Originally, Stiles goes for the cheeseburgers.
His roommate Scott, born and raised in Astoria and therefore the slightly-more-city-savvy of the two, recommends the place when Stiles wakes up hungover as death and craving his favorite cure-all remedy of grease on grease on grease. It's a hole-in-the-wall burger joint that, in retrospect, Stiles has already passed by several times in his three weeks in the city. He never so much as glanced in the window before, but it does finally solve the mystery of where that heavenly smell came from (he knew it wasn't from Five Guys. Knew it).
The door's propped open, the muggy September morning still hot enough to beg for a cool, non-existent breeze off the humid city streets, and Stiles is greeted by a friendly but undoubtedly judge-y voice.
"Yo," he nods, because being hungover and awake before noon is still a new enough concept to him that one syllable is the best he can really do right now. "You open?"
"Technically," the woman says back. "As of about ten minutes ago."
Stiles drags his eyes away from the walls, an impressive graffiti-style mural of the Manhattan skyline, and woah.
This, he thinks, is what he likes best about coming to New York. The people here are so...you'd never find a girl like this back in Beacon Hills. She's gorgeous, first of all. Like, model, movie star, the stuff of teenage dreams kind of gorgeous, but she's also got this awesome edge of visceral attitude Stiles is starting to recognize as New York Armor. Her so-dark-brown-it's-black hair is liberally streaked with fire-engine red, her lips painted to match, and her eyes heavily edged in a thick black kohl. She updated the standard black uniform t-shirt to a wide-collared thing that hung lopsided off her shoulders, and Stiles would bet all the money in his wallet that if she stepped out from behind the counter he'd see a killer pair of motorcycle boots.
God but he loves this city.
"You look like you could use a burger," she says finally, decisively. Like she'd been studying him, and maybe decided he was worthy of having a greasy pile of goodness on this, the wrong side of noon, early morning. Really, it's probably just that they're completely alone here and Stiles made for potentially better entertainment than cleaning the already pristine countertop, but shh. Whatever.
"Cheeseburger, bacon, fries," he begs, hauling his ass onto a stool by the counter and propping himself up on his elbows. "Just gimme greasy fatty glory."
She laughs, punching the keys on a frankly old-fashioned keyboard and ripping free a slow-printing receipt.
"Lemme guess," she presses, laughter still in her tone, "freshman at NYU, relatively sheltered high school experience in a small town, didn't drink much, and the novelty of the big city is fading into a reality of early morning classes and rough hangovers."
"Have we met?" Stiles counters, smiling faintly. "Grew up in California...had plenty of party experience senior year, but my dad's the sheriff so never drank enough for him to really notice."
"California," she whistles, turning her back on Stiles to start up the grill. Her black t-shirt, which from the front just read I Heart Cheeseburger Baby in bold white and red font, now boasted It Shouldn't Take Five Guys To Make A Cheeseburger Baby. Stiles stifles a laugh into his palm...he may be new in town, but the fresh, bright storefront of the Five Guys directly across the street couldn't be more than a couple months old.
Stiles shakes himself slightly, pulling his alcohol-soaked brain back from the twisted path of tradition versus conglomerate chain consumerism, and blinks slowly at the woman dumping crinkle-cut fries into a deep fryer.
"Of California?" he shrugs, "Beacon Hills. Podunk town in NorCal-"
"Shut up, my family's from Beacon Hills."
"No way," Stiles shakes his head a little too vigorously, wincing slightly at the jarring motion. A glass of water clunks down inches from his right elbow, like a gift from God on high. "Sweet Jesus," he sighs, fitting his teeth around the heavy black straw and sucking down a solid half the glass, "that's good. But seriously, no way. You're so New York, I don't believe you're not from here."
"Honey," she laughs, "no one's from here. Everyone's small town, nowhere, USA, they just don't admit it. Look," she grins, holding out a hand heavily decorated with silver rings, a wrist full of bangles, and dark purple nail polish, "Laura Hale."
Seriously, no way. Stiles totally knew the Hales. Mr. Hale was a lawyer, worked with his dad on a couple of cases now and then, and Natalie Hale had graduated with him.
"Not Natalie's sister," he challenges, and Laura laughs again.
"I like to pretend not," she agrees. Stiles doesn't blame her: Natalie was quiet and reserved, spent most of her time hiding behind a book and a sheath of dark hair. She'd have been the type other girls would have mocked, the popular girls derisively passing judgment on her steady uniform of basic jeans and nondescript sweaters, except she never even registered enough on most people's radars to qualify for teasing.
"Hang on," Laura had her back to him again, working a spatula under a sizzling slab of ground beef. "Sheriff's kid." She turns around, points her spatula accusingly at him. "You're the Stilinski boy."
"Stiles," he gestures at himself with a slight flourish. The water's doing wonders for his hangover, the delicious smells doing promising things for the rest of his consciousness. "You know my dad?"
"Mom told me about you," Laura shakes her head, turning back to his burger, "called me up about a month ago, said Beacon Hills was sending another one off to the big bad East Coast, that maybe I could keep an eye out for you. Because apparently she thinks New York's small as Beacon Hills, where everyone's all up in everyone else's business."
"To be fair," Stiles points out, "I wandered into one out of ten thousand burger places in Manhattan and happened to pick exactly the right one."
"Ugh," Laura groans. "Don't ever tell my mother that. She'll start sending all the strays my way, and my apartment's only big enough for two of us."
Something of the weirdness Stiles feels at that announcement must show in his face, because Laura rolls her eyes at him.
"Calm down, you delicate flower. My brother followed me out here a few years back. Moved into my guest room 'just for a little while, until he found his own place.' Apparently it takes five years to find an apartment in New York, cause he's still there."
He remembers a little bit of that too, now that he thinks about it. The Hales are a big family, not just in the way that both parents are heavily involved in a variety of different committees and organizations and events in the town, but in the five kids and the regular appearance of slews of aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents swinging through town way.
She saves him from his utter failure at coming up with an appropriate response by plopping two unassuming red baskets in front of him, one positively stuffed full of fresh-from-the-fryer fries, the other housing the best looking burger Stiles has ever seen. He wastes no time in scooping it up and sinking his teeth in, a long, greedy moan erupting unbidden from the depth of his throat as the first splash of flavor hits his tongue.
"Holy God in Heaven," he swears, mumbling around a mouthful, "I think I've finally found religion."
"Just think," Laura smirks, plucking a french fry from his basket, "come here every Sunday, worship the High Holy Hamburger. Would that make me a priest?"
"You can be the bloody fucking Pope," Stiles promises around his second bite.
"I do look good in hats," Laura muses.
She leaves him to his burger eventually, puttering around the fryer, cleaning off the surface of the flat top grill. He offers her fries every time she passes him, too engrossed in the way his fingers sink into the soft, lightly toasted bun to even consider putting it down, and by the time Stiles needs to leave for his 12:15 class he's feeling fresh as a daisy.
Laura ushers him out with a to-go cup full of water, just in case, and a demand that he come back again soon.
As if Stiles is going to pass up an excuse to eat the best damn burger he's ever had.
The thing is, Stiles has popped plenty of popcorn before. Hell, Stiles has popped popcorn in this microwave before. And he’s burnt his fair share of bags in life too. He’s more than familiar with the acrid smell of burned paper and kernels, the bitterness of not only being deprived of an expected delicious golden treat, but also having to live with the rank reminder in your nose for the next forty eight hours.
Stiles has never, ever seen a bag of burnt popcorn set off the smoke detector. Or the building-wide fire alarm.
“Seriously, Stilinski? It’s popcorn,” Jackson whines exasperatedly, vaulting over the back of the couch and strutting over to the kitchen like there’s actually something he can do about it.
“Which means you would think pressing the ‘popcorn’ button on the microwave would have worked,” Stiles snaps back. Scott appears behind them, peering over Stiles’ shoulder into the smoky depths of the microwave.
“Dude, what do I do with this?” Stiles asks his roommate, waving frantically towards the blackened bag still sitting on the glass turntable. People are starting to come out of their rooms now, smoked out by the shrill whine of the fire alarm. It’s barely midnight, not late enough for most people to be upset, but there’s still the occasional dirty look shot down their way that Stiles is determined to ignore.
“Leave it,” Jackson answers instead, grabbing Stiles by the shoulder and yanking him around. “Come on, lets get out of here before more people figure out you’re the moron.”
“I’m touched, Jackson, really,” Stiles coos at him, fluttering his lashes in a way that makes Jackson immediately release his hold on Stiles. “It’s so sweet of you to be so concerned about my budding reputation.”
“He’s not,” Scott offers, slinging an arm around Stiles’ shoulder and leading him towards the staircase and away from Jackson and his roommate Danny. “He’s just worried people will think it was him.”
“Or notice that I’m associating with you two freaks,” Jackson grumbles.
The elevators, they’ve been warned during the two practice drills they’ve had since the semester started, shut down during a fire alarm. They were in Jackson and Danny’s lounge on the twelfth floor, and even though they’re walking the considerably easier trip down instead of up, Jackson spends the entire twelve flights throwing barbed complaints at Stiles.
“You’d think,” Stiles huffs at him, catching the heavy exit door before it closed behind the girl in front of them, “being a self-proclaimed lacrosse star and super swim captain and all-state cross-country-marathon-whatever, you’d be able to handle a flight of stairs.”
“It’s the beer,” Danny defends his roommate. “It’s affecting his stamina.”
“At least, that’s the excuse he gives Lydia,” Scott adds.
In general, Stiles thinks he’s done pretty well for himself. He and Scott had hit it off from the very first day – by the time orientation was over they were convinced they were long-lost brothers, separated at birth and joyous in their reunion. Scott had come home from his second day of classes with stars in his eyes and the name ‘Allison’ on his lips...and, well, whatever game he did or didn’t have it seemed to work for her – Stiles learned the meaning of “sexiled” the second weekend of the semester and earned himself more or less an extra roommate by October.
Allison was wonderful though, sunshine and cotton candy and Disney princesses with just enough sass to make you not totally hate her. She, like most freshman did, came in a package deal with a girl she’d bonded with during orientation, Lydia, and Lydia came complete with a Jackson and a Danny attachment. And, well, that was that.
“You look horrifically guilty,” Lydia tells Stiles, appearing at his side barely a minute after the four boys had made it outside. She had declined their invitation to a Black Ops marathon in favor of something involving calculus and more numbers than Stiles was comfortable with, this side of high school graduation, and she was looking at him like he’d interrupted her seconds before she solved the equation for time travel.
“It was popcorn,” Stiles whines, because honestly. “I even used the popcorn button. I literally have no claim to blame here.”
“I popped a bag an hour ago without a problem,” Danny points out helpfully. Stiles shoots him a look to rival Lydia’s, which Danny ignores with an amused roll of his eyes.
Stiles huffs indignantly, but knows better than to fight a losing battle. Any battle with Lydia’s a losing battle; he settles for a contrite apology and a careful divergence of his attention elsewhere. The sidewalk is crowded with people – he’s so glad all of their self-preservation instincts are so healthy, because he’s certain that if the building were to collapse in flames right now being five steps from the front doors would certainly save them all.
It’s the fire truck, though, that catches his attention. It’s a full out fire truck, without the wailing alarm but with the ladders and the gleaming red and chrome and the handful of men and women in half-uniform milling around the body of the truck. They don’t seem all that concerned (which, you know, they shouldn’t, since it’s a freaking bag of popcorn they’re here for), but they’re all watching the front of the building like…oh. Oh.
Two firefighters and the head R.A. come bursting through the front door of the dorm building all at once, and Stiles is immediately gripped with a whole new appreciation for the expression “having the rug pulled out from under you,” because he’s frankly shocked that he’s not on his ass on the floor right now.
The firefighter in the middle, stomping out with a slightly pissy look on his face, one hand clutching the charred, smoldering remains of Stiles’ midnight snack, is the hottest fucking person Stiles has ever seen in his entire life. But like, actually. He’s only wearing heavy uniform pants and a navy blue FDNY t-shirt that stretches taut over a broad, well-muscled chest and wraps around a pair of biceps the size of Stiles’ head, and Stiles has never really been into the bodybuilder type but holy god is he willing to make an exception for that face. It’s a work of art all on its own; framed by dark hair and the brush of stubble over a sharp jawline and cut cheekbones that are only exaggerated by the force of his scowl. He’s gorgeous even – especially – in his irritation, and Stiles is entirely certain he’s not the only one staring open-mouthed at the vision in FDNY walking towards him.
Walking towards him. Shit.
“Do I still look guilty?” he hisses at Lydia frantically, running a nervous hand through his hair. Lydia doesn’t even tear her eyes away from the fire god still heading their way, just nods emphatically enough for Stiles to see her out of the corner of his eye.
Hot Fireman’s eyes sweep the crowd, accompanied by the pointedly raised weight of a single heavy eyebrow, and Stiles hunches his shoulders as he tries to slink back, unnoticed, behind Scott and Danny. There’s a handful of people looking at him though, enough that it’s not a coincidence, and there’s only two people between him and Hot Fireman so he definitely notices.
“I’m sure,” and oh god, even his voice is hot, “most of you have popped a bag of popcorn before in your life, and I’m also sure most of you could manage to do it again without causing a fuss. The microwaves in this building are a little older, the fire alarms a little more sensitive maybe, but it should be a relatively simple task for most of you. Just keep your eye on the microwave when you’re using it, in the future, and maybe consider using the ‘popcorn’ button that is specifically designed for popping popcorn, and we can avoid more incidents like this one.”
He’s addressing the crowd as a whole, words generally pleasant even if his voice isn’t exactly, but he looks at Stiles a few too many times for it to just be happenstance. He totally knows.
And, well, Stiles never really left second grade behind. Not completely. He’s a pigtail-puller, a button-pusher, because when you don’t have bulging biceps or pretty-boy blue eyes to bat, you need to rely on acerbic wit and sarcasm for your peacocking rituals.
“Lets say, like, hypothetically,” he calls out, raising his voice over the crowd and trying to ignore the smug satisfaction in his gut when Hot Fireman’s gaze instantly snaps back to him, “the popcorn button was used, properly, and yet still resulted in a minor fire emergency. Would you have any recommendations for future action, then?”
The way Hot Fireman’s eyes narrow causes his whole face to shift; his jaw clenches and his brow furrows, eyebrows low and gruff over a sharp stare.
“Find a new midnight snack,” he growls, raising the ruined popcorn bag as evidence. “Preferably one that doesn’t involve a microwave.”
“It is entirely not my fault that the microwave is possessed by some kind of demon and refused to complete a simple task. Besides, depriving the people of popcorn is a travesty,” Stiles argues hotly. “Everybody loves popcorn.”
“Try a movie theater.”
“Noted,” Stiles grins, but he makes sure it’s as razor sharp and snarly as he can manage without being outright offensive. “Care to join? Popcorn buckets are always better shared.”
Hot Fireman bares his teeth in a smirk that, while not entirely a smile, still sends a wave of shivers through Stiles’ gut. He’s not the only one – there’s definitely, absolutely a dreamy sigh or two echoing through the crowd around them.
“There are better odds of you burning down the building,” Hot Fireman snarks at him. He tosses the bag of popcorn at Stiles, who catches it reflexively before immediately making a horrified face from the smell still lurking around the charred paper, and by the time Stiles looks back up again Hot Fireman has stalked off back towards his truck, gesturing for his fellow firefighters to wrap it up and go home.
“Well,” Lydia smirks, sounding all different kinds of smugly satisfied, “always knew you’d come in handy, Stiles.”
“Hypothetically,” Stiles muses, doesn’t bother keeping his voice down, “how many people do you think would be in favor of weekly fire drills?”
Stiles is more than intensely gratified when an alarming number of hands in his general vicinity shoot up into the air in support.
Well then. Who is Stiles to deny the people their right to ogle hot firemen?
“Whatcha working on?”
Stiles glances up from his laptop, surprised by Laura’s interruption. Cheeseburger Baby had been…well, not busy busy, since he generally avoided coming here at times when they’re in the weeds and someone would get cranky about him hogging up a whole section of the counter for his laptop and assorted textbooks, but there’d been enough people around to keep Laura distracted.
She’s not distracted anymore, apparently – instead she’s on her toes trying to lean far enough over the counter to see the screen of Stiles’ laptop, which should be displaying the rough draft of a paper on post-modernism but is actually holding Stiles’ sixth consecutive game of Freecell (he’s old school like that, because nothing brings out his competitive/procrastination streak like a solitaire card game that keeps score of his winning/losing stats).
“Finding a home for this column,” he nudges his cursor over the group of cards in question, a run of 8 – 7 – 6 – 5 blocking in the ace of hearts.
“Uh huh,” Laura nods, finally hoisting herself up on the drink cooler under the counter’s edge and twisting around to study the screen. “Here.” She points out a move that bumps an errant queen up into one of the free cells but opens up a 10 – 9 combo that Stiles hadn’t noticed. “And what are you supposed to be working on?”
“Post-Modernism in the Modern-Day Media,” he mumbles grumpily, moving the cards accordingly. “I thought writing about Fight Club would be fun, but it just feels pretentious and hipster.”
“You’re sporting thick-rimmed black glasses, layers that include flannel and an ironic screen-printed t-shirt, and elegantly disheveled hair, tell me again about how hipster you feel?” Laura challenges, raising a dark eyebrow at him.
He makes at face at her, because they’ve already been over Stiles’ stubborn insistence that he was wearing his current style long before he knew people actually considered it fashionable (“Hipster!” Laura had cackled at him, “you’re being hipster about being a hipster.”), and she just laughs at him.
“Why?” he asks, flipping his laptop closed and glancing up at her. “Got a better option? I could do some dishes, clean out the walk-in freezer?”
It’s maybe been a couple of hours since Stiles got here, scarfed down a burger and started working on the monstrosity he was supposed to hand in by tomorrow morning, and Stiles is maybe a little desperate for a good excuse to do anything else.
“I should really, really capitalize on that,” Laura sighs wistfully, shaking her head. “But no, I was thinking something less drastic but infinitely more enjoyable. You hungry?”
“For something you’re cooking? Always,” Stiles grins sycophantically at her, laughs when she rolls her eyes and swats one hand backwards towards his face. He dodges easily, shoves his laptop aside and clears a place in front of him.
“This one’s actually on Derek,” she tells him, hopping back down off the cooler and shuffling over to a small display case down at the opposite end of the counter. “He hatched up a new pie recipe last night and refuses to accept my opinion because apparently I’m ‘biased and untrustworthy’ whether I say it’s delicious or disgusting.”
“So he’d rather trust a complete stranger?”
“Well, yeah,” Laura shrugs, pulling a platter out from the display case. “You’re less likely to say it’s delicious just to manipulate him into baking for your entire restaurant, or to say it’s gross just to piss him off. You’re not allergic to nuts, are you?”
“Nope,” Stiles shakes his head. The pie Laura’s cutting into does look pretty damn perfect, and he’s always been a sucker for baked goods. Plus, hello, free food. Like hell he’s going to say no to that opportunity. “What kind is it?”
“Raspberry pecan.” Laura slides a plate in front of him, and Stiles is ready to give this Derek points for appearance alone, because it looks wonderful. Laura added a little dollop of whipped cream to the side of the plate, but he loads up his first forkful with pie and pie alone.
“Oh my god,” he moans around a mouthful, sucking every last morsel off the metallic tongs of the fork. “Jesus, Laura, this is fucking good.”
“Isn’t it?” she sighs, picking at her own piece. “Can I quote you directly on that?”
“Fucking delicious,” he reiterates, diving in for a second bite. “Crazy old ladies at a state fair pie baking competition would weep with joy over this bad boy.”
There’s silence as Laura pulls out her phone and begins typing, presumably a verbatim recount of Stiles’ review, and he takes the time to shovel down both a third and fourth bite. He doesn’t even like pecans and he’s loving this, way to go Derek.
“So, who’s Derek?”
Laura blinks up at him like the question throws her for a loop, shaking her head as she points her fork towards the chalkboard menu on the back wall. Sure enough, under the bold-faced Dessert: is the freshly scrawled offer of Fireman Derek’s Raspberry Pecan Pie.
“My brother,” she tells him after swallowing. “The one who followed me out here. He’s FDNY, works nights mostly, and when he gets bored or has down time or is feeling like a particularly prickly, people-hating asshole, he likes to bake.”
“That’s hot,” Stiles replies, because it is. It so is.
Laura grimaces at him.
“It kind of is, isn’t it? Which is horrifying. Objectively I’m pretty sure I’d be attracted to it if it wasn’t my brother, but…ugh.” She shakes the thought off with a shudder over her shoulders, and looks only too happy to divert her attention to her buzzing cell phone.
“He says thanks,” she reads, pressing her free hand against the screen of her iPhone, “and wants to know if you think it would be better with cranberry instead of raspberries.”
“Nope, the raspberries are delicious,” Stiles insists. “The whole thing is delicious. Tell him if he ever needs an official unbiased taste tester I would be only too happy to volunteer my skillful tongue.”
Laura snorts but dutifully types out the message anyway, slower this time since one hand is still clutched around her fork.
When Stiles leaves he hasn’t added so much as another paragraph to his essay, but he and Laura have destroyed his old high score on Freecell, finished off a solid half of Fireman Derek’s raspberry pecan pie, and successfully finagled a promise of another new pie to sample some time next week. All in all, Stiles considers it a productive win.
So it's not like all fire alarms henceforth are Stiles' doing. There are still plenty of the ordinary college false alarms - the girl who blows the fuse on half the west side of the building at 7:30 in the morning with her stupid hair dryer, the ambitious stoner who accidentally microwaves a late-night chocolate chip cookie for thirty minutes instead of thirty seconds. The Midterm Massacre, when the eighth floor quad drunkenly decide to burn all of their notes after their last midterm. The (legitimate, but small) resulting fire sends hordes of furious, sleep-deprived freshmen out from under the mountains of their own midterm notes and into the rain. Hot Fireman spares a brief look at Stiles, bleary eyed in glasses and hair dripping down his face, before turning on the quad and growling nothing more than "cumulative finals." (All four of them go white) (Stiles Falls in Love) (no one blames him).
But still. There are a small smattering of fire alarms that may or may not be directly traceable back to Stiles. He takes it upon himself to test the microwaves in all twenty-four lounges to determine if the popcorn button can be trusted (turns out they can be, but only four out of five times. On the fifth expect chaos. Stiles implements a tally mark system and expressively whines "Science!!!" at Hot Fireman when he shows up for the third time in two weeks absolutely fuming. Even non-Stiles popcorn incidents get blamed on him, but hello, tally system, not his fault).
The asparagus, though, is actually, genuinely not his fault. The asparagus is totally not his fault, and is in fact the most terrifying bit of not his fault ever.
Stiles loves asparagus. Loves it. Maybe that's weird, maybe it's not. Whatever. The point is that it's his favorite vegetable in the world, and he'll take any opportunity to eat it. So when they decide to celebrate the last weekend of the fall semester by cooking family dinner in Jackson and Danny's lounge, after Lydia unequivocally shotties both the appetizer and dessert, Allison volunteers grilled chicken, and Scott mashed potatoes, Stiles is only too happy to offer up his favorite delicious goodness, sprinkled with a healthy amount of sea salt and maybe even wrapped in bacon (nom).
That's his first mistake.
His second is being a broke-ass college student and having to do the best he can with what he has. In this case what he has is a stolen cookie sheet, because the single-use tinfoil pans they'd picked up at Westside Market only come in two packs and Scott and Allison needed them more. But the cookie sheet should be fine – until Stiles coats the asparagus stalks (and therefore the cookie sheet. The rimless, lipless cookie sheet that would do nothing to stop things rolling off the sides and down onto the 400° heated coils on the bottom of the oven) with olive oil. Lots of olive oil. Lots.
Which is, of course, Stiles' third and final mistake.
Stiles is so used to the sound of the fire alarm by now that he first mistakes it for the oven timer. It’s only when he goes to pull open the door and realizes there’s still three minutes left on the timer that something has gone horribly, horribly wrong.
“Shit!” he coughs out, tripping over his feet as he backs away from the oven. Heavy charcoal smoke is pouring through the open door and rapidly filling the narrow kitchen, and Stiles can hear the ominous crackle sizzle pop of the heated coils on the bottom of the oven.
He waves the smoke out of his face as best he can, bending low in front of the oven to try and see what went wrong. The asparagus looks fine, it’s not even burning, but there’s a ton of olive oil dripping down the sides of the cookie sheet, rolling down onto the red-hot coils, and oh shit.
The loudest crack yet occurs at the worst possible moment, right as Stiles is shoving a dish-towel-wrapped hand into the oven to try and salvage the cookie sheet (that definitely doesn’t belong to him, he was just borrowing it, shit), and when he jumps reflexively at the noise his bare wrist scrapes across the burning hot metal top of the oven.
“Fuck, shit!” Stiles swears, dropping the cookie sheet with a clatter and yanking his arm protectively in towards his chest. The fire alarm is still blaring in the background, there’s oily asparagus scattered across the kitchen floor, and someone’s hand is suddenly clutching his forearm, yanking him backwards and shoving his burning wrist under an ice cold jet of water from the sink faucet.
“You’re fine, Stiles, it’s just a little burn,” Lydia tells him, voice calm even as her fingers dig into his arm. “You’re fine, right?”
Stiles just nods, because the water’s taking the stinging heat out, leaving behind a dull but manageable throb. Lydia’s nodding encouragingly at him, which honestly should freak Stiles out more than the smoky haze in the kitchen, and Scott’s peering over her shoulder with a worried frown.
“We have to get out of here,” he tells them. “They must have some kind of advance warning system, or someone called them or something, because there’s actually sirens and the fire truck’s almost here already.”
Great. Of course it is. Stiles lets his friends drag him out of the kitchen, focuses his own gaze on the angry red scrape slashing across his wrist, like maybe he can stare it into submission until it stops hurting, or at least until he reaches the first floor and the cool December air might help him out.
By the time they breach the front doors, Lydia still dragging Stiles along by his arm and Scott hot on their heels, the fire truck has pulled to a screaming stop in front of the building. A handful of firefighters blow by them, hustling into the dormitory, and Scott calls after them that it’s the twelfth floor east side lounge.
There’s a pair of familiar boots in Stiles’ line of sight, blurry in the background behind his wrist but definitely there, and Stiles barely has time to register the new arrival when he’s hearing the sharp whip crack of the voice he hadn’t even realized he was dreading.
“Are you brain damaged? Were you repeatedly dropped on your head as a child?”
Stiles snaps his head up to stare at Hot Fireman, and the force of the glare he gets in response burns almost as much as his wrist does.
“This wasn’t exactly sticking a bag of popcorn in the microwave for too long,” Stiles defends himself, but he can’t seem to manage to put the right amount of steel in his voice. He’s shaken from the blare of the alarms and the heat of the oven, lungs still heavy with the thick gray smoke, and he just can’t muster the proper level of indignation right now.
“Oh good, so you’ve come up with a new way to colossally waste everyone else’s valuable time?” Hot Fireman snarls. “Great, that’s great news. What is it now, testing the hot water capacity in all the showers until the steam makes the alarms go off?”
(Stiles hadn’t thought of that.)(Apparently Hot Fireman has.)(It’s kind of clever, actually.)
“Look, dude, seriously, this one was an accident –”
“I’m shocked.” Hot Fireman rolls his eyes so hard it looks like it hurts, in a better moment Stiles would be impressed by his sass capacity. “Really, shocked. The fact that someone with such a painfully obvious lack of anything remotely resembling common sense can’t handle using a damn oven. I’m going to start paying someone to monitor all your kitchen activity, it’d be cheaper than dispatching the truck every time you feel like having a fucking snack.”
Hot Fireman looks like a whole new brand of murderous, glowering at Stiles like Stiles was put on this very earth just to ruin his life, but it’s Lydia’s voice that cuts in between them.
“So, should I help myself to the first aid kit on the truck, or are you going to do something about this?” She holds up Stiles forearm until his wrist is clearly on display in front of Hot Fireman’s face, and oh, his face. It goes white with fury under all that scruff, heavy eyebrows arching up across his forehead, and for the first time ever he looks a little lost for words.
“I’m fine, Lyds,” Stiles hisses at her, because he can only imagine the rant building on Hot Fireman’s tongue about how incredibly irresponsible Stiles is and he’s suddenly just…he’s drained. He’s done that thing again, where he nudges and nudges and nudges, constantly testing the precarious balance, and then acts surprised when the whole thing crumples to the ground in ruins. Hot Fireman can lecture him or snap or snarl or growl at him until he’s blue in the face – Stiles has no energy left to defend himself.
“You should really see –” Scott starts, but Stiles finally yanks his arm out of Lydia’s grip, steps back away from all three of them.
“Nope,” he says, holding his hands up stubbornly and backing up even further. Hot Fireman is still looking at him, opening his mouth like he’s finally ready to get started on that irresponsibility rant, and Stiles shakes his head as hard as he can. “Nope. I’m outta here.”
He hauls off down the sidewalk, weaving through the crowds of people still locked out of their building, and doesn’t hear any attempts at calling him back.
"You look miserable," Laura announces, crossing her arms and raising an eyebrow at the pout on Stiles' face. He hasn't shown up at Cheeseburger Baby this early since the first time, but he needs it today.
"Bad night," he says, plopping himself into his usual counter seat and dropping his head onto his uninjured arm. There's some rummaging around on Laura's side of the counter, the sound of a fridge opening and closing, the beep of a microwave (Stiles is never touching one of those ever again), but he doesn't look up until he hears the telltale clink of ceramic on formica.
"Cheer up sadface, I have a new dessert for you to try," she says brightly, dropping in front of him an oversized plate of what looks like a giant fucking mess. There's Oreo pie crust and also crushed Oreo sprinkled on top, something that looks like chocolate cake filling, fudge, whipped cream, and something red and gooey. "Chocolate makes everything better."
"I've been banned from using the kitchen in my dorms," Stiles tells her, pushing his fork tentatively into the pie explosion. "Which is mostly fine, considering I'm pretty sure I'm too scared to touch an oven ever again."
"Kitchen fire," Laura nods sagely, "terrifies the best of us. Tell Auntie Laura all about it."
"Too much olive oil, too much heat, a colossal waste of other people's valuable time, and a painfully obvious lack of anything remotely resembling common sense," Stiles rattles off glumly.
"Ouch," Laura winces, "who said that?"
"The hot fireman I’ve been stalking most of the semester," he tells her sadly. The sympathy wince grows even deeper. "I maintain that the microwave initiative was in everyone's best interest in the long run, and the rest of the alarms have all been other people's faults. He can't blame me for the fact that I live in a building full of people united in the singular effort to ogle Hot Fireman as often as humanly possible."
Laura laughs, loud and echoing in the empty restaurant.
"Hot firemen can make a girl do crazy things," she agrees, nodding towards her brother's name on the menu. "Derek won't let me date anyone from his company, but that doesn't mean I can't appreciate the eye candy."
"Send them my way," Stiles suggests, finally loading up a forkful of pie. "Apparently I'm incompetent enough that I need to be babysat at all times, because it would be cheaper than dispatching a truck every time I try to use a kitchen appliance."
"Hot Fireman?" Laura guesses.
Stiles nods around his fork.
"If you ask me that sounds like a subtle way of volunteering his services," she counters. "Maybe you should have suggested he start coming over for dinner so he can supervise."
Stiles points his fork emphatically at her, mouth too full of pie to manage more than that.
"Surprisingly delicious," he offers, pointing back down at the pie. "I say surprising because it looks like the most unappetizing hot fucking mess ever. The crust and the cake are weird together, maybe he should try mixing the cake and the fudge and make something more like...mousse-y for the filling? And also just make it look less like someone dumped a pile of ingredients on a plate."
Laura pulls out her phone as he goes for a second bite, tapping out his review in her usual rapid-fire style of an avid texter. It's the first time he's given anything less than enthusiastic raving, and they both raise an apprehensive eyebrow when the phone starts ringing before Stiles even finishes his second bite.
Stiles watches her roll her eyes, glancing over at him with the universal expression of the long-suffering.
"Yes he's still here. No I'm not putting him on the phone."
"Disgruntled baker?" he guesses, rubbing at the bandage wrapped around his wrist and frowning at her. "Tell him if he can't handle the heat he should get out of the kitchen. Ooo, unintentional fireman joke, two for one. Nice."
Laura laughs as she repeats Stiles' dismissive response, only to laugh even harder at her brother's reaction.
"I'm not letting you scare away my favorite customer," she insists, winking at Stiles. "He'd never order dessert again if he knew it was being made by a socially incompetent moron with anger management issues."
"Sounds like maybe he should stop trying to feed me death by chocolate and keep some of the sweetness for himself," Stiles adds cheekily. "Nobody likes a sourpuss."
"Derek's just cranky, he had a bad weekend too," Laura defends, even though she looks like she doesn't believe it herself. "He normally smiles. Sometimes."
There's something violent down the other end of the phone line, something that sounds like yelling, and Laura immediately pulls the phone away from her ear and tilts only the mouthpiece back up toward her lips.
"Nobody cares about your shoddy defenses," she yells over him. "Stop shouting at me. It's not my fault you got interrupted, I'm not the pathetically creepy asshole who insists on being on call for every...stupid..."
Laura trails off all at once, losing whatever steam she was working off all in one go. She's staring at Stiles like she's never seen him before, or is seeing him in a whole new light now - Stiles ignores her in favor of a third bite.
"What did you say you almost burned the kitchen down with?" she asks him, tilting the phone away from her mouth and still staring weirdly at Stiles.
"Ashparagush," he mumbles morosely through a mouthful. "An' olive oil."
"Oh my god," she blurts out. "Der, I gotta go."
She hangs up without a word, like she can't hear the loud protests on the other end of the line, and grins the most terrifying predator grin Stiles has ever seen, lipstick red lips spread in a wide smile around teeth that have never looked so sharp.
"So," she says, business-like and sisterly all at once, "tell me about Hot Fireman again?"
The first text comes a week after he gets home, two days before Christmas. He's grocery shopping, because his dad had listened to approximately none of Stiles' food rules, and back here in the land of familiar appliances and non-demonic microwaves Stiles is confident in the kitchen again.
Chocolate fudge filling is too much like just regular chocolate pie, which isn't new or exciting.
It's from an unknown number with a Beacon Hills area code, and since Stiles has gone out of his way to avoid running into any of the assholes he went to high school with there’s really only two people it could be from. Laura's been programmed into his phone since October, so he feels fairly confident about adding the number into his contacts under the name Fireman Derek.
I didn't realize we were trying to invent a new art form.
Recipes are boring.
Well. Stiles can respect that. He can also respect a health round of playing Devil's Advocate though, and really, who doesn't love chocolate pie?
You know what they say, if it ain't broke don't fix it.
Remind me again why I'm taking cooking advice from you.
Dunno, you're the one with his panties in a twist over one less-than-stellar review.
There's no response to that. Stiles doesn't feel all that bad about it - he hardly expected a goodbye from someone that couldn't even be bothered to say hello.
"Stiles! Sheriff Stilinski!"
Stiles and the Sheriff both glance up at the interruption, meeting the amused gaze of Mrs. Hale. She's standing at the edge of their table with a broad grin not unlike the one Stiles is used to Laura sporting, flashing back and forth between the bickering Stilinski men.
"Natalie and I caught sight of you two on our way out, I just wanted to pop over and say hello," she gestures off behind her, and whoa. Stiles wonders if Laura's seen this...she might not be so hesitant to admit relation to Natalie if she could see the fifties-era bombshell standing in the doorway of the diner, shooting Stiles a small smile. Jesus, college did her well.
"I was just saying to your dad," Mrs. Hale repeats, clearing her throat but still looking amused, "I'm happy to hear Laura and Derek have been keeping an eye on you."
"Oh, yeah," Stiles agrees, nodding. "I mean, I haven't really met Derek, but I'm pretty sure he's mostly responsible for my freshman fifteen, so. They're both keeping me well fed, that's for sure."
"You haven't met Derek?" Mrs. Hale frowns finally. "He mentions you often."
"Is he still not over the chocolate pie?" Stiles shakes his head exasperatedly. "Laura tests all his new pie recipes on me and apparently I gave him his first mediocre review a couple weeks ago."
"Laura was right," Mrs. Hale sighs. Because that makes sense. "But I am happy to hear you two get along, at least."
"Oh yeah, Laura's amazing," Stiles agrees wholeheartedly. "I don't know what I'd do without her sometimes. It's just nice that there's a friendly face when the city gets overwhelming, you know?"
Mrs. Hale laughs, shaking her head as she shares a look with the Sheriff, like they're the two most long-suffering parents, being exceedingly patient with their pathetically dim-witted children.
Stiles has been on the receiving end of that look a lot.
"Well I'm glad to hear it," she says, smiling at him again. "Anyway, we're off, just wanted to say hi!"
"Good to see you," Stiles nods. Mrs. Hale says something else to his dad, something that makes the Sheriff laugh, but Stiles isn’t listening. He's already scrambling for his phone, pulling up a text message thread that hasn't been touched in over a week.
just ran into your mom, heard you've been talking about me. it was one underwhelming slice of pie, don't let it ruin your life.
He gets a response so quickly that Mrs. Hale and Natalie haven't even left the diner yet. There's no reason for Stiles to get a secret thrill out of that, but he does.
that would require me actually caring about your opinion.
don't front pie boy, you've been eagerly enjoying my witty commentary for weeks.
you're in my phone as Fireman Derek, but that just didn't seem fitting.
I considered Hot Fireman Derek, because if you're half as pretty as your sisters it's well deserved, but Hot Fireman's already taken.
dude, by a hot fireman, obviously. if I knew his name trust me, I'd use it.
you could just call me Derek.
well now, you've never introduced yourself before, how was I supposed to know if your name really was Derek and that wasn't just some weird secret identity Laura made up.
why would Laura make up a secret identity for me?
Two plates appear in front of Stiles and his dad - there's fries on both of them, and Stiles takes the time to drag his eyes away from his phone and glare at his dad's smug face.
to protect you from evil conglomerate corporations trying to steal your recipes.
And then again, barely a second later:
I'm Stiles, by the way. since you asked.
"Who are you all wrapped up in?" the Sheriff asks, eyebrow raised at Stiles' untouched plate of food. "Someone from school?"
"Derek," Stiles shakes his head.
Stiles hums noncommittally.
you're ridiculous, is what you meant to say
which you'd already know is common knowledge, if you'd ever bothered to properly introduce yourself.
it's common knowledge even without the introduction.
"I thought you hadn't met him," the Sheriff pushes, glancing pointedly at Stiles' undivided focus on his phone. "Seems like an awful lot of texting for someone you've never met."
"He's just mad about his pie," Stiles scoffs.
"The one you said wasn't good?"
it's all part of the stilinski charm
aren't you supposed to be an english major?
"I didn't say it wasn't good," Stiles protests, "it was good. It was just sub-par in comparison to some of his other out-of-this-world efforts."
"And that was a few weeks ago?" the Sheriff starts going for Stiles' fries, having finished his own, which finally inspires Stiles to slap his dad's hand away and start actually eating his food.
okay stalker, yes I am. point?
I would just expect an english major to know the actual definition of "charm"
"Last Monday of the semester, so yeah about that," Stiles nods, mumbling through a mouthful of turkey club. "Why?"
smooth, skating over the stalker accusation like that.
"Just that Mrs. Hale's been mentioning you for a while now," the Sheriff shrugs. Stiles hates that shrug, it's the smug parent shrug.
"Probably because of Laura, Laura's all but adopted me as her little brother. Besides, I only really started being Derek's official taste-tester in like late October. I was still focused on my microwave mission before that."
Laura talks about you a lot.
according to our parents you do too =P
"Your microwave mission..."
"To test the popcorn button on all the microwaves in the building and develop a system to avoid setting off the fire alarm by burning popcorn. It was for the greater good, really, even if Hot Fireman didn't see it that way."
Stiles' dad rolls his eyes, shaking his head exasperatedly.
"Please tell me you weren't intentionally playing with the fire alarms."
"Admittedly, the alarms went off a couple times maybe," Stiles admits. "But it was for the greater good, honestly! There's now a nice laminated instruction card on each microwave in every lounge with exact specifications for how to pop the best popcorn without burning it. It was a public service!"
The Sheriff just keeps shaking his head, fond smile on his face, which is fine. Stiles' attention is back on his phone anyway, with no response from Derek.
I'm taking your lack of protest as a confession. I'm flattered, really.
It's not until forty five minutes later, in the middle of aggressively trying to talk his dad into letting him drive his Jeep to Lydia's parent's vacation home on Lake Tahoe for New Year's Eve with Lydia, Jackson, and Danny, that Stiles finally gets a response.
pie emergency. fudge filling not turning out well - this is probably your fault.
remind me again why I'm taking baking advice from an english major?
because you're helping me prepare for an inevitable future as a pretentious coffee house barista?
it's only funny because it's true.
Oreo pie crust or graham cracker pie crust?
It's an hour into the annual Beacon Hills Bonfire Bash on New Year's Eve and Stiles is slightly drunk and sorely regretting being too broke to fly to Lydia's for the long weekend. Fireman Derek is a welcome distraction.
dude, you live in a city that considers NYE the biggest rager of all time. give it a rest, go do something fun.
I'm on call tonight.
ouch, rough. even Natalie's drinking tonight.
she is not.
She totally is. Stiles can see her, dolled up like a vintage movie star and perched on the fence separating the open field from the playground, red solo cup in hand. She's surrounded by a group of guys who wouldn't have given her the time of day six months ago; Stiles is torn between a weird kind of brotherly amusement and awkward judgment.
is too. and is surround by popular people. who knew she was hot!?
that's my sister you're talking about.
down boy, she's not my type. want me to go protect her maidenly virtue?
He kind of wants to. He’s maybe spoken twenty words to Natalie like, ever, but apparently Laura’s sisterly influence is rubbing off on him a too much, and the uneasy way Natalie’s precariously balanced on the chain link fence makes him nervous.
I want you to stop talking about my sister.
aww, don’t be jealous Derek. you have no chance of beating Laura out for my Number One Favorite Hale anyway, so it’s not like Natalie’s going to usurp you.
she cooks for me, dude.
I bake for you.
He does have a point there. Not that Stiles will admit it, or anything, but he does. And if Stiles didn’t know better he’d call this flirting.
touché. and on that note, I vote for homemade pie crust. homemade chocolate pie crust, because what is death by chocolate pie without chocolate pie crust?
it's not death by chocolate.
says you. maybe I'm fatally allergic to chocolate, risking my life with every bite.
hope you know CPR, fireman derek. mouth to mouth maybe? ;)
whatever you just said to Derek he's like fire-engine red right now. pun intended .
The text from Laura comes in on a separate thread and literally makes Stiles laugh out loud.
all I did was suggest a little mouth to mouth might be necessary. also told him that Natalie is drunk and getting hit on, so it might be a delayed reaction to that. thought he was on call at the station?
HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAA. he is, I'm being a good sister and hanging out with him.
stop flirting with my sister.
Stiles switches back to Derek's thread, grinning. He's not drunk enough to think Derek is actually getting jealous, but he's nothing if not shameless.
BOTH OF THEM.
forgive my brother, he's very possessive.
of his sisters?
if I do, will you make me homemade chocolate pie crust?
you two deserve each other. can you please go save my baby sister from the stupid assholes who are probably only talking to her because they just realized she was hiding huge boobs under all those frumpy sweaters?
one knight in shining armor coming right up. tell Fireman Derek to make me homemade chocolate pie crust.
he already is.
Stiles crows victoriously all the way over to Natalie and doesn't even get discouraged by the lack of any further texts.
Scratch that. He does get one more text, seven minutes after midnight, fumbling for his phone with his free hand while he holds Natalie's hair back with his other.
happy new year, stiles.
happy new year, fireman derek.
There's a smattering of texts over the course of January, both from Derek and Laura. The ones from Derek are always, always sent under the pretense of being about the pie, a topic that usually lasts for less than a minute before Stiles steers them into some long, rambling tangent rife with opportunities for subtle, silly innuendo.
Stiles isn't sure why he's flirting with Derek. Objectively, based on the other members of the Hale family Stiles has seen, Derek is bound to be attractive. And Jesus, even if he looked like a one-eyed troll Stiles could easily, happily be seduced by a steady supply of baked goods. But there's just something...Derek makes him laugh. Derek's oddly hysterical, a slow burn kind of dry wit that sometimes has Stiles laughing an hour later, a sneak attack text message time bomb. And for all his fronting about Stiles being an obnoxious little shit (which, well, he is), he still keeps texting him. For hours sometimes, on days when time’s passing slowly at the station and Stiles can only stand so many straight hours of COD, conversations that cover the whole broad spectrum of weird, random, deep, silly, thoughtful.
He doesn't really expect anything - there's no reason for this strange text message relationship to evolve into something else, and it's not like they ever had much interaction before, but nothing changes when Stiles gets back to New York. He swings by Cheeseburger Baby a few hours after he's thrown his suitcase on his bed, nearly gets smothered in a hug from Laura and earns himself a cheeseburger on the house in exchange for lengthy updates on the new and improved Natalie, but that's it.
Except the texts. The texts don't stop.
And, apparently, neither do the fire alarms.
"This is unbelievable," Stiles grumbles, pulling his hoody tighter around him. 3:30 AM and they're standing outside on the fucking curb in New York during the last week of January. There aren't enough words in the English language to describe how furious disgruntled grumpy cranky annoyed Stiles is right now.
"I only went to bed an hour and a half ago," Scott mumbles from down around Stiles' knees, sounding just as petulant as Stiles feels.
Allison, curled up in Scott's lap and cocooned in the blanket they'd wrapped around themselves, snorts derisively. "I have to be up in an hour and a half. That's assuming I don't get hypothermia and die first."
The thing about Scott and Stiles' room is that they keep it about as hot as humanly possible at night. California might get cold, but never New-York-City-in-the-winter cold, and Allison's from Georgia, and they out-vote Scott enough that the heat stays on pretty much permanently. It's a wonderful, glorious thing, waking up warm and toasty every morning.
Except, of course, that it means they all sleep in...well, not much. Lightweight sleep pants, thin t-shirts, not much else. And when the fire alarm goes off that late at night, when you're mostly still asleep and running on autopilot from years of fire drills...Stiles had had the wherewithal to grab a hoody and his glasses, Allison Scott's comforter.
None of them thought about shoes.
Lydia finds them, and she looks about as done with everything as Stiles. She's at least dressed a little better for the weather; UGGs and an enormous sweatshirt with WHITTEMORE on the back, a knit cap pulled low over her tangled curls.
"So I'm thinking we should do something fairly horrible to Stephanie and Jason. Like, at the very least they need to be woken up violently at 4am every day for the next month."
"Who?" Scott asks, frowning up at Lydia and Stiles.
There's a Jason who lives down the hall from Lydia, Stiles remembers when that was annoying, in the beginning, with the confusion between Jason and Jackson. Lydia's scowl deepens as she looks closer at them, like she's weighing whether or not they deserve the gossip.
But hey, misery loves company.
"Hold on, Danny and Jackson are almost here, I'll tell you all at once," she promises finally, glancing over Stiles' shoulder. Sure enough, barely twenty seconds later Stiles feels the blistering warmth of another person's body heat pressing into his left side, dear god thank you for Danny, and Stiles will never say another bad thing about Jackson again, because there he is huddling in close to Stiles' right.
Desperate times make friends of us all, and nothing inspires camaraderie like the threat of hypothermia.
"So anyway, Jason and Steph were supposed to be having some romantic 'we're so happy to be back together in the same city time seemed endless without you never leave me again,' night tonight, he cooked her dinner and had this whole stupid picnic thing set up in her room, candles, the whole nine yards."
"Oh no," Stiles groans, because it’s hard not to see where this is going.
"Wait, it gets worse," Lydia nods, "because yeah, obviously, they forgot about the candles and knocked one over when they got to the sex part of the evening."
"Bed or floor?" Jackson interrupts, and no wonder he's pressing up against Stiles of all people, he's not even wearing a t-shirt.
"Bed, of course," Lydia scoffs, tossing her hair over her shoulder. "And we all know he didn't get in here because of his staggering intelligence, so guess where some of the candles were."
"On the bedposts," Danny guesses, and they can hear his eye roll in his tone. "Which they then knocked over onto the mattress, sheets, blankets, whatever."
"And then," there's a real note of glee in Lydia's voice, the kind that only comes from capitalizing on other people's inferiority, "he grabbed a water bottle off the desk to dump over the fire, to try to put it out."
"What was actually in the water bottle?" Allison grumbles, glancing up out of her blanket fort to catch the expression on Lydia's face. It's somewhere between murder and mirth, and Stiles is both slightly turned on and slightly terrified.
The resulting groan spreads further than their group...the people around them were clearly listening to the story too. It's not like it wouldn't have been all over the building by the time the 8:00 AM labs started anyway, but there's something about learning it in the heat of the moment that makes everyone just that much more aggravated.
And of course, it's then that Stiles catches sight of Hot Fireman. He hasn't seen him since the asparagus incident, a burn that's still surprisingly fresh in his mind (and his wrist), and Stiles still feels horribly chastised enough that sinking a little deeper into the press of shoulders around him, slouching out of sight, is by far the most attractive option.
Except Hot Fireman glances up at exactly the wrong moment and meets Stiles' eye, and Stiles knows that fucking look. That's the look Hot Fireman used to give him at every microwave-related alarm, the narrow-eyed, clenched-jaw stare that plainly said "I’m not sure how yet, but I know this is your fault.”
And oh, Stiles is done. Stiles is cold and bitter and annoyed and cranky and still slightly mortified, and Stiles is Done, capital D-O-N-E DONE.
"Hey, fuck you!" he snaps, calling out loud enough that his voice easily travels the twenty, thirty feet between them.
Hot Fireman startles, even though he's still looking right at Stiles.
"Stiles!" Scott hisses, shoving lightly against his shin.
Stiles ignores him. He steps back, out of the warmth of Jackson's, Danny's, and Lydia's body heat and off the corner of blanket he'd been standing on, but he doesn't even feel the new rush of cold against him. Hot Fireman has apparently recovered enough; he's stalking over towards them, away from where he'd been standing with a curly haired firefighter, waiting for word from the three they'd sent inside.
"Excuse me?" Hot Fireman's voice is like ice, cold and sharp as he hisses at Stiles, but it blows right passed him. Fine, he was a little shit last semester. Fine, the thing with the microwaves was a bit much. Fine, okay, he royally fucking abused the fire alarms and the fire department and the FDNY could probably sue him for wasting all of their time or misuse of equipment or what the fuck ever.
But Stiles wasn't an idiot or a pyro, or a sadistic asshole. There had been sixteen fire alarms last semester, and Stiles had been responsible for five of them. Three slightly intentional popcorn incidents and two genuine accidents. Hot Fireman had no fucking right to look at him like he was some kind of delinquent miscreant, a menace he couldn't wait to finally pin the crimes on.
"I said fuck. you. You think because I burnt a few bags of popcorn you get to blame me for every fire alarm that happens here? That I was the one that left my hair straightener on until it burned through a plastic hairbrush, or the asshole that lit sparklers in the third floor lounge?"
Everyone's staring at him. Everyone. Hot Fireman, his group of friends, his RA. Everyone within hearing distance, really, staring at him like they can't believe a word he just said.
Stiles doesn't care.
"You don’t have the right to be such a fucking dick to me all the time just because I, god forbid, occasionally make you do your job. Some moronic asshole lit his fucking bed on fire and tried to put it out with vodka. Why don’t you stop trying to figure out my newest scheme for ruining your life and do something about that?”
Nobody says anything. Stiles waits, because contrary to popular opinion he's not allergic to silence; he's actually very aware of how effective long, drawn out silences can be. He waits.
It's not Hot Fireman, who looks kind of shell-shocked, that breaks the silence with a soft clearing of his throat.
It's another firefighter, the curly-haired one Hot Fireman had originally been standing next to. He's wearing the contrite expression of someone extremely reluctant to interrupt, but he's also got Jason and a girl Stiles assumes must be Stephanie standing behind him, and they both look guilty as sin.
Hot Fireman, on the other hand, looks like he's just sucked on a lemon and found out the hard way he had an open cut on his lip. Sour, bitter surprise doesn't look good on him, which Stiles didn't think was possible with those cheekbones, but now he's taking some vindictive pleasure in it.
"I -" Hot Fireman starts, looking back and forth between Stiles and the couple.
"Yeah, whatever," Stiles scoffs, rolling his eyes and taking a step back. There's a hand on his shoulder, probably Danny's, and Hot Fireman's stare lingers on it like he can't recognize a dismissal when he sees one.
"Boss," the curly-haired firefighter says gently. Hot Fireman jerks his eyes away from Danny's fingers and over to the two guilty freshman hovering a few feet away, looking for all the world like they might make a break for it.
Stiles lets his friends pull him back into their circle, Danny steering him around until his bare feet are back on the edge blanket and Jackson and Danny are huddled around him. Scott and Allison are making sad faces up at him, and even Lydia looks sympathetic.
"That was probably uncalled for," he admits sheepishly. The fight's gone out of him entirely, like all he needed was to not be looking at that stupid scruffy face anymore, and now he just feels like an asshole.
"He deserved it," Scott says vehemently, shaking his head. "He's always such a dick to you, even when it's not your fault."
"Besides," Allison points, "we haven't had a single microwave-related fire alarm since you fully implemented the tally system."
"Yeah! He should be thanking you, not acting like you go around the building holding lighters up to the smoke detectors for kicks," Scott adds, nodding firmly.
Stiles smiles weakly at them. "Maybe, but I still shouldn't have yelled at him. That wasn't very nice."
"Yeah, because you're usually the very definition of the word nice," Jackson grumbles derisively.
"Nicer than you," Stiles shoots back, nudging their shoulders together.
"Don't play innocent. He deserved it, you deserved it. Honestly, Stiles, you both need to get your heads out of your asses and -"
They all turn. Even Scott and Allison poke their heads further out of their blanket nest, peering between Stiles' and Danny's legs.
It's the curly-haired firefighter from earlier, still looking like an apologetic puppy but now with the added layer of surprise.
"Yeah?" Stiles asks, frowning at him.
"Stiles Stiles? Like, Laura and Derek's Stiles?"
"I mean, I don't think Laura's formally submitted the adoption papers yet, and it's hard to belong to someone you've never actually met, but I guess technically, yeah. I know Laura and Derek."
The fireman just looks confused, shaking his head like Stiles’ answer doesn't really make sense, like he hadn't been the one to suggest a connection to Laura and Derek in the first place.
"But...Derek..." he glances back over his shoulder, like he's looking for an answer, and when he turns back around to face Stiles' furrowed brow he seems to have found one. "Oh my god Erica's going to die."
"Uh," Stiles clears his throat, "listen..."
"Oh! Sorry! I'm Isaac." Isaac, without the puppyish sympathy, is simultaneously boyish and handsome, an impish grin taking over the muddled confusion. He's cute, and doesn't look much older than Stiles or the rest of them, and if Stiles wasn't so lost, and hadn't just sworn off firemen forever, he might consider it.
"Stiles, which you apparently already knew. Anyway, Isaac, unless you're here to tell us we can go back inside, I don't really know..."
Lydia's fingers dig sharply into the small of his back, and he doesn't need to look at her to know he's not the only one appreciating the happier expression on Isaac's face. Shameless, that girl.
"Right," Isaac shakes his head sheepishly, bringing one hand up to card through his loose curls. "I just wanted to apologize for...well..."
"Captain Douchebag?" Stiles guesses.
Isaac laughs. "Yeah, him. He's a really good guy, normally."
"I've been known to bring out the best in people," Stiles nods. "Like my buddy Jackson here."
Jackson steps on his toes in response. He's only wearing slippers (leather house shoes, like this guy could possible get any more Connecticut WASPy) so it does absolutely nothing but remind Stiles that he can't really feel his feet, but the movement catches Isaac's attention and he grins like he gets it.
"Nah," he shakes his head again. "You make him nervous. He gets prickly when he gets nervous."
"I make him nervous?" Stiles repeats incredulously. "What, does he think I'm going to find a way to burn down the whole fucking building?"
Isaac just laughs again.
"Lahey, we're loading up!"
Isaac turns, nodding at Tall, Dark, and Muscled Like a Wall (Stiles could totally get behind that if he hadn't sworn off firefighters) (what was with this entire ladder co. and looking like they just stepped off the pages of the FDNY fundraiser calendar?).
"Anyway, just wanted to apologize. I know he'll never get the balls to do it himself, but I figured someone ought to. Nice to meet you, Stiles."
He waves and walks away before Stiles can so much as splutter incoherently at him.
"What just happened?" Scott whines, his partially obstructed view only giving him so much of the action.
"Hot Fireman's into Stiles and apparently the mystery text message guy's name is Derek," Lydia summarizes.
"I-what?" Stiles chokes out, because nothing Lydia just said makes any sense to him.
"You make him nervous," she sing-songs cheerfully back at him. "Look at him."
They all look (of course they all look, Stiles has the nosiest friends on the planet). Hot Fireman...well, he actually kind of does look a little worse for the wear. He usually looks rather pleased with himself after getting to lecture to death this week's guilty party, and Jason and Stephanie do look particularly well reamed out, but Hot Fireman isn't gloating at all. He actually looks kind of like someone who accidentally stepped on his dog's paw and is being haunted by that horrible, pitiful whimper that makes you feel like the worst person in the world.
Okay, so yeah. Maybe Hot Fireman looks kind of guilty.
Good. He should.
"I'm still stuck on who Derek is?" Scott grumbles, tugging on the back of Stiles' pajama pants.
"I'll tell you when you're older," Stiles promises, a sad attempt at deflecting.
"You know when Stiles gets that dopey look on his face and immediately zones out of whatever else is actually going on because he's too busy texting? He's texting this Derek guy," Danny tells Scott, taking pity on him.
"Can we stop whining about Stilinski's boring drama and go back inside before I freeze my nuts off?" Jackson hisses. Sure enough, they've propped the front doors of the building open and are ushering the hordes of grumpy, freezing freshman back into the dorms.
"Oh sweet Jesus God yes," Stiles agrees.
Stiles, Scott, and Allison take the stairs all the way up to the seventh floor under the foolish guise that maybe they can force full circulation to return to their legs by the time they reach their room. They're stiff, sore, and only just starting to thaw when Stiles finally, blissfully faceplants into his bed and promptly forgets anything and everything about Hot fucking Fireman.
do you ever have the horrible feeling that everybody else knows something you don't?
you haven't met my friend lydia...I live with that feeling every day.
erica keeps laughing at me. like every time I walk into the room, she just looks at me and bursts out laughing.
Stiles muffles his own snickers into the sleeve of his sweatshirt, ignoring the pointed glare from the girl sitting at the next table over. He's all about the quiet rooms in the library, zero work gets done in the social hour area that is the main lounge, but some people just need to chill a bit.
I don't even know why and I'm laughing at you.
at first I thought it was about yesterday, but Erica wasn't even there.
what happened yesterday?
Stiles knows what happened in his yesterday. After finally getting back to bed almost a full hour after the fire alarms went off he took a well-deserved personal day, getting out of bed only long enough to take the world's hottest shower and add another layer of sweatpants over his pajamas and a long-sleeve thermal under his hoody.
I got called out for being a massive asshole in front of a huge crowd of people
ouch, dude, that's harsh.
I kind of deserved it, I was a dick.
Stiles snorted, shaking his head even as he flipped off the girl with the "fuck you" stare.
oh my god I don't think I've ever heard you own up to your asshole ways before, I might need to shake this person's hand.
he's a pain in my ass, you'd probably love him.
obviously, we share the mutual life mission to drive you crazy
and you're both shameless about succeeding too.
you're into it.
I hate you.
aww, you're so good to me <3
Stiles takes a moment to wave at the girl leaving in a frustrated huff, apparently having had quite enough of Stiles....who knows, typing too loudly or breathing or something. She shoots him a look that could burn holes through paper, but Stiles just grins cheekily back.
going to see Laura today?
if I finish this paper, probably. why, got some delicious treats for me?
are you gonna come hand feed me bites of my death by chocolate pie?
it's not death by chocolate, and it's not ready yet. there are, however, marble brownies that might make you cream your pants.
Stiles wastes exactly no time in slamming his laptop shut, stacking his note haphazardly on top of it and shoving the whole thing unceremoniously into his bag. He's a sucker for Derek's brownies, and if Cheeseburger Baby isn't crowded he can always stick around and do some work there.
you sure know how to sweet-talk a guy
Laura said the last batch made you moan like a porn star, I'm just trying to keep up with the theme.
Stiles grins stupidly at his phone, because he's maybe gotten to a point where he has a shamefully full-fledged crush on Derek and while Stiles flirts like a hussy every other text, Derek usually doesn't.
They banter back and forth the entire time Stiles is walking to Cheeseburger Baby, and Laura rolls her eyes with a dramatic amount of eyelash flutter at the ridiculous expression Stiles is still sporting.
"You two are disgusting," she tells him, even though she's already loading up a plate of the most decadent brownies he's ever seen.
"I have no idea what you're talking about," Stiles says primly, making greedy gimme gimme hands at the plate. "Just give me my damn brownies woman."
Laura does so with a peculiar expression, glancing back and forth between his face and the platter now in front of him.
"You know, these are his apology brownies. He only makes them when he feels bad about something."
"I know, last time he made them was when you were mad at him for saying those leather leggings made you look trashy," Stiles mumbles, swallowing a mouthful of pure heaven. "They're effective. I'm not even mad at him and I forgive him. What'd he do this time?"
"He didn't do anything to me," she says pointedly. The customer at the register, who'd definitely gotten there before Stiles but was standing at that wishy-washy distance that wasn't quite committing to being ready to order yet, cleared her throat loudly, earning a decidedly fake smile from Laura.
did you make apology brownies for the guy that called you an asshole?
they're not apology brownies.
they're so apology brownies. you should mass produce these things, it's physically impossible to stay mad at someone in the face of food this delicious.
it doesn't count as an apology if the person you're apologizing to has no idea they exist.
awww you DID make him apology brownies. that's sweet. I'll forgive you on his behalf.
I don't think it works like that.
sure it does. as a like-minded individual I can totally vouch for both your apology and his forgiveness.
does that mean you like the brownies?
Does Stiles like the brownies. He's already downed three of them and the woman at the register is looking at him like she's torn between being scandalized and adding in a quick "I'll have what he's having" quip.
they're o r g a s m i c. they make me want to pick a fight with you just so you'll make me more.
told you so.
I'm sorry, I can't hear you over the sound of the pornographic moans I'm making around this mouthful.
Laura cackles, sharp and loud and right in his ear, and Stiles screeches and jumps so high he almost falls off the stool.
"You are the devil," he tells her, clutching at his chest where his heart is threatening to beat right out of it. "The actual devil."
"I wish I could see Derek's face right now," she cries, because there are actual tears in her eyes. "Oh my god, I wish you could see Derek's face right now. I'd bet all the money in the world he's redder than a traffic light and gaping like a goldfish."
"It's a special skill of mine," Stiles says proudly. "Making Derek squirm."
"Oh Stiles, you have no idea," Laura laughs, swiping carefully at the corner of her eye. "No idea."
She bustles away again before Stiles can demand she elaborate, hustling into the back room with the flimsy excuse of needing to serve up a burger, even though Stiles knows she prefers using the grill behind the counter over the one in the back kitchen.
going back to that feeling that everyone knows something you don't
Laura knows something I don't and I think I'm slightly terrified.
you should probably get out while you still can.
I'm bringing the brownies with me.
The problem with everyone else knowing something you don't is that, eventually, someone slips up. It might be something small, something minor enough that if you weren't hyper-paranoid already you never would have noticed it, but there it is, right in front of your face, and suddenly everything makes sense.
It happens a little after dinner about a month later. Two girls are making a frozen pizza in the oven and forget to take the plastic wrap off, and Stiles is starting to think that maybe he doesn't live in a building full of people united in the singular effort to ogle Hot Fireman as often as humanly possible, just a building full of really, really stupid assholes.
Hot Fireman is there, looking murderous as usual, but Stiles is doing his absolute best to ignore him and mostly succeeding. They haven't made eye contact, at least, which is about the best Stiles can ask for right now, now that he’s had enough time for the mortification and self-righteous fury to melt into an awkward guilt that sits low and heavy in his stomach.
Isaac's there too. He grins and waves at Stiles when they're leaving after a fairly short reprimand and the general order to stay out of the tenth floor lounge for the night and leave the windows open so the burnt plastic smell will filter out. Stiles smiles back, because Isaac has one of those Scott-like smiles that you can't help but return, and this time the firefighter next to Isaac notices.
She turns her full attention on Stiles, blonde curls bouncing over her shoulder as she gives him an appreciative once-over and a sharp grin.
"Don't even, Erica, Derek'll kill you," Isaac warns, tugging on the loose-hanging straps of her uniform pants.
The name sticks in Stiles' head like the third times' a charm, like twice is a coincidence but three times is a pattern. He's heard the name Erica before, from Isaac himself even, but he's also heard it from Derek. Erica, the one who kept laughing at Derek like she knew something he didn't. The day after Isaac, finally learning the name of the NYU student who'd spent a semester harassing the fire department, had said that Erica was going to die over the news.
And just like that it’s too easy. Just like that everything just kind of...clicks into place. Derek's a fucking firefighter, it's not like it's beyond the realm of possibility that Hot Fireman and Fireman Derek...
Stiles digs into his pocket, pulls out his phone.
what are the horrible, horrible chances that whatever Erica knows about you and Laura knows about me are actually the same thing?
And then he watches. Watches Hot Fireman, who reaches into his own pocket ten seconds later, a small smirk on his face while he reads something on the screen. He leans back against the open door of the fire truck while he taps his fingers across the phone's surface, shaking his head, before he shoves it back into his pocket.
jesus christ, the world might actually end.
I think I know what it is.
Stiles curls his fingers tight around his phone, looks up to where Hot Fireman is pulling the truck's door shut behind him. The window's open, and the sirens aren't on, and it's not loud enough on the street for Stiles to go unheard if he raises his voice.
Hot Fireman - Derek - snaps his head around, makes eye contact with Stiles just as the truck starts pulling away from the curb. Just long enough for Stiles to feel his heart drop from his throat to the pit of his stomach at the wide-eyed recognition on Derek's face.
Stiles ignores the knocking for a solid five minutes. Scott and Allison are doing something stupidly adorable and couply elsewhere and everyone else has already been warned to stay the fuck away from him. Lydia came by only long enough to drop off a fifth of Captain Morgan and a liter of Diet Coke, Danny and Jackson ten minutes later with a take out bag from Cheeseburger Baby. Stiles almost doesn't eat it purely out of spite, because obviously Laura knew, but she doesn't work nights anyway, and he's really hungry.
"I know you're in there, Stiles. Open the door or I will call Erica and let her use the emergency ax. She's a firefighter, she can get away with shit like that," Laura yells, slamming particularly heavy-handed against the fake wood.
Stiles actually wouldn't put it past her. He heaves himself upright off his bed, half-empty bottle of Captain dangling from his fingertips, and throws the door open with as much petulance as he can muster.
"You look just as bad as he does," she snaps, glaring at him. "The two of you are unbelievably ridiculous."
"Go away," Stiles growls, because he's not stupid enough to try slamming the door in Laura's face.
"I literally don't understand what the problem is," she continues, ignoring him as she shoulders her way between him and the door and shoves into the room. "You just found out the hot fireman you've been lusting over and the stupid idiot you're in love with are the same person. How is that a bad thing?"
"We're not talking about it," Stiles insists stubbornly. He takes a swig of his rum, ignoring Laura's disapproving look, and stomps after her to throw himself back down on the floor next to his bed. "I don't care if you stay or not, but I'm not talking about your stupid fucking brother."
"Fine," Laura rolls her eyes, grabbing the bottle of rum from his hand. She fishes two relatively clean mugs off Scott's desk and pours a healthy amount into both of them, topping them off with the Coke before handing one to Stiles. "What would you rather talk about, then?"
"You've known for months," Stiles says mulishly, since there's actually nothing he'd rather talk about. "Months, Laur. Since before Christmas."
"Since the asparagus," she nods.
"And you never said anything."
"You were really upset about him being such an ass about it," Laura reminds him. "I didn't think it was the best time for an introduction. Besides, you didn't even know Derek then."
"I don't know Derek now," Stiles snarls.
Laura recoils like he hit her.
"That's not true," she says vehemently, shaking her head. "It's not. I've never seen him open up to someone as quickly and completely as he did you. Derek's...quiet. He never really knows how to let people get to know him, and then you..."
She trails off helplessly, takes a long sip of her rum and coke like it'll give her time to think.
"You were good for him. I didn't want to risk ruining it before you had a chance to get to know him."
"But obviously I didn't get to know him," Stiles argues. "It's really fucking hard to reconcile the funny, sarcastic guy who likes to bake me delicious pies with the asshole who glares me down like he wishes I'd just light myself on fire next time and save everyone the trouble."
"Stop exaggerating," Laura scoffs.
"Look," Stiles huffs out a frustrated breath, closing his eyes and scrubbing his hand down over the bridge of his nose. "I know this sounds dumb, okay? But with Derek...I mean, I thought I kind of had a chance there, you know? He always answered my texts, and let me ramble, and didn't laugh at me for trying to flirt with him. There was always this stupid little hope that like, one day we'd eventually wind up meeting, and maybe we'd hit it off as much in person as we did via text, and I know, okay, I don't even know if he's into guys and I thought I didn't know what he looked like but it didn't matter and...and instead he already knows me as that pain in the ass delinquent brat who fucked around with the fire alarms all semester and then yelled at him in front of a sidewalk full of people."
Laura's shaking her head like he's a first class idiot, looking for all the world like she's seconds from smacking him upside the head.
"You know what's in there, right?" She's pointing at the Tupperware container she'd been carrying when she elbowed her way into the room, left abandoned on Scott's desk from when she was pouring the drinks.
"Apology brownies," Stiles guesses, and his stomach makes a treacherous gurgling sound like he didn't eat an entire cheeseburger just a few hours ago.
"He came back from the station two hours ago with three full batches of those and has been steadily making his way through them since. He doesn't know I took some of them, or that I brought them here," she tells him, pushing herself up onto her knees and reaching over to snag the container off the desk.
"It doesn't count as an apology if one of the two people doesn't know it's happening," Stiles grumbles, hating that even now he's still compulsively parroting an inside joke with Derek.
"You know as well as I do he only makes them when he feels really, really bad about something," Laura points out. She pops the lid off and god dammit, they're glorious. Glorious. There should be a chorus of angels singing and a heavenly light shining down on them. "Besides, this is the third time he's made them for you."
"Second," Stiles corrects, because he's already figured out that obviously the batch he'd had last month, the one Derek made after feeling guilty for being called an asshole, was actually a result of him ripping into Derek in front of his entire dorm.
"Third," Laura insists. "He made a batch after the asparagus incident, but you'd already gone home so you never got to eat them. Don't worry, I ate them for you."
"Bitch," Stiles mumbles, knocking his shoulder into hers. There's no heat in it though, and she only shakes her head fondly.
She waits until he looks up at her, lifting his gaze from the bottom of his drink to meet her piercing stare. That he should have recognized. Derek and Laura didn't look much like each other in more than a superficial way; they were both tall, beautiful, dark hair and defined cheekbones, but he should have recognized those technicolor eyes.
"Back in the fall my brother met this annoying kid during a routine call from the nearby freshmen dorms. He was an asshole, Derek said. A pain in the ass who had made it his mission to drive Derek nuts. He'd go on and on about this kid, about how he was annoyingly clever and witty and wily and frustrating and how late night alarms were the bane of his existence because this kid had the most unimaginable sex hair bedhead and ridiculous hipster glasses and god, Stiles, you should have heard the way he'd go on."
"Until," Laura continues, raising her voice over Stiles' interruption, "he came home one night freaking out. That pain in the ass kid had had some kind of actual incident, a real, could-have-gotten-badly-hurt incident, and Derek had…reacted badly. I think that was when he realized that the guy'd really gotten under his skin in the best and worst kind of way, and that terrified him."
"So what?" Stiles grumbles, and it sounds petulant even to his own ears.
"Eat your apology brownies," Laura sighs, draining the last of her drink and dropping the mug back down to the floor. "Finish your rum, write a sad poem in your journal, whatever. If you're sitting here stewing in your own anger because you feel lied to or betrayed or conflicted or what have you, fine. If you're sitting here feeling sorry for yourself because you think the guy you're half in love with doesn't love you back then you're an idiot."
She leaves before Stiles can figure out how to come back from that, so he just decides instead that he'll never, ever tell her that he spends the rest of the night stuffing his face with brownies and sobbing into his bottle of rum.
FDNY Engine #33 Ladder 9
I don't know what I'm supposed to do with that, Laura.
well...just in case.
It’s three days and a stern talking to from Lydia before he finally musters up the gumption to drag his sorry ass out of bed. Scott's all but taken up residence in Allison's room for the weekend, leaving Stiles to wallow in his filthy pity party of booze and brownies. It takes Stiles a better part of the afternoon to talk himself into a shower, dig up some reasonably clean-smelling clothing (change his mind and his outfit three times before he shows up shirtless and whining outside Danny and Jackson's room. They talk him back into his initial outfit, layer a jacket over his button-down/hoody combo, shove his glasses on his face, and push him out the door.) and by the time he finally makes it to the firehouse it's dark out.
The garage door is open when he gets there which, while ultimately solving the problem of how to get inside, denies Stiles the excuse of saying "oops, can't get in, better just go home." And, of course, the first person he sees is Isaac, perched on the back bumper of one of the trucks.
"Stiles!" Isaac calls warmly, not sounding remotely surprised as he gestures Stiles further into the firehouse. He's sitting next to a pretty blonde Stiles thinks is Erica and there's a set of legs poking out from under the truck parked next to their perch.
"I don't think you've properly met Erica," Isaac nods at the blonde, "and this is Boyd."
Boyd rolls back out from under the truck long enough to blink once at Stiles and grab a piece of electrical tape off the side of the bumper before disappearing from the waist up again. Erica, on the other hand, actually goes so far as to get up and come over to him, grasping him firmly by the shoulders and pressing a dry kiss to his cheek.
"Are you here to fix it or fuck it up even further?" she asks, apparently switching from welcoming to terrifying at warp speed. Stiles immediately understands Derek's point about Laura and Erica being hell on wheels together.
"Erica," Isaac scolds, "leave him alone."
"We're his friends, it's our god-given right to threaten potential boyfriends," she says dismissively. Her fingers are digging into Stiles' shoulders, and he thinks maybe if he introduced Lydia to the hell on wheels brigade they could actually blow a hole in the universe.
"If you break his heart I will toss you face first into the next fire I find," Erica warns, getting right up close in Stiles' face and looking for all the world like she means it. Stiles doesn't doubt for a second that she does.
"I won't," he promises shakily. He can't think of anything clever to say, anything that doesn't sound contrived and insincere, so he settles for looking Erica dead in the eye as he repeats more firmly, "I won't."
"He's in the kitchen." She nods decisively, like that's just that, and steps back out of Stiles' space after giving his shoulders one last squeeze.
"Take the stairs up to the third floor," Isaac supplies, gesturing to the doorway behind them as Erica reclaims her seat. "It's the second door on the left, but you'll probably be able to hear it before you see it."
"Just follow the siren call of glorious emo shit," Erica suggests through a wickedly sharp grin. "We've been treated to unholy amounts of Brand New, Dashboard, and Death Cab this weekend."
"Brand New is a treasure," Stiles tells her, looking back over his shoulder as he makes his way toward the stairs. "Embrace the tears."
"Laura was right, you two deserve each other," Erica calls after him. She somehow manages to sound simultaneously disgusted and pleased, which is just so Laura-like that Stiles can only shake his head amusedly in response.
As promised, he starts to recognize the throbbing bass line of "Sic Transit Gloria...Glory Fades" when he's halfway between the second and third floor landings. The kitchen door is the only one open on the third floor, light streaming into the hall and Brand New echoing across the floor, and Stiles hovers in the doorway just inside the threshold.
Derek's at the sink along the far wall with his back to Stiles, and if Stiles had enough air left in his lungs the sight might've taken his breath away. Derek's all broad shoulders and tapered waist, an ass Stiles wouldn't mind sinking his teeth into and dark hair he'd love to thread his fingers through. He always knew Hot Fireman was gorgeous, that Derek, being a Hale, was going to be attractive, but somehow the combination of the two...
Sic Transit Gloria ends with a screech and sudden silence and, well, carpe diem and cur non and YOLO and shit. Stiles cautiously clears his throat.
"I told you to fuck off Er-"
Derek freezes as he catches sight of Stiles in the doorway, sponge slipping from his slack fingers to land on the floor with a dull thwap. He looks unpleasantly surprised, and Stiles takes a reflexive half-step back out into the hallway.
"I - sorry. I should've - I shouldn't have - I should go -"
Derek's voice stops him cold, one hand on the doorframe, one foot over the threshold, caught in the instant between fight or flight. In the background "Me vs. Maradona vs. Elvis" is building up to the chorus, which is just not the kind of omen or subliminal message Stiles needs right now.
"Wait," Derek says again, a little steadier this time. He bends down to pluck the sponge off the floor, tosses it into the sink, and reaches over to yank the iPhone out of the speaker dock, cutting Jesse Lacey off mid-word.
Stiles edges into the room carefully, fully aware that he's encroaching on Derek's territory, that even if Derek didn't tell him to leave he certainly didn't invite Stiles here. He hovers near a sturdy looking kitchen table almost halfway between Derek and the door, fingers brushing against the worn wooden surface in an incredibly forced façade of calm.
"Sorry," Derek says finally, not quite looking at Stiles. "I thought you were Erica,"
"She's playing guard dog downstairs," Stiles nods towards the doorway he came from. "I can see what you mean about her and Laura together."
The corner of Derek's mouth twitches like he's about to smile, and it occurs to Stiles that he's never seen Derek smile before. Might not ever, depending on how this goes, but maybe wouldn't mind getting to be the one to make him smile a little more.
"She didn't say anything too bad, I hope?"
"Nah," Stiles shakes his head. "Nothing I wouldn't hear from Lydia or Laura. Besides," he adds softly, glancing down at the smooth wood under his fingers, "I kind of deserve anything she has to throw at me."
"What? No. Not at all."
Stiles looks up to find Derek actually, properly looking at him now, frowning hard enough that his whole face is furrowed. It shouldn't be half as cute as it actually is.
"I was an ass," Derek says earnestly. "Like, really out of line. I went out of my way to be nasty to you, because apparently I'm not enough of an adult to handle being ridiculously attracted to someone."
"Psht," Stiles scoffs, "at least you didn't behave like an actual child. I intentionally set off fire alarms to get your attention, I'm pretty sure that's actually illegal."
"In your defense," Derek offers, and there's that little lip quirk again, "the tally system with the microwaves is pretty ingenious. And effective."
"Did you know there hasn't been a microwave-related incident since the system was fully implemented?"
Derek just shakes his head, and even though he isn't smiling the corners of his mouth look a little less heavy, the slope of his shoulders a little more relaxed.
"This isn't really how I imagined this going," Stiles admits softly when the silence has hung between them for a bit too long. "Meeting you for the first time, I mean."
"The first time?" Derek shakes his head again. "The first time I met you you smelled like burnt popcorn and looked like you'd just stuck your finger in an electrical socket, the way your hair was all..." he waggled his fingers loosely over his head, like he didn't have the right words to describe sticking up every which way like Stiles hadn't slept in three days. "You were a cocky little shit and all about the microwave’s betrayal, I should've known then that you'd come up with some way to get back at it."
"And I did," Stiles huffs, because the other option is blushing fiercely and acknowledging that Derek remembers that from months ago, and he knows he's not an attractive blusher.
"I always knew when a microwave alarm was you or someone else," Derek admits sheepishly. "You always looked like a smug brat when it was you, like you'd solved another puzzle, and pissed as hell when it was someone else causing problems because they didn't follow your system."
"Didn't stop you from blaming them all on me."
Derek shrugs and doesn't look remotely apologetic about it.
"Indignation looks good on you," he explains, smirking a little. "And you were more likely to talk to me if you felt like you needed to defend yourself."
"Yeah, until that backfired pretty spectacularly," Stiles reminds him, even though neither one of them really needs to remember that. "Which I never apologized for, by the way. I'm sorry, it was really, really uncalled for, screaming at you like that."
"I was out of line," Derek argues. "I'm not that much of an idiot, I knew it had nothing to do with you. I was pissed off, mostly at myself more than anything else, and I took it out on you."
"Technically you did apologize," Stiles points out. "How weird is that? I ate the apology brownies that you made for me without either of us knowing they'd actually gone to the person the apology was intended for."
"They're not apology brownies," Derek says exasperatedly. It's strange the way it's not strange at all, the way he sighs like its an old, familiar argument they've had a dozen times. Which they have, technically, just never in person.
"They so are," Stiles insists, grinning. "They taste like apologies. I should know, I've been eating them all weekend."
Derek cocks his head to the side, calculating, before rolling his eyes with a truly impressive amount of sass and letting out another exasperated sigh.
"I knew Laura didn't eat them all that quickly," he says. "She's such a liar."
"Never tell her I ate them," Stiles urges, looking imploringly at Derek. "She'll be smug about it for weeks."
"She's going to be smug for weeks anyway," Derek points out. Stiles chuffs out a laugh, because of course she is.
Silence settles again, just a bit too long, but it's not entirely uncomfortable. They're both looking at each other, shamelessly, and it kind of feels like the hard part is out of the way, like maybe the rest is just a matter of letting things fall where they may.
"How did you imagine it, then?"
Stiles grins, because that's an easy one.
"There was pie," he says wistfully. "And kissing. And pie."
And Derek, shit, Derek grins back, and it's beautiful. Stiles could get used to that, to teasing nudges and cheesy lines and broad, bright smiles with a dimple in one corner and white teeth and crinkles around brilliant eyes. He could really, really get used to that.
"If you give me a couple hours I could probably manage pie," Derek offers.
He's closer, Stiles realizes suddenly. While Stiles was busy waxing poetically about Derek's smile the man himself had been closing the distance between them, from half a kitchen to only a few small feet. Almost arm’s length, really, and it hits Stiles like burning how much he wants, needs, to close the rest of that gap.
"What about the kissing?" he asks slyly, taking a deliberate step forward. He's close enough to touch now - Derek proves it by reaching out, hooking two fingers through one of Stiles belt loops.
"Depends," like Derek's eyes aren't already fixated on Stiles' mouth, "am I forgiven for being an ass?"
Stiles shrugs, curling his own hand around Derek's neck, tugging him in closer.
"Am I forgiven for being a child?"
He feels the ghost of the word yes against his lips but the sound is swallowed between them before it can escape, lost in the press of Derek's mouth against Stiles'. The kiss is simple, soft; all lip and little tongue, the heat of Derek's hand on Stiles' hip, the lingering brush of Stiles' thumb across Derek's jaw. It's calm and easy, and Stiles still feels the thrill of it running through him straight down to his toes.
"That's more like it," he says breathlessly.
Derek laughs softly, and they're still close enough that Stiles can feel the warm exhale against his jaw.
"We're still missing the pie though," Derek reminds him. "Think you can manage to make a pie without setting the oven on fire?"
Stiles has to think about that for a minute - mostly because Derek's thumb has wormed it's way under his many layers of jackets and shirts and is brushing lightly against the bare skin over his hip bone, and that's so distracting Stiles isn't sure he could even manage to boil water right now.
"Can we make my death by chocolate pie?" he asks instead, because there's no better time than now to push his luck.
"Only if you stop calling it death by chocolate," Derek growls, and it's playful and easy, stupidly easy, even if the growling bit kind of makes Stiles want to lean forward and bite his way into Derek's mouth.
"Never," Stiles smirks, reeling Derek in close again.
"You drive me crazy, you know that?"
Stiles just kisses him, because it's a better answer than "yes, obviously, it's a skill I've been perfecting for months." In fact, there are plenty of ways Stiles can drive Derek crazy without using any words at all.
Derek doesn't seem to have any complaints about it.
Fireman Derek's Crazy Pie quickly becomes the most popular non-burger item on the menu at Cheeseburger Baby, enough so that Laura eventually badgers Stiles into coming in a few afternoons a week just to bake them (Derek, bless him, refuses to share the recipe with anyone but Stiles, who doesn't even try to pretend that he doesn't find his boyfriend adorably romantic).
In theory, Stiles gets an unlimited supply of free pie and one burger and fries combo for every day he works. But Laura makes them put a dollar in the tip jar every time she walks in on them making out in the restaurant's back kitchen, and, well, Derek's stopped taking on extra shifts at the fire house so he doesn't miss any alarms at the NYU dorms, so he's got a lot more free time to hang around his sister's burger joint these days...
Well, whatever. Stiles gets burgers, Stiles gets fries, Stiles gets a hot fireman and a sassy baker and sex and pie and not-always-just-apology-brownies and kisses and Stiles gets Derek.
That's worth coughing up a couple dollars for the tip jar every few days.
(Okay fine, every few hours. Every hour. A couple times an hour. Whatever.)
I'm thegloryof on tumblr, come cry about Dylan O'Brien with me.