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Like a Melody (it won't leave my head)

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Stiles doesn't notice the constant buzzing in his head until it's gone.

But okay, let's be fair: he has noticed the active beehive in his brain, how could he not, it's really frickin' annoying, but he hadn't realized that it had become a thing, a constant thing, because to be honest, Stiles is used to his body pulling crap like that by now. When has any part of him ever acted normal? There hasn't been one day when he felt like a normal human being, comfortable in his own skin. If it's not a beehive, it's the overachieving little mice turning wheels in his head; if it's not the mice, then it's ants in his pants—don't laugh; it's a valid condition that disrupts his daily life.

There's a very obvious joke—or three—there, about the animal kingdom and Stiles' irresistibility, but he can't even make that bit of effort, because oh my God the buzzing is almost completely gone.

Stiles might just faint from relief.

"It's possible that I'm allergic to college," he tells his dad, hugging him an extra thirty seconds just because.

His dad gives him an amused look. "Is this gonna be like third grade all over again?"

Stiles huffs at the implication. That time he really had been allergic to school! Or scared of it. Whatever. "You mock my pain, but I'm the one who's been living with a headache for the last four months."

"You didn't say anything about that before?" And now his dad is worried. Great. An overprotective dad is the last thing Stiles needs during his break.

"Because there's nothing to tell! Joking! Totally! I'm being funny! It was nothing!" He pokes his head into the fridge. "What's for dinner?"

After a lengthy discussion about the merits of fresh vegetables and how having the label say some frozen monstrosity is fresh doesn't really mean it's fresh—that word does not mean what the frozen food industry thinks it means—they settle on pasta and steaks. With salad. Because come on. The man is one TV dinner away from a heart attack.

They eat, they chat, they spend some quality time cleaning the kitchen, because that's father-son bonding, Stilinski-style, and then they settle in front of the TV like any red-blooded American family to stare at the shiny pictures and kill some brain cells. They're in the middle of an old episode of CSI—and Stiles is contemplating how much of Grissom's investigative skills can be explained with witchcraft and wizardry—when he notices that his dad has fallen asleep, his neck at an uncomfortable angle and still in his uniform. Seriously, how that man survives without him is a mystery.

He sends his dad off to bed and then heads up to the bathroom to brush his teeth, which takes all of fifteen minutes. After that, there's no avoiding his room. The room where Stiles spent years daydreaming about Lydia Martin. The room where he figured out what his dick was for. The room where night after night he fell asleep in front of his computer; not doing homework, not watching porn, but researching. Werewolves, kanimas, witches, vampires... Stiles is something of an expert now. Well, an expert supernatural Googler anyhow. He can tell whether a website is bogus or for real from twenty paces. It's his thing.

He's totally going to put that on his resume.

"Holy motherfucking crap!"

Derek, standing in front of his open window, smirks. "Nice to see you too, Stiles."

And of course, this is the room where Stiles has been visited countless times by the Alpha of the neighborhood werewolf pack.

Good times.

"Give me a heart attack, why don't you," Stiles says, clicking the door shut behind him carefully. He doubts his father would wake up, but it's habit. "To what do I owe the pleasure?"

Derek shrugs, tilting his head to the side and doing his eyebrow thing. It's so familiar, that eyebrow thing. You'd think Stiles would forget after four months, but no, it's like he's seen Derek do that just yesterday.

"I was in the neighborhood..."

"Really?" Stiles asks, amused. "You were in the neighborhood and wanted to drop by and say hi? That's your story?" He shakes his head and starts unpacking, just to have something to do. The thing is, he's spent a lot of time stuck in this room with Derek, and he knows if he doesn't start doing something soon it's going to get awkward and he won't know where to look, and then he'll have to make up some transparent lie to leave that Derek will see through instantly and silently mock him for. So it's better for everyone if Stiles keeps busy. The ants in his pants agree with him on this.

"Yup," Derek answers him, lounging on Stiles' bed like they're just going to pick things up where they left off... which, where did they leave things off? Last Stiles recalls, Derek was coming into his room, barking at him to research this or that, and then falling asleep on his bed. Like that made sense. Stiles had tried to call him on it once or twice, but when Derek doesn't want to answer a question he can disappear like a ninja, so Stiles never quite got an answer.

"I hope you're not expecting me to do any research for you tonight," Stiles says, dumping his socks in the drawer. Something smells rank in there, but he doesn't want to go through every pair right now. He can probably do it tomorrow, or just wash the whole thing, or, hey—"Since you're already here, you should help me hunt down the dirty sock, put your werewolf nose to some use. I mean, by my count you owe me quite a lot. Quite a lot if you're going to repay with sock-hunting. All that research I did for you, and I saved your life from that dragon—ooh, I should put that on my resume as well! Have battled a dragon and won! Not many people can say that. But back to the sock. You think—"

Stiles turns around, and oh great. Derek is asleep again. The man should get himself checked for narcolepsy, honestly.

Stiles settles in front of his computer and types narcolepsy + werewolves into his search bar. It's something to do.

-

Derek wakes up five hours later.

"Good morning sunshine," Stiles mumbles. He's still perched on his computer chair, spinning restlessly. It's so not the most comfortable place one could be at—he checks the time—three-thirty in the morning. He meant to go down and sleep on the couch, but then got distracted reading about sleep disorders, and then studying Derek for symptoms, and then he forgot what the hell he was doing and lost forty-five minutes just staring at Derek, and now his back is killing him. The chair must have been designed as a torture device.

Derek rubs his eyes—like a little kid, seriously—and looks around as if he doesn't remember where he is. Stiles would believe it; the man looks tired.

"You look like shit. Have you not been sleeping? Are you spending nights lurking around town, saving Gotham from evil again?"

Derek yawns and drops his head back on the pillow like he doesn't have the energy to keep it up.

"Have you noticed how when you're in my bed I'm not in my bed? People need beds to sleep in at night, Derek. I know you like to think that I plug myself into the USB port of this computer and recharge, but surprisingly enough for this town, it turns out that I'm a hundred percent human after all."

This is not the first 'I need my bed' rant Stiles has gone on since Derek first started falling asleep in his room—what, two years ago now?—and much like the ones before it, this one doesn't have any effect on Derek either. He just gives Stiles an amused look and settles in more comfortably. Stiles would segue to a monologue on the selfishness of werewolves and underappreciated human geniuses, but he's in too good a mood to give it the old college try.

"You're lucky my headache is finally gone, or I would be fighting you to the death over that bed. I'll have you know that I've been dreaming of sleeping in my own bed for mo—"

"Headache?" Derek interrupts him, looking wide awake and slightly alarmed. "What headache?"

Stiles makes a beehive-in-my-head gesture. "Headache, you know. I'm allergic to college or something. Or maybe I'm unallergic to Beacon Hills. Is that a thing? Opposite of being allergic? Home just makes everything better, I guess."

Derek is sitting up and leaning towards Stiles now. It's starting to freak him out a little. "What kind of headache?"

"Just a buzz. I don't know. I don't even notice it most of the time. And hey, maybe it won't come back now. Maybe I should bring something from home with me when I go back. I could take a soil sample. And maybe a bug. It would be like a science experiment."

"And it's gone now?"

Stiles narrows his eyes. He's seen Derek act suspiciously before but this is a whole new level. "Yeah. It got way better when I got home, and now it's completely gone." He shrugs and throws his arms open in a way that says look ma, no bees.

Derek doesn't seem to get it.

He's up, pacing, one hand sliding into his hair like it always does when he's nervous, and he looks up at Stiles a couple of times, opening and closing his mouth without sound, and then, before Stiles can ask just what the hell got his panties in a twist, he leaves.

Just like that. Without a word.

"Typical," Stiles says.

He eyes his bed for a moment—he is pretty tired—but then turns back to his computer and opens up Google. He won't be able to sleep before he figures out what the hell the bees in his head got to do with werewolves anyway. Better start looking now.

-

While dinner has often been sacrificed for work and friends and occasionally werewolves, breakfast has always been a family affair in the Stilinski household. Stiles could have slept in today, God knows he needs it and his dad wouldn't have minded, but then that would have been going against tradition, and Stiles is nothing if not a stickler for tradition. Even if it means he gets up at six in the morning and almost drowns falling asleep in his cereal.

"So, you had a visitor last night."

Stiles chokes on a spoon of skim milk. Please God, let that mean something else. He's nowhere near awake enough to deal with this right now.

"Uh. Visitor?"

His dad smiles knowingly. "You know. Your friend who climbs in through your window and then leaves before sunrise?"

Oh, that is just too cruel. His dad knew about Derek and waited to bring it up until Stiles was too tired to make up a lie?

Actually, that sounds just like him. Cruel and unusual, but the man gets results.

"Oh, come on, Stiles," he says. "You really thought I wouldn't notice? I'm a trained law enforcement professional." Then he gestures to the walls around them. "And the walls here? Are thin."

That makes Stiles sit up in alarm.

"It's not like I ever listened in," his dad tells him, completely misinterpreting Stiles' panic. "There's such a thing as knowing too much about your son's life. I just mean that when you're not alone in there, I can't help but notice."

Completely baffled and caught off guard, Stiles shovels soggy cereal into his mouth to keep from talking and making things worse.

His dad chuckles. "Look, I'm not saying don't see him. Hell, I wasn't even going to bring it up. I never did before. But I was just—" He shrugs. "—impressed, I guess. That you're actually making a long-distance relationship work."

Stiles shakes his head, milk spewing every which way. This is wrong. This is so, so wrong, on so many levels.

"He was heartbroken when you left. I thought you guys called it quits. That's all."

Heartbroken? What? Stiles swallows the cereal in his mouth, and says, "So, you, um. Know who it is?"

His dad laughs at him. He laughs. The man is having so much fun with this, it's indecent. You don't do this to your own son. This is child abuse. "Derek Hale, yeah, I figured that out. You think I could leave it alone once I noticed someone spending the nights in your room?"

He gets up, pours some coffee into a travel mug, and puts a couple of napkins in front of Stiles for the spilled milk.

"He wouldn't be my first choice for you—"

"Oh, my God." Stiles drops his forehead on the table.

"—but it's not like I ever expected you to settle for someone less... challenging. I know he's a kind person at heart, and I know that he's had a hard life, so if you're giving him a chance, I have to believe that there's something there."

At that, Stiles has to look up, because really? "Really?"

"Well, yeah. I mean, would I have preferred someone who wasn't such an expert at picking locks? Sure. But then again, your mom was really good at it too, so who am I to judge?"

Stiles is so lost, he expects to wake up in Wonderland any minute now, surrounded by carnivorous bunnies. "Picking locks? What?"

His dad is at the door now, putting on his shoes, but he manages to spare Stiles an amused glance. Because, of course, laugh at the helpless and confused offspring, what better way to start a day for a father?

"He's been visiting. Sleeping in your room. Once, twice a week. You notice the new lock on your window? Yeah, short of an alarm system I don't think I can keep him out."

With that bit of nonsensical information shared, his dad finally says goodbye and leaves.

It takes Stiles a while to pick his jaw up off the floor.

What the actual fuck is going on?

-

There is no more sleep for Stiles that day, certainly not in that bed, so he goes over to Scott's and waits for him to come home.

His bees are back, or at least one of them is, because it's just a faint buzzing now, very, very small and hard to notice, but now that Stiles is paranoid about it he can't help but pay attention to it. He has a million tabs open in his laptop, things that he's been reading since last night—crap, crap, and more crap—and he keeps going at Scott's, which would be fun—it used to be fun; Stiles likes the crazy, fucked-up werewolf lore—except how it's extremely annoying right now, because Derek knows something, something to do with Stiles, something to do with the headache, and he's keeping it from him. That is just... infuriating. And just like Derek too. Some people keep their cards close to the vest; Derek eats his. That's the kind of insanity Stiles is dealing with here.

Stiles is irritated, and exhausted, and hungry—dammit, where the hell is Scott?

You wouldn't know it to look at him, but Stiles actually enjoys research. The supernatural kind more than the school kind. He likes puzzles, he likes putting things together, and he's surprisingly good at it. To figure out a supernatural phenomenon you have to read all the lore out there for it, read all the theories, websites from hundreds of different sources, books if you can find them, and then you have to analyze the data, figure out the patterns. Because frankly, people who write about the supernatural are full of shit. The lore is full of shit. There are so many folk tales, so many myths, that you know ninety-nine percent of what you find will be made up or at least dressed up to be more sensational than the truth. The patterns though, the details that are the same in different sources, those tell you what you want to know. You just have to be able to spot them and put them together.

With the bee thing? Stiles doesn't have much. He's been reading up on werewolves, trying to catch a correlation between them and some sort of mental effect on humans, but so far no luck. Werewolf lore is mostly about magic and instinct, nothing to indicate any kind of special mental ability, but Stiles knows there has to be. In light of the disastrous talk with his dad this morning, the look on Derek's face before he disappeared has to mean something. Derek knew what that headache was. Stiles will too if it's the last thing he does.

Scott showing up distracts Stiles, and three servings of curly fries distract him even more. In fact, they distract him right into a blissful state of food coma that he hopes never to get out of.

"I don't want to digest them," Stiles says, holding his stomach. "Don't let them leave me, Scott." He groans, rolling on the grass, trying not to throw up. That last burger might have been a bad idea.

"You're disgusting," Scott informs him, opening a can of soda.

"I'm awesome, and you've missed me like hell. Admit it."

Scott chuckles. "Yeah, maybe."

"Your new friends all suck. I can tell."

Scott doesn't deny it—because it's a fact, Stiles knows these things—but lies back down on the ground, mirroring Stiles, and stares at the clouds in a particularly besotted way. Really? He's thinking about Allison again? Stiles would have expected their puppy love to lose its magic in time, or at least be less nauseating to those around them, but it looks like it's going to be a permanent thing. Goody.

Not that Stiles isn't happy for them. He is. Allison is awesome. She's badass. You don't want to cross her, ever. But you know. Less mooning could've been nice.

His dad's remark about Derek being heartbroken suddenly pops into his head—what's that got to do with anything—and Stiles flails, as if that's going to make it go away. "Ack."

"What?"

"Nothing," Stiles says, getting his arms and legs back in order. "Just ate too much. You know."

"Hmm." Scott turns back to the clouds.

And at times like this, the mooning is kind of awesome.

Stiles shouldn't say anything to Scott, because first of all, embarrassing, and second of all, humiliating, and third of all, freaky as fuck, so he tries, he tries to hold his tongue, but as always, that doesn't make a bit of difference.

"Derek still has his apartment, right?" It's an innocent enough question, Stiles consoles himself.

"Yeah," Scott answers, already suspicious. Damn his distrustful nature.

"And you've been there?"

"Yes?"

"Does he have a bed there?"

At that, Scott sits up, squinting down at him. "You wanna know about Derek's bed?"

Stiles closes his eyes. This is impossible to explain away. "Just..." he flails at Scott with one hand. "Okay? Just tell me."

"Alright," Scott says, one eyebrow rising up in silent protest. "He has a bed."

"A good bed? A comfortable bed?"

Scott nods. "As far as I can tell, yeah."

Stiles nods, looks away. Scott keeps staring at him.

"You know me," Stiles says finally. "Always worrying about proper lumbar support."

Scott doesn't buy it, surprise surprise, but he lets it go and goes back to staring at his Allison-shaped cloud—or whatever it is that he sees up there.

Stiles very pointedly does not freak out.

-

That night, Stiles sits in front of his computer and waits for Derek to climb up his window.

Derek doesn't show up.

-

Stiles goes on a research binge. He reads everything, from a million random websites to the Argent family bestiary to the copy of Peter Hale's files on supernatural creatures that Stiles somehow accidentally downloaded to his computer and backed up to three different hard drives. He even cracks open the barely held-together books he inherited from that witch they had to get rid of that one time.

What he finds is a crap load of useless information on werewolves and some romantic nonsense about soulbonds—which is not even a real thing, so he has a whole lot of nothing in his hands. It was so not worth the amygdala-stinging swarm of bees he's hosting in his head right now. And the exhaustion? God, the exhaustion. Stiles distinctly remembers being able to stay up researching for days in his high school days—which was, what, seven months ago? Feels like a lifetime. It was life and death then—it was always life and death then—so he had no other choice, and yes, maybe he did sleep for twenty-four hours straight afterwards, but he was never quite this exhausted, he's certain of it.

College has clearly made him weak.

One thing college hasn't made him, though, is less stubborn. So he washes his face, gets in his car, and drives over to Derek's.

He's getting his answers.

-

Stiles knows he's not in his own bed and that someone else is in the room, so he needs to wake up already, but after three sleepless nights prying open his eyes is torture.

The room swims into focus slowly: the muted colors, the sparse furniture, the hunk of an Alpha standing in the doorway.... Oh, right.

"This is a nice change of pace," Stiles says, clearing his throat and sitting up. "Me waking up in your bed for once."

Derek walks into the room—no, he saunters into the room—looking tense as all hell and pretending otherwise. Like Stiles wouldn't know. Like they haven't been in hundreds of tense situations together. Stiles knows how to read the dozen different shades of emotional constipation in Derek's eyes; this is nothing.

"Hello, Stiles," Stiles says in a mock-Derek voice. "How are you, Stiles? Why are you in my bed, Stiles?"

Derek doesn't rise to the bait. He drops his car keys on the dresser—and how weird is it that Derek has a dresser? Stiles would have guessed a trunk or something. He wonders if Derek got it at Pottery Barn. Werewolves shopping at Pottery Barn, how funny is that? But he's getting carried away, as always, and Derek is giving him nothing. He's staring out the window, his back to Stiles, eerily still.

Taking in his posture, Stiles thinks that's how one would stand in front of a firing squad. Except, you would face them, wouldn't you? Does that mean that Stiles is scarier than a firing squad? That should be cool, but somehow it's really, really not.

"You're not asking me why I'm here, so I'm guessing you already know," Stiles says, lowering his feet to the floor and leaning his elbows on his knees. "You're also not threatening bodily harm, so that probably means you're feeling guilty about something."

Derek snarls at that, half turning around, but it's nothing Stiles hasn't seen before so he presses on.

"Tell me why I'm having the headaches."

Getting his face under control—there was a hint of canines there for a second—Derek leans against the windowsill, facing Stiles. "Since you're here, you must already know."

"I can make an educated guess, but it doesn't make a lot of sense, so I need you to tell me." His heart is steadily gaining speed, and Derek can no doubt hear it. "Please."

A beat of silence, and then, "You're getting the headaches because of me."

Stiles lets out the breath that was stuck in his throat. It's not like he didn't know this, but hearing Derek say it makes it real like it wasn't before. Stiles is feeling a little lightheaded now, woozy. "Okay," he says, bracing a hand on the bed. The very comfortable bed, by the way. Much softer than Stiles'. "I take it, it wasn't on purpose."

Derek shakes his head no.

"What is it? Is it a pack thing? Scott has been away from you and he doesn't get any headaches. Is it because I'm not a werewolf?"

Derek keeps shaking his head, staring down at Stiles' feet.

"Then what? A bond of some kind? Why would—What kind of—? I don't understand."

"You know," Derek says, looking up at him through his lashes.

Is he playing coy? What is this, some sort of game? Stiles has a beehive for a brain; he's not in the mood for games.

"No, I fucking don't!" he informs Derek. "Just tell me!"

And there, now Derek is pissed, and Stiles was already pissed, so they're on equal ground. Equally shaky ground, but still.

Derek grits his teeth and crosses his arms over his chest. "It's a soulbond. A mating bond. A pairbond. Soulmates, some would call it. You want any more names or is that enough?"

Stiles makes an involuntary choking sound and jerks his head saying no. That is quite enough, confirming all his fears. How could that be possible? What would it even mean? How does it work?

Swallowing against the knot in his throat he picks one question. "How does it work?"

"I don't know," Derek says, shrugging. At Stiles' furious look he repeats: "I. Don't. Know."

"Is it permanent? How long has it been there? Why didn't you tell me before? And don't say I don't know Derek, because I will punch you. It will hurt me more than it'll hurt you, but I'll still do it."

Derek rolls his eyes at him. His refusal to take this seriously is driving Stiles insane.

"How long?" Stiles asks again.

Derek shrugs, looks away, obviously preparing a lie. "Eighteen months, I think."

Stiles translates that as at least two and a half years. "And how did it happen?"

"How would I know?" Derek says, this time with genuine frustration. "You think I would have chosen something like this? It happened on its own. I don't know why. I don't know how."

"First of all," Stiles says, pressing a hand against his heart. "Ouch. You're hurting my feelings. I'm a catch, just so you know. Secondly, how can you not know? You're a born werewolf. Your parents must have had one of these whatchamacallits?" Stiles doesn't know what to call it. The word soulbond makes him want to throw up a little bit.

"Well, they were married, and I wasn't interested in the details. Laura used to talk about it, but..." He runs a hand through his hair. "I don't know. It's bits and pieces. I know it doesn't happen to every werewolf. I know it gives you a—a—something. I'm not sure what it is. It's not telepathy, and it's not empathy, but my parents always knew where the other was and what they were doing, so I guess that was the bond."

The whole thing sounds fascinating and Stiles would have been all over it if it weren't for the elephant sitting on his chest. "You weren't going to tell me?"

Derek's eyebrows knit together resolutely. "No."

Stiles gets up. He's so angry, he's seriously contemplating that punch. "Because this has nothing to do with me?!"

"Because I thought you were too young for me to put something like this on you, and because I was hoping that it would go away on its own."

"Well, you thought wrong!" Stiles says, hands balling into fists.

"Apparently," Derek says. He looks like he's trying to stay calm, which is good, because Stiles certainly won't be able to do that. "I didn't know you'd be feeling the effects. I thought, being human, you wouldn't even realize."

Stiles takes a step towards Derek. "And that would have made it okay? Shouldn't I have a say in this?"

Derek squares his shoulders, making himself stand taller. "You don't get a say."

"Right," Stiles says, nodding. "Because you're saying no." He waits for Derek to nod, and then continues: "If you were saying no, then why were you always in my room, sleeping in my bed?" Because night after night, that's what Derek had done. He'd slept like a log too, which had always seemed a little odd to Stiles. He would have guessed Derek would be a light sleeper. And then it dawns on him. "Because you sleep better with me in the room?"

Derek doesn't nod, but he doesn't say no either.

"And I was never tired even when I didn't sleep at all, because—because you were in the room?"

Derek just looks at him, impassive.

"And while a magical bond was doing its thing to us, to me, it seemed normal and—and fair to you to keep that from me?"

"Yes," Derek says, succinct.

Stiles is close enough to touch him now, and he wants to—he wants to touch Derek, punch him, and shake him, and maybe, after that—

"How do we get rid of it?" Stiles asks. It's not like he wants Derek's stupid bond anyway.

He thinks Derek stops breathing for a second, but it's probably the excitement at the prospect of getting rid of Stiles.

"I think—I remember something about acknowledgement and intent. I think we just need to reject it."

"That easy?" Stiles says, forcefully drawing his gaze away from the perspiration on Derek's forehead. It's not even that hot. "Then why didn't you do this sooner?" The silence stretches until Stiles answers himself. "Because it has to be the both of us."

Derek nods once, softly.

"And if we do that, it'll disappear—forever?"

"I think so," Derek says.

"And you'll be free to bond with someone else?"

"I don't want to bond with anyone."

They stare at each other and Stiles knows this, this is something they've done before. Derek has those eyes that stare at him and see right through him, and a part of Stiles insists that he can see right through Derek in return, and what he's seeing right now is—

"Bullshit."

"Excuse me?" Derek says.

"I'm calling bullshit," Stiles tells him, right in his face. "This is just more of you punishing yourself over nothing. Everything you do, it's either for survival or for redemption. Well, guess what, Derek? You didn't kill your family. You didn't kill Laura. You were a kid, and you were a victim, and you need to snap out of the survivor's guilt and start living your goddamn life, because that's what they would have wanted for you."

He can see the blood red of the Alpha bleed into Derek's eyes, but he doesn't back down. He can't—not until he's said what he has to.

"You can reject me, that's cool. I mean, I would be the first to say we make an odd couple. But if you're doing it to deny yourself a—a bond? Because you think you deserve to be alone? Well, since I seem to have a say in it, I'm gonna say hell no to that."

With that Stiles turns around to collect his things and leave, because oh my God, it's been a long and tiring and frustrating week. He needs to go home and sleep for a million years now.

Stiles doesn't expect Derek to speak, he's expecting violence at best, total silence at worst—seriously, violence beats silence in this case—but Derek does speak, and with an unexpectedly soft tone at that. "You like girls. Petite, beautiful girls who smell nice. I think that's how you put it once. And you've been in love with Lydia Martin for as long as I've known you. Why would I expect this to change anything?"

"Such a douche," Stiles mutters, putting on his shoes. He stands up to face Derek before he says, "If you had asked, I would have told you that I haven't been in love with Lydia for years. I would have told you that I was confused, that I was interested in someone else and it was impossible, and that it was easier to be hung up on Lydia. That's what I would have said. But you didn't ask, so."

It's five steps to the door, should take seconds to cross, but Stiles is suddenly feeling a hundred years old, weak and fragile and tired. If he can make it downstairs and to his car, he's pretty sure he'll be able to drive himself home on auto-pilot, but from where he's standing it seems like a herculean task.

"Stiles."

And of course, Derek has to make this even harder.

"I did what I thought was best."

Stiles would laugh, but it's so not funny. He walks away instead.

-

Stiles can't sleep.

He took a shower. He changed the sheets. He even took some painkillers for the barely-there buzzing in his head. But he still can't sleep.

His dad stops by on his way to bed, takes in the way Stiles is staring at the ceiling, and sits down on the bed, laying a comforting hand on Stiles' head.

"You guys had a fight?"

"Sort of," Stiles mumbles.

"Well, that happens. Don't let it get you down."

Stiles sighs. "He needs so much therapy, I can't even begin to tell you. The man is a Gordian knot of issues."

"After everything he's been through, I'm kinda surprised he hasn't completely lost it."

Stiles stares at his dad, surprised at the turn of the conversation.

"I knew his parents. They were a big family. A very close-knit family. And he lost them all." He leans down to press a kiss on Stiles' temple. "Can you even imagine? We lost one person, son. One person, and it almost killed us. He lost everyone."

Giving Stiles' arm a squeeze, he gets up to leave.

"I'm not saying let him get away with—" He makes a vague gesture. "—whatever it is you're fighting about, but I think he must be a very strong person to overcome all that, and I approve of his taste in boyfriends, so..."

With a wink he disappears, leaving Stiles with an uneasy feeling in his stomach.

-

It's a long night.

Stiles goes through every memory, every moment he and Derek spent alone together. The times Derek came over with a flimsy excuse and fell asleep within minutes. The nights when Stiles lost hours sitting in his chair, staring at a sleeping Derek. How Derek always came over after an injury. How Stiles was always secretly glad, because he needed the reassurance, to see Derek's chest rise and fall.

Stiles had thought he was a convenient source of information with a comfortable bed. He never cared to look deeper, because—because Derek never acted like he was interested. But then, Derek never acts like he's interested in anything. The man still doesn't own a TV. He trains, he reads books on mythology, he studies Latin, he lurks in corners protecting his people, but other than that, Stiles has never seen him take something just for himself, without an ulterior motive.

What must it be like in his mind? How much pain is he still in?

Knowing about the bond now, knowing that it's rare, that it means the universe thought he and Derek would be compatible—even though Stiles himself never dared to think that—it's empowering somehow. So it won't amount to anything, that's life, but Stiles likes knowing that it was a possibility. He was deemed good enough for Derek Hale. That's an ego boost, even if the rejection stings.

In the morning, Scott comes over. He takes one look at Stiles and backtracks on his plans to go to the movies; he lies down next to Stiles instead and they spend the day being depressed together.

Naturally, Stiles tells Scott everything.

Naturally, Scott is flabbergasted.

"Derek. You have a magical destiny bond with Derek."

"It's not a magical destiny—" Stiles sighs. "Yes. I have a magical destiny bond with Derek. Which I'm going to break, so don't even."

Scott stares at the side of Stiles' face. "But you don't want to."

Stiles shrugs noncommittally.

"You know, Allison asked me about you two before."

"Us two what?"

"If, you know, there was anything there."

"Whoa," Stiles says. "That was a reach, don't you think?"

"I don't know," Scott says, and Stiles curses—he curses!—how earnest his best friend can be. "I mean, I thought there was always, like, an extra layer? Like, when you talked to Derek you were saying something but actually saying something else? Does that make sense?"

"None whatsoever."

Scott elbows him. "Whatever. I was right." He waits a beat and then asks, tone somber, "What are you gonna do?"

"Break it," Stiles says again. Saying it out loud makes it real. "He wants to break it, so I'm going to break it."

"But if it was up to you, you would have said yes."

It's not a question, so Stiles doesn't have to answer it, and it's so damn awkward to talk about this with Scott of all people... but no one else will know about this, and Derek won't ask, so, "Yes," Stiles says, just to make it official. "I would have said yes in frickin' heartbeat."

Awkward silences are never long when he and Scott are together, so it shouldn't be a surprise when Scott breaks it by saying, in his best campy voice, "It's his loss, girlfriend."

"Oh, God," Stiles moans. "Never ever do that, ever again."

Scott laughs, punching him in the shoulder.

"No werewolf punches," Stiles cries and flails back at him.

"But seriously," Scott says after a moment. "I'm serious. His loss."

"I know," Stiles says magnanimously. "He doesn't know what he's missing. I would've even shared my dad with him."

Even though he jokingly says it, Scott, having only one parent himself, knows how serious a declaration that is. He shakes his head sadly, and after a moment, changes the subject.

-

Stiles sleeps in the end, because one can't run on painkillers and Adderall forever.

He wakes up some thirteen hours later, takes a shower, puts on clean clothes, and practices what he's going to say. Just tell him and get out, that's what he's going to do. No fuss no muss.

On the way to Derek's, he almost turns back twice. One time, he goes so far as to make an illegal u-turn and then has to talk himself out of running to Mexico. It's not so much that he's scared... mostly it's that he's frickin' terrified. He doesn't want to do this, it's worse than going to the dentist, but it has to be done; and he really, really doesn't want it to escalate into another fight, but his past interactions with Derek almost guarantee that it will.

Antagonizing. Volatile. Frustrating. That's what their relationship has been so far. Why Stiles wants more of it he has no idea.

He doesn't bother ringing the doorbell. Derek's key is under the mat for anyone to use. He opens the door, steps inside, and finds Derek in the kitchen, a second cup of coffee already poured. Stiles doesn't touch the mug, but he takes the chair Derek has so helpfully pushed back for him.

"I came to apologize," he starts, taking in Derek's fresh-from-the-shower look, the drops of water clinging to his hair.

Of course he couldn't have made this easy on Stiles.

"I stand by my words, that you should let people in and enjoy your life, but I'm not about to blackmail you into doing that. I'm certainly not going to take away your choice when so many of your choices have already been taken away from you. It wasn't cool of me to even say that. I'm really sorry about that. I was upset, but that's no excuse."

Derek has put the paper down—who reads the actual paper anymore?—and is staring at Stiles, all confused, now.

"You walk me through it and we can break it right now. I just—I just want you to promise me that when there's someone you want to do this with, you'll give it a chance." And this is where the speech Stiles prepared ends. After this, he can only hope to make his escape quickly and with minimal damage.

Derek keeps staring at him, his expression frozen in perpetual confusion. Stiles feels his hands start to tremble, so he hides them under the table.

"Or not," he croaks out into the deafening silence. "You don't have to, obviously. I just really think—"

The scraping of Derek's chair interrupts Stiles' babbling, and he watches, taken aback, as Derek pulls the chair next to Stiles' and sits there. They're so close that Stiles feels Derek's breaths on his cheek, which is awesome, really, it's not like Stiles was nervous enough.

"You would have accepted—it?" Derek asks, sounding like the words are being pulled out of his throat kicking and screaming.

Stiles hears the question as 'You would have accepted me?' and wants to punch Derek in the nose for being so—Derek.

"Yeah," he informs him. "Two days ago, when I found out? I would have accepted it. Two years ago, if you had asked? I would have accepted it. I am so frickin' accepting about this whole thing, I'm even accepting that you don't want me to accept, so here we are."

"Why?" Derek asks, and the urge to punch him hits Stiles so hard that he actually punches Derek's arm this time—which is all muscle and compact werewolf strength, so Stiles basically just bounces back and ends up hurting his own knuckles.

"Dammit. Why do you have to be such a dumbass all the time."

Derek takes Stiles' hurt hand in his and methodically examines his fingers. "You didn't answer the question," he says, wiggling Stiles' ring finger.

"Because it's a stupid question, Derek. I know you don't think very highly of yourself, but for some reason I find that I am inexplicably fond of you. It's one of the great mysteries of life."

Derek smiles—dare he say shyly?—down at Stiles' knuckles and then looks up, open as he rarely is, vulnerable, making Stiles' heart skip a beat—which Derek probably notices, damn him.

"This is a very bad idea," Derek says, sounding resigned, but not unhappy.

Stiles blinks rapidly, suddenly high and dizzy with relief. Is Derek saying what Stiles thinks he's saying? Is this real life? Judging by the throbbing in his knuckles, it is indeed real life. He offers Derek a quick grin and watches a small smile take shape on Derek's lips.

"It's you and me, of course it's a bad idea," he tells Derek. "It's a terrible idea. But at the same time, it's kind of awesome. I mean, Scott thought we had layers? And he's usually completely clueless about these things. And my dad thinks we make a great couple, which is all kinds of terrifying, and he really likes you, did you know that? Even though you two often met under very suspicious circumstances, for some reason he really believes in you. And that—I still have trouble wrapping my head around that. I think he expects me to bring you home for dinner or something, because he thinks we've been dating for years, and I don't—"

"Stiles," Derek says, and oh, that tone is going to get Stiles into trouble. He would do a lot of undoubtedly stupid things to hear Derek say his name like that again.

"Yeah?"

"Shut up for a little bit."

Stiles does. And Derek kisses him.

Epilogue

8 Months Later

"I hear you met Tinker Bell," Stiles says, walking into Derek's bedroom and throwing his jacket in the general direction of the closet.

Derek opens his eyes just a sliver. "Stiles?"

Derek looks like crap. He didn't even hear Stiles come in, which means that he must be completely out of it. That explains his betas lurking outside. Scott had explained about the poison on the phone, and Deaton had confirmed it when Stiles checked in with him, but seeing it with his own eyes is... different. And horrible. And it makes Stiles want to kick some fairy butt.

He gets in the bed, still in his clothes, and wipes the perspiration off Derek's face with his sleeve. Derek's face is ash gray, the circles under his eyes a stark crimson. "So this is what fairy dust does to werewolves," Stiles mumbles, running his fingers through Derek's hair. Derek needs a shower, badly, but Stiles doubts he'd be able to stand up for long. "Disney has been feeding us lies."

Derek smiles, eyes still closed. "You shouldn't have come."

"Yeah? Well, you shouldn't have got hurt. We had a deal. You don't get hurt and I don't run away to join the circus. I'm holding my end of the bargain."

Derek mumbles something unintelligible.

"You're the big bad Alpha, you're not supposed to get sick," Stiles admonishes, pulling Derek's pliant body into his arms.

"Poison," Derek mumbles. "Just sleep it off."

That's what Deaton had said. Nobody mentioned that Derek looked like he should already be dead. "We'll sleep it off together, but in the morning we're going to have a talk."

"You talk," Derek says, wrinkling his nose. It's adorable. He looks like a zombie, and yet—adorable.

"Yes, I talk a lot, and I'm going to talk a whole lot more before we're done." He kisses Derek's eyelids, his dry, purplish lips, his forehead, and then cups his cheek in one hand, feeling the scratchy stubble under his thumb.

Derek sighs. "I love you," he says, his lips barely moving.

Stiles blinks at him. "What?"

Derek opens his eyes. "I love you."

Stiles is already all over the place from the panic, and the drive, and the shock of seeing Derek like this, so the double assault with the eyes and the words? So not fair.

Derek's eyes are beautiful. They're deep, and intense, and expressive. Stiles could write sonnets about them. Okay, that's a lie, he's tried and he can't write sonnets, but if Stiles could write sonnets, they would be about Derek's eyes. And as if that's not enough, Derek is saying the words, for the first time, and—how is Stiles supposed to react to that?

"This is really romantic," he tells Derek. "I mean, it's exactly how I always pictured it. How did you know? Did you read my diary?"

Derek gives him a sleepy, tired grin—but it's a grin nonetheless. With teeth and everything.

"Who needs rose petals and romantic dinners, am I right?" Stiles continues. "Give me a sickbed anytime."

"Not my style."

"Yeah, you're right," Stiles agrees. "Definitely not our style. You could have gone with something a little more sexy though. I'm just saying."

Derek burrows closer into Stiles, hiding his face in Stiles' neck, and Stiles lets his fingers roam Derek's hair and his back, tracing the lines of his tattoo by heart.

"You probably won't even remember this in the morning, but I love you, too," Stiles says softly into his hair. "You know. Just in case you were wondering."

Derek doesn't move, he doesn't reply, so Stiles figures he fell back asleep. That's for the best, really, because what kind of a setting is this for a love declaration? What next, a bloodletting for their anniversary? Stiles has more ideas for future special occasions that he would like to proactively veto, but after only a moment's silence he feels Derek's lips move against his collarbone, shaping soundless words.

"What was that?" Stiles asks, pulling back just enough to see his face.

"Petals," Derek whispers. "Tomorrow."

Stiles leans in close and smiles against Derek's purple-tinged lips.