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Ghosts of Christmas Past

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“Stiles, it’s not even Christmas eve yet. It’s too early for presents.” Derek let Stiles drag him into the backyard.

“Christmas eve is twelve minutes away, and your present is only good for the day,” Stiles said seriously. “Come on!” He gave a sharp tug on Derek’s hand as he took him to a blanket laid out in the backyard. Sitting on the blanket was a silver bowl surrounded by jars of herbs and a dagger.

It was bitterly cold, even without any snow. The wind felt sharp against their skin. Derek wondered how Stiles was capable of seeing where he was going in the dark of the new moon.

“Give me just a minute to get started.” Stiles plopped down in front of the bowl.

“You’re doing a spell for me?” Derek asked, joining him on the blanket.

“Yeah, but it has to be at midnight, and it’ll only last for twenty-four hours. The planets and stars only line up like this every six hundred years or so, so it’s kind of a one shot thing.”

Derek picked up a jar labeled rosemary and turned it over in his hands. “What’s it do?”

Stiles looked up at him with a giant smile on his face. “It’s a surprise, duh!” He tossed a cyprus sprig and a piece of a yarrow root into the bowl. Grabbing a piece of paper and a marker, he scribbled something quickly where Derek couldn’t see, folded it, and tossed it in.

Derek offered him the jar of rosemary silently.

Stiles dropped in a pinch from the jar. “The last ingredient is blood,” he said grimacing. “Specifically yours. From your left hand.”

“Stiles, what does the spell do?”

Stiles’s expression sobered and he said seriously, “I promise you’re going to love it. You’ve just gotta trust me.”

Derek held out his hand, which Stiles took in his. He ran his fingers over Derek’s hands reverently, tracing invisible lines across his palm and fingers. Stiles’s hands felt cold, but they left a lingering heat everywhere they touched. Eventually, Stiles extended his index finger out and held it gently in one of his hands.

Derek watched Stiles’s face, wrapped in complete focus like there was nothing in the world other than him and Derek’s hand. He found himself glad that Stiles wouldn’t be able to tell his heartbeat had sped up significantly.

Stiles picked up the dagger slowly without taking his eyes off of Derek. “I only need a drop, okay?” He paused, giving Derek time to pull back.

Derek nodded sheepishly, completely unafraid. He wasn’t sure why this felt so intimate to him, but he didn’t want Stiles to let go of his hand. An excuse to be touched by Stiles. This was already the best gift he could have been given.

Stiles poked the tip of the dagger against his finger. As he pulled away, a small drop of blood appeared. He positioned Derek’s finger over the bowl and squeezed. The drop fell into bowl and exploded into a white light.

The entire backyard was lit up as if it was the middle of the day. The light in the bowl continued to grow in intensity until Derek had no choice but to shut his eyes. Even through his closed eyelids, it still hurt his eyes.

The light faded to a soft glow, and Derek opened his eyes cautiously. It looked far more gentle now, as it bobbed slowly above the bowl.

Derek glanced over at Stiles who was sitting with his eyes still closed. His lips were moving rapidly, chanting, but Derek couldn’t make out what he was saying. Without warning, Stiles’s eyes snapped open and a low popping noise echoed through the yard. The light moved away from the bowl and hovered in the air next to them. It began spinning in a small circle, leaving a shower of sparks in its wake.

The sparks faded, and it became clear that there was someone standing where they had been. As the final light fell away, Derek’s mouth dropped open and unshed tears filled his eyes. Standing in front of him was his mother.

She smiled sweetly at him. “Hi, honey.”

“Stiles, is this real?” Derek asked without breaking eye contact with her.

“Yeah, Derek. She’s really here.” Stiles shuffled around on the blanket for a second. “Nice to meet you, Mrs. Hale.”

“Oh, Stiles. I think it’s fair for you to call me Talia after all of this.”

Derek didn’t move or speak, he just stood watching her unblinkingly, as if the moment he closed his eyes, he would lose her again.

Talia took a step toward him, and he flinched backward. The smile on her face gave way to a disappointed frown. “Derek, what’s wrong?”

He felt completely paralyzed and overwhelmed with the need to escape. “You… you shouldn’t want to see me.” He wasn’t sure when his hands started shaking.

Stiles gasped, a horrified look coming over his face. “Shit,” he said softly. “I didn’t even think or ask. I’m so--”

Talia held up her hand to cut him off, and the gentle smile returned to her face. “Of course I want to see you. I love you.” She took a tentative step forward.

“But, I… I’m the reason,” Derek muttered.

He didn’t take a step back, so Talia continued forward and wrapped her arms around him. He stood limply while she scented him. “I love you so much, Derek.”

He threw his arms around her with a choked sob. “I’m so sorry!”

“You have nothing to be sorry about. It wasn’t your fault.”

“I’m sorry, mom,” he sniffled quietly.

“Quiet,” she whispered to him. “You don’t need to blame yourself.”

He shook his head, pulling back. “You don’t understand. The fire only started because--”

She cut him off. “Because the Argent girl was a monster. Not you.”

Derek looked at her, confusion knitting his eyebrows together. “How did you know?”

“Perk of the afterlife,” she said brightly. “There’s plenty of time to catch up on what’s happening here.” She shot a knowing smile at Stiles before turning back to Derek. “You are the only one who blames you for what happened. It’s time for you to let that go. We all want you to find peace. You deserve to find peace.”

Stiles stumbled to his feet. “I’m going to give you guys some privacy. My dad won’t be home until Christmas morning, so you’ll have downstairs all to yourself.” He smiled at Derek. “No pressure to stay here, of course.”

Stiles barely had time to process what was happening before Derek was up against him, locking him a warm embrace. Stiles wrapped his arms around Derek and rubbed his back.

“Thank you, Stiles.”

“Anytime, sourwolf.”

When Derek let go, Stiles reached down to start picking up the ingredients for the spell. He swayed a small amount. “Whoa,” he said, putting his hands on his knees to steady himself. “That took more out of me than I thought.”

“It was a very powerful spell, Stiles. It’s very impressive that you were able to pull it off so perfectly.” Talia placed a hand on his arm and guided him up. “Let me help you inside. Derek, will you collect Stiles’s things?”

Derek nodded and set to gathering the things on the blanket.

“Thanks, Mrs. Hale,” Stiles said, allowing her to guide him back inside.

She pinched his arm playfully. “Talia,” she corrected with a smile.

“Talia,” he responded as she walked him up the stairs and into his bedroom.

She looked him over as he sat on his bed. “I wanted to thank you. The sacrifice you made in bringing me back for the day is not lost on me.”

“He’s worth it,” Stiles replied somberly.

“I hope you’ll remain in his life for a long time.” She paused, watching Derek in the backyard through the window. “You’re really good for him, you know.”

Stiles shrugged, blush creeping up his cheeks. “I want to be.” He glanced out the window. “I try to be.”

“Don’t worry,” she said tousling his hair. “He’ll come around soon. I love him, but sometimes he can miss things that are right in front of him.” She turned and headed through the door. “No matter how obvious they may be,” she added over her shoulder.

Derek and Talia spent the day talking and cuddling. Stiles joined them for brief spurts but mainly left them to themselves. Even though Talia knew all about what had happened since her death, she let Derek tell her everything from his time in New York all the way to finding his new pack in Stiles and the others. With every hour, Derek felt more and more like the scarred pieces of himself were being peeled away to reveal fresh, new skin.

“I don’t have much time left,” Talia said. “When I go back, you should make sure to check on Stiles.”

“What do you mean?” Worry creased Derek’s face.

“He cast this spell at great personal cost. He knew what he was doing, and he’ll be fine, but he might need some company while dealing with it.”

“Why wouldn’t he tell me if the spell was going to hurt him to bring you back?”

She raised an eyebrow at him.

“Of course,” Derek said mainly to himself. “It’s Stiles.” Derek huffed. “You’re sure it’s not going to hurt too much?” The thought of Stiles in pain made his stomach turn over.

“Derek, the spell isn’t painful. But it requires the cosmos to line up in a specific way. He won’t be able to cast this spell again in his lifetime.”

Derek’s eyes grew wide, the weight of what Stiles had done suddenly dawning on him. “He…” Derek trailed off, unable to come up with the words.

Talia rested a hand on his arm. “He’s in love with you, Derek.”

“I’m not… I don’t deserve someone like him,” Derek said, voice cracking.

“Yes you do,” she responded. “You have both suffered more loss and pain than anyone should have to in a lifetime. And instead of becoming bitter and hard, you both became kind and compassionate. The kind of people who would sacrifice everything for the people they love.”

“But what if I screw it up?” Derek asked softly.

“I’ve only known Stiles for a day, but I’m not sure there's anything you could do to make him stop loving you.” She pulled him into a tight hug. “Just don’t let him get away. You don’t meet someone with a heart like that very often.”

Derek nodded and glanced at the clock. “I wish you didn’t have to go.”

“I know, honey,” she said. “But you’re going to be okay. I am so very proud of you. So proud of the man you’ve become. So incredibly proud of the alpha you’ve become. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine you would turn out so exceptionally.” She brushed a tear from Derek’s cheek. “I love you.”

“I love you too,” he said softly.

The room brightened as her skin began to glow. “I’ll see you soon, but not too soon!” She gave him a wink before fading into the light which promptly faded into nothingness. Derek sat alone on the couch, wiping tears from his eyes.

A few minutes later, he was knocking on Stiles’s bedroom door.

“Come in,” Stiles responded.

Derek opened the door to find Stiles sitting on the edge of his bed. His eyes were red and swollen from crying. He sat down next to him. “You’ve been crying.”

“Yeah, so have you,” Stiles said, nudging his shoulder.

“Fair.”

They sat in silence for a few moments, leaning shoulder to shoulder.

“Can I ask you a question?” Derek asked.

“Mmhmm.”

“Why did you do that for me?” Derek clenched his hands together, trying to keep himself from abandoning the conversation.

“Because you deserved it and because I could.”

Derek turned to face him. “Stiles, you gave up your only chance to see your mom. For me. Why would you do that?”

“You needed it more than I did,” Stiles said like it was the most obvious answer in the world.

Derek traced Stiles’s jaw with his fingers, pulling his face up to meet his own. He leaned in slowly and pressed his lips against Stiles’s.

Stiles’s body sagged, and he pulled back from the kiss. “You don’t have to do that. You don’t owe me or anything. I did it because I wanted to. And I don’t regret my decision.”

“That’s not why I kissed you.” He took Stiles’s hand and twined their fingers together. “I didn’t think you felt the same way. I didn’t think you could ever feel that way about me.”

Stiles’s eyes grew wide in surprise.

“Stiles, I love you. And I’m pretty sure that you wouldn’t have done that for me if you didn’t love me too. I’m just sorry it took me so long to say something.”

“You love me?” Stiles squeezed Derek’s hand desperately.

“For a long time now.” He took a deep breath. “I just wanted to be worthy.”

“I’m not a magic hammer, Derek. You’ve always been worthy. Of me. Of being loved. Since the moment I met you, and probably before that.” He grabbed Derek and kissed him deeply, enjoying the feel of stubble against his chin. “And for the record, you would totally be worthy of Mjölnir.”

Derek laughed and kissed him again, running his hands through Stiles’s hair. “You realize that this is the greatest Christmas present I’ve ever gotten. I’m never going to be able to top it.”

“I have a suggestion if you’re looking for ideas,” said Stiles.

Derek raised his eyebrows in a way Stiles knew was the Hale equivalent of a question mark.

“You could stay with me tonight. You know, if you wanted,” Stiles said sheepishly.

“That seems more like another present for me,” Derek replied. He pulled Stiles against him and rolled back on the bed so they were laying down, Stiles practically on top of Derek.

“I don’t know. This is kind of all I’ve ever wanted,” he said pressing a quick kiss to Derek’s cheek.

Derek smiled and planted a kiss on the top of Stiles’s head. “Me too,” he said. “Me too.”