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Peter hates Christmas.

Seriously, if he has to put up with one more tinny fucking Christmas carol he is going to snap. He is going to grab the closest length of tinsel and strangle every last motherfucker in the line to Santa’s Grotto. Except for that unnaturally cheery elf who’s been telling them for the last hour that it’ll only be a few more minutes. Tinsel is too good for that little bitch. Peter is going to beat her to death with an oversized candy cane, and dance on her glittery fucking grave.

“Uncle Peter!” Matty gasps and grips his hand more tightly as they finally—finally—round the last bend in the nightmarish thrice-cursed labyrinth that is the queue, and see Santa for the first time. “We’re nearly there!”

Peter tries not to flinch as he hears the opening bars of Winter Wonderland for the seventh time today, and curses his sister Talia under his breath for talking him into doing this. Except Matty is four, and he’s been waiting for weeks for this moment, and even Peter wasn’t heartless enough to say no. Watching Matty’s eyes light up as he glimpses Santa almost makes this all worthwhile.

Almost.

Peter resists the urge to look at his watch and calculate exactly how much of his life he’s never getting back.

There are still six kids in front of them in the line, and the line is not moving, because the kid currently sitting on Santa’s lap has apparently settled in for a while. He’s got a scowl on his face like he hates Christmas just as much as Peter and he appears to be actually berating Santa.

“No!” he says, his voice rising. “I asked for Batman from The Dark Knight, not Batman from Batman Begins! They’re not the same thing, Santa!”

Santa tries to give a jovial ho ho ho. It falls a little flat. “But what do you want this year, little boy?”

Peter is impressed. Apparently the kid’s been holding a grudge for twelve months. That’s remarkable for someone who can’t be any older than seven or eight. And then he remembers the kid. Halloween, a few years ago. It’s the kid who confis-catted all his candy at gunpoint. Well, water pistol point. The sentiment is the same.

“I have been very good,” the kid announces, and his glare dares Santa to contradict him. “I held up my end of the bargain!”

“Okay,” Santa says, sounding a lot less jolly. “Who does this kid belong to?”

The waiting parents quickly disavow all knowledge.

“Alright,” Santa says, trying again. He pats the boy on the head. “I’m sorry about the mistake from last year. One of the elves must have put the wrong toy in my bag.”

The boy looks suspicious.

Santa forces a smile, obviously trying to get this show on the road again. “So what would you like for Christmas this year?”

Peter’s not the only adult enjoying Santa’s discomfort. Even a few of his elves look delighted. Everyone is waiting to see what the kid’s going to come up with.

“Would you like another Batman toy?” Santa asks warily.

“No,” the kid says, rolling his eyes because obviously Santa can’t be trusted to get that right. “I want this.”

He shoves a brochure in Santa’s face. Peter squints to try and make it out. It’s from a jewellery store.

“You want a diamond ring?” Santa asks, fluffy fake brows drawing together. Then he remembers himself and smiles jovially. “Do you have a little girlfriend?”

Peter rolls his eyes too. Okay, so the guy is Santa, but does he have to be such a patronising dick? Evidently the kid thinks the same. He scowls.

“No, the purple one. It’s for my mom. She likes the purple one.”

There’s a little chorus of aw’s from the parents in the queue. The angry little kid is winning them over, despite their aching feet and whinging offspring.

“Santa doesn’t usually get asked for jewellery,” Santa tells him.

The kid nods seriously. “I know, but my dad said I wasn’t allowed to ask you to make my mom not die, because you couldn’t do that. Is that true?”  

Ouch.

And suddenly it’s not even the tiniest bit funny any more.

“No,” Santa says, his voice flat. “No I can’t do that.”

The kid slides off his lap, and presses the brochure into Santa’s hands. He nods decisively. “The purple one, okay? My mom likes the purple one.”

Then he picks up his backpack from where he’d dumped it beside Santa’s throne, struggles into it, and disappears through the exit of the grotto.

“Jesus Christ,” Santa says.

For a second nobody moves. Then Winter Wonderland kicks in again, the elves jump into action, the next kid is shoved in Santa’s lap, and it’s like the whole thing never happened.

Peter hates Christmas.

 

***

 

 

Peter doesn’t go to Derek’s loft for Christmas Day. While he and Derek are still bound by hierarchy and blood and pack, Peter isn’t sure if there’s any actual love tying them together. Sometimes he thinks the bones of it might still be there, left over from a time before the fire destroyed their lives, and sometimes he thinks that it isn’t love at all, it’s only a habit that both of them are too tired to break.

He doesn’t go to anywhere. He ignores the day just as easily as he’s ignored the lead up to it. He sits in his apartment with a glass of wine, and reads the book of Middle English poetry he found last week at the second hand bookstore over on Maple. He flips straight past Angelus Ad Virginem, because fuck Christmas, and loses himself in Sir Orfeo instead.

He’s halfway through his bottle of red when his phone buzzes. It’s a message from Stiles: merry xmas.

Peter tries to ignore the warmth that curls through him when he reads it. Stiles probably sent out a group text. Still, it’s nice to know that he’s included.

Peter texts back: Merry Xmas.

He expects that to be the end of it. Stiles probably wasn’t even expecting him to reply, but Peter’s not that churlish. Well, he is with most people, but they more than deserve it. Not Stiles though. Peter likes Stiles.

They kissed on Halloween.

It could have been the start of something, but it wasn’t.

Such is life.

Peter knows he has a reputation as the sort of guy who holds grudges. Well, not so much holds grudges as unleashes nightmarish scenarios of bloodthirsty revenge, but, really, that’s splitting hairs. The point is, if anyone actually knew about the Halloween kiss, Peter knows it would follow that they’d be expecting Peter to be plotting vengeance against Stiles right now. Nobody rejects Peter Hale! Insert evil laugh and obligatory mustache twirl.

But that’s not who Peter is, not really. He went a little mad once—not so much a psychotic break as a little sidestep away from the constraints of conventional rationality—and killed quite a few people. All of whom deserved it.

Well, most of whom deserved it.

But Peter isn’t, and has never been, the sort of person who would punish someone just for the crime of not wanting to be in a relationship with him. He’s not that pathetic.

He takes another sip of wine and settles back onto the couch.

A few minutes later, his phone buzzes again: I’m making nachos.

That doesn’t seem like the sort of thing one sends to an entire group. Peter smiles, and sends back: How very festive of you.

It’s a few minutes until he gets a response: What are you doing?

Reading a book.  

He can almost hear Stiles’s laughter in the reply: We fail at xmas.  

Peter smiles.

It’s very probably true.

 

***

 

Later, Peter will pretend it’s the mention of nachos that drew him to the Stilinski house, and nothing else. Not the fact that Stiles is choosing now to start texting him, today. Because what does Christmas do except hold up a mirror to the depths of your loss and loneliness, and throw them into sharp fucking relief?

The sheriff’s cruiser isn’t in the driveway when Peter arrives.

Peter presses the doorbell.

Stiles looks surprised when he flings the door open. Then he flushes, his cheeks turning pink. “Peter.”

“I heard a rumor of nachos,” Peter tells him.

Stiles lets him in.

On his way through to the kitchen, Peter glances into the living room. There’s a small Christmas tree in one corner with a few neatly wrapped presents underneath, and a bunch of cards standing up on top of a bookshelf.

It’s the barest minimum effort. The paltry display somehow seems more depressing than if there had been no concession made to the season at all.

 

***

 

They eat nachos at the kitchen table.

Stiles gets them both sodas from the refrigerator. It’s almost midday and it looks like he’s just crawled out of bed. He’s wearing sweatpants, and socks, and his favorite red hoodie. His hair, which is finally starting to grow out of that terrible buzz cut, is scruffy. He hasn’t bothered style it.

Peter feels a rush of something that might be pity.

Peter’s a carved-out ruin of a man. At his best, he’s a sociopath. At his worst, well… there’s an especially hot corner of hell waiting for Peter Hale, isn’t there? His eternal torment will of course be fire. Peter’s more than capable of ignoring what day it is, but Stiles? Stiles is too young to be so indifferent.

Peter thinks of the scowling little boy who wasn’t given the right sort of Batman, and of course never got the ring he wanted for his mom. “I held up my end of the bargain! Stiles, Peter thinks, probably gave up on Christmas a long time ago.

If Peter was a better person—or if this were the montage sequence in some sickly sweet Christmas movie—he’d scoop Stiles up and drag him on a whirlwind tour of Beacon Hills, looking at the decorations, and volunteering at the soup kitchen, and singing carols with sweet apple-cheeked kids, and finally learning that the true miracle of the season is love, but, fuck it. Fuck it sideways, because it’s cold outside, and Peter’s not a good guy.

Peter dips a corn chip in the sour cream. “Is your father working?”

“Mmm. He’ll be home tonight sometime.”

“So it’s just you today?”

“Yep. Just me.” Stiles shrugs and scratches his nose. “Scott’s at his dad’s, so, you know.”

It has always been something of a mystery to Peter how Stiles really only has one friend. Particularly a friend like Scott McCall. Stiles could do so much better.

Stiles shrugs again. “It’s just another day, right?”

“Of course,” Peter says, the weight of the lie lying between them. “It’s just another day.”

 

***

 

One of Peter’s earliest memories is trying to climb the Christmas tree to reach the glass angel on top. He must have been two or three. He remembers the tree swaying, and the feeling of his stomach in his mouth as it toppled over in a crush of branches and shattered glass.

“Peter broke Christmas! Peter broke Christmas!” his cousin Alice screamed.

Peter lay under the tree, blinking through the dust storm of glitter and of glass reduced to powder, with a pine needle jammed up his nostril.

If Peter hates Christmas, it’s not really his fault.

Christmas started it.

 

***

 

Peter doesn’t go home, and Stiles doesn’t ask him to. They end up sitting on the couch watching Firefly. They sink into the same comfortable silence they did at Halloween. Evidently Peter isn’t the only one who makes the connection. Stiles fidgets once or twice, tensing up. He smells anxious, his scent turning a touch sour.

“Stiles?” Peter asks.

“I didn’t text you,” Stiles says, the color rising in his face. He can’t quite meet Peter’s gaze. He waves his hand. “After Halloween. I didn’t text you. Didn’t give you an answer.”

Peter’s heart skips a beat. He’d thought Stiles’s silence had been an answer. An unequivocal one. “You didn’t owe me anything. I told you that.”

“Mmm.” Stiles frowns and chews his bottom lip for a second. “I know. Just—ugh. Fuck. I don’t even know what I’m saying right now.”

Peter knows. Stiles is saying he’s a confused kid. Peter finds that rather endearing. He’s so used to Stiles being extraordinary that it’s somehow charming to find that, in this situation at least, he’s as out of his depth as any typical teenager would be.

“Stiles,” he says, raising his eyebrows, “I’m just here for the nachos, not your virtue, I swear.”

Stiles snorts with laughter, and then relaxes back onto the couch again.

 

***

 

It’s late afternoon when the sheriff calls. There’s been a pile up out on the highway. Multiple fatalities. Peter watches Stiles’s face as he talks to his dad. He wonders how many Christmases it’s been like this for them. How many have fallen into the same weary pattern: The sheriff wanting to get home but unable to get away, and Stiles telling him not to worry about it. Stiles deserves to be more selfish than that.

“When I was four,” Peter tells Stiles as he slumps back down onto the couch again, “I ate a glass Christmas bauble.”

Stiles quirks his mouth in a smile. “Really?”

“It was shiny and red like an apple,” Peter says. “Really, what did anyone expect? I don’t remember much about it, but apparently there was blood everywhere, much screaming, and the incident entered the famous ‘Peter ruined Christmas’ Hale pack annals.”

“I figured out Santa was a fake when I was seven,” Stiles says.

“Perceptive,” Peter says. He thinks of that stubborn little kid in line at Santa’s Grotto. If Peter curls his hand a little, he can still feel Matty’s warm little palm against his own.  

Sties grunts. “Then I told Scott.”

“Ouch,” Peter hisses.  

Stiles grins. “Yeah, Scotty would probably still believe in Santa today if I hadn’t ruined it for him.” 

“Welcome to the club of Christmas ruiners,” Peter says. “You are in incredibly esteemed company.”

Stiles shrugs, and holds his gaze. “You’re not all that.”

“No?”

“You’re not ruining this Christmas,” Stiles says. His smile fades slowly, but the warmth of it remains in the light of his eyes.

Peter opens his mouth, and then closes it again. If there’s a joke to be made here, Peter suddenly can’t find it. And, in the face of Stiles’s quiet sincerity, it suddenly doesn’t matter. It’s just enough to be here, to share this moment with him. It’s enough, and then suddenly Stiles offers so much more.

“Peter,” Stiles says, his dark eyes wide. “Take me upstairs.” 

 

***

 

They kiss, in a tangle of Stiles’s sheets and blankets, and Peter worries for a moment about what this means, and how good it feels, and how by having this he immediately starts to think about the enormity of being denied it in the future. Stiles’s breath is hot against Peter’s lips, and his mouth slots just right against Peter’s, and it takes all of Peter’s self-control not to shove him down against the mattress and rut against him as hard as he can. He keeps it soft, keeps it sweet, and keeps the contact between them gentle. He holds himself up, keeping his weight above Stiles, taking it on his elbows and knees so that he’s not shoving his not-insubstantial erection against a sixteen-year-old virgin.

“Peter,” Stiles whispers, jerking his hips up. “Just—just please—”

Peter can smell his arousal. He’s pretty sure he could smell it if Stiles was currently in a concrete box forty feet underwater. Stiles always smells a little like arousal—all of the pack does, because they’re teenagers held entirely at the mercy of their own hormones—but this is the strongest Peter’s every known it. Stiles is very close to coming, just from making out. Peter wonders if he’d be like this with anyone, or if it’s because it’s Peter in his bed. His ego likes the second option a lot more, so he decides to go with that.

“Tell me what you want, Stiles.” Peter trails a path of kisses along Stiles’s jaw, and shivers when Stiles tilts his head back to expose his throat and the jugular pulsing under his thin skin. Peter can smell his rich, hot blood.

“Peter,” Stiles whines. “God, do something!”

“I don’t want to push,” Peter manages, dragging his mouth over Stiles’s jugular.

Stiles tangles his fingers in his hair, and makes a fist. “Peter, I want you to push.”

Well that, Peter supposes, is what the kids call a game-changer. He leans up, hooking his fingers around the loose waistband of Stiles’s sweatpants. “I want to blow you.”

Stiles’s eyes go impossibly big, and his Adam’s apple bobs and he swallows. “God, yes,” he rasps. “Yes, please.”

What lovely manners. Peter has always believed good manners ought to be rewarded.

“Shirt off,” he says, and Stiles almost chokes himself on the neckband of his t-shirt in his haste to obey. Peter nearly laughs, but doesn’t. He’s suddenly too distracted by the expanse of pale mole-dotted skin that Stiles has revealed. Stiles isn’t as scrawny as Peter has imagined. He has no idea why the boy insists on hiding himself under so many baggy layers of clothes. He’s got nothing to be embarrassed about. He’s lean, and leanly muscled. He doesn’t have a lot of bulk, but he’s more toned than Peter would have guessed. Spending half his life running and fighting probably has a lot to do with that. There are more than a few scars on his pale flesh; more than a few reminders of how fragile humans are. And yet, Stiles still fights beside wolves. How extraordinary that is.

Peter traces his thumb across a thin scar on Stiles’s heaving ribcage, then leans over him to lave a nipple with his tongue. Stiles almost jack-knifes off the bed and the sound he makes, caught somewhere between a sob and a whimper, is exquisite. His dick jerks under his sweatpants, and Peter’s mouth waters in response. His wolf is very close to the surface now, but Peter keeps it on a tight leash. He wants to worship Stiles, not devour him.

Not yet, anyway.

“You are beautiful,” he says, totally serious.

“Shut up,” Stiles mutters, a flush rising on his throat, his face, his chest.

But he is.

And not just the way he lies there, burning with heat and need, and trusting Peter to know what to do with him. He’s beautiful in a hundred other ways, a thousand.

He’s a boy who runs with wolves.

He’s courageous, and smart, and, above everything else, so loyal.

He’s the boy who stood up to Peter when he was mad. Who refused to bend or to back down, who refused the bite, and who helped put Peter in the ground.

He’s the boy who’s faced monsters just because it’s the right thing to do.

He’s the kid who stood up to Santa all those years ago.

He’s always been fearless.

Peter kisses him again, and Stiles moans and his hips jerk.

“God, Peter. God.”

Peter has no idea which deity to thank for putting him here with Stiles in this moment, but he’s enough of a cynic to realize that, if anything, it’s proof that there are no gods at all. If there were, Stiles would be with someone who actually deserved him.

Of course, Peter’s not a decent enough person to let that stop him.

Not at all.

 

***

 

Of all the things he lost in the fire, it’s the man he was before that Peter misses the most. His family is gone, and his possessions are, and the house he was born in is nothing now but blackened bones and ashes, and Peter knows he can’t get those things back. He thought, once, that he’d be able to at least get himself back, but that was a lie. He can never be that man again.

Revenge isn’t a reset button. Killing Kate Argent didn’t mean that he got to walk off into some Technicolor sunset while the credits rolled. Peter Hale will never get a happy ending. He knows that.

The boy who played in the house in the Preserve, the teenager who rolled his eyes whenever Laura or Derek pestered him, the man who made careful plans for his future with the woman he loved…they all burned.

Peter isn’t sure who he is now.

He’s not sure he likes the man the fire made, but what else has he got?

 

***

 

“Uncle Peter?” Matty tugs on his hand. “Uncle Peter, it’s our turn!”

Peter’s still staring at the exit, half-hoping that stubborn little kid will reappear and jam another spanner in the works of this godawful relentless Christmas machine. Peter wants to hear that strident little voice raised in dissent again. And, this time, he’ll applaud.

But the kid’s gone.

Peter sighs as Matty eagerly skips toward Santa.

He hates Christmas.

 

***

 

 

Peter can’t actually remember the last time he had a dick in his mouth, but he’s sure he didn’t enjoy it as much as this. He swirls his tongue around the head of Stiles’s dick to savor the taste. He keeps one hand curled around Stiles’s shaft, and the other hand splayed across his hip to keep him from writhing off the bed.

Stiles makes the most wonderful sounds underneath him. 

When Stiles comes, it happens quickly. Peter’s hardly had time to slide his mouth all the way down his shaft when it’s all over in an explosive burst of spunk, flailing, and obscenities.

Stiles flops back down onto the bed, an arm over his eyes. “Oh crap.”

Peter sits back, licking his lips. “Hardly the ringing endorsement I was hoping for.”

His voice is gravelly. He likes it.

Stiles peers at him from under his arm. “No, I meant me, not you. That was like, embarrassingly fast.”

“Which I take as a compliment,” Peter informs him, a smug smile tugging at the corners of his mouth.

Stiles wrinkles his nose, then, as though suddenly remembering he’s naked, sits up and tugs his sweatpants back up. “Um, do you want me to do it for you?”

Peter leans in and inhales his scent. “It wasn’t a transaction, Stiles. You’re not obligated to reciprocate.”

“Oh.” Stiles chews his bottom lip for a moment. “Um, thanks, because I don’t know if I’m ready for that. And I probably should have said that first, but—”

“Not a transaction,” Peter repeats.

“Okay,” Stiles says. “But I’d like to kiss you.”

Peter smiles. “I’d like that too.”

Stiles is still shaky from coming, his skin overheated. He practically melts as they kiss, his heart racing, his arms clumsy as they wrap around Peter’s neck.

Peter isn’t sure if the kiss is the start of something, or the end.

He tells himself he doesn’t mind either way, but he knows it’s a lie.

 

***

 

“So,” Stiles says as they sit on the couch and finish the last of the corn chips, “that is not how I expected my day to go.”

Peter shrugs. “Sometimes it’s nice to be surprised.”

Stiles raises his eyebrows. “Really? Usually, in this town, a surprise is a bad thing.”

“Which makes a nice surprise doubly exciting,” Peter points out.

Stiles elbows him and snorts. “Dick.”

“Idiot,” Peter responds automatically.

Stiles’s grin fades. “Okay, so just so you know, a part of me thinks you’re playing some angle here. Cards on the table.”

Peter crunches a chip between his teeth. “Fair enough. I’d be disappointed if you didn’t think that, to be honest.”

“Disappointed?”

“You’re the smart one,” Peter tells him.

“Lydia’s the smart one.”

“We’re allowed to have more than one smart one. Personally I think it should be a requirement to join the pack, but introducing it now would be like shutting the stable doors once the incredibly stupid horses have well and truly bolted.”

“Dick,” Stiles tells him again.

“I’m just saying, I read Scott’s last geography assignment, and Africa is not a country.”

Stiles winces. “Geography is not his strong point.”

“Well, clearly.”

Stiles jabs him in the ribs. “Don’t pick on Scott, asshole. He’s my best friend.”

“You could do a lot better.”

“Don’t make me get the wolfsbane.”

Peter flashes him a grin and crunches on another chip.

On the coffee table, Stiles’s phone beeps with a text message. Stiles reaches out and picks it up. “My dad’s on his way home.”

“Ah.” Peter sets the chips back down. “That’s my cue.”

“Yeah.” Stiles curls his fingers through Peter’s briefly. “So, today. I was kind of lonely, and it was actually nice of you to come over.” His face flares. “And, um, the other stuff was really good too.”

“That was my pleasure.” Peter leans in and kisses him and then, for good measure, licks a stripe up his throat.

“Jesus Christ,” Stiles says, pulse hammering. “Fuck.”

Peter smirks, and stands up.

“Just so you know,” Stiles says, eyes wide, “I am going to text you. I mean, I know I said that after Halloween, but then I had a freak out about the entire thing, but this time, this time I am definitely going to text you.”

“I hope you do,” Peter says.

 

***

 

Later, back in his apartment, Peter settles down with his glass of wine and his book of Middle English poetry. He’s reading The Pearl when his phone buzzes.

I think I forgot to say thank you.

Stiles really does have such good manners.

Peter smiles at his phone and decides that, on balance, Christmas isn’t so bad after all.