It is almost night in the valley, grass and trees and dirt enveloped in a thick blanket of milky fog that is slowly pouring down the hills. Every creature of the forest is ready to snuggle down in their burrow... except for one.
"Stiles!" Derek huffs from the brush, "stop frolicking around and come sleep. The kittens says I don't do the bat voice right..."
Stiles keeps facing the dark meadow, ears straining towards the edge of the forest.
"Derek..." he whispers "Do you hear what I hear?"
Derek hops his way next to Stiles, his soft paws making no sound on the damp ground.
He flick his ears to one side and then the other.
"No," he says, confused, "it is a silent night".
Stiles stands on his hind paws, "Silver Bells..."
Derek frowns, "What?"
"The silver bells!" Stiles repeats, "they are jingling all the way..." He laughs, then, a tinkling thing that echoes in the cold air.
"It has come!" he shouts, just as the rolling fog crashes into them. Stiles shakes all over, and Derek sees his fur puff up "It has come!"
Stiles's laugh breaks through Derek's panic, and he grabs Derek by the fluff of his cheeks, rubbing their noses together "Winter, grumpy bun! Winter just came!"
"Winter?" Derek mumbles, through all the fluff of their squashed cheeks.
"Yeah," Stiles says, "it's the most wonderful time of the year!"
Stiles steps back and, for some reason, tilts his head, long ears swaying in the night
Derek frowns again
Stiles looks very rabbity for a second, and then a nervous smile appears on is freckled face "Your fur is... um. Let me just-" and he starts brushing his paws over Derek's flanks.
"The hop-hoppiest season of all" Stiles whispers
Derek has the sudden urge to thump his foot.
"With them foxes a-sleeping" Stiles continues, flicking Derek's ears, first one, "and that bears repeating" and then the other.
Derek is so confused.
"There will be snow falling" Stiles hums, paws on Derek's shoulders
"And stars will be glowing" a shiver runs down Derek's back, down to his suddenly wiggling tail
"When loved ones are near" Stiles puts both paws on Derek's chest and rubs softly, seemingly unaware of Derek's heart fiercely shaking against his lungs.
Derek looks down at himself and stares. His fur is incredibly lush and thick, downy soft and velvety. Derek turns around and his breath stutters: his tail, usually rough and nappy, is now fluffy and soft and heavy.
A real cottontail, like his mom used to have.
"I didn't know if it would work," Derek looks at Stiles, whose paws are pressing nervously on his tummy, "but I'm really glad it did" Stiles says breathlessly.
"What?" it seems like it's the only word Derek knows, tonight.
"The Hoppy Hoppy Once Again.... you know, Winter magic", Stiles face seems to be glowing, "it's only supposed to work with family... and I wasn't sure, but I thought I'd try anyway and-" he takes a shaky breath, "we've been nesting together since Easter, and we care for the kittens- our kittens - together. And-"
Derek is spellbound. Stiles's eyes are as shiny as the crystals covering the ground around them, and looking straight at Derek
"I know we are not the family you wished for, but we all wished hard for you. There is only just one thing we need, and that is you, Derek"
Derek knows that the snow gathering around his long feet is cold, knows it is sticking to his newly fluffy cottontail, but the only thing he feels right now is the glowing warmth in his heart.
Derek wobbles forward, cups one of Stiles's paws in his, touches his flushed nose to Stiles's, and takes a leap.