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There Are Many Ways to Say ‘I Love You’

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Winter brought the coldest nights to Beacon Hills, and with a large glass window that almost ran the full length of their bedroom wall, it was hard to keep the heat in. An old white space heater sat in the corner of the room, but the controls were finicky; it didn’t switch off once it reached temperature and it would often to overheat the room.

Derek had his natural body heat to keep him warm, but Stiles often felt the full force of the bitterly cold winters.

Derek had tried sleeping with the heater on, but it would quickly get unbearable, and the two of them became restless. So, he got creative; he bought Stiles an electric blanket, small enough that it would only heat Stiles’ side of the bed, but it broke.

Derek laid awake, listening to Stiles toss and turn.

The young man would curl into a ball beneath the pile of sheets and thick blankets, shivering as he fought to stay warm.

Derek let out a soft sigh, rolling over and shuffling across the mattress until Stiles’ back was pressed against his chest. He reached around the young man, enveloping him in his warmth. He nuzzled his face into the curve of Stiles’ neck, feeling Stiles turn slightly and press himself further back against Derek’s warmth.

Stiles’ shoulders dropped as he exhaled, letting out a content hum as he melted into Derek’s arms.

Derek craned his neck, pressing a soft kiss to Stiles’ temple.

“I love you too,” Stiles muttered sleepily.

 

. . .

 

Stiles rubbed at his sleepy eyes as he made his way into the kitchen, shuffling onto the bar stool by the bench and watching Derek move about the space.

“Morning,” Derek greeted as he set a mug of coffee down on the bench before him.

Stiles beamed up at him, his voice quiet and lethargic as he muttered, “Mornin’.”

Derek turned back to the percolator, poring himself a cup of coffee.

Stiles lifted the mug to his lips, inhaling the rich smell of the fresh coffee beans. He took a sip, tasting the sweetness of the sugar and cream. “How do you do it?”

“Do what?” Derek asked, glancing over his shoulder at Stiles.

“How do you always make my coffee perfect?” Stiles took another sip before setting the mug down on the counter. “I do the exact same thing you do, but it never tastes the same.”

Derek bowed his head to hide the smirk that lifted the corners of his lips.

“Only you can make my coffee the way I like it.”

Derek poured his coffee into a cup and carried it over to the bench. He set it down and leant forward, brushing his lips across Stiles’ in a sweet, chaste kiss.

Stiles smiled, a soft pink blush colouring his cheeks. He drew in a deep breath, the sweet smell of pastry drifting through the air. Stiles glanced over Derek’s shoulder at the oven, his eyes widening with joy. “Are you making fresh croissants?”

A sweet smile played across Derek’s lips. “With chocolate.”

Stiles beamed, looking at Derek lovingly as he said, “I love you.”

 

. . .

 

Derek slid the spatula under the pancake and flipped it over. The pan sizzled as Derek grabbed a plate. When it was ready, he slid the pancake onto the plate and added chocolate chips and berries – the way Stiles liked – just as Stiles dragged his feet into the kitchen.

Sleepless bags hung under his dark eyes, his gaze clouded and lethargic. His eyes were still red from crying.

Derek had sat up with him all night, holding him close as he cried and whispering to him that it’d all be alright.

“Melissa called,” he muttered, his voice raspy. “My dad’s stable. They’re moving him out of intensive care and she’ll call me when he’s conscious.”

“That’s good to hear,” Derek said, trying to sound reassuring.

The phone call last night had shaken them to the core; Stiles’ dad had been shot. He had been rushed to hospital and Melissa had begged Parrish to let her tell Stiles; he’d take it better coming from her, and she’d be able to answer any questions he had. She had kept him updated, telling him when his father was out of surgery and when he had been moved into intensive care, what damage the shot had done and what they’d need to do moving forward.

“If you want, I can drive you to the hospital so you can sit with him,” Derek offered. “That way, you’ll be there when he wakes up.”

Stiles shrugged as he sat down in one of the dining chairs, resting his elbows against the table and hanging his head in his hands.

Derek set the plate down in front of him, gently pushing it forward.

He heard Stiles snort.

“Bunny pancakes?” he asked, looking at the small stack of rabbit-shaped pancakes with chocolate chips for eyes and a strawberry for a nose. He looked up at Derek with a raised brow. “Seriously?”

Derek shrugged, hiding his smirk as he slid the bottle of syrup across the table to Stiles.

A sweet smile lifted the corners of Stiles’ mouth, the sparkle returning to his eyes as he flicked back the lid to the syrup and poured a sickening around over his plate. He cut into the sweet, fluffy pancakes and stuffed them into his mouth.

“If I go to the hospital to sit by my dad’s side, will you stay with me?” Stiles asked after a moment.

“Of course,” Derek replied softly.

Stiles glanced up and met his gaze, smiling.

Neither of them had to say it; it was written across their faces, in the look they shared.

I love you.

 

. . .

 

Stiles hated family get-togethers; it was just hours of tense conversations that were only a few words from escalating into volatile arguments. His grandfather had never approved of his dad, and family get-togethers usual erupted into arguments. Most of the times it was bearable; Stiles’ grandmother was quick to separate the two men and would keep them apart until they calmed down, and Stiles usually had Derek there to reassure him it’d be okay.

But Derek wasn’t there this time: he was in New York on a business trip, which meant Stiles was on his own.

As usual, things blew up over dinner.

Stiles felt the numbness creep in as the fight started. He could only hear the muffled sound of raised voices, the sound of a shattering glass and fists thumping against the table. But everything fell silent as Stiles shoved back his chair.

Everyone around the table stared at him for a moment, but he said nothing. He stepped around his seat and walked out of the dining room, making his way through the familiar halls of his grandparents’ house and out onto the front porch.

The fresh air crashed over him, bringing his senses back to him as he drew in deep breaths of sweet pine. He blinked the tears from his eyes as he collapsed on the steps, digging into his pocket to pull out his phone.

A message from Derek lit up the screen with photos attached.

Stiles unlocked his phone and opened the messages, snorting as he struggled to smother his laughter.

Derek had sent him at least twenty photos of puppies he had found on the internet; a Dalmatian with a black mark in the shape of a heart over its nose, a golden retriever with its tongue hanging out the side of its mouth, a scruffy border collie pup prancing about, a Jack Russell puppy curled up asleep, and so many more—for no reason other than he knew it would make Stiles smile.

Stiles scrolled though all of them, wiping away the tears that rolled down his eyes. After a while he typed back a reply.

Thank you. I really miss you.’

Derek sent another photo: a puppy holding a sign that said, ‘I LOVE YOU’.

Stiles smiled as he replied, ‘I love you too.

 

. . .

 

Stiles sat on the edge of the counter in the bathroom, his head bowed as he looked down at the red welts that gathered on his knees.

Derek was quiet, his face stern and his eyes full of anger as he dug through the cupboards. He pulled out bandages and antiseptic wipes, setting them down on the counter beside Stiles.

“Hold up your arms,” Derek said, his voice gruff.

Stiles looked down at himself. The skin from his elbows to his wrists was shredded, blood welling near broken skin and the pale flesh coloured in smears of blue, black and red where bruises were beginning to show. His knees worse; the skin was torn open in gashes, streams of blood seeping into the torn fabric of his pants.

“Are you mad at me?” Stiles asked.

“No,” Derek said, although the edge of his voice suggested he was.

Derek tore open one of the small, square packets. The smell of antiseptic burnt at Stiles’ nose, making him squirm away.

“Hold still,” Derek growled. He began to wipe at the cuts, making Stiles wince as the antiseptic burnt. “Tell me again, how did you manage to do this?”

“There was a cat stuck up in a tree,” Stiles said as if it answered everything. “I wanted to help it get down.”

“And then there was a Stiles stuck up a tree,” Derek finished.

“I got down,” Stiles argued.

“You fell down,” Derek corrected. “You’re lucky you didn’t break anything.”

“You are mad at me,” Stiles said.

“Yes, I am,” Derek admitted. “You don’t heal like we do, Stiles. If you get hurt…”

“I’m sorry,” Stiles said softly.

Derek let out a deep sigh.

“But I got the cat down,” Stiles added quietly.

Derek rolled his eyes, fighting the smirk that played across his lips. “You’re an idiot.”

“I love you too,” Stiles replied.

 

. . .

. . .

 

The two of them sat at the lookout, staring out across the dark abyss that was Beacon Hills at night. It was a peaceful oblivion that stretched across to the horizon, a pool of onyx in which the few scattered houses, storefronts and streetlights that glittered in the darkness mirrored the starry sky above like a reflection on the surface of a lake.

They sat on the hood of Derek’s car, spooning mouthfuls of cheap sundaes into their mouths.

When he was finished, Derek set the empty container aside on the hood and slid to his feet. He turned to face Stiles, drawing in a deep breath as he fought to calm his racing heart.

“I love you, Stiles,” he said.

Stiles blinked in surprise; he had never heard Derek say those words.

He couldn’t help but smile as Derek stumbled over his words.

“I love how smart you are, how kind-hearted and selfless you are. I love waking up to you every morning. I love hearing you laugh, and I love seeing you smile. I even love the stupid nicknames.”

Stiles set his sundae aside, shuffling forward on the hood so that he sat in front of Derek.

“There’s a Japanese phrase: koi no yokan,” Derek continued. “It doesn’t mean love at first sight; it’s closer to love at second sight. It’s the feeling when you meet someone that you’re going to fall in love with them. Maybe you don’t love them right away, but it’s inevitable that you will. And I did. The day I met you on the reserve, I would have never thought I’d fall for you, but I did. I love you, Stiles, and I want to spend the rest of my life with you. Stiles Stilinski…” Derek lowered himself down to one knee, holding Stiles’ hand in his as he looked up at the young man lovingly. “Will you marry me?”

“Yes,” Stiles said without hesitation. “A thousand times, yes.”

Derek rose to his feet, wrapping his arms around Stiles, bringing their lips together in a passionate kiss. As he drew back, he met Stiles’ teary gaze, his voice soft as he said, “I love you.”

Stiles blinked back his tears as he said, “I love you too.”