Peter opens the door to the cottage, a greeting ready on his lips and freezes. His nostrils flare as a strange scent hits him right in the gut, the smell as solid as a punch to the stomach. He almost flinches from the force of it. The scent is complex, something like honey and cedar and the burnt ozone left behind after a lightning strike. Talia is saying something but Peter doesn't even register her voice.
He drops his luggage and bags of Christmas presents in the doorway and stalks forward into the house, tracing that delectable smell. Talia calls after him, but he ignores her.
He finds the source of the smell in the den. There's a stranger—several, actually—sitting in front of the fireplace, talking animatedly with large hand motions. Cora looks up from where she's seated on the floor with the others, and oh, yes, Talia had mentioned Cora would be bringing some of her friends from Berkley who had never seen snow. The group falls silent as Peter walks right through their circle. Peter drops to one knee in front of the young man who is the source of the scent and all of Peter's instincts scream at him mate-claim-mine.
He reaches forward slowly, giving the man time to react or pull away. The man gapes, pretty, plump lips hanging open as Peter takes his right wrist in a loose grip and brings it up toward his mouth. Peter lets his eyes shine blue, letting only that small bit of his wolf through before he kisses the man's pale wrist.
There's a spark of surprise in the man's doe-like brown eyes, a startlement that makes Peter's inner wolf think of prey and chase and hunt.
"What's your name?" Peter asks.
Peter stands, regarding Stiles for a moment longer. An audience has gathered, his family and their guests drawn in from other parts of the house. One of the other college kids starts asking questions but Peter is already moving, shedding clothing as he leaves the house.
He has work to do, work that requires four paws and fur and teeth. Amelia opens the sliding glass door for him as he bounds out onto the back porch. She shouts encouragement after him and he grins as he disappears into the forest.
When Peter returns, he's naked and covered in blood. The snow is up to his knees, but he doesn't care. His werewolf blood keeps him warm enough, even without the extra exertion of carrying a dead buck over his shoulder. His sisters must have heard him coming because Amelia's waiting with a thick, fluffy robe at the foot of the porch stairs. He puts one foot on the stairs. Talia raises one eyebrow in a look that says "don't you dare gut that thing on the porch."
Peter huffs a laugh and drops the buck at the foot of the stairs. He takes the robe Amelia offers as the rest of the pack starts to emerge onto the porch with steaming cups clutched in their hands. Someone made cocoa from scratch. Talia's holding a second mug for him.
He frowns at the crowd until Cora shoves through, pushing Stiles in front of her. Stiles's eyes widen when he sees the dead deer, but he doesn't smell of fear, which pleases Peter in a way that makes heat curl like fire in his belly. Stiles's smell still pulls at Peter, but his wolf is appeased that they've made the first steps to court their mate.
Peter turns back to the deer, ripping open a spot behind its shoulder so that he can reach in and pull out its still warm heart. Blood drips onto the stairs as Peter approaches Stiles, holding out the raw heart.
"It is my intention to court you, Stiles, as my mate. I offer you this deer as a symbol of my ability to provide anything you may need."
A wicked smile stretches across Stiles's face. His hands frame the heart, not touching, and then the smell of cooking meat fills the air. Peter lets out a pleased rumble as the heart cooks but his hand is unaffected. A witch, eh? Peter can work with that.
Once the heart is heated to Stiles's satisfaction, he lowers his hands and meets Peter's eyes. "I accept your gift, Peter. I am impressed by the size of your..." Stiles's eyes flicker to the gap in Peter's robe. "...offering."
It takes all of Peter's will to hold still as Stiles leans forward and takes a bite out of the heart. Peter grins. It's rare to meet humans that are aware of werewolf culture at all, let alone courting rituals. It's also possible that Cora coached him, but Peter knows his niece and she's the type to sit back and watch Stiles fumble his way through.
Talia lifts the heart out of Peter's hand, replacing it with a cup of cocoa. Blood stains the white porcelain but Stiles just smiles. The pack moves past them, heading down to take the rest of the deer out to one of the sheds on the property to properly butcher it. Stiles breaks the lingering stare that has held Peter frozen to follow the others. When Laura had brought her then-girlfriend, now-wife a deer, Emily had made an amazing venison stew that's still talked about at family gatherings. Peter watches Stiles walk through the snow and wonders what Stiles will bring him.
Dinner that night is venison steak accompanied by brussel sprouts, a squash medley, and cornbread. He knows this is Talia's husband Paul's work, not Stiles's and it only makes Peter's curiosity grow. Peter feels nicely relaxed after a long, hot shower. Amelia had hung his clothes while he was in the woods and set out a soft blue V-neck that highlighted his eyes and grey slacks. She gives him two thumbs up as he takes the place set out for him in the middle of the table. Stiles is seated opposite him and Peter assumes the young man at the end of the table opposite Talia is Stiles's Alpha.
No one speaks, though it looks like two of the boys from Stiles's pack are brimming with questions. Everyone's watching Stiles expectantly.
Peter's eyes flash as Stiles pulls his hand out from under the table. He slides an elegant knife across the table, point first.
"I offer you this knife," Stiles says, "made from your gift, as a symbol of my ability to provide for your care and protection."
Peter raises an eyebrow but he takes the knife, turning it over in his hands. It was obviously shaped with magic. This level of crafting takes days, not hours. The hilt is from the larger base of an antler, flared at the ends for better grip. The blade is bone. Leg bone, most likely. He brushes his thumb along the edge and smiles as it cuts cleanly through his skin. There are runes carved into the hilt and the blade, but he'd have to look them up to figure out what they do.
"It's beautiful," Peter says. "I accept your offering. Thank you."
Stiles grins as a cheer breaks out around them. Cora bumps her shoulder with Stiles's while Stiles's Alpha frowns slightly. The redhead is whispering to the two confused boys next to her, explaining the stage of courtship they've reached.
"What do you study, Stiles?" Peter asks as he piles his plate with meat and vegetables. He's pleased to note that Stiles serves himself from a small dish of meat that most of the non-wolves ignore. He's eating the heart Peter gave him.
"Criminal justice," Stiles says. "My father's the Sheriff of Beacon County. I've always wanted to follow him into the force."
"Very admirable of you."
Stiles shrugs. "It's a calling. And there's a lack of witches in law enforcement so I've got my pick of placements."
Peter grins. "I'm sure your father will be pleased. I assume you plan to stay near home?"
Stiles nods. "Yep. Beacon Hills. I'm the pack's emissary." He waves a hand toward his Alpha. "That's Scott, by the way. Scott McCall."
The name rings a bell. Peter's grin widens. He turns to regard Scott. "A true Alpha."
Scott flushes and stammers something self-deprecating the Peter barely pays attention to. Conversation flows around him as the family and guests chatter. Peter only cares about the things Stiles says—what Berkley is like, his studies, the apartment he shares with Scott, Allison, Cora, and Isaac. The gears in Peter's brain are already turning. He can easily relocate his studio to San Francisco. He's been getting sick of New York City. He could use the change. Would it be inappropriate to fly in Stiles's family for a Christmas wedding?
Cora badgers her friends into helping clear the table when dinner wraps up. Scott tries to go with them but the redhead—Lydia, he's learned—glares at him until he slinks into the den. Stiles takes Peter's hand and follows Scott. There's a chess table set up. Peter grins while Scott whines.
"Stiles, I'm horrible at chess."
Stiles grins and glances at Peter. "I know."
Scott huffs but dutifully takes his place on the opposite side of the table. He rolls his eyes as Peter says "I challenge you, Alpha McCall, for the hand of your packmate."
"Yeah, whatever." Scott waves a hand, obviously a bitten wolf from the informality of his response. Lydia smacks him hard enough to make him yelp and he adds "I mean, I accept your challenge and will judge your worthiness by this trial."
Peter's family wanders in and out of the room. Only Talia, Amelia, and Emily stay for the full game, despite Laura's attempts to lure her wife away. Laura hates chess. Emily loves it but only gets to play during family gatherings.
The match doesn't last long. Scott really is horrible. Scott's sigh when he loses is more resigned than upset. He shoots Stiles a look that seems to communicate something between the two of them. There's a lot of significant eyebrow movement and pointed twitches of their lips before Scott finally says "I accept your worthiness."
Peter moves to one of the armchairs as Emily and Lydia call next round. There's a spark in their eyes as they look over the reset board that Peter would guess means the start of a solid friendship. Stiles smirks. His fingers brush across Peter's shoulders as he passes behind Peter to approach Talia. Peter sits up in interest.
"Alpha Hale, I offer these charms as a token of my worthiness to join in your pack."
Stiles reaches into his pocket and produces a set of braided hide bracelets. There are bits of bone and antler tied in. Stiles carefully explains the uses of each. One protects an expectant mother during pregnancy and ensures strong children. Two are a mix of defensive wards and strengthening spells to protect during combat. The other three are more passive protections from unexpected dangers—smoke, poison, unseen projectiles.
Talia's eyebrows raise. "Thank you, Stiles. These are amazing. I accept your worthiness."
The happiness that floods the room is wonderful. Peter expects Stiles to go sit with his friends now that the rituals are over, but instead that wicked grin stretches across Stiles's face and he drops himself onto Peter's lap.
Peter blinks. He's not sure where he should put his hands but he knows where he wants to. The pinched look on Scott's face only encourages him further and he lets his hands rest low on Stiles's hips. "Hello, there."
"Hey, gorgeous," Stiles says. "I've been wanting to do this all day."
A chorus of whistles fill the room as Stiles pulls him into an absolutely filthy kiss. Peter licks his way into Stiles's mouth and his wolf howls with delight. Usually the whole courtship process can take months. They've just done it in a day. Then it's encouraged that the couple spend time together touching, possibly even sharing a bed. There is no doubt in Peter's mind that he's getting laid tonight. The pheromones coming off Stiles are making it very hard to sit still.
"So," Stiles says as he pulls away far enough to speak, "as much as I love watching a good chess game, I'd really like to see what your bed feels like."
Peter's on his feet before he even thinks about it. "Is it too soon to think about wedding dates?"
Stiles laughs. He's relaxed in Peter's arms, as if he's carried around all the time. "A little, but I've always been partial to May. Very traditional. Good weather. Supposed to be lucky."
Peter chuckles and leaps the rest of the way to the second-floor landing. Stiles shrieks in delight and clutches Peter tight.
Yes, this is definitely the one meant for him.