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Staring into the sun

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Stiles doodles in the margin of his notebook, paying Professor Deaton very little attention. Out of the corner of his eye, he can see Mindy – she goes by Hit Girl and holy hell, does she deserve the title no matter how nonthreatening she might appear at first glance – twirl her pen around the end of one of her pigtails. It's interesting, being in a school like the Beacon Hills Academy, in a class that's composed of heterogeneous ages and… specials. It makes it a bit difficult to explain his daily life to his dad, but... Heck, he doesn't even know how he made the Sheriff even believe he was attending Vet school. Vet school? Stiles Stilinski?

He isn't going to look a gift horse in the mouth, though. He's pretty sure Scott and their legendary bromance has something to do with his dad's acceptance. The man simply gave him a speech about making sure he didn't choose his life path according to someone else's plan. It was very touching.

To be honest, he did choose his path according to someone else's plan, but it wasn't Scott's. It wasn't even Old Hale or Deaton's, even though their 'recruitment' had felt very much like a mandatory application. If he believed in God – they haven't been on acknowledgment terms since his mom's passing – he might have said it was His plan. But he's settled with... nature. Chaos theory and causality. Randomness.

Nobody made him what he is. He just is. And now he's learning to live with it. He's learning to deal with the fact that, just like regular humans don't know why they're born, he will never know why he was born that way. And maybe possibly learning to help, too.

Jackson leans over to whisper something to Danny and the brunette smirks, looking over somewhere to Stiles' right. As bored as he is, he refuses to follow the gaze, knowing that two rows ahead of him, on his right, is Derek Hale.

Being in a class with younger and older kids is pretty cool. He actually loves Mindy, she's a firecracker – he's not really surprised she and Lydia are related – but being in such an environment also involves having very hot 24 year old wet dream model guys in your field of vision all day everyday, taunting.

The fact that Stiles recently became legal doesn't give him any illusions. He's the king of unrequited. Just ask his former flame, Lydia. His ridiculous infatuation with Derek is hopeless. The guy hates Stiles almost as much as Jackson does.

Not that it means a lot that it's less than Jackson, Whittemore is a jackass of epic proportions, that's all. Literally, he's a cold hearted douche. He turns water into ice. And given that there is some proportion of water in the air, it means he can do it anywhere, and anytime. He's had fun creating black ice spots on Stiles' path for his own distraction since they were kids. Asshole. So yeah, Stiles hates him right back.

Derek's hatred doesn't feel any more pleasant, but at least it seems less personal. Derek hates everyone.

Sometimes, Stiles envies the powers he sees around him on a daily basis. Sometimes he thinks of how simpler life is when you don't have any of this shit to think about.

But these abilities, though. It takes a bigger man that Stiles is not to... drool over them. Danny can see through walls. Walls! It's awesome! And creepy. A little bit.

Scott, Stiles' blue sky and sun, is able to run faster than a speeding car. Stiles remembers the day he raced Jackson's Porsche and the billionaire was so pissed he almost crashed his precious baby trying to catch up. Since, he's found revenge on calling him Scott Swift – something the whole school adopted with delight upon hearing Scott listened to Allison's Taylor Swift albums.

Speaking of the pretty brunette, Allison is a tech whisperer, a technopath. That's what Stiles calls her, anyway. She can get inside a computer, an electronic chip, a dishwasher' motherboard and retrieve any info, or bend it to her will. To an extent. Deaton says in time she'll be able to do a lot more and from a distance.

Boyd sources energy from... a lot of things. Running car engines, storms, sunlight. It's already impressive and Peter says it will be much more later on. Boyd is a giant and already goes superhuman when he releases the energy, but apparently it is limitless. Stiles can understand the concept in theory: if you can source the sun, you have a good long while until you're tapped out. But in reality, he can't wrap his mind around it. He doesn't have empathic abilities, but he can tell Boyd is terrified by the implications. Deaton is keeping a close eye on him and Boyd is understandably very careful in his explorations of limits.

Isaac creates sparks and controls fire. It's pretty great on the 4th of July.

Greenberg turns into slime. Which is... fitting.

Derek... Derek's another story. Having hereditary abilities isn't unheard of. Most come from genetic mutations and they can be passed on through generations. Mostly, though, they pop up randomly all over the gene pool. The Hales case is very specific, however. They have passed on pretty much the same characteristics through centuries of family tree. Deaton is fascinated. And every time he looks so, Derek huffs and looks like he wants to disappear, while Peter just preens.

They can turn into wolves. Actual, mother freaking wolves. How cool is that?! They have two options. A complete wolf out, becoming a creature that legends, horror movies and nightmares are made of – a wolf that looks a lot like the actual animal, only much larger –, and a partial wolf out, claws and twisted facial features, fangs and glowy weird eyes but... somewhat human silhouetty.

He's only ever seen Derek in the hybrid state. Peter had explained the full change is harder to control and Derek didn't feel comfortable with it yet. He felt dangerous. That was a while ago, but he might still have control issues, if the conversation Stiles overheard recently between him and Boyd is anything to go by. Boyd approached him about Chi and mentioned exercises to center oneself. Derek snorted but listened with attention.

Watching Derek shift in his chair and flip a page on his notebook, Stiles realizes he's failed in his attempt not to stare at or think of Derek for the entire class.

Anyway, powers.

Erica-...

-Are you not focusing again?- Stiles jumps and recoils in his seat. -I'm not giving you my notes if all you've done during this class is stare at Derek's ass.-

And Lydia... Lydia's a freaking telepath.

And a mind reader, apparently.

He glares at his desk and thinks loudly. -I can't see his ass from here.-

-Aha!- He can picture Lydia's victorious smirk. Her abilities have developed so well that she can now channel someone else and allow them to communicate an answer back to her. -You were looking.-

-Shut up.- He counters. -I was thinking about all of you guys and your powers.-

He can almost feel her start to answer, but Deaton calls the end of the class so instead, she gives him a look and walks over to Jackson.

Stiles often wonders what Lydia's boyfriend would do to him if he ever learned they were friends. Talking-at-night-while-lying-in-bed-in-separate-wings-of-the-house friends. It makes him wish he could turn invisible, just in case Jackson ever found out.

Sometimes Stiles wonders why she picked him to begin with, to be her secret confident. Was it because of his relationship with Jackson? She often used their talks to vent about him. Was it because of the worship/crush he had on her while growing up? Is it why she started talking to him as it began to wane?

Once upon a time, having Lydia's voice in his head sighing about calculus exams while he lay in bed in the dark would have done very different things to Stiles. These days now, it's like talking to a close friend on the phone.

Close, but hidden.

He doesn't know how he feels about that. He never dared asking her why.

His attention snaps back to the present when Scott is being playfully shoved into his side, sending the pens in Stiles' hand skittering across his desk and on the floor. Someone is teasing Scott. “...-not like Boyd can't do what you can and so much more.”

“At least he's not like Stiles, right?”

“Yeah.”

“He doesn't do nothing. Why is he even here?”

“Pssh, I dunno. Ask Peter. Guy loves him. Maybe he's his pet.”

“Like a rent boy or something?”

Stiles has become used to ignoring the insults over the years. Being singled out as special but not showing any sign of power growing up while all your friends in the 'special school' started doing amazing things around age seven has familiarized him with concepts like 'lower class' and 'social outcast'. Scott was a late bloomer, that's how they bonded. Up until he was almost fifteen his running didn't seem superhuman. Now, though. Now, he's left Stiles in the dust. Quite literally.

They're still friends though. Because Scott is awesome and loyal and he doesn't give a fuck about what people think of weirdo Stiles.

The more pressing matter, in this precise moment, however, is whether Derek Hale is going to hurt him.

Stiles stares, terrified, as Derek stops in his tracks, foot hovering over the ground to avoid stepping on his pencil and ruler. His eyebrows are stormy when he levels his gaze at Stiles.

Stiles squeaks something that, to his ears at least, resembles a 'sorry'. Derek huffs and takes a longer step over the mess.

And suddenly, Stiles has enough of the hostility for a day. He lets his backpack fall from his shoulder with a stony face. “You good, Scott? On your way to your study date with Allison, right?”

“Yeah. You're not coming?”

“No. Sorry for ditching. I really wanna go run.”

 

 

@@@

 

Running is cathartic for Stiles. Scott doesn't get it anymore. He's forgotten what it feels like to fight against the pain when it gets too hard, to get the rush of adrenaline and the tunnel vision – tunnel mind, too, which Stiles really, really appreciate considering his ADHD – that comes with it. For Scott's it's become effortless. Well, until he hits the hundred K, but... that doesn't happen every day.

Stiles runs for nearly an hour, along the fields, the school grounds and deep into the forest. He's a bit sad that BHA isn't like Hogwarts and the forest isn't forbidden. The most dangerous things you can find in it would be the students, those who actually care for nature. He knows the Hales like to run in it too, being in touch with the animal side and all, but he's pretty certain they'll stay clear of him without even him noticing.

Well, Derek, at least. Peter is a little...

He's nice. But he gets creepy.

The professor has a strange fascination with Stiles. He's the one that 'detected' him and always insisted – sometimes, despite Stiles' protests – that he stay in school even without developed powers. And he loves to blur the lines between the wolf and the man. Not physically, but through behavior. Sometimes, when he's teaching and telling some story he really likes, he'll have a low growl in his throat that almost sounds like a purr. He'll do that a lot at Stiles, too. And he sniffs at people. At Stiles.

It's weird. If this was fiction, the Hales would be things like werewolves and Peter acts like he would want to recruit Stiles. Turn him.

Okay. Full disclosure. Were it possible, Stiles would be terribly tempted. Because the stuff he's seen Derek do just half wolfed out or in complete human form are amazing. Not Boyd-like impossible to imagine, but... pretty damn stunning.

And who wouldn't want to turn into the monster you thought were under your bed – or in Stiles' case, outside your bedroom window – as a kid? He'd have a damn dilemma.

(Un)lucky for him, you're either born that way, or you're not. So he's just Stiles.

He walks back to the school grounds along the field where Jackson and his friends play Lacrosse when they have spare time from having girlfriends and social lives. He has to wipe the sweat from his brow on his bare arm, which proves somewhat ineffective, and regrets not wearing his wristband. He hates it, though. The damn thing is itchy, and it makes one spot too warm. But damn, does it come in handy.

He's blinking furiously - sweat stings - and in a hurry to jump in the showers when he gets to the locker room. Water is running, but it's not until he walks in on a completely nude, wet, naked, gorgeous and bare Derek Hale, standing under the spray in a puddle of foam, that he reconsiders his ability to handle common showers. With anyone. Ever.

What exactly happens is: Stiles walks in, Derek looks up, Stiles lets out a very manly 'eeep!' and scrambles backwards around the wall so hastily that he falls over.

He went from 'cardio' to 'V fib' in two seconds flat.

Stiles isn't sure because the sharp pain on his backside and the embarrassment cloud his mind for a little while, that and the picture seared into his brain – he doesn't know if he hates himself or loves himself for not actually having registered Derek's junk – but he may hear Derek laugh quietly over the wall.

He winces as he sits up and rubs the wrist he used to break his fall. “You okay?”

Derek is standing a few feet away from him, wrapped in a towel that is both too small and way too big for Stiles' liking. Eyes up there, Stilinski, he chastises himself. He's pretty sure everyone down to the teachers know of his infatuation, but he would love to be able to keep it under control. Maybe he should talk to Boyd about Chi.

Focus, Stiles!

“Yeah!” he blurts out. “Yeah. I'm... oddly used to landing on hard surfaces until I bruise.” He pushes himself up. “Only most of the time Jackson's somehow involved.”

Derek nods. It's not a blank stare of 'what is this creature that makes noise at me?' that he has been known to give Stiles at times. For a guy as broody and solitary as Derek, a nod at an attempt at humor is as good as a grin from Scott.

He's probably reading too much into it but Stiles reads too much into everything when it comes to Derek.

Derek looks him over briefly, as if checking if Stiles is somehow lying and needs a wheelchair, then heads towards his gym bag. Meanwhile, Stiles is busy being utterly mesmerized by the way his hair is flat on his head instead of the usual gelled up.

Somewhere in the back of Stiles mind, it registers the possibility that Derek might have been running the woods too.

“Nice... ink,” he blurts out despite himself as he tries not to watch Derek slip black jeans directly under his towel. In his defense, he isn't exactly known for his self control.

Derek glances back at him, yanking the towel off. He doesn't look murderous. He'll count that as a win.

“Familly crest, right?”

Derek nods, grabs his bag with one hand and walks off, towel still balled in his fist.

“Okay.” Stiles says and turns towards the showers. “Good talk.”

 


 

2.

 

Stiles swings a little higher this time, above the knee, and Erica lands from her jump heavily. She hisses at him, features more feline than they were a second before. The staff is steady in his hand as he shifts his balance on the ground. “Easy, Cat Woman. We don't have to keep doing this.”

Stiles is pretty handy with martial arts that require any type of blunt weapon. Staffs, clubs, bo staffs. Somehow, all his usual flailing has allowed him to embrace the objects as extensions of himself without much effort.

Compared to the weapons the others handle – most of them inbuilt –, it doesn't seem like much, and he's gotten some grief for it. However, an unfortunate challenge from Jackson a few months back has made people lay off this particular argument.

It happened in Old Hale's class. Jackson was teasing Stiles as Peter corrected his hold on a specific movement. “Oh please, I can take you.” Aggravated by a frustrating training session and hours of merciless teasing, Stiles let the snark slip.

In an instant, Jackson was on his feet and snarling at him.

Old Hale backed off the mat and smirked, saying that such a duel would be a perfect illustration of very different fighting styles and the way they came together. Stiles had a moment of panic, imagining Jackson taking pleasure into beating him into a pulp in front of everyone. Then he readjusted his grip on the wood and on his anger. He thought, I can do this.

He was right about the fight being vicious. Jackson aimed for pain, and Stiles came pretty close to taking a blow to the face. Eventually, he started to notice that what Jackson had over him in strength, he lacked in speed, and his moves weren't very imaginative. He didn't telegraph them much, but Stiles managed to avoid his hits and dance around him after a while. He started aiming a few jabs at the other teen, both rejoicing and dreading the furry he saw mounting in his eyes.

Eventually, Jackson grabbed at his staff and froze it, using a good stomp to break it. Scott protested that it was unfair, but Peter argued that in life they would have to face dangers that played dirty. Jackson smiled at that, satisfied with the idea that he had basically been given a license to hurt Stiles. Peter, however, gave Stiles him a look that conveyed his faith in his ability to hold his own. It was both disturbing and comforting. Fired up by the offense that it had been his staff that he had paid for with his own money, Stiles clenched his jaw and flipped it around, swinging it quicker now that it was lighter and shorter. It caught Jackson in the legs with all Stiles' strength behind it, dropping him on the mat.

Jackson howled in pain and cried fowl, but Peter shrugged and said he'd been asking for it. Stiles dropped his broken staff on the recumbent kid and spat “You owe me a new one.”.

He hadn't really expected Jackson to pay for new equipment, but, a few days later, he found a brand new staff by his bed. To this day, he wonders who paid for it.

“I need to train more.” Erica huffs, bringing Stiles back to the present. “I want to be able to keep up with Boyd.”

Stiles gives her a disbelieving look.

“No, I mean... I know it's not possible. But I want to be in the same squad. I want to graduate when he does.”

Stiles lets his arms fall at his sides and shifts to a normal standing stance. “Oh, you and... Huh. Since when?”

Erica bites her lip, cheeks coloring slightly, and shrugs. “I dunno. A few weeks. We took a walk together and... He's really sweet.”

Stiles smiles. “I'm happy for you.”

She flushes more and shakes her head. “I'm not talking boys with you,” she insists. “Guh! No way. Not unless we're talking about you.”

“Hey!” Stiles shakes his staff at her in a parody of a threat. “I don't know what it is with chicks and gay guys, but there is no way I'm telling you jack.” Like how bad his dreams have become since a certain brooding character has taken to making naked guest appearances in them.

“It's hot!” Erica justifies, picking up her water bottle and taking a swig. “God, I am so done. See you for dinner?”

“Okay.” Stiles watches her head for the showers and considers his options. He's itching for something. If he doesn't burn out the energy, he'll be bouncing off the walls until late into the night.

He goes running again.

This time it takes him forty minutes to quiet his mind and get the satisfying buzz in his limbs he aimed for. He gets back, pleasantly aching and tired. When he walks into the locker rooms, Derek is shouldering his gym bag, on his way out. Why do they have to keep running into each other here? Or at all for that matter?

At least no one's naked this time.

Derek looks up at him, and Stiles unroots himself from the threshold he's frozen on and heads for his locker. He was going to ignore Derek, but he has apparently caught the guy in the one day out of the year he feels like talking.

“You know...” Derek says quietly, somewhere behind him and Stiles tries not to startle too hard. “Aside from my uncle and I, you're the only one who runs those tracks in the woods.”

Stiles blinks at Derek, who's looking at him matter of factly. Like it's entirely normal for them to be talking about this and that the affirmation makes a lick of sense.

“I am?” So what? Is it Hale property or something? “Wait... How do you know? Are you tracking my scent?!”

“I'm not! I'm...” Derek frowns, leaning back slightly. “I happen upon it. You're... potent.”

“Oh my god! Are you saying I stink?!” Stiles feels hurt, because as much as Derek has displayed hostility towards him before, he's never felt like a target. Derek never taunted him or insulted him. He's shoved him out of his way and been physically intimidating, but Stiles never thought he was special. Derek hated people in his space. In his proximity. Or in his field of vision. Derek had been the exception, being a dick to Stiles just as much as he was to anyone else, treating him on equal footing with the rest of 'the specials'. Derek likes his space, but to the best of Stiles' knowledge, he's never been mean.

Derek opens his mouth and closes it. After a while he says. “I'm saying you're sweaty when you run. It makes your scent stronger.” Stiles knows he must be red in the face and look offended and mortified. Derek almost says something else but seems to think better of it, shaking his head and stalking off, muttering to himself. “This is why I don't talk to people.”

Stiles is left to stare at his retreating back and wonders why he fought so hard to stay in this school. Everybody hates him. And those who don't, safe for Scott, bless his simple soul, can't be bothered with him. He's had more interaction with Derek over the past few days than during the entire school year, but he's not really sure it's a good thing.

 

 

@@@

 

Stiles is hugging his knees to his chest, feet on the chair and nose buried between his knees when he feels something small hit his head and bounce off. He lifts his face and blinks confusedly at the blinding bright smile that greets him. “Hey, sourbunny. What's with the long face?” Mindy asks, hopping on the chair next to him.

He frowns judgmentally at her until she picks up the candy wrapper and lobs it into a nearby trashcan with ease. “Didn't you just get out of Deaton's office?”

“Mhm.” She nods. “He says he'll come out and get you in a moment. He's got some stuff to finish.” She rolls her eyes. “You know how he is with taking notes and shit.”

Stiles unfolds himself and sighs. “How'd it go?”

“Says I'll be able to kill soon.” Her smile is seriously scary considering her affirmation. “Dude, stop staring at me like that. I could, I don't wanna. Unless...” She taps her finger on her chin. “... you tell me who's got you so mopey.”

“I'm not moping. I'm tired.” He corrects. “Nobody's doing anything to me. I'm just... I guess I need a break.”

She crosses her arms and looks at him. She seems to accept his answer and stays silent for a minute. “What do you do with Deaton anyway? You know, since you don't do anything.” Which isn't entirely true, Stiles thinks, but it's not like he's going to correct her.

Deaton and Peter reserve hour long sessions to take students one on one and tutor them on their specific abilities. “Would you believe me if I said breathing exercises?” It's not even a lie. All the running he's been doing is for cardio and endurance. Apparently Deaton thinks yoga breathing techniques will help him gain focus and push his limits.

He's getting pretty tired of limits.

Mindy gives him a look like she's going to argue, but Deaton saves the situation by opening his door and gesturing Stiles in.

Stiles curls back into his protective posture as soon as he takes a seat. Seances with Deaton always make him feel, like he's seeing a shrink like when his mom died. Except Deaton is more perceptive than that. At first, Stiles thought it was his ability, but Deaton does plant manipulation. His office looks like a rainforest.

He always asks questions Stiles can't give him an answer to.

“Why do you think you're not sleeping well?”

Because he's eighteen and horny as fuck and everyone is hooking up but him and Derek fucking Hale put on a goddamn show for him that's seared into his eyes?

“Do you think it may have something to do with guilt?” Deaton's voice is gentle and coaxing.

Stiles blinks at him. “Guilt?”

“You've spent a long time here feeling like you didn't belong. And now that you could, you've decided to hide your abilities from your friends. Is it possible you feel bad about concealing the truth?”

Is it? He's never thought about it that way. But then he's trapped now. He would have to explain why he didn't say anything sooner. A few times, he's thought about coming clean and decided that he'd rather go one more year until graduation and come out to whatever unit he integrated later. “You mean friend, right? Singular.”

“What about Erica and Isaac? You seem pretty close with the cousins.”

Stiles huffs. “I wouldn't say that. They don't hate me. Which is a plus.”

“And Allison Argent?”

“Like she'd give me the time of day if Scott wasn't my best friend. And don't go saying Mindy because she's friends with everyone. I've even seen Derek smile at her. Once.”

Deaton stays silent for a while. He's expressed his disapproval about Stiles' poor self esteem countless times, to no avail. Stiles is the ugly duckling and he knows his place on the social map. He wonders how it is that every generation seems to forget how things work once they get past thirty. Is it senility already?

“What about Lydia Martin?” Deaton asks eventually.

“Wha-... What about her?”

The professor gives him a calculating look. “She talks about you a lot, you know.”

Really? “She does?”

“She told me about the... unusual way she's chosen to practice.”

“Oh.” Oh shit. Did she say when? Like in class and, oh god, in bed.

She probably didn't mention class judging from the way Deaton is watching him. He looks pleased and somewhat like someone who has a secret. “She seems to care a lot about you.”

Stiles finds himself smiling. “I like her a lot too.”