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I just want to keep this dream in me

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When Stiles was nine, his mom told him the secret to the universe.

*

"I'm going to tell you a secret," his mom tells him, and because he's nine and impressionable he believes her–because his mom is his mom and he knows that she'd never lie.

He bounds over to her excitedly, his lanky, long legs that are too big for his body make him trip almost every other step, but his mom doesn't say anything, doesn't even laugh at him for it. His mom, Stiles is convinced, might possibly be the best person in the world, because Scott would have laughed, and his dad probably would have laughed, too, but in the good-willed way that parents do when their child does something absolutely adorable.

Stiles is definitely adorable. Or at least that's what his mom tells him.

"What is it?" Stiles asks, voice higher than usual, because it's a secret. His mom never tells him secrets (in Stiles' house, those are strictly kept between his mom and dad, they're always whispering to one another in tones that Stiles can never hear, and it used to make Stiles mad, because he's important too, but Scott's parents also do it, so that makes him feel a little better) and he knows this is really special.

She smiles at him, and tucks his unruly hair behind his ear. "It's the secret to the universe," she says, hushed and intimate, all just for Stiles.

"To the whole universe?" Stiles gasps. He may not be sure exactly how big it is, but he knows it's pretty big. Probably bigger than the whole state of California combined.

His mom nods, and pulls him just that much closer, so he can feel their hearts racing together. He giggles, because he loves it and his mom knows he loves it so she does it whenever it's possible. Another reason why his mom is the best, Stiles thinks. "To the whole universe," she says, "but you can't tell anyone, okay Stiles? Not even Scott."

"I promise!" Stiles exclaims, because while Scott is his best friend and deserves to know these things too, Stiles likes keeping things to himself sometimes.

"Good," she whispers, close to his ear even though they're the only ones home now.


It makes him feel giddy inside.

"What is it?"

She smiles, leans in closer, and whispers, "love."

Stiles doesn't know how that's a secret when everyone knows what love is and how it works (because how else would you have family and children, duh), but it's his mom and she's never been wrong before so he trusts her.

"I'll never tell another soul," he promises, with conviction.

 

His mom smiles at him, and it's knowing, almost like she already knew he wouldn't tell anyone already.

 

*

Stiles never told another soul.

*

Stiles hates mother's day.

It's not because he doesn't like the holiday or anything, but rather because it's hard to celebrate mother's day when you don't have a mother. Or a grandmother. Or even a close aunt who you could maybe buy gifts for as an extension of guilt. But all of Stiles family is either dead or out of state, and while he's sure his dad would let him drive all the way out to Florida, he's also not sure that it's entirely worth it.

Because they aren't his mom, and they'll never be his mom, so the whole point is moot when it comes down to it. It may sound weird and selfish, and it may make him look like an asshole, but this day is for his mom, and Stiles doesn't want to share it with anyone (okay, mostly, he doesn't want to upset his mother, not that he thinks she'd be upset about something like that, but he would like to think that she likes having that day all to herself, so).

The whole holiday kind of just depresses him now, because in between Scott fretting over what to get his mom for mother's day–usually the day before, because he somehow always forgets, not that it makes him a horrible son or anything, he's sure Ms. McCall has noticed how not-all-there her son is–and Scott actually getting something for his mom, it just makes him realize how he can't do that anymore. He can't sort through the perfume counter at Macy's, and he can't pick up his mom from work to take her out to eat. He can't do any of that stupid shit anymore because while he does accidentally set the extra place at the table sometimes, it's different when it's in public.

 

He doesn't think strangers would be as forgiving as his dad.

 

He doesn't let himself dote on it much, because what's in the past is in the past and Stiles hates digging up past emotions, especially about his mom.

His mom would want him to be happy, even today, so he doesn't think about it.

Much.

*

He goes to the cemetery almost every week, but on Mother's day he always tries to make it special.

His dad stopped going years ago, either because he couldn't stand seeing his wife's name on a gravestone anymore or maybe because he just didn't have the time. Stiles isn't sure; it's not like he and his dad talk about it very often–actually, the only thing they don't talk about is Stiles' mom and the Stiles'-mom-shaped hole there is in their life now. It's not that Stiles blames him or anything, because his dad is his dad and that's his wife and his son's mother laying dead in the ground, and there's only so many times you can go through that.


He's not sure he'd be able to handle it either.

So, even though he hates this stupid holiday and all of the stupid "I love you, Mom" balloons that adorn the drugstore aisles now, that have been for three weeks, at the heart of all of the horrible emotions running through him, Stiles doesn't actually mind going to the cemetery.

He'd like to think his mom appreciates it.

*

He goes to his local Walgreens and picks out a few dozen lily bouquets, because they were his mom's favorite–he gets them every time, really, but today, today is special–and his mom deserves them by the truckload.


He also throws in some grape flavored Jolly ranchers, and the black liquorish twizzlers, because his mom ate those more than she ate anything else, and even if the homeless guy that always grins at Stiles extra wide will be the one who eats them, he doesn't think his mom minds so much.

After he's paid, the cashier looks at him and smiles brightly. "I hope your mother enjoys her mother's day!"

Stiles bites back a, "she can't because she's dead," because that's rude and there's only so many pitying looks he can really deal with, instead just smiles somewhat sadly and says, "I hope so."

*

When Stiles was seven, his mom taught him how to bake raspberry-shortcake cookies.


*

Stiles is the worst son ever, in like the whold world, ever.

His dad's birthday is tomorrow, and while he's not sure how old his dad is turning, Stiles is positive his dad is at least fifteen, which is a lot of years. He's the worst son because he still hasn't gotten his dad something and he knows that you're supposed to give presents to your dad on their birthday, because that's what Scott did and Scott got extra kisses that day.

Stiles wants extra kisses.

But he doesn’t know what to get his dad (what do dads like anyway?) so he’s not going to get extra kisses and his dad will hate him. Possibly forever.

He doesn’t want his dad to hate him.

His mom finds him an hour later, hiding out in the room that no one uses anymore, that hasn’t been used since grandma came down for a visit a few years back and went to sleep one night and never came back out. He has no idea where she is now, but he misses her, misses her a lot because she would know what to get his dad.

All moms know what to get their son.

 

“Baby,” his mom says, kneeling in front of him. “Why are you crying?”

Stiles wipes at his wet cheeks and launches himself into her arms, because she’ll always hug him, no matter how wet her shirt gets.

“I’m the worst son in the world,” he sniffles.

“Baby, that’s not true,” his mom says.

“Mommy, it really is though. It is–it’s really true! Daddy’s birth-day is tomorrow and I don’t have a gift and he’s going to hate me because sons are supposed to get their daddies gifts and I don’t–have one yet,” Stiles says, all in one breath, so he’s huffing for air afterward.

He doesn’t care, though. He deserves it, even.

He really is the worst son ever, because now his mom is staring at him with big, sad eyes and he hates seeing that look on his mom’s face. What he hates even more is how he's the one that put it there.

“Stiles,” she says, “your dad loves you just fine, whether you get him something or not.”

“He won’t! He won’t love me if I don’t get him something, mom. It’s important,” he mumbles into her shirt.

He doesn’t see it, but she smiles at him. “I can fix that,” she whispers. “You can get him a gift, okay?”

Stiles nods, still crying, but he feels a little bigger, now.

“Okay.” Stiles says, and then adds on, “but it better be awesome, mom!”

She laughs. “I wouldn’t let it be anything else.”

*

So they bake.

It’s a little hard, at first, Stiles’ hands too small to do most of the things his mom’s can, but his mom is patient with him and doesn’t even yell at him when he puts too much flour in the first batch. All she does is smile at him, bright and wide, get out another cookie sheet and say, “practice makes perfect, Stiles, never forget that.”

 

*

Stiles never forgot.

 

*

Practice, as it turned out, does make perfect.

Stiles got extra kisses and extra hugs.

He doesn’t receive a medal like those guys on TV do sometimes or anything, but he’s sure he wins ‘best son of the year’ award that year.

*

Derek's at the cemetery.

He's at the cemetery and his shoulders are hunched, huddled over a gravestone nestled under a huge Sycamore tree.

Stiles isn't surprised, not really, not when he thinks about it. He’s not sure he expected Derek’s mom to be buried here, he would think that Derek would’ve buried her somewhere along the Hale property, doing the same ritual he did for Laura–that was probably a one time, thing, though, because Derek was probably too young to bury his mother, but he was the only one left to bury his sister. Stiles doesn't like to think how sad that is, how sad it is that Derek's left alone, living in a house that's littered with the ashes of his family and the reminants of memories. He doesn't like to think about it, so he doesn't, or he doesn't think about how often he really thinks about it–because it's hard to ignore, when you catch Derek staring at the odd necklace they find buried under some of the rubble. Not when those necklaces are usually his mom's and he locks himself in a random room and doesn't come out for hours. sometimes more.


Stiles doesn't like it, but he feels sorry for Derek more than he feels sorry for anyone.

 

At first, Stiles doesn’t say anything to him, just glides past him even though he knows Derek smells him, can hear his heartbeat clattering in his chest, but this isn’t something that he and Derek can share. This is something that Stiles has to do by himself, because she’s his mom and he’s sure Derek can understand that.

Anyway, he’s not even sure if Derek actually wants to see him.

So, Stiles walks past him, walks three rows down, two gravestones over, and drops to his knees in front of his mom’s gray-slated stone. His dad paid extra money to make sure it looked nice, because it’s what she always wanted (“I want it to be beautiful,” she had said, lying in the hospital with Stiles’ hand clutched in one hand, his dad’s held tightly in the other. “That’s what I want, John, that’s all I want,” and Stiles didn’t understand what she meant then, but he does now). Stiles likes it, likes that he can spot it from the parking lot, likes that he'll never get hers confused with anyone else's.

He sets the flowers in front of her stone, and the candy on either side.

“Happy Mother’s day,” he murmurs, fingers stroking across the slick surface. He’s not one for words now, is never one for words when it comes to this, because it's his mom and his mom has always understood him better than anyone.

He’d like to think she already knows what he’d say, anyway.

*

He doesn’t know how long he stays there before Derek’s hand is pressing into his shoulder.

“Stiles,” Derek says, and it’s tender like Stiles has never heard his voice before.

Stiles looks up from where he was staring at her name, committing it to memory like it’s not already there. He always loses track of time when he comes here, loses himself in the crevices of her name and the blades of the grass that tickle his skin.  

“Derek,” Stiles says but doesn’t say anything more.

Derek doesn’t do anything at first, just stands there awkwardly with his hand still on Stiles’ shoulder and looks at the ground like he wishes it would give him all of the answers.

Stiles wishes that sometimes, too. He wished it when Scott became a werewolf who didn’t know what he was doing, he wished it when his dad went in for a monthly doctor’s appointment and came out with news that he was at severe risk for type 2 diabetes, and he wished it again when he was fourteen when his mom took her last breath, Stiles asleep on her right with his dad sobbing quietly on her left. He wonders, idly, how much Derek looks like that when no one's watching.

 

He's willing to bet it's a lot.

 

Derek sits down next to him, Indian style and normally Stiles would mind the company, normally he would scream and yell for Derek to go away, but he doesn’t now. He’s not sure if it’s because he’s lonely and for the first time, he’s with someone who is lonely too, someone who feels the vacancy that he’s felt for three years now.

Derek clears his throat, and whispers, “how long?”

Stiles looks straight ahead, staring at a butterfly drinking nectar from a flower. “Three years,” Stiles says, but it doesn’t sound like his voice at all.

Derek’s nice enough not to say anything about it.

He’s nice enough not to say anything else at all, actually, just sits there with Stiles even though he doesn’t have to, even though Derek’s not bound to Stiles the way he’s bound to Scott–even though he is, because he’s pack, because he’s Derek’s pack and Derek’s his alpha.

Derek stays and is there for him in a way that no one’s ever really been.

Stiles doesn’t say anything else, either, but he hopes he’s that someone for Derek, too.

*

After they leave Derek doesn’t whisper an apology into Stiles’ ear. He doesn’t say how he’s sorry his mom isn’t there, how he’s sorry about his loss or how hard this day must actually be–not that he ever thought Derek would because Derek is Derek and on top of how emotionally constipated he is, he knows what it’s like to lose his mom and when you know that feeling, all of that other stuff kind of loses its glamor–and it’s not like he really has to.

But when he picks up Stiles’ hand, he presses it into his skin instead.

And when his fingers lace through Stiles’ own in a way that he’s never let himself imagine, not before this, he knows that Derek really understands.

That Derek will always understand.

They don’t say anything else the entire way back to Stiles’ jeep, but it feels like they’ve said volumes, regardless.

*

Stiles’ mom isn’t there for his first kiss, but that’s okay.

Stiles will tell her later, probably, over lily bouquets and twizzlers, and it’ll almost be like she’ll actually be present, almost like she’s not actually dead.