Stiles stands outside the closed garage door with two empty cardboard boxes next to his black Taurus. It’s early in the evening, the sun settling down behind the roof of the house, and there’s a summer breeze that dissipates the heat from the day.
He doesn’t know how he got there. Everything seemed to be going perfectly fine until one day everything just started to fall apart.
It doesn’t really make sense, but he thinks that cleaning up everything that reminds him of Derek will make the transition easier. He finds a magnet nestled down next to the seat belt fastener. The process is difficult, cleaning everything up and trying to pull his life back together, but he has to get through this.
They got the magnet at Pride five years ago.
“You’ve got to be kidding me, right?” Stiles said. He threw the pair of pink lingerie back at Derek and the other caught it with his face. “I know that this is out thing, but I can’t go stripping for charity.”
“C’mon,” Derek nudged, and he held the panties to Stiles’s waistline. “You don’t have to strip,” he offered, “but we need to get something. Everything they sell this weekend goes to the new LGBT youth shelter on Prospect. You can pick something out for me, too.”
After a while of badgering, Stiles had obliged. He’d let Derek get him the pink panties, and he picked out a cute little pair of edible underwear for himself. At least, for him to eat off Derek.
They ended up buying the pride flag magnet at the counter along with a pack of rainbow gum.
Stiles tosses the magnet into the cardboard box and shakes his head. Before he came outside, he knew this was going to be a challenge. After months of not thinking about anything that had happened, he needs to face the truth and move on with his life.
No time for dwelling on the past vicariously through magnets.
He huffs to himself and continued picking things out of the car. Pens, pencils, bobby pins (only god knows why), old receipts, rubber bands, old envelopes, and everything else that managed to fall between the seat and the center console at one time or another.
Stiles doesn’t want to rummage through the front seats, but he knows that he’s never going to move past this if he doesn’t let it go already. It’s been months since he’s seen Derek. Seeing him in a picture couldn’t possibly be too bad.
When he sits down in the driver’s seat, he realizes that it could.
There’s a photograph shoved in the pocket of the sun-visor, circa 2018. Stiles had just graduated undergrad from Stanford with a degree in Environmental Communications with a focus in Energy Resources. It had taken him a long time before he figured out what he wanted to do with his life, but he had finally managed to before he graduated.
He remembers it like it was yesterday.
Derek stood next to the kitchen counter in Stiles’s off-campus apartment holding a black tie in his hands. Stiles invited him up for the week before graduation. It was a relief to have something familiar during the last stressful finals week of his life, and Derek was just happy to be there.
“You look beautiful,” Derek told him, and Stiles strode to him with an unconvinced look on his face.
He was suited up for the ceremony – black slacks, black jacket, white dress shirt, and soon-to-be-tied black tie. He hadn’t put on his shoes yet. There was no need to make a mess of the floor moments before he moved out of the place he had called his home for the last two years.
“And you already told me that. Now come on, I don’t have much time before I have to be on campus.” Stiles stood in front of Derek and lifted his head to give Derek a better view of his neck as he fastened the tie around it. Neither of them could stop smiling, but that was how they always were back then.
When everything still made sense.
Derek placed the palm of his hand on Stiles’s cheek and leaned in, giving him a soft kiss. “You have time,” he whispered against his lips. “Don’t rush the last couple minutes you have of being a college student. Soon you’ll be a part of the real world and have to deal with real things.” He kissed Stiles again, this time even softer. He kept his lips on his as he continued, eyes closed. “I want you to stay young for a little while longer. I’m going to miss this.”
The ceremony had gone uninterrupted, beautiful with flowers and tassels all around.
Stiles crumbles the picture in his hand, folding up the image of him holding his diploma and Derek kissing him on the cheek.
Why is he doing this to himself? Why the fuck is he giving Derek the time of day after he hasn’t answered his phone calls for months? Why does this hurt so goddamn much?
“This is ridiculous,” he mutters to himself. His throat hurts and his chest aches, but he gets out of the front seat and starts pulling everything out of the car at once.
The first mix CD Derek made for him. His last birthday card from him, shoved into the glove compartment between manuals. The Bluetooth connecter; a Christmas gift.
Everything is garbage.
Every single fucking thing reminds him of Derek, and he wants to bury himself underground and wait for death to come like the night.
No one ever told him it was easy, but he never expected it to be this hard.
He misses Derek. He hates going to into his room alone after work every night only to be greeted with an empty and cold bed. He hates waking up in the morning to silence instead of Derek’s breathing next to him. He hates living alone in this big fucking house with no way to fill the void.
It’s only moments before he’s sitting on the pavement, back against the Taurus, and head in his hands. He hasn’t cried in a while, so he thinks he needs this. It’s really hard to breathe with his head pounding and his heart breaking, but he sucks in deep breaths along with every aching cry. Nothing has ever felt worse than feeling like nothing in his entire life. He feels like shit for thinking it, but right then and there, the realization that Derek left him hurts worse than his mom dying. She didn’t have a choice. Derek did.
A long time passes before Stiles gets up. A couple of his neighbors try to console him, try to talk to him and help him get inside. It is cold by the time Stiles stands and grabs the cardboard box next to him.
He needs to finish this. It’s a big step he needs to take, and even though it’s only a single step, he can’t pass over it.
He’s tired of looking at all of this things as he drives through town, to work, back home to visit his father.
There’s nothing worse than thinking that you’re too weak to help yourself.
So Stiles stands up and cracks his back, runs a hand through hair, and sits back down in the car.
He just has to take his time, so he starts with collecting change. A couple pennies, two quarters, a euro coin from their trip to Germany three years ago.
Soon he has a couple useful dollars and random little snippets of things he needs to keep. There’s a pair of Lydia’s earrings in the center console. He needs to give them back.
Stiles tries not to overthink everything, but it’s hard. He ends up calling Scott halfway through the glove compartment and reevaluating his entire life. He’s crying again by the end of it, but he feels better. Better than he has in a long time. There’s still people in his life that care about him even if Derek isn’t a part of it anymore.
When he’s done, both boxes are full with everything Stiles deemed as garbage. He climbs out of the driver’s seat and shuts the door after locking it. The keys are in his pocket.
It takes a while for him to actually do it, but Stiles drags the boxes to the curb and takes a couple steps back. He stares at them as if they have some kind of hidden meaning, some kind of answer for him. But there’s nothing there. Just garbage.
Stiles turns from the curb and heads inside the house and to the kitchen, pours himself a shot or six.
God knows he needs it.