The first birthday that Derek could remember he was five, about to turn six. The Hale house was full to the brim with family members who were visiting from all over. At that age, Derek assumed it was because of his birthday, and not Yule, that his family visited.
They celebrated for twelve days, starting on the the winter solstice. Derek was too young to transform, but that didn’t mean he didn’t know what was happening. He was a werewolf, or would be, once he hit puberty. He wished he were already there, as he ran around with his cousins and sisters, all of them pretending they had fangs and claws as they jumped around on the furniture.
Derek loved his birthday, because his family meant everything to him. They exchanged gifts, with everyone unwrapping theirs all together as a family. Derek got to open two, because it was his special day. He remembered the birthday when he got a Game Boy, along with two games. He didn’t put it down for a week, carried it around in his pocket when he wasn’t allowed to play with it at meals. It even slept with him in bed, underneath his pillow.
Derek remembered his sixth birthday, because the night before had been a full moon, and he was upset that he wasn’t old enough to go running through the preserve with his older cousins. He swore he was old enough, that he was a grown up and could transform.
Instead, he played in the basement of the house with his siblings and cousins, waiting for his birthday to arrive.
When Derek turned thirteen he had already hit puberty, and for the first time he was able to transform with his cousins and spar with them, teeth sharp and nails able to rip flesh. He had always been able to heal easily, but now he had reason to. Instead of play fights, they fought for real, showing off their abilities. Laura, his older sister, was relentless with her fighting. She had been taking martial arts at the community center and was a purple belt, so she had Derek flat on his back within seconds.
Derek had second thoughts about choosing swimming as his after school activity.
For Derek’s fifteenth birthday, he didn’t have time to hang out with his cousins. When they arrived for the winter solstice, he wasn’t at home. He had a girlfriend, Paige, whom he wanted to spend his time with when they were on break from school.
He got yelled at for missing their family dinner, chastised for putting Paige before their family traditions. Derek never yelled at his mother, his alpha, until that night. He didn’t get anything for his birthday that year.
There was a full moon the day after he turned sixteen. It was the last full moon spent with his family, before Kate Argent burned them alive.
After that, Derek hated his birthday.
In New York, with Laura, they didn’t celebrate Yule. They didn’t acknowledge their family’s traditions, because it hurt too much. Derek never asked for a birthday present from Laura, despite the fact that he gave her one every year. The last present he ever got was his leather jacket.
He didn’t deserve another one.
Laura left to go back to Beacon Hills on the winter solstice, four days before Derek’s twenty-second birthday. She promised she would be back in time for his birthday, saying that she needed to go back to look into animal attacks that had been happening around the Hale property. She told Derek there was no reason he had to go with her.
It was the last time he saw her, as he dropped her off at the airport. She had a smile on her face as she placed a small box on the passenger seat. It was wrapped neatly, but had no card to go with it.
Derek didn’t open it until his birthday; he waited until he had her on the phone when he did.
“Open it,” Laura said from over the line. Derek snorted, his smile sad as he let out a sigh. He didn’t deserve a present.
“Okay, okay,” Derek said as he ripped the wrapping paper. Inside was a key. “Laur, this looks like a key to the car.”
“It is,” Laura said easily. “It’s your car now.” The car was with Derek, in New York, a Camaro. “I know you like that car, so...”
“Thanks,” Derek said, not sure of what else to add. His voice caught in his throat as he swallowed. “You sure you don’t want me to meet you out there?”
“I don’t want you to come here,” Laura told him. “Peter, he... he looks horrible, Der.” Derek closed his eyes, he had been the one to deny Peter of his life, of his wife and daughter. Now he was a shell of a person and it was all Derek’s fault.
“Call me if you need anything.”
“You, too, bro,” Laura said.
She never called.
Derek headed to Beacon Hills two weeks later.
So much happened in the nine months since Derek’s return: the loss of Laura, the death of Peter along with Derek’s rise to alpha, Peter’s resurrection, the return of Cora, and the loss of Derek’s status as alpha in order to save her. Family was all Derek had, he would do anything for Cora.
So he left with her, making the decision to leave Peter behind.
On Derek’s twenty-third birthday, he sat in a hotel with Cora in Chicago, phone in hand, a message staring up at him from Stiles. Stiles, whom he left behind, who deserved someone who wasn’t cursed as he was.
‘Happy Birthday, asshole,’ the text said. Derek couldn’t help but smile at it. He didn’t know how Stiles had found out his birthday, assumed he went through his file down at the station to find it, but it didn’t matter. Derek left Beacon Hills, and he wasn’t going back. It hadn’t been the first time that Stiles had texted him, but it was the first time that Derek didn’t delete it.
Stiles reminded him of Beacon Hills, about his failures, his attempts at normalcy. Derek couldn’t delete this text, though. But he wouldn’t text back. He couldn’t give Stiles false hope that he would return.
He went out to dinner with Cora for his birthday; she still didn’t know why their family was dead, that it was Derek who brought Kate into their home. His birthday haunted him. It was a reminder of why he was alone.
They travelled until they ended up in New York. Derek reapplied to the Master’s program he had been accepted to the year before at Columbia, while Cora applied for her undergrad at various schools around the city.
“I want us to have a life,” Derek told her as he handed over a pile of brochures. “This is the way we do it.”
“What if I want to go somewhere else, like Chicago?” Cora asked as she spread the brochures around.
“I’m going back to Columbia,” Derek said. “You do what you need to,” he told her, even though it was difficult for him to say it. He didn’t want to split up, not after everything they’d been through. He knew of an alpha in New York who would accept them into their pack, but he didn’t want to come forward with it unless he was sure Cora would stay.
“I’m sure I can find something,” Cora said, giving him a small smile.
Cora chose NYU. They got a small apartment, two bedrooms, along with furniture. Derek got them cable and internet. After a year away from studying history, he lost himself in research and his thesis.
Stiles stopped texting at some point, Derek couldn’t remember when. He figured that Stiles moved on, gave up on him returning. It left a stale taste in Derek’s mouth but he knew it was for the best. Cora worked as a hostess part-time, while Derek tended bar three nights a week. With their family’s inheritance, they didn’t need to work more than that.
By the time Christmas decorations began appearing once more, Derek thought about texting Stiles. Instead, he decided to use SnapChat, that way he didn’t need to say anything at all. He took a picture of the sky, with buildings surrounding it. It wasn’t the best picture, but he still sent it.
He almost forgot about it later, when he sat at the kitchen table surrounded by books as he worked on his thesis. He checked his email, a habitual thing, then saw a red 1 by the SnapChat app. Derek held his breath as he held down his finger over Stiles’ name. It lasted four seconds, merely a flash before it was gone: Stiles’ face. His mouth was open, his eyes wide as if he were shocked. There was no caption.
Derek snorted as he shook his head, covering his mouth as he hid a smile from himself. Cora wasn’t home, so he was, thankfully, alone in the apartment. Derek looked around the room for something to send back to Stiles. He decided to let Stiles know that he was in school by taking a picture of his makeshift work station, the books and his computer; with the caption: ‘thesis woes.’
Then, Derek made himself coffee, because it was going to be a long night. At his next break, he saw that there was another picture waiting for him from Stiles. This time, the picture lasted six seconds and it showed Stiles’ desk and his homework. Again, there was no caption.
The next time Derek sent a SnapChat, it was four days later. He just got out of class, and was on his way to the subway when he decided to take a picture of the sign, letting Stiles know exactly where he was. He liked not talking, it felt safer somehow, like he was guarding himself against Stiles. Derek knew he didn’t really need to put a wall up between them, since he was pretty sure it was already there with the silent shoulder he gave Stiles for the past year, along with the distance between them, but he had to make sure. He didn’t want Stiles to think this was anything, would go anywhere.
It took Stiles a day to respond with a picture of his Jeep at a shop, on a lift with a caption that read ‘repairs :(.’ Derek thought about texting him, asking what was wrong and how much he was shelling out on a car that was probably as old as Stiles himself. He stopped himself though, and instead sent Stiles a picture of himself frowning. Derek was pretty sure that was the only look Stiles saw from him; it wouldn’t be anything new on his end.
They continued SnapChatting at least twice a day all the way into December. Derek didn’t mention his birthday, didn’t need to because they were still only sending each other pictures and nothing more. Most of the time Stiles’ were of his face or of Scott. Derek’s varied from scenery shots to pictures of food or weird people sightings on the subway.
On Christmas Eve, Stiles sent Derek a picture of the Stilinski Family tree. Derek frowned, because he was sure that the Stilinski’s were Jewish. Instead of asking, though, Derek showed Stiles their meager wreath on their kitchen table and the four candles that were lit on it. Derek still wasn’t much of a celebrator during the holidays. He got Cora a gift, though, that he gave her on the winter solstice, along with a gift card. It wasn’t much, but it got him a hug nonetheless.
Curiosity got the better of Derek, though, and he sent another SnapChat directly after his wreath picture. It was of his face, with an eyebrow arched. The caption read: ‘I thought you were Jewish?.’
Of course, Stiles sent him a text.
My mom wasn’t. We get a tree and decorate it for her. was Stiles’ response. Derek bit his lip, sucking in a breath of air - he hadn’t expected that. Before he could respond, Stiles sent him a second text. A wreath? What is that for? Is that for Yule? Are you pagan?
My family was, Derek responded. Stiles didn’t text him again; there wasn’t really anything to be said.
Almost everything was always closed on Christmas Day, so Derek never got to go out to eat on his birthday. Twenty-five seemed so much older than twenty-four; farther away from Beacon Hills and his life there. He wasn’t really sure he remembered what Stiles sounded like, or smelled like.
It worried Derek that he cared.
As if on cue, the next SnapChat Stiles sent was a video of him singing “Happy Birthday” horribly. Derek pretended he didn’t care that Stiles had given him exactly what he wanted: Stiles’ voice. In return, Derek took a picture of himself with his hand covering his face as if embarrassed. The caption simply read: ‘thanks.’ Derek wished he could listen again, but that was the thing about SnapChats, they disappeared after the allotted time.
Derek and Cora went to Times Square for New Year’s Eve. Derek sent Stiles around twelve pictures, mostly of himself and Cora in silly hats and glasses, then of the ball itself. He didn’t hear from Stiles until midnight, when he got a video. He decided not to watch it until they were back at their apartment, at around three in the morning.
The video was short: Stiles’ cheeks were flushed, his eyes glassy from alcohol consumption, and he was grinning.
“Happy New Year,” he said, his voice making Derek’s stomach drop. Then, right at the end, Stiles looked right at the camera, and kissed it. Derek stood there in his room in silence as the video disappeared forever. He tried to tap it again to no avail. Stiles had sent him a New Year’s kiss at midnight, and he had ignored it. Derek looked around his room, then walked out into the living room where Cora was making hot chocolate in the kitchen.
“Do you want some -- what’s wrong?” Cora asked him. Derek looked at her wide-eyed, and pointed at his phone.
“Stiles kissed me,” he said simply. Cora gave him a weird look, then grabbed his phone.
“I can’t click on it,” she said, disappointed. “Are you guys dating?”
“No,” Derek said, his voice sounding distant. “No, but-”
“Derek,” Cora said with an arched eyebrow. “You have sent him, like, how many SnapChats? Is he your only SnapChat friend?” Derek nodded his head, as he reached for his phone. “Oh my god! All of these are this month? Derek, you have been leading him on!”
“What? No, I-”
“Did you send him a kiss back? It doesn’t say you did.”
“I just got the kiss, Cora!” Derek said. “He sent it at midnight, I didn’t want to watch it until we got home.” Derek could feel that his own cheeks were flushed, but he ignored it. Instead, he let out a frustrated sigh. This wasn’t what he had intended. He wanted Stiles in his life, but he knew he couldn’t have him. Stiles had his life in Beacon Hills, and Derek was no longer a part of that. “I don’t know what to do.”
“If you like him, you’ll send him one back. Otherwise this is going to go south, fast.”
“He was drunk, he probably didn’t mean it-”
“And if he did mean it? What then?”
“Then we’d have to talk because I’m not going back there.” Silence hung between them as Derek gripped his phone. “My life is here.”
“And there,” Cora pointed at the phone. “Don’t string him along.”
“I won’t,” Derek promised her. He didn’t send Stiles a SnapChat back.
When Derek woke up, after noon, he had a missed call and two texts, all from Stiles. At first he didn’t want to look at the messages, wanting to avoid the situation that he put himself in. He wasn’t in Beacon Hills anymore, and he wasn’t going back. Eventually, Derek sighed and opened the texts.
Shit, I’m sorry, the first text read, immediately followed by, Can we talk? Then there was the phone call. Stiles wouldn’t be in school, so Derek knew he was probably free, but he hesitated in calling him back right away. Instead, he showered, then made him and Cora New Year’s breakfast with Belgian waffles and cut up fresh fruit.
“Did he call?” Cora asked with a yawn as she emerged from her room. Derek didn’t want to talk about it, but he nodded his head once in answer. “You call back?”
“Not yet,” Derek said as he handed her a plate. They ate in silence, until Derek’s phone rang again. The two of them stared at it, until Cora reached for it. Derek yanked it away, but didn’t press accept.
“You need to talk to him,” she said. “Don’t string him along.”
“I’m not!” Derek shouted. “I don’t know what to tell him,” he said honestly.
“Start with the truth.”
Derek grunted as he stood up and hit accept on the phone.
“Hello?” He asked.
“Are you ignoring me?” Stiles asked. “Because I’m sorry, alright? I was drunk-”
“Stiles, I just woke up a little while ago,” Derek said truthfully. “I made Cora and me breakfast. I was going to call you back.” It was a half-truth, well, but it was probably what would have happened, eventually.
“Oh,” Stiles said softly, filling the empty silence between them. “Well, sorry for bombarding you, then.”
“It’s fine,” Derek said curtly. He didn’t want to talk on the phone, wishing suddenly that he was in Beacon Hills. That thought alone sent Derek into his room, shutting the door behind him to give a sense of privacy. Cora could hear him if she wanted, he only hoped she gave him the space he needed to talk to Stiles. “I’m the one who should be apologizing.”
“Why?” Stiles asked. “I’m the one that - that made a mistake.” Stiles calling the SnapChat a mistake made Derek’s stomach drop. He couldn’t tell Stiles that he liked it, that he wished he could send him one back. He wouldn’t do that to Stiles.
“Because I’ve been leading you on,” Derek said with a sigh. “With the pictures.”
“But, I thought... so, what? That’s it? No more?”
“Did you hear me? I don’t want anything from you,” Derek said harshly. His heart pounded in his chest angrily, disappointed in himself for not telling the truth of it. Stiles was silent after that. Derek could picture Stiles worrying at his bottom lip, even though he wished he couldn’t. He wanted to take it back, but he knew that there was no way he could.
“Fuck you,” Stiles said just before he hung up the phone. Derek sat on his bed for a long time, before he emerged to find Cora standing there with a cup of tea.
“You liar,” she said as she handed it over.
Derek didn’t hear from Stiles until graduation day, in June. It hadn’t occurred to Derek that it had been that long since he left Beacon Hills. He didn’t even think to ask Stiles where he was going to college, or if he was going. There was no college in Beacon Hills, but there was a community college a few towns over. Derek wanted Stiles to have a life outside of werewolves and banshees, emissaries and demons. But he couldn’t tell Stiles that, he didn’t have the right.
It was a SnapChat that Stiles sent of Scott, Allison, Isaac, Lydia, and him all in their gowns, smiling at the camera. The caption read: ‘class of 2013’. Derek thought fast, and was able to take a screenshot of the picture before it disappeared forever. He made it his background on his phone because sometimes seeing people smile was all that was needed to make a day better.
It took him three days to send something back, a view from the balcony where he and Cora were vacationing in Hawaii. The water was clear blue, and the sunset was one of the most beautiful things Derek had ever seen. It felt right, sending Stiles pictures again. They weren’t of himself, though, and Stiles kept to the same unspoken rule, excluding the graduation photo.
He got pictures of Stiles’ feet in the sand, his dad eating a hotdog, Scott sleeping in a hammock, and then Stiles’ room all boxed up and ready to move. Derek didn’t ask where Stiles was going, where he was taking his life. He knew if Stiles wanted him to know, he’d show him with a picture.
Derek sent Stiles a picture of the mountains of Colorado as he and Cora visited Denver, of her braided hair with flowers in it when they went to the Renaissance Faire an hour south. She took a picture of Derek eating a giant turkey leg; it had been the first picture of Derek, himself, that he sent to Stiles since New Year’s. Derek sent it without comment.
When the school year started back, Derek’s photos turned to hipster coffee shots, his view from a table in the library, Cora coming home from a long night at the restaurant giving Derek, and Stiles, the finger. Stiles’ went from showing off his dorm room to sending pictures of random kegs and Solo cups. Derek wished he knew that feeling, what it would be like to drink and get completely wasted. He would never know, though, and had to only imagine what it would be like for Stiles.
As the semester went on, their SnapChats became rarer, with both of them busy with classes and papers. It was late October when Derek sent Stiles a picture of his desk, the kitchen table, covered in books and papers and empty coffee mugs. Stiles sent a picture of himself pretending to sleep, his face pressed into a book. For the first time since their fight, Derek decided he wanted to speak to Stiles.
He scrolled through his phone, finger hovering over Stiles’ name as he gave himself time to think. With one final sigh, he hit send.
The phone rang once before Stiles answered it.
“Hey,” he said casually.
“Hey,” Derek responded. He didn’t know what to say. The silence was deafening, and Derek almost hung up, but then Stiles was Stiles and saved the conversation.
“If I read one more line of this book, my head is going to explode.”
“If I write another word of my thesis, I am going to start pulling my hair out,” Derek said, because it was the truth. He closed his computer, then cradled his phone between his shoulder and cheek as he started picking up all his dirty mugs.
“You know, I don’t even know what you are going to school for,” Stiles admitted.
“History,” Derek answered. “I actually, uh, got a grant to go to England in the spring, to research-”
“Are you shitting me? You were smart the entire time?” Derek snorted as he rolled his eyes.
“Something like that,” he said with a smile. “What are you going for?”
“Anthropology, I think,” Stiles said with uncertainty. “I mean, leaning more towards the folklore aspect, for reasons.” Pack reasons, Derek knew. It was smart of Stiles to go to school for something that would help the pack. “It’s interesting, but I miss everyone.”
“I know what you mean,” Derek said empathetically. “How are things, did anyone else go to school?”
“Yeah, I mean, Scott and Isaac are at the community college, getting their associate degrees first because of their grades, and the fact that they don’t know what they want to do. We Skype all the time, but I can’t afford to go home.” Derek wanted to ask where Stiles was, but something held him back.
“Allison stayed in state,” Stiles supplied, making Derek believe that Stiles wasn’t in California. “Lydia’s in Boston with Danny. Do you remember Danny?” Stiles asked.
“No,” Derek said, because he honestly didn’t.
“He, uh, was the guy that was in my room when you were there-”
“When I was Miguel?” Derek asked, not bringing up the strip show. Stiles laughed.
“Yeah, Miguel. I forgot about that part. I was thinking more about the aftermath. Well, anyway, sometimes I get up to Boston when I need some pack time.”
“That’s good that they are closer,” Derek said, thinking of how close the Ivy League schools were to Boston, hell, almost in Boston. Stiles was probably there.
“Yeah,” Stiles said, not knowing where to take the conversation. “Listen, I was just going to go get coffee, can I call you another time?” Stiles asked. Derek’s mouth went dry as he licked his lips; Stiles was asking for permission to call him.
“Yeah, anytime,” Derek supplied as he bit his lip. He wanted to hear from Stiles, to hear Stiles. The laugh that came from Stiles’ end made Derek flush, he hadn’t expected it. If he closed his eyes, he could picture Stiles’ smile.
“Talk to you later, man,” Stiles said.
“Sure thing,” Derek responded, and then Stiles was gone.
Derek was busy, what with midterms and his deadline approaching. He felt like he was writing most of his days, then studying the rest. Bartending helped break up the monotony of it, giving Derek a reason not to be in front of his computer or with his nose in a book.
It wasn’t like he didn’t know that he was attractive; he knew. He got tipped more if he wore a tight shirt, even more if it was plain white. He was good at smiling, at winking, at small talk. It helped that he could hear over the sound of the music, made him look like he cared. In the end, all that mattered was that he had some spare cash. He and Cora saved up their tips for their vacation funds. Derek suggested they go away for their break, but Cora talked him out of it, saying she would rather stay in town then go to Paris when Derek was done in England in the spring. He liked that idea, even though it would cost more than going to Hawaii again.
Within the blink of an eye, it was December again. Derek didn’t know what happened to November, or the semester itself, but he was glad of the mental break. He and Stiles talked more frequently on the phone, usually late at night after Derek got off from work. Sometimes, Stiles would call in the middle of the day, between classes, and Derek would take a break from his thesis to chat with him. Derek was also teaching an Intro to History course for freshman, so he usually complained to Stiles about how awful freshmen were. Of course, Stiles reminded Derek that he was exactly that.
With one semester under his belt, Stiles called Derek and asked what classes he should take for his second semester. Obviously, Derek said history. Derek sat on the phone as Stiles signed up for them, cursing at the server being busy and fucking up his course basket.
“I should probably take all the pre-req classes I can, right? That would be helpful down the line... right?” Stiles asked. He had Derek on speaker so he could pay attention to his computer screen and have both hands free.
“Yeah, that would be good. Don’t forget to get something out of the way, like health or art history. Non-major courses are important early on,” Derek explained.
“Art history sounds like a lot of memorization,” Stiles whined. “I need something not so... what about studio art?”
“Sure,” Derek said with a shrug. “Let out your frustrations by drawing.”
“Who said I had frustrations?” Stiles teased. “Sexual frust- fuck the only one left is eight in the morning, I refuse.” Derek snorted.
“Earlier your classes, earlier you are done for the day,” Derek supplied.
“That is not conducive to partying,” Stiles pointed out. “I do have a social life here.” Derek hadn’t forgotten that. Stiles sent him SnapChats sometimes of his new friends, normal, completely human friends who didn’t know that Stiles’ best friend happened to be a werewolf, that he had a darkness around his heart from saving his father, and didn’t know that Stiles was training to become an emissary.
They talked until Stiles figured out his classes, afterwards, Derek couldn’t stop thinking about how he fit into Stiles’ life. He didn’t, and yet Stiles was still reaching out for him. Derek wasn’t going to push Stiles away anymore, he couldn’t do it. He liked talking to him, knowing what was going on with him. As long as he knew that Stiles was untouchable, he would be fine. He had to remember that Stiles was far away from the city, far from Derek. It was better that way.
Winter break meant that Derek had more time on his hands. He picked up extra shifts at the bar, and made a habit of working out for longer at the gym in their apartment building. He read two books, and cooked actual meals that didn’t require a box or anything frozen.
Before he knew it, the winter solstice was just around the corner. Cora got out the wreath, lit the candles, and Derek tried not to think about his birthday. It hurt, remembering everything. On Christmas Eve, Derek got a SnapChat of Stiles and his makeshift Christmas tree that looked sadder than Charlie Brown’s. It made Derek laugh, that’s for sure.
Derek sent Stiles a picture of his bar. It was packed despite it being Christmas Eve. New York was like that though, didn’t slow down for anything. At midnight, Derek’s coworkers sang him “Happy Birthday” and made him wear a hat. He had one of the other bartenders take his picture with it to send to Stiles before he took the monstrosity off.
He wasn’t expecting to get a SnapChat back so fast from Stiles, but there it was, waiting for him. It was a video, and Derek held his breath as he thought about last year’s from Stiles. This time, though, he was simple. It was Stiles’ feet as he and a girl, someone in heels, walked down a sidewalk. It was perplexing, why Stiles would send that of all things to him, but Derek dismissed it.
When Derek got home, Cora was out. It was unusual, so he called her. She hadn’t been on the schedule to work, and it being almost three on Christmas Day, Derek knew there weren’t many places she could be.
“Hey, Der,” Cora said, laughing into the phone. “Checking up on me?” She asked. He could hear more laughter in the background.
“Yeah, I didn’t know you had plans-”
“I didn’t, it’s this last minute thing - I got to go. I’ll see you tomorrow!”
“Okay,” Derek said, confused.
“Oh, and Derek?” Cora asked. Derek waited for her to continue. “Happy Birthday.”
Derek went to bed wondering what his sister was up to, because he knew her, now, and she just didn’t do last minute things. When he woke up, he checked her room. She was asleep, her covers hiding her body, but Derek could hear her heart beating. He went about his morning, laying out on the couch in his pajamas as he read a book, drinking two cups of coffee from the Keurig that he and Cora bought for themselves.
Cora emerged with her hair a mess and last night’s makeup still on her face, slightly smudged.
“Have fun last night?” Derek asked wryly. Cora rolled her eyes as she walked into the kitchen to make her own cup of coffee.
“What do you want to do today?” Cora asked after she yawned.
“Nothing,” Derek said truthfully. Cora knew how much he didn’t like his birthday.
“Don’t be a Grinch,” Cora said as she went back into her room once her coffee was ready. She shut the door harder than she needed to. Derek let out a huff, going back to his book. Birthdays, he could do without. Twenty-six was how old Laura had been when she died. Soon, he’d surpass her completely, and that was a sobering thought. He closed his book, unable to concentrate. He had left his phone in his room, so he went to grab it. There was a SnapChat waiting for him from Stiles.
When he opened it, Derek’s jaw dropped. It was of Stiles, wrapped up in a scarf and jacket, his arm pointing at a distinct subway entrance. One that was just around the corner from his apartment building. Derek almost tripped over his own feet as he scrambled to get dressed, his pulse throbbing in his ears. He didn’t know what was happening, but Stiles was in the city, he was nearby.
Derek needed to find him. Just as he was pulling on his leather jacket to head out, Cora came out of her room, dressed and ready to go. Derek gave her a look, his eyes narrowing.
“What are you doing?” Derek asked her. She lifted an eyebrow.
“Nothing,” she replied simply. “Thought I’d just... go out.” Derek didn’t have time to reply before another SnapChat came. He held his breath as he opened it. This time, Stiles had a cup of coffee, with half of it obscuring his face. Behind him was a distinct coffee shop that Derek frequented because it was literally right near them. Stiles was there, Stiles was so close. Derek looked up at Cora, who had been looking over Derek’s shoulder, grinning.
“What did you do?” Derek asked her. She shrugged, her face showing him faux innocence. He made his way down the stairs of the apartment building, almost jumping down. He heard Cora walking down more slowly behind him, her boots making a sound with each step.
As Derek stepped out of the building, the chill of the morning hit him. It was freezing, and there was ice on the sidewalk as he made his way to the coffee shop. He held his breath as he rounded the corner. He could smell him, he realized. He hadn’t scented Stiles in so long, but there he was, his distinct aroma hit Derek’s nostrils and filled his lungs. He needed to see him, to hear him, to touch him. He needed Stiles.
Derek opened the door to the coffee shop, surprised they were even open on Christmas to begin with. But his mind wasn’t on that minor detail, it was on something completely different. All he could think about, could see was the fact that Stiles was there, sitting down at one of the tables. As soon as he walked in, Stiles’ eyes were on him.
He looked older; of course he did. It had been years since Derek saw Stiles in person. No longer the seventeen year old who didn’t know how to control his flailing body, Stiles stood up, looking unsure of himself as Derek approached.
“Happy Birthday?” Stiles said with a simple shrug. Then Stiles came forward, his arms wrapping around Derek’s, his face burying itself against Derek’s neck. Derek closed his eyes, breathing Stiles in. It felt so right, having Stiles in his arms. He had denied himself for so long, avoiding it for reasons Derek himself couldn’t even remember anymore.
When Derek attempted to pull back, Stiles tightened his grip on him. Derek wasn’t sure what was going on, exactly, but when the door opened and Cora stepped through, Derek had more of an idea.
“How?” Derek asked, looking to Cora, then to Stiles. He had an arm around Stiles’ waist, he realized; he didn’t move it. Stiles stood there, looking at Derek, so sure of himself.
“Well, funny thing,” Cora said as she looked at her nails. “There I was in Intro to Chemistry, and in walks none other than Stiles fucking Stilinski,” she said, her eyes on Derek. Derek’s jaw dropped, his eyes wide. Stiles went to NYU, and had been hanging out with Cora. “Don’t fret, big bro,” she said. “We didn’t conspire against you.”
“I didn’t want to fuck up again,” Stiles admitted. “I liked what we had, but then Cora stopped me after class one day and we talked-”
“About how in love with him you are,” Cora said like it was the easiest thing in the world to say. Derek stiffened, his gaze falling to Stiles who was watching Derek’s reaction closely.
“No, we didn’t,” Stiles urged. “We talked about you, though, about my decision to be here. I didn’t know how to tell you I chose NYU.”
“You could have told me,” Derek said. Really, he should have figured it out, but he hadn’t wanted to.
“Well, now you know,” Stiles supplied. “Is that - is this okay?” Stiles asked, unsure.
“Why wouldn’t it be?” Derek asked.
“You know why,” Stiles said quietly. “I didn’t want to ruin what we have.”
“You haven’t ruined anything,” Derek assured him as he looked at Stiles’ lips. All he wanted to do was lean in and kiss him, but he wasn’t sure-
Stiles took the initiative, his lips pressing against Derek’s, his fingers brushing against the hair at the nape of Derek’s neck. Derek opened his lips, letting the kiss deepen as he breathed Stiles in. The kiss was short, and when Stiles ended it, Derek saw how dilated his pupils were. He had wanted it just as much as Derek had. He didn’t deserve Stiles, not after how he treated him and yet there he was, standing in front of him.
“Happy Birthday,” Stiles said, his lips wet and slightly reddened. Derek smiled, because it was the best fucking birthday he had ever had.