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A Christmas Hale

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Derek labored over the decision, it was not one to be taken lightly. He stared down at the options weighing heavily on him and decided with a satisfied nod 'strawberry,' and dropped the box of poptarts into his shopping cart.

 

It was Christmas Eve and the Beacon Hills grocery store was the least crowded Derek had ever seen, and he could usually be counted on to frequent the store at off hours. The unending thrum of sound: the squeak of shopping carts, the scrape of boxes across the dirty linoleum floors, the ringing vibrations of cell phones, and the constant chatter of busy shoppers could grate, even with his honed ability to tune it out to mere white noise.

 

The Holiday season always managed to put Derek on edge, the veneer of indifference slipping when he'd least expect it. Being back in Beacon Hills did nothing but exacerbate it. He let his mind wander, until over the cacophony of sound he picked up a thread of conversation and held.

 

"Hey Dad, I was just--" he recognized Stiles' voice easily, even if the playful excited lilt of his tone was one that Derek had only ever observed at a distance. "Oh." He sounded disappointed, curiosity getting the best of him, Derek listened harder.

 

"Yeah, I'm sorry, buddy." The Sheriff (and a voice that Derek would have preferred not be so easy to identify, even over the slight warble of Stiles' cell).

 

"So, you won't be home until tomorrow night?" Stiles asked. Having successfully accomplished his quest Derek abandoned the breakfast food aisle and turned the corner. Stiles was standing in front of the rotisserie chickens with a cart full of frozen vegetables and a twelve pack of diet soda. Derek watched as Stiles picked absently at the peeling red plastic of the child's seat of his cart as he talked.

 

"I'm gonna get home as soon as I can, but...that's what it's looking like now, Stiles." The Sheriff's voice was apologetic. Stiles' tongue darted out to lick at his lips, mouth, as always, Derek noted, open in a look of perpetual surprise.

 

"This isn't how I wanted you to spend Christmas, son."

 

"I know Dad, it's fine," Stiles replied, hand drifting to rub at the back of his head. "I've always got Scott," he laughed.

 

"I thought Scott was going to spend Christmas with his dad?" The Sheriff asked, and Derek watched as Stiles grimaced, unseen by his father's keen eyes.

 

"Yeah, he was. But they had a fight. No surprise there, right? He doesn't want to go," Stiles said. Derek can hear the subtle change in his heart rate, the slight spike in his pulse.

 

Lie.

 

"I won't be alone, Dad. Don't worry."

 

Lie.

 

"I'm glad, kid. I'll try to get home, yea? I love you." The relief was evident in the Sheriff's voice, and Stiles relaxed visibly and nodded to no one.

 

"I love you too, Dad. Merry Christmas."

 

"Merry Christmas, son."

 

Derek backed up a step until he was concealed slightly by an overly large display of peanut butter and watched as Stiles steered away from the rotisserie chickens with an apologetic wave to the girl behind the counter and headed toward what looked like the frozen foods section. Derek watched until Stiles disappeared before he strode off in the opposite direction to look for toothpaste.

 

 

 ~~~~*~~~~*~~~*~~~

 

"You buy toilet paper?" Stiles' voice caught Derek by surprise, and he turned, dropping the package of Charmin Ultra soft into his carriage. 

 

"What am I even supposed to do with that, Stiles?" Derek sighed, already exasperated. Stiles stared at him blankly for a moment, lips parted.

 

"If I have to explain its function I don't think you can be helped." Derek lifted a brow, but managed to refrain from the eye roll. He stared at Stiles expectantly.

 

"So, are you doing anything for Christmas?" Stiles asked, which is not what Derek was actually waiting for.

 

"No." It was the tone of voice used to discourage conversation. Stiles, as per usual, ignored him.

 

"Hanukah?" Derek just stared.

 

"Kwanza?"

 

"I don't do holidays." Stiles, at least, had the good sense not to ask why, something for which Derek was actually grateful. He'd spent the last six years deflecting those questions.

 

"Your cart is in my way," Derek tried.

 

"Right, sorry," Stiles gave the cart a good shove and swerved it around Derek and his own. Derek started to dart past him when Stiles' heart stuttered.

 

"Derek?" Derek sighed inwardly and turned to look at him. Stiles just stared for a moment longer than strictly necessary. Derek raised a brow in silent expectation.

 

"Do you want to come over?" Derek would be lying if he said he wasn't expecting that. The obligatory holiday invitation, the one that said 'I have no idea how to make up for the fact that your family is dead, want to gnaw some dry chicken while you watch mine be happy together?' It was never actually a winning prospect for Derek. The question was usually accompanied by a look that clearly said 'please say no,' or worse, a look of pity that had Derek's stomach tightening into furious knots.

 

His mouth began forming the word 'no' in a knee jerk reaction, but it died on his lips when he actually looked at Stiles. There was no pity in his face, no sense of moral obligation or charitable intent, he looked...earnest and nervous and so much the sixteen that he was. He realized with a jolt that had his stomach twisting into something that felt nothing like anger that Stiles wasn't asking for Derek's sake.

 

"You don't have to, geez," Stiles said, face flushing a bit beneath his scowl. "Don't hurt yourself."

 

Derek glanced away from Stiles' face to peer into the cart.

 

"Only if you're not planning on serving frozen pizza," he said, voice clipped. The tension in Stiles' face melted away and he grinned.

 

"How do you feel about Chinese?" He asked. Derek shrugged.

 

"I could be persuaded."

 

 

~~~~*~~~~*~~~~*~~~~

 

 

At the Chinese restaurant in the center of town later that night, Stiles reached for his wallet but Derek pushed his hand away and slid his credit card across the counter.

 

"Can I give you money?" Stiles asked, and Derek could see he was slightly uncomfortable. Truthfully, Derek had more money than he knew what to do with. Abandoned train depots were surprisingly rent free.

 

"No." He said, shortly, and then when Stiles gave him an indignant sort of look he added, "Merry Christmas."

 

"Well if you're buying, can we swing by the garage later because there's a part for the jeep I need," he joked. Derek rolled his eyes and signed the receipt, slipping his card back into the leather wallet Laura had bought him two Christmas's ago. Though, technically it wasn't a Christmas gift. They stopped celebrating Christmas the first year after the fire. But Laura could never go a year without buying Derek a gift, though Derek greatly preferred giving to receiving. They chose instead to bypass Christmas like it didn't exist, celebrated New Years instead. It always seemed, somehow, much more logical to begin with.

 

"Nice try," Derek said, sliding two of the large brown paper bags off the counter. Stiles grabbed the other two and hefted them up like they were precious cargo.

 

"Merry Christmas, boys," the hostess smiled at them, and she leaned forward and tucked a business card into the pocket of Stiles' flannel shirt. "Fyi, we do catering!" She said, enthusiastically. Derek exchanged a look with Stiles as they made for the door. It wasn't until they were settled back into the Camaro, Derek piling Stiles with their takeout order that they both huffed out a laugh.

 

"She thought we're having a party," Stiles pointed out, unnecessarily.

 

"We are having a party," Derek said, and Stiles gave him a suspicious sort of look. He couldn't help the smile that twitched at the corner of his lips. "It's a 'you better eat every single one of the 700 dumplings you ordered or I'll force feed them to you' party."

 

"Hey, I tried to pay," Stiles pointed out. "Besides I'm not the one that obviously needs to eat their body weight in pork fried rice."

 

"I like pork fried rice," Derek huffed, pulling out of the parking lot and onto the main road.

 

"Excessively," Stiles said, shaking one of the bags he was holding.

 

"Bite me, Stilinski," Derek deadpanned.

 

"Suck my beef stick, Hale," Stiles replied, Derek's eyebrows shot up his head and he darted a glance to where Stiles was tearing off a chunk of teriyaki chicken from its shishkabob. He shook his head and grinned at the road, trying to ignore the ferocity with which Stiles was eating beside him. It was nearly impossible to ignore. "I hunger like the wolf."

 

"You're an idiot."

 

"Like the wolf," Stiles grinned widely giving him a very pointed look. "Get it?"

 

"Yeah Stiles, your humor, though highly sophisticated was not actually lost on me." Stiles laughed, and Derek swerved just slightly to hit a pot hole. Stiles squawked loudly in the seat beside him.

 

"Ow! I nearly just deepthroated that, what the hell. You did that on purpose!" Derek shrugged, feigning innocence.

 

"I was going to share at least one of my 700 dumplings with you but you get none, Derek, none dumplings is how many you get. All the dumplings for me." Stiles bit, angrily, but Derek sensed no real hostility in his words or the calm steady thumping of his heart.

 

 

~~~~*~~~~*~~~~*~~~~*~~~~

 

Stiles tumbled out of the Camaro awkwardly when they pull back into the driveway, Derek parking smoothly behind the crooked jeep like he was showing off, which Stiles expected he was definitely doing if the look Derek gave Stiles was anything to go by. Stiles struggled with the door, cumbersome bags of food inhibiting his progress; he turned and glanced over to where Derek was holding his own in one hand, left arm free and dangling.

 

"Oh, thank you for the offer to help Derek, that was really nice of you, but no, yeah, I got this," Stiles snapped.

 

"You didn't ask," Derek said, ignoring the look in favor of plucking one of the bags out of Stiles' hands as he pushed at the front door.

 

"You're an ass," Stiles told him, toeing out of his sneakers once inside before depositing the take out on the cluttered coffee table. He shoved old magazines and loose papers off before kicking them beneath it, out of sight. Derek started pulling the containers out of the bag while Stiles disappeared into the kitchen to collect a stack of napkins and plates, he opted against silverware because 'watch an Alpha eat food with tiny sticks' was actually on his bucket list.

 

Well it wasn't, but he was definitely adding it, posthumously.

 

"You wanna watch something?" Stiles asked around an eggroll hanging out of his mouth like a fat cigar. Derek shrugged his shoulders and only gave him a slightly disgusted look at his table manners; which Stiles thought was pretty rich coming from someone who snacked on teenagers on a regular basis.

 

"What do you want to watch?" Stiles asked, pointing over his shoulder at the bookshelf housing a jumbled collection of DVDs. Derek just shrugged again and said noncommittally, "I don't care."

 

"So helpful," Stiles huffed, pushing himself across the hardwood floor and looking through the titles.

 

"Anything," Derek said, then added, "but nothing even tangentially Christmas related. I hate Christmas movies." Stiles turned around and nodded emphatically.

 

"Me too, God," everyone always looked at him like he was insane whenever he had the poor sense to tell them that, even Scott, who'd clutched an old vhs of 'Rudolph' last year and hit him with his best puppy dog expression until Stiles caved. "I mean, I used to love Home Alone, when I was a kid. But dude...that movie is so fucked up. Why was everyone living in that one house? And also, why are people named Kevin so demented? He's a tiny little psychopath who was way too excited when he thought he'd killed his whole family with a wish," Stiles got loud when he was passionate, and nothing drove him more than his contempt for something. He realized what he'd said a little too late and he turned and gave Derek a sympathetic look and closed his mouth.

 

"I used to watch a Christmas Story every year," Derek said, popping open the container of kung pow chicken and pouring a generous amount onto his plate. "But I haven't in years." Stiles knew what that meant but he didn't press the subject.

 

"How about Lord of the Rings?" Stiles asked, tugging the Fellowship out of the bookcase.

 

"I said nothing even tangentially related," Derek said, sounding annoyed.

 

"What?" Stiles shouted, turning around and glowering at him. "It's not like I suggested Narnia, how is the Fellowiship Christmas related?" Stiles asked.

 

"It has elves."

 

"Yeah, tall, hot wood Elves!" Stiles groused, offended. Derek waved a dumpling irritably.

 

"Anything that's that easy to parody Twelve Days of Christmas into is a no," Derek told him, shoving the dumpling into his mouth in one bite. Stiles shook his head in disbelief, caught between annoyed and intrigued.

 

"I would like...give you everything that I own to hear your rendition of the Twelve Days of LOTR, right now," Stiles nodded emphatically. "Everything." Derek rolled his eyes.

 

"I don't really want to inherit your chem homework or your jeep. And I've already seen your wardrobe," Derek said, trying to scoop up rice with the end of his chopsticks and failing.

 

"No I mean like everything," he emphasized, "including but not limited to my virginity." Derek choked on a shishkabob and spluttered until Stiles rose to fetch him a bottle of water, cackling the whole way to the kitchen and back.

 

"That's a really good sell, but," Derek said, downing half the plastic bottle in one go, "I think I might have to pass. Maybe next year." Stiles grinned and Derek rolled his eyes.

 

"Do you have the extended version?"

 

"Why would we watch any other kind?" Stiles questioned.

 

"We wouldn't," Derek replied, waving a hand towards the tv. "But we're starting with Two Towers."

 

"Skipping past the three hours of hiking to Middle Earth's Tourist Hotspots?" Stiles nodded, reaching back over for the movie.

 

"Unquestionably." Derek said. Stiles smirked and threw a glance back over to him.

 

"Legolas or Arwen?" He asked without preamble. Derek looked considering as he went for an eggroll.

 

"Arwen. Definitely," he said. Stiles nodded in agreement. "But I'd take Aragorn over both of them." Stiles snorted and shook his head.

 

They fell silent when Stiles hit the play button, Derek settling into the couch, his legs falling open and his arms braced upon his thighs as he leaned forward over the coffee table and his plate to eat. Stiles curled up like a cat on the opposite side of the table, twisting himself awkwardly to eat and watch at the same time.

 

The silence wasn't exactly the companionable one that marked his relationship with Scott, but it wasn't so much awkward either; they'd been thrust together alone for hours too often for it to be awkward at this point. Derek kept making comments and soon they had a running commentary, it felt familiar, oddly so. Stiles could tell that Derek had read the books, which was more than he could say for Scott who didn't have the patience enough for the movies on a bad day let alone want to discuss the finer details of the plot and the divergences from the novel.

 

An hour and a half into the movie and it settled into background noise as the thread of conversation fell to Star Wars and then a heated argument over the 2009 Star Trek Reboot which ended with Stiles huffing in frustration and turning around, telling Derek, "don't even talk to me until you take that back," which Derek refused to do.

 

Their meal ended with a chopstick sword fight over the last of the dumplings, which Stiles won, but he was fairly sure Derek conceded, and he suspected it was his way of apologizing for insulting Stiles' choice in starship captains.

 

  

Well after they'd finished eating, the takeout containers left in a mostly empty mess on the coffee table, littered, now, with stray chow mein noodles and bits of rice, Stiles was kicking ass at Mario Kart. It was unfortunate, as there was no one to really witness his spectacular victory as Derek was passed out on the floor beneath the Christmas tree.

 

Stiles swallowed the obvious dog jokes and ignored him. It was hard though, the way Derek was sprawled on his back, his right arm cushioning his head and left hand draped idly across his abdomen, rising and falling on every gentle breath. It was harder to ignore the thin strip of bare flesh where Derek's shirt had rucked up slightly, exposing the skin of his stomach. Stiles kept darting quick abortive glances at it as he flew down the rainbow road.

 

Derek was barefoot, too, which seemed somehow significant, though Stiles didn't pause long enough to analyze why exactly.

 

"You're staring," Derek's voice cut through his thought sharply, and Stiles jumped, heart thumping erratically for a few seconds.

 

"You're not wearing socks," Stiles said, absently, turning back to his game.

 

"Yeah..." Derek started, "sorry, do my feet offend you?" He asked, his eyes still closed. Stiles glanced at Derek's toes and contemplated his answer.

 

"Not really. I've just never seen them before," he decided. Derek shrugged his shoulders and didn't say anything. Derek, who was always so closed off and guarded, who was falling asleep now on Stiles' floor stuffed with mediocre Chinese take away, and barefoot...content.

 

"You're smiling." This time when Stiles glanced over Derek's eyes were open and he was regarding Stiles with a quizzical sort of expression.

 

"Got a blue shell," Stiles lied, easily, gesturing to the tv screen. If Derek could sense the deceit he didn't mention it. Stiles cleared his throat with a cough and shut the game off, tossing the remote onto the floor and standing.

 

"Hey, help me clean," Stiles said, kicking at Derek's leg half-heartedly.

 

"No," Derek said, throwing his arm over his face, his shirt stretching up even higher and Stiles pulled his gaze away regretfully, picking up a handful of takeout cartons.

 

"C'mon!" Stiles complained. Derek grunted.

 

"Isn't that the domestic compromise?" He asked, not moving. "Whoever doesn't cook, cleans?" Stiles scowled in irritation, "you didn't cook." He pointed out.

 

"Yeah, but I paid." There was an expression of open amusement on Derek's face.

 

"Oh my God!" Stiles shouted, annoyed. "We'll be ninety and you'll still be bringing that up!" He huffed. Derek dragged his arm away from his face and stared up at Stiles. "You think we'll be together when we're ninety?" Derek asked, dryly, and Stiles' heart did something funny at the word 'together'. He turned away and headed for the kitchen.

 

"I think one or both of us will be dead way before we reach ninety, but I was trying not to bring the room down," Stiles said. "It is Christmas, after all." Derek made another noncommittal sounding grunt but Stiles could hear him gather up the rest of the takeout containers. In the kitchen, Stiles pulled the trash can out from beneath the sink and tossed the remainders of their Christmas meal. Derek leaned against the counter beside him and dropped his own into the trash alongside. Stiles washed his hands at the kitchen sink, letting the water grow scorching as he pumped dish soap into his hands. He snatched at a dishtowel left haphazardly on the counter and dried his hands, trying to ignore the way Derek was leaning beside him, too close for casual.

 

Derek gave him a funny sort of look when Stiles turned and glanced up at him after kicking the cabinet closed with a loud thwap. Stiles’ brows drew together and he opened his mouth to ask what his deal was when Derek's eyes flicked upward a little a too pointedly toward the ceiling. Stiles scowled, having no idea what the issue was until he followed Derek’s gaze up.

 

There was a bushel of mistletoe hanging just above the sink, swaying almost ominously above their heads.

 

"Huh..." Stiles huffed. "Great, the one time I’m actually in a rom com beneath the obligatory kissing plant it’s Derek fucking Hale," Stiles sighed. Derek looked mildly offended by that. "Well except for that one time with Scott...but I don't want to talk about it," Stiles trailed off, trying not to remember.

 

Derek raised an eyebrow curiosly, but there wasn't enough spiked eggnog in the world to get him to tell that story. Stiles thought Derek would have backed away by now, rolled his eyes maybe before heading towards the living room, but he wasn't moving, and neither was Stiles. He was however, looking at him like that one time when he had Stiles up against the back of his bedroom door, his hand fisted in Stiles' jacket. His eyes were definitely looking at Stiles lips now too, which were parted on an unasked question of "what the Hale?"

 

"Uh..." Stiles managed, laughing slightly and a bit neurotically. Derek was leaning forward then and Stiles twitched back before staying stock still, frozen in anticipation, dishtowel clutched in his hand like a shield. There was another pause before their intense game of chicken ended abruptly when the clump of mistletoe fell dejectedly to the floor between them.

 

They both stared down at it. Then Stiles looked up and caught Derek's eye who was smirking again before huffing out a small breathy laugh through his nose and stepping back. He moved around Stiles, whose heart was still thumping an erratic staccato in his chest. He jumped with nervous tension when Derek's hand clamped comfortingly on the back of his shoulders.

 

"It was probably full of Nargles anyway," he said before letting his hands slide off and he disappeared into the living room, leaving Stiles gaping at the kitchen sink. It took him a minute before he'd collected himself enough to walk back into the living room.

 

He expected Derek to be seated back on the couch but he was fingering at the ornaments on the Christmas tree, it felt like Stiles was interrupting something private, even though they were his own memories hung there. Derek must have known Stiles was there but he didn't turn around or stop the gentle exploration of the handmade ornaments Stiles had made when he was a child.

 

"They're really lame," Stiles said, self-deprecatingly, flushing a bit.

 

"No, they're not," Derek shook his head and let his hand drop away from the popsicle stick frame he was staring intently at, it was housing an old polaroid of Stiles with his father dressed as Santa. He must have been about eight, it was the year before his mother died.

 

"The first year after...," Stiles started, gaze darting away from where Derek was sitting back down at the far end of the couch, "we tried the whole, Christmas thing," he motioned vaguely with a wave of his hand. "It was like we were both doing it for the other, like 'oh, this is what she would have wanted,' but truthfully?" Stiles huffed a sardonic laugh and shook his head. "She didn't want anything, she's dead. So, we stopped."

 

Derek wasn't looking when Stiles glanced up but he could tell from the tense line of his posture that he was listening. He twirled a left over chopstick almost absently in his fingers as Stiles spoke. 

 

"My dad tries, you know?" Stiles gestured around at the Christmas tree, the holly wound around the banner of the staircase and the santas and snowmen standing like sentries over the mantle piece. "He used to go all out though." Stiles moved forward and sat back down in front of the Christmas tree, his sock clad feet flat on the floor, forearms braced on his knees as he leaned forward. Silence descended on the already too quiet room.

 

"Mine too." Stiles cricked his neck looking up, he hoped Derek didn't notice but Derek was staring instead at the stockings hung on the fireplace across the room. Stiles gaped for a long moment.

 

"I remember that," he admitted, finally. Derek looked over at him then, eyeing Stiles with an expression of surprise and something like suspicion. Stiles looked away. "We used to drive around and look at Christmas lights when I was a kid. Your house was my favorite."

 

"My grandfather used to get really annoyed about it actually," Derek confessed. "We'd get tourists." Stiles laughed.

 

"Your mom invited us in for dinner once," Stiles told him, fingering at the fraying edge of the worn rug in front of him. "Well, actually I think I invited myself in on the pretext of needing to pee." Derek's eyebrow quirked and he shifted forward on the couch.

 

"I had a huge crush on your sister," Stiles explained, ducking his head and grinning. Derek was looking at him curiously. Stiles watched the bulge of Derek's tongue against his cheek.

 

"Which one?" He asked finally, voice quiet.

 

"Uh...Beth," Stiles nodded looking down at a tiny hole in the toe of his sock. When he looked up Derek was watching him. "I gave her the second pudding cup in my snack pack and she kissed me on the cheek. It was pretty much the highlight of my love life, actually. I was seven." Stiles rubbed a hand across the back of his head, remembering. He couldn't read the expression on Derek's face when he looked up. He worried for a moment he'd said something wrong.

 

"She'd be eighteen next month." Stiles was struck suddenly with the overwhelming desire to reach out and touch Derek. His fingers twitched but the last time he'd done so, despite how very different those circumstances were, he'd been met with near open hostility.

 

"I'm sorry," Stiles said, meaning it. "You probably don't want to talk about this," he let out a huff of nervous laughter. But Derek was shaking his head.

 

"I don't mind," he said. Stiles watched him for a moment, reveling in the sincerity of his gaze. But Stiles wasn't sure what to say, so he said nothing, reaching for the nearly empty bottle of water on the coffee table, filling his mouth instead of the silence; it was his usual form of deflection.

 

"I liked your mom," Derek offered and he grinned a little sheepishly, Stiles thought, at the admission. Stiles made a face and Derek shook his head. "Not like that," he rolled his eyes, and tossed a fortune cookie at him. Stiles caught it easily, distracted himself with tearing the plastic wrapper open, noisily. "She was always really cool when I went into the store."

 

Stiles' mom had owned a used bookstore at the center of town. It was small and overcrowded with tight rows of tall heavy bookcases full of books. He'd spend his afternoons in the store doing his homework, where she could watch, and help when he'd lose focus, prone to distraction when left alone. Now though, alone was what kept him focused, preferring the quiet solitude to the bustling public. His dad sold the store after she died, and Stiles hadn't been it since. He wondered if his height chart was still there, on the frame of the door leading to the back room. He supposed probably not.

 

"You don't strike me as the type to frequent bookstores," Stiles said and he pulled a face at the look on Derek's.

 

"The hell does that mean?" Derek asked. Stiles shrugged.

 

"Uh...people?" Stiles offered, "books? No exercise equipment? People?" Derek raised a brow and picked up a fortune cookie off the end table and tore into it.

 

"You're supposed to eat it before you read the fortune, or it won't come true," Stiles informed him, crunching on his own. Derek gave him an incredulous look that reminded Stiles too much of Peter.

 

He shrugged, and unfolded his own fortune.

 

"Huh, 'if you have an unusual equipment for success, use it properly," Stiles read, quirking a brow at it. "In bed," he added, for good measure, and laughed. Derek didn't respond, which Stiles found highly suspect. He looked up. "What's yours say?" He asked.

 

Derek was staring down at it quizzically, and Stiles moved forward, to the edge of the couch to peer at it. Derek just turned it slightly. "A man with brown eyes has a surprise for you," Stiles read. He looked up to peer at Derek. Derek was looking at him intently and it made Stiles flush slightly. "In bed?"

 

"I have cake...does that count?" Stiles asked, collapsing back against the floor, bruising his ass in the process. Derek shrugged at him.

 

"Dude, I made the cake, we should eat the cake," Stiles said, pushing himself up off the floor before Derek had a chance to respond. "I slaved over this cake!" Stiles called from the kitchen, pulling the platter towards himself, scraping it obnoxiously across the laminated surface of the table. He tried to ignore the edge of nervousness settling in his stomach as he made his way back over to the coffee table.

 

"Ha, yeah?" Stiles said with a grin, pulling the top of the cake plate off and showing Derek. It was slightly lopsided, he'd admit, and the frosting was a little uneven in places. Derek just sort of looked at him with a slight raise of a brow and Stiles shrugged, slicing two pieces and letting them flop ungracefully against a couple of plastic plates he'd dragged out from a kitchen cupboard.

 

He served Derek his piece first, who accepted it with a nod of thanks before taking a bite. Stiles shoved an excited forkful into his own mouth. He nearly choked but managed to swallow the grimace that threatened in favor of smiling indulgently at Derek who was staring at him with a look of deep confliction as he swallowed his own generous first bite. As he went back to scoop up a second it looked like every movement towards his mouth was a huge effort.

 

Stiles didn't blame him, he was a little flattered and a lot confused by the gesture. But he only made it another pause before he bit his lip on a smirk and darted forward, tugging Derek's hand holding the fork away from his face, grip tight around Derek's wrist.

 

"Oh my God," Stiles laughed, "don't do it."

 

"You were fucking with me," Derek asked, looking relieved, dropping the fork onto his plate and staring at the slice of cake with offense.

 

Stiles pulled a face and stuck out his tongue disgustedly.

 

"Was the surprise poison?" Derek asked, staring at Stiles, half annoyed. Stiles laughed and dropped his head against the coffee table.

 

"I worked really hard on that cake." Derek sighed and poked at his shoulder with the non-business end of his fork.

 

"We could make more?" He suggested. "If you wanted," he added, uncertainly.

 

"Okay, but I need adult supervision when I used the oven," Stiles warned, tilting his head to Derek. Derek smiled at him, and rubbed at the back of his neck.

 

"I really don't doubt that," he replied, and pushed himself to his feet. Stiles waved a hand, fingers waggling in Derek's direction and Derek clasped his hand around Stiles' forearm as Stiles gripped Derek's, and Derek heaved him to his feet, easily.

 

"C'mon," Derek said, as he led Stiles through to the kitchen, his hand a reassuring pressure on Stiles' shoulder. "We'll make cookies, it's easier."

 

 

                                                                                ~~~~*~~~~*~~~~*~~~~*~~~~

 

In the kitchen, Stiles hopped up on the cluttered counter and flipped through a recipe book covered in what Derek suspected was cake batter.

 

"Ooh...baking soda," Stiles said, elongating the vowels. Derek rolled his eyes and plucked the book from Stiles', his hand braced on Stiles' knee where his legs dangled over the edge of the counter. Stiles' eye glanced down to it and his heart stuttered over a beat and Derek let his hand fall away.

 

"Do you bake?" Stiles asked, ignoring the moment as Derek started flipping through the book.

 

"I used to," Derek said, and didn't offer any more. Stiles didn't push but Derek looked back up and said anyway. "I worked at a bakery in New York." Stiles stared in open mouthed surprise. Derek ignored him.

 

"Like...baking things?" Stiles asked, as though confused by the very concept.

 

"Sometimes," Derek said, biting back the sarcastic comment. He settled on a recipe and turned it towards Stiles. "How do you feel about peanut butter?"

 

"I'd marry it if it were legal," Stiles informed him, Derek let his eyes fall shut and he shook his head a little exasperated.

 

"C'mon," Derek prodded, pulling Stiles off the counter, "help me find this stuff."

 

Stiles added the wrong ingredient twice, he knocked over the container of flour and showered both their feet and legs in the powder, but Derek found his patience much improved than he normally did where the teen was concerned. He remembered baking with Beth for lacrosse fundraising bake sales and her brownie troop. He didn't realize how much he missed it.

 

When the cookie dough was all made, Stiles seemed more interested in eating it raw than he was in trying to bake actual cookies. He dipped the wooden spoon back into the bowl for a second helping, licking the end of it and moaning a bit obscenely.

 

"Stop," Derek chastised, as Stiles went back for thirds.

 

"What?" Stiles whined as Derek swiped at the spoon. Stiles whipped it out of his reach, pleased with himself.

 

"You're going to eat all of it," Derek grumbled, annoyed. Stiles shrugged.

 

"I like it better this way," he said. Derek made another grab for the spoon but Stiles spun out of his reach and curled his body protectively around it.

 

"You're being ridiculous," Derek sighed.

 

"My precious!" Stiles hacked, clutching at the utensil. Derek clamped a hand around Stiles' wrist and tried to tug it out from his body, but Stiles twisted in his grip, struggling away from him.

 

"Just give me the spoon!" Derek yelled.

 

"Make me!" Stiles returned.

 

They fought for another minute, Derek huffing in irritation. With a final tug from Derek and a slackening of his grip from Stiles the spoon landed with a wet sounding smack against Derek's cheek.

 

They both froze. Stiles' eyes widened in horror and his dropped open. He clutched at the spoon like a weapon, Derek just staring at him in disbelief, cold cookie dough congealing on his face.

 

"DON’T EAT ME." Stiles wailed and flung the spoon away from him. Derek didn't move, and Stiles stared concerned for a moment before Derek reached into the bowl and swiped a finger through the cookie dough and smeared it across Stiles' own cheek.

 

"Oh, wow, that's really mature Derek," Stiles chided. Derek didn't say anything, just smeared more across the other cheek in response. "Wow." stiles remarked, dryly, letting him.

 

"Mine was an accident, at least!" Stiles huffed, Derek stuck his finger in the bowl again and moved to get his nose before Stiles' hand clamped around his wrist.

 

"You're wasting cookie dough!" He whined. "Stop!"

 

"Make me!" Derek mocked. A look of challenge flitted briefly over Stiles' face, Derek had seen that look only a handful of times, the most memorable of which happened to be right before he was left to sink to the bottom of a pool. It was a look of determination combined with something like incredulity. Derek opened his mouth to recant his statement but stiles was already darting forward.

 

With a surprisingly strong grip Stiles steadied Derek's wrist, and before Derek could really register what was happening Stiles' tongue was darting out from his open mouth, licking a stripe up Derek's outstretched index finger before his lips closed on the tip and he was sucking off the last remains of cookie dough. Derek just watched with wide eyed disbelief, and when Stiles pulled away he was grinning kind of smugly, like he'd won something, but Derek wasn't sure what, exactly.

 

 ~~~~*~~~~*~~~~*~~~~*~~~~

 

It wasn't until Stiles collapsed face first across the couch, letting out a yawn in a perfect imitation of a disgruntled wookie, that Derek caught the time on the cable box beneath the television. He yawned and blinked the sleep he hadn't noticed settling in, out of his eyes.

 

"It's late," he said.

 

"Shit, it's been Christmas for two hours and I didn't even know," Stiles observed, voiced warped with his face smooshed against the couch cushions.

 

"I should go," Derek said, but he made no real effort to move from where he was seated on the floor in front of Stiles. Stiles didn't say anything, but when Derek tilted his head and craned his neck to see him, his eyes were open. They looked unnaturally large and too bright with the Christmas lights strung up on the tree reflected like tiny pinpricks in his irises, practically glowing gold.

 

He couldn't help picturing Stiles as his beta, not for the first time. He shook the image away.

 

"My dad won't be home until tomorrow afternoon," Stiles informed him, Derek thought it was a bit loaded.

 

"Okay," he replied, because he wasn't really sure what to say to that. It wasn't a request or a question, but Stiles was looking at him hopefully anyway.

 

"You'll miss Christmas waffles," Stiles told him, "I make bomb ass waffles." Derek raised a brow and looked at him with as much disbelief as he could muster.

 

"Do these waffles making skills rival your cake baking skills?" He asked.

 

"I don't think you deserve waffles," Stiles said, grumpily. Derek looked contemplative, yawning loudly and stretching. "Make it pancakes, and I'll stay."

 

"Sweet," Stiles nodded, the smile he offered kind of pleased and it made something in Derek's throat feel tight. Stiles sat up from the couch and motioned Derek to follow as he bounced up and toward the stairs.

 

"You can take the guest room," Stiles offered, "unless you wanted to crash on my floor or something, which is fine. You can crash wherever, actually," Stiles said. "Except my bed, you can't have my bed," Stiles told him, flipping off lights as they traipsed up the stairs.

 

"I don't want your bed, Stiles," Derek sighed. Stiles' heart thumped in his chest and his fingers bounced across his thighs in a sloppy drum solo.

 

"Well good, cos you can't have it," he said petulantly.

 

"I don't want it!"

 

"Good!" Derek shook his head and threw his arms up in defeat behind Stiles' back. Stiles stopped at the end of the hall and pushed the door open, flipping the light switch on the wall just inside. A table lamp on the dresser across the room flooded the guest room in a pale glow.

 

The room had the feel and smell of disuse.

 

"The bed's already made up," Stiles said, not that we ever really get..." he shrugged awkwardly and let the sentence hang in the small space between them.

 

"There's extra tooth brushes in the medicine cabinet in the bathroom, and uh...do you...need anything?" Stiles offered. Derek stared at him for longer than he knew was needed; Stiles' gaze was turning questioning. He shook his head, unsure why the question threw him, trying to rid his stomach of the knots that started to form.

 

"Nothing? Pajama pants? Do you even wear pajamas?" Stiles looked at him with suspicion. Derek could practically see the though bubble forming over his head.

 

"You're picturing me in a onesie," Derek said, and he's gratified by Stiles' flicker of a grimace.

 

"I'm not gonna ask how you know that," Stiles said, Derek rolled his eyes.

 

"Goodnight, Stiles," Derek said, decisively, gripping the edge of the guest room door.

 

"They have bunnies for feet," Stiles was smirking then.

 

Derek shook his head, darted his tongue across his lips, still sweet from the cookies earlier and looked at Stiles' stupid, teasing grin.

 

"No," Derek said then. Stiles raised his perfectly arched brows. "I don't wear pajamas." Stiles nodded like he knew it and said, "ah, I bet you wear jeans," judgmentally.

 

"No," Derek corrected, and he swallowed down the smirk, "I sleep naked." He shut the door on Stiles' gaping incredulous face. It wasn't even true, thought it used to be, back in NYC and before the fire. Now though? He did wear jeans to sleep, with threats looming at every corner and hanging constantly over his head, the very real possibility of needing to get up and fight at a moment's notice sleeping naked didn't exactly have a lot of tactical advantage.

 

He listened to Stiles' thundering heartbeat as he moved away from the door and into his bedroom. Derek readied the guest bed, opened the window to air out the stuffy room, and stripped down to his boxers. He folded his clothes and deposited them carefully on the other side of the bed.

 

He lay awake for a long time, staring up at a spot of discoloration on the ceiling. He wasn't used to sleeping on a mattress, and the comfort of it, was almost discomforting. It felt like safety and home, which Derek had guarded himself against for a long time. It was being lulled into a false sense of security, and wasn't a situation he was eager to repeat. But tonight felt different, and he let his tired eyes slip closed without fighting the sleep that threatened to overtake him.

 

He listened to the sounds around him, the kind that made the house thrum with life, noises he hadn't realized he'd missed: the buzz of the electricity in the tv downstairs, and the low hum of the refrigerator, the icemaker crackling, the mice scurrying in the walls next door, and the tick-tock of Stiles' watch on his desk, and the low squeak of the bedsprings as the teen tossed and turned.

 

They faded to white noise as Derek drifted, hanging on the precipice of sleep and consciousness. It was a battle he didn't mind losing, when, after hours, he finally began to doze. Stiles' steady heartbeat thumped rhythmically in his ears like a lullaby, until suddenly it grew rapid and erratic, bleating against his chest as Derek's eyes snapped open, adrenaline already coursing through his system, limbs twitching on blind, confused panic as Stiles' heart started pumping hard, pulse pounding.

 

But before Derek could untangle himself from his bed sheets he heard Stiles' stuttering breath and the all too familiar sound of flesh against slicked flesh. Derek let his head collapsed back against his pillows and he sighed in irritation, his own unheard heartbeat returning to normal.

 

And then he laughed, and rubbed a hand across his face, because he remembered being sixteen and living in a house full of werewolves. He remembered Beth asking what he did in his bedroom when his heart would go all funny and he'd told her he was exercising and Laura had laughed so hard her nose bled. He remembered taking it to the showers and playing his music too loud and the fact that it only ever made it more obvious.

 

Stiles was being discreet but not quiet enough, Derek tried not to listen and failed. His own cock started filling, twitching in his boxer briefs. He pressed a palm to it and willed his erection away, before turning over onto his stomach and pulling his pillows over his head. He really didn't want to hear the moment Stiles-- but with a strangled groan Stiles' movements stilled and he could smell the boy's release, could heart in the soft contented sighs, and the schlick of a kleenex being tugged out of a tissue box.

 

Derek closed his eyes and tried to sleep.

 

 

~~~~*~~~~*~~~~*~~~~*~~~~

 

Stiles turned when he heard the shuffle of footsteps behind him. The spatula he was holding dripped pancake batter onto the hardwood floor in front of the stove.

 

"Are you allergic to cotton?" Stiles scoffed, when he saw Derek standing there clad in nothing but a pair of jeans slung low on his hips. Derek grunted in response and ran a hand through his messy hair. Derek Hale with bed head, Stiles thought, pondering the mystery that was his life.

 

"Coffee?" Derek asked and Stiles gestured to the pot already brewed on the counter. "Strong?" Derek asked as he poured himself a mug and sipped it, black.

 

"Worthy of an Alpha," Stiles teased and Derek sipped silently behind him.

 

"Do you like bacon?" Stiles asked, tugging the oven door open and checking on its progress.

 

"I don't trust people that don't like bacon," Derek said, sounding serious. He pulled out a stool at breakfast bar and collapsed into it. Stiles laughed and turned to flip the pancakes in the frying pan.

 

"Little by little I feel the icy wall between us melting," Stiles joked, and Derek raised a brow but didn't offer a comment. "Here!" Stiles said a minute later, scooping out the pancakes and depositing them onto a plate. He slid them across the counter to Derek proudly.

 

"The fuck is that?" Derek asked, staring down at the pancakes in front of him.

 

"It was supposed to be a wolf but it turned out more like amorphous blob," Stiles explained, a little dejectedly. "Do I at least get an A for effort?"

 

Derek gave him a look. "You can have a 'G', for get me some bacon," Derek offered.

 

"You're really pushy for a guy eating pancakes you know that," Stiles griped, but he turned around to grab the bacon from the oven anyway.

 

"It's part of my natural charm," Derek told him, pouring a generous amount of maple syrup onto his pancakes.

 

"Yeah! Okay," Stiles huffed, amused, scooping several slices of crispy bacon onto Derek's plate before cooking more pancakes for himself. When Derek finished his own, Stiles moved to make more but Derek shook his head and pushed him back down onto his stool.

 

"I know how to make pancakes, Stiles," he said. Stiles shrugged and watched him heat up the frying pan.

 

"This is a wolf," Derek said, pouring the batter carefully into the pan. Stiles moved closer to watch, batter filling out slightly but retaining what was undeniably the silhouette of a wolf head.

 

"Of course you're even good at this," Stiles huffed in frustration, and he dropped his head to Derek's bare shoulder. Derek tensed slightly beneath him but didn't push him away.

 

"You shouldn't exist," Stiles moaned, picking his head up, face contorted into a look of devastation that was only slightly feigned.

 

"Why?" Derek asked, not looking at him.

 

"Because!" Stiles shouted, sitting back down and gesticulating wildly, nearly knocking over his own coffee mug. "You're a hot nerdy werewolf! I don't know whether to slay you or give you your own sitcom." Derek elected to ignore him, flipping over his pancake, which was just as well. Derek was quiet when he sat back down at the counter.

 

"I feel like I said something wrong," Stiles said, voice breaking the silence.

 

"You didn't." Derek reassured, but he wasn't looking at him. Stiles' sighed and shrugged half-heartedly. The quiet that descended was a little awkward. Stiles fingered the salt shaker on the table and asked, "Did you sleep okay?" He grabbed a strip of bacon and shoved it onto his mouth in one go.

 

"Yeah," Derek replied, watching Stiles trying to work the bacon into his mouth. "You have a big mouth," Derek observed, his left eyebrow raised slightly higher than his right, but he was looking down at his bacon, a small slip of which he broke off and chewed quietly.

 

"Yeah, but at least I'm not loud," Stiles reasoned, he coughed slightly, which was true. He could be, when he wanted, it just wasn't actually all that often. Derek looked at him then, and his face scrunched up when he said, "oh, you're loud enough." Stiles was about to scoff when he noticed the smirk, suspicious. There was no trace of irritation in Derek's voice, it was more amused...teasing, even suggestive.

 

Stiles narrowed his eyes, and pondered the look.

 

"You heard me jerk off," he said, with a resolute nod. It wasn't a question and Derek definitely looked amused now.

 

"Yeah," he nodded, grinning. Stiles' mouth turned down in an exaggerated frown and he shrugged.

 

"How was it?" Derek asked, like he was speaking of the pancakes.

 

"It?" Stiles laughed. "So you only caught round one?" Derek's hand reached toward his face as he shook his head. "I'm seventeen!" Stiles shouted. "Almost. What do you expect?" Stiles asked, scowling at Derek good naturedly.

 

"Self-control?" Derek asked, but it lacked any real bite. Stiles 'pssshed' him with a wave of a sticky syrup coated hand.

 

"I lack self-control."

 

"You also lack shame," Derek pointed out, scraping his fork across his empty plate. "It's really, really, true," Stiles nodded, finishing off the last of the bacon and licking at his fingers.

 

Derek huffed a quiet laugh and dropped his elbows against the countertop, fingers playing with the edge of the placemat beneath his plate and watching him. People tended to watch Stiles' table manners like they couldn't believe he was raised in civilization, but Derek wasn't regarding him with the disgust he'd expect. He looked lost in contemplation.

 

"More coffee?" Stiles asked, snapping his spit soaked fingers in front of Derek's face. There was the scowl.

 

"No, I'm good." Stiles shrugged indifferently and stood to clean, dumping the last of the pancake mix down the sink before starting the dishes. Derek grabbed a dishtowel and offered to dry. Stiles flushed a bit when he remembered standing there the night before, the clump of mistletoe dying in the trashcan in front of them. Derek didn't comment on the increase of Stiles' pulse, just swiped the cloth across the wet dishes before placing them in the drying rack.

 

"My dad'll be home in a few hours," Stiles noted, glancing at the digital clock on the stove.

 

"I should probably go," Derek remarked, draping the towel over the handle on the oven door. Stiles shrugged and tried to hide the disappointment. It wasn't a feeling he was used to at Derek's departures, there was usually inner fist pumping and cries of joy.

 

"You don't have to," Stiles told him, "not yet anyway...if you wanted to hang out." Derek looked at him, intently, and it made Stiles flush and glance away.

 

"I should go," Derek reiterated, his hands shoved into the pockets of his jeans. He still wasn't wearing a shirt.

 

"Did you want to get dressed?" Stiles asked, "cos my neighbors are kind of old and Mrs. Mills next door might have a heart attack of you walked out like that," Stiles teased. "Also it's pretty cold and the nipple situation could get dicey," he gestured to Derek's bare chest. Derek rolled his eyes, "I'll get dressed."

 

"That'd be best," Stiles laughed, watching Derek take the stairs two at a time, his quiet footsteps fading down the hall upstairs.

 

It was awkward again, at the door, Stiles leaning against the open door frame, the cold biting at his bare toes, peaking out from the edges of his flannel pajama bottoms. Derek was looking at him like he wanted to say something, but before he had the chance Stiles opened his mouth.

 

"Thanks," he said, quiet and sincere. Derek gave him a questioning raise of his brows and Stiles smiled, picking at the peeling paint at the edge of the door frame. "I had a good time," he offered.

 

"You sound surprised," Derek observed, Stiles shrugged.

 

"I am."

 

"Me too," Derek nodded, shoving his hands into his jacket pockets. He was standing kind of tensed.

 

"About which?" Stiles asked. "Having a good time or being surprised?" Derek shrugged, but his lip twitched and he said, "both?" Then he was turning around and walking down the front porch to the Camaro.

 

 

~~~~*~~~~*~~~~*~~~~*~~~~

 

Stiles didn't see Derek again until a week later, not that he ever had much reason to, ordinarily. There hadn't been any supernatural mysteries plaguing the town for several months, and there wasn't even a pack to gather, anymore. Not really. There was, however, the feeling nagging at Stiles, this thread of tension coursing through him like a live wire that said he missed Derek.

 

When Scott returned from his father's shortly before New Years and asked Stiles' about his Christmas, apologizing again for ditching him, Stiles lied. He started to tell the truth, or some of it anyway, not exactly planning on divulging this new thing he wasn’t even sure about yet. But he shrugged nonchalantly and said he had a quiet Christmas, video games and a Lord of the Rings marathon.

 

It wasn't even a lie.

 

He just simply omitted the part where he flirted openly with Derek Hale, nearly kissed him under the mistletoe, and fellated one of his fingers. Whatever.

 

Two days before the new year and Stiles mustered up the resolve to go find the Alpha, nervous energy making his fingertips twitch against his steering wheel, Aderall having next to no effect on his inability to think of anything other than Derek.

 

Stiles parked his car outside the empty train depot and made his way inside; he stumbled over discarded trash and the pell-mell of old boxes and broken metal parts. There was an old office he knew Derek slept in, and he wondered if his staying here, even after everything had calmed down was some born of some kind of sentimental attachment. Before Christmas, Stiles wouldn't have pegged Derek as the type, but he wasn't sure anymore, about anything. It twisted his stomach into knots, and he wondered if Derek could hear the beat of his heart as it pounded in his chest.

 

He reached a hand to knock on the closed door but it opened before he had a chance to make contact.

 

"Stiles," Derek didn't sound overly surprised, though he did look suspicious. He glanced around like he was expecting others, though he must have been able to sense that Stiles was alone. When Derek's tensed shoulders relaxed, so did Stiles, and he could feel the way his heart rate slowed, and he smiled, honest and real. Derek looked at him with obvious confusion.

 

"So, Lydia is having her annual New Years Eve party, even though Jackson is..." Stiles didn't finish the thought, still a sore subject for everybody involved in it. Derek looked at him with even more bewilderment.

 

"What?"

 

"Lydia? Reigning in 2012? A gathering of people?" Stiles snarked, and Derek rolled his eyes.

 

"Yeah, I got that, thanks," Derek sighed, annoyed. "Why are you telling me?"

 

"Because I want you to go." Derek's eyes widened and Stiles suppressed the smirk that threatened.

 

"What?" He asked, kind of shocked. "Why?" He sounded suspicious. Stiles shrugged and shoved his hands into the pockets of his jeans.

 

"Because I want to kiss you when the ball drops," Stiles said, voice even and firm, there's none of the wavering that betrayed his usual nerves where Lydia was concerned, and Stiles wasn't entirely certain what he could deduce about that. He ignored it in favor of watching Derek's face, flashing several emotions Stiles can't pinpoint. He opened his mouth to respond and Stiles waves a finger in his face.

 

"And fyi I have about 50 dog jokes for every puberty one, so..." Stiles threatened. Derek's mouth twitched up, but he was obviously trying not to emote. Stiles didn't have the super human senses to gage his reaction to this confession. Stiles swallowed heavily after a long stretch of silence.

 

"Okay, so yeah..." Stiles laughed, nervous now. "Well, I gotta go, I just...that was me. Telling you how I feel, what I want," Stiles offered. "Which is you," he clarified. Derek just stared at him.

 

"I don't," Stiles sighed in frustration, and rubbed at the back of his head, hair getting longer now. "You don't have to feel obligated to...reciprocate or whatever," Stiles tried. "I wanted you to know, so if I see you there then, yeah, and if I don't?" Stiles said, catching Derek's gaze, "no harm no foul, okay?" And he meant it, even if it wasn't the most favorable outcome to this, because Derek wasn't exactly forthcoming in the emotional department and Stiles didn't want to push because...well he actually liked Derek and he didn't know how to even begin to process that information.

 

"I'm gonna go." Before Derek could respond Stiles turned and walked back out to his jeep.

 

----*----*----*----*----

 

Stiles made every effort not to turn it into a big deal, not to consider everything with the weight of the world the way he had with Lydia. How everything with her seemed so much bigger than himself, because he knew now, nothing could ever compare to the fantasy you build in your head.

 

But he still couldn't calm his fretting nerves, or stand still, or do anything other than wander around the party like he expected Derek to be lurking in every dark corner. He danced with three people and he got buzzed on cheap wine coolers and he hid in the bathroom for fifteen minutes a half an hour before midnight and tried not to jump out of his skin.

 

Ten minutes to go and Stiles made his way out onto the front porch, which was blissfully void of drunk teenagers. He sat down on the steps and stared up at the stars over the treetops and the half moon casting shadows of the trees across the perfectly manicured front lawn of the Martin household. It was cold, and Stiles pulled his blazer around himself tighter, the denim of his jeans holding in the chill.

 

"Hey," Stiles jumped and whipped around, but it was only Scott and Allison, coming back from around the side of the house. Stiles didn't question what they were doing, but Scott had leaves clinging to him in unlikely places.

 

"Waiting for someone?" Allison asked, and Stiles shrugged. "I think Lydia--" she started, but Stiles huffed out a laugh and shook his head and Allison let the sentence die.

 

"It's not quite time yet," Scott offered, but he was fixing him with a curious and slightly despondent expression. He hadn't told Scott about Derek for obvious reasons, but Scott wasn't stupid. Stiles waved them away with a placating grin.

 

"I'm just gonna wait here," Stiles said, avoiding eye contact and staring at a grass stain on his sneaker.

 

"We could wait with you?" Allison offered, but Stiles shook his head.

 

"Don't want to miss the ball drop," Stiles said and Allison shook her head and looked at Scott with an expression of nonchalance that was fooling no one.

 

"We're not!" She started, laughing too loudly. Stiles raised a brow and gestured to the fact that Scott's shirt tail was zipped into his jeans. Allison gave it an exasperated look and headed for the front door. Scott grinned enthusiastically and righted himself before trailing after her.

 

Stiles laughed fondly, but it faded into a sardonic self-pitying sort of sigh that he let die out. The minutes dragged on too slowly and too fast all at once and soon he could hear the excited shouts of the entire party counting down. At the final uproar Stiles sighed heavily and pushed himself to his feet. He contemplated waiting for Scott, or sitting there on the stoop and pretending like Derek was just late. But the feeling crushing at his insides right now wasn't putting him in a particularly spirited mood. He jammed his hands into the pockets of his jeans and pulled out his car keys, wanting nothing more than to crawl into bed and pretend like 2012 was going to be any less of a disappointment.

 

 

                                                                                                                                                                                                ----*----*----*----

 

It wasn't so much that Stiles hadn't been expecting the bitter disappointment, but there had been a rather large part of him that had really thought, that this time it was going to be different. He had always known his crush on Lydia was a hopeless cause, even more so than his crush on Danny had been, but he had never even had a chance to crush on Derek.

 

It was like Stiles bypassed school boy fantasy and gone right from mutual apathy to holy shit feelings. He had always known he was attracted to Derek, anyone within a fifty foot radius was attracted to Derek, his father had even commented about it once, but Stiles would prefer not to think about that, to be honest.

 

Stiles was practiced at the art of rejection, but this time it hurt a bit different than the others. He had been so convinced that Derek would show, but then it was three days later and he hadn't so much as heard a peep from the Alpha, he couldn't tell Scott what was making him so morose, and even Isaac had started to look at him like he felt kind of bad for him, which no.

 

Beacon Hills had three gas stations, two at the center of town and one in pretty much the middle of nowhere. Stiles had avoided the middle of nowhere for the past year, but he was in serious danger of stalling on the side of the road, and it was only late noon in the middle of the week, so he figured it would be pretty safe from bumping into the supernatural.

 

It still wasn't a surprise when he pulled into the station behind the sleek black of Derek's Camaro. He contemplated pulling out and taking off but it would have been pretty obvious he was trying to avoid Derek, and he wanted to be the bigger person here. Stiles hadn't been lying when he'd told Derek 'no harm no foul', and really, he always sort of been expecting the rejection, it had been a lot kinder than some he had received in the past.

 

It was still awkward as fuck getting out of the jeep, and Derek looked at him for a long moment, his mouth opening like he wanted to say something and then just nodding at him before sliding back into the car and pulling away. Stiles scowled as the Camaro disappeared down the road, and he filled the tank irritably and pouted all the way back into town.

 

He'd gotten nothing more than a head nod. The basic acknowledge one's existence you could provide. The tethers of this newfound affection felt like roots that hadn't quite taken hold, but maybe they went deeper than Stiles realized. He couldn't shake the look on Derek's face when he'd leaned in beneath the mistletoe.

 

He tried to pretend like everything was status quo.

 

----*----*----*----*----

 

"I was surprised to see your car in the drive when I got home on News Years day," his dad greeted, as Stiles collapsed into a chair at the dining room table. It was almost a week after Lydia's New Year’s party but it was the first time he and his father had really occupied the same time and space. He'd missed his dad, but he wasn't ready for probing questions, he was a shit liar.

 

"Yeah," Stiles shrugged, before yawning loudly and pushing away from the table to grab a cup of coffee and much needed caffeine. His dad was giving him is speculative parent look and Stiles turned away and busied himself getting the cream.

 

"Didn't get that midnight kiss you were hoping for?" He asked, and his tone was light but the teasing too forced. It was his Sheriff-Dad voice.

 

"Something like that," Stiles shrugged, sipping at the steaming coffee.

 

"Sorry, son," he offered, sincerely, folding up his newspaper and looking at Stiles hard."Want to talk about it?"

 

"Not even remotely," Stiles nodded, with a sarcastic smile.

 

"Lydia?" His father said anyway, ignoring the pointed look Stiles gave him. Stiles huffed a sardonic laugh and shook his head.

 

"Ship has sailed. Into the west, far away, to spend the remainder of eternity with the Elves." Stiles sat back down at the table and snagged a muffin out of the basket beside the sports section. His dad watched him over the rim of his reading glasses, Stiles ignored this in favor of shoving half the blueberry muffin into his mouth.

 

"Was it the someone you spent Christmas Eve with?" Stiles for his part, didn't actually entirely choke on the baked good, but it came pretty close, "Oh yeah, was really hoping to snog Scott, looking forward to it all year." His father just raised a brow and stared him down.

 

"I know you didn't spend Christmas with Scott," he said.

 

"How?" Stiles asked, not bothering to deny it further.

 

"Small town, and I spoke to Melissa a few days after Christmas," his father explained. Stiles shrugged.

 

"How do you know I didn't just spend it alone?" He asked, regretting it instantly. Derek's bitchface had nothing on his father's.

 

"Really, Stiles?" He asked. "Sheriff," he pointed to himself with both thumbs. Stiles rolled his eyes, hard.

 

"First, there was enough Chinese takeout to feed a small army. Second, two sets of dishes on the drying rack. The extra toothbrush in the hall bath was used, and the bed in the guest room had been remade, would you like me to continue?" Stiles huffed out a sigh.

 

"No." He shoved the rest of the muffin into his mouth to avoid talking, not that that usually tended to stop him.

 

"You want to tell me who?" The Sheriff's voice was lighter now, like he'd been dancing around this question for a week. Stiles shrugged but didn't say anything.

 

"Not really?" He sighed when his father didn't look satisfied. "Yeah, it's who I spent Christmas with but they...it obviously isn't a thing...so I don't," he sighed again and scratched the back of his head.

 

"You're avoiding pronouns."

 

"Jesus Dad! Can you just be clueless and unobservant like a normal parent for once?" Stiles huffed, but he wasn't really mad, not really, just vaguely irritated. His father gave him a commiserating look, which was only slightly hampered by his, "no."

 

Stiles rolled his eyes. "So, how was your new year’s?" He asked, changing the subject hastily. His dad huffed, but dropped it.

 

"It was pretty uneventful, actually. Couple of DUIs," he said. "One fender bender, but there was only property damage and a minor case of whiplash."

 

"Bummer," Stiles offered, getting up to grab a second cup of coffee.

 

"It was actually Derek Hale," the Sheriff replied, and he crinkled his newspaper as he folded it. Stiles nearly dropped the mug and he sloshed it across his hand as he turned quickly.

 

"Really?" Stiles asked, switching his mug to his left hand and shaking the hot coffee off of his right. "Bet he was pretty miffed. How's the Camaro?" Stiles asked, trying to sound only vaguely concerned.

 

"Yeah," the Sheriff replied, before waving a hand vaguely, "Camaro is fine. I felt kind of bad for him though," he admitted, looking back down at his newspaper. Stiles' face twisted into a look of surprise and confusion.

 

"He seemed to be in a hurry." Stiles' heart flipped and his stomach did a tickling flutter he could feel all the way to his toes.

 

"What do you mean?" He asked, as casually as he could muster.

 

"He kept trying to leave, didn't want to fill out the accident report. Don't blame him," his dad said. He was watching Stiles again.

 

"Oh?"

 

"Seemed like he had somewhere he wanted to be."

 

"Well, it was new year’s," Stiles said, but he was trying not to grin. His dad made a humming noise of assent and nodded his head, not looking up from the paper. Stiles tried to down the still piping coffee as fast he could.

 

"Hey, do you mind if I go out later?" Stiles asked.

 

"Where to?" His dad asked, looking up at him now over the rim of his reading glasses.

 

"I sort of ditched Scott at the party," Stiles admitted. "Promised to make it up to him, still haven't," Stiles lied. His dad sighed heavily.

 

"Be home before dark." Stiles grinned and dumped the rest of his coffee into the sink hurriedly, and booked it towards the stairs, his father calling for him to slow down as he flew through the upstairs hall.

 

When he made it back into the kitchen, his shoes tied hurriedly, jacket halfway on, jeans wrinkled and disheveled, his father was waiting for him. Stiles tried to ignore the obvious question in his look. But he guessed his father decided he really didn't want to know because he just watched as Stiles flipped his car keys in the air and pulled the front door open hastily.

 

When he made it to the train depot he bound in yelling for Derek, but was met instead with Isaac, who was reading a magazine with his feet propped up on an upended box. He was looking at Stiles knowingly, and said, "he's not here."

 

"I can see that," Stiles replied, fidgeting. "Where is he?" Isaac regarded him speculatively over the top of the magazine.

 

"Why do you want to know?" He asked, and Stiles could tell he was messing with him.

 

"Could you just tell me where he is?" Stiles gritted out, annoyed. Isaac smirked and lowered the magazine.

 

"He's in town."

 

Stiles spotted the Camaro after a hurried, impatient search, it was parked at the garage. Stiles hated that place before he was forced to helplessly witness a brutal murder, so he wasn't exactly thrilled with the choice of location. He turned the key in the ignition and beat a drum solo against his steering wheel trying to psych himself up, because now that he was here he realized he bypassed the part where he figured out what to say, how to confront him.

 

He figured it would be pretty awkward to burst into the garage and shout "I know you wanted to snog me!" But he didn't have any other words, so he pushed the door open and slammed it shut, twirling his keys nervously in fingers he willed to stop shaking. He pushed open the door to the front office of the garage. It was empty save for Jimmy the owner, who was way nicer to him than the dude that snuffed it, so he was pretty thankful for that, and...Derek. Derek clad in his stupid jacket, the one that wasn't leather, that fit snug around his shoulders, and stretched really nice around the chest.

 

Derek turned around when Stiles stepped in, and his eyebrows shot up his forehead, his mouth opening, hands stuffing themselves almost nervously into the pockets of his jacket. He looked surprised, and guilty. Good. Then Stiles noticed the part lying on the counter between Derek and Jimmy and his brows drew together in confusion.

 

"Wait..." he said, pointing at it, forgetting to be mad at Derek, Derek looked at it a bit sheepishly, like a kid getting caught peeking at his Christmas presents. "Is that the part I need for my jeep?" Derek shrugged, but Jimmy nodded.

 

"If you give me your keys, I can install it now?" He asked, looking back and forth between Derek and Stiles. Stiles gaped at both of them. Derek nodded to Stiles before shrugging his shoulders.

 

"I could do it myself but...maybe we should...talk?" He looked like every word was a physical struggle, like he'd rather face a horde of angry kanimas than actually do anything of the sort. Stiles nodded though, tossed his keys to Jimmy without taking his eyes off Derek.

 

"Yeah, maybe we should."

 

 

----*----*----*----*----

 

"You hungry?" Derek asked, once outside the garage, cold stinging at the tips of his fingers and ears. He avoided looking at Stiles, staring instead down the road towards the center of town. When he glanced over, Stiles was watching him, a look of confliction across his face, mouth parted in an angry sort of scowl. His stomach writhed uncomfortably under his gaze.

 

"I could eat," Stiles said, finally, shrugging, but his voice missed playful and settled instead on somewhere somber and slightly forlorn. The drive to the small cafe just next door to the old bookstore Stiles' mother owned, was stilted and awkward, and too long and quiet. Stiles was picking at a hole in the knee of his jeans and not looking at him.

 

When they settled into a small table in a private corner of the small restaurant Stiles finally looked up at him. "Why'd you buy me that?" He asked. Derek shrugged, but Stiles didn't look even remotely satisfied by that answer.

 

"Isn't that the domestic compromise?" He asked, dejectedly. "The one who acts like an ass buys the other a gift?" Not that Derek would know, really, his relationships were marked less in a halmark traditions than supernatural lore.

 

"So it was a bribe?" Stiles asked, tone annoyed.

 

"It was an apology," Derek said, leaning on his elbows on the small table, it wobbled beneath his weight.

 

"For what?" Stiles asked, but Derek knew that Stiles was acutely aware of what.

 

"You know for what," Derek said, watching him. Stiles leaned forward then too, and they were close, close enough that Derek could see himself reflected in Stiles' eyes, wide and full of challenge.

 

"Maybe I'm slow," Stiles shrugged. Derek shook his head.

 

"You aren't."

 

"Maybe, I need you to say it," Stiles suggested. Derek tilted his head and watched Stiles' lips part, the way his tongue darted out to lick over his bottom lip. Stiles' eyes drifted down to Derek's own mouth as his lips turned up in a smirk he couldn't quite repress. Derek reached his hand up to trace his fingertips across the smooth skin of Stiles' jaw. Stiles didn't move, Derek suspected maybe wasn't even breathing, like Derek was a skittish animal. Maybe he was, he didn't really blame Stiles for that. He cupped Stiles' chin gently and ran the pad of his thumb across Stiles' lower lip and moved an inch forward and,

 

"Should I come back?" Stiles jumped and pulled away, Derek remained where he was but turned his head slightly to regard the waitress standing over their table, she was blushing.

 

They ordered pizza, argued for a minute over their choice of toppings before settling on pepperoni. They ate in silence, licking grease from their fingertips and watching each other as though waiting for some kind of confirmation that never really came. Stiles paid, snatched his jaw irritably at Derek's hand when he reached for the check and Derek smirked fondly at him when he pulled out a batman wallet.

 

"Don't make fun," he said, narrowing his eyes at Derek, misinterpreting his smile. Derek held up his hands in mock defeat.

 

"Wouldn't dream of it," he countered. When they stepped outside and headed back towards the Camaro it got awkward again and Stiles hunched in on himself, hands shoved deep into his pockets, his collar is crooked and Derek wanted to fix it, but didn’t.

 

"We should pick up your jeep," Derek said, jiggling his keys in his hands but not moving to unlock the car.

 

"We haven't really talked," Stiles pointed out.

 

"I guess not," Derek agreed, leaning against the hood of the car. Stiles moved to join him.

 

"Do you want to be with me?" Stiles asked suddenly, and wow, okay, didn't pull any punches there. Derek said nothing for a moment, and Stiles waited patiently beside him.

 

"It's complicated," Derek said, finally. Stiles pushed himself up off the car and paced, before turning to stand in front of Derek; he was taller than Derek really realized sometimes, looming over him, shadow falling across the Camaro and blocking out the sun.

 

"It really isn't," he said, finally. "It's kind of a yes or no question, you could even grunt a response," Stiles said, voice edged with irritation and something that felt like desperation.

 

"I-" But Derek didn't know how to say what he felt. "I wanted to be there," he admitted, but he suspected Stiles already knew that.

 

"I know," Stiles confirmed. "You were cutting it pretty close," Stiles said.

 

"I couldn't decide what to do," Derek confessed but Stiles was shaking his head.

 

"No. You know what you wanted to do you just wanted to wait until the last possible second because it would have made it easier to blame the universe when it all fell apart." Derek looked up, but he couldn't see Stiles properly haloed in light from the harsh winter sun. It rang too much the truth and Derek decided he didn't really want to see Stiles' face anyway, the disappointment in it.

 

He shrugged. "Yeah, I guess." Stiles collapsed back against the hood of the car next to him.

 

"Do you want to be with me?" He asked again, Derek turned to look at him and they held each other's gazes for a long time.

 

"Still complicated," Derek sighed, voice lighter now, teasing edge to it that wasn't there before. Stiles rolled his eyes.

 

"Yeah, but you want to, right?" He asked.

 

"You can't just ignore things because they're inconvenient," Derek gritted out.

 

"Why not? Why can't we, just like...this once. Why does everything with you have to be so complicated, why can't you just give yourself this one thing?" Stiles asked, he sounded sad and Derek wanted to reach out and pull him closer, but he didn't.

 

"That one thing being you?" He asked.

 

"I am great," Stiles told him, smirk tugging at the corner of his mouth. Derek rolled his eyes. "Contrary to popular belief," Stiles sighed, a bit dejectedly and it sounded too sincere to be a joke.

 

"Don't do that," Derek huffed, annoyed.

 

"What?" Stiles asked, looking up at him. Derek looked out at the parking lot.

 

"Sell yourself short." When he glanced over Stiles was looking at him kind of doe eyed, it made Derek feel hot.

 

"You like me," Stiles said, he sounded kind of awed.

 

"I maybe don't hate you," Derek told him, but Stiles was shaking his head.

 

"No, you definitely like me. Like there's actual positive emotion, actual emotion emotion," Stiles nodded, seriously. Derek huffed resolutely, making up his mind and he pushed himself closer, sliding across the hood of his car, until his thigh was pressed against Stiles'. He put an arm behind Stiles then, braced his hand across the cold metal of the Camaro and leaned forward. Stiles was smiling at him, eyes bright with anticipation, his pulse rocketing, heart thumping. Derek leaned in, fingers once again finding the edge of Stiles' jaw, tilting his head as Derek pressed himself closer. He closed his eyes at the last possible second, when Stiles went out of focus, too close, he cradled Stiles' head with a broad palm and kissed him. 

 

They made out like that, right there in the parking lot in the center of town on a busy afternoon. Stiles' hand came up to cradle Derek's face as he switched the angle, trying to get closer. When Stiles practically crawled into his lap, Derek broke away, panting. "Stiles," he tried, voice rough and wrecked. Stiles was staring at him with a wide grin, lips swollen and red.

 

"Wait, I didn't get to use tongue," Stiles huffed, disappointed, trying to pull Derek back in.

 

"Not here," he shook his head, failing to hide the grin.

 

"My dad's home," Stiles sighed. "And I'm not losing my virginity in a train depot."

 

"Whoa whoa whoa whoa," Derek started, backing away now, staring at Stiles wide eyed. "No one is losing any kind of virginity."

 

"Never?" Stiles asked. "Seems like a pretty good way for the species to die out."

 

"Stiles," Derek gaped.

 

"I was kidding!" Stiles cried. "Well, sort of." Derek shook his head again, and ran a hand through his hair. "Can we at least make out in the backseat?" Derek considered this, and he glanced to the back of the Camaro and then to Stiles. He'd be lying if he hadn't pictured the logistics of this before. "You totally want to make out in the backseat." Derek huffed, indignantly. He was twenty-four.

 

"Fine, but we're parking somewhere else, get in," he sighed, relenting. He could still taste the parmesan cheese Stiles had sprinkled on his pizza, and he smelled like soap and hand cream and nature. Stiles slid ungracefully off the hood and into the passenger’s seat.

 

"There's a cul-de-sac off Pinewood," Stiles nodded, pointing in the direction of the quiet side road. Derek gave him a look. "I got to second base with this girl in my econ class there once," Stiles said. Derek tried not to glower at the image, he failed, he could tell by Stiles' pleased grin it was not lost on him either. He knew this was a terrible idea but Stiles was already flailing over the console and into the back seat, and Derek didn’t want to keep him waiting. He pulled his own seat forward like an actual adult before climbing into the back seat to fool around with an underage teenager. The road was deserted, and woods lined each side of the small circle, the closest houses hidden over the crest of a small hill.

 

Stiles crowded Derek up against the door and climbed into his lap, fitting them together awkwardly in the cramped back seat. Derek held him steady at the hip and shoulder as Stiles leaned forward, pressing his lips once more to Derek's. Derek let his mouth fall open at the persistence of Stiles' tongue, and he wasted no time in licking at Derek's tongue.

 

It was hot and messy, and Derek could feel Stiles' cock hardening in his jeans as he rutted softly against him. He groaned, pulled away to get in a quick breath, pushing at Stiles' hips and forcing him down harder against his lap, his dick swelling, twitching in his too tight jeans. Derek struggled to turn them over, managed it with a careful flip, cradling Stiles' head.

 

"Fuck," Stiles huffed, staring up at him, wide eyed, pupils blown, mouth red and spit-slicked. Derek shifted until he could reach a hand between them, fingering over the waistband of Stiles' jeans. Stiles was watching the careful, toying movements.

 

"Is this okay?" Derek asked. Stiles nodded with enthusiasm and he whispered, rough, "please." Derek cupped him through his jeans, and Stiles' back arched up off the seat, thrusting into the warm, heavy weight of Derek's palm. Derek tugged Stiles' jeans open, and pushed them down awkwardly in the cramped space, until they were tucked beneath Stiles’ balls.

 

Stiles was flushed, he smelled like arousal and embarrassment, and he looked up at Derek shyly. Derek kissed him, before he wrapped a hand around Stiles' cock. Stiles let his mouth fall away, opening on a soft moan as Derek jerked him off in hard, even strokes. He brought his palm up then to his mouth and slicked his hand up with his own spit before jerking him off once more. Stiles' back arched, his hips thrust up to meet Derek's hand while his arms draped over Derek's back, clutching at his neck, mouth seeking Derek's. They kissed with frenzied passion as Derek squeezed and twisted at Stiles' cock. Stiles let out a low rumbling moan and came over Derek's hand, and messy against his own stomach, where Derek had pushed at his t-shirt.

 

"Oh my God," Stiles sighed, sated and content, as Derek tugged at his slowly spent cock. They kissed for a long time, Stiles palming Derek through his jeans, squeezing at his cock, but he didn't do more than grope him with careful interest.

 

"Should I?" He asked quietly, peering up at the underside of Derek's jaw. Derek pulled back and shook his head, "next time."

 

"I should get you home," Derek told him instead, pulling away finally, and helping Stiles tuck himself back into his jeans. "We still need to pick up your jeep." But Stiles moved reluctantly, and he collapsed back onto Derek's lap, held his face in his slender hands and kissed him more, until Derek started to harden once again in his jeans.

 

"This is so..." Stiles started, pulling away, huffing warm breath across Derek's open mouth, "weird." He finished. Derek quirked a brow, hands stuttering over Stiles' denim clad thighs where they draped on either side of him. "Us, I mean." He said sheepishly. Derek didn't know what to say, so he kissed him instead.

 

"We should go," Derek said finally, pulling back, his lips numb. Stiles looked unconvinced, and he slid his hand down between their bodies and cupped Derek once more through his jeans. Derek watched Stiles' face as he did it, lips parted, brow furrowed in concentration as his hand grew firmer, more confident. Derek's fingers clamped tight against Stiles' waist as he pressed a palm hard against his straining erection, squeezing at the head of his dick, groping at his balls, pushing his hand further between his legs to press the tips of his fingers just behind his balls.

 

"Stiles," his moan was soft, breathy, and he let his eyes slipped closed when he felt his orgasm tightening at the muscles in his abdomen, and then he was coming messy into his boxer briefs and jeans.

 

"Whoa," Stiles sighed, smiling smugly. Derek pulled him in for another bruising kiss. "Yeah, we should go," Stiles agreed, and Derek laughed, panting into the crook of his neck.