Derek likes school. He might even go so far as to say he loves it. College is the first place Derek ever felt like he really fit, and academia is where he sees himself once he finishes his undergrad degree this quarter. But then things like this happen, and he’s forced to reconsider all of his life choices that have led him to this horrible, horrible place.
“Move, loser- you’re taking up the entire couch,” Erica says, interrupting his reverie as she forcibly pushes his legs up and onto the floor. “And why are you groaning like the dying in here?”
“The unthinkable has happened, Erica, and now I’m going to fail one of my classes, which means I won’t graduate, and there go my grad school admissions-”
“Woah, woah there, slow down.” Erica gestures at him like he’s a horse she’s trying to settle, and it’s a little condescending but does serve to ebb the panic clawing up his throat. “Tell me what happened.”
“That Spanish poetry class I’m taking- the final is now a take-home. We have to write poetry, Erica.”
“And that’s what has you so freaked out?” she says, laughing. “Derek, you’re a lit major- how have you never had to write poetry before?”
“I’ve- I’ve had to write poetry before, but this isn’t, it’s-” Derek puts his face in his hands. “It’s erotic poetry,” he says, his voice muffled into his palms. Erica bursts into cackles, and Derek lifts his head to glare at her. “It’s really not that funny.”
“But it is! I mean seriously Derek, you’re like the most repressed person I know. You don’t even talk about sex with me, I don’t know how you’re gonna- Isaac!” Erica breaks off, waving Isaac in when he enters their apartment. “Isaac, tell me this isn’t the best thing you’ve ever heard- Derek has to write an erotic poem, in Spanish.”
Isaac scrunches his nose in distaste. “I don’t actually like to think about Derek having sex, much less writing about it.”
Derek groans loudly, throwing his head back on the couch and digging the heels of his hands into his eyes. “I’m so fucked.”
“I don’t really get why it’s such a big deal,” Isaac says, rolling his eyes. “You’re the one who called Spanish ‘your true mother tongue.’”
Erica giggles delightedly.
When Derek gets home from class on Tuesday, Isaac is sprawled across their couch with Scott and Stiles next to him. It’s a common enough occurrence- when Isaac had met Scott in freshman year, the two had immediately bonded in the way that only eager new college students can. As Derek’s foster brother, their mother had insisted that Isaac get a room in Derek’s apartment, and Isaac had come with Scott. Scott had come with his own baggage, in the form of Stiles. The two of them are loud, and brash, and exactly the type of people Derek would never have expected to like.
“Yo,” Isaac says, throwing up a hand in greeting and never taking his eyes off the TV where he and Scott are playing XBox.
“Oh, you can die,” Scott all but growls at the screen, ignoring Derek completely. Which is not totally unusual. Scott can be very focused.
“Hey man.” Stiles flips around, propping his arms on the back of the couch as he watches Derek unpack his school things.
“How’s it goin’?” Stiles is being jostled by Scott’s violent, full-bodied method of committing to the game, but he seems unbothered, keeping all of his attention on Derek. Derek would rather not examine why that makes him happy.
“Derek’s trying to write poems about sex,” Isaac says, and Derek shoots what he hopes is a withering glare in Isaac’s direction, but is probably diminished by the flush he can feel rising from his neck. There’s a strangled sort of choking noise, and Derek looks over to see Stiles staring at him with wide eyes and pinking cheeks.
“You’re uh- doing what now?” Stiles asks, his voice still sounding strained.
Derek sighs heavily, toeing off his shoes. “I have to write an erotic poem as my final for that Spanish poetry class I’m taking.” He pads over to his favorite armchair, next to the side of the couch that Stiles has taken.
“So,” Stiles says, dragging the sound out as he flops over onto the armrest. “What’re you gonna write about?”
“Hell if I know,” Derek says, rubbing his eyes.
Stiles gives him a sunny half-smile. “But you love Spanish, right? You can totally rock this.” Derek can’t help but feel himself grin slightly- few of Derek’s friends will tolerate hearing Derek talk about languages, but Stiles always seems to find it genuinely interesting. “Don’t you speak like, six languages? Means you’ve got a seriously talented tongue,” Stiles says, waggling his eyebrows and laughing when Derek halfheartedly shoves at his shoulder.
Scott mutters something under his breath that sounds suspiciously like “ugh, get a room.”
“What was that, Scott?” Derek asks, even as Stiles kicks out behind him and hits Scott in the leg.
“I said, uh- what’re you doing over the summer- damn it Isaac!”
Derek rolls his eyes. “Probably hanging around here mostly. I’ve still got my job at the library, and then I start back here in the fall with grad classes.”
Stiles wipes away imaginary tears from his eyes, faux-sniffling as he says, “I can’t believe you’re leaving us poor undergrads here to suffer without you.”
“Even though we’ll still be on the same campus? And I’ll still be living here?” Derek says, raising an eyebrow.
Stiles clutches a hand to his chest. “Yes Derek, your absence will still be felt, I’m not sure how I’ll go on-”
This time it’s Isaac who chimes in with a scoff, which he then quickly turns into a cough.
Koi No Yokan
In freshman year of high school, Derek Hale fell deeply and irrevocably in love. With languages. Words had never come easily to Derek- talking to strangers would make him nervously stutter, and public speaking was a nightmare not to be contemplated. But then he took a mandatory Spanish class, and suddenly things changed. Admittedly, puberty gave him some confidence, and his parents taking in Isaac gave him a new best friend, but languages- they gave Derek a purpose.
Other languages have words that just don’t exist in English- and Derek wanted to know all of them.
It’s sort of how Derek feels about Stiles sometimes. Stiles, who can be funny as easily as he can be serious, kind when Derek needs it but callous when they have one of their rare fights, who makes sure his dad eats right but can’t take care of himself for shit. It’s a good thing Derek’s around- it seems possible that Stiles might actually die without someone to make sure he’s eating and sleeping occasionally. Sometimes, Derek feels like Stiles is a word he can’t quite figure out- one part of him desperately wants to unravel Stiles, to understand everything about him and finally know him; an equally weighty part wants to stay away from anyone who has the potential to undo Derek completely.
It’s three weeks until the end of the semester, and the low-level stress that’s been gnawing at Derek for the last two weeks is boiling over into a full-blown panic attack. His poetry professor had been wildly unsympathetic to Derek’s pleas for an alternate assignment, which is how Derek finds himself at his favorite coffee shop on a Saturday afternoon, staring down a blank notebook page.
“Hey.” Derek looks up as Stiles swings into the seat opposite him, tossing his backpack haphazardly onto an empty chair, all uncoordinated limbs that still somehow manage to look graceful. “You okay dude? You look like you’re trying to bore holes into your paper.”
Derek makes a quiet noise of frustration. “I can’t do it Stiles- I just can’t-”
Stiles looks at him with concern. “Is this still about writing that poem?” Derek nods. “Okay, well, how hard can it be, right? At this point don’t you just have to try and you’ll get a passing grade?”
“But I don’t even know where to start! How do you write about- you know-” Derek breaks off, gesturing vaguely in a way that he hopes conveys “sex.”
Stiles laughs, but it’s not at Derek’s expense, more like he genuinely finds Derek funny even when he isn’t trying to be. Derek relaxes slightly. “I don’t know what to tell you- you have actually had sex before- why can’t you write about one of your exes?”
Derek raises an eyebrow at him. “Which one? The attempted arsonist or the identity thief?”
Stiles winces. “Fair point.” He starts drumming out a staccato beat on the table, and Derek finds himself watching Stiles’ fingers. He’s such a constant of energy, and to have all of that energy focused on Derek- it’s a little daunting. “Guess you’ll just have to wait for inspiration,” Stiles says, and when Derek looks up at him he’s smirking slightly.
Derek leans back in his chair. “Are you sure you can’t just- write this poem for me?”
“Not unless you want it written in broken Polish- and last I checked, Spanish poems are usually written in Spanish,” Stiles says running a hand through his hair distractedly as he smiles, bright and wide, making something in Derek’s chest clench a little.
“You- you speak Polish?”
Stiles hums in acknowledgment. “My grandparents never really learned English, and I spent a lot of time at their house after my mom, well- you know.” Derek does know- Stiles doesn’t like to talk about his mother much, but when he does it’s always with complete adoration and a grief at her loss that never fails to amaze Derek. Stiles cares so deeply- Derek is pretty sure that if he’d ever suffered the kind of loss Stiles had, he wouldn’t be able to trust and love as easily as Stiles does.
“Maybe you should brush up,” Derek says, softly. Stiles quirks a grin at him. “I could probably pick it up easily enough- then we could talk about Scott and Isaac while they’re in the room and they wouldn’t know.” Stiles throws his head back and laughs, and Derek enjoys a warm feeling of satisfaction.
If Derek goes to the bookstore that day and buys a Polish phrasebook, well- no one needs to know. Besides, he’d been meaning to branch out into eastern European languages anyway.
“Come on Derek! Erica and Boyd are going!”
Derek rolls his eyes at Isaac’s pleading, keeping his eyes fixed on his computer in his lap to best avoid Isaac’s puppy eyes. “Is that supposed to entice me? I see them all the time.”
“Derek, it’s the last chance to have some fun before finals- your last party as an undergrad! You can’t say that doesn’t sound like something you’d like.”
Derek levels Isaac with a disbelieving look. “Why do you even care if I go Isaac? You go to these things without me all the time.”
Isaac pauses, then seems to realize that with Derek making full eye-contact he has an opportunity to maximize the pleading stare. Damn it- rookie mistake. Isaac may feign innocence, but Derek knows that Isaac is fully aware of Derek’s inability to say no to him. “Well, you know Stiles’ friend Lydia?”
Derek’s met her a few times- brilliant and scary are the words that immediately come to mind. Lydia and Stiles had shared mathematics classes before Stiles had switched to a criminology major, and Lydia’s one of the few people Derek’s ever met who he’s thought are possibly smarter than Stiles. Stiles had gone through a slightly obsessive phase with her that had been annoying- because it was obnoxious to hear Stiles wax poetic about her hair, not for any other reason.
“Well,” Isaac continues, “Scott says that Lydia broke up with that guy Aiden, and she’ll probably come to the party if Stiles goes and Stiles will definitely go if you go.”
“Wait- since when do you like Lydia? And what do you mean Stiles will go if I go?” Derek asks, his brow creased in confusion. “This is all very high school.”
Isaac sighs. He holds up his hand to tick off fingers. “Okay, one- Lydia’s awesome but has always been with one jackass or another, and this is the first time I’ll actually have a chance. Two- don’t be oblivious Derek, of course Stiles will be there if you are. And three- life is just an extended version of high school but without the arbitrary dress code, so get used to it.”
“Can you- what? Go back to the Stiles thing,” Derek says, gesturing for Isaac to explain.
Isaac leans back on the couch, propping his feet on the coffee table- which Derek hates, but can’t be bothered to deal with right now. “It’s like- you two have been dancing around each other all year. It was kinda funny for a while, but now we’re getting tired of it.”
“You- who is ‘we’??” Derek splutters.
“Oh, you know- me and Scott, for sure- we knew you were into him when since that time he fell asleep on you during A New Hope and you didn’t even look annoyed. And Erica says she chokes on your UST whenever she comes in and you guys are doing dumb shit together like doing puzzles and listening to Stiles’ favorite indie band of the week. I think Lydia even said something about it one time- like how you two are the dumbest smart people she knows.”
Derek knows his eyes are wide, and that he’s staring at Isaac like a deer in headlights. This is- well, not wholly unexpected information, but still new enough to throw him.
Isaac laughs. “Come on, Derek- you have to have known, right? You guys are like-” Isaac breaks off for a moment, biting his lip in concentration, before he brightens. “Okay! So you know how you like those weird, artsy foreign movies?”
“They’re not weird, Isaac, they’re just-”
“Yeah, I know, we’ve all heard this speech before,” Isaac says, holding up his hands. “Anyway, you know how we all hate those movies, and you’ve been banned from picking anything where English isn’t the spoken language when we have movie nights.”
Derek scowls, but nods, and Isaac just smiles smugly. “Who goes to all of those movies with you, even the ones without subtitles? And sits by you, and listens to you when you wanna complain about how bad the translations are?”
“But he’s just- oh.” Oh. Derek thinks of the focus Stiles gives him. How Stiles is always around even when Isaac and Scott aren't. The way Stiles chooses to sit on the side of the couch closest to Derek's chair.
“And you’re even worse than him!” Isaac continues, building up to something of a rant. “At least his overtures usually have the excuse of being group outings! You took him to three criminology guest lectures last semester, Derek. Three. Do you even have any interest in criminal justice?! Seriously- how are you this oblivious?”
Derek really has no answer for that. Laid out like that, it sounds pretty glaringly obvious, but the fact is, Derek is pretty good at ignoring things he doesn’t know how to deal with. Because Stiles is- well, he’s Stiles.
Derek clears his throat awkwardly. “So… this party you want to go to?”
Isaac’s smile is completely self-satisfied.
Thirty minutes of standing awkwardly in a corner, and Derek decides that coming to this party was a terrible idea. At least he’d been able to talk to Boyd for a while, but Erica had come by and spirited him away towards the room where people are jumping around and calling it dancing.
Derek scans the group of newcomers, looking for Stiles, when he sees Scott come in with Allison’s hand in his.
“Hey Derek!” Scott shouts, trying to be heard over the music.
Derek nods at him and gives Allison a smile, leaning closer. “Have you seen Stiles?”
Scott’s face scrunches up in confusion. “Stiles should be here already! He came awhile ago, looking for you.”
Derek’s gut swoops, and he claps Scott on the back as he goes looking for Stiles. He’s not sure exactly what he wants to say to him, but he knows that he needs to say something. He finds Isaac in the kitchen, mid-conversation with Lydia. She’s leaning into his space, talking animatedly about something, and Isaac is grinning stupidly back. He looks up and sees Derek, pointing helpfully in the direction of the living room, before returning to staring adoringly at Lydia.
The living room is a mass of bodies. This is exactly why Derek hates parties; they’re too loud, too hot, too many people either thrashing around or trying to have clothed sex with the strangers around them. If Stiles were here, he’d tell Derek that he’s a snob, that real dancing is all about feeling and not form- okay, so it’s possible Derek has been slightly in denial.
He picks Erica and Boyd out fairly easily, and next to Erica is- oh god. It’s Stiles, mouth open, doing- is that the sprinkler? Jesus, Derek must have it bad, because watching Stiles flail only creates a sense of warm affection, and Derek can’t help but smile.
The song changes then, from something upbeat to a slower track, and without missing a beat, Stiles drops the ridiculous dance moves. He moves, slow and sinuous, doing something with his hips, and god- Derek had always recognized, objectively, that Stiles is attractive, but this-
His shirt is tight, and he’s smiling, bright and open, laughing at something Erica says, and he’s so fucking gorgeous and Derek doesn’t really know what he’s done to deserve this. Derek is aware that he must look incredibly creepy, but he finds himself rooted to the spot.
Stiles looks up, and seeing Derek, waves him over enthusiastically, Erica smirking next to him. Derek is helpless to do anything other than follow.
“Hey!” Stiles yells over the din, but it’s so loud that Derek has to crowd into Stiles’ space to hear. “I was looking for you- I found Erica, but you’re here!” He’s beaming at Derek, and how has Derek never noticed how Stiles’ smile transforms his whole face- like happiness is written into his entire expression.
“I am here,” Derek says.
Stiles grabs his arm, pulling him away from the crowd. “You must hate it in here- let’s go grab some air.” Erica waves them off, returning her attention to Boyd.
Stiles leads Derek out onto the back patio, and they sit in the two chairs a little ways away from the door. It’s clear out, and despite the city lights there are still stars to be seen.
“Hey,” Stiles says quietly, touching Derek’s arm. “You okay?”
Derek nods quickly. “Just looking,” he says, gesturing at the sky, and Stiles gives him a fond smile as he leans back. They’re quiet for a while. People who know Stiles will often say that he’s talkative, but when he’s with Derek they’re quiet a lot. Not always for lack of things to say; rather Derek thinks it’s that they both appreciate a companionable silence.
“So- Isaac and Lydia, huh?” Stiles says with a nod towards the kitchen. “Guess that finally happened.”
Derek snorts. “You knew too? I guess I am the oblivious one in the group.”
Stiles looks at him and hums thoughtfully. “I wouldn’t call you oblivious.” Derek raises an eyebrow. “Not to your face, anyway,” Stiles says, smiling, and Derek huffs a laugh. “But really, I would say you’re more… single-minded than oblivious.”
“Thanks,” Derek says drily.
Stiles rolls his eyes. “Don’t say that like it’s an insult Derek, it’s just- you’re used to seeing things one way, and sometimes you get stuck, and you can’t see what’s in front of you.”
Derek sucks in a breath quietly, unsure if Stiles meant that with any intention of talking about himself. He suddenly wants to tell him- tell Stiles that he does see what’s in front of him, that he’s sorry it’s taken him so long. Stiles is so close, he’s looking at Derek intensely, and his eyes drop to Derek’s mouth for a second, he could just-
Scott throws the patio door open. “Stiles! There you are man.” Stiles looks away from Derek, his cheeks coloring. “I need your help- Danny’s a little drunk, or a lot drunk, and I need help getting him home.”
“Yeah, alright be there in a minute,” Stiles says, as Scott heads back into the house. “So, I’ll be back really fast, if you-”
“It’s fine.” Derek moves to stand, and Stiles mirrors him. “I should probably get going anyway- I still have final papers to work on.”
Stiles gives him a weak laugh. “Right. Still struggling with erotic poetry, huh?”
“Yeah. I’ll see you around, Stiles.”
Stiles still looks like he’s waiting for something when he moves to leave. “Later, Derek,” he says, giving Derek a little salute as he goes to find Scott.
Derek leaves the party, feeling more settled than he has in weeks. That night, he sits at his desk, and by morning he has a completed poem to hand in.
Turns out Stiles was right. Derek just had to wait for inspiration.
“Well Derek, I have to say- I’m impressed,” Professor Andrews says, looking over Derek’s work.
“Thank you sir,” Derek says, pleased. He’s proud of what he wrote, but hearing it validated still strokes his academic ego.
“Don’t thank me- this is one of the best I’ve gotten. Would you mind if I passed this on to a friend of mine at the school literary magazine?”
“Our school has a literary magazine?”
Andrews laughs. “Yes. It’s student-run, and they’ve asked me for some samples from this assignment, so if you wouldn’t mind, I’d love to recommend your work. I think Heather would really like this.”
“Uh, sure,” Derek says. His poem feels special, private almost. But as long as no one he knows reads it and figures out who the subject is, he can continue to live his life with a minimal amount of mockery. “I guess it’s okay- no one I know speaks Spanish anyway.”
Derek wakes up blearily to a noise. He doesn’t know what woke him up until he hears it again- someone knocking insistently at the front door. He’s tempted to flop back down, burrow under the covers and enjoy his first Saturday having finished finals; but he knows that Isaac and Erica flatly refuse to get out of bed before noon on a weekend.
Yawning, Derek shuffles to open the door, and is surprised to see Stiles standing in the doorway, hair tousled like he’d been pulling on it and staring at Derek with a somewhat stunned expression.
“Stiles?” He gestures for Stiles to come inside. “Are you okay? Do you want coffee?” Derek asks, already heading into the kitchen.
“You wrote a poem about me.” Derek freezes. “You wrote a poem- about me.”
“Uh…” Derek says, at a complete loss. There’s really no way to answer this question without saying “Yes, Stiles, I wrote a poem about your eyes, and your hair and your smile and your existence so I hope you don’t find that immensely creepy.”
“You-” Stiles says, running a hand through his hair as Derek turns to face him. “I mean, it is about me, isn’t it?!” Stiles' voice edges higher, sounding slightly panicked. "What was that line- 'piel blanca salpicada con lunares'? Do you know other pale guys with moles??"
“How did you, uh- how did you get it?” Derek asks weakly.
“Heather, the editor of the magazine, she’s an old friend of mine. We have lunch together, and apparently I talk about you so damn much that she recognized your name when your poem showed up on her desk, and she sent it to me.” Stiles huffs out a tired laugh. “I spent almost all of last night translating the damn thing.”
“I’m, I mean- I’m sorry?” Derek says, hating that it comes out as a question, but he just wants to make the wild look on Stiles’ face go away.
“Don’t fucking apologize Derek! Not unless- just- did you mean it?”
Derek looks at him in confusion. “Of course I meant it.”
Stiles’ face smooths, and the beginning of a smile tugs at his mouth. “Really?” he asks, like he can’t believe it.
Derek feels hope bubble inside him, and he smiles right back at Stiles. “Really. I bought a Polish phrasebook, Stiles- I was gonna learn Polish for you.”
Stiles beams, closing the distance between the two of them. Tentatively, Derek wraps a hand around Stiles’ hip, appreciating the way Stiles shivers when he moves his thumb in small circles over Stiles’ hipbone.
“You’re a total, romantic idiot,” Stiles says, leaning their foreheads together.
“But I’m your romantic idiot.”
Stiles groans. “Goddamn, I should’ve known you’d be all sweet and perfect and everything- you’re so-”
Whatever Stiles was going to say is consumed when Derek kisses him, slow and delicately, his free hand moving to cup Stiles’s jaw. Stiles is still for all of two seconds before he starts kissing Derek like he does everything else- with everything he’s got, hauling Derek in by the beltloops and curling a hand around Derek’s neck.
Stiles mutters something unintelligible, and Derek pulls back, slightly dazed. “What was that?”
Stiles is slightly flushed, and Derek takes pride in the fact that Stiles looks as rumpled as Derek feels. “I was just gonna say, I- well, I learned Spanish? I mean, I’m not very good- I don’t think languages are really my thing, but I just thought it’d be nice.” He ducks his head, looking at the floor. “For when you wanna go to Spanish movies, you know.”
Derek’s smile is genuine and huge, and he nudges Stiles’ chin up so he can kiss him again. “So it turns out you’re a romantic idiot too?”
Stiles rolls his eyes, but he’s smiling. “I guess I am. But learning Spanish is in no way as bad as writing an erotic poem about someone.”
“You've got me there,” Derek says. “How long until you tell Scott? I have to prepare for the onslaught of mockery."
Stiles runs a thumb along Derek’s cheek in a way that feels almost unbearably tender. “I’m not gonna tell them,” he says, smiling softly. “This is just for me.”
Later, Derek whispers his poetry into Stiles’ skin.
Much later, Derek tries to help Stiles improve his Polish by demonstrating proper tongue movements- Stiles was right, Derek does have a very talented tongue.
And much, much later, when Scott and Isaac are giving them a hard time for being sappy dorks, Stiles and Derek talk in a mix of Spanish and Polish, and feel completely at home with each other in a language of their own creation, where they both know all the right words.