Derek finds Stiles in the fetal position on the floor.
With his AP Psychology book thrown over his face, his notes and index cards scattered everywhere.
“What are you doing,” Derek says–he doesn’t even ask, but rarely does he ask things, because he’s Derek Hale and for some reason Stiles thinks that Derek thinks he’s above that kind of shit.
Alpha wolves and their stupid superiority complexes.
Stiles doesn’t even look up from where he’s currently angsting on the floor, because the world doesn’t revolve around Derek, or at least Stiles’ doesn’t, and he’d like to worry and angst in the floor’s general direction for a while. Derek, though–Derek is having none of it. He’s a constant presence behind Stiles’ back, even if he’s not really that close, and Stiles can feel him brooding, eyes boring into the back of Stiles’ skull like that’ll somehow make Stiles talk.
“I’m worrying, Derek. Go away,” Stiles waves his arms dramatically.
“Stiles, get up off of the floor,” Derek commands. “You missed the pack meeting tonight.”
“Good job, Derek,” Stiles remarks, “your observational skills are quite remarkable. Let me sit here and write you an “You’re Awesome For Being You” letter.”
“Oh,” Stiles says, “did you want a pin instead? Because I can totally get on that for you,” Stiles says, but doesn’t move.
“Okay. Maybe a banner?”
“Stiles.” Derek says, voice strained. “Shut up.”
“No to the banner, then–” Stiles sighs petulantly, because banners, well, banners are fucking awesome.
“Why weren’t you there?”
Stiles sighs, and picks himself off of the ground. This is obviously going to be one of those moments where Derek wants to have the segment that Stiles likes to call ‘sharing time’ which really only includes Derek screaming at him and pushing Stiles up against hard surfaces while Stiles just tries to look mournful and cute. It doesn’t happen often–Stiles is seriously thankful for this, there’s only so much push and shove a small guy like him can take–because Derek follows some sort of secret born-a-werewolf code that Stiles doesn’t understand.
There’s a lot about Derek that Stiles doesn’t understand. For all creepy and weird Derek is, he’s mysterious and hard to crack, too–even for Stiles–and usually it’s something he would read into a little more, because he loves his research and he’s come to find that researching Derek, actually isn’t all that scary, that it’s actually kind of interesting, but that’d probably be a more fulfilling idea if he wasn’t three seconds away from falling flat on his ass from exhaustion.
“Derek,” Stiles says slowly, because he feels like this is something that Derek might not understand at first. “I have three finals tomorrow. Three. I have to study or else I’m going to fail out of high school and become a loser and be doomed to working the overnight stocking shift at Walmart for the rest of my life. That’s not something I’m even relatively okay with.”
He expects Derek to growl at him and tell him that high school isn’t important, that Derek’s important, because Derek is actually not all that practical when it comes to shit that gets in the way of the pack and their stupid weekly pack meetings. He expects Derek to slam him up against something and demand that he forget about studying and to forget about how he hasn’t slept in the last few days, because that’s not what’s important Stiles. Or something.
Derek doesn’t even need a reason, really, because he’s Derek. Because Derek could’ve probably levelled Hitler with one carefully vicious stare, and wow, now that Stiles thinks about it, Derek’s genes and aggression seriously need to be genetically cloned for the future. He promptly files that away for future use.
But Derek doesn’t do any of that stuff, because while Derek is a creature of habit, he’s also a creature of habitual surprise–which Stiles still hasn’t gotten used to, but hey, it's not like he’s exactly perfect.
Stiles tries not to gape at him.
Stiles gapes at him. “What?”
Derek sighs, like Stiles is being seriously difficult, but sits down on his bed anyway. “What subjects?” He repeats, slowly this time.
Stiles sighs. “U.S. History, AP Psychology, and Calculus.”
Derek throws him a lopsided, half-there smile. One that totally doesn’t melt his heart or anything, and if it does, well Stiles is tired and has no control over his internal bodily functions–not that he does normally, because seriously, impossible, but hey, he’s tired, he’s not supposed to make sense.
“Quite the workload,” Derek remarks.
Stiles grimaces. “Apparently my classes weren’t challenging me enough.”
“And now I think I’m literally dying of like student’s remorse or something. Even though it totally wasn’t my decision to join these classes. Because let me tell you, Freud? He sucks. And so does Pavlov, like seriously, that whole dog experiment was borderline abuse or some shit, like, the number those experiments probably did on their psyches–”
“Maybe that’s how werewolves came to be, you know? From Pavlov or Freud. Maybe they used their freaky ‘I’m a Psychological Genius and You Suck’ powers on some poor little wolf. Or a human. I'd like to think for your and every other werewolves reputation that you were mutilated from a human, and not from a wolf. Because that–that would suck.”
Derek actually snorts at this. “Werewolves have been around longer than humans, Stiles–”
“How is that even possible–”
“Genetics,” Derek says, or at least that’s what Stiles thinks he says.
“Whatever,” Stiles says, shrugging his shoulder. “It makes sense, anyway. A rogue and rabid werewolf probably murdered him in his sleep because of how horribly they treated him–”
“Stiles,” Derek interrupts, trying to sound accusatory but really only sounding amused. “Pavlov died in 1936 from double pneumonia.”
“Yeah. From a werewolf.”
Derek sighs, exasperated and there’s that pinched look between his eyebrows that means he’s close to ripping into Stiles’ abdomen to feast upon his kidneys. “I can try to help,” Derek says.
“I am actually not a walking imbecile, Stiles,” Derek clarifies.
“No,” Stiles agrees. “No, that’s Scott’s job,” he says, and doesn’t even feel bad about it.
Stiles is, by definition, a horrible best friend.
“I’m a horrible best friend,” Stiles moans, kind of pitifully, and Derek recognizes it, too, by the little smirk he throws at him.
It’s sort of unnerving, but in the best way possible, not in the way it usually is with Derek. But Derek’s been a little looser lately, has had less of a grasp on his emotions around the pack–but mostly around Stiles, now that Stiles thinks about it. He’s still angry and broody and mysterious–something that Stiles has trouble deciding if that’s one of the things that was left behind after Kate. Stiles doesn’t know, doesn’t really want to know, because he’s sure that he already knows.
The only thing that Stiles knows is that he’s never hated anyone more than he hates Kate Argent, and there’s a sickening and horrible part of him that’s glad Kate’s dead. Which might make him the worst best friend two times over, because it's not like Scott is dating Kate's very-much-sane niece or anything.
Derek looks at him, kind of sad, like he can sense what Stiles is thinking about, and maybe he can, because he’s pretty sure his body is shaking in anger right now, and Stiles is open and easy-to-read enough that it’s probably not too hard to connect the dots.
“Stiles,” Derek says, but when he speaks his voice is gentle and free of the constraint that Stiles expects. “You need to focus.”
Stiles sighs. “If I had that ability then I wouldn’t even be here in the first place.”
Derek doesn’t grow a second head, nor does he start sprouting weird green juice like Stiles expects him to, because he pats the spot right next to him on the bed and murmurs, “let me help you.” Stiles is shocked so much that he actually stumbles towards the bed, because he doesn't think he's ever heard Derek sound like that before.
It's not that Derek hasn't been willing to help, because he has. Even when he didn't have to, when he didn't have to try to protect them at the school, or lead his uncle away from Stiles with everything he had, Derek has always protected him. Stiles doesn't know if it's because Derek's yearning for a family again, wants that type of support, or if it's because under everything Derek's genuinely a nice guy–maybe it's a little of both–but it's nice. Stiles doesn't realize how much he takes advantage of it until he actually thinks about it.
Stiles may or may not just be a horrible person.
Stiles sits by him, because he’s desperate for help, and looks at the textbook Derek has somehow opened in his lap in the 3.7 seconds it took for Stiles to get over there.
“Okay,” Stiles whispers.
“What do you need help with?” Derek asks, and it sounds like he’s asked it before (he has).
Stiles sighs, pitiful and stupid in the back of his throat, because that’s what it is. Pitiful and stupid. “I know–it’s really easy stuff. And you’re probably going to make fun of me when you realize what it is, but I’ve been staring at a model of the brain for the last seventeen hours and I still don’t know what the hell the limbic system is–okay, basically, the only thing I know about the brain is that Phineas Gage–who was fucking awesome, by the way, until the whole, you know, raging human whose life was ruined by a pole, or whatever it was–had that thing–”
Derek makes this noise, caught between exasperated and fond. “Right,” says Derek, even though he sounds like he doesn’t really understand. “What part part of the brain did the rod damage?” He asks, suddenly, looking expectantly at Stiles.
“His left frontal lobe,” Stiles says, almost immediately.
Derek nods. “Yes. And what happened afterward?”
“Well right afterward? Nothing! The dude walks away from the scene like nothing happened, and man, seriously, you and Scott need to take some notes from him. Or–really. Actually. Just Scott and Jackson. If Gage can walk away from the scene of his accident with a rod sticking out of his skull, they can handle a broken leg, that will heal in five minutes–”
“Stiles.” Derek says.
“Right, sorry.” Stiles says, “nothing happened right after Gage’s accident. Other than him walking away from it, literally walking away from it–oh my god–oh Jesus; fuck me. What if Gage was a werewolf?”
“I will rip your jugular out,” Derek informs him factually. “If you don’t stop directly correlating infamous psychologists and psychological cases with the supernatural.”
“It makes sense, okay! It’s not my fault our ancestors–okay, yours are obviously–Jesus, stop looking at me like that–have their histories basically perfectly lined up with the supernatural, Derek!”
Derek sighs. “Offering my help to you was obviously like offering sheep to Satan,” Derek says, mournfully.
Stiles ignores him, because rarely does Derek say anything of importance, anyway. “And don’t even get me started–” Stiles breaks off, “how lunacy was directly correlated with werewolves back then, Derek. I’m not sure what your little furry assed ancestors thought they were up to, but us nice folk, us humans, well, we weren’t very fond of you giving us your crazies.”
“Focus,” Derek growls.
“Okay. Gage didn’t suffer any immediate “damage”, if you could call it that, but he was kind of comatose for a while, and then when he woke up he was different.”
“How so?” Derek asks, because Derek is a mean person that likes to make Stiles think.
Even if he’s memorized this information by heart. Because Gage? He was a cool dude, even with the whole angry, barbaric thing. Maybe because of the whole angry, barbaric thing.
“He was more aggressive. Was a little slower, possibly. Not much is actually known, though. Even Harlow remarked that the psychological changes during Gage’s recovery weren’t as severe as some of the second-hand accounts reported after his death.”
Derek raises an eyebrow. “You can remember all that about Gage, and yet you can’t remember anything about the brain?”
Stiles nods. “Yes, Derek. I thought we had established this, but if you want me to go over it again–”
“We need to make it interesting to you,” Derek notes, and yeah, that sounds about right.
“It’s hard to make the brain interesting when my AP Psych teacher just throws worksheets in our faces,” Stiles says, because that’s also true.
Stiles likes learning, he likes researching and accumulating information, but what he likes about it the most is when he can do it on his own time. He’s never really had a problem with school, has always sort of liked it in that idle way that people that aren’t exactly thought of as nerds, but don’t really have to try do, and usually if you put an assignment in front of him, Stiles can complete it eventually–and correctly. But he’s not going to enjoy it.
That’s the thing about psychology. It’s all fascinating and it makes Stiles’ head trippy when he thinks about all of the possibilities and serious mysterious feats the human mind accomplishes, but there’s something about school that significantly dampens that. The brain suddenly isn't so enthralling anymore when he has to write a research paper on why exactly the brain is badass and basically Chuck Norris but in-brain-form.
Derek just grabs a pen and writes down ‘Brain Map Rap’ across 'Chapter 2: The Brain' in his AP Psychology book, which Stiles should really yell at him for, because shit like that is expensive, but doesn’t.
“It’s something that’ll help you pass your test,” Derek says, and then snorts to himself, like he’s revisiting on an old joke that Stiles is in no way a part of.
“Oh,” Stiles says, “how do you know that?”
Derek shrugs. “I was a psych major back in college.”
“You know–” Stiles says, fragmented and short. “That actually–that actually makes a lot of sense.”
Derek has this way of getting under your skin that’s not even strictly a werewolf thing. He has this precision, like he knows exactly what he’s doing–something that doesn’t have anything to do with instinct, but everything to do with knowledge. Where Jackson and Scott are flaily puppies that only know what Stiles is feeling because of scent, Derek knows what Stiles is feeling because of scent and can list at least fifteen reasons as to why.
He’s never really paid attention to it before, because when they first met he was too angry to notice anything beyond Derek’s stupid face and his stupid leather jacket and his stupid fixation with throwing Stiles into hard surfaces. After that, he didn’t notice because he didn’t want to think about it, think about how Derek wasn’t just this guy that lost everything to a girl with fire fixation and a match, that he was someone who had lost everything but had gained something else–not a family, and not new friends, but intelligence.
Stiles looks up and sees Derek looking at him, bright hazel-blue eyes locked on Stiles’ face. They don’t get this close too often, because either Derek doesn’t allow it, or Stiles doesn’t allow it, but they’ve been inching towards something for a while now. It’s subtle and lax in the way that Stiles hasn’t acknowledged before because the late night visits Derek sometimes makes, and the extra fifteen minutes Stiles usually spends after pack meetings at Derek’s place, cleaning up and making nice, never really have to mean anything if Stiles doesn’t want them to.
Derek won't call him out on it, never does, really, because Derek has the type of patience that comes with having to rebuild your life again, slowly and from the ground up. He doesn't push Stiles, will never push Stiles mentally. Maybe it's because he does it enough physically. Maybe it's because of something else entirely; something that Stiles doesn't really know.
But now, here, it seems kind of silly for Stiles to ignore it all.
He might actually be going crazy.
Or maybe he’s just really tired.
Derek suddenly looks thoughtful; contemplative. “Stiles,” he says, slowly.
“Derek,” Stiles says, because Derek thinks it’s annoying when he does that and he’s too tired to care about the repercussions right now.
“When’s the last time you slept?”
Stiles shrugs, because he really doesn’t know. “Thursday. I think.”
Derek growls, but it’s soft and not at all intimidating. “Stiles, that was four days ago.”
Stiles nods. “Yeah, that sounds about right.”
“ Sleep ,” Derek orders, and Stiles opens his mouth to say that he can’t , that sleeping and not studying is what’s going to make him fail, because he hasn’t studied enough, there’s no way that he’s ready for his psych exam tomorrow and that terrifies him.
There’s nothing Stiles hates more than to be unprepared for something.
Though he’s practically unprepared for everything , but hey, it’s the sentiment that counts.
“No,” Derek cuts him off, because he can even get started. Stiles doesn’t know if he’s grateful or annoyed by that. “You can study more tomorrow before your exam. You need to sleep, Stiles. Don’t you know that sleep is a very important part in your memory process? If you cut off your link to that then your chances on remembering valuable information is decreased.”
Stiles smiles, slight and small. “Sounding so professional, Derek. Who would’ve thought.”
Stiles thinks he must be pretty tired, because he doesn’t even fight back when Derek pushes him into a lying position on his bed and tucks him under the covers.
The next morning, Stiles looks up the Brain Map Rap.
He memorizes it in less than twenty minutes.
Needless to say; Stiles? Stiles goes pretty damn hard.
He doesn’t get an 5 on the exam like he hopes, but Derek takes him out for ice cream and kisses him after–like it’s the second round of desserts, which Stiles doesn’t mind, doesn’t mind at all– anyway.
So all in all, Stiles isn’t really too bothered.