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traces in the sunlight

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John buys a rocking chair.

It startles Stiles, because they’d never had one--well, no that’s not true. They did. But it vanished in the whiskey soaked weeks after his mother died, along with other things that he doesn’t think about much, because it’s easier to ignore those weeks.

It still hurts, when he thinks of his mother, and he realizes now that it will always hurt, but it’s not the sharp stabbing hurt it used to be. It’s familiar, a bruise like ache that won’t ever heal, but he has learned to live with.

The chair, though. That’s new.

His dad doesn’t bring it up and Stiles watches it, sidelong, stolen glances, like it’s something secret and forbidden, that he shouldn’t look at.

Its a chair, a rocking chair, not a national secret.

He laughs at himself, and promises next time he’s there, he’ll sit in the damn thing.

But he doesn’t. It lurks on the edge of his visits, but he never does address it with his dad, and he never goes to investigate it, just strokes his hand over the tarnished, almost burnt looking wood as he slips in and out.

Which is why he’s so startled when his father pulls to  a stop in front of a small, artisan furniture store. He arches an eyebrow at his father. The furniture store is one he’s walked past, a hundred times, going to the bookstore and the cafe, and that little vegan bistro where he let his dad order anything he wanted.

But he’d never been here.

“I ordered an ottoman for my rocker,” John says, and Stiles huffs a sigh, pushing out of the car and following his father into the store.

It was a good month, Stiles thought, his heart pounding in his throat. It was quiet and he hadn’t thought of Derek more than normal, hadn’t worried about the people he didn’t save, had only woken up screaming once this week.

It was a good month, and he had built a good life.

If anyone asked--no one did--he would have said he was happy. Lonely, sometimes. But happy.

But he stood in the little furniture store as his father talked to the clerk about an ottoman of all fucking things, and his gaze is locked on the triskle burnt into a large plaque  on the east wall.

The furniture is gorgeous. Strong but almost ridiculously pretty, battered but still shining. There was a rustic, useful, elegant feel to the sweep of the wood, the curve of the handles, the deep arches of the rockers. They gleam in the sunlight pouring through the front windows, and he feels like a piece of him that fits wrong slides into place, finally.

He stares at it, head on and he can feel his pulse pounding, his mouth dry and he has the absurd thought that he had always known it would come to this.

“Is he here?” he asks, as his father flanks him.

John shakes his head. “No. I just--I found it by accident, Stiles.”

Stiles nods his head, absently. It makes sense. Derek had always been inevitable, he thinks.

“He comes by, every few months. To deliver new pieces.”

It’s offered hesitantly, and Stiles closes his eyes.

Because there’s something else he can see in that furniture, the sturdy build of it. Something he thinks only a person who knows Derek could see.

He’s happy.

He’s happy and healthy, finally.

Stiles buys a rocking chair for his porch, and a small tree whittled out of wood, delicate and surprisingly sturdy and, he almost sobs when the clerk tells him, a hidden puzzle.

He takes it home, and he shuts the door and cries himself to sleep, but the tears aren’t bitter and burn against his skin with regret and lost opportunities.

When he wakes, he feels hollowed out, trembly on his legs as he walks downstairs. It’s absurd, he thinks, as he sits in the chair in the warm sunlight, curling up like he did when he was a small child in his mother’s lap.

He feels closer to Derek than he has in years.