The last day for registration is quickly approaching, and Stiles still has not chosen his classes.
“You are the actual worst,” Scott says, sprawled out on Stiles’s bed and throwing a tennis ball at the ceiling. The thump thump thump is starting to get on Stiles’s nerves, making him twitchy, distracting him so much the course catalogue he’s got pulled up on screen starts to swim in front of his eyes.
“Dude,” Stiles says, and spins in his desk chair to level Scott with a look. Scott catches the ball, pulls it to his chest, chagrined.
“Sorry,” he says, and Stiles quirks his mouth, accepting the apology, before he spins back around.
“All the good classes are taken,” Stiles says, okay maybe he whines, but it’s true. And yeah, it’s his fault, master of procrastination, etc., but it doesn’t stop it from sucking. It’s a new year, and he plowed through so many of his gen ed requirements in his first year that he can start taking real classes, and he doesn’t want to be stuck in like geology or something just because he can’t get his shit together.
It’s a wonder he made it through his first year, honestly.
He’s scrolling through the drawing and painting classes, because he’s bound and determined to find something relating to his fine arts major, when Scott shoves off the bed with a squeak of springs and drapes himself over Stiles’s back, all lack of personal space and overabundance of body heat and bad cologne.
“What about that one?” he says, and jabs a grimy fingertip at Stiles’s laptop screen. Stiles bats it away before leaning closer to read the course description.
“Sculpture?” He wrinkles his nose, turning so Scott can see. “Not really my bag.”
Scott shrugs. “Sounds kind of cool. You took that ceramics class in high school; you were pretty good at it.”
“I made mugs and ashtrays, Scott, that’s not exactly the same thing.”
“But your ashtrays were the best ashtrays.”
Scott would know, he’d been the recipient of most of them. He kept them on a shelf in his closet, shoved behind some shoe boxes, and they used them when they smoked up. They were good enough, for ashtrays. The height of the sides and depth of the grooves were perfect for leaning a joint in without it stubbing itself out on the glazed bottom.
Stiles lifts a shoulder, still not convinced. Scott is mumbling to himself, reading the course description or something, Stiles can hear him say, “materials included,” and “Hale, wait.”
“Open a new tab,” Scott says, and kind of hip-checks Stiles until his chair slides away from the desk. He leans in and types, pulling up an images search, the results of which make Stiles suck in a startled breath.
“Whoa,” he says, tongue sticking to the roof of his mouth like there’s peanut butter there.
“Yeah, you should totally take sculpture,” Scott says, smirking to himself. “That’s the instructor.”
Professor Hale is hotter in person than he’d been on Stiles’s laptop screen, which is really unfair, because he’d been pretty fucking hot on screen.
He’s all dark hair and imposing eyebrows and shoulders that are seriously straining the grey henley he’s wearing under a dirty black apron. The classroom smells like wood and clay, earthy and a little sweaty already, even though it’s only the second day of classes. There aren’t any desks, just long tables like in the science classroom, two chairs at each, and counters laden with tools and raw materials.
Stiles picks a seat in the back corner, because getting too close to Professor Hale seems dangerous. He doesn’t need to see that stubbled jaw in high def, it’s dark and sharp enough from a distance.
Bless Scott. He has the best ideas.
The class is on the smaller side, which is pretty normal for an art class, it seems. There’d only been ten people in Stiles’s life drawing class the day before, which was freaky but also pretty cool. Freaky because being one in ten means you make eye contact with the professor way more often, have a lot more attention on you at any given time, but cool because Stiles felt he was learning more with that kind of focus.
It’s more freaky in this case.
Unlike his life drawing class, or the watercolors class he’d had right after, it’s a motley crew that fills the tables. There are some older students, and some kids that obviously picked sculpting as a fluff class. Stiles can pick the art students out pretty easily - girl with pastel smudges on her knuckles and colored pencils holding her bun together, guy with skinny jeans and a reusable coffee cup, scratching at the table with his fingernail like he can’t stop sketching even when he doesn’t have a utensil. There’s a guy at the front table with painfully sharp cheekbones, examining his nails with a kind of cool detachment. TA, Stiles thinks at first, or maybe just here for the sights.
Professor Hale doesn’t clap his hands or clear his throat to get the class’s attention. When the big hand of the clock hits the twelve, he stops rearranging things on the table in front of him and stares around the room. He makes eye contact with each person, mouth drawn in a line and giant eyebrows furrowing, until the class is totally at attention.
Stiles doesn’t bite his lip when the professor’s eyes lock on him, but it’s a near thing.
“Welcome to Intro to Sculpture,” he says. “I’m Professor Hale. You can call me Derek, because this is an art class, so we can be more informal.” A titter goes around the classroom, but Derek’s face remains a serious mask. Stiles can’t tell if he doesn’t think it’s funny or if he just doesn’t laugh. “I assume everyone read the syllabus already and knows what they’re getting into, so I’d like to get started right away. The quicker we can get the reading and slides portion of the class done, the quicker we can get our hands dirty.”
Stiles’s brain goes right to the gutter, aided by the view of Derek’s pretty spectacular ass in a pair of snug jeans. He totally misses the first slide, and the second too, when he gets distracted by one of the older students in the second row, twirling one of her greying curls around her fingers as she takes notes. Stiles feels a familiar itching in his hands and reaches into his bag for his sketchbook.
Hopefully the dim light of the room means he can get away with drawing instead of taking notes. No one glances at him twice all class, so he thinks he gets away with it. And the drawing of the woman is pretty great, if he does so say himself.
Their first project is clay, and Stiles may or may not drool on himself a little bit watching Derek manipulate the wet grey lump on the table in front of him. Stiles’s own lump of clay is sitting balefully on his desk, his hands frozen on either side of it while he watches a human form take shape under Derek’s fingers.
At least he’s not the only one mesmerized. A girl to the right of him, one row up, looks suspiciously glassy-eyed. Stiles can commiserate, he really can.
They’re supposed to draw their ideas, the bodies they’ll be recreating with clay, before they start working. Derek is wandering the room, wiping his fingers on a rag, glancing at sketchbooks as he goes. Stiles’s sketchbook is full of bodies, the front of the book mainly work he’s done in life drawing, the back of the book devoted to one particular body - Derek’s.
Stiles fervently hopes that he doesn’t accidentally flip to one of those, turning to a page near the front, a nicely shaped model from his other class, curvy enough that she should transfer nicely to clay. He keeps a white knuckled grip on the book when Derek passes by, humming under his breath and nodding down at the sketch. Stiles doesn’t even look up, and his breath whooshes out with relief when Derek moves back to the front of the room.
Working with clay is weird; it’s messy, and it gets stuck in the hairs on the backs of his hands, and the texture is vaguely gross. But by the end of class his lump of clay is looking vaguely human-like, even without a head, and he wears the grey caked under his fingernails proudly.
The week they work on their wood sculptures is worse, because they’re learning how to use new tools, and Derek is coming around to correct technique. Stiles has made friends in the class, moved up from his corner spot, and he exchanges a panicked look with Debbie, the older lady with the greying curls, fingers cramping up on the handle of his bent gouge carver.
“Am I doing it right?” he hisses, and Debbie shrugs, adjusting her own tool and scraping a bit of wood from the block in front of her.
Derek stops at Stiles’s shoulder. Stiles tries his hardest not to lean into the solid warmth of him, smelling like he always does of pine and cedar - an aftershave, Stiles thinks, because they use cheap, soft wood in class - and clay. He’s wearing a soft looking blue henley today, unfairly snug over his chest and shoulders.
“May I?” he asks, and reaches out for the tool in Stiles’s hand. It’s a total rom-com-cliche moment, though Derek doesn’t press close as he’s adjusting Stiles’s grip, the angle of his wrist. He’s close enough for Stiles to feel him all along his back, and that’s enough to make him half-hard under the table.
“There,” Derek says, when he’s satisfied with the way Stiles is holding his carver. Stiles shakes himself a little and tries scraping a chunk of wood away with the new grip. It’s way easier on his wrist, and he turns to smile up at Derek.
“Much better,” he says, and Derek’s eyebrows pull into the middle of the forehead. He nods, but doesn’t smile back.
When Stiles draws him later, tucked away in his bedroom, he draws a smile on his face.
Isaac is the guy with the sharp cheekbones, and he’s definitely not the TA.
“I’m not good with authority,” he says coolly, when Stiles asks. They’re doing critiques, circling around the room in shifts to tell people what they think of their sculptures. Stiles hates critiques, but he’s gotten used to them. At least he’s not as invested in sculpture as he is in his drawings or paintings. It makes the sceptical way his classmates had looked at his clay sculpture sting a little less.
He’s pretty pleased with his wood piece, though. Even if Isaac is squinting at it weirdly.
“Oh,” Stiles says, nudging the sculpture a little to make it turn on the tabletop. Maybe if Isaac gets a better angle of it he’ll be more appreciative. “I just assumed, since you always leave with Derek.”
“Ah, yeah,” Isaac scratches at his hair, making his blond curls look even more artfully windswept than they already had. “I, uh, I sort of live with him.”
“Whoa,” Stiles says, unable to catch himself, because that is a seriously juicy tidbit of information. A disappointing one, maybe, but still juicy. “I mean, it’s cool. I won’t, like, tell or anything.”
“What? Oh god, no.” Isaac grimaces. “No, Derek is my guardian.”
“Oh! Oh, that’s nice.” He wants to ask questions, but he hasn’t talked to Isaac much yet and he doesn’t want to pry.
“I guess,” Isaac says, and goes back to studying Stiles’s sculpture. “It’s a shame we’re not going to spend more time on wood, you’re really close to being good.”
“I just mean that your technique could use a little work, but the basics are there. It’s a good piece.” Isaac grins, makes notes on the worksheet they’re all filling out for each sculpture, and then moves on.
After class Debbie asks if he wants to get coffee, because she doesn’t have to pick up her kids that day, and Stiles accepts. He doesn’t drink coffee, but the campus coffee shop has great smoothies, and she’s a nice lady. She invites a couple of other people from class, including Isaac, and they head out as a group.
They do the getting to you know you thing over their various beverages, and Debbie works some mom-charm and gets Isaac to open up about Derek.
“He volunteered to teach some art classes at the Boys & Girls Club I went to in the summer. All the foster kids had to go. My foster family was not nice,” Isaac spins his cardboard in his hands, and shrugs. “Derek took me in.”
“That was nice of him,” Debbie says, and Isaac shrugs again.
It becomes sort of a regular thing, getting coffee (or smoothies, in Stiles’s case) after class on the days Debbie’s kids get picked up by her ex. They rarely talk about sculpture, which is nice. Debbie’s only taking the class as part of her post-divorce horizon-broadening plan, and Isaac’s only taking it to appease Derek. He hasn’t picked a major yet, and doesn’t seem in a rush to do so.
A few other people from class come along now and then, and people from their other classes as well. Stiles gets permission to invite Scott, who shows up late one day, breathless from running across campus, apologizing profusely up until the moment his eyes land on Isaac and he literally trips over nothing, crashing into Stiles’s chair.
Stiles introduces him around, but he’ll bet money on Scott not remembering anyone’s name other than Isaac’s
The whole Scott and Isaac thing kind of mushrooms from there.
One day Scott is blinking at him over a latte and the next they’re studying together, even though they have no classes in common. Scott blushes like mad when Stiles brings up this very good point.
“We’re just hanging out at the library, dude,” Scott says, and Stiles laughs.
Library turns to Isaac’s house, which is actually Derek’s house, and Scott distracts Stiles with information before Stiles can start teasing.
“There’s a studio in the garage. Isaac showed me. Derek’s stuff is everywhere, and it’s good.”
Stiles glares. “You’re not getting out of this that easily, man.”
Scott grins. “I saw his bedroom.”
Stiles sighs. “Okay, fine. Spill.”
Derek has a king size bed. Stiles will never be over that information.
Scott is at Isaac’s one particularly nasty Saturday afternoon, “studying” even though midterms just ended. He and Stiles have a celebratory video game marathon planned; Scott is going to bike over from Isaac’s. But it’s pouring outside, sheets of rain blowing nearly sideways at Stiles’s bedroom window, and he decides to be a good bro and pick him up instead.
Coming to get you. he texts, yanking up his hood and dashing outside. He dives into the Jeep and then pulls his phone back out. Please be dressed.
The drive is kind of treacherous, the roads slick and puddles everywhere. Stiles knows vaguely where the place is, because he’d asked of course, but stopped Scott before he put the address into Google Earth to show him what it looks like. It’s a one-story with an attached garage on a street lined with one-stories with attached garages, distinct only because of Scott’s bike leaning against it.
Stiles parks in the driveway, as close as he can to the door, but he’s still fairly wet by the time he makes it up the walk. He tucks himself as close as he can to the house, jabbing the doorbell.
It takes a few moments for the door to swing open. Stiles is just considering ringing again when it does, and he only barely stops himself making a sarcastic remark about how long it took when he sees Derek on the other side.
Derek is wearing a tank top. Stiles is standing on the porch with rainwater dripping off his hood and down his nose and Derek is wearing a tank top. Fuck Stiles’s life.
“Uh,” Stiles says, eloquent as possible when Derek is wearing a tank top. “I’m here for Scott?”
“Is that a question?” Derek asks, one eyebrow lifted like it’s taunting him. Derek’s chest is definitely taunting him.
“Scott’s not here.”
Stiles blinks, and his eyelashes are wet. Derek frowns at him, and then steps back. “Come in, you’re getting soaked.”
There’s a rug just inside the door, one of those semi-circular ones that is meant for wiping your feet, but it’s no match for Stiles’s waterlogged Converse. He shifts awkwardly, feeling bad about the dripping, but there’s not a whole lot he can do. He wipes his hands on the partially dry fronts of his jeans and digs out his phone.
“I was going to pick Scott up since it’s raining. He’s supposed to come over,” he trails off when he sees the message on his screen.
We went out to grab lunch. Be back soon. Grab you something???
“They went out for lunch.”
“Yeah,” Stiles says, shaking his phone at Derek. “I’m just finding that out.”
Derek doesn’t say anything, and Stiles doesn’t know what to do. He could leave and come back, but the drive really had sucked, and he doesn’t particularly want to do it three more times.
“I’m working,” Derek says, but it doesn’t sound like he’s asking Stiles to leave. Stiles lifts his shoulders.
“Could I watch?”
He takes off his shoes, and then after considering it for a moment, his socks too. It’s weird being barefoot in his professor’s house, but it’s better than leaving wet footprints everywhere. After seeing the coating of sawdust on the floor of the garage studio he figures he’d made the right choice.
Derek goes straight for a workbench, and the chunk of wood that sits on top of it. There are some pieces gouged out of it already, the counter strewn with tools and curls of wood. Stiles wants to watch, but he also wants to explore.
There are sculptures everywhere, and it’s the first time Stiles has seen Derek’s work in person. He’d looked it up, of course, but it’s so hard to get an impression of a 3D object on a computer screen. In person it’s breathtaking, even the small pieces, more fluid than something made of wood should be. It’s nothing like the things they’ve been learning in class, more abstract, but it feels more alive than any of the human forms they’ve sculpted.
“Can I touch?” Stiles asks, because he wants to, his fingers are hovering over the surface of one piece already. Derek looks back over his shoulder, eyebrows furrowed again. His forehead smoothes out when he sees Stiles reaching towards the sculpture, and he nods.
It feels amazing against the pads of Stiles’s fingers. The wood is still raw, but sanded and buffed until it shines, and there’s a thin coating of sawdust, fine as baby powder, over the whole thing. It’s oddly intimate, touching Derek’s sculpture, which Stiles had not expected. He steals a glance at Derek as he skims his palm over a curve, watches the muscles in Derek’s shoulders bunch and flex as he works on the wood in front of him.
And then he snatches his hand away from the sculpture because he’s getting hard in his jeans from touching Derek’s art and that is not cool.
“It’s nice,” he says, as if Derek cares about his opinion at all. Not that “nice” is much of an opinion anyway. “What kind of wood is it?”
Derek’s shoulders tense, and he sets his tool down before turning. “That’s quaking aspen.”
“Quaking aspen,” Stiles echoes. He’s never heard of it, but it fits. He points to a piece next to the one he’d just been molesting.
He points to another.
“Pine. I was working on something you know.”
Stiles retracts his finger, sheepish. “Sorry. Go ahead.”
“Are you cold?”
Derek breathes out through his nose, like a sigh but sharper. “Are you cold? Your hoodie is wet.”
“Oh.” Stiles plucks at it. Now that he mentions it. “A little, yeah, but that’s okay.”
“I have a sweatshirt, on the chair, if you want.” Derek hitches his chin in the direction of said chair, then turns back to his work.
Stiles peels his hoodie off and hangs it over the back of the chair. His tee shirt is a little damp, mostly around the collar, but he’s not going to be barechested in Derek Hale’s sweatshirt so he leaves it on. The sweatshirt is soft and smells like Derek.
Thankfully he only has to wear it for five minutes or so, resolutely not tucking his nose into the neckline to sniff it, before he hears the front door bang and Isaac call out, “Stiles?”
He hears Derek sigh through his nose again and pushes out of his chair. “In the garage,” he yells back, and then says to Derek’s back, “Thanks for letting me hang, I’ll see you in class,” before he bolts.
He forgets his hoodie, but he doesn’t want to go back for it. He can probably ask Scott to grab it next time he’s there. He says hi to Isaac and grabs Scott’s arm, hauling him out to the Jeep.
“Were you just hanging out with Derek in his studio?” Scott asks. Stiles starts the Jeep, glad the rain has let up.
“So awkward, dude,” Stiles says, and backs out of the drive.
Isaac invites him along with Scott the next weekend. Stiles debates not going, but Derek had been almost friendly in class. He’d even brought Stiles his hoodie. It had been washed. Stiles thought his jaw would drop on the floor.
Derek’s hoodie was still draped over the back of his desk chair. It smelled a little like Derek still, and a little like Stiles. Every time he sat down at his desk to study he ended up surfing porn sites instead, jerking off with the combined smell filling his nostrils.
He isn’t proud of it, but damn if they weren’t some of the best orgasms he’s ever had.
Stiles survives about five minutes of sitting on the couch with Isaac and Scott, watching a movie and pretending not to notice them holding hands, before he gives up and heads for the garage.
Derek is wearing another tank top.
“Hey,” Stiles says, and ventures closer to the workbench than he’d dared the weekend prior. Derek is working on the same piece, shaving curls of wood away from the block slowly. Stiles watches his hands move, turning the carving tool, brushing the shavings aside.
“Hey,” Derek says back, and he doesn’t sound annoyed that Stiles is there.
Stiles leans a hip against the wall next to the bench, not wanting to jostle Derek’s work or block any of his light. He leans forward a little, and Derek’s shoulders tense up. “Am I in your way?”
“Not yet,” Derek says, and the corner of his mouth lifts up, almost like a grin. Stiles smiles to himself, and watches Derek work.
It becomes a bit of a thing, after that. Stiles drives Scott over and leaves him with Isaac, goes into the garage and watches Derek and asks a jillion questions. Derek doesn’t get irritated, instead he seems to be talking more, giving longer, more detailed answers as time goes on.
Stiles drags the chair over and props his sketchbook on his knees, draws Derek as he works. Derek doesn’t comment on it, but he does adjust the lamp so Stiles can see better, and grins to himself when Stiles beams up at him.
Their final project is due the last day of the semester, and Stiles is pretty proud of it. It’s a piece kind of similar to the ones that litter Derek’s garage, though not as smooth or intricate.
He gets an A.
The day after the grades are posted Stiles gathers up all of his sketches of Derek, the ones he’s done in the garage studio and earlier ones, from class. There are an alarming number of them, but Stiles squashes the nerves fluttering in his stomach and hefts the whole armload out to the Jeep.
He’s about to do something either spectacularly stupid or spectacularly brave, he’s not sure. He’s had a feeling, a warmth in his gut that’s gotten hotter as the weeks have passed, while he sits and draws Derek sculpting, and he needs to find out if it’s wishful thinking or something real.
So he drives to Derek’s with his pile of sketches, and hauls them inside.
It’s colder now, and the garage is poorly insulated, meaning Derek isn’t wearing a tank top anymore. He’s wearing the sweatshirt he’d lent to Stiles, which Stiles had washed and returned. He nearly brought it back unwashed, because the thought of Derek wearing it when it smelled like Stiles was really fucking hot.
Stiles goes right up to him, waiting until he’s set his carver down to thrust the stack of sketches into his chest.
Derek arches an eyebrow in question, but he curves his arms under them, takes them out of Stiles’s hands. He looks down at the top one, a loose sheet torn out of Stiles’s life drawing book, and says, “Huh.”
Stiles perches on the edge of the chair and lets Derek look.
He goes through the stack slowly, eyes flicking over each sketch before turning it aside, and his eyebrows dance all over his forehead; they knit together, they spread apart, one arches and then the other. Stiles’s heart thumps in his chest and his hands get clammy.
“These are good,” Derek says, when he’s near to the end. Stiles doesn’t know what to say, and his tongue is thick in his mouth.
“Uh, thanks,” is what he manages to get out, and his voice sticks in his throat.
When he’s gotten to the last sketch, spent a good minute going over it with his eyes, Derek turns it over, picks up the whole stack and shuffles back into some semblance of order. He looks up at Stiles for a moment, but Stiles isn’t quick enough to parse his expression before he’s turning around and heading towards a tall cabinet tucked in the corner.
He rummages around on one of the shelves and then turns back, and all the while Stiles is plotting his escape. Then Derek holds out his hands. And he’s holding Stiles’s hand.
Not like he took Stiles’s own hands in his. Like he’s holding a light wood replica of Stiles’s hands. Stiles reaches out and takes the wood hands with his real hands.
They’re perfect. Not perfect because Stiles’s hands are perfect; he thinks his fingers are too skinny and his palms too broad, and he’s too hairy. But the likeness is crazy. The hair is all there, tiny scratches in the surface of the wood making whorls of it all the way down to the second knuckle of each finger.
“Wow,” Stiles says, and looks up at Derek. His eyebrows are drawn all the way together in the middle of his forehead, and he looks unsure. Stiles has never seen Derek look unsure. “Does this mean you like my hands?”
“Do those mean you like me?” Derek sweeps a hand at the stack of sketches.
“Yeah. They sure do,” Stiles says, feeling bolder now with Derek's sculpture in his hands. The warmth is spreading through him, cutting through the chill of the air in the garage, making his face flush. He grins.
Derek smiles back. “I may like more than your hands.”
Stiles makes sure the sculpture is safely perched atop his stack of sketches before he tackles Derek to the ground. He’s going to end up with a sliver somewhere very interesting, he’s sure, but he couldn’t care less.