Some days were too much. Some days, Chris curled into himself and spent the day under the covers, hiding the entire day in the dark of his bedroom, not bothering to even open his curtains and let the daylight in. These days, he let his phone go to voicemail, assuming it didn’t cut through his head enough to pitch it across the room. On these days, he could almost swear he heard Allison’s humming through the walls, smell Victoria’s cooking wafting through the house. These days made his heart wrench, threatening to swallow him into nothing.
While these days were growing further apart, when they hit, they hit harder every time. He’d spent the last few holidays alone, lost in his heartache. Now, with Christmas drawing near, he found himself fighting off panic attacks every other day.
The pack had tried to convince him to join them, but he had brushed them off without explanation, again and again. Derek and Peter seemed to be the only ones who understood. Derek was mopier than usual, hovering around the edges of the rooms as the teenagers decorated, throwing tinsel on everything, singing along to the same songs every day. His smiles were sad, but present. On occasion, Stiles could make him laugh. Peter, however, was the same as always, snarky, putting in minimal effort to participate, but never wanting to be alone. Peter usually sat in his preferred spot on the staircase, taking effort to sit an extra inch away from the obnoxious garlands wrapped around the iron handrails. Chris had been present on a few of these days, only managing to stay when his drink was being refilled. He never lasted more than a couple hours.
Somehow, Christmas Eve had snuck up on him. He woke up some time after noon, deciding whether to fight to get out of bed. Luckily for him, he was spared the choice by his bladder. Groaning, he forced himself awake and into the bathroom. After, figuring he was already up, he shuffled into the kitchen and pulled out a container of instant coffee. He threw a half-full kettle onto the back burner of his stove and sat on the counter rubbing his hands over his face.
He hadn’t bothered to put up a tree. This was the third year since… he’d been alone. He avoided even looking at the corner where they’d put the tree that last year. He’d gone as far as to shove a bookcase there, to even avoid thinking about it.
The teakettle whistled and he poured himself a mugful, stirring in a spoonful of coffee flakes, watching them dissolve in tiny swirls. He sighed, reaching for the whiskey above the sink to Irish up his morning. Just as he poured a healthy splash in, his door rattled with a heavy knock. He scowled, looking down at himself, dressed only in wrinkled sleep pants.
The door shook again, whoever waiting there becoming impatient. He capped his whiskey, taking his time, and took a long drink of his scalding coffee, swallowing hard. Steaming mug in hand, he finally shuffled over to the door at the third set of insistent knocking.
He peeked out the peephole, surprised to see an irritated looking Peter Hale glaring into the circle of glass, wrapped in a scarf and peacoat, although he was pretty sure it couldn’t be less than 45 degrees.
“I can hear you standing there, you know.” Peter huffed out, folding his arms over his chest. “I would really rather not cause property damage just to see you.”
Chris sighed, taking another swallow of his drink, realizing he may have gone a little heavy on the whiskey, but not entirely minding. He unlocked the three locks on his door and swung it open, stepping aside for the wolf to enter. Peter clapped a hand on his shoulder, grin lighting up his face in a way Chris hadn’t seen all month. He pushed into the apartment and grimaced, hesitating a few steps in. Chris closed the door behind him, latching the locks again. Peter raised an eyebrow, but didn’t comment, knowing old habits die hard. Instead of commenting on the misery Chris was sure Peter could smell coming from every room, Peter took off his jacket and scarf, laying them over the back of one of Chris’ sitting chairs in the living room.
“Go shower.” He ordered. Although his gaze hovered a second on the mug clutched tightly in his hands, Peter said nothing about it.
Chris frowned over his cup, tipping back another swallow and holding the warmth close to his chest. He didn’t protest, knowing that if Peter hadn’t ordered it, he probably wouldn’t shower for the next three days. He finally gave a slow nod and shuffled to place his coffee mug on the kitchen counter, before leaving Peter to make himself comfortable in his living room.
Once Chris finally stood under the pulsing heat, he let his muscles sag. He closed his eyes, leaning his forearm on the cold wall and burying his face against his skin. Peter fucking Hale was doing god knows what in his apartment, on Christmas Eve, while he stood here in a daze, not even sure the time of day. To make matters worse, Allison’s face flashed through his head every time he blinked, regardless of the early morning alcohol trying to lull him.
He remembered every Christmas they’d ever had. He remembered the year Allison was two and Victoria had thrown his beer bottle against the wall when he’d taken a drink instead of grabbing the camera the second she’d asked. He remembered the year Allison was five and rode her brand new bike straight into a wall. He remembered when Allison was 10. Victoria spent the whole day making Allison’s favorite foods, but Allison ended up throwing up all night. He remembered the year they’d moved just days before the holiday, but Allison insisted they get a tree. She was 13 then, and convinced her Aunt Kate to drive her to the nearest store in a snowstorm and picked out a plastic thing with attached lights. She’d set it up herself while Chris and Victoria were arguing in their bedroom. He remembered her beaming when he stepped out and found it sitting in the middle of the bare floor. He’d fished out her Christmas present from the boxes and made it the first one under the tree.
He remembered his first year alone. He remembered smashing ornaments across the floor, his bare feet cut on the glass as he paced, half-empty fifth dangling from his fingertips. He remembered throwing his phone across the room when the pack just wouldn’t stop calling him. He didn’t remember falling asleep that night.
An angry sob bubbled from him before he could stop it. He let the water begin to run cold, crashing against his skin as he cried to himself. He couldn’t remember the last night he hadn’t cried.
He was sure Peter could hear him. Sure, in fact, that the wolf was actively listening, monitoring him.
He remembered the Christmas he was 17, madly in love with a rambunctious 13-year-old who acted like he was 18. Back when Gerard was pushing him to spend the holiday with the black-haired girl who didn’t seem to like him more than his father’s money. He remembered ice blue eyes beaming with pride as he’d awkwardly shoved a small, red-wrapped box into his hands, mumbling that he shouldn’t probably tell anyone where he got it. He remembered his heart pounding with joy when the young wolf had slipped the white gold chain over his head, too big for him at the time.
He wondered how many years after he’d left until Peter stopped wearing it.
And now, here he was, Christmas again, with the same Hale who’d wormed his way into his heart all those years ago, still trying to fix him like time had never passed.
Peter must have decided he’d been moping long enough. His knuckles rapped across the bathroom door, startling the hunter. Chris rubbed the now frigid water across his face, as though it would hide his tears from the wolf.
“I know your water is cold by now.” Peter sighed from the other side of the door.
“You can’t smell heat, can you?” Chris snapped, although it was half-hearted at best. Peter snorted.
“There’s no steam.” He gave another sharp knock. “Out. We’ve got places to be.”
Chris scowled again. Where the hell did Peter think he wanted to be today of all days?
The water was making his toes hurt from the cold, but he hadn’t actually showered yet. He squirted shampoo in his hair, scrubbing it around and rubbed roughly over the majority of his skin, trying to get some of the sweat off of himself. Quickly rinsing, he slammed the shower off and shook the water from his hair.
Chris wrapped a towel around himself and left the bathroom, not caring if Peter was hovering somewhere nearby. What he didn’t expect, was that Peter had vacated back to the living room, leaving a pile of warm clothes on his bed for him. He felt a tiny tug at his heart, which he tried to ignore by tugging his sweater on over his damp skin. He finished dressing and returned to the bathroom to brush his teeth and run a comb through his hair. He rolled on a swipe of deodorant and finally made his way to the living room.
He was surprised to see it had been tidied up. The dishes he’d let accumulate on every available surface had been stacked into his dishwasher, which was now humming away in the kitchen. The window had been cracked open, regardless of the chill now floating into the house.
“Sorry,” Peter said offhandedly from where he lay across the couch. “Couldn’t stand it anymore. Had to air the place out.”
Chris felt a little guilty, but nodded his thanks. He noticed that Peter had tossed his instant coffee container into the garbage. Before he could get indignant about it, the wolf called from the couch.
“Don’t even start with that.” He could practically hear Peter rolling his eyes. “I will not associate with someone drinking that sawdust. Starting tomorrow, you’ll be drinking fresh-ground.”
Chris muttered to himself. Peter was delusional if he thought Chris had the energy to grind coffee beans and wait for coffee to brew.
Peter suddenly stood, crossing over and sliding his window shut. He looked over Chris and nodded.
“Well, get your boots on.” He wrapped his scarf around his neck and slipped into his jacket, hands resting in the pockets as Chris moved at a snail’s pace.
When he was finally ready, Peter shoved him out the door, taking Chris’ keys from his hand. He locked the door and shoved them into his pocket, waving off Chris’ protests. He hustled them into his car, and they were already on the road before it occurred to Chris to consider where they were going.
“I don’t want to see the pack,” He suddenly sat up in Peter’s passenger seat, panic rising in him. He couldn’t handle the teenagers. He couldn’t handle loud, bustling people and even louder Christmas music. He couldn’t handle seeing a tree decked out with lights and presents. He couldn’t handle seeing the only other lonely person not alone, leaning on Stiles for support, while he had no one. Guilt shot through him as Peter side-eyed him from the driver’s seat as though he’d heard his thoughts.
“Relax,” Peter finally appeased him. “We’re not going to the loft. As you might have noticed, Derek has found support in a certain spark. Myself, I don’t particularly wish to spend Christmas Eve on a staircase with no other adults around.”
Chris hummed in agreement, but had nothing to say in answer. He sunk back into the seat, watching the streets go by. He had no idea where Peter was taking him, but as long as it’s out of the apartment, he wasn’t sure he cared.
Peter pulled off into a parking space on a side street right off of Main Street. He hopped out, hovering by his car door, like he didn’t know whether to wait for Chris or not. Christopher spared him and exited the car with a sigh. He was rewarded with a smile. Peter held out a hand for Chris. He eyed it suspiciously, but figured, what the hell. This miserable season couldn’t get much worse, why shouldn’t he let himself lean on the only person who wanted to actually spend time with him.
Peter closed his hand around Chris’ lightly, giving him the opportunity to drop if it was too much. Chris swallowed, feeling the old spark that he’d run from all those years ago. His fingers twitched, but he didn’t let go.
Peter led him down the street, meandering like they had no place to be, but Chris was sure he knew exactly where he was leading them. They walked a few blocks in silence, Chris feeling oddly anchored. Peter finally slowed in front of a deep red awning. He nodded wordlessly to the white script logo on the glass, quietly asking if Chris was okay with it. Chris looked up at the restaurant, recognizing the name as the fancy place everyone went to for special occasions. It was packed inside, every table he could see was full. He hesitated when Peter took a step toward the door.
“Too much?” He asked gently, eyebrows softening. Chris shook his head.
“No, but I doubt we’ll get a table-“ Peter cut him off with a wave of his hand.
“Come now, do you really think it didn’t occur to me it would be busy?” He rolled his eyes, and Chris was sure he saw a trace of affection there. He tugged again at Chris’ hand, stepping forward and holding the door open for him.
The place was loud, holiday instrumentals ringing from the walls, people chatting pleasantly, dishes clattering everywhere. Any other time Chris would have been overwhelmed, probably to the point of panic, but he could feel the heat of the wolf beside him, the fingers tightening around his own and he was somehow okay.
Peter had a reservation. Of course he did. Chris couldn’t imagine when he must have called it in to have a reservation on Christmas Eve. They were though the standing crowd and sat at a private table in the back within minutes. Somehow, Peter had even gotten them a back corner booth, where it was almost quiet and private.
“I know it’s a lot, but it’s been too many years having pizza in a living room and I couldn’t do it again.” Peter apologized casually, thumbing through the wine menu. He didn’t mention Chris’ ankle wrapped around his, keeping them both together in this moment.
Their dinner was fantastic. They didn’t talk much, but enjoyed steaks and wine, slipping further into relaxation. Peter ordered them dessert, some raspberry chocolate cake dripping with shining red sauce and cream. They shared it, Peter occasionally poking his spoon against Chris’ to make him look up and smile at him.
Chris was completely relaxed, like they were teenagers again. It was always easy when it was just the two of them. No families, no pressure, no one else but each other. Chris felt his ears heating up as he realized just how easily they’d fallen back into this, even after thirty-odd years. Peter smirked at him from across the table. He knocked their spoons together and stole the last raspberry on the plate. He popped it in his mouth and licked the chocolate from his lips. Chris resolutely looked away. He wasn’t sure he could do this now, tonight especially.
Apparently, Peter had taken care of the bill before they had even ordered.
“I told them it was a very special evening and I didn’t want to be disturbed for anything but wine and dessert.” He’d shrugged off when Chris had mentioned he hadn’t seen the waiter in a while. “We can stay as long as you like, coffee, wine, more cake. It’s all taken care of. We can leave whenever you’re ready.”
Chris was floored, he wasn’t expecting a nice dinner, much less one paid for by Peter Hale. He muttered his thanks, shyly poking his fingers at Peter’s hand resting on the table. The wolf wound their fingers together without a second thought.
“Anytime, Christopher.” He answered honestly. Chris couldn’t meet his eyes, but accepted the thumb running over the back of his hand.
They sat together for a while longer, Peter deciding to order coffee when Chris made no move to leave. In all honesty, Chris did not want to go back home alone. He would sit here with the wolf until they closed and be happy about it. Peter seemed to know this. He sat sipping his coffee, clearly in no hurry.
“So, Christopher,” Peter drawled out, stroking his thumb in a lulling pattern across Chris’ hand.
He looked up to find Peter watching him with the false confidence that he’d been able to see through since Peter was 13. That look had gotten him into a lot of trouble when they were younger. Whatever he was going to ask could only be dangerous for Chris.
“Have you figured it out by now?” His tone was light, but Chris could hear the strain he tried to hide. He tilted his head a little in question, to which Peter rolled his eyes. “I’m not letting you go home tonight, you know.” He left it hanging, making it a request, as much as he spoke it like fact.
“Yeah?” Chris asked, genuinely surprised. Peter looked at him like he was being an idiot, which, if he thought about the afternoon so far, he supposed he was.
“Christopher.” He said pointedly. Chris bowed his head in acquiescence. Peter made a pleased humming sound. “Now that that’s settled, are you ready to leave?”
Chris hadn’t had anything in front of him for a good 20 minutes, but had insisted on sitting. Not that Peter seemed to mind, by the way he wouldn’t let Chris’ hand go. Chris finally nodded.
“That’s it, darling.” Peter smiled to himself at hearing Chris’ heart stuttering a little as Peter praised him. He stood, taking Chris’ jacket from the hook at the end of the booth. He held open the sleeves for Chris, and even as the hunter grumbled he could do it himself, he slipped his arms into the waiting sleeves, tips of his ears already pink.
Peter pulled his own scarf and coat on and took Chris’ hand without bothering to ask. Chris grunted, tucking his chin into his jacket, but allowed Peter to lead them around the tables and out the door with a pleasant thanks to the hostess.
They stepped into the relatively quiet street, although the sidewalks were now bustling with people trying to hit the stores before they closed, and previously unnoticed Christmas carols chiming from the storefronts.
“So,” Peter started again, slowly leading them down the streets, wandering under the trees decorated with Christmas lights. Chris knew by the way Peter watched him from the corner of his eye that he was listening to be sure Chris was still okay. That, somehow, made the residual panic a little duller. “Would you prefer to do something, or sit on my couch with terrible movies that have nothing to do with the holiday? I was thinking maybe ice skating, or the park, or perhaps one fo those awful crime movies I seem to recall you adore?”
Peter had led them toward the downtown park, which was just lighting up in hundreds of twinkling lights. He must have heard Chris’ heart spike, because he frowned, turning them back toward the street they’d parked on. Chris felt guilt tearing through him. Peter was clearly trying to make the evening nice for him, but he couldn’t help the way his palms started to sweat when he saw Peter lit by the decorations. He felt his knees threatening to give way, Allison’s laugh ringing through his head. He closed his eyes, feeling foolish, embarrassed. He tried to keep control of his breathing, trying not to let himself cry in front of Peter. He was vaguely aware of the wolf speaking calmly beside him, but he couldn’t hear past the pounding in his ears.
Before he knew it, Chris was sitting in the passenger seat of Peter’s car, Peter kneeling on the ground in his expensive pants, warm hands bracketing his cheeks. His focus came back slowly, meeting ice blue eyes. Peter held that worried look that Chris had only seen a few times in their lives together, directed only at Derek, Stiles or himself. His eyes searched Chris’ face, still unable to relax even when he realized Chris was beginning to come back to him.
One hand drifted back, fingers swirling over the back of Chris’ neck. He shivered and lowered his eyes. He couldn’t handle Peter looking at him like that. They’d long since left any possibility of a Them behind, resigning only after Peter’s resurrection to be amicable. This whole day was out of no where, and although it had been like they were children again, they weren’t. Chris had to accept that this couldn’t be, he was a god damned adult, he shouldn’t be swayed by pretty eyes and a charming smile.
But even as he protested to himself, the warm hands slowly stroked against his skin, softer than he would have expected. He let them drag him away from panic, one brush at a time.
“I’m sorry,” Peter was saying softly. Chris was confused, he should be apologizing. He shook his head to say as much, but Peter’s thumb brushed over his lips and silenced him. “We’ll go home now.”
Peter looked over his face for another moment. He must have determined Chris was okay enough to leave for a moment, because he nudged Chris’ legs sideways until he was seated normally in the car. Closing the door carefully, he walked around to the driver’s side and climbed in. Chris noted the stains on his knees.
“Sorry about your slacks, I’ll get you new ones.” He told him, but Peter gave him a tiny glare that had him holding his hands up in surrender.
“You’ll do no such thing.” Peter watched him and nodded to the seatbelt. “Buckle.”
Chris did as he was told, closing his eyes and letting the hum of the engine take them away from the busy streets.
When Peter pulled into his apartment’s parking lot, Chris thought he might have fallen asleep. He remembered Peter’s hand resting on his knee, and then opening his eyes to the perfectly groomed grounds, decorated with tasteful white lights around the edges of the buildings. He felt dizzy, letting Peter pull him from the car. He leaned against Peter’s side for a moment before shaking himself back to reality. He pulled himself up straight, noting the surprise momentarily cross Peter’s face before he smiled and led the way into a glass door and up a flight of stairs.
Peter led him to a door at the end of a long hallway, unlocking and holding it open for Chris to enter. Chris stepped inside, a little in shock at the place. Peter had a corner apartment, windows on two sides of the large living room looking out over the grounds. The room looked like a page of a magazine, barely lived in, with odd decorations placed strategically so they somehow made the room flow. A large TV was mounted across from a plush brown couch, a fluffy white rug tucked underneath the couch and coffee table, taking up the middle of the hardwood floor. The kitchen stood to the right, all white wood and sleek appliances.
Chris followed Peter’s lead, taking off his jacket and hanging it on the coat tree by the door, kicking his shoes into the neat little line of footwear Peter had standing along the wall. Peter grinned and swept his hand to the room, inviting Chris in. The wolf sunk into his couch flipping the television on. He searched through the streaming apps, settling on a crime movie he thought he remembered Chris liking once upon a time. Chris hesitantly sat on the other end of the couch, spreading his knees just enough to be close to Peter, who instantly rested their legs together, making no further move to touch the hunter.
They watched movies and drank good whiskey until well past midnight, when Christopher found himself melted into Peter’s side, the wolf’s fingers swirling patterns along his hip, blinking away the sleep in his eyes. When Chris yawned for the third time in two minutes, Peter flipped off the TV. Chris was in no position to argue, his eyes only open at this point from sheer stubbornness.
“Bed.” Peter announced. He shifted the hunter away from his side, smiling with amusement as Chris shook his head. “Come on, I’m not leaving you alone.” He stood, holding out a hand. Chris looked at him for a moment, but made no move to get up. “I will carry you, Christopher,” He warned.
Chris couldn’t help the grin that spread over his face. He held out his hand, letting Peter pull him into standing. The wolf left him to follow on his own, flicking off the light and striding down the hallway casually.
It occurred to Chris that he had never been in his apartment before, much less his bedroom. He followed slowly, his socks sliding along the floor as he walked. He heard Peter rustling around in an open door to the right. He figured the wolf was only making noise for his benefit. He followed the sound, coming into a sparsely decorated bedroom. He had a massive bed with a plain wooden bed frame and squared headboard. The blankets were white and obscenely fluffy, with a good four pillows stacked near the top end. Peter had already tossed a neatly folded pair of sweatpants and henley at the foot of the bed for Chris, paying his company no mind as he stripped off his own shirt and wandered into the bathroom.
Chris, left alone, changed his clothes slowly, reveling in just how soft Peter’s clothes somehow seemed to be. He roughly folded his clothes, setting them in the nearest corner. Peter came back in the room, smelling like mouthwash, sleep pants dangling from his hips. He carried his stained slacks and tossed them into a laundry basket in the closet.
Chris went into the bathroom to get ready to sleep, steadfastly ignoring that fact that Peter hadn’t bothered to put a shirt on.
“There’s an extra toothbrush in the second drawer.” Peter called from the room as he closed himself in the bathroom.
When Chris came back in the room, the ceiling light was off, but a small bedside lamp at Peter’s side lit the room with a pale glow. Peter tossed back the empty side of the bedspread. Chris sank into the sheets, closing his eyes, inhaling deeply the long-lost scent of Peter Hale.
Peter flicked the light off and settled into his pillows. He stayed on his side, but hooked his fingers through Chris’ again.
“Thank you,” Chris whispered in the dark. Peter squeezed his fingers tightly in response.
“Go to sleep, Christopher.” Peter breathed back.
Chris nodded, feeling the pull from the warmth around him, not realizing how long he’d missed this. He was so tired, so cold, so fucking lonely for so long. He felt the radiating heat all around him, not just from the wolf and the blankets, but from the way Peter refused to let him be alone tonight, even making sure to anchor him with a touch, something he hadn’t realized had been missing for years.
The blankets crinkled around him as Peter turned. Suddenly, thick arms pulled him against a solid chest. Peter’s breath danced across his neck, the younger manhandling him around to become the little spoon.
“Stop thinking,” Peter murmured into his ear. “Tomorrow we can talk if you want to. Go to sleep.”
Chris let the lingering doubts disappear with Peter’s gentle breathing. He felt truly relaxed for the first time in longer than he could remember. It sprung back into his mind that it was now Christmas, but instead of the usual painful stab through his heart, he felt a gentle hope that he had crammed away decades prior.
“Merry Christmas, Pete.” Chris whispered, pulling the wolf’s arm tighter around himself. He felt the smile split the wolf’s face as he buried himself against Chris’ neck.
“Merry Christmas.” He answered, just as Chris drifted off into a peaceful night at last.