Derek remembers it like this:
It was the day before Christmas Eve. He was twenty-four, living in New York, playing with the New York Philharmonic. He’d finished his masters at Julliard, and the critic from the NYT Arts section had written, ”Derek Hale is one of the most promising concert pianists we’ve seen in awhile.”
But none of that mattered. He was in Saks, trying to find a scarf for Laura.
A fucking scarf.
It really shouldn’t have been that difficult, because it was a scarf. But Laura wanted some designer scarf, and Derek was determined to buy it for her. Laura had three kids, a mortgage on a house in upstate New York, and a job that gave her two weeks vacation a year and just enough money to cover the mortgage. She drove the same car she had driven in college, and she probably wouldn’t buy a new one until after all three kids had cars. Her husband was a good man, but he worked for the city and made about as much as Laura. They were comfortable, and happy, but Laura didn’t have money for expensive scarves. She barely had money for a cheap scarf.
But Derek had money. He’d just completed his first national tour that year, and between that and the Philharmonic, Derek had more than enough to buy his sister a fancy designer scarf. He’d already bought Cora a handbag that had cost more than his first car and had booked his parents a luxury vacation in Hawaii.
Derek was single, successful, and wealthy. And he wanted to spoil his family.
So, he was in Saks, two days before Christmas, looking helplessly at the scarves.
“Wife or girlfriend?” a voice asked from beside him. Derek looked up to see a guy standing there. He was wearing an oversized cardigan and t-shirt, his hair messy from the knit cap under his arm. “The scarf.” The guy pointed at the display.
Derek grunted, affronted at the insinuation. But the guy’s expression was light, a bit of mischief in his rather striking brown eyes. The guy was teasing him.
“Mine’s for my friend, Lydia. She’ll have my balls if I buy her the wrong scarf, but dude, they all look exactly the same. How am I even supposed to choose?”
“Exactly my thoughts.” Derek turned back to the scarves, frowning.
He was just about to text Cora when the guy said, “So, who’s it for then?” Derek turned, eyebrow raised. “I’d assume it was you, except your look is totally Wall Street chic. I know a few guys who’d probably look amazing in one of these scarves, but you really don’t strike me as the type.”
“Did you buy your girlfriend something fancier than this? I mean, if you’re buying your sister a $500 scarf…”
“No girlfriend,” Derek sharply replied. He really had too much to think about to waste time chitchatting with the kid. He looked like he just rolled out of a college dorm room. Derek didn’t care how cute the kid actually was.
“Next time, buy her the $500 scarf.” Derek turned to glare, but the guy was just grinning widely. Then, he pointed to a scarf, a simple black and white design, and said, “Go with the classic. No one could resist.” Then he walked away, leaving Derek just staring after him.
What in the hell was that? Derek shook his head, took the scarf the guy picked out, bought Laura matching gloves and some designer perfume in attempt to match how much he spent on Cora, and then thankfully left the overcrowded store.
The winter air was crisp and cold, so he buttoned his coat and walked a few blocks, passing two Starbucks on his way to the local coffee shop. The place had the best lattes in Manhattan, and Derek knew that Peppermint was the holiday specialty. Today he felt like treating himself.
While Derek waited for them to make his coffee, he saw someone approaching out of the corner of his eye. He was surprised to find that it was the guy from earlier. Derek immediately narrowed his eyes suspiciously.
“Whoa,” the guy said, holding up his hands. “I was here first, see?” He pointed to the table in the corner where a cup and the same knit hat were sitting. “Small world.”
“So,” the guy said, pointing at Derek’s bag as the barista handed him the latte. “What did you end up getting.”
The guy rolled his eyes. “Which one?”
“Just one I grabbed off the shelf.”
“Please tell me you did not just grab a scarf off the shelf.” Derek frowned and started walking towards the door. “Hey, wait!” The guy ran to the table, grabbed his coat, scarf, hat, and coffee, and then followed Derek out of the coffee shop. Derek wasn’t sure what it said about him that he didn’t really mind. “I’m Stiles, by the way.”
Stiles grinned at him widely as he tugged the knit hat onto his head. “Let me see the scarf you got your sister.” Derek sighed and reluctantly handed the bag to Stiles. Stiles opened it and then laughed. “You bought the scarf I picked out! That’s so awesome. I know women so well, I make an awesome boyfriend. Well, for women. I may be an awesome boyfriend for guys, I don’t know. Guys aren’t as into this kind of stuff as girls are. Well, I did date this one guy who was a label whore, but it’s not like I can afford this kind of stuff. He got offended I bought my shirts from Target.” Stiles handed the bag back to Derek. Derek wasn’t sure what to say. That was perhaps the most a stranger had ever said to him, well, ever.
“Did you get a scarf?” Derek asked.
“Nah, Lydia knows I can’t afford to buy her something like that.”
“Then what were you doing looking at scarves in the first place?” Derek asked, confused.
Stiles looked at him like he was an idiot. “I thought it was pretty obvious. I was hitting on you. I used Lydia as an excuse.” Derek blinked. Stiles’ cheeks flushed and he looked at the ground uncomfortably. “Look, I’m sorry if I offended you or anything. I’ll just be – “
“I’m not offended,” Derek said.
Stiles’ head shot up. “Really?” Derek shook his head, and Stiles grinned. And yeah, that grin totally did weird things to Derek’s stomach. “Awesome.”
They walked down the street in silence for a few moments. Derek didn’t know what to say. He didn’t really do this kind of thing, didn’t really have time for relationships. He turned the idea over and over inside his head, and was just about to tell Stiles it was nice meeting him and all that, but then Stiles said, “Let’s go check out the tree at Rockefeller Center.”
“I haven’t seen it yet. Unless you want my help in buying your sister a kick-ass pair of shoes,” Stiles teased.
Derek laughed. “I might actually take you up on that offer.”
“Dude, I love shoe shopping.” Stiles reached down and grabbed Derek’s hand. “Come on.”
Derek let himself be dragged through the crowd the few blocks it took to get to Rockefeller Center. Stiles’ grip was firm on his hand, and even through both their gloves, he could feel Stiles’ warmth. He laughed as Stiles led him quickly through the crowd, dodging last minute Christmas shoppers and yelling out apologies whenever he hit someone.
Derek felt giddy. He never did this kind of thing. Never ran through crowded New York City streets, never met strangers and let them pull him along, never took his eye off his goals long enough to spontaneously do anything. And this, this was probably the most spontaneous thing Derek had ever done.
By the time they made it to the entrance, Derek was flushed and grinning widely. Stiles turned to him, pleased when he saw the expression on Derek’s face. “Let me guess,” Stiles said. “You don’t’ run through crowds often.”
“How’d you know?” Derek replied sarcastically.
“I bet you run half-marathons, but don’t run for fun,” Stiles smiled.
Stiles snorted. “First off, I don’t run. Secondly, I don’t have time to do much anyway.” Then he walked forward, still holding Derek’s hand.
“I don’t ever see the tree,” Derek admitted as they stood on the edge of the ice rink and stared at the large tree on the other side.
“Why? Do you hate Christmas or something?” Stiles asked.
Derek shrugged. “Always too busy. Then I go upstate and spend Christmas with my family.”
“Sounds nice,” Stiles said with a smile. “My dad lives in California. I don’t get to see him that often.”
Stiles shrugged. “It’s okay. I’m flying out early tomorrow morning to see him.” Stiles tugged Derek’s hand. “Come on.” They walked towards the tree, and Derek readjusted his grip on Stiles’ hand so he could lace their fingers. Stiles smiled at him, and it took Derek’s breath away. It wasn’t the wide grin or bright smile he’d seen before. This smile was smaller, more intimate, and pulled at Derek in every possible way.
When they got to the tree, Derek wasn’t thinking about Christmas lights. He was watching the way Stiles’ face lit up, just like a kid at Christmas. Derek couldn’t take his eyes off the way the lights reflected in Stiles’ eyes.
“Isn’t it amazing?” Stiles asked, turning to Derek. “Have you even looked at the tree? It’s like a zillion feet tall.”
Derek shrugged. “It’s a tree. There’s more interesting things to look at.”
Stiles pushed Derek’s chest with his free hand. “You’re so cheesy,” he said, but Derek could see the faint blush spreading across his cheeks. Derek took a step closer, crowding into Stiles’ space. For the first time since they’d met, Stiles looked nervous, unsure of himself.
Derek realized maybe he was coming on too strong. Cora always said he could be like that, too intense and overbearing. He took a step back, afraid he was freaking Stiles out. “Let’s go ice skating,” Derek blurted. He wasn’t even sure why he said that. He didn’t even like ice skating.
“Okay,” Stiles said, “though I’ll have to warn you, I’m not a great skater.”
“Neither am I.”
Derek paid for both of them, refusing to let Stiles give him the money when he offered. Then, they stepped out onto the ice. Derek had gone ice skating a few times with Laura and Cora, but he was never very good at it. He wasn’t naturally athletic, despite his appearance. People always assumed he could play sports, but his short stint in Little League proved that wrong. Derek was a musician through and through. Music was where he found his rhythm, where he found his tempo.
“Come on,” Derek said when he looked behind him and realized that Stiles was still on the edge of the ice. “Please don’t tell me you’re scared.”
“Not scared,” Stiles said.
Derek lifted his brow in challenge as he skated backwards…and managed to lose his footing and fall on his ass. “Ow,” he groaned as Stiles laughed. But his tactic worked. Stiles was on the ice, hesitantly skating towards him.
When Stiles neared, he slowed and offered Derek a hand. “I think you’re holding up skating traffic.”
“This was a bad idea,” Derek said as he stood up.
Stiles shrugged as he took Derek’s hand and threaded their fingers again. “I don’t know. I think it was a pretty good idea.”
They skated hand in hand around the rink. Neither of them were the best skaters, but Derek realized he didn’t care. Stiles looked so happy on the ice, despite the fact that he fell twice. Derek tried to catch him once, and they both ended up falling. It wasn’t so bad, though. Sure, Derek would probably have a huge bruise on his ass tomorrow, but Stiles fell on top of him, with Derek’s arms around his waist, and Derek didn’t mind Stiles’ body on top of his. Not at all.
Derek ignored everyone on the rink, and never took his eyes off Stiles.
Stiles remembers it like this:
He met the most attractive guy he’d ever seen in Saks two days before Christmas and pretended to be bad at ice skating.
It wasn’t the first time he pretended he couldn’t skate. See, people got nervous when Stiles told them he was a figure skater, but they got really intimidated when he told them he was a nationally ranked figure skater. Stiles had made that mistake on an ice skating date. Those dates didn’t end well.
Not that Stiles got to date often, not with his training schedule. Even today, he should be practicing. He’d won the Pacific regional’s last month and would be going to nationals in late January. But it was two days until Christmas, and Derek was just…perfect.
It wasn’t that Derek was hot, because well, Stiles knew a lot of hot guys. There was just something about him. It’s why Stiles had hit on him in Saks in the first place. Plus, Derek had looked so cute and lost staring at those overpriced scarves. And when he said it was for his sister? Stiles was hooked.
Now, Stiles was holding hands with Derek as they ice skated around the huge Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center two days before Christmas like some lame made-for-TV Christmas movie.
It was the most perfect and romantic thing he’d ever done.
Stiles didn’t want to ruin it by saying, “Oh, by the way, I’m trying to qualify for the Olympics.” That’d definitely be a mood killer. So, he skated badly and fell carefully a couple times so as not to injure himself. Derek caught him once, in his big strong arms, and just held him close as they stared into each other’s eyes. That one moment was worth both those falls. Derek had looked straight into his eyes, and he was so close that Stiles could see every fleck of green and gold in his eyes. He wanted to lean in and feel that stubble beard against his cheeks, kiss those slightly chapped lips.
They skated for over an hour. Until they were both red-faced and chilled. So, they returned their skates (and god, how Stiles hated wearing those shitty excuses for skates. His coach would fucking kill him for even thinking about touching the ice in them) and put on their shoes. Before they left, Stiles had to see the tree once again.
“What’s with the tree?” Derek asked as they stood in front of it again.
“My mom loved this tree,” Stiles explained, staring up at the twinkling lights with a smile. “We came here at Christmas when I was around 8. She said she wanted to see the tree and wanted to see me skate at Rockefeller Center before she died.” Stiles remembered that Christmas more clearly than any other. His mother had been sick, given only a few months to live. She said she wanted to see New York at Christmas, wanted to see Stiles skate in New York. Even then, she knew he’d be a professional figure skater.
“Did she get to?” Derek asked quietly.
Stiles nodded. “She did.” He glanced at Derek with a sad smile. “Come on. I’m bringing the whole mood down.”
“I don’t mind,” Derek said, squeezing Stiles’ hand. And in that moment, Stiles was completely gone.
They walked hand in hand back towards the coffee shop as Derek told Stiles about his family. “You have a huge family,” Stiles laughed as Derek told him about siblings and cousins and like twenty people sharing the same house at Christmas. “It’s just me and my dad, sometimes my best friend Scott and his mom. Scott’s got a serious girlfriend this year, I haven’t met her yet, so I’m getting the big introduction tomorrow.”
“Why don’t you have a serious girlfriend or boyfriend?” Derek asked.
“I could ask you the same thing,” Stiles replied. “You’re older than me.”
“Touche,” Derek laughed. “Work. Too busy, I travel a lot.”
Stiles nodded. “Same. No time to focus on that kind of stuff right now.”
Derek leaned close and dragged his nose along Stiles’ temple. “I’m making an exception today,” he whispered into Stiles’ ear before opening the door to the coffee shop. A shiver ran through Stiles, his skin tingling where Derek’s nose had brushed it.
Stiles bought the coffees to make up for Derek not letting him pay for the ice skating. “Eggnog latte,” Stiles said as he handed Derek his cup. “It’s perfection in a cup.”
Derek ignored the cup and instead, leaned forward and kissed Stiles. It took Stiles by surprise, the soft brush of Derek’s lips against his own. Derek’s kiss was soft, sweet, and Stiles wanted more. He curled his free hand into the front of Derek’s shirt and tugged him closer. Coffee didn’t seem so interesting anymore.
“What was that for?” Stiles grinned as he pulled away.
“Your lips looked cold,” Derek said.
“So, you decided to warm them up?” Stiles asked with a laugh.
Derek nodded. “Better than coffee, I promise.”
Stiles rolled his eyes. Who was this guy, with his ridiculously cheesy pick up lines? Stiles was lame enough to love it. He had no shame.
“Come on,” Stiles said, taking Derek’s hand again. “I’m hungry. I know this great food truck with the best tacos you’ll ever eat.”
“Real tacos,” Derek asked as they walked out of the coffee shop, “or hipster tacos?”
“What in the hell are hipster tacos?” Stiles asked.
“You know, tacos with ingredients like braised beef or ranch sauce instead of sour cream. Tacos are simple perfection,” Derek explained as they walked. “Shell, sour cream, cheese, lettuce, meat. Doesn’t matter if it’s beef, chicken, fish, or pork. But it’s a simple, perfect combination. Like pizza. It’s a standard set of ingredients that have been chiseled into the walls of heaven. You just don’t mess with them. It goes against nature.”
Stiles just stared at Derek. It was the most Derek had said since they’d been together, and it was about tacos. The longer Stiles stared at him without a word, the pinker Derek’s ears got. It was adorable. “You have very strong feelings about tacos.”
“Well, it’s tacos.”
Stiles laughed, then leaned over and kissed Derek on the cheek. “They’re authentic Mexican tacos. You’ll love them, though now I’m terrified you’ll hate them since you’re some taco critic.”
“Shut up. Hipster tacos are decent, just you know, not tacos.” Stiles snorted.
The food truck was on a side street, tucked away from tourists and the heavy foot traffic. That’s what Stiles loved about it – that you had to be in the know to go there. “You’ll thank me,” Stiles said as he handed over Derek’s basket of tacos. “I promise. If not, then I can no longer talk to you, taco critic or no.”
“I’m not a taco critic,” Derek snapped as he looked at his food.
“Could have fooled me, big guy.” Stiles picked up his shell and took a huge bite. Perfect, as usual. Derek, on the other hand, eyed his tacos closely, then carefully redistributed the ingredients before rolling his soft shell into a burrito-shape. “Ohmigod,” Stiles groaned. “It’s just a taco. No one should be so serious about their taco.”
Derek glared up at Stiles, and Stiles couldn’t help it. He burst out laughing. Derek was just so cute when he was being grumpy. Finally, Derek picked up his taco and took a bite. Then his face melted into bliss. “Oh, this is good,” he said after swallowing.
“See? Told you,” Stiles grinned as he shoved the rest of his taco into his mouth.
“I’m going to have to remember this place,” Derek said, chewing each bite slowly to fully enjoy his dinner.
They talked about movies and books while they ate, standing there on the sidewalk. Stiles learned that Derek was well read, better read than he was, and that he went to Julliard. They had similar taste in movies, except Derek liked super pretentious movies and horrible action flicks while Stiles preferred bad comedies.
“Julliard, huh?” Stiles asked as they tossed their food in the nearest trashcan. “Impressive. What did you study?”
“Really? You sing?” Stiles couldn’t quite picture Derek singing, but then again, most people found it hard to picture Stiles as a figure skater. The flailing and spazzing didn’t really scream graceful precision.
“I play piano,” Derek said as they started walking down the street again.
“Really? That’s awesome,” Stiles exclaimed. “Are you good? I mean, obviously you are if you went to Julliard, but like, what kind of job do you get with that? Wait,” Stiles hit Derek’s shoulder, “please tell me you play in a shitty lounge at the airport. Or like the mall at Christmas.”
Derek rolled his eyes. “No. I have played at department stores during the holidays, but I haven’t done that in years.”
“Playing for people, just you and the piano,” Derek started, “I’m not, uh, good with communicating with people. Most people find me rude and standoffish – “
“You don’t say?” Stiles teased, bumping Derek’s shoulder gently.
“But when I play, it’s something completely different.” Stiles watched Derek’s face, the open passion and raw emotion there when he talked about music. Maybe Derek would understand his own passion. And if he didn’t, it’s not like Stiles would ever see him after tonight anyway.
“I have a confession,” Stiles said as he scratched his neck awkwardly. “Um, I can ice skate.”
“I fell on purpose. I didn’t want you to feel weird, because I have ruined multiple dates over my ice skating abilities. I’m competing in the US Figure Skating Championships next month. If I do well, I could qualify for the Olympics.”
Derek’s eyes went round with surprise. “Holy shit, are you serious?” Stiles nodded. “Wow, that’s incredible. I’ve never known a professional athlete before.”
Stiles couldn’t help it. He kissed Derek then, right there on the street. When Stiles pulled away, Derek said, “What was that for?”
Stiles gave him an embarrassed smile. “Most people don’t call me an athlete. So, thanks for that.”
“I do feel cheated though,” Derek said. At Stiles’ quizzical glance, Derek said, “I didn’t get to see you skate. I think it’s only fair.”
Stiles shook his head. “I don’t think that’s a good idea. Plus, I can’t really show you anything at Rockefeller Center.”
“Come on,” Derek said, leaning close and brushing Stiles’ ear with his lips. “Please?”
“You’re an asshole.”
“It worked, didn’t it?”
“Still an asshole.” Stiles sighed. “Come on, I know a place.”
They took the subway. Derek wrapped an arm around Stiles on the train and nuzzled into him as Stiles rambled. The train was mostly empty, but Stiles didn’t think he’d care even if it was packed, not with Derek’s lips brushing against his cheek and neck.
He took them to one of the rinks he used to train in. He knew the guard, who let them in without any problem. Stiles found a pair of practice skates in a locker, and though they weren’t ideal because they weren’t his skates, they’d do in a pinch.
“Do you wear spandex when you compete?” Derek asked. He was leaning on his elbow along one of the walls, his hands clasped in front of him. Stiles spun around and glared at him as he skated backwards. Derek was smirking, a teasing glint in his eyes. “Please tell me there are sparkles and sequins.”
“I don’t have to skate for you, you know,” Stiles said.
There was no music, so he just skated with no thought or routine. First, he just skated around the rink a few times, throwing in a few easy tricks. After he got warmed up, his body settling into it, he moved into some more advanced moves, including the quad axel he’d been working on. He botched the landing, like usual, but made up for it with a few triple axels and other fancy moves.
When he stopped in front of Derek, he was looking at him with awe. “You’re beautiful,” Derek said.
Stiles flushed all over.
“I fucked up my quad axel,” Stiles said.
“Doesn’t matter,” Derek said. “You’re absolutely stunning.”
Stiles skated over to him and kissed him.
They left the rink after that, and Stiles knew it was getting late. The last thing he wanted to do was leave Derek, but he had to be at the airport at 5 a.m. the next morning.
“I probably should go, too,” Derek said. They were standing on the corner just down the street from the rink. “I’m driving up to see my family tomorrow.”
Stiles wrapped his arms around Derek’s neck, and Derek’s arms automatically slid around his waist. Derek held him close, and Stiles hated that this was it, that after tonight he’d never see Derek again. Derek was almost enough for him to give up his “no serious relationships” rule.
Stiles leaned forward and kissed Derek, tilting his head and opening his mouth as Derek’s warm tongue slid inside. They stayed like that for a long time, just holding on to one another as they kissed. Derek made him weak in the knees, made his stomach flip and his heart pound in his ears. When Stiles pulled away, he felt dizzy.
Stiles turned his face up, grinning. “Look! It’s starting to snow.”
Derek leaned forward and kissed the snowflakes from his eyelashes.
“Thank you for today,” Derek said as he stepped away.
“I had a great time,” Stiles said.
“Good luck with nationals,” Derek said as he held out his hand to hail a cab.
“Thanks.” As a cab rolled to a stop at the curb, Stiles ran forward and kissed Derek one more time.
Then Derek got into the cab, and Stiles wondered if he’d just made a huge mistake letting him go.
Stiles didn’t make it to the Olympics that year. He placed low at the US Nationals, and he thought about nothing but ice skating for the next four years.
Derek met a cellist named Paige who played for the Boston Philharmonic. They dated for five years, but Derek travelled all over the world during that time, spending more time playing on stage than with Paige. She didn’t notice because she was part of a three-woman ensemble with her own tour schedule. They both recorded CDs, and Paige won a Grammy. Derek was in Austria at the time, and she took a flutist she knew to the ceremony. The flutist was named Eugene, and he asked Paige to dinner.
“I know this guy,” Stiles said, stopping in the instrumental CDs when something caught his eye instead of following Scott and Allison to the computer section of the store.
“Huh?” Scott backtracked and stared at the CD Stiles held in his hand. “Why are you holding a piano CD?”
“This is the guy.” Stiles stared at the case in his hand, unable to believe his eyes. “Derek.”
“Christmas guy?” Allison asked as she joined them. “The one from New York?”
“Oh god, not that guy again,” Scott groaned.
Stiles snapped his head up. “What? What’s wrong with Derek?”
“Nothing!” Scott rolled his eyes. “Stiles, it’s been like three years, and you didn’t even fuck the guy. Why are you still even thinking about him?”
“I think it’s sweet,” Allison smiled as she put an arm around Scott. “Some people just make impressions.”
“I knew I liked her for a reason,” Stiles said.
“There are guys I have never forgotten,” Allison said. Scott turned to her, scandalized. “I did have a life before you, Scott.”
“What other guys do you still think about?” Scott demanded. Stiles tuned out their bickering as he looked at the back of the CD. Right there, beside the track listing, was Derek’s unmistakable serious face. He’d told Stiles he was a pianist, but Stiles didn’t expect this.
He bought the CD, put it on as soon as he got home, and listened through it three times. Stiles couldn’t describe the way Derek’s piano playing made him feel. He’d never been good with music, but he understood passion and feeling on a deep level. It wasn’t so different than skating.
“Wait,” Derek said, grabbing the remote from Paige and turning up the television. “He did it.”
“What are you talking about?” Paige asked.
“I know that guy,” Derek said, pointing to the television. It didn’t matter how many years passed; he’d never forget those eyes. Or that grin.
“S. Stilinski?” Paige turned to him. “You know an Olympic figure skater?”
Derek nodded, and he watched as Stiles competed in the free skate. When he’d met Stiles, Stiles had been trying to qualify for the Olympics. Had it really been so long that this was the second winter Olympics since he’d met Stiles? Derek touched his lips and smiled. God, it felt like only yesterday.
He was on the edge of his seat as he watched Stiles skate. He recognized some of the moves, though somehow even better now, and when Stiles leapt into his quad axel, Derek held his breath. Stiles landed perfectly, and finished out on a high. “You didn’t fuck it up this time,” Derek whispered.
“How do you know this guy?” Paige asked after Stiles got his score. Derek told her about that night. He hadn’t thought about it in so long, the beautiful boy with the bright brown eyes who pretended to be bad at ice skating. Only Cora and Laura ever knew what that night meant to Derek.
Derek watched the rest of the figure skating competition, and couldn’t keep the grin off his face when Stiles was awarded the bronze medal.
Paige moved out a year later, while Derek was playing in Milan. It should have hurt him more, but he could only think about the keys, the feel of the ivory beneath his fingertips as he graced the stages throughout Europe.
Derek ordered expensive wine and met a hot Italian guy at the bar. They spent the weekend in a chalet in the mountains while Paige disappeared from his life forever.
Stiles had a bronze medal and was training for the next Olympics. He was married to the ice.
“I never see you anymore,” Lydia pouted as she took his arm and led him into the concert hall. “You’re always training, and you had your show.” Stiles had spent some time during the last year touring with Stars on Ice, but now he was focused solely on the next winter games.
Stiles kissed her temple. “I know. But the Olympics are next year, and I have to place high in the championships if I have any hope of competing again.”
“I know. I just miss you.” Lydia was engaged now, and Stiles helped her pick a date when he could attend. Stiles was just as single as ever. He’d had a girlfriend, Heather, who had also been a figure skater. They’d been on Stars on Ice together, but they both wanted to compete next year, so decided to put things on hold. They still trained together sometimes, sometimes they had sex, but they both cared more about gold medals than each other. The girlfriend before that, Malia, had been a hockey player, and she’d moved to Canada to play for a women’s team up there. He’d dated Greenberg, a sportscaster, and had a long relationship with Ethan. But they didn’t understand the demands of his career. That was pretty much why Stiles was single. It was easier to have a string of one night stands than negotiate a relationship. Either they didn’t understand his passion, or were just as married to the ice as Stiles.
“What are we seeing anyway?” Stiles asked as they took their seats. Lydia had bought the tickets, and Stiles had just put on a tux. He opened his program and idly flipped through, scanning the pages until his eyes fell on a familiar frown. “Lydia…”
“Surprise?” She smiled sheepishly at him when he glared at her. “I thought you’d appreciate finally seeing your Christmas crush in concert!”
“I don’t care about him,” Stiles muttered.
“Says the man who owns all his CDs, even his Christmas album,” Lydia said, not unkindly. Stiles didn’t know whether to kick her or kiss her.
Their seats were far away, but the moment Derek stepped on stage, Stiles felt that same giddiness he felt the night in the department store. God, had he only been 18 that night? Stiles had kept up with Derek’s career over the years, still thought of him from time to time. He sometimes wondered what would have happened if he’d given Derek his number or invited him back to his hotel room.
But those thoughts were scattered infrequently between his training and competitions.
Derek was phenomenal on stage, his hands gliding across the keys. Stiles didn’t even know how a person could make music like that with only two hands. It seemed impossible, but somehow, music just poured out of Derek. Stiles let the music wash over him, his eyes focused on the rigid posture of Derek’s back, the fluid motion of his fingers.
It was hard to believe that he’d held those fingers in his hand, that they’d touched his face. Sometimes Stiles thought he dreamt the whole thing.
Braeden bent over the back of the couch, catching sight of Derek’s browser window before he could minimize it. “Are you looking at ice skating standings?”
“Maybe.” Derek pulled the window back up as Braeden curled up on the couch beside him.
“Why? I didn’t know you liked ice skating.”
“Just one skater,” Derek replied.
“Stiles Stilinski.” Derek brought up Stiles’ website, clicked on the video of his bronze medal routine from the last Olympics.
“How did you become a fan of an ice skater? That’s just…so not you.”
Derek watched with a smile as Stiles landed the quad axel. “Just an old friend.”
“Don’t think I don’t know why you’re here,” Laura said as her husband Greg brought them a bowl of popcorn. “Stiles is competing tonight.”
“Shut up.” Derek tossed a piece of popcorn at Laura.
“Have you thought about contacting him?” Laura asked.
“Yeah, because that’s not creepy,” Derek droned. “Hi Stiles, you probably don’t remember me since we spent a total of six hours together like eight years ago, but I’ve been following your career. Wanna have dinner?”
“Sounds good to me,” Laura said. Derek ignored her as the short program started.
When Stiles skated onto the ice, Derek was nervous. He watched Stiles warm up a bit, shake out his arms and roll his head. His name flashed on screen, and Derek immediately heard Laura’s intake of breath.
“Derek,” she breathed.
It took Derek a moment to realize what he was seeing. Beneath Stiles’ name was written Summer-Spring by Derek Hale.
That was his song. Stiles was skating his short program in the Olympics to one of his songs.
Derek could barely breathe, and for a few minutes, he was lost in the fusion of the music he composed with Stiles’ skating. Stiles skated like he belonged in the song, like he was connected to every note and chord.
Stiles won the gold. Stiles won the gold medal and he used Derek’s song.
Stiles grinned around the table. Scott, Allison, and their daughter, Lydia and her husband, his dad, Mrs. McCall, and even Chris and Victoria Argent. They were in San Francisco at a fancy restaurant Stiles was footing the bill for, and it’s the first time he’d had everyone together in a long time.
“Can you teach me to ice skate?” Scott’s daughter, Madison, asked. “Daddy says you’re really good.”
“He’s okay,” the sheriff said. Stiles frowned in his father’s direction, and the sheriff could barely keep the smile off his face. No one was more proud of Stiles than his father.
“Of course I can teach you,” Stiles said. “It’d be an honor.” Madison smiled shyly and hid her face in Allison’s arm.
Stiles’ boyfriend, Danny, said, “Stiles has been trying to teach me to skate. It hasn’t been pretty.”
“He’s a god on the lacrosse field, but put him in a pair of skates?” Stiles laughed.
“I wonder if the fish tacos are any good,” Mrs. McCall said as she perused the menu.
Stiles smiled to himself, and then said, “Did I ever tell you about the guy at the food truck who was super serious about his tacos and – “
“Yes!” most of the table exclaimed in unison.
“Oh,” Stiles said, his cheeks pinking as he hastily opened his menu.
“I haven’t heard about it,” Danny said with a smile.
“Um, there’s this food truck in New York with the best tacos in the world,” Stiles said awkwardly. “I went on a date there with a guy once who was extremely anal about his tacos.”
“Really? You’ll have to take me then.” Danny turned back to his menu, and Lydia grabbed his hand under the table and squeezed it.
“You’re not very good at this, Uncle Derek,” his niece Bri said as they skated around the pond. Derek didn’t argue; he knew he was a terrible skater.
“I thought you’d be a great skater,” Justin said as he skated circles around his sister. “You talk about skating all the time.”
“Yeah, Uncle Derek,” Bri said.
“I just really like ice skating,” Derek said. His boyfriend Jordan waved to him from where he was talking to Greg on the edge of the ice as Derek skated around the ice with his niece and nephew.
“Where are you taking me?” Jordan asked as Derek led him down yet another side street. Derek frowned. He swore it was right around here somewhere.
“There’s this food truck,” Derek said. “It has the best tacos in the world.”
Jordan came up behind Derek and slid his arms around his waist. “And I know how you feel about your tacos.”
“Shut up,” Derek snapped, but turned his head to kiss him. Ten minutes later, Derek found the truck. “You’ll thank me,” he said as he ordered baskets of tacos.
“How do you know about this place? You’re not really a food truck person,” Jordan said as he finished his first taco.
“Stiles took me here.”
“The figure skater?”
Derek nodded. “I can’t believe this place is still here. God, it’s been almost decade.”
“Don’t underestimate good tacos,” Jordan said. Derek laughed and took another bite.
Stiles won his second gold medal in the next winter Olympics. He spent a month with Danny in the Caribbean afterwards. Later that year, he announced his retirement from skating.
Derek almost married Jennifer, and spent almost a year touring after that. Derek paid for Laura, her family, Cora, and her husband to fly to Italy and spend two weeks with him in Tuscany. “I didn’t like Jennifer,” Cora said while they sat on the back deck of the house that overlooked the vineyard, “But I want you to finally find someone and settle down.”
“You’re 36, Derek,” Laura said. “Is touring Europe alone really making you happy?”
Derek knew his sisters had his best interests at heart, but Derek was pretty sure he was done with relationships. A person can only have so many failed ones before there really doesn’t seem to be a point anymore.
Stiles remembers it like this:
It was two days before Christmas and he was in a coffee shop for an eggnog latte. He’d just finished meeting with some potential clients. Since he’d retired from competitive skating, he had decided to start coaching.
He was walking out of the shop when someone called out his name. He turned, ready to greet the rare fan that recognized him. But it wasn’t a fan that called to him.
It was Derek Hale.
“Derek?” Stiles nearly dropped his cup of coffee. Derek looked good; although it had been, what, 12 years? Time had barely touched him. He was still as handsome as the first time Stiles had laid eyes on him.
Derek crossed the short distance between them, and before Stiles could say another word, Derek took his face between his palms and kissed him. It took a split second for the shock to dissolve before Stiles was kissing him back hungrily, 12 years of what ifs swirling through his mind.
“I can’t believe,” Derek breathed when he broke the kiss. “I never thought I’d see you again.”
“I can’t believe you remember me,” Stiles said. At that moment, another customer bumped into them, muttering angrily under her breath.
“Do you want to get out of here?” Derek asked. “My apartment’s not far. Just a few blocks away.”
They didn’t make it out of the cab before their hands were all over one another, their mouths locked together. They paused momentarily in the elevator, which they shared with an older lady and her dog. It gave Stiles time to get a good look at Derek, to think about the fact that Derek wasn’t on stage or in his speakers, but right here in front of him, in the flesh.
They shed their clothes as soon as Derek kicked the front door shut, Derek unable to turn the lock before Stiles was on his knees with his lips wrapped around Derek’s cock. It was better than Stiles would have imagined, having Derek’s cock in his mouth. But it was nothing compared to Derek pushing him onto his knees on his bed and fucking him.
Afterwards, they lay naked and sweaty in the tangled sheets. Derek was on his back beside him, staring at the ceiling. The room was quiet except for their heavy breathing.
“You know, I might have had a boyfriend or a girlfriend,” Stiles said, rolling onto his side and propping his head on his hand. “Do you make it a habit just to go up to people and kiss them senseless?”
“I made an exception for you.” Derek reached out and ran his fingers through Stiles’ hair.
“I saw one of your concerts,” Stiles said, “a few years ago. Lydia took me. She may have found my collection of Derek Hale CDs.”
“You used one of my songs in the Olympics,” Derek said.
Stiles felt his cheeks heat up. “You saw that, huh?”
“Well, it was televised worldwide.” Stiles tried to come up with a good excuse for using the song, but he couldn’t think of anything. “You won the gold medal with it.”
“You watched my performance?”
Derek nodded. “I saw you win all three of your medals.”
Stiles hid his grin against Derek’s chest. “We’re pathetic.” Derek just kissed him. “Do you know what today is?”
“And you know where we were when you saw me again, don’t you?”
Stiles lifted his head and looked Derek in the eyes. “What do you think it means?”
Derek cupped Stiles’ face. “Whatever we want it to mean.”
Stiles frowned. “Is it stupid if I say that maybe fate is trying to tell us something?”
Derek shook his head. “I don’t think so.” He pushed himself into Stiles’ space, but stopped right before connecting with his lips. Derek was so close his breath ghosted warmly against Stiles’ mouth, his eyelashes dark and distinct; Stiles’ lips tingled with anticipation. “Out of the millions of people in New York, out of the millions of coffee shops, out of all the dates, all the minutes in a day, we ended up in that coffee shop together.”
“I almost missed you,” Stiles said. “I didn’t see you. I could have walked through that door and never seen you again.”
Derek’s eyes crinkled in the corners from his smile. “It’s a good thing I was looking then.”
Stiles rolled his eyes fondly. “Still cheesy.” Derek leaned forward and kissed him. Stiles didn’t believe in stuff like fate and meant to be; he believed in hard work and determination. This…he couldn’t explain.
Stiles broke the kiss suddenly, and laughed at Derek’s expression. He looked both personally offended that Stiles stopped kissing him and like confused puppy at the same time. “It’s your turn,” Stiles said. Derek just stared at him in confusion. Stiles realized the dots in his brain hadn’t been connected for Derek, and added, “I skated for you on our first date. I never got to hear you play the piano.”
“You said you saw me in concert,” Derek grinned cheekily, and Stiles slapped his chest.
“Not the same. I want a special private performance.”
Derek sighed theatrically, but the grin and his pink cheeks betrayed his pleasure. He got out of bed, and Stiles watched in appreciation as he walked naked from the bedroom and into the spacious living room. Stiles grabbed the blanket they’d kicked to the floor and wrapped it around himself as he followed Derek. When Stiles entered the room, Derek was sitting at the piano, and Stiles could barely breathe.
Derek was beautiful.
His fingers were idly playing a soft melody, his face turned towards Stiles as he watched him approach the piano. His bare skin was a stark contrast to the dark of the piano and the rest of the room.
Without a word, he started playing a slow tempo, simple and light. As the song continued, it built in intensity and emotion. Stiles’ eyes were glued to the effortless way that Derek’s fingers glided across the keys, as if they were in tune with each note. It was like being on the ice, feeling each count, the next step in every atom of his being. He shivered, and pulled the blanket closer around him.
As the song continued, Stiles’ eyes trailed over Derek’s naked body. The taut lines of his limbs as he concentrated on the music, the curves of his muscles and lean line of his torso, the way his body shifted as he played. It was the most erotic thing Stiles had ever seen in his entire life.
Stiles felt an incredible sense of loss when the song ended. He wanted to live in it forever, in the space between where Derek’s fingers touched the keys and the music began.
“Did,” Derek started, his voice a bit unsteady. He cleared his throat and started again. “Did you like it?”
“It was amazing,” Stiles replied quietly. “I didn’t recognize it.”
Derek looked down as his fingers moved across the keys, pressing notes as of their own accord. “I haven’t recorded it yet.”
“You should. It’s beautiful.” Stiles closed the small space between them and placed a hand on Derek’s shoulder. Derek leaned his cheek against the back of his palm. “What’s it called?”
“December 23,” Derek replied, and Stiles’ breath caught in his throat. “But I’m thinking of changing the title to Fate.”
Stiles didn’t know what to say. But he understood whatever it was that Derek’s song was trying to capture, had been trying to understand it for years. He won his first gold medal while skating to one of Derek’s songs, after all. Maybe they’d known that night that there was something between them, maybe something so strong that fate had brought them back together. Stiles knew they hadn’t been right for one another that night. He wouldn’t give up his years training and skating for anything in the world, and he doubted Derek would have given up his life either.
But now, things were different. Maybe this was always meant to happen. Stiles didn’t know what he believed; he only knew that somehow, he was standing before the taco critic from his stories, before the concert pianist he’d seen in concert more than once, before the man that had been on the outskirts of his mind for years.
Derek shifted on the bench and tugged Stiles into his lap. He wrapped his arms around him, soft eyes looking into his. “Will you stay with me tonight?”
“I don’t plan on going anywhere.”
They were quiet for a few minutes, then Derek asked, “Will you go to my sister’s with me tomorrow?”
Stiles smiled. “Really?”
“I figured a long car ride would give us time to get to know one another.” Derek leaned close and dragged parted lips against Stiles’ cheek. “Because I’d very much like to get to know you, Stiles Stilinski.”
Stiles bit his lip and grinned. “I’d love to.”
Derek kissed him.
Derek remembers it like this:
Two days before Christmas, he went for coffee and met a beautiful boy with brown eyes who pretended to be bad at ice skating. Twelve years later, he went for coffee and fell in love.