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4. My Oasis

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“ Yes, Scott, he’s stable. Deaton gave him two dosages of this concoction and said we should give his body time to heal. He’s already awake so I’m about to head out anyway. Yeah, I’ll see you back home.” Stiles put his phone back into his pocket, cleared his throat to remind Derek and Braeden that he was still in the room. Braeden paused mid-giggle, looked away from Derek and towards Stiles.

“ Oh, Stiles, did they work everything out?”

“ Things are under control but I better head back, help out if you’re all good here?”

“ Yeah, we’re fine, you can – “ Braeden started to dismiss Stiles when Derek interrupted.

“ Actually, babe, can you give us a minute?” Braeden looked between Stiles and Derek as if making sure she understood his request, before shrugging and leaving the room. Stiles watched on until she closed the door behind her, something easing in the air that he hadn’t realized was so tense and uncomfortable with her presence. Stiles didn’t think he had any problem with Braeden necessarily; she was a badass soldier and she seemed to care about Derek. Derek kind of seemed to be content in their relationship. But there was something nagging at Stiles that he couldn’t really place.

“ What’s up?” Stiles asked, stepping towards Derek’s bed, not feeling the need to keep his distance anymore.

“ Something feels off about what happened tonight.”

“ What do you mean?”

“ I mean, I’ve been paralyzed by kanima venom before but it never felt like this. This time, it wasn’t just that I couldn’t move my body, it was like I couldn’t speak or breathe even. It was weird.” Stiles furrowed his eyebrows, let himself drop by Derek’s feet.

“ What do you think that means?”

“ I’m not sure. Figured you could help find that out.” Stiles nodded, silently going over all the different possible explanations.

“ Why did you tell Braeden to leave though? Why are you telling me this and not her?” There was something in Derek’s eyes that Stiles was desperate to unravel. He was looking at Stiles like he was playing some sort of mind trick that Stiles was completely missing. Like there was something there that Stiles just couldn’t quite get.

“ I didn’t want her to worry. She has this job that she should leave for tomorrow and if she finds out there is something wrong here, she would probably drop that job to help out.” Stiles ticked his head to the side in wonderment. He wasn’t sure he was buying what Derek was trying to sell him. But if he let himself think of all the things that Derek could be hiding away from him, it would feel like a free fall into a bottomless pit of entanglements and secrets and mind-games and honestly, who had time for that? The world was basically ending around them and if that was the hill that Derek was choosing to die on then Stiles would let him. There was nothing else he could do anyway. Not when it came to Derek.

“ Got it. Anything else?” Derek opened and closed his mouth a few times as if trying it out, but then he silently shook his head, ignored the way that Stiles rolled his eyes before waving goodbye. Braeden shrugged her shoulders, rested back into her chair by Derek’s bedside, and waited for Deaton to tell them when they could safely go home.

Stiles drove back to his house, finding his dad’s car parked outside, as well as Melissa’s car, which meant that Scott and the rest were probably in there too. With a sigh, Stiles walked into the chaos that he knew would be hiding behind the front door. The sheriff was the only one somewhat put together, casually chatting with Lydia by the kitchen, while everyone else was yelling over each other. Stiles moved around the crowd, melted against his father’s side and let his comforting grip clench around his tight shoulders.

“ You okay?” Lydia asked.

“ I just want this thing to be over already. What have you got so far?”

“ Nothing important. Theo and his gang ran away before we could ask them any questions. It was almost like they were there specifically to attack us, prove some sort of point and then leave.”

“ That adds up, especially when you consider what Derek mentioned. Come on, let’s discuss it with the rest of them.” Stiles turned away from Lydia and his dad, pushing his way through the crowd that paid no mind to him, carried on with their arguing. Stiles shook his head, brought two fingers to his mouth and whistled as loudly as he could, knowing that the pitch of his whistle would bug the hell out of the werewolves present. And it worked, because they all put hands to their ears and started groaning at Stiles instead of each other.

“ You have no idea how to have an actual conversation without it turning into a full-blown dog fight.” Stiles eyed each of them, his disapproval palpable. He made a point to stare at Scott for a beat too long because he was supposed to be the alpha, especially with Derek being down, and he still had no idea how to live up to that new status without coming off as douchy or arrogant.

“ Since your little petty fight has gotten us nowhere, I have a theory that we should probably test.” Stiles leaned over the table in the middle of the group, pointed a finger at the picture they had of Tracy.

“ Derek told me something before I left the clinic. He said the venom didn’t feel like it usually does. All the usual symptoms were there but this time, it felt like his internal organs were shutting down too. Like his heart wasn’t working properly, and he was struggling to breathe. Kind of like he was being poisoned, from the inside out.”

“ What the fuck? How is that even possible? We’ve been hit with Tracy’s venom before, Jackson’s too, it has never been this bad. What changed?”

“ That’s where my theory comes in; I think that Theo is experimenting with his chimeras.”

“ Meaning what exactly?”

“ Wolfsbane.” Lydia spoke before Stiles could, catching on.

“ I still don’t get it.” Malia interrupted, looking between the spread out images of Theo and Tracy, trying to make sense of what was being presented to her.

“ I think Theo injects himself and the rest of the chimeras with wolfsbane. A type of wolfsbane that harms werewolves but not chimeras. We didn’t run into them by chance, they ambushed us because he was trying to put his experiments to test; see if it’s working or if he should change things up. That’s the only thing that would explain Derek almost dying today.”

“ That is…”

“ Crazy, I know. But it adds up.”

“ So, how do we stop him?”

“ Hell if I know. I’m going to take a shower, get something greasy in my body, then we’ll talk.” Stiles heard collective groans following him all the way into his room, until he closed the door, went to take off his shirt, and tried not to inhale the smell of decayed flush from where he’d held Derek up. There was a knock on his door, and Stiles stopped himself from bending over and taking off his boxers.

“ We’re heading out to see Derek, do you want us to wait for you?”

“ Nah, I’ll pass.” Stiles shook his head, grabbed a fresh towel and headed into the bathroom but Scott walked further into his room, closed the door behind him.

“ Since when?”

“ I literally just came back from the clinic. You can go though.” Stiles closed the bathroom door behind him, turned the water on and waited for the temperature to feel just right before jumping in.

“ Did something happen between you and Derek?”

“ Nothing ever happens between Derek and I.” Stiles smiled, all self-deprecating and mocking.

“ Stiles,” Scott sighed, like he wanted to buy himself time to find the right way to say what he wanted to say.

“ What sounds better to you? Pizza or burgers?” Scott knew when Stiles was done with a conversation and in that moment, nothing Scott could have said would have swayed him. He was all the way done.

“ Pizza. We had burgers yesterday.”

“ Okay, make the order for me until I’m done here?”

“ Sure. I’ll wait for you downstairs.” When Stiles was sure Scott was far enough to miss the exasperated sigh, he let it out, dropping his forehead against the cool tiles, wishing it would freeze the thoughts and stop his mind from racing. He wasn’t even sure why he was so riled up. There was just a pit in his stomach every time he was around Braeden, and lately, Derek too. He couldn’t place it. Didn’t have the emotional capacity to dive into it and see what he’d come up with. So, Stiles quickly scrubbed his body, left his wet hair dripping, and put on some fresh clothes before walking back downstairs. The pizza was already there, so he couldn’t have been that fast with it.

He dropped onto the couch and grabbed two pieces, leaning back into the couch and trying to see if there was any way he could eat and sleep at the same time. The pack started moving away from the kitchen and towards the living room to surround Stiles and involve him in the conversation that he very visibly didn’t want to take part in.

“ Anyone has any idea where to go from here?” Malia asked, ever the impatient one.

“ We can send someone to egg Theo on; see what we can pull out of him.” Liam suggested.

“ Or get poisoned with Tracy’s venom. If what Stiles is saying is true, then we can’t go anywhere near them, let alone piss them off.” Scott responded, a determined frown on his forehead.

“ I could do it. It’s not like wolfsbane can affect me.” Stiles interrupted mid-chew, his eyes closed.

“ They don’t need wolfsbane to hurt you. That’s not going to happen.”  

“ I don’t know what to tell you. Theo is targeting your pack, but he’s not concerned with me, probably cause I’m human and all. If you have something else in mind, spill it, but if not, then we’re going to have to take the lead on this; Lydia and I.”

“ We can help too, Stiles. Being the sheriff and all, I can send out a few officers to distract them, go in with you.”

“ No offense, dad, but I don’t think police work will help in this situation.” Stiles smiled, trying to ease his dad’s palpable worry.

“ I’ll call Parrish.” Lydia announced before anyone else could protest.

“ And I’ll call Deaton. See if he can give you any supplies to mask your scent and heartbeat for as long as possible.” Melissa said, patting the sheriff’s back to tell him to join her. With a helpless look back at his son, the sheriff followed after Melissa.

“ I hate this plan.” Scott groaned, falling next to his best friend.

“ It’s not my favorite either, but it’s all we’ve got.” Stiles offered Scott a bite of his pizza, and Scott took the whole slice, shoved it in his mouth angrily.

“ Derek is going to hate it too, you know.”

“ Good thing he doesn’t get a say in this.”

“ Maybe Braeden can help too, she’s – “

“ No, thank you.”

“ Stiles, you could use all the help you can get. Who knows how deranged these chimeras are after those experiments. If you’re not going to let any of us help, then at least call the only capable human warrior we know.”

“ She hates my guts, Scott, I’m not asking her for anything. Plus, that will just get the news to Derek faster, and he will try to spare us and sacrifice himself and he’s not even healed yet. It’s just not worth it.”

“ Fine. Then, I’m coming.”

“ Theo will smell you a mile away. What good will that do?”

“ I can’t just – “

“ Scott, buddy, please. Can you just let me enjoy my pizza before having to face the douchiest, most self-centered, twisted, fucking pain in the ass I’ve ever seen?” Scott sighed, silently handed Stiles another slice and that was just that.

“ How come you haven’t left to see Derek yet?”

“ We were just about to leave, but Braeden called and said he was being released, so we’ll just go to the loft instead when he’s situated.” Stiles nodded, finished the last bite of his pizza, just as Lydia reappeared, informing them that they would pick Parrish up on their way to Theo’s home. And he would have all the supplies that Deaton thought could be helpful.

“ Alright, let’s go.” Stiles stood up, grabbed a jacket and his bat. Scott wrapped around him, asked him if he was sure about this, gave him the option to back out, but Stiles would choose to endanger himself if it meant saving his friends, ten times out of ten. He hugged his dad and promised to be careful, before getting into his Jeep, with Lydia in the passenger seat. They found Parrish waiting somewhere between Deaton’s clinic and Theo’s house. He silently got into the backseat, relaying what Deaton told him about the potions they would have to drink to mask their scent, and the weapon they could use to slow the chimeras down until they could escape, if it came to that.

Stiles couldn’t have looked away from the road for more than a second, just to look at the glistening weapon reflected in his mirror, but when he looked back, Derek was standing in the middle of the road, frown prominent despite the dark night. Stiles pressed down on the brakes as far as his feet would go, having to swerve roughly away from Derek before the car eventually skidded to a stop by the side of the road, inches away from a rather big tree that could have seriously damaged the front of his car, if not everyone in it too.

“ What the fuck just happened?” Stiles released his grip from the wheel, turned to Lydia as if to make sure he wasn’t just picturing things. She let out a single shaky breath, looked back to make sure Parrish was okay, before shrugging, as if telling Stiles to figure it out. It was his mess to fix anyway.

Before Stiles could do much of anything, his door was aggressively pulled open, Derek’s chest loudly rising and falling like he was trying extra hard not to wolf out.

“ Are you out of your fucking mind?” The haze of confusion faded away at the sound of Derek’s infuriated judgment, at the look of fury across his features, at the tensed coiling of all his muscles. And Stiles’ energy was instantly just as fiery and out of control.

Me? I’m the one who’s out of my mind? You almost got us killed and totaled my car!”

“ You were so willing to go on this stupid suicide mission anyway, so what difference does it make if you die in a car accident or on the hands of Theo and his pack?”

“ Oh my – dude, I don’t have time for this.” Stiles tried to close his door but Derek’s claws tugged at his shirt, pulling him out of the car and shoving the door shut.

“ What is your problem?”

“ You’re not going through with this so-called plan.”

“ Says who?” Derek lifted a challenging eyebrow, his arms crossing against his chest like he was trying to shield himself. From what exactly, Stiles couldn’t tell. It wasn’t like Stiles could do any real harm to him.

“ You don’t get a say in what I do or don’t do.” Stiles tried to move around Derek, but every time he stepped right or left, Derek would beat him to it, standing like a barrier between him and the Jeep.

“ Dammit, Derek, move!” Stiles gave it his best shot, shoving Derek away one time, then another, wanting to move something – anything in him.

“ Are you done?”

“ Stop fucking doing that. What do you want from me? This doesn’t concern you. It doesn’t affect you in any way. It’s my decision. It’s my fucking life. The people that matter already understand that I have to do this, so why do you care, huh?”

“ You know why.”

“ No I fucking don’t! Goddammit! I am so sick and tired of your mind games. One second you’re in then you’re out and I’m just – I’m done, okay? I don’t want to do this anymore.”

“ Do what?” Derek’s voice trembled, like he was scared of what he knew was coming next.

“ This back and forth. This hot and cold. All of it. I don’t want to do anything with you anymore. I don’t want to have anything to do with you. I just want to save my friends and keep Theo the fuck away from them and that’s it, okay? I’m – I’m not doing this dance with you, Derek. You’re in a relationship and I – I’m too tired to – I’m just too tired. I’m not asking again. Stay the hell out of my way.” This time, when Stiles went to walk past Derek, he let him; hands unclenched like he was releasing him. Putting his white flag up and surrendering. Stiles couldn’t help the sting that carried him until he got into his Jeep and drove away, willing himself not to look at the mirrors until he was certain he wouldn’t see Derek being left behind.

“ Well, that was intense.” Lydia said into the dead silence of the car.

“ Good on you for standing up for yourself though.” Parrish joined in, squeezing Stiles’ shoulder.

“ I feel like shit about the whole thing but at least Theo is there to give me something else to be pissed about.”

Only, when they got there, Derek was waiting outside, looking nothing like the man Stiles thought he’d pushed away once and for all. Stiles groaned, seriously contemplated running into him this time. He’d heal but at least he’d know how much hurt Stiles could actually inflict when he had had enough.

“ You have got to be kidding me.” Stiles said under his breath, stopping his car. He turned back to Parrish and took Deaton’s potion.

“ Are you going to be okay?” Parrish questioned, eyes moving between Derek’s still figure and Stiles.

“ I’m fine.” Stiles said, grabbing one of the weapons and his bat and getting out of the car. Derek seemed to be waiting for some form of acknowledgment but there was none. It was like Stiles couldn’t even see him. Like he really meant it when he said he wanted nothing to do with him. Believed it.

“ Ready?” Stiles asked, directing his words to Parrish and Lydia only.

“ I’m coming with you.” Derek said, giving up on Stiles initiating a conversation.

“ No. You’re not.”

“ You’re here to help your friends. I’m here to help mine.”

“ Derek.” Stiles gritted the name out, like a final warning. Derek half-shifted, stepping forward to stand slightly ahead of Stiles, but Stiles side-eyed him, not wanting to have to say anything to him but unable to fight the objection.

“ What?” Derek shrugged, feigning confusion. Stiles rolled his eyes, looked away before he could catch the smirk that Derek was trying to keep at bay.

“ Fuck my life.” Stiles whispered, knowing that Derek would be able to hear it. 

They walked around the house, tried to do a headcount, using the veiling potion that Deaton gave them for as long as they could.

“ I think we should split up.” Parrish whispered.

“ Why?”

“ Cover more ground. Also, if some of us got caught, the rest could do more digging and figure out what Theo is injecting them with.”

“ Makes sense. I’ll – “ Before Stiles could announce that he was going with Lydia, she had taken Parrish’s hand and started dragging him away, with a be careful thrown over her shoulder. That left Stiles with Derek, alone, and he kind of wished they’d get caught and tortured to death because that torture would probably be easier to endure than this.

“ If we somehow make it out of this, I’m .. I’m going to kill her. Then Parrish. Then probably myself.” And if Derek wasn’t in his dead-inside phase, he probably would have cracked at that, but he didn’t. He continued walking like he didn’t hear anything, and tried to justify whatever was fluttering in his stomach. It was probably just nerves. Or the toxins from the earlier attack hadn’t completely cleared. Yeah. That made sense.

Rummaging through the office, Derek announced that he could hear 2 people approaching. Before they could do much of anything, Theo and Josh were walking into the office like they knew exactly what they were going to find. Stiles assumed that meant the effects of Deaton’s potions had worn off.

“ Twice on the same night? I should probably tell Tracy to up her game.” Theo spoke, directing his words to Derek.

“ We’re just here for some answers, Theo.”

“ What makes you think you’re going to get them?”

“ Figured we could at least try.” Stiles shrugged, threw his arms away in surrender. Theo smirked, took a step towards them, and Derek was instantly pushing Stiles behind him, standing as a barrier between them. Stiles struggled against him, but even if Derek was freshly out of the hospital, he was still significantly stronger than Stiles especially when he had something to prove.

“ What the hell are you doing?” Stiles yelled out, just as Theo’s claws almost tore them in half. Derek pulled at Stiles, shoved a couch for Theo and Josh to trip over, before cornering Stiles in the furthest point in the room.

“ Let me keep you safe, Goddammit.”

“ It’s not your fucking job! Let me go.” And then, before Derek could shove Stiles back again, Josh had a metal bar against Derek’s neck, electricity flooding his body until he collapsed, losing consciousness. Stiles opened his mouth to say anything, scream for help – something, but that bar was pushed into his stomach, and the world went dark so suddenly, he couldn’t stop himself from falling over Derek, blanketing him or burying him. No one could tell.

Stiles came to with a gasp. He was back in Deaton’s clinic. Lydia, Parrish, and Derek were having a conversation with Deaton, that was paused for a few seconds for them to look at Stiles, before looking back at Deaton as if nothing had changed. Stiles groaned, attempted to stand but his body was shaky, unstable, so he fell back down and threw an arm over his eyes wishing he could fall back asleep.

“ Can we talk?” Stiles contemplated playing dead, because he didn’t have the energy or the patience to hold a conversation with Derek. In fact, he didn’t think he wanted to have the energy to talk to Derek. He had nothing to say.

“ About what?” He felt movement around him, then a steady source of heat like there was a furnace nearby, like there was something brewing, cooking.

“ Why are you so mad at me?”

“ I’m not.”

“ Even if I didn’t hear the lie just now, I still wouldn’t have believed you.”

“ I’m not lying. I’m not mad at you. I’m just – mad.” Stiles sighed, looked down at his trembling feet, feeling weighed down by something that had been buried somewhere deep and dark and hidden. Derek went to open his mouth, to question Stiles further, but Braeden appeared, wrapped around him and pulled him away from Stiles without even acknowledging their previous proximity.

This time, when Stiles felt the electric shock by the end of his back, he ignored it, pushed through until he was out of the clinic. He got his vibrating phone out of his pocket, found multiple texts and missed calls from Scott and his dad. He chose to send something back to reassure them. He wrote it down in his chat with his dad then forwarded it to Scott’s before putting the phone back into his pocket. He contemplated going back inside, maybe trying to figure out if Parrish and Lydia had found anything but he was tired and frustrated and a bunch of things he couldn’t quite name yet. He groaned when he remembered his car parked outside Theo’s house still, knowing that he’d have to walk back to his house now.

Stiles was maybe a couple of miles away from the clinic when he heard someone calling out for him, turned back just as Derek skidded to a halt in front of him. Stiles couldn’t fathom why Derek would go through all the trouble just to talk to him. What could possibly be so important for him to leave Braeden and come literally running after him?

“ Derek? Did something happen?” Stiles asked, his eyebrows set into a deep frown. A deeply confused frown.

“ I – why are you mad?”

“ Dude, are you serious? It’s not a big deal. We can talk about this any other time. I just want to go home now and you – “

“ I want to know. I want to hear you out.”

“ Hear me – what? When did what I have to say become so significant?” Derek stared at Stiles silently, with those pleading eyes that carried answers Stiles couldn’t grasp.

“ I’m mad because there’s this gang of chimeras coming after my friends. I’m mad because Theo is intentionally turning his pack into weapons he can use against you and Scott and – werewolves, specifically. I’m mad because I don’t know how to stop him or how to protect you or how to – “

“ That’s it?”

“ Not enough for you?” Stiles mockingly puffed.

“ Not what I mean. There is always something coming after us. We’re always in some form of danger. Why are you this mad this time around?” Stiles blinked a few times, feeling lost in this conversation. He didn’t know where it was headed, didn’t know where he wanted to lead it.

“ What do you want from me, Derek?”

“ Whatever you want to give me, Stiles.” There was something so hauntingly desperate about Derek’s answer. Like he was searching for crumbs, anything that Stiles would be willing to let go of, to spare, Derek would take.

“ Where’s Braeden?”

“ At the clinic.”

“ Why did you leave her?”

“ To talk to you.”

“ Why didn’t she come with you?”

“ I couldn’t wait for her to. I wanted to catch up with you.”

“ But why?” Stiles didn’t know why his voice did that thing like it was begging.

“ I – I’m not sure.”

“ I’m going home.” Stiles’ wrist was taken between Derek’s fingers, his torso doing a 90-degree turn, until they were chest to chest. Heart to heart. With a minute shake of his head, Derek inched closer, his lips feathering against Stiles’. Stiles almost gave in, but he deserved better. Not better than Derek, but better than what Derek was half-assingly giving him in that moment. So, with the hand he had against Derek’s chest, he gave a pausing press.

“ What are you doing?”

“ I don’t know.”

“ You have a girlfriend. This isn’t going to be me. I won’t be your dirty little secret on the side.”

“ That’s not what you are.”

“ Then what am I?” Another seemingly endless moment of silence. Another conversation neither of them was brave enough to have. Another way Derek could break Stiles’ heart without doing much of anything at all.

“ I’m going home. Don’t follow me. Go back to the clinic, Derek. With any luck, she’s going to be waiting for you, because I’m done waiting.” Stiles turned away, put his hand in the air and waved goodbye, willing himself not to look back, if only to see if it was going to look on Derek how it felt for Stiles.

He missed the rest of his walk home, but Scott was already waiting for him when he got there, and started throwing a million things on him at the same time and it was the distraction he needed. It wasn’t like there was anything else he could do in the subject of Derek. That was completely out of his hands. It always had been.

Scott told him about the different types of wolfsbane that Lydia found in Theo’s home and how Deaton was testing each of them to figure out which was used on Derek. He also told him about Parrish creating a line of fire between them and Theo and his gang, and that was how they’d gotten out of there. Lydia had to drag both of them out to avoid being accidentally burned by Parrish’s hellhound powers. Eventually, Stiles fell asleep with his head against Scott’s shoulder. Scott didn’t move, knowing how badly Stiles needed to sleep it off, how badly Scott needed to be with his best friend.

When Stiles woke up, he was in his bed, but Scott wasn’t there anymore. Derek was though. Stiles groaned, touched around until he felt another pillow to bury his face into and pretend none of this was happening. Only his bed dipped like someone was taking the other side of it, warmth enveloped him like they were in the middle of summer, and he realized that Derek was now laying in his bed but wasn’t touching him yet. Waiting for something to give.

“ What now?” Stiles spoke into his pillow, knowing that Derek would hear it anyway.

“ You were right. Braeden was waiting for me at the clinic. But she was waiting because she wanted to fight me over what I did. What I’d been doing for a while now. And I didn’t want to fight anymore. I didn’t want to have to defend myself or my actions or my – my feelings. So, I told her I needed a break. She should be on her way out of town by now.” Stiles’ heart did a thing like it was restarting, readjusting its beat to follow something or the other. He pulled his face out of the pillow, searched Derek’s face for any signs of regret or devastation.

“ Why are you telling me this?”

“ You know why.”

“ I don’t. As smart as I am, I’m not a mind-reader. You have to tell me what you want, Derek. What do you want?”

“ What do I want?” Derek swallowed, his eyes moving across Stiles’ features, stopping at each of them for a few seconds as if seeing for the first time. And when they got to his lips, Derek couldn’t stop himself from leaning in, inching close enough to kiss but he didn’t. Not until Stiles’ breath hitched as if bracing himself for it, welcoming it. And then, they kissed. It was unlike anything Derek had ever felt before. It wasn’t clumsy and uncertain how it had felt with Paige. It wasn’t rough and rushed how it had felt with Kate. It wasn’t intentional and calculated how it had felt with Jennifer. It wasn’t vacant and unfulfilling how it had felt with Braeden. It was like all those first kisses morphed into one. Like the kind of kisses they wrote songs about. The kind Derek had given up on having, had felt undeserving of.

And for Stiles… For Stiles it felt like a revelation, a break-through. He realized he’d wanted this for so long. Had ached for it until he associated that flavor of pain with Derek and started being pissed at him for it. He thought Derek was being a coward; hiding behind a relationship that didn’t mean much to him, when Stiles was the one who was hiding behind that same relationship. He knew that Braeden and Derek weren’t anything long-term. Neither of them was that kind of person, and together, that disassociation flourished. That lack of investment grew. So Stiles could have made the first move a long time ago, if he wasn’t so busy waiting for Derek to. But to be fair, Derek had been inconsistent with Stiles to the point of confusion. Stiles never understood what Derek meant by anything he said or did. He was never 100 percent sure of anything when it came to him, and that was no bond to build on. No relationship to throw himself into.

“ I’m sorry. I know it’s been confusing as hell and – I didn’t mean for it to be. I want you to know that. I never intended to toy with your emotions or conflict you. I just – I was scared. Braeden felt safe because she didn’t move anything in me. It didn’t devastate me whenever I felt the end closing in on us. It didn’t terrify me to watch her walk out every time she had a mission. It didn’t excite me when she smiled over something I said. But – you and I weren’t a thing and – I am always scared shitless around you. Scared to say the wrong thing or act the wrong way or push too hard or – I was just scared, Stiles. And we’re in some deep shit with Theo and I don’t know what’s going to happen but I – I can’t go out there and know that there’s a possibility you could get yourself killed without knowing that I’ll probably die right behind you. I can’t fight another monster without you knowing that we’re on the same team. That I’m fighting for you. That I’ve got your back, forever. And – you don’t have to feel the same way. This doesn’t have to mean anything but – it can. If you want it to. If you want me.” Derek sounded shaky and vulnerable, cracking himself so wide open, exposing himself to Stiles and willing him to make sense of it all. Stiles moved his hands until they cupped Derek’s face, his forehead tiredly falling against Derek’s. This moment felt like a finally neither of them verbalized.

“ I want you.”

“ Yeah?”

“ Yeah. I’ve wanted you for a long time now. And I’ve been scared of what that meant too. I’m always going to be scared because that's just how I am but – now, I get to be scared for you and act on it. I get to hold onto you whenever I am. I get to have your back too, Derek. I was always going to have it but now it’ll just mean something different. Everything is going to feel different.”

“ That’s good, right?”

“ It’s the best.”

Derek’s grin was something straight out of a dream Stiles never dared have.

This time, Stiles initiated the kiss, and he was still so scared but he was okay with it, because Derek deepened the kiss, circled his arms around Stiles’ waist and pulled him onto his lap, as if he was scared of something too. He was scared of losing something. Which meant that he had something to lose. He had a home. An oasis. A pack. Derek had something. Had someone. And that made it all worth it.