If there was one thing Stiles Stilinski was guilty of, it was his inability to say no to Derek Hale. When Derek asked him to cut his arm off, Stiles was apprehensive but willing to cooperate. When Derek demanded his presence by the pool to discuss the kanima, he reluctantly obliged, even though it meant leaving Lydia Martin – his then love of his life – behind. When Derek snuck into his room and scared the hell out of him, then proceeded to demand that Stiles do some research over the newest supernatural baddie in town, Stiles hunkered down with his laptop and the various books he “borrowed” from Deaton and got down to work.
Stiles always said yes to Derek, no matter how much it ended up hurting him.
Tonight was no different.
Ignoring every instinct screaming at him to slam the door in the werewolf’s face, to lock himself away and never expose himself to that kind of pain again, Stiles opened the door wider, silently inviting Derek Hale back into his life.
He hoped this time would be different. He hoped that whatever Derek ended up asking him, that he would be able to say no.
Hospitality drilled into him since he was a kid prompted Stiles to quietly ask Derek if he wanted anything to drink. When the older man mutely shook his head no, Stiles simply leaned back against the kitchen island, silently surveying the ‘wolf.
Derek was standing awkwardly in his entryway, his eyes drifting to the far corners of Stiles’ apartment – a reflection of his life – taking everything in. Silence reigned over them, one Stiles was determined not to break.
After a couple of minutes, Derek cleared his throat and murmured with a poor attempt at humor, “I seem to remember you unable to go a minute without talking.”
Stiles’ face hardened. “It’s been six years, Derek. A lot has changed.”
The werewolf’s face shuttered as he cleared his throat again. “Right.”
Stiles drummed his fingertips over the countertop, the sound echoing throughout the otherwise silent apartment. Eventually, Stiles sighed and straightened up, the exhaustion of the past week weighing him down. “Look, Derek, if you’re not going to say anything, you might as well just leave. Because I sure as hell won’t –”
“I can’t,” Derek blurted out, interrupting him. He shook his head, a fierce, determined expression on his face. “I won’t. I won’t ever leave you again.”
For a moment, Stiles’ lips remained open, interrupted words still in his mouth. But in the next, they flattened into a straight, angry line. He slashed his hand in the air in a dismissive motion. “What bullshit are you spewing, Derek?”
The ‘wolf shook his head vehemently. “Not bullshit. It’s the truth. For once, for the first fucking time, I’m being honest.”
Stiles barked out a humorless laugh. “It’s been six years, Derek. Six fucking years. Did you expect to come back and find a banner welcoming you home? Did you expect I wouldn’t have questions? Did you expect I’d just say yes?”
Derek took a single, halted step forward, his arm making a jerky aborted movement, as if it was reaching for Stiles. It fell limply back to Derek’s side, motionless. “I just want a chance to talk to you,” he confessed quietly.
A dozen different responses flitted through Stiles’ brain, ranging from letting Derek explain himself to kicking Derek out by punching him in the face. In a millisecond, Stiles saw all the different ways this conversation could go.
All of them ended with him in pain.
Unable to continue to look at the werewolf anymore – too painful, too too painful – Stiles vaulted away, scrubbing a rough hand over his face. He didn’t want to be petty, but damn it he wasn’t going to let Derek off the hook so easily. He had more dignity than that.
“The time to explain yourself has long past, Derek. You could have reached out a while after you first left. A couple of months, six months, hell, even a year or two. Then would have been the time to talk.” Stiles, unable to keep his eyes off the werewolf for long, turned back to gaze at him.
It broke his heart to ignore the beseeching look in Derek’s eyes.
Voice hard, Stiles continued. “I would have listened then. I would have even understood. I might have even forgiven you. But now? Now it’s just too fucking late.”
Stiles ignored his shock at hearing the plea come from Derek’s lips. The Derek he knew didn’t say please. The Derek he knew used threats of bodily harm, expressive eyebrows, and occasionally the inspirational yet somewhat scary pep talk. But never a plea.
That’s what made Stiles heart beat painfully in his chest: the knowledge that he had lost six years of Derek Hale’s life. The fact that, although he has had a Derek in his heart for almost a decade, it wasn’t this Derek Hale. Not anymore.
“Please leave,” he whispered to the other man, voice cracking. He never thought he’d say those words to Derek. In all his fantasies and dreams, he was always begging the older man to stay, stay stay stay.
Wasn’t life ironic?
Stiles turned his back to Derek, unable to see him walk away from him again even though he was the one who asked him to do so. A minute passed by, interrupted only by the tick tick of Stiles’ clock, hanging on the wall next to his door. A minute of agonizing indecision, where warring thoughts were clashing inside Stiles’ head. Stay stay, leave leave leave, please don’t go, I can’t take this anymore…
He didn’t know what was worse: That Derek eventually left, the apartment door shutting quietly after him, or that Stiles regretted his request the second he uttered it.
He wasn’t as strong as he liked to believe. He may wear a uniform and a badge, he may run headfirst into danger with no regard for his personal safety, and he may do morally questionable things to save his friends… But his heart was vulnerable. His bullet-proof vest didn’t extend to protect him from emotional pain. A special, agonizing pain that only Derek Hale could inflict on him.
Stiles held himself utterly still for five minutes. He was silent, breathing steady and hands clenched tightly by his side. Five minutes, just until he was sure that Derek and his werewolf hearing were out of earshot. Five minutes before he let himself fall to the ground, breaking down in a way he hadn’t in over three years.
Damn you, Derek Hale, he thought. Damn you to hell and back for making me love you.