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How They Met (And Other Disasters)

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25th December, 2014

“So, you never told us, how did you two meet?”

Derek and Stiles exchange a glance and a tiny, private smirk. It’s Stiles that answers, while Derek nods solemnly in agreement, “well ... I set a bus on fire and Derek beheaded an old lady with a sword. It was awesome.”

“And,” added Derek, “we emotionally scarred a small child for life.”

A long moment of stunned silence followed, finally punctuated by Stiles’s soft yet chipper voice, “tis the season to be jolly! Fa – la la la la - la la, la la!”

_______________________________________________________________________________

23rd December, 2013.

Derek hated delays. He abhorred being late. Unreliability was a trait of the inept - something he had strove to avoid becoming for years. That’s why, when his bus had been stationary out the front of a tiny diner in the middle of nowhere for a total of four and a half minutes, he began getting annoyed.

____

Seven minutes later, and he was beginning to get frustrated. Snow was falling outside his window, battering against the glass like blind pale moths. The diner outside seemed the last outpost of civilisation; a tiny island of yellow light and green stucco stranded on a tremulous sea of grey. This is not what he needed after a six-hour flight from New York. Laura would kill him if he turned up late.

____

Eight minutes and forty five seconds had gone by, according to his watch. Derek’s nerves were beginning to fray. He had to consciously stop himself from grinding his teeth. Beacon Hills was still a good two hours away, and all they were doing was sitting. The seconds crawled by. Derek passed the time by watching the large flashing sign outside on the roof of the diner, counting the seconds between each blinding flash. The sign proclaimed the diner to be named The Diner. Derek decided that it was a stupid name and that he hated everything about The Diner. He hated its name, its windows wreathed with gaudy, red and green lights that irritated his vision, and he especially hated the life-size Mr and Mrs Claus that stood out the front with creepy grins and dead eyes. Reindeer stood in twos along the grass expanse that separated The Diner from the highway, harnessed together with yet more flashing lights. Stupid diner with a stupid name. A middle-aged woman in a fluffy pink coat appeared in the doorway, hunched in the snow but smiling toothily through the whirlwind. She waved. There was a band of tinsel in her grey-brown hair. Derek did not wave back. An ancient sign blinked from the window beside her, wishing everyone a MER Y CH IS MAS!

A blast of cold air filled the coach as the driver came trudging up the steps, trailing snow. Derek let his headphones fall as the man began addressing the passengers, “Alright everyone. We’ll only be here for a few more minutes. Ten, twenty tops. The snow’s picked up and we have to wait for highway patrol to tell us its safe before continuing. Shouldn’t be too long folks. The diner’s good if you’re hungry. And hey! Merry Christmas!”

Derek rolled his eyes and muttered, “great.” He replaced his headphones and went back to Bob Dylan.

His phone was dead.

Derek slammed the device angrily into his bag, “Fan-fucking-tastic.”

Left devoid of any distraction, Derek was reduced to staring out the frost-laced window like a love-sick teen. There was movement within The Diner outside, vague shadows rippling across the glass, as passengers disembarked for food and caffeine. He was half-tempted to suspend his loathing for the place in leu of hot coffee, but then he heard the Christmas carols start up. He gritted his teeth. Coffee was not worth such pain. Derek was consciously aware of the time slipping past, leaving him behind. He also hated being late.

____

Nine and a half minutes and someone sat down heavily in the seat next to him, and it was not the profoundly plump businessman that had accompanied him these past two and a half hours from the airport. This guy was young, maybe twenty-two or twenty-three. He folded his lanky frame into the chair so that his knees were practically by his ears, fluffy brown hair spilling across his forehead from under the most horrendous beanie Derek had ever seen. Derek took note of his large, dark eyes and the elfin curve to his nose, the long column of his neck and the frankly obscene dip to his curved lips, before forcing himself to turn away.

It’s rude to stare, Derek.

From the corner of his eye, he watched him pull a large textbook from a bag and rest it against his knees, bright eyes pouring over the pages. Derek stared resolutely at The Diner as though it contained the secrets of the universe. MER Y CH IS MAS!

____

Twelve minutes and fifty-five seconds and Derek was doing breathing exercises in his head - this guy could not keep still! His long fingered hands kept drumming against the glossy pages of his book, while his feet tapped out a rhythm against the chair in front. Every couple of minutes he would shift in his seat, readjusting his legs and arms and brushing his elbows up against Derek’s forearm. Not that Derek minded, really. The guy could move all he wanted, Derek didn't care, but he just had to stop brushing up against Derek's leg and stop making your thigh move like that and don't move your head like that because then I can see those freckles on the corner of your cheek and - . Shit.

As Derek watched (ehm, glanced), the guy started chewing on the string of his beanie, just to really stick the knife in. First of all, the beanie was absurd: bright red and patterned with reindeer and snowflakes, with a big green poof on top that kept flopping around with the lanky guy’s every movement. It was offensive to the eyes. Secondly, chewing on beanie strings must be downright unhygienic. Never mind the way the man’s long mouth curled and pursed around the fabric. Ignore the way his tongue kept darting out to wet his rose-petal lips. What does it matter if he repeatedly dragged his teeth over his bottom lip? He was downright unsanitary.

Derek turned away furiously to watch the snow, as though he had caught it whispering obscenities about his mother. It was still coming down, fast and straight like arrowheads from an invading army. He could hear the other passengers talking softly, or snoring, or listening to their music. He envied them. The guy brushed his elbow the length of Derek’s exposed arm. He refused himself a glance.

Where the hell is Fat Businessman? I miss him.

____

Thirteen minutes and Derek couldn’t help but watch as the young man started rummaging through the bag at his feet. The hem of his shirt had ridden up at the back, exposing a strip of pale flesh. He straightened and Derek hastily turned away, anxious he had been caught. Against his own will, he glanced back a moment later. The guy was now wearing glasses. His tongue was between his teeth, reading intently. Derek nearly banged his head against the glass window in an effort to look away fast enough.

What an asshole this guy is.

He was fairly certain that staring at all of The Diner's flashing lights so intently could induce a seizure, but he was willing to take that risk.

____

After Eighteen minutes and twelve seconds Derek was close to losing it. The guy kept on tapping, kept fidgeting, kept chewing obscenely on the string of his absurd beanie. But it was his phone that was annoying Derek. Every few seconds it would ping with a high-pitched chime that made his eye twitch.

Ping!

The man pulled out his phone once again, his long fingers tapping out a rapid response. It chimed again and the man smiled an awful smile that crushed Derek’s heart. Probably his girlfriend. He put the phone under his book but it wasn't another eight seconds before:

Ping!

When he read the new message, the man threw back his head and laughed, exposing the line of his jaw and the soft curve of his throat. What an asshole.

Ping!

Derek’s eye twitched.

Ping!

More laughter. More neck and throat.

Ping!

Ping!

PING!

“Okay you need to stop!” Derek’s voice was louder than he intended, but there’s only so much one man can take. His bus-buddy turned towards him, the stupid strings on his stupid beanie dangling across his stupid pretty mouth. And eyes. Pretty, brown-gold eyes. Focus.

“Oh,” the man looked a little hurt and Derek felt like an asshole. “Sorry man. I’ll put it on silent.”

Derek swallowed and nodded, shame burning in his stomach. I didn’t even do anything, damn it. “Thanks.”

“Hey, no problem.” He pulled his feet down from where they rested against the seat and removed the glasses. The guy leaned towards Derek, his voice conversational, “I’m always loosing my phone, always, and so I have to have it as loud as possible. You know, so I can actually find it when it rings. People get pissed when I don't answer.” He turned to him with a smile that Derek found stupidly easy to reciprocate. He couldn’t remember the last time someone had made him smile as easy as breathing.

“You should get one of those key-trackers,” Derek blurted.

The man’s smile widened in amusement, “those what?”

“You know,” Derek fumbled for his words. I never fumble this guy is such an ass. “It’s like this little device – thing – and you attach it to something, and then you use this tracker to find it when you lose it.”

The guy thankfully grasped what Derek was attempting to convey. The lights overhead flickering dully as he replied, “Oh! It’s like an electronic version of hide-and-seek.”

How could anyone make sense of what I just said? “Exactly.”

“Aren’t those normally for keys? I have mine on a wristband, so they’re okay.”

“Phones would work as well.”

“Cool. I could put one on my cat and chase her through the woods.”

“I believe that could be perceived as animal cruelty.”

He thought deeply for a moment and a small wrinkle appeared between his brows. There were those freckles on his cheek again and Derek silently told each one how much he hated it. “Okay. New plan: Arya stays inside. We attach one to Scott and let him loose in the woods instead.”

“I don’t know who Scott is,” Derek reminded him.

The man sighed dramatically, “And that is a great tragedy. Scott’s the bomb-diggity.” The guy suddenly flushed scarlet, and Derek wanted nothing more than to brush his hands over those ruby-red cheeks and feel the heat of his soft skin under his fingers. He tumbled onwards, “I can’t believe I just said bomb-diggity. Please ignore that. I don’t think I’ve said that in at least three years. Or since whenever bomb-diggity went out of style. Anyway, Scott’s my best friend.” He dug out his phone and brought up a photograph of a smiling young man with puppy-dog eyes and his arm around a gorgeous dark-haired young woman. “Him and Kira have become sort of a package-deal, but no complaints. She’s awesome. It’s become the same for Lydia and Allison as well.”

Derek looked at the photo, nodded, and then stated bluntly, “bomb-diggity was never in style.”

He looked affronted, “It totally was!”

Derek shook his head, “no way.”

“Phhht,” he waved a long hand in a dismissive gesture, beanie poof wobbling, “what would you know about style Mr Grumpy Pants?”

“Mr Grumpy Pants?”

“Your eyebrows are so intense I feel like I’m getting third degree burns just staring at them directly.”

Derek rolled his eyes, “They’re not the sun.”

“No. The sun is warm and pleasant, and gives life. Your eyebrows are more like the Eye of Sauron,” he adopted a husky, old voice, “their gaze pierces air, shadow, earth, and fleshhhhh.”

Derek refused to crack a grin; his voice was deadpan, “first of all, the quote is cloud, shadow, earth and flesh.”

His new friend grinned as their overhead lamp flared brightly, “Oh my god, you nerd!”

Derek ignored him, “Second of all, you are wearing the ugliest beanie in all of existence, so anything you say is moot by default.”

The guy gasped, loud and dramatically, and reached up to cup his beanie defensively, as though protecting it from Derek’s words, “do not insult the beanie.”
Derek raised his eyebrows minutely, “with my eye of Sauron eyebrows, I can do whatever I want.”

Suddenly, the man burst into ringing laughter. Derek decided that he liked the way he laughed. He threw his head back, exposing his entire neck and the slightly prickly skin on his jaw. His eyes were closed, his mouth wide and delighted. The snow outside the window calmed, and nearly cleared. When he looked back to Derek, his cheeks were flushed with mirth. “I’m sorry, but those words coming out of your super-duper-serious face were utterly ridiculous.”

Derek couldn’t help it - he cracked a grin and watched as the blush crept higher on his new friend’s cheeks. His eyes were very bright- pools of amber and brown. Could it really be helped if Derek's voice was a little more hoarse than usual? “I’m Derek.”

His smile, if that were possible, widened until it seemed big enough to swallow his own head, “Stiles.”

“Stiles,” Derek repeated softly, rolling the l around his tongue, letting the s hiss out over his lower lip, tasting the new name.

Stiles licked his bottom lip, a quick, nervous gesture, “weird name, I know. But if you think that’s weird, it’s nothing to my rea-.”

Derek’s simple statement cut him off, “I like it.”

I like you.

____

Twenty four minutes and twelve seconds

’The term “nosological classification’ is oft used in connection to the systems of medical classification, and the tendency is to equate it with “diagnosis” and “validity.” However, from a scientific point of view, the two most up-to-date classification systems in use today - the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Diseases, Fourth Edition and – this is what you study all day?”

Stiles slid the textbook back into his own lap, “pretty much, yeah.”

Derek nodded thoughtfully, “It’s, uhm, very … dull. I was going to lie, but my god that is dull.”

Stiles smiled as he thumped the book shut. The bus was still mostly full, many passengers unwilling to abandon the heat of the shuttle for the freezing wind outside, even if there was the promise of pie at The Diner. People were talking loudly around them, but Derek could barely hear them. He had learnt a lot about his new friend: they both went to NYU, Stiles in medicine and Derek in literature and history. Stiles hated the Beatles, would eat curly fries for every meal if he could, and was going to spend the holidays with his father, a sheriff, and friends. Stiles nodded towards the book, relaxing back in his chair, “It’s not that bad, really. It’s just this textbook, I think. Nosology is actually super fascinating.”

“And you have classes on this?”

Strangely, Stiles turned red at Derek’s question. He did that often, in fact. Whether it was a common personal characteristic or Derek-specific, Derek wasn’t sure. He hoped for the latter. “Well, not yet. I’m only first year. This is just some stuff I checked out at the library out of curiosity. I just like knowing things, you know?”

Stiles looked away with this small, awkward smile, like he was waiting for Derek to tease him. But Derek found himself nodding. Nodding, and sharing, “I like knowing about plants.”

Stiles eyes brightened, his lips quirked upwards, “plants?”

His ears were burning, Derek could tell, but he continued in a soft voice, “I like walking through the woods back home and knowing the names of each tree and shrub and flower, how their leaves or bark can be used, what animals rely on their seeds for food. New York’s not so great for it, but there is Central Park, and Wikipedia, I guess.”
Stiles was smiling broadly, but all Derek could feel was embarrassment. Why did I tell him that? Stiles moved his hands emphatically as he said, “That’s so cool, man. My tutor wanted me to learn about plants, but I kept getting those long-ass Latin names confused. I can just Google it anyway. He wasn’t very happy, but hey, I’m a medical student, I’ve got other things to worry about, you know?”

Derek frowned, “Why plants?”

“Just some extra-curricular stuff.” Stiles replaced the heavy textbook into his backpack, Derek’s eyes following his movements. The lie came easily, but Derek could tell that it was a lie nonetheless.

____

Twenty-nine minutes three seconds

“You never said what you’re doing back home in Beacon Hills,” Stiles asks politely.

Derek didn’t hesitate, “Just visiting my family for Christmas. I do it every year.”

____

Thirty-three minutes, forty-three seconds

“Tomato is a fruit my ass!”

“Who knows more about plants here, Stiles?”

Stiles set his shoulders and folded his arms stubbornly, “I refuse to allow tomatoes fruit status. They’re gross and all liquidy on the inside. They ruin sandwiches. No, name a different fruit, mister Hale. A real fruit. Or you lose the category.”

Derek could be just as stubborn, “tomatoes are fruits, so it’s your turn, mister Stilinski. Name another fruit.”

Stiles clamped his mouth shut and narrowed his eyes. After a beat of silence, he muttered, “I hate the category game.”

Derek smirked.

____

Thirty five minutes

“You really need to stop biting things,” Derek admonished, adding a circle to the centre of the grid he had drawn. The paper was covered in their games of noughts-and-crosses, some with X’s spilling outside the lines where Stiles had insisted Derek had cheated. This time, it was the cap of his pen that was firmly lodged between Stiles’ teeth, his lips pressed obscenely around the blue tube. It was very, very distracting. Derek was half certain he was doing it on purpose.
Stiles pulled the cap out with a pop. His lips were shiny and red, “why?”

Lips. “Teeth.” Red wet lips, the beautiful curve of a cupid bow smirk, “It’s bad for your teeth.” Stiles shrugged and replaced the plastic, pink tongue tasting the tip. Derek had another, desperate thought, “and unhygienic. That’s my pen you’re slobbering all over.”

Stiles added an X next to his circle on the paper, and removed the plastic from his mouth once again, “Oh yeah. Sorry, dude. I kind of lose track of what I’m doing sometimes.”
Derek nodded slowly like he understood, and kept his voice decidedly nonchalant as he said, “some people just like having things in their mouth.”

Stiles flicked his eyes up from where he was bent over the paper, deciding his next move. He placed his cross, smirking slightly, and said, “yeah, I guess.”

Casually, Derek added his circle and continued in a slow, measured voice, “they enjoy the feeling of their tongue having something stroke. It makes for an excellent massage. Do you enjoy it, Stiles?”

Derek posed the question calmly, looking at Stiles with a small smile. Stiles himself was staring at Derek with large eyes, trying to suppress the hammering in his chest. Derek watched as he distractedly added his mark to their game, barely sparing it a glance. He worked his mouth like he was chewing on his response. “Because I do,” Derek finished, adding his circle to the final empty space. “I love the feeling of things in my mouth. Though maybe, to make things fair, we should start with something you own. We can see how you like it when other people place something of yours in their mouth and suck.”

At that moment, shocked screams filled the bus as the overhead lamps popped out in quick succession, like dominoes falling one after the other. Stiles and Derek stayed completely silent and still. Stiles was staring up at Derek from under his brows, mouth slightly parted, cheeks flushed crimson in the gloomy half-light. “Look,” Derek said lightly, drawing a line through his three aligning noughts, “I win.”

Around them, passengers were making a beeline for the exit, and the bus was beginning to fill with flurries of snowflakes as they retreated through the open door to the diner. A shadow fell over the pair and they both looked up to see a middle-aged woman towering over them from the row in front. She was wearing a murderous scowl and held a little girl wearing earmuffs by the hand. “You both should be disgusted,” she hissed. “Making such innuendoes in front of children! You are adults. Act like it!”
“To be fair,” Stiles replied blithely, “we didn’t know she was there.”

The woman huffed and stalked away towards the exit, child now clutched protectively in her arms. Derek glanced at Stiles, and both burst out laughing, the sound ringing through the bus.

Derek watched the movement in Stiles’ throat as he laughed, the hollow of his throat and the edges of his collarbones. The neckline of his blue shirt was like an arrowhead, pointing down to the smooth planes of his chest and the curve of his stomach and the hard ridges of his hips and-.

Stiles shivered and began pulling on his large, puffy winter coat. “They could have at least closed the door. Were they raised in a tent?”

Only now was Derek realising that they were alone. The coach was blissfully quiet except for the soft sigh of wind and snow outside. The lamps had not returned, and the two of them were bathed in the dim, gaudy lights of The Diner, which painted red and green flashes across Stiles’ pale skin. The faint white light from the overcast sky made his features hazy, his outlines less substantial, like he was about to disappear as Derek watched.

“Let’s get some food,” Derek blurted. He had to get out of this bus, he had to be in public with Stiles or things could go horribly wrong. Now that they were alone, all he could think about was the curve of his lips and his long fingered hands and that supple neck and that the windows of this bus were tinted – “You know, from The Diner.”

Stiles seemed to notice something was up, but thankfully didn’t mention it. “Yeah okay. You’re buying though.”

Derek huffed as they stood and began moving towards the exit, “what is this? A date?”

“You wish, pal. If this were a date there was no way I would let you take me to a diner. I’m a classy guy, you asshole.”

“Right, my mistake.”

“I’m sensing sarcasm.”

“Are you?”

Derek was halfway down the steps when he was suddenly enveloped in white and freezing air. Snow hurricaned around his body, freezing his eyes shut and filling his open mouth icy crystals. He felt his clothes harden against his skin like glass as something hurled him through the air before he landed hard on his back. He felt fangs and claws and a growl ripping from his throat. He tried to rise, but was forced back down by a wave of ice like the pounding of a waterfall on his chest. Fury welled up inside him. He roared and rose to his knees, defiant against the snow pounding him like a thousand tiny fists.

Distantly, he heard Stiles' voice, “Leave him alone, you dick! Who the hell are you? Come on, buddy! Fight me!"

Derek got to his feet, scraped the hard ice from his face, and opened his eyes. The world around him was a grey and white blur. He could sense Stiles standing nearby, heart thundering in the chilled air, and leapt in front of him, dragging his lanky frame into his protection. As soon as he did, the whirlwind consuming him ceased, the ice dissipating into a swirling eddy around their knees. "What the hell do you want from me?" Derek snarled.

Stiles sounded shaken, but strong, “Derek, I don’t think its here for - holy fuck a duck, you’re a goddamn werewolf!

Derek could feel Stiles shivering with the cold and he backed closer towards him, sharing his unnatural warmth. “Stay behind me Stiles, I don’t want you to get hurt.”

“The wolf-man is vain,” a voice came suddenly out of the snow, deep and strangely accented. “He thinks I have come here for his pelt.”

There was a bright flare of warmth at Derek’s shoulder. Startled, he whipped around to see Stiles holding a handful of bright orange flames, dancing along his long, outstretched fingers.

The light threw soft shadows along Stiles’ face, dancing across his skin as he said, “I told you Derek. I don’t think he’s here for you.”

Derek could only stare at the light curling within Stiles’ bright amber eyes, like marbles filled with flames. “I knew there was something strange about you.”

Stiles snorted. “No you didn’t.”

“I came to seek the Fire’s help,” came that booming voice once again, emanating from the air itself, vibrating deep in Derek’s chest. “Not listen to the bickering of love-sick fools.” Derek growled, long and low. Love-sick? Stiles squeezed his shoulder.

“Stop growling Derek, it’s not going to make him like us. Besides, he wont hurt us.”

“How do you know?” Derek's voice was half a snarl.

“Because, like he said, he needs me.”

Derek felt the warmth of Stiles’ hand seep into his chest, and the snarl on his lips died. He rose slowly like a predator, fangs and claws retracting, but his eyes were still brilliant, glowing scarlet. He didn’t forget the way the ice slammed down onto his back like a thousand angry fists.

“The Fire is correct, wolf-man. I will hurt neither of you.” Derek attempted to pinpoint the voice, but it seemed to swirl all around them like the snow itself was speaking.

“Then why did you drag him from the bus? Why did you slam him with a freaking avalanche?” Stiles sounded defiant, but Derek could smell his apprehension, his fear. “Why should I listen to you when you hurt my friend?”

“I listened to the two of you lust after one another as I waited for you to exit your toxic, bumbling vehicle,” Derek strictly avoided Stiles' eye. “I am patient, Fire. I can keep you here until you agree to listen.”

“The snow!” Derek exclaimed angrily, “you sent the snow storm to bring us to you!”

“No,” replied the voice in cool, measured tones. Suddenly, the snow condensed; swirled in tiny, dizzying eddies upwards. Out of the whirlpool, a man stepped before them both. He was very tall, his skin a beautiful red-brown. His was hair bone-white and long, braided with fine beads made of ice. His eyes blazed like twin pilot lights, bright white-blue, shocking against his dark skin. His nose was long, his cheekbones high and fine. The man dressed all in white, in trousers and a vest made of stitched leathers. “I sent the snow to bring the Fire to me. You, wolf-man, were an accident.”

Derek bristled at that, and Stiles spoke before Derek could do something stupid. The fire in his hand steamed in the frozen air, making the ice in his eyelashes glint like diamonds. “Who are you?”

The figure lifted his chin proudly, and spoke in that deep, rolling baritone that shook the ground beneath their feet, “I am Aisoyimstan. Cold-maker. Father of frost and ice and snow. And I seek your help, Fire.”

Stiles, for the first time in his life, Derek was sure, didn’t seem to have a response to that. Silence swarmed around them like the snow, until finally Stiles managed, “ahhhh. Ooookaaay. And why do you need my help, oh mighty god of snow?”

Aisoyimstan narrowed his large, slanted eyes subtly, like he wasn’t certain if Stiles was mocking him or not. “Fire burns, it destroys, but it also cleanses. And from the ashes, new, better life is born. But fire is not mine to command, and it is fire I need to vanquish a terrible creature that has been plaguing some of my children here.”

“You,” Stiles began haltingly, “you need me to kill some monster with fire for you?”

“I am powerful in the way of cold, but the frost will not damage this beast.”

Derek looked over to where the diner was visible through the gloom, its windows spilling warm light like butter onto the frozen earth. He could hear voices and music. Everyone from the bus was inside. The little girl. Stiles seemed to share his growing fear, “um, what beast is this?”

“One of the pale-men’s demons. The destroyers brought it into these lands long ago, and recently it has woken, and blood has painted the snow crimson in its wake.”

“But what is it?” Derek insisted, his voice still half a growl.

Aisoyimstan regarded him calmly, “a gargoyle.”

“A gargoyle?” Derek asked sceptically. He shared a confused glance with Stiles.

“Are you a bird, to repeat all that is said to you, or are you a wolf?” Derek ground his teeth as Aisoyimstan turned to Stiles, “it will skin the hide of every man, woman and child in this area unless you stop it with your flames.”

“Woah, woah, hold on.” Stiles raised his hands and stepped forward, an angry jut to his chin and a different fire burning in his voice, “are you saying that you stranded them here,” he pointed over to the light of the diner with his not-on-fire hand, “right in this gargoyle’s territory, so that I would be forced to kill it for you or watch them all die?”

“You are not killing it for me, Fire. You are destroying the demon, cleansing the land of its filth, and saving many lives, both of my people and not. Or, of course, you could refuse me, let the creature live, and watch them all crumble like dry stalks under a hot sun.”

“Wow, you have some nerve buddy!" Stiles shook his head in furious exasperation, seemingly unconcerned that he was speaking with an ancient god. "Not like I can refuse you now, is it? You know what? If you had just brought me here, avoided emotionally blackmailing me and putting dozens of innocent people in danger, and just told me the problem, I would have helped anyway!”

Aisoyimstan didn’t seem to hear Stiles’ rant, “Good! Then you will help. The beast will come at dusk. I will talk with you after your victory.”

Snow began swirling around Aisoyimstan’s figure, rapidly dissolving him into the landscape. “Hey, wait!” Stiles called after his disappearing form, “You’re just leaving? That doesn’t provide me with a whole load of confidence here!” The god vanished entirely into the snow, leaving Stiles and Derek standing alone in the middle of an empty field, snow up past their ankles, Christmas carols playing dimly in the background. After a beat of silence except for the whistling of the wind, Stiles turned to Derek, clapped his hands once and said cheerily, “Well, this should be fun!”

Derek’s anger at the snow god still hadn’t faded, but he had other matters to deal with. “Your hand is still on fire.”

Stiles shook his hand like he was attempting to ward off a fly. The movement was so emphatic that the poof on top of his beanie became seriously endangered. The flames turned to sparks, which curled into embers that drifted apart on the wind like tiny lost stars. Catching Derek’s less than impressed look, Stiles grumbled, “Shut up, it’s the only way I can get the flames out.”

Derek rolled his eyes, and grunted, “We need to get these people out of here, Stiles.”

Stiles replaced his glove, shivering, “You think I don’t know that, Grumpy Pants? How long until sunset?”

Derek checked his watch, “six minutes.”

“Fuck!” Stiles swore, at the same moment a rolling growl cut through the air, vibrating their chests and making Derek’s hackles rise. He growled in return, and the noise was almost pitiful in comparison. He heard the conversation in the diner stutter to a halt. Jingle Bells Rock was playing softly. Again.

Derek caught Stiles’ eye, watched his tongue dart out to wet his lower lip nervously. “We can’t let anything happen to them, Derek.”

“We won’t.”

Stiles’ voice was becoming panicked, “It’s my fault they’re here. If they get hurt. Fuck Derek, there’s little kids in there!”

“Stiles!” Derek placed his hands on hs shoulder, gripped him just enough for Stiles to understand that Derek was here and that he wasn't alone in this. He smelt of fear, but also of strength. Of solidarity. Of home. “Nothing is going to happen to them, I promise.”

Stiles seemed to drink in his words and bloom under them. He straightened his back and nodded, his jaw set determinedly and that familiar fire beginning to burn in his amber eyes. “That Aisoyimstan was such a dick! We’re going to have words after this is over, believe me. He’s getting a stern Stilinski talking to.” That made Derek smile. It made him to want to press Stiles close and bury his head in his neck. “But first, we need to lock the doors of the diner. Since we can't get these people out of here, we at least need to make sure they're indoors when this thing comes.”

Derek nodded, reluctantly released his hold, and left the warmth of Stiles’ touch to race across the frozen field. Snow swam in the air before him like bubbles in a swift current. Derek could only imagine how he looked to the others as he flung the door open dramatically, snow and ice whirling behind him, knocking over menus and making the decorations spin. He slammed the door behind him, consciously aware of the stares he had attracted. Voices fell silent; the only sound was Jingles Bells Rock. He hated this song.

“What’s going on?” The driver called over from where he sat at the counter. “What’s that noise out there?”

“Wolves,” Derek stated quickly. “There’s a wolf pack nearby. For safety, you need to stay inside and lock all the doors and windows. Pull the shades down as well.”

There was a loud outbreak of muttering from the crowd.

“Wolves?”

“What is he talking about?”

“There’s no wolves ‘round here!”

“What does he know anyway?”

“Yeah, what do you know, pal?”

He grit his teeth, “I’m a ranger up in Beacon Hills. I know what I’m talking about.” The lie seemed to put some people at ease, but Derek was rapidly loosing patience. They didn’t have time for this. “Lock the doors. Lock the windows,” he repeated, deep voice booming over the carols still jingling in the background. “Stay inside, no matter what!”

More voices erupted at that, louder and angrier, more afraid. He ignored them and left the bright yellow overhead lights for the grey dusk outside. The door banged shut behind him. They would do as he said, he knew. Derek kicked over one of the reindeer as he passed, just because he could.

He found Stiles looking pale, a little anxious, yet also slightly badass. He had swapped his sneakers for a pair of heavy, steel capped work boots; a silver pendant glinted from his throat, another from his left wrist. His right hand was curled around the hilt of a baseball bat like it was a sword, and there was a new, thick belt around his skinny waist, which held a variety of small pouches like Batman’s utility belt. The effect was slightly ruined by the ludicrous red and green beanie he still wore, but only slightly. There was a stubborn set to his jaw and a fierce anger in his eyes.

He caught up with Derek and asked, “the doors locked?”

Derek’s stupid voice seemed to have abandoned him, the traitor, so he just nodded. He had never seen Stiles so calm. So in control.

Great, now he had a boner.

Stiles, thankfully, didn’t notice. “Good. With a few minutes to spare as well, go team.”

Derek eyed the coiled way Stiles stood, the perfect line his arm made with the bat. The pouches on the belt were filled, ready to go, like he had been expecting something like this to happen. “This isn’t your first time, is it?”

“This isn’t my first monster fight, if that’s what you’re asking. I’ve already had my first time,” he caught Derek’s eye and gave him a ludicrous wink, “all of them.”

That did nothing to help his boner disappear.

Derek was almost thankful when another booming snarl split the air, rolling over them like a peal of thunder. Derek and Stiles both whipped towards the noise, Stiles with his bat ready, Derek with his claws and fangs out.

“Do you know what a gargoyle looks like?” He mumbled through the teeth.

Stiles nodded, “yeah, yeah. They’re like those ugly dragon things on churches.”

“You have no idea, do you?”

“Not really. But hey, we’re about to find out together! Oh.” Stiles tucked his bat under his arm and lifted the pendant from his chest. He stepped in front of Derek, eyes and fangs and all, and didn’t blink. “Here.” Gingerly, he reached over and placed the medallion around Derek’s neck, his throat within inches of his teeth. Derek could smell him again, that smell of home. “This will help protect you. But it’s not, you know, one hundred precent effective, so don’t to anything stupidly heroic, okay? I feel like you’re one for stupidly heroic actions.”

Derek raised his eyebrows and Stiles somehow understood, “I’ve got another, don’t worry.” He jangled the pendant dangling from his wrist. Both were identical flat spheres of hammered silver, engraved with tiny, strange writing Derek couldn’t read. He recognised the Latin, but it was an ancient branch, different from the one he knew. Stiles placed his hand along his wolf’s face and smiled, “Your ears are cute when they’re all pointy like that.”

Derek grunted and rolled his eyes, but his wolf was making happy yipping noises. And when Stiles stepped away to resume his bat-stance, his wolf mourned the loss. The Christmas carols had started up again. This time it was Twelve Days of Christmas. Derek snarled.

Stiles sounded amused, “are you growling at the Christmas carols?”

“Hate Christmas carols.”

Stiles adopted his best opera voice, “And on the second day of Christmas, my true love gave to meeeee!”

“NO!”

“You’re such a sour wolf.”

“We’re about to be attacked by a gargoyle. Singing not the best thing to do. You’ll make it angry.”

“Wow, was that a dig at my singing ability?”

A loud crack split the air around them like a whip-crack, making Stiles jump. On the far side of the highway, past their darkened coach, a tree had been attacked violently, leaving its branches hanging precariously and the trunk itself slanted to one side. Pine needles and snow flumped onto the ground below. Even Derek’s enhanced eyes couldn’t penetrate the gloom that covered the forest. The closest trees were visible only by the faint glow of The Diner and its various Christmas adornments. Another tree shuddered and jerked, like someone had bent it backwards like a bow and released their hold. The sound was sudden and loud, like a gunshot. Stiles stepped closer to Derek, bat held high. Branches were left swinging like pendulums, and Derek could just spy long gouges in its trunk.

“Can you see it?” Stiles’ voice was a whisper.

Derek shook his head. “Can’t smell it either.” But that wasn’t quite true. Just as that loud cracking sound fell even more branches and released a pile of snow and leaves, Derek caught its scent. It was burnt and thick, like ash and dying embers and soot-blackened stone. It made Derek’s stomach heave, like he was about to be sick. He recognised that smell, remembered how it clung to the inside of his nose for weeks afterwards.

Something must have shown on his wolfish face because suddenly Stiles was at his shoulder, eyes soft and round and concerned. “Derek, what is?”

But it wasn’t the same. This was more cloying, more organic, like rotting plants and wet, decaying wood. It didn’t have that acidic burn, that sharp tang of burnt flesh. He shook his head, gut still throwing itself against his ribcage, “Fine. It’s fine. Get ready.”

Stiles didn’t look convinced. Derek didn’t like how easily Stiles seemed to read him. It made him anxious. The trees trembled, like giant footsteps were shaking the earth. Fear began a slow burn in Derek’s chest. How big was this thing? Could they even bring it down? Stiles edged even closer, until they were shoulder to shoulder, eyeing the shaking trees warily.

The smell grew stronger until it made Derek’s eyes water. Even Stiles wrinkled his nose. “It’s coming.”

Fire leapt up on Stiles’ bare fingers and whooshed down to envelope his bat in small, licking flames. Derek edged away from the heat, from the fear it spiked in his chest. Suddenly a tree bust outwards like a landmine had been detonated, throwing needles and branches and snow to careen across the road and roll over their feet. Derek heard the pings as the debris hit the bus down the road. A shape was moving through the black hole in the treeline, emerging like a snake from its lair. Derek clenched his jaw, feeling the strength surge through his muscles, prompting him to fight. To protect. He prepared to leap forward when…

“That’s it?”

A tiny grey shape was moving towards them, curling through the snow on short, stubby legs. It pricked up his head, eyes glowing gold, and flicked its tongue out, tasting the air. It looked like an abnormally long lizard, with skin made of stone plates and small nubs of horns peaking out from its temples. Derek stalked towards it, over the road and through the snow, grabbed it by the neck and held it away like it may infect him with some terrible disease. The gargoyle flailed, but its legs were too tiny to reach him, the position of Derek's hand making biting impossible.

Stiles shrugged, walked up beside him, and held his bat under the body. It shrieked as it caught fire, but the sound was lost in the wind as it crumbled to ashes and dust.

“That was… worryingly easy.” Stiles frowned, eyes darting around them both, searching for some kind of trick or trap.

A bone-rattling screech pierced the air, making them both wince as a creature came careening towards them from the trees. It was as tall as Stiles and about four times as long, with massive pointed horns, spikes rolling down the length of its body, and a mouth full of black teeth. It’s eyes burned scarlet. The blinking Christmas lights threw dark shadows across its stone body.

Derek turned to Stiles, "you jinxed it.”

Both leapt out of the way as the monster came barrelling past, dodging a swipe of its claws. Stiles used his bat to throw a baseball-sized glob of fire, but overshot it and sent the flames careening over the monster's head. They burnt a hole through Mrs Claus' head. “Shit,” Stiles swore quietly, hefting his bat as the monster turned for another charge.

Derek snorted.

The gargoyle skidded around, its crimson eyes locked on Stiles and the bright flames he carried. It snorted in fury and lunged towards him. Derek took the opportunity to jump on its back. He landed heavily, causing the thing to careen forward into a snowdrift. The monster was much lighter than had Derek expected, made of nothing but stone and ash. He ripped at its scales and they crumbled under his claws, dust spiralling in the fierce wind. Stiles began smacking the gargoyle with his flaming bat, sending more scales flying and burning through the air. The gargoyle shrieked inhumanly and flailed backwards, away from the fire and heat, taking Derek with it. Stiles took careful aim this time and sent an even bigger glob of fire after the monster. Derek attempted to hang on and began to very much regret his rash decision to ride a mythological monster. The gargoyle dodged Stiles' fire, suffering only from the sparks as it sailed past. Something crashed loudly behind him, and Derek knew that Stiles had at least set something afire. “Derek," Stiles called, "try to keep it still!”

Derek was currently attempting to dodge the teeth of the monster as it twisted its neck to bite him, and didn’t reply.

Stiles tried again, tongue poised between his teeth. Fire washed across the beast’s side and Derek yelled and threw himself off, rolling far out of the way. Derek remained crouched on the ground, heart thundering in his ears. Panic was welling up inside him again, that scent filling his lungs. A different smell. A different time. Focus, damn it! Derek rose and just managed to twist away as a tail came whipping past his head. More fire had sprouted like fungus along the monster’s back.

“Yeah! Take that you -.” Stiles was rudely interrupted by a flailing claw which sent him sailing backwards. He landed into a drift of snow and groaned, a long gouge in his arm.

“Oh stop it! Stop it! You terrible children! Leave him alone!” A woman came tottering out from the forest and across the highway, dressed in a pink and grey dress and fluffy pink boots. Derek vaguely acknowledged her existence but ignored her, running for Stiles instead. The gargoyle snorted and shrieked furiously, its body half blackened from the flames that were still trailing embers along its long body. Its flailing tail knocked over most of the reindeer.

Derek reached Stiles and helped him up. There was a cut in his arm but he was otherwise unharmed. The gargoyle, however, was had not faired as well; it was a soot blackened, crumbling monster that whipped around to face them both, eyes glowing in the grey air, snorting furiously. “Now I said stop this at once!” The voice cracked through the air like a whip. The old woman shuffled through the snow, flapping her arms in distress. Derek and Stiles both spared the old lady a confused glance before the monster charged towards them again. Stiles greeted it with a terrific blow from his bat that shattered the scales along the gargoyle's face. Derek raked his claws along the monster's side, sending ash and dust puffing into the air and clinging to his clothes. Derek also managed to drag Stiles back to avoid him getting kicked in the face by the gargoyle's back legs.

“Okay?” Derek panted, gripping Stiles in his arms as they listened to the gargoyle scream and thrash at the loss of half its face.

Derek heard Stiles swallow, heard the strange pitch to his voice, “Fine. You?”

"Fan-fucking-tastic". Stiles laughed as he lobbed another massive ball of flame at the monster. Half of it rebounded and came flying back towards them. Derek could feel the hairs on his arm singing as they backtracked away from the heat.

“Hold on, nearly got it!” Stiles shouted. He threw a continual stream of tiny fireballs at the beast. Only a third found its mark on the gargoyle as it twisted and ducked away, attempting desperately to quench the fire.

“NO! STOP IT!” The woman screeched like the monster as she ran to its side and began attempting to beat the flames out with her shawl. She was elderly, with a lined face and grey hair, but she sounded furious.

Both of them could only gape. Stiles cupped his mouth and shouted, “Hey! Lady! What the hell are you doing! Get away from it you moron!”

The gargoyle was still shrieking madly, smoke curling off its burnt and blackened body, most of which was still burning orange. It hissed - which Derek didn't you could do without your bottom jaw. The old lady watched, and yelled encouragement as the gargoyle charged towards them both.

Stiles yelped and threw his fire, bat and all, towards the gargoyle, hitting it square between the eyes. It squealed, and lashed out with one clawed hand, catching Derek and sending him flying ass over teakettle into the line of reindeer. He came up snarling, tangled in flashing fairy lights, and the monster charging towards him. A flare of heat caught his eye, and Derek watched as fire streaked towards them like a comet and… kept going, straight over the monster to finally thump into the side of the bus. A second, and the coach whooshed into flames, fire licking up its side.

Derek heard Stiles' voice from far on his left, “Shit. I really gotta work on my aim.”

Derek struck the gargoyle on the face with his claws, removing what was left of its head. Stiles threw another glob of orange and smacked the beast square in the chest, The gargoyle tried to shriek, but with only a stump left for a head, all that came out was a shrill yell like a boiling teapot. It flailed desperately and attempted to squash Derek with its claws but he had already sprinted back towards Stiles. Stiles had finally worked out his aim and doused the gargoyle with his fire. It burned like it were made of paper. The old woman shrieked. Scales began falling to the ground in grey lumps, its body disintegrating into ash and dust. The old lady called out desperately, “NOOOO!”

“Hey!” Yet another voice called to them, but this one was pleasant and friendly, if rather gruff. Derek turned to see the pink-coated lady with tinsel in her hair standing in the door of the diner. She was also carrying a wicked silver sword. Without another word, she chucked it through the air towards Derek, the blade twisting end over end as it fell. Derek leapt forward to catch it.

Stiles was preoccupied with the old woman who was shrieking inhumanly at him, watching with fury as the flames licked up his arms, “You killed my son! You murderer! You fiend!” Her face began to twist sickeningly, sharpening, her skin turning thick and grey. She stalked towards him. “You shall pay!” She shrieked, scales erupting down her body, hands hooking into claws, “blood for blood! You shall pay!”

She didn’t get another word in.

Derek caught the sword, ran forward, and cut the old woman’s head clean off. Both he and Stiles meekly observed the head as it sailed through the sky, landed on the ground, and trundled over the grey-black earth, before coming to rest gently against Stiles’ feet. Derek met Stiles' eye, and found him gaping at him. The two were left in a field gone mushy with melted grey snow, with long swatches of grass singed black. Thin streams of smoke were curling up from the ground. Here and there, some patches were still burning, red and orange. The decorations were all but obliterated. Mrs Claus was missing her head, and Santa was nothing but a pair of legs stuck in the ground. Reindeer heads littered the snow like the aftermath of a massacre. The bus was now burning steadily down the highway, throwing dancing shadows across all of it. Grey smoke rose up into the air as what was left of the gargoyle turned to dust, drifting apart on the wind to fall on their shoulders like fresh grey snow. Christmas carols were still playing from the diner.

Dashing through the snow, in a one-horse open sleigh…

“Well!” Said Stiles cheerfully. There was soot down his clothes and blood on his arm and cheek. “That went okay!”

Derek winced and touched his side, “I think I broke some ribs.”

An almighty crash made the pair of them jump, as the letter D from The Diner’s sign fell and slammed into the ground, spitting flames and sparks. The sign was scorched black, melted and twisted from fire. The rest of the letters looked ready to join their brother.

Stiles caught Derek’s look and sighed exhaustingly into the sky, “everyone’s a critic.” He noticed the sword that was still clutched in his hand and frowned, “where'd you get a sword?”

The door to the diner slammed open, and its proprietor stopped short at the smoking black D at her feet. Her head snapped towards the boys. Stiles and Derek could feel her glare through the icy air. She stepped over what was left of her sign and stalked forwards with a murderous scowl. Without a word, she snatched the sword from Derek’s grasp and growled, “you’re paying for that.”

“What?” Derek was outraged. “Did you see the-.”

“You’re. Paying. For. That. Mister wolf pack.” The woman turned on her heel and marched back to her diner.

“Why do you have a sword?” Stiles called after her.

The woman reached the entrance and glared back at them, “because I believe in being prepared!” She slammed the door after her, prompting a flurry of sparks to shoot from the N above.

Derek turned his scowl on Stiles, “you’re paying for that.”

Stiles marched forward indignantly, “No way! I saved your butt! You owe me!”

Derek raised one eyebrow, “do I?”

“Yes! Granted, there was a little collateral damage. The bus, the diner ... Santa. But you totally could not have killed that thing but for my fire.” Stiles pointed dramatically to the pile of grey, smoking ash that was all that remained of the gargoyle, “He was no dragon! Fire cannot kill a dragon!”

“You are the blood of the dragon,” Derek conceded in a flat voice.

Stiles grinned, his eyes shining through the grey ash that smeared his face, his hair mussed over his forehead. The green and red beanie was still pulled over his head, pom pom a little singed, but otherwise unsacrificed. He looked heartbreakingly beautiful. “You’re such a closet nerd, sour wolf.”

Derek smiled, ran his hands over Stiles’ cheeks, smearing the soot under his fingers. His skin was soft and smooth, his palms revealing the freckles that spotted his cheekbones. His mouth was parted and beautiful, his eyes bright. “You are very annoying,” Derek murmured.

Stiles snorted softly, smirking. “Well, get used to it. I’m like this all the time.”

Derek’s smile grew, “good.” A second, and then he drew Stiles forward and pressed his lips against his, soft and sweet and tenderly shy. His lips were soft and yielding. Finally. It didn’t take long for Stiles’ hands to find Derek’s waist and draw him closer, deepening the kiss. Derek responded, his large hand holding Stiles’s neck while the other gripped the back of his coat. Stiles nipped the corner of Derek’s mouth, his eager tongue brushing over Derek’s own, their bruised-apple lips devouring one another. When Derek’s mouth found the hinge of Stiles’ jaw, he groaned, gripping Derek’s hips. If he were human, he’d have bruises. He brushed his teeth along his neck and Stiles shuddered, heart thundering in his chest. Derek’s hips jerked forwards, rubbing himself against the front of Stiles’ jeans. Stiles groaned again, almost angrily, and pushed them both forward. Derek let out a surprised breath and they landed in the snow, Stiles on top of his chest. Stiles grinned down at him, cheeks flushed crimson, and Derek couldn’t help but return the smile. He could feel Stiles’ heart, beating against his own. Derek pulled him closer and fitted their mouths together like they belonged there.

“Hem hrm.” Someone cleared their throat loudly. Derek barely heard it. All that was real to him was the sound of Stiles’ breathing, the thumping of their hearts, the taste of tongues and lips and tender skin. The sky overhead had cleared of snow and a thousand stars speckled the night sky. Derek hugged Stiles closer to the heat of his body.

“HEM HRM.” Neither Derek nor Stiles paid them anymind. The ground was still comfortably warm under Derek’s back from the recent fires. The weight of Stiles on his chest was pleasant, and the feeling of his mouth against his neck was one he wanted to commit to memory.

“HEM HRM HEM HRRRMMM HEM.”

Stiles finally broke away from their kiss, eyeing the intruder angrily. Derek turned his own murderous glare towards the sound. A man was standing over them both, upside down to Derek’s eyes. “Dude,” scolded Stiles, “cover your mouth.”

Aisoyimstan glared down at where they were lying entwined in the grass. “I am the God of Snow. The Father of the Cold and the Frost. You will not keep me waiting with your lusting passions, Fire.”

Stiles wasn’t listening. He instead went to worrying a mark on Derek’s neck, causing Derek to make soft little moans that only spurred Stiles on more eagerly.

“Fire, stop this immediately. Displays of affection make me uncomfortable.”

Derek couldn't help but chuckle a little, "You're an ancient winter god and PDA makes you uncomfortable?"

Aisoyimstan continued looking at Stiles as though Derek hadn't spoken, "You defeated the gargoyle.”

Stiles groaned loudly in annoyance and sat up, “Yes, Derek and I did.”

“You saved many lives.”

Stiles raised his voice, glaring at Aisoyimstan with his legs straddled around Derek’s waist, “Yes, Derek and I saved many lives.”

“You have my thanks.”

We have your thanks.”

Derek watched an ancient Native American god roll his eyes. Quite a sight. “You wish to return home, yes?”

Stiles looked surprised, and suspicious, “yes?”

Aisoyimstan nodded towards the woods to the right. “There I have stationed two of my horses. They are saddled and waiting to take you wherever you need. They are swifter than normal horses, and move within the air itself. They will not stumble in the dark, nor lose their way. But once you return home, so too shall they.”

Stiles’ eyebrows had travelled into his hairline. “Wow. Okay. Thank you. Magic horses. Fucking cool. Yeah, the bus sort of caught on fire and Triple A won’t be here for a little -.”

Aisoyimstan held up his hand, “Fire, I do not care. Go and fetch the horses.”

Grumbling, Stiles stood, lingered with a kiss, and then trudged off in the direction of the woods. Derek rose and stared after him, paranoia making his chest tight. The forest was dark.

Suddenly, he turned to the snow God, who was staring impassively at Stiles' retreating back. “Why don’t you like me?” Derek winced inwardly as he said the words. He sounded so childish, moronic, and yet he was curious.

Aisoyimstan’s voice betrayed no emotion, “I dislike most, wolf.”

“You like Stiles.”

“That is because he has a good heart.”

“And I don’t?”

Aisoyimstan turned to Derek, white-blue eyes burning in his impassive face, “You have a wolf’s heart.”

Derek swallowed his anger with difficulty, ”and what does that mean?”

The Snow God took his time answering, “a wolf’s heart is not necessarily a bad thing. It is loyal, and strong, and protective of the ones he loves. But you have forgotten what it means to be this wolf. You are the Lone Wolf. Solitary is not healthy for an animal of the pack. He becomes secretive, and scared, and destructive. Instead of mates, loneliness is his only companion during the cold nights. Instead of building and bonding with his pack, he harms those that dare to venture close. Instead of strength, all he cultivates is fear and aloneness. And he becomes a feral thing, closed off from this world, sequestered by himself, with nothing but the bitter memories of a happier past to sustain him, until even those are forgotten.”

Derek was left staring openly at the God, a pit in his chest like a black hole, absorbing and destroying all of the happiness and warmth Stiles had left him with. Aisoyimstan’s eyes bored into his own, and Derek could find no flicker of compassion within them. “The Lone Wolf believes that his solidarity is preferable, and it destroys him."

“These are awesome!” Derek started towards Stiles’ voice, taking comfort in the sound. He had barely heard him approach. Stiles was leading two beautiful snow-white mares, saddled in white, with eyes like chips of ice. They pawed the ground restlessly as Stiles gazed up at them both in wonder. “Holy crap, look Derek!”

Aisoyimstan didn’t smile, but his eyes did soften minutely. “Once you are home, the debt is repaid. Treat them well and they will do the same to you.” In a swirl of snow, Aisoyimstan vanished, the light of his eyes lingering in the air unnaturally, like he was still present, watching and above all, judging.

"The debt is repaid," Derek muttered mockingly.

Stiles grinned at him and began securing his bat to one of the saddles, "first brush with a divinity?"

Derek nodded, undoing the horrendous knot that Stiles was attempting to tie around his bat, and instead securing it where he knew it wouldn't fall after three minutes of riding. "I'm guessing this wasn't yours?"

Stiles rolled his eyes severely, "they're all like that. End-of-the world-this, and you-can't-escape-destiny that. They're all a bunch of drama queens. We're lucky Aisoyimstan was this generous. Divinities aren't exactly the giving type, even at Christmas."

Derek looked at Stiles in amazement and shook his head, "I'll be sure to keep that in mind."

"Honestly, the horses are cool and we get to go home and whatever, but I would have liked something a bit better than this. Triple A could have gotten me home, and they've never asked me to kill a stone monster and its grandmother in return."

"Not yet. I hear their prices around Christmas are outrageous."

"Cheap bastards."

Derek grinned, a little terrified of how crazy the smile on Stiles' face made him. Yet hopeful, too. A dangerous, exhilarating hope. He was not the wolf Aisoyimstan thought he was. Derek wouldn't let himself become that. Stiles caught the look on Derek's face. That little wrinkle appeared between his brows as he asked, "what? What's that weird look for?"

"What happened to fat business man?"

Stiles looked taken aback, "Who?"

"The man sitting next to me on the bus. He got up and you took his seat. Not that I'm complaining, of course."

Stiles cleared his throat awkwardly, "I magicked him into swapping seats with me."

"Really?"

"No!" Stiles snorted. "I gave him twenty dollars."

Derek laughed, "Twenty dollars! That's all I'm worth?"

Stiles smirked and licked his lips, his eyes glinting mischievously, “I'd be happy to show you just how much I appreciate you. I've always believed that actions always speak louder than words.”

________

One hour thirty five minutes

Voices sounded outside, but Derek barely registered their presence. He was too enamoured by Stiles’ body, by the planes of his stomach and the edges of his hips; by the freckles along his shoulder blades and the dip of his collarbone. Derek had him pressed up against the Diner’s bathroom wall, his hands clutching a nearby sink as Derek sucked and kissed every inch of his hot skin. He nipped at the hollow of Stiles’s throat, and the moan that escaped his lips made Derek’s hips buck forward against Stiles’ jeans. He could feel how hard he was and the very thought made him groan. He slid his palm down the front of Stiles’s pants, listening to his gasp as he palmed his hard dick.

“I think you’ll remember,” Derek whispered, pausing every few words to suck a new bruise on Stiles’s chest, rubbing his dick with small, smooth strokes, “that I told you before. That we would see how you react. When I suck something of yours.” Derek removed his hand from Stiles’s boxers and deftly unbuttoned the front of his jeans. As he knelt before him, he dragged Stiles’s jeans down so that they pooled around his ankles. Derek could see the outline of his dick through his red boxers, and carefully ran his wet lips across the shape. Stiles shuddered and jerked, hands fisted in Derek’s short hair.

“Derek, fuck Derek.

Derek looked up and caught Stiles eyes. They were overly bright, his mouth parted, skin flushed from his cheeks down his neck and chest. There were red bruises trailing down his lean body. The beanie had been tossed away, leaving his soft hair to flick wildly around his face like a brown halo.

“I FOUND IT MOMMA!” The bathroom door banged open, rebounding off the walls and both Stiles and Derek snapped towards the noise. Standing framed in the doorway, snow falling slowly behind them, were the mother and daughter from the bus. The mother, dressed in a thick grey coat and white beanie, looked from Stiles’s flushed, half-naked body, to Derek, on his knees with his face inches away from Stiles’s very noticeable erection.

“Shit,” yelped Stiles, who then feebly attempted to cover himself. Derek didn’t move, except to raise his eyebrows at the woman. Honestly, does she want to stand there all day and watch?

“SHIT!” Echoed the little girl, beaming and laughing, “SHIT SHIT SHIT SHIT!”

The mother dragged the little girl back by the arm, glaring at Stiles and Derek like she was imagining what colour their insides would be. “You two should be ashamed,” she hissed furiously as she began closing the door. “You are adults, in public! There are children around!! Are you animals??

“In our defence,” stated Derek, “the lock is broken.”

The woman gave them a disgusted look and slammed the door after her.

Stiles frowned down at Derek, "what happened to the werewolf senses, man? Did you forget to turn them on or something?"

Derek gestured to his position on the floor, "I was a little preoccupied, Stiles."

Stiles huffed and stared at the closed door, “We,” he stated after a moment of silence, “have scarred that little girl for life.”

Derek nodded, “we’ve ruined Christmas for her.”

“We are terrible, terrible people.”

“So…” Derek glanced up and caught Stiles’ growing smirk, “you want to stop?”

“Oh god, don’t you dare!”

_______________________________________________________________________________

25th December, 2014

Derek greeted his family happily, with a rare smile he saved for a select few. "Hey mom, dad. Laura. Merry Christmas. I missed you guys." And that was the truth. "I have a lot to tell you all about this year. I met another Native American god, and this one wasn't such an ass. Then there was a banshee, a couple of gremlins from Harlem, and a selkie that kept causing trouble in the Hudson. But I passed all my exams. I know that's more important to you guys then almost getting killed by a sphinx in Brooklyn."

Derek fell silent, thinking on his words. For a lack of anything to do, he gestured to his flowers. "I brought these. I didn't know what else to bring, but why mess with tradition?" Silence fell again. When he resumed, Derek's voice was quieter, "do you remember what we talked about last year? The guy I met with the gargoyle? The guy who can make flames appear in his eyes and voice and hands? He's," a small smile bloomed on Derek's face, "amazing. I don't think I'd be alive if it weren't for him. All these crazy monsters keep appearing and I swear he's using his magic to call to them just so he doesn't get bored." Derek snorted, but he was still grinning, "sounds like something he'd do."

His voice grew stronger, "I started my own pack, back in New York. His idea. He already knew a couple of werewolves in the area. And after his best friend was turned when they were kids, he knows a lot about packs. You'd love him, Laura. Snarky as hell, and stubborn, even against an angry werewolf. He's gawky and awkward and nothing scares him. But brilliant at the same time. Magically and not. He'll be a doctor one day," Derek chuckled. "Doctor or lawyer, isn't that the parental dream?"

Kneeling, he gently placed the flowers on the ice-laced grass, the splash of crimson and yellow shocking against the white. Derek crouched down and carefully brushed away the snow from the names in the grey stone. He paused by one in particular, because Derek knew she would understand. He whispered, like he was sharing a secret, "I think - I think I could really love him, mum. We've been together a year, and it's been the best since the fire." Derek swallowed hard. "He makes it better. He makes me better. I don't think I want to be alone anymore."

The broad gravestone offered no reply except for the names of his family: mother, father and sister. Snow swirled over his shoes, ruffling his hair and the flowers at his feet. He heard the footsteps and recognised the tread, the beating of his heart shifting to match that of the man who now stood beside him. Stiles put a hand on Derek's shoulder, warmth seeping into Derek's chest through the touch. Derek rose to plant a small kiss on Stiles' snow-bitten nose. Stiles smiled warmly and took his hand.

Derek nodded, "I think that's it."

"Are you sure? We can stay for a little longer. Dad's party doesn't start until four."

But Derek shook his head, "it's fine. Let's go."

_______

The Sheriff's party was in full swing by the time Stiles and Derek arrived, Stiles' wearing his new beanie (blue, with white wolves and snowflakes and a yellow pom pom) and Derek was in the most horrendous Christmas sweater Stiles could sexually bride him into wearing. It was emerald green, patterned with white pine trees, snowflakes, and two running elk. Stiles beamed at him, and Derek couldn't help but smile back, horrible sweater and all. He clutched Stiles' hand, and took strength from his warmth.

The door opened, spilling light, music and sweet air into the afternoon sky. John greeted his son warmly, and immediately began discussing how tall he had gotten, how strong he looked. How handsome. Derek privately agreed. Derek held his hand out to shake, but John waved it away and brought him in for a bone-crushing hug. Derek was surprised, but not unhappy about it. When they broke apart, John eyed his sweater with a raised brow. He glanced at Stiles, who was beaming innocently, and snorted as he led them inside. As soon as they entered, a guy Stiles' age came sprinting out of the lounge room and launched himself on Stiles, hugging him fiercely and laughing. Stiles gripped him back even harder. Others came trailing after Scott, greeting both of them with hugs and smiles and japes. Scott was just as excitable and puppy-dog eyed as Stiles, his girlfriend Kira a little wary of Derek, but friendly nonetheless. Erica's smile was second only to Stiles', and Issac gave Derek a hug that would have crushed the ribs of any human. Lydia and Allison were just as beautiful as he remembered, standing together with their fingers entwined like they had been doing it for years. The group greeted Derek like a life-long friend, not a strange man they had met only once the year before. It made him smile more than was strictly necessary.

Once they were all settled in a corner, drinks in hands, the warm air filled with Christmas carols and laughter and talk, Scott rounded on the both of them.

“So, you never told us, how did you two meet?”

Stiles and Derek exchanged a tiny, private smirk.

It was Stiles who began, "Well..."

(For once, Derek didn't mind the Christmas carols).