The thing about gymnastics is that it's a lot of work. And time. And busted muscles, And calluses everywhere. (Yes. Even there.) And having no social life whatsoever. All that for the distinction of being really good at gymnastics. Which does not exactly bolster Stiles's already tenuous masculinity.
It's not like he's ashamed. You need some serious muscle to hoist your butt over your own feet on the parallel bars. Any elite gymnast tends to have an enviable set of abs. (Stiles is pretty fond of his, to be honest, though it's not like he's, you know, named them or anything. That would totally be dumb.)
But as taut and rippling as the Swiss Family Musclesons are (shut up shut up) Stiles's best event has always been high bar. Which tends to reward speed and dexterity over the ability to club an attractive lady and drag her back to your cave. You know. Evolutionarily speaking.
What Stiles is saying, is there are some guys on the team who can make a spandex unitard look like the latest Gears of War armor upgrade but he is not one of them. He didn't get the nickname "the chipmunk" for nothing. (It's because he's fast and nimble, NOT, no matter what Jackson says, because of how many nuts he can fit in his mouth.)
Which - whatever. No one likes Jackson anyway.
"Stilinski, stop showing off, you asshole."
Speak of the devil.
Stiles jerks his head up, train of thought broken, and promptly falls off the pommel horse he had been doing lazy rotations on. Jackson readjusts one of the crutches he's propping himself up on and smirks down at the pile of limbs and chalk dust and angry mutters Stiles has ended up in. "Graceful, Chipmunk."
"Still better than you on your best day," Stiles tries to say. It comes out more like "better... you..." and a wheezing cloud of white dust. He feels vaguely like he's swallowed the entire chalk bowl.
"Come on," Jackson says, looking a bit less smug now, for some reason. "Team meeting time. I've got news from the trainer."
The news is not good.
Jackson, it turns out, didn't just sprain his ankle at nationals the other week. He tore a ligament, and even the best case scenario has him out of commission for a month. Just in time for London. Which means there's an extra spot on the team. Just waiting for Stiles to fill it.
Stiles supposes some people in his position might think that's good news. Only, well, is good news supposed to make you want to vomit the burrito you had for lunch four hours ago? Stiles doesn't think so, but he may be wrong about that. Scott's certainly grinning at him hard enough as he claps him on the back (and oh god that burrito is really working on its comeback tour) and says “welcome to the team, Stiles.”
Stiles was not prepared for this eventuality, but he did at least have routines in the works just in case the entire world went crazy and he ended up competing at the Olympics. But Jackson's departure has a profound effect on the rest of the team. No one is talking to each other. Stiles hasn't eaten a full meal in weeks. Derek, nephew of the Team Coach and general figurehead for Team USA, is freaking out.
Which, okay, Stiles gets it. Jackson was one of their best hopes for an all around medal. The other, of course, being Derek himself and now Derek has to shoulder that responsibility himself with Scott most likely stepping up as their second competitor. Scott's a good guy, and a great gymnast but Jackson is the reining world silver medalist and Scott once missed a competition because he got lost in a corn maze with his girlfriend of the time.
But still, the frayed nerves are not pretty. The whole team barely speaks in the buildup to London. Not in the tense two weeks of practice before they head off to London. Not on the even more tense flight to London.
Scott makes kicked puppy faces the entire flight because Allison wasn't leaving for London until the next day so they couldn't hold hands and gaze lovingly into each others eyes while crossing the Atlantic.
Isaac is sitting between Stiles and Derek and waxing poetic about how amazing first class is and did you know this was his first time not in coach and oh my god are they bringing us hot towels until Derek just... growls at him, puts on an eye mask, and goes to sleep.
No one speaks the rest of the flight. Like Stiles said. Tense.
In London, Derek works them hard in the lead up to the team prelims. They barely have time to settle into the Olympic Village before they're back in the gym, with Derek peering over their shoulders as they run their routines again and again, and Coach Peter peering over Derek's shoulder as he does his own workouts, staying hours later than the rest of the team.
It's a bit worrying, and Stiles has a sneaking suspicion it's not the world's smartest build up to competition.
Which, well, Stiles is not going to gloat over being right because at the team prelims? Are not funny.
Derek's up on high bar first. It's not his signature event, and Stiles has a sneaking suspicion he kind of hates the things, but it's one he's always been solid in competition. Stiles doesn't think he's ever seen Derek look this nervous before, but as he's lifted up to his starting position Stiles sees Derek grit his teeth and then his arm shakes.
It only goes down hill from there. On his first upright hold, Derek's arm shakes again. His second release he nearly misses his grip and isn't able to finish the skill. Thirty seconds later he does miss his grip. Derek hits the mat below him with a gut-wrenching thud. Stile's feels a bit like he's going to vomit.
Boyd has his eyes closed and a pained expression on his face. Isaac looks a bit like someone had just told him Santa Claus wasn't real. Scott was actually wringing his hands and, wow, Stiles had thought that was just a figure of speech.
Stiles looked at Derek, who wearing the sourest expression he's ever seen a human being make. Pursed lips and Derek's patented I cannot believe I am surrounded by such morons glare only, well, this time apparently he was the moron.
Derek finishes his routine with a minimum of mistakes, but the damage is done. That score is going to have to be dropped. There's no way he's going to all-arounds.
Stiles barely has time to think about it though, because Scott's on parallels next and then twenty seconds later its his turn on pommel and he's got to at least attempt to focus.
He spends his first even more than a bit distracted. He can't get Derek's crap score out of his head, and he can't stop imagining what it will be like to go home with no medals at all and have let down America and freedom and democracy. Probably they'll be met at the airport by a cadre of weeping bald eagles and nothing else.
So yeah, Stiles is a bit distracted on the parallel bars, but they're one of his better apparatuses so he pulls out a pretty decent score regardless. Then when he's doing his floor routine he gets distracted by the thought of Scott's kicked puppy dog face facing down a crying bald eagle in a battle of the Saddest Image Ever and somehow gets an even better_score. Then he spends most of high bar wondering if disappointment in his nephew will make Peter lurk even more creepily and he actually gets the best score he's ever gotten on that routine and it turns out this kind of distraction is working for him?
The thing is, everyone has always called Stiles flakey. Unreliable. He's capable of brilliance, especially on high bar where his speed and dexterity can get him huge difficulty scores, but everyone always seems to assume he just doesn't work hard enough.
The truth, though, is that Stiles over-thinks everything. He's so busy thinking three, four, ten moves ahead in his routine that he gets tangled in his own thoughts and falls on his butt. It tends to make people write him off.
Right now, though, he's reached such a transcendental stage of worrying about everyone else on the team, from Derek and his failure to move on to all-arounds to the thought of millions of Americans pinning an avalanche of hopeful, soul crushing dreams on Team USA, and suddenly he can't even think about his routines. He just has to do them.
Apparently he just does them very well, because when he finishes up on rings, his absolute worst apparatus, he looks at the scores and nearly crumples in shock. He's, uh. Well, he's in first.
And Scott's in second.
And apparently the hopes of Team USA, an entire nation, and the last remaining gently weeping bald eagles are resting on him and his best friend.
He's about three seconds away from a panic attack when Scott comes up to him, grabs his hand in the worlds most enthusiastic bro hug, and them holds up an iPhone. Apparently a photo of Derek looking pissed after his rings routine has gone viral on the internet under the caption "DEREK HALE IS NOT AMUSED."
Scott's scrolling through pictures as the very same unamused Derek storms past them towards the locker room. Stiles takes a deep breath and makes decision. It is time for their dear team leader to lighten the heck up.
Plan Get Derek Hale To Stop Acting Like Someone Put His Tighty-Whities in the Freezer was, to be fair, a little slapdash. Whatever! Stiles didn't have a lot of time to figure out the best way to cut the deathly tension among his teammates, and after getting glared out of Boyd's room and finding out that Isaac's best suggestion was "I don't know... maybe he just needs a hug? That always makes me feel better...." Stiles was stuck with Scott as his only accomplice. Not that Scott had any better ideas..
What Scott did have was an agreement with Stiles that, yes, Derek was pissed off enough that it was probably going to affect the team's chance of winning a medal. Because Derek is snarling at literally everyone who crosses his pass, be they team member or innocent bell boy, Peter is lurking around literally every corner, which is not helping anyone's sanity, and Scott keeps trying and failing not to giggle at tumblr. (Look! Now Derek is not amused with Kim Jung Un! Oh my god you have to see this they photoshopped his face on Nicholas Cage.)
Finally Stiles tells Scott to grab a coat, get their dear leader, (tell him Stile's has broken his leg or something, Stiles doesn't care, whatever gets him out of the gym where he's once again endlessly, angstily lifting weights) and meet him in the lobby.
Ten minutes later Derek runs into the lobby and rushes up to Stiles, going straight for the leg which - wow- stiles hadn't thought that would actually work. Surely Derek would have wondered why Stiles was lying in the hotel lobby with a broken leg instead of heading to a hospital.
Stiles was clearly correct in thinking he needs some stress relief STAT. He says just that as Derek peers at his unbroken leg.
""So your leg isn't broken, then?" Derek says. His phone beeps and he stops staring at Stiles's lack of injury to check it.
"We are leaving the village, okay?" Stiles says. Derek grunts no. His phone beeps again.
"We are going out and relieving stress." Stiles says.
Derek starts angrily texting back. Five seconds later his phone beeps yet again.
"Otherwise we are all going to die of aneurisms and we will win no medals at all."
"If you're not dead yet, I'm going back to my room," Derek says as his phone beeps yet again.
Derek goes to respond, but Stiles get there first, grabbing the phone out of hands before he can respond.
"You've got two choices," Stiles says as he scrolls over to Derek's messages to see who in the world won't stop texting. "Either I change your ring tone to call me maybe and make it so you can never change it back. Or we turn this off an you actually enjoy one day in London. Just one day."
Stiles scrolls through the messages and, wow okay, there are hundreds and they are all from Peter. He swipes open the latest one.
I hope you didn't cut warmups short again this morning. Wouldn't want to let anyone else ease up and hurt themselves the way you let Jackson.
Well Jesus. That actually explains a bit.
Stiles looks up. Scott has started to hum call me maybe. Derek's eyebrow twitches with annoyance.
Stiles holds out a hand to get a fist bump from Scott. "That was the right choice," he grins and holds the power button down until Derek's phone shuts itself off.
At first Derek mostly just... glares. Glares as Scott hails them a cab. Narrows his eyes when the cabbie starts to say "hey aren't you blokes..." Stiles cuts him off before he can get any father with "look like who now?" in a passable British accent that throws the guy off their scent. (He'd grown up with Harry Potter, okay, and Stiles believed in 100% Halloween costume accuracy)
Derek continues to glare as Stiles makes them ride the London Eye.
He glares when Scott suggests trying some real British beer at a particularly scummy looking pub, muttering "No alcohol" and dragging Scott back to the cab. Stiles is inclined to agree that time, if only because the place looked like you could get a nice case of historically accurate bubonic plague with your authentic British lager.
Derek continues to glare when Scott then makes them get out to peer through the fog at 221 B Baker Street, but Stiles swears he cracks half a smile when they start bickering about why Scott is so insistent. ("What? I read books! Okay I saw the Robert Downey Junior movie but that totally counts. Stop laughing Stiles.")
He finally stops glaring when Stiles drags them all to Kings Cross to take awkwardly nerdy photos. Possibly he stops glaring because he's too busy flailing as Scott shoves him into Platform nine and three quarters while Stiles snaps pictures and yells "You have to believe harder Derek! We're going to miss the Hogwarts Express!"
By the end of the day, Derek is looking a lot less like he's going to be tossed into the Olympic torch as a sacrifice to the gods of Gymnastics. Actually, Stiles realizes that somewhere between trying to explain to Scott that Spotted Dick really isn't what it sounds like and Derek actually asking for them to take his picture with a guard at Buckingham palace, the knot that's been in his stomach ever since Jackson got hurt has sort of disappeared.
Stiles has honestly forgotten they turned off all their phones until he's nearly misses getting dive tackled by Isaac in the hotel lobby five seconds after they return.
"Where have you been?" Isaac asks, as Stiles finally digs his phone out of his pocket and turns it back on. About a million messages pop onto the screen as Isaac says "We were worried you guys had died. Peter's resorted to calling me. Derek, will you please make him stop."
Derek pulls his phone out of Stiles's hand as well and looks at Isaac. "It's fine. Just ignore Peter."
Isaac looks like he's slightly worried Derek has been body-snatched and replaced with a doppelganger. Derek does not assuage this worry when he speaks next.
"Just go grab Boyd and Jackson. Let's just... watch a movie in my room and then get some rest before finals tomorrow."
Now Scott is staring at Derek alongside Isaac. Stiles, however, just grins and thinks he can hear some bald eagles in the distance drying their tears. Maybe Team USA has a chance after all.
Derek feels more calm than he's felt in a long time as they march out into the arena the next day. He doesn't even bother finding Peter's smirking face in the crowd. For the first time in years he doesn't really care what his Uncle is thinking of him -of his team- right now.
He watches as Stiles and Scott line up for their first events, as, one event after another, they rack up some of the best scores either has ever hit. He hasn't felt this proud since he first saw the pair walk into his family's gym the day they first switched trainers, laughing and wrestling and showing so much promise it almost hurt to watch.
Everyone but him had done well at prelims, but had very clearly been fighting through terror to do it. Today, though, it really looks like the nerves are gone. Derek swears he can see Stiles grinning as he does his most difficult catch and release on high bar. Scott definitely turns to wink at Allison after he dismounts from parallel bars.
For once, in years of endless training and expectations and failure, Derek finds he isn't thinking about medals. His hands itch to get on the rings. It's always been his best, his true favorite event. For once he just wants to compete.
And when the team finishes their final routines Derek doesn't even have to watch the scores come in to know the results. Just watches the elation on his teammates faces (and the running leap Scott makes into the stands and Allison's lap shortly after) to know Team USA is golden.