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Three months.

That’s how long this thing between him and Derek, whatever it is, has been going on, and Stiles isn’t sure how much longer he can keep it up.  Not literally—he’s a teenager and his refractory period is pretty awesome, thank you very much.  But emotionally?  Yeah, it’s starting to take a toll.

He doesn’t know why Derek decided to sleep with him that first time.  Because, honestly, with the way he looks, Derek could’ve gotten into the pants of just about anyone he wanted.  But for whatever reason he’d settled for Stiles, and after it had happened the once it just sort of became part of their dynamic.

And really, in theory, Stiles is all for being Derek Hale’s fuck buddy.  Who wouldn’t be?  He gets to have sex on the regular with a stupidly attractive werewolf.  It’s just that, in practice, their little trysts have had a rather unfortunate side-effect: the minor crush Stiles had been nursing even before their thing started has since become decidedly less minor.

Which is to say that he’s pretty sure he’s in love with the guy.

That thought is terrifying enough on its own.  What’s worse is that he has no idea how Derek feels about him in return—if he even feels anything at all.

While it’s true that Derek has opened up a lot over the last year, especially since Beacon Hills finally calmed the fuck down and he officially joined Scott’s pack, he’s hardly Mister Touchy-Feely, and it’s doubtful that that’s ever going to change.  Even if Derek did feel the same, Stiles knows better than to think that he’d be the first to fess up to it.  So, no, Stiles has no idea why Derek started sleeping with him, or why he has continued to sleep with him, or whether he’s after anything more than sex.

To be fair, though, it’s also true that Stiles has never asked.  It’s not like doesn’t want to know, because he does.  More than that, he’s pretty sure he needs to.  He has to know whether or not he’s got a shot at something here, something real.  And if he doesn’t, then he needs to put an end to this thing once and for all, because Stiles is already 85% sure Derek has ruined him for anyone else, and he wants to be able to salvage that last 15% before it’s too late.

But if he’s going to be completely honest with himself, the chances that he ever would’ve worked up the nerve to broach the subject on his own are slim to none.  As painful as it is not knowing, he’s more afraid of getting a definitive answer; of what that answer might be.

Of course, that was before the acceptance letter from had Berkeley arrived.  The letter which was now sitting on his desk, taunting him with thoughts about his future.  A future away from Beacon Hills.  Away from his dad.  Away from the pack.  Away from Derek.

Having the situation all laid out like that, as it turns out, serves as one hell of an incentive.  Stiles can’t go away to college without knowing whether or not Derek will be here for him when he gets back.  He doesn’t want to miss out on his life waiting on someone who’ll never feel the same way about him.  So after about twenty minutes of angsting and trying not to freak out too much, Stiles texts Derek and asks him to come over.

Upon receiving an affirmative Stiles takes to pacing his room, trying to burn off his excess energy.  It doesn’t really help all that much, and he only ends up makes twelve and a half rounds before he hears his window slide open.  He spins sharply around on his heel and finds himself rooted to the spot, watching warily as Derek climbs inside.

Derek must have sensed Stiles’ low-grade panic from outside or something, because the moment his boots hit the floor he’s on the defensive, eyes flashing blue as he scans the room.  Finding no immediate threat doesn’t seem to comfort him, though, because his expression cycles from what looks almost like concern through to a brief flash of confusion, and then settles on a blank, guarded mask.  It’s awful, and the tension in the room ratchets up to stifling levels.  For a moment Stiles forgets how to breathe.

“Derek,” he manages to choke out.

“Stiles.”

Right then.

Dropping the werewolf’s gaze meekly, Stiles takes a deep, steadying breath.  “Sorry to drag you away from… whatever you were doing.  I just—I have a question.”  Another breath, and then he bites the proverbial bullet.  “Are we… does this mean anything?”  He isn’t proud of the way his voice wavers, but it’s freeing to finally get the words out.

Not that that makes it any easier to look up from where he is fiddling with the buttons of his over-shirt.  It isn’t until the silence has stretched out to a full minute that he manages to peek up through his eyelashes.  Derek is standing perfectly still, his eyes trained unwaveringly—and unnervingly—on Stiles, and his expression is impossible to read.  Stiles bites his lip as he casts his eyes back to the floor, stubbornly swallowing the nervous babble that’s threatening to tumble past his lips.

“‘This,’” Derek echoes.  Stiles doesn’t even have to look up to know that he’s arching an eyebrow in place of using proper inflections to voice his question.

“You know,” Stiles mumbles, his face flaming, “Us.  You and me.”

There’s a long beat of silence.

“Does it have to?” Derek asks finally.  The question doesn’t sound reluctant, just calm and even.  Stiles hates that tone.  It makes him feel even more confused and inexperienced.  Worse, it makes him feel vulnerable, because he can’t answer without showing his hand.  If he says no, Derek will know he’s lying.  If he says yes, he’ll have to explain himself, and the whole point of this is to find out how Derek feels, not to vomit his own emotions all over the place.  Which means that he’s left standing there feeling like an idiot, unable to respond.  He hates it.

“I… guess it doesn’t,” he allows eventually, barking out a self-deprecating little laugh.  His eyes are starting to sting and he quickly turns away to hide it, hoping his perusal of the bookshelf looks suitably casual.  They’re tears of frustration, he tells himself. He’s not upset. He’s not. “Yeah, no, you’re right, it was a stupid question.  Just forget I asked.”

“I didn’t say that,” Derek says, his voice just as infuriatingly calm as before.  Stiles’ lips twist in acknowledgement, but he can’t bring himself to turn back around just yet.  It’s a long few minutes before Derek speaks again, sounding uncharacteristically tentative.  “Why are you asking?”

Stiles reaches out to tap nervously at the book spines in front of him and gives a little shrug that aims for nonchalant but probably falls short.  “I don’t know.”

“Lie,” Derek points out, and Stiles silently curses werewolf hearing and his own traitorous heartbeat.

“I don’t know what you want me to say,” he amends, folding his arms across his chest.  His eyes track the creases of wear along some of the older books’ spines, and he notes absently that he should probably tend to them at some point, before they fall apart entirely.

“I want you to tell the truth,” Derek’s voice murmurs then, suddenly right next to his ear, and Stiles yelps as he whirls around to face him.

“Dude, what the fuck?!” he squawks indignantly—and, all right, maybe an octave or two higher than usual.  But personal space is fucking sacred to an emotionally exposed Stilinski, okay, and Derek damn well knows it.

Not, apparently, that it matters, because he simply moves in close again, forcing Stiles to stumble back in order to keep some distance between them.

“What are you doing?” Stiles demands, his voice still more shrill and panicky than he’d like.  He really doesn’t think he can handle being in close proximity to Derek’s everything right now.  “Would you just stop—”

But Derek doesn’t stop.  Between one moment and the next he’s managed to catch Stiles by his belt loops and pull him in close, slanting their lips together.

Stiles freezes, his heart galloping frenetically in his chest.  This is far from the first time they’ve kissed, of course, but this is the first time since, well, the first time that Stiles has allowed himself a faint flicker of hope that there might be something more than just lust behind it.

Which is why, only a few seconds later, he turns his face to the side and breaks their lips apart.  Because he doesn’t want this anymore if he can’t be sure he’ll be able to keep it.

It isn’t until he tries to step away that he realises Derek’s hands are on his hips, holding him in place.

“Please,” Derek breathes, and against his better judgement Stiles opens his eyes—when had he closed them?—and turns his head to face forward again.  Derek is already watching him, gaze oddly intent.  “Stiles, what do you want this to mean?”

Stiles opens his mouth, but nothing comes out.  I want it to mean that I get to keep you.  Yeah, no way he is saying that out loud.  His mouth snaps shut again with an audible click of teeth.

“Stiles,” Derek chides, achingly patient.  There’s something else in his voice, too; something that Stiles can’t quite place but that he thinks might be hope.  He tries to hold Stiles’ gaze, but Stiles just can’t, and instead stares fixedly at a point over the werewolf’s shoulder, working his jaw as he tries to figure out something to say that isn’t a lie.

“I want us to be on the same page about this,” he says slowly, still not meeting Derek’s eyes, “I want to be sure it means the same thing to both of us.  That’s all.”

One of Derek’s hands finds the side of his neck, and Stiles tries futilely not to shudder when a thumb sweeps along his jaw.  “And what does it mean to you?”

Stiles turns away from the touch, staring determinedly at the wall.  “I asked you first.”

Derek sighs, like Stiles is being difficult—which, granted—but, strangely enough, he doesn’t pull back.  He stays close, his exhales warm against Stiles’ cheek.

“I want you,” Derek says, thumb stroking Stiles’ jaw again, “In whatever capacity you’ll let me have you.”

Stiles does look up at that, wide eyes snapping back to Derek’s face, and Derek smirks slightly before leaning in to press a chaste kiss to the corner of Stiles’ mouth.

Stiles swallows thickly.  He wants to believe that, he does, but— “I... you mean that?”

Derek doesn’t seem surprised by Stiles’ skepticism, though something in his expression seems almost sad.  It’s gone before Stiles can try to parse it, though, and then Derek is taking his hand and pressing it to his chest, over his heart.  Stiles’ fingers twitch.

“I want you,” Derek says again, and the steady tattoo of his heart doesn’t falter under Stiles’ palm.  Not a lie.  Stiles curls his fingers into Derek’s shirt, stunned and maybe a little desperate.

“Frankly I’d be kind of insulted if you didn’t, considering,” Stiles mumbles, tying not to get his hopes up.  He glances down at where his hand is knotted in Derek’s henley.  “How...” he trails off, then wets his lips before trying again.  Clarity.  That’s key.  “I mean, when you say you want me, you mean…?”

Derek huffs, just a little, and nudges Stiles’ nose with his own.  “I mean that I want you, dumbass.  It’s really not that complicated.”

“Yeah, all right,” Stiles concedes, “but I mean, if I said that I wanted things to stay the way they were, just no-strings-attached sex, you would be okay with that?”

Derek tenses briefly, the hand still on Stiles’ hip flexing, but he nods his head curtly all the same.  “If that was what you wanted.”

Stiles licks his lips again and tries to ignore the way his own heart is pounding fast and nervous in his chest.  “A-and if I said that I wanted more—what then?”

Derek reels him in so that they’re flush from hips to chest and kisses him, hard and fast and bruising.  When he pulls back, his expression is soft and certain.  “I would be okay with that, too.”

Stiles blinks, dazed, and the words take a moment to register properly.  Once they have, a slow, awed grin starts to spread across his face.  He tries—and largely fails—to tamp it down.  “Seriously?”  When Derek nods, the heavy weight that’s been sitting around Stiles’ heart for the past three months disappears so fast he feels like he’s floating.  His grin is wide enough now that his cheeks are starting to hurt.  “Oh.  Okay.  Good.”

Derek’s answering smile is, dare he say it, fond, and Stiles winds his arms around the werewolf’s neck before lurching forward to instigate a kiss of his own, sweet and slow.  When they break for air he buries his face against Derek's neck and laughs, bright and happy, reveling in the feel of Derek’s arms around him.

“Okay.”