#16 Epiphany

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It’s been ten days since Michael Doherty’s arrest. Ten days since Derek first said I love you, three words that seem to get easier for him to say with every passing day. There’s been a lot of paperwork and investigation to do regarding Deidre Wall’s case, so Stiles has a legitimate excuse to be busy with work. It’s not running away or hiding at all when it’s legit. And he’s called Derek before picking up the doubles when Morris got the flu, so he’s been working a lot of extra hours with permission. There’s also been pack business, standard stuff, but Stiles maybe lingers a little longer after their meetings, which have been hosted at Scott and Allison’s since she got put on bedrest last week as a precaution.

It’s just coincidental that he hasn’t been home very much at all since Derek saw the bad part of his magic instead of the good part and still wanted him and still looked him in the eye and said those three words that Stiles honestly never thought he’d hear from someone other than his friends. So, yeah, he’s confused by the fact that he’s got all these feelings he doesn’t know what to do with, and he knows it’s too soon to really know if he’s in love, no matter how desperately he wants to believe Derek. It’s just easier to think and analyze everything when he doesn’t have Derek around to make him feel instead of think.

Even though he’s been away from home more in the last ten days than he ever has since Derek moved in, it’s not like they’re never together. He’s had lunch with Derek several times, they went to karaoke night with their packs last week, and he’s always home in time to sleep. They’ve even had sex a few times, and It’s been amazing and hot and better than ever because Derek whispers passionate words against his sweaty skin that are so easy to believe because Derek does believe. Derek doesn’t care that it’s only been two months, doesn’t seem to think it’s too soon, doesn’t pressure Stiles to ever say the words back but Stiles knows how it must feel to say them and not hear them returned. He’s hurting Derek every time he tells him he knows and avoids discussing it any further.

Really, if he’s completely honest with himself, that’s the main reason he’s taken to not being at home often. He said he’d never intentionally hurt Derek, and he knows that he’s doing just that every time he fails to say I love you in return. But it would hurt Derek worse if Stiles tried lying to him.

Tonight, Stiles is actually off at a decent hour. With Allison on bedrest, he and Jordan are working together, and there weren’t any extra shifts available tonight. Not that it really matters because Derek’s gone. It’s his dad’s birthday, so he flew to Oregon this morning on a private plane, and he’s not due home until late tonight, if not early morning. Derek’s been busy with sisters and his pack, though, and he’s giving Stiles space like he knows he needs it. Stiles feels restless being home alone, which he knows is pretty ridiculous considering he’s been away so much lately.

The house is too quiet, though. The kitchen is cold and dark. The bed is empty. Derek’s chair, the comfy one he likes to sit in when he’s reading while Stiles plays video games, is empty. It’s only seven, but it’s already hit the high forties outside, and the house feels empty and cold. Stiles is restless, too many thoughts in his head, and he’s so fucking tired of thinking that he could scream. He can’t seem to focus on anything. He tried Netflix, but he misses Derek’s sarcastic commentary when he watches a really bad movie for fun. He tried video games, but they aren’t the same when Derek’s not there to smile that slight smile at him whenever he brags about kicking ass.

Finally, Stiles just pulls his sneakers on, grabs his keys, and goes out to Roscoe. He probably should have remembered a coat, but he doesn’t want to go back to get one because he’d probably decide to stay and think more. The last thing he wants to do right now is think. The heat takes a while to get going, and he’s glad he’s at least wearing long sleeves, one of Derek’s Henley’s that smells like his cologne because Stiles misses him, alright? It’s not like he hasn’t missed him the last ten days, either, but it’s worse tonight because Derek’s out of town, and Stiles is wondering if he should have just called in sick to work so he could have gone with Derek and his sisters up to Oregon.

Should’ve, would’ve, could’ve. He knows it’s pointless to think about the ‘what ifs’. Derek hadn’t asked him anyway, not that Stiles gave him much of a chance. It had been a last minute party, a call from Talia with details not even received until Monday, and Derek knows Stiles usually needs more time to request a shift off. He tries not put his dad into a position to be accused of favoritism, after all. The heat just starts to work when he pulls into Scott and Allison’s driveway. Typical.

“Stiles, get in here, you dumbass. Where’s your coat?” Scott calls out from the porch as Stiles is walking to the door. “Everything okay?”

“I left it in the house and was too lazy to go back to get it,” Stiles admits, giving Scott a big hug as soon as he’s on the porch. He needs to warm up, and he could really use a hug right now, too. “Derek’s visiting his family, and the house is empty.”

“Oh, Stiles,” Scott murmurs, rubbing his back before he kisses his cheek. “Come on in and warm up. You can hang with us like old times.”

“Thanks.” Stiles follows Scott inside, immediately walking over to the sofa and curling up on it beside Allison. “I miss you, work wife. Jordan’s alright, but he’s not my Aly. How’s Peanut?”

“I miss you, too. If Dr. Matthews weren’t such a cautious jackass, I’d still be there working,” Allison says, petting his hair. “Peanut’s good. Moving around a lot, and I suspect he’s going to be a November baby, but we’ll see.”

“Jordan’s told us you’ve been working a lot of extra shifts the last week,” Scott says as he sits on Stiles’ other side. “Saving up for something special or trying to avoid being at home?”

“I’m not deliberately avoiding anything,” Stiles says. “I’ve just been real busy. And, yes, actually, I am saving up for something. Next month is Christmas, and my list of people to buy gifts for has increased by six, not to mention members of Derek’s family that I haven’t even met yet. Plus it’s Derek’s birthday, too, and I want to do something special for him to celebrate, which will take money.”

“Next year, we might need to just draw names for pack gifts,” Allison says, still petting his hair. “We just keep growing, and the family just gets bigger and bigger.”

“So you’re unconsciously avoiding home.” Scott puts his arm around Stiles’ shoulders and squeezes. “Any particular reason why?”

“I haven’t been avoiding anything.” Stiles frowns. “At least, I hadn’t really thought about it like that. The Doherty arrest kind of fucked with me a bit, and I’m also trying to work through some shit in my head. I’m not the best company, and Derek doesn’t deserve having to be around me when I’m moody and irritable.”

“I don’t think he’d mind,” Allison points out. Stiles glances at her and sees her talking to Scott silently, the way they’ve been able to do almost since they started dating. His lips curve into a slight smile because he and Derek can do that, too.

“You said that Derek’s birthday is next month? What are you thinking of doing?” Scott asks, leaning his head against Stiles’ shoulder and totally changing the subject. Well, he guesses that’s what the silent conversation was about then.

“It’s on Christmas day, which is a Friday this year.” Stiles leans into Allison. “It’s also day 105, so the day after his birthday is D day, day 106. So I was thinking about doing a surprise party Christmas night, and then telling him my decision after midnight. About the mating bond thing and all that.”

“You’re seriously going to make him wait until the last day? Stiles, that’s pretty awful,” Scott says, and Stiles doesn’t need to see his face to know he’s frowning. “I really didn’t think you’d be mean about this time limit thing.”

“It’s not mean to keep to a schedule,” Stiles says. “He already knows that I’m serious about making our relationship work. I’m just waiting until that day to make it official. I’ve got a strategy, Scott. I know it’s going to be fine, and Derek trusts me.”

“What kind of surprise party?” Allison is scratching his scalp, and he moans as he leans into the touch. Totally abrupt change of subject, but he appreciates the effort.

“I, uh, well. It probably sounds silly, but I was thinking of maybe having a masquerade ball, like when we met?” Stiles can feel warmth on his face because it’s such a ridiculous idea, and pretty sappy, but he knows Derek likes masquerades because that’s the only reason he even attended the other one. “But doing it here in town, maybe at the Central since they have that fancy ballroom?”

“It isn’t silly at all. I think it’s very romantic to want to recreate your first meeting.” Allison sniffs. “Damn pregnancy hormones. I tear up over nothing these days. I know Lydia would be able to help, and she’d enjoy the challenge. Do you think you can keep it a secret to surprise him?”

“I’m not going to tell anyone until closer to time. That way there isn’t such a risk of someone blurting it out. Derek really likes surprises, though, and I want him to enjoy his first birthday with me.” Stiles taps his fingers against his thigh. “He doesn’t usually even get a party or anything because it’s Christmas.”

“That would suck,” Scott says, reaching over to put his hand on Stiles’ to stop the tapping. “We’ll help you get it arranged, Stiles. Us and Lydia, plus Jackson since he can afford to help foot the bill. You don’t need to keep working all those doubles.”

“Jackson can’t stand Derek.” Stiles snorts. “But I think he’ll help. For me, if not for Derek.”

“Jackson’s an insecure little boy a lot of the time, and he doesn’t like sharing his things. He considers you one of his things. He’ll get over it when he sees what Derek means to you.” Allison kisses his head. “You really like him a lot, don’t you?”

“So much,” he whispers, turning his hand so he and Scott are palm to palm. “It scares me.”

“Yeah? That’s why the extra shifts all of a sudden. I get it, Stiles.” Scott sighs. “But that’s what it’s like, dude. Scary as hell, but not jumping would be even worse, you know? It feels like freefalling without a parachute sometimes, but then there are these arms around you, catching you, and you know it’s all okay. It’s so worth it because you get to feel like that, get to share that with someone who gets you and wants you in their lives, all the good and the bad.”

“It’s not…I can’t…it’s only been a couple of months,” Stiles points out quietly. “I looked at the calendar, and I know it’s got to be at least Thanksgiving before I’ll know that what I feel is real. That’s seventy five days into the 106, but I’ll have actually known him like eighty-three then. That’s enough time for me to believe.”

“Oh sweetie.” Allison shifts and makes Stiles raise his head. “You can’t plan when to fall in love and put it on your calendar. There’s not a set time line or a specific answer to how long. There’s no right or wrong when it comes to your emotions and how you feel about someone.”

“Calm down, Stiles.” Scott is rubbing his back, and Stiles realizes his heart is beating really fast after Allison finishes talking. “Why don’t we go upstairs and cuddle? We’ll stop talking about this so you can relax, and we’ll just kick it like old times? Tori’s already sleeping, so there’s no reason we can’t go to bed, too.”

“Yeah, that’s good.” Stiles runs his fingers through his hair when Allison gets to her feet. Scott is there helping her, and he just watches them. Their relationship is an ideal, something he’s envied and wanted but never honestly thought he’d have. But he thinks maybe he’s wrong about that because what he has with Derek is like that. When they look at him and smile, he twists his lips into a wry smile before standing up and following them upstairs.

When they reach their bedroom, Stiles takes off his shoes before crawling into bed between them. They both snuggle against him, and he closes his eyes because he loves them so much, just not inthat way, and he feels tears prickle behind his eyelids as they stroke his hair and cuddle him. Allison kisses his cheek. “Do you know what you’re going to get Derek for his birthday? Any suggestions for the rest of us, since we don’t know him as well yet?”

“He, uh, he loves to cook,” Stiles murmurs, smiling as he thinks about Derek in the kitchen. “He likes boring history books about any and everything. He’s into comics and graphic novels, but he doesn’t collect them or anything. He loves to run, does it nearly every morning, and he makes me run with him sometimes. You know, he coached track, basketball, and baseball up in Oregon? He’s an amazing teacher. When he gets to talking about history, it makes you want to learn more. He enjoys baseball a lot, has mentioned maybe trying to join one of the adult leagues here. His favorite team changes every six months, but he likes the A’s right now.”

“Maybe we can do a pack team for the local adult league,” Scott says. “It’s not lacrosse, but baseball is pretty fun, and I could sponsor it for the clinic. Between his pack and ours, we can probably get enough volunteers.”

“That’d be good.” Stiles bites his lip, debating whether or not tell them what he’s seriously been considering, but he ends up blurting it out. “As for my gift, well, I’m thinking maybe, um, I don’t know yet, but it’s an idea, and I thought it might be good to, uh, well. Rings. You know, Cora’s offered to design them for us, and that it might be a nice surprise for Derek.”

Scott’s arm tightens around his waist, and Stiles swears he hears him sniffling. “That’s great, man. Such an awesome gift. Ten out of ten for surprise and pleasure. What kind of rings?”

“Like mating rings, I guess. But, uh, I think they could be used as the other kind, too,” he whispers, feeling Allison kiss his cheek. “When we’re ready or whatever.”

“We won’t tell,” Allison says softly. “No one needs to know that there’s really a romantic soul beneath your cynical exterior. Giving Derek a ring for his birthday is an amazing plan. I’m so proud of you, Stiles.”

Stiles snorts. “Right. Proud of me. Because I’ve done so much to be proud of.” He opens his eyes and looks at her. “He told me he loves me, after the Doherty arrest. He was calm and patient and just let me lash out, and he saw me, Aly. He saw me when the darkness and magic almost took me over, and he still said he loves me. And I was too fucking scared to even think about what I feel for him that I just Han Solo’d him.”

Allison leans forward to rest her forehead against Stiles’ forehead. He can smell the sweet scent of peppermint and vanilla as she breathes against his nose. “You make me proud every day, Stiles Stilinski. Derek’s a smart man, a man who has his own bad side, and he believes in you unconditionally. That’s what love is, sweetie. It’s seeing the worst and still being there. It’s lying here talking about history and baseball with that adorable smile because you care about those things because they mean something to him.”

“My turn.” Scott pulls Stiles’ head to face him and stares into his eyes. “I’ve never seen you like this, Stiles. Not with Lydia and the ten year plan. Not with Danny during the buddy thing you two had going. Not with anyone since. Derek’s a sarcastic ass who fits with you better than anyone but me and Aly. Be scared, be terrified because, hell, I still am half the time because I want to be everything for Allison and it’s scary to feel so much for someone else, but stop running. Stop avoiding it because it’s not been enough days or it doesn’t fit on your schedule. Love is messy. It isn’t planned, and it can’t be controlled so you’re going to have to let go, but you’ve got to trust that Derek will be there to catch you when you fall.”

Scott grins at him and gives him a sloppy kiss before he holds him tight. Stiles returns the hug, burying his face against Scott’s neck because he doesn’t know what to say. Doesn’t know when Scott became such an adult. Doesn’t know when Scott became the mature one who gives great advice and Stiles became the uncertain one who needs guidance. Allison is curled up against his back, her belly fitting into the curve of his spine.

“We’ll drop it for now,” Allison says, kissing his neck. “But just know we’re here if you need us for anything. You might be planning to put a ring on it next month, but Derek’s got to share you with us because you’re our Stiles. Soulmates and bonding or whatever.” She sighs softly. “You know, Scott really is right about there not being a time limit or schedule for love. I mean, I knew I was going to fall in love with Scott when he handed me a pen.”

“And I knew Allison was the only one for me when I first looked into her eyes,” Scott murmurs, stroking Stiles’ ribs. “It’s not love at first sight, so don’t get all cynical on me. It’s just, sometimes, you meet someone, and there’s this connection that maybe doesn’t make sense at the time or seems impossible, but it’s real, and it can change your entire life.”

“When I first saw Derek, I thought he was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen,” Stiles admits quietly. “And I wanted to fuck him. Not like you two, with the picket fence and happily ever after ending thoughts. I didn’t even know his name when we had sex, and he didn’t know mine. It was great sex, and, yeah, okay, I liked the idea of being his when he asked to bite me, talked about claiming me, but I was aroused and desire was clouding my mind so I doubt I’d have been so agreeable if I’d not been fucking him at the time.”

“The fact that you even let him bite you says a lot, Stiles.” Allison is playing with his hair again, knowing how much it calmed him down and made him relax. “Sex or not, you usually avoid being marked in any way with the one night stands.” Her voice softens. “Do you think maybe one reason you were so determined to run away from it, from him, is because you did feel something and it scared you?”

“What happened to dropping the subject?” he mutters, frowning as he rubs his face against Scott’s neck. “I don’t know, Aly. I didn’t believe the whole mating bond thing, and, at the time, I had convinced myself that the Hale pack was plotting against us, so the fact I’d just fucked one of the Hale alphas and let him bite me was slightly overwhelming. And, yeah, I thought he was a sarcastic ass and attractive as hell and really clever, and, under different circumstances, I would have definitely spent the night with him. Maybe considered breakfast after.”

Scott squeezes his hip. “What happened that night or what you felt or didn’t feel, that’s all in the past. The only thing that really matters is how you feel now. Stiles, you’re the only one who knows what you’re feeling, and no one can tell you that you should feel a certain way or make you feel bad about any of it. Just don’t stand in the way of a relationship that makes you happy because you’re stubborn and feel you can timeline emotions.”

“I’m not standing in my own way.” He raises his head and looks into Scott’s eyes. “I am, though, aren’t I?”

“Maybe?” Scott holds his thumb and pointer finger apart by about an inch. “Just a little?”

“I’m an idiot.” Stiles sighs, rolling onto his back, careful not to hit Allison’s belly. “I’ve been so focused on schedules and timelines and certain milestone dates that I’ve risked losing one of the most amazing people I’ve ever met in my life.”

“Hey now.” Allison lightly punches his arm. “No calling my work husband an idiot. But, yes, you’re using the calendar as protection to keep from putting yourself out there and taking a chance. Derek’s already put himself out there, and you’ve thrown yourself into working extra and basically avoiding him as much as possible. Not the smartest thing you’ve ever done, Stiles.”

“I love him,” Stiles whispers, the words sounding a little bit foreign on his tongue because he says I love you to his father and his pack a lot, but he’s never said them in this way before. “Fuck, I love him so much. He’s…he’s everything to me.”

Scott sits up and gives him that sunshine grin. “Well, now that you’ve realized it, what do you plan to do about it?”

“I need to tell him.” Stiles nods as he sits up, too. “I need to say the words to him so he can hear that I’m not lying. What time is it? He might be home by now. I can have to go talk to him.”

“It’s almost midnight. When is he due back?” Allison shifts so that she’s lying back against a stack of pillows.

“I don’t know. It’s a family plane, and he told me he’d be back by early morning. I should go home and wait for him. I need to be there when he gets home. Need to tell him,” Stiles says, feeling very determined now that he’s had this epiphany and realizes that love doesn’t work on a specific time frame. “He needs to know he isn’t the only one in love.”

“Text me tomorrow and tell me how it goes,” Allison tells him. She pulls him into a hug. “We’ll talk surprise party planning, too, because I need something to keep me from going stir crazy until Peanut makes his appearance in the world.”

“I will. I’ll call, not text, and yes. Planning.” Stiles smiles. “Lots of planning. I’ve got ideas…we’ll talk tomorrow. Stay off your feet and be careful.” He brushes his lips against the sweater covering her belly. “Be good for your mom, Peanut.”

“I’ll be back in a few,” Scott tells Allison, having one of their silent conversations before he follows Stiles out of the room. When they get downstairs, Scott puts his hands on both of Stiles’ shoulders and just looks at him. “When you two get married? Human married, I mean. I don’t want to be your best man.”

“This talk is maybe a little premature?” Stiles says before he blinks. “Wait, what do you mean you don’t want to be my best man?”

“After you and Derek did the whole werewolf married thing? The next week, I did this online program,” Scott admits, lips curved into a happy smile. “I’m now ordained, because I want to marry you. Not marry you like bigamy, but like marry you and Derek. As your ‘mawage, that bwessed awangment, that dweam wifin a dweam’ guy.”

“Seriously? You were that confident that Derek and I were forever?” Stiles runs his fingers through his hair. “You could have clued me in on the whole love being scary and unpredictable thing a little sooner, you know? But, yes, you can be our Impressive Clergyman, and Derek is my Wesley, not a Prince Humperdinck, so it’ll be good. Oh God. I’m talking about marriage like it’s going to happen, Scotty. Not like it might or maybe in a lot of years, but like it’s definitely happening in the future that is closer rather than far away.”

“That’s because it’s twue wove, and twue wove wiww fowwow you fowevah and evah,” Scott laughs when Stiles rolls his eyes. “Hey, I had to hear all of this when Allison and I were engaged, so it’s payback time, baby.”

“I need a new best friend. I’m going to take applications and replace you with someone who isn’t a wiseass with a memory like an elephant.” Stiles snorts. “Or I’ll just make sure I have a short engagement so you can’t drive me crazy with revenge plans. I mean, it’d be a pain in the ass trying to replace you.”

“That’s because I’m irreplaceable.” Scott pulls Stiles into a tight hug. “If he ever hurts you, I’ll totally help you hide the body and provide an alibi.”

“I know, buddy.” Stiles returns the hug before kissing Scott’s jaw. “I love you, Scotty.”

“I love you, too, Stiles.” Scott grins and slaps his ass. “Now go get your man.”

Stiles huffs a laugh before he steps outside. It’s freaking cold, and he starts to leave the porch, turning when Scott calls his name. He’s hit in the face with Scott’s sweater, and he smiles as he pulls it over his head. It’s heavy and warm, and he’s grateful for it when he gets in Roscoe because the heat probably won’t even really start until he’s already back at home. If Stiles speeds driving home, well, no one catches him, so maybe it didn’t really happen? Needless to say, he makes it home in record time. It’s after midnight, though, and there’s hardly any traffic to get in his way. He also knows the best routes to take to avoid red lights, which helps a lot.

Since Derek rode to the airport with Laura, the fact that Lola’s in the driveway doesn’t really tell Stiles if Derek’s home yet or not. He doesn’t waste time lingering outside. He turns off Roscoe and heads inside. When he opens the door, he notices that the house is warmer. There’s a fire going in the fireplace, one that he didn’t set, and he focuses on Derek’s reading chair as he kicks the door shut behind him. “You’re already home.”

Derek looks up from the book he’s reading. He looks tired, and his smile doesn’t reach his eyes. “I left right after the party. I thought you weren’t working tonight, so I wanted to get home early. Surprise you. Yeah, I know you don’t like surprises, but I thought this might be a good one.”

“I wasn’t working.” Stiles wants to run over to him, but he’s trying to be smooth and charming, so he hangs back near the door. “I went to see Scott and Allison.”

“So I smell.” Derek rubs the bridge of his nose, his glasses moving up then settling back into place. “How’s Allison?”

“Sick of being on bedrest, but she and Peanut are going well. Her doctor’s just taking precautions.” Stiles bites the inside of his cheek. “How’s your family?”

“Good. Dad had a nice party. My brothers managed to come down from Seattle, and Creepy---I mean, Uncle Peter---interrogated Matt’s new girlfriend but she held her own, so I think this one might actually last awhile. Anyway, they were sorry you couldn’t come with me to the party.” Derek shrugs. “I explained that you work hard, especially lately, and that we didn’t have enough notice for you to get off work for the day. Your job means a lot to you, and I respect that.”

“I’m sorry. About working so much and not being home that often recently.” Stiles sighs. “I should have taken off to go with you. Just called in or something.”

“It’s not a big deal, Stiles. I know your job is important to you, and it was just a dinner for his birthday.” Derek looks at him and seems to hesitate before he finally asks, “Did I do something wrong?”

“What? No, of course not. Why would you ever think that, Der?” Stiles takes a step closer but makes himself stop. He wraps his arms around himself and worries his bottom lip, dragging his teeth over it and nibbling.

“I don’t know. It just feels like you’ve withdrawn, like you aren’t here even when you are,” Derek whispers, taking off his glasses and rubbing his hand down his face. “I thought I must have done something to cause it.”

“It’s not you. It’s me.” Stiles grimaces when Derek’s eyes widen, his expression becoming guarded. “I don’t mean it like it sounds. I’m not breaking up with you.”

“It certainly doesn’t sound like anything good,” Derek mutters, putting his glasses back on. “If it isn’t breaking up, what is it then?”

“I suck at this.” Stiles shakes his head as he starts pacing, feeling slightly nauseous all of a sudden. “I tried thinking of a speech or coming up with someone clever and romantic during the drive home, but I wasn’t sure if you’d even be here, and I don’t really talk all flowery and starry-eyed. I’m the cynical smartass, the one with a snarky quip, not the one with the poetic language.”

“Stiles, stop pacing and talk to me.” Derek is staring at him. He looks confused, uncertain, and slightly worried. Damn it. Stiles is doing it again. He’s hurting him without intending to, and he’s probably better off without having Stiles fucking up his life but, God, he can’t let Derek go to give him that chance. He’s a selfish ass, but that’s the truth.

“I love you,” Stiles blurts out, crossing the room so fast he hits his shin on the table and almost trips over the rug. He jumps on Derek’s lap, straddling his legs, and he looks into Derek’s eyes as he moves Derek’s hand above his heart. “I’m not lying, okay? I love you. I’m in love with you. And I should probably let you go find someone better for you, who won’t hurt you by being an emotionally stunted asshole, but I’m never letting you go. I’m going to be selfish, and I’m holding on so tight that you’ll never get rid of me.”

“I don’t want you to let go, dumbass.” Derek reaches up to grip Stiles’ hair, pulling his head down so he can kiss him. The kiss is like their other kisses, maybe a little more tender and explorative. Still, Stiles thinks it’s the best they’ve had so far. When they pull apart, Derek just looks at him in wonder. “You’re wrong, you know? You really aren’t emotionally stunted.”

“You just called me an asshole during my whole romantic love declaration thing,” Stiles points out, lips curving into what he knows must be a dopey smile. “Not very romantic, babe.”

“I guess we’re even then,” Derek decides. “After my love declaration ‘thing’, you totally did a Han Solo, and I wasn’t sure if it was deliberate, since I know how much you love Star Wars, or if I was reading into it because I wanted to believe it. I think it might have been better if you’d just said that it was cool I loved you but you weren’t there yet instead of giving me something to obsess over for days.”

“Of course you’d know about that. I should have expected it, but I honestly didn’t think you’d realize, and I really am sorry for the last week or so. I, uh, I was scared of what I was feeling.” Stiles kisses him again. “Also, I chose the Han Solo thing because I figured saying As You Wish would be a dead giveaway, and I wasn’t one hundred percent that I could say the actual words without my heart doing the flipping flop lying thing because I didn’t believe I could feel like that after such a short time. But all it took for Scott and Allison was a pen, and we had a lot more between us than a pen. I mean, I can’t say when, whether it was from the first moment like them, with the masks and ball, or if it was later, streaming bad reality shows or maybe the kid’s play or stargazing picnics or even delicious oatmeal. I just know it happened.”

“I didn’t want you to say it just because I said it.” Derek brushes his thumb over Stiles’ bottom lip. “I knew it would seem too soon for you, but I also knew we’d promised to be honest with each other, and I wanted you to know how I felt. I’m glad you can say it now, and I don’t care how or when it happened. So long as you know that you’re my life, my future, and I want to grow old with you and make babies with you, well via Laura but whatever. I want to make you believe in fairy tales, Stiles.”

“You do, Derek,” Stiles admits. “I mean, the true mate thing might be what brought us together, but it isn’t what made us fall in love. No, the fairy tale thing you’ve got me believing in is the whole happily ever after. And I want those same things with you, though no babies for several more years, okay?”

“Okay. I don’t want to share you with children yet anyway.” Derek kisses him again then just strokes his face. “This isn’t the bond. This is us. The bond can’t force love, can’t make you do something you don’t want to do, so we’re the ones who have fallen in love.”

“I hope you realize how obnoxious I’m going to be now.” Stiles smiles down at Derek. “I’ve never been in love before, but I’m going to kick ass at it and make you the most romanced man in town, if not the state. I’m going to make you so happy, Der.”

Derek leans up to kiss him, slow and so damn good it makes Stiles’ toe curls. It becomes another kiss and another until Stiles’ lips are swollen and his pulse is racing. When they separate, Derek smiles, the big crinkly eyed smile, and whispers, “You already do, Stiles.”