The worst thing about college, Stiles decides late one evening, is having to do your own laundry. Not that his father did his too often, but occasionally Stiles could toss his dirties in with his dad's and the sheriff would just chuck the clean clothes on his bed when they were finished. But now he's nineteen and in his second year at UC Santa Cruz and it's two in the morning and he has no clean clothes. Like, he's down to one pair of underwear, bright red shorts that Lydia Martin shoved in his hands when he was underwear shopping at Target two years ago, and all his shirts are dirty.
He's just really glad that the latch on the door to the laundry room broke last year and no one bothered to report it. He'd really rather not have anyone walk in on him while he's practically naked, thanks, and it's less likely to happen if he does his laundry at two in the morning.
Hopping up onto an empty washer, Stiles settles in to wait for the dryer to finish. He'd brought The Stranger with him, but let's be honest, he's not going to get any more reading done; it's taking everything he has to stay awake right now and he didn't even turn on the light.
"Well, I'm hot-blooded, check it and see—"
"Got a fever of a hundred and three!"
The door swings open and a bare back pushes the door open. Stiles realizes he maybe should have turned the light on.
"So come on baby, do you do more than dance?"
The guy—who's actually not a bad singer—turns around and stops completely. Stiles can hear loud music coming from a pair headphones and the sound of his heart roaring in his ears.
"Um... Hi, sorry,” Stiles starts, sliding his hands down his thighs.
“I didn't know anyone was in here," the guy interrupts, smiling sheepishly and Stiles is gone. He slides down off the washer and doesn't miss the way the guy's gaze lingers on his hips. "Sorry. I'll just—"
"It's no problem, dude," Stiles says, hoping his smile is more man-we-should-really-learn-to-do-laundry-on-time and less I’m-having-trouble-not-jumping-you-right-now. "I see we've got the same laundry habits." Stiles gestures between their bare chests, though Nameless Hot Guy is at least wearing actual pants. Stiles isn't too worried; he'd played lacrosse in high school, but picked up swimming in college and he knows he looks good in a Speedo. Which is pretty much what these underwear are. Which is why he never wears them. It’s a complicated thought process.
The guy chuckles a little and shrugs, setting his full basket down. "Seems like I'm just a little more responsible," he says as he flips the washer Stiles just vacated open and starts shoving in clothes. "I still have a pair of pants."
"In my defense," Stiles starts, letting a flirtatious edge creep into his voice. "I only have like three pairs of pants."
The guy's eyes rake over him again, lightning quick, and Stiles practically feels it.
"It's a nickname."
The washer starts and just as Stiles is about to say something, the timer on his dryer buzzes. Sighing even though this is his favorite part, Stiles yanks open the dryer and pulls his clean, warm clothes into his hamper. Normally he'd fold his clothes back in his dorm, but normally there aren't nameless hot guys in the laundry room. He turns around to say something—what's your name are you single will you marry me—and sees the door swing shut.
Oh. Okay then.
"No, Dad, I have no idea what you're talking about and I can barely hear you and I'm gonna be late if I don't leave this coffee shop right now—and yeah I know I shouldn't have stopped for coffee if I was so close to being late but you try microbiology at eight a.m. without any caffeine and oh shit—"
Stiles isn't sure who decided to put a wall in front of him but God did running into it hurt and ow, oh holy crap ow, there's hot coffee all over him. Jesus fuck ow and is the wall talking to him?
"Fuck, Jesus Christ, ow."
And yeah that's definitely not him and maybe he didn't run into a wall-wall, just a wall-like person. He looks up and it's—shit it's Nameless Hot Guy (“NHG” to Stiles' lazy brain) and he's glaring down at Stiles, two fingers holding a previously-white shirt away from his chest.
"Shit, I am so sorry, oh my God. I was just talking to my dad and shit my dad!" He brings the phone back up to his ear. "No sorry, Dad, I have to go. I just walked into this really hot guy and spilled coffee all over him but no, I have no idea what happened to the shed; ask Scott. He should know. I have to go! Bye, Dad!"
He looks back up, expecting more glaring, and sees the shadow of a smile playing across NHG's face.
"Look, I'm really sorry and I would stick around but I have class like two minutes ago and I... Did I tell my dad you were really hot? Oh my God, I meant that in like, the least objectifying way possible; I'm sure you're a nice guy and probably really smart—" the guy's smile is getting wider and his teeth are really nice and Jesus, Stiles has to get to class like now "—and I would know because I'm really smart and you just seem like a smart guy but biology isn't gonna learn itself and I really have to go but," Stiles starts backing out of the shop, fully aware that he's being a complete idiot. "I'll buy you a coffee if I see you around again!"
He stumbles out into the weak sunshine, arm and chest sticky where the coffee clings to him. He sighs.
Generally Stiles is really proud that he’s such a good friend. He and Scott have been friends for almost two decades and while Scott is kind of a shitty friend, Stiles never is. Usually he likes to lord it over Scott that he—Stiles—is such a good person, likes to bring up the time they went looking for a dead body in the woods and Stiles covered for him or the time Scott got an STD and Stiles went to Planned Parenthood with him for antibiotics or the time--well, pretty much Stiles is the best friend in the entire universe and Scott should appreciate him more. Especially after tonight.
"And then! And then she says, 'Tiles, she says she cain't trus' me! Stile, I never lie to her! Never!"
Stiles sighs the deep and put-upon sigh of sober friends everywhere and hitches Scott's arm further over his shoulder. He lets Scott babble on about his girlfriend, or rather current ex-girlfriend and drags him towards the dorms.
"Come on, buddy," Stiles coaxes when Scott stops to stare at the sky. "We're almost there." Just like, ten more steps and they're in the building.
"I don't wanna live wifout her, 'Tiles. I love her."
"I know, buddy, I know. But you can love her in my dorm, too. I'll even let you take the bed."
"You're the bes,' 'Tiles!"
And suddenly, Stiles' arms are full of whiny, drunk teenager and Scott is either hugging him or trying to crawl inside his body. The force of the hug sends him stumbling, back against the side of the building. Scott is laughing or sobbing—Stiles can't tell—when the door slams open and a very angry voice tells him to shut the hell up.
"I'm sorry!" Stiles' voice is muffled by Scott's oddly asymmetrical hair. "He's drunk and depressed and I'm just like fifteen steps away from my dorm and I'm sorry."
The guy, and of course the universe hates him, Nameless Hot Guy is glaring at him—and really, it shouldn't be so hot but it is—with his arms crossed over his chest and his hair sticking up in forty different directions.
"Yeah?" Momentarily distracted, Stiles misses the way NHG's face softens.
"I fink m'gonna..."
"Gonna wha—oh my God!"
Because Scott is throwing up on him, covering his torso with bright blue vomit—and Scott is never drinking another Adios while Stiles is around—and NHG is laughing and Stiles wants to crawl into a hole and die. The door to the building slides shut as Scott slides to the ground, passed out in a small puddle of puke.
Stiles leans back against the wall and tries not to think about how there's puke all over his favorite shirt. Fuck.
Stiles fucking hates college.
Well, that's not entirely true; he hates how expensive it is and how he has to take a bunch of required classes he doesn't care about and how the only people who want to sleep with him are tiny, drunk sorority girls at parties or pervy old guys in his humanities classes.
He also really hates having to crash classes. It's his sixth quarter at UCSC and it never gets any less nerve-wracking.
He's standing outside an English class, waiting for the professor when he realizes he's not alone.
"Hey," Stiles starts, pretends like he hasn't made a complete ass of himself in front of this guy a billion times before. "You're the coffee guy, right?"
NHG squints at him, head tilted, before answering, "Yeah."
"Man, I'm so sorry about that."Stiles sticks his hand out. "I'm Stiles."
"It's nice to meet you fully clothed and completely dry."
Derek snickers and a girl walking past them shoots an odd look over her shoulder. Stiles laughs a little, too.
"Are you trying to add?" Stiles asks.
Derek nods. Not a big talker then. It's probably good that Stiles can talk enough for both of them.
"Yeah, me too. I really hope I get in because I need another class to be full-time and this is the only one that fits in with my work schedule." He shoves his hands in his pockets. "Hopefully it's not too hard a class because English was never my strong suit—too many words." Derek snorts and Stiles can sort of see what’s funny: Stiles, who never stops talking, thinks English has too many words. "But I figure a comparative lit class can't hurt right? I mean, I write a few papers, whatever. Though I guess I should pick a major before I come back next year. Hey, what's your major?"
"Comparative lit," Derek smirks. "With a minor in anthropology. I'm a senior so if I don't get into this class, I'll have to wait to graduate."
"Man, that really sucks."
"I’ve been an undergrad for almost a decade so it’s really not that big a deal." Stiles nods and thinks that's the end of it, but then Derek starts talking again. "But if I do have to take another quarter, it'll give me time to double major. I'm about three classes away from a biology degree, too."
"Wow. So in addition to being way too hot for me, you're probably way too smart for me, too. That's good."
“Also, you’re probably straight or at least too straight for me—“
The classroom door opens and the professor, a tiny man with a bald patch, informs them that there's only one spot left and that they're to pick a number between one and ten to see who gets the spot.
"Two!" Stiles blurts out without thinking.
"Seven," Derek says, only slightly calmer.
"The number was four so you..."
"It's a long story."
The professor shakes his head a little. "Anyway, Stiles Stilinski, you're in and you..."
"Derek Hale." Derek’s voice is harsh , bitter, and suddenly Stiles feels really bad.
"Derek Hale, will have to come back in two weeks to see if anyone drops. Come in, Stilinski."
The professor turns back into the classroom and Stiles grabs Derek by the sleeve.
"Derek, I'm sorry. You can take the spot if you want to—"
"It's fine, Stilinski." Damn. So much for a first-name basis.
And the Stiles is left holding nothing and Derek is gone.
After almost two years at University, Stiles can confidently say that the best thing about college isn't the freedom or the sex or Greek life. It’s the fact that during finals, the library is open twenty-four hours a day.
This is how he finds himself in the stacks at almost two in the morning, searching desperately for a book he needs for his psych class. There's only one copy and the catalogue said it was available, but he can't find it and he’s about to seriously lose his shit because without this book, he can't do his paper. And if he doesn't do the paper, he fails the class. And if he fails a class, he loses his scholarship. And if he loses his scholarship, he has to drop out and go home and if he has to do that, he'll never go back to college and he'll end up begging for food by the freeway and people will pass him and give him sad looks with their quarters and he'll lose all his teeth. He doesn't want to lose his teeth. They're really nice teeth.
A rustle and an irritated sigh catches his attention. He follows the sound and sees a guy sitting next to a stack of books, on top of which is the book he desperately needs for his paper. He's moving forward before he can think.
"Hey, you have the book I need," he says, tossing his bag on the table and sliding into the seat on the other side of the books. "Do you mind sharing?" He pulls the book towards him without looking, flipping it open as he takes his notebook out of his backpack. "I really don't want to end up homeless and toothless, which is what will happen if I don't turn this paper in and my dad shelled out a lot of money for these bad boys." Stiles shoots his tablemate a huge grin before realizing who it is.
Stiles is convinced that the world hates him. There's no other reason for it to be Derek Hale sitting next to him. None.
Derek doesn't say anything. He's really good at glaring.
"Fuck, I'll just leave. Fuck." Stiles stands and shoves his notes back in his folder. A hand on his wrist stops him.
"I'm done with that book if you wanna stay."
Stiles blinks. He's aware that his mouth is probably wide open. Which, that’s like his default position, but it doesn’t make it any less stupid-looking.
"I... Yeah, thanks. I mean, you probably have every right to be a dick but thanks, man. Tha—"
"If you don't shut up, I'm going to kill you and leave your body in the stacks to rot."
"Sorry! Sorry, I just get—"
"Shut up, Stiles."
The fact that Derek Hale remembered his name probably shouldn't make him so happy, but it totally does.
And the One Time He Didn't
"If I don't leave right now, I'm going to be late."
"You can't be late for your first date!"
"It is not a date; will you shut up, oh my God."
"He asked you to dinner! That's a date."
"Shut up, Scott, and just tell me if I look okay."
Stiles turns around and stands in front of his computer, where he and Scott are Skyping. He's wearing a pair of grey pants and a blue button down under a brown jacket. It's not a date. It doesn't matter how he looks. It’s just the hottest guy he’s ever seen taking him out for Chinese food. Not a date. Not at all.
"You look good, man. Better than usual but not like you're trying too hard. Right, Allison?"
Allison's head comes into view behind Scott's, slice of pizza in one hand.
"Yeah, Stiles, you look really good. Did you get a haircut?"
"Yeah, like a week ago. Alright I have to go. Thank you, I love you both, goodnight."
"Use protection!" are Scott's last words before Stiles shuts his laptop and checks his pockets. Two deep breaths and he yanks open the door and almost runs right into Derek. Thankfully there's no coffee involved and neither of them are naked. Actually, the last part’s kind of a bummer.
Stiles glances at Derek, who looks effortlessly put together—it's gotta be the jacket; leather jackets make everyone look badass and shit—and then down at himself one last time. He suppresses a sigh because there’s no way this insanely attractive person would want him like that. But when he looks up, Derek is staring at the open neck of his shirt, mouth slightly parted. Maybe Stiles doesn’t give himself enough credit.
"Yeah. Yeah, let's go."
Derek smiles, wide and blinding, and Stiles smiles right back.