Stiles pushed up his glasses, brushing away the eraser shavings from his paper. He was no artist but this worked well enough for his purposes. He had all the relevant information from the dude at the City Records’ office scribbled on the side. It had only taken a half hour of hanging around and talking at his sour face before the guy had, with extreme grudgingness—or something, handed over the blueprints to the Beacon Hills Planetarium.
Stiles had then spent the entire class period setting up his sketch and calculating the slope and height of the globular roof, trying to figure out how much force he’d need to bean someone who was on the lawn from its observation deck with a lacrosse ball. Factoring in the huge head of the target, of course.
His own cheek smarted. The lacrosse ball-sized bruise near his eye throbbing. This time, he managed to resist touching his fingers to it.
Stiles’ head snapped up. The flurry of movement around him came pouring back in, technicolor and surround sound sudden and on every side.
Ms. Bonham was perking an arch eyebrow at him from the front of the classroom, as though she knew exactly how much attention he had been paying today’s lesson.
He’d managed to miss the bell ringing. Again. He’d been caught up. Somehow his velocity derivative had devolved into a stick figure of Jackson taking a plastic ball to the face that hit with such force that it exploded a lot like fireworks. It was remarkably satisfying just to glare at it. He shoved it in his book, slammed it closed and hefted it up under his arm.
He hoped she hadn’t already seen his not-so-subtle drawing while walking down the aisles. He was still leaning over, trying to get the strap of his bag off the leg of his desk—how the hell did that even happen?—when she said in that mature, adult tone of voice that mirrored a question but was in no way asking, “Mr. Stilinski, if you could stay after?”
Stiles’ dad had perfected that tone.
He straightened up with a tight smile. So, she had probably already seen his semi-incriminating sketch. Or maybe just the formula he’d labeled, ‘Jackson’s Comeuppance: the Epicness Seen from Space.’
It was hard to read into that wrong.
He maintained that it wasn’t his fault he couldn’t pay attention. Trig was the world’s worst snoregasm and he’d asked, repeatedly—enough that the principal knew him by name, his real name—to be moved up to the senior Calculus class. He’d been denied, repeatedly, but had gotten to bypass Algebra. Differential Calc was his jam though and no one would let him feel it.
He was planning to start a band in his garage any day now, now that he knew the sting of being a deprived suburban teenaged white boy. All he needed was musical talent. And maybe a friend or two.
He was lacking on both fronts.
He’d stalled long enough, everyone else having shuffled out. The last thing he needed was an audience made up of lacrosse-douches and girls who’d yet to discover that he actually existed as a person and wasn’t just a random cluster of atoms and nerdetry. He dropped the strap of his messenger bag over his head, already plotting out his excuses.
The probability of occurrence decided how much effort it received, as the percentages dropped off so did the believability. He’d already done the homework for the next three months during a particularly dull weekend—had he mentioned he didn’t have any friends?—so he knew that wasn’t it.
It had to be Jackson’s well-plotted, ironclad downfall or a lack of attention issue. He was no stranger to either. He went on the offensive. “Ms. Bonham, I can—”
She cut him off instantly with just a sharp tilt of her head. Severe women had that effect on him. “I’m right in thinking you’ve taken an interest in Calculus?
That same not-questioning question. “Uh, yeah. Yes,” he got out nervously. And, okay, so a few of his student projects were more Calculus than Trigonometry oriented but none of those had been for her class.
Her thin lips thinned more. It was kind of like watching a boring magic trick. “Would you have any interest in tutoring? It would look good on college applications.”
“Uh.” This scenario hadn’t even made it onto his probability list. He smoothed a thumb up and down the underside of the braided strap of his messenger bag and shrugged, going all in. “I guess I could do that, yeah.” He didn’t exactly have a lot that would distinguish him on college applications without it. Somehow he didn’t think ‘passable online D&D Dungeon Master’ was going to impress.
She smiled, a bit self-satisfied. “That’s settled then. You can meet back here with your tutee this afternoon after classes are over to make a schedule that’ll suit the both of you.” Again, suggestion that wasn’t suggestion. Her tone more than got across that Stiles’ ass would be deep-fried if he wasn’t there.
“Oh… kay,” he tried a bit uncertainly, still feeling somewhat blindsided as he shuffled off. He was slightly out of step, expecting trouble and being handed an opportunity instead.
“Oh, and Stiles?”
Stiles turned back to find Ms. Bonham’s thin-lipped smile had morphed into more of a thin-lipped smirk.
“You’re never going to get a lacrosse ball across all that distance, there’s too much variability with wind speed and velocity. I suggest using something heavier.”
Stiles bit his lip over a grin, knowing better than to make a smart-aleck comment in response, and picked it up a little to make it in time to French.
The day was mostly uneventful. He ate lunch alone, like always, rereading The Selfish Gene while he picked at something the cafeteria called ‘jambalaya.’ Stiles had translated it more accurately to: all the scraps from the kitchen floor shoved into a ball of mush. Jackson and his band of jock losers came over to mess with him, like always, poking him hard in the side of his face right over his bruise.
Jackson taunted in his usual nasal whine, “Hey, King Dweeb, nice eyeliner.”
Stiles’ bruise smarted and he knocked him away half-heartedly. “Hands off, I’m royalty, didn’t you hear?” He tightened his fingers over the crease of his book and snarked, “Also, I prefer to be referred to by my full title: King Dweeb Who Will One Day Own the Company You Wash the Floors For.”
Jackson charged forward only to be stopped by Danny, who had dimples and a smile for everyone and this air of likability that couldn’t be ignored. “Leave him alone, Jackson,” he said with an eyeroll and the barest of glances at Stiles.
Stiles ignored him, burying his nose back in his book. Danny was nice. Stiles was amazed he’d survived long enough to get to high school and, according to the page he was on, it was only a matter of time before natural selection took care of that.
Unfortunately for the world at large, Jackson would probably end up living to be ninety-seven, have thirteen kids to pass his shitty, shitty genes onto and then earn the title of ‘Leader of the World’s Biggest Douchenozzles.’
Jackson gave into Danny’s subtle tugging but not before knocking Stiles’ lunch tray to the floor. Stiles frowned down at it. From whence it came.
Stiles was seventeen minutes late getting back to Ms. Bonham’s classroom. He’d completely forgotten, lost in the library and The Evolution of Psychology—which was actually pretty interesting for something that was used as a school textbook. He stopped, panting, in the doorway.
A derisive snort drew his attention. “You’re kidding me, right?”
Stiles’ eyes roved over the owner of the voice and he sneered. He recognized the guy instantly. A senior, a meathead with a pack of friends all two years above him and Jackson who undoubtedly had their own ‘Stiles’ whose day needed ruining. His name was Derek Hale and he was apparently God’s gift to lacrosse—which wasn’t even a relevant sport five feet outside the town limits—and apparently he really was dumb as a brick, despite his I-crap-things-that-are-more-interesting-than-you attitude. He’d completely given into the jock cliché too: leather jacket, perpetual five o’clock shadow and black penis car.
He got as much attention as Jackson with at least half as much obnoxiousness because he was smokin’ hot. However, he dressed that up with zero personality and a permanently affixed scowl he had no right to and Stiles had learned—credit to Lydia Martin—that drooling after pretty things just because they were pretty only led to heartbreak and humiliation.
Stiles waited until he’d caught his breath—so he could get the ultra-bitchiness in his inflection that this moment deserved—to snark back, “Oh great, seriously. I’m supposed to try to teach meat how to think?”
Stiles hadn’t realized Ms. Bonham was there until he saw her stand from his periphery. She let out a sharp breath, hands balanced on her desk. She threw a tight, somewhat threatening smile at the both of them. “Well. This is clearly going to go swimmingly.”
Hale stiffened as her gaze landed on him, straightening up from where he was slouched against one of the desks and uncrossing his arms. Stiles fiddled with the corner of his glasses when it turned on him. “Derek’s fallen a bit behind in his Calculus course and needs to maintain a ‘C’ average to stay on the lacrosse team.”
Hale’s shoulders pulled in towards his chest and Ms. Bonham’s intense expression seemed to be daring Stiles to make some comment.
He didn’t dare.
“You’re trying to find an ‘in’ to the senior’s Calculus course, Stiles. Proving you can handle the workload by tutoring someone who’s taking it has the potential to get you bumped up after Christmas break rather than at the start of next year.”
Stiles pouted. It was just what he’d wanted. Minus the lacrosse idiot. It wasn’t enough to put him off the plan though.
“Fine,” he and Hale gritted out at the same time, throwing each other dark looks at the simultaneous agreement.
Hale had lacrosse practice three days a week. Stiles would need at least a week to explain why that was retarded so he bit his tongue. He was free the next afternoon though so they agreed to meet in the library, where there were witnesses and a very strict librarian who probably wouldn’t let them murder each other.
Hale showed up almost half an hour late with the book in his hand and nothing else. Stiles ground his mechanical pencil tip into the paper so hard that the lead kept breaking.
Finally he made himself grind out, “What are you having trouble with then?”
Hale immediately tensed up, torn between embarrassment and anger it looked like.
Stiles rolled his eyes. They weren’t going to get anywhere if Hale didn’t even feel comfortable enough to tell him what he didn’t understand. Stiles huffed, turned in his seat to face the glowering future serial killer at his side and said exasperatedly, “Okay, I don’t know about you, but I really want into this class and I’m betting you want to stay on the team so why don’t you just unclench your jaw and try not to act like a douchebag for the next hour and I’ll do the same.”
To his amazement, Hale did unclench his jaw. He slid the book out from under his forearm and flipped to a dog-eared page—Stiles only cringed a little at seeing that—while Stiles tore out a few sheets of notebook paper and an extra pencil from his bag and pushed it all over to him.
It didn’t go great.
Hale stormed out after Stiles complained he was acting as if he could barely score a zero on a neurological exam.
They hadn’t even lasted fifteen minutes, but Stiles stood by his statement. Hale was being dense on purpose. Convinced he couldn’t get it, he was caught up in some self-fulfilling prophecy that ensured he never would.
Stiles saw him at his locker the next morning and stopped barely a foot away from him. “I’m sorry I called you brain dead,” he said sincerely, pushing his glasses up the bridge of his nose. “When can you meet again?”
Hale snarled and didn’t bother to turn around. “Fuck off.”
“Okay, yeah, but no. I want to take this course and you want to stay on the lacrosse team.” Stiles rocked forward onto his toes and shrugged. “When can you meet up?”
Hale finally turned to face him, expression calculating but not immediately combative. “Thursday, after school.”
Stiles nodded, hitched his bag up higher and left.
So, the first and most important part of the tutoring sessions turned out not to be teaching Hale math—it was convincing him he wasn’t too stupid to be taught math. Math was consistent. Once you understood it, you understood it, and it was all building blocks. Everything you learned was helping you to get to the next level.
Stiles told him all that about a thousand times.
Even so, it took three more study sessions in the library for Stiles to convince Derek that his brain was functional and had room enough for more things to be shoved in. Maybe it would’ve taken less time if Stiles hadn’t immediately confirmed all Derek’s worst fears within minutes of meeting him. Not his best move, that.
After that, well. He wasn’t the worst student ever at least. He was willing to try and didn’t take every failure as a permanent setback anymore and he lit up when he got something right. But in a glowery-person way, where really all that happened was that their lips twitched at the corners and it changed their whole face somehow.
After the second lesson, he grunted, “Call me Derek,” and then looked like Stiles was kicking his puppy every time he didn’t so. Derek.
“Derek, stop being stupid.”
“Don’t call me stupid.”
Count to ten. One breath in. Release. “Okay. Fine. But you just did this so you can do the next step. Transitive property, dude.”
Stiles handed him another pencil after Derek broke his again.
“Okay, it’s not a race either and it’s not a test. You don’t have to try to remember all of it. You can look it up and even just knowing what to look up is an improvement.”
Derek got the next four questions in a row right.
They still didn’t talk in school, only after it, in that nebulous time when high school social structure didn’t really mean anything. During school though, Stiles was still Stiles and Derek was still Derek. So Stiles was nearly shocked stupid when Derek stopped beside his locker the next day and said with strange intensity, “I have practice today.”
“Okay,” Stiles said, not really understanding the significance that had in regards to his life. A glance behind Derek showed that a few of his lacrosse buddies were hanging out a couple of feet away, waiting, and looking a bit spellbound by a human talking to an insect like it could understand them.
“You don’t have to wait around. I can meet you at your house after if you want,” he explained.
Oh. Is that what this was all about? Stiles shrugged, relocking his locker. “It’s cool. I’ll just do my other homework up in the bleachers.” He froze, eyes widening. Except that was what girlfriends of the lacrosse players did and they weren’t even friends. He tried to backtrack as best he could. “Er, unless you don’t want me to hang out?”
Derek mirrored his shrug, expression blasé, as if he couldn’t care less if Stiles waited in the bleachers for him like he was his simpering girlfriend.
Stiles went to the lacrosse practice.
They hadn’t discussed another way of meeting and he didn’t have Derek’s number—Derek didn’t have his either—so he’d sort of roped himself into going. He sat as far up as he could, ignoring the sharp, darting glances Lydia Martin kept throwing his way.
He planned to keep his head down and work on his English assignment.
Except Derek Hale was some kind of superman and no one was addressing it.
“What?” Derek snapped.
Stiles averted his squinty gaze back down to his workbook, muttering, “Nothing.”
“Stop staring then,” Derek growled, not taking his own advice and practically boring a hole into the side of Stiles’ head.
Stiles hunched down further, searching for something to throw Derek off, when he stumbled onto it. He looked up, caught his eyes and said with a grin and a waggle of his eyebrows, “You’re hot.” He shrugged. “I’ll stare if I want to. You should be used to it by now.”
He thought he heard Derek mutter, “Not from you.”
Stiles waited until they were packing up to spring it on him. “You want to study on Thursday?” he asked quickly, almost breathlessly.
Derek shook his head, not looking at him. “I can’t.”
“Based on the law of probability, you’re going to have a pop quiz on Monday,” Stiles pushed. “You should get ready for it now.”
Derek’s upper lip raised and this time he said with a little more growl in the words, “I said I can’t.”
Stiles raised his hands to show he was backing off. He tried to sound somewhat annoyed and resigned. “Fine, why don’t you come over to my house on Saturday if you can and we’ll do it then? My dad’s working a double so we can order pizza even.”
That, Derek agreed to.
Stiles was waiting by the door even before Derek knocked. He threw it wide and stared at him, licking his lips and wondering how much of this was delirium-induced from not sleeping enough the night before in anticipation of this moment.
Apparently he’d been staring without speaking for too long because Derek awkwardly started, “Where should we—”
“Are you a werewolf?” Stiles blurted out.
Derek froze, stiffening from head to toe. It was all the confirmation Stiles needed and Derek seemed to know it. His face contorted and he tried to inject anger and ridicule into the words: “What the fuck are you—”
But Stiles knew. He was sure now. He couldn’t stop grinning. “Oh my God, you are.” He fist pumped. “Stilinski for the win! That was a shot in the fucking dark, dude.” He grabbed Derek’s forearm and tugged him in off the stoop, closing the door behind him. “Show me what it looks like when you go all wolfy.”
Derek shook his head, looking a little shell-shocked. “You’re insane.”
Stiles shrugged, too giddy to give the insult much weight. “Maybe a little,” he admitted, brushing it off. He stared at Derek, at the always-scruff, the bushy eyebrows of anger and manpain, and wondered how much of it was werewolf-y genetics. He licked his lips again. “I’ve never been to a lacrosse game before, the way you move,” he shook his head, “it’s not human. You’re too quick, like everyone else around you is moving in slow motion so you can anticipate everything that comes your way.” His grin widened. “It wasn’t natural. Then you wouldn’t study with me on Thursday and you didn’t show up to school and so I broke into the principal’s office,” he said it casually, waving his hand and mentally adding ‘like you do.’ He was a sheriff’s kid though. Breaking into stuff was kind of old hat. “Turns out you never show up on the full moons, and neither do your sisters. Show me,” he demanded again, bouncing slightly. “This is so fucking epic, man.”
Derek looked uneasy and his gaze kept cutting to the door. “Are you going to tell anyone?” he finally croaked out.
“Seriously?” Stiles asked, disbelief heavy. Derek at least knew of him better than that. “I don’t have any friends, you should know that better than anyone. Jackson practically wets his pants with glee any time he gets to say it.”—Which was as often as he could shove it into conversation—“Besides, no one would believe me anyway. Also, I think the fact that all these people who have been practicing with you for months on end while you do supernatural shit right in front of their faces means they’re more than okay with pretending nothing strange is going on.” He hoped those were enough of a reason because he could totally come up with more. He took a step closer to Derek and insisted, “Come on, I wanna see it.”
Derek gave him one last uncertain look and then he was morphing into this primal thing. His teeth extended down past his lips, his eyes took on this crazy blue shine, then there were side burns and forehead bumps and claws and it was better than Remus Lupin’s werewolf form in the Harry Potter films but not quite as badass a transformation as Hemlock Grove.
Stiles could barely find his breath enough to say, “Holy shit, you’re a werewolf.” He slapped a palm to his forehead, excitement like he’d never felt before wiring him up. “Werewolves are real. You’re the future of human evolution. Super speed, strength, savagery.”
Holy God, if he could only write Richard Dawkins about this shit.
“I’m not savage,” Derek slurred out past his fangs. Focusing on entirely the wrong thing and not really doing much to disprove that point besides.
Stiles ignored him entirely. “What else can you do?” he asked, almost bouncing again. When what this meant struck him and his excitement soured. “Wait a minute, Derek Hale, the co-captain of the Beacon Hills lacrosse team is the future of human evolution. That’s monumentally depressing.” Stiles stumbled, leaning up against his couch’s back. “Fuck, I’m going to have to actually start rooting for Kurzweil’s apocalyptic super intelligent AI in 2045 if this is what I have to look forward to. I knew that lightning strike in Vatican City did not bode well.” He looked back up at Derek, curious despite himself. Genetics was kind of his first love. “Is it a mutation of your genes, a fusion of sensitive and rational souls?”
Derek shook his head, slowly drawing back the werewolf features. “I don’t know how it works, I was born this way.”
Stiles snorted, unimpressed. Right. He was dealing with a meathead. “Of course, gathering information relevant to your own life wouldn’t have crossed your mind.”
“Do you know everything about your genetics?” Derek snarled.
Stiles shrugged, admitting, “Pretty much.”
There was an uneasy silence between them for a few minutes before Derek said, almost accusingly—as though Stiles had done it already, “You’re really not going to tell anyone?”
“I’m really not,” Stiles agreed. The only person he had was his dad and he’d never believe Stiles so it wasn’t even a difficult promise to keep.
Derek looked the same amount of uneasy when Stiles met him the next day after school. Stiles rocked on his feet, pursing his lips and asked in that mature, adult way where it was in no way asking, “Didn’t believe me?”
Derek didn’t answer, just scowled and brought up one shoulder.
Stiles decided not to dwell on Derek Hale’s inability to trust that Stiles wasn’t lying to his face—which Derek had said he couldn’t even get away with anyway—and moved on to the important question. “Whatever. Can I meet your family?”
That seemed to be the last thing Derek had expected. All he managed was a dumb: “Uh.”
“Come on, you said your mom was the Alpha,” Stiles reminded him. “I have a million questions!”
Derek’s family was amazing. His sisters were awesome. And terrifying. His mom and dad were crazy nice and answered every single question Stiles could think of and even gave him a beginner’s book on lycanthropy when they noticed the scientific basis behind nearly all his interrogation. He couldn’t help it. Immune to the common cold and cancer cells but with their own specific werewolf viruses.
It was incredible. Bacteria was actively trying to kill every living thing that set foot on Earth, even things people didn’t know existed.
Not only could werewolves heal disease but they could retroactively heal disease contracted before a human became a werewolf. Stiles felt a pang thinking of his mom. He had gone through a bout of being obsessed with DNA sequencing when he was a kid—thank you, Jurassic Park—and it had been total fluke that he’d noticed the markers in his mom’s sequence that weren’t there in his dad’s. Even detecting it so early though, there was nothing they could do but maintenance.
Stiles had the same marker. It didn’t guarantee he’d get the disease, only that he was predisposed to it.
Hereditary dementia. Hooray.
This werewolf shit was like a goldmine and he could understand why someone might want to sell the secret, to study this immunity to all human ailments, but nothing was worth caging the Hales up like animals. Stiles reiterated that to himself when Cora poked him in the thigh with her fork.
He’d apparently gotten mondo-credit as Derek had told them all that Stiles had guessed werewolf. And on the first try too. They were all suitably impressed.
Stiles ducked his head, embarrassed by the sudden onslaught of praise. People didn’t notice any of the crazy shit scientists were always discovering, the new life forms that came up constantly the deeper below sea level they were able to go, so Stiles wasn’t about to write off anything as too unbelievable.
Werewolves weren’t even half as weird as blobfish.
Stiles ended up staying for dinner. Laura and Cora threatened to eat his liver. Their mom admonished them before answering his question on how she became an Alpha. Derek and his dad set the table and kept to themselves.
They had lamb. Stiles couldn’t stop laughing for a good five minutes. Everyone except Derek—who’d spent nearly the whole night glaring at him—thankfully only found it amusing.
He caught the time just after ten and sobered up. “Shi—Crap,” he corrected, pushing in his chair—dishes long since cleared—and standing up. “I’ve got to go. Thank you so much for letting me—I mean, it’s not every day you get to talk to the next link in the evolutionary chain.” He winked, grinning. “The food was great too. This was all awesome. It was nice to meet all of you.” He nodded to Derek. “Derek, see you tomorrow at school.”
He didn’t quite make a clean break. Derek followed him out onto the porch, huffing while his caterpillar eyebrows did a complicated jig. Stiles flicked through the keys on his keychain impatiently while he waited for Derek to decide what feeling he wanted to express. He went with incredulity. “You’re really not afraid of us?”
Stiles didn’t even know how to answer that, or why that was Derek’s first concern when it should be in fine print on, like, the 217th page. “No, should I be?” he asked slowly, maybe a lot condescendingly. His eyes widened. “Oh man, dude, was the lamb poisoned?”
Derek rolled his eyes but he still seemed tense, ready to do… something. Ready to react. Now that Stiles knew he was a werewolf with sisters who’d clipped pink and yellow barrettes in his gelled hair, his air of ‘menacing’ had really lost any credibility. He didn’t even have the automatic cool points of being a ‘jock’ anymore, because he was cheating at that. Genetically superior and whatnot.
Basically, he was just a freak with a cool family. Kind of exactly like Stiles.
Derek didn’t get that yet. He thought Stiles had something over him when really now they were playing on a level field.
“Okay,” Stiles said more seriously, more patiently. Derek had to understand that Stiles wasn’t going to fuck him over because, in some small way, it would be like fucking himself over. “You really seem surprised by this so. It’s like those SAT prep questions, you know? I know it’s option C) some bad guys are werewolves, but not all werewolves are bad guys.” Derek’s expression was guarded and calculating, still unconvinced, and Stiles ran a hand through his hair, biting the inside of his cheek. “We’ve overlapped since we were in middle school and I’ve never even suspected you might have killed somebody. And there are people in our school that I cannot say the same about.”
Derek gave him a questioning look.
“Greenberg,” Stiles muttered darkly.
Derek clamped down on what looked like a smile and tipped his head like he’d considered it too.
Stiles shrugged. “So, yeah, finding out you’re a werewolf? It doesn’t suddenly make me afraid of a guy who’s never been scary.”
Derek kind of… stared at him. Hard. Stiles waited a half second to see if there’d be some rejoinder. Derek just looked stunned and hairy. Stiles hopped down the steps after offering him a sprightly wave and got into his Jeep.
Stiles was reading Under the Banner of Heaven when a tray knocked into his from across the table. He blinked owlishly. No one ever sat next to him.
Cora had on her regular glum expression—only Derek’s mom seemed to have escaped that particular Hale trait—and was digging her nail into the navel of an orange like it was perfectly normal for her to be there. At Stiles’ lunch table. Eating with him.
Stiles blinked more, looking to his left and right to check this wasn’t some gag everyone in the cafeteria was in on. No one was paying them any attention. Stiles pushed up his glasses, licked his lip. “Oh, uh. You don’t have to sit with me at school. Or acknowledge me at all.” He brought up one shoulder, as though to say he had no hard feelings over either.
Cora glowered. “I know, but it’s not like my stupid brother’s going to do it so.” She looked back over her shoulder and shrugged. “Besides, my friends are nice and all but—they’re not people who last.”
Stiles perked an eyebrow. “And I am?”
Cora gave him a look that was the very definition of ‘withering.’
The more Stiles sat with the idea of being a werewolf, the more obvious it was that the whole thing sucked ass. It dazzled with the super strength and superior genes, but really it was this massively shitty, non-dazzling thing. He tapped his fingers arrhythmically against his abdomen, blinking up at the pale blue ceiling.
Over in the corner of the room, the eraser of Derek’s pencil seemed to be getting just as much of a workout as the lead. Finally he let out a heavy sigh and dragged out an exasperated, “What?”
Stiles shrugged his shoulders. It was made awkward by the fact that Stiles’ whole body was actively trying to sink into Derek’s mattress. “Nothing, just. I don’t know. I’ve been thinking about this whole werewolf thing.” He waved his hand dismissively.
“You’re supposed to be helping me find this limit,” Derek growled. Paused. Sighed. “What about werewolves?” He could pretend like this was all so beneath him but Stiles knew he wanted someone to talk to about it as much as Stiles wanted to talk about it.
“Just. It must suck, you know?” He clambered up onto his elbows, hair probably already mussed and glasses slightly askew. He blinked at Derek with wide eyes. “I mean, do you even know what privacy is? You’ve been looking over at me, like, all day. It’s because you can hear my heartbeat, right?”
Derek looked a little uneasy at admitting as much but he nodded all the same.
Stiles nodded with enough enthusiasm for ten people. “Right! Which is why my heartbeat has been so fast. I mean, I can’t even tell you a white lie without you knowing about it, which makes me anxious, which makes me realize you’ll be able to tell I’m anxious, which makes me more anxious. People need to be able to lie to each other. Like, after my mom died, I can’t imagine if I couldn’t say I was okay and make my dad believe it. No one can even mutter under their breath around here, or sneak food from the fridge, or beat off.” He blushed a little saying as much to Derek but they were teenagers, it only made sense that his mind would go there. He flopped back down, feeling boneless. “You have no time to yourself, and even when you do – you have people who can sniff out what you did with it. You can’t get worked up, get sad, without everyone knowing about it. I can’t even imagine.”
“What do you want to lie to me about?”
Stiles rolled his eyes. Of course that was all Derek would get out of that. “That was just a for instance,” he said, waving it away. He screwed up his face thoughtfully. “I almost thought maybe we could eventually be friends, you know, but yeah. I can’t live like that and I have no idea how you do.”
He really and genuinely didn’t. Being a werewolf was awful and it was one of those things you couldn’t even complain about—not only because no one would believe you but also because it was so inherently awesome people would just think you were being whiny.
Derek didn’t find the limit and didn’t understand Stiles’ explanation for why his answer kept coming up wrong. He threw Stiles out with a snarl and Stiles went happily. They’d clearly been spending too much time with each other again because every little thing was causing them to snap so it was for the best that they took a break.
Stiles wasn’t sure he’d ever seen Derek look as furious as the day he came home to find Stiles in Laura’s bedroom. Forget werewolf and move straight on to dragon. His nostrils flared like he was building up to breathing fire. Stiles scrambled upright just as Derek got out through a clamped jaw, “Why are you here?”
Stiles flailed a little while Laura just looked smugly amused. Not helping. “I figured I could hang out here while you did lacrosse stuff.” Which was, apparently, the worst idea he’d ever had. Not that he understood why. He tried to dredge up some righteous indignation. “What, are you pissed I came over?”
Derek looked like he’d been turned to stone and he jerkily made his way to his own room, tossing his lacrosse bag down at the foot of the bed.
Stiles followed, not entirely sure that was the right thing to do.
Derek whirled on him as soon as he was inside so at least it was what Derek had expected him to do. Derek’s eyes darted to the swoop of Stiles’ hair, the mole by his ear, the toe of his sneaker. He crossed his arms over his chest and glared at the rubber. “What were you talking to Laura about?”
Stiles shrugged. “Carl Jung mostly.” He grinned a conspiratorial grin and said, without raising his voice, “She’s kind of amazing. Stupidly lazy but amazing.”
Something heavy smacked into the wall between them and Derek’s lip twitched. Stiles smiled back, hoping this meant he wasn’t going to be eaten today.
Stiles was surprised by Derek Hale, winner of that night’s lacrosse game—according to Stiles’ dad at least, showing up at his doorstep around eleven at night on a Friday. Stiles gaped at him a little. He was still decked out in his jersey and shorts, though his hair was wet like he’d taken at least a cursory shower. Stiles hung on the door and said as nonchalantly as he was able, “Hey, what are you doing here?”
Derek stared straight into Stiles’ face and asked, “Is your dad home?”
This must be some kind of werewolf thing then. They weren’t friends but Stiles was Derek’s go to guy for lycanthropic issues. It was different talking to your family about that kind of stuff and Stiles was never not interested. “Nope,” he said, popping the ‘p.’
Derek nodded and said bluntly, water dripping onto his shoulders, “There’s an Omega wandering around town and you kind of carry the scent of werewolves so—keep your window locked.”
‘Carry the scent of—’ Only werewolves, man. “Okay.” Stiles snorted to himself, watching with a curious detachment as Derek turned around to leave. He wasn’t sure what compelled him to say, “You want to come in, eat popcorn and watch Quarantine 2?”
Derek carefully turned back, like he was trying to gauge whether or not Stiles had just asked him to hang out. “I haven’t seen the first one,” he said warily.
Stiles tapped his chin thoughtfully. “Hm, that is pretty much a dealbreaker. You definitely need the foundation of the first one to understand what’s going on in the second.” He rolled his eyes. “It’s a B-horror movie on Netflix, dude, there’s really no more to it than that.”
Derek came inside, awkwardly sat down on Stiles’ couch like he was trying to take up as little room as possible and kept his head propped up on his hand so as not to drip. Stiles restarted it. He’d only been about two minutes in. Derek watched it for thirty seconds before his face twisted up judgmentally and he asked, “How did you even find this?”
Stiles ignored him. There was zombie-type stuff happening, this was no time for judgment or talking.
Derek blinked at the screen as the credits rolled, like Stiles had opened his eyes to a brand new world filled with awesome and melodramatic screaming. He was no longer scrunched into his corner on the couch and his feet were kicked up on the coffee table, head dropped back against the cushion behind him.
He looked like he was rallying himself to stand.
Stiles spoke around the last handful of popcorn in his mouth. He crunched down particularly hard on the unpopped kernels. He pointed to the TV. “This is the closest thing I have to a religion right here. I just do whatever Netflix tells me to do. Now it’s telling me to watch Truth or Die and it’s never wrong.”
“I have to go,” Derek said, almost regretful.
Stiles shrugged, picking up the controller so he could start Truth or Die. “So go.”
Derek didn’t move. He sunk further into the cushions and said, “This looks ridiculous.”
Stiles nodded. “And there’s a 100% chance it’s going to be.”
“They’re British,” Derek said happily.
Stiles slapped the empty plastic bowl into Derek’s chest and said, “Make us some more popcorn, okay?” He had faith that Derek could sniff out the unpopped bags and figure out how to work the microwave. Super senses and simple math skills – Derek had them both in spades.
He wasn’t wrong. Derek came back with a perfectly popped bowl of popcorn and they both enjoyed the British horror movie genre.
It was three in the morning when they switched over to back to back episodes of Futurama. When they got to the episode about Bender’s most frequently said word being ‘ass,’ Derek snorted and said, “Yours would be douchebag.”
Stiles had only been half-paying attention. He’d mostly been asking werewolf questions – like wondering if fat ones existed. “What?” he asked, confused.
“Your number one most said word. You call everyone a douchebag. Or maybe douchenozzle.”
Stiles did have clear memory of calling Derek both and they barely even interacted. He frowned, vowing, “I shall endeavor to insult people more creatively.”
Derek nodded stoutly, head dropped down against his own chest. “You should, dork.”
Stiles pulled a face. “I think we both should, sharkfarts.”
Derek laughed so hard he fell off the couch.
Stiles’ dad found him still there on the floor when he got in around seven, Stiles stretched out with his face mashed into the couch. Despite the mess they’d made and the clear lack of anything productive happening, his dad had the softest of expressions looking at them. He hadn’t walked in on anything similar since Stiles had been best friends with Scott McCall before he’d moved to Chicago.
And Stiles realized he had just inadvertently put Derek in the position of ‘best friend.’ He definitely was not that.
Stiles was drained dry. He couldn’t come up with another example of how this could possibly work and he didn’t understand why Derek was being so purposefully—because it had to be purposeful—dense about this. “I’m not explaining this to you again,” he groaned, lifting his head off his math book, the page sticking to his cheek.
Derek shrugged his shoulders, scowling down at the pencil he had between his hands. “Good. You're a terrible teacher anyway.”
Great. He’d totally hurt Derek's feelings now. But he was so impossibly frustrating. “You’re stupidly deadset against getting this.” Because he was. He was the reason he wasn't getting this and nothing else.
His mouth got tighter and he bit out, “Sure. Fine.”
Stiles sighed, dragged himself closer to Derek, pulled the text book in between them, his scratch paper in front of it and determined, "You’re not an idiot and you’re going to pass this exam. Now shut up and listen to me.”
Derek’s lips twitched up and Stiles counted that as the greatest of wins.
The weirdest thing was discovering that he wasn’t exactly alone in the ‘having no friends’ department. Derek just hid it a lot better because he was popular and always surrounded by people in school, yet Stiles only ever saw him hang out with—or even heard of him hanging out with—his sisters.
And they only ever did math and talked werewolf stuff and Stiles didn’t care about lacrosse and Derek didn’t care about science and so they weren’t friends. Which was fine. Stiles didn’t need any friends. He’d been fine without them for half a decade so he could soldier on.
Coach Finstock got more obsessive the closer the lacrosse team got to regionals and Derek had gotten an 87 on his last homework grade so, at least for the time being, they decided to put a moratorium on the tutoring. Which meant Stiles was back to having nothing to do after school. He didn’t want his dad to look at him with the sad, judgmental eyes of someone who just didn’t understand loserdom so he went back to hanging out at the library until they actually kicked him out.
Miriam let him stay longer than was strictly allowed and he vaguely listened to the rhythmic sounds of her re-shelving books while he read the most recent X-Men comic book. He waved to her after she locked the library doors and hitched his bag up higher.
The school was dark, not something Stiles was unfamiliar with, and the student parking lot was on the other side of the campus. The hair on the back of his neck prickled and that was all the warning he got before his head was slamming into the wall of lockers.
He managed to get a bleary-eyed look of his attacker, bright blue eyes and hairy, before he lost consciousnees
When he came to, he was still sprawled against the lockers and his head was throbbing but the werewolf was nowhere in sight. He reached up gingerly only to find his glasses were missing and his fingers had come away bloody. Shit.
Stiles jerked his head up, which was all kinds of mistake because his head was not ready for the fast stuff. He groaned and squinted at the blur at the end of the hall. It got closer, holding out something in its hand.
They were crooked now and he messed with the frames until they sat somewhat level on the bridge of his nose and blinked hard at Derek. His head was fuzzy and he fumbled into a shaky grin. “That was the Omega?”
“It didn’t introduce itself?” Derek asked, sarcasm kind of… expert. His jaw was tight and he looked pissed. He reached back behind Stiles’ head gently, cupping his neck. It was oddly intimate.
Stiles opened his mouth. Closed it. Because he was dying. It hadn’t seemed that bad but he couldn’t even feel the pain anymore. That was textbook shock. He was going to have his last moments with Derek Hale. He’d better fucking ace Calculus in honor of Stiles’ memory. Only glancing to the side, gearing up for his big speech about his dad and how cool he was and how no one would ever know it, he saw Derek’s forearm.
His veins were black. His face scrunched up as though he was in pain.
Stiles’ jaw dropped. “You can transfer pain? What’s the evolutionary advantage of that?” Derek snorted but Stiles wasn’t done. He was thinking more and more clearly the longer Derek held on. “That’s like spitting in Charles Darwin’s face, letting the weaker of the species survive past stages they might not have otherwise.”
Derek raised both eyebrows, looking down at him.
Stiles rolled his eyes. “And, yes, I realize I just lumped myself in among those ‘weaker of the species’ folks but considering I now know it’s in comparison to werewolves, I’m kind of all right with it.”
Derek smirked. “As long as you realize.” He helped Stiles to stand and took him to the hospital in his black penis car and put his number in Stiles’ phone and told him to text him the next morning so Derek would know he’d woken up so Laura and Cora and his mom and dad wouldn’t worry and they were totally friends.
Stiles couldn’t stop grinning and the tips of Derek’s ears were red and they were friends.
Stiles texted him in the morning:
Still alive. And so much better at math than you.
Derek texted him back right away:
Then a few hours later, while Stiles was eating ice cream on his couch in his pajamas, he texted again:
That Omega won’t be bothering you anymore. My mom took care of it.
Stiles shivered, reading a lot of nefarious things in that 'took care of it.’ Still, all he texted back was:
And he meant it.
Stiles decided to test it. He was pretty sure the friends thing hadn’t been conditional on him having a head wound but no hypothesis was worth its salt if it couldn’t be tested and retested. He walked up to Derek after lacrosse, not even bothering to wait for all the other meatheads to disperse, and opened his mouth.
Lydia Martin cut him off with feigned enthusiasm and a seductive smile. She held onto his arm. “Stiles, so nice to see you coming around again. I thought maybe you could sit with me in the stands today.”
Stiles awkwardly cleared his throat, not really sure what was going on but certain he didn’t want to be any part of it. “Um, no thanks? I’m not staying.” He shook her off and looked up at Derek, who was smirking almost meanly at her. “Derek,” he whipped around to face Stiles, smirk sliding away and perking up, “can you go now or should I meet you at your place?”
Derek had said early on that he didn’t have to be at every lacrosse practice after all.
Derek smiled widely, grabbing his backpack and slinging it over his shoulder. “No, I can go,” he said, almost happily.
Stiles met Derek out by the lacrosse stands after practice was over on Tuesday and held out his hand impatiently the second he was within range.
Derek just snorted, reached down in his backpack and grabbed the only loose sheet of paper available. He thrust it out at Stiles, biting down on a grin.
Right there in big, red letters on the front was a circled: 91 and the words Great improvement!
Stiles let out a whoop and launched himself at Derek, looping his arms around his neck. He didn’t even have a chance to feel weird about it before Derek responded with a bright laugh and caught him, locking his own arms around Stiles’ waist, lifting him up and squeezing. And, yeah, this totally deserved this level of celebration or higher.
Cora was in the middle of telling Stiles a story about how Laura used to pretend to be the Alpha of her and Derek and would paint her eyelids red with their mom’s lipstick and run around the house with her eyes closed, half-shifted and growling, when Stiles laughed so hard his arm flailed out and smacked someone in the shoulder.
Danny looked a bit stunned, death grip on his tray.
An embarrassed flush spread over Stiles’ already red face. “Er, sorry about that,” he muttered while Cora laughed her face off. The jerkhead. Okay, he needed douchebag. It was all he had. Fuck what he’d promised Derek, he simply wasn’t that creative.
Danny smiled at him. “It’s okay,” he said, because he was Danny and he was nice and somehow still alive. He gave Stiles a rather blatant once over and his smile kicked out into a welcoming sort of grin. “Looking good, Stilinski,” he said, all dimply, before moving on to his table.
Stiles wanted to die. He didn’t get hit on. By anyone. Ever. Certainly not superfluously handsome lacrosse players who were built like houses. At least it had had the decency to happen directly in front of his sort-of-friend Cora, who would be sure to never let him live this down.
When he looked up at her with heated cheeks, Cora had an unambiguously evil look on her face but she was staring at something over Stiles’ shoulder.
He started to turn when Cora stopped him. Stiles narrowed his eyes at her and said suspiciously, “What?”
“Nothing,” she said, but she was practically giggling.
Stiles showed up late to his wheel class, the one that rotated to a different course every few weeks. It was Philosophy this week and it was the only class he and Derek shared because there was no year distinction.
“Mr. Stilinski,” the teacher said sternly when he strolled in seven minutes behind the bell and without anything to hand in. He’d been over at Derek’s until late because his mom had finally agreed to shift into a full wolf in front of him.
It. Was. Awesome.
Stiles hadn’t quite learned the dude’s name yet. He grinned and spouted off, “I was embracing the Dionysian aspect of self and chose to wander about collapsing wavefunctions willy-nilly. I’ll endeavor to be more Apollonian when it comes to tonight’s assignment.”
The man just gave him a bug-eyed look and Stiles’ face fell when he realized the last desk available was right next to Jackson. At least Derek was sitting behind him so there was a friendly face close by. Jackson immediately leaned over with a sneer. “It’s true what they say, Stilinski,” he hissed. “You’re a fucking robot.”
Stiles was unimpressed to say the least. He pulled his book out of his bag and waited to respond until teacher-dude was writing up on the board. “It doesn’t surprise me that you’d be a materialist, Jackson,” he said back snottily.
Derek leaned in too and said, with barely a glance at Jackson, “Thinking would be reduced to an unreality in his worldview.”
Stiles gaped at him and Derek leaned back, smugly self-assured. That had clearly just been for Stiles’ benefit. It was what he and Laura were always talking about and Derek had learned enough about it to be able to contribute.
To be able to intelligently contribute.
But Laura had been studying this stuff for ages. Stiles was the one who’d recently gotten involved in it and only now did Derek show an interest.
He cornered Derek as soon as class was over, right outside the door, and practically accused, “You understood what I said.”
Derek shrugged, trying for nonchalant but clearly ridiculously pleased with himself.
Stiles couldn’t stop grinning. “You’re becoming a huge brain just so you can understand the stupidly intelligent shit I say. I don’t think I’ve ever come so close to climaxing without physical stimulation before.” He blushed, his mouth taking that a lot further than his brain had intended to go.
Derek pinked all over, the apples of his cheeks, the tops of his ears and the tip of his nose and, by the hammer of Thor, Derek wasn’t just riding the friends train, he was taking this thing all the way to penetration station if he could. Holy. Balls.
He was into Stiles. Stiles. Puny, human, dweebtastic, sports-fail Stiles. And he was smart and willing to try to share Stiles’ interests and he was good to his family and he laughed at Stiles’ jokes and—whoakay then.
Stiles rolled the words around in his mouth, trying to find the ones he wanted to say. “Maybe I wrote off the 'us being friends’ thing too early. I mean, yeah, you can hear every flutter of my heartbeat but I’ve never seen someone so obvious about literally everything they’re feeling.” Derek looked thrilled. Like, really obviously thrilled and had he always been that much of an open book? Stiles’ lips tugged up into a half-smile. “Okay, so, no, I was right, not friends.” Derek’s face barely even had time to fall before Stiles was saying, “You wanna try making out sometime?”
He squeaked as Derek moved into his space, expression soft and wanting.
Stiles tried to shove him away because they were in a public hallway and this was high school and Jackson was right there. “I didn’t mean now!” he hissed, panicked.
Derek just grinned, this blindingly happy thing, leaned in and said against his lips, “Shut up, Stiles.”
And Stiles had to, because there were happy fireworks exploding in his brain and a really, really skilled tongue in his mouth and it was hard to talk around either of those things.