Peter was frantic. Or that was the facade he was using at the moment, he told himself. His only real reaction to the situation was a slight elevation to his resting heart rate, but even that didn't happen very often. He was too good at keeping his cool, hiding behind a snide, condescending mask to let true emotion slide through. But now he was acting like the mask was slipping, for Derek's benefit, making him assume that he was feeling furious, helpless.

That part was only slightly a facade.

He couldn't, physically couldn't, do what needed to be done, and he hated it. He hated being a weak little beta again.

And it didn't help that he kept getting flashbacks to his own past, to orange-gold eyes glaring into his own as he was literally pinned to the ground, bleeding out, mingling with another body, pierced by similar talons, blood gushing.

That was why he broke completely, grabbed the nearest thing within reach, and threw Derek's own table at his head. And then, once Derek stood up from the broken wreckage, eyes glowing red, got tossed down a staircase in retaliation.

But he was back up by the time Derek had vaulted down the stairs, hands balled into fists as he struggled not to strangle him and therefore his only hope.

Derek stopped short, eyeing him warily, and the glowing red like a middle finger to Peter's raw nerves. He wanted to reach out and strangle...He changed tactics, backed off a few steps, and held up his hands.

"My mistake," he said easily, "just lost my temper for a moment, I apologize."

"You almost decapitated me with the furniture," Derek said evenly, crossing his arms, though the pulse in his neck was ticking faster than normal. Because he knew as well as Peter knew that every second counted.

Then at least I could do what was necessary to keep the kid alive. Peter thought, but kept it to himself.

He shrugged. "I overreacted."

Derek snorted, eyes straying back up the staircase.

Peter took a few slow steps closer, meeting Derek's eyes as he whipped his head back around, and they dimmed back to their human shade.

"I just thought you cared about the boy," he looked away, turning to hide the dark light in his eyes, "Or at least about Scott. He would never forgive you for letting his best friend die." Peter paused. "My mistake."

And he found himself shoved back against the railing of the staircase, back bending in a way that defied the laws of nature and hurt like hell.

Derek's fangs were out, and he was breathing heavily on his face, fist balled in his shirt. "You have no idea," he said, "no idea, what you're asking."

Peter met Derek's eyes again, fire igniting in his belly. "Yes I do." He snarled, then added softly, "and if you don't do it, Stiles will die."

Derek let go of him and twisted away. Peter watched as he rubbed a hand roughly over his face, thinking hard.

"He'll hate me for this," Derek said, jerking back around to look up the stairs, where they could both hear Stiles slowly choking to death on his own blood.

"No, not necessarily" Peter said carefully, this was the tricky part. He had to tread carefully. He knew that Stiles probably wouldn't forgive Derek for turning him. He was rather fond of his humanity. But Derek did not need to be reminded of that.

"At first he'll be angry, but in the end, he'll accept it, and..." he paused for effect, "he may even be thankful for it."

He tried to keep his face detached yet concerned, not let the anger or the urgency slip through. "The bite is a gift. Especially in this case. The gift of life."

Derek's eyes narrowed, and Peter thought he might have overdone it. "Why do you care so much?"

Peter felt his eye tick, his lip curl for a fraction of a second, but repressed the desire to attack, to rip Derek's teeth from his skull and use them to bite Stiles himself.

"I don't know," he said, actually being honest. Then he added, for good measure, "I've seen too much death, committed terrible acts. Maybe I'm just tired of it." But that part was not even close to the truth. Stiles was a puzzle, a curiosity, a challenge. Peter respected that, and he wanted to take him apart piece by piece.

He could tell by Derek's expression that he was suspicious, but at that moment Stiles spluttered upstairs. Perfect timing. His end was near. Peter clutched at Derek's shoulder, wrenching out of his own visceral memories of pain and blood, and shoved him towards the stairs.

"Do it now!" he said, heightening the emotions in his voice, playing them off as sincere, "before it's too late!"

Derek didn't hesitate. He bound up the stairs. Peter heard the bed springs creak, and then Derek whispered a helpless "I'm sorry." He heard a hiss of breath, the wet sound of blood rushing from a new wound.

All was silent for a moment, until Stiles gasped, and his heart started pounding louder, stronger, as he struggled against the pain.

Peter threw his head back and let out a huff of relief, part of him wondering when, why, Stiles was so important to him. He saw an opportunity here, but there was something more than that.

He waited. He was good at waiting. Derek, with his pacing the floorboards upstairs, not so much.

It took some longer than others to accept the bite, or reject it. For some it was sharp, sudden, like getting struck by lightning. Others it took days, days of fighting as their body was overcome by invasive forces that they couldn't defeat. That sometimes defeated them.

But Stiles was weak, on the brink of death, and the bite was his only hope for survival. He didn't have much fight left in him, and the instincts to survive would hopefully overpower that fight.

Peter had known it was a mortal wound from the moment he saw the beast's claws sink deep into Stiles' torso, doing unimaginable internal damage. None of the others, Scott, Cora, Derek, had noticed at first. They didn't know the beasts the way that Peter did. Did not expect such danger from the delicate looking avians.

Even as Peter saw the long talons slide into delicate flesh, orange, birdlike eyes with pupils like pinpricks zeroed in on Stiles' face for a moment before disregarding him and letting him crumple to the ground. Lifeless. Not until after Peter snapped Stiles up in his arms and rushed to escape the melee, did anyone notice. He had left the others to fend for themselves, and Derek was the first to notice, the first to follow.

There was too much blood. Stiles stank of it, smelled like meat rent open by tooth and claw. That was what kept running through his mind as he ran, Derek calling after him, back to the relative safety of Derek's loft. For once he was thankful that Derek lived on the bad side of town, close to the grungy little lot where they were ambushed. So close to their little showdown with the Tengu.

The Tengu were often harbingers, footsoldiers of some approaching beasty. Though Peter hadn't yet discovered what. They worked and hunted in small groups and were amazing tacticians, forming alliances with those strong enough to protect them, or malleable enough to manipulate into doing their own bidding.

But if they were this violent and dangerous alone, it was all bad news. And he had more important things to deal with at the moment. The pack was already weak, and they couldn't risk losing even one of the soft and fleshy ones, especially not one as smart as Stiles.

As he and Derek waited, Peter expected the others to rush inside at any moment to find them, to check on their friend. If they were still alive.

If the Tengu had not killed them all.

.

Stiles took to the bite as he took to everything in life. Obnoxiously, suddenly, fighting and writhing as the beast invaded him, started to become one with him.

Peter heard the groans, the shifting of sheets and grunts as Derek tried to hold Stiles down, to keep him from hurting himself.

He slipped silently up the stairs.

He could tell the very moment that Stiles became lucid. All the movement stopped. It was like the air became charged and unbreathable and there was no sound but for the heightened beat of all their hearts.

"Let go of me." Stiles' voice was icy cold, but Peter could pick up the rasp of a growl around the edges, and it sent a shiver down his spine.

"Stiles, I had to..." Derek's tone was clear, desperate for Stiles to understand.

"Let go of me." He said again, the growl gone as if it never was, as were all perceptible emotions. Like he was hollow.

"You would have died..."

There were quick, erratic movements, the sounds of the bed creaking and cloth shifting. Then it stilled again with Stiles' breathing faster, almost a pant.

"You have to learn to control this, Stiles," Derek said, his tone firm, "you know how Scott was when he first..."

He heard more shuffling, more struggling, and a sharp growl from Stiles.

"You should have let me die."

Peter shivered. That wasn't Stiles, that was pure anger, pure wolf. Stiles was always bottled up, compartmentalizing his anger and frustrations, but the wolf would have full access to those negative emotions, to use them against him.

He snarled, and Peter heard a scuffle. Stiles had no idea how dangerous he was, a fresh wolf full of anger, hairline trigger and little control.

Derek burst out of the room, slowing a half step when he noticed Peter.

"Keep an eye on him. I have to find Scott," he said.

Peter ducked his head down in mocking acquiescence to his Alpha. ""Both eyes, as often as I can spare them," he said dryly.

He listened as Derek stomped out, and took off at a run, shoes barely scraping the pavement. Peter let his lips curled up imperceptibly.

He stepped cautiously inside the bedroom to see Stiles sitting on the bed with his head between his knees, breathing fast. The floorboards creaked under foot and Stiles' head shot up, his eyes flashing yellow gold for a moment before he blinked it away.

"Oh, great, just another wonderful addition to the worst day of my life." Stiles voice was a rough croak of pain and exhaustion, showing a glimpse of the turmoil within. "What do you want? What are you gonna do, laugh in my face now that I've been bitten. Tell me how you know that this is what I wanted all along, because it's not. So don't even start gloating, even though you're not the one who..." Stiles shrugged it off, leaned back on the bed, as if he were perfectly at ease. Though his twitching fingers and rapid breathing gave him away.

He took another step inside and just studied Stiles for a while. Trying to get a read on him.

"Go ahead, say it, whatever you came here to say, you sociopathic douchebag, go ahead and say it so you can go away and leave me the hell alone."

Peter didn't even blink. He'd been expecting worse. But Stiles' shirt was soaked in blood, and he was holding a hand over his side, where Derek had bitten him. The stink of dead blood was overpowering, mixing from the fresh of Derek's bite.

"Say what you want about me," Peter said smoothly, taking a few slow steps across the room to slide open the window, then moving back to stare down at Stiles, "but I would have given you a choice."

Stiles had to look up to meet his eyes, and Peter rather liked that.

"Liar," he said, eyes narrowed.

Peter's lips twitched. Stiles was a challenge. That was what interested him, what kept him coming back, fascinated. It was his most irritating redeeming quality.

"I believe my track record speaks for itself," he said, still moving slowly, as he sat next to Stiles, unusually close.

"Whatever," Stiles muttered, but he dropped his head, taking a few deep breaths.

Peter stared at Stiles. He could sense the war that was going on inside of him. The wolf was seeking out every weakness, every wrong that was ever incurred against his new brother and railing against it, learning as much about him as possible, becoming one with him. Like a virus seeking out the weakest spots to attack, only the wolf was searching not only through his body, but his psyche.

Peter reached out and touched Stiles' shoulder, curious and detached. He had to repress a smile when Stiles' wolf recognized his own, making Stiles raise back up and knock his hand away, his eyes glowing gold again, challenging, growl trickling out of his lips.

But Peter didn't want a fight. It would accomplish nothing. He wanted Stiles, hungered for him, how, exactly, he still wasn't sure. He didn't have time to analyze the feeling at the time. He just wanted him to be his. He reached out again, ignoring the growl, and lifted Stiles shirt, bearing the angry bite on his side and the healing ragged punctures from talons under his sternum and down his ribs.

"What are you doing?" Stile was frozen, voice hesitant. He drank in the sight as Stiles' eyes faded, confusion overpowering anger.

"Getting rid of your shirt," he said, ripping it down the side and tugging the neckline over Stiles' head as he tried to figure out the proper reaction.

"Okay, so you used to be creepy, but, dude, come on." Stiles crossed his arms over his chest.

"What?" Peter asked, balling up the bloody shirt and flinging it out the window. "It stank."

Stiles stared out after his shirt with his mouth gaping open. "That's when you wash it, not throw it out a damn window! And now there are gonna be cops snooping around trying to find the half naked bloody person wandering around."

"In this neighborhood? I doubt it would be anything out of the usual." He sat easily next to him, reached out an arm and draped it over Stiles' shoulders as he stared at him. Distraction, pain, or the bond of pack kept Stiles from shoving him away immediately. He curled a hand around Stiles' trapezius muscle and squeezed gently, his thumb soothing, fingers kneading the tension.

"That was a perfectly good shirt. You're buying me a new one." Stiles said, turning his neck to the touch, his arms loosening across his chest though they remained crossed.

Peter felt his lips twitch, once, and repressed the smile before Stiles could see it. He always thought Stiles would make a good wolf, a force to be reckoned with. So much potential. And now he was getting his wish, like a gift wrapped in blood right in front of him. If only he could make him his beta. Or, at the very least, loyal to him instead of Derek. Scott would be a bigger hurdle, if not impossible, Peter mused, pressing deeper into Stiles' loosening muscle.

Stiles sighed, then froze mid stretch, looked up the line of Peter's arm, and finally met his eyes.

"Now, what the hell are you doing?"

"It is called comforting, I believe, though it's true that I'm out of the habit," Peter said, letting his hand drop when Stiles elbowed him in the ribs.

"It's creepy, stop it."

"Fair enough." Peter sat with his hands in his lap, staring at them and waiting for Stiles to break. With the wolf raging inside of him, suffocating, trying to claw its way out, it was just a matter of time.

Stiles let out a roar of rage and swung out his arm. Peter flinched away from him out of reflex, but a pillow just thumped dully off of the far wall and slid to the floor.

Peter stared at it in thought for a moment, then turned back to Stiles.

"You're really bad at violence," he said, letting amusement and condescension shine through.

"Fuck you," Stiles spat, and the next time Stiles' arm swung out, it was at him.

But Peter was prepared. He grabbed Stiles by one wrist, and then the other, leaning over him as he struggled to break free. Stiles kicked the hell out of his midsection, knocking the wind out of him, but Peter growled and held on. He used his greater bulk to his advantage, pressing himself along the line of Stiles' body as he bucked and kicked and tried to destroy both of them.

But then Stiles went still, his heart rate speeding even faster, his skin flushing deep red with exertion. Peter could feel the heat coming off of him.

"Get off of me," Stiles said, his eyes still glowing yellow gold, his mouth open as he panted little breaths against Peter's neck.

"Only if you promise to behave," Peter said, a little breathless himself, as Stiles fought against his single handed grip on his wrists, against his thighs pinning him to the bed.

Stiles snarled at him, teeth snapping at his neck. Peter jerked quickly back and it pressed him closer to Stiles' groin, his leg slipping between Stiles' thighs.

Stiles started struggling harder, breaking out muffled, semi coherent curses as his face flushed deeper red and a slow grin spread across Peter's face as he realized that yes, that was an erection pressing against him.

Diversionary tactics. He could work with that.

"So you like it rough," he said, surprised, but not terribly so, at the turn of events. He was adaptable, and fucking was a better pastime than fighting. He quickly realized, as he adjusted to straddle Stiles, their clothed cocks sliding together, that yes, he liked this idea more than he expected, as a bolt of desire shot down through his gut to his cock.

And so did Stiles, if the way he groaned as he moved against him, struggled against Peter's grip, and bucked his hips up to meet him were anything to go by.

"Fuck you, you son of a bitch, don't ever stop doing that I hate you," Stiles breathed, a constant stream as Peter slid against him, straining up to bite at his shoulder. Peter moved fast and rough, quickly loosening his grip enough that Stiles broke free. He forgot about that otherworldly wolf power Stiles was just endowed with.

Stiles shoved him back against the wall, the small gap between it and the bed making Peter feel unstable until he righted himself. His breath went out in a rush. Stiles's hand, claws splitting through skin for the first time, were around Peter's throat. Peter swallowed, but tried to remain relaxed, waiting for the nubile wolf to recede and Stiles to take control. In order to build Stiles' trust, he had to at least pretend to have some faith in him.

And if anything went wrong, well, he knew how to get things back under control. Stiles was a wolf; he could take a lot more damage now than a few hours ago.

After a quick grimace Stiles loosened his grip on his neck, slid his hand roughly down Peter's chest, and shoved it into his pants.

Peter gasped as the sudden, unexpected sensation of Stiles' hand around him, his hips thrusting up into the grip of their own accord.

Stiles' eyes were still glowing yellow gold as they sought out his own. Stiles slid his hand along Peter's length, and he could feel the occasional scrape of a claw over his thigh.

Stiles' lips curling up at the small sounds that Peter couldn't stop making. Holy hell, he was really going for it. Peter had expected some teasing and lighthearted fondling, but not this. "This is going to happen my way," Stiles growled, "or not at all."

Peter chuckled, then let his actions speak for him. He pulled Stiles closer, curling fingers in his hair and panting against his neck. He licked and nipped at tender skin as Stiles stroked him like he knew exactly what Peter wanted and how.

That he hadn't expected. Bumbling and shy and clumsy, he had expected. But this was Stiles without a mask, Stiles without goofy sidekick plastered over his face and the guise of societal expectations cloaking his true self.

He was pure. Anger, aggression, and desire. Pure.

His eyes didn't leave Peters' once as he slid his free hand around Peter's back, carving deep lines into his skin with claws. Peter pressed back into the pain, pinning Stiles' hand to the wall, making him fall forward, forcing him closer.

Peter felt lips press at his neck, and took the opportunity to unfasten his pants and free his cock. Stiles' breath hitched at the sight of him, and Peter felt a thrill of pleasure at that, before he maneuvered and shoved Stiles' pants down his thighs, out of the way.

Stiles fell forward a little, letting out a stream of unintelligible curses, and knocked his chin on the top of Peter's head.

"Ow, damn it."

Yeah, that was more like it.

Peter sat back, his back pressed to the wall, and pulled Stiles into his lap, licking his hand to slick it before taking both of their cocks and stroking.

Stiles fell against him, head resting against his shoulder, breathing into the crook of his neck.

"If you stop doing that ever I'm going to kill you," he breathed, halfway between a moan and a growl.

Peter hummed, watching their skin slide together, the friction too much, but he didn't stop. And Stiles' hand moved down to wrap around his own as he squirmed and arched into the touch.

"Come on," he said, "I never thought you would be this quiet," His breathing sped up as he felt the build coming.

"I'm a little distracted at the moment," Stiles breathed, "wait, what do you mean, have you thought about this before?" Stiles asked, panting.

"I've been alone for a long time. A lot of strange thoughts slide through my mind," Peter said.

"Such a creep," Stiles breathed softly, sinking teeth none too gently into Peter's shoulder.

The intense spike of pain sharpened the pleasure, sending him over the edge. He used his own come to stroke Stiles into a similar, though more violent, state. Involving claws digging into his back again, and his name breathed into his ear before said ear got a sharp bite.

Stiles fell to the side, breathing heavily. Peter would have, too, if he hadn't been pressed to the wall.

When he regained his breath, he raised his brows at Stiles.

"Feeling better?"

Stiles stared at the half moon bite on Peter's neck as blood dripped, and was absorbed back into the skin as the wound healed. Peter felt an odd tingle and twinge at his neck, but thought nothing of it, feeling the scratches on his back healing smoothly.

Stiles' eyes were back to their normal amber, and his heart rate was slowing back to normal. He stretched out languidly, but tensed a little short of true relaxation. He took in a breath, then let it out.

"Ask me." His tone was wooden.

"What?" Peter asked, his eyes closed as he savored the temporary, false sense of bliss.

"Ask me," Stiles said more firmly, "you've asked me before."

Peter hesitated, let the silence build as Stiles stared at him.

"Would you like the bite?" Peter asked warily, sensing a trap.

He heard Stiles' heart rate speed up, but he didn't say anything. So Peter sat up closer, hovering over him, and waited.

Stiles gulped, looking more like himself than he had all of that night, skin flushed and rosy with only a little pale tinge to his lips, and then lifted his arm off the bed, holding it out to Peter. Peter doubted he knew what it meant, the emotional or traditional meaning behind the location. The mark of an equal, stronger even than the simple bond of pack, but he might someday find out.

"Yes." Stiles said, but it was a lie, a hopeless whisper in the growing darkness. But he was giving himself the illusion of a choice, so Peter went along with it. Stiles would appreciate it.

Peter pressed a soft kiss to the pulse point at Stiles' wrist, felt the vein jump against his lips, then he bared his fangs and sunk them inside, sharply, suddenly, relishing Stiles' gasp, even as the metallic tang of blood filled his mouth and dripped down his chin.

Stiles' heart was beating frantically, and his breathing was stuttered, but his fingers were tangling in Peter's hair, pulling him down.

Peter noted the blood mingling with sweat, or a tear, as it beaded up, and fell over the crease of Stiles' eye.

"How poetic," he murmured.

Stiles paid no attention to it and tugged him insistently down, down into a desperate, bloody kiss.

.

The mingling scents of blood, sweat, and come were overpowering, and Peter knew there would be hell to pay if he were to be discovered in his current predicament with Stiles draped over him, claw skimming his skin, occasionally drawing a droplet of blood before healing as Stiles watched in fascination.

"Come on," he said, stilling Stiles' hand over his stomach, and then moving to pull him up off of the bed. They had both lost their clothes in the slow languid kiss, hands roaming over each others bodies, exploring. A welcome distraction from violence.

Peter pretended not to notice the occasional whimpers that Stiles couldn't muffle sliding out against his lips and across his tongue. He did his best to quite Stiles, to calm him with touch as he felt the stronger bond as an almost deity forming between them.

Almost tangible.

He hadn't expected it to happen so strongly, so abruptly, but he was taking advantage of it. A stronger bond between them, in the absence of all the others, would put him at an advantage. They were going to be forced to catch up to be recognized by Stiles' wolf, who was already beginning to speak, in its way, with Peter's own. Though he didn't like him much or trust him at all. A feeling that Peter was sure was influenced by his human half.

But Stiles slid out of bed smoothly, his thin, bruised and almost broken body healing slowly for a wolf, but beyond fast for a human, as the jagged puncture marks had already begun to fade, surrounding bruised already yellowing.

"We have to get cleaned up," he said, eyes softly, skimming over the runnels of blood and droplets drying across Stiles' face and chest, and dripping slowly from his wounds, their combined come drying over his belly, giving Peter a dark possessive feel that he wanted to explore later, possibly with restraints and Stiles whimpering his name. He shoved the thought away, looking at the dust and grit still clinging to his body from the fight. Even werewolves weren't completely impervious to infection.

Stiles was giving him a dark, studious look, and Peter wasn't sure which of the pair was staring at him through those oddly dark eyes as they made their way to the bathroom and he turned on the shower and waited for the infernal thing to heat up. Wolf or human, neither trusted him.

He was surprised when Stiles' hand had sought his out, sliding down from a grip on the wrist to lace their fingers together. And they were tethered, Stiles looking away from him, leaning away, but refusing to break the reassuring point of contact..

Steam started to rise between them and Peter raised a brow before stepping into the scalding hot water and pulling Stiles a step closer.

"This doesn't mean I trust you," he said, stepping again and following Peter into the water, grimacing as the water pummeled his back. "Or even like you. I just..."

Stiles never said what he was just, but Peter knew what he meant. The bond growing between them was subtle but strong, stronger than he ever expected. His source had obviously withheld information when explaining it to him...

He kept his expression smooth and watched the pink tinged water swirl down the drain as Stiles turned his back and let the spray hit him in the face.

He moved slowly closer, chest almost pressed to Stiles' back.

"Hey, what are you..." Stiles was tense again, outside of the bedroom and the immediate situation, he was clamming up at Peter's touch.

Peter pursed his lips and leaned a little further, grabbing the soap off of the wire rack hanging over the shower head, letting one hand slide slowly over Stiles' hip. "Relax," he said softly, "if I wanted to hurt you, don't you think I've already had the perfect opportunity?"

Stiles rolled his shoulders and didn't say anything as Peter started to work up a lather, then slid an arm around Stiles and smooth the soap around the bite at his waist, washing away the stubborn drying blood before inching even closer, pressing his chin to Stiles' shoulder, and using the other hand to soap over his chest.

Stiles let out a soft breath, his eyes falling closed, and leaned back against Peter for support.

Peter took his time, fingers deft and gentle as he cleaned out the jagged talon marks and punctures, making sure there wasn't any foreign materials in the wounds, letting his touch lull Stiles into a state of peace that he had not felt since being bitten. Or probably for a long time before that.

His own mind fell into a dormant state as he ran his hands over Stiles' body, noting and filing the way that he responded, with either a sigh, a curse, or a jab, to his touches.

He forgot that he was supposed to be in a rush to destroy the evidence on his and Stiles' indiscretion. He forgot that it was all a ploy to get a strong lieutenant at his side. He forgot himself. Until all he was was warm hands and strong arms holding, kneading, caressing, the lean body in front of him. Until the water ran cold and Stiles' eyes snapped open as he shivered.

"I think I'm clean now," he said, voice cracking, shocked alert by the blast of icy water and sounding like himself again as he stepped quickly out of the jet.

"Good, yes," Peter said abruptly, standing in the icy water for a moment longer as he tried to regain true consciousness from his strange trance. He academically wondered why his mind had slid into that odd, serene state. He bowed his head and let the water pour over him, sensing motion at his side for a moment before it went oddly still. He lifted his head and blinked away the water to see Stiles holding a towel loosely at his hip, eyes open wide in something akin to wonder as he stared at him.

"How the hell did this become my life?" he asked, head tilted.

There was something softer, more inquisitive, in that look than he had expected, so he allowed himself soft smile. Which woke Stiles out of his reverie and had him making his escape back to the bedroom. Peter shut off the water and allowed himself a more predatory grin as he followed, watching Stiles make his escape before he turned the corner and disappeared from view.

.

Stiles was clad in his own bloodied jeans and a borrowed shirt when Derek and Scott barged into the loft like it was on fire and they had to save a helpless kitten before it burned to death. Peter had removed as much of the evidence of his and Stiles' activities as he could but Scott still gave him a suspicious look as if he knew Peter was up to something before moving over to Stiles to check him over quickly.

"Are you alright? By the time I could get away, you were already gone, and I didn't know where he took you." Scott threw a distrustful look at Peter, and Stiles' eyes slid his way before jerking quickly back to Scott.

Stiles forced a cheap smile and shrugged. Peter's eyes narrowed. "Yeah, I'm fine."

"He knows I bit you," Derek said abruptly.

Stiles had been happy to ignore Derek's presence in the doorway, but as he spoke, the color drained from Stiles' cheeks and his hackles rose. "Did you also tell him that I got no say in the matter?"

"Yes," Derek said sharply, "and that you were on the brink of death, and I had to."

"You didn't have to do anything; you could have taken me to a hospital!"

Scott stepped between them holding out a hand to Stiles' chest as he surged forward, like he was going to attack. Stiles hesitated, confusion clouding his expression for a moment before the anger overwhelmed him again.

Peter stepped back into the shadows and watched. Everything was going perfectly without him interfering so he was just going to stay out of it.

Derek's face twisted up in guilt and pain, and then he opened his eyes again to give Stiles a quick flutter of a helpless expression before it twisted into anger.

"I wasn't just going to sit back and watch you die!"

"Well maybe you should have!" Stiles' eyes went as wide as Derek's after the outburst as if he were surprised at himself.

"Stiles," Scott said softly, his hand pressing at Stiles' chest, "you don't mean that."

"Yeah," Stiles said, more quietly, "you're right."

But Stiles didn't sound convinced. His humanity meant a great deal, and he was obviously in a dangerous place. He was not himself, literally. The best was still a foreign presence of instinct and passion wrapped in a too tight suit of flesh and bone. And he was sharing Stiles' mind.

But Scott looked mollified, and he slipped his hand around to Stiles' arm, and tugged at him. "Come on, let's get you home, and we'll figure things out."

Stiles let himself be pulled towards the door, where Derek had stepped back smartly. Peter felt a coil of unease twist around inside of him, but Stiles' craned his neck around, sought out Peter's eyes in the shadows, and hesitated.

It was just a split second. A step stopped halfway through. Lips thinning down to an unhappy line. And then Stiles was out the door with Scott, walking out without a look at Derek.

Peter felt a smile tugging at his lips but hid it. It was a start. A burgeoning bond, but a bond nonetheless. Stiles felt it, and acknowledged it.

Peter swaggered out of the shadows and alongside Derek, where he was watching Stiles and Scott through the window as they walked outside into the cool air.

"Well, that could have gone better," he said, propping an arm on Derek's shoulder before quickly moving it with an inward chuckle at Derek's murderous glare.

.

Stiles felt really out of place in his room back home. So much had changed since that morning. That rainy miserably morning when he just wanted to curl up in bed and play computer games all day. But no, he had to go to school, then he had to skip out on school early follow up on a lead on some weird sightings around the town. They got more than they bargained for, and it devolved into a werewolf versus demon bird showdown. Then he was turned into a demon bird pincushion, and wound up bitten by a fucking werewolf on his deathbed.

It had been a really stressful day.

And the fact that he knew Scott was sitting outside his bedroom door, guarding him like he would flip out and go on a murderous rampage at a moments notice, wasn't really helping.

Especially since that was a very real possibility.

He started to sit down on his bed but hesitated when he saw all the blood and grit plastered to his pants. He shucked them off, but that made all the black and rust and dirt look even more impressive. He was still feeling shocky, and nothing was quite real just yet, but it was slowly starting to sink in.

All that blood...

He heard his own phone chirrup, and felt a rush of irritation when Scott answered it from the other side of the door. He wasn't even trusted with a phone?

It was his dad, he could hear the voice easily, through the door. Scott said that he was in the bathroom, and his dad let out a tired sigh. Stiles knew that he was working too hard. And then he told Scott to pass on that he would be at work late that night.

Stiles sat down roughly on his bed, jeans still held loosely in his thought about his dad, tried to picture in his head what his dad would have done, if he'd found him dead at a crime scene, or if, more likely, the pack had taken his dead body and buried it, or sent him to Deaton for cremation, and his dad would have thought he had just disappeared. Ran away. But Scott wouldn't have let that happen. Where had that thought even came from?

Stiles clutched at his jeans, claws shoving roughly into fabric and stabbing holes in the waistband before he quickly dropped them.

Maybe he shouldn't be so pissed off at Derek. If nothing else, Stiles knew his dad would rather him be alive and a wolf than dead...unless Stiles flipped out and tried to kill him one night because he couldn't control himself.

He knew that Scott had that type of trouble when he first changed, but Stiles had never really understood it, not the level of it, until now.

He grimaced to himself when he thought about how jealous he had been of Scott, once he got that control. Repressed under layers and layers of 'he's my best friend and I'm happy for him,' of course. But Peter had struck a nerve that night, it felt so long ago, when he had offered him the bite, tried to tempt him.

He had wanted it, deep down, in the same way that he wanted to be the best at everything, to show off and prove that he was good enough, that he deserved the life that was given to him, even though some had it snatched away too soon.

But he knew it wasn't right. That he was being manipulated, used, and he didn't want it like that.

But given the gift of more life, on his deathbed? On a list of 'reasons to be turned into a werewolf,' that had to be ranked near the top.

His mind was still whirring. Stiles squeezed his eyes closed and tried not to think about anything, willing his heart rate to slow back down into a normal pattern. The room felt like it was spinning.

He could actually hear the soft shus of Scott's breathing through the door.

Curious, he focused more sharply on all the sounds around him. The faint whistle of wind creeping through his closed window. A mouse scurrying around in the wall downstairs. The gentle creak of the house as it settled. The chitter of leaves he could hear outside in the gentle breeze. And holy hell he could hear them all individually. And he could hear the neighbors arguing about whose turn it was to do the dishes. Furry rodents scurrying around outside.

And then the smells came at him in a rush, Scott's reassuring scent with the indescribable edge of pack, the smell of his father faint but ever present in the air, the smell of dirt, and blood, and death, from his pants, and the scent of Peter on the shirt, and faintly from his own skin. It all came crashing down on him so fast, like a wave at sea and he couldn't tread water he couldn't keep up with it and he felt the same sensory overload that he had felt right after waking up, right after becoming a werewolf.

But that first time, Peter had been there with rough hands and sharp words, and Stiles hadn't realized at the time, but Peter had centered him, diverted his attention away from the overload with ease, the cunning bastard. He had used Stiles' own biological imperative to distract him from his violent anger into something much easier to channel.

Which explained why he had suddenly acted so amorous towards Stiles. Why he had touched him that way. It was yet another ploy, a weapon in his arsenal. It was a means to an end. Not like it meant anything. A part of Stiles felt relief at that, but also an uneasy twinge. Peter had just thought it would be easier than fighting a rabid were-chihuahua.

Stiles flopped backwards onto his bed with a sigh. As far as first times were concerned, he was sure it could have been worse.

Somehow.

.

Peter knew there was one hell of a battle ahead of him, and he had to make some allies as well as regain his strength before he had even a chance of survival. But, well, his options were limited, and he'd gone over it all too many times in his head already.

Derek was being groomed for nefarious purposes already, so he was out.

Scott was so upstandingly moral that it was sickening. He should have known given his track record with fate that of course he would bite the most blandly, destestingly moral person on the face of the planet.

And Isaac was too far up Scott's ass, metaphorically if not physically, that Peter knew that he would never be a possibility.

Lydia would castrate him with a dull knife if he even considered approaching her again.

Allison. No.

Which left Stiles. Albeit best friend of the upstandingly moral one, he had something inside him that Peter recognized. A certain darkness hiding behind his eyes. And the fact that he was now a wolf, even more of a force to be reckoned with, was very promising.

Peter wanted to cultivate that darkness, bring it to the forefront, and watch it blossom into true evil before his very eyes, at his hands.

Stiles gave him an irritating rush of hope and possessiveness that was intoxicating. His own very human, well previously human, darkness saw through to Peter's wolf, and it was like they recognized one another. His wolf would rumble a silent growl, even as a warmth, an almost fondness bubbled up in his heart. He enjoyed a good sparring partner.

He wanted, in his heart of hearts, to challenge Stiles' spark, and defeat it. But more than that he wanted to help him grow into his own as a true villain.

Which was why he was currently pulling a Derek and hiding outside in the shadows near his house, watching Stiles through a crack in his curtains as he fell backwards onto his bed in exhaustion.

He needed an ally, and in order to do that he needed Stiles to learn to tolerate his presence. He was well on his way, but he was not going to leave it all up to the hands of fate. Fate had this obscene way of screwing him over, so he would take matters into his own hands. In order to grow closer to Stiles, Peter needed to turn himself into a reassuring presence, and give Stiles a reason to trust him.

Given his current reputation, it would be challenging, to say the least. It was a delicate game, but Peter was adept. And he knew how to play to Stiles' weaknesses.

He just needed to watch and wait.

.

Stiles was weaving over the twilight between waking and sleeping. His mind was sluggish, so tired that even his worries and fears couldn't keep him awake and alert anymore. It had been a long tiring day following a month or long tiring days.

But his wolf was fresh and new to life and inquisitive about everything around him, picking up on his brothers' nature. They were one and the same, though separate. Their divide was indistinct and Stiles did not have the strength to study it.

The wolf knew one thing for sure, in his new life. His human half was close to the brink of sleep. And in that semi consciousness he was weak, and he could take advantage of that state to go out, to take this shared body for his own purposes and explore the world.

He slipped smoothly into Stiles' skin, his face twisting and becoming wolfish, his eyes sharpening as they started to glow, and claws sprouting from his fingers. It was like taking in a deep breath of fresh night air after being trapped in a dark musty cell for days on end.

That thought, buried deep within the wolf's subconscious, welled stronger, with extreme sense memory and the feel of heavy chains weighing him down. He felt trapped within the warm and confining house with its odd sounds and the strange, familiar but not trusted wolf on the other side of the door.

The wolf felt its instincts kick in, and it had the presence of mind to shove Stiles' window open instead of jumping through it. Stiles wouldn't like for it to be damaged. Also, the silence would make it harder for the other wolf to give chase.

The wolf felt the sensation of being watched, the deep rooted paranoia at discovery welling up stronger, along with a burst of anger, to find it, and fight it. Whatever the threat was. But he lifted his nose to the sky and breathed in the cool air, his legs feeling oddly chilled, but he didn't think much of it and savored the freedom. He hopped lithely from the roof, fell to all fours, scraping up his legs, and then took off at a run.

.

Peter was waiting. He didn't bother covering his grin as he slunk into the shadows, keeping his distance from Stiles but feeling the sharp thrill of the hunt as he followed him. He knew how sly and sneaky Stiles could be, and it was natural for the wolf to take on those same heard the commotion from the house now a block back and to his left, and knew that Scott had realized that Stiles was missing.

Peter sped up, Stiles' scent unmistakable and over the course of their time together committed to his memory.

And then, just as suddenly, it disappeared. Peter walked through a dark patch between a garden on one side and a two story house on his scanned the area for any sign of Stiles, but came up with nothing. Peter lifted his head, and realized what was going on about a half a second before it happened.

"Oh, shi.-"

He fell forward as a rabid tasmanian werewolf dropped onto his shoulders and sunk teeth into his neck. He wound up with his face plastered to the sidewalk as Stiles growled threateningly, teeth puncturing his neck but not ripping or tearing. Still, he felt blood trickling from the wound as he pulled his knees under him and shoved Stiles off of him, ripping his neck open further as he flung him away.

Stiles scrambled to a crouch, and Peter checked his neck, coming away with less blood on his hand than he expected.

Stiles had been practically gentle with him. That was...unexpected.

"You could have ripped out my jugular," he said softly, and Stiles bared his teeth at him. But then Peter squinted at him, at the animal way that Stiles was standing. He stepped cautiously closer. "The train's left the station, but the conductor's not in," he said, and not-quite-Stiles lifted his head, nostrils flaring, and then straightened up.

"Pack," Peter said softly, not sure if it had meaning yet to the young wolf, "we are pack." He tried to reach out, to use the bond between them.

The wolf's eyes widened in recognition, his head dropped a little, and Peter took a couple of steps closer. He was surprised when he wound up with an armful of flailing limbs that didn't quite know where to go and a nose under his ear, breathing in his scent.

Peter's own head tilted instinctively to nuzzle in response to the intimate touch, and he felt some tension unclench inside him that he hadn't realized was there. He sighed, his breath ghosting across Stiles' hair.

And then Stiles' grip on his shoulders tightened, and the body against his tensed and pulled away sharply.

"Peter?" Stiles' eyes were narrowed with suspicion and confused, his face no longer wolfen.

"Ah, you're back with us," Peter said easily, moving smoothly away from Stiles and easily hiding the wrenching feeling that it gave him.

"What's going on?" Stiles' voice wavered, and Peter's lips thinned when he saw how Stiles' hands were trembling. But he didn't reach out.

Peter shrugged, making light of it. "Your new roommate wanted to go for a late night stroll. I guess he didn't want to bother you with that."

"He..he just took my body when I fell asleep?" he asked, unconsciously moving towards Peter again. The pack bond was strong with this one. Though he still didn't seem to notice it.

"It is highly unusual for a wolf to be conscious when the human half is sleeping," he admitted, "though obviously it isn't impossible." He grinned, "Your other half is as devious as you are."

Stiles stopped suddenly, just short of touching,, and Peter quelled a wave of irritation. "What are you doing here?"

"That's what I'd like to know." Scott stepped out of the garden to the side of them and hopped the fence, moving to stand next to Stiles.

"Congratulations, Scott, your stealth skills are improving," Peter said dryly. He was wondering how long Scott had been standing nearby, while he'd been too wrapped up in Stiles, figuratively and literally, to notice.

"Answer the question," Stiles said, and Scott crossed his arms.

"I don't know," Peter paused for dramatic effect, "call it instinct."

"I call it creepy," Scott said, but Peter was watching Stiles, and caught the way his eyes flashed yellow as he snapped around to look at Scott, before he quickly blinked it away.

Stiles might not like him, but his other half was starting to.

Peter took in a deep breath, and let it out as if he were defeated.

"Fine," he said, "I'll tell you the truth."

Scott snorted, so he probably didn't catch the stutter in Stiles' heart beat.

"Stiles and I," he started.

"Peter, what are you doing?" Stiles hissed, obviously upset.

Peter raised his brows, "telling Scott what happened between us, after Derek left."

The mention of Derek had the desired effect, and Stiles' tension was masked by rising anger.

"You see, normally a beta wolf will share a strong bond with his alpha," Scott eyed him dubiously, "there are exceptions, of course. Like the omega," he nodded to Scott. "But..."

He looked to Stiles, who looked on with fascination as well as apprehension, "in the case of a careless alpha, or the absence of one, beta wolves within a pack can, sometimes unconsciously, form strong bonds with each other, for protection," he paused, hesitated honestly, "or comfort."

"And you bonded Stiles," Scott said, incredulity and distrust mingling to create a jangling note to his voice.

"Scott, really? You make it sound so dirty." Stiles said, then he gave Peter a sharp look that he instantly decoded as stress that he would reveal the sexual overtures of their relationship.

"Sorry," Scott muttered..

"Unintentionally," Peter said, genuine surprise, that his plan was working so well, color his voice.

And Scott's eyes moved on to Stiles, looking at him like he had an extra head, until he fidgeted.

Peter felt a rush of irritation. "It's not his fault, either," he said quickly, "neither of us knew what was happening."

Stiles looked at them both in turn, and then looked down at himself, a few scrapes on his bare legs, and groaned.

"Oh God, and where are my pants?" he said in a weak, upset voice.

Peter grinned at him reflexively, which felt strange. But he felt the heat coming off of Stiles as he blushed and knew it was worth it.

"Come on, let's get you back home," Scott said, his voice barely hiding a laugh tinged with sympathy. He gave Peter a distrustful look before turning his back.

And Peter was left alone, watching as the pair started their slow, dejected way back to Stiles' Stiles hesitated, Scott's hand tight on his arm, a couple of yards away. He didn't look back, just tilted his head to the side.

"Thanks," he said softly.

"Not a problem." Peter felt something warm start to glow in his chest, but shoved it quickly away. He was just happy that his plan was going...according to plan. That was it. For the first time, he felt worried about how little he knew of the bond he had created.

.

Stiles let himself turn back and look around Peter but there was just darkness and a bit of misting rain falling, just shadow and rain. He was already gone. He narrowed his eyes. Since when was Peter so friendly anyway? What the hell was he up to?

Stiles caught a stray scent on the wind, a waft of Peter's unique smell that was already far too familiar and his wolf perked up at it. He grimaced at it. Yeah I'm soo not going to think about that.

He turned back to Scott who was staring at him oddly, as if he were trying to figure out what was going on in his mind. "What?"

Scott's expression softened. Stiles surreptitiously tried to smell him in order to get the scent of Peter out of his nose.

"Nothing," Scott said, "come on, I want to show you something." He was suddenly bright and excited as a child with his favorite toy as he grabbed Stiles by the wrist, making the small ring of teeth marks still there smart at the contact, but Stiles tried to hide it.

Scott didn't notice, or acted like he didn't notice, and hauled Stiles along as he took off at a run down the sidewalk, and then into the darkness of the nearest backyard.

"Dude, stop, seriously?" Stiles spluttered, but was surprised when he actually kept up with him, and Scott twisted around for a second and grinned at him as Stiles started pumping his legs faster and pulled ahead of him. "It's awesome isn't it?" Scott said.

Stiles looked back over his shoulder at him, laughing, because yeah it was. Everything was a blur, and then he was already in the bright orangey glow of the streetlights, and he turned around as he heard the screech of tires. He thumped into the bumper of a car as it skidded to a stop on the slick road and then he was stumbling, being hauled across the road and into the shadows as the driver got out of the vehicle. His heart was pounding viciously as the driver checked to see what they hit, but by then he and Scott were past them, and catching their breath in the shadows of an overgrown privacy hedge.

"I didn't think I had to explain to you about cars..." Scott said slowly, sounding guilty.

"Oh, shut up," Stiles said, straightening up as he heard the car pull away, stretching as he felt a deep bruise on his side tightening the muscles.

"Maybe we should just take it slow," Scott said.

And Stiles didn't have a witty quip. He was feeling too achy and tired. And he didn't think that had ever happened before.

Then they took it slow.

"Just promise me one thing," he said quietly, because he really didn't want to say it, "make sure to tie me up or watch me sleep or something so I don't escape and wreak havoc on the townsfolk."

Scott nudged him on his good side.

"You know I never would have got through the whole werewolf thing without your help, right?"

Stiles grunted.

"Well, maybe it's time for me to repay the favor."

Stiles felt a bit of tension easing in his chest. And when he got back home, he passed out on his bed without a second though as Scott sat in his desk chair, playing candy crush on his phone.

.

Stiles woke the next morning with a sense of unease, quickly replaced by surprise. There was a girl in his room, and no Scott. The girl was Allison, but still, he should have been consulted about that, right?

She wasn't wolf she wasn't pack what was she doing there she smelled of the blood of his kind in an ancient and metaphysical way.

His instincts were screaming at him to run, to fight, but Allison was just sitting at his desk and reading a book, her crossbow propped against the chair leg, a quiver of soft wooden arrows with no sharp pointed tips half hidden by her boot.

"Are you going to shoot me?" he asked hoarsely, heart in his throat even though he knew it was Allison.

She looked up from her book and shifted her leg to the side, hiding the bow from sight but it was too late.

"No," she said, but her tone was clipped, and he caught her hesitance.

Her face twisted up with sympathy and Stiles tried to figure out what kind of expression he was wearing, but all he knew was that it was an unhappy one.

"It's just for protection, in case you lose your cool," she said quickly, "and Isaac is outside if you need one of the pack with you, but Scott said it was better that you didn't wake up with an unfamiliar werewolf in here."

"No, it's fine," he said, face flushing with shame at what he was, at how out of control it made him feel. At the sympathy and pity in Allison's eyes. He wondered absently if Isaac would report back what he saw to Derek at the first chance and then uneasily quelled the resulting rush of anger. He tried to focus.

"I can't believe Scott told you," he said roughly, his head in his hands.

"He didn't," Allison said, then pursed her lips.

Stiles looked up at her sharply. "What? What aren't you telling me?"

"Lydia did." The sympathy in her tone got even stronger, cloying.

"Lydia knows?!"

"Of course she knows," Allison said, as if that explained everything. And it kind of did. She had been there for the showdown. "When you disappeared, and then Derek came back with blood on his teeth and hauled Scott away, after we ran off the birds, she put two and two together," she said, "and now she's…" she clamped her mouth closed.

Stiles frowned.

Allison suddenly found the floor very interesting.

"Allison?"

She picked up one of her arrows and started tugging at the fletching.

"Allison, where is Lydia?"

She cleared her throat and avoided his eyes.

"Allison, what is Lydia planning?"

"Planning? Nothing." Pause. "She's past the planning stage already." She looked up at Stiles and let her own glimmer of worry for her friend shine through.

Stiles stood up and started pacing through the room, getting eyed by Allison, but he huffed a breath at her. "I'm fine, honestly. Well I'm obviously not fine but i'm not about to go all crazy eyes on you so there's that much at least I guess."

Allison let her hand, reaching for her bow when Stiles had glanced away, fall back to her side. Which was oddly reassuring, despite the fact that she was about to think about giving him bodily harm. But he stopped pacing and sat down on his bed facing her, their knees almost touching. He looked at her, pushed past his own crap and really looked at her.

Allison had dark circles under red and puffy eyes. She had always been tough, but she had a gentle heart beneath it all, even though she tried to hide it at times. And Stiles felt it like an arrow to the chest. She was worried about him. She really cared.

It calmed his wolf, helped him to code her scent and categorize her as pack. Semi-weird, not-wolf pack but still it got her into the category. Stiles felt the tension in his gut unwinding, and calmed down. He felt more in control of himself than he had in a while.

"Please, Allison." he asked softly, "please tell me what's going on."

"After talking to Scott about the details, she decided to go talk with Derek about taking away a person's choices." she said in a rush like she thought it was a bad idea, too, but was powerless to stop it.

"Oh, god." Stiles dropped his head between his knees, brain whirring with all the things that could go wrong there.

"Don't worry. I wouldn't let her go unprotected." Allison said quickly, which brought up an image of Lydia in red stilettos and decked out in knives and hunting gear and stiles really liked that image, but reality sunk in past fantasy and crashed around his ears.

"Oh god." Stiles didn't know if he was more worried about Lydia getting hurt or doing some major hurting of her own. Either outcome was equally possible. He knew what happened when she got angry and it was not good things very not good things.

He also knew her past with consent issues, and how hard she must have taken it when she realized what exactly happened, and then immediately called Allison, passed on what she knew had to have happened, and then getting clearer details from Scott.

He knew about her past with Peter. Who was still confusing the hell out of him. He knew he should stay far, far away, but something about that idea made him scowl.

He didn't have time to think about that, anyway, so he compartmentalized and decided that he would wait until the last possible minute to think about Peter again, and maybe it would just go away so he didn't have to deal with it.

But he wasn't sure if Lydia realized how much Derek had been used, too, by others for their own gain. She could really rip him up inside, even more.

"I need to go." he said quickly.

"I'll come with you," Allison breathed in relief, as if she had been hoping he would do something.

But Stiles cheated. He jumped through his bedroom window, relieved that it had been open, fell on his face, and took off at a run, thankful that he had had the presence of mind to pull on pants the night before going back to sleep. He felt scrapes on his face healing quickly and grimaced. He would get the hang of the wolf stuff sooner or later.

.

The loft was quiet and dark when Stiles got there, but he shoved the door open anyway and stepped inside. He could only hear one slow steady heartbeat upstairs, and then some indistinct shuffling around.

"Lydia!" he called anyway. Oh, god what if she was already dead? What if the heartbeat was hers and she had killed Derek?

Deep down he knew that they wouldn't kill each other, that he would smell blood and death if it had happened, but words could wound as deeply as any other weapons, and he didn't want any harm to come to either one of them.

He started quickly up the stairs but stopped halfway at the slow hesitant steps as Derek's shadowed shape stopped at the top of the steps.

"She's not here, Stiles," Derek said, standing with his arms loosely at his sides.

"Where is she?" he asked, crossing his arms tightly to try to muffle the frantic beating of his heart. He wasn't sure why it was going so crazy.

But Stiles narrowed his eyes. Derek's tone was even and not at all surprised, as if he expected Stiles to be there, and knew he thought Lydia was there. He smelled a plot.

"She wasn't ever here, was she?" he asked.

Derek stepped to the side of the stairs, an invitation for Stiles to come up, but he stood still.

"No," he said, "She decided that a phone call would suffice." From the way that Derek's lips thinned and brow creased, she had not said anything nice to him. Good.

But still, it didn't feel right. Like there was something he was missing. Like it was all a setup or something. and then the longer he stared at Derek, the more he started to shift his feet and avoid his eyes.

His wolf propelled him up the stairs and stood chest to chest with Derek, looking him in the eye for a moment before Derek looked away guiltily.

His anger at Derek had been ebbing. He knew it was better to be among the living as a wolf, than a dead human. Mainly because that he knew that his father would have lost it completely if he had actually died. But that anger came rushing back to him.

Derek had pulled a complete Peter and tried to manipulate him. He knew that the idea of Lydia being near him would set Stiles off, send him running over. Even if he wasn't behind it, if it was just a coincidence that he took advantage of, he could have made a phone call, kept him from having to come over...from having to talk with him so soon. It would have been easier for both of them.

"I can't believe you. I was starting to feel like…"

"Like what?"Derek's eyes shot up to look at him, hope blooming.

Stiles grimaced and shoved down his irritating ability to see from Derek's perspective, his empathy. He wanted to be angry. "Nothing," he snapped, letting go of Derek and whirling a few steps away and starting to pace.

"Like maybe I could deal with this wolf crap, like maybe being part of a pack wouldn't be all bad." He turned on his heel, ignoring Derek's sharp intake of breath. "But how the hell is that going to happen when the fucking alpha starts out by lying to me. I just don't see how it's going to happen right now."

Derek swallowed, and Stiles could hear the click in his throat. "Does that mean that you don't acknowledge me as your alpha?" His voice was soft, light, and not at all surprised.

It was a wrench for Stiles. He knew what had gone down between Derek and Scott, and had figured that that had cut Derek a lot more deeply than he had ever shown. And now he had his proof of it. Fantastic.

Derek was trying too hard to control his face. His brow twitched down before he smoothed it away.

And Stiles hesitated. He thought about what little he knew of pack bonds. He thought of Allison and Isaac, who both felt like pack, and of Scott, the brother of his heart, and than bond was strong, almost a physical thing connecting them.

And then his thoughts strayed to Peter, unwillingly, and the sharp, even stronger, pull that he felt towards him. He felt irritated that his wolf almost whimpered because he wasn't there. They were all, aside from Allison, his fellow beta wolves. And his connection with them were all strong, stronger than he could explain or understand.

Especially Peter, as much as Stiles hated to admit it. He had acted like an idiot in his momentary weakness, reaching out to Peter, who was the only one there for him in the dark moment. And they were both somehow connected very strongly by that. Surprising both sides, but there was nothing he could do about it. And that wasn't even touching on the stupidity of the sex. He was trying not to think about that. Not now.

Stiles turned and stared at Derek's profile, his head down, eyes unfocused and staring at the floor. For the first time, he reached out to his wolf consciously and tried to figure out, what he felt. He let his wolf look out through his eyes and see Derek. He let out an inquisitive trill of feeling, and got back…

Nothing.

The rounded moon bite on his wrist twinged and Stiles glanced at it. The flesh was mounded up, looking healed but scarred. Two sickle moons facing each other. He rubbed his hand over the bite and turned his attention back to derek.

Dude I know you're not one for words, but what do you think about Derek? He thought at his wolf.

He got the impression of a pale silvery wolf staring at him blankly.

Nothing.

He's your alpha! you have to feel something there!

The wolf's lips peeled back from teeth, showing of fangs that shined in imagined moonlight. He didn't realized that he was actively growling until Derek's head jerked up and snapped around to stare at Stiles, eyes wide in surprise.

"You're not my alpha," he said in a voice similar to his own, but wasn't really him.

And then his idiot little wolf did something extremely stupid before Stiles could get the reigns and stop him.

He lunged at Derek.

"Stiles, you don't want to be an omega," Derek said quickly, easily grabbing Stiles by the wrists, but making no move to hurt him.

Derek was still trying to get him to stop, stick with him, and Stiles was tempted. He knew that the pack was weird and twisted and not perfect, but he cared for them all, and they cared for him as well.

They were a family.

But his wolf surged forward again, twisting up his own anger with sense memory of that night, using it as a weapon, making him feel everything that had happened, fresh. All over again.

He thought he was starting to get past it, to move one. But all that pain, all that anger, all that guilt about wanting himself dead in the first place, it was still so strong. He had only been repressing it, he realized. He thought he had worked through it, but he had shoved it all down and ignored it.

Along with the unacknowledged relief that Derek hadn't let him die, after all. It was all whirling around in his conscious mind, welling up from his wolf and his subconscious in a confusing mass of anger and pain and guilt.

He struck out blindly, his wolf guiding his blow at Derek, moving fast and deadly and scratching and hitting at whatever was in reach. He got Derek across the face, blood splattering across the floor and wall, and then Derek dropped back, unable to keep a hold on him in his madness.

"Stiles. Stiles!" Derek's voice was high and a little frightened and it made Stile feel gleeful and smug. But a part of his true consciousness surged up as he straddled Derek and reached back a hand to hit him again, and he hesitated.

Blood was pouring from Derek's face, but his eyes were calm and human, as if he thought he deserved it. He was still, even as Stiles flexed hands with unfamiliar claws and stared down at him, meeting his eyes.

"I did it," he said, half choked, "for you." For him. A small voice perked up. He knew that. He had known that from the beginning. "I couldn't just watch you die." His voice wavered, and Stiles could tell by the look in Derek's eyes that it was true. He cared. He did it for him. Stiles felt his eyes welling up, but he shoved at it, clutching at that anger because he preferred it to the pain.

"But it wasn't your choice!" He burst out, even though that wasn't what he really wanted to say. He shoved Derek away, down, clacking his head hard against the floor. Derek went with it. Didn't lift a finger to protect himself. He just slowly got to his feet as Stiles scrambled up, filled with adrenaline and rage and an unfamiliar beast gnashing its teeth and clawing its way to get out.

"I know," Derek said quietly, stepping slowly closer to Stiles, hands out, "and I'm so..."

"Don't you dare!" Stiles punched him in the jaw, and Derek's eyes flared, but he blinked it away, with effort.

Stiles hit him again because he wanted a reaction he wanted Derek to fight back. He wanted him to challenge him. Wanted him to show the prideful little wolf inside him who was boss. Derek shouldn't let him get away with this crap.

He didn't.

Stiles felt an angry rumble from Derek's chest, pressed so close to his own,and saw angry red eyes wolfen teeth a millisecond before Derek pushed back, and attacked.

They fought with Stiles' erratic speed and Derek slower, more unwilling to hurt him. Words twisted into growls and snarls, no more place for speech. Derek's eyes were glowing red, but there was still clarity within them, and he only struck hard enough to hold Stiles back. Not enough to do more than bruise.

But Stiles and his wolf were in tandem, fully enmeshed within one another and mingling for the first time as Stiles' emotions got the better of him.

And then he was overwhelmed, the wolf enveloping him in anger and instinct. Every time Derek shoved him away, he was right back up again, he kept coming back.

There was a freedom in the feeling, giving in completely to emotions, and he felt a rush of adrenaline and strength he didn't know he had, and he reveled in it. In the strength of the wolf, as he rushed Derek one last time, claws extended, and shoved him up a pillar as his claws twisted up in the meat of Derek's chest.

He bared his teeth and used that strength, feeling triumphant, forgetting his original intention when challenging Derek, of getting him to put his wolf in his place, to show him he was alpha.

He picked Derek up with his claws, digging them in deeper, and shoved him up off of his feet along the column, blood trickling over his hands and down the column behind him.

"Look what you've done to me!" Stiles snarled, the wolf making his words come out rough and hollow, and twisting his hands to make his point, getting a satisfying groan from Derek, who dropped his head to the side, eyes fluttering closed. "I don't know who I am anymore, and that's on your head, Derek! I don't know what I am!"

All of the tension and fight went out of Derek, as he reached down Stiles' forearm, hand briefly catching at the bite on his wrist.

Derek's eyes went wide as he saw it, traced a thumb over it in confusion, brows shooting mark twinged under his touch, but reality was crashing down on Stiles, and he had bigger worries.

"Stiles." Derek reached out his trembling hand further and traced his fingertips gently down the side of Stiles' face.

Stiles felt something tighten in his chest, and clutched back at his control, shifting at the gentleness of it, shocked out of the change.

Derek's adam's apple bobbed as he swallowed, eyes desperately raking over his face, brow furrowed. Derek's eyes were softer than Stiles had ever seen them, faintly confused, and his breath flew out of him in a rush. He clutched at him with the hand that dropped to his shirt, eyes wide and serious. Like he had to say something very important. But his grip weakened.

"Stiles," Derek breathed, giving his wrist one final squeeze before as the light went out of his eyes and his body went limp.

.

Peter got bored with waiting in the shadows. Of course he had been tailing Stiles, from a greater distance this time. He learned from his mistakes. He knew what would be happening inside, and he could hear some muffled crunches and crashes even from a block away. He took his time. Let them get hot and heavy into the fight, and then he could be the voice of reason and break them up like the reasonable person that he was.

But his unease gres stronger as he got closer and closer to the loft. He heard strange snuffling noises from within, and hesitated for a moment before he opened the door a crack and tensed, ready for a fight, before swinging it open and stepping cautiously through at the low noises that met him.

He could smell sweat and blood, quite a lot of both, more than expected. But the room was dark, low light from the streetlamp outside sending in a dim glow.

He noticed Stiles was crouched next to a crumpled shape in the middle of the room, his whole body heaving and he disregarded the ball of tension that eased in his chest. He would just have to learn to ignore that.

"What's the matter?" Peter felt a spike of adrenaline and tasted the tang of it as he swiftly started across the room, but his steps slowed as the snuffling finally formed into coherent words, Stiles rocking back and forth, clutching at the shape, in time to them.

"You should have let me die, you should have let me die, you should have let me die."

The phrase was like a mantra, poetic, iambic. A floorboard creaked under Peter's foot, but Stiles showed no sign of hearing it. The hair stood on the back of Peter's neck as the crumpled shape started to take on the likeness of a true form.

"Stiles," he said, his voice cracking, his mind still refusing to see what his eyes knew was there. The energy in the room was potent and acidic, and it was affecting him. Stiles' head twisted around quick enough to give him whiplash and the mantra cut off abruptly.

He looked up at Peter and let out a broken sound made up of emotion, not words. And then he swallowed and looked back down. Peter was close enough that he could no longer trick his mind into not seeing that the other shape was his nephew crumpled on the floor, unmoving.

"What happened here?"

Stiles made another broken sound and rubbed his hands over his face as Peter stepped around for a better view.

When Stiles looked back up at Peter, his eyes glowed red.

.

Peter knew that the bite to Stiles' wrist, would bond Stiles to him. But from the way that Talia had explained it to him years ago, after he coerced her with guilt, the bite was more symbolic than anything else. The bite on the wrist shared between two betas should have been just that, just a symbol of allegiance or closeness. But, so soon after being changed, it had gone much deeper than he had expected. He hadn't realized how strong that bond would be, or that it would affect him so deeply. He had not expected the metaphysical bond that had connected them.

Talia had forgot to mention that part.

Peter watched steadily as Stiles scrambled shakily to his feet. He knew that Stiles was still weak, reeling and disoriented from shock and the new alpha strength and abilities rushing through him. He swayed on his feet, and Peter took an involuntary step towards him, moving to support him with a hand at his elbow even as his mind continued steadily, objectively on its path.

Stiles' head dropped forward and his breathing was ragged. His head lolled to the side as he grumbled under his breath, baring a pale strip of neck.

It was the perfect opportunity. Peter tilted his head, watching Stiles' pulse jump erratically. He flexed his free hand, waiting for claws to slide from his fingertips. But he furrowed his brow and looked down when he didn't feel the sharp pinpricks of pain.

His nails were still blunt, human. His wolf looked at him disdainfully from the prison of his mind, rolling its eyes. He felt a rush of annoyance.

"Peter, I don't…" Stiles looked up at him, eyes blurry and unfocused, "I think I'm going to faint." His eyes rolled back in his head and he fell forward.

Peter caught him, Stiles' head dropping to his shoulder, leaving his neck in easy reach. All he had to do was tilt his head and even his blunt human teeth could do some major damage. Maybe even kill. And then he would be back, be an alpha again, as he was meant to be.

He held Stiles up, pressed his open mouth to Stiles' neck, teeth scraping over delicate skin. His lips curled back in a snarl. Peter closed his eyes and breathed out. His cold calculating mind wanted nothing more than to rip out the boy's throat and take on the powers of the alpha.

But the thought of it started a deep rumble in Peter's chest. His own wolf growling at him in opposition. The bond between him and Stiles, it went both ways. Which he believed Talia had purposefully neglected to tell him. Even back then, she had recognized his thirst for power, more than anyone else.

The metaphysical strength of the bond was galling and painful to deny. To even consider doing harm to Stiles was painful, putting him at odds with his wolf and its instincts to protect, to care for him.

The wolf was gnashing his teeth, striking out at his barriers with claws and fangs. He could still do it. He was sure there was a knife nearby. Peter felt as if his mind and body were ripping each other apart, and swayed on the spot. So he quickly dropped the thought, easing the searing pain in his skull as he watched Stiles' eyelids flutter.

He settled back into his own mind irritably, refusing to acknowledge that the idea of the knife was just an idle thought, though his wolf knew. He was no longer at odds with half of himself, and rolled his eyes at his beast's sudden stab of longing, of concern, as Stiles stirred. But he nuzzled Stiles' neck and breathed him in, hairs standing on the back of his neck as he caught the scent of his family's blood on the air.

.

"You came back from death, how?"

Peter pursed his knew the question had been coming. But it he knew it wouldn't help them, and he hated giving out one of his secrets.

"If you don't help me, I'll..I'll kill you myself," Stiles said. His voice wavered.

Peter stared at him. "You're not a cold blooded killer, Stiles," he said softly, resolving not to take it personally, "you could never do it."

Stiles glared at him. "For the things you've done, just to Lydia, you deserve it. I could lock you in a shed made of mountain ash and let you starve. Inject an infusion of wolfsbane into your veins and watch as your insides liquefied."

"You've made your point," Peter snapped.

"My point, oh no, those were Lydia's ideas, the first few of many, that we discussed at length, after you came back." Stiles' face softened, "But Lydia, she's too good. She didn't want to become a murderer, just for the sake of you. So she decided to let you live."

"Let me live?" Peter knew he had planned on not getting riled, but that rankled.

"Yes, let," Stiles said, with a small, unsettling smile, "you know how smart Lydia is. If she really wanted you dead, she could think of a dozen ways. And nothing tacky like ripping you limb from limb. It would be something insidiously innocent. Something you would never suspect until it was too late."

Peter's mouth went dry. Partly because of the darkness in Stiles' eyes, the roughness of his voice, struck deep into the core of him and made him want in a way he hadn't before. A part of him he wanted to know better. But overpowering that was genuine fear because, yes, he knew better than to underestimate Lydia. So he dropped his eyes from Stiles' and let the moment pass.

"I used the worm moon. One opportunity a year. Do you want to wait seven months?" Peter asked.

"We have to do something!" Stiles' voice broke. There was still blood on his hands.

Peter knew about the Tengu, thanks to an opportune meeting from his past. That was why he was the first to realize the seriousness of Stiles' injuries when the avian had him pinned to the side of a building with nothing but flapping wings to the untrained eye. But he hesitated.

"What, what was that all about?" Stiles zeroed in on him, "what's with that face?"

Peter repressed a grimace. That fucking bond...it was going to be hellish to try to get out of it. And more difficult than he expected to use it to his advantage.

"Go get cleaned up," Peter said, nauseated by the smell and sight of blood, so much of Derek's blood, "and then I'll tell you."

.

Peter was against the idea from the start. But he didn't want Derek dead any more than Stiles did. The thought of it sent Peter's mind into a sickening spiral, so he pressed it down, gritted his teeth, and told Stiles what he wanted to know.

"The beasts that attacked us a few days ago are called Karasu Tengu. They are creatures of ritual, of tradition. According to their customs, if certain criteria are followed, they will grant a gift to those who defeat them in battle," he finally said evenly, "they are believed to have certain gifts. Some of which are learning the art of killing, and dark magic, death magic."

Stiles gave him a puzzled look. "I can't do that I'm just a…" Stiles looked up, eyes widening.

"An alpha," Peter said bitterly.

Stiles studied him for a moment. "You know, when you get antsy, you thin your lips, and then you duck your head down for a second before you cover it up."

Peter rolled his eyes, and when he looked back, Stiles was a lot closer than he expected, eyes soft, considering, though his body was still trembling. Peter felt the impulse, from his wolfen half, he was certain, to reach out and pull Stiles into his arms. He acknowledged it, let it pass without moving, out of pure stubbornness. And then he reached out and pulled Stiles tight against his chest, holding him bone breakingly tight now that his body could take it.

He felt Stiles sag against him, and his eyes unwillingly strayed to the floor of the loft behind him, where derek's body still lay. Neither of them had the will to move him. Peter half expected him to spring to his feet, snarl and tell them to get the hell out of his house.

But he lay still, and Peter let his eyes slide closed.

"I can fix this," Stiles said, voice muffled against his chest, "I'll fix this. I'll do it if it kills me." And Stiles' arms clamped around him just as tightly, making the air rush out of his lungs. He rumbled deep in his chest, his wolf trying to nudge his way out to play, but pressed it down when Stiles pulled back, eyes brightening from amber to bloody red as his own wolf took notice and acknowledged him.

Peter felt more than saw the impression of a silvery wolf raising its head, cooly eyeing Peter's darker, more hulking beast as it approached, scenting the air.

And then Stiles' eyes faded back to normal and it was gone.

They pulled away quickly, simultaneously, both a little unnerved by the event.

Stiles' eyes moved away from him, turned and stared at Derek's body for a long moment. "I can fix it," he said quietly, followed by a guttural whimper. And then he shouldered past Peter, hefted Derek's body into his arms, using his alpha strength for the first time.

His smaller frame looked odd covered by Derek's bulk. It would have been easier to pull him into a fireman's carry, but Peter stood back and looked away, pushing away the thoughts bubbling down deep within his psyche. He just couldn't look anymore. He heard the creak of steps, the soft whump as Stiles dropped him onto the bed upstairs, where Stiles was dying a few days before, and covered a wince.

Stiles' voice was a little hollow, his eyes wet, when he came back downstairs.

"He'll be fine until we get back," Stiles said hoarsely, "it won't take long."

.

Stiles let Peter drive the jeep.

His hands shook as he picked up his phone and focused on it as Peter drove through town.

Prior to that day, Peter wouldn't have believed there was anything that would allow him into the jeep's driver seat outside of theft. Honestly, he would have preferred to stay out of it altogether, but taking the camaro would have been a very bad idea.

Stiles called Scott first.

"Yeah, Derek's been hurt and we need to find the sauerkraut tiger-"

"Karusu Tengu-"

"Karate tingle-"

Peter sighed and gave up.

"and beat them, so we can find out how to save him."

He looked at Peter. "Yeah, we're going back to the place where it happened. When I got turned into a pincushion. Yeah, call everybody. We need all the help we can get." He got off of the phone and stared straight ahead.

Peter tried to be tactful. "they'll figure out something's amiss when they see your eyes," he said.

Stiles didn't say anything. just picked up the phone again. Then hesitated.

"When Derek comes back, when my eyes go back from red, they'll be blue, won't they?" Stiles asked, simultaneously projecting that Derek was on vacation or something, and that he knew completely the gravity of the situation.

"Probably," Peter said quickly. though he wondered. Derek had lost his alpha status. It was Stiles' now. He doubted that he would just get it back. But he didn't have to worry Stiles with that just yet.

.

They were the first to get to the grimy little parking lot out behind the closed down club, weeds growing up through the cracks in the asphalt, even though it stood in the shadow of a multistory office building that was abandoned when the company went bankrupt. But the others arrived soon after, all piled up in Allison's vehicle, her, Lydia, Scott, and Isaac.

Scott eyed Peter distrustfully before turning to Stiles and ignoring him.

"I called Cora," he said quickly, "she's still a while out, but she's on her way back to keep an eye on Derek while we focus on this. You didn't say how bad he was, so I though..."

"Yeah, yeah, great idea," Stiles said roughly, only with effort keeping from turning and giving Peter a panicked look. So now they have to hurry to keep Cora from getting to Derek's place and finding a corpse, on top of everything else.

But before he could freak out very much, Stiles' eyes slid over to Lydia, who was standing near the edge of the little lot, close to the club's brick wall, and a big rusty stain on the wall that made Stiles feel sick.

She reached out a hand to the stain, and Stiles wanted to make her stop, but his throat closed up. But Allison trotted her way and she recoiled, and Stiles felt a rush of relief, though he wasn't sure why.

"They have death magic," Peter reminded him, standing at his shoulder and watching Lydia like a hawk as she turned on her heel, Allison at her side with crossbow drawn, and stopped in the middle of the parking lot. "Which means that Lydia will likely feel drawn to them, if only subconsciously."

.

Lydia craned her head back, staring up at the office building's roof in front of her.

"Guys," she said shrilly, "I'm pretty sure they're up there."

Stiles grabbed Scott by the arm as he started to rush inside, with Isaac at his side, "hold on," he said, following Lydia's glance upwards, where an inky black spot was blocking out the sun, getting larger by the second.

Stiles' grip on Scott's arm tightened as he saw wings stretching out from sides, fluttering and breaking the Karasu Tengu's fall as it landed on one knee in the parking lot, right in front of Lydia and Allison.

Allison had her bow drawn on it and Stiles started that way, letting go of Scott's arm, but was held back by Peter's grip on his shoulder. He turned around slowly, knowing that he would see another dropping behind them from the club's roof. Isaac and Scott rushed for it, but stopped short when it shrieked at them, the piercing cry of a hawk.

Both of the Tengu seemed to be waiting for something. Stiles turned round, waiting and wondering where the other one would come from.

A third walked out of the office building's front doors, one wing awkwardly shoving it open.

"Well, that was anticlimactic," Peter said, a little disappointed, and Stiles took a precious moment to give him an appraising look.

Peter raised a brow and jutted his chin at the one slowly walking their way, feathers shining pale gray, then darkening to near black as she stepped into the shadows of the building.

Stiles said the ritual phrase Peter had told him, then added "we need your help," for good measure, his voice a little more wavery than he would have liked.

All three of the birds straightened up and stared, moving from their tense combative stances.

The one who walked out like a normal person moved a little closer, showing her lack of ill intent as she stepped nearly to within striking distance of Stiles and Peter.

Her voice in avian form was ancient birdcall mixed with woodwinds, like music playing with jangling discordant notes like the caw of a crow.

"No death if you defeat one of us in combat," she said, "Since you are here for aid, and not to kill, you can choose your champion."

"I'll do it," Peter snapped, hackles up as he looked past her to the brown speckled hawk look-alike to the back, reasonably sure it was the one that almost killed Stiles. Then realization struck at what he had said, and he felt sick and considered ripping out his own tongue.

Stiles gave him a ridiculous look, that expressed irritation, amusement, and pure shock, and then nudged him in the chest. "Idiot," he muttered, then turned back to her.

"No," Stiles said, "I'll do it."

"Stiles, no!" Scott was the loudest, but the others called out too, except for Peter.

Stiles grimaced, and knew that it wasn't going to be pleasant. So he just turned to Scott, looking him in the eyes imploringly.

"Trust me," he said softly, "please."

Scott looked angry, like he was crazy, and Stiles felt his face fall. He was going to have to show them.

But then something in Scott's expression changed and he nodded.

"Okay," he said, "I just hope you know what you're doing."

"Scott, you're not serious!" Allison said, "he just..."

"I trust him," Scott said softly, without looking away from him, like that was the end of the matter.

Stiles really owed him one for that.

.

Once the others stopped calling him an idiot, and the matter was settled, the silvery Tengu stepped back, and the snowy white one who had appeared behind them stepped forward. His voice was more human, but somehow imparted the screech of an owl.

"You said you need our help, so you face a choice," he said, speaking only to Stiles, and motioning the others back and away from the center of lot, giving them an open space.

Peter kept step with Stiles from a few feet away. Stiles found it equal parts creepy and reassuring.

"You must face and defeat one of us, which one depends on your choice." He stopped, and folded wings to his sides.

"So, what are my choices? Is one maybe I get three wishes because I could really go for that." he rambled uncomfortably.

"Life, Death, or Rebirth," he said, "present, past, or future."

Stiles waited for a little elaboration, but none was forthcoming. "And that means..."

"Ensure the safety of your pack and an audience with our powerful ally, defeat Death itself, or learn how to defeat the oncoming danger."

Stiles felt guilty that he didn't even consider the other options.

"I'll take on the death one, then." he said evenly.

.

The Karusu Tengu that Peter had met years earlier had been a loner, a runaway. None of the mystical theatrics, just seeking protection for the night from the wise alpha of the Hale pack. Talia had given it to her, and Peter couldn't stay away from the odd beast. His curiosity wouldn't allow it.

She looked human, but smelled of sharp air and mountain valleys with broad placid lakes.

After a little coaxing, she showed him her true shape, and her scent had turned from merely interesting to pure prey. Her wrists had bent downward at a sharp angle, fingers fusing into three and elongating, quickly hidden amongst growing feathers. Her shoulders dropped down as wings gained shape, nose dropping down to mouth and ending in a sharp hooked beak.

He stepped slowly closer to her, ran a hand down one of those wings, shining feathers all arranged in a smooth pattern, and he couldn't resist. He slipped out claws and raked them along the delicate skin under feathers.

She screeched, and then Peter was pinned to the floor by three long sharp talons shoved through his shoulder, and then three more puncturing his side. He had thought the hand had fused with the wing, leaving her relatively defenseless. he wouldn't make that mistake again.

Her wrist had hooked downwards, and the long fingers had twisted into sharp talons, hidden from sight until needed for battle. All she had to do was flip her wrist upwards, and it had happened in the blink of an eye.

Peter hadn't expected that, just as Stiles hadn't.

"What are you gonna do, peck me to death?" Stiles had said through the feathers in his face.

Peter's head had snapped up. He knew what would happen a millisecond before the Karasu Tengu snapped its wrists from beneath ruddy brown feathers, swung its wings inwards like unwieldy arms, and jammed those claws home inside Stiles' gut.

Talia, ever the tactician, had come running at the beast's screech. After a cursory inspection to make sure Peter wouldn't have any lasting damage, and being reprimanded as he bled on the floor, she proceeded to take away the Karasu's pain in apology.

The young avian lowered her guard, telling Talia some of the secrets of her kind in thanks for her kindness. Though she had refused to give her name.

All she said was she was born of fire. So maybe she was a little cryptic, if not theatrical.

.

The owly one turned to look at the mottle-winged Tengu. "Hawk," he said, "fight well, remember, fight to first blood. Not for the kill."

Stiles felt the hair on the back of his neck stand up. Even without hearing Peter growling under his breath, he would have recognized those brown feathers. He had thought they would be the last thing he ever saw.

He would have been freaking out anyway, but it spoke to him. Which made it even worse.

"You are an oddling," it said with its odd voice, "you stood on the brink and should have toppled. Yet you live."

It tilted its head at him, studying, and Stiles felt his hackles rise. His wolf felt even more powerful than before. But it was also stronger, and harder to reign in. He felt a rush of panic that he would get out of control. That the wolf would go crazy on him, but his wolf raised a metaphorical brow at him, turned his attention to Hawk, and Stiles felt control slipping through his fingers.

He would have panicked and fought against it, but his wolf was strong and confident in a way that Stiles was not. He was centered, and he knew the goal. Stiles was still fighting off the dissonance that his wolf was the enemy, but in that moment it struck him like a bolt of lightning that they were in agreement on what to do, at that moment.

They both wanted to make Hawk bleed.

And Stiles felt like he could take control with a strong flex of a mental muscle.

He felt his pack around him, a strong whirr of energy and reassurance, and Peter was closest, he could feel his eyes on him. He grinned, realizing that the teeth he showed were lengthening, which meant his eyes were glowing red. But he tried to settle past the rustle of surprise of his pack and focused on Peter's energy at his back as the transformation slowed and eased to a stop, and he realized that his eyes were weird, and he was looking out over a muzzle, leaving him a half-wolf creature thing with a...he twitched muscles he hadn't had moments before. Yeah, he had a tail.

"What the…" He craned his neck around to look at it.

Which is why he was busy trying to catch his own ass when Hawk attacked, knocking him to the ground with an oomph.

"Stiles, focus!" Scott called, sounding panicked, but whether it was because his best friend was losing a fight or turned into an alpha-beast, he wasn't sure.

He shook it off and got to his feet, in tandem with his wolf, a feeling that they both reveled in and enjoyed so much that they stuck with it. He felt a spike of anger coming from his back, from Peter, but it was quickly quelled, along with a sense of envy that Stiles wouldn't soon forget.

Hawk had been testing him. Because he was a few feet away studying him, and looking unruffled, when Stiles got to his feet, using his tail to help with balance on wolfen legs. He had two options. He could either rush forward and slash out all crazily, which would definitely get first blood. But could also risk injury to himself, or possibly even kill Hawk, since he didn't really know his own strength yet. Which he had a feeling would be a bad thing.

He could feel Peter restlessly pacing behind him, his energy sharp and prickly, and he felt a rush of irritation that that was at the forefront of his mind when he should be focusing on...his wolf got bored and went on the offensive.

.

Peter was watching and waiting. Stiles looked like he could take care of himself, towering over the Karasu Tengu by half a foot, with fangs jutting out of an elongated wolfen muzzle, long claws on hands and poking out of his ruined sneakers before he stumbled a step and kicked them off of his feet.

But he was still a pup, an oversized pup that had just chased his own damn tail during a serious fight and didn't have the faintest idea about the alpha powers at his disposal. If Peter got the first hint that things were going downhill, he would jump in and break the unnecessarily cryptic birdbrain's neck himself.

But he needn't have worried. In true Stiles fashion, with limbs pinwheeling and seeming to defy gravity, he stumbled again, exaggeratedly clumsy as he reached the Tengu, who snapped out his talons and screeched a bloodcurdling cry. But Stiles kept running, more surefooted before stumbling, and extended his claws, ripping into Hawk's wing as he fell forward with a yelp.

Peter ran a hand over his face. Part of him was curious if Stiles was really that clumsy, or if it had been his battle strategy. But he would never ask because he was afraid the answer would be disappointing. Scott rushed forward to keep Hawk from attacking in anger, Allison's arrow skimming off the asphalt in front of him, and then the snowy Tengu stopped him with a croaking cry.

Hawk fluttered to his feet with a screech, and then Peter was running after him, stopping only when he heard Stiles growl.

"Peter, no," he said through his muzzle, sounding off, but Peter hesitated, feeling Stiles' words reverberating through him all the to his toes. He watched as Hawk took unsteadily to flight.

.

Owl studied Stiles with sharp, beady eyes. "You have won," he said, "though through skill or incident, it is not clear." amusement colored his tone. "You wished to master death," he said, "explain."

Stiles took a few breaths, felt his wolf growing bored with lack of activity, and let him slide away, finding himself human, sitting on the gritty parking lot with Scott on one side and Allison to the other, the rest of the pack shadowing them.

He realized that there was a hole in the ass of his pants through which his tail had escaped, but ignored it for the time being.

"I want to right a wrong," he said brokenly, not looking at anyone, even when Allison knelt at his side, "I want to fix something I screwed up." He swallowed, felt Peter standing at his back.

"You have to say it," he said, and Stiles glanced up, but Peter's face was in shadow, as was the rest of him.

"I want to bring Derek back," he said, letting his eyes move back to Owl.

Owl nodded sharply in understanding. He rustled his feathers, and then they started pulling back into his skin as his talons defused and turned back into hands, and he quickly plucked one before his change completed and he stood pale in the shadow of the building holding the feather and twisting it in his hand.

"Phoenix," he said, and the other Karusu Tengu with her silvery feathers stepped forward, "they need your blood."

Stiles felt an icy blast of cold air, and got the impression of high altitudes overlooking forests as she approached. She let out a sharp trill, staring at Peter with haughty eyes, but then looked to Stiles and gave him a piercing look that he felt went right through him.

She eventually nodded.

Owl gently scraped her neck with the spine of his feather, lining the pale white with deep crimson, almost black, blood. He held it reverently to Stiles.

"Pierce his heart with this. This blood, willingly spilled, will return your packmate to you. Though there may be a change. He was one with the darkness. If he wants, he will return."

"What do you mean if he wants?" Stiles spluttered, shocked out of his discomfort, "I want a guarantee here and a twenty year lifetime warranty!"

The two Karasu Tengu said nothing, but regarded their small pack.

"You will see us again," Phoenix said, her eyes once more falling to Peter, "and we may not be so friendly on that meeting."

.

Stiles was greeted by Cora's ashen face when they returned to the loft, and he fought back a groan.

"He's dead!" Her voice was choked, and her face streaked with tears. He didn't stop. He couldn't allow himself to stop.

"We know. I'll fix it," he said, gently brushing past her, only to be grabbed by the shoulder and hauled back around.

"Did you hear me?" She snapped, her eyes going yellow. But Stiles couldn't bring himself to feel any anger. He was just tired, and there was only a tiny ember of hope still burning within him. He had to focus his strength on not letting it go out.

He clutched the feather tightly in his hand, and was relieved when Peter stepped up and gently uncurled her hand from his shoulder.

"Go," he said softly, then turned his attention back to Cora, whispering urgently to her.

Stiles kept moving until he felt his entire pack below him, at the bottom of the stairs, looking up to him. He had to stop. He had to say something.

He swallowed.

"I didn't mean for it to happen," he said, met with silence. He huffed a breath, eyes landing on Scott, who looked haunted and a little suspicious. And it hurt. But he stared at him. "It was an accident. And I'm going to fix it."

Scott nodded, and Isaac followed his lead. And Cora hadn't raced up the stairs to maul him, so that was a good sign, right? Though she looked like she wanted to. He started back towards Derek again, but hesitated.

"We don't tell him he died alright? We just tell him he was injured and then all the mystical whatsits, and we saved him." His heart was in his throat, and he hoped he wasn't getting ahead of himself, but he had to be the one who told Derek what really happened, and he didn't think he could do that yet. He let his eyes glow red. "Understood?"

"Stiles, go," Peter said softly.

And he realized that he was putting it off. Terrified that it wouldn't work. He already knew that he was a killer. But what if he couldn't fix it? What if Derek was gone for good?

He stopped waiting. He turned on his heel, hesitated briefly on seeing Derek's prone body on the bed, and then tightened his grip on the feather, ruffling the barbs.

"Please come back," he whispered, and jammed the feather into Derek's chest. Phoenix's blood glowed for a moment, and then the feather turned black before his eyes.

Stiles blinked.

And then he was blasted off of his feet by a thunderclap of metaphysical energy.

.

Phoenix recognized Peter at first sight. She hated him but she owed him. He showed her that the world wasn't what she thought. That, sometimes, people shouldn't be trusted. That, no matter how open or kind you were to them, sometimes they just acted according to their own impulses, mean and hurtfully.

The world was not the simple, just place she had believed it to be.

He showed her firsthand some of the atrocities of the world. He, at least in part, influenced her return to her own people, despite her paralyzing fear of her future.

The Gift, or Curse, was passed on through the family from generation to generation, as long as records were kept. Some of her family were human, some were Karasu Tengu, and among the Tengu, one was the Phoenix.

It wasn't a name; it was a title.

She felt the feather pierce Derek like an arrow through her own heart and the ritual began. The group of misfits and children calling themselves a pack knew nothing of what they asked. There is always a price. A tipping scale to set in balance.

She closed her eyes and opened her mind to the darkness, to the realm of the dead.

Her feathers began to smoulder.

She searched the shadow realm using her own light, which flowed off of her like liquid electricity, to guide her, using Derek's distant physical body to pull her in the right direction. He was still connected to it. There was hope.

She saw him, pale and shrinking into the shadows as she approached, until there was nowhere to hide, her light frightening away a large vicious reptile and a canine scavenger that was gnawing at his side. But there was no blood. There never was, not here. Only pain.

Pain, fear, and horrible memories.

She heard the crackle and pop of flames, but they were distant, part of another world, as she towered over Derek, a beacon of light in the darkness.

"The one called Stiles wants you to return."

He looked up quickly, eyes wide and uncertain. "You're not a demon?" he asked breathlessly.

"No," the Phoenix said, smiling to hide her hesitance. Sometimes she wondered. She held out a hand. "Will you return?"

It only took a moment. Derek's uncertainty shifted as he lifted his head, jutting out his chin, and met her eyes.

He took her hand and tried to find his feet, but the realm of the dead isn't governed by the same laws as that of the living. She showed him the way as the hot roaring in her ears grew louder.

Her gift was volatile, and there was always the chance that, this time, she wouldn't come back from it. One couldn't navigate the spirit realm without consequences. One day, if she dallied too long, she would break the link with her physical form and become trapped, and not even the sharp, real, pain of the flames consuming her body would be enough to bring her back to the physical realm.

She took Derek as far as she could, then released his hand. He had to take the last step himself.

Even if he refused, it would take her weeks to recover. She already felt the pain pulling her back, but she refused. She waited patiently, a reassurance at his side, for him to decide.

The Phoenix felt Derek's eyes snap open as he made his decision, and then all she knew was flame.

.

Stiles was sitting on Derek's couch with his head in his hands. After the initial burst of energy, he had felt a rush of relief, but Derek hadn't moved. He was still up there, dead to the world. Peter's hand was a reassurance, sliding absently over his back.

They had, along with Scott, Cora, and Isaac, settled into an uncomfortable, hopeless silence after exhausting every possibility. If Stiles heard 'it just takes time' or any variation of it again, he would throw someone through the window. And he'd threatened it.

To be met with silence instead or ridicule or sarcastic comments. And he realized that he could actually do that now and bit his lip. He didn't want them to be afraid of him. But with what had happened to Derek, he wasn't surprised that they kept their distance.

Peter's hand slid up his neck, squeezing gently in an effort to ease the tension. Or to keep his hands busy while they waited.

In the silence, the sudden sounds from upstairs, like a mountain lion destroying a small village, was very loud. It was followed by a Derek-shaped blur rushing down the stairs.

Stiles was hauled up, with Derek's hand clamped around his wrist before he fully comprehended what was going on.

"Stiles, which one of them is it?" he asked, his voice hoarse.

"Derek, what..."

Derek squeezed Stiles' wrist at the ridged scar tissue of the bite, making him gasp, and then held it up. "Who did it?"

Peter growled, getting swiftly to his feet, eying Derek.

Derek's eyes widened in realization, and he dropped Stiles' wrist. He rushed to Peter, stopping just short of grabbing him by the shirt. "When I left to get Scott. how did you calm Stiles?" he asked urgently, "Stiles has been the most centered new wolf I've ever seen, apart from losing his temper with me, which is understandable. He could only do that with a very strong influence. A strong anchor."

"Derek, come on..." Stiles nudged gently at Derek, completely ignored. But he didn't want to hurt him again. He was afraid to touch.

"Using whatever means necessary," Peter said icily, hackles up, and Stiles could feel the anger on both sides getting stronger.

"Did you plan all of this? What, so you could use Stiles, influence him to weaken me, and then kill me yourself to take the alpha powers back?"

"He didn't..."

Peter's growing growl wasn't helping Stiles get his point across. And Stiles nudged at him when he saw eyes flashing blue and teeth coming out. He stepped between them, and Derek leaned past him to get to Peter.

"You mated yourself to him just to weaken me? Even you, I never would have thought you were capable of..."

"Mated?" When Stiles looked over his shoulder, Peter looked as shocked about that as he felt.

.

When he risked a look at Stiles, Peter felt a wave of relief flow off of him, in his body language and as he stepped away a few feet.

Peter looked a question at him.

"I'm just glad that's what it is. I was afraid I was falling in love with Peter there for a while," he said to the room in general, then rubbed a hand over his jaw, to his neck.

Derek's brow shot down, and Peter dropped his head to hide a smile that he couldn't repress.

"The bond creates a link between your wolves, Stiles," he said in an odd tone, "Your human side is distinctly separate from the bond. Though your wolf may influence you, you have the final say. It is a bond of comfort, pack, and and allegiance. Even a bond like that can't make you feel something you don't. There's only love if you feel it."

Stiles' face twisted into a not quite smile, like Derek was joking. "So, what, this," he showed the bite, "is a wolf to wolf thing," he chuckled, running his hand through his hair, "then that means that…" his face fell, and he dropped his hand down over it, covering his mouth, "oh my god…"

His face flushed as he took in the uneasy faces around him. Stiles whimpered in his throat.

Peter stepped around behind him, unable to repress the urge. He leaned in close to Stiles' ear.

"There's plenty of time for that later."

Stiles shivered, then didn't bother to turn and look at him.

"I hate you."

Peter heard the lie in the tic of Stiles' heart.

Derek watched them warily, then stepped back up to Peter. "You had to know what you were doing." There was uncertainty in his tone.

Peter shook his head. "Not in the slightest." So that was an exaggeration, but the mate thing, totally news to him.

"Sex and blood, Peter, they connect us deeply. and combine the two in a specific way and it is.." he looked at Stiles' wrist, "irreversible." he looked to Peter. "how didn't you know that? Mom told me when I was still a pup."

Peter smoothed his face into a bland mask. He didn't receive the same education as destined-for-alphadom-Talia did.

"Some things are too strong and too dangerous to toyed with." Derek said roughly.

Peter was taken back decades in time, with his and Talia's father staring down at him, golden eyes dangerous and more terrifying than his mother's red, as he lectured him briefly on the ritual he had tried to snoop on, between Talia and their mother. You forget your place, pup. Only the alpha, and the next in line, may see what you saw. Peter shivered at the memory and then shoved it down, down where all those dark thoughts lurked, and focused on Derek.

Derek, who he had watched grow up in Laura's shadow, given less attention than the younger Cora, but still shining on his own. It always intrigued him, how similar they were, yet how very different they reacted to it all.

He let his face soften, unfamiliar and oddly stretching his face.

"I'm glad you're okay," he said.

The look Derek, and the others, threw at him, especially Stiles, maw gaping open, made it seem like he had sprouted a second, even more evil, head.

.

Derek let the anger sag out of him, and met Peter's eyes, questioning.

"Was it worth it," he asked bitterly, "becoming the alpha again?"

Peter felt the warmth of Stiles body and heard the shift of cloth and creak of floor as he stepped up behind him. Stiles reached for his hand and gave it a squeeze, a gentle, intimate touch that surprised Peter, but he only let go when Stiles stepped past him, eyes on Derek.

"Derek," Stiles said, his voice cracking as he tapped Derek on the arm and then held it, "I.." he swallowed.

"You died," he said softly, "it was me, my fault," his voice broke. He looked down, and when he looked back up, he let his eyes glowed red.

"I'm the alpha now."

.

The Phoenix came back to reality amidst the ash of her own feathers, to the smell of acrid char, and pain all over.

She sat up and pressed both hands over her face. Afterwards, it always took time for her to acclimatise, to get her bearings. But she was struck awake early by the sharp clip of heels coming up the stairs and then down the hallway towards her. She didn't look up until they stepped in the doorway and she heard air rush out of a strong pair of lungs.

The Banshee. The Phoenix had recognized her at first sight. They were kindred in a way that she and the other Karasu Tengu were not.

The clip of heels staggered back to life and the Phoenix felt a warm, thin jacket pressed over her bare shoulders.

"What happened?" the Banshee breathed, taking in the charred outline of her other form on the floor, the angry red strips of burned flesh that lingered over her face and down her legs, even after the change of forms.

"There is always a price," she said, looking down when the Banshee tugged the jacket more tightly about her shivering frame, aggravating the burns across her back. She knelt in the ash. "when one returns from the dead."

She looked up, made herself meet the Banshee's eyes. "You know that as well as I do."

"I do," she said softly, letting a hand slide down and take one of her own, "but why didn't you tell us that this would happen?"

The Phoenix scoffed, squeezed the warm hand in her own tight and then let it go. "Would it have stopped your friends? Or you?"

Thinned lips and a glance away were all the answer she needed. "Why are you here?" she asked, and the Banshee looked up quickly, confused.

"You called me," she said, brow furrowing, "I could hear you, feel you, from across town."

So the kinship, sisters in arms, sisters in death, feeling, it wasn't just her imagination. She smiled.

"It was unintentional," she said, "but thank you. The others of my kind distance themselves on the burning days. Thank you, Banshee."

"Guys, right?" she did an exaggerated eye roll, "it freaks them out that us girls can deal with so much pain." The laugh faded from her eyes, leaving them soft. "And it's Lydia."

The Phoenix swallowed, heart in her throat. "Lavinia." she said in a rush, knowing that she shouldn't, "so how is your friend? does he seem like himself?"

Lydia shrugged. "No one's called me saying that he's a zombie or anything, so that's a good sign."

"No," Lavinia tried to cover her nerves with a laugh, "sometimes everything goes smoothly, as it should. But that's not always the case." she hesitated. "The memories of the afterlife, the horrors, sometimes they linger. And they can change a person."

"I'll keep an eye on him," Lydia said, hand warm in hers again. "Come on. I think that's enough naked talking. Let's go find you some clothes."

.

Derek was staring down his own bright blue eyes in the mirror when he saw it, out of the corner of his eye.

It was a giant snake with yellow fangs dripping poison, hood out, to his left. It was burnished copper and shadow, and almost as tall as he was.

But when he spun around, there was nothing there. Empty air. Heart pounding, Derek turned back to the mirror, but the beast's molten red eyes were burned into his mind.

As the image faded, he saw his own eyes as black, pure darkness eating away all light that fell upon them. Like the darkness that had been his constant for the immeasurable eternity that was the few hours he had been dead.

He blinked and they were normal again. Wide and scared, but human.

The only thing to remind him of the moment before was the frantic pounding of his own heart.