A greater portion of Sunday morning is spent listlessly in a state of nauseating hangover and severe mental trauma. After the initial horror gradually subsides, Stiles composes himself not without some tremendous amount of effort and immediately applies himself to the daunting task of actually thinking rationally - the deed having been done, what are his options now? He can cope - in fact, he is actually pretty good at coping; he has been doing it all his life. But he absolutely cannot remain calm when all he can do is entertain the growing unease deep within him, gnawing at him like a parasitic worm, feeding him crazy thoughts - it's like he is a criminal on trial with an overwhelming pile of evidence and witnesses all testifying against him, and he looks all around and there simply is no way out. His own towering guilt is only secondary to everything he has laid to waste in one single irresponsible, inconsiderate, selfish act of self-gratification, and he knows that it is only a matter of time before the other shoe drops, too.

The first thought that strikes his mind is that it is all over, fractured into a million irreparable scattered shards. He is so beyond horrified at his own actions. He can't even bear to think what Derek would have thought of him last night as he had received all those texts - one after the other, each like a glimpse into the demented, dark place that was their origin. But the worst is what Derek doesn't know. In Stiles' mind, the memories fester like something rotting, filling him with disgust. It turns his stomach; it makes him sick with repulsion.

Jackson tells him how he had received a call from him around 11:30 last night, where Stiles had begged him, sobbing, to come and get him. Jackson and Lydia had rushed to the Jungle immediately, where they had found Stiles passed out in one of the toilets, lying in a puddle of his own vomit.

Thankfully Jackson does not press for details. There is a kind of unspoken mutual understanding between them now, as Stiles lay silently on the couch and Jackson sits across from him, engrossed in a copy of Time magazine. It's almost astonishing how quickly they have transitioned from being frenemies to awkward flatmates to this. Stiles will tell Jackson about what really happened last night, eventually, but right now he needs to collect his own thoughts first, which are a haphazard mess, strewn all over the place. And this damn persistent headache is certainly not making his job any easier.

Lydia calls from the airport around noon. Stiles makes Jackson lie that he is still sleeping. After they hang up Jackson tells him that Lydia said she was sorry she couldn't be there when he woke up. Stiles is just sad they even have a reason to worry about him. He does not want to be a burden to anyone, least of all the people he cares about. He has always been strong all his life, not easily bent or hurt, even as a kid he barely cried - he has always been able to take care of himself, something his mom had taken great pride in. He was tough, and his mom had known it; which is why she had asked him, barely twelve then, to always take care of his dad after she was gone, that he would be stronger and braver for both of them. And he had promised her that, choking back on tears, as she attempted to raise a trembling hand to wipe his tears and he had to lean down close enough for her to be able to do that because she didn't even have enough strength left to lift one arm high enough to reach his face. When she finally passed away, he cried only once.

Today he feels like if his mom were still alive, she would shake her head in disappointment at what he has become - a weak, needy mess. This is surely not what she would have imagined her son growing up into, as she lay slowly dying on her bed, thinking about how Stiles would have to grow up without a mother, how she would never attend his graduation like every other proud parent, how she would never be there to guide him through the many heartbreaks and disappointments in love and life, never watch him find love and happiness at the end, or settle down and have a family of his own, never hear the voice of her first grandchild. Instead leaving an incredible burden to bear all his life, a gaping hole in his heart - because she knew that if anyone could make it, it was her son. Stiles.

He breaks down sobbing - bitter, frustrated tears rolling down his face - as Jackson cradles him and hushes him. He tells Jackson everything, lays it all out bare - about how he met Derek, all his thoughts about him (even some of the inappropriate ones, to which Jackson only snorts and blushes a bit), and especially about last night, the sordid events of which now loom over everything Stiles cannot lose like a perpetual storm-cloud, threatening to rain down lightning and hail at any moment. Stiles is confused, however, when there is none of the horror, disgust or even shock he expects to show on Jackson's face. In fact, Jackson's expression does not even change as he listens intently - which Stiles thinks is even worse. No reaction is the absolute worst when you are expecting something huge to happen at any moment. Stiles can deal with most stuff, but this he has no idea how to even interpret. Which is why he is so not prepared for it when Jackson suddenly pulls him into a tight hug, literally squeezing the air out of his lungs.

"Everyone makes mistakes," Jackson says, heaving out a small puff of air. "But we move on. Mistakes, they should never hold us back, you know. Take a lesson from them, yes, but move ahead wiser. You understand, Stiles? Don't let this one stupid decision ruin everything good that can and will happen to you."

Stiles listens, stunned for a moment, before he nods into Jackson's shoulder, sniffing, wondering how it has turned out that Jackson is being the mature one here, giving him life advice and all that while he has turned into a big bawling baby.

"You should probably have a long talk with Derek one of these days, though," Jackson says as they finally let go. "Nothing will change if he doesn't hear you actually say all the stuff you said just now."

"I know," Stiles admits, nodding. "And you should probably go and change your T-shirt now because I think I left a small puddle of snot on your- "

"Nooo!" This time Jackson does look absolutely horrified. "Tell me you didn't, Stiles- oh my god, gross! No...this is my favourite T-shirt, dude! Why would you do that!"

The brief moment Stiles spends laughing is, for him, like a fleeting ray of sunlight on an otherwise overcast day, because very soon he has to worry about what he should say to Derek, because this is most definitely not one of those times when he can simply choose to ignore the problem until it eventually goes away. God, how he loves those times! The very thought, however, is so beyond horrifying that he can only feel panic rising everytime he so much as picks up his phone with the intention of calling Derek. Eventually Jackson grows tired of his indecision and timidity and, perhaps out of sheer pity, makes the overwhelming decision for him: get some rest for now, think about what exactly he wants to say, and then say it in person tomorrow.

He only regrets listening to Jackson's advice later at night, as his mind races with a million different thoughts on what to say to Derek tomorrow, how to say it, what Derek's reaction might be (which accounts for roughly 99.9% of the sum total of his worries). He doesn't get a wink of sleep.

~ooo0ooo~

"You know it's all in your head," Jackson points out hardly amused as Stiles sits miserably fretting in the kitchen the following morning. "What I'm saying is," he turns around from the counter to face Stiles, who can hardly bring himself to believe that he is actually being lectured by an apron-clad, spatula-brandishing Jackson first thing on a Monday morning, "don't worry so much. It's not like you have to tell him everything. Just explain the drunk-texting and spare him the- the other stuff with...Ricky?"

Stiles rolls his eyes. "Eric."

"Right, the other stuff with Eric. It's not like you guys are together yet anyway, so it's still, you know..."

"I think I should just tell him all of it," Stiles says, staring down into his coffee. "I mean he deserves to know, right? If- If- "

Jackson places the spatula firmly down on the counter. "Look, do you want to go ahead and ruin any chance at all you still might have with him? I just don't want to see you even more broken than you are right now, okay? Like this damn apartment hasn't got a whole lot more depressing in the past few days. If you want, you can always tell him later, when you are both comfortable or whatever. Just...you know, spare yourself the heartbreak today."

"I think breakfast is burning," Stiles observes, wrinkling his nose at the sudden smell of burned bacon quickly filling the kitchen.

Jackson instantly whips back around and lets out a frustrated grunt, holding up a blackened strip of meat in the spatula and turning around to show it to Stiles, whose fault it apparently is that breakfast is burnt.

Perfect. Just, perfect.

~ooo0ooo~

Stiles has so far never dreaded anything in his life more than his impending talk with Derek sometime today - not even the time he had to inform Sandra Jennings, his grouchy spinster neighbour of 82 back at Beacon Hills, that he had accidently run over one of her cats that had been sunbathing on their driveway as he backed up his jeep. And that had most definitely been one freakish hell of an incident, when Sandra had burst out sobbing right on her front porch, drawing the attention of everyone on their street. Stiles, horrified, had tried to calm her down which had only made the situation so much worse. Sandra had mourned over her dead cat for nearly two weeks after that and Stiles' dad had made him apologise atleast a thousand times, besides mowing her lawn for several months and carrying over atleast a dozen different casseroles with even more apologies. Personally, Stiles has always had a really strong suspicion that Sandra had only been faking it, making the most of an unfortunate, yes, but completely insignificant accident. Besides, Stiles has never ever seen her being nice to her numerous feline pets, like petting them or something that would give off the impression that she actually cared about them. She was always scolding and reprimanding them, all day long.

Okay...now he's just being nervous and rambling endlessly. Which is another matter of grave concern, because he usually has no control over his mouth when he is so agitated. He's gonna make an already bad situation even worse if he loses it in front of Derek, who's probably never going to want to talk to him after that. But Stiles can't help it that his already negligible brain to mouth filter completely disappears the moment he finds himself in a difficult situation. It's how he copes; it's how he keeps the panic attacks from surfacing, keeps them at bay. Everyone else just finds it weird though, besides his dad and Scott, who both seem to have somehow buffered up on an inexhaustible amount of patience over the years when it comes to his blabbering.

Stiles decides that it would be best - both for him and Derek, but especially for him - if he gets to meet Derek before they inevitably meet during his lecture later in the afternoon. Which is why he skips his first class of the day, Rhetoric and Prosody, and goes hunting for Derek's office, which he has absolutely no idea where to even begin looking for. For the most part, the contradicting directions he receives end up confusing him to no end, besides sending him running all around the block in circles, but eventually he manages to stumble into the right floor and down the right corridor - because twenty minutes since his quest began, he finds himself standing in front of a heavy mahogany door, above which is embossed on the brass metallic name-plate:

Prof. Derek Hale

Department of English.

Stiles takes a deep breath in, trying to calm his flailing nerves, and proceeds toward the looming entrance, to his highly probable demise. However, before he can even take another step forward, a giant aluminium ladder is suddenly propped up right in front of the door and a man in work overalls starts climbing it, and upon reaching about eye level with the name-plate above the door, produces a screwdriver out of his front pouch and begins to unscrew it. All this Stiles bears witness to without a single strain of comprehension dawning upon him - mouth slightly agap as though he were in the process of actually beginning to say something and his face a haphazard agglomeration of a myriad of expressions, most of them variations of confusion, suspicion and doubt.

It is only when the man has successfully undone one screw and the brass plate now swivels downward hinged on just one more bolt, which the man on the ladder has already begun unscrewing, that Stiles feels a sudden surge of panic rise within him, forcing him to suddenly speak out, having been jolted out of his trance-like state.

"Hey, uh, why are you removing Professor Derek Hale's name-plate?" he says, barely concealing the slight tremor in his voice. "Has his office been relocated? If so, can you kindly point me in the direction of his new office? I need to see him right now because I just have so many things I should have told him from the beginning but I couldn't. And now, I have to tell him. Right now. Where's he gone? Have you seen him arrive or leave? This morning? You must know where he's gone, right? Oh my god. He couldn't have gone very far though..."

Stiles realises that he is talking a mile a minute, out of breath, and the man on the ladder is looking at him with this look on his face, one usually reserved for use during encounters with the frighteningly bizarre or the absolutely ridiculous. Either way, it manages to put an immediate halt to Stiles' babbling, because he knows exactly what the man is thinking behind that look. Stiles takes a series of deep breaths and succeeds in calming himself down enough to not begin spewing out another endless barage of words yet again.

"He's inside," the man says, looking a little shaken. He climbs down the ladder, moves it out of the way, and swings the door inward.

With a pounding heart being the least of his worries right now, Stiles enters the room, each tentative step forward bringing him closer to the figure that stands at the table on the far end of the room, back turned towards him. For a brief fleeting moment, Stiles has to stop in his tracks and stare - just stare, eyes wide, mouth gaping, et al. Because the person standing there - who still has not noticed Stiles' entrance by the way; and if he has, he has obviously chosen to ignore the unsolicited intrusion - is so far removed from the image of Derek Hale etched into his memories that he can't help feeling just a little bit doubtful if it actually is Derek as he nervously clears his throat to announce his presence. Which is also probably why when he speaks out immediately after, his "Derek?" has a huge question mark precauriously hanging at the end.

It is Derek though - clad in jeans and a black leather jacket - Stiles discovers, relieved and panicking at the same time (how the hell is that even possible?), and who instantly tenses and then, as though shaken out of a reverie, hastily starts dropping stuff on the desk into the cardboard box he had been bending over.

"Stiles," he says in calm acknowledgement, without turning around.

Ever experienced one of those times when you rehearse your lines over a million times, trying to get it just right, and then the moment finally comes and you realise that you can't remember anything you wanted to say, and you slowly begin to feel panic rising and the ground too feels like it's starting to slip away from right under your feet? It's definitely one of those moments right now, Stiles realises, and god, how these sort of moments annoy the living crap out of him! They are like the moments in life equivalent of a crash-session of Professor Trelawny's Divinity class - they cast a dark shadow over everything that follows and make it very uncomfortable and tedious for everyone involved.

"Why are you leaving, Derek?" he finally manages to say, swallowing back a sudden surge of emotions. "Is it because of me? I know I've been acting like complete idiot, and Scott told me that I might have come across as being too needy, and I shouldn't have sent you so many texts, I know how you must find them annoying, and the other night- it was one of the worst nights of my life and I hadn't even realised what I had done till I woke up the next morning- "

"Stiles- "

"-and saw all those texts I sent you. God, you must think I'm crazy or something. I don't even know myself, I probably am. But then I got around to thinking about it and realised that I actually meant everything I said, you know, how they say alcohol is like a truth serum or something, atleast in my case- "

"Stiles!"

"-it turned out to be so true because I really have fallen for you, Derek, and I can't help how I feel about you, but if you are leaving because of me, you've got to tell me, because I can stop...I- I can pretend like I don't have all these feelings for you, I'll stop texting you- I'll stop bothering you all the time- I- just please don't leave because if you do, I don't think I can ever forgive myself. Derek, just tell me, is it because of m- "

"STILES!"

Stiles stutters to a stunned silence, words petering out at his lips, breath hitching as a solitary tear drop traces its way down his flushed cheek, which he does not even attempt to wipe at because his whole body is like completely frozen. He's not even embarrassed about his little panic-induced rambling, because he is too busy freaking the hell out, as he sees Derek gripping the edge of the table tight, his knuckles white and shaking, like his life depended on it. Derek pulls in a sharp hiss of air and Stiles, for the first time since he woke up this morning, feels his own worries fade away as he starts taking a few faltering steps toward Derek, who looks like he is having a fit of some sort.

"Derek?" he calls out in a tiny, embarrassingly timid voice, and nearly takes a tumble backwards to the floor, steadying himself at the last moment not unlike a clumsy, flailing human rag doll, when Derek suddenly turns around to face him with this really sad, defeated kind of look in his eyes. Stiles gulps down a glob of mild panic and feels himself rooted to the spot, heart pounding in his chest, as he stares at Derek struggling to say something - his lips wobbling but no words coming out.

"Stiles," Derek manages at last, his big blue eyes uncertainly wandering up Stiles' face until they meet Stiles' own fearful brown ones, "I'm trying. I'm trying so hard not to fall for you but you keep making it so difficult for me not to."

There have been several moments in Stiles' life when his inherent inability to prevent his remarkably unrefined kneejerk reactions to sudden, debatably earth-shattering/life-altering developments from unexpectedly seizing control of and thereby proceeding to shamelessly strut across his entire face, have actually worked to his advantage. Atleast everyone knew exactly what his opinion was, then. Not this time, however. The look of utter befuddlement that his own daft goldfish expression inspires on Derek's face is an imprint that he swears he would carry to his grave. Stiles thinks it is funny enough that they were both thrown off by the complete reversal of their own pre-conceived expectations - Stiles by Derek's totally unexpected confession, and subsequently Derek by Stiles' unconventional reaction to the news - without the added complication of only fuelling each other's confusion and disbelief the longer they stared at each other.

But this is good. In fact, this is super duper awesomeness meets the clouds have parted and heavenly rays of sunlight are shining down on us kind of good - an absolute rarity in Stiles' at times Amy Winehouse levels of depressive existence so far. Because it is not just in his head anymore. Derek might actually be falling in love with Stiles, hard to believe as it may be. Derek actually said those very words! It's like some higher power that had been depriving Stiles of all his much-deserved happy moments all these long years has suddenly grown tired of the game and finally opened up a floodgate of sunshine, rainbow, unicorns and of course all the other goodies that have been tactfully eluding him for so long. His heart is gonna burst with the sudden surge of happiness welling up within him.

Bouyed by these thoughts, a small smile manages to slowly sneak its way into Stiles' face, before long growing into a wide grin that crinkles his eyes and makes his cheeks hurt just a little, but he can't help it.

"Oh my god, you actually like me!" he cries out, rubbing his cheeks furiously. "Holy crrrap, how does that even work? You actually like me, Derek!"

"Uh, yeah, I guess I do," Derek says blankly, letting out an unamused bark of a laugh at the end.

"No!" Stiles insists, his mind already racing toward catatonic levels of freaking out, and Derek's mouth flies open just a little. "You actually like me, Derek! Like, there is actually a distinct possibility that we might go out on a real date and then come back and have some super hot sex on the cou- "

Derek's mouth actually flies wide open this time with his eyebrows travelling atleast an inch up his forehead, even as Stiles nearly dies of mortification on the spot. Derek, however, recovers quickly, and even quicker, a huge sloppy sexy smile lazily spreads across his face - and it isn't even funny how Stiles' heart rate suddenly quadruples just looking at it.

"That sounds irresistibly tempting..." Derek drawls with a hint of mischief in his voice as he starts ambling slowly toward the yet to be unmortified Stiles, who is having an extremely difficult time keeping himself from fainting right there because- oh god, Derek asdfghjkl! Derek stops just a few inches short of merging into Stiles' only-too-willing body, bringing a hand up to cup Stiles' cheek instead, eliciting a totally normal and cool strangled sound from the back of Stiles' throat. "But we should probably start slow and then go fast and maybe slow down a bit later."

Stiles' mouth opens and closes wordlessly like a fish out of water, and would someone please hand Derek his medal for being the first person on earth to successfully render Stiles speechless. He nods, vigorously. "I can take slow and then fast and maybe slow again," he says breathlessly, not even attempting to smooth over what he actually means by that. And then blurts out before he can stop himself, to his everlasting horror: "If you're the one giving it."

Stiles can see that Derek is struggling too behind that cocky, confident outer layer because he swallows hard and his breath hitches. He apparently has more self-restraint than Stiles though, who is prevented from pouncing on Derek and tearing his clothes off right now only by the power of his own shame and mortification, because he just shakes his head and chuckles softly - which Stiles finds simply too fucking adorable for his own good.

"I'm sure we'll have plenty of time for that later," Derek says, looking deep into his eyes with those hypnotising blue eyes of his, nearly reducing Stiles to a puddle of incoherent goo on the floor in the process. "But right now I just want to thank you for those really insightful texts the other night. They kind of...put things in perspective. So, thank you, Stiles."

If Stiles ever attempted to reply to that, he would probably never remember whatever he had wanted to say, because all of a sudden Derek's warm lips are uncertainly brushing over his, and Stiles is freaking out - do not be fooled by his limp body, it is probably just him going into some kind of shock. Derek curls his hand around the nape of Stiles' neck and slowly, almost fearfully, presses their lips together. Stiles involuntarily responds by letting out an obnoxiously loud moan and runs a hand through Derek's soft black hair, hardly getting enough as he accepts Derek's probing tongue into his mouth.

Which is of course when someone loudly clears his throat at the door and the two of them fly apart in like less than a split-second, shamelessly acting all normal as though they hadn't just been shoving tongues down each other's throats. Well, that's mostly Derek- okay, that's entirely Derek, who gives the man at the door a questioning look, eyebrows raised and all that stuff, not even looking ruffled in the slightest. Only a little distance away, Stiles stands- well, technically he is leaning against the back of a chair because he doesn't trust his legs enough to support him right now. So he is leaning against a chair, trying desperately not to look like he is dying right now, because holy shit, Derek kissed him! Kissed as in actually put his smokin' hot, drenched with the sweet mana dew of heaven, lips on his and sucked on them until every single cell in his body abandoned their nature-assigned posts and did a mass flailing around.

"I'm sorry," the man at the door stutters, holding in his hands the name-plate he has successfully managed to unscrew, like a frickin' hunting trophy. Stiles has never wished anyone's asshole to grow tastebuds, because that's just too terrible a fate to condemn even your worst enemies to, but right now he thinks he is quite justified in wishing the man at the door just that for ruining quite undisputedly the best fucking moment of Stiles' life! Stiles tries to impress his curse on the blissfully oblivious man with a mental shaking of fist toward the heavens, followed by a deathly glare directed straight in his direction, which he even more infuriatingly fails to notice as he hurriedly backs away and out the door. Stiles would probably have let out a primordial battle cry and rushed after the man immediately, waving above his head the nearest weapon of murder he could lay his hands on, had Derek not let out a loud, frustrated-sounding sigh right then, effectively banishing all murderous intent from Stiles' head in an instant.

"I'm sorry," Derek says sheepishly, blushing slightly. "I don't know what came over me. "I just- "

"It was fine," Stiles says, trying to sound as unaffected as possible. "I mean, it was more than fine. I hope we can do more of that."

"Yeah, me too," Derek sighs, a nervous look flitting through his eyes. "Is it too late to go on that date we had planned for Friday?" He adds uncertainly, "Maybe?"

"So it was a date?"

"Uh, I guess- "

"I knew it!"

"Stiles- "

"Yes, yes, of course I'm more than willing to go on a date with you. A real date this time."

"Friday good?"

"But today's only Monday!"

"So?"

"It's just, you know, I think Friday is like jinxed or somethin'. We should probably one up the meddlesome forces and go out tomorrow."

"You just can't wait till Friday, can you? I'd take you out tomorrow but I won't be free till Friday."

"Hey, by the way, why are you leaving? Did you throw in the towel or somethin'? This kind of jobs usually require real dedication, I know, and I'm not sayin' you lack commitment or anythin' cause I'm sure you are a very commited person, but I also think you are more suited for a spontaneous kind of job rather than a monotonous one, you know, somethin' creative- "

"This job was temporary."

"Oh. Okay, so yeah, that explains a lot."

"Do you really think I'm more suited for...somethin' creative?"

"Yeah. Yes. Like, you know, writing?"

"Thanks."

"What for?"

"Everything, Stiles."

Derek reminds Stiles that he should probably be heading back for his classes, and very reluctantly Stiles trudges back for a lecture on the evolution of the modern drama, leaving Derek to continue packing his stuff. Compared to the events of the morning, the rest of the day pales tastelessly in comparison. A curious observation he makes as he rolls from one lecture to the next is that Eric is absent from all the classes they have in common. He just shrugs it aside, despite being a little annoyed that he can't have the talk with Eric he has planned.

~ooo0ooo~

At ten o'clock Stiles receives a call from an unknown number.

"Hello?"

"Listen attentively, Stiles," a woman's voice hisses menacingly, and Stiles sits up straight at once. "I have the tape. Do not think that I haven't realised your interest in Derek Hale. Do not, for one second, think you can have him."

"Who is this?" Stiles asks, confused as fuck.

"My name is Kate Argent, Derek's fiancé. Enjoy your moment of happiness while it lasts, Stiles, because I am going to burn it down very soon and as you lay writhing on the ground, I'm gonna douse you in kerosene and set you on fire."

"Woman, you are clearly insane and I am calling the police right now. And by the way, as far as I am aware of, you are Derek's ex-fiancé. For such a bitch as you, I don't blame Derek for throwing the noose off his own neck while he still could."

"Not so fast, boy!" the cold voice snarls, sending a real shiver down Stiles' spine. "Remember I have the tape?"

"What tape?" Stiles has to ask, because Kate obviously wants him to ask her that question. The evil chuckle confirms his suspicion.

"Let me jog your memory." There's some sort of clicking sound, and what he hears next horrifies him to his very bones. "Fuck, keep going, boy! ... Don't stop now! Come on, let's see you blow your load all over that fag's face!" The playback stops and Kate's voice takes over, cruel and daunting. "Would you like me to send a copy to Derek? Or will you keep your mouth shut?"

Stiles knows he has no choice. So does Kate.

"Good," she whispers, at Stiles' silence. "As I said, enjoy it while you still can. Good night, Stiles. What a weird name."

The phone drops from Stiles' hand and clatters to the floor.