Derek knows what an emergency feels like. He’s been near death, seen others in similar states and knows exactly how it feels when something important is on the line. This is not quite on the same level, but it is important enough.
On any other day he would simply try to figure it out on his own and as a last resort, ask Stiles for help. He isn’t sure why it is always Stiles he goes to. It might possibly have to do with the fact that despite all his irritation and sarcastic remarks, he’s actually someone to confide in. Derek doesn’t think he needs to hide parts of him, because for some reason Stiles always seems to understand. He understands what it is like to lose someone, to lose control of yourself. He’s nice enough when the situation calls for it and Derek really doesn’t have another option.
He lets himself in through Stiles’ window. He isn’t in his room, but he seems to be downstairs, muttering under his breath. Derek can smell his frustration and hear the way he’s gritting his teeth, which... Maybe it’s the wrong time to ask for a favor.
Still, it’s an emergency.
Derek takes a deep breath and makes his way downstairs. He takes in the sight of the bright and messy living room. There are Christmas decorations all over the floor, alongside with fairy lights and garlands. Stiles is standing on a poorly balanced chair, attempting to stick something onto the top of their Christmas tree, which is packed full of all sorts of strange objects. His shirt is riding up, revealing quite a bit of pale skin as well as the claw wounds on his side that he had to get stitches for. Derek really wishes he could keep Stiles from getting hurt, but he has a mind of its own and is more than willing to go out there and fight.
“Fuck.” Stiles hisses when he gets prickled by the tree and he pulls his hand back, scowling at the tree as though it has personally offended him. He looks miserable.
“Having trouble?” Derek asks, forgetting momentarily that he hasn’t made a sound to notify Stiles of his presence. He pays for it when Stiles jumps, loses his balance and manages to smack Derek in the face with his elbow before he collides with the floor. Derek isn’t sure which of them has it worse. Probably Stiles. Some of those decorations are bound to hurt.
“Fucking hell, Derek!” Stiles hisses, heart beating a hundred times per minute in his chest. It sounds oddly loud to Derek. “Don’t creep up on me, look what I did to your face!”
“You’ve done worse in the past,” Derek says with a shrug, because he feels guilty now. He often feels guilty, but it never feels any lighter. Plus, Stiles is still healing from the clawing. Derek kneels down on the floor, eyes skating over Stiles’ form. “Sorry. Are you alright?”
“Decent.” Stiles says, scowling at the floor, but when he looks up at Derek his expression melts. He reaches out carefully, narrowing his eyes as he brushes his thumb along Derek’s cheekbone and sighs. “I hope your healing thing still works. Else you’ll end up looking like my Christmas tree.”
Derek quirks a smile at that and shakes his head slightly. It is a sweet moment. A bit too sweet, actually, now that he is thinking about it. Stiles withdraws his hand, before Derek can let his imagination run away with him.
“Your Christmas tree looks great.” Derek says, looking at it with envy and appreciation. He scratches at his beard a little nervously, not entirely sure how to approach the subject. A segue will surely do? “ Speaking of... Do you think you could help me pick out a tree?”
“You want me to help you pick out a tree?” Stiles repeats, heartbeat speeding up again as he gapes at Derek. Derek doesn’t know why it sounds so strange to Stiles. It’s not like it’s very serious business. He’s not giving him a key to his place or asking Stiles to marry him. It’s just a tree.
“Yes. I need an emergency tree. Cora’s coming to visit with her boyfriend and I don’t want to look like someone who’s...” Derek trails off, all sorts of uncomfortable. There is a lot he could say, but Stiles probably knows already.
“Like someone who hasn’t done Christmas in half a decade? Like someone who’s ever considered an abandoned train car a wise living choice? Like someone who-”
“Yes, thank you. I was sort of avoiding saying it out loud.” Derek says dryly, souring at the altogether too pleased smirk on Stiles’ lips. It’s both appealing, confusing and irritating all in one.
“Alright,” Stiles says, deciding to take pity on him. He reaches out and wraps one of the sparkly garlands from the floor around Derek’s neck with a slow smile. “But I want you to help me out in turn.”
“What do you need?” Derek asks, a little dazed by the look on Stiles’ face. If he didn’t know any better he would think he is flirting with him. Deciding, he’s been staring for too long he lowers his eyes to inspect the glittering red plastic around his neck instead.
“Please put this on the top of my tree.” Stiles says, pushing a Christmas star against Derek’s chest. He stares at it for a moment or two before realizing it has a Mets sticker on it.
“I can do that.” Derek promises, getting onto his feet and reaching up to settle the Mets star up on top. He turns back to Stiles who is offering a hesitant, but grateful smile. Derek flicks his eyes on Stiles’ waistline. “You were having trouble?”
“My side sort of hurts.” Stiles admits with a light shrug, but he looks quite content now. “Dad took away my pain meds. He seems to think a little suffering will make me think twice the next time I rush to bash someone’s head in with a bat, but I don’t think he realizes that in those moments I don’t actually think at all.”
Derek smiles at that. Self-deprecating humor is definitely a new look on Stiles. He offers a hand to help him up, which Stiles accepts, probably only because his injury is worse than it looks. Derek slides his other hand to Stiles’ side, drawing some of the pain from him. It takes a moment for Stiles to catch up, but when he does, he presses a flat palm against Derek’s chest and pushes him away as gently as possible.
“It’s not that bad.” Stiles says softly, shaking his head. There is glitter even on his eyelashes. “Don’t exhaust yourself, you need energy for our Christmas tree adventure.”
“Is it that complicated?” Derek asks, following Stiles into the hallway and watching, intrigued, as he wraps a long red-brown striped scarf around his neck and pulls on a dark coat. Derek’s always thought red suits him well.
“A little bit.” Stiles tells him and unlocks the door to let them both out. Pauses for a moment, seemingly baffled. “Did you just let yourself in through my window?”
“Absolutely.” Derek replies, because he knows it will wind Stiles up.
“Scott’s werewolf proofed his house,” Stiles sighs, locking the door behind them and heading straight for the Camaro. “Perhaps I should too.”
“You should.” Derek agrees, getting into the driver’s seat. The thought of passing werewolves sniffing out Stiles isn’t exactly appealing. To be honest, he’s quite surprised none of them have thought of it before. That would throw them all off track rather quickly. “But you would have done it already if you really meant to.”
“I have some leftover mountain ash in my bedside drawer.” Stiles muses as Derek pulls out of the driveway.
“You keep mountain ash in your bedside drawer?” Derek asks, quirking a brow at him.
“Among other things.” Stiles offers, his scent turning into something spicy Derek cannot quite place.
“I’m sure it’s fascinating.”
“Feel free to find out.” The suggestion throws him off course a little and he stares at Stiles a couple of seconds before Stiles reaches out to place his hand on top of his and fix his grip on the steering wheel. Derek focuses on the road again.
They sit in comfortable silence for a little while as Stiles plays with the radio. He seems to be attempting to find the worst station, because by the time they arrive it’s playing loud whale sounds. Stiles looks pretty pleased with himself and Derek actually thinks he should be. He never knew there even was an option to play whale sounds, but it will make an interesting ride back to his place once he’s picked up Cora and her boyfriend.
Turns out Stiles does know what he is doing, because he drags Derek around the Christmas tree farm pointing out a few contestants for Derek to either approve of or condemn. Derek doesn’t really know, but since all the trees Stiles shows him have a personality, he’s more than happy to pick one of them.
“Oh, look at that,” Stiles says, leaning forward to inspect one of the smaller ones. It’s a little bit crooked, but it is very thick and has more needles than Derek’s ever seen any tree have in the Preserve. “I think you ought to get this one. It’s both modest and a little shabby. A bit like you, really.”
Derek doesn’t think he’s ever been referred to as modest or shabby and he thinks he should be concerned about being compared to a Christmas tree, but he also trusts Stiles’ judgment. “Alright. We’ll take this one.”
“You hear that? You’ll be in good hands.” Stiles addresses the tree with a wide grin much to the bafflement of the salesman. It is a wonderful sight.
They get the tree packaged and carry it back to Derek’s car with Stiles ‘helping’. He makes a bit of a nuisance of himself, really, especially when he keeps shoving the treetop at Derek’s bare neck and pausing to surreptitiously check his side, but Derek doesn’t have the heart to tell him no. Apparently carrying the tree is part of the experience.
Derek takes him home after that, the two of them laughing at some of the more bizarre sounds that come out of the radio station. He steps out of the Camaro with Stiles, telling himself he’s only doing it because he is worried about Stiles straining himself, but afterwards he admits he simply had not noticed following him outside.
“Thank you.” Derek says, level and heartfelt.
“It’s alright. I had a lot of fun.” Stiles admits, biting back a smile. “You should ask me next time you need help with normal people things.” It sounds a lot more than an invitation. Derek thinks he’s willing to take it.
“I will.” He promises, not dishonestly.
“I’ll see you after Christmas, Derek.” Stiles says, wrapping his fingers around Derek’s arm for a light squeeze. He turns to go, but Derek stops him.
“Stiles,” Derek says, taking a step closer to him.
“Yes?” He asks, pausing in his way and looking almost curious. Derek smiles and leans in to kiss him briefly. Stiles doesn’t let him get away with brief. He slides his fingers through Derek’s hair, tugging at it gently until Derek wraps his arms more securely around Stiles’ middle. As his eyes fall closed, he opens his mouth to warm breath and tongue and lets Stiles take control of the kiss he himself has initiated.
“Boys,” comes a stern voice from the doorway and Derek really doesn’t want to look, but there’s no other option. He opens his eyes cautiously to Stiles smirking at him and the Sheriff quirking a brow from a couple feet away.
“Sheriff,” Derek acknowledges a bit weakly with a nod.
“Just a moment, dad,” Stiles waves him off as though they haven’t just been caught kissing like it’s going out of fashion in broad daylight. Instead he slides his fingers along Derek’s jaw and presses a light kiss against his lips. “Merry Christmas, Derek.” Stiles murmurs softly, before heading off to the house, presumably to have a bit of an awkward chat with his dad.
“Merry Christmas.” Derek whispers once he’s gone, chest aching pleasantly.
A few hours later he is standing in the Sacramento airport, waiting for Cora and her boyfriend to come through the gates. They spot each other almost immediately and as soon as Cora’s made her way through the crowds, possibly by elbowing poor old people in the ribs, she hugs him tightly, burying her nose in his shoulder. Her boyfriend hovers a few feet behind her, looking all sorts of uncomfortable.
“I’ve missed you,” she admits in a surprising turn of events.
“I’ve missed you too, Cora.” Derek says as they pull apart and she tugs her boyfriend forward.
“This is Frank,” She introduces him with a bright smile, “Frank, this is my brother Derek who- Why do you have red garland around your neck?” She asks, squinting her eyes and flicking at it. Derek blinks, snorting softly and tugging at the edge of it. He had almost forgotten about it.
“Stiles thinks it’s festive?”
“You’re both very strange.” Cora concludes, shaking her head smilingly. “Come on then, show us the rest of the festivity.”