It's December twentieth when, for the third time in as many nights, Derek Hale wakes suddenly from a vaguely peaceful slumber; he gasps into the crisp air and clutches at the bed beneath him, trying desperately to catch anchor and calm the rushed pumping of his blood. The pack, that is to say Stiles, convinced him to start rebuilding the Hale house and though he'd hoped the construction would be therapeutic it did nothing to dull the ache deep within him. He rises from bed and pads across the floor to pull on his jeans and T shirt. He grabs his leather jacket and leaves quietly: Boyd nor Erica nor Isaac stir.

His hands shift in hue from bronze to umber and beg to relish the warmth of pockets, though they are not obliged. He walks or runs or flees to the old train car- it hasn't been in use since they moved back to the (newly-decorated, thanks to the dangerous duo of Stiles and Allison) Hale house- and it hits him, as it usually does, with an odd sense of déjà vu; abandoning the brash facsimile of his childhood home for the dust and rancor of this dead end. In any case he rests here, thoughts plaguing him like rats or locusts, for several hours. When he returns to the Hale house the first whispers of dawn are painting the exterior pink and rose and violet. The halls are no less lonely, nor his bed more inviting.

The twenty-first finds him sitting in the parlor, fighting back thoughts of his young niece and nephews running about, while Erica complains about boredom loudly. Boyd stands impassively to Derek's left, arms folded across his broad chest. Isaac glances around every so often, no doubt hoping for a sign of Scott. Stiles is sitting on his right, folded up into a large chair and lost in a book. His eyes are sharp, enchanted by the words. If Derek looked hard enough he could make out a couple reflected in the black pupils, though he was too distracted by the vivid amber iris to recall any of those words, and his lips are just parted; breaths puffing out into the frigid air and his red tongue darting out every so often to wet where they've become chapped.

After several minutes Derek registers the rest of the pack going outside and playing tag or something similarly idiotic. Still, he sits in silence watching Stiles read.

"Is there a reason you're close-proximity stalking me, Sourwolf?" Says the pink lips, corners twitching upwards in a smirk; honey eyes keep pace glancing across the pages.
Derek grunts in response and stands to leave but pauses when a sigh slides from slick lips behind him. He dares to look back at the boy and meets those big eyes head-on: Derek has to physically force himself to not freeze. The book claps shut and Stiles follows loosely towards the pack.

Once outside Stiles shouts to the teens, "Listen up losers! I talked to my dad and he officially invited you all to our house for Christmas. So you're coming." Stiles turns, his dark, fuzzy head retreating for a few paces before he stops and faces Derek intently. "That includes you Big Bad," he chuckles, "no excuses." With that he's walking through the house and out the front door. Once his jeep is out of earshot Derek looks back to his pack. Boyd and Erica are nowhere to be seen and Isaac eyes him with a curious spark. Isaac parts his lips to speak but Derek cuts him off with a shrug before heading inside and up to his room. The sun has yet to dip down below the horizon but he tries to sleep anyway.

Derek spends the next day in the woods. Branches groan and creak and occasionally snap under the white weight of snowfall; Derek often feels like that one snowflake too many that causes the inevitable break of the dry wood. Here and there leaves in muddied shades of fallow and roan and bole and sienna; carmine and rosewood and wine; mahogany and rust and vermillion, poke through the whitewash defiantly. It would be peaceful if he weren't plagued by thoughts of Laura: The two of them as kids running off to play- Derek even smiled, then- until it got dark. The two of them as teens spending most of their free time together out here, sitting in clearings and meadows and talking about everything. She'd been his best friend then. They shared their father's dark hair but Laura's eyes were the same frigid blue as their mom's. The clearing Derek finds himself in is where Laura told him about her first love. If only he'd returned the favor, he thinks with disdain.
Derek feels something heavy and cold working its way through his veins and urges it back. When that fails he replaces it with anger. With an echoing roar he changes, punching jagged dents into trees and raking fissures into the frosty dirt. His howls echo around him as he breaks everything he can find. Footsteps approaching catch his attention and he changes back as he wheels around to see Stiles standing at the edge of the clearing, red jacket opposing the field of white around him. "You okay, Big Bad?" Stiles asks, and Derek growls deep in his chest; the effect is lost on Stiles, who merely shrugs. The younger boy walks the distance and sits down on one of the newly felled trees. Derek joins him. They sit in silence for longer than Derek expected Stiles would be capable of, before the wolf sighs and says, "this used to be my and Laura's favorite spot. In the spring there's lots of flowers." He feels exhausted after heaving the admission forth. Stiles says, "My mom and I used to sit out on our roof and look at the stars. She told me that even though a lot of the stars we see are actually burned out, they're still awe inspiring." Derek coughs, or maybe he chokes back a sob, and then Stiles' left arm is around his waist and he stills: His eyes dart upwards and he stares at the dark gray of the sky. "It's going to snow again tonight," he manages to say. Stiles just laughs. "I really want you to come to my house for Christmas. So does my dad. The pack needs it, I think. I think you need it." Derek grunts, but then says, "alright." Stiles pumps his fist in victory, and then they head to the Hale house.

On the twenty-third, Derek walks into his house and up to his room, where he finds Isaac curled up on his bed. Isaac stirs, and then apologizes. "Sorry Derek! I was waiting for you last night and then you didn't come back and I must have fallen asleep." Derek shrugs and then waits. Isaac's eyes pose hundreds of questions, but the one he asks is, "are you going to spend Christmas with us at Stiles' place?" Derek gives a short nod and says, "for the pack." A smile blooms on Isaac's face and Derek feels a surge of what might be pride somewhere in his stomach. When they walk down to the kitchen for coffee, Erica and Boyd have already made breakfast. Derek sits in his chair and eats eggs and bacon, though his attention is mostly held by the coffee. "We should go shopping," Erica suggests, "I have some more things to get before Christmas." Derek nods once. When they get to the mall Erica dashes off to get something for Allison, Isaac flees to find something for Stiles, and Boyd stands with Derek in the entrance. Derek turns to him, "Don't you need to get things too?" Boyd smiles a trickster's smile and says "I finished shopping in November. I hate the mall around Christmas." As people mill all around them and stores play the same seven songs on indefinite repeat and the air grows stiflingly warm and scented, Derek is inclined to agree. "What about you," Boyd says, "I haven't seen you go anywhere near stores so far. What are you going to get for us? For Stiles?" Derek lets a small chuckle loose into the mezzanine. "How do you know I haven't bought everything already," he begins, though a look from Boyd kills his deflection like birdshot in a flock of geese, "I don't really.. do... Christmas." He admits, and Boyd shrugs. "It's all about consumerism nowadays," Boyd says, like it's an answer. It kind of is. When the others return Boyd and Isaac head out the door but Erica holds Derek back. "What are you getting for Stiles?" Erica asks and Derek momentarily regrets turning her. "You have no clue, do you," she continues and Derek answers the floor with a shrug. "Thought so. Well, let's go find him something, huh?" Derek starts to relax and says, "I want to get him a book," Erica's odd look has him amending, "I noticed he reads a lot." The girl nods, but her smile is telling, knowing. They leave the mall and head downtown, and Erica leads him to a little, out-of-the-way book store. "I used to come here a lot, before all this. It was quiet and I liked being alone with the books." Erica says. They walk down a couple aisles, lined floor to ceiling with titles, before Erica says, "What kind of book were you thinking about getting?" Derek pauses, thinking back to the book Stiles was reading the other day. "Some Russian lit. I'm thinking Tolstoy... maybe War and Peace." He says, and when Erica gives him a look of utter amazement he mumbles, "I went to college, you know." Erica's eyes crinkle in a duchenne smile before she levels them at him and says, "No, I don't know. You don't really tell us much about you." Derek doesn't know what to say to that, so he just heads around the corner. Erica trails him, and they wind their way through the store. Something to his right catches Derek's green-grey-orange autumn eyes. He pauses at a small and worn book, a romance novel, and his mind is suddenly ten years ago when he saw Laura holding the same cover. "What are you reading," he'd asked, and Laura chuckled. "You're What?!" She replied, and Derek just looked on, confused, before he returned to the butterfly he'd been watching. Erica's smooth voice breaks him of his melancholic reverie and he turns to face her, "What's that?" She asks, and he says, "my sister... Laura. Laura loved this book." Erica's smile is sad, loose at the edges, and they resume their search. Derek ends up buying Tolstoy's Anna Karenina.

Derek spends Christmas Eve with his pack. Erica has done some sort of halfassed decorating, which doesn't extend past the foyer, and they sit on the couches (Derek in what Isaac and Erica refer to as "his throne") and talk about a menagerie of topics. By the time the sun has set, Isaac has been elected to head to the kitchen to make hot chocolate. Erica asks a question about Laura, but notices his flinch and backs off; Derek momentarily rejoices turning her. While Boyd tells a story about his father taking the family out to skate on a frozen lake one Christmas Eve, Derek heads to the kitchen to help Isaac carry the cups back. The cocoa warms his stomach, but his heart chills at the thought of Laura's Super Secret Hot Chocolate Of Wonder. Despite the chill he smiles fondly at the memory, and drinks more chocolate. Erica and Isaac decide to do some, rather pointless, last-minute decorating and hang several sprigs of mistletoe over doorways. Derek rolls his eyes, and Boyd smiles at him amused. It all feels so domestic.

Once the teens have gone off to bed- Isaac especially early in his excitement for Stiles' Christmas- Derek sets out. He arrives at the Stilinski house without meaning to, and when he sees the police cruiser still gone he heads to Stiles' window. He doesn't, however, get that far. He finds Stiles sitting on the roof, in a spot cleared of snow large enough for two people. Derek sits beside him quietly. Stiles' thin fingers cradle a large mug of apple cider. He takes a few swigs and hands it to Derek. Derek can easily pick out the strong scent of brandy, but he doesn't say anything. It warms him well, so he takes another drink and hands it back. True to form, Stiles breaks the silence first. "Every Christmas Eve... mom and I would beg dad to drive us around in his cruiser to look at all the Christmas lights in town. She'd make cider and we'd drive around for hours while she sang out-of-tune Christmas carols. Once we got out of town I would keep asking my dad to turn on his lights. I liked the way they made the snow light up. It was magic." When he finishes there's a couple tear tracks down his cheek, but he wipes them away and takes another deep swig from the mug. When he hands it to Derek, he keeps his gaze fixed on the wolf. Derek steadies himself, sighs, and says, "Laura and I used to open up all our presents on Christmas eve every year. Our parents would pretend to be mad every Christmas morning, but they never stopped putting the gifts out early." He drinks again, the alcohol hot in his throat, and then he wraps an arm around Stiles as he hands the mug back. Clouds cover the stars.
It isn't until Stiles wavers in Derek's grasp and nearly falls that Derek drinks down the dregs of cider and leads Stiles inside. Stiles hums appreciatively when Derek sets him inside. "M'dad'll be home soooooooon." He slurs, and Derek laughs a little. He follows Stiles to the door and as he opens it to let the man leave he drunkenly points and laughs and mumbles, "looook. Missletoe."

Derek turns and heads home.

Isaac bounds into his room early Christmas morning and wakes him by bouncing up and down on his bed. It brings a tightening of his heart that's either fondness or nostalgia. He rises and gets dressed before they descend the grand staircase and meet Erica and Boyd- clearly the two early birds in their group- and enjoy breakfast. The first half of the day is dull and comfortable, punctuated by Isaac tricking Boyd and Erica into standing under a sprig of mistletoe at the same time, and Erica vowing to return the favor. The teens head to Stiles' around two, but Derek sits in his quiet house for a while, talking himself into and back out of and then into going to the Christmas celebration. "For the pack," he tells himself, and sets out.
When he goes to knock on the door the Sheriff opens it, ostensibly on his way out. "Derek." He says, nodding his head. "I was just called into work, so keep an eye on the kids, would you?" Derek is taken aback, but nods slowly. The Sheriff claps a broad hand on his shoulder, though the action reads nothing like a threat. The man walks to his police cruiser and pulls out, and when Derek turns back to the door Stiles is looking from where the cruiser just sat to Derek and back. They shrug at the same time and then Erica yells "MISTLETOE!" from the stairs. Stiles and Derek look up and then back at each other before Derek enters the home. It's warm, heavily decorated and smells like cinnamon and apples and pine. Derek fills his lungs and surveys the crowd. Scott is sitting with Isaac and chatting excitedly about lacrosse or something, Erica and Allison are sitting on the stairs and laughing evilly between themselves, Boyd is resting in a comfortable chair flipping through the TV channels, and Stiles stands awkwardly to his right. "I guess now we can get on with the gift exchange," Stiles proclaims, and the group crowd around Boyd in the living room while he mutes the TV and everyone places their gifts on the table. Stiles plays Santa, handing gifts out one at a time. Derek ends up with some artwork for the near-barren walls at home, a rather ridiculous fuzzy gray hat with wolf ears ("Put it on!" Erica calls; Derek obliges her for a minute,) and samples of wolfsbane that Allison's family uses. While the rest of the group fawns over their new clothes and movies and CDs, Derek retrieves his gift to them all. "Oh, Sourwolf, you shouldn't have! And considering my dad is the Sheriff you really probably shouldn't have," Stiles says when Derek returns with copious amounts of booze. Derek shrugs, and Erica eyes him, surprised, before indulging in the festivities with the rest of the group. Derek trails Stiles to the garage though, and finds him lighting up a joint. Stiles gives him a sheepish look, but they pass it back and forth and then light up a second, a third. Stiles is giggling about something Derek said a joint-and-a-half ago, and while the weed won't get Derek stoned it does seem to calm his tightly coiled nerves enough. He curses his sudden shyness, but then pulls the brightly wrapped box from his inner jacket pocket. "Really? For me?" Stiles says, feigning utter shock, before falling into another laughing fit. Derek rolls his eyes and sees some mistletoe hanging from the rafters. By the time Stiles calms down enough to tear the paper and read out the title, Derek is halfway down the street. He ignores several texts from Stiles and when Boyd texts him a simple "You okay?" He replies "Fine. Enjoy Christmas." The pack shambles in around midnight and pass out immediately, save Boyd who knocks twice before opening Derek's door and sliding in quietly. "Did Stiles like his gift?" Boyd asks with a grin, and Derek snarls out "you'd know better than me." Boyd's grin doesn't falter. "Alright, I'll bite. Did he like it?" Derek groans, laying back in his bed like it's a tomb. From the doorway, Boyd nods. "He kept showing it off to Scott, as if he'd have any idea who Tolstoy was, and Erica looked particularly pleased. Until she realized you'd run off." Derek turns his attention from the ceiling back to the man in his doorway before snapping, "I didn't run anywhere. I decided to leave early." Boyd chuckles softly, and then turns to leave. He pauses at the door, though, and turns back to face his Alpha, "it's okay to feel. Remember that, Derek."
Derek would be mad, if he hadn't heard Laura in Boyd's voice.

The next morning Derek wakes up in the forest, and when he returns home Isaac seems uncharacteristically upset. As he walks into the kitchen to get coffee, Isaac shadows him until he speaks up, asking, "where do you go at night?" Derek gives him a look that, months ago, would have drawn out an apology or a hasty exit but now only served to visibly irritate the boy. "Look," Isaac says, "I get it if it's like, personal stuff but we've come so far as a pack and I understand, Derek, how much you want to bury all your demons but we're here for you. You listen to us whine and cry about stupid shit like High School and you've always helped me out when I think about my dad too much and get all depressed and listen to Morissey for days at a time because you care about us and we care about you. I want to help." Derek stares at the wall for a while before he motions for Isaac to follow. They walk in silence until they reach the clearing Derek destroyed days ago; snow has buried most of the damage and it's almost as peaceful as before. He sits on the log he shared with Stiles and when Isaac joins him, he starts to talk about his family. His mom's explosive, startling laugh; his dad's ability to gaze right through him, to know what he's thinking; Laura's affinity for trashy romance novels and how she used to listen to Morissey, too, when she was sad; Peter's scholarly presence and excellent advice. Derek talks about reading to his younger cousins, how he was almost done with one of the Harry Potter books when the fire took everything. Derek talks about Thanksgiving and his extended family asking him where he wanted to go to college. He talks about High School and his mom's cooking and about his dad teaching him to read. Derek tells Isaac everything he's never said to anyone before; tells Isaac how he wanted so desperately to have kids one day but now the thought makes him sick. Derek talks until he's gasping for breath and Isaac is against his side, head tucked against his chest and arms around him. He rubs a hand down Isaac's back and the boy smiles into his side. Then they go to the house and Derek calls a pack meeting and says all that and more to the rest of them. He feels weight lifting and can almost hear the sounds of his busy family filling the house. Derek tells them that he thinks his parents would like the remodel. Derek relaxes when the pack crowd themselves onto the couch and fall asleep like that, clutching each other as children clutch at toys in their sleep. And Derek smiles.

On Thursday, the twenty-seventh, Derek does his best to ignore the world and read in his room. Whenever he heads downstairs, for lunch or to make more coffee or to sit on the couch and take a break from his barren, whitewashed room, he gets looks. Boyd gives him a look that says "I told you so, and I'm really glad you opened up." Isaac's eyes relay, "Is something wrong?" But Erica, that clever girl, merely tilts her head and makes eyes that translate to, "Go talk to him." It all becomes too much. The jar of fresh honey in the cabinet is just Stiles' golden eyes; the brazen red Erica painted her door is his jacket; and after a while even the white of his bedroom walls seems to have dark constellations of freckles marring it. He gives up, and goes to Stiles' house. He finds the boy on his roof once more, and he feels his heavy heart rise when he notices that Stiles is reading Anna Karenina. Derek joins him without a word, hands him the thermos of coffee he brought just in case. "Did you know Tolstoy considered this his first true novel?" Stiles asks, and Derek nods. "Virginia Woolf considered him the greatest of all novelists." Stiles says. Derek nods again. Stiles sighs heavily and closes the book, setting it in his lap. He looks over to Derek and tilts his head to the left. "I went to college in New York," Derek says, "and studied literature. I always loved books. My dad had a huge library and I basically lived there." Stiles' mouth dips open and he inhales at the mention of Derek's father, but he just nods. "I want to go to college but I don't know what I want to do." Stiles says. Derek breaks eye contact and tells the sky, "I used to write poems. I thought... I thought that's what I would do." Stiles fails to stifle a laugh, and Derek choruses. Stiles pulls a joint out of his pocket and lights it up, breathing in the smoke and sighing it out in a heavy cloud. He puffs again and hands it to Derek. They sit like this, smoking quietly for a while, before Stiles stands and reaches into his window. If Derek said he didn't check out his ass, he'd be lying. Stiles turns back to him with a rectangle covered in silver paper with green pinstripes. Derek gives him a confused look but Stiles just smiles, "you left the party before I could give you this. So here. I hope... I hope it's okay that I got you this." Derek's confusion deepens until he gives in and tears off the paper.
His family looks back at him from the confines of a smooth, black frame. Smiles light their faces, and Derek remembers this day. This was Peter's wedding. His stomach sinks through him and sorrow rises insidious up his throat. "Is it.. I'm sorry I shouldn't have I just... back when we first met I read the police file about you guys and I saw this and since you don't have any I just thought.. Fuck I'm sorry Derek." Stiles must be able to read the shock in his face, and Derek spends several seconds replacing his stony demeanor. "Thanks." He says simply, and then jumps from the roof and runs towards the forest.

On Friday, Derek pushes open the door of his house and glances to the left, immediately groaning and resting his head in one large palm. "Really, guys?" He says, glancing at Isaac and Erica and Boyd sitting in a semi circle around 'his throne' patiently. "Derek," Boyd says while he fails to hide a grin, "why don't you have a seat?" Derek sighs heavily. "Really? Really guys? An intervention?" In any case, he sits in his chair and waits. Isaac looks profoundly nervous as he clears his throat and says, "Derek. You can't keep running from everything that makes you feel something. We're worried about you. Stiles is worried about you." Derek glares. Erica says, "listen up dumbass. I've done all I can to facilitate this so good luck." Derek raises one eyebrow in response. Boyd says, "remember what I told you. Stop punishing yourself." Derek growls from somewhere near his solar plexus. True to form, he gets up without a word and leaves.

He shifts until he's barely human and then he runs. He runs until even as a wolf he's out of breath and his muscles burn and he runs until he almost forgets what he's running from. In the darkest hours of the night he finds himself perched on a hill and staring towards the pinpricks of light that are Beacon Hills in the distance. Once his thoughts catch him there, he shudders. He is quickly saturated with the bitter sheen of a nervous sweat.

Derek collapses to his knees and releases a keening wail years overdue; an echo bounces from the distant city and Derek almost laughs at the absurdity of it all. If he hadn't spilled all his tears years ago, they'd fall now. He lays on his back and looks to the sky; the stars are just freckles and moles dotting Stiles' face and neck and perhaps places unseen. The moon is large and nearly full. A soft, champagne colored corona halos it. The image of his family's smiling faces drags him into a troubled slumber.

Derek's eyes open at the yipping howls of coyotes. They're miles to the north but he stays awake nonetheless, vacantly staring at the heavy, dark clouds above. Sunlight streams down from breaks in the gray ceiling. Derek can feel the static in the air; it's going to snow soon. He sits up and Erica is sitting on a rock several feet to his left. She holds out a leather jacket and a T shirt. "We answered you last night," she says. "I know." He replies, tugging the jacket on. "I always liked Stiles," she begins, and Derek tilts his head to the right, "he was so smart and funny. I felt like he just gave off energy. But most of all I could tell, even when we were kids, how much he cared about people. Genuinely cares." Her blonde hair curls delicately around her pale face; rosewood painted lips release a small cloud of breath. Erica's eyes pose a question but Derek just shrugs and nods dismissively. "For the love of- He's pack, Derek. You let this spastic human boy into your pack! He's saved your ass as often as you've saved his and you clearly trust him on some level." Derek is taken aback for all of three seconds before he starts tracing the path he took here. She's beside him in an instant, walking quietly. Her boots abuse the snow already on the ground while large flakes start pouring down around them. She buttons up her blue and gray plaid pea coat absently.

"I keep him around because he's useful," Derek offers after several minutes. "Bullshit." Erica replies before they fall into silence.
Once they're back in town, nearly three hours later, they stop at a diner. It's stiflingly hot, and they quickly shed their jackets. The floor is alternating tiles of traffic-orange and some sort of taupe, a truly tragic combination, and the waitress who seats them seems to be just this side of suicidal thoughts. They order coffee and ask the woman to leave the pot.

Erica clears her throat, blue eyes electric, and says "I get it, Derek. I really do. I'm not going to push it any more but I think you know what's going on. Sooner is better." She doesn't bring up Stiles again, and Derek is eternally grateful. They talk about Erica's grades and it feels so normal they both laugh.

Derek spends a full night in his bed for the first time since the remodel completed in October. At first he can't sleep so he tries to read, but the words don't grip him. He drags his old notebook out of a suitcase he never unpacked and finds a pen in a box in his closet. He writes for the first time in years, and when he finishes and reads it he laughs to himself for a good five minutes before laying down and trying to fall sleep again. This time he is successful.
The forest floor is gray in the twilight and hummingbirds dance off to the left of The Wolf while he paces, leaves crunching under paws in the autumn chill. A deer runs past but The Wolf ignores it; a heavy rain falls and a harsh wind picks up. The birds fall silent and suddenly trees light up like matches as the scene is engulfed in flame. The Wolf cries out as he falls into blackness which fades slowly to a splintered and burned dining room. In the center of the floor a dark green vine works itself from a jagged maw and a soft pink lotus blooms. From the flower emerges a gray moth, dusty motes breaking from its wings in the soft light of dawn before it flees the room. All the wolf sees is baleful red before static overcomes his body. Mist fills his senses until bright blue birds carry it away. In the forest The Wolf watches another of its kind fall to parts while his heart seizes in horror and all he can think is PACK before howling to the night. Red and blue lightning answer it and The Wolf feels himself carted across lengths of time before he stares at freshly turned earth topped with deep purple flowers. The Wolf raises his eyes to stare at a tall figure made of shadow, and growls. The figure raises one hand, clutching broken glass and guts itself, spilling darkness across the ground in a torrential flood; swallowing The Wolf without remorse. As he fights to cry out; releasing only choked sobs and half-hearted growls, he hears distant and cruel laughter. He claws and slashes for what may be hours until finally one paw rips through the nothingness and the darkness floods through the gap, leaving him once more in the forest alone. A small dog approaches him before turning and running away: The Wolf gives chase but cannot catch the prey. Eventually he is led to a spacious white room and is disoriented as it looks down at himself walking in, inky black against the pristine floor. When he can see through his own eyes again golden rain falls from the ceiling before congealing into a small bird; ochre chest and golden wings. The bird flits around nervously before The Wolf opens his jaw and snaps it from the air, swallowing it down. The Wolf shakes as the bird bursts from it's chest and then he sheds the wolf's pelt and stands- human and nude in the white abyss. He walks forward until he meets a bright red door. Derek opens it.

Derek jolts awake, gasping in fractured breaths and grabbing at his chest automatically. He forces his heart to slow and stares up at the ceiling until the familiar rumbling of Stiles' jeep drags him from bed and into his clothes. He hears the teens wake up and return to sleep once the recognize the vehicle as Stiles. When he parks in front of the house, Derek is waiting on the porch. The drivers door slams shut and the boy in his red jacket carts two steaming mugs of coffee forward, sitting on the railing in front of Derek and holding one out to him. He grabs it in his large hand and takes a gulp. "I'm sorry, about the picture... I didn't.. I didn't think it through enough and I just.." Derek cuts him off and says, "Don't apologize. It was a sweet gift and I shouldn't have just run off." Stiles' eyes widen in surprise, but he nods.

Stiles laughs nervously, his free hand rising to rest at the back of his neck, apparently at a loss for something to say. Honey coloured eyes meet Derek's and Stiles sighs, saying, "What are you guys doing later?" Derek responds with a blank look and Stiles groans. "It's New Years Eve. What were you, raised by wolves?!" His face contorts as his mind catches up to his mouth and Derek laughs. "Yes, actually." The man retorts and then they laugh together. "I think you and the pack should come over. Christmas was lots of fun so.." Derek nods a couple times before glancing over and seeing flushed cheeks and full lashes and pale eyelids. Just below Stiles' left eyebrow he has a small dark freckle. Derek says, "We'll be there." Stiles throws his arms up in victory, shirt riding up to reveal the jut of hipbones, a stretch of pale skin punctuated by commas of freckles and moles and a line of dark hair and Derek is distracted until the boy's arms lower so he can check the time on his phone. "Shit!" He exclaims, "my dad is going to be home soon. I'd better get going. And probably sleep or something." The blazing red 4:00am Derek reads in Stiles' pupils tells him the boy is right. After Stiles leaves Derek considers trying to sleep again, but decides to write instead.

It's December thirty-first when Derek wakes up, face pillowed on his notebook on the kitchen table. Erica is sitting to his left and drinking coffee while Boyd makes pancakes. Derek sits up, hiding his words, and Erica pushes a steaming mug towards him. He thanks her with a nod and drinks deeply. Once Isaac has woken up and come downstairs, Derek says, "Stiles invited us to his house for New Years. I told him we'd go." Erica hums in agreement while pure joy passes through Isaac's face. Boyd finishes cooking and sets a large platter on the table, taking his seat. The four of them eat and chat idly. Once they finish breakfast Isaac suggests they go to the park. They bundle up for the winter chill and step out into an uncommonly sunny Monday morning. Derek wears the ridiculous wolf hat Erica gave him for Christmas. Isaac races to the swings and propels himself back and forth while Erica and Boyd sit at a table and discuss something just quiet enough for Derek to successfully ignore them. After several hours Derek says, "Alright guys there's something I have to do... I'll see you all at Stiles' later." They nod and he excuses himself. From the park it's a short and enjoyable walk to the cemetery and Derek follows a familiar path to Laura's grave. He sits and stares at the gray stone for what feels like eons before speaking.
"I don't know what to do, Laura. I never do. You were always so much smarter than me. I just.. I can't stop thinking about him. Everything is his features and I can't. I can't get involved with someone his age. But I need it. You would tell me to suck it up and talk to him and back then, I might've listened but since all this. Since losing you I don't know if I can. Sometimes, I feel so fucking hollow. But all of a sudden, even though I never wanted to let anyone close again... he fills me up. He makes me feel so warm and every time I touch him, Christ. Laura, it's like he sends a jolt of static to my heart. You'd love him. You'd adore him and his big beautiful eyes and his noise. He likes Tolstoy, Laura.
Damn it. I miss you so much."

Derek feels so much younger and lighter and freer than he has in years by the time he's done. He sits for hours longer before standing and taking three steps away. He stops, though, and to the snow he says, "Happy birthday, Laura."

Before heading to Stiles' he heads home and tears a page from his notebook, still lying on the kitchen table. He pulls his coat tighter against himself as he throws himself back into the dark night and walks to his pack. When he arrives, Allison is laughing loudly while Boyd smiles at his own punchline. Erica grasps his hand while her carmine lips twist up and part around white teeth. There's a tacky poster on the door that says "Take this, Mayan Calendar!" And Derek chuckles. Isaac is curled up on the couch while Scott and Stiles argue over superheroes in the living room. "Batman is totally the best, dude. He doesn't even need superpowers to be a badass!" Stiles shouts. He notices Derek and his face splits into a wide grin. "Derekkkkkkkkk" he drawls, drawing Scott's attention. Derek walks into the living room and inherits a place on the couch next to Isaac.

Several hours, forty-something beers, one bottle of rum and a half a bottle of whiskey later, most of the teens are talking loudly in the kitchen. Erica sits next to Derek and gives him a look, parting her lips to say, "he was sad you know, before you showed up. He thought you weren't coming no matter how many times we told him you were." Derek chuckles at the thought and says, "Thank you, Erica." It's not quite an answer, but Erica understands and she smiles again, before jumping up and yelling "ALRIGHT GUYS IT'S ELEVEN FUCKING THIRTY LET'S GET READY!"

Twenty minutes later and Derek seeks Stiles out. He finds him in the garage, again, and thinks of Christmas. Stiles, following the pattern they've set out so far, lights up a blunt and puffs several times before his thin fingers hold it out to Derek. They smoke it slowly, Derek revering every time Stiles' closes his eyes while dragging in thick smoke, his cheeks hollowing and Derek's eyes following the lines of his face. With two minutes before the year is over Stiles says, "I really like gin," while he takes a sip from his glass. "I couldn't tell," Derek deadpans, and Stiles tips his head back and throws laughter to the sky. He pauses after a while, and then starts laughing all over again. Derek tears his eyes from Stiles and looks up to see the familiar mistletoe hanging from the rafters. They look at each other at the same time and Stiles' heart pounds while he says "We have got to stop meeting like this" with a veneer of calm. Derek takes two steps forward while the voices of his pack count down "six, five," and his hand finds Stiles' cheek- the contact eliciting a sharp inhale from the boy- "four, three," his thumb traces those pink lips, "two, one." Derek leans in and presses his lips barely against Stiles' mouth, which falls open in surprise. Derek inches his head away and says, "all you have to say is no. And I'll stop." Stiles pauses and replies, "I know," before grabbing Derek's leather jacket and pulling him in to share another kiss. Stiles' tongue tastes like pine. Derek feels the spark jolt his heart, the heat overtake his body, and he smiles against Stiles. When he pulls away this time he grabs at Stiles' bottom lip with his teeth. He glances over the boy's shoulder to see half of Erica's face in the cracked-open door. A smile grows there and she silently walks back to the party. Derek kisses Stiles again, softly.

Derek is smiling when they rejoin the party and they hold hands while Allison and Erica exchange looks of joy. "Happy new year, everyone." Stiles says. If Scott stiffens upon seeing his best friend's fingers entwined with Derek's he hides it well. Isaac hands Boyd ten dollars and says, "damn. I thought for sure they wouldn't get together before next new year's."

Before they leave, Derek hands Stiles a piece of paper that's been folded. He kisses Stiles once more, and then heads home, a smile still playing at his lips.

Red (Like a Sun in Autumn)
a poem for Stiles, by Derek Hale

I pick all the red flowers
out in my woods.
I bury them because they make me think about you.

I threw a jar of honey at the wall.
When I looked at it, I saw your eyes.

Once, I laughed at God himself.
I laughed into the sky and I asked him "Why me?"
"Why you?"
His only answer was rain, and it was typical.

I want to drag my teeth across your neck
and listen to your swan song.
La petite mort.