For his 38th birthday, Stiles gives Peter a set of awful mugs. He’s taken up pottery lately, and while the mugs are by far the most coherent products Stiles have made to date—he’s able to recognize what they are off the bat, and that’s some serious improvement—they’re still hideous and should be burned immediately.
Peter takes one look at them and grumbles and moans about them like an ungrateful shit, but they don’t get thrown out—just hidden behind all of his other, fine china at the back of the cupboard.
Stiles makes Peter his morning coffee in them whenever he stays the night, and Peter always sneaks them back into their rightful place when Stiles isn’t looking, and they go on like that.
For a long while, the ugly, misshapen mugs feature an unfortunate, prominent role in Peter’s life, until Peter gets sick of having to look at them every day and just tells Stiles that he’s moving in and that if he ever has to see those damn mugs again, he’s going to smash them all into tiny pieces, grind the pieces into dust, and then spread the dust in the four corners of the world.
Stiles just says he’ll make Peter new ones, and Peter isn’t an idiot—he knows Stiles would make good on the threat, and, what’s more, go out of his way to make them even uglier.
Peter retaliates by listing all the creative ways he could obliterate and disperse the ashes. It eventually turns into a game between the two of them.
The mugs return to their hidden place behind all the other fine chinaware, and are eventually forgotten.
Stiles and Peter spend over four decades together, watching anniversaries come and go, counting the white hairs together (Stiles says Peter wears the salt and pepper look very well—that it turns him into something of a Bond character), and watch each other wrinkle and grow sun spots as time ages them and they lose their youthful vigour.
Then, Stiles dies—he adopts his father’s heart troubles, and dies younger than he should.
Peter can’t live in Beacon Hills anymore, because everywhere he goes, he sees Stiles and it’s killing him. He can’t live in Beacon Hills anymore, because now he has nothing, so he drifts for four years, miserable, depressed, lonely, until Scott visits.
“Hey,” he says as Peter tries to reconcile who this man has become with the teen he knew. “If you’re that upset, why don’t you go somewhere else? Move or something.”
Peter goes on for another nine months, a year, thinking about it. At first, he’s against it—thinks he couldn’t leave even if he wanted to—but, slowly, his attitude shifts, and the more he thinks about it, the sadder it makes him, but the more he thinks he might just. And then, before he knows it, he’s rented this house in Maine that’s right by this amazing street market that sells fresh crab and lobster, on the waterfront, with a great view, and he has a plane ticket.
So, he starts packing, packing up what used to be his and Stiles’ life—most of Stiles’ stuff is already collected and packed in one set of boxes where he’s been slowly picking items out when he feels lonely or like the world just isn’t worth it anymore.
One of the last rooms he does is the kitchen, because that was Stiles’ favourite—he loved sitting on the plastic stepping stool by the baking rack and just watching Peter at work, in his element, playing the mad scientist like Stiles used to call him. He was always as eager as a puppy to taste whatever Peter was brewing, but hesitant as a trained dog because Peter was never afraid to roll up some newspaper and swat him with it.
They’ve spent so many years in that kitchen, so many good moods, bad moods, sad moods, ecstatic moods. It’s got so many memories.
When Peter packs the chinaware, he gets to the back of the shelf and sees Stiles’ pottery disaster.
It’s like Stiles just died yesterday all over again.
He remembers the day Stiles gave it to him so clearly, so vividly, it’s like he could reach out and touch—could step right back into that moment and live the rest of their lives all over again. It’s like his heart has been punctured and he’s dying from the blood loss, and he just loses the will to do anything.
He doesn’t want to go to Maine anymore, doesn’t want anything: not food or to cook, not to see Scott or Derek or Isaac, not to live. There’s this big, empty hole where there should be a life bursting at the seams, full of love and happiness and laughter and so many amazing things he never thought he’d have. It’s just gone.
Peter wallows some more—spends weeks moping around the house and town: like a ghost, haunting both others and himself, because there’s no coming back from that. He’s finally done it—hurt himself past the point of being hurt. Who knew he could be so sadistically masochistic? Who knew?
Every day, he sits in front of the cabinet, peering into the back of the shelf at those clumsy, awkward, misshapen, lumpy mugs, and he thinks and remembers, and forgets himself in them. He thinks so much and so hard, it’s like there’s nothing left to think about. He’s thought every thing there is to think about, examined every path there is to examine. His plane ticket goes uncashed, the rental’s start date comes and goes, and he still sits in front of the cabinet.
Eventually he takes the pottery out; he picks it up and plays with it in his hands, examining every dip and wrinkle, every porous gap, presses his fingers into the indents where Stiles’ fingertips and knuckles have made impressions in the clay, and he really, properly thinks about Stiles for the first time in years.
He thinks about Stiles, not like he has in the past four years, as he died—his last breaths, his last words, the last blink of his eyes, the last “I love you”, so sad and heart-breaking it nearly killed him—but thinks of Stiles as he lived. He remembers every laugh, every smile, and exhale followed by an inhale. He thinks about the flirtatious winks and the satisfied expression he wore every time they did something naughty or played a trick on someone. He counts every “I love you” and stops at the last, clutching the pottery to his chest with his wrinkled hands and splotched skin, and remembers a lifetime of love where there shouldn’t have been any, a lifetime of happiness where only fire and ashes should have been, and a life shared with someone else where only hatred would have once accompanied him, and he thinks, “this can’t be it”.
So, he scours the memories again—clings to every delirious moment of them, every wisp of fantasy and remembrance and searches, searches, searches, because he’s sure Stiles has talked about it, is sure they’ve made plans at some point, and every time he stumbles across a name, he writes it down until he’s got post-it notes and scrap pages of paper just littering the house. There are names in every room, stuck to the walls, taped to mirrors and doors and windows, hiding behind curtains and under cushions. Finally, he can’t remember any more, and then he starts to plan.
Six months later, Scott comes around. Peter’s packing again.
He asks, “Where are you going—to Maine after all?”
The only thing Peter’s packing is clothes and money, and the stupid, ugly pottery.
Peter sends postcards from his travels—they come one after another: Peru, Japan, Iceland, Kenya…. They come from dozens of countries, hundreds of cities, with decals and pretty pictures and the bizarre. Anything that takes his fancy, just marks of where he’s been. They collect in the letterbox until there’s no space anymore, until they spill over and have to be stuffed under the door.
He sends postcards from everywhere he visits, until the postcards stop, and no more come.
Each postcard is addressed to Stiles.