The first thing Stiles hears when he picks up the phone is long, heavy breathing.
It actually creeps him out a bit, especially when he says "hello!" a few times and nothing but ragged exhales answer him. It sounds like a dying vampire is prank calling him, so he hangs up before any ghostly moaning can begin. Weirder things have happened in college, and Stiles has learned from experience to cut that shit off as quickly as possible.
Five seconds later, his phone rings again.
"Who is this?" Stiles demands.
The breathing continues like someone's pumping a creaky bellows into the mouthpiece. Then, just as Stiles is about to hang up again, a disturbingly familiar albeit quite croaky voice says, "Stiles?"
No. No way.
Stiles sits up. It's been up to five years since he heard that voice last, and yet it still manages to raise hackles on his neck and throw him back to high school. Some people are just like that, like a bad country song where all you need is to hear a few bars over a gas station speaker and the entire thing rings through your head all day like an unshakable ear worm. As a matter of fact, "worm" is an ideal word for describing Peter Hale.
"Hello?" Stiles says tentatively, waiting for confirmation that after so many years of deceptive peace, Peter's back in his life with bells on. He narrows his eyes. "Is that seriously—Peter?"
"Stiles?" Peter says again, and yes, that's definitely him, except for the fact that he sounds uncharacteristically confused and half-asleep. "Stiles Stilinski?"
Stiles has no clue why he sounds so shocked; Peter's the one who called him, not the other way around. Stiles' eyes narrow further until there's nothing but a suspicious slit left to see out of.
"Are you drunk?" he asks. "What the hell is going on?"
"I'm going now," Peter says, still sounding just as perplexed but with an edge of his usual hauteur this time around, probably because he's been accused of being sloshed somewhere unattended.
The call ends. Stiles stares at his phone in disbelief, trying to figure out if any of that actually just happened. When he accepts that it has, he starts tracing that number.
It's been a long time since Stiles has even seen a member of the Hale bloodline, let alone heard about them. They're wiped out of Beacon Hills like an extinct species, even their old house completely bulldozed down at this point, and yet even after graduating high school and seemingly leaving all that behind him when he went off to college, they've still found a way to infiltrate Stiles' life. Like bad pennies. Unshakable, all of them.
Considering how well he's been doing without them lately—especially how healthy and alive—he probably should let that bizarre call go. So why Stiles gets to work tracking the location of Peter's number so he can find out more about the mystery call bestowed upon him makes no earthly sense.
Stiles reasons that it's probably because it's winter break and he's bored, cooped up in a cramped dorm room without even homework to busy himself. His unbelievably entertaining stoner roommate is out of town visiting family and Scott fell asleep on him two hours ago when they were texting about The Amazing Race, so there's nothing to distract Stiles from his ill-advised intrigue at Peter's random phone call.
Damn. Peter fucking Hale. Even just thinking his name gives Stiles the chills as visions of low-cut cardigans and a perpetual smirk cross his mind.
The area code Peter called from is Northern California, according to Stiles' computer. It's also not a registered number, which leads Stiles to imagine that Peter Hale, pissed enough to be singing sailor shanties, is drunk dialing people from a payphone.
It's all very strange.
What's even stranger is Stiles grabbing his phone and calling the number back. He remembers learning recently that some payphones don’t accept incoming calls anymore, but it’s worth a shot.
The ringing stops after a few seconds. Peter's voice crackles through.
"Who is this?"
"Stiles," Stiles says. "The guy you just butt dialed." Proverbially speaking. Stiles isn't sure anybody could be wasted enough to find a way to butt dial with a payphone.
"I didn't butt dial you," Peter says indignantly. Now that he's talking a bit more, Stiles can tell that he sounds much groggier than he does drunk.
"Are you dying somewhere?" Stiles asks, leaning back in his desk chair. He feels a bit like lycanthropic IT, which amuses him more than it should. "Where are you?"
"Just bleeding," Peter says.
"It's fine," Peter snaps. "It's a flesh wound. I'm healing."
"You're slurring. Were you hit by a bus? Please say you were hit by a bus."
"I'm fine," Peter says again. "Stop talking."
Through the phone, Stiles hears a car horn. It sounds awfully close, like Peter's wandering into the middle of the road losing blood and coherence pulling that payphone cord as far as it can go. Maybe it was a bus. Maybe Stiles is prophetic.
"Seriously, where are you?"
"Nowhere," Peter growls firmly. "How you even got this number is—is beyond me."
"You called me, you tool!" Stiles feels the need to clarify, only to realize a second later that the call's already dropped.
He looks at it, waiting for an incoming call to flash up the screen. When it doesn't, he looks at his jacket slung over the wardrobe. Then he looks out the window at the dark sky and swaying trees.
One hour later, Stiles belatedly realizes that a) he needs to learn to start leashing his curiosity, b) one of his headlights is out, and c) Northern California covers quite a bit of ground.
He calls up a rookie cop that recently starting working with his father who Stiles knows is green enough to take orders from anyone and gets him to look up Peter's number, ultimately tracing it all the way to a payphone at an intersection in Greenview. Stiles hits a couple of drive-thrus as he goes, christening his new Beyoncé CD while he keeps up his energy with French fries, all the while conveniently ignoring that this is a long way to go just for curiosity's sake. It's also a long way to go for somebody who Stiles knows is trouble, but Stiles has never been all too good about avoiding that.
Although driving three hours to find it is a new personal low.
Especially when Stiles' quiet night drive is interrupted with the presence of thick snowflakes. There he is, out on unknown roads in inclement weather wondering why he even bothered downloading that weather app to his phone if he never goddamn puts it to use, watching the sky turn from black into an ominous dark pink that's a harbinger of more snow to come, and deciding that this is the stupidest thing he's ever done for someone who doesn't matter to him. His windshield wipers work furiously against the falling snow and little voices in Stiles' head—voices of reason, really—try to convince him to turn back before conditions get any worse, but voices of curiosity fire back with but we're already so damn close.
It's past midnight when he arrives at the intersection in Greenview, all the streets deserted save for one or two cars on the highway also stupid enough to brave the thickening snow. The intersection is deserted too, although Stiles spots the aforementioned payphone, the receiver dangling gracelessly in the wind. Stiles turns on his high beam lights to see if he can find any blood splattered on the road as some sort of morbid Hansel-and-Gretel-esque breadcrumb leading the way to where Peter is presumably passed out in a puddle of his own blood and shame, but the streets—or rather, the snow—are clean. So he keeps driving.
It's just mindless circling for a while, rolling past neighborhoods and supermarkets and motels. It's just shy of feeling like a waste of time when Stiles sees a shadow shaped like a man sitting in a McDonald's parking lot who looks like twenty more minutes outside and he'll have a pointed hat made of snow on top of his head. Stiles turns into the McDonald's and comes to a stop near the figure, cranking the window down just as Beyoncé starts calling all single ladies together.
"Peter?" Stiles calls.
The shape raises its head, and yes, it is Peter. He doesn't look all too happy to see Stiles, plus he's got a thick stream of blood staining his temple, but that jawline is most definitely recognizable. The sight of the blood makes Stiles recoil, an instant wave of nausea wrinkling his nose. Seeing blood is like an acquired taste, Stiles thinks, and he's been on a strict no-violence diet ever since graduation.
"Oh god," he groans. "Tell me that's ketchup. I don't think it is, but you should tell me it is anyway."
"What the fuck are you doing here?" Peter demands. How someone can sound so sleepy—close to death, probably, is what it is—and so agitated at the same time is baffling. "Why is there Beyoncé playing?"
Stiles gets out of the car, putting it into park. Peter looks very much like an inelegant lump bleeding out on the wet concrete here and now, not quite the way Stiles has been remembering him, with blood matting his hair and a deepset frown pulling at his mouth. Some horrible instinct to help pushes Stiles forward before he can think better of it, and he reaches out to pull Peter to his feet.
"Do you need... something?" Stiles asks, grimacing as Peter moves his head and Stiles sees the shiny smear of blood on his forehead again. "It's probably too late for a bandaid."
"I don't need a thing," Peter says stubbornly.
"Are you kidding me right now?" Stiles grumbles, pulling ineffectually at Peter's arm. It's much colder up here than he expected or prepared for, and the thin hoodie on his back isn't doing much to keep the chill out. He just wants to get back in the car, blast the heat, and end this misguided adventure. "Let me bring you... somewhere."
Anywhere other than a parking lot will probably do at this point. As a matter of fact, Stiles thinks it's real proof of his ascending maturity that he's offering to relocate Peter somewhere else at all; teenage Stiles would've taken pictures of him rotting on the asphalt. He tugs again on Peter's arm, trying to yank him to his feet, but Peter seems to be made of nothing but obstinately dead weight.
"Could you cooperate?" Stiles asks. He raises his voice just to be heard over the wind. It doesn't feel nice out here, and Stiles is starting to think that he should've stayed home in cozy Beacon Hills. "You're a grown man. Do you really want to make the town news tomorrow because you're the bleeding weirdo who scared the poor townsfolk just coming to get their Egg McMuffin in the morning?"
"That sounds delightful," Peter murmurs, sounding about two seconds away from passing out. "Why are you here?"
Stiles has no logical reason. Instead of bothering to answer, he musters up all that strength he's gained never using those Dumbbells Lydia got him last Christmas currently sitting in his sock drawer and arches down to wrap Peter's arm around his neck and forcefully pull him to his feet before dragging him to the passenger seat. It takes him a good while to actually open the door while keeping Peter upright, and by the time he's successfully pushed and maneuvered him onto the seat, he's really wishing he had actually at least tried the five pounders here and there.
When he finally gets back around to the driver's seat, Peter's grumbling deep in his throat like the entire world is disappointing him tonight. Beyoncé keeps singing about how if he liked it, he should've put a ring on it.
"The same car," Peter's moaning. "How do you still have the same hideous car?"
Stiles turns and glares. "I could always leave you here, in the cold, all alone, in the middle of bear country," he suggests, "if this chariot is not to your choosing." He puts the car out of park. "Hmmm?" he presses, wanting to hear the sweet silence of Peter acquiescing.
He looks over to see if Peter's been quieted into remorse and is now sealing his complaints out of gratitude, only to find that he's completely passed out, head lolled against the window. He looks like a child, gracelessly slumped in a car seat like a seven-year-old who's spent the entire day running around Disney World. Except for the blood.
Stiles deliberates in the car for a good twenty minutes while he drives circles around McDonald's figuring out if he should bring Peter home with him and carry him up to his dorm at the risk of innocent people seeing him lugging a lifeless, bloodied body around like a ragdoll (which Stiles knows will end with sordid assumptions that will probably end with his RA searching his room for machetes and shotguns) or keep him in town and find him a place to hunker down in, like a cave he can hang upside down in like a bat. The snow seems to have issues with first plan, though, and the slippery crunch of it under Stiles' tires feels like a warning to maybe not try and recklessly brave the ride back home. There's also a third option, which is to shove Peter's unconscious body out of his car and leave, but that seems a little counterproductive considering how far Stiles drove just to experience this.
He settles on the second option after he gives in and buys himself a barrel-sized milkshake from McDonald's and cranks Beyoncé back up again, cruising—and mostly fishtailing—around town until he finds the nearest motel. The vacancy sign is lit up and the place doesn't look like it's been dodging health inspections for the better part of a decade, so Stiles pulls into the parking lot and digs around in Peter's pants pocket until he finds his wallet, because no way is this little excursion coming out of Stiles' budget.
If he was a better person, Stiles would grab Peter's credit card and leave the rest as is, but as far as he's concerned, Peter deserves people snooping around his things, especially people who have just selflessly saved his life. He finds three credit cards, one driver's license that finally puts to rest any and all ambiguity about Peter's age, a bakery card with eight hole punches that's only four away from a free baguette, an iTunes gift card, a packet of lube slid behind the bills, and a folded fortune cookie slip that reads "Handsome is as handsome does."
"You're a real weirdo, you know that?" Stiles says aloud to Peter's unconscious form. He thinks about how easy it would be to draw mustaches and penises on Peter's forehead right now, entertains the idea for a few hilarious seconds, then decides to be the bigger person and leaves the car. He even locks it just in case some truly unfortunate thieves come around and decide Peter is valuable cargo, although Stiles knows that the joke will be on them if they do.
The motel is quiet when Stiles steps inside; even the front counter is unsupervised. Stiles knocks his knuckles on the countertop for a bit, feeling like a loon all the while until finally, a frazzled man appears with spare pillows loaded under his arms.
"Hi," Stiles says, picking one of the three credit cards and sliding it across the counter. "I need a room. Just one night." He looks around at the neat lobby, the tea station and the fluffed couches, and imagines Peter's bloodstains dribbled on the carpet along the way. "And is there a back entrance to this place?"
Twenty minutes later, Stiles has two key cards and the complimentary wifi code in his pocket, ready to drag Peter's body inside a dusty room. He has to admit, he feels a little like a supporting character in a Bond film, which is probably as exciting as it is because he's not the one with an agonizing injury. He jogs back to the car and eases open the passenger door, half expecting Peter to come sliding out onto the pavement the moment the door gives way.
Stiles looks at his sleeping, broad-shouldered form, and now really wishes he had at least lifted those dumbbells here and there. Peter looks to be a fair bit heavier than Stiles if he considers all those muscles—which honestly, Stiles shouldn't be thinking about Peter's muscles at all—and vaguely, Stiles thinks back to how ants can carry twice their weight no problem. Stiles has a new found respect for them.
He nudges Peter in the shoulder. His hands are turning blue out here and he doesn't want to dilly-dally. "Wake up," he says, jostling him. "I can't carry you, you massive oaf."
Peter doesn't wake up. For one terrifying second, Stiles thinks he might be dead, and as close as people have come, nobody's ever actually died in his Jeep and Stiles doesn't think he can handle the trauma or any spirits haunting his upholstery, so he keeps shaking Peter vigorously. He kneels closer, prying Peter's eyelids up and holding his palm under Peter's nose to feel for the exhale of breath.
"Oh, for the love of god," Stiles groans, and how he goes from feeling like the knight in shining armor in an action movie to feeling the utter regret that comes with leaving one's house, he has no idea. "You cannot die in this car. In my car."
Peter's eyelids flutter open. Then he says, "Stiles, get the fuck away from me."
Stiles sighs in relief. "Thank god," he breathes. "Now get up."
He winds his arm underneath Peter's shoulder, steadying him as they walk as one uncoordinated unit. It comes back to him like an old memory, the way he used to have this two-person stumble perfected back in the days when somebody needing help limping out of danger every other evening. Admittedly, Stiles was usually the one disoriented and staggering to and fro, but now and again he was on the more dignified end of things.
The snow is slippery under their feet, and Stiles almost wipes out trying to heave them both through it. It seems that there’s a slick layer of ice underneath all the powder, the kind that’ll make driving back home a real bitch, but right now, all Stiles is focused on is making his way into the motel without breaking an ankle on the way.
Stiles lets go of Peter when they make it into the elevator to rub the tingles out of his sore arm. Either he’s really dreadfully out of shape or Peter has been eating bricks for breakfast, and he doesn’t even feel that bad when Peter slips out of his grip and slumps against the corner, wincing.
“Your bedside manner leaves much to be desired,” Peter croaks while the elevator creaks its way upwards.
“What do you want me to do? My arm was going to fall off!” Stiles says. “You weigh a shit ton!”
“I have a reasonable amount of muscle weight," Peter says. "You're just weak."
"I'm just..." Stiles trails off, dumbfounded. It's been maybe five minutes of Peter being conscious and Stiles already feels a migraine hammering into his skull. He needs to finish his good deed of the day of doing the world the misfortune of saving Peter's life, stuff him into a motel room, and get the hell out before the never ending self-praise and back-handed insults and snide comments Peter’s so well known for drives him to homicide. "Whatever. Don't talk. Don't even open your mouth."
The elevator shudders to a stop and Stiles begrudgingly winds his arm back under Peter's shoulder, pulling him up and hauling him through the hallway. The carpet looks like something out of a bowling alley and the smell of chlorine is everywhere, everything about this place outdated. Stiles hobbles his way over to the right door, Peter's weight starting to drag him down as he goes, and he fumbles for the keycard while struggling to keep Peter upright.
"Hurry up," Peter hisses.
"My god," Stiles groans, still trying to snag that damn keycard out of his pocket. "How hard is it to not talk?"
"About how hard it is for you to open a door, apparently."
This was not exactly the litany of gratitude Stiles was expecting. As a matter of fact, the word thanks—so short, just one syllable, very easy to say—has yet to leave Peter's mouth, and Stiles is starting to feel extremely unappreciated. He manages to retrieve the keycard and kicks the door open, dragging Peter in and then dumping him none too carefully on the bed in the center of the room.
“You know, you could be a bit nicer,” Stiles says. “I did save your life.”
“You took me away from the snow. I’d hardly say that was saving my life.”
“You could’ve frozen out there!”
“I wouldn’t have,” Peter insists, which Stiles knows is nothing but stubborn pride speaking. He reaches across the bed to the end table, snagging a few tissues from the box there and wiping the blood off his forehead. If the laceration is somewhere on his head, Stiles can’t see it, presumably already healed somewhere within the matting of his hair, but Peter’s still wincing, mouth grimacing as he shifts on the bed. That’s when Stiles sees, now in the right light to do so, the dark blood and the ominous holes near the bottom of his shirt.
"Why aren't you healing?" Stiles asks, for lack of anything better to say.
Peter shoots him a dry look, then strips off his shirt with a hiss of pain. Stiles then gets front row tickets to the gaping holes in his torso and feels his familiar friend nausea make a reappearance. He bites onto his fist.
"Oh my," Stiles says into his knuckles. "That's—those are bullets. Bullet holes. Holy shit." He tangles one hand into the back of his hair. "Do we have to remove them?"
"If this was a movie, probably," Peter spits. That little nap he took in Stiles' car must've given him a bit of his spirit—and sarcasm—back. "You don't meddle with the bullets in real life. You'll just cause more damage."
"So you just—you just let them sit inside you?"
"Yes," Peter says, but there's a pained scowl dug into his face as he shifts on the bed. "They’re not made of wolfsbane. They’ll disintegrate. Can you handle that or do you need to go hide in the bathroom?"
It feels like Stiles is back in high school and the last few years never happened. He can practically still smell that strong aroma that came with Derek's undecorated loft, still feel that knife-edged panic that gripped him every night he was running in the woods, still remember worrying about school and staying alive and bantering with this idiot now in front of him. He left all of that happily in the past the second he got to college, and now, thanks to himself, he's back to being sixteen and heckled by a resurrected werewolf.
And okay, a part of him does want to hunker down in the bathroom, because he's not familiar with this anymore. He doesn't remember what it feels like to be confronted with death and mortal wounds left and right, and taking a long hot bath even in a tiny, undersized motel bathtub sounds like a marvelous escape right now. But this is Peter, Peter Hale, and if there's anything Stiles' brain has forgotten about him, specifically, it's how much Stiles hates feeling like an inferior little human standing next to him.
So he says, "I'm fine, you asshole," and crosses his arms.
"Good," Peter says gruffly. "Now go downstairs and get me a razor."
"A razor?" Stiles repeats, feeling faint. "What the fuck? Are you going to shave the skin away until the bullet falls out?"
"No," Peter snaps. "I'm going to get rid of my five o'clock shadow."
He looks at Stiles like he's mentally disturbed. Stiles probably is mentally disturbed, and it will only get worse the longer he stays around Peter. He rubs his hands over his face and leaves the room.
After retrieving the razor and a handful of shaving cream packets, Stiles watches Peter shave over the bathroom sink like there isn't blood in his hair and literal holes in his chest. Is this old hat for him? Is he still knee-deep in battles to the death every week? It's not like Stiles has been in touch, and they certainly don't run in the same circles. He doesn’t know a thing about Peter’s world.
"So," Stiles says, leaning against the door frame. "What have you been up to the last few years?"
"Nothing exciting," Peter replies.
“Same,” Stiles says, even though he’s aware he hasn’t been asked. “Just like. Focusing on school.”
Peter makes a sound high in his throat.
“You must be awfully bored,” Peter comments.
“Um. Not really,” Stiles says. He has essay deadlines and friends to keep up with and lots of shows to catch up on every week, thank you very much. "So this is still normal for you?" Stiles asks, pointing vaguely at Peter's chest. Stiles can’t tell if they’re improving or not, but if they are, they're clearly repairing themselves a lot more slowly than a few paper cuts would've.
"I suppose," Peter shrugs. "Danger is not exactly something I can walk away from, Stiles."
"Well, you can," Stiles reasons. "You just... walk away when things get dangerous." Stiles scratches his jaw. "You know, I hear Aruba is nice during this time of year. Doubt there's much trouble down there."
Peter taps his razor off at the edge of the sink. He smirks. "You realize that sometimes trouble comes for you whether or not you like it?"
Stiles is about to say that that's a silly excuse and quite frankly, a little ridiculous, but then he thinks about Peter calling him out of the blue after years of appreciated silence and Stiles following the call of danger like it was a fucking siren song. Stiles is starting to wonder if it isn't so much about danger finding you, as it is danger sending you a text message and you deciding to read it and then lacking the self-restraint to ignore it. If that's the case, they're more similar than Stiles thought.
"And what exactly found you this time?" Stiles asks.
Peter looks down at his blood-dappled chest. "A few friends. Nothing serious. I was just… in the wrong place at the wrong time."
"Ah," Stiles says.
Peter doesn't expand. Half his jaw is shaved, the other half still sporting a white beard of foam, and Stiles has to hold in the urge to laugh. He’s standing up, and even with that mess on his stomach, he’s clearly fine. Stiles can’t imagine shaving being a priority for him if he wasn’t. His job here is done.
"Okay. So you're good," Stiles says, flipping his thumbs up. "You're healing. You're not passed out in a parking lot. And I have some seriously good karma coming my way for helping make it all happen." He takes a step back from the bathroom. "I guess that's my cue."
"I suppose it is," Peter agrees, dragging the razor down his upper lip. He doesn't look away from the mirror.
"All right. So. See you later," Stiles says, knowing full well that he will most probably not see Peter later, or ever, hopefully. "I'm outta here."
Or at least, he would've been if he hadn't stepped outside to the apocalypse in the form of snow, ice, and the kind of wind that feels like someone's walloped him in the cheek with a pot.
A little nature doesn't scare him at first, though, and Stiles, the perserverer that he is, stomps his way through the snow that's really starting to heap up and makes his way back to his car. It's got itself a little hood, a sheet of white snow, and Stiles has to tug on the car door a few times just to get it to unfreeze.
His tires are the ones to betray him. They spin and spin and spin against ice and snow and the engine whinnies like a hungry horse, the car entirely motionless. Stiles drops his forehead on the wheel and inadvertently honks the horn.
He spends five more minutes in the driver's seat, getting cold and watching the snow fall in the beam of the headlights. The radio sings at him about taking everything he owns in a box to the left, but it seems that until the snow melts—or at least stops—he's not going anywhere.
"Fuck!" Stiles yells as he gets back out of his car and slams the door shut. He's starting to shiver in his hoodie and as much as he'd like to jetpack back home, it just isn't an option, so he stomps his way back through the snow and into the motel. If he didn't know better, he'd think that Peter planned this just to piss him off.
He goes back to the front desk.
"Back so soon?" the man behind it asks.
"I'm not going anywhere," Stiles says bitterly. He fishes his credit card out of his wallet and hopes his father's not going to check the bank account in the next few days and start wondering why exactly Stiles is up north in a cheap motel. "I need a room."
"Didn't I just sell you a room?"
"Another room," Stiles says. He's not going back up there to Peter. He's not.
"I'm terribly sorry, but we're sold out," the man says. "The blizzard—"
"—has people snowed in, yeah, yeah," Stiles finishes, dropping his head onto the counter. He can't believe he has to go back upstairs to Peter and beg him to share. He picks his head up and looks sharply at the deliverer of his bad news. "You have no idea what you've just done."
He picks his wallet back up and thunders over to the elevator. The thirty second ride is not a happy one. There’s only one bed in that room, and one too many of Peter, and not even breathing room between the two of them to ensure that both of them will walk out in one piece.
Stiles knocks for a good thirty seconds at the door before he realizes that Peter has no intention of opening up. He goes for an underhanded tactic and yells "room service!" at the door, covering the peephole with his palm after a moment's consideration.
Finally, the door creaks open.
"This is not my definition of room service," Peter says dryly. "I thought you were leaving."
"My car's snowed in," Stiles says. "Let me in."
"No. Get yourself your own room."
"Are you fucking kidding me?" Stiles grumbles. "I save you from death, and you turn me away? Should I make like Mary and Joseph and find a barn somewhere?"
"Christmas is over," Peter says. "And I wasn't dying."
"Just get out of the way," Stiles demands. He has a McDonald’s milkshake still in here and he's not going to be bullied away from it. "I talked to the front desk and they're out of rooms. I don't want to be here any more than you do, but I'd rather not freeze to death in my car."
"Then we're even."
"You saved my life," Peter mutters. The air quotes around "saved," although not actually present, are perfectly visible to Stiles. "I'm saving yours now in return."
Stiles groans and pushes him out of the way. Some people are just like that, Stiles thinks, desperate to prove that they are Big People and Good Samaritans without any debts hanging on their shoulders. Not that Stiles wants Peter to be in his debt. One day he could wake up to a murdered elk on his doorstep and that could be Peter's way of leveling things out between them. Stiles has no clue.
"I'll leave the second the roads clear up," Stiles says, striding over to the window and pulling the curtain aside. Against the dark sky, the thick white snowflakes create a stark contrast.
"See that you do.”
Stiles ignores him. It’s clear that Peter’s about as thrilled that Stiles is here as Stiles is that Peter’s here, which at least means they don’t have to bother with the pretenses of being pleasant with each other, instead comfortably able to sit in their shared dislike. Stiles heads to the bathroom to shake the snow off his sneakers into the bathtub, hang his damp hoodie over the shower rod to dry, and inspect the amenities on the counter, and by the time he comes back out, Peter’s on the phone with the front desk.
"—mouthwash, two toothbrushes, floss, toothpaste, shaving cream, a few extra towels, a yoga mat, and an iPhone charger,” he’s saying.
Stiles waves his arms and mouths "conditioner!"
Peter squints. "And..." He watches carefully as Stiles does it again. "...condoms?"
"For god's sake, conditioner," Stiles says. "There's none in the bathroom."
Peter gives him a minute nod before his face contorts with disbelief at the phone.
"You don't? Well, that seems rather short-sighted. That will show in my Yelp review," Peter says into the receiver. "As one might have it, I actually meant to say conditioner, which I'm assuming you do actually have available."
Stiles settles himself onto the opposite side of the bed, briefly wondering how exactly they’re supposed to peacefully share this thing, even if it is king-sized. Peter looks like the kind of person who takes up all the room. Stiles is sure of it. He listens to Peter berate the front desk while he takes a moment to check the weather app he never bothers with and ends up finding seriously unfavorable predictions about how long this snow is going to inconveniently stick around.
"Splendid," Peter says. "And I'll also need to elongate my stay here." A pause. "For however long we are confined here thanks to Mother Nature. Yes. Perfect."
Stiles cringes while he talks. Even though he's aware of the situation, he still doesn't like acknowledging that he's at the mercy of a completely uncontrollable force here, and until old man winter decides to release Stiles from his clutches, he's stuck. With Peter. In a tiny motel room.
"They don't carry condoms," Peter says with a huff after he hangs up. "And frankly, I perceived a very unprofessional amount of judgment coming through just because I asked."
"Whatever will we do," Stiles deadpans, only half-listening as he takes out his phone and scrolls through his emails.
"I'll be forced to complain," Peter says, sighing. "And we'll have to go without condoms."
Stiles' thumb stutters to a stop where it's busy on his phone's screen. He looks up at Peter. "I think we ought to establish some boundaries."
"Oh, relax," Peter says. He’s moving glacially as he readjusts himself on the bed, keeping his stomach stretched out in front of himself, almost like it’s still painful. He hasn’t put his shirt back on yet, and here in the lamplight, it doesn’t look like it’s healing at all. “You were the one that wanted them.”
“Conditioner,” Stiles stresses. "Hey, did you just ask for one phone charger?"
"I need one too, you know."
Peter looks at him, chin tilted downward in a lack of amusement. "Perhaps it's time Stiles learns how to share with the other boys and girls?"
Stiles seizes one of the enormously fluffed pillows in reach and smacks it against Peter's head. He moves out of the way, as frustratingly expected, but the gust of air it creates ruffles Peter's hair out of place, which is good enough for Stiles.
Peter swipes the unseated strands back into place. "I didn't realize this was a teenage girl's sleepover party."
"Shut up," he grumbles. "I don't want to share much of anything with you. Including chargers."
"We're already sharing a bed," Peter says, like they might as well give into the vanishing personal space between them and share everything from childhood stories to fingernail clippers. Stiles can already feel the groan curling his mouth, interrupted by the loud knock on the door. "Get that, would you."
Stiles looks over at Peter, who's stretched out so comfortably on the bed it seems he's only missing an eye mask that spells fuck off on it in cursive, and if it weren't for that hideous mottled mess of his torso still digging into Stiles' mind, he'd refuse. As it stands, Stiles huffs to make it clear he's unenthused but gets up regardless to answer the door.
The man behind it is carrying a cardboard box of things under his arm. They're mostly all bathroom amenities in sample sizes too small to do anything but shampoo, condition, and shave a small chihuahua, but Stiles isn't in the mood to argue with yet more people tonight and takes the box without a word. Behind them, Peter yells, "Did he forget your condoms, Stiles?" in a voice that probably carries through the walls into neighboring rooms, and Stiles hurries to close the door and bolt it shut.
"I hate you so much," Stiles says, stomping back to the bed. "Just for that, I'm taking the charger."
"I need it," Peter insists.
"Too bad," Stiles says, snatching it out of the box and plugging his phone in at the outlet furthest away from Peter as possible. He's only at about sixty percent or so, but he likes the peace of mind of being fully charged and he also likes robbing Peter of things he wants. "Get your lazy ass out of bed if you want it so badly."
Peter cracks one eye open. "I've been grievously injured."
"My phone is entirely dead.”
“That why you were using payphones in the middle of nowhere?”
Peter pauses, apparently realizing something. “Yes,” he says slowly. “How exactly did you find me?”
“I have connections,” Stiles says, grinning, and returns to the bed. “I traced your call.”
“You asked your father.”
“No,” Stiles says, going pink. He did enlist the police force to help, but his father remained blissfully unaware of the situation the entire time. Hopefully. “You really think he’d support me chasing after your crazy ass?”
“So you’re being a bad boy,” Peter says.
“Don’t call me that,” Stiles says. A million pornos already take place in motels and Peter saying things like bad boy make him feel like there should be cameras and light crews in the corner telling Stiles to take off his shirt already. “Are you going to sleep anytime soon?”
“If only I had my phone to check my emails with before bed,” Peter says, sounding very woe-is-me. “Something to help me wind down.”
“Too bad,” Stiles says, shutting his phone off and getting to his feet. “Go to sleep.”
Peter glowers, but he doesn’t move. Either he’s in pain, he’s just that lazy, or he’s currently planning his revenge. Considering who he’s dealing with, Stiles can’t entirely rule that last one out. He wonders, not for the first time, if sleeping in the same bed as Peter is actually a good idea. If this was a horror movie, would this be that moment when ominous music plays and the audience yells at the TV don’t do it, don’t do it! and then throws their popcorn into the air because they do that foolish, stupid, senseless thing anyway?
“It doesn’t have bed bugs,” Peter says, gesturing to Stiles’ side of the bed.
Bed bugs would probably be a delight compared to unsuspecting murder while he’s sleeping. Stiles scratches his jaw, staring at the bed. “Have you ever seen that Gordon Ramsay show? Hotel Hell? Do you see the kind of stuff they find on hotel sheets?”
“Hell’s Kitchen is more my speed.” Peter pats the bed. “Just get in.”
“You watch Hell’s Kitchen?”
“Me too,” Stiles says.
“Great. We’ve bonded,” Peter says dryly. “Will you trust me enough to get in the bed now?”
They haven’t bonded, and Stiles doesn’t trust him. He gets in the bed anyway.
To say he's uncomfortable is an understatement. The bed itself is fine—a little creaky, a little old, but all in all a comfortable substitution for his own lumpy mattress, which is the kind of luxury only a dorm room can afford—but it's more the company that's disturbing Stiles than anything else.
He doesn't even remember the last time he shared a bed with someone, and now he's doing so with a man he hasn't seen in years that he knows for a fact has a history of murder and bloodshed. There's always the possibility that all that's changed and Peter's now a Reformed Individual with no interest in violence, but Stiles is also enough of a logical thinker to refuse to even entertain such reasoning. Considering that Peter was riddled with blood and gunshots when Stiles found him, he's pretty sure it's safe to say that he hasn't changed an iota.
The fact that Stiles is still, despite this knowledge, sharing a bed and a motel room with him makes him feel either very brave or very stupid.
"Would you calm down?" Peter growls across the bed. He then proceeds to punch grooves into his pillow to accommodate his head. "You're going to have a heart attack."
Stiles slips two fingers over his wrist to feel his pulse and, oh, it's definitely racing a bit. He had almost forgotten that he was in the company of someone with the ability to listen to every gurgle in his stomach and blip in his heartbeat.
"Just thinking what the chances are that you'll remove my organs while I sleep," Stiles says idly, tilting his head left and right on the pillow until the bones in his neck crack. "It's not exactly a soothing thought."
"If I wanted organs, I'd get them off the black market," Peter huffs. "If you're so scared of me, why'd you even come find me?"
"I'm not scared of you!" Stiles insists immediately. When sharing close sleeping quarters with the enemy, Stiles is pretty sure keeping a lid on all of his weaknesses is step number one as far as survival is concerned. "And I don't know. I was bored." He remembers something significant. "Like you're so blameless here. Why did you call me?"
"You were one of many I called," Peter says. "And to be clear, I came to you as the last of the last resorts."
"I'm so flattered," Stiles says flatly.
"It definitely sounded like you were."
"Whatever, all right?" Stiles paws at the sheets, dragging them up around his chest and huffing. He feels like he's eleven years old forced into a birthday party sleepover with someone he hates, except to be fair, he never exactly had a sleepover with anybody who once savagely murdered the town on a revenge spree, so this is most definitely infinitely worse. "Just—observe personal space. Seriously."
"Listen," Peter says gruffly, rolling onto his side to stare at Stiles through the dark. His eyes are wild and he sounds unbelievably tired, the kind of tired where niceties fly out the window. Considering he was shot three times today and nearly died out in the cold, his exhaustion might be warranted. "If you need to, we'll draw a line down the bed that neither of us can cross. Fill it with pillows."
"Fuck you," Stiles says, aware that he's being treated like a temperamental five year old having a tantrum. "Just stay over there and I'll be fine."
He turns over so he doesn't have to look at Peter's face through the shadows and can pretend that he's in his own bed, at home, without anybody shifting around beside him repeatedly exhaling in exasperation. He drags the covers up to his neck, nestles his ear into the pillow, and hopes that Peter can follow directions.
Peter does stay over on his side, but it comes with a price. He takes the covers with him.
Stiles' organs are still where they should be when he wakes up the next morning, which is, disturbingly enough, a little surprising. Another small miracle: Peter is on his side of the bed, as discussed. Aside from the endless blanket pulling on Peter's end that made the night significantly colder than it had to be, Stiles made it through the night.
The miracles end there. When Stiles lifts his head and looks out the window, he's almost blinded by how overpoweringly white everything has become. Snow is whistling off roofs and still coming down from above at an angle sharp enough to speak for the strength of the wind, and things are looking grim. He then proceeds to spend ten minutes watching a heavily layered man try and scratch ice off his sedan's windows just for the hell of it.
He throws his clothes back on, his hoodie dry once more, and heads downstairs once he's had his fill of schadenfreude, and he puts together a mighty feast of eggs, bagels, and a speckled banana in the motel's breakfast section to bring up to the windowsill while he watches more people struggle against the elements next to a warm and cozy radiator.
When he comes back upstairs, Peter's awake and stretched out on the floor like a circus contortionist.
"Woah," Stiles says, the key card in his teeth and a styrofoam plate balanced on each hand. "What's going on here?"
Peter looks at Stiles from between his legs. "What?"
Stiles finagles the key card out of his mouth. "I asked what's going on here," he says. "Is this prep for the Olympics? Are you entering along with the other geriatrics?"
"Amusing as ever, Stiles," Peter murmurs, shifting so he's on his back and his stomach is bowed upward. It looks acutely uncomfortable. "It's called yoga."
Peter does yoga. Peter sits down every day and breathes through his nose and pulls his legs up to his head and balances his weight on his arms. Does he have his own yoga mat? Does he have a class he attends?
"And would you put on a shirt?" Stiles complains, skirting around him to lay his plates on the bed.
"It was ruined after my run-in yesterday," Peter says. "And it was my only shirt."
"It was your only shirt?"
"Well. On my person."
He readjusts his position, tilting backwards in a beautiful arc that requires even more flexibility. From this angle, Stiles can see that his chest hasn't completely healed, and his stomach is still full of gaping holes. It's enough to put Stiles off his eggs.
"Why haven't you healed yet?"
Peter's expression is blank. "It takes time," he says.
Not in Stiles' experience. He remembers seeing gaping wounds close up like a sewing machine was pulling perfectly healed skin back together a few years ago, how blood and bruises would fade in seconds. Peter's stomach looks like something infected and rotten, almost like it's healing at human speed more than it is at werewolf speed, if it’s even healing at all.
"Stop ogling my chest," Peter says, curving back to standing position like a doughy pretzel.
"I wasn't," Stiles says instantly, ears warm. "I was looking at the—never mind."
He's not going to waste breath talking about Peter's chest, not when it feels too much like an attempt of Peter's to pump up his arrogance. He drops that subject like a hot potato and stuffs a spoonful of runny eggs into his mouth.
His phone buzzes in his pocket against his thigh mid-chew. He pulls it out of his jeans and sees that Scott’s texted him: Stopped by your dorm but you weren’t there :( where are you? He texts back Stuck upstate thanks to a snowstorm. Long story. Tell you soon.
It's not until he's tucking his phone back into his pants that he realizes he found it there in the pocket this morning, which prompts his eyes to zoom across the room and land on—
"You fucker," he grumbles. "When did you take the charger?"
"When you were sleeping," Peter says. "And snoring. And drooling. And—"
"All right," Stiles says loudly, cutting him off and scrubbing an annoyed hand over his cheek. "I'm taking it back."
"Don't you dare touch it," Peter warns.
"You just keep—keep." Stiles looks over at Peter again where he's once more shifted positions, his legs now poised to the ceiling and back propped up with his palms. "Candlesticking?"
"It's called Salamba Sarvangasana."
"Yeah. Just keep that up."
He shoves the last forkful of eggs—or more likely what is actually an egg-like product that's slipped between the cracks of the motel's health department inspection—into his mouth and gets up from the bed, crossing over to the outlet and snatching Peter's phone away to replace with his own. Idly, he remembers that Peter does actually have the capacity to be dangerous, but the idea of carving someone's throat out with their claws over an iPhone charger feels a little too much like a decision made in a low budget soap opera.
Behind him, as if on cue, Peter growls, obviously displeased. Considering he's lying on the floor with his feet arched into the air like a professional gymnast, the sound doesn't have what is probably its intended authority.
"Steal it back from me later," Stiles brushes off. He goes back to his breakfast and starts buttering a sticky poppy seed bagel while he figures out how to work the TV remote.
He flips through the channels until a map and an unfamiliar weatherman pointing at cloud formations comes up. From the looks of it, the snow is far from done. The weatherman goes on to grimly advise everybody to stay inside and keep their generators close by just in case the blizzard starts taking out power lines. He might as well be saying: hey Stiles, have fun living with your new roommate from hell because there is no escape! Stiles buries his face in his hands.
"I can't believe this," he stays into his palms. "I could be stuck here with you until spring."
Peter stretches into a graceful warrior's pose. "Would that be so bad?"
He extends his arms. "I could always kill you before then, if you'd like," he offers like he's a friend selflessly volunteering help moving. "Take you out of your misery. Sell your teeth on the black market."
"I could just start walking back to Beacon Hills," Stiles suggests bleakly.
"You'd be dead within the hour," Peter predicts. "And the snow is bright enough to blind you. So you'd die freezing, blind, and presumably lost in the wilderness."
Stiles weighs his options in his head. Is dying painfully in a snow bank really any worse than being stuck in a motel room with Peter for an indeterminate amount of time? He survived the one night, but multiple nights?
It also isn't exactly helping that aside from his wallet, his cell phone, his decidedly autumn-friendly clothes, and a rapidly dwindling spirit, he has nothing on himself. No computer. No textbooks. No PlayStation. No winter wear. No books. Not even a packet of homework.
“How much could you get for my teeth?” Stiles asks.
“Depends which buyers I could interest,” Peter says. He’s back on the floor again in bridge pose, pelvis curved upward into the air. “And how many cavities you’ve had. What state your teeth are in.”
Stiles arches upward on the bed to catch a glimpse of himself in the long mirror next to the TV, baring his teeth. There are a few poppy seeds stuck in them from the bagel he’s eaten half of, but other than that, they seem perfectly viable. He had his fair share of trouble with them when he was younger, so he definitely deserves the straight pearly whites staring back at him now. He picks a seed out with his fingernail.
“They look good to me,” he says. “Werewolves don’t need dentists, do they?”
"I go now and again," Peter says. He sounds like he's only half-heartedly listening. "They whiten my teeth for me. Yellowing happens to all of us."
“Sure, sure,” Stiles says, flipping past the weather channel to see if anything even remotely entertaining is on. There isn’t. “You know, just imagining you in a dentist chair makes my day a little better.”
There’s an abrupt knock at the door. Stiles scrambles to his feet and stuffs the rest of the bagel into his mouth. “That’s probably the maid,” Stiles garbles around his food. “Make yourself decent, for the love of god.”
Peter doesn’t listen; Peter continues on with his half-naked yoga in the middle of the room. Stiles opens the door the slightest of slivers to try and keep their visitor's innocence intact, because Peter's bare chest aside, the suspiciously bleeding stomach isn't something anybody should be subjected to. Outside of the ajar door, Stiles catches a glimpse of a slight elderly woman and the maid’s cart she's pulling along behind her.
"Hi," Stiles says, stuffing his face in the crack. "We're fine. If you could just hand me some toothpaste and some shampoo, that's all we need."
She must've seen and heard much more suspicious things during her time spent housekeeping, because she hands over what Stiles asked for without so much as a blink and moves along. Stiles watches her toddle along the hallway, her cart squeaking in tow, and shuts the door, immediately in search of the privacy door hanger.
"Have you seen the privacy please sign?"
"Why do we need it?" Peter asks, and even upside down, Stiles can see his furrowed eyebrows. "What will we be doing in here that needs privacy?"
"This is all you, buddy," Stiles says, finding the hanger by the TV. "That bleeding injury of yours screams freak show."
"You're protecting the employees of the motel from me?"
"Absolutely," Stiles says, slipping the sign over the doorknob and locking it shut once it's done. They can make their own bed. They don't need vacuuming services. As long as they don't trash the place like rock stars, this should be fine. As a matter of fact, the only thing that disturbs him about hanging that up is that people passing by will probably think they're having passionate rounds of marathon sex. "It's too late for me, but everybody else..."
"You think you need protection from me?" Peter asks.
"I have a tire iron in my car I can use if things get nasty."
"I’ll be eagerly awaiting its appearance,” Peter deadpans, and stretches back into standing position, apparently done with his gymnastics for the day. He kicks the hotel’s yoga mat into the corner and strolls over to the bed, grabbing Stiles’ fork before he can protest and stealing a bite of his eggs.
“Hey,” Stiles says. “Get your own.”
“These are terrible,” Peter says, handing Stiles’ fork back to him. “I could make better eggs in my sleep.”
“Is that your Gordon Ramsay impression?”
“Not intentionally,” Peter says. “But that turned out nicely, didn’t it?”
Against his will, Stiles laughs. He's pretty sure it's the first time he's genuinely laughed at something Peter's said the entire time he's known him, and something about that makes him feel uncomfortably itchy.
It doesn't take Stiles very long to figure out something very crucial about Peter: he's a massive, unapologetic cover hog.
He wakes up the next night, not for the first time in the night or even the hour, shivering and slowly icing over. They spent the day watching cooking programs in fairly peaceful silence, the simplicity of it all giving Stiles hope that they could make it through this blizzard together without dueling it out. He was wrong. On his right, Peter's lump of a form is wrapped in all the linens like a swaddled baby, not sharing a single inch of bedsheets. This is the second night in a row. Stiles is not pleased.
"Peter," he hisses. "Peter Hale." He wishes he could stick his middle name in there to make it sound more authoritative, but Stiles realizes he doesn't actually know Peter's middle name. He decides to make one up that he feels is appropriate. "Peter Adolf Hale. For the love of God."
Peter doesn't even so much as murmur, so Stiles starts tugging on the bit of sheet not burritoed around him. He remembers all too well how Derek slept like he was living in military barracks, always ready for trouble, always ready to jerk awake and into action, and here's Peter, dead to the world and happily so. Stiles wraps his fists around the sheets and yanks.
"Peter," Stiles tries again.
"Shut the fuck up, Stiles," a coarse, sleepy voice says from the depth of the sheets.
"You're hogging all the sheets. Give me two more minutes and I'll be preserved for decades to come," Stiles says, rubbing his freezing ankles together. "Give me some."
"Stop talking," Peter insists, rolling over and holding his arm out. It's a strange gesture, and it takes Stiles a bit to even understand what it means, until Peter waves it with impatience and Stiles comes to the unfortunate conclusion that Peter's trying to lure him closer for warmth much like a spider probably coaxes unsuspecting victims into its lethal web.
"I'm not letting you fucking spoon me," Stiles says.
"You're cold. I'm warm. Take the obvious solution or leave it."
Nothing about this feels like the obvious solution. It feels like the most far-fetched solution possible, something Stiles might agree to if they were stuck in a snowdrift in Antarctica together and had to rely on body heat to survive, not when they're in a modern day motel room together and Peter's just being sleepy and selfish. Stiles props himself up and steals a look at the telephone at the nightstand. Is anybody manning the desk downstairs at this hour? Would someone deliver him extra blankets because his bedmate never learned to share with other children?
"Come on," Peter growls.
"I'm going to throw you off this bed," Stiles warns. Why is Peter pushing this? Why is he even offering this? "Just give me the sheets. Just some. Just a sliver. For fuck's sake."
Peter grumbles, unresponsive and unwilling to cooperate. One day, Stiles thinks bitterly, Peter is going to make somebody a very unlucky, very unfortunate partner, assuming Peter’s even capable of real life, loving, long-term relationships, and Stiles is going to pray for them. Until then, he’s just going to freeze his ass off.
He wheedles out the thin sheet under the comforter, the kind of starchy, flimsy piece of fabric murder victims get covered up with at the morgue, but it’s better than nothing. He wraps himself up in what he’s managed to pull and finagle over to his side while Peter, monopolizing everything else, falls straight back to sleep coddled in a heap of blankets.
Stiles was so, so wrong. Absolutely nothing about this is going to work, and he's all but counting down the minutes until they can gleefully separate and never see each other again.
Come morning, his hoodie is missing.
It's not exactly a nice revelation to start his day with when he awakens shivering under his one measly blanket growing frostbite on his knuckles, Peter gone and the heap of sheets forgotten on his side of the bed. Stiles spends the morning looking for it while cranking up the radiator to levels that make him feel like an elderly who's freezing in Miami while occasionally checking out the window to see if a Peter-shaped figure is wading through the snow, off-handedly wondering where he wandered off to. It's quiet out there, not a soul braving the elements, the snow untouched where it's stretched over the roads and the parking lot like a giant blank canvas.
Eventually, the door knob jiggles, and Peter comes in with his arms laden with shopping bags and—
"That's my hoodie," Stiles says, pointing at Peter's chest. It looks unfairly sinful on him, probably because it's a little oversized and not the usual flavor of tight and v-necked Peter goes for, instead gathering over his wrists and slipping over his palms and making him look like one of those people in big knit sweaters you just inexplicably want to hug for hours. Stiles makes sure to keep this information well-guarded.
"Keen observation," Peter says, shutting the door behind himself. "I figured going shopping shirtless passes a line."
"Going shopping? Are you crazy? You need snow shoes just to get out of the parking lot."
Peter shrugs. "I wanted fresh air. And a new shirt." He lifts a shopping bag in the air. "And something to occupy the mind with."
Stiles eyes the bag suspiciously. Then Peter reaches within and pulls out a Batman Lego Set.
"What in the world," Stiles says faintly.
As strange as it is, Stiles doesn't resist. They're camped out on the rough carpet ten minutes later surrounded by Lego pieces and partially-built buildings. The instructions are somewhere on a faraway nightstand; Stiles strongly suspects that Peter thinks he is above them.
"I'm pretty sure the last time I assembled Legos," Stiles says, pushing two pieces together, "I still believed in Santa Claus."
"It's very cathartic," Peter explains. There is a look of utter concentration on his face that Stiles is tempted to capture with a camera. "There's really no wrong way to do it."
"But there is," Stiles insists. "And that's why there are instructions."
"Unnecessary," Peter dismisses. "Those are only for the ten and under crowd."
Stiles tries his best to be insulted and fails. How can he in a situation like this? He's sitting cross-legged on a motel room floor putting together Arkham Asylum with Peter Hale, a man whose whereabouts Stiles was completely in the dark about just a few weeks ago. It’s funny.
"So can I assume you do this often? Sit around building Lego sets without the instructions?"
"If it pleases you to imagine it," Peter says, distracted. His eyebrows are slanted in concentration, his eyes focused on the batmobile he's working on constructing. "Does it?"
"Yes, honestly," Stiles admits. "It's hard to be scared of someone who likes to hoard Legos like an eight year old kid."
"Scared of?" Peter looks up from the car, looking inordinately smug. "You're scared of me?"
"No. No." Well, Stiles has to admit that he thinks that a smidgen of fear is a good thing to have around any and all werewolves—it keeps him on his guard—but he's not going to willingly get to work inflating Peter's head. "If you wanted to kill me, you could've done it the first night we shared a bed."
"Maybe I'm just taking my time."
"Maybe you're just full of shit."
Stiles looks at Peter. Peter looks back. Peter's mouth twitches in the corner and without warning, both of them are laughing. Peter's got a throaty, melodic laughter that Stiles realizes he's never actually heard before, and it sounds surprisingly genuine. It's weird, it's strange, just to hear it and then to actually join in and there comes that familiar discomfort that swoops in when he and Peter start getting along.
"So," Stiles starts, ripping open another bag of pieces. "What sort of music do you have on your iTunes, Peter?"
Peter looks at him suspiciously. "Why do you want to know?"
"I'm a curious soul," Stiles says. "And I found an iTunes gift card in your wallet and really want to know what it's going toward."
"When did you go through my wallet?"
"When you were zonked out in my car, sleeping your life away," Stiles explains. "I'm going to take a guess and say you're an old school guy. Mozart. Bach. Tchaikovsky."
"That's pretty old school."
"Well, you're pretty old," Stiles shrugs. He's putting pieces together that he's positive by now don't fit, but he's pretty sure that screwing up is the best possible way to piss Peter off and finally get his hands on the directions. "Am I off by a couple of decades?"
"Centuries, more like it," Peter says.
"Oh boy. Enlighten me."
"That iTunes gift card is going to Drake's new album," Peter says.
Stiles' thumb fumbles over the Lego pieces he's assembling, sending one scattering to the floor. "Are you kidding me?"
"Says the man who owns Beyoncé CDs."
"Everybody loves Beyoncé," Stiles insists. "You come out of the womb loving Beyoncé."
Peter shoots him a look like he's trying to figure Stiles out. Stiles stares back hard; he just likes Beyoncé and there is no grand secret behind it. Peter finally looks away and rifles through the pile of Legos on the carpet to find one particular piece.
"For sex, I prefer Lana Del Rey," he says.
Stiles freezes. "What?"
"Yes. R&B is a bit too tongue in cheek for the bedroom if you ask me." He seems to think about it. “The Weeknd is good too."
Stiles doesn't know where to begin. He suddenly feels like he's been dropped into the wrong conversation when he should be two doors down in a parallel universe chatting about the weather. He wonders if Peter's messing with him, but who the hell jokes about sexy time playlists? Which, thanks to Peter's over sharing, has ruined Lana Del Rey for him forever. He'll hear one note of her raspy voice and immediately wonder if Peter's ever taken his clothes off to the very same lyrics.
"I can't believe you have sex playlists," Stiles marvels. "I can't believe you told me about your sex playlists."
"Relax. You're a grownup, aren't you?"
"This isn't what grownups talk about!" Stiles insists. "They talk about taxes and insurance and how much caffeine they need to make it through the day. Not this."
"Oh, my apologies," Peter huffs. "I didn't realize there were rules." He points half of a batmobile at Stiles. "And this is why you are still a child."
"This is coming from the man surrounded by Legos he bought for himself."
Peter glares, but has no rebuttal. It's amazing, Stiles thinks, how easily they get on each other's nerves. They could have their own radio show, one that plays at four a.m. to keep truck drivers awake that's just the two of them arguing over inane things for ages. Sometimes Stiles thinks Peter likes to disagree with him not because he actually means what he's saying, but because he enjoys riling Stiles up.
"Are you getting hungry?" Peter asks. "I'm getting hungry." He straightens his shoulders to grab a glimpse out of the window. It's still white as ever out there, an endless stream of flakes tumbling down from the expanse. "Do you want to see what restaurant is brave enough to deliver?"
No one is Stiles' prediction. It's a mess out there, windy and frigid and slippery, but his stomach is rumbling and he doesn't want to eat another lunch of hotel toast and all the other leftovers left behind after breakfast.
He slides a Lego into place. "I'm in the mood for pizza," Stiles suggests.
"—upon which I swam back to shore and made a tourniquet with a banana tree leaf." Peter preens. "It was quite heroic, if I do say so myself."
"I don't know," Stiles says skeptically. "That sounds an awful lot like the plot of Castaway."
"What? No. Pay attention."
Stiles reaches for another slice of pizza, not so much because he's still hungry, but because he really doesn't want Peter to be the one to have it. There's only one box because astonishingly enough, they both love bacon spinach pizza. It's such a specific thing to have in common that Stiles feels oddly itchy about it, but Stiles can't be sure that this isn't just an uncomfortable side effect of being contained in a room with somebody so long it starts to feel like a scientific experiment.
"I have been paying attention," Stiles sighs, wiping grease off his upper lip. "Do you not have a single story that doesn't end up with you auto-congratulating yourself? How about one where you were beaten up?"
"Can't help you there."
"Seriously? How about the most embarrassing thing to ever happen to you? Ever?" He waves his free hand around. "Did you fall into a fountain at the mall? Did you wave at someone you thought you knew? Did you shove a penny up your nose and have to have the doctor take it out?"
"All those happen to you?"
Stiles stuffs a generous bite of pizza into his mouth and refuses to answer. This is about Peter and all the humiliating, hilarious things that have happened to him, not Stiles' numerous mistakes in life and how he doesn't seem to ever learn from them.
"Come on," Stiles garbles around the bacon. "Most embarrassing thing."
Peter scratches his chin. "Hmm." He grins. "Being stuck in a hotel room with a hyperactive boy I tried my very damnedest to leave in my past comes to mind."
Stiles throws his pizza crust at him. He's not fast enough and Peter tilts out of the way in time to avoid taking an oily stain to the heart, which is probably a good thing, because he’s still wearing Stiles’ hoodie. The crust goes soaring by him and lands on the floor right by their finished Lego set.
"I'm no boy," Stiles points out, replacing the pizza he just hurled across the room by grabbing another slice. "I'm a man."
"Right. And when did that happen?"
"When you were busy wrapping banana leaves around yourself," Stiles says.
It's weird, he thinks. Neither of them are bringing it up, but it's weird—they're not exactly exchanging the nicest of words but they're hardly laced with malice and Peter hasn't whipped out his claws yet to put the fear of murder in Stiles' heart. It almost feels like they're joking with each other, like how friends get to insult each other.
He looks over his shoulder out the window where the snow is still relentlessly tumbling down, wondering again how that poor pizza delivery guy was even able to make it here without a pair of skis to bring him. He turns back to Peter.
"What about a friendly game of twenty questions?"
"All right," Peter agrees. He straightens up in his chair. "I'll go first. Why are you so comfortable living a life where you will most likely bore yourself to death?
"What is it with you being so sure I'm bored out of my mind at home?"
"Just a guess," Peter says in the type of voice that makes it clear that he's positive he's right. "Are you legitimately happy with your life?"
"Pretty sure I'm supposed to ask questions too, Peter."
"You did," Peter says. "You asked what it is with me being sure that you were bored, and I said it was a guess." He grins, popping the last bite of his pizza slice into his mouth.
Of course they can’t even play a nice children’s game without Peter ruining it. Of course Peter has to ruin everything.
"All right, that's a wrap on the twenty questions."
Peter tuts. “What a sore loser you are.”
"You are a terrible person," Stiles grumbles in retaliation. He throws the crust of his slice onto the grease-stained box, comforted in knowing that while they may share tastes in pizza, Peter is fastidious about eating crusts, and Stiles is the opposite.
"All right," Peter says, either acquiescing or not even listening in the first place. "What other party games do you have up your sleeve?"
A slew of them file through Stiles' head. Truth or dare. Seven minutes in heaven. Spin the bottle. For years Stiles was under the grievously false impression that these were all fun, light-hearted games, but now here in the presence of Peter, the lies have been stripped away and he sees them for what they are: cheap ploys to get into someone's pants. Surely there's a non-sexual game for them to play. Surely they can entertain themselves other ways than making out in a closet.
"You're blushing," Peter announces.
Stiles' hand flies up to his cheek inadvertently to feel the heat there. He must look like an idiot. Eighty percent of the time, he's doing idiotic things, but most people are never around him long enough to get the full gist of just how much of a clumsy, moronic, half-brained fool he is, always leaving just in time for Stiles to be as stupid and uncoordinated as he wants in the comfort of his own company, but he and Peter are around each other twenty four seven. His need for space if only to be a complete doofus in private is starting to feel like a major priority he never once noticed he needed before.
"I have a game," Stiles says in a pinched voice that doesn't even sound like his own. "We leave each other alone for as long as possible. It's called The Quiet Game."
He hopes he's making Peter feel like a child, because he certainly feels like a parent, as wildly inappropriate as that seems. Or maybe he'll evoke a sense of competition in Peter that'll challenge him to actually shut his trap and give Stiles peace.
He looks up, and there's Peter, mouth spread in a wide grin. Even not talking, he still grates Stiles' nerves, the eternal thorn in Stiles' side and shit in Stiles' toilet and pain in Stiles' neck, but this is a start. It's a start.
"—so with enough money, you can actually pay to have your ashes turned into fireworks. How cool is that? Talk about going out with a bang."
Stiles counts cracks in the ceiling as he talks, flattened out on the bed while his legs swing restlessly over the edge. He lost The Quiet Game first. As a matter of fact, he's a little disappointed in himself at just how quickly he did. The whole point of the exercise had been to shut Peter up and give Stiles the chance to at least pretend he was the only one in the room, but then a few minutes in the silence felt almost awkward and heavy and waiting to be filled, and before he could help it, Stiles was speaking.
"Cremation in general is not for me," Peter says, curling his lip. "Much too final. You never know when the opportunity to spring back up... springs back up."
"Right." Stiles had almost forgotten about the whole self-resurrection thing. "And there's... no limit to how many times you would zombify yourself?"
"Who are you calling a zombie?"
"You," Stiles says immediately. "Was death really that bad that you just had to keep living?" Especially considering the level of stress that came with living in Beacon Hills at the time, death certainly seemed like the more tranquil option. "Were you just that eager to go back to murder sprees and drama and kicking dust around in Derek's apartment?"
"You never get bored of living," Peter says, "if you're doing it right." He pauses. "Plus, there are things that make life worth it."
Stiles waits for the sinister list of Peter's favorite things to come at him. The feeling of murdering someone young and supple. Spending life insurance money. Scaring people who thought you were either dead or comatose.
"Eating out at a nice restaurant. Finding shoes that fit just right. Wolfing out on a full moon." Peter stops for a moment. Then the mattress dips and Stiles turns to see Peter sitting at the edge of the bed. "Enjoying all the curveballs. Like ending up snowed in from someone you haven't seen in years."
Stiles is driven silent. The way Peter phrases it, he makes it sound like a good thing, like it was serendipitous for them to end up here together. He lifts his head off the bed.
"You talk like someone who didn't try to murder me all those years ago."
Peter tsks. "When did I try to murder you?"
"Uh. Pretty much all of sophomore year." Stiles frowns. Peter's face of offended innocence is wild.
"I never tried to kill you," Peter says. "You're overdramatizing. Why would I have even bothered?" He tsks again. "If anything, I would've loved to turn you. Not kill you."
Stiles sits up, frowning. "You would've loved to turn me?"
"Of course," Peter murmurs. "I even offered. With enough practice, you would've been incredibly powerful. And most likely acquired some much needed grace along the way."
"Is that your way of calling me clumsy?"
"Yes," Peter says, shameless as ever. "I'm honestly amazed you're even still alive."
"Oh, like you haven't been keeping tabs on me." Stiles chuckles, and he's joking, he really is, but when he looks at Peter's face, Peter isn't smiling along. The laugh is wiped out of Stiles’ mouth. “Oh god, you have, haven’t you?”
“What? No,” Peter says instantly. Stiles looks down at Peter’s hands, the way they’re curled around his phone, the tendons in his wrist moving as he swipes his thumb up and down, and entertains the idea of grabbing Peter’s wrist and pressing his fingertips onto his pulse. It would just be nice, is all, to also get people’s heartbeats as a backing track during every conversation and be able to figure out when somebody’s fibbing without having to haul out the lie detection machine.
"Besides," Stiles says. "I live a very low key life nowadays as far as near death experiences go. My rate of survival isn't as low as it used to be."
"It probably would've been higher if you had self-defense skills beyond carrying a baseball bat."
"Bats are great," Stiles says firmly. "And you know, Scott tried to teach me some moves once. Wasn't really great at them."
"Really?" Peter says, intrigued. He starts getting off the bed. "Show me."
"No." Stiles shakes his head instantly. "You're just using this as an excuse to beat me up. Can't we do something that won't end in a black eye? Maybe you could teach me yoga."
"That sounds terrible."
“Maybe we could raid the mini fridge and max out your credit card eating everything?”
“So yoga it is?”
Peter sighs. “Yoga it is.”
Stiles lasts ten minutes into trying yoga before he gives up.
"Can we talk about your cover hogging habit?"
They're standing elbow-to-elbow by the bathroom counter, both tilted over the sink and getting ready for bed, Stiles with a toothbrush sticking out of his mouth, Peter wiping toothpaste from his mouth with a hand towel.
"What are you talking about?"
"It's been three fucking nights," Stiles garbles around the toothbrush. "You're driving me crazy. I get fucking cold at night."
"I had no idea you were so high maintenance," Peter says.
"Because I also want a slice of the covers?"
"You could just ask instead of whining about it later," Peter says. He has a long string of floss in his hand that, Stiles has figured out by now, will soon be chased with two rounds of mouthwash as per Peter's nightly routine.
"I still can't believe you're that person who badgers the front desk for every possible bathroom amenity they have," Stiles says, spitting out into the sink. "Actually, I can. Never mind."
"This is all coveted information you're getting a peek into here," Peter says, leaning closer to the mirror to floss his upper row of teeth. "I don't let just everybody watch my bathroom habits."
"What will I do with this information," Stiles says flatly.
"Keep it private."
Stiles looks at him, takes in the dorky way he's angling his head just to get to his back teeth, the soft way his hair curls when it isn't combed back, and realizes that very few people have probably seen Peter this way, if any at all. He probably likes it that way.
"You really like being a mystery, huh?" Stiles asks. "Heaven forbid anybody know that you brush your teeth like the rest of us." He elbows Peter's side. "Does this mean you also fall over your own feet sometimes? Pay taxes? Leave your headlights on and wake up with a dead car battery?"
"The less people know, the more they want to," Peter says.
"Really? Is that why you're swarmed with friends and lovers and sycophants all the time?" Stiles smiles and ducks his head under the faucet to rinse his mouth. "And why you called me of all people to help you when you were dying?"
"That was an accident," Peter says stiffly. "You look like a dog drinking from the hose." He waits a moment. "Why did you come?"
"I told you, I was bored," Stiles says, pulling his head out of the sink and wiping his mouth dry with his sleeve.
“I thought you weren’t bored at home.”
"Everybody has their—their moments of boredom. And trust me. I regret it. If I would've known that a freak blizzard would end up trapping us together like miners in a freaking cave-in I never would've come."
Peter looks at him for a long while, and it hits Stiles that he's probably listening for inconsistencies in his heartbeat. Stiles puffs himself up proudly because he knows he's not lying. He doesn't want to be here. He doesn't want to spend time with Peter, the perpetual cover-hog, and not even have the option to leave. He waits for Peter to say something, try and accuse him of lying, but he doesn’t.
"Don't use my mouthwash," Peter warns after he's done with it, slipping out the bathroom.
Stiles takes a generous swig of it the second he leaves the room. He rolls his head around, distributing mouthwash and taking his sweet time just to put off looking at Peter's ridiculous face for as long as possible. When he flicks off the bathroom light and makes his way over to the bed, Peter's peeled back the covers on Stiles' side of the mattress and, if it's even possible for him to become a worse bedmate, is stretched out squarely in the middle. He looks up, notices Stiles, and pats the spot directly next to him.
"Come on then," he coaxes. "If you're so goddamn cold all the time."
Stiles looks at the bed, the way Peter's arm is slung around Stiles' pillow like he's waiting to slip it around Stiles' shoulders. This is so fucking bizarre and so fucking buddy-buddy that Stiles finds himself going hot in the chest, whatever that reaction means. He doesn't know what Peter's ulterior motive is here, or why he thinks Stiles would be comfortable with snuggling in a bed like newlyweds, but it's freaking him out.
"No. Absolutely not. No. We talked about this last night." Stiles puts one knee on the bed. "Get back on your side."
Peter exhales through his nose like Stiles is being unnecessarily difficult, and maybe he is, but he would rather freeze to death in a snowdrift than follow Peter into a tent with fur blankets and fire pits inside. That's just being smart. That's just following the gut warnings telling him to regard Peter with a caution that would, under normal circumstances, encourage him to maintain a ten foot distance from him at all times. The tiny motel room just doesn’t allow it.
But if you really feel that way, Stiles' treacherous brain brings up, why'd you drive all the way out to Nowheresville just to find him?
Stiles slips onto his side and tries to find the off button to his thoughts. Everybody makes mistakes. His ended with a punishment of being forced to be snowed in with his mistake, but Stiles has learned his lesson. And part of that lesson emphatically said no cuddling.
Thirty minutes later with toes that could reignite an ice age, Stiles is having trouble keeping his resolve. He feels as if he's about thirty feet short of the radiator and is missing three more blankets, and next to him, Peter breathes evenly and deeply like he's far into a cozy dream.
So hating himself all the while, Stiles rolls back around and pulls on Peter's arm until it's draped over Stiles' waist, the heat of Peter's skin unfairly pleasant against his chilled body. Peter's breathing doesn't change, chest heaving in the slow and steady pattern of slumber, and for no logical reason at all, Peter's body tilts and curls toward Stiles' even in sleep.
It's a little strange the next morning.
Stiles had been hoping that his unconscious survival instinct would kick in after he warmed up and he would drift apart from Peter during the night, or he'd at least wake up early enough to weasel his way out from underneath Peter's grip. Of course, he's snowed in at a cheap motel with a man who probably spends his free time using the skulls of the people who wronged him as urinals, so luck has clearly not been Stiles' friend lately and he was foolish to think it suddenly would be.
He wakes up with Peter attached to him like a barnacle, arm over his chest and ankles mingling. Stiles shouldn't be surprised that this is the way he gets to start off his day, but he is surprised that Peter's body even knows how to do this. Stiles just can't wrap his head around the idea of Peter being a cuddling man, even in sleep. Peter just—Stiles knows enough about to him to be weirded out. At least, he thinks he knows.
Naturally, the second he tries to hold his breath and worm his way to freedom, Peter's body stirs and his throat starts making startup noises like a car you rev to get it to turn on, and Stiles is trapped. Peter's eyes flicker open.
Peter looks at him. Stiles looks at Peter. Peter arches one tall, judgmental eyebrow that does more talking than his mouth could. Stiles wiggles under his hold to make sure it's clear that he's being held captive, not the other way around.
"This isn't my fault," Stiles insists, suddenly oppressively warm all over. "Kindly remove yourself from my person."
That damn eyebrow stays lifted. Finally, Peter shifts his arm and allows Stiles to pick his dignity off the floor where he must've knocked it in the night when he decided to snuggle with Peter for warmth when he should've curled up in front of the radiator and waited to be cooked like a Lean Cuisine by morning. He hurries to get to his feet and put some distance between them, standing far away by the TV and stretching his muscles awake.
Peter seems to be perfectly undisturbed by all the proceedings, probably because Stiles is reacting enough for the both of them. He stays on the bed, crossing his arms beneath his head like he's a naked model waiting to be immortalized into a grand oil painting. His eyes are zeroed in on Stiles, specifically, the slice of skin visible on his waist when Stiles stretches his arms over his head and his t-shirt rides up.
"There's a scar on your stomach."
Stiles glances down like he has to verify this. "My appendix came out last year," he says. He pulls his shirt down over his stomach, hiding his skin.
"Is that so?" Peter asks. "How was that?"
"About as nice as any invasive surgery could be," Stiles answers.
"Well. You seem to have bounced back nicely."
Stiles grabs his hoodie and yanks it on. It smells like Peter, that scent he was wrapped up in all night cocooned in Peter's arm like a bear cub. He frowns.
"What are you trying to say?" Stiles asks while he wrangles his arms through the sleeves. "That I should get back in the death-chasing business because I bounce back quickly? That I can always rely on my trusty body to heal even when werewolves are eating me alive? That I'm so booooring when I should be out there getting more scars?"
He fists emerge at the bottom of the sleeves. He has plenty of scars from his werewolf days, and considers showing them to Peter. The one by his elbow when he tripped running for his life. The one on his chest when he was also running for his life. The one by his forehead where he was, once again, clinging desperately onto the last shred of dangling life. There's a common theme he's picking up on.
Peter's eyes are boring into his.
"It was a friendly comment," he finally says. "Interesting to see where your mind took that, though."
"You wouldn't know the phrase friendly comment if it crawled up your ass and started living there rent-free."
Peter chuckles, stretching his body like a cat rolling around in a beam of warm sunlight. The sheets ride down a little, enough for Stiles to see the bullet holes on his chest. They haven't healed. If anything, they look worse. Stiles always used to think that seeing Peter injured and compromised would be satisfying if not amusing, and instead, it's rather nauseating to look at.
"Your stomach looks worse," Stiles says.
Peter instantly jerks the covers up his chest. It almost looks like he's modest and ashamed of his bare self like an offended Victorian lady, but Stiles is pretty sure he's just annoyed with his body's healing reflexes, or lack thereof. Stiles wonders if he considers his injuries a sign of weakness that no one can bear to see, like when animals are hurt and don't dare to show it in fear of predators taking advantage of their vulnerable state, the same way he doesn’t want anybody to see him floss nightly. Or maybe Stiles is wrong, and this is all just Peter assuming that Stiles is too faint of heart to handle seeing such lacerations.
"It's okay," Stiles says. "I don't mind seeing it. It's not like I'm going to hurl."
Peter smirks. "As I recall, you have a rather delicate constitution."
"Yeah, well, it's not so bad anymore. My gag reflex has gotten a lot better over the years."
"Is that so?"
Stiles stops moving. He briefly wonders how it always comes back to this, to sex, to Peter making him feel like a little boy to embarrassed to talk about where babies come from. Is this flirting? Is this Peter's bizarre way of flirting, or does he just enjoy watching Stiles squirm and hearing his heartbeat skip. Stiles is suddenly all too aware that he's still pantsless, basically on display in nothing but his boxers and his hoodie, and quickly grabs for his jeans.
"By the way," Peter says. Stiles refuses to look on him, focusing on nothing but his socks, but he can hear the sheets rustle as Peter shifts his legs. "I find it darling that you're worried about me."
"I'm not worried," Stiles says, the words jetting out of his mouth like bullets, and before Peter can say something about inconsistencies in his heartbeat, he hurries to the bathroom and locks himself in.
The hotel room doesn't have much in it. There's an untouched bible in the bedside drawer, a channel guide by the TV, a paper-thin robe in the closet, and a stack of complimentary toiletries in the bathroom, but other than that, it's not exactly a five-star accommodation. And it certainly isn’t very entertaining.
"I never knew I could get this bored," Stiles groans, pretzeled out on the mattress. He has today's newspaper in his arms after finding it pushed under the door, the headline UNEXPECTED SNOWSTORM HITS NORTHERN CALIFORNIA, THOUSANDS WITHOUT POWER staring at him in large black letters.
"We could always masturbate," Peter suggests. He's sitting behind the desk scribbling away on a notepad, his voice distracted. "That passes the time."
"You disturb me," Stiles says, flipping the page.
"We could make it into a competition. See who can last longer."
"I'm a horny guy in his twenties and you're an over the hill fossil. It's like taking a bet with a loaded die in the mix." Stiles crumples the newspaper up in his hands and sits up, refusing to think any more about he and Peter jerking off in the same room, what kind of noises Peter would make when he finishes. "What are you doing over there? Writing threatening letters?"
Peter smirks. "No."
Stiles gets off the bed. When he gets closer, he notices that Peter's not writing anything at all; he's arcing his pen in slow curves and dark lines into something that looks like a portrait he's drawing.
"Are you drawing me?" Stiles asks.
"Yes," Peter murmurs.
"You don't have to be flattered," Peter drawls. "I've already drawn most of the inanimate objects in the room."
"I didn't know you drew," Stiles says.
"In my free time."
This is the problem, Stiles thinks, with sharing close quarters with someone that is better left one dimensional. A week ago, Peter was a thing of Stiles' past, and even when his memories did dredge him up, Stiles remembered him as greedy and selfish and most significantly, a cold-hearted manipulative murderer. Oddly enough, "killer" was easier for Stiles to mentally sort than "Lego aficionado, amateur artist, and yogi." Now it's like Peter's a real person. With real skills, and a real life. He doesn't like it.
"Are you any good?" Stiles asks, pulling up the extra chair and sitting across from him.
"You tell me," Peter says, and right as Stiles leans over the desk to see, he flips his piece of paper over. "When I'm done."
Stiles watches him turn his work back over and get back to drawing quick, sharp lines that seem to be Stiles' mouth. He licks his lips, uncomfortably aware of the fact that's Peter's looking at his mouth, studying it, and decides to participate.
"All right, sounds cool," Stiles says, grabbing the second pad on the edge of the desk, watermarked with the hotel’s brand, and sliding it squarely in front of himself. "I'll join in."
"Yeah. Hand me a pen."
Peter does. Stiles uncaps it, cracks his knuckles, and stares at the blank paper in front of him. He sneaks a glance at Peter, at the shape of his jaw and the downward slant of his nose, the stubble on his chin.
"I don't know where to start," Stiles says. "Do I draw the nose and then work around?"
"There's no wrong way to do it, Stiles."
Stiles takes that as a green light to be as creative as possible and as bad as his talent forces. He tilts his pen in circles before drawing a starting point: an oval head he can work off of, like Mr. Potato Head. Which now that he thinks about it, Peter has a lot in common with as far as looks go. He snickers at his own joke.
He never really did the art class thing. Hell, he hardly had time for core classes when he was in high school, let alone electives, so anything and everything time-consuming like clay sculpting and watercolor painting flew out the window in favor of staying alive. Literally. Now years later, he's not sure he ever had the time to properly coax his creativity out enough to be an artist.
Then again, Peter is his subject of all people, so if anything, Stiles should be going out of his way to mess up. It'll make the vein in Peter's forehead pulse oh so wonderfully if he thrusts a disfigured cartoon in his face as his finished product.
Once he gets going, Stiles finds that it's actually pretty calming. He changes his techniques as he goes, pressing his pen hard and soft, occasionally glancing up to try and map out the spots of Peter's facial features. He's never looked at him so carefully so before.
"So where do you live these days?" Stiles asks, hesitantly drawing the curve of Peter's jaw.
"Out and about," Peter says.
"I take it you're not in Beacon Hills anymore?"
"I'm around," he says, evasively as always.
Stiles isn't amused. He puts his pen down. "You're a wonderful conversationalist, you know that?"
"I am, actually," Peter clarifies. He arches an eyebrow. "Although I hardly consider asking for me for my address the start of a titillating discussion."
"Fine," Stiles says. "Why don't you ask me about how I'm doing then, if you're so good at it."
"I already know how you're doing," Peter says. "College student. Criminology major. One roommate. Your life is easy as ever to riddle out. Lunches on the quad, ignoring homework, crashing the occasional frat party here and there."
"What the fuck? So you have been keeping tabs on me?" Stiles says, affronted. He points his pen in Peter’s face. "And you're wrong about the frat parties, by the way."
"Right. I forgot that you're hideously unpopular."
"If I wanted to hang out with frat boys, I would go visit Jackson in England," Stiles huffs. When he looks up, Peter's smiling.
"I almost forgot about that sad little douchebag," Peter says. Then he sighs in resignation and draws a dark line up near the top of his paper, the pen working in quick strokes. It sounds like he's drawing the spikes of Stiles' hair. "Fine. How is college life going for you, Stiles?"
Stiles doesn't want to have a conversation with someone who looks like they'd rather rub a cheese grater against their skin than share small talk with Stiles about his pedestrian, human life, but he also doesn't want to sit here in tight-lipped silence that would ultimately make him the less matured of the two. He matches Peter's sigh with one of his own.
"It's been okay. Stressful, but okay." Stiles keeps sketching as he talks. He feels like he makes three wrong strokes for every right one he does, and the result is a roughly cross-hatched nightmare. He keeps drawing anyway. "My classes aren't too hard, and most of my teachers are nice people. My dorm isn't bad either. I have a roommate, but I also have one of those tiny ass kitchens that sort of makes up for it."
"And sometimes," Stiles steamrolls over him loudly, "I make macaroni and cheese out of the box but use my own measurements. I don't even look at the directions."
Peter whistles. "You're truly living on the edge," he deadpans. "Take it down a notch. Pull back. Restrain your wildness."
He's looking Stiles flatly in the eye as he proceeds to insult his macaroni and cheese rebellion, which, as the kind of kid who grew up following recipes much more staunchly than he ever did rules, is actually a big deal. Stiles doesn't want to explain this, though, and endure more eye rolling and sarcasm, so he switches up the topic of conversation.
"Let's chat about you, shall we?" Stiles asks pleasantly enough, all the while intending not to give Peter a say in the matter. "What have you been up to? Really?" He waves his pen around. "Art? Do you sit around painting images of your glory days all day?"
"My glory days," Peter corrects, "are every single day."
"Ah. Including present day with good old moi?"
"I opt out of answering to preserve your delicate feelings," Peter replies, which seems rather out of character considering Peter is the type of nasty, ill-meaning individual that never gives up an opportunity to insult. "I don't paint. But I do enjoy museums."
"Yes. They're relaxing, quiet, full of history. A lovely way to spend an afternoon."
Stiles entertains the image: Peter in a freshly ironed shirt, walking slowly through exhibition halls and stopping to admire the sculptures, possibly imagining himself also immortalized in marble as he passes by. Stiles thinks Peter might just belong in a museum. He can picture it all too clearly.
"I take it the very idea bores you," Peter says. "Pandering about examining sixteenth century paintings doesn't seem like your ideal afternoon."
Stiles thinks of Peter standing tall in a golden hall surrounded by armor and brush strokes and Roman sculptures, fitting in like a modern adaption, and finds himself not bored whatsoever by the concept. It might be nice, he thinks, to see Peter concentrated on, maybe even enamored by, something other than his own vanity or a self-serving scheme.
"I'm not as shallow as you think," Stiles says. "I can appreciate art. I'm more than just action-packed video games and six-second long Vines." Peter's eyebrow twitches. "Don't look at me like that. I'm not going to install it on your phone and then explain to you how to use it."
"And I," Peter says dryly, "am not as old as you think."
"Is that so?" Stiles asks, first trying to imagine exactly what the content of Peter's Vines would be, then trying to figure out who would actually watch them.
"Don't patronize me," Peter says. "Go back to drawing."
As a general rule, Stiles is not a fan of listening to Peter’s orders, but he really does need to dedicate less time to witty bickering and more time to drawing anatomically correct lines, so he pipes down and keeps sketching. His version of Peter looks nothing much like Peter, more like a grotesque, distorted warp of his face, but Stiles is happy to blame that on how much Peter's moving his head this way and that. It's much easier to draw a still bowl of fruit. Also much easier to have a pleasant conversation with one.
Stiles chuckles to himself at that one—shame he can't figure out a way to add this smoothly into the conversation—and ends up inadvertently distracting himself again. His hand moves too confidently and suddenly there's a dark line completely out of place on Peter's two-dimensional cheek.
"I hate drawing in pen," Stiles says, licking his thumb and helplessly trying to wipe away his mistake. "It feels like I'm engraving stuff into stone. I need a pencil."
"The words of a coward," Peter muses off-handedly.
"If you’re scared to sketch in ink," Peter says, "It doesn't sound like you're much of a risk-taker."
Stiles stops sketching. He remembers a time when his life was nothing but risks, and he wasn't even sure if he'd wake up the next morning, and now he's being chastised for playing it safe? "Is that such a bad thing?"
"Being afraid of permanence is boring. Drawing in pencil is boring." Peter spins his pen up by his ear, smiling at Stiles. "Trusting yourself to not make mistakes is better."
"Arrogant is what I would say."
"All right. Then how's this: trusting yourself to be able to fix your mistakes."
"Because you're the poster boy for fixing your mistakes," Stiles scoffs. "I'm sure you do everything but send Christmas cards to the families of the people you've murdered."
"The people I've murdered weren't mistakes."
Stiles looks up from his disfigured drawing, one eye refusing to match the other, and over to where Peter is focusing hard on his own sketch. Even upside down, it looks good. Lots of deep lines and sharp cross-hatched shading.
"I feel unsafe," Stiles deadpans.
"Relax," Peter murmurs. "Killing you would be a mistake."
"Why? Because you'd miss me too much?"
"This pen is out of ink," Peter says, getting up abruptly to rummage through the desk drawer, and he does it so smoothly that Stiles can't even tell if he's trying to avoid the subject or not. Then again, Peter's the type of person to tell him straight to his face that he would happily lower Stiles' coffin into the dirt himself if it came to such dire circumstances.
Stiles takes his momentary absence to swivel around Peter's sketch of himself. It's not actually bad. It's not bad at all. Stiles' face is the right shape and his mouth isn't lopsided, and even though the nose is still missing and the hair is still unshaded, Stiles is looking forward to seeing the end product. If it were anybody else, he'd congratulate them on their artistic talents, but he's pretty sure that his praise would fall flat in Peter's overflowing bucket of ego.
He looks back down at his own work, a sad little withering thing in comparison to Peter's, and decides he's going to toss realism out the window and go for caricaturing instead.
"So let me get this straight," Stiles says slowly. "You're a risk-taking badass all because you draw in pen. And that ink cartridge is full of the blood of all the enemies you've slain."
"If you say so," Peter says, returning. "Look up."
Suddenly there's a soft thumb on Stiles' chin tilting his head up and Stiles' breath lodges itself into his throat. Peter's only a few inches away, his eyes captivated where they're locked onto Stiles', and Stiles' brain chants leave now, get out, no good, very very bad in high-pitched tones.
"Hold still," Peter murmurs, and then just like that, he's withdrawing his hand and going back to his sketch.
"Oh," Stiles says in a small voice, because Peter was just observing his facial features, not creating an intimate moment. Stiles needs to get his head out of his ass. Actually, he needs to get his head and his ass out of this hotel room.
"If only we had colored pencils," Peter murmurs to his drawing. He's intensely concentrated, and there's a single strand of hair out of place drooping down to his forehead he's not noticing that Stiles wants to get just right in his sketch just to freeze it in time. "I could color in your eyes."
"They're just brown," Stiles says.
"Mm," Peter hums. He looks up again, back into Stiles' eyes like he's trying to see if there's something inside them, count the flecks of color, pinpoint the shade. "They're very nice."
"Where did you put the fucking charger?" Stiles demands from where he's kneeling on the ground, half his body submerged under the bed feeling for that familiar plug. "Tell me where you put it."
"No," Peter responds airily. "I plan on playing a few rounds of Bejeweled before bedtime and my battery needs to be prepared."
“Bejeweled? Bejeweled?” Stiles repeats, affronted. He pulls back from the dark, lint-infestation that is the underside of the bed and bangs the back of his head on the bedframe as he goes. “Fuck, ow.”
“I’ll probably also check Facebook. Brush up on the news.”
“Wait, Facebook?” Stiles says while he rubs the back of his pounding head. “You have Facebook?”
“Yes,” Peter says. “Contrary to popular belief, you young people don’t have a stronghold on all things social media—”
“What exactly is on your Facebook?” Stiles demands. “What’s your profile picture? Oh god, what are your statuses?” He muffles a snort. “How many friends do you have? Has Derek blocked you? Tell me he's blocked you. Actually, just give me a whole list of everybody who's blocked you."
"I don't post much myself," Peter says. "I like to see how badly other people's lives are going. People document everything on the Internet. It's very entertaining." He pauses, lips thinning as he watches Stiles abandon the underside of the bed and search behind the TV. "Will you let the charger go already? You won't find it."
"It's a three hundred square feet room. It can't be that hard to find." Stiles pulls on the cabinet until he can see behind the TV, where the crack of space, despite a few dust bunnies and gum wrappers, is empty. "Just tell me if I'm warm or cold."
Peter pauses. Then: "Hot."
Stiles stares him down, noticing how nonchalantly he's stretched out on the bed, how he's smiling like a Bond villain. He frowns. "Ice cold then," he decides, pushing the cabinet back into place.
He spends another twenty minutes looking for it. He doesn’t find it, but doesn’t give up until Peter’s stopped snickering about it.
"Why," Stiles says morosely, leaning his forehead against the cool glass of the window, "couldn't you have picked a warmer place to die in a parking lot?" He tilts his head so he can raise his eyebrows at Peter where he's stretched out on their bed. "Hmm?"
"So sorry for the inconvenience," Peter says loudly. Stiles has figured out by now that when he enunciates his words like he's rolling each and every letter thoroughly around his mouth means he's unamused and in the mood to dole out some sarcasm. "Next time I'll try and bleed out to my death somewhere pleasant. How does Hawaii sound?"
Stiles shrugs. He can't imagine that being stuck on a Hawaiian beach with Peter would be much better than being here, but maybe he's wrong. The cold seeping through every crack and crevice is definitely starting to get to him. The snow has turned the sky a dim purple when it should be pitch black, a promise that there's more to come hanging in the clouds. In Hawaii, there would be beaches and hula dancers and sweet alcoholic drinks.
"Staring out the windows isn't going to magically will the snow away," Peter says. "Unless you're pretending you're in a Bronte novel? Woefully staring out windows? Having a moment?"
Stiles turns around. "You are so annoying."
"Come to bed already," Peter says, ignoring him.
Stiles wishes he wouldn't say it like that. It makes them sound like a happily married couple sharing a bed voluntarily. Nothing about this is voluntary, Stiles thinks vehemently. He takes another peek out at the snow laden ground and wonders if anybody's been able to actually uncover their car from this blizzard and make enough room at the motel for Stiles to have his own room. There aren't any tire tracks to be seen.
Begrudgingly, he approaches the bed. Then he notices that Peter's smack dab in the middle. Again.
"So," Peter says, sitting up on his half of the bed. He leans back against the pillows and stretches his arm out like he's at a drive-in theater from the fifties ready to lay some moves on his passenger, the sight of it just like someone copy-pasted yesterday's exact scene into today. "Do we have to go through this conversation again or can we skip the unnecessary three minutes in which you resist my selfless offers?"
"Don't bring it up at all," Stiles says, his neck heating up. "As a matter of fact, just stop talking entirely." He settles onto the bed, searingly aware of Peter's arm behind his back, of the invitation he's accepting. "It'll make the rest of the time I spend with you in this godforsaken motel bearable."
"Your pillow talk leaves much to be desired," Peter deadpans.
They slide down the bed together as one unit, Peter's other arm winding its way around Stiles' waist and ending up curled over his stomach, his broad palm flat on Stiles' abdomen. Stiles doesn't know if that's necessary. He has to admit that he can appreciate how warm Peter is, how even just being near his skin is like stretching out near a heating vent, but the hand on his stomach, the way his fingers are just oh so slightly brushing up and down the hair gathered near his waistband, feels like overkill.
"What are you doing?" Stiles grits out.
"Trying to sleep?"
Stiles' frown deepens. He's pretty sure that when he and Peter finally part ways, he'll have the wrinkles of an angry old curmudgeon from all this scowling. "No, you're not," he says. "You're—do you really think I don't notice—just please, watch your hands before I cut them off."
He delivers the line fairly smoothly, enough so that he almost thinks he'll be taken seriously and Peter will think twice about Stiles' self-defense skills, but then Peter's face dissolves into chuckles and Stiles considers smacking him in the balls.
"Oh, how charming," Peter says. "Just adorable. You really think I couldn't see any attack you throw at me coming?"
Stiles twists around to look Peter in the eye. Peter's hand goes with the roll of his body and ends up slid over the small of his back, still warm, still firm. They’re closer than Stiles would like. "Are you threatening me?"
"I believe you threatened me first."
"So you're trying to out-threat me? Is that what this is?"
"Actually, I'm trying to go to sleep," Peter says, raising his eyebrows high into his forehead. "And be the selfless, caring individual I am and keep you from freezing to death while you sleep although it is of no reward for me—"
"Oh my God, stop talking!" Stiles demands, rolling back over and settling onto his side, punching his pillow into his submission. He can't believe they're lying here, close enough to share the same pillow, and still throwing out threats to behead the other all the while. Something there doesn't quite make sense. "Just zip your freaking piehole."
"Your piehole was open first," Peter says, because apparently he's a child dressed to look like a middle-aged man.
Stiles doesn't take the bait. He stays silent, pressing his lips together tightly enough to feel as if they're glued shut, and closes his eyes.
Two minutes later, they end right where they started with Peter's hand resting right over his waistband again, the touch surprisingly tender.
It takes Stiles nearly an hour to get over that and actually get to sleep.
Stiles wakes up early the next morning to the unpleasant whiff of his over-worn t-shirt wafting up his nose and stirring him out of sleep. This is why responsible adults don't wear the same outfit two weeks in a row, Stiles thinks, and then spends the next thirty minutes washing everything but his underwear in the bathroom sink like a pilgrim with a washboard.
Peter’s not around, probably downstairs grabbing breakfast, which is a tiny blessing. Stiles really doesn’t want to be marching around in the room in nothing but his boxers while Peter leers, or worse, decides to take advantage of Stiles’ cleaning services and throws his clothes into the sink as well for Stiles to labor over. After some consideration, he grabs the complimentary bathrobe out of the closet that seems to be made of paper and locks the bathroom door before resuming his work.
Ten minutes later, the door handle jiggles and Stiles prides himself on thinking ahead. A hand bangs on the door.
“Occupied,” Stiles shouts through the door. The banging continues until Stiles gives in and starts banging back with his elbow. “I said occupied!”
“What are you doing in there?” Peter asks.
“Enjoying the privacy of a long bubble bath.” Stiles waits a moment for the salacious, inappropriate comment he expects to follow, and hears nothing, so he adds a helpful, “Fuck off.”
“Oh, you are not,” Peter says. “Are you washing clothes?”
Stiles frowns. He hates being around Peter who can read him so easily, even when he’s not in view. He likes being a bit of a closed box now and again, not always an open book. Ninety percent of the people he knows know everything about him just by listening to his heartbeat or smelling out his anxiety.
“If you’re so good with your hands,” Peter says, “I could quite easily strip down and hand you some more—”
“No!” Stiles shouts, banging his elbow on the door again.
“Oh, don’t be like that.”
Suddenly, the door creaks open, and Peter’s hand weasels its way in, holding his shirt, jeans, and socks. Stiles drops the wet mess of clothes in his hands into the water and yanks the door open and there’s Peter, toothpick in one hand and completely stripped down to his underwear. Stiles’ eyes flick quickly up from his unreasonably toned thighs.
“You picked the lock?” Stiles asks, caught between being impressed by just how swiftly he did that and unbelievably annoyed. The annoyance wins out. “With a toothpick? What if I really was in here enjoying a bubble bath?”
“It would’ve been quite the sight to behold,” Peter says, thrusting his ball of clothes into Stiles’ unsuspecting hands. “And it definitely would’ve been worth picking the lock for. To be honest, I was considering just ripping the entire knob off, but hard to get a deposit back after those sorts of things.”
“I’m not washing these,” Stiles insists.
“The water’s already there.” Peter slants his eyebrows. “I’m not putting anything on until you do.”
“Fine,” Stiles says instantly, and slams the door shut again before Peter can see his cheeks turn red.
"The good news is," Stiles announces around a mouthful of chicken fried rice, "that it's stopped snowing."
"And the bad news?"
"The existing snow isn't exactly melting away under the hot, hot sun."
As a matter of fact, even just staring out the window too long is making his eyes hurt from how overwhelmingly white it all is. Stiles rubs his eyelids and retreats back to their makeshift table: the TV cabinet with the room's two lumpy armchairs pulled up to it while the TV is nudged aside to balance precariously on the edge. Currently, it's loaded with Chinese food from the only Chinese restaurant willing to strap snowshoes on their delivery boy and have him brave the trek up to the motel.
"It has to melt eventually," Peter says.
"Since when are you Mr. Glass-Half-Full?"
"That's not what I would call myself," Peter disagrees. "More like Mr. Aware-of-Basic-Weather-Patterns."
Stiles flips him off easily and goes back to piling the rest of the rice into his mouth. He could've sworn there was more on his plate when he got up to check on the window, which confirms for him that alongside a myriad of other crimes, Peter is also an unapologetic Food Thief.
"We get any fortune cookies?" Stiles asks, lifting napkins to look for said treats. He finds two of them, the crinkling of their wrappers giving up their hiding spot, and tosses one at Peter's chest, who catches it easily.
He tears the wrapping open with his teeth and snaps the cookie in half. He pulls the piece of paper from the halves, flattening it out with his thumb.
"Mine says you will live a long life," Stiles says. He shoots Peter a look. "You hear that? So there's no point in trying to murder me. I'm around for the long haul."
"The definition of 'long' is key here," Peter says. "Whatever Chinese man working for minimum wage wracking his brain for ideas as to what to keep putting in these things might define twenty-five years as a lengthy life. Your time may come soon."
"Gee, thanks," Stiles says, stuffing half the cookie in his mouth. "What does yours say?"
Peter unfolds the tiny strip of paper. “The best way to gain a friend is to be one.”
"That's nice. You could learn from that. You gonna put that one in your wallet too?"
"Stop looking through my wallet, Stiles."
"It was just the one time. My curiosity's been sated."
Peter doesn't seem to be listening; he's looking down at the fortune he's flattening out with his thumb. "This is a big pet peeve of mine," he says grimly. "Fortune cookies that don't give you fortunes. Instead they shell out advice or aphorisms or other garbage."
"Can't you give that Chinese man making minimum wage you so kindly referred to a break?"
"It's just annoying, that's all," Peter says, throwing his fortune down on top of the pile of garbage they've heaped up in the takeout bag. "Fortune cookie. Fortune."
"I'm glad to see that the little things really dig deep under your skin," Stiles says. "It's not like people are dying out there or anything."
"Or maybe," Peter says, wrapping his fist around the bag to seal it. He looks a bit like he's strangling a chicken's neck while he does so. "Just maybe my issue with fortune cookie authenticity is the most important thing in the world. We have no idea what's happening out there right here and now."
"I can guarantee you there are more tragic things out there than your hissy fit," Stiles assures him. He stuffs the other half of his cookie in his mouth, then notices that Peter's remains untouched on the table. "Can I eat yours?"
Peter makes a face. "You can tell a lot about a person based on if they eat the cookie or not." He hands his over to Stiles. "The maturity of their palate, for instance."
"Fuck you," Stiles says, shoving Peter's cookie in his mouth too. "It's fucking delicious."
"You need to have someone bring you somewhere where they have real food," Peter says with the arrogance of someone who, when not trapped in the fast food vortex the two of them are currently lodged in, dines like royalty on the regular. "Paris, perhaps."
"Blegh," Stiles groans. "What's next? Are you going to tell me about how you had baguettes and wine under the Eiffel Tower with the Queen?" He wrinkles his nose. "You're so—sometimes I'm surprised your nose doesn't scrape the ceiling when you walk because you hold your head up so high."
"Hating someone for being well-traveled. How charming of you," Peter says.
"I would travel to the ends of the earth if it meant getting out of this hotel room and away from you," Stiles grumbles. He flexes his arms at his sides. "I'm starting to feel claustrophobic."
“You’re welcome to go out there and travel to your heart’s content.”
Stiles looks over his shoulder at the window, hoping in vain to see blue skies and clear roads, but instead is met with what he already knows is there: snow, snow, an endless expanse of white snow.
“See, you are trying to kill me. You have before and you’re doing it again. You honestly think I’d make it out there?”
Peter exhales, long and heavy. “Fine,” he says. “What would you like to do?”
“Look at—and then the lion just comes up to him and remembers him. Isn’t that heart-warming? Doesn’t that just melt your icy little heart?”
Peter doesn’t look all that melted. As a matter of fact, he looks extraordinarily bored, eyes straying from the cell phone Stiles has propped up on the bed with a pillow for them both to watch. There’s a lot of hours between waking up and going to sleep, and Stiles is starting to realize just how slowly those hours go by when you don’t have overdue exams to write, but the internet is at their disposal, and with it comes the overwhelming void that is YouTube. Stiles taps his finger on his phone screen and tries to get Peter’s attention back to what they’re watching.
“I feel as if I’m being killed with kindness,” Peter says. “Are we going to read Chicken Soup for the Soul after this?”
“Fine, you tinman,” Stiles says, closing the video right as the lion introduces its former owner to his lioness mate. “What do you want to watch? Lana Del Rey videos?”
“Don’t be ridiculous. We’re not having sex.”
A flash of heat spreads over Stiles' midsection. "Don't even joke about that."
"Oh, it's not that absurd."
"Not that—not that absurd? You and I having sex is not that absurd?"
Stiles knows it isn’t that absurd; he’s thought about it himself more than he’d frankly like to admit these last few days. When Peter first suggested they share body heat, when Peter had said something legitimately nice about his brown eyes, when he woke up pillowed on Peter’s chest. He might’ve thought about it here and there, but he certainly isn’t ready to talk about it, especially not with Peter.
“Why not?” Peter says, either playing devil’s advocate or just trying his very best to see Stiles explode like a pipe bomb right here in this room for Peter to clean up. “Are you waiting for marriage? Are you a virgin? Is that it?”
“What? No! I’m not a virgin,” Stiles says. They were watching cute videos of lions, how did it possibly turn into this? “And I’m not waiting for marriage. I—I get mine.”
“So,” Peter says. “When was the last time you had sex?”
“I—I don’t know. It’s none of your business.”
“You don’t know? Has it really been that long?”
“Oh my god, no, it hasn’t, I’m just really not interested in having this ridiculous conversation with you,” Stiles says, rubbing his eyes to avoid looking Peter in the face. “I’m sexually active. Happily so.”
“Happily so?” Peter’s mouth quirks. “Are you trying to impress me?”
"What? Stop making everything about you," Stiles demands. "I'm just. I'm just clarifying."
"How sexually desirable you are?"
"Okay, this. This has officially gone in a weird direction." Stiles needs to find the emergency exit out of this particular topic. "Why don't you tell me about your sex life, if you're so comfortable talking about this." All right, so that probably wasn't the way to go.
"It's just fine, thank you for asking," Peter answers. The really infuriating part is that he really does seem comfortable sharing all this, lounging on the mattress with a hand slung over his knee and everything about his posture completely at ease. "Whenever I'm in the mood, I head to a bar and find someone worthy of my time and spend a night with them."
Seriously, what was Stiles thinking?
"It isn't about romance. It's sex. It's finding someone to pin down and fuck for one night."
“And you find people that are actually interested?”
“Of course,” Peter says. “It’s all about the approach. Touching someone’s jaw, giving them a kiss—just one—and drawing their bottom lip into your mouth. Leaving them wanting more. Playing with the hair by their ear, touching their thigh just high enough to suggest the evening is getting better from here on out.”
The back of Stiles' neck is sweating, he's sure of it. Now all he can do is imagine Peter on top of some faceless figure, panting, greedy, hard in his jeans, how his face would contort when he comes and how his throat would growl. Even just the mental image is strong enough to push Stiles to roll on his stomach on the bed before a problem in his pants makes itself known.
“Can we go back to watching videos of lions being reunited with their humans?”
Peter smirks. He looks like the kind of person who’s just laid an ace down at a card table. “Am I making you uncomfortable?”
“No,” Stiles says, very much uncomfortable. “Like you said, it’s just sex. It’s natural. It’s fine.” He rubs a hand over his eyebrow. “I just don’t need to hear details from you, that’s all. People like you, they. They really just should be celibate.”
“People like me should be celibate?”
“Yes!” Stiles says vehemently. Maybe then, just maybe, Peter wouldn’t be talking about his one night stands and Stiles wouldn’t be imagining what they’re like. How the line of Peter’s back looks like naked, how his ass curves, what noises he’d make, what his hands would do. He shakes his head, trying to wobble those torturous thoughts out. “You shouldn’t be reproducing anyway. You’d do the entire world a favor.”
“Did you never go to health class, Stiles? Has nobody ever taught you about condoms and the other wonders of safe sex?” Peter shakes his head. “Besides, my conquests are usually of the male persuasion.”
God, just when this conversation couldn’t get any worse. It’s like the sky is pissing all over Stiles’ brain, a brain that previously didn’t know that a) Peter was fiercely sexually active and b) Peter enjoyed being so with men. Typically the guys Stiles accidentally fantasizes about are straight as rods and completely out of reach, and now suddenly, when he least wants it, he gets a guy who’s comfortably bisexual and is so much in reach Stiles can hardly find breathing space anymore.
“Does that make you even more uncomfortable? Are you homophobic?” Peter clicks his tongue. “Really, Stiles. It’s the twenty-first century.”
“I’m not—no.” Stiles doesn’t even know if there’s a way to say this that doesn’t end in disaster and Peter arching his eyebrow at him in a way. “I sleep with guys. I mean. They’re my main flavor, if you get my drift.” How could anyone not get his drift at this point, honestly. He needs to close his mouth. “All right, never thought I’d have to come out of the closet to you of all people, but there it is.”
“You and Scott?”
“What?” Okay, apparently this conversation can consistently get worse. “No, Scott and I haven’t—we aren’t—I mean. We kissed once, but we were drunk, and it was like a—a three out of ten. Not good. We’re never doing that again.”
“When did this happen?”
“New Year’s Eve party a few years ago, everybody had too much tequila. I ended up kissing a coat hanger to ring in the New Year and actually thought it was a person and kept showing it off to people as my date, just to give you an indication of exactly how much tequila was involved.” Seriously, how did they get here? “Okay, is your curiosity sated? Can we talk about something else now?”
Peter shrugs, and yes, apparently he’s sated. The only problem is that internally, Stiles is absolutely not. There are questions running through him, poking him in the chest, questions like so what would sex between the two of us look like? and what would be the first thing you’d do to me? and what kind of stuff are you into in bed?
He’s not asking. He needs to wash his brain out with soap and leave the room. Surely the motel has a supply closet they could let Stiles sleep in? Surely no vacancy doesn’t mean that every single room is full? Surely there are a few coveted extras tucked away just in case the queen shows up on the fly?
He goes downstairs, desperate and restless, and no, apparently there is no secret room waiting for the queen to inhabit it. Stiles is still stuck.
So falling asleep pressed up against each other becomes a thing. Peter stops talking about it, as requested, and Stiles doesn’t mention it either, the entire ordeal a silent, wordless ritual in which they get into bed, Peter lifts his arm, and Stiles rolls underneath it, his back pressed against Peter’s chest. The fact that Stiles starts getting used to waking up with Peter warm and cozy like a giant Snuggie curled against him is legitimately frightening.
He’s the first to wake up the next morning, face tipped into Peter’s neck, the crevice of warmth there between his collarbone and the bed soft and lovely, while Peter breathes in and out over Stiles’ head. It feels easy, and comfortable, the kind of thing Stiles hasn’t done with someone in ages, up until Stiles realizes the underside of his arm is pressed into Peter’s stomach, touching his wounds. He lifts the covers a bit to see, and there comes that familiar sensation of bile at the back of his throat again at the sight. It’s not healing.
Peter can’t be oblivious to it. It looks like it hurts, and even if it doesn’t, anybody with working eyeballs wouldn’t be able to ignore it. It isn’t getting any better, as a matter of fact, it almost looks like it’s spreading, and if Peter knows why and isn’t telling, Stiles isn’t too pleased. He might have lost a fair bit of his experience with werewolf injuries, but he can handle the truth. He isn’t a rookie here.
And maybe Peter doesn’t owe him any information, but they’ve been sharing toothpaste and phone chargers and pizza, so Stiles doesn’t think it’s all too crazy to expect Peter to share about the gaping, angry holes in Peter’s stomach and what they might mean.
He’s about to touch a fingertip to the wounds, feel if it’s hot or wet or pulsing, but then Peter shifts awake and Stiles jerks his hand back.
“Morning,” Stiles says quickly.
“Morning,” Peter murmurs back. He looks shockingly peaceful in moments like this, eyes still shut and the slightest growth of facial hair back on his chin, body warm with sleep. Stiles is close enough to see every pore in his skin, and something about being this close, sharing this proximity, makes Peter seem harmless, like nobody with light freckles on their nose or blemishes on their chin or stray eyebrows could possibly be a threat to the world. If Stiles wasn’t still fighting nausea from the sight of Peter’s stomach, he would probably smile at how innocent Peter’s mid-yawn face is.
“Hand me my phone, would you,” Peter says, voice thick from slumber. Stiles twists around to grab it off the nightstand and nudges it into Peter’s hand, who slides it open and starts checking his email. From this proximity, Stiles can see that he has a subscription to Groupon. He gets fucking Groupon deals sent to him.
“What’s dictionary’s word of the day?” Stiles asks, still looking at Peter’s inbox as he thumbs through it. Peter spares him a look, but doesn’t bother to chastise him for peeking.
“Cryophilic. Preferring or thriving at low temperatures,” Peter reads. “Something you aren’t, Stiles, considering the amount of body heat you need every night just to sleep.” He shuts his phone off just as Stiles elbows him in the ribcage. “Where’d you put the charger?”
Stiles grins. “I’ll never tell.”
“I’ll find it,” Peter promises, rolling away from Stiles and sitting up. The immediate loss of warmth feels like getting ripped out of a good hug prematurely, but Stiles refrains from complaining. He instead watches Peter stretch, the way the lean line of his back flexes as he raises his arms and rolls his shoulders, how the sunlight dapples his back when he leans over the bed to grab his clothes. Something about the sight of it reminds Stiles of his thoughts from a few days ago, how he had been wrapped up in the idea of Peter’s bare back, how it would look all sweat-shined and flexed in moments of heated sex. Stiles is about to look away when he noticed that Peter grabbed Stiles’ hoodie too, and before Stiles can protest, he throws that on as well.
“You need to stop wearing that,” Stiles says, mouth dry. “It looks…” He swallows. Cozy. Amazing. Sexy. “…terrible on you.”
“I’ll give it back when you tell me where the charger is.”
Stiles swallows again. This is like a test of willpower from above. “Fine.”
The motel doesn't have the best of channel choices. It has the weather, Guy Fieri running around in a convertible looking for greasy food, on demand porn, and Bigfoot conspiracy documentaries. Stiles chooses the last. It’s Friday night, and they’re sitting in a motel watching people run around in the dark looking for hairy shadows in the woods.
"It's just not plausible," Peter says firmly. There are pizza boxes splayed out on the foot of the bed and Peter's still wearing his hoodie, and all of it is starting to feel like the sort of bachelor pad hole he could easily get sucked into. "It's an idea cooked up by people that is then enforced by others pressing false footprints into the dirt. It's a vicious cycle."
"Come on. You're a werewolf, a werewolf, and you don't think Bigfoot could be real?"
"No," Peter says flatly. "Give me the remote."
Stiles gets up on his knees, holding the remote out of reach as the mattress wobbles underneath him. "We're watching this," he insists. "We'll make a believer of you yet."
"You're going to fall off the bed."
"I'm not!" Stiles says, nearly falling off the bed.
He sits back down, leaning against the headboard before he realizes that Peter's arm is stretched over it, leaning on Stiles' pillow. He nestles back against it and Peter's fingers brush his shoulder through his shirt, the warmth of his forearm oddly intimate on his back. It feels like they're a couple at the movies cuddled closely together, and instantly Stiles starts wondering what sort of inferences people would make if they wandered into their motel room right now. Two guys stretched out on the same bed tucked side by side even though the king mattress allows for spreading out. One of those useless documentaries you make out through on TV. It’s like them being close has become a habit, like sleeping all tucked together is actually dangerous if only because it’s been conditioning them.
"You're so stiff," Peter comments, and Stiles realizes then that he's ramrod straight under Peter's arm like he's preparing to rocket off the bed in case people start materializing for the sole purpose of judging him. Peter's palm slides over his tense shoulder. "Someone getting scared of Bigfoot?"
"Can't a man just stiffen up now and again?" Stiles says hotly, hating that it sounds like a sleazy pick-up line when it leaves his mouth.
Peter raises his eyebrows. "He can." He shifts so his legs are spread and pats the spot on the bed between them. "Get over here."
Stiles looks at the wrinkled patch on the sheets Peter's wanting him to occupy. Between his legs. Dear god, what if Peter actually does want to make out through his documentary?
"You're just trying to steal the remote from me," Stiles says, feeling a little woozy at the idea of that not being the case.
"Or maybe I'm just thanking you for," he lifts his hands and crooks his fingers into air quotes, "saving my life."
Stiles knocks his hands down. "I did save your life," he says stubbornly. "And the Peter Hale I know doesn't go around thanking people."
Peter's mouth twitches. "Maybe you don't know me."
Well, that much is definitely true. Stiles, intrigue steering him like a boat he can't jump off of, gives in and crawls between Peter's legs. From this close up, Stiles can get unfairly close to Peter's face, half of it illuminated by yellow lamplight and casting a shadow of his eyelashes and the curve of his nose on his face. He takes a moment to look at him, features slightly older than the last time Stiles saw him, and he keeps looking until he realizes that Peter's frowning at him.
"What are you doing?" Peter asks. "Turn around."
"So I can massage your shoulders," Peter says. He has an odd look on his face like he can read all of Stiles' thoughts, which is a nightmare if Stiles has ever lived one.
A massage. A massage.
This is what hell feels like, Stiles thinks as a redness spreads over his skin like a rash and he turns around. Being embarrassed in front of Peter Hale and the furthest he can go to put some distance between them is the bathroom four feet away with walls so thin they might as well be residing in a cardboard fortress like the ones six-year-old Stiles used to make in his backyard. That’s his hell. His skin is warm enough to give itself a sunburn and he doesn't want Peter touching it and knowing, knowing what he does to Stiles, and he tells himself—not for the first time—that this heat spiking in his stomach is a side effect of being cooped up in such close quarters with Peter. He knows that it's irrational for him to feel his way. He gets a little sick to his stomach just thinking about himself thinking about Peter in nothing but boxer briefs and his own hoodie.
He needs to get out of his motel. Instead he's letting Peter sensually massage the tension he's responsible for out of his shoulders.
It also doesn't help that the second his hands settle on Stiles' shoulders and his palms circle and his thumbs dig in, Stiles realizes that Peter's pretty good at this, just like he was at drawing and yoga and god knows what else. What could possibly come next? What is Stiles going to do if he finds out Peter can speak perfect French or can play the ukulele or fix up cars all greasy-like? Stiles needs to stop thinking about this, because all this train of thought is giving him is Peter, smeared with oil and engine's dust, arched over his Jeep saying things like "vous aimez le ukulélé?"
He needs to focus on something else, so he zeroes in on the TV. People are talking about where Bigfoot's been most frequently sighted and Stiles desperately tries to pay attention, but Peter's hands are doing a deplorable job of being less interesting. His mind keeps circling back around to their warmth, the way they feel through the fabric of Stiles' shirt, the way being fed chocolates would feel only too appropriate right now. Peter's squeezing and rubbing and kneading of his muscles make him feel like he's getting drunk, and if he’s not careful, this massage is going to turn into a flute-to-snake-song for his dick.
"Just think about how cool it would be if Bigfoot was real," Stiles murmurs, still trying to cling onto the documentary. His eyes are closed and his body's started swaying with Peter's every squeeze and rub of his muscles. "Hell, everything else too. Mermaids. Nessie. Aliens." A few feet in front of them, there's a narrator talking about the Sasquatch sightings from the sixties. "Do you believe in aliens?"
"Maybe," Peter replies.
"Maybe? Either you do or you don't."
"They may be real or they may not. The fact that I don't know directly influences the level of which I believe in their existence."
"Lighten up, dude, we're talking aliens," Stiles says. Peter's knuckles drag up his spine and he has to momentarily bite onto his lower lip to keep sounds of approval inside. "Wherever they are, I hope they're doing better than we are on earth."
"What's so bad about earth?"
"Economy's bad. Racism is rampant. People are dying. Oh, and most importantly, you're on it," Stiles says. "But I will say, you're not all bad. I had no idea you could do this."
"Do what?" Peter asks just as he deliberately digs his palms into the curve of Stiles' shoulders.
"Give—oh, holy fuck—massages," Stiles groans. "Why didn't you ever tell me?"
He doesn't really have to ask. He knows why: because he and Peter were never the type of bosom buddies to sit around and talk about their accolades and hidden talents and childhood Christmas memories and double-jointed appendages. They talked plans and survival and sometimes exchanged snark here and there, and that was the extent of their friendship, if Stiles could even label it as such. He's spent nearly two weeks stuck in this motel with Peter and he still doesn't think the title suits them. They're definitely something, but they're... something else.
"I'd have to start charging by the hour," Peter says.
"Of course," Stiles says. "Lower. Right there."
Peter's hand slides down to the center of Stiles' back. It feels like a spa treatment, better than any mall massage chair he's ever experienced, like Peter's thumbs are rubbing years’ worth of stress out of his skin. He thinks about lying down on his stomach and really enjoying this, but then Peter would straddle his butt and Stiles isn't sure he'd be able to handle the feeling of Peter's denim-clad dick nestled on top of his ass.
"That good?" Peter asks with a voice low and sultry enough to be on a sex hotline.
"Yeah," Stiles mumbles. Yetis, Stiles thinks desperately, they're in the Bigfoot family and definitely something they should talk about. Yetis are safe. Yetis will not coax him into hardness. "This old mattress is horrible for my back," is what he says instead. "You're lucky you heal and don't have to deal with backaches."
"I suppose so."
"Speaking of, how's your chest?"
Peter's hands stutter on Stiles' back. It's just a momentary pause, but Stiles catches it.
"Fine," he says. Stiles would press it if it weren't for Peter's breath fanning over his neck and him saying, "You should take your shirt off."
Peter digs his thumb in through the fabric. "It's in the way. It's smoother when it's skin on skin."
Stiles spends thirty torturous seconds in which he battles between his first response: no, and his second: no, and his third: if he says no, Peter will start wondering why. How the last option ends up getting priority is beyond Stiles, because a moment later his hands are reaching for the hem of his tee and tugging it off his head. Peter's warm fingers brush experimentally down his bare back, tapping over the knobs of his spine like he's playing piano, and Stiles instantly knows this was a terrible idea.
"You have more moles than I realized," Peter says.
"Oh. Yeah." Stiles squirms when Peter's fingertips barely ghost over the bottom of his vertebrae. "Stop tickling me."
Peter actually listens, returning to his earlier vigor and digging his thumbs into Stiles' flesh. He must have quite a knot built up by his neck, Peter's hands pressing into it over and over like a baker kneading dough. On TV, a Bigfoot witness is telling his daring tale of coming within feet of the creature on a fateful camping trip. Stiles isn't even listening.
"You have a lot of tension up here," Peter observes.
"Mhm," Stiles agrees. "That's the result of homework, seven a.m. classes, and having to waft the smell of my roommate's weed out the window before our RA stops by for a surprise inspection."
"What a poor boy you are," Peter drawls.
"Shut up, I like my life."
Peter actually obeys and shuts up. Stiles is convinced it's because he's too busy smelling the air for the sweet stench of deceit, or perhaps even judging Stiles for being stupid enough to sign up for a class that starts before lunchtime, or maybe even focusing hard on rubbing the coil of tension out of Stiles' muscle. Stiles never noticed how intensely Peter can concentrate on things until he watched him draw; maybe he approaches Stiles the same way, like he's a project that deserves attention and dedication.
Peter keeps touching him. He alternates the pressure as he goes, pushing his knuckles into Stiles' muscles and then dragging his palm down, liquefying Stiles' spine as he goes. The documentary fades into white noise, like nothing but Peter's hands on Stiles' back matter, and the problem with zoning out like this is that Stiles is in thoughtless obedience of every noise of pleasure escaping his throat.
Something that feels like Peter's mouth presses against his backside, something soft and gentle, something like Peter's parted lips, and Stiles feels a splash of heat wash over him like he's been dunked under lava. Peter's thumbs smooth over the spot a second later, and holy shit, Stiles is getting hard.
He wishes he was in reach of a pillow just so he could slide it over his crotch right about now. He doesn't need Peter's hands working knots out of his back anymore, he needs a cold shower.
"I want to go to the pool," Stiles says, eyes snapping open when he realizes that there's actually a giant cold shower downstairs.
“I’m going to the pool.”
“It's most likely riddled with disease."
Stiles is already scrambling off the bed, out of Peter's grasp. He grabs the remote and turns off the TV, heading straight to the bathroom to grab towels and will his hard-on away. It recedes with some furious pinching of his thighs, thoughts of his grandmother, and some unfortunate whack-a-moling.
"With or without you, I'm going," Stiles calls from the bathroom.
"Without," Peter says, and it sounds like he's curling his lip in repulsion.
All the better for Stiles, actually, who really doesn’t want to see Peter stripped down to his boxers, lean body dripping wet and shoulders stretching with every breast stroke through the water, and there's his erection popping up uninvited again. All Stiles can hear is his own flustered voice telling Peter how absurd the idea of them sleeping together would be, and how far away that blatant lie is from his current thought process. He needs to get the hell out of here.
He snags a towel off the rack, strips down to his boxers, grabs the keycard on the edge of the TV cabinet, and heads for the door.
"Be back when—" I’m no longer horny. I can control my penis again. I can actually stand to look at you without combusting. “—I’m tired.”
He hustles all the way to the pool.
The pool is entirely empty when Stiles arrives, but despite its nearly ominous vacancy, the shade of the water is reassuringly blue and it doesn't smell like someone recently defecated in the deep end. That's about all the encouragement Stiles needs to shuck off his towel and cannonball into the water to shock the rest of his erection out of him.
It does the job. The water's clearly not heated, instead so sharply cold that it feels like bees stinging his skin when he's fully submerged, and he breaks the surface gasping, limbs wild.
He swims a few laps, crossing the length of the pool a couple of times to warm his body up. It’s refreshing, kicking off the wall and dipping under and feeling the pressure of the water push against his ears, cool and distracting from what’s awaiting him upstairs. He doesn’t know how he’s supposed to do this, stay in a motel with Peter for a completely indeterminate amount of time watching him floss over the sink, sharing beds with him, eating takeout together.
He pushes himself back under the waterline.
He sits there underwater for a while, testing his lung strength while he tries to figure out where in his wiring he’s been rerouted into feeling things for Peter. That never used to be one of his problems. His problems used to be survival and running from things that were faster than him and still passing his classes amidst all of that. Now they’re not falling in love with Peter Hale while they cuddle in bed at night like old lovers? What the fuck?
Under the swaying blur of the water, Stiles sees a dark, man-shaped blob approach the edge of the pool. He hopes to god when he swims back to the surface, it’s not who he thinks it is.
Of course it is.
“What’s this?” Stiles asks Peter, rubbing the chlorine out of his eyes. “I thought you were going to stay upstairs, scared of catching a little giardia.”
“Thought I’d come down here and supervise,” Peter says. He’s in his boxers and nothing else, though, and seems to be interested in doing much more than just watching from the sidelines.
“I’m not eight years old,” Stiles tells him. “And I know how to swim, you asshole.”
“Good for you.”
Stiles rolls his eyes and dives back down underwater again, where there’s peace. Is Peter not experiencing the same mental battles Stiles is? At all? Whatever’s going on here, it’s not all in Stiles’ head, a ridiculously conceited delusion that he’s irresistible to all passersby and that Peter is hardly immune to his wit and charm. Peter has to feel it too, Stiles is sure of it, so why isn’t he looking for ways to distance himself from Stiles instead of offering him massages and seeking him out in his boxers? The Peter Stiles knows is annoyed with Stiles, always aggravated by his immaturity and his impatience, bored with his antics, so why would he even want to entertain the idea of flirting with him and sleeping with him and god forbid, being with him? Shouldn't he be just as desperate to push Stiles away and smother the fuck out of these unwanted feelings? Has he just been reading Peter all wrong all this time?
A loud splash and a wave of water crashing over him whips Stiles around just in time to see Peter plunge in, a theatrical dive that he probably expects applause for. Stiles smooths the wet hair out of his forehead and looks pointedly away as Peter emerges like a slow motion pornography from the water, glistening with droplets and taking in a gasp of breath.
"Up for a friendly round of Marco Polo?" Stiles suggests. Marco Polo is not sexual. Marco Polo is a child's game.
"Or," Peter says, swimming closer. His eyes are blue just like the bright chlorine, and Stiles hates himself for even noticing as much. "We could race."
"A fair race?"
"We could banter all night about the definition of fair, so yes. Fair." Peter shrugs. "To the end of the pool, and then back again."
"All right. You're on."
They kick off from the wall together and Stiles throws his arms into the water, propelling himself forward with bursts of untamed energy. Next to him, Peter has slithered underwater and is moving like a shark beside him, so swift, so sharp, that Stiles doubles his efforts and kicks his feet.
He's panting by the time he makes it back to the wall, and there's Peter, already propped up against it and awaiting his trophy. His eyes are much brighter than usual.
"You cheated, you asshole!" Stiles hollers. "You can't wolf out during a race."
"You really think I'm going to follow your rules?"
Stiles wipes the water out of his face and actually lets himself look at Peter. He's never seen a werewolf in water like this before, and all that extra hair on his face is making him look like a wet bear.
"What's so funny?" Peter grumbles.
"Just never seen such a sopping wet werewolf before." Stiles bites the insides of his cheeks. "It's a great look for you."
Peter dives back underwater, and, always one for the dramatic flair, reemerges like a theatrical mermaid looking innocently human again, sharp teeth and wet fur gone. Stiles swims closer and jumps on top of him.
He must've either underestimated his strength or Peter is horribly unprepared for the assault, because they both go sinking underwater in seconds, garbling in water and flailing for control. Peter's spitting when they come back up and Stiles is trying to snort water out his nose, plus he's holding onto Peter's forearms like he's his own personal life raft.
"That was lovely," Peter says. "Were you trying to drown me?"
As if Stiles ever had any chance or the strength to do so. This might be the first time he's ever caught Peter off guard, though, and he has to admit that watching him get afluster about it is oddly entertaining.
“Maybe I just wanted to see what you looked like all wet,” Stiles says, and then immediately wonders why his mouth is saying these things, these mortifying, horrible things. “All right, are you up for Marco Polo yet?”
“Fine,” Peter says. “Only if you’re ready to get your ass kicked.”
Don’t talk about my ass, Stiles thinks desperately. “Oh, I’m ready.”
It only takes about thirty minutes for Stiles to wear himself out in that pool. He wades out after another ten minutes, chlorine officially in all the places he never needed chlorine, and wraps a towel around his shoulders, taking a seat on one of the plastic chairs near the wall. Peter follows suit, scrubbing his own towel through his hair, his back to Stiles. Stiles wonders if it’s because he doesn’t want him to see his stomach.
“So what about mermaids,” Stiles suggests, wringing the edge of his boxers out over the tiles. “You’re too good for sasquatches, yetis, and aliens, but c’mon. Mermaids.”
“Please. They can’t do a thing,” Peter says. “If we’re talking of sea monsters, I’d much rather shut down your belief in something interesting. Like cadborosaurus.”
“No. Mermaids,” Stiles stresses. “I always have hope that I’ll see one at the beach.”
“And have you?”
“No,” Stiles says, shifting his feet. "There was this one time," he continues, the memory striking him out of nowhere, "when my mom and dad and I went to the beach together. You know how there are some memories that just—just stick out to you? And I remember the way my dad held onto me in the ocean and sort of lifted me up every time a wave came. It felt like—I don't know, flying." Stiles shakes his head. There's water dripping down his forehead into his eyes that's making them burn. "I don't know why I just told you that."
"Hmm," Peter says. It seems like that's the extent of his comment, leaving Stiles to wonder what ludicrous part of himself thought sharing sentimental history with Peter would be a good idea, but then he says, "When I was younger, I wanted to be a professional swimmer. I was ready for the Olympics.”
“The Olympics? A werewolf in the Olympics? Is that fair?”
Peter lifts an eyebrow. "I've never been all too concerned with what's fair."
"Right. Okay. So your plan was to cheat your way to first place?"
"Yes, essentially, but you're missing the point," Peter says. "I liked the idea of representing a country, holding a gold medal between my teeth. It allured me." His eyes are trained to the tiled pattern on the opposite wall, the small blue wave of a stripe that stretches from one corner to the next. "Sometimes it crushes me to think of all the things I'll never do, lives I'll never live. I suppose that might be why the idea of immortality interests me. You can do as many things as you want."
Oh, Stiles thinks, suddenly still under his wet towel. Maybe Peter told that story because it actually meant something to him, the same way Stiles' story did, and there really was once a seven year old Peter Hale who dreamed of hopes and wishes like everybody else on the planet. Maybe Peter still has hopes and wishes today. Stiles wonders what they are.
"I get it," he says, rolling his lips into his mouth. They taste like chlorine. "Sometimes I want to be an astronaut. Who doesn't want to be an astronaut, right? And I think about I'll probably never be one and I get... weirdly sad."
"There are many things you will never be," Peter says. "But think about this. What you are is one of the few people on earth to say they know about werewolves, work with them, and regularly survives." He lets out one single chuckle. "Well. Used to."
“You’re never letting that go, are you?”
“I’m just hardly convinced that your life is as exciting as it used to be,” Peter says. “And everybody likes excitement.”
Stiles shrugs. He’s not sure the human body can even handle too much excitement. He’s actually pretty sure it has a limit, and when you go overboard, the only option you really have left is to die, and Stiles appreciates life. And he had a hell of a time living out all that excitement, the sort of stuff he can tell his grandkids about decades later, the sort of stuff they won’t even believe him about, and now things are—smoother. And it’s not like he’s never excited anymore. Just not as much. Not as intensely.
He shivers under his towel, the air cold as the chlorine dries on him, and listens to the steady drip drip drip of his wet boxers on the floor. He looks over at Peter, who’s still smiling, and feels, as if suspended in a different dimension, like he can tell him anything. Either the chlorine went up his nostrils one too many times or there’s a real comfort there, a companionship between them, an ease that never used to exist.
“The last time I had sex,” Stiles says, “was in a hot tub.” Peter says nothing. When Stiles turns to him, his eyebrows are raised high in question. “You asked. A while ago, but still.”
“No, I did.” He raises his fist to his mouth, like he’s covering up a laugh. “Go on.”
“The pool reminded me.” Stiles shakes his head; it’s not like this is even a good story. “I was at this ridiculous Halloween party that I hadn’t even been invited to at this—this frat house. God, I can’t believe I’m even telling you this. There was a hot tub out back and this hot guy was in it, so I just said fuck it and got in with him and long story short—we had a bit of an r-rated moment in there.”
Peter’s not close enough to elbow, so Stiles aims for a kick to the shin instead. “Just handjobs. It wasn’t that bad.” Stiles takes a moment to think about how sad it is that he even had a sexual encounter worthy of the description of not bad. “Then we noticed that some of his roommates were trying to see if they could jump out of a second story window into the hot tub and we got the fuck out of there before that happened. Stop laughing, jesus christ.”
Peter doesn’t stop laughing. He’s practically tearing up with mirth at Stiles’ story, and maybe he should’ve embellished it a little and left out the bit about the cannonballing roommates, but he clearly had forgotten who his audience was.
“Laugh it up, ha, ha.”
“I just love,” Peter says between laughter, “that this is your idea of excitement nowadays. Not to mention, I thought you were above fraternity houses.”
“Oh, that is it.”
Stiles gets to his feet, throws the towel down, and tries his best to yank Peter out of his chair. Somewhere along the way Peter keeps laughing and Stiles joins in, and Stiles manages to haul Peter to his feet and then they’re roughhousing under the sign that specifically says no roughhousing, and somewhere amid the laughter, Stiles manages to push Peter into the pool.
Peter pops right back up out of the water after a second shaking his head out like an angry dog, no longer laughing, but a broad smile still on his face. It’s about the only warning Stiles gets before a hand seizes his ankle and pulls.
“What’d you do that for?” Stiles demands when he remerges, wet and sputtering. That was the most uncoordinated entry into a pool he’s ever experienced in his life, and his chest is still stinging from that unintended belly-flop.
“Revenge,” Peter says. “Although I really ought to cut you some slack. After that horrible hot tub story I really should be nicer.” He smooths the hair back out of his face, and it makes Stiles realize for the first time that his hair’s actually longer than he remembers, that it isn’t quite as cropped as it was the last time they spoke years ago. “And you said this was your last sexual encounter? You mean to tell me you haven’t had sex since Halloween?”
“You jerk,” Stiles says. “I’ve had exams. I’m a busy guy.”
And Peter starts laughing again, a happy, real sound, and Stiles jumps on his back and tries to pull him back under.
They come back after midnight, hair still wet and muscles exhausted. Stiles tumbles into bed without another thought, dragging wetness over the sheets, and Peter follows him easily, pulling him to his chest without another word. Either he's inhaled too much water tonight or all of it feels simple, even nice, like a routine that they've been doing for a lifetime, because Stiles curls into him with no resistance.
"That was fun," Stiles says. "I'm tired."
"That happens when you run around like a five-year old," Peter says. One of his arms is draped over Stiles' hip; the other is loose in Stiles' hair.
"No regrets," Stiles mumbles, pressing his forehead against Peter's chest. He's already warm, skin dry, nothing but boxers still cool and damp against his thighs. "You're not so bad all the time, you know that?"
Peter laughs, sliding his hand closer to Stiles' scalp. Stiles must be crazy, lying in Peter's arms as they've done last night, and the night before, and in the recesses of his mind he knows that this is weird and probably unwise, but right now it just works.
"You make it easy," Peter says in return.
The other side of the bed's empty when Stiles wakes up, and if not for the sound of running water, Stiles would have assumed that Peter's off looking for more Lego toys to entertain himself with. The clock reads 8:32am, the pillow smells of chlorine, and outside, the world is as white as ever. From within the bathroom, the water shuts off.
Stiles throws the covers off himself and gives Peter thirty courtesy seconds to step out of the shower and throw a towel over himself before he pushes his way in to brush his teeth.
He walks into the bathroom and without warning, gets a paralyzing eyeful of Peter lounging in the bathtub with soapy water lapping up his chest.
"Oh, fuck," Stiles curses, throwing his forearm over his eyes and feeling about twelve years old as he does so. "Sorry. I thought you were taking were a shower." Stiles turns around and looks fixedly at the porcelain sinks. "Wouldn't have pegged you as a bath guy."
"It's relaxing," Peter says. Stiles can hear the sound of shifting water and gets mentally assaulted, cruelly, with that second's worth of Peter's naked body Stiles saw. "You can turn around, you know."
No, no, he really can't. All Stiles can see is Peter's thighs submerged in water and his shoulders wet and his rather sizable—
"We're all men here," Peter murmurs, and more water splashes about the tub, the sound echoing. "Don't be such a child."
"I'm just trying to give a penis the privacy it deserves," Stiles says. He sees his own eyes in the mirror, how he looks like an utter loon.
"My penis doesn't mind you being here," Peter says easily, and Stiles' hands slip off the counter.
"You shouldn't—you can't speak for your penis," Stiles says. His cheeks are red enough to look like his grandmother's smothered his face in rouge. "I'm just gonna."
He points to the door. He can't stop thinking about anything but the fact that Peter's behind him in the nude right now. In the nude. Like one typically takes baths, but still.
"You could always join me, if you'd like."
Stiles freezes. Suddenly the bathroom feels as if it's full of steam, and Stiles is no longer thinking innocent thoughts about Peter's sudsy thighs, he's involuntarily picturing Peter stroking his cock under the waterline, Peter licking sweat off his neck while he shampoos his hair, Peter rocking against him hard enough in the tub for water to slosh over.
"I have to go," Stiles says on a tight throat.
Then he rushes downstairs to see if the motel has any free rooms to spare yet. They don't.
What the fuck are they doing here? Stiles can feel the tension building, has felt it for a few days now, and if this was anybody else, Stiles would have already stripped down to his birthday suit and volunteered a one night stand to get all the unresolved lust out of their systems, but it's Peter. And it's not high school anymore and there's no longer drama and murder and life and death situations pushing them onto opposite sides of the morality scale, but Stiles hasn't exactly forgotten any of it, specifically all those times when Peter was running around in tight shirts making his life hell and being a generally shady asshole. It also isn't helping that there are other things more troubling than just the sexual electricity between them, but there's watching TV together and playing Marco Polo and building Lego sets and actually, for the first time ever, really talking. It nags at Stiles in a horrifying way that makes him think that a one night stand might not even be enough.
When did this even happen? How did they transition from Peter threatening to draw a line between the bed to inviting Stiles into the bathtub with him? Is this what happens when you spend twenty four seven with someone in a small motel room, like some twisted Stockholm Syndrome or hostage situation effect? The fact that he's pacing through a motel lobby while all he really wants to do is go back upstairs and climb into the bathtub with Peter, clothes and all, and get incredibly, filthily dirty with him is worrying.
Maybe they ought to talk about it. They're both adults now, Stiles no longer driven by the hysterical adrenaline of his teenage years, and he should be able to have a mature conversation with Peter about whatever the fuck they've both been playing with, toeing around, subtly encouraging. For all Stiles knows, Peter's just having fun, seeing how far he can push before Stiles breaks, and here's Stiles, legitimately tortured over the idea of pushing Peter against a wall and going down on him. That might be worth a chat or two.
When he comes back up, Peter's out of the bathtub with an inhumanly small towel wrapped around his hips. This probably would've caused a distraction if not for his bullet holes oozing black gunk over Peter's stomach.
"Where'd you go?" Peter asks.
"Your stomach, Peter, oh my god," Stiles gasps. "You told me you were healing, you bastard."
"Oh, that," Peter says, looking down. "I'm sure I'm fine."
"That doesn't look fine. That looks—jesus christ, I don't even want to describe it." He weakly motions over his shoulder at the door. "I'm going to get some towels. And buckets of antiseptic, if they have it."
Peter roars "I'm fine! Fine!" out after him as the door shuts, but Stiles remembers enough from his werewolf days to know that when anything that looks like molasses have started oozing out of orifices, things are going south.
When he comes back, arms stacked with towels he hassled the front desk for, Peter's hunched over the toilet throwing up what seems to be melted tar. He turns to Stiles, his lip smeared dark, and says, "Okay, I'm not fine."
And then, for the second time in two weeks, Peter passes out.
The next five minutes are Stiles dragging Peter's unconscious body out of the bathroom, once again wishing he had given more love to those weights in his room, and saying, on loop:
"You're so fucking stupid, I can't even believe you! Oh my god, Peter. I am never helping you again. I'm not. Do you know why? Because you refuse help until you're bent over a toilet barfing up your cold black soul. If you make it out of this alive, I'm going to kill you. I swear I will. Fuck, you have to wake up. You can't die in a motel room, it's so undignified, it's so—so not your style. You're going to haunt me from beyond if I let you die like this, I just know it. Fuck. Fuck! I don't know what I'm doing."
Stiles has him dragged all the way over to the carpet, hands fluttering uselessly over the black mess on Peter's stomach, trying to remember the specifics of dealing with lycanthropic injuries. There was that one time Stiles almost had to cut off Derek's arm, and oh god, is he going to have to saw Peter in half like some horrible magician's trick? His body's trying to heal itself, Stiles knows that much, but now Peter's passed out and how much can a body heal if it isn't even present in the waking world? Stiles grabs Peter by the chin and shakes, every inch of him trembling, and does the first thing he can think of: unscrew the nearest water bottle and dump it on Peter's face.
The positive is that Peter wakes up, the negative is that Stiles isn't sure if he just half-drowned the man with a bottle of Evian. Peter's eyes flip open and his mouth falls in a shuddering gasp of pain, his torso rolling in waves of agony on the floor. Stiles is terrified, completely out of his element and absolutely terrified.
"Holy shit, holy fuck, thank god," Stiles rasps. He doesn't care if he's being dramatic, Peter was one oxygenless minute away from one of those lifeless bodies found in a hotel room that the police scratch their heads over for weeks. "Can you stop with the fainting, please, please? You're giving me strokes." He touches one of the bullet holes on Peter's stomach and withdraws sharply when Peter hisses. "What's going on?"
"They have to come out," Peter says.
"What? The bullets? You told me they didn't!"
"I was wrong."
That's all it takes for Stiles to suddenly be boilingly, irrevocably, infinitely angry. He feels like he's been lured to Peter under false pretenses, and he's been sitting in this motel room with him under false pretenses, and he had an entire two weeks to tell Stiles the truth about this gnarly injury that Stiles is now worried is going to erupt into a dragon rearing its head directly out of his chest. But no, he had to wait until the last second, until he’s twitching and panting and groaning on the carpet under Stiles' uninformed hands, and Stiles is angry at himself too, because he saw that he wasn’t healing and he never said anything, he never pushed.
"Give it to me straight," Stiles demands, fingers trembling over Peter's heaving chest. "What really happened here? Really?"
"Stiles," Peter growls like he's warning him, but what is he going to do to Stiles writhing on the ground like a turtle on its back?
"What happened? Don't tell me you were in the wrong place at the wrong time, dammit." At his silence, Stiles clenches his hands into fists and shouts, "Peter."
"There were hunters," Peter yells back, and he sounds furious and embarrassed and agonized all at once. "Their equipment has improved since I last saw it. They have new tools, new guns."
"What kind of guns?" Stiles demands.
"Special bullets. The body rejects them. It can’t heal around them.”
A fresh wave of anger pushes through Stiles like lava—for weeks Peter’s been here, pretending to be fine, ignoring the deadly objects in his stomach, all for what? To keep up the image of his unrelenting strength and invincibility? “You’re kidding,” Stiles says. “If you weren’t already bleeding out, I would fucking kill you.” More gunk is oozing out of Peter’s torso straight onto the carpet and Stiles is going to be sick. “I might just main you later anyway. You knew all this time and you didn’t—you didn’t say a word?”
“I didn’t know,” Peter grits out. “You think I like being near death?”
“I think you like putting on a show, I think you like torturing me to insanity!”
Peter’s mouth momentarily untwists itself from a pain of grimace and flicks upward into a tiny, fleeting smile. “I’m flattered,” he says, “that I have the capacity to torture you with thoughts of my death—”
“Not now, Peter,” Stiles interrupts. He’s still so mad. So, so mad. “Back to the bullets. What happened with the hunters?”
“I ran into a few, I was apparently invading their land, I goaded them, we fought, do we have to talk about this now?!”
“See,” Stiles rages. “This is exactly what I was talking about, how you go out and find trouble and it’s just so stupid.” He can’t even see straight, he’s so disorientingly infuriated. “What do the bullets do to you?”
“Kill me, probably,” Peter says. His face is turning paler and paler, words bitten off. “Eat at my insides. Slowly let out poison. My guess is that they just reached my stomach, maybe my pancreas.”
"Wow. Hunter technology has really advanced, huh?"
Peter snaps his head up like an angry monster. "Well, you left that world, didn't you?" He drops it back down onto the carpet, groaning, his fingers white where they're wrapped into fists by his sides. "You're so damn proud of it too. Little Stiles, free of danger."
"Can you ever just shut up?" Stiles says. He needs to concentrate and he can't when Peter is yapping endlessly in his ear about this and that and god knows what else. Everything is starting to roll together into a screeching white noise. "Tell me what I have to do."
"Take them out, I already fucking said that."
"How? How the fuck do I just remove bullets out of someone's stomach?" Sawing off Peter's arm is starting to sound idyllic.
"There are tweezers in the bathroom," Peter grunts. "Get them."
"Can't I just call 911?"
"No," Peter wheezes. Stiles doesn't remember the last time he saw him quite so helpless, especially since Peter prides himself in being a strong, omniscient villain always ready to strike from the corners, not crying out in pain on the floor. His eyes are flashing from blue to an electric shade of ice back to blue like a television screen with a spotty connection, and there's a pain and a dark vulnerability there that Stiles's mind refuses to even associate with Peter. "Thurston. Just get the pieces out, Thurston, for the love of God."
His mouth twists with another flash of pain. The graceless way his torso is pulsing off the floor is completely out of place for Peter, so much so that Stiles feels his heartbeat climb into a frenzy. He reaches out instinctively, trying to quell the bleeding with his palms.
"Tweezers," Peter grunts again. His hand shoots out and snaps around Stiles' wrist hard enough to hurt. "Get tweezers."
Stiles nods and, with some effort, pulls his arm free. He can sit here and wail and panic or he can channel that part of his sixteen-year-old self that acted on misguided instinct and slow reflexes and somehow always ended up alive anyway. Stiles both hates and admires that kid he vaguely remembers being the same way people remember grainy old home movies lost in the basement. He was braver than who Stiles is now, and Stiles always erroneously thought that courage, like anxiety and hair length, grew unquestionably with age. Turns out, courage is more like a muscle that atrophies with time when you don't bother to exercise.
His hands are shaking when he tries to wrangle the tweezers out from underneath all of the complimentary toiletries they've been heaping up on the bathroom counter, and his legs are shaking too, and falling to the ground and hyperventilating sounds really favorable right now, but all his ears have tuned into is the sound of Peter groaning in pain outside the bathroom. He has to focus; he can do this. He finally grabs the tweezers, wraps his fist around them, and rushes back out, collapsing to his knees next to Peter.
"I'm going to kill you," Stiles says, and now his voice is shaking too, like he's eight years old again and losing at Operation because every time he tries to stop trembling, he trembles even more. "Oh god."
"You won't," Peter grits out. "You'll cause me quite a bit of pain, which I'm presuming sounds wonderful to you, but you won't kill me."
"I don't want to cause you pain!" Stiles wails. "I don't—I caused so much back in high school, I don't want to—" He drops the tweezers and runs his hands over his clammy face. "Why would I even go after you when you called me if I wanted you to be in pain?"
"Hmm," Peter says, and even in agonizing pain, he can still banter, which is either extremely impressive, or extremely dumb. "Maybe you're in love with me." His hands shoot out to grip Stiles' nearest appendage: his elbow. "Figure that out later."
"How can you be this annoying at a time like this," Stiles mutters, and he picks the tweezers back up and tries to block out everything but the task at hand.
He can do this. He might have to pretend Peter's oozing, blackening injuries are nothing more than stage make up, but he can swallow back the nausea gathering in this throat and do this. For years, he was so scared of dying, of being the weak link, of having to rely on the stronger, faster, less human people around him, and now he's here taking care of someone else in a time of peril and it's time he figures out how to do that.
He squeezes the tweezers and dives in.
Peter's first gasp of pain hits Stiles like ice, but he refuses to listen. He digs out a piece of a bullet and drops it on the carpet and realizes, like an anvil dropping inside of him, that the bullets have broken off into multiple pieces.
"They've all splintered," Stiles says, keeping his lips moving, his mouth talking. "This is going to be fun."
"Don't talk," Peter growls.
That's my line, Stiles thinks, remembering how he had dragged Peter up here that first night and begged for him to shut up in that elevator, how he wanted to leave as quickly as possible, and by now it's been two weeks. Everything feels different, everything feels like it's changed, and Stiles can't help but wonder what two more weeks with Peter would look like, but first he has to fucking save Peter's life if he wants to try seeing for himself.
He goes back in with the tweezers. Peter grunts and growls and his back arches off the floor and his fists are white where they're clenched into the short fibers of the carpet, but Stiles can't let himself notice any of those things. He grabs another piece, another, he doesn’t let himself stop.
“Hurry up,” Peter says. He sounds like he’s fighting to stay conscious, and when Stiles looks up, his teeth are ground together and his eyes are a sharp blue, a supernatural blue, like the pain is running through him like lightning. “Thurston.”
“Fuck, I’m almost done,” Stiles promises. He reaches out for Peter’s hand, wanting to feel it, and lets Peter squeeze the life out of his fingers while he steadies his right hand and goes in, one last time, for that last fragment of a bullet.
He gets it out. He almost wants to fling it across the room in a show of dramatic victory, but Peter’s close to breaking bones in his left hand and he probably ought to focus on that. He drops the tweezers, suddenly exhausted, and if nothing else, he knows that a surgical career is most definitely not his calling.
“It’s—it’s over,” Stiles says. “Don’t break my hand.”
Peter releases it. He looks half-dead on the carpet, eyes closed and fangs out in some uncontrollable reflex to wolf out in those moments of indescribable pain, but his breathing is calming down. The oozing has stopped, and the worst is over. Stiles gives into that impulse he’s been fighting ever since this all began and grabs Peter’s limp arm, pressing his fingers into his pulse point. His heartbeat is unbelievably fast, so fast the beats are blurring together, but it’s there.
“I’m fine,” Peter says. “Getting better.”
Stiles nods. He can’t believe any of that just happened. He also can’t believe that Peter’s actually alive, hardly in one piece, but alive. He lets out that knot of tension in his chest with a deep breath.
"By the way," Stiles says, heart still lodged in his throat. His hands are black from the bodily fluid oozing out of Peter's chest, but he'd like to clear this up before he washes himself clean. "Who the hell is Thurston?"
Peter's eyebrows arch inward. He lifts his head a fraction up off the floor. "You?"
Stiles shakes his head. "That is most definitely not my name." He chuckles a little. "Thank God."
Peter sits up further, propping himself up on his elbows. "I could've been sure. Are you sure?"
Stiles doesn't know how they could possibly transition from a life-or-death situation to obnoxious laughter, but the next thing he knows, he's doubled over laughing and tears are squeezing out of his eyes with the force of it and Peter's even joining in. He laughs until his stomach hurts and his mouth aches, because how long has it been since his life has been this wild? It almost feels new again.
He gets up when his lungs allow it, then heaves Peter to his feet and takes a look at the massacre left behind on the carpet. Sticky black stains have infiltrated the floor, and it looks so sinister that Stiles almost wants to draw demonic symbols on the walls just to round out the whole image for when the maids come around after check-out.
Stiles looks at it sadly. It feels like the only proof he has that these last two weeks have been real.
"We're never getting that deposit back."
It's almost funny, and Stiles' chuckles resurface at the sight. A part of Stiles should've known that there's no way Peter ever could've checked out of a motel room without destroying, mauling, or otherwise compromising it in some way.
He looks over at him, on his feet but still looking a little shaken, skin ashen and stomach still slowly stitching itself back together, the skin webbing into a healed, clean surface. Stiles wants to kiss him, which feels appropriate considering he was swearing to kill him not ten minutes ago. Maybe it's because something about the situation feels climatic and heroic, like they've just defeated a common enemy and now's the time for them to embrace and celebrate, and Stiles nearly entertains the idea of doing it—stepping closer, leaning over, and kissing Peter with a gusto that'll leave them lightheaded—but his hands are sticky and his legs are still feeling unsteady and this is probably the least romantic time to actually do this.
Then again, maybe there is no right time to do this. Maybe Stiles shouldn't do it at all.
"You look like a mess," Peter says.
"You should see yourself," Stiles says, wiping his hands off on his pants. "Dibs on the shower."
Stiles takes a shower first, and then Peter hops in after him, and by the time he's done all the smears of black gunk are down the drain and Stiles is sitting, distracted, in his towel on the edge of the bed flipping through their meager amount of channels. Peter emerges from the bathroom, the open door carrying in a cloud of warm steam, and Stiles is pleased to see that his chest has actually healed this time. To think that all of it—the phone call, the drive up here, the proceeding two weeks of snow and isolation—only ever happened because Peter, in typical Peter fashion, bumped horns with a few hunters.
"You look better," Stiles says. He hadn't noticed it before, but now with some color back in Peter's skin as contrast, he sees that he was awfully pale the last few days. "Extracting some parasitic bullets will do that to you, eh?"
“What’s on TV?”
“Nothing,” Stiles sighs. “You want to check?”
"I want to sleep," Peter replies, and the rosiness might've returned to his skin, but he still looks dragged down by exhaustion. He flicks the bathroom light off and climbs into bed, pulling the sheets up around his body.
He looks awfully small underneath the layers of linens. Small, and tired, and wrung out, and not nearly as menacing as Stiles' mental image of him has always been. For as long as he's known Peter, that image has always been like a badly-lit yearbook photo, all oppressive shadows and crooked smiles and enigmatic, eerie darkness. Right now Peter's wrapped up in scratchy sheets and engulfed in yellow lamplight and rubbing his growing stubble against his pillowcase. The disparity is hard to miss.
"You okay?" Stiles asks, turning the TV off.
"I will be," Peter says around a slow sigh. "Tomorrow, I'll be splendid. You just have to trust yourself to sleep off these ordeals."
Stiles has tried to sleep off his past for years now. It doesn't seem to help. Some nights he wakes up still remembering the clammy fear, his trembling legs, how it felt to just run and run and still never feel safe.
"It's nice to not have anything to sleep off in the first place," Stiles says, even when what he wants to say is stop it already. He feels like the more Peter pushes, the more the aching kid inside himself whines and snarls and wants to reawaken, wants to explore and sprint and cry and hide like it used to. If Peter keeps pushing, Stiles' impulse may leap forward and say wherever you go, take me with you, and that's stupid, that's so, so stupid.
"I heard your heartbeat," Peter says, "when you took out the bullets. I was listening. You were excited."
"I was terrified," Stiles snaps.
Peter's quiet for a beat or two. He gently pats the spot on the sheets next to him, beckoning Stiles in.
"Turn the light off," Peter instructs.
Stiles listens, dropping his towel in the bathroom and slipping his underwear on before he slides under the sheets and turns off the bedside lamp. The sheets are cool against his skin and the bed feels soft enough to bring him to sleep in seconds, like all that racing of his heart really ended up taking the juice out of him.
In the darkness, it's easy to relive what happened. All the blood. All the shaking. All the ways Stiles was sure he would screw up. He didn't, but he so easily could have, and Peter could've died right there on the carpet and all because he doesn't know how to be safe, how to avoid trouble, how to keep from getting hunted. Stiles doesn't think he'll ever learn. Either he thinks he's invincible or he just doesn't want to, too infatuated with the thrill of the chase, running from danger and being dangerous, living a life full of the utmost excitement.
He listens to Peter’s breathing on the other side of the bed, the way it rises, the way it falls, the gentle cycles it goes through. Stiles rolls onto his side, trying to focus on the lesser darkness of Peter’s face amid the shadows.
“When did you realize something was different about the bullets?”
“A few days ago,” Peter answers. “I wasn’t sure what specifically was wrong until this morning. I did some research and realized what they might be.”
“You should’ve checked sooner,” Stiles says. He knows he sounds like a mother, a pestering parent who’s berating a child, but Stiles’ left hand still hurts from the way Peter was squeezing it from pain, the way his face twisted from agony.
“I’m fine,” Peter says. “And that’s really all that matters.”
It sounds like I don’t regret it. Like Peter is physically impossible of admitting his mistakes, and will always be looking for danger to kick up, and won’t ever slow down.
"Don't you ever get sick of it?" Stiles murmurs. "Bleeding out on streets. Running from hunters. Never knowing when your luck is going to run out."
"I told you before, Stiles, it's not exactly a shackle I can drop."
"But it is," Stiles insists, rolling onto his back so he can stare hard at the gray ceiling. "You just choose not to make trouble. You choose not to be an asshole people throw rocks at for revenge."
"It might be a little too late for that."
Stiles lets out a quiet breath. He thinks about Scott, how he managed to break free of that unending circle of danger and mortal peril and hasn't been touched by it in a while. Maybe comparing Peter to Scott is his problem, though—Peter isn't as good-hearted.
"Murder gets old, is all I'm saying."
Peter huffs. "How would you even know, Stiles?" he asks. "You don't live my life."
"That's for damn sure."
"You're living one where you get to fall asleep in lecture halls and make paper airplanes in your dorm room and start dying of boredom, so much so that you followed me out here."
"That's not true," Stiles snaps. "It wasn't boredom, it was—" He shuts his damn mouth, hating himself. "I was curious. It was nostalgia. It's not even that I miss the hell I was living in back in high school, but."
He takes in a deep breath. Peter finishes the thought for him. "You miss the excitement."
The bed shifts. The mattress croaks, and the sound of it is sharp in the quiet air. Stiles does miss that, but there are also so many things he doesn’t miss, like the idea of hurting his father because Stiles could’ve ended up torn in half in the woods one day, or thinking about what it would be like to go to Scott’s funeral, or how his grades hardly stayed afloat because he was too busy to study. He remembers everything just getting worse and worse, how the trouble snowballed, how he hardly had a moment to breathe, and now he gets to be normal, and he gets to study and laugh and spend time with his friends.
The ones that survived, anyway.
Giving any of that up would be reckless. He and Peter are just from different worlds. That was obvious back then, and it’s obvious now. Peter’s the eternal daredevil, handsome but dangerous, intriguing but unlovable, a real life Marlon Brando in a real life rendition of The Wild One, and Stiles isn’t jumping along for the ride. He won’t. He has a real life cobbled together for himself at home in that tiny dorm room, and two weeks in a motel room doesn’t change that.
He turns over, this time to face the other side, and lets himself fall asleep.
When morning comes around, the snow has cleared enough to drive.
It’s eight a.m. when Stiles wakes up. Peter’s still asleep, presumably exhausted from that exercise of retrieving bullets from his stomach yesterday, and his breathing’s deep and heavy, like he’s still in the throes of a deep dream. Stiles lifts the covers and checks his bare chest, smooth, unperturbed, nicely healed skin meeting his eyes.
Without thinking, he reaches out and touches. Peter doesn’t stir and awaken, so Stiles flattens his palm and feels his warmth, the softness of his stomach. How can someone so cold internally be so warm externally? Or has he really never been that cold, and Stiles just never bothered to find out?
He looks at Peter’s closed eyes, at his tousled hair disturbed by sleep, at the relaxed fingers curling around the sheets. He looks so normal, so innocent, so not like someone who was yelling at Stiles to save his life a few hours ago.
Stiles can’t handle that. Not in waves, not permanently, not all the time. Ever since high school, he’s been trying his best to detach himself from all that drama, even go so far as to wonder why his younger self was so hell-bent on getting killed at the tender age of sixteen and break his father’s heart. Maybe it was the thrill, the adrenaline, the feeling of almost dying every odd day or so, but Stiles has been rehabilitated from that.
Which is why there is just no room for Peter in his life.
He thinks about staying in this bed, about watching Peter's eyes flutter awake, seeing the morning light filter over his cheeks, entertaining the idea of leaning in and kissing him in the sleepy warmth.
He gets up and starts packing before Peter awakens. He throws the covers off, slips off the mattress, and heads for the bathroom to start getting things together.
When he comes back out three minutes later and glances at the bed, he sees that Peter's up, eyes half-open and pillows pushed up to better support his head. He looks so lovely laying there in peaceful repose wrapped in wrinkled sheets with a healthy color to his cheeks, so much so that Stiles wants to cry.
Instead, he speaks up before Peter can say anything first and matter-of-factly tells him, "The roads look better."
Peter raises an eyebrow. All Stiles wants to do is crawl into bed and steal his warmth.
"I suppose you'll be leaving then."
"Mhm. Packing now."
A thick beat passes. Then:
"You didn't take all the lotion with you, did you?"
Stiles shakes his head. He wants to shake Peter by the hair and shout is that the best you can do? Is that the best we can do?
"I even left the charger behind. You can thank me for that."
"You sure you don't want to take it out of spite?"
Stiles feels his face twitch, his left eyebrow pulling upward for a second. Maybe Peter's feeding him metaphors, calling him spiteful and ridiculous for leaving now, but the entire point that's starting to drive in like a stake is that Peter isn't stopping him. Maybe all this was just fun for Peter, an interesting weekend, an opportunity to tease and flirt with somebody the same way people wink at beautiful strangers on the road during red lights before zooming away, it never actually mattering. Peter's made a life of avoiding attachments and staying independent and only involving himself when personal gain shines in the distance, and why would a few years have changed him? Why would Stiles have changed him?
"I'm leaving it," he says. "But I'm taking the toilet paper."
Peter shrugs, either still tired or horribly uncaring, and rises from the bed, scratching at his stomach. It's flawlessly healed, no longer a gnarly, dripping ribcage, and Stiles supposes he should feel an air of accomplishment for being responsible for Peter's recovery. He looks away from the soft expanse of skin stretching, unmarred, over his torso.
"Incredible that your idea of packing is stuffing three things into a plastic bag," Peter observes, then shuts himself into the bathroom. Stiles can hear the tap running from the other side of the door. Maybe he's brushing teeth. Maybe he's flossing and mouthwashing too. Maybe Stiles shouldn't know these things.
He checks the drawers and cupboards while Peter's in the bathroom just in case Peter's been locking away Stiles' possessions within them either to organize and tidy up or to piss Stiles off royally and leave things behind on accident. He doesn't find anything in them until he gets to the end table on Peter's side, and there, right under the untouched bible, are their sketches of each other from a few days ago.
Stiles pulls them out. His looks terrible, the type of travesty that even a caricaturist would groan over, and the likeness is only present in the facial hair Stiles took great pain to try and accurately draw and smudge in. He remembers how inky his thumbs were afterward, how much soap it had taken to clean his hands.
Peter's is nicer. It really looks like Stiles, and the eyes are symmetrical, and the hair is the right length, and even the shading on his neck looks real. Stiles feels the silly urge to keep it, stuff it in his plastic bag and take it with him as a memory, but he's not sure his future self would welcome the reminder a few months from now if he would find the drawing forgotten under the bed and feel all those same twists and squeezes to his organs just remembering what it was like to be stuck here in the middle of a snowstorm with Peter.
He's about to put it back when the bathroom door creaks open and Stiles instinctually jams it into his bag under the toilet paper and bottles of shampoo and fortune cookie slips. Peter slips out and stands in front of him, still looking sleepy, still looking like Stiles could easily drag him by the waistband of his boxers and debauch him in the bed.
“Did you take all the complimentary amenities you want?” Peter asks.
Stiles looks down at his plastic bag of useless souvenirs and nods. This is when he leaves, he supposes. This is when he finds the right way—if there even is a right way—to say see you later and get out of here.
He wants to say I'm not done here, I'm not done with you but he doesn't know if he'll ever be done with Peter, so what exactly is he going to do? Stay in this motel forever and duct tape Peter to the bed so he stays forever too? They've had two weeks stuck in this room together to figure their shit out, but they didn't, so Stiles highly doubts more time will remedy that.
They just don't fit. Clear-headedly, Stiles knows this. It's like this entire time, being stuck with Peter in a small confined space twenty four seven spun a fog around his senses, and now he's back in reality and the snow is gone and the delusions are lifting. Stiles is going to go home and he's going to go back to classes and everything will slot back into place again, and he'll forget about Peter and the way the motel shampoo smells and how much it hurts right now to have Peter looking at him blankly, so blankly, with nothing to say.
"So, uh, guess that's that," Stiles says. He doesn't know what's appropriate here, a handshake, a hug, no contact at all? All Stiles can think about is the phantom feeling of Peter's hands massaging his shoulders and what he's still sure was his parted lips pressing almost kisses onto his spine. "Can I expect another call from you five years from now because you need rescuing somewhere?"
Peter's mouth moves almost minutely. "I can promise you that that won't happen."
"Yeah, okay." Stiles waits one, two, four, seven more seconds for Peter to say something, but he doesn't. His hands are jammed in his pockets and he looks like someone sleepy who Stiles wants to press into the pillows and undress instead of walk away from. "Stay outta trouble."
Stiles sighs. "Why am I not surprised."
He doesn't linger after that. Peter's summed it up perfectly for him: he's still chasing thrills and poking proverbial bears and earning his Bad Boy badge, and then there's Stiles on a different planet who's matured and has finally taken the fragility of his mortal body into consideration when he makes decisions. He waves goodbye, feeling ridiculous as he does so, leaves, gets into his car, and starts driving.
Stiles is halfway home on wet, salt-laden roads when he realizes that Peter called him from a payphone when his cell was dead. Peter has his number memorized.
Five goddamn years, and Peter has his number memorized.
Five years, he kept it in his head.
Stiles turns the car around.
The drive back to Greenview is longer and rougher than Stiles remembers, and considering that this time there isn't a blizzard and the sky hasn't darkened yet, he has no idea how it could possibly be harder the second time around. But it is. The anticipation is like smog in the car.
He doesn't have anything worked out. He tries to while he's driving, tries to figure out what he's doing and what he's going to say when he makes it back to the motel and Peter opens the door and there's Stiles, windswept and brimming with words he didn't say earlier, but his ears are buzzing too loudly for him to focus. All he really knows is that he wants to be honest with Peter, even if Peter hasn't been honest with him.
Who cares if they come from separate worlds? It's not like Stiles wants to date a clone of himself—realistically, anyway—and he could use a little spice in his life, and that's definitely what Peter is, spice. Stiles thinks about the fortune cookie he got the third time they ordered Chinese, how he had cracked it open and the fortune had read life can be spicy, and yeah, it can be, but only if you're brave and you order rice with heat, the same way Stiles can go home and go for mild or he can run back into that motel and grab Peter and life by the balls.
Whatever this is between them, it isn't just some hostage situation fluke. This is them, grown up, matured, attracted to each other, and all those things they did—sharing beds, laughing over Legos, watching adorable YouTube videos of lions together—didn't have to happen, but they let it. Stiles' feelings are real, and they could be real, he just has to make it happen. And if Peter needs help learning to not provoke hunters or get himself into life threatening situations and is willing to accept Stiles helping, then this could work.
It takes forever to reach Greenview. Stiles blasts the radio, getting worked up and aroused and excited as he sings about graining on that wood, graining, graining on that wood. And then, that same payphone comes into view and Stiles knows he's close.
He swerves into the motel parking lot when he sees it, heartbeat starting to speed up and hands starting to sweat as he parks. He runs to the elevator when he makes it inside, nearly falling over when he skids to a stop in front of it. The time it takes for the elevator to actually arrive after Stiles pushes the call button seven times feels like the longest eleven seconds of his life, up until he actually gets on the elevator and it takes its sweet time closing its doors and teetering upwards at a truly glacial pace. When it finally squeaks to a halt and the doors slide open, Stiles is back to running like a track athlete until he’s back in front of a very familiar door.
"Peter!" Stiles hollers, pounding his fist on it. He jiggles the handle, but the door's shut, refusing to grant him entrance. He knocks harder.
He stops when his knuckles start hurting. He even tries shouting "room service!" at the door, hoping that the door will crack open and Peter will be standing there, something inscrutably fond on his face, some ridiculous documentary on TV that the two of them can watch together, and then Stiles will stay the night with or without snow. The door doesn't open.
Fine. If Peter's going to be stubborn, if Peter wants him to work for it, then he'll play a little dirty.
He goes back to the lobby and waits at the front desk until someone appears. The one who does is the same man from the first night he checked in two weeks ago with Peter left to bleed out in his car, and Stiles hopes the familiarity will play in his advantage.
"Hi," he says. "I left my key card up in my room and I was hoping you could help me out." He scratches the back of his head. "Maybe you remember me. You checked me in a few days ago right when that snowstorm came in."
"I remember you," the man says. "What room are you in?"
Stiles is about to pat himself on the back for this particularly clever underhanded scheme as the man checks his computer, but his premature praise for himself screeches to a halt as the man shakes his head.
"Says you checked out a few hours ago," he says.
"You checked out," the man repeats slowly.
Stiles drums his fingers on the counter. “Uh huh,” he says, trying wildly to figure out what his next move is. “Any chance you could tell me where I said I was going?”
There's a moment where the man looks at Stiles, and Stiles looks at him, and they both seem to be silently waiting for the other to give in and break.
Turns out, the guy is a bit of a tough nut to crack. Buzzkill, maybe, is the word. "Why exactly would you need to know that?"
"I just do," Stiles says. "Look, at the risk of sounding a little over the top—this is all for love."
It definitely sounds over the top. And Stiles really should've read his audience a little better; this man is clearly not the type to be swayed by romantic grandeur.
"I'm sorry," he finally says. "I have no information."
All right, Stiles thinks as he trudges back to his car none the wiser, that probably wasn’t the smartest way to have that conversation.
Okay, so he goes back home. The drive feels a little dry the second time around, and Stiles tells himself firmly that it shouldn't, and that it shouldn't matter at all. Two weeks ago, he was perfectly fine living life without Peter, and that's such a short period of time. How could so much possibly have changed in such a short time?
He'll go back home, and everything will go back to normal. People don't just shack up in motels for a little while and find their lives are different when they've emerged. Everything's the same. Stiles tells himself this on repeat as he speeds ten miles over the limit and tries to focus on the blur of the road. In a few days or so, he'll be telling all his friends all about the crazy thing that just happened to him and how they're never going to guess who he ran into all the way up in Greenview thanks to a freak snowstorm, and Peter will be god knows where cooking up trouble and they will never have to bother each other ever again.
Stiles can only hope his roommate still won't be around when he gets home. Or maybe Stiles hopes he will, and that he'll be in the mood to share some tension-relieving illegal substances for Stiles to take the edge off this exceptionally shitty day. He turns his Beyoncé CD back on to try his best to lift his somber spirits.
“Your love’s got me looking so crazy right now,” Stiles sings loudly, badly, and keeps driving.
If the drive back to Greenview was long, the drive back to Beacon Hills (for the second time) was like pulling himself through a mud pit. His Beyoncé CD hits an end, and starting it over doesn’t quite feel right, and nothing about sitting in a car driving through slushy streets feels adventurous and daring anymore. What it feels like is the complete failure of a man intending to have sex with someone he was sure wanted to have sex with him too.
Now he’s on his way back, sexless and disappointed, continuously telling himself that it doesn’t actually matter. If someone was narrating his life right now, they’d probably be saying the opposite.
But there’s nothing he can do about any of it. If Peter really was head over heels in love with him, he’d do something. Say it, show it, write it in the clouds, murder a village for him as a sign of affection. Stiles doesn’t know. It wouldn’t be what he ended up with, a whole lot of silence and no real conclusion to their time spent together.
He’ll get over it. He will.
He says as much to himself as he parks outside of his dormitory, considering texting Scott and crashing there for a few nights if only to tell him this wacky story, but first he really should change his clothes. Maybe even get rid of that hoodie for good if only because it smells overwhelmingly like Peter, like that motel, like all the amenities Peter hoarded.
He needs to stop letting his mind go there. A month ago, he wasn’t even thinking about Peter, perfectly content to sweep that chapter of his life aside, and now he can’t even look at the hoodie he’s wearing without thinking about how it looked on Peter, how it sat on his shoulders, how the sleeves slid over his hands.
For the love of god.
“If he really cared,” Stiles mutters to himself, stomping upstairs to his dorm room, fiddling for the right key on his key ring, “he would call. He would text. He has your fucking number.” He jams the key into the lock and opens the door.
Or maybe he would just show up.
There’s Peter, right there, in his dorm room, in his small kitchen, head cocked over his shoulder to see who just arrived. Damn, Stiles almost forgot he knows how to pick locks, which is still something that just tickles Stiles, that someone who can rip doorknobs off of doors without a shred of effort goes through the trouble of picking locks. The wind feels a little swept out of him. Has he been in a car too long? Has he been breathing in exhaust fumes and now he’s hallucinating all this?
"Hey," Peter says. He's wearing an apron Stiles is sure he doesn't own and is standing over Stiles' shitty stove holding a wooden spoon. Stiles blinks. He's still there. "Now this is room service, you see?"
“I thought—I didn’t expect to see you here.”
“And yet, here I am.”
Here he is. Here he is.
It smells like an Italian restaurant has exploded in his tiny dorm room kitchen. The trash can is overflowing with pasta boxes and vegetable skins and Peter looks like a fifties housewife. Stiles storms up to him, never this hungry for something that wasn't food in his life, and yanks Peter to him by the pocket on his apron. His ridiculous, frilly, bright yellow apron.
"Careful," Peter says, and he sounds perfectly composed even as Stiles reels him in by the back of his neck, but it looks like he's biting the inside of his cheeks. "I can't let the food burn."
"Fuck that," Stiles says. He should've kissed Peter in that motel room. He should've climbed on top of him on that king bed and put Marvin Gaye on and shut the TV off. He should've done a lot he didn't do, but he's not making that same mistake twice. "You were right. I am bored. My life is a little boring."
"I knew it," Peter says.
"And I missed shit like having a werewolf call me up in the middle of night needing rescuing. And I missed feeling alive and excited and nervous ninety percent of the time." Stiles presses his fingertips into the back of Peter's neck, almost distracted by how close they are, how Stiles can count every single eyelash Peter has from this proximity. "This is the part where you tell me that I was right too and that you want to mellow out a little bit on the danger and murder and bullet holes."
"I'm in a fucking apron," Peter snaps. "Is this not mellow enough for you?"
"You look hilarious," Stiles admits, mouth stretching with the force of his smile. "You know that I went back to that motel?"
"I did. For you," Stiles clarifies. "Can we fucking kiss now?"
Peter's answer is an impatient little growl that sounds like yes, yes, that's a yes, and then their mouths are pressed together and Stiles can't help but think about unbelievably good it feels, how he knew all along that it would feel good, and how he's glad he finally decided to go for it. He winds his arms around Peter's shoulders and holds him impossibly close, tilting their lips together and memorizing the slick slide of Peter's tongue against his own.
"Can we talk about," Stiles pants against Peter's mouth, "how totally in love with me you are?"
"I have no idea what you're referring to."
"I'm not doing this until you admit it," Stiles says even as he hastily takes his hoodie off, the same hoodie that smells like Peter, that he had been planning on burning up until this point. "You called me from a payphone."
"Your cell phone was dead, and you called me from a payphone," Stiles explains. "How'd you know my number?"
Peter's hands falter for a moment where they're rubbing the small of Stiles' back. He looks rather sour, like he's just been caught red-handed or Stiles just read his secret online journal or someone's found out that he actually has the capacity to crush on somebody and not know how to deal with it. Stiles can't help himself; he acts on instinct and kisses the disgruntled look off of Peter's face.
"Tell me," he coaxes.
"I never forgot it," Peter admits in a low tone. "Trust me—I would’ve loved to. It just stuck.”
It just stuck. Like how Peter is stuck on Stiles. How extraordinarily sticky Stiles can be and how people just can never look away. Maybe he really is irresistible.
“You’re a liar,” Stiles says. “You probably stared at my number every day and dreamed about calling me.” Peter grumbles and hoists Stiles up by the ass, probably to carry him over to the nearest flat surface, but if Peter was hoping to distract him into silence, he miscalculated how absolutely focused Stiles can be on humiliating Peter until he turns red in the face. “You listened to sad Sarah McLachlan songs and thought about me. You—oh!”
He’s unceremoniously dumped on a bed—thankfully not his roommate’s—and Peter crawls on top of him lengthwise. It’s a tiny bed, one of those dorm mattresses that Stiles is convinced was refurbished from a prison’s storage warehouse, and immediately Stiles curses the fact that they couldn’t have done this in the humongous king bed left behind in Greenview that would’ve supported all kinds of sexual acrobatics and rolling hither and thither in ecstasy.
“You need to stop talking,” Peter advises, pulling his jacket off in a single swift movement. “Can you do that?”
“No,” Stiles admits, grinning. He pulls Peter down by the back of his neck, close enough to push their noses together. “Tell me about how many nights you sat awake drafting text messages to me.” If possible, his grin gets wider. “I want every detail of your pining heart.”
Peter doesn’t give him the satisfaction of telling him, cutting off his smart mouth with a firm kiss instead, which truth be told, Stiles doesn’t mind too much. This isn’t a time for slow, heartfelt confessions and sentimental moments, it’s time to finally rip each other’s clothes off and kiss for so long they both light-headed.
Stiles arches his hips up, feels Peter’s clothed dick meet his, and tries to roll them over so he can gain the upper hand. He almost falls off the side of the bed in the process, Peter saving him by hooking an ankle over his leg and seizing his forearm.
“Goddammit,” Stiles grumbles, regaining his balance and repositioning himself so he’s straddling Peter’s waist. “Why couldn’t we have done this in a bed slightly larger than a tuna can?”
“You tell me,” Peter says, sounding equally as disgruntled. “You and your internal monologue. Keeping us from having sex because of some misplaced pride that you were better than your sexual urges—”
Peter grabs him by his wrists and flips them back over again fast enough to give Stiles whiplash. “As if you don’t know. You know perfectly well that we could’ve had sex in that motel if you had just given in.”
He swoops down and licks his way up Stiles’ neck before Stiles can give him a quick-witted response, not that he’s entirely sure he even had one at the ready. He would say it was Peter’s fault too, but then again, Peter was inviting him to share baths and walking around half-naked, so maybe it really was Stiles’ fault that they didn’t do this sooner.
Point is, they’re doing it now.
Peter's teeth tease over the arched curve of Stiles' neck and Stiles feels every part of him lurch, like during that first plunge in a roller coaster.
"Oh my god, Peter, touch me," he says, pushing his body up into Peter's, grinding, rubbing, begging. Peter's hands are woefully missing from Stiles' overheating skin, and it takes Stiles a minute to figure out it's because they're working the knot in the apron up around his neck.
Finally, he flings it aside. Stiles vaguely registers that those are tiny penguins on the fabric, and yes, there's no way he's ever seen that apron before, which means that sometime between the motel and the dorm, Peter was in a store picking out patterned aprons like a stay-at-home mom who wants to spruce up her baking accessories, and that's an image Stiles really wants to pay proper attention to later. Much, much later.
"Next time, you should keep it on," Stiles suggests.
“I’ll consider it,” Peter says, and yanks his shirt off and over his head.
Stiles hopes to god that his roommate doesn't take this precise moment to come home and barge in. They've never even discussed a sock-on-a-door policy before, but maybe it's time Stiles should implement one. Maybe there will be repeat performances of he and Peter doing this sort of thing.
"Holy shitcakes," Stiles breathes, and without thinking twice about it, his open palm slides down Peter's bared chest.
He pulls it abruptly back when he sees the unbelievably cocky smirk tilting Peter's mouth. He puffs his chest out like a peacock looking for attention and grins. "Not bad, if I do say so myself, huh?" he murmurs, and Stiles feels that if Peter knew any peck dancing tricks, now is when he'd flaunt them. "Want a picture?"
"You are so annoying," Stiles grumbles. He sits up, embarrassingly captivated by the smoothness of Peter's chest, no longer marred by holes and oozing marks, and ducks in to lick down the canal of his rib cage before he can curb his urge.
Peter lets out a shaky breath and touches his neck, thumb pressing into an aching spot that he must've just recently mauled into an impressive hickey and is now admiring. Stiles wishes he could do the same, lick and suck and nibble bite marks all over Peter's body, see the imprint of his mouth on Peter's skin, but it all smooths away too quickly when he tries. He isn’t complaining about it too much—he did spend two whole weeks cringing at Peter’s gnarly injuries—but he doesn't relent with his mission to pay Peter's healed chest the attention it deserves, the attention he's wanted to give it after days of his eyes zoning in on it, the smattering of hair, the definition of muscles, the scattered lacerations that tainted the entire picture. He drags his fingernails down Peter's abdomen and flattens his tongue over Peter's left nipple.
"Someone's eager," Peter's saying, and as much as he's probably intending to mock, he sounds infinitely more awed.
"It's just nice to see you in... one piece," Stiles says, rubbing his fingers over a spot he knows a bullet hole sat not two days ago. "No more holey bits. You looked like Swiss cheese for a bit, you know."
"Mm," Peter replies. "I'm all better now." He seems to puff out a little as Stiles kisses a slow line up between his ribs, sucking a quickly fading spot right on the sharp curve of his collarbone. "Now I'm practically perfect, yes?"
Stiles quiets his preening with a firm kiss. He lets his hands wander while their tongues push together, hastening to find the zipper on Peter's jeans and get them one step closer to being tossed carelessly to the floor. Peter’s hands are working with the same frenzy, yanking Stiles’ shirt up to his neck. They pull back from their kiss breathless, Stiles helping in tugging his hoodie and his tee away and promptly resuming his task of pushing Peter’s pants off his hips.
“Too many clothes,” Stiles says, already overheating and desperate to see Peter in all his naked glory. “Get naked already.”
“You’re awfully bossy, you know that?” Peter says, but he’s smiling, like it’s a trait he’s loving on Stiles. He shucks his pants off, his underwear following, and suddenly it’s nothing but lean, lean skin, endless miles of it, all for Stiles’ taking. He curls his hand around Peter’s waist, feeling the soft skin, counting the knobs of his spine, and Peter leans down and licks over Stiles’ nipple, tongue trailing down his chest.
“Is now when you would turn on the Lana Del Rey or what?”
“Seriously, Stiles,” Peter says, pulling down Stiles’ jeans. “Shut up.” And to emphasize that point, he draws Stiles’ entire cock into his mouth.
He’s unbelievably good at this, which is a miracle, because for years Stiles thought all that mouth was good for was bragging and sarcastic banter, but apparently his true talents lie elsewhere. He suckles around the head of Stiles’ length and lets him hit the back of his throat, his tongue completely unforgiving in the way it flattens and circles and licks around Stiles. If this is supposed to make him shut up, Stiles thinks Peter is overestimating Stiles’ ability to keep a lid on his noises, and groan after whimper after embarrassing whine slips out from his mouth. He bucks his hips up and Peter lets him, not bothering to restrain his shaking legs and instead focusing on overstimulating the fuck out of Stiles, so much so that it takes Stiles a moment to notice when Peter’s pulled back.
“Tell me that somewhere underneath all this truly charming college student mess,” Peter says, and his voice is so rough that Stiles could listen to him recite whole books with that raspy, hoarse throat of his all the while knowing it’s a result of his enthusiastic blow job skills, “you have equipment.”
“I wasn’t a Boy Scout for nothing,” Stiles says when he catches on to what Peter’s talking about, scrambling up to grope around under his bed. Somewhere between the textbooks and the forgotten Hot Pockets and last month’s laundry, there should be relief in the form of condoms and lube.
Turns out, it’s a little more buried than he assumed, and Stiles has to bend over the bed and shift obstructions aside, a task that gets considerably harder when Peter decides his exposed ass bent over the edge of the mattress is too tempting to ignore and starts dragging his thumb over his hole. Stiles jerks and pulls his head out from underneath the bed.
“Can you not?”
“Consider it an incentive,” Peter says, rubbing over his entrance with a spit-slicked finger, and Stiles dives back under the bed to find those goddamn condoms. When he retrieves them, it feels like Christmas morning and his birthday and all the candy he gets on Halloween rolled together, and he swings himself back onto the bed in triumph.
“Got ‘em,” Stiles announces, rolling onto his back.
“Wonderful,” Peter says, grabs the lube out of Stiles’ fingers, pushes Stiles’ thighs up for better access, and proceeds to suck Stiles’ cock back into his mouth.
Almost immediately, Stiles melts back into the sheets. This must be how Peter loves, in disorienting shocks that leave him trembling and never knowing when to expect the next one, and just when Stiles thinks he can predict what’s coming next, Peter pushes a lubed finger into him and Stiles nearly tears the pillowcase he arches to grab.
“Oh my god,” Stiles groans, especially when one finger quickly becomes two. He spears a hand into Peter’s hair. “Jesus fuck, yes. Keep doing that. Never stop doing that.” Peter’s probably getting off on this, being relentlessly praised by a naked boy writhing underneath him, but Stiles can’t bring himself to care right now. “Peter, fuck, fuck.”
Peter licks a sordid stripe up Stiles’ cock and grins between his legs. “Only if you keep doing that as well.”
Peter licks Stiles back into his mouth, his tongue and warm and wet and knowing exactly what to do to reduce Stiles to nothing more than whimpers, and then, oh god, is that three fingers—
“Fuck,” Stiles groans, hips stuttering. “You don’t need me to talk, you know perfectly well that you’re—ah—fucking amazing at this.”
Peter hums. It vibrates against his skin like a chuckle and Stiles knows exactly what it means.
“Yes, amazing,” he repeats, somehow both annoyed and aroused, how the fuck does Peter do this? “You irritate the fuck out of me but you also make me want to rip my clothes off and lay on top of you—holy shit, do that with your tongue again.” He takes in a shaky breath, remembering that oxygen is actually essential. “I probably actually would’ve laid on top of you in that stupid motel if you would’ve stopped being such an asshole all the damn time. And teasing me wasn’t appreciated, you know—holy shit.”
Peter’s fingers seem to have found the pleasure button that Stiles has never quite been able to reach, and oh boy, he’s pretty sure he just got rocketed into heaven for a split second. He’s not quite sure he’ll actually be able to keep this up if Peter expects him to hold off much longer, so he pushes at the softness of Peter’s hair until Peter retreats from his cock with one last slow lick.
“I hardly teased you,” Peter says, and there he goes again, with that coarse, delicious voice.
“Are you kidding me right now?” Stiles asks, indignant. “Sitting naked in that bathtub—”
“How one generally bathes.”
“—coming after me in that pool even though you knew I left because I was hard because of you—”
“Dear god, we’re not talking about that now,” Stiles says, shifting his hips to get Peter’s attention back to where it matters. “Seriously. We need to have sex.”
He pulls away from Peter’s fingers and snatches the lube up, slicking up Peter’s cock with the speed of an impatient, dangerously horny man with sexual tension that’s been building up for days. He takes a moment to actually appreciate Peter’s dick, the thickness of it in his hands, and gets a little distracted.
“You know,” Stiles says, smirking as he curls a second hand around Peter’s dick and strokes upward. “I’m quite the handyman, if you catch my drift.”
“Sex, Stiles,” Peter reminds him, touching his hip. “Bad jokes later.”
Peter pushes him down on the mattress and once again, Stiles almost teeters off the edge. Fuck, does he want to do this somewhere where they actually have room, where he can take his time and get as wild and rough as he wants. He wonders, vaguely, if that’s crazy, already planning and thinking about their next escapade, and if he should shut up his traveling mind and concentrate on the now, because the now has Peter naked and lubed up for Stiles.
"Dear god," Stiles groans, hooking his arm around the back of Peter's neck and yanking him down, closer, as closer as possible. Apparently he can't stop his mouth, because he says, "I want to do this with you everywhere."
Stiles bites down on Peter's jaw and sucks on the line of his jugular to avoid looking at his face while he speaks. Peter shudders above him, fingers tightening on Stiles' hips, touching, squeezing, driving Stiles into a frenzy. He wraps his legs around Peter's back, heels digging into the back of his thighs, crazy for this, crazy in love, and damn, how did Beyoncé get here again? How is she always relevant?
"I don't want this to be the end," Stiles says on his warm skin.
Peter stops moving, and it's not until he does so that Stiles realizes he's been grinding their cocks together, slow and slick. "Stiles," he says carefully. "Are you coming already?"
"What? No." Stiles pushes at Peter's shoulders until he can see the hooded heat in Peter's eyes. "I don't want us to have hot sex and have you leave and then everything is just—over."
He sounds ridiculous, and he's definitely ruined the sexy mood, and now they're just two naked, sweaty people pressed up against each other. Stiles squeezes his eyes shut. Peter's teeth nip right at his temple to open them back up again.
"Stiles," he mumbles. From this close, all Stiles can see is the blur of Peter's stubble and the arch of his eyebrow. "I memorized your phone number." Peter's mouth drags down to his ear. "It wasn't over for me even when it was for you."
Stiles' entire body thrums with prickles. It's that addictive warmth that comes with knowing you're actually the object of someone's affection, that someone's interested in sex with you, that someone's never forgotten you, even after all these years. Stiles grabs Peter's cheeks in his hands and stares at him.
"I thought about you here and there," he admits. "Mostly when I was researching some grotesque murder for class."
"Is this your attempt to seduce me?" Peter says.
"Well, you already have your pants off," Stiles observes. "And you're about to fuck me. So I don't think I need to bother with wooing you."
He bucks his hips up, pushing their dicks together. He's not sure he can wait that much longer. He's hard enough to ache and wants Peter inside of him already and is so, so sick of the sexual tension when he's so, so close to sexual completion. He spreads his legs a bit more, fumbling for Peter's hand to guide it away from his hip and back to his entrance.
Peter makes a low, rumbling, heady noise of agreement.
"I'm ready," Stiles begs. "And if you want to watch me ride your fingers for a little longer, I will, but please promise me it'll end with you finally fucking me."
"Stiles," Peter says, voice pitched deep.
"Because if I have to wait any longer, I think I'll combust. I—fuck, Peter, I want your cock in me, I want to feel it."
"Stiles," Peter says again—growls, really. "You need to stop riling me up."
He looks about three seconds away from growing fangs, like Stiles just makes him lose all control of his inhibitions. It's so weirdly flattering that Stiles can't help but grin and grab Peter's cock and shift forward on the bed until the head of it is nudging his hole.
"Maybe I like seeing you riled up."
He keeps moving his ass, lifting, teasing, letting Peter's cock slip between his ass cheeks and drag over his entrance. Peter might know how to suck dick, but from the way Peter's staring, mesmerized, at Stiles' ass, Stiles has just found his own sexual calling. Maybe Peter's not the only tease.
"Stiles," Peter repeats, and fuck, the way he says Stiles' name, all reverently and slowly like a sweet to roll around in the mouth, makes his cock twitch. He wraps his hand around his own neglected length and strokes it, and for a moment Peter's eyes flick between his ass and his cock, like he can't make up his mind where his attention is needed most. "Can you please stop acting out my every masturbatory fantasy of you before I lose all control?"
And then, without bothering to wait much longer, he pins Stiles down into the mattress and pushes into him with one smooth thrust, and it feels like there's some aching, empty part inside of him that fills up, the part that Peter accurately labeled bored, the part that craved so many things that strolling across campus and cramping his furniture into a dorm room didn't fulfill.
Peter doesn't move right away. He buries in deep and stays where he is, agonizingly unmoving, and Stiles clenches and moans around the intrusion to excite Peter, but Peter is focused, eyes shut, head tipped back, hands tight on Stiles' waist. He takes in a ragged breath, the kind that makes Stiles want to kiss him until all the breath is stolen away and he's a panting mess, and jerks Stiles closer by threading a hand into his hair by his neck.
He murmurs onto his ear, "Be a good boy for me," he advises, "and find something to hold onto."
Stiles swallows; the sound seems all too audible in the small room. They could've done this in that motel and been loud and thrusted the headboard against the wall and ripped the sheets and cried out enough to get noise complaint calls from the front desk, but instead they're in Stiles' dark, small bed and Stiles is never, ever forgiving Peter for this. Their first time and it's somewhere so restricting. Stiles hardly has anything to hold onto except the edge of the end table and the groove of Peter's shoulder.
It feels like there are sparks behind Stiles' eyelids, the kind that blind your vision after a punch, and for a moment, it feels as if his entire body is sizzling, hot and alive with the sensation of Peter's cock inside him. He jerks his hips, listening for a hitch in Peter's breath, and is rewarded instead with a hiss, a bite to his earlobe, and a swivel of Peter's pelvis that seems to dig him even deeper inside Stiles before he pulls out, slick and fast, and rams back in.
It's like a switch flips in Peter, and waiting around savoring the heat of Stiles around him is no longer his objective—now it’s fucking Stiles in earnest and watching him gasp with every thrust, with a force and fierceness that almost rids Stiles of the ability to breathe. His hand slides around Stiles’ cock, stroking him in tandem with his quick, demanding pace, and Stiles can hardly find it in himself to breathe. He pulls on the nape of Peter’s neck, drawing him close, and speaks into his ear, gasping.
“You’re good at this,” Stiles tells him. “You’re—oh, damn, are you good at this.”
“Better than your hot tub excursion?” Peter pants back, hips rolling in sliding out, and fuck, Stiles wishes he could feel all of him, without the condom, without the obstructions.
“When you told me about him at the pool,” Peter says, growls, really, and his hand tightens around Stiles’ thigh, squeezing his dick, “I wanted to drag you into the water and pull your underwear down.”
“Make you come there,” he says, and Stiles isn’t going to make it, not with Peter whispering filth in his ear like this. “Again in the elevator on the way up. Once again with you riding me on our bed.”
Our bed. The bed they shared, slept in, pressed up close in. Something about the way Peter’s saying it makes it sound so damn domestic, like for a short amount of time, they were living together and they were owning things together and it actually worked, the two of them. Stiles wants this to keep happening, he wants Peter’s things strewed around the room with his own, he wants all of his clothes smelling of Peter, he wants Peter to sleep in his bed so much the pillow smells of his conditioner.
"I'm not giving this up," Stiles says, demands, and wraps his legs around Peter's waist. "This—you—fuck. This is so good."
They kiss, Peter’s mouth finding Stiles’ and parting against his, their tongues sliding together, each whimper out of Stiles’ mouth landing directly on Peter’s lower lip. Peter’s pace become brutal, his cock snapping into Stiles with a greed that feels like what sex is supposed to feel like, not fumbled handjobs in a hot tub, not even sex in a cluttered hotel room, but rough, ardent sex in Stiles’ home, on his own bed, Peter’s sweat soaking into his sheets. Peter’s left hand is slipping where he’s holding Stiles’ thigh in place and his right hand is strong and steady on Stiles’ dick, and everything feels like it’s building, like Stiles is about to firework right on out of here.
“Harder,” Stiles begs, dipping his nose into Peter’s neck and pressing thoughtless kisses there, biting groans into his skin. “I’m so—just—right there.”
“I have you,” Peter murmurs, and he’s panting, and somehow that makes Stiles all the hotter. Peter’s hand touches the nape of his neck, slipping off his leg.
He does push in harder, and it’s just what Stiles needs, and each thrust makes the bed croak, pushes the sheets against Stiles’ back until it burns, pulls a warm flush to Stiles’ chest. There’s blood pounding in his head and his dick is slotted just right in Peter’s grip and—
“Oh, Peter, I’m.” He can’t even finish his sentence, not when his orgasm punches into him and collapses on top of him and he’s coming in Peter’s grip, with Peter’s cock pounding inside him. He holds onto Peter’s arms and digs his fingernails into the soft skin by his shoulder, clenching around him as he spills over and pushing his lips against Peter’s warm neck, feeling it rumble with the growl working its way through Peter’s vocal chords.
“That’s it,” Peter says, squeezing his hip.
“Come on,” Stiles coaxes. “Come in me, come on, Peter.”
He clenches around Peter again, on purpose this time, and scrapes his nails down Peter’s back, trying his best to overstimulate, to urge him to let go. He kisses his neck, sloppy and open-mouthed and breathless, waiting for Peter to shudder through his release inside of Stiles, because of Stiles. Peter's hips are brutal how they're driving into Stiles, every bit of his body sensitive and boneless after having come, pulling strangled cries from his mouth that end in short, stuttered gasps.
Then Peter's fingers grab Stiles by the jaw, forcing his head up, and he kisses him, swallowing the sounds with one rough bite to Stiles' lower lip, and he tugs it into his mouth right as he comes and his body stills, hands tight enough to leave possessive fingerprints on Stiles' skin. In that moment, all Stiles wants is to flip off his health class instructors and throw the condoms out the window just to feel Peter spilling inside him, to feel his warm presence long after he pulls out.
He goes to say as much, then realizes that his lower lip is throbbing.
"You monster," Stiles says, still breathless, touching his mouth with his thumb. "You bit me."
"Consider it a longtime urge finally fulfilled," Peter says, and he draws Stiles' lip into his mouth gently after that as if to soothe the sting, licking the hurt away.
They kiss for a while after that, still winding down, still remembering how to use oxygen, and Stiles lazily wraps his legs around Peter's waist while Peter slowly cups his ass, kneading the skin there at a slow, relaxing pace, his cock still buried inside Stiles, and it all feels so comfortable and warm that Stiles isn't even thinking about cleaning up and wiping all his drying come off his chest.
"Wanna shower?" Stiles asks against Peter's slick lips.
"No," Peter says. He pulls back from Stiles' mouth, looking down at him and rubbing his thumb over Stiles' cheek as if appreciating what's currently flushed and fucked out beneath him. "I'd much rather sleep."
He slides out of Stiles and maneuvers them both until Stiles is tucked into his chest, Peter's arm draped over him. It's a tempting offer, one Stiles' exhausted body will definitely give into after he swipes the nearest shirt he can find off the floor and wipe himself clean.
“This bed really is woefully small,” Peter mutters, pulling Stiles higher up his chest so he doesn’t end up draped unsteadily over the edge. “Next time we’re going to mine.”
Stiles blinks a few times. Under his ear, Peter’s heart is perfectly steady. “Next time?”
“Well. I could always call you from up north needing your assistance in a week’s time,” Peter offers.
“A week’s time?” He realizes that he’s not entirely sure what this is—the occasional bimonthly fuck buddy, the kind of people who you call when you’re in trouble and then sleep with, or an actual attempt at recreating some of that spark that was between them in that godforsaken motel room? He wants the last one, damn, he wants the last one.
“Hmm.” Peter looks at the ceiling, thinking. “Tomorrow might work too.”
"Or you could just stay until then," Stiles offers. He expects Peter to say no, because after all, they just spent two weeks together with no escape, but Peter's body is soft underneath Stiles', lax, comfortable, content, his mouth quiet of complaints. "If you'd like."
“I’d like,” Peter says.
They stare at each other for a moment, and it feels so cheesy and so much like the last two minutes of a Hallmark movie that Stiles cracks up and laughs. He likes this, how it feels to laugh around Peter, to see his genuine smile, one that isn’t born out of evil plotting or the smug satisfaction of a successful revenge scheme.
“So you thought about me during all these years?”
“Mm,” Peter murmurs. “And you did too.”
“I did,” Stiles says. “But they weren’t sexy thoughts like yours.” He props his chin up on Peter’s chest for a second, hand sliding over his stomach, reveling in how smooth and intact it is. “Was it all worth the wait?”
Peter yawns. It reminds Stiles of how sleepy he is too, thoughts fuzzy and legs feeling distinctly rubbery, so he goes back to pillowing his head on Peter's chest and listening to the relaxed pumping of his heart.
"Yes," Peter replies, drawing Stiles up close. It feels just like all those nights Peter kept Stiles up against his chest to warm him up, except now it's with purpose and meaning and, also, naked bodies. That last one is important.
Stiles wakes up eight hours later to the sound of sizzling food on the tiny stove. He arches upward to get a glimpse of Peter's totally naked ass, the bare slope of his back and firmness of his thighs tickling his stomach and waking him up significantly more than an alarm clock ever could. He hopes this habit of Peter making food for him is going to be a recurring thing. In the nude is another plus, but Stiles is willing to negotiate.
"Making breakfast?" Stiles calls out.
"Eggs," Peter says, which is funny, because Stiles doesn't even remember seeing eggs in the fridge. He hopes Peter didn't knock on people's doors in his birthday suit asking for them. He's just glad his roommate isn't here and stretched out on his bed also privy to the pornographic nude show Peter's giving in the kitchen right now.
He scratches his hands over his scalp, waiting for consciousness to fade back to him, and realizes that there's something taped to the wall opposite of Stiles' bed. He squints until he recognizes it.
"You hung up your rendition of me?" Stiles asks, amused.
"I saw it poking out of your sad little travel bag," Peter answers. "An artist's hard work deserves to be displayed."
"I'm going to seem like the vainest person alive. It’s going to look like you’ve been rubbing off on me." He pauses, mouth breaking into a wide smile. “In multiple ways.”
“That isn’t the worst thing in the world.”
“Did you keep mine of you?”
“What do you think?” Peter asks.
“You’re terrible,” Stiles says, rifling through the pile of clothes by the bed to find a shirt. He comes away with Peter’s and decides a little payback in the wardrobe thieving department is necessary. “I put my heart and soul into that drawing.”
“The thought is not what counts,” Peter says, and okay, these are the sort of comments Stiles should probably get used to.
He watches Peter’s elbow move as he shifts a spatula around a pan, the way he looks barefoot in Stiles’ dorm room, how it all seems to fit. Stiles isn’t going to give up school or run away with Peter to traverse the mountains as bandit partners, but he’s ready to sprinkle some spice in his life. He’s ready to add Peter into the mix, and whatever drama he might present. He’s ready to reach that compromise, to make things interesting, to never be bored again.
"Last night's macaroni and cheese dried out a little, by the way. Its prime has already passed," Peter says, grabbing forks from the utensil drawer.
"It's okay. We'll make something else for dinner tonight."
He waits for Peter to say something like maybe another time or I'm actually leaving after breakfast or I have yoga class to attend, sorry, but all he says is, "All right."
Stiles smiles. He stretches his arms over his head and looks out the window, seeing nothing but clear roads, blue sky, and a bright sun, and thinks about Peter standing over the stove, not showing a single sign that there's anywhere he'd rather be.