Derek used to like Valentine's Day, when he was younger
It was always an event in the Hale household
His parents made a big deal out of it with eachother, always telling the kids the story of how they met
Laura and Cora grew out of it but Derek used to listen with enthusiasm every year, even when he was seventeen and had sort of memorized every detail by then
He loved the magic of it
The amazingness of finding your soulmate and falling in love
He used to fantasize about falling in love one day, until he was seventeen and true love was nothing but a pain in his chest
He misses that though, even though he's mostly still got the story memorized, he misses hearing it every year
People assume that when someone is hurting over Valentine's Day it's because they miss their ex, but for Derek, it's because he misses his family
It's a painfull reminder, just like most other holidays
Halloween, Christmas, (and his birthday) New Year's Eve, Mother's Day....
It all hurts
But Valentine's Day is a special kind of hurt
Valentine's Day doesn't just remind him that he's alone, an orphan with no family, but it reminds him that he's also alone
No girlfreind or boyfreind
Not even a FREIND freind...
Over the years that sting in his heart has changed, it's gone from a stabbing pain to a dull ache to finally an all-consuming melancholy
And Derek thinks that one is actually the worst
The emptiness he feels when that .. that special kind of loneliness strikes... it's almost impossible to describe...
This was one of those days when Derek wanted to just cheat at adulthood
Where he wanted to stay locked up inside and not have to act like a reasonable person or .. you know... exist...
And he rarely let himself do that, only on holidays, because everyone else got to take the holidays off so why not him?
Valentine's Day was one of the hardest holidays for him to get through, he wanted to just sleep away as much of the day as he could
But despite being utterly exhausted- just a few days ago he and Stiles had tangled with a gang of trolls and he still hadn't recovered his sleep yet- and it being absolutely freezing outside- even for a winter day- he couldn't manage to sleep that much
He spent more of the day wandering the house aimlessly, haunting it like a ghost, than he did doing anything remotely healthy or productive and even though he tried to excuse it by it being a *holiday* he still just ended up feeling bad
Because that was the thing with Derek, as much as people teased him about not being a real, productive member of society, he actually felt bad about it more times than not
Like he should be doing something important with his life but whenever he TRIES he just gets slapped down so hard that it takes three years for him to wobble to his feet again and then just gets smacked down even harder
He remembers the last time he had a job, tending bar in New York with Laura
He remembers how he had held it down for seven months, had gotten into it just a few months after turning 21 and came to find it surprisingly pleasant
Being a werewolf in a bar had it's negatives for sure- the noise, the smells, the people...
But there were also benefits- he was good at it, people didn't mind his silence or lack of personality and just called him a "good listener", he could tell when someone had had enough so he never got in trouble for over-serving or serving underage and...
And it was one of the least lonely jobs he could have
He remembers how he was finally starting to SETTLE back then
How in those seven months he had talked to Laura about opening a used bookstore like she had been wanting to do for the last five years and how it seemed like the right time- FINALLY
They had started looking at places the week she died
He remembers the last time he felt like he was doing something worth doing, hunting the Desert Wolf with Braeden, only to fall into a trap with Kate for the umpteenth time and finally return to find Beacon Hills set ablaze in a fire of agony and death and the few people he had left in this world to care about hanging on one thin, raw, frayed nerve
He remembers those times whenever he starts thinking about making himself more of a person and less of a ghost and it makes him want to retreat even further
He's thinking about it, in fact, as he unwraps a mini Kitkat and stands over the sink wile he eats it, mostly so the cold tile of the kitchen floor will keep him awake long enough for him to go back upstairs because it would be his luck that sleep finally decides to take him when he's in the middle of the kitchen
It's in this moment, as he's swallowing a mini Kitkat and trying to keep a chill running along the bottom of his bare feet, that he hears the door open
One inhale tells him who it is- not that he needs to even go that far, he only has one person in his life who uses their key
"What are you doing here Stiles?" he called as he walked out of the kitchen and towards the front door
Stiles is in the doorway with two pizza boxes and a backpack
Because ofcourse he is
"Don't you know what today is?" he asked in an accusatory manor
"Valentine's Day?" Derek sighed
"What? No, ok well... yeah that too but it's The Walking Dead!! The Walking Dead day Derek!"
Somehow it feels kind of good knowing that Stiles' priorities are on zombies and not romance but he could tell that Stiles wasn't at all sincerely surprised to find out it was also Valentine's Day
"I brought pizza and goodies and we're going to watch the premiere together like two sensible people,"
Stiles is already in the kitchen by the time Derek gets around to asking that
"Wat do you mean 'why'? Because it's The Walking Dead and it requires a premiere party?"
Derek inhaled, the scent of pizza waking him up a little more as he trudged to the counter and sat down in front of it, swaying slowly on the swirvy barstool and watching Stiles unpack everything
"A premiere party with two people?"
"Yes, as a matter of fact, I would have invited Kira but Scott sorta took her away from me tonight,"
"You would have invited Kira but not Scott?" he asked in confusion
"Scott doesn't do zombies, Kira is the reigning zombie queen,"
Derek just grunts again, putting his head down in his arms as Stiles sets a zombie-head-shaped tin on the counter and Derek can faintly smell the aroma of cookies inside it
"Why do you want to spend tonight with me?"
Maybe it was his exhaustion, maybe it was because this was the first Valentine's Day in three years that he saw another person's face and he didn't know what to do with it
"I'm sorry are you suddenly forgetting the How To Get Away With Murder celebration we had Thursday? I brought cupcakes you know, I come over here often enough that I should just move in,"
Derek stopped himself from saying "Yeah, you should"
He had long ago stopped trying to figure out why and how he had become Stiles' TV buddy
And his movie buddy
And his book buddy
He had become Stiles' freind, his best freind who was still in town, given that both Scott and Lydia were over three hours outside of Beacon Hills attending different colleges on different sides of the state
Stiles staying behind to go to the police academy had surprised everyone but Derek
He was a natural detective and in a town like Beacon Hills his skills- especially the less legal ones- were of higher need than they were in a big shot town like San Fransico and Derek easily saw how Stiles filled the footprints his father was leaving
And that was the other thing
Even if Stiles hadn't wanted to become a cop he would have found another reason to stay in town
After last year Stiles can't bare the thought of leaving him in Beacon Hills for even a few days, much less weeks or months at a time
Some people called it "stuck" but Derek called it "having a place to belong"
Stiles wasn't STUCK- if he was stuck, he would complain
Stiles had a place where he felt needed, something to keep him going, a reason to stay anchored somewhere
And Derek, as someone with absolutely no strings tieing him down to any one place in the world, spoke from experience when he said he would so much rather be "stuck" somewhere, than having no place to stick to
Stiles could never leave this town, not as long as his father was here, and once he became a cop he would probably feel too attached to the place to leave even then
Derek could leave
He could go anywhere, go everywhere, and never have a reason to come back
Never have anyone asking him to come back
Never have anyone look for him
Although, he considered, as he glanced up at Stiles
Maybe that wasn't entirely true
"I don't get what you're asking," Stiles finally said as he put a big bag of cheap candy on the counter
"I'm asking why you're spending Valentine's Day with me, eating junk food and watching a zombie show, instead of being out doing ... Valentine things," he finally explained
Stiles shifted uncomfortably, setting his bag on the floor even though Derek could hear that it wasn't empty
"Yeah well, why are you spending Valentine's Day in sweatpants and what barely counts as a shirt sitting around so that I CAN come over here and watch a zombie show with you?"
"You know why,"
"So do you,"
Derek sighed heavily, pushing back from the counter and stepping onto the floor
"No, Stiles, I don't, I don't know why you're here with me instead of out on a date somewhere,"
"Maybe because I like you more than some stranger that I met through sketchy means and I'd rather get comfy and eat pizza and watch The Walking Dead than put on uncomfortable pants and go to some fancy place and buy food that tastes gross because it's 'fancy' just to please someone I don't know?"
There was a tense silence in the room for a few moments and Derek decided to respond to that by going upstairs and putting on a real shirt
"That's a bad deal, why do people even CONSIDER deals with Kevin anymore?"
At 8:23 on Valentine's Day Derek finds himself sitting on the couch watching Friday night's episode of Shark Tank and eating pizza with Stiles
It's the best Valentine's Day he's had in over a decade
"Desperation," he mumbled out before taking a long drink grape soda
Stiles makes some kind of offended noise in the back of his throat and picks up his Daryl water bottle to drink whatever the hell he has in it- Derek vaguely thinks it's Coke- before leaning back and scratching his cheek
"What happened to your lip?" Derek asked absently, having noticed a small cut on the side of Stiles' lip
"What? Oh.. I don't remember, I woke up this morning and when I yawned it split open, I've been chewing on it ever since,"
"Ever think maybe you should stop that?"
Stiles snorts, obviously unamused
"Oh God I hate this commercial, how high do you have to be to come up with Puppy-Baby-Monkey? God that's more disturbing than anything I've seen in this town,"
Derek sits up a little straighter, eyebrows raising
"Ok well... except Greeberg's butt but I'm not going into that,"
Derek nodded his understanding, reaching out and picking up a zombie cookie
Another commercial is on, advertising some other TV show, and he recognizes the song in the background as one that he heard on the radio alot when he was trying to make the old Hale house livable a few years ago
It's a stab of nostalgia that he could have done without and he isn't sure what kind of face he makes but he feels a sudden surge of loneliness and depression like his hormones had suddenly nose-dived
"Have you ever seen Hannibal?"
Derek figures the face he makes must be pretty bad if Stiles is trying to distract him already
"The TV series I mean, not the movies,"
Derek shook his head, he was completely removed from pop culture for three years and had only been dabbling in it for several years before that, Stiles was forcing him into it now but he wasn't really complaining
"Oh man it's amazing, it has an actual slow burn gay romance that actually has NOTHING to do with sexuality, it's beautifully done, it's treated like every other relationship on TV instead of screaming 'Hey guess who's gay?' at the top of it's lungs, and that's just the tip of the ice berg, the most stunning visuals you'll ever see and philosophy and poetry in every single WORD, plus it has that gorgeous creep factor that gives you chills but doesn't really scare you and it's just amazing, so clear your schedule for next week 'cause you're gonna binge it with me after I get home from the academy,"
"I have a schedule to clear?"
Stiles puts his pizza slice back in the box and wipes his hands on his sweatpants (because he really had no right to criticize Derek's pant-wear before) and scoots closer, tossing one leg over Derek's and straddling his lap, keeping his hands firmly on both sides of Derek's head as his fingers dug into the couch
"Hey," he said sternly
And it's not even slightly romantic because Stiles has pizza on his breath and his lip is still a little worse for wear and there are bags under his eyes because Stiles hasn't slept well in years
But Derek feels a shudder all the same
"Don't do that," Stiles continues, his gaze firm and holding
"Don't do that to yourself," he adds a second later
And Derek swallows because he doesn't want to think about this
This is supposed to be his safe space
He's supposed to be allowed to to make self-disparaging comments and get away with it
And that one was more of a fact than anything
"Derek I mean it,"
"What? I'm just allowed to never be productive because I've had a crappy life?"
"YES!" Stiles huffed
"You aren't.. Derek, you need to breathe, when's the last time you had more than two months of being able to breathe without a life-threatening situation rearing it's ugly head?"
Three years ago, but he won't give Stiles the satisfaction of saying it
"Besides, you're extremely productive, who the hell else keeps all the monsters away at night?"
Derek closed his eyes, shaking his head, and Stiles huffed with frustration
"You may not see it, but I do," he muttered, reluctantly climbing off of Derek and going back to his own side of the couch
Derek thought that would be the end of it at first, but then a moment later Stiles is shoving his phone in his face and before Derek can ask what the hell and WHY the hell he sees a marching band of cartoon cats going across the screen and poorly played music in the background
At first Derek has no idea why Stiles is showing him this, but then by the time the little yellow cat with the big drum starts playing he finds himself actually smiling
And it only takes a few seconds before he's giggling, trying to cover his smile up with his hand only for Stiles to reach out without even moving his eyes off of the screen and forcing Derek's hand away
And by the end of the minute-and-a-half long video they're both sitting on the couch giggling and smiling and Derek doesn't get WHY but... well... it sort of just happened...
And then they're back to watching Shark Tank and eating pizza and somehow things feel a little bit lighter
"Oh! Here!" Stiles says a few minutes later, leaning over the back of the couch and grabbing his backpack
Derek watches him curiously as he puts the bag in Derek's lap and nudges him to open it
He stares at Stiles curiously at first but ultimately goes along with it, reaching into the bag and pulling out a little black teddy bear holding a heart-shaped box full of Reeses with a card attached
Stiles just nods enthusiastically and so Derek opens the envelope, a little confused by the contents
The card had a poodle on the cover that said "Valentine's Day" and when he opened it, it said "The poodle of holidays (You know what I mean)" and written beneath it "Will you be my poodle? -Stiles"
"Wow, somehow this actually makes sense, Valentine's Day IS like a poodle,"
"So... are you asking me to be your Valentine?"
Stiles licked his lips, fidgeting a little
"Yeah... yeah I guess I am,"
Derek was quiet for a moment, giving a slow nod
"Ok," Stiles grinned back
And just like that things were back to normal, never really missing a beat
At 8:48 on Valentine's Day Derek finds himself struggling to open a heart-shaped box of Reeses wile Stiles refills their drinks in the kitchen
"So, if you could do anything in the world, what would it be?"
The last time Derek was asked that question was when he was thirteen and had to write a papper on it for school
He had talked about traveling
Going to see everything everywhere and take pictures and make a huge scrapbook of his travels to show his future children
He's twice that age now and he's just begging the world to give him a place to call home
"I don't know," he finally shrugs, talking his grape soda from Stiles and submitting to the fact that he cannot in fact, open the box
"Write a book?" he offers a moment later, glaring as Stiles easily detaches the box from the teddy bear and opens it
He expects Stiles to laugh because Derek is bad with words and as much as loves reading he can't picture himself writing but instead Stiles just nods, almost empathically, and hands the bear back to him as he snags up a peice of chocolate
"Go for it, what do you have to lose?"
He does have a point, why not add one more to the ever growing list of failures in his life?
"I guess," Derek shrugged, taking a peice of chocolate from the box
It's a little after nine o'clock now on Valentine's Day and Derek and Stiles are on the edge of their seats as some "cracked nut" (courtesy of Stiles) threatens the lives of Abraham and Sasha
It's exactly one minute later when Stiles screams in delight as the group of "overgrown mushroom fungi" (still courtesy of Stiles) are blown up
And not more than a few seconds later when Daryl Dixon emerges from behind the truck "like a ray of morning sunlight" (surprisingly courtesy of Derek) does Stiles do something utterly surprising
He gives Derek a victory kiss
He stuns him, the way he pulls him into a quick, sloppy, gone-too-fast-please-more-not-enough kiss and then lets go abruptly
It's Derek who tugs on Stiles' sleeve during the opening credits, staring at him pleadingly but too afraid to initiate a kiss himself
And when Stiles leans over this time, it's calm
It's soothing and soft
It's closed eyes and gentle lips and arms around his neck
And when Carl gets his eye shot out it's Derek who goes on a profanity laced tirade as he lays with his head on Stiles' chest and it's Stiles who rubs his back and agrees with everything he says
It's one in the morning, technically the day after Valentine's Day, when Stiles crawls into Derek's bed and mumbles about how glad he is that the next day is President's Day and he has nowhere to be
And they sleep until late the next afternoon because somehow they find it easy to sleep with the other near and the blankets are too warm around them and it's too nice keeping the cold away
It's during the season six finale' of The Walking Dead that Derek asks Stiles to move in with him and Stiles says yes
It's on Valentine's Day the next year that Stiles proposes to Derek and it's two months later during the finale' of season seven of The Walking Dead that Derek shyly presents his fiance' with a draft of the book he's been writing- a story about a magic-weilding superhero falling in love with his werewolf arch nemesis and convincing him not to destroy the world because of the power of love or something like that, Derek actually isn't all that sure how to describe what he wrote but Stiles is enthusiastic and Derek decides to try getting it published, and to keep writing even if he doesn't succeed because it makes him feel good- it's therapeutic, and Stiles is excited to read anything Derek has touched
And it's on Valentine's Day every year that they repeat the tradition of eating pizza and watching The Walking Dead, they always do something "romantic" on the 13th so the 14th is free
Every year Derek tells their children about Papa and Daddy's first Valentine's Day together and when he ends up being asked after a few years why they never actually asked eachother to be boyfreinds- why it just sort of happened- Derek didn't really know how to answer it
Stiles told him later that it would have felt wrong to interrupt something like that with more talking, like being in a lovely transcendence and suddenly becoming self-aware of it and just like Valentine's Day being a poodle it makes sense, even though it doesn't sound like it would
Derek still remembers the story his parents told him and he tells Stiles and their children that story too
And although Valentine's Day will always have that little bit of melancholy to it, it's been vastly overrun by now by a much stronger sensation thanks to Stiles: