Stiles looked over the ten kids in various swimming attire and colorful caps, all bouncing with excitement and waving at their parents, who were looking down at them from the balcony on the other side of the pool. This was only their second meeting, and Stiles was always excited to work with a new group.
He’s been swimming for years, but he never found something more enjoyable than seeing the surprise on a child’s face when the effort he put into kicking his little arms and legs paid off. And knowing that he is responsible for that, was, probably, the only thing that made Stiles’ heart beat faster. At least nowadays.
Stiles felt something tugging on his swimming shorts, but when he looked down, all he saw was a mop of black curls. Even though it was 10 am, he had been working since 6, so Stiles blinked away the last remains of his sleepiness and realized the curls belonged to a child, who was still gently tugging on his shorts.
So he pried the kid’s hand away from his clothes, holding onto it, and he crouched down so he could be at eye level with her, Stiles realized. The black curls belonged to a girl, about 6 years old, skin a bit dark in comparison to Stiles’ pale complexion, big green eyes staring curiously at him. She was wearing red flip flops and a black fluffy robe. She was absolutely adorable and Stiles was trying really hard not too coo out loud.
‘I’m here for the swimming classes’, she smiled at Stiles, blushing slightly.
‘Oh, right’, Stiles nodded, remembering the conversation he had with Lydia a couple of hours before. ‘My boss told me someone new will be joining us. Hi, I’m Stiles’, he grinned.
‘Stiles’, the girl frowned while she was saying his name. She repeated it a couple of times, and when she was satisfied that it sounded well enough, she nodded and smiled. ‘I’m Anna.’
He smiled at her and squeezed her hand a bit. ‘Who are you here with, Anna?’
‘Hmmm’, Stiles frowned and turned her around to the balcony. ‘And which one is your daddy?’
‘That one’, she grinned and pointed to a man in the left corner. Stiles couldn’t see much, except for the dark hair and the leather jacket.
‘I should talk to him before we start the lesson.’, Stiles explained, softly. ‘Do you want to go up there with me?’
‘Nuh-uh’, Anna shook her head. ‘Let him come down’. Then, she giggled and raised her hand, beckoning her father to come down with her index finger. Stiles snorted, but he took her hand and they headed together to the other side of the pool, meeting Anna’s father on the bottom of the stairs.
And Stiles had to calm down his breathing when he saw the man, because he has never seen someone so hot in his entire life. And he’s spent most of it in locker rooms, surrounded by Olympic medalists, so that’s saying something. This guy was absolutely on a whole new level. He had dark hair that matched the bushy eyebrows and the stubble, hiding an obviously rugged jaw line. He was very well built, and the dark green t-shirt hugged his form beautifully, even if it was covered by a leather jacket. The tight black jeans paired with a pair of black boots gave the man a very bad boy look.
But the look in his eyes, whose color matched his daughter’s, the soft and caring look he gave her, that made Stiles’ heart skip a beat.
‘Is anything wrong?’, the man asked, concerned, absently petting Anna’s hair.
Stiles blinked and got out of his head, letting go of Anna’s hand and smiling at the man.
‘No, sir. Not really. I just wanted to talk to you because this group is just made out of boys. It just happened, somehow, so Anna would be the only girl.’
‘Is that going to be a problem?’, the man frowned.
‘It shouldn’t be’, Stiles assured. ‘Not from my point of view, or from the kids’. But some parents have expressed their concern in the past. There’s another group with me today at 11 and one at 2. You could come by then.’
‘Is that going to be a problem, Anna?’, her father asked. ‘That it’s going to be just you and some boys?’
‘Nope’, she grinned, looking up at her father. ‘I’m better than them, anyway.’
Stiles snorted and he knew it was incredibly unattractive, but he couldn’t help it. Meanwhile, the guy rolled his eyes so dramatically, Stiles was afraid they would explode.
‘Let me guess, Aunt Laura told you that?’
‘Yup’, Anna grinned, untroubled.
Her father sighed, but he was smiling. And that made Stiles smile.
‘That answers your question, then.’, he said to Stiles, gently shoving Anna towards him.
‘Right. I’m Stiles, by the way.’
The guy arched an eyebrow.
‘Stiles Stilinski’, he continued, untroubled.
‘Really?’, the man frowned.
Stiles shrugged. ‘Not really, but Stilinski’s the real deal and I’ve been calling myself Stiles since forever, you really don’t want to hear the alternative. Plus’, he grinned, ‘it’s easier for the kiddies. Right, Anna?’
‘Stiles!’, she grinned. ‘Stiles St-Stil’, she frowned and pouted. Then, she tried again. ‘Stiles Stilniffi.’
‘Let’s stick with Stiles, shall we?’, he laughed.
‘Okay. Can we go swimming now?’, she grinned, taking a hold of his hand.
‘It was nice meeting you, sir’, Stiles told her father, who hasn’t introduced himself yet, too busy smiling at his daughter like she hung the moon. She probably did, Stiles thought.
‘I’m Derek Hale.’, he finally said. ‘You should go before she dislocates your shoulder’.
And Stiles finally caved in, letting Anna literally drag him away towards the other end of the pool, where the rest of the boys were waiting for them. When she paused in her path to get out of her flip-flops and robe, Stiles grinned when he saw her bright red Iron Man bathing suit.
The lesson went fairly well, Stiles thought. He started with 10 minutes of easy gymnastics exercises with the kids, getting them warmed up. Then, he sat them all down in a line at the edge of the pool, on their bellies, with their feet in the water. They spent the next 10 minutes practicing their feet movement, and after that, he switched their positions for another 10, so that their hands were in the water and they practiced that.
The kids seemed to be having fun, but Stiles saw they still had a lot of energy left and they were excited to get into the water, growing impatient. So he gave them all plastic and foam swimming aids, talking with each of them and making sure they were comfortable. Stiles got in the pool with them, making sure they all stood in a single lane, not interrupting the other swimmers and making it easier for him to keep his students safe.
Stiles made his way from one kid to another, giving them instructions and making sure they weren’t having any issues. But the kids were all having fun, judging by the amount of giggles and laughter.
He kept a closer eye on Anna, without even realizing it. Even though she was younger than the rest of the kids (she was about 6, while the boys were all around 8 years old), she was better than them. It was clear that Anna already had some training, because her movements were more fluid than the rest of the guys in the group. She was still struggling, and she wasn’t swimming in any particular stroke, but she was moving, slowly but surely, forward; whereas the boys were mostly just moving in circles. And Anna wasn’t at all afraid of the water, she didn’t flinch when someone splashed some in her eyes, and she didn’t seem to mind when she accidentally swallowed some.
Stiles let them play around for 20 minutes, but then he made them get out of the pool. For the next 10 minutes, he planned to make them practice their feet movement some more, explaining to them that it was an important part of swimming and that if they have that down, everything else will come easily. Plus, he knew their parents will appreciate it if they left the lesson feeling tired.
So the kids were all in a line at the edge of the pool, kicking water with their feet. Stiles was at the left end of the line, and Anna was on the far right end. He doesn’t know what made him do it, maybe it was instinct, maybe it was just a bad feeling. But he looked at her in the exact moment when Adam, the boy sitting to her right, kicked her and pushed her into the pool, causing her to yelp before the water swallowed her.
Stiles vaguely heard Derek screaming for his daughter, but it didn’t really register. He ran along the edge of the pool for a couple of feet, yelling at the kids to get out of the water. Then he jumped over the row of boys struggling to push themselves up on the edge of the pool, but he made sure to jump high enough and not kick any one of them. When Stiles got to Anna, she had her eyes shut tight and she was keeping a hand over her nose and mouth. She was kicking her feet as fast as she could, and she was moving towards the surface, but it was a slow process.
Stiles grabbed her by the waist, quickly getting her to the surface. When her head was out of the water, he started talking to her, telling her that she’s okay and how brave and smart she was, gently removing her hand from her face. Anna quickly put her hands around Stiles’ neck and held on until they got to the edge of the pool.
Derek was there and he quickly grabbed Anna from Stiles’ hands, not caring that he was getting his clothes wet, holding on to her tight and kissing her forehead. Stiles couldn’t tell if she was crying or not, but he heard Anna telling her dad that she was okay, comforting him too.
Stiles took a deep breath and took a step towards Derek.
‘Is she okay?’
‘Yeah’, he nodded, but didn’t take his eyes off her.
‘Okay, kids. Class dismissed. Go get changed. Adam, please stay behind.’, Stiles yelled, while grabbing a towel and running it quickly over his body.
The group ran away from there, and Adam grinned while he wrapped himself in his bathrobe. It made Stiles’ blood boil. But when he saw Adam’s mother make her way towards them, he pushed it down and straightened his back.
‘Mrs. Down’, he said, as calmly as possible, vaguely remembering that her husband was a well known lawyer.
‘Adam, what is it taking so long?’, she said, annoyed.
‘Madam’, Stiles said calmly, ‘Adam kicked Anna here, and shoved her into the pool. Thankfully, Anna wasn’t hurt, but that doesn’t make it better’, he said with a pointed look at Adam. Who just rolled his eyes, much to Stiles’ disgust.
‘I’m sure that didn’t happen’, his mother smiled sweetly.
‘It happened’, Derek practically growled. The woman didn’t even look in his direction.
‘I saw it happen. And so did all the security cameras, if we’re being thorough.’, Stiles nodded. ‘And, as you can see, Adam is just going around with his day, like nothing happened. He needs to understand that what he did was very wrong.’
When he looked at Adam, the kid just raised an eyebrow and made his way towards his mother, grabbing onto her hand.
‘I’m sure you’re making a big deal out of nothing.’, she shrugged, making a move to leave.
‘We’re not’, Stiles insisted, stopping her. ‘Anna could’ve easily drowned if she hadn’t reacted so calmly and if I weren’t fast enough.’
‘So you were doing your job, while they were just playing like children?’, she raised an eyebrow and Stiles absolutely hated when crappy women looked down at him with superiority, but once again, he pushed down the angry response he would’ve liked to give.
So he turned toward the boy. ‘Adam, why did you push Anna into the pool?’
‘She was kicking me.’
‘How was she kicking you?’, Stiles asked, before Derek got to say anything, even though he opened his mouth.
‘With her feet. You told us to kick the water up-down, but she was doing the hugging thing.’
‘What does that even mean?’, his mother frowned.
‘I asked the boys to do the crawl technique, while I asked Anna to do the breaststroke.’
‘Why were you playing favorites?’
‘I wasn't. It’s just that it was clear that Anna had more training beforehand and she already knew how to do the crawl technique.’
‘Whatever’, she waved it off. ‘I don’t care, it doesn’t matter. Adam, let’s go, you’ll catch a cold.’
‘Wait!’, Stiles hissed. ‘Work with me here, Mrs. Down. We have to make Adam understand that what he did was wrong and that he shouldn’t do it again.’
‘Come on’, she chuckled. ‘They’re children. Of course they’re going to fight. It’s not the first time and it surely won’t be the last time.’
Stiles took a deep breath and spared a glance at Derek, who was glaring daggers at the woman.
‘Mrs. Down’, Stiles hissed, ‘either you work with me here, or I’m going to have to ask you to leave.’
‘That’s what I was doing.’
‘No, I’m going to ask you to leave the program.’, Stiles explained. ‘You will get your money back, but Adam will not be attending out teaching program again.’
She puffed. ‘I want to talk to your supervisor, this is not professional behavior.’
‘I want to speak with your supervisor too’, Derek cut in. ‘Considering it’s my child who almost drowned.’
Stiles heart sunk a bit, at the thought of Derek filing a complaint against him too, but when he looked over at the man, he was still glaring at the woman. He glanced once at Stiles, for half a second, but Stiles saw understanding in Derek’s eyes. That made him nod and lead the way to Lydia’s office.
He stopped at the front desk, where he quickly removed his swimming shorts, revealing a basic Speedo knee-length swimsuit underneath. Erica, who was in charge of the reception, was already handing him a dry towel and pushing his wet towel and shorts out of the way, smiling reassuringly at him. Stiles wrapped the towel around his waist, and when he looked up, Derek was watching him with a raised eyebrow.
‘Lydia hates when I drip on her carpet’, he explained, resuming his way towards her office.
When they got into Lydia’s office, she sat up from her desk and shook hands with both of the parents. She was wearing a pink summer dress, with bright purple flowers on it, her hair up in a complicated braid. She looked gorgeous, but professional, like she always did.
Before she said anything else, she raised an eyebrow at Stiles. Who, as a response, shook his head. Considering they had known each other for years and that they wouldn’t have ended up here without one another, that was all she needed.
She asked Mrs. Down what happened, and the woman explained in an angry voice, blowing everything out of proportion, except Anna’s almost-death. She made Stiles look incredibly bad, and got all the attention away from her son.
When Lydia asked Derek if he agreed, he snorted.
‘Uh. No?’, he scoffed, raising his eyebrows. ‘Adam kicked Anna, I saw it happen. Stiles saw it, and he saved my daughter. He did absolutely nothing wrong in this situation and what she’s saying, about him being unprofessional… Sorry, Miss Martin, but that’s bullshit. If I were him, I would’ve escorted Mrs. Down out a long time ago. By her hair.’
Everybody fell silent at that, until Anna giggled.
‘Do you know who I am?’, Mrs. Down hissed at Derek, but before he got to answer, Stiles cut in.
‘Yes, we know who your husband is. Big shot lawyer, good for him. That means absolutely nothing here.’
Lydia nodded, making the woman turn to her.
‘You allow him to speak to me like that? To a superior?’
The redhead frowned. ‘Are you? Superior to him? Do you have more than 2 golden Olympics medals and 3 World Championship ones? Or maybe you also have a double major in Psychology and Pedagogy with a masters in children's behavior issues?’
Stiles smirked at that, he always loved it when Lydia stood up for him. The parents were both staring at him by this point, Mrs. Down with anger and hate, and Derek with something resembling shock.
‘Look, Mrs. Down’, he started. ‘I don’t really want to tell you how you should raise your child, I usually get paid for that. But I will tell you, from personal experience’, he spared a glance at Lydia, who nodded, ‘that if you don’t teach Adam the meaning of some very important words, such as immoral and illegal, he will have a pretty crappy life. And so will you. There are situations that your husband’s position will not be able to get him out of.’
‘I will sue you’, the woman hissed at Lydia, after a few seconds.
‘Not really’, she smiled. ‘I’m sure that when you go home and tell your husband what happened, and when you mention my name, he will convince you to let it go. Considering one, you have no grounds for a law suit and we can easily prove that with the recordings from our security cameras, and two, my fiancé, Jackson Whittemore, works closely with Mr. Dawn and this would not be favorable for their partnership.’
Lydia made her way toward the door and opened it, smiling sweetly. ‘Now, if you’ll excuse us, I already instructed Erica, who is managing the front desk, to give you a full refund. She’ll escort you out. Have a good day.’
Mrs. Down all but stomped outside, much to the amusement of Lydia and Stiles, who shared a look. After Lydia closed the door, she turned to Derek, who still had Anna wrapped in his arms.
‘Are you okay, sweetie?’
‘Yes, thank you. I’m sorry the mean lady yelled at you.’
Lydia smiled. ‘There’s nothing to be sorry for. That’s on the mean lady, not on you.’ Then, she turned to Stiles, expectantly.
‘Look, Mr. Hale. There’s another set of classes, Monday and Thursday.’, he started. ‘Boyd, who teaches them, is just as good as me, if not better; he’s a lot more technical, that might be more beneficial for Anna, considering the training she already has. Or, if not, we’ll gladly give you a refund too.’
Derek’s eyes grew wider, but before he got to say anything, his daughter’s voice startled him.
‘No, daddy!’, Anna said in a loud voice, grabbing her father’s face with both her hands. ‘No’, she said once again, looking into his eyes. Then, she turned to Stiles and made grabby hands at him.
He startled, visibly, but made his way towards her nonetheless. When Derek gave her to him, Anna immediately grabbed onto his neck, putting her feet around his waist.
‘I want you to teach me how to swim, Stiles. Please?’
She looked at him with big, wide eyes, and Stiles’ heart skipped a few beats.
‘Oh, melt my heart, why don’t you?’, he whispered, hugging her tightly, stroking her back while she hid her face in the crook of his neck.
‘Only if it’s alright with your daddy.’, he managed to say.
‘Oh course’, Derek agreed immediately. ‘Thank you, I don’t…’ He took a deep breath and smiled. ‘It’s just us two and my sister. I can’t…’, he was struggling with his words, but Stiles understood it either way.
‘I know. You can’t lose them.’, he smiled.
Then, he put Anna down and crouched, so that they were at eye level.
‘Okay, Princess. I’ll see you Friday, alright?’
‘Stiles’, she whined. ‘I’m not a princess.’
He blinked. ‘You’re not?’
‘I’m wearing an Iron Man swimsuit. I’m a superhero, d’uh.’
‘Oh, the deja-vu.’, he heard Lydia giggling, but he ignored her.
‘Right’, he smiled. ‘Excuse my mistake. It’ll never happen again. You should go change now, though. You will catch a cold.’
Anna kissed his cheek and took her fathers’ hand, dragging him outside of the office. Derek barely got to say a thank you to Lydia before they were gone.
Stiles closed the door behind them, banging his head on it a few times, for good measure. When he opened his eyes, Lydia was regarding him with an amused expression.
‘Let me guess’, she pointed a finger at him. ‘You want to climb that man till next Sunday.’
‘Yeah’, he sighed.
‘And you fell in love with his daughter.’
‘Oh boy’, Lydia laughed.
‘I am so screwed.’, Stiles whined, leaving he office. He needed a huge coffee before his next group arrived.