of his Pack and then ripped the throat out of his alpha – his niece – Derek’s sister – in insanity-fueled retaliation. Peter knows that Derek can never forgive him for that, and Peter has no right to even ask. But sometimes, despite all that, the longing is still there, the wish for something that was before but could never be again.

“You haven’t asked yet,” Derek says out of the blue and pulling Peter from his thoughts.

“Asked what?” Peter says distractedly.

Derek huffs. Like he'd rather die than have this conversation.

“You know what Peter,” Derek responds gruffly.

“Nephew, I haven’t a clue what you are talking about,” Peter says and pinches his nose in building frustration and wonders why he hasn’t left yet.

Derek groans, “Why haven’t you just asked Stiles out yet.”

Peter stills. He knew that Derek probably figured out his affections for the boy but he wasn’t expecting to have it confirmed like this.

“Excuse me?” He tries. Ready to lie and deny it all.

“Don’t fucking give me that,” Derek huffs out. “I’ve, dammit Peter, I see the way you look at him. You look at him like dad looked at mom,” Derek finishes softly.

“I do not,” Peter immediately protests.

“Bullshit! You do too. Because I watched them growing up. Because I wanted someone like that. Wanted a relationship like theirs. And you have the same look. You watch him the same way Dad watched Mom. Like you would do anything for him. Like you would burn the world to the ground at his feet if he asked. And it doesn’t matter how strong he is. Because we both know Stiles is stronger than all of us where it really counts. You look at him like you would do anything to protect him and keep him happy.”

Derek huffs when he finishes. Like talking is straining and he levels Peter with a look and Peter is too busy being struck speechless because he can’t even remember a time since the fire that Derek has talked so much at once.

At Peter’s continued silence Derek asks, “So, why haven’t you asked him?”

Peter could lie. Could deny. Could try and say any number of things. Or he could leave. He could run. But what the hell would that even accomplish?

He opts for a sliver of truth instead, “I can’t, it isn’t the right time yet.”

Derek smacks a hand to his forehead, dragging it down his face and then looking at Peter incredulously. “Seriously? You basically single-handedly saved him and then went out of your way to have his Jeep towed to LA for extensive repairs, making that piece of shit vehicle better than its probably ever been since the Stilinski’s owned it barring its first drive off the lot in 1980. I mean I heard him thanking you for it. I don’t know why you haven’t just asked him already.”

Peter growls low, “That ‘piece of shit’ Jeep is important to him.” Peter watches Derek’s growing confusion before adding, “Like your Camaro, which used to be Laura’s. The Jeep belonged to his mother.”

Derek’s face falls, tendrils of hurt and guilt rising on the air around him before he reins back his emotions. “I didn’t know.”

Peter nods, just a barely there dip of his head at the acknowledgment but doesn’t say anything more.

“You care about him though,” Derek says instead, seeming to rally back to his original argument, “I don’t see why you’re so hesitant to just ask him.”

Peter sees he isn’t escaping this conversation; well not unless he actually just makes a run for the door and to his car. He doesn’t think that Derek would stop him if he tried, but it’s not like he’ll be able to avoid it forever. He resigns himself and decides he might as well get comfortable for as long as this is going to take. Peter pushes past where Derek has been lingering in the doorway of the kitchen and instead makes his way to the couch and sits at the far end of it. Waiting for Derek to join him.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t take long.

When Derek is sitting, Peter doesn’t look at him, keeping his eyes on his hands instead. “I haven’t done enough yet. I haven’t proven myself yet. It isn’t time yet.”

Derek stares at him, Peter doesn’t have to move his head to see it, he can feel the heat of the alpha’s gaze on him. Studying him. He keeps his face blank, his scent neutral, his heartbeat steady and even; he doesn’t want to give away more than he already has.

“I don’t get – why would – ” Peter can scent Derek’s rising confusion as he stutters out the beginnings of half-formed responses.

But Peter knows when it clicks, Derek takes in a sharp sounding breath and he can hear the way the other wolf leans back in his seat, the near-silent sounds of the cushions depressing and the air escaping.

“You want to Court him.”

It isn’t a question. Or if it’s supposed to be then Derek needs to learn how to use proper inflection in his words. Either way, Peter isn’t saying anything to that.

“So why haven’t you asked me?” Derek says, tone not giving away a thing to Peter.

Peter scoffs, “Because I already know your answer.”

“I don’t think you do,” Derek counters.

Peter rages, he doesn't understand why Derek is being cruel in drawing out his rejection.

“I’m broken Derek!” he nearly shouts, up off the couch in an instant and pacing mindlessly in the space not taken up by furniture. “I’m no good for him. I don’t deserve him. I killed Laura,” and Peter sees Derek flinch at that and it doesn’t feel good for Peter to have to remind him, “and I fucked with Lydia’s mind to resurrect myself. And I’ve been trying and it doesn’t matter because it’s not fucking good enough and he deserves someone so much better than me. I know you wouldn’t approve. Nor would the Pack. Pretty sure Scott would attempt to rip me apart for even thinking it and then there’s the Sheriff. Like that man would let me in the house if he knew and that’s still not putting it past him to execute me outright if he knew all my crimes.”

Peter is panting from his rant but Derek is just looking at him calmly with a hint of a smirk on his lips.

“I would have said yes,” Derek says quietly. And Peter is sure he misunderstood. But then Derek says it again. Louder. “Peter, if you asked. I would have said yes.”

Peter shudders and goes boneless, dropping onto the couch and he doesn’t even know when he got up in the first place. “What?” He asks breathless and more than a little afraid.

“Look,” Derek starts, and scrubs his hands over his face. Peter thinks he’s preparing himself for something unpleasant. “I don’t –” a sigh, “I don’t know if I can ever forgive you for Laura.” It feels like a well-deserved knife to Peter’s guts hearing that fact confirmed.

“But, but I think I can understand now. The position you were in. The way you might have felt.” Peter just stares, jaw loose and mind laser-focused on Derek’s words. “When Boyd and Erica said they were leaving. When they were gone those few days. I think I felt more broken than even when the Pack bonds snapped when our family –” Derek shakes his head and takes in a less than steady breath in before exhaling slowly.

“The point is, I know I failed them. I know I let them down. And while it wasn’t intentional, it happened. If they were to have attacked me then, challenged me for the right to be alpha, to be a better one than I was, I wouldn’t have stopped them. I would have deserved it. So I might not forgive you for killing Laura, my sister, but I can understand challenging the alpha who abandoned you and winning.”

Peter sits in stunned silence. Mulling over everything that Derek has just said before trying to think up a reply.

“Honestly, I don’t even know why they came back. They never told me. I think something happened, something that scared them more than having to deal with me being a shitty alpha. But they’ve never said anything.” Derek says but Peter gets the sense that Derek isn’t really seeking anything from that statement, but rather finally just having someone to say it to.

Peter’s brain though picks up on Derek’s words, making connections and finding a commonality: Stiles. Though, he’s not any closer to figuring out what it all is supposed to mean either, so instead of making a comment to Derek he lets the topic rest.

“Regardless,” Derek says with a dismissive wave of his hand after a few more moments of silence between them, “You have to get him the first gift, show how you intend to provide. You can't use the Jeep if you want to do this right since he wasn’t aware when he received it. And you have to ask his father’s permission too. But I think you might be pleasantly surprised by that one. I can’t do much to convince the rest of the pack, that’s on you. And I don’t think Scott will ever fully accept it, but he might not stand in your way once he sees how happy Stiles is and how good you two are together.”

Derek clears his throat a little, “And you still have to ask me,” he says, then tacks on, “Formally.”

“I. I don’t what to say,” Peter says, mind reeling and words struggling out of his mouth.

Derek gives a small smile, “Yes you do Uncle Peter.”

Peter clears his throat so he can speak around the lump that has formed there.

“Alpha Hale,” Peter begins, voice firm and unwavering, holding steady eye contact with Derek, “I request permission to Court Beta Stiles Stilinski with the express goal of a lasting mating between us.”

Derek gives a quick flash of a smile before answering just as seriously, “Beta Peter Hale, I accept your request for Courtship,” the formality over with those words but when Derek continues, “and may the moon shine in your favor,” he offers his blessing.

Chapter Text

He doesn’t think about it right away, sleeps on it instead, but he comes to the conclusion that the pack meeting yesterday was weirder than normal. Erica and Boyd, well more Erica, cuddled up to him on the couch while they were all watching the movie, openly enough that even Scott seemed to notice if the confused glances that were sent Stiles’ way were any indication. Even Isaac refrained from making douchebag comments. While Scott seemed confused Lydia, on the other hand, seemed smug, like Erica and Boyd and Isaac were confirming something. And Derek! Derek even stopped him before he left, made a comment, or question, it’s hard to tell with Derek, about does he know how important Stiles is to the Pack.

And Stiles, well, he really didn’t have an answer to that, or didn’t know if he should, so he just brushed it off and said something along the lines of ‘sure Derek’, and left.

Weird.

They all did the ‘happy Stiles is home’ routine when they came by to visit him while he was recovering. He doesn’t get why traces of that are still happening. He definitely doesn’t understand whatever it was Derek was trying to tell him. Angry eyebrows, ‘shut up Stiles’, and being slammed into hard surfaces for annoying the Alpha he’s more than used to, but strange pseudo-compliments he’s not sure what the hell to do with all that.

Though he supposes he’s never understood Erica and Boyd, but this thing with Isaac, Lydia and Derek is new. Erica and Boyd have been coming around since they were all taken by Gerard. It was a shitty night for them all, which is probably a massive understatement, and Stiles knows that they were set on leaving Derek’s Pack back then but got caught in an Argent trap instead. Stiles was the unfortunate one selected to play ‘message’ to the Alpha, or Scott, he’s not entirely sure who Gerard intended to receive a beaten-bloody Stiles as some deranged message, but regardless, they were all subjected to some pretty terrible shit in that basement. Stiles assumed that they would leave more than ever once they were all free, but they didn’t.

Stiles didn’t know where they went during the day, but they spent nights with Stiles until he healed. Which was slow as fuck since they both knew exactly what happened to him so it wasn’t like he could hide it and heal himself from it all. And they stayed. Came back to Derek’s Pack and haven’t talked about leaving since.

Sometimes he’s wanted to ask, but has been too afraid that he would lose their company, their easy affection if he put words to it and questioned why they do what they do. Why it seems like they protect him and look after him.

It just, it doesn’t make sense to him. He doesn’t get why they would do it. They get nothing out of it. Just seeing Stiles as weak and ‘human’ and hurt. But they never comment, they never ask him what happened, and they just curl up with him time and again and take his pain and help him sleep.

He’s long since given up the fight of trying to refuse them and more recently given up trying to understand. He just lets it be what it is. Takes the comfort he’s offered and doesn’t ask for more when they stop coming around.

Maybe that’s why it was so strange for Erica to cuddle on the couch with him during Pack night, she’s never done that before, not when he’s not injured, and especially not when someone other than Boyd or his dad could see. Not that the other wolves wouldn’t know if they just used their noses, but still.

He couldn’t deny that it was nice though. He’s not normally touched like that during Pack functions, and yes Erica and Boyd will spend weeks sleeping over when he’s hurt but since they never know how much that actually is, he’s managed to keep the Pack from finding out about him being hurt at least eighty percent of the time, it’s only really been six or so times in the last few years since Gerard that they’ve known about.

Unfortunately, he’s hurt way more often than that. He’s been good about hiding it and going home without them noticing so he can heal on his own, but he can admit to himself that he doesn't mind being taken care of. He especially didn’t mind Peter taking care of him, even if the wolf didn’t know what he was doing taking a stray kitten to a sketchy vet.

Regardless of everything, Stiles’ mind is a jumbled mess. The Pack was weird, the meeting was weird and his skin is crawling and feels too tight. He wants to run, wants to shift and get away from the world for a bit but now the Pack is texting him, more so than normal, and it’s not like he can just disappear for a few days without raising their suspicions.

He needs an escape, and he needs to be smart about it. And he needs to not think about what it means when he wants to run directly to Peter and curl up on him. How disastrous the consequences could be for that. Because he knows, in the back of his mind, that if he shows up again as a kitten, he’s not likely to make a clean escape again.

It doesn’t stop him from wanting to do exactly that though, fuck the consequences.

 

*~*~*

 

Peter’s mind is on overdrive. He knows what he wants to do, what he has to do, but there are other things, nagging-niggling-things, connections to half-formed ideas and possible drawn-conclusions that just won't let him be.

He has to know.

And that, that might be a problem, because he’s not sure he’ll be able to obtain the information willingly.

Manipulation has always worked for him in the past, but he only really used it against his enemies, or people he suspected could become an enemy, for all that he’s a sinful bastard, he’s never really tried to deceive Pack, not before.

He doesn’t count his time flirting with insanity.

He’s trying so hard to be good. To be better. He wants to be.

So he wants to know, has to know, can't rest until he unravels the tiny mystery, because now it’s been confirmed behavior by two sources and he just can't let it go.

Something happened, something involving Stiles. Something he’s missed and he needs to know what it is so he can see what needs to be done to rectify the situation, if he’s able to.

He opts for a direct approach and sends off a text.

Thirty minutes later he’s meeting Erica in a park between his apartment and the loft and sitting down with her on the bench.

The sun has been merciless all day, but the bench is in the shade and the breeze is cool against his exposed skin, so it could be worse. He didn’t want the confines of a building though, not for however this conversation could go.

They sit in silence for a while, Peter just watches the tree line, the leaves and smaller branches swaying with the breeze and can feel Erica side-eying him but he doesn’t want to be the one to speak first, even if he did ask her to meet him.

“You want to know something,” she says at last, quietly but assured of herself.

He nods his head, just a little but doesn’t say anything. He’s not entirely sure how he would ask it. He’s grown to like Erica, as a Packmate, as a student of his craft, and perhaps as a potential friend. Poking at things that are not freely offered to him could backfire. Peter’s not sure he wants to lose her, lose one of his few allies.

She huffs a few minutes later when he still hasn’t spoken, “I’m not a mind reader, Peter.” She bumps her shoulder against his, “just ask already.”

“What happened with Gerard?” He says softly but firmly, going for the heart of the matter instead of trying to tip-toe around it.

He hears her suck in a sharp breath, and a small part of him wants to pull it back, to tell her to forget it and never mind, because as much as she’s grown into her control he can scent the rise in her emotions, the rage-guilt-pain-grief-helpless-fear that washes over her before she can rein it in. He can't though because as much as he likes Erica, it has something to do with Stiles, and there isn’t much Peter wouldn’t do or sacrifice for him.

He has to know.

“Boyd and I were taken by Gerard, we thought we were heading off to find another Pack but found Argents instead,” her voice is shaky around the edges and low but Peter can hear her. He remains quiet and lets her speak.

“He strung us up in his basement, well, Chris’ basement, and hooked us up to electricity to keep us weak. He wanted information on Derek, on the Pack, but we weren’t talking. Eventually, after trying unsuccessfully to beat it out of us, he just left us there.”

There’s more, he knows, and stays patient.

She takes a deep breath, letting it out slowly before repeating the process again. “He threw Stiles down the steps, and Stiles didn’t know we were there until he turned on the lights again. He tried to get us out, but we couldn’t tell him about the electricity because we were gagged. He got zapped and then Gerard came back. Mocking him, saying he was going to use Stiles as a message, that Boyd and I were too loyal to our Alpha to betray him.”

Peter glances over at her and sees that she’s staring at her hands in her lap. She doesn’t look uncomfortable, not exactly, but he can imagine that whatever memories this is bringing up for her aren’t pleasant.

“Stiles mouthed off to him,” her lips twist in a wry grin, “Gerard didn’t like that of course and proceeded to show him exactly how much he didn’t by beating the crap out of him. When Stiles was more or less compliant Gerard shackled him to the wall. He took one of the shock-sticks they have and used it on him. Repeatedly.” She shakes her head and her scent is twisted up with pain, no doubt remembered from her time there. Peter has to forcibly hold back his reactions to what he’s hearing.

“I don’t know how he survived it, to be honest. The voltage had to be near human-lethal. He would come back to Boyd or I with it too, didn’t matter that we were already hooked up to an electrical current. Stiles would scream at him to leave us alone. Then he would scream because Gerard had turned back to him instead. Even when Boyd and I bit through our gags and begged Gerard to stop hurting him, that he was human and couldn’t take it, the bastard didn’t stop. Eventually, we were all screaming for one reason or another as Gerard worked us all over.”

She shudders, “I heard his ribs snap when Gerard switched to a thick metal pipe, using it like a bat, taking it to our stomachs, chests, and sides over and over again. Every time he came near us Stiles would taunt him, trying to piss him off. I didn’t realize until later that he was trying to draw Gerard’s attention away from us. Trying to keep us safe, or as safe as he could. He was a damn idiot, because we heal, we started healing as soon as the electricity was turned off and he didn’t, not for weeks after.” Her scent goes bitter with helplessness and Peter bites his tongue to keep the growl at bay so hard he draws blood.

“It worked, if nothing else Stiles knows how to get under someone’s skin. Gerard focused on him for a long time, longer than Boyd and I. Stiles kept him there with his insults and digs at his family, even when he was coughing up blood and his voice was hoarse from screaming from the pain.” Peter catches her wipe a tear from her eye and mumbles out a ‘fucking sacrificial idiot’ before she continues.

“The way it was going Gerard probably would have killed him out of sheer frustration. I only hear a bit of it but knew he only left because of something to do with the Kanima. ‘It’s time’ he had said and then called back to us that he’d be back later. Like we had any choice in sticking around. Stiles was quiet then. And his heartbeat and breathing were too slow. I panicked and thought he had passed out, thought he was too injured, but when I went to yell at him to wake up, to stand up again since he had lost his footing under Gerard’s assault and hadn’t regained it yet, his whole weight dangling from his shoulders and arms locked in shackles. But he only shushed me. Fucking told me to be quiet and to tell him when the house was empty.”

She shakes her head a bit, like she still can't believe Stiles acted the way he did, “He got his feet under him and I listened, Boyd too, and we made sure the house was empty before responding. Not like we knew then why he needed to know. As soon as we told him though, I heard it, the pop and the small pained grunt and then again for a second time. It wasn’t until he dropped to the floor that I realized what he had done, dislocated his fucking thumbs to slip the shackles. He had popped them back into place before turning off the electricity and freeing us from ours.”

Erica turns to fully look at Peter now and Peter turns in response. “He saved us. I was awful to him before, hurt him even, and it’s not like either Boyd or I were friendly with him before or after the Bite. But he saved us. He made sure he got us free, got us out of that basement, that house, and borrowed an Argent SUV to get us away from there, to drop us off someplace safe, before he went to get his Jeep and go home. He never asked for anything. Never demanded anything. He just said he couldn’t stay with us because he had to help the Pack. And I knew, Boyd knew, that any Pack that had Stiles in it, was where we wanted to be. We owed him that much, for his kindness, for his loyalty. So we went to his house, and we waited for him to come back after helping Lydia, and we crawled into his room and into his bed and did the only thing we could, we took his pain. We comforted him. He saved us, and we couldn’t save him, but we could help, we could be there. We could make sure he wasn’t alone. Because he was. We heard him lie to his dad, playing off his injuries to both him and Lydia later, pretending he wasn’t as badly hurt as he was.”

Peter can't help the small growl that comes out, because he missed it as well. He had only seen Stiles’ face that night, and briefly at that. Too concerned with the threat of the Kamina and Gerard to even think about it twice. And he should have. He should have paid closer attention. Should have noticed and he’s berating himself for not seeing, for not doing more.

Erica gives him a sad smile, “you didn’t know, no one did, just me and Boyd, and it’s not like he talked about it, not like any of us did. He lied to his father and I didn’t even pick up the stutter in his heart, he so carefully chose his words so that it was enough of a truth. So we might not be there when he gets hurt, might not be able to save him then, but we stay with him until he’s better, because we can do that for him, and it’s not like he hasn’t saved us all more than a few times on his own.”

“You’re right, he’s saved everyone at least twice by now. He does that,” Peter says with a shake of his head, “most of the times to the detriment of his own health.”

“Yeah,” Erica says, “he’s like that though, and won’t listen to you when you try and stop him.”

“No, he certainly doesn't.”

They are quiet for a while after that, just watching as the sun fades into the horizon, and thinking over things. At least for Peter, the mystery of why Erica and Boyd stay with Stiles is solved. He’s not sure if he’ll mention anything to Derek about it, imagines that the only thing that would come out of that would be for Derek to have yet another thing to feel guilty about. He’s also not sure what, if anything, to tell the Sheriff. Noah made it clear that he knew that Peter thought something was up. But he’s not sure if this is really his story to tell. He’s still surprised that Erica even told him as it is. He wasn’t expecting her to open up the way she did.

Eventually, Erica stands, and then bends a little and gives Peter a quick hug, releasing him and straightening back up before he really has a chance to respond and she’s walking away, giving a wave over her shoulder.

He stays there for a while longer before heading back to his apartment and trying to figure out how he was going to even approach the Sheriff and make his intentions to date his son, to Court Stiles, known.

Chapter Text

Peter always has a plan and a backup plan and then more plans should the first two fall through. He knows what he wants to get Stiles as a gift, to show how he can provide and protect as a potential mate for their Courtship. That’s the easy part.

The hard part though, comes in the form of a human man, a father, that he needs to have a talk with and hasn’t been on the best of terms with before.

Getting the Sheriff’s approval isn’t a requirement, but it doesn’t bode well for a Courtship to not have it. It’s tradition, after all, to have the permission of the future in-laws to Court their child. Also, he knows that Stiles would never choose him over his father if it came down to it and his father completely disapproved.

After meeting with the realtor and signing the rental contract and getting the keys to his new apartment he took care of picking out furniture and setting up delivery times for the new items. It would only take a day to get everything in the space and set up. He wanted it to be completed before he went further. Luckily, having money goes a long way to getting things done quickly.

It’s not like Stiles isn’t going back to school in the next week.

He waits until he gets back from his short trip down to Berkeley before he has to speak with the Sheriff. He chooses his time to speak with him strategically. Picking a Sunday evening where the Sheriff is working late and the staffing is minimal. He doesn’t want to do this at the man’s house, for fear of Stiles overhearing as well as there is a certain sense of safety in a public space should everything go to shit.

It’s past dinner time and Stiles has long since left the building after dropping off food for his father. Peter may have been watching the building for the last few hours in an attempt to work himself towards having this conversation.

Should the Sheriff say no, Peter has decided that he won't try and pursue Stiles any further. It wouldn’t be fair to the boy and Peter has enough healthy respect for the Sheriff to back off if the man decides to tell him to.

Doesn’t mean he’d ever like it.

He makes his way into the building, the deputy on desk duty leading him back to the Sheriff’s office, and then he takes a seat opposite the Sheriff only after shutting the door for some privacy.

“Hale, what are you doing here so late, is everything alright?” The Sheriff asks.

“Sheriff,” Peter greets, “everything is fine. I was just hoping to have a conversation with you.”

“Alright,” the Sheriff nods, “what about?”

And for all that Peter is normally suave and cool, he can't for the life of him figure out how to actually start this conversation. He feels like a damn teenager meeting the parents for the first time and trying not to royally fuck it all up. Everything that he thought he was going to say, all the speeches and counter-arguments he had planned in his head are just beyond his increasingly nervous grasp.

“I –” Peter starts, stutters, tries again, “I like Stiles”

And Peter would face-palm himself if he wouldn’t look like more of an idiot for doing so. That is not what he intended to say at all. He’s cursing himself under his breath and completely missing the amused smirk gracing the Sheriff’s lips because he can't even bring himself look up at the man.

“I think I knew that Peter,” the Sheriff responds with a small chuckle. “So what is this really about?”

Peter takes a deep breath and lets it out slowly. He can do this, he’s Peter Hale, Left Hand of the fucking Hale Pack and should not be bumbling his words around like a fucking pup. “I would like to ask your permission to Court Stiles.”

The Sheriff is silent in his assessment of Peter but Peter doesn’t back down, not now, now that he has the words out, he refuses to break eye contact. He waits and he breathes and he doesn’t pray to useless deities that have never helped him in the past.

After long stressful minutes, the Sheriff finally sighs and looks away, “I take it that Courting, as you put it, is something different than just dating?”

“It is,” Peter answers but doesn’t elaborate.

“You know that Stiles doesn’t need my permission to do a damn thing right? That he would probably be slightly offended by you essentially asking for his hand behind his back.” The Sheriff muses with a small smirk.

“I understand, however, it’s tradition, and I want to know that I would have your blessing,” Peter says.

“Because it’s Courting and not dating.” The Sheriff says in counter.

“Yes,” Peter answers firmly.

“Are you asking to marry my son before you even take him out to dinner?” The Sheriff asks with a touch of incredulity.

Peter shakes his head slightly, “No, not exactly.”

The Sheriff blows out a breath, “alright, then what, exactly, are you asking and why.”

“Courting is,” Peter starts and then falters, he’s never had to explain this to someone human before, someone who didn’t just know what it is and what the traditions surrounding it are. “It’s like dating; it’s getting to know someone, getting to provide for them and care for them and building a relationship. But it’s not fickle like modern dating can be. There’s a level of inherent commitment between the two Courting. There’s an understanding that following a successful Courtship there are certain rituals and bindings that will be adhered to. It’s – ”

The Sheriff cuts Peter off, “a long engagement before a wedding.”

And while that’s not exactly it, Peter doesn’t think that the Sheriff would understand the mating ritual and exchange of mating bites so the engagement and wedding analogy should suit. “In a sense, yes.”

“It’s a werewolf thing?” The Sheriff asks.

Peter just nods in answer.

Of course,” The Sheriff says under his breath, either ignorant to Peter’s hearing or not caring about it. The man scrubs his hands over his face before looking back at Peter. “You know, even if I approve of this, you still have to talk with Stiles, have to explain it all to him, because I sure in the hell am not. And you should tell him that we talked, because if he finds out after the fact he’ll probably be pissed about it.”

“I had planned on telling him everything,” Peter assures.

The Sheriff sighs, “He’s young, he’s barely started college yet, and he has his whole life ahead of him. I don’t like the idea of this being so serious, he hasn’t even had a girlfriend or boyfriend before, hasn’t brought anyone back to the house. I just feel like he would be missing out on so much if he jumped into this Courtship with you.”

Peter feels that this is slipping out of his hands; he knew he should have waited. He knew it wasn’t time yet. He let his talk with Derek weave hope into a situation where it didn’t yet belong.

“I understand Sir,” Peter says in lieu of anything else.

He doesn’t drop his head, doesn’t let it show how defeated he feels. Instead, he stands and holds his hand out for the Sheriff to shake.

“Thank you for your time; I won't pursue Stiles any further.” He says, his hand still stretched out across the desk.

The Sheriff though looks up at him sharply, “ah hell,” he says and runs and hand down his face, “sit down Hale we aren’t done yet.”

“Sir?” Peter questions even as he retracts his hand and takes his seat again.

“Peter, you got his damn Jeep fixed.” The Sheriff says like it’s the answer to everything.

“Yes, I did,” Peter says in mild confusion.

“You don’t like Stiles, you’re in love with him.” The Sheriff says and levels Peter with a look that dares to be proven wrong.

Peter doesn’t think he could say anything other than the absolute truth, “Yes, I am.”

The Sheriff nods, seemingly to himself, “Stiles is an adult, can make his own choices. And I wouldn’t dare to try to be the man to stand in the way of my kid’s happiness.”

Peter holds his breath as the Sheriff falls silent.

“Whatever he decides, I’ll support him. Always.” The Sheriff says firmly.

“Sir?” Peter asks as he dares to breathe again.

The Sheriff huffs, “Call me Noah, Peter. And go talk to him; tell him about this Courtship stuff. If he agrees, then you have my blessing.”

Peter is stunned and can't help the small smile that breaks out because of it. “Thank you, Noah,” he says as he rises again and extends his hand.

Noah takes it this time, shaking it firmly but doesn’t immediately let go, “I think it goes without saying that if you hurt my boy that no one will ever find your body.”

“I would expect nothing less,” Peter answers honestly as the handshake ends.

“Alright, get out of here, I have work to do.” Noah dismisses him and Peter leaves as not so subtly requested.

He does have a few things to get in order before he can speak to Stiles anyway.

 

*~*~*

 

He doesn’t really have a plan. No, scratch that, that’s a lie, he does have a plan, has finally worked it out, sort of, and decides to go through with it and deal with the consequences later. Because there are always consequences.

He had texted the Pack, talked to his dad and then drove upstate to Redding to stash the Jeep near an abandoned cabin deep in the woods that he had stumbled across years ago. The Pack is under the impression he’ll be down at Berkeley dealing with some stuff before the Fall semester starts in the next week and he’s told his dad that he just needed to get away for a few days and is going camping so he probably won't have a signal. He didn’t like the idea of there being two conflicting stories, one his dad could easily discover if he just talked to a member of the Pack so he told his dad about lying to them. That he told them all it was something to do with school when really he just didn’t want to have them tagging along on his impromptu forest getaway.

 

---

 

It doesn’t make him feel good to have to tell his dad that he just needed some time to himself after what happened. The scent of his father’s guilt and the flash of hurt on his face making Stiles almost abandon the whole thing. But his dad just hugs him tight and tells him to take his time and that if he’s not home by Saturday he’s going to send out a search party.

It’s meant to be a joke, Stiles knows, but it falls flat.

The Beretta that his dad hands him to take though is no joke. Stiles has had a concealed carry permit since he turned eighteen, he doesn’t carry normally, in fact when he’s at school his gun is locked up in his dad’s safe, but apparently getting kidnapped and beaten for days is a good enough reason for his dad to bring it out.

He checks the gun over, ensures the safety is engaged and swaps the empty magazine out for a full one his dad hands over to him before tucking it and another full clip away in the small bag he’s packing.

“You’ll be safe?” his dad asks.

The question though is much more loaded than that. Stiles answers in the affirmative and says he’ll leave in the morning.

His dad hugs him one last time, excusing himself to go work a double that night.

Stiles thought that the hardest part was going to be getting his dad to let him go, but he’s being remarkably understanding of Stiles’ need for space.

The Pack, however, is another story. He gets more offers than he was expecting from one or more members offering to go with him down to Berkeley. He declines them all, highlighting how boring it’s going to be to deal with whatever bureaucratic nonsense the school needs him to come down for before classes start. They mostly accept his answers.

Derek though. Derek continues to be weird and surprising. He does offer to come with Stiles, like the rest but when Stiles declines Derek seems to switch tactics instead. Telling Stiles that if he needs anything, that all he has to do is call or text and Derek will be there. That Stiles is important, all Pack is important, and Derek would help him regardless of what it is.

It’s heartwarming and so very strange. Stiles doesn't know what to make of it all so he just sends Derek a quick ‘thanks’ and elects to ignore it.

 

---

 

So he does have a plan, and once his Jeep is stashed away and he strips down, he shifts and hightails it back to Beacon Hills as fast as he can.

Because he wants, and he’s going out of his mind with it. His skin is too tight and he just wants that feeling from before back. Wants to feel that warmth and safety. Wants soft caresses on his fur and to just relax and get out of his head for a while. He wants simple. He wants Peter.

He’s wanted Peter since he first got a glimpse at the wolf’s softer side and he can't shake that from his mind. Wanted Peter since the wolf carried him out of that warehouse and took him home and took care of him.

Is it so wrong to want to be taken care of?

He’s taken care of everyone else for so long, and he wouldn’t stop doing it, that isn’t what this is about, but for once. For once, he wants just a little bit of time where someone takes care of him.

 

---

 

It starts to rain as Stiles makes his way into town, the skies opening up in a downpour and he’s soaked through by the time he makes it to Peter’s apartment building and scaled the fire escape to make it up to Peter’s window. He’s shivering and tired from the long run; he meows pitifully and scratches at the glass and just wants Peter to open the damn window already. He just wants to sleep, wants to soak in Peter’s presence.

He shouldn’t want this as much as he does. He knows it’s going to end badly. He’s was so used to going without touch in his shifted state, not revealing himself to another person since his mom died. Since before she died even. But now he feels a bit like he thinks an addict might, needing another fix. Needing Peter’s hands on him, the warmth of his chest under him. The softness of his words in his ears and the scent of his wolf all around him.

The fact that he’s not even concerning himself with the likelihood of getting caught should be sending up red flags in his brain. But it isn’t. His mother’s voice, that strong and unwavering presence in his head that he’s relied upon for years, is quiet. No murmurings of doubt, no reminders of keeping their secret.

Flashes instead of his time before with Peter, and a growing feeling of desperation of needing to recapture that, to recreate the sense of contentment that he hasn’t felt in so fucking long, play along in his head instead.

He’s startled out of his thoughts by Peter jerking the window up and he loses his balance, tumbling inside, into Peter’s hands, very much like he did the first time.

“Little one?” Peter’s voice and scent is laced through with surprise.

Stiles just gives a very plaintive meow and stares up at Peter.

Peter curses under his breath, pulls Stiles tighter to his chest and shuts the window quickly. “You’re freezing and soaked. I need to get you warmed up.”

Peter takes him to the sink in the kitchen and starts to run the water. Stiles doesn’t even put up a token protest, he’s tired from running and too happy to be allowed back in Peter’s arms to care much about anything right now. He just purrs, loudly and unashamedly, while nuzzling into Peter’s chest, dampening the fabric between them.

“I thought I lost you, that’d I’d never see you again,” Peter says softly, running his fingers through Stiles’ wet fur as the water fills and steams in the sink.

“I tried to find you little one, for weeks, but I couldn’t catch a scent. I thought that maybe you had found some place better, that maybe you had just gone home.” Peter’s quiet in his speech, but his scent turns sad and almost sour like grief. It makes Stiles whine and meow in response.

“Shh, shh, it’s okay, I’ll get you warmed up here in a few,” Peter says as he turns the water off and carefully eases Stiles down into the wet warmth.

Stiles allows his body to remain lax as Peter bathes him. The wolf so gentle in his movements. Stiles barely notices when the bath is over and he’s bundled up in a fluffy towel that would probably be too big even if he was human-sized. But he doesn't care, because he’s here, finally with Peter and he doesn’t have to think, doesn’t have to do anything except just be right where Peter is and allow Peter to take care of him.

He must doze, in his tired and contented state because he wakes up, fur only slightly damp but completely unruly and lying on Peter’s chest, the wolf having changed shirts as Peter strokes a hand down his back, reclining in a chair and reading a book. Stiles stretches and shakes himself out a little and then proceeds to groom himself while he sits on Peter.

Peter is evidently amused if the soft chuckles are anything to go by. But Stiles isn’t giving up his spot on Peter no matter what. When he’s tamed his fur better he snuggles right up under Peter’s chin, gives the wolf a few tiny licks to the throat and then promptly falls asleep. More content and safe than he has been in far too long.

Chapter Text

--- (Tuesday)

Stiles is in heaven, that must be it, because there can't be any feeling better than this. He slept for hours, curled up tight under his wolf’s chin, getting glorious pets along his backside, purring as loud as he’s wanted and not felt anything but utter bliss.

Peter’s taken to carrying him around the apartment on the few occasions the wolf has needed to get up from his chair and aside from when he was quietly reading his book he’s been talking softly to Stiles the whole time. Stiles hasn’t been focused on the words, too bone-deep contented to care about much of anything really, and has just let the quiet cadence wash over him and lull him into a stupor.

It’s amazing. Really.

Stiles was right in his earlier thoughts about needing his fix, because, as he’s coming to realize, Peter’s presence is his damn drug. His own personal catnip. And that should be bad, should probably be more than a little alarming, but he’s too blissed-out to even give the tiniest of tiny fucks.

Peter feeds him more grilled chicken in the evening before they relax on the couch so the wolf can watch a movie and Stiles can curl up on him again. He doesn’t care if he’s purring louder than the sounds from the TV and if the never-ending behind the ear scritches are anything to go by Peter doesn’t care either.

Before they settle into bed that night Stiles excuses himself to the bathroom, having a lot easier time using the facilities than before with his broken leg, and if a kitten could laugh he would have. The litter box from before is still sitting on the bathroom floor, as unused as when it was first put there. He would have thought that Peter would have gotten rid of it when Stiles left before. It tugs on his heart that the wolf didn’t, that maybe he was holding out some hope of Stiles returning.

Stiles thinks about what Peter had told him before he zoned out from the words of the world around him and realizes that maybe Peter had been waiting for him this whole time. It makes him melancholy, he doesn’t want to let Peter down, doesn’t want to hurt him in this way, but he doesn’t know how he could stay either.

As with most things in Stiles’ life he resolves to ignore the problem in the futile hopes that it will go away.

Instead, he makes the high jump up onto the bed where Peter is already lying down and waiting, taking long strides in walking up to the wolf so he can stretch his limbs out before he settles down for the night in his spot on Peter’s chest.

Peter runs a hand down his back and then carefully down each back leg, inspecting, assessing. He hasn’t done that before and it takes a moment for Stiles’ brain to pick up on what the wolf is doing.

The little bit of verbal confirmation that follows is entirely unnecessary.

“You’ve healed well little one,” Peter comments as he carefully fingers the bones of Stiles’ previously broken leg.

Stiles meows and runs his head along the inside of Peter’s arm as a slight distraction, not that he’d expect that Peter would be able to feel how a normal broken bone should have healed, leaving behind a slight abnormality to an otherwise smooth bone, but if anyone could he wouldn’t put it past Peter. And the fact that he doesn't have that would be a dead giveaway that he is more than what he currently appears to be.

Peter takes the small bit of bait and moves his hand back up to petting along Stiles’ head and giving light scratches with his nails behind Stiles’ ears which he is rapidly becoming addicted to. Stiles trills and meows in response and follows the retreating hand so he can make his way to Peter’s chest.

When he’s tucked back up under Peter’s chin again he settles, giving his few licks to the wolf’s throat and then nuzzling in with a happy purr rumbling through him. Yeah, this must be heaven.

 

--- (Wednesday)

 

Peter couldn’t believe it. The little kitten he had taken care of all those weeks ago was back. Aside from showing up in the middle of a rainstorm the other afternoon, he didn’t seem any worse for wear. Still on the small side, like he hadn’t had a growth spurt yet, but Peter wasn’t going to dwell on it, not when the tiny creature was back.

He wasn’t in any pain that Peter could find and with the lack of bindings on his hind leg and the freedom and ease of movement, whatever broken bones he had had before were now evidently healed over. If it wasn’t for the fact that he despises Deaton he would take the kitten to the Vet for a check-up. Not that the kitten was overly fond of the man the last time he was there either.

Good judge of character for a kitten.

Peter thinks, briefly, that he should maybe give him a name, but he doesn’t want to somehow jinx himself. It’s not like the kitten stuck around the first time. He might not stick around this time either. Though how he would manage to get out of the apartment, seen as how Peter wasn’t leaving the window open again to tempt fate, would be anyone’s guess.

Though, maybe he should leave the window open, just a little. Would it be fair to trap the animal here with him if he didn’t want to be here? Could Peter deal with making him miserable like that if the kitten wanted to leave?

Maybe he was being stupid. It was a kitten for gods sake. If he wanted to stay, he’d stay and if he wanted to leave, well, he’d leave.

Peter would leave the window cracked just in case.

Regardless of what it would do to his heart should the tiny creature escape on him again.

Maybe he’d learn it wasn’t meant to be, that the kitten had another family, that he was only visiting Peter when he chooses to. Cats are notoriously fickle beings, just because this one made a place for himself in Peter’s heart didn’t make a damn bit of difference.

He was startled out of his thoughts by the now incessant meowing from outside of the shower door.

“Just a minute sweetheart,” Peter calls out even if the kitten can't understand a word he’s saying. He likes talking to him though. It makes Peter feel less alone in the world.

Peter finishes up his shower, washing the lingering traces of conditioner from his hair and suds from his body wash off himself. He doesn’t turn the water off until the water flowing down the drain is clear. Then he cracks the door and peeks out to see if the kitten is sitting on the bathmat again but he isn’t, so he grabs a towel from the bar and wraps it around his waist before stepping out of the shower.

When he looks up he spots the chocolate kitten sitting primly on the counter near the sink, watching Peter ever so often as he grooms his own fur until it shines. Sometimes when Peter allows himself a moment of indulgence he thinks that the color of the kitten’s fur reminds him of the color of Stiles’ eyes. Dark and chocolaty, but when the lighting was right, the sun hitting his fur it was almost whiskey or amber, giving it a brightness that was so often reflected in Stiles’ own eyes.

He wonders if Stiles would like the comparison.

He has yet to talk to Stiles about the Courtship and is only further delayed from doing so by Stiles’ need to sort something or another out at Berkeley before classes start the coming Monday. It has put a tiny wrench in Peter’s plans to have Stiles over for dinner and ask him if he can Court him as well as explaining what the Courtship means, but Peter is nothing if not adaptable.

He might have to wait until Saturday to see him now but he’s been patient this long, and was prepared to be patient longer, he can wait a few more days.

He finishes getting ready for the day, opting for a more worn and relaxed pair of jeans and a green-gray henley. When he’s dressed and done with his morning routine he scoops up the kitten that has been twirling itself under his feet this whole time and heads to the kitchen to make breakfast.

Peter makes his usual breakfast and plates up some grilled chicken for the kitten as well. He settles the little one on the table to eat with him, casually stroking the baby-soft fur all the while. He thinks the kitten doesn’t mind considering how much and how loudly he’s purring.

If words like ‘adorable’ were part of Peter’s regular vocabulary he might find the whole situation adorable.

At least he has privacy in his own apartment to act as he pleases.

He would probably rip out someone’s throat if they saw him and ridiculed him over this.

Unless it was Stiles. He doesn’t think Stiles would ever be hurtful if he saw Peter like this. In fact, Peter wants Stiles to see this side of him. He knows he’s not inherently soft, or vulnerable by nature, can't afford to be, but he would like to be around Stiles, for Stiles.

Peter cleans up the dishes from breakfast, the kitten perched on his shoulder during the whole ordeal. On his way back to the living room he pauses though and makes a decision, opening the window to the fire escape just enough that a kitten could climb through.

It makes his chest ache at the possibility that he could lose him again.

He takes his seat in his chair and grabs up his book from the day before and reclines back with his feet up. He has nothing pressing to do today or the next really, and resolves to enjoy the quiet time he has. The kitten crawls down off his shoulder and inches his way up under his chin, licking at his neck.

“You sure do make yourself comfortable at a wolf’s throat, don’t you little one,” Peter comments as he strokes a hand down the kitten’s backside. The kitten’s tail swishing back and forth and curling around Peter’s wrist briefly, starting up a low purr and nuzzling into Peter’s neck fully.

Peter can't hold back the small chuckle. “Yeah, only for you sweetheart.”

They spend the day in contented silence and Peter can't remember a time he was so relaxed. He’s had brief moments in the past, bent over old tomes and doing research with Stiles for the benefit of the Pack to help discover what the monster of the month was and how to defeat it.

This is a different kind of nice though. Nothing coming to get them, no cautious anticipation of danger around the corner. Just contentment. A sense of safety and comfort. Just a moment to breathe and not having to worry about what’s coming next.

He selfishly wants more days like this. Wants, even more, to share them with Stiles.

Peter closes his book and sets it down on the arm of his chair and just closes his eyes. He reaches a hand up and scratches behind the ears of his dozing kitten. “What do you think he’d say if he saw us, hmm?”

He gets a small meow and the purring increases in volume.

“I don’t think he realizes how truly special he is. How much I care about him.” Peter says with a wistful sort of sigh.

“I don’t hope for many things, it doesn’t tend to work out in my favor, but I do hope for this, I hope that he accepts. That for as long as he’ll have me that I can show him each day how much he means to me.”

The kitten starts to knead at his chest and nuzzles his head more under Peter’s chin. Peter laughs softly. “Yeah, you don’t understand a word I’m saying, I know.” He scratches the spot behind the kitten’s ear that always makes the tiny thing purr loudly.

“I think he’d like you. I don’t want you to leave, but I would understand if you did. I think that you and Stiles are the only ones that could break my heart at this point.” Peter picks up the kitten in his hands and places a kiss on his head. Rubbing his cheek there for a minute to scent him.

“Come on little one, time for lunch,” he says as he places the kitten on the floor and makes his way into the kitchen to fix some food for them.

Peter tries not to immediately panic when he’s not followed and refuses to check over his shoulder to look at where the kitten ran off to.

He allows himself a fond smirk when he hears the toilet flush in the en suite though and greets the kitten’s return with a quip of “clever little one, aren’t you,” to the chocolate ball of fluff trying to tangle around his feet.

He rolls his eyes at the kitten visibly preening and picks him up off the floor when the food is ready, eating together again at the table.

It’s nice. He never would have pegged himself for an animal person before, but having a taste now he doesn’t want to ever give it up. Most domesticated animals are too wary or terrified of the wolf under his skin to come near. He only assumes that this kitten is too young to know any better.

Regardless, he doesn’t care. Like his intentions with Stiles, he’ll take whatever time he’s given with this kitten who has stolen his heart.

They laze through the afternoon and into early evening, eating again at dinner time before Peter sets up a movie to watch for the night. He’s slowly been catching up on all that he’s missed from his time in a coma, watching the blockbusters of the time that have become pop-culture classics in his absence.

Sometimes he surprises even Stiles when he gets a reference that the boy shoots out at him during their many debates and seemingly off-topic conversations. And he’s greedy of the small amused smiles Stiles gives him when he realizes the wolf knows what he’s talking about. Some of those interactions are his favorites.

When the movie is finished he takes the kitten to his bedroom and gets ready for the night. Once they have settled into bed he turns off the lamp on his nightstand and waits for the kitten to get comfortable in what is now becoming his usual spot, before he gets there though Peter ducks his head and gives a quick kiss to the kitten’s forehead. The kitten meows at him and then crawls up under Peter’s chin, his rough sand-papery tongue scratching gently along his throat.

“Good night sweetheart,” Peter says softly, hand petting down the kitten’s back, the rhythm of the action and the soft purring lulling him into a deep sleep.

 

--- (Thursday)

 

The thing is, Stiles could easily spend his life like this. As much as he still might be a teenage boy with an eager libido it’s never been sexual intimacy that he’s craved. Not that he would turn down sex, mind you, at least with the right person involved. But being cared for, being touched, being loved and watched over, feeling safe… that’s what Stiles wants most in his life.

He had it once before, when his mother was still alive. He had nights when his father was working where he could just shift and curl up with his mom and feel like everything was right in the world. He hasn’t felt like everything would be alright since she died.

With Peter though, there’s that possibility again. The way the wolf takes care of him and holds him close and is so willing to give him love and affection. For over ten years Stiles has gone without this, over half his life, and now that he has it again… he doesn’t know that he can really give it up.

But, even knowing that, it’s not like he can stay. Just thinking about his father, he wouldn’t be able to just leave the man and disappear without a trace. He knows that his dad would never stop looking for him, and he couldn’t bear to break his dad’s heart like that. Then there’s the Pack, he could only imagine what they would do if he just never showed up again. It wouldn’t matter that he wasn’t hurt or dead because they wouldn’t know.

And even if he could have a system to check in to keep their suspicions at bay, how long could that really last? It’s just not something that could be logically supported. So no, he doesn’t want to leave but he can't stay either.

That’s not even bringing into account his actual feelings for the wolf. He’s tried before to not name the growing warmth in his chest and he’s tried shoving it all away in his mind but it’s not working anymore. He’s falling for Peter in ways he never thought he would, but in the same breath he’s been using the wolf, and that just makes him feel too guilty to comprehend.

And maybe, maybe Peter might feel the same way. The wolf did save him after all, took care of him, fixed up his Jeep and scented him, even if it was just briefly. They haven’t spent much time together since Stiles was kidnapped and rescued and Stiles wants to, could maybe even be brave enough to ask Peter for a date, but Stiles will always have this secret of his between them.

Is that really a way to build a life with someone? Starting with a foundation of secrets?

Although, it’s not like this own mother didn’t do the same.

Could he do that though? And what happens if Peter suddenly finds out? How betrayed would he be? How hurt at the realization that Stiles didn’t trust him enough to tell the truth? Because, Stiles thinks, that’s what it all boils down to, trust.

His mother never trusted his dad enough to tell him.

She might have played it off as keeping them safe, that the less he knew the better, but who would his dad have even told? It’s not like he would have shouted it out from the rooftops. No one would have known that he even knew.

Stiles sits in the living room, on the back of the couch, eyeing the partially opened window. It’s morning still, not ridiculously early, but enough, the sun just starting to dawn over the horizon, lighting the sky in pink orange and gold. Peter is still sleeping, Stiles left him an hour or so ago because his restless mind just wouldn’t settle.

He wanted before to tell Peter. More than he’s ever wanted to tell another person. He wonders what it says though, that he might be willing to trust Peter with his secret and not his dad. Maybe in some sense, his mother was right, that his dad knowing would put him in danger. He’s not sure how, logically, that would work, but he sees it in an abstract sort of way. At least Peter has a better means of protecting himself, more so than his dad who has only known about the supernatural for the last few years.

And he knows how much Peter can understand the need for keeping a secret; he’s had to keep his own his whole life. He would understand it’s value. The importance behind the admittance.

He can't keep this, he knows, and inside it feels like his heart is breaking because of that realization. He’s already hurt Peter before when he left, the wolf admitted as much, and he’s only going to hurt him when he leaves again, because he has no other choice. He’d hurt Peter even if he stayed, because he’s using him and no one deserves to be used like that.

Stiles thinks that he could come back, that maybe Peter would just leave that stupid fucking window open for him in the hopes that he would return. What kind of life is that though?

“Sweetheart?” Peter questions as he walks into the room, and Stiles can hear the slight skip to his heartbeat as he sees Stiles looking right at the open window.

That does nothing to help relieve Stiles’ guilt.

Instead, he turns his head to look at Peter and meow and trill until the wolf comes over to pet his head.

It shouldn’t be as calming as it is.

“There you are,” Peter says softly, voice still a little rough from sleep, “it’s early, even for me little one, let’s sleep a little longer, hmm?”

Stiles just purrs in response when Peter picks him up and takes him back to bed. The wolf settles back with Stiles on his chest and Stiles just gives into the caress of Peter’s hand in his fur, drifting back into sleep.

---

It’s not until later, morning routine done and breakfast eaten that Stiles even remembers much about the day before. He’s curled up on Peter’s lap today, allowing the wolf to read in relative peace. He remembers vaguely that Peter was sad about something, could even recall that his name was mentioned but he was too zoned out to pay attention to the words around it all. He wonders, briefly, what it all meant.

Peter doesn’t seem to be feeling any particular way today, no lingering sadness or other negative emotions, just contentment laced with bits of hopeful happiness. It’s peaceful here, and Stiles desperately doesn’t want to ruin that.

After their morning nap, Stiles decided to just let things be for now. He’d let himself enjoy the time while he had it and worry about everything later in the night, once Peter was fast asleep. He feels at home, safe and warm and comfortable and he doesn’t want to miss a minute of it while he can still have it.

He’ll worry about the fall out later.

So for now, he’ll enjoy the way Peter pets his head lazily as he reads on and on about Westeros and the Iron Throne.

It amuses Stiles to have this type of insight into Peter, seeing what the wolf is reading or watching on TV. He’s not at all sure what he ever expected of him, but being a closet nerd and watching Marvel movies isn’t it. It’s nice, they have more in common than Stiles had ever thought before and it just makes him want to know more. To know all that he can.

They have lunch and retreat back to the living room, lazing the day away in quiet contentment. The longer he’s here, the longer this goes on, the more he thinks he couldn’t ever give this up. The more Stiles has been able to think about it since early this morning the more he knows he’s going to tell Peter. Has to tell him. Even if things don’t work out romantically like he would like he still wants Peter to know. He just hopes that the wolf doesn’t hold it against him that he’s kept this secret for so long.

After dinner Peter puts on another movie, it seems to be the routine that he has, reading for the majority of the day and then a movie at night. It’s so domestic and normal and Stiles wants to be a part of this forever. For now though he just takes up his spot on Peter’s chest and purrs away happily.

He hasn’t been this truly happy in far too long.

When the movie is over though it’s time for bed and the moment that Stiles has been dreading all day. He has to leave now, or leave soon at least, and he’s more reluctant to do so than ever before. He curls up on Peter’s chest and licks at the wolf’s throat, no less surprised that he’s allowed to do so than when he first did it. He can't help that the action feels instinctually right. Maybe it’s the fact that he’s an Alpha, and in a way, this is Peter submitting to that, whether the wolf knows it or not. Or maybe it’s just Peter and allowing himself to be vulnerable to Stiles, to this tiny kitten curled up under his chin. Either way, the warmth in Stiles’ heart just grows and he knows that this is it.

He wants Peter to be his. Wants to be Peter’s in return.

And most of all he doesn’t want to leave.

He’ll only stay for a little while, just until Peter is fully asleep, and then he’ll make his lonely way back to the cabin he left the Jeep at.

In a little while.

His heart and breathing slows with contentment and edges him into sleep.

He’ll leave in just a little while.

Chapter Text

--- (Friday)

 

Peter wakes up like he normally does but with the recent addition of a kitten sleeping soundly on his chest. It’s a nice addition, one he’s rapidly growing increasingly fond of. He doesn’t think he would like it much if the kitten decided to run away again. His heart almost stopped the day before, sensing that something wasn’t right and he woke up alone. The kitten was eyeing the open window with far too much contemplation for Peter’s liking when he found him on the back of the couch.

He almost thought about closing the window then, preventing further temptation, but he couldn’t bring himself to do it. Thought it would serve him right if he wasn’t allowed to have this.

The tiny creature is sleeping so soundly that Peter doesn’t have the heart to wake him; instead, he carefully gets up from the bed and sets him back down in the center of it, the covers still warm from his body heat. He strokes a careful hand down the kitten’s back and watches as he sleeps through the movements.

Peter heads to the bathroom to start his morning routine and take a shower. He steps under the hot spray and lets it relax him; warm him, before lathering his body and washing his hair. It’s not long until he’s shutting off the water again and wrapping himself in a towel. Brushing his teeth and then leaving the steamy confines of the bathroom.

The sight that greets him is not one that he could say he was ever expecting, at least not right now.

Where he had left a small bundle of chocolate fur now resides a very naked Stiles, all long lean muscle and creamy pale skin speckled with moles that could be constellations in a clear night sky. The boy is on his stomach and seems completely unaware of Peter’s presence in the room.

He can't help that his cock takes an interested twitch at the offering of bare flesh before him.

Peter is surprised, and that is a rarity nowadays, Stiles had hidden what he was so well that Peter would have never even suspected. He can't even say that he’s mad for having not known, but rather is humbled by the trust that Stiles has unknowingly shown him.

It’s not often that a shifter, especially a born one as Stiles must be, would lose their full shift in the middle of sleeping.

No, that speaks to something more instinctual, more intrinsic, there’s trust there, and safety too, whether Stiles is aware of it or not.

Peter runs a hand, feather-light, along Stiles’ back, feeling the softness of his skin for what might now be the only time he’ll be allowed to, and Stiles stretches out like the cat he is, seeking out the touches, arching his back into it. It’s wanton and breathlessly beautiful.

“Gorgeous sweetheart,” he breathes out as his hand comes away, lifting just at the curve of Stiles’ ass.

It was too much, the words startle Stiles and Stiles hisses out a curse and immediately shifts, fluid and flawless, and scampers off the bed to hide under the large dresser in the room.

Peter sighs internally, checking his emotions and scenting the air quickly, there’s the spike of shock-fear-embarrassment before it dissipates. Peter takes a moment to marvel at the fact that with Stiles shifted he can't smell the boy at all anymore, the scent of him from before disappearing on the air, and now just the scent of the kitten he’s grown accustomed to.

He huffs in amusement and gets down on the floor on his belly to look at Stiles under the dresser, the poor dear is cowering in the back corner, furthest from Peter’s reach, curled in a tight ball and shaking like a leaf.

“Really Stiles,” he says fondly with an amusedly arched eyebrow.

Peter backs away, getting clothes out for himself, dressing, and then leaving a pair of sleep pants and a shirt for Stiles on the bed.

“I left you some clothes, sweetheart, you can come out when you’re ready,” Peter says quietly before leaving the bedroom.

He busies himself with making a small breakfast and eating it at the counter in the kitchen. He doesn't want to press Stiles, wants to give him all the time he needs but he can't help that he feels increasingly worried with each minute that passes that he doesn't even hear any movement from the bedroom.

What he does hear is cause enough for concern. Stiles’ breathing is slightly labored and his heart rate is elevated. It’s not enough to indicate a panic attack, but he has no doubts that it could easily head that way. He doesn’t even know what Stiles is thinking. That might be the worst part.

 

*~*~*

 

Gods, he’s fucked up, he doesn’t even know how he can salvage this. First, he doesn’t even know how it happened. He’s never lost his shift in sleep, ever. He didn’t even know that was a thing that could happen. He’s even been unconscious before and not lost his shift, the only thing he’s ever been worried about was sedation or drugs fucking with him that might cause it. But this? This he has no explanation for.

Not really.

The only thing that even remotely comes to mind is that once he lost his shift around his mom, because she was safe and he was content and he trusted her implicitly.

Was he too content, too safe and too trusting in Peter’s presence?

He’s not sure if he wants to be right or wrong about that assumption, and furthermore what it implies. He’s admitted that he’s falling for the wolf, that was kind of a given now, but he still has no idea how Peter even feels.

What if he’s angry, or disgusted, or any number of things that Stiles just hasn’t thought of yet. What if he wants nothing to do with Stiles now? What if he thinks he’s been tricked or used? What if he rejects Stiles?

Stiles isn’t sure he could take any of that right now.

He doesn’t even know how long it’s been that he’s been left alone and just spiraling out of his fucking mind over everything.

“Sweetheart,” he hears Peter easily and Peter must figure he has enhanced hearing at least because the wolf doesn’t raise his voice in the slightest. “If you want me to leave, I will, I won't ever ask and we don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want.”

He knows Peter is on the couch, had heard him, in a detached sort of way, make and eat breakfast before sitting down. He can't catch any clues as to what prompted Peter to say what he just said but he’s pretty sure there were notes of resignation in his voice, no matter how evenly Peter tried to speak.

Peter would never bring it up again, he would never ask, he’s giving Stiles this out if Stiles wants to take it.

He can't though. He owes Peter more than that at the very least. Even if nothing else ever happens between them, he can at least give Peter the truth.

With more bravery than Stiles feels he crawls out from under the dresser and makes his way into the living room, he hasn’t shifted back, he’s not sure what he would even say right now but at least this is a first step. Peter is where he thought he was, sitting on the couch in the living room, and Stiles stops a few feet away and just sits there with his head bowed and his ears flat to his head.

“You know darling, you are very good at keeping what you are a secret,” and Stiles thinks that he doesn’t even know the half of it, “I don’t think that I would have ever suspected a thing.”

In a way he wants to be proud of that, that he was able to hide something so well from someone like Peter Hale, the man, the wolf, who seems to know so much about everything.

Peter lets out a small chuckle, “makes me wonder what else you are hiding.”

Only Peter doesn't know how true that really is. Stiles takes a moment to think ‘fuck it’ and shifts again.

See, Stiles is a werecat, and mostly he takes the form of a small chocolate brown fluffy kitten, but that’s not all he can do. His mother’s lineage was special, which is mostly the reason she was so secretive and made him so secretive about what they are, because it’s not just a domestic housecat that Stiles can shift into, it’s any feline species.

He shifts smoothly from kitten to Tiger; Stiles pauses, brings his larger head up and stares at Peter before he shifts again. Cougar, again to Serval, then to Ocelot and Lynx, and then settling on black-coated Jaguar. Stiles’ other forms more closely mimic his age, showing a young adult feline version of Stiles, weirdly only his kitten form remains far younger; he never has been quite able to figure that one out.

“Magnificent,” Peter breathes, shifting from the couch to kneel in front of Stiles.

“May I?” he asks while reaching a hand out between them.

Stiles butts his head to the underside of Peter’s hand and Peter delights in petting him and scratching behind his ears, the look of awe not leaving his face.

“I knew you would make a marvelous wolf, but I think you’re even better just the way you are,” Peter states in a voice filled with reverence.

Peter pulls his hand back after a little while and then just rests on his heels, still kneeling in front of Stiles. Stiles stands, in this form he’s almost as tall as Peter is and just headbutts the wolf in his chest before walking back to the bedroom.

He closes the door behind him before he shifts back to human and gets dressed in the clothes that Peter laid out for him. Stiles is nervous about this conversation but so far Peter hasn’t done anything that would make Stiles think he would reject him. With a deep breath in and a long slow exhale he tries to settle his nerves before heading back out to talk to Peter.

Stiles walks into the living room and takes the seat at the opposite end of the couch from Peter and just waits. He knows Peter will have questions but he doesn't know what to say right now to start this off.

He watches Peter watching him and just waits for the wolf to speak.

“Why did you come here before? Why risk me finding out?” Peter says finally.

“I was hurt, that was real, the fucking hunters ran me off the road and crashed into my Jeep. I needed somewhere to stay, to heal, and I knew I would be safe here.” Stiles answers.

“Why didn’t you tell me? Shift back then and tell me?” Peter asks in confusion.

Stiles runs a hand through his hair and down to grip at the back of his neck, “I couldn’t tell anyone, I've never told anyone before. I saw first-hand how dangerous it was if the secret ever got out with the Hale fire, and – and not that Derek was to blame for any of that, but Peter, I couldn’t even tell my dad, how could I tell anyone else, how could I trust anyone else?” Stiles asks, pleading for understanding.

Peter sucks in a breath, “Your dad never knew? Doesn’t know even now?”

Stiles shakes his head, “No, not about any of it. I just, I wanted to tell him before, when I was younger, thinking it would make things easier after mom – after mom passed, but I saw how he was without her, and I couldn’t do that to him. I couldn’t tell him about me and then have to explain about her as well and watch as he drank himself to death.”

His head drops and he pulls his knees up to his chest, circling his arms around them, “I remember too many times when I would shift and run while he was passed out on the couch surrounding himself in whiskey bottles and I just couldn’t add to that, I couldn’t burden him more. He didn’t need to know that I lost my Alpha when I lost my mom and he didn’t need to know how much of a shit storm it was when I came into her powers so young. All I've ever tried to do it protect him and him knowing all that, it just would have hurt him more and – and I don’t know how he would have taken it. I don’t even know how he’d take it now. I’ve been lying to him my whole life.”

Stiles can't stop the tears gathering in his eyes, threatening to escape.

“Sweetheart,” Peter says with a note of sadness, “Then why are you here? After you left, and you knew I didn’t know, why risk coming back?”

The tears start falling as Stiles speaks, “I just – I –,” he shakes his head, “never mind, it’s stupid, it’s not important.”

“Sweetheart, it is,” Peter says gently.

“Fuck,” Stiles says harshly, “Fine, I just, I wanted, gods, it’s been so long since someone just took care of me and it was nice, okay, it was so fucking nice to for once, in so long, to not have to worry. And you didn’t know, you never knew and I used you and everyone was worried because I was missing and they were all looking for me and then I really did get fucking snatched and tortured and had to be rescued because I couldn’t risk trying to get myself out of there on my own and I just. Fuck, I just wanted to be taken care of, I just wanted that one more time before I couldn’t have it anymore, and it’s shitty, because again, I was using you, had used you, and I’m fucking terrible for it, but dammit I couldn’t fucking help myself and I’m so fucking sorry.”

“Darling, shh, come here,” Peter motions him over but Stiles is frozen in place, tears running unchecked down his cheeks and into the collar of Peter’s shirt. “Please,” the wolf implores him.

Stiles gets up, slightly reluctantly and can't meet Peter’s eyes. He walks the few steps over to him and the minute he’s in reach Peter grabs him, gently, but firmly and manhandles him until he’s straddling Peter’s lap.

“There, that’s better,” Peter says quietly and folds Stiles into his chest, rubbing a soothing hand up and down Stiles’ spine.

“Now listen to me sweetheart and listen to my heartbeat,” Peter starts, “you didn’t use me and you are so very far from terrible. And you should never have to feel bad about wanting to be taken care of. I would love nothing more than to take care of you as long as you’d let me.”

Stiles startles at this and pulls his head away from Peter’s chest, searching the wolf’s blue eyes to see what he might mean.

“Peter?” Stiles questions unsurely.

“I had wanted to do this a different way, maybe take you out to a nice dinner first, but Stiles, I want to Court you. I want to get to know you more and have a relationship with you.” Peter says earnestly, a hint of a smile on his face.

“Wait, what – really?” Stiles stutters out.

“Yes, dear boy, really.” Peter pauses and takes a breath, letting it out slowly before continuing, “I don’t know how much you know about wolf customs, but Courting is very traditional.”

“I know some, my mom had some books from when she was growing up in Poland about different species of shifters, but I don’t know specifics,” Stiles confirms.

Peter smiles, “I have a book, I can give it to you to read, but I’ll let you know the highlights now, hmm?”

Stiles nods.

Peter explains, “Part of Courting is asking the Alpha’s permission, as well as asking permission of your intended’s family. Once permission is granted you speak with the person you intend to Court and ask if they are willing to partake in the Courtship, at this time you present them with a gift. A way of showing you can provide for them and protect them. The rest is similar to modern dating, spending time together and getting to know one another more, tokens and displays of affection, with the exception that the two in Courtship are exclusive to one another. If the Courtship is deemed a success a final gift is offered. One meant to signify an understanding of the person you are Courting and in some cases a symbol of love.”

Stiles mind is reeling, but in a way, it’s highly romantic. “So wait, you asked Derek and my dad if you could Court me?”

Peter chuckles, “Yes, I did.”

Stiles can't help but smile, “I take it that it didn’t go that badly.”

“No sweetheart, it didn’t,” Peter says.

Stiles hums, “That’s good. So, are you asking me now?”

“Yes, but I have a gift for you first,” Peter says and helps Stiles to stand.

Stiles stays standing next to the couch as Peter retreats to the bedroom and returns a few moments later holding a small box in his hand.

Peter takes Stiles’ hand and looks him in the eye as he speaks, “Mieczysław Stilinski, I would like to offer you this gift as a symbol of my intention and means to protect, provide, and care for you. Should you accept this gift, I would ask that I have your permission to Court you until you either break the Courtship or deem it a success.”

Stiles nods, a little awestruck and speechless and carefully opens the box. Inside are two keys on a simple key ring that has a wolf’s paw print on it. It doesn’t look like a set of keys for a vehicle, nor are they smaller for a lockbox or safe; they just look like normal house keys. Stiles looks back up at Peter with a question in his eyes.

“One,” Peter says, pointing out the key, “is for the door to this apartment, the other is for the apartment near Berkeley. I wanted to give you access to a place that you could always come to whenever you needed.”

Stiles can't keep the shock from his face, and Peter continues before Stiles’ mind starts to run away with itself. “I’m not asking for you to move in, it’s much too soon for that,” he says with a small grin, “but I wanted you to have a place you could retreat to, for whatever reason you wanted. To know that you’re always welcome in my space, even if I might not be there too. Some place safe. And now, in light of everything, some place you can be yourself in, whenever you need to.”

“Peter,” Stiles says breathlessly, “I, I don’t know what to say.”

Peter carefully cups Stiles’ jaw, thumb gently caressing Stiles’ cheek, “Do you accept my gift, give me permission to Court you?” Peter steps in closer, only scant inches of space left between them.

Stiles nods, and gets out a ‘yes’ before Peter closes the distance and kisses him chastely.

Something so innocent shouldn’t make him want as much as it does, but it does.

As Peter starts to pull away Stiles pulls him back in, the next kiss far more passionate and far less innocent than the first. Peter kisses him like he’s starved for it and Stiles purrs, deep in his chest, in response and lets Peter kiss him breathless.

They’re both panting when they have to pull away to catch their breaths.

“What now?” Stiles asks when he can speak again.

“Whatever you want, sweetheart,” Peter replies easily.

“I, I want to take this slow, so maybe we can cuddle and watch a movie,” Stiles asks shyly.

“Of course, darling,” Peter says and kisses him on the temple.

They relax back on the couch, and Peter doesn’t hesitate to pull Stiles close, letting him recline back on his chest, Stiles’ body between his legs. Even tugging down the blanket from the back of the couch to cover them. Peter hands over the remote for Stiles to pick the movie and then wraps both arms around him, holding him close.

Stiles picks something out and then relaxes more firmly into Peter’s embrace. Content and cared for in the best of ways. He doesn’t even know he’s purring until he hears Peter’s chuckle and gets a kiss on his head.

“You’re amazing sweetheart,” Peter says adoringly.

Stiles just nuzzles back into Peter and purrs some more because he can.

Because he’s safe, and happy. And Peter showing Stiles he cares might just be the best thing in the world.

 

 

----

 

Stiles shifting for Peter

Stiles shifting for Peter