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“Are you ready?” Stiles asks seriously. Patrick and Evie nod their heads, their faces bright and eager. They’re sitting on stools at the kitchen island while Derek sits in a chair in the corner and Gil plays on the floor. “This is a very special recipe. My mother’s recipe. It is a closely guarded secret of the Stilinski family. Can you keep this very important secret?”

Patrick rolls his eyes. “DD, it’s just cocoa.”

“Just cocoa?” Dramatically, Stiles places his hand over his heart. “Swiss Miss and this perfection are not even close to the same thing.”

“I’m ready, DD!” Evie says. Gil gurgles happily from the floor as he beats a block against the cabinet.

“Okay, here’s the recipe.” Stiles opens a notebook full of old recipes, newspaper clippings, and other random mementos and pulls out an old piece of notebook paper. There are brown stains on it, a tear in the corner, and wear around the edges. A smile crosses Stiles’ face as he looks at his mother’s familiar elegant handwriting. “This was your grandmother’s recipe. See? That’s her handwriting. Please be careful with this piece of paper. It…it means a lot to me.”

Patrick and Evie look at it reverently. “Grandma had pretty handwriting,” Evie says. “Maybe I’ll have pretty handwriting like that.” The kids call both Claudia and Talia Grandma when they talk about them, and they refer to Derek’s dad as Grandpa. Now that the kids are getting a little older, Stiles and Derek have been trying to talk about their parents more and help the kids know them a bit.

“DD, where did the tradition of cocoa come from?” Patrick asks as Stiles directs Evie to the fridge for some of the ingredients.

“I don’t know, but that’s a good question. Why don’t you and your dad look it up?”

Patrick bounds the few steps towards Derek, somehow misjudging the distance and crashing into Derek in a flurry of limbs. Derek catches him and places his hands on Patrick’s waist to steady him. “Hey Dad, can we look up the history of cocoa?”

Derek pulls out his phone as Patrick plops down in Derek’s lap. As Derek brings up a browser window, Patrick leans down and bops Gil on the nose. Gil gurgles happily and beats his hands together, one still holding a wooden block. Resituating himself, Patrick rests his head on Derek’s shoulder as Derek reads about cocoa.

“What did Grandma look like?” Evie asks as she holds the cream and Stiles places the pot on the stove. He glances down at her, her large amber eyes staring up at him curiously. A wave of grief hits him suddenly, as fresh as it was when he was a child. He’s struck with how unfair life can be, that his kids won’t get to know their grandmother, that she was robbed of knowing them. “You don’t have to tell me if it makes you sad.”

Stiles blinks, his eyes damp, and glances at Derek and Patrick, both watching him. He chuckles. “Guess I can’t hide my feelings in a room full of werewolves,” he says as he wipes at his eyes. Evie wraps her arms around his waist. “I’m always sad when I talk about my mom because I miss her a lot, even after so long. Your dad’s the same way with his parents.”

“We can talk about something fun,” Evie says, “like Santa and presents!”

Stiles runs his hands through her dark curls. “No, I wanna talk about her.”

“But it makes you sad.”

“Sometimes it’s good to talk about things that are sad.”

Evie’s face scrunches in confusion, and Stiles can almost see her brain working to understand. “But it’s sad.”

Stiles bends down and kisses her head. “My mom actually looked a lot like you. She had dark hair and eyes the same color.”

“Like you, too!” Evie exclaims. “I have eyes like you.”

Stiles nods. “Yep. I looked a lot more like my mom than I do Pop-pop.”

“Pop-pop has blue eyes,” Patrick says. “None of us have blue eyes. I have hazel eyes like Dad!” Patrick twists and taps beside Derek’s eyes.

“You definitely look like the Hales,” Derek agrees. “You look like your grandmother, my mom. People always tell me how much I look like her. Laura looked like her too, more than Aunt Cora.”

“I want to look like the Hales!” Evie whines, her eyes starting to tear up as she inches towards a tantrum.

“Hey,” Stiles says, bending down so he’s eye level with her. She sniffs and glares, and he almost laughs at how much like Derek the expression is. “You definitely have a lot of Hale traits. Your angry face is one hundred percent your dad and aunt. But kiddo, you look like the Stilinskis more than the Hales. And that’s okay.”

She sniffs, a few tears dampening her cheeks. “Because that means I look like you.”

“Right.”

Derek says, “Evie, no one can deny that you are DD’s daughter.”

She runs over to Derek and wraps her arms around him as best she can, and buries her face against his chest. “But I’m your daughter too, right?? RIGHT??” Evie wails, and Stiles shares a puzzled look with Derek. No matter how long he’s a father, his kids always find ways to confuse him.

“Of course you’re my daughter!” Derek says as he struggles to lift her up into his arms while Patrick is still on his lap. Gil still gurgles happily on the floor. He picks up a block, tries to stuff it into his mouth, and then tosses it across the kitchen. “Why in the world would you think you aren’t?”

“Because DD said I look like the Stilinskis and not the Hales!”

Derek kisses her head as she rubs her wet face against his neck. “It doesn’t matter who you look like. You are our daughter. So, hey, no tears. You’re supposed to be learning Grandma Stilinski’s secret cocoa recipe.”

“Oh yeah!” Evie flies off Derek’s lap, wiping her eyes. “What can I do, DD?”

“Yeah, DD. Tell me what to do,” Patrick says as he joins his sister. Stiles rolls his eyes and hands them sugar, cocoa powder, chocolate, and cream.

Derek bends down and picks Gil off the floor, where he’s gnawing on a block. Gil drops the block in favor of touching Derek’s beard. Awkwardly, he drags his open palm against Derek’s face while squealing and smiling. “What do you think about all this, tadpole?” Derek asks, lifting Gil into the air as Gil giggles happily.

“Gil is a baby,” Evie states matter-of-factly.

“Yes, yes he is,” Stiles agrees.

“He is only a few months old because he was in Daddy’s belly.”

“One day, he’s gonna be as big as you and Patrick.”

Evie looks at Stiles dubiously. “I don’t believe you.”

Stiles balks. “Why? You were that little.”

She shakes her head. “I don’t think so.”

“How do you think you were born and got so big?”

“I was brought by the stork when I was eleventy five.”

Patrick groans. “There’s no such thing as storks, Evie. Or eleventy five. You’re such a baby.”

“I’m not a baby! I’m a big girl! I’m six!” She holds up seven fingers. “You’re a doodie head!”

“You’re a stupid head!”

“Children!” Derek exclaims. “What have we said about calling each other names?”

“That it is bad,” Evie says.

“Then why are you calling Patrick names?”

“Because he’s a doodie head!”

Derek exhales through his nose in irritation, so Stiles hands Evie a spoon. “Stop calling your brother a doodie head and be helpful.”

Stiles supervises as Evie and Patrick add the ingredients and stir. In the chair, Derek lifts Gil up in the air before lowering him, much to Gil’s delight. Then, he pulls up Gil’s t-shirt and blows a raspberry on his tummy, making Gil squeal happily. Stiles pulls out his phone and snaps a picture, his heart melting at the sight of Derek playing with Gil.

*

“Why are there so many people in Target?” Derek growls quietly. Stiles rolls his eyes as he hooks his arm through Derek’s.

“Because it’s like two weeks before Christmas.”

“I hate Christmas shopping.”

“I know,” Stiles says in exasperation. “You tell me that every single year.”

“It bears repeating every year.”

Stiles leans over and kisses Derek’s cheek. “You’re a humbug. But you’re my humbug. You may be one of the hottest men alive, but no one else would put up with your humbug ass, no matter how fine that humbug ass is.”

Derek glares half-heartedly. “This is true. But who else would put up with you and your cute ass?”

“Oh, definitely no one but you.”

“We put up with you!” Evie says as she comes up and hugs Stiles around the waist.

“Because we have to,” Patrick adds with a long-suffering sigh. “You’re our parents. People can’t choose their parents or their siblings. You had us, so you were automatically our parents and we were automatically your children.”

“Yeah, but we are glad you’re stuck with us anyway, because we love you!” Stiles grabs the back of Patrick’s shirt and tugs him close to hook his arm around his neck. Evie’s squished between him and Patrick, but she seems content. Stiles thinks they must make quite the spectacle in Target, Derek and Stiles linked arm in arm, the two kids pressed against Stiles’ side, and Gil kicking idly in the baby carrier Derek’s wearing over his chest.

“Now, what are we here to get?” Stiles asks.

“Presents!”

“No, not presents. Santa Claus is bringing presents.”

“Does Santa shop at Target?” Evie asks.

“I don’t know. Maybe. Or Wal-Mart, Amazon, local stores, ebay, etsy…who knows!”

“I thought all the elves made the toys,” Evie says.

“Maybe they take it easy and order everything online,” Stiles suggests.

“I wish we ordered everything online,” Derek mutters. He holds out his finger so Gil can grab onto it, and then starts moving it around. “Don’t you wish we ordered everything online? Don’t you?” Derek leans down and drops numerous kisses against the side of Gil’s ear, which makes him kick in excitement.

“I love Christmas shopping!” Stiles says.

“Me, too!” Evie says. “I love presents!”

“Where are we going after this?” Patrick asks.

“Don’t you remember? We have to go to Kohl’s to get Pop-pop and Grandma Melissa something.”

“Oh yeah!”

Stiles slides his hand down Derek’s forearm until he can thread their fingers together. He squeezes Derek’s hand and leans down to kiss Gil’s cheek. Gil gurgles happily, so Stiles kisses him again.

“Gil is so boring,” Evie complains as she trudges ahead. “All he does is laugh, make weird sounds, and poop!”

“He’s a baby,” Derek says. “That’s all you used to do, too.”

“I did not!”

“You did, too,” Derek teases as Evie turns around with her hands on her hips. He leans down, his hand holding Gil close to him, and says, “DD and I changed enough diapers to confidently say that’s what you did, too.”

Evie pushes at Derek’s face, laughing. “Gross, Dad!” Then, she starts walking towards the Christmas section just ahead, linking arms with Patrick at her side.

Stiles reaches down and tickles Gil’s foot. “I don’t think you’re boring, tadpole. I think you’re pretty neat.” Gil smiles a toothless smile and reaches out to touch Stiles’ face. Stiles runs one hand over his dark hair and pretends to bite at his fingers, and Gil laughs.

Stiles straightens and looks at Derek. “I think you’re pretty neat, too.” He pecks Derek on the lips.

“Not boring?”

“Oh, you’re definitely boring,” Stiles laughs, squeezing Derek’s hand as they turn down the aisle where Patrick and Evie are waiting.

“What do we have this year?” Stiles asks as they stand in front of the wall of Christmas ornaments. They’re picking out their yearly ornaments, which is the whole family’s favorite Christmas tradition. Stiles and Derek have over ten from their years together, along with a bunch of ornaments Stiles bought from various vacations.

“Ooh! Look! It’s Captain America! And Thor! And Spiderman!” Patrick grabs two ornaments as Evie runs her fingers over various ones.

“I like the ballerina! And the horse! Oh, a penguin!”

Stiles runs a hand along Derek’s arm. “So, what are we gonna get this year?”

Derek studies the rows of ornaments intently. Stiles watches Derek’s face, trying to suppress a smile at how serious Derek is taking this. “What?” Derek asks, not taking his eyes off the ornaments.

“What?”

Derek glances at him out of the corner of his eye. “You’re staring at me.”

“I happen to like your face, mister.”

Derek reaches out and grabs an ornament. It’s a red pickup truck with a green Christmas tree tied to the back. “I like this one.”

Stiles nods his head. “I like it, too.”

“It reminds me of cutting down our trees, with the kids and my family.”

“You’re always so sentimental about the ornaments,” Stiles says. “I love it.”

“I love you,” Derek says, turning his head towards Stiles and puckering his lips. Stiles kisses him, and Gil grabs his shirt.

“Well,” Stiles says, pulling away from Derek to look at the sweet face staring up at him. He twirls his finger around the curl of dark hair on the top of Gil’s head. “We haven’t forgotten about you, tadpole. We’re gonna pick you out an ornament, too! Isn’t that right? Isn’t that right?” Stiles starts baby talking at Gil, who smiles as he holds Stiles’ t-shirt tighter.

Stiles and Derek move down towards the baby ornaments while Evie and Patrick talk animatedly about the different ornaments. They look over baby carriages, storks, cribs, and little boys in blue diapers. “Ooh! What about this one?” Stiles says, grabbing a simple white porcelain baby giraffe off the hook. Around the giraffe’s neck is a gold ribbon with a medallion that says Baby’s First Christmas and the year. “It’s simple, but it’s beautiful. And the giraffe is so cute!”

Derek kisses the side of Stiles’ head. “Then it’s perfect.” Derek bounces Gil in his carrier. “That’s your first ornament, Gil. You’re part of the family now.” He kisses Gil’s head. “Hey Patrick, Evie, look at the ornament DD picked out for Gil.”

“Is that a giraffe?” Patrick asks.

“What’s a giraffe?” Evie asks.

“A big animal with long neck that lives in Africa,” Patrick explains. “I read all about them in a book I got from the library.”

“It is a baby giraffe,” Derek says.

“But Gil isn’t a giraffe. He’s a tadpole wolf!”

“What did you two choose?” Stiles asks.

“I got a hedgehog!” Evie exclaims as she shoves her hand in Stiles’ face. In it, she’s holding a brown spiky straw hedgehog with a red and black plaid scarf.

“I love it.”

“I got a Captain America ornament!” Patrick says as he shows a small rounded cartoon Cap ornament to Stiles and Derek.

“That’s cool,” Derek nods.

“What did you pick?” Patrick asks, as he grabs Derek’s hand to look at the ornament.

Derek shows Patrick the ornament as Stiles takes Evie’s hand and leads her out of the aisle while she tells him an involved story about her hedgehog, who she claims told her that his name was Herbert.

*

“Why in the hell is Kohl’s open twenty-four hours?” Derek looks around in disgust. “I don’t understand why anyone needs to shop at Kohl’s at like 2 a.m.”

“Why not?” Stiles asks as he looks through a rack of button up flannel shirts. “Why not go shopping at 2 a.m.?”

“It’s insane. Christmas shopping is insane. Capitalism is insane.”

Stiles rolls his eyes. “Fine, I’ll take your gifts back.”

“You know what I mean.”

“Yes, because you say it every day from the week before Thanksgiving until the day after Christmas. Blah blah shopping is the downfall of America blah blah why can’t people just focus on family blah blah blah.”

“Shut up,” Derek gripes, and Stiles rolls his eyes. Derek can’t help it; he’ll just never like shopping and crowds.

He leaves Stiles in the flannel shirts as he wanders through the clothes. Gil is asleep on his chest in the carrier, his heartbeat a constant, comforting presence to Derek’s senses. Derek still hasn’t gotten used to the idea of Gil being a human and so small and defenseless, and he feels best when Gil is like this, attached to and close to him. He knows when Gil is with him, he can protect him and keep him safe from anything. Derek also has his senses trained on Patrick and Evie, together in a different section of the store.

Derek walks to the socks and grabs a pack for himself, makes a mental note to check for kid socks for Patrick, and then moves on to the underwear. He gets distracted in front of a row of underwear. He focuses on a pair of teal boxerbriefs in a package with a pair of blue and white striped ones. His mind immediately dresses Stiles in them, and well, it’s a hot image. He kinda wants to drop the kids off at the sheriff’s, take Stiles home and dress him in the underwear just so he can take them off again. Slowly. With his teeth.

Figuring it’s a gift for Stiles and himself, Derek grabs the underwear and moves on to the children’s section. Stiles finds him picking out socks for Patrick a few minutes later. Derek asks, “Do you think Patrick would prefer dinosaurs, dogs, or Superman?”

“Dinosaurs and Superman, definitely.” Derek grabs the socks as Stiles takes the underwear out of his hands.

“These’ll look good on you. Wait, these are my size.”

“And they’ll look even better on you.”

“Oh yeah, they will,” Stiles says. “I like the colors.”

“Thought you might. You don’t have teal underwear.”

“Right? What’s up with that? I feel like that’s a gross oversight on our part.”

“Did you pick a shirt out for your dad?” Derek asks as they start walking towards the girl’s department.

“Yeah. We’ll give it to him first and then surprise him with the grill.”

“He’s going to love that grill,” Derek says with a smile. He’s excited about the prospect of the sheriff grilling out just about every time they get together. He kind of feels like it’s a selfish gift since the whole Pack will be enjoying the sheriff’s delicious food, but the sheriff has been complaining about how old his current grill is for awhile now. He’s just too cheap to buy himself an expensive one, so Stiles and Derek did it for him.

“We need to get a few more gifts for Evie,” Derek says.

Stiles groans. “I know. I’ve gotten everything on her list, but her list was so short. I don’t understand. All she talks about is Santa bringing presents.”

“I think she just expects Santa to bring her good gifts.”

“Ugh, I wish there was a Santa. It would be so much easier. He could do all the shopping.”

“We can order online.”

“He can also do the wrapping.”

“You love wrapping.”

Stiles glares at Derek. “I let you be grumpy and complain about Christmas. Let me do the same, please.”

Derek rolls his eyes. He glances down at Gil, his head hanging to the right in his sleep, his little mouth open slightly. “At least Gil is easy to shop for. A few toys and boom, we’re done.”

“It’s because he won’t know any different if we totally mess up and ruin his Christmas.”

“You’re not going to ruin the kids’ Christmas. Stiles, they’re going to get plenty of presents, and besides, the stuff you do at Christmas is more important.”

Stiles reaches behind him and runs his hand down Derek’s arm. “I love how important the traditions are to you.”

“That was Christmas with my family,” Derek says. “Traditions.” He remembers decorating the tree while listening to their favorite Christmas albums, making cookies with his mom and sisters, going to cut down the Christmas tree on the Preserve, get togethers with other Pack members and their families, drinking cocoa around the living room on Christmas Eve before going out for a run.

Derek pulls out of his memories when Stiles’ hand slips into his own, familiar and anchoring. “And now that’s Christmas with your family.”

“I love you,” Derek says, and Stiles smiles, a small private smile that tugs at Derek’s heart.

“Love you more.” He squeezes Derek’s hand. “Now, let’s keep shopping.”

Stiles leads them to a rack of purses in the girl’s section. “Okay, these are cute. Which one do you think she’d like?”

Derek looks over the choices, a small purse in the shape of a dog’s head, one in the shape of a high heel, another in the shape of a flower. On the other side of the rack are standard small purses made of fabric with dogs, flowers, or cats patterns. “She’ll like them all.”

“But which one will she like the best?”

Derek reaches out and picks up the purse that’s shaped like a dog’s head. “I kinda like this one.”

“Then we’ll buy her this one because you like it.” As Derek takes the dog purse off the hook, Stiles pulls his phone out of his pocket and brings up the kids’ Christmas list. “We should probably get Patrick some kind of board game, and each of them needs a few more clothes. Then we’ll be done! With the kids, at least. Still have to shop for the Pack.”

“Are we getting the board game here, or do we have to go to Toys-R-Us?” Derek shudders. Toys-R-Us at Christmas is its own special brand of hell.

“We’ll see what they have here. I think if I suggest we go to Toys-R-Us tonight, you may ask me for a divorce.” Stiles laughs as he grabs Derek’s hand again.

As they are walking through the store, Derek feels Stiles stop moving and glances behind him. Stiles is staring at a display of pants. “What are you looking at?” Derek asks.

“Dude,” Stiles says, pointing to a pair of light pink denim pants. “You need those.”

Derek glances at the pants dubiously. “Stiles, they’re pink.”

“They’re hot. Your thighs and your ass in skinny pink pants?” Stiles shakes his head. “I’d be on my knees so fast it’d make your head spin.”

“Really?” Derek asks, moving closer with more interest. He picks up the pants and holds them up. They’re just pants. Kinda ugly pants. But Derek knows what it’s like to see something and immediately want to see it on Stiles and then push him into the wall while wearing said clothing and fuck him hard. The teal underwear is a great example of that.

“On your knees, huh?” Derek raises an eyebrow as he glances at Stiles, who nods adamantly.

“Oh yeah. Mouth’s already watering. See?” Stiles opens his mouth slightly, and Derek has to take a deep breath so as not to pull on the pants right now and see if Stiles is as good as his word.

He folds the pants back up and drapes them over his arm. “Sold.”

Stiles fist pumps and whispers, “Yes!” Then he says, “So teal underwear and pink pants. I don’t know what in the hell we’re going to do, but it’s going to be colorful and awesome and sexy.”

“You’re going to blow me in nothing but those underwear while I’m wearing these pants. On your knees while I’m standing. Hopefully tonight.”

Stiles licks his lips, and Derek feels his cock twitch. “Can’t wait.”

*

“I want to cut the tree down!” Patrick exclaims.

Immediately, Evie responds, “But I wanna cut it down!”

“No one but me is cutting down the tree,” Derek states. “You’re too young to use a saw. You could get hurt.”

“We’d heal!” Evie says.

“Not if you cut off a finger,” Stiles says. They’re walking through the Preserve, looking for the perfect Christmas tree. They decided to get a tree from the Preserve like Derek used to do with his family instead of from a Christmas tree farm.

“Daddy, DD, did you know that today is Christmas Eve Eve Eve Eve Eve Eve Eve Eve Eve Eve Eve Eve?” Evie says.

“Huh?” Derek responds, totally not following her.

“It’s Christmas Eve Eve Eve – “

“Yes, but what does that mean, pumpkin?” Stiles interrupts.

“It’s that many Eves before Christmas Eve. Christmas Eve is the day before Christmas, so Christmas Eve Eve is the day before Christmas Eve, and Christmas Eve Eve Eve is the day before Christmas Eve Eve, and – “

“I think we get it now,” Stiles says. “That’s a lot of eves. Don’t you think that’s a bit too many?”

Evie shakes her head animatedly. “No. Because it’s Christmas Eve Eve Eve – “

“Hey, pumpkin, what do you think about that tree?” Derek points to a cedar up ahead, thankfully distracting Evie from listing the Eves again.

“TREE!” Evie yells as she runs ahead of Patrick towards the tree. She and Patrick skip around the tree, singing Jingle Bells.

“What do you think about this tree?” Stiles asks Gil, who’s in the baby carrier he’s carrying along his front. Gil has his fists wrapped around both of Stiles’ pointer fingers. “Do you think this Christmas tree will be the best?” Gil kicks and gurgles as he smiles.

“I like this tree, Dad!” Patrick exclaims as they approach.

“I like it, too!” Evie agrees.

Derek walks around the tree as Stiles stands and bounces Gil gently. “It’s a beautiful tree. What do you think, Stiles?”

“Looks good to me.”

“Then this is our tree!” Derek declares.

After Derek cuts down the tree, he and Patrick carry it back towards the house as Evie leads them all in Christmas carols.

*

In the house, Derek starts putting the lights on the tree while Stiles gathers the homemade decorations the kids have been working on for days. Right now, they have multiple strands of strung popcorn and green and red paper chains. Patrick gets the popcorn, string, and paper strips out of the craft box as Stiles settles Gil on his play mat.

“I think we need four more strands,” Patrick says as he sets the supplies down.

“I think that sounds like a great idea,” Stiles agrees as Evie starts grabbing popcorn and string.

“How are the lights looking, guys?” Derek asks from where he’s on his knees in front of the floor in front of the tree, trying to get the lights even along the bottom.

“They look great,” Stiles says as he staples a strip of red paper around a green paper link. As Derek finishes stringing the lights, Stiles and the kids finish the paper and popcorn garland. As Evie takes the popcorn strands and Patrick takes the paper chains, Stiles picks Gil up from where he’s crawled over to the corner of the room to gnaw on his set of plastic keys.

He lets Gil hold one of the paper chains, which he immediately shoves into his mouth. Derek comes over to pick construction paper from Gil’s mouth while Stiles laughs and watches Evie and Patrick randomly place the strands of popcorn and paper onto the tree with no pattern or method. Evie wraps the popcorn around her neck as Patrick puts the links on his wrists like handcuffs. Stiles looks at the tree as he bounces Gil in his arms. The decorations kinda look like a hot mess, but Stiles wouldn’t have it any other way.

*

On Christmas Eve, the sheriff is sitting in the floor playing with Gil and Evie. Patrick finds Derek in the kitchen, where he’s piling a plate with cookies and cake. “Hey kiddo,” Derek says, putting his arm around Patrick’s shoulder. He rubs his thumb across the back of Patrick’s neck, and Patrick pushes into Derek’s side. “Want a cookie?”

“No.” He rests his head on Derek’s side as Derek puts a couple of things on the plate for Stiles, Evie, and the sheriff. “Hey Dad?”

“Hm?”

“Can I talk to you and DD about something?”

Derek stops what he’s doing and looks down at Patrick. Patrick has on his Serious Face (the one Stiles says he got directly from Derek). His eyebrows are furrowed, but he doesn’t smell upset. “Sure. What is it about?”

Patrick looks back towards the living room. “It’s private. I don’t want to say right now.”

Derek feels a mild anxiety, but anchors himself with the small body beside him. His kids are safe and fine, and Stiles is fine. No need to freak out.

“Where do you want to talk?” Derek asks.

“My bedroom. Will you get DD and I’ll meet you up there?”

“Sure.” Derek pauses, doesn’t take his arm from around Patrick. “Is everything okay?”

Patrick nods before walking out of the kitchen. Derek frowns after him, wondering what in the world could he want to talk about on Christmas Eve.

Derek finds Stiles on the couch, listening to Christmas music and scrolling through his iPad. He looks completely adorable, his hair sticking up from having his hands in it, and wearing a pair of red pajama pants with Christmas dogs on them, a red thermal shirt, and green fuzzy socks. Derek goes over to him, bends down, and kisses him. Stiles smiles up at him, the multi-colored Christmas lights on the mantle reflecting in his eyes.

“Hey hot stuff. Wanna snuggle up with me on the couch while Dad entertains the kids?”

“I’d love to, but your presence is requested in your eldest son’s room.” Stiles looks at him quizzically, but Derek only shrugs. “I don’t know. He said he needed to talk to us.”

“Is he okay?”

“I think so. I don’t know what’s going on.”

Stiles stands and asks, “Are you freaking out?”

“A little.”

Stiles wraps his arms around Derek and holds him close for a moment. “Stop freaking out about everything, you silly wolf.” He kisses the side of Derek’s head, and then pulls back. Derek stares into his calm, smiling face before wrapping his arms around Stiles’ waist and kissing him again, harder.

“Come on,” Derek says, against his mouth, “We can continue this after the kids go to bed.”

“Santa’s gonna put us on his naughty list,” Stiles says, waggling his eyebrows. “You’ve been a very naughty boy this year. I think next year you should be even more naughty.”

Derek slaps Stiles on the butt playfully. “Focus, Stiles. Patrick is waiting for us.”

“Right. Parenting.” Stiles nods, and Derek rolls his eyes.

They find Patrick on his bed, reading a book while listening to Christmas music. Derek closes the door behind him as Stiles goes over to sit on the edge of the bed. Patrick closes the book and sets it carefully on the nightstand.

“What’s up, kiddo?” Stiles asks as Derek sits beside Stiles. Derek places a hand on Patrick’s leg and squeezes.

Patrick sits up straighter and Derek recognizes it as his posture when he’s trying to act serious and more adult-like. He suppresses a smile because he doesn’t want Patrick to think he’s making fun of him.

“I have something very important to talk to you about,” Patrick starts.

“Is everything okay?” Stiles asks. “Are you okay?”

“I’m fine. It’s not that.” Patrick pauses, takes a deep breath, and says, “I have recently learned that there is no Santa Claus.”

“Oh,” Derek says as Stiles laughs inappropriately and tries to cover it up. Patrick frowns at him.

“I’m sorry, it’s not funny,” Stiles says, trying unsuccessfully not to laugh. “But that was not what I was expecting.”

“DD, I’m very upset,” Patrick states.

“How do you know that he’s not real?” Derek asks.

“Some kids at school were talking about it, and they said their parents bought all their gifts and put them out. So, I did some research on the internet. I read two different Santa origin stories and then looked at Google maps and did some calculations. There is no way one man can cover the entire globe and give toys to every child’s house.”

Stiles looks at him. “You’re a werewolf, and your dad gave birth to three children, and that’s just the beginning. You mean to tell me that you don’t believe in magic that can help one guy deliver presents to all the kids?”

Patrick looks at Stiles like he’s an idiot. “DD, I’m not a kid anymore. I know there’s not a Santa and that’s just fake. Werewolves are real. But I promise not to tell Evie. I don’t want to ruin it for her.”

“That’s very mature of you,” Derek says. “A very Alpha type of decision.” At Derek’s praise, Patrick lights up and preens. Then Derek says, “I’m sorry you found out there’s no Santa, kiddo.”

“Yeah, that kinda sucks. Believing in Santa is fun.”

“It’s okay,” Patrick says. “Christmas is still fun! We do all kinds of fun stuff at Christmas. It’s my favorite time of year, even without Santa.”

“Mine, too,” Derek says with a smile.

Later, when the kids and the Sheriff have gone to sleep, Stiles and Derek set up the Christmas gifts for the morning in the living room. Derek sits looking at Evie’s doll sets and ponies, and Patrick’s trucks and science kits, and feels sad.

“This is kinda sad this year,” Derek says.

Stiles pauses where he’s setting out board games and turns towards Derek. “Why?”

“Our kids are getting older,” Derek says. “Patrick doesn’t believe in Santa anymore. I just feel like he’s lost something. Soon, he’ll be a preteen and then a teenager.”

“Derek, he’s only nine. It’s not like he’s eighteen.”

“Won’t be long before he’s eighteen.”

Stiles crawls over to him and gets into his lap. “It kinda sucks, but we still have Evie and Gil.”

“Evie’s getting old. She’ll be seven next year.”

Stiles takes Derek’s face between his hands. “You’re being dramatic and sentimental. But it’s okay.”

“Growing up milestones are hard. They don’t really talk about that on the parenting blogs.”

“I guess that’s just life. But hey, you have me, no matter how old our kids are.”

“I know.”

Later, Derek hears Gil starting to fuss as they’re finishing up the presents. He goes upstairs and finds Gil sobbing in his crib, his cheeks red and damp. Derek picks him up and carries him over to the rocking chair. Carefully, he sits down and gives Gil his pacifier before cradling him to his chest. Then, Derek pushes the chair with his feet.

“Gil, don’t you ever grow up, okay? Stay my baby forever. Can you do that?” Gil is still whining, but Derek kisses his head and rubs his back soothingly. Derek stares out of the window, at the trees around the house. The half moon provides a bit of illumination.

Derek hears Stiles coming up the stairs, and then listens as he checks on both Patrick and Evie. He feels warmth spreading through him at the way Stiles takes such good care of his cubs. He hears Stiles moving blankets and kissing the kids and smiles. A few moments later, Stiles comes into the room and leans against the window sill. He crosses his arms across his chest, looks at Derek, and smiles.

“I have always loved watching you with our babies. I just love the way you look when you hold them.” Derek extends his foot and drags his toes along Stiles’ calf. “I like my big, strong Alpha with his cubs.”

“He’s so small, Stiles,” Derek says as he looks down at the tiny human in his arms. Gil fusses softly against Derek’s chest, but Derek can feel him calming as he sucks on his pacifier. “One day he won’t be small.”

“Why are you so maudlin tonight?” Stiles says, placing his foot on top of Derek’s.

Derek sighs. “I don’t know. I guess just growing older, the kids getting older. I guess it’s the first time it’s hit me, you know? How much time has passed. We’ve been together a long time.”

“We have. Fifteen years. Isn’t that insane? Married for twelve of those.”

“I sometimes didn’t believe we’d make it past one.”

“Me, too.” Stiles smiles. “There isn’t anyone else I’d rather spend fifteen years with. And fifty more, until we’re old men and our kids are grown and have forgotten about us.”

Derek frowns. “Our kids will never forget about us. Pack bonds.”

Stiles rolls his eyes fondly. “But no one is growing old tonight, so cheer up. Put Gil back to bed, and then you can put me to bed.” Stiles places his hands carefully on the arms of the rocking chair, halting it and leaning down to kiss Derek. “No sense in being sad for nothing. Besides, we gotta be naughty for Santa.”

Derek kisses Stiles softly, parting his lips so Stiles can slip his tongue inside his mouth. He melts into the kiss, into the familiarity and feeling of Stiles. Derek figures getting older is inevitable and there’s nothing he can do about it, but there is no one other than Stiles he’d rather do it with.

-fin