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Dream a Little Bigger (Darling)

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Stiles had plenty of experience with putting himself out there and getting shot down. That had been pretty much his modus operandi when it came to interacting with Lydia, from the first day of third grade right through the third quarter of their sophomore year. Weirdly, he'd stopped at that point not because that was when Lydia started dating a werewolf, but because he and Lydia actually started to become friends. After that she didn't pretend not to know who he was, and he didn't have to put much work into getting her attention.

But in those first seven years he'd learned a lot about putting in the effort and working up the guts to make the gesture. By now, a little more than a year after werewolves in general--and Derek Hale in particular--had become part of his life, making a fool of himself over his crush seemed like the least scary thing that was likely to happen on any given day. The internet searches involved were definitely the least likely to get him put on a watch list that he'd done in a while, and spending an afternoon in the kitchen fussing over getting something exactly right just because he wanted it to be perfect--and not because if he didn't get it perfect one of his friends would die--was actually sort of relaxing.

He spent the whole time cheerfully imagining the way he was going to get shot down. Derek had so many options available: the eyeroll, the laugh, the blank stare, the cutting words, maybe just a snarl or a flash of red eyes or claws. Maybe he would shove Stiles up against something, although Derek mostly seemed to outsource that to his betas these days. Stiles frowned into the saucepan, thinking about it, trying to remember the last time Derek had personally shoved him up against anything.

There had been the thing last month with the salamanders who periodically burst into flames, but that had been a kind of soccer-mom arm-across-the-chest maneuver. Shoving him into the wall behind them had been pretty much incidental. Derek hadn't even threatened to eviscerate him in months. Stiles didn't usually give him a reason to--they'd come a long way since the days when Stiles would even half-heartedly threaten to leave Derek or any of the werewolves of his acquaintance anywhere to die--but still. Threatening to kill him at least meant Derek noticed he was there. Maybe Stiles had been such a good little helper that Derek was starting to forget he even existed except as a research machine.

Stiles grinned as the chocolate reached perfect pourable consistency. That made now the perfect time to make a big dumb gesture. Stiles would get rejected with all due force, sure, but that would mean Derek actually noticed him, and Stiles could start his long campaign of slowly, patiently wearing Derek down. Even if they never got into the kind of shoving-up-against-things that Stiles only thought about in the shower or alone in his room when his dad wasn't home... maybe seven years from now they'd be friends or something.

In the meantime, Stiles was making the coolest valentine ever.

There was a pack meeting on Monday night, and Stiles figured that was close enough--plus he'd finished making Derek's valentine over the weekend and didn't want to wait another day. There was no point going out to the Hale house on actual Valentine's Day just to get his awesome present thrown in his face on the correct calendar square. Stiles had come just far enough in the pursuit of having dignity that he waited until the meeting was over and everyone else had scattered--along with their assorted lovey-dovey or terrifying-to-contemplate (both, in the case of Erica and Boyd) plans for the next day--before he pulled the little box out of the Jeep's glove compartment and went back to the house.

He didn't have to knock; he was on the third step up to the porch when Derek stepped out the front door, frowning in vague confusion. It wasn't exactly who are you and why are you here, but it was going there. Stiles had made his move none too soon.

"You didn't forget anything," Derek said, before Stiles could offer any explanation at all. "There's nothing of yours in the house."

"Okay, good to know," Stiles agreed, and then held out the box. "I was just bringing you this. It's early, but I thought why not seize the day, right? Well, what's left of it, it'll be dark in like five more minutes, but--"

Derek reached out and took it from his hand, frown deepening. "You brought me ammunition."

"Bullets!" Stiles corrected. "Wolfsbane bullets--" Derek was still looking down at the box, and he shook it, making the contents shift with a sound that--Stiles knew from his many and varied experiences of the past year--was not at all like the actual sound of a box of actual bullets, wolfsbane or otherwise.

"Not really, obviously, as you can tell. Chocolate wolfsbane bullets. With no wolfsbane either, except I drew little pictures on the--" Derek opened the box and pulled one out, holding up a little silver (well, shiny-side-of-the-tin-foil) bullet with a tiny drawing of wolfsbane on it. "Wrappers, yeah. I don't want to actually poison you, that's pretty much the total opposite of what I want, I just--I was thinking of that first time we really ever, you know, spent time together."

Derek lowered the bullet and looked straight at Stiles, his face still all tensed up and frowning. "When I was dying and you wanted to leave me in the street."

"Yeah, okay, but we've come a long way, right? And I didn't actually leave you in the street, and you didn't actually kill me, and I didn't even have to cut your arm off because!" Stiles made a little flourishing gesture at the bullets. "Wolfsbane bullets, man, they saved the day."

Derek looked back at the little silver bullet in his hand, using a fingernail to peel the foil back slightly. "But these are chocolate."

"Well, yeah, it's just, you know, symbolic. I mean, all the Valentine's Day symbols are kind of gruesome and violent if you think about it, right, like a bunch of hearts in a box, that's pretty much serial killer territory. And I'm not even going into the whole arrow thing, I mean, really. I don't want to, like, cast a spell on you or rip out any of my internal organs for you, I just want to give you something that makes life better."

Derek was looking back and forth from the bullets to Stiles now. Stiles felt a weird, familiar kind of adrenaline rush, anticipating the crushing rejection.

"For Valentine's Day," Derek said slowly. "You brought me chocolate wolfsbane bullets with no actual wolfsbane in them."

"Totally safe to eat, I tried some of the ones that came out in weird shapes," Stiles agreed, and then it occurred to him. "Oh, man, unless--is chocolate bad for werewolves? Or born werewolves, maybe, because Scott totally still eats M&Ms all the time, or--shit, or are you allergic to it, or--"

Derek did something slightly too fast for Stiles to follow with fingers and teeth, and then the silver foil was drifting gently through the air while Derek popped the chocolate bullet into his mouth. Stiles just watched--he had never actually imagined that Derek would go as far as eating the chocolates, because that seemed like kind of an advanced stage of present-acceptance--and Derek casually moved the box so that he caught the little torn foil wrapper in it.

"S'good," Derek said, mouth still kind of clogged with chocolate. "You made these, didn't you?"

"Yeah," Stiles said blankly. "Um. It's a. For Valentine's Day. Because I like you."

Derek nodded, picking up the foil wrapper from the first bullet and holding it up to catch the very last of the light from the setting sun.

"This is the part where you get offended, or laugh, or threaten to tear my throat out, or tell me you will never in a million years be my Valentine," Stiles prompted.

"I am your Valentine," Derek said calmly, like that was just--like--Stiles couldn't even compare it to anything else. His brain was totally frozen. Nothing like this had ever happened to him before.

"It's dark," Derek added, although there was still enough light for Stiles to make out his perfectly calm expression. "I'll walk you home."

"I, my Jeep," Stiles said, gesturing vaguely toward it, a tiny motion, because apparently his whole body was frozen along with his brain.

"I'll walk you to your car," Derek agreed, and he set the foil back in the box and put his free hand on Stiles's shoulder, turning him back toward the stairs. Stiles walked where Derek steered him, down the steps and back across the grass to where he'd left his Jeep.

Derek opened the door, and Stiles turned to climb in and then turned back. "What do you mean, you are my Valentine?"

Derek shrugged and waved the box of chocolate bullets slightly. "This was you asking. My answer is yes."

"But you," Stiles said, and then tried to think of a reason why Derek obviously wasn't interested in him. "You never...."

Derek shrugged again. "Neither did you. I'm the alpha, I couldn't ask you without the whole pack pressuring you to say yes. I didn't want to do that to you."

"But you had to know I was into you," Stiles insisted. "You--I mean, I know you can smell and...."

Derek smiled a little bit. "You're seventeen. I can tell what your body responds to, but that's not the same as what you want enough to ask for."

"Oh," Stiles said, dazed. "I really, um. I was really expecting this to take longer. I don't actually know what to do when somebody says yes."

Derek leaned in and touched his mouth to Stiles's, too fast for Stiles to do more than realize Derek was kissing him before Derek pulled away. "Now you get in your car, and go home, and tell all your friends you have a date tomorrow."

"All my friends are your pack."

Derek nodded.

"Wait," Stiles said, "Wait, I have a date tomorrow?"

Derek finally laughed, and it wasn't like anything Stiles had imagined at all.