Fandom: Teen Wolf
Summary: When Peter gets sick, Stiles is the only one who cares enough to check on him. That’s where it all begins.
When Stiles wakes up, it’s with the memory of his mother telling him a story about how the Bird of Paradise earned its name, and something wet leaking out of the corners of his eyes and into his hair.
He doesn't move for a long moment, only staring up at the ceiling without really seeing it, trying to hold on to his mother’s laughing face instead.
It takes him a pathetically long time to feel the fingers carding through his hair, and then even longer to realize that his gaze has moved to settle on Peter’s face with a thousand-yard stare, gradually taking in the strong lines of the older man’s features, and his endlessly blue eyes like the sky on a clear summer day.
Still drowsy, the unbidden thought floats into Stiles’ head unhindered.
Peter is criminally gorgeous.
And then he jerks a bit, losing that line of thought as his mind zooms back into the present and he truly registers the figure sitting beside him on the edge of the bed. “Wha- Peter?”
“Oh good, you're back,” The werewolf doesn't stop his almost absentminded petting even as he peers down at Stiles. He raises an eyebrow at the frozen uncertainty on Stiles’ face. “Don’t look so shocked. I seem to recall you doing the same for me. Fair’s fair.”
Stiles snorts in surprise, and promptly decides that he’s still too sleep-addled to do anything more than stretch languidly before running a sleeve over his eyes in a not-so-subtle attempt to scrub away any persistent tears. He’s overwhelmingly grateful that Peter doesn't mention it.
“I thought you were pretty much out of it for that,” Stiles’ tone of voice borders on accusation. The werewolf damn well better have been out of it.
“I was, for the most part,” Peter admits. “But I remember flashes, of this-” He tugs lightly at Stiles’ hair for a second, and this really should be more awkward than it is, but hey, the bed is plushy soft, and Stiles is lazily comfortable.
“-and something about elves and hobbits,” Peter concludes, mouth set in a relaxed upward tilt. “I checked the book; you must've been reading to me constantly to get through most of it in less than three days.”
Stiles groans, throwing an arm over his eyes. “I was kinda hoping you wouldn't remember any of that.”
“Why?” Peter looks genuinely puzzled. “You can’t possibly have believed I would've done you any harm even for trespassing.” His gaze momentarily drops to Stiles’ torso. “Not deliberately. At the very least, the threat of what the Pack would do to me in the fallout would've deterred my hand.”
Stiles flops onto his stomach, winces, and hastily flops back. “You obviously didn't want anyone to know about how bad off you were,” He mumbles. “Or you would've called somebody. So I figured you’d be mad if you remembered-” -showing weakness in front of me.
Peter’s hand has stilled, though he doesn't remove it from Stiles’ head.
“...If you were in my place,” Peter murmurs at last, quiet and measured, and it sounds inconceivably like defeat. “Would you call anyone?”
Stiles automatically opens his mouth with a resounding yes because pride be damned if it means your life but-
He shuts his mouth again without saying anything. Above him, Peter hums a low note that sounds bitter and sad and terribly resigned all at the same time. It makes something in Stiles’ chest tighten, and without thinking, he reaches up and curls his fingers around Peter’s wrist. The werewolf’s fingers twitch against Stiles’ scalp but he doesn't break his hold, and like this, Stiles can feel the slightly accelerated but still steady drum of Peter’s heartbeat against his palm.
“Where’s your phone, creeperwolf?” is what Stiles asks out loud. Peter frowns in consternation but produces the item anyway. Stiles snatches it with his free hand, quickly tapping out 8-1-1-2-5 to unlock it.
“Did you hack my phone too?” Peter enquires in a tone of voice that keeps Stiles guessing as to whether or not the werewolf is actually pissed about the issue.
“Nah, I’m not that good; that’s more Danny’s thing, and my favour from him didn't cover hacking into phones,” Stiles mutters distractedly as he types in his number. “You're not predictable, exactly; farthest thing from it actually, but your way of thinking isn’t that hard to follow either.”
“So you guessed five random numbers correctly because you know how I think?”
Stiles tips his head back to blink up at Peter. “They’re not so random; they spell your surname.” He turns his attention back to the cell. “You took revenge for your family. Yeah, you were kinda off-the-wall crazy at the same time but you ultimately went after Kate and those other people for your old pack, so I figured if anything was important to you, it’d be them. Plus, no one who’s ever met you would accuse you of being sentimental so you’d pick something that was just to be contrary. Granted, it took me five tries before I got the password right but it wasn't exactly rocket science either.”
Peter is silent when Stiles finishes explaining. Stiles does a mental victory dance at having rendered the Beta speechless.
“Every time I turn around,” Peter remarks evenly. “You remind me of why I like you so much, Stiles.”
Stiles fights down a tinge of pleased embarrassment, easily enough to do because this isn’t the first time Peter’s slung out flattery like this just to get under Stiles’ skin.
“Here,” Stiles thrusts the phone back at Peter even as he finally lets go of the werewolf’s wrist, simultaneously dislodging Peter’s hand from his hair, before swinging himself up into a sitting position. “You have no contacts besides Derek and your workplace, which is just sad. Now you have me, so the next time you're puking your guts up, you’ll have someone to call.” He pauses. “Or, you know, if you’re just generally dying.”
Peter eyes his cell for a long second, and then he pockets the device and directs a classic smirk at Stiles. “Only when I’m dying? That would hardly give us any time for stimulating conversation, Stiles.”
Stiles rolls his eyes (he does that a lot when he’s in Peter’s company, or in any of the Pack’s company to be honest) and clambers to his feet. “We research together on a fortnightly basis and have plenty of time then for stimulating conversation. If you spam my phone with junk, I’ll stake you with wolfsbane.” He stops and prods inquisitively at his stomach before lifting his shirt to reveal fresh – and much more neatly bound – bandages. He spins to pin Peter with an indignant look. “Did you strip me while I was asleep?”
Peter just cocks a faux reproachful eyebrow at him as he too gets up. “And how many times did you strip me?”
Stiles’ jaw drops, and he splutters as he trails after Peter out of the guestroom. “That’s different! You can’t use that as a counterargument! You were sick!”
“And you’re injured,” Peter continues blithely. “I was changing your bandages. Besides, you have nothing to be ashamed of, Stiles. I don’t understand why you insist on hiding that body of yours under so many layers.”
Stiles flushes a bright red, and he can practically hear the smug bastard smirking again. “Dude, were you ogling me in my sleep?! Oh my god, why are you this much of a creeper? Why are you this much of a creeper and not behind bars?”
“I’m far too clever to get caught.”
Stiles scoffs in disbelief because that is one hundred percent false. “Uh, hello, a bunch of teenagers caught you the first time!”
“I was insane,” Peter dismisses like that chapter of his life wasn't absolutely traumatizing for, oh, approximately everyone. “More to the point, I didn't really care about all that much beyond killing those responsible for setting the fire or I would've covered my tracks even more carefully.”
“I would still have figured you out,” Stiles huffs as they enter the kitchen.
Peter glances back at him without a trace of humour. “Yes, that I have no doubt.” He sighs almost regretfully. “You are a wonderfully resourceful human, Stiles. Just imagine what you could do as a wolf. I should've Bitten you when I had the chance.”
Stiles snorts, pulling out a chair to sit in. “Still a no, Peter.”
Peter smiles, positively shark-like. “And yet, still a lie, Stiles.”
Stiles’ lips purse but he doesn't snap anything back. It’s hard to explain to someone how he doesn't necessarily want the Bite to become a werewolf with all its fangs and claws and time-of-the-months, but he does want the... importance that comes with it. Or maybe ‘importance’ is the wrong word but he can’t think of something else to replace it.
Stiles knows that ‘important’ is at least partly synonymous to ‘useful’ when it comes to defeating evil and defending Beacon Hills, and he is useful to the Pack, he’ll challenge anyone – even Derek, especially Derek – for saying otherwise.
It’s just that – sometimes – he feels as if he’s only important when he’s useful, and as a human, compared to creatures that can leap buildings and run for miles without getting tired and bench-press weights like Superman, human often feels not enough. Stiles isn’t like Lydia who’s turned out to be a genius+banshee, or even Allison, who’s human but a Hunter. He’s just Stiles, and Stiles – with his Google-fu and detective skills and sheer single-minded drive to do absolutely anything it takes to protect the group of people he cares about even if that means burning down the rest of the world – is pretty damn awesome if he does say so himself, but still, there are times when being in a Pack filled with even more amazing people on all fronts can be... discouraging.
And it’s hard to explain all of that to someone like Peter, because from the very beginning, Peter has always believed Stiles to be something special, even as a human, yet he never gave any indication of thinking the same thing about Scott or Jackson or even Lydia.
And Stiles doesn't know if Peter is just manipulating him because the guy can sense Stiles’ insecurities, or if he genuinely means it. On occasion, Stiles wants to ask about it (What do you see in me that’s so unique instead of just plain weird and annoying? Why don’t you overlook me like everyone else does? Why do you act like I'm actually worth something more than just the breakable human research assistant?), but at the same time, he never wants to find out. In this case, ignorance can be bliss, and Stiles can pretend that Peter exchanges sarcastic banter with him over books and coffee and research material not just because Derek orders him to help but because he actually wants to.
Stiles blinks and finds Peter scrutinizing him from behind a cup of tea. Another cup has been extended towards him, and Stiles quickly accepts it with a bob of his head.
“So,” Stiles says in a more than likely transparent attempt at distracting Peter from whatever it is the werewolf managed to glean from him. “How long have I been out? How are you feeling? What’s going on with the Arachnes? Is anyone else dead? And jeez, what is my life that that is actually a valid question these days?”
“Roughly eight hours, fine, Derek says they’re all dead but I wouldn't take his word for it, not that I know of, and this is Beacon Hills – the mortality rate’s been climbing mountains ever since the Argents invaded so you're over half a decade too late to start complaining,” Peter summarizes succinctly.
“You’re not as funny as you think you are,” Stiles informs him before squawking, “I slept for eight hours?! You should've woken me! I never sleep for eight hours!”
“Probably why you did then,” Peter points out. “You stayed awake for three days looking after me, and a week before that in which I doubt you had much time for rest in between catering to the pups. You had to have been exhausted. I'm surprised you weren’t out longer.”
“I don’t need much sleep,” Stiles writes off, turning his mind to more important things. He examines Peter more closely. “Are you sure you're fine? Because Derek and Cora’s definition of ‘fine’ leaves a lot to be desired. I think it’s a Hale thing.”
“Definitely not,” Peter drawls. “I seem to recall you sneaking off to a walk-in clinic all the way across town to get your ribs patched up after we dealt with those trolls a few months back.”
Stiles’ eyes widen. “Wait, how did you-”
Peter gives him a rather offended look. “Give me some credit, Stiles; I’d like to think I'm at least a little more observant than the rest of the Pack. Besides, everyone else was licking their own wounds. I was significantly less injured-”
“Your kneecap was shattered, and your ribcage was almost crushed when that troll bashed you with a tree! Not even into a tree! With a tree!”
“-so I noticed the way you weren’t quite standing entirely upright when you left,” The werewolf finishes smoothly without giving any sign that he heard Stiles’ mini-rant. Something like disappointment touches his expression. “You almost crashed your jeep twice. It was foolish.”
Stiles makes a face at the Beta but he reddens anyway at apparently being caught out. “They were pretty beaten up after that fight,” He mumbles sullenly. “More than usual I mean. And it’s not like any of them know any spectacular first-aid. Well, Allison does, a bit, but she was busy with Scott, so really, I was better off getting professional help and taking care of myself.” He rallies somewhat defensively, “I can take care of myself.”
And Stiles thinks he may actually love Peter just a little bit when all the werewolf does is nod in acknowledgement, not even a second of hesitation or doubt.
“So can I,” Peter says, and then he gives Stiles a long pointed look until Stiles gets it.
He huffs in reply. “Yeah, well, I- would you have come if I’d asked?”
Peter just carries on staring at him, serene as a monk like he’s waiting for Stiles to catch up.
And Stiles does, of course.
“‘I almost crashed-’” Stiles reiterates with dawning realization. “You followed me all the way to the clinic? Why?”
Peter's shoulders lift in a deceptively laidback shrug. “I suspect for the same reason you broke into my apartment.” And then, like he physically just can’t bring himself to leave his heart even that much exposed, “And what if I become Alpha again one day? I’ll need a dependable Beta, and I can’t stomach even the idea of having to use Scott.” A wolfish smirk. “I need you alive so I can turn you.”
“Uh-huh,” Stiles doesn't know for certain whether or not Peter has plans to become Alpha again but that last bit was definitely all talk, at least for now.
Instead, he studies Peter for a moment, mulling over the implication of the werwolf’s words. Three days ago, he’s fairly certain that the Beta would never have given up even this much, and while Peter looks wholly unconcerned and unperturbed under Stiles’ inspection right now, he can still sense the slight apprehension vibrating just underneath the werewolf’s skin.
Waiting for judgement. For Stiles’ reaction, which is apparently important.
“Next time,” Stiles says mildly. “Just join me in the car. Nobody goes around tailing people when they have a shattered kneecap.”
Peter blinks, and his expression doesn't change, but Stiles still gets a sense of relaxing from him. “It was mostly healed,” The werewolf claims.
“Liar,” Stiles declares with a grin before his mood sobers again. “Don’t think you can distract me; I'm serious. Has your fever broken yet? You look about a million times better than when I first got here but-”
“Why don’t you come over here and check?” Peter suggests, lounging back even further in his seat, legs stretched out and crossed at the ankles.
Stiles gives him a flat look. “Seriously? We’re sitting four feet apart and you can’t just tell me what your temperature is?”
“We’re sitting four feet apart and you can’t get up and take a few steps forward to check my health?” Peter’s voice takes on a scolding tone. “Now that’s just lazy, Stiles.”
Stiles rolls his eyes but decides to humour the werewolf in the end, getting to his feet and rounding the table to stand in front of Peter, gingerly placing a hand against the Beta’s forehead before breathing a sigh of relief. Obviously, he can’t tell the exact temperature like this but if the werewolf does still have a fever, then it’s almost gone.
He begins withdrawing his hand. “You should be fine; just take it easy for the next-”
He stops when Peter snags his wrist again, though at least he doesn't hold on to it this time, only preventing him from moving away instead before trailing his hand up Stiles’ arm to his shoulder, and then briefly clasping the side of his neck before finally letting go.
Stiles doesn't even have the presence of mind to be anything other than downright mystified. “Dude, what?” He flails his arms a little for emphasis.
Peter just smirks enigmatically at him without giving him a straight answer – or any answer for that matter – before pulling out Stiles’ phone from... somewhere.
“I texted Derek the information he needed to kill the Queen Arachne,” Peter divulges as Stiles snatches up the phone. “Of course, he’s under the impression that you sent it to him. He texted back several hours after that to say that the Arachne infestation has been successfully taken care of.”
“Hmm,” Stiles hums vaguely, scrolling through the latest text messages as he takes a seat again. Huh, belladonna leaves the Queen as vulnerable as her subjects, a fact that originates from how Arachne – the woman – was cursed with spider-parts when Athena sprinkled aconite on her. Aconite that’s also known as monkshood, which can be countered with belladonna.
Cool. You learn something new every day. And now Stiles can add another piece to his Bestiary puzzle.
He smiles a bit at his phone when he reads how Stiles-like Peter makes his messages sound. Derek obviously doesn't suspect a thing.
He freezes when a thought occurs to him, though his heart skips forward double-time as he flicks a glance up at Peter whose smirk has widened like he knows exactly what Stiles is thinking about right now.
“Er,” Stiles starts faintly. “Did you figure out my password?”
Peter actually laughs, looking highly entertained. “Of course, though I have to say, it wasn't my first guess. I even tried sourwolf before that. Still, creeperwolf is one password that none of the Pack would ever think you would use to lock your phone, which – consequently – is exactly why I tried it. Nevertheless, it’s very clever. Not clever enough to fool me of course but almost certainly enough to fool everyone else.”
Stiles suppresses the urge to chuck his phone at the werewolf’s infuriatingly smug face, pocketing it instead with a disgruntled scowl. “It wasn't that complicated,” He gripes sulkily. “Besides, you can’t talk to me about being clever. You couldn't even guess Scott’s username and password!”
This time, it’s Peter’s turn to roll his eyes, and it’s the exact same whole-head-eyeroll that the werewolf executed way back when they were still enemies, the one that says unbelievable I am one hundred thousand percent done with this bullshit god save me from this world’s stupidity better than anything else ever could.
(“His username is ‘Allison’?”
“His password is also ‘Allison’?”)
It makes Stiles crack up because that single gesture is just so intrinsically Peter, all incredulous exasperation and long-suffering sass mixed together over the sheer astonishment that anybody can be so ridiculously, moronically lovesick.
When he manages to stop snickering long enough to catch his breath, he finds Peter watching him with an indulgent sort of half-smile on his face, eyes gleaming with something that Stiles would swear looks like fondness.
Stiles’ laughter tapers off, and silence falls in its stead. The air between them is mostly comfortable but charged with something electric now that leaves him inexplicably breathless.
The silence ticks by, one, two, three seconds, with neither of them looking away from each other, and then Stiles clears his throat loudly and tears his gaze away, the back of his neck prickling. He’s forgotten what they were talking about. Rubbing his palms against the soft fabric of his pants, he jumps to his feet again before spinning on his heel and scurrying out into the hallway.
“Right, well, since you're almost hale and hearty again, and yes, pun fully intended, I'm gonna hog your shower before I take off,” Stiles bends down to retrieve his last set of clean clothes. He hasn't had time to do his own laundry over the past few days.
“It’s almost ten,” Peter remarks casually, coming to lean against the doorway with his arms crossed. “You could just stay another night and leave in the morning. Or at least eat something first.”
Stiles’ movements slow to a stop. He tips his head to gauge Peter’s expression. “...Are you sure?” He prods because Peter wanted him gone not too long ago, and yeah, the atmosphere’s lightened between them since then but... “I can leave; I don’t mind. With the amount of trouble I’ve been in and will undoubtedly be in in the foreseeable future, Dad’s pretty much revoked my curfew. I can stay out all night if it’s for the safety of mankind. Or werewolf-kind. You know what, let’s just go with Beacon Hills-kind. And ten’s really not that late.”
“I wouldn't be a very good host if I kicked you out the moment I was well again,” Peter points out wryly. “And driving away from my apartment at night hardly constitutes the ‘safety of mankind’. Staying would make more sense. What would you do if I had a relapse and the fever made me surrender to my homicidal urges, and you weren’t here to keep an eye on me?”
Stiles gives the theatrically fretful expression on Peter’s face the most unimpressed look he can humanly achieve before reaching into his bag and pulling out a sheathed but wickedly sharp silver knife – courtesy of Mr. Argent – imbued with wolfsbane and rowan – courtesy of Stiles. He doesn't go anywhere without it these days. Even the hilt can’t be touched by a werewolf.
“I’d hunt you down and rip your throat out,” He deadpans.
Peter just grins, the psycho, though to be fair, there are a few too many teeth in the smile for it to be construed as entirely friendly.
“I have no doubt you would at least try,” Peter says agreeably. “So save us both the time and energy by staying the night. I’ll even let you cook me something else to eat.”
Stiles shoots him an indignant look as realization set in. “So my food’s what you're after? You egotistical ass, don’t make it sound like it’s a privilege to cook for you! You're damn lucky I've graced you with my culinary skills at all! Hey! I haven’t agreed yet! Are you even listening to me? Peter!”