Love, Physics and Post-it Notes
Or a Lit student's awkward attempts at wooing an Astrophysics student with cheesy pick-up lines with a (vaguely) scientific tone.
Derek is a really meticulous person. Laura insinuates he suffers from an obsessive-compulsive disorder, that makes him straighten frames in strangers' houses to a perfect line, embarrassing himself and his family. But that happened once and Derek was just nervous, because the Argents give him the creeps. Moreover, he thinks Laura doesn't even know what “obsessive-compulsive disorder” means, she just loves repeating lines she has learned by heart from police dramas. Someone who speaks through Olivia Benson's quotes isn't in the position to judge other people's psyche, let alone Derek's one, thank you very much.
Derek would just define himself as a person who likes rectifying , correcting mistakes, if you like. For example, when he sits in the library – last desk on the right, last row, by the window – he tends to place his book so that the edge is perfectly parallel to the edge of the desk. And to place his pens so that they are parallel to the edge of the book... and so on. He doesn't like chaos, okay? And if someone thinks he is boring and has a stick pokered up his arse it isn't his problem.
So, when on a rainy autumn afternoon Derek finds an orange square piece of paper on his favorite desk in the library that says:
“Rain makes me sad, but the thought that you'll come study here enlightens my day. It's like you are my Sun, in the center of my gray universe of boring books.”
… he frowns, because the thing is... creepy, to say one. But also totally wrong, not to mention that a library is everyone's property and it would be nice to be respectful and not to leave awkward wooing attempts around. Derek looks around, because he is a civilized guy and he wants to be sure the post-it hasn't been forgotten by someone who is still in the nearby. But the library is almost deserted, as it always is after lunch. He can spot just a couple of heads behind lamps in the center of the room, and a guy's long legs. He is sitting in an inappropriate manner by a desk not far from his.
He is about to ball up the paper and throw it in the rubbish, but the words Sun and center of the Universe make him cring, so he decides to do a favor to the incompetence of the author of that creepy and unoriginal declaration. He turns the post-it and writes:
“The Sun is not in the center of the Universe, it's not even in the very center of the Solar System, actually. And the Universe is expanding, so a 'center of the Universe' doesn't even exist. It could be everywhere.”
Rectifying. His issues are not really about order, but about his desire to rectify. From crooked paintings to nonsense like that one. He places the post-it on the desk, under the lamp, in the same position he found it (maybe a bit straighter), and finally he can open his book and notebook and begin to study.
It's the beginning of the new semester and Derek's schedule is evil, so that, without even noticing, he breaks his good resolutions not to drink coffee. Moreover, his Quantum Mechanics course makes him crazy. Overall, he forgets everything about the orange post-it until a Thursday afternoon, when he finds another one.
“I can't believe you replied in such a boring way to a compliment. I understand you have a superior intellicence, since you are a Physicist, but shouldn't you have a bit of chaos in you in order to understand the Universe?
Nonetheless, I couldn't resist one day without seeing your wolfy eyebrows, like the Earth wouldn't resist one day without the Sun.”
Derek turns the post-it in his hands. This time isn't orange, but fluorescent green and it's attached to the lampshade, but the handwriting is the same as the previous one: sharp cornered and sometimes hard to decipher. Like the last time, in the library there are just few students, being the beginning of the semester. During this time of the year, everyone has the illusion of having all the time in the world. Nobody, however, seems to be paying any attention to him. Derek takes a seat, perplexed, and rereads the post-it.
He had presumed that the first message had been forgotten on the desk by a distracted student. From what he is reading now, it looks like the author came back and read his answer. That wouldn't mean anything if not for the words 'Physicist'. Is anyone making fun of him? After all, he always chooses the same desk because it's the most quiet one and it's almost always free, even on the most crowded days. Maybe someone noticed and left the post-it there, knowing sooner or later he would find it.
Laura often jokes about his lack of “chaos”, but luckily she is far away, so the message can't be from her.
Derek decides to reply again, briefly. If someone is trying to fool him (freshmen sometimes tend to behave as if they still were in high school), sooner or later they would get bored and stop.
“Even if the Sun disappeared, the Earth wouldn't stop existing. And even some life forms. In thirty thousand years, it could even find a new sun.”
The next message comes quickly and it's already waiting for him on the desk on the day after. And not alone. On his desk at the end of the library, Derek finds a light blue post-it and a coffee in a paper travel mug. From the condensation he can see under the lid, Derek guesses it must still be warm. He touches the mug and he has the confirmation he is right. It's not hot, but whoever put it there, did it no more than a few minutes ago.
This time the post-it is fixed under the coffee mug and it says:
“This is the least romantic thing I have ever heard about the Universe. You hurt my feelings. I bought you coffee all the same. Don't worry, it's black like
your soul black holes, you should like it.”
Derek stands up and pretends he has to hang his jacket in the coat rack at the entrance of the library, so that he can steal a glance and spot something or someone. If the mystery author left his coffee not too long ago, maybe he still is in the library. But nothing catches his eye, except a guy in a red hoodie who is wearing headphones and drumming on his laptop with a pen to the rhythm of whatever music he is listening to. He is one of those people Derek will never understand, because there is no way it can be possible to concentrate like that.
When he sits back at his desk and takes the coffee, he notices the mug left a round black stain on the post-it note and he swears. If this mystery person is trying to test his tendency to suffer from an OCD, they are succeeding. Then he open the lids and takes a sniff, skeptical, while he turns the note and decides if he wants to write something back. But on the back he finds another message.
“It's not poisoned!”
In the left corner, at the bottom of the note, there is a face with two Xs in place of its eyes and a hanging tongue, that seems to suggest the contrary. Derek snorts and shakes his head.
He writes, despite he still fears tomorrow someone is going to find his dead body on the desk for cyanide poisoning. He tries to be reassured by the fact that that coffee doesn't smell like bitter almonds (or anything suspect, just to say).
When Derek had sent his cold gratitude and nothing else to his mystery correspondent, he had done that with the hope to prevent him from leaving new notes. Nonetheless, after some days of no post-its on his desk he feels a bit disappointed. No matter how weird and sometimes creepy those messages were, they had been a good distraction during his study sessions. Moreover, he had survived that coffee, so maybe the guy (Derek has decided a long time ago now that, judging from the handwriting, it had to be a guy) isn't dangerous, but just unable to interact like a normal human being.
The suspect of having discouraged the mystery guy, together with some issues he's having with Finstock, his Magnetohydrodynamics professor, make him arrive to the library that day in a really bad mood. While he crosses the room towards his usual spot, he hears someone whispering and giggling to a volume not really appropriate for a library. When he turns, he recognizes the guy with the red hoodie and sees that he's talking to another guy with ruffled hair and a crooked jaw. He shushes them and ignores the perplexed look they cast him.
The warm coffee waiting for him on the desk makes his rage cool off a bit.
“No mistakes to correct about black holes, Mr Perfection?
Just for this, you deserve another coffee!”
In spite of himself, he smiles.
“No, you got it, this time.
Black holes are black.”
“Your sarcasm hurts my feelings.
But, God, with that smile of yours you could enlighten one of your galaxies.”
Derek blushes, despite the cheesy line, and takes a sip of the umpteenth coffee from the mistery guy.
“Even if it enlightened the closest galaxy, you should wait two billion and a half light years to see it.”
“Trust me, I'm good at waiting. Especially if it's worth it.”
“Are you fucking someone, lately?” Isaac asks one morning, while they wait for the 8 am lecture to start.
“Excuse me?” Derek asks back. The girl in front of them turns at the question and he casts an apologetic look in her direction.
“I don't know, you look... less grumpy,” Isaac explains, shrugging.
“You smile more, lately.
Maybe this galaxy is coming closer. That's possible, right?
A collision between two galaxies?
The Andromeda galaxy and the Milky Way?”
Derek looks at the note, a bit gobsmacked. It is orange again, like the first one, and the question makes sense. The Andromeda galaxy is the closest one and many scholars think it and the Milky Way are converging and sometime in the next four billion years they are going to collide. He feels a surge of affection for his correspondent at the idea that he is researching on something he doesn't know just to write him a note.
“Someone has done their homework, I'm impressed.
It's possible, yeah. Very so.”
He writes and he is not sure what's the conversation about anymore.
“Wow, it took a while to impress you!
Have aliens come back into the Solar System? Did they kidnap you and replaced you with someone else?”
“Aliens have never been in the Solar System.”
“Really? Say that to the Selenites.”
Derek shakes his head, murmuring “Selenites” with a hint of skepticism. Then he snorts, because whoever his correspondent is, he has to be ridiculous. “Selenites” is one of the fantasy name for the inhabitants of the Moon. And, if they ever existed, the Moon landing could be considered an alien invasion for them.
“Sorry to break it to you, but Selenites don't exist.”
“Don't tell me you are one of those with the absurd certainty we are the only ones in the Universe.”
It isn't the first time it happens, but Derek feels the overwhelming desire to speak face to face with the guy. Lately their exchanges have happened more and more often. Just sometimes they have skipped one or two days, probabily because of their different schedules.
Even if they had had the possibility to exchange notes every day, Derek wouldn't lie: he appreciates the waiting, the mystery, but a dozen words at time aren't what he really wants. Far from it. His correspondent seems to be funny and smart, with a good dose of sarcasm. After the first days, Derek had stopped trying to find out who he is, trying for example to come to the library earlier than his habit. He had decided he just likes the mystery.
It's like being inside a surreal bubble and he is scared that if he meets this guy, the bubble could blow up and ruin those nice moments. He evaluates the idea to suggest a date, an idea that teases his mind already from the note about the colliding galaxies. It would have been nice to turn that conversation into a metaphor, but in the end he hadn't done that and that train is gone now. Derek shakes his head and just explains that no, he doesn't belive they are alone in the Universe, but life on the Moon is impossible for several reasons.
“So you are saying that maybe not in the Solar System, but somewhere in the Universe, in this very moment, someone is fighting STAR WARS?”
Derek can't say he wasn't expecting something like that. The mistery guy is so absurd, sometimes, that a line like that one is totally in character.
“You are putting words into my mouth again.”
The next note (a green one) comes with a coffee and a peanut butter and chocolate muffin.
“Am I forgiven, Derek?”
Derek swallows, and a chocolate crumb lands on one of his notebooks. He tries to brush it off, but it just leaves a chocolate stain. Derek decides he doesn't care.
“You know my name, but I don't know yours.”
He writes and leaves the question unanswered.
Ten days pass and Derek doesn't get a reply. At the beginning he thinks his mystery guy's schedule has changed, then he guesses he must be sick. It's November, after all, and a lot of people are stuck home with a flu. Nonetheless, since Derek in the last message had asked about his correspondent's name, he can't help but wonder if the guy is trying to avoid him.
Derek tries to convince himself that, after all, if the guy doesn't want to reveal even his name, maybe it's better like that. He seems to know a lot about Derek, but he doesn't want to share anything, which is creepy, not to mention unfair. Maybe he has something to hide. Is he a professor? The old librarian? Is it really all Laura's plan to annoy him? Does the guy have pimples? Derek can deal with pimples.
He doesn't even realize he is drumming on the desk wood, until a paper mug is placed under his nose with a brusque movement, interrupting his nervous thoughts.
On impulse, Derek moves backward, then he follows with his eyes the line of the hand that is holding the cup. Then looks at the wrist, at the elbow, the shoulder and then he is finally looking at a familiar face.
“Stiles,” whispers a tall guy, a bit short of breath. It's the guy who usually listens to music while studying, the one Derek never understand how he is able to concentrate.
“And, just to say, if the center of the Universe can be everywhere, as far as I'm concernet, it can even be you.”
“What's a stiles?” Derek asks, confused. He can't really follow the logical thread the other man seems to be following.
“Oh,” the guys lifts the hand which is not holding the mug and scratches is nape, embarrassed. “It's my name. Or better, it's a nickname, but it's too early to reveal you my real name, since it's a bit thraumatic. All the physics in the world hasn't prepared you to pronounce it yet,” he laughs.
Derek looks at him as if he really was an alien.
“Since you made me understand that you wanted to know my name, I thought I would... break the mystery?” the guy, Stiles, snorts. “So I'm going to say my note aloud, today.”
He takes a breath as if he is about to shout, and then Derek is overwelmed by a stream of words: “The amazing thing is that e very atom in your body came from a star that exploded. And, the atoms in your left hand probably came from a different star than your right hand. It really is the most poetic thing I know about physics: You are all stardust.”
Stiles has spoken almost without breathing and rubbing his hands nervously. Derek is torn between facepalming with embarrassment and drawing him closer. A part of Derek is fascinated and infatuated.
“Oh, my God, I'm giving you the creep. I should have continued with the post-its, now I made a fool of myself and you won't want to have anything to do with me for the rest of your life,” Stiles says, stepping backward. “Sorry, I'll leave you alone.”
As soon as Stiles turns, Derek realizes he has been still and hasn't uttered a word for the entire duration of Stiles' incoherent monologue. So he stands up and grabs Stiles by the wrist to stop him.
“Wait,” he whispers. “Let's start over?” he asks, and points a chair. They sit down and, when Derek sees Stiles under the light of the lamp, he realizes how distractedly he has been looking at him during the previous weeks in the library.
Stiles has clever, beautiful brown eyes. And, God, how can those lips be real?
Taking advantage of the fact that the library is almost empty because of the rain, they have the possibility to talk at length, in the dim light of the room, lulled by the sound of the drops falling on the window glasses.
“I'm a Lit student,” Stiles explains in the end. “This is why I write such nonsense about physics, but I wanted to get your attention,” he admits with a smile.
“Believe me, you did it,” Derek answers, with a snort. “But that sentence about stardust is strangely accurate.
“Oh, that,” Stiles says, rubbing his nape with a hand. “It's a quote I read somewhere and then I learnt it by hert to repeat it to you.”
“I can't believe you are real,” Derek laughs again. Then he reaches out and touches Stiles' arm. “Can I kiss you?”
Stiles blushes and he leans toward Derek. “I can't believe you are asking,” he whispers and then he takes Derek's face between his hands. He kisses his lips slowly. On impulse, Derek opens them with a sigh. He is overwhelmed by the comforting feeling of having Stiles so close to him, by his good smell, by the warmth he emanates throught his clothes. He trembles when Stiless deepen the kiss, caressed his tongue with his own, with no hurry, in a sort of slow languor. Derek feels sort of a tingling in his shoulders, like pulsing energy.
“Stiles,” he whispers against his lips, when Stiles begins to wander with his hands on his chest. “We are in a library,” he points out, unwillingly.
“Yes,” Stiles kisses him again. “And we are making out,” another kiss. “What's the problem?”
“No problem”, Derek tells himself, and searches for Stiles' lips again. And it won't be a problem even when Stiles invades his isolated desk, moving his pens and his books and bringing a bit of chaos in the order of his life.
After all “T he stars died so that you could be here today.” And who was Derek to complain about the job of a galaxy?
They spend the first night together at Derek's one day of December. The morning after, Derek has to wake up early for a lecture, but he is not happy at all with leaving Stiles alone, sleeping in his bed.
In the weeks they have spent dating and knowing each other, Stiles has never stopped leaving notes on his desk, ofter with corny lines about the Moon, stars and suns. One day Derek decided to write something back, betting on the most trite love quotes in the history of Literature. Every times he quotes Shakespeare, Stiles flips, undecided between laughing and grabbing his throat to choke himself.
So, that morning, before heading out, Derek takes a notebook abandoned on the couch – his loft looks more and more like the storage of a stationary shop since he and Stiles started to date. He chooses an orange post-it and thinks about the quote he wants to dedicate to Stiles. When he sees him sleeping on his stomach, in the middle of his bed, with his large shoulders on display and the lower part of his body covered by the sheets, Derek replays the previous night in his mind and decides that that's a good occasion for Romeo and Juliet.
He carefully writes his quote on the note and then lays it down on the pillow, by Stiles' head.
He'd pay to stay and see Stiles' face when he reads it. Unfortunately, duty calls, so he kisses Stiles' forehead and leaves.
“Good night, good night! parting is such sweet sorrow, That I shall say good night till it be morrow.”