It hurts to wake up in the morning. Not in the backache sore muscles pain kind of way. No.
It hurts in the way that bone-deep exhaustion hurts, an empty gap, a raw wound that rises with the sun. Stiles hates the morning.
He hates the way the sky turns blue regardless, the way the morning paper thumps against the concrete driveway, never cancelled. He hates the voices that filter through the walls, bell-sweet and tinkling, children going to school with backpacks on and complaints loud. He hates the subtle glances and the silence and the alcohol that he keeps finding, even when his dad will never be able to drink again. He hates his room and his too big bed and the indent on the left side that isn’t his, hasn’t been his for a while now, still belongs to Peter even six years later when nothing smells like him anymore.
He hates the photos.
Melissa still keeps them on her mantle, even years later, still looks wan and worn and when she smiles at Stiles it’s a brittle thing as she says, take care of yourself for them. And Stiles nods and stares into Scott’s eyes staring at him from the mantle and doesn’t spit the reminder sour on his tongue that they’re dead. Because they are dead. And no amount of pictures will change that.
And Stiles hates himself. More than anything, Stiles hates himself.
After all, it is his fault that they’re dead.
Peter. Scott. Derek. Lydia. Isaac. The puppies. Stiles’ dad. Every single one of them, dead to a trap meant for Stiles.
Not that any of them had suspected Deaton.
After all, why would they? Deaton was many things. A cryptic bastard for sure. An asshole on his bad days. A bit of a narcissist definitely. But a traitor? Never that. Not after all their history together.
Even Stiles, powerful spark, tied to the nemeton, protector of Beacon Hills, hadn’t realized. Not until he was overwhelmed, still in his bed whining over an ankle sprain and an argument he’d had with his dad over his bacon consumption, with the nemeton pulsing death death death terror death through its roots and an overwhelming sense of loss pressing against all his senses.
Every single one. Dead.
All because Deaton wanted balance.
And it was all Stiles’ fault.
Deaton doesn’t realize his mistake in leaving Stiles alive. And Stiles, two months later, with greasy hair and a clenched jaw, ensures that he never will.
Time travel, in practice, is not as hard as it is in theory.
Or it is. So long as you care about maintaining the original time stream, so long as you want to go back.
Stiles doesn’t give a shit.
There’s nothing left for him in the current time except booze and silence and a cold bed and Scott’s eyes, staring at him from the mantle, begging why didn’t you save us, why didn’t you see, why did we have to die for you? Sometimes the question is different. Sometimes it’s why didn’t you protect us? Or why didn’t you know?
Why didn’t you die with us?
(Sometimes Stiles wishes he had. Sometimes Stiles stares at the whiskey hiding in the back of the cabinet and thinks about drinking it, about pouring it out and lighting a match, about going up in smoke. Sometimes Stiles thinks of Peter and flames and mountain ash and wonders if he was afraid to burn.)
There is nothing for Stiles in this timeline.
So with mountain ash (the irony, that the one thing to keep his wolves away would be the thing to bring them back to him), belief, the splinters of the nemeton, and a nasty little item he stole from a coven of witches, Stiles destroys his own timeline, and travels back.
He wakes up on a table. It is only for a few moments, but he thinks he can make out Deaton in the next room, talking on the phone.
The second time Stiles opens his eyes, Peter is sitting in an armchair beside him smelling of smoke and old books, eyes ice blue and it breaks Stiles’ heart to know even now, even before the fire his wolf is still damned by guilt, tied down by pack duty and marked for mistrust.
Stiles grins, a wry, raw thing that is one part relieved and two parts grieving that this is not his wolf, will never be his wolf, will never be the Peter Hale that burnt to death or made an indent in the left side of Stiles’ bed (that Peter is gone now, trapped behind mountain ash and burnt again, reduced to cinders with no banshee to bring him back a second time, because Lydia burnt at his side). This Peter Hale, young and self-sure and innocent—despite his blue eyes—jerks forward. He cages Stiles against the bed, pinning down his arms and legs.
“What do you want?”
Stiles relishes against the feel of Peter’s body against his, even if the intent is hostile. He tilts his head back, making a point of displaying his neck.
“I’m not a threat Zombiewolf.”
Stiles barely notices Peter’s shock before the room swims and again he’s asleep.
The third time Stiles wakes up there is a committee stuffed around his bed. All wolves no doubt (the Hale pack, if the exceeding bushiness and general frownery of the eyebrows can be trusted). Talia is obvious, brown haired and firm-faced, standing ramrod straight without an ounce of kindness on her. Looking now, Stiles can recognize her echoes in Derek’s stance, alpha posturing and false confidence. Stiles can’t help his smile (he beat the fire, he was right, he’s really made it, all of this can be fixed). She opens her mouth, but Stiles beats her to it.
“Alpha Talia Hale.”
The way everyone freezes reminds Stiles of Scott’s photo on the mantle, staring staring staring. He grinds his teeth, skin prickling with the weight of expectation, the shame of failure, the cost of a mistake. Talia draws closer to the bed, flanked by Peter and Stiles finds himself relaxing despite himself, lulled by the scent of smoke and paper.
Her eyes flash red. “How do you know who I am?”
Stiles laughs, brittle with madness bleeding out the edges.
“You wouldn’t believe me even if I told you.”
But then Deaton pushes through the masses, shoving his way up to Stiles’ bedside with squinted eyes and a concerned grimace, and Stiles freezes. Because here is the cause of it all. Here is the reason why he finds alcohol in the cabinets, why he lies alone in bed, why Derek was angry, and Laura was dead, and the Hales were burnt (because Deaton was partly responsible for the fire. He’d admitted it, with Stiles’ bat against his throat and the fury of a spark biting at his soul, his eyes wide and gleaming with panic as he argued for balance balance balance). Here is Scott’s killer, the reason his brother stares at him mournful from the mantle.
So Stiles grabs onto his spark and he twists (as hard as he ever has, as hard as he can, as much as he needs) and Deaton’s heart hardens and cracks and crumbles and his breath froths up into his throat and like that, Deaton dies.
The room erupts, and Stiles falls asleep again.
The fourth time that Stiles wakes up, he is cuffed to a chair with Peter looming over him, and Stiles laughs.
It makes Peter’s eyes narrow in an expression Stiles remembers intimately, and the familiarity sends a pang of longing through his chest. After all, this is Peter. Not his Peter perhaps, touched by fire and death and so much anger, but Peter nonetheless, and smelling the way he does, of old books and candlelit nights, Stiles can’t help but miss him.
Something must show in his face (or perhaps curdle his scent. Peter was always telling Stiles he could smell the sadness on him, clinging to his skin like day-old sweets and stale water, a cloying thing that always had Peter turning up his nose before cuddling closer until Stiles smelled like pack again.) because Peter lurches forward a half-step before visibly stopping himself, confusion clear in his eyes.
“What are you?”
Peter is asking so much more than that, Stiles knows. He can hear it in the rough gravel of his voice, the way he dips into a growl on the low notes. Peter is afraid—of Stiles, for Stiles—confusion coloring his every movement (Stiles can feel the pack bond, iron-thick and pulsing in his chest, stronger than even his bonds had been to Scott. No doubt Peter’s wolf feels it too, recognizes Stiles as pack, needs to comfort and protect and provide, even if Peter himself does not understand the pull).
Stiles shifts in his chair, baring his neck as much as possible while cuffed. Peter’s nostrils flare unconsciously.
Peter’s eyes narrow further. “Why do you smell like pack?”
(And oh, that’s interesting. Peter did notice, so much earlier than Stiles assumed he would. Maybe this was Stiles’ Peter, even without the murder and betrayal and abandonment. After all, Peter was always such a clever wolf.)
Stiles cocks his head. “Did you like Deaton, Peter?”
“Try to stay on topic Stiles.” The name slips from his lips in a hiss, Peter retreating into himself in the way that Stiles knew he would, the way he always did when he didn’t understand.
“Fine,” Stiles squirms in his seat. “If I promise not to kill anyone else will you uncuff me?”
Peter’s eyes narrow even further. “Why would I believe you?”
Stiles scoffs. “First off, werewolf. You can hear me lie. Second, Deaton was a lying, cryptic bastard and we’re all better off with him dead.”
Peter slams his hand down on the back of Stiles’ chair, looming over him. “Deaton was our emissary. How are we better off with him dead?”
Stiles stills, lifting his head to stare at Peter, careful to hold direct eye contact. “Deaton was a slimy, lying coward obsessed with balance. He thought that your pack is too powerful. He was going to use your nephew to hand you over to hunters, and they were going to burn your entire pack while you slept. And you know who survives? Just you, Derek, and Laura, who is in no way ready to be an alpha, and who abandons you, because she can’t handle it, and you go feral. And you kill her. and then years later, when you and Derek have finally managed to build up another pack, do you know what happens? Deaton kills them all, and kills you, all for his fucking balance.” Stiles juts out his chin, purposefully ignoring the horror on Peter’s face. “Trust me. He’s better off dead.”
Peter’s hands are shaking when he reaches forward to unlock Stiles’ cuffs. “I need to go speak with Talia.”
Stiles nods, rubbing at his wrists. “You go do that.” He watches Peter slip out the door, back abnormally straight, and sighs, letting the room swallow up his words. “I missed you Peter.”