The Supernatural Tuesdays are a five-piece indie band, who are a little folk and a little rock. They're born in Beacon Hills, California, in Scott's basement when he learns to play three chords on his bass and Stiles starts to recognize a rhythm he can follow on the bare bones drum set he's been piecing together since he was twelve. They expand and flourish through word of mouth – until Jackson hears that they have a band and insists that they hear him play guitar, and, okay, he's got some talent. Danny follows shortly thereafter, because Jackson forces them to listen to his rendition of Stairway to Heaven on the keyboard – and he's got more talent in his hands than any of them have combined.
Stiles writes music, writes chords, writes lyrics, and he can bang on a drum until his arms fall off, but he can't sing. Scott is okay as back up, but you wouldn't want him headlining. Jackson is their go-to for the moment, because Danny refuses to even so much as hum a few bars, and he's not bad – they've certainly heard worse – but he's not going to take them anywhere. Which is how they find Allison, because she posts on the school's bulletin board looking for a band , and they call her in because they've got nothing to lose.
She opens her mouth and it's magic – hands down. She's got a set of lungs on her that they have no comparison for, and she hits notes like they're in batting practice, and she's not just great – she's amazing. Jackson steps down, because some part of him can admit when he's been beat, and Allison joins their band. Scott falls in love, but Stiles expects nothing less from him.
Individually they're talented, but aimless – as a band they're going to go places, they're going to be something. It's difficult in the beginning, because they're nobodies, but when you're nobody it makes it easier to keep in mind that you're doing it because you love it. There is no money, no fame, no groupies; you're staying up late practicing, playing shows in shit venues, because this is all you want in life.
Stiles is not the best drummer in the world, and his band is not going to light the world on fire, but they put their hearts into it and there's nothing else he'd rather be doing. So even if he spends countless nights scratching chords onto paper, writing and rewriting and rewriting and rewriting lyrics, and even if he spends sleepless nights working out rhythms and beats, it's worth it.
They're still nobodies when Laura Hale hears them, when she asks them to open for her band at their show in Lincoln, Nebraska. Which is a little terrifying and extremely exciting and it's the first real gig they book. It's also the first time that Stiles meets Derek.
The venue is tiny, and in Lincoln fucking Nebraska, and they almost don't make it because their van breaks down halfway and because Jackson throws a hissy fit sometime after Nevada. They do make it though, and they do play their three song set list, and they could be better. Allison forgets a chorus during Sticks and Stiles flubs over a beat he's supposed to know by heart – but they give it their all and that's all that matters so early in the game.
Stiles is backstage, just finishing pulling his entire drum-kit and the rest of his band's shit off of the near-dark stage, and he's exhausted and also still brimming with adrenaline and is more than a little excited. Being the first act on is rough, is sometimes impossible, because no one is willing to listen to a nobody and you've got the job of warming up a crowd that isn't interested in anything you have to show them. Sometimes it blows up, sometimes you get booed so loud you lose track of the rhythm, and sometimes you get a group of 200 emo kids in Lincoln, Nebraska who are so wired on Red Bull and second-hand pot that they'll rock out to anything.
Laura Hale is the lead singer of Ill Met By Moonlight , and she is their guardian angel – as well as gorgeous and totally, completely out of his league. She's going on in like ten minutes, but she still finds time to stop by, clap Stiles on the shoulder, and shoot him a beautiful smile. “You were great! I'm so glad you guys agreed to come out.”
His tongue gets lost somewhere in his mouth, with his dignity, and he manages a sort of lopsided smile and definitely, absolutely does not blush to the tips of his ears. She gives him another pretty smile and walks off past him, and he for certain does not watch the way her hips move in her mini skirt as she crosses the room to the stage. This would be the moment, if he were a normal, sane young man, in which he would promptly fall head over heels for her; because she's essentially perfect. She's beautiful and talented, humble even when she knows she's the best, and even if she's out of his league she's already given him more attention than the entire female population of his high school. If he were anyone else he'd do the smart thing and harbor a crush on her, at a safe distance, but it doesn't pan out like that.
Because when he blinks back to reality - the one where girls don't care about him at all and he's in fucking Nebraska – is when he turns to check how much space they have in the van and he runs smack into a wall. Which it turns out isn't a wall at all – it's a guy, a guy who is half-glaring and half-something else at Stiles, probably because he ran into him. Stiles is no stranger to careening into other people – it's sort of a fact of life at this point – but this guy is glaring like Stiles has just spit on his combat boots and it's a little severe for a harmless mistake.
The guy is tall, with dark hair and darker eyeliner. He's got tattoos where his t-shirt sleeves should be, branching down his arms in faded color and black ink, and he's wearing straight-leg black jeans in a sea of skinny jeans. He's a stark contrast to Stiles' plaid shirts and blue jeans with holes in the knees – but, hell, Stiles is a drummer not a fucking fashion model and he refuses to be intimidated by some guy who wears makeup .
“Watch where you're going,” the guy tells him, and his voice is irritated, borderline angry, and it all makes sense when he continues with, “instead of watching my sister.”
Which makes the blue, electric guitar in his hand make a lot more sense, because he's obviously the lead guitarist for Ill Met By Moonlight . Which also makes him Laura's Hale's brother – her notoriously overprotective and maybe slightly psychotic brother, who may or may not have once spent a night in jail after beating up a grabby fan backstage at one of their shows (not that he was there, but Stiles hears things).
Then the guy – Derek Hale – brushes past him, enough that his shoulder knocks unpleasantly into Stiles', and heads on stage with the rest of his band.
And that's how they meet.
Bonnaroo is not Coachella, it's not Warped tour or anything that's going to get them a record deal, but it's huge. It's also in Tennessee – which is not exactly a hop, skip and a jump away – and it means convincing their parents to let them take a cross-country trip, in lieu of a summer job, to pursue what is essentially a pipe dream. All of this is minor stuff – because when two band drop out of the line-up, they get invited to play a four song set-list and it feels a little like winning the musical lottery. It could have been in fucking Australia and Scott would have probably at least tried to convert Allison's car into a workable submarine.
It's the single most important thing that has happened to them as a band, the single most important show they'll play to date. It could mean everything for their career, and it's also what causes everything to go downhill.
It's half past eight. Half past eight on a Tuesday, two weeks on the dot from when they're scheduled to play at the festival, when Jackson kicks an amp over and storms off of the stage in the gymnasium. The amp is fine – it's survived six years of abuse, but brittle friendships and even more fragile egos take another very direct hit.
“What the hell!” Scott yells, pulling his bass over his head and gesturing at the scene with his free hand. “What the hell, Jackson?”
Stiles glances up at the rafters, which he's gotten used to staring at every time their practice is interrupted, and tries not to feel disappointed again. He glances over at Allison for a second, because he knows she's giving him a confused and helpless look, and he shrugs at her, as if to say, 'what can you do?'
It's actually the third practice this week that Jackson has ended completely, the sixth that he's fowled up in some way, and at this point Stiles is just counting the beats until it happens. There's tension between Jackson and Scott that isn't getting any better by ignoring it – certainly isn't getting any better the longer they let Jackson have all these tantrums.
It had to come to a head eventually, because they're quickly approaching their biggest show and Jackson isn't going to sit by and let all his dreams of glory go unrealized. So when he gets to the edge of the stage, he turns back around and says, without so much as a glance at Allison, “I want to do lead vocals on Leave .”
Allison recoils a little, because she's their lead vocals, but she doesn't say anything. She purses her lips and waits, because she knows better than to get into this sort of shit with Jackson – because it's not worth it.
Scott gapes at him for a minute, a little like a fish, and says, “Dude, what the fuck?”
“You heard me,” Jackson says, and he repeats, “I want to do lead vocals on Leave. I think it sounds a lot better when I do it and I want to sing on at least one song.”
“Our single,” Scott clarifies, stepping out into the middle of the stage. “You want to do vocals on our single. The only song anyone knows us for. That one.”
“Yes,” and Jackson glances over at the keyboards, where Danny is trying and failing miserably to choke himself with his headphones, and, when he receives no support from his best friend, he turns back to Scott and gives him a steely glare. “Yes, that one.”
“We're not changing the vocals on our only single two weeks before our show,” Scott tells him, eyes a little wide in complete disbelief, and then, a little blunter, “and it doesn't sound better when you sing it.”
Stiles notices the tiny smile that quirks at Allison's lips, just the faintest hint, and, unfortunately, so does Jackson.
“And again you put your sex life ahead of the band,” he says, glancing between Allison and Scott a little too dramatically. “How typical. I say we put it to a vote.”
“Okay,” Scott says, expression unchanging.
It doesn't pass.
“I'm out,” Jackson says, when Scott calls him and asks him why he's not at practice. “Find a new lead guitarist. Find a new keyboardist while you're at it, because Danny's coming with me.”
Actually, Danny ends up staying.
Auditions are sort of haphazardly thrown together at the last minute and consist mostly of people they went to high school with (or are still going to high school with, in some of their cases) and a few who they know purely by word of mouth. The auditions are held in the gymnasium they practice in, which is part of the rec hall that no one uses, and they are sort of awe-inspiringly awful.
“I'm pretty sure she's playing a ukelele,” Stiles mumbles to Scott, who is slapping himself in the face with a clipboard.
“He's not that bad,” Scott says, in the voice of someone who is deep in denial.
Danny sends him a withering look and his mouth snaps shut.
“She's hired,” Stiles declares, sitting up in his chair.
“She hasn't even played yet,” Allison deadpans.
“I'm sure she's fantastic.”
When things get really desperate, Scott pulls Stiles aside and says, in a way that is surely serious but can't actually be serious, “I need you to rewrite all the songs and take out the guitar.”
“You've lost your mind,” Stiles says, placing a hand on his shoulder. “It's okay. They have meds you can take that'll fix you right up.”
When things get really, really desperate Scott calls Jackson and leaves him a grudgingly apologetic voice mail asking him to come back.
The auditions don't work out.
Stiles doesn't rewrite the songs.
Jackson doesn't come back.
They drive out to Manchester, Tennessee without a guitarist.
Scott is absolutely inconsolable – he's sitting slumped in the passenger seat looking like he's awaiting execution, a notebook full of chords and tabs in Stiles' messy handwriting open in his lap. Allison keeps shooting him worried glances from the driver's seat, but she doesn't say anything.
Danny frowns at his phone, where Stiles is pretty sure he's texting their ex-guitarist, but doesn't offer any insight.
Stiles lets his head fall against the window of Allison's car and stares at out the endless line of trees along the road.
It turns out that Danny is actually texting Laura Hale, who is playing on two separate days over the weekend, and it also turns out that she and Ill Met By Moonlight are more than sympathetic towards their musical plight. They're actually obscenely sympathetic – which turns out to be because Danny had played with them a long time ago, when their keyboardist had up and pulled the same stunt as Jackson – and Laura jumps at the chance to help them out.
“They're punk rock,” Scott says, clawing at his own face. “How is that possibly going to translate to our sound? Is this guitarist some sort of magical being? How is someone going to learn our songs two days before our set?”
They're scheduled to meet with a group of other bands, for pizza and air hockey and companionable dicking around, and she's the first one to meet them when they step in the door of the sports bar. It's funny because the moment Stiles sees her he's reminded of the first time they met – especially considering she is dragging her social train wreck of a brother along with her. He's wearing a Black Sabbath t-shirt and glowering with the same enthusiasm most people use to smile, and Stiles realizes that he's their solution.
They have for-reals introductions this time – which Stiles doesn't flub over awkwardly at all or anything – and Laura is smiling sweetly at him, while her brother glares at him over her shoulder, and they're all playing at Bonnaroo in two days and the whole night is very surreal.
“Derek would be more than happy to play your set with you,” she says, nudging him roughly with her elbow – although it does nothing to the glare pasted onto his face. “You'll have to provide an acoustic if you need it, but he can play anything.”
“Oh my god, you are a lifesaver,” Scott manages, and he makes this really embarrassing, almost hysterical sound of relief that sounds like he's choking on a laugh – and just like that things fall back into place. They have their scheduled pizza and air hockey, coupled up with some truly disastrous rounds of darts, and Derek says maybe two words the entire time and none of them are at all directed towards Stiles – which is fine. Passive aggressive behavior is totally a good basis for a working relationship.
“Do you think this is going to work out?” Stiles asks Danny that night, while they unload their backpacks into a tiny motel room they're all sharing – because, hello, budget. “I mean, do you think Derek is going to work out?”
“I don't know,” Danny replies, with a shrug. “At least he's hot.”
Derek shows up to their first practice, at six the next morning, on time and with his own equipment.
The practice is insane.
The adrenaline pumping through Stiles' veins is not completely foreign, but the intensity of it, the persistence of it, is. It feels like his whole body is tingling with electricity, like a wire tightly coiled that needs to be let loose. He feels like he could run a marathon – like he absolutely has to go run a marathon right now or, or he'll catapult himself into someone's pool or try to climb the walls, or something. He realizes that this is probably why people destroy their guitars on stage.
The practice isn't just amazing – it's mind blowing . It is the single best practice they've ever had; it's the best they've sounded in a really, really long time. They finish a whole song without anyone stopping to bitch that their part is too minor, or without finding out someone forgot to tune their instrument, and no one forgets a rift and no one forgets any lyrics and it is fucking spot on. It makes him want to conquer the world – or, at least, blow their set-list out of the water – and he feels so intensely happy that he doesn't even know what to do with it all.
He sort of wants to hold onto that feeling, to bottle it up and keep it forever, and he can tell by the look on Scott's face – flabbergasted – that he feels the same.
“Holy fucking shit,” Scott breathes, looking like all his Christmases have deigned to come visit him at once on a warm August day. “We are going to be so awesome.”
Derek rolls his eyes, like it's a chore for him to put up with them for the entirety of the practice, but there's a telling twist at the edge of his mouth that might, someday, be something close to a smirk.
Despite being sort of terrifying, Derek is obscenely good. What's more is that, when he shows up on day one, he knows their fucking songs . Which could mean that he's some sort of guitarist god who can play all songs ever, or even that maybe he picks things up super fast and only needs to hear a song once to have it down, but there's also a third option, one that makes Stiles stupidly, inexplicably excited – which is that Derek knows their songs because he listens to their music. Derek knows their songs because he's a fan of their music – because he's a fan of the songs that Stiles has written.
He is also, without a doubt, better than Jackson. He practices with them for half a day, falls into their songs like they're his own, and he doesn't miss notes or forget the set list and he doesn't try to play more than his share. He plays their entire set over and over, and when three o'clock finally rolls around his plan is somehow to practice the rest of the day with his own band.
Maybe it's the years of experience he has on them, but Stiles is almost convinced that Derek is part machine. It's kind of the only way to explain what he's undertaking – really the only way to explain the insanity of playing for two bands, back to back, in front of thousands of people. Because Stiles knows their songs – because he wrote their songs – and he doesn't think there's room in his brain for chords and notes and lyrics that he didn't spend weeks scratching onto scraps of paper.
At the end of their practices Stiles' hands feel numb, his back aches, and his drumsticks feel obscenely heavy, but he also feels fucking fantastic and there's some sort of strange sense of accomplishment in him that he doesn't know how he went so long without it. There had been no sense of camaraderie with Jackson, no real energy to pull from, and it takes a little while to get used to the fact that, at least on stage, Derek is brimming with it. He moves around on stage like they really are in front of thousands of people, like he can hear the screaming and moshing in his ears, bouncing off the balls of his feet. The energy is infectious and it spreads and the first time Allison joins in, jumping around on stage with them, Stiles knows this is going to be the best show of their lives.
It's also the moment when he notices Derek – like really notices him – because he is almost a different person once he has a guitar in his hand and he's on stage. He comes alive, like whatever he holds back during the rest of the day can finally come out, and it's impossible not to watch it.
When their practice is over, Stiles sits on the floor in the warehouse they're practicing in and watches Ill Met By Moonlight set up for their own practice. It's then that he actually realizes he's watching Derek, or noticing him, or whatever. It's weird, because the band, with the sole exception of Derek, is entirely female and they're all freaking gorgeous in their own rights. So it's strange that he's watching the single guy in the band when there's plenty of hot chicks in skirts and skin-tight jeans bending and hooking up gear.
Despite the rest of the band being girls, Derek fits in and looks like he belongs there. They're punk rock – all tattoos and combat boots and too much eyeliner – and they're practically brimming with barely contained energy that comes from screaming into a mic and bouncing around on stage for an hour. They're impossible to watch standing still – put motion into Stiles when he watches them practice, when he watches them on the edge of the stage, and he likes the contrast.
Because The Supernatural Tuesdays are not punk rock – are indie rock and a little folksy and more plaid and blue jeans than anything else. They're younger and newer and they're still working out their sound, their feel, their future. Stiles isn't old enough to get tattoos – and his dad would probably have a heart attack regardless – and he doesn't really want to squeeze into girl jeans, or leather pants, and he can't imagine wearing makeup while he's sweating behind a drum set.
He realizes, a little belatedly, that Derek has looked up from tuning his guitar, and that he's watching Stiles watch him. There's a little bit of a staring match, because Stiles doesn't want to seem like some sort of creep who just stares at people until they notice and then looks away – but he does end up looking away, back to the notebook in his lap full of scratched tabs and lyrics.
Stiles gets a text message from Jackson that night, which says: I want back in.
He texts back: sorry, no room.
There's a house party that a group of them (although it feels a little like, after sixty people, they should probably be calling themselves a mob instead of a group) converge upon at something like ten the night before the show. It belongs to somebody's cousin, who isn't in a band but knows people, and it's sort of ridiculously large to still be considered a 'house', with acres of land surrounding it, but it's probably easier to afford it in Tennessee. It's far enough away from anything else that they don't have to reign in their noise, or their partying, and there's enough people and enough booze that there's a fairly good chance no one is going to remember it the next morning anyway.
Stiles is too young to drink, but there's no one here carding people and his dad is two thousand miles away, so he gets a Jack and Coke and tries to blend in. He's leaning up against a wall, nursing his soda, and trying to pick out the few people he knows in the room. Most of them he doesn't know – they're all from some band or another, all playing tomorrow, and most of them are wearing girl jeans and obscure band tees, and this is probably his life now. He's on the road, among other people who are doing this for the same reason he is, and he's not a nobody – he's some guy, in some band, and it's better than nothing.
His bandmates are somewhere nearby – although he thinks that he saw Allison and Scott making out on the porch, and Danny has been trying to get laid all weekend – but he doesn't feel particularly alone until he turns and there's some guy smiling brightly at him. There's bangs in his eyes, black polish on his fingers, and his smile is friendly and flirtatious, and Stiles has never seen him before in his life.
“You're a drummer, right?,” he asks, and he's close enough that his elbow is touching Stiles', and he's close enough that his breath smells like cranberries, and he's close enough that it's too close. “I can tell. I totally have a thing for drummers.”
“Oh, yeah, uh,” Stiles thinks he's probably turning red, but it's probably just because it's June and there's no air conditioning in this house, or something. “Yeah, that's me, the drummer. Super awesome drummer.”
The guy laughs, but doesn't seem deterred by Stiles talking – which people usually are, so he's pretty much out of ideas now. He's just some kid from Beacon Hills, out in the middle of nowhere, and he's pretty sure Allison would know how to politely get rid of guys hitting on her, but he's not Allison. He's asked Danny like fourteen times if he's attractive to gay guys, but Danny always refuses to answer, always gives him a withering look, and so Stiles blames this partially on him too.
Honestly, it's not like he's freaked out, and he's not exactly opposed to being hit on by guys – or at least some guys – but there's something about this kid that creeps him out, which puts him off, and he doesn't know what to do and there's nowhere to edge away to. Which is maybe why he doesn't vocally object when Derek is suddenly there. He slides an arm around Stiles' shoulder, in a manner that might, possibly, appear a little possessive to any onlookers. His arm is a little cool, like he's been standing out in the night air, and he smells like second-hand smoke.
His nose brushes against Stiles' ear and he says, voice low enough to not be overheard amidst the music and laughter around them, “Laugh like I just said something funny if you need saving.”
Stiles wants to point out that the likelihood of Derek making a joke is not that great, especially one that Stiles would laugh at, but there's a pretty good chance that creepy drummer-fetish guy doesn't know Derek or his severely shriveled sense of humor. He does laugh, although it comes out a little like a cough because he's surprised and maybe even kind of amused at the weirdness that is his life, but it's close enough to count. He laughs because the alternative is that Derek is going to leave and he's going to have to deal with this dude all on his own.
What's really funny is that, for some strange reason, he expects Derek to kiss him. They're close enough that he feels Derek's breath against his cheek, feels each imprint of his fingers against his shoulder, is hyper-aware of the fact that the buckle on Derek's belt is pressing against his hip-
What does happen is that Derek turns to glower at the kid – and his body tenses, on command, to give the impression that he's just noticed the guy in his space – and he growls, irritated, “What the fuck do you want?”
The guy holds his hands up, like a surrender, and his mouth opens once, twice, like he's trying to decide what to say. He takes a step back, then another, and then he's turning on his heel and leaving. It only works at all because Derek is fucking terrifying when he wants to be, but Stiles is learning that there are two sides to Derek and if you're on the good one then you've got nothing to worry about.
When the guy vacates their space, it means that so does Derek. He steps away, his arm sliding away, and he liberates Stiles' Jack and Coke as he steps back.
“You're too young to drink,” Derek tells him, when Stiles gestures at his theft with incredulous jazz hands.
“I'm too young to drink, but I'm totally old enough for you to pretend to like me, is that it?” Stiles says, and he wrinkles his nose as Derek downs the entire drink in a single go. “Jesus, breathe, man. I'm not going to like, fight you for it or anything.”
It's probably because he's not expecting it, and the moment's not really right, but he's unprepared for when Derek leans back in and, without any real reason or excuse to do so, kisses him. Which wouldn't be such a big deal, except that it's Derek – except that it's a guy he barely knows – except that it's the first time anyone has kissed him (and he'll go to his grave denying that, but there it is regardless).
It's far too harmless to be real. It's quick, and easy, and it's over in seconds, and Derek's breath tastes like whiskey. There's no heat and no passion and no romance – it's harmless, like a joke. Stiles feels himself turn red, to the tips of his ears and down his neck, and if Derek notices when he pulls away then he doesn't say anything about it.
He puts the empty plastic cup back into Stiles' hand, like nothing had happened, and he says, “I don't pretend to like anyone.”
“What are you doing in the basement?” Scott asks, thirty minutes later, when he finally tracks Stiles down among someone else's dusty lawn chairs and boxes of winter clothes.
“I'm try to discreetly have a sexual identity crisis, so if you don't mind, then go back to making out with your perfect girlfriend who has breasts and a vagina and all sorts of other things I apparently am not interested in anymore,” Stiles manages, and he glares at the childproof cap on his bottle of Adderall and, in that moment, hates everyone. “I think my life is over. My life is definitely over. Socially, mentally, sexually – not that it ever really started- and why me? And why right now? What have I done to deserve this?”
“You look like you need some space,” Scott agrees, and bails.
They leave sometime after midnight, piled into a van they'd shared with a group of girls on the way there. Stiles sits in the back, squashed next to Danny, and waits, and waits, and waits.
“So,” Danny says, because he obviously has no restraint whatsoever.
“No,” Stiles says. He flips open his phone, but there aren't any messages. “Whatever you're about to say, just can it.”
Danny clucks his tongue, but lets it go.
Stiles doesn't sleep at all that night, and it has everything to do with the fact that they're playing in front of thousands of people the next day.
Actually, none of them get any sleep. They sit up watching bad movies on HBO and eating Twizzlers.
Stiles gets a text message at eight o'clock, after he's managed to fall asleep for an hour. It's from Laura, asking if they want to practice together in an hour.
He gets out of his sleeping bag, where it's pushed next to the air conditioner, and tries not to freak out about the day ahead of him. It works – mostly.
Lydia is the bass player for Ill Met By Moonlight and she's way out of Stiles' league, but two hours before the show they make out behind a backdrop of black curtains hiding a mess of electrical equipment. He thinks it's out of surplus of adrenaline more than anything – all this pent up excitement, energy, and nerves and nowhere to let it out quite yet – but she tells him that she thinks he's cute, and she's most certainly hot as hell, so who cares?
There are too many elbows and teeth, far too much expensive and delicate equipment nearby, and an uncountable amount of too many people, but it's fun. It's also a little awkward, in a way Stiles doesn't want to examine in too much detail. Halfway through it he has his hands in her hair, and her hands on his waist, and she tastes like bubblegum, and he wonders if she's ever made out with Derek. Which is weird and totally not appropriate to think about while making out with someone else, but it happens all the same.
He wonders if he should try making out with their drummer, Jennifer, to see if it's more interesting, but the thought is, weirdly, unappealing.
“I think I'm about to have a panic attack,” Scott says, peering out the curtain at the throngs of moshing, unwashed teenagers anxiously awaiting the next band to take the stage – which is them.
Allison squeezes his hand tight, her other clutching her wireless mic – and her hands are shaking a little, with nervous energy. “You are going to be amazing, Scott.”
Stiles looks at Danny, who raises an eyebrow at him and says, “I am not holding your hand, Stilinksi.”
Derek snorts, amused.
“Okay,” Scott says, as though steeling himself, and then he turns to them, like they're in some action movie and they're about to take a leap off a fucking cliff or something, and says, “Let's fucking do this.”
It's, without a doubt, the most amazing day of Stiles' life.
They're not perfect. One of the amps wobbles in and out almost four times, without any real reason, and Stiles misses a beat on Sticks – which is fucking stupid, because he wrote the songs so he should know them, but it happens. Three times a water bottle makes it onto stage – once it nearly hits Allison in the head, which is when Derek moves to the half-full bottle, without missing a rift, and kicks it, sailing, back into the crowd.
It's the shortest four song set of Stiles' life and, even if his arms are on fire and his ears are ringing, he never wants to leave that stage.
They're all covered in sweat and overheated and smelling awful, but it doesn't stop the dog-pile that happens the moment they get off-stage. There's nothing but adrenaline and excitement coursing through Stiles' veins and he's replaying every moment of their set in his head, on a repeated loop, over and over.
Scott and Allison are making out by the cooler, to the point of being obscene, when Derek grabs Stiles' arm and says, a little closer than he really needs to be, “You were amazing.”
Stiles flushes – probably because it's fucking hot as hell, and he needs a bottle of water, preferably one that Allison and Scott are not sucking face on. It's nothing at all to do with the admiration he's never seen before on Derek's face, the glimmer of respect there that leaves him feeling... something.
Derek's skin is covered in a sheen of sweat, and he smells like sunscreen, and his stupid eyeliner is smudged from the moisture on his face, and he looks fucking gorgeous.
Stiles swallows thickly, and smiles, and doesn't freak out.
They all stay to watch Ill Met By Moonlight play, because it feels right and because Derek is one of them.
It's a totally different kind of music, a totally different set up, and Laura screams in a way that Allison would never be able to match; it's not necessarily better, it's just different. The crowd knows them, or at least knows them better, and they are obscenely loud. Derek plays with the same energy, with the same dedication, and it's mesmerizing to watch him switch from The Supernatural Tuesdays to Ill Met By Moonlight like all he has to do is push a button.
He's exhausted by the time the set is over, shirt damp with sweat and his hair a little out of sorts where his gel has totally lost the battle. He sits on one of the craft services tables and holds a bottle of water against his face; he's a little out of it, eyes closed and his breathing even, like he's trying to come down off of a high, and Stiles watches him discreetly from where he's eating a pack of Skittles.
“You know,” Laura says, and she sits next to him, all long legs and curves, “Derek dated our keyboardist, Kate, a long time ago – back before she got full of herself and started acting like queen bitch. She broke his heart, and stole one of his guitars, and left us hanging out to dry before a big show.”
Stiles pops another Skittle in his mouth and looks at Laura – at her face and not the obscene v-neck she's wearing, because he's a gentleman, god damn it – and then looks back where Derek is sitting. “Sounds like what happened to us. Although I don't think anyone was dating Jackson.”
“It's a little like that,” Laura agrees. She looks serious, in a way that doesn't fit on her face entirely right. “He's pretty wary about trusting people because of what happened.”
Which means something. Which is her trying to tell him something, but Stiles can only think of a handful of things she's hinting at and none of them are anything close to what he wants to discuss with her.
He swallows another handful of candy, without chewing. “Yeah?”
“He's also single,” she says, and Stiles chokes a little.
There's another party later that night, at the same place they went the night before, but Stiles is too exhausted to deal with it. He spends the night washing his laundry in the motel sink, hanging it on the shower bar to dry, and then he spends an hour watching bad soap operas on television before he gives in to temptation. He gets dressed and puts on his Converse and wanders out to the parking lot.
There are buses parked out behind the motel, on a long stretch of parking lot, that belong to a large chunk of the bands playing. The Supernatural Tuesdays still have a van, one that is still filled with all their equipment, and it's easier to pile the five of them into a single motel room than it is to try to sleep in the van. There had also been the option to camp, as a majority of people attending Bonnaroo tended to do, but Allison sacrifices so much for them on a daily basis that it had seemed a little wrong to ask her how she liked sleeping curled up next to pine cones for three days.
There's lights on inside some of the buses, and music, and the sound of people laughing and talking – probably drinking and smoking. Derek is outside of one of them, alone, and it's probably out of a desire to be alone more than it has anything to do with people avoiding him. He's sitting on an amp next to the bus Ill Met By Moonlight is sharing with another band – Vengeance something, Stiles can't remember – and he doesn't see Stiles right away.
He's got his guitar held by the neck in one hand, while he adjusts a dial on the amp between his legs, and there's a half empty cup of coffee sitting on the asphalt next to it. It's obvious he's had a shower recently, because his eyeliner is gone and his hair isn't gelled, and he looks different without it. He's in loose jeans that hang at his hips, a wife-beater that doesn't hide the way his tattoos curve along and around his biceps, and all of it makes Stiles' mouth feel dry.
The attraction is the easy part, if there even is an easy part, but it's knowing what to do with it that baffles Stiles. Because he's very used to not doing anything at all; he does nothing with the girls in his school who are pretty but who have nothing but contempt for him and his desires to date them, and Derek is different. For one, he's not a girl. For two, he's Derek.
“We're staying for the rest of the festival,” Stiles says, because he feels like he should say something, even if there's a chance he's just talking to himself. “So we'll be around for your second set-list. Not that you care or anything, but we'd already decided to stay, since we drove like two thousand miles to get here, so you'll just have to deal with it. Or not deal with it, I guess.”
Derek looks up from his amp. “You take too much Adderall.”
“You smoke too much. It's gross. Also: death.”
Derek hums, like he thinks it's a smart idea and also one that he's not interested in pursuing, and strums a few times to check his adjustments. Stiles watches him work, watches the way his fingers move, and it feels warm out. Some part of him realizes that he's sort of disastrously attracted to Derek now, that maybe he's been that way all along, that maybe it just took a little prying to see what was underneath all that ire – to see that there was a decent human being there, and that after that it was okay to accept the attraction.
He stays outside, in the warm August air, and listens to Derek practice for nearly two hours. He listens to the clear ring of his electric, mixed with the sounds of the guys inside the bus playing Call of Duty, and it's nearly two in the morning before things start to settle down. The inside of the bus gets a little quieter, lights going out, and Stiles waves at his friends when they drag back from the party and head instead the motel room.
Derek puts his equipment away, in the compartment on the side of the bus. Stiles watches him, and feels the nerves in his limbs like static, and doesn't know whether he should say something or not say something. He watches, and he waits, and he debates, and by the time Derek finishes and turns back around Stiles still has no idea what to do.
“These are yours,” Derek says, and there are a pair of drumsticks in his hands.
Stiles stares at them, because he does have approximately four thousand pairs of drumsticks, but they don't look that familiar, and he doesn't remember forgetting them on stage. “I don't think those are mine.”
Derek exhales loudly, exasperated, and extends the drumsticks to him again. “They're for you.”
“You got me drumsticks,” Stiles deduces, and he stares at them, and then at Derek, because it's like a gift or something crazy and, well, “You got me drumsticks? Like, a present? Is this like some sort of weird Hale proposal or something?”
“For fuck's sake,” he takes the few steps between them, and puts them into Stiles' hand, like he thinks such an action will require too much brain power on Stiles' part. “They're just drumsticks, idiot.”
He takes the drumsticks from Derek, and they're very close – maybe as close as they had been when they'd pretended to be together to get rid of that weird guy – and Stiles realizes, when he looks up and Derek is watching him, that maybe Derek isn't really all that complicated.
“It's okay, Derek,” Stiles assures him. “I like-like you too.”
Derek snorts, amused, but he doesn't object. Stiles sort of expects Derek to kiss him again, because he's close enough that Stiles can feel his breath against his face, and that's how things work out in the movies, but he doesn't. He doesn't, and he hasn't since the party, and he hasn't mentioned anything about it since the party, so maybe it was nothing – maybe it was just harmless fun. Maybe Stiles is giving himself an anxiety attack for nothing.
“He's twenty four,” Danny tells him, while they're laying on their sleeping bags on the floor, listening to Allison and Scott snore like hibernating bears. “So, you know, seven years older than you.”
Stiles stares at the ceiling, the pit in his stomach growing. His tongue is dry and thick in his mouth, and he doesn't know what to say. He's not sure that it changes anything, which freaks him out a little.
“Not that I think it's a bad idea, because, you know, he's hot,” Danny continues, ever the voice of reason. “Just something to consider.”
“Okay but, hypothetically speaking, let's say he's already kissed me, but that it was kind of a shitty kiss, and maybe he was joking and I just can't tell because it's Derek, and maybe I really like him,” Stiles blurts out, and he doesn't look at Danny, even when he feels him staring holes into the side of his head. “Just, you know, hypothetically.”
“What the hell,” Danny says, incredulous, and he stuffs his pillow into Stiles' face.
Ill Met By Moonlight plays their last set-list the next day, but The Supernatural Tuesdays aren't scheduled again, and it means a day of enjoying the festival, and relaxing, and eating a lot of delicious food. It also means that, during the show, he gets to hang out behind the curtain and watch them play. It means that he gets to spend thirty minutes watching Derek move around on stage, watching his fingers work at chords that Stiles is starting to memorize, and it leaves a strange coil of nerves in his stomach that is starting to become familiar but that he's also sort of come to terms with.
Derek sees him, catches his eye twice, and something between them is different; something has been different for a while. It's not necessarily weird, or strange, or awkward. Stiles doesn't know how he feels about it, about Derek, but he could probably take a stab in the dark at it. He doesn't know what he wants to say, or do, and he still doesn't know when the set ends and they come bounding off stage, still full of energy, but he's capable of improvising.
He grabs Derek's arm and pulls him back behind a tower of speakers that aren't in use, because he wants to make sure they're okay, that he hasn't fucked anything up and that everything is, you know, okay – and Derek curls his fingers in the front of Stiles' plaid shirt and kisses him for the second time. He's covered in a sheen of sweat, and he smells like aftershave and coffee and perspiration, and he kisses Stiles behind the equipment in a way that is absolutely nothing like the first time at all. There's the smoothness of his freshly-shaven face against Stiles', lips chapped from the heat, and his tongue -
Stiles inhales sharply when Derek pulls away, his hands still curled in Stiles' shirt, and Stiles stares at him and tries to remember what he had wanted to talk to him about in the first place. It probably wasn't important.
“Oh cool,” he says instead. “I thought maybe you didn't like me after all.”
“You're seventeen,” Derek says, like Stiles somehow chose when he was born purposely to spite him, and Stiles blushes to the tips of his ears because he obviously has no control over his own body.
“I'm eighteen in six weeks,” Stiles says, because that's the best he can do.
It's apparently enough for Derek, because he kisses him breathless again.
“Oh my god,” Scott says, and he's clawing at his face, and he looks like he is in genuine distress. “What am I going to tell your dad? Oh my god, Stiles he made me swear I'd keep you safe. What are you doing to my future?!”
Danny hands Stiles a pack of condoms and says, “I want details. I'm serious.”
Scott sputters and gestures wildly at Danny, in disbelief, and he looks a little like he might start hyperventilating. “Danny, what the fuck, man?!”
“We're keeping him safe,” Danny offers, with a shrug.
They're packing up the van when Derek programs his number into Stiles' phone.
“If you steal my guitar I will rip out your jugular with my teeth,” Derek promises him, which is the closest he'll ever get to admitting he's afraid to care about anyone again.
“My dad's going to be out of town for my birthday. Just throwing that out there,” Stiles offers, because he knows how to be romantic too.
“Six weeks then,” Derek says, but he kisses him regardless, in front of everyone.