It takes time for them to develop what can recognizably be called a friendship. Time and blood, kanimas and swimming pools and torture and nightmares. But then one day Stiles looks up and Derek’s the guy he calls when he wants to lay on someone else’s couch and watch a movie. Derek’s the guy he gets late night fries with and skypes all afternoon.
“Huh,” he thinks to himself, and goes back to trashing Derek’s ass at Mario Kart.
Derek’s the guy who’s kissing him right now. “Yes,” Stiles gasps, back colliding against the wall. “Yes,” his brain agrees, “yes. This one.” They stumble from the bed to the door, and everything happens in blinks while he’s overwhelmed with the taste of sweat and sweet tan skin.
There’s a pause, somewhere in the middle, Derek kneeling over his body. “This doesn’t mean anything, right?” Derek asks. “You know I don’t-”
“Dude, it’s fine. Now get back down here and put your mouth to good use.”
It is fine. They’re best friends and they fuck, what more does a guy need? It’s basically the Happy Meal of friendships, delicious food with a fun toy prize at the end.
And then Derek’s the guy who sits with him in the hospital and holds his hand all night after Stiles’ dad gets shot. He’s the guy who drives him to and from Berkeley because the Jeep is in the shop and he can’t miss this class but his dad. Derek knows his secrets, has seen his drunk face, has held his head during a god-awful bout of food poisoning. Derek’s the guy who glares at people in the bar who hit on Stiles, who leaves purple hickeys on his neck and comes all over his chest.
The words lay on the back of Stiles’ tongue for a long, long time. He rolls them around in his mouth, lives with the taste of them, rubs their sharp edges down until they feel soft and familiar in his throat. He sees the same look on Derek’s face sometimes, considering and hopeful, absurdly fond.
It’s a matter of when, not if, he says them, and when happens late one night, Stiles stretched out on the couch with his head in Derek’s lap. Warm fingers have been carding through his hair for ages now, the credits rolling on a movie they’re too lazy to turn off.
He twists to meet Derek’s eyes, opens his mouth, and says it, the thing he’s been thinking for months now. And because he knows Derek so well, because he’s spent every day for the last year talking to him, because Derek is the guy, Stiles can see it on his face in the blink before Derek even responds.
“Stiles, I don’t- I’m so sorry, but- I don’t feel that way about you.”