Peter tries to ignore the horrifying stench of burning flesh in his nose as he pounds against the invisible barrier in front of himself with all of his remaining strength. The glass shards and wood splinters - the remains of the window that used to be there - are mocking him just as much from the other side of the mountain ash line, as the hunters surrounding the house.
Cries of pain, the roaring fire and their combined thundering heartbeats are the only sounds he can hear for a moment, then a beam cracks ominously over their heads. Peter grits his teeth and feels a growl vibrating in his chest.
They’re running out of time.
He slams his hands against the barrier and stares at the burns covering them. Soon his whole body will look like this, before turning as black as charcoal. He probably won’t live long enough to see that happen.
Peter barely understands what’s happening, when he suddenly falls forward. Reflexes are helpful, though, so he finds himself crouching and without any additional injuries on the outside of the house seconds later. The front door bursts open and the remaining members of his pack are storming out of the house, coughing and falling to the ground as soon as they're far enough away from the inferno.
Just in time, too.
Peter watches wide-eyed as the ceiling caves in and buries the sitting room underneath it, but a scream reminds him of the hunters out for their blood. He feels weak and his injuries haven’t even started healing, which indicates the use of wolfsbane, but Peter nevertheless whips around, ready to take on whoever tries to finish the job of ending them.
What he sees instead, is a dark brown wolf with alpha-red eyes, ripping the throat out of a hunter. The last one, by the looks of it. The rest of the maybe ten men and women are already lying in a pool of their own blood. Unmoving and most of them already dead.
Peter’s whole body tenses up, when his gaze meets the alpha’s, who’s staring back at him. Peter has no idea who it is. Except for his sister, he doesn't know anyone who's capable of a full shift.
It feels like a split second and an eternity, until the alpha nods and disappears into the woods. Peter scrambles to his feet and runs after it, but in his current state he can't hope to catch up. He stops at the tree line where the other were has stood and notices a note tacked to the bark.
"All people responsible have been dealt with."
Later, they find out that not only Kate Argent, apparently the mastermind of the plan, and her hunter buddies have been dealt with, but also everyone, who’s helped her.
Peter tasks himself with finding out who’s saved them, but he’s surrounded by dead-ends. The forest doesn’t hold a hint of foreign werewolf scent. It’s like their savior’s nothing but a figment of Peter’s imagination. Asking around for an alpha with a full shift doesn’t bear fruit either, neither does contacting his not inconsiderable information network.
His family leaves the incident behind them with time, but Peter never quite does.
Five years later they're visited by an alpha who hopes to strike up an allegiance with them. It's an old pack, one they’ve been on friendly terms with in the past, but for the last two generations they've been at odds. Christine, who's inherited leadership after her uncle's death, wants to go back to the old ways.
While she and Talia hash out the details between them, Peter can't help noticing the glances his way. She's not the only one of her pack to do so either. Peter doesn't think its attraction or fear. Their scents are all wrong for that to be the reason.
"Can I help you?" Peter finally drawls during a lull in the conversation, when Christine's gaze is once again directed at him. She doesn't flush, but she does look a bit sheepish.
"Sorry, it's just… you remind me of someone. An alpha that passed through our territory some time ago. You could be twins."
"He called himself Romulus or rather his emissary called him that. Romulus rolled his eyes but didn't disagree," Emily, Christine's sister and right hand, adds. "They were only a few days on our land and we didn't talk much, but he's hard to forget, because he had a fullshift."
"Fullshift? Peter asks. He can feel and hear his heartbeat pick up pace and knows everyone else in the room can hear it, as well. He doesn't care. Neither does he pay attention to his sister's disapproving glare. “Dark brown head, lighter brown body and white snout?"
"Exactly." Christine blinks in surprise. "You know him?"
"We've met. Do you know where they were planning to go?"
"Portland, I think, but that was years ago. They've probably already moved on."
Peter smirks, not at all discouraged. He's finally got a promising lead and additional information. It's going to be tough to find his mysterious doppelganger, but Peter was never scared to face a challenge.
Peter thanks the waitress, who’s brought him his coffee and goes back to watching the hotel on the other side of the street. It has taken him half a year, but now he's so close to his goal. He's tracked his doppelganger, who’s apparently in the mood for traveling, across half the world, right to Germany's capital Berlin. He's even found the right hotel. Being ‘recognized’ as Mr. Howard by the hotel receptionist was a dead giveaway. Now he's waiting for the elusive Mr. Howard to return to his hotel.
"Hey, hi, kann ich mich hierhin setzen? Danke!"
Peter looks away from the window and to the man who's already slipping into the seat across from Peter with a latte macchiato and a pastry in hand. The rest of the café is almost empty. There's definitely enough space to sit down without sharing a table with a stranger.
Peter's also no idea what the man said. There are quite a few languages he knows, but German's not one of them.
"Sorry, I don't understand."
The guy grins widely at him.
"A fellow American! What brings you to the other side of the pond, dude? Business? Pleasure?" The man puts his cup down and bites into his pastry with relish. There's powdered sugar all around his mouth. Peter can't decide if he looks more like a messy child or a crack session gone wrong. The next bite adds smears of jam to the mess. It's like a train-wreck and Peter can't look away. "The name's Czerwony."
The man basically shoves his hand in front of Peter’s face for a hand shake that Peter reluctantly accepts, while stating his own name. There’s a tingle when their skin touches, but Peter writes it of a static.
The next fifteen minutes are spent half listening to the man prattle on about one topic or another and half watching the entrance to the hotel. When the man finally finishes his pastry and stands up to leave the café, Peter doesn’t wonder why he’s following him out and going back to his hotel to pack for his departure on the next morning.
Peter opens his eyes with a groan and for a disconcertingly long moment tries to remember what's happened, before the information comes to the forefront of his mind. He’d been in the bathroom of his hotel room, halfway ready for bed, when his door was forced open. Shortly thereafter half a dozen men and women had streamed in - hunter, all armed to the teeth and each wearing a mask. At first he'd thought they were trying to cover their identities and maybe that had been part of it, but the main reason had become clear seconds later, when they'd used some kind of wolfsbane infused smoke grenade to subdue him. The next thing he knew was a syringe being rammed into his neck and the heavy feeling of encroaching unconsciousness. At least he'd downed two of them before they'd got him.
Now Peter’s chained to a wall in a cluttered dark room (probably some sort of cellar), surrounded by a circle of mountain ash and with a splitting headache. He’s alone, but can hear voices on the other side of the door, arguing about finding someone. There’s no sound of traffic, except for one approaching car, so Peter figures they’re somewhere secluded. His sense of smell’s still mostly out of commission due to the wolfsbane grenade. At least he’s not just clad in his boxershorts.
Peter tests the chains, which unfortunately hold, but there's more than one way to get out of them. It's a strain, but he can reach his shoe and pull the hidden picklock out. It's frankly insulting that the hunters haven't even searched him, but it's lucky for him. Still doesn't mean he won't mock them for the lack of thoroughness while he's tearing out their throats.
The first cuff falls away within a minute or two. He's busy with the second one, when someone approaches the room they stuffed Peter into. He quickly slips the picklock beneath the waistband of his jeans and angles himself in a way that doesn’t immediately show he’s halfway freed himself.
The door opens and a young man enters with a sneer already attached to his face and a taser in his hand. His body language screams cocky, but to his credit, the guy stops on the safe side of the mountain ash barrier.
“Where is he?” The man hisses. Peter is confused, but after a few seconds his brain starts to connect the dots. Isn’t he here to search for his doppelganger? It’s not far-fetched to assume these hunters have mistaken him for someone else like the hotel receptionist did and are now searching for ‘the emissary’. Peter’s pretty sure he flashed his (not at all alpha-red) eyes during his kidnapping, but people see, what they want to see.
“And why would I tell you?” Peter drawls and cocks an eyebrow. Maybe he can annoy the guy to his side of the mountain ash barrier and get some more information in the process. “It’s not my fault if you’re all too stupid to find him.“ Peter smirks upon seeing the man in front of him grinding his teeth.
“Got you, didn’t we?” The hunter growls and, yep, that hurts, because it’s true, even if he’s not really the one they were looking for. Peter forces his smirk to become even more patronizing.
“Oh, did you? Did you really think it was that easy? That I didn’t want you to bring me here to your little hidey-hole to get rid of you once and for all?” Peter taunts and internally pats himself on the shoulder, when the asshole’s grip on his taser tightens as he crosses the barrier. Big, deadly mistake.
Peter’s free hand darts forward and slaps the weapon out of the hunter’s hand. A scuffle ensues, during which Peter tries to subdue the man without killing him. When their life is on the line, even most hunters are easy to threaten and Peter needs someone to get him out of his invisible prison cell. Unfortunately it doesn’t work out like that.
His claws accidentally slash the guy’s throat, when Peter tries to evade an attack, but loses his balance when the remaining chain attached to the cuff on his wrist gets in the way. He curses and lets the lifeless body fall to the ground. Now he’s got to find another way to get out of here.
Well, first things first, before the hunter’s friends come looking for the idiot. They probably heard the commotion anyway.
Peter pulls out the picklock again and turns to the second cuff, when he hears another two heartbeats arrive at the house. At first he thinks it’s even more hunters, but a roar quickly makes him reconsider. Peter can feel his own heartbeat pick up pace, when the idea that this might be the alpha crosses his mind.
Peter opens the cuff to the sound of screams and expiring lives, then waits in his beta shift. He doesn’t have to wait long, but the person who appears in the doorway throws him. It’s the man from the café – Che-something-or-another.
“Who’re you?” It comes out a bit slurred, because he’s not ready to put the fangs away. Peter’s not even sure who he’s directing the question at – The brunet in front of him, whose red hoody isn’t hiding the big blood stains at all, or the wolf who saunters in seconds later. Peter has theories, of course, but finally wants facts, damn it!
The alpha’s eyes glow red as the man shifts back and it’s like looking into a distorting mirror. It’s Peter, but not exactly. The alpha steps forward, unheeding of his nudity. The smirk on his lips is more than familiar.
"I'm you, but stronger."
Peter frowns, confused and slightly annoyed, even more so, when the (most likely) emissary snorts and starts laughing so hard he has to support himself on a wall.
"I can't believe you just used that meme and that we're actually in a situation where it fits." He wipes an imaginary tear away from his eye and drops a kiss on the alpha’s cheek. "I'm so proud."
"Happy to please, Sweetheart."
Instead of trying to make sense of what’s going on in front of him, Peter narrows his eyes and gets back to more important matters.
“A different dimension? Time travel? A secret cloning project by the government or my long lost twin brother? Where did you come from?”
Not-Peter snorts, while his (yeah 100%) emissary raises his hand and somehow prompts the mountain ash to fly into a neat line into his hand. Peter utters a sigh of relief.
"I knew you wouldn't be able to leave it alone," the emissary mutters and eyes Peter's doppelganger with a half-hearted glare.
"You know that you're not much better, Stiles. Given the right incentive you'd be standing in front of us sooner or later, too," Not-Peter replies with a smug but fond grin.
The newly dubbed Stiles grumbles, but doesn’t protest. Instead he turns back to Peter and dramatically points at him.
“If you’d just returned home on the same day, like the spell told you to, you wouldn’t be here right now, dude. And now that you’ve seen us, we’ll have to kill you.”
Peter tenses. The man's heart has been completely steady. That wasn’t a lie.
Suddenly, Stiles is grinning.
Peter frowns, because once again he doesn't hear a lie in the contradicting words.
"Annoying, isn't it? He's long since graduated from half-truths," Not-Peter says. The fondness in his eyes makes Peter ache. He's had quite a few partners in his life, but none of his relationships have been serious. Peter wasn't even aware that he's capable of that expression. And maybe he isn't. Will never be. The person in front of him isn't him, not really. Peter can’t make his mind up if he’s envious or not.
"We stumbled over a witch coven trying to do something naughty and botched up their ritual. It landed us in this time, though," Stiles explains and unashamedly leans into older Peter, carding his fingers through the alpha’s hair. "We went far enough back to deal with the fire and the people involved. Since then we've travelled around and dealt with codeless hunters whenever we stumbled over them."
Peter startles. He's heard rumors of whole groups of hunters disappearing without a trace, among them Gerard Argent and his most trusted. Peter's the Left Hand, but even he can't do such a neat job, but then again the Peter in front of him is an alpha with a fullshift and some kind of magic user at his side. Not a druid, no. Stiles certainly doesn't scream 'balance' to him. A mage perhaps.
It's the kind of ruthlessness he can appreciate in any case. It's high-time that innocent creatures, not only werewolves, shouldn’t have to live in fear of codeless hunters.
Peter licks his lips and opens his mouth.
Peter frowns up at his doppelganger.
"You don't even know what I was going to say."
Older Peter scoffs. Stiles is echoing him and stepping forward to tap his forefinger against Peter’s chest.
"You want to come with us. Help us. Leave your current pack behind," Stiles says like he's pulling the thoughts right out of Peter's head. Is there such a thing as mind-reading?
Stiles smirk softens to a smile as he cradles Peter’s cheek in his hand. Peter might be holding his breath.
"I can't read your mind. It's written all over your face. If you know what to look for, anyway. You should go back and protect your pack more hands-on. You’re lucky to still have it."
Peter flinches as the implications finally hit him full force. His gaze darts to the older him, whose face is carefully blank. Peter knows that a storm of emotion’s behind that façade. He can’t even imagine what it’s like to lose his whole pack all at once, but the thought alone is like a knife to the chest. Half a year of only seeing them on a screen is already eating away on him.
Looks like he will return to his pack, will make sure that something like The Fire will never happen again… but first he’s got some more questions for a pair of time travelers.