It’s finals week, and Derek is the last one in the computer lab. He’s grateful that Boyd is working the lab tonight, technically they’re closed but Derek only really needed ten more minutes to finish his paper and then print this out real quick and drop it in his professor’s mailbox. As long as he gets it timestamped before midnight, he’s good. He just has to print out all the charts he’s generated on the statistics program on the school computer… oh no, this one’s not connected to the printer. Or the Internet.
Derek groans. “Boyd, do you have a USB drive on you?”
“I don’t, but there’s always a few in the lost and found box,” Boyd says, rooting around under the desk. He comes up with a cardboard box and tosses something at Derek. “I’ve worked here during the summer too, that drive has been here for like six months. You should just keep it, owner’s not coming back anytime soon.”
Derek’s too tired to think but he takes the Stormtrooper shaped USB gratefully and loads his paper onto it, and then uses Boyd’s computer to print. He sighs in relief as he hears the whirr of the library’s printer. Derek shuffles his paper together and staples it as Boyd shutting down the last few computers, the printer and then they’re out, Boyd locking up behind them.
Derek’s already back in the dorms, packing to go home when he realizes he still has the USB in his pocket. He calls Boyd about it, but Boyd’s already catching the shuttle to the airport, and isn’t all that worried about it. Apparently the library and the computer labs have a bunch of lost and found items that never go claimed; everything gets thrown out, eventually.
“Like I said, the person hasn’t bothered to come back since they lost it then tough luck, you know,” Boyd says, “You can bring it back after the new year if you like, or try and find the person yourself. Needle in a haystack, though.”
Derek shrugs. He’s pretty good at figuring out whose things belonged to who on his floor; it’s not exactly part of the RA description but he doesn’t mind.
He drops off his paper and heads back to his dorm.
Derek forgets all about the USB drive on the drive back home to Beacon Hills. He makes it there in a neat two hours and forty minutes and is immediately on vacation mode. He eats three of his mother’s chocolate chip cookies, and then Laura and Cora already have a box of ornaments open and started decorating the tree, so of course Derek has to jump in and make sure that Laura’s hideous third grade snowflake and Cora’s painted reindeer ornaments get placed front and center, and the awkward photo ornament of him from his toddler years gets inconspicuously hung up on a bottom branch.
Then he goes Christmas shopping with his mom, and they run into Sheriff Stilinski at the mall and of course his mother the mayor has to do small talk with him and ends up inviting him and his family to Christmas dinner.
“His son goes to BHU too, you know him, right? Stiles?” Talia asks on the drive home.
“Mom, just because we go to the same college doesn’t mean we know each other,” Derek says, annoyed. The campus has over thirty thousand students. He vaguely remembers Cora mentioning a Stiles a few times in her stories from high school. If the guy’s in her year he’s probably a sophomore, like her. It’s possible Derek’s run into him but highly unlikely; he also has no idea what this Stiles is supposed to look like.
“It’s just the two of them this year,” Talia says sadly. “Usually I know they have dinner with the McCalls, but that lovely Scott is studying overseas in England and his mother decided to go visit him and make a vacation of it.”
“Mmhm,” Derek says.
He wraps presents with his sisters and they bake some more cookies until the house smells like cinnamon and sugar, and then it’s time to play Guitar Hero with his sisters (Derek beats Laura’s record, and then Cora beats Derek’s), and there’s an attempt to build a snowman. They only get about a lump a foot tall rolled before they give up in favor of hot chocolate. By then Derek’s exhausted and his sisters are talking at length about this Hamilton music or something and Derek doesn’t understand a word of what they’re saying, so he just retreats to his bedroom.
He’s done unpacking and debating whether to play a videogame or something or call some of his old high school friends to see if they’re in town. Paige is studying in France the last he talked to her and Jordan is skiing with his family, and anyways it’s been years. He’s not that close with anyone else from the area.
Derek glances in his backpack; he supposes he could get some reading done for one of his classes next quarter, but he’s not really in the mood for homework. He’s rummaging in the backpack’s front pocket idly when he finds the USB drive. He pulls it out, running his thumb over the Stormtrooper’s helmet.
Oh. Yes. The mystery.
“Alright, let’s see if I can find out who you belong to,” Derek says. The easiest thing to do is to find a paper or something the student has written their name on, and then he can find them in the school email directory.
Unfortunately the Star Wars enthusiast doesn’t seem to have any sort of papers or essays at first glance; the sheer amount of folders and files on the drive are kind of overwhelming, but nothing in the main directory looks like a word document.
Derek pokes around, opening folder after folder— some of it looks like downloaded Powerpoints for an Introduction to Criminal Psychology class, but it doesn’t have the professor’s name so he can’t narrow it down like that. And it’s not like it would narrow it down to psych majors or anything.
He sighs, closing the folder of Powerpoints, and then seems to hit the jackpot when he finds a folder filled with word documents. They’re numbered, whatever that means, just a simple 1 through 22, and Derek just hopes that they’re some sort of assignment that this person put their name on.
Derek opens the first file. There’s no name or header, but he finds himself reading the first few lines.
On Scoroscanth, it rains acid. Stefan avoids taking the ship there because it’s terrible for the outer hull but they have a job to do, and the client is paying the ship’s weight in ration units, and the crew has to eat…
It’s a story.
Derek reads the first paragraph and is hooked instantly. Stefan is the captain of a falling-apart spaceship that patrols the disputed territory in the midst of an interplanetary war that has been dragging on for decades.
Derek finishes the chapter and opens the document numbered 2 and keeps reading. He vaguely remembers doing other tasks; going down the kitchen to get a snack, some water, changing into his pajamas, dragging his laptop into bed with him and arranging the covers until he’s all snuggled up. He reads about Stefan’s adventures in deep space with his crew, their struggle that seems so real— it’s science fiction but it’s also day to day life, Stefan struggling to define himself separate from his father’s legacy, dealing with his responsibilities as captain, as a friend to those he’s promised to, as a soldier fighting this endless war. There’s a solution to the war that seems too good to be true, but Stefan will have to steal from his friend and ally Prince Orlant, who Derek is pretty sure Stefan is also in love with but he has to save the galaxy and Orlant doesn’t know how Stefan feels and and and—
There are no more chapters. 22 is the last one.
Derek groans in despair. He has to know what happens.
Eugh. It’s 2:03 a.m. Has he been reading all night? He didn’t even eat dinner.
Derek’s stomach growls at him. Yeah, he definitely didn’t eat dinner.
He heads downstairs in a funk, laptop in hand. He throws some Pop Tarts in the toaster and while he waits he looks through the rest of the folders, hoping to find some clue, any clue, to who wrote this masterpiece.
Derek’s eating his Pop Tart and scowling at his laptop when Cora comes downstairs in her robe and pours herself a glass of milk.
“Where’d you get off to all night?”
“Just reading this story,” Derek says. “I found it on this USB drive that was left in the library over the summer and I have to know what happens next.” He starts telling her about the plot— and Stefan, the amazing captain who is so terribly lonely too, even when he’s surrounded by other people, and Derek just needs him to know that it’s going to be okay—
Cora yawns. “So you’re in love with this fictional dude.”
“I’m not— no—” Derek protests.
“Stefan sounds kind of like a dumbass. So he’s been in love with this Orlant guy for so long and he can’t tell him? He just pines and pines? Some brave captain.”
“Hey,” Derek snaps. “Stefan has had a lot to deal with in his life, okay, and what part of there is a INTERGALACTIC SPACE WAR don’t you understand—”
Cora throws up her hands, laughing. “Okay, dude, chill. Your space boyfriend is super amazing, okay.”
“Not my boyfriend,” Derek says.
The truth is, while he loves— and yes, he knows he loves the character of Stefan a lot— it’s more of the story that he’s just so… enamored with. Starting with the first paragraph Derek was just drinking up every word. The author has a fun, sarcastic way of narrating things sometimes, and there are little clever phrases pepper the story that make Derek laugh, and there’s this emotional depth to it that’s just… it’s amazing. Derek feels like he’s run a marathon of feelings, just having read all of what he’s had so far, and he needs to know how it ends.
“Goodnight, tell Stefan I said so too,” Cora says, patting him fondly on the shoulder as she heads upstairs.
Derek rolls his eyes and goes back to investigating the rest of the contents of the USB drive. The rest of the folders are scattered with documents that either won’t open or random Powerpoints; there doesn’t seem to be a theme, except that the person took another criminology course, and there’s some bio notes as well, and a half finished sociology paper. None of these things has the person’s name on it, or even an ID number.
Derek shuts his laptop, huffing as he stalks upstairs. He goes to sleep and dreams of space battles.
The next few days is frustrating; Derek talks to his sisters about it, and Laura even reads a few chapters and while she thinks it’s interesting, it doesn’t have the same pull for her (then again, Laura’s idea of reading for fun is her law texts, so). Cora teases him mercilessly and by the time Christmas rolls around Derek has pretty much accepted that he will never know the ending to Stefan’s story.
Boyd patiently listens to Derek’s long-winded explanation and says it’s nice of him to try and find the name of the owner, but the library routinely throws out unclaimed items at the end of the year; it’s a wonder that this relic was left over from the summer in the first place. The owner could have graduated; they could have been a person taking a summer course only; they could possibly not even be a BHU student, just someone using the library.
Derek doesn’t want to give up but he knows that it’s probably useless. It doesn’t stop him from reading and rereading his favorite scenes: Stefan admiring Orlant for the first time at the Scoroscanth ball, and meeting again at Perloo in disguise and their intense and quick affection that blooms from there.
He’s still thinking about it when he helps his mother put the final touches on Christmas dinner, but he’s so distracted Talia just relegates him to stirring the mashed potatoes and other minimal tasks. Luckily they’re almost done and the guests start arriving; Laura and Cora start helping carry the dishes out, and soon the dining room is filled with the sounds of greetings and laughter.
Derek is staring at the oven, thinking about how Stefan never got to tell Orlant how he felt.
Both the oven dings and the doorbell at the same time, Derek pulls the turkey out and sets it on the table, nodding at his mother who’s already gesturing at the door. It must be the Stilinski’s, they’re the only ones not here.
Derek throws it open, still wearing the oven mitts.
“Hey, come on in, everyone’s in the dining room…” Derek trails off.
When he vaguely pictured Stiles it was along the lines of “Cora’s friend when she was a kid” and while he knows he’d be her age now, it’s still that picture in his head.
And yet standing on the porch, holding a pie, is a gorgeous guy with warm brown eyes and a mischievous grin. “Hey, I made a pumpkin pie. Thanks for having us for dinner. Oh, I’m Stiles, you probably don’t remember me, we met like, maybe once?”
“Uh, yeah,” Derek says, momentarily floored. Stiles has a series of moles dancing down his cheek. It’s positively adorable. “Um. Come on in. Thank you for the pie. Hi, Sheriff. ”
Dinner is a large affair; Talia invited the district attorney and her family too, so it’s a tight fit around the dining room table. Derek’s knees keep bumping into Stiles’ and every so often Stiles will turn to him and lift his eyebrow a little bit. Derek desperately wants to try and flirt a little, but it’s dinner and his family and it just seems to go on and on and Stiles is remarkably adept at conversation, he talks at length about one of his father’s cases until the Sheriff says Stiles pretty much solved that one, and he’s so proud of his son.
“Ever since he was a kid he said he wanted to be a Sheriff like me, and I know he’s gonna be great at it,” the Sheriff says.
It’s a blink-and-miss moment, but Stiles sinks slightly back into his seat, a slight frown on his face, but it disappears quickly. “Of course, Dad,” Stiles says, smiling.
Derek changes the subject by talking about history, and Stiles shoots him a grateful look as Derek rambles on about one of his classes where they were learning about ethnographic narratives and how he had to interview people and write their stories down. Stiles perks up in interest at this and asks a few questions, and it’s fun until Talia makes an offhanded remark how Derek has been hiding in his room during the vacation, probably doing homework or something.
“Oh no, he’s been reading his not-book,” Cora says gleefully.
“Cora!” Derek hisses.
“Mmm, reading about his dreamy space captain boyfriend Stefan,” Cora says.
Stiles drops the breadbasket and it hits the floor with a thud, all the rolls tumbling out. He stands up, face pink with embarrassment, stuttering apologies as he tries to clean it all up.
Derek gets up and helps, throwing all the rolls in the breadbasket; they can probably save them for Deaton’s dogs later. “Don’t worry about it,” he says. “Here, I’ll just toast new ones real quick.”
Stiles follows him in the kitchen, insisting on helping. “Sorry, I would apologize and say it’s not something I normally do but then I am pretty clumsy so… yeah um… so you’re reading a story about a space captain named Stefan?”
“Yeah,” Derek says. “You like science fiction?”
He tells Stiles about the story and how he found it on the USB. “It’s just really cool and really different, you know, like it takes the typical narrative approach to the Chosen One type deal and just subverts it and Stefan, oh, Stefan, he’s amazing, he’s offered this promotion to become an admiral and rise up to help win the war but Stefan turns them down— what he does with his crew, it’s enough—
“Sorry, I just really like the story,” Derek says.
Stiles hasn’t said anything the entire time Derek has waxed poetic about the story, but his cheeks are flushed a ruddy pink. “That’s cool, um— I’m gotta go back outside and keep my dad away from that cheesy bacon potato casserole, um, I’ll see you later.”
And then Stiles leaves the kitchen suddenly, leaving Derek standing there.
He must have seemed like such a dork, talking on and on about this story— and it’s the first chance he’s had to talk to Stiles alone, too, all dinner, and Derek has to go and make this impression.
Derek scowls, finishes toasting the new set of dinner rolls and arranges them on a plate. He missed his chance at flirting. Typical.
The rest of dinner Derek is somewhat subdued. He doesn’t pay much attention, listens to everyone talk about some new city ordinance and Laura impresses them all with some jargon she’s learned from her first quarter at law school.
Derek is drowning his disappointment in mashed potatoes in gravy, hoping maybe he’ll get a second chance to say something witty to Stiles, but Stiles is wrapped up in a heated debate with Cora over which Robin was best.
After dinner there is eggnog and hot chocolate and they break out the pies. They finish the Stilinski’s pumpkin pie soon enough, and the apple one Laura baked earlier, so Derek goes out to get the other apple pie from the second fridge out by the garage.
He’s on his way back with the pie, a slight dusting of snow falling from the sky, and on the back porch he can hear the tail end of a conversation— and then his name.
“No, I’m serious, Scott, Derek found it somehow and I don’t— I don’t even know how to— I can’t just ask for it back, Scott! Uh huh… uh huh… I know I’ve complained a million times how much it sucked trying to write it over and honestly the new version isn’t gonna be the same, but… yeah, I know…” Stiles has a hand rucked up in his hair, his back to the house and is staring right up at the sky, tongue out to catch a snowflake, listening to whatever Scott is saying on the phone, not paying any attention to Derek standing a few feet away from him. “I know, I know, but like, have you ever wanted to be like, I love you, to an almost complete stranger just because…”
Stiles trails off, staring right at Derek, his eyes widening.
“I, er, was getting the pie,” Derek says, walking past Stiles and opening the door. “I’ll let you finish your phone call.”
“Oh shit, I gotta go Scotty, bye, love you, thanks for picking up my three am phone call—”
“Four am!” says the tinny voice on the phone, now that Derek is close enough to hear it. “Love you too, bro! Go get your man!”
Stiles hangs up the phone and shoves it in his pocket, catching the door before it swings shut. He follows Derek into the kitchen, rubbing the back of his neck sheepishly. “So I guess you heard that,” he says.
“Heard what?” Derek says, heart pounding nervously.
“That you read most of my ridiculous space novel, so you must know? Oh God, this is so embarrassing.” If Derek had thought Stiles’ cheeks were pink before, it’s nothing to the full on flush his face is undergoing now.
“I wasn’t sure, but… it’s yours? It’s amazing,” Derek offers sincerely. It still hasn’t completely sunk in that the guy who wrote the story he’s been captivated with is about his age— younger, actually.
Stiles’ eyes are bright, gleaming with appreciation. “You think so? I thought I lost that drive, you know, and I was dumb and didn’t have a backup, I mean, that was the backup, and trying to rewrite it has been awful, I haven’t really… I mean, I kind of just gave up on it, thought it was a lost cause, and then you found it and read it and said all these nice things…”
“You should finish it,” Derek says firmly. “I’ll give you back your USB, and you can finish it and then go get it published, it’s brilliant, you should share it with the world.”
Stiles’ face falls a little. “I don’t think I can,” he says sadly. “I promised my dad I’d be a Sheriff one day like him, you know?”
Derek nods, understanding. “You had Stefan turned down the admiralty. He could have commanded a fleet of ships and made a name for himself during the war.”
Stiles snorts. “Dude, Stefan was good as a Captain and he still saved— oh.”
Derek laughs. “Okay, so you’re going to finish it? Because I would love to hear how it ends. Does peace reign in the galaxy, does Stefan get the guy—”
Stiles grins. “Oh, believe me, Stefan gets the guy. He’s got moves, you know? He’s all charm and rogueish good looks and—”
Derek raises his eyebrow. “Are we still talking about Stefan?”
“Pie! Derek, honey, weren’t you getting the pie— oh, how cute! You two are right under the mistletoe!” Talia claps her hands in delight, walking into the kitchen.
Derek looks up. Sure enough, there’s a sprig of mistletoe hanging from the kitchen’s lamp.
Stiles looks at Derek, and wow— that blush has spread to his ears. “Oh, um, it’s okay if you don’t want to, I mean, we really don’t know each other…”
“I don’t mind,” Derek says.
Talia chuckles, taking the pie out of Derek’s hands. She winks at them. “I’ll save you two some for when you get back to us.”
As soon as she leaves the kitchen Stiles exhales. “Okay, she’s gone, you don’t have to kiss me for tradition.”
“Forget the mistletoe. And the tradition. Do you want me to kiss you?” Derek asks.
Stiles opens his mouth and closes it. “Yes, but you actually want to— oh wow— and I—”
Derek kisses him quickly on the cheek, soft and chaste. Stiles’ cheek is warm, the skin soft under his lips, and Stiles makes a pleased sound.
This close Derek can see snowflakes caught on his eyelashes, and how pink his lips are. “You kind of talk like you write,” Derek says. “It’s kind of all over the place. I like it. And you’re wrong, you know, that well— okay maybe for me— I feel like I know you. And I want to know more. Do you want to go on a date with—”
Stiles takes him by the chin and kisses him, on the mouth this time.
Derek is momentarily stunned but recovers soon enough, pulling Stiles closer and kissing him back, sweet and warm and wet and it’s actually kind of perfect.
Stiles is laughing by the time they break for air.
“To be fair,” Derek says. “That actually kind of fits with what I know of you.” He smirks and kisses Stiles again, laughter still on his lips.