Admission is the First Step
Except he did. He blamed himself so much he'd taken solace in the arms of a girl he barely knew. A girl who barely even knew herself.
It wasn't right. What he was doing with Malia. What he was letting her do with him. But stopping it didn't seem right, either. If he stopped, he'd have to think and the last thing Stiles needed right now was to think about what he'd done. What he'd been forced to do. What he'd been forced to watch happen.
Stiles shifted on the mattress, pulling Malia in closer against his body, letting himself enjoy the natural heat radiating off her flawless skin. He buried his face in her neck and drew in a deep breath, taking in the sweet floral scent of her perfume and the slight stench of sweat and sex.
He liked sex. He'd even figured out he was good at it. Not that it mattered much really, since he also figured out something was missing when he had it.
No, not something. Someone.
Stiles shut his eyes and forced the troubling thoughts away. He was with Malia and he didn't need to let thoughts of other people invade his head. She didn't deserve that. He didn't deserve that.
But it happened. More and more often, it happened. Had been happening since he caught sight of Derek and Braeden making out in front of the loft window a few weeks ago.
Now it was all he could see. All he could think about. All he could dream about.
The way Derek held Braeden up against the window. The way his flashing blue eyes watched Stiles watching them from the street. If he hadn't spotted those blue eyes in the darkness, Stiles might not have known Derek knew he watched them.
But he did know. He'd seen it with his own eyes, and he didn't think he'd imagined the way Derek had ground himself against her, his large hand pressing against the glass pane as his other held her bare ass in its palm.
The sight had been one of the hottest Stiles had ever seen, and it had nothing to do with Braeden and everything to do with Derek. With the way Derek had looked at him, as though daring him to do something about it, say something about it.
Stiles hadn't. Instead, he'd done his best to avoid Derek whenever he could. Using plans with Malia as an excuse not to stick around after meetings. So far, it had worked, but after the last heavy look Derek sent him, he wasn't sure how much longer the older man would let him get away with it.
"What's wrong?" Malia asked, her voice groggy from sleep as she turned over to bury herself against his chest, one leg sliding between his. "You smell funny."
Did he? "Nothing's wrong," he said, opening his eyes to meet hers. "I was just thinking about something is all."
"Something bad?" Her brow furrowed. "You shouldn't think of bad things, Stiles. You should think of good things. Unless…I make you think of bad things?"
She did...and she didn't. "It's not you, I promise." He leaned in, kissing her, and wished like hell it didn't hurt to do it. "I just have a lot on my mind. A lot's changed lately and I was just thinking about that is all."
"So you weren't thinking about Derek again? Because you get like this when you think about Derek," she said matter-of-factly, as if she hadn't just ripped open Stiles's heart and carved a question mark inside it. "I've noticed it for a while now, and so has Lydia and Kira."
So they were talking about him? About him and Derek? "What am I supposed to say to that?" he asked, pulling away from her and sliding out of bed, pulling on a pair of sweat pants from his floor. "I didn't know it was a thing."
"Yes, you did." She sat up on the bed, pulling her legs to her chest and holding the bed covers around her. "You like him, Stiles. I can tell. We can all tell."
It was that obvious? "I think you're seeing things."
"And I think you're lying."
Her eyes flashed blue and Stiles had a brief moment of déjà vu, his heart ramping up as the urge to turn away from her barreled through him.
"You want him, Stiles," she accused, though not unkindly. "You reek of wanting him. All the time. Why do you deny it? You know he wants you, too, don't you?"
No, Stiles did not know that. Had never wanted to know that.
Knowing that did him absolutely no good. Even if he'd kind of suspected it after what he'd seen in that window and what he'd seen in Derek's eyes just last week.
"Derek's with Braeden, Malia. You know that."
She sighed, lowering her legs back to the mattress, all traces of the wolf vanishing from her features. "It doesn't stop him from wanting you. The same way you being with me doesn't stop you from wanting him." She frowned and whispered, "We can't keep doing this. I know you know that. I like it, what we do together, but I know you don't feel the same way. Not really. You want something else and that isn't a bad thing, it's just…not fun for me anymore."
God, he was asshole. "I'm sorry."
"Don't be sorry. Just be Stiles. Just be honest and stop hiding behind the sex."
Stiles nodded, running a hand over his face. "Fuck, I'm an idiot. I should have stopped this a long time ago, Malia. I knew it wasn't working and I still…" he screwed his eyelids shut, "I let it happen. I shouldn't have. I know that. I knew that even when I was doing it. I knew I couldn't give you what you wanted from me and I still did it anyway. I still slept with you."
"I only ever wanted you, Stiles. Just you."
Yeah, but he couldn’t give her just him. He hadn't been just him for a long, long time now. "I'm so sorry, Malia. I'm so very sorry. You deserved better."
"Yes, but so do you." He heard her shift again and opened his eyes to see her push to her feet and stand in front of him, still as naked as when they'd fallen asleep the night before. "You do, Stiles. You deserve better. You deserve happiness and I think, we all think, you should go after it. You should be brave, like we know you can be, and go after the person you want. Because it's not me, and it's not Lydia."
No. No, it wasn't. It hadn't been Lydia for longer than Stiles wanted to admit to himself, or to anyone else. "I'm sorry," he repeated, shaking his head again. "I never meant for this to happen. I never meant to hurt you."
"Stop apologizing!" she ordered, glaring at him, lifting her hands to frame his face and pull him toward her. "You don't have to apologize to me. I might not get a lot of things, but I do get this. I know it's not about me. It's about you. You and Derek and the way you make each other feel. You should stop hiding from it and start embracing it. I think it could make you both happy if you did."
Or it could wind up destroying them both completely.
Stiles wasn't sure he could risk that. That he should risk that.
Even if he was tempted to do just that.
Stiles sighed again, leaning his forehead to rest against hers. "You are far too nice to me, you know that? Anyone else would be slapping the fuck out of me right now, but you…you're actually encouraging me. Who the hell even does that?"
"I do." She lifted a shoulder and brushed her thumbs across his cheekbones. "It's not that complicated, Stiles. I told you I care about you. I wasn't lying about it. I meant it. Just because you don't feel the same way about me doesn't mean I have to stop feeling that way about you, or wanting you to be happy."
Stiles twisted his head and kissed the inside of her wrist then lifted his arms and pulled her hands away from his face. "I do care about you. I know you think I don't, but I do. I just wish I cared about you in the way you want me to. The way I want me to."
"We don't always get what we want, though, do we?" There was a sad, gentle curl to her lips as she stepped back and walked over to pick up her floral dress and soft, pink panties off of his floor. After she donned them both, she turned back to him, fitting her bare feet into the flats Lydia talked her into buying two weeks ago. "If you stopped being scared and actually went for what you want," she said, "I think you could have it. It just wouldn't be with me."
Stiles swallowed hard and nodded, for once at a complete loss on what to say to her. He knew what he wanted to say, but he also knew none of it would help the situation and the last thing he wanted was to make her hate him.
Malia was a scary chick on a good day. He'd hate to see what she could be like on a bad day, and especially if her bad mood was directed solely at him.
"Don't. Don't be sad for me," she said, shaking her head, brow furrowing again. "I promise I'm fine. Or I will be fine. It's not the first time I've been disappointed by something, and I don't think it will be the last. It's a part of growing up and being human, right? Or half-human, I suppose."
Yeah. Yeah, it was.
The sucky part of it, at least. "We can still talk and be friends, right? We don't have to like…avoid each other, do we?" Because Stiles would hate that. He would absolutely hate that.
"You mean like you keep avoiding Derek?" she asked wryly, stepping toward him again. "No. I don't want us to avoid each other, Stiles. I like you. I want to be friends with you. I think we can be, if we work at it and want it enough."
Well, that was just…more than he deserved. He swallowed again, and nodded, smiling softly. "Thank you," he said, meaning it. "Thank you so much. I don't know what I would've done if you hadn't—"
Her fingers slid over his mouth, pressing against his lips. "That goes both ways, Stiles. You helped me just as much as I helped you. So you have nothing to be sorry about or regret, okay? It is what it is and I'm not sorry about any of it."
God, he wished he could love her the way she deserved.
He lifted her hand, squeezing once, and placed a kiss to the center of her palm before letting go, his arm falling back to his side. "You're going to be okay, you know. You've got people that care about you and want to take care of you. Just because we're not going to be together anymore doesn't mean I'll stop wanting you to be okay or trying to be there for you when you need me, alright?"
"I know that," she said softly, "but I need to take care of myself now. The way I used to, when I lived in the woods and worked to teach myself what I needed to know. You aren't the only one that has things they need to deal with, Stiles. I have them, too, and it's time I dealt with them. So that when I do meet someone else, I can be the person I want to be for them and not pretend I'm more together than I actually am."
Stiles got that. He wish he'd realized it about her, but he knew he'd been so focused on his own issues he had no room to focus on hers, too. Still, he felt guilty for not seeing her better or understanding he wasn't the only one using the fake it till you mean it philosophy.
"Are you going to go see Derek now?" she asked, her tone genuinely curious and devoid of the hurt he might have expected to see on someone else. "I think you should. I think you need to. No more avoiding it, Stiles. You need to tell him how you feel. He deserves to know, and you deserve to say it to him."
Maybe, but he wasn't ready to have that conversation with Derek. Not yet. In truth, he might never be ready, and he hated that he knew that. That he thought that.
Because he did want it. He wanted Derek. He just…wasn't ready to have him yet.
Stiles drew in deep breath then slowly released it. "I can't talk to Derek yet. I have some things I need to work on first. Things I need to deal with before I go there… with him." With anyone really, but especially with Derek.
Because Derek wasn't a learning platform, he was the heavy foundation waiting at the bottom of the pool, and Stiles needed to be sure before he made decision to jump in with both feet. If he wasn't, he could break both legs and crack Derek right down the center, and if that happened, he'd never forgive himself for it.
"Don't wait too long," Malia advised, turning her back on him and heading for the door. "I don't think Derek is all that patient, and the longer you make him wait, the more likely it is he'll have trouble controlling himself when you finally give in and admit you want him, too."
Yeah, Stiles was aware of that fact. Had dreamed of it on multiple occasions even.
Would Derek wolf out on him and bite to stake his claim?
The very idea of it seemed crazy. Yet, he knew it was possible. Knew it was likely even probable. Which gave Stiles a whole other set of things to think about.
None of which helped to calm him down and alleviate his fears.
On one hand, the last thing Stiles wanted was the bite, or to be marked as some sort of property someone owned. On the other hand, the very idea of Derek actually biting and marking him did something to him, warmed something deep inside of him that he hadn't been aware was cold.
One thing was for sure, though, Stiles needed to make a decision and he needed to make it quick. Because Malia was right. Derek wasn't patient, and Stiles couldn't count on him to wait to make a move until Stiles was ready for it. Too much had happened lately, and all of it served to remind them both just how short life was, and how so very unpredictable it could be.
If they waited too long to do something about the tension between them, it could blow up in their faces and destroy everything the pack had worked to build these past few months.
Stiles couldn't let that happen. He had to be ready. He just wasn't sure exactly how to be ready. Not yet, at least. Then again, could anyone ever really be ready for someone like Derek? Could Stiles?
"Just do it, Stiles. Stop thinking about it and just do it. Take the leap. I think he's worth it. I think you're both worth it," she said, opening the door and stepping out, quietly closing it behind her.
He wanted to call her back. Beg her to give him another chance to develop the feelings he wanted to have for her. But he also wanted to do as she suggested. To take that leap and tell Derek what he wanted. How he felt. Except…
Taking that leap without knowing where he might land was above and beyond what Stiles was prepared to face. At least, right now. Later, he might be more ready. He hoped he'd more ready. Because he didn't want to wait forever.
He didn't want Derek to wait forever, either.
Derek deserved to have good things happen in his life. He'd deserved to have that for a long time now, and Stiles wanted to be the one to give it to him. He did. He hoped he even would be. Some day. When he was ready to go there. To be there.
For Derek. With Derek.
Stiles hoped that more than anything, and he wanted to do whatever he had to do to make it happen. Even if it meant pushing himself further than he ever thought he could go, or would go for someone. Especially someone like Derek. Someone who scared the shit out of him in the past, and still did, though in a very, very different way from before.
Stiles trusted Derek now, that was true, but he was also still terrified of him. The werewolf made him feel too many things, think too many things, and Stiles wasn't used to it. Didn't like knowing someone could read him so well. Sometimes read him even better than his father, Scott, and Lydia combined.
Stiles didn't actually know how to deal with that, or if he even really should.
But he wanted to, and that more than anything else, told him that he needed to.
Before he lost his nerve and convinced himself everyone around him was crazy.
That he was crazy, and Derek right along with him.