Their first official Christmas together, Stiles comes home to their shared apartment with a shopping bag clutched in his hand and a manic grin on his face.
“I got you something.”
He’s bouncing on his feet as he holds it out and Peter puts the newspaper aside, standing up and taking it from him. He reaches into the bag and pulls out a hideous sweater. It’s red with snowflakes and snowmen and Christmas trees that look pixelated and inaccurate. Peter turns his lip up in a sneer, holding it away from himself.
“What the fuck is this?”
“It’s a Christmas sweater,” Stiles says, still looking excited for reasons that Peter can’t fathom. “I’ve snooped through everything you own in the last six months, you definitely don’t have one.”
“No,” Peter agrees dryly, still staring at the awful design in front of him. “I do not.”
“Try it on,” Stiles says enthusiastically.
Peter finally looks up at him. “I’m sorry,” he says. “You expect me to actually put this monstrosity on my body?”
Stiles’ face falls. “What?”
“Stiles, this is the ugliest thing I’ve ever seen,” Peter says.
“It’s a Christmas sweater,” Stiles says weakly. “They’re supposed to be ugly. It’s tradition.”
“It’s not my tradition,” Peter says.
“But it’s a gift,” Stiles says.
“Really?” Peter asks, looking at it again. This fucking thing might actually be polyester. He shudders. “It feels more like a punishment for something I did in a past life.”
Stiles clenches his jaw. “If you’re getting punished for anything it’s definitely from this life,” he spits out.
And there it is. All those awful things that Peter did will never really go away. He’s not the good guy. He’ll never be the good guy. He’ll never be good enough for someone like Stiles. He drops the sweater to the floor and stalks towards the door.
“Peter, wait,” Stiles calls after him, but Peter doesn’t break his stride.
He spends most of the day wandering the Preserve and then goes to Derek’s where he doesn’t feel particularly welcome. Stiles has probably been texting him by now with the whole story. Peter supposes he deserves that as well.
By the time he finally returns home, the sweater has disappeared and Stiles is wrapped up in bed. Peter goes to join him, knowing from his uneven breaths that he’s not asleep.
“I’m sorry,” Peter says quietly, moving in close behind him. “But that sweater was ugly.”
“Your face is ugly,” Stiles responds, but he smells like relief and affection. He grabs Peter’s hand, yanking him closer until he’s nestled as the little spoon. “I don’t think that you’re a bad person.”
He lifts Peter’s hand up to his mouth, placing a kiss against the back of it. Peter nods, his own lips brushing against the back of Stiles’ neck. His heart never faltered so the words must be true.
Their second Christmas together, Stiles is more cautious when he presents the bag to Peter. Peter gets to his feet, a sense of dread settling in his gut. He reaches inside, pulling out wonderfully soft knitwear. With a Christmas tree on the front. There’s a flare of anger because they’ve been through this, Stiles knows how this is going to go. Is he just trying to start a fight?
“It’s cashmere,” Stiles says, his voice so hopeful and sincere. So he’s not being petty, just hideously optimistic. That’s not how they do things.
“I don’t wear Christmas sweaters,” Peter says, trying to keep his voice level.
“This is a nice one,” Stiles says. “I get that you don’t like the tacky joke ones, but this is classy.”
“Stiles,” Peter says. “I don’t wear Christmas sweaters.”
Stiles sags, but he doesn’t argue. Peter doesn’t understand why this is such a big deal to him. Stiles wore a Christmas sweater on Christmas day last year, and so did his dad, and Peter wouldn’t dream of telling them not to if that’s what they enjoy doing. But Peter doesn’t enjoy it and he doesn’t see why Stiles would want him to feel uncomfortable all day.
Stiles nods and takes the sweater from Peter, putting it back in the bag. “I kept the receipt anyway.” He puts the bag aside and then straightens himself up, moving closer to Peter as he blinks away the disappointment. “My dad wants you to make that stuffing again.”
Peter smiles, wrapping his arms around Stiles. “That I can do.”
Their third Christmas together, there’s no sweater. Peter is relieved. He hates the tension it caused. He still makes the stuffing and Stiles still wears his own Christmas sweater, a brand new one, when they go to the Sheriff’s house on Christmas day.
After lunch, Stiles falls fast asleep on the couch in the most uncomfortable looking position after overindulging as usual. Peter rolls his eyes and shakes his head and falls a little more in love.
“Did I ever show you our Christmas album?” John asks.
Peter looks over at him. “What’s that?”
John goes to a bookshelf and pulls out an old-fashioned looking photo album. He opens it up to the first page and it’s a young-looking John and Claudia in front of a Christmas tree wearing ugly Christmas sweaters. In Claudia’s arms is baby Stiles, dressed in an elf onesie.
Peter looks through it, a year passing with every turn of the page. Each photograph is the three of them in different ugly sweaters, posed in front of a tree. It fills Peter with joy until he reaches the year it’s just John and Stiles, their smiles forced. They continue the tradition together though, year after year. That’s what family means to them.
Peter looks over at Stiles and he feels like he finally gets it.
Their fourth Christmas together, Peter is the one to go out and buy Christmas sweaters. Two of them. And a little something else. He puts his sweater on before Stiles comes home and as he sits there, waiting with anticipation, he starts to understand why Stiles jiggles his leg up and down and bounces on his feet. Peter doesn’t know how he survives with so much nervous energy all the time.
When he finally gets home, Peter gets to his feet, standing proudly in his Christmas sweater. Stiles pauses halfway through the door, staring at him with wide eyes. He doesn’t necessarily look pleased. The moment stretches on until he finally swings the door closed, dropping his keys into the bowl by the door.
“What are you doing?”
“I’m wearing a Christmas sweater,” Peter says, striking a catalogue pose.
“You’re wearing a sweater with a reindeer’s ass on it,” Stiles says, looking unimpressed.
Peter drops his arms, looking down at himself. Stiles thinks he’s making fun of him. He thinks he’s shitting on his Christmas traditions, quite literally. Peter shakes his head, picking up the giftbag and holding it out to Stiles.
“Okay, yes, it doesn’t work on its own,” he admits.
Stiles takes the bag, still looking at Peter suspiciously. When he pulls the sweater out, his eyes light up though. “Oh my god!” he says breathlessly. He holds it up next to Peter to complete the design. When they stand next to each other, it makes a full reindeer. “It’s a couple’s Christmas sweater set!”
“It certainly is,” Peter agrees. “You should try it on.”
Stiles nods eagerly, throwing off his jacket. Peter’s heart beats too fast, hand sliding into his pocket. As soon as the sweater is over Stiles’ head, Peter slips the little box from his pocket and drops down to one knee. As Stiles settles the sweater onto his body, he catches sight of Peter and freezes again, his eyes full of shock and hope and apprehension.
“You’re an idiot,” Peter tells him, opening up the box to reveal the platinum ring. “And you have terrible fashion sense. Just awful. But I love you. I love you more than I’ve ever loved anything. So I was hoping that you’d be my idiot. Forever.”
Stiles gapes at him. “That was simultaneously the best and worst proposal ever.”
Peter smiles at him. “So?”
Stiles purses his lips together, even as his eyes shine with joy. “Well,” he says carefully, barely able to keep the smirk off his face. “You’re a miserable, sarcastic asshole. And you’re so fucking pretentious. You’re an insufferable bastard at times. But I’d like you to be my insufferable bastard. So yeah, I’ll marry you.”
Peter feels relief flooding his body. He gets to his feet, grabbing Stiles around the waist and lifting him up. Stiles squeals and then grabs the sides of Peter’s face, kissing him hard. Peter puts him down, pulling back and taking hold of his hand so that he can place the ring on his finger. It looks so perfect there. Peter has never felt prouder.
“We should take a photo,” Stiles says enthusiastically, getting out his phone.
They stand side by side, the reindeer complete across both of their bodies as they grin at the camera, the love and excitement clear. Peter looks at it on the small screen.
“Stiles,” he says. “You can’t see the ring.”
“Oh, right,” Stiles says. “We should take one with the ring.”
Peter stares at him with complete incredulity. He’s more excited about the sweaters than their engagement. Peter sees the photo later that evening on Stiles’ social media, the complementary sweaters, Stiles beaming at the camera with his left hand held up and ring glinting, Peter looking at him like he absolutely cannot comprehend him and yet he’d stand by him no matter what. It feels like the perfect shot to represent the rest of their lives.