Peter stared at his hand in horror.
He had changed so quickly, the need to protect his pack, his family, his heart, greater than the reminder to take off his ring first, to keep it safe, and of course this was the day he lost it.
His hand felt light, too light without the familiar weight on it, and Peter promptly panicked.
If the ring was in the woods, he would never find it again. Chris would notice and then he would think Peter didn’t want to be married and he would be sad, but trying to be understanding and never speak of it again, subtly pulling away.
It was the worst-case scenario for Peter and it couldn’t happen.
So even though he had little hope to find the ring in the woods, it still didn’t stop him from going back, again and again, desperately trying to retrace his steps, but the fight had been a mess; they had all spread out through the woods, chasing after the gnomes, and Peter had a hard time remembering everywhere he went.
But it would be fine, it had to be, he just couldn’t let Chris know about this until he had found the ring. It couldn’t take that long after all.
Chris knew something was wrong.
He knew Peter, after all, and something was bothering him enough that he had almost completely pulled away from Chris.
Chris had tried to let it slide, hoped that Peter would work through whatever it was that gave him trouble, but after three weeks Chris had to accept that it wouldn’t happen.
Peter was pulling away from him and Chris didn’t know what was happening.
The only thing he could think of was the marriage, since that was the only thing that had recently changed in their relationship.
But Peter had said yes, had seemed ecstatic that Chris even wanted to marry him. He had shown off the ring like it was the most prized possession he had, had already made demands for the wedding and Chris couldn’t understand how he had misjudged Peter so completely. How he could have gotten everything wrong.
He had thought he knew Peter, but maybe not.
Maybe Peter didn’t want to marry him, after all.
Chris refused to believe that it might be something else, something even worse, like Peter cheating on him, but it was hard to do when Peter ran out night after night and kept avoiding Chris as best as he could during the day.
He always seemed caught, trapped when Chris managed to face him and with every day that passed Chris heart grew heavier.
Peter didn’t even sit down for dinner anymore; it had been weeks since he had made breakfast for them and Chris could barely stand to be in the kitchen anymore.
It was a room with happier memories; memories that now only hurt.
The next night Peter tried to edge out of the house again, Chris was sitting on the couch instead of pretending to be busy in his study like he had every other night. He was tired of doing this.
Peter had barely looked at Chris all day, kept himself angled away from Chris and Chris just wanted to know. Imagining what Peter was up to was so much worse, his head providing too many possibilities for Peter to always sneak off at night.
Chris needed to put an end to this, one way or another.
“Peter,” he called out, just as Peter was reaching for the door.
Peter froze in his motion and turned towards Chris, like a deer caught in headlights, and Chris briefly closed his eyes when he saw how obviously unwilling Peter was to be in his presence.
“Where are you going?” Chris asked, for the first time and Peter got that look on his face, the one that always meant he quickly discarded idea after idea.
“Why won’t you just tell me,” Chris tiredly said and rubbed his forehead.
“I’m going out,” Peter told him and Chris laughed at that.
“I can see that. But where, Peter, where do you go?”
Peter pressed his lips together and Chris looked down at his hands, absentmindedly stroking a finger over the ring that was still sitting on his finger. He didn’t want to have to take it off after to night.
“Give me a chance,” Chris whispered and looked back up at Peter.
Peter’s gaze was fixed on the ring on Chris’ hand and his face seemed pained.
“We don’t have to get married,” Chris said and it cost him nothing to say it.
The wedding meant nothing to him if Peter didn’t want it. If it was the reason Peter was pulling away from him, Chris would call it all off and never speak of it again, and he would do so happily.
“Please, just let me fix it, whatever it is,” he pleaded. “I just want you back,” he whispered when Peter continued to stay silent.
“You can’t fix it,” Peter said and something in Chris broke at that.
He hadn’t known they were already at this point.
“You can’t fix it, cause it’s not something you did,” Peter quickly went on, coming closer and brushing his hand over Chris’ cheek for the first time in days.
Chris silently wondered if it was the first time Peter had noticed that he was hurting Chris as well.
“Please,” Chris said and grabbed his hand, pressing his face into Peter’s palm. “Don’t leave again. Just tell me what happened. Tell me what I can do, what I did wrong.”
Peter’s eyes flitted away, darting all around the room, and eventually he sighed.
“You didn’t do anything. I did. I lost the ring,” Peter lowly admitted and pulled his hand out of Chris’ grip.
“And?” Chris asked, confused why Peter would bring that up now.
“I lost the ring, Chris,” Peter said with vehemence again, but Chris kept frowning at him.
“What does that have to do with you sneaking out every night, with avoiding me during the day?” he wanted to know, and Peter looked at him like he was a puzzle he couldn’t quite figure out.
“Aren’t you mad?”
“About the ring?” Chris shook his head. “God, no. I don’t care, I just want to know why you’d…,” he trailed off because of course.
This was Peter, in all his neurotic, insecure glory.
“You thought I’d be mad,” Chris repeated Peter’s words with a little shake of his head. “You thought I’d think you don’t want to marry me. That you don’t want me.”
“Is it not true?” Peter questioned, and Chris pulled him down on the couch, tucking Peter into his side.
“You idiot,” Chris said as he pressed his face to Peter’s hair, inhaling deeply.
God, how he had missed this.
“I’m sorry,” Peter said and tapped Chris’s ring. “I know how much it means to you.”
“You mean much to me. I don’t care about the ring. You said yes, and as long as that is true, as long as that is still something you want, that I am something you still want, I don’t care if you wear the ring or not. I know you’re mine, even without that.”
“Of course I still want you. I love you, I am happiest with you,” Peter told him. “I lost it when I changed during the gnome attack,” Peter admitted. “I went out every night to search for it.”
“You tried to find one ring in the woods? Are you insane?” Chris asked him and Peter lightly slapped him on the chest.
“I like the ring,” he said. “Not only for what it stands for, but also the ring. I got used to it. You gave it to me. And I was careless.”
“You weren’t careless,” Chris chided. “You protected your family, you had a clear priority,” Chris nudged Peter’s head back, so that he could kiss his fiancé. “Nothing about you is careless,” he then said, and Peter lowered his eyes again.
“I’m sorry I made you worry. That wasn’t what I wanted. I just wanted to get the ring back.”
“You do realize I could have just bought you another one, right?” Chris asked Peter, who protested.
“But it wouldn’t be the same!”
“I would be if I got down on one knee again before giving it to you,” Chris easily said, because this was not even a problem for him.
Peter had worried for weeks, had made Chris worry in return, all over something so small. He would buy Peter hundred rings if he had to.
“How about this,” Chris said after thinking for a few moments. “I get you another engagement ring, engraved sigil and all, and I’ll get a necklace for it, too. You can wear the ring there, so you won’t lose it when you shift.”
Peter splayed out his fingers, gaze fixed on the empty spot on his ring finger, but he nodded.
“And then I’ll get you a second ring, something off the rack and easily replaceable for you to wear on your finger,” Chris went on and grabbed Peter’s hand.
He had to admit, he too missed the weight of Peter’s ring against his finger. He still remembered how it had felt that first night against his neck and he would be sad to never feel that again.
But this was a problem easily solved, and it had the added bonus of Peter wearing a necklace, Chris’ ring falling onto his chest.
Chris couldn’t say he minded that image all too much.
“Would that be okay?” Peter asked, as if he was seriously worried Chris would say no.
“Peter, you’re an idiot. I’ll buy you all the rings, if you want. You can have one for every day of the week, for all I care. It’s not about the ring itself. It’s about what it means to us. And since I will give you every ring with the clear intention of marrying you, they all mean the same.”
Peter pushed away from him at that, turning so that he could look at Chris.
“We’d need a sturdy necklace, something thick and durable,” Peter said, voice low. “A collar, maybe even,” he said and held Chris gaze.
Chris swallowed at that, because putting a collar on a werewolf was an even bigger deal than asking one to marry you.
The trust would have to be implicit and absolute.
“Okay,” Chris whispered and reached out, lightly tracing his hand over Peter’s throat. “We’ll find something that works,” he said while Peter shuddered under his touch.
Before either of them could say something else, Chris reeled Peter in, kissing the fears and worries of too many days away.