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Stiles takes a deep, calming breath, and tries to tune out the voice of the announcer, who’s telling the crowd that they have five more minutes to enter the competition. He stares down at his blank sugar cookie, then, out of curiosity, leans forward to look down the row of competitors.

He gets a nasty shock.

Because there, just a few people down, his own sugar cookie waiting in front of him, is none other than Derek Hale.

Derek Hale, his high school enemy.

What the hell is he doing here? Stiles thinks, bewildered. He’d heard Derek was living in New York with his sister, and wasn’t planning to come back.

Derek Hale, who’d harassed him all through school, and then, when Stiles confronted him, had the gall to pretend he didn’t know what was going on. Always acting like he didn’t know what Stiles was talking about, and then avoiding him.

Whatever.

He’s not going to let it distract him. He’s entered Dodson Bakery’s cookie decorating contest for three years now, and he always gets to the finals. He’d actually made second place last year, and had immediately and delightedly spent his fifty-dollar gift card on treats from the bakery. (But if his dad ever asked, he’d spent the money on new shoes. Yeah.)

So, no way was he going to mess up his chances for the grand prize by letting himself get distracted by Derek.

He takes another deep breath, focusing. It’s just in time.

“Okay, everybody,” the announcer says cheerfully. “You’ll have thirty minutes to do the best cookie decorating you can. On your mark, get set, go!”

Stiles flies into action, not wanting to waste any time. The big cookie is shaped like a gingerbread man, which is a bit limiting. That’s okay though, he has a plan.

They only get five tubes of colored icing, but there’s also a palette and spatula for mixing, and Stiles gets to work using it. He wants to get just the right combination of colors.

When he glances over, he sees that the guy next to him is going for the traditional gingerbread look: outlining his cookie in white frosting, and placing a row of colored buttons down its’ front. And hey, there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s just not going to cut it for getting into the finals.

He looks back at his own cookie, and keeps on working, carefully spreading the icing when he gets the mix he wants. He knows he’s taking a bit of a risk with his design, but he’s willing to go for it.

When the bell rings, signaling that time’s up, Stiles has a snazzy looking cookie indeed. It’s now dressed in a carefully frosted three-piece suit. And while gray and black are typically not great icing colors, he thinks it turned out really well. He even added a light purple tie, just for style points.

He’s pretty sure he’s made it to the finals.

The judge is starting at the other end of the table, so Stiles leans down the row, wanting to see what everyone else has done. His eyes widen when he catches sight of Derek’s cookie.

He’s somehow managed to frost a colorful Hawaiian shirt onto it, so detailed that Stiles can see each individual flower. He’s shocked further when he realized that Derek has iced little sunglasses on the cookie’s face, and put flip flops on its feet.

In short, it’s great.

Damn, he’s good, Stiles thinks, letting out a sigh. He’s definitely going to have some competition this year, and he only has three weeks to step his game up.

That’s just when Derek catches him looking, and gives him a smile and a little wave. Stiles scowls, looks back down at his own cookie. He’s not going to acknowledge Derek, he’s not going to give him the satisfaction.

He smiles politely when the judge stops in front of him, and makes sure to only look straight ahead. He’s pretty sure Derek is watching him, but he pretends he doesn’t know.

And sure enough, he makes it to the finals. So does Derek.

Stiles pulls out his phone and takes a couple of pictures of his cookie, just for posterity. But unlike a lot of the other contestants, he doesn’t eat it. He’s just not feeling it right now.

So he boxes up his masterpiece, fills out his registration for the finals, and then heads out the door.

He’s not expecting to hear his name called as he steps out on the sidewalk, and he winces a little even as he turns to look.

“Your cookie turned out really good,” Derek says, and he has the gall to smile, like they’re friends or something.

Like, Derek is definitely hot. But not hot enough for Stiles to forget about everything that went down in high school.

No way.

“Yeah,” he answers grudgingly, trying not to make a scene. “Yours was good, too.”

Derek’s face falls then, his shoulders slumping. “Look, I know you don’t like me, but can we talk? I just want a chance to explain.”

“What is there to explain?” Stiles says harshly. “You wrote Fuck You on my locker!”

Derek reels back at the force of Stiles’ words, looking shocked. “I didn’t write that!”

“Dude, you signed it,” Stiles says, frustrated. “And you didn’t even get into any trouble over it.”

“Yeah, because I didn’t write it. A couple of guys from the team did,” Derek protests. “They were—I wanted—I couldn’t—”

“Wow, you’re not even good at making excuses,” Stiles says bitterly, rolling his eyes. “I’m gonna go now. If you can give me a good reason to listen to you, maybe we’ll talk.”

Then he walks away.

He expects Derek to chase after him, demand that he listen, but it doesn’t happen. Somehow, that makes him feel both elated and unsettled at the same time.

 

*

 

The doorbell rings early the next morning, and Stiles hurries down the stairs, wondering if his dad forgot to take his lunch.

He yanks open the front door and finds…a pan of brownies?

He looks around, but there’s no one to be seen. He cautiously picks up the brownies, wondering if this is a trap.

But nothing happens.

There’s no note, no message. He even tips the pan to see if there’s anything written on the bottom.

Nothing.

Intrigued, he lifts a corner of the plastic wrap, and the smell of sweet chocolate goodness fills his nose. He licks his lips, his stomach rumbling.

With one last suspicious look around, he goes back inside, taking the brownies straight up to his room. His dad doesn’t need to see these. And hey, who says you can’t have brownies for breakfast?

Certainly not him.

He easily devours half the pan, just because they’re so delicious. Whoever made these brownies was a master.

It’s with great regret that he makes himself cover up the rest and hide the pan away. And, he consoles himself, it just means he’ll have some saved for later.

He’s already looking forward to it.

 

*

 

There are no fresh baked goods on the porch the next morning, and Stiles tries not to be too disappointed.

The next day, however, his luck is better.

He’s been doing some part time work at the Sheriff’s station, since he’s on his winter break from college. It’s mostly clerical stuff, but that’s okay. It keeps him occupied, puts a little money in his pocket, and lets him keep an eye on what his dad is eating.

So when he walks out of the station at the end of his shift, he just strolls over to the jeep and pulls open the door, like usual. He doesn’t expect to see a plate of cookies waiting for him in the passenger seat.

He climbs into the driver’s side, wanting to get a closer look. They’re chocolate chip, his favorite, and they look delicious.

He double checks, but once again, there’s no note. He looks furtively around, then shoves one of the cookies into his mouth.

He was right. They are delicious.

 

*

 

There’s no other treats for almost a week, and Stiles can’t help being a little bummed.

Still, he’s planning to bake up a batch of sugar cookies this weekend, to practice decorating on, so it’s not like he’s going to be completely without desserts. But it’s always nice when someone else makes you something.

So on Friday night, when he’s bored and considering ordering pizza, he’s definitely not expecting the doorbell to ring. He flings the front door open, hoping to take whoever it is by surprise.

There’s no one there.

Stiles peers into the darkness, but there’s no movement, no unusual cars parked on the street. And sure enough, when he looks down, there’s a surprise waiting for him. It looks like a professional bakery box, and Stiles wonders if his mysterious visitor got tired of baking and decided to buy something instead.

But there’s no brand or label on it, and when he flips the lid open, he finds four large and obviously homemade cupcakes. They’re chocolate, and each of them has a beautiful snowflake frosted in white icing on the top.

He takes the box inside, sorely tempted to eat one (or two) right now.

But, no. He’ll be good and eat dinner first.

He orders vegetables and noodles from the Chinese place a few blocks away, and shovels it in while he watches tv and eagerly thinks about dessert.

He gets a feeling of trepidation, though, when he picks up the first cupcake. Because this time, there’s a note.

He sets the other cupcakes out on the table, then lifts the paper out of the bottom of the box. It’s a bit smeared with grease and chocolate, but the message is still clearly legible.

I wasn’t the one who bullied you in high school, but it was my fault. I’m sorry. If you’ll give me a chance, I’d like to talk. Meet me by the Christmas tree in the square at three on Friday. –Derek

Stiles lets out a sigh, drops the note on the counter. While he’d suspected that his mysterious dessert gifter was Derek, he hadn’t been completely sure. Honestly, he’d been hoping it was a secret admirer.

He’s not certain he wants to give Derek a chance, but he’s got a whole week to decide. He’s kind of sour about the whole thing, but it’s hard to be resentful when he’s been very much enjoying all the baked goods Derek has given him.

He tries to put the decision out of his mind, and eats one of the cupcakes instead.

It’s the best he’s ever tasted.

 

*

 

Stiles makes his batch of sugar cookies the next afternoon, while his dad is at work. He rolls out the dough and uses every cookie cutter shape he has, to give himself a variety to decorate. The shape of the cookie in the finals could be anything, after all.

He takes one of the cooled gingerbread man cookies, and tries to ice it with a Hawaiian shirt and sunglasses. It turns out okay, but not nearly as good as Derek’s, and Stiles feels a little embarrassed.

He eats that cookie first.

 

*

 

It’s Wednesday, and Stiles still hasn’t decided.

He’s eaten his own sugar cookies, and all of Derek’s cupcakes, so there’s no baked goods around to sway his opinion now.

Because while he sort of wants to give Derek the benefit of the doubt, he’s also firmly settled into believing Derek is the bad guy, and he doesn’t really want to give up his assumptions after all this time.

If he was wrong about Derek all along, then what else has he been wrong about?

And it’s been two years since high school. Does he really want to dredge all of that back up?

Not really. So is he going to go?

No.

Why should he give Derek a chance? This might all just be some kind of cruel prank, so he can get final revenge, or something. Or, maybe he’s trying to throw Stiles off his game, so that he’ll lose the cookie decorating finals.

But if Derek were doing this out of malice, would he really bother baking Stiles all those desserts? If he was really a bully, wouldn’t he be demanding that Stiles hear him out, rather than asking politely?

So, is he going to go?

Maybe.

Probably.

Oh, why even pretend?

He’s definitely going.

 

*

 

Stiles slowly approaches the town Christmas tree, feeling a little nervous. It always puts him on edge when he doesn’t know what to expect. And in this situation, he definitely doesn’t.

As he gets closer, he sees Derek is already there, looking cozy with a dark green scarf around his neck. Stiles hates to admit it, but it really brings out his eyes.

Derek gives him a tiny, cautious smile, and hands him a paper cup. “Here. It’s hot chocolate.”

“Uh, thanks,” Stiles says, and takes a careful sip. Of course, it’s delicious. “Did you make this?” he asks suspiciously.

Derek laughs, shaking his head. “No, it’s from the coffee stand over there,” he says, pointing across the square.

Stiles shrugs, tries not to smile back. “Just checking,” he says, taking another drink.

“So, I uh, I guess my cupcakes convinced you to meet up with me?” Derek says, sounding nervous.

“Among other things,” Stiles says. “Though I must admit, they were fantastic.”

At that, Derek gives him such a warm, sincere smile, it actually makes Stiles’ heart jolt.

“I’m glad you liked them,” he says quietly. He tilts his head toward the less crowded edge of the square. “Can we talk?”

“Yeah,” Stiles says, taking a deep breath and then letting it slowly back out. They stroll toward an empty bench, but he feels too antsy to sit down. “Hey, can we keep walking around?” he asks.

“Um, sure,” Derek says, changing his course.

He seems a little uncertain, so Stiles figures he may as well get to the heart of things. “So, if it wasn’t you bullying me, then why was it your fault?” he asks as neutrally as possible.

Derek lets out a sigh, his mouth pulling down. “You know how you brought up the locker thing?”

“Yeah, it said, Fuck You, Stiles in big letters, and it had your name underneath,” Stiles says.

“I know. I interrupted Dennings and Hayward while they were writing it. I assume it was going to say something like Derek Hale wants to.”

That brings Stiles’ head around. “Wait, what? That’s why your name was on my locker?”

Derek nods. “They never really liked me much, but the rest of the team mostly kept them in line. Then I became Co-captain with Jackson, and he didn’t, uh, take it well.”

“He encouraged them, didn’t he,” Stiles says, realization dawning.

“Yeah, suddenly he was agreeing with everything they said, rather than shutting them down,” Derek says, sounding tired.

“I still don’t understand, though,” Stiles says. “Why weren’t they going after you? And how did I come into it? I’m not even on the team!”

“They couldn’t come after me directly,” Derek says, giving him a pained look. “Because there had been some incidents with homophobes when Danny joined the team, so coach said if there were any more issues with harassment, he’d cancel the season. And nobody wanted that.”

“Shit,” Stiles says. He’d had no idea. And he was beginning to feel really glad that Scott had been too asthmatic to join the team.

“So a couple of the guys, they found out,” Derek says, then hesitates, eyes flicking to Stiles and then away again. “They found out I had a crush on you, so they went after you instead, but in ways that made it seem like I did it. I think they wanted to make sure I’d have no chance with you.”

Stiles freezes for a moment in shock, eyes wide, then forces himself to keep walking. “Oh my god, really? That’s why it always seemed like it was you? I thought you hated me.”

“I didn’t know they were doing anything, not for a while. So I wondered why you started glaring at me every time I’d say hello. But once I figured it out, I stopped talking to you, and started trying to avoid you, instead. I thought they might back off, but obviously they didn’t,” Derek says, looking sad. “I’m so sorry, Stiles.”

“It wasn’t…” Stiles begins, then pauses, trying to collect his thoughts. “It wasn’t that they really did anything that bad to me. Most of it was inconvenient, at worst, because they really weren’t very creative. What got me was the fact that the hot, popular jock, who I had an embarrassing crush on, suddenly seemed to hate me. It was awful, going from liking someone to despising them, and it made me so angry. Because I felt like everything I’d known about you was a lie.”

Derek glances his way, shoulders hunched. “I knew you had to hate me, and even though that hurt, it made it easier for me to stay away from you.” He shakes his head, gives Stiles a sardonic smile. “You know, your friend Scott cornered me once, asked me what the hell my problem was.”

Stiles chokes on his hot chocolate. “What? He never told me that!”

“He was trying to look out for you,” Derek says quietly. “He warned me to back off. I told him it wasn’t me, but that I was trying to stop it.”

“Damn. I wish I’d known,” Stiles says, feeling like his whole world has been upended.

“I should have quit the team,” Derek says. “I tried once, and Coach had laughed in my face. But I should have done it anyway.”

“Oh my god,” Stiles says, because Derek had been thinking of quitting the team. Derek, who loved lacrosse, who practiced all the time and was always trying to be better, almost quit? He’d loved watching Derek out on the field, before everything went sour, because he was such a great, dedicated player. He’d become Co-captain for a reason.

So he’d felt incredibly betrayed when he’d been pushed around, had his things stolen, and had all sorts of bullshit painted on his locker.

But now that he knows the truth…

“I don’t—You know what?” Stiles says suddenly, interrupting himself. “Let’s start over. Can we do that?”

“You mean, pretend we’ve never met before?” Derek asks, looking perplexed.

“Nah, that’s so cliché,” Stiles says, grinning. “We’ll just be old high school acquaintances who haven’t seen each other in a while.” He cheerfully claps Derek on the shoulder. “Hey, man. It’s good to see you.”

Derek just stares at him for a long moment, then says, “What have you been up to?” in such a stilted, awkward way, it makes Stiles burst out laughing.

“Okay, let’s maybe try being friends, instead,” he says, still snickering.

“Oh, well that’s easy,” Derek says with a little grin. “I’ve been trying to do that for weeks.”

 

*

 

Stiles discovers that Derek actually is just as awesome as he thought he’d be, back in high school.

At first, they’re a little awkward around each other, a little reserved, but by their fourth meet up, they’re a lot closer to truly being friends.

And Stiles is definitely feeling a resurgence of his old crush on Derek. It doesn’t help that he knows that Derek had, at least at one point, a crush on him as well.

“Here,” Derek says, handing him a red Tupperware container.

They’re sitting on their usual bench in the square, admiring the town Christmas tree and sipping hot chocolate. It’s kind of their thing, now.

Stiles carefully pulls off the lid, not sure what to expect. “Oh my god,” he says when he looks inside. “You practice, too?”

In the container are several stacks of beautifully iced sugar cookies, in all different shapes and sizes. The scent of vanilla wafts up to him, and he begins to really hope Derek brought these to share.

“Yeah, of course. This is my first time competing, so I wanted to do a good job,” Derek says. He gestures at the box, grinning. “I ended up making a lot, so I thought I’d see if you wanted some.”

“Oh, thank you,” Stiles says, still surprised by how genuinely nice Derek is. He picks up a little tree-shaped cookie, and takes a bite. Of course, it’s amazing. Derek is definitely an incredible baker.

Derek laughs when Stiles promptly shoves the rest of the cookie into his mouth. “It’s good, I take it?”

“Good is not a strong enough word,” Stiles replies, grinning. “It’s ridiculously delicious. I’m a little jealous of your skills.”

“I can give you the recipe,” Derek says earnestly. “If you like it that much.”

It’s you I like that much, Stiles thinks. Yeah, his crush is definitely full-force now. Derek is both hot and incredibly sweet, and it’s just too much to resist.

“Um, yeah, I’d love the recipe,” Stiles manages to say instead, shutting the lid so he won’t be tempted to eat any more cookies

“Okay, cool. I’ll make you a copy,” Derek says cheerfully.

“Thanks,” Stiles says. “Can I change the subject for a second?”

“Sure,” Derek says, looking expectant.

“I just wanted to say,” Stiles says seriously, “that I forgive you for everything that happened in high school.”

“You shouldn’t forgive me for that bow tie I wore to prom,” Derek jokes, grinning. Then he squeezes Stiles’ shoulder, and says quietly, “Thank you.”

Stiles nods, gently leaning into Derek’s hand. “Actually, I have an idea,” he says thoughtfully. “We can prove that we trust each other now, by putting stakes on the final competition. Whoever wins owes the other person a favor.”

“Like what?” Derek says warily.

“Like, I could ask you to wax the jeep. Or make me some more of those delicious cupcakes,” Stiles says with a wink.

“So it could be anything?” Derek asks. “No restrictions?”

“None. That’s where the trust part comes in. I trust you not to ask for something unreasonable or dangerous,” Stiles says cheerfully.

“Or illegal,” Derek mutters under his breath, before he finally shrugs and nods. “But okay. I’m in.”

“Sweet,” Stiles says, extending his hand. “Then we’re on.”

Derek shakes it, grinning. “And we won’t have to wait long to find out who wins. The competition’s only a few days away.”

 

*

 

Stiles had wanted to be next to Derek, but the judge had decided otherwise, so there were once again a few people between them.

There are only six finalists, and they’re all set up at one long table, so it’s easy for the spectators to watch them. In front of each of them are several tubes of icing, and a tray covered with cloth. No chance of seeing the cookie shape and planning ahead this time.

Stiles shifts restlessly, feeling a nervous anticipation roll through him. There’s more at stake than a gift card this time, and he really wants to win.

Drumming his fingers on the table top, he idly imagines what he’d ask Derek for. It’s gotta be something good, and he hasn’t quite decided on anything yet.

“Okay, everybody,” the announcer says then, his microphone crackling. “Get ready, get set, go!”

Stiles yanks the cover off the tray, eager to find…a big, round cookie? That’s a little disappointing.

He’d imagined a nutcracker or a star or even a Santa shape. This is so boring.

It’s too much like a blank slate. He’s at such a loss, it actually takes him several minutes to figure out a design. He drags the tray closer, and picks up a tube of green icing. Might as well use the shape of the cookie to his advantage.

He carefully beings piping out the branches of a wreath around the edge. Once the icing is set, he adds a bright red bow, and clusters of little red berries throughout. They’ve been given metallic frosting this time, so he uses it to add a bright silver star to the blank center of the cookie.

In a moment of inspiration, he adds a loop to the bottom of the star, so it’ll look like a doorknocker. It will hopefully give the impression that the wreath is hanging on someone’s front door.

He keeps carefully adding detail to his wreath, but he knows he’s gotta be quick. There can’t be much time left.

He’s just finished adding some little gold accents when the announcer yells, “Time’s up!”

He drops the near-empty tube, and lets out a sigh. It’s over, and his cookie looks great.

But he’s dying to know what Derek did, so he leans down the row to have a look. He feels his stomach drop, even as he starts grinning.

Because Derek did it, he knows already.

Derek won.

He’s turned his plain cookie into a beautifully detailed Christmas snow globe. There’s a snowman with a colorful scarf around its neck, distinct against the pale blue sky. Next to it is a decorated pine tree, complete with streamers of garland and bright ornaments. The whole thing is accented with little swirls of snow, as though the globe has just been shaken.

It’s amazing, and he doesn’t know how Derek did it in just thirty minutes. But he’s definitely going to have to take Derek out for some celebratory hot chocolate after this.

Stiles smirks when the judge gets to Derek’s cookie, and his eyes widen comically. They’ve definitely all been beat, but strangely enough, Stiles is pretty okay with that.

 

*

 

Derek is declared the winner, just like Stiles expected. His cookie was way too good not to be.

Stiles gets second place (again), but he’s perfectly happy to accept his fifty-dollar gift card.

Derek joins him off the stage after their little award ceremony, grinning brightly. “Looks like we get to go on a shopping spree,” he says, holding up his hundred-dollar card.

“I’m definitely looking forward to it,” Stiles says, smiling back. He reaches out and softly touches Derek’s shoulder. “But first we should go get some hot chocolate, so we can celebrate. Your cookie was totally incredible.”

“Thanks,” Derek says, ducking his head. It’s kind of hard to tell through the stubble, but he’s pretty sure Derek is blushing.

Stiles tries not to stare. “Speaking of, where is your cookie?” He has his own in a box, and he’d promised his dad that he wouldn’t eat it before he got to look at it.

“They asked if they could display it,” Derek says, grinning. “Who knew cookie art would be so popular?”

“Can’t blame them,” Stiles says, laughing. “I know I’m impressed.”

And yeah, Derek is definitely blushing this time. Stiles can hardly handle how cute it is.

“Come on, let’s get out of here,” he says, taking Derek’s elbow and gently tugging.

Out of habit, he ends up taking them to sit on their usual bench. He looks around, admiring all the newly-hung lights in the square, then glances back at Derek. “So, have you decided?” he asks curiously.

“On what I’m buying with my gift card?” Derek asks, cocking an eyebrow.

“No, what favor you want from me,” Stiles says. He wonders if he’s going to be spending the weekend cleaning the Camaro.

“Oh,” Derek says, suddenly looking nervous. “I know what I want to ask you for, but I’m not sure if it’s okay.”

“Come on, Derek,” Stiles teases, nudging him with his elbow. “I trust you. Ask away.”

“I just don’t want to make you do anything you don’t want to,” Derek says, shoulders hunching. “So you can say no if you want.”

“It can’t be that bad,” Stiles says, grinning. “Unless you want me to go streaking through the park, or something.”

That gets Derek to laugh. “No, definitely not.”

“So, what is it, then?” he asks eagerly. The anticipation is killing him.

“Um, I wanted to ask you,” Derek says hesitantly, just managing to meet Stiles’ gaze, “if you would go on a date with me.”

Stiles flails a little in shock. “That’s the favor you wanted to ask?”

“I know I missed my chance in high school, I know I messed things up,” Derek says quickly. “But I just wanted another try.”

“Oh, that’s totally okay,” Stiles says reassuringly. “I was just thinking it was more like a favor for me.” He laughs when he catches Derek’s surprised expression. “And the answer is yes, in case you weren’t sure.”

Derek gives him a relived smile. “This whole time, I was kind of afraid to ask.”

“I’m glad you did,” Stiles says, standing up and holding out his hand. He’s gratified when Derek immediately takes it, standing close enough that their shoulders touch. “Do you want to go on the date now? I was going to take you out for hot chocolate, but maybe you want something better. Want to go on a carriage ride? I hear they’re very romantic.”

Derek laughs, squeezes Stiles’ hand. “Hot chocolate sounds good. We could save the carriage ride for our second, or maybe third date.”

“I like the way you think,” Stiles says, leaning in to kiss Derek on the cheek, and then, when he tilts his head, on the lips.

But when he pulls away, he finds he just wants to kiss Derek again.

So he does.

It’s a while before they actually get their hot chocolate, but Stiles considers it a totally successful first date anyway.