Scene: It’s a beautiful, traditional winter night in NorCal on Christmas Eve: while Bing Crosby warbles White Christmas on Stiles’ laptop, outside it is raining torrentially. Stiles’ cat, Kotek, studiously licks his balls in front of the fireplace. There’s no fire in it, because California is a smogged-up fire hazard, but there is a tasteful space heater. There is one stocking pinned to the mantle, and it has Kotek written on it in glitter glue. White Christmas ends, and because it was a Youtube video, nothing plays after it. If Stiles notices, he doesn’t do anything about it. He’s looking down, fidgeting idly with Derek’s hand, preoccupied with the shape and weight of it. Derek lets this happen. He’s accustomed himself to physical affection from Stiles, because Stiles has poor impulse control and is pretty bad at reading social cues; so he would reach out to Derek, and Derek would react with confusion, and Stiles would misinterpret this as rejection and not reach out to him again for a while. Derek got tired of that. “Do you believe in Santa?” Stiles asks eventually.
Derek is quiet for a long minute. The room is silent, except for the whirring of the space heater; the pattering rain; the gentle rhythm of their hearts; and the slurping of Kotek around his own balls. Finally, perplexed, “Is that a real question?”
“Oh my god,” says Stiles, “yeah, it’s a real question. Seriously? Am I four?”
“Why would you ask, then.”
“So I could have this interchange, obviously.” Stiles twists himself into the couch and pulls Derek’s hand along with him, so they’re almost cuddling, in a weird, one-sided sort of way. He’s still touching Derek’s fingers. “I’m gonna tell you a secret.” Derek doesn’t react. “You’re an asshole.”
“That’s not a secret,” monotones Derek. “You’re really bad at telling secrets.”
“No, you look—”
“Shut up. I got you a present.” Stiles now relinquishes Derek’s hand and squirms away, purposeful. Gravity has him sinking farther back into Derek, so it takes some struggling with which Derek provides not one iota of assistance. “For Hanukkah,” Stiles elaborates in a halting grunt halfway through his assent.
“You don’t need to give Hanukkah gifts,” Derek drawls, “if you celebrate Christmas anyway.”
“Oh, my god, this guy’s a rabbi now. Do you want it or not, dude?” Stiles has made it over to the trunk that now functions as an end table. When Derek simply rolls his eyes, Stiles shoves the lamp off it and onto the easy chair.
“Would you—stop it, you’re gonna break it.”
“Like you can’t afford a new one.” Like that's the point. Why is he such a dick? Stiles’ voice is muffled because from the shoulders up, he’s buried in the trunk. Outside, a harsh billow of wind blows the rain in sharp patters against the big windows. Kotek picks himself up, plops down on his other side, and then resumes his bath. Stiles must find what he’s looking for because he finally returns to the couch, leaving the trunk open and ransacked. He’s got something small cradled against his t-shirt, like he’d hold a baby bird. “Do you know what it is?” Stiles nestles back down beside Derek, peering, bright-eyed, into his face, searching carefully for some minute recognition. Derek can’t tell if Stiles does or does not want Derek to know what he’s holding.
Regardless, Derek does not. “How would I know what it is.”
“I dunno. If you know, then you know.”
“If you know what—”
“—make any sense—”
“—then you know how you know what it—”
“—pletely devoid of logical—”
“—follow a train of thought, then—”
“—believe I’m even having this conversation—”
“I said, it’s a ring.” Stiles has finally unveiled the object, and it’s a small velvet box, sitting open on his palm. Inside, as promised, is a ring. Derek is momentarily speechless, not by choice, but by genuine emotional phenomenon. The ring is flat-sided, not convex, and Derek can’t tell if it’s gold or white gold in the dim atmosphere, but there is some kind of brown stone embedded in a line all around the center. Derek’s possessed by an urge to touch it, but he finds he can’t move. Stiles, as expected, misinterprets the silence. “Uh, well, actually, it’s two rings. You know, one for you, and, um, one for… contingent on your a, your acceptance…”
Derek looks up from the ring to Stiles’ face. He watches Stiles clench his jaw and blush violently. In spite of his nerves and uncertainty, Stiles is steeled. They’re quiet for a long minute. “You said,” Derek tells him slowly, “springtime.”
“We—I, yeah, but I—” Stiles anticipatorily stops himself midsentence. Then he leans in, presses his lips against Derek’s. It seems sudden and unnatural in theory, but in practice it unwinds them both a little bit. “It can happen early,” he reasons hoarsely.
“You’re impatient,” Derek informs him. Quiet and knowing.
“Like, okay, either way we were planning on, you know,” Stiles shrugs, more of a flop than a shrug. “I mean, I was planning.”
Derek reminds him, “I was planning, too.” If Stiles’ faulty memory functioned as it should, he’d recall that Derek was the first to bring it up; but that was some time ago.
“Okay.” Stiles is smirking now, like an idiot, eyes down at his ring box. “We were planning. So, what’s the—” He looks up at Derek again. “What’s the holdup?”
Derek has no answer, if he’s honest. It’s just that when something makes this much sense, he likes to leave it alone. He likes to let it make sense unfettered. To avoid answering the question, he asks, “What’s the rush?”
Lots of other people would reasonably hear Derek’s answer and think he’s deflecting because he wants to say no; but Stiles doesn’t seem to think anything of the sort. He takes the question at face value, as intended. “I never get sick of you,” he points out. “I think the way you think sort of…” He fits his fingers together in a puzzle roof over the ring box. “…meshes with the way I think.” Derek concurs in a roundabout way: much like when they both decide to visit Lake Tahoe, and then argue furiously for hours about which route to take, their thinking patterns clash violently, but still they reach the same conclusion. “And the sex,” Stiles adds. He doesn’t elaborate, and Derek doesn’t need him to. “When I think of tomorrow,” Stiles goes on, slowly and a little embarrassed, “you’re there. And when I think of next year, you’re there. And when I think of my ten-year high school fucking reunion, it’s like: Derek’s gonna be in a bad mood when I make him go to it with me.” He’s not entirely wrong. He’s imagining Derek being in a bad mood for being trussed up and dragged to a party; in reality Derek would be in a bad mood because Stiles hates dressing up, and Derek’ll have to actually make Stiles dress appropriately for his own stupid shindig. Derek might as well be a psychic for how sure he is of how that event will go. Stiles is saying, “No matter how far ahead I think, you’re there.” He’s closed the box, but now he opens it again and looks at the ring. “So I guess it’s just that—when I realized I was pretty much stuck with you forever, I got all excited and wanted forever to get started right away. Shit.” The last part doesn’t fit in. Derek squints at him. “You hate the ring.”
“You hate it. I just realized.”
“It’s cool.” Stiles is shaking his head, snapping the box shut. “I’ll exchange it. You can pick what kind you want this time, I got all ahead of myself here—” Derek reaches for it, but Stiles yanks it away and slaps it down onto the coffee table. “It’s okay.”
“I’m serious, I got you.”
“It’s not a big—”
Derek grabs Stiles’ arm and shoves him into the back of the couch so he can get the box. “Give me that.” Once retrieved, the ring fits perfectly, of course. Derek doesn’t know how Stiles figured out his ring size. Maybe he measured it on Scott’s finger.
“My arm is broken.”
“It is not.”
“You broke my arm.”
“I did not fucking break your arm.”
“This is the worst proposal. Ever.”
Derek ignores him. He’s looking at the ring. Derek doesn’t put a whole lot of time and effort into examining himself. He thinks he’s realistic about his looks: he knows he’s reasonably attractive, and he likes to maintain an unwavering state of apathetic, miserable handsomeness about himself. Largely, it comes naturally. But for the first time, he’s decided he likes the way his hand looks. He thinks it looks really good with a ring on it. “Where’s yours,” he asks. When Stiles doesn’t answer, he looks impatiently at Stiles’ face.
He’s smiling, a little mistily. Not too, but definitely a little. “Huh?”
“Yours,” Derek enunciates. “Where is it.”
“Chill. It’s somewhere in the trunk.”
“Go get it.”
“Go get it.” Stiles stares at him, mouth hanging open in a Stiles sort of way. He doesn’t go get it. “I’ll get it.” Derek pushes up and goes digging in the trunk for a ring box. He can feel Stiles watching him, and it’s making his skin prickle like awareness, like he knows he’s distracting himself out of selfconsciousness. Finally, in a corner and underneath a folder containing Derek’s birth certificate, Derek finds a loose ring. He was expecting the stone to be brown as well, but it’s a milky sort of grey. An odd choice, Derek thinks. He holds it aloft and straightens. Stiles hasn’t moved, not even to close his mouth.
Derek sits down next to Stiles. The wind hurls the rain against the window again, and the lights flicker briefly. “Um,” Stiles finally says. “So does this, is this, um…”
He doesn’t manage to get the question out, so Derek takes his hand and slides the ring onto it. Now that he’s looking at it, next to Derek’s own, the ring isn’t as odd. It’s odd in the way that Stiles is an odd choice for Derek. Obviously of all the people in the world, he’s selected this one because Stiles brings something to the table that Derek can’t get enough of. Maybe Derek had never pictured himself on the receiving end of an infuriating Hanukkah proposal; but he hadn’t seen anything else in his life coming, and that hadn’t stopped it from happening. Derek had more or less resigned himself, if not to loneliness, then to general solitude, because of how hard it is to meet somebody, and how hard it is for him to meet somebody, and how astronomical the odds are that the feelings will be mutual and life circumstances will facilitate any kind of actual longevity. He’d basically decided to give up on that arena of his life and leave the continuation of the Hale whatever up to Cora and his uncle. As a result of that decision, every minute with Stiles, including the ridiculous shit Stiles will pick a fight over, has been a bewildering thrill. A pleasant surprise. Initially, he thought he couldn’t believe he got to have this; but the more he thinks about it, the more sense it makes, and the more at home he feels in it. He does get to have this, because as much as Derek has selected Stiles, Stiles has chosen him right back. Surely whatever Derek’s doing must be working for him. The two rings, one brown and one greyish, go unexpectedly together.
“I love you, like, a lot, dude,” Stiles finally admits. “Do you wanna get, like, a jump start on this whole matrimony thing? We could even elope if you wanted to,” he adds quickly. “Or we could just do city hall, you know? I know I said I wanted James Earl Jones to officiate, but more than that, I want to be, like, married to you, so I—” He almost keeps talking for a second despite the fact that Derek’s kissed him, but all that comes out is an aborted sort of hum that transforms swiftly into a moan or a sigh or maybe just a noise of concession. Derek likes the way Stiles holds Derek’s head in place while he kisses him; Stiles seems to enjoy when Derek pushes his hands onto his ribs. Still, Stiles breaks the kiss to fist a hand in Derek’s hair and say breathlessly, “So that’s a yes, right? Because this is a very confusing no.”
“It’s a no,” says Derek. “I put a ring on you so you’d know I didn’t want to marry you.”
“This is a fundamental—” Stiles begins, but kissing him worked last time and Stiles is a creature of habit, so logic follows it will work a second time. And it does.
A year later, yet another storm has arrived and this one has successfully caused a power outage. The room is faintly lit by an assortment of candles and the space heater, which has switched over to its battery function. Over next to it lie Kotek and his new ward, Piesek. The kitchen floor is cold and unforgiving on Stiles’ bare feet, and he hurries back to the living area with his water bottle. They have, in the year since, replaced the couch; however, their behavior on and around it has remained the same. He scrambles, wincing, under the afghan with Derek. “My dad will probably take a picture of us tomorrow,” he informs Derek as he settles himself half on top of him.
Derek hums, a feigned curiosity. He’s half asleep and doesn’t give a shit what Stiles says.
“And,” Stiles goes on, as if Derek asked, “I’m going to have to wear a scarf so my grandma doesn’t have to look at a picture of me with hickies all over my neck.”
“Your grandmother’s a grown woman,” Derek answers, managing to look judgmental even with his eyes shut. “She knows what goes on in a marital household.”
“I’ve never seen a Christmas photo of anybody in my family where somebody’d clearly bitten them the night before.”
“Nobody will even notice.”
Derek's naïve hubris is actually kind of cute. “Oh, my god. Derek. Everyone will notice.”
As it turned out, being married wasn’t a significant jump from being not married. Their trips to the grocery store and the laundromat are equally uneventful; their arguments over the DVR remain petty as ever; and Derek continues to pitch a pointless fit over whether or not Stiles makes the bed (they’re just gonna get back in it at the end of the day!). The biggest change Stiles has seen is that he was excommunicated by his least favorite aunt—and he never heard from her before the engagement anyhow. Stiles just thinks there’s really something satisfying, if very bizarre, about how everything became “us” and “our” and “we.” Kotek is no longer Stiles’ cat, but their cat. The apartment isn’t Derek’s, it’s theirs. They never go with the upstairs neighbor to Yaadgar because they don’t like the service. Now, Stiles looks at Derek, half naked and more than half asleep, and feels very much at home.
“All I’m saying,” Stiles continues, “is if you don’t want my entire family to know about the whole, you know, wolfy factor, then try not chewing me up every new moon.”
“You have such a way with words,” Derek tells him irritably, eyes finally slitting open. His hand settles into the divot at the bottom of Stiles’ back. Maybe it’s the proximity to his ass; or maybe it’s the intimacy of being naked under a blanket together while rain batters at the window, like they’re in a Neighbourhood song. Maybe it’s the way Derek is looking at him, now, like he can hardly keep from devouring him. Whatever the reason, Stiles is suddenly up for whatever, if by “whatever” you mean “sex.” And the best part of being more or less permanently together is that when he gets horny, he can try for sex first, and fall back on masturbation if it doesn’t pan out, as opposed to the other way around. Stiles is a pretty big fan of that.
“The new moon wants us to do it again,” he says huskily.
“The new moon can go fuck itself,” Derek replies.
“There’s a joke here about fucking and mooning,” Stiles mutters, reaching around to grope Derek’s ass, feeling something he didn’t know he could feel until he met Derek. It’s not the ass. It’s a mixture of horniness and sleepiness. Like he could fall asleep in the middle of sex and not even feel like he missed out on anything. “But I can’t think straight enough to figure it out. Mm…” It’s also the ass.
Derek grips Stiles’ knee, pulls him closer until he can seal their mouths together, kiss him deep like he never gets sick of kissing him.
Stiles straddles Derek’s lap, jerks both of them off on their marital couch, and muffles any and all insuppressible shouts in Derek’s neck. That's what Derek also does: he's a protector. Just as a character trait. Stiles fell stupid-dumbass-head-over-heels in love with somebody who could rip him to shreds, and here he is, naked and sharing jewelry with him. The thought of Derek actually ripping him to shreds is laughable. The thought of Derek ripping somebody else to shreds for hurting Stiles is a very real possibility, and may or may not be a past event. Derek's hands curve around Stiles' body, hot and coarse, and Stiles is safe. And Stiles is supposed to just pass up on this gem because he's shaped wrong and has a beard? Stiles’ aunt can fuck one hundred percent of the way off.
“Okay,” Stiles announces after, when Derek’s returned firmly to being mostly asleep and ignoring him. “That orgasm? That one right there? That was your Christmas gift. All right? Don’t be expecting any other kind of package tomorrow.”
“There’s always Santa,” Derek replies, and he sounds so bitter and sarcastic that Stiles falls in love with him even more. Like, you know, extra. Or again. Whatever. You get it. End scene.