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My World Is Filled With Cheer And You

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Derek takes one last look at the large manor he and his family have called home for generations and generations. He can’t believe it’s come to this, right before Christmas, that they’re all going to be separated like this.

“You’ll be alive,” Agent Markowski says, adjusting his earpiece. “Come on, you still will have the opportunity to communicate with each other. Technology is amazing, you know. We’ll have a secure line where you guys can all video chat with each other.”

“You could have relocated us to the same town, at least,” Derek scowls.

The FBI agent shakes his head. “We’re taking this threat very seriously. Everyone knows werewolves in the same pack all like to live together or close together, extended family and everything, and if anyone recognizes any of you--”

“Yeah, yeah,” Derek says.

“How long do we have to hide?” Zoey asks, holding onto Derek’s hand and looking up at Markowski.

“We’re very close to catching the bad guys, sweetheart,” Markowski says, dropping down to one knee, voice going patronizingly sweet. Derek resists the urge to roll his eyes. “The bad guys put your family on a list of people they wanted to hurt, that’s why we’re giving you all new names and--”

“I know that,” Zoey says, scowling. Her eyes almost go threatening gold for a second-- just a flash, and Derek feels more than a little proud of his daughter. Only five years old and she already has signs of excellent control. If this were anyone else he’d be scolding her for using her abilities to be intimidating, but he’s totally with her on being upset about this whole undercover and relocation deal. “I mean how long are we gonna pretend to be human?”

Markoski follows them to the U-Haul that’s packed with all of Derek and Zoey’s things. “A few months, maybe. It’ll be fun, like playing pretend. And lucky for you, we matched you up with another small family--there is a son your age! You could be friends.”

Derek hoists Zoey up and buckles her into the booster seat in the passenger side, closing the door. He whirls around to face Markowski. “What is this about another family? You didn’t tell me this.”

“It was a last minute decision. Single parents with children draw attention to themselves in this type of neighborhood, and this department didn’t have a big budget to relocate all the werewolf and werewolf sympathizers that were targeted on this list. We’ve combined a lot of our relocation assignments. It ended up working out that another family, Mr. Stilinski and his son, looked like a good fit for you guys, so you’ll be sharing a home with them for the time being.” Markowski grins at him. “Congratulations! You’re married!”

 


 

Derek is fuming. He grips the steering wheel as he drives the truck to the address Makowski had given him.

Zoey is humming in the passenger seat, obviously taking the news in stride. She’s chatting excitedly about what the other kid would be like and if he would play ninjas would her, and would they have to share rooms or would she get her own room?

Derek doesn’t know the answer, so he just hums noncommittally. His cell phone rings, and Laura’s face shows on the screen. “Auntie Laura!” Zoey squeals, grabbing for the phone.

Derek takes the call, putting it on speaker and handing it to Zoey. “Hello?”

“Hey, little bro. Me, Victor and the kids just got settled into our house. We’re unpacking now,” she says.

“Zoey and me just left the manor,” Derek says.

“Aw, hey, it’ll be fine,” Laura says, obviously detecting his glum tone.

“Did you know we have to live with another guy and his kid?” Derek asks.

“Nope,” Laura says. “Cora just texted me though and says she has to pretend to be the kid of this one couple. They seem nice, though. One’s a werewolf, one’s a human. Also were on the list.”

“Ugh, I’ll be grateful when this all blows over,” Derek says. He’s proud of his mom, and she had discussed all the finer points of the Reveal and how it would affect them, and that their family would be one of the first in the public eye. Laura and her husband thought it would be a great idea; getting humans used to the idea that werewolves had lived among humans for a long time. Having a prolific US. Senator like their mother at the forefront of this movement showed that they were intelligent and capable people, not to be feared.

Yet only a month after the announcement the attacks had begun, and every public figure who had come out as a werewolf had suddenly found themselves the target of a group of paramilitary zealots. After the grisly murder of one Congressman and his family, the FBI decided to put everyone who has been threatened into protection.

Zoey doesn’t know about the deaths. She just thinks this is all a grand adventure, like a spy game or something.

“Yeah, the best people are on the task, so I don’t think it’ll take more than a few months,” Laura says.

“Auntie Laura! Did you know I’m getting a brother and another dad?” Zoey giggles.

“Is that so,” Laura says, amused.

“They’re for pretend,” Derek says, shaking his head.

“But Mister Agent said you were getting married,” Zoey insists.

“For pretend.”

“But can we still have a wedding?” Zoey asks eagerly.

Laura is snickering over the phone. “Alright, gotta get to unpacking. Good luck with your new hubby and everything.”

“He’s not my husband,” Derek says, gritting his teeth.

 


 

Derek pulls into the driveway of a nondescript suburban house on a cul-de-sac. There’s a boy Zoey’s age playing in the front lawn, sitting in a cardboard box, and a man holding another box, drawing something on it. The boy squeals with delight and accidentally smacks the box to the ground, and the man bends over to pick it up.

Derek does have to admit he’s got a nice ass.

He gets out of the car and goes around to help Zoey out, gently picking her up.

The man-- Stilinski-- is walking towards him with a large grin on his face. “Moon of my life!” he announces theatrically.

Derek swallows back his sharp retort when he spots an elderly woman watching them on her porch next door, rocking back and forth in a chair.

“My sun and stars…” Derek says back awkwardly, accepting the hug. “Great. Now they’re gonna expect us to use nicknames for each other all the time,” he says quietly.

“I’m Stiles, by the way,” the man says in a soft voice. “We should go inside and do the rest of the introductions, it would be weird if Mrs. Luong saw us all meet each other for the first time on the lawn. I told her you were bringing the rest of the furniture and stuff.” He smiles at Zoey, curled up in Derek’s arms, face pressed into his neck. She looks up shyly at Stiles, giving him a little wave. “Hi there, cutie pie,” Stiles says. “Wanna see our new house?”

Zoey nods, and they follow Stiles inside.

The living room is bright and airy, a few boxes stacked in a corner and a bookshelf half-assembled next to a box of overflowing books. “Right, welcome to our humble abode, I’m Stiles, your sun and stars, but you knew that,” he says brightly, gesturing wildly with his hands. He smells nervous and hopeful, and there’s something else that Derek can’t pinpoint yet. “Oh, and this is Theo.”

The boy giggles, walking up to Derek. “Hi. Are you marrying my dad?”

Stiles turns bright red. “Theo, we talked about this---”

“There should be lollipops at the wedding,” Zoey announces suddenly.

“I like the green apple ones with caramel,” Theo says, and then starts rattling off a list of flavors while Zoey nods in agreement.

“My daughter, Zoey,” Derek says. “She’s five. Yours?”

“Four.”

“Dad! Do we have any candy?!” Theo asks, pulling on Stiles’ pant leg.

“Great, now they’re on a candy idea spiral,” Stiles says, throwing his hands up in the air.

Derek can definitely sympathize, Zoey on a sugar high-- or getting stuck on wanting a type of sugar-- can be relentless. Her favorite is currently lollipops, but who knows what she’ll get stuck on next. It looks like she and this Theo are going to get along fine, they’re already bonding over favorite candies.

“Lollipops!” they both say together, and then turn towards Derek and Stiles, wearing identical pleading expressions.

Oh no. Derek would like to say he’s immune to his daughter’s cute, wide-eyed face she uses to persuade him to do things, but now there’s two of them, and Theo somehow is matching the expression perfectly.

“We can get some when we get some groceries later,” Stiles says firmly. “If you two are good and help unpack your things.”

The kids squeal in delight, and then Theo wants to show Zoey the bedrooms, and they race off, giggling and laughing together.

“Really.”

Stiles’ voice jolts Derek out of his thoughts. He had been watching Zoey with Theo, thinking about all the times Zoey’s talked about her friends having brothers and sisters to play with, and how recently all her young cousins have been moving out of the manor since the relocation project has begun. It’s nice to see her having fun with a kid her age.

“What?” Derek says, turning towards Stiles.

“You’re really gonna make me the no-fun parent,” Stiles says, crossing his arms. “I mean, you gotta back me up here when we lay down the rules for our kids.”

Oh. The candy thing. It hadn’t even occurred to Derek to say anything after Stiles had made his statement to the kids, it sounded perfectly reasonable. Derek’s pretty sure he would have caved in and taken them out to go get a treat or something, but Stiles had the right idea. He needs to stand his ground, though. Derek hates this whole situation and is angry with it. Right.

“Look, Stiles,” Derek says, stumbling over the odd name. He stiffens his posture, wanting this to be clear. “There is no ‘our.’ There’s my daughter, and your son. We’re not a family, whatever the FBI has put on paper. This is a temporary situation, and we’re just… living under the same roof. When this whole thing is over Zoey and I are going back to our lives and you two are going back to yours.”

Stiles looks unwaveringly back at him. “Sure, okay. But we don’t know how long it’s going to be, so we might as well make the best of the situation, you know? I mean, there’s no reason why we can’t be friendly with one another.”

“That’s the last thing we need right now,” Derek says gruffly. He’s thinking about Zoey and how easily attached she gets. It’s one of the reasons he hasn’t dated anyone really; he can’t bear to introduce Zoey to someone, having her think they might be part of the family and it not working out on Derek’s part or something, and she’d never see them again. Zoey had bawled her eyes out when Cora had explained that “Uncle Patrick” wasn’t going to come around anymore after Cora and he had broken up.

Stiles turns bright red. “Hey, just because I’m not a ridiculously gorgeous werewolf like yourself doesn’t mean I’m not a catch, I’ll have you know there are a lot of people who would be excited to hang out with me all the time, let alone pretend to marry me for the sake of--”

Derek blinks, surprised. “Uh, I meant for my kid,” he corrects, but now that Stiles has put the idea into his head, Derek can’t unthink it. Stiles is attractive, bright-eyed and the kind of man Derek probably wouldn’t mind flirting with, if he were the type of person to actually flirt with people he was interested in. The adoring and no-nonsense way in which he handles his son makes it seem like he’s a competent human being, Derek doesn’t even mind the challenging tone of voice Stiles takes up when talking to him. It’s not difficult to imagine Stiles using that tone of voice somewhere else, smirking at him while he draws Derek into a kiss--

Derek coughs, shaking his head. It won’t do to think about these things at all.

“Right, of course,” Stiles says, looking down at his feet. “Well, don’t worry about us. Like you said, we’re just living under the same roof. No worries, no attachments. It’ll be fine.”

 


 

It is not fine.

Zoey adores Theo immediately, insisting on sharing a bedroom with him, making Derek assemble her bunk bed in the second bedroom, and even sets aside the top bunk (usually reserved for her stuffed animals) for Theo to sleep in. This completely derails Derek’s initial idea when he found out the house was a two-bedroom for he and Zoey to share one room and Stiles and Theo to take the other.

Derek’s large four-poster bed was assembled in the master bedroom, because they weren’t smart enough to put the curtains up first and the neighbors had been watching the entire time.

Stiles had insisted it would be fine, they could share a bed like normal adults without it being weird, but the first night he had walked out of the bathroom in a faded t-shirt and boxer shorts looking ridiculously cute, and Derek was pretty sure once he was unconscious his instincts would be to cuddle him.

So Derek sleeps on the couch.

Zoey and Theo hold hands and call each other brother and sister, and Derek’s heart clenches when he sees them playing together, knowing that when this is over it’s going to be heartbreaking.

And it’s not just Theo.

The first time Derek makes specialty dinosaur-shaped pancakes, Zoey’s favorite, she claps her hand delightedly together, showing a wide-eyed Theo. Stiles starts humming the Jurassic Park theme song, picking up a pancake and pretending to attack her with it, mock-growling, and Zoey laughs, saying, “No, Papa, velociraptors don’t make that noise.”

Stiles didn’t even seem to notice, but Derek had frozen midflip of a stegosaurus pancake, watching Stiles make a litany of strange noises (oinks, ribbits, mooing), making Zoey and Theo laugh even harder.

It’s only been a week.

Stiles pulls Derek aside one morning before he heads to the office. He’s a literary agent at a large publishing house, and the relocation hadn’t been difficult for him at all, career-wise, since they easily found a branch in a different location for Stiles to move to without making a fuss.

“Hey, so um, Mrs.Oggsworth from down the road ran into me at the grocery store last week,” Stiles says. “And uh, she said her daughter is a marriage counselor.”

“What?”

Stiles shifts, uncomfortable. “I think the curtains we have up in the living room are super thin, and apparently anyone who goes for a night jog can see you getting ready for bed on the couch.”

“Oh.” Derek grits his teeth. “We don’t want to draw attention to ourselves. It won’t do for the neighbors to start gossipping about our marriage problems, right?”

It’s on Derek’s mind the whole day, and he can’t even concentrate on his newest book. It’s supposed to be a sequel to his second novel, Afire, but the bestseller had done so well and received so many rave reviews, Derek is having trouble trying to follow it up. He doesn’t know what to do with his main character, a spy who basically spent the entire first book being traumatized and dealing with the aftermath of a terrible decision, and then decides to dismantle the entire organization. It ends ambiguously, which was a huge draw for the publishing crowd, and people have been analyzing it to death for years and years. Derek’s glad he went with a pseudonym, he couldn’t bear to have people hounding him about the ending, asking him about the symbolism or if Billy Frax will ever have peace.

Derek rereads the five hundred words he’s got about Billy watching the snowfall, bitterly remembering people who have betrayed him, and just… it’s depressing. He doesn’t even know what to do with Billy right now. A new adventure? No, Billy’s done with espionage. Derek had never planned to continue the story, just leave off with where it was, but apparently there was a demand, and Derek’s editor had persuaded him to try and write a sequel.

Derek sighs, looking out the window. There’s a soft dusting of snow, not enough to make a snowman just yet, as Zoey keeps reminding him. He can hear her and Theo playing “the floor is lava” out in the living room, and he closes his eyes, worrying about how to possibly share a bed with Stiles without embarrassing himself.

Derek opens up a new document. Alright, what if Billy meets this single mother and adorable son, and he thinks about settling down, and then…

He cracks his knuckles and begins to write.

 


 

“I’m HOOOME!”

Derek blinks up wearily from where he’s hunched over his laptop on the dining room table. Stiles is laughing in the doorway, Zoey and Theo hugging each of his legs.

“Let’s go out for pizza!” Zoey demands.

“I thought your dad was making dinner,” Stiles says.

Derek scrolls over his document, saving it quickly. He’s written three thousand words.

“Sorry, I forgot,” Derek says sheepishly.

“Daddy was in the zone,” Zoey whispers conspiratorially. “He says never bother him when he makes the writing face.” She contorts her face into a look of extreme concentration, which makes Stiles laugh. Derek frowns, though. He’s sure he doesn’t look that weird when he writes.

“Oh, neat, you get work done on your novel?” Stiles asks, interested. “You know I’m an editor too, if you ever want me to look at it--”

Derek shuts the laptop in a hurry. “I have an editor, thanks.”

“Alright, alright, pizza sounds good,” Stiles says. “We can celebrate. I just found out my favorite author is writing a sequel, and I’ve been put on the project so I’ll be one of the first to read the manuscript!” Stiles rubs his hands together happily.

“Oh, who?” Derek asks. He knows Stiles works at one of the huge publishing houses, it’s probably a writer Derek knows.

Stiles is fiddling with a puffy coat and tugging Theo into it. “Ah, I can’t tell you, I mean technically I don’t even know them beyond their writing, since you know, everyone and their mom writes under a pseudonym these days, and I’ll have to sign an NDA, and it’s a huge hush-hush deal otherwise I would tell you more, but I can’t, but I’m just really thrilled!” he beams, and the mood is catching. Derek feels like celebrating as well, he’s made good progress, especially after having been blocked for months.

Zoey tugs on his sleeve. “Pizza, daddy.”

 


 

The pizza parlor is filled with people, apparently a town favorite. Derek spots the Oggsworth family in the corner, and people are nodding at him and Stiles as they usher their kids inside.

They get a booth and the kids immediately jump up and head for the arcade area. Derek dutifully hands them all his quarters, and they run off, leaving Stiles and he alone in the booth.

Stiles grabs his hands suddenly, dropping his voice to a low whisper. “Appearances, sorry.”

“It’s fine,” Derek says, curling his fingers around Stiles’ own. The contact is nice, and Stiles is smiling warmly at him, and Derek forgets for a moment what is really happening. Even with the hordes of screaming children and the obnoxious colors of the pizza parlor and the cheesy, colorful menus, this could probably be the best date Derek’s ever been on. Zoey’s having fun… and Derek is having fun.

“Aww, you two look so cute,” the waitress says, adjusting her silly hat. “Mind if I take your picture for the community wall? I already got your kids playing whack-a-mole. Need the happy parents to go with it! Or I could call them back over, but they looked pretty serious with the game.”

“Uh, Kimmy,” Derek says, reading her nametag. “Can I see the picture?”

Kimmy dutifully shows him the camera, and Derek breathes a sigh of relief. Zoey has her eyes closed, sticking her tongue out, an arm looped around Theo’s shoulder.

“My mom lives next door to you guys,” Kimmy says, grinning. “She’s a huge gossip, but it’s nice to see you guys have made up. Picture?”

Stiles seems to understand Derek’s worry immediately, and just says, “Close your eyes, babe,” and plants a wet kiss to his cheek.

The camera flash goes off behind Derek’s closed eyes, and Kimmy says “Cute! Thanks!”

She takes their pizza order, and rushes off.

Derek can still feel the phantom press of Stiles’ lips to his cheek.

 


 

“We could just buy thicker curtains, we don’t have to do this,” Stiles offers.

Derek spits out the toothpaste, rinsing his mouth. “It’s fine.”

“I could sleep on the couch.”

“It’s kind of lumpy and uncomfortable. I have werewolf healing, you don’t.” Derek splashes cold water on his face.

Stiles is curled up in bed, and Derek turns to look at him, struck by the image of Stiles waiting for him in the bed he’s owned for two years. He pats the empty spot next to him, and Derek gets under the covers.

Derek closes his eyes, listening to Stiles’s steady breathing, and listens to the quiet sounds of the neighborhood getting ready for bed around them. Zoey and Theo are asleep already, and Derek can hear Mr. and Mrs. Luong both snoring silently. The couple in the house on the other side are…

Well, that’s nice to know.

Derek snorts, curling up on his side.

“Yeah, Joe and Eileen get super into it on Wednesdays,” Stiles remarks from his side of hte bed.

“Wait, you can hear that?”

“Yeah, it’s a pretty quiet neighborhood, and the houses aren’t that far apart. I can hear them do the do a few times a week.”

Derek lets the words sink in, coming to a horrible realization. “Stiles. The neighbors aren’t gossiping about us because someone saw me sleeping on the couch once. It’s because they aren’t hearing us…”

Stiles’ eyes widen. “Oh man, we need to have sex. Right now.”

Derek’s turns over to stare at Stiles, mouth falling open. He couldn’t possibly mean...

“I mean, like pretend sex. Come on.”

Derek watches Stiles throw his head back and moan loudly. He shakes the bed vigorously, making the bed thump against the wall. “Derek,” Stiles groans, and Derek didn’t know his name could even sound like that, the syllables dripping with want.

Stiles jerks his head at Derek pointedly, and Derek remembers what they’re doing. He should probably reciprocate. Derek feels his face burn with embarrassment, but he makes a grunting noise. He hasn’t had actual sex in such a long time, he doesn’t even know what to do or what he should sound like.

“Derek! You’re making me sound terrible at sex,” Stiles whispers, in a hurt tone. “Ugh, just don’t say anything. We’ll just pretend you’re going down on me right now, and your mouth is full.”

Derek shudders at the image, and then proceeds to watch and listen as Stiles’ breathing gets faster, voice breathy, moaning and gasping. They shake the bed together, and then Stiles starts calling out, “Faster! Harder! Derek, you feel so good!”

Derek’s face must be doing something interesting because Stiles just shrugs and adds in a low whisper, “What. I like getting fucked. I’m paying you a compliment. Your fictional dick is amazing.”

Stiles bangs against the headboard once more. “Yeah, give me more of that--”

“Stiles,” Derek hisses. “The kids are gonna wake up if you don’t shut up--”

Stiles gives him a wicked grin, and he opens his mouth to probably shout again, and Derek really doesn’t have a reason to, other than Stiles is in his bed and over the past few weeks he’s been insinuating himself into Derek’s life, and it feels natural, right for him just to kiss Stiles right then and there.

It takes Stiles by surprise, but he kisses right back, clutching at Derek’s neck, pulling him close, and sucking Derek’s lower lip into his mouth, groaning in appreciation. Derek kisses him furiously, giving into the frustration that’s been building up, losing himself to the heat of the kiss. It takes a minute for his brain to really kick in, and then he and Stiles spring away from each other.

Stiles is staring at him, chest heaving, cheeks flushed. The heavy scent of arousal and confusion is radiating from him, and Derek’s stomach makes a hopeful flip. Stiles had kissed him back, he wants this too, right?

But Derek remembers the situation, and that it’s not real, and can’t be real, and Stiles probably was just caught up in the heat of the moment, and just because he thinks Derek is attractive doesn’t mean he wants--

“Sorry,” Derek says softly. “I got carried away. I didn’t mean to.”

“‘Course you didn’t,” Stiles says, a little too brightly. “It’s cool. We should probably go to bed, though, I think your fictional dick just made me come my brains out.” He turns over, pulling the covers up to his shoulders.

Derek watches the line of his back for a minute as Stiles pretends to sleep, and falls back on his back, closing his eyes, waiting for sleep to claim him.

 


 

They don’t say anything about the kiss over the next few days, and it gets closer and closer to Christmas. Zoey is getting restless and ansty about it, especially since Stiles explained to her when they moved in that Theo and he don’t celebrate the holiday.

It’s Zoey’s favorite time of year, and the Hale house has always been alight with the smell of baking, there’s always a ten-foot tree in the entryway, not to mention the hours spent crafting ornaments together and decorating the tree, and a cookie decorating party. There are a lot of Hale traditions that make Derek miss his family even more. He knows Cora’s doing well, she adores the couple that she’s living with, and apparently made gingerbread with them yesterday, and he spoke with Laura and his parents and a few of his cousins, everyone seems settled and happy where they are, sharing their Christmases, being safe.

Zoey is looking sadly out the window at the Luong’s Christmas lights and decorations on their lawn.

“Chin up, buttercup,” Derek says, nudging her.

“Daddy, I know Papa Stiles said he and Theo don’t celebrate Christmas, but I really want to give them presents. And bake cookies with them and do decorations,” Zoey whines.

Derek sighs, pulling her into a hug. He doesn’t say anything about Zoey calling Stiles Papa. She has been doing that since the dinosaur pancakes thing, and as much as it makes Derek’s heart ache because he knows eventually they’ll have to say goodbye, he’s not going to take it away from her. “Have you thought about asking them if they’d like to? It doesn’t have to be a Christmas thing.” He vaguely remembers Cora’s ex-boyfriend had been Jewish, and they had done presents with each other. “Presents aren’t just for holidays, you know? I give you presents all the time, even when it’s not your birthday or Christmas or anything. Just because I love you.”

Zoey giggles, bright and happy, and curls into Derek’s chest, and they watch the snow gently drift outside the window together.

When Stiles gets home from the grocery store with Theo bouncing in his arms, Zoey approaches him shyly. “Papa, can I give you and Theo presents for the holidays? Daddy says it doesn’t have to be a Christmas thing, it can just be because I love you.”

“Aw, Zoey, I love you too,” Stiles says, earnestly and immediate, setting Theo down and then picking her up and throwing her in the air a little, making her laugh. He gives her a warm hug, and from the window seat Derek can’t bear to look away.

Stiles hadn’t been lying when he said he loved Zoey back.

“Love Zoey,” Theo announces, reaching for them with grabby hands. “I made you a Hanukkah present.”

Zoey looks at him curiously, and Stiles steps in. “Theo and I do presents too, as part of our celebration of Hanukkah. You and your dad can join us, if you like.”

Stiles has got Zoey captivated as he starts explaining the festival to her, and Derek’s actually more than a little proud of how quiet and respectful she’s being as Stiles talks, not interrupting him at all.

Well, at least until Theo starts talking about food and Zoey starts talking about the Hale’s baking extravaganza which has Theo wide-eyed as she describes all their cookies, and then he gets Zoey hyped up about eight days of presents, and the two of them starts jumping up and down, feeding off each other’s excitement.

Zoey turns to Derek, eyes glittering. “Daddy, Theo gets eight presents,” she says beseechingly.

“I am so, so sorry about this,” Stiles whispers to Derek.

“Do you really do eight presents?” Derek whispers back, watching his giddy daughter listen to Theo talk about sweets.

“Nah, that would be way too much. It’s not that bad, like people usually do small presents for the first seven days, and the last is like, the big present. You know, start with like chocolate or pencils or little toys and stuff. I wrap ‘em all separately. Theo gets the most kick out of the anticipation, and unwrapping things, to be honest.”

Stiles turns to gesture at the kids, but Theo and Zoey aren’t in the living room.

Derek follows Stiles to the kids’ bedroom, where Theo is tugging something out of a box and presenting it to Zoey. “It’s the menorah I made last year with Grandpa!” he announces.

A clumsily painted menorah is in his hands, painted a bright blue. “For you,” Theo says, handing it to Zoey. “You can light this one with us tonight!”

Theo goes back into the box, digging until he pulls out another menorah, a simple one made out of brushed steel. “Dad,” he says, holding it out.

Derek is a little confused, since he knows he saw Stiles and Theo set out their menorahs in the living room the other day, and then Stiles nudges him and he realizes Theo is talking to him.

“Oh. Thank you, Theo,” Derek says, taking the candelabra in his hands.

“I don’t mind, you know,” Stiles says when the kids leave the room. “I know you guys haven’t put any Christmas decorations up or anything, probably because you were thinking it might be weird for me and Theo, but really, it isn’t. My family’s been doing both for years, because my best friend Scott does Christmas, and as a kid we both got really excited about the holidays and just wanted to do stuff together-- and then our parents got married when we were adults, so you know, it’s always been a double feature--”

Derek pulls Stiles in for a hug, closing his eyes and breathing in the scent of Stiles’ warm sincerity. He doesn’t want to think about what this could mean, other than Stiles being nice, but--

Stiles pats him on the back. “It’s really not a big deal,” he mumbles, stepping away from the hug when Derek finally releases him. “I didn’t see a fake tree in the stuff you unpacked or anything, or decorations even…”

Laura and his parents had taken all the decorations. “Real tree. My family’s always done real trees.”

“Oh? There’s a tree lot in town, if you wanna go get one,” Stiles suggests.

So they head off to pick a tree.

Theo finds the perfect one, round and squat with fluffy needles, and Zoey cheers, bouncing up and down, pigtails bobbing, as the lot attendants strap it to the top of Stiles’ jeep.

“Now for hot chocolate,” she announces, dragging them towards the booth.

Derek pays for four hot chocolate drinks, and they sip them quietly, at least until Theo announces that the other booth is a photo booth and that they absolutely have to do it.

The four of them cram into the small booth, and Theo climbs into Derek’s lap, Zoey onto Stiles’, without any preamble. It strikes Derek how easily they’ve become close. Like a pack of their own.

Stiles flings an arm around Derek’s shoulder, pulling him in close. Zoey reminds Derek to shut his eyes, and they all make a series of silly faces.

The photostrip that prints out of the booth is adorable. Theo is… wearing one of Zoey’s beanies, actually, and Zoey has her eyes closed, making a face, looking comfortable and happy in Stiles’ lap. They look like a family. A real family.

In the last photo, Stiles is leaning on Derek’s shoulder, not looking at the camera, but adoringly at Derek, whose eyes are closed, a smile on his face. Derek tears off the photo and slips it in his wallet, passing the rest to Stiles.

“Hey, I thought we’d get four?” Stiles asks.

“It didn’t turn out good,” Derek says.

“Daddy, can we make popcorn garlands like how Auntie Laura did last year?” Zoey asks, headbutting Derek’s thigh.

“Ooooh, what’s that?” Theo asks, and the conversation neatly swings away from the photos towards tree decorations.

 


 

The tree is decorated, there are paper snowflakes on every single window, and the house is warm with the sweet smell of sugar. They had spent all morning baking: Derek had made Zoey’s favorite snickerdoodles while Stiles made sufganiyot, and and the kids had gotten all hyped up on the sweets, so Stiles offered to take the kids ice skating to get them out of Derek’s hair so he can write. It was perfect timing, actually, though Derek can’t remember if he mentioned his deadlines to Stiles or not. He must have.

Derek takes a break from his typing, trying to think of another way of saying “Billy was happy” without it sounding ridiculous. He snorts, thinking his editor is probably going to have his head for giving Billy everything he’s ever wanted, and then taking it away. Such was life, though.

There are actual wrapped presents underneath the tree, Derek notices. Most of them are labeled for Theo or Zoey, but Derek finds one with his name on it, wedged in the back. It’s small and heavy, and he has no clue what it could be, but it makes his heart heavy. Stiles bought him a present.

Derek finishes another chapter of his novel, feeling productive. He gets up to get a glass of water, smiling at a drawing on the refrigerator. In colorful crayon Theo has rendered stick figures of himself, Stiles, Zoey and Derek. He gave Zoey and Derek wolf ears and fangs, and there are hearts scribbled all around the drawing, and a blue house in the background. The house they’re currently living in.

At the top of the drawing is a clumsily titled “MY FAMLEE.”  

 


 

The mall is overcrowded and filled with people doing last minute shopping. Derek leaves the toy store empty handed, most of the best gifts picked out already. He can’t think of a single one Theo would like that he doesn’t already have, plus he’s pretty sure that new action figure Theo’s been dropping hints about is what’s in the biggest box already under the tree. Maybe art supplies? The kid does like to draw.

The bookshop looks less overrun by customers, so Derek makes his way inside, heading to the children’s section. There’s a great paint and puzzle kit that looks fun, so he buys that, feeling good about his purchase.

There’s a poster by the cashier’s counter which makes Derek do a double-take. He stares at the thing for a good minute, torn between frustration and excitement. He’d offered that title to his editor as a joke, and they’re running with it?

THAW

the long awaited sequel to AFIRE

by

NY TIMES BESTSELLING AUTHOR, JAMES WEST

 

Derek snorts, noticing there isn’t even a definite release date. “Hey, what’s the deal with this?” he asks one of the employees walking by. “You don’t even know when the book’s coming out.”

“Well, a lot of people are really excited about it. You can sign up for our mailing list, and we’ll send you an update as soon as we have a release date, and then we’ll start pre-orders and stuff,” the guy says. “It’s a good idea, I mean, wouldn’t you wanna be among the first to know when the book is done--”

Derek shakes his head. “Yeah, I’m sure I’ll have no problem,” he says.

Outside a clothing boutique Derek spots a mannequin wearing a soft chocolate brown winter coat, looking warm and cozy. He remembers how Stiles had been complaining about his old thinning jacket, and pictures Stiles wearing this jacket, cheeks flushed and warm, and it doesn’t take more for him to make the decision.

The coat turns out to be more expensive than what is probably appropriate for how long Derek’s known Stiles, and they’re not even… they’re not dating. But Derek can still get him something to show him he appreciates him, right?

The cashier rings him up, and they says, “We have complimentary gift-wrapping, if you like.”

“Sure, thank you,” Derek says.

“Would you like to personalize the card?”

Derek takes the offered card and thinks for a moment before writing, Happy Hanukkah, Stiles. You and your son have made this holiday season really special for me and Zoey. He hesitates before writing anything else, unsure, and finally just signs it Derek.

When Derek gets back home, he’s relieved to find the house is still empty. He finds a roll of wrapping paper and clumsily wraps the the gift for Theo and the present he had gotten for Zoey a month ago, setting them under the tree along with the other brightly colored packages. Belatedly Derek realizes that Stiles’ gift stands out in its professionally done wrapping, neat and perfect looking with a bright velvet bow on top and a sprig of fake mistletoe attached to it.

The front door opens, and Derek hurriedly shoves Stiles’ gift behind the tree, so it doesn’t look as obnoxiously pretty, and throws himself on the couch, grabbing his laptop and pretending to type away.

“Ding, dong, ding, dongggg…” the kids are singing loudly and out of tune, as Stiles walks in with one in each hand, singing the loudest.

“Derek! How was your afternoon? I’ll have you know Zoey is a natural on the ice. She was skating circles ‘round me and Theo the entire time. I think you should sign up for hockey lessons or something when you get older, Zoey,” Stiles remarks, flopping down on the couch next to Derek.

“IS THIS FOR ME?” Theo screams, shaking the gift Derek had just wrapped for him.

“Did you give them sugar?” Derek asks.

Stiles looks guiltily at his feet. “Okay, there were these giant lollipops, and I said they could share one… I have a picture of them trying to eat it, it’s pretty hilarious.”

Zoey has found her gift as well, and now she and Theo are shaking their gifts, guessing loudly what they could be.

“It’s fine, I got a lot done. Thanks for taking them out,” Derek says, closing the laptop and setting it on the coffee table.

“It was my pleasure,” Stiles says warmly.

“Time for Planet Matzah Ball!” Theo says, jumping up on the couch.

“What’s…”

“It’s a silly Hanukkah movie, it’s kind of awesome. It’s got puppets and space and songs, Theo loves it. He’s been telling Zoey about it all afternoon,” Stiles says.

“Yeah! It sounds awesome,” Zoey says, copying the exact same intonation in Stiles’ voice.

Stiles puts the DVD in the player, and the kids pile on the couch with them. The movie is cute and adorable, and Derek finds himself smiling, just watching Stiles and Theo sing along to the songs, Zoey demanding they replay some of the scenes over so she can sing too.

By the end of the second rewatch of Hanukkah on Planet Matzah Ball is over, both Zoey and Theo are asleep, chests rising and falling steadily.

Stiles looks tired as well, the way his head has fallen onto Derek’s shoulder. He’s been on his feet all day, Derek doesn’t really blame him. Stiles blinks sleepily up at Derek and offers him a shy smile. Their arms have been resting next to each other for the entirety of the last movie, skin slightly touching.

One of Stiles’ fingers drifts onto Derek’s open palm, like a question, and Derek just feels so content with the house smelling like sugar and home and the kids and Stiles, he just curls his hand around Stiles’ own in response.

Stiles’ mouth falls open a little, and he leans forward, and Derek thinks, yes.

Yes, this can work out. He can have this, be happy. Derek can just tell Stiles he wants to actually date him, even if it’s a little unconventional, to already be living in the same house, sharing a bed, their children already acting like siblings, but Derek knows he doesn’t want anything more than this right now.

Derek leans forward for the kiss, and Stiles closes his eyes, lashes dark against his cheek--

The phone rings.

Or to be accurate, two phones ring. There’s a harsh electronic pop song jangling from Stiles’ phone on the coffee table, and the one in Derek’s pocket is vibrating away.

“Uh-- I’ll just--” Stiles reaches for his phone, and then stands up, taking his call.

Derek grudgingly picks up his phone as well. “Hello?”

“Mr. Hale, this is Agent Markowski.”

Derek listens to the FBI agent explain something, but his attention is more on Stiles a few feet away from him, exclaiming, “Really? That’s awesome! No way-- uh huh--”

“Just in time for the holidays, too,” Markowski is saying in Derek’s ear. “I’m certain you will be pleased to know that we were able to apprehend all the suspects in such a timely manner.”

“Oh. That’s great,” Derek says hollowly.

“I know that moving is a hassle, and the lease on the houses for the relocation protection projects have been paid for up until the end of the month, so you won’t have to worry about moving out right away, but I just wanted to let you know if you want to return home, you can.”

Makowski rambles on for a bit, and finally Derek hangs up on him.

Stiles looks at Derek, ecstatic. “Did you get an agent too?”

“Yeah.”

“Isn’t it great! We can all go home now! I can go see Scott and my dad and Melissa and Theo can see his cousins, we can be with family…”

Stiles is babbling, scent happy and bright with the promise of being reunited with all the people he loves.

Derek can’t possibly stand in the way of that.

 


 

That night Derek waits for Stiles’ breathing to fall into a steady rhythm, and then he gets dressed quickly, stuffing his clothes into a bag. He calls a cab, and it’s waiting outside by the time Derek’s packed up his and Zoey’s things, just the essentials, some clothes and a few of her toys. He can always just hire some movers to come back for the furniture later.

Derek packs everything into the cab and comes back for one last trip, stealing into the kids’ room, picking up a sleepy Zoey and tucking her into her coat.

“Daddy?” Zoey murmurs against his chest, as they pass through the living room. “Where are we going?”

“Going back home,” Derek whispers to her.

Zoey yawns. “We are home, Daddy. Go back to sleep.”

“Don’t you wanna see Grandma and Grandpa and Auntie Laura and everyone?” Derek whispers, and this gets Zoey to smile, nodding slowly, but then she thinks of something that makes her face scrunch up in worry.

“Don’t forget my presents...” Zoey mumbles.

Right. Her presents. Derek looks under the tree, grabbing all the gifts with Zoey’s name on it, until he has an armful of sleepy toddler and presents.

“That one is yours,” Zoey says, pointing, just before her eyes fall shut, and she’s asleep again in Derek’s arms.

“I’ll come back for it,” Derek says.

He runs to the cab and buckles Zoey in the backseat along with her gifts, and dashes back inside the house. Derek grabs the present, and thinks he should probably leave Stiles a note or something.

In the kitchen there’s some scraps of paper that Theo was scribbling on. Derek grabs an orange crayon and writes, “We had to go back and spend Christmas with my family. Thanks…”

There isn’t quite enough space for what Derek wants to say, and he isn’t sure that he should say it anyways, since this whole facade is over anyways. He feels bad for leaving on the last day of Hanukkah, especially after a whole week of getting to share traditions with them. Derek knows it was really special for Zoey. And for him as well. He’s never felt so included in someone else’s life before, not even when he used to actually date.

The cab is waiting, so Derek finally just scribbles, “...for being cool,” and then sticks it on a fridge with a magnet.

He heads back outside. A light snow has begun to fall, the flakes falling wetly into Derek’s hair. He gets into the cab, and watches as the little blue house gets smaller and smaller, and finally disappears from view.

 


 

Zoey, when she wakes up, is livid.

It doesn’t matter that they’re back at the Hale manor (sparsely furnished), with her grandparents and most of her aunts and uncles and cousins. It doesn’t matter that there’s a fifteen-foot spectacular tree that Talia had flown in from out of state, decorated immaculately, surrounded by heaps of presents. It doesn’t matter that Laura promises to make her favorite dishes, or each of her cousins offer her piggyback rides or the best seat at the table.

Zoey cries for an hour, then turns to tantrums, kicking and screaming, wolfed out, little claws scratching at the hardwood, refusing to shift back or even be consoled.

“I didn’t -- hic-- get to -- hic-- say goodbye!” she wails, tears falling down her face.

“I know, I’m sorry,” Derek says, reaching for her.

Zoey pulls away. “This is your fault,” she says angrily. “You should have married him like I told you to. Then after the wedding we could have brought Papa and Theo to live with us now that all the bad guys are gone.”

“It’s not that simple, Zoey,” Derek says.

“YES IT IS!” Zoey shouts, kicking at the floor.

“Mom,” Derek says helplessly, when Talia stands in the doorway.

“Who is this man she’s calling ‘Papa’?” Talia asks curiously.

Derek sighs.

“His name is Stiles and he is the bestest, even though he doesn’t know what dinosaurs sound like, he’s funny and smart and nice and he makes Daddy smile and I don’t understand why we had to leave our house in the middle of the night and tonight is special night to light the-- light the-- “ Zoey hiccups, and a big fat tear rolls off the edge of her nose, and she just dissolves into an inconsolable mess. Talia scoops her into her arms, patting her hair and whispering gently to her, and Derek just backs out of the room, completely at a loss of what to.

“So this guy made you smile, eh?” Laura asks him with a wry grin.

“Shut up,” Derek says.

“Zoey seems to like him a lot,” Laura says. “I don’t think she was this torn up when Cora broke up with that Patrick guy. Then again, if she’s calling him Papa I’m pretty sure--”

“Laura, I really don’t wanna talk about this, okay?” Derek snaps at her.

Laura blinks, and then studies him for a moment. “So it wasn’t just her,” she says. “You liked him too.”

“It wouldn’t have worked out,” Derek says bitterly. “We were just kind of thrown together randomly for this thing, and at the end he wanted only to go back to his family. I mean, we didn’t even have to leave the house right away, you know? Like I was thinking of staying, maybe...coming back to hang out with you guys for Christmas, or introduce him… or figure out what we were doing after… stay in touch…”

“Oh, Derek. You’ve got it bad,” Laura says, sighing.

“Doesn’t matter anymore,” Derek says.

“Well, it’s Christmas Eve. Wanna pick a present out to open tonight? It’ll cheer you up,” Laura suggests, waving at the monstrous tree and the gifts underneath it.

“You pick something, I’m not in the mood,” Derek says, slumping to the floor.

“Okay, okay, I got you,” Laura says. A second later she’s pushing a package into his hands.

Derek stares. It’s the gift from Stiles.

“Completely random, little bro,” Laura says, winking. “C’mon, I wanna see what this guy got you.”

Derek swallows back the sharp retort, because he too is curious, and rips open the wrapping paper.

It’s a book.

Well, not just any book. It’s Derek’s book. His first novel, to be exact. It’s never reached the acclaim that Afire had, but it’s a lot more personal in many ways. Derek had written it before the Reveal, and at the time it had been considered nothing more than a werewolf fantasy, but to Derek it was a dark, gritty look at what his life might had been like if that attempted arson on his family’s home when he was sixteen actually succeeded.

“Okay, not to judge your fake hubby, but this is sort of lame,” Laura says. “He gave you a copy of your own book.”

“Laura, he doesn’t know I wrote this,” Derek says, looking at the paperback in his hands. It looks well worn, many creases in the spine, pages have been dog-eared and Derek can see a coffee stain as he’s flipping through the pages.

“Well, I didn’t know that! I thought you and the mister told each other everything!” Derek glares at her, and Laura huffs and says, “Fine, I’ll shut up. I’ll just go see how your kiddo is doing, how’s that?”

Derek waves her off, flipping the dust jacket open to the book.

Written on the title page in Stiles’ handwriting is:

Hey Derek! This is my favorite novel, and I know we haven’t talked much about your own writing or anything, and I get you’re really private about it, but you remind me a lot of the main character in this novel. He’s tries really hard to be tough and strong, and inside he’s this huge softy, and throughout the novel a lot of fun and interesting (I won’t give you any spoilers, though, it’s a great read!) things happen, and he never gives up.

Anyways, there aren’t a lot of copies of this novel out, I think because the author was embarrassed or something and likes to pretend he never wrote the thing, and his second book is like, way way more popular. I like this one better though. It’s more honest.

I know we haven’t known each other that long, and the whole “pretend to be married” thing has been really weird, but I’ve actually enjoyed living with you. Theo adores you and Zoey, and it’s been really great. I know you told me after that one kiss you really didn’t mean it and got carried away, and I get that, I really do. I just want you to know if you ever want to try a re-do, I’m game. I mean, we could date, but technically we’re already married. Maybe this time next year it’ll be real?

Good luck with your next novel. I know it’ll be great.

hopefully yours,

Stiles

Derek takes a deep breath, trying to settle the sudden nervous swooping feeling in his stomach.

“Laura, I’m borrowing your Camaro!” Derek yells. “Watch Zoey for me!”

Derek drives as fast as he can, barely obeying the speed limit laws. The roads are clear, and he makes it back to the little blue house in a little under an hour.

Derek races up to the door, fingers fumbling the key in his hands nervously. He finally gets the door open after dropping it twice.

“Hello? Stiles? Theo?” Derek calls out.

The living room is empty. The menorahs are gone and there is nothing underneath the Christmas tree. Derek knows instantly that there isn’t anyone in the house-- he can’t hear any heartbeats nearby, but he has to check anyways.

No one is in either of the bedrooms. It looked like Stiles had packed the same way Derek did; clothes and toys, leaving the furniture behind for later.

Derek heads back to the kitchen, and he sees scraps of something on the floor.

It’s the ripped up pieces of the note Derek left.

 


 

Christmas Day is rambunctious and a regular Hale affair as usual, except Derek isn’t in the mood at all. Zoey seems to have cheered up a little after Derek lets her play with his phone for an hour. He’s not above bribery with flashy lights and video games, not at all. She’s currently holed up in the bay window, poking at the screen, giggling every now and then.

The doorbell rings.

“Derek, get it! Mom invited someone over for some last minute consultations on her new bill, I’m covered in applesauce!” Laura yells from the kitchen.

Derek rolls his eyes. Trust his mother to do work on Christmas Day. He opens the door, finding a young man dressed in a sharp suit.

“Hi there. Scott McCall, here to see Senator Talia Hale,” he says, offering his hand for Derek to shake.

“Oh, hi,” Derek says. He wonders why Scott’s voice sounds incredibly familiar. He definitely recognizes the name, though. “It’s really nice to meet you. I really admire what you’ve done for werewolf rights. That article you wrote in the New Yorker was really incredible. And all the protests and things, really. I was in Chicago for the May Day protest, that was really an experience.”

Scott beams. He’s a lot younger than Derek expected for such an influential leader in werewolf politics, which is pretty impressive. “Thanks. It’s pretty awesome the FBI figured out all this stuff so we could all go home for Christmas, isn’t it?”

“Yeah, awesome,” Derek says. The bitter tone seems to take Scott by surprise. “Sorry, it’s not that I’m not happy to be home with my family, I just… uh… got really attached to the people I ended up staying with, and I messed it up before I left.”

Scott pats him on the shoulder. “Don’t worry about it, whatever it is, I’m sure they’ll understand.”

“Thanks,” Derek says sincerely. “My mom’s in the study. You’re welcome to stay for dinner if you like, but I’m sure you have plans.”

“Definitely appreciate the invitation, but my wife and kids are having a shindig, you know the deal. Maybe another time, uh… what did you say your name was?”

“It’s Derek,” Derek says, gesturing towards the study.

“Oh. Oh.” Scott gives him a very strange look. “Uh, okay, um you know, I might stay for a little bit after my meeting, I want to ask you about… Chicago! You know, I would definitely love some feedback about that speech I made…”

“Sure,” Derek says.

Scott walks down the hallway to the study, but then he does this weird double back to look at Derek, who just gives him a confused wave.

Scott waves back, and then disappears inside the room.

Derek shakes his head, figuring it’ll make sense later when Scott talks to him about Chicago or whatever. He walks back to the window seat and curls up next to Zoey.

“Game time is over,” he says, taking the phone from her.

“Okay,” Zoey says reluctantly.

Derek closes the game, flicking back to his home screen. He has two new text messages.

Stiles> i’m on my way

Stiles> i’m still mad at you but i hope you’re ok

Derek stares for a second, confused. He looks at Zoey, who is looking very intently at her own feet. “Zoey? What did you…?”

Derek scrolls up to see the rest of the conversation.

HAAALLLLLP <Me

Stiles> are you ok?

3391 CHERRY LN <Me

PLSSSS MISSS U <Me

“Zoey, you texted Stiles!” Derek says, shocked.

“I’m sorry, I just really want him to be here! He promised he would do Christmas with us and now its Christmas and he’s not here,” Zoey whines.

“You shouldn’t–” Derek begins. You shouldn’t text people on someone else’s phone without their permission, is what he should be saying. But he finds his throat closing up.

Zoey looks up at him, like she’s about to cry again, and Derek sighs, pulling her into his lap. “It’s okay. I miss him too.”

“I told him where we were,” Zoey says proudly, waving an empty Christmas card envelope addressed to the Hales. “So he and Theo can come over for dinner.”

Derek pats her hair. “It was really nice of you to invite him,” he tells her carefully, combing a finger through her bangs. “But they…” the words aren’t family die on his lips. Because Derek’s definitely been think of them as such. He can’t bring himself to say it, though. “Look, Zoey, when I let you use my phone to play games, don’t send any text messages to anyone without my permission, okay?”

“Okay. Will you read to me?”

They get through almost all of the entirety of The Rainbow Fish when the doorbell rings again. Zoey looks up, excited, and Derek makes a furtive hushing gesture, motioning for her to stay.

He answers the door, and Stiles is standing on the porch, wearing the coat Derek bought for him.

“Okay, you don’t look hurt or anything at all… this was a mistake, I’m just gonna go home now,” Stiles says awkwardly, turning around.

“Wait, Stiles,” Derek begins awkwardly. “I shouldn’t have left like that.”

“Yeah. In the middle of the night,” Stiles says testily. “And what kind of lame note is that, ‘it’s been cool’? Really?”

“You just seemed really excited to get back to your family,” Derek mutters. “And I didn’t think you’d want to be around us anymore.”

“Did you even think to ask? Nope, you just left, you huge a--” Stiles spots Zoey approaching the door. “You huge jerk,” Stiles finishes. “Hi, Zoey.”

She peers around Stiles, but there isn’t anyone else on the porch. “Where is Theo? Now you guys have made up you guys can stay for dinner.”

“Ah, Theo’s at my dad’s house. I didn’t really know what was happening. The text message just said…”

“That was Zoey,” Derek says, which makes Stiles stiffen up a little.

“Oh, okay. I mean, I guess if you didn’t--”

“No, she was right. I do miss you,” Derek says.”

“Daddy said he was sorry for leaving in the middle of the night,” Zoey adds. “He said we had to come back and see Grandma and Grandpa and Auntie Laura and everyone.”

“Well, Daddy should have told me he was leaving. It’s not nice to make people worry,” Stiles replies, eyes trained on the other man. “It’s not nice at all.”

“He says sorry,” Zoey insists.

Stiles raises an eyebrow at Derek, who coughs. “I am sorry, Stiles. I wasn’t thinking it through.” Derek gives him a steady look. “I really wanted to... I mean, if we had stayed at that house, I really would have liked to… make it real.”

“He means he wants to marry you and we can have lollipops at the wedding,” Zoey says firmly.

“Oh.” Stiles cheeks are pink, but Derek guesses that might be because of the cold.

They stare at each other for a long moment before Derek hears someone walking down the hallway. “Stiles? What are you doing here?”

“Scott? What are you doing here?” Stiles’ eyes widen.

Where Derek’s head Scott’s voice before suddenly clicks for Derek-- on one of many of Stiles’ video calls. Stiles’ Scotty is also Scott McCall, wow. Small world.

“Helping with some policy stuff,” Scott says. He looks from Stiles to Derek. “I didn’t realize until you told me your name that you were the same Derek that Stiles has been telling me about for forever.” He claps Derek on the shoulder and grins. “You communicated?”

“Daddy said he was sorry,” Zoey offers.

There’s more rustling from the end of the hallway and Derek turns, groaning. Talia is making her way down the hallway, Laura right behind her. “Who’s this, Derek?” Talia asks, curiously.

“Actually, Senator, I had some more ideas about how to undermine the Registration Act,” Scott blurts out. He winks at Stiles and Derek before turning away. “And you must be Laura Hale,” Scott says amiably. “I hear great things about your work in land conservation…”

And he neatly just leads them away towards the study.

It doesn’t stop Laura from turning around and calling out, “You should kiss him now!”

“Laura!” Derek snaps, embarrassed.

Stiles bites his lip. “She is kinda right, I really want to, you know what, I’m just gonna--” and he leans forward, pressing his lips to Derek’s.

He tastes like freshly fallen snow, lips soft and sweet, and Derek forgets himself in the kiss until he hears Zoey is cheering. There’s a soft thump of something hitting the ground, and Derek and Stiles break apart to see the pillows from the window seat on the floor.

“I heard you’re supposed to throw things when people get married,” Zoey says.

“Uh, that’s rice, and this isn’t a wedding,” Stiles replies. “But thanks. You can definitely throw all the pillows you want at the actual wedding.”

Derek pulls him a little closer, resting his forehead on Stiles’ own, feeling warm all the way down to his toes. “Pretty confident about that, you think?” he whispers.

“Nah, I meant what I said, you know. This time next year it’ll be real,” Stiles says, pulling Derek in for another kiss.

 


 

Four Months Later

~

 

Stiles sets down the manuscript he’s reading. “Derek! Get over here!”

“What is it?” Derek asks. He can see the title and author on the thick swath of paper in Stiles’ hand, and tries not to smile.

Stiles flips the title page over and points. “Look! Look at that!”

 

For Stiles, Zoey and Theo

 

 

“Looks to me like a dedication,” Derek says, deadpan.

“Are you serious? Can you not see how weird it is? That’s my name and our kids’ names! Who is this guy even? Do you think he’s been watching us?”

“Stiles--”

“This is so creepy and weird, I mean I love this guy’s writing and he’s my favorite author and all but I’ve never talked to him, how would he know my name? And the kids--?”

Derek really wants to laugh, and he’s trying so hard not to, but he can’t help it.

“Derek, this isn’t funny. Would you dedicate a book to people you’ve never met?”

“No,” Derek says. “I would dedicate it to people who were dear to me. People that I loved.”

“Right? I mean, I’m sure whenever that behemoth you finish working on you’re gonna dedicate it to me, right, your sun and stars…” Stiles trails off. “Wait a minute. You’ve never let me read any of your work… but I have read it, haven’t I?”

Derek nods.

“You’re… you’re James West,” Stiles says, baffled.

Derek nods again.

“I’m married to James West,” Stiles says.

“Yes,” Derek says.

“I gave you your own book as a present, oh my God, I spilled coffee all over it and I wrote on it and ripped a page out for--”

Derek kisses him, and coaxes Stiles’ tongue into his mouth, pressing him into the couch until Stiles pulls away suddenly.

“Can you give me your autograph?” Stiles asks. “I want to frame it on the wall.”

“I can give you something else,” Derek murmurs, going in for another kiss. Stiles shrieks delightedly when Derek picks him up and starts carrying him to the bedroom.

Outside, Zoey and Theo are laughing and playing in the bright sunshine, drawing in chalk on the driveway, as Mrs. Luong watches them fondly as she knits. The little blue house has a fresh coat of paint, looking bright and well-kept in the cul-de-sac, and “Stilinski-Hale” is stenciled neatly on the mailbox.