“How much of an idiot are you?” Derek asks. Oh, Derek. Derek with the nice face and the nice hair and the nice arms and the nice everything, really. Enviable, but also able to be the object of affection. Affiable – Envection -- Those aren’t even words…
“Whatever took Erica and Boyd is still out there and you are drinking in your Jeep.”
“On a scale of one to ten? C’mon, it’s the best place to drink, I won’t get caught,” Stiles says, twisting up out of the backseat, up just enough to see Derek’s disapproving face. The movement dislodges the bottle of Jack from under him and it rolls away pitifully. Stiles gropes around until he finds the neck, swinging it back up. It unceremoniously hits him in the face on the way up. “Fuck.”
“You’re at a ten right now,” Derek says. “Getting caught by your dad is better than dying at the hands of whatever is out here, Stiles.” Stiles’ equilibrium shifts radically as Derek yanks him up by his shirt. The bottle swings precariously in his fingers.
“Probably not,” Stiles argues, blinking at Derek, trying to clear his head. There’s a reason Stiles is even out here in the first place. That reason is Derek with his be-stubbled face and be-dazzling eyes. It’s dumb and Stiles hates it.
Well no, Stiles doesn’t hate the face, no one could hate the face. He hates how the face makes him feel. Like there’s honey on his insides, sticky and slick, filling all of his crevices. Like there’s straw in his veins and cotton in his head. It’s weighing him down, dragging him under.
“You’re hopeless,” Derek says, pressing him back with his big, warm hands. Stiles feels unfairly flushed all over. Stiles’ head rolls across the Jeep’s seat. In no time, Derek’s in the front seat, steering them away from the Preserve.
“Hopelessly in love with you,” Stiles sighs. Everything that Derek does makes him want with every fiber of his being. Wanting so badly that his teeth ache, his veins constrict at the thought of touching Derek. Stiles drags the bottle across the seat, taking another drink. Derek’s eyes watch him in the rearview mirror. They look dark. They’re not actually dark.
“Are you talking to yourself?” Derek asks, eyebrows going up. Judgmental eyebrows. Stiles scoffs. It sounds whiskey-deep and desperate.
“Don’t pretend like you didn’t hear,” Stiles says, frowns. “Like you -- You heard me, you’ve got that whole wolf hearing going on.”
Stiles flutters his hands at Derek’s ears. In truth, he’s not drunk enough for this. It would take another third of a bottle to get him to the point where he actually wasn’t in control of what came out of his mouth. He’s consciously making the decision to drunkenly confess to Derek. That might be an oxymoron. He’s not fully drunk, he’s confessing to Derek, he knows exactly what he’s saying. He’ll deny all of those things in the morning.
“Are you good?” Derek asks, purposefully condescending. Stiles snorts at him, again. When he takes a drink, the Jack burns down his throat and makes his eyes water. Stiles can feel it in his nose.
“Can I tell you story?” he asks, making sure to slur the ‘s’. The more drunk Derek thinks he is, the more plausible deniability he’ll have in the morning. It’s just too painful, he can’t hold onto it any longer. He’s not a martyr. Far from.
“What will that accomplish, Stiles?” Derek asks, it sounds like one long sigh. Things are going to change between them. Stiles isn’t going to answer.
“Once upon a time, there were two souls,” Derek’s eyes stay on the road, but Stiles stares at him in the rearview. “Those souls were so in love that they met with a witch of considerable power and had her tie their souls together. The witch made it so that – so, no matter what life they were in or where they ended up, they would find each other. They were meant for each other. Made for each other. They made themselves for each other.”
“What are you talking about, Stiles?”
“Soulmates, mate-mates, reincarnated mates! Souls tied together, that take trips together through...through all of time and space, all that timey-wimey Doctor Who bullshit. They do it together, every time. Reincarnated together.”
“A witch did this to them?”
“Do you believe in reincarnation, Stiles?” Derek asks, eyes meeting Stiles’ in the mirror again. There’s something wrong about his expression that Stiles can’t place. Disbelieving, a little mocking, something else in his eyes that Stiles doesn’t try to put a name to. Stiles tips his chin up defiantly.
“Yes,” Stiles says. It sounds bitter, bit off too hard by his big mouth. He’s an idiot. If Stiles remembers the past lives, then Derek doesn’t at all. That’s the catch. There’s always a catch, right?
“You’re an idiot,” Derek says, frowning. Stiles esophagus burns with everything he can’t say.
“Oh, I’m sorry, Mister Werewolf. Lycanthropy is real, but god-forbid energy be recycled in the universe in a specific manner.”
“That’s not reincarnation.”
“You don’t know that!” Stiles says, a little off kilter, a little annoyed. “You don’t even think it’s a thing, you can’t tell me that I’m wrong just because you feel like being contradictory. It’s called Conservation of Energy.”
“I know what conservation is,” Derek says, face flat. There’s no emotion, no expression. A blank wall. Stiles doesn’t know how he can hold his face that still. How he can feel nothing.
“Do you? I was under the impression that you dropped out of high school when your family was murdered,” Stiles says, raising an eyebrow. The air in the car goes rubber-band tense. Stiles feels like snarling at him. There’s a caged animal rattling around in his chest.
“This is why we don’t hang out, Stiles,” Derek says, with a sigh. “You say stupid shit like that.” Stiles sinks down in his seat, doesn’t say anything.
The Jeep stops in front of his house with a lurch. The windows are dark, driveway empty. His dad is working late, working overtime to try and find Boyd and Erica. Stiles stumbles out of the Jeep, leg getting caught on the side. When he finally rights himself, Derek is in front of him. The exhaustion is hard to see, but Stiles is observant. There are barely-there bruises under his eyes, skin pale and paper-thin.
“What are you trying to say, Stiles?” Derek asks. It takes Stiles a minute to catch up, not sure what he means until he remembers the story he was trying to tell Derek about the witch. Derek’s curious, Stiles can tell. He wants to know, but he wants to not want to know. It must be hell to be in that head of his.
“Why do you keep saying my name like that?” Stiles demands, indignant. It sounds like an insult if he ever heard one. It sounds like a barrier between them. Stiles’ name, full stop.
“Because it’s your name,” Derek says, shifting his weight. The door is all the way behind Derek. Stiles doesn’t want to get past Derek to get to it. He hates this so much. He can feel the hot burn of emotions heavy in his esophagus, pressing their way out of him.
“Do you believe in reincarnation, Derek?” Derek’s name, full stop. Put that barrier up. The look in Derek’s eyes doesn’t soften. If anything, it goes the opposite way, hardening against Stiles. They’re having the same conversation, Derek just doesn’t want to admit it.
All of Stiles’ veins constrict, it’s like a punch in the gut. The worst part is, it’s not a surprise.
Stiles moves back, feels the Jeep door pressing against his shoulder. He twists and grabs the bottle out of the backseat. It’s almost empty. When he drains it, he walks down the street to throw it in the neighbor’s recycle. Better safe than sorry. Derek doesn’t follow, but his eyes are solid weights on Stiles’ back.
When he walks back, Derek is still staring at him.
“Are we done?” Stiles asks him. Any pretense of drunkenness he had has evaporated. It’s not worth it to even pretend. He is buzzed. It might have taken a few hours, but he finished off over half a bottle of Jack alone. What an accomplishment.
“Why does that story matter to you?” Derek asks, voice dropping low. He didn’t tag Stiles’ name onto an end, barrier has been dropped. Stiles tilts his head back and laughs bitterly.
“Stiles,” and there’s his name again. Slow, elastic, sticky. Stiles’ eyes feel heavy as he steps up to Derek and presses a kiss to his lips. For Stiles it’s electric, infusing his whole body with a sense of right that he can’t deny. The world tilts and aligns when their lips meet. Derek doesn’t kiss him back.
Stiles moves away quickly, brushing past Derek to go into his house.
“Do you think you could love me?” Stiles asks. The key slides into the lock, but he doesn’t turn it just yet. His heart is cinched in his chest, painfully tight.
“Probably not,” Derek says. Stiles doesn’t bother saying anything else. He goes inside and slams the door.
The story about the witch isn’t a lie.
In a life long ago, the first life that Stiles and Derek fell in love in, they did that. They had a witch mend their souls together so that there was no “death do us part”. It was logical at the time, they were so in love. Now, Stiles doesn’t know if it was the best thing to do. Only because he knows. It sounded like the perfect solution to love and death, but it wasn’t.
There are stacks of notebooks in his room, shoved into the corners of his closet. Details of dreams on every single page. Dreams that are actually memories of past lives, lives that Stiles has lived, lives that his soul travelled through. There are a few things he’s established:
First, there’s no rules for time. That whole wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey? Yeah, that’s basically how it goes. Time - it loops and curls and backtracks and retracts without explanation. It has its own rules that don’t seem to adhere to Earth physics. Stiles doesn’t try to dissect it. The chronological order of his lives isn’t in chronological order. He jumped from 1940 to 856 CE one time, back to back. Technically backwards. Totally logical for the nonlinear rules of time, though.
Second, the rhyme applies. ‘One in ignorance, one in love’. It’s like a tag line. The witch broke their souls apart and reformed them. Each soul with pieces of the other: fractured, but whole. A broken soul only seeks to be mended, so their souls search for each other always, for their missing pieces. That ensured that they were always drawn to each other, no matter what. Stiles and Derek didn’t anticipate the witch having a quid pro quo. The catch was that in every life, only one of them knows that they’re soulmates. Only one of them has the memories of past lives, of them together.
Third, they’re never together. Ever. They are always apart, alone, without each other. Whenever they find each other, if they find each other, there’s always something that inhibits them from being together. Usually, one thinks the other is absolutely insane for proposing that they’re soulmates, but there are other factors. Other people, sometimes death. It sucks. It leaves him hollow and aching, a gaping wound where his heart should be.
The lives themselves are interesting. Stiles gets glimpses of what different times are like, what it would be like to be something other than human. Everything is different. The time, the place, the face, the name, the species… They change and rotate and flow and alter.
The only thing that stays the same is the deep-seated longing for Derek. The constant ache in his chest; the vibration of his atoms insisting that he gets closer, that he be with Derek. It’s anguish that it never, ever happens.
Before Stiles got drunk they had a fight about him helping Derek look for Erica and Boyd.
Derek said, “There’s no reason for you come along, you know that?”
Derek said, “You know that I need Scott’s help, right? Not yours.”
Derek said, “You’re human. You’re not going to be able to help me.”
Derek said, “You’re useless, Stiles.”
Stiles said, “Fuck you, Derek. Jesus Christ, I’m trying to help and all you can do is go on about Scott. Who doesn’t want to help you, by the way. Why, because you lied to him and you manipulated him. That’s literally the only thing you can do, isn’t it? Manipulate people into helping you, manipulate them into taking the bite. I’m not the one who’s useless, you’re the one who’s useless.”
Stiles said, “How many times would you have died if we hadn’t saved your ass? We’re the ones who molotov’d Peter’s ass. If we hadn’t have been there, you would have lost to him and you know it. The pool? You would have drowned. Don’t act like you’re good at this.”
Stiles said, “You lost your betas and you won’t let me help? Good fucking luck, dude.”
Stiles has it on good authority that Derek tore apart the inside of a train car after that fight. No words came from him, just angry huffs and noises that gauged deeper into Stiles’ chest the more wounded he started to sound. Stiles knows because he listened just outside the train station, wishing he had the balls to apologize.
Maybe Stiles was an idiot to think that Derek would be any more pliable after, y’know, Stiles kept saving his life. Not even counting the wolfsbane bullet, because technically that was Scott, but the pool? C’mon. Then, that comment: Useless. Like Stiles wasn’t the one acting as a go-between with Scott and the betas and Derek.
Ungrateful more like.
The fights don’t change anything either. When daylight comes and they have to work together, they act like nothing happened, like they didn’t flay each other open with just their words, cutting deeper and deeper until they were both bleeding.
At least Stiles’ drunken love confession didn’t obliterate any chance of them being normal around each other either. The fights, the feelings. It doesn’t change how well they work together. It doesn’t change how good they are for each other.
Stiles should have known it wouldn’t last.
Derek gets a girlfriend. It makes Stiles want to strip his skin off, it’s so wrong. It just grates his nerves. A t-shirt too short and too tight, rubbing the wrong way. Stiles avoids him until he can’t. Yeah, letting Derek know his girlfriend is a psychopathic, murderous fiend? Saves his ass, once again. Apparently Derek is just hopeless without Stiles. Which, duh, they went over that. Only Stiles is too busy being worried sick about his dad to take the time to rub it in Derek’s face.
At least Derek believes him, right? At least they save the day. At least Derek acts like everything is normal between them. At least Stiles never has to see him with Jennifer again, right?
At least Derek leaves, right?
That’s better than having to be around him, unstable friendship and all, wobbling on one leg. At least Stiles doesn’t have to deal with the aborted touches and the way they talk circles around each other. At least if Derek’s gone, he doesn’t have to deal with being around him and not being able to be with him. The dull ache of loneliness is miles better than Derek being there and brushing Stiles off continually. Close, but not too close.
That’s better, right?
The nightmares are vicious. Stiles has had nightmares before. There have been a few times where Derek ended up dying in front of Stiles in other lives -- Like when Stiles was a mermaid and Derek was shipwrecked. When Stiles dragged him up to the surface and got him to breathe, the first words were relief: “There you are.” Talking to Stiles even though Stiles had no clue and didn’t speak his language. The life drained out of Derek in less than an hour, but he spent the time watching Stiles with eyes green as ocean depths and Stiles felt how right it was in his chest.
Or when Stiles met Derek when they were riding the rails in the ‘30s. They shared some banter, almost didn’t cross paths at all. Stiles fell off the top of the train the next day and broke his neck on the fall.
That was traumatizing alone, but the nightmares he gets --
Drowning, on fire, trapped underground, gasping for breath. Screaming until his lungs give out, but not making a sound. Elbow deep in his dad’s blood, Scott’s blood, Derek’s blood. Suffocating slowly, the pressure on his chest -- He can’t breathe --
“I think I have PTSD,” Stiles says. It’s the wrong side of midnight. It’s too late, it’s not a good time.
“I wouldn’t be surprised,” Derek says, after a beat too long. He sounds tired, but not exhausted, like the reprieve is good. It might be for him, but Stiles can feel it in his chest.
“I’m having nightmares,” Stiles sounds like nails on a chalkboard. “They feel so real. Sometimes, I think I’m awake. It doesn’t make sense. I dream all the time about real shit, but this feels so different.”
He doesn’t know why he’s telling Derek this. Derek doesn’t like him that much. Well, that’s probably a lie. After everything they’ve been through, Derek likes him just fine. They trust each other, but Stiles was right about the night on the preserve changing things. Whatever tentative relationship they had built up started to teeder and sway after that.
“You dream every night?” Derek asks. Stiles looks at the ceiling, feels Derek’s voice move through him like a dowsing rod.
“I -- Yes.”
“Nothing,” Stiles lies.
“Stiles.” There’s his name again, full stop.
“Witches,” Stiles admits.
“Not the soul splitting witch?” Derek asks. Stiles wishes more than anything that Derek was the one that had been drinking that night. Maybe he would forget the conversation and spare Stiles the humiliation.
“What you said --”
“Let’s not talk about that,” Stiles says, faux-chipper and frantic. It takes everything in him not to hang up.
“You said you were in love with me,” Derek pushes. Stiles laughs. This isn’t funny.
“It’s 3am and you’re -- You’re -- I don’t even know where you are. You want to have this conversation now?” Stiles says.
“I’m in South America --”
“Wow, how’s the weather?”
“Don’t say my name like that, Derek.” His name, full stop. It feels like a wall between them.
“This isn’t a Lydia thing, is it?” Derek asks. Stiles’ brain doesn’t compute.
“A Lydia thing? What Lydia thing? Wait -- How do you know about that?” Stiles demands. There’s a film of sweat on his palm, nerves and more. This conversation is getting rapidly out of hand.
“Cora went to school with you,” the line crackles when Derek sighs, like Stiles is being difficult on purpose.
“What does that have to do with --”
“I just don’t want you to get fixated --”
“Fixated?” Stiles demands, voice jumping louder. It cracks through the silence of the room like a bullwhip. Derek stops talking, the line drops down to negative decibels. Stiles takes a deep breath, tries to steady his shaking heart.
“You’re young, Stiles,” Derek says, frustration in his voice. “You’re too young --”
“To be in love, but not too young to deal with mass murder and supernatural creatures? Way to be narrow minded, you dick. Fuck off.”
Stiles hangs up and flings his phone at the wall, anger racing through his veins. There’s no satisfaction in telling Derek off, it just makes the cold burn in his chest intensify. Anxiety settles heavy in the pit of his stomach. It takes him hours to fall asleep.
In this lifetime, Derek is so fractured. It makes his face look drawn and exhausted. Hard lines and clenched jaw. Stiles knows what a happy Derek looks like -- It’s completely different from how Derek looks now. It makes his eyes crinkle, makes him approachable and mellow, lighting up from the inside. Derek in this life is a carefully constructed wall that bars everything from him.
When Stiles saw Derek that first day in the woods, his brain went “this is it, there he is!”. Of course, nothing is that simple. They were thrown together, but not in the way that Stiles wanted them to be. Derek didn’t trust Stiles, he didn’t want to trust Stiles. It would never be as easy as waltzing up to Derek and telling him that they were soulmates, that they were meant to be together. It would make Stiles look insane. It might not be what Derek even wants. Stiles can’t force things between them, he knows that will drive them further apart.
It tore Stiles apart and he couldn’t do anything about it. Stiles wanted to hold Derek, take care of him. He wanted to mend Derek with his own hands, reassure him that he was loved. God, more than anything Derek was loved. Love that filled Stiles to the brim and threatened to spill over. It was all for Derek and Derek had no idea.
After the nogitsune combusts, they regroup at Deaton’s. Stiles doesn’t want to be there -- Allison and Aiden’s deaths feel like a brand on his skin. Whatever influence the nogitsune had over his body isn’t gone. He’s exhausted, fading fast. Every thought that moves through his head is half-formed, dipped in molasses. Humiliated, he stands to the side, trying desperately not to think about what happened when he was possessed.
“Stiles?” Scott asks, hands gentle as he pull Stiles out of his head and into the conversation. Stiles didn’t realize just how out of it he was. He blinks at the room, everyone’s staring at him.
“I was wondering aloud,” Deaton says, walking over. His hands reach for Stiles, pausing in air. It takes Stiles a minute to realize that Deaton’s waiting for permission to touch him. Takes even longer to decide that it’s okay. Stiles nods in agreement. He just wants this to be over.
“Usually, a void merges with a vessel,” Deaton says, pushing up Stiles’ eyelids to gaze into his eyes, hands gentle on his body like a physical check. “In your case, the void split instead. Do you know what could have influenced that?”
Stiles doesn’t get it.
“What causes a void to merge?” Isaac asks. Stiles jerks in surprise, staring at him. Isaac refuses to meet his eyes.
“A void fuses with a soul, becoming one --”
Stiles bursts out laughing.
He can’t help it. It’s not actually funny, but something about the situation. It tears out of him in harsh gasps, eyes prickling with amused tears. Hysterical tears: like he said, it’s not funny.
“He’s lost his mind,” Isaac sneers. Stiles flips him off.
“I fail to see the amusement in the situation,” Deaton says. It’s gentle, but his stare is heavy on Stiles. Stiles snorts, looking around the room. Lydia is half-passed out in a chair in the corner, eyes heavy from crying. Isaac is leaning against the wall, miserable and angry. Scott hovers at his side, Kira left, Ethan is in the hall. Allison is gone, gone, gone.
Derek stands in the doorway, arms crossed over his chest. Stiles meets his eyes. They hold for too long. Stiles is going to fuck things up again.
“Care to enlighten us?” Deaton prompts.
“My soul is occupied,” Stiles says, simply. Everyone stares at him in confusion. Even Lydia’s head comes up, questioning, searching. Derek moves back, so that he’s half out of the room. Escaping, always escaping.
“How do you know that? What does that mean?” Scott asks.
“A witch told me,” Stiles says, amused. They don’t believe him. Derek is almost all the way out the door. “In a past life, I had my soul broken apart and tied to another.” The pitch of his voice decreases dramatically, pause for effect. “I created a soulmate.”
Deaton stares at him. Out of anyone, he would be the only one who might be able to believe Stiles.
“Who?” Deaton asks, after a long few minutes of truly awkward silence.
Derek’s not in the doorway anymore, Stiles can hear his heavy footfalls getting further away from the room.
“It doesn’t matter,” Stiles says, looks at the ceiling. “He doesn’t love me.”
In the Symposium, Aristophanes talks about humans with four arms, four legs, one head, but two faces. Humans were so powerful like this, that the gods tore them apart, rendering their soul in half. Humans were then forced to live their lives searching for their soulmate, to become complete again. It’s said that there was no greater joy in finding one’s soulmate. That life would be truly complete with the other.
Stiles wishes it were true.
On the ride back from Mexico, Derek says, eyes wide, “I know you, don’t I?”
Stiles insides tangle up. Everyone in the Jeep looks at Derek surprised. Stiles takes in the baby face, round cheeks, ears sticking out. The ache doesn’t lessen. Calming his heart down, Stiles laughs.
“You really don’t.”
In some lives, Stiles was a real go-getter. When he realized that Derek was out there, he found Derek and befriended him, insisting that they know each other. In some lifetimes, he told Derek everything and in some he just let them build a natural dialogue. In some lifetimes, he never found Derek at all. In some, one of them died before getting to the other.
In this lifetime, Stiles thinks he’ll be content with just letting them be. The fact that they were born in the same town is a miracle in and of itself. Maybe they were meant for something different. This life could be a turning point.
Stiles makes the mistake of going with Scott to scope out the Preserve for evidence of the GI guys, black ops, whoever they are. There’s no bat in this situation, Stiles figured it would just be then, strolling through the woods, checking for booby traps. He’s wrong.
Derek’s there, leather jacket like armor, with his equally leathered girlfriend. Fuck buddy. Braeden. Whatever she is, it sets Stiles’ teeth on edge. It feels wrong like when you pull the tag off a shirt, but the plastic stays behind and drags against your skin when you move. It’s completely possessive and jealous. Stiles’ soul belongs with Derek’s soul, but he has no idea, so he’s off gallivanting around. Floosy.
“Are you going to be okay?” Scott asks, frowning at Stiles. Stiles jerks his shoulder in something that resembles a shrug. He meets both Braeden and Derek’s eyes deliberately, nodding in greeting. Braeden nods back, but Derek looks away.
They haven’t really talked since Deaton’s. Stiles doesn’t mind. It makes things easier for him when he’s avidly ignoring the situation.
“You didn’t tell me this was a group activity,” Stiles says. It sounds like he’s teasing. He’s not. Scott shoves their shoulders together and shrugs, Stiles feels himself loosen up. It’ll be alright.
They fan out.
Stiles regrets not bringing his bat. He could drag it on the ground, try to trigger a trap. Instead, he’s crouching and looking for disruptions in the foliage like he’s Aragorn or something. He’s not Aragorn, so he can’t tell. He walks slowly, but --
There’s a click-clack as a trap triggers. Stiles freezes, unwilling to move. Once he lets the pressure off whichever foot activated the trap, he’s probably something that resembles dead.
“Hey, guys?” Stiles calls, voice loud and shaking. “I think I found one. My body is physically on one, I think I might die if I move. Guys? Anyone? Olly olly oxen free? Seriously, I can’t stay still this long! I --”
Stiles is unceremoniously yanked to the side. His back hits a tree, pain blossoming where he impacted, muscles tensing. It’s better than being in the trap. It snaps up harshly, cracking loudly in the air like a shot. The lines of the netting glow deep red, sizzling as they burn. Yeah, Stiles would definitely be dead.
It’s Derek’s solid weight that presses him into the tree. If anything, the realization makes his heart beat faster, adrenaline overlaid on top of adrenaline. It’s not fear, though, just a burning arousal that he can’t fight. It’s so hot and sudden, that he feels cold. Like his nerves can’t handle the heat so they’re just going numb. Derek leans into him, nose on his neck.
The touch sends Stiles’ head into a dizzy spiral of lust. For a full minute, it’s them pressed head-to-toe, Derek inhaling in his neck, hips twitching forward. Stiles is so hard that it hurts. He feels like prey, pinned to the tree. As overwhelming as the urge to press against Derek is, he stays still. He doesn’t want to break the spell, pop the bubble that they’re in.
It doesn’t take long for Derek to realize what’s happening. He pulls back with a growl and stomps off without looking at Stiles, anger held in his tightly coiled muscles. The tension evaporates once Derek is gone. Stiles slumps against the tree, dizzy and unsure.
He doesn’t bother sticking around after that, but it doesn’t matter because Derek comes to him.
“What was that today?” Derek asks, voice a low rumble. Stiles jerks and flails out of his chair in surprise. Soul bond or not, Derek is a sneaky motherfucker. Stiles’ face heats up, his hands tingle with anxiety.
“What was that?” Stiles echoes. “I’m pretty sure you saved my ass from that trap. Thanks, by the way, buddy. I appreciate not being dead. I would have said it earlier, but you ran away.”
Derek stiffens defensively.
“I didn’t run away.”
Stiles feels anger spiral through him, hot and unrelenting. He’s so sick of it. Sick of the way Derek avoids him and pushes him away. Sick of how he has this person in front of him, the person meant for him, and there’s nothing Stiles can say or do to make him stay.
“You totally did. Why did you run away? My boner totally scary?” Stiles asks, sneering.
“You have a girlfriend,” Derek says. Stiles laughs at him, turns back to his computer. They’re not having this conversation.
“Excellent observation, Sherlock.”
“This is exactly why we can’t -- This is why there will never be anything between us.”
The white noise in Stiles’ head kicks up a notch.
“You’re a child,” Derek says, plainly. His voice isn’t even raised, but he might as well be screaming it in Stiles’ face. “You don’t know what it means to even be in love.”
“I’ve been in love!” Stiles protests. He has. He’s been in love since the first time he met Derek. Since they build a house together with their own hands. In that life they raised crops together, told each other stories. Their lives revolved around each other. They loved each other so much that they made sure they would never, ever be apart. That kind of love burns from the inside out.
God, if they could see themselves now.
“A years-long obsession with a girl you’ve never been with isn’t love, Stiles.”
Stiles flinches back from the comment, as if it was a physical blow. Derek must see it, something immediately comes over his face. It looks like remorse, but Stiles really doesn’t care. He’s suddenly, hideously infuriated.
“You’re such a bastard,” Stiles says, voice losing any semblance of calm. “Don’t act like you know me.”
Derek doesn’t know Stiles at all. Derek knows nothing about Stiles and Stiles knows everything about Derek. Stiles knows what kinds of food he doesn’t like and what life he stopped liking them in. Stiles knows the stupid music he prefers, knows how he takes every beverage imaginable. If Stiles asked Derek about any of his preferences, Derek would have no idea.
“Stiles,” Derek says, frustrated.
“What?” Stiles asks. “Jesus, why are you still here? You know how I feel, I know how you feel. I can’t help how bitter that sounds, either. Can we just ignore it?”
Please, Stiles wants to beg. He can’t handle these conversations. He doesn't understand the stark vulnerability in Derek’s eyes, he can’t handle it anymore.
“What makes you think I deserve something like that?” Derek demands, sudden and sharp, completely out of left field.
“What?” Stiles asks, mind stuttering to a halt. Since when is this about that? “That doesn’t make sense. That’s not what this is about.”
“It’s not?” Derek asks, hands clenching into fists. “How can you be with someone who doesn’t deserve it?”
“Doesn’t deserve me or doesn’t deserve to be loved?” Stiles asks. Those are two very different questions. Stiles isn’t any better than Derek in this situation. When Derek doesn’t answer, Stiles scoffs, low in his throat.
“This isn’t even about you and me, is it?” Stiles asks. He still feels like his nerves are fried. It’s one thing after another. Derek keeps pushing and Stiles is sick of the pressure. When Derek doesn’t answer, Stiles snarls at him, “Maybe you don’t deserve it.”
As soon as it comes out of Stiles’ mouth, he knows it’s wrong. It tastes like acid. It hurts him, he can’t imagine how it makes Derek feel. The barely-there vulnerability in his eyes evaporates completely. The look in his eyes is hard, shuttered. Stiles thinks, with a vicious menace, yeah, fuck off. It’s mean. Stiles cares so much it’s making the pressure build behind his eyes, but he dismisses it anyway.
“Are we done?” Stiles asks.
For a minute it looks like Derek wants to argue, maybe pursue it further, but there’s no point. Derek doesn’t want to deal with Stiles in anyway that’s healthy or productive and Stiles is just over it. Thinking about them exhausts him. He’s trying to just exist without so much pain. Malia helps and he really does care about her. Stiles just doesn’t need the reminder that she’s not Derek. It hurts less when he doesn’t think about it.
“Yeah, we’re done.”
That sounds pretty final.
Stiles doesn’t turn around when Derek walks out of the room.
There are cultures that believe soulmates are simply the same soul. The soul becomes conscious and aware of its loneliness. It splits itself into two beings that are perfect for each other. Essentially, it’s perfect for itself.
Maybe that’s the problem. Two souls are too many. Conflict of interest.