As soon as Peter entered the living room, he knew something was wrong.
Stiles was sitting on the couch with his laptop, watching some inane DIY show. It was probably about how to make pretty decorations out of used coffee filters or something like that. Peter had no idea. He tolerated the show purely for the aesthetics — which meant that he liked to watch Stiles, not the show.
However, this time, Stiles wasn’t making ridiculously elaborate notes with diagrams and mind maps or geeking about how easy it would be to make concrete stepping stones with leaf imprints. No. This time, Stiles was sitting completely still and stared at his laptop with unseeing eyes, a shocked expression on his face.
”Stiles?” Peter asked carefully.
When he got no answer, he tried sniffing subtly to get a feeling about what was going on. To his dismay, Stiles’s scent was upset and sour with bitterness and grief. It made Peter’s nose itch. He’d never been a fan of bitterness, it always left a grimy feeling in the back of his mouth.
”Sweetheart, what are you watching?” he tried again, walking closer.
Stiles blinked and shook his head. ”Huh? Sorry. Nothing,” he said and snapped the laptop lid down before getting up and going into the kitchen to make some coffee.
Peter narrowed his eyes at him and cast an offended look at the laptop, now laying innocently on the couch.
Thing was, Peter was a simple man. Sure, his plans were elaborate and his cunning so deeply ingrained that he hardly paid attention to it. But deep down, he was simple: he either liked or didn’t like something. There were very few things he truly cared about and for some reason, a scrawny barely-out-of-high-school Stiles was one of them. He wasn’t sure how that had happened but he accepted it now, embraced even. He was ridiculously eager to make Stiles roll his eyes and snap snarky retorts back and forth but even though he deeply enjoyed making him sob out his name in bed, he got his deepest satisfaction when Stiles exuded a scent of warm happiness.
It was so domestic he sometimes felt nauseous.
Consequently when Stiles was upset, Peter was upset. It only made things worse when he didn’t know why.
When Stiles went to bed that night, still subdued and sad, Peter stayed awake a while longer on the pretence of checking some work-related emails. Keeping an ear on Stiles, Peter opened his laptop to check what the hell had Stiles been watching.
The answer was a disappointingly non-helpful ’How to make your own fudge’ YouTube video. Peter watched it anyway, even checked from the browser history what Stiles had done before watching said video but it didn’t make him any wiser.
Annoyed, he bared his teeth at the laptop before shutting it down.
The following days, Stiles was still down. He kissed Peter goodbye and went on with his day almost on autopilot. Peter watched him like a hawk, trying to figure out what was wrong. He couldn’t and it made him irritable.
At the end, he decided to bring out the big guns.
”Peter? What are you doing here?”
The Sheriff had a day off which was the reason why he opened the door in jeans, a worn plaid, and slippers that Peter would’ve gladly burned on a stick. He looked soft around the edges but his eyes were just as sharp as ever.
”I need your help,” he said curtly and walked straight past to him into the kitchen, poured himself a mug of coffee, and sat down.
The Sheriff rolled his eyes and muttered under his breath, ”Yes, by all means, come in,” fully knowing that Peter heard every word. He wandered in after Peter and stopped in the doorway. ”Is that— is that Stiles’s laptop?”
”Yes,” Peter said distractedly while he logged in and opened the browser.
”Does he know you have it?”
”He hasn’t denied me from using it,” Peter answered, searching for the right video. ”Watch this.”
The Sheriff crossed his arms over his chest and asked, ”Why?” His eyes had the exact same look as Stiles’s had when he was being unreasonably bullheaded about something.
Peter sighed and briefly closed his eyes. ”Because Stiles was watching this the other day and something in it upset him,” he explained slowly. ”I need to know why.”
The Sheriff scoffed. ”Why the hell would you need to know?”
Peter pressed his lips together in a tight line. ”Because I want to fix it,” he snapped. ”I don’t like it when he’s upset. I’d much rather have him happy.”
The Sheriff levelled him a long, hard look that held a good amount of suspicion and disbelief. Peter didn’t exactly blame him. After all, he and Stiles had a major age difference and Peter’s track record wasn’t… exactly spotless. He’d be suspicious too. Well, would be if he was human with a kid like Stiles.
Finally, the Sheriff nodded and said, ”Fine.”
Peter turned the laptop to face him and pressed ’play.’
”This… isn’t what I was expecting,” the Sheriff said, blinking at the YouTube video of a woman explaining the differences of gold and silver glitters.
”What were you expecting? Bloodplay and bondage?”
The Sheriff glared at him over the laptop’s lid but didn’t comment.
Peter smirked. It was a dear hobby of his, making Stiles’s dad as uncomfortable as possible at every possible turn. To his credit, the man was taking Peter and Stiles’s relationship surprisingly well. Perhaps it was because he already knew about the supernatural. Or because Stiles had gone through elaborate diagrams about the most effective ways of killing a werewolf.
Peter was quite sure he’d never been so turned on in his life.
The video changed into the fudge making one and the Sheriff sighed. Peter sipped his cooled down coffee, curling his lip at the burned taste. One day, he’d make good of his promise of stocking the Sheriff’s house with decent coffee.
Suddenly, the Sheriff froze.
”What is it?” Peter asked, bad coffee forgotten.
The Sheriff stared at the screen, his face emotionless but his scent unbearably sad. Peter snarled out of pure frustration.
The Sheriff blinked rapidly and let out a breath. ”That Christmas bauble,” he said in a low voice and touched the screen. ”We used to have them. It was Stiles and Claudia’s thing to carefully unwrap them every year and hang them on the tree.” He sighed and nodded his head, his eyes glassy. ”The Christmas after she died… They broke— I— I broke them, accidentally. Stiles and I… we had a huge fight after.”
The spiking stink of shame gave Peter a quite clear idea of what had happened. However, he surprised himself by not poking on old wounds and asked the most obvious question instead. ”Why didn’t you just buy a new set?
The Sheriff shook his head. ”They’re hand-made glass baubles from France. Ours was a limited edition batch. They were hard to get back then and later… I guess I just forgot.”
”Huh,” Peter murmured, his mind already whirling.
Apparently, he had things to do.
If someone had said to him a year ago that he’d spend countless hours on the internet, hunting for expensive glass Christmas decorations just to make his ridiculously young boyfriend happy, Peter would’ve laughed and then ripped their throats out. Because Peter didn’t do Christmas gifts.
Except that he did.
He’d asked the manufacturing year from the Sheriff before he left, and he was currently on a mission to hunt down the set from exactly the same year as Claudia’s set had been. He fought aggressively on eBay for dominance, coming on top with a winning price that made him roll his eyes before he tapped in his credit card info.
The things one does for love, et cetera. Peter earned a medal for this.
When the package finally arrived from Belarus of all places, Peter nearly vibrated out of his skin. He took advantage of Stiles being away and checked carefully the contents, letting out a huff of relief when he found the decorations intact.
He didn’t exactly see the appeal, but they weren’t for him. He’d much rather watch Stiles anyway.
He packed the ornaments away and hid them under his socks because it was one of the only places he knew Stiles wouldn’t snoop for presents. Then he cleared out all errant wrapping paper and packing peanuts and even went as far as to drop them off at a public trashcan instead of using their own.
Contrary to popular belief, he wasn’t paranoid. He was living with Stiles, which resulted in some healthy respect for snooping around and a complete lack of respect to personal boundaries.
Two days before Christmas, Peter noticed Stiles gazing almost wistfully at the Christmas tree sale outside the store.
”Do you want a tree?” he asked nonchalantly while he frowned at the vintage of the red wine. It was a brand he’d previously liked but, unfortunately, Beacon Hills didn’t stock his favorite vintage. And since he couldn’t get drunk without a healthy dose of wolfsbane, he didn’t see the point settling for average quality.
Stiles shrugged and mumbled something under his breath, so quiet that it was lost in the jingle muzak. Peter decided to take it as a yes, and as a result, they spent an exhausting 72 minutes searching for the perfect spruce. Peter made an excuse to avoid ornament shopping and promised him they had time for that later.
At home, Stiles stared at the tree, wrapped in what smelled like memories and tears. Peter tolerated it for some time before dragging him into a shared shower and then to bed where he dedicated all his energy in making Stiles forget everything else than his touch for the rest of the night.
He made sure to stay awake until Stiles had passed out, sated and soft, and snuck the package from his sock drawer into the living room, ready for Stiles to find in the morning.
”Peter? What the hell is this?” Stiles’s eyes were wide and there was a slight edge of hysteria in his voice.
”What does it look like?” Peter countered and concentrated on the coffee machine.
He tried to gauge Stiles’s emotions but they were a jumbled mess and it made him annoyed. He wasn’t sure if Stiles liked the ornaments or not and the uncertainty made his skin itch. It was a surprisingly uncomfortable feeling to contemplate the possibility that his actions had made Stiles upset. And by uncomfortable he meant he wanted to rip something to pieces.
”What did you do?” Stiles asked.
Peter steeled himself and turned around to face him. ”Your father told me about the ornaments. I simply… replenished the stock.”
Stiles let out a wet sound. ”You fucker,” he said. ”Where did you get these?”
He sniffed and straightened the hem of his Henley. ”Belarus. They’re authentic.”
He didn’t need to look at Stiles to know he was fighting back tears. His scent was soft and sad, heartache wrapped in silk, but underneath there was something warmer, stronger. Happy. Peter could barely believe it was his doing.
”Well, get in here and help me dress the tree,” Stiles ordered with a wet sniff, and Peter indulged him, making a show of rolling his eyes.
At the end, it was Peter who carefully hung all the fragile baubles as per Stiles’s instructions, leaving a shimmering white one on the top. After, they sat on the couch and watched the tree, remembering the happy times with people long lost.
On his lap, Stiles burrowed close and let out a small, happy sound. ”Merry Christmas,” he sighed and added, ”Me too.”
Peter blinked at the sudden rush of emotion and suppressed the urge to grip Stiles close and never let go. ”Merry Christmas,” Peter whispered a moment later, proud how his voice didn’t hitch. He nuzzled the warm skin under Stiles jaw and pressed a kiss there, content when Stiles tilted his head a bit to give him more space.
”I didn’t get you anything,” Stiles mumbled. ”I didn’t know what to buy.”
”I think we can work something out,” Peter leered, earning an undignified snort.
Stiles snuggled closer and twined their fingers together, happy and content.
’You don’t have to buy me anything,’ Peter thought because it was true.
’You’ve already given me everything.’