Well, almost five years.
He was going back.
Stiles finished stuffing the last of his leather-bound notebooks into his footlocker and sat down carefully on the lid, fighting to get the latches closed. A muffled clink emanated from the inside, the sound of glass jars shifting in their cotton beds. He'd been surprised that he was able to fit everything inside. Five years was a long time to accumulate the kind of things he did. Books, tomes, crystals, stones and ashes and any number of plants that had all been carefully catalogued in Stiles messy handwriting, even more sloppy now because he made his notes in Gaelic.
If he was going back, he was going back prepared.
Because hey, this was Beacon Hills they were talking about. As a murderous psychopath once said right before he'd paralyzed him, it was like a freakin' Halloween party out there.
And this time Stiles was going in battle-ready.
Something prickled at the back of his neck, like snowflakes falling, and he turned slowly round to the open doorway knowing that Pheelan would be standing there, filling it up with his six-four frame, big, bulky, familiar. The scent of the werewolf was strong in Stiles' nose, like the sun on a wheat field or the rain and chill and fog of the moors that swept his curly hair into a mess and caught in the knit of his sweater. His dark eyes had flicked right past Stiles' face, gone to settle on the scuffed and stickered trunk that he'd helped to cart halfway round the world, and there was something a little somber around his mouth.
"You're leaving then?" he asked in Gaelic, the language that only passed between them when they were trying not to choke on their words.
Pain sounded prettier in Gaelic.
"My dad's been hurt," Stiles replied, and that would have been enough. They'd been together for three years, and that would have been enough.
But Stiles would ask.
They weren't in love, and they both knew it, but still, Stiles would ask.
Because he knew. He knew that there was no way he could do this without Phee. Couldn't face his past without knowing there was someone in his corner, someone he trusted so completely and thoroughly that he could have them at his back. Because even if they weren't in love, even if they both knew it, he trusted Pheelan.
Stiles head jerked up sharply, and he looked at the werewolf with hot tears in the corners of his eyes. "You didn't even let me finish," he accused in English, and the other man stepped into the room and pulled Stiles into his massive chest, his thick arms banding around him like steel.
"If you want me there little buddy, I'm there."
A minute passed and Stiles just savored the feeling of being held, of being caught in a strong embrace by someone who cared just enough. Because that was what he and Phee had. They cared. They might even die for the other. But they weren't in love. And because they weren't in love, they couldn't hurt each other.
"I can't do this alone," Stiles choked as he fought down the barrage of memories that he had long since locked away, memories that suddenly threated to drown him.
"Breathe," Phee warned him, and Stiles did. The werewolf had learned a long time ago to sense a threatening panic attack. He'd once told Stiles that they made him smell like burning sugar, taste like caramel that had sat on the burner just a little too long, and Stiles had wondered why the others hadn't ever told him.
"Someone called you?" he asked quietly, and Stiles shook his head.
"No. No one knows where I am, how to get in touch with me. Just Dad. But I saw. I saw."
Phee didn't have to ask. Stiles nightmares had started a little over two years ago, when they had settled in with Pheelan's grandmother and the boy had begun to really learn about the things he was capable of doing. Sometimes he woke up screaming, but Phee knew that it was the nights he was quiet, the nights that he crawled silently into the werewolf's bed, threw an arm around his waist, and began to glow with a soft, amber light that the dreams had been real.
"I was trying to sleep," Stiles said, breaking from his hold and dropping down onto the trunk, rubbing a hand roughly over eyes that were too dark, too bruised for his liking. "Just trying to get a few minutes…"
Phee almost flinched at the look that crossed Stiles face. It was hard, dark, like when they'd first met three and a half years ago in the mountains in Romania.
"Werewolves happened," he said in a cold, wooden voice. "What else?"
"Well since you didn't flash steam me when I walked in, I take it we're talking specific werewolves?"
"They should know better," Stiles muttered viciously, and Phee immediately stepped between his knees and grabbed onto his upper arms hard.
"Snap out of it Stiles!" he barked. "We don't have time for you to go all wicked witch of the west!"
Stiles blinked, looked down at Phee's hands on him and his eyes cleared. "Not a witch," he grumbled as he stood, skirting around the werewolf to the dresser where he began to stuff jeans into a duffel bag.
"So you've said," Phee murmured, almost to himself. "I'll go pack. Speak to móraí. She'll worry if I don't."
Stiles' hands stilled on the dresser. "Tell her I'm sorry," he murmured, back to Gaelic again.
"She'd make scarves out of both of us if I did," Phee chuckled.
Stiles turned and there was sadness in his eyes as he looked the big wolf up and down. "Thanks," he murmured, and Phee's smile fell.
"He'll be alright Stiles," he said quietly. He waited until Stiles met his gaze, until he nodded, then slipped from the room and went to find his grandmother.
Stiles fisted his hands tightly, felt the stinging buzz in his fingertips return, like he'd touched a hot stove. To distract himself, he did the calculations in his head; two hours to get to the airport, another eleven on the plane. Not accounting for weather or traffic, he would be back in Beacon Hills at four o'clock in the afternoon on a Friday.
He wondered if that mattered.
He suspected it didn't.
But it did mean that he would be going straight from the plane to the hospital, and so he would chose his wardrobe with care. He wasn't the same high school goofball that he used to be - he was a man, a man who had just celebrated his twenty-third birthday and who wore a square of rough stubble around his mouth that gave him a dark and deadly look. No more buzz cuts and graphic tees, his hair was long enough to actually run his fingers through and his boxers were tight and black, no cartoons anywhere in sight. He told himself he wasn't scared of going back, but as he paced nervously over to his tiny closet, riffled through his clothes, he knew he was picking out armor.
Close-fitting navy blue jeans.
Heavy black work boots.
A plain grey t-shirt under a black hoodie. Actually, Phee's hoodie. It was two sizes too big for him but it was warm, and it smelled like the other man, enough that Stiles' more-than-human-but-less-than-wolf senses could easily pick it up. It would mask his scent, at least for a while, and when it came down to the line, might put enough of a marker on him that he wouldn't be hassled too much.
Lastly Stiles slipped into his leather jacket. It was bright red and hit him at mid-thigh, with a wide, triangular collar and belted cuffs that he wore open, the black of his sweatshirt showing through at his wrists and neck. Phee had laughed and called him Little Red for months after he'd made the purchase, but even the werewolf had to admit it looked good on him, the hidden inner pockets perfect for stashing all the bits and pieces Stiles like to carry with him.
Speaking of bits and pieces…
Stiles moved to his dresser and slid open the top drawer, pulled out a sleek, black handgun that was cool and heavy in his hand. He had already slipped his wooden baseball bat into his duffel bag, but it was more of a sentimental thing these days than actual protection. He'd carried it for three years and it had served him fairly well, until the day came that he had needed more firepower than it could offer and he'd picked up the compact little Ruger. He was a damn near perfect shot, always had been, and with the 40. Caliber bullets he made himself out of silver, iron, and a few other choice elements, he could stop everything from a rampaging werewolf to a fairy.
Checking the clip, Stiles holstered the gun along his ribs underneath his left arm in the sling he'd had custom built into the jacket. With the stiff, fitted cut of the leather you'd never know he was carrying, and that was just the way Stiles liked it.
"All done," Stiles replied, turning to zip up his duffel and throw it over his shoulder.
"That's not what I meant," Phee smirked, stepping in close to Stiles and straightening the hang of his jacket over his shoulders. "You're wearing my shirt. Thinking of making someone jealous?"
"Thought hadn't even crossed my mind," Stiles replied truthfully. "But the longer it takes for them to get on to me, the happier I'll be. And if they think I'm yours when they finally do catch up with us… well."
Pheelan smiled, really smiled this time, a smile that might look hard and a little bit wild to anyone but Stiles, who knew him best. He'd had the same idea, Stiles could tell, by the way he'd dressed. The man was huge but really a teddy bear at heart. Still, he was cut, and the grey wife-beater he wore underneath his heavy black jacket did nothing for the imagination. He looked the picture of a god-damned Navy SEAL, combat boots and black cargo pants tight across impressive thighs. Stiles licked his lips and let his eyes touch on the man's right bicep where he knew the tattoo of a circle and a triangle locked together, burned into his skin with as much meaning as any of his own held. The army-style jacket did nothing to block the breadth of his chest, zippers and epaulets only mimicking the long sloping lines of his shoulders. Where he was usually all soft sweaters and thick cable-knit, he'd dressed to kick asses and take names, and he'd done it for Stiles.
Reaching up, he latched his fingers into Phee's hair, dragging him down for a hard, punishing kiss.
Minutes later, when they both had to resurface for air, Stiles attempted to fix the mess he'd made of the man's honey-colored locks, but the wolf knocked his hands away, smoothing the curls back out into the careful, sophisticated styled he'd tamed it down to.
"They'll hate you," Stiles murmured, mostly to himself as he brushed his thumb over Phee's jaw, savoring the harsh rasp of his perpetual stubble. "Especially if they think you're mine."
Phee's hands stilled in his hair, fell to his sides. "They won't if you don't want them to Stiles," he said, his voice low and rough. "If you want me to stay in the hotel, I will. If you want me to be the silent, mysterious bodyguard, I will. But if you want me to play the gorgeous, dangerous, devoted boyfriend you deserve… that's what I'll be."
Stiles stared up at the man he wished he could love and stroked his thumb over his soft, full lower lip.
"Just be Phee," he answered back. "That's all I need you to be. Just Phee."
"That I can do," he murmured. "But think about what I said." Reaching around Stiles, he grabbed the handles on either side of the footlocker and lifted it as though it didn't weigh almost as much as he did. "You haven't seen any of them in five years. You've put on thirty-two pounds of solid muscle, you know more about knocking a werewolf on their ass than I do, and you're fucking gorgeous. Waltzing in with a smokin' hot lover in tow would be the icing on the cake."
Tossing him a wink, Phee slipped out the door and headed towards the car.
Stiled swallowed and turned to look in the mirror above his dresser. His eyes were dark, much darker than they used to be, and there were deep bruises beneath them. Half the time he looked like he was on death's door, but the rest of the time, like now? He looked like a wraith. Like a shadow-God come to claim the allegiance of the Earth, and that looked hella-sexy doing it. Stiles cast his reflection a cold, sneering grin, grabbed his duffel off the floor from where he'd dropped it.
Maybe he would put on a little show when he got back to Beacon Hills.
He had a bone to pick with a certain wolf-pack after all.
What was the harm in enjoying the process?