When The Pain Becomes Too Real
Derek didn't love. He couldn't. He wasn't sure he even believed in love's existence anymore. But he also couldn't lie to himself any longer and say he didn't recognize the slow rise of pain in his chest, the sharp, cutting ache that had sat just beyond his ribcage ever since Stiles walked out of the loft two days ago.
It wasn't just guilt that ate at him now. He knew that. Could even admit that, though not aloud where someone else might overhear it.
No, this pain, this ache, it wasn't like before. It wasn't shrouded in anger or betrayal or shame, or any of that other stuff he'd felt after the fire. After Kate. And again, after Jennifer. This was…different. It was raw, and it hurt as if he were dying, as if he was losing all the oxygen and blood his body needed to function, to thrive.
Could it be heartbreak? Real heartbreak? The kind of heartbreak that people wrote books and songs about, made movies and television shows, paintings and drawings about?
Derek didn't know. But for the first time in his adult life, he almost wanted to find out. He almost wanted to risk trying, risk believing and trusting again. He almost wanted to give chase, to bring Stiles back and beg him to stay with him. To be with him. To love him, and teach him how to love in return.
He didn't do love. Or believe in it. But for Stiles, because of Stiles, Derek might let himself be convinced it could happen. That it was real. That it was possible. That, maybe, just maybe, it might even belong to him. It might even already be his.
How could he trust it? How could he know? How could anyone know?
People pretended to be who they weren't all the time. They lied about their feelings, and they would use other people's feelings to get what they wanted without the slightest thought of how much hurt might stay behind when they were finished.
No one could ever really know anyone else. No one could ever truly trust they weren't being lied to or used, betrayed. It happened daily, and it happened with people no one ever suspected not to be honest or real. Not to hurt or betray trust.
Instincts were all well and good, but they could easily be ignored, and sooner or later, people would figure that out and take advantage when they could, where they could.
Derek had learned that lesson firsthand. Twice. And it wasn't an experience he wanted to repeat a third time. He didn't care if every preternatural instinct he possessed told him that Stiles was different. That he'd proven himself different, trustworthy. Derek had been wrong before, and he could be wrong again.
He couldn't take it if he were wrong about Stiles. Stiles meant more. Stiles…meant everything.
Fuck. How had things got so twisted so fast? They'd been doing fine for months. Getting closer, sure, but not too close. Not love close. Or so he'd thought, at least.
Had he been so blind with need he missed the signs of Stiles falling for him? He'd thought for sure he'd been on guard for that, but…he'd missed it somehow, though he couldn't fathom how it might've actually happened. It wasn't like he wanted it to happen. He'd been leery of it all along, after all.
Yet, Stiles hadn't lied when he said he loved him the other night, and he hadn’t been wrong about Derek being there with him, feeling exactly what he felt when they had sex, thinking exactly what he thought.
I love you.
The words had embedded themselves in his brain in the seconds before he'd climaxed. He'd had to bite his own tongue to keep from voicing them to Stiles, and it had taken all the strength he had not to wolf out and claim the teen the way his instincts were clamoring for him to do.
In all the times Derek thought himself in love with someone, or on the verge of falling in love with someone, never, not once, had his wolf wanted to claim them as its own. Never had it taken so much in him not to shift, not to let his wolf take control and do exactly as it wanted, as it needed.
Not until Stiles. Not until he'd looked into his eyes and forged a connection, a bond. And it was a bond. Derek knew that much. He knew because even now, when they were miles apart and hating what happened between them, he could still feel a part of Stiles inside of him, twisting and churning, doubting and questioning, so damn heartbroken it hurt both of them just to breathe.
He had to fix it. Derek knew that. He had to make it right, but making it right meant putting himself on the line, telling Stiles what he felt, what he thought.
What he wanted.
Derek wanted a lot. He wanted everything. Everything Stiles had to give. All that Derek convinced himself he didn't need. Wouldn't want. Couldn’t have.
But he could have it. Stiles loved him, and if Derek made the effort, spoke the truth, they could have something between them. Something real. Something deep.
Before he thought better of it, Derek scooped up his wallet, cell phone, and keys from the battered end table by his couch and headed out. He couldn't be sure Stiles would want to talk to him again, but he knew he had to try. Knew he wanted to try.
The drive to the Stilinksi house took longer than he liked, but as he pulled to a stop in front of the curb, thanking someone up above that the Sheriff wasn't home, he wondered if it had been long enough. Then a figure appeared in front of the last window on the second floor and Derek knew that it was. That he was ready.
Pushing open his car door, Derek stepped out and met Stiles's gaze. For a moment, he stopped breathing, but he started up again when Stiles reached out and slid his window open, stepping back and away from it with eyes Derek couldn't bring himself to read.
With a quick exhale, Derek closed and locked his car, pocketed his keys and walked across the yard. One jump and he was at Stiles's window, pulling himself across the threshold and into the room.
Stiles stood with his back to the window, his whole body tense, shaking. "I don't know why I let you in. You said we were over. There's no reason we need to see or talk to each other ever again."
"Yes, there is," Derek challenged. "A big reason. One I should've been honest with you about, and I wasn't. I lied to you, Stiles, just as you said I did." Derek took a step forward, reaching out to tentatively grip Stiles's elbow and shift him around until their eyes met again. "I'm sorry. I know I hurt you, and while I meant to do it at the time, because I knew it was the quickest way to get you to leave, I regret it now. I regret a lot of things now."
Stiles turned his head. "Yeah, I got your regrets loud and clear, dude. No reason to rehash them now."
But there was. There is. "I'm in love with you, Stiles. That's why I needed you to go the other night. I didn't want to love you. I didn't plan to love you. But I do. It happened, and I can't change it. I know I wouldn't even if I could."
Derek lifted his hand and cupped Stiles's chin, bringing his face back around. "I'm asking for your forgiveness now, and I know I don't deserve that, but I want it, need it. I need to know I haven't screwed this up for us. That there's still a chance for me to get it right. To make it right. To make us right."
"You're in love with me."
"Hearts and flowers, mushy, over the top, in love with me."
Derek smiled. "Yes. To all of that."
"And you're here because…you want to be with me."
"So much it hurts me when I'm not."
"Oh my God," Stiles said, voice a breathless wonder as his gaze moved between Derek's eyes. "You aren't kidding. You want this. You want me."
Wasn't that what he said?
"Yes, Stiles. I want you. I want all of you."
"Holy shit. Am I dreaming? Is this real right now? Are you real right now?"
Derek held up his hands, fingers spread wide. "Count my fingers if you don't believe I’m real. That I'm not here saying this to you."
Stiles gripped his wrists, pulling his hands back down between them. "I know you're real, Derek. I counted my fingers the second I saw you getting out of your car, looking at me like you were preparing for battle."
He thought he had been. He thought he needed to brace himself for a fight. Or, at the very least, prepare himself to beg if necessary. "I want this, Stiles. I want you, and I'm willing to do whatever I need to do to prove I'm telling the truth, to get you to forgive me for hurting you."
"Just you being here, saying you want this, that you love me, is enough," he said, closing the distance between them and framing Derek's face with both palms. "I didn't think that would ever happen and…fuck, I'm so glad it is, Derek. I didn't know what else I could do to convince you we were worth the risk. That I was worth the risk."
Derek shook his head, smiling softly, and reached for Stiles' waist, drawing his body in closer against his. "I always knew you were worth the risk, Stiles. It was me I wasn't so sure about."
"And now?" he questioned, lowering his hands, placing them on Derek's shoulders. "Are you sure you're worth the risk now?"
As much as he wanted to say he wasn't, Stiles made him question that. Made him question himself. "I don't know," he answered honestly, bringing his other hand up to grip the other side of Stiles' hips, "but I think I could be."
"I think you are, which is the only reason I'm not tossing your little werewolf ass out of my window." Stiles smirked at him and placed his arms around Derek's neck, moving in closer against him. "I love you, too. I probably shouldn't, given what a giant, colossal dick you were to me about it, but…I do. I love you."
Derek would be forever grateful for that. "You should probably kiss me then. Isn't that what they do in the movies you watch with Lydia and pretend you don't like?"
"You're a jackass," Stiles said, brushing his mouth against his. "A total, asshole. I don't know why I love you so much."
Derek didn't know, either. That was okay, though. He had time to figure it out.
For once, they both did.