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Peter’s twenty when his human stops coming to the meadow.

 

He’s tempted to search through the field of yellow flowers as if he’ll find his human in a rabbit hole. He’s never crossed over this side of the Hale border and he refuses to unless his human is here, holding out his hand for Peter to take. It’s been two and a half months of Peter waiting here from dawn ‘till dusk and sometimes through the night as well.

 

It hurts being by the meadow. It hurts to not be by the meadow.

 

A soft touch taps his elbow and he knows it’s time to go. He ignores his sister, tempted to dig his heels in and make her scruff him like she did the first time he came here.

 

Peter sweeps his eyes over the field one last time. He curls his fingers around the rock in his hand and gives in to what feels like a good-bye.

 

He flicks out a single claw.

 

PH



 

❀ ♡ ❀

 

Peter’s eight the first time he sees the boy in the meadow.

 

Crouching behind a bush, Peter watches the little boy sitting in the yellow wildflowers. He’s too far away for Peter to properly smell but there’s the faint scent of human medicine and something sweet—chocolate.

 

Peter creeps forward on his knees, eyeing the candy bar. Sometimes when Talia’s stressed, she bakes cookies with chunks of sweets broken off into them. Peter didn’t know you could eat a whole stick of chocolately goodness.

 

Right as Peter’s thinking about revealing himself, a hand grabs the back of his shirt and tugs him into the shade of the trees. Talia frowns at him and drags him back home, ignoring Peter’s snarling and dodging his clawed swipes.

 

❀♡❀

 

The meadow starts right where Hale pack territory ends. Peter is known to creep outside of pack territory, sometimes going as far as sneaking into the human high school.

 

He’s hesitant to go into the meadow, however. The only humans he’s ever interacted with are two of his older cousins and his great aunt.

 

He’s never seen a little human before. The boy is small and has skinny arms and always wears overalls with bright shirts underneath.

 

He looks ridiculous and not scary at all.

 

Peter’s never made a friend before but he’s great at everything and he’d be a great friend. It doesn’t matter what Peter’s packmates say about him being annoying and clingy.

 

Still. Peter thinks he should wait. To see if this boy is worth being Peter’s friend, of course. Peter’s not afraid or anything.

 

❀♡❀

 

The boy acts like a pup. He runs around the meadow with his arms out, making weird sounds with his mouth. He chases after butterflies and crawls on his stomach toward bunnies.

 

Peter is not a pup. He reads books without pictures and fights almost as good as the next youngest packmate who is fourteen.

 

Packmates who go to high school have started saying baby instead of pup. Peter never, ever does anything that will get him called a baby.

 

He decides he and the boy can’t be friends.

 

There’s no harm in watching him, especially when packmates do boring things that Peter didn’t even want to be a part of anyway.

 

He sits in the bushes most of the summer, watching the boy roll around in the grass, laughing, and getting freckles all over his pale skin.

 

❀♡❀

 

When the school year starts, Peter’s the last packmate to be left behind and homeschooled.

 

He hates it.

 

He hates the little boy in the meadow. He doesn’t come by that often and when he does, he has a backpack and streaks of marker colors all over his hands.

 

❀♡❀

 

Peter hates it more when it gets cold outside and the boy in the meadow doesn’t come by at all.

 

❀♡❀

 

Peter’s nine and it’s summer again and the meadow boy is back.

 

He smells like human medicine still. It smells sickly sweet but Peter prefers it much more than the thick stench of school humans.

 

The boy is taller, maybe Peter’s height, and his hair is darker like he hasn’t been outside at all. His freckles are gone except for the dark brown ones on his face.

 

He acts like he hasn’t been outside—running around so fast it makes Peter’s head dizzy. He doesn’t come every day but he comes enough to keep Peter entertained.

 

❀♡❀

 

Peter gets in trouble for attacking Talia.

 

Packmates started teasing Peter about going to see his “boyfriend” and only Talia knows about the meadow boy. It’s not fair that she has packmates her own age and tells them Peter’s secret.

 

Peter says meadow boy is a baby, not Peter’s boyfriend (Peter’s not sure yet what that means but he thinks it’s what humans call mates).

 

Talia had ruffled Peter’s hair and said that he is a pup, too.

 

So Peter jumped on her back with his claws out.

 

Pack says this is proof that Peter’s not fit for human society and bans him from going to the meadow.

 

Peter hates meadow boy.

 

❀♡❀

 

In the winter, Peter figures out Talia’s hiding that she’s pregnant. She says if he swears not to tell anyone, he can go on trips to the grocery store with her.

 

He agrees on the condition that he can get a candy bar.

 

She tells everyone in the spring but still takes Peter out with her. It’s kind of nice even if it’s a chore.

 

One time, Peter hears laughter and he runs away from Talia without thinking. Meadow boy is running in circles around an old woman, holding a bag of candy out of the woman’s reach.

 

Peter runs into a shelf and knocks over a bunch of boxes. It’s the most embarrassing thing ever and Talia grabs him by the back of his shirt again, calling him a pup.

 

The old lady snatches the bag of candy from meadow boy because he’s stopped his running to watch Peter get dragged away.

 

Peter never knew meadow boy’s eyes were so big. They’re the same soft brown color as the bunnies Peter used to watch the boy chase two years ago.

 

After that trip, Peter hears other human kids laugh when Talia takes him out but it never sounds like meadow boy’s.

 

Meadow boy might be a baby and Peter might hate him but he does have a nice laugh.

 

❀♡❀

 

Talia’s going to have her pup at the end of summer. It’s all that pack cares about and they’re all going crazy taking care of her and setting up a nursery and planning a mating ceremony.

 

Talia’s mate is a human and Peter hates him. He tries to do human things with Peter like “play catch” and he tells everyone that Talia’s going to be a great mom because she already is one—as if Peter is her pup!

 

Peter hates him and hates the pup in Talia’s tummy and hates the pack for thinking pups are cute now. Pack has finally stopped calling Peter a pup. They say he’s going to be an uncle and he thinks he might hate it more than being called a baby.

 

Meadow boy is much less hateable in comparison to pack.

 

The bushes are harder to hide in. Peter’s grown a lot since last year. Meadow boy looks the same.

 

Peter likes that he’s taller than meadow boy.

 

Meadow boy brings books with him, now. It’s weird to see him sit so still. The books are always big like the ones Peter reads—no pictures like the ones for babies.

 

Maybe meadow boy would be an okay friend. Peter starts bringing books so they’re reading together like he imagines friends do.

 

❀♡❀

 

Sometimes Peter forgets to read and gets distracted staring at the boy. It’s fascinating, seeing his hair grow lighter and longer and his skin turns red then pale again with new freckles.

 

Peter had been wrong in thinking that the boy sits still. He just moves in a different way, making outrageous expressions as he turns each page, laughing or huffing angrily or frowning.

 

He takes breaks to run in circles and Peter’s improving at knowing when it’s because he’s bored and when it’s because the book is getting too exciting for him to sit.

 

❀♡❀

 

Talia has her pup. Her name is Laura and she screams a lot and it’s going to be years before Peter can play with or boss her around.

 

The school year starts and Peter still has four more years before he can go. Being homeschooled with a pup in the house is the worst. He sneaks away and spends all his time by the meadow.

 

The boy isn’t there during the morning and daytime and only comes by on rare afternoons. It’s better with the boy here to entertain Peter but just sitting at the edge of the tree line and looking out at the field of flowers wipes away Peter’s loneliness.

 

❀♡❀

 

The boy disappears completely as the cold sets in. Then the rain comes and he’s back in a ridiculously bright yellow raincoat and matching boots.

 

The rain washes off the scent of school humans on the boy which makes Peter happy.

 

The boy acts like a pup again, jumping in puddles and playing in the mud. It’s ridiculous and Peter gets soaked in the bushes for watching.

 

He stays, though, because the boy keeps throwing his head back and laughing and Peter thinks maybe it’s the best sound ever.

 

❀♡❀

 

Laura’s barely walking when Talia gets pregnant again.

 

Peter’s so mad he sleeps in the bushes. Laura will have someone else to boss around and play with. It’s not fair that Talia was born so early and Laura born so late, leaving Peter alone in the middle.

 

There are only three packmates left that still go to high school and they’ll have graduated by the time Peter gets there.

 

Talia has to drag Peter home the second night he tries sleeping in the bushes. She makes him cookies and tells him he should give some to the meadow boy tomorrow. It’s the first time he’s ever been given permission to interact with a human.

 

Peter takes the cookies and eats them all and watches in fascination as the boy peels his red skin off the next day.

 

❀♡❀

 

Peter wonders if the boy has an older sister who is having a baby because by the end of the summer he looks all sad and droopy like the flowers Peter picks by the bushes and hides under his bed.

 

He forgot that the boy smells like human medicine. He’s just started thinking of human medicine as smelling like the boy.

 

Then the boy stinks of it more and more and then less and less.

 

He also has the same scent that Laura has when she cries or packmates after a “break-up” (Peter’s learned that boyfriend does mean a mate, but only kind of).

 

One day, the boy brings a big red blanket, rolls himself up in it, and stares up at the sky all day. Peter pinches himself in case he’s dreaming. He dreams about the boy, sometimes.

 

The sun sets and the boy hasn’t moved at all and Peter can hear his heartbeat but it’s so slow. Peter’s not a pup, he’s not, he’s twelve and he doesn’t cry like a baby.

 

But maybe his eyes are a little wet when he runs home and drags Talia out to the edge of the forest. She has a human mate, she’ll know what to do.

 

Talia digs her heels in before they leave pack territory and she holds Peter back. She puts her finger to her lips and shakes her head. Then she sits down and holds Peter’s hand until the boy finally, finally rolls out of his blanket and stumbles out of the meadow.

 

She tells Peter someone the boy knows is very, very sick.

 

Peter doesn’t understand.

 

❀♡❀

 

School starts and Derek is born and meadow boy quietly does his homework every day in the meadow.

 

The first time the boy shows up smelling like school humans again, Peter growls. His growls have deepened recently and it scares the birds out of the trees. The boy looks toward the forest at their squawking.

 

He doesn’t look to the woods all that often but when he does, he always looks at the bushes Peter’s hiding in. Meadow boy has silly human eyes that can’t see Peter and Peter knows he’s only looking over because his silly human ears heard a deer or something.

 

Late at night or on the days Peter sits here when the boy doesn’t come, Peter likes to pretend the boy senses him and that’s why he looks.

 

Peter starts growling quietly to scare birds and make the boy look up when he stares at his homework too long.

 

One time, Peter startles a bunny and it hops into the meadow and makes the boy laugh for the first time in forever.

 

Peter stares at the boy lying in the bed of flowers, body shaking with loud giggles, and he realizes that he doesn’t hate meadow boy at all.

 

Peter’s never had a friend before but he thinks making someone laugh makes them your friend.

 

So, Peter decides the meadow boy is his, then.

 

❀♡❀

 

The world hates Peter. Just when Peter makes his first friend, the world takes him away.

 

Technically, the world takes Peter’s friend’s mom away. It’s the first word Peter’s ever heard the boy say—mom.

 

The boy cries and cries and cries and this time Peter’s scared because his heartbeat is so fast, faster than bunnies. Peter wants to go sit next to him but Peter’s never had a friend before and maybe Peter lied, maybe he’s not so great at everything because he has no idea what to do with someone crying.

 

A low whine starts up in Peter’s throat. He doesn’t hide the weakness of whimpering like he does around pack because this is his meadow boy and it’s different. It clicks what Talia had tried telling him about the medicine scent.

 

Peter’s never known anyone who has died. Hale pack humans have never been sick enough to die. Dad died from a fight before Peter was born and Mom died giving birth to Peter. It makes Talia sad but Peter’s always had pack and maybe Talia is a little bit like a mom to him—not that he’ll ever say that.

 

But Peter’s friend doesn’t have a pack. His mom might have been the only person taking care of him. There was that old lady at the grocery store but who knows if that’s meadow boy’s family? Peter’s seen her around with other kids and never meadow boy again. What if he gets sent away? Where do humans go if they don’t have someone to take care of them?

 

Meadow boy is not allowed to leave. He’s not. He’s Peter’s friend. He’s Peter’s. His.

 

If he leaves, Peter will attack him and then Talia will have to give him the Bite so he doesn’t die and then he’ll be pack and stay with Peter forever.

 

Peter really, really, really hopes the boy has someone to take care of him here. He doesn’t think he could ever attack meadow boy, not even if it would mean he’d stay with Peter.

 

Peter promises the moon he’ll be a better uncle if he gets to keep his friend.

 

❀♡❀

 

The boy doesn’t leave. Not physically. But it feels like he left. He brings the red blanket and rolls up in it and stares at the sky.

 

He stops coming in late winter. Peter still waits out on rainy days. He knows the boy hasn’t left for good. Peter doesn’t know how he knows that, but he does.

 

Meadow boy will come back. And when he does, Peter will make him laugh again because they’re friends.

 

❀♡❀

 

Laura and Derek are a little fun to play with. Laura repeats everything Peter says and Derek has a weird laugh that reminds Peter of meadow boy.

 

He’s decided he’s glad Talia had two pups because that means they have each other and they won’t try and steal Peter’s friend when they grow up.

 

❀♡❀

 

A girl at the grocery store calls Peter cute. Talia teases him and the whole pack makes fun of him again like the time they called meadow boy Peter’s boyfriend.

 

Peter’s too old to attack Talia so he picks a bunch of meadow flowers that he can reach without crossing over the border and brings them home. Talia’s mate is allergic to pollen.

 

(Peter maybe keeps a few flowers for himself to press between book pages).

 

❀♡❀

 

Meadow boy comes back on Peter’s thirteenth birthday as if the moon personally delivered him as a gift.

 

His hair is cut short and he’s not wearing overalls anymore. He’s skinnier and hasn’t grown like Peter has.

 

Peter was going to go officially meet the boy once he returned but Peter’s worried he’ll scare him off.

 

Peter will watch over him for just a little bit longer. He’s not scared or anything. He only just got the boy back and he wants to take a day to watch him, that’s all.

 

It’s Peter’s birthday so he gets what he wants.

 

Well, maybe not everything he wants. No amount of scaring birds makes the boy look over and Peter can’t find any bunnies to make the boy laugh.

 

But he’s here. He’s here and he’s Peter’s.

 

❀♡❀

 

Peter really hates the smell of school humans all over meadow boy’s skin. It makes Peter’s growls slip closer to snarling.

 

Talia says it’s normal to struggle with his wolf because he’s going through “changes”. Peter thinks she should stick to parenting her own pups. As an Alpha, though, maybe what she says is true.

 

Not that Peter is struggling with his wolf. Peter doesn’t struggle with anything. But if he was, then he probably shouldn’t go meet his meadow boy yet.

 

He’ll wait a few months for summer and then he can go meet him without wolfing out at the scent.

 

❀♡❀

 

The boy looks at the woods a lot. Peter’s outgrown the bushes and has to sit behind a tree. Silly human eyes won’t be able to see into the shade.

 

The boy is different. Quieter. He doesn’t make as many faces when he reads.

 

That’s okay. Peter still likes him. When Peter hated everything, he only wanted to sit alone with the boy’s company. Peter’s trying to figure out how to be a good friend and he thinks the boy might want to be alone like Peter had.

 

So, Peter puts off meeting him for a little longer. He spends the summer reading in the trees while the boy reads in the meadow. The boy looks at the forest enough that Peter thinks he must feel not-alone with whatever birds or animals his silly human ears hear.

 

Peter is a good friend.

 

❀♡❀

 

The boy comes to the meadow every single day this school year. Peter makes sure to be here every day, too, no matter what.

 

Packmates tease him again but he doesn’t care. It’s not their opinions that are important to him.

 

Meadow boy sits still enough now that butterflies will land on him and it makes him smile. His cheeks dimple in a way Peter never noticed before.

 

❀♡❀

 

Peter’s one of the pack’s best fighters, more so than his older cousins. An omega passes through their territory one night and Talia tries to talk with the ‘wolf but it attacks her and runs off.

 

Peter chases after the omega and blacks out.

 

❀♡❀

 

Peter wakes up in Talia’s bed.

 

His head hurts and everything is too loud and too bright.

 

Talia explains that the omega had moved in the direction of the meadow and once Peter had realized that he went crazy.

 

Peter nearly goes crazy just hearing about it. An insane omega in meadow boy’s meadow. If it had been the daytime, the omega could have easily killed meadow boy.

 

Peter doesn’t realize he’s snarling until Talia forces him to submit by flashing her red eyes. She tells him to calm down before he wolfs out. Peter tells her that he’s already fucking wolfed out and bares his fangs at her.

 

He’s surprised that she laughs instead of flashing her eyes again. She explains Peter had full-shifted and sliced the omega to pieces.

 

Peter had turned full wolf.

 

Peter can shift into a full fucking wolf.

 

Talia’s one of the few werewolves who can do that and it took her years of practice. Only in Peter’s wildest dreams did he think that someday he could try despite not being an Alpha.

 

“Your human is very lucky,” Talia says.

 

Peter’s human. Peter’s chest rumble comes out as a deep growl.

 

Peter asks what color his eyes are. Talia raises an eyebrow.

 

Blue eyes take over Beta gold when you feel like you’ve killed someone innocent.

 

Peter grins. He knows his eyes are still gold. They’ll probably turn blue someday but he knows he’ll never feel an ounce of guilt over anyone he kills for his meadow boy.

 

❀♡❀

 

It’s crazy seeing his meadow boy after the omega.

 

Peter turned into a wolf for him and he doesn’t even know it.

 

He doesn’t even know about Peter at all.

 

Soon, he will. Peter’s waited too long and he doesn’t want to wait any longer and Peter’s wolf demands he scent his boy who smells like school humans again.

 

Talia has to train him first on how to relearn control. Abruptly doing the full-shift is going to make it much harder for Peter than if he’d had years of practicing.

 

Talia says Peter’s never taken the easy way.

 

The even more enhanced senses it’s awakened in Peter makes him want to shut himself away in a dark room. But even in a dark room he can still see too much and hear too much and smell too much.

 

The meadow turns out to be way better than a dark room.

 

Peter relaxes the closer and closer he gets to the field of flowers. He wonders what Talia is going to say about him having anchored himself to a fucking meadow. Embarrassed, Peter thinks she probably already knows since she hasn’t brought up what he anchors to, only emphasizing that he strengthens his anchor bond.

 

His meadow boy shows up after an hour and it’s like Peter’s seeing him for the first time.

 

He hears his heartbeat long before he comes into view. He picks it apart from other humans—slightly erratic, speeding up frequently because he must have seen or thought about something exciting. Peter knows all the little things about his human and now he gets to know even more.

 

Peter can finally smell him. Just him, his scent, his boy. Under the layers of school humans is a mixed smell of pollen from the meadow, ink from pen stains on his hands, and a faint trace of blood from biting at his fingernails.

 

It’s not the best scent in the world but it also sort of is the best scent in the world.

 

The longer Peter’s boy sits in the meadow, the more he smells like flowers and less like school humans.

 

It’s fantastic.

 

(Peter thinks maybe it’s not the meadow he’s anchored to).

 

❀♡❀

 

Peter maybe goes overboard for his birthday.

 

But he’s fourteen, the big birthday, finally old enough to go to school in the fall. Peter deserves the present he wants.

 

So, he rounds up six bunnies in a cage over the course of the past few days and waits until his boy has relaxed after an hour in the meadow.

 

He frees the bunnies with a low growl.

 

They sprint so fast away from Peter that one of them jumps directly into his boy.

 

His boy’s eyes are so wide and Peter can see them crystal clear after working on his enhanced sight. In the sun, they look a pretty yellow like the meadow flowers.

 

His mouth falls open as he watches the six bunnies hopping and Peter waits and waits and waits and—

 

Peter’s boy laughs for the first time in over a year.

 

He flops onto his back, his whole body shaking, and giggles like he’s only just remembered how to.

 

Peter grins so wide it hurts. He’s definitely the greatest at being a friend.

 

❀♡❀

 

Peter has his first day of school and he hates it. Everyone is loud and smelly and dumb.

 

Worst of all, his meadow boy isn’t there.

 

Talia says his human is probably a year or two younger than Peter.

 

Peter wants to hate his boy for it but his boy’s sad pheromones faded away last week and Peter’s a little obsessed with the smell of his happy pheromones.

 

Maybe it’s for the best. Peter can have a year to get used to humans and figure them out so he doesn’t risk embarrassing himself when he finally speaks to his boy.

 

Humans have plenty of ridiculous phrases and behaviors, like calling people baby as an insult and also as a sweet way of saying mate. Except they don’t treat mates like mates. There are words like flings and cheating and a couple being serious.

 

Peter has a lot to learn.

 

❀♡❀

 

Peter likes doing his homework at the same time with his boy. It’s like how his classmates talk about study groups.

 

His boy gets distracted and bites his pencil often. Peter would scoff at his boy’s attention span but Peter only knows this because he gets distracted, too, by watching his boy.

 

His boy stares into the trees when he spaces out—a new phrase Peter’s learned—but his flower-bunny colored eyes aren’t glazed over like classmates spacing out in class.

 

❀♡❀

 

A girl asks Peter out to some stupid dance.

 

Peter doesn’t even know her. She says she’s in his history class and Peter says no and walks away. Apparently this is rude to humans because she cries and he gets more dirty looks than usual from classmates.

 

He’s glad he has no packmates at school to tattle-tale on him to Talia.

 

Humans don’t like Peter much. Appearances are very important to human hierarchy, though, and people like Peter’s face. This means he’s part of the “popular” crowd.

 

It’s weird because if pack doesn’t like you, you get outcasted. Peter’s far from outcasted at school, even though everyone says he’s mean. He guesses pretty people are allowed to be rude.

 

It's annoying because Peter’s not even mean. Everyone is too stupid to understand a real insult.

 

❀♡❀

 

The first year of human school sucks.

 

Talia makes him play a sport to learn how to imitate human strength. He chooses basketball.

 

He doesn’t care for it but he’s fantastic at it because he’s fantastic at everything. He loves the rush of power he gets from it, from his teammates needing him in order to win and from the other team’s bitter loss because of his victory.

 

His packmates come to his games to cheer him on. Derek and Laura hold up a sign with his jersey number. They’re all very embarrassing but it’s a human tradition to be embarrassed by family so Peter allows it.

 

It’s not terrible.

 

❀♡❀

 

By the end of the school year, Peter’s spun humans into a fun little game. He can take down the prettiest of humans from their position of power with a few perfectly placed comments. He’s going to be the most popular student next year—most popular in every grade.

 

Growing up, packmates told Peter he was too annoying to have friends. Peter wishes he had known back then how great of a compliment that was. Annoying and frustrating humans is his new favorite past time.

 

Still, it’s all very dull and if Peter didn’t have his meadow boy to see every day afterward, he thinks he would wolf out and attack a teacher.

 

❀♡❀

 

Peter and his boy both grow this summer. Peter’s taller but his boy might catch up to him soon. His boy has little control over his long limbs and it makes Peter laugh.

 

He thinks his boy might have heard him laughing because a bitten up pen is flung near Peter’s direction. Sadly, with weak human strength, it doesn’t make it into the forest. Peter itches to go grab it.

 

He’s distracted by his boy yelling, “Dickhead!”

 

Peter’s not sure if the insult is directed at the rock his boy tripped over or if he truly heard Peter’s laughing.

 

❀♡❀

 

Peter waits all summer at the edge of the territory’s shadow, counting down the days until school starts and they can meet.

 

His boy’s favorite spot of sitting in the middle of the field has shifted closer to the trees, to where Peter hides. His boy’s heartbeat speeds up when he looks toward the forest.

 

Peter analyzes every detail he’s learned about humans by watching his classmates and by the end of the summer, he thinks he’s ready.

 

❀♡❀

 

His boy isn’t at school. Peter leaves early because his control is too thin.

 

His boy doesn’t show up at the meadow either.

 

Pack avoids Peter.

 

❀♡❀

 

His meadow boy shows up two days later, covered in bruises. The scabs on his knees open up and bleed when he bends to sit down.

 

A fierce growl erupts from Peter’s chest and he wolfs out fully for the first time since the omega. Talia gets to him before he can do anything and herds him back to the house with an Alpha roar.

 

❀♡❀

 

Peter’s not allowed to go to school for a week. Talia even bans him from the meadow like she had when he was a pup. Peter listens to her because he can still hear his meadow boy’s heartbeat from home without having to see his injuries.

 

❀♡❀

 

It’s not the last time his boy shows up with bruises. Peter gets better at handling it. He hates school more than ever because he’s not able to protect his boy and Talia says he’s not allowed to hunt down whoever has hurt his meadow boy.

 

She says he’s picking the fights which Peter already knows because he knows his boy. His boy is still hurting from his mom’s death and Peter’s no stranger to confusing violence with feeling better.

 

But still. Peter should be allowed to murder.

 

He’ll keep his meadow boy from being so stupid once he starts school with Peter next year but if someone does hurt his boy unprovoked—Peter will kill.

 

❀♡❀

 

His boy is taller than Peter by the summer.

 

Peter’s not happy about it.

 

❀♡❀

 

Talia’s pregnant again. Peter’s grateful because Laura and Derek had started following Peter around like annoying ducklings and the news of a new pup has them clinging onto their mom.

 

❀♡❀

 

The school year starts and his boy isn’t there again.

 

Turns out, his meadow boy goes to the other high school. Pack territory ends right at the edge of one human town and the meadow is the start of the next human town.

 

Peter figures this out by the school logo on a sports jersey his boy starts wearing.

 

Peter’s so mad he refuses to go to the meadow for a week. And if he spends that week imagining his boy in Peter’s jersey, well. That’s for Peter know.

 

❀♡❀

 

Junior year is boring and depressing now that he knows his meadow boy will never come to any of his basketball games. When he plays against his boy’s school, he gets pulled out of the game for being too rough.

 

He’s not sure if he’s grateful or disappointed that his boy chose a different sport than basketball.

 

❀♡❀

 

The summer before senior year, Peter’s boy shaves his hair short again like after his mom died.

 

Peter likes his boy’s hair long but his flower-bunny eyes look extra big when it’s this short. Peter wonders for the first time if his boy is popular at school.

 

Peter’s always pictured his meadow boy by his side but he’s never thought about what high school is like for his boy alone.

 

He’s attractive enough to be popular, Peter thinks. The growl that rumbles through him scares the birds and makes his boy laugh.

 

Peter’s too startled by his uncontrolled growl to appreciate the laughter.

 

❀♡❀

 

Peter’s boy has starred in his dreams for years but now Peter’s having...those dreams.

 

Peter’s friends who aren’t his friends talk about a make-out parking lot. Peter’s always dismissed it as irrelevant.

 

But then his meadow boy’s scent changes to include a stronger smell of car as a permanent under layer with blood and ink, like he drives one.

 

Peter’s dream-brain puts two and two together.

 

❀♡❀

 

Peter wants his boy to be his mate.

 

Peter needs to be the best mate. So, he does what he does best—researches. He takes advantage of humans’ stupid ritual of boyfriends and girlfriends and flings and hook-ups.

 

He says yes to the girls who ask him out. He figures out in the locker room which boys will make out with him.

 

Dating is boring because no one is interesting. His meadow boy will be plenty interesting, Peter knows, and Peter is always interesting so he focuses on kissing. It’s slightly less boring.

 

Sex is disappointing the first time and the second and the third—each time with different people rumored to be good at sex. He wonders if something is wrong with him. His partners feel differently, he smells their euphoria and satisfaction and then heartbreak when he’s not interested in continuing.

 

Honestly, Peter would rather spend his time napping near the meadow, falling asleep to the sound of his boy’s heartbeat.

 

Peter reads love poetry and he knows that’s a romantic sentiment but he also knows humans and his boy’s pheromones are mixed with lust and—

 

Peter worries.

 

❀♡❀

 

It takes weeks for Peter to figure out what has his wolf on guard. His boy’s a mix of school human smells and one of them is heavily perfumed.

 

That perfume one is stronger, settling under as permanent like flowers and ink and blood and car.

 

Peter doesn’t know what this means.

 

His meadow boy has a friend? His boy has a human version of a mate?

 

Derek and Laura ask why Peter smells “like that” and an older packmate says break-up and Peter attacks them.

 

During the full moon, he spends his time more wolf than human and aggressively scent marks the section of the forest near the meadow.

 

Pack stays away and doesn’t mention it the next morning.

 

❀♡❀

 

Peter’s boy smells like the same perfume and happy pheromones and doesn’t look to the woods as much and he doesn’t come to the meadow every day.

 

❀♡❀

 

Talia sits Peter down to talk about his college acceptance letters and he no longer puts up a fight about going away.

 

He won’t give up on his meadow boy. Not ever.

 

But he can’t stand to be around his boy falling in love with someone else. Peter’s strong but he’s not that masochistic.

 

Talia tells him humans have laws against and customs that frown upon college students dating high schoolers.

 

That means Peter’s not a coward for going off to college. He’s following human culture because he is the best. In two years, his boy will graduate and, finally, they can be together.

 

Well, meet each other and then be together.

 

❀♡❀

 

Peter goes to Stanford so he can visit home often and go to the meadow.

 

College is better than high school. The company’s still lacking which proves intelligence isn’t what makes someone interesting. It does make it infinitely more fun to anger smart people.

 

He spends his time buried in books and learning now that classes have new information to teach him.

 

He misses his meadow boy so much that it doesn’t matter that he smells like perfume. Peter’s just happy he’s still there.

 

❀♡❀

 

In the summer, his boy’s pheromones sour and smell like break-up.

 

It might make Peter an awful person but he hasn’t felt this happy since his fourteenth birthday when he made his human laugh from the rabbits.

 

Peter’s a great person but he’s not a good person and he’s always known that so he doesn’t feel guilty.

 

He doesn’t say anything but pack has a feast after a week of Peter coming home every night to Talia’s littlest pup jumping into his arms to press her face into his neck, saying he smells good.

 

❀♡❀

 

Smelling his boy’s heartbreak and not being able to soothe his distress is difficult. His boy tries reading but it’s like all his boy’s pup energy is back and he can’t sit for longer than a few minutes.

 

His boy starts showing up to the meadow in his sports clothes. He runs and stretches and does every exercise imaginable. His sweat permeates the air so that every breath Peter takes tastes like his boy.

 

Some days, his boy takes off his shirt from the heat.

 

It should be like way back at the start when Peter used to watch his meadow boy, an actual boy, running around and making airplane noises—just a ridiculous ball of energy to be entertained by.

 

His boy is just as entertaining as he was back then but in a very, very different way now.

 

Peter has a difficult time finishing his summer reading for next semester.

 

❀♡❀

 

Going back to school is much harder this year. Talia has to use her Alpha voice on him.

 

He visits home almost every weekend. He doesn’t put any effort into practicing dating or partying or having sex. He does his homework and sharpens his people skills by irritating humans and plans his trips back to the meadow.

 

❀♡❀

 

His meadow boy smells like perfume, still, but less than before and his sadness fades away.

 

He looks to the trees again. To where Peter stays in the shadows.

 

Peter goes back to scaring birds, timing it so his boy is caught off guard and flails his limbs like he used to.

 

He’s grown. He hasn’t been a boy for a long time but he’ll always be Peter’s meadow boy. His boy fits in his body with a lazy confidence. His faces aren’t as cartoonish but he still makes expressions that Peter reads just as easily.

 

His hair is long again and his skinniness has filled out from the summer of exercising and the last of his baby face is gone.

 

His boy sits closer to the forest again.

 

❀♡❀

 

Talia’s mate tries cornering Peter to talk about what it was like being a human courted by a ‘wolf.

 

❀♡❀

 

Peter breezes through spring semester. He turns down an internship offer without telling Talia.

 

This is it.

 

Twelve years.

 

Peter researches transferring and gets his affairs in order, ready to go wherever his meadow boy takes him.

 

❀♡❀

 

Peter’s second year of college ends before his human’s high school year does.

 

Peter basks in the shade of the trees, not bothering to do anything but watch his boy do homework.

 

Soon, Peter tells his wolf.

 

❀♡❀

 

“Graduation is tomorrow.”

 

Peter freezes. He slinks behind his regular tree.

 

His boy twirls a flower in his hand, walking aimlessly in circles. Freckles have begun dotting his skin and his hair has grass and flower petals tangled in it from lying down.

 

He’s beautiful. He’s so beautiful.

 

“Graduation is tomorrow,” his boy repeats. His head tilts back as he stares up at the sky. The stretch of his neck has Peter’s gums aching. “Starts at noon. At the lacrosse field.” Peter wants to wrap himself up in his boy’s voice, cocooned in it like the red blanket. “My dad’s taking me out to dinner because I said I’d hang out with my friends for lunch to celebrate.” His boy licks his lips and swallows. His heart speeds up in matching with Peter’s. “My friend’s mom is taking her out to lunch and I can go or…”

 

Peter’s boy walks in a circle and continues gazing at the sky. His heart speeds up, speeds up, speeds up, and then slows done as he turns to face the forest. He dips his head, eyes falling to the bushes Peter used to hide in.

 

Peter’s boy tucks the flower in his hand behind his ear and says, “Graduation. Tomorrow. Noon.”

 

His eyes, gold as the flower tucked in his hair, flicker up to the tree Peter stands behind. Peter digs his claws into the bark, hardly breathing.

 

His boy stands like that for a minute, eyes big like the time at the grocery store. His mouth isn’t open, instead it’s a small smile.

 

He’s beautiful.

 

He’s beautiful and he’s graduating tomorrow and he’s marching out of the meadow.

 

His boy stops at where grass meets dirt road that leads to the town. He looks over his shoulder, his smile smaller and his heart racing.

 

Peter drags his claws down the tree.

 

❀♡❀

 

Peter prowls the forest in wolf form, unable to sleep.

 

❀♡❀

 

It’s his meadow boy’s graduation today so Peter knows he won’t be at the meadow. He still goes and sits there, breathless and waiting for his boy to come running through the meadow in his cap and gown.

 

As the sun sets and no heartbeat, erratic or not, comes remotely close, the little alarm that’s been at the back of Peter’s mind all day sounds louder.

 

Peter’s not an idiot. He knows his boy isn’t an idiot. He understands what yesterday’s speech was.

 

Peter’s not scared. He has the whole summer to figure this out. He’s not scared. He’s just—

 

This has to be perfect. This is the meadow boy. His meadow boy. His chosen mate, if his meadow boy will have him.

 

He hadn’t prepared to go to a graduation.

 

He’ll sleep tonight and, moon help him, he’ll even consider tolerating Talia’s mate for answers.

 

❀♡❀

 

Peter smells his meadow boy sooner than he’s supposed to. His wolf pushes at the surface of Peter’s control, urging him to go faster.

 

Peter’s terrified, he admits it, he’s more terrified than he’s ever been of anything. But maybe being terrified is part of what this is about—whatever this is.

 

He dodges tree roots and ducks under branches and sprints the rest of the way to the meadow’s edge or the meadow’s beginning, whatever the line separating him from his boy is called.

 

He stumbles into the bushes and

 

His meadow boy isn’t here.

 

His scent is here but also not here.

 

It’s thick in Peter’s nostrils but faded from the area.

 

His boy’s scent isn’t strong enough for him to be hiding somewhere but he was here. He was here in the woods. By the bushes. In Peter’s part of the forest.

 

Peter sniffs, walking in circles, and his heart stops.

 

The tree he clawed up from behind yesterday.

 

The side of its trunk facing the meadow has its own new carving.

 

Peter’s seen this in movies and read it in books and heard high school classmates reference it.

 

A heart carved into a tree.

 

It’s the size of Peter’s hand. The end is rounded rather than pointy and the left side of the heart loop is bigger than the right side. But most important of all is what’s in the middle—

 

SS +

 

There’s supposed to be a second set of initials. That’s what Peter knows. There should be two letters following the plus sign.

 

Peter traces the first jagged S and the second less jagged S. His fingertips mix with the scent of tree bark and inkbloodflowercar.

 

The scent of blood is heavier and Peter finds a rock at the base of the tree with dots of red. It’s sharp-edged and cuts his palm but Peter raises it to the tree, pointing its sharpest edge at the beginning of the first S.

 

It fits the width of the carving perfectly.

 

Peter slumps against the tree and sags down to sit with his legs stretched out into the bushes.

 

He doesn’t know what this means. (He does). He wonders when his meadow boy did it—at night after Peter left or this morning before he woke up.

 

Peter cradles the rock in his palm.

 

❀♡❀

 

Pack stays away from Peter. There’s no teasing. In fact, they seem to mourn with him.

 

Peter has Talia pull strings to transfer him across the country.

 

He waits by the meadow until the very last day, rock in hand, and then he turns to the tree, flicking a claw out.

 

❀♡❀

 

Peter spends his first semester throwing himself into schoolwork. He idly keeps track of rumors. People keep going on about some know-it-all freshmen who is on an advanced track and is taking over the upperclassmen English classes.

 

Peter writes it off as humans being humans, exaggerating any little thing to make their little lives exciting. He’s a junior and has yet to see any freshmen in any of his literature classes.

 

❀♡❀

 

Peter’s in a bit of a daze. He hasn’t been sleeping much and he’s never been away from pack for so long.

 

He’s more zombie than wolf walking through campus and he’s not surprised when he bumps into someone. He is surprised to see that he’s trudged his way to the freshmen dorms and away from his next class.

 

“Hey, dickhead, watch where you’re going.”

 

Peter freezes.

 

It’s not.

 

It can’t.

 

Peter’s not home. He’s at college, not at the meadow. The campus flowers smell nothing like the meadow’s.

 

Peter’s too scared to look. But—dickhead. Being scared is what fucked Peter over. What stopped him from getting his meadow boy.

 

Peter’s tired of letting fear stop him.

 

Maybe Peter won’t be the best but being inadequate or the worst is better than being nothing.

 

Peter twists around. There’s only one person crossing through the grass in a short-cut. An achingly familiar duct-tapped backpack bounces against the shoulder of the person who bumped into Peter.

 

The person has brown hair. It’s the darker shade of winter and sticking up in places from hands yanking at it. Under the stench of school humans and coffee is ink from stained hands and blood from bitten fingernails and there’s no car or pollen but it’s him.

 

Peter stumbles and rights himself into a run, covering ground faster than Talia would approve of around humans. He grabs his boy’s elbow, jerking him back to face Peter.

 

And it’s him. It’s him. It’s Peter’s meadow boy. His face is more expressive up close, an impressive scowl that has him borderline baring his teeth at Peter. Peter’s mind is blank other than the thought that his human would make a beautiful wolf.

 

“Hey,” his boy snaps, “what’s your issue?”

 

Eyes the color of bunnies that Peter used to chase out of the woods to make a little boy laugh. The glint of golden yellow like the flower petals Peter keeps pressed in his wallet.

 

“Your eyes,” his boy says, anger slipping into confusion. “They’re blue.”

 

Of course Peter’s eyes are blue. They’ve always been blue. But Peter can’t find the words to say that.

 

His human presses his palm to Peter’s chest and it trembles. Trembles not from fear but from the vibration of a low growl.

 

Shit. Blue—his eyes are electric blue, wolf color changed mid-summer.

 

Peter focuses on his human’s hand, too cold, he should be wearing mittens, he needs to be bundled up. His wolf reins back slowly.

 

Of all the words Peter’s considered saying to his human, all the ways he practiced human greetings for twelve years, he never imagined he’d blurt out, “I killed a bunny.”

 

He hadn’t told anyone in his pack, not even Talia, about the reason his eyes changed. They assumed without his meadow human, killing for the pack’s sake wasn’t enough to keep his eyes gold.

 

No one needed to know about his incident during the full moon. That his eyes changed because he’d killed a rabbit.

 

His boy’s lips tremble.

 

The world moves in slow motion as Peter’s boy tilts his head back and laughs.

 

Laughs and laughs and then his other hand—far too cold, Peter needs to fix that immediately—is cupping Peter’s cheek and he’s laughing against Peter’s mouth.

 

The world rushes forward all at once and Peter’s too stunned to kiss back until it’s too late.

 

“Twelve years,” his human says. His hand starts to slide off Peter’s cheek but Peter catches his wrist and keeps it there.

 

“You left,” Peter says, pressing his boy’s hand back to his cheek.

 

His boy, wild like Peter always saw him be, raises his eyebrows, unyielding to any guilt. He says, “You hid.”

 

“I didn’t know how,” Peter says, to stop hiding, to be a friend, to love you, to love you how you deserve, to not lose you.

 

“I’ll teach you,” his human says, hearing everything unsaid. Maybe he’d understood Peter all those years despite Peter never saying a word. Maybe his meadow boy heard everything anyway. His boy’s cheeks dimple. He teases, “As long as you don’t kill any more bunnies.”

 

Terrified in the best way, Peter lets go of his meadow boy’s wrist and promises, “I can do that.”

 



 

❀♡❀

Stiles is six the first time he feels something watching him from the forest. He thinks maybe it’s a guardian angel watching over him since no one else notices him slipping outside.

❀♡❀

Stiles is eight the first time he sees a flash of golden eyes. His forest monster isn't very quiet in the bushes. 

❀♡❀

Stiles is twelve when he laughs for the first time after his mother died because the forest monster sent bunnies chasing into him.

❀♡❀

Stiles is thirteen when he hears laughter from the trees from his scaredy-cat friend.

❀♡❀

Stiles is sixteen when he falls in puppy love and sixteen when he refuses to bring his girlfriend to his meadow.

❀♡❀

Stiles is seventeen when he starts to feel jitters in his stomach at the flashes of golden eyes from his forest monster hiding in the shadows, always hiding, but gone more often than not.

❀♡❀

Stiles is eighteen when his heart feels like puppy love again except it’s bigger and scarier and more and he’s never even fully seen or spoken to the monster of his affections.

❀♡❀

Stiles is eighteen still when his heart is broken again but different this time, worse, and he traces his fingers over the claw marks on the tree and he carves in a heart and his initials as a good-bye to his scaredy-cat forest monster.

❀♡❀

Stiles is nineteen when his forest monster steps into Stiles’ meadow for the first time. There’s a new carving to what he left behind, two letters of sharp lines. SS + PH. His forest monster presses him against the tree and kisses him senseless with a growl that scares away the birds.

❀♡❀

Stiles is twenty-five when his Peter proposes with a rabbit instead of a ring. Stiles read about the werewolf tradition of offering a kill as a token. His Peter swears to Stiles that the bunny proves he can provide. Stiles says yes because his Peter didn’t break his promise—the bunny is so very alive and providing Stiles with endless laughter.

❀♡❀

Peter’s meadow boy and Stiles’ forest monster are twenty-six and twenty-eight when they marry under the moon in their meadow.