There are no spaces at the café.
Stiles shouldn’t really be surprised—it’s Sunday morning, which means it’s hangover time, which means every student on campus who’s awake is trying to get in, and besides, they have coffee that’s both better and cheaper than Starbucks’s—but somehow he is. Because he planned to just come in on a leisurely Sunday norning (it’s like brunch, but for times) and go over papers, and that dream looks like it is swiftly going—
Free half of a table. Manned by a hot guy. Who (probably) isn’t a student. His dreams have a chance.
Stiles approaches quickly, because there’s no way someone else isn’t going to try to snatch that up the first chance they get (and it’s kind of amazing they haven’t already), stopping behind the free chair and opening his mouth (which is kind of always a mistake). “Hi. Can I sit? I mean, normally I wouldn’t encroach because, I know, someone’s workspace is practically sacred, but I have work to do and this is basically the only space free and—” And this guy is looking up, and he’s a werewolf, and that’s why this space is empty. “Never mind. I’m going to leave you to your territory. Sorry.”
The werewolf stares at him for a second, then jerks his chin towards the seat. “Sit.”
Stiles was all ready to go, so it takes him a second, and then he slides into the chair because there’s no way he’s letting this opportunity slip by. “Thanks. I’m—”
“—shutting up. I’m shutting up. Okay. Nice talk.” And then the werewolf goes back to his computer and Stiles pulls out his papers and they get to work.
Half an hour later (okay, thirty-three minutes, but it’s not like Stiles is counting or anything), the werewolf looks up from his computer. “How did you know?”
“That you’re a werewolf?” A nod. “Your eyes, mostly. They’re reflecting the florescent light abnormally.” Stiles grins. “And I have a bit of an advantage. I’m a professor of Human-Werewolf Relations at NCU, so being able to figure that out is kind of my job. I have a colleague who probably could have gotten it faster, but I’m convinced she’s not quite human herself, so that doesn’t really count.”
The werewolf nods in his general direction, then goes back to his work. A brilliant conversationalist, that werewolf.
“I’m Stiles, by the way. Stiles Stilinski.”
And…nothing. So, back to grading his papers it is. Which is something he really does need to get done, because he’s supposed to give them back to his students on Monday and he still has…fourteen amazingly idiotic papers to go through before he’s done.
Though, actually wow, maybe he can just fail this guy by default. “My student thinks that all werewolves have to turn on the full moon. That we debunked seventy-five years ago. What the hell is he doing, living with his head in a bucket of bees?”
It looks like werewolf-dude’s mouth twitches. “It’s probably difficult to write an essay with your head in a bucket of bees.”
He speaks. It’s a miracle. “You’d think that, but somehow he seems to have managed it anyway. Do you have a name?”
Stiles waits a minute, but the guy is still just tapping away on his computer. “Do you care to share it?”
Okay, then. Time for him to go back to grading. Also, coffee. He needs coffee. Really needs coffee. “I’m going to go get coffee. Do you want me to grab you some? They have really good coffee here. Like, the best coffee in the area. Also I’ve only slept four ours in the past, like, thirty-six, so—”
“I will literally pay you to stop talking.”
Stiles has actually gotten that offer before, though never in a voice so growly. Or sexy. Because growly, unsocial werewolf-dude is super sexy. “I guess that’s a no to the coffee. Um. Don’t sell off my stuff in the next few minutes, please. Or if you do, give me a cut of the money. Because professors aren’t actually paid enough.” And now he’s getting a growly face (that’s totally a thing, he swears), so he should actually stop talking before the werewolf decides to rip his throat out.
He puts a folder over the papers (because there are probably at least a couple of his students in the coffee-shop at the moment, and he’s not really supposed to show them other people’s grades) and stands, heading over to the counter. There are a couple of people in line, so he fucks around on his phone while he’s waiting, looking at Instagram pictures from Isaac, whose scarves have apparently won some award (because apparently there are awards you can get for scarves, what the fuck). Though it probably doesn’t hurt that he’s a werewolf, because for whatever reason people love the idea of werewolf celebrities. Even though him being a werewolf does literally nothing for his fashion-designing abilities. As evidenced by the fact that he makes fucking scarves.
“You want anything?”
And it’s his turn to order. Which is why he shouldn’t let himself get distracted by his phone. “I’ll have a caramel caffè macchiato. With extra caramel.”
The barista (oh, hey, that’s Erica, who practically gave him a coffee IV during last post-finals season) grins at him. “Got sick of your mocha caffè macchiato with extra chocolate?”
Stiles shrugs. “I’m switching it up, taking a break.”
“Right. That’ll be three dollars.”
Stiles forks over the three dollars, then sticks one in the tip jar because he likes Erica (sometimes) and moves over to the side to wait with all the other poor schmucks who need their caffeine fix. It takes a while for him to get his drink, but that’s okay, because he really needs a break from reading the idiocy that is (are? What is grammar) students’ essays on human entrance to all-were packs. Fucking a werewolf to get in? Really? Was that the best they could come up with?
By the time he gets back to the table, the werewolf is gone, and he’s not really sure how to feel about it.
The werewolf is back.
Stiles has tests to grade, which means that he’s alternating between texting Scott (who’s in-fucking-love with Kira and freaking out about it because every once in a while he’s not totally over Allison) and surfing the web for weird werewolf incidents because it’s more interesting than reading about how people think werewolves are hot (which is legitimately what at least two of the essay answers are about).
And the werewolf is just…standing there, in the middle of the room, looking around for a table. Which is weird because there are actually empty tables for once. But the werewolf doesn’t sit—until he spots Stiles, and then he strides over and puts his stuff down in the empty spot like it’s no big deal.
“I’m sitting here.” And then he does, pulling out a laptop and turning it on.
Stiles gathers his stuff up so it’s less everywhere. “I can see that. Any particular reason you picked this table?”
Oh. This is the same table as the last time werewolf-dude was here. Go figure. “I can leave, if you want. Grab another table.” Not piss off the territorial werewolf.
Never mind, then. “Okay. Cool. Because I didn’t really want to leave, anyway. It’s a good seat. Good view of the café. I can see everything.”
“Do you have any sort of filter between your brain and your mouth, or is it just one uninterrupted pathway?”
Stiles shrugs. “Usually it’s more the uninterrupted pathway thing. I’m not so good with impulse control.”
“Somehow I’m not surprised.” And then werewolf-dude starts on his…whatever he’s doing on his computer.
But Stiles isn’t done with the conversation (and he really doesn’t want to grade tests). “What about you? Is there just…too much of a filter? Something block words from coming out of your mouth?”
“So you just have nothing to say? You just don’t like talking to people?”
“Do you want me to shut up, then? I can shut up. If you want.”
The man rolls his eyes up to look at Stiles, and it’s a surprisingly hot look. “How do you manage to teach a class if you have this little impulse control?”
“The trick is that I like what I’m teaching about, so I can stay on topic. The classes are mostly discussion-based, too, so I just remember that it’s their time, and that’s how I keep myself quiet.”
He actually pauses his typing (which seems like a goddamn miracle) to ask, “What do you teach?”
“I’m one of the professors for Werewolves 101, which is technically called ‘Introduction to Lycanthropes and Lycanthropic Culture’ but nobody actually calls it that, and then I teach ‘Humans and Werewolves’, which is about the integration of humans into werewolf packs and about the politics of interpersonal human-werewolf interactions, and my fun class is ‘The Popularization of Werewolves’ which is where we talk about werewolves in pop culture.”
“That’s a lot of classes.”
“Yeah, well, I like being busy, and my pop culture class is only once a week.”
“How are you qualified to teach about humans in werewolf packs?”
“First, it’s what my PhD is on, so I had a whole panel of highly-educated people agree that I’m qualified to talk about it—and teach about it. Second, I am a human in a werewolf pack, so—where are you going?” The werewolf is standing, gathering his stuff up, and that’s not cool, because Stile was finally having a conversation with him.
He pauses just long enough to say, “I have no interest in getting involved in another pack’s matters.”
Seriously. “Whoa, wait, hold on. I’m part of another pack, but I don’t live with them, and they don’t really care who I talk to. Sort of. I mean, if you were a psychopath, they would care, but you’re not—I’m assuming you’re not—so it doesn’t matter. They’re all kind of low-key because they were all bitten so none of them know how the hell to be a werewolf, and anyway, my point is that you don’t have to leave your table because I’m with another pack.”
The werewolf stares at him for another fifteen seconds (like actually fifteen, which is a surprisingly long time to stare at someone without saying anything) and then he sits back down, opening up his laptop again. And then he continues to not say anything.
“Okay. Cool. Great. Are you ever going to tell me your name?”
And apparently that’s that.
Stiles starts looking for hot werewolf guy (and starts sitting at hot werewolf guy’s table when it’s free), but apparently hot werewolf guy has no more need for coffee, because almost a month goes by with nothing. No sightings, no grumpy computer growling, no…anything. Because that’s just Stiles’s luck. He meets a hot guy and then has that guy disappear on him without ever learning his name or anything else about him.
And it’s not like Stiles is going to put his life on hold for the random hot werewolf he ran into twice in a coffee shop. So he goes on a date. Or…kind of a date. More like a we-are-two-single-guys-who-want-to-get-laid-but-meeting-in-a-bar-is-tacky date, where basically the point is to figure out if they can maintain at least the minimum amount of amicability necessary to trust each other with their dicks.
It’s so far, so good, which is basically that he’s decided the guy isn’t a total psychopath and probably won’t try to pull his dick off in some flight of rage halfway through mutual handjobs (Stiles has an active imagination, okay). It would just be nice if the guy would stop talking for ten seconds (and wow, maybe this is what it feels like to hold conversations with Stiles. He feels sorry for everyone he’s ever babbled at. Sort of. Not really).
“—so I told him, I said, I’ve never actually seen ratings this high, which of course isn’t true, but that’s the kind of thing you say to someone like him, because it makes it sound, you know, like you like the show, which of course I don’t, because it takes inane to the next—”
And holy fuck, there’s hot werewolf dude walking by the nighttime-coffee-shop-restaurant-whatever-the-hell-this-place-is, and he’s looking at Stiles, and he looks growly, but Stiles will take growly over Mr. Inane-Television-Shows over here, so he grins and waves. And Mr. Growly-Werewolf actually stops and stares at him for a second, like he hadn’t expected Stiles to recognize him, or to acknowledge him, or something, and then he sort of nods in Stiles’s direction and keeps going.
There is no mutual handjob that night, though there is some very nice jerking off to the thought of Mr. Growly-Werewolf’s face, and it’s okay, because—
Because it is.
Mr. Growly-Werewolf is back the next time Stiles is in the coffee shop, typing away at his computer like the world is going to end if he doesn’t finish whatever sentence he’s writing. He looks up when Stiles walks away from the counter with his extra-caramel caffè macchiato (courtesy of Boyd, who might be the only person less prone to talking than Mr. Growly-Werewolf), then looks at the empty seat across from him, then goes back to his typing, and Stiles grins and walks over because, from that guy, that’s a hell of an invitation.
For once, Stiles has nothing to grade (he’s all caught up, so there Scott who told him he shouldn’t be grading at three in the morning because it would be ‘incomprehensible’. Pshaw. Whatever. It’s not like they read his comments, anyway), so he pulls out a book and starts reading, because he hasn’t gotten to do fun-reading in like a month, and he misses it. It’s all research-research-research (though technically this could kind of count as research).
Twenty minutes in, he sees Mr. Growly-Werewolf look up at the book for the first time. The second time is two minutes after that. And then in one. And then Mr. Growly-Werewolf is staring at it, and Stiles hides a grin behind the book because having werewolves think you’re laughing at them is not the greatest idea.
Instead, he just gestures towards Mr. Growly-Werewolf with the book. “Have you ever read it?”
“Okay. I’ll take that as a no, I guess. Unless you’re doing, like, one blink for yes, two blinks for no, which I’m assuming you’re not, so…yeah. It’s called Still Night, and it’s this supernatural thriller by the author D. Hale—have you heard of him?” Nothing. “Okay, well he’s, uh, he’s—I’m assuming it’s a he, but that’s kind of a sexist, I guess, considering I know nothing about them, so…they—they write these supernatural thrillers, and they’re really fantastic and realistic, and probably at least part of that’s because they’re a werewolf, or at least that’s what I’m guessing from the fact that the only author information is a drawing of a wolf. And I don’t even know if they’re one of, you know, the Hales, because it would be pretty ballsy to claim to be if you’re not, considering that they’re basically werewolf royalty, but you could also get away with it because nobody knows what any of them other than Laura Hale look like, and it’s not like we’re seeing this person’s picture, anyway. And this book—do you care about spoilers?”
“I’ll take that as a no, too. So this one, there’s a kanima, and I didn’t even know that that was a thing that could exist, and it’s practically my job to know, but apparently that’s a real thing, so he’s really done his research, and it’s great to read because not only is he a great writer, but he also really gets it, you know. He gets how werewolves work and how packs work and how all the politics works.”
It looks like Mr. Growly-Werewolf has turned a dull red, which is probably from either irritation at how much Stiles is rambling about an author Mr. Growly-Werewolf doesn’t give a shit about (whoops) or second-hand embarrassment about how Stiles is fanboying over an author in public (whoops). Or maybe he’s just overheated. It is pretty warm in the café.
“Anyway, I’ll let you get back to your…computer. Whatever you’re doing. I’m going to go back to reading this, even though I’m trying to savor it because there’s still months left before the next book is going to be released, and I don’t know how I’m going to wait that long.”
And now he’s going to shut up, because Mr. Growly-Werewolf really doesn’t give a shit about him or this reader-crush on D. Hale.
But still, a few times, he sees Mr. Growly-Werewolf looking up at him, something almost like a smile on his stubbly face.
Mr. Growly-Werewolf isn’t there the next time Stiles shows up, which is probably a good thing because he has pack-structure-analysis project grades to give back for Werewolves 101, and he has to actually make the final for Humans and Werewolves, and so being distracted by his stupidly hot stubbly face would not help him do what he has to do.
“Wait, wait.” Erica holds up a hand when Stiles grabs his mocha macchiato (he’s back to that, so sue him). “I have a thing to give you.”
“Is it food?” Stiles will always take free food. Professors don’t get paid that much, and besides. Food.
She rolls her eyes at him, and he would be offended because she’s a student and he should get some respect and…there’s probably more to that argument, but he’s only a few years older than her, and he was actually a TA in one of her classes, so whatever. “Just stand there for a minute, and don’t drive away the rest of my customers with your babbling.”
Well, okay then. At least he has his phone, and…Scott freaking out. About the fact that he dreamed about Allison. Oh boy, that is not going to be a fun conversation once Stiles actually bites the bullet and goes on Skype to talk to him.
“Here.” Something stabby and angular impales him in the side, and he jerks his head up (because ow) to see Erica poking him with a book. Or a kind of book. A book without a cover, or with just a white cover with regular font on it, and he takes it from her so he can read the cover.
“Alpha Pack Arc?” That makes no sense. Except, wait, holy shit. “Wait is this the—is this the Alpha Pack ARC? Like the Advance Reader Copy? From D. Hale? Where the hell did you get this from?”
Erica glances past him towards his usual table, which is empty. “He left it for you?”
What? “He who?”
She rolls her eyes at him. “The guy you’re always sitting with? Snarly McAbs-a-lot? Do you pay attention at all?”
“I pay attention.” Though apparently not well enough, because he definitely missed something. “Why did Mr. Grumpy-Werewolf get an Advance Reader Copy of Alpha Pack? How did Mr. Grumpy-Werewolf get an Advance Reader Copy of Alpha Pack?” He opens to the first page, and holy shit, it’s signed by D. Hale. “A signed copy?”
She gives him the look that says she thinks he’s a moron (which might be a little bit warranted, because he really missed something major), then says, “Figure it out. You’re taking up space. Now move.”
“Is that any way to talk to a paying customer?”
She snorts at him (which, hello, rude), then pushes the book towards him, points towards the table, and walks away. Like that’s a useful response. But it’s not like he’s going to keep standing there, so he heads over to the table and drops all of his stuff down.
But now he has a dilemma. A conundrum. Because he really wants to start reading Alpha Pack (because holy shit Alpha Pack), but he has a ton of work to do. Work that needs to get done in a time-sensitive manner.
Work that his students may gut him for not doing.
Work for school it is (and hadn’t he planned to be done with stuff for school when he graduated?).
So, with great sadness, he sets Alpha Pack aside (in his bag, where he can’t see it, because otherwise it’ll taunt him and then he’ll start reading it and then he won’t get work done and then his students with gut him) and starts writing up a final.
Mystery Magic ARC Werewolf is there the next time Stiles shows up, at their table, and Stiles plops down across from him, pulling the book out to sort of wave it in his vicinity. “I don’t know how you did it, but thank you. So much. Really. I mean it. I haven’t started yet, because I’d rather not be shish kabobbed by my students, but I know it’s going to be awesome, and they signed it, so thank you.”
MMARCW nods in his general direction, and Stiles grins at him, because hey, that’s almost a response.
“You should totally read this series, dude, so then we can talk about it. Or at least I can talk about it and not be worried about spoiling stuff that hasn’t even been released yet. Because you’re totally welcome to read this ARC after I’m done with it. If you want. And if you haven’t already.”
This gets him a confused look, but it’s not a no, so hooray for that.
Stiles is still smiling when he opens to page one (past the signed page, holy shit, that’s still amazing, and yes, maybe he touches it reverently at night before he goes to sleep, but nobody needs to know that, least of all MMARCW (or should he add the hot in and turn it into HMMARCW?).
Stiles and HMMARCW get to the coffee shop at almost the same time, which distracts Stiles so much (HMMARCW is only five people behind him in line) that it isn’t until he has his coffee cup in hand that he turns and “Oh,” their table has someone sitting at it. And it’s not like there aren’t other tables empty, but it’s their table, and if he sits somewhere else, HMMARCW isn’t going to sit with him, and that’s become like 50% of the reason to do his work at the coffee shop instead of at his apartment (okay, maybe like 80%, but that is yet another thing the world doesn’t need to know).
And so he just kind of stands there like a moron (because Boyd is at the counter, and so Erica isn’t there to stab him with something to get him moving) because a student (shit, is that one of his students, never mind, nope, it’s not, it’s a douchy-looking guy from…something something Delta, and his Greek is bad, so sue him, he never needs to use it anyway). And then HMMARCW peels off from the line, stalks over to SSD guy (and fuck, this could go badly) and snarls, and SSD guy looks up and is either a total fucking moron or doesn’t realize HMMARCW is a werewolf (or maybe both) because he rolls his eyes.
“Please, you don’t scare me. Get your own table.”
HMMARCW stares at him for a second, then gets really close, and Stiles would almost want to be that close to HMMARCW, except not when he has that look on his face, and then he says something really quietly and SSD guy goes super pale and then gathers his stuff up (sans coffee cup) and bolts to the door, computer charger banging the back of his leg as he goes.
The coffee shop is dead silent at this point, and HMMARCW just picks up SSD’s abandoned coffee cup, drops it neatly in the trash, and looks at Stiles. Who grins at him and walks over, taking his seat at their table. Because maybe he’s an asshole and doesn’t have enough regard for students (though SSD guy was a serious idiot for challenging a werewolf to his territory) but that was awesome.
HMMARCW joins him a few minutes later, coffee in hand, and sits in his seat, pulling out his laptop and basically ignoring Stiles, who’s beaming at him. “That was fantastic. You know that, right? I mean, I get why you did it, and I’m really glad you didn’t dismember him or something, but that was really entertaining.”
“Glad you were amused,” and holy shit, HMMARCW just talked to him for the first time since their Stiles-loves-D. Hale conversation (except, wait, HMMARCW hadn’t actually talked in that conversation, so the last time they held an actual conversation was when HMMARCW almost walked out because he thought Stiles was pack-taken or something).
“Yeah, man, that was great. And now that’s you’re holding a conversation with me, I just wanted to thank you again for the book. It’s really great, and I don’t know how you got ahold of it, because, well, it’s like the most looked-forward-to-ed book of the year, but thanks. Yeah.” This gets him another confused look, which is a little unnerving, because Erica did say that the book came from him. “You did give me the book, right? The AR—uh, the Advance Reader Copy of Alpha Pack? I mean, Erica, the barista—baristess?—said you did.”
Awesome. That was really cool. Except it didn’t explain the confusion. But whatever. “So…what kind of books do you like? Like is this your type of book, or do you read historical, or classics, or bodice-rippers, or—”
“So like this?” And they’re actually holding a conversation, but Stiles isn’t going to point that out again, because he might stop, and that would suck. “Do you read mostly urban stuff, or do you do like epic fantasy and other stuff set not on earth too, because there’s this great series set in pseudo-Rome with magic like from Avatar the TV show—not the movie, or I guess really either of the movies—by Jim Butcher, and—”
“Yeah.” Except apparently that’s all HMMARCW has to say on the topic, because he goes back typing, and that will not stand. “What about TV shows? Are you into mostly fantasy, or do you like sci-fi, because, I mean, Firefly is a classic, and Battlestar Galactica was awesome, though the end was a bit…weird, not that the entire show wasn’t weird, and I could honestly keep going about all of these forever so you should probably stop me at some point.”
“Gēn hóuzi bǐ diū shǐ.”
“What the—oh my God, you just swore at me in Chinese! Firefly Chinese!” This might be the best day ever. “You’re a nerd. Like an actual, honest-to-God, closet nerd. You’re awesome.”
HMMARCW turns a little bit red, then hunches down and goes back to typing, but this time it’s okay, because he’s a nerd, and that just makes everything a little bit better.
It’s not that things change, exactly, after the table incident (as Stiles as named it in his head), though HMMARCW sometimes actually responds to him now, and they have held two full over-five-minute conversations, one about the evils of Fox having cancelled Firefly, and one about whether Jim Butcher is better at writing urban fantasy or fantasy-fantasy.
And HMMARCW is awesome. Once he actually opens his mouth, he’s articulate, and he’s funny, and he can pronounce all of the Firefly swears perfectly, which is ridiculous.
But he hasn’t done anything. Not since giving Stiles the book, and it’s not like Stiles hasn’t made it pretty damn clear that he’s interested, but he just hasn’t brought anything up since then. Like, ‘hey, I got you an impossible-to-get book, want to go have dinner?’ Or ‘hey, want to give me a blow job as payment for this book I got you?’ Because Stiles would totally be down for that. Giving HMMARCW a blow job. Or just…seeing him naked. Partially unclothed. Anything.
But the problem is that he doesn’t know if HMMARCW is interested. Book giving would suggest yes. Lack of follow-up would suggest no. And pissing off a werewolf by propositioning to him when he’s not actually gay is not super high on Stiles’s list of things to do. For obvious reasons.
And now sometimes HMMARCW looks upset when he looks at Stiles, at least when he looks at Stiles and thinks Stiles isn’t looking (but he’s always looking, and wow, that makes him sound like a serial killer), and that’s awful. Because he’s making HMMARCW sad, and he doesn’t know why, and that’s literally one of the last things he wants to do. Because HMMARCW clearly doesn’t have enough that he’s happy about, and also Stiles wants to make him feel good (really fucking good, and wow, he entertains himself).
So desperate times call for desperate measures. He’s calling Scott. Scott, who has (moderately-successfully) navigated a relationship with a human, a whatever-he-had-with-Isaac with a werewolf, and the beginning of an almost-relationship with Kira. Scott, who is so oblivious that a girl could stand naked in front of him, trying to seduce him, and he would just offer her a jacket.
So okay, yeah, this is probably a bad idea.
“Wait, so what’s the problem again?”
Stiles wants to shake Scott, but that is not going to happen for a number of reasons. Like that Scott is a werewolf. And not in the same place as him. “I want to have sex with him. I don’t know if he wants to have sex with me. He gave me a present. He hasn’t said anything remotely suggesting he’s interested in me since, so I don’t know if he wants to have sex with me.”
Scott gives him the exact same look Erica gave him after she gave him the book, except without the makeup, and pixelated because his internet is shitty. “You’re supposed to be an expert on human-werewolf interactions, right?”
“Yes, that is what my PhD is about. And my life.”
“So if someone told you what you just told me—werewolf gives gift, they don’t talk about it, they are—”
“Motherfucker.” Scott looks actually offended, like Stiles was actually accusing him of having sex with his mother (which would be gross, and Melissa is a very nice woman, and ew). “Not you. I’m such a moron. Okay. Thanks. Bye.”
And then Stiles closes the Skype call before Scott can say anything else, because he’s freaking out, and he doesn’t really need to have anyone see that. Not even his best friend. Because he is such a freaking moron. He knows this shit. This is literally his job, and apparently everything he knows just fell out of his brain because his dick got involved.
So now he needs a plan.
Unfortunately, plans don’t always go as planned (as Stiles knows because ‘let’s go into the forest in the middle of the night’ turned into ‘my best friend just got bitten by a werewolf’) and he can’t go forward with what he wants to do because HMMARCW isn’t there. For a week. And Stiles doesn’t know when he’s going to be back, and he’s freaking out anyway because finals are next week and so he’s basically going to be running on coffee and Adderall and maybe some Cheetos between now and the end of that (and shouldn’t he be done with this shit, but 72 hour turn-around times are hard with three classes, plus thirty projects to grade, so apparently not), and so he is not a happy person.
But there isn’t anything he can do, so he just goes to the coffee shop every day he can and grades the shit out of those projects and pointedly ignores the ARC of Alpha Pack that is taunting him from his bag because he doesn’t have time to read right now (which sucks because the book is amazing).
But the real problem comes after finals, when he has dozens of finals to grade and nowhere to grade them, because the coffee shop is full of post-finals students who are loud and rowdy and (in some cases) his students, which is a bad combination. And his apartment is full of reasons not to do his work, like video games, and Netflix, and a bed (because he’s operating on something like three hours of sleep a night for the past week because all of his free time has been spent dealing with Scott, who keeps freaking the fuck out because he called Kira Allison in bed once (whoops).
So he goes to the library.
And it’s not that he doesn’t like the library, exactly. It’s that…well, his mom volunteered at the library, and so most of his memories of the library—other than the Beacon Hills High School library—are of his mother, and it’s like hospitals, where there’s something about how they smell and how they feel that makes everything feel like his mother.
Which isn’t really his favorite thing ever.
But he needs to get work done, and he’s at the point where if he doesn’t get it done now it’s not going to happen by the 72-hour mark, because when he falls asleep, he’s not waking up for at least 12 hours (and probably more like 24). Like, he’s seriously hitting the micro-sleep stage, where he loses a couple of seconds at a time, so he sits at one of the tables with a shitty but strong coffee from the coffeemaker in the library and goes to it.
And tries really hard not to close his eyes.
He has three finals left (and they’re from the good students, because he saves those for last because they’re the best to read) when he runs out of coffee. And even though these are the good students, there’s no way he’s getting through these finals without coffee, so he stuffs everything more-or-less in his bag, which he leaves to save his seat, and gets up to head to the coffeemaker.
There’s someone standing there, so he stands in line behind them, pinching himself intermittently to stay awake as the guy pours himself some coffee. And then the guy turns around, and holy shit, it’s HMMARCW. And this is literally the worst time to run into HMMARCW, who looks adorable and scruffy and snarly, and Stiles isn’t even sure whether he’s saying any of this aloud or what because he’s not positive his mouth is working properly.
But he has a plan, and it’s a good plan, and he’s not really sure when he’s going to see HMMARCW again, so he blurts out, “I’m sorry.” And HMMARCW just sort of…crumples, like someone cut the strings holding him up, and fuck, fuck, that’s not what Stiles was aiming for, so he starts babbling, “I know that you were trying to tell me something with the book and everything, and I should have realized it, because that’s my job, but I’m a moron and I get too attached to things and so I forgot everything that I know about werewolves, and so I’m sorry.”
HMMARCW just stays crumpled, and he mumbles, “It’s okay,” and starts to walk away.
Which is still wrong, and Stiles clearly isn’t getting his point across (or maybe he is and HMMARCW changed his mind, and wow, that would suck), but he’s having a really hard time connecting his brain to his mouth (a harder time than usual). “No, wait.” HMMARCW stops and looks at him, and belated he tacks on, “Please,” which gets him an honest-to-God smiles (or at least a twitch of the lips, but they go up, so it counts). “I, um, so what I was trying to say is that I talked to my friend who’s a werewolf, and he reminded me that the way that werewolf mating rituals go is that they give a gift that they think the person can use, usually based on something that they’ve said or done, and then it’s in the other person’s court, because they’ve shown their hand and so the other person knows, but I’m a moron and forgot that that’s how it works, and so I kept waiting for you to make the next move, when you were waiting for me to make the next move.”
HMMARCW’s face lights up, but it’s hesitant still, like he doesn’t know what Stiles is saying, which is totally fair, because Stiles isn’t even sure what he’s saying at this point. “Is that so?”
“Yeah. So, uh, I’m going to make the next move. If you’re still interested. Which I hope you are. So…do you want to go out with me sometime? To somewhere that isn’t the coffee shop?”
“I would love to.”
Stiles grins at him and then takes a step towards the coffeemaker, and one of his feet misses the ground and then he’s pitching forward and everything is sort of weird and smeary and maybe he should have gotten some more sleep, and then warm hands with fantastic muscles catch him and he passes out.
But at least he gets to be in HMMARCW’s arms as he falls.