They've been together three years when it happens. "All right then," Stiles says, tinny and far away. There's a click, and Derek's left standing in the produce department, a zucchini in his basket, holding his phone.
The night before the fire, Kate had hung up before saying "I love you." Derek tries not to compare them, ever, but he can’t help it sometimes, can’t avoid holding them up side by side. Stiles doesn’t really deserve that, not with the way he tells Derek he loves him, like it’s still something important, something to marvel at. He just didn’t this time, is all.
His stomach knots up a little. Stiles just isn't coming home til late. That's what he'd been calling about, letting Derek know not to expect him for dinner. Derek eyes the zucchini, then puts it back, gets a big fat juicy steak, and eats it all, bloody and barely warm.
When Derek wakes up the next morning, Stiles is snoring next to him, mouth open and drooling. Derek's chest loosens a little at the sight of him, and it's with some reluctance he slides out from under the covers and gets ready for his own work day. When he's dressed and clean, his mug of coffee steaming on the counter, he ducks back inside the bedroom, dips down and kisses Stiles, thumbs away the moisture at the corner of his mouth. Stiles squirms away, grumbles "Wallaby Way," and shifts his knee up.
Stiles is a sleep talker. His dreams are vivid, and he's often as restless in sleep as he is in waking life. There's no reason for the dread welling up in Derek, the discontent he can't reason away.
It's been a good, solid three years. There's nothing to worry about.
That night, they're both home, both sprawled on the couch eating take out and Stiles has the remote. Derek doesn't care, not really. He lived without a TV for years, and still has little use for it. He prefers to read, or lounge, bickering with Stiles. He's idly looking at the newspaper, absently scanning for anything out of the ordinary, still can't shake the habit despite the years of peace. Stiles is laughing, leaning against his hip. Derek looks up, tunes into what he's watching, and sees a stupid sitcom guy who's madly in love with his stupid sitcom girlfriend, and Derek thinks the joke might be that everyone knows she's not attracted to him anymore, except him.
Derek's skin crawls and he's lost, feels adrift at sea. He sets the newspaper aside, settles deeper into the couch. His hand steals up the back of Stiles's shirt, rubs circles into the broad expanse of Stiles's back. Stiles hums approvingly, pushes back into it but doesn't take his eyes off the television.
Derek tries a different tactic then, lets his fingers drift south, slips them under the elastic of Stiles's waistband to tease at the cleft of his ass.
"Ugh," Stiles says.
"Ugh," Derek repeats, stilling his hand.
"You're gonna gross up my butt," Stiles says, curling his lip.
"You've turning down sex because you don't want to have to shower," Derek says flatly.
"You know I can't sleep with come and lube all up in there," Stiles says. Derek must be making a face because Stiles says, "Aw, come here," and reaches in, wraps his hand around Derek's half-hard dick, and jerks him off, slow and sweet. Derek still loves having Stiles's hands on him, loves the way his fingers look, and Stiles knows him well enough that Derek is arching up in no time, thrusting into Stiles's tight grip and spilling over onto his fist.
Stiles licks his hand clean absently, settles more firmly against Derek's side.
"Want yours?" Derek murmurs, low and hazy from orgasm, and he reaches his hand around Stiles's hip.
"Nah," Stiles says, reaching up and tangling his fingers with Derek's. "Put it on my tab."
The next day Derek picks up a case of Stiles's favorite beer, a new, fresh bottle of lube, wet wipes and condoms, in case Stiles is still on strike against showering. He's got plans to make it a good night for both of them, even cooks, though it's nothing special, just burgers. He puts them together himself though, uses Stiles's mom's recipe out of the cookbook Stiles had found in the attic when the Sheriff sold the house. Everything's waiting on the counter, and Derek hangs out, waiting for the familiar tornado of Stiles's entrance. He waits another three hours before Stiles texts him, and all it says is "too drunk, staying at scotts."
Sure, Derek thinks. As if he hadn't spent so much time watching the Sheriff get fed that same damn excuse when Stiles had really been at his place. He calls Stiles, hands shaking a little. Voicemail. He calls Scott, and Scott doesn't pick up. That in itself is not a sign, he's suspected before that Scott has him blocked, sends him automatically to voicemail.
Still though. Stiles is probably leaving him.
He broods about it the rest of the week, snaps at Isaac, goes for a run one day and accidentally ends up in Oregon. He should have expected this. He knew it, knew Stiles was always in this temporarily. Derek knew it wasn't forever. The only thing that's surprising is that Stiles is lying about it.
He decides to give Stiles room to talk to him, thinks maybe if Stiles admits it, Derek can fight back, can convince him to stay.
"We need to talk," he texts while Stiles is at work. "Can we go out to dinner tonight?" He offers the name of somewhere fancy, somewhere Stiles has mentioned wanting to go. Maybe if he impresses Stiles, it'll make him take Derek seriously.
"YES," Stiles answers in all caps and Derek starts practicing his speech.
Stiles is already at the restaurant when Derek gets there, is leaning against the wall, handsome in a crisp button-down and charcoal slacks. Derek takes a momen and just looks at him. After three years together he's still the most fascinating, exciting thing in Derek's life, and his stomach sinks at the thought of losing him.
He holds the door, escorts Stiles to the table with a hand on the small of his back, lets Stiles order them a bottle of fancy wine. When the waiter is gone, Derek can't wait any longer, can't stand it. He leans forward, clears his throat and says "Stiles, I have a question. I want you to know—I mean, I love you, no matter what your answer is—"
"Yes," Stiles interrupts. His eyes are bright and his heart is steady. He's not lying.
"Yes?" Derek repeats, his chest tight and crushed.
"You had to know that answer would be yes," Stiles says, and Derek cannot believe he's laughing.
"So that's it? You're just leaving, then?" Derek says, awful and resigned at the same time. "You can't even give me a reason?"
"Leaving?" Stiles says, choking on his sip of wine. "Why would I—but you—" and his eyes narrow, focused like laser beams on Derek. "You were asking me to marry you, weren't you?"
"Marry me?" and Derek sounds like a goddamn parrot, but he can't keep up. Was that even an option he had on the table?
It doesn't appear to be any more, as color rises high on Stiles's cheeks. "Are you telling me," Stiles says, and he is pissed, "that you took me out to a fancy restaurant tonight to dump me?"
The waiter comes then, cloth tucked over his arm, chattering brightly about tonight's specials. "Answer the question," Stiles shouts, hitting the table. The waiter wisely vanishes, and Derek is frozen, every word of his speech and all his reasons why Stiles should stay are just gone, out the window.
And then it's too late, Stiles is standing up, kicking his chair back, and Derek really is losing him.
"Wait," he croaks but Stiles isn't. "Stop," he calls louder but Stiles won't, and in fact, gets out the door and into the parking lot before Derek can catch his arm and jerk him to a halt. "Stiles," he says and he hates himself for how his voice cracks, for how scared he sounds.
Stiles isn't scared. Stiles is stiff and unyielding and his mouth is twisted when he finally turns to look at Derek. "I was so excited," he says furiously, yanking against the grip Derek has on his wrist. "God I'm so fucking stupid for thinking you meant any of it, that you really—" and Derek cuts in.
"You didn't say I love you." The words are out there, just hanging between them. It makes Stiles stop short.
"What?" he says blankly. "When?"
"Last week, before you hung up," Derek says tightly. "And the next morning, you didn't kiss me back. You laughed at that stupid breakup show you were watching, you wouldn't let me touch you, and," he says, gearing up for the most damning piece of evidence, "you 'slept at Scott's'."
Stiles stares at him. "You're a total fucking lunatic," he says eventually and Derek scowls because that wasn't on his list of imagined responses to this conversation.
Derek forges ahead anyway, because he can't stop now. "I brought you here because I wanted to find out, " and he swallows and looks away, "find out what I did. Whether I could stop doing it. See if I could knock it off. Sometimes you're really fucking annoying but I don't mind," and Stiles makes an indignant noise, "but if I'm too much, if you mind, and you need me to do something, I will, because," and Derek wills himself to finish, "I don't want this to be over."
It takes him another fifteen seconds to get there, but eventually he raises his head, looks over, meets Stiles's gaze.
"This is the worst proposal the world has ever seen," Stiles says as soon as he does, exploding into motion. "I was in the fucking mountains and had crappy service which I told you when I called you. And I can't be held responsible for the decisions sleeping Stiles makes, you goddamn know that."
Which is a fair point. Stiles sleep-eats a lot. Pickles, usually.
"And I slept at Scott's because Allison was gone, and you know how he is and we were drinking outside, and I didn't want to make you pick me up, and oh my God, why are you a fucking lunatic? I can't believe I still want to marry you!" He wheels around again, starts towards his Jeep.
Derek is still holding onto his wrist, so he's tugged along. "Stiles," he says frantically, "Stiles, where are you-"
"Wrong question, asshole," Stiles says, cutting him off. He relents again, stops moving, stops dragging Derek along. "Since you're obviously damaged, I'll help you out. How about asking this question? 'Stiles, are you cheating on me?'" Derek glares at him, but Stiles is unmoved. "Ask me," he orders.
"Are you?" Derek says, uncomfortable and tense.
"No," Stiles says, decisively. He tests the grip Derek has on him, but Derek is hanging on for dear life. "Here's another question you can ask, 'Stiles, are you in love with me?'"
"I don't—" Derek starts but Stiles just steamrolls him.
"Yes, you idiot, and I have been since I was seventeen." Stiles finally pulls his wrist out of Derek's grasp. "On the ride home," he says, delivering his parting shot, "maybe you want to think about your own answers," and before Derek can react, he's slamming the driver's door shut and roaring off. Derek stumbles back to the Camaro, drives home like he's coming out of a fugue state
He's half afraid Stiles won't be there when he gets home, afraid Stiles isn't going to let him say his piece, but the Jeep is there, solid in their driveway. Their driveway. Of their home. He bursts in the door, and shoves Stiles, who is hanging up his coat, into the armchair in front of the fireplace.
Derek drops down, balances on one knee.
"I'm sorry," he says immediately, because it seems like a good place to start. "I'm sorry I fucked this all up, and I'm sorry this wasn't the night you expected and I’m even sorrier I can't even promise to be less of a fucking mess any time soon. But I love you Stiles, I love you so fucking much and if you meant it, if you still want to, I'd marry you tomorrow."
"What if I want an Elvis wedding, " Stiles says and he still sounds kind of pissed off.
"Okay," Derek says immediately.
"What if I want to do it at the police station?"
"I'd marry you on Mars," Derek says, and Stiles cackles.
"Can Scott be Elvis?"
"Let's not go crazy," Derek says, scowling, and Stiles grins, slides to the floor and kisses him until Derek loses his balances and topples backwards, and they have sex right there, make-up sex, engagement sex, gross sappy sex. Derek doesn't let go of him, not even later that night, when Stiles drools on his arm, smacks his lips, and says something about pancakes. Derek kisses the top of his head, and holds him just a little bit closer.