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Insane Chemistry (with Derek Hale)

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“I can’t believe I got stuck working with Derek Hale,” Stiles groans, dropping his tray to the lunch table with a flourish that sets his pasta surprise (surprise! It’s not actually pasta) jiggling worryingly.

Across the table, Scott tries to mold his expression into one of sympathy, but it only lasts about two seconds before a smile starts creeping out again.

“Dude, it’s not really that bad, is it?”

Stiles snorts.

“Obviously it’s not bad for you. You got to partner up with your girlfriend.” The grin’s back in full force now, and Stiles figures he can’t really blame the guy since he and Kira have been dancing around each other all summer, but only made things official when school started up again a week back. Still, Stiles can’t help feeling a little betrayed. Where’s the best friend solidarity? The loyalty? Two solid years as lab partners up in smoke at the barest nudge and a hint of a shy smile, and Scott’s not even trying to feel bad about it.

Meanwhile,” he continues, while Lydia and Danny slip into seats a little ways up the table, “I get stuck working with one of only four seniors in the entire school taking chemistry. You know what it means when a senior takes chemistry, Scotty? It means they weren’t smart enough to take it as a junior.”

Scott bites down on a laugh (seriously, the traitor) while Danny eyes him thoughtfully.

“Aren’t you guys taking AP Chem?”

Not the point,” Stiles replies, waving him off. “Actually that just makes it worse. His parents probably made him take it for college apps or something. I am going to be carrying this guy all year.”

Lydia takes a bite of her salad, somehow managing to make biting a cucumber seem like a predatory act.

“I’m sure he’d be willing to carry you if you asked him nicely.”

Stiles groans.

“Not this again,” he mutters, stabbing his fork viciously into a noodle. The fork slides right over the rubbery surface and sends it bouncing off the tray and straight into the side of Scott’s brown lunch bag.

They all stare at the escaped noodle blankly for several seconds, before Stiles slides his tray pointedly away.

“Do we seriously need to run through this one more time? I am not into Derek. I wasn’t into him last spring when I showed up to lacrosse games to cheer on Scott. I was not into him over the summer just because he had that stupid lifeguard job and I liked going to the pool. I like swimming, ok? If anyone was ogling his abs it was you two.” He shoots Lydia and Danny pointedly judgmental looks. Lydia smirks while Danny shrugs, unashamed.

“Hey, I know how to appreciate a view. What’s weird is you protesting so much.”

“I protest the exact same amount that any sane person would when being assaulted with baseless accusations.” Neither of them seem impressed, and Stiles figures the time for drastic measures has come. “And you know what, I think if anyone has an inappropriate crush on Mr Prom Queen Varsity Jock, it’s Scott.”

A bite of ham and cheese almost comes tumbling out as Scott gapes at him, wide eyed.

“Wha? I do not! I like Kira.”

He glances around like he’s worried the girl has materialized out of nowhere, different lunch period notwithstanding, to hear the sudden slander against his affections.

Stiles turns a victorious look back to his other two friends.

“Really?” Lydia deadpans. “Scott is your model for appropriate romantic behavior?”

They all stop to smile fondly Scott’s way at that, and Scott grins back good-naturedly before holding out a Ziploc bag of cookies toward Stiles.

“Hey look, we’re sorry man. You know we’re only messing with you because you get so wigged out about it. We know you’re not really into Derek.”

Stiles manages to maintain his annoyance for all of three seconds in the face of chocolate chip cookie peace offerings.

“It’s just the principle, ok?” he says, snatching two for good measure. “Liking the prom king? Please. I think I have a little more depth to my standards than that.”

.-

“Oh fuck… fuck, that’s good, Derek. That’s—“

Stiles breaks off, nosing back across Derek’s jaw to capture that ridiculous mouth again. Derek follows along without missing a beat, doing what he’d just been doing to Stiles’ collar to his mouth, nipping at his lip, sucking on his tongue and… ok, he is way too skilled at this. He should teach a class or something. Except if he did that then he’d be too busy to do this with Stiles, and he’d already gone half-crazy just from a few days without it.

“The guys were joking about me liking you again at lunch today,” Stiles pants when their mouths part again. Derek’s got a hand on his ass, sliding down into the pocket of his jeans in a way that feels more intimate than it probably should, and he arches up off the back of the bleachers so he’s flush against Derek’s panting chest.

Derek just hums, seeming intent on marking up every bit of skin he can find under the edge of Stiles’ shirt line. He’s half tempted to just strip it off right here, but there’s a line of deniability that would most definitely be crossed if Stiles is caught shirtless with Derek under the bleachers.

Because, ok, maybe Stiles hadn’t been being entirely one hundred percent honest with his friends when he’d said he wasn’t attracted to Derek. But he can’t even be faulted for that because seriously, Derek is built, ok? And not in some over the top, Hulk-man on steroids way, just in a clean, strong, “I could probably pick a full-grown Stiles up and screw him against a wall without breaking a sweat” kind of way. (Ok, maybe not, but Stiles has fantasies, ok?) And on top of that he’s got the magazine cover face and the runway model smolder, with the jawline and the stubble Stiles just wants to kiss his lips raw on. And his eyes, too – those kaleidoscopic eyes that would probably stump every government system trying to pin down their color.

There’s a reason Derek’s been voted king of every single social event since Stiles entered high school, and it’s not because of his charming personality. Unfortunately, all those votes and doting admirers are exactly why Stiles needs to be making out with Derek under the bleachers instead of on full display in the parking lot.

“They were being so fucking ridiculous, but I think I got them off track. And since we’re forced to interact with each other now they shouldn’t make too big a deal about us spending time together.”

“Still can’t believe you managed that,” Derek’s words are a rumble against Stiles’ throat, and Stiles hums back, arching into the carefully gentle pressure. The last time they’d done this his dad had asked about Stiles’ ‘odd rash’ the next day, and Stiles has seriously considered asking Derek to shave his stubble before they did this again.

…But then Stiles wouldn’t be able to feel Derek’s stubble.

At Stiles’ hum Derek looks up, smoothing a hand up Stiles’ chest like it’s something to be impressed with.

“Got us to be partners,” Derek clarifies. “Made it look like an accident.”

Stiles snorts because that hadn’t even been a challenge. Just a carefully dropped word to Scott the day before about how it was too bad chem was the only class he shared with Kira, just a too loud exclamation of “well, who am I supposed to work with now?” after situating himself oh so subtly at Derek’s elbow, so that Harris shot him an impatient look and predictably assigned them together.

“That’s why I’m the brains and you’re the brawn, dude. I might feel a little bit bad if Scott wasn’t so obviously psyched to be partnered with Kira.”

Derek glances away, squinting through the bleachers like he’s checking for lurkers in the empty field.

“Well, you played up being pissed about it pretty well.”

“You too,” Stiles grins, nipping at Derek’s jaw. (Derek’s jaw is a go to for all kinds of interesting mouth action. The stubble might be hell on Stiles’ skin but it covers up everything). “You should quit football, try out for the drama club.”

Derek snorts, but his gaze is still focused outward, and Stiles leans back a little, thumbs at his jaw instead.

“Hey, you get it, right?” Because they’d talked through this already. Stiles had spent about sixty percent of their first, frantic makeout pulling back to explain how this is not because Derek was popular, Stiles was not one of those people and Derek being king of the school actually hurt in the grand scheme of things but ohgod please do that again.And Derek had just smirked and dragged his nail back along Stiles’ hipbone, and ducked in to kiss him quiet. “I can’t have my rep dashed with everyone thinking I’m just yet another person chasing the popular kids’ coattails.”

“I heard those were coming back in style,” Derek says mildly.

Stiles smacks his shoulder.

“Seriously though, dude. What minimal reputation I have has least has some substance at this point. If people know about us, all they’re gonna see me as is yet another pathetic person panting after the prom king.”

“You keep calling me prom king,” Derek answers, eyes rolling. (As though he isn’t.)

It’s not really an answer, but it has Stiles grinning back.

“Well, it goes with the coattails.”

That has Derek laughing, soft. Leaning in for a slow, dragging kiss that leaves Stiles panting and so, so ready to screw his “fully dressed outside the bedroom” rule, until Derek draws away, looking pleased.

“Time for practice.”

Stiles groans, slumping back against the pillar. His body’s buzzing in a way that makes him want to chase after Derek’s form even as he draws back. Wrap his arms around him and convince him to skip practice today. Every day. He’s already basically a sports god at the school, he probably doesn’t need more practice, right?

Jock,” he tosses out, like an insult. Derek replies with an easy grin.

“Nerd.” And then he swoops in for another brush of lips, and a second, faster one, like he can’t help himself. “I’ll come by to study after?”

“You’d better,” Stiles returns. Slides his thumbs into his own belt loops to keep from grabbing at Derek’s shirt. “Got all that chemistry to work out.”

Derek ducks his head, smiling, and watches Stiles through long lashes as he takes one step back, then another, before ducking to scoop up his backpack and spinning to head for the locker room at a quick pace.

So yeah, overall junior year was off to a pretty good start.

.-

“I am so fucking beat,” Derek groans, crossing Stiles’ room and collapsing onto his bed like he’s done it a thousand times. Stiles swivels away from his desk and tries not to stare, tries not to get caught up in how perfect Derek looks in Stiles’ rumpled blue sheets. It’s been a week and a half since they became lab partners and Derek had an excuse to drop by his bedroom, and it still feels like something out of a dirty, late night fantasy. Something in his expression must give him away because, when Derek twists to sprawl on his back instead, hair a loose, tangled mess and shirt riding up with the motion, he grins in a way that is absolutely devastating.

And he absolutely knows it, the dick.

He clears his throat, averting his eyes.

“You’re getting your jock sweat all over my bed.”

Derek arches a brow, slow.

“Like you haven’t been dreaming about getting me sweaty in your bed.”

And… ok, that isn’t vaguely fair.

He’s already on his feet and crossing the room before he can stop to think about it. Straddling his waist boldly and leaning down to catch his smug mouth in a kiss before drawing back, raking a hand through Derek’s wet hair and frowning.

Liar. You totally took a shower before coming here.” His t-shirt, sticking to his damp skin, smells like detergent and body wash instead of sweat.

Derek’s hands smooth up his forearms.

“You actually sound upset about that.”

It doesn’t sound like he’s mocking him, and it gives Stiles the courage to grin down at him, duck in and drag his teeth along Derek’s ear.

“Is this the part where I say maybe I like my guys a little dirty?”

Derek laughs, hot and quiet, against his ear, and it sends a pleased shiver right through Stiles.

“I hope you like your guys sleepy. How pissed would you be if I just took a nap here?”

He slides his hands down to Stiles’ ass, though, just resting there like he can’t get enough of feeling them, so Stiles doesn’t think he’s serious. Probably not. He’s never actually slept with someone before – literally or figuratively – but he’s pretty sure “hand on the ass” is a signal for the latter, not the former.

So he swallows up a shiver of nerves with an exaggeratedly fond coo.

“Aw, poor baby. Tired out from all that extra time surrounded by your many admirers?”

Derek huffs, smoothing slow hands up Stiles sides as Stiles curls down over him, kissing into his clothed chest.

“Not exactly. Two hours of Jackson fucking Whittemore thinking he’s god’s gift to Beacon Hills. He’s so pissed he’s not captain; I think he’s plotting my demise as we speak.”

“Mm,” Stiles murmurs, kissing into Derek’s cheek, his mouth. “The troubles of being on top.” He’s playing up the doting boyfriend because it’s fucking funny, ok? But it’s also kind of really nice, somehow.

But then Derek drags a hand through Stiles’ hair, pulls back to meet his eyes.

“So we agree I’m on top?”

He shivers, mouth dropping open, the idea rattling right around from his brain, through his chest, to his dick before he blinks away fast. His laugh comes out shaky with nervous want.

“Oh, fuck you.”

Derek’s hips cant up; a slow, deliberate roll.

“I’m not opposed to that either.”

He goes a little breathless at that, maybe. At the idea of it, the sensation of Derek’s dick, half hard, pressing low into his belly.

His tongue flicks out, and Derek’s eyes go to them, intent.

“I… we, uh… lab. Lab write up. Due tomorrow?”

Wait, no. Seriously? What the fuck, brain?

“Uh huh,” Derek’s hand is in his hair again, massaging into his scalp, coaxing him downward, and then he loses himself for a minute (or half hour, maybe?) in Derek’s mouth. Derek keeps making these sounds, too: little pleased hums when Stiles angles his head certain ways or runs his hands across certain spots, and Stiles wants to map him, ok? Wants to stop everything and grab a marker, write out notes and X’s across Derek’s skin. Chart out exactly what makes him sigh or arch, kiss into Stiles’ mouth a little more desperately.

He could do a project on it. Would Harris take it as extra credit? The secrets to achieving insane chemistry with Derek Hale. A+ stuff right there.

He’s thumbing his way up Derek’s abs, contemplating the pros and cons of pulling away just long enough to drag off his shirt, when Derek lolls his head to the side and groans in a decidedly ungood way.

“Fuck, we really need to do that lab write up.”

“Doubt Harris would actually accept it,” Stiles murmurs, grinding down shamelessly into Derek’s hips.

“What?”

Derek’s confusion pulls him out of it a little, enough to follow Derek’s gaze to the bedside clock (after seven, how the hell had that happened?) and the binder still sitting, open, on his desk.

“Shit…” he drops his head down against Derek’s chest. “Do we have to?”

He feels Derek bounce under him in a silent laugh.

“Hey, I need these grades, remember? Can’t slack off on the first assignment.”

“Oh, like I would.” As though he and Lydia weren’t constantly chasing each other for valedictorian, even two full years away from graduation. “Don’t worry, you’re with me now. I won’t let your grades drop below your precious varsity eligibility.”

Derek rolls his eyes, and Stiles kind of wants to kiss his scowly eyebrows.

(He doesn’t. He’s got some dignity, ok?)

“You’re such an asshole,” Derek murmurs, drags his hand along Stiles’ hip. “But I really don’t want to stop touching you.”

Which, Stiles doesn’t preen internally at that at all. He’s totally cool. He’s also totally hot, apparently, because gorgeous, popular, “could have anyone on the cheerleading squad or the football teamprobably, captain of three varsity sports” Derek doesn’t want to stop touching him.

“You baby,” he says, instead of ‘I think I might be halfway in love with you, but also my dick’s doing most of my thinking for me right now so who knows.’ And then: “fuck it, I’ll do it.”

Derek frowns up at him.

“Wait, what?”

“Look, we’ve got like half an hour before your family’s expecting you home for dinner, right? Would you rather do a lab write up or get off?”

Derek’s eyes lock back in on Stiles’ mouth, and then Stiles is spinning because Derek’s rolling him, pinning him, staring down with startled, searching eyes.

“That’s not really fair, Stiles.”

He grins up cheekily, splaying his legs out wider and watching the way Derek’s eyes go hot and a little unfocused.

“Oh what? Because you love chem so much and I’m taking the lab away from you?” At Derek’s unimpressed look: “Hey, it’s a few calculations and a conclusion. I’ll do it faster without you.”

Derek rolls his eyes again at that, leans down to kiss into Stiles’ smirking mouth.

“Dick.” He breathes, and Stiles’ hips hitch like it had been an offer. “I’ll get the next one.”

“Sure,” Stiles says agreeably. “So, handjobs?”

.-

“You’re fucking unbelievable,” Derek hisses, two days later in the quiet chem lab. If Stiles had said it, he would have gotten detention, but Harris just gives Stiles (Stiles, not Derek) a weary look before going back to his papers. The jock double standard at its finest, everyone.

Then again, since Stiles had just scrawled out my mouth, your dick, tonight? in one corner of his paper and waggled it pointedly at Derek, he figures he can’t be too mad about the whole double standard-ing this time.

After class, Scott sidles up to Stiles with a wary look toward Derek’s retreating back and asks if he’d rather go back to being Scott’s lab partner.

“You guys have been way tense and angry around each other. I didn’t think it would be that bad. Kira totally won’t mind,” he adds, and Stiles really does almost feel bad at his friend’s concern.

But then, Derek had leaned in at the end of class, murmured “Chem homework, your house, five-thirty” and his eyes had barely been able to drag up from Stiles’ mouth, so it’s hard to feel bad about anything right now.

“Nah man.” He claps Scott on the shoulder. “That’s cool of you, but I’m handling it.”

.-

“Homework?” Derek pants into Stiles’ mouth. But he’s already dropping his backpack to the ground, freeing up his hands to clasp Stiles’ nape in both hands.

Stiles grins against him.

“Done.”

Because the thing about screwing around with Derek Hale is that he’s still Derek Hale. Two hours of football after school, plus random associated sports team happenings, popular friends inviting him to Popular Friend Events that Stiles definitely isn’t allowed to attend with him (not that he’d want to, anyway). Not to mention an apparently tight knit family who expects him home for dinner at least three nights a week. And while it’s not like Stiles is totally swimming in free time either – he’s got friends of his own and a smattering of after school activities – it usually just makes more sense for Stiles to do the work before Derek shows up so they can spend their precious few hours a week getting more acquainted with each others’ bodies.

See? Stiles is a problem solver.

Besides, Stiles actually enjoys chemistry, strangely enough. Whereas he knows the only reason Derek’s in the class is because his mom was pestering him about college applications during class sign ups last spring.

So when Derek pulls back from the kiss, brows furrowing, Stiles just shrugs with an easy grin and says “It’s not like it’s a hassle, dude.”

Derek makes a rough little noise in his throat and kisses into the hinge of his jaw before pulling back again.

“Ok, but there’s still actual homework. There are like 40 equations I haven’t even had a chance to—“

Oh my god, just copy mine, dude.”

He’s already tugging off Derek’s shirt and Derek lets him, palming across Derek’s freshly bared skin, down toward his belly. Derek sighs, leans back against the door and watches his hand’s progress.

“I am gonna crash and burn so hard when the first test comes.”

“We’ll cram before then,” Stiles says, distractedly. He probably shouldn’t be this interested in someone’s happy trail. It’s just a scattering of dark hairs, not too different from Stiles’ own, but still… “You’ll catch on quick, it’ll be fine.”

Glinting eyes scan over him searchingly.

“You seriously think so?”

“Definitely. You’re way smart enough to get this stuff, Derek. I just want to spend our, like twenty minutes a week away from your adoring masses not doing homework.”

Derek worries at his lip at the compliment, seeming almost shy, as though he doesn’t get complimented fifty times a day for his looks and sports prowess and general existence. It’s a ridiculously adorable look on him, and it has Stiles fighting the urge to lean in and just kiss his oversized bunny teeth.

“Too bad no one can know about us,” Derek says, mildly. “I could kiss you before class, you could sit with me at lunch—“

Stiles pictures it, the whole cafeteria stopping to stare at the new little nobody junior nerd Derek Hale is dating, and snorts.

“Oh man, could you even imagine? You’re laying out my worst nightmare, here.”

Derek leans back into the door and it’s a distractingly good view, his shoulders pressed back, chest arching out.

“It wouldn’t be that bad. Scott sat at our table once.”

Stiles had been home sick that day, and hadn’t witnessed the spectacle himself. He waves Derek off.

“Yeah, as like, your teammate-slash-Isaac’s friend, not as arm candy. And Scott’s sporty so that’s different anyway. I’m so not planning to spend the rest of my high school career as Derek Hale’s Whatever, thanks.”

“Derek Hale’s Whatever?” Derek echoes, snorting. Stiles flicks at his bare abs, laughing.

“Secret tryst buddy, flavor of the moment, lab partner with benefits. Whatever we are, dude.” Whatever everyone would see him as. He focuses up from Derek’s chest enough to focus on Derek’s slightly frowning expression. “I mean… you were joking, right? Because society as we know it would probably collapse if anyone knew we liked each other.”

“Oh what, do you like me, then?” Derek asks, and Stiles can’t quite read his expression still, so he lifts a choice finger and kisses Derek lightly.

“Oh my god, does your ego need like, constant stroking? I blew Scott off to hang out with you tonight. Obviously I like you.”

Derek lets out a little sigh like he doesn’t quite grasp the level of compliment that is (to be fair, Stiles thinks probably no one but his dad could fully grasp what a compliment that is), and lets his head drop sideways as Stiles drags his nose along his cheek to his neck.

“You’re so…” he breathes a few seconds later, and then “Fine. Let me copy down the answers and then we can get back to this.”

“Don’t make it sound like such a chore,” Stiles snorts, then goes to sprawl on his bed with a grin.

.-

The next time Derek drops by he kisses Stiles thorough and messy before faceplanting right into a pillow.

“Practice seriously kicked my ass today. You want to just watch a movie or something?”

Which is weird. Movies are things he and Scott do. Tongues down throats and chests and other interesting places are what he and Derek do. Still, the guy looks tired and kind of hopeful, and Stiles has never actually watched a movie curled all comfortably around someone like this before. It’s kind of nice. Kind of really nice, actually.

They end up turning on Pirates of the Caribbean because Jack Sparrow is boss, and about halfway through Will declaring his undying love for Elizabeth for the third time, Derek says “Kate Argent asked me to homecoming.”

It startles Stiles how much that startles him. His hand catches, mid-absentminded-stroke through Derek’s hair. When he glances down, Derek’s eyes are still fixed on the screen. He’s not sure at all how to react, because of course Derek’s already getting homecoming invites with the dance three weeks away, and it’s not like he has any reason to say no. It’s not like Stiles wants to go with him, because… nightmare, right?

Although the idea of Derek in a suit, slow dancing against his chest might be a little too interesting for him, but that’s just because Derek plus touching always equals good, ok? It has nothing to do with the event, itself.

“I mean… do you want to go with her?”

Stiles isn’t sure how a skeptical look manages to make him feel so warm inside. He laughs over the bubbling feeling, hand stroking back through Derek’s soft hair.

“What? You could want to. She’s hot.” And also captain of the cheerleading squad. They’d be kind of sickeningly perfect match, Stiles gets why Kate would want to try for that.

Derek sighs and settles back into Stiles’ chest, looking back at the screen in time to see Jack diving neatly overboard.

“You are the absolute dumbest genius,” he murmurs, and Stiles tugs at his hair, laughing.

.-

It’s kind of inevitable when it falls apart, Derek figures. This kind of arrangement was never built to last.

Still, he figures they’ve been careful enough about everything, so when Erica asks “And what are your plans tonight, Derek?” casual as anything as they all make their way back to their cars after practice, he doesn’t think twice before shrugging and answering “Chem project.”

Oh,” she said, and there’s a weight to her tone that makes him glance over, makes him take note of the too pleased smile settling on her bright lips. “With Stiles?”

The last time he’d seen that smile it had led to him, Isaac, and her almost getting busted for midnight skinny dipping at the town pool.

Which would have been especially awkward now, considering whose father would have been in charge of the busting.

…And now he’s thinking about Stiles and skinny dipping, and wondering if the mid-September air is too cold for him to coax Stiles out to the pool. Stiles had been an absolute menace to him all summer, showing up there practically every time he was on duty, all smooth, pale skin that seemed to freckle up instead of tanning as the summer went on. He’d stood out in stark contrast against all of the overly bronzed people that frequented the pool, and Derek couldn’t help but notice him even without the snarking banter he made in passing, the smug little smirks he’d make from across the water and the way he’d wink after calling Derek “jock.”

Nothing had come of it all summer, until he’d heard Stiles talking to one of his friends about his course schedule for the fall, and had startled at one of his classes.

“You’re taking AP Chem?”

Stiles had looked up from his place at the edge of the water, lifting his brows in a smug way that seemed to say obviously, what’s it to you?

“Nosey, much?” Is what he’d actually said. “Private conversation, dude. Not all of Beacon Hills is your majesty’s personal territory.

Which had kind of stumped Derek a little. Had continued to stump him over the next few days until the first time Stiles had called him prom king instead of jock. Right then, though, he’d just rolled his eyes and said “I’m taking it too.”

Which wouldn’t be a big deal. Wouldn’t even be worth commenting on, really, except that Derek had maybe been obsessing a little bit over Stiles all summer, and there was no way in hell he was going to be able to focus in his first serious AP class unless he and Stiles did something about all that tension between them.

He’d ended up with Stiles against the restroom building wall that night after pool closing, Stiles grabbing at every part of him he could reach while spouting out diatribes about the school social order and how he wasn’t just “another cliché conquest, ok?” Whatever that meant. Derek had found it all strangely endearing.

A smile is threatening to creep over his face now at the memory, and he schools it away with a shrug.

“He is my chem partner.”

“He’s your something partner,” Erica replies, sweetly, and Derek’s hand clenches on his backpack strap. Boyd makes a soft, chiding sound that his girlfriend completely ignores. “I’m just saying, you’ve been having a lot of chemistry with Stiles lately, haven’t you?”

He could respond to that about half a dozen different ways: that it hasn’t been that much (it hasn’t been nearly enough time, in Derek’s opinion), that  AP classes have a heavier workload than normal classes, so it makes sense that they’d need to study more… but everything about Erica’s smirk and tone tell him he is way beyond the point of basic evasion. He turns when they reach his car, shooting the girl a narrow look.

“What do you think you know?”

Boyd looks quietly frustrated on both of their behalves, which means he probably already knows whatever Erica’s talking about. Isaac’s gaze is flying between them, quick and searching, which means he probably doesn’t.

Erica smiles, sweet.

“I was just thinking that studying would probably go better in the library or something, instead of… I don’t know… under the bleachers?”

Fuck.

He thought they’d been being careful. Just a few stolen minutes here and there before Stiles headed home and Derek needed to gear up for practice. No one was ever out on the field that early, and the angle of the bleachers blocked them from view of people passing from the building to the parking lot.

“How did you…“

“Derek,” she says when he trails off, floundering. “I sit around during practice and watch my boyfriend play. Where do I sit when I do that?”

He deflates a little at that. Needs a second to process all this so he turns and tugs his car door open, tossing his backpack inside before shutting it again.

He’d thought the bleachers were empty. He always checks if the bleachers are empty. But he’d been a little distracted by Stiles’ ass in those jeans today and he might not have been as thorough as he normally is.

Stiles is going to kill him. Not that it’s all Derek’s fault, because Stiles should have been keeping an eye out just as much as Derek. More, if anything, since it’s his stupid secrecy rule that has them making out under bleachers instead of in plain view on top of them.

But that doesn’t mean Stiles is going to freak out any less if this gets out. Go into hyper denial, probably, maybe outright break things off.

By the time he turns back to face his friends, he’s schooled his expression again, leaning back against the Camaro and affecting an indifferent air he decidedly doesn’t feel.

“It’s not like that.” It’s a good lie. Comes out easy and convincing.

Erica snorts.

“Oh? Ok, wait. Let me guess. He wasn’t breathing, you were just saving him with a sweet kiss of life. You were rehearsing for a play. Oh, it was actually some other guy, I just mistook him for you with my dirty, drama-seeking mind?”

And damn, there went really every thin explanation Derek could think of. He knew it had been a mistake to do this on school grounds. Would it have been so hard to just confine the making out to their bedrooms?

He pictures the way Stiles’ leg had brushed oh so subtly against his under the lab table during chemistry. Remembers the look in Stiles’ eyes before school let out: an almost shy, hopeful grin in the hall that had turned downright dirty the second Derek gave him a nod. And he thinks… yeah, ok, it definitely would have been.

Boyd steps in while Derek grasps for a new explanation, anything that would get him out of this conversation.

“Hey Derek, if you like the guy—“

“It’s not like that,” he repeats, desperation edging out like a warning.

Because no one can think they like each other. According to Stiles, that would be the worst fucking thing ever.

And Derek doesn’t really get it – according to Stiles, he can’t really get it because he’s on the “top of the food chain” or whatever – but he’s been trying to respect it. Trying to keep Stiles at a place he’s comfortable at, where they can just be with each other without all the “high school hierarchy” shit Stiles gets so caught up in getting in the way.

It hasn’t really been a problem until now, and he’s been easing Stiles so carefully into the idea of a them that he’s almost sure the guy could come around eventually. And now it’s about to fall apart right in front of him because his friends are definitely the type to push.

“Look, we just make out sometimes,” he tries. “That’s all.”

Isaac lifts a hand.

“Ok, that is the definition of being into each other.”

Derek crosses his arms, hoping it comes off as “confident and intimidating” instead of defensive. He has no clue how to play this. He honestly wishes he could just call Stiles and let him take the lead on this, but that’s obviously not an option.

“We’re not. Look, he’s just… he was looking for someone to get off with, ok? He’s not interested in anyone right now and he wanted to… you know… get some practice in, or whatever. So we did that a couple of times. It’s no big thing.”

That makes sense, right?

Erica’s gone from gleeful to frowning though, and even Boyd’s brows are creased as she leans back into his chest.

“So what… you’re into him and he’s not into you?”

Ok, not going well. It actually sounds really shitty when she phrases it that way.

“No, I… I’m not into him either.”

Now Isaac’s brows are climbing.

“So then what are you getting out of it, dude? I know you have other options.”

He grimaces at the thought of Kate, overeager every time she publicly slides into his space (though she more or less ignores him when they’re alone) or Matt Daehler, who’d asked him to be his subject for a photography project in a way that has left him decidedly uncomfortable around the guy ever since.

There are other people around he could probably ask out too – though not nearly so many as Stiles somehow seems to think – but he doesn’t even really spend time thinking about them. He wants Stiles.

He lets out a long breath.

“Can’t I just be helping a guy out?”

Erica’s shaking her head though.

“No, Isaac’s right. Either you’re getting something out of this or you two are actually into each other, which is twelve hundred percent adorable by the way. I’m really loving the varsity/chess club dynamic—“

“He’s doing my chem for me, ok?”

Derek goes still after the words rush out, fast and thoughtless. There’s a startled pause, during which Derek has time to rethink basically his every life decision, and then Boyd whistles, low.

“Wait, seriously?” This from Isaac. He doesn’t sound appalled, though, and Derek looks down, gives himself a second to settle into his cover story, before looking back up with an even expression.

It’s not an ideal explanation, sure, and it makes him seem like a way shittier student than he actually is (he does study and tries to check over the homework when he gets back to his house, even if Stiles has been giving him the answers more and more so they could spend time together), but he can deal. Stiles will get to keep his precious reputation for not having a reputation or whatever, so really, this is the only explanation that might keep things running smoothly.

“You guys know I fucking hate science.” That much is true, at least. “And I need to keep my grades up for varsity and college apps, so.” He shrugs.

“Oh my god,” Erica says then, and she sounds delighted. “You are totally pimping yourself out for grades, that’s amazing.”

He arches a slow brow.

“Well, it’s not like it’s the worst form of payment ever.”

Boyd snorts. Erica elbows lightly at him, grinning.

“Hale, I seriously underestimated you.”

He rolls his eyes, pushes himself off the car.

“Glad to amuse you. Can we all shut up about it now? This isn’t exactly the kind of thing to spread around if you don’t want us both flunking.”

Erica waves him off.

“Oh obviously we won’t go spreading it around school. But you’re insane if you think I’m letting you off the hook. Do you guys have a payment system? Is it to scale? Heavy petting for day to day homework, oral for big projects?”

“I’m leaving now.”

Fine,” she’s still laughing. “Go study. Or watch your boy study. Oh, oh wait, hold on. Do you like suck him off while he’s working? Does he teach you formulas for your tests while you’re jerking it?”

Derek aims a longsuffering look toward Boyd, who shrugs back.

“I give it at least two weeks before she eases up on this.”

“Perfect,” Derek groans, and Erica grins back brightly. He yanks open the car door, flipping her off while he slides inside.

At least he’ll be the one getting shit for this, not Stiles.

.-

“Dude, are you seriously letting Derek screw you for grades?”

The words come out tentative, amidst a barrage of on-screen explosions, and Stiles freezes because he is seriously unsure that he’d actually heard that right.

“What?”

“Because, dude. I know you don’t even like the guy and you deserve so much better than that. You deserve, like, someone who wants you for more than your brain.” He pauses. “Wait, I mean… you know what I mean.”

Stiles’ eyes scan out from the screen to Scott and back wildly. He’s really not sure how a night in with Uncharted had suddenly transformed into this seriously warped version of an after school special.

His character gets killed with a clean headshot, and he sets down his controller before he can drop it.

“I… No, I really don’t, Scott.”

Because even if Scott had seen something, he’s jumping to one hell of a conclusion.

Scott sets down his controller too. On the screen, Stiles respawns and gets decimated with a barrage of bullets two seconds later.

“Isaac told me, man. I said you guys were studying a lot lately and he was all ‘well, wouldn’t you?’” Stiles feels himself flush hot, knows the color’s creeping fast into his cheeks and he feels a little sick suddenly because Isaac said? Which means, what, Derek had been telling his friends about them?

And been saying what?

Scott’s clapping his shoulder. Their characters standing, motionless, on the multiplayer map while bullets hail around them.

“Look man, I’m not judging you. And I know what you said about how you’d basically be carrying him all year anyway so maybe this seems like a good deal to you but—“

“Wait, what exactly did Isaac say? Spell this out for me, Scotty.”

Scott shrugs, hand still clasping Stiles’ shoulder feeling more awkward by the second.

“That he was messing around with you so you’d do his work for him.”

Stiles almost laughs. He seriously does, because that is the absolute stupidest… But then, that’s kind of exactly what they’ve been doing, isn’t it?

Derek coming in late because of practice, too wiped to work, getting Stiles hot with a few kisses or a little innuendo so Stiles will just want to get the work done fast and get straight to kissing? It had all been Stiles’ idea, though. He’s the master manipulator here. He’d decided to do the work, had talked Derek into it.

…The same way Scott had decided to be lab partners with Kira ‘all on his own’?

Holy shit… and Derek had only started giving him looks that one time at the pool after they’d talked about being in chem together. It all makes a sick kind of sense Stiles still can’t quite manage to wrap his head around, because there’s no way Derek’s seriously that desperate for grades, right?

There’s no way everything they’ve been doing together was a lie.

But how else would Isaac get that idea? Even if he’d seen them together, he’d have no way of knowing Stiles was doing Derek’s share of the chem work unless Derek had told him about it. Gloated about it.

How many people know Derek has been totally playing the naïve nerd this whole time?

“Stiles, you ok? You just went from bright red to like seriously pale.”

He forces himself to draw in a breath, forces a slow nod. He is not going to have an attack over this, he is going to breathe. He’s going to deal. So Derek was the self-absorbed dumb jock Stiles had thought he was at the start. It’s not even a problem, ok? It’s not like they’d even really been together.

…He’d been such a fucking idiot.

“It’s nothing,” he says, faint. And then, firmer. “It’s true, man. It’s totally this arrangement we had. But just… no one’s said it out loud before, you know? But I think you’re right, it’s too weird. I think I’m gonna end it. As long as you still don’t mind switching lab partners?”

“Absolutely,” Scott answers, unhesitatingly, and squeezes his shoulder one more time before picking up his controller. The last round has ended, and the rest of their team had abandoned them in the face of miserable defeat. “You can do way better than that, man.”

“Yeah,” Stiles nods. “I really think I can.”

.-

Derek can tell something’s different the second he drops by. The front door’s locked, which it never is, and Stiles answers his knock with a smile that seems sharp and violent and doesn’t come close to meeting his eyes.

He steps inside and lets Stiles lean carefully around him to push the door closed, feeling uncomfortable in the familiar space.

“Hey, is something wrong?”

Stiles shrugs, the fake smile dropping right off his face.

“Depends on your definition of ‘wrong,’ I guess. I mean, I’ve still got all of my limbs, you seem to have most of your vital organs. Though I’m thinking there might be something pretty important missing around the central chest area.”

Derek blinks, too worn down from practice and racing through his other homework during every free moment in school to be able to keep up with Stiles’ random nonsequiturs.

“There’s something wrong with my chest?” He asks, lifting a hand to the area in question.

Stiles lets out an amused sound that’s too cold, no trace of his usual fond teasing.

“No, your chest is great, Derek. Your great chest and great face and great everything is pretty much the whole reason we’ve been doing this, isn’t it?”

Derek takes a small step toward him, hand still hovering awkwardly over his own chest until he lifts it, rakes it through his damp hair.

“Ok… why did that just sound like an insult?”

“It’s not,” he says, shrugging away from Derek, stepping toward the stairs like he might just retreat right back up them. “We’ve all got our skill sets, right?”

He’s talking in circles and none of it’s making sense.

“Hey, can you just tell me what’s going on?”

“I just feel like we’re done here, Derek.”

The words come out of absolutely nowhere but there’s no question, from Stiles’ tone, his body language, his general behavior, what Stiles is talking about.

It feels like he’s been knocked over. Like Stiles has reached straight down his throat and ripped the air out of his lungs. There’s still that sort of smug blankness in Stiles’ expression that Derek’s never seen there before, like he’s pleased at the gut punch he’s obviously delivered.

“What the fuck, Stiles,” he says, weakly.

“Oh, surprised I’d be the one to end things? I got bored, ok? You were hot, I wanted to get off, and now that I have a few times, I feel like we’re done.”

It’s cruel and harsh, and it makes Derek want to lash back. He stalks forward, scowling.

Right. And I guess all you were was an easy fuck.”

Stiles just rolls his eyes.

“We both know I was more than that for you.” His tone bites like an accusation, and Derek flinches back, mid-stalk. Is Stiles seriously mad at him for having feelings? They hadn’t discussed this being a relationship, not really, but he’d seriously thought they were working up to it. The way Stiles had kissed him sometimes, sweet and slow and full of feeling, and curled around him during that movie, and teased him fondly like he meant something. The way he’d been jealous at the idea of Derek going to homecoming with anyone else.

Derek had been thinking about asking him. He’d thought maybe it would be too soon, maybe Stiles wouldn’t be ready to think about going public, but he’d still been thinking about asking, just for the hell of it.

He’d thought maybe, now that he’d had a chance to see Derek as more than a prom king or a jock, there would be a chance Stiles would say yes.

He swallows over his initial, hurt response. Lands on: “So that’s why you wanted to keep everything secret?”

Stiles leans back against the wall at the edge of the stairwell, arms crossing, a sneer creeping over his stony face.

“As opposed to you, who wanted to go around telling everyone?”

And there it is again: clear proof of Stiles’ absolute disgust for anything Derek. He probably should’ve realized it sooner; the signs were all there.

was never ashamed of what we were doing.”

“Well, why would you be?” Stiles asks with an empty smile. “And I’m sure it was very nice for you for a while. But did you seriously think you’d get away with it for more than a few weeks? You’re hot, dude, but now I think I’m going to go find someone more on my intellectual level.”

Derek flinches, gaze sliding to the floor.

“You said you knew I was smart.” It comes out small, and he hates himself for saying it. Stiles gives a tired sounding sigh.

“Well, I guess you proved me wrong, huh?”

.-

Derek shows up to school at the start of next week on Kate Argent’s arm. It’s a punch in the gut in the worst way, and when Stiles feels positively nauseous at the way she preens over him, playing with his loose hairs and dropping a kiss on his lips when she drops him off at the start of chem class, Stiles tries to convince himself it’s just because of the awful cliché of it all.

The football star and the head cheerleader. Seriously, he could gag. And he would. If he cared.

Which he doesn't.

Derek meets his gaze with a challenging look when he steps inside, and Stiles doesn’t even have a chance to force a bland smirk to his lips before he’s turning away, crossing the room to drop down next to a smiling Kira instead.

Scott makes a displeased noise, elbowing lightly against Stiles’ shoulder.

“Dude, is he actually pissed he’s gonna have to do his own chem work now?”

Stiles turns his scowl toward the doorway, and Kate’s departing back.

“Pathetic, isn’t it?”

.-

It’s four days into the disaster in motion that is Derek-and-Kate, and they’ve spent the entirety of lunch being disgustingly charming at the varsity table. Every peal of laughter sends Stiles’ gaze skating over to where they hold court, Derek leaning back in his chair like it’s an actual throne, with Kate perched on his lap like something out of a bad teen romance.

He wonders if they’re talking about him, laughing about him and how he’d been played, but no one ever seems to glance his way except Derek.

Who, when he catches Stiles looking at him, murmurs something to Kate and then leans up to capture her mouth in a slow, deep kiss that sets the rest of the table catcalling and cheering.

His eyes, hidden from the rest of the table by the angle of Kate’s own and the shadow of her hair, don’t leave Stiles once.

It’s the last in a long line of stone-heavy straws, and Stiles is pushing himself to his feet, caught between wanting to stalk right over to Derek and stalk away. He barely even notices his friends staring at him until Danny says “chill out, man. You look like you want to murder someone.”

Derek’s pulling back out of the kiss, eyes locked on Stiles with an almost defiant gleam before he turns to smile at Kate.

And Stiles bolts.

He manages to mutter something about needing to go finish a paper he’d forgotten, and is moving away before he hears any response.

It’s only natural that, when he hears the footsteps coming up behind him, he assumes it’s Scott or at least Danny. He does not expect to have Derek Hale sweeping up, grabbing his arm, and spinning him to snap “What is your problem, Stiles?”

“What's my problem?” he hisses back, jerking his arm from Derek’s too-tense grip. “Are you kidding me right now? You’re the one that just followed me down the corridors to—“

You’re the one who’s been scowling at me all week.”

Stiles lets his hands ball up, stalks back into Derek’s space.

“Oh, I’m sorry. Am I not allowed to look at your cliché displays of public affection, prom king? I thought it was supposed to be a show for us lesser beings to marvel at.”

Derek’s nostrils flare out as he spins to slam a palm into the nearest locker, the crash of metal ringing up the hallway. A door slides open, a middle-aged woman poking her head out and eyeing them both skeptically.

Derek slips on an effortless smile, waving her off – “Sorry, locker was stuck” – before grabbing Stiles’ arm and pulling him around the corner.

“Again with that fucking hierarchy crap,” he hisses as they go. “Seriously, what is your damage?”

Stiles doesn’t even bother trying to tug away this time, keeping pace with him and keeping an eye open for… yes. He spots an empty classroom, lights out and doorway hanging half open, and adjusts Derek’s course, leading him in because there’s no way in hell he is having this conversation out in the hall where anyone can wander past and hear it. Once they’re clear, the door tugged shut behind them, he whirls back to snap:

“Are you seriously telling me you’re with her for any reason other than her being Probable Homecoming Queen 2012?”

Derek groans, scrubbing a hand over his face.

“You know, maybe I’m with her because she actually gives a shit about me.”

Right.” Stiles pastes on a bright, mocking grin. “Because she’s not playing it up every time you so much as walk down a hallway together, like she’s expecting to be photographed for a spot on Entertainment Tonight.”

Derek’s shoulders flinch in and Stiles knows he’s got something there. Wants to pull at it, wants to break apart whatever pathetic, publicity stunt, beard of a relationship he and Kate have got going on. Wants Derek to say he still wants Stiles, he’d always wanted Stiles, that they’d been better together and they could have been something real if Derek hadn’t had to go and be such a stupid, fake, miserable jock of a human being.

But that pushes too close to things Stiles is decidedly refusing to think about, so instead he just snorts and looks away.

“So how’s chem going lately? Kira working out for you?”

Derek’s all roiling frustration in front of him, untensing and then tensing right back up, hand clenching hard like he wants to shake something. (Someone, probably.)

“She’s great, actually.” He says, tone icy in a way that tells Stiles he’s seconds away from snapping. “Why do you give a shit?”

“Oh, I just thought I should check. Since, you know, Kira’s dating my best friend and all. I wouldn’t want your grades to suffer too much, since your usual studying methods are out.”

Derek makes an aborted motion toward Stiles, pushes back and stalks away up a row of desks instead.

“Great, I get it, you think I’m stupid. We’ve been over this.”

“I think you’re a fucking idiot,” Stiles spits, because he does. Because Stiles had been more than willing to help Derek out if he’d needed it (hell, even if he hadn’t needed it), but Derek had to go and lie to him and play him like he wasn’t an actual person who mattered. And he’d made Stiles feel like an idiot, which is almost worse.

Derek snorts, turning back up the aisle and eyeing him evenly.

“Alright. I’m an idiot. And you’re a fucking poser.”

Stiles can’t even make sense of those words because what? How the hell is Mr Popular accusing him of posing? Derek must see Stiles’ confusion registering (oh good, Stiles thinks viciously, he’s not a total idiot) because he crosses his arms, hands still fisted tight, and spits:

“Your best friend, Scott? Is a jock. He does lacrosse and cross country and he’s actually pretty damn good at them. Danny does lacrosse, and he dated Isaac for two months last spring. Oh, and your friend Lydia? She’s been on homecoming court every year since she started high school. But oh no, you’re too cool and unique with your twisted up set of principles to associate with the popular clique. Except that you’re in one.”

Stiles gapes, mouth hanging open dumbly.

“That’s not the same.”

Because it isn’t. Because Scott and Danny and Lydia aren’t popular kids, they’re his friends. They’ve always been his friends. And Scott works at the vet clinic and Danny’s a beast with computer coding, and Lydia’s the only person giving Stiles a challenge for valedictorian. They’re not shallow, vapid socialites dancing around each other for a spot at a fancier table. And, most importantly, they hang out with Stiles because they like him, not as a means to an end.

Which obviously isn’t the case with Derek.

Derek, who’s watching him with a smile like he’s won something, spreading his arms out and saying “Oh? Enlighten me” in a way that’s so smug and self-satisfied that Stiles just wants to punch him. Or punch Derek’s mouth with his mouth, maybe. Want and outrage is all twisted up in his gut, and he has to literally ground himself by gripping the edge of the nearest desk.

It won’t help anything, kissing Derek. It’ll just leave him looking like more of an idiot than before. Derek had never wanted him in the first place; he was just a damn good actor.

“Drama club,” he murmurs, and then, at Derek’s furrowing brows: “I think I’m done enlightening you, Derek.”

Derek’s lips twist, bitter.

“Is that what you’re calling it?”

Which, sure, is as good a name as any for the way he’d played into Derek’s hand, done all his work for him and thought it was his own idea.

He feels tired, suddenly, and keyed up at the same time. Anxious and just so, so done with all of this drama. He hates the way Derek’s been acting all week like Stiles had done something wrong. Hates the part of him that’s still wishing there’s a way to somehow fix this. Go back to kissing and easy banter and watching stupid, awesome action movies with Derek curled against his chest.

“Look… why do you even care what I think of you? Why did you follow me out here? Why the hell would you kiss Kate and look at me?”

Derek rakes a hand through his hair, mussing the styled tufts.

“Why the fuck do you think?”

And Stiles throws his hands up, takes an automatic step forward.

Enlighten me.”

And then somehow, somehow, Derek’s kissing him. Hands fisting into his hair, dragging down his spine, mouth a fury of tension and desperation that has Stiles groaning and kissing back helplessly.

He’s saying something, he thinks, surprised little “oh, oh”s slipping out of his mouth every time Derek breaks away to drag in a breath. And then Derek’s pushing him back a step, another, mouth ravaging his and Stiles is gripping into his biceps and just trying to hold on for dear life because this is everything he thought he’d never have again and he doesn’t want to let go.

…But Derek hadn’t wanted this. It had been a lie. Except nothing about this feels like a lie, and there’s no reason for him to lie now. He’s not getting anything out of it, except the sensation of Stiles against him.

“Holy shit, you want me,” he murmurs, voice ragged, as Derek drags his cheek (oh god, the stubble) along Stiles’ throat before leaning up again.

He’s not sure how far they might have taken this if Stiles hadn’t tripped over the foot of a chair, sending them both stumbling. It pulls Stiles away from the kiss and far enough back to get a good look at Derek’s face.

Derek, who looks just as surprised at what he’d just done as Stiles feels.

So. Derek actually wants him. Somewhere along the line he’d realized he actually enjoyed getting off with Stiles. That’s kind of an ego boost, sure, but it doesn’t change what he’d done. Doesn’t suddenly make what they had real.

“Right,” Derek says, slow. Drops his hands from Stiles’ waist and takes a slow step back. “And you think I’m hot.” He says it like it’s the lowest sort of insult, and then he’s taking another step back, wiping at his mouth, tugging at his shirt like he can erase the memory of the last few minutes by erasing the evidence from his rumpled clothes. “This was a mistake.”

“Yeah,” Stiles echoes, still feeling the buzz of Derek’s mouth deep under his skin.

Derek drops his gaze, head shaking, and turns to stalk out of the room.

.-

Stupid. How could Derek have been so unbelievably stupid?

And how could he still want Stiles this much when Stiles obviously thinks less than nothing of him?

The vindictive thrill he’d gotten from watching Stiles react to his attentions toward Kate is fast boiling down to a slow, guilty roil in his gut. Because Stiles is right. (Is he ever not right?) Derek had spent all of two hours after Stiles threw him out last week before calling Kate up and accepting her invitation to homecoming. She’d been thrilled and Derek had felt a twisted rush at playing into the role Stiles was so obviously disgusted by.

Since he was already disgusted by Derek anyway, might as well.

But when Kate catches up to him outside the cafeteria and links an arm automatically through his, he can’t help wanting to shrink away from the contact. Because maybe Kate is only with him for show, but Derek is only with her because he’d wanted to piss Stiles off, and that feels just as bad. Worse, even, because she hasn’t really gone to any great effort to lead him on.

And he is done letting deception guide his relationships.

He tells her he needs to talk, and three hours later – on top of the bleachers, not under them – he’s staring down at his hands, telling her gently that he can’t do this with her. As great as she is (and she is – sexy and driven, with a cutting wit that he has to push himself to keep up with. He’s probably an idiot for breaking things off with her but he can’t do this. Not when) he’s hung up on someone else.

She tilts his chin up, scanning over his face thoughtfully. The edge of her long nail bites into his chin, then soothes apologetically over the spot when he winces.

“Who is it?” Her tone is gentle, understanding. He thinks about telling her for a moment, just letting the whole disastrous situation slip out, before shrugging off the impulse.

Stiles didn’t want anyone to know, and Derek’s not that much of a dick.

“Doesn’t matter,” he says. “Turns out they were just into me for my looks or some bullshit. The second I wanted something more they ditched me.”

She gives a little, half-sympathetic smile that seems partway forced. Not that he can really blame her. Most girls would react way worse to being dumped over a person who’s not even interested.

She lowers her hand, examines her nails for a long moment before looking up with a wry grin.

“Well, in that case, can we still go to homecoming? I mean, if you’re not taking the girl you like anyway—”

“Guy,” he corrects. Her lips quirk, thoughtful.

Guy, then. Well, gotta say, I’m less offended, then, if you’re gay.”

He laughs a little at that, doesn’t bother correcting her. If it makes her feel better to think that, why not let her? It’s not like he’s planning on going out with anyone else for a while, of either gender.

Anyway,” she continues, with flourish, sliding on the bench so she’s sitting sideways next to him, instead of face to face. “If you’re not going with the guy you like, we can still go as friends. We are friends at least, aren’t we?”

She nudges his shoulder, and Derek smiles.

“Sure, yeah. That should be fun.”

.-

Stiles isn’t going to homecoming. He isn’t. He has less than his usual zero percentage of school spirit at the moment, and with Derek and Kate shoo-ins for event royalty, the whole idea feels a lot like voluntarily shoving his arm into a wood chipper. (Ok, so he might have been getting some pent up rage out with a lot of violent slasher movies over the past week. Scott seems worried, but Stiles figures as long as he doesn’t develop any urges to go around actually wood-chipping people, it can’t be that bad.)

What Stiles doesn’t exactly count on is Lydia Martin sweeping into his house two days before the event, overriding what he thought was an extremely firm “no” with a stern look, and dragging him out to examine suit options.

“I went with you to that comic event over the summer, I think you can handle showing up to cheer me on at homecoming court.”

“You went because Chris Hemsworth was going to be there,” he mutters, still feeling petulant half an hour into suit fittings. “And you know it.”

“And Josh Hutcherson,” she agrees easily. “You’re still coming, so get over whatever drama you have going on with Hale and deal with it. Anyway, I need a date; Jackson and I are off again.”

He freezes, halfway through shrugging on a crisp red button up. It’s bright and different from what he usually sees at these things, and Lydia insists it goes wonderfully with his complexion… or his usual complexion anyway, because he’s gone blotchy with shock when he catches sight of himself in the dressing room mirror.

Lydia tuts, standing to help him with the last few buttons.

“Seriously, subtle you two were not. Especially these past couple of weeks.”

“He’s a dick,” Stiles returns, and Lydia shrugs, lifting up a navy blue vest and squinting thoughtfully, before exchanging it for charcoal grey.

“Maybe. But you still like him. Anyway, that’s neither here nor there. I’m at least on homecoming court and unless you already have another date lined up, you’re going as mine. And you’re wearing this.”

Stiles feigns a grimace but shrugs the vest on.

“I don’t even get a say?”

“You don’t want a say,” Lydia returns, stepping behind him and smiling at her handiwork in the mirror. “God only knows what kind of disaster you’d pick out for yourself.”

And Stiles has to admit, the girl knows her stuff. He turns a little to watch the sleek lines of the fabric shift across his frame. He looks good in this, mature and desirable and still the slightest bit quirky. He looks like himself, but hotter.

This might not actually be a nightmare after all.

.-

Derek can tell something’s off the minute Kate picks him up. She’s as beautiful as ever in a low-cut blue dress, and she acts happy enough to see him, but her conversation is stilted, her smiles bright in a way that remind Derek uncomfortably of Stiles on the day he’d broken things off. It leaves him unsettled, but he shoves the feeling aside. It makes sense for things to be a little bit stilted now. For Kate to be pushing too hard to make things seem normal after Derek had broken things off with her.

So he doesn’t ask her about it, just lets her slip an arm through his as they head into the gym. Relaxes when she kisses his cheek and drags a circle of girls out to the dance floor. Derek declines dancing, dropping into a chair and frowning at the homecoming court ballots laid out at each place.

Prom king echoes in his mind, ugly with derision.

He doesn’t notice Boyd taking a seat next to him until he takes the ballot away, marking an X beside Derek’s name clearly.

“I think it’s illegal to vote on other people’s ballots,” he says, and Boyd just shrugs, handing it back.

“Surprised you didn’t end up here with Stiles,” he replies. Derek shoots him a long look, opening his mouth to utter the usual token denial, but his friend just lifts his eyebrows knowingly. Derek looks away.

“He didn’t want me.”

“Hasn’t looked that way to me,” Boyd offers, and Derek grimaces. Exactly how obvious has he been?

“Fine. Then he didn’t want to want me, and that’s just as bad.”

There’s a short pause. Boyd reaches out to check off Derek’s name on his own ballot. He doesn’t mark off Kate, pen hovering over a few girl’s names before writing in Erica’s at the bottom of the sheet in neat cursive.

“Sometimes it takes people a while to get over themselves,” he says wisely, dropping his ballot in the box at the center of the table. “Figure out what they really want.”

“Says the guy who’s been with the girl of his dreams since ninth grade.”

“It takes work,” Boyd offers back. “Understanding. Worth it, though.”

And then he’s clapping Derek on the shoulder and getting back on his feet, presumably to find Erica.

Kate shows up a minute later and frowns at the ballot in front of Derek, reaches out and marks an X next to her name clearly before slipping it into the ballot box.

.-

It’s not really a surprise when Derek’s announced homecoming king. It’s the first time he’s felt at all embarrassed walking up and claiming the dopey plastic sceptor. When Kate’s name is called next, she saunters forward to collect her own tiara with a blinding grin, but there’s a calculating look in her eye as Coach Finstock places it on her head, and that strange, familiar dread is already settling back in his stomach when she steps up to Derek and tries to kiss him right there on stage.

He leans away from it, startled.

“Kate… what—”

“Oh, that’s right,” she replies, all mock surprise and dripping sarcasm. He narrows his eyes, searching her face for a sign of where this is going. He is so damn sick of being blindsided by people. She drops a hand to her hip and lifts another to her mouth, posing dramatically under the lights of the stage. “You’re not interested in me. Because you’re busy crushing on someone else, aren’t you?”

Her fake smile takes on a wicked edge as his gaze shoots out across the dim crowd and then back to Kate.

“We talked about this. Why are you doing this?“

“Oh, I just think the rest of the school deserves to know what’s going on with their king’s social life, don’t you? He’s pining,” she stage whispers toward the audience. “Because he can’t even get a little nobody math geek to like him back.”

There’s a titter of nervous laughter from somewhere out in the hall. Derek casts a desperate look over at Finstock, who steps forward, reaching for the mic.

“Ok, well as far as acceptance speeches go, I can think of a few better, but—“

Kate grabs the microphone from its stand, stalking up the stage in her tall heels. Derek flinches with each clipping step.

“See, Derek here has the cutest little crush on his former chem partner – it’s really adorable how he’s been pining, everyone – but it turns out the boy can’t even stand him. Derek broke up with me for this boy that used him and ditched him like yesterday’s trash.” She pauses for a few seconds, letting that all sink in. Derek has no idea how Kate knows about Stiles; probably, like Boyd had said, Derek just hadn’t been being subtle enough lately. He hadn’t thought Kate was paying that close attention.

One of the homecoming court – Derek takes in coppery hair and a pink dress at the corner of his vision – takes a stalking step forward before stalling again.

“So anyway,” Kate continues, saccharine sweet again as she moves back toward the center of the stage. “Thank you all so much for voting for Derek in his time of need. I think this little ego boost will do him a world of good in the face of such a crushing blow.”

She leans in to drop a kiss on Derek’s cheek in passing. He flinches away from it and she laughs, handing the mic to a truly uncomfortable looking Finstock (and, fuck, if Finstock is uncomfortable, this must have been really bad) before sauntering off the stage.

There’s a long silence as Derek stares out at the crowd helplessly.

“Wow, what a bitch,” intones a voice that sounds decidedly like Erica’s. The silence broken, the hall fills with a buzz of excited murmurs.

Derek takes one slow step back, then another, before a small, surprisingly strong hand is catching his forearm, stilling him.

He looks up to find Lydia Martin staring at him with a startlingly piercing gaze.

“Ok, what the hell was that about, Hale?”

.-

Overall, it had been a good party. There’d been seriously decent food (a first for the school, Stiles thinks) and dancing with his friends. And he’d managed to more or less ignore the actual court proceedings except to cheer when Lydia had first stepped on stage… until Kate started talking.

And now the whole hall’s buzzing with speculation, and Derek’s up on stage looking pale and small in a way that almost keeps Stiles from feeling utterly enraged because seriously, what the hell has he been telling people about them? Stiles is starting to feel like maybe there are huge holes missing in the Story of Derek and Stiles as he knows it, but that’s hard to care about with the weight of everything Kate had just accused him – and Derek – of.

There’s already a person here or there glancing his way – people who’d known he and Derek were lab partners, probably, or had just had that fact whispered at them by someone who did.

Up on stage, Lydia has moved forward to lean into Derek’s space. Derek looks fragile and shaky, clutching at his stupid plastic king’s scepter, and Stiles is already stepping forward to… something. Yell at him probably, or just hear whatever he’s murmuring, rapid-fire, to Lydia. But then she rubs a hand over his arm, which gives Stiles pause, and steps forward to murmur something to Finstock. The teacher seems more or less resigned to this entire event just spinning away out of his control, and hands her the mic without complaint.

She promptly hands it over to Derek, who just stares down at it for a few seconds before lifting it up, clearing his throat.

“Well, I guess you all got your money’s worth tonight, huh?” He doesn’t say it meanly, lips twitching up in a faint, self-deprecating smile that seems to give his fellow students permission to chuckle at his misfortune. Then he licks his lips, glancing away and back again. “So, I just wanted to say: some of you might know who Kate’s talking about, but I don’t want anyone getting mad at him on my behalf, ok? This is a personal matter and it…” He shakes his head. The self-deprecating smile is back, but Stiles hears an echo of himself in Derek’s words as he continues, and wonders who exactly Derek is smirking at. “It should have stayed personal. I think most of us here realize relationships can be complicated, and it’s not his fault he didn’t feel the same way about me. So that’s all, just don’t give him shit.”

He nods out at the crowd then, like he’s taking their quiet murmuring as a binding agreement, and hands the mic back to Lydia before heading to the stairs off the stage in quick steps.

Lydia has pasted on a bright smile, thanking the audience for their time and kind attention, but Stiles’ brain is reeling too much to pay attention. He’s on the move toward the stairs before he can stop to think about it, snaking through the tight crowd and intercepting Derek before he’s more than a few feet toward the door.

Because… feel the sameFeel the same? As in, feelings?

Derek comes to a hard stop when he catches sight of Stiles, eyes scanning down his chest and up fast. Despite everything, Stiles can’t help feeling a little rush of pride at the appreciative gleam in his eye.

“You’re here,” Derek says, sounding startled. “I didn’t really expect you to be. Look, I’m sorry about—“

Feelings?” Stiles cuts in, too sharply. “You have feelings for me?”

Derek’s eyes do that whole scan down his body again, but it’s more confused this time than wanting, like he’s double checking that it’s actually Stiles standing in front of him.

“You broke up with me, remember?”

Like that means something. Like they’d ever had a real thing to break up in the first place.

“Yeah,” he says, slow and plainly skeptical. “But I didn’t know there were feelings.”

Derek shakes his head, looking tired.

“You know there were. You said you knew it was more than just physical for me.”

Stiles parts his lips at that, notices a few people watching their conversation curiously and thinks about dragging Derek out to the parking lot before they continue.

Realizes he honestly doesn’t care at this point who hears them.

“I was talking about the chemistry, Derek.”

Derek blinks at him, plainly baffled, and Stiles wonders how many times in the past few weeks – how many times since they’d known each other – they’ve been having completely different conversations.

“The chemistry?” Derek echoes. “The chemistry you kept volunteering to…” he trails off then, glances around, like Harris might suddenly be looming around the school dance, waiting to dock their grades.

Stiles’ eyes narrow, because what is Derek even getting by denying this at this point? He takes a small step in, lowers his voice to a hiss.

“The chemistry you told Isaac you were getting me to do for you. You know, like, by playing on my feelings or my healthy teenage libido or whatever?”

Derek’s eyes have been going steadily wider since Stiles started speaking, and Stiles almost tastes a brutal, depressing sort of victory at rooting out Derek’s lies, again.

Until Derek shakes his head, letting out a startled sounding “shit. No, Stiles, that was just… that was a stupid cover story. Erica saw us together and she confronted me about it and I just… I just said the first stupid thing that came into my head.”

Stiles stares at him, at the wide, honest, frustrated lines of Derek’s body. Derek looks out into the crowd, as though seeking help, before turning back.

“It made sense, ok?”

Stiles starts laughing. He can’t help it. The whole idea of it, the whole situation is just…

“Oh my god. Oh, dude you suck at deception, what the hell? I just spent the last few weeks thinking you were some kind of total mastermind manipulator but you’re really just the worst ever, how did you think that was a good idea?”

Derek rakes a hand through his hair, mussing it slightly.

Stiles kind of wants to drag his hands through it until it’s sticking up everywhere.

You’re the one who didn’t want anyone to know.”

“And your step up from ‘secret relationship’ was ‘I’m bribing Stiles with sexual favors’?”

Derek opens his mouth to object, closes it with a little, incredulous snort.

“Ok, yeah. That does sound kind of bad.”

Stiles is laughing again, wild little bursts of sound, because everything he thought he’d known is shifting around in his head, and Derek Hale’s standing in front of him in a suit that fits him like it was tailor-made (it probably was, honestly) and apparently he has feelings for Stiles, just like he’d started letting himself think, consider, hope for before everything fell apart.

What he says out loud, when the last burst of giggles dies down enough to let out words again is: “It sounds unbelievably bad, Derek.”

Derek looks down, a wry grin touching his lips.

“That’s why you’re the brains, I’m the brawn, right?”

The last of the giggles meet a swift end at that, and now it’s Stiles’ turn to wince.

“You’re not, you know. I mean you’re definitely brawny, no denying, but you’re smart, too. You’re just a shitty liar.” He pauses, scuffs his shoe along the hardwood floor. Glances up. “You’ll need to have me tell all your lies from now on, ok? So we can avoid misunderstandings like this in the future.”

Derek looks up, slow. There’s something in his expression that seems painfully balanced between wary and hopeful.

“In the future?”

Stiles drags in a slow, steadying breath.

“Yeah, I mean… If you’ll be willing to have a scrawny idiot like me. ‘Cause dude, you were totally right when you called me out last week. I’ve been being a moron about you, about this whole social order thing. I mean, I call myself a scientist and here I am forming haphazard hypotheses and sticking to them without even taking into account the evidence right in front of me. Which is just the worst—“

Derek cuts him off with his mouth, and Stiles grins into the kiss. He hardly even notices the distant roar of students cheering like the ending of a thousand cheesy romcoms, too lost in the feel of Derek’s warm chest pressed against him and the stubble rubbing his mouth red, and the way Derek smiles, soft, when he finally draws away.

Stiles licks his buzzing lips, smiles back.

“Ok, so. That was a kiss.”

Derek snorts.

“See, you’re not as dumb as you think.”

“I’m an idiot,” he replies, looping his arms around Derek’s neck. Derek shakes his head.

“Maybe we both are.”

“Shit.” Stiles tilts his head, worrying at his lip. “How are either of us gonna survive AP Chem?”

Derek laughs at that. Leans in to place a quick kiss on Stiles’ mouth. When he pulls back, though, he glances away, jaw setting.

“As partners?” he offers, voice gruff with shyness. Stiles grins and leans in. Kisses into Derek’s mouth, sweet and slow, and waits until he feels Derek melting into the contact before pulling back, trailing a fond hand down his sarcastic, awkward, beautiful, brilliant jock’s jaw.

“Partners,” he agrees.