Valentine’s Day was everything Stiles hated about holidays.
It probably stemmed from watching his dad down a bottle of whiskey the first Valentine’s day after his mother died, but every time Stiles walked into a store and saw the overflow of pink and red, something in him twisted and he felt the overwhelming desire to walk straight back out.
Last year was the first year he thought about what it would actually be like to celebrate the holiday with someone, and that thought had changed his entire view of the holiday. Now, he could understand wanting to buy candles and chocolates for someone you loved, showing them how much they meant to you on one special day. This change happened because he had started sleeping with Derek.
At first, tumbling into bed with Derek had been a revelation; he had spent so much time focusing on relationships that he never considered how good it would feel to just be with someone who is a friend, someone who he didn’t have to pretend around. Derek had seen his worst parts, all of the insecurities and darkest places in Stiles, and their friendship grew because of this rather than in spite of it. Having mindblowing sex was just icing on the cake, and Stiles would have lived in blissful ignorance of anything more for however long it lasted.
Unfortunately, Scott McCall was his best friend, and Scott was nothing but a romantic who believed in true love and happily ever afters more than anyone Stiles had ever met. So when Stiles finally told Scott the truth about his late night visits to Derek’s loft, Scott had jumped in with hearts blazing.
“Dude, so you two are finally together? That’s great! I knew you would admit it eventually.” Scott beamed, and if Stiles weren’t so taken aback he would be smiling with him because of his infectious enthusiasm.
“Uh, I don’t know what you are talking about. Derek and I are just friends,” Stiles replied, watching as the light dimmed from Scott’s face from his words.
“But you’re sleeping together,” came Scott’s response, coupled with a head tilt that Stiles swore he had seen on the dogs at the vet’s the last time he went to see Deaton. Stiles sighed, questioning how Scott could be so oblivious.
“Sometimes when two people are friends who happen to find the other attractive, they sleep together but aren’t actually together.” Stiles finally stated, hoping against hope that Scott would just let it go so they could go back to playing video games.
“I know, but it’s you and Derek! Are you seriously telling me there are no feelings there?” And with that came Stiles’ rude awakening.
Because yes, he did have feelings for Derek, and no, he hadn’t wanted to know that. Sleeping with Derek was great because there were no expectations, but not that he had to acknowledge the truth, panic set in and he realized that this had been a mistake. Derek would never think of him like that and he would know in a second that something had changed.
Stiles had angsted about it forever, running through every scenario to see if there was any way Derek could like him back. But, the conclusion he came to every time made his heart hurt in despair; Derek needed someone good and kind, and that would never be Stiles.
So Stiles had left, packed his bags after Winter Break had finished, and decided that it was time to move on from Derek. It was no use wasting the next ten years on someone who would never love him back, he had already done that with Lydia. He ignored Derek’s texts and calls, going out every weekend to find someone to distract him.
He had learned years ago that life never gives you what you want.
February 14th was approaching, and with it came the realization that this would be another year that Stiles would spend alone. This time last year, he had been convinced that he could move on from Derek just by simply ignoring him, but he had been wrong. Everywhere he looked were things that reminded him of Derek, and everyone he saw just had something missing. One would have the wrong eye color, another wouldn’t have the exact definition of Derek’s arms, and everyone failed to communicate by eyebrows alone as effectively as Derek did.
He knew the truth now. Derek had found his way inside his heart, content to curl up there and never leave. And Stiles, for all of the pain it caused him, wanted nothing more than to continue to love Derek. He wanted to see him smile, bunny teeth poking out just slightly. He wanted to see him fight, muscles clenching as he defeated his enemy. Most of all, he wanted to talk to him, but he didn’t know how to explain to Derek why he went away without having to turn around and leave again. He missed Derek, but there was no going back now.
He dragged himself to his dorm, dreading the pile of work waiting for him. College was supposed to mean freedom, and instead it meant deadlines and sleepless nights spent regretting his decisions. His feet carried him to his dorm as his thoughts continued to spiral, not paying attention to his surroundings. As he turned to put his key into the lock, he was stopped by something solid and when he managed to look up his heart dropped into his stomach.
There, dressed in his heart-melting combination of wool sweater and thick-rimmed glasses stood Derek, looking the same as he had the last time Stiles had seen him. He hadn’t expected him to look different after only a year, but time had managed to fade the beauty that Derek exuded, fooling him into forgetting the range of colors in Derek’s eyes or the way his hair curled softly as the day wore on.
They stared, neither saying anything as Stiles tried to compute the fact that Derek was here. Before he could open his mouth to say anything, Derek beat him to it.
“Stiles,” he breathed out, and Stiles had never heard his name sound so elegant. When he didn’t respond, Derek continued.
“I-I wanted to see you,” and Stiles was shocked to see that he looked nervous underneath his gruff exterior, throat clenching dryly as he attempted to swallow.
Regaining his ability to breath, Stiles replied, “Well, you’ve found me, big guy. Is there something you needed?”
“I was going to give you this last year, but you were gone. I was just going to push it under your door, but the space wasn’t big enough,” and with that, Derek shoved a piece of paper into Stiles hands and brushed past him faster than Stiles could fathom. He looked down, trying to take in the paper before him.
It was a simple drawing, obviously a sketch but it was still breathtaking. Batman stood above Gotham with the bat signal in the sky, with gold writing proclaiming “No mixed signals here, you’re my hero!”. Holding his breath, Stiles turned it over and saw a similar image, this time with Batman standing in the center of the frame. Here, the words read: “I’m not the Valentine you want, I’m the Valentine you need. Be mine.”
For one heartstopping moment, Stiles wondered if Derek had done this as a joke, poking fun at Stiles’ feelings for him. But, if that were the case, why would he hold on to it for a year?
Stiles looked up, seeing Derek walk into the parking lot from the window nearby and he knew that he had to ask him. He sprinted after him, desperately hoping to reach him before he got to the Camaro. His breath left in sharp bursts as he ran out of the door, watching in despair as Derek unlocked the car.
“Wait!” he yelled, the sound coming out strangled from his lack of air. Derek saw him and looked away, but he stayed where he was, and Stiles felt hope flow through him.
“Did you mean it?” he wheezed out, hands on his knees as he tried to regain oxygen. When no reply came, he sought out Derek’s face, wanting to understand.
“You could’ve just told me you didn’t feel the same way,” Derek finally said, and Stiles finally understood what Scott had meant last year. Derek looked torn apart, oscillating between looking at him and looking everywhere else. His heart clenched when he realized how his absence must have looked to Derek, how he had lost all hope that Stiles had reciprocated his feelings, but still came to give him the drawing.
He rose, his legs feeling like jelly as he slowly stepped toward Derek. “I love you,” he said simply, unable to convey everything he had felt in the year since they were last together.
Derek finally looked at him again, eyes boring into his as he tried to find the truth in his face. “Yeah?” Derek questioned, and with Stiles nod a smile broke across Derek’s face, and Stiles had never seen anything more beautiful.
“Yeah,” he added unnecessarily, and he finally closed the distance between them to grab Derek’s hand. There would be time for them to clear up the misunderstandings. For now, simply being here with the guy he loved was enough.