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you in that dress (my thoughts I confess)

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45 rounds into "99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall", Scott falls asleep with his head pillowed on his sousaphone case, the traitor.

For bottles 0-35, Stiles had to listen to Scott talk about Allison Argent, and why she's so great, and amazing, and pretty, like Stiles can't see her ten rows ahead of them on the bus. While Scott is perfectly capable of talking about Allison, he is way too afraid to talk to her, so Stiles is stuck listening to Scott wax lyrical about all things Allison until Scott mans up. Stiles has already brofully audienced what feels like an endless litany of Allison praise, which, considering she just moved here two weeks ago, is impressive.

To be far, Allison is also impressive. She's been here two weeks and already learned their half-time show so well that Finstock is letting her march for this away game, and her horn skills are probably going to get her a scholarship to some conservatory.

("She marches with a mellophone," Scott fiercely whispered into Stiles's ear fifteen minutes ago.

Stiles sighed. "Yeah, I know, dude. We saw her yesterday? At practice?")

Allison seems friendly. She's sitting next to Isaac, who's super shy, and actually talking to him. Allison might even talk to Scott, if given the opportunity to extend the conversation beyond the pencil-sharing that happened the first day she started at BHHS. It's not like she's some totally unattainable goddess.

("I listen to you talk about Derek all the time," Scott mumbled into Stiles's ear right before he passed out.

"No, you don't," Stiles said sternly, like just thinking about Derek didn't make him go shivery all over. "And he's not on this bus.")

 

Derek Hale is the hot guy in color guard.

He's the only guy in color guard.

Laura Hale, his twin sister, is the color guard captain, and she's equally hot and kind of scary, but in a different way from how Lydia Martin the head cheerleader is hot and scary. Lydia Martin gets higher grades than Stiles in math; Laura looks like she might disembowel Stiles with a flag if he looks at her the wrong way. Or at Derek the wrong way. So—Stiles doesn't. Mostly.

Except that Derek is really, really, really hot, even though he's always scowling, and one time they both had detention when Stiles was a freshman and had to shelve books in the library together. Whenever Stiles sees Derek in the cafeteria at lunch, he's sitting by himself and reading a Discworld book or something else cool. Occasionally Derek stares at Stiles weirdly, like he actually knows who Stiles is. Sometimes Stiles thinks about going up and just—talking to him, but he could barely get up the nerve to do that when he had a crush on Lydia, and she didn't have any terrifying, overprotective sisters or rumored tragic past.

Cora Hale is two years younger than Laura and Derek, a sophomore like Stiles and Scott and Allison and Lydia, and she's sitting two seats up and across the aisle from Stiles now, doing something on her phone. She's the only person on the bus not sharing her seat with two or three other people.

Possibly because everyone else is afraid.

 

Finstock blows his whistle after they get off the bus at Alma Loba High School, while everyone trying to stow their phones in their pockets and hold onto their instruments at the same time. "EVERYBODY ONTO THE BLEACHERS," he shouts. "I WANT YOU IN PLACE IN TEN MINUTES AND NO ONE MOVES AN INCH UNTIL FIVE BEFORE HALF-TIME. TAKE A LEAK NOW OR HOLD IT, AND THAT MEANS YOU, GREENBERG."

The thing about marching band is that it looks cool when you're doing it (Stiles has seen way too much of his dad's enthusiastic camcorder footage), but most of the time, you're just sitting on the bleachers watching the football team lose horribly. It's probably different at other schools, but BHHS has lost every game this season, despite the efforts of their star quarterback Jackson Whittemore. Jackson has dedicated most of his high school career to styling his hair, PDA with Lydia, and shoving Scott and Stiles into lockers, so Stiles might take a little satisfaction in watching the football team lose horribly under Coach Harris's unenthusiastic leadership. Just a little.

Not that Stiles watches much of the routine slaughter on the football field, even though as a trumpet player he's tragically separated from Scott, who's sitting with the rest of the low brass instruments. Stiles has his phone, after all, and a clear view of the color guard, including the back of Derek's head. Sometimes Derek turns around, just for a moment, and Stiles can see his gloomy eyebrows and gorgeous face.

"Stop staring at your cousin," Danny says, dropping down next to Stiles on the bleachers.

"I'm not staring at him," Stiles hisses, affronted.

Stiles and Danny comprise a third of the trumpet section. BHHS isn't particularly big, and the marching band is average in size: they're just motivated, because Finstock. He makes everyone run suicides before practice to help with breath control. The band is probably in better shape than the football team.

The color guard is also in great shape, thanks to Laura. Including Derek, who's—

"Miguel is looking fine today," Danny says. "I'm really into the full-body leotard color guard is rocking this season. With the sequin trim on the—"

"Shut up." Stiles goes to bury his face in his hands and almost drops his trumpet beneath the bleachers.

Derek is not named Miguel, nor is he Stiles's cousin. There's no good reason Stiles spent a lot of time staring at photos of Derek when he and Danny got roped into helping Ethan with emergency yearbook crack-and-peels last year.

 

Danielle is their drum major, with Heather and Cora right behind her. The marching band uniform that everyone hates—jacket and pants red with white piping and gold buttons, the matching hat with the uncomfortable strap under the chin—actually looks good on them. They walk up and down the line the band has formed in front of the bleachers before Danielle goes to the front to stares down each of them in turn. "I'm not giving you a motivational speech," she says. "Don't fuck up. Cora knows where you sleep."

The color guard leads them onto the field, flags held high. They are indeed wearing unitards, although Derek must be wearing dude spanx under his—he looks like a Ken doll. Not that Stiles has any personal knowledge of pantsless Ken dolls, or the usual state of Derek's anatomy, or—whatever. And he's not staring at Derek's groin region. Stiles is done staring. For real.

Because he's marching onto the field and if he fucks up, there are so many people lining up to kill him.

Finstock has picked a particularly ambitious set list for this year's half-time show, as if last year's epic foray into "Pinball Wizard" wasn't enough. Nope, this year is 90s swing revival, also known as the music Stiles's mom used to listen to in the car because Stiles's dad couldn't stand it. Her CD wallet is still shoved under the passenger seat and Stiles has never gotten around to digging it out. After all, it's not like he doesn't already know every Squirrel Nut Zippers song by heart.

The trumpets lead off on "Come on Eileen" and after that is the usual montage of marching back, left, right, forward, trying not to run into Danny, trying not to run into Boyd who will shank Stiles with his flute, transitioning into "Jump, Jive 'n Wail" while running backwards, trying not to fall on his ass, and finishing up with the chorus of "Zoot Suit Riot" underscored by a very aggressive drumline emphasizing the switch back from 2/4 to 4/4 time. Stiles was a mediocre trumpet player coming out of middle school band; now he has the lung capacity of Pavarotti and can run a 7-minute mile. As he has every Friday for the last six weeks, he survives

Along with the rest of the band, Stiles tromps off the field to the half-hearted cheering of the Great Pine audience. Finstock claps each of them on the back in turn, saying, "GOOD WORK MCCALL, GOOD WORK ARGENT, WATCH YOUR FEET GREENBERG." Danielle hands out bottles of water and gives them ten minutes to mill around before they head back to their seats. Scott and Allison are already sitting down, actually—talking to each other? Holy crap.

Then Stiles trips over a flag.

 

To be fair, Stiles wasn't expecting a flag. He's usually well off the field by the time the color guard shows up in their wake, and Laura runs them like they're her own personal militia. Stiles does, however, have a long history of falling on his ass thanks to rapid growth spurts and dubious gross motor control. He drops his trumpet and catches himself on his hands so he doesn't destroy his knees going down. The trumpet was his second-cousin Claire's—it'll survive a few more dents.

"Shit," someone says. "I'm—I'm sorry, let me—"

A chill runs up Stiles's spine. Slowly, slowly, he gets to his feet and turns around.

Derek Hale hands Stiles his trumpet.

"Hi," Stiles says. "Thanks."

"For tripping you?" Derek says.

There's a moment of awkward silence where Stiles realizes Derek is wearing eyeliner and some kind of body glitter with the sequined leotard. It's like a universe where Jonny Weir and Evan Lysacek have swapped bodies. Or personalities. Or something. "I like the—" Stiles gestures toward Derek's face. "The, um—"

"I lost a bet with my sister," Derek says grimly.

"It's a good look for you," Stiles says.

Derek stares at Stiles. "Are you serious?"

Stiles shrugs. He's torn between the embarrassment of admitting that he thinks anything would look good on Derek (a monk's habit, a prom dress, basketball shorts) and righteous indignation that anyone would question the appeal of dudes and glitter. Stiles saw Velvet Goldmine at an impressionable age, and he's okay with that.

Derek clears his throat. "I lost a bet about asking you out."

"So you tripped me," Stiles says. "Wait. What? Is this some kind of She's All That set up?"

"No," Derek says. "I—um—" He tries to make some kind of gesture and almost hits Laura with the flag.

"Have this conversation somewhere else," Laura says, snatching the flag from Derek's hand.

"You like me," Stiles says wonderingly.

"You argued with me about the Dewey Decimal System for two hours," Derek says, like he's offended.

Stiles gets his first kiss under the bleachers from the hottest guy on the planet. He's living a teenage dream. He's going to be wearing Derek's letter jacket by the end of next week and maybe they'll park at makeout point and—

"I don't have a letter jacket," Derek says. He leans in to kiss Stiles again, tentative, closemouthed. "We have, um. Bows."

"Bows," Stiles says.

Derek looks pained. "Laura makes me wear it like a corsage."

 

Scott sits with Allison on the way back—Stiles gives Scott a high five, and Allison, too, for good measure—and Stiles smuggles Derek on the band bus. That means Cora has to sit with Isaac and his trombone, but she doesn't growl too much.

"I usually sleep in the car on the way home," Derek says over the din of bus chatter. "I'm guessing you guys don't—"

Erica throws a half-eaten pudding cup at Greenberg.

"Not so much." Stiles tries not to get distracted by how close Derek is sitting. Their legs are touching, their arms are touching, twenty minutes ago their mouths were touching. Glitter is everywhere. It's a lot to take in. "Scott can sleep, but Scott is—"

"Tell me all your thoughts on Sam Vimes," Derek suggests.

Stiles grins. "Yeah. Okay."