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Empty Mattresses

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Cold, empty mattresses and falling stars
My, how they start to look the same

- I'm Low On Gas And You Need A Jacket, Pierce the Veil

It seems stupid. No, scratch that, it is stupid. He knows it is, but it’s just — it’s his thing, okay? It’s one of the few things that survived the Hale Fire, and sometimes when he breathes in with it close to his face, he can still smell his mom and Laura and his dad and aunt Carol, if he just imagines hard enough.

He has a plushie, a gray seal with only two whiskers left and one eye torn out. He’d called it Mr. Snuffles, because neither he nor Laura had been very creative kids and his parents had found it too funny.

He still sleeps with it at night. He tried to stop when he came back to Beacon Hills, back to Laura’s dead body and Peter’s insanity and two teenagers who’d probably die laughing if they found him with a plushie, but he couldn’t.

He’d had more nightmares than usual, and he hadn’t even noticed it until Stiles had pointed out the dark circles underneath his eyes, and that’s when he put it back in his bed, curling around it at night and cuddling it to his chest.

Laura had noticed in New York. Of course she had. She was an Alpha and his sister, she knew him better than anyone. She hadn’t confronted him about it, only smiled weakly when she saw him crying into its synthetic fur after a particularly bad dream. She’d even offered to bring it to him once, when he called her having a panic attack.

But Derek knows not everyone is as accepting as Laura was, even when they know his story, so he takes Mr. Snuffles to bed with him, but buries it underneath three blankets when he’s not sleeping.

It gets harder to hide Mr. Snuffles when he moves to the loft, mostly because his bed is in the same room as the rest of the furniture, and he can’t stop anxiously glancing over to his bed, just to check if no one’s found the plushie.

No one does. No one but Cora at least, because she used to steal it from him back when everything was okay and she probably knows its smell better than anyone else. And Cora might not be the small girl Derek knew her to be, but when she uncovers Mr. Snuffles with tentative fingers and tear-filled eyes, she looks exactly the same.

They fall asleep in his bed that night, tangled together with Mr. Snuffles in between them, clinging to each other with memories and broken dreams.

Eventually he stops fretting about it so much. He knows Cora told Stiles something about his past, because Stiles sometimes comes over with three pizzas and a soft, knowing smile and he smells slightly of sadness and on one hand, Derek wants to scream at Stiles to go away, that he doesn’t want Stiles’ pity, but on the other he wants Stiles to stay please stay please don’t leave me.

They ended up watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy the last time, Stiles pointing out what happened behind the scenes and Derek watching as his hands wave patterns only he understands. And, Derek realizes, for the first time in awhile he feels happy. Good.

That’s, naturally, when it all starts falling apart.

“Cora, goddammit, what did you do?” he yells, searching through his blankets again, throwing them off the bed, pulling it away from the wall.

“I didn’t do anything!” Cora shouts back, walking into the loft with two plastic bags in her hand. She puts them down with measured strength and Derek rolls his eyes. If there’s anyone who has the right to throw the groceries to the wall, it’d be him.

“Then explain to me,” he says, taking a deep breath before continuing, “why I can’t find Mr. Snuffles.”

Cora’s eyes widen for a second, her nostrils flaring as she scents the air before frowning. “Shit.”

She scrambles up next to him, lifting the bed, then the couch as she looks around, but it’s nowhere to be found. Derek can feel his stomach sink. He can’t — he can’t do this without Mr. Snuffles.

“Shit. Shit. Derek,” she says, hand stretching out, but he pushes back against the wall, away from her, away from everything. He doesn’t need her pity. He’s a grown man, he can function without a stuffed animal.

He tells Cora all this and the twist to her mouth tells him she doesn’t believe him. He doesn’t blame her. He doesn’t even believe himself.

“Dude, are you okay?” Stiles asks three days after Mr. Snuffles has disappeared and he’s over at the loft again, this time with takeout. Derek’s slowly eating an egg roll, crunching it between his teeth as he raises his eyebrow.

“You look—” Stiles waves his hand at Derek’s face, a stray noodle falling off his fingers which he cleans with a flush of his cheeks. “You look like you haven’t slept in days.”

Derek almost chokes, coughing as he swallows down the last bit of his egg roll. He wipes his mouth with the back of his hand, leaning back on the couch, pretending he doesn’t notice the worried way Stiles eyes him.

“I haven’t,” he says, voice a little hoarse as he coughs again. Stiles’ eyes narrow, his smell turning slightly sour, and he hands Derek a napkin. Derek smiles gratefully before coughing again. The frown on Stiles’ face clues Derek in on the fact that he wants to say something — of course he wants to say something, it’s Stiles, Stiles always wants to say something — but Derek just shakes his head and hopes Stiles gets it.

“Well, anyway,” Stiles says, when the silence goes on a little too long. “I brought Star Wars. The originals, of course, not the prequels, because those are shit.”

As Stiles rambles on about why the prequels were shit, and why Hayden Christiansen’s acting skills weren’t on par, Derek feels it again. A warm feeling in his gut, tugging at his navel as he feels his face turning soft.

He pretends he doesn’t hear the stutter in Stiles’ heartbeat.

Stiles spends even more time with him after that, something Derek thought hadn’t been possible. That’s not to say he doesn’t enjoy it; Stiles is the first person besides his family that Derek has ever voluntarily spent time with.

That being said, Stiles’ request is kind of… weird.

“You’re sure that’s what he said?” Cora presses, lips pressed together and frowning. Derek nods, throwing his head back. “He actually said he wanted to go to the gym.”

“With me,” Derek corrects, rubbing a hand over his face. “Which I don’t get because no one ever wants to go to the gym with me.”

Cora snorts and rolls her eyes, softly punching his shoulder. He opens his eyes to glare at her and she just mock-glares back, clearly unimpressed. It’s moments like these when he realizes how glad he is to have her back.

“That’s because you work out like a maniac, even by werewolf standards.”

“I just like it,” Derek mumbles, crossing his arms over his chest as he resolutely does not pout, because he is an Alpha werewolf and he’s better than that.

“I wasn’t judging you,” Cora says, but her blank face can’t hide the grin in her voice. Never mind. Derek wants her to go back. “Not out loud, at least. Now go set up a date with Stiles.”

She claps a hand on his shoulder as she stands up, walking away with a smirk on her face. Derek hates her a little for it.

“It’s not a date!” he calls after her but she waves a hand over her shoulder like she can’t hear him, which is a blatant lie. She might not be an Alpha but she’s still a werewolf. He spends a few minutes glaring at where she disappeared before he pulls his phone out of his pocket, typing a message to Stiles.

Derek: Is Saturday 7am good for you?

Stiles response is instantaneous and Derek spends a few seconds indulging in the fantasy of Stiles actively staring at his phone screen, waiting for Derek’s response, before he reads the message.

Stiles: see u then :)

Derek smiles before he can stop himself and he curses afterwards. It’s not a date. It’s not.

Sleepless night number three hundred fourty-seven, Derek thinks to himself. That’s what it feels like, at least. Cora had gotten him a replacement Mr. Snuffles a few days ago, but it doesn’t feel the same and it doesn’t smell the same and Derek still can’t sleep.

It’s so dumb, a grown man who can’t sleep without a plushie. A grown, Alpha werewolf who can’t sleep without a goddamn stuffed animal. He snorts when he imagines what the hunters would do if they found out that the key to defeating Derek is a plushie before his stomach sinks.

What if they had? He hadn’t told anyone about Mr. Snuffles, but it certainly wouldn’t surprise him if they’d somehow figured it out. They hadn’t taken pity on him when he was a teenager, and they weren’t going to do it now.

He hadn’t smelled any hunters here, and his alarm didn’t go off, so it’s probably nothing, but Derek can’t shake the paranoia that maybe, maybe, they had something to do with this.

He turns over onto his side, clutching his arms to his chest. Maybe if he tries hard enough he can fall asleep.

Saturday rolls around way too fast, yet way too slow. He’s maybe slept twelve hours total in the past week and he would skip out on exercise if he wasn’t supposed to meet up with Stiles and if he didn’t like it so much.

Though Stiles is the most important factor in the decision to go to the gym. Derek’s not going to look too much into that.

He’s sitting at the café across from the gym right now, sipping at his dolce latte as he glances at the clock. It’s 7:12am. If it were someone other than Stiles, Derek would’ve left by now, but countless pack meetings have prepared him for Stiles’ inability to get anywhere on time.

That being said, when Stiles plops into the booth opposite of him with a half-hearted apology and a yawn, Derek realizes he isn’t equipped to deal with a sleepy Stiles on a Saturday morning.

Stiles cracks his knuckles, tilting his head back as he yawns and exposing the long column of his neck and Derek can’t help the sudden onslaught of lickbiteclaim that shoots through him. One of the long fingers comes up to rub at Stiles’ eyes, and the bottom of his shirt rides up, revealing a dark trail of hair.

Derek swallows, looking away and taking another sip of his lukewarm coffee. Stiles looks soft in a way he hasn’t before, an unshaved patch of stubble on his cheek and Derek is left wondering when Stiles got so grown-up.

“I’m so not ready for exercise,” Stiles mumbles. “I don’t know how you can stand it. It seemed acceptable until I actually had to wake up. Do you have an ulterior motive for going to the gym at such an unreasonable time? Did you meet someone? Am I going to impose on some significant other time?”

Derek frowns, taking a few more seconds to take in how relaxed Stiles looks and filing that away for later, before downing the rest of his coffee and shaking his head. “No.”

“Really?” Stiles’ eyebrows shoot up, eyes widening in surprise. “You’d think someone would hit on you in the gym.”

“They do,” Derek says, shrugging as he runs a hand through his hair. “I’m just not interested.”

Stiles suddenly freezes, eyes shooting to his coffee, shoulders slumping forward. Derek bites his lip, stomach sinking, because he doesn’t know what he did wrong but it’s pretty clear he did something. God, he’s already fucking this up before it’s started.

“Right,” Stiles mumbles. “Gimme a second to drink this and wake up and then you can go show off your biceps.”

The only reason Derek likes to go to the gym on Saturday mornings is because practically no one but him and the employees are there. It’s virtually the only time he can work out without getting interrupted by people asking how he’s doing. Which, while flattering, is not what he’s here for.

The employees still stare at him, but that’s at least something Derek’s used to. He knows he’s conventionally attractive, and while the staring bothers him sometimes, it’s not something he can stop.

He smiles at Brittany, who’s always on desk duty on Saturday, and she smiles back blindingly. He can feel Stiles freeze next to him.

“Hey Derek, glad to see you’re back,” she says and Derek doesn’t miss the way her eyes dip down before focusing on his face.

“As always,” he says, handing her his membership card. “I’d like to take my friend in with me with a guest pass, if that’s okay? It’s his first time here.”

Brittany glances at Stiles, just a second, but Derek can see the — disgust? — jealousy in her eyes. He resists the urge to push Stiles behind him and growl at Brittany, because Stiles is his, Stiles is everything.

“Right,” Brittany says, her polite smile painfully fake after she’s scanned his card and handed Stiles his own, picking at her red nails. “Have fun together.”

“We will!” Stiles says cheerfully and Derek pinches his side. Stiles squawks and turns around, slapping a hand on his chest.

“You know she’s into you, right?” Stiles asks him. Derek grunts, lifting another weight. He doesn’t really care. Plus, her staring is annoying. But as long as it’s just staring, Derek is okay with it. He’d hate to have to file another complaint.

“I know.”

Stiles raises an eyebrow, looking at him inquisitively before glancing down at his biceps. Derek almost puffs his chest out, preening under Stiles’ appreciative gaze.

“You’re not going to do something about it?”

“No,” he says, shaking his head. He puts down the weights, gulping down some water as he wipes the sweat off his forehead. “She’s not really my type.”

Stiles nods and goes back to pretending he’s actually exercising. Derek doesn’t miss the small smile on his face.

“Ew, gross,” Cora says when he opens the door to the loft, wrinkling her nose in disgust. He drops his bag and toes off his shoes, sitting down next to her on the couch.

Derek tries to surreptitiously smell his armpits. “What? I showered, I swear.”

Cora rolls her eyes, focussing on her phone. She’s probably texting Lydia, like always. “I’m talking about the love-struck smile on your face. But the amount of pheromones you’re releasing is pretty gross, too.”

“I’m not releasing any pheromones,” Derek says, crossing his arms over his chest and pretending he isn’t pouting. Besides, he and Stiles parted ways over thirty minutes ago, and if he was releasing pheromones — which he wasn’t, shut up Cora — that would’ve stopped then. Cora’s just exaggerating.

“Whatever you say, bro!” Cora calls from the couch. Derek rolls his eyes and walks to the kitchen to get himself a glass of water. “You can pretend you’re not going to sniff the shirt you’re wearing all you want, but we both know that’s a lie.”

Derek doesn’t almost drop the glass. He doesn’t.

His phone pings in his pocket, and he quickly puts the glass on the counter to read the text — there’s only one person who sends him texts regularly apart from Cora, and Cora is too busy with Lydia to bother him right now.

Stiles: dude i’m hurting in places i didn’t know existed

Derek: You didn’t even do anything

Stiles: shut up man i strained my eyeballs trying to keep track of you

Derek snorts, putting his phone back in the pocket of his jeans and walking up the winding stairs to his bedroom. There’s something swirling around pleasantly in his stomach and it makes the corners of his mouth curl up despite his best attempts not to show anything.

“You’re doing it again!” Cora shouts from the couch.

“Shut up, Cora!”

The bed is too empty, even though Derek’s never really slept with another person in his bed before, except for Laura right after… after everything had happened. Laura’s gone, just like the rest of them, and there have been no partners, no one-night-stands, no one to bring home with him.

Nothing except Mr. Snuffles.

Derek misses him so much. The way he felt, the way he smelled, everything about him. He curls up on his side, arms crossed over his chest, the empty space between them a painful reminder of the fact that Mr. Snuffles isn’t there. It’s been almost two weeks now. Almost two weeks of nearly sleepless nights

“Oh dude, I’m so tired,” Stiles moans, slumping forward in his chair as he throws an arm over his face. Derek takes another sip of his scalding hot coffee to punish himself for watching the muscles in Stiles’ arm shift. He heals instantly anyway. “Can we like, go for a walk in the park instead of working out?”

Derek sighs, putting the cup back down on the table. He was kind of looking forward to his daily work-out, and he really does want to go, but — but he wants to spend time with Stiles. “Sure.”

Stiles peeks through the gaps between his fingers, amber eyes glinting in the sunlight. Derek swallows and pretends Stiles’ look didn’t make his mouth dry and his heart skip a beat. Thank God that Stiles isn’t a werewolf.

“Woah, dude, really?” Stiles asks, sitting a little straighter. Derek pushes his cup over to Stiles, careful not to nudge it too much and accidentally spill it. Stiles picks it up with a grateful smile and sips at, a pleased moan escaping him. Derek hopes he isn’t blushing too much and tries his best not to think about the noises Stiles is making or the fact that Stiles’ mouth is now where his was a second ago.

“On one condition,” Derek says, allowing the corner of his mouth to curl up in a smile. Stiles raises his eyebrows, wiping at his face with a napkin, drops of coffee scattered across his skin. Derek would think it’s gross, but… but it’s Stiles.

Stiles opens his arms, gesturing wildly around and slumping back in his chair again. He’s really going to injure his back someday if he keeps going like that. Derek doesn’t call him out on it. “Name it.” 

“Stop calling me dude.”

“Fine,” Stiles relents, rolling his eyes and swallowing down the rest of Derek’s coffee. Muttering, he adds, “For like the next five minutes, maybe.”

Derek pretends he doesn’t hear it and pulls out his wallet for a tip, when Stiles’ hand covers his. Derek’s fingers are broad, but Stiles’ fingers are long and slim and graceful, the pads calloused from the keyboard of his laptop. He has to remind himself not to freak out.

“Dude, I’ve got it,” Stiles says, putting a five dollar bill on top of the table before Derek can even think to protest, too distracted by the warm feeling of Stiles’ hand, the way Stiles’ fingers keep trembling, moving slightly over Derek’s skin, sending shivers down his spine.

Derek clears his throat after a while, when they’ve just been staring at each other, hands touching. Stiles instantly pulls his hand back and Derek pretends he doesn’t miss the touch.

“So, um,” Derek says, the tips of his ears burning. “About that walk in the park?”

“Yes!” Stiles yells, and the patrons around them look up in irritation. “Um. Walking. In the park. That’s what we’re going to do.”

There are two parks in Beacon Hills — even though one of them is the preserve so it doesn’t really count as a park — and they go to the one in the south of Beacon Hills. Derek hasn’t been there often: he spent most of his childhood running around in the preserve.

Stiles, however, is apparently well-versed of the ins-and-outs of the park, and immediately drags Derek to an ice cream stand.

“Isn’t it a little too early to buy ice cream?” Derek grumbles even as he pulls out his wallet, because Stiles is staring at him with wide, begging eyes and Derek — well, Derek is… Derek might be an Alpha werewolf, but he’s also just a man.

Stiles just rolls his eyes and grabs his wrist, long fingers wrapping around the bone and tugging him forward. Derek lets himself be pulled forward, too focused on the sensation of Stiles’ fingers on his skin, twitching slightly with each breath. “Dude, it’s never too early for ice cream! Besides, you just said you’d never had Joe’s ice cream before. That’s like, the most tragic thing I’ve ever heard.”

“It’s just ice cream,” Derek mutters, looking at the flavors through the display. He smiles when he sees pistachio — it’s always been his favorite. Stiles is practically vibrating with excitement next to him.

“See, that’s how I really know you haven’t eaten Joe’s ice cream. It’s not just ice cream,” Stiles complains, punching Derek lightly in the arm, and Derek bares his teeth at him.

“He’s right, kiddo,” a man in his early forties, presumably Joe, says, leaning over the display to smile welcomingly at them. “My ice cream is the best ice cream in Beacon Hills! Maybe even California.”

Stiles nods vigorously, and Joe’s smile grows wider when he sees him. “Stilinski! I haven’t seen you around in ages.”

“Yeah, I’m a bit busy nowadays with, well, y’know.” Stiles makes a hand gesture that will make Joe think about school, but Derek knows encompasses all the supernatural things that have been happening lately. He immediately feels his stomach sink, even though the dark circles under Stiles’ eyes are long gone.

“I see, I see,” Joe says, nodding, eyes twinkling. “Got yourself a little girlfriend, then, huh?”

“What?!” Stiles yells, involuntarily taking a step back. Joe raises his eyebrows at the noise Stiles is making, and Derek doesn’t blame him. Stiles glances at Derek from the corner of his eyes, eyelashes dark against his cheeks as he blinks a few times in embarrassment. “No, I uh. I don’t have a girlfriend. Or, like. A boyfriend.”

Joe nods, smile never wavering. “Whatever makes you happy, kiddo!”

Stiles shrugs, scratching at his elbow through the plaid he’s wearing. He practically reeks of shame, two spots on his cheeks a bright red. He refuses to look at either at them, and Derek feels sorry for him. He gets it, he does, but Stiles shouldn’t feel ashamed for his sexuality. Besides, a part of Derek is silently rejoicing at the fact that Stiles said ‘boyfriend.

Stiles hums. “And what if that something is some of your strawberry ice cream?”

“That’ll cost you two dollars,” Joe says, holding out his hand expectantly as he grabs the ice cream scoop like a weapon, ready to use it.

“Right,” Derek says, tearing his gaze away from the pink flush spreading over Stiles’ cheeks. “One cone with strawberry and one with pistachio, please.”

He puts four wrinkled dollar bills in Joe’s hand and Joe immediately goes to work on their order. They stand in awkward silence for a while, the tip of Stiles’ Converse scraping over the sidewalk. Derek wants to reach out and touch him, reassure him that it’s fine, but just when he feels brave enough to do it, Stiles seems to pull himself together, looking up at Derek with a small smile on his face, constellation of moles warping on his skin.

Derek’s heart doesn’t skip a beat. It doesn’t.

Oh my god,” Derek says, practically moans, going back in for another lick of ice cream. Why hadn’t he heard of Joe’s before? This is the best ice cream he’s tasted in ages. When he and Laura were in New York, after… after, they’d had a favorite ice cream place, but it was nothing compared to this.

Balancing his ice cream between his fingers, Stiles enthusiastically nods, wiping a drop off his cheek. “Dude, I know right?”

“For once I’m not even mad that you called me dude. This is delicious.”

Stiles snorts, another drop of ice cream landing on his nose as he grins at Derek. Derek ignores the soaring feeling in his gut and purposefully does not track the path Stiles’ thumb makes as it travels from his nose to his mouth. He doesn’t.

They sit in silence for a while, watching people walk by and listening to tweeting birds and driving cars. It’s nice. Derek can’t remember the last time he felt so comfortable in the company of another person. For a while all he did was he run and hide, constantly being chased by hunters or wolves or the cops.

Derek glances over at him. Stiles always seems so… open; a happy grin on his face and his hands waving patterns in the air and always talking, eyes warm and brown until… until they’re not. A shiver runs through him at the thought. He prefers Stiles like this: happy and comfortable and with Derek.

“How’s Cora?” Stiles asks when Derek’s half-done with his cone. Stiles is ahead of him, just by a little bit.

Shrugging, he licks at his ice cream again before replying; “Getting both more bearable and unbearable by the day.”

“Yeah, so is Lydia,” Stiles sighs, rolling his shoulders before leaning back against the wooden bench. “It seems now that they’re both in a relationship they simultaneously want everyone to get together and also want everyone not to be gross so they can be the grossest.”

“That’s… apt,” Derek says, trying to hide his smile behind the ice cream cone. Judging by the way Stiles sits up a little straighter, he isn’t that successful. He inhales, then exhales, trying to calm his pounding heart. Everything’s fine. Stiles has seen him at his worst. He’s probably imagining the way Stiles reacts to him anyway.

“Lydia hasn’t shut up about Cora for weeks, Derek. I am suffering .” 

Derek shrugs again. Cora isn’t that bad, but Derek really doesn’t talk much with Lydia. Stiles, apparently, does, which makes something ugly swirl in his stomach. He tells himself that he’s being irrational, that he shouldn’t care this much.

Then again, Derek’s never been one for combining rationality and feelings.

“Cora just pretends Lydia isn’t her girlfriend even though she reeks of puppy love.”

When Stiles’ mouth snaps shut, Derek’s scared he’s done something wrong (again, stupid, stupid), and he’s about to apologize when — when Stiles starts laughing. It starts as a giggle and then his shoulders are shaking with it, a full-body laugh, his head thrown back and even though Derek doesn’t know what’s funny he joins in.

“... Puppy love,” Stiles says eventually, eyes still filled with mirth as he pokes Derek in the shoulder.

“Shut up, Stiles.”

Stiles raises his hands in a mockery of innocence, a mischievous smile on his face as he raises his eyebrows. Derek doesn’t know if he wants to punch him or kiss him until he’s breathless. “You made the dog joke, not me.”

“I did not make a dog joke,” Derek grumbles, taking another lick of his ice cream to distract himself from pouting. He… made a dog joke. But it was a subconscious thing, so it doesn’t count.

Stiles laughs. “You fucking did.”

In retaliation, Derek smashes the remainder of his ice cream into Stiles’ face. The ice cream might be delicious, but revenge tastes sweeter.

“Derek, I—” Cora says, jumping down the stairs when he walks into the loft, but stops when she sees him. “Is that ice cream in your beard?”

Shit, had he missed a spot? Stiles had grabbed the ice cream off his cheek and smeared it onto Derek’s face and they’d broken out into a foodfight. Derek can still see the way Stiles had laughed, had thrown back and eyes twinkling with laughter and the skin around them crinkling. It’s probably the most fun he’d had in… in a while.

“... No.”

Cora frowns, then shrugs, and walks over to him, wiping at the ice cream still on his cheek, her fingers sticking to his skin. “I thought you and Stiles were going to the gym again?”

“We were,” Derek says, letting her clean him. It’s nice, this tentative familiarity between them. He’s missed this. Missed having a sister.

Raising her eyebrows, she tilts her head to the side. “But…?”

“But Stiles wanted ice cream,” Derek says. Cora’s bored look immediately turns into a smirk, and Derek knows he’s made a grave mistake by telling the truth. Not that he could’ve lied, but once Cora gets an idea in her head she doesn’t let go of it, no matter if she’s right or wrong.

“Ah, I see. You can’t resist Stiles’ wiles.” Cora’s grin is smug and if she weren’t his sister, Derek would’ve… would’ve done something, probably. The scruff might have hidden the blush on his face, but Cora still has a sense of smell, unfortunately.

He walks over to the couch, away from Cora (and her nose), but she just follows him. They sit side by side for a while, her feet pressed against his thigh. Despite how annoying she might be, Derek still loves her. He puts his hand on her ankle, gently massaging the bones. She shoots him a quick smile and leans back.

“So, Cora,” he says, pushing his thumb into her skin. “What did you want to tell me before you interrupted yourself?”

She immediately tenses up beneath him, muscles shifting under the pads of his fingers. “I’m staying at Lydia’s tonight,” she says, digging her toenails into his thigh and Derek winces a bit under the pressure. Her voice is assertive and no-nonsense and Derek would be sterner but… he gets it.

He might get it, but he can’t resist teasing at least a little bit. “Is this the part where you tell me you and Lydia are together?”

“Shut up, Derek,” Cora says, hiding her face in the crook of her elbow, but Derek could smell her embarrassment and contentment from miles away.

“I’m happy for you.”

For once, Cora doesn’t elbow him or throw some cutting remark his way. “I’m happy for you too.”

Derek smiles. He is… happy

It’s been two weeks since he lost Mr. Snuffles. Two weeks, filled with nothing but sleepless nights and… and Stiles. Stiles seems to have taken an unusual amount of interest in him lately, but, if he’s honest with himself, Derek doesn’t mind all that much.

Like right now: Stiles is hanging out at the loft while Cora is at Lydia’s, his homework taking up Derek’s entire table, papers strewn everywhere and a dozen pens scattered across the table and Stiles’ person, his scent taking up the entire space. He goes through the entire space in two minutes — from Derek’s bookshelves to his bed to the coffee table, until he has everything he needs and sits down. Derek almost forgets that he’s missing an integral part of himself.

He hasn’t gone this long without Mr. Snuffles in… in forever. It’s daunting. Like having to let go. He clenches his fingers around the edge of the book he’s holding, then he claps it shut. The only things he’s doing are looking at Stiles or thinking about Mr. Snuffles, so he might as well put it away.

He stretches when he stands up, and walks over to his bookshelf to put it away when he looks at his bed, scratching idly at his beard before his fingers fall slack.

There, right there on his bed, is Mr. Snuffles, balanced on top of his mountain of clean blankets, smelling like detergent.

He scrambles across the room to get to it, almost tripping over his own feet in his haste, but he can’t bring himself to care because Mr. Snuffles is back. Its fur is fluffy from being washed and as he holds it reverently in his palms he notices that… that the missing eye is sewn back on.

“Oh, I see you’ve found the plushie!” Stiles yells from the other side of the room, twirling a pen between his fingers. “Sorry the dry-cleaning took me so long, man, it was seriously filthy. You should take better care of it.”

And then he smiles, innocently, gently, the moles on his skin shifting like always, like he isn’t tearing apart Derek’s entire fucking world.

Derek drops Mr. Snuffles back onto the bed. It makes a soft thud when it hits the bed, but Derek nearly doesn’t hear it over the sound of his own heart beat. It’s — he doesn’t — Stiles? Stiles was… Stiles fixed Mr. Snuffles.

His footfall must be light, because Stiles doesn’t look up until Derek’s standing right next to him, and Derek doesn’t even remember how he got there but the only thing that he does remember is that Stiles fixed his plushie and washed it for him and Derek fucking loves him.

Then Stiles tilts his head up and presses their lips together.

It’s awkward, their backs bent like this, and Stiles is smiling against his lips, fingers fiddling with the collar of Derek’s shirt, pulling him down, and Derek can’t even think, because it’s Stiles and it’s perfect.

“I, uh—” Stiles says when he pulls back, Derek’s back twinging painfully as he leans down to put his forehead against Stiles’, but he can’t bring himself to care. “So I may or may not be in love with you.”

“Me too,” Derek says, his stomach doing flips and his chest filling with something unnameable, and he can’t help the giggle that escapes him, because here is Stiles and they just kissed and Stiles loves him back.

Stiles giggles too, his fingers stroking over the nape of Derek’s neck while his other hand slips down to intertwine with Derek’s.

“I love you,” Derek whispers, and he means it.

Epilogue:

“It’ll be okay, don’t worry,” Cora says from her place by the door, watching Derek check himself out in the mirror again and again.

Derek laughs nervously, wringing his hands together. His palm are sweating and he would wipe them on his pants if Lydia didn’t insist on keeping them as clean as possible, and he can’t run them through his hair either. He knows Cora is right, but he can’t help being nervous.

“What if he doesn’t come?” he asks, his voice wavering slightly. Cora smiles at him, her eyes crinkling around the corners, and steps forward to hug him again, trying not to wrinkle his suit.

“He will come, Derek,” she says, releasing him to smooth down his suit for the millionth time. It’s uncharacteristically gentle of her, but Derek knows that Lydia wants this day to be perfect, and Cora still wants to get laid tonight. “I don’t know if you noticed, but he absolutely adores you.”

She steps back, looking for imperfections, and smiles when she can’t find any. They both stopped calling Derek’s gray hairs imperfections back when Stiles was kicking up a fuss over it. Derek’s grateful for Cora’s presence: he probably would’ve run away if she hadn’t been here.

“I know,” he says, but flinches when another wave of anxiety crashes over him. “I’ve been asking him if he was sure since I proposed to him.”

“Then you don’t have anything to worry about, now do you?”

He rolls his eyes, more because he doesn’t know what to say than from annoyance. Cora tuts, shaking her head.

“Don’t roll your eyes at me, asshole,” she scolds, but he can see she doesn’t mean it. “Now go before you miss his entrance.”

He smiles, hugging her and kissing her cheek. When he lets her go and walks through the door, Isaac is standing outside.

“I almost thought you’d never leave that room,” Isaac teases and Derek hits his shoulder. Isaac smiles back at him and punches him back, tugging him along to the altar. It feels unreal, to finally be standing in the town hall and getting married.

He spots Cora next to Lydia in the crowd, holding hands, and Kira and Allison are talking excitedly, probably bonding over whatever Scott did. Scott’s standing opposite him, and he gives Derek a nervous smile. Derek almost laughs: Scott doesn’t have anything to be nervous over, he’s not getting married.

“Do you have it with you?” he asks Isaac, turning to face him. If Isaac doesn’t have it with him, Derek’s going to fucking kill him. After Lydia does, obviously.

“Of course I do,” Isaac says, pulling Mr. Snuffles out from beneath his jacket, the two golden rings on its back glinting in the lights.

When Stiles walks down the aisle, the Sheriff by his side and a huge smile on his face, everything else fades away and Derek stops worrying.

It’s going to be okay.