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“Danny,” Stiles opens, “I want your honest opinion on something.”

Danny looks up from his textbook and asks, in a slow drawl, “Can I say no?”

“I haven’t asked my question yet, but I guess, sure, if you want to, that’s a probable response?” Stiles wriggles her nose and drops her books onto Danny’s table, which had been until two seconds ago a perfectly organized sea of biochemistry notes. He’s going to have to redo the entire configuration, and so Danny spends a handful of cathartic seconds imagining reaching up and strangling Stiles with one of Allison’s tragically hip scarves before he smothers his murderous desires and sighs.

“Sure,” he says, because it’s not like he has a choice. “Ask away, Stiles.”

Stiles sits in the unoccupied chair across the table and leans forward, an incredibly earnest expression on her face. “Do you think I would be more attractive to lesbians if I cut my hair?”

If Danny isn’t crowned the fucking patron saint of patience by the end of this year, he is going to cut a bitch. “Stiles, what actually goes on in your head? I’m dying of curiosity.”

“It’s a serious question!” Stiles cries, looking wounded that Danny isn’t buying her particular brand of fruit loops this morning. “I need to know this, Danny. For science.”

“Nice try,” Danny says wryly, “but the whole for science line hasn’t worked on me since freshman year. You want to know because you’re trying to trick Lydia into fucking you, and that’s never going to happen. Ever.”

Stiles stops looking wounded long enough to turn shifty. “Um,” she says, “no, that’s not why I want to know.” Her entire face turns a speckled kind of red. Danny isn’t the type to be jealous of anyone, but he’s begrudgingly impressed that Stiles manages to look moderately adorable while dying of shame.

Danny raises a disbelieving eyebrow. “Are you giving up on Lydia?”

“Yes,” whines Stiles. She’s a tremendously shitty liar, which means she’s telling the truth, what the fuck. Although Danny occasionally gets drunk and tells Lydia that she’s going to need to hire extra security for her wedding to the first in a string of frail, elderly husbands to ensure that Stiles doesn’t crash it and try to pull a Made of Honor-esque stunt, Danny knows perfectly well that Stiles will, at some point, get her head out of her ass and move on to someone who actually wants to date her.

Danny had not anticipated that joyful event happening in the next decade, though, so bully for Stiles. “I’m impressed,” says Danny with some modicum of sincerity. “If I cared, now would be the point in time where I ask you who she is, but, I don’t care. Instead of acting like an extra in Saved by the Bell, why don’t you just ask her out instead?” Danny returns, hopefully dismissively enough that Stiles will get the message, to his biochemistry reading.

“She’ll eat my face,” says Stiles, a little mournfully. “And not in the fun way.”

Ah, fuck. Danny pauses and considers the life choices that have lead him to this moment, counseling an incompetent lesbian through her crush on a graduate student who probably moonlights as a serial killer. “Well,” he tells Stiles, flicking her a Look that even Stiles shouldn’t be oblivious enough to misunderstand, “then we buck the fuck up and move on, don’t we?”

Stiles moans and melts back in her chair. Critically, Danny observes her form and decides that she’ll spend the next twelve minutes having an attack of nerves, which is plenty of time for him to finish revising his notes for chapter twelve.

Exactly eleven minutes and 37 seconds later, Stiles stops petting her face and pretend-crying and drops her hands flat onto the table. “Is that a no on the hair?” she asks seriously.

“Your hair is fine,” Danny replies without looking up, “if an under-utilized tragedy. I have no interest in running a makeover montage with you this afternoon; go talk to Allison.”

“Okay,” says Stiles sadly, and she collects her books and leaves.

Danny makes it twenty seconds before he sighs and, calling himself a moron, pulls out his phone to text Lydia. Stiles has developed an ill-advised crush on Derika Hale.

Like that’s news, Lydia sends back. Where have you been the past three weeks?

Doing the work assigned to me in my classes, because we’re in college not the CW.

If you can’t multitask you’ll never succeed in life.

Fuck you, Martin. Anyway, I sent her to Allison for lessons on how to be attractive to psychopathic pedophiles. Lydia will know what to do with that information.

Why are we helping her, again?

Because she’ll stop staring at you during class and telling everyone that she’s going to marry you? Danny would wonder how the hell he came to be the most sensible member of his insane group of friends, but Danny’s fucking great at everything and it’s hardly surprising that this semester he’s apparently serving as some kind of lesbian relationship guru.

Drinks are on you this week, Lydia replies. I’m going to order some fucking top-shelf martinis, Mahealani.

I tremble, Danny sends back to get the last word, and then he turns his phone off and goes back to studying. Unlike everyone else that he associates with, he does not assume the academic world stops turning just because he wants to bone someone. Danny has a healthy amount of self-respect, which is more than he can say about anyone else that he knows, including Lydia and Jackson.

~

Danny could’ve really done without any updates on Stiles’ magical She’s All That transformation, but his phone rings the next day when he’s leaving Starbucks and Allison’s adorable face comes up on the screen. It’s impossible to say no to Allison’s face, even when you’re a dick. Danny has seen Jackson almost suffer aneurysms in the attempt. Besides, Danny’s afternoon is mostly free.

“What’s up?” he answers, hoping unrealistically that the response will be “the Giants game and red wine.”

“You need to get over here,” Allison says, voice tinged by desperation. “Danny, it is a nightmare. I think Stiles just stabbed Lydia with a shoe.”

From behind Allison comes a shriek and a high-pitched scream of, “Lydia Martin, I am not putting that anywhere near my body,” which is the first time Danny has ever heard Stiles refuse to do something for Lydia. The experience sounds like it’s cathartic and whole bunch of other psychological bullshit.

“My goal,” says Danny to no one, since Allison is hyperventilating and the hobo on the corner outside of Starbucks looks like he’s already figured out Danny isn’t going to be turning over any change, “was in fact to avoid this entire mess by sending Stiles to you for a self-esteem boost.”

“Danny, Danny, Danny,” chants Allison, “Stiles is fucking terrifying, okay?” and Danny is willing to take about 5% of the blame for this disaster since he told Stiles to go to Allison for help, but the other 95% is entirely on Lydia and Allison’s shoulders. He’d expected Allison “Secretly a Total Badass” Argent to be able to handle 100 pounds of hyperactive history major, but clearly he’d thought wrong.

Danny takes a critical sip of his hazelnut latte as he thinks. “Fine,” he finally says. “This is what’s going to happen: I’m going to come over, we’re going to sedate Lydia with that bottle of red wine that I know you’ve been saving, and then we’re going to teach Stiles how to be a rational human being.”

“Okay!” shrieks Allison. “Good!”

Danny hangs up on her mid-yell and sighs, again. This kind of shit is prematurely aging and Danny’s got plenty to worry about in his life, like his ostensibly sealed juvie record and the contents of his biochemistry exam next week, but, well, he’s Danny Mahealani and he eats shit like this for breakfast and then goes on with the rest of his fucking day.

Even his calm is severely challenged by the inside of Allison’s apartment, which looks like a kindergartener vomited glitter all over it. Normally Allison’s taste is impeccable and the apartment that she shares with McCall is dressed in browns, greys, and greens, but now there is so much purple happening that Danny wants to gouge his own eyes out.

“What happened?” he asks Lydia, who is sitting sulkily on the couch, holding a glass of wine that looks like it was recently full and is now half-empty.

She takes a long sip of wine and says, “Stiles is insane,” and then shudders slightly. “I wasn’t imagining her as being meek, right? That was a thing, wasn’t it?”

“It was,” Danny agrees, pulling his bag over his head and stowing it behind Allison’s shoe rack where hopefully it won’t pick up any stray glitter. “I find it hard to believe that she went from being your devoted love-slave to a demon, especially since both you and Allison are taller than her.”

“Have you ever tried to teach a baby gorilla how to apply eyeliner?” asks Lydia flatly. “I have a suggestion for you—don’t.”

“I heard that!” floats out of the open door to Allison’s bedroom. Stiles sounds brutalized; her voice is caught in an overdramatically tortured register. “I resemble that!”

“Oh, you can resemble all you want,” growls Lydia into her wine glass. “It doesn’t make it less true.” She waggles her now-empty glass in Danny’s direction and asks—Lydia doesn’t do begging—“Get me a refill, love?”

Danny dutifully moves into Allison’s kitchen to refill Lydia’s glass; after a second of consideration for the state of everything, he grabs the bottle as well. “Well, let’s take a look,” he says as he migrates to Allison’s bedroom, handing off the wine glass and bottle to Lydia, who has a hunched look about her, as though they’re about to venture into a war zone.

It’s an apt analogy considering the state of Allison’s bedroom; every item of clothing that she owns is thrown over the furniture and Stiles is huddled on her bed, wrapped in a blue silk robe and scowling fiercely at her feet, which are stuffed in a pair of Allison’s stilettos. Danny doesn’t even want to mentally address everything wrong with her right now.

“First things first, I think these are for the advanced class,” Danny suggests, nodding his head towards the shoes.

“They’re the only part she does like,” Allison says in a controlled scream. Her hair is a complete fright, and as he watches she takes a handful of it and yanks. “They’re ‘good for stabbing people,’ apparently.”

“As I can attest,” Lydia adds, disappearing back into her glass. Danny would worry about a potential case of budding alcoholism, but he actually doesn’t really care and if Lydia was kicked with those shoes she deserves a spot of self-medicating.

Stiles looks up at Danny and glowers; her hair has been curled and is caught up with a handful of pins. He can see why Lydia and Allison attempted it—the style softens the planes of her face, making them more accessible. The same line of thinking has lead to some expertly applied eyeliner and lipstick that makes even Danny think uncomfortable thoughts about Stiles’ mouth and what she could probably do with all of that lip.

It’s well done, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a shitty idea to begin with. “Yeah, okay,” says Danny, “that was a stupid way to do this.”

“Look at her!” Lydia says, stabbing the air in Stiles’ general direction. “I would fuck her and Jackson’s dick is nothing to scoff at.”

As opposed to looking excited at the thought of crawling into Lydia’s pants, Stiles collapses further into herself. “Great,” she mumbles. “I can now officially rank my face slightly about Jackson’s dick, it’s like my entire reason for existence has been validated.”

“Stop being a toddler,” Danny tells her. “You’re uncomfortable and it’s making you belligerent; Allison and Lydia went a bit overboard, but there was no reason for you to throw a tantrum.” He gives in to the urge to rub his temples because if he had any say over the direction of his life, he’d be back home, texting Tommy dirty limericks and enjoying his afternoon off with ESPN and a bag of Tostitos. “I thought I could trust you infants to lay some ground rules, but clearly not.”

“Hey!” says Stiles, but she immediately quiets when Danny cuts her a vicious look.

 “The hair was a reasonable idea,” he tells Allison, “but the wrong direction. Don’t do anything fancy with a curling iron and just teach her how to wear it down but out of her face. Same thing with the make-up; she can’t maintain that by herself, and Derika Hale seems like an essentialist.”

“Thanks, Tim Gunn,” Stiles snarls.

“Shut up,” Danny tells her. “Do you think I didn’t have better things to be doing right now? Yes. Yes, I did. And yet here I am, for some reason attempting to help you on your quest to get laid.”

Stiles’ face undergoes a series of contortions before settling on slightly ashamed. “Sorry,” she says quietly. “I—I get it. Thanks.”

“Okay,” says Danny, and he takes the bottle of wine from Lydia and downs a long swallow. “Get on it, then.”

Danny is really not the kind of guy who buys into the queer eye effect, but he’s also apparently the only person who isn’t insane in a four mile radius, so he sits at Allison’s desk and trolls through the Cracked archives while Lydia and Allison throw items of clothing at Stiles until something sticks.

Allison’s spine makes a reappearance, thank God, so she stops bowing under Stiles’ verbal onslaught and Lydia’s abuse and takes charge. Danny doesn’t even need to be there for the last hour, as Lydia and Allison patiently explain how mascara works, but the operation seems in a state of delicate balance and he’d rather not disrupt that.

When Stiles is finally deemed educated enough, with a shopping date established for the weekend and a bag full of clothes that Allison is willing to part with for the sake of Stiles’ libido, Danny’s inbox on his phone has seven texts from Tommy, starting with Dancing tonite? and ending with Where r u? Did Lyd suck out ur soul thru ur face? which is not an unreasonable question.

Social disaster needed counseling, he sends back. Dancing PLEASE. Also enough booze to anesthetize a horse.

Horse tranqs, got it, Tommy replies with a wink emoticon.

~

In the sort of universe that McCall and Allison populate, where everyone rides unicorns and dances through the forest singing to fairies and men above a certain muscle class are contractually obliged to go without shirts, there’s a Freddie Prinze Jr./Rachael Leigh Cook moment where Stiles glides into their Econ class on Monday and Derika Hale swallows her tongue with longing.

That is not the universe where Danny lives—more’s the pity, because Danny could do with some more shirtless soccer players around campus—so what happens is Stiles stumbles into their Econ class on Monday perilously close to late, wearing her usual ugly shoes but also a pair of jeans that make her ass look fantastic. She’s capped it off with a Swamp Thing t-shirt, which is so Stiles that Danny has to smother the automatic twinge of affection that it brings out of him, but it’s been shrunken since the last time he saw it and now at least Derika Hale knows that Stiles has breasts. She’s still wearing her hair in that fucking ugly braid; somewhere, Lydia just broke a pencil in half and stabbed a freshman with it.

Danny, objective observer that he is, watches Derika Hale’s marble statue of a face as Stiles trips her way across the front to where they sit in the cluster of seats to the left of the lecturer’s podium. Derika starts out looking apathetic, but midway through Stiles’ walk she morphs into slightly constipated, and then she begins to outright glare when she gets a good look at Stiles’ ass.

“Hey, Danny,” Stiles says, her voice pitchy.

“Wow,” Danny says flatly, “you are impressively terrible at being nonchalant.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Stiles says, and promptly trips on a stray bit of carpet and almost hits her head on his desk. “Oh god, okay, so, I might know a little bit about what you mean.” Stiles drops her voice into a low whisper. “Did she look? Was she watching?”

Over Stiles’ shoulder, Danny can see Derika Hale turn slightly purple and whirl on her heel to begin to angrily write things on the whiteboard about their homework assignment for next week’s recitation. Her free hand clenches and unclenches, the knuckles bleached to white. This is like tenth grade-level pining—way below Danny’s pay grade.

“Yeah,” he says. “Fairly obviously.”

“Okay!” cries Stiles in a shrill whisper. “Okay, cool! I can, um, work with that?” She turns stricken doe eyes on Danny. “I can work with that, right?”

“You’re increasingly pathetic,” Danny informs her. “This isn’t even hard.”

“Okay, well, you know what, some of us grew up with Scott the Emotionally Constipated Puppy as their best friend and a father who works double shifts in law enforcement, so maybe we’re not as great as Danny “The Greatest Yenta at UCBH” Mahealani,” Stiles rants, and she uses air quotes. Danny refuses to associate with her for the next ten minutes on principle.

But first: “Yenta is a gossip,” Danny tells her irritably. “A male matchmaker is shadchan.”

Stiles, proving that she spends far, far too much time with Scott, chooses to respond, “Are you secretly Jewish?”

Danny doesn’t even see the point in attempting a bitch-face to reply to that; he just pulls out his laptop and opens the Word document where he stores his Econ notes. Stiles nervously prattles for the last two minutes before class begins, and Danny purposely doesn't look at Derika Hale to see if she’s still trying to use the force of her glare to see through Stiles’ clothing.

Professor Finstock is his usual charming self, verbally abusing the people stupid enough to sit in the front row and calling out questions to the four students whose name he remembers, one of whom is Danny. Unlike the rest of these clowns, Danny is capable of following a learning curve and after that first class where Finstock had embarrassed everyone by demanding answers to questions none of them understood, Danny had made a point to do the readings a week early.

Stiles is another of the lucky four, although Finstock insists on calling her “Bilinski” and being a huge ass while doing it. At the end of class Finstock yells, “Bilinski, my desk, now,” and Stiles drops all of her belongings like the useless excuse for a human being that she is.

“Shit,” she says, and her head jerks in a triangular formation, from Finstock to Derika Hale aggressively cleaning the white board to her pens, which are rolling down the tiers of the seating in a cascade of clacking noises.

Danny allows himself one noiseless, full-body sigh and stands. “Go talk to Finstock,” he says in an undertone, “and I’ll come interrupt when it looks like Derika’s about to leave.” He puts an elbow in the small of Stiles’ back and pushes her down the stairs. Immediately afterwards he makes eye-contact with the spindly sophomore who always pretends he isn’t checking Danny out when they pass each other in the quad, before tilting his head towards Stiles’ scattered office supplies.

The sophomore turns pink and begins to pick up pens; Danny puts in laptop in his bag, collects the pens from the sophomore with a wink that makes the other guy’s voice stutter to a halt, and takes his life into his own hands by stepping up to where Finstock is chewing Stiles out about some minutiae on her homework problem set. It’s not exactly a big fucking surprise that Stiles is a scholastic mess considering that she spends literally the entirety of the class period staring at Derika Hale with a soggy expression on her face, but Finstock’s attention span when it comes to things like tongue-lashings is notorious short, so Danny waits for a lull in Finstock’s ranting to interrupt, “Professor? Could I talk to you for a second?”

“Mahealani,” says Finstock, changing gears from irritation to delight because Danny is fucking ace. “What can I do for you?”

Danny kicks Stiles in the ankle and waves his homework in Finstock’s direction, opening with a question that he only knows the answer to already because he outsourced it to Lydia. Stiles takes the hint and scrambles for the door, through which Derika Hale had disappeared twelve seconds earlier.

Finstock answers Danny’s question, makes noises about how happy he is that not everyone taking his class is a moron, and then promptly loses interest in Danny’s presence. For a couple second, Danny wavers, weighing his native apathy with his interest in recouping his investment in the Stiles Stilinski Improvement Project.

Curiosity wins, so Danny ventures out into the hallway, slipping through the double doors and, when he can’t see or hear any sign of them, down to the corner. Close to the three-way intersection, he can hear the low-volume, persistent babbling that means either the water main broke and is leaking all over the floor or Stiles has cornered Derika Hale and is making a fool of herself.

Being around Stiles is like consistently wanting to face-palm.

“—sort of like how the big issue was for pastoral Athenians to give up, like, three days’ worth of farming in order to go and vote into power some guy whose legislation they would never experience because, hello, they had this big-deal patron who was running their tiny bumfuck village back home and he was the real source of power, so calling it the ‘homeland of democracy’ or whatever is actually just a big lie.”

“Was there are point to this?” Derika Hale interrupts. “As charming as it is to watch you commit verbal seppuku.”

“I, um,” says Stiles, stuttering to a halt. Danny thinks about just straight up leaving now before he wants to stab himself in the throat, but morbid curiosity holds him fast. “Yes, yes, there was a point.”

There’s a delicately pointed silence, after which Derika Hale prods, “…and it was?”

“Oh god,” Stiles says, and because it’s not like the situation could get any worse without blood loss, Danny risks leaning around the corner. Derika’s back is to Danny, her hands stuffed into the pockets of her jeans, and Stiles is in front of her, slightly to the left, fiddling with the strap of her bag and reeking of desperation. Both of them have spines more rigid than the woman that Danny’s aunt had hired to teach her daughters how to be debutantes.

Danny waves sharply, and Stiles’ eyes jerk towards him. Nut up or shut up, Stilinski, Danny communicates with his eyes. He knows that Lydia and Jackson can be trusted to read his expression and do what he tells them, but he’s been training them for years.

Under Danny’s forceful stare, Stiles seems to gain some measure of confidence. “I wanted to know if, um, you wanted to, um,” and Stiles’ confidence withers the longer she looks at Derika. Danny can almost see the courage leak out of her eyeballs and float out into the ether. This is incredibly embarrassing for the entirety of UCBH’s LGBT community. She tilts her panicky face back to Danny, which isn’t obvious at all.

“What?” Derika demands, voice softening slightly from outright belligerence to something approaching encouraging.

“Coffee,” says Stiles, always the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree, and all of the blood drains out of her face. “It’s, um, delicious, and…fun to drink?” Danny doesn’t need to see Derika’s face to imagine what it looks like. This would be funny if Danny was watching it on CollegeHumor, but here it’s just goddamn depressing.

“Is it,” says Derika aggressively. “How compelling. Tell me more.”

“It’s hot,” squeaks Stiles. There’s the distinct possibility that she’s now directly lifting her dialogue out of a porno. Danny will need to shower at least twice before he’ll feel clean after this. Thank God embarrassment puts a halt to the engrossing coffee-related line of conversation; now the entire hallway is saturated with Stiles’ nerves as she takes her lower lip between her teeth and begins to worry at it.

That’s an encouraging sign; it’s unambiguous, it’s sexy, and it’s completely natural. What’s less encouraging is that Stiles turns back to Danny for additional help, widening her eyes until she’s gone beyond Andrew Garfield into actual Bambi territory. “Nngh,” she stutters, blinking rapidly at him. “Eegh.”

USE YOUR WORDS, Danny mouths at Stiles, since subtlety is no longer on the menu. For a second, he can tell that Stiles draws strength from his presence; but instead of speaking in a complete sentence like a normal person, what Stiles in fact does is loop her hands into the front of Derika’s button-down and yank, halting Derika’s downward progress with her mouth. Stiles’ inexperience is like a big neon sign hanging over her head, but—as to be expected—Derika shows no indication of being turned off by incompetence. That’s not very surprising; the number of people that Danny considers competent wavers between two (himself and Lydia) and three (himself, Lydia, and Rachel Maddow) on a weekly basis.

The first thing Derika does, after she grabs Stiles’ head and takes control of what had been until then a poorly-executed excuse for a kiss, is break the tie holding the end of Stiles’ braid and unravel her hair. Stiles moans and nudges her bag across her hip so she can flatten herself against Derika’s front, and with a series of gasps and some very shiny teeth action on Derika’s part, they maneuver so that Derika is pressing Stiles against a bulletin board with recent conference posters pinned to it.

Danny takes enough time to observe that (1) Stiles has a really fucking lot of hair, (2) Derika Hale clearly appreciates that she hadn’t cut it off in a bizarre stab at a lesbian mating ritual, and (3) they’re fairly hot, even if neither of them has a penis before he gets bored and decides to leave. The nearest exit is three doors down from the lovebirds, but Danny doesn’t do shame.

He does, however, do Looks, so he gives one to Stiles as he passes. Derika has her mouth latched onto Stiles’ shoulder and Stiles is flailing in a way that Derika for some incomprehensible reason must find sexy. He means it to be a combination of Use a dental dam and I don’t want to get texts from you tomorrow morning about this, but Stiles’ brain must fudge up the translation, since all Stiles does in response is lift her hand from where it’s groping one of Derika’s biceps to give Danny an incredibly unsubtle thumbs up.

Danny doesn’t tell Lydia anything, but he gets a text during dinner with Tommy later that evening that reads, You’re getting soft on me, Mahealani.

At least feelings don’t give me hives, he sends back, and then he turns his phone off because he’s Danny fucking Mahealani and he’s the only person on the entirety of UCBH’s campus that doesn’t suffer from some form of emotional constipation; that might as well be a point of pride, at this point.