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Long December

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Derek Hale lies in bed and stares at the empty space on the other side.

Outside, the sky is just starting to brighten, and Derek knows that he doesn't have long before two sets of tiny feet start making their way down the hall to his room, wondering if they can go downstairs and find out if Santa's visited.

Derek knows he should be excited – watching Stevie and Harrison opening their Christmas presents is one of the greatest things in Derek's life. The joy on their faces, the squeals of glee, it makes Derek's life as a father all the more amazing.

Except this year, Derek has to do it all alone.

Alright, he's not completely alone. He and the kids will go over to his parents house for Christmas dinner and Stiles' father and Melissa are coming over for lunch before that, but that's not really the point.

The point is that Stiles isn't here, isn't going to be here. He'll miss Stevie's third ever Christmas because he's stuck in some military hospital in Germany thanks to some stupid army grunt who needs to learn how to drive. Or maybe he should never be allowed behind the wheel of a car again.

It's not the first time Stiles has missed some sort of important event, birthdays and anniversaries tossed aside and postponed in favor of Stiles' duty to his country.

It's something that Derek has known since the day he met Stiles, at some stupid little bookstore. He'd always known that Stiles would put the military before everything in his life, Derek and their family included, but that was okay, because Stiles was worth it. Stiles was worth the long distance, the months and months without seeing each other because Stiles was overseas.

But that was before they got married and decided to have kids, that was when Stiles was working, when he was doing whatever complicated, incomprehensible computer thing Stiles did when he was over there that Derek was never going to be able to understand. Right now, he's not working, he's lying in a hospital bed, hurt and bruised and missing Christmas because the military say they can't fly him home until the new year, and that just makes Derek feel like half of him is missing.

When first Harrison and then Stevie came into their lives, Stiles promised to take a step back, try to scale back his overseas trips.

It had worked – for a while. They brought Harrison into their family and he settled in well. Then, two years later, when their surrogate was already heavily pregnant with Stevie, something had happened, something big and probably rather important, and Stiles was...headhunted, for want of a better word, important people were calling Stiles at home, asking him, begging him, to help, because he was the best of the best and they needed the best.

And of course, Stiles is the most selfless person Derek has ever met, so he went. He managed to be there for Stevie's birth – just – but he missed most of her first year, leaving Derek at home, practically a single father of two, worry himself sick over the fact that his husband was in the middle of a war zone.

Alright, it wasn't like Stiles is on the front lines. He's a techie, as Stiles likes to refer to himself as, so it's not like Derek really has to worry too much – other than the fact that his husband is in the army and stationed in some foreign country – Stiles is as safe as anyone in the army can be.

Except when some idiot runs a stop light and gets t-boned by a car coming from the opposite direction. Derek probably wouldn't have even been so mad if Stiles had been driving the car himself, but it was the fact that Stiles had trusted someone else and they had been the ones to mess up. Stiles had gotten hurt because of someone else's stupidity.

The kids don't know. Stiles wasn't supposed to be home for Christmas anyway and letting them know that their Papa was in a hospital thousands of miles away didn't seem like it was in the best interests of anyone. It's not like they could go an visit Stiles, upsetting Harrison and Stevie just seemed unnecessary.

That didn't stop Derek's parents and sisters, or Stiles father and Melissa and Scott and Allison from spoiling Derek's kids rotten, though. The amount of toys and clothes and candy downstairs makes the living room like and explosion in a toy store and Derek knows that his mother has more gifts stashed away for when they get to the Hale house later for dinner.

Derek is already dreading next year, when he knows they won't get nearly as many gifts. The meltdown will probably be legendary.

Derek blinks and stretches, reaching for his cellphone to check the time, squinting against the bright screen as it lights up the dimness of his bedroom. It's just after seven in the morning, which means that Stevie and Harrison probably squirming in their beds, desperate to get up.

He smiles at the photo on the lock screen of his phone, a selfie Stiles took just before he shipped out; Stiles, Derek, Harrison and Stevie, all of them squeezed into the frame and grinning brightly.

It's one of Derek's favorite photos and he spends a few minutes just looking at it, looking at Stiles, missing him desperately, before he hears a door opening from down the hall.

Derek grins and shuts his phone off, shoving it into the pocket of the sweatpants he wore to bed.

“Daddy,” a voice whispers through the door, “Daddy, it's Christmas.” Stevie pauses. “Is it Christmas?”

Derek can almost hear Harrison rolling his eyes.

“Yeah, Stevie, it's Christmas, Santa came.”

“Did he? Are you sure?” Derek calls out to them and a second later the door opens and Derek and Stiles' children come barreling into the room. They make a bee-line for the bed, Stevie struggling to pull herself up onto the mattress until Harrison gets his hands under her butt and gives her a shove, making Derek smile like the proud father he is. Never say his kids don't know the meaning of the word 'teamwork'.

Stevie crawls across the bed to snuggle into Derek's side while Harrison faceplants into Stiles' pillow, hugging it close. Between the two kids, Harrison will always be the one who misses Stiles most.

“Something you guys want?” Derek asks, biting down on a smile. “Usually I can't get you guys outta bed for all the candy in the world. Must be something important happening if you're both out of bed at this time of the morning.”

“Santa,” Harrison says, his voice muffled by the pillow and Stevie nods her head excitedly.

“Yeah, it's Christmas, there's presents.”

“Presents? Presents for who? For me? Did I get presents?”

“No!” Stevie exclaims at the same moment Harrison removes himself from the pillow and starts nodding enthusiastically.

Derek's son gasps and pushes himself to his knees so that he can glare at his sister. “Stevie! We got Daddy and Papa presents! Grandpa John and Grandma Talia helped us!”

Trust his father-in-law and his mother to make sure he and Stiles still get gifts from their kids even when one of them is out of commission.

Derek sighs loudly and completely fake. Not that the kids can tell. “Okay, then, why don't you guys run downstairs and see if Santa ate your cookies.”

Stevie squeals loudly in Derek's ear and scrambles away, jumping off the bed in one swift move and rushes for the door.

“You sure as hell were named after the right superhero,” Derek grumbles and sits up.

“Was I named after a superhero, Dad?” Harrison asks, his brown eyes wide and innocent.

Derek snorts. “You, my awesome little guy, were named after one of the greatest actors of all time, according to your Papa.”

“Who's that?”

Derek leans forward slightly and grins. “Han Solo.”

Harrison's eyes practically pop out of his head. “I'm named after Han Solo!?”

Derek shrugs. “Eh, close enough, the actor who plays him in the movies.”

“That's so cool! I'm gonna tell everybody I'm named after Han Solo!” Harrison climbs off the bed and races towards the door.

“Don't you want to see what you got for Christmas first?” That stops Derek's son in his tracks and he turns back with a sheepish look on his face and Derek chuckles. “Why don't you go and help your sister downstairs while I go to the bathroom and then I'll come help you both open your presents.”

“Cool! Come on, Stevie!” Harrison runs as fast as his little legs can carry him towards the stairs and Derek peers around the corner of the doorjamb and watched the two of them head downstairs, Harrison holding Stevie's hand tightly in his own.

Derek hurries to his and Stile's private bathroom and takes care of his business, splashing some water on his face to wake himself up a little more and grabs a shirt – one of Stiles' which means it's too small but Derek just doesn't have it in him to care – and heads for the stairs.

“DADDY SANTA ATE MY COOKIES!” Stevie yells from the living room and Derek rolls his eyes.

“Yes, Santa did eat your cookies at four o'clock this morning,” he grumbles to himself, “as well as that damn carrot for Rudolph. It wasn't pleasant.”

When Derek finally gets downstairs, he has to stop and pull his phone out of his pocket as soon as he steps foot into the living room because Stiles and Scott and every single member of their family is going to want to see this.

Stevie is currently wearing the wrapping paper that had previously covered the Ariel doll she's just unwrapped on her head, while Harrison is standing stock-still staring at the mountain of Marvel and Star Wars toys and games and clothes that their family had bought for him like he doesn't know what to do.

After snapping a few photos and sending them to Laura, Cora, Scott and his mom and Stiles' dad, Derek crouches down next to his son. “What's up, buddy?” he asks gently.

“There's so much,” Harrison whispers, his eyes roving over the gifts.

Derek squashes a wince, because, yeah, they might have gone a little overboard to make up for Stiles not being part of their day.

“Santa must have thought I was a really good boy this year,” Harrison adds and, yeah, that's just something in Derek's eye and that's definitely not a lump in his throat, because his boy is just the best kid ever.

Apart from his little girl, obviously.

“Yeah, buddy, he thought you were the must awesome little guy in the whole world and that's why he thought you deserved so many nice things.”

“Santa loves us,” Stevie cries, her voice muffled and Derek looks over to see that she's wearing the bright pink coat that Laura bought for her. It's zipped all the way up to her nose.

Derek can't help but double over with laughter. His daughter, seriously.

He takes another picture and sends it to Laura before he moves to help the children with the rest of their presents.


The living room looks like a disaster zone by the time Derek is able to get to the kitchen to put on a pot of coffee and start to make breakfast for Harrison and Stevie.

They're camped out in front of the TV, watching something Isaac bought for them and Derek takes a moment to check his phone, scrolling through the numerous messages his family and friends have sent him in reply to his own.

Allison has sent a photo of Scott and their daughter, Sylvie, wearing matching Christmas sweaters, and Laura has sent photos of her twin boys, Billy and Aaron, and her husband, Riley, playing with the Christmas wrapping paper while the presents they covered sit ignored in the background.

Derek laughs. It's like a real family Christmas. The only missing thing Stiles and it leaves a huge, gaping hole in Derek's day.

He pushes thoughts of Stiles out of his head and pulls out the ingredients to make pancakes and gets to work.

There's a weird sort of enjoyment in the rhythm of making breakfast for his family, the routine of mixing and adding batter to the pan. It's soothing and it allows him to forget – just for a little while – that he misses Stiles so much that it's a physical ache. He knows that Stiles is just as miserable – said as much during their phone call the previous night – but that doesn't really help Derek feel any better about Stiles not being their with them.

Once he has a pile of golden and delicious pancakes keeping warm in the oven, Derek gathers the syrup and fresh strawberries that he chopped up into a bowl and lays them on the table. He grabs pitchers of orange juice and water as well as plates and silver wear, then he lets out a shrill whistle.

“Stevie, Harrison, breakfast.” There's the sound of twin groans from the living room and Derek chuckles to himself.

“Daddy, I'm playing,” Harrison grumbles.

“I made pancakes,” Derek confesses and this time there's silence from the next room.

“Can Ariel and Natasha have some pancakes, too?”

Derek turns to see Stevie standing in the doorway, still in her pink coat, clutching her Ariel doll in one hand and a Black Widow tsum-tsum in the other.

Derek smiles. “Of course they can, honey, but how about you take off that nice new coat before you get it covered in syrup?”

Stevie pouts for a second before she sees the logic in Derek's plan and she strips out of the coat, dumping it on the floor and holding her arms out to Derek for him to lift her onto a chair, complete with booster seat. “Harrison,” he calls when his son still hasn't come in for his food, “you can bring your toys, too.”

Finally, Harrison comes shuffling into the kitchen, Captain America's shield in one hand and Thor's hammer in the other.

“Good luck eating, buddy,” Derek says with a shake of his head. Harrison just smiles and awkwardly climbs into a chair.

Derek plates up their breakfasts, cutting up their pancakes for them and sets the plates in front of them.

“Pancakes!” Stevie shrieks and makes grabby hands for the syrup.

“I literally just told you we were having pancakes,” Derek gripes even as he helps her add a little syrup to her pancakes as well as some strawberries. When Harrison declines his offer of help, Derek turns back to the stove and starts plating up his own breakfast.

Derek has just set his plate and cup on the table and pulled out the chair to sit next to Stevie when the sound of the front door opening reaches his ears.

Derek frowns, because he's not expecting anyone. It's barely ten in the morning, the Sheriff and Melissa aren't coming over until lunch and Derek is taking the kids to his parents' for dinner. No one should be coming to their home and Derek is immediately on alert.

“Seriously? You couldn't have cleaned up the wrapping paper at least?! It's like you all fell apart without me here to keep you together!”

Derek freezes, because he knows that voice, he loves that voice, but he's not supposed to be able to hear that voice because that voice is supposed to be sitting in some hospital bed in Germany, not standing in their living room.

The kids gasps, grins lighting up their faces brighter than when they saw what Santa had left for them and they look up at Derek like they need to make sure that they're really hearing what they thinking they're hearing.

That that really is their Papa's voice floating through their house.

Derek nods his head almost mechanically. “Go on, then.”

The kids scream and scramble off their chairs, toys left forgotten as they race each other towards their living room.

Derek waits for a few minutes, listening to the sounds of laughter and excited chatter coming from the other room, the sounds of kisses pressed to cheeks and foreheads and Derek is just floored, because the sounds coming from the living room mean that his husband isn't in Germany like he said on the phone last night, he's standing in their home, in the arms of their children, and this is literally the best Christmas present Derek could ever ask for.

Derek throws himself out of his chair and he runs towards the living room, his heart beating a tattoo against his rib-cage, his breathing growing shallow as he follows in his children's footsteps until he stops six feet away...

Because Stiles...Stiles looks terrible.

Logically, Derek knows that Stiles was in a car crash, knows that he was injured badly enough that he had to be flown to the US base in Germany for treatment. But seeing Stiles standing before him, it's clear to Derek that his husband didn't disclose the full extent of his injuries.

The entire left side of Stiles' face is dark and mottled with bruising. His left arm is in some sort of brace, strapped tight to his body, like one wrong move could be devastating, not to mention the fact that Stiles' whole arm, from shoulder to knuckles, is in a cast. Even from the other side of the room, Derek can tell that this is not a injury that Stiles is going to recover from quickly.

As Stiles' moves towards the couch, Stevie clinging to the tails of his shirt like she's afraid her Papa will disappear if she lets go, Derek can see that he's limping badly, his left leg stiff and awkward, like he's got a brace there, too, underneath the comfortable, baggy sweatpants.

Stile's father – Derek hadn't even known he was in the room – practically lunges forward and takes hold of Stiles' good arm and lowers him to the couch and Derek watches as he hisses in pain and he tries to get settled some what comfortably.

There's a lot more going on here that Stiles had told him over the phone and Derek is suddenly very, very worried.

“What? Don't I get a kiss hello at least?” Stiles says to him, his mouth tilted in a teasing smirk and Derek snaps out of his dark, worried thoughts, because, yes, that's his husband sitting in front of him, his husband, who his hasn't seen for months and, injured or not, Derek is so happy that he's home.

He crosses the room in a few wide strides and he's next to Stiles in seconds, picking Harrison up from where he's crowded next to Stiles' knees on his injured side and plopping the boy down in his own lap. Harrison makes noises when Derek leans in to kiss Stiles, slow and deep and amazing, while Stevie only giggles and pokes at their cheeks.

“How did you do this? Why did you do this? I thought you had to stay at the hospital.”

“I wanted to surprise everyone,” Stiles says, pressing his nose to Stevie's temple. “Well, maybe not everyone, just you guys.”

Derek looks up at his father-in-law and step-mother-in-law, Melissa, finding them still standing awkwardly by the doorway, like they don't know what to do in their own son's house.

And now Derek is realizing why he never got any replies to the pictures that he sent to John and Melissa that morning.

“There's fixings for pancakes in the kitchen,” he tells them, his voice a little shaky, with good reason.

“Oh, pancakes,” Melissa says, practically skipping towards the kitchen, John hot on her heels, as always.

“Hey,” Stiles says softly and Derek turns to him. He's made himself comfortable on the couch, spread out as much as he can, his legs pressed up against Derek's as Stevie makes herself comfortable between her Papa and the arm of the couch while Harrison leans as far as he can towards Stiles while still being in Derek's lap, trying to show off one of his new toys to his newly-returned father.

But Stiles only has eyes for Derek, wide and bright and glittering with tears.

“God, Stiles,” Derek breathes, practically throwing himself onto Stiles as he rushes to kiss him again, pressing his lips to his husband, hard and firm, like he's still trying to convince himself that Stiles is really here, ignoring Harrison's proclamation of it being gross and can they please stop and look at Thor?

Stiles laughs and pulls away, reaching out to stroke his son's hair and Derek takes another minute to take in Stiles' injuries, his hand and arm and he knows, somewhere deep inside, that this is not good.

“Stiles,” he says quietly and Stiles turns to him, his expression sobering.

“Don't,” he says forcefully, like he can read Derek's mind. “Not now, okay? Just let me have my babies and Christmas, okay? And then we can talk about it.”

Derek nods his head, because how can he disagree with that? How can he deny Stiles this one day after everything he's been through?

“I'd better let my mom know that there's one more for dinner,” he says, reaching for the phone still in his pocket.

“All taken care off!” John's voice floats out from the kitchen and Derek buries his head in Stiles' chest.

“Are me and the kids the only ones who didn't know about this?”

His whole body shakes when Stiles laughs. “Pretty much, yeah.”

Derek groans and Stevie pats him on the head.


Christmas dinner is, in a word, crazy. That's the only way Derek can describe the chaos.

It's not just Derek and Stiles' family joining Derek's parents at the big house in the preserve, but Laura and Riley and their boys, too, and Cora and Isaac – who are apparently are still pretending that they're not pining over each other – as well as Stiles' father and stepmother, Scott and Allison and Sylvie, and Allison's father, Chris. Even Lydia and Jackson and Erica and Boyd stop by for dessert. All of them are here to see Stiles, to welcome him home and Derek feels such pride and warmth to know that they all care about Derek's husband so much.

But so many people squeezed into one house – albeit quite a large house – is making Derek feel a little claustrophobic, so he escapes to the den with the kids and Cora. He puts on a DVD – Miracle on 34th Street – to keep them entertained when the enthusiasm over their Christmas gifts wanes, but it's not long before they're all basically asleep. Stevie and Sylvie are curled up together on an armchair with their new dolls, while Harrison, Billy and Aaron are starfished on the blankets they've gathered on the floor. Even Cora is dozing off, full up on good food and good people and Derek is thinking about joining her when the door opens and there stands Stiles, bruised and battered and still somehow beautiful.

“How about we have that talk?” he asks, but his voice is shaking with nerves and Derek's pulse spikes.

He glances at the kids and Cora, watching as she shuffles on the couch, trying to get comfortable.

“Go on,” she mumbles without opening her eyes. “I can watch the little ones.”

“Yeah,” Stiles smirks, “and Isaac's been hovering out in the hallway for like, ten minutes, waiting for Derek to leave, so let's go and let them not-flirt some more.”

“Dick,” Derek hears Isaac mutter from outside and Stiles leans back out of the room to peer around the door jamb.

“Hey, injured war hero, here. Have some respect.”

“You were in a car accident. It's not like you were on the front line.”

Thank God, Derek answers Isaac silently and pushes himself to his feet. “Come on, Stiles, I don't want to witness the awkward.”

“And we don't want to witness you two being sickeningly adorable and giving the rest of us a complex,” Isaac scoffs and pushes past Derek into the room.

“Just bump uglies already and put us all out of our misery.” Stiles laughs as he closes the door and leads the way to Eliot's study. Derek's dad's study is the only semi-private room on the ground floor, and Derek is suddenly wondering how Stiles is going to manage the stairs in their house for the foreseeable future, and he contemplates heading out to the store first thing in the morning and buying a pull-out couch for the living room.

“So,” Stiles says, puling Derek out of his thoughts. Derek smiles tightly at his husband and watches as he walks awkwardly towards the couch, letting out a pain-filled grunt as his leg buckles under him as he tries to sit down. Derek rushes towards him, taking his weight as he helps Stiles down to the cushions.

“Thanks,” Stiles grumbles, “that's going to get really old really fast.”

“Maybe we should let you sleep downstairs for a while,” Derek says, that pull-out couch idea looking more and more likely as he watches Stiles try to get comfortable.

Stiles nods his head with a sigh, but he looks a little defeated, and Derek settles gently on the couch next to him and reaches over to take hold of Stiles' uninjured hand, linking their fingers together. And it's quiet for a while, the only sound in the room the ticking of Eliot's clock, but there's tension hanging in the air, an awkwardness that's never been a part of them before now. They always had it so easy and now there's something that could potentially end that.

“So, are you ever going to tell me what really happened?” Derek asks softly, squeezing Stiles' hand in reassurance. Whatever happens, Derek will always be there for him.

Stiles cringes. “Yeah, I might have played down how serious the accident was.”

Derek stares at Stiles, at the sling and the cast, the cuts and bruises marring his face. “No shit.”

Stiles shifts, awkward and embarrassed and hurting. “I was in the back of the the car, behind the driver. The car hit us straight on, slamming into the driver's side like a fucking tank.”

“It wasn't an accident, was it?” Derek asks and Stiles shakes his head. “Were you the target? Did they want to kill you?”

Stiles shrugs, then hisses at the pain the movement causes. “No, I don't think they really knew who was in the car, just that it was a car from the US Army. The driver was killed.” He winces. “Both drivers were killed.”

Derek swallows hard. He wasn't prepared for that. “Did you know him? Your driver?”

“Not really. Met him a few times, but we didn't hang out or anything.”

“And you?” Derek gestures to Stiles' injuries.

“I was pinned in the car for...God, hours, Derek. My arm got trapped when the car was hit, when the metal twisted inwards. There was a lot of damage.”

“How much damage, Stiles? What's going on?”

Stiles turns to look down at his injured arm. “The nerves were damaged. When the bone in my upper arm was broken, the nerves where trapped by the break, which wouldn't have been so bad if I had been able to get to a doctor sooner than I did. But I was stuck in that car for so long, so the damage was worse than it should have been for a break like this.” He sniffs, like he's trying to hold back his emotions. “I have to go see a specialist, now that I'm back in California.”

“Stiles,” Derek whispers. He knows that Stiles is just talking now, talking around the thing that he really wants to say.

“They're scared that I might never regain the use of my hand.”

Derek gasps loudly, not even remotely prepared for something like that.

“What...what...Stiles, what does that mean?”

“Medical discharge. Can't really work for my country if I only have one hand.”

“No, I mean...your hand...”

“Intense physical therapy. Maybe surgery. I might get some use back, but it was pretty mangled.”

“Stiles, why didn't you tell me?”

“I didn't want you to worry. You had the kids and Christmas and work. I didn't want you to fly out when there wasn't really much you could do.” Stiles grins suddenly, surprising Derek. “Besides, the look on the kids' faces when I came through the door was the best thing ever. Not to mention you, how awestruck you looked. I love surprising you guys, and I thought this would be the best Christmas ever. And I was right, it's been pretty great, huh?”

“You were definitely the best Christmas present this year.” Derek smiles, leaning in to press a kiss to Stiles' lips, making him grin again.

“Although, at some point we are gonna talk about the amount of presents the kids got this year. That was insane, Derek.”

Derek blushes. “Yeah, I think our families and friends just went a little overboard, trying to make up for the fact that you weren't here. I think they're regretting that now, most of their gifts have been flung aside in favor of you.”

Stiles sits back smugly. “As well they should.”

Derek sighs, the playful atmosphere they managed to create for ten seconds snapping as he looks at his husband. “Stiles...”

“Don't,” Stiles cuts him off. “Just don't, Derek, please don't let us focus on this.”

“But, Stiles, you''re army career is over. Are you okay with that?”

“I''s kind of a weird feeling. It's...everything I know, everything I thought I was. But...”

“Thought?” Derek repeats when Stiles trails off, his heart beating wildly.

“Derek, I have a family. I'm a dad, a father. I learned a long time ago that that is the most important thing in my life. I'd already decided that I was gonna talk to you when I got back this time, about...about retiring or quitting or whatever. I'm missing so much of their lives, Derek. I don't wanna miss any more. But...but I wanted to leave on my own terms. This feels...”

“Final,” Derek fills in when it becomes obvious that Stiles can't find the word.

Stiles relaxes back into the couch cushions. “Yeah.” He watches Derek for a few minutes before he smiles, reaching out to cup Derek's face. “Smile, baby. This is a good thing.”

Derek pushes Stiles' hand away and surges to his feet.

“No, Stiles, no. This isn't something that we should be celebrating!”

“Derek, it's fine, it's...” Stiles sighs again. “Alright, I'm not gonna lie, it's not fine. It sucks major ass, man, and not in the way that you know that I like it. This is something that I've been doing since I was eighteen. That's thirteen years, man. That's...this is gonna be a big change.”

“A big change?” Derek repeats. “Stiles, we're talking about the possibility of you having a permanent disability. We're talking about the fact that you've had to give up something that you love, something that you said makes you who you are.”

Stiles throws his head back against the cushions and pinches the bridge of his nose. “God, I wish I was able to get up and smack you right now.”


“Derek, I said that when I was twenty-four years old. I told you that on our...our...what? Third date? Fourth?”

“Third,” Derek grumbles, because he remembers it like it was yesterday. He remembers every moment with Stiles.

“Third date, before we even knew where this was going. Look at what has happened in ten years. We got married, we had kids, we're a family, Derek! This is my family, my...the absolute best, most important thing in my life. And now I can actually be a part of it! I can watch my kids grow up, I can take them to little league or whatever they want to do when they get old enough.” Stiles reaches out, his fingers curling around air as he tries to stretch to take Derek's hand and Derek closes the distance between them to take his hands. “I can actually spend time with my husband without the thought of having to deploy hanging over our heads.” Stiles sighs again. “I can't even remember the last time we actually spent our anniversary together rather than through a computer screen.”

Derek can't fight the small smile that spreads across his face, because, yeah, anniversary sex on their actual anniversary would be nice, but he schools his features and shakes his head.

“I can't help feeling bad that I don't feel bad about this,” he says as he sits down again. “I'm not gonna lie. The idea of you being home all the time's great, it's everything I've ever wanted. I just didn't want it to happen this way.”

Stiles grins. “Hey, I'm not dead. I have my family, my friends, and yeah, I'm probably gonna have a permanent disability, but hey, if Morgan Freeman can live without the use of one hand, why can't I?”

“What are you gonna do?” Derek knows his husband, knows that Stiles won't be able to just sit around and not do anything. He'll get bored eventually and started getting under Derek's feet.

“Well, there'll be some major surgery and rehab, probably, so I'll take it easy for a while, spend some time with my babies. Then maybe I could do some consultancy work or something. Something that means I don't have to travel. I want to just be with you and the kids. That's all I want, Derek.”

Derek swallows hard, because Stiles is home, he isn't going to be going back into the middle of a conflict or war zone. Stiles is safe. His husband is safe.

This is definitely the best Christmas present Derek could have hoped for.

Stiles rolls his eyes at the look on Derek's face. “You are such a sap.”