The pillow was a joke. They were on sale, and Kira is a mega talented artist, okay? She had offered, and Stiles was like, “Hah, make me one of my super hot boyfriend so I can cuddle something while he’s doing his field research in Alaska.”
Derek’s off collecting data in Denali National Park on wolves’ migration habits, and he’s spending the whole summer being bitten by mosquitos and sleeping on the ground and waking up at the crack of dawn. Stiles misses him terribly, wonders if he would miss him more if Derek was in an area with reception and could videochat with him regularly, but as it is Derek’s off in the backcountry and climbing mountains and being ridiculous, and Stiles is stuck here in Beacon Hills finishing off his last round of classes at the police academy.
Derek, the romantic goober, had handwritten him a set of letters and they’re all equally sappy. Stiles loves them all dearly, loves that Derek had the idea to have the post office hold them and mail them once a week while he’s gone.
He loves Derek most of all.
Which is why he’s surprised when Kira actually makes the damn thing.
He likes it.
He likes it a lot.
Stiles actually has had trouble sleeping ever since Derek’s left. They’d only been living together for two months before Derek had to leave for his research, and that was enough time for Stiles to get used to cuddling every night. He misses the solid weight of Derek’s body, kissing Derek good morning, waking up in his arms.
The pillow is ridiculous, completely over-the-top. Stiles thinks it’s hilarious. Kira’s rendered Derek in a cartoon style, perfectly capturing his quizzically grumpy expression, and the almost-shy way he appears to be laying down on the “sheets” in the pillow art. It’s a good-sized pillow, nowhere near as big as Derek himself, but… it’s a comfort, having it in the bed. Stiles throws his arms and legs over it, snuggles it and falls right to sleep. He washes the cover in the same detergent Derek uses, and it’s almost enough.
Good enough that he can actually get some rest in and make it through the day.
The only problem is the cat.
See, Derek’s had Nikki for years. He loves that cat, has had her ever since she was a stray kitten that he nursed back to health after rescuing her from the streets. Nikki hates everyone except for Derek. She’s never warmed to Stiles much, all during the time he and Derek have been dating. Derek’s says she’s just shy.
Stiles thinks she’s just a jerk and hates his guts.
Sharing the apartment with her while Derek’s been gone has been challenging. Stiles feeds her and refills her water bowl and changes her litter, but she seems to flat out refuse to acknowledge him. She hides in corners, eats furtively, sits up high on the bookshelf or the kitchen cabinets, watching him, judging him.
Stiles buys her toys, brings her catnip and treats, and still Nikki remains indifferent.
Until he brings home The Pillow.
Stiles doesn’t notice until he’s getting ready for bed after a day at work and then lounging in front of the TV, but Nikki’s sitting right on pillow-Derek’s crotch.
“Hey,” Stiles says crossly. “That’s my pillow.” He tugs on the corner, but Nikki doesn’t move, just curls up in a ball of black fur and closes her eyes.
“Come on, you have a perfectly good cat bed over there,” he says again.
Nikki still doesn’t budge. She sleeps on her cat bed sometimes, but occasionally she’ll snuggle up to Derek, and on one memorable morning Stiles woke up and she was in his face. Stiles was so surprised he’d shrieked, and then Nikki was startled and hissed right back at him.
Since Derek’s been gone she’s gone back to sleeping in the cat bed, and all but ignores Stiles.
This is new. And a bit alarming; Stiles won’t admit it, but he’s still slightly terrified of the cat.
“Fine, you better not scratch me,” Stiles says, gingerly climbing into the bed. He manages to get the comforter out from under the pillow and tucks himself in.
He turns on his side, and can’t get comfortable, can’t fall asleep. He really wants Derek, but he’s got the next best thing.
Stiles reaches for the pillow and then he hears a sharp, “Mrrrooww.”
“Come on, you’ve got an entire bed to sleep on!” Stiles grumbles.
The cat refuses to move, and Stiles is too tired to deal with it. He falls into a restless sleep until his alarm goes off.
Stiles rubs his eyes blearily and sits up. Nikki is asleep, curled up on pillow-Derek’s lap. “This is a one-time deal,” Stiles says sternly. “This is my pillow.”
Nikki just stretches a little, completely oblivious in her slumber.
Stiles gets back from training and his shift shadowing and is puttering around the kitchen, throwing a dinner together. He goes into the bedroom to change into sweatpants and notices Nikki is on the bed, on the pillow. She isn’t asleep, just stretched out and yawning, eyeing Stiles territorially.
“Absolutely not,” Stiles says. “When I’m ready for bed you need to relinquish the pillow. Derek. Is. Mine.”
Nikki cocks her head at him, giving Stiles a Look that suggests judgment.
“Mrow,” Nikki says defiantly, and curls up on pillow-Derek’s lap. She closes her eyes.
Stiles finishes his dinner, watches an episode of Leverage that turns into two, three episodes, and he yawns. He heads to the bedroom and is not surprised to see Nikki is fast asleep on his pillow.
Stiles grabs pillow-Derek by the cartoony foot and gives it a hefty shake.
Nikki wakes up, hissing, and then the claws are out—
“Ow, ow, ow, okay, you win,” Stiles says, and he will never admit this to anyone but he cedes the entire bed to Nikki and goes and sleeps on the couch.
He wakes up with a crick in his neck and a sore back, and is silently seething about it all through work.
He gets home full of determination. Also bribes.
This should be great. Stiles has never seen Derek bring home catnip for Nikki before, so Nikki’s about to have the time of her life. He brings home a whole little potted plant of catnip and sets it on the kitchen window sill, feeling very proud of himself.
Stiles plucks a bit of it, reading the instructions, and goes about rubbing it on every single cat toy he can find. He grabs one of Nikki’s favorites, a plush turtle, and brings it to the bedroom, where sure enough, she’s sitting on pillow-Derek’s lap again.
“Hey, Nikki!” Stiles says, waving the toy around.
Nikki raises an eyebrow and completely ignores it.
“The hell?” Stiles mutters, turning to the Internet for answers. Various Google searches for “why doesn’t my cat like catnip” and scrolling through various forums yields the result: there are many cats who are just… not affected.
“Fuck,” Stiles mutters.
He sleeps on the couch again.
Stiles has brushed his teeth, he’s in his jammies, and he’s tired and he just wants to cuddle Derek. Since Derek’s in Alaska, the next best thing is to cuddle pillow-Derek, and this is the last time he’s going to be thwarted because of a cat.
He may still be a little terrified of Nikki.
Okay, chalk that up to plenty terrified.
Still, he’d rather sleep on the bed. “Hey, do you wanna share?” he asks.
Nikki doesn’t respond, just gives him a long-suffering look.
“Alright then,” Stiles says, and he crawls into bed. He throws an arm over the pillow hesitantly, and when nothing happens, he considers it a success.
He falls asleep easily.
Stiles wakes up not to his alarm, but to a weight on his bladder. “Ow, what the fuck,” Stiles exclaims, sitting up.
“Mrow,” Nikki says, peering up at him.
At some point during the night she’d moved from pillow-Derek’s lap to Stiles’, and now she’s giving him a demanding look.
“Alright, alright,” Stiles says, and he gets up and uses the bathroom, then goes and refills her food dish. It’s still dark out. It’s 4:32 am. Seriously.
He gets back in bed, pulls pillow-Derek close to him and falls back asleep.
Somehow, after that, things settle into a truce between Stiles and Nikki. She sits in pillow-Derek’s lap more often than not, but sleeps in the bed and allows Stiles to cuddle the pillow when he needs to. She even comes out into the living room and winds around Stiles’ ankles when he’s cramming for the written exam, and he absentmindedly reaches down to stroke her. Sometimes she’ll join Stiles on the couch while he’s watching TV and she’ll headbutt his thigh until he starts to pet her. It’s a good compromise, Stiles finds, as he can sleep in his bed and cuddle pillow-Derek, or Nikki, who is soft and furry and warm.
Stiles is checking his mail on Saturday when he frowns. Usually he has a weekly letter from Derek by now. He flips through his post again— bills, spam, spam, more spam, a postcard from Scott and Kira— no letter from Derek.
“Mrow?” Nikki asks questioningly.
“Supposed to have a letter from Derek today,” Stiles says. “He wrote a whole bunch of them before he left, didn’t let me see any of them, and then told the post office to hold them and mail one once a week.”
“Mrow,” Nikki says, like she agrees it’s a good idea.
“Yeah, I know.” Stiles reaches down and scratches her behind the ears.
“Mrow, mrow mrow?”
“You’re right, I’m gonna go down to the post office, maybe they forgot to send a letter.”
Stiles waits in line patiently, waves hello to Mrs. Simmons who is mailing like, forty (okay, four) packages to her grandchildren, and then finally it’s his turn.
“Hey, you know how Derek asked you guys to hold a bunch of letters and send one once a week?”
Erica pops her gum. “Yes, I know.”
“I didn’t get a letter today. Did you guys forget?”
She shakes her head, a little grin on her face. Stiles doesn’t know what that means but he doesn’t like it. “That’s all the letters, Stilinski.”
“All the— no way. Derek isn’t getting back until August 27th and it’s only the first, there’s no way he wouldn’t have written me enough letters!” Stiles says angrily. “Where are the rest of them?”
Erica sighs. “Go home, Stiles.”
“No, Erica, you don’t understand—”
Erica gives him a steely-eyed glare. “Go. Home. Trust me.”
Stiles turns the key in his lock. “Kitty! Where are you, kitty-cat? I’m exceptionally sad right now and I would like some cuddles and pillow-Derek’s not gonna cut it.”
Nikki scampers out from the bedroom, and Stiles picks her up without hesitation, stroking her soft little head. She starts purring, vibrating against Stiles’ chest, going limp with contentment as he slumps onto the couch.
Stiles is contemplating starting up Netflix and ordering pizza to wallow in his sadness when he notices something.
One— the bathroom door is shut, when Stiles left it wide open when he left the apartment (it lets in the most light to the living room).
Two— the sound of the shower is running.
He stiffens. What kind of person breaks into someone’s home and uses their shower?
Stiles grabs the first thing in reach— an umbrella from the corner stand— and stalks over to the bathroom.
“Mrow,” Nikki says, following behind him.
“Shhh,” Stiles says, putting a finger to his lips.
He flings open the door. Sure enough, there’s a person behind the curtain, and a crumpled set of clothing on the floor. Stiles grabs the curtain and yanks it open. “Alright, you—”
“Derek?” Stiles blinks, because that is definitely his boyfriend— naked boyfriend— standing in the shower, looking adorable with soap suds in his hair. He drops the umbrella and without thinking steps into the shower with all his clothes on, throwing his arms around Derek. “What are you— I thought you weren’t gonna be home for another few weeks!”
Derek hugs him back and kisses his forehead, and then pulls him in for a real kiss, slow and steady. It feels like the world is spinning too fast, and everything is wet and loud and confusing except it isn’t because Derek is here, Derek is home—
“I finished my project early and caught the first flight back home. Laura dropped me off and I wanted to surprise you— I went to the post office and picked up the rest of my letters and then I came home to clean myself up. I thought you were at work!”
“Derek, it’s Saturday.”
Derek laughs, and fuck, Stiles has missed him so much.
He tastes the same, soft and warm and he pulls Stiles close, slowly peeling him out of his wet clothes and Stiles later will not admit that he’s crying. It’s the shower, of course there’s water on this face.
Derek yawns, and then stops short at the sight of the bed. “Stiles, what is that?”
Stiles grabs the pillow quickly, blushing. “Ah, nothing, just Kira’s idea of a gag gift, you know, um—” he hurriedly tosses it aside, and it lands on the floor with a soft, defeated flump.
Derek looks at the pillow, then looks at Stiles, and instead of the look of judgment Stiles is preparing himself for, he promptly starts laughing. “Missed me, did you?” he teases, pulling Stiles into bed.
“You could say that,” Stiles admits easily, falling forward into a the happy tangle that is Derek and a mound of blankets.
In the end, Stiles gets to cuddle Derek. The cat can keep the pillow.