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Christmas Cookies and Mistle-Faux

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     The kitchen is a mess.  A fucking mess. And Stiles isn’t looking forward to cleaning it.  He surveys the damage and wonders if he can convince the pack to help him clean it up at the end of their Christmas party.  It’ll be a bonding activity.  Yeah, that’s good.  A bonding activity.  They’ll totally buy that.

     They’ll never buy that.

      Stiles still isn’t sure why he offered to host the party.  They’d been sacked out around Derek’s loft the Saturday after Thanksgiving and somehow the topic of a pack Christmas party came up.  Everyone had been for it—Scott was so excited talking about it, it may very well have been Christmas that day—but nobody seemed all that amped to host it.  After a couple of hours of talking about food and gift exchanges (they decided on a Secret Santa, as opposed to a White Elephant Gift Exchange), nobody had yet to take on the mantle of host.  Derek reluctantly began to volunteer just before Stiles heard the words “I’ll do it” pop out of his mouth with such force it surprised even himself.  Thank God everyone else offered to bring the actual food, because if Stiles had to host and cook dinner, he couldn’t have guaranteed not to season everything with wolfsbane.

     He’d pulled Derek’s name in the Secret Santa drawing and had inwardly groaned, wondering how he was going to suss out gift ideas from Derek, who had everything and wanted nothing except maybe some peace and quiet.  But fortune took a pity on Stiles that day.  Derek had had one of his rare moments of unabashed nostalgia and talked about the Christmas cookies his mother used to make:  nothing more than simple sugar cookies cut out in Christmas shapes and glazed with powdered sugar frosting.

     Stiles had shoved down his feelings for Derek long ago, knowing that nothing would ever come of them.  Still, every now and then something like this would happen, and the rush of emotion Stiles felt for Derek--as a friend, as someone he crushed on--would overcome Stiles.  Listening to Derek talking about how he and his mother would spend an entire day making trays and trays of these cookies, decorating them to perfection, had made Stiles chest swell unexpectedly.  He’d instantly decided to make those cookies for Derek.

     Fast forward three weeks.  It’s the afternoon of the party, five days before Christmas, and Stiles has been up since 8 a.m. getting everything ready.  The tree is decorated, the stockings are hung by the chimney with care, and Stiles is still having trouble with this damn cookie recipe and second-guessing the entire endeavor. For the past five hours, every batch of cookies failed miserably.  First the dough was too wet, then it was too dry, and then it was this weird orange color and he was a little afraid he’d somehow made them radioactive.  The last batch came out hard as a rock.  Stiles dumps the cookies into the trash can and tosses the cookie tray into the sink.  It lands with a metallic clang.

     “Fuuuuuuuuuck,” he moans, slumping over the counter and burying his head in his arms, and doesn’t realize he’s face-planting into a smattering of flour until too late.  A white cloud poofs up around him, and he sneezes three times in succession, quickly and loudly.

     “Bless you,” comes a voice from the doorway.  Stiles looks up to see Derek standing there, holding a small wrapped present in one hand and an elaborate cheese tray in the other.  His eyebrows tick up in concern as he surveys the baking warzone.

     “Thank you,” Stiles mutters, before panic sets in, realizing that Derek is basically looking at his Christmas present.  “What are you doing here?  Me, I’m just baking.  You know, because I just feel so centered in the kitchen when I’m…” his hands flail half-heartedly, “…baking.”

    “For the party?” Derek asks.

    “For the party!” Stiles shouts too loudly, grateful to grasp onto a legitimate reason for him to be baking.  “I thought that, y’know, even though I’m hosting, I could contribute to the foodening.”

    “Looks more like you’re contributing to the messening.” Derek says, setting his gift down on the kitchen table and crossing to the fridge to put the cheese away.  Stiles inwardly marvels over how at ease Derek seems in the Stilinski kitchen, having only been in the house once or twice before.

     Stiles grabs the trash can and begins sweeping loose flour off the counter.  “As it turns out,” he explains to Derek, “I’m more adept at eating cookies than I am at baking them.”  As he begins tidying up in defeat, mind racing to figure out a last-minute gift for Derek, his eyes sweep over the clock.  “Derek, it’s 5:00.  The party doesn’t start for two more hours.  Why did you show up so early?”

    “I know you,” Derek shrugs.  “I figured you’d need help getting ready for the party.”

    “I’ll have you know that I cleaned the living room from top to bottom myself.  And I decorated the tree, and I put up stockings, and—“

    “And you made a mess of the kitchen two hours before the party starts,” Derek smirks, sweeping his hands in display of Stiles’ abject cookie failure.

    Stiles scoffs.  “I’ll have you know, Derek, that these cookies aren’t just for the party.  They’re for…” he trails off, aware that he’s about to ruin the Secret Santa surprise.  “My dad’s Christmas party at work, too,” he finishes weakly.  “I promised him he could have cookies if he promised to eat a salad for lunch and dinner that day.”

    “Okay then,” Derek says, rolling up his sleeves.  “Let’s get these cookies made.”

    Stiles pulls a double-take.  “What?”

    “You need cookies made.  I like making cookies.  It’s that simple.”

    “Yeah, but--” Stiles sputters.

    “But nothing,” Derek interrupts.  “Preheat the oven to 425* and hand me that mixing bowl.”

    The kitchen basically turns into a one-man baking show after that.  While Stiles does the dishes and cleans up most of the mess, Derek quickly mixes together some chocolate chip cookie dough and puts three trays in the oven.  Soon, the house fills with the scent of melting chocolate.

    “We could probably make two or three bigger cookies with the rest of this dough,” Derek says, gesturing toward the mixing bowl.

    “Or,” Stiles replies as he reaches over, dips his finger into the bowl, and stuffs a glob of cookie dough into his mouth.  “We coo juss eeda doe.”

    Derek rolls his eyes.  “And then we could spend the rest of the Christmas party with salmonella.”

    “Most delicious salmonella ever,” Stiles answers, before reaching over and scooping up the rest of the dough.  He pops it into his mouth and shoots Derek a wide, cheesy grin.  Derek rolls his eyes again, but with a certain fondness that catches Stiles off guard.

    “Any other cookies you need baked?” Derek asks.

    Stiles swallows, then pauses, considering.  Finally, he asks, “Could you help me make, like...Christmas cookies?  Y’know, with cut-out shapes and frosting and all that?”  He sees Derek hesitate briefly.  “Or, not.  I don’t wanna put you out.  I mean, you already helped me make chocolate chip cookies, and that should be enough for everyone, right?”

    “Please,” Derek says.  The timer for the chocolate chip cookies goes off, and Derek grabs the oven mitts and begins pulling trays of cookies out of the oven.  “This is barely enough for Scott.”  He transfers the cookies from the baking trays and onto parchment paper he’d laid out on the kitchen table.

    “Are you sure?” Stiles asks.

    “I’m sure.”  Derek smiles, but Stiles can feel an energy shift in the kitchen.  Derek had relaxed a bit while making the chocolate chip cookies, but now he seems tighter, more tensed up.  Stiles wants to tell him to it’s okay, they don’t have to make these cookies, they can just have a spiked eggnog and relax before the rest of the pack shows up, but Derek has already begun gathering ingredients for the Christmas cookies.

    “Okay...”  Stiles says hesitantly.  He grabs the recipe printout he’d found on Pinterest that morning.  “I have this recipe here, but I don’t think it works.  I’ve tried a few batches, and they keep coming out wrong.”

    Derek waves off the recipe without looking at Stiles, instead focusing on measuring out flour.  “I don’t need it,” he says.  “Do you have a sifter?”  Stiles stares at him, blankly.  “How about a mesh strainer?”

    “Ah!”  Stiles rummages around in one of the cupboards and pulls out the strainer.  “Here you go.”

    “Great.  Grab another bowl and beat together a cup of sugar and a cup of butter.  Is your butter softened?”

    “No.  Would you like to assign someone to soften my butter?”

    Derek looks at Stiles strangely, his eyebrows furrowed in confusion.  A blush begins to mottle Stiles cheeks as an awkward silence fills the room.  Finally, Derek snorts in amusement, and goes back to sifting flour.

    “Mean Girls,” he says quietly, almost to himself.  Just like that, the mood in the kitchen relaxes again.  Derek continues to sift the dry ingredients as he instructs Stiles on beating together all the wet ingredients.  They combine the two and complete the batter.

    “Time to roll it out,” Derek says.

    “I had some problems with this,” Stiles admits.  “The dough kept sticking to the counter.”

    “You have powdered sugar, right?” Derek asks.  Stiles nods.  “You have to sprinkle some on the counter and roll the dough out over it.  It keeps it from sticking, and it’ll make the cookies a bit sweeter.”  Derek dips a measuring cup into the powdered sugar Stiles hands him and shakes it out messily over the counter.

    “Give me the bowl,” he instructs Stiles.  Stiles hands the bowl of cookie dough to Derek.  Their fingers brush as Derek grabs it, and Stiles is both grateful that Derek apparently doesn’t notice how quickly Stiles’ heart begins to beat, and annoyed with himself over how quickly he reverts to that stupid little kid who has a crush out of his league.

    Derek plops the cookie dough onto the countertop, then grabs the rolling pin.  He puts his hand into the powdered sugar, grabbing just enough to coat the rolling pin with a slight film.  Stiles’ blush deepens as Derek’s hand slides up and down the rolling pin, his undersexed and overactive imagination seeing only phallic symbols and jerking off motions, and he wonders if it’s possible to blush so hard and deep that he’ll just start melting onto the kitchen floor.

    Derek looks up and sees Stiles watching him.  “You wanna roll it out?” he asks innocently, handing the rolling pin to Stiles.

    “God yes,” Stiles answers huskily, before he can catch himself.  He blinks, inwardly horrified, and clears his throat.  “I mean, sure, I can try.”

    He grabs the rolling pin from Derek, steps up to the counter top, and begins to roll out the cookie dough.  Well, he begins trying to roll out the cookie dough.  It doesn’t flatten as easily as he’d expected it to.  Derek just watches, his eyes crinkling in the corners as he tries to hide a smile.

    “I had the same problem when I was a kid,” Derek laughs.  “You’re not going to hurt the dough.  Don’t be afraid to put a little muscle behind it.  Like this.”  He steps behind Stiles and reaches around him, placing his hands over Stiles’ on the rolling pin.  Stiles shuts his eyes and wills his heart to calm the fuck down already, basically demanding it to stop beating altogether, as Derek begins rolling out the cookie dough, the back-and-forth rolling motion causing his chest to press against Stiles’ back.

    “Got it?” Derek asks, his breath ghosting across Stiles’ ear.  Stiles just nods, his eyes still shut tightly.  “Good.  “I’m going to make the frosting while you make the cutouts.”  Derek steps back, and if Stiles didn’t admit that he instantly missed the feeling of Derek invading his personal bubble, he’d be lying.

    Stiles grabs the Christmas tree cutout and presses it into the dough.  “How do I get the tree out of the dough without messing it up?” he asks Derek, wildly hoping there will be another hands-on tutorial.

    “You don’t,” Derek answers as he mixes the powdered sugar and milk together.  He adds a couple drops of red food coloring, then starts mixing again.  “After you finish doing all the cutouts, you lift the remaining dough and the cutouts will stay on the counter.”  Here, try this.”

    Derek dips a finger into the frosting and holds it out toward Stiles.  Stiles blinks rapidly, his eyes shooting back and forth from the frosting-coated finger in front of him to Derek’s face.  Derek’s eyes rise up innocently, and he gestures expectantly with the finger.

    “Oh...kay…” Stiles says.  He leans forward to lick the frosting off of Derek’s finger.  Before he can get a taste, Derek swipes his finger across Stiles’ face, leaving a smear of frosting on his cheek.

    “I...what...did you...just…” Stiles sputters, unable to form a coherent thought.  He shoots a look at Derek, whose body is shaking with silent laughter.

     “Oh, you ass!” Stiles exclaims.  He reaches into the container of powdered sugar, coats his hand, and lightly smacks Derek in the face, smearing a white handprint across Derek’s cheek.  Derek retaliates by flinging a spoonful of frosting at Stiles, leaving colorful red splotches on his shirt.  Stiles picks up one of the cookie cutouts and throws it at Derek.  It lands on his forehead with a splat and sticks there.

     Derek raises his hands in surrender.  “Okay, okay, I give!”  He peels the cutout off of his face and tosses it in the trash.

     “Damn right you give,” Stiles snorts.  “You may have extra special awesome wolfy powers when it comes to hand to hand combat, but when it comes to food fights, I’m all-state, baby!”  He pumps his fists in the air as Derek laughs some more, grabbing a hand towel and wiping the powdered sugar off his cheek.

     “Okay champ,” he concedes.  “Why don’t you go change your shirt and wash the frosting off your face, and I’ll get these in the oven.”

     Stiles raises an eyebrow.  “If I come back down to some full-on cookie dough assault, you will not survive, Hale.  I will take you out.”  Derek just raises his hands in concession.” Good man.”

     Stiles races upstairs to the bathroom, deciding to take a quick shower instead of just washing his face.  The pack should be here relatively soon, and Stiles hadn’t showered when he woke up.  He finishes, changes into something relatively appropriate for a Christmas party, and heads back downstairs.

     The kitchen smells like Christmas, and is nearly spotless.  Two bowls of frosting, one green and one red, sit on the countertop.  Derek is at the sink, rinsing off the last of the dishes and placing them in the dish tray.

     “Derek, you didn’t have to clean up,” Stiles admonishes.

     Derek shrugs.  “I needed something to do,” he explains.  “I made another color of frosting, too.  You want to taste?”  He lifts a spoon out of the frosting and offers it up, his eyebrows all but waggling mischievously.

    “Like I’m going to fall for that again,” Stiles dismisses.  He grabs the spoon and sticks it in his mouth.  “Oh my God, this is delicious,” he moans.  He reaches for another spoonful, but Derek smacks his hand away.

    “We need it for the cookies,” Derek says.  “If there’s any left, you can eat that.”  Suddenly, a look flashes across Derek’s eyes and they seem to go dark.  There’s another energy shift, and the kitchen falls silent.

    “Derek?” Stiles asks quietly.

    “What?” Derek replies, somewhat tersely, as he slides on the oven mitts and pulls trays out of the oven.  They look delicious, golden brown on the edges, gleaming and soft in the middle.  “These have to cool before we can frost them.”

    Stiles steps toward Derek.  “Are you okay?” he asks.  Derek busies himself with the cookies, transferring them to parchment paper.

    “Yeah, why?”

    Stiles frowns.  “It’s just--I mean...I don’t know, you seem…” Stiles trails off.

    The awkward silence continues to pervade the kitchen, punctuated only by the sound of the spatula sliding under cookies.  Derek finishes, sets the spatula down, and clears his throat.

    “I used to make these with my mother,” he says evenly, not looking at Stiles.  “She would say that to me about the frosting all the time:  ‘We need it for the cookies. If there’s any left, you can eat that.’  She’d always make a bit extra, so there was always some left.”

    Stiles isn’t sure how to respond.  He feels bad for Derek, but knows that he can’t pity him, because that will just shut Derek down.  Stiles can empathize--Lord knows Stiles can empathize--but he doesn’t want it to seem like he’s making Derek’s problems all about him.  Finally, he settles with asking, “Did you make extra?”

    There’s a brief pause, and then a small smile spreads across Derek’s face.  “Yes,” he admits, his voice a mix of fondness and exasperation.

    “Can I tell you something?” Stiles asks.  Derek looks at him, nods.  Stiles steps closer.  “I remember you talking about that a few weeks ago.  About your mom and these cookies, I mean.”

    “You do?” Derek says softly.

    Stiles nods.  “I pulled you for Secret Santa.  When you said that, I decided to make the cookies for you.  Except, I kept messing up the recipe, and now you made the cookies for you.  I guess I have to find you a different Secret Santa present, so there won’t be anything for you to open today, but--”

    Derek interrupts Stiles, grabbing him by the shoulders and pulling him in for a hug.  Stiles is taken aback at first, and also a little breathless because 1) Derek is hugging him, and 2) Derek is hugging him, and 3) Derek is hugging him really tightly and there’s a lot of werewolf strength at play.  Finally, Stiles hugs Derek back and tries not to enjoy it, tries to give Derek whatever comfort he was looking for.

    Derek lets go and pulls back.  “You don’t have to get me anything else,” he tells Stiles.  “This was…”  He gestures to the kitchen.  “I’ve been missing her a lot lately, and this was the perfect way to miss her.  Thank you for giving me that, Stiles.”

    Stiles’ voice is small but affectionate.  “You’re welcome.”

    The two stare at each other for what seems to Stiles like ages, before Derek speaks.

    “We should get those cookies frosted.  The pack’ll be here any minute.”

    Stiles’ chest deflates a bit, the moment having passed.  “Sounds good,” he says.  “I’m just going to go hang the--”  He breaks off, then:  “Aw crap!”

    “What?”

    “I was going to hang mistletoe, but I forgot to buy mistletoe.”

    “Mistletoe?” Derek asks.

    “I know, I know,” Stiles concedes.  “Mistletoe is poisonous for werewolves, and what kind of Christmas would it be if everyone got poisoned, but it wasn’t real.  It was gonna be fake mistletoe.  Mistle-faux.”

    “Mistle-faux,” Derek repeats.

    “Just a final touch of holiday spirit,” Stiles finishes listlessly.  “I was trying to be a good host, okay?”

    Derek says nothing, just crosses to the kitchen table and picks up the present he’d brought in earlier.  He passes it to Stiles.

    “Turns out, I’m your secret Santa,” he explains.  Stiles eyes Derek quizzically.

    “Dude, no,” he scoffs as he carefully opens the package.  Underneath the shiny red and gold paper is a small box.  Stiles lifts the lid and finds inside a small fake sprig of mistletoe.

    “You got me mistle-faux for Christmas?” Stiles asks dubiously.  Derek chortles to himself, then takes the mistletoe from the box.

    “Something like that,” he says as he leads Stiles out of the kitchen and into the living room, stopping in the doorway.  There’s already a small nail protruding from the frame, a remnant of the mistletoe of Christmas past.  Derek reaches up and hooks the mistletoe around it.  Stiles’ heart pounds wildly in his chest.

    “Merry Christmas, Stiles,” Derek says softly.  He leans in, placing his hands on Stiles hips, and gently brushes his lips across Stiles’, almost as though Stiles might break.

    And Stiles really, really might break, because Derek is kissing him.  It is Christmas--well, almost--and Stiles just spent the last two hours baking cookies with Derek, and now he’s standing under the mistletoe--still with Derek--and he’s being kissed.  By Derek.  This is not something that Stiles’ body or mind was ready to deal with, and Stiles is afraid that he might burst at the seams.

    Derek pulls back.  “Is this okay?” he asks, almost shyly.  Stiles immediately nods erratically, resembling a bobblehead doll, and begins babbling.

    “So okay.  Very, very, very okay.  Please to be making it more okay.”

    Derek grins.  “You’re such an idiot,” he says affectionately, and leans in for another kiss.  He finds more solid purchase this time, as Stiles slides his hands up Derek’s arms and across Derek’s neck, pulling him closer and kissing him back.  It’s stubbly and sweet, it tastes like powdered sugar and happy memories, and if they could bottle Christmas spirit and sell it in the stores, it would feel like this.  Stiles moans inadvertently, almost a mewl, and Derek smiles against his lips.  Before he can say anything, the front door bursts open and Scott strides in, followed by the rest of the pack.

    “Party time!” Scott cries out, and his exclamation is met with a chorus of cheers from everyone else.  They stop short when they see Derek and Stiles, still holding each other, but facing the pack with embarrassed looks on their face.

    “Dude!” Scott exclaims.  “Are you two…?”  Stiles eyes drop down to the floor and he nods his head surreptitiously.

    “It’s about time!” Scott shouts.  He barrels toward Derek and Stiles and wraps them both in a giant hug before heading to the living room to put his presents under the tree.

    “Seriously,” Lydia says as she passes by into the kitchen, her arms laden down with trays of food.  “What took you guys so long.  I thought you’d get there much sooner than this.”  Jackson snorts, following close behind.

    “Not me,” he says with fond derision.  “I figured it’d take at least another year.”

    “Yeah well it didn’t!”  Erica jabs Derek in the side.  “And I had this month in the pool, so I win.  Pay up, assholes!”

    Derek’s eyes open in wild surprise.  “You guys had bets on us?  On this?”

    “Of course we did.”  Isaac says, as he and Boyd walk by carrying grocery bags full of drinks.

    “Who did you think you were fooling?” Allison asks, following close behind.  “I knew you two were into each other before I knew Scott was a werewolf.”  She puts a headband with reindeer antlers on Stiles’ head and gives him a kiss on the cheek.  “Merry Christmas!”

    Everyone begins unpacking food and putting their presents under the tree, commenting excitedly on who got what for whom in the Secret Santa gift exchange.  In the kitchen, Erica squeals with laughter as Boyd tries to smear frosting on her cheeks.  Stiles grins as he hears Lydia instructing everyone on the most logical way to lay out the food, while Isaac tells everyone to dig in.

    “Cookies!” Scott yells.  “Are they for us?”

    “Help yourself to however many chocolate chip cookies you want!” Stiles shouts in reply, still standing under the mistle-faux. He looks back at Derek, and leans in for another kiss.  “Just make sure to leave the sugar cookies for me!"