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The Moral of the Backstory

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The first time Derek came to visit, in early September, he said it was to keep them updated on supernatural shenanigans at home, but Stiles is pretty sure he just misses the company, because now it’s November, and Derek keeps showing up, even if there’s absolutely nothing interesting to report.

Through a series of logistical feats that Stiles is quite proud of, most of the pack ended up at Chico State together. Lydia insisted on accepting an admission offer from Stanford, and Stiles couldn’t blame her, and Danny’s busy getting a BA in surfing or whatever in Hawaii. It’s an easy hour or so from Beacon Hills down to Chico, so really it’s quicker for Derek to make the drive and update everyone at once instead of calling everyone individually. He’s nothing if not practical these days.

Stiles, Scott, and Isaac share a triple room, one of those rooms that’s on the corner of the building so it’s bigger than all the others on the hall. Their plan to room together overcame initial parental resistance when Stiles argued it was easier than trying to hide their “furry little problem” from potential roommates, and now their dorm has become the pack’s designated meeting place.

On this particular Saturday afternoon, Scott and Isaac are competing against Allison and Cora at Mario Kart, and from the sounds of their shouted insults, the girls are coming out on top. Stiles is sitting on his bed, dividing his attention between watching his friends and playing Candy Crush on his phone, and Derek is sprawled on the floor next to him, flipping through Stiles’s Intro to Psych textbook.

“You know, Derek, if you’re yearning for the authentic college experience, you could always just enroll next year.”

“I already have a degree.”

“You what?”

“In English Literature.”

“What the hell, dude! How did I not know that? Scott, did you know Derek went to college?”

Scott answers while launching a red shell at Allison.

“Uh, yeah. You didn’t know?”

“No!” Stiles puts on his best attempt at his father’s interrogation face. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

Derek shrugs. “You never asked.”

That’s fair. For all that things’ve been less hostile between them since Derek came back to Beacon Hills, they never exactly became confidants. Derek and Laura skipped town before Derek graduated high school and Stiles just… assumed. It’s not like Derek’s stupid, but he’d done a good job at hiding his wit under layers of angry scowls and leather. Stiles possibly hadn’t made the best first impression either, what with the trespassing on Derek’s property and digging up Derek’s sister’s grave. Yeah. Stiles wouldn’t have confided in himself either.

He stews on that for a few minutes before it’s his and Derek’s turn to take on the winners in the next round of Mario Kart. Derek’s pretty terrible—apparently werewolf reflexes don’t make up for a lifetime’s lack of interest in video games—but Stiles can outrace Allison and Cora any day, and the group settles back into a playful groove where Stiles doesn’t have to feel guilty about any other ways he might’ve completely misjudged Derek.

~~~

Two weeks later Derek’s back with the news that the creepy lady over on Jefferson—the one who always dressed, for some reason, like an extra from The Great Gatsby—was actually a witch. Not only that, but she’d been growing some sort of magical marijuana and selling it to the local high school students. The fact that nobody was seriously hurt didn’t make the Sheriff any happier about someone selling magical weed in his town.

Derek and Deaton figured out what was going on, and fortunately the witch didn’t put up much of a fight when the Sheriff’s department arrived to arrest her, which is why Derek hadn’t bothered to call anyone else from the pack back to Beacon Hills. No word yet on whether there are any Federal prisons equipped to handle a real life witch.

When Scott wonders aloud if magic weed affects werewolves, Derek looks put upon and declares the pack meeting over. (Scott may be the alpha, as far as all the werewolf magic is concerned, but running the pack is much more of a group effort these days. Plus there's the fact that Derek’s willingness to share information so freely is a huge victory for Scott.)

“You ever smoke in college?” Stiles asks later. He and Derek had been nominated to go pick up pizzas from the good place on Main that doesn’t deliver.

“No.”

“Seriously?”

“What’d be the point? It doesn’t do anything for werewolves.”

“I guess.”

Honestly though, it’s not like Stiles uses many illegal substances either. Most of his closest friends are werewolves, and Stiles has discovered that being in an altered state isn’t nearly as much fun when surrounded by a room full of sober predators. Besides that, the Stilinski men tend to be maudlin drunks, and Lydia only has so much patience for late night drunken phone calls. Stiles tells her she’s beautiful and he loves her and he misses her—Stiles isn’t in love with her anymore, but during Junior and Senior year she became one of his best friends—and Lydia tells him to go drink a glass of water, take an aspirin, and call her back when he’s not going to ramble like an idiot, which she realizes will probably be never.

The result is Stiles is mostly straight edge, and he’s mostly okay with that. With his ADHD and anxiety meds, it’s probably better that way.

“I didn’t really go to parties in college.” Stiles is surprised that Derek offers up the information on his own.

“More of the hang out in your dorm room with your lame werewolf friends type?” They’d left the pack watching Cal play USC in football on ESPN. It’s not lacrosse, but it’ll do in a pinch.

“If you mean ‘our shitty apartment’ and ‘Laura’, then yes.”

“You two were close?” Stiles can count the number of times Derek has talked about Laura in the past three years on one hand.

“We mostly just went to class and kept to ourselves.”

“Laura was in school too?”

“Who do you think made me go? Laura only got me to go back to high school by filling out all the paperwork for me and pushing me out of the car in front of the school.”

Stiles laughs, then worries for a moment that Derek will offended. When he glances over, Derek’s smiling too.

“I was pretty pathetic.”

“Was?”

“Shut up, Stiles.”

Stiles makes Derek carry the pizzas back to the dorm. Gotta put that werewolf strength to work.

~~~

Stiles sees plenty of Derek when he’s home for Thanksgiving and Winter Break, in part because his dad and Melissa—yeah, that’s a thing that’s happening now—have decided to adopt the Hales for the holidays. Stiles discovers that Cora learned to make amazing empanadas when she lived in Argentina, and Derek glares at him when he jokingly asks Cora to marry him.

“Touch me, Stilinski, and you lose an eye,” Cora says with a vicious smile.

She prefers to communicate with Stiles in threats. It’s their thing. Or at least that’s what Stiles tells everyone.

Stiles is still crazy curious about Derek’s hidden collegiate past—did Derek rock the leather back then? was he one of those lit majors that never left the house without his secondhand copy of On The Road? did he go through a vegan slam poet phase?—but he likes to think he’s gotten better at self-restraint, so he doesn’t always ask people uncomfortable questions just because he wants to know the answer right now. Besides, between holiday meals, visiting with Lydia, helping out at the station part time, and that mess with the pixies on New Year’s Eve, he’s too busy to ask many questions.

The pack heads back to Chico for the start of the new semester, and Stiles dives into Intro to Criminal Justice, the first class in his major, which has him feeling like a real college student. He lucked out and found a course on Magic, Witchcraft, and Religion that actually fulfills a Gen Ed requirement, and it’s got him thinking about talking to an advisor in the Anthropology Department about designing a second major in Folklore and Myth. It means more work, sure, but it should be worth it, since it’s his life plan to become a cop in the town that’s replaced Sunnydale as the weird-shit capital of California.

The next time Derek shows up, it’s early February, and what passes for winter weather in the Sacramento Valley is pretty well over. The pack is celebrating a beautiful, sunny afternoon by challenging some floormates to a game of Ultimate Frisbee. Stiles is the only normal human on their team. Allison hardly counts, what with all the crazy hunter training, and Cora’s new girlfriend is a Brownie from San Francisco, and no Cora doesn’t want to talk about it, shut up, Stilinski.

Scott has somehow convinced the other team that their group—the no saying "pack" in front of the Muggles rule is in full force—is just super into parkour. Except Stiles, who can't do backflips, keeps getting hit in the face with the Frisbee, and really needs a water break. His timing turns out to be perfect, since he otherwise would have completely missed Derek’s text that he’s just arrived on campus.

playing ultimate on the quad. save me

Ultimate what?

“You’ve really never played Ultimate Frisbee?” Stiles asks Derek when he arrives.

“Nope.”

“Dude, it’s practically a graduation requirement. Either this, advanced hacky sack, or playing bad Dave Matthews covers on guitar.”

“Laura made me play intramural softball with her one semester. So I could ‘make some friends and take out my rage on inanimate sporting goods' instead of on her.”

“That was totally your Laura voice just then, wasn’t it? HEY CORA! Derek’s making fun of your dead sister!”

Cora flicks him off without taking her attention away from the game for a second. Stupid werewolves.

“Wow, did you see that? Why don’t you tell her to take out her rage on the Frisbee instead of on me?”

“I’m pretty sure you deserved that.”

He probably does, seeing as his response to Derek opening up a little bit about Laura is to mock him. But Derek doesn’t actually seem to mind, which Stiles figures is a big step.

“Okay, just for that, you’re subbing in next. The main thing to remember is don’t claw the Frisbee…”

~~~

Slipping away for some time alone with Stiles becomes a regular part of Derek’s weekend visits, and Stiles continues assembling his portrait of Derek the young scholar.

It turns out Derek has read On The Road, but was never much of a Beatnik. He’s more into American modernism and Elizabethan tragedy, and he wrote a senior thesis on Eugene O’Neill. He had to try the slam poetry thing for a class once, but he hated performing in front of a group, and if he occasionally wore a leather jacket to class, it was because it gets cold in New York, not because he was trying to intimidate his classmates with his bad-boy good looks.

Of course he was never a vegan, he’s a werewolf.

Laura never could get Derek to really trust humans after the disaster that was Kate Argent, but she was onto something forcing Derek to go to school. It meant he couldn’t spend all his time brooding in their apartment, and he genuinely enjoyed most of his literature classes.

Laura earned her degree in Biology, then started an entirely unnecessary business walking dogs in Park Slope. Her clients couldn’t believe how even the most poorly trained dogs eagerly obeyed Laura’s commands. At the time Derek didn’t understand why Laura bothered having a job at all, but he says he gets it now. He doesn’t have to worry about money, but with the rest of the pack gone he’s kind of bored in between supernatural crises.

In return, Stiles tells Derek how he’s wanted to follow in his dad’s footsteps since he was a kid, expounds at length on ways to apply what he’s learned in Abnormal Psych to the “crazy-ass supernatural mofos” that are forever turning up in Beacon Hills, and coaxes Derek into playing in a pick-up lacrosse game.

By the middle of sophomore year, Stiles starts going home to Beacon Hills for the the occasional weekend instead of waiting for Derek to contrive a reason to visit, even though it means getting a ton of crap from Scott. (“Visiting your hot older boyfriend is a crucial part of the complete college experience, Scott!”) Stiles doesn’t always tell his dad he’s in town, but he figures what he doesn’t know won’t hurt him.

Derek takes a job coaching the Beacon Hills High School baseball team. They’re terrible, because they can’t really compete with lacrosse for attracting the best athletes in town, but Derek loves it anyway.

~~~

Stiles finds a plaid bow tie to wear to graduation. When he shows it to Lydia over Skype, she expressly forbids him to wear it. He wears it anyway, and if he intentionally ties it a little bit crooked so that Derek has to fix it for him, nobody else needs to know.

“I know you like me in plaid. It’s my signature textile pattern.”

Derek answer with an exasperated sigh.

“Did you walk at graduation?” Stiles asks. “Oh my god, please tell me Laura took pictures. I bet you looked adorably grumpy in a mortar board.”

“She took pictures,” says Derek. “You don’t ever get to see them.”

Stiles pulls Derek in for a kiss. “I bet I could convince you,” he says, waggling his eyebrows unsubtly.

“I think you need to go walk across the stage before I regret ever setting foot on this campus.”

After the ceremony’s over, Melissa stealthily snaps a photo of Stiles laughing and arranging his cap on Derek’s head. It really is adorable.