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This is the end, hold your breath and count to ten

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“Stiles, I don’t think I can do this anymore.”

Stiles drops his head, swallowing heavily. He’s known this was coming; too many close calls, too many knowing looks from Erica, Isaac, Boyd. Hell, even Scott’s been looking consideringly at both of them recently, and if Scott McCall’s noticing, they might as well start handing out flyers. It doesn't make it any easier, though. It still feels like Derek’s just gut-punched him.

Derek just looks at him, as if hoping for an answer. Hoping that Stiles will have one of his normal smart comebacks. There’s not usually a shortage of them, after all. But there’s nothing. Stiles opens his mouth a little, as if he’s thinking of arguing, then just shakes his head. Defeated.

“It’s probably for the best,” Derek adds weakly, looking ill. He doesn't want to do this. He’s willing Stiles to see that, to have him argue. Persuade him that they can make it work. But for once in his goddamn life, Stiles is lost for words. He looks away, as if bored of Derek’s company, the action belied by the way his fingers clasp one another, knuckles taut with tension.

Derek looks down, his heart sinking. This is it, then. This is when it all falls apart. He glances back up at Stiles, the smell of unshed tears giving him away. Stiles’ eyes are screwed tightly shut, his hands over his ears as if he can shut out Derek’s words, make it not true.

He hesitates for a moment, begging words on the tip of his tongue. But he’s never been weak, not when he could help it. He won’t be the one to fight for this. He has to pick his battles, and though this one is gutting him, leaving him raw and bleeding and aching inside, it’s not going to leave him and the pack vulnerable. Not physically. He turns, slowly, the tread of his boots heavy, audible for once. Giving Stiles the chance to stop him, to call out.

Eyes closed, Stiles shakes his head again, his eyelashes sharp spikes against pale cheeks as he tries not to cry. Fuck Derek. Only not, because it turned out that Derek Hale was fucking chivalrous (and, yes, also likely not keen on the idea of being brought up on charges for sexual assault of a minor), and they’d never done more than make out, grinding against one another, the scrape of denim and cotton against skin making both of them whimper.

He shakes his head in an attempt to dispel the image. He can’t think of that, not now. Scrubbing his hands through his hair, Stiles curls in even tighter on himself, his breaths ragged and sharp as he listens to Derek walk out the door.