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we swept out the ashes

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Derek spends most of Christmas Eve with Isaac, because Isaac thinks Derek shouldn’t be alone that day. So they hang out at Derek’s, watch some TV, wrap presents; they just sit in comfortable silence next to each other, and then Isaac putters around the kitchen, baking cookies and brownies and pies. He used to do it a lot at home, before. Now everyone in the pack gets some baked goods from him, it’s something that makes Isaac happy: seeing the people closest to him glow with joy and contentment and love, and he loves giving little presents like that.

Late in the evening, Isaac leaves for Scott’s. He celebrates Christmas with Scott and his mother while Derek goes to spend the Holidays with Stiles and the Sheriff.

It’s their first Christmas together, actually, and Derek is absolutely not saying things like, “It’s going to be fine. You’re officially invited. Stop freaking out,” like a mantra in his head. It’s not only his very first Christmas with Stiles, it’s also the first time since the fire, and since Laura’s death, that he spends Christmas with someone as important to him as Stiles. The first time he is not going to be alone in years.

It’s almost half past eleven when Derek arrives at the Stilinski’s, and the first thing he notices is that Stiles’ jeep is missing. He furrows his brows cutting the engine of the Camaro. For a moment he considers calling Stiles but refrains. Instead, Derek gets out of the car and walks up to the front door, which swings open almost immediately after he rings the bell. Stiles’ father greets him with a warm and welcoming smile, clapping him fatherly on the back when Derek steps in.

“Good thing you’re here,” the Sheriff says. “I was about to go to sleep and thought, ‘Screw it, Derek can let himself in through the window.’”

Derek purses his lips in an attempt to hide his smile. The Sheriff claps his shoulder, laughing, and takes the pie Isaac made for them off his hands.

“Sorry, Sheriff,” Derek apologizes, and starts following Stiles’ father into the kitchen. There is a glass with some whiskey on the table, a bottle of which next to it. The Sheriff puts down the pie before taking out another glass and pouring a little of the alcohol into it. He passes it to Derek.

Stiles’ dad smiles a little—like he does every time when Derek addresses him with his title—and waves his hand in a dismissive motion, “Don’t worry about it. You said in advance you’d be here late.”

Derek has been offered to call the Sheriff by his first name but he couldn’t bring himself to do it. Not because he doesn’t want to. He respects the man, the same way he respects Ms. McCall, and they’re parents and he is not, and he just doesn’t feel like crossing this boundary yet.

He takes a sip from the whiskey and lets his eyes wander around the kitchen. The silence stretches between them but Derek knows his relationship with Stiles’ father is past the point where it is awkward. Derek is a little startled by the realization that this isn’t weird anymore, that he can enjoy the company of another person without feeling anxious and alert and distrustful. Sure, this is only reserved for very few, chosen people but it’s still there, and he hasn’t even noticed until now. Maybe he should be a little more worried about how this has snuck up on him, quietly and persistently, and how he’s starting to piece himself together.

Derek finishes his drink, asks, “Where is Stiles?”

The Sheriff hums thoughtfully. “He’s probably at the church,” he answers quietly. “He goes there every year, always late to avoid people.”

“Do you think he wants company?” Derek says and looks at Stiles’ father. It’s gotten easier for Derek to read Stiles and to decipher what he wants even when he doesn’t say it. Still, sometimes Stiles is like a little riddle himself; there are flickers of secret emotions, tiny outbursts of hidden characteristics, and untold habits, and Derek finds himself not knowing what Stiles would want from him in those moments.

The Sheriff says, “He wants yours,” and there’s a tone in his voice that Derek can’t name.

The drive to the church doesn’t take long. Unsurprisingly, Stiles is the only one inside, sitting on one of the benches in the front. His shoulders are a little slumped but his heartbeat is strong and steady. Derek can’t remember the last time he was in a church, and although he never actively thought about it, he would have never pictured seeing Stiles here. Quickly he walks up to him, and sits.

Stiles doesn’t seem surprised by Derek’s appearance. Instead, he flashes him a small smile. They sit in silence for a while in which Derek nudges his knee against Stiles’, and Stiles reaches to entwine their fingers.

Stiles breaks the silence eventually. “My mom used to sing in the choir, and Dad and I would come here for every concert. It used to be a little like a Disney movie, she would just break into song every once in a while, you know. While cooking or cleaning or drinking tea. She sang all the time.”

He falls quiet again, and Derek listens to Stiles’ heartbeat. Rubbing soothing little circles into Stiles’ hand with his thumb, Derek waits for Stiles to say or do something.

Stiles asks, “Do you believe in God? Did your family?”

And Derek just says, “No,” because he’s learned to believe in what he sees, and his family wasn’t religious. “Do you?”

Stiles shakes his head, staring at their joined hands. “Mom did. Dad doesn’t. When she died, Dad and I stopped coming here. He hasn’t entered the church since. I come here, because it’s kind of peaceful, and I can sort my thoughts. Weird, isn’t it?”

“It’s not,” Derek assures, squeezing Stiles’ hand a little. “I know what you mean.”

Stiles lifts his head to look at him, a warm smile tugging at his lips. He leans into Derek, snuggling closer so he can bury his nose in the crook of Derek’s neck. Derek wraps an arm around his shoulders, pulling him close, and closer, inhaling the familiar scent that makes him feel so good his head starts spinning. They sit like that in silence, watching the shadows the few candles cast dancing on the walls.

“When I was little I was scared of churches for a long time,” Derek tells Stiles, rubbing his cheek softly against Stiles’ hair. “Because Laura told me once that werewolves couldn’t enter them, as we were monsters and we weren’t allowed into sacred places. She couldn’t stop laughing at me after I found out that she was messing with me. It took me years to figure it out.”

“How did you find out?” Stiles asks. The little chuckle he relieves runs through Derek’s body, spreading warmth and comfort.

“We came here for a concert of the choir one time,” Derek answers. “I begged them all not to go, and my father looked at me weirdly, because he didn’t know what was going on. It was really bad. I told Dad what Laura said to me, and she heard and started laughing while Dad enlightened me about the truth.”

Stiles doesn’t respond but Derek can feel his lips curl into a smile where Stiles’ face is pressed into his neck. And Derek notices that it doesn’t hurt so much to talk about his family anymore. It still stings and burns and generally pains him but it seems bearable now, with Stiles here with him. He has trouble processing how he’s come to this point, how the things in his life have started shifting and changing, and now everything is different, and it’s not a bad thing.

Stiles leans back to look at Derek, and suggests, “Let’s go home.”

They drive their own cars back to the house. When Derek gets out of the Camaro, he finds Stiles standing at the porch with a grin on his face that only speaks of trouble. His eyes have a mischievous expression when Derek gets closer, and Stiles turns to open the front door.

“Laura seemed to have so much fun pulling your leg,” Stiles comments when they walk in, and Derek can’t not hear the amusement in his voice. “And you believed everything she said.”

Derek doesn’t dignify Stiles’ teasing with an answer. Instead, he checks his phone to see a text from Erica that says, Merry Christmas, oh mighty Alpha. Stiles laughs and rambles about how funny it must have been to watch Derek realize that Laura messed with him. Derek listens to him talk, although he keeps his eyes on his cell.

“Scott texted,” he interrupts Stiles’ stream of words, frowning at Erica’s text and typing back, It’s not Christmas yet, saying, “Allison’s pregnant.”

There’s a short pause, and then a squeaky, “WHAT?!”

Stiles scrambles to get his phone out of his pocket, and Derek reigns the laughter in that it irrevocably bubbling up inside of him, keeping his expression hooded while he watches Stiles run his fingers over the screen. Stiles’ head snaps up and he glowers, eyes narrowed, but he’s as intimidating as Bambi. Derek can’t hold back anymore, he can feel his lips part into a bright, bright smile, and then he laughs.

“I see what you did there, dumbass,” Stiles grumbles but Derek sees the involuntary little upturn of his lips. There’s not heat behind his words, and he sounds fonder than anything else. “Stop it.”

“But it’s so much fun pulling your leg,” Derek counters as he steps closer and leans into Stiles’ space. Stiles snorts at that, closing the distance himself nevertheless. Derek smirks, and adds, “I guess it’s hereditary.”

He leans in to kiss Stiles, but he clamps a hand over Derek’s mouth, pressing firmly. He says, “I would be the first one to know if Allison was pregnant what with being Scott’s best friend and all. And I’m pretty sure I’d be named the baby’s godfather,” and there is so much affection in Stiles’ words that it makes Derek’s chest ache in the best way. He grabs the wrist of the hand that still lies over his mouth and pulls it off, planting a gentle kiss on Stiles’ palm.

“You’d be godalpha,” Stiles goes on, watching Derek with bright eyes. “I bet you’re secretly amazing with children.”

“What happened to the Big Bad Wolf?” Derek wants to know. Stiles rolls his eyes and dismissively waves his free hand.

“The Big Bad Wolf only comes out when he needs to,” he answers simply as he raises a hand to Derek’s nape. Stiles’ fingers stroke tenderly through the short, soft hair. “The rest of the time it’s just Derek, guarded and cautious and good Derek.”

“And you’re complaining about how Scott goes on and on about Allison,” Derek replies, because he doesn’t know what else to say—what can he say, really?—and rolls his eyes at Stiles. “Don’t get overly emotional.”

Stiles shoves at him, playfully though, and sniffles, “Oh my god, I’m sharing my love with you here, dude.”

Derek grins, he tries for inviting, but if the way Stiles’ eyes darken is anything to go by, it’s dirty. “You can share your love differently.”

Stiles’ heartbeat flutters and Derek sees the flush high in his cheeks.

Stiles laughs, mocks, “That was poor,” but he pulls Derek close again and brushes their lips together. Derek puts his hands on Stiles’ hips. Kissing they stumble up the stairs, and Derek has to catch Stiles a couple of times so he wouldn’t fall and crack his head open on the stairs. Stiles keeps laughing, breathless, gasping out impatient little noises when Derek’s fingertips brush over his skin right above his waistband; says that no one ever believes him when he says Derek has the mental age of a horny 15-year-old sometimes (which is absolutely untrue). But then Stiles’ hand is in Derek’s crotch, and they stumble taking the last top stair, falling over each other with a rumbling noise. Derek hits his elbow on the handrail, and Stiles bangs his head against the floor, hard. Stiles stares up at him with huge eyes and his breaths come out heaving.

And then he laughs and wheezes, and Derek can’t help joining in. Stiles puts a shaking finger to his lips, trying to reign his laughter in, and says, “Shhh. My dad.”

Derek gets up first, dragging Stiles with him and slots their mouths together, whispering, “Your dad’s fast asleep,” in between breathless kisses.

Once they get to Stiles’ room, everything frantic leaves their motions, and it’s slow and sweet and tender. Stiles’ hands are all over him, roving over his chest and arms, his shoulders and his back, and his fingertips leave burning trails on Derek’s skin.

They embrace. They touch. They explore. They kiss.

When Derek pulls Stiles into his lap, he runs his hands through Derek’s hair, and this simple gesture is so achingly affectionate. Derek touches Stiles’ pale skin and draws patterns when he connects the lines between his moles, and Stiles kisses him deeply, brushes his tongue against Derek’s, and nips at his bottom lip. And when Derek bares his neck to Stiles, Stiles takes the invitation and latches onto the skin, kissing and licking and nipping, sucking bruises to watch them disappear only few moments later.

Stiles closes his eyes as Derek places his hand over his heart, feeling it beat vigorously. Derek watches him, takes him in: the freckled and mole-dotted skin, Stiles’ dark thick eyelashes and how they fan out on his skin, his flushed cheeks and the tiny breathless moans and gasps, the way his hand curls around Derek’s over his heart, and his slender, fragile yet undeniably resistant and forceful frame. Stiles’ is out of his external layers but Derek knows that there are many more that aren’t visible to the eyes, and Stiles rarely lets go of all of them. He says Derek is guarded and cautious, yet Stiles never mentions how he’s the same himself.

Stiles pushes Derek on his back before he starts kissing his way across Derek’s neck, from his collarbone to his navel to his hip, dips lower, and Derek feels himself come undone beneath Stiles’ touches, and it’s not scary at all, not anymore.

Stiles’ lips are open and soft against Derek’s, and Derek groans helplessly into the kiss when Stiles sinks down on him. It’s hot, so hot, and tight, and it leaves Derek’s mind blank, focusing on Stiles only, on the way he moves his hips and the soft gasps and moans that leave his mouth. Derek catches his lips again, swallowing up the noises, while Stiles keeps riding him achingly slowly. Stiles takes Derek’s offered, open palms and leans his weight into them, lets Derek take his weight before he leans down again to kiss him, in a way that sends shivers down Derek’s spine, and ignites a firework in the remaining darkness of his heart and mind.

Derek lets Stiles take him apart and put him back together, lets him put pieces in a place where there has been another one before, and finds himself being a little different each time. And Derek thinks, it’s going to be fine. I’m going to be fine.

When Derek wakes up the next morning, he lies with his head resting on Stiles’ chest, right above his steady beating heart. He can tell that Stiles is already awake, gently pushing his fingertips repeatedly through Derek’s hair. It’s warm and cozy, and Stiles’ scent is lingering in his nose, making him nuzzle a little.

“Merry Christmas, Derek,” Stiles says softly, and Derek can hear the contentment in his voice. He smiles into the warm skin over Stiles’ ribs, and tenderly kisses the spot where he can feel his heart beating.

“Merry Christmas, Stiles,” he replies.

They lie in silence with Derek sprawled over Stiles’ chest, and Stiles brushing his fingers through Derek’s hair. The Sheriff is already up; Derek can hear him downstairs, puttering around the kitchen.

When he smells bacon, Derek mutters, “Your dad is frying bacon.”

Stiles huffs. “It’s Christmas. I’ll allow it this one time,” he says and then adds, “He’s ridiculous, thinking he can go behind my back with his. He should know better.”

Derek can’t help but chuckle at this. “If I was in his place, I’d take every chance I get.”

“Dude, you’re supposed to side with me here,” Stiles complains, and playfully shoves at Derek’s shoulder. Derek turns his head to look at him. He raises a hand to trace Stiles’ collarbone with his fingers, and watches how goose bumps spread along his arms.

“I am,” he says, placing his hands on both sides of Stiles’ arms and props himself up to look down at Stiles. “Didn’t I just rat out your dad?”

“Do you want me to write a sonnet about how you’re secretly the biggest, cuddliest cuddlewolf to ever cuddle, and how you not-so-secretly worry about my dad’s health too? You know, Derek is a cuddlewolf/ a secret dork at heart/ very eager to engulf/ ‘cause Stiles tastes like a tart.” Stiles grin is so shit-eating; Derek is torn between wanting to groan in exasperation, and kissing it off Stiles’ lips, kissing him so long until he forgets his own name, kissing him senseless.

“I’m starting to think Scott’s never-ending allures to Allison have rubbed off on you,” Derek tells him. “It’s self-evident, of course, that it affects you even worse.”

Stiles makes a face at him, and pouts, “I could be the most kickass poet on the planet.”

Derek pleads, “Please don’t,” and Stiles shoves at his shoulder again, eyes bright and amused, and full of affection.

“My poetry would bring all the wolves to the yard, dude,” Stiles drawls, raising his hands to Derek’s shoulders and drawing small patterns on his skin. Derek can feel goose bumps running down his arms. “Like a siren song. You’d be all over me. Well, you already are, so. I didn’t even need my mad rhyming skills for that.”

Derek buries his face in the crook of Stiles’ neck, hiding his fond smile. “You’re ridiculous.”

“You say that a lot,” Stiles says while raking his fingers through Derek’s hair. “But I happen to know it actually means, You’re awesome, and I love you.

Derek lifts his head to regard Stiles with a look. He does, he loves Stiles, he knows it, but he’s still having a hard time saying it aloud. Stiles never makes him, and Derek is endlessly grateful for that. So he leans down again, noses along the length of Stiles’ neck, brushes his lips against his jaw and gently kisses the upturned corner of Stiles’ mouth, hoping to convey everything he feels but can’t say with these gestures.

“It does,” Derek whispers instead. He draws in a breath and lets Stiles’ scent settle over him. “You’re everything to me.”

Stiles’ breath hitches, and Derek can hear his heartbeat stutter a little before it picks up frantically. It’s ridiculous how Derek’s own heart rate picks up at that. Stiles reels him in, holds him close, kisses him softly, and for that moment Derek’s mind is free of anger and pain and guilt.