“I’m telling you,” Scott says as they stand, chairs scraping against the tiled floor. “Coach says if I don’t get my Spanish grade up he’s going to boot me from the team.”
“But a study group. On a Friday? A Friday?" Stiles' fingers curl tight, a white-knuckle grip around the strap of his backpack as he warms to his argument. “What kind of weirdo organizes a study group on a Friday? People have plans! We have plans. Longstanding plans! Regular plans! Of a weekly nature!”
“Yeah. I mean, I’m not sure playing Fallout in our underwear and eating our body-weight in pizza actually—”
“Plans!” Stiles interrupts, shooting Scott a betrayed look. “Special plans. Bro-tastic bonding plans!” They trudge through the corridors together at a snail’s pace as the other students surge round them like the tide. This whole thing is unbelievable. It’s Friday, goddammit. It’s the end of a long week. They should be going home together and chilling out. “Could you suggest moving it to another night? Like Tuesday? Tuesday is a nondescript kind of a day. It’s the beige of days. They could move it to Tuesday and nobody would care.”
“I hear you, but it isn’t up to me. I’m not the only person in the group.”
“Dude.” He reaches out a hand and places it on Stiles’ shoulder. “I’m sorry. Maybe we could, I don’t know, meet another time? Like Saturday morning or—”
“Saturday morning?” Stiles sputters, outraged. “Saturday morning is for sleep, Scott! Sleep! No one should be doing anything on Saturday morning. Saturday morning does not exist. The only acceptable reasons for being awake on a Saturday morning are A: You have a job, B: You have a date, or C: You’re fighting off a zombie horde because the apocalypse has occurred.”
“I can’t even believe you would suggest Saturday mornings. We can’t order pizza on a Saturday morning. That would be, like, breakfast pizza. Everyone knows that breakfast pizza has to be left out in the box overnight to congeal. The crust has to be hard, there has to be that nagging feeling in the back of your mind that you might get food-poisoning.”
“I don’t make the rules, Scott! Any pizza consumed between the hours of 7 and 11:30 in the morning has to be at least, at least, seven hours old. It’s like fine wine. Once it’s opened you have to let it breathe.” Okay, he doesn’t know shit about wine, apart from what he picked up that one time he drank Mountain Dew before bedtime and accidentally stayed up till 3AM watching a PBS documentary about winemakers in Oregon, but still, the point stands.
“We could buy the pizza on Friday and leave it out till Saturday to eat it?”
“I’m gonna pretend you didn’t say that.” Stiles shakes his head and sucks in a breath through his teeth. “And even if we did that, even if, we can’t play Fallout in our underwear on a Saturday morning. It’ll be weird.”
“I don’t even know who you are any more, Scott.”
“Aw, man! Don’t be like that. I love Bro-Night, but you know how important it is to me that I stay on the team.” He stares at Stiles, with his big, puppy dog eyes. Stupid puppy dog eyes. Stupid friend. Stupid lacrosse. Stupid coach. Stupid fucking Spanish study group. “You could come with me to the group?” Scott suggests.
“Wha—?” Stiles moans, massaging his temples. “I don’t even take Spanish!”
“I know, but—”
“And besides, why would I learn another language? I already speak Polish and German.”
“You only know how to swear in German,” Scott points out as they come to a stop outside the door to the library.
“Bah!” He waves a hand dismissively. His Dad’s family is Polish, his mom’s is German; so when Grandma Stilinski decided that little Mieczyslaw needed to learn Polish, Grandpa Stein retaliated by trying to teach Stiles German. Unfortunately they never saw enough of him for much to stick, or at least, nothing Stiles can use in polite company. “The point is, why would I attend a study group for a class I don’t even take! I’m just going to come in with you and politely point out that only a complete loser with no social life would ever organize a study group on a Friday.”
“Stiles—” Scott looks pained.
“It’s fine, buddy. You don’t have to thank me.” He pats Scott on the shoulder. Sighing, Scott pushes the door to the library open and Stiles follows him through automatically. “You just leave it to me,” he mutters, “I’m gonna have a little word with whoev—” Stiles' voice dies in his throat as he takes in the scene before him.
There’s a gaggle of students gathering around the table farthest from the door. Three girls, two guys, and one god in a pale grey windbreaker and a Chess Club t-shirt. Stiles' hands fall to his sides and all he can do is stare.
“Right,” says the new love of Stiles’ life. “Um, I-If you could all take a seat. We have a lot to get through.” Stiles’ mouth opens, then shuts, then he swallows, as his gaze sweeps over dark hair, pale eyes, thick, black-rimmed glasses, buckish teeth and braces, fucking braces. Stiles’ fist flies to his mouth, and he bites down, hard. This guy, this freaking guy. They are going to get married and adopt buck-toothed babies, or dogs, or maybe both, and teach all of them to play chess, in Spanish. It’s going to be fucking beautiful. Across from them, Stiles’ future husband is shuffling a bundle of papers nervously, mouth tilted down as he glowers at the other students.
As Stiles watches, the guy takes a deep breath, like he’s gonna huff out the world’s most long-suffering sigh, then he goes completely still, his gaze flicking immediately over to where Scott and Stiles stand in the doorway. The guy’s eyes go wide, like a deer caught in the headlights. For a long moment they stare at him and he just stares right back, like he can’t quite believe what he’s seeing. Then the guy seems to shake himself out of it, he releases the breath he’s been holding and raises an impressive eyebrow in a question.
“Look,” Scott says in a low voice, turning to face Stiles. “I know this sucks, but after this one I’ll talk to him and see if we can change the—Ow!” He breaks off as Stiles elbows him sharply in the ribs. “What the hell?”
“I can’t believe you would think about cutting out on this study group,” Stiles hisses. “Your—no— our education is important.”
“But—I. What? ”
“Come on!” Stiles says in a harsh whisper. “We have to make sure you stay on that team. I am very, very invested.”
Scott is staring at him suspiciously. “Stiles-”
“You don’t need to thank me, I’ve got your back, buddy, and we are gonna get through this, together .” He grabs Scott by the arm and drags him over to the last pair of vacant chairs at the table. Sitting down he rifles through his bag and pulls out his pen, jams it into his mouth and starts chewing. Then he settles back in his seat, transfixed by the vision before him.
“So,” the guy says, looking round at them all with a slight frown. “If you’re here it’s because Ms. Mendoza has recommended you attend to help improve your Spanish grade.” His gaze sweeps the room before coming to rest on Stiles, who stops mauling his pen long enough to give an encouraging smile. The guy glowers back at him and then with a put-upon sigh, ducks his head and glares down at the papers spread out on the table. Immediately his glasses start to slide down his nose and he jabs them back with an angry finger. Stiles hasn’t attended that many study groups, but he’s pretty sure the people who run them are supposed to be more enthusiastic than this. Taking a deep breath the guy grudgingly says, “I—uh—maybe if we just go round the group and introduce ourselves and say a little bit about why we’re here. Then I thought we’d practice pronunciation, okay? So, my name is Derek, I’m a senior. And you are?” He turns to the girl on his left.
“Kira,” she says, “I’m a junior, and I’m just really bad at well— all of it.” She looks round at them; next to Stiles, Scott sighs dreamily.
“You’re bad at all of it?” Derek repeats.
“Yup!” She smiles weakly. “Impressively bad, those were Ms. Mendoza’s exact words, but my pronunciation is the worst, soooo yeah-- That’s me!” She flutters her fingers nervously, as if to say, ta da!
“Great,” Derek says faintly. “That’s just great.”
Next to him, Scott is making the kind of heart-eyes at Kira that Stiles hasn’t witnessed since the Allison debacle a year ago.
The others in the group say their names one by one, smiling at each other awkwardly, but Stiles tunes them out, he’s too busy staring at the way the sleeves of Derek’s shirt are just a little too short, revealing strong forearms covered in dark hair. Sexy hair. Stiles wants to rub his face on it. It's probably soft and-- Scott clears his throat, pulling Stiles out of his reverie. “My name is Scott,” Scott says, glancing round nervously. “I’m a senior, and I need to get my Spanish grade up to keep my place on the lacrosse team.” Scott addresses most of this to Kira who offers him an encouraging smile. He continues, “I feel like I’m pretty bad at all of it too, so— yeah.” At that, Kira beams and Scott grins back. God, they’re going to be sickeningly cute together, Stiles can see it now.
Then, as one, everybody turns to look at Stiles, who clears his throat. Fuck. They’re going to work on pronunciation and he barely speaks a word of Spanish, he has not thought this through. “My name is Stiles,” he rasps, “and I have laryngitis, so I won’t be able to talk much today.”
Derek levels a long look at him, nostrils flaring slightly. “Okaaaay, ” he says, after a long moment, his mouth all tight and disapproving, eyebrows bunched together in a frown. And Stiles can almost hear the disbelieving ‘ if you have laryngitis, then what are you doing here ?’ It’s there in the tense set of his shoulders and the clench of his jaw. Thankfully he doesn’t challenge Stiles on it though. Instead he rifles through the papers on his desk, picks up a file and grinds out, “We’ll just have to work round that. I guess you can make a start on these worksheets.”
He’s so prepared. Like a boy scout. A grumpy, sexy, boy scout with braces and white tube socks, Stiles smiles beatifically at him. “Thank-you!” he mouths, and Derek fumbles the file, papers scattering across the table. The tips of his ears are pink.
“Full disclosure,” Stiles says as he and Scott walk back to the Jeep later. “I’m going to go home, jerk off, and then work out the names of all the dogs me and Derek are gonna adopt when we finally get together, because I think he’s a dog person. Does he look like a dog person to you?” He fishes a warm can of Pepsi from his bag and pulls the tab to open it.
Scott squints at him. “Do you think we share too much?”
“Actually, I may have to jerk off twice. Did you see the braces?”
“Uh-huh,” mumbles Scott, “definitely too much.”
“But the braces, Scotty! Did you see?” He takes a long swallow of his drink.
“I mean… yeah? I saw ‘em, buddy.”
“So you know exactly what I’m talking about. Oh my god. There’s so much to do.”
Scott side eyes him, hard. “I—uh—I’m happy for you, and everything,” he says carefully, “but I don’t really wanna know about your personal Stiles time, or—”
“No! No, no, no. Not that. I mean I have so much to do because I have to woo him. I have to make plans.”
“Couldn’t you just,” Scott scratches his head, looking adorably confused. “I don’t know, ask him out?”
Stiles nearly chokes on his drink. “Ask him— Ask him out? Just like that. Great idea, Scott. While I’m at it, why don’t I just ask the coach to make me first line for lacrosse this year or call the FBI and see if they’ll make me an intern, maybe let me help out with a major investigation, I’m sure there’s an escaped serial killer I could bring to justice!” He glares at Scott. “Ask him out? This is the real world, Scott! I can’t just ask out Derek Hale! Did you see the windbreaker?” He flails. “Did you?”
“Uhhhh—” Scott shrugs hopelessly. “I—I did?”
“Life doesn’t just hand you a Derek Hale, Scott. You have to work for it. This will require careful planning.”
“I’m going to need a whiteboard. Three different colors of string. Issues of the school newspaper going back for the last three, no, let’s say four years, every Spanish textbook in the library and caffeine. Lots of caffeine.”
“Well for one thing I’m learning Spanish now, obviously .”
“So you’re gonna join the class?”
“Noooo. I’m just going to come to the study group so that I can get to know Derek. Which means I need to know just enough Spanish to be believably bad at it.”
“And you’re already bad at Spanish so you can totally help me prep.”
“You can be my Yoda! And! And! Teaching me will help reinforce what you know! You see? Peer learning! It’s mutually beneficial. If my plan goes right, you will keep your place on the lacrosse team and I will successfully woo Derek. I’m telling you it can’t go wrong.”
“But you don’t know any Spanish at all .”
“That’s not true! I can say ‘mi nombre es Stiles,’”
“And,” Stiles hurries on “‘puedo abrir la ventana, por favor,’ and ‘el humo de la pintura me está haciendo mareado,’”
Scott double takes. “What now?”
“ It means ‘Can I open the window please, the paint fumes are making me dizzy’. At least, I think that’s what it means.” He winces. “I memorized that stuff two summers ago when I tried to help my neighbor, old Mr Hernandez, redecorate his living room, but I used google translate and I wasn’t a hundred percent about the pronunciation sooo—”
“Oh god, yeah. I remember that. Didn’t you break your leg, falling off a ladder?”
“Yeah,” Stiles says fondly. “Spent the rest of the summer with my leg in a cast playing Call of Duty. Good times.”
Scott jams his hands in his pockets. “Look, I wanna help you, dude, I do. Just promise me you won’t turn my study group into an episode of the Bachelor? Because I need this, man. Lacrosse is important to me.”
“I would never, never, put your lacrosse career at risk, Scotty.” Stiles says, hand on his heart. “Never.”
Six cups of coffee and an Adderall later, it’s 3AM and Stiles is still hunched over his computer, googling Derek Hale whilst simultaneously listening to a Youtube video that promises to teach him Spanish in five days. And he’s doing puh-retty well, even if he says so himself.
“G, gato, h, Helado,” he repeats dutifully after the voice on the video. “i, imán, j, jirafa.” Sure, he isn’t entirely sure when he’s going to need to talk about magnets or giraffes. But that isn’t the point. He’s listened to this video five times now because you have to lay the foundations first. Baby steps.
Idly he clicks on another link, then sighs. Now that Stiles is looking for information about Derek Hale, it’s almost unbelievable to him that he hasn’t noticed the guy sooner. Sure, they don’t share any classes together, but that’s not the point. A cursory search of the school website reveals that Derek’s involved in the chess club, the AV club, the debate team and mathletes. All these years at BHHS and Stiles has been missing out, dicking about warming the bench in lacrosse like a fool, when he could have been basking in the presence of a chess playing math genius who likes to argue.
“Pedro es mi hermano,” he mutters, repeating after the video, while reading an interview with Derek in a back issue of the school newspaper after the mathletes team won the regional championships. Apparently Derek cites his favorite authors as JRR Tolkien and Neil Gaiman. “Yo soy de Sevilla.” Stiles mumbles. “Hoy es viernes. La fiesta es en mi casa.” Stiles loves Tolkien, he’s read the Lord of the Rings every year since he was twelve, but he’s never actually gotten round to reading Gaiman, sighing he opens up yet another browser tab. So much to research, so little time.
He isn’t honestly expecting to see Derek again until the next study group. After all, they’ve attended the same High School for years and have never crossed paths before. Over the next few days, though, it’s like Derek is everywhere. Stiles spots him walking across the parking lot, sitting in the library poring over a weighty looking textbook, striding through the hallways, backpack slung over his shoulder. Yesterday evening he was even in the bleachers reading while Stiles was at lacrosse practice, and now he’s in the cafeteria, just two tables over from Stiles, sitting with a pale-skinned girl with frizzy blonde hair and a tall black guy who is carefully scraping the last of the goop from his pudding cup with a serious expression. Stiles slurps at his juice box, cheeks hollowing and stares at them, trying to work out a plan of attack.
Next to him, Scott says, “You okay, dude?”
“Mmmhmmmm.” Stiles grabs a fistful of curly fries and stuffs them in his mouth chewing thoughtfully.
“Because I was thinking, if you’re serious about learning some Spanish, we could meet up this evening and go over some stuff. Whaddya say?”
“Uhhhh.” Stiles worries the straw of his juice box between his teeth, eyes boring into Derek, barely aware of what Scott is saying. Across from them, Derek looks over, like he can feel the weight of Stiles gaze on him, and for one moment their gaze locks. It fucking locks. And Stiles doesn’t think he imagines the charged atmosphere between them.
“Yuh-huh?” Still watching Stiles, Derek wets his lips then turns to say something to the guy next to him.
“Whaddya think?” Scott nudges him.
“About?” Somehow he manages to drag his eyes away from Derek.
“Practicing Spanish. At my house. This evening, after lacrosse practice.”
“Scott, mi fiesta es un hermano el Lunes,” Stiles says, slapping Scott on the back cheerfully.
“Ummm. Right. Okay,” Scott blinks at him and then sighs, scrubbing a hand over his face. “I’m just gonna pretend that’s a yes.”
Normally on Thursday, Stiles has lacrosse practice, then comes home, cooks dinner for himself and his dad, dicks around playing computer games, does some coding, surfs the internet and loses himself down a Google hole for a little while. Does homework. Jacks off. The usual.
This Thursday, he goes back to Scott’s and tries really hard to absorb all the Spanish he can. It turns out Scott’s a surprisingly good teacher, patient and earnest as he goes over the basics with Stiles. After a couple of hours Stiles feels like he’s made some progress. Sure, he isn’t at the stage where he could pass as someone who has actually studied the subject for any length of time, but he’s picking it up quickly and Scott seems happy with his progress. He even goes as far to admit to Stiles, “Y’know, I think teaching you really did help me! It feels like things are finally clicking.” Which makes Stiles feel marginally less guilty about the whole situation.
Once they’ve had all they can take of Spanish they sack out on the couch and play on Scott’s X-Box and Scott tells Stiles how he asked Kira out the other day and she said yes. He’s positively vibrating with happiness, and Stiles can’t help but be happy for him, even though his own love life is a wash out. Once six o’clock rolls around, Stiles disappears home to eat dinner with his dad.
He’s tired by the time he climbs into bed that night but he picks up the battered copy of American Gods that he found in the library today and ends up staying awake until 2am, because he just can’t put it down. Dammit.
The next day is Friday and Stiles is full of good intentions. He's gonna act cool, smile winningly, impress Derek with his amazing Spanish, and then, afterwards, stay behind and start a conversation about Chess or Math or American Gods or-- well. He'll wing it. He's done his homework. He's prepared. It's gonna be fine.
He strides into the room full of confidence, dumps his backpack on the floor by his chair and takes a seat next to Scott. Derek doesn't glare at him this week, doesn't acknowledge him at all, actually, but Stiles is undeterred. Shoving his pen in his mouth he leans right back in his chair, balancing on the back two legs, watching Derek attentively as he goes over the work he's prepared for them. The thing is, Stiles can't help but notice that as he talks Derek's gaze darts around the group, resting on everyone in turn but skipping over Stiles.
It's probably nothing, Stiles is being paranoid.
Once he's done the introduction, though, Derek walks around the table handing out worksheets, stopping to chat with everyone and make sure they understand what's required. He speaks to the whole group in turn before he finally stops next to Scott to go over declensions, and Stiles watches them out of the corner of his eye, still swinging back on his chair precariously, pen between his teeth.
He's definitely being paranoid.
Derek isn't, like, avoiding or ignoring him, right?
All his worst suspicions are confirmed a moment later, when Derek moves on from Scott with the last remaining worksheet, Stiles' worksheet, clutched in a white-knuckle grip. He seems so intent on not looking anywhere near Stiles that his foot catches in the strap of Stiles' backpack and he stumbles forward almost face-planting in Stiles' lap. Teetering on his chair in shock, Stiles only barely avoids tipping right back and landing on the floor. There's a lot of confused flailing and then Derek scrambles to his feet, face burning, he mumbles an apology and adamantly refuses to look at Stiles for the rest of the session, let alone speak to him. When the study group ends Derek shoves all his books and papers in his bag and all but sprints out of the library before Stiles can say a word.
Yeah. It's a low point.
Weeks drift by, but Stiles refuses to be discouraged. His overall GPA is good, one of the highest in the school, so learning a little Spanish on the side isn’t too much of a problem, and he and Scott end up meeting most days after school to practice.
It takes Derek a couple of Friday Study Groups to finally be able to look at Stiles again without blushing furiously at him, but eventually he seems to make his peace with Stiles' existence, (or at the very least, his presence in the group). For Stiles' part he tries his best not to make a fool of himself speaking Spanish, while simultaneously mooning over Derek, who is uptight and adorably nervous in a grumpy sort of way that pushes all of his buttons. There’s something about him that draws Stiles in. He’s kinda gruff and glowers at everyone like it physically pains him to have to talk to them, but he’s also knowledgeable, thorough and helpful once you get past the awkwardness of his manner.
These days, when Stiles finally goes home in the evening, he works on his actual homework, practices Spanish for an hour or so and then spends the rest of the time googling Derek—which, he assures himself desperately, is neither weird nor stalkerish.
Well. Maybe a little.
Fairly basic research reveals that Derek has two sisters. There’s Laura, who graduated high school two years ago and is now pre-med at Cornell. Then there’s Cora, a junior, who captains both the girls soccer team and the girls softball team at BHHS, and who is, legitimately, the scariest person Stiles has ever met. Which is saying something, okay? Because he has known Lydia Martin since he was five . Case in point, when he tried to say hi to Cora in the cafeteria the other day, she’d bared her teeth at him like a wild animal and said, “Fuck off, Stilinski, I’m not in the mood for any drama.”
So much for making nice with the family.
It doesn’t bode well, and nothing Stiles research uncovers makes him feel any better.
The Hale family live in a grand old house that borders the preserve on the outskirts of town. It’s the kind of place that speaks of money and a long history in the area, and the family seemed to have lived there for generations. Stiles can’t find much information on Derek’s dad, but his mom, well, not only is she some kind of lawyer, but she’s involved in the local community to a scary degree. Stiles had thought Derek’s extra curricular commitments looked impressive. His mom blows all that out the water. If there’s a committee, she’s on it, if there’s a cause to champion, she’s involved. From the Beacon Hills Gardening Club, to the campaign for a new crossing on Main Street to organizing the funding drive to replace the roof on the community center. It seems like nothing in this town happens without the involvement of Talia Hale, as if she’s the unofficial mayor of Beacon Hills or something. It’s sort of intimidating to be honest.
What with that, Cora’s outright rejection, and the way Derek spends every study group glaring morosely at him like he’s killed a puppy, as the weeks go by Stiles begins to doubt himself. Even if all the Hales he’s met didn’t seem to hate him on sight, he doesn’t think he could keep up. He’s always considered himself to be an okay human being, but the Hales must have superpowers to all be this good looking, and talented and involved in everything.
The more he uncovers, the more he wonders how he’ll ever ask Derek out. What can he say that won’t sound totally lame? When he finds a picture of Derek helping with the summer reading program at the public library he slams his laptop shut in disgust. This is the last straw. It's awful. A disaster. “What am I gonna do?” he mutters to himself, “Say, ‘hi my names Stiles and I’ve been warming the bench on lacrosse for the last two years while simultaneously working on my Call of Duty score, binge watching Netflix shows and maintaining one of the highest GPA’s in the school?’” Okay that last one isn’t so bad. He should probably lead with that.
It’s easy to let the doubts creep in though, to tell himself that perhaps he shouldn’t say anything to Derek. After all, it isn’t as though Derek seems to like him particularly. Stiles has been crushing on him for weeks, and they barely even acknowledge each other outside of study group. And in study group, wellllll, Stiles isn’t exactly showing himself to best advantage. He’s picking up Spanish fairly quickly, but he can’t really compete with students who have been to actual classes.
Two weeks ago they’d been discussing transport and travel in study group, and Stiles had falteringly tried to say he was afraid of flying. Is it his fault that the words for fear and shit in Spanish are so similar? Is it? Is it?
Honestly, after that incident it’s possible Derek thinks he’s an idiot, likely, even, judging by the way he’d glared at him, all pale and disapproving. He’d stiffly corrected Stiles and then pointedly turned his back to help Kira. Derek seems to like Kira. Stiles could swear he almost smiled the other day when she managed to get through an entire conversation in Spanish without mispronouncing a single word. Actually Derek seems to have warmed up to most of the group now except Stiles.
It’s disheartening, but maybe Stiles should make his peace with the fact that the closest he’s gonna come to having the man of his dreams fall for him, is that one time Derek nearly face-planted in his lap.
Sighing deeply he throws himself onto his bed and reaches for his copy of Good Omens. At least if he gets nothing else from this debilitating crush, he’ll have a passable knowledge of Spanish and a new favorite author.
It all comes to a head a couple of nights later, after he’s been staring way too long at Derek’s Facebook profile, mouse hovering over the Friend Request button as he plays chicken, daring himself to click it.
He’s feeling a renewed sense of hope today. They're eight weeks into their acquaintanceship and when they passed each other in the corridor this afternoon Derek had possibly, maybe, nodded at him. Which, okay, maybe it isn’t a friendly gesture, but it’s an acknowledgement and hopefully it means he’s gotten over the whole, almost-faceplant-in-crotch debacle.
Soooo, becoming Facebook friends wouldn’t be weird, right? They’ve spoken to each other a little at study group and seen each other around school. So— maybe Stiles could get away with taking things to the next level.
He shouldn’t do it.
It risks crossing the line from intense crush to actual stalker, and he doesn’t want to do that.
It’s in the middle of this train of thought that Stiles dad appears in the doorway unexpectedly, saying, “Hey kiddo, the pizza arrived." This causes Stiles to jerk in surprise and click the friend request button by mistake.
“Nononononononono!” he moans, clasping his head in his hands.
“Hey,” his dad mutters. “You’re the one who insisted on ordering a vegetarian pizza with low fat cheese and a whole wheat crust. I would’ve been fine with meat lovers.”
Stiles doesn’t bother to correct the misunderstanding, instead he stares desolately at the screen of his laptop. There’s no taking it back. It's out there now, and there's nothing he can do. Well, technically he could cancel the request, but it might still show in Derek’s notifications, and he’s pretty sure that cancelling it would look worse. He’s fucking screwed.
Getting to his feet with a woebegone sigh he trails downstairs after his dad.
What follows is the longest three hour internal freak-out Stiles has ever experienced. He chats to his dad on autopilot while simultaneously forcing down slice after slice of pizza that has had all the fun removed, and all the while in his own head all he can think is, ohshitohshitohshit, pretty much on a loop.
After dinner, his dad suggests watching a movie together, which is fine, his dad has been on late shifts at the station all week, they haven’t hung out much and Stiles wants to spend time with him. He isn’t great company though, he can’t take anything in, can’t follow the plot because internally he’s in full blown crisis mode. When he finally staggers up the stairs and crashes out on his bed, he’s come up with several different plans which will allow him to leave school forever in the face of Derek’s inevitable rejection, including emigrating to Poland to live with his great aunt, and homeschooling himself .
So when he finally musters enough courage to actually check his phone he’s absolutely floored to discover that Derek has accepted his friend request. He just sits there, slack-jawed for five whole minutes staring down at the notification in blank disbelief. He doesn’t even click on Derek’s profile at first. Can’t bring himself to do it.
Until he does, and then immediately sucks in a breath.
Sure, Derek doesn’t post much, but his sisters post a lot and so does his mom and they tag Derek in their stuff all the time. Like, all the time. There’s pictures of them all together celebrating birthday’s and Christmas and Thanksgiving. There’s a picture of Derek grinning up at the camera, with his arms round a great big black dog, that Cora (who has such an unholy love of hashtags that she even uses them on Facebook ) has tagged #derbearandlulureunited. A massive grin spreads over Stiles’ face, because he knew, he knew that Derek was a dog person! Although, he thinks, as he tilts his head and stares at the picture, that is one hell of a big dog, he was hoping for something more Labrador sized.
After an hour of scrolling through Derek’s feed and much consideration, Stiles decides his favorite post is an Instagram pic that Cora has shared to Facebook, which is tagged, #librarynerd #derbear #workingfortheman. It’s a picture of a very grumpy looking Derek wearing a pale pink button down and a goddamn sweater vest over ratty jeans and battered looking chucks. There’s a lanyard round his neck, and this, this, is how Stiles discovers that Derek works at the public library on Saturday mornings.
It’s almost too good to be true.
It sends Stiles into another tailspin of indecision.
Should he just show up there? After all, they’re friends now. Facebook official and everything.
Would that be weird?
It would be weird.
He shouldn’t do it.
It’s a stupid idea.
Except, you know, for the part where he has stuff he could totally do at the library. There are legitimate reasons to be there. There’s that book his dad borrowed that needs returning and… and… there are books there on... things… things that Stiles probably needs to read for school.
Maybe it’s not a totally crazy idea if he just happens to drop by there. And Saturday morning wouldn’t be a terrible time to do that, right?
Breaking every rule he’s ever made for himself, Stiles actually sets his alarm on Saturday, forces himself out of bed into proper clothes and stumbles blearily out of the house to his jeep, arms filled with school books, because today, today he studies.
That is what is happening.
The library is a public space. And he has a very important English paper due in, like, six weeks, and he should really get on that. So. That’s why he’s here. No other reason.
His heart’s pounding in his chest as he sneaks through the door to the library, eyes darting this way and that, like he’s half expecting to have Derek stalk out from behind the stacks, take one look at him and ask for the head librarian to have him banned from the building permanently.
That doesn’t happen though, and he manages to walk past the front desk, staffed by a sour-faced older guy with thinning grey hair and a tweed jacket, and find a little table in a quiet corner with a good view of the main floor. (Which is important because sometimes he likes to stare into the distance while he thinks about what he wants to write, okay? That’s all. It has nothing to do with Derek.)
Two hours later and Stiles has written three sentences on the use of the word ‘darkness’ in The Heart of Darkness, both in the title of the novel and as a symbol throughout the text.
Three lousy sentences.
Also, he hasn’t seen Derek.
Not that that’s a big deal, because he totally would have been here anyway studying, but still— he heaves a big sigh and looks around the library again.
This isn’t working, and the guy on the desk has walked passed three times now, mouth all pinched and suspicious, glaring at Stiles like he thinks he’s going to rip all the pages out of the book and then burst into song or something.
Maybe he should just leave, He hasn’t managed to do any actual work and he’s obviously not finding inspiration here, so--
Literally as the thought crosses his mind, Derek walks straight past his table, pushing a cart filled with books for reshelving. His khaki’s are just a little too short in the leg and tight round the ass, like he’s recently been through a growth spurt, and Stiles stifles a gasp and definitely does not stare. Instead he lifts his copy of Heart Of Darkness up so it’s covering his face and pretends to be completely engrossed in the book.
He is engrossed in the book. It’s a great book. Well, not a great book, he doesn’t really like it much, but it’s supposed to be a classic, sooooo.
After a long moment of staring unseeing at the book in front of him, he peers over the top warily, only to see Derek staring back at him. His brow is crumpled in a familiar frown and he’s holding a book absently, just holding it, but not putting it on the shelf where it belongs.
“Hey,” Stiles croaks. “Hey, Derek. Hi. It’s me. Stiles.”
“I know,” Derek says one eyebrow lifting.
“Yeah? Yeah. Of course you do. No. Yeah. Right. I was just, reading. You know. English paper. Hah.” He jiggles the book in Derek’s general direction and Derek’s eyebrows lift higher, disbelief written all over his face. “What?” Stiles says, stung. “I can read .”
“I know that ,” Derek says tightly.
“Really, then you might want to tell your face, because—”
“Your book is upside down.”
Stiles glances down to the book, and then yelps, slamming it onto the table, cheeks burning.
Fuck. Fucking fuck. Oh god. He’s so fucking screwed.
He can’t even look at Derek right now.
Except he can’t not look either. It’s like he’s having an out of body experience. Like the time he accidentally drove his jeep into a tree and there was that moment, just before, where he knew it was happening, he knew it was all going wrong and he all he could do was watch it happen in slow motion.
With a deep shuddering breath he takes a look up to see Derek’s still standing by the cart, still holding that same book, still watching him, his expression unreadable.
“Fuck,” mumbles Stiles. “I’m sorry.”
Derek frowns. “What for?”
And there’s no way to answer that without completely incriminating himself so instead Stiles just shrugs and stares down at the three sad little sentences he’s written. Out of the corner of his eye though, he sees Derek place the book he’s holding on the shelf and then approach his table, slowly, cautiously, like Stiles is some kind of skittish animal that might run at the first time of trouble.
“Stiles, are you okay?” He says it gruff and surly, like he always is, but Stiles thinks he can hear the concern bubbling just below the surface.
Scrubbing a hand over his face, he looks up at Derek, who is just standing there, watching him, nostrils flaring, arms hanging straight down by his sides, hands balled into tight fists, like he wants to fight whatever it is that’s upsetting Stiles. There’s this weird open look on his face, eyes wide and vulnerable behind the glasses. It’s too much. It’s just—too much.
“No!” Stiles groans. “No, I’m not.”
“Well, uh, what--what’s wrong?”
And that, that, is the last straw. Stiles explodes.
“You! You’re what’s wrong. Jesus. Look at you.” He flails a hand in Derek’s general direction.
Derek’s mouth drops open and he looks down at his faded t-shirt, and khaki pants, fists still clenched tight. “Wha—?”
“You’re just too perfect, and I can’t take it any more. I can’t. The glasses, the eyes, the goddamn braces. The way you’re all gruff and angry one minute and then you take all that extra time helping Scott with his declensions and Kira with her pronunciation. The way you smile when you think no one’s watching. It’s been weeks and I feel like I’m slowly losing my mind.” He pushes himself to his feet and starts to pace the floor. “You’re smart and you’re funny and you’re fucking gorgeous, and I’ve just spent weeks stalking you on the internet and on facebook and now I’ve turned up where you work , because I just can’t— Fuck. I’m attending a fucking study group for a subject I don’t even take because I can’t stop thinking about you. All of which makes me sound like a psychopath so—” he kicks a chair in frustration.
All this time Derek’s been staring at him, his eyes getting wider and wider, fists clenching and unclenching, but at that he hisses, “I knew it! I knew you didn’t take Spanish! You’ve never taken Spanish in your life. You have AP World Hist during Ms. Mendoza’s class and Econ during—” His mouth snaps shut and he looks away quickly.
“Well—” Stiles begins hotly, ready to defend the indefensible, and then his brain catches up with Derek’s words. “Wait. What? ”
“Nothing.” There are two little splotches of red high on Derek’s cheeks and he’s staring fiercely at the carpet, like he hopes it’s gonna swallow him whole.
“You know my class schedule. Why do you know my class schedule?”
Derek’s head snaps up and he glares at Stiles. “Oh, Derek, you’re so perfect, I’ve been obsessing over you for weeks, and it’s been hell!” he sneers lowly. “Big whoop, asshole, I’ve been obsessed with you since our freshman year when you told that asshat Harris that he was a misogynist and that gender was just a social construct. I know every class you take. I started reading Tolkien because I heard you tell Scott that you liked it. I’ve been sitting in the bleachers at every goddamn lacrosse practice and game for three years just to get a glimpse of your goddamn ass in those shorts.” He breaks off, breathing hard, like he’s just run a marathon.
“Oh my god, you like my ass?” Stiles stares at him blankly. Then, “Oh my god, you like me. ” His brain is kind of broken.
“Yes.” Derek whisper shouts. “Your ass, your hands, your sense of humor, your brain, your abrasive fucking personality, your smile. The moles. Don’t get me started on the goddamn moles. Or the way you—wooooah!” Stiles grabs him by his sweater vest, pulls him into the stacks and kisses him. It’s clumsy and furious and a little bit bitey to be truly good, but at least Derek has stopped raging at him.
When Stiles finally pulls away for air, Derek slumps forward, forehead pressed into the crook of Stiles’ neck, glasses digging uncomfortably into the meat of his shoulder, his eyes are clenched shut, like he doesn’t trust himself to open them. “Fuck,” he mutters, taking a deep breath through his nose. “Fuck, I’ve always loved the way you smell.”
“That’s—uh—” Stiles isn’t sure what to say about that. As compliments go, it’s sort of good and also sort of creepy? He didn’t even shower this morning. “Thanks,” he settles on, and then, because Derek does actually smell pretty great, he says, “You too.”
He feels flushed and muzzy headed and hard, rock hard in his jeans, so after a moment he tugs Derek closer, kissing him again, softer this time, less aggressive. And he can’t stop himself pressing close into Derek’s body, hips jerking forward helplessly in a way that makes them both gasp and do it again, and again. It feels good. So good. He just wants to—
“Not,” Derek gasps, hips twitching forward anyway. “Not here. Not the library. I work here. We can’t.” He kisses Stiles hard, like he just can’t help himself. “We can’t. Gene.”
“Gene?” Stiles mumbles blurrily blinking at him.
“The guy on the front desk. He’ll fire me if he finds us like this.” The words takes a minute to penetrate the fog of Stiles brain, but when they do he reluctantly pulls away.
“Right,” he says, all blotchy pink and glassy eyed. “Well. Okay.”
For a long moment Derek stares at him, flushed and disheveled and kind of anxious looking. “You can’t come to that study group any more,” he blurts.
“Uh--oh. Okay.” And Stiles can feel the way his expression crumbles.
“You’re too much of a distraction,” Derek adds hurriedly. “I can’t-- I can’t think properly when you’re around.”
“Ohhhhhh.” Stiles’ shoulders sag in relief.
Derek hesitates, and then says, “I mean unless you’re really serious about learning a second language. In which case--”
“It’s okay,” Stiles says, waving him off. “I already speak Polish, twój tyłek dobrze dziś wygląda, by the way.” Derek bites his lip, gaze heated, and Stiles grins. “Besides I can always meet you after the study group and take you out somewhere nice.” He takes a step forward. “Like a date?”
Derek cocks his head considering. “That would work,” he says. “I’ll likely get far more done in the group if I’m not distracted watching you with your pen--”
“Pens. Drinking straws. Don’t act like you don’t know,” Derek says darkly. “You know. ”
Stiles stares at him blankly and Derek huffs out a long suffering sigh.
“How did you even end up running this study group anyway?” Stiles asks. Because it’s the one thing he’s wondered this entire time.
“Oh, uh, Ms. Mendoza talked me into it. She said it would be mutually beneficial. I could help the other students work on their Spanish and--” He looks away, ears turning scarlet.
“And that it would help me work on my people skills,” Derek bites out.
Stiles huffs out a surprised laugh and Derek’s scowl deepens. It’s adorable . “Don’t worry,” Stiles says, with a wink and a smirk. “I’ll help you work on your people skills.” And he leans into kiss him again.
“I believe that all men are just overgrown boys with deep problems communicating.”
Neil Gaiman, American Gods