Chapter 1: Interventions and Endings
Proposing To Strangers
One: Interventions and Endings
Stiles cocks his head to the side a little, looking a bit too much like a curious puppy as he does so. Jackson is standing at the counter of the coffee shop, flirting with the barista. Stiles is sitting at their usual table wondering when they’d gotten so… familiar. They’re not in love, Stiles knows that much.
When - When did they fall out of love? Stiles doesn’t know if they ever really were in love.
Jackson is the worst boyfriend in the world, too. He forgets when they make plans. Sometimes, when he does remember, he blows them off anyway. If it is even remotely inconvenient for him, he’s not there. Also, he’ll flirt with anything that moves, and some things that don’t. He’s selfish and self-absorbed, which combined make for an extreme arrogance that essentially lands him in the douchebag category on a regular basis.
Stiles can be selfish too, but he’s a serial monogamist, and learned about love and relationships at the knees of his parents. The love John and Claudia Stilinski had shared had been the kind of love that fairy tales allude to. Constant, unending, enduring. It’s the kind of love Stiles wants.
Stiles watches Jackson throw his head back and laugh at whatever the pretty barista had said, and wonders when he stopped caring that Jackson flirts with other people around him.
“That’s disgusting,” Lydia remarks, watching Danny layer mustard onto his hot dog. Her nose is wrinkled in disgust, but Danny doesn’t care. He makes a show of taking the first bite and enjoying it. “I hate you,” she tells him, shoving away her salad.
“Why are we here?” Stiles asks. Lydia doesn’t do fast food, he’s half expecting her to burst into flames at any second.
Lydia gives him a look, “We’re staging an intervention.”
Stiles looks from Danny, who is nodding behind his hot dog, to Lydia, who looks like she wants to get out her bottle of hand sanitizer. He sighs and sets down his fork. He gets the feeling that he won’t want his chili cheese fries by the time this is over. “Okay,” Stiles takes a deep breath, “hit me with it.”
“You need to break up with Jackson,” Lydia states baldly.
Danny chokes, “Easy! We were going to go easy!”
Lydia flips her hair back, “Stiles needs blunt, not easy. Stiles, I know you care about him, but can you honestly say you’re in love with him?” Stiles says nothing, Lydia’s smile softens: “Exactly.”
“He’s not exactly good for you either,” Danny says, his tone much gentler. “He’s not even good for himself. How much weight have you lost since things started going badly? How long has it been since you spent the day outside?”
“I’m not a vampire,” Stiles says, skipping over the weight thing, because he knows it’s true. He’s the kind of person who just doesn’t eat when they get all stressed out. He knows it’s a problem.
“You’re pale enough,” Lydia says, “You might as well be.”
“I just -“ Stiles heaves a sigh, “I don’t like to be alone. I’m not good at it.”
“We know, honey,” Lydia pats his hand. “That’s what friends are for.”
“It’s not the same thing,” Stiles tells her.
“No, it’s not. At least think about it?”
“I can do that.”
Lydia nods, and then decides she’s had enough of visiting with the common folk and ushers the two men out of the Whataburger with disdain.
He thinks about it. A lot. He knows he’s not really all that happy, so he takes the time to observe Jackson to see if Jackson is happy… Only Jackson isn’t actually around all that much, and when he is, he’s always focused somewhere other than on Stiles.
The thing is, they’ve always been like oil and water. Too different (or too similar sometimes) to ever be able to make a successful long haul of it. Jackson is such a giant jackass, and Stiles is too sarcastic for most people. Short term is always good with them. Once a week they have a night where things are like they used to be. Laughing and loving and generally happy.
So, once upon a time they were happy. Stiles is hard pressed to remember those days.
When they’re on, they’re great, fabulous even. When they’re off, well... Mt. St. Helen’s springs to mind. These days they always seem to be off, never able to sync up. When a relationship is right, it’s not supposed to be this damn hard. As far as Stiles knows, you’re actually supposed to want to be in the same room as your significant other.
Stiles has been watching Jackson for the past twenty minutes. Jackson looks comfortable, sprawled against Danny’s side like he is, working on a huge bowl of chips. Only, it’s supposed to be Stiles that he’s snuggled up with isn’t it? He’s not supposed to be more comfortable with his best friend than he is with his boyfriend.
Not that Stiles has much space to point fingers. He’d wedged himself between Scott and Isaac so that Jackson wouldn’t have to choose. But, Stiles is supposed to want to be snuggled up to Jackson, isn’t he?
Stiles wiggles away from his friends, hushing them with a quiet excuse that he’s got to pee to keep them from getting worried. He goes to the bathroom, splashes some water on his face, and stares at himself in the mirror. Tells himself that he’s okay, really. Heads back to the living room.
Only he’s not okay. He’s miserable. He toes on his shoes, grabs his keys and stealth maneuvers himself out into the hall. He needs to be alone. He needs a drink. He needs to talk himself into breaking up with Jackson.
Pep talk himself into ripping off the band-aid of badness.
Chapter 2: First Impressions
Proposing to Strangers
Two: First Impressions
Stiles is slumped at the counter in a little hole in the wall bar with far too many motorcycles outside it to make any sane person anywhere near comfortable. Stiles picked it because it's the last place anyone will look for him, much less Jackson.
It's over. It has to be. Stiles can't handle it anymore.
He wants to be happy dammit.
Something gets set down on the counter in front of him and Stiles looks up from the scratches he's been following with his fingertips. The bartender is standing in front of him. He's got a towel over one shoulder and the sage green henley he's wearing is hugging his biceps in a manner that makes Stiles wish he was that shirt.
There's a tupperware container sitting in front of him, steaming, with a fork sticking out of the middle. It smells divine.
"Whoever they are, they're not worth it," the bartender says, tilting his head. Stiles' eyes rivet on the tattoo on the man's neck and he swallows.
The man smirks and nods at the tupperware, "Eat. You'll feel better."
Stiles picks up the fork. He twirls noodles around it and lifts it to his mouth. The first bite is absolute bliss and he moans around his mouthful. He chews and swallows and looks up at the man. He swallows again. The man's eyes have darkened with want, and he's smirking.
"Marry me," Stiles says, totally serious.
"Drop the loser, and I'll think about it," he says.
Stiles pulls out his phone and dials Jackson without looking. When it gets picked up he says: "Jackson, it's over. I hate you, you hate me. We were stupid thinking us trying to be in a relationship was a good idea. I've found the love of my life. He's covered in tattoos and feeds me. Goodbye."
He hangs up.
The bartender leans his elbows on the counter, leaning into Stiles' space, "I'm Peter."
"Stiles," Stiles tells him. "I was serious about the marriage thing."
"I know," Peter nudges the tupperware closer to Stiles. "Finish your food and we'll talk about it."
Stiles happily takes up the fork again. The second bite is just as good as the first. His beer sits forgotten on the bar top as he makes his way through a container of what has to be the best carbonara Stiles has ever tasted. The sauce is thick and flavorful and the little bits of bacon are small, but still big enough to actually taste them. He eats his way through the whole container while watching Peter doing his job behind the bar.
“You should feel special.”
Stiles jolts a little and turns to see a gigantic guy with a shaved head standing across the bar top from him. He’s drying glasses and setting them one by one on the shelf behind the bar. He raises an eyebrow at Stiles with amused hazel eyes.
“I should?” Stiles wonders, then takes another bite.
The guy smirks even wider at that, and nods. “Peter doesn’t just feed random strangers,” he tells him like he’s telling Stiles the sky is blue. “Means he thinks you’re cute.”
Stiles steals another glance to the other end of the bar where Peter is chatting with two big biker dudes. He gets a little distracted by the stretch of that henley across those broad shoulders and forgets he’s talking to someone. “I’m gonna marry him,” Stiles mutters, mostly to himself, but also to the bowl of noodles.
The man across from him snorts a laugh, reminding Stiles that he’s there. Stiles blinks at him as he grins widely at him (it actually makes him look a little terrifying) and says: “I think I like you, Stiles. I’m Ennis, Peter’s business partner and best friend.”
Stiles shakes the offered hand and then scoops up the bowl of noodles and cradles it to his chest so he can keep eating as he turns to really take in the bar for the first time. It’s dimly lit, with low hanging lights shrouded in blue over the tables. The bar dominates the room, and there are two pool tables off to one side where a dance floor would have been if it had been that kind of bar. The sound system is good, and there’s a jukebox in one corner. The wood of the floor, tables, and bar is a nice dark oak. The chairs and stools are upholstered in a butter soft cobalt blue that match the light covers.
Overall it’s a much nicer bar than the outside makes it look. There’s a huge chalkboard stretching the wall above the bar with an ever-changing menu of drinks and prices. There is a specials board that offers typical bar fare. Mostly buffalo wings and chili fries. There’s a neon sign that states the name of the bar proudly: Hale Moon Brew Co. in bright letters.
He likes it.
Peter appears before Stiles again to retrieve the now empty tupperware, “Well?”
Stiles props his chin in his hands and stares at the other man. He knows he’s got stars in his eyes, but he doesn’t care. “That was the best thing I’ve ever eaten in my life,” Stiles tells him seriously. “Marry me.”
Stiles grins, it’s a start.
Peter’s willing to admit that Stiles is pretty. He’s all pale skin and moles and big eyes. He can’t help but feel flattered at getting a second marriage proposal in less than an hour. Stiles doesn’t look like he’s planning to leave anytime soon, but Peter finds that he doesn’t mind so much.
Not when Stiles is doing his very best to convince Peter to give him a chance.
His argument is pretty damn convincing.
They talk while Peter does his job. This bar is his baby and he’s not going to neglect it just at the off chance that he might get laid. The banter they fall into is as easy as breathing and far more entertaining than most. Stiles has giant hearts in his eyes, and Peter finds himself agreeing to a date.
“One date,” Peter tells him as he ushers him out of the now closed bar.
“I can work with that,” Stiles tells him, letting himself be nudged toward his car. “When?”
“Wednesday,” Peter tells him with a grin, because he’s charmed despite himself. “Meet me here.”
“I’ll be here at seven with bells on!” Stiles says, grinning, before he climbs into an old blue jeep that has just as much character as its driver. Peter shakes his head with a grin and goes back inside to finish shutting down the bar.
“You’re so screwed,” Ennis tells him, laughing.
Peter tries to scowl at him, but he can’t help the lascivious smirk that crosses his face. He’s got a type and Stiles hits every single one of his buttons, “Maybe, but I’ll enjoy it.”
“You’re gonna end up married to that kid,” Ennis says, closing the dishwasher with his hip and twisting the knob to turn it on. “And I’m gonna enjoy watching you fall, ‘cause you’re gonna hit every rock on the way down.”
“Gee, thanks,” Peter says sarcastically.
“Just you wait,” Ennis says, still snickering. “You’re gonna have a ring on that finger by Christmas and his name tattooed on your ass. It’ll say Property of: and you won’t even care.”
“What makes you think it’ll be me with the tattoo?” Peter wonders.
“Oh, he’ll have one too,” Ennis laughs, “but it’ll be your idea.”
“You better not start a betting pool on my love life.”
“I hate you.”
“You broke up with Jackson!” Scott exclaims the next day. He’s got a key to Stiles’ apartment and uses it. He flings himself over the back of the couch and lands on Stiles, making him grunt as all the air leaves his lungs at the impact. Stiles flails, Scott gets off him and gets comfortable on the end of the couch not occupied by Stiles Stilinski: Author.
“Dude, really?” Stiles complains, rubbing his chest. Scott just raises his eyebrows expectantly. “Okay, yes, fine. I broke up with Jackson.”
“Finally!” Isaac says, coming out of the kitchen with a bowl in his hand.
“Are you eating my granola?” Stiles demands suspiciously.
“Yes,” Isaac tells him, unashamed. He uses his free hand to shove Scott’s legs off the sofa and plops onto the empty cushion. “You always have the best snacks.”
“That granola isn’t snack food, that’s breakfast,” Stiles says.
“It’s a good thing I haven’t eaten yet today then, isn’t it?” Isaac asks, then shovels a spoonful of Stiles’ expensive farmer’s market granola into his mouth. He really has no shame.
“Stiles,” Scott says, recapturing his best friend’s attention. “Is this going to be like last time? You know, where you break up with him but eventually cave and get back together?”
Stiles sighs heavily. He knows he’s been trapped in a cycle with Jackson since college, but having it said so bluntly doesn’t make him feel like any less of an idiot. “No, this time it’s different.”
“Convince us,” Isaac tells him around his spoon.
“I met someone last night.”
Both Scott and Isaac perk up at this. Stiles suddenly has their undivided attention and he squirms a little in his seat. Blue eyes flash across his mind’s eye, along with several tattoos that had hinted at more hidden under those clothes. He can’t help himself, he smiles dopily and says: “I have a date on Wednesday.”
“Oh my god,” Scott breathes, looking at Stiles with wide eyes. “You’re in love and you only met him once!”
That’s one of Stiles’ problems. He falls easily, too easily sometimes if Jackson is any indication. Stiles can’t help himself though, he’s never had the habit of denying himself what he wants, whether it was good for him or not.
“Tell us everything,” Isaac demands.
Chapter 3: We're Going on a Date Night
Proposing to Strangers
Three: We’re Going on a Date Night
By Wednesday morning everyone Stiles considers a friend knows he’s got a date with someone that’s not Jackson. Even his editor knows. Lydia had swung by the day before and rooted through his closet and picked out his clothes for the date. He knows better than to not wear it. Lydia knows all. It’s frightening.
He arrives at Hale Moon Brew Co. and has to sit in his jeep for a few minutes, gripping the steering wheel tightly with sweaty palms and taking in deep breaths while he tries to slow his speeding heart. It’s just a date. Dinner with a good looking older man that he’s pretty sure he’s going to like. No big deal.
Stiles squares his shoulders and gets out of the jeep. He’s wearing nice jeans in a dark wash and a collared shirt under his sweater vest. It’s nice, but not too dressy. Stiles had figured (if the carbonara had been any indication) that Peter wouldn’t care how fancy the place was so long as the food was amazing. He’d finally decided on a tiny vietnamese place he knows of over by the college. It’s a hole in the wall, but the food is to die for.
He wipes his sweaty palms on his jeans before he pushes into the bar to meet Peter.
The bar is just like he remembers it from two days ago. A deep breath in gives him a lungful of oak, peanuts and beer. Ennis is behind the bar when Stiles makes his way over to it. Ennis shoots him a grin as he boosts himself up onto a stool.
“He’ll be down in a minute,” Ennis tells him. “Deep breath,” Ennis exaggerates his own deep breath as an example and Stiles follows the lead.
“Thanks,” he says weakly. Ennis winks.
The swinging door into the kitchen swings open and a tall black man pulling a dolly shoulders his way into the space behind the bar. The dolly is loaded with cases of beer. When the guy turns, Stiles notices with some surprise that he’s about Stiles’ age, instead of Ennis and Peter’s.
Ennis points a thumb over his shoulder at the guy, “That’s Boyd, he’s one of our three employees. Boyd, this is Stiles, the guy that was brave enough to ask Peter on a date.”
“My condolences,” Boyd grunts as he cuts open the top box and starts stocking bottles of beer behind the bar.
Stiles shrugs with one shoulder, “Nice to meet you.”
Peter chooses that moment to appear at the bottom of the stairs that lead up to the apartment above the bar. He’s wearing jeans and a henley (in blue this time) and a deep brown leather jacket that makes Stiles want to pet it, just to see if it’s as soft as it looks. There’s a thick wallet chain attached to Peter’s hip, and Stiles is pretty sure he’s going to start drooling any second now.
Stiles hops off his stool, shoving his hands into his pockets so that he doesn’t reach for the other man like he wants too. “Hey,” it’s a little breathy, and Stiles can tell that Peter knows he thinks he looks amazing.
Peter smirks at him, “Hey. Glad to see I dressed appropriately.”
Stiles shrugs, scuffing the toe of his shoe on the floor, “I figured you’d care more about the quality of the food than the ambiance.”
“You’d be right,” this time when Peter smiles, it crinkles the corners of his eyes and Stiles’ breath catches. “Where are we going?”
“Pho Nhat, that vietnamese place on Fourth,” Stiles answers.
Peter makes a pleased noise in the back of his throat and Stiles grins helplessly back at him, “I love asian food of all types, it sounds perfect.”
“Awesome!” Stiles says, then gestures at the door. “Shall we?”
Peter precedes Stiles out the door, which Stiles doesn’t mind, the view from the back is as amazing as the view from the front. When they emerge out in front of the bar Peter turns to look at Stiles, “I thought maybe we’d take my bike.”
Stiles stares at him for a second, surprised. Then he shakes it off. Of course Peter has a motorcycle, he owns a biker bar. “I’ve never been on a motorcycle before,” Stiles tells him nervously.
Peter leads him over to the nearest bike. It’s huge up close, all shiny chrome. The fenders and tank are dark enough they look black in the night, but there’s a pattern of flaming skulls dancing across them. The flames are blue and silver.
“Nothing to it,” Peter tells him, straddling the bike. “Just hold onto me, and lean with me on the turns.”
Stiles bites his lip, staring at man and motorcycle with apprehension. Peter smiles softly at him and holds out a helmet that he’d pulled out of one of the saddlebags. He’s a little frightened at riding this beast of a machine, but he’d get to press up against Peter, so he takes the helmet. Once it’s secured he takes the hand Peter offers and lets the older man help him onto the bike. The engine rumbles to life and Stiles flinches and clings to Peter.
Peter laughs, Stiles can feel it where he’s holding onto him. Peter pats his hand in warning, and then the bike is moving and they’re roaring out of the parking lot.
The food is amazing, the company even better. They shut the place down and Peter isn’t surprised about that. Stiles is pretty amazing once he gets past the nerves. That sarcastic, sassy, loud being he’d met the other night was back and then some. Stiles is intelligent, witty and nice to look at. It’s a win win situation.
They share stories. Stiles is a writer apparently. He writes crime novels, is currently working on his fourth book. His first effort (The Shattering) had had moderate success, but the other two (Alley and Buzzkill) had both made it onto the New York Times Bestsellers List. Peter makes him promise to bring him copies of all three books. He likes a good thriller, and it will give him greater insight into Stiles.
Peter owns Hale Moon Brew Co. alongside Ennis. They’d opened the bar nearly seven years ago when they had both become disillusioned with the corporate world. Ennis had left a technology company and Peter had hung up his law degree. They’d been friends since college, and they both had a thing for beer. It had worked out somehow. They had recently started dabbling in brewing their own beer.
Stiles is an only child, though Scott is his step-brother since his dad and Scott’s mom had finally gotten their shit together and gotten married five years ago. He skypes weekly with his dad, and goes home for nearly every holiday.
Peter is the youngest of four and has had very little contact with his family since his mother died nine years ago. His oldest sister, Talia is what Peter calls an iron fisted dictator. It’s her way or the highway, and Peter is an his own way kind of person. He’d visited home three times in the last nine years, and all three visits had ended up in epic screaming matches.
After the restaurant closes they take a walk through the shopping district of downtown and then Peter takes them the long way back to the bar. By the time Peter is backing the bike back into its spot, Stiles has decided that he could get to like this whole motorcycle thing.
When Peter asks him if he wants to come up, Stiles can’t say yes fast enough.
Stiles wakes the next morning warm and pleasantly sore. He stretches and rolls over, snuggling himself closer to the body in bed with him. The sheets are dark green and the quilt on the bed is old and worn, but well taken care of. Peter’s mother had made it for him when he moved out for college. Stiles watches Peter for a second, then closes his eyes and lets himself drift away.
Peter pulls him just a little closer, making him feel precious in a way that Jackson had never managed.
It’s the start of something amazing. Stiles can tell.
Chapter 4: The Black Knights MC
Proposing to Strangers
Four: The Black Knights MC
Stiles blows into the bar with flushed cheeks and a grin on his face a week later. He plops a stack of books on the top of the bar and boosts himself up on the edge so that he can lean over and meet Peter for a kiss. Peter obliges him with a smirk and a huff of laughter.
“Hey Ennis,” Stiles says to the big bald man once he’s back on his feet.
“Stiles,” Ennis says with a nod.
“What’s this?” Peter asks, indicating the pile of books.
“You said you wanted to read my books,” Stiles tells him. He picks up the top book and makes it dance across the top of the bar. “So I brought copies.”
“You write?” Boyd asks, appearing out of nowhere. Stiles shrieks and jumps what feels likes five feet in the air, heart rabbiting. “Sorry,” Boyd says, but Stiles can tell he’s really not sorry.
“You need a bell,” Stiles informs him.
“He has one,” a new voice says. A gorgeous blonde woman boosts herself up onto the stool next to Stiles’. She’s wearing a slash of bright red lipstick, and has a bar through one of her eyebrows. Her arms and torso are covered in tattoos under her tank top. She grins at Stiles with mischief and Stiles already likes her. “I got him a whole bunch for his birthday, but he won’t wear them. I’m Erica.”
Stiles shakes her hand when she offers it, “You should fix that.”
“Oh believe me, I’m working on it.” Boyd huffs, but Erica just smiles coyly and presses a kiss to his cheek, leaving behind a bright red mark. He goes back to bussing the tables, and Erica turns back to Stiles, “Have you ever thought about getting a tattoo? You’ve got the perfect skin for color.”
“I’ve never really thought about it,” Stiles tells her. “If I ever did it would have to be the right thing, you know have some kind of meaning or whatever.”
Erica grins slowly, “Challenge accepted.”
Stiles watches her bounce away with his eyebrows up, then turns back to look at Peter, “What just happened?”
“She’s a tattoo artist. She took it as a challenge to draw you the perfect tattoo,” Peter explains. “Don’t worry, she’s mostly harmless.”
“Mostly harmless?” Stiles wonders, “What about the part that isn’t harmless?”
“That you’ll have to discover for yourself,” Peter says.
“I think I’m frightened,” Stiles replies.
“You should be,” Ennis says grimly, patting Stiles’ shoulder as he passes him.
“So, I’m in love.”
On the other side of the skype connection, John Stilinski sighs, “Really?”
“It’s not Jackson,” Stiles says, exasperated.
“Oh, that’s okay then,” John tells his son. He’s never liked Jackson. “So tell me about him.”
“His name is Peter, he owns a bar and brewery.”
“Beer is good.”
Stiles rolls his eyes, “Yes, beer good. He’s an amazing chef, is covered in tattoos and he’s ruined me for other people.”
John rolls his eyes at the overshare, then latches onto one of the tidbits Stiles just gave him. His eyes narrow, “Are you dating a biker, Stiles?”
“Yes,” Stiles tells him, unashamed. “I’ve even been on his motorcycle.”
“Of course you have.”
“I’ll introduce you to him. I think you’ll like him.”
“I’m sure I will.”
Jean-Paul Williams, Mark Durant and Mo Beedle are the three most regular regulars at Hale Moon Brew Co. The bar has a great location. Close enough to downtown to be considered part of the shopping district, and just off the highway enough to attract travelers. Peter’s bar is a favorite spot of locals and traveling bikers. It sees all types.
JP, Mark and Mo are in a class of their own.
Mark is a very tall, whipcord thin guy who always smells a little bit like pot. Which he should, considering that he owns the only local smoke shop that legally carries and sells medical marijuana. He’s a little goofy and has a thing for puns. He’s a member of the local MC, the Black Knights.
The Knights have a pretty good presence in town. They head up several charities and always participate in town events. They’d gone legitimate nearly fifteen years before and been embraced by the town as a result. Peter and Ennis are both being constantly wooed by the members of the club in an effort to get them to join. The Knights all want discounted beer.
Mo is also a Knight, but that takes a back seat to his real job. He’s a child psychologist that specializes in abuse cases. Stiles is amazed when Mo tells him this as the guys teach him how to play pool properly (because flailing around with the pool cue is doing it wrong). Mo isn’t the tallest guy in the world, but he’s about 85% muscle and 15% tattoos. He even has them on his face.
Kids love him though. He runs the face painting booth at all town events. He’s very proud.
Jean-Paul is gigantic. If Mark is all height, and Mo is all muscle, JP is those two things combined. It’s amazing. He’s a huge beardy fellow with runes tattooed along the sides of his bald head. He’s an art historian and a curator at the museum.
Stiles is a little frightened by how much he likes all these biker dudes.
“Why aren’t you a Knight?” Stiles asks one night as he makes his way through a plate of the best lasagna he’s ever tasted.
Peter thinks about it for a minute, and then shrugs. He’s mostly not joined the Knights just to screw with them. He likes being a contradictory asshole. He helps out with all the charity events despite not being a member. “I’m an asshole,” Peter tells him with a grin.
Stiles laughs, “You’d look good in a kutte.”
Peter wiggles his eyebrows at him and smirks lecherously, “You just want me for my body.”
“Marry me and find out.”
Peter smiles genuinely this time. It’s been a couple of weeks since their first date, and Stiles has two consistencies. He likes to complain that Peter’s gone and ruined him for other lovers, and he proposes at least three times a week. The best part is that Peter knows it’s genuine. Stiles wants to marry him. He looks at him with giant cartoon hearts in his eyes all the time, and Peter knows he’s not much better.
“Maybe,” Peter says, getting a smile out of the younger man.
“I bet if you finally joined, they’d make an exception on prospecting and just patch you in,” Stiles says. He’s been researching motorcycle clubs for the book he’s working on. He’s spent a lot of time interrogating the Knights that frequent the bar. The twins are frightened of him now.
Peter snorts as Mo yells that yes, they would. It’s a bar, there is no privacy. Ennis’ wife, Kali is their accountant, and also an amatuer bookie. Peter is well aware of the bets going around about how long it will take before he caves and says yes to Stiles. There are bets about when they’ll move in together, when Peter will cave and join the Knights. There are bets for everything. Kali doesn’t even care that they know.
“Maybe,” Peter says again, knowing that that’s basically a delayed ‘yes’.
Erica is the kind of intense that makes you wonder periodically if she’s going to take off one of her boots and beat you to death with the pointy, pointy heel. She’s made entirely of pixie dust and sardonic humor. Naturally, Stiles loves her.
The first time she swans into the bar, spots Stiles, and drags him out of it, he is suitably frightened. She drags him out for pizza at this little hole in the wall place owned by an Italian couple that immigrated from Tuscany by way of Chicago. It’s amazing.
Stiles’ fear lessens over the hour they spend talking over melty cheese and high quality toppings.
“Seriously though,” Erica says around a mouthful of pizza crust, “have you ever thought about getting a tattoo? You’ve got perfect skin for color.”
“Thought about it? Yes. Done it? No,” Stiles leans forward a little like he’s imparting a great secret. “I’m a wuss when it comes to pain.”
Erica shrugs, “So make Peter hold your hand.” Her voice is laced with an extra helping of ‘duh’ just for him.
Stiles laughs, “Maybe I will.”
“If I design you the perfect tattoo will you get it?”
Stiles thinks about it, giving it the due thought the idea deserves. Would he? He’s always had a passing fancy to get a tattoo. “Yes, I think I will. It has to be the perfect thing though.”
“I’ll find it, don’t you worry,” Erica says. “Where would you get it?”
“Arm,” Stiles tells her instantly. Then shows off his shoulder and upper arm by pulling up the sleeve of his shirt to show her.
The first time that Peter stays over at Stiles’ he meets Scott. Best friend and step brother Scott whom he has heard so much about. Stiles is still asleep, sprawled over his sheets and sleep warm. Peter edges out from under him and presses a kiss to a naked shoulder before he pulls on his jeans and heads for the kitchen to start breakfast.
Scott is sitting at the counter playing candy crush on his phone. He watches Peter investigate Stiles’ kitchen with narrowed, judgemental eyes. Peter’s not wearing a shirt, so his tattoos are on full display. He’s got full sleeves and a full back piece. He’s got a verse of Emily Dickinson poetry that starts just below his right pec and goes down his ribs.
He’s not exactly the boy next door.
“You must be Scott,” Peter finally says, tone mild.
“You must be the biker,” Scott returns.
Peter sets a skillet on the stove and starts going through the fridge for omelette ingredients. “Somehow I get the feeling you don’t like me,” he wonders.
“You’re a biker,” Scott emphasizes.
Peter sets his bounty on the cutting board and gives Scott a very deadpan look, “I own a bar. I’m not the devil’s right hand.”
If anything Scott’s scowl gets deeper, “You’re going to hurt him.”
“No I’m not,” Peter feels insulted, but doesn’t let it show.
“Yes, you are. He’s in love with you and you’re just stringing him along for a good time,” Scott says.
Peter stops chopping vegetables and sets down the knife in a deceptively calm manner. He meets Scott’s gaze, eyes blazing, “I love him, I’m not going to hurt him.”
Scott studies him for a minute, then sits back with a huff. They both know he’s not going to try and get between Stiles and Peter. He’s too invested in Stiles’ happiness to be the cause of misery. “I still don’t like you.”
“That’s fine,” Peter replies, then: “Would you like an omelette?”
“Yes, thank you.”
Chapter 5: Encounters With Drunk People
Proposing to Strangers
Five: Encounters With Drunk People
“Dad, this is Peter.”
John and Peter study each other over the skype connection. Peter has a towel draped over his shoulder and he’s working on making them dinner. Stiles had turned his laptop around so that they could see each other. John is still in his uniform, having just got off shift.
“It’s nice to meet you, sir,” Peter says politely.
“Likewise, son,” John says. Peter may be older than Stiles, but John is still nearly twice Peter’s age. “I’ve heard a lot about you.”
“Likewise,” Peter says, smirking a little, and John laughs.
The conversation goes well. John is curious about what Peter’s cooking, and eventually Peter coaches John through the making of a simple stir fry over the connection. Stiles is beaming at how well his dad and Peter are getting along. John asks about the bar (and the beer) and Peter offers to send him a case for him to try. John gladly accepts the offer. They sign off just as Melissa is getting home, surprised at the home cooked meal.
Stiles sinks into Peter’s arms after they finish their own meal with a happy sigh, “I love you.”
Peter hums and presses a kiss to the top of Stiles’ head, “I love you, too.”
After that Peter and John start to swap recipes. Stiles is all for it because John is eating much healthier than he was. Melissa is all for it because she gets to eat the results. She and Stiles agree that having a man around that cooks is a wonderful thing.
“Dad,” Stiles tells John over skype on a Sunday in October a few weeks later, just after John finishes telling them all about the teriyaki pork chops with grilled pineapple he made for Melissa the other day. “I’m gonna marry him.”
“I know you are, kid,” John tell him and laughs when Peter makes wet kissing noises and pinches Stiles’ cheek.
Stiles slaps Peter away from himself, laughing and says goodbye and then drags the biker he’s dating to bed when Peter gives him a scorching look and tells him to convince him.
A few nights later Stiles is sitting at the bar with his laptop open because he’s got a deadline coming up and he’s been putting things off to be with a sexy biker. He’s twirling a straw between his fingers when he looks up at Ennis and asks, “Would it be weird if I quit writing crime novels and tried my hand at steamy Harlequin style romance?”
Ennis doesn’t even stop drying the glasses that just came out of the dishwasher when he gives Stiles a very deadpan look and says, “Yes, but we’d read it anyway.”
Stiles grins. There is at least one copy of all three of his books in the bar and all of the regulars are reading them. “Thanks dude.”
Ennis shrugs a shoulder as Jean-Paul drops a large, tattered copy of Stiles’ first book on the bar with a grumpy look on his face. He looks at Stiles and enunciates clearly (so that his voice carries), “I hate you.”
“No you don’t,” several voices chorus, Stiles included.
Stiles grins at the art historian and glances down at The Shattering, “It was the ending wasn’t it?”
“Like I said,” Jean-Paul says, “I hate you.”
The big man stalks off, and two minutes later has settled into the corner with Alley. Stiles feels a little proud of himself. Ennis catches his eye and grins and Stiles laughs. And then the Imperial March cuts through the bar and Stiles sighs. He pulls out his phone, “Yes Lydia?”
“Jackson is very drunk,” Lydia’s voice tells him, matter of factly. “He’s decided he wants to win you back.”
“I’m not at home,” Stiles tells her with a frown, because that’s a horrible idea. He’s getting married to a biker with awesome blue eyes.
“You know that, and I know that,” Lydia says. “But he’s Jackson. Danny is with him, Allison and I are on our way. You’re at Hale’s?”
Okay, so maybe Stiles is predictable, but he likes it here. “Yes ma’am,” he says, and then hangs up.
“What’s up?” Ennis asks because the look on Stiles’ face says he might need to smash something.
“My ex is drunk and on his way.”
Ennis’ eyebrow twitches minutely, “The douche canoe?”
Ennis doesn’t get to say anything else because the door crashes open and Jackson marches through it. Danny follows with a pinched, exasperated look on his face. He spots Stiles first and Stiles just shakes his head. Danny heaves a put upon sigh.
What none of them expect is for Erica to fairy in behind Jackson and nearly run him over in her excitement. “Stiles!” she screams, waving a folder in the air. “I did it! I have the perfect art for you!”
Stiles laughs, dodges Erica and watches in amusement as she bounces off of Boyd two seats down. Boyd steadies his girlfriend and she flips herself around and shoves the folder at Stiles. He opens it curiously. It’s a half sleeve by the look of it. A night forest scene with a huge black wolf with Peter’s blue eyes and a man in a red hoodie in the middle.
He loves it.
“I think you have, Erica,” he tells her. She whoops her victory, throwing her arms around Boyd to kiss him. “Now you just have to get Peter to sign off on it.”
“You need your boyfriend to approve your ink?” Jackson slurs, slumping against the bar. “I’d never micromanage you like that, Stiles.”
Stiles rolls his eyes hard enough to make his eyeballs ache faintly, “Yes, because I’m a wimp and he’s going to have to hold my hand the whole time.”
“You don’t need to change yourself to make me happy, Stiles,” Jackson says. Like Stiles is getting a tattoo to make Peter happy.
“Is he for real?” Erica asks.
“He is very drunk,” Danny says with a shrug, boosting himself up onto the stool next to Stiles. He nudges The Shattering away from himself grimly. “What is this doing here? I’m still traumatized Stiles.”
“See!” JP crows from the other side of the room. “See! I told you you suck, Stiles. I’m not the only one.”
“It’s not my fault you guys can’t handle a trick ending,” Stiles defends. Then he leans over and whispers, “JP is single and an art historian.”
Danny looks across the room at the giant man in question, “His beard is long enough to braid, Stiles.”
“Yes,” Stiles says with a nod. “He’s also got a tongue piercing.”
“Are we trying to sell your friend JP?” Erica asks, boosting herself up between Danny and Boyd. Stiles says ‘yes’ at the same time that Danny says ‘no’ and Erica grins and gives Danny very serious eyes, “Go say hi, he’ll rock your world.”
Jackson makes a noise. It’s a long whining noise that he denies that he makes, but does when he’s feeling ignored. Stiles turns back to him as Danny eyes JP. Jackson has slumped over the bar and is giving Stiles big puppy eyes. They are surprisingly effective, even with his cheekbones.
“Really?” Stiles demands.
“Looooove me, Stiles,” Jackson whines.
“Really?” Ennis asks because he can’t not.
The rear door opens and Peter rolls a dolly laden with beer into the main room. His eyebrows go up and he steers the beer around the counter so that he can stock it. He opens the top box of one of his own microbrews and pops the top off and hands it to Jackson, “It’ll be okay pal.”
“No it won’t,” Jackson says, and guzzles half the beer. He lets loose an impressive belch just as Lydia swans into the bar in her impeccable wardrobe and very high heels, Allison close behind her. “Stiles won’t take me back. He’s dating some loser biker now… This is really good beer.”
“Thank you,” Peter tells him, irony lacing his voice.
“I hate to interrupt your cloud of misery,” Lydia says, voice dry as the sahara. “But that’s the biker that stole Stiles away from you.”
Jackson peers across the bar at Peter and then cusses impressively. “Why?” he whines. “Why did he have to be good looking.”
Peter leans forward and says vindictively, “I’m also so good in bed Stiles keeps proposing.”
“You’re going to say yes,” Stiles says instantly.
“Yes, I am,” Peter says with the air of an old argument. “But not today.”
Jackson makes that pitiful sound again, and Allison pats him on the shoulder, “Come on, let’s get you home. We can eat our weight in thai food.”
Ennis hauls a case of the house brew onto the bar and says: “On the house.”
“Great,” Lydia says and leads Allison and Jackson out of the bar. Ennis follows without complaint, case of beer on his shoulder. Stiles turns to look at Peter who is gazing back at him.
Peter looks at him for a long moment and then says, “I’ll think about it.”
“You do that,” Stiles replies. Then asks: “So, tell me, since you love to cook so much, why isn’t the menu more extensive?”
“My kitchen is tiny. We remodeled to make room for the brewery.”
Chapter 6: Being Okay With Being Apart
Proposing to Strangers
Six: Being Okay With Being Apart
Lydia is a terrifying, terrifying woman. Now that she’s more or less met Peter, she expects him. He’s required to come to dinner whenever she tells him to. She expects him to show up at the Halloween bash she’s throwing, and she expects him to like it. She holds him to the same standard as she does Stiles, who has been conditioned over many years to jump whenever she tells him too.
Peter takes delight in vexing her and being contradictory.
Peter goes to the Halloween bash, simply because Thanksgiving at Hale Moon Brew Co. is actually a pretty big deal, so he figures one out of two. Stiles is in charge of costumes, so he dresses them as Assassin’s Creed characters (and then promptly regrets it because Peter can be stealthy when he wants, dammit). Lydia looks them over when they arrive with beer with an eyebrow raised, and then nods approvingly.
“So glad to meet your expectations,” Peter tells her sarcastically. He’s starting to regret providing the beer for this thing at half price.
“What, no keg?” Lydia retorts.
“I thought this was supposed to be a classy party,” Peter fires back, and then shoulders past her to deliver the cases of beer to the kitchen.
“Why can’t you be nice?” Stiles demands once Peter is out of earshot.
“He’s not good enough,” Lydia says, latching onto his elbow and dragging him into the next room, where Allison is hanging spiderwebs from the ceiling fan. “I don’t see what you see in him, Stiles. He’s what? Fifteen years older than you.”
“Oh, you’re one to talk about dating older guys,” Stiles says caustically.
“Lydia,” Allison says, “we talked about this. Leave Stiles and Peter alone.”
Lydia scowls up at Allison, “How can no one else see how wrong that guy is?!”
“You’re not,” Stiles says, voice sober. He knows what most of his friends think of Peter. He doesn’t like it, but he can’t change their minds if they won’t get to know him. “Scott thinks he’s going to lose it and kill us all. Isaac thinks he’s going to wake up one day tied up in Peter’s basement. But you know what? They’re willing to set that aside because I’m happy, Lydia.”
Stiles cuts her off, “No. No, you don’t get to do that. I’m happy, Lyd. Like, incandescently happy. I love Peter, and he loves me and that’s all there is to it.”
Stiles leaves the room, tracks down his biker and drags him from the house. Peter follows quietly, he’d known this was coming for a while. Peter isn’t exactly the type you take home to mom. He’s okay with that. Stiles, Stiles wants him though. Stiles thinks that Peter is the best thing since the invention of the wheel. Stiles not only introduced him to his Sheriff father, but also told said father he was going to marry Peter.
Peter’s holding on for as long as he possibly can.
Stiles climbs onto the back of Peter’s dyna and tells him to ‘just drive’, and they spend Halloween driving along the mountain highways under the waxing moon.
“Are you happy?”
“What?” Stiles spins around in surprise. Jackson just raises his eyebrows at him in response. It takes a minute to get over the fact that Jackson is standing there, sober like nothing had happened just before Halloween.
“Are you happy?” Jackson asks again after Stiles takes too long to answer.
“Yes,” Stiles says, then: “Are you?”
Jackson shrugs one shoulder, “Not really.”
“I didn’t -”
“It’s not because we broke up,” Jackson cuts him off. “I was already miserable before we got together. You just made me less miserable for a while.”
“That’s actually really sad, Jacks.”
“Yeah, probably,” Jackson agrees. “Danny thinks I need to see someone, work through my issues.”
“I know a good psychologist?” Stiles half asks, half offers. Mo may specialize in kids, but he does take on the occasional adult patient. “Because you should be happy too, Jackson.”
“I think I know that, but most of me doesn’t believe it.” Jackson looks away from Stiles, frowning in thought. “Can we still be friends?”
Stiles has a sudden moment of clarity. This is a side of Jackson that Stiles has never seen. A piece of him that Jackson had guarded from him even after over six months of dating. This is why Danny has stuck by him since kindergarten. This is the Jackson that Lydia kept going to back to.
“We’re always going to be friends,” Stiles tells him. It’s the truth too, and Jackson can tell, if his surprise is anything to go by. “I expect us to be fighting about stupid shit when we’re old and crotchety. I plan to run you over with my walker.”
Jackson laughs, smiles, and Stiles knows that they’re going to be okay. They weren’t meant to be a couple (just a couple of idiots), but they’ll be okay. Stiles takes a chance and offers him Mo’s card. Jackson takes it with a genuine thanks, and they part ways.
Stiles doesn’t know what Danny told him, but apparently it worked.
“So, I may have given your card to my ex.”
“The douchey drunk?” Mo asks, taking away Stiles’ pool cue. At this point he’s wondering why they keep trying to teach him how to play pool. “No, you’re a menace, get away.”
Stiles pouts for all of five seconds. “Yeah, the drunk. Danny took him off to wherever it is they go, and Jackson actually listened to him. He’s got issues.”
“His issues have issues,” JP remarks, lining up his next shot. He’s been on several dates with Danny since that memorable night, so he knows more about Stiles’ wayward ex than the rest of them. He’s Danny’s best friend after all. “Why were you even with that guy?”
“He grows on you,” Stiles says. “Also, he’s pretty.”
“He has to be that pretty,” JP snarks, “It’s the only thing preventing him from being murdered.”
They all know it’s inappropriate, but they laugh anyway. Mark hip-checks JP out of the way with a scowl. He’s losing. Again.
“Did you say something so I’ll take him on as a client?” Mo wonders, gathering up their beer bottles to add to the pyramid they’re constructing on one of the tables.
“Yes, please, help him fix himself,” Stiles says, then repositions himself to block the tower from Ennis’ view. Ennis eyeballs him suspiciously, and Stiles smiles at him winningly. Ennis just shakes his head at him, amused despite himself.
“One of these days,” Mark says conversationally, “He’s going to get sick of you and he won’t let you get away with this stuff anymore.”
“You’ll just have to find another scapegoat for your antics,” Stiles replies with a shrug.
Mark slings his arm around Stiles’ shoulder, “You’re already house-trained. We’re keeping you.”
“Oh boy,” Stiles says, putting a ‘gee-whiz-mister’ tone into his voice, “my dream has come true!”
Chapter 7: Tattoos
Proposing to Strangers
Erica’s shop is called Sarcasm Ink and Stiles loves that. It fits her perfectly. She’s opened the shop early, just for him. His first impression of the space is classic. It’s open plan, with a side room for piercing. There’s a display case at the counter with gear for the shop, and one by the window with jewelry in it. The walls are decorated with framed artwork, showcasing the abilities of the artists who work there.
There are four tattoo stations, and Erica is setting up at the second to last one when Stiles and Peter appear. She grins at them and bounces over to hug Stiles, “Hey handsome!”
Stiles hugs her back, because he loves Erica. He lifts her off her feet just enough to get a giggle out of her, then sets her back down. “Hey pretty lady,” Stiles tells her. “I am here to pop my cherry.”
Erica laughs and trades a fistbump with Peter, then turns to lead them over to her station. “You going to get anything Peter?” she asks.
Peter looks like he’s thinking about it. Stiles unbuttons his flannel shirt and drapes it over the back of the rolling chair Erica has places next to the station so that Peter can hold Stiles’ hand. He wore a tank top today so that he wouldn’t have to be completely bare chested for the whole day. Erica pulls the drawing out of a folder along with a stencil.
“I had to make it a little bigger,” she explains when Stiles notices the size discrepancy between the stencil and the original drawing.
“How much bigger?”
“Not much, just a few centimeters,” she says. She takes his arm and places one hand at the top of his shoulder and the other in the crook of his elbow, “This is about how big it’s going to be now.”
“That’s big,” Stiles says.
Peter flops into the empty chair with a jingle of his wallet chain, a big book of art in his hands. “It’s about six to eight hours,” Peter remarks, flipping open the book. “Don’t worry, you can do it in sessions if you want. Erica’s awesome like that.”
“I totes am,” Erica replies. “How about this, the goal for today will be to lay down the outline and as much of the black as we can. Depending on how you feel, we can do a second session or keep going.”
Stiles thinks about it, then looks over at Peter, who huffs a chuckle and says: “Yes, Stiles. I will hold your hand the whole time.”
“Okay,” Stiles says, “let’s do this.”
Erica cheers and pulls out what she needs to shave Stiles’ arm and lay down the stencil.
“Is Finstock in today?” Peter asks.
“Not til one,” Erica says. “Why? You want lettering?”
Bobby Finstock is one of Sarcasm Ink’s artists. He’s been tattooing more than twenty years and was Erica’s master when she started out. They own the shop together. Erica’s known for her colorwork and watercolor technique. Finstock is known for black and gray, portraits and lettering.
“Yeah,” Peter says. He looks up at her, “Just a small piece. He got time?”
Erica shrugs, smoothing the stencil down on Stiles’ arm, then peels it back and screams: “LIAM!” at the top of her lungs.
There’s a crash from the back room and a puppy appears in the doorway. He’s not an actual puppy, but he’s got big blue eyes and an eager expression. Liam is Erica’s apprentice and looks about twelve. “Yeah?”
“Check Bobby’s schedule, see if he’s got an hour free for Peter here.”
Peter sets the art book aside and lets Stiles take his hand with the arm not being tattooed as Erica fires up her machine. Stiles squeezes and nods at Erica, biting his lip. Erica begins.
Being tattooed doesn’t seem so bad at first. It’s a bit like being repeatedly scratched by a cat in the same place for a very long time. It helps that Stiles didn’t pick one of the more sensitive places on the body for his first piece. He manages to power through the first few hours pretty well, stopping once for a bathroom break and once because Peter wants him to drink some orange juice.
It’s not until Erica starts working on filling in the spaces between the lines that it really starts to hurt. The first time he gets the sensation of the scratching coupled with the stabbing of already abused skin being pulled at he cusses loudly, making Peter and Erica laugh.
This is what Finstock finds when he gets in after lunch.
“What the hell is going on?” Bobby demands. “Is he dying?” he asks suspiciously, eyes narrowing. “Dead people aren’t on our insurance, cupcake!”
Erica flips him off and Peter flashes a grin. “It’s his first tattoo,” Peter explains.
“Figures,” Bobby says with a sigh. He checks his schedule, sees that Peter’s been wedged into the forty minutes before his first appointment comes in and looks over at him with raised eyebrows. “What do you want?”
Peter digs a crumpled up piece of paper out of his pocket and hands it over. Bobby reads it and grins, wiggling his eyebrows. “Matching spot?”
Bobby did the calligraphy for the Dickinson poem on Peter’s ribs. This new piece will sit on the opposite side under Peter’s left pec. “Gimmie fifteen to set up,” Bobby says. “You stuck where you are?”
“Looks like,” Peter says, laughing as Stiles tells him that if he lets go he’s sleeping on the couch.
Bobby nods and sets up accordingly. Peter strips out of his shirt and Bobby lays the stencil down and fires up his machine, knocking elbows with Erica.
Stiles is amazed. Twofold, because he powered through the whole thing, and because: “Erica, this is amazing!”
It really is. His shoulder isn’t just his shoulder anymore. It’s a work of art. He’s amazed and so damn happy. The forest is deep and dark and the wolf looks like it could jump off his arm. The guy in the red hoodie looks like Stiles, only evil, maybe a little posessed with glowing whiskey eyes. Stiles loves it.
Erica grins at him from where she’s cleaning up, “Why thank you. Now get over here so I can bandage you up.”
Stiles shuffles over, still staring down at his new ink. Erica is wearing a pleased grin as she wraps up his arm and gives him his instructions. Peter appears at Stiles’ elbow and as soon as Stiles has both arms back, he pulls up Peter’s shirt to look at the quote now inked on his chest.
“The difference between men and monsters is what they choose to do with the evil within them.”
It’s the very last line of The Shattering. Peter got a line from one of Stiles’ books tattooed on his chest. He feels precious, like Peter just declared his love for the whole world to see. Maybe he did.
Stiles looks up at Peter, “Marry me.”
Peter reaches up and cups Stiles’ face in one had, then dips in to kiss him gently, “Yeah, okay.”
Chapter 8: Peter Getting Married
Proposing to Strangers
Eight: Peter Getting Married
Stiles isn’t sure how they manage to keep it quiet. Maybe it’s something to do with how busy everyone is with Thanksgiving approaching so fast. Peter and Ennis host a Black Knights sponsored dinner for the needy every year. It involves a lot more preparation than Stiles had originally thought it would. Stiles sends his draft off to Deucalion just in time to be drafted into helping.
So the fact that Peter said yes and that they’re officially engaged kind of falls by the wayside.
Stiles tells his dad, but he kind of forgets to tell anyone else. He doesn’t do it on purpose, but between his deadline, the tattoo healing and getting ready for thanksgiving dinner, he just… doesn’t.
“Never again,” Stiles says fervently, plopping a big box of Mrs. Cubbison’s Stuffing Mix on the bar counter. “Never, ever again.”
Peter smirks as Mo laughs at him. Mo is setting up the end of the bar with paper plates, cutlery and napkins. All stuff that Stiles and Ennis had just bought at Costco. “You volunteered,” Mo tells him.
“And now I know why no one else did,” Stiles says, then turns to Peter, betrayed; “Why didn’t you tell me?”
Peter all out grins at this, “You have to learn these things on your own.”
“I take it back, I don’t want to marry you anymore,” Stiles says, pouting. Ennis is an absolute menace when it comes to bulk shopping. Following the big brewmaster around Costco had been like witnessing a train wreck. Fascinating and horrible at the same time.
“Too late, I already accepted.”
“You what?!” Mo yelps, tipping the big box of plastic spoons off the bar. Spoons scatter across the floor, but Mo barely notices. “You said yes?” he demands. “When?”
“Um,” Stiles says intelligently.
“PETER SAID YES TO THE MARRIAGE THING!” Mo screams, still staring at them wide-eyed.
The swinging door to the kitchen crashes open, admitting Jean-Paul, Mark and Danny. Kali enters the bar from the front door, carrying a grocery bag at the same time as the men all start to jabber at Stiles and Peter. Danny has scooped Stiles up and is bouncing. JP slaps Peter on the back, hard, making him stagger.
“What is going on?” Kali demands as Ennis shoulders himself into the bar, carrying a cooler full of turkeys.
“Peter said yes!” Mo exclaims again, this time quieter.
Kali looks from Stiles to Peter and back again. She raises one elegantly sculpted eyebrow at Stiles and demands: “When?”
“The day I got my tattoo,” Stiles says in a small voice. Kali is frightening, and Stiles has a healthy survival instinct.
“That was two weeks ago,” Kali says. Stiles knows this, he was there, and also, his tattoo has gotten to the itchy stage of healing.
“Who won?” Danny asks suddenly. He’d gotten in on the bet as soon as he’d heard about it. He’d been hanging around the bar a lot more since Jackson’s drunken escapade had gotten him introduced to JP.
Kali thinks about it for a second, then scowls, “Boyd.”
Everybody present groans in disappointment.
"Why didn’t you tell me?” Scott is genuinely hurt that Stiles didn’t tell him he was officially engaged.
Stiles frowns at him over his slice of pie, “I. Honestly, I forgot. I told Dad, and then Deucalion started hounding me for the final chapters of Foxfire, and I just forgot. I’m sorry.”
Scott stares at him for a minute, then decides to let it go and hugs him. Stiles hugs back gratefully. Isaac appears with a bowl and elbows his way into the hug. He’s eating Stiles’ granola. Again.
“I guess I have to like him now, huh?” Scott says, leaning into Stiles.
“That would probably be for the best, yes,” Stiles says. “You know, since he’s gonna be your brother-in-law and all.”
Scott wrinkles up his nose. “You know,” he says, thinking; “I always thought it would be me who got married first.”
“You thought you were going to marry Allison,” Stiles reminds him.
“True,” Scott says.
“Don’t knock it,” Isaac says. “Allison is an awesome wife.”
“You have to say that because you’re married to her,” Scott tells him. Isaac shrugs because it’s true.
“I know,” Stiles says. “Erica has this cute friend, Kira - “
“Erica’s the tattoo artist, right?”
“Is this friend a tattoo artist too?”
There’s a long pause as the veterinarian thinks about it. Then: “She’s cute?”
“She’s adorable,” Stiles says, “in every sense of the word. I’ll introduce you.”
Stiles is sitting at the bar on Thanksgiving Day with his hands propped up on his chin, watching Scott and Kira fumble their way through a conversation. Peter is leaning against the bar next to him, watching in fascination.
“I have a toothache,” Peter complains. “We’re never that cutesy are we?”
“No,” Stiles says, leaning his shoulder against Peter’s. “We’re too sarcastic to be considered cutesy.”
“Good,” Peter says decisively. He’s wearing his brand new Black Knights kutte and smells strongly of new leather. Stiles wraps his arms around Peter, tucking his hands under the kutte at the front, and sets his chin on Peter’s shoulder. Peter hums and leans back into him.
“We’re plenty cute,” Stiles says. “We’re just not sugary.”
Both Scott and Kira are smiling at each other stupidly, blushing. Scott hasn’t even noticed that he’s knocked over his can of soda and it’s trickling off the table to puddle on the floor.
“Let’s keep it that way,” Peter says.
“Does this mean you boys are coming home for Hanukkah?” John asks a few nights later after Stiles and Peter finish telling him that everyone knows that they’re officially engaged now.
“I’m not Jewish,” Peter says stupidly, a little blindsided.
Both Stiles and John look at him with the same expression on their faces. It screams that they both think he’s a little bit of an idiot, but they find him cute, so they’ll let it slide. It’s a little unnerving.
“You’re part of the family,” John says. “Besides, Melissa and Scott aren’t Jewish. We celebrate Hanukkah and Christmas in the Stilinski house.”
Stiles pats Peter’s hand, “I’ve got babcia’s menorah for here.” He turns to his father, “We probably won’t make it down for Hanukkah, Dad.”
John frowns at them through the computer screen, “Christmas?”
Stiles looks over at Peter. Peter knows this one is on him, but he’s a little reluctant. It has nothing to do with being nervous to meet John in person, and everything to with the fact that Stiles and Peter are both from Beacon Hills. Which means that if Peter goes to Beacon Hills he’ll have to visit his own family, and that’s the worst idea ever.
“We’ll be there,” Peter tells John, making Stiles beam at him.
Once they’ve signed off skype and are snuggled up under a quilt on Peter’s couch, Stiles says: “You don’t have to see them.”
Peter heaves a heavy sigh, “It’ll be worse if I don’t.”
Stiles frowns to himself, and snuggles a little closer. He knows how well Peter gets on with his siblings. Meaning not at all. “I’ll be with you,” Stiles tells him.
Peter knows, and he’s grateful. “I’m going to have to call Talia, let her know I’ll be in town,” Peter says, “That’ll be fun.” The sarcasm is palpable in that statement.
Stiles sits up and turns to give Peter a filthy kiss. “C’mon,” he says, getting up and hauling Peter up after him. “Let’s go have hot sex like the heathens we are.”
Peter can’t help it, he laughs.
Chapter 9: How to Shock Your Sister in 10 Easy Words
Proposing to Strangers
Nine: How to Shock Your Sister in 10 Easy Words
Talking with any of his siblings is like walking in a minefield. You never know when they’re gonna explode, but you know they’re there. Talking with Talia on the phone is like dancing in said minefield. Peter is past caring where he places his feet because it’s going to explode no matter what. It’s inevitable.
Peter was always the black sheep of the family. Vindictive and a little manipulative, Peter didn’t do anything unless he knew it would benefit him in some way. Even when he was younger he became very intimate with the concept of give and take very quickly. He had Talia to thank for that. She of course, doesn’t know this little tidbit, and even if she did, she would deny it to high heaven. Talia is the dictionary definition of a type A personality. You did what she said or there were consequences.
Peter has always been the forge your own path type.
He’d taken the first out he could. He was the baby of the family, and Mama’s little boy, but the second he got accepted to Columbia he’d been gone. He chose a respectable career path, not because he liked the law, but because he thought being a respectable member of society would get Talia off his back.
That had gone down the drain the second she spied his first tattoo. Now that had been a fight of epic proportions.
If he couldn’t make his family happy, then he was going to make himself happy. His mother just wanted him to be happy, so she didn’t care either way. His dad had gone with him to buy his first motorcycle. It was just his siblings that seemed to have a problem with him.
He lived with their disappointment in his life choices the way he did with other things, he just never showed up. They couldn’t fight if he never called. They could never give him those looks if he never visited more than once or twice a decade.
It worked for them.
When dad had died ten years ago, Tyler had started a fight during the funeral. Tyler was the one that was the antithesis of Peter. He was a teacher, volunteered in his spare time, and hated anything that might be construed as a misallocation of the truth. For Tyler, becoming a lawyer had been the worst thing Peter could have chosen to do with his life.
It didn’t matter that Peter had been in patent law.
Also, apparently, since it didn’t benefit them in order to help sort everything out from Dad’s passing, Tyler was even more pissed off about it.
The fight had been epic, punches had been thrown. Tyler blamed Peter for their Dad’s death, because without Peter, Robert Hale would never have bought that death trap motorcycle. Peter had defended himself. Robert had taught Peter how to ride a bike. Robert had learned in Vietnam.
Miriam was a peacemaker, and she had almost had the situation diffused, and then Talia had butted in with her my way or the highway ultimatum. Which rubbed both Peter and Tyler the wrong way.
Peter hadn’t spoken to Tyler again, and had refused to see Talia when he’d visited their mother over the course of the next year. It had been a stressful year. Emily’s health had steadily declined after the death of her husband. Peter left his practice in order to spend as much time with her as possible.
She joined her husband just shy of a year after his passing.
Peter hadn’t been home in the nine years since, save once or twice.
He’d shown up on Ennis’ doorstep with a harebrained idea to open their own bar, and the rest was history.
Peter clears his throat, “Talia please.”
“Uncle Peter?” it’s Jonah’s voice. Talia’s youngest. If Peter’s remembering correctly, Jonah started high school this year.
“Yes, Jonah, it’s Peter.”
“Wow,” Jonah says, amazed. Peter doesn’t blame him. He’s the uncle no one ever sees or hears from. He’s actually quite surprised that Jonah even recognizes his voice. “Hold on, I’ll get Mom.”
Peter waits, his gut clenching up. He begins drumming his fingers across the counter and Stiles looks up from where he’s seated on the couch. He’d offered to vanish for the phone call, but the truth was, Peter wasn’t sure if he’d be able to go through with it if he was alone. Stiles raises an eyebrow at him, and Peter shakes his head minutely. He doesn’t need his hand held. Not yet.
“Hello, Talia,” Peter drawls. He can’t help it, he knows that tone gets Talia’s back up, but he embraced his vindictive side a long time ago and now it’s second nature.
When Talia speaks next, her voice is tight with tension, “How are you, Peter?”
“I’m doing very well, thank you for asking,” Peter tells her. His voice has gone smooth, and Stiles is staring at him over the back of the couch. Stiles hasn’t encountered Peter’s I’m-an-evil-shit persona yet, so the tone is one he hasn’t heard before. He puts his phone on speaker for Stiles’ benefit. Stiles takes that as his invitation to climb over the back of the couch and join him at the counter.
“If you’re calling because you need money, Peter, I won’t help you.” Talia’s voice is icy. She’s in charge of the Hale Family Trust. Peter hasn’t touched his share of it except for the money for the downpayment on the bar, but she still resents that he took it in the first place.
“The bar is doing very well, thanks for asking,” Peter says. He changes his tone to a lighter one, but the irony underneath can’t be erased.
Talia was the one to skip the pleasantries, so Peter doesn’t feel bad for not asking after her and her family. Whatever, three of her five kids are grown and gone. Talia’s voice is less suspicious than it was, but Peter never calls so he can’t blame her for being wary. “What is it?” she asks, “It’s not time for our yearly holiday phone call. Is something wrong?”
Talia typically calls once a year, a couple of weeks before Christmas, trying to get him to come home to visit. If nothing else, Talia is a family oriented woman. The holidays make her nostalgic for the happier times of their childhood.
Peter rolls his eyes and Stiles slips his arms around him. He relaxes, some of the tension leaking from his body. He’s not doing this alone, he needs to remember that. “Well, I thought I’d let you know I would be in Beacon Hills for Christmas this year.”
“You’re coming home?” Talia is incredulous. “Wait, what do you mean by ‘in Beacon Hills’?”
Ah, she caught that. Good. “Yes, I’ll be spending the holiday with my fiance’s family.”
There’s a long silence coming down the phone line. It’s long enough that Peter starts to wonder if the call dropped out. Then Talia says: “Excuse me?”
Stiles buries his head in Peter’s shoulder, his own shoulders shaking as he tries not to laugh. Peter smirks, suddenly able to see the humor in the situation. “You heard me. I’m getting married.”
Talia is stunned. She, like everyone else in the family, had thought Peter a confirmed bachelor. “Well. Congratulations.”
“Thank you,” Peter says.
“You said that she’s from Beacon Hills?” Talia asks. Her voice is mild but Peter can sense her newly burning curiosity.
Stiles excuses himself with a squeeze to Peter’s arm. He vanishes down the hallway and Peter can hear his laughter. “Yes, you might know the family. The Stilinskis?”
There’s a confused pause, then: “Sheriff Stilinski doesn’t have a daughter.”
“No, he doesn’t.”
Stiles reappears in the doorway just in time for Talia to exclaim: “Oh my god, Peter, are you gay?!” Peter suddenly remembers that while he’d come out to his parents, he’d never actually done so with his siblings. Oops. Stiles guffaws loudly, bending over at the knees. Peter watches him fondly.
Peter ignores Talia’s mortified demand to know if she’s on speaker, “You’re very astute, sister dear.”
“Peter,” Talia’s voice goes severe and Peter already knows what’s coming. “Are you trying to pull one over on me? Is this some kind of joke?”
Stiles stops laughing, indignant. “Excuse you!” he exclaims. “It took me four months to get him to say yes, don’t you dare think he’s not being serious!”
Before Talia can say anything in her defense, Peter shushes Stiles, rubbing his arms to sooth him. He’s smiling at him, and Peter knows it’s dopey and lovesick, but he doesn’t care. “Hush, it’s not her fault I never told them.”
Stiles stares at him, incredulous, “You never told your sister you’re gay?”
Peter shrugs, “It never came up.”
Stiles huffs, “Oh my god. Why? Why did it have to be you? You’re such a little shit!”
Peter smirks, “You love me.”
Stiles waves his hand around, “That’s besides the point.”
“It’s the whole point,” Peter reminds him. “If it helps, I love you, too.”
“...Maybe a little bit.”
Peter grins, then remembers that Talia is on speaker and heard all of that. She’s quiet over the line, and he hopes she’s having a stroke out of shock. “Anyway, Talia, since I’m going to be in town anyway…”
Talia takes the prompt for what it is, and runs with it. “You should join us for dinner on Christmas Eve!” she exclaims, her voice a little too cheerful with the shock. “Bring your fiance… What was your name?”
“Stiles,” Stiles offers, still smiling.
“Yes, bring Stiles with you,” Talia instructs. “Six o’clock. Bring stuffing.”
There’s a click and the phone shuts off. Stiles looks over at Peter with raised eyebrows, “Did your sister just hang up on us so that she could call everyone she’s ever met to inform them that her bachelor brother is getting married?”
Chapter 10: Moving Boxes and Christmas Presents
Proposing to Strangers
Ten: Moving Boxes and Christmas Presents
Peter groans to himself, and pulls the covers up more, curling into Stiles. Stiles huffs a little laugh at him. “I hate it here,” Peter mumbles into the skin of Stiles’ shoulder. “This place, no heat at all.”
Stiles snorts, “Not no heat, just no heat retention.”
He’ll give Peter this one, his room is freezing. He’s fine with the cold, and usually so is Peter, but both of them can agree with the fact that early morning cold is the worst kind. Stiles hadn’t rented this apartment because of its insulation, he’d rented it because it had high ceilings, huge windows and an awesome view of the foothills.
Stiles rolls over enough to wrap his arms around Peter, who grumbles, pleased with this turn of events. They lay there in their warm cocoon for a little while, avoiding starting the day as bleak fall light filters through the blinds.
“You should just move in with me,” Peter says softly a little while later.
“Hmmm,” Stiles says, and presses a kiss to the patch of skin under his mouth. “We are getting married, so cohabitation is expected.”
“I was thinking for proper heating so neither of us dies of hypothermia, but that’s true too.”
Stiles laughs, hiding his face in Peter’s neck. “Does getting married bother you that much? We don’t have to.”
“No,” Peter rolls over and looks Stiles in the eyes. “I’m fine with that. I would never have said yes if I didn’t want to marry you. Hell, if the option had been off the table I’d have told you at the start.”
“...I’m glad you didn’t.”
“I know. Me too.”
There is a few minutes of content silence. The kind of content that comes from clearing the air. Then Stiles says: “My lease is up on the thirty-first.”
“Don’t renew it,” Peter tells him. “I’ll save boxes from this week’s deliveries and we can buy some from Home Depot.”
“Danny has a truck,” Stiles remembers. Peter grunts, pleased, because that means he doesn’t have to ask Kali to borrow hers.
Stiles collides with the doorframe. The box in his arms protests this by jamming itself into his stomach. Stiles lets out an ‘oof’ and frowns down at the box.
“Why do you own so many books?” Scott whines, panting behind him as he turns sideways to maneuver through the door of Peter’s apartment.
Stiles gives him a narrow-eyed look, “Why do I have so many books?”
Scott drops the box he’s carrying next to the huge bookcases Ennis, Peter and Boyd had moved in the day before. It thuds and Stiles winces. “Right,” Scott says, “Author. What was I thinking?”
“I don’t think you were,” Stiles informs him, and sets his own box down much more gently.
Lydia is seated in the armchair, filing her nails. She considers her mere presence to be helping in the moving process. Though, she had willingly put away Stiles’ clothes. Stiles suspects it was so that she could root through his things and make items she doesn’t like mysteriously vanish.
“You know, I like you this way,” Lydia remarks.
“What way?” Stiles asks, watching Allison pass by with a box of bathroom stuff.
“Happy,” Lydia stops filing long enough to look Stiles in the eyes. “We both know how toxic Jackson can be.”
This is true. If anyone would know what dating Jackson is like, it’s Lydia. Lydia had turned dating Jackson Whittemore into an olympic sport. Stiles walks over to squeeze her shoulder, “Thanks for always being blunt with me when it came to him.”
“You needed to hear it,” Lydia tells him. “And you listened.”
“Well, we can’t all be geniuses,” Lydia says smugly, she’s obviously had time to reassess her opinion of Peter. Stiles knows she just called him an idiot, but lets it go in order to watch Danny and JP appear hauling the heavy cedar chest that used to be Stiles’ mother’s.
“What’s in this thing?” Danny puffs as they maneuver it through the door. “Bricks?”
Stiles points them to the space behind the couch that has been deliberately cleared to make space for the chest. They set it down and Danny rounds his end to lean against his giant, bald biker, breathing hard. Stiles reaches down and lifts the lid on the chest.
It’s filled with heirloom quilts and linens.
“Oh my god, really?” Danny groans.
JP pats Danny on the shoulder, “Don’t worry, baby. I’ll give you a rubdown later.”
“Promises, promises,” Danny replies with a lecherous grin.
Scott groans and flees the apartment to get another box, muttering about how disgusting all the couples around him are. Stiles smirks evilly and yells after him: “You should just ask Kira out on a date, already!”
The next time Scott and Stiles pass each other on the stairs, Scott takes the effort and time to flip him off.
Peter is a well-read man. His own library is quite extensive, but Stiles moving in essentially triples the amount of books in the apartment. The four big bookcases had been made special by a carpenter. They’re beautiful, a dark oak that blends in well with the rest of the room. The difference between Peter’s books and Stiles’ is not just content, but quality.
Peter adores hardcover. He also has a thing for first editions. Stiles on the other hand likes a good hardcover, but loves a good mass market paperback too. His books come in all shapes and sizes, and in varying states of disrepair. The hardcovers, Stiles informs him as they unpack all the books that night, are for collection purposes. The paperbacks are for reading.
Peter stands corrected.
“We should think about Christmas shopping,” Stiles says as he unwraps knickknacks that go on the shelves with the books.
Peter raises his eyebrows, “I give gift cards to everyone.”
He does, it’s a lot easier to buy everyone he knows a gift card to their favorite place than it is to try and figure out what to give them. Stiles is more of an eclectic gift giver. If he knows you well and cares, he’ll hunt down the perfect gift… If not he’s going to give you a book, which can be hit or miss.
“That will work for some people, but…”
“What?” Peter asks suspiciously.
“Well, are we expected to bring gifts for your family?”
“Shit,” Peter’s nose scrunches up. “That’s a lot of gift cards.”
Stiles laughs at him, waving a hand around. He hauls himself up off the floor and and crosses the room over to Peter and kisses him. “Don’t worry, I’ll take care of it, just give me a list of names.”
Peter wraps his arms around Stiles so that he can’t escape, pulling him in for a second kiss. He hums, because he likes being able to kiss Stiles whenever he wants. Stiles giggles at him (though he’ll deny it’s a giggle) and indulges him. “Are you going to make an impression on my family?” Peter wonders.
Stiles grins, “Don’t worry, we’re going to be remembered for our gift giving abilities as a couple.”
“It’s going to be crates of survival kit canned air, isn’t it?”
“Maaaybe,” Stiles tells him cheekily. Peter retaliates by hauling Stiles up onto his shoulder and carrying him off into the bedroom. Stiles laughs, smacks Peter’s ass, and then hangs on for the ride.
Several days later Stiles careens into the bar with bags of books draped over his arms and a wild grin on his face. He sets them down on the counter and hops up to lean over the bar and kiss Peter hello.
“What’s all this?” Peter asks.
“Well, I went shopping. I’ve got gifts for all of our friends here out in the car, but I thought maybe you’d like to see what we’re giving your family.”
Peter raises his eyebrows and Boyd ambles over to get a look. Erica hooks one of the bags over and peeks inside, then starts laughing. She pulls out a smallish black book titled Awesome Shit My Drill Sergeant Said. Peter smirks in amusement and pulls a stack of books out of another bag, reading through the titles. How To Survive A Sharknado, The Zombie Survival Guide and Dance of the Reptiles are just a few of them.
“Did you raid the humor section at Barnes and Noble?” Peter asks.
“Yes,” Stiles answers, unrepentant. Then he hefts The Big Bad Book of Bill Murray into the air and says, “This one is for Tyler.”
Peter can’t help it, he laughs. “Which one is for Talia?” he asks.
“Oh,” Stiles waves a hand, “I got her copies of my books. I figure she’s going to snoop anyway, why not facilitate?”
Peter nods, because this makes sense, “I’ll help wrap so long as I don’t have to write any of the tags.”
Stiles has a sparkly red bow stuck to his forehead and a grin on his face when John calls for their next skype session. It’s the middle of December and Stiles is officially cohabitating with Peter. Peter is sitting on the floor cutting precise squares of wrapping paper out of the assorted rolls Stiles may have bought too many of.
Peter looks up long enough to greet John, then goes back to his task. Stiles has to laugh, “He’s out of practice on the gift wrapping front. Dad, I’m marrying the guy who gives gift cards!”
John lets out a mock gasp, “No! Not that!”
Peter scoffs, “Yes, mock now.” He flaps a sheet of paper at them, it’s covered in snowmen, and blows a raspberry.
John laughs, “Books for everyone?”
“Of course!” Stiles exclaims. “I know nothing about these people!”
John shakes his head, “I hope you’re being more thoughtful with the rest of us.”
“Naturally,” Stiles says seriously, “I like you.”
John ignores that statement, because this is Stiles, and he’s probably better off not knowing what that really means. “Would one of you tell me why I’m being stalked by Talia Hale?”
Peter uses this as an excuse to abandon their wrapping project and crawls over to the laptop set up on their coffee table. “I told my sister I was bringing Stiles with me. It may have surprised her a little.”
John raises his eyebrows when Stiles snorts: “Yeah, we’re not sure which one shocked her more, the fact that Peter’s gay or that he’s marrying the Sheriff’s kid.”
John heaves a put upon sigh, “You two deserve each other.”
“I think so,” Stiles says, tipping himself over into Peter’s side. Peter removes the bow from Stiles’ head when it nearly gets him in the eye, then wraps his arms around the younger man.
“I apologize for my sister, John.”
“Apologize after she tries to interrogate me,” John tells him. “Now, tell me about the plan.”
“We’ll get there around dinner time on the twenty-third,” Stiles informs promptly. “Christmas Eve dinner with the Hales, Christmas Day with you and Melissa. We head home early on the twenty-seventh.”
John nods to himself. “We cleared the boxes out of your old room for you guys,” he informs them. “Scott’s crashing in the guest room, he’s getting here on Christmas Eve and staying until after New Year’s.”
“Yeah, I know.” Stiles got a twenty minute rant from Scott about it because they couldn’t carpool. Stiles is still a little miffed that they have so much stuff they can’t take Peter’s dyna. Peter promised to take him on a road trip in the summer to make up for it. So they’re taking Stiles’ jeep. “Scott’s excited that he’s got someone to cover the clinic for that long.”
“Let’s try to avoid a repeat of last year,” John requests.
Stiles nods vigorously, “Yeah, that would suck.”
“What happened last year?” Peter asks.
“I’ll tell you later,” Stiles promises, because it’s a long story. Also, it’s somewhat embarrassing, and he doesn’t want to relive it in front of his dad.
“I’ll hold you to that.”
Chapter 11: Holiday Beer Contest
Proposing to Strangers
Eleven: Holiday Beer Contest
Ennis doesn’t look like it, but he’s a giant Christmas Nerd. Kali indulges her husband, mostly because it means she doesn’t have to do anything. Ennis decorates. Ennis sends out cards. Ennis does the shopping. Ennis wraps the presents. Ennis cooks. Kali sits back and enjoys the ride.
As a result of this holiday specific enthusiasm, Ennis is in charge of the Hale Moon Brew Co. Christmas Bash. Peter’s concessions to decorating the bar are white twinkle lights and little bunches of mistletoe. Ennis is wearing a Santa hat with a jingle bell on it, and every time he walks past Boyd, Boyd looks like he’s barely restraining himself from seizing the hat and beating Ennis to death with the little bell.
“Why does my beer taste like eggnog?” Stiles asks in disgust, reaching over to prevent Scott from drinking from his own bottle.
Peter pauses and grins evilly, “That is Ennis’ contribution to holiday alcoholic beverages.”
“That’s disgusting,” Scott says, and pushes his beer away from him.
“Last year it tasted a lot like fruitcake,” Boyd offered, removing the offending beers. He pops the tops off two more bottles with the Hale logo on them and slides them over. “Here, try this, it’s Peter’s contribution to holiday frivolity.”
Stiles raises his eyebrows at Peter, who just smirks back at him. Peter doesn’t really have a holiday spirit. He runs out just after the thanksgiving charity dinner every year. This year he’s been participating because Stiles is a holiday fiend, and where Stiles goes so goes Peter’s nation. Stiles himself has probably drunk his body weight in peppermint hot chocolate by now.
“Wow,” Scott says. He pulls his bottle away from his face and peers into it, surprised. “That’s really good. Is that pomegranate?”
“Mmm,” Peter hums, satisfied at Scott’s reaction. “It’s a pomegranate cider. Also good hot.”
Stiles shrugs and takes a long pull from his bottle. It’s spiced well and deeply satisfying. “This is way better than Ennis’ eggnog monstrosity,” Stiles informs the two men tending bar.
Peter drags a glass mason jar over and hands Stiles a pen and a couple of pieces of paper. “Vote,” he instructs.
“It’s tradition,” Erica says, appearing at Scott’s elbow, making him jump. “They compete for best holiday brew every year. Peter usually wins.”
“That’s because I don’t make mine taste like disgusting holiday fare,” Peter deadpans as Stiles and Scott write their votes on the papers and stick them in the jar.
“What’s the winner get?” Stiles asks.
“Last year it was the day after New Year’s off. This year we’re adding fifty bucks to the pot.”
“Oooh, a day off and money for a night out,” Stiles asks, “Bring on the win!”
He jumps off his seat, grabs the jar and a little stack of papers and vanishes into the depths of the bar to wheedle votes out of the bar patrons. Scott watches him go fondly, then turns back to Peter, who quirks an eyebrow at him.
“Hey man,” Scott tells him, “You chose this, remember. He’s your problem now.”
Peter’s answering grin is two parts smug, one part satisfied and one part mildly worried.
Cora Hale is the kind of woman that goes her own way. She’s headstrong, opinionated and self-sufficient. She’s a lot like her mother. It’s probably why, of all her children, Talia has clashed with Cora the most. Cora dropped out of college midway through her third year in order to go climb Mount McKinley with her boyfriend.
She kept climbing mountains, but dropped the boyfriend.
She’s a professional climber now, partners in a guiding business, and one summit away from the Seven. Come March she’ll be in the Himalayas preparing to tackle Annapurna and have her name go down in history. After that there are seven more eight-thousanders calling her name. She’s going to go down in history as one of the few women to summit all fourteen.
She bangs into Hale Moon Brew Co. late on the twentieth. She’s got a little bit of cold burn across her forehead and cheeks, but that’s nothing unusual. She drops her pack by the door knowing no one’s about to take it, and heads for the bar. She boosts herself up onto a stool next to a dark haired guy with a crooked jaw.
“Hey, barkeep, a beer!” she calls, rapping her knuckles on the bar top.
The guy next to her throws her an incredulous look, like he can’t believe she dared to demand anything from the guy behind the counter. He looks vaguely uncomfortable, like being in a biker bar is way out of his comfort zone. He looks about as dangerous as a pair of bunny slippers, so Cora figures he is outside of his comfort zone.
Peter appears in front of her, sleeves rolled up to reveal his tattooed forearms. He crosses his arms over his chest and raises his eyebrows, “What was that?”
“I said, get me a beer old man,” Cora says cheekily.
“Who’re you calling an old man?” Peter demands. “I’ll have you know I’m in the prime of my life.”
He gets her the beer anyway, and Cora breaks and snickers at him. “Yeah, I know. How are you Uncle Peter?”
“Uncle Peter?” the guy next to her squeaks.
“Ignore him,” Peter says, making the guy squeak again, this time indignantly. He deposits a beer in front of his niece. “I’m good. You look like shit, where’ve you been?”
“Climbing ice flows,” Cora tells him, and takes a long pull from his beer. “Escorting National Geographic photographers.”
“Oh, yes, the most stimulating thing ever,” Cora deadpans. Honestly, working with National Geographic might pay the bills, but it’s usually a whole lot of boring, hurry up and wait type stuff.
A tall guy around Cora’s age appears at the counter. He plunks a jar down, it’s full of little pieces of paper. “Okay, everyone in the bar has voted,” he says, then eyeballs Cora. “Except for you.”
“How many of them did you threaten?”
The pale guy turns to the other guy, hand going to his chest, scandalized, “Why I would never threaten! What kind of heathen do you take me for?”
“Stiles,” Crooked Jaw says, voice dry, “You’re the most heathenest of heathens.”
“That isn’t a word,” Stiles tells him with a grin. “Peter, Scott thinks I threatened people.”
“You did,” Peter tells him flatly.
“No faith, whatsoever!” Stiles says, throwing his hands in the air and boosting himself up onto the stool on Cora’s other side so that she’s bookended by two guys whose names start with the letter S.
“Oh, I have faith in you, darling,” Peter drawls. “All the faith, in fact. I trust you to threaten my patrons properly.” Stiles grins widely and Scott just heaves a put upon sigh. “Besides,” Peter remarks, “Mo looks like you just killed a puppy in front of him.”
All three men turn to look at the Knight in question. Cora follows their gazes. Mo is sitting in his booth, twiddling with his beer and looking morosely into the bowl of peanuts.
“What did you tell him?” Cora wonders, because she can’t ever remember seeing Mo looking so damn sad.
“I told him that if he didn’t vote for you I’d ruin the ending of Buzzkill for him.”
“That’s evil,” Peter states. “I approve.”
Stiles grins wickedly and leans over to receive a reward kiss. Scott groans, “You two deserve each other. I hope you know you’re both going to hell.”
Stiles laughs, “We’ll have each other for company.”
“So you’re the reason why Peter’s gone and managed to get Mom all twisted up in her underwear!” Cora exclaims.
Stiles turns to look at her and Peter introduces her, “Stiles, this is my niece, Cora. Cora this is my Stiles.”
“Nice to meet you,” Stiles says, shaking the hand she offers. “Yes, that would be me… Now, more importantly, do you have any embarrassing stories you can tell me about Peter.”
“Oh, I like you,” Cora says. “I’ll tell you all the stories if you tell me all about how you bagged my bachelor uncle.”
Scott turns to Peter as Stiles and Cora head for a table, “Aren’t you worried?”
Peter shrugs, “No. Cora’s the kind of niece that doesn’t bail you out of jail by merit of being the one sitting next to you in the cell.”
Cora shuts the lid of the washing machine and twists the knob, pulling out to start the water running. She ambles out into the living room and smiles at the sight in front of her. Stiles is standing in the kitchen, wrapped up in Peter’s arms. They’re waiting for the kettle to boil for tea, and they look content to just stand there.
She can’t ever remember Peter looking content before. He’s always been wary. Waiting for the proverbial other shoe to drop at any given time. With Stiles, it’s like Peter’s finally settled into himself. He’s never cared for the opinions of others, but now that he’s got someone solidly on his side, Cora can see the weight’s been lifted some.
It’s a nice thing to watch.
She pads over to the armchair, curling up with her legs tucked to one side. She checks her phone and replies to Derek’s text to let him know that she made it to Peter’s safely. She’s already confirmed that she’s got a ride home with him and Stiles in two days. Her car is sitting in Derek’s garage because it’s cheaper to store it with him than pay for a space on a lot.
Stiles leads Peter into the room, setting a tray on the coffee table. Peter settles into the corner of the couch as Stiles makes up cups of tea for all of them. Stiles throws a lap quilt over Cora before he hands her her tea, then he cuddles up to Peter with his own blanket.
Comfortable silence descends. Cora sips at her tea. It’s a nice soothing blend. Light. Nothing like the strong teas she drinks when she’s out on the ice.
“You know,” Cora says after a few minutes. “It’s nice to see you happy, Uncle Peter.”
Peter smiles at her in thanks. Stiles beams her a grin and then turns on the old claymation Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Cora settles in to watch classic Christmas movies with her Uncle and his fiance. It’s comfortable, quiet.
It really is nice to see him happy.
Chapter 12: Road Trippin'
Proposing to Strangers
The nice thing about getting everyone books for Christmas, Stiles decides early on the morning of the twenty-third, is that they stack so neatly when you pack them up for travel. He and Peter gave out most of the awkwardly shaped gifts at the party the other night, so only one cardboard box had been needed for everything else. Stiles smiles to himself as he perches his Dad’s gift on top of the box, and then adds Melissa and Scott’s to the pile before tossing the bag of bows on top of the whole affair.
“You packed those very well,” Peter’s voice says. “Now get out of the way, suitcases coming through.”
Stiles steps away from the back of the jeep just in time to prevent himself getting clobbered by Peter’s suitcase and his own duffle bag. Peter sets them into the space next to the box of gifts, then drops Cora’s pack off his shoulder to pile it into the back of the jeep.
“Aside from snacks and your pillow, we’re ready to go,” Peter informs him.
“I’ll get them!” Stiles tells him, and races for the door. Peter watches, half fond and half exasperated.
“Remember that you love him,” Ennis advises. He’d shown up twenty minutes ago to prep the bar for opening, and has been watching in amusement ever since. “And if you strangle him, there will be no sex in your immediate future.”
Peter scrunches his eyebrows, “Have fun tomorrow.”
Ennis frowns, “I hate you.”
“No, you don’t.”
“No, I don’t.”
Stiles and Cora arrive. Cora looks sleepy and disheveled. She climbs into the back of the jeep and Stiles leans in to offer her the use of his pillow and the fleece blanket he keeps in the jeep. She accepts both, pulls the hood of her sweater up over her head and curls up to go back to sleep.
Stiles walks over to the two barkeepers standing on the curb. His breath puffs out in white clouds. It hasn’t snowed yet, but there’s a layer of thick white frost all over everything. The jeep has been idling for twenty minutes to warm the interior and melt some of the ice. “I just need to finish scraping the windshield, and we’re good to go. Bye Ennis!”
“Bye kid,” Ennis replies, squeezing Stiles tightly enough that he squeaks. “Have fun, and don’t kill Peter. He doesn’t travel all that well in cars.”
“I figured,” Stiles says, then wanders off to scrape the windshield.
Peter looks at Ennis, who looks back. “If I’m not back by the end of next week,” Peter tells him seriously, “It’s because I’m sitting in a jail cell awaiting my trial and I’ve killed my sister.”
Ennis nods, “Got it. If not back by next Friday, call the lawyer.”
“Also, bring bail money,” Peter tells him. “We can leverage the bar.”
“Whelp,” Ennis claps him hard on the shoulder, “have fun!”
“I hate you.”
“No, you don’t.”
“No, I don’t.”
Ennis heads back inside, and Peter climbs into the jeep next to Stiles. He clicks his seat belt into place, glances back at Cora (who is only distinguishable by the beanie she’s wearing) and says: “Alright, let’s do this thing.”
Stiles puts the jeep into gear and pulls out of the parking lot, “Don’t think of it as visiting your family. Think of it as visiting my dad. Whom you love and admire.”
“Also, for every homicidal thought you have, I give you permission to kiss me.”
“Just trying to keep you out of jail, baby.”
“I can’t believe I agreed to marry you.”
“I’m just that awesome.”
“Oh, you’re something all right.”
Being punched in the shoulder is totally worth the laugh he gets.
Cora wakes up two hours later, demanding breakfast. This prompts Peter to unpack the breakfast burritos he’d made the night before. Cora contents herself with egg and sausagey goodness, sitting back to scowl at the world. For her, anything before ten is too early.
“So,” Stiles says slowly, “license plate game?”
“No,” Peter says flatly. He’d anticipated this too, so he unpacks the book he’d set aside for this situation. He waves it at Stiles. Magnus Chase glints at him in the winter light. “How about this instead?”
Stiles grins at him, “I’ll never say no to Riordan. I love you.”
“How can you not? I keep you entertained and fed.”
“Don’t forget the sex,” Stiles says, just because he can. “You are amazing at sex.”
“That’s disgusting,” Cora says. “Never talk about sex with my uncle ever again.”
“Is that a challenge?”
Stiles laughs for a minute, then quiets as Peter cracks open the book and clears his throat. Maybe this won’t be such a bad road trip after all. Being read to by the person whose voice he loves the most? Pretty good deal, in his book.
“Chapter One: Good morning! You’re going to die…”
They stop twice for gas and to go to the bathroom. Stiles buys beef jerky, Cora buys those pink coconut balls and Peter just sighs because she’s going to shed coconut shavings all over the back seat. They stop once to swap drivers. Cora offers, but Stiles doesn’t trust his baby to just anyone, and Peter smirks smugly at her when Stiles tells her this.
“Are you kidding me? Do you know how many bikes Peter’s destroyed?” she demands.
“Enough to know not to do it again,” Stiles replies. “Also, he knows what I’ll do to him if he lets something happen to my baby.”
“What? You’re going to scold him?” Cora wonders with a scoff.
“No, he’ll beat me to death with a bag of rocks and bury me so far down the heat from the earth’s core will incinerate my sorry ass,” Peter informs her.
“That’s creative,” Cora says with some surprise.
Stiles smirks, “Honey, I’m a writer. Words are my jam.”
They drop Cora off at the top of the long driveway to the Hale house on their way into town. She waves at them and hikes her pack up into a more comfortable spot before heading down the driveway. Stiles reaches over and holds Peter’s hand as they drive into the town both of them grew up in. The closer they had gotten to Beacon Hills, the tenser Peter had seemed to become.
Peter is mentally preparing himself for war.
Stiles decides as they pass the Sheriff’s Station that he’s going to have Peter’s back the whole time they’re here. He’s not above making a fool of himself in order to protect the people he loves.
When they get to the house, Scott’s car is already in the driveway, so Stiles pulls the jeep up to the curb. He eyeballs Mr. Jenkins’ front window suspiciously, then makes sure that the jeep doesn’t cross the invisible curb boundary line the old man had drawn the year that Stiles learned to drive.
If he subtly flips off the house, well, no one sees him, so whatever.
There’s no one in the house when they get inside. Melissa and John must still be at work, and Scott is probably off visiting the friends he still has in town. Stiles had pretty much cut ties with everyone when he left after high school, but Scott still knows people.
They haul their suitcases up the stairs into Stiles’ old room. He’s suddenly grateful that his bed is a double instead of a twin, because neither he nor Peter are exactly shrinking violets. It’ll be nice to be able to roll over without kneeing anybody in the balls.
Stiles sticks bows on the gifts for his family and stows them safely under the tree. Then Stiles and Peter stare awkwardly at each other for a minute.
“Now what?” Peter asks.
Stiles shrugs, “Way I see it, we’ve got two options. One; we can go down to the station and say hi to Dad, maybe wander around on main street for a while. Two; we go back upstairs and have sex in my childhood bed.”
“As much fun as fumbling around in your little bed sounds, let’s not and say we didn’t.”
“Option one it is!”
Stiles leads Peter out of the house, locks up, and then they’re in the jeep again. The drive through town goes quickly. Beacon Hills isn’t the smallest town ever, but it has less than thirty thousand residents, so it’s not exactly hopping either. When they pull into a parking spot in the visitors parking lot in front of the station house, Stiles gets nostalgic for all the time he spent here making sure his dad ate or snooping through case files. Peter gets a case of deja vu and remembers that the last time he was here he spent a night in the drunk tank after getting into a fight with Tyler.
He wonders if the Sheriff remembers that.
They get out of the jeep and head inside. They get hit with a blast of warm air when they step inside. Stiles grins at the woman behind the desk.
“Hi, Janine!” Stiles exclaims, propping himself up against the reception desk.
Janine Moore raises her eyebrows and calls out: “Hide your case files kids! Stiles is back!”
Stiles pouts, “C’mon, you know you missed me.”
Janine rounds the desk to hug him, “Of course I did!” When she pulls away she holds Stiles at arm’s length to look him over. “You look good. This must be your guy.”
Stiles reaches back and draws Peter up to his side, “Yep. This is Peter.”
“I remember you,” Janine says with a grin. “We went to highschool together.”
“I remember,” Peter tells her.
“Also, there was that thing where you were arrested a few years back.”
Peter scowls. Stiles laughs, “My dad in, Janine?”
“Yes, head on back,” she jabs a thumb over her shoulder to indicate the direction.
Stiles leads Peter into the depths of the station to a door that has a fading decal on it that declares in gold letters ‘Sheriff Stilinski’. Peter figures it’s been so long that the letters probably need replacing just for wear. John’s run uncontested in the last three elections. If the citizens have anything to say about it, John’s going to be Sheriff until old age makes him keel over dead.
Stiles gives a cursory knock to the door and pushes it open. “Hey Dad, we’re here!”
John Stilinski looks up from his computer and grins at his kid and said kid’s fiance, “Finally.”
Chapter 13: How to Shock You Nephew Without Saying Anything
Proposing to Strangers
Thirteen: How to Shock Your Nephew Without Saying Anything
Deputy Derek Hale quite likes his job. He’s got a good partner in Jordan Parrish, and enough seniority to not be stuck with the sucky shifts. He has his own place that’s far enough away from Laura’s place that her just showing up randomly no longer happens. So all-in-all he can’t complain a whole heck of a lot.
“Yes Mom, I’ll be at dinner tomorrow,” Derek tells Talia over the phone, rolling his eyes at Parrish. Parrish is grinning as he opens the door to the station and bows gallantly to Derek as he holds it open for him. Derek has had some version of this same conversation every day for nearly a month.
“Are you bringing anyone?” Talia asks. Again.
Derek heaves another sigh, staring off into the middle distance next to his desk. Talia is acting like Peter actually coming home is a huge deal. It kinda is, but it’s Peter, so Derek doesn’t understand why Talia’s gone and lost her mind. Peter will spend the whole night trying to keep a civil tongue until Tyler inevitably says something that makes him let loose, and then the evening will devolve into vicious fighting. Like always.
“Cora arrived about an hour ago,” Talia tells him. Well, bully for Cora, Derek thinks, but manages to keep his mouth shut. He knows that all of this is because Peter is actually bringing home a significant other to meet the family. Derek actually feels sorry for the poor bastard. “She says to tell you she wants to pick up her car.”
“Got it. Mom, I’ve got to go.”
“You’ll be here?”
“Yes, mother. I will be there. Four o’clock on the dot.”
Derek hangs up on his mother before she can go off again. It’s equal parts exasperating and hilarious that she’s so nervous. It’s just Uncle Peter. Derek figures anyone willing enough to be in a relationship with a heavily tattooed biker that owns a bar, and futzes around with the brewing of beer, is either an extreme idiot or just like his uncle.
He’s got a bet going with Laura and Matt over how tattooed the guy is. Also, there’s one going over how long it will take before someone insults someone else.
“I really don’t mind,” the voice filters into Derek’s awareness and his eyebrows go down. He knows that voice. He looks around.
Is - Is that his uncle emerging from the Sheriff’s office?
“You guys are guests,” Derek’s boss insists. Both he and Derek’s uncle look very comfortable with each other.
There’s another guy standing with then. He’s about his uncle’s height, with dark hair and a smirk that is identical to the one John wears when the Sheriff is amused. “Dad,” the guy says, “this is Peter we’re talking about. He’s the family foodie. Let him cook dinner.”
John gives his son a sideways look, “Why can’t we go out?”
“Because I have a list of recipes to cook for you,” Peter butts in, cutting off the old argument. “Also, my sister is making me bring stuffing to dinner tomorrow, I have to go to the store anyway.”
“Dad,” the unnamed Sheriff’s son wheedles, “let us be reclusive homebodies. Please.”
“Fine. Make dinner. Keep Stiles away from the stove, I’ll see you boys tonight.”
“Gee, I feel loved.”
“Kitchen safety first, darling,” Peter says sweetly, sarcasm dripping from his pores.
Stiles wrinkles his nose at Peter, “I love you too, pumpkin.”
Derek watches his uncle and his boyfriend leave the station with wide eyes. He wasn’t sure what he’d been expecting, but that kid hadn’t been it. Stiles looked wily, but Derek could probably knock him over with a single shove. He shakes his head, bewildered, and lifts his phone again, scrolling through his contacts to find the right phone number.
“Yo, brother mine!”
“Matty,” Derek says seriously, “Uncle Peter’s been sighted, you’re never going to guess who the guy he’s dating is.”
“It’s a drag queen, isn’t it?” Matty demands instantly; “Dammit, Der, Maybelle isn’t allowed to win another pool.”
Derek smiles grimly, “It’s not a drag queen. He’s the Sheriff’s kid.”
He enjoys his brother’s squawk of surprise more than he should. If he has to suffer with this new knowledge, at least he’s not alone.
Stiles is fondling a head of lettuce when a dark haired woman appears across from him. She’s making no effort to hide the fact that she’s staring at him. He raises his eyebrows at her, she raises hers back. Stiles sighs. She looks enough like Cora that he feels comfortable assuming that this woman is Laura, Peter’s oldest niece.
“Let me guess,” Stiles says, voice a little caustic and a lot sarcastic, “Someone saw us, called everyone else, and now you’ve taken it upon yourself to scope me out?”
“Something like that,” Laura replies cheekily.
Stiles raises an eyebrow in his best impression of Peter’s derisive stare. If the way the space between her eyebrows crinkles, his version is pretty damn good. “I’m not what any of you expected, am I?” he asks her.
“Not even close,” Laura tells him, then leans over the lettuce and whispers: “My cousin, Maybelle, bet that you were a drag queen.”
Stiles has to laugh at that. He has to. Peter appears next to him while he’s laughing. Appearing out of nowhere like he’s wont to do. He’s wearing his Black Knights kutte. He wasn’t earlier, and Stiles wonders if he saw his niece and went out to the jeep to get it. Peter sets a package of stew meat in the cart, raising his eyebrows at Laura.
“Hi, Uncle Peter,” Laura says brightly.
Stiles leans into Peter’s side and smiles up at him, “Your niece bet that I’m a drag queen.”
“Oh?” Peter wonders, slinging his arm around Stiles. “Was there something you needed to tell me?”
“Oh, ha ha,” Stiles tells him, digging his elbow into Peter’s side.
Laura is grinning like she just won the lottery, “This is going to be amazing.”
Peter sends a scathing look her way, gaze suddenly ferocious and protective, “You’ll not be throwing my fiance under the bus, Laura Rachel.”
Pure surprise crosses Laura’s face. She looks from Peter to Stiles and back again. She’s been treating this like some kind of an amusing diversion. Talia is going spare with worry, and it’s made everyone else take it with a grain of salt. She shouldn’t have. Looking at her uncle and his boyfriend now, she can see they’re ready for war, and they have each other’s backs.
“Wait,” Laura says faintly, “Fiance?”
Stiles grins at her with his teeth, “Yup. I finally bullied him into saying yes.”
Peter sighs, and presses a kiss to the side of Stiles’ head, “You’re such a bully. You’re lucky you’re pretty.”
Stiles’ smile changes when he turns it on Peter, “You love me.”
“I do,” Peter tells him, and then the couple leaves the produce section.
Laura watches them go, just a little stunned.
Chapter 14: Family Meetings
Proposing to Strangers
Fourteen: Family Meetings
Stiles is slicing button mushrooms to go in the sauce when John gets home that evening. Melissa is seated at the table, bemused, because Peter won’t let her help with the dinner preparations. She’s got a towel draped over one knee and is working a comb through her freshly washed, curly hair. Scott is standing at the island counter trying to steal tidbits, and getting his fingers whacked for his efforts.
“What did you guys do to my deputy?” John asks as he puts away his gun belt and sits to unlace his boots.
“What?” Stiles asks, “We didn’t talk to any deputies.”
“I wondered if he saw us,” Peter remarks. He’s standing over the stove, crafting a sauce.
“Who?” Scott asks.
“My nephew, Derek,” Peter tells them. “Talia must not have told anyone just who it is that I’m bringing to dinner tomorrow night.”
“I got that impression when we met Laura at the store,” Stiles had also been just a little creeped out, but semantics. ”Do you think she did it on purpose?”
“Talia isn’t that subtle,” Peter says dryly, “She probably forgot to mention it in all the shock.”
John sighs and sends a miserable look at his wife, “I’m going to be stalked by various Hales for the rest of my life, aren’t I?”
Melissa reaches over and pats him on the arm, “Only until their curiosity is satisfied.”
“You’ll get used to it eventually.”
John doesn’t want to get used to it. Don’t get him wrong, he loves his kid, and he likes Peter well enough… it’s just that John likes how quiet Beacon Hills is now that both of his boys no longer live here. Without Scott and Stiles running around, sticking their noses into everything, life is nice.
“I like the quiet,” John says.
“I know sweetheart.”
“I’m not that bad,” Stiles complains.
“My family is,” Peter tells him, resigned. He takes the cutting board and scoots the mushrooms into the sauce with his knife, then goes to drain the noodles in the sink.
John looks over at Melissa with a serious expression and says: “I’m taking you down with me.” She can’t decide if he’s being serious or not.
Matt Hale is seventeen years old. He hasn’t got time for the drama of adults. He’s off school for winter break and he’s got a girlfriend. A girlfriend he’s supposed to be taking to the movies. He slides over in his chair a little more, aiming for the back door. He’s almost there when his father’s voice cuts through the tense silence.
“Matthew, sit down.”
“C’mon!” Matt exclaims. “I’m supposed to picking up Sara right now!”
Daniel Hale narrows his eyes at his son, “You are not leaving me alone to fend off your mother. Sit down.”
Matt sits. Talia enters the kitchen. Uncle Tyler is with her, Aunt Eryn isn’t with him, which means that neither is Maybelle or Jamie. Talia waits for Tyler to get a cup of coffee, and then addresses the family that is all scrunched up around the kitchen table.
“If this is about Uncle Peter bringing his boyfriend home with him,” Aunt Miriam says with a sigh, “We already know.”
Talia makes a noise in the back of her throat that reminds Matty of an angry cat, “This is about tomorrow. I expect all of you to be on your best behavior. I want us to make a good impression. Which means, Michael: no spit wads -” the ten year old sitting next to Jonah groans “- and Tyler, you will keep a civil tongue in your head, or so help me.”
Tyler sputters, glowering, “You're acting like this is my fault! I didn’t ask Peter to bring home his biker boyfriend. Hell, I didn’t ask Peter to come home at all.”
Talia and Miriam heave a synchronized sigh. Matt knows that if his mother wasn’t such a control freak, she’d probably actually get along with Uncle Peter really well. He rolls his eyes, because this happens every time Peter is mentioned around Tyler.
Derek lumbers into the kitchen, he’s in his uniform and looks like he spent the whole day chasing Mrs. Neumeier's dog around the neighborhood again. He shoulders Tyler out of the way (he’s actually big enough to do that now, dammit) and gets out a huge mug to make hot chocolate with.
“Mom,” Derek starts slowly, “why didn’t you tell us that the guy Peter’s bringing to dinner is my boss’ son?”
“Wait, what?” Miriam asks.
“Talia?” Daniel enquires of his wife. Her brow is wrinkled as she thinks, “I thought I did.”
“Wait, Peter’s dating Sheriff Stilinski’s kid?” Tyler demands.
Laura has finally tuned into the conversation from her place helping Maggie color. “He’s adorable!” she says gleefully.
“You met him?”
“I caught them at the grocery store. His name is Stiles and he’s adorable,” Laura imparts.
Derek heaves another sigh, “Not to knock Laura’s encounter to the wayside or anything, but I saw them too. They stopped by the station to say hello to the Sheriff when they got into town. Sheriff Stilinski was really familiar with Peter, like they’ve known each other a while.”
“Of course they do,” Cora scoffs. A dozen pairs of eyes turn to the younger of Talia’s two daughters. She’s wrapped in a huge flannel shirt and is looking at them all like they’re stupid.
Laura’s eyes light up with an evil glint, “That’s right, you spent two days with them didn’t you? Tell us, what’s he like?”
Cora rolls her eyes, but caves under the pressure of all of her family members staring at her, “He’s a guy. He’s funny, sarcastic and can keep up with Uncle Peter. Or maybe it’s Uncle Peter that can keep up with him.”
“He was raised Jewish, but his family is blended so they celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas. He’s a successful author that for some reason has decided he wants to marry Peter. I like him.”
“What else, what?” Cora demands.
“You spent two days with him!” Laura exclaims.
“Can I go on my date now?” Matt explodes. He doesn’t care what this guy Stiles is like. They’ll get to see for themselves tomorrow.
“Go,” Daniel flaps a hand at his middle son, and he bolts.
Miriam gets to her feel, “If you’re under the age of twelve, it’s bed time.”
Maggie and Michael groan, but follow their mother; they know better than to argue. Miriam’s husband Geoff is already asleep on the couch in the other room, where he collapsed after he finally got the twins (Ellie and Arthur) into bed a couple of hours before.
“I would like,” Talia emphasizes, sitting down next to Laura in Miriam’s vacated seat, “to make a good impression tomorrow.” She’s still looking at Tyler severely when she says it.
“I’ll be civil,” Tyler says. It’s the best anyone can expect. Tyler hates his brother and there’s so much crap decorating their history that no one is sure just why anymore. Well, no one but Tyler… and maybe Peter.
Derek wonders why he decided to come by to see everyone before going home. He has his own place these days, why is he voluntarily spending extra time with these people? “I would like to be able to look my boss in the eye after tomorrow.”
“Why are you looking at me?” Laura demands. Derek says nothing, just gives her a look that includes the Eyebrow Scrunch of Doom. She sits back with a pout.
“I’m sure,” Daniel says, diffusing the standoff between his wife and his brother-in-law, “that we’ll all be polite and kind to this Stiles, and to Peter. I know we’d all like to see him more than once a decade.”
“Speak for yourself,” Tyler mutters mutinously.
Stiles eyeballs the unoccupied side of the bed calculatingly. Peter doesn’t even look up from his book, “Don’t even think about it. This bed is too small.”
Stiles does it anyway. He rushes forward a few steps and flings himself onto the bed. He lands half on the mattress and half on Peter, who grunts when he gets an elbow in an uncomfortable place. Stiles wriggles around, making himself comfortable. Peter sighs and sets the book aside, reaching over to turn off the lamp. He scooches down in the bed to curl up with Stiles.
“Why do you insist on doing that?” Peter wonders as Stiles tugs the covers up over them.
“Mostly because of your reaction. The first time was a fluke, but you smile every time I do it.”
“It’s like living with a puppy.”
“Puppies are adorable.”
“A quality you share.”
Stiles agrees, and they settle into the comfortable silence they’ve learned they can share without any fuss. After a few minutes of watching the shadows on the wall created by the streetlight making its way through the curtains, Stiles asks: “Are you worried about tomorrow?”
“Yes, a bit.” Peter doesn’t like fighting with his siblings. He actually quite likes his nieces and nephews, and as much as he and Talia clash, Daniel is a good guy. “I’m worried it’s going to be a huge disaster.”
“You know you and I are going to be fine no matter what, right?”
Peter smiles helplessly, “Yeah, I know. It helps.”
“Good,” Stiles lifts his head to look at Peter. “Now, my big bad biker man, go to sleep.”
Chapter 15: When In Doubt, Bring Presents
Proposing to Strangers
Fifteen: When In Doubt, Bring Presents
Stiles is surrounded by piles of brightly wrapped packages when Scott stumbles down the stairs the next morning. He’s peeling the backing off an assortment of bows and sticking them on each gift, wedging a finger into the middle under the ribbon and pressing down hard to make sure each one sticks.
“Why are you awake?” Scott mutters, plopping down on the floor next to his best friend.
Stiles offers Scott a bow, “It’s snowing.”
Scott carefully peels the backing off the bow and sticks it to a package labeled as To: Jonah, From: Stiles & Peter. A glance out the window into the pale morning light tells him that yes, it’s snowing. It will all have melted once the sun is properly up. “You hate snow. Why aren’t you snuggled up with your honey?”
“Would you believe that I’m a little nervous about today?”
“Sure,” Scott says. He’d be more surprised if he wasn’t, to be honest.
“It’s just, Peter doesn’t really get along with his sister and brother, so I feel like I’m going into battle,” Stiles peels the backing off a rather squashed looking bow and sticks it to Scott’s shoulder.
“You are,” Scott tells him, and returns the favor by sticking a bow to the side of Stiles’ head. “You love Peter, you’ve always defended what you love.”
“Yeah, okay,” Stiles says, because it’s true. He got into a lot of fights during their school years defending Scott before they both grew into their limbs and Scott’s asthma lessened in severity. “I still want to wear a flak jacket.”
Scott heaves one of the wrapped books into the air, “You can use these as projectile weapons.”
Peter appears at the bottom of the stairs then. He ambles over, eyes half closed and sits down behind Stiles, wrapping his arms around him and leaning into his back. He’s wearing a t-shirt, and in the pale light the tattoos on his arms are stark against his skin. Peter’s eyes close, and he snuffles a little as he sets his face into Stiles’ shoulder.
“There’s my octopus,” Stiles says, patting one of the arms now wrapped around him.
Peter grunts. He’s never been much of a morning person, cold weather compounds this fact. “You were gone,” he grumbles into Stiles’ shirt.
“I know,” Stiles says consolingly, smiling fondly. He reaches back and scritches his fingers through Peter’s mussed hair. “We have a busy day today.”
Scott watches, frowning a little. He knows that he should be happy for Stiles. Heck, he’s ecstatic that Stiles is so happy, but Scott doesn’t think this is going to last. Stiles isn’t the rough type, he’s an author who leads a quiet life filled with books and pop culture. Peter owns a bar, is a member of a motorcycle club, and doesn’t even own a car. They’re too different from what Scott has seen. Them getting married? Bad idea.
He doesn’t say anything, because he does want Stiles to be happy. Which he is. Scott remembers clearly the misery of that nine months spent with Jackson.
“When are you guys headed to the Hale house?” Scott asks, staring at the tattoo on the side of Peter’s neck. He’s not sure what it’s supposed to be, and he can’t drag his eyes away.
“Technically four,” Stiles says, “But that’s when dinner is, so the polite thing is to get there between two and three to socialize.”
“Three,” Peter says. “If we have to stick around for gifts after food, I’m not showing up any earlier than that.” Peter is still pressed against Stiles, but he’s turned his head to look at Scott and he looks more awake than he did when he stumbled down the stairs.
“We’ve got to make stuffing, but that’ll take maybe an hour?” Stiles directs the last part to Peter.
“It’ll only take that long if you help me,” Peter tells him.
“I’ll keep you company,” Stiles replies.
“Does that mean you’ve got time to go shopping with me?” Scott asks.
Stiles laughs at him.
It’s a big house. Built by one of their ancestors for his wife after striking it rich during the California gold rush. Pieces of the land have been sold off over the years, but twenty acres still belongs to the Hales. It’s a beautiful house, what it contains might not be so beautiful though.
“So,” Stiles asks, “Are we getting out?”
It is exactly three o’clock in the afternoon, and Peter is peering up at the house through the windshield like he expects the house to come alive and swallow them whole, jeep and all.
“Maybe,” Peter says.
“Do I get to eat all the stuffing if we don’t go inside?” Stiles wonders, turning to look longingly at the baking dish resting innocently in Peter’s lap. Peter reflexively clutches at the dish defensively. He had learned at Thanksgiving that Stiles is a bit if a stuffing fiend.
“We’re going in,” he says flatly, then opens his door and gets out, taking said stuffing with him.
Stiles pouts, “Mean.” But his ploy worked, Peter is out of the car. He gets out himself and goes around to the back to unload the presents.
A young man with flyaway dark hair and bright green eyes comes out of the house. He jogs down the front steps, followed more sedately by Cora.
“Jonah,” Peter acknowledges, shifting the baking dish to one hand so that he can hug his nephew.
Cora goes around the back of the jeep to help Stiles. The presents all look the same as she remembers from the trip down, save for the bows. Stiles seems to have gone out of his way to avoid squashing any. He thanks her with a grateful smile, then squares his shoulders and heads for the two Hales waiting for them by the porch.
“Stiles, this is Jonah,” Peter introduces once Stiles and Cora are within polite earshot, “Jonah, this is my Stiles.”
“It’s nice to meet you,” the fifteen-year-old says.
“Ditto!” Stiles tells him with a grin. Fake it til you make it, he reminds himself. “I’d shake your hand, but - “ he lifts the box of presents in his arms.
“I’ll forgive you on account of presents,” Jonah says, smiling.
“How magnanimous of you,” Peter intones drolly. “Be useful, get the door.”
“That’s not a biker,” Tyler says, peering out the window through the blinds at his younger brother and the man he brought home for Christmas.
“I told you, he’s adorable,” Laura tells her uncle. She’s standing next to him, shameless in her spying.
Maybelle has gotten used to being embarrassed by her father, “They’re going to catch you watching them.”
“He’d be more surprised if we didn’t,” Laura tells her. The sad thing is, it’s true. Peter would be more suspicious if they weren’t sticking their noses into everything.
The front door opens and Jonah leads the couple inside, chattering about school. Everyone in the living room turns to look at them. Peter raises his eyebrows in response, the tension ratcheting up a notch. The younger man at his side flicks his gaze around the room, bypasses all of them in a show of willful ignorance to the hostility radiating from Tyler.
“Tree!” he exclaims, and crosses the room to set down the box he’s carrying. Cora follows to give him the stack of presents she’s carrying.
Laura has climbed onto the couch nearest the tree in order to watch Stiles. He looks relaxed to the untrained eye, but this close up, she can see the tension in his shoulders. “Don’t worry,” she whispers, “most of us are on your side.”
Stiles doesn’t pause putting presents under the tree, but gives her a sideways look. She’s struck by how fierce his eyes are when he speaks: “Just so you know, I’m on Peter’s side and I will bury anybody that hurts him.”
Stiles rises, empty box in hand and goes back over to Peter, who hasn’t moved. He’s still watching Tyler, who has gone from a carefully neutral expression to thinly veiled hostility. Stiles touches Peter’s shoulder softly, “C’mon, let’s get the stuffing to the kitchen.”
“You only love me for my stuffing,” Peter snarks instantly. It’s a reflex by now, otherwise he’d have been far too tense to say anything. It’s enough for him to break eye contact with his brother.
“Yes,” Stiles says, voice void of any inflection, “I’m using you for your wonderful culinary skill.”
“Ha. I knew it.”
Peter leads Stiles into the next room, leaving behind a room full of nieces, nephews and one angry brother. As soon as they’re out of earshot, Maybelle smacks her father upside the head.
“Be. Nice.” Maybelle says sternly.
“I am being nice!”
“No, you’re really not,” Eryn says from the bottom of the stairs. She’s got the same put out expression on her face as her daughter. “I know you have issues with Peter, but please pack away your anger for tonight Ty. It’s Christmas.”
Tyler sighs, “Fine.”
Chapter 16: The Dinner Inquisition
Proposing to Strangers
Sixteen: The Dinner Inquisition
When they were kids, Peter had been Mama’s boy. She was who Peter went to first. Good and bad, Emily had been who Peter had wanted. Tyler had tried to be a good big brother, but he didn’t quite know what to do with a little boy that just wanted Mama. That not knowing what to do had never gone away, transforming into resentment in their teens, and open hostility and anger when they reached adulthood.
It didn’t matter to Emily and Robert how much Peter got in trouble, he was their baby boy. Robert had always been more stern with them, but more forgiving than Tyler felt was warranted. Peter hadn’t deserved to be bailed out of jail that first time. Then Peter had gotten his law degree, and gone and shunned it (and what it had cost their parents) only a handful of years later.
If it hadn’t been for Peter, Dad wouldn’t have decided a motorcycle at his age was a good idea. If it wasn’t for Peter, Dad wouldn’t have been killed in that accident. If Dad hadn’t been killed in that accident, they wouldn’t have had to watch Mom waste away of a broken heart over the following year.
And killing their parents had really been the unforgivable thing.
Tyler can’t understand how Talia and Miriam can’t see how bad Peter is for their family. He watches from the doorway as Peter hugs Miriam long and hard, greets Talia with a smile and returns the hug when Talia offers it. Peter introduces Stiles to his sisters with a soft touch on Stiles’ elbow.
He’s going to ruin that young man, and they’re all so blind they’re just going to let it happen.
“It’s so nice to meet you,” Miriam tells Stiles warmly.
“It’s nice to meet you too,” Stiles replies. He’s actually genuinely pleased to meet Miriam. Miriam is the one sibling that Peter gets along with best. He’s heard good things about Miriam.
“So,” Talia says, moving back to preparing dinner, “Tell us about yourself, Stiles. How did you meet my brother?”
Stiles sits himself down on a stool at the island counter. Peter rounds the counter to put his baking dish in the oven. Tyler won’t touch the stuffing this year, not if Peter made it. He moves into the room, sitting himself down at the table next to Matt, who deals him into the game of Progressive Rummy they’re playing.
“I wandered into Hale Moon Brew Co. in an attempt to hide from my life,” Stiles tells her. “I met this guy with killer eyes and never really left.”
“You proposed in the first five minutes,” Peter snorts.
“I was talking about Ennis.”
“No, you weren’t.”
“No, I wasn’t.”
Talia is delighted at the banter. It’s obvious to anyone with eyes that Peter is happy. He’s happier than Talia can remember seeing him years. “Did you say yes?”
“No,” Peter says, moving over to help cut up potatoes “I told him to drop the loser he was hiding from and I’d think about it.”
“You were in a relationship?” Miriam asks. She’s sitting next to Stiles, using a knife to spread peanut butter into the grooves of a bunch of celery sticks. She’s not allowed to help in the kitchen this year, she’s eight months pregnant and hating it.
“The tail end of a bad one,” Stiles says. “But it was worth it.”
Peter makes a face when Stiles makes a show of making moon eyes at him, “Put those away. Here, grate that.” He hands Stiles the grater and a block of cheese. Miriam gives him a bowl to put the cheese in.
“Are you sure you want me to do this?” Stiles asks dubiously, eyeing the cheese grater like it’s going to bite him.
It probably will, it’s a sharp object and isn’t a knife. Peter takes it away. Somehow, Stiles is fine with knives, but anything else with a sharp edge and he’ll cut himself in five minutes or less. He gives Miriam the grater, “Trade jobs with him Miri, or we’ll end up visiting the ER.”
Stiles happily takes the butter knife from Miriam, who looks far too amused. Stiles is willing to admit his faults in the kitchen. It’s not like he starves, he’s got Peter to cook for him.
“I love you too,” he tells the tattooed Hale, who winks at him in reply.
The hour before dinner is ready goes well, all things considered. Everyone is on their best behavior. The minefield is navigated carefully; it helps that Peter and Tyler never actually address each other.
Sitting down to dinner increases the number of people to talk to, so it goes decently as well. Derek shows up with a handful of bottles of sparkling cider. Daniel and Geoff bookend Tyler. The twins fight over who gets to sit on Stiles’ other side, Ellie wins, and Arthur sulkily goes to sit next to their mother.
Laura asks about the bar, and Peter tells them all about how they’ve expanded into brewing their own beer. Which sparks a conversation of the weirdest beer ever drunk. Geoff wins with his story about a college roommate who had turned their dorm room closet into a micro-brewery. The beer had always had an off-putting tint of old socks.
“So, Stiles,” Daniel interjects after the beer conversation trails off, “I understand you’re a writer?”
“Yep,” Stiles reaches for the stuffing across Peter, who heaves a long suffering sigh and retrieves it for him. “I just finished my fourth novel and it’s due to be released in June if it passes the editing muster.”
“What kind of books do you write?”
“Crime thrillers,” Stiles piles the stuffing high on his plate, then douses it in gravy.
“Should I just leave this here?” Peter asks, indicating the dish of stuffing.
“You could,” Stiles agrees, “But your niece is making grabby hands.”
Peter passes the dish to Cora, who sets it between herself and Jamie with every intention of never returning it. Jamie agrees and gives Stiles the stink eye when he sees how much he took.
“I enjoy a good mystery,” Geoff says, “What are the titles of your books.”
“Alley, The Shattering and Buzzkill.” Stiles tells him, “The new one is called Foxfire.”
“Wait,” Geoff looks like he just had an epiphany, “You’re Stiles Stilinski.”
“Last time I checked.”
“I loved Buzzkill!” Geoff says, his new enthusiasm palpable. “Is it true that Screen Gems wants to make a movie based on it?”
“They want to,” Stiles says. “But I keep saying no. They want to turn it into a gorefest, and that’s not kosher.”
Geoff frowns, “That would suck.”
“Wait, you’ve read these books?” Tyler finally speaks.
“I have first edition hardcover copies of all of them,” Geoff says proudly. “Buzzkill was released at number one on the New York Times bestsellers list.”
“So you’re a serious author?” Tyler asks, turning to finally look Stiles in the eye.
“It’s a living,” Stiles says, shrugging one shoulder.
“Is Dirk Copley based on your father?” Geoff butts in, cutting off whatever Tyler was going to say.
Stiles decides that while the variety of nieces and nephews seem to be a grab bag of weird and awesome, his favorite Hales are now Miriam and Geoff. “Yes, and he gets exasperated whenever anyone mentions it in earshot.”
Peter smiles to himself as Stiles offers to send Geoff an advance copy of Foxfire when the time comes. From the bits of it that he’s read over Stiles’ shoulder while he was writing it, the guys at the bar are going to be about as happy with the ending of the new book as they were with the old ones. Meaning not at all. Mark will probably throw the book across the room like he did with The Shattering.
Across the table, Talia catches his eye. She smiles tentatively at him, and he knows she’s really trying. She’s genuinely happy for him, and actively trying not to let her own pride get in the way of making a relationship with her youngest sibling.
Peter smiles back.
Proposing to Strangers
Seventeen: Gift Giving; An Expression In Weirdness
The kids want pie right after dinner, but it’s best to digest a little after eating such a big meal. This allows for greater pie enjoyment. They’re mollified with the idea of presents in the meantime, so after loading their dishes into the dishwasher they migrate into the living room with mugs of hot chocolate.
Anyone under the age of twenty is made to sit on the floor. Peter settles himself into the armchair, and Stiles wedges himself into it sideways so that he’s leaning on the arm of the chair with his legs draped sideways over Peter’s lap. Peter takes it in stride and holds Stiles’ mug until he’s comfortable.
“Who won?” Talia asks as she sits next to Daniel on the couch.
“I did,” Jonah says smugly. He’s stationed himself next to the tree. Every year the Hale kids compete in rock, paper, scissors to see who gets to be in charge of handing out the gifts.
“Just the ones for Stiles and Peter, and the ones from them, everyone else will be here tomorrow,” Talia instructs.
“I can’t believe you bought presents, Uncle Peter,” Matt says. “Usually you just send us all gift cards.”
Stiles scowls, “We do not give gift cards. Gift cards are the devil’s way of justifying laziness.”
Peter sighs heavily, “Stiles.”
“No. Repeat after me,” Stiles makes Peter lift his right hand, making Peter roll his eyes. “I, Peter Duncan Hale -” Peter dutifully repeats the oath “- Swear that I will never again give a gift card as a gift, save in extreme emergency.”
“Happy now?” Peter asks, glaring his snickering family down.
“No, kiss me.” Peter does so, amused despite himself, and then Stiles waves his hand imperiously at Jonah, “Proceed, Grand Master of Gift Giving.”
“I like that,” Jonah says, “Let’s keep that title.”
He starts with the kids, because they’re fidgety, and letting them open their presents means that they can go play while the adults finish. Stiles had been kinder to the younger kids than he had been to the rest. Ellie and Arthur get copies of Your Alien and Uni the Unicorn, Michael gets a copy of The Graveyard Book. Maggie unwraps the first book in the Unwanteds series with a grin. Michael thanks them, and Ellie demands that hers be read to her right now.
“Books?” Laura asks as Miriam and Geoff read to their children.
“I’m an author and I don’t know you people,” Stiles tells her, unrepentant. “And your uncle was useless. Gift cards, my ass.”
Ellie appears in front of Stiles, she holds out her hand, “You said a bad word!” Stiles looks from the little girl, to her hand and back again. He digs a quarter out of his pocket and drops it onto her palm. She beams a gap-toothed grin at him, “Thank you for your contribution.”
“Contribution?” Stiles wonders as the four youngest Hale kids leave the room to play, or in Michael’s case, play nintendo in the den.
“To their college fund,” Miriam explains. “Laura and Derek have invested quite a bit in their cousins’ futures.”
Derek’s face goes stoic, but a light blush stains his cheeks. Laura is unrepentant. Jonah passes out the rest of the gifts from Peter and Stiles. The Hales have opening gifts down to an art. They each take turns. Stiles and Peter are handed three gifts, one from each family, as tradition dictates you don’t have to get gifts for extended family until after age 18. Derek flips a card onto the pile and Laura has to maneuver a huge flat package from behind the tree.
Jamie unwraps The Zombie Survival Guide and snickers. Jonah unwraps The Brain Eater's Bible: Sound Advice For the Newly Reanimated Zombie and promptly threatens to eat Jamie’s brain first. They swap books to examine each offering, then agree to swap after they’ve been read by their owners.
“I’m a little worried,” Miriam says, eyeballing her own book-shaped present.
“Like I said, I don’t know you people,” Stiles says. “So you get to know a little bit about me, and also read an awesome book.”
Miriam unwraps Dancing With Reptiles and laughs because she’s a fan of Carl Hiaasen. Geoff offers her his new copy of Poking A Dead Frog, and she takes it happily. Eryn unwraps a copy of Furiously Happy, having expected something humorous, but still surprised by the raccoon on the cover.
Miriam makes them unwrap the gift from her family, and Stiles rips off the shiny wrapping paper with relish. Peter can’t help wincing when he sees what’s inside of the box. “Really, Miri?”
“That’s what you get when you don’t visit for nine years,” Miriam retorts primly as Stiles lifts a cable knit sweater out of the box. It’s navy blue and has a yellow menorah over a white star of david on the front. “Talia said you were raised Jewish, Stiles, I hope you don’t mind.”
Stiles levels a wild grin at her, “This is… fantastic!” he lifts the other sweater out, it’s red and green and there’s a reindeer on the front. The nose is made out of a sparkly puffball. He turns his grin on Peter.
“I’m not wearing that monstrosity,” Peter says flatly.
“Yes, you are.” Stiles is sitting on Peter, so he can’t escape, though he tries. Stiles shoves Peter’s head through the neck hole of the sweater and pulls it down, pinning his arms to his sides. It takes Peter a few minutes to sort himself out, and by then Stiles has donned his menorah sweater and retrieved the presents that had fallen to the floor in the scuffle.
Peter’s hair is sticking up in every direction and he’s scowling down at his sweater. Stiles smooths his hair and snuggles into him, “You look adorable.”
“I am not adorable,” Peter argues. He’s a badass biker, he’s ruggedly handsome. He’s not adorable.
“Yes, you are,” Stiles tells him, then kisses him to shut him up when he opens his mouth to argue.
“Nice!” says Matt. He and Maybelle got copies of the same book. They’re both seventeen and in their last year of school. Stiles had thought How to Be a Person: the Stranger’s Guide to College, Sex, Intoxicants, Tacos and Life Itself had seemed appropriate for two kids about to head off to college.
“I’m a little terrified,” Maybelle admits, flipping through the pages.
“You don’t actually have to read it, but if you take it with you when you go to college it can be used as either a source of conversation or to weird out your roommate,” Stiles tells her. She laughs, understanding the joke. She’ll probably read the book.
Talia is perfectly happy with her paperback copies of Stiles’ books, and Daniel laughs and waves his And On That Bombshell around, because Top Gun is his favorite movie. Stiles’ choice in books is a huge insight into the kind of sense of humor he carries around with himself. It also says something about Peter, who let him get away with it.
Talia has more restraint than her sister. Peter unwraps this one with some trepidation, but is pleasantly surprised to reveal a tasteful wooden box with a bottle of aged whiskey in it alongside a gift certificate to a nice Italian restaurant back home.
“Thank you,” he tells his sister genuinely. She beams back at him, pleased.
“Yes!” Cora exclaims, laughing. She’s waving around a red book titled Emergency: This Book Will Save Your Life. “I love this book! I read it last year when I was stuck in basecamp on K2. I borrowed it off this Swedish guy that kept trying to get in my pants.”
“You have wild stories, don’t you?” Stiles asks.
“We’ll talk,” Cora tells him. Cora’s gift to everyone this year is the fact that she made it home for the holiday. She won’t mind spending some quality time with a person that will appreciate the stories she can’t tell her family for either their weirdness or for merit of the fact that her life had been in danger.
Laura toasts them with her mug after she unwraps How To Survive A Sharknado, flipping the book over to read the back. Derek is expecting it, but is pleasantly surprised at Awesome Shit My Drill Sergeant Said, and decides to take it to work and leave it on his desk at the station.
Derek got them a card with thirty bucks inside it that states that they’re both adults and can shop for themselves. The gift from Laura is a Laura Hale original painting of an ocean landscape scene in blues and greens. The painting is stunning, the watercolors vibrant. Stiles knows exactly where they’re going to hang it.
Tyler unwraps The Big Bad Book of Bill Murray, and his mouth tightens. Peter recognizes the signs of an impending Tyler eruption, and deftly maneuvers out from under Stiles. He stands, shoulders straight and chin high.
“Tyler, a word,” Peter’s voice brooks no room for argument. He leaves the room before Tyler can reply.
Tyler drops the book in his wife’s lap and follows.
Nervous glances are exchanged around the room when they hear the front door open and close. Stiles bites his lip, rolling it with his teeth nervously.
“Should we?” Laura asks quietly.
“No,” Talia and Stiles say at the same time. They look at each other, surprised.
“This has been a long time coming,” Talia finishes her thought.
Stiles nods, “They won’t figure it out until they’ve punched each other in the face.”
The worst part is, he’s right.
All the books mentioned in this chapter, aside from Stiles' assorted works, are REAL books. I haven't read all of them, but they're on my list. The ones I have read are great books.
Chapter 18: The Ghost of Christmas Past
Proposing to Strangers
Eighteen: The Ghost of Christmas Past
Peter doesn’t let Tyler get too close, he also doesn’t let him get a word in. As soon as he’s cleared the porch steps, Peter is stooping down in the lee of the house where the sun doesn’t reach to scoop up a handful of wet snow. He packs it into a ball and turns, throwing it with accuracy so that it hits Tyler right in the face.
“You utter asshole!” Peter snarls.
Tyler shakes off his shock, lets out a yell of rage and runs at Peter. Peter braces himself, and Tyler tackles him into the snow. They roll around for a minute, trading blows. Peter slaps at Tyler’s head while his brother hits with closed fists. Peter shoves several handfuls of snow down the back of Tyler’s shirt and shoves him away.
They lay on the ground, panting for a few minutes.
“I hate you,” Tyler says, venomous.
“I know you do,” Peter says. “It’s easier for you that way.”
Tyler sits up, turning to glare, “Excuse me?”
Peter meets his gaze, unbending. “It’s easier for you to hate me, to blame me for everything than it is to admit that there isn’t a reason for anything.”
Tyler snorts and gets to his feet, “Oh, of course it’s not your fault. Doesn’t matter how many times you screw up, does it? You’ll always weasel your way out of it, won’t you?”
“Are you mad that I’m happy and successful despite not being what you consider an upstanding citizen, or are you mad that I never needed your approval?”
Tyler aims another punch at Peter, this time the younger brother blocks it, shoving his taller sibling away from himself. Tyler stumbles. Peter turns to walk back into the house, then Tyler speaks, making Peter freeze in his tracks.
“You killed them.”
Peter turns to look at Tyler. He’s hunched over with his hands on his knees, still panting. “Excuse me?” Peter asks, voice deadly.
“You killed them,” Tyler reiterates. “If it wasn’t for you, for your incessant need to buck convention, Dad would have never bought that motorcycle, and she wouldn’t have wasted away!”
“What?” Peter asks, bewildered. “Tyler, Dad’s the one that taught me how to ride. He learned in Vietnam.”
“So! If you hadn’t been so rebellious it wouldn’t have come up. He wouldn’t have bought that stupid machine and he wouldn’t have had to have been scraped up off the corner of Birch and Second!”
“Dad would have bought it anyway, Tyler,” Peter informs him. “Mom complained for years before he ever bought it that he should just buy a bike already so he’d stop complaining about it to her.”
“No, she didn’t.”
“Yes, she did. You don’t remember her telling him to stop daydreaming and do something about it?”
“She told all of us that!”
“It started with Dad!” Peter throws his hands up. “He’s why she started saying it!”
Tyler takes this information in, then addresses something else, “Where were you when she was dying, Peter? Because it certainly wasn’t here, I remember. I was here every day.”
“She wanted me to finish my degree. She told me if I didn’t go she’d never forgive me. She made Talia ban me from the house,” Peter looks away, frowning. “I sat all my exams early that year so I could come home. By the time I got here she was already gone. You don’t think I wish I hadn’t listened to her? That I had just blown it off and stayed here to take care of her? Why do you think I quit being a lawyer? It certainly wasn’t about bucking convention.”
“Why did you quit?” Tyler’s voice is sober. Something inside his chest has cracked open, relieving a pressure that had been building up inside him for nine years.
“I quit because every single second of every single day made me think of her. Made me think about how this stupid law degree made me miss the last year of her life.” Peter won’t look at him, won’t show him the naked pain in his eyes, but Tyler can still see it etched into the skin of his face. He looks too much like their father for Tyler to ever be unable to read him.
“She died, Peter,” Tyler tells him. “She died asking for you, and you weren’t there. I don’t think I can forgive you for that.”
“That’s okay,” Peter tells him quietly, “neither can I.” Then he brushes the snow off his ugly Christmas sweater and goes back inside.
Tyler sits down on the porch swing to think.
For once, no one had spied on the people in the front yard. The awkward silence had stretched on for a long time as they all listened to the indecipherable yelling coming from outside. As soon as it quiets, Stiles begins to pack up their things.
“It was genuinely nice to meet all of you,” Stiles tells them, meeting Talia’s eyes, “but I think it’s time for us to go.”
“I’ll get your baking dish,” Eryn says, rising. She sets the two books gently on the side table and heads into the kitchen. She’s embarrassed over her husband’s actions, and needs a few minutes to gather herself.
Stiles puts on his jacket, gathers up Peter’s, and tucks Derek’s envelope away in a pocket. He lets Miriam hug him, then goes over to Talia, because he knows she’s struggling. Most of the fights she’s had with Peter have been about him not coming home. Stiles sets his hands on her arms and pulls her into a gentle hug. When they part he tells her, “I’ll make sure he calls. We skype my Dad once a week, it wouldn’t be hard to add one more call to that tradition.”
Talia smiles gratefully, “I’d like that. You won’t be strangers?”
Stiles cracks a grin, “You could try to stop us from visiting, but it’s not gonna happen.”
Eryn reenters the living room carrying the baking dish they’d brought the stuffing in. It’s been washed and there’s a small tupperware inside it with two slices of pie in it. Before she can hand the dish over to Stiles, the front door opens and Peter walks it.
There’s a moment of silence, then Talia steps forward and hugs her brother. She squeezes him tightly and says, “I can’t say it was unexpected, but I kind of hoped today would go better.”
Peter laughs, it sounds tired, “It went pretty damn well and you know it, Tal.”
“Stiles promised you’d call.”
Talia nods and steps back to let Miriam hug him. Then Cora, Laura, Maybelle and Jonah converged on him, making him laugh.
“We want invitations to the wedding,” Miriam tells Stiles, who looks at her wide-eyed for a second, then grins and nods.
They step back out into the cold winter air. Neither of them looks at Tyler as they climb off the porch and cross the lawn to the jeep. Stiles cranks the heat once they’re inside it. They don’t talk until Stiles has pulled out onto the main road and the house has vanished behind them.
He reaches over and takes Peter’s hand, squeezing gently. At the silent show of support, Peter cracks, “He blames me for our parents.”
“He doesn’t know everything that happened,” Stiles replies. Stiles doesn’t know everything that happened, he isn’t sure he ever will. “He can blame you all he wants, it doesn’t make it true.”
“I know that,” Peter tells him. “I just didn’t realize that I lost my brother at the same time I lost my parents.”
“You’ve got a couple of pretty awesome sisters that love you to pieces,” Stiles reminds him gently.
“Yeah,” Peter cracks a smile, “I do, don’t I?”
Stiles hums, “You’ve got me too, I’m pretty darn fond of you.”
There’s silence for a while after that. Both men content to watch the town pass on their way back to the Stilinski residence. Eventually Peter breathes “I love you, too” into the silence.
The rest of the trip is a comforting silence. Neither of the mentions the still wrapped gift sitting in the back seat.
Chapter 19: Home Again, Home Again, Jiggety Jig
Proposing to Strangers
Nineteen: Home Again, Home Again, Jiggety Jig
Christmas Day is a quiet affair after the eventful evening the night before. Since everyone under the Stilinski roof is an adult, they all sleep past eight. Stiles is the first one up, so he puts coffee on and boils the kettle for anyone who might want tea or hot chocolate. John comes down second, and father and son spend a little while being comfortable together, gazing at the lights on the tree.
Melissa and Peter come down at about the same time. Melissa puts the pan of cinnamon rolls she’d put together the night before into the oven to bake. Peter refills everyone’s mugs and joins Stiles on the couch.
“So, how’d last night go?” John asks eventually.
“It could have gone better,” Stiles says, “could have gone worse, too.”
They leave it at that. John and Melissa have no need to butt in. Stiles and Peter are both adults, and can make their own choices. It’s nice to see that they’re stronger together than they are apart though. For John, it’s nice to know that Stiles has someone looking after him.
Scott stumbles down the stairs, bypasses everyone else and plops down in front of the tree. He starts passing out gifts right away, mostly because he wants to open the ones addressed to him.
The rest of the day is pleasant. There are enough leftovers from dinner the night before (as there were only three sharing it), that between the pan of cinnamon rolls, the leftovers, and the well-stocked pantry, no one feels inclined to cook. Stiles finds an orange in the toe of his stocking, and gives all his peppermint flavored treats to Peter. Peter returns the favor by giving him the pile of assorted chocolates he found in his stocking.
John and Melissa are both on shift that night, so they leave after an early dinner. Scott and Stiles spend a few hours playing the Xbox while Peter reads.
Early in the morning on the twenty-seventh they pack up the jeep for the drive back home. The goodbyes are short, there is no need to make a big production out of it when they’ll see each other over the skype connection on Sunday.
The world is still waking up as they drive out of Beacon Hills. Peter cracks open Cat’s Cradle, sensing a new tradition forming whenever they road trip in the jeep. Stiles enjoys the smooth cadence of Peter’s voice. He settles into the vibration of the engine, the sight of the miles being eaten away.
The tension set into both of them (residual from the dinner) recedes the further from Beacon Hills they get.
Around lunchtime, Stiles pulls over at a roadhouse for food that didn’t come out of a cooler. His sense of normal has been skewed since he started hanging around bikers, so the fact that there’s a good twenty bikes lined up outside the place bothers him about as much as he can be. Not at all.
Peter just shakes his head and indulges Stiles when he insists that he put his Black Knights kutte on over his olive army jacket. He just watches fondly as his fiance makes friends with a bunch of guys wearing Devil’s Enforcers patches. He’s never heard of that MC before, and doesn’t mind making the acquaintance of their President.
He wonders briefly if he should be concerned about Stiles’ ability to endear himself to bikers.
They pull into the lot at Hale Moon Brew Co. sometime between eight and nine. The lot is full of bikes and a few cars. Peter pulls the jeep into its designated space and shuts off the engine. Then he reaches over and gently squeezes Stiles’ leg. He grumbles, mostly asleep.
“We’re home,” Peter tells him softly.
Stiles yawns widely, blinking his eyes open to look around at the familiar sights around them. They live in the apartment above a bar and he’s okay with that, because it’s just the two of them and they really don’t need that much space. He shuffles out of the car, coming around the back to be handed the box that contains the gifts they’d been given. He grips the hanging wire stretched across the back of Laura’s painting and lets Peter get their suitcases.
“I want to sleep until New Year’s,” Stiles says, following after Peter.
Peter knows the feeling. He pushes open the door at the side of the building that leads to a separate set of stairs leading up to the second story. There’s a set inside the bar as well, but this entrance is used more often, and in this case, allows them to bypass the bar full of people to go upstairs to their quiet apartment.
It’s only been a few days, but Stiles has missed the sight of their overflowing bookcases and the mismatched armchairs and soft, squashy brown leather couch. He carefully props the painting against the wall in the hallway where he wants to hang it, and plops the box of goodies onto one of the armchairs.
Peter delivers their suitcases into the bedroom and emerges a moment later to remove his boots and put them on the rack in the hall closet. Stiles does the same and pads into the kitchen to put the kettle on.
“I’ll do laundry tomorrow,” Stiles says. He’s waiting to get his draft back from his publisher for revisions, he’s got time. Tomorrow is Wednesday, which, in the world of bar ownership, makes it weekly inventory day. Also, Peter needs to make sure that Ennis got everything they’ll need for the Black Knights New Year’s Bash that the bar is hosting.
“That would be wonderful,” Peter tells him from where he’s collapsed on the sofa. Stiles may not be a good cook, but he makes up for it with his willingness to do other chores.
The kettle shrieks, so Stiles takes it off the burner. He stares at it for a minute, decides he doesn’t want to go to the effort to actually make the tea, and leaves the kitchen, flicking the light off on his way. He flops down on the couch (and subsequently, Peter) with a grunt. Peter wraps his arms around him.
“I should go check in on things down stairs,” Peter murmurs into the silence.
“Ennis is a big boy, he can handle it,” Stiles tells Peter’s bicep, because it’s closest.
“Mostly,” Peter remarks, making Stiles huff a laugh that he feels more than hears.
“We should go to bed.”
Neither of them moves for a long time. Eventually Stiles heaves a sigh and climbs off of Peter. He hauls Peter to his feet, and they wander toward the bedroom, flipping off lights as they go. They take turns in the bathroom, and then they collapse into bed, ready to sleep the rest of the travel weary.
They’ll deal with the rest of the world tomorrow. Maybe.
Chapter 20: It's New Year's, Not Boo Year's
Proposing to Strangers
Twenty: It’s New Year’s, Not Boo Year’s
The door to the bar crashes open. It thuds against the wall and several gigantic bikers crowd through the doorway. Technically it’s too early for the bar to be open (and it isn’t), but this has never stopped any of the Knights before.
“No,” Peter says, not even looking up from the notebook he’s studying. He’s going over the accounts while Ennis tries to figure out how many glasses have been broken this month and need replacing.
“You didn’t even hear our idea!” Bear complains. Bear is the Knights’ president. He’s big, hairy and about as dangerous as a butterfly. He wasn’t always that way. It had been Bear who had transitioned the club to the legitimate, charity champion it is now. You wouldn’t know it to look at him now.
“I don’t care, still no,” Peter says.
“Ennis?” Bear turns to man behind the counter. Ennis gives him a gallic shrug and continues to count glasses.
Bear huffs, and tells them his idea anyway, “We should have a raffle!”
Peter groans, sitting back to rub a hand down his face, “I am not organizing a raffle.”
“I’ll do it,” Bear tells him. He’s got a giant handlebar mustache. The ends have been done up in uneven braids. It happens periodically, he’s got a granddaughter he can never say no to. “We’ll add it onto the New Year’s festivities.”
“And what would the prizes be?” Peter demands.
“The usual: donated dinners at local restaurants, a free case of Hale Moon Beer, an oil change at the garage,” Bear says. “Dottie up at the theater offered balcony tickets to their next production.”
“This is not a charity benefit, Bear,” Peter says. “I am not throwing a charity benefit where all of you will end up drunk.” He learned his lesson the last time.
“It’s not a charity thing. Just the raffle.”
“The shelter on fifth needs a new roof,” Mark says. He’s building a tower with a pile of the new matchbooks that Ennis had ordered with the bar’s logo on it.
“How much do you still need?” Peter asks.
“Fifteen hundred,” Mark says, “Robertson said he’d donate the crew to do it if we can get the money.”
“Fine, a raffle,” Peter says. “But nothing else.”
“You’re all heart,” Bear tells him sarcastically, but he’s grinning.
It’s New Year’s Eve and Stiles is behind the counter for the first time. He’s been dating Peter since the end of July, but he doesn’t blame them for keeping him away from the breakables. He’s been relegated to cutting up limes and lemons into wedges for drinks, and refilling the peanut and pretzel bowls. He doesn’t really mind.
It’s safer behind the bar.
If nothing else, bikers certainly know how to party. Even the ones on the right side of the law. Isaac, Scott, Allison and Lydia are pressed up to the bar, unsure about this whole situation. Danny doesn’t care much, he’s got a tipsy Jean-Paul wrapped around his back like a limpet.
“Stiles!” Erica exclaims, appearing out of nowhere in front of him. He’s gotten used to it, so he just grins and accepts the kiss she pops onto his cheek, “Happy New Year! Have you seen my taller half?”
“Bear challenged him to a game of darts,” Stiles tells her. Everyone knows that Boyd has perfect aim. She laughs. “Loser reads at the children’s story hour at the library every Saturday for a month.”
Boyd has four sisters, all of whom are many years younger than himself. Small children don’t scare him, but Bear is easily overwhelmed if he isn’t personally related to said children.
“I’m going to go watch, beer me.” Stiles does as directed and she swans off.
“I’m going to go,” Lydia says. She slings her purse up onto her shoulder and steps daintily down from her stool. Allison follows, “We promised Jackson we’d go to the party at Nova.”
Stiles nods, “Thanks for swinging by, I know this isn’t your usual scene.”
Allison dimples at him, “You are our scene, Stiles. Besides, some of these guys are nice to look at.”
“Just to look at,” Lydia says firmly. She’s starting to understand that the people Stiles has surrounded himself with are good people, but she’s allergic to cheap denim and cigarette smoke. She’s woman enough to admit that dating one of these guys would turn into a project for her.
Stiles grins, “Have fun at Nova. Say hi to Jackson.”
“We will,” Allison replies as Lydia swats at Danny and JP to get them moving. Jackson doesn’t like JP, but Danny does so Jackson holds his peace most of the time.
Stiles hasn’t heard much from Jackson since their talk all those months ago. Mo’s been sort of keeping him informed. Lets him know that he’s making the good kind of progress. Stiles hopes it means that Jackson will be happy one day, and also that maybe they might be able to be friends.
“You guys don’t have to stick around, you know,” he tells Scott and Isaac after the rest leave.
Isaac grins wildly, “Are you kidding, I’m having a blast!”
He is, too: he just finished a wild game of Parcheesi with a bunch of people at the big booth in the corner. “Board games and beer? Bring it on!” he thanks Peter for the new beer he’s given, and then heads for the corner again. They’re setting up a game of Apples to Apples.
Scott picks at the label on his beer. He’s been trying to avoid talking to Stiles about what’s been bothering him, because Stiles is so happy, but Stiles is Stiles, and Stiles has noticed. Stiles raises his eyebrows at him, trying to prompt him into talking, but Scott’s pretty sure this isn’t the venue for this particular conversation.
“Hello, Kira,” Peter greets.
Kira takes the empty seat next to Scott. She’s all dressed up in a cute purple and black dress, her hair back in chopsticks. They’re probably sharp as knives. Kira says hello, and offers Scott a sweet smile. Scott swallows his tongue and smiles back at her helplessly.
“Hi, guys!” Liam collides with the counter. He’s beaming. Stiles thinks he looks like an excited puppy.
“Hey, Liam,” Stiles tells him.
“Happy New Year!” Liam offers, then introduces himself to Scott. He babbles incoherently about how his holiday was, then excuses himself to go find someone named Mason.
“Are we sure he’s old enough to be in here?” Stiles asks Peter, leaning toward him some.
Stiles barely notices the cheering as the countdown ends and the new year begins. As soon as they’d hit five, Peter’s hand pulls him into the tiny kitchen and presses him against the wall. He’s vaguely aware of ‘Three! Two! One! Happy New Year!’, but can’t be bothered because he’s being kissed.
Stiles returns the kiss with enthusiasm. He runs his hands up Peter’s arms and into his hair. When they pull away from each other they’re both panting for breath, and Stiles feels a little weak in the knees.
“Happy New Year,” Peter murmurs against his lips.
“Mmm,” Stiles hums, then cracks his eyes open to see Peter smiling fondly at him. “Back atcha. I love you, so much.”
Peter tips their foreheads together, “I love you, too.”
“Glad I chose to hide in your bar that night?”
“Every damn day.”
Chapter 21: Scott McCall, Douche Impressionist
Proposing to Strangers
Twenty-One: Scott McCall, Douche Impressionist
Peter doesn’t want to admit to what he’s doing, but it’s kind of hard to miss. He’s standing in the middle of the supermarket flipping through a copy of Bride magazine and feeling ever increasingly disgusted at each new pastel monstrosity he uncovers. It’s like, simply because spring is upon them, darker colors are suddenly a nono.
It’s not his fault that he’s thinking about this stuff. It’s Stiles’. Stiles, who had used those big whiskey eyes of his to convince him to go ring shopping a couple of days ago. Peter had gone, and it hadn’t been that bad. They’d found some pretty cool titanium bands with knotwork scrolled onto them, and it hadn’t taken forever.
But it had made the fact that Peter is getting married more real.
He doesn’t regret saying yes for a second, but he’d somehow forgotten all about the hooha and froufera that comes with weddings. He’s not a hooha person, he’s a low key person. He wonders wildly if Stiles is going to want a hooha.
“What are you doing?” Stiles’ voice comes from behind him, sounding amused.
Peter turns to look at him, magazine in hand, wide-eyed. “Please tell me you don’t want a wedding like this,” he pleads.
Stiles steps forward and wrestles the magazine out of Peter’s frozen grip. He smoothes out the crinkled pages and puts it back on the display, then loops his arm through Peter’s and leads him away. “No, I don’t want a wedding like that.”
“Oh, good,” Peter sighs with relief and relaxes. “What kind of wedding do you want?”
“Small. A judge and our closest friends,” Stiles tells him as they get in line to buy the small basket of produce and milk they had come to buy. “I don’t want a reception.”
“Can we skip the wedding announcement thing then?” Peter asks.
“No, we’re doing those,” Stiles says, then shudders, “Talia threatened me with death by fire if we didn’t do those.”
“When did you talk to Talia?”
“She called yesterday while you and Ennis were fighting about what to do with all the leftover holiday beer.”
Stiles is tapping a pen against a pad of paper and chewing on his lip when Scott slides into the diner booth opposite him. He gets a distracted greeting, and then Stiles goes back to what looks like a list.
“What’s this?” Scott wonders, nudging the notepad.
“What? Oh,” Stiles flips the notepad around for Scott to read.
It isn’t what Scott was expecting. He’d been expecting distracted outlining for a new novel, or a list of things Stiles needs to get done, not… this. This is a list titled Wedding, and consists of things like 1. Where? 2. When? and 3. Invitations.
“Oh,” Scott says.
His tone catches Stiles’ attention. His eyes narrow at his best friend with suspicion, “What?”
“Nothing,” Scott says quickly.
“It’s not nothing. You don’t have nothing face.”
Scott shifts in his seat uncomfortably in his seat, “It’s just… I know you like Peter, but I didn’t think you were serious.”
“Scott,” Stiles says slowly, “I’ve been proposing to the man since the day we met. If that’s not serious, I don’t know what is.”
“I wish you weren’t,” Scott mutters.
“Excuse me?” Stiles’ tone is glacial.
Scott straightens his spine, his back going up at the tone. “You heard me,” he says, “You can do better than a biker who is covered in tattoos and owns a bar.”
“Can I?” Stiles questions. “Can I really do better than an upstanding member of the community? A man that not only owns his own business, but also does well enough to turn a profit at said business?”
“He’s not good enough, Stiles!”
Scott crosses his arms with a huff, “He’s an arrogant, self-righteous, manipulative bastard!”
“A lot of people would say I’m all of those things too.”
“He makes me happy, Scott.”
“I know that,” Scott says, softening a little. “It won’t last though, it never does.”
Stiles feels like he’s been slapped. It’s true that Stiles has never had a relationship last a full year; and that all of them ended in misery. It’s also true that Stiles is the kind of person to second guess the good things in his life… but the thing is, with Peter he’s not. For the first time in… ever, he’s finally gotten this thing right.
“Look,” Scott says into the silence. “I know you like him. He’s a novelty, you’ve never been with someone like him before, but what happens when the shiny wears off? What happens when his personality flips and he starts acting like the biker he is? I don’t want you to get hurt.”
“Which is worse?” Stiles asks, “The fact that Peter isn’t who you want me to be with, or that I don’t need you as much as I did before?”
He doesn’t wait for an answer, he just stands up and leaves the diner. Scott slumps in his seat, dragging a hand down his face. That could have gone better, but Stiles had needed to hear it. Peter is the wrong choice, Scott knows it.
Isaac straightens in his seat with surprise as Peter sits down across from him. He’s in full biker regalia; jeans with boots and wallet chain, henley under his leather jacket, which is under his kutte. He hasn’t shaved in a couple of days (out of laziness, but it serves his purpose today), and his eyes are snapping with glacial fire.
“I didn’t do anything,” Isaac says automatically.
Peter is shorter than Isaac, but somehow he seems to fill a lot more space than he does. The Library feels a lot smaller. “You didn’t, Scott did.”
“Well, shit,” Isaac says, slumping in his seat. “What did he do?”
“He told Stiles that he’s a horrible judge of character, that his relationship with me is bound to end in disaster, and that marrying me is going to be the biggest mistake of his life.”
Isaac blows out a long breath on a low whistle. Scott is Isaac’s best friend, too. With Stiles happy in relationship-land, the two of them have been spending a lot more time one-on-one than as a trio. Scott doesn’t like change, and Stiles not being around all the time is a big one. It also doesn’t help that Scott doesn’t like Peter.
“He can’t get past how dangerous you look, man,” Isaac tells the biker across from him. He waves a hand at Michelle when she comes close enough to throw a questioning look at his back. He supposes that in a library is as good a place as any to have this conversation as anywhere. At least here Peter can’t yell at him, but: “Dude, ambushing me at work is not cool.”
Peter raises a single eyebrow at him, somehow making himself look even more sinister, “You guys invade my workplace all the time.”
Which is… true. More than half the time they don’t even buy drinks or any of the myriad bar fare on the menu, they’re just there to see Stiles. “Point,” Isaac admits.
“Look,” Peter says, leaning forward to give the blonde librarian an intense look. Isaac feels properly threatened. “I don’t give a shit what you have to do, talk to him, beat the shit out of him, whatever; but get Scott to suck it up and fix this.”
“Scott’s as stubborn as they come.”
“And Stiles spent last night trying not to cry all over me because his brother doesn’t trust his judgement.”
Isaac winces. Stiles is a strong person, but he’s in tune with his emotions. He and Scott have known each other since kindergarten, Scott knows just where to hit to make it hurt the most. Stiles has always had difficulty finding his own worth to people, always thinking he isn’t good enough somehow. Too spastic, too loud, too something.
“I’ll call Lydia, we’ll talk to him.”
“Good.” Peter stands up, then knocks his knuckles against the table top, “I can’t tell you how much I never want to hear the words ‘maybe we shouldn’t get married’ cross his lips ever again.”
Isaac watches him stride out of the library, back straight, head high. A few minutes later he hears the roar of a motorcycle outside. He digs his phone out of his pocket. “Dammit Scott,” he mutters as he looks for the right contact. When Lydia’s name pops up, he hits the call button and raises the phone to his ear.
“Hey, Lyd, we need to talk. Are you free for lunch?”
Chapter 22: A Venue By Any Other Name
Proposing to Strangers
Twenty-Two: A Venue By Any Other Name
Stiles hits the button that will send the final draft of Foxfire to his editor. He sits back with a sigh, satisfied that it’s done. He never fell behind on this one, not even once. It’s a first. He’s even got a release date, June sixteenth. Deucalion wants him to do a book signing at the Barnes and Noble in the mall. Get some extra publicity for his fourth novel.
The fans will like him doing a signing, especially the hometown crowd. Stiles doesn’t like doing book tours, so he’s ready to say yes to the one signing if it means he can say no to a national tour. He’ll probably have to throw in a few talk shows to make up for it, though.
The front door opens and Peter enters the apartment. He’s got a reusable bag from the market in his hand, and he toes off his boots and leaves them in the hall. “Hey, how’s it going?” Peter asks, wandering over to the corner where Stiles set up his desk.
Stiles likes this corner, it butts up against one of the big windows, and he gets indirect sunshine for most of the day. “I finished,” Stiles tells him, leaning into the hand that cards briefly through his hair. He tilts his head back to look up at Peter, and the other man obligingly leans down to kiss him.
“That’s great,” Peter tells him, genuinely pleased for him. He heads for the kitchen, “I thought I’d make carbonara tonight.”
Stiles makes a happy noise in the back of his throat, making Peter chuckle and grin. Stiles stretches his arms over his head with satisfaction, then gets up to follow. He parks himself on a stool at the counter to keep Peter company while he cooks.
While Peter goes about getting out the dishes and ingredients he needs to make dinner he says: “Hey, so I had a thought.”
“Shoot,” Stiles says curiously.
Peter sets a bowl of peas in front of Stiles, and Stiles obligingly starts to shell them. “Well, I thought, since neither of us is really sold on the idea of a traditional wedding,” Peter begins, “what would you think of eloping?”
Stiles stops shelling peas, a pod dangling from his mouth, “What?”
“Eloping,” Peter starts the water for the noodles, then meets Stiles’ startled gaze. “And I don’t mean the traditional kind where we run off to Vegas and we get married by Captain Picard or Elvis or something.”
“What other kind is there?” Stiles wonders, because he’s never heard of any other kind.
“We run away from home,” Peter says. “We’ll call your Dad, get married at the courthouse in Beacon Hills on our way to wherever. Talia can be our other witness.”
“Is that even still considered eloping?”
Stiles starts to smile, “I love that idea.”
Peter sighs in relief, “Oh, good, because I already talked to your Dad. He’s calling in a favor with a judge he knows to expedite the paperwork.”
“When are we leaving?” Stiles demands.
“Friday,” Peter replies. “I need a day with Ennis since we’ll be gone more than the weekend.”
Stiles boosts himself up onto his hands and leans over the counter to kiss Peter, who indulges him, happy that his idea was well received.
“Can we take the bike?” Stiles asks.
“It’s still a little cold,” Peter warns. He’s used to riding in the middle of winter, but Stiles isn’t.
“I’ll bundle up,” Stiles says. “You promised me a road trip.”
Peter has a hard time saying no to Stiles, so he doesn’t. “Yeah, okay. Whatever we can’t fit in the saddlebags we’ll buy when we get there.”
“Where are we going?” Stiles asks.
Peter shrugs, “Grand Canyon? I know a guy that runs a bed and breakfast there that isn’t too bad.”
“This guy doesn’t happen to be an old biker, does he?” Stiles asks with playful suspicion.
“Now why would you think that?” Peter wonders with mock bafflement.
Stiles laughs. Peter grins; mission accomplished.
The second Lydia walks up to the table behind Scott, she slaps him upside the head. “What were you thinking?!” she demands, rounding the table to sit down next to Jackson on the other side of the booth.
Isaac and Danny have bracketed Scott into the booth so that his only route of escape is to climb over the back of the seat into the booth behind them, which is conveniently occupied by a family with several sticky handed children.
“I didn’t do anything!” Scott exclaims defensively.
Lydia scoots over to make room for Allison, who is wearing her disappointed face. It matches Danny’s, and pairs well with Isaac’s ‘I-am-so-sick-of-your-shit’ face. “I have it on good authority that you told Stiles that he’s a horrible judge of character and that marrying Peter is a mistake,” Lydia says flatly.
Scott’s face goes stubborn, “It is.”
“He’s happy Scott,” Isaac says. “Why can’t you be happy that he’s happy?”
“Because he’s making a mistake!” Scott explodes. There is something about Peter that makes Scott believe that he’s bad for Stiles. That eventually he’s going to hurt him, and Scott isn’t going to sit by and let that happen.
“It’s his mistake to make, though, isn't it?” Jackson asks. His voice is level, and he looks the least angry of everyone at the table. It’s strange enough to make everyone pause. “That’s the whole point. It’s his mistake to make.”
Jackson hasn’t been around much since he and Stiles split. He’s been working with Mo, working on himself. He’s spent a lot of time with Danny, but Danny is his best friend, and doesn’t count. He’s developed a lot of perspective in the last months.
“I don’t want him to get hurt,” Scott says. “And if I have to be the bad guy to prevent it, then I will.”
“You’re going to bad guy your way right out of his life,” Jackson tells him flatly.
“What do you know?” Scott demands. Jackson hasn’t been around, Scott has. Jackson’s never even met Peter, not really, his one drunken encounter doesn’t count.
“I know that Stiles might have been the best thing that ever happened to me, and I was too wrapped up in my own shit to notice,” Jackson tells him. “I’ve been so busy being convinced that I don’t deserve to be anything but miserable to see a good thing when I had it. I was too busy making both of us miserable.”
“See, that’s my point,” Scott says. “I don’t want him to be that miserable again.”
“How do you know he will be?” Danny wonders.
“How can he not be?”
“Why?” Danny asks, getting defensive, he too is dating a biker. “Because Peter owns a bar? Because he’s in a motorcycle club? Stiles has never been one for convention and you know it.”
Jackson speaks again before Scott can say anything, “What you need to ask yourself is this: Do you want him to hate you so much he never speaks to you again, or do you want to suck it up, be happy that he’s happy, and if -” Jackson stresses the if “- if they break up, you can be there to pick up the pieces?”
Scott thinks about it. Stiles has a type. Usually it’s douches like Jackson; guys who are narcissistic enough to be able to handle (and can keep up with) his intensity. Peter is just like all of those other guys… Only not. He’s a little less self absorbed and a lot more dangerous.
“Scott,” Lydia says, not unkindly, “It wasn’t us that picked up the pieces when Jackson and Stiles broke up. It was Peter.”
“How do you know that?” Scott asks her, feeling a little lost. He has noticed that Stiles is happier than he has been in a long time. He had thought that it had been time and his friends fixing it. Was he that wrong? Did his dislike of Peter really just blinder him that much?
“Stiles hides things from you,” Lydia says. “You’re his brother and he wants you to be happy, so he hides how hurt he is. Peter fixes it, makes it genuine. He doesn’t have to hide from any of us with Peter around.”
“I’m being a dick, aren’t I?”
“Yes,” Isaac says.
Allison reaches out and pats Scott’s hand sympathetically, he smiles at her weakly, “It’s okay, you’re human. You can go see him and apologize. You might have to grovel a little -”
“A little?” Danny wonders with a snort.
Allison glares at him, then looks back over at Scott, “but he’ll forgive you.”
“I can do that,” Scott says, he’s an expert groveler. He’s also pretty good at hiding just how much he doesn’t like someone.
“I’d wait until tomorrow,” Lydia says consolingly, “It’s late and he probably needs some more time to cool off.”
“Right, okay. Tomorrow.”
Lydia doesn’t say it, but Isaac winks at her when their gazes meet. Making Scott wait until tomorrow means that Stiles and Peter can get out of town without any complications. Scott will just miss them, but Ennis has already been briefed and is ready to deal with it. She discreetly takes out her phone and fires off a text:
(303): Mischief Managed
Proposing to Strangers
Twenty-Three: Going To The Chapel
Scott sits in his SUV outside Hale Moon Brew Co. for a long time the next morning. He’s clutching at the steering wheel and trying to convince himself to go in there, apologize to his best friend, and then just never say anything again. It’s not like Scott can’t keep an eye on Peter. He can watch him for signs of the inevitable impending relationship doom he knows is coming.
He gets out of the car. He can do this. He can be the best friend and the support and make an effort. He heads inside.
“He’s not here.”
Scott gapes at Ennis. Somehow he had never noticed how big the guy is until now. “Oh,” he swallows, “um, do you know when he’ll be back?”
“Not for a couple of weeks,” Ennis tells him, and finally sets down the case of beer he was carrying, making the muscles in his arms bulge.
“Where did he go?”
“With Peter,” Ennis says, shrugging.
Scott huffs, because the bar owner is being obtuse on purpose, “Alright, where did they go?”
“Beacon Hills,” Ennis tells him, donning a nasty smirk, “they’re eloping.”
“Eloping?” he asks faintly.
“Yeah, Stiles’ dad knows a judge or something,” Ennis is restocking and doesn’t see the shock on Scott’s face. “They decided a big to do wasn’t for them, and off they went.”
Right, and it had nothing to do with Scott at all. He knows he doesn’t have any right to feel jilted for not being invited to his best friend’s wedding. He brought it on himself.
“Do you - Do you know when they’ll be back?”
“After the holiday, I expect.”
Right, Valentine’s Day is next week. It makes sense that they would extend their honeymoon past it. Scott nods, says a faint farewell to Ennis and then leaves Hale Moon Brew Co. When he gets into his car he realizes that Lydia must have known they’d be gone by now. She’d insisted he wait until today to talk to Stiles.
He supposes she was right, he does deserve to stew in his guilt for a little while.
Talia is quite surprised when the Sheriff calls her late on Thursday night.
She doesn’t know what she’d been thinking, following the man around in December. She’d been highly curious about Stiles, wondering what kind of man he was. She had thought vaguely that by learning what kind of man the Sheriff was might give her some insight into what kind of man his son was.
She’s even more surprised that he’s not calling her out on her weirdness. He just tells her that due to unforeseen circumstances, and how weird Stiles and Peter actually are, they’re eloping. She’s disappointed that she won’t be able to celebrate her youngest sibling getting married for all of five seconds until John tells her that they’re coming here to elope.
They’ve got an appointment with Judge Henry on Saturday morning, and would Talia like to attend as the second witness?
There’s only one answer for it: yes, thank you.
John doesn’t tell her what the ‘unforeseen circumstances’ are, and she doesn’t ask. It’s not really her business and she knows it. See, she’s grown as a human being. Her children won’t believe her, but she knows it.
Talia steps out of her car and smooths down the front of her dress. It’s early in the morning on a weekend, technically the courthouse is closed, but John had called in some favors and gotten not only the judge, but the judge’s secretary (and certified notary) to come in. The Sheriff’s distinctive SUV is already in the parking lot, and so is a dangerous-looking dark blue motorcycle.
She must be the last one to arrive. She hurries up the steps and into the building.
Stiles tilts his chin up so that John can straighten the bow tie he’s wearing. Stiles isn’t much of one for formal neck wear, but it’s his wedding day so he’s making an exception. Besides, it’s blue and green plaid and bow ties are cool. Peter winks at him over John’s shoulder, having already tied his tie into a perfect windsor.
John finishes tying and pats Stiles on his shoulders, “You ready kiddo?”
Stiles grins at his father, “Bring it on.”
John chuckles with a shake of his head and turns to Peter, “You sure about this, you can still back out?”
Peter smirks at Stiles’ indignant squawk, “I’m afraid he’s grown on me. Like a fungus.”
Stiles smacks him on the shoulder and grins when Kelly, Judge Henry’s secretary walks into the room with Talia on her heels. He steps forward and Talia accepts his hug, though her expression is surprised at the gesture. “Thank you for coming, Talia,” Stiles tells her once he’s pulled away.
“Of course,” Talia replies with a pleased smile, “It’s not every day your brother gets married.” She turns to Peter, “How are you, Pete?”
Peter blows a big breath out of his mouth, puffing out his cheeks for a few seconds, and smiles at her, “I’m good. Excited. A little nauseous.”
Talia embraces Peter, he accepts it and squeezes back, “That’s normal. Just don’t throw up on anyone and you’re golden.”
The little group laughs at her advice, and then Kelly breaks the moment, “If you’re ready, Judge Henry’s waiting for you.”
She leads them into a small side room, decorated tastefully and meant for moments like these, as well as informal meetings. Judge Henry is wearing his judge’s robe and grinning at them. He tells them all where to stand. There’s a few moments of confused shuffling, and then they’re ready.
“Alright,” Judge Henry begins, “before we get to the vows, Peter asked that I share the following poem by Emily Dickinson with you to set the tone. We’ll start there:
That I did always love,
I bring thee proof:
That till I loved
I did not love enough.
That I shall love always,
I offer thee
That love is life,
And life hath immortality.
This, dost thou doubt, sweet?
Then have I
Nothing to show
Stiles smiles at Peter, knowing that the poem is Peter’s way of telling him how much he loves him without having to find words of his own. Peter smiles softly back at him, and Stiles nods. They don’t need lots of flowery words, or crying epistles about how and why they love each other. This is enough of a declaration.
Stiles senses another visit to Sarcasm Ink in their future.
“Marriage is a serious state, which both persons enter into willingly with a vow to love and support each other,” Judge Henry continues. “Do you have the rings?”
They exchange the rings they had picked out, holding hands under the smiling gaze of Judge, father and sister. “Do you, Peter, take Stiles as your lawfully wedded husband?”
“And, do you, Stiles take Peter to be your lawfully wedded husband?”
“Well then, but the power vested in me by the great state of California, I now pronounce you husband and husband. You may now kiss.” Judge Henry waits patiently as they trade a kiss. John lets out a loud whistle.
“Yes, yes,” the judge waves his hand around, “Go with Kelly, sign the papers. Get out of my office.”
Everyone shakes the judge’s hand and file out of the room after Kelly, who leads them down the hall to reception. She congratulates them while they sign the necessary documents, and then she leaves them alone with John and Talia.
“Well then,” John says, clapping Peter on the shoulder, “you’re stuck with us now.”
Talia gives Stiles a tight hug, “Welcome to the family, Stiles.”
Stiles and Peter grin at each other. It’s a good start.
Poem from The Collected Poems of Emily Dickinson, VIII, pg. 155
Chapter 24: Sunset on the Grand Canyon
Proposing to Strangers
Twenty-Four: Sunset on the Grand Canyon
Harlan Coburn has known Peter Hale for enough time that he doesn’t even remember when they met. Mostly he’s just always felt that Peter’s always been around. Harlan had been with the Unholy Scorpions at the time, and Peter had been on spring break during his freshman year out of UCLA. Peter had been introduced to the MC life, and Harlan had given him his first tattoo.
The rest was history.
So when Peter calls him on the phone to ask a favor, Harlan can’t help but say yes. Besides, letting a room to the man at a discount means he not only gets to catch up with his old friend, but he gets to meet the person that managed to pin down the infamous Peter Hale. So, win win.
When they arrive, Harlan isn’t sure what he was expecting, but it wasn’t this. Stiles is not what Harlan had pictured. He’s an attractive young man with a contagious grin and enough sarcasm to make him the perfect fit for Peter. Harlan likes him.
Stiles and Peter spend a few days lazing around the hotel, then they go on an excursion hiking in the canyon. They take several long drives on Peter’s bike, driving along long stretches of open highway. Harlan gets them in with a friend that owns an aerial tour company, so they get to see the canyon from the air.
It’s a good trip. Time together that both of them needed to shake off the last of the stress from the holidays, and just enough time for Stiles to calm down about the fight with Scott. He knows he’s still got to deal with it when he gets home, but he’s got Peter on his side, that’s really all he needs.
They take the long way home, driving up the coast for a while. A trip that usually takes one day, they stretch into two, stopping to investigate some interesting restaurants. They eat a lot of good food, and see some of the sights.
They get back into town late in the evening on Wednesday almost two weeks after they left. There are bikes outside the bar like always, and a couple of cars.
“You know,” Stiles decides as he uses Peter’s shoulders to keep his balance climbing off the back of the dyna, “It was a nice trip, but it’s good to be home.”
Peter slings his arm around Stiles’ shoulders with a grin, and presses a kiss to the side of his head, “I can agree with that.”
Stiles smirks mischievously and clicks his heels together three times with a wink, “There’s no place like home.”
Peter throws back his head and laughs, because it may be cheesy, but it’s funny. They head inside, going through the front door to say hi to whoever is inside.
The second someone spots them he yells: “Peter and Stiles are back!”
A raucous cheer sounds through the bar, there are several shouts of ‘Congratulations!’ and a couple of ‘Drinks all around!’ and a few good natured jokes about who the celebratory rounds are on. They get ushered up to the bar where Ennis is standing with a grin on his face.
“Is this your doing?” Peter demands.
Ennis shrugs, “It was worth it for the look on your face. Besides, we can use this as an excuse to get rid of the leftover holiday beer.”
Peter shakes his head in amusement at his best friend, and watches fondly as Stiles lets himself be passed from patron to patron for congratulatory hugs. He leans on his elbow against the bar and accepts the beer that Boyd offers him. Erica and Stiles are now standing close together, whispering conspiratorially.
“Yeah,” Peter says to himself. “There’s no place like home.”
Settling back into the ease of their routine after they get home takes a few days, but they manage. Stiles starts outlining ideas for his next novel. He has several fights over the phone with Deucalion, who wants him to do a book tour starting with the signing in June. Stiles knows that publicity is important, but he just got married and doesn’t want to spend several months crisscrossing the country.
They agree on a ten city, whirlwind tour - not including the signing at Stiles’ local Barnes and Noble. Stiles figures he can give up two weeks and be content.
On Friday morning Peter spreads out his laptop and other supplies and goes over the bar’s books. Ennis has a slightly better brain for numbers, but Peter is more organized. He also has more patience for sitting and going over the records than his partner. It’s his research savvy lawyer brain coming out to play. In return, Ennis checks Peter’s math, and is the face of the company.
It works for them.
That’s what Peter is doing when Scott enters the bar. “We’re closed,” Peter says without looking up. They don’t open until two on the third friday of every month for just this reason.
“I’m not a customer.”
Peter looks up, scowling. Scott shifts uncomfortably under the weight of Peter’s accusing stare. Then he straightens his shoulders and walks over to the table Peter is seated at and sits down across from him.
“Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t forcibly remove your ass right now,” Peter says flatly.
“I came to apologize,” Scott says. From the iciness of Peter’s expression, and the way those tattooed arms have crossed over his chest as he sat back in his chair, Scott knows he’s got to get through the bar owner before he even sees hide or hair of Stiles.
Which means he’s got to suck up his dislike and apologize to Peter as well.
“Go on,” Peter tells him, knowing how much Scott means to his husband.
Scott fidgets in his seat a little, then sucks up his doubt and says: “I’ve watched Stiles get into relationship after relationship and they were all with the same kind of guy; a complete douchenozzle with an extra helping of asshole for flavoring. After the disaster with Jackson, and the way you’re kind of a jerk, I thought you were just another in a long line of people who were going to hurt him.”
Peter raises an eyebrow at him, “Okay, I’ll give you that. That doesn’t excuse the fact that you told him you think he’s a poor judge of character. That marrying me was the worst idea in the history of ideas.”
“I know that,” Scott says. “I just, I thought that knowing where I was coming from might help prevent us from yelling at each other.”
“I get it, you don’t want him to get hurt again. Did it ever occur to you that maybe I won’t hurt him?”
“Not really,” Scott says honestly, wincing.
“Let me tell you what this is from my point of view,” Peter offers, then doesn’t give Scott a choice. “I’m not the easiest person to get along with. I’m narcissistic, sarcastic, and yes, I am covered in tattoos and ride a motorcycle; which lends itself to certain stereotypes. When Stiles walked in here looking like someone had just run over his puppy right in front of him, I had convinced myself I was going to be alone for the rest of my life.
“Feeding Stiles that night was the best thing that’s ever happened to me. I love him with every fiber of my being. He’s not the guy I’ll die for, he’s the guy I’ll commit murder for and then happily spend the rest of my life behind bars for.”
It’s easier to say you’ll die for someone, Scott knows. It’s harder to be willing to live with the consequences of doing something for that person. Scott would die for Stiles, he won’t go to prison for him.
“Okay,” Scott says, taking a deep breath. “I’m sorry. I let my first impression of you, and my fear of having to pick up all the Stiles shaped pieces again, color my view of your relationship.”
“Apology accepted,” Peter tells him, and he relaxes. Peter isn’t the one he’s got to convince. Peter was already prepared to forgive Scott simply by merit of Scott being Stiles’ brother. What he says next causes Scott to tense up again, “I’m not the one you’ve got to convince. You really hurt him.”
“He’s upstairs, yelling at Deucalion the last time I saw him.”
“Right,” Scott says with a nod, getting up. He pauses on his way to the stairs in the corner, “Thanks.”
“Don’t thank me yet,” Peter rumbles, going back to the books. “You’re about one hundred apologies and a dozen lunches away from being forgiven.”
Scott knocks on the doorframe to get Stiles’ attention. The front door to the apartment is open, but since you have to go through the bar to get to it, Stiles doesn’t mind. He looks up from the notebook he’s jotting ideas into and narrows his eyes at his sheepish best friend standing in his doorway.
“It’s about damn time,” Stiles snaps his fingers and beckons Scott forward. “Lydia told me I should hear you out. You’ve got five minutes to convince me to let you grovel.”
Scott grins at his word choice, knowing that Stiles is quoting Lydia. He’s grateful that Lydia laid some groundwork for him. He sits down across from Stiles, who watches him with guarded eyes. He starts to talk.
Chapter 25: We're Going to the Fair!
Proposing to Strangers
Twenty-Five: We’re Going to the Fair!
Every year the local elementary school puts on a charity event via the Black Knights MC. The money raised from the Children’s Fun Fair goes to pay for the summer program the school hosts. It’s a five day a week program that fuels learning, gives kids somewhere to go that’s indoors and safe, and allows parents who work to either know where their older child is going to be, or provides daycare for younger kids.
It’s a good cause.
It’s also one of the first charity gigs the Knights took on when Bear started them leaning straight. He’s very invested in it, wants it done right. His granddaughter will be attending this coming summer’s program, and without the proceeds from the fun fair, the program won’t happen this year.
As a result, it’s become a huge town event. The local radio stations all donate some advertising space to remind the residents of the upcoming fair, along with information on where to go or who to contact if one is interested in donating time, money, supplies, or any combination thereof. The local newscast reminds everyone to get ready for the fun during the morning and evening news.
The Black Knights hang huge event posters along Main Street. Bear coordinates with a guy he knows to bring in rides like a carousel and ferris wheel at a discount. Teachers from the school, Knights, and interested parents and civic minded citizens make up the core of the force behind the Fun Fair.
Peter starts to argue with Jones (one of his fellow Knights) over chili recipes. Peter is determined that he’s going to beat Carol-Ann Freemont in the chili cook-off this year if it’s the last thing he does. Jones owns the diner on Fourth and Main, so Peter knows he’s got a willing ally. Not only is Jones a Knight, but Mrs. Freemont always sends her plate back to the kitchen whenever her family eats at the diner.
He’s ready to take her down a peg.
When asked if he’s judging again this year, JP gives Bear a very grumpy face and tells him that if he’s not it’ll be because he’s in a coma. There are three art contests at the fair, kids, adults, and freestyle. Kids is fairly self explanatory, the adult contest usually consists of the people in town who consider art a hobby. Painting, drawing, sculpture and the like. The freestyle competition was created two years before for those people who considered things like scrapbooking and bird house making an art form.
The prizes are supplied by the Art Attic, totalling over five hundred dollars in art supplies. JP, as the head curator at their little museum, lives and breathes the contest.
Mo spends hours badgering Erica, Kira, Finstock and Liam for artwork for his face-painting booth. He also convinces Liam to help out at the booth. Liam doesn’t know any better, having only been Erica’s apprentice for nine months. He wasn’t around in previous years, and doesn’t know that people call Mo the Face Paint Dictator behind his back.
None of them have the heart to tell him.
“Why not?” Mark demands, early one March morning. He’s been following Bear around for two days trying to get him to lift his lifetime ban from the pie eating contest.
“Because you’re a black hole,” Bear tells him flatly, giving him a glare that has been known to cow greater men than Mark. “It’s not fair to the other contestants.”
“But it’s pie!” Mark wails. He waves his long arms around in protestation of his cruel treatment.
“Okay,” Ennis says, looking decidedly grumpy. “I don’t give a shit how much you like pie, Durant, you knock over the beer, you’re paying for it.”
Ennis and Peter donate beer and other drinkables to the fair every year. They run a booth where all the food stalls are, and all the proceeds go to the cause. Ennis has three open cases of beer lined up along the bar, trying to decide which ones to offer this year.
Mark makes a whining noise at the back of his throat, and Bear heaves a giant sigh. “Okay, fine,” he says, “How about we make you a judge for the contest? You can take home the extra pie.”
Mark’s attitude does an about face, and he grins, “Deal!”
In the corner Stiles has to lean against Danny, he’s laughing so hard. Danny’s having trouble keeping a straight face, but he’s managing better than Stiles. Stiles isn’t even trying to hide how much the chaos of the preparation this event is creating is amusing him.
“They’re like small children,” Stiles snickers.
Danny can’t help but agree. They’ve attended the fair every year since each of them moved to town, but this is their first glimpse into the inner workings of the planning.
“I’m glad that’s not us,” Danny remarks.
Stiles snorts, “Me, too.”
“Watch your language! There are children about.”
Scott turns to glare at Stiles, sucking on the thumb he’d just pinched in the locking mechanism on the legs of the folding table he is putting together. Stiles just smiles beatifically back at him, enjoying his pain to a degree. Scott checks to make sure he’s not bleeding before he finishes locking the table legs and flips it right-side-up.
Stiles had volunteered him to help out at the Hale Moon Brew Co. booth at the fair this year, and since Stiles had yet to forgive him completely, Scott had gone along with it. There aren’t any children about, the fair doesn’t open for two more hours, but Scott knows that Stiles doesn’t care.
Ennis appears at his elbow towing a dolly loaded with cases of beer. “Soda goes on this table, beer opposite.”
Ennis carefully levers the stack of beer cases off the dolly and heads back toward his truck. They’re selling an equal amount of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages this year, and plenty of water to boot. Scott gets to do the drudge work, Ennis doesn’t trust him with the money box.
Stiles pats him on the shoulder, “I’ll come back for you when your shift is over.”
“Where are you going?” Scott asks quickly. Don’t leave me alone with Ennis, he thinks. He doesn’t want to die.
Stiles wiggles his phone at Scott, “Peter just threatened to kill Jones by crockpot, I like my husband outside of jail.”
Stiles likes to emphasize the word ‘husband’ around Scott. Scott doesn’t blame him. Before Scott can reply, Stiles wanders off. Ennis reappears with more beer, this time different brands that don’t carry the Hale Moon logo. Scott stares at him wide-eyed for a moment, then quickly gets back to work.
“Are you ever going to give that kid a break?” Kali wonders when Ennis returns to the truck for another load. She’s sitting in the bed, having put herself in charge of shifting the cargo toward the tailgate for easier moving.
Ennis grins at his wife with his teeth, “When his terror stops being amusing.”
“Got it in one.”
“Really?” Stiles asks as soon as he gets to the tent where the chili cook-off is being held. There are about a baker’s dozen in entries. The fair had opened its gate about fifteen minutes ago, and Peter is engaging in an aggressive stare-off with one of the other contestants already.
“He’s been glaring at her since she got here,” Jones offers. He, like all the other Knights, is wearing his kutte as a show of club solidarity. “I don’t mind, it gave me time to set up the bowls the way I wanted.”
Stiles sidles up next to Peter, looping his arm through the other man’s, “You’re in a stare-off with a housewife, Peter.”
Peter growls, “She’s not a housewife, she’s the devil.”
At the table across from them is Carol-Ann Freemont, an unassuming woman of medium stature with her hair cut in a bob. She’s wearing a light yellow cardigan and a homemade apron covered in cheerful polka dots. She’s customized her table with color co-ordinated bowls, cutlery, napkins and table cloth.
She’s also glaring back at Peter with equal ferocity.
There couldn’t be two people with more contrasting looks. Peter’s in a shirt and his kutte, full sleeves of tattoos on full display. Stiles tugs on his wallet chain to gain more of Peter’s attention. Peter’s blue eyes turn to look at him.
“She’s not going to win,” Stiles tells him. He’s eaten more test batches of chili in the last month than he’s eaten in his entire life.
Peter visibly stops himself from growling again, “No, she’s not. Because if I have to listen to that woman gloat for another year, I’m gonna kill her and sink her in the duck pond in Municipal Park.”
Stiles isn’t sure how Peter will manage that, seeing as the duck pond is about three feet deep at the best of times, but decides not to mention it. He pats Peter’s arm consolingly, “Just hand out chili. You’ve got this. Between you and Jones you’ve created the best chili I’ve ever had, hands down.”
Peter sighs and turns to finish piling plastic spoons into a red solo cup on the table. People interested in trying all the different chilis are starting to filter into the tent. Judging isn’t until four o’clock, so Stiles figures it’s safe to leave the two bikers be for a bit.
“I’m going to go find Lydia and Allison,” Stiles tells Peter, pressing a kiss to his cheek. “Don’t kill the scary housewife.”
“No promises,” Peter replies, shooting another glare across the way. “You’ll be back in time for judging?”
“Yep, and then after you win I expect you to win me a giant stuffed animal with the dead plastic eyes, and make out with me on the ferris wheel.”
Peter laughs, “Deal.”
Chapter 26: No, You Can't Take Out a Hit on the Housewife
Proposing to Strangers
Twenty-Six: No, You Can’t Take Out a Hit on the Housewife
Stiles finds Lydia, Allison and Isaac at Mo’s face painting booth. Boyd is standing next to the display of examples of art with his arms crossed over his chest. He’d look completely intimidating if it wasn’t for the gigantic blue and green butterfly wings painted over his eyes.
“Is… Is that glitter?” Stiles asks in wonderment as he ambles up to the group.
“No,” Lydia says from where Mo is painting a paisley pattern up the side of one of her cheeks. The color palette matches her clothes. She smirks, “They’re rhinestones.”
Boyd grunts, unamused. Erica bounds up to Stiles, waving a paintbrush, “You going to let me paint you?”
“Usually I would, but Peter is gearing up for battle in there, and I don’t think he’d appreciate his moral support appearing just in time for judging with whiskers on his face.”
“I’ll do your whole face,” Erica offers sweetly.
Stiles bites his lip uncertainly. Isaac butts in, “You have to Stiles. If I have to, you have to.”
Isaac is seated in a tiny chair meant for a customer much smaller than he is. Liam is painting a smiling sun (complete with little gold stars) on the side of his face. He’s concentrating so hard his tongue is poking out the side of his mouth, and he looks like he’s going to have an aneurysm.
“Um,” says Stiles intelligently.
“I’ll paint you a fox face,” Erica cajoles, “and you can bring Peter back after his victory and I’ll paint him a wolf, and that way you match when you ride the ferris wheel.”
“If I let you paint me,” Stiles counter-offers, “Will you go on the horse tornado with me?”
“Horse tornado?” Erica asks faintly, confused and a little worried.
“It’s what he calls the carousel,” Allison offers. She’s sitting next to Lydia, watching Mo paint. She’s already got a pretty red rose on the side of her face. Erica calms down and nods at Stiles in agreement, leading him over to her station by the hand.
Stiles sits docilely for Erica to paint his face like a fox, “I also need all of the cotton candy.”
“Hot dogs,” Isaac demands. He’s suffering the indignity of having his face painted like he’s five years old, he deserves a hot dog. Or five.
Lydia sighs, “We’ll take the long way through the food stations.”
Danny laughs at them when the group arrives at the carousel. Erica and Boyd are with them. Erica has peacock feathers on either side of her face and an agreement to run the booth for Mo so that the biker won’t miss the fireworks during the cook off judging.
“No judging,” Stiles tells him, deliberately looking his friend up and down.
“I already judged him for his poor taste,” Jackson informs them all. Danny rolls his eyes. He’s wearing a bright purple t-shirt that reads ‘If Lost Return to Jean-Paul’ in white letters.
“Please tell me he’s wearing an ‘I Am Jean-Paul’ shirt,” Isaac pleads.
Danny snorts, “Of course he is. Where’s Scott?”
Stiles looks around and then waves his cotton candy wand around, “He’s coming.”
Scott is indeed making his way through the fair going crowds toward them. He’s wearing a blue Hale Moon logo shirt and a sheepish grin.
“Geez, Stilinski,” Jackson asks, “how long are you going to make him grovel for?”
“I figure he’ll be off the hook after the fair is over.”
“You left him with Ennis?” Lydia asks. “You’re cruel, I approve.”
Scott reaches them and says hello. Once the greetings are exchanged Stiles hands the cotton candy wand to Scott, and Scott beams. They head for the line to the carousel, chatting amongst themselves as friends do, and ignoring some of the looks parents are giving them. They’re all in their twenties (closer to thirty than twenty, to be honest) and they’ve all had their faces painted and are waiting in line for the least adult ride at the fair.
Stiles and Allison adore carousels, the rest just indulge them.
When it’s their turn, Erica joins them on a horse, and Boyd selects one that doesn’t actually go up and down. Lydia sits herself on one of the benches primly and takes out a nail file. Once they’re all seated and the worker has walked around the circumference of the ride to check that everyone has wrapped their safety strap around them, the ride starts.
Stiles whoops with joy.
Peter isn’t even remotely surprised when Stiles returns at quarter to four with his face painted like a fox and a funnel cake in one hand. He’s got Jackson and Lydia with him. Peter can’t even be bothered to scowl playfully, he’s too busy handing out small bowls of chili and trading hateful glares with Carol-Ann.
“Really?” Lydia asks, picking out a spoon and a bowl to try the chili. Stiles shakes his head when he’s offered some and hands it off to Jackson. He’s eaten too much chili recently. “She’s my height, Peter.”
“She’s the devil,” Peter tells Lydia seriously. Then he raises his eyebrows at Jackson in question. Jackson stops shoveling chili into his mouth to give peter a grin around his spoon and a thumbs up.
“Who’s judging?” Stiles asks.
“Chief Nolan, Captain Gafferty and Mayor Benson,” Jones tells them, pointing vaguely at three men at the far side of the tent. The police chief, captain of the fire department and mayor look forward to the chili cook off all year.
“When are they announcing?”
“Have they been here already?” Stiles asks, nudging himself up under Peter’s arm. He locks his arm around his waist by looping his thumb through a belt loop.
“Yeah,” Peter says, shooting another dark glare across the way at Carol-Ann. “They’re on the last table now, and then they’ve got ten minutes to deliberate.”
“Don’t worry,” Stiles says, “you’ve got this.”
Jackson grabs up the ladle and serves himself some more chili, not even flinching when Mo, JP, Mark and Bear all appear. He just serves them up some chili since it seems like Peter and Jones are too distracted watching the judges, who have huddled in a circle in the far corner.
Peter and Jones round their table as the huddle breaks up. Carol-Ann does the same and Peter offers her his hand with a very fake smile on his face, “Good luck, Carol-Ann.”
Carol-Ann shakes his hand, “And to you.”
“Alright, alright,” Mayor Benson says, waving his hands for quite. “We’re ready to announce our winners for this year’s chili cook off.”
“In third place,” says Chief Nolan, “Is Mrs. Jenkins and her Louisiana chili.”
Mrs. Jenkins is an older lady whose children have all left the nest. She’s got nothing to do besides garden and cook. Everyone claps politely as she steps forward to accept her ribbon.
“In second place,” adds Captain Gafferty, “In a surprising turn of events, is Carol-Ann Freemont!”
“HA!” Peter crows, as shock crosses Carol-Ann’s face. He doesn’t even care if he wins now, she didn’t. It takes her a minute, but she eventually makes her way up to the from to accept her ribbon, the shock still plain on her face.
“And that makes this year’s Chili Cook Off Champion,” the Mayor pauses for effect, “Peter Hale and Douglas Jones!”
The bikers crowded around the table erupt into cheers.
Chapter 27: Ferris Wheel Round and Round
Proposing to Strangers
Twenty-Seven: Ferris Wheel Round and Round
Stiles shifts his weight, tucking himself further into Peter’s side. The sun is down, and with the sun went the warmth of the day. The ferris wheel car rocks gently with the movement. Below them the whole town is stretched out, lights twinkling.
“So, good day?” Stiles asks.
“Yeah, good day,” Peter agrees.
“Even though I made you get your face painted.”
“Yes, despite the fact that I got my face painted like a child,” Peter says, then pulls his husband into a kiss. His face is painted like a wolf’s, and he’d at least felt comforted by the fact that Stiles looks as ridiculous as he does.
“Mmm,” Stiles hums, tipping his head to lean against Peter’s shoulder.
They watch the lights of the city below them and the stars above for a while. The fair below them is a riot of color and sound. It was a complete success. The kid’s summer program at the elementary school will go ahead for another year, and a good time was had by all.
“I think I’m going to forgive Scott,” Stiles tells Peter softly. “I figure he’s groveled enough, and it’s not like I’m going to listen to him anyway.”
“That boy needs to learn to look past first impressions and stereotypes.”
Stiles doesn’t disagree, so he doesn’t respond. The ferris wheel starts to rotate around at an even pace, meaning that they’ve finished loading all the baskets and it’s actually a ride now. They watch the horizon come up to meet them, then Stiles speaks again, “What do you think of moving?”
“Out of the apartment, or out of town, because the second one might be difficult, but I can manage it.”
Stiles laughs, “Out of the apartment. It’s tiny.”
Which is true. The apartment above the bar had been great for a bachelor. They made due with the lives of two people squished inside it, but it’s cramped. It had been great at first, when all the novelty of living together had still been there. Also, it’s only a one bedroom, so any guests would be stuck with the couch or getting a motel room.
“What did you have in mind?”
“Yeah, you know, multiple bedrooms, big kitchen, garage. White picket fence.”
Peter pinches Stiles’ side and he yelps with a laugh. “I’m not maintaining a picket fence. Are you going to paint it every year?” Stiles makes a face. “I didn’t think so,” Peter says.
“Lydia knows a realtor that could help us find a place.”
Peter frowns, “And if we use Lydia’s realtor are we going to go bankrupt?”
“No,” Stiles tells him, “I was thinking more like the houses on Grove or Mill.”
“Suburbia,” Peter says flatly.
“We can be that couple on our street that all the other neighbors talk about,” Stiles offers brightly. “You with your motorcycle and leather boots and night job, and me, the guy that doesn’t leave the house for days on end. You know, that guy where nobody knows what he does for a living so they like to spend time competing to see who can create the most outlandish theory.”
“You’ve thought about that way more than is probably healthy.”
Stiles shrugs. He has thought about it. Mostly because watching Peter act normally around regular people is hilarious. The more normal he acts, the more nervous and frightened they get.
“We should also become the Halloween House. You know, the one on the block that goes all out.”
“Stiles,” Peter sighs out.
“What?” Stiles asks, “We’re married now, we need to think about this kind of thing.”
“You’re going to become a holiday decoration hoarder,” Peter says, “and I don’t know if I can live with the prospect of being crushed by a giant spider, or frosty the snowman.”
“You love me,” Stiles retorts. “Besides, that wasn’t a no.”
“Get the number from Lydia,” Peter says. “We’ll look around.”
Stiles cheers, then leans over and kisses Peter. They spend the rest of the ride making out.
It has always amazed Stiles how quickly things like fairs get taken down and packed up. After all the effort of planning and setting up, it only takes a few hours the following day to take it all down. Each vendor, or booth, is responsible for cleaning up their own area. Peter had cleaned up his chili station the day before, shortly after beating Carol-Ann at her own game, so all they really have to do is take down the Hale Moon booth.
Ennis had had the mindset the day before to only unload the consumables as they needed them, so really it’s about packing away coolers and tables and taking down the canopy. Stiles helps by staying out of the way and making sure Ennis and Peter remain hydrated.
The tent and the tables go back into storage, there to stay until the next time they’re needed.
The rest of the cargo goes back to Hale Moon Brew Co. to be sold at regular prices. They don’t actually have to unload that much at the bar; Ennis did good business at the fair. It was a good place, good causes make people more willing to spend money.
They fall into bed, exhausted but happy. Stiles has the number of a highly recommended realtor to call the next day.
And he does.
A few days later they’re wandering around a two story farmhouse on the edge of town. It’s got creaky floorboards and enough character for one of Stiles’ books. They both love it, the problem is, it’s too big. They don’t need a five bedroom house for just the two of them. So that one get’s a pass.
A few days after that and Rebecca Warren, Lydia’s realtor friend, comes back with another couple of options. One is a condo in the development that had gone in a couple years before just off Watercress. The condo is nice, but the neighborhood feels cramped. Peter isn’t sure how the neighbors will feel about a motorcycle coming and going at all hours with them all that close together.
The second is a single story with clapboard siding and a stone facade. It’s in the middle of the suburbs, which rubs Peter the wrong way, but otherwise it’s a good option. The walls need a repaint, and the carpeting needs replacing, but otherwise. Stiles paces through the rooms, picturing where things will go. There’s enough space for a guest bedroom, and for Stiles to use the smallest of the three bedrooms as an office. It’s got two full bathrooms and the kitchen is huge.
Peter loves the kitchen. Stiles loves the little nook off the living room.
“Aside from the carpets and the walls,” Rebecca tells them, “the back yard could use a little work.”
They peer out the sliding door into the back yard. “I’m not taking up gardening,” Stiles says flatly.
“We’ll hire a landscaper,” Peter says with a shrug. Besides, if they have someone coming once or twice a month it means he’ll never have to mow the lawn.
“It could use a new oven,” Stiles remarks, opening and closing the loose oven door. It’s got electric plates and chipping paint. “Is the house set up for gas?”
“Yes,” Rebecca says, “the previous owner just went with cheap the last time they replaced the stove.”
“We could get you the range you really want,” Stiles comments to Peter. He’s seen the magazines lying around. He knows that Peter dreams about the kitchen he could have if he had the space for it.
Peter hums agreeably, he’s peering out the blinds in the front, “Stiles we need this house.”
Stiles raises his eyebrows at Peter’s back, exchanging a look with Rebecca. As far as he knew they were still making up their minds. “We do?” he wonders, “Why is that?”
“Because unless my eyes are deceiving me, that’s Carol-Ann Freemont.”
Stiles bounds over and peers out the blinds, which Peter obligingly holds open for him. It is Carol-Ann. She’s hauling her recycling can up the driveway to put back in it’s place at the side of the house next door.
“You want to buy this house solely for the purpose of annoying the hell out of a suburban housewife?” Stiles demands.
“Yes,” Peter says, unrepentant.
Stiles shakes his head. Apparently they’re going to be the kind of neighbors that participate in neighborhood rivalry, espionage and sabotage. Stiles decides not to fight it, he really likes that nook off the living room.
“Yeah, okay,” Stiles turns to Rebecca, who looks like she’s trying not to laugh. “Let’s put in an offer, Rebecca.”
“You got it.”
Chapter 28: A Biker and an Author Walk Into a House
Proposing to Strangers
Twenty-Eight: A Biker and an Author Walk Into a House
“What do you think?”
Scott stops pacing across the new carpeting in his socks (to build up a static charge to shock Stiles with) and looks over at his best friend, “That nook off the living room is awesome!”
“I know, right!” Stiles replies, grinning. It’s more of an alcove, and Stiles has plans to fill it with books and squashy chairs, maybe a lamp.
“The carpet is nice,” Scott says, shuffling over to Stiles and reaching out to shock him. Stiles jolts and gives him a death glare, making him laugh.
“It’s new,” Stiles tells him, rubbing his arm. They’d had the carpeting ripped up and replaced in the living room and bedrooms, the hallways, kitchen and bathroom had been redone in a nice tile designed to look like wood. It would be easier to maintain and handle more wear than hardwood, also, it had been cheaper. The house still smells of wet paint, and the walls are all now a uniform eggshell white.
“When are you planning the move?” Scott asks, peering around the corner into the kitchen. “Where’s the stove? And the fridge?”
The oven had been removed, along with the ancient 1980’s era refrigerator. Stiles pats Scott on the arm, “We’re replacing those. Peter and Ennis went to pick up the new ones.”
Scott nods, it makes sense, what with Peter’s proclivity for food and cooking. “How many bedrooms?”
“Three. I’m going to use the smallest one as an office.”
“With that nook, I doubt it,” Scott says, irony lacing his voice.
Stiles shrugs, “We need somewhere to keep all the important documents, and somewhere for me to stash copies of things. Oh, and somewhere for my computer to hibernate. You know, like a bear.”
“Your computer is not a bear,” Scott sighs, “It doesn’t get enough sleep to be a bear.”
“We’re renting a truck on Saturday,” Stiles says, “I expect all of you to help.”
“Duh,” Scott says, then rounds the island counter and realizes that there’s no dishwasher either; just a gaping hole where it should be. It makes the kitchen look even weirder than before.
Carol-Ann had been somewhat sad when the Johnsons had moved out of the house next door. They had been good neighbors, friendly, quiet. They’d always been willing to help out if asked, and Carol-Ann had borrowed sugar and eggs on more than one occasion. She’s watched the house be shown several times over the last six months, but no takers. Then, suddenly, there had been a sold sign on the realtor’s sign. Then the sign had come down.
New neighbors! She’d have to welcome them to the neighborhood properly, maybe with her lemon bundt cake.
Work gets done, carpets and painting from when Carol-Ann can tell. A landscaping service comes by for a few days and leaves after taking care of the jungle that had been growing the back yard. This is a nice development because said jungle had started to encroach on her own garden through the fence.
She decides to just stay out of the way when she wakes up one Saturday at the end of April and sees a moving van in the driveway. She gets dressed, cooks breakfast, and then leaves the house to go run her errands. She’s got book club at one, Michael has soccer at three, Daisy has dance at the same time. Robert will pick up Daisy on his way home from work, so after soccer it will be home again.
Early enough to bake that cake.
Stiles is not allowed to move anything bigger than a large cardboard box unless he can see around it. This rule prevents accidents, and Stiles will be the first to admit that while he’s graceful like a baby gazelle, being graceful while carrying large, awkward objects is not his forte. So he’s relegated to helping move all the boxes containing the things that fit in boxes.
Which is mostly everything aside from art for the walls and a few lamps. Most of the awkward objects are furniture, bookcases and tables and the like.
There’s a bunch of motorcycles lined up at the curb outside the house, and a bunch of bikers in kuttes hauling things out of the van in a steady stream. This has been the fastest move Stiles has ever experienced. They’d had the van loaded and on the road before ten, and it was almost all the way unloaded and it wasn’t even noon. Stiles supposes the fact that there are no flights of stairs to maneuver made the unloading go faster.
“We owe these guys pizza or something,” Stiles tells Peter when they’ve both stopped to drink some water at the same time.
“Oh, they’re not in this for free pizza,” Peter tells him, bumping their shoulders together. “They get free beer and wings at the bar tonight.”
Stiles laughs, because of course that would be why so many people had shown up this morning. “What, did you post a flyer behind the bar or something?”
“Something like that.”
Stiles had a suspicion that it was exactly that, but chooses not to say anything. It had clearly worked, and aside from the few biggest pieces of furniture, all that was left was to unpack. “I’m so glad we don’t have to be unpacked as quickly as we moved.”
Peter slings his arm around Stiles shoulders. He’s sweaty and kind of smelly, and it’s a little gross, but Stiles loves him so he doesn’t push him away. “Remember, you promised we’d be finished unpacking before the book signing in June.”
“We have just over a month,” Stiles says, “that’s plenty of time.”
“I know,” Stiles replies. He’s in charge of the majority of the unpacking, since he’s not currently working on anything at the moment. He’s got more time to spend putting things away than Peter, who now has to get used to commuting to work every day. “Just so long as you do the kitchen.”
“Like I’m going to let you unpack my kitchen,” Peter says with a snort.
“Hey!” Lydia yells out the front door suddenly, appearing to glare at them, “Get back to work! This is you guys we’re moving, here!”
Both men laugh and wave at her. Lydia is a tough task mistress, but she’s well organized. She’d made the loading of the van and the unloading go a lot smoother. Stiles presses a quick kiss to Peter’s cheek and heads for the back of the van to collect another box.
“You ready for the couch?” JP asks Peter.
“Let’s do it,” Peter says, and follows JP into the van to get one end of the couch.
Carol-Ann smacks away seeking fingers as she dizzles lemon icing over the cake that’s just finished cooling, “Don’t even think about it. It’s for the new neighbors.”
Robert looks highly surprised, but manages to mask it before his wife sees it. Carol-Ann had left the house before all the bikers had shown up to help unload. He’s determined to be amused by her reaction when she finds just who it is that’s moved in next door.
“But,” Robert whines, because he knows she’s expecting it, “cake?”
“I made two,” Carol-Ann tells her husband. She smiles up at him and he grins. He gets cake and a show. Nice.
He watches as Carol-Ann slides the decorated cake from her board onto the tupperware for transport and locks the lid over the cake. It’s a tupperware Robert found in a store designed to transport round cakes without squishing it or ruining the frosting. She’s going to rant for fifteen minutes about how she had to lend it to the neighbor.
“Don’t touch the other cake,” Carol-Ann orders, lifting the one she made for the neighbors and heading for the door. “That’s for after dinner.”
Robert follows his wife, closes the door after her, and then peeks through the blinds to watch the show.
“Dad, what are you doing?” Daisy’s voice makes Robert jump.
He waves her over and she comes out of curiosity. “I’m watching your mom find out who our new neighbors are.”
“You sound way too gleeful for comfort,” the fifteen year old says.
“Let’s just say that crazy chili cook-off mom might be making a reappearance,” Robert says.
“No!” Daisy breathes, coming up next to her dad to peer through the blinds with him.
Next door, Carol-Ann rings the neighbor’s doorbell. There’s a few moments while she waits for the door to be answered, and when it is it’s worth it. Daisy laughs, Robert chuckles. Peter Hale has a pleasant smile on his face, and Carol-Ann’s own smile has turned painful.
She looks like she wants to throw her beloved tupperware and run screaming.
Chapter 29: Your Friendly Neighborhood Biker Man
Proposing to Strangers
Twenty-Nine: Your Friendly Neighborhood Biker Man
When the doorbell rings, Stiles is elbow deep in hooking up their various and sundry electronics. Peter pads out of the kitchen, wiping his hands on a towel. He waves Stiles back down and pulls open the front door.
“Hello!” a female voice greets. “Welcome to the neighborhood!”
Stiles looks up out of curiosity when Peter doesn’t reply right away. Peter has a bright grin on his face and mischief in the set of his mouth. Stiles untangles himself and stands just in time to hear Peter say: “Why thank you, Carol-Ann.”
Stiles reaches Peter’s elbow just in time to see Peter reach out to take a tupperware from Carol-Ann Freemont, their new next door neighbor. “It looks delicious,” Peter informs her, holding the cake up to look at it through the plastic.
“Ooh, cake!” Stiles says, ignoring Carol-Ann’s badly hidden constipated look and Peter’s gleefully devious one. He snatches the tupperware from his husband and beams a smile at Carol-Ann, making her falter in surprise. “This is so nice of you, you didn’t have to do that.”
“I wanted too, we’re neighbors now, after all,” Carol-Ann says, her smile just shy of painful. “We live just next door, and if you ever need anything at all…”
“We’ll know who to ask,” Peter says genially. Stiles knows him though, he can read how much amusement Peter is getting out if this situation. He can see the antics now. “And of course, the offer is mutual.”
“Of course,” Carol-Ann says weakly. “Well, I’ll leave you boys to your evening!”
“Yes, thank you for dropping by,” Peter says, and they wave her off. She retreats down the driveway and that’s when Stiles spots them. A man who can only be Carol-Ann’s husband and a teenage girl peering at them through the blinds.
Stiles waves, and the husband waves back.
The second the front door is closed Stiles reaches out and socks Peter in the shoulder. “Ow!” Peter exclaims, “I didn’t do anything!”
“No, but you were thinking it,” Stiles scolds, leading Peter back into the kitchen. He starts hunting around for a fork and Peter ushers him into a chair and serves them both up a slice of cake. “You torment the crap out of that woman for three months of the year, you don’t need to do it for the other nine.”
“It’s a perfectly healthy rivalry,” Peter informs him, sitting next to Stiles and handing him his cake, “based on the mutual need to be the better cook.”
“You beat her at the cook off this year, isn’t that enough?” Stiles demands around a mouthful of (admittedly delicious) cake.
Peter is frowning at his like it’s betrayed him, “It doesn’t make up for the previous seven years.”
Stiles looks down at his innocent plate of cake sadly, “This is going to turn into a epic war of baked goods and neighborhood espionage, isn’t it?”
“Probably,” Peter says, then adds: “I can make a better cake than this.”
“Of course you can.”
Three days later Stiles stumbles out of bed and down the hall because his gloriously comfortable, Peter shaped space heater is missing. It’s seven in the morning, and when Stiles stumbles into the kitchen he has to stop and rub his eyes to make sure he’s not seeing things.
Peter is icing a beautifully intricate latticework design onto a small - is that carrot cake? It’s carrot cake. There are tiny orange carrots on top in frosting.
“Oh my god, really?” Stiles demands.
Peter flinches at the unexpected noise, pulling his hands away from the cake so that he doesn’t muss the frosting. He looks up at Stiles, and he at least has the decency to look sheepish. “I can’t help it. She just. She must go down!”
“It’s seven in the morning,” Stiles says tonelessly, “on Saturday.”
“I know, but I couldn’t sleep,” Peter’s face goes vindictive, “I had to make her a thank you cake.”
Stiles heaves a sigh because no, he really didn’t need to make Carol-Ann Freemont a ‘thank you for your welcome to the neighborhood’ cake. Peter, his big, tattoo covered, biker badass, is locked in a chronic case of one-upmanship with a woman whose weekly highlights include PTA meetings… And it’s been happening for years.
Stiles scowls, “No. When your baking feud with the neighbor deprives me of Saturday morning snuggles - and therefore Saturday morning sex - the answer is no.”
Peter gets a look on his face like he’s planning something, and Stiles starts to feel suspicious. Peter straightens, swiftly puts the cake and remaining icing in the fridge, and walks toward Stiles, gait predatory.
“No,” Stiles waves his hand in a chopping motion, “You left the bed, no morning sex for you!”
Peter grins wolfishly at Stiles, “Then you better run.”
A few days after that Carol-Ann delivers a plate of gingersnap cookies as a ‘thank you for your thank you’ gift cleverly disguised as an ‘oops I made too many!’ gift. Peter isn’t home, so Stiles politely takes the plate of cookies and, since neither he nor Peter are fond of gingersnaps, hands them to Isaac and Scott who are watching over the back of the sofa.
In response to the cookies, Peter makes brownies. He marches them next door much to the amusement of everyone present… Which is everyone, since Mo had decided that it was Peter’s turn to host poker night now that he has an actual house.
Over the course of the following four days various neighborhood residents take note of both Carol-Ann and Peter sneaking around in the hedgerow separating their yards. Stiles starts receiving strangely sympathetic looks from the housewives of the neighborhood (and a few husbands). Stiles can’t help but wonder if Robert is feeling the same way he is, as if his life has become a surreal dream.
When Stiles goes into Sarcasm Ink to have Finstock tattoo their wedding poem on his ribs, Erica laughs the whole way through the appointment. She’s been relegated to holding Stiles’ hand since Peter isn’t there, and both she and Finstock have been subjected to Stiles’ rant on the weird, passive-aggressive war going on between his husband and their neighbor.
“Smack ‘im,” Finstock advises. “With a cake pan so he remembers it.”
“It can’t be that bad,” Erica says.
Stiles glares at her, “It’s surreal, Erica. If you don’t believe me, bring Boyd over for dinner and see for yourself.”
She takes him up on the offer. She and Boyd swing by for steaks that night with expectations of good food and mild entertainment. They’re not sure what they walked into, but when they arrive, Carol-Ann is standing by the front door and she and Peter are exchanging suburban pleasantries over a container of homemade, M&M studded, rice crispy treats.
Stiles hip checks Peter out of the way, takes the container with a polite ‘thank you’ for Carol-Ann and ushers Erica and Boyd into the house. None of them says anything until they reach the kitchen.
“I thought you were kidding,” Erica says at last.
“That was kind of frightening,” Boyd offers.
“I would never kid about something like that,” Stiles tells Erica, waving vaguely at the doorway behind them.
Talia is absolutely no help at all when they chat over skype one Sunday after the move. She laughs at him for five minutes straight, and just when Stiles thinks she’s done, Peter enters the room and says hello, and she’s off again.
Stiles can sort of get how Talia finds it funny. Stiles does too, it’s just that he’s eaten enough baked goods that the day before when he’d gone to lunch with Lydia and Danny, he’d ordered a salad.
“I’m sorry,” Talia tells, gasping because she’s deprived herself of oxygen she was laughing so hard. “It’s just, he’s always been that way. Always needing to be the best, always having to out-do someone else.”
“Talia,” Stiles says seriously, “I’ve eaten so many baked goods in the last month that I ordered a salad at lunch yesterday. We were at a pizza place.”
Talia snorts and starts laughing again.
“Dad, I swear to god,” Stiles threatens his father’s amused face. “If he gets out of bed to bake at two in the morning one more time…”
“It’ll die down,” John tells him reasonably. “They’ll both get bored and then you’ll start having to go to block parties and neighborhood barbeques.”
“Dad, yesterday our neighbor Patty, who lives across the street, cornered me when I got home. She apologized that she hadn’t said anything earlier, but that the whole neighborhood is talking about it. Peter and Carol-Ann have been seen sneaking around in our yards so much that the whole neighborhood thinks they’re having an affair.”
John tries to stifle a laugh, but doesn’t quite manage it.
“Patty had sad-face, Dad. I was holding her son at the time. I had to use a baby as a human shield!”
John loses it.
Chapter 30: He's Not Having An Affair
Proposing to Strangers
Thirty: He’s Not Having An Affair
“I’m not having an affair, Patty.”
Patty Jones frowns at Peter. He doesn’t know what she’s trying to accomplish with her mildly disappointed expression, but whatever it is it’s not working. He gives her props for keeping her eyes to herself though, considering that he’s wearing a tank top with his jeans and he’s soaked from washing the bike and Stiles’ jeep.
“Then why are you always sneaking around?” Patty demands. She doesn’t believe him.
Peter sighs and looks at her from where he’s seated on the dyna trying to decide if she’d be worth the trouble killing her would bring. “She’s trying to nice my chili recipe out of me, I know it.”
Patty stares at him, then she giggles. She slaps a hand over her mouth, mortified, excuses herself and crosses the street quickly. He can still hear her guffaws as she lets herself into her house.
“What the hell is going on?” Peter wonders.
“See what I’ve been dealing with?” Stiles demands. He’s wearing a t-shirt and obnoxiously loud board shorts. He looks over the rims of his sunglasses at Peter, raising both eyebrows.
“I can’t take you seriously when you’re sitting in a lawn chair with your feet in a kiddie pool, Stiles,” Peter informs him. “Your sunglasses have little palm trees on them.”
Stiles grins at him and leans back in his seat. From where he’s sitting in the middle of their front lawn, he’s got the perfect view of Peter washing their vehicles. He wiggles his eyebrows, “You wanna come over here and we can scandalize the neighbors into talking about how much you’re not having an affair?”
Peter sighs, “I’m never going to live any of this down, am I?”
“Nope,” Stiles pops his ‘p’, “I plan to pull it out at family parties for years to come.”
“Come over here and make out with your sexy, wet biker husband,” Peter tells him.
Stiles sits up and looks Peter up and down, “I did good convincing you to marry me.” He gets up and saunters over, “You know, I’ve got this new tattoo…”
Peter has seen said tattoo, he has one that matches on his back, it starts at his waist and goes down his right butt cheek. Stiles thinks it’s classier than having his name tattooed on Peter’s ass. Peter reaches out and reels in the younger man, who doesn’t resist.
“It’s probably not going to stop,” he says into Stiles’ neck.
“I know,” Stiles says fondly, ruffling Peter’s hair. “It’s one of the things I’ve come to love about you. It reminds me that I’m not the only weird one in this relationship.”
“Yeah, yeah, rub it in.”
Peter glares at Ennis, who is immune to it by now. Ennis just grins at his best friend with his teeth and says: “You’ve got the whole neighborhood thinking you’re sneaking around behind Stiles’ back, huh?”
“Not you, too,” Peter says, put out.
“Do we need to have a conversation?” Ennis asks, voice mild.
“Bite me,” Peter snaps.
Ennis starts laughing, and Mo hands over a twenty from his place at the bar. “Getting predictable there, Peter old boy,” Ennis tells him.
Peter frowns at him, “I hate you both.”
“No, you don’t.”
“...No, I don’t.”
“Beer?” Robert offers over the low fence separating their yards late one evening as he and Stiles watch Peter and Carol-Ann passive aggressively exchange pleasantries.
“Yes, please,” Stiles says, and hops over the fence to enter the Freemont house behind Robert. He pulls a couple of bottles out of the fridge and Stiles raises his eyebrows at the label. Hale Moon Brew Co. stares back at him.
“Sue me,” Robert says, “It’s good beer.”
It is good beer. Stiles shrugs and takes one, following the other man out onto the porch. They collapse on the porch swing, making it sway wildly for a minute. “How long do you think it’ll be before they notice we’re not there anymore?”
Robert wordlessly holds up the rest of the six pack he brought outside with them, amusement all over his face.
“Touche,” Stiles nods, and clinks his bottle to Robert’s when it’s offered.
Over by the fence, Peter and Carol-Ann are swapping cake recipes, both of them eyeballing the other suspiciously as if they’re wondering if the recipe they’re giving away will be used against them one day.
“Next year’s chili cook off is gonna be interesting,” Robert comments.
Stiles hums in agreement, “Is old Mrs. Niedermeier giving you aggressively sympathetic eyes whenever she sees you, or is that just me?”
“Oh, it’s not just you,” Robert replies. “You know, I thought our spouses were going to become the tale of warning to new residents, considering the espionage and all. But no, no, we’re a cautionary tale about keeping eyes on your spouse or they’ll start sleeping with the neighbor.”
“I think it’s hilarious that they’ve all forgotten that we’re gay.”
“There’s that. Hey!” Robert turns to him with a smile, “Maybe we should have a pretend affair. The gossip would be amazing!”
“Oh, Robert,” Stiles bats his eyelashes and pretends to swoon in his direction, “How did you know? I thought I was hiding my feelings so well?”
Robert wasn’t ready for the words that came with the actions, and spits beer all over the porch. Stiles sits back, satisfied as he laughs uncontrollably. A car pulls up in front of the house and Daisy and Michael get out. Daisy ignores all of the adults and clatters into the house in a cloud of teenaged angst. Michael stops to stare at his father and Stiles, then shakes his head and says with the wisdom of a seven year old, “I don’t want to know, do I?”
“Probably not,” Stiles answers him. Robert is still chuckling to himself.
Down by the fence Peter asks: ‘What do you think they’re talking about?”
“Us, probably,” Carol-Ann says, “and our torrid affair.”
“You know, I didn’t want to like you,” Peter grudgingly admits.
“He’s not cheating on me, Mrs. Niedermeier,” Stiles says before the older lady can say anything. She’s approached him in the middle of the bakery section of the grocery store, and is wearing her sad, sympathetic face.
“Oh, sweetheart,” Mrs. Niedermeier begins, and Stiles heaves a heavy sigh.
It had started out funny, but now it’s really, really not. “He’s not having an affair with Carol-Ann Freemont,” Stiles tells her, letting every ounce of exasperation show on his face.
“No, he’s in a ferocious competition of one-upmanship over who’s the better cook,” Stiles tells her flatly.
She reaches out to pat one of his hands, which are clutching at the handle of his shopping cart, white handled. “That… makes a lot of sense, actually,” she says. “Hard feelings left over from the yearly chili cook off?”
“Yes,” Stiles says, feeling relief that someone finally seems to get it. “It hasn’t helped that we moved in next door.”
“Hmm, well, if you ever need some sense knocked into them,” Mrs. Niedermeier offers.
Stiles waves a hand, smiling with faint amusement, “Oh, Robert and I have it handled. They’re starting to wind down.”
“That’s good to hear, dear,” she tells him. She goes to push her cart past his, but pauses. “Would you like me to pass it around that there’s no affair?”
“Yes, please!” Stiles jumps on the offer. “Please, tell everyone.”
Mrs. Niedermeier nods and they part ways, both of them pleasantly happy over how the encounter went. Stiles continues to get everything on Peter’s list, and, when he sees Mrs. Niedermeier talking to Jenny Graff two aisles over, he chooses to ignore it.
“Do I want to know why old Mrs. Niedermeier flagged me down on Main Street to tell me that you’re not cheating on Stiles?”
Peter looks up to stare at Scott. The bar has gone quiet. It’s still early, so it’s not as crowded as it will be an hour from now. Scott raises both his eyebrows at Peter in a ‘WTF?’ expression.
“I’m not cheating on Stiles,” Peter says flatly.
“I know that,” Scott says, taking a seat across from him at the bar. “Why is Mrs. Niedermeier telling me that? Usually, she flags me down to tell me about her cat.”
“I don’t know,” Peter says, exasperated. “Why does anyone do anything?”
“Peter, if she told me, she’s going to tell everyone in town,” Scott says slowly.
“Good,” Peter replies, “maybe everyone will stop giving me scandalized expressions everywhere I go. You know, I used to provoke fear in the people here. They used to cross the street to avoid me.”
Scott laughs at him, “If you had wanted that to continue you never should have gotten together with Stiles.”
Yeah, okay, Scott’s got a point. Peter shrugs, he wouldn’t change it.
Chapter 31: How to Annoy Your Friends in Three Easy Steps
Proposing to Strangers
Thirty-One: How to Annoy Your Friends in Three Easy Steps
“This is just sad,” Erica says quietly. She and Stiles are sitting next to each other at one end of the bar, watching Scott and Kira try to flirt without looking like they’re flirting.
“It’s painful, is what it is,” Stiles agrees. “They’ve known each other for months, shouldn’t they be past the awkward stage by now?”
“You would think that, but there’s evidence to the contrary,” Erica waves her hand in the general direction of their friends.
“It’s like a car wreck,” Stiles mutters with a frown, “I don’t want to see it, but I can’t look away.”
“We should set them up on a blind date.”
“Scott would never go for that. Not since that time in high school,” at Erica’s highly interested expression, Stiles elaborates, “of which I swore an oath to never speak of.”
“Damn,” Erica says, snapping her fingers. “Well, if we can’t blind date them, maybe you could suggest a double date?”
Stiles shakes his head, “I don’t know Kira well enough. Scott would lean on us as a crutch and she’d spend the whole night feeling like a fourth wheel… You could do it!”
Erica shakes her head, “Same problem, I fear.”
They both sit there in silence for a bit, watching Scott fumble his drink and Kira blush a fetching shade of strawberry. After a few minutes they both seem to have an epiphany at the same time, turning to look at each other with matching grins.
“Triple date,” they say at the same time.
They grin manically at each other, then they start laughing.
“Do I want to know?” Peter asks when he comes over to refill their glasses.
The pair turn to look at him, matching devious looks on their faces. Peter raises his eyebrows, and then takes away their beers. “No, whatever it is, the answer is no.”
Erica starts an epic pout. Stiles says: “You don’t even know what it is!”
“I don’t need to, anything that puts that expression on both your faces at the same time is a bad idea,” Peter tells him, studiously not looking at Erica. Her pout is powerful.
“But look at them!” Stiles exclaims, waving his hand at his best friend. Peter looks over, and winces. “Exactly.”
“It’s one night,” Stiles cuts him off.
“What’s one night?” Peter asks with suspicion. He’s probably going to regret asking.
“A triple date!” Stiles exclaims, grinning. “You and me, Erica and Boyd, and Scott and Kira.”
He’s right, he regrets it. He stares at Stiles and Erica as they both turn their impressive pouts on him, and yells, “BOYD!”
Boyd ambles over, “You bellowed?”
Peter points at their significant others, and Boyd takes in their matching pleading expressions. He doesn’t know why Peter thought he’d be good back up to get out of whatever this is. Boyd’s about as useful against Erica’s pout as a wet kleenex.
“No costumes,” Boyd says, counting his stipulations off on his finger, “No karaoke, no sushi, and I’m not pulling a sled anywhere.”
Erica leans across the bar top to press a pretty, cherry scented kiss to her boyfriend’s lips, “Thank you baby!”
Stiles and Erica bounce away to intercept Scott and Kira. Peter looks over at Boyd with betrayal, “You’re completely useless.”
Boyd shrugs at his boss, unbothered.
“Relax,” Stiles tells Scott as he watches his friend shift from foot to foot anxiously. “It’s just dinner and a movie. No big deal.”
“I’m going to say something stupid,” Scott says, pale enough that he looks like he might be sick.
Peter is seated on the bench in the seating area of the restaurant. It’s a little steakhouse by the movie theater. Casual enough to have a comfortable, laid back atmosphere, but a step up from the Chili’s on the other side of the parking lot.
“You’re going to be fine, I don’t know why you’re so nervous,” Stiles tells him, sitting down next to Peter, who wraps his arm around his shoulders and pulls him closer.
The hostess looks like she’s about to start laughing, and none of them can blame her. Scott looks nervous, but excited, which comes out mostly looking like nauseous. He keeps sitting down, and then leaping up seconds later.
“Breathe,” Stiles advises. Scott heaves in a huge breath, and then the door opens.
Erica leads Kira into the building with an arm looped through the smaller woman’s. Boyd brings up the rear like a silent guard dog. Erica beams them all a grin, nudges Kira in Scott’s direction and goes over to hug Stiles. Peter and Boyd share a nod.
“Hi,” Scott says after a moment of awkward silence.
Kira looks just as nervous as Scott, “Hi.”
The hostess raises the pile of menus up to her face to hide her amused smile, then lowers them once she’s got her expression under control, “If you’re ready, your table is this way.”
Erica grabs Boyd’s hand and leads the way, following the hostess. Scott and Kira follow, feeling helpless. Stiles and Peter bring up the rear, to prevent either of them from trying to escape. They’re led to a large corner booth, and the hostess winks at Stiles when he grins at her in thanks. Then the two couples proceed to brackett Scott and Kira into the center of the curved seat.
“I’m starving,” Stiles says, lifting his menu to hide his face so that he can snicker. Peter just rolls his eyes as Scott elbows his best friend in retaliation.
“So,” Kira says, looking surprised that she spoke at all, “Erica says you’re a veterinarian?”
“What? Oh! Yes! I am.”
Stiles and Erica share a conspiring look across the table at each other. Boyd and Peter share a long suffering one. If this is the way the conversation is going to go all night, it’s going to be a long one.
Peter isn’t the only one who is relieved when their server appears to take their drink orders.
The movie is decent, and in all respects the best part of the evening. If only because talking during a movie is a no-no, and that means that none of them have to watch the painfully awkward dance going on between Kira and Scott. It’s not that they don’t like each other, it’s that Scott’s last (and only) relationship ended with Allison breaking up with him and eventually becoming his best female friend. Kira’s last relationship ended when she accidently knocked the butter dish on his head when she was introducing him to her parents.
It’s made them both a little gun shy.
They’re all satisfied with the latest Bond film, and Stiles is full of popcorn and soda. Peter has half a bag of reese’s pieces stuffed in his pocket, and he won’t be sharing them later, no matter what his husband might think.
“Well, this was great,” Erica exclaims as they exit the theatre, “I had a blast. We should think about doing this again!”
Stiles agrees with her, and Boyd and Peter share a commiserating look behind their backs. It makes Kira giggle, which makes Scott beam. Scott offers Kira a ride home, since she came with Erica and Boyd. She accepts and the two couples watch them walk away, shyly holding hands.
“Welp,” says Stiles, “We’re either gonna be best man and maid of honor at their wedding, or we’re gonna rue the day we thought this was a good idea.”
“My money’s on the first one,” Erica says, exchanging a fist bump with Stiles and offering Peter a wave.
“Don’t forget, tomorrow, eight o’clock,” Peter tells Boyd, reminding him of the staff meeting at the bar the next day. Boyd nods at him, and the two couples part ways.
Stiles slings his arm around Peter’s waist as they head for the Jeep, causing Peter to wrap his around his shoulders. “That about the expansion?” he asks.
Peter nods, “Ennis and I think it would be a good idea. With him being our sales rep and wanting to expand the beer side of things, and me wanting to offer real food, it makes sense.”
“Are you guys going to make him general manager?” Stiles asks.
When they had started talking about expanding the bar after Peter moved out, they had discussed either making Boyd general manager or letting him buy in as a partner in the business. As far as Stiles knew, they hadn’t decided yet.
“GM,” Peter explains, “Ennis wants to wait to offer him a share. A few more years probably. We want to see how well we do with turning it into a restaurant and bar do, along with the brewery side of it.”
Stiles nods thoughtfully, “That makes sense. It’ll really give you all a chance to make sure he’s the right fit before you get into business together.”
“That’s the idea,” Peter replies, letting go to climb into the jeep. “And by the way, I’m never doing this again.”
Stiles laughs at him as he puts the jeep into gear and heads for home.
Chapter 32: A Chef, a Brewmaster and a Bartender
Proposing to Strangers
Thirty-Two: A Chef, A Brewmaster, and a Bartender
Whenever they have meetings like this, Peter makes breakfast burritos. Ennis brings the salsa, and they sit around the biggest table that Hale Moon Brew Co. has to offer so that they can spread everything out as much as they want. The only difference between this meeting and any other, is that Boyd is sitting at the table with them.
He has to admit, the burrito makes getting up this early on his day off worth it.
Ennis is currently outlining their plans to expand. He’s got a set of blueprints laid out on the table as a visual aid. They’ll be using the same contractor they used when they remodeled the kitchen years before. Ron Cressidor is the kind of guy that looks and dresses like a lumberjack, but actually spends more of his time doing charity rides with the Knights than he does out in the woods.
The plans so far are thus: They’re going to gut the upstairs and turn it into the brewery. It will double the amount of space that Ennis has now, and will make room to turn the kitchen back into the large industrial kitchen that Peter’s been longing for. The end goal is to turn the place into more of a true eatery than an actual bar.
Peter doesn’t want to run an actual restaurant though, so they don’t have plans to expand beyond what they have currently planned out. They want to keep the laid back bar atmosphere (and the pool tables). The kitchen will offer the same typical bar fare, with a little more variety added to it, along with a rotating menu of daily specials.
The point is, Boyd realizes, that with the expansion this all means more work. More work equals more employees. More employees means that they actually need a real manager.
“What do you think?” Peter asks. He can tell that Boyd has already figured out where they’re going with all of this.
“When are you thinking construction will start?” Boyd asks, stealing another burrito.
“End of July, August maybe,” Ennis says. “We’re still working on all the permits, and the plans haven’t been finalized.”
Boyd nods. It’s the beginning of June, so that gives them plenty of time. “That’ll give us time to hire on new staff and train them before construction begins.”
“That’s the general idea,” Peter agrees. “Once all this starts, Ennis and I won’t be as available as before.”
“Hence the manager job,” Ennis gestures at all of Boyd.
Boyd rolls his eyes, “I figured.”
“So, you in?” Ennis asks. “Pay raise, better benefits. More hours.”
The three men sit back to finish the burritos and talk about the details. It all seems to be coming together.
“So he said yes?”
Stiles is sitting on the floor in his office unpacking two boxes of advance copies of Foxfire for him to hand out to whoever he wants. The release date and conjoined signing is ten days away, and the closer it gets the more fights Stiles gets into with Deucalion.
“Yes, we knew he would,” Peter had only offered because he knew Boyd would accept the job. Boyd loves Hale Moon almost as much as Peter and Ennis do. “Why are you scowling?”
“Deucalion keeps trying to change the schedule,” Stiles tells him grumpily. “I told him I would do a two week, ten city tour, and he’s taking that as a by your leave to book me for other things. Like radio shows and early morning tv.”
“Did he get you onto Fallon?” Peter wonders.
“I told him I’d only do tv if I could do Fallon or Ellen,” Stiles replies, tossing a now empty box out into the hall. He pulls the other (smaller) box over and cuts it open. “I told him no radio.”
“Probably a good idea,” Peter remarks. If what happens when Stiles calls into their local radio stations to request a song is any indication, radio makes Stiles get all ranty and opinionated. “What’s the schedule so far?”
“Well, the release here on the sixteenth. I’ll fly out on the seventeenth, and then it’s basically a new city almost every day. I know St. Louis, Chicago, Denver, LA and New York are on the schedule, but I forget the rest.”
“You’ll be nice to all the nice people who come out to see you?”
“Yes,” Stiles is exasperated. He’s had a variation of this conversation with Deucalion (several times), his father (once), and Peter (three times). “I promise to be nice to my fans.”
“Good,” Peter says. “When’s the signing on the sixteenth? The guys keep asking, I think I’m going to put it on the specials board.”
Stiles tosses the other box into the hall and then starts writing names on sticky notes and sticking them to the books. “It starts at eleven,” he tells Peter.
“Good. Right, I’ll drive you down there.”
“You hate the mall.”
“Not enough to make you suffer all by yourself. How long has it been since you last saw Deucalion face to face?”
Stiles scowls at his post-its, “Not long enough.”
“Is he driving you nuts yet?”
“Yes,” Peter tells his father in law, “and then some.”
John laughs at him, unsympathetic to his plight. He’s experienced what Peter is going through in some form or another since the publication of his first book. “Look, as much as Stiles hates doing the publicity, and no matter how much he likes to fight with Deucalion, he breathes this stuff, just remind him of that.”
Peter nods, and the Sheriff sits back in his chair. He’s in the office tonight, and his badge is reflecting the lights of the Sheriff's Station. John shakes his head, “Has he stopped eating?”
“Then you’re doing better than I ever did.” Peter isn’t sure if that’s reassuring or not. “Look, once he’s on the plane he’ll be fine. He’ll cope by calling you at all hours and starting his next book. That’s how this thing works. He’s a weird kid.”
“I should probably still double check that he packed properly,” Peter says, making John snort in agreement.
“He’s a nutcase, but we love him,” John says. “Now go tell my son to get his ass up off the floor and come talk to me.”
And he does.
“Why am I wearing a hardhat?”
“I wanted to see how long you’d indulge me,” Peter says with a smirk, “before you realized you didn’t need to be wearing it.”
Stiles scowls at his husband and takes off the yellow hardhat that had been pressed into his hands when they hit the stairs at the bar. “You suck. Why did I marry you?”
“You married me for my sparkling wit and hot body,” Peter says, deadpan.
“Right,” Stiles says, and leans back to get a good view, “It’s your ass.”
“Stop it, you’ll make me blush,” Peter’s voice is as dry as a desert. He stops in the middle of the empty apartment and sets down the basket he’d carried in from the car.
“Why are we here and not at home?” Stiles demands, but helps him spread out the blanket anyway.
“Because if we were at home you’d get distracted and tear off to yell at Deucalion about something new that he snuck into your itinerary.” Peter starts pulling tupperware containers out of the basket and setting them out. Stiles sits to take off his shoes, watching avidly. “Besides, a change of scenery never hurt anyone.”
Stiles’ eyes close as he inhales the rich aroma of Peter’s carbonara. That carbonara will always hold a special place in his heart. It had led him to where he was now. “You might have a point,” he decides, watching Peter dish out their dinner. His plate comes heaped with noodles and topped with two slices of crusty garlic bread.
“Also,” Peter adds, “You’ve got a book signing tomorrow, and then you’re leaving me for two weeks. We deserve a nice night before that happens.”
“Yeah, okay,” Stiles says with a grin. They’ve been married several months now, but they are very much still in the clingy newlywed phase of their life together.
They sit in the dim lighting, in the empty apartment that will soon give way to Ennis’ brewery dreams. It’s a comfortable silence, neither of them feeling the need to fill it. They eat pasta and bread, drink wine from crystal glasses.
“Thanks for being such an awesome husband,” Stiles says, grinning around a mouthful of pasta. “You always know exactly what I need.”
“I’ve been practicing,” Peter tells him smugly.
Stiles laughs, leans over, and kisses the smarmy grin off his face.
Chapter 33: Author in Need of Professional Babysitter
Proposing to Strangers
Thirty-Three: Author in Need of Professional Babysitter
June sixteenth comes rapidly, providing both a sense of dread and excitement. Stiles likes release day, he’s been known to go hang out at a bookstore and sit and read and take in the atmosphere to which he has contributed. Book signings are a different animal altogether.
He doesn’t like the feeling that he’s trying to foist his book off on people who just might not be interested in the genre, or interested in meeting the author. Also, bookstores are like libraries to Stiles. Sacred, where a certain level of quiet should be maintained. A book signing, by it’s nature is chaotic.
Stiles also knows that once he’s there, he’ll be fine. All the dread and dislike for the situation will evaporate as soon as he’s sitting in a chair and talking to the first fan. He does like interacting with his fans.
Peter drags him out of bed that morning, and the knot settles into the pit of his stomach about halfway through his shower. Stiles dawdles over getting ready, but Peter had anticipated that. He forces a breakfast burrito into Stiles’ hand, and leads him out to the dyna.
“How am I supposed to eat this and hold onto you at the same time?” Stiles demands as Peter fits a helmet onto Stiles’ head.
“We’re taking Elm up,” Peter tells him, “we won’t be going fast enough for the first ten minutes for you to need to hold on with both hands.”
Which… is true, dammit. Elm goes right past the elementary school. The crosswalk signs are in use because of the summer program. Stiles heaves a sigh and climbs onto the bike behind Peter. He unwraps the burrito enough to take a defiant bite out of it as Peter starts the bike and backs them out of the driveway.
He hopes they get stuck in traffic.
Deucalion is an intense man. He can quell arguments from almost anyone with a single look. Almost anyone. Stiles Stilinski is the rare exception to it. In fact, Stiles seems to take exception to Deucalion trying to tell him what to do over just about everything. The only thing that Stiles seems to be okay with is the actual editing process itself, as well as the process that comes up to publication day.
He knows he should feel lucky that Stiles agreed to a small ten city tour at all, but Stiles has never done a full tour with any of his books. He didn’t do one at all with Alley. Deucalion had hoped that Peter would be helpful when it came to convincing Stiles to tour more, but he’d been wrong.
He’s never met Peter, but he already knows that the man is solidly on Stiles’ side and will never be of any use to Deucalion save in the capacity of helping Stiles stay motivated as he writes his next book.
Deucalion arrives at the store well before Stiles. Stiles will arrive with two minutes to spare, as is his habit. Deucalion arrives early enough to speak with the manager, approve of where they’re setting up the table for the signing, and make sure that there will be snacks available for an author with an oral fixation.
They’ve set up the table on the second level of the store, which is big and open. Stiles will be sitting with his back to the railing, facing in toward the area of the store where they keep the squashy armchairs. From here he will be visible from almost everywhere in the store. There are large posters set up just inside both entrances to the store, and one more by the elevator.
They have books for him to sign, Deucalion is grateful for that. Last time the shipment had been late and they hadn’t had any copies of Buzzkill to offer the customers.
Much to Deucalion’s amazement, Stiles arrives ten minutes early, right about the time people start arriving specifically for the signing. He attributes this weird circumstance to the man that follows behind Stiles like a shadow. He’s not any taller than average, but his presence makes him seem gigantic. Boots, thigh hugging jeans, wallet chain, henley with rolled up sleeves to show off a multitude of tattoos.
It’s enough to give your average housewife a heart attack. The leather kutte declaring him a member of the Black Knights MC doesn’t help matters.
Deucalion meets them by the customer service kiosk, Carlos (the manager on duty) at his side. He offers his hand to the biker behind his author, because he knows Stiles will just ignore it, “You must be Peter.”
Peter shakes his hand hard enough to make him want to shake his hand out when he lets go, “That would be me. Nice to put a face to the name.”
“Likewise,” Deucalion replies. “I’m amazed you got him here on time.”
“He didn’t give me a choice,” Stiles butts in. He turns to Carlos, “Is there time for caffeine and a pretzel?”
Carlos grins, “There’s always time for caffeine. You’ve got about five minutes, we need you in place upstairs.”
“Perfect,” Stiles says, and then turns to Peter, “I need tea, and one of those cheese filled pretzels.” Peter raises an eyebrow at him, unimpressed at the order. Stiles puts on his puppy eyes, clasps his hands in front of himself and pleads: “Please? I’ll love you forever.”
“You already love me forever,” Peter says, “but I’ll get your pretzel if you promise to be nice to Deucalion.”
“Do I have to?”
“It’ll make this whole tour a lot more bearable for both of you,” Peter says, and Deucalion nods in agreement.
Stiles heaves a sigh, “Fine. I’ll be nice.” He turns to Carlos, “Lead the way, dude.”
Carlos leads Stiles and Deucalion toward the escalator, and Peter heads for the corner of the store where the cafe is. He should probably get himself some coffee too, he gets the feeling he’s going to need it.
“Answer’s no,” Stiles tells Deucalion when he opens his mouth after Stiles has settled into his chair behind the table. There are copies of Foxfire prettily pyramided on either side of him, and a big sign announcing that the book signing will be from eleven to one.
“It’s one more city,” Deucalion says, stubbornly.
“Not happening,” Stiles tells him through the smile he’s plastered on for the small line of people starting to form. “Drop it or I’ll never do another tour.”
“I hate you so much,” Deucalion tells him.
“I know you do.”
Deucalion rolls his eyes and decides to trust Stiles on his own to go confirm their schedule for the next two weeks. Stiles turns his smile on the first person in line, this one much more genuine.
“Hi!” he tells her, she’s an older lady with blue hair and reminds him of his grandmother. “How are you?”
“I’ll be better if you tell me that this one ends with some resolution for poor Everett,” she tells him, handing him her copy of Foxfire, which already has a bookmark in it.
“I can’t do that,” Stiles tells her. “Where would we be without poor Everett.”
She shakes her head at him in that exasperated way of older people, “My book club is going to be so jealous that I met you.”
Stiles laughs as he scrawls his signature and a little note on the inside cover of the book and hands it back to her, “Well, you can also tell them that Meyers is back.”
“Ooh, they’ll be green. We agreed to wait and read the last few chapters together,” she tells him.
He winks at her and she heads off, giving way to a teenaged girl and her bored looking father. Stiles smiles at the girl and asks her name. She babbles out a stream of words, somewhere in which is probably her name, but Stiles doesn’t catch it. He does catch that she loves his books, and wants to know if it’s true they’re making a movie based on Buzzkill?
It’s not a new rumor. Stiles shakes his head and she slumps in disappointment, so Stiles dives into an explanation as to why he hasn’t sold the rights, hands waving.
This is the part about book signings that he loves.
Peter rides up the escalator behind a pair of ladies who are clutching copies of Stiles’ new book and sharing theories about what they think is going to happen in this one back and forth. Peter has to smile and shake his head over a few of the more outlandish ones. Of course, he’s got one up on them, he’s married to the author, so he got to read it a couple weeks ago when the advance copies arrived.
He steps off the escalator and follows the ladies around the edge of the second floor, past the cookbooks toward where Stiles is sitting. There’s actually a really good turnout for the signing, Peter is pleased to note. He hears one guy tell the woman behind him in line that they drove two towns over for this.
Peter knows it, but it always strikes him funny that Stiles is a successful, best selling author who has a strong fan following. He supposes it’s because that side of what Stiles does doesn’t really show itself in their daily lives.
“Hey dude! No cutting!”
Peter turns to look at the trio of hipster college age guys waiting in line and raises his eyebrows at them. The one who spoke looks defiant, but his friends look a little nervous, which is sensible of them.
“Pretzel!” Stiles yells from the front of the line suddenly. Peter smirks at the trio and turns, because he’s been spotted.
He weaves his way around the line and the edge of the table, setting down his coffee and Stiles’ tea. He holds out the pretzel, but jerks it back when Stiles reaches for it. Stiles whines, and Peter asks: “What do we say?”
“Thank you,” Stiles says, sounding like he’s reciting something he’s been made to memorize. “You are the best husband in the world, and I love you forever.”
Peter hands him the pretzel. The book club in front of the table titters, the trio of college guys waiting a few spots back gape. Peter retrieves his coffee and stations himself leaning on the railing behind Stiles.
Stiles takes a reverent bite out of his pretzel and tells the fans in front of him, “I married the best guy in the whole world.”
They laugh, Peter grins.
So, the Barnes and Noble in this chapter is based off of the I go to. The employees of said book store are also based off of real people... I couldn't resist.
Chapter 34: Invasion of the Motorcycle Men
Proposing to Strangers
Thirty-Four: Invasion of the Motorcycle Men
Carlos feels mild surprise when the first couple of bikers enter the store. Then, after remembering that Peter is wearing a kutte, only feels amusement as they continue to arrive. With the kinds of books that Stiles writes, he can see all these rough and tumble guys reading them. They probably decided to come out enforce as a show of support.
“That’s a lot of bikers,” Zach says with a low whistle, standing next to Carlos behind the customer service kiosk. They watch them ride up the escalator with vague amusement.
“Just be glad you’re not Liz,” Carlos tells him.
“Poor Liz,” Zach says. His grin says he’s not actually feeling all that bad for his co-worker.
Carlos chuckles, shakes his head, and says: “Get back to work.”
Stiles is too busy talking to the person in front of him to notice them at first, but Peter does. He laughs to himself, making eye contact with Mo and raising both eyebrows. Mo just grins back, unrepentantly. He’s got Mark, JP and a couple of the other Knights with him.
When he turns, Peter spots Bear, Ennis and Jones riding up the escalator.
The first biker in a kutte is actually wearing a Devil’s Enforcers patch, and Stiles grins up at the guy, “It’s Randall, right?”
He looks delighted, “Yeah! You remember.”
“Of course I do,” Stiles tells him. He’s good with faces. “What are you doing all the way up here?”
“We had a run up this way earlier this week, I stuck around when I heard about the signing,” Randall tells him. “I liked your other books, so I figured why not?”
Stiles laughs, signs his copy of the book, and tells Randall to tell the other Enforcers hello from him. It’s only after Randall walks away that Stiles notices the amount of leather occupying the store. His eyebrows go up, and he looks sort of flattered, but mostly amused. All the little housewives and college kids (a few older guys, but not many) are all giving the bikers now waiting in line with them suspicious looks.
Well, all of them except a white haired old lady leaning on a walker. She’s chatting happily with JP about something and Stiles gets the feeling she’s one of the ladies that Danny plays games with at the senior center when he volunteers. He knows that Danny has taken JP with him on several occasions.
“Oh look,” Stiles says loudly when Jones reaches the table, “A motorcycle enthusiast!”
The guys laugh, and so does Stiles. Peter wonders why he ever became friends with these idiots, but lets it go. He shoves himself away from the railing and stands at Stiles shoulders, arms crossed over his chest.
“This one isn’t going to end the same way the others do is it?” Jones asks with a grin, “I’m asking for a friend.”
“Jean-Paul can ask me himself,” Stiles says, and snatches Jones’ book, signs it and yells: “Next!”
Several more people get their books signed, eyeing Peter warily now that he’s made his presence known. JP comes up to the table with the older lady, who he introduces as Mabel. Stiles signs Mabel’s book, then takes JP’s to do the same.
“I’m going to hate you, aren’t I?” JP asks, voice full of suspicion.
“Probably,” Stiles replies, then smirks, “I’ll buy you a beer to make up for it.”
“I’m going to need all the beer,” JP tells him seriously, then leads Mabel off, muttering about horrible, horrible writers, and why does he do this to himself?
After that it’s a steady stream of fans and bikers. Peter replaces his empty cup around noon, and buys him another pretzel, causing him to declare his undying love again. The guys catcall, but neither of them is ashamed. Bear makes him sign three copies (one for each of his kids), and Ennis informs him that one of the two copies he’s buying today is going on the shelf with the copies of his other books at Hale Moon Brew Co.
Sometime just before one, Scott, Lydia and the rest of his friends show up in a huge group. Even Jackson is there, looking put upon. Allison gives him a kiss on the cheek, just like she’s done for each of his previous novels. Erica high fives him with both her hands, stating that one of them is from Boyd; who shrugs.
“This is awesome,” Isaac tells him, bouncing like a puppy with his enthusiasm. He’s the only one of the group who has finished the entire book. “I think it’s my favorite.”
“As long as Everett lives, I’m good,” Scott says, elbowing Isaac when he opens his mouth. “No spoilers.” He turns to look at his best friend and grins, “You did awesome, like always.”
“How are things with Kira?” Stiles asks curiously, making Scott blush furiously.
“We’re fine.” Several of them ‘ooh’ at that, making him scowl at all of them and declare that he hates them. They laugh, Isaac elbows him good naturedly.
“When do you get back?” Lydia demands.
“The thirty-first,” Peter tells her, finally speaking.
Lydia nods, looking at her phone, “We’ll all have lunch on the first. We’ll go to Pho Nhat.”
“That sounds fantastic,” Stiles tells her with a grin.
Deucalion is surprisingly easy to deal with once the signing is over. He was happy with the turn out, with the town being on the smaller side, he hadn’t expected it. He’s decided to take it as an indication that the rest of the tour will go well.
Just as Peter and Stiles are getting ready to leave, Deucalion hands Peter an envelope, “Here. Plane ticket and hotel information in St. Louis. The flight leaves at nine, please make sure he’s on time.”
Stiles wonders briefly if he should feel indignant that Deucalion doesn’t consider him responsible enough to get himself to the airport, but remembers what happened last time, and lets it go. He gives Deucalion a hard time as it is on a daily basis. He deserves it a little.
“I will,” Peter tells the editor.
Of course he will, Peter is perpetually early for everything.
Chapter 35: Epilogue
Proposing to Strangers
By the time they make it home that night, both men are tired. After the signing and a late lunch, Peter had needed to stop at the bar to sign the last of the paperwork to get the remodel on the bar moving. When they get to the little house on Magnolia Street, they’re ready for the day to be over.
Peter heads back into the bedroom to make sure Stiles packed everything he’s going to need. Stiles takes it upon himself to pace though the house, checking the locks on the doors and turning off the lights. When he makes it to the bedroom, he leans on the doorframe and watches Peter refold his socks for a few seconds.
“I don’t want to go,” Stiles says into the soft silence.
Peter looks up from his place on the bed, “I know. It’s important though.”
Stiles sighs and walks into the room, “I know, I just don’t like flying.”
Peter tilts his head back to accept the kiss Stiles gives him on his way to the dresser. He watches fondly as Stiles changes into his comfortable sleeping clothes. “You’ll be fine,” he says.
Stiles shuffles into the bathroom to brush his teeth, “I’m gonna miss you.”
“That’s what the phone is for,” Peter reminds him. He finishes folding Stiles’ clothes, then zips the suitcase closed and gets up to deposit it by the bedroom door. He turns to the dresser to change his own clothes.
They finish their nightly routine in companionable silence. Stiles finishes first and climbs into bed, kicking into the covers to make himself comfortable. Peter picks up Stiles’ discarded socks and puts them in the hamper, clicks off all the lights on his way to bed, then climbs in next to his husband. Stiles immediately rolls into his embrace, setting his chin on Peter’s chest.
“You know the worst bit?” Stiles asks into the darkness.
“It’s my last night with you for two whole weeks and I don’t even have the energy for goodbye sex.”
Peter laughs, making the bed shake. Stiles hides his face in Peter’s neck, then takes it upon himself to blow a raspberry into the skin beneath his mouth. Peter yelps, jolting, then rolls them over and pins Stiles down.
“Go to sleep,” Peter orders.
“Yes dear,” Stiles says with a smirk. After a few minutes of silence he whispers, “I love you.”
“I love you, too.”