When Derek comes home from work, Stiles is sleeping on his couch, fully dressed and his back bent in an odd angle that really can’t feel good. For a moment, Derek’s heart warms, but then he notices the screen on Stiles’ computer and sighs. It’s not that Derek wants to keep Stiles from doing things he likes, or having fun. It’s that Stiles’ new game has completely taken over his life. And, by extension, Derek’s, too.
When they’re eating together, Stiles always keeps one eye on his computer and sometimes reaches over to press a few buttons or say something to the people he’s playing with. When they’re sleeping…well, Stiles isn’t sleeping. He’s running on (probably) lethal amounts of Red Bull and stays up until six AM, when Derek heads to work. If Derek’s lucky, he can get a kiss or two, especially if he’s cooked — even though he worked the late shift — and Stiles has realised that he messed up. Other than that, they’re physical relationship is as good as dead. To be honest, all other aspects of their relationship are as good as dead, too.
It was fine for a while. Derek assumed that it would last for a few weeks, maybe a month at most. He’s been busy with work at times before, which had forced their relationship to take the backseat for a few weeks. However, it’s been three and a half months and Stiles doesn’t seem to cut down on his gaming time.
Sighing, Derek takes Stiles’ shoes off and tosses them towards the doormat, before pulling a ratty old blanket over him. It’s difficult not to feel neglected, but he makes sure to save Stiles’ game progress anyway, before shutting the laptop and going to bed.
Four months ago, Stiles would already be in bed and the sheets would be warm and welcoming. Stiles would mumble when Derek got into bed, and perhaps wake enough to say welcome home and move into Derek’s side, before falling back asleep. Tonight, much like all the other nights for the past three and a half months, their bed is cold and made exactly like Derek left it this morning. He lies staring up at the ceiling for almost an hour, before he’s able to fall asleep, knowing he has to do something about this.
When he wakes up, Stiles is gone, in class probably, because for some reason he’s still capable of finding time for those. Which is good, of course, because college is important. There’s not even a note on the kitchen table. Derek skips breakfast and decides to grab a bagel at the Dunkin’ Donuts next to the station instead.
Usually, Stiles sends him texts throughout the day. Sometimes it’s because he wants to know something, but most of the time, they’re just random nonsense that make Derek’s chest ache now that his phone lays dead on his desk. The first few weeks, he had tried sending a few sporadic texts himself, and sometimes he got short replies. Most of the time, however, he would come home to Stiles’ phone lying on the coffee table, texts still unread. Derek gave up on texting completely a month ago.
He tries to stay positive, however. Friday is their three-year anniversary and Stiles has never missed them. He even used to celebrate every monthly anniversary before they reached one year together, and Derek was always the one who remembered last minute. He’s ninety-nine percent certain that that hasn’t changed, at least.
Turns out that he’s wrong. He works until eight on Friday evening, and picks up the red velvet cake he’s pre-ordered from the bakery on the corner on his way home. It’s Stiles’ favourite. Derek’s not really all that fond of red velvet cake, but the look on Stiles’ face every time Derek surprises him with it is worth all the sugar-induced nausea in the world.
His heart is thumping excitedly in his chest as he takes the steps two at a time. There’s this swelling feeling behind his ribs, the anticipation of knowing that things will be back on track after tonight.
But the apartment is empty and dark when he opens the door, and the excitement he felt a second ago shatters, leaving him feeling empty and broken. There’s a last, weak spark of hope that quickly dies when he texts Stiles:
< Where are you?
And gets the reply (which in itself is surprising):
> Gaming at Scott’s this weekend. See you Sunday.
It feels like his legs give in. He sinks down on a kitchen chair, hiding his face in his hands. The red velvet cake is in its box on the table, and he can’t help but feel incredibly stupid. So naïve for thinking that bit of cake would solve anything. His throat feels tight, like he’s about to cry, but mostly he just feels angry. With himself for the most part, for not realising where things were going, but a bit with Stiles, too.
Instead of trying to drown himself in the shower, he grabs the cake box and his car keys, before driving over to Scott’s without even changing out of his uniform. He’s got his heart in his throat as he walks up the stairs, not nearly as enthusiastic as when he was climbing the stairs to his and Stiles’ apartment twenty minutes ago. It takes several minutes from when he pushes the doorbell to when Scott opens the door. He looks surprised to see Derek there, and when he sees the box in Derek’s hands, his eyebrows climb in confusion.
“I just came to drop this off,” Derek says, pushing it into Scott’s hands.
“What is it?”
“It’s red velvet cake.”
“Aw, man,” Scott beams. “You rock! Stiles and I love red velvet cake!”
It feels like his chest is going to crack open. “Yeah, I know.”
Derek nods his goodbye and turns to leave, and for a second he really thinks he’s going to be let go that easily. But of course that’s not the case.
“Hey, what’s wrong?” Scott asks, and sounds like he just knows. Sometimes Derek wonders if Scott’s got a sixth sense for other people’s feelings.
When Derek turns around, facing him, Scott has a small frown on his face, and his eyes are big and searching. Derek opens his mouth, not sure what to say, and then he just shrugs instead. “It’s…There’s nothing you can do.”
He gives Scott a weak attempt of a smile, before he turns around again and heads down the stairs. The apartment feels even more empty when he comes home this time. Even though Stiles’ things are scattered around the place, it feels abandoned somehow. Like Derek’s the only one left there. He gathers Stiles’ things in a small pile on the coffee table; his notebooks, his pencils, his stupid water bottle that he refuses to throw away even though it’s leaking water, and a few flashcards that Derek helped him make six months ago. He removes Stiles’ Marvel mugs from the kitchen cabinets and his collector’s lunch box, and puts them on the coffee table as well.
He feels oddly calm while he’s working. As if he isn’t gathering Stiles’ things for him, so that it’ll be easier for him to move out again. He doesn’t break until he gets to the drawers in the bedroom. For a long moment, he just sits on the foot of the bed, staring down at Stiles’ t-shirt drawer. He goes through the stacks without taking any of them out, pausing when he comes to the shirt Stiles wore on their first date. And it feels like his chest is being ripped open, when he finds the cardigan he lent Stiles on their third date at the bottom of the drawer, hidden underneath shirts Stiles never uses. Stiles has claimed that he’s lost it during all this time.
He closes the drawer again. Stiles will be gone all weekend, so Derek will have time to pack up the rest of Stiles’ things tomorrow. When he walks back out to the living room, he avoids looking at the coffee table, and concentrates on putting away his gun safely, because he’s completely forgotten that he still has his uniform on. As he’s toeing off his boots just inside the door, it suddenly bangs open, causing Derek to stumble back in surprise. When he looks up again, Stiles is standing there, panting hard and his face red, like he’s been running. There’s something wild in his eyes that Derek hasn’t seen since that time he took a bullet to the shoulder on the job two years ago and Stiles came barging into the hospital.
Derek just stares at him, unable to do anything else, and Stiles stares back.
“You only buy red velvet cake on special occasions,” Stiles says suddenly, his voice cracking slightly over the last two words.
“Yeah,” Derek manages.
“I forgot.” Stiles’ bottom lip juts out suddenly, trembling, and it’s like Derek is watching his heart break. He looks so small and fragile. Terrified. “I never forget.”
Derek hears himself draw a shaky breath, and it feels like his lungs are going to explode. “Yeah,” he says again, because Stiles has never forgotten before this.
“You forget,” Stiles continues, and his voice grows quick, almost frantic. “You forget. But I… I never forget.”
Derek only looks at him. Stiles’ bottom lip continues to tremble, even though he bites it, even though he seems frustrated with the way his voice wavers.
“Fuck,” Stiles whispers under his breath, staring at Derek and there’s still panic in his eyes. “Fuck,” he adds, when he tears his gaze away and notices the pile of things on the coffee table.
It feels like Derek’s brain isn’t quite connecting. Like he’s not really here, but watching from afar.
“I saw that cake,” Stiles says, and his hand is shaking when he reaches out for Derek’s, stopping just before their fingers make contact. “I saw that cake, and I even ate two bites of a slice before I realised.”
Stiles rubs a hand over his face furiously, and when he looks up at Derek again, his eyes are brimming with tears. “I’ve messed up so bad, Derek. And the worst part is that I haven’t even noticed!”
A sound slips out before Derek can stop it. It’s small, and sounds a bit broken. Much like Derek’s feeling right now. Exactly like Stiles is looking right now.
“I left Scott’s, and when I was in the parking lot I realised that I forgot my car keys, so I ran here, and all I could think about was that I don’t even remember the last time I kissed you. I don’t even remember when we had a proper conversation. Or when I’ve had to kick you in bed, because you stole the blankets again. Because I haven’t fucking been in bed with you. I’ve been sleeping on the couch or when you’ve been at work. And it’s all because of a game. A stupid fucking game.”
Stiles draws a shaky breath, rubs a hand over his eyes and his shoulders start sagging now, his eyes growing less desperate and more afraid. Terrified.
“Do you know what the worst part is?”
Derek shakes his head.
“That I don’t even know if I can make it right again. Because I love you so much, and I’ve let you forget that. For four months.”
“Three and a half,” Derek corrects automatically.
“I want to make it right,” Stiles whispers.
And Derek crumbles. “Me, too.”
Stiles starts nodding frantically. “Yes?”
“Yeah, why do you think I bought that cake?”
Stiles makes a sound at the back of his throat, and when he steps into Derek’s space, he does it so tentatively like he hasn’t done in years. Derek still feels a little numb, like he doesn’t dare to start hoping yet, because in a second he’s going to wake up in their bed, alone, and it’ll all be a dream. But then Stiles kisses him, his hand coming up to curl around Derek’s cheek and it’s like he’s punched a hole through Derek’s chest and forced himself through.
Derek sucks in a breath and kisses back, and when Stiles presses up against him, it feels as though he’s being shattered and then but together all at once.
“I’m so sorry,” Stiles whispers against his lips. “I’m so sorry. I won’t do that again. Ever.”
“I know,” Derek manages, pulling Stiles tighter against himself.
And then Stiles’ hands find their way under Derek’s uniform shirt and the fly to his trousers, and to his own. Derek doesn’t know exactly how it happens, but his lips are swollen and raw, and he’s got Stiles pressed up against the door, grinding their bodies together, while Stiles has a hand around them both, working them rough and quick.
“I love you,” Stiles gasps, head thumping back against the door as Derek sucks a mark to his neck.
Derek comes before he has the chance to respond, and Stiles follows a moment later, groaning loudly with his head buried in Derek’s shoulder. They stay there for a while, Stiles panting against Derek’s throat, fingers clutching so hard at the fabric of Derek’s unbuttoned shirt that he wouldn’t be able to move away even if he wanted to. He doesn’t want to.
“Please don’t make me leave,” Stiles says quietly, when Derek feels like he’s slowly coming back to reality.
“I won’t,” Derek promises. “I can’t.”
Stiles kisses him again. Slower, this time. More gentle. “Thank you.”
They go to bed together after that, and Derek feels like he’s going to break apart when he curls around Stiles under the sheets, with the way their bodies fit together in such a familiar way, and still it feels slightly foreign. Stiles whispers nonsense in his ear until the numbness in his brain and body fades away completely, and he falls asleep.
When Derek wakes again, it’s to the smell of freshly baked scones and noise from the kitchen. Stiles’ side of the bed is still slightly warm, and the blankets are folded down. Because he’s been here. With Derek.
When Derek pads into the kitchen, he finds Stiles standing there in boxer briefs and the cardigan he stole from Derek. He looks up when he hears Derek coming, and there’s still a glint of worry in his eyes, and his smile is a bit hesitant, like he still isn’t sure that Derek really wants him there.
But he does.
“Good morning,” Derek says and Stiles’ smile grows a little wider.
“I’ve missed you,” Derek whispers when he’s close enough to pull Stiles against him. “I love you.”
“And scones,” Stiles says quietly against his cheek. “You love scones, too.”
Derek smiles. “That’s true.”
“So what do you want to do today?” Stiles asks as he’s drinking his coffee a while later.
“We should probably head to Scott’s to pick up your things.”
Stiles shrugs. “I don’t need any of it until Tuesday, when I have to study a bit.”
“Don’t you need to tell the people you’re playing the game with that you won’t be there for a few days?”
Stiles grimaces. “Naw, they won’t die without me. Or, I mean, they might, but there are more important things that I need to spend my time on,” he says as he locks his feet around Derek’s under the table.
Derek wouldn’t say that things between them turn magically great again within two days. But when they finally do, it’s even better than it was before. Stiles never forgets again, and neither does Derek.