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A Christmas Curse

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Today was the worst day of Derek Hale’s life.

 

At seven a.m., his alarm clock buzzed and chimed, waking him up. He pushed himself up from how he’d fallen asleep – face first in the pillow, too tired to roll back over – and tapped the dismiss button. He stretched and popped his muscles, and took a deep, steady breath of the crisp morning air sneaking in through his partially cracked window.

 

Today was Christmas Eve, and Derek had a full day planned.

 

First he had his morning jog. Then he had an appointment at the sheriff station to fix the engine of one of their cruisers that had barely made it back, if the deputy’s story was to be believed. After that he had to run, probably literally, to the strip mall to pick up some last minute Christmas gifts that he’d ordered last week. Lunch came next, and he needed the gifts before then – because lunch was with Stiles.

 

Derek carefully looked through his closet for what to wear to lunch. He’d pack it in a bag to change into after work. A smile crept onto his face as he spotted his blue muscle shirt. It wasn’t his favorite, personally, but Stiles said it brought out the blue of Derek’s wolf eyes. He also said it made Derek look ‘fricking hot, okay?’ so that also gave it points.

 

Blue it was.

 

Lunch with Stiles wasn’t strange. They did it at least once a week now that Stiles was out of high school – sometimes twice. Technically Stiles didn’t live at home anymore, but he came back most weekends to spend with his dad, and he always managed to squeeze in Derek too. He saw Scott at school, so the two of them didn’t hang out so much back home anymore, both preferring to visit with the people they saw less of. For Scott it was his mom, Isaac, and Allison. For Stiles it was apparently his dad and Derek.

 

But today was special, Derek reasoned. Today was Christmas Eve. The whole group planned to get together for Christmas dinner at the McCall house, but today it was just Derek and Stiles for lunch… and Derek had a gift for Stiles that he didn’t want to present in front of anyone else.

 

At the thought of the gift waiting behind some counter in the mall, Derek’s gut twisted uncomfortably. He really hoped Stiles liked it, because it was giving Derek painful nerves imagining all the ways Stiles could not like it.

 

He could scrunch his nose up and narrow his eyes and ask Derek if he’d gotten the wrong idea about their relationship. He could ask why Derek thought he’d even wear something like it to begin with, much less something from Derek. Or maybe he’d thank Derek with his wide smile and talk about how cool it was. Maybe he’d put it on immediately and invite Derek over to the Stilinski house while the Sheriff was gone with the premise of watching a bunch of Christmas movies.

 

Yeah, Derek hoped he could follow Stiles around the afternoon for more than a few reasons.

 

After folding his outfit up and setting it in his bag, he pulled on his jogging clothes and headed downstairs, taking the stairs two at a time. The rest of the condo complex was quiet, and no one stopped him as slipped out the lobby doors and across the parking lot. There was a walking trail that started pretty close to the condo, not coincidentally since the Hales owned both the building and the nature preserve that butted up against it, and Derek followed it for a quarter of a mile at a slow pace until he was sure he was out of sight of the main road. Then he broke into a run, faster than any normal human, and cleared the next mile two minutes.

 

He made a wide circle around the preserve, then ran back home, slowing to a brisk jog as he neared the edge of the trees. When he broke the tree line, he slowed further, confusion furrowing his brow. Something smelled like –

 

A smile crept, unbidden, to his lips – small but present. Stiles was in the parking lot, waiting at the corner of the building so he could see when Derek came back. Or that was probably the plan. He was distracted, staring at a game on his phone, when Derek stepped onto the asphalt.

 

“Hey,” he greeted.

 

“Ha-?!” Stiles jumped, almost dropping his phone, and flinched into the wall so that he bumped his head. He groaned and rubbed it as he looked fully at Derek. “Hey, give a man some warning, will ya? I’m not too fond of giving myself a concussion.” His game made a honk kind of noise and he groaned again, gripping it with both hands. “Awww man! And I lost the raid too! Not a great start to the day, Derek. Not a great start. I’m getting hints from the universe that it’s not going to be a good day.”

 

He bit his lip and bounced from foot to foot, staring intently at his screen as he backed out of the game. Derek didn’t like the sound of that either. It was Christmas Eve, and he had a gift to give Stiles later. He didn’t like bad omens or feelings on a day like today.

 

“Why are you here, Stiles?” he asked, trying to ignore his growing unease.

 

“Couldn’t sleep.” Stiles switched over to his email on his phone, glancing up at Derek every so often as he scrolled through. “I get too excited during the holidays.”

 

“Yeah, I remember last year.” Derek motioned toward the door and they headed in. “You bought and made enough food for half the block because you thought you didn’t have enough to feed three werewolves after knowing them for how many years?”

 

“Hey now – just remember who got the praise when we donated all the extra to the food bank.”

 

“Maybe. But I don’t remember you being unable to sleep and driving halfway across town to haunt my building being a symptom of your usual holiday excitement.” For Stiles’ convenience, Derek called the elevator. Beside him, Stiles’ heart hammered, and the scent coming off him was curiously nervous in nature. “Is everything okay?”

 

“Huh? Wha- I mean, yeah. Of course. I’ve got all the presents wrapped. The house is decorated. The food is prepped.” He paused to consider if he was forgetting anything and the concentration slowed his pulse back to normal. “Yeah, no. I think I’ve got everything done. Yeah. Guess I’m just nervous, waiting in anticipation to see if everyone likes their gifts this year, you know?”

 

Did he ever.

 

“Yeah.” Wow. After knowing Stiles for five years, you’d think Derek would have gotten smoother at conversations, but he defaulted back to grunts too often to be considered sociable. Attempt 2. “I’m sure your gifts are fine. Everyone liked them… last year?”

 

Last year Stiles’ gift was fine for Scott, but it came with a pop up card full of penis shaped glitter. Ms. McCall was not impressed. His gift for his dad was a year’s subscription to a healthy meal delivery program. The sheriff proudly thanked him but it was obvious he wasn’t really excited about it.  And Derek’s gift had been a salmon ladder, which was actually really cool, but he’d sort of suggested Derek was letting his physique go at the same time Derek opened it. He’d then cussed a few times and tried to salvage the conversation. It kind of worked.

 

“Hey. Derek?” Stiles began, rocking slightly on his heels. His heart rate was slowly climbing again.

 

The elevator dinged.

 

“Actually, you know what?” He stepped back from the opening doors. “I just remembered I need to check on one last thing before tomorrow. Yeah. We’re still doing lunch, right? I’ll see you for lunch.”

 

“See you later.” Derek gave a half wave, his brow creased in curiosity. Something definitely had Stiles nervous about Christmas, but Derek couldn’t think of what. Derek was nervous because he was making kind of a huge statement today with his Christmas gift, but Stiles-

 

No. Stiles couldn’t be nervous over his gift to Derek. That would be far too coincidental.

-- -- -- --

 

There was something about working with his hands that pleased the wolf side of Derek. Fixing cars was something he already had an interest in, since he liked to keep his own car primed like it was going into a contest… or needed for a getaway vehicle. Transferring that interest into a job was fun for him, even if he sometimes had to see how terrible other people were at taking care of their cars. At least he was self-employed and didn’t have to take every call he got.

 

The police were always on his answer list, though, and not just because Stiles’ father was the sheriff. There was also a hell hound working there, and the rest of the department wasn’t too bad at helping out during tough spots either.

 

Speaking of hell hounds, he could smell the one in question when Parrish stepped outside.

 

“Hey, Derek. What’s the prognosis?” he asked, all casual friendliness, as usual.

 

“She’ll survive. I’m almost done. But when you said she barely made it back in, did you mean to leave out the part where you explained how it was you driving and it was probably your fault the engine almost exploded?”

 

Deputy Parrish shrugged sheepishly. “The rest of the department still gets skiddish when you mention anything out of the ordinary. I didn’t think ‘hell hound overheated’ looked good on the report. And I was in the middle of the precinct when I called you.”

 

“Alright. Well next time,” Derek paused to grunt as he tightened a bolt with his bare hand instead of a wrench, “try to overheat outside the car, instead of sending it all to the engine, alright? Then you won’t have to push it home or pay me to fix it on Christmas Eve.”

 

“Ha! I’ll keep that in mind.” He folded his arms loosely over his chest and grinned. “So I hear you’re going to the McCall house again for Christmas. I managed an invite this year too. I’m bringing bacon wrapped hot dogs.”

 

“It would be polite to ignore the irony in that, right?” Derek asked.

 

Parrish laughed. “I guess it’s sort of on purpose, but it’s also one of the only party dishes I know how to make. Anyway, do I need to be aware of any special traditions or anything? I don’t want to screw anything up.”

 

Derek wiped a cloth over the newly installed engine parts, unearthing the silver color from the soot still infecting most of the metal. “Stiles hides mistletoe around the house, and everyone backs him up on keeping people accountable for it. So I’d avoid walking beside someone unless you’re okay with kissing them.”

 

“Yikes. Alright. Thanks for the warning.”

 

“Dinner starts around six, but everyone shows up by four. Presents are exchanged after dinner so we don’t have to worry about gifts getting messed up or distracting us from the food. Other than that, it’s not anymore hectic than the group usually is, so you’ll be fine.” Derek pushed back from the car and turned to look at his comrade. “The sheriff could have told you all of that. Why ask me?”

 

Another shrug lifted Parrish’s shoulders. “He seems kind of distracted today. He invited me but then he got a phone call, and ever since, he’s been… I don’t know. Distracted is the only word for it.”

 

“What was the call?” Was there some new mysterious creature in town? Did they need to send out the welcoming committee? Or dispense a warning?

 

“Nothing supernatural. My hearing isn’t as good as yours, but it sounded familial.” The door to the precinct opened then and they both turned to see the subject of their discussion heading their way. “Well I’ll see you tomorrow. Thanks for the intel.”

 

Parrish waved at the sheriff as they passed while Derek turned back to the cruiser. He dropped the hood of the cruiser and it shut with a satisfying snap – not enough to hurt the vehicle but enough to make Derek feel a little cool inside. He wiped his hands on the towel hanging from his back pocket and nodded to nothing in particular.

 

“All done out here?” The sheriff walked over, face and voice serious like they always were when he was at work. So not a personal visit like with Parrish, then.

 

“All done, Sheriff,” Derek agreed and motioned to the car. “Good as new. And you can always call me back if it isn’t. You know where I live.”

 

“And how to keep you there,” the older man said, mostly as a jest. Derek let out a laugh but he knew full well that the sheriff carried a packet of mountain ash on his belt now. The sheriff sighed and motioned for Derek to take a seat with him on a bench nearby. So maybe this would be a personal visit? “On a serious note, though. I hear you’re meeting up with Stiles for lunch. Just-… no matter what garbage comes out of his mouth, ‘cause you know how he can rant when he’s nervous – just hear him out and be nice, alright?”

 

“I can’t say I follow, but I always hear Stiles out,” Derek said. Then he shrugged. “Anyway, I’m hoping he hears me out today too, so it’s only fair.”

 

The sheriff chuckled and pat Derek’s knee. “You’ve matured pretty great since your brush with death, Derek. I could get used to it.” He sighed then and smiled honestly. “Now go get washed up. You don’t got a lot of time before your lunch date.”

 

Derek did as he was told and decidedly did not get his hopes up over the casual word ‘date’ thrown in by Stiles’ dad of all people. But he did get his hopes and anxieties up over the sheriff’s request. First Stiles was antsy that morning, and now his father was asking Derek to be nice? What could Stiles possibly have to tell him that Derek would get that upset about? The only thing that came to mind would be if Stiles had accidentally released some big bad spirit in town again. They’d had five years of peace, so Derek might be upset if Stiles ruined that – sure. But why all the tip-toeing around?

-- -- --

 

He had to run through the mall to grab his gifts if he wanted to make lunch on time. But luck was on his side, and he was in and out in under ten minutes with his special order. Then he was in his new Camaro and driving to meet Stiles at his favorite place to grab a bite – Arby’s.

 

He walked in right on time and was surprised to not see Stiles already in line or sitting down with food. It wasn’t common, but he probably just got caught up in some traffic. Derek took a deep breath, closing his eyes, and smiled.

 

Nope. Stiles was in the building. He was in the bathroom. Derek walked toward it and paused when he was just within hearing distance. Concentrating to hear over the sound of the restaurant, he could just make out Stiles’ heartbeat. Strangely, it was even more erratic than that morning. Why was Stiles so anxious? He was going to give himself a panic attack.

 

Unless he was already having one.

 

Derek finished walking up to the door and knocked on it. Stiles jumped inside. “Stiles? You okay in there?”

 

“Oh my GOD.” Even with Stiles exclaiming, Derek wouldn’t have heard that without his werewolf hearing. “I’m- I’ll be out in a second. Jesus. You gave me a heart attack! Just go order or something.”

 

“Okay.” He knocked once more just in case Stiles couldn’t fully hear him. Then he moved away. At least Stiles wasn’t full on panicking.

 

Derek ordered both of their meals and paid for them and was already sitting down when Stiles finally exited the restroom. He spotted Derek immediately and walked over, smiling down at the food.

 

“Hey, thanks,” he said as he slid into the booth. “I didn’t mean for you to buy mine too.”

 

“You seem a little on edge today. I wanted to take at least this off your plate.” He chewed on one of his own fries and watched how Stiles tried to shrink.

 

“Ah. I forgot you can smell the chemo-signals.” He shoved three curly fries in his mouth at once to give himself a moment before he started explaining himself. “Sorry. I’m just… I guess it’s just that I’ve never done this and I don’t want to screw it up.”

 

“Done what?” What about this Christmas Eve was different than all the previous ones?

 

“Look.” Stiles punctuated that word by eating another fry, and another, and another, and talked through them as he continued to rant and chew at the same time. “I know I talk a big game, right? But I’m still new to this and I did tons of research last night on the best way to do it but there’s not a lot of reference for someone like me and someone like you and I just don’t want to screw it up. Cause you’re like alpha material and leader of the pack even though Scott’s the actual alpha and leader of the pack and whatever, you’re still cooler, you know? And you’ve got experience. I don’t have any experience. You’ve had like three or something, right? All tragic, I know, but you’ve had them. I almost had one. Just one. Just an almost. I just don’t want to ruin everything, you know?”

 

“I somehow understood everything you just said, but no, I don’t know.” Derek reached across the table, brow knit in concern, and grabbed Stiles’ hand before he could continue shoveling fries into his mouth. “Stiles, what’s wrong? Unless you’ve unleashed some sort of apocalypse creature, I promise you haven’t ruined anything.”

 

Stiles swallowed thickly, all the remaining fries going down at once, but he didn’t even flinch about it. His hand was hot under Derek’s, and that was saying something. Slowly, he turned his hand over until they were palm to palm and he lightly curled his fingers around Derek’s hand.

 

“I-” But then he faltered to a stop and got stuck staring at their hands.

 

Derek sighed. “Okay, look.” He pulled his hand back and Stiles frowned. “I also wanted to tell you something. So I’ll go first and maybe that’ll help you relax a little.”

 

“O-Okay.” Stiles’ eyes were still on his now empty hand, so he didn’t see Derek pull the tiny box from his jacket pocket. His eyes narrowed when the box was slipped into his waiting palm and closed his fingers around it. “What is this?”

 

“Your Christmas present. I wanted you to have it before the party tomorrow.” Derek slipped his own hands into his pockets and leaned back, heart rate picking up a bit. Now he was the nervous one. “I don’t think I could’ve given it to you in front of the others.”

 

Curiosity overwhelmed Stiles’ nerves and he quickly undid the string holding the box shut. It was a blue jewelry box, that much was obvious from the outside, and when he pulled the lid up he found a bracelet inside. Half of it was a solid piece while the other half was tight chain link. On the solid piece, there was an engraving, but it wasn’t in English.

 

“Wow. What does it say?” Stiles carefully pulled the item from the box and held it up to catch the light.

 

“It’s a druid enchantment. The bracelet is pure silver, and with the enchantment on it, you can sort of use the bracelet like a stun gun on mythical creatures.” Derek explained. He leaned forward and pointed to the word on the bracelet – cosantóir. “It’s pronounced koss-un-tor. Say that while you’re wearing it, and it’s like charging the stun. It’ll only last for a second, and I’m not suggesting it’s foolproof, but it should be enough to help divert a few things.”

 

“Bro.” Stiles was almost breathless. “How- How much did this cost?” He lowered the bracelet and finally looked at Derek with wonder. “No seriously. This probably cost way too much. Why did you get this for me?”

 

Nerves picking up again, Derek shrugged and leaned away. “We’ve been monster free for a few years now, but you’re still the only human in the pack that regularly gets into those types of fights. I thought this could give us all some piece of mind. I wanted you to be able to protect yourself in case I- I mean, in case the rest of us aren’t there to do it for you.”

 

He was trying to play it off, make it sound less like he was trying to be Stiles’ personal guardian. But that was kind of how it really was. He wouldn’t always be around Stiles and what if the next time a rogue, killer werewolf showed up was one of those times? It would also give Stiles some defense if any of the wolves he personally knew got possessed or gave into the moon too.

 

“I love you.” Stiles said it so fast that Derek almost didn’t have time to process it. The paler man turned a noticeable shade of pink.  His eyes were dilated too much for the interior lighting, but he didn’t look away. Although he did lick his lips. Distractingly.

 

“I’m-,” Derek hesitated. His chest felt tight. “I’m glad you like it.”

 

“No, idiot.” Stiles shook his head and clipped the bracelet around his wrist. Then his deep brown eyes were set defiantly on Derek once more. Derek could hear his pulse racing. “I said I love you. God, I’ve been psyching myself up all day to tell you and you think I’m talking about the gift?” He threw his hands out toward Derek across the table. “I love you.”

 

Every time those words left Stiles’ mouth, Derek’s chest felt like someone was carving away at it and releasing him from ice. The third time he heard them, he felt everything break free. A smile tugged at his lips, but he was afraid to hope for what those words meant.

 

“I thought-“ He frowned. “What about Lydia?”

 

“What about-?” Stiles tossed his arms in the air and groaned. “I’m going to assume you’re asking about my sexuality since Lydia’s been in a relationship for over a year now and is annoyingly in love.” He pointed dramatically at Derek. “It’s called bisexuality, Derek. I liked Lydia. That was a long time ago. Now I love you. God, this is the worst confession ever.”

 

Stiles dropped his head onto the table, encircling it with his arms, and let out a loud and long groan. Derek didn’t wait for him to finish. He was up and sliding in beside Stiles before the sound finished, and Stiles startled when their bodies touched.

 

“Der-?”

 

“Say it again,” he said. His whole chest was pounding. The blood in his veins felt like it was trying to float.

 

Swallowing thickly again, Stiles looked right into Derek’s eyes. “I. Love. You.”

 

Maybe Stiles really meant it. Maybe he meant it the same way Derek did whenever he whispered it in his mind as he watched Stiles drive away, or when he saw Stiles engrossed in research, or whenever Stiles got too excited and told you way more than you needed to know about a subject. It sure sounded like he meant it the same way.

 

“I love you too,” he said, much quieter, and leaned in for a kiss.

 

Stiles grinned just before leaning over to shorten the distance. The kiss was brief and sweet and then Stiles was giggling and pulling back. He ran both hands up into his hair and held on.

 

“Oh my god,” he said, his voice almost sounding hysterical. “I can’t believe that happened. I mean, I totally thought this was going to end with me having to tell you I could hold it in and it wouldn’t ruin what we had and beg you not to treat me like the person who took your smiles too personally and made things awkward. But you- You said it back.”

 

“Because it’s true.” Derek slipped his hand over one of Stiles’ and pulled it down from his hair. “Please don’t have a panic attack.”

 

“Panic Attack?!” Stiles exclaimed and then glanced around to see a few heads turn in his direction. He waited until they had looked away again before continuing in a softer voice. “I’m not having a panic attack. I’m over the moon!  And you better believe I’m taking this bracelet as your confession too, ‘cause I’m gonna show it off all over the party tomorrow and tell everyone I’ve got the hottest, coolest werewolf boyfriend with the most awesome car.” He frowned for a moment and his knee started to bounce under the table. “Erm – I mean, are we dating now? Can we be dating now?”

 

With a chuckle, Derek pulled Stiles close to him and tucked him under his chin, successfully stopping the knee bouncing. “Yes. We can date now.”

 

Bless Christmas Eve. Derek had not expected this when he’d woken up that morning, and it was the best possible thing to happen. He hadn’t felt so good since… since probably before the fire. He squeezed Stiles tighter and got a strong hug in return.

 

“Best. Christmas Gift. Ever,” Stiles declared into Derek’s chest. That got another chuckle to rumble through Derek, and based on Stiles’ chemo-signals, he really liked that. Good. Because Derek did too.

-- -- --

 

“So now that we’re dating, you wanna go see a movie?” Stiles asked.

 

Derek agreed, since not much else would be open in the late afternoon on Christmas Eve. They’d driven separate cars to Arby’s, so they agreed to meet at the theater. But then they ended up standing in the parking lot for awhile, doing that stupid thing people do in movies where neither wanted to leave first. You go. No, you go. No, you go. How dumb was that? And yet there they were, doing just that.

 

“We’re going to the same place, Stiles. We’ll see each other in a few minutes. You go. Pick out the movie. I’ll meet you at the ticket window.” Not that Derek wanted to stop being with Stiles either, but he knew how stupid it sounded to want to never go to the movies just so they could stay next to each other the whole time.

 

With a dramatic sigh, Stiles conceded. “Fine. But you better not go anywhere else, got it? Straight to the theater. And no speeding. I don’t need a deputy pulling you over before our first date.”

 

Then he was hopping up into the jeep. Derek watched him turn the ignition over and back out of his parking spot. He didn’t even move until the jeep pulled clear of the lot and was out on the main road. Only then did Derek pop open his car door and slide in, a ridiculous smile on his face.

 

After the holidays, he’d take Stiles on a full date, but they could start with just the movies. Derek shrugged out of his leather jacket because, despite the outdoor weather, his car would be quite warm. While the heater got started, Derek changed the radio station until he found his favorite alternative station. Then he put the car in reverse and headed out toward the theater.

 

The movie theater was a good ten minutes across town, which gave Derek plenty of time to think. Stiles said he loved Derek – which was a pretty bold statement from someone who’d known Derek back when he was moody and dark and pretty much hated everyone. He’d been fueled by anger and revenge back then. Now he was past all that. He could understand someone liking him now, but for Stiles to love him? They used to always be at odds with each other. It had been a slow road to friendship and trust, but that’s what had made Derek fall for Stiles, so maybe he shouldn’t be so surprised that it worked the other way around too.

 

After Christmas, Derek could take Stiles out to his favorite restaurants outside of Beacon Hills. They could go out by themselves, not with the group, and- Ah, Derek could touch him now. Stiles was a fully legal adult, and they were in love. Derek could caress his face if he wanted to. He could pull Stiles close and plant kisses on each of his moles. He could finally get Stiles to show a little skin, because for some reason he always hid himself behind all those layers and Derek wouldn’t deny wanting to see what was underneath. Like badly.

 

Maybe after the party tomorrow, they could- No. That would be moving too fast, even for someone with ‘experience’, as Stiles had said. Derek would just go with the flow and let everything develop organically. Whatever happened, he would go at Stiles’ pace.

 

He was drumming his fingers along with the music and imagining being in the theater, in the dark, with Stiles, when he spotted the wreck blocking the intersection. First he got the slightest hint of aggravation, thinking about how he’d have to detour around it and take longer getting to the movie. But that faded fast. All floating, magnificent feelings fled from him as dread took over, and he immediately stopped his car and got out.

 

“Stiles?” he asked, too far from the wreck to be heard.

 

In the middle of the intersection was Stiles’ jeep, t-boned by a black truck. Glass shards were everywhere in the street, and two people on the sidewalk were already on their phones calling for help. But the truck had hit- There wouldn’t be time for an ambulance!

 

“Stiles!” he shouted, running up to the wreckage, panic clouding every other logical response. The driver’s side was crushed. It was crushed! But Stiles!

 

Derek gripped the front of the truck, not sparing a glance for the driver, and pulled hard to dislodge it from the jeep. It creaked and moaned and finally gave way, sloppily bouncing back to the asphalt. Derek grabbed for the door handle to the jeep but it was gone. Chest heaving, eyes stinging, he pulled the whole mess of a door off and tossed it behind him, not caring if anyone saw him.

 

But none of it mattered. Because Stiles was gone. Derek wished he could say ‘gone’ as in ‘missing’, as in ‘not in the car’, but that was a lie. Stiles was there. Stiles was there, slumped over toward the passenger seat, and he was a mess of blood and crushed pieces and – DAMN IT.

 

Derek wrenched back and shouted something. He wasn’t sure what. The image of Stiles’s crushed body was burned into his retinas even when he looked away to the sound of sirens.

 

“No,” he gasped. No, not on Christmas Eve. Not right after they’d- This wasn’t right. This had to be some trick. An illusion?  But it looked like Stiles. It smelled like Stiles. It was wearing the bracelet like Stiles, the metal glinting in the sun where Stiles’ hand had landed on the dashboard when his jeep bent. God damn it. It wasn’t supposed to happen, but it did. “No.”

 

Paramedics swarmed the scene, pushing Derek back, but he already knew the truth. There was no heartbeat. He couldn’t hear a thing. Even the bite wouldn’t save Stiles from this. He was just-

 

“Stiles?”

 

Oh God. Derek turned and saw the Sheriff had arrived on scene.

 

“Stiles!”

 

Derek covered his ears and couldn’t watch the anguish that rapidly covered the old man’s face as he realized what Derek already knew. He couldn’t listen to the pain and the pleading. It was too much. It was too much!

 

‘I. Love. You.’ He could still hear those words so clearly, and he tried to hear them now, spoken over and over to block out the sounds of the disaster in front of him.

 

“I love you,” he murmured, breathless. It hurt more than Paige. It hurt more because it wasn’t some supernatural creature that had taken Stiles out in a blaze of glory or a brutal fight for humanity. It was an ordinary, plain, accidental car wreck! And there was still nothing Derek could do about it!

 

When he opened his eyes, he saw more officers were there, trying to keep the sheriff calm, but it wasn’t doing much.

 

‘Cause you’re like alpha material.’

 

He wasn’t an alpha, but Stiles was right. He could be one in spirit. Gritting his teeth and forcing his own grief aside, he went to the sheriff and pulled him back from the wreck without much issue. The sheriff turned to punch him or pry himself free or both, but he froze when he saw who had his arm.

 

“Hale,” he said, his voice broken. “Could you-? Could Scott-“

 

“He’s gone,” Derek managed to whisper. He shook his head and the finality of the words broke the sheriff in two. He dropped to the asphalt, numb, and Derek moved with him. “He’s gone.” That time, his own words sounded broken. He stared at the shards of glass on the black asphalt and felt himself beginning to shake. “I’m sorry,” he murmured, but he could barely hear them himself.

 

For all of a moment, Stiles’ heart had been his. Now his heart was no one’s. Now Derek’s heart felt hollow. For a moment, everything had been perfect. Now everything was ruined.

 

Beside him, the sheriff took off his jacket and began to sob.

-- -- -- --

 

His loft was silent and cold when he got home. The night had crept in like a fog, and Derek couldn’t find it in himself to care. The group had gathered at the hospital after Melissa had seen who was in the ambulance and managed to call them. Derek couldn’t do it. The Sheriff certainly couldn’t. There had been lots of tears. Lots of pleading. As though asking Derek to say it again would make anything change.

 

In a way, it was a relief to finally be alone in his home. There were no prying eyes here. There were no questions. There was no one he needed to be strong for.

 

Sluggishly, he walked to his bed and dropped onto the edge of it. The first tears streamed down his face before he consciously knew they were there, but then he couldn’t make them stop. Just like all his friends at the hospital, he wept, and there was no one there to be his anchor through it.

 

Stiles was gone. And this time he wouldn’t come home. Derek cursed his stupid Christmas gift and smacked his alarm clock off the side table, shattering it against the wall. That bracelet could help against the supernatural but what good did it do against cars? None, that’s what!

 

Exhaustion pulled him down to rest his head on the pillow and he took deep, wet breaths until he could feel his heart slowing. How had the day started so normal, grown to be so great, and ended so horrifically? How was that possible?

 

All he could think about was Stiles, crushed in his car, and that silver bracelet catching the light. “Cosantóir,” he whispered into the dark. “Cosantóir.”

 

He said it again and again, trying and failing not to over think everything. And when sleep finally managed to steal him, he was still trying to convince himself that he could have saved Stiles. He could have stopped it all. But he knew that was a lie.

 

Today had been the worst day of his life.