Derek turns to the counter in front of him, letting a drawn-out sigh rumble through him, the heaviness in his stomach barely lessening. Letting his fingers trace the cold surface of the stone, he hangs his head, the rest of his body still as he traces the patterns slowly.
"Hey, you," Stiles says behind him, his voice quiet, but light as he wraps his arms around Derek's back and entwines them through his own. Derek stares down at them, brow furrowed at the contrast between his own larger, weathered knuckles and Stiles' own paler ones. They looked small and fragile like this, but he knew Stiles grounded him in a way no other could, and had done for longer than he'd care to admit.
Derek turned to face Stiles, letting the counter dig into his back, the cold an anchor against his thin shirt. Taking in the man in front of him, he grits his teeth, his face bare of its shutters as he struggles to keep it under control.
Pushing his hands forward, Stiles slowly unveiled a crinkling package, the sweet scent of the bouquet of flowers greeting Derek's nose. "I brought these, but we can pick up more if you want, the others will be here in a few hours, I can ask Lydia to-"
"Stiles," Derek mumbled, an almost smile gracing his lips as he leaned forward to rest his cheek against the other's neck. He felt Stiles inhale before his arms tightened around him from where they had fallen slack at his waist.
They stand in silence for minutes, letting the sensation of pack, warmth and affection wash over them. Derek sags, their quiet breaths the only nose in the apartment. "It's okay," Stiles whispers brokenly, bringing his hands up to rest on the Were's cheeks as he stares at him reverently, willing him to believe.
Derek's answering stare is so open it takes his breath away, even now a source of wonder and fascination to him. It had taken them years to reach the comfort and easy affection they had now.
Bowing his head, Derek huffs quietly, nodding as he tried to let the words and Stiles' own presence to ground him. "It's..." He starts, voice raw as he shuts his eyes, focusing on the steady heartbeat in front of him to calm his own speeding one. "...okay," He manages, rewarded with Stiles' lopsided smile and a hand reaching up to run through his hair, curling round the longer-than-usual locks and resting at the nape of his neck.
More minutes tick by until Derek summons the courage to grab the flowers, the crinkling harsh against his ears as he cradles them against his chest. Stiles looks up, expression light, but Derek smells the hints of love, worry and sadness in his scent.
"You ready?" Stiles prompts, leaning back and grabbing the keys to the jeep and swinging them around his finger. Derek takes a moment before nodding decisively, following woodenly as Stiles leads them out of the apartment building and down to the jeep.
The ride doesn't take long, but the twenty minutes are just shy of a blanket of nerves, saved only by Stiles quiet humming as he turns the radio down to a more bearable volume.
Derek stares out at the passing trees, unmoving as his eyes flit from one winding path to another, occasionally focusing on the plants or the animals zipping past.
Finally, the jeep comes to a halt, and the sudden silence is broken only by Stiles opening his door, coming round to open the door to let Derek out. The Were sat in the seat, eyes ahead and jaw tense, hands clenching and unclenching in his lap. Walking forward, Stiles worms his hands in between Derek's, making him untighten them to hold his hand.
"I'm ready," Derek mumbles, more to himself than Stiles, who nods along anyway. He climbs out of the jeep, clutching the flowers close to him.
It takes a thirty-minute treck before they reach the clearing, Derek coming to an abrupt stop, Stiles coming to rest at his side, a comforting line of heat against him.
They stare at the scene before them as Derek tries to force down the knots writhing in the bottom of his stomach. A large grave lies in the centre, worn and weathered as it stands tall, surrounded by three smaller graves.
The triskelion is carved into them, surrounded by the names of the ones who rested below them. The words were few, but space held the remnants of years of care, small trinkets and old flowers placed around the graves, a homage to the great family that it honoured.
Derek walked forward, steps stilted, yet still hesitant. Stiles stood back, content to be there for Derek when he needed him. Reaching the biggest grave, he placed a shaking hand on the stone, letting out a broken whine, as pained as it had been since the fire.
Sinking to his knees, he placed the flowers next to him and stared at the words carved into the surface. Stiles watched as Derek wilted, looking like the small child his families death had left behind.
"Mom," Derek whispered, breath catching as he traced Talia Hale's name. "Dad, Emma, Josh, Noah, Siobhan...Laura," His words trailed off, but Stiles could see as he traced the names further down the list, his lips moving as he repeated them like a mantra.
Sitting back on his haunches, he reached for the flowers next to him as he crossed his legs under him. Pulling a Lilly from the bundle of flowers, he grabbed another flower and began to twist them together, words escaping his mouth as he worked, seemingly intent on the flowers in front of him.
"I'm 30 today, Mom, Dad," He starts, smiling a fraction. "Sometimes I thought I'd never get here, but I did," He says, voice more steady as his unused voice loses the roughness from its disuse. "The others are coming over later, Lydia, Scott, Allison, Melissa, even Stiles' dad," He chuckles, a happy flush on his cheeks. Stiles smiles, lowering to the ground to sit against a tree, never taking his eyes off the figure in front of him.
"I'm going on holiday, too," He continues, fingers working on the flowers as he weaves them together in his lap. "We're going to Alaska," Stiles nods despite himself, excitement bubbling in his stomach. "And I can't wait, I'm going to force the others to come on hikes-" Stiles pouts, "-and camp outside, even if it's just for a night like we used to." His voice peters off, and he stands up, taking a second to press his forehead to the cold stone, how his mother had scented him before the fire, the intent there even all these years later.
Shoving the plastic wrap from the flowers into his pocket, he traces the flower crown in his hands, tucking in the loose ends and crouching in front of one of the smaller graves, a newer grave than the others. "Cora," He whispers, eyes pained, "I promised I'd make you this, every birthday, and I wouldn't want to disappoint," He chuckles wetly, propping it against the headstone. "Even though it was my birthday, you thought it wasn't fair you didn't get presents," He murmured, face lit up at the memories it had brought back. "So, here,"
Moving onto the next grave, this one on the other side of the clearing, he brushes away some of the plants creeping up it, smoothing down the grass in an effort to make it seem less hostile. "Peter," He starts, cutting himself off and taking a second to steady himself. "We might not have left things on the best note," He says hollowly, struggling to continue. "But I want you to be peaceful, wherever you are, with Aunt Emma, and Josh and Siobhan,"
Stiles recalls the names: Peter's late wife and children, making him frown softly.
Derek ducks down, digging into his pocket and producing a small wooden object. Stiles squints, curious as to what it was. Positioning it in front of the grave, Derek steps back, letting Stiles see the small wolf standing proud, as if guarding the grave.
Only as he steps back does he begin to shake, hollow sobs wracking his body. Stiles scrambles up, at Derek's side to whisper soft words into his ear and wrap his arms around him, rocking him as Derek clings to him, sounds of anguish muffled in his shoulder. "It's okay, they're okay..." Stiles repeats into his hair, fighting his own tears as he tightens his resolve to protect Derek at all and any costs.
It takes a few more minutes for Derek's heaving sobs to abate, but they stay in their embrace for close to an hour, letting the sound of the forest and the earthy smell wash over them.
"It's okay," Derek whispered, eyes wet, but smile bright as he traces the small triskelion on Stiles' arm, the two silent as they bask in each other, and in the forest.