The Yule Greetings card Peter pulled out of his mail slot mocked him in many ways. For one, yes, it was that time of the year, but he’d personally never celebrated Yule like so many other supernatural beings generally did. No, he was all about Christmas. Not the whole Christianity aspect of it, of course, but the feeling of being around family, the Christmas tree, giving presents to loved ones, spending time as a pack. Those were the things his Grandma—who had been human—taught him when he was little. Her version had always looked human instead of supernatural, and Peter appreciated that still.
These days, he didn’t decorate. He enjoyed the shop windows and the shows on TV, but he couldn’t bring himself to put decorations up in his apartment, because he didn’t have anything to celebrate.
The other thing on the card that made him feel uneasy was his title. It was addressed to Alpha Hale.
Snorting, Peter took his mail to the elevator and rode it up to the top floor. He might’ve had the red eyes of an alpha, but he had no pack. What good is an alpha without a pack. His sister’s words rang in his mind.
He’d gone to mail a book for a fan that had won a contest on a book review blog, and now he was ready to hide inside his nice apartment for the rest of the… year, really.
There were four apartments on the top floor, two on each side of the corridor. Opposite from Peter’s, an investor of some kind, a guy with a stick up his ass, lived alone. There were high class call girls coming in and out of his place at random hours. Not that Peter cared or minded, sex work was work, and he respected anyone who would take it on.
The other two apartments were a bit smaller, and both were inhabited by college age people who were either filthy rich or had sugar daddies to support them.
The girl, Wanda, seemed to not do many other things than maintain her flawless, acceptably slutty appearance. She looked sexy, but not cheap, Peter always thought when he passed her in the hall or the lobby. Her sugar daddy—probably not her real father—was a wealthy looking guy with a beer gut and an ill-fitting yet expensive suit. How he’d managed that, Peter wasn’t sure.
The boy, his name was Stiles. The only visitor he had even semi-regularly was a man old enough to be his father who wore a Sheriff’s uniform. Peter wasn’t quite sure if he was Stiles’s actual father or not, and really, it wasn’t his business anyway. He just knew Sheriffs didn’t make a lot of money, so it made it even weirder how Stiles could afford the apartment.
All Peter’s neighbors were humans, which was nice for a change. He could fly under the radar and keep to his pack of one, and that was it. He’d done so well with that, too, up until the holidays started to creep around.
He moped. Of course he did. Somewhere, his sister and her family would have their annual Yule celebrations and they’d forgotten about Christmas altogether. Talia was a traditionalist, and she’d raised her children like that, too.
When Peter, an enforcer for Talia’s pack, had had to take out a dangerous alpha to protect her children and inherited that alpha spark, instead of thanking him, she’d kicked him out, because two alphas were too much for one pack.
That was a decade ago. Her kids were adults now. He still hadn’t been invited back, not even for special occasions.
In the beginning, building a pack of his own hadn’t been logical. Not when he’d still held on to hope that she’d change her mind and he could be part of the family again. Then later, he hadn’t found anyone suitable to add to his pack and the few friends he had gave him enough of the feeling of belonging without having to take on more people than he had time or energy for.
It had all made him incredibly lonely though, and the holidays just amplified the feeling.
The elevator doors dinged open, and just as Peter stepped out, a whirlwind called Stiles banged his door shut down the hall.
“Peter! Hold the door!” Stiles called out, then ran with his usual almost-coordination toward the elevator.
Peter had put his hand between the doors. The young man looked gorgeous, as usual. He also smelled divine. Like vanilla and cinnamon, and maybe ginger and… cloves?
“Have you been baking?” Peter asked, before he caught himself.
Stiles stopped and held the door for himself. “Huh?” he asked, looking down at his clothes. “Shit, do I have flour somewhere?”
Peter, because he was playing human here, quickly recovered, smiled, and brushed his hand over Stiles’s slightly messy hair.
“There, it wasn’t much,” he said, dusting his hands pointedly.
“Thanks!” Stiles beamed a smile at him, stepped in the elevator, and said, “I’ll bring you cookies when I bake another batch!”
Before Peter could object the doors closed, and Stiles was gone.
Couple of days later, he went to pick up his mail from the lobby and when he came back, he glanced at Stiles’s door. There was a wreath on it. The whole thing looked a bit… tacky, if Peter was honest. It had a weird color scheme and just… no.
Frowning, Peter took his mail inside, got dressed, and went to the closest nicer store to get a wreath of his own. Someone needed to show Stiles how to decorate his door properly.
As soon as Peter had hung his tasteful forest green wreath with blue and silver ribbon on the door, he felt… calmer, somehow. There was something about seeing it there that settled the angsty feeling that had been bubbling in his chest for weeks now.
Of course, that didn’t last, because the next day, Stiles’s door had some horrible Christmas ornaments hanging from the wreath. There were five or six of them—Peter absolutely refused to walk closer to count them—and they were all in different colors.
So he went out and bought one elaborate, beautiful, silver star to hang from his own wreath.
About a week later, it was all out war. Stiles’s door looked like a portal to a B-movie where Santa killed all the kids instead of giving them presents.
Peter’s looked… much nicer. Sure, he had a whole winter wonderland scene in decals and a few other little things added to his, but it was still… nice. Stylish.
He hadn’t actually seen Stiles, he’d missed the human completely, but it didn’t mean—
“Oh, that’s so cute!” A female voice startled him. He was so used to being around humans, he didn’t keep his guard up well enough these days.
Peter turned around to smile at whomever was admiring his handiwork.
The young woman had come from investor guy’s apartment. She was staring at—Stiles’s door?
“It’s a fire hazard, that’s what it is,” Investor Guy grunted, then closed the door again.
Another call girl, then. One with bad taste. Both in men and in decorations.
Peter sniffed and went into his apartment to enjoy the decorations that had somehow appeared all around inside, too.
The next day, he got another holiday card. This time, it was a Christmas one. It was addressed to Uncle Peter, and it was signed by Derek and Cora, his nephew and niece.
Peter could barely get himself into the elevator and back inside his place before he collapsed in a heap. It was the first contact from Derek and Cora in a decade.
They knew where he lived, but he had no idea where they were and there was no return address on the card. That meant he couldn’t contact them, but they could come to him if they so chose. Peter could live with that, for now.
A few days after the postcard, things with their door decorations had settled down a bit. Or so Peter thought.
He happened to step into the hall when Wanda and Stiles were deep in discussion about homemade ornaments. Peter scoffed so loudly, both humans startled and looked at him.
“There is no such thing as homemade style,” he informed them, before marching down to the elevator. The last thing he saw was Stiles’s pissed off face glaring at him.
A day after that, Stiles’s door had fairy lights on it. It was only two days until Christmas, and Stiles’s lights were phenomenal.
They were tasteful, just a yellowish slowly twinkling ones that weaved in and out the wreath and the ornaments hanging from it. They were glorious.
Peter felt pissed. There was no way he would find better lights anywhere in time.
He went inside and frowned as he drank some whiskey and listened to a Christmas album. He hated any kind of losing.
When someone knocked on his door, he put down his tumbler and went to open, wrenching the door wide and— “Alan?”
“Peter,” the emissary said in his eerily neutral tone.
Ice water flooded his veins. “I-is something wrong? With my sister?”
“Ah, no, not exactly,” Talia’s emissary said, looking slightly uncomfortable for a few beats.
“Alright, well, come on in,” Peter said, and backed into the apartment.
When Alan took a step to walk through the doorway, he suddenly propelled backwards, into the wall opposite from Peter’s door.
Before Peter had time to react, Stiles’s door opened and he ran down the hall to where Alan was gathering himself off the floor. Stiles, to Peter’s surprise, wielded a baseball bat and looked dangerous and hundred percent in control.
“What are you trying to do to Peter?” he snarled at Alan, and Peter… well, he was worried, but also so fucking charmed and more than a little turned on.
“I’m not trying to do anything to him,” Alan replied with surprising calm as he rubbed the back of his head. “Clever runes. I didn’t even notice them,” he commented, pointing at something.
When Peter stepped into the hall and looked at his doorframe, he could see ever so faint outlines of protection runes, but only because he knew they were there.
“Well I make my living being really good at coming up with them, and these ones are very specific in what they look for, so start talking!” Stiles snapped at Alan, who raised his hands and backed away half a step.
“Alright, alright.” He turned to Peter and said, “Your sister wants you to know that you’re still not to approach her children, as you are not part of the pack anymore. That’s it.”
“Now go,” Stiles growled with a pointed shake of his bat.
Alan left, and Peter knew this was about the Christmas card. That somehow Talia had heard of it and she’d sent her lackey over.
Peter felt… numb. Stiles pushed him inside his apartment and pulled the door closed behind them. Now, Peter recognized the rune magic’s caress over his whole being as soon as he passed the threshold.
“How old are they?” Stiles asked as he made Peter sit down in his chair again. He pushed the tumbler into his hand. “Drink.” Something about Stiles’s expression told Peter he didn’t like the whiskey, but still wanted Peter to drink it.
“They’re eighteen and twenty-three now,” Peter said, once the burning sensation was gone from the back of his throat.
“So adults. They can make their own choices,” Stiles stated. Then he sat on the couch and looked at Peter. “You need a proper emissary. Like me. And a pack.”
Peter blinked at him. “Can we….” He leaned back and looked at the ceiling for a moment. “Start from the beginning?”
“I’m a spark. I have some emissary training. Modern stuff, not like what that asshole of your sister’s is probably doing.” After a moment of silence, he confessed, “I may or may have put those wards up after you bought your wreath.” He grinned at Peter.
Suddenly Peter realized something. “You’re cheating!”
“What?” Stiles looked confused.
“Those fairy lights! They’re magical!”
Stiles threw back his head and laughed, the sound going straight into Peter’s chest somehow. “Oh yeah.”
The song changed into yet another mellow, beautiful Christmas song.
“So, what do the wards do?”
Stiles blushed. “Uh….”
“Tell me, they’re on my door, after all.” Peter got up and moved to sit on the couch next to Stiles.
“The thought I put into them is that nobody can enter if they have bad intent.”
“But Alan didn’t have bad intent. He was just a messenger.” Peter leaned closer to Stiles, whose heart was beating rapidly now, and his scent changed from vanilla and cinnamon—Peter realized that had nothing to do with baking after all—into something deeper and richer.
Stiles licked his lips and looked at Peter in a way that coming from someone else would’ve felt coy or coquettish. Stiles was neither of those things.
“Nobody who wishes harm to Alpha Peter Hale, whether it is physical or emotional harm, shall not enter. If they are there to cause pain to his heart, they shall be expelled,” Stiles whispered.
And that was it. Alan had made a dent in Peter’s heart with his words. The magic had recognized it like that.
“They’re adults,” Stiles repeated. “They’ll come to you. If they do that of their own will, there’s nothing your sister can do.” Then he smirked with a flare of teal colored magic shining in his gaze. “And if that emissary of hers tries anything, he’ll learn exactly what a spark can do.”
“Did you include yourself in those wards?” Peter asked the final question.
Stiles tilted his head, then smiled. “Yes. It doesn’t matter who wants to hurt your heart, Peter, they can’t enter. Even me.”
Yet Stiles was there.
Peter leaned in to kiss him slow, long, and deep.
When they separated, Stiles looked flushed. He covered that by looking around Peter’s open plan main room. “So, you wanna spice your decorations up with some kick ass fairy lights?”
Peter wasn’t good at losing, but he felt like he was winning somehow. Maybe it was a Christmas miracle?
“Yes please, sweetheart. I’d love that.”