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Derek heard him coming, and was rising from the couch to greet him just as Stiles unlocked the apartment door and slammed it shut behind himself. He found the young man leaning back against the closed door, banging the back of his head softly against the painted wood. Once Stiles saw Derek standing there, he took a deep, shuddering breath and pushed himself forward.

"I want it," Stiles said, face locked into an expression of absolute determination.

Pulse jacking up in an instant, Derek took a step closer. After all this time, had Stiles finally realized? Had he stopped chasing idiots who never deserved him? Derek licked his lips, unknowingly mirroring the exact way he'd suffered watching Stiles do it for five years.

Tearing off his hoodie, Stiles shoved his bared wrist towards Derek. "Go on. Do it."

Disappointment slammed into Derek with enough force to make him take back that step, moving away from Stiles and ensuring his features were schooled into something calm and unaffected. "You want the bite."

Stiles nodded, shaking his wrist a little and glancing between it and Derek. His brows furrowed in confusion as to why his alpha wasn't following through with the request with utmost haste. "Yeah. So. Go on."

Derek stared at him for a moment, then turned and walked back to the couch without resuming his seat. He heard Stiles make incredulous sounds behind him before scrambling to join him. The couch was comfortable, and Derek had been so wonderfully relaxed just a moment ago, all sprawled out and losing himself in a good book. That peacefulness was cracking and straining with an anxious Stiles hovering at his shoulder, and the bitter promise of another night filled with talk of someone else. Someone Stiles loved, who inevitably did not feel the same. "Go home, Stiles." The darkness outside turned his windows into mirrors, and he watched Stiles' reflection cringe back from his words. Stiles smelled like salty tears and sweaty embarrassment, and Derek didn't want to keep breathing it in.

"So." Stiles took a shuddering breath. "I'm even rejected in this. Seriously? Why? I'm good enough to be in your pack as a human, but not good enough to be a werewolf?" After a few tense seconds with no response from Derek, Stiles turned away with a sound of frustrated disgust. "Peter thought I was good enough. Guess I should have just taken the bite from him back when he offered it."

That had Derek snarling and whipping around to face Stiles. "I'm not rejecting you. You don't want to be a werewolf, Stiles. We've been over this. Repeatedly. You're always declining."

Stiles turned back towards him, squaring his shoulders and puffing his chest and stepping far too close. "Well maybe I've changed my mind, dickhead. Ever think of that?"

"Why?"

Derek's simple question made Stiles deflate and divert his gaze, cheeks flushing with remembered humiliation. "It seemed to help everyone else out," he answered in a mumble.

"Help them out with what?"

A frustrated sound was forced from Stiles' throat, and he rubbed both of his hands over his face until the skin was irritated and red. His eyes blazed when he looked back at Derek, and it had the werewolf tensing every muscle in his body to not reach out and take hold of what wasn't his. Could never be his. "You know what I'm talking about, Derek, so stop playing dumb."

"Stiles." Derek huffed and looked away, trying to gather his splintering thoughts and piece them into actual sentences. "The bite doesn't magically turn people into irresistible supermodels. If any of the pack seemed more appealing afterwards, it was due to increased confidence, nothing else." He locked eyes with the younger man, willing Stiles to take his next words to heart. "You have to just stop being so damn insecure about it. Those idiots you keep falling for are too blind to see everything you have to offer, because you are too scared to show them."

For a long moment, Stiles continued to glare at him, chest rising and falling in anger, until it all bled away and left nothing but hollow pain in its wake. "I thought it'd be different this time. That Mark would be different."

"Mark is in love with Richard. You knew that already, and I told you that it was stupid to keep chasing after people who were already involved."

"But they had broken up!" Stiles protested, raising his arms to emphasize his point. "Thus making Mark fair game."

Stomach roiling in disgust, Derek pushed past Stiles and stormed over to the kitchen area. He kept his back to the other man as he fetched a glass and filled it with water from the tap. Stiles continued to rant, going on and on about how smart and funny Mark was, how sweet and kind and totally not like any of the others. Mark got Stiles, got his abrasive wit and obscure references.

As far as Derek was concerned, Mark could take a long stroll off a short pier.

"Jesus fucking Christ, Stiles! I don't care." Slamming the glass down on the kitchen counter, Derek glared over his shoulder. He watched as all of the flushed animation drained from Stiles' face, leaving something blank and cold. Derek realized his error all too late, opening his mouth to address air as Stiles vanished back out into the night. The slam of the door echoed off the brick walls and high ceiling, ringing just as hollow as Derek felt.

-------

Derek could probably pick out Stiles' voice from a crowd even if he didn't have advanced hearing. That distinctive timbre, grown even deeper over the years, spiced with snark and sarcasm that had it alternating between flat and sharp every other breath. He zoned in on it across the campus quad, sifting through the static of hundreds of unfamiliar voices prattling on about useless things.

"Can you believe Professor Rydell? Ten fucking pages by Monday? Seriously? Yeah, because we don't have other classes that have all assigned us shit tons of coursework."

Someone laughed, the sound so much brighter than anyone Derek knew personally could produce. The laugh of someone who was literally free of cares, of someone who had never gone through Hell and came out burned but still swinging. He assumed it was Mark, and instantly realized why Stiles may be attracted to such a person. It slowed his steps, the realisation that Stiles would prefer someone untainted by so much darkness.

Once the young men were in view, however, Derek could not turn away, could not stop his feet from moving forward until he was right behind Stiles. For his part, Stiles was oblivious, chatting and laughing and smiling at an attractive black man with short, curly hair and dimples.

"Stiles."

He watched Stiles stumble backwards as he spun around, exhibiting a clumsiness that Derek knew would disappear in an instant if there was a threat. Over the years, Derek had watched Stiles grow into himself until that awkward teenager was nothing more than a shadow act brought out for self-deprecating comedic effect.

"Derek! What the shit, man? Why are you here?"

Mark was looking between them, dark eyes considering, but otherwise he remained silent and unobtrusive.

"I wanted to treat you to dinner. How we left things last night was unacceptable."

Wrong choice of words. Again. Stiles bristled and opened his mouth to snap some pissed-off retort, but Derek quickly stepped into his personal space and spoke over him. "I didn't mean to imply that I don't care about you. That's not what I meant at all." Derek willed Stiles to understand, to accept his offer and apology.

Mouth gaping for a moment, Stiles eventually snapped it shut and gave a jerky nod. "Kind of excessive of you to take the train all the way down here just to buy me dinner, but alright."

"I didn't take the train." Reluctantly, Derek took a step back, but his eyes remained glued to Stiles' face. "And I'm making you dinner. I thought I'd drive you back to my place after your classes."

Even with the din of the crowd around him, he heard Stiles' heartbeat slamming hard and fast against the young man's ribs. It made his own pulse accelerate, because he was foolish enough to hope that Stiles' reaction meant something.

"Classes are done," said Stiles, licking his lips and stepping forward so that they were once again standing within each other's spaces. "Where are you parked?"

Stiles didn't even glance back at Mark as they walked away, but Derek did. What he saw had him wanting to put a possessive arm around Stiles, but he settled for glaring as threateningly as he could without turning his eyes alpha red. The other man merely smiled, his eyes dismissing Derek and lingering on Stiles' retreating form.

-------

They had just passed the sign welcoming them to Beacon Hills, when Derek initiated conversation that wasn't about Stiles' classes or coursework. "So that was Mark." The only reason the steering wheel wasn't cracking under Derek's grip was because he had more control than that.

"Hm? Ah. Yeah, that was Mark. Hot like lava, right? Thus you see my dilemma."

"Actually, no; I still don't get why you think you'd need the bite.

Stiles heaved a massive sigh and slumped in his seat, turning his face to watch the trees blur past his window. "Of course you wouldn't understand how someone could possibly feel inadequate."

"Stiles." Derek clenched his jaw, then told himself to hell with it. "If your logic made any sort of sense, I wouldn't be alone. The person I've wanted for years would actually want me back." In his peripheral, he saw Stiles' head snap back to face him, but he didn't let that rattle him. "Obviously being a werewolf doesn't come with some supernatural ability of attracting the person you want."

Silence tried to fill the car, stretching and expanding like thick, oppressive smoke. It was cleared away in an instant by Stiles' voice. "No way," he said softly, barely audible over the sounds of the engine. Then, louder: "You're fucking with me. There is no way in hell someone's turned you down."

Derek wasn't sure if he wanted to snarl or stop the car and run away from this entire conversation. "Sorry to disappoint you."

"You're serious. Fuck, you're serious. Shit. Goddammit!"

The sudden vehement anger in Stiles' tone had Derek glancing away from the road to catch quick glimpses of his face. "Why are you so mad? Because your theory is shit?"

"Fuck you, no." They had made it back to Derek's apartment building, and Stiles was out of the car before Derek had it fully in park. "It's just," he continued, running long-fingered hands through his hair and grimacing at the setting sun. "There's someone out there who actually stands a chance with you, and she's just passing it up. Like, what a fucking bitch. Doesn't she realize what she could have? Fuck."

Derek followed him as Stiles continued to rant the entire trip up to his loft. It was amusing and more than a little bit heartbreaking. "I guess I'm just not his type," Derek finally said, once they were inside and Stiles was throwing his backpack angrily into a corner. "Which is what I've been trying to explain to you about all these dumbasses you keep pining over. You're better than they are, you deserve better, and the only reason they could possibly be turning you down is simply because you aren't their type. Everyone has a type, Stiles."

Stiles had gone frozen, though, his shoulders still tensed from throwing the backpack. "His?" The question was soft-spoken and strained, and Stiles didn't even wait for an answer before he was turning and staring at Derek as if the werewolf had just punched him in the gut. "Who is he?"

"Stiles." Derek turned away, his courage for the day reaching the dregs of its reserves. "I'm going to start dinner."

"No. Uh-uh, no way. I've told you every person I've had a thing for. I mean, shit, I've lost count of how many times I've crashed on your couch after a night of drunkenly blubbering my heart out about whoever's rejected me this time. No way are you just going to walk away after telling me you've been in love with some guy for fucking years."

"That ginger stir fry I make still your favorite?"

"Don't try to change the subject, especially when you already know the answer to that question, because of fucking course it is."

"What does it matter, Stiles?" Derek told himself not to look back at the other man, to just focus on pulling out the vegetables he needed to chop. "I've already accepted the fact that there could never be anything with him.'

"Why the fuck not? Is he straight?" Stiles was at his shoulder when Derek pulled out of the fridge and turned towards the cooking island. No matter how much Derek tried to ignore him, he wouldn't let up, moving with Derek and standing so close their body heats mingled.

"No," Derek finally grit out, doing his best to slice the peppers neatly and not fuck it all up. "He's just not interested."

"How do you know? Have you even told him how you feel?"

Derek flashed him a glare and made a slice so hard it left a gash in the cutting board. "I don't need to. He's always been interested in someone else."

"Well, that's dumb. You never know for sure unless you ask. Hell, even I ask, despite already knowing the answer. Doesn't mean I should ever stop trying, right? Because one day maybe I'll find someone with low enough standards to give me a shot."

Unable to suppress a snarl, Derek stabbed the knife into the chopping block and left it there as he turned to face Stiles. "Come here." Without waiting for a response, Derek started herding Stiles towards his bedroom, hand heavy on the younger man's shoulder.

Stiles ummed and glanced at Derek's unmade bed, his heart racing like it had on the quad. Derek was too busy fuming to fully focus on those details, though, instead drawing Stiles up to the full-length mirrors that paneled his closet doors. "Look," he commanded. "Look at yourself and tell me what you see."

"Are we seriously playing this lame therapy game?" Stiles gave Derek's reflection a very unimpressed look, and it was obvious he wasn't going to take any of it seriously. "I see a beautiful butterfly. Now can we get back to the subject at hand?"

"The subject at hand is that you are so fucking clueless that it frankly boggles my mind. I don't get how you can be so clever and brilliant at all of the pack's strategies, but you are this goddamn oblivious."

"Harsh, dude. What the fuck?"

"Do you know what I see, Stiles? I see a guy with a fit, toned body, and hands that make even the most normal of tasks look obscene. Jesus, don't even get me started on your goddamn eyes and your fucking lips. I'm not a poet, and I'm not going to write you a fucking sonnet. But, you are fuckable. You are extremely goddamn fuckable. Any man or woman who turns you down is so damn stupid that I fail to understand how they have enough brain power to even function. So, seriously, shut the fuck up already."

Stiles turned to him, eyes wide and heart beating so fast it was practically one long, continuous sound. "So, hypothetically, would someone like you actually want to fuck me?"

Derek sucked in a breath, fear and excitement and disbelief all at war with each other in his mind and preventing him from forming words. Stiles must have interpreted his silence as something else, because he watched the young man start shutting down and drawing into himself. "Never mind," Stiles mumbled, expression shuttered and shoulders hunched up. Derek was having none of that. Before he could stop himself, he was reaching out and grabbing those tensed shoulders and pulling Stiles close enough to finally--foolishly?--kiss.

Hands were suddenly all over him, tugging at his clothes and scrabbling beneath fabric to grasp at flesh. Stiles whispered, "Fuck yes," against Derek's jaw, and that was the final tipping point. They were stumbling together onto the bed, getting caught in their hasty attempts at removing clothing and stubborn efforts to keep lips constantly in contact with skin. Then there was no more clothing, and Stiles was arching up beneath him to rub the fronts of their bodies together in one smooth slide. "I haven't," gasped Stiles, short fingernails scratching at Derek's scalp and breath hot in Derek's ear. "With a guy, I haven't had a chance yet. Not the full ride, at least."

He must have felt Derek tensing up to pull away, because his fingers gripped liked talons to keep him close. "I want it. I want you. C'mon, Derek." His teeth toyed with the lobe of Derek's ear. "Fuck me."

Derek had to kiss him silent, then spend another five minutes just kissing him and pinning Stiles' body to keep him from rocking them together, or else it would all end far too soon. Eventually Derek felt he was calm enough to progress, and he pulled his lube from the nightstand. Beneath him, Stiles was panting, pulse racing, and his sweat was a confusing mix of nervous fear and arousal. "Relax," murmured Derek, positioning himself between Stiles' splayed legs. He tilted Stiles' hips with one hand, toying the slickened finger of the other against the rim of Stiles' hole. "I don't want to hurt you."

Stiles huffed a laugh, his head tilted back on the pillow and an arm draped over his eyes. "Christ, my life has become a bad romance novel. Be gentle with my maidenhood, good sir."

"I thought romance novels were all about ravishing." Derek watched as he worked one finger in, listening carefully to every sound Stiles made, voluntary and involuntary. "Doesn't sound very gentle to me." It was fascinating to watch his oiled finger slide in and out of Stiles, and he licked his lips as he stared. "How is it so far? You okay?"

"Fine." The Adam's apple of Stiles' throat bobbed as he swallowed. "I've done this much, at least, to myself. So, you know, mostly just trying to not cream myself at the thought of it being you who's touching me like this." At that admission, Derek stroked in deeper and firmer, delighting in the way it made Stiles gasp and curve his spine. "Fuck."

"Move your arm," Derek commanded softly as he worked a second finger in alongside the first. "Look at me." I don't want you to forget it's me, he thought but never said.

Releasing a sound like a whimper, Stiles did as told. As soon as their gazes locked, Stiles groaned and flexed his abs to fuck himself on Derek's fingers. "Better hurry that along, or the party will be over before you arrive," Stiles warned, barely any breath left to spare on the words.

Derek would not be rushed, however, taking all the time they both needed in order to get Stiles loose and ready. Whenever he'd start to see a grimace look more like it was from pain than pleasure, he'd leech away the hurt until Stiles was moaning and rocking eagerly. "Are you doing that thing?" Stiles asked, eyes dark and slitted open just enough to watch Derek work. "That thing where you take my pain?" When Derek hummed in confirmation, Stiles cursed and fucked himself harder on Derek's fingers.

Once Derek was satisfied that Stiles was ready, he moved into place and draped Stiles' legs over his shoulders. "Tell me if it hurts or you want to stop," he said softly as he positioned himself and slowly pressed in, eyes flicking between their point of contact and Stiles' face.

"Fuck," rasped Stiles, voice laced with pleasure instead of pain, and hips trying to roll in a way as to take more of Derek in quicker. "Just. Just shut the fuck up and fuck me, man, Jesus Christ."

Derek firmly grasped Stiles' hips, turned his head enough to place a kiss on the calf propped against his shoulder, and proceeded to follow orders. Stiles didn't talk much after that, but he was by no means quiet. Sometimes the noises he made almost sounded like words, but they were scattered about in bursts of nonsense. His hands were always grasping at something, usually Derek's body, sometimes the sheets or pillows or headboard.

Every time Derek said his name, Stiles would open his eyes and stare up at him, looking awed and elated. But, just as Stiles would start to close his eyes again, head tilted back and mouth open to release a guttural sound of pleasure, Derek thought he saw a flash of something dark and broken. A glistening along the rims of those big, expressive eyes. A faint wrinkle between thick brows that vanished the next instant. It made Derek work harder to please him, to leave no room for anything else in Stiles' mind and body but bliss.

He came first, despite his best efforts, but the look of stunned wonder Stiles turned on him was enough to make it okay. "You wanted me," he heard Stiles try to hide beneath a panting breath.

"I want you," he corrected, carefully pulling out and lowering Stiles' legs to the bed before leaning over him to lick and kiss every inch of skin he could reach. "Fuck, but I want you." When he went down on Stiles, the man choked on something like a yell, long fingers tangling in Derek's hair.

"Oh, my god," gasped Stiles, fingers twitching and body shuddering. "Oh, my god." Derek drank it all down, greedy for every bit of Stiles he could get.

Stiles hauled him up to kiss, clinging fingers digging more firmly into Derek's shoulders once he tasted himself on Derek's tongue. He babbled between kisses about how hot that was, how hot Derek was, how perfect everything in the world was in that moment. Derek smiled into the kisses and let him leak out his nonsense words. Their kisses slowed and grew lazy until they were both drifting into light napping, bodies tangled together and sticky with drying sweat and cum.

Later, Derek slowly awoke to dull fingernails scraping gently along his scalp. "I should make dinner," he grumbled groggily, lips scraping against the skin of Stiles' neck.

"We should shower first, I think. Pretty sure my ass is gonna be permanently glued together."

"That would be a damn shame."

"I know, right? Then how could we have more mind-melting sex?"

"There's always my ass."

Stiles' fingers went from scritching at Derek's scalp to playfully tugging his hair. "We are so showering together, then eating, then I am taking you up on that offer. Possibly on the dining table, because like hell am I going to have the restraint to wait until we get back here."

"Note to self: bring lube along at dinner."

"You could just keep it on you at all times. You know, in case of emergencies."

Derek smirked against Stiles' neck. "Might just start doing that."

Nothing really happened in the shower aside from more kissing and touching. Though they did help each other to clean out-of-the-way places, which was somehow just as intimate as what they'd just done, if not more so. When Stiles caught Derek trembling a little while they worked, he ducked his head to meet Derek's downcast gaze, asking a question with his eyes. "Just had a chill when I moved out of the spray a bit," Derek explained it away, voice made odd by the tightness in his throat.

"Yeah," Stiles agreed gently, hand stuttering in its slide along Derek's wet skin. "Me, too."

They barely stopped touching the entire time Derek made dinner. Stiles kept wrapping his arms around him from behind, hands traveling along Derek's thighs and chest while his lips teased at Derek's neck. It was highly distracting, but Derek didn't complain even in jest, for fear that it would stop. He was surprised that he was able to produce something edible after listening to things like, "Maybe I should have you for dinner," and feeling Stiles nibble on his shoulder. Somehow, though, he managed to not burn anything, including himself.

Dinner itself was relatively quick. They chatted a bit between bites, Stiles asking about any updates from the others in their temporarily scattered pack. Beneath the table, their legs slid along each other, calves pressing, knees nudging.

Cleanup was left for later, Stiles having removed the dishes from Derek's slack fingers while kissing him stupid. They didn't fuck over the table, but somehow managed to make it back to Derek's bed.

Stiles arranged them so that they were both facing Derek's closet and its mirrored doors. Derek was on his hands and knees while Stiles fingered him open and stroked his back and cooed in a low, honeyed voice about how fucking amazing Derek looked like that. Derek watched him in the mirror, obsessed over his every expression, and fell in love with each new one he'd never seen before. There wasn't much patience left between them, and soon Stiles was sliding in. Their reflections locked eyes, sporting twin expressions of opened mouths and furrowed brows, all disbelief and pleasure and yes more please fuck.

It was too much. Every slide and drag and sharp, jabbing thrust had Derek feeling overwhelmed and somehow wanting more even as he overflowed with it all. He keened, which made Stiles curse and fuck harder, hands gripping tight at Derek's hips. Derek wanted to have this all the time, wanted to be able to come home and find himself pinned to the door by an eager Stiles who was all tongue and teeth and strong, demanding hands. Maybe he could have that. The thought brought about a full body shudder that made Stiles gasp and run a hot hand up his spine to tangle in his hair.

"Goddamn it," growled Stiles, curling over Derek's back to mouth at his neck and shoulder. It made Derek cry out and rock harder into each thrust. "It's not fair," Derek thought he heard Stiles whisper harshly against spit-slick skin. "Not fucking fair."

Derek came first, again, Stiles' fingers wrapped possessively around his dick and his prostate being worked with every roll of Stiles' hips. For the first time in his life, Derek felt himself lose a bit of control, his eyes flashing red in the mirror as the pleasure pierced through him like a spike. Stiles cursed again, fingers twitching a firm squeeze around Derek's jerking cock. "I wish," Stiles rasped, involuntary and quiet, like before. "Christ, I wish." Then he was slamming in one last time, eyes closing for only a moment before he visibly forced himself to keep them open just so he could look at Derek while he came deep in his ass.

"My limbs feel like jello," Stiles chuckled out later, once they'd done some basic wipe down with tissues and rearranged themselves in a boneless sprawl.

Giving a little hum-like agreement, Derek rolled over so that he could wrap himself around Stiles like an octopus. "Sleep," he grunted into Stiles' collarbone.

"Hey, man," sighed Stiles, the smile obvious in his voice, "can't argue with that." Derek fell asleep like he'd woken earlier, fingers dragging lazily along his scalp.

-------

Stiles didn't stay for breakfast. He was gone by the time Derek returned from the shower, without even leaving a note or a text explaining his hasty exit. Derek wondered for a moment how Stiles was going to get home, since Derek had driven him there, but there was always the bus or Scott.

He tried not to let it bother him, telling himself that Stiles probably just had a really big assignment he had to do, and so he rushed home to get started. Hadn't he been talking to Mark about it when Derek had found him at the school? This was Friday, which officially started Stiles' weekend, since he only had classes Monday through Thursday, so it would make sense for him to start on weekend homework today.

Derek ignored the voice in his head that pointed out all the many occasions Stiles had simply taken over his couch for the entire weekend while he worked on papers and assignments.

When Saturday dawned and he still hadn't heard from Stiles, Derek finally got the hint. He sent a mass text to the remaining pack in the area that the weekly meeting that night was canceled. Then he tried to work out until he was too tired to think. It didn't help. He thought about Stiles' preferred method of heartbreak therapy, and went about trying to drown out his woes in cookie dough and Disney movies.

He was just starting to feel it working, his brain getting swept up in Kuzco's misadventures, when someone knocked on his door. Not just anyone, though. Stiles. Stiles, who had a key, just like everyone else in the pack. Stiles, who never knocked before, no matter what time of day or night.

Slowly rising from the couch, Derek debated on whether or not to open the door. Stiles knocked again, and Derek could hear the man shifting his weight from foot to foot.

It was best to get everything over with, Derek decided, giving himself a determined nod as he strode towards the door. Still, no matter how much he braced himself, he was not prepared for how much the sight of Stiles felt like he was being shanked in the gut by a rusty, serrated blade. The initial pain was sharp, jolting to his core. But, the longer he stood there staring at glaring brown eyes and lips trying to press out their curves into a straight line, the more it felt like his insides were catching on the jagged edges of the phantom knife. Slowly, they were dragged out of him, emptying him and leaving him hollow and raw.

"Doesn't look like you're dead or dying," Stiles was saying, but he must have been blind because Derek swore he was bleeding out right there on the hardwood floor. When all Derek did was stare silently in response, Stiles made a disapproving sound in the back of his throat and shoved his way into the loft. "You haven't canceled a weekly meeting in three years, and that was because half of us were in the hospital."

Derek sometimes still had nightmares of that time, of seeing Stiles so pale, his life reliant upon tubes and fluids and force of will. "Please, Stiles, come right in," Derek deadpanned, drawing his old masks back into place. They were a little dusty; he hadn't worn them in years.

If Stiles was going to say anything else about the cancelation of the meeting, or snark back to Derek's sass, it was swallowed back by the gulp he made when he took in the living room. Stiles had spent far too many nights curled up on Derek's couch indulging in Disney and potential salmonella to not know the signs and perfectly read the situation. Derek braced himself for what was to come next, but his walls were still being reconstructed and the mortar was still wet and weak.

"He rejected you?" asked Stiles, voice a harsh whisper.

Studying Stiles carefully, Derek tried to puzzle out whether Stiles truly didn't know, or if he was intentionally playing dumb in an effort to salvage their friendship. "So it would seem," he replied softly, deciding that they were beyond salvation, because he knew there was no going back for him, at least.

Stiles turned towards him, but didn't really face him, eyes looking at one of the support beams without really focusing on it. "So, you confessed?" He laughed an empty, bitter laugh, and a muscle in his cheek jumped as he clenched his jaw.

"I didn't really get a chance to," said Derek, still watching Stiles like a hawk. Hope colored the way he was interpreting Stiles' words and gestures, he was sure, but he was unable to stop the ominous crack snaking through his newly-formed walls. "After spending the night together-"

"You fucked him?" God, those eyes could be so strikingly gold when they caught the light just right, like Stiles didn't need to be bitten to have the wolf in his veins.

"You left," Derek continued, just barely refraining from spitting the words. "You left without a fucking word, Stiles. If that's not a fucking rejection, then tell me what is."

Confusion flickered across Stiles' face, before something clicked and all his tensed muscles went slack. The angry flush in his cheeks drained, and he stepped back, away from Derek even as a hand rose as if to reach out. "It's me. Oh. Oh shit."

And that was more than Derek could take, so he allowed himself to show a bit of weakness in the way he closed his eyes to block out the world. "I know you don't feel the same, which is why I never told you."

"Christ. All those times I came here, talking about other people, crying on your fucking shoulder about how...fuck."

"It's okay. It is. I get it. I never expected anything from you, Stiles. Not even after Thursday night." But, part of him added, silent to the world and wailing in his head, you fucking left!

Sneakers squeaked across the floor as suddenly Stiles was rushing at him, grabbing at his shirt before Derek could open his eyes and move away. "I'm sorry," Stiles croaked, voice raw as if burned out by the black smoke of a raging fire. "Oh my god, Derek, I'm sorry! You should have said! Why didn't you ever fucking just tell me!?"

Derek reached up and grasped Stiles' clinging hands, trying to gently untangle them from the fabric of his shirt, and failing spectacularly. "You were always in love with someone else, Stiles. I'm not stupid enough to set myself up for that kind of failure."

"But you are! You are so fucking stupid! Goddammit, Derek, it's the same for me!" They both stilled as soon as those words left Stiles' lips. "It's the same for me." The hands in his shirt uncurled, the fingers smoothing along Derek's chest until the palms were resting there, warm and trembling.

"All those people," Derek tried to say, the words too uncertain to continue.

Stiles shook his head as he stepped closer. He looked like he was torn between laughing and crying. Derek could empathize. "All desperate attempts to move on and get over you. Because, seriously, why the fuck would you want someone like m-"

Derek snuffed out that last word with a kiss, pulling back enough to glare pointedly. "Shut. Up. Or we're having another session in front of the mirror."

Slowly Stiles' lips drew back into a lewd grin. "But I rather liked the last one we had."

"Then why did you leave?" The words were meant to be snarled, but they came out on something more like a whine.

Fingers carded up through the hair on the back of Derek's neck and head, Stiles' nose running along his cheek. "I wanted it to be more than I thought I was allowed to have. So, instead of sticking around to hear you confirm it, I ran. I can endure a lot of rejection, Derek, but not that. Not from you."

Derek wrapped his arms around Stiles' waist, breath stuttering out of him as he felt Stiles return the embrace. "No more running."

"Not a chance. You're stuck with me, now."

"Oh, damn. What ever shall I do?"

Stiles grinned against Derek's jaw. "I'm sure we can think of something."