Life isn't fair.
It's a concept Derek Hale feels he has, at 27, become quite intimately acquainted with in his lifetime, and yet:
It's only been two months since the start of the semester and already he feels like the universe is hell-bent on making his life as miserable as possible – because not only did his long-time best friend and roommate Boyd leave him to go live in sin with his fiancee; not only did he have to interview a whole slew of pretentious douche bags to fill his void; not only did the one he decided would be the least probable to make him want to kill himself turn out to be the most happy-go-lucky person in the entire history of the universe – no: of course his best friend had to be the one person with the potential to make Derek go absolutely stark raving mad.
Nope. Not fair at all.
* * *
It's Sunday morning and Derek is sitting at their tiny kitchen table in his boxers and a ratty old shirt eating cornflakes when he walks in the first time: disheveled hair and a slightly scruffy jaw, in sweatpants that hang low on his hips and with one hand scratching his belly under the shirt, exposing a sliver of pale skin with a smattering of moles above his right hipbone.
Derek chokes on his milk.
The new guy looks up with a start and Derek would have probably enjoyed the way his cheeks flood with color in a span of mere seconds if he weren't so focused on not covering the table with half-eaten bits of cornflakes.
“Uh, sorry, didn't mean to startle you there”, the guy says, rubbing his neck. “I'm guessing you're...Derek?”
Derek wipes the back of his hand across his mouth and clears his throat.
“Yeah”, he mutters, voice slightly croaky. “And you are?”
“Oh. Call me Stiles.”
He flashes Derek a quick grin before turning his back and starting to rummage through the kitchen drawers.
Derek takes the opportunity to rub a hand across his eyes and make sure he's not still half-dreaming, because there's no way that this is his life.
There's no way that the same guy who stole his table at the library over a month ago, the guy he's been not so subtly watching for weeks instead of focusing on his history paper, the guy he might maybe have the tiniest crush in the history of crushes on – is standing here, in his kitchen, in clothes he very obviously slept in in Scott's room, looking through his drawers like he belongs here.
There's a cry of triumph from where Stiles is crouched under the sink and he turns around, brandishing a box of fruit loops and grinning like a maniac.
“I knew it! God, Scotty, I love how predictable you are”, he crows and plops himself down in the seat across from Derek, happily pouring a generous amount of fruit loops into a bowl he produced from out of thin air and digging in immediately. It's only after a few minutes of stunned silence on Derek's part that Stiles comes up for air, cheeks flushed slightly pink and an apologetic smile on his lips.
“Sorry, you want some?” he mumbles around the food in his mouth and tips his bowl so Derek can see the mushed up bits of fruit loops floating around in the milk.
It's kind of gross. Derek should probably stop staring.
“Thanks, 'm good here.”
Stiles shrugs his shoulders and goes back to merrily slurping milk off his spoon. “Suit yourself.”
There's a few minutes of relative silence where Derek takes in the curve of Stiles' nose and the slope of his shoulders that he's become intimately familiar with over his past weeks as creeper extraordinaire. The thought makes his skin itch uncomfortably and he decides awkward conversation is probably a lot less likely to get him arrested than intent staring.
“So...Stiles. That's an unusual name”, he ventures and thinks he manages quite well to hide the cringe at how stilted he sounds.
Stiles doesn't seem to notice, though, and chuckles good-naturedly.
“If you're ever unlucky enough to come across my real first name, I guarantee you'll feel very differently”, he says and winks at Derek.
It's way too early for him to be dealing with this.
He can feel heat crawling up his neck, but soldiers on. “That bad, huh?”
“Worse. You wouldn't believe me if I told you. Which is why I won't”, Stiles answers, flashing Derek a grin that shows straight white teeth.
Derek snorts and holds up both hands in surrender. “Fair enough. Stiles it is then.”
Stiles bobs his head in agreement and keeps munching on his cereal.
“So...”, Derek starts, awkwardly clearing his throat, “I thought Scott had...a girlfriend? A-...something? Alice?Anna...?”
Stiles blinks at him and nods slightly. “Allison, actually.”
“Right. Is that still going on?”
“Oh yeah”, Stiles concurs enthusiastically, “Still going strong. I'll tell you, I really wouldn't be surprised if I hear wedding bells in the not-so-distant future. In fact, I've already started collecting jokes and stories and stuff about Scott for my best man speech, just to be on the safe side, so if you have any dirt on him – you gotta tell me, alright?”
Derek blinks. He's pretty sure he's missing a vital piece of information in all this.
“So...you...”, Derek starts and he can practically feel his eyebrows knitting together of their own accord and makes a conscious effort to smooth out his forehead in order to be less judgy-looking, “Are you...is this some kind of polyamory situation or...what?”
Stiles blinks at him for a moment and then his face goes beet-red as realization flashes across his face. Derek bites his tongue and thinks he should never be allowed to talk to people who make him lose whatever tiny amount of cool he has.
“What?!”, Stiles splutters, “Me and Scott? Ew, gross, no way!”
“Sorry, I didn't mean to offend...”, Derek starts, scrambling for a way to rectify his presumptuousness, but Stiles waves a hand in the air between them to stop him.
“No, no, there's no need to apologize, it's not...the guy thing. It's the Scott thing. Seriously, like, I knew him way back in the day when he was still trying to get a handle on bladder control and was peeing his pants every time he sneezed. Believe me, our relationship is like the definition of platonic”, Stiles says and shrugs his shoulders, grinning. “But that's just because there's not a lot of sexiness left if you've made it through kindergarten and puberty together, not because Scott pees standing up.”
And Derek knows that his ears are probably flaming red at the moment, but he can't really find it in himself to care too much, because isn't that an interesting tidbit of information?
And it's really not fair that Stiles looks completely relaxed, a small smile playing on his lips and one eyebrow quirked at Derek - how is he supposed to concentrate on stringing together a coherent response when he's being looked at like that?
It's a good thing Scott chooses that exact moment to make an appearance, sauntering into the room with an abnormal amount of energy for someone who just woke up and clapping a hand on Stiles' shoulder.
“There he is! Apple of my eye, best friend extraordinaire, my love, my one and only, Scott McCall, Ladies and Gentlemen!”, Stiles cheers, mouth spread wide in a blinding grin. It's probably a good thing for everybody in the room that he's finally finished eating.
Scott rolls his eyes and ruffles Stiles' hair affectionately.
“Yeah, yeah. So I see you two have -...”, Scott stops abruptly, eyes bugging as he takes in the breakfast table, “Dude! Where did you get those?!”
Scott points an accusing finger at the half-empty box of fruit loops and then pulls a disappointed face at Stiles, who at least has the decency to look somewhat contrite.
“What do you think? From under the sink, where you keep them in a bucket with the rest of your cleaning supplies – and really, Scott, I gotta tell you: not the safest place for hiding things you plan on eating afterwards...Mama McCall would be appalled”, he finishes, a cheeky smile tugging at the corner of his lips.
Scott gapes at him, hands on his hips in a great display of rightful indignation and Derek has to admit: it's been a long time since breakfast has been this entertaining.
“Duuude”, Scott whines, “that was my secret emergency stash!”
“Who are you even hiding this from?” Stiles demands and points a thumb in Derek's direction. “Derek here doesn't look like he eats a lot of sugary cereal... - ”
“ - ...and you should know better than to hide things in my hiding spots if you don't want me to find them.”
He turns to Derek then and cups a hand around his mouth, whispering conspiratorially: “I used to help him find the best hiding spots back home for his...manly magazines if you know what I mean.”
Scott buries his face in his hands with a strangled groan while Stiles waggles his eyebrows exaggeratedly and Derek thinks he should probably be very, very afraid.
* * *
Three days later, Derek is once again back in the business of fully living up to his creeper status, hiding behind a dying plant on the second floor of the university library. And if that hadn't been proof enough that telling Erica had been a very bad idea, the fact that she has been draped across his back for the last few minutes, spying through the leaves and effectively cutting off his air supply, most definitely is.
“Is that him?” Erica asks from where she's been breathing down his neck and points a finger into his line of sight to where Stiles is sitting alone at a table crammed into the corner between History of the Middle Ages and American Gothic Literature, an equal distance from both the restrooms and the vending machines, with a window above and his very own power outlet.
Derek sighs and straightens up abruptly, effectively getting Erica off his back.
“Well then...go!”, she tells him and makes a shooing motion in Stiles' direction and because Derek knows disagreeing will only delay the inevitable, he sighs deeply and trudges off towards Stiles' table.
“You're in my seat”, he announces once he's within ear-shot.
Stiles jumps and blinks up at Derek, disoriented for a second until a flash of recognition crosses his features and he relaxes in his seat.
“Hey there. Fancy meeting you again”, he grins, leaning back in his chair.
“Yes. You're in my seat”, Derek repeats.
“Uhm, sorry, dude. I'm pretty sure this is the same spot I've been sitting in for the last month, so...I don't think so.”
The perpetual smirk on Stiles' face makes Derek's resolve start to crumble. Very very bad idea.
“It was my spot before you...stole it from me.”
Stiles looks slightly surprised, in an elated kind of way, his eyes sparkling and his lips spread wide in a grin.
“Yeah, he's been sitting in this dingy little corner for like five months before you came along”, a voice pipes up from behind him.
Of course. What a rooky mistake, believing Erica when she said she would stay in the background.
Stiles seems to be almost vibrating with glee. “Seriously, dude, you brought back-up? This is so awesome!”
“She followed me”, Derek grunts and shoots Erica a dirty look.
“Pfft. I've been telling him for months he should just confront that little table-thief; there's no way in hell I'm missing this”, she retorts and sticks out her tongue at Derek.
“Table-thief, really?”, Stiles chuckles. “Sorry, guys, I've actually gotten quite attached to this seat. Believe it or not, it has the perfect imprint for my butt - so comfy.”
He wiggles around on his seat a little in demonstration and Derek feels his face heat up.
“That's because it's mine”, he grits out and tries to ignore the snort from Erica, instead focusing on the way Stiles' eyes water as he chokes on his own laughter.
There's a twinkle in his eye and Derek can feel the corner of his mouth tug up involuntarily at the sight of it.
“Well then, I feel like we're kind of at a stand-off here”, Stiles says without taking his eyes off Derek's.
Derek inclines his head slightly in acquiescence and crosses his arms across his chest, his eyes never leaving Stiles'.
“Ugh, this is a lot less dramatic than I imagined”, Erica complains from over his shoulder. “Seriously, a staring contest? That's your whole battle plan?”
Stiles lifts one shoulder in a half-shrug. “Table's big enough for two...we could probably share.”
“Only if you keep to your side. And I want my chair back.”
“Nuh-uh, the butt-print's non-negotiable, sorry buddy.”
Derek throws his arms in the air, huffing exasperatedly.
“Fine”, he growls, holding his hand out across the table. “We have a deal?”
“God, you guys are pathetic. I cannot believe I blew off my mani-pedi for this...”, Erica huffs behind them and stalks off aggressively to which Stiles raises an amused eyebrow and takes the hand Derek offered him.
* * *
Stiles is not there when Derek gets to the library the next day and he's not entirely sure how he feels about that.
It's 8.30 on a Thursday morning and the library is fairly empty and quiet. Soon enough, he's deep into his essay on the history of medieval warfare, making good progress when someone plops down into the seat opposite him.
He looks up to see Stiles sitting across the table, three takeaway cups in front of him.
“So,” he starts, rubbing his hands together, “I wanted to bring you coffee for misusing your butt-print for my own personal pleasure, but I realized I have no idea how you like yours, so I kinda got one of every...direction? I've got one black, one cappuccino and some caramel-flavored concoction with lots of whipped cream...pick whatever you want and I'm just gonna drink whatever's left.”
Derek eyes the coffee cups on the table, weighing his options. The smell of caramel syrup wafts across the table and makes his mouth water.
“Well in that case, I think I'm gonna pick...”, Derek starts and narrows his eyes, making a show of having a hard time to decide, “...all of them. Thank you so much, Stiles, that's very generous of you.”
And he flashes Stiles a big grin before using both hands to slide all three cups over to his side of the table.
“Wha -...I -...But...coffeeee!”, Stiles whines, making grabby hands at Derek.
Derek pops off the lids and makes a big show of sniffing experimentally at each of the cups. He hums thoughtfully and bites his tongue to stop from grinning at the indignant huff from Stiles.
“Come on, just give me the black one, I know you want to pick the sugar bomb anyway. I promise I won't laugh. Much.”
Derek looks up to see Stiles smirking at him and frowns.
“So I have a bit of a sweet tooth occasionally. So what?” he asks loftily, pulling the caramel coffee closer and taking an experimental sip. It's almost cloyingly sweet and he closes his eyes to savor it and hums appreciatively, sliding the other cups back over to Stiles.
Stiles, who gapes at him with his mouth half-open and his ears flushed slightly pink.
“God, look at you, you're so...”, he starts in a gushing tone.
Derek points a warning finger at him. “Don't you dare!”
Stiles holds up both hands in a silent peace offering and bites his lip, eyes sparkling.
“Manly. I was gonna say manly.”
* * *
After that, it's easy.
They never make plans to meet up at the library, but more often than not they end up there anyway, some days only throwing in a quick hello as they pass each other in the hallway and some days sharing their table for hours on end while they each work on their respective essays.
They develop a sort of unspoken routine; Derek picking up a couple of donuts at the shop around the corner from his apartment and Stiles bringing coffee when he comes in later in the morning. It's a good system, Derek thinks. At least this way, if it turns out to be a Stiles-free day, he'll get a couple more sugary treats all to himself to even it out a little bit.
It's probably not the most work-efficient arrangement, what with all the coffee breaks and the occasional balled up notes that Stiles likes to throw at Derek's head, but to be fair, having Stiles a mere foot away is not as counter-productive as Derek would have thought. Sure, he's as distracting as any one person could be to Derek, but he managed that easily from across the room as well, and there's something about the way Stiles scrunches up his nose in concentration when proof-reading Derek's finished paragraphs that makes him want to push himself in an as-yet unparalleled burst of motivation.
It's a few weeks later when, after a long day of staring at the top of the library staircase and eating all four donuts on his own, he gets home to Stiles and Scott having a pillow fight on the couch in their living room.
“Hey Derek”, Stiles chimes as soon as he catches sight of Derek standing in the doorway and seizes the opportunity of Scott waving at Derek over his shoulder to throw him off balance and onto the floor. “We're having a slumber party, you're welcome to join!”
Derek leans against the doorjamb in what he hopes is a casual gesture and lifts a skeptical eyebrow. “Aren't you a little old for slumber parties?”
“Aren't you a little young for all that old-mannish grumpiness?”, Stiles retorts with a challenging eyebrow-raise and extends a helping hand to a grumbling Scott on the floor. “Besides, Lydia's back from her extended Italy-trip – and I have to say, I'm still very concerned there might have been illegal methods involved in convincing her professors to give her time off in the middle of the semester...- so I've been indefinitely sexiled, to quote Jackson directly. So, get your PJs on and join the fun!”
“I don't own Pjs”, Derek deadpans, but he pushes himself off of the doorjamb and moves closer to the couch, where he can see that the two are indeed wearing pajamas – or at least pajama bottoms, traditional blue plaid for Scott and Batman print for Stiles, paired with plain old shirts.
“Oh. Okay”, Stiles says, face still slightly flushed from the exertion of their pillow fight. “Well, we don't discriminate here, so...if you prefer to not wear PJs at slumber parties, that's totally fine with us, right Scotty?”
Scott makes a sort of uncomfortable whining noise. “No, dude, totally not fine. Clothing mandatory.”
Derek feels this is probably the point where he should try making his escape before he starts picturing the mentioned scenario too vividly, but he's distracted by Stiles punching Scott on the arm and turning to Derek.
“Don't listen to him, man. Just come on, we're watching Star Wars. Scott's never seen it before, it's gonna be epic.”
Derek is mildly intrigued. “Which one?”
“We're at Return of the Jedi. Scott, come on, tell Uncle Derek what you're most looking forward to in this one...”
“You make me sound like a little girl if you say it like that...”, Scott sulks.
Stiles snorts and pokes him in the ribs, making Scott giggle and swat at his hand. “Come ooon, Derek's not gonna laugh, he cries at Titanic.”
“Thanks, Stiles, your discretion is very much appreciated”, Derek grumbles and rolls his eyes at the tongue Stiles sticks out at him.
“Just, you know, obviously defeating Vader and rescuing Han Solo and stuff...”, Scott mumbles.
“And...I've kinda been waiting a long time for Luke and Leia to finally get it on, so...”, Scott admits grudgingly to which Stiles does an exaggerated fist-pump.
“See?! It's going to be hilarious!”, he crows, basically doubled over with laughter. “Dude, you can't miss this!”
Derek has to admit, his enthusiasm is kind of infectious.
“You keep saying that...it's freaking me out”, Scott whines and crosses his arms over his chest, pouting.
“It's alright, Scotty...I'm just very excited to see you bask in the glory of their undying love for each other for the first time. It's going to be beautiful”, Stiles assures Scott, patting his arm with one hand and flashing Derek a big thumbs-up behind Scott's back with the other.
Derek snorts, shaking his head at their antics while trying to calculate how much sleep he could still get in before his early morning class if he joins them.
“Derek, you have to watch, come on”, Stiles says with finality and scoots into the middle of the couch, patting the (too-small) space he freed up for Derek on the couch beside him and batting his eyes at him.
Well, who needs sleep anyway.
It's a tight fit; so tight that they end up pressed together from hip to knee and the feeling of Stiles' body-heat seeping through his jeans makes Derek start to sweat slightly. He throws a quick glance to his left, but Stiles doesn't seem to notice anything out of the ordinary, already engaged in discussion with Scott again. Derek decided it's probably for the best not to draw attention to the situation by moving his leg away and settles deeper into the cushions to watch the movie, knee still tightly pressed against Stiles'.
About halfway through the movie, it becomes clear that even though Derek loves Star Wars like the closet nerd that he is, that doesn't change the fact that he can practically recite the movie word by word and he's had a long day revising his paper, so by the time the crucial scene rolls around, he keeps nodding off onto Stile's shoulder every few minutes. He has just started to weigh the merits of getting to sleep in an actual bed against never having to move, when a hand lands on his knee and jolts him out of his slumber.
He's slightly dazed and disoriented, so for a second he's confused as to why Stiles has his knee in a vice grip, but a glance at the TV gets him up to speed fairly quickly.
“What?! Nooo!” Scott shrieks from across the couch and Stiles starts shaking violently next to him. “You could have warned me!”
“And miss this? No way!”, Stiles chortles.
“But...I thought Luke and Leia were the obvious choice! They're so much closer in age!”
There's a violent snort of laughter from Stiles that quickly turns into hiccups and he's squeezing Derek's knee even harder, effectively cutting off all circulation. It's starting of hurt, but in his current state of sleep-deprived haze, Derek thinks he would rather risk losing a limb than being the one to pry Stiles' hand away from his leg.
“That's because they're TWINS!”, Stiles shrieks. “That's the whole joke!”
Then there's an angry grunt from Scott and a woosh of air and Stiles' hand leaves Derek as he's ducking from a pillow that, as a result, smacks Derek right in the face.
“You bastard!” Scott shouts and grabs for another pillow and the next second, Stiles is scrambling across Derek's lap to the other side and he's being used as a human shield in their petty little pillow fight.
He finds he doesn't mind nearly as much as he probably should.
* * *
Stiles sleeps on the couch that night and the next night as well and before long, him sleeping over at Scott and Derek's place has become almost like a regular occurrence.
It's not just being “sexiled”, as Stiles so eloquently put it that night, it's also that while Stiles absolutely adores Lydia, he tolerates his roommate Jackson at best and often chooses to spend his free time as far away from their tiny little dormroom as possible.
Their dorm also happens to be way across town, so any late night shenanigans more often than not lead to Stiles opting to crash in the far more centrally located apartment.
Soon enough there's a blanket and pillow piled onto the couch permanently and if that means Derek has to put on sweatpants before trudging into the kitchen in the mornings, well, that's a sacrifice he will just have to learn to live with.
* * *