Peter wakes up on Valentine’s Day and doesn’t feel any different. He goes about his daily routine like he does every other day because as far as he’s concerned, today is like every other day. He’s hardly expecting chocolates, considering the fact that he has no significant other or even friends who might give him sweets to snack on, and even before the fire, he was hardly one to celebrate the holiday, although he does remember girlfriends who expected something from him, and he was at least enough of a perfectionist to make sure the day always exceeded their expectations.
Not anymore. The only reason he even remembers that it’s Valentine’s Day is because the last time he was at Derek’s loft, his nephew’s charity cases were all chattering inanely about it, and Scott and Kira were even exchanging the most revoltingly gooey-eyed looks every thirty seconds. The other thirty seconds were spent avoiding eye-contact and blushing idiotically.
Peter half-expected Stiles to be there too (mooning after Lydia, a more bitter part of his mind bites out), but the boy’s been… scarce lately. Not that anybody else has noticed of course, but Peter usually has Stiles to banter with and be the long-suffering snarky sensible ones in the Pack with so the fact that Stiles has skipped out on the past five meetings has been… annoying to say the least, leaving Peter all alone to be the – largely ignored – voice of necessary insults and ego-smashing practicality. He’s still answering Peter’s texts though, claiming to be busy, so at least the boy hasn’t been kidnapped or something.
It’s a nice day, he notices once he’s thrown on a pair of jeans and a shirt and wandered out into the kitchen. Not too cold, and certainly not too hot, with a nice breeze; perfect for enjoying a morning at his favourite coffee shop down the street, with some tea and scones and a book to keep him company. He considers calling Stiles to join him, but it’s a Saturday so the boy’s probably still asleep. Maybe Peter will send a text later.
He grabs a paperback off his shelf, snags a coat, toes on his shoes, and opens the door.
And then he stops in his tracks and stares. At the body. On his doorstep.
The first thing that comes to mind is: Who wants to frame me for murder?
It's actually a worryingly long list, now that he thinks about it.
And then Mrs. Kipple from next door comes out, humming merrily under her breath as she locks the door behind her before turning to him. “Good morning, Peter. Such a nice day, isn’t it?”
Peter smiles back, just a little fixedly. “Quite lovely.”
Mrs. Kipple bobs her head a few times and toddles past, stepping around the body like it isn’t even there. “Best enjoy it while it lasts.”
“You too,” Peter returns politely, finger tapping impatiently against the doorframe as he waits for her to disappear down the stairwell, and then he’s crouching down in the blink of an eye, every sense zeroing in on the body, and that’s when he realizes, the body is still breathing.
And that means there’s definitely magic involved because aside from the fact that his next-door neighbour didn’t so much as bat an eyelash as she passed, there’s also 1) a hole carved into the chest of the body, meticulously precise and just wide enough for a hand – for Peter’s hand – to reach in and scoop the still pumping heart out if he so wishes, and 2) the body isn’t just any body, it’s Deucalion.
And no way would Deucalion have been captured so neatly by just anyone, and put to sleep like a baby while that someone cracked his chest open and left him hidden from all but Peter.
Peter stares for a moment longer, oddly mesmerized by the physical th-thump of the blood-red heart that he can both hear and see, so gorgeously delicate in this one moment, under Peter’s complete mercy.
Then, cautiously, he reaches out and tugs lightly at one tail of the ridiculous bow tied around Deucalion’s arms and torso, just below the chest area but above the Alpha’s bound wrists, also tied with red ribbon.
And there’s a card tucked between Deucalion and the ribbon, one that Peter retrieves now. It isn’t anything fancy, just a card bought from Hallmark with a red cover and a tiny black wolf in one corner, holding a heart – the conventional symbol, not the organ – between its jaws. He flips it open, and in a slightly messy black scrawl, the card reads,
His heart is red,
his eyes are too.
I thought I’d start off
by giving both to you.
It isn’t signed, but Peter reads it a second time, then a third. And then he laughs, bright and bold in the crisp winter morning, genuine and amused and suddenly so, so turned on.
Because he’d know this penmanship anywhere, he’s seen it on late nights and early mornings and all the in-betweens, during research sessions for the Pack, and then research sessions just because, and-
He looks down at Deucalion again with new eyes because he knows it for what it is now – a courting gift, under the oldest of laws that werewolves once followed so devotedly – and how can Peter be anything but charmed, thrilled, elated when his suitor’s given him one of the things he’s wanted, needed, missed like a hole in his own chest since the night of his resurrection?
He’s still smiling when his laughter fades, and he doesn’t think he’s ever been quite as exhilarated as he is right now. He looks again at the card and takes a whiff but he can’t smell the scent he’s looking for.
No matter. He knows who it is, and a part of him wants to run off right now to find him and smother him with his scent and take him to bed to show his appreciation and enthusiastic consent.
But that’s not how the courtship works, and since his suitor wants to play, who is Peter to ruin that?
So, first thing’s first then. He seizes Deucalion by the throat and hauls him inside, slamming the door behind them. Not a drop of blood spills from the open wound as Peter drops the werewolf onto his kitchen floor. The tile might have to be sacrificed to the cause but Peter will deal.
He pulls the bow loose, and like a lifted spell, Deucalion’s eyes begin to flutter. He goes from unconscious to fully awake in about three seconds, his memories clearly unaffected if the terror and the furious red that bleeds into his irises are anything to go by, but it’s already too late. Peter’s claws are already unsheathed, and he’s sunken his entire hand into Deucalion’s chest, palm and fingers wrapped snugly around the rapid-fire recoil of the Alpha’s heart, by the time his prey can do anything more than jerk in place.
Peter bares his teeth in a wide, bloodthirsty grin. “If it’s any consolation, Deucalion, you make a wonderful present.” Then he rips that heart out with one smooth twist of his arm, and the Alpha power floods his system, running along his veins and imprinting itself into his very soul once more, with a single glowing pack bond pulsing at the back of his mind and anchoring him to reality so that he wouldn’t be overwhelmed.
His wolf roars with triumph, and Peter shifts, the transition as fluid as running water this time, and he knows that if he were to look into a mirror, he would see something beautiful instead of the shape of that monstrous beast he once turned into because he had no other.
Five hours later, when Derek sends him a text – ‘pack meeting. be there.’ – Peter shows up early. Something must give the giddiness he’s feeling away because Derek immediately glowers suspiciously at him. Then again, that’s basically his nephew’s default expression – especially when it comes to Peter – so quite possibly, Peter isn’t giving anything away at all.
He settles on his spot on the stairs today, instead of the couch he’s taken to sharing with Stiles most of the time, and waits, smirking as infuriatingly as he possibly can at Derek in the hopes of seeing whether or not he can make his nephew lose it with facial expression alone.
He doesn’t quite manage it but Derek crosses his arms and scowls back defensively in moody silence, and Peter is amused enough by the fact that his nephew still gets so riled up whenever he thinks Peter is taunting him. He doesn’t even need to speak.
Probably better that way anyway, he muses as he idly rolls his tongue over his front teeth. He almost smiles, and his wolf purrs contentedly at the back of his mind. He can still taste the tang of iron in his throat, the gush of copper across his tongue, and that foreign giddiness wriggles in his gut again.
The creak of the elevator signals the rest of the Pack’s arrival, the door sliding open to reveal their precious True Alpha, followed by the others. Peter doesn’t move, but he can’t help leaning forward as Stiles saunters in at everyone else’s backs, last and unobtrusive, and Peter has to wonder just how not a single one of the others recognizes the powerhouse in their midst.
Stiles slides the door shut behind him, turns, and then hones in straight on Peter with single-minded intensity, and Peter hears his own breath hitch.
The others are – as always – ignoring Peter and Stiles, and so none of them see the brief crimson flash of Peter’s eyes, or the answering curve of Stiles’ slow, devious smile.
Neither of them speaks to the other that day, no matter how much Peter wants to. Courting gestures come in three, as most traditional magicks do, so Peter will have to wait.
The pups babble and argue over chocolates, Scott feeds Kira in a truly nauseating display of coupling that Peter could’ve gone his whole life without seeing, Lydia and the Argent girl (there’s no accounting for taste, although considering the banshee’s dated two murderers at this point and is only beaten out by Derek who’s dated two unrepentant psychos, perhaps it’s just par for the course) are either two seconds away from making out or just cuddling, and even Isaac’s making moon-eyes at Cora and fiddling with the box of chocolates in his hands. Cora at least is – thankfully – ignoring everyone in favour of her phone.
Derek glares. No surprise there. Peter sends up a mental prayer of gratitude for the fact that his nephew is single again. He thinks about it and then sends up an additional request for his nephew to remain single. Preferably for the rest of eternity but Peter doesn’t want to ask for too much so he’ll settle for just until he dies and won’t have to deal with the consequences of yet another serial killer or whackjob darach.
Personally, he isn't holding his breath.
He and Stiles leave as soon as Derek kicks them all out of the loft once Scott manages to pull himself away from Kira long enough to remind them all about keeping an eye out for the latest monster of the week, who might be lying low but could appear again any day, and they’re to send out a group text if one of them sees it so that they might be able to reason with it and send it away.
Peter is hard-pressed not to roll his eyes. He and Stiles took care of the minotaur approximately six pack meetings ago. He wonders how much longer it’s going to take for the rest of the Pack to decide that the minotaur’s simply ‘moved on’.
A lot of the supernatural creatures – and quite a few Codeless hunters, assassins, and mercenaries – looking to take out a chunk of their town have ‘moved on’ lately, usually with extreme prejudice. Scott seems to think his reputation precedes him because of the dwindling amount of hostile visitors recently, and he isn’t wrong – it does precede him; it just doesn’t do what he thinks it does. Instead of warning monsters away, it draws them instead.
(Weak little boy, playing at Alpha. Humans and non-humans both laugh at the irony, and the once proud Hale lands are now the butt of more than one joke in the supernatural world.)
Peter doesn’t give a damn. He and Stiles are slowly but surely building a reputation of their own, a ruthless ‘if you fuck with us, we’ll fuck you up permanently’ sort of reputation, and one day soon, Beacon Hills will finally stabilize under their joint protection, and no one will ever think them weak again. In the meantime, Scott and the other pups can bask in their delusions. At least it keeps them out of Peter and Stiles’ way.
Peter leaves first, after a last lingering glance at Stiles, who doesn’t look at him but smiles slyly down at the bag he’s packing his laptop away in anyway.
Peter may or may not have a bounce in his step as he exits the loft and heads to the Preserve for a run, his first run since becoming Alpha again.
He can’t wait to see what Stiles comes up with next.
A fortnight later, he gets home from a few hours spent at the gym, only to find an innocuous-looking briefcase leaning against the door of his apartment. His heartbeat quickens, and he grins, stooping to pick it up, plucking up the card as well from where it was slipped into the handle.
Nothing special again, Peter notes as he ducks into his apartment and places the briefcase on the dinner table. A minimalist design, just the way he likes it, depicting a black background with an upturned hand that’s holding what seems to be a miniature globe.
The world in the palm of his hand then? Peter quirks a curious smile and flips the card open. In the same handwriting as before, he reads,
What is a wolf
without its freedom?
Peter thumbs the dark lettering before turning to the briefcase and opening it. It actually takes him several long seconds to realize what he’s looking at.
There are files inside, sheaves of papers tucked into folders, and-
He reaches inside where two passports are shuffled into one corner. One has his name, his personal information. One doesn’t. Both have his face.
He sets those aside, and with a sense of growing urgency, he fumbles open the folders and rifles through the papers.
They’re identification papers. Two sets. One are fakes. But the other-
Stiles has restored his identity, Peter realizes, and for a moment, he doesn’t even remember how to breathe.
These days, he can get by. He has plenty of cash to use so he doesn’t need a credit card or a job, and so long as he’s not crossing country borders or taking a plane, he doesn’t even need a passport.
But it also shackles him, the lack of an identity, walking around as a dead man. Paying for his crimes, paying for Kate’s crimes, even now, as if burning alive twice and watching most of his entire family die and rotting away in a hospital for six years and losing his goddamn mind weren’t enough.
He picks up another file with trembling fingers and flicks that open. It’s a list. A list of his old clients, when he was still a lawyer, an excellent lawyer, and despite having to always put the Pack first, put Talia first, whenever she needed some bite on her side in court, he enjoyed what he did, researching, building his cases.
And now he can do it again. He’ll have to pass the bar exam again, but that’s easy enough. The point is, he can.
His client list doesn’t include everyone he’s ever worked with, barely even half, but the ones that are on here all have phone numbers attached, and knowing Stiles…
Knowing Stiles, every single last one has been informed of a highly edited version of where Peter has been all these years, and every single last one – because Stiles listed them on here – will have left their phone numbers because they want Peter as their lawyer again. A lot of his clients were either very rich with a tendency to get in trouble, or not so rich and still getting into trouble. Trouble that Peter always took great delight in getting them out of once he vetted them himself, because he loved the challenge.
And if he wants, he can now do it again. A piece of what he lost, returned.
And it isn’t even just that. The other set of papers – the fake ones – mean something too. It’s a way out, a new start, if Peter ever wants to leave. To walk away from this godforsaken town and begin anew. To not only lay his past to rest but also leave it behind so that it will never drag him down again.
Peter already knows that he’ll never use these unless it’s because he and Stiles have to run, disappear, for good.
There’s one last file at the bottom, tissue-thin, and it only contains a single slip of paper. The handwriting isn’t Stiles’ but it’s clear who the note – curt and succinct – is written by anyway.
‘You’ve been cleared of all charges, suspected or otherwise, but let me make one thing very clear, Hale – my son has never begged me for anything but he begged me for you, and that's the only reason I've wiped your records clean. Don’t make me regret it.’
For a long while after that, all Peter can really do is sit in front of what amounts to his freedom and wonder when Stiles started thinking he was worth as much as all this.
The last gift arrives another fortnight later, on the night of a full moon. It’s another card, but only a card, with a classic red rose superimposed on a dark background. An invitation, with an address and time scribbled on the inside cover, and a key taped below both, but dead center on the right,
There are paths too dark for one alone,
In this world where monsters roam.
So when I walk, I’d walk with you,
On a path we’d forge meant just for two.
And if along this path we take,
We ourselves become monsters make,
I do believe I’d embrace it wholly,
So long as you remain beside me.
I’d raze the skies to have you near,
Cleave the heavens to keep you here.
For you see me and I see you,
And for that alone, I would love you true,
All the way to the end of days.
…It’s ridiculous, the way Peter’s heart skips. It’s not even that sophisticated a poem, certainly no Shakespeare or Milton. And yet…
His face. His face feels hot. God, he’s blushing. And his mouth is doing something funny. It takes a moment to realize he’s trying to pull a truly goofy smile, one he’d probably never live down if anyone else were here to witness it.
He takes a deep breath. Then he glances at the address one last time before pocketing the letter and heading for the bathroom. He has a night to prepare for, because apparently, his future mate is a closet romantic.
The address leads him to another apartment complex, bigger than his own but still just as comfortable in appearance, not overly garish, even from the outside. He makes his way up the stairs and onto the third floor, where he stops at the corner suite, tugs once at the collar of his favourite black v-neck, and then knocks three times. He has the key with him but he knows Stiles will let him in, and that's significant in its own way.
A beat, footsteps, and the cadence of a heartbeat that’s long grown familiar to Peter’s ears. The door swings open, and Peter is already smiling as he drinks Stiles in. The boy is decked in plaid and jeans, but they suit him, they always have, and when Stiles smiles back, it reaches all the way to his eyes – like sunlight reflecting off whiskey, like sunsets when they spark with magic.
Wordlessly, Stiles steps back and lets him in. Peter takes a second to toe his shoes off so that they’re both barefoot, and then – because tradition is nice but Peter is nothing if not a rule-breaker – he promptly crowds Stiles right up against the nearest wall and kisses him for the very first time, hard and hungry and thorough.
It’s a good thing Stiles considers rules to be vaguely amusing obstacles to be circumvented at his leisure as well.
A possessive hand sinks into Peter’s hair, another pulls him close by the waist, and then Stiles is arching up into him, a twist of his hips sending sparks of pleasure darting across their nerves even as Stiles opens his mouth and lets Peter devour him.
Peter sort of hates both their jeans at the moment. No matter how good Stiles looks in his, he’s certain the boy would look infinitely more delicious out of them.
The air is heady with the scent of their combined arousal by the time they part for air. Stiles’ lips are swollen red, and they’re both more than a little breathless. They’re not rutting anymore but Peter’s hands remain cradled around Stiles’ hips, and Stiles is absently tangling Peter’s hair around his fingers. Their faces remain close enough that their noses brush.
Stiles’ eyes gleam like firelight as he peers at Peter, smug and satisfied, warmed by something softer.
“The gifts,” He enquires formally but with a teasing note of laughter. “Were well-received then?”
Peter smiles with Alpha red eyes, and his own words spill over Stiles’ lips. “They were.” And equally formally, “You honour me.”
Stiles huffs a laugh this time, shoulders relaxing completely as his hand leaves Peter’s hair and rubs affectionately down his back instead. “I’m not finished yet. I do have one more thing to give you, you know.”
Peter hums, reluctantly stepping back to take a good look around. Even just standing in the foyer, he can tell it’s a spacious suite, bigger than Peter’s one-bedroom, probably a two-bedroom at least. “This apartment.”
“A waste to leave Deucalion’s coffers alone now that he doesn’t need them anymore,” Stiles agrees without an ounce of shame as he straightens and withdraws his hands, only to take Peter’s own in his. “And I have a candlelit dinner waiting, and then, well, hopefully an answer, later tonight.”
Peter would give Stiles his answer right now, would’ve given the same one even without the courtship, but instead, he inclines his head and lets Stiles lead him on a brief tour around the apartment (their apartment, their den, theirstheirstheirs) before making their way to the kitchen where everything is already set up, from actual honest-to-god candles, elegantly arranged, to a dinner spread that smells divine, with garlic bread and pasta and a side of steak, all still hot like it’s fresh out of the oven, and Peter doesn’t have to check to know that the table – this entire suite probably – is already covered in runes and wards and every other protection under the sun that Stiles could possibly afford it.
Stiles is an excellent cook, has been for as long as Peter’s known him. But the easy conversation that flows between them over dinner is still better than the dinner itself, and Peter spends dessert staring at the utterly obscene way Stiles licks chocolate off his fork.
The terrible tease grins wickedly when he meets Peter’s gaze.
And then dinner is over, dishes stacked away in the sink for later, and suddenly, Peter can’t breathe again as Stiles sinks to his knees in front of him, something quietly reverent in his expression, staring up at Peter like he’s the lucky one out of the two of them.
When Stiles finds a goal worth his time, he always throws all of himself into reaching it. Why should love be any different?
On his knees, Stiles’ lips curve into a small but honest smile. He reaches for Peter’s hands once more, regarding them with a strangely fond expression for a moment before looking up again.
“Your answer then?” Stiles asks, and even after all they’ve been through, even though Peter is right here, there’s a certain anxiety hidden beneath the courage. “Do you accept my suit, Peter Hale?”
Peter shuts his eyes, feels the eagerness of his wolf even as it sits patiently at the back of his mind, feels the pack bond glowing bright and solid right down to his very soul. He opens his eyes, and without giving it much thought, he slides gracefully down to his knees as well. Stiles blinks, startled, but this is… this is right.
He detaches their hands, cupping Stiles’ face instead to draw him close until he can brush a kiss over the boy’s lips, and then another, and another, gentle as the sweep of a cardinal’s wing.
“I accept your suit, Miłosław Stilinski,” Peter murmurs, pulling back only far enough to look directly into Stiles’ eyes, just to see them widen. His thumb grazes over one lovely cheekbone as that pale skin tinges pink. He chuckles, helplessly, honestly, “How could I not?”
The air snaps with magic. Stiles’ eyes blaze with an inner fire. And Peter’s wolf howls.
A new bond stirs between them, tentative and new but already luminous with potential, and before Peter can blink, they’re both toppling over onto hard tile as Stiles flings his arms around Peter, laughing, laughing, laughing, joyous delight and overwhelming relief both. Peter clutches back just as hard, soaking himself in his future mate’s scent.
When Stiles turns eighteen, Peter will finish this with a mating bite. But until then, well. A good old-fashioned courtship is a game he’s fully willing to indulge in right alongside Stiles.