‘You’ve got that first edition Jane Eyre in the back, right?’
Stiles looks up to where Lydia has once again materialised out of thin air – curse her and her freakish ninja skills – and nods. ‘Yeah, I put it back there last week when you said that Emily was coming in soon.’
Lydia smiles, looking pleased. ‘Good, good! Just thought I’d check; you know how Emily is about Jane Eyre.’
Stiles snorts. ‘Yeah, I do. She’s weird about Jane Eyre – like Isla Fisher in that Ryan Reynolds rom-com.’ Lydia shoots him a look.
‘Stilinski, why do you even remember that? I made you watch that movie four years ago.’ She narrows her eyes at him suspiciously. ‘Have you been taking too much Adderall again?’
Stiles shuffles uncomfortably on the spot. ‘Maybe… Ow! Lydia, what the hell?’
Lydia looks at him innocently, as if pretending that she didn’t just smack him round the head.
‘What? I’m just doing what your dad would do.’ And with that, she flounces off to go and terrorise someone else.
Stiles watches her go, muttering curses under his breath. Lydia is the whole reason he’s here in the first place – here being not just the bookshop that they both work in, but also Oxford, England, where they’re both attending university. And yeah, calling it university took some getting used to, as did remembering that term was the English word for semester, or that chips in the UK are not the same as chips in the US.
The story goes something like this: hyperactive loser meets stunningly beautiful, intelligent girl when he’s five and falls head over heels in love with her. Said loser continues being in love with her – and being completely ignored by her – throughout his school days, until his best friend starts dating her best friend in sophomore year. Somehow, the hyperactive loser and the stunningly beautiful, intelligent girl start hanging out – somewhat grudgingly in her case – and realise that they have quite a lot in common. And when (at the start of junior year) said girl reveals she’s actually not into guys at all (which explains a lot about her boyfriend) loser boy gets over her and they start being friends. Really good friends actually, which is why Stiles (for he is loser boy, surprise surprise) let Lydia persuade him that moving halfway around the world to go to one of the world’s best institutes of higher education was a good idea.
Obviously she was right, because if anyone is infallible it’s Lydia Martin. He doesn’t tell her that though, because she’s frightening enough as it is and Stiles doesn’t exactly need another reason to feel cripplingly inferior.
‘Stiles, I can hear your angst from here! Stop it’, Lydia calls from the other side of the shop.
And yeah, again with the freakish ninja skills.
Lydia is doing PPE, and from what Stiles can gather has her tutor well under her thumb, along with half her lecturers. He’s also pretty sure any guy on her course would willingly become her slave, mainly just to get her to notice them. He remembers being one of those guys, vividly. Now of course he knows better.
And ok, so he’s whatever the equivalent of a gay best friend is – token straight guy? – to Lydia’s unattainable lesbian perfection, but actually it works out pretty well. He gets Lydia’s undivided attention more than anyone else (both a blessing and a curse), as well as getting to hear her absolutely decimating the rest of her course mates in their weekly brunch – which Lydia pays for because a) she’s filthy rich and b) she promised Stiles’ dad that she’d make sure Stiles got at least once decent meal a week. And none of this is taking into account the fact that Lydia is seriously, insanely intelligent, as well as being funny in a kind of ‘so dry we might have gone to the Sahara’ way, and a totally badass, who routinely saves Stiles’ innocent ass from scary guys. And girls.
She also has excellent taste in alcohol.
Stiles, on the other hand, has a terrible taste in alcohol and isn’t anywhere near any kind of perfection. He’s reading History and spends his time sleeping, researching at strange hours of the night and crying over his laptop when he sits down to write the essays that they get set weekly. He’s not entirely sure what Lydia sees in him as a friend, but it may or may not have something to do with the fact that his ADHD and inability to live without huge quantities of caffeine and Adderall make him into something like a circus attraction. Not only is he completely unable to talk to girls, he’s also incapable of not talking. The combination is disastrous.
He did get them both jobs though, so there’s that.
It happened entirely by accident. A week into the first term of the year, Stiles realised – with growing horror – just exactly how many books he was going to need. He’d ignored his reading list since it arrived in the mail, only to hastily dig it out of his things a couple of days after he arrived and groan loudly at it. He owned exactly none of the books on it, and had headed into Oxford on a desperate hunt for a bookshop. His search proved futile – neither WH Smith nor Waterstones had all the books he needed, or indeed any of the books he needed at a price he could afford. So he wandered around Oxford, got hopelessly lost, and stumbled upon ‘vetus taberna liborum’.
And yeah, initially he’d thought it was the front for some kind of criminal gang, but it turned out to be nothing more than a second-hand bookshop, stuffed to the brim with old copies of former students’ books, as well as almost anything else that caught the owner’s fancy. He’d spent a happy afternoon rifling through shelves and shelves of books, hunting down exactly what he needed.
Stiles got back to his room with a lighter wallet and incipient back problems. He went back a week later, and the week after that too. It took no time at all for him to get chatting to the owner, and when he found out that the guy was looking for some part-time help, he dragged Lydia back with him the next day. Between his ‘personable character’ (the owner’s words) and Lydia’s impressive (read: scary) demeanour, they found themselves with a job each.
Actually, Mr Williams is barely ever there, so mainly it’s just Stiles and Lydia. They make a surprisingly good team – Stiles is friendly and welcoming, while Lydia is terrifyingly persuasive and helpful. The shop no longer resembles a crack den, and Stiles now actually knows what the shop name means. Yeah, he thinks it’s a little pretentious to just call the place ‘the old bookshop’ in Latin, but it’s not his shop, so for once he’s keeping quiet. Besides, he’s getting paid, which means he has money to buy all the important things a student needs – beer, beer and more beer, with the occasional side of food and vodka.
Next year, he’s going to be living with Lydia. He might actually get two decent meals a week.
He’s daydreaming about his dad’s lasagne when Lydia’s voice startles him out of his reverie.
‘Wha?’ he manages.
‘Stiles.’ And oh, shit, she’s using the tone of voice that means the loss of his testicles is probably imminent if he doesn’t work out how to make her happy.
‘I’m coming, most benevolent and merciful of women’, he calls, before dashing to the back of the shop to grab the copy of Jane Eyre they’d been talking about earlier. He bounds round to the till, cheeks a little flushed. He presents it to her with a flourish. ‘You know you’re my favourite friend, right?’
She glares at him. ‘Don’t lie. I know about your little late-night Skype sessions with Scott. And I didn’t want the Jane Eyre.’ She waves her hand vaguely at the guy next to her. ‘This is Derek. He needs some old poem or something. I need you to find it for him, because you know poetry gives me a headache and I’m in the middle of cataloguing our Philosophy books.’ She stops and glares again. ‘Well? Get on with it Stilinski.’ And like that, her attention returns to her work. Stiles slumps a little in relief – it’s like having a million-watt searchlight moving off you when Lydia moves her focus to something else.
He turns to look at Derek. He stops.
It’s safe to say that his jaw drops, because Derek is… well Derek is a model. Or a demi-god. Or something. He’s maybe an inch taller than Stiles, but he’s built like something carved by Michelangelo – Stiles can actually count his abs through his t-shirt. They are definitely more than a six pack. They’re a multiple of six pack, and you could probably use them to grate cheese. Then there are his shoulders… and, well, let’s just say that they fill out his leather jacket very nicely.
On top of the incredible bodily perfection, there’s Derek’s face and yeah, Stiles is having difficulty processing how anyone has a jawline, cheekbones and eyes like that all at the same time. It’s not fair.
Abruptly he realises that he’s gaping and staring and Derek is looking at him like he’s mentally deficient and also Stiles is not gay. So he shuts his mouth, licks his lips, ignores the way his mouth has gone completely dry, and tries to sound like a normal human being when he asks,
‘So what are you looking for?’
His brain says me.
Derek scowls. ‘Shakespeare.’
And wow, ok, Derek is apparently one of the moody, broody, monosyllabic types. It should really make him less appealing. It doesn’t, not least because he’s moody, broody, monosyllabic and Irish.
‘Do you, umm, want to elaborate on that?’ Stiles asks, because hey, they have a lot of Shakespeare and really, any excuse to hear that accent again. Derek just looks at him and ok, that’s totally as scary as Lydia, maybe more so. ‘Never mind’, Stiles gasps. ‘We’ll just go and take a look at Shakespeare.’
And that’s pretty much how it goes for the next fifteen minutes, during which Stiles physically cannot keep quiet and Derek says about two words. Or growls two words. He’s like the wolf-man or something – the hot, hot wolf-man that Stiles would totally be up for screwing under the full moon and oh god why is he having all these gay thoughts?
For a single, desperate moment, Stiles wonders if he’s dreaming. He dismisses the idea when he realises that there is no way his brain could imagine someone this hot all by itself. It’s not like he ever managed to think up anyone hotter than Lydia, and traitorous as it sounds, this guy is totally hotter than Lydia.
He’s almost hysterical when they finally find what Derek is looking for. He drags it off the shelf with shaking fingers and holds it out, a slightly manic grin on his face.
‘So Lydia will probably be able to help you at the till – I mean, I know she said poetry gives her a headache, but everyone loves Shakespeare and sonnets are totally romantic and awesome and even Lydia with her cold, stony heart loves sonnets, so-’
He’s pressed up against a bookshelf in the blink of an eye, the books quivering with the force of it. Derek’s face is inches from his, lip drawn back in a snarl, eyes intensely, shockingly blue. ‘Do you ever quit talking?’ the older man asks. Stiles shakes his head.
‘Not really’, he mumbles. ‘Especially not when I’m nervous, and dude, you’re kind of nervous-making, I’m just saying. You’ve got that whole broody, mysterious ‘I might kill you in an alley’ vibe going on. So, yeah, I’m a little nervous. Actually, I’m a lot-’
‘Shut up’, Derek hisses. Then he gives Stiles another shove and walks off. Stiles is left clinging to the bookshelf to try and stay standing. It takes ten minutes for him to let go and another five for him to will away his erection. Lydia finds him staring into space an hour later and pats him sympathetically on the head.
‘Poor Stiles’, she says. ‘Do you need the afternoon off to come to terms with your newly-discovered sexuality?’
Stiles turns slowly to look at her, eyes wide and slightly glazed. He makes a sound a lot like ‘meep’ (which he will deny furiously later) and kind of collapses forward into Lydia’s boobs. She sighs.
‘Yes, you can face-plant my cleavage. And because I’m a wonderful friend, I’ll even let you stay there for five minutes.’ She runs her fingers through his buzz cut, nails scratching lightly against his scalp in the way she knows he likes. Stiles wraps his arms around her waist and says something that might be ‘thank you’, but comes out kind of muffled.
‘Shh’, she says. ‘Just enjoy the boobs.’ And Stiles does as he’s told until his five minutes are up, at which point he looks at Lydia with something like despair.
‘What do I do?’ he says hoarsely.
Lydia smiles at him. ‘You do what anyone does when faced with an insurmountable obstacle in their path – you go out and get absolutely shit-faced.’
And that’s what they do.
The hangover that follows Stiles’ sexual identity crisis bender is severe enough that it actually takes his mind off Derek for a couple of days. In fact, the only thing on his mind for the following forty-eight hours is how dying sounds like a really good idea right now. Well, that and the fact that his internal organs seem determined to claw and hack their way out of his body all at once.
Then it’s Saturday morning and brunch-time. Lydia orders him the biggest, unhealthiest breakfast on offer, with an extra side of curly fries. After that’s taken care of, she sips her espresso and fixes him with a look.
‘So’, she says.
Stiles groans. ‘So? So what?’ Lydia carries on looking at him. He groans again and buries his face in his hands. ‘So I think I might be maybe a little bit bisexual’, he mumbles between his fingers. ‘Or maybe a lot bisexual. But only for that guy – Derek.’
When he looks up again, Lydia is grinning at him like the cat that got the canary. ‘What?’ he mumbles.
She shrugs. ‘I’m just glad you’re admitting it. I thought I was going to have to ease you out of the closet with bribery and blackmail, but this means I don’t have to use my encyclopaedic knowledge of your failures until another time.’ She frowns at him. ‘Drink your orange juice.’ Stiles does as he’s told and she smiles at him, pleased. Then she takes another sip of her espresso. ‘So, you know you like him. What are you going to do about it?’
Stiles just about manages not to choke on his juice and gapes at her. ‘What? I’m not going to do anything. I’m actually planning just to ignore this whole thing until it goes away, like an ostrich.’
Lydia raises an eyebrow. ‘That’s the worst idea ever and you know it.’ She purses her lips. ‘I think you should ask him out. On a date.’
Stiles gapes at her again. He probably looks like a fish, but he’s a little too stunned to care. ‘Lydia, I think all that hair product you use might actually have poisoned you’, he says finally. ‘On what planet is that a good idea? Or did you fail to notice the fact that he’s insanely hot, Irish, probably at least twenty-six and also clearly not gay?’
Lydia snorts. It’s a testament to her perfection that she doesn’t sound in the least bit undignified.
‘Firstly, so he’s Irish – and? Secondly, I’d say he’s probably only twenty-four, maybe even twenty-three. Thirdly, yes, I noticed that he was ‘insanely hot’, but it’s not like you’re not cute, and you have this whole Bambi thing that totally makes people want to look after you. And finally, nobody who looks that good is completely straight. Nobody. I mean, I went out with Jackson – I have actual evidence that I’m right.’ She pauses as a waiter sets down their food, then steals one of Stiles’ chips. ‘Besides, the worst thing that can happen is he says no.’
‘Lyds, the worst thing that can happen is that he kills me slowly and painfully, before dumping my body in the river’, Stiles insists. Lydia shoves a handful of chips in his mouth.
‘Eat’, she says sternly, ignoring his big doe eyes because she’s cruel and heartless. ‘And stop being such a baby. If he kills you, I promise to make sure that he gets put into a prison where some giant decides he wants Derek as his new boy toy.’
Stiles mumbles, ‘Promise?’ around a mouthful of chips. Lydia nods, having known him for long enough to completely ignore Stiles’ disgusting eating habits.
‘I promise.’ And because it’s Lydia, who is cruel and heartless and probably secretly a criminal mastermind, Stiles feels reassured enough to actually give his brunch the attention it deserves.
After their brunch, Lydia spends the next week or so looking secretive in a way that worries Stiles intensely. Thankfully he’s busy enough with work and studying that it only keeps him awake half the night most days, instead of depriving him of sleep entirely.
At their next brunch date, Lydia bounces into the restaurant and throws a manila file down on the table with an air of triumph. Stiles eyes it suspiciously, waiting for it to blow up or start smoking.
‘What is it?’ he asks, not taking his eyes off it. ‘You didn’t have Derek assassinated did you?’
Lydia sighs and Stiles swears he can hear her rolling her eyes.
‘No, you moron, I did not have Derek assassinated. Then you’d never ask him out and life would be considerably more boring.’ She sits down and sips her espresso – ordered in advance by Stiles, who has learned that the easiest way to get on Lydia’s bad side is to deny her caffeine – smiling happily at the first taste. ‘Mmmm. I just love the coffee they do here. And I promise I didn’t do anything to Derek. Well, except paying a guy to do some background research – it’s all in there.’
Stiles gapes her, proving yet again that it doesn’t actually take a miracle for Stiles to be quiet.
‘No, it’s not illegal. I checked.’ She raises a vaguely threatening and expertly shaped eyebrow. ‘Aren’t you going to look at it?’
And because Stiles values his life and various body parts, he does as he’s told.
Fifteen minutes (and a skim read of the complete, unauthorised biography of Derek Hale) later he’s staring at Lydia like she’s the reincarnation of Elizabeth I. She smiles.
‘So on a scale from one to undying, eternal slavish devotion, how much do you love me right now?’
Stile swallows twice before he can speak. ‘Like, forever and ever and ever I will bathe your feet in my tears.’
Lydia wrinkles her nose. ‘Gross, Stilinski. I think I’ll stick to letting you buy me a couple of drinks the next time we go out.’
Stiles nods eagerly. ‘Yeah, yeah I can do that.’ His eyes are still wide and awe-filled. ‘Lyds, this is like gold. I mean, it’s like you’ve given me a key to the lock that is Derek Hale. Now all I have to do is stick it in!’
Lydia is still laughing at his unfortunate turn of phrase five minutes later.
Stiles reads and re-reads Derek’s file a total of five times that day. He reads it everyone night before he goes to bed for the rest of the week. He’s memorised it by Tuesday. He’s also pretty sure that he is in love with a total stranger, but whatever, details.
What matters now is finding a way to ask Derek out without a) dying, b) dying, c) being killed by Lydia for making a fool of himself, or d) being killed by Derek for asking him out. And that also means Stiles has to find a way to bump into Derek again. A subtle way.
‘This plan is doomed to failure’, he tells himself late one night.
Almost instantly, his phone buzzes. It’s a text from Lydia. It reads, stop with all the self-pity. I know you’re wallowing.
The levels of ESP Lydia displays are still freaking Stiles out when he meets her for work the next day. He shoves her preferred hot drink – Starbucks Chai Tea Latte – into her hand. She smiles. Stiles squeaks and dashes into the bookshop to hide.
He’s barely through the door when he runs into a wall – a wall that wasn’t there the last time he checked. A wall that in fact strongly resembles Derek Hale. He squeaks again. Derek scowls.
‘Sorry! Sorry!’ Stiles says, his voice roughly two octaves higher than it should be. ‘There was – I mean, I was – I mean, oh god, ok, look, Lydia.’ And then he proceeds to lapse into silence and stare at Derek as if somehow any of this is going to make any sense. It takes a full minute before he manages to say, ‘So did you need something?’
Derek grunts. ‘Sonnet.’
Stiles sighs, wondering why the whole Neanderthal thing isn’t making Derek any less attractive. ‘Sure’, he says. ‘Come with me.’
They head over to the same shelf as last time, and Stiles begins looking for Shakespearean sonnets once again. Careful not to look at Derek so that he doesn’t lose his nerve, he says, ‘So I’m guessing you’re not an undergrad – are you working on your masters or something?’ And yeah, ok, he already knows exactly what Derek’s doing, but he can’t exactly say that without sounding like a total creeper.
Derek shrugs. ‘I’m doing a PhD actually.’ And holy fuck, did he just say more than three words in a row? Stiles thinks he might actually faint or something – and not just because of the accent.
‘Yeah?’ he manages. ‘What’s it about?’
There’s a pause. Then Derek sighs. ‘It would take a while to explain; maybe I’ll tell you when it’s done. But the long and short of it is that I’m researching poetry.’
‘So that’s why you’re looking for sonnets?’
‘That’s why I’m looking for sonnets.’ Derek frowns. ‘It’s a little book, brown I think? It’s got Sonnet 18 in the title somewhere.’
‘I know that one!’ Stiles says excitedly, looking at Derek. ‘That’s the "Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day" one right?’
Derek nods. "Thou art more lovely and more temperate", he quotes softly and wow, ok that accent really has mystical, boner-inducing powers. Stiles barely holds back the full-body shiver that he wants to do.
‘Yep, yeah, that’s the one’, he says and yes, ok, his voice is a little hoarse but it’s totally not his fault. It’s all Derek’s fault; him and his stupid, sexy as hell voice and body and everything. It’s almost a relief when he finds this the book, which he shoves into Derek’s hands while trying not to blush. He’s around ninety percent certain it’s not working.
‘Well anyway, I’m guessing this is it. So yeah, you might want to go and pay for it so you can go and do your PhD thing – not that I’m trying to get rid of you or anything, but it’s just that it sounds like your thing is kind of important and I have books to catalogue and-’
‘Stiles. Shut up.’ How is it fair that when Derek says his name it sounds so good? How does Derek even know his name? In lieu of doing or saying something stupid, Stiles nods frantically, biting his lip to keep silent. And ok, so Derek is watching his mouth – watching it pretty hungrily to be honest, like Stiles is Little Red Riding Hood and Derek is the Big Bad Wolf about to eat him up. Caught somewhere between nervous and aroused, Stiles licks his lips.
Derek stares at him for what feels like an eternity. Then he growls, and in the next instant, he’s gone. Stiles isn’t sure whether the lack of being slammed into bookshelves is good or bad.
Stiles spends the next few days slipping into happy little dreams of hot sex with broody Irish wolf-men called Derek Hale. Embarrassingly, he now can’t go anywhere near the Shakespeare section of the bookshop without getting a boner. Lydia finds it all hilarious.
‘You need to ask him out’, she says one afternoon. ‘All this pining and drooling isn’t any good for you – or customer service. People are starting to ask if you’ve bumped your head recently.’
Stiles scowls at her. ‘Don’t lie – you’re enjoying this. I know you love to watch me suffer.’
Lydia shrugs. ‘Yeah, I guess I do. Still, the last thing I need is you moping at me when I’m trying to study for exams. The sooner you’re regularly having hot sex with Derek Hale, the happier I’ll be.’
At that moment, the doorbell jangles. Lydia looks at it and smiles. ‘Speak of the devil’, she says. ‘I have to go and do some cataloguing. Stiles, you can take care of this, right?’ And then she disappears, because she’s evil.
Stiles turns around to face Derek, who is looking as unfairly attractive as ever. ‘Hi’, he says, fairly sure that he’s blushing like a tomato.
‘You were talking about me?’
Stiles mentally flails, his mouth opening and closing idiotically. ‘Uh, yeah’, is all he comes up with. Very smooth.
Derek raises an eyebrow. ‘Why?’
Stiles shrugs, making a face. ‘Can’t a guy discuss another guy and his sonnet-reading habits?’
The look that Derek gives him pretty clearly says no. Stiles sighs and decides that a half truth is better than an outright lie.
‘You’re different’, he says. ‘You’re interesting.’ And the thing is that Derek totally is interesting, and not just in an, ‘I want to explore every inch of your body’ kind of way. Stiles has read his life story – Derek is one talented and unusual individual.
A moment of silence passes between them and Stiles wonders if he’s already screwed things up without even meaning to. Then a corner of Derek’s mouth curls just ever so slightly and oh my god it’s a good look on him. Stiles makes his New Year’s Resolution ‘Make Derek Hale smile as much and as often as possible’, for now until forever.
It must show on his face or something, because Derek shakes his head almost fondly. ‘You’re an eejit’, he says. ‘And I wanted to know if you had any Tennyson poems.’
‘Yep, we do’, Stiles says, nodding eagerly and feeling a lot like an over excitable puppy as he bounces off through the bookshelves, chattering blithely about anything and everything he can think of. By the time he’s located the book Derek wants, they’ve actually had something resembling a normal conversation.
They’re still talking when Derek pays for the book, which is awesome. Even more awesome is the fact that when Stiles launches into a brand new story, Derek stays, despite the fact he’s got his book.
‘And anyway, it turns out that she doesn’t even like nuts, so there we were with three pecan pies and nobody else to eat them. Scott ate so much that he actually threw up. I have pictures.’ Stiles grins, the memory warming him. Derek does the little half-smile again and that warms Stiles up a lot more. In that instant, he decides that now’s as good a time as any to make a fool of himself. ‘Hey Derek, do you -’
‘Shite, I’ve got to run’, Derek says, looking at his watch with true horror. ‘I have a meeting with my advisor. I’m really sorry.’ And then he’s out of the door so fast that Stiles barely has time to call goodbye.
Lydia deserves a medal, he decides the next morning. Nobody else, when faced with a drunk, soaking wet, rambling Stiles, would let him into their room, sort him out with a towel and dry clothes and let him sleep in their bed. Nor, when he woke up and started sneezing, would they get him Chinese food, chicken soup and let him watch movies on their laptop all day. Then again, Lydia always was the exception that proved the rule.
‘This wasn’t your best idea’, she says, scratching his scalp, his head in her lap.
Stiles sniffles. ‘I know’, he says miserably. ‘But he totally rejected me.’
Lydia sighs, flicking his ear lightly with a manicured nail. ‘He said he had to go to a meeting with his advisor. That’s a totally legitimate excuse to leave.’
‘Yeah, it’s an excuse.’ Stiles groans. ‘God, he couldn’t even bear to stay and hear me out.’
‘You’re an idiot’, Lydia says decisively. ‘You have no idea whether he was telling the truth or not. And anyway, why would he even think you were going to ask him out?’
‘Because he’s gorgeous and anyone would ask him out. Except you, but you don’t count cause you like girls.’
Lydia replaces Stiles’ headrest – her lap – with a cushion. ‘I stand by my assessment: you’re an idiot.’ She gets up and stretches. ‘I’m calling you a taxi, and you’re going to go home, get some rest and eat some more Chinese food. Come back to work when you’re not snotting everywhere. It’s gross.’
Stiles moans his appreciation. ‘I love you so much’, he says.
Lydia smiles, far more softly than normal. ‘I love you too, you stupid boy. Now get up and get dressed – I know for a fact that I will never see that t-shirt again if I let you go in it, and I like that one. It was one of the better things I stole from Jackson.’ Stiles gives her puppy eyes and she sighs. ‘Fine, fine, I’ll bring you chicken soup every day.’
Yep, Lydia definitely deserves a medal.
In the end, it’s the better part of a week before Stiles feels well enough to go back to work. Apparently wandering around in the pouring rain (drunk, in the middle of March, in a t-shirt and jeans) is not the best idea ever. He makes a mental note not to do it again, ever.
There’s a steaming cup of coffee waiting for him when he gets to the bookshop. He moans happily when he sees it, only sounding borderline sexual. Lydia smirks at him.
‘You are way too easy to please’, she says. He doesn’t reply because he’s too busy practically inhaling coffee. He literally inhales said coffee when Lydia –casually and with complete innocence – says, ‘Derek came in a couple of times while you were sick. He asked if you were ok.’
Stiles chokes for a minute or two, then gasps, ‘What did he say? What exactly did he say?’
Lydia looks up and rolls her eyes. ‘He asked where you were and if you were ok. I don’t remember exactly what he said.’ A sly smile spreads across her face. ‘He didn’t buy anything though.’
Stiles is pretty sure his heart is going to stop with all this excitement. He makes a sort of high-pitched squeak that he will totally deny later. ‘You know what this means right? This means he really did have a meeting with his advisor!’ A stupid grin spreads across his face. ‘I’m a moron.’
Lydia seems to agree, because as soon as he’s finished his coffee, she sends him into the back to sort out a couple of boxes of books that just came in and do some admin. He passes the next hour or so fairly pleasantly, humming to himself and dancing around the back room. This is how Lydia catches him when she sticks her head around the door.
‘I have to go to my seminar now – are you going to be ok on your own? I mean, you’re not going to faint with excitement or anything right?’
Stiles makes a face at her. ‘I was ill, Lyds. I did not in fact turn into a Disney Princess.’
Lydia raises an eyebrow. ‘You could have fooled me.’ And then she disappears, cheerfully ignoring Stiles’ string of curses. Still, things go just fine after she leaves, with the usual steady trickle of customers turning up. Stiles potters about happily for the rest of the afternoon, only feeling marginally more buzzed than usual.
About fifteen minutes before they’re due to close, he’s reading Irish folklore in the back of the shop when he hears the bell ring. He reads to the end of the paragraph before putting the book down, calling, ‘Just as a heads up, we’re closing soon.’
‘Oh, I know’, an immediately recognisable voice replies. Stiles chokes on his own spit and tries furiously not to blush like a girl as he heads out towards the till.
‘Hi, hi, hi!’ He grins awkwardly, because jeez, it’s not fair that anyone looks that good on a regular basis. ‘Hey Derek – how’s it going?’
Derek gives one of his little half smiles, which has the usual effect of turning Stiles’ legs to jelly. ‘It’s going well, thanks. And yourself? Lydia told me you were ill – I hope it wasn’t serious.’ There’s something like concern in his eyes. It’s very distracting.
Stiles nods slowly. ‘Yep. Yeah, I just had a cold or something. It was gross. Still, I’m all better now – as you can see, I’m back to my normal state of perfection.’ And yeah, he’s well aware that he sounds like a moron. Derek seems to have that effect on him. So, with a herculean effort, he stops talking. After a few seconds, he realises that maybe grinning inanely wasn’t such a good idea after all.
Once again though, Derek doesn’t seem to notice. He just carries on with that cute half smile, which almost seems to threaten to turn into a full-blown grin. Stiles can’t tear his eyes away, but in the interests of not looking like a total creeper – if he doesn’t already – he says,
‘I’m guessing you’re here for sonnets, right?’
Derek nods. ‘Yeah. Shakespeare again.’
Stiles nods in return. ‘I can do that.’
And so, once again, they head for the Shakespeare section. Stiles absently thinks that he’s probably going to start having subconscious sexual responses to Shakespeare if this continues. But because he’s a glutton for punishment, he asks,
‘Do you have a favourite sonnet? Or, like, a passage or something that you really like?’
Derek makes a thoughtful sound, standing closer to Stiles than is normal. Stiles tries very hard not to focus on this. He fails completely, his attention turning from the books in front of him to Derek, who is looking at him intently.
‘Romeo and Juliet has some beautiful passages’, he says after what seems like an eternity of them just staring at each other. ‘Do you want to hear some?’ Stiles doesn’t trust himself to speak, so he nods and waits for Derek to grab a copy off the shelf and start reading. But of course, because Derek is a pinnacle of unachievable perfection, he starts quoting from memory.
‘With love's light wings did I o'er-perch these walls; For stony limits cannot hold love out, And what love can do, that dares love attempt; Therefore thy kinsmen are no stop to me.’
In the silence after Derek finishes speaking, Stiles literally cannot breathe. Shit, it should be illegal for anyone with an accent like Derek’s to quote romantic bits of Shakespeare, let alone quoting it from memory at someone, while looking at that someone. Seriously.
And yeah, Stiles realises that he’s looking at Derek like he’s Christmas, Easter and several birthdays all rolled into one. Also, he might be just a little bit hard.
He decides to blame all these things when he says, ‘I think we should go out. On a date. Today.’ Then he lets out a slightly shaky breath and carries on, because apparently he has a death wish. ‘Also, I think you should kiss me. Now.’
Funny thing though: Derek seems to agree with him with the kissing bit. He actually growls and pushes Stiles up against the shelves, then proceeds to kiss him thoroughly and skilfully. So skilfully in fact, that Stiles actually feels his knees going weak, and ends up with his hands fisted in Derek’s leather jacket for fear that he’ll fall over otherwise. Derek doesn’t seem to mind though – if anything, he seems to like it.
In fact Derek seems to like it so much that it’s a good ten minutes before he pulls back, looking slightly dishevelled and so sexy that Stiles wants to bite him. He also possibly wants to have sex right here, right now.
‘Fuck’, is all he manages to say instead.
‘Later’, Derek says with a smirk, and wow, yes, ok, that sounds good.
Derek looks at him, amused. Stiles blushes. ‘I said that out loud, didn’t I? Damn.’
Derek shrugs, still smirking – which, by the way, is a brilliant look on him. ‘I don’t mind knowing that you want me.’ He leans forward to give Stiles a quick kiss, then chuckles. ‘God, you drive me crazy. The first time I came in here, I couldn’t stop thinking about you afterwards. I couldn’t get you out of my head, even though you talk more than my mother – and you talk more shite than she does.’
Stiles glares at Derek. ‘Rude’, he says with a sniff. ‘Besides, you love it – don’t try and deny it. It’s a well-known fact that the Stilinski charm is irresistible.’ The second the words are out of his mouth, he has a minor panic attack, thinking that maybe he and his big mouth have screwed things up.
Then Derek smiles; a proper, genuine smile, unlike anything he’s done before. It’s kind of like watching the sun rise, and it warms Stiles to the core. He smiles back instinctively – only an inanimate object wouldn’t – and then, shyly, he reaches forward and grabs the lapels of Derek’s jacket, pulling him in for a kiss. It’s different this time; slower and sweeter; less hungry, but just as good. Stiles feels like he could do it forever.
Of course, the bell rings.
‘We’re closed’, Derek calls with just a hint of a growl, and ok, the whole bossy, dominant thing – totally a turn on. Stiles gives him another kiss just for that.
‘Stiles, you better not be making a mess back there. I am so not cleaning up if you are.’ Lydia’s voice is dry as the desert, but Stiles knows her well enough by now to completely ignore her ‘I’m much scarier than you’ spiel. He grins.
‘I promise there’s no mess’, he calls back. ‘You don’t have an excuse to murder me yet.’
At that point, Lydia appears round the corner of the shelf and Stiles is suddenly very conscious of the fact that he’s still being pressed up against the Shakespeare section by Derek. He’s not sure whether to be embarrassed or not.
Lydia’s smirk decides it for him. ‘Well, well, it looks like you’re feeling better.’ She turns her attention to Derek for a brief instant, narrowing her eyes. ‘If you hurt him, I will make sure you suffer for the rest of your life. I promise.’ Then she smiles again and looks back at Stiles. ‘I can lock up today, ok? Go.’
Stiles stares her with even more adoration than usual. ‘You are a pearl amongst women’, he says fervently. ‘I’ll see you tomorrow.’
Lydia rolls her eyes. ‘Sure you will.’ She winks. ‘I can cover for you if you think you’re going to be “late”. Just let me know.’ Then she makes a shooing gesture. ‘Now get out of here. All the pheromones are making me having feelings, and you know I don’t like that.’
With a grin, Stiles does as he’s told, trying not to focus too much on the way Derek rests his hand on the small of Stiles’ back, warm and reassuring. They walk out into the afternoon sunlight together and Stiles is unable to keep a smile off his face.
‘So what do you want to do?’ Derek asks him. A million ideas flash through Stiles’ brain, at least half of which involve a bed and far less clothing. Then he stops, biting his lip.
‘Do you like coffee?’ he asks Derek. ‘Because I really like coffee, even though it totally makes me hyper. And I feel like if we’re ever going to have a chance at being anything like normal, we should start doing this thing properly. By which I mean there should be less time spent in bookshops that I work at. What do you think?’
And yeah, he’s a little nervous, because he hasn’t ever really wanted something serious the way he wants this. But then Derek gives him a small smile and all Stiles’ worries disappear.
‘I think it sounds good’, Derek says. ‘And yeah, I do like coffee.’
Stiles grins. ‘You’re buying.’
Derek cuffs him round the head.
All in all, bookshop or no, Stiles thinks it’s not a bad beginning.