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It's A Christmas Thing

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-1

Christmas is Stiles’s thing.  There’re a million things to do, a thousand things to bake, a hundred presents to contemplate and buy and eventually get wrapped.  Christmas is knowing people and making people smile and laugh, and Stiles had always been really good at that.  Things hadn’t been the same for a long time after his mother died, because Christmas used be her thing, and the first couple years it was too painful to pull out the decorations and go through the motions.  There was more whisky than eggnog, more tears than smiles before Stiles sucked in a breath and marched his gangly, twelve-year-old self up to the attic and dragged out the decorations, determined to get at least one thing in his life back on track.

So yeah, Christmas wasn’t just his thing, it was his thing.

And this year, with the pack together and functioning {mostly} smoothly, Stiles was determined to make it a good one.

He started with the lights.  Strings and strings of them in white and green and gold until the remodelled Hale House glowed like a beacon in the forest.  He bullied Scott into helping {okay, he made Scott hold everything, and Allison stood next to him to make sure nothing was tangled because Scott tangled Christmas lights faster than a pocket tangled headphones}, and by the time Derek rolled up in his Camaro as the sun ducked behind the horizon, the place was bedazzled.

The alpha surveyed the house with an unreadable expression.  “What,” he said, with that special tone of zero inflection he’d perfected over two years of knowing Stiles.

Stiles pointed a finger at him, already edging toward his Jeep.  “This is just the beginning.  Don’t you dare touch anything.”  With that, he carefully didn’t flee the scene of the crime.  It was a sound tactical retreat, and he was sticking to it.

He showed back up the next day, bright and early because he knew the pack was going to be off all day dealing with border issues over by the state line.  Not that he was afraid of Derek Hale and what said alpha had to say about the Christmasification.  Hell no.  {Okay, maybe a little.}  He wanted it to be a surprise, that’s all.  Besides.  Christmas was coming up in a couple weeks, the house was newly remodelled and pristine, and Derek seemed completely oblivious to the approaching holiday. It would be kind of a shame if the place didn’t get all spruced up.  That was what he told himself, anyway, because the thought of Derek Hale grumping his way through Christmas was just too pathetic to bear thinking about.

So, in addition to the lights, he hung a wreath on the front door and red bows on the sills of the windows.  He’d smuggled some of the older Christmas decorations out of his own house {his dad was busier than ever, there was no way he’d miss any of it}; these, he arranged in the living room and the kitchen, because they were the rooms most utilized by the pack.  Little Santa candles made a centrepiece on the kitchen table, back to back around a pair of long, tapered white candles.  The fireplace mantle got the same treatment: flowing white cloth, Santa candles and tiny, handmade pine trees.  He’d even found baby stockings at the craft store with names embroidered on them; these went up too, all in a row: Jackson, Lydia, Boyd, Isaac, Scott, and Erica, with Derek’s {“aka Sourwolf” written beneath in Sharpie} in the middle.

The banisters on the front stairs were spiralled with long strips of green and gold tinsel, ornaments dangling from the loops and catching the glow from more lights strung around the foyer.  No Christmas tree yet, but he’d already found presents for some of the pack, and he stuck them under the table to the left of the stairs where Derek had a habit of dumping everything he brought into the house. And by ‘everything’, Stiles meant everything: bills, keys, a lucky rabbit’s foot confiscated from a witch, some bones that Stiles really, really hoped weren’t anything close to human... and that was the more mundane stuff.  Finally, he pulled out the piece de resistance: a motion-activated stuffed Santa in a rocking chair that rocked and sang ‘Jingle Bell Rock’ in cheerfully demonic tones whenever anyone walked by.  It had terrified Stiles all through his childhood, with the too-wide eyes and the scratchy music.  At least here he might be able to get a laugh out of it.  It went on the end table in the living room.

This done, he retreated into the kitchen and commenced the first wave of Christmas baking with a vengeance.  He wondered how the pack was getting along out on the border, and fought down the urge to text Scott to make sure the idiot was okay.  Allison had left for Christmas in Hawaii with her parents that morning, and Scott had this tendency to not think about little things like people shooting at his head when she was more than fifty yards away from him.  

And okay, if pressed, he’d admit that he was trying not to text any of them, because his cell phone hadn’t gone off in hours, and it was entirely possible they were all bleeding out in a ditch somewhere.  Or out for pizza because they hadn’t remembered that, hey, regular human here, wanting to know if you guys are alive or...?  He didn’t resent being left out of pack business {that was a dirty lie; it pissed him off and with good reason}, but he had no illusions that if things got hairy out there, he wouldn’t be too much help beyond being a tasty-looking distraction.   

But still.  He may not have been a werewolf, and thus not privy to the weird wolf connection that way, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t pack.  Lately though, lately he’d noticed something weird.

The pack touched each other.  Like, all the time.  Hands on elbows and knees, arms draped across shoulders, wrestling in the foyer and leaning on each other constantly.  At first he’d thought it was just a wolf thing, something extra in that weird gene that let them leap over school buses like it was nothing.  But Lydia did it too, and the only thing wolf-like about her was her ability to make just about anyone roll over and do her bidding.  Even Allison was dragged into the pack piles, and she’d shot everyone at least once.  Meanwhile, Stiles was persona-non-grata.

He cracked an egg with a bit too much force.  He’d never liked being left out of things in general, but this stung more than he cared to admit.  He’d been in this whole damn mess longer than almost any of the rest of them and he was still here, even though he really only had one weapon and that was annoying people until they got so pissed they were unable to focus on anything else.  That counted for something, didn’t it?   And somehow, over the past couple of months, he found himself being excluded.

Which was fucking bullshit.

He almost got killed on a weekly basis but here he was anyway: researching on his own, breaking up testosterone build-ups between Jackson and almost everyone else… Even stitches for when someone got nailed by a silver knife and the wound just wasn’t closing.  Maybe he wasn’t pack, but he was still capable of rescuing their collective asses from a leprechaun gang {it was more harrowing than it sounded}.

Honestly, with all that shit, you’d think he’d at least get an update or some acknowledgement, or something.  He wasn’t just some background thing.  He was at least an object.

He was bent over the oven and the last batch of gingerbread wolves, contemplatingthe fact that he’d just bargained with himself for the right of being called an object and wondering if he’d finally crossed that fine line between genius and insanity, when the motion-activated Santa went off in the other room.  Almost instantly, there was a snarl that raised pretty much every hair on Stiles’s body, followed by a few other {less impressive} growls, and a resounding crash.

Stiles bolted out of the kitchen.  The entire pack was gathered in the foyer, frozen in a sort of odd tableau.  Half of them were furry.  Half of them looked about three seconds away from becoming furry.  All of them were staring into the living room.  Derek himself was crouched by the couch, in a full-on fighting stance.  His eyes were wide and flaring red, an expression on his face Stiles was delighted to call ‘shock’.  On the floor in front of him, straining through the chorus even with claw marks exposing the circuitry, was the Santa.

Jing-nl b-ll, jinnle bll, jin-r bll ck...

Derek’s left eye twitched.

Stiles cracked the fuck up.  Seven pairs of eyes focused on him.  “Best...” he wheezed, waving a hand at them, “best thing... best... oh fuck.”  It was all he could do to keep from dropping on his knees and just giggling until he couldn’t breathe anymore as he staggered back to the kitchen to rescue the gingerbread.

By the time he’d tossed the cookie sheet into the sink and grabbed a plate and his backpack, the fur and the fangs had disappeared.  So had the Santa, and good riddance.

“Stiles,” Derek said.

“Santa Claws,” Stiles shot back.  There was a snicker from someone and he readily ignored it because it was time to make an escape and another laughing fit wasn’t conducive to running for his life.  He’d tried it once, and had the scars to prove it.

One of Derek’s hands rose, fingers pinching at the bridge of his nose.  Another familiar gesture. “What are you doing?”

Stiles made an are-you-kidding-me gesture back at the kitchen, which smelled like a bakery even to his non-wolfy nose.  “Hello to you, too.  Good to see you haven’t been mauled by the pack next door.  Thanks for the heads up on everyone being alive, by the way, appreciate that.  It’s Christmas, so I have decked your halls and made you cookies, fa la la la la whatever.  Oh!” He pointed. “Watch out for the mistletoe.  That shit is a rule, and you all know it.”

Derek followed Stiles’s finger up to the mistletoe above him and let out a sound that was closer to a whimper than a growl.  Stiles shrugged and smiled, then booked it out the front door before anyone could decide to deck him.

He made it all the way to his Jeep, slung his backpack inside, and started the engine before Derek caught up with him, cheek marked with Erica’s distinctive red lipstick.  He must have passed by her and the mistletoe on the way out the door.  “Wait.”

And okay, Stiles might not have those super-special-snowflake wolf-senses, but he’s always known the best time to pick his fights.  Down went the driver’s side window, even though it was raining out and he was going to be soaked within the minute.  “Where’s your Christmas spirit?”

“Why?” Derek gestured at the house.  It looked pretty good, Stiles thought, taking in the full measure of his handiwork.  “Why did you bother?”

“It’s Christmas,” Stiles said, like that should have explained everything {and it did}.  “Why shouldn’t I bother, even for you idiots?”  He played with the ratted Beacon Hills High lanyard dangling from the ignition.  “It’s not like I’m any use otherwise, or like I can justify just hanging out with you people and your weird ‘touching habits’ because I’m not a part of anything.” Whoops, a little bitter there.  He rallied. “So why can’t I make cookies, or decorate, or force you all to watch A Charlie Brown Christmas and A Christmas Story?  And that’s totally happening by the way, you’re not going to get out of it because those movies are classic.”  He reached for the shift, put the Jeep in gear.  “Besides, you’re like the Grinch personified, god knows you wouldn’t even celebrate Christmas with everyone else, and that’s just sad.”

He disengaged the parking brake and took off down the road, leaving Derek behind in the rain with a thoughtful look on his face.  Werewolves, he thought, shaking his head.  Why is this even my life?

~*~
1

He showed up two days later out of sheer force of habit, and he was actually surprised when he wandered through the front door and found not a thing had been changed.  Not even the mistletoe.  Even as he watched, Scott and Lydia passed through the door and stopped in their tracks to give each other a dutiful peck.  “Stiles!” Scott said, his entire self brightening, and Stiles couldn’t help but smile because when Scott {for all his faults} was happy to see you, you knew it.  “What’s up?”

Stiles returned the fist bump and stripped out of his coat.  “Christmas Break is boring.  Thought I’d come see what you guys were doing.”  {He’d already finished all his homework, and there was only so much moping he could do before his dad threw him out of the house to go and cause trouble somewhere-- and no, not literally, Stiles, are you listening to me--?}

Scott steered him into the kitchen.  “Boring here too.  Derek hasn’t been doing anything but sulk.  He’s already run us through two practices today.”

“Two?”  He reached for the cookie jar and found it empty.  How could it possibly be empty, he’d made enough gingerwolves to feed an army... or seven werewolves for less than forty-eight hours.  He headed for the living room and the platter he knew would be on the coffee table. 

Scott followed, still bemoaning the Derek Hale Training Trials of Terror.  “He’s pissed about something.  What did you tell him anyway?  He came back in and dripped all over everything until Lydia made him go change.”

The image made him want to laugh, before he thought of anyone {even glowy-eyed alpha Derek} trying to argue with Lydia when she was on the rampage.  “I didn’t tell him anything. Not anything ‘two practice’-worthy, anyway.  Did you guys seriously eat all the cookies?”

“Make more?”

And because Stiles had built up a tolerance to Scott’s puppy-eyes since even before he became a literal puppy, he wasn’t swayed.  Until he found himself surrounded by everyone else, all tugging on his hoodie or nudging him in the small of his back, and all unleashing The Eyes on him.  And okay, that was just flat-out bizarre, because he couldn’t remember the last time he’d been in the middle of that many people who weren’t actively trying to kill him {his life, how}, and it was kind of nice, so he raised his hands and said, “Okay!  Okay, Jesus, but you’re coming with me to get the ingredients.”

There was a mad dash for the door, and Stiles found himself being swept along as six different people called out six different kinds of cookies.  He was one of the last people through the door, and as he headed from the living room to the foyer someone barred the way.  Before Stiles had time to remember the stupid mistletoe, a thin arm slung around his shoulders and Isaac dropped a kiss just above his temple.

He gaped. 

Isaac grinned, totally unapologetic.  “I want peanut butter cookies,” he said, eyes bright, “because I could have kissed you on the mouth and I didn’t.”

“Uh, okay?”

Isaac’s smile grew wider, and he loped out the front door, presumably to pile into the Jeep and become one extra person in the Seatbelt Fiasco that was undoubtedly boiling.

“Huh,” Stiles said, somewhat lost in the whirlwind of crazy werewolves and one kanima that liked to think it was a werewolf.  Turning, he caught sight of Derek at the top of the stairs.  The alpha was staring down at him with an unreadable expression on his face.  Confused and slightly intimidated {his natural state of being}, Stiles waved a hand.

“I want snickerdoodles,” Derek said, and disappeared.

“Huh,” Stiles said again.

~*~
2

The Hale house grew more festive by the day.  The rest of the pack had taken Stiles’s initiative to heart, and soon the place was a mishmash of pilfered Christmas decorations from everyone.  Dainty glass snowflakes appeared on thin golden string to hang in the doors.  Actual boughs of holly lined the porch.  Dishes with Frosty the Snowman and Rudolph appeared to help contain the massive amounts of cookies.  Two tiny Christmas trees appeared on either side of the front stairs, fiber-optic boughs flickering through different colours.   Candy canes were tucked into each tiny stocking.

Stiles watched it all with a sort of pleased bemusement.  He hadn’t expected everyone to jump in with quite the amount of enthusiasm that they had.  More baffling still was the damn mistletoe.  He’d put it up as a kind of joke, just to annoy people {because it was the goddamned golden rule of Christmas that you kissed under the mistletoe}, and there it was, still dangling in the doorway.  It didn’t even slow most of the pack down anymore, although when their training sessions tended to end with them all crashed in the living room on top of each other with no hint of personal space, a couple of kisses here and there probably didn’t mean anything at all.

It must have been a werewolf thing.

Derek evaded the danger with a smooth agility that Stiles envied.  Jackson attempted to do the same, but somehow always managed to wind up face-to-face with someone when he least expected it.  Stiles himself still hung around on the almost-outside of everything {the living room, the kitchen, the very edges of the practice in the woods} and was generally either the first one or the last one through the door.  And he was okay with that.  Really.

“You’ll shoot your eye out, kid!” Scott crowed one day as Stiles wandered in.  He waved a DVD case in the air.  “Come on, Boyd made popcorn and everything!”

“This whole movie is a cautionary tale,” Stiles said, allowing himself to be bundled toward the living room and the new tv Derek had installed a couple weeks back.  “Remember in first grade when we had that class trip to Tahoe?”

“And you two dared each other to lick the monkeybars?” Lydia’s voice floated in.

“And they got stuck and cried like babies?”  The underlying warmth in Jackson’s voice was probably due to nostalgia because he’d been the one who had brought up the subject in the first place and planted the idea in their heads.

Stiles decided that he would use habanero sauce in the next batch of Jackson’s fudge.  See how the scaly bastard liked that.

“Yeah,” Scott said, wandering into the living room and tossing the DVD case to Boyd.  “I couldn’t talk for like, two days.  And I was too scared to eat ice cream for like a month.”

“Hey!” Erica objected, as he made to sprawl on the floor.  “Mistletoe, losers!”

Too late, Stiles realised that yes, they had walked through the door at the same time.  “Aw, really?”  Scott bounded back to his feet and headed toward him, arms outstretched and grinning like an idiot.  Stiles backed away, hands raised like that could possibly help {hey, he was an optimist}.  What followed was a very short chase around the living room as their audience cheered them on.  He’d have made it farther if someone hadn’t stuck their foot out for him to trip over.  He landed in a tangle of limbs and Isaac and Erica were quick to hold him down so Scott could kiss his cheek.

“See if I make you people Christmas anything ever again,” he grumbled at the ceiling.  He was trapped under at least three hundred pounds of werewolf, and it took him a moment to realise that they had no intention of letting him up.  Scott nabbed a pillow from the couch and stretched out next to him, effectively cutting off the only means of escape.  Derek presided from a leather lazy boy, looking over his pack with a raised eyebrow.  He made no attempt to pull Stiles free from the pile; in fact, Stiles could swear that he saw a tiny smirk tug at the otherwise-stone-face: you asked for it.   “You can all make your own Christmas cookies from now on,” he threatened, and was secretly pleased when no one listened to him.

~*~

3

A week till Christmas found the entire pack {plus Stiles} crowded at the Hale house and frosting sugar cookies.  Or, well, they were attempting to.  Scott was more interested in eating them, Jackson and Lydia were trying to out-do each other in terms of sheer perfection, and the three were-babies {not that Stiles would ever call them that to their faces because hey, he liked his intestines where they were} were gleefully smearing frosting on every inch of skin they could reach.

Stiles was left wondering when he became pack mom/babysitter, and calculating how many more cookies he was going to have to coerce them into making to make up for all the ones they’d ruined so far.  In the corner a scuffle broke out, and Boyd pinned Isaac to the ground and ground a cookie into crumbs on top of that curly head.  Stiles laughed in spite himself, and was actually considering the ritual suicide of stepping in to help when the front door crashes open and Derek yells out, “You!  Here!  Now!”

“He sure does have a way with words,” Stiles said, but he scrambled for the foyer with the rest of them.

Derek was tugging at a pair of leather gloves, fingers flexing in a way that Stiles was sure he’d be thinking about later in the privacy of his own room.  On the front porch was the largest Christmas tree Stiles had seen, like, ever.  The alpha looked pleased with himself as Isaac let out a whoop and dove forward to inspect it.  “Am I still the Grinch?”

“If that thing doesn’t fit through the door and it has to stay outside, then yeah.”

Stiles was pretty sure he’d never seen Derek roll his eyes like that before.  Not since last month, at least {it was another thing; if he didn’t give Derek’s eye muscles a good workout once in awhile, he felt unfulfilled in life}.

“It’ll fit.  Everybody grab it.  One, two, up—“

With Derek directing them, they managed to get it inside and upright with a minimum loss of pine needles and general swearing.  It was fucking enormous, almost twice as tall as Derek and bristling all over from the forced entry.  Derek shot a glance over at Stiles, smugness emanating from every pore.

Stiles shrugged.  He refused to be impressed on principle.  “What are we going to put on it?”

Derek turned on his heel and stomped over to the basement door.  Stiles watched him go and stuck a thumb in his mouth to chew on the nail.  He hadn’t meant to, to... wait, what exactly had he done, anyway?  How was this his fault?  “How was that my fault?” he asked the general vicinity.

“Who said it was?” Boyd asked, and Stiles was just about to show the damn werewolves why you did not get into a pissing contest based on words with Stiles Stilinski when heavy treads sounded on the stairs.

Derek came back into view with a wooden chest almost twice as big as he was perched on his shoulder.  The dark wood was scarred and burned around the edges, but it looked pretty damn sturdy nonetheless.  It had to be: Derek manoeuvred through the door and dropped it in the middle of the foyer with a resounding thud.  “I found it in the basement this summer,” he said, unlatching the lid and throwing it back to reveal dozens of things wrapped in newspaper.  He bent, plucked one out and removed the classifieds to reveal a crimson ornament with silver etchings in the side.  “This is what we used to use for the tree when I was a kid.”  Turning, he hung it carefully on one of the lower boughs, where it glittered like a ruby among the needles. 

The entire pack descended on the trunk, carefully lifting each ornament and circling the tree to find the perfect spot.  The process was a quiet one, all aware that the usual pushing and shoving might end with one of the delicate little ornaments in pieces on the floor.  Derek himself deigned to help out, and Stiles found himself with the job of unwrapping the little decorations and handing them over, determined not to think about how their fingers brushed because he was about 87% sure that werewolves had this, like, innate ability to sense shit like that, and he is not going down that road here, nope, no way.

He looked up and Derek was staring at him, eyes narrowed and head cocked to the side.  Abort! his mind yelled, Abort, abort!  And because of course he couldn’t do that without drawing even more attention to himself, he cursed his delicate complexion and bent to dig through the last few wrappings to get at the gold tinsel at the bottom.  “Do you guys like it vertical or horizontal?” he asked the room at large, and then froze as his mind took a turn into the gutter.  He only barely managed to resist beating his head against the inside of the trunk.  “Damn it.”

By the time he pulled his composure back into place—nope.  Nope, they were still all staring at him.  “The tinsel,” he snapped {there was no hint of a crack or a break, dear god thank you}, holding up long strings of it and shaking it.  “Which way does the tinsel go?”

The debate that followed was almost as vicious as the one they’d had over which kind of Christmas cookie to bake first.  In the end, Derek lost patience with all of them and just did it himself; long looping spirals starting at the bottom and working up to the very top, where an understated gold star presided over the whole thing.  Problem solved. 

They all took several large steps backward to admire their handiwork.  “Lights!” Lydia said instantly, snapping her fingers and sidling past Stiles into the living room.  “We need lights and then we’re done!”

“Can the lights at least be vertical?” Scott grumbled, and they all stared at Derek.

There was an audible click of teeth.  “Fine,” he said.  “Vertical lights.  Your job.  Don’t fuck it up.”  The or I’ll fuck you up was strongly implied.

Scott yelped as a set of white lights came flying at his face, courtesy of Lydia.  “Have fun.”  She stepped up to Stiles, tugged him down and kissed him twice, once on each cheek, and Stiles’s brain promptly tried to simultaneously shut down and shift into overdrive at the same time.  The grin that she shot him gave every indication that she knew it.  “If you hate being kissed so much, you shouldn’t have put it up.”

Oh.  Right.  Mistletoe.  “I never said I hated it,” he protested when he thought he had some sort of control over his tongue.

“Maybe you haven’t found the right person yet,” she informed him, and walked away in her green sweater with her strawberry curls bouncing all down her back.

Stiles, hotly aware of the general snickers because his so-called friends were assholes and Derek’s too-knowing stare, realised that he’d never had any sort of control at all.

~*~

4

“This is not a good idea.  No, really.  You guys, this is not a good idea.”

“Come on, it’ll be fun!”

“Fun?  Fun?  Scott, are you insane?  You can’t sing!  Have you heard yourself sing?  I don’t care how you think you sound in the shower, but trust me buddy, you are no Bruno Mars.  You’re not even a JoBro.”

Scott stared, flummoxed.  “Who?”

“Come on, Stiles,” Erica said, digging her fingers into his shoulders.  “It’s tradition.”

“Nowhere in my contract as official pack mom does it say that I am singing you people a lullaby.  I am drawing the line right now.  Right now, do you hear me?  Carving it into fucking stone.”

“Come on,” she said, “everyone else is going to sing a carol, and you’re like the Christmas elf.  It’s cheating if you don’t do it.  Besides, I want to hear you embarrass yourself.”

“Thanks, Erica, I feel so much better about this.  No really, thank you.”

She was hot on his heels through the living room and it must have counted as ‘together’, because Scott, trailing behind them, called, “Mistletoe!”

Stiles’s shoulders slumped.  “What even—“  Erica hopped up to piggyback for a couple of steps, wrapped her arms around his chest and laughed as he staggered under the unexpected weight.  “Erica,” he whined, turning his head to attempt a glare, and that was when she struck: a kiss right on the edge of his mouth.  Just like that, the weight was gone, he was crouched awkwardly in the middle of the living room, and there was a lipstick smear across his face. Completely unable to do anything else, he sputtered.

No one else appeared to be paying any mind except for, of course, Derek, who was giving them a heavy side-eye.  All other attention was on Isaac, who was brandishing a list of songs and a CD.  “Okay, who’s doing what?”

Lydia and Erica claimed ‘Silent Night as a duet.  Isaac and Boyd went with ‘Deck the Halls’ and ‘White Christmas’ respectively.  Scott dove for ‘Feliz Navidad’ and Jackson made a show of ‘We Wish You a Merry Christmas’.  Stileswas left wondering when exactly everyone had gone out of their minds.

“Stiles?”

He grinned. If you can’t beat ‘em...  “I’ll do Jingle Bells if Derek harmonises with Jingle Bell Rock.”

“My teeth will harmonise with your throat,” Derek responded, and it was kind of terrible and awesome that Stiles no longer had that visceral reaction of fear and adrenaline that the threat would have once produced.  {The faint arousal was a problem he could deal with later.  Much later.}

God only knew what anyone looking through the windows would have thought as they made their way through a progression of increasingly hysterical renditions.  The girls were actually pretty good, probably because there was nothing Lydia couldn’t do when she set her mind to it, and Erica could belt it like no one’s business, but everything else went downhill fast.  Isaac was a decent singer but mangled the song on purpose to make Erica laugh, Jackson turned out to be slightly tone-deaf, and Scott didn’t know anything but the chorus, which he sang as cheerfully and loudly as possible.  Boyd did a decent Macaulay Culkin impression for ‘White Christmas’, complete with imaginary aftershave and piercing screech.

The only problem was, they’d actually gone through with it.  All of them.  Even Derek had grumbled his way through a few lines of ‘Jingle Bell Rock’ with such a flat, unimpressed look on his face that Stiles was pretty sure he was never going to be able to breathe right again.  That meant it was his turn.  And he did not sing.  No, no, not in a hundred thousand years would he—

“I hate you all,” he sighed.

“Grinch,” Derek said, a strange light in his eyes.

Stiles felt his jaw firm.  All right.  If that was how he wanted to play it, fine.  Jingle Bells wasn’t going to cut it.  He spun, pointed at the alpha, and sang, “You’re a mean one... sourwolf... You don’t know how to heel…

The resulting chase around the house and eventual dog pile was totally worth it.

~*~

5

“This,” Stiles mumbled from his very comfortable spot on the floor, head pillowed on Scott’s thigh, “was a terrible idea.”

“This was an awesome idea,” Scott countered, his words slurring a bit.  “More?”

“No,” Stiles groaned.  “I can’t.  I never thought I would say it, but no more eggnog.”

“I want some,” Scott decided, and rolled to his feet, leaving his best friend’s head to thunk against the area rug.  “I’ll bring you some.”

“Nooooo,” but Scott was already gone.  “Ugh,” he decided. Something crossed over his face, blocking the light.  He could tell without even opening his eyes that it was Derek, because even Derek’s shadow brooded.  “I should report you.  Giving your super secret werewolf booze to minors in the... the... pretence of eggnog.”

“You wouldn’t.”

“How do you know?”  Stiles waved his arms, though the effect was slightly diminished when he was flat on his back.  He suspected it only made him look like he was trying for a snow angel.  A carpet angel?  Huh.

“You’d just be calling your dad down on yourself.  Do you really think I would let you drive like this?”

“Wouldn’t drive.”  Stiles was offended.  He paused, thought a moment.  The spiked eggnog was doing nothing good for the churning of his mental gears.  “’d... I’d hide in the woods.  Or something.”

“Sure.”  Whoa, whoa.  Was that... amusement?

He cracked an eye open, realised that Derek’s tendency to loom only intensified  when the loom-ee was all the way down on the floor, and decided that that wouldn’t do.  “Up.”

“Up?”

Stiles raised his arms, wiggled his fingers.  “Up,” he verified.  There was a long pause before a pair of large, calloused hands wrapped around his wrists and pulled and whoa-okay the world moved a bit too fast there.  He staggered.  Derek shifted his grip, one hand on his chest, and one on his shoulder.  A fuzzy warmth spread under his skin, just different enough from the alcohol heat to be noticeable.  “Much better,” he managed when the world stopped tilting and resolved itself.  “Cookie.  I need a cookie.”

“You need a lot of things.”

Stiles turned {but not too fast because oh, god}.  “Oh my god, did you just try and make a joke?  Oh my god, you—“

“Will leave you here.  Shut up, Stiles.”

Stiles subsided because he really wanted that cookie, and almost everyone else was in the kitchen where the dangerous werewolf booze was.  Over the past couple of weeks, he’d gotten used to having people around again, just hanging out instead of being in mortal peril or being worried about someone else being in mortal peril. It was... kind of nice.

“Okay, that’s enough for you.  Cookie and water and that’s it.”  Derek’s voice sounded a bit odd, but Stiles was too far gone to really pay much attention.

Besides, he stepped forward to head for the cookie-haven that was the kitchen and was promptly blind-sided back into the living room by about 180 pounds of very drunk kanima.  {It was painful.  Painful and sudden and Stiles got instant flashbacks to four years of lacrosse practice that he wouldn’t wish on anyone except maybe Jackson himself.}  They went down like a sack of bricks.

“Sorry,” Jackson mumbled into his chest, hands patting his shoulders in vague apology.  “Didn’t... didn’t...”

Stiles managed a sort of ‘hhhnn’, because Jackson was fucking heavy, and the revelation that not only did the kanima know the meaning of ‘apology’ but actually managed to use it correctly did funny things to his mind.

“Jackson, come on!”  That sounded like Lydia, but he couldn’t quite see her, because Jackson was—oh holy fucking Christ on a stick, Jackson was sniffing his neck.  “Do the kiss and get back in here, you’re on my team!”

Stiles stared at the ceiling, and yes, there it was, just at the corner of his vision, white berries twinkling away like... like... some weird twinkly things, and he had just enough time to choke out, “Devil plant,” before Jackson leaned down and planted one on him.  There was a brief moment of pressure and tongue somewhere near the vicinity of Stiles’s nose {thank god because he didn’t want those lizard lips on his, no thanks, he’s seen what the kanima likes to eat} before the weight disappeared as Derek picked Jackson up by the belt and the scruff of his neck.

“Enough. Go away, get.”  Derek tossed him, literally tossed him back into the foyer, where Boyd just managed to keep him from going headfirst into the tree.

Stiles continued to stare upwards in blank amazement because a) the ceiling was pretty much the only constant in his life at the moment, and b) the ceiling had never tried to kiss him.  Derek appeared in his field of vision after a moment, upside down and still scowling.  Only, from this angle... huh.  “You need to smile more,” Stiles informed him.  “Only, not like that, that just looks weird as balls.”

“Babysitter,” Derek said, reaching down to pull him back to his feet.  “I’m not an alpha, I’m a goddamn babysitter.”

~*~

0

The morning after the eggnog fiasco found the pack spread through the house, several of them shirtless {this was normal}, others still clothed in nog-saturated clothes {this was not}.  For his part, Stiles had somehow managed to escape both of these fates; he was curled on one of the leather sofas under a fleece throw and drooling on the pillow.  The drooling was, unfortunately, pretty normal.  The hangover, however…

Unacceptable, he decided, and made his wobbly way over Scott, around Isaac, and into the foyer, blanket trailing behind him.    He went straight for the sink and one of the few clean glasses left, despite the morning sunlight bouncing off the white tile and sending drill bits straight into his brain.  One, two, three gulps later and he cupped his hands under the faucet, scrubbed at his face.

“Couch comfortable?”

Stiles inhaled about half a mouthful of water in shock, coughed until his lungs turned inside-out, and then spun to glare at Derek, who was sitting calmly in the breakfast nook with his hands wrapped around... something.  “I’m getting you a collar for Christmas,” he promised once he could breathe again.  “With bells on it.”

The expression on Derek’s face was easy to read: try it and die.  “I was here when you came in.”

“Then you should’ve said something!”

“I did.”

Before I—“  It was too early for this.  Stiles dragged himself over to the table and slumped into a chair.  “This is your fault,” he said.  “Where did you get that stuff?”

“Family recipe.”

And goddamnit, that was like the third time in a week that Stiles had accidentally brought up Derek’s family and wiped that almost-not-quite-smile off of his face.  If he’d had the energy, he would have kicked himself.  Twice. 

They lapsed into silence, broken only by someone snoring in the living room {Stiles had his money on Boyd}.  It was early yet, maybe nine or so, and no one had gotten to bed before four.  “Sooo,” Stiles said eventually, rolling his head to the left to look at Derek, because expending any more energy was beyond him at the moment, “How come... where did you get that?”

The alpha’s fingers twitched, bringing the mistletoe into view.  “From the living room.  I took it down.”

“Why?”

“Why did you put it up in the first place?” Derek countered.

Stiles forced back a sigh.  Exhaustion had a tendency to make him honest, and it was too early to be honest.  “Why not?  It’s tradition.  We always used to do it at home before, before Mom died.  I didn’t think they’d all take it seriously.”  He shifted his gaze to the decimated cookie trays and wondered how they hadn’t all gained twenty pounds.  “I didn’t really think they’d take any of it seriously.”

“So why bother?”  Derek sounded frustrated, shredded leaves falling from between his fingers to dust the tabletop.

“I told you.  Bonding and all that.”

Derek shifted minutely.  His gaze dropped.  “Were you really afraid that we didn’t want you around?”

Stiles mustered up the strength to lift his head in alarm.  This sounded too much like ~feelings~.  “Hey, hey, I never said that.”

“You’re pack,” Derek told him, all firm and none-of-your-shit.  “We always want you around.  Doesn’t matter if it’s Christmas or not.”

He fidgeted for a moment with the blanket, running his fingers across the forest green fabric and thinking about the past weeks.  The hugs, the physical jostling, the falling-asleep-all-over-each-other, that was normal.  He hadn’t realised how much he’d missed being included in the tactile domesticity of it all.  Oh god, he really was Pack Mom.  Unable to keep a straight face, he grinned down at the table.  But there was something else, something that didn’t work with the rest of it. 

He reached over and stole the mistletoe from between Derek’s fingers.  “Okay,” he said, jiggling it up and down.  The berries wobbled dangerously.  “Okay, that’s awesome and they’re awesome, and you’re awesome and everything’s awesome.  But this.  This.  Everyone else?  Every single time, kiss on the mouth.  Everybody.  Boyd and Isaac, Scott and Lydia, Erica and Jackson, everybody.  Not me.”

Derek gave him a flat look.

Stiles backpedalled. “Not that I’m saying I’m disappointed, because no, no, no, not interested at all, and besides, how do I know they don’t, they don’t lick themselves or something during the full moon?  No, I didn’t mean that, ew, oh god I’m scarred for life.  Wait, is that poss—are you actually that flexi—“

“Your point?”

He took a breath, forced down the word-vomit, and summed it up in ten words.  “So if that’s a pack thing too, why not me?”  Derek looked down.  “Okay, see, the fact that you just almost blushed is unnerving.  I didn’t think you could even do that.” His fingers twisted in the blanket, over and over again because what if he really wasn’t pack after all, what if that was their way of rejecting him, what if.  “Am I just not—“

Derek’s hands closed over his, stilling the frantic movements.  “They didn’t because you’re mine.”

Stiles stared.  And then for good measure, he stared some more.  “What?”

Colour appeared beneath that scruffy morning stubble and somehow it only made him look better.  How unfair was that?  His eyes remained locked on Stiles.  “You’re mine, and they all know it.  And that means I’m the only one who gets to kiss you like that.”

Oh my god, he knew, was Stiles’s first thought, swiftly followed by how long has he known?, how did he find out?, and am I that fucking transparent?  And then the rest of his brain started to process the hungry look in Derek’s eyes, remembered the way Derek had always been watching during the mistletoe mishaps, kind of like he was making sure no one forgot their place, thought about what Lydia had said about ‘the right one’, and comprehension dawned.  “Those assholes knew—“

And that was about all he managed to get out because Derek had finally lost patience with the Catch Stiles Up Show.  He reached forward, pulled Stiles half-off the chair, and pressed their lips together, all hot breath and sharp teeth and so much want that Stiles couldn’t keep back the low groan even if he’d wanted to.  And fuck, but if this was what he’d been missing because people were too stupid to actually talk, he was going... he was going to...  oh, Jesus.

He wrapped his fingers around Derek’s shoulders and left his chair entirely, more than willing to sit on Derek if it meant that he could get another kiss like that.  “Are you sure—“ Derek said, and his hands settled on Stiles’s hips like they belonged there.

“Are you sure,” Stiles mocked, but he was breathless and slightly dizzy, so it didn’t sound near as impressive as usual.  “Yes, yes, I’m sure, you creepy, possessive idiot, why the hell didn’t you say anything before?”  They were going to talk about that, damn straight they were, but that could come later.  Much later, maybe after a shower and some coffee, and that about as far as he planned before he pressed closer against that broad chest and dove in for another kiss.  This one was even better,  slow and unhurried and something that was more than just a kiss but a promise, an exploration of what made Stiles shiver or Derek’s fingers tighten on thin hips.

“You’re mine,” Derek told him again when they broke for air, and the sheer certainty in the words was enough to make anyone a little heady.

That’s probably why his voice shook when he responded “Yeah, yeah, I’m yours.”  That, or he was grinning so much it was hard to form proper words.

“I’ll tell you what you are.  Disgusting.”

Stiles didn’t even turn around, but his middle finger shot up and aimed at the door.  “Go away, Jackson.  I’m erasing the memory of your lizard lips from last night with something way better.”

“My— my what?”

They ignored him.

{“So, mistletoe is a devil plant?” Derek asked over breakfast, picking at the leaves next to his fork.

Stiles’s attention was divided between the hand on his thigh and the pancakes in front of him. “Did I say that?”

“Yep.”

“Oh.  Well, I take it back.  Consider it exorcised.  It has been redeemed, reformed, remade.  It is the best plant.”

“It’s just a plant, Stiles.”

“Nah,” Stiles says, leaning against his alpha and stealing the syrup, “it’s a Christmas thing.”}