If Stiles had to describe himself in a few words, he would say that he was a genius, plaid-loving comic book nerd/cinnamon roll too good for this world! He would not, however, profess that he was any good at sports.
To be frank, Stiles and sports did not mix. Sports required a modicum of physical strength, agility, and prowess, none of which Stiles himself possessed. Which was precisely why it was absurd that the State of California required clumsy, ill-coordinated and accident-prone Stiles to pass Phys. Ed in order to graduate from high school. It was one thing to force him to attend, it was another thing entirely to expect him to participate.
“Bilinski, get your ass in here,” Coach Finstock hollered.
Stiles gulped and took one look at the aggressive basketball game happening on the court in front of him and blanched. The guys were all so violent and intense with each other, jabbing into each other with their elbows and tripping over each other’s feet. Stiles wanted no part in that. He tripped over his own feet just fine, thank you. Although, as someone more dude-inclined, seeing all those sweaty, muscular boys dashing around on the court wasn’t the worst sight. Just something he himself did not want to be involved in, whether the State of California mandated it or not.
“Really, I’m fine here, Coach,” Stiles said and patted the sturdy bench he was sitting on. It was a good bench. It’d been a companion of his for most of the year and it would be a shame to break up such a long and healthy relationship.
Coach Finstock walked over to him and huffed. “We need feet on the ground, Bilinski. We’re down a man so just get your butt out there and try not to get hit.”
“But—But—” Stiles protested as Finstock grabbed him by the arm and hauled him up. “I’ve got this back thing I shouldn’t mess with. It could be a sprain or a break even!”
“Look, do you want to pass my class or not?” Finstock demanded. “You still need at least a D- from me to graduate and get into whatever fancy smancy Ivy League school you’ve applied to. Don’t make me flunk you so hard that you’ll never get into Harvard.”
“Actually, Coach,” Stiles interjected helpfully, “I could still get into Harvard regardless of how well I do in gym. As nice as athleticism looks on a resume, it is nowhere near as valuable as academic excellence and my hours upon hours of extracurricular activities and volunteer work.”
“I don’t need a lecture right now, Bilinski!” Finstock cried, the veins in his forehead popping out. “I need more men out on that court! So get those feet moving! Do you understand!”
“Y-y-yes,” Stiles stammered nervously.
“You’re on Hale’s team.” Finstock pushed him towards the other boys who had all stopped playing and looked at Stiles with visible dread. “If you get your hands on the ball, just pass it to Hale. Remember that. Pass. It. To. Hale.”
“Right.” Stiles chewed on his nails, his anxiety running high. “Pass it to Derek. Shouldn’t be that hard. Yeah.”
It was indeed that hard. Stiles’ stamina had never been tested so much in his life. All this pointless running back and forth, attempting to get rebounds, and trying not to lose his “man” even though Stiles hadn’t the damnedest clue who that person was. His legs were dog-tired and his lungs were gasping for air as the game dragged on and on and on... Seriously, why would anyone ever do this for fun?!
Urgh, Derek Hale made it look so flippin’ easy. Artfully maneuvering past every person on the court and dunking the ball right into the net with a cocky grin stretching across his face while he dangled from the basket. He was honestly the world’s biggest show off. It wasn’t enough that he was a legend at Beacon Hills High; standout star of the basketball team, captain of the lacrosse team, and All-American in cross country. He just had to rub it in people’s faces all the time. Stupid jocks!
Stiles would’ve found Derek’s arrogant attitude downright intolerable if it wasn’t for his huge pathetic crush on said stupid jock. Yes, Stiles was already well aware that he’d fallen into an overused cliché. He, a nerd, was in love with the most popular and sought after boy in the whole school. He knew his crush was never going anywhere. Derek didn’t even know Stiles existed. And why would he? The guy was an Adonis. He was far above Stiles’ league. Still, that didn’t stop Stiles from scribbling Mr. Stilinski-Hale all over his notebooks.
In fact, it was his getting so distracted by Derek—because yes, Stiles was thirsty as fuck and would never regret taking every opportunity to stop and gawk at Derek’s rippling muscles and perfect ass—that caused him to miss seeing Jackson Whittemore stick his foot out and purposely trip Stiles while he was running with the ball.
It was one of Stiles’ more embarrassing falls for sure. The mortification alone of it happening in front of Derek made it worthy of The Loser Stilinski Hall of Fame. He went soaring through the air then face planted hard on the gymnasium floor. The whole class winced for him in unison as Coach Finstock blew the whistle and called a foul.
“I think I need the nurse,” Stiles moaned into the floor, deciding it was better for himself and his pride if he just stayed down for good.
A soft chuckle came from above him before someone took a hold of his arm and pulled him up off of the ground with ease. As if Stiles weighed nothing.
“Well, someone’s dramatic,” the laugh sounded again.
It would’ve been such a beautiful laugh if it wasn’t at Stiles’ expense. It was so deep and rumbly and pleasant to the ears. Stiles lifted his head to glare at the individual who was finding such jolly in his misery, ready to give the little sadist a piece of his mind when he recognized just whose arm he had wrapped around his waist, holding him up.
He lifted his eyes higher and higher until they were peering into the rainbows of Derek Hale’s eyes. Stiles low-key had an obsession with Derek’s eyes. They were unreal. He’d never gotten to see them this close before and had always thought they were a pale green but was thoroughly mistaken. Then he remembered that the reason he’d never seen Derek Hale’s eyes in such high definition before was because he’d never actually spoken to Derek Hale a day in his life! And now here he was…awkwardly standing there in Derek’s arms taking full advantage of Derek’s kindness in helping him up by ogling and objectifying him. Stiles was a terrible person.
Blushing profusely, Stiles jerked away and put a more appropriate distance between them. He didn’t dare make eye contact, fearing further embarrassment of becoming entranced by Derek’s good looks once more. Besides, Derek was supposedly a beef head jock and those guys were notorious for being self-hating homophobic closet cases. The last thing Stiles needed to do was get his face pummeled in by Derek’s fist.
“Sure you’re alright there, Stilinski?” Derek asked, looking almost concerned.
And, boy, did Stiles wish Derek could’ve been a giant asshole in that moment and done something totally dickish that would nip Stiles’ hopeless crush in the bud. But nooo, he just had to be prince fucking charming. How the hell did Derek Hale even know his last name anyway!
“Uh, yes—or no. I mean, I think yes—or maybe not,” Stiles barely managed to string words together. “My face… I think I might’ve sprained or fractured it or something. I might be dying. Guess I should probably get myself back to my bench now.”
He turned and gazed longingly at his bench, hoping to return to it and seek refuge until the end of the class period. But then he heard Derek’s low rumbly laughter again and swung back around, raising a brow, not understanding why Derek was finding this so damn funny.
“‘Tis no hyperbole, good sir!” Stiles said, peeved. “Take me by my word! I ail!”
“Hyper-bo-what?” Derek repeated, forehead creasing.
“Hyperbole,” Stiles said again then proceeded to explain, “It’s a literary device for exaggerated statements or claims that aren’t meant to be taken literally.”
“So, you’re not actually dying and don’t need to go to the nurse?”
“Great, then you should have no problem making these free throws,” Derek said quickly, cutting Stiles off before he could come up with a good excuse.
“W-wait!” Stiles protested as Derek dragged him to the free throw line.
“Let’s hurry this up!” Jackson called. “The period’s almost over.”
“B-b-but,” Stiles stammered. He took one look at the super tall and daunting basketball hoop, then turned to Derek pleading for mercy. “I can’t do this!”
Derek’s lip quirked. “Another hyperbole?”
“No!” Stiles cried, feeling like he was going to be sick. “I literally cannot do this!”
“Stiles, almost every person in the world is fully capable and equipped to throw a basketball at a net.”
“Doesn’t mean I’m fully capable and equipped to get it in the net!”
Derek sighed, gesturing to Finstock to pass him the ball then grabbed Stiles’ skinny hips and properly aligned him with the basket. He placed the ball in Stiles’ hands and pulled Stiles’ back against his chest to help him line up his elbow and shooting arm, using all the patience in the world.
And while Stiles felt very fortunate to have Derek touching him—seriously, Derek’s hands on his hips had Stiles hot all over and his brain melting into a puddle—he was still a nervous ball of energy. He was going to fuck this up and Derek was going to hate him when their team lost. He was sure of it.
“You like that math crap, right?” Derek said, his breath ghosting the shell of Stiles’ ear. Stiles was rather affronted because Math was not “crap”. It was a vital part of life and universal throughout the world. But he also kind of wanted to hear the rest of what Derek had to say. “For someone your height, the optimal shooting angle to get this ball into that net is about 51.5 degrees. So take a deep breath, visualize it, then aim and shoot.”
Visualize it. Yeah, Stiles could do that. Derek stepped aside then, and almost instantly, Stiles missed his warmth. He closed his eyes though, imagining the precise angle Derek was talking about and, with a deep exhale, he sent the ball flying through the air.
Since he hadn’t been expecting anything from that shot but utter failure it scared the crap out of him when everyone started cheering and clapping. Miraculously, Stiles had made it into the basket but could he do it a second time? Doing the same things Derek had instructed him to do before, Stiles took the next shot and made that one too. He turned to Derek as his team got the rebound to find him just laughing and shaking his head.
“Really?” Derek said. “With your eyes closed?”
“I got it in, didn’t I!”
“Lucky shot,” Derek chuckled, shaking his head again.
The bell rang and, just like that, the period and his first interaction ever with Derek Hale were coming to an end. Stiles couldn’t help being a little sad about that since it wasn’t likely they’d ever speak again, but at least gym was over which was a blessing.
His heart skipped a beat though when Derek winked at him as he walked backward down the court, saying, “See you tomorrow, Stiles.”
“Yeah…,” Stiles breathed, remembering he would have to endure this kind of fitness torture again, “…See you.”
Ugh, why couldn’t they ever do yoga?
Unsurprisingly, Stiles hadn’t gotten the memo that he and Derek were now buddies. He quickly learned this, however, when he saw Derek waving and smiling brightly at someone as he walked down the hall. Like an idiot, Stiles had looked over his shoulder to get a glimpse of who Derek was so happy to seem, only to realize after finding nobody else there, that it was him Derek had been waving at.
The weirdest part was that it kept happening. Derek Hale was aware of Stiles’ existence and was going out of his way to acknowledge his presence. Of all the absurdities!
After racking it over with Scott, Stiles had come to the simple conclusion that he and Derek were dude-bros. What was his evidence? Well, for one, Derek was always picking Stiles to be on his team first and showed a great deal of patience in coaching Stiles on basketball moves. A fruitless effort but appreciated nonetheless. Then there was that time Derek smacked Stiles’ ass and told him he had “a nice hustle” totally solidifying their dude-bro friendship. Of course, Stiles had to tell Scott not to get too jealous of Derek and that Stiles would still remember him now that he’d moved up in the world.
When Coach Finstock announced that they were finally finished with the basketball unit for the year, Stiles couldn’t help doing a celebratory dance. As much as he liked interacting with Derek on a daily basis, Stiles was desperate to move onto another activity because basketball was the worst. However, all of that excitement and eager anticipation died a slow, miserable death when Finstock told them that their next unit would be volleyball.
There was no way Stiles was making it through the next few weeks without breaking his face. He foresaw many casualties. Stiles bruised like a peach, he had very dainty wrist, and completely lacked any upper body strength; all things that were not very advantageous in volleyball or life.
He was still picked to be on Derek’s team though, because—duh—they were dude-bros. Unfortunately, that meant Stiles couldn’t let himself be distracted by Derek’s hotness, not even for a second. It was too risky with how violently these ruffians were volleying the ball over the net.
Stiles downright refused to pay Derek any mind whatsoever. He wouldn’t let the way Derek’s tank top clung so tightly to his sculpted chiseled abs distract him from where the ball was on the court. Or how insanely ripped Derek’s thighs looked when he squatted low to save the ball from hitting the ground. Nope, Stiles could most definitely refrain from thinking about Derek’s powerful arms bumping the ball over the net and displaying such raw strength, the kind that could hold someone up against a wall and—
Naturally, it was Stiles’ determination not to get distracted by Derek that caused him to miss seeing Aidan spiking the ball over the net and smacking it right into Stiles’ face.
“Sorry, Stilinski!” Aidan called, snickering as he gave Jackson a triumphant high-five while their team rotated positions on the court.
“You don’t sound very sorry,” Stiles murmured, still dizzy and seeing stars.
His hand flew quickly to his nose, checking for any swelling or signs that his nose was looking anything like Owen Wilson’s. It wasn’t likely that Stiles could afford a good plastic surgeon unless he sued Aidan for all his worth, basically meaning he would have to worry about his already slim chances with Derek becoming nonexistent for “who could ever learn to love a beast.”
Stiles dropped his hand from his face and looked up to find Derek peering over at him with concern. It was, however, thankfully not a look of grotesque or disgust.
“You okay?” he asked, not even waiting for Stiles’ answer before he was walking over and checking on Stiles himself.
“No,” Stiles told him miserably, “I think I broke my nose.”
Derek rolled his eyes, sighing as he looked up at the ceiling. “So fine?”
“Yeah, fine,” Stiles said, poking around his nose again.
“You have got to work on paying attention during the game,” Derek said, shaking his head disapprovingly.
“Hey!” Stiles scowled deeply. “Victim blaming!”
Derek chose to ignore him and walked back over to his spot on the court, but not before ruffling Stiles’ perfectly coiffed hair and by perfectly coiffed Stiles meant sticking up in all different direction. Stiles stuck his tongue out at Derek, a little embarrassed to be blowing a raspberry like a child, but delighted all the same when Derek blew one back.
This time, Stiles really did try harder to keep his eye on the ball and be more coordinated, but it seemed like the other team had recognized that Stiles was, in fact, the weakest link and were using that to their benefit. Stiles could feel his own team getting agitated with him the more Stiles missed opportunities to stop the other team from scoring a point. Even Derek was in a rather foul mood as he was super competitive and they were losing pretty badly.
It was then that Stiles witnessed Jackson in all his athletic glory jump high into the air to spike the volleyball down over the net, aiming it, of course, in Stiles’ general direction. Immediately, Stiles donned the survival tactics of his “spirit animal”, the roly-poly bug and cowered into a protective ball on the ground so he wouldn’t get reamed in the face again. Sure, it would still hurt when another part of his body made contact with the ball but Stiles had to protect his money maker.
Stiles flinched as he waited for the volleyball to slam into him, anticipating the burning, stinging pain. But the hit never came. One second Stiles had a speeding ball of death barreling his way and then the next Derek was there, magically appearing in front of Stiles and diving onto his knees to intercept the ball, sending it back over the net and scoring a much-needed point for their team. Everyone’s jaws dropped but none more than Stiles’ because Derek had totally just saved his life.
He could visibly see Derek breathing fire, a cutthroat gloss over his eyes as they faced Jackson’s team again.
It was on now.
Stiles had never been so attracted to anyone in his life more than he was to Derek in that moment. Just the way Derek was playing, how he’d completely taken over, fierce and aggressive as he closed the score gap, was making Stiles so unbelievably hard. Stiles stepped back and watched in awe as Derek played both his and Stiles’ positions, butterflies fluttering in his stomach.
So, this was what falling in love felt like.
It wasn’t long before Derek had gotten them in the lead and only a short while after that before they’d won the whole game.
Stiles ran up to Derek after, punching him in the shoulder and not even trying to hide the humongous grin stretched across his face. “Dude, that was fucking awesome!”
Blushing a little, Derek pretended to stumble back, rubbing the spot on his shoulder that Stiles had hit. “Bet you miss basketball now,” he said with a lopsided smile.
“No,” Stiles laughed, finding Derek’s pink ears endearing. “Never.”
The bell rang and the winners started running off the court while the losers moseyed off. Stiles continued to remain smug as Aiden and Jackson sent him nasty, intimidating looks. The two of them weren’t as scary after they’d gotten their asses handed to them by Derek.
As for Stiles…well he was mainly focusing on keeping his mouth shut as he gazed up at Derek with big, shiny fangirl eyes. Because yes siree, Stiles was indeed Derek’s #1 fan. He was president of the goddamn fan club and knew the second he opened his mouth, he’d be asking Derek for something embarrassing like his autograph.
He didn’t even mind it when Derek ruffled his hair this time, his eyes lingering after Derek as he made his way to the locker room. He couldn’t contain the giddiness inside of him and felt it spilling out as he laughed and smiled to himself like a fucking crazy person.
This crush…He. Was. Doomed.
Even though it brought him nothing but pain and misery, gym was starting to become the class Stiles looked forward to the most. Of course, this newfound appreciation might have something to do with a certain jock, but that was all heresy. Stiles was just thankful that he and Derek had gym together in the mornings because he would’ve been antsy and unfocused all day if he had to wait until afternoons. As much as he liked Derek, Stiles could never let his grades suffer over a boy. That was just stupid.
Still, he didn’t mind suffering for Derek in other ways…
“Oh my god! Please make them stop!!” Stiles cried helplessly, getting absolutely pulverized with dodgeballs.
“The game is dodgeball, Bilinski,” Finstock called from the sidelines, showing indifference to Stiles’ distress signals as he inspected his nail beds. “I suggest you dodge the ball.”
“They’re not playing fair, Coach,” Derek said, coming to Stiles’ defense, seemingly torn as he sent Stiles an apologetic glance.
“Hey!” Greenburg stopped running and hollered, “You’re supposed to be on our team, Hale! Now, take Stilinski out!”
The dodgeballs started raining down on Stiles again and Derek’s team resumed their merciless assault, pegging every inch of Stiles’ body without stopping like a machine gun. It felt all types of wrong having Derek be on the enemy’s side, but Jackson had gotten first pick for the teams and had shockingly chosen Stiles. He realized now that Jackson’s plan was to leave Stiles vulnerable. After all, Stiles was a much easier target when Derek wasn’t there to protect him.
The vicious onslaught continued and got so bad to a point where Stiles could barely stand and had to crouch on the ground for cover, keeping his hands up to shield his face and cowering and begging them to stop.
“Bilinski! Up off the floor!” Finstock yelled. “Be there for your team!”
“Shouldn’t he be out already?” Derek questioned, effortlessly dodging a ball whizzing past his head. “He’s been hit a gazillion times!”
“Give him a chance,” Finstock dismissed. “He might surprise you.”
“He’s scared of the goddamn balls!” Derek gestured to where Stiles was curled up and trembling on the floor.
Finstock tssked, shaking his head disapprovingly. “Where’s your sense of sportsmanship, Hale?”
Derek’s let out a deep growl before storming back onto the gym floor, picking up an arm full of dodgeballs. Stiles peeked at him through his fingers, wondering just what Derek was going to do be doing with all of them. Join in on the attack possibly?
He highly doubted that.
While he didn’t know Derek too well yet, Stiles had good enough sense to know when Derek was mad as hell. Seeing that rigid stance on Derek’s shoulders and that bloodthirsty slant in his eyes, Stiles knew Derek was about to do something rash. However, he hadn’t been expecting this...
Stiles couldn’t believe what he was seeing right now, observing in utter shock as Derek turned against his own team. Taking Greenburg out first with a ball to the face, Derek proceeded in knocking out the rest of the front line. Then he started in on Stiles’ team, as it seemed that his wasn’t the only team he was after, getting Jackson and Aiden with a couple of great hits. He kept it up tirelessly, not stopping until every person in the gymnasium had been pegged with a dodgeball. Except for Stiles, of course.
He was heaving for breath by the time he dropped the last ball on the ground, chest rising and falling as he pinned a glare on Finstock, then spat sardonically, “How’s that for your fucking sportsmanship?”
A loud gasp reverberated through the room; Stiles belatedly realized that it had come from him.
He expected Finstock to explode, to be furious with such back talk, but instead his face broke out into a huge grin as he clapped loudly in applause for Derek.
“Way to go, Hale!” he cheered, placing two fingers between his lips and whistling. “Now that’s what I’m talking about! Excellent form on the release. Made each hit so precise! You have detention for a month by the way! But man, if only I had your talent when I was your age. You’re gonna be a legend!”
Stiles paled, dread dripping deep into his stomach. Because he was so not worth getting a month of detention over.
He needed to find a way to pay Derek back and he needed to do it fast. The more time he took on this, the more likely it was that Derek would hate his guts forever. For that reason, Stiles had been avoiding Derek like the plague. He was sure Derek was probably throwing imaginary darts at pictures of Stiles in his head. What else was there left to do while spending all that time in detention? Thankfully, Stiles managed to get Derek’s month of detention cut down to a week and a half by outsmarting Finstock and convincing him that it was his own idea.
Brainstorming was getting him absolutely nowhere. Stiles had nothing that Derek could possibly want. He had no money, no social status, or exemplary skills. Not a single thing he thought of measured up to all the times Derek had come to his rescue during gym class. If it really came down to it, he could always offer up his body even though he knew Derek wasn’t attracted to him sexually and couldn’t possibly want him back. But, unbeknownst to Stiles, he wasn’t without his charms.
Eavesdropping was wrong. Everybody knew that. But was it really that wrong if it happened by accident?
After all, the school library was Stiles’ domain. He could often be found there huffing the scent of crisp new books and biting all his fingernails off while studying for midterms. So, of course, it was a bit of a shock to see Derek and his best friend, Boyd, skulking around in his neck of the woods. Especially after he’d once heard a jock say they didn’t even know that there was a library at the school.
Stiles ducked behind a bookshelf when he caught Derek’s eyes scanning the room. What if Derek was angrier than Stiles thought and had ventured into “No Jock’s Territory” to locate Stiles and beat him up. Stiles hadn’t kept up with how jocks messed with nerds these days. Were they still doing the traditional wedgie thing or had they come up with something more sinister?
“I don’t see him,” Stiles overheard Boyd saying to Derek as they walked past his hiding spot.
“Neither do I,” Derek sighed, sounding a little disappointed.
Stiles was probably flattering himself thinking that Derek was there looking for him. He knew Derek didn’t have a single mean bone in his body to try and beat someone up. He also knew that if he apologized for getting Derek in trouble that Derek would say he didn’t mind which was honestly the worst part. That being said, Stiles still didn’t have the guts to come out of hiding. Although, that didn’t squash his immense curiosity.
“How did you know about this place?” Boyd asked Derek, glancing around with wide eyes. “I didn’t even know we had a library at this school! This place is huge!”
Derek huffed and rolled his eyes, almost catching a glimpse of Stiles from where he’d been peeking from behind a shelf.
“Wanna keep looking? Maybe he fell and got trapped inside a book or something like Alice in Wonderland.”
Although, definitely not the plot of that book, it was very plausible for Stiles. He was certainly clumsy enough.
“No, it’s okay,” Derek sighed again. “I should probably stay here anyway. My mom’s been giving me a hard time about failing Chemistry, and I don’t understand half the shit that comes out of Harris’ mouth. One more F and I’ll have to sit out the next few games.”
“Rough,” Boyd sympathized.
Meanwhile, Stiles was knocking the Wodehouse section over in glee. Yes, it was pretty messed up to be in delighting in someone else’s misfortune, but it wouldn’t be Derek’s misfortune for long. Now that Stiles actually had an idea of how he could be of some use to Derek, he was determined to help him pass chemistry.
He dashed out of the library without even picking up all of the books he dropped (he’d make it up to Ms. Muriel, the librarian, later). He ran all the way to Derek’s locker (it wasn’t creepy that he knew exactly where it was, was it?) and used a paperclip to pick the lock and drop a copy of his Chemistry notes inside. Now, Stiles didn’t hand his notes over to just anyone. Many have asked and been shot down. Because Stiles’ notes were probably the only thing that was able to cut through Harris’ inflated, pompous, hackneyed gibberish.
His heart was pounding as he closed the locker again, fighting with himself not to invade anymore of Derek’s privacy. He was already so indebted to Derek as it was and this one small act would never make up for what Derek had done for him.
It was a symbiotic relationship that theirs had become. Granted, Stiles wasn’t sure if it was a mutual, commensal, or parasitic one. Derek never said anything about Stiles’ notes magically appearing in his locker, but the beaming smile he’d given Stiles in the halls the next day was honestly thank you enough.
They both needed each other to survive. Stiles knew he could count on Derek to cover his ass in things like field hockey and ultimate frisbee, and Stiles always made sure to provide him with incredibly detailed study guides for tests in return. From the quick peek he’d taken at Harris’ gradebook, he could see that Derek was really improving, which was good because it meant he wouldn’t be missing any games. As for Stiles, well he was sporting a lot less physical injuries these days and didn’t have to take nearly as many trips to the nurse. Although, there were still some things that Derek couldn't protect him from.
“Bilinski, you’re up!”
No. No way. Absolutely not. No, no, no, no, no, no, NO!
Stiles’ eyes grew wide in horror as they stared up at the long swinging rope hanging from the ceiling. There was no way that he could be expected to climb that! Not with these scrawny, listless things that he called arms. He turned immediately to Derek, whimpering and looking for some vote of confidence or positive assurance, but Derek only eyed the rope with equal amounts of concern. And well, that just sealed Stiles’ fate. He was going to die!
With deep breaths, Stiles took a few courageous steps forward, then paled and pleaded with Finstock, “Please don’t make me do this! I beg of you!”
Finstock just crossed his arms and said, “Start climbing.”
“Alright, alright!” Stiles huffed, raising his hands in surrender.
He wiped his clammy palms on his pants then grabbed hold of the rope and began his ascent to the top.
“This is the most pointless thing ever in all of existence,” he bitched through his teeth. “When the hell will I ever need to learn how to climb a rope?! I’m not George of The Fucking Jungle! This is so useless and stupid as fuck!”
“Woah, Bilinski!! Way to break a record,” he heard Finstock cheer.
He heard the echo of a few of his other classmates cheering and clapping as well and wondered why the racket sounded so faint and far away. Of course now, in hindsight, he realized he shouldn’t have wondered, or more importantly, shouldn’t have looked for an answer.
“Oh…oh, holy god!!!”
“Now, why the hell would you look down?!” he heard Derek chastise.
At least he thought it was Derek. How could he really be sure if he was hearing anyone correctly from up here?
“Call my dad or the fire department! Tell them to break out the cherry picker!” Stiles shouted as he clung to the rope for dear life.
“It’s not that hard. I’ll talk you down,” said Derek, the one who wasn’t currently dangling in mid-air at the height of Mount Everest.
“Nope,” Stiles said stubbornly, closing his eyes and refusing to budge.
“Just wrap the rope across your leg and use the width of your foot to control the descent.”
“Won’t do it,” Stiles said again with a vehement shake of his head that almost jostled his grip.
“C’mon, Stiles,” Derek said in a gentle voice. “You’ll be fine. Don’t you trust me?”
“Hey, I’m the coach,” Finstock piped up suddenly. “Shouldn’t I do the coaching?”
“You don’t even know his name,” Derek snapped then turned his focus back up to Stiles, voice soft and soothing again, “Just breath Stiles. Breath and go slow.”
Stiles closed his eyes and began breathing just like Derek said to, feeling a small sense of accomplishment when he managed to get his lungs under control. Maybe he could climb down without falling and crashing down to a splat on the ground. Or maybe they should call a rescue helicopter.
Stupid Derek and his stupid words actually had Stiles contemplating risking his life to disembark from this perilous rope. However, what was the harm in him trying other than possible death and broken body parts? Stiles trusted Derek. Honestly, he did. All of Derek’s previous actions have shown that he was absolutely trustworthy. And so Stiles was willing to trust him this one last time, even if it meant leading him to his death.
He went as slow as feasibly possible. With every inch of the way he made down, he felt the need to stop and let out a huge sigh of relief. He could feel his classmates getting impatient with him but still wouldn’t let that force him to rush. Derek’s opinion was the only one that mattered anyway and he found comfort in seeing Derek’s encouraging smile getting closer and closer every time he looked down. As soon as his feet touched the ground, he collapsed and kissed the floor, hugging it lovingly and whispering promises of never leaving it again.
“You are so dramatic,” Derek huffed and rolled his eyes as he offered his hand to help Stiles up.
“Hey!” Stiles took grave offense “I literally could’ve died.”
Derek smirked and ruffled Stiles’ hair in that usual way he did, and said, “Well, I literally wouldn’t have let you.”
Stiles literally had to bite down on the inside of his cheek to stop himself from beaming. He bit so hard he was literally tasting his own blood. And yet, Stiles was so happy he literally couldn’t stop saying literally!
“Would you two losers just fuck already?” Jackson jeered as he wedged between them to take his turn on the rope. That caused their other classmates to laugh and nod their heads in agreement. “Please spare us all of your sexual tension.”
Whatever giddy mood Stiles had been in was immediately killed with that statement. Stiles’ whole face caught on fire and you couldn’t pay him a million dollars to look over at Derek right now; he was so embarrassed.
“I um, I have to… I’m just gonna… die...now,” Stiles scrambled for an excuse before deciding to give up and started sprinting.
The sounds of his classmates' laughter followed him out of the gym, as did Derek calling out for him. But Stiles ignored everyone and kept running. It was certainly the fastest he’d run in gym class yet.
Stiles had hit the jackpot. No, he’d seriously won the lottery. He was sick. Like violently ill. Vomiting up heaps and heaps of puke and all of that. He got to miss like two weeks of school. He was that ill.
The nasty bug couldn’t have come at a more perfect time. There was no way he would’ve been able to face Derek so soon after that mortifying exchange. Thanks to his pathetic crush, he and Derek would probably never interact again, and that was a really sad thought since Stiles was so happy with just being able to be his friend.
Unfortunately for Stiles, his health had begun to improve and he was cleared by his doctor to return to school. His dad was more than ready for him to go back now that he was no longer a ball of contagious disease and had little sympathy for Stiles’ plight. At least he got a dope doctor’s note excusing him from gym class for a whole week.
Walking back into that gym took a boatload of courage out of him. In fact, Stiles had almost chickened out. But then he remembered that if he skipped gym forever then he’d never fill out the graduation requirement and would have to repeat this hell all over again. There was no way he was doing that.
So, he arrived purposely late, speaking to no one, and sat on his bench and stuck his nose into the first book he could grab out of his backpack. Coach Finstock spent the beginning of the period instructing the class on how to play badminton, and by instructing, Stiles meant going on a 10 minute tangent about a time where he and his college friends had played badminton with a real bird.
He ended his story rather abruptly, not saying whether it worked out for him or not, and started calling out names to pair people off to play doubles. Stiles’ doctor’s note was doing the Macarena in his pocket. It couldn’t wait to be used.
But then he had an unexpected change of heart when Finstock said, “Bilinski, Hale’s the only one left without a partner. Go pair off with him.”
“I um have a… yeah okay,” Stiles found himself saying, though his doctor’s note burned deep within his pocket.
There must’ve been something wrong with his brain. He couldn’t be as smart as everyone said he was because he was supposed to be avoiding Derek. Agreeing to be his badminton partner was not avoiding. Especially when he was wasting such a perfectly good doctor’s note to do so.
A part of him desperately wanted to talk to Derek though. To apologize to him for making his feelings so obvious to everyone. His intention was never to make Derek uncomfortable. He honestly thought he’d had it all under control, but he messed up pretty badly if even Jackson noticed.
Derek was over by the rackets testing them out. Stiles approached him carefully, as not to let his lovey-dovey feelings overflow. He also wanted to give Derek the chance to run for the hills if he needed. Derek hadn’t noticed that Stiles was behind him yet. Stiles thought about tapping him on the shoulder to get his attention, then thought against it, lest it count as harassment.
He cleared his throat instead, “Finstock said you needed a partner. I probably suck at badminton, like I suck at everything else, but my book’s pretty boring and this seems a lot more entertaining.”
Derek didn’t look at him as he tested the string tension of his racket. “It’s fine. You don’t have to if you want to. I can play by myself. Thanks anyway.”
Stiles caught his arm as he brushed past him to walk away. He dropped it immediately when he realized what he’d done. Not touching Derek was proving to be a lot harder than he thought.
“No, I want to play,” Stiles said then swallowed. “I mean, unless, you don’t want to... play with me, I mean.”
“I didn’t say anything like that,” Derek snorted humorlessly then handed Stiles one of the lightweight rackets. “Come on. Let’s just play.”
They did, and it turns out Stiles isn’t half bad. He just might have found the only sport he’d ever been good at. It was likely because badminton involved having quick reflexes and Stiles had those in abundance, what with constantly having to hit things being thrown at him away.
Even though the game was going great, things between him and Derek were most definitely not. This was nothing like how they used to play together before. He missed Derek’s encouragement and positive words, but now Derek was distant and cold and barely engaged in the game. His hyper-competitiveness didn’t appear to be present either. He didn’t even look like he cared that they were beating the hell out of Aidan and Jackson.
It was like Derek despised him now and would’ve much rather had anyone but Stiles as his partner. Stiles didn’t think he deserved all of that, to be honest. So what if he liked Derek and daydreamed about him constantly and wanted to kiss the fuck out of his face. Who could blame him? Derek was perfect. And the crime most definitely did not meet the punishment.
Stiles was getting so distracted by his own thoughts that he’d accidentally lost his focus on the game, and more importantly, on his hand-eye coordination. His racket being lightweight was supposed to be good for beginners. But it wasn’t so good for anyone in Stiles’ immediate surroundings because he was an infamous butterfingers.
“OUCH! Fuck, my nose!”
For someone that was always calling him overdramatic, Derek should see himself taking a hit. Though, Stiles was instantly remorseful when he saw the blood streaming down Derek’s face. His lightweight racket couldn’t have been so lightweight when it went flying and hit Derek in the nose.
Finstock told him immediately to take Derek to the nurse. Stiles didn’t do too great with blood. Doing the blood typing lab in biology last year had nearly taken him out. But his clumsiness had caused this and therefore he’d just have to deal.
“Can I just say again that I am so sorry?” Stiles asked when they got to the nurse's office and she’d checked Derek out. Nothing was broken, thankfully, but they still needed to stop the nosebleed.
“Stiles, you’ve already said sorry a million times,” Derek sighed, shaking his head.
“Well, let me say it again, then,” Stiles said, plopping into the seat next to him on the recovery couch. “I, Stiles Stilinski, am incredibly sorry and promise to never try anything sports related ever again. I suck anyways and this has now become a public safety issue.”
“You were pretty great at badminton just now,” Derek nudged his shoulder. “I think you’ve got a shot in the Olympics.”
“Shut up,” Stiles muttered, blushing at the praise and kicked him in the leg.
“God, you’re just beating me up today, Stilinski,” Derek chuckled, rubbing at his shin.
“Does it hurt?” Stiles asked as he watched Derek switch out the blood-soaked tissues in his hand for clean ones.
“Yes. The pain’s excruciating,” Derek said so seriously that Stiles started to feel like shit all over again. “I’m kidding. It’s nothing too bad.”
Stiles got up and went to the freezer to get some ice. He wrapped it up in a paper towel and placed it in Derek’s palm. “Here,” he said, guiding the ice pack to the bridge of Derek’s nose. “The ice will constrict the blood vessel and stop the bleeding faster.”
“Thanks,” Derek said then smiled at Stiles for a really long time. Too long to be comfortable.
“What?” Stiles squirmed, a little unnerved.
“You’re really smart, aren’t you,” Derek remarked, still smiling. “I mean, you’re the top of our class. And you’re study guides have helped me get an 85 on my last two test. Thanks for those by the way. I wasn’t sure how to bring that up.”
“You’re welcome,” Stiles murmured, scratching the back of his neck.
“You’re way too smart for someone like me right?”
“What?” Stiles remained very still, not sure if his ears were hearing correctly.
“What are the odds that I might have a chance with you?”
“With me?” Stiles gaped, pointing at himself stupidly.
“Yes, with you,” Derek said in a frustrated tone and put the ice pack down now that his bleeding stopped. “I don’t get what’s confusing about that. Everyone knows I have a crush on you.”
Stiles looked around then to see if this was some kind of prank someone was pulling on him. If it was a prank, it was a very insensitive one. He’d never expected to hear those words come out of Derek’s mouth, and the fact that they were was completely surreal.
He didn’t know how he was being so calm about this. He must’ve been replaced by some alien life-force. Derek Hale had just said he was crushing on Stiles and Stiles wasn’t completely freaking out. He was a little miffed, however, that apparently Derek’s crush was so obvious to everyone else and no one had thought to clue him in.
He guessed Jackson had in a sense. Jackson was a good egg.
“It’s pretty hopeless, I know,” Derek continued, laughing in a self-deprecating nature. “You didn’t even know I existed until we had gym together, and I’ve been nothing but an obnoxious showoff. And you’re brilliant. You should probably have babies with someone like Lydia Martin.”
Stiles bit back a smile. He couldn’t believe Derek actually thought that he would choose Lydia Martin over him. Sure, Lydia was totally gorgeous and a wonderful person, but if they were ever to have kids together, with their combined IQs, those little runts would take over the world…and not in a good way.
He wanted Derek’s kids though. He wanted everything with Derek.
“How long have you…” Stiles paused, licking his dry lips. “How long have you liked me?”
“I saw you in the library last year. I didn’t even know our school had a library, but that’s where I first saw you. You were so beautiful and didn’t even notice me. Like I said, it’s pathetic. But I—”
Stiles stopped him there and then before he started belittling himself again. He stopped him with a kiss. Which was very effective in this case. It was a great first kiss. The kind of kiss that blew you away and ruined all other kisses for you. Derek’s lips were so soft against his and the way his hand came up to hold Stiles’ chin so gently was so sweet and tender, he could just melt.
Derek was the first to pull away, looking dazed. “That was ten-times better than what I imagined.”
Stiles threw his head back and laughed. It was still hard to believe that Derek even imagined them at all. It was adorable nonetheless and Stiles couldn’t help kissing him all over again.
“Ouch,” Derek winced after a while, pulling away sorrowfully. “My nose.”
“Right,” Stiles puffed. “Can I just say again how sorry I am about that. But don’t worry, we’ll make out loads more later.”
“You promise?” Derek asked, raising a brow.
“I promise.” Stiles winked and handed him the ice pack again with a kiss on the cheek.