It doesn’t occur to Stiles until 9:30 Thanksgiving night, spooning mashed potatoes into a Tupperware container while his dad gets changed for work, a late-night crowd control shift at a mall two towns over running a Midnight Madness Black Friday Sale, that he wasn’t going to be the only person he knew sitting home alone tonight.
Actually, really thinking about it, most everyone he knows probably spent the holiday in various states of bitter aloneness. And maybe they should have thought about that sooner, because even if they weren’t really friends they were, in theory, supposed to be pack. Packs. Pack and supplement? Pack and adjacent-pack-seceded-from-the-union?
Whatever. The point is that Stiles feels kind of wrong about it, about knowing that he’s home alone shoveling leftovers into every sealable container he can find while Derek’s probably eating a microwaveable Marie Callender’s meal and Isaac’s hating his guardians-only-on-paper-and-apparently-for-holidays, Lydia’s trying to convince the wait staff at the Beacon Hollow Country Club to serve her wine underage so she doesn’t remember dinner with her parents and Scott’s mom was on duty all morning. And maybe it’s too late to do anything for Thanksgiving, because Stiles is really about fifteen minutes away from popping the top button on his jeans and crashing out hard on the sofa, but there’s always Christmas…
Step One is asking his dad, which Stiles regrets almost as soon as the words are out of his mouth. His dad’s face goes soft and slack, eyes taking on that familiar sheen of bittersweet reminiscence, and Stiles has hated that face since the very first time he saw it.
“You’re so much like your mother, sometimes,” the Sheriff says fondly, once he’s gotten his voice back under his control. “She could never much stand for people spending the holidays alone either – always brought home strays at the last minute, calling me to dig another folding chair out of the basement or squeeze another place setting into the table.”
Stiles thinks that’s a yes, hopes it’s a yes, because his next move, Step Two, is to bring it up to Scott. Scott’s eyes go wide and bright with the idea of Stiles cooking, which is apparently distracting enough that it takes a few minutes for the rest of the sentence to sink in.
“All of them?” Scott complains, excitement rapidly diminishing at the thought of sharing his Christmas Eve ham with Derek Hale of all people.
“I mean, they might not say yes,” Stiles reminds him, even though he kind of hopes they all do. “Come on, Scott, it’s Christmas. No one sucks so much they deserve to spend Christmas alone in the burnt out shell of their family’s old dining room.”
Scott has the audacity to still look reluctant, like it’s even his house in the first place (it kind of is. Thirty percent his. Maybe twenty-five.), so Stiles low-balls him with the final blow of “besides, think of how happy Isaac’ll be to have actual Christmas.”
Scott caves. Stiles knew he would.
Asking the rest of the Betas, Step Three, goes as follows:
“Isaac,” Stiles is sitting diagonally behind him in American History, leans over and pokes him with the blunt tip of his pen, “heard your foster whatever people are Jewish.”
“Happy Hanukah,” Isaac grumbles back morosely, frowning so violently the wrinkles between his eyebrows are a decidedly-pronounced V.
“So I’m having Christmas Eve dinner at my house,” Stiles tells him.
“Scott says your mashed potatoes are the things dream clouds are made of.” Isaac looks significantly less miserable, just like that, and it’s in that moment more than ever that Stiles knows no matter how awkward, how grouchy everyone else might get, this is the best idea he’s had in months.
“Just wait til you have them with the homemade gravy,” Scott adds from Isaac’s other side. “You’ll never be able to eat the jar stuff ever again.”
Isaac’s smile is small and private and aimed more at Scott than Stiles, but Stiles is still willing to count it as a success.
“So I get that your family’s kind of like the only family in the entire pack that doesn’t have to worry about having empty chairs at the table on Christmas,” Stiles says to Boyd, sitting in the bleachers next to football field despite the season having ended almost four weeks ago.
“My oldest sister’s hosting Christmas for the first time,” Boyd replies, hands in his pockets and eyes not anywhere near Stiles. “Out by Lake Tahoe. The whole family’s going, Mom’s even signing Grammy out of the retirement home for a long weekend.”
“Oh,” Stiles kind of deflates at that, because even though it’s a perfectly valid response, not to mention sounds like a really nice way to spend the holiday, he’d slightly given in to the hope of having the whole pack together. They could use it, maybe, a bonding opportunity that didn’t include having to kill something.
“Yeah,” Boyd nods. “I was going to ask you, actually. Do you think if I ingest just the right amount of wolfsbane it’ll be enough to make me sick but not enough to kill me?”
“I’m not sure how we got to wolfsbane,” Stiles admits. It’s freezing out here, so much for California, honestly, and if Boyd’s not coming to Christmas Stiles is going to need a whole new angle for inviting Erica, and he’s ready to go inside and start working on that. And defrost.
“The full moon is the twenty sixth. I have it under control now, mostly, but I’m not putting my family at risk like that. Especially my nephews.”
Stiles is quiet for a minute, because Boyd sometimes leaves big gaps in what he’s trying to say, and Stiles is usually too busy being ten steps ahead to focus on the conversation happening now, so they have a hard time communicating. He tries when it’s important, though, and this seems like one of those times.
“I’ll talk to Deaton,” he promises finally, and Boyd actually turns to look at him. “I don’t love the idea of poisoning you, even if it’s just a little bit, but we’ll think of something.”
Boyd nods again, and he doesn’t say thank you but Stiles knows he means it. There’s another long moment, silence that isn’t really silent, broken as it is by the sound of a fairly howling wind whipping through the metal bleachers, until Stiles remembers why he came out here.
“Christmas Eve,” he says finally, “is kind of far enough away from the moon that you guys can get through a few courses of a meal a la casa de Stilinski without wolfing out and biting Scott’s Abuela though, yeah?”
Boyd doesn’t say yes, but he doesn’t say no either, and that is as good an RSVP as Stiles ever expected to get from him.
“I’ll bring dessert,” Erica announces, leaning against Stiles’ locker like the first period bell’s not sixty seconds away from declaring them all late. “Just give me a final count at least three days in advance so I know how much to make.”
Stiles, who’d been up way, way too late the night before and hadn’t really felt the full effect of his first coffee yet, just blinks at her.
“Also, my little sister’s kind of a raging vegetarian, so try to make sure there’s at least one green thing on the table unless you want to hear the thirteen-year-old version of Why Carnivores Are The Most Inconsiderate Assholes On The Planet.”
“We’ll be in Turks and Caicos for the holidays,” Lydia informs him. Her face says be jealous, I’ll be at a five star resort while you peasants decorate a tree with dollar-store garland, but her eyes are big and brown and sad and betray her projected enthusiasm entirely.
“That sounds really nice,” Stiles lies, because all the sun and sand and being waited on hand and foot and served the finest food in the world wouldn’t be enough to convince him to spend Christmas with Lydia’s Stepford Family.
Lydia, despite being pretty much Stiles’ only human friend these days, is just as adept at picking up his lies as the rest of them are. Moreso, even, because they totally cheat with their super-duper hearing and she relies on her (extra)ordinary human skills alone.
“I’ll save you some leftovers?” Stiles offers. It’s a weak offer, because lets be honest, a house full of werewolves – there won’t be any leftovers.
“I usually have a big blow out New Year’s Eve party,” Lydia says tentatively, like Stiles doesn’t know. Like Stiles hasn’t spent the last four years wishing he’d been enough of something for Lydia to invite him. “But there’s no exclusivity anymore, and intimacy’s all the rage. Maybe a smaller guest list is in order for this year?”
Stiles grins at her, and Lydia’s answering smile is actually genuine for five whole seconds before she tosses her hair over her shoulder and slips into something more haughty.
Allison looks properly shocked when she opens her front door to find Stiles on her stoop. In her defense, it’s probably not without good reason, because they’re barely even on speaking terms these days, but Stiles is Determined and he didn’t want to ask while Scott was in hearing distance.
“I know you and Scott are like, definitively broken up,” Stiles starts right away, and Allison immediately looks tempted to close the door in his face.
“No no no,” he says quickly, holding both hands out like he could actually stop her. “I just wanted to say that I know you’re not together, but we were still friends. Kind of. You and me, and you and Lydia, and sometimes even Jackson although he’s gone so I don’t know why I’m bringing him up. The point is, I’m kind of making it a mission to ensure no one’s lonely on Christmas, and I wasn’t sure if you and your dad had anywhere to go…”
The fight had faded from Allison long before Stiles trailed off awkwardly, and she’s left standing there with most of her weight on the hand still braced against the doorknob, looking at Stiles like she doesn’t know what to make of him. It occurs to him that maybe this is the first time any of them have reached out to her in months, and while he gets that that’s mostly entirely her fault, he still feels kind of bad about it.
“That’s…that’s really nice of you, Stiles,” she says quietly, and her voice sounds rough, like it hasn’t gotten much use lately. “I just don’t know if it’s such a good idea.”
“Probably not,” Stiles agrees, because it’s definitely not. “But still, the offer’s there. Think about it, okay? Even if you just come by for dessert or something.”
Allison says she’ll think about it, and Stiles knows she won’t, but he doesn’t argue. The gesture was the point, more than anything else, and he thinks Allison got that much.
Stiles finds Derek in the charred ruins of the Hale house, down a hall he’s never really noticed before, and Derek immediately gets this shifty-eyed look like he’s been caught with his hands down his pants. Stiles ignores the jaw-dropping mental image that particular colloquialism drags up (for now, he’s definitely revisiting that later), and focuses instead on the scowl Derek schools his features into.
“Don’t you have a shiny new apartment these days,” Stiles frowns, because really, Derek shouldn’t be here. Especially not now – as if the holiday season isn’t depressing enough, the anniversary of the fire is less than a month away, and he knows this’ll be the first one Derek’s spent in Beacon Hills since…
“Don’t you have somewhere else to be? School? Home? Anywhere that isn’t here?”
“It’s Saturday,” Stiles grumbles back. Then, because there’s no point dragging this out any longer than necessary, “We’re having Christmas Eve dinner at my house. Everyone except Lydia’s coming, even Erica’s family.”
“I heard,” Derek says shortly. There’s something sour on his face, something with sharp edges and guarded eyes, and Stiles can’t help but wonder.
“You know you’re invited too, right? Like, this is me driving my ass all the way out into the woods to personally invite your royal werewolfness to the Stilinski’s Holiday Home for Misfit Toys?”
He wouldn’t have noticed the flash of surprise if he hadn’t been looking for it specifically, watching Derek’s face for any confirmation of his suspicions, and there it is drawn right across his stubble-y face.
“Seriously,” Stiles tries again, taking a careful step forward. “Dude, I know we’re not like…really friends. Or whatever. But it’s Christmas, man. Christmas sucks when you’re alone.”
The step closer gives him a whole new angle of the room Derek’s standing in the doorway of. It’s built like a pantry, narrow and long with the remains of what was most likely built-in shelves lining three of the four walls, and there’s a plastic box open on the floor with two more stacked behind it.
Sticking out from the top of the open one is something that looks very, very much like it used to be a wreath.
“Derek,” Stiles says sternly, “don’t.” Even he’s shocked at the steely conviction in his voice. Derek’s back to looking supremely guilty, edging out of the closet like he’s hoping Stiles will forget what he already saw if he can only get the door closed behind him, but the damage’s already done. “4:00, Christmas Eve, my house. It’ll be less awkward for everyone if you actually use the front door, just this once. And also possibly wear something that doesn’t have any bloodstains.”
He leaves, because he’s really not in a position to be ordering Derek around, but still keeps an eye on his rearview mirror. He’s surprisingly satisfied when Derek carefully pulls the front door shut and climbs into the Camaro before Stiles has even gone around the first turn.
Step Four comes into play technically before Step Three was finished, because Stiles procrastinated almost a full two weeks on inviting Derek. Erica comes up to him in the hall again, something that looks suspiciously like a miniature Christmas stocking dangling from her fingertips, and if Stiles was smart he would have turned tail and ran while he still had the chance.
“So, presents,” Erica starts, and that sticks him to the spot. He’d been thinking about that, actually, because there’s nothing sadder than not getting any presents on Christmas, but he’s seriously under-funded at the moment.
Erica waves the stocking at him, like that’s supposed to mean something to him, and rolls her eyes at the blank look he gives her in response.
“Secret Santa,” she elaborates, like it pains her greatly to have to verbalize her master plan. “Everyone’s names are in here, $20 limit, everyone gets at least one present and no one has to be an emotional little girl about it.”
When they were in middle school it was something of a fad to have your locker wrapped in festive wrapping paper and ribbons and decorated with candy on your birthday. It was mostly organized by your girl friends, whether you were a guy or a girl, and was really just an entirely vain way of announcing to the entire school that it was your birthday and you had really, really awesome friends.
Stiles never got his locker wrapped. It occurs to him, as Erica shakes the stocking meaningfully at him again, that Erica probably never did either.
“Derek?” Stiles reads with a groan, unfolding the scrap of paper he’d fished out with two long fingers, because of course, isn’t the number one rule of Secret Santa that you always, always get the one person you wouldn’t know what to do with. “You’ve got to be – I don’t even know if he’s coming.”
Erica rolls her eyes like he’s an idiot of the first degree, closing her fingers tightly around the neck of the stocking and shoving it into her jacket pocket.
“Stilinski, if you think Derek’s not going to show up to a dinner you specifically invited him to then you clearly haven’t been paying attention.”
She walks away before he can try to force an explanation out of her. The operative word, of course, being try, because Stiles is man enough to admit he doesn’t have a prayer against Erica on even his best day.
Step Four and a Half, then, becomes figuring out what to get Derek. The answer comes to him when he’s on his knees on the dirty floorboards in his attic the weekend before winter break starts, shoving boxes out of the way looking for the Christmas tree lights for the fake tree he’s determined to put up this year.
He finds instead, in a dust-covered box labeled “Halloween Window Stickies,” Christmas ornaments painstakingly wrapped in tissue paper and separated by little bits of packing foam. Pulls them out one by one, places them carefully on the floor until he’s surrounded by a semi-circle of partially unwrapped baubles – a candy-red apple with a taxi proclaiming New York City on the side, Minnie planting a fat kiss on Mickey’s cheek while decked in Santa gear, a real seashell with a hole drilled through the top and Myrtle Beach 1990 hand-painted on the smooth inside.
Some people collect shot glasses. Some people collect spoons, or magnets, or thimbles, or postcards, little souvenirs they pick up along the road, pulling into kitschy little shops on each vacation, popping into a convenience store at the airport for one last thing before take-off. Stiles’ mother, though, had loved Christmas with a passionate kind of holiday spirit, and she collected ornaments.
His dad doesn’t say anything when he comes home and finds Stiles contemplating the best placement for a turquoise-and-glitter ceramic cowboy boot his dad had brought home from a trip to Nashville (because the only thing his mom loved more than Christmas ornaments was gaudy Christmas ornaments), but he points to a spare bit of space above a flat relief of the Seattle skyline, and that’s enough approval for him.
Stiles waits until he’s hung the last one though, a metallic and admittedly slightly-ostentatious Mets logo that his mom had had to order online (because what self-respecting Californian would be selling merch for a New York sports team, and a bad one at that) just for him, before texting Isaac. And it’s still another three days before Isaac texts him back, the all-clear that Derek will be definitely preoccupied for the next few hours at least, the rest of the night at best.
The woods are dark by the time Stiles gets to the Hale house, but it’s been almost eight months of using his Jeep as the Supernatural Taxi Service, All Werewolves All The Time, and he’s learned to be prepared. There’s a police-issue flashlight in his glove compartment, not to mention a Coleman camping lantern in his trunk, and by the time he’s finished setting them both up the pantry is better lit than it would have been during the day.
Going through the remains of the Hale family’s Christmas decorations are almost more painful than going through his mom’s. His mother’s might have been a lesson in painfully bittersweet memories, but at least they were still perfectly preserved in the neat wrapping jobs she herself had done.
The Hale’s decorations are more ash than anything else, a rotting bit of ribbon here, shattered glass there, melted plastic twisted and charred beyond recognition. There’s a bit of material, thick and heavy between Stiles’ fingers, with Bla still legible in the embroidery, and Stiles’ stomach turns over when he thinks back enough to remember the police reports he’d read on the fire. Blake Hale, Derek’s youngest brother, had been eight-years-old.
There are some salvageable things though. Half a dozen ornaments that Stiles thinks maybe, with some very delicate cleaning, could be restored almost as good as new. A miniature ceramic version of Santa’s Workshop that, if he can find a way to separate the places where melted Styrofoam sticks to the ceramic, might be okay. A virtually untouched heavy slate sign that says, engraved in an ornate script that confirms at least one person in the Hale family had a sense of humor (Stiles has a horrible suspicion it might have been Peter), When You Stop Believing in Santa You Get Underwear.
Step Four and Three-Quarters is actually seeing if his finds really are salvageable. It takes a level of patience Stiles hadn’t known he was capable of and the dexterity of long, steady fingers he’d never really taken advantage of before, but he somehow winds up with six carefully cleaned and polished ornaments: exquisite, hand-stained glass orbs that he nestles carefully into a bed of tissue paper and foam modeled after his mom’s storage practices, wrapped in an old gift box from Macy’s and stuck under the tree without a tag on it. He keeps the house and the sign, both cleaned up as best he could manage, in the back of his closet – both seem too heavy to logically wrap up with the glass ornaments, and it’s not like he’s going to be the awkward idiot handing Derek three separate boxes.
He finds his eye drawn to the hidden corner of his closet significantly more often than it ever has been before though. He tells himself it’s nothing more than him being nosey about something he has no right to be in, and even though it doesn’t do much in the way of convincing him…well, no one else has to know.
Step Five is actually cooking, and it’s hands down the easiest part of the process. Stiles had taken a final headcount for Erica the Friday before Christmas: Stiles and his dad, Scott, Ms. McCall, and Scott’s Abuela, Isaac, Boyd, Erica, her younger sister, both her parents, Derek. Twelve people is about seven more than Stiles has ever had to cook for before, and he’s pathetically excited about meticulously sifting through his mom’s recipe-filled, expandable Filofax, adjusting quantities for twenty people (because he has seen werewolves eat, okay, and he’s also seen the way Scott can put away three massive helpings of mashed potatoes without so much as loosening his belt a notch), making a careful list of what he can make in advance versus the day of, everything he’ll need from the grocery store.
Erica’s the first to ring the doorbell, and Stiles can’t help but gape at her, just a little bit, when he opens the door. She’s wearing less make-up and more clothing than her daily usual, balancing a cake platter in each hand and grinning at him in a way that melts his heart a little bit. There’s a third platter in her sister Alyssa’s hands, though she looks significantly less thrilled about it than Erica does, and a fourth with Mrs. Reyes.
The Sheriff greets the Reyes like old friends, because who knew Mrs. Reyes used to work with Stiles’ mom at the library and Mr. Reyes and his dad graduated BHHS in the same year, and Scott looks a little bug-eyed when he walks in and finds the three adults hamming it up in the living room while Erica peels potatoes and Stiles shows Alyssa how to shred them without catching her fingertips in the grater. Abuela wanders into the kitchen long enough to cup Stiles’ face between two hands and demand he stop growing, warn Erica that she better not be dating either of these knuckleheads as she’s too pretty for either of them, and con Scott into playing her personal waiter for as long as she plans to continue drinking chilled white wine.
Boyd appears without Stiles noticing, and Stiles loses Erica in favor of her proudly showing off her dessert efforts. He gets them to corral Alyssa into helping set the table before she realizes he’s going to be frying the potato pancakes in bacon fat (he makes a vegetarian batch for her, and for his dad too, and hopefully no one will notice until it’s too late), and the doorbell rings while he’s leveraging the last of the bacon strips out of the cast iron skillet.
Isaac’s sporting a Santa hat like he’s never been more proud of a piece of headgear, but Stiles takes one look at Derek and forgets that Isaac is even on the stoop. Derek’s traded his customary leather-jacket-and-henley combo for a soft, forest green sweater that looks like it was specifically tailored for him, and Stiles is forever grateful that he’s still got tongs in one hand and an oven mitt on the other, because it’s the only thing stopping him from sliding his hands all up and over all of that.
Isaac holds up a meat and cheese platter Stiles recognizes from the local specialty butcher like it’s his ticket inside, and when Stiles directs him to bring it straight into the living room Derek follows and presents the Sheriff with a bottle of Johnnie Walker Blue that leaves the entire room of adults speechless.
The Sheriff’s approval has a cost, and apparently that cost averages out to somewhere around $250 worth of Scotch Whiskey and the finest-quality meat and cheese hors d'oeuvres Beacon Hills has to offer.
Stiles doesn’t know how Erica and Boyd manage to squeeze twelve chairs around the Stilinski’s dining room table, but Stiles suspects it has something to do with the fact that they’re so tightly packed that his and Isaac’s elbows knock together every time Stiles tries to use a fork and knife at the same time, and his and Derek’s knees are firmly pressed together under the table. He’s also not entirely sure how he wound up between Isaac and Derek, Scott looking petulant on Isaac’s other side and Erica smirking at him from across the table, but that, at least, he won’t complain about. Derek raked his sleeves up just below his elbows when Stiles put him to work flipping potato pancakes, and Stiles has always has a healthy appreciation for a nice set of forearms.
Isaac makes a little whimpering sound when he takes his first bite of gravy-soaked mashed potatoes, Mr. Reyes insists Stiles has changed his entire stance on broccoli, Derek quietly mumbles his mom used to make homemade cinnamon applesauce every year. Stiles lets the warm weight of each compliment settle low in his stomach, happily pawning off credit onto his mom’s recipes, Abuela’s careful schooling when she used to babysit him and Scott after school, his dad’s indulgent supplying of Stiles’ kitchenware. He focuses on that instead of the way he’s hyper-aware of the exact spot where Derek’s knee presses into his thigh, the bare inch of tablecloth between his wrist and Derek’s forearm.
Scott knocks over his mom’s glass of wine, because it’s not always Stiles’ job to spaz out and ruin things, and Stiles capitalizes on the opportunity to motivate everyone up and away from where they’d been lingering over the food. The Sheriff leads the movement in ordering Stiles out of the kitchen and into the living room, insisting that it’s insulting to let the insolent little sixteen-year-olds take care of the food and the least Stiles can do is let the adults regain their dignity by allowing them to clear the table.
Erica slyly suggests presents, and Stiles is not nearly old or jaded enough to complain about present time. He gives up the gun and wedges himself into his favorite corner of the couch, Erica and Boyd on his left and Isaac on the floor by his foot, and Scott takes it upon himself to dole out the presents while Derek slouches his way into an armchair so old and soft it practically swallows him up whole.
Scott declares they should all open them at the same time, and Stiles knows it’s because Scott does not have the patience to watch everyone else open their presents first, but Stiles appreciates it anyway. He’s never been a big fan of watching someone open a present he gave them, and he definitely does not need a whole big audience when Derek opens his.
“We’re missing one,” Scott announces, and Stiles remembers just in time for everyone to look up and realize Derek’s the only one without a gift in his hands.
“Crap,” Stiles mutters, flinging himself over Isaac and dropping to all fours in front of the tree, digging out the fragile, unmarked box he’d hidden in the back so no one would accidentally trip over it/fall on it/squish it/stack another present on top of it/(possibilities were endless in a house frequented by Stiles and Scott). “Sorry, here.”
He straightens up and thrusts the present awkwardly in Derek’s direction before squirming back into his couch spot. He’s pretty sure part of the Secret Santa tradition is a big reveal of who had whom, but Stiles would have preferred something…less. Less than Erica smirking at him, like she didn’t already know, less than Derek gingerly accepting the package like he’s expecting it to blow up in his face.
Scott announces ‘go!’ the second Stiles has reclaimed his seat, and apparently everyone’s been waiting for it. Erica squeals over a pair of furry earmuffs Stiles is certain Scott didn’t pick out himself, Isaac runs his fingers reverently over a set of drawing pencils, Scott looks shocked that someone other than Stiles got him a halfway decent gift.
Stiles waits until he’s fished a bundle of cotton out of an enormous bag of tissue paper and unfolds a Batman t-shirt he’s reasonably certain is from Erica, and therefore makes this the most sentimental piece of clothing he currently owns, to check on Derek.
Derek, apparently, unwraps presents like he’s trying to save the wrapping paper. He peeled the tape away piece by piece and left the neatly unfolded paper on the arm of the chair, balancing the box on his knees while he shook the top loose. The look on his face when he figures it out, drops the lid to the floor and brushes his fingertips lightly over the glass, makes Stiles immediately wish he’d just gotten him a book, a Starbucks gift card, stupid fuzzy dice for the Camaro. Anything other than the soft heartbreak hollowing out Derek’s dark features.
“There’s, uh, a couple more pieces upstairs,” Stiles says quietly, because he’s already dug his grave and he might as well get buried for all his crimes. “Just one or two things, but they didn’t really fit in the box so. If you want them, I guess…I didn’t really…I’m –”
Derek shakes his head, fingers carefully braced around the box so nothing moves. Stiles bites down on his bottom lip before he talks himself to further disaster, glances desperately at Erica. She’s looking at him like she understands everything all of a sudden, like she knows even more than he does, and that does nothing good to appease Stiles’ panic.
“I had Boyd,” Isaac announces, breaking the silence that had fallen when Stiles stopped rambling. Boyd holds up a box set of Friday Night Lights, and Isaac looks satisfied by the nod Boyd gives him. Stiles reaches down and squeezes Isaac’s shoulder lightly in thanks, and Isaac tips his head back enough to smirk at Stiles.
“Scott,” Boyd says, and Scott blinks up at him in surprise.
“Thanks, man,” he flips over the jewel case his hand, revealing the cover of the newest Blink-182 album. Stiles makes a job well done face, because he’s impressed Boyd knew enough to pick that out, and Boyd smirks. “Erica, those are from me.”
Erica’s got her earmuffs on, and whoever it was that picked them out (Stiles suspects Scott wandered into a store and made puppy eyes at the nearest sales girl, but Lydia isn’t totally out of the question either) deserves solid credit, because they look kind of adorable on her. She grins at Scott and fluffs her curls up around them, leaning most of the way off the couch to haul Scott in and plant a red-stained kiss on his cheek.
“Mine’s obvious,” Erica gestures to the shirt in Stiles’ lap, and he loops an arm around her neck for a quick hug before she can beat him to it. He gets his own set of lipstick prints against his cheek anyway, and he rolls his eyes and makes a play at wiping it off.
“Thanks Catwoman,” he teases her, poking at her fluffy earmuffs. “Uh, we all already know mine…”
Derek’s still got his fingers curled around the far corners of the box, cradling the sides between his forearms like he’s worried the whole thing will go crashing to the floor if he doesn’t hold on, and Stiles can’t help but wince at the expression still lingering around the corners of his mouth and the shadows beneath his eyes.
“Isaac,” Derek says finally, and even though it’s some pretty obvious process of elimination Isaac still looks kind of floored. He’s still got his hands on his pencil set too, and Stiles notices a sketchbook in his lap he hadn’t realized was there earlier.
“I…wow. Thanks, Derek,” he blurts out, and he’s got such a monumental smile on his face that Stiles’ face kind of aches in sympathy pain. Derek barely manages something small in return, but when his face re-settles into his default mope it’s a little less heavy around the set of his mouth.
Erica’s dessert turns out to be at least on par with Stiles’ cooking, and Stiles is far from the only one to make a shameless effort at trying one of each slice off the four platters lined up and down the center of the table. Apple pie, blueberry crumb cake, cheesecake, double chocolate with chocolate fudge icing, and who knew Erica was a baking goddess?
“I’m going to explode,” Stiles groans, dropping his fork onto his empty plate with a clatter and sinking as far back as possible in his chair. It brings him entirely too close to Derek’s shoulder, but Derek makes no attempt to move and Stiles is too stuffed to care. “Seriously, I want my tombstone to say: Here Lies Stiles, at least he died chock-full of the best food he’d ever had.”
“You have to live,” Scott insists, and holy shit, he totally just loosened his belt. If Stiles could muster the energy to move he would explain how much of a compliment that was to Erica, but it’ll have to wait for later. “No, you have to,” Scott repeats. “Because I’m going to need your mashed potatoes and Erica’s apple pie every day for the rest of my life.”
“When Berkley's done kicking your ass you can come home and open a restaurant,” the Sheriff tells Stiles, gesturing between him and Erica with his scotch glass.
“Brilliant,” Isaac agrees, and Stiles marvels at the way he’s still able to cram in another forkful of cheesecake. “Stiles can do the appetizers and the entrees, Erica the desserts. Boyd can do the accounting, I’ll design the menus.”
“Bartender!” Scott claims happily, and Melissa rolls her eyes at him.
“Only if you want everything served in plastic,” she warns them. “If I had a dollar for every time Scotty broke a glass…”
“What about you, huh,” Stiles teases, nudging Derek’s shoulder lazily with his own. He’s too full and satiated and content to worry about whether or not Derek’s plotting his murder. “How’re you going to contribute to the family business?”
“Marketing and advertising,” Derek offers, leaning into the opposite corner of his chair so he can twist around enough to meet Stiles’ raised eyebrows. “Since that’s what I have a degree in.”
That causes enough of a stir that even Isaac stops eating, glancing over at Derek with his eyes wide and the fork still in his mouth.
Derek nods, glances around like he’s just noticed the eye of everyone over the age fifteen fixated on him.
“Do you ever do freelance stuff?” Mr. Reyes asks, clearing his throat and breaking the silence. “Only, I know my office has been interested in looking into some new advertising options, and there’s only one really well-known advertising firm in Beacon Hills…”
Stiles settles back into his seat again, nursing a cup of the coffee Abuela had bullied Scott into brewing and watching Derek and Mr. Reyes go back and forth, tentatively set up a meeting in the new year, Isaac still wide-eyed and gently probing Derek for information about what colleges he looked at, Erica leaning over Boyd to shovel the last remaining sliver of chocolate cake onto the Sheriff’s plate, and thinks maybe he did okay. And somewhere along the way Derek shifts his weight again, leans heavily enough into the arm of the chair so that he and Stiles are pressed together from shoulder to elbow, and it kind of feels like maybe Derek thinks so too.
When Abuela discovers that Isaac’s not going to be waking up to Christmas morning tomorrow she insists he come home to the McCalls and spend the night, and Isaac looks so bashfully pleased Stiles is sure he can already see Melissa scrambling to think of ways to get him some presents between now and then. Stiles doesn’t have much in the way of leftovers to send them home with, but he’d stashed two servings of mashed potatoes in the fridge that he surreptitiously presses into Scott’s hands and makes him scout’s honor promise to share with Isaac.
They hug, because it’s Christmas and you hug your family on Christmas, and it somehow turns into Erica nudging Isaac forward and dragging Boyd into the tangle of arms, and Derek’s leaning against the wall by the stairs with something like smug pride on his face. Erica takes Boyd with her when the Reyes’ leave, Mr. Reyes complimenting his broccoli one last time and Alyssa leaning up on her toes to plant a kiss right next to where her sister had, and Stiles can hear Erica making a case for Boyd to spend the night too as they walk down the front steps.
Derek’s gone, but Stiles is certain he didn’t leave, and a glance upstairs to where his previously open bedroom door is now firmly closed confirms his guess.
“You did good, kid,” his dad tells him, leaning in the kitchen doorway and watching Stiles with a small smile on his face. The only dishes left are the dessert ones, and they could soak in the sink until tomorrow morning for all Stiles cares. “So that’s your pack?”
Stiles swears he hears a heavy thud upstairs, but he’s entirely too busy dropping the silver platter he’d used for the ham with a ringing clatter on the tile floor.
“Please, Stiles, you didn’t get all your research skills from your mother,” his dad says, emulating the sassy eye roll Stiles himself has used countless times against his father. “Hello, Sheriff.”
“Ms. McCall told you, didn’t she,” Stiles accuses, recovering enough to swoop down and pick the platter up off the ground.
“She dropped exactly the right kind of hints for me to fill in the blanks on my own,” the Sheriff admits. “Hale’s the Alpha then? And the rest of you…”
“Not me,” Stiles corrects, shaking his head. “Scott, Erica, Isaac, and Boyd. Jackson, too, but that doesn’t so much matter anymore. But speaking of Derek.”
His dad points up towards the ceiling, where Stiles’ room is the one directly above the kitchen, and Stiles nods in defeat. He honestly should have known better than to think he could pull one over on his dad for this long.
“The first Christmas on your own is hard,” the Sheriff says quietly. “But maybe slightly less so if you’re not spending it completely alone.”
It’s the most permission he’s going to get, and Stiles is smart enough to take his wins without question. He stops for a customary, albeit slightly-longer-than-ordinary hug, a mumbled ‘goodnight,’ and takes the steps two at a time up to his room.
Derek’s resumed his earlier position, sitting on the edge of Stiles’ bed with his elbows on his knees and the box of ornaments in his large hands, and he doesn’t look up until Stiles closes the door carefully behind him and leans back against the wood.
“Most of this stuff went in the basement,” he tells Stiles, voice low and hoarse. “There was a whole storage area separate from…everything else. Everything in there pretty much got razed to the ground. There were a couple boxes left in the pantry upstairs because I was too lazy to bring them downstairs and my mom wanted them out of the way, so I just shoved them in the closet and forgot about them…”
“Here,” Stiles says awkwardly, stumbles over to his closet and pulls out the other two pieces. Derek places the box of ornaments carefully on the floor next to the bed and holds out his hands, Stiles gives him the little ceramic house first.
“There were a bunch of these.” He turns it over in his hands, scrapes one nail lightly against a smoky stain Stiles hadn’t quite managed to get out. “This company makes whole villages of these little houses and things, and my sister Maddie loved them. My aunt had a bunch that were all themed like buildings in the German mountainside, and she was just starting Maddie on her own collection of the North Pole village.”
Stiles doesn’t know what to say to that, because Maddie was twelve and should have been two years older than him, should have been the Hale Stiles saw around school and quietly lusted after. He holds out the sign instead, face down so Derek has to flip it over to see what it is, and the choked off laugh/sob is even worse than the wrecked look Derek had after opening the ornaments.
“Peter bought this,” Derek admits, and when Stiles is alone and less heartbroken he will celebrate his brilliant deduction skills. “My older brother was the one to break the big Santa Claus news to me, and he was a dick about it too, and that year Peter packed this sign into a box full of underwear and gave it to Alex on Christmas morning.”
Stiles nudges him over, even though there’s plenty of room for both of them to sit on the edge full-size bed he’d finally talked his dad into last summer. Derek shifts to the side when Stiles sits, but somehow they’re still back to being pressed shoulder to elbow, maybe a bit by their thighs too.
“This is the first time in four years we’ve put up a Christmas tree,” Stiles says back finally, because the only way he knows how to share this moment with Derek is to give him something back. “Christmas was my mom’s favorite holiday, and all those ornaments…she collected them from all over the country.”
“I’m sorry,” Stiles winces, because he still feels like he should apologize for ever putting that expression on Derek’s face. “I didn’t mean to bring up…I just thought, you know, it’s your first Christmas back in Beacon Hills, and your first one without Laura, and you were looking through the boxes anyway so I figured maybmmfh – ”
It takes him a few solid seconds of still trying to talk and not understanding the resistance to realize that Derek was kissing him. Hand on his jaw turning his face to the side, lips pressed against his own, weight of the slate sign on his thigh where Derek’s other hand was balancing him. It takes seconds, barely even five, but by the time Stiles catches up Derek’s already pulling away.
“For all of it,” Derek continues. He says it like there had never been any interruption but he’s still palming Stiles’ jaw, thumb pressed into Stiles’ cheekbone and fingers curled against his neck. “For inviting the pack into your family’s holiday, for finding these. For taking care of us. Because that’s what you do, isn’t it? You’re always the one taking care of us.”
“Have to do something to earn my place,” Stiles murmurs back, because Derek’s been moving steadily closer again and they’re nearly nose-to-nose.
“You have a place.” Derek brushes the words against his lips, and Stiles can’t help but hold his breath so he doesn’t miss a sound. “You earned your place in my pack months ago, before anyone else even tried.”
Stiles himself closes the breath of distance between them this time, sliding his tongue along Derek’s bottom lip until he can slip inside and taste the coffee apple pie ice cream flavor of dessert from Derek’s mouth. His reaches a hand out to find the green sweater is even softer than he’d imagined it would be, sliding a hand up Derek’s chest to curl over his shoulder and hold him in place.
“Stay,” Stiles whispers when he pulls back, dragging his hand further up the curve of Derek’s collarbone until he’s got his fingers around the nape of Derek’s neck. “I mean, tomorrow won’t be much, coffee and a couple presents in the morning, football and leftovers in the afternoon, late-night shift patrolling for drunk drivers for my dad. But stay anyway.”
Derek pulls back enough that he can stand up, bending low to scoop Santa’s Workshop off the floor. He deposits them both on Stiles’ desk, turns to find Stiles behind him with the box of ornaments, and waits until they’re safely on the flat surface of Stiles’ Physics textbook before wrapping both arms low around Stiles’ hips.
The third kiss is as chaste as the first, but the fourth…the fourth starts with Stiles winding his arms around Derek’s neck and ends with him flat on his back on his mattress, Derek’s hips cradled between his thighs and one hand pushing that godforsaken sweater higher up Derek’s ribs.
By the fifth, sixth, seventh…well. If this is Derek’s way of saying thank you, Stiles is going to have to go out of his way to do great things for his pack and their Alpha more often.
“Hey,” Stiles mumbles, nudging Derek’s calf with his heel until he gets a soft huff of air against the back of his neck in response. He nods towards the clock, red lights flashing 12:01, and presses back a little firmer into the warm weight of Derek behind him. “Merry Christmas.”
“Go to sleep or Santa won’t come,” Derek grumbles back. There’s a warm, dry press of lips against his shoulder though, and the arm around his waist curls in a little tighter, and frankly, that’s enough of a gift that even a box of underwear couldn’t ruin his Christmas.