(I haven’t had the easiest summer, and I can’t seem to identify with most fics’ extremely lyrical interpretation of grief. That’s why.)
(thanks to Rah for the beta reading)
To be honest, after a brief flare of elation at knowing that Derek’s back in town, Stiles doesn’t exactly go out of his way to see him. There’s a bitter feeling of betrayal linked to his departure, one that he really isn’t keen on reliving anytime soon. He doesn’t care, and maybe if he repeats it enough to himself, he’ll end up believing it. So he ignores Derek’s searching eyes when they happen to pass each other in the supermarket, nods coolly in greeting, and that’s it.
He’s particularly taken aback, then, in the chill of a November morning, when he spots Derek crouching a few feet away at a curve of a cemetery alley. There’s a brief tension to his shoulders that speaks of the knowledge of having been seen, and, fuck his life, now it’s up to Stiles to chose whether to walk away or if - wait for it - he should offer comfort.
But Derek’s sitting on his haunches in front of a grave, looking as quietly miserable as he used to before his little self-discovery journey off with Cora wherever, and while Stiles is the sort of person who pretexts ignorance in order to avoid uncomfortable conversations, he’s also the sort of moron who cares against all odds about Derek Hale, the guy who’s wearing clothes damp from the morning dew and mourning alone.
“Should I assume that you’re done ignoring me?” is the first thing Derek tells him when Stiles sits beside him, because he’s an asshole.
Stiles missed him.
He doesn’t say so and shrugs instead. “Not really, I just thought I’d offer a truce for today.” Which is a total lie. Stiles may not have forgotten, and he sure as hell hasn’t forgiven, but he’s rethinking his punitive non-approach and considering pestering instead.
Before Derek can call him on the lie, he adds hastily: “I didn’t know you celebrated All Hallows.”
Derek raises his eyebrows - even that, Stiles missed, it’s ridiculous - and looks around them for show. “I wouldn’t call this celebrating, exactly.” The cemetery is grey and cold and foggy and most of all empty, because it’s an undue hour in the morning and most people were up partying late the night before. “I’m surprised you aren’t lying in a ditch somewhere nursing a hangover.”
Stiles smiles crookedly and rubs at his chest, right above where Derek can probably hear his heart beating. “I was going to do it, even smoke a joint or two, but I’m kind of scared of what it could unleash.”
There haven’t been obvious consequences to their link with the Nemeton yet, but Stiles is pretty tempted to blame his horrific nightmares on it. He tried drinking once, alone in his room, to smooth away the edges of reality, only to find that reality isn’t quite as terrifying as the hallucinations his mind can convey. It takes concentration not giving into the darkness, according to Deaton, one that doesn’t allow respite.
Stiles doesn’t know how much Derek has been told about the situation, but apparently it’s enough for him not to press for more information.
He shakes his head. “So, should I say condolences?”
Derek’s lips twitch briefly.
“If you mean it.”
He darts Stiles a look from the corner of his eye then stares straight back at the tomb in front of them. Talia Hale, it reads. Around it, Stiles can make out Andrew Hale, Natasha Hale, and gets distracted from any further reading by the sound of gravel when Derek sits fully on the ground and stretches his legs.
“It won’t piss you off?” he wonders instead.
Derek tenses, his right shoulder bulging close enough to touch. “Should it?”
Stiles fidgets, pokes at a hole of his shirt that used to be a small moth bite and has since been enlarged by months of anxious fiddling. “I dunno. I used to be really angry when people told me they were sorry about my mom.”
“Now I’m just numb.” Stiles gestures half-heartedly into the air. “Stages of grief and all that.”
Derek hums. Stiles clears his throat.
“So, where are you on the scale?” he asks, realizing as he says it that he doesn’t want to know the answer. He soldiers on because that’s who he is, owning up to his many, many mistakes, because the best way to deal with an uncomfortable situation is to pretend that you did it on purpose. “Bargaining?”
They both know that’s not it. There’s a tombstone engraved Erica Reyes, Sorrow passed, and plucked the golden blossom somewhere in the cemetery, and north-east of it another one with Vernon Milton Boyd IV, Beloved by family, Cherished by friends. The irony stings. Derek shrugs in reply, sets his hands down behind his hips and leans back, gravel digging into his palms. His head drops back a little, enough that he isn’t facing the graves anymore, and Stiles follows his gaze to the place where the trees end and the sky takes over. He’s breathing deeply, controlled. It feels intimate.
Too intimate. Stiles drums his fingers on his thigh.
“So, is this the part where we talk about the emptiness within us, the holes in our hearts that nothing will ever fill?”
Derek straightens up, rests his arms on his thighs and stares at him. “Is that what it feels like?”
This isn’t the way the conversation was supposed to go. The unexpected feels like yet another betrayal, though one that strives on bringing them closer instead of driving them away, for once. It doesn’t necessarily make Stiles feel better. He kicks at dust, digs a heel into the dirt beneath him and drags it in circles.
“Sort of? It’s mostly knowing I can’t talk to her again. Ask for advice. She didn’t teach me to rend my own clothes before she… I mean, she sucked at it, but still. She used to cook these amazing soups. I’ll never be able to yell and slam my door at her again.” He takes a breath, swallows. “You?”
Derek clasps his hands together.
“It’s knowing I’m alone. That I could look and look and look, and that I’ll never find them again.”
That it’s my fault, he doesn’t say, but Stiles can read it in the hunch of his back. He nudges him with his shoulder, and Derek presses back oh-so-gently. Stiles kind of reassesses his worldview.
They stare at the ground.
Stiles breathes in.