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The Holiday

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 Over the years, Stiles has watched many people come through his bed and breakfast. He sees a glimpse of their lives for a few days, hears their wonderful stories that take place all over the world. Stiles sees many couples come through his little place, of all ages, and he likes to look at the way they smile at each other, clearly in love.

 He thought he had that for himself.

 Now he hears the front door shut as his girlfriend – ex girlfriend – leaves his home. Stiles already has a bottle of wine in hand, feeling far too empty to deal with this. He wasn’t expecting it. Or, he was pretending very hard that things were okay.

 That’s what the trip was for. They were going to go to the snow, somehow get closer together, somehow take the next step in their relationship. It was going to be beautiful, and fun, and Stiles wouldn’t be alone over Christmas.

 He sighs to himself, feeling the burn of the wine down his throat as he takes too big a mouthful. He thinks about curling up on his bed and watching some Hallmark Christmas movies where the couple always gets together in the end and stays together too.

 The computer beeps, an alert from Cora Hale showing up on the screen.

 “Oh shit,” Stiles says, and he rubs his eyes, collapsing onto the computer chair and accepting the video call. He tries to smile.

 “Hi Stiles,” she says, ready to start talking before she takes in his frown. Cora narrows her eyes. “What is it?”

 He pushes the bottle of wine out of view when he sees Cora glance at it. His face is already hot as he realises he has to face this; he has to say out loud what has just happened. He swallows and explains the situation.

 “What,” Cora says flatly. “You’re cancelling on me?”

 Stiles nods.

 “Now?” She says, voice getting angrier. “My flight is in less than twenty four hours, you can’t just cancel on me!”

 Stiles shrugs, not feeling too fussed. His plans have gone out the window too, when his girlfriend left with the rest of their relationship. He swings around on his seat and reaches for the wine. He ignores it when Cora rolls her eyes and her sigh comes through the speakers.

 “So, your girlfriend broke up with you and you want to cancel your trip?” she mutters.

 “Yep!”

 “And so you don’t need me to look after your bed and breakfast.”

 He just smiles back at her.

 Cora’s angry expression drops and she suddenly looks tired. Her whole head dips forward, straight, dark hair covering her face before she sits up and looks at Stiles with hopeful eyes. “Why don’t you go away anyway? Holiday. Yay!”

 Her voice trails off and Stiles snorts. She eyes him eagerly and his mind is already contemplating the idea, imagining himself all alone and cooped up in a room, wishing that he had someone else to share this holiday with. He shakes his head.

 “No, nope, bad idea there.”

 Cora scowls. “Come on, Stiles.”

 Stiles looks at her. “Why do you want so badly to come and run my bed and breakfast?”

 “Because my own one is turning miserable,” she snaps. “All potential customers have been snatched up by the opening of this new, fancy ski lodge.”

 Stiles straightens when Cora mentions the name and he grins, shooting out the arm that’s holding the bottle of alcohol and making some of the liquid slosh to the floor. “I was going to go there! You know, with my girlfriend.”

 Cora gives him a flat look. “Your ex-girlfriend,” she points out tightly. “And thank you for contributing to the closing down of my family’s bed and breakfast.”

 “Hey,” Stiles complains. “That’s not fair. I didn’t know it was a ski lodge near you when I booked it.”

 They both grimace and it goes quiet as they both contemplate their problems. Stiles needs to cancel the booking as soon as he can, needs to figure something else out with these stupid plane tickets. He feels goddamn miserable, just sitting here, wishing that he didn’t have to deal with heartbreak this Christmas.

 Cora pauses. “Why don’t you come over anyway?”

 “I told you,” Stiles says, “I’m not in the mood for spending my holiday learning how to ski alone. No. Sorry. Not happening. Nice to almost do business with you.”

 “No,” she insists, scooting closer on her chair. “I still work for your bed and breakfast while you’re away, you come over, still learn how to ski, but at the same time you work for mine instead! You won’t end up paying heaps for the lodge and neither of us will have to cancel our plane tickets. It’ll barely be a job because we only have a few guests now.”

 Stiles shoots her a sceptical look.

 “Look,” Cora says. “My brother’s perfectly capable of running the place by himself except for the fact he’s not so good with people. He’d need just a little bit of your help, and I can still come over and run yours as advertised and it’ll be good.”

Stiles sighs. “It sounds like you don’t really need me.”

 “We don’t,” she grits. “But you’re welcome to shake the place up anyway you can. It’s not like it matters after this season because we’ll probably have to close the bed and breakfast anyway. I just want to get out of there for a bit. Away from the snow. My brother understands.”

 He groans and it really does sound tempting. This way he won’t have to deal with any of his friend’s looks of pity, he won’t have to unpack his bags, and Stiles will be able to clear his head. He’ll still be able to get away.

 “As long as I get free ski lessons from you guys, those things are expensive as hell,” Stiles tells her, wondering if he’s going to regret this when he wakes up.

 Her grin is sudden and full.

 “Deal,” says Cora. “I’ll run your bed and breakfast and you’ll run mine.”

♦♦♦♦

 Stiles tries not to notice the way his father’s face falls when Stiles announces that he’s still going to get on the plane the next morning. His whole body stiffens at the table, where he’s waiting for the lunch Stiles often cooks him at the bed and breakfast.

 “Go if you must,” the Sheriff says, eyeing the healthy meal Stiles sets down in front of him. He stabs it with his fork. “But you do know that we’re here for you, at home.”

 Stiles nods, wiping his hands together and sitting across from his father. He knows that everyone can see through his cheery manner but he still smiles, as much as he can, trying not to act like he got broken up with the night before. His head still hurts a little from the amount of wine he had.

 “I know,” Stiles says, shrugging a little. “But I just thought I’d get away for a bit anyway, see the snow – go on holiday like I was planning to anyway.”

 “Except you’ll be alone,” Allison calls out from across the room. Stiles shoots her a filthy look. She sighs at him and gets up from behind the front desk. “And while you’re gone we’ll have to work around another person to keep this place running? It’s our busiest time of year.”

 Stiles stares at Allison with a forced smile. “Well,” he says, “as you say, it’s Christmas. It’s the perfect time for meeting new people.”

 “And for spending time with your family,” a voice says from behind them. Stiles twists and sees Parrish walking up to them, on his lunch break from the station too. He sits down and gives them all a bright smile. The Sheriff gives his son a pointed look.

 Stiles bites his lip and tries not to feel guilty. He knows Allison doesn’t want to run the bed and breakfast with a stranger. He knows his father would rather have the company at Christmas, even if he has the McCalls to share the holiday with. Stiles is going to leave them all behind, and he knows he shouldn’t feel like he needs to get away.

 “You weren’t this upset when you thought I was going with my girlfriend,” Stiles says at them, standing up to go prepare Parrish’s meal.

 His father gives him a tight smile. “That’s because we thought ...”

 The silence hangs in the air. Allison looks down at her nails. Parrish hums to himself, looking at the menu even though he orders the same thing every visit. Stiles feels his heart sink as he fights the urge to glare at them all.

 “We thought that she was going to become a part of our family. Someday,” the Sheriff adds hastily, as Stiles’ mouth drops open. “But if you need time to yourself, son, we understand. Do what you need to do.”

 Stiles’ expression is tight as he nods and heads to the kitchen. He finds himself really, really needing some space. More so than the night before, when his girlfriend said her goodbyes, more so than when he had the bottle of wine in his hand, wishing he could make a relationship last. He needs this trip and he finds that he doesn’t even need Cora Hale to convince him anymore.

♦♦♦♦

 “Are you sure you want to do this?” Scott asks when he drops Stiles off at the airport.

 He nods. There’s nervousness playing everywhere inside him but he’s managed to convince himself that this is a good idea. “Yeah,” Stiles says. “Yeah, I want to do this.”

 “Have fun,” Scott says seriously, “and I’ll come to your bed and breakfast and make sure everyone’s welcoming this Cora well, okay?”

 Stiles groans, rubbing his face. “Yeah, don’t let everyone take out their anger at me leaving on her.”

 Scott sighs and puts both his hands on Stiles’ shoulders, looking him in the eye. “You need this. I helped you plan some of this trip and even if it’s changed a little, you need a nice break from everything. It will be good, I promise.”

 His friend’s words stay in his head as he drags his carryon luggage behind him, heading towards the terminal. When he gets on the plane he realises he can’t turn back and instead of panic, he feels excitement start to build up on his skin.

♦♦♦♦

 The first thing he notices when he arrives is that it’s desperately cold. He pulls the scarf tight around his neck, smirking to himself when he sees the pattern of reindeers. Stiles sees his breath in front of him as he pulls his luggage out of the car, and when he turns his mouth drops open.

 The bed and breakfast is beautiful. There’s a small, snow covered sign that says Hale’s and down a short path he sees a dark house, contrasting with the whiteness of the snow. Stiles feels almost giddy inside. This is what Christmas is supposed to look like.

 He drags his bags past the dark gate, down a path lit up by lamps and past bare trees heavy with snow. Stiles leaves footprints behind him as he climbs some steps and soon enough he’s stepping through a heavy wooden door, into the warmth of the main room.

 There’s a fire in the corner and a couple of couches settled around it. . It’s remarkably quiet, but Stiles sees an old couple bickering by the flames. No one’s at the front desk.

 “Dear, shut the door!” the lady calls from in front of the fire. “You’re letting the cold air in.”

 “Sorry!” Stiles croaks, hopping over his things as he tries to close the door, finally hearing it click. He hovers for a few minutes, shrugging off his coat as he realises no one is coming to help him. Stiles flops onto the seat at the front desk, baggage now by his feet. There’s a bell that he rings until the man by the fire gives him a dirty look. Stiles smiles weakly at him, suddenly exhausted.

 He wants to know where the fuck Cora’s older brother is. He’s supposed to show him where he’s staying and what the hell he’s meant to be doing here. This small place may be beautiful, but as he sits here he’s slowly starting to realise that he’s very alone.

 He should go home. He could, very easily, and then Stiles would be with everyone else.

 Stiles spots a note on the desk from Cora. If you need anything, ask Derek. He should be there to greet you. Stiles snorts. He ends up falling asleep at the front desk, feet up on the table, the exhaustion of plane rides and travelling settling in. His eyes feel heavy and no one wakes him.

♦♦♦♦

 A cold burst of wind comes through the front door and Stiles is jolted from his sleep. He finds himself in the dark, with the shadow of a figure looming over him.

 Stiles swears and his feet knock down a jar of pens and pencils.

 “What are you doing?” the guy says roughly. Stiles stares up at him, vision slowly adjusting, and he sees a jaw covered with stubble, eyebrows drawn together and pink lips flat against each other. He feels his heart speed up as the man glares.

 “What the hell was that for?” Stiles hisses at him. “Ever heard of not scaring someone to death?”

 The man just smirks, coming around the desk and knocking Stiles’ ankles off the surface. His teeth are white in the dark, gleaming slightly as he stares Stiles down. Stiles gets to his feet, a little dizzy, but he puts his hands on his hips and tries to scowl.

 “So,” says Stiles, sticking out his chest a little. “Need a room?”

 “Maybe,” the guy says back, looking at him.

 “Right,” Stiles replies. They stand there in the dark, it all feeling oddly warm, and once the sleep leaves Stiles’ brain he realises who the man in front of him is. His mouth drops open and he glares. “You’re Derek! Cora’s brother. You were meant to be here hours ago,” he accuses.

 Derek ducks his head instantly, looking sheepish.

 “Great,” Stiles says, stepping forward and jabbing Derek in the chest with a finger. They’re standing far too close now, and Stiles can’t bring himself to move away. “You know, it would’ve been nice to have a proper greeting or something, but now I’ve just had to stay here and wait around, doing nothing but –”

“Sleep,” Derek puts in, raising his gaze.

 Stiles stops speaking.

  “Sorry,” Derek runs a hand through his hair. “I thought you were coming tomorrow. I was at the bar down the road.”

 Stiles folds his arms. “Great,” he says. “The bar.”

 Derek sighs. He apologises again and Stiles rolls his eyes.

 “Whatever,” he says, voice flat. “Will you show me where I’m staying? I’d like to go to bed. And what time’s breakfast? Do you need me to cook anything for anyone?”

 Derek gives him a pleased look, his teeth peeking through his lips. “Seven thirty. You don’t have to cook if you don’t want to ... I can.”

 Stiles shrugs and waves his hand, figuring he’d better be useful anyway. Derek leads him down a hallway and up some stairs, offering to take Stiles’ luggage. He almost drops it down the narrow staircase, blushing faintly as his hands fumble.

 They go past a few rooms, numbers carved into the wooden doors. Derek is eyeing him the whole way to the small apartment that he shares with his sister. It makes Stiles feel a little flushed, the back of his neck getting hot the more Derek’s gaze lingers.

 There are two beds either side of the room. One is neatly made, quilt folded up at the foot of the bed, and Derek tells him that’s where Stiles will be sleeping.

 “Goodnight,” Derek says quietly, taking off his own coat and throwing it across the room. It lands with a dull thump. When Derek turns back to him, his eyes are dark and soft. Stiles sees the whisper of Derek’s eyelashes over his face, and the room is dark, neither of them having bothered to turn on the light.

 Stiles swallows.

 He doesn’t know what’s happening when Derek leans forward, but Stiles’ heart leaps and his skin flares up with warmth when Derek drops a quick kiss on his lips. “Goodnight,” he says again, turning his head as he pulls away. Stiles feels the scrape of his stubble.

 “Night,” Stiles echoes.

 Derek blushes faintly. “Sorry. I don’t know why I did that.”

 “Well I’m not complaining.”

 Derek’s look is sharp. He blinks. “You’re not?”

 Stiles shakes his head. It’s so easy to give in. Maybe this is exactly what he needs. Derek is handsome, and he’s there, and it’s a nice way to forget why he’s at this bed and breakfast in the first place. Before Stiles can think too much about it, warm lips are over his, an arm snaking around his waist and pulling him closer.

 “Fuck yes,” Stiles breathes, arms going around Derek’s neck, kissing him harder when Derek makes a noise into his mouth.

 Derek pulls back suddenly. “This isn’t a good idea. I don’t know you.”

 “It’s fine,” Stiles says quickly, hands rubbing at Derek’s hair. “It’s fine, don’t worry about it, just kiss me.” Derek hesitates but Stiles shuffles forward on his feet, his words a breath away from Derek’s mouth.

 It’s hard to resist the pull between them, blood hot under Stiles’ skin when they kiss again. He gets lost in it and it’s so easy to forget everything, to forget why this shouldn’t feel so fucking good. He pulls back to speak, but Derek cuts him off with his lips, rough.

 “I may be a little drunk,” Derek admits when he finally pulls away, forehead dipped against Stiles’ shoulder.

 Stiles pats him on the back, Derek almost sagging against him as Stiles guides him to his bed. He resists the urge to pull the blankets back for him and then tuck him in, and instead he watches as Derek presses his face into the pillows with a groan.

 Derek’s soft snores fill the room quickly and Stiles grins, kicking off his shoes and climbing under the sheets at the opposite side of the room.

♦♦♦♦

 When Stiles wakes the room is empty and he almost forgets where he is. The air is chilly when he pulls away from the warmth of the blankets and he sits up, his head spinning. He notices a cup of coffee by his bed, steam rising from the cup in swirls.

 He smiles faintly and thinks of Derek. He can’t quite remember what he looks like, the fading image of his face something he wants to see again, the press of his lips something he wants to feel again. He can barely believe that last night happened, even if Derek was a little drunk and Stiles is getting over someone.

 Stiles pulls his luggage near and opens it, the contents spilling over the floor. He finds what he needs and out of the corner of his eye he sees a bright red parcel, small and rectangular, a golden ribbon around the middle. His heart drops and he dips his head to his hands, suddenly woozy. It’s another thing he has to return, a gift turned pointless.

 There’s a small bathroom at the end of the room and he showers quickly, rubbing his face hard to wake himself up. He takes the coffee and has a sip and somehow it’s perfect, Stiles smiling as he makes his way down the stairs.

 He hears some sounds coming down the hall and he follows the noise to the kitchen. It’s a small space with wooden cupboards over the walls, pots and pans hanging from the ceiling and a bench in the centre of the room which takes up most of the space.

 Stiles cups his coffee in his palms and leans against the doorframe, peering over the rim of his mug. He takes in the figure moving about the small room, dressed in dark clothes that hug his arms and chest. Derek hasn’t noticed him yet, but Stiles gets a glimpse of his face and it’s gorgeous in the daylight, better than he remembered.

“Thanks for the coffee,” Stiles says. Derek startles and there’s a loud clatter. Stiles smirks at him, noticing the way Derek carefully avoids his gaze.

 “You’re welcome,” Derek manages awkwardly. He watches the way Derek’s cheeks slowly redden as Stiles drags his eyes over him. He’s definitely aware of how this all feels too much like the morning after, too awkward, like perhaps it would be best if they forgot about last night.

 Stiles downs the coffee and grins at him. “How can I help?”

 Derek looks relieved. “Um,” he says. “Our guests write on that little board what they want the next morning, so that’s what I’m cooking.”

 He tries to get Derek to look at him as they work together, but his gaze is unwilling. Derek points to the things Stiles can’t find and he shows him how to use the oven now that there is a button missing. When they stand close enough to each other that their shoulders brush, Derek stiffens but he doesn’t move away.

 Stiles bites his lip. He doesn’t know what he’s doing. He has no fucking clue, but it seems simple and harmless enough to watch the back of Derek’s neck go red as he leans into his space.

 “After you,” Stiles says cheerily as they reach the door, both of them carrying dishes in their arms.

 Derek stares at him a moment before nodding and Stiles follows him to a room scattered with tables. There’s a large fireplace at one of the walls, bigger than the one in the entrance and with a pile of logs stacked around it, ready to topple.

 Stiles stops when he sees the view through the windows.

 “Wow,” he breathes, loud enough for Derek to hear.

 He sees Derek smirk but Stiles just steps forward and stares. He takes in the glorious mountains, covered in a blanket of snow with the sky a clear blue around it. There are some clouds, white wisps which make it hard for Stiles to tell where everything starts and everything ends.

 He can’t understand why Cora would want to leave this.

 Stiles frowns when he sees a large building at the edge of the window. It’s not pretty. The more he looks the more he hates it, the more he wants it to disappear so that the scenery stays unspoilt. It looks grey and dark from here and Stiles feels Derek step next to him.

 “Is that the lodge?” Stiles says flatly.

 “Yeah.”

 He turns to him. “What was it like before?”

 Derek shrugs and he seems sad. “It’s better now that the construction is over.”

 Stiles wants to ask more questions, ask why anyone let that building happen but he knows the answer. The promise of money can make anything happen and Derek doesn’t look like he wants to talk about it. His eyes drop down and he twists on his heel, walking towards the couple sitting near the fire.

 “Ah, Derek!” a woman says, grabbing his elbow and pulling him down to kiss his cheek. “How are you? I didn’t get to talk to you properly yesterday.”

 Derek clears his throat and straightens, placing down the scrambled eggs. He ignores Stiles’ incredulous look. “Um. Fine.”

 The woman brushes past his stilted words with ease, seemingly used to it. “And I hear your dear sister isn’t here this Christmas?”

 Derek shakes his head, risking a glance at Stiles. He raises his eyebrow in return, looking at Derek pointedly. “Um, this is...”

 “Stiles,” he says chirpily, still holding some dishes.

 “Right. He’s helping out,” Derek finishes awkwardly.

 “I’m Mrs Dickson,” the woman says, smiling. “My husband is around here somewhere. I’m glad that dear Derek has company this Christmas.”

 Stiles nods, shooting her a smile. “He sure does,” he says. “I’ve heard I’m very good company, so he’s very lucky.” He hears Derek snort and Stiles feels an excited flutter inside him. Once past the awkwardness, something could work, he’s sure of it. They could just forget everything and do what they wanted to and it would be so easy.

 He meets a Mr and Mrs Adams, another couple that seem to bicker so much that they barely notice Stiles set down their food, and a Mrs Kensington who sits alone with her book and twists her wedding ring every few minutes. She smiles kindly as Stiles sets down her food, and he waves at her when he leaves to get the next lot of plates.

 Stiles waits in the hallway, straightening when he hears Derek’s conversation with one of the guests end. As far as he can tell, they’re all regulars, all knowing Derek by name and asking after his sister if they haven’t done so already.

 He tries to act casual, leaning against the wall as Derek approaches. Stiles isn’t sure of what he’s doing but he wants to say something. He wants to acknowledge last night and ask for a wonderful distraction.

 Derek swears under his breath when he sees Stiles standing there, taking a step back and closing his eyes briefly. When he opens them again, he glares.

 “What do you want?” he snaps.

 Stiles smiles at him, watching Derek’s eyebrows knit together.

 “You were a bit friendlier last night,” Stiles tells him.

 Derek opens his mouth to speak but decides against it, jaw clenching together as he looks away. Stiles steps closer and eyes Derek carefully. He grins when Derek gives himself away, his glance at Stiles falling to his lips.

 “This isn’t a good idea,” Derek says, straightening.

 “What isn’t a good idea?”

 Derek sighs, bringing a hand to his face. “I have to get the rest of the food,” he says.

 “Okay,” Stiles replies, but he doesn’t move.

 He can see Derek remembering last night, his cheeks darkening even though barely anything happened. All Stiles can think of is the thrill that comes with never seeing someone again, the excitement of having something to himself for a week or so before he goes back to his life.

 He doesn’t care if they’re working together. This is his holiday.

 Derek clears his throat, weaving around Stiles and heading back towards the kitchen. Stiles groans.

 “Wait, wait,” Stiles says hurriedly, moving around. “Look, I don’t want to make you uncomfortable, but I have to say that you started it.”

“I was drunk,” Derek hisses back at him.

 Stiles shrugs. “Well you’re not now.”

 “And we’re supposed to be working together.”

 “I’m sure we’ll manage,” Stiles says. Derek scowls at him, reaching for the rest of the food.

 It’s at the end of breakfast, when they’re both clearing away plates, that Derek finally stops looking like he wished he hadn’t been drunk the night before.

  “So you can come to me if you need anything,” Stiles says brightly, speaking to Mr and Mrs Adams and explaining how he met Cora online.  He’s vaguely aware of Derek staring at him as he takes their dishes.

 “How do you do that?” he asks, when they’re back in the kitchen.

 Stiles hums. “Do what?”

 “Talk to people,” he gets out through his teeth. “I’ve known most of those people my whole life and I still find it a challenge.”

 Stiles looks at him sympathetically. “Dude, it’s like my job at my own bed and breakfast. I take care of the people and Allison does a lot of the behind the scenes stuff.”

 Derek swallows, face carefully blank. “Your own bed and breakfast. Where my sister is.”

 “Yes.”

 “What’s so special about your place that made her want to go over there?” Derek says at him, voice a little hard.

 “Your bed and breakfast is equally as enthralling,” Stiles says, rolling his eyes. “Don’t you worry.”

 Derek doesn’t look like he believes him.

♦♦♦♦

 Derek clears his throat.

 “So that’s how you work the computer and check everyone in. I normally do skiing lessons twice a day. If people come in asking for some, just sign them up. The prices are here,” he points to a laminated sheet of paper taped to the desk. “All the equipment is locked in the basement and available for hire.”

 Stiles nods. “Cool–”

 “Not that many people hire it,” he mutters, throwing a dark look past his shoulder at the lodge.

 Stiles frowns, standing up and leaning against the desk. He’s not sure what he would do if his business was failing. As much as he wanted a break from it all, his place is everything to him, something he started up from nothing.

 He loves having his father and Parrish come over in the middle of the day to eat lunch and complain about paperwork. He loves Allison smiling sweetly at him as she tries to get him to agree to something. He loves so much about it and he’d hate to give it up.

 Stiles shuffles over so that the sides of their bodies line up. He offers Derek a tentative smile, trying to distract him. “You know, Cora promised me skiing lessons.”

 Derek gives him a flat look. “Really.”

 “Yep.”

 “Fine,” he says, but the tension seems to fall from his shoulders. They stand next to each other and Stiles tries to stay still, delighted when Derek doesn’t move away. He hears him exhale. “Is there anything else you need?”

 Stiles shakes his head. “No. See you, Derek.”

 He looks at Stiles, the corner of his lips dipped down. “Bye.”

 “Are you in for dinner?” Stiles asks, when neither of them move. “I can make something.”

 Derek says nothing.

 “Or, I suppose you could go down to the bar again.”

 “Dinner sounds good,” he grits out, and he looks like he wants to hit himself. Excitement pools inside Stiles and he walks away quickly, not letting Derek take back his words. He can feel Derek looking at his retreating figure.

 He stops by the door and twists around, a smirk on his face. “It’s a date,” Stiles says, disappearing before Derek can protest.

♦♦♦♦

 Derek seems to disappear after that. Stiles uses the time he has to explore the bed and breakfast and he finds a back room, covered in a thin layer of dust. His nose wrinkles but he takes in the dozens of books sitting neatly together on the shelves. There are boxes of them too, abandoned on the floor.

 Stiles frowns.

 He pulls on as many clothes as he can, not sure how to deal with the cold outside. He ignores the gift he was going to give his girlfriend and shoves it under the bed. Stiles doesn’t need to see it. The trip down to the local village is short, and Stiles stomps through the snow as he makes his way down. When he turns the corner he sees the lodge again, standing tall.

 He imagines being there and somehow it doesn’t seem so good. He wouldn’t have a date if he was there; he’d still be pretending that his relationship was actually going somewhere. Stiles shrugs and buys a few things for dinner the kitchen at the bed and breakfast didn’t have.

 He spots Mr and Mrs Dickson at one of the cafes, doing the crossword together. Stiles smiles.

 He manages to overcook the meat he buys but he hopes Derek doesn’t notice. The kitchen has steamed up by the time Derek arrives, shrugging off his coat and running a hand through the light cover of snow in his hair. He eyes Stiles wearily.

 “We’re still going to do this?” he asks. Stiles rolls his eyes.

 “It’s the least you could do,” Stiles tells him. “I do deserve a proper welcome and everything.”

 Derek helps him carry everything out, placing the dishes carefully at a table by the fire. His mouth seems to curve upwards when he inhales the smell of the food and he fetches a bottle of wine. Stiles grins and pours himself a glass.

 “So,” Derek says awkwardly. “What made you want to come here?”

 Stiles shrugs. “Was going to come up here with my girlfriend. We broke up and your sister persuaded me to come help you out so that she could still come to Beacon Hills.”

 Derek’s face shuts down quickly and his shoulders fall flat. He takes a cautious bite of his food and chews slowly, his throat moving when he finally swallows. Stiles stares at him.

 “What?” asks Stiles.

 Derek gives him a sharp look. “You’re getting over a break up.”

 “Yeah,” Stiles says slowly.

 Derek says nothing. His knife slices against the plate when he cuts a piece of the meat and they eat together in silence. He sees Mr and Mrs Dickson come up, sitting near them and shuffling their chairs unnecessarily close.

 Derek glances at them. “Sorry,” he breathes. “It’s just, they don’t normally see me out here.”

 Stiles barks out a laugh, reaching for his drink to clear his throat.

 “Why are you on a date with me?” Derek says, his eyes dark as they roam over Stiles’ face. Stiles sits forward, dragging his chair closer and he shrugs.

 “I’m never going to see you again,” Stiles says. He sees something flicker behind Derek’s eyes at his words and he looks like he wants to say something, but he presses his lips shut around another mouthful of food.

 They don’t mention again why they’re sitting across from each other. Derek manages to be polite and asks him about home, his father, his own bed and breakfast. Stiles’ face breaks out into a smile as he speaks and he sees Derek stare down at his now empty plate.

 “What?” he asks.

 “Cora used to love this place like you love yours,” he says quietly.

 The air feels a little heavy as Stiles reaches his hand across the table, his fingers tapping gently against the wood in a nervous pattern. He sees Derek eye it but he doesn’t go to take it. “And your family?”

 Derek’s eyes are empty when he looks up at Stiles. “Gone,” he says. Stiles pulls back his hand.

 They clear away everything in silence, and Stiles feels Derek’s gaze hot on his neck. Mr and Mrs Dickson wave goodnight to them as they leave, a glint in their eyes as they smile. Mrs Dickson grins at Stiles.

 “And goodnight to you, dear,” she says. “I hope you both keep each other nice and warm upstairs.”

 Stiles chokes out a laugh and Derek snatches his hand, his face tight and his grip hard as he drags Stiles up the stairs. When they reach the apartment Stiles takes a step forward, getting in Derek’s space even as he drops his hold.

 “They’re sweet,” he says.

 Derek snorts.

 He angles his body away from Stiles and his frown takes up the whole of his face. Stiles reaches for Derek’s hand again, tangling their fingers together and watching Derek’s shoulders deflate with a sigh.

 “What are we doing?” Derek asks.

 Stiles shrugs. “Having a little fun,” he says. “It’s very simple.”

 He moves so that they’re standing chest to chest, Stiles’ chin over Derek’s shoulder as he speaks. He remembers that this is where they were standing the night before. Stiles turns his head towards Derek’s jaw, nose brushing against Derek’s cheek as he lets out a hot breath. He feels the press of Derek’s fingers against his own, rough and warm.

 “Goodnight,” Stiles says in a low voice, right by Derek’s ear.

 Derek doesn’t move. He stays still as Stiles moves away, reaching for his clothes to go change in the bathroom. Stiles doesn’t try to hide his grin.

 When he emerges from the bathroom Derek is already changed and in his bed, eyeing Stiles wearily before nodding gruffly and switching off the light. Stiles grins into his pillow.

♦♦♦♦

 They cook breakfast again together. Derek still seems uncertain, looking over at Stiles carefully. He smiles back, though, and it’s something. Stiles lets himself pass too close to Derek while they work in the kitchen, letting his hand travel over Derek’s shoulder blades as he moves by.

 It’s a little like a game, watching Derek get flustered. It’s fun, and Derek huffs at him, passing Stiles some plates to take out to their guests. Stiles spends time speaking with them all, smiling brightly and talking for long enough that Derek’s already gone to the snow when he returns to the kitchen.

 Stiles collapses in front of the computer, sinking into the chair as he waits for someone to come and check in. They don’t. He visits the Hale’s website and then he video calls his own bed and breakfast.

 Allison grins at him when she answers, her soft curls falling around her face. The image jumps a bit, but Stiles hears her voice clear in the room. “And how is everything? Was it worth going over there and leaving us all alone?”

 Stiles ignores her. “It’s good, you’d love it here. Maybe you should come here with Scott for your next anniversary.”

 She smiles.

 “And how’s Cora?”

 Allison nods, her mouth pressing into an amused line. “Cora’s good. Thorough. Knows how to do her job and she does everything I ask.”

 “I told you it would work out.”

 She waves her hand like it doesn’t matter anymore, looking over her shoulder before leaning forward. Her dimples show as she speaks. “Parrish comes here a lot more than he normally does,” she says, voice hushed, “but Cora’s pretending not to notice.”

 Stiles smirks, opening his mouth to speak but Allison quickly straightens.

 “Cora, hi! I’m just talking to Stiles.”

 A few moments later Cora comes around the edge of the camera. She seems less stressed than the last time Stiles saw her, her smile coming more easily. She manages a wave and asks after Derek, wincing a little with worry, telling Stiles that he’ll warm up to him.

 “He’s fine,” Stiles says in a dry voice, looking down at his fingers. He tries not to grin as Cora eyes him carefully, her look narrowing. She opens her mouth but Stiles cuts across her, asking about the website and if he can make any changes.

 Cora seems surprised but she smiles, giving him a small nod. He asks her about the room of books upstairs and her face falters.

 “Um,” she says. “Those were my father’s books.”

 Stiles frowns. “Oh. I thought we could use them.”

 Cora fidgets, flicking her hair over her shoulder as Stiles tells him his idea. He needs something to do around here. The guests don’t need much, haven’t asked for much, and all the jobs he has to do won’t take him very long.

 She sighs. “Look, you better run things by Derek but do whatever you want. I don’t care much.”

 Stiles gives her a careful look.

 “On another note,” Cora says, “I’m really enjoying talking to your Dad. He’s pretty cool, likes to tell me lots of stories when he comes in.”

 Stiles bites his lip. “Hey, say hi to him for me, okay? Tell him I’m doing fine.”

 “Sure.”

“Oh and Cora?” Stiles smirks. “Your brother’s not that bad.”

♦♦♦♦

 “I have an idea,” Stiles says, the moment Derek walks through the door. It’s obvious he’s been waiting for him and Derek pauses, his coat half off his shoulders as he stares at Stiles suspiciously. He walks in, throws his coat down and folds his arms.

 “No,” Derek says immediately.

 “You haven’t even heard my idea yet!”

 Derek’s mouth curls into a smile. “I know.”

 “You’re an asshole,” Stiles tells him, sitting back down on the chair and spreading his knees apart. He has a pen in his hand, tapping it against his lips as he slouches, pouting. Derek looks down at him, eyes hovering over his body. Stiles smirks.

 Derek sighs, giving him a flat look. "Fine, what is it?"

 Stiles scrambles up from the chair and grins. “It would be really cool if we moved all those books of yours into the dining area. People can take them out and read them while they drink a coffee or something, and they can even take a book out of the room for a ten dollar fee, which is returned when the book is.”

 Derek narrows his eyes. “No,” he says, firm. He turns around and Stiles has to chase after him, skidding to a stop when Derek reluctantly faces him again.

 “Wait,” Stiles says, reaching for his arm.

 “What?” Derek sighs.

 Stiles takes a deep breath. “I already asked Cora. She said yes. Really,” he fiddles with the hem on his jumper, “I don’t need your permission.”

 Derek looks murderous and he mutters his sister’s name under his breath.

 Stiles bites back a smile, waiting.

 “Fine, you can do the whole book thing as long as the books don’t leave the room.”

 “Yes! Thanks Derek,” he says, placing his hands on Derek’s shoulders and dropping a quick kiss to his lips. They’re softer than he remembers and Stiles pulls away, his eyes flickering towards Derek’s. “Let me know if there are any books you want to keep for yourself. Your sister told me they were your father’s.”

 Derek blinks at him, body still from the kiss Stiles surprised him with.

 “Okay,” he says.

 Stiles leaves with a soft smile, fingers dragging along Derek’s wrist as he walks away.

♦♦♦♦

 He starts on the books before dinner, dragging the boxes down the hallway and into the dining area. There are already a few shelves downstairs, full of crappy magazines that Stiles gets rid of quickly. He hands some of them to Mrs Kensington, who helps Stiles brush the dust off book covers.

 He sees Derek pause by the door, hand on the frame and looking hesitant. He disappears as soon as their eyes meet.

 Stiles leaves Mrs Kensington with the books, breath caught in his chest as he trails after Derek. He’s worried he’s crossed some sort of line, going through his father’s things, and he calls Derek’s name when he enters the kitchen.

 “Do you want dinner again, together?” Derek asks, before Stiles can open his mouth.

 “Yeah,” he says.

 “Great, I’ll cook,” Derek turns around.

 “Derek,” Stiles says, moving around the kitchen. He leans against the fridge. “I can stop with the books if you want.”

 Stiles is surprised when Derek shakes his head, teeth showing behind his careful smile as he wipes his hands on a cloth. “No, it’s nice,” Derek says quietly. He starts to prepare dinner and it takes a while for Stiles to move away.

♦♦♦♦

 Nothing happens that night, after dinner. When Stiles wakes in the morning it feels too much like he’s getting to know someone rather than having the simple, casual relationship Stiles envisioned. Derek’s gone after breakfast, disappearing quickly and leaving Stiles feeling oddly flat.

 He takes a morning walk in the snow, scarf around his neck and camera in his hands. He manages to find a view of the mountains that the lodge doesn’t spoil completely, and it’s still as beautiful as the first time he saw the white snow.

 Stiles returns to the village and has a drink at the bar. The people are loud and friendly, and when Stiles arrives back at the bed and breakfast he waits, feet up on the front desk. He sits a little straighter when the door opens.

 Derek gives him a flat look.

 “Get your feet off.”

 Stiles lifts his ankles, leaving them hovering for a second before he stands. His heart is beating in a quick rhythm as he makes his way around the table, wanting something to happen. Derek’s gaze stays on him, careful, and Stiles asks how the skiing lessons were.

 “Fine,” Derek says.

 Derek doesn’t move as Stiles approaches him and he gathers the front of Derek’s jumper into his fingers. Stiles licks his lips and looks up, feeling Derek go tense.

 “Stiles.”

 He hums in response.

 “What are you doing?”

 Stiles shrugs and shuffles his feet over. There’s a soft buzz of alcohol over his skin, just enough for him to do something, finally. He places a kiss below Derek’s ear, starting a small trail of them down his neck and over his stubble.

 “Have a little fun, Derek,” he grazes his teeth along some skin, feeling Derek shiver.

 “I don’t have fun,” Derek says.

 Stiles sniggers. “Don’t worry, I know.”

 He stays there, and Stiles grins when warm hands fall to his hips. They move down Stiles’ thighs and then up again, lifting Stiles up so that his ass is on the desk. Derek presses their foreheads together and there’s an excited flush over Stiles’ own cheeks.

 “Really, no fun,” Stiles says in a breath, moving his arms over Derek’s shoulders.

 Derek looks him in the eye, expression hesitant. Stiles locks his legs tight around Derek’s body in response, urging him closer. This is what he’s been looking for and he hears Derek groan, muttering something under his breath.

 “Come on,” Stiles complains, but he’s cut off when Derek brings their mouths together. Their lips move slowly at first, unsure, but Stiles has his hands in Derek’s hair, getting closer, and he tugs. Fingertips press harder into his sides and suddenly Derek’s all the more into it, eager, pressing harder, and Stiles is finally sure that he’s not the only person who wants this to happen.

 They break away when they hear the clearing of a throat, their breaths heavy. Stiles loosens his hold in Derek’s hair, hands trailing down his chest as Derek turns his head. He swears, scrambling away from Stiles when he sees Mrs Dickson at the door, eyebrows raised.

 Stiles flushes.

 “Mrs Dickson!” Stiles calls out, crossing his legs. He ducks his head, face feeling hot as he rearranges some of the items that had been knocked over on the desk. “What can I do for you?”

 She smiles. “Mrs Kensington, in the room next to me, she mentioned some books I could read?”

 Stiles nods eagerly. “Yes, sure. They’re just in the other room. I’ll, um, be there in a moment and I can make you a hot drink if you like.”

 Mrs Dickson hums. “Thank you, Stiles.” She eyes them both. “I hope you two are having fun.”

 Stiles forces his smile.

 They both watch her leave and Derek points his finger at Stiles.

 “Your fault,” he says under his breath, his cheeks pink. Stiles moves over, feeling ridiculously dazed and embarrassed all at once. He clears his throat and straightens the both of their clothes, ignoring Derek’s scowl.

 “I’ll see you later,” Stiles says, “okay?”

 He waits a few seconds, but then Derek nods, his lips in a faint smile.

♦♦♦♦

 Stiles groans and collapses on the floor. “This is too hard.”

 “Your idea,” Derek says, lip quirking up. “You have to do it.”

 He stays on the floor and ignores Derek, letting his chest rise and fall. Derek continues to lug books into the room with ease, until they’re surrounded by boxes.

 “I thought you said you had stamina,” Derek says, sitting on the floor.

 “I do,” Stiles scowls.

 “Right,” he nudges Stiles’ knee and reaches for a book, a soft smile on his face. They’ve been here for almost an hour and it’s the worst idea Stiles has ever had.

 When they started, Derek had been staring at the boxes like they were full of memories he’d rather leave untouched. Now, he takes a book and runs his hand gingerly over the cover, teeth showing behind his lips as he passes the book to Stiles and tells him that it was his mother’s favourite.

 Stiles is far too distracted by the happy glint in Derek’s eyes, sometimes flitting to sadness. He’s not getting much done himself, holding books up one by one and waiting for Derek’s nod before he puts them on the shelf.

 “Can we take a break?” Stiles blurts out.

 Derek looks up, eyes wide. His shoulders immediately stiffen, his relaxed look disappearing. Stiles swallows and he’s not ready for how beautiful Derek is here, more open than he’s ever been. He pushes back the thought, trying to hide from it, and he finds himself on Derek’s lap.

 “Oh,” says Derek. “That kind of break.”

 “Yep,” Stiles says.

 Derek frowns, opening his mouth to speak but he changes his mind. He lets out a little breath and Stiles feels it against his cheek.

 He kisses Derek then, only stopping when Derek brings the curve of his smile to Stiles’ ear, whispering that he just saw one of their guests walk past the room.

♦♦♦♦

 Something had changed then, enough for Stiles to notice it. He went to bed that night a little earlier, and that way he didn’t have to look Derek in the eye as he said goodnight. He thinks that the idea of Christmas is getting to him a little, the beauty of their surroundings and this little bed and breakfast enough to drive him crazy when it comes to Derek.

 He ignores it as much as he can.

 The next day Stiles walks into the front room to find Derek at the computer, looking exasperated. Derek’s rubbing his palm over his stubble as he stares at the screen. Stiles goes over to him, squeezing his shoulder and brightening when he sees Cora on video.

 “And do you like it over there?” Derek asks in a hard voice.

 Cora gives him a weak smile. “Yeah, Derek. The people are great and it’s not freezing all the time.” She glances up at Stiles and waves at him.

 “Hi Cora,” Stiles says, “How’s everyone?”

 Derek frowns as he lets the two of them speak. Their faces are close together as Stiles leans over his shoulder, trying to keep in the camera’s frame.

 “Good. Your father’s still been coming by a lot, he has the best work stories,” she says.

 Stiles bites his lip, the mention of his father leaving him a little guilty. He’s glad Cora’s keeping him company. “Did he tell you the one where –”

 Cora rolls her eyes. “He’s got dozens of stories about you,” she says dryly.

 Derek snorts, asking to hear them. Stiles pushes his face away and moves around Derek, falling onto his lap so that he can look into the camera without his back aching. Derek grunts, his fingers digging into Stiles’ side until they’re in a comfortable position.

Cora looks at them suspiciously.

 Stiles ignores her. “Is my father there?” he asks.

 “Um,” she says, looking around. “He just left. Jordan – Parrish is still here though, they come in for lunch together. Would you like to speak to him?”

 Stiles waves his hand. “It’s all good.”

 They talk a little more, Derek silent behind him, and he smiles when Derek slowly wraps his arms around Stiles’ waist, resting his chin on Stiles’ shoulder. Cora groans.

 “Derek! You slept with him already? It’s barely been a week, and he’s not just some guy you can screw and forget about,” she hisses. “You’re running the bed and breakfast together!”

 Stiles feels his cheeks heat up.

 “Maybe I should go.”

 Derek glares at him. His grip tightens. “You’re not leaving me here with her.”

 “No fair,” Stiles scowls, turning around and trying to get free. He jabs a finger into Derek’s chest.

 Derek smirks.

 Cora stares. “Oh my God.”

 “What?” Stiles looks back towards the camera. “He’s not always like this, is he?”

 She looks down and shakes her head. “No.”

 Derek flushes next to him, his hold loosening. “Cora.”

 She smiles faintly and Stiles is suddenly aware of some tension leaking into the room. He says goodbye quickly and slides off Derek’s lap. Derek’s arms hang by his sides as he watches Stiles go, his mouth in a firm line.

♦♦♦♦

 “So,” Stiles says awkwardly. “Did you tell your sister that we haven’t actually slept together?”

 Derek looks up at him.

 “Well, did you?”

 He shrugs. “I let Cora assume what she wants to.”

 Stiles huffs out a breath. “Right,” he says, wondering if Cora is the type of person to tell everyone back at home what Stiles has been up to. “So, why have you dragged me out here? Mr Adams asked me to go down to the village and buy him some goat’s milk for breakfast. He says he ran out of his own.”

 Derek eyes him, eyebrows raised. “You can go after. My sister reminded me that you were promise skiing lesson. Free of charge.”

 Stiles rolls his eyes. “Damn right it’s free of charge.”

 He tries to hide his excitement as Derek leads him towards the basement to find him the right gear. Stiles bites his lip as he trails behind Derek, holding the equipment he needs as they make their way to the snow.

 On the hour, crowded around Derek is a small group of children, most of them coming from the lodge. Stiles’ mouth drops open.

 “You’re teaching me with a bunch of kids?” he asks.

 Derek grins. “Yes. And they’re probably already better than you.”

 Stiles grumbles but Derek ignores him, calling for the group’s attention. He starts talking to them all, his voice soft and clear and easy to listen to. It’s easy to ignore the chill in the air as Derek shows them the different ways to walk in skis, getting them to try it out.

He talks about who has right of way on a track, basic skiing posture, how to stop, turn, fall, and use the chair lift. It’s a little captivating, watching Derek talk and interact with all the kids. They ask him questions, the same ones over and over again but Derek is patient.

 It’s desperately sweet, and Stiles is finding it harder and harder to stop himself from getting too invested in this man.

 “Did you hear that, Stiles?”

 He snaps his head up. “I sure did.”

 Derek gives him a sceptical look and repeats the instruction. They do as much as they can where they are before they make their way up to the bunny hill. Most of the kids manage to ski down it perfectly fine, but Stiles gulps and stares at the flat slope of snow.

 “It’s okay,” he hears Derek say next to him, at the top of the slope. “Make sure you do what we said and don’t panic half way down. Just breathe.”

 Stiles looks at his feet, his fingers quivering a little.

 “You ready?”

 Stiles nods. He feels the press of Derek’s hand on his waist, lingering in encouragement. It makes him more nervous instead, but he swallows and starts to slide down the slope. The kids cheer him on, even though some of them have already moved on to the beginner trails. Stiles falls part of the way down, but he gets up the way he was told and keeps going.

 Derek smiles at him when he reaches the bottom. “Good job,” he says.

 “Thanks,” Stiles grins back at him.

 “When you’re ready, you can try that one,” he says, pointing to the bigger slope.

 Stiles looks at it. “Maybe later,” he croaks.

 The time passes quickly on the snow. He catches Derek once or twice, staring at the lodge, staring at the floods of people passing through the doors. He leaves him be, but Stiles can only guess at how much business he and Cora have lost. The skiing lessons wouldn’t be enough to cover everything.

 Derek faces him.

 “Want to go back?” he asks.

 Stiles nods.

♦♦♦♦

 He’s shivering by the time they get back to the bed and breakfast. Wet snow seems to have gotten everywhere, melting in Stiles’ clothes and spread through Derek’s dark hair. Stiles was the first one to throw the snowball, smirking when it hit Derek in the back of the head.

 Derek had turned, his grin sudden and bright, bending down to gather snow in his hands. Stiles quickly learnt that Derek’s aim was a lot better than his own.

 Now they’re in the basement, putting everything away. He’s never seen Derek’s smile last this long and it finally reaches his eyes. His lips look soft and Stiles’ fingers feel numb, his breath short as he pushes Derek into the basement wall, gripping at his collar and then chasing the warmth of his mouth.

 He feels Derek’s smile against his lips before he’s kissing him back, easy, this time without any hesitation. Since going through the boxes of books and now the day out in the snow, something has loosened between them and kissing Derek is too easy for it to mean anything good.

 Derek breaks away when Stiles shivers in his arms, gently pushing him towards the stairs.

 “Go get warm,” he murmurs.

 His legs feel heavy and his muscles already ache by the time he climbs in the shower, feeling the hot water burning against his skin. Stiles leans his head forward on the glass wall, the steam around him.

 He lets out a shaky breath. All he sees in his head is Derek’s face, beautiful and smiling, and it’s all Stiles wants. There’s something here that was missing in any other relationship Stiles has had but this time Stiles is still fucking alone. This isn’t forever.

 He thinks he ought to go home. He’ll be able to see his father, see his friends, be with family over fucking Christmas and he won’t be trying to mend his broken heart by breaking it again. He stands for too long in the running water, feet still numb when he finally climbs out.

 Derek meets him with a small smile when Stiles steps out of the bathroom, his hair wet and holding out a mug.

 “It was my mother’s recipe,” he says. “Us kids always got five marshmallows.”

 Their fingers trail against each other as Stiles takes the mug, the steam heating his face. He takes a sip.

 “It’s good.”

 “Yeah,” Derek says softly. “I wish I could make Cora some. She says it’s her favourite part of being here each Christmas.”

 Stiles nods and they drink their cups in silence, standing opposite each other. They share small looks over the hot chocolate and it’s nice. It’s too nice. It’s the Christmas Stiles has always dreamed about; with hot drinks, secret smiles and white snow.

 There’s a knock on the door.

 “Mr Stiles?”

 He turns around.

 Mr Adams pushes the door open, staring at the two of them nervously. “Do you think I could get some extra blankets?” he asks. “It’s a bit chilly.”

 Stiles places his mug down on a nearby table. “Of course!” he calls out. “I’ll be there very soon.” Stiles begins to rush out but Derek tugs his wrist. He has the start of a laugh on his lips.

 “What?” Stiles says.

 Derek points to his mouth. “You have a...”

 “Oh.”

 “Let me just,” he says, and then Derek comes near and kisses the froth away. Stiles stands with his eyes closed, trying to find Derek’s lips when he’s finished getting rid of the chocolate moustache. He tastes the chocolate on Derek’s tongue.

 “I’ll go help Mr Adams,” Derek says, ducking his head.

 “Uh huh,” Stiles says in a daze. He turns back to his bed, feeling light.

♦♦♦♦

 “Cora hates the snow now,” Derek says to him that night. They’re both on Derek’s bed, legs thrown across each other as Stiles reads one of the books from downstairs. He looks down and Derek is on his back, staring at the ceiling.

“She does?”

 “Yeah,” he breathes. “We both love it here, though. Here’s home. She doesn’t mind running the bed and breakfast. But it’s a lot harder to be here now that it’s just us.”

 Stiles turns to his side, propping himself up on one elbow. “Miss her?”

 Derek nods.

 Stiles drops the book, losing his page. He falls back into the bed, fluffing up the pillows before he lies down properly, this time his side pressed right against Derek’s.

 “I miss my Dad,” Stiles says. “I probably shouldn’t have left him over Christmas but I wanted to get away.”

 “From?” Derek asks.

 “Everything,” Stiles lets out. It feels good to admit, to say out loud that he just wanted to escape his life for a second. He wanted to forget about his failed relationship, forget about how everyone had a reason to be happy this Christmas except him.

 They lie there in silence. Stiles can feel Derek’s body moving as he breathes. He rests his own fingers over his thigh and Stiles’ breath catches when Derek shifts, his hand barely pressing against Stiles’.

 He hears Derek sigh, loud in the air.

 “I told Cora I didn’t mind her leaving.”

 “I pretended I didn’t know my girlfriend wanted to break up with me.”

 “We won’t be able to keep the bed and breakfast much longer.”

 Stiles pauses.

 “I don’t want to leave you,” he whispers. Derek doesn’t say anything. The air feels heavy when Derek pulls back his hand and Stiles suddenly feels cold all over. He shuts his eyes, turning away and worried he’s said too much.

 Derek gets up and turns off the light. When he returns his hand falls to Stiles’ hip, pulling him in to his chest. Stiles relaxes and shuffles closer, and he feels Derek’s breath on the back of his neck.

♦♦♦♦

 “Hey Derek, come here,” Stiles says. This morning they had cooked breakfast in near silence, only a few smiles thrown about before Derek left the kitchen early. Stiles had watched him go and had started to think that yesterday was too much, that he had said too much.

 Derek comes forward quietly, settling behind Stiles at the front desk.

 “What?” he asks.

 Stiles rolls his eyes, trying not to sound nervous. “It won’t kill you to be more excited. I’ve done up your website a bit, no offence, but it was kind of awful before.” Derek glares at him. “But here, take a look.”

 Derek bends down and looks at the computer over Stiles’ shoulder. His breath tickles the line of Stiles’ hair and he tries to stay still.

 “Is that? Is that it? Derek asks.

 “Yeah,” Stiles says, a soft smile on his lips. He turns in the chair so that he can look at Derek’s face, see his reaction.

 He’s close, a little too close, and his nose brushes accidentally against Derek’s stubble. Stiles feels shy all of a sudden when Derek’s lips part, like he’s happy with what he’s found. He hears Derek click to a few places on the web page, and then he lets out a small breath.

 Derek squeezes his eyes shut, the corners of them crinkling hard. His grip on the back of Stiles’ chair tightens and Stiles shuffles in his seat.

 “Do you like it?” he whispers, feeling his heart start to flutter. He wants Derek to like it, wants it a whole lot more than he thought he would.

 Derek nods, and Stiles wants to kiss him.

 “I thought it would be nice to focus on how this place has a history, that it has a story, which is completely different to the ski lodge. I messaged Cora and she told me where to find the photos,” Stiles says quietly.

 Derek opens his eyes, his eyelashes dark over his cheeks. He’s the most beautiful man Stiles has ever met.

 “It’s very nice. Thank you,” he says, voice soft and standing up. He takes one more look at the computer screen, at the picture of Derek’s parents and their kids outside of the bed and breakfast, where they stand there laughing.

 Derek holds out his hands and after a beat Stiles takes them, flinching a little at how cold they are. He wobbles but Derek’s grip is firm.

 Derek uses the side of his hand to brush Stiles’ hair away from his forehead. He leans forward, expression hard to read, and he presses his lips to Stiles’ forehead, then down past his temple, and then to his lips.

 It’s the sweetest kiss Stiles has ever received, desperately light. Stiles sighs into Derek’s touch and he feels it all over. It scares him a little, because he’s only known Derek for a week and Stiles shouldn’t be feeling this already.

 He shouldn’t have this swoop in his belly whenever he sees Derek, he shouldn’t want to sigh at how gentle Derek’s kisses are. He shouldn’t have this burning need to see Derek happy, to see this bed and breakfast stay alive and bright.

 Derek pulls away with one last, light brush to his lips. He gives a tiny smile. “Thanks Stiles,” he says, eyes still dipped down. He turns and heads out of the room.

Stiles stands there, lips open, chest tight, and he feels his heart give way.

 “Fuck,” he says to himself, dangerously close to falling.

♦♦♦♦

 It’s getting closer and closer to Christmas. At the same time, it’s getting closer and closer to when Stiles leaves. He’s gone skiing a few more times, alone and with Derek. His skills are improving and he takes photos of himself to send back home.

 Things seem to move slowly at the bed and breakfast when Derek isn’t there. The shelves downstairs are now full of books and the guests sit by the fire and read old copies. There’s a Christmas tree in the corner of the room, a dark green, and its lights blink in the dark.

 “Looking forward to the party tomorrow,” Mrs Kensington says to him, passing by with a smile.

 Stiles waves at her from where he’s curled up in front of the fire. Someone clears their throat behind him and Stiles turns, Derek standing by the door.

 “What party?” he asks, folding his arms.

 Stiles shrugs. “It’s not really a party; more of a Christmas Eve get together with everyone at the bed and breakfast. We were all talking about the idea while you were gone so I was going to tell you about it tonight.”

 Derek glares at him. “And why are we doing that?”

 “Oh, um, we do it back home. It’s really nice. The people who stay at these places often have really good stories to share –”

 “Stiles.”

 He looks up at Derek.

 “This isn’t your bed and breakfast!” he yells, shoulders stiff. “You can’t just do what you want.”

 Stiles flushes. “I asked Cora earlier today, she said –”

 “Well, why didn’t you ask me?” Derek narrows his eyes. Stiles opens his mouth to speak, looking for an excuse but he can’t find one. His eyes fall to the ground and he sees Derek take a step back, an angry mutter on his lips.

 “Sorry,” Stiles says quietly.

 Derek sighs. He says nothing, turning on his feet and leaving Stiles in front of the fire. Maybe they’re getting sick of each other already, even though Stiles is going home soon. Maybe everything’s not as magical as Stiles wants it to be and the fact that it’s Christmas doesn’t mean anything.

♦♦♦♦

They sit in a circle, wooden chairs around the open fire. There’s a clump of presents on the floor hastily wrapped in red, white and green. Stiles waves the guests into the room, a large smile on his face to make up for Derek’s faint glare.

 Stiles tries to ignore it. It’s Christmas Eve and the snow is falling lightly outside. He wants to put a hand on Derek’s knee, hoping he’ll relax, but Stiles doesn’t. He hopes that something else will draw Derek away from silence as they greet everyone coming in.

 Mrs Dickson looks the both of them up and down. “It’s lovely to be here, thanks for inviting us. The ski lodge up the road is holding a winter dance for its guests.”

 Derek stiffens beside him at the mention of the lodge. Stiles hides his sigh and nudges their shoulders together, smiling faintly at Mrs Dickson.

 “We do what we can,” Stiles says. “Would you like some baking? It’s my mother’s recipe.”

 She takes one of the larger pieces when Stiles holds out the dish. She turns to Derek. “And how are you, dear?”

 “Fine, thank you,” Derek says, expression tight. Stiles rolls his eyes.

 He stamps on Derek’s foot when Mrs Dickson appears distracted, taking a bite of the mint slice and then calling out to one of the others to try it.

“Be nice,” Stiles hisses.

 “You were the one who dragged me out here tonight,” Derek says back.

 Stiles opens his mouth to argue but Mrs Dickson clears her throat.

 “Tell your mother this is very good,” she says.

 Stiles’ smile freezes but he nods, aware of Derek watching him curiously. Once everyone’s in the room, a light buzz of chatter in the air, Stiles offers them all some baking and gets on his feet to serve them some eggnog.

 “Um,” Derek says awkwardly, when Stiles sits next to him again. “You said your Dad was alone this Christmas, right?”

 He looks up at him, his smile fading. “There’s no need to rub it in, Derek. We both know I’m a shitty son.”

 “No,” Derek says, too quickly and too loud, grabbing Stiles’ hand. “I just, I’m sorry he’s alone.” He says stupidly. Stiles blinks at him. “And that he can’t have your mother’s baking.”

 Stiles breathes in, feeling his heart rise in his chest. He finally meets Derek’s eye and he tries to smile.

 “Thanks, Derek.”

 Derek’s fingers brush against his pulse point before he pulls his hand away. A calm smile appears on his face and it’s then that Derek starts talking properly to everyone; pushing away the reason he didn’t want to come out here tonight.

 The parcels on the floor are all cheap, mostly food and random things Stiles purchased in the village. They go around the circle, choosing presents, stealing presents, the usual Christmas game. Stiles takes the stupid Santa hat Derek ended up with, just to steal it, kissing him on the cheek and planting it on his own head.

 Derek scowls and pushes him away, ears pink as he chooses another gift from the floor.

 Mr Adams ends up with a cheap bottle of wine he looks very happy with, his wife frowning beside him. Mrs Dickson is already into the box of chocolates she picked up even though by the rules of the game someone could still steal them from her.

 They’ve all had their eggnog. Stiles feels Derek inch his chair closer to him as they drink it, one hand on Stiles’ knee, stroking it with his thumb.

 “This was lovely,” someone says. “And I’m willing to bet it was Stiles who came up with the idea.”

 Derek rolls his eyes.

 “Maybe,” Stiles replies, grinning.

 “You know, your mother used to do things like this on Christmas Eve, Derek, all the time when you were kids. I remember when your sister was small; she was such a delight, always getting into the wrapping paper before anyone else.”

 Derek looks down, shadows on his face cast by the fire. “I remember,” he says quietly, and Stiles links their fingers together.

 “And when your father used to come in with the tree –”

 The stories continue from there. The whole night is full of them, full of the way all these guests remember Derek, his sister, and their parents.

 Stiles sits back and laughs more often than not about what they have to say about Derek, and as they drink a little more, as the fire dies out, as the stories get sweeter, Derek chooses to share some stories of his own.

 Eventually the chatter dies down and everyone trails off to bed. Stiles and Derek sit there, watching them leave, and then Stiles stands to put another log on the fire, feeling Derek’s gaze on him.

 He turns around, and Derek’s sitting on the chair, knees spread open. The look on his face is soft.

 “What are you doing?” he asks when Stiles reaches down and starts to pick up all the discarded paper.

 “We got to clear everything away and put all the chairs back for breakfast tomorrow,” Stiles tells him.

 Derek catches his wrist as he walks by. “We’ll do it in the morning,” he whispers, drawing Stiles into his lap. He reluctantly sits, feeling Derek’s hands spread over his lower back, his thumbs rubbing small circles over his jumper. Stiles puts his hands on Derek’s shoulders.

 “Was tonight really that bad?” Stiles says.

 “It was perfect,” Derek says quietly, leaning in. “I’m sorry, I used to do this all the time on Christmas Eve, but not anymore. I didn’t know what it would be like, but it was good.”

 His lips press just above the neckline of Stiles’ sweater, on his collarbone. It’s a hot kiss. Stiles feels the heat from the flames, from Derek’s arms, from how he moves his mouth along Stiles’ jaw, stubble over his skin.

 “Derek,” Stiles says, a little strangled.

 “Mm.”

 Derek bites lightly on his neck and Stiles moans, rolling into Derek’s lap.

 “Do that again.”

 He’s disappointed when Derek pulls back. There’s no smile on his face, but there’s something else there, something that says he’s glad Stiles gave his bed and breakfast over to a stranger for the holiday so that he could be here.

 “Thank you for tonight.”

 Stiles’ mouth hangs open a little but he nods. They stare at each other dumbly, and Stiles thinks fuck it, he thinks fuck it, it’s Christmas Eve and he should just give all of himself to Derek even if he never sees him again. It would be worth it, Derek is worth it.

 “I’m going to give you your Christmas present,” Stiles says, sliding off Derek’s lap.

 “Oh,” says Derek, “I didn’t get you anything.”

 Stiles smirks at him, reaching for a scrap of wrapping paper on the floor and a pen. “There are so many ways to remedy that,” he wiggles his eyebrows and Derek snorts. He gestures for Derek to sit on the ground with him. “Here,” he says, thrusting the green paper to Derek.

 He looks unimpressed. “This is my Christmas present?”

 Stiles smiles and nods.

 “A thousand kisses?” he looks up.

 “Keep reading.”

 “Wherever you want,” Derek blushes. He ducks his head and Stiles laughs, watching the way Derek’s lips spread into a smile. But he looks up, and his eyes are dark. Derek glances at the clock on the wall.

 “Can I, can I get this present now? Christmas is only in half an hour.”

 Stiles nods. Slowly, he climbs onto Derek’s lap again and this time they’re both in front of the fire, feeling the heat on their cheeks. Stiles takes off his Santa hat and throws it aside, cupping Derek’s face.

 Derek’s leaning back on his hands, staring at Stiles like he’s afraid he’ll disappear.

 “And how many kisses would you like to redeem?” Stiles asks him. “You don’t have to have them all tonight.”

 “All of them,” Derek breathes, and Stiles grins.

 He leans forward, ready to kiss him, and Derek’s eyes have already closed. He feels Derek’s breath on his mouth, through his parted lips, but Stiles kisses his forehead, kisses just under his eyes, kisses his stubble. He hears Derek’s soft sighs and gasps and Stiles gives a hint of a kiss to Derek’s lips, but he’s already moving on to Derek’s eyelids, to his temple, to the line of his hair.

 Stiles pulls back. Derek’s eyes are still closed and his breathing is heavy.

 “You’re a menace,” Derek finally says, sitting up properly and letting their hips roll together. Stiles bites his lip.

 Slowly, Derek trails his fingers under Stiles’ shirt. His skin is already burning hot from the fire, a sticky layer of sweat under his clothes. They pull off Stiles’ jumper together and Derek spends time running his fingertips over Stiles’ skin, over his nipples and his bare torso. He squirms.

 “What?”

 “Tickles.”

 Derek runs his thumb under Stiles’ ribs and he shudders. “You’re beautiful.”

 Stiles ignores him, but his heart flutters. People don’t really call him beautiful, they never have, but damn does he believe it when it comes out of Derek’s mouth. “Off,” he says quietly, shoving up Derek’s own Christmas sweater Stiles had forced him to wear.

 Derek rolls his eyes at Stiles’ bossiness but he does what Stiles asks, leaving his torso bare. Stiles pushes him back, taking him in with eager eyes. He makes his way down Derek’s hot, breathing chest with his mouth, makes his way to edge of Derek’s pants.

 “You want this?” Stiles asks. He’s hard, sees that Derek is too. The question doesn’t mean much though, Stiles could want this, could do it a thousand times over but it wouldn’t mean that he’d be keeping Derek forever.

 Derek’s lip quivers and he nods.

 Stiles grins.

♦♦♦♦

 Stiles is sore and aching when they wake up the next morning. It’s still dark outside and he manages to wake Derek up and get their clothes on before anyone comes in for breakfast. Derek’s hair is a beautiful mess over his face and he rubs his eyes, giving Stiles a sleepy smile.

 “Merry Christmas,” he murmurs.

 No one calls them out on wearing the same, rumpled clothes from the night before. Mrs Kensington gives Stiles a tired smile when he serves her food.

 “And when are you going home?” she asks.

 “Tomorrow morning,” Stiles tells her. He sees Derek’s face close down beside him, from where he’s been hovering close, both of them having trouble keeping their hands off each other even as they serve everyone breakfast.

 Stiles follows him into the kitchen, a mad panic in his chest.

 “Derek, tell me, please, I know I’m leaving tomorrow but what is this to you?” Stiles blurts out. Derek turns to him, shoulders slouched and eyes scrunched closed.

  “Stiles,” he says, and then his gaze is sharp on Stiles. “This isn’t anything, this is just –”

 He cuts himself off.

 Stiles’ throat feels tight, the air too heavy and the words Derek doesn’t say too sharp.

 “This is just some holiday romance,” Stiles says , voice thick. “Right? That’s what you were going to say, wasn’t it?”

 “Stiles, you live all the way in California. You’re getting over a break up.”

 He shrugs. “I guess.”

 Derek sighs, rubbing his face.

 “Are you sure?” Stiles asks. “We could try something.”

 He shakes his head.

 “Fine,” he says, eyes prickling. “I guess it’s complicated.”

 Derek stares at him, his eyes almost lifeless. Stiles dips his head, turning on his heel and heading up to his room.

 He only has to stay here one more night. One more night and then he can go be with his family, his friends, and he won’t have to think of Derek ever again. The sooner he forgets him, the better it will be.

 Stiles lies awake that night, the other side of the room empty, and already missing Derek’s body against his. He thinks about Christmas Eve, about them together on the floor after everyone had gone to sleep, their cheeks blotchy from the fire and from the alcohol. It had been perfect.

 Stiles has never, never felt like this about someone. He didn’t know that it was even possible to have so much feeling under his skin, and of course when he finds it it’s going to be snatched up and taken away too soon.

 He hears the floorboards creak just outside the room. Stiles sits up when the door opens, a beam of light from the hall falling on his bed.

 “What do you want,” Stiles snaps, making sure his voice doesn’t waver.

 Derek swallows. “I lied.”

 Stiles looks away from his silhouette in the doorway, his heart sinking because none of this is fair.

 “I wish you were staying so badly,” Derek whispers. “I wish I could follow you home.”

 Stiles stares at him.

 “But I can’t.

 Stiles sighs. He slowly moves the covers from beside him, patting the edge of the bed and urging Derek to come forward. He can’t bring himself to say no, to make him go away. Everything feels heavy and slow, and they both know this isn’t going to last past the doors of the bed and breakfast.

 Derek comes near; very quiet and very slow, closing the door so that there’s only darkness in the room. As soon as he’s lying down, Stiles grips at him, lips travelling over his shirt and neck until he finds Derek’s mouth.

 He climbs over him, feels Derek’s hands on the curve of his ass and over the back of his thighs. Stiles drops his forehead to Derek’s, hears their breathing in the dark.

 “You’re feeling everything I’m feeling, right?” Stiles asks, squeezing his eyes shut.

 “Yeah,” Derek breathes against his skin, mouthing his way along Stiles’ neck. That’s all he needs to hear, some recognition that this has meant as much for Derek as it has for Stiles, that this is something that’s taken a hold of the both of them completely. He finds Derek’s mouth with his own, it hot and distracting, Stiles gripping him tight as they rock into each other.

 “But you don’t want to try something more?” Stiles pants behind Derek’s ear. He doesn’t answer, knowing the truth isn’t something either of them can bear to hear. Stiles feels Derek’s thumbs brush over the small of his back instead, a small comfort, Derek arching into him when Stiles bites hard at his lip, frustrated.

 Stiles collapses over Derek first, his arms gone limp. Derek kisses the side of his face in the dark, and when Stiles comes down enough he gets a hand around Derek, kissing away his harsh, breathless noises.

 “Stiles,” Derek says, voice muffled into Stiles’ shoulder when his body goes rigid. Stiles feels teeth press in through his shirt before Derek relaxes beneath him, his hand stroking up and down Stiles’ back as they lie there breathing.

 He shuts his eyes and tries not to cry, tries not to let his body give away everything that he’s feeling. Stiles doesn’t want this to end.

 Long distance doesn’t work unless you can see an end in sight. Everybody knows that.

 Stiles is the one to get up, stripping off his clothes and cleaning them both before he climbs into the bed next to Derek. An arm travels around his waist, pulling him near. It means everything and nothing.

♦♦♦♦

 Their heartbeats slow but the clock doesn’t. It ticks closer and closer to the time Stiles has to leave, and soon morning light slips past the curtains. They’ve been trying to discuss it, trying to figure out how they could do this, but Derek has his own bed and breakfast to worry about and Stiles has his at home.

 “I just, Stiles, I don’t think a long distance relationship will work,” Derek tells him, again.

 Stiles hides his face in his hands and frowns. “Please, Derek, shut up. I know this is going to be over, I know, okay, so just shut up and let me pretend?” He crawls over and drapes himself over Derek’s body, cupping his chin and pressing a soft kiss to Derek’s lips. “Let me pretend,” he whispers.

 Derek stares at him before nodding, and he pulls Stiles forward by the shoulders. They’re not pretending. Stiles can feel it in every touch how much it will be the last touch, can feel it in the way their hands linger and move everywhere, trying to memorise everything, trying to remember the feel of it all so that maybe, maybe Stiles will be able to recall every detail of Derek against him.

They don’t talk, they can’t anymore, their eyes on each other until Stiles flickers them shut, losing himself in Derek, fucking him, moving with him. Everything around them is cold and Derek’s body is a flaming heat, everywhere, and it feels too good to never have again.

♦♦♦♦

 “So,” says Stiles, biting his lip nervously.

Derek smiles but it doesn’t reach his eyes.

 They’re at the side of the road, a car idling near them, waiting to take Stiles to the airport. He’s said goodbye to all the guests, he’s had one last breakfast with Derek.

 Stiles reaches his hand out between them, desperately hoping Derek will take it. He dips his head and Stiles exhales when Derek takes him in his grasp, running a thumb over his knuckles.

 “I’ll miss you,” Stiles says.

 “Me too,” Derek says quietly.

 “Say hi to Cora for me,” Stiles lets out quickly. He left her the red parcel with the gold ribbon, a silver necklace inside, on her pillow. Stiles thinks she should be the one to have it.  “And make sure Mrs Adams returns her book, I think I saw her sneak one to her room –”

 Derek cuts him off with a kiss. It’s very gentle and Stiles tries not to cling to Derek’s clothes too desperately. They break apart and Derek runs his nose down Stiles’ cheek. He feels Derek’s warm breath against his skin.

 “Happy Christmas, Stiles,” he says.

 Stiles nods, smile quivering as he pulls away and finally steps into the car.

♦♦♦♦

 It’s a long ride home. All Stiles can do is lie awake and think of Derek. Lie awake and wish that things could have been different. He thinks he feels worse than when he first decided to go to Cora’s bed and breakfast.

 His face breaks into a smile when Scott, Allison and his father greet him at the airport. They hug him tight and don’t let go, and Stiles feels just how much he’s been missed. Stiles lets them speak, too tired to do anything but listen as they talk about Cora and the bed and breakfast.

She’d been a good asset, apparently, sharp, but not hard to work with.

 When Stiles gets to his father’s house he collapses on the couch and he’s given his Christmas presents. He opens them with a smile and as much as he didn’t want to leave, it feels good to be home.

 “So how was it?” Allison asks, pressed up to Scott on the other end of the couch. “Cora said you seemed to be having a good time with her brother.”

 Stiles groans. He covers his face with his hands.

 “He was perfect,” he mutters.

 They exchange glances, smiles fading as they wait for him to continue.

 “He was perfect, and stupid, and he didn’t want more and now it’s over,” Stiles tells them. Allison’s face turns to pity and Scott just looks sad. They all thought that maybe he would return without a broken heart.

♦♦♦♦

 Parrish comes into the bed and breakfast, after most of Stiles’ regulars over the Christmas break have gone home. Stiles has already taken down all the decorations from the walls, taken down the tinsel and the flashing lights. He doesn’t want to be reminded of Christmas even though he can’t fucking forget it.

 “How was your trip?” Parrish asks, wearing jeans and a crisp, brown jacket.

Stiles raises an eyebrow. “Fine.”

 “And have you heard from Cora?” he pauses. “Or her brother?”

 Stiles’ eyes narrow and he shakes his head, watching as Parrish’s face morphs into sympathy. He lets Parrish go to the kitchen fridge and fetch him a beer, and they sit outside, the wind soft on their faces as they drink.

 “If it’s any consolation, I’ve been told that he misses you too,” he says.

 “What?”

 Parrish grins. “Oh, yeah. Um, if your father didn’t mention it, I’m still in contact with Cora. We all hung out together quite a bit.” His phone goes off before he can explain properly, and he quickly stands. “Sorry, Stiles, I have to go. Have a good New Years, okay?”

 Stiles watches him leave, his jaw locked open.

 “Yes, there’s something going on with them,” Allison says softly, when he goes to her and demands answers. “I don’t think it’s nearly as serious as you were with her brother, Stiles.”

 “How do you know that?” Stiles snaps.

 She raises her eyebrows. “Because I know you, Stiles. You’re my friend. I know how you get when you’ve fallen and it doesn’t work out.”

 “Sorry,” Stiles mutters, dropping on a nearby chair. “But if they’re still talking, how come Derek can’t with me? How come I don’t get a fucking phone call or an email, or anything?”

 “I don’t know,” she says, voice quiet.

 ♦♦♦♦

 He gets around to showing them photos of the Hale’s bed and breakfast. Stiles hooks the camera up to the television screen and they flit through the pictures of the scenery, of the bed and breakfast itself, and of some of the guests. They make him stop when they reach an almost blurry photo of Derek. He works in the kitchen, avoiding the camera, his eyes cast down and his lips pressed together.

“He’s rather good looking, isn’t he?” his father says with a frown, eyeing Stiles.

 Stiles glares at him. “Yeah, yeah,” he says. “I only fell in love with the dude because he’s so good looking. That sounds about right.”

 The room goes still.

 “You were actually in love with him?” Scott asks. Stiles doesn’t have to say anything out loud for them to get the answer they’re looking for. He turns his gaze to the camera, suddenly exhausted, and silently they let the next photo roll up.

♦♦♦♦

 He knew there would be silence and Stiles knew that he’d feel fucking terrible for a while. It doesn’t make anything easier as Stiles lies in the dark and wishes for Derek curled up next to him, wishes for the press of Derek’s lips against the back of his neck.

 Stiles can’t bring himself to regret Derek, despite having to leave, despite the hollow ache in his chest where he just misses. It was too good for it not to hurt, to be able to forget it or move on quickly.

 They have New Years at the Sheriff’s house. Everyone piles in, and someone thrusts a beer into Stiles’ hand as soon as he gets in the door. The music is low and Stiles spends most of the evening in the kitchen, helping with the food, until Allison drags him out to the living room.

 “New Year’s resolutions?” she asks.

 “I don’t really have any,” Stiles tells her.

 Allison smiles. “Well, you have until midnight to figure it out.”

 Stiles looks at the floor, feeling Scott come up behind him and place a hand on his shoulder. He hasn’t forgotten that he has his friends, that he has his father and the McCalls and everyone at the bed and breakfast. If he was going to wish for something for the New Year, he’d wish for Derek, but if he was going to make a promise to himself it would be to find happiness in what he already has.

 It’s almost midnight when he hears his father clear his throat. Stiles looks over and he slips away until they’re alone in the kitchen.

 “You know, I’m really happy you’re home,” the Sheriff says.

 “Dad, I know,” Stiles reminds him. “I like being here, too.”

 His father sighs and he gives Stiles a long look. It seems to last forever as they hear the chatter from everyone in the next room, the music soft in the background, and Stiles can’t help but feel like something’s wrong.

 “Dad?”

 He tilts his head to the front door. “There’s someone outside.”

 Stiles’ breath catches in his chest as he lets himself think about who might be at the door. His feet seem to move without much thought and he’s suddenly nervous, suddenly hoping, and Stiles turns his head over his shoulder, looking at his father for an answer, but all he gets is a small smile.

 “Go,” he says.

 He opens the door and his heart fucking leaps.

 Derek stands a few paces away, hands in his pockets, eyes wide and worried, his lip quivering. They stare at each other, the air cool on their faces and Stiles has to remind himself to breathe. Stiles closes his eyes and lets out a pained laugh.

 “I don’t know where to start,” Derek finally says, turning his head away.

 Stiles leans against the doorframe, fingernails scraping against the wood as he grips it hard. He can hear everyone inside the house, oblivious to the mad rush of his heart against his ribs, oblivious to the way he waits for Derek to speak, waits for what he hopes he’ll hear.

 “Stiles I –” He stops himself, clears his throat. “I’m not here because I have an easy solution. I don’t, I really don’t, but you, you just, I don’t know what you expected when you dug your fingers into my life but you made me face it all and I can’t, Stiles, I can’t not come after you.” Derek closes his eyes. “I couldn’t not fall for you.”

 He’s still. Stiles can’t move and the air outside feels like it might shatter if he’s not careful. His mouth is dry and he stares at Derek, stares hard, and then he hears his friends start counting down to the New Year, to new dreams, and Stiles wants what’s right in front of him.

 “You’re an asshole,” Stiles manages. Derek’s face falls but Stiles is already throwing himself forward, hands scrambling at Derek’s jacket before he presses his face into Derek’s shoulder, hiding his relieved sob.

 Derek’s arms are tight around Stiles’ waist and they stand there, listening to the cheers inside as the countdown reaches midnight.

 “How long are you here for?” Stiles asks, pulling back.

 Derek bites back a smile. “Not very long.”

 “What,” says Stiles, “what’s going to happen?”

 He sighs. “You’d still be here, and I’d still be with my sister.”

 Stiles kisses him, hard and quick.

 “I don’t care, I don’t care how I have you,” he says, “I just have to have you.”

 Derek allows himself a smile, and god, he looks beautiful. His thumbs press at the edge of Stiles’ jaw, and then with all the frustration and longing of the past few days, with the belief that they’d never see each other again finally broken, Derek kisses him.

 Someone clears their throat.

 Stiles turns his head but Derek keeps his lips near, pressing soft, soft kisses across Stiles’ cheek and then behind his ear, the brush of it against his neck making Stiles shiver.

 “Hi,” says a voice, sounding amused.

 Stiles squints.

 “Cora?”

 She grins, closing the door of a car that looks awfully like it belongs to Parrish. “Nice to finally meet you in person.”

 Stiles laughs, his cheeks flushed. He tangles his fingers with Derek’s and leads him inside, Cora following behind. Someone lets out a low whistle when they spot Derek next to Stiles, and he turns nervous, his face dipped down and smile small before he’s introduced to Stiles’ friends and family.

 Derek shakes the Sheriff’s hand.

 “Nice to meet you properly, sir,” Derek says, shoulders square. “My sister said she enjoyed your company very much.”

 Stiles’ father smiles. “Yes, I’m quite fond of your sister.”

 He asks Derek about the Hale’s bed and breakfast. It’s closed for a few days while he and Cora are in Beacon Hills, here so that Derek could come after Stiles. It’s nice watching his father and Derek talk easily to each other, and it’s nice to speak with Cora properly, her eyes rolling as she fiddles with the necklace around her neck.

 “You two be good to each other,” the Sheriff says before he moves away, gaze travelling between Derek and Stiles.

 Derek bites his lip and nods, catching Stiles’ eye. Stiles can’t help but grin, his heart bursting as he realises that everyone he cares about is in the same room. He knows it’s only for a short time but it doesn’t stop it from feeling good.

 They have everything to sort out, but Derek’s hand travels around Stiles’ waist, a sure, warm weight, and his lips press gently at Stiles’ hair. He’ll have to say goodbye to Derek again, but hopefully it will be easier, knowing Derek wants him, knowing that they’re going to try even with the distance between them.

♦♦♦♦

  Eight Months Later

 There’s a nervous thrill through him as Stiles waits at the airport. Parrish is next to him, rubbing the back of his neck as they watch people come through the arrival gates. They don’t say much to each other. Stiles knows how Parrish is feeling; a mix of excitement and hesitation and flat out fear.

 He hasn’t seen Derek in person since New Years. He’s had his own bed and breakfast to look after while Derek and Cora have done up their place only to sell it. Together they had decided to say goodbye to all their family memories, leaving everything for Beacon Hills. Cora gladly accepted the offer to work at Stiles’ bed and breakfast and Derek, Derek will be here too. For Stiles. And for his sister.

 They’ve done their best with the internet and video calling, but Stiles has ached for Derek over the months, wanted his warmth and wanted the comfort of his touch. It’s been hard, but now the wait is over. Any minute now, Derek and his sister will be stepping through those doors.

 Parrish gives him a nervous grin. “The waiting is killing me.”

 Stiles grimaces. “At least you got to see them two months ago. You went over and helped out for a bit.”

 He shrugs but his shoulders stay tense, Parrish’s gaze floating to the doors. Stiles’ heart flutters at every dark head of hair that comes through the arrival gates and Stiles thinks back to late nights on the phone, Derek’s voice in his ear, the silent declarations of I miss you and I want you and sometimes this is too much.

 God, Stiles is never doing the long distance thing again if he can help it. He would have given up months ago if he wasn’t so far gone on Derek, if Derek wasn’t the one he was doing this with.

 “It’s going to be good,” Stiles tells Parrish, “it’s going to be fine.”

 “Yeah,” Parrish breathes.

 Cora is the first one they see through the doors. Her hair falls over her face as she drags a large suitcase behind her, but she lifts her head, eyes searching, and she immediately brightens when she spots Parrish standing next to Stiles.

 “Fuck,” mutters Stiles. “Fuck.”

 Everything seems to slow when he finally, finally sees him. Derek’s smile starts small as he peers at the crowd, looking for Stiles. He can barely walk in a straight line as he searches and Stiles bites his lip, feeling warm all over.

 Every difficulty they had over the past months seems to fade, and it doesn’t matter anymore as Stiles makes his way to Derek.

 “Hey,” Stiles calls out, voice breaking.

 Derek faces him. His smile turns wide and beautiful, and it’s all Stiles can see. His legs don’t feel like they can take his weight anymore but soon he launches himself into Derek’s arms, laughing, happy, hopeful. It’s all going to work out. Stiles can feel it.