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seems to me it's chemistry

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At first, Derek thinks he’s imagining things. They’re being assigned lab partners today, and there’s no way Derek could be that lucky. It’s completely impossible that the stars have aligned and blessed Derek with—

“Hale, for the third time, you’re with Stilinski the Lacrosse Hero,” Harris says. “God help you. Can you please give me a sign that you understand?”

“While you’re at it, can you give us a sign that you’re not an alien?” says Whittemore from the back row, and almost the whole class cracks up. Including Harris. 

Harris is kind of a dick. 

“I understand,” Derek says, gazing at the equations on the board to keep his temper reined in. “I’m with Stiles.”

“Oh my god, watch it, Stilinski.” Derek hears a thump, which he assumes is Whittemore slapping Stiles’ shoulder in that aggressively manly way the jocks have. “The geek knows your name.” 

“Fuck off, Jackson, jesus,” says Stiles. “Derek’s the best student in here. You’ll be singing a different tune when we decimate you.”

“Just don’t call me for help when he tries to take you back to his home planet,” Jackson stage-whispers, but Derek barely hears him.

Stiles knows his name. Stiles knows he’s the best in the class. Stiles said ‘we.’

♡ ♡ ♡

“So, hey,” Stiles says to Derek after class, leaning casually on his desk with both hands. Derek wishes he wouldn’t, because Stiles’ hands are really big and sort of ludicrously beautiful, and they’re difficult to ignore when they’re bracketing Derek’s Chemistry book. “I’m sorry about Jackson.”

“Uh,” Derek says, and then clenches his jaw in frustration. Man up, Hale, he thinks. He’s finally talking to you. You’ve practiced this. You’re ready.

“You okay?” One of Stiles’ hands moves, like he’s thinking about reaching out to touch Derek’s arm, and just the thought of it shocks Derek into looking up.

“That wasn’t an accurate use of the word ‘decimate,’” he tells Stiles, looking straight into his warm gold eyes and thinking oh my god, no, Derek, you moron.  

But Stiles just grins down at him. “Wrong. I actually do think we should destroy exactly one-tenth of Jackson. I even have a particular tenth in mind. Guess what it is.” He bounces on his toes. “Give up? It’s his junk.”

Derek blushes hard and rolls his eyes. “I think maybe a tenth is too generous an estimate.”

Stiles’ eyes widen, and then he barks out a surprised laugh and slaps Derek’s desk. “Oh, man, looks like there are gonna be some extra perks to working with that huge brain of yours. Oh, speaking of—can you take care of the outline tonight? I know we’re supposed to do every step together, but we’re coming up on one of the biggest games of the season and I just know Coach isn’t gonna let us go until the wee hours.”

It’s like being doused with an ice-cold bucket of frigid reality. Laura would make fun of him so much for even getting his hopes up, Derek knows. “Why don’t I just do the whole thing,” Derek says coldly as he gathers his books and stands. “That way you can focus on lacrosse, and you won’t have to over-tax your jock brain by trying to outsmart me.”

“But—” Stiles grabs his arm when he tries to leave. “Hey, asshole, I wasn’t finished, I meant—”

“You don’t own me just because you scored the winning goal last Friday,” Derek spits, and storms off. 

He’s all the way down the hall before he realizes that he just admitted to watching Stiles’ game. Fuck. 

♡ ♡ ♡

“Why the storm clouds, baby brother?”  Laura barges into Derek’s room and pokes him in the side. “Awww, what’s got your braces in a tangle, Deedee?” 

“I will bite you on the face,” Derek warns darkly.

“Oooh, bring it on, metal-mouth,” Laura grins, messing up his hair. She plucks his glasses off his nose and starts polishing them on her shirt.

“You’re going to scratch the lenses,” he protests.

“You’ve got Stiles-face,” she says, squinting at him. “What did that brain-dead jock do to you this time?”

“Stiles isn’t brain-dead,” Derek says automatically, and then scowls because Stiles is the reason he’s stuck doing their entire outline himself instead of watching the director’s cut of Blade Runner, like he planned. 

“Oh, I forgot,” Laura sighs, jamming the glasses back on his face. (They actually do seem cleaner now, not that Derek would ever admit it.) “You love him.”

“I do not.” 

Stiles is the best player on the team,” Laura mimics. “He’s amazing in the goal, Dad. He’s gotten so tall since sophomore year, Mom. His eyes are like single-malt whiskey glowing in the afternoon sunlight, Diary.”

Derek snaps his laptop shut. “I never—where did you—that was two years ago and it was password-protected!”

“Your password was ‘Stiles,’” Laura points out, and Derek drops his head onto his laptop because, yes. Yes it was.

♡ ♡ ♡

“Here,” Derek says before class starts the next day, shoving Stiles’ copy of the outline into his hands. “Don’t worry. I won’t tell Harris. He wouldn’t believe me anyway.”

“Okay, whoa, Derek,” Stiles says. He’s all intense and flushed, and Derek wishes he wouldn’t look so hot when he’s angry. “What is your damage?”

“Class is about to start,” Derek says. He’s got a crazy urge to punch Stiles in the face, but it’s not anywhere near as strong as his urge to throw him down onto one of the lab tables and tear his shirt off with his teeth, so. 

“Fine,” Stiles says, throwing up his hands. “Fine. We’ll do the experiment separately, then, god. Just. Give me your phone and I’ll put in my info so you can email me your results.”

“Why,” Derek says, suspicious. What does Stiles really want with his phone? Is he going to send some kind of humiliating mass text? Well, joke’s on him; Derek only has like twelve contacts. 

“I can’t write our final report without your results,” Stiles says slowly, like Derek is the brain-dead one. “That was the plan. What, you thought I just wanted you to do all the work?”

“I…” Derek needs a moment. Nothing makes sense right now, and Stiles is standing really close. “I didn’t.” 

“No, you didn’t, because if you’d thought for two seconds about it you’d realize that Harris hates me and he’d never let me get away with cheating. You’re confusing me with Jackson. Which is so gross, dude, I can’t even.”

“Here,” Derek says desperately, holding out his phone like a peace offering. “I’m… I don’t think. You’re nothing like Whittemore.”

“Be still my heart, that’s the sweetest thing you’ve ever said to me, Der.” Stiles flutters his eyelashes ridiculously while he adds himself to Derek’s address book. “Honestly. I might faint.”

“We can do the experiments together,” Derek says. He can’t quite bring himself to look Stiles directly in the face while he makes the offer, so he’s focusing on that mole near the left corner of his mouth. It’s Derek’s favorite. “If you want, I mean. It’s just.”

“You sure you want to risk getting dragged down by my Neanderthal jock brain?” Stiles’ mouth twists sardonically as he gives Derek his phone back. “Me Chemistry, no good grade, ooga booga.”

“Harris is a dick,” Derek says passionately, right when Harris walks in.

Derek gets detention, but it’s worth it for the way Stiles doubles over and laughs so hard he can’t breathe. 

♡ ♡ ♡

At four-thirty that afternoon, Derek runs out of Harris’ classroom and straight into Stiles.

“Slow your roll, Brainiac,” Stiles chuckles, steadying him by throwing a warm arm around his body. “I know it’s horrible in there, but you’re safe now.”

“That man,” Derek tells Stiles’ shoulder, “is terrifying.”

“Oh trust me, I know. I’ve been in Harris’ detention more times than you’ve read that weird Dumas novel at lunch.”

“Le Meneur de Loups isn’t weird,” Derek says defensively as he pulls away. “Werewolves are cool.” 

Stiles’ eyes look a little glazed, which tends to happen whenever Derek brings up 19th-century literature to anyone. “You speak French?” Stiles squeaks, and then shakes his head violently. “I mean. Yeah. Werewolves over vampires, always.”

“I read it better than I speak it,” Derek says, embarrassed. He starts walking to his locker, and Stiles follows him. “Uhh, what are you still doing here?”

“I thought I’d take you home, since it’s kind of my fault you ended up in the Evil Den of Harris to begin with. Unless you already called your sister to come get you? You know, the scary brunette in the sexy car?” 

Of course. Every boy on planet Earth has a crush on Laura. Derek should have known it wouldn’t get any better after she graduated. “Laura has a boyfriend,” Derek says firmly. “He’s huge, like 6’3’’ I think, and he plays football at Berkley.”

“Ooookay,” Stiles says, pausing to drink from a fountain. 

“So if you’re being nice to me to get closer to her, you can forget it,” Derek continues, watching sidelong as Stiles drinks in messy, greedy gulps, which should be unattractive but really, really isn’t. “It’s pretty serious. She’s got their future children’s names picked out.”

“I’m not after your sister, Hale,” Stiles says with a strange smile, after brushing the water off his lips with the back of his hand. “I mean, don’t get me wrong, there’ve been times I’ve briefly considered it. Like last year when she kicked Jackson in the balls so hard he needed surgery.”

“Yeah,” Derek says. “That was pretty awesome.”

“I would definitely have at least attempted to break his nose by now, if it wasn’t against team rules.” Stiles spins around and leans against the locker next to Derek’s—like he somehow knows which locker it is, holy fuck. “For instance: when he calls my dad a glorified mall cop, or when he makes Forrest Gump references around my best friend, or that time he videotaped a girl’s seizure in sophomore year.”

“That was Erica,” Derek says, opening his locker more angrily than usual. Erica’s the closest thing Derek’s got to a best friend. They bonded over their mutual crush on Stiles when they were Freshmen, and since then have maintained a strong relationship based on their shared derision for most of the Beacon Hill student body. “She wouldn’t come to class for days, after that.”

“I made sure Jackson got benched for two weeks,” Stiles says, his face hardening. “Anonymous tip. It’s in the bylaws somewhere; any harassment of another student, physical or psychological, results in an automatic suspension. He’d kill me if he knew.”

“Why would you… you didn’t need to do that.”

Someone had to! What, he should get away with whatever he wants just because he’s captain of the lacrosse team? Like hell. Oh my god, what is that, do you play the violin?”

“No, I—” Derek tries to close his locker in time, but Stiles is too quick.

“Oh my god, you do!” He plucks the instrument case from where it’s resting at the bottom of the locker and examines it, smiling at the blue and yellow Equality sticker. “Are you in the band? Are you any good? Do you get solos?”

“Orchestra, and. I don’t know.” Derek shrugs. “I don’t really get to… it’s a viola.”

Stiles’ mouth twitches. “You mean like, the instrument all the violinists make fun of?”

“Yes,” Derek says, taking the viola back from Stiles and clutching it protectively. “I like it. My sister played violin, but. I wanted a viola. There are a lot of amazing pieces written for violas, you know. Stravinsky has an elegy that—”

“You should play something for me sometime,” Stiles interrupts, and Derek narrows his eyes.

“You’re making fun of me,” he says, absolutely certain, and Stiles groans and rolls his eyes so hard that his whole body rolls too.

“If you say so, Dumas. Gimmie some of your books, come on. My Jeep is out front.”

♡ ♡ ♡

“You coming to my game tonight?” Stiles asks in class the next day, while they’re running their experiments. “Also, pass the sulfuric acid and please don’t drop it on me; I burned both my palms once and it was the longest six weeks of my life.”

“Because you couldn’t play lacrosse?” Derek guesses, handing the beaker over with exaggerated care.

“…yes, let’s go with that,” Stiles agrees, grinning wickedly. Derek is glad he’s already put the acid down, because he probably would have dropped it as soon as he realized what Stiles meant, holy god. 

“This kind of acid would just take most of your skin off,” Derek points out, blushing down at their lab notes. “So I think you’d have bigger things to worry about.”

“Spoken like a man who’s never been blue-balled for six weeks,” Stiles says sagely, and Derek’s pencil lead snaps. “Oh, whoops, here, you can borrow mine. Or I can do the rest? My writing’s not as pretty as yours, though.”

Derek’s cheeks burn. “Shut up.”

“Oooh, once again, Derek Hale fails to take a compliment,” Stiles says, projecting like an ESPN sportscaster. “Stilinski throws a perfect pass, which is tragically intercepted by the grumpy Chem nerd’s impenetrable defenses!”

“Shhhh,” Derek says, biting his lips against a laugh. 

“They’ll have to take him out of the game,” Stiles continues with mock gravity. “The shame of rejection is starting to take its toll on this once-resilient young athlete with a bright future.”

Thank you, Stiles,” Derek says, and Stiles grins and starts filling in the rest of the report (with handwriting that is, in fact, not as nice as Derek’s). “And yeah. I’ll be at the game.” He’s at every game, in the back, but Stiles doesn’t need to know that.

“Yesssss. I’ll get Scott’s girlfriend to save you a seat near the front. We’re gonna slaughter the Huskies, you’ll love it.”

♡ ♡ ♡

Laura offers to drive him to the game that night, which Derek should have known was a trap. 

“I’m just gonna stay for a little bit,” she says, popping the trunk of the Camaro. “I brought a sign.”

“Do not do this,” Derek says frantically. “Please. Whatever you have planned, just let it go. I swear, I’ll do your chores until summer.”

“I don’t know why you don’t trust me, Deedee,” Laura says sadly. “When have I ever done something to embarrass you?” 

She ends up squeezing in next to Derek in the front row—the girlfriend section, Derek quickly realizes when he sees Allison Argent and Lydia Martin holding glittering posters for McCall and Whittemore. “Laura, let’s move.”

“What, no! Your meathead boyfriend wanted you to sit here. Want some of my Doritos?”

“You know they get stuck in my braces,” Derek hisses.

“Oh, big loss, bro, you never smile. Here, hold this.”

“What—” Derek takes the poster, mostly as a reflex, just in time for Stiles to turn around on the bench and spot him.

“HEY, DUMAS!” he yells, and Derek winces even though it’s nowhere near the worst nickname he’s ever been given by a lacrosse player, and at least he’s pronouncing it right. But then Stiles points at the poster in Derek’s hands and gives him a beaming thumbs-up, and Derek panics. 

He looks down at the sign, which says I’M WITH 24 in big sparkly letters. Derek doesn’t know how or why Laura knew Stiles’ jersey number, but he does know that he’s going to die of humiliation.

“I’m going to murder you,” he tells Laura, calm with terror. 

“Hm, Stiles got hot this year,” Laura says contemplatively. “Look at those shoulders!”

Derek sighs deeply and holds up the sign, because it seriously can’t get much worse at this point.

(And if he gets a bit of an illicit thrill out of cheering Stiles’ name from the girlfriend section, that’s his own damn business.)

“Did you see?” Stiles gasps, running up to Derek after he finishes high-fiving and hugging the team, the Coach, and both refs. “Five goals in a row. Five. I am amazing. It’s all thanks to the poster.”

“Well,” Derek hedges, and then Stiles is throwing his arms around his neck and crushing the posterboard between them. 

“Thanks for coming,” he says, too-loud in Derek’s ear, and Derek thinks fuck it and drops the sign down between the bleachers so he can hug back with both arms. 

Hey,” Laura complains. “I worked hard on that!” 

“Hi Laura,” Stiles says after he pulls back. He won’t look away from Derek, though, which makes Derek simultaneously want to laugh triumphantly and crawl under the bleachers where no one can find him. “I’ll take him home later, okay?” 

“Excuse me!” says Derek, because he feels that he needs to raise at least a token protest, here. 

“Weeknight curfew’s ten, Deedee,” Laura says, tweaking his nose. “Go have a social life.”

Deedee,” Sties repeats gleefully, and Derek glares at him hard. “No, hey, I get it. I’ve been there. One of these days I might tell you my real name; then you’ll know what true pain is.”

Derek frowns. “Why would you ever tell me that?” 

“I trust you.” Stiles shrugs, like that’s normal thing to say to someone you only started speaking to a few days ago. “Come on, let’s go, I’ve got an idea.”

“Aren’t you gonna shower and change?” Derek hopes not; at least half of his Stiles-related fantasies revolve around sweat-soaked skin and those shorts. 

“Nope, we gotta go now, before anyone sees us,” Stiles says, dragging him toward the school. “You know the cafeteria doors are open until nine?” 

“I don’t know why anyone would need to know that.”

“So I’ve got an addiction to those french toast sticks they serve on Wednesdays, I’m not on trial here.” Stiles looks to the left and then to the right, exaggeratedly stealthy, before pushing one of the heavy doors open and holding it for Derek. “After you, monsieur.”

“You’re going to run out of French jokes eventually,” Derek says as he slides past.

“Yes, but then I’ve got the entire lexicon of werewolf jokes, after which I can move on to a cornucopia of chemistry jokes, and based on that X-Men t-shirt I saw last week I think I’m gonna have endless Marvel jokes to choose from once I’m done with those. You can’t win here, I’m sorry to say.”

“Oh god, you’re a DC fan,” Derek groans.

“Yup, too bad, guess we’re natural enemies,” Stiles says, bumping their hips together.

♡ ♡ ♡

They end up in the band room (“Orchestra room,” Derek protests, but Stiles just looks at him pityingly and pats his shoulder). Stiles made them stop at Derek’s locker to pick up his viola, and now he’s sitting up on the table at the front of the room, swinging his legs and waiting for Derek to start playing.

“I can’t do this,” Derek says. His knees feel shaky as he stands in the center of the room, and this is a thousand times worse than when his mom used to pull him out of his room to play for guests.

“Sure you can!” Stiles is wiggling around under his jersey trying to get his pads off—which at least distracts Derek from his fear, slightly. “Besides, I earned it. Five goals, Derek. I’m a school hero. And you attend this school, ergo—” He waves his hand imperiously. “Repay me, vassal!” 

“I hate you a lot,” Derek tells him. “You’re actually worse than Whittemore.”

Ouch,” Stiles says, grabbing his chest and pretending to fall backwards in shock. “Hold thy tongue, peasant swain!” 

“I think you’re letting yourself get too involved with this metaphor,” Derek says, fighting the laugh that wants to bubble out of his throat. “Okay. Be quiet, don’t make a sound. I’m just going to…”

He turns his back on Stiles and takes a few huge, deep breaths, trying to convince himself that he’s alone in this room, instead of being watched by the guy he’s been in love with since he obnoxiously corrected their English teacher’s spelling in Freshman year. He thinks about being safe in his bedroom, practicing for hours at a time on the days when it gets really bad and he honestly can’t focus on anything except the sound of Stiles’ voice or the length of his neck or the curve of his lips.

And then he plays, and he actually does forget that anyone else is in the room until the last note fades out and he hears Stiles clear his throat.

“It’s not—it’s meant to be played with the accompaniment,” Derek says apologetically as he whirls around. “Sorry. I tried to pick a short one. That must have been… boring.”

“I…” Stiles won’t close his mouth, and Derek can’t stop looking at it. “Jesus, Der. What even was that?”

“It’s, um, Tchaikovsky,” Derek says, swallowing hard when Stiles slides off the table and starts moving toward him. “It’s called, ah, ‘Ardent Confession.’” 

Stiles’ eyes go sharp. “Oh.”

“No, I didn’t, I don’t—” Derek holds up his bow, like it’s going to ward off all of Stiles’ assumptions. “It doesn’t mean—I don’t like you like that!”

Stiles stops moving and bites his lip, clearly distressed. “You don’t? But… why didn’t you just tell me. What, you thought it would be funnier to let me look like an idiot, throwing myself at you? Oh, ha ha, look at Stiles, too dumb to know when to quit. I’ve heard it before, trust me.”

Derek goes pale. “That wasn’t—”

“I gave you a nickname! Based on the book I saw you reading at lunch, because I watch you every day like a giant stalker... I put you in the girlfriend section,” Stiles yells, throwing his arms out wide. “Which, sorry about the heteronormative terminology, there, but my point still stands! What did I ever do to you, Hale? Why would you—” 

Derek lurches forward and flings his arms around Stiles’ neck, stopping his tirade with probably the clumsiest kiss in all of history.

“Oh my god ow,” Stiles yelps, and Derek pulls back, mortified.

“Oh no, braces.” He stares at the new indents in Stiles’ full, beautiful bottom lip and grimaces. “There’s no blood. I don’t think. Oh god, I am so sorry. I didn’t know that would happen, I’ve never, uh—”

“Really?” Stiles smiles like that’s good news, instead of incredibly embarrassing. “Me either. I mean, except for Jackson that one time.”

What.” 

“Alcohol and peer pressure, don’t worry about it,” Stiles says, leaning in and sliding his hands around Derek’s waist. “Relax,” he commands, licking his lips, “we can figure this out. Keep your teeth in.”

“But what if I—” Derek tries, and then he’s muffled by Stiles’ mouth, gentle and warm and a little bit chapped, and he stops overthinking it because he can’t think at all. 

“Oohh,” Stiles says when he pulls back to breathe.

“Yeah,” Derek slurs, his heart pounding.

Yeah,” Stiles agrees, and pulls him back in. Derek gets his arms back around his neck and clings, shivering a little when Stiles gathers him in tighter. Somehow, he gets up the courage to run the tip of his tongue over Stiles’ lip where his braces caught, as a sort of apology; when he does, Stiles actually moans like when he’s eating french toast sticks. 

“Fuck, I’m gonna drop the viola,” Derek pants—because yeah, he’s still got the viola in one hand and the bow in the other, dangling from fingers gone nerveless with euphoria. 

“I’ll buy you a new one,” Stiles says, tugging down on the collar of Derek’s polo shirt so he can kiss his throat. “What are they, like, ten bucks?” 

Derek laughs breathlessly. “Yeah, no, I’m gonna put it down real quick.”

“Okay, well, hurry,” Stiles huffs, pushing him away. “You only have like twenty more minutes to kiss me until your curfew, stop wasting time.”

Je m’excuse,” Derek says, exaggerating the accent, and Stiles tackles him to the floor. 

♡ ♡ ♡

“Are you nervous?” Stiles asks when he meets Derek at his locker the next morning.

“No. What? I’ve presented projects for Chemistry class before.”

“Are you sure, because you look nervous.” Stiles leans in and runs his nose up Derek’s neck, chuckling when it makes him shudder. “You’re all flushed and trembly, Monsieur Dumas.”

“I’m just worried my boyfriend is gonna choke in the championship game next weekend,” Derek says airily, grinning when Stiles sputters. 

“Just for that, I’m distracting you with terrible science puns,” he announces, grabbing Derek’s hand on the way to Harris’ classroom. “How about this—are you a carbon sample, because I want to date you.”

“Oh my god.” 

“No, no, or—Derek, I wish you were a concentration gradient. So I could go down on you.”

They end up being late for class, because Derek drops their presentation notes all over the hallway. (They get docked ten percent, because Harris is a dick.)