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A Lightness In Their Hearts

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He circles Stiles on the couch, breathing deep. The teen is pale, dark shadows under his eyes that go beyond simple exhaustion. He rounds the corner and leans down to look Stiles in the eyes. His scent - tangy and normally heavy at the back of Peter’s tongue is nearly overtaken by a different heaviness. Dark, heady and bitter, it reminds him of when he’d just awoken from the coma.

“You don’t think it would work?” Scott asks.

“This is more a war of the mind than of the body.” Peter answers, not looking away from Stiles. He remembers that night in the parking garage all those months ago, of a denial to an offer made in honesty. He tilts his head as Stiles’ eyes flicker. “Yes,” He murmurs, certain now that he’s seen that small flicker of something in the teen’s eyes that Stiles - or at least the Nogitsune - remembers too. “Yes, there are better methods for winning this battle.” He straightens.

“What kind of methods?” Deaton’s cautious, doubting.

Peter doesn’t have the patience to reassure the vet, to argue or explain, he just reaches back and grips Scott’s wrist in such a way that his claws emerge. He brings Scott’s hand up into Stiles’ line of site. “We’re going to get inside his head.”

~*~

Peter was to be the left hand of the Alpha, the devil to the Emissary’s angel. He had been raised knowing his place, taught by his grandmother from the time he was a toddler. As he grew, he memorised the lore, the stories of their kind, and he learnt of the others - vampires, fae, giants, trolls, any creature from any mythology, he learnt of. He learnt politics, intrigue, how to fight, how to lead, how to teach, how to guide. He soaked up everything his grandmother said to him and he used it. He walked the shadows, the fringes of the Hale Pack, he overheard arguments and discussions both private and public. He knew their dreams, their fears, their loves, their hates. He was their protector, their guardian.

Ego, though, exists in everyone, and it was his that brought down the pack he was to protect three years after his grandmother died and passed the job onto him. His nephew may have given the knowledge to Kate Argent, but it was his arrogance that allowed her close.

~*~

Peter doesn’t wait after the Nogitsune vanishes with Lydia. He wants to stay, wants to fight, to attack, to make the Nogitsune bleed, but there’s something else he has to do instead, something more important. So, he leaves. He climbs through Stiles’ window, finds the keys to the jeep, and drives.

He drives non-stop to San Francisco, breaking every speed limit to get there, and lets himself into the storage unit. He’s thankful that he set it up to automatically debit his account every month, and that he had enough money in his account to cover the payments while he was in the coma. It takes him longer than he’d like to locate the crate with the books he needs, locating several others that he knew will come in handy as he goes. He loads them into the jeep and drives back to Beacon Hills. Despite breaking every speed limit back to Beacon Hills, he still gets there just as everything finishes, as the Nogitsune is trapped once again, as Stiles is released from its influence, as Aiden succumbs to his wound. He stands at the edge of the car park, watching as Ethan cries over his brother’s body, as Stiles wraps his arms around Lydia, as they all grieve.

Peter breathes deeply, smells blood and ashes, smells the tang of Stiles’ natural scent, and under it all, he smells smugness. He turns and walks back to the jeep. He needs to get the crates of books to his apartment and the jeep back to the Stilinksi house. This battle may be over, but the war is still waging.

He has work to do.

~*~

Peter’s grandmother’s favourite saying was that the Nemeton is old, the Nemeton is wise, the Nemeton is vengeful and it will take what it feels it is owed regardless of will. Protect the Nemeton and it will protect you, but betray it and you will feel its wrath.

Before the fire, Peter didn’t understand, but after it….after it, Peter understood all to well.

~*~

Four days after the capture of the Nogitsune, Stiles knocks on the door of Peter’s apartment. Peter briefly wonders how Stiles knew the address, but then he remembers that this is Stiles, he knows everyone’s address. He stares at Stiles for a moment, breathing in the teen’s scent, finding that the heavy tang has begun to merge with the dark bitterness that he’d carried when he’d been possessed by the Nogitsune.

He steps aside, lets Stiles in and closes the door. Stiles stands there in the entrance, silent, hands shoved deep in his pockets. Peter rests a hand on Stiles’ lower back and guides him to the couch off to one side. Once Stiles is sitting, he goes to the kitchen, pulls out the tea set he’d inherited from his grandmother and had thankfully been in the storage unit at the time of the fire. He warms the teapot as he waits for the kettle to boil, putting three scoops of a tea blend into it. The water goes in next, the lid sealing the heat in, and he carries the tray to the coffee table. He kneels on the floor, feeling Stiles’ eyes on him, and uprights the two cups he’d put on the tray. He puts a little sugar in one - Stiles always has sugar - and after a few more moments to allow the tea to brew, he pours.

The liquid is a golden brown and smells of chamomile.

He passes Stiles his cup and then settles on the couch next to him with his own. They sit there and sip in silence, the sun slowly descending in the sky as they make their way through the liquid in the teapot. It’s just dipped below the horizon when Stiles finishes the last of his cup and stands. He pauses at the front door, twisted slightly as though to say something to Peter over his shoulder, but he stays silent. The door closes quietly behind him.

Peter finishes his own tea and then tips the dregs onto his saucer. He smiles wryly at what he sees - the images have been the same since the fire. He sets his cup and saucer on the tray and then tips Stiles’ dregs onto the matching saucer. He hums at the images and then swipes a finger through the dregs, disrupting them.

~*~

His grandmother had been from Europe, born to one of the more wilder packs that dominated the continent. She had married Peter’s grandfather young, as a symbol of alliance between old blood and new blood. The Hale Pack had only been around for three generations. The pack she had come from had been around for hundreds of generations. Although she had been part of the pack, she had ever stood separate. It was the shadows, she explained to him when he’d asked her at the age of six. They made you different, see things differently. It was why hunters weren’t much of a problem in Europe - they trust the Left Hand to take care and police their own. It was only in America, in the newer packs, that trouble brewed. Most hunter families had moved to the new world and their messages back to the continent were filled with curses at the ignorance of the new packs.

Peter’s grandmother had come to care for her husband, and loved the children she bore him deeply, but she resented slightly the way the other pack members came to see her. She had warned him once, just before she died, that his work would be hard. They don’t listen, she said. They never will. So don’t explain, do. They will accept it or not.

Talia had never accepted, not once. He was simply her younger brother and she’d been Alpha longer than he’d been Left Hand. She sent him away to stay with their grandmother’s former pack for a while - to forge stronger bonds, she said. He believed her, believed that she valued him enough to use him as she would an Emissary. Now, he knew she simply wanted him gone, believed him to be an outdated tradition. Three years later he returned despite her insistence that he stay in Europe, and less than twenty-four hours later, the Pack burned.

~*~

Stiles returns the next day and remains silent as they sit on the couch and drink the tea Peter brews. After they finish the pot, he sits there and watches as Peter upends his cup onto his saucer to read the dregs. Stiles offers his own cup and saucer once Peter finishes and his dregs, when Peter reads them, are identical to the day before.

Stiles doesn’t ask what they say and doesn’t move to leave.

Peter clears the tea tray away and then moves to the table near the window that he has the crates of books piled around. He sits down and opens one of the books, skimming his way through it as he tries to find the information he needs to end the war that rages outside the apartment.

Stiles leaves when Peter’s halfway through the book, the sun nearly gone beneath the horizon. They had both missed lunch, and neither of them had spoken.

~*~

His grandmother used to speak to him in Polish. Talia had hated it. Peter had loved it. None of the others in the Pack could speak it.

She had also taught him French, Spanish, Italian, Russian, Danish and Swedish. While he was in Europe for those handful of years, he had also learnt Latin and Ancient Greek.

His favourite though, had been Polish.

~*~

Stiles is there the next day, and the next, and the next, and the next, always silent, always watching. His scent slowly settles to a middle ground between the tang and the bitter, and as it settles, his tea leaves change.

Peter’s don’t. They continue to warn him that he needs to act, that there’s danger, that more lives will be lost before the war is won. He’s not sure whether he believes his own reading anymore, it’s told him the same thing so many times, but he continues to look, to upend his cup and read.

Stiles has been visiting daily for three weeks before he breaks the silence they seem to exist in. It’s on his way out, hand on the door hand, twisted slightly just like he had been on that first visit.

“Thank you.”

The words are somewhat raspy and desperate, but Peter still hears them from his desk. He looks up but Stiles is already gone. It doesn’t matter, he knows what Stiles was thanking him for - and it’s not the tea.

~*~

Before he’d left the continent, Hanna had told him that the Left Hand never became the Alpha, that if, by some evil happening, the Left Hand did, something had gone terribly wrong. There was a harmony that was to exist in the Supernatural world when it came to the packs. There was Alpha, and to the left was the Hand, and to the right was the Emissary. The three would balance and dance around one another, leading the Pack in harmony with itself, and with others. If one fell, so did the other two.

Peter had been in Poland when Alan Deaton became Emissary. He knew Deaton, had gone to school with him, and had despised him. There was a coldness in him that Peter had never seen in any of the Emissaries he’d encounter on the continent. The Deaton family had been acting as Emissaries for only a few centuries, and had grown a name for themselves. Peter didn’t trust it, didn’t trust the family, didn’t trust Alan.

He still doesn’t.

~*~

“You’ve been quiet.” Derek shifts against the table, eyes locked onto Peter.

Peter smiles slightly, running his fingertips over the step of the staircase he’s using as a seat - again. “Is that so?”

“What are you up to?” Derek demands. “You smell like Stiles. Leave him alone.”

Peter sighs. “Sometimes, you remind me of your mother. Occasionally, you make me think of your father. Neither are pleasant.” He stands and heads to the door. He pauses and looks over his shoulder. “Tell me, Derek. Does Deaton talk to you?”

He leaves before Derek can answer.

Deaton doesn’t look surprised when he walks into the vet surgery, but his eyebrows do rise when he walks past the mountain ash barrier. Peter wonders briefly if he should tell the man that Stiles broke his barrier weeks ago, but ultimately decides that it isn’t worth the argument.

“I’m surprised to see you here, Peter.” Deaton says, his voice calm and flat, just like it’s always been. He picks up the cat he was examining and gently tucks her into a nearby cage before turning to wash his hands. “What can I do for you?”

“I need some mountain ash.” Peter clasps his hands behind his back, rocking back on his heels.

Deaton rises his eyebrows again. “Mountain ash? What would a werewolf need mountain ash for?”

Peter just stares and after a few minutes, Deaton capitulates - much like he had done when they had been children at school. He pulls a jar out of one of the cupboards and hands it to Peter, keeping hold of it when Peter goes to pull back. “I don’t trust you or your motives.”

Peter smiles, teeth slowly extending into fangs. “Nor I you.”

Deaton lets the jar go and Peter leaves, retracting his fangs before the woman in the waiting room can see.

Stiles is in his kitchen when he gets to his apartment, staring at the tea pot. Peter isn’t surprised, he gave Stiles a key a few weeks previous. He’s just surprised it’s taken Stiles so long to use it.

Stiles watches as Peter pulls a smaller jar than the one he’s currently holding out of the cupboard and pours a quarter of the mountain ash into it. Peter seals the larger jar he got from Deaton, putting it into the cupboard in his kitchen that holds his other supplies, and then pushes the smaller one towards Stiles. “Line your house and property line thoroughly - doorways and windows. Let me know if you need help testing it.”

Stiles’ hands shake as he picks up the jar. “Peter…”

“It doesn’t just work on werewolves.” Peter continues. “If your intent and will is powerful enough, it will hold off nearly every creature. As you’re laying the line, think of those that you want to have unfettered access to the house. They’ll be able to cross it. If you change your mind at any time about someone, the line will respond to your will.”

Stiles takes a deep breath. “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.” Peter puts the kettle on to boil and begins to warm the tea pot. They drink the tea in silence, side by side on the couch, and when Stiles leaves, he’s cradling the jar of mountain ash to his chest like a mother would a child.

~*~

He remembers the first time he met Claudia Stilinski. It was one of the many, many times Talia had asked him to go to the day care and pick up Cora. Laura and Derek were still too young at that point, Laura only just in middle school, Derek not far from it, and Peter was almost finished high school, so he would go and get cooed over by the young mums as he waited in the foyer for Cora to come hurtling out.

He met Claudia simply by muttering under his breath in Polish about the mothers. She had been standing near him, shaking as she tried to suppress her laughter. Eventually, though, it had been too much for her and she burst out into a cascade of giggles that had the other mothers looking at her concernedly and backing away as though she were rabid. Peter hadn’t known what she was laughing about, not until she’d gotten herself under control and commented to him in Polish that she hadn’t known there was another Polish speaker in the town.

Claudia soon became a familiar face in the foyer of the daycare, one that Peter was grateful to see on the days Talia ordered him to pick his niece up. Once Peter had told her of his grandmother, she would frequently come to the cottage at the edge of the Hale property in the preserve to visit. The first time the women had met, Claudia had offered the traditional greeting a human from another pack would offer the former Alpha Mate of the Pack whose territory they were in.

Turned out, her husband had taken her name instead of the other way round, and she was from a neighbouring pack to the one Peter’s grandmother had come from.

The loss of his Pack had angered Peter, fury pooling in the pit of his belly at what the Nemeton had taken from him in response to the neglect he had shown it, but it was Claudia’s death while he was in a coma that caused grief to build at the back of his throat, Claudia that he howled for every full moon.

~*~

It doesn’t surprise him when his apartment door bursts open one Sunday morning and the Sheriff stomps in. The human does a double take when he sees Peter on the floor in a patch of sun, books spread around him, but the scowl returns quickly.

“I remember you from before.” The Sheriff does another double take, as though what he said wasn’t what he had planned.

Peter raises a brow. “Good morning Sheriff. Would you like a croissant? I bake them myself.” The Sheriff hesitates when Peter gestures to the plate on a short table nearby, piled with the still warm pastries. “I promise I won’t tell your son.”

That gets the man moving and he settles on the floor in front of Peter, croissant in hand. “Claudia used to talk about you a lot.”

Peter smiles slightly. “According to my grandmother, I used to talk about her a lot in return.”

The Sheriff pauses for a moment but continues after tearing off a bit of croissant. “She used to visit you when you were in hospital. No matter how busy she was, twice a week, she was there. After…” He takes a deep breath. “Towards the end, when she was mostly gone, she would ask for you. You and Stiles.”

“She loved you deeply, Sheriff.” Peter murmurs. “Far more than you would have been comfortable with had you known.”

The Sheriff frowns down at his hands. “These taste like hers.”

“She taught me how to make them.” Peter answers the unasked question.

“Stiles reminds me of her. His temperament and stubbornness are all hers.”

“And his eyes.” Peter supplies. He sets his pen down on the notebook he was using to take notes and leans back on his hands. “Sometimes he’ll say something and I think she’s still alive.”

The Sheriff huffs. “Yeah.” He finishes his croissant in silence. “She knew about the whole werewolf thing, didn’t she? All the supernatural stuff?”

“Yes. Her father was a human born to an Alpha werewolf pair, her mother was a human in another pack in Poland.” Peter hums slightly. “They were disappointed when she was born human herself, but they never let her feel like she was less because of it. It’s why there was no opposition from her grandparents when they moved here to America. She was taught the ways, the traditions and rites, but she was never officially part of any pack.”

“And now Stiles is involved.” The Sheriff takes a deep breath and looks at Peter, expression firm and slightly cold. “I know what you did, Stiles told me. You killed all those people - including your niece - and attacked Lydia.”

“I can’t deny what I did.” Peter says cautiously.

“I also know what you did while Stiles was possessed by the Nogitsune.” The Sheriff continues. “It doesn’t make up for what you’ve done, but I think it’s a start.”

A tight, little ball of tension in the back of Peter’s chest loosens. “Thank you, Sheriff.”

“I think, all things considering, you should call me John.” The Sheriff leans over and takes another croissant from the plate. “Stiles has been visiting a lot recently. I can understand why - these taste pretty damn good.”

“He just drinks tea.” Peter responds, picking his pen back up.

“Tea, huh?” John chews for a moment. “That tea got anything to do with the way he’s handling things?”

Peter pauses mid-word but then continues to write. “It’s a special blend designed to heal fractures of the soul.”

“Which means?” John prompts.

Peter sighs and looks up from his notes. “It soothes the mind and the body, helping the mind come to terms with traumatic events. While Derek took Cora back to Mexico, I decided to see if a few of my old friends were still around. One of them is a herbalist with a touch of magic. She runs an apothecary down at San Francisco and when she saw me, she, for all intents and purposes, screamed her head off in horror at the state of my ‘soulscape’.” He rolls his eyes. “She wouldn’t let me leave without boxes upon boxes of the tea.”

“Did it work for you?”

Peter raises a brow. “I haven’t killed anyone in a while, if that’s what you’re asking.”

John winces. “Ask a silly question, huh?”

Peter taps the end of his pen against his notebook. “No, I apologise. Your question was honest, I at least owe you an honest answer. I was under the influence of a darkness for years in comparison to Stiles’ months. My friend has informed me that it will take years for my fractures to heal to the point that I can be considered healed. Stiles…I estimate it will take at least two more months of daily tea before his fractures simply become scars. Mentally, however, it will take a bit longer.”

Just as John goes to respond, the door opens and Stiles steps through, the teen’s eyes widening and his jaw dropping when he sees his father. “That’s my cue.” John climbs to his feet with a groan. “Thanks for the talk, Peter. Next sunday?”

Peter feels his mouth twist at the question. “Next Sunday. An hour earlier would work better.”

John nods and leaves, giving Stiles a gentle nudge with his shoulder as he passes.

“That was my Dad.” Stiles says, still wide-eyed and soft jawed.

Peter climbs to his feet himself and heads for the kitchen, Stiles following. “Yes, it was. There are croissants on the table over there, the tea will be ready momentarily.”

Stiles takes a deep breath and releases it slowly. “Should I be worried that my dad was here?”

“Stiles,” Peter touches the teen’s shoulder gently. “Deaton is not exactly known for his forth-rightedness, Scott’s mother is just as in the dark about things as he is, and Chris Argent is mourning for his daughter.”

“He’s gone, actually.” Stiles offers. “Left Thursday, took Isaac with him.”

Peter hums. “France?” Stiles nods. “Good. Learning how to direct that anger should help Isaac. But, there are not many people left for your father to turn to for reassurance on what is happening. The only person aside from myself is Derek, and as much as I care for my nephew, he isn’t exactly knowledgable.”

Stiles frowns. “He’s knowledgable.” Peter gives him a look and Stiles’ expression turns sheepish. “After he’s talked to you.” He wonders out of the kitchen and sprawls on the couch in a way that he hasn’t done on previous visits.

Peter pauses on his way to the couch with the tea tray and takes a moment to wish that Claudia was still alive to see the young man her son had grown into.

~*~

After he uses Lydia to come back from death, and realises the depth of his possession at the hands of the Nemeton, Peter goes to the preserve, to the small clearing at the edge of the Hale property that once held his grandmother’s cottage. There’s nothing left, the remnants of the cottage that was cozy and held together mostly by magic cleared away. Instead, there’s just a plaque with her name on it, her birth and death dates. Underneath though, is a small bit of writing. Birth. Life. Death. Such is time.

It’s in Polish.

~*~

“What are you working on?” Stiles settles on the floor next to Peter, plate of chocolate biscuits in hand. They’d been made fresh that morning by Stiles at the Stilinski house while John had been at Peter’s. In the two hours Stiles had been at Peter’s apartment, they’d gone through half the plate. “There’s no new big bad, is there? Scott would have told me, right?”

Peter sighs. “Stiles, have a biscuit.” Stiles frowns but puts one in his mouth. “No, there is no new ‘big bad’, simply the big bad that’s been causing all the problems over the past year. As for Scott, the young kitsune is occupying most of his brain. I doubt he would notice if the town blew up around him.”

Stiles snorts. “True. So, what’s the big bad that’s causing all of this?”

“Nothing you need to worry about.” Peter soothes, earning a scowl.

“I won’t let you have any more chocolate biscuits.” Stiles threatens.

“Your mother gave me the recipe,” Peter comments. “I can simply make my own.” It’s the silence that draws his attention to what he just said and he winces, looking at Stiles.

Stiles is staring at him like he just got slapped with a fish, head tilted in the way that means he’s thinking about something. “You knew matka? Wait,” He breathes after a moment. “You knew matka. You…” Stiles closes his eyes and takes a deep breath, the plate in his hand shaking to the point where the biscuits start sliding towards the edge.

Peter rescues the plate from Stiles, putting it on a spare patch of floor. “Yes, your mother and I were friends. She was friends with my grandmother, too.”

“Opiekun.” Stiles murmurs, opening his eyes and looking directly at Peter with a dawning wonder on his face. “You’re opiekun.”

Peter winces. “No, actually, that was my grandmother. She often called me dziecko cień.” Stiles gives a small giggle and then looks surprised at himself. “She used to help me pull pranks on Talia.” He pauses. “She never did like her.”

“Who?” Stiles asks.

“Your mother. Every time she saw Talia heading in her direction, she’d run. One time, we were visiting my grandmother and Talia dropped by. Your mother saw her coming from her position in the window seat and bolted for the bathroom.” Peter snorted. “After Talia left, I went looking for Claudia to let her know it was all clear. I found her hiding in the cellar under the Nemeton.”

Stiles’ hand clenches as it does whenever the Nemeton is mentioned. “The Nemeton?”

Peter hums. “It used to hide us a lot from Talia.”

“You didn’t like your sister?” Stiles’ voice cracks halfway through the question. Peter glances at him, and Stiles gives him a wane smile.

“No,” Peter says. “I didn’t. I cared for her, but I didn’t like her.”

“What about Derek? It just….” Stiles shrugs. “It seems sometimes like you don’t really…care.”

Peter sighs. “It’s difficult, Stiles. All families are. And when you include the fact that we’re werewolves…” Peter shuts the book he was reading and sets it aside, his notepad and pen resting on top. “I was Talia’s half brother. Our father, the Heir of the Hale Pack, laid with my mother as part of an alliance agreement between the Hale Pack and a Pack up in Washington, with the idea that the product of that…union…would be a physical representation of the goodwill between the two packs. My mother would stay here in Beacon Hills until I was born, and then would return to her Pack without me afterwards. My grandmother, the one who was friends with your mother, she was my paternal grandmother, and had remained somewhat aloof from the others in the Pack.”

“Until you were born.” Stiles concludes, following with the plate of biscuits as Peter moves to sit on the couch.

Peter nods. “She was the one that helped my birth mother through the labour and was the first to hold me. It was her that cleaned me, swaddled me in cloth, and presented me first to my father - her son. He glanced at me, confirmed that I was healthy, and then waved us off, returning to his wife and daughter. My grandmother, as tradition dictated, then presented me to the Alpha of the Pack, her husband. My grandfather wasn’t much more impressed than my father had been and told my grandmother to make sure that I disturbed the pack as little as possible. My grandmother, furious with both her husband and son, decided to raise me herself. I presented as a were when I was six months old, younger than any Hale had presented before. My father still didn’t care. My grandfather was reluctantly pleased. He decided that as my father was Heir, and Talia was to be Heir after, it was only suitable that I would be raised to complement and aid my sister when my grandmother had passed. I was five when my grandfather and father died in an attack by hunters. Talia was 23 when she became Alpha. She occasionally took the council of our grandmother when it suited her, but our grandmother was raising me, a child who was of no use to the pack, of no use to her. I may have been her half-brother, but she had not been taught to love me, to treat me as such.”

Stiles reaches out and squeezes Peter’s wrist. “I don’t think I would have liked her.”

Peter laughs, the broken sound surprising him. “No, you wouldn’t have.”

“Did Derek and Laura pick up on her attitude towards you?” Stiles asks curiously.

“By that point I had proved to be somewhat useful - if only in picking up her children from school.” Peter shrugs slightly. “They liked me because I had the stories of the fights, of the battles, of the darkness and the light. Talia had no patience for the old ways. I approached her when Cora was three about teaching her the way our grandmother had taught me. Talia told me that she would think about it. Two days later, she told me no. I wanted to prove her wrong, prove that the tradition was one worth continuing. The plan backfired and three months later, a young girl was dead, Derek’s eyes were blue, the location of the Nemeton had been taken from my mind and I was on a plane to Europe. She said that our ties to our grandmother’s pack should be strengthened, that they had waned since her death and as her student, I was the best choice. It wasn't until after Lydia resurrected me that I realised that she had played me, that she had sent me away on purpose, as punishment.”

Stiles’ breaths are loud in the silence of the apartment and when he stands, Peter winces. Instead of leaving, though, Stiles simply goes to the kitchen and puts the kettle on. He warms the teapot, puts in three scoops of the tea blend, and they spend the rest of the afternoon drinking tea in silence.

~*~

Siblings know the best way to hurt one another. The way to hurt Talia was through her children, through Laura, Derek and Cora. Cora, Peter could never hurt. Laura was too much like her mother, too aware, too stubborn. Derek, however…Derek he could use, could manipulate.

He hadn’t predicted Ennis’ grief-driven vindictiveness.

He hadn’t predicted Paige’s death.

He hadn’t predicted that someone would notice in Derek what he had.

~*~

The clearing around the Nemeton is quiet, just as it has been since Talia had cut it. He’d been on a plane to Europe when she’d done it, so he hadn’t been able to console it, to sooth its hurt. He’d only discovered that it had been chopped down a few months ago, when the Darach had decided that it was a good idea to sacrifice some humans for it.

Peter hums softly under his breath as he walks around the stump, looking for the entrance to the under ground cellar. He finds he’s doing that more often, the humming. It was something his grandmother used to do, and a handful of people he met when he was in Poland used to do the same thing. He supposes he picked the habit up while he was over there.

The cellar is as he thought - completely collapsed on itself, although the stump of the tree is stable enough to remain where it is. The only change to the tree itself are the deep cracks that run through it and the revealing of several roots that he suspects haven’t seen the light of day before.

Peter turns to the bag he brought with him, pulling out the jar of mountain ash that Deaton had given him several weeks back. He moves towards the Nemeton stump and with a pat to its side, stands on it.

“What are you doing?”

Peter glances at Stiles. “Hello.”

Stiles steps out of the shadows, head tilted curiously. “Hi. I waited for you at home, but got impatient.”

Peter’s mouth twitches. “You got Danny to trace my cell.”

Stiles smiles. “Not quite. I remember how he did it. You know Danny?”

Peter tilts his head in a nod. “I do. I remember his parents coming to pay their respects when they moved here. I’ve never bothered trying to figure out what they are, but I know they’re not violent.”

Stiles blinks. “Huh. Is there anyone in this town that isn’t supernatural?”

“Your father. Scott’s father.” Peter smirks.

“Scott’s dad doesn’t count - the amount of dickishness he possesses is unnatural in itself.” Stiles steps up beside the Nemeton, eyeing it warily. “What are you doing?”

“Just one of many things.” Peter holds his hand out to Stiles, and the teen takes it, stepping up and settling on the opposite side of the trunk. “Cup your hands.” Stiles does and Peter pours some mountain ash into them before pouring some into his own cupped left hand. “Werewolves can’t touch mountain ash by skin, but we’re safe from its affects if we wear gloves.” He sets the jar between his feet and holds his hand out over the crack that runs down the center of the trunk.

“Don’t you need a spark or something to make it work?” Stiles asks curiously, copying Peter’s action.

“Hmmm.” Peter smiles. “Don’t you think being a werewolf is spark enough?”

“Deaton - “

“As you would say, Deaton is a lying liar who lies.” Peter pauses. “Or at least obfuscates.”

Stiles snorts. “Okay, so what do I need to do?”

“Close your eyes, take a deep breath and feel your heart beat. Listen to it, feel it push your blood through your body. Take that sensation and push it into the ashes in your hand. Then, release the ashes, let them drop to the Nemeton.”

Stiles frowns at Peter. “Ooookay. And then we’ll talk about the crazy train you seem to have jumped on.”

Peter raises a brow. “Stiles, close your eyes.”

Stiles huffs, but does so.

Peter closes his own eyes and takes a deep breath, feeling himself fall into the familiar rhythms of the basic meditation he was taught before he could read. After a minute, he hears another heartbeat along side his, slow and even. It’s Stiles. Peter takes that feeling, that sense of harmony, companionship, and nudges it into the ashes he holds and slowly, he tips his outstretched hand, letting the ashes fall to the crack.

The ashes gone, Peter opens his eyes and looks directly into Stiles’. Stiles smiles at him, his heartbeat still in synch with Peter’s, his scent a thorough mix between the heady bitterness and the heavy tang for the first time in months.

Peter smiles back.

~*~

There have been few packs that have been wiped out like the Hales were. The only reason why packs get wiped out like that is because a corruption has settled in them and they’re a danger to themselves and those around them. In that case, neighbouring packs would contact one of the five main hunter families to deal with them. The position of Alpha of that particular pack would be Sealed and be given into the care of the hunter family that wiped out the corruption. Sometimes, the Pack is released, given a new chance, but historically it hasn’t worked out too well.

It was even unusual for an Alpha and an Heir in a Pack that is at peace with itself and those around it, to die simultaneously, as Peter’s father and grandfather did. The position of Alpha was to go from Talia to Laura, and then from Laura to one of her children, should they be suitable. If they weren’t, then Peter’s cousin Stephen was next. There wasn’t anything in particular that determined who was suitable and who wasn’t. It just was. Every Were, every human knew in a small kernel of the heart, who was Alpha and who was Heir.

The Nemeton knew it too.

Peter and Derek were never meant to be Alpha.

~*~

“I talked to Deaton.” Derek grunts as he shifts a fallen beam in what used to be the kitchen.

Peter hums from where he’s gently coaxing a plant to untwine its roots from the floorboards. “That’s nice.”

“Asked him why Stiles went to him for the mountain ash that’s lining the Stilinski house.” Derek continues. “He didn’t know what I was talking about. Told me that you had requested a rather large amount though.”

Peter rolls his eyes. “It seems that, for once, he’s volunteered information.”

“Why did you want that much mountain ash?” Derek presses. “You can’t do anything with it.”

Peter looks up from the plant to stare at his nephew. “All those years while I was in a coma and it was just you and Laura - did either of you bother to learn anything?” Derek gives him the constipated look he gets when he’s confused, and Peter sits back on his heels with a sigh. “Mountain ash isn’t just for werewolves, Derek, and it sure as hell can be used by us as long as we have the right tools. Isn’t that right, Stiles?”

There’s a crash from the far side of the house, followed by quiet cursing and a moment later, Stiles rounds the wall, brushing ash and dirt from his clothes. “Mountain ash can be used for virtually everything.” He crouches down next to Peter, fingers reaching out to brush the plant the Were had been trying to coax out.

Derek looks between them with narrowed eyes. “You got the mountain ash from Peter?”

“Yup.” Stiles glances at Peter, the corner of his mouth twitching in a smirk.

“Why did Peter need the ash?” Derek asks.

Stiles shrugs. “You’d need to ask him.” He lowers his head to the plant, cupping it gently with both hands. “Come on, love,” He whispers to it. “You don’t want to stay here, do you?” The plant quivers slightly and then it’s letting go of the floorboards. Stiles gets to his feet, the plant cradled against his chest much like he’d cradled the jar of mountain ash, and he walks off, exiting the house without so much as a glance at Peter or Derek.

Peter hums to himself and moves towards the plant that’s rooted in the kitchen wall. “How are you settling into McCall’s pack?”

Derek doesn’t answer, turning his attention instead to another fallen beam.

Peter shrugs and starts to whisper to the plant in the wall. He smiles when it’s roots loosen and it comes away from the wall easily.

~*~

The Nemeton, when roused into anger and vengeance, must be appeased with blood. It’s one of the first lessons Peter learned about the Nemeton, and it’s the one that’s haunted him since the night the Pack burned.

It’s the lesson he has scrawled in Polish across the top of every page of his research notes, and it’s the lesson that draws Stiles’ eyes every time he visits.

~*~

Peter hums the lullaby as he moves about the clearing, pulling up the plants that are disrupting the healing of the Nemeton with whispered apologies.

“So, you think this will work?” Stiles asks from his sprawl under a nearby tree on the edge of the clearing.

“Do I think what will work?” Peter responds.

Stiles throws a stick at him. “You know perfectly well what I’m talking about! You left your books and notes out in clear view!”

Peter smiles but doesn’t respond, turning instead to watch his nephew step out of the shadows. “Derek.”

“Peter.” Derek tilts his head, looking between Peter and Stiles curiously. “What’s going on?”

“Magic.” Stiles grins, all teeth and bright eyes. Peter can’t help but echo his expression.

Derek blinks. “Right. Magic at the Nemeton. Sounds like a brilliant idea.”

“It does, actually.” Peter gestures for Derek to follow him over to the stump. It hasn’t changed much physically in the two weeks since he and Stiles tipped mountain ash into the cracks, but the feel it’s giving off is remarkably different - fresher, in a way, more open.

Derek sighs. “What do you want?”

“Hand.” Peter holds out his own, gripping Derek’s wrist tightly when he offers it to him suspiciously.

“Don’t worry Derek.” Stiles chirps. “This won’t hurt.”

“Much.” Peter adds, slicing Derek’s palm with a claw. He tightens his grip on Derek’s wrist when he tries to pull away and tilts his hand so that the blood falls into the deepest crack in the trunk. After a moment, Derek’s palm heals and Peter lets him go. “Thank you.”

Derek gives him a wordless snarl, cradling his hand.

Peter ignores him, instead slicing his own palm and letting his blood drip into the same crack. He controls his healing, allowing more blood to fall than Derek, and when he lets himself heal, his head feels somewhat cottony.

“What the hell?” Derek snaps.

“The Nemeton must be appeased with blood.” Stiles tells him in gentle Polish, not moving from his sprawl under the tree. “You can go now.”

Derek glares at them both but leaves.

“You know, it’s no surprise that they all think you’re up to something,” Stiles tells Peter once Derek’s gone. “What with the whole, ‘I’m not going to tell you why I want your blood, you’re just going to shut up and give it to me’ thing. If I wasn’t in on the whole thing, I’d be thinking the same thing.”

Peter raises a brow. “Stiles, you are thinking the same thing.”

Stiles screws up his face. “Good point. Tea?”

~*~

Stiles devours Peter’s books like his life depends on it - which it does, to some degree. Peter’s surprised, at first, with the aptitude to which Stiles takes to the magic portion of it all, but then he remembers Claudia and how she liked to conjure a small light when she was immersed in a good book instead of just getting up and turning on a light.

The Sheriff just rolls his eyes when Stiles starts tagging along with his father every Sunday instead of waiting until lunch time, and watches as Stiles sprawls in a patch of sun with a book, paper and pen, cup of tea at his side.

~*~

Peter hums as he jogs across the road and into the Sheriff’s station. Caroline’s behind the front desk, belly heavy with child, and he gives her a bright smile. “Caroline, my dear! How are we today?”

Caroline points a finger at him. “I know that smile, and it doesn’t mean anything good. What are you up to?”

Peter’s smile widens and he holds up the small insulated bag he’s carrying. “Teamed up with young Stiles.”

Caroline laughs. “Oh, the Sheriff is going to slaughter you both.”

“Maybe, maybe not.” Peter replies with a shrug. He leans against the desk. “So, how are you feeling? Any problems?”

Caroline pats his cheek. “None since you gave me that tea. I’m fairly sure that if Andrew were here, he’d kiss you.”

Peter laughs. He and Caroline had been friends at school and she’d been pregnant with hers and Andrew’s first child when the Hale Pack had died. He’d come out of the coma to discover that they’d had two more on top of their first, and Caroline was in the first stages of her fourth pregnancy. Her severe morning pregnancy, however, was making both her and her husband regret it.

“The Sheriff’s in his office, love. I’ll make sure you two remain undisturbed for the next half hour.” Caroline gestures him past the desk, and he kisses her cheek as he passes.

John, of course, groans when he sees Peter enter. “What’s happened now?”

“Lunch.” Peter opens the bag and pulls out some containers. “Made for us by your son.”

John groans again. “You’ve teamed up together, haven’t you?”

Peter smirks as he opens one of the containers to reveal cold, cooked steak, sliced. “Not quite. I’m quite willing to let you have some with your salad.”

John snatches up the container of steak and tips it onto his salad. “Thanks.”

“Just don’t tell Stiles.” Peter sits in one of the chairs and props his feet up on the desk. On the opposite side, John echoes his actions.

“So,” John asks after several minutes of happily munching on his not quite Stiles approved lunch. “I’ve had Derek, Scott and Deaton drop by to see me in the past week, expressing concern over your activities with my son. Derek mentioned that they involve the Nemeton. Care to clue me in?”

Peter sighs and rolls his eyes. “What we’re doing should hopefully make things calm down around here.”

John’s eyes narrow. “Is this going to hurt my son?”

“No.”

“Is it going to kill him?”

Peter scowls. “No.”

John nods. “Then you may continue causing whatever mischief it is that you two are causing.”

“Thank you ever so much for your permission.” Peter retorts. “How are his nightmares?”

“Virtually non-existent since you’ve put those amulets up.” The relief in John’s voice is clear. “Thank you.”

Peter shrugs. “They should last six months. We’ll see how he is after that and if he needs them again then I’ll give Sage a call, get her to send me some more.”

“She’s the San Francisco lady, right? The one who gave you the tea?” John asks curiously before shoving a forkful of salad and steak in his mouth. “Oh my god, this is delicious.” He comments around the mouthful. He quickly chews and swallows. “What is in this?”

Peter snorts. “Ask your son, he made it. The steak is just grilled with some pepper. And yes, Sage is the one who gave me all the tea. Speaking of,” He leans down to the bag on the floor next to him and pulls out a small jar. “She sent this for you. Should help with your blood pressure. Hope you don’t mind - Stiles gave me a list of the medications you’re on, and Sage assures me it shouldn’t interfere with any of them.”

John pulls a face. “Do I have to?”

“Yes.” Peter says firmly. “You are not allowed to die before the age of 90.”

John scowls but takes the jar. “Same way you and Stiles brew yours?”

“Not quite. Stiles has the exact instructions on how to brew it, he’ll show you tonight when you get home.”

~*~

After Lydia revives - resurrects - him, Peter calls Hanna.

She screams at him down the phone for three hours.

He’s smiling the entire time and when she finishes, he tells her about Stiles.

~*~

Peter hums as he leans against the stump of the Nemeton, book propped up in his lap. Stiles is sprawled over the top of the Nemeton, his own book propped up against Peter’s head. Peter glances to his left as he hears John enter the forest. “Your dad’s arrived.”

“Good.” Stiles murmurs, turning a page.

“He’s got Deaton with him.”

Stiles groans. “Not so good.” He sits up, closing his book. “Want me to distract him?”

“Please.” Peter takes the book from Stiles and the younger man jogs out of the clearing.

A few minutes later, John steps out of the treeline, a bemused expression on his face. “My son distracting Deaton with questions about the desexing process for rabbits.”

Peter shrugs. “I only asked him to distract him, I did say how.”

John snorts and holds out the pot of mistletoe he was carrying. “Deaton was insanely curious why I wanted his only plant of this particular species of mistletoe. I didn’t tell him, of course, why should I tell that uninformative dickhead anything, but I couldn’t stop him from following me.” He frowns. “I really wish he had some old, unpaid parking tickets.”

Peter takes the pot from the Sheriff with a laugh. “I won’t tell if you backdate some.”

John watches as Peter takes the plant out of the pot and loosens the roots. “So, this should help? With the whole, stopping the bad things, thing?”

“In part.” Peter confirms, kneeling on the edge of the Nemeton and gently pushing the plant’s roots into the largest crack in the stump.

“What else do you need to do?” John asks curiously.

“Give it time and a little bit of attention.” Peter admits as he finishes tucking the roots away.

“That why you and Stiles have been spending so much time out here?” John shrugs at the look Peter gives him. “That Danny kid isn’t the only one who can trace a cell.”

Peter snorts. “Yes, it’s why we’ve been spending so much time out here.” He climbs down from the stump and goes over to the sack of dirt he and Stiles had brought up that morning, having spent the past week mixing it with a variety of other plants to help provide nutrients for the Nemeton. He pours the soil down the crack just as Stiles jogs back into the clearing.

“I hate that man.” Stiles grumbles.

“Why didn’t you find your own plant instead of stealing Deaton’s?” John asks suddenly.

“Aside from the sheer entertainment value in his confusion?” Peter smirks. “I didn’t want to pay an arm and a leg to get one shipped from Vancouver.”

John chuckles. “Okay, understood. See you tonight for dinner, kid.” He ruffles Stiles hair and then walks off, hands in pockets, whistling.

“So,” Stiles bounces over to the Nemeton to peer down the crack. “Think it will work?”

Peter sighs. “It will if it knows what’s good for it.”

~*~

Hanna flies in on a Friday morning and Peter meets her at the airport in San Francisco. She shrieks when she sees him, babbling on about the state of his ‘soulscape’ much like Sage had when he’d walked into the apothecary, and talks non-stop on the drive up to Beacon Hills. She stays for two weeks, meeting Derek and Scott, along with Scott’s little entourage. None of them know how to take the tiny woman, but the first time Stiles meets her, he picks her up in a massive hug and promptly asks her if she’d like to join he and Peter in their meditation sessions. She becomes a regular fixture in their sessions those two weeks, and she becomes firm friends with the Sheriff.

When Hanna returns to Poland, she leaves Stiles and Peter behind at the airport, a plan firmly in place for what they should do once they’ve finished their business in Beacon Hills.

For the first time since he woke from being possessed by a tree, Peter feels hope.

~*~

“I’ve put in my request for early graduation.”

Peter looks up from the map spread out over his table at Stiles’ quiet announcement. “Oh?”

Stiles nods, hands busy making a pot of their tea. “You knew…Dad told you that he pulled me out of school, right? Put me into home schooling after the whole Eichen House thing, yeah?”

“I was aware, particularly since you kept showing up after school went back.” Peter says slowly. “I wasn’t aware that you’d managed to work hard enough to get to the point where you were ahead of your friends.”

Stiles snorts and carries the tea tray over to the table. “Yeah, well, I was ahead anyway. Have been for a few years now, was just staying to keep Scott company. But now…”

“He has the Pack.” Peter finishes, taking the cup of tea Stiles holds out.

“Yeah.” Stiles shrugs and sips from his own cup. “Dad told me the other month just after he started talking to you, to stop being an idiot and do what I want, not what I think would be good for Scott.” He grimaces. “And Hanna reamed me a new one when she found out.”

Peter chuckles. “She’s a great-grandmother. She has reaming down pat.”

“That she does. If…” Stiles hesitates for a moment. “If I get approval, then I should - theoretically - be done by the time we sort out the Nemeton.”

Peter sighs. “Stiles, if you’re doing this because - “

“No, no!” Stiles shakes his head, his tea nearly spilling. “Look, I should have graduated last year, but I had some problems when I was younger because of my ADD. They pushed me up a couple of grades when I started, and then had to hold me back, so…my schooling’s been all out of whack since I was little. I’m done, I want it over with. That’s why I’ve put in a request. I’m doing it for me. It’s been all about Scott the past several years and I’m tired. He’s my friend, I love him, but I can’t keep doing what I’ve been doing. I need to do this for me.”

Peter takes another sip and hums. “I understand.”

Stiles’ shoulders relax. “Good. Good. Did you realise the Nemeton is sitting on a leyline?”

Peter blinks at the sudden change in topic. “Yes. Why?”

“Well, the energy of a leyline is more accessible on a equinox or full moon, right?” Stiles rocks back on his heals, cradling his tea cup and saucer.

Peter stares at him for a moment before darting for the small calendar he keeps pinned to the wall in the kitchen. “Stiles, if you weren’t still underage, I would kiss you. This is going to cut a solid six months of work.”

Stiles hums and sips his tea. “Do you want me to call Cora, or would you like to do that yourself? Because I sure as hell do not want to explain this to Deaton.”

~*~

John laughs when they tell him, laughs to the point where Caroline knocks on the door to see if he’s alright.

Stiles looks at Peter, eyes bright and happy, and Peter can’t help the small hitch his heart does and the smile he returns.

~*~

It’s the middle of the night, the full moon hanging heavy in the sky and the cracks in the Nemeton have been covered by the mistletoe that Peter and Stiles planted a month ago. Peter can hear Scott, Derek and the rest of the Pack gallivanting along the opposite edge of the forest. He knows he and the others won’t have long before the Pack head their way.

“Ready?” Stiles asks, leaning against Peter’s side.

Peter gives him a smile. “Yes. You?”

“Yup.” Stiles nudges him with an elbow.

Peter laughs, tips his head back, and lets loose a howl that will call the Pack to him. They arrive a few minutes later, barrelling into the clearing with snarls and claws extended. Peter rolls his eyes at their dramatics.

“What are you doing here?” Derek snaps. He jerks slightly to the left and lets out a small whine, no doubt at Cora, who has just entered the forest with John and Deaton. “What the hell?”

“We’re going to do a little something tonight,” Peter announces. “Something that should put all this trouble we’ve been happening to bed. Of course, that depends entirely on you lot doing what you should.”

Scott snarls. “What are you talking about?”

“The Nemeton has been…feeling neglected and somewhat pissed for the past decade. I had something to do with that, as did the rest of the Hale Pack. And Deaton, of course.” Peter admits as his niece enters the clearing, Deaton following her in handcuffs and a smirking John bringing up the rear. “Handcuffs?”

“He wasn’t exactly agreeable to coming,” John shrugs. “Something about whatever it is you two have been up to the past several months being ‘unsavoury’ and ‘dark’ and ‘questionable’.”

Peter rolls his eyes. “Right, well. Cora, you know where to put him?”

“Sure do.” Cora grins, vicious and pleased. Peter feels a moment of regret that he wasn’t the one able to teach her, that another had to, but it passes quickly.

“What’s going on?” Scott asks, looking between them all in confusion. “Cora, what are you doing here?”

“We’re going to heal the Nemeton.” Cora answers. “Doofus. Now get your arse over here.” She points a finger at her brother. “Nope, stay.”

“I do not agree with this method.” Deaton frowns. “There are far more - “

“This Nemeton is a transplant from the old country.” Peter responds. “Not only that, but it sits on a leyline that connects directly with its original location. This Nemeton does not agree with your placid, modern, hands-off ways, Deaton, which is why it’s been throwing a tantrum for the past decade. You might want to remember that in the future if you don’t want Beacon Hills to become a supernatural nightmare again.”

Deaton glares. “I don’t like you.”

“Nor I you, but we all have our burdens in life.” Peter responds. He quickly goes to the Pack and arranges them in a loose circle around the Nemeton stump, where Cora has arranged herself, Deaton and Scott appropriately. “Right then, I think we’re ready.” He and Stiles step back, joining John at the tree line.

Cora smirks at Scott. “Ready for some magic?”

“I…what?” Scott asks blankly.

Cora sighs. “I’ll take that as a yes. I can see I’ve got my work cut out for me.” She pulls a small knife form her pocket and slices her palm, passing the knife to Deaton who echoes her actions reluctantly. “Right palm, Scott.”

Scott takes the knife. “Are - “

“Scott.” Cora flashes her eyes at him and he sighs, slicing his palm. Cora takes the knife from him and holds her still bleeding palm out over the Nemeton. With a look, Scott and Deaton echo her. “As it began, so it ends. As it ended, so it begins.” She murmured.

Once again, Scott and Deaton copy her and as they finish, there’s a flash of white light and a rush of magic that draws a howl from each member of the Pack.

Peter shares a grin with Stiles, and when he looks back towards the Nemeton, instead of the large stump there’s now a small oak tree, just shy of two meters in height, leaves green and healthy.

~*~

John drives them down to San Francisco to see them off at the airport. He promises them that once he’s finished packing things up in the house so that it’s ready for sale and turning everything over to Parrish at the station he’ll fly out to meet them in Poland and that yes, he’ll eat his vegetables.

Stiles and Peter board the plane with smiles and a lightness in their hearts.