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Protecting Me From You From Me

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Derek was confused. Well that wasn’t new. He was confused by Stiles. That wasn’t new either. No, what was new was the fact that Stiles had come home for Thanksgiving, along with the rest of the pack, and was flirting with Derek.

Well, it seemed like he was flirting with Derek. Derek is no stranger to being flirted with. Shocking, right? But... this is different. Because whilst what Stiles says is flirtatious and over the top, every other sense is saying that there is not attraction there. Stiles doesn’t smell like arousal, and it’s confusing the hell out of Derek.

Since Stiles had walked into Derek’s loft half an hour ago, it had been all soft touches, head thrown back in laughter and lines like “met some great people at Berkeley, of course none of them compare to you Derek” or “You gonna take your shirt off so I can be re-acquainted with your abs or what?” followed up with a wink. And yet. Stiles didn’t have the sugary scent of arousal that indicated interest. Which led Derek to wonder whether or not Stiles was playing some kind of trick on him. It crossed his mind that maybe Stiles had found out about Derek’s feelings and was making fun of him. But he squashed that thought immediately. While Stiles was an asshole, he wasn’t vindictive or mean. Not without reason anyway.

So Derek just rolled his eyes at him and moved into the kitchen to get more chips. The entire pack was over, catching up and hanging out. It had been somewhat lonely since they all moved away. Well, not all. Erica and Isaac stayed in Beacon Hills. Isaac attending community college, and Erica working as a waitress because she didn’t want the pressure of having to choose a degree straight out of high school. She likes to say it’s not rational and at least she won’t wake up at 30 stuck in a career she chose at 19.

So Isaac has still been around, studying in the loft most days, and Erica brings home food from the diner after her shifts. The three of them were still getting into the routine of it just being them when Thanksgiving break came around. Good timing too, Isaac had been growing antsy without Allison around. And Erica had become sharper than usual when it had been a few days since she had spoken to Boyd.

As Alpha, Derek felt increasingly more relaxed as each pack member entered the loft. They were all home. And okay, maybe it wasn’t just his beta’s who had grown restless at certain absences.

“Okay which one of you assholes ate all the salt and vinegar chips?”

“It’s not like they were just yours Isaac”

“Yeah? Well I bought them didn’t I?” He snapped back at Lydia.

Yeah. Good to have them home.

Derek thrust the new bowl full of salt and vinegar chips at Isaac, and pointedly raised an eyebrow at him before moving to sit on the couch.

“Not even an hour back together and the claws are out!” Stiles proclaims walking back from the kitchen with a can of soda.

“Must be a new record.” Derek smirks back. Stiles does it again, throws his head back and laughs like it’s the funniest thing Derek has said all day. It makes him feel... warm.

“Nothing like family being back together again.” Scott muses from his spot on a bean bag, dopey smile on his face looking around at them all like he really couldn’t imagine anywhere he would rather be. Kira murmurs her agreement and kisses him chastely on the lips.

They all kind of fall silent for a moment, maybe thinking about how they got to this point – like Derek – how lucky they are to still be together – like Stiles – or how this is how a family ought to be – like Isaac.

“Yeah Scotty,” Stiles says smiling at his friend. “It’s good to be home.”

***

They finally decided on a Harry Potter marathon, partly because you can’t say no to Harry Potter, and partly because Malia had never seen anything Harry Potter-related. Stiles had sat next to Derek when the movies started, just to feel close to him. It had been so long since he’d been in the same space as the Sourwolf and he had missed it immensely.

Stiles may have become too relaxed however, as halfway through the Chamber of Secrets he lays his head on Derek’s shoulder, hand falling to rest on his thigh. Derek immediately stiffens, and a beat later Stiles is sitting back up straight again, hands in his own lap and face turning a bright red. He refuses to look at Derek. He refuses to move at all.

So now, it’s the end of Prisoner of Azkaban and Stiles still hasn’t relaxed, and Derek is still tense. Stiles tried not to feel offended by that. He knew Derek wasn’t interested, and maybe he had come across a little too strong when he first arrived, but he doesn’t want to make Derek uncomfortable. Besides, that sort of thing was what Pack does, right?

Sighing slightly Stiles shifts into a position that leaves more space between the two without being too obvious. His left side feeling strangely colder now. He looks around the room, at all the couples. Cuddling on beanbags, the other couch, even the floor. He just wants that kind of affection, and he wants it from Derek. Is that too much to ask? He sighs again. Well if Derek isn’t interested than yes it is Stiles, he berates himself.

He tries to distract himself as the next movie begins, but he can’t help the downward spiral his thoughts have taken. Why would Derek want someone like him? Has he been too obvious and Derek doesn’t know how to let him down gently? Is he overreacting? So he stands up almost as soon as the first task starts, stretching as he does and completely misses the way Derek’s eyes follow him and linger on the patch of skin exposed by his shirt lifting.

“Well this has been fun,” he starts. “But it’s time I head home and see my Dad. We should all work out another time to hang out though.” He notes that Lydia is yawning too, which means her Malia will be leaving soon as well.

“What about Wednesday? Here?” Isaac throws out. “We could have our own Thanksgiving?” He peters off at the end, unsure of himself. Visibly the room softens.

“Wednesday. Here. Sounds perfect.” Derek says with a small smile. Stiles looks away as a smile threatens to take over his face. Derek had become so good with the pack. Why did Stiles have to be so complicated?

“Shall we all bring food to share?” Lydia asks, standing holding Malia’s hand.

“Yeah, actually. I can organize the turkey if you guys all want to bring a dish?” Derek suggests.

“I can make dessert?” Stiles throws in. He makes a pretty amazing pumpkin pie.

“Oh yeah! Your pie?” Scott looks practically giddy at the idea of the pie.

“Yeah Scotty.” Stiles smiles at him. “I’m gonna make the pie.”

“So it’s sorted. We’ll do pre-Thanksgiving dinner here on Wednesday. Dinner starts at 7.” Erica finishes. Everyone looking very happy with the plan. “Great idea Isaac.”

“Okay well, I’ll see you guys Wednesday.” Stiles says and awkwardly waves as he walks out. He makes it down the first flight of stairs before he feels a hand on his arm. He turns to see Lydia there with Malia slightly behind. He smiles at them.

“So.” Lydia starts as soon as Malia nods at her. Must mean they’re officially out of hearing of the rest of the pack. “Want to tell me what was happening in there.”

Stiles works to cover his reaction, and ultimately fails. “I’m not sure I know what you mean.” He goes with.

“Stiles.” Lydia stops them and turns him to look at her. He avoids her eyes, doesn’t want to see whatever emotion is there. He hears her sigh. “Malia, can you go wait in the car please?”

“Sure.” Malia moves past and gives Lydia a quick kiss on the forehead. “I’ll see you Wednesday Stiles.”

“Bye Malia.” Stiles smiles at her, before Lydia captures his attention again.

“You’re never the first one to leave movie night. You looked uncomfortable for at least the last 3 hours, and for someone who’s been talking non-stop about how much he has been missing Derek Hale, you sure did a good job making it seem like he was unwanted.”

At that Stiles raises his head to face her head on. “Unwanted? If anything I came on as far too strong Lydia, didn’t you see how uncomfortable I was making him? Besides asking for and being successful in receiving Derek’s attention would just lead to complications. I knew this before I came back and I just momentarily forgot myself. It’s fine.”

Lydia purses her lips at him. “You know there’s nothing wrong with you, right Stiles?” He looks away from her and clenches his jaw. Very Derek-esque. “No, hey!” She grabs his chin and makes him look her in the eye. “There is nothing wrong with you Stiles. Derek, or anyone, would be lucky to have your attention. You’re not broken. You’re the perfect you.” She moves her hand and cups his face. “Besides, I don’t think he was uncomfortable at the attention. At least, not for the reasons you think.”

Stiles pulls her into a hug. He doesn’t really believe her, but he does feel better. “Thanks Lyds.”

She holds him for a beat longer before stepping back. “Of course. Now, coffee. Tuesday?” He nods. “Good, I’ll see you then.” She kisses his cheek and moves away. A moment longer and Stiles walks back to his jeep, running through the night in his head and hoping that maybe Lydia was right and maybe he misread the whole situation. But even as he started his jeep he shook his head at himself. Derek deserved more than what Stiles could offer him. Deserved to be loved in every way he needed and wanted.

Wiping the stray tear from his cheek, Stiles made his way to his Dad’s house.

***

The next few days were chaos as Derek, Boyd and Erica worked to clean and organize the loft. As well as find a table big enough to fit everyone. Derek doesn’t know where Erica finds them, but she shows up Tuesday afternoon with 3 identical looking tables that placed together are long enough for the whole pack. And behind her walk Boyd and Isaac with multiple chairs.

When Derek asked her where she found them, the answering grin makes him retract his question and walk away to the kitchen to continue cleaning. Sometimes it’s best if he doesn’t know.

He doesn’t know how much time has passed, but his oven is so clean they could probably eat out of it. As he stands up and turns around, he sees Erica just standing in the doorway, staring at him. He raises an eyebrow at her. “Can I help you?” It registers with him that they’re the only two in the loft now. That doesn’t really bode well for him.

“Can’t I just want to have a conversation with my Alpha and best friend?” She replies sweetly. Yeah, definitely doesn’t bode well for him.

“Yeah, maybe later.” He moves to go around her. She steps in his way. He goes to the other side, she follows. He sighs. “Erica.” He growls at her. She just smiles sweetly at her. He goes to push her out of the way, and before he can blink she’s got his arm and is throwing him over her shoulder onto the ground. He can’t quite stop the pride that swells up, but ensures his face is fixed in a scowl. It’s not worth fighting her.

“Can we talk now?” She asks, standing over him.

Huffing out a breath, Derek sits up. “Fine.” He makes his way to the (brand new) dining table. “What do you want to talk about?”

“Stiles.”

He should’ve known this was coming. He sits up straighter. “What about Stiles?” He’s waiting for it. The “You’re pathetic Derek” or “Stop being so obvious” or even “you’re not good enough for Stiles”. What he’s not expecting is what comes out of Erica’s mouth.

“Please tell me you’re going to actually ask him out while he’s back.” Derek feels like he gets whiplash with how quickly his head snaps up to look her in the eye.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” He schools his expression into indifference. A tactic that has never once worked on Erica. She sighs and sits in the seat across from him.

“I can see how you look at him, how you are around him. How he is around you.” Derek clenches his jaw and looks back down at his hands. ”Derek, you always have pop tarts in your kitchen, even though you despise the things, just in case he comes around. He’s been at college for a few months now but you still record his favourite shows. You call him every second day, and text him every other. You’ve continued ensuring the Sheriff eats healthily. And I know you have his red hoodie that he’s been looking for, for months under your pillow.” She raises an eyebrow at him and Derek feels himself flush. “These are just the things that I’ve witnessed. I’m sure there are countless other things you do for him. So my questions is, why haven’t you done anything about it.”

Derek heaves a sigh. He isn’t escaping this conversation. And Erica has always been kind and understanding when it matters. He thinks (hopes) this will be one of those times.

“He doesn’t want me Erica.” He says quietly. “I will not pursue him when I know he has no interest.”

“Well that’s bullshit.”

Derek growls and looks back up at her. “His feelings always come first, and I will not try and force mine on him.”

Quick as a flash Erica’s hands are resting on his. “Hey now, that’s not what I meant.” Her voice is far softer than he’s heard it in a long time. “What I mean is he is very clearly into you.” Derek starts shaking his head but she yanks on his hands. “No, Derek listen to me. He is. Maybe you don’t see the way he looks at you, but even you must have noticed how he was acting on Sunday. He doesn’t do that with the rest of us.”

Derek swallows and looks down at their clasped hands, “But he doesn’t smell like he’s into me.” He murmurs, quiet enough that if she weren’t a werewolf she wouldn’t have heard him. God he sounds like a petulant child.

“Derek, you can’t rely on your werewolf senses to tell you things. Trust what you see with your eyes.”

“But what if what he’s doing and how he’s behaving is just some kind of act?” The insecurity spills from him before he can stop it. “What if he knows how I feel and is playing a trick on me?”

“Do you honestly think Stiles would do that?” Erica’s voice has gone sharp. Derek winces, before shaking his head. “Exactly. You should talk to him, ask him out. And look if he says no,” he can practically hear her eyes rolling at the thought of Stiles saying no. “He goes back to college on Saturday and won’t be back till Christmas. Plenty of time to get over it, and move on.”

Derek sighs and looks her in the eye. He knows he wouldn’t have moved on by then, he’s been half in love with Stiles since the pack was 17. But she has a point, he should ask Stiles. Find out once and for all. He’s been so busy trusting his wolf senses he hasn’t considered maybe relying on the human ones.

“Okay.” He nods. “I’ll talk to him after dinner tomorrow. But if he says no you are staying with me and eating a whole tub of ice-cream with me. Okay?”

“Of course.” She stands and presses a kiss to his cheek. “I don’t think he will. But if it happens, I will be here for you the whole time.” She squeezes his shoulder before moving into the kitchen.

One of the biggest changes to happen since they all came together after the hell that was the Alpha Pack, was that Erica mellowed out somewhat. She was still intimidating as hell, and when she knew what she wanted she went for it. But around the pack, she was better. Warmer. Derek couldn’t have asked for a better best friend.

He doesn’t know how tomorrow’s going to go. But if it goes badly, he knows he will have Erica right there to help him through it. He won’t have to do it alone.

***

Derek has been lying awake since at least 6am, stressing. Now it’s 8 and he’s wondering if he can start cooking the turkey yet (He’s very aware that it’s too early). He’s just nervous. He’s never done anything like this before. Hasn’t really had a family holiday meal since before the fire. The past few years he’s gone to different pack members’ houses but he’s never really stayed for long, nor had to prepare a meal. And now he’s doing the most important part of the meal?

He’s stressed. And trying very hard to distract himself with the stress of the meal, rather than the stress of Stiles. Because he is not a teenager and he will not succumb to moping about a crush (he so will).

With a sigh he gets out of bed and decides to go for a run, maybe it’ll burn off some of this nervous energy.

***

Stiles is staring at the oven. His pies are baking. Yes he’s aware that watching them does not make them bake any faster. But he doesn’t know what else to do with himself. It’s almost 4pm. He has Lydia’s words from yesterday’s coffee date running through his mind, “just explain to him how you feel, about how it may be different to what he’s used to. You’re worth more than just sex Stiles remember that.”

Easy enough for her to say. She’s never going to have to have this kind of conversation with someone. Discovering he was asexual was not really a big revelation for Stiles. He’d always kind of realized he didn’t feel what other people did to “hot” people. Never felt the “heat of arousal”. He threw himself into an infatuation with Lydia, and consistently made lewd remarks to attempt to seem like every other teenage boy.

Discovering that there was a term for it, and that he wasn’t the only one was one of the most amazing feelings of his short life. Sure he still has days where he hates himself. Where he wishes he felt some form of sexual arousal. Where he just wants to be normal. And then he hates himself for even thinking that asexual people aren’t. And it just becomes a vicious cycle.

Lydia is the only person in the pack who knows. He knew she would understand the term. He casually brought it up with Scott one day and he couldn’t seem to wrap his head around it. That had been... disheartening.

But telling Lydia had felt amazing. She didn’t laugh at him, or invalidate him. She simply cocked her head to the side, nodded and said “I’m so glad you told me” and hugged him. He cried. A lot.

So, yeah he’s come to terms with being ace, knows that he’ll probably never really come out to anyone else. But that’s okay. Because he knows who he is, and that he’s not alone.

Of course he had to go and fall for someone who is so undeniably attractive, but also ridiculously cute and adorable and Stiles just wants to kiss him and cuddle him and do stupid domestic shit. But someone like Derek is likely to expect sex from a relationship right? So how can Stiles just tell Derek and think that he’ll be okay in a relationship with potentially no sex?

Stiles is anxious and frustrated and doesn’t know how to handle this situation. Maybe he can ignore the situation for now? It’s not like it’s going to come up before he heads back to college.

The oven timer going off pulls him out of his thoughts. He takes the pies out and puts them on the cooling rack. He’s quickly running out of time to come up with a way out of this.

***

Everyone has arrived by 6:30, and everything smells amazing. Derek is so content and happy to be surrounded by his pack. By his family.

Dinner goes amazingly, he even manages to sit next to Stiles and it feels more or less like it had before. Maybe slightly stilted, but Derek isn’t sure if that’s him or Stiles.

After dessert, which was some of Stiles’ amazing pumpkin pie, Kira puts some music on and everyone moves to the lounge room. Derek is full and content surrounded by his family, as unconventional as they may be. The night has been amazing so far, and he can’t wipe the smile from his face.

When he catches Erica’s knowing look from across the room however, his nerves quickly arise to the surface. He swallows and nods at her. He can do this.

He looks across the room and sees Stiles talking to Boyd and Scott. Taking a deep breath he walks over, resting a hand on Stiles’ shoulder. Stiles turns his head, smile still on his face and looks at Derek. He’s absolutely breathtaking.

“Can I talk to you for a minute?” Derek asks. Stiles smile drops off his face and he appears anxious. Well this can’t be good Derek thinks, already preparing himself for the rejection.

To his surprise Stiles nods, “Lead the way Sourwolf.”

Hesitating only a moment, Derek leads Stiles up the stairs to his room. He had both his and Isaac’s bedrooms soundproofed, it made living together considerably less awkward. When Derek shuts his door, all he can hear is Stiles’ rapid heartbeat and smell the nerves on him. Oh God why is he doing this again?

For himself. For them. Because if there is any chance Stiles feels the same way, don’t they deserve happiness?

Derek turns from the door to face Stiles, who is biting his lip and fidgeting with his shirt sleeves, refusing to meet Derek’s eyes. He doesn’t know where to begin, finally having the chance to talk to Stiles, to find out if they can potentially become something more... or to at least give himself the closure he needs to move on, he’s more tongue-tied than usual.

***

“Well? We just gonna stand here all day looking at each other? I mean the view is nice” Stiles blurts when the silence gets too much and instantly cringes. He brought you up to his room, way to make it seem like you think it’s for sex. Goddamn it Stilinski.

Derek blushes before clearing his throat, and looking determined. Oh boy. Looks like Stiles won’t have to ask Derek out if he’s pre-emptively rejecting him.

“So it’s been good having you back from college.” He starts, and Stiles just nods trying not to think of the heartbreak awaiting him. “And I’m really glad you and I have managed to keep in contact so much while you’ve been away.” Okay so he at least still wants to be friends, that’s a plus. “But I’ve been thinking – well I mean, I would like if we could maybe be something... more?” Stiles whips his head up at that to catch Derek’s eye. Surely he misheard...

“What?”

Derek visibly cringes. “I mean I get if you just want to stay friends, maybe you don’t feel that way about me. But I thought if you would like to maybe we could go to dinner? Or coffee? On a date?”

Lydia was right. She was so totally right! Oh man! Stiles feels a moment of elation before realizing that he can’t say yes. He can’t agree without telling Derek about him. About... certain conditions about them dating. Derek must take his silence as rejection though as he begins to babble.

“Oh god I read this all wrong didn’t I? I knew it, I’m so sorry. We can go back to being friends. I knew I should’ve trusted my wolf senses. Please don’t let things become weird, I’ll find a way to move on I will -“

“Derek!” Stiles almost laughs over the top of him. Hearing Derek babble is cute and endearing and just shocking enough to get his mouth working again. He steps in front of Derek and grabs his hand. “I’m not saying no okay?” He smiles softly at him and sees the moment realization dawns on Derek. The smile that changes his whole face. Makes him wish he didn’t have to continue. Didn’t have to set things straight. He briefly toys with the idea of not saying anything. Of just going into a relationship. He thinks that sex probably isn’t all that bad and if it’s what Derek wants then he could probably do it right?

But as quick as the thought comes he dismisses it and hates himself for it. Derek deserves more than that. Doesn’t deserve the deception. Stiles slowly leads Derek to the edge of the bed and sits down with him. “But before I can say yes I do need to talk about something with you, and it may change whether or not you want to date me.” He watches as confusion and concern flits over Derek’s face. He wishes he could kiss it away, but no kissing. Not yet.

“Okay. I’m sure it’s not as bad as you think it is. Unless you’ve killed someone, but then again I’d be slightly hypocritical to hold that against you” Derek smiles wryly at him.

Smiling back slightly Stiles begins, “Have you ever heard of the term asexual?” at Derek’s blank look Stiles continues. “It’s when someone doesn’t feel any sexual attraction.” He leaves the sentence there, watching Derek’s face for reactions. “I identify as asexual. And as a result I’m not really – I don’t feel sexually attracted to people.”

Stiles just stops, waiting for Derek to say something. Anything. He looks a little dumbfounded. “So you’re not... attracted to me?”

“Not sexually” and that’s so important. The distinction.

“Then how can you want to date me?” Derek is beginning to look sad, and like he’s going to close himself off.

“Because there is more than just sexual attraction. For example romantic attraction. I am so romantically attracted to you Derek it’s ridiculous. I want to kiss you, cuddle you, sleep with you, cook with you, get a dog with you, go on holidays with you... I just. I want so much. But sex. Sex isn’t a thing I’m interested in. I mean, masturbating is fun and makes me feel good but the idea of another person makes me feel... weird and wrong. I’m probably not explaining it very well.” Stiles takes a breath and runs his hands through his hair frantically. Derek looks like he’s trying to process everything and so Stiles just plows on.

“But I know for a lot of people – so many people – that sex is considered vital to a relationship, that they can’t expect a relationship to last without it. And I can understand that, abstractly anyway. Maybe one day I will want sex, maybe I won’t. But you need to decide whether you can be with someone like me. Someone who doesn’t... do what normal people do.” It slips out. Normal people. He’s not supposed to think like that anymore.

“So, the reason I didn’t smell arousal on you, is because you aren’t sexually attracted to me?” Not what he expected Derek to say but he can roll. Stiles nods, not trusting himself to keep his words in check. “But you want to date me and do... everything else?” It sounds like Derek is just confirming all this.

“Yes I do, I really really do.” So much for not talking. “But you should take some time and really think about it. Think about what it means for you to be in a relationship without sex and whether you could do it. Because getting to date you, and experience what that’s like? I don’t think I’ll ever want to give that up. Give you up. But this is a pretty big thing that you’ll need to be okay with.” Go big or go home, Jesus! You’re not proposing Stiles!

Derek still looks slightly dumbfounded, “How could I not still want to be with you? Stiles sex isn’t everything, I’ve managed just fine on my own for a while now.” Derek smirks and rolls his eyes. “If being with you, getting to have everything you’re willing to give me means less sex or no sex than I’m in. I want you Stiles. And I have for years.” Derek’s suddenly holding both his hands and Stiles is wondering when that happened when Derek’s face is closer all of a sudden. “Can I kiss you?” He whispers, and Stiles feels the breath fan across his face.  Nodding numbly in reply, Stiles leans in closer, closing his eyes at the first feel of lips.

Stiles loves kissing, loves it so much that he could kiss someone for hours without getting bored. But kissing Derek is an experience! He has soft lips, a little on the dry side. But when he opens his mouth and moves his hands to cup his face Stiles feels like crying. Actually maybe he is crying? Derek breaks away and thumbs away the tears. Definitely crying.

“What’s wrong?” He looks so concerned and worried like maybe he did something wrong.

“I didn’t think it would go this way.” Stiles confesses. “I didn’t think you would accept this. Accept me. I didn’t think anybody could.” Another tear falls down his cheek as one of his greatest fears left his mouth.

“How could anyone not?” Derek counters. “You’re brave, and selfless, and funny, a bit of an asshole sure. But otherwise you’d be boring. And you are anything but boring. You’re passionate, and loyal and so damn perfect for me. I don’t know much about what asexual is, but it certainly isn’t what defines you. And it certainly isn’t reason enough for me to not want to be with you.” He kisses him again, chastely. “So is that a yes?”