Derek has always been quite good at ignoring problems. Just not this one.
He can see the way Stiles looks at him sometimes, warmth and affection melting in his eyes only seconds before his mind becomes aware of what his face is doing, startling himself in a comical manner.
He can smell the spicy scent of arousal and embarrassment when he takes off his shirt or gets too close.
He can hear his name slip from Stiles' mouth as he moans wantonly, pleasuring himself in the darkness of his room with the window unlocked and clueless as to who might be listening.
He can't touch. Derek will not touch, not anymore. He realizes it's too risky.
This has gone on far enough.
It's taken everything in him to ignore Stiles for this long.
Pack meetings are the hardest. There, he is raw and vulnerable under Stiles' gaze despite his attempts at acting cold.
Derek is a twisted thing, an abomination, a menace, undeserving of the boy and his lion heart. If he were to give in, he would love Stiles mercilessly until he was broken in his hands because everything he loves dies, and everything now dead he still loves.
The childish light in his eyes left long ago, replaced by self-loathing red. Stiles still has that light, that potential, that Spark. He can't take that away from him, can't hurt him—he can't.
Stiles looks at him like he wouldn't mind being broken, and that's what terrifies him the most.
Lie. Push him away. You can't risk it. It's for his own good. You can't hurt him. Control yourself.
He's quite certain that if he repeats this enough times in his head, it will start to sound convincing.
They are alone. It is almost as cold outside as the chilling unease in Derek's bones and night has fallen upon them.
Derek pointedly ignores Stiles' gaze, and when he finally drops him off at the doorstep of his father's house, he turns around, hoping for a quick escape. Stiles is much too quick however, and Derek's defenses against him are steadily crumbling—have never really been any match for him since the beginning.
Stiles hastily grabs his hand, and when Derek turns to meet his eyes, he sees unadulterated hurt reflected in them. Stiles swallows, opens his mouth after a long pause.
"This." His voice cracks. "Why are you so afraid of this?"
Before anything more can be said, Stiles' father opens the front door with a quiet, "Son?"
And just like that, Derek pulls away from his hold and disappears into the night.
He's just searching for a fairy tale, he tells himself. Things that can only be felt in children’s storybooks.
Stiles seems to forget that this is Beacon Hills. Reality is too heavy a weight, and there are no happy endings in an endless black hole for the supernatural.
Derek should know, because even abominations like him had needed hope to hold onto in the dark.
Too bad Laura's gone now.
Derek isn't aware of what Stiles dreams of at night, isn't aware of the monsters not under his bed but outside his window, lurking in the shadows or inside his pale, fragile-boned body.
He doesn't realize Stiles is just as broken. When his mother's heart ceased to beat, the world came in and he had become devastatingly aware of the happiness he'd never get to have again.
But with Derek, it's as close as he can possibly get to it.
He hears Stiles' jeep drive in before he sees him, followed by angry footsteps going in circles. The door to his loft slams open after five whole minutes.
"Stiles." Derek is quick to respond, placing his reading glasses on the coffee table next to him gently.
"Listen, you were-asshole," Stiles huffs in frustration. "I know what you're thinking, and you're wrong. Okay? I'm not just—I'm not just gonna move on because you want me to, because you think I deserve someone better. It doesn't work like that."
"And how does it work?" Derek asks, arching his eyebrow innocently.
"You tell me, Derek. You're the one running away from your problems. I'm sure you've got some great ideas up your sleeves." Stiles bites back.
"I'm protecting you—"
"Oh my god, shut up! Stop treating me like I'm some toddler! I can protect myself."
Derek stands up, begins to busy himself with other activities in hopes that it will shoo Stiles away.
He knows better than anyone how futile it will prove to be. That boy is a literal mosquito. Not that he really wants him to go, anyway.
He wants that mosquito more than anything.
This thought process just took a really weird turn.
"Why are you here, Stiles?"
"Because I love you."
There's a ringing in Derek's ears, and he can hear his heart pounding rapidly against his rib cage. Despite his desire to spill the world out of his mouth for Stiles, he says nothing in return.
Stiles presses on.
"I love you, and I'll wait. Until you're ready. But I'm not giving up on you. And—And maybe you don't wanna move on, but you have to. You'll have to face it one day, Derek."
"Go home." Derek's voice spits out, trembling, and there's nothing he can do to help it. It's getting hard to breathe.
If Stiles notices, it doesn't deter him.
"The thing is, you have this crazy idea that you're alone in the world. Which you're not, you know. Alone, I mean. Hello? Awkward human here." He looks down, fidgeting with his nails anxiously. "I'm right here with you. So just...remember that."
Stiles' jaw clenches, and the scent of heartache wafts across the room.
What a surprise. Seems like Derek's only purpose in life is to disappoint the people he loves.
"Okay. Okay, I'm—I'm going now."
Stiles leaves, and Derek's world falls apart all over again.
It's been three months. Three months since he'd taken Stiles' virginity on the hood of his Jeep in the heat of an argument, and three months since he had ran away like a coward because of it.
He can't stop thinking about Stiles' words.
"What are you waiting for, Derek? Another tragedy?" Peter asks one day, his arms crossed. "It's hard to find a kid like him, you know. If I were you, I'd stop resisting the current. Everyone gets tired and drowns eventually."
Derek huffs, ignores him as he goes back to doing pull ups.
Peter shrugs. "All I'm saying is if you're smart enough, maybe you won't drown alone. Better yet, the two of you might even end up on a nice beach!"
"I'm pretty sure that's not how currents work. Get out."
"And leave you to your constant moping and sexual tension? Gladly."
There was an accident.
Scott sent him a text to meet up at Deaton's. Derek doesn't know the details, or if Scott even sent him any. He doesn't have time to think clearly, because all he could bring himself to read is that it involved Stiles getting injured before he started running. He might as well have died, because that's just about the amount of panic and distress coursing through Derek's body. As if Stiles had died.
Because what if he had died? What if he had died, and Derek's last words to him were "go home"?
What if the reason he got injured in the first place was because he wasn't there to protect him?
He slams the doors to the animal clinic open, walking right past Deaton. He can't remember how his feet even brought him here. He's in ugly sweatpants, he's sweaty and breathing hard through his nose, and he probably looks borderline homicidal, but none of it matters because Stiles is there.
Stiles is there. Stiles is alive. Stiles has a cast on his arm, sitting on a stainless steel examination table, and he's staring at Derek like he's grown three heads.
"Derek?" He calls in disbelief, and then turns to look back at Scott. "Dude, did you call him here?"
"What happened?" Derek asks, voice clipped and angry. He's about three seconds away from losing it.
Scott responds to Stiles, choosing to ignore Derek's question. "Look, we're all tired of you guys looking like kicked puppies. It's putting the whole pack on edge, alright? So just sit down and figure this out, because I can't do this anymore."
"Scott, what happened? " Derek asks again, this time louder. His alpha voice accidentally slips out, and Scott takes a step back and whines.
Stiles interrupts before things can get any worse.
"Uh, Derek, listen..." He looks back at Scott briefly, glaring at him, before returning his gaze to Derek. "Scott is—I mean, I just wiped out on a skateboard." He finishes lamely.
"That's all, okay? I came to Deaton because I didn't want to bother my dad with it. So nothing's wrong, alright? And—" He cuts himself off.
Derek's stomach drops down to his feet. Stiles must see something in his face, because he pales and starts to stand up.
Here he was, thinking Scott and Stiles got into some form of supernatural trouble again, did something stupid without letting him know because Derek wasn't in touch. Because it was all Derek's fault.
And Stiles just broke his arm skateboarding.
He wonders, for a moment, if Stiles sees the irony in it. How even if Derek wasn't a part of his life anymore, he'll still always be in danger.
How Derek can't protect him even if he wants to. Not even from a damn skateboard.
He's never felt so stupid in his life.
He leaves just as he came, slamming the doors behind him closed and exiting the clinic.
Stiles hasn't stopped texting and calling him since then. Derek was surprised to see even a few texts from Scott, apologizing and pleading with him to visit Stiles. Lydia sent one too, bluntly telling him to get his head out of his ass and make out with Stiles already so things can finally get back to normal.
He can't sleep. He can't focus. Hell, he can't even eat properly. He keeps replaying what happened in his head, the thoughts that crossed his mind when he learned of Stiles' injury.
All it takes is one more annoying comment from Peter as he's leaving for Derek to snap.
Everything on his desk is thrown off in one swift, violent motion. Paper flies, scattering across the floor. Pens and books, among other objects fall not as gracefully. He's so angry. He's angry at himself, he's angry at Stiles for making him feel this way, he's angry at how terrible his life has been up until now. He can't even love properly.
Derek throws his lamp in fury, and it smashes against the wall, too loud and overbearing in the silence.
His lamp. The lamp that Stiles bought him out of nowhere, just because it reminded him of Derek.
"The style looks all emo and grumpy, and it's difficult to work with, just like you!" He'd said sweetly, sarcasm practically dripping from his tongue. Derek remembers holding back a smile.
He's tired of controlling himself, tired of the nightmares that plague him, tired of the never ending fear lodged in his throat, tired of hearing Kate's voice in the back of his head.
Most of all, tired of seeing that sad look in Stiles' eyes.
What is Stiles tired of? He wants to know. He wants to know everything about him.
He's done with being haunted by the past. In fact, Derek is fucking exhausted.
He wants to move on, start a new life with Stiles. God, how he wants it.
And even if it ends terribly, even if he's a selfish monster for ignoring the consequences of his actions, for the first time in a long time, he wants to try. He wants to try for Stiles, and for himself.
Whatever horrors the future holds for them, they'll go through it together from now on. There's no turning back after this, and Derek's not sure if he'll ever want to at this point.
His limit has been reached.
He wants to move forward.
He wants to end up on a nice beach.
Derek enters through Stiles' window. Stiles is sitting on the edge of his bed, seemingly deep in thought. He startles immediately, turning to look at Derek with wide eyes. He's still wearing a cast on his arm.
He had this all planned out, what he was going to say. As soon as his eyes landed on Stiles' face, his tongue went numb and his mind went blank and he, he can't do this, what if this is another mistake, what if he hurts Stiles—
"I'm—" Derek attempts to speak, to spill his consuming thoughts of want and love, but his words are stuck burning in his throat, choking him like the smoke among his family.
Stiles understands anyway, breath hitching in realization. He gives Derek a sickeningly fond look, lips tugging upwards into a smile. It's the kind that leaves Derek breathless and frozen in place, yet he's never felt more free.
Just like that, the days in which Kate Argent and her bloody red lipstick came along and rotted his heart are over.
Stiles looks at Derek.
Derek stares back at him.
They say nothing, but their eyes say everything.
Derek buys Stiles a lamp that looks just like him three days later.
Stiles teases him endlessly about it, and Derek wouldn't have it any other way.