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A perplexment, indeed

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Stiles has resigned himself to being something of an oddity. He rents a house on the edge of town, all alone (because the only guys he knows who are gay or bi are also not interested), and is only seen once a week, when he visits his dad and gets groceries. And sometimes, if there’s not much he plans to buy, he just walks. Which, in a town like Beacon Hills, which has no public transportation, is seen as very strange.

But Stiles likes it because it gives him a lot of time to think, sometimes about whatever novel he’s writing, and sometimes about more banal personal matters.

And it’s on such a walk, nearly home, when he meets the hottest guy he’s ever seen. With his luck, he’s also wearing a dumb shirt and carrying a grocery bag that appears to be filled solely with brightly colored children’s cereal. It’s great.

They sort of awkwardly pause facing one another on the narrow sidewalk, and Stiles watches the guy’s gaze jump from his shirt to his bag, and then back.

“Uh,” he says. “Is that the name of a band?”

“An Evening Botanist?” Stiles says, plucking at the hem of said shirt. “No, it’s more of a personal statement.”

“Oh,” the guy says, though he clearly doesn’t get it.

He does, however, step into the grass to let Stiles by. As he walks past, he sees the guy’s head turn to read the back of the shirt, which says A Perplexment.

“A what?” he hears the guy say, and tries hard not to laugh. He manages to make to his front door before he can’t hold it in anymore, but by then they guy is long gone.

 

*

 

He sees the hot guy again the next week, while carrying a grocery bag full of fresh vegetables this time (he’d felt a little ashamed, okay?), and the potted succulent his dad is somehow killing. Stiles his hoping to save its little plant life.

“Hey,” hot guy says. “Still a, um, botanist?” He looks pointedly at the succulent.

“Well, yeah. But today I’m thinking of myself more as a sunset lover,” Stiles says, waving his free hand grandly. “An aesthete, if you will.”

“I won’t,” Derek says, then looks surprised when Stiles laughs.

“I’m Stiles, the town eccentric,” Stiles says brightly.

Hot guy raises his eyebrows, smirks a little. “You trying to take that title from me, then?” he asks. “I’m Derek Hale.”

At first Stiles doesn’t get it, but then the name clicks into place, and— “You’re the guy who had that giant octopus statue in his front yard!”

“It was a squid sculpture,” Derek corrects, but he’s smiling. “And it was at my parent’s house.”

“And you installed those glow-in-the-dark frogs in the square, right?” Stiles asks eagerly. “I’m a big fan of your work.” He’d seen Derek Hale’s (smaller, earlier) pieces at the local art museum every now and then, but he’d have never guessed he was someone close to his own age.

Also, Stiles is pretty sure Derek’s perfect facial hair is in itself a work of art. He’s maybe a little enthralled.

Derek ducks his head. “Thanks,” he says awkwardly. “I just try to have fun.”

He steps aside into the grass, and Stiles takes that as his cue. “See you,” he says, and slowly finishes his short walk home.

He grins the whole way.

 

*

 

Another week passes, and finds Stiles lugging a heavy grocery bag on each shoulder. Normally he’d drive if he was planning to buy this much, but he didn’t want to miss his chance to talk to Derek. Their conversations are becoming the highlight of his week.

And he might have spent half the night researching and watching old movies so he could be ready.

Sure enough, Derek appears as he rounds the corner, already smiling a little. “What are you today?” he asks.

“I’d say I’m built on an uncertain foundation,” Stiles says, grinning. “Or maybe I’m a son of the moon.”

I think you’re getting weirder,” Derek says, but he’s laughing, so Stiles doesn’t mind.

“You’re not wrong,” Stiles says, then grimaces and shifts the weight of his shopping bags. His shoulders are beginning to ache, and he’s disappointed he’ll have to cut their conversation short.

“Do you want some help?” Derek asks.

“Um, sure,” Stiles says, a little surprised. “It’s only a few more blocks.”

Derek takes one of the bags and hefts it with ease, and Stiles gets a lovely glimpse of his bicep flexing. He stands there for a moment, eyeing Stiles, then takes the other bag too.

“Hey, I can carry it,” Stiles huffs, but he gives himself away when he stretches his arms and rolls his shoulders happily.

“You carried it most of the way,” Derek says easily, already heading down the sidewalk. “Let me take it.”

Stiles can’t find it in himself to object, especially not when he’s getting a chance to admire Derek’s strength. Either sculping is a good workout, or Derek also spends a lot of time at the gym.

“So,” he asks, because he can’t stay quiet for long. “What brings you out on these walks?” As soon as he asks he feels like an idiot. Derek probably walks just because he likes to.

But Derek just shoots him another smile and says, “I’m looking for inspiration, usually.”

“Do you find any?” Stiles asks distractedly, directing Derek to turn onto his street.

“Not that often,” Derek says, shrugging. “But I think maybe that’s changing.”

“That’s awesome!” Stiles says brightly, bumping Derek’s shoulder with his fist. “I love your work, I can’t wait to see what you come up with next.”

“Thanks,” Derek says gruffly, but Stiles doesn’t miss his blush.

It’s adorable.

 

*

 

Stiles beginning to feel disappointed, because he’s almost home and there’s no Derek in sight. But then he spots Derek emerging from the forest that backs Stiles’ dead-end street, and heaves a sigh of relief. He’s slightly rumpled in an appealing way, and the way he smiles when he spots Stiles makes his heart lurch.

“I throw a party with an open guest list,” he says once Derek is close enough, not bothering with the usual pleasantries. “I salute another flag,” he adds with a wink.

“I, um, I looked up what you’ve been saying, and I get it. I’m a, uh, keen-eyed birdwatcher,” Derek says awkwardly. “I’m a skillful mountain climber.”

“Really the outdoorsy type, huh?” Stiles says teasingly, raising his eyebrows. “You might have a silk bathrobe, but are you actually interested?” He fights to keep his tone casual. “In a date with me?”

“I was going to ask,” Derek says nervously, “if you wanted to come over and see some of my art. And I can cook us dinner. Well, I can only make pasta,” he adds with a shrug. “So, if that’s not—”

“Pasta sounds great! Just let me put these groceries away,” Stiles says quickly, holding up the bag, “and then we can go. But first, I think you should kiss me, you jackdaw.”

“Better than upside-down chimney sweep,” Derek mutters, and then he does kiss him.

It’s so good that every other ridiculous euphemism goes right out of Stiles’ head. But that’s okay; he’s pretty sure he doesn’t need them anymore.