-buff dudes are gross- he sends off to Scott.
The reply comes five seconds later. -are you stalking lydia again?-
-but in the alternate universe where I am, it’s totally giving me a complex-
He should just go to bed. He has to be up for work in six hours, and it’s not like awkwardly liking every picture is going to make Lydia Martin pay any more attention to him.
(Especially when he forgets to be a sane human being and not do stupid shit like accidentally like a picture from 2011. Twice.)
But it’s not like he has a choice. Fate has spoken, and Lydia Martin is undeniably meant to be in Stiles’ life. Because for once, Stiles is not the one who went chasing after her. Not this time. This time, she came to him. Maybe not knowingly, maybe not intentionally (and probably not even willingly, if Stiles is being completely honest with himself), but she did.
Stiles has been working at the same company for fourteen months now. He’s never even once contemplated heading off for greener pastures. He’d become comfortable with his life and actually liked it. Except that now Lydia Martin has stormed right through it, leaving carnage and pain in its wake.
Or, well, she passed him in the main lobby of his company building last Monday, and she’s been back every day since. Not all that far off his original analogy, really.
His phone vibrates. -u need to chill dude-
-no. u need to understand that LYDIA MARTIN WORKS AT MY COMPANY.-
Which is crazy. Stiles can hardly believe it. Lydia left for some hot shot fashion school in New York five years ago. Because she’s awesome and smart and Stiles always knew she was destined for great things. Stiles works in Human Resources because he was a psych major and too lazy to apply for grad school and HR was pretty much the first sector he tried for after he and Scott moved to SF. Sure, maybe he and Lydia would have run into each other one Christmas while visiting family in Beacon Hills, but living within cycling distance of each other post-college was never supposed to be in the cards for him.
His phone blinks. -yeah but stalking her online isn’t going to get you any closer to her-
Stiles snorts. How naïve.
-dude. of course it is. i’m gathering intel-
-on what? her favorite selfie pose?-
Stiles has the best friends.
-i thought so-
-i’m researching her interests asshat. what she likes to do. where she likes to go-
-where u can creepily sneak up on her and steal her away to your dungeon-
Stiles may or may not have to reconsider his definition of ‘best.’
-i’m laughing so hard-
-don’t u think maybe actually talking to her might be a better way to do all that?-
-no. god has given me a second chance. i can’t fuck this up by going in unprepared-
-you’re not going into battle stiles-
-or am I?-
Stiles tries squeezing an air bubble out from beneath his screen protector while he waits for Scott’s response.
-the anticipation is really killing me.-
-shut up. i am gonna research the fuck out of lydia and then i’m going to woo her like the best of wooing pros- He grins to himself. It’s going to be awesome.
-does that mean you’ll be too busy for pizza night tomorrow?-
Which, really? -i’m wooing lydia, not desecrating bro-dition-
-you think she’d be into the whole love serenade act-
-would tearing your balls off be a sign of passionate love-
-… probably not?-
-then probably not-
It’s another few minutes of Scott totally failing as a supportive bro before he finally begs off and Stiles admits defeat. Now he only has five and a half hours before he has to be up – five if he factors in time needed to get there before Lydia so he can catch her strut down the marble hallway to the elevators.
Not that he’ll actually make contact, of course. He hasn’t conducted nearly enough research for that sort of bold move. Not yet, anyway.
But soon. Definitely soon.
Stiles maybe flips his laptop open again and spends the next forty minutes finishing up some last minute research.
Sure, he’s talking about the 16-inch pizza warming the tips of his fingers and filling the room with more aromatic porn than should be legal; but he’s also talking about his plan to totally get Lydia to fall for him.
“Yes, you do.” And really, Scott’s face is just too gleeful to correct him on his only partial understanding of Stiles’ words.
“Tomorrow morning, I’m going to casually slip into the elevator behind Lydia while reading the latest in fashion news.”
“You hate fashion.”
“No. I love fashion. I love it so much, I’m working for a major handbag company. Or didn’t you notice? Note the fact that I said handbag, and not purse. That’s fashion lingo.”
“Dude, you work for a purse company because, and I quote, ‘it’s totally gonna get us in with the ladies.’”
“Which it did.”
“The last three dates you’ve had have been guys.”
“Yeah. Because I’m so surrounded by women it’s not even a challenge anymore.”
“I hate you.”
“Love you, too bro. Pass the hot sauce?”
Stiles does, but only because he’s an exceptionally good friend. Unlike Scott. Who’s not.
“So you get into the elevator with your fashion magazine prop, and then what?”
“Then, my palpable work ethic and commitment to the company will draw her in like a siren calls to a seaman” – and no, Stiles is not going to acknowledge Scott’s incredibly juvenile snort – “and she’ll realize it’s me, that we were meant to be, and project ‘Get Lydia Martin to Marry Me’ will finally come to an end.”
“So… you’re not actually gonna talk to her.”
“Dude. I gotta let her come to me. It’s all part of the plan. Let her think it was all her idea, and then once she initiates contact, bam! Attack her with l’amour.”
“Yeah. Okay. Officially embarrassed to be your friend.”
“Uh, no. It’s pizza night, a night of no judgment and unconditional support.”
“I don’t remember that addendum.”
“Probably ‘cause you were too busy moaning over Allison while it got written.” Take that, not-friend.
“First of all, ouch. And second, double ouch.”
Okay, Stiles is maybe being a bit of a dick. “Sorry. I take it back. But seriously. You can’t judge me on this. I’m actually freaking out.”
To his credit, Scott stops rolling his eyes long enough to cast him a chagrinned frown. “Seriously?”
“Yes. I mean, it’s Lydia Martin, man. My first love, every romantic dream I ever had, the one that got away. Comprende ?”
“Love?” Scott’s face goes a little strangled.
“Okay, not love-love, but love. I’m telling you, I was meant to have her babies.”
“I think you mean--”
“I know exactly what I mean, and Lydia’s far too career focused to stop for maternity leave. I shall be the one to gladly bear our children. I’m progressive like that. We’ll figure out a way.”
“So anyway, as my soon-to-be best man, I just thought you should be the first to know that tomorrow’s totally going to be the first day of the rest of our lives together. You might wanna save the date. You know. For your best man speech and all.” Scott should be thankful, really, having a groom as considerate as Stiles.
“Yeah. I’ll get right on that. Mind if we watch ‘Modern Family’ in the meantime?”
“I don’t even know why I’m friends with you.”
Except that then Scott pulls out a family size bag of spicy cheetos, and Stiles remembers all over again.
Stiles walks into the main lobby a full forty-five minutes before he actually has to clock in for work. (Okay, there is no actual ‘clocking in,’ but Stiles always thought there would be. Like in that one Bugs Bunny episode, or maybe it was Porky Pig – the one where he goes into work at ass o’clock in the morning and gets that little slip stamped with the red ink and the loud click, and actually, now that he thinks about it, maybe it wasn’t a cartoon after all, but whatever. Back to the point.) He is calm. He is cool. He is smooth like Hershey’s chocolate. His hair is even, his face is washed and moisturized (because that is manly and if anyone argues otherwise, they’re wrong), and he’s got the perfect amount of Hugo Boss Homme permeating through the already sexy eau de Stiles around him. He is ready.
Stiles sidles into the main lobby Starbucks – almost orders a coffee while he waits, then remembers not to fucking dare. Because coffee breath and not okay and this is Lydia friggin Martin we’re talking about. Nothing is going to ruin this day.
He gets a few squinty faced glares for loitering without buying. But whatever. People can deal. Stiles is on a mission from god.
Five minutes into staunchly avoiding eye contact with the head barista, he sees her.
She’s perfect, as always. Gorgeous hair bouncing against her back, cherry red lipstick highlighting her face, red stilettos alerting all in the vicinity to steer clear, make way for the queen. Stiles is in love all over again.
She makes it all the way to the reflective shine of the elevator doors before Stiles remembers to follow. Then he’s there and the doors are opening; he slips inside just to her right. He can smell the hypnotizing fragrance of badass and forever-out-of-your-league. He is so close.
And then he remembers he forgot the magazine.
Stiles doesn’t quite hurl himself behind the guy to his right, but he’s not kidding himself about it being a pretty close call. Now he’s sweating. He’s freaking out. He’s not quite so cool and confident anymore, and maybe he’s a little bit close to puking all over the entirety of the elevator’s current inhabitants.
Luckily, that’s when god intervenes. He gives Stiles a sign, a reminder that this is fate, and not even Stiles’ unfailing stupidity can mess this one up. The woman to Stiles’ left has her bag halfway unzipped. A BoF magazine stares out at him. And sure, an open bag isn’t necessarily an invitation to treat yourself – unless you’re a pickpocket, which Stiles is not – but if god’s the one encouraging him to steal this one little magazine, it can’t be all that bad. Stiles has to do it. For the sake of divine alignment. Stiles can’t just mess with fate because it goes a little against mortal laws. He is but a pawn on destiny’s celestial board.
He takes the magazine.
It’s quick and easy. He’s a ninja like that. One minute the magazine’s in the woman’s purse, and the next it’s in Stiles’ hands. Slick as strawberry lube. Which Stiles knows because he owns a bottle. And it is smooth.
Stiles barely feels the remorse, buoyed high by the certainty of divine righteousness. He is pure, he is holy, he is totally going to get Lydia to marry him.
Then the elevator ‘ping’s and a stampede of fashionably-dressed triceratops rams Stiles aside and the magazine thuds against the floor and Lydia is gone. Just like that. He didn’t even get to open his pilfered winnings.
“Your amusement is not appreciated.”
It’s his lunch break, and Scott’s laughing at him. Stiles is not impressed.
“Oh, my—Oh, my god. Are you serious? You freaking stole some lady’s fashion magazine? What are you, the fashion police?”
Scott lets out another shriek of laughter. He’s just a regular hyena, that one.
“That doesn’t even make sense.”
“It’s funny, anyway.”
“You’re supposed to be supportive.”
“I am. I mean, I will be. Just-- man. I need a minute.” Stiles hears his choked laughter even as he pictures Scott aiming the receiver away from his mouth.
“Yeah. Still not funny,” Stiles mutters.
Exactly 8 seconds later – Stiles counts – Scott slips the receiver back to his mouth. “Uh… maybe you made an impression anyway?”
“How? She didn’t even see me.”
“Yeah, but like, she’s had contact with your pheromones, now. That’s gotta have some sort of subconscious effect.”
“You think?” It’s just ridiculous enough to be true.
“Supportive, Scott.” Seriously, how many times does a guy have to beg?
“I mean, yeah. Sure. Probably. I read an article or something about it once. It’s definitely a thing.”
“Okay, good. That means I’ve planted the seed. Maybe she’ll even have a dream about me tonight.”
“You really need to try harder at this whole sounding genuine thing.” Stiles picks distractedly at his half-eaten lettuce wrap.
“Lydia is definitely going to dream about you tonight.”
“It will be dirty and then it will be cuddly.”
Stiles likes the sound of that. “Better.”
“She will dream of tying you up and ravishing you all over and then inseminating you with her male-bred babies.”
“And you just hit creepsville.”
“I thought I was being supportive.”
“Maybe try going for a little less supportive.”
“Ay, ay, sir!”
Stiles snorts. “At least now I know what floor she works on. Seventh floor means she’s in product development.”
“I thought you already knew that.”
“Well, yeah, but that was me typing her name into the internal emailing system. Now I know for sure. I’ve seen it with my own eyes.”
“Right. Listen, I gotta go. Meet for lunch tomorrow?”
“Yeah.” It comes out more sigh than word.
“Cheer up, man. You just gotta try again. Tomorrow morning. It’ll work for sure.”
“It better. And for the record, I would make a great pickpocket.”
“Yeah, you would, buddy.”
“Catch ya later, bro.”
Stiles tucks his phone into his pocket and pulls out a pen. He flattens out the balled up napkin on his tray -- mayonnaise stains and all -- and spends the next ten minutes scrawling out a few creative ideas for project ‘Get Lydia Martin to Marry Me.’
He tries again the next day.
And the day after that.
And the day after that.
Stiles is possibly having a minor spell of bad luck.
On the second day he tries, he trips before he makes it to the elevators and is down for the count as the doors close without him.
The third day’s a little better, in that he actually makes it to the elevator doors. Only, fucking Anders from accounting knocks into him and spills about twenty gallon’s worth of coffee-flavored molten lava on him. He’s only glad the elevator pings its way up before Lydia can notice.
The fourth day is… not good. It’s bad. Very bad. Stiles doesn’t want to talk about it.
So when he goes in to work on Friday, he decides to take a break from the whole self-humiliation gag and puts project ‘Get Lydia Martin to Marry Me’ on hold. He’s enjoying himself as much as a man in his position can while forced to spend the day researching the latest theories on talent development. It’s two in the afternoon and he’s about two articles away from shoving his head down the nearest trash can for entertainment. Then his favorite desk buddy, Stacy, comes in with a steaming cup of caramel heaven, and Stiles reminds himself he’s only had one cup of coffee all day.
“What is that, and where can I get it?”
Stiles likes Stacy. He’s trained her well these past few months. She’s used to Stiles’ ways, and she takes no offense from Stiles’ sugar-desperate demands. Her love for him is practically palpable. Even if she does snort a bit and turn her back to him.
“Aw, come on! You know I love you.”
“No, really. I do. Have I told you how awesome your hair looks today? And your skin! It’s like purified ebony on a cold, winter’s day.”
“Is that supposed to make sense?”
“Yes. Maybe. I don’t know. Does true beauty make sense? Is there reason or rhyme in high art? Your other-worldly majesty defies sense to create the greatest of personified poetry.”
“Yes, your magnificence?”
“Yes. Definitely. Totally shutting up. Right after you tell me where you got that. Because it’s not Starbucks, and there’s no name around the label. I can do my own research, but I’m gonna need a little more to work with than ‘curly leafy logo.’”
Stacy gives him the side eyes. “I don’t know where it came from because I didn’t buy it. I had a meeting with PD after lunch. They were giving it out.”
“What?” What is coffee? Don’t ask Stiles. He doesn’t know. He’s probably never known. Because PD. “What were you doing with PD?”
“Their new hardware manager says she needs an assistant. We’re trying to figure out if we can fit another coordinator into their budget.”
“New hardware manager?” Now if she would just confirm…
“Yeah. A transfer from New York. Pretty spunky, too.”
Bingo. “Oh. Cool.”
Stiles is not desperate. He’s not going to gape open mouthed or sidle over and sniff for a wisp of Lydia’s perfume. He’s definitely not going to pounce out of his chair and latch onto Stacy’s collar and possibly shake her until she tells him every last detail of her recent interaction with Lydia the Divine.
He does, however, attack her with the Stiles Stare, patented since just this moment. It is a stare so potent, so alluring, that no mortal can ever break its trance.
“Are you having a stroke?”
Okay, more like patent pending.
“I’m gonna go back to ignoring you now.”
“No, Stacy, wait!”
“Just… is she—how is she?”
Oh, come on. Now she’s just being mean. “Ly—the new hardware manager?”
Stacy’s eyes narrow. “What did you just say?”
“The—the new hardware manager. How is she?”
“No. You were gonna say her name.”
“No, I wasn’t. I don’t even know her. I mean how many five-foot three strawberry blondes do you think a guy meets in his life?” Shit.
“So you do know her.” Stacy’s grin is disgusting. It’s like sour milk, only worse. It’s sour milk you swallow before thinking to sniff because you’re stupid. Stiles hates sour milk.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Stiles really wishes Stacy would just shut up and go back to work already. Desk chit chat is fun, but Stiles is busy. He’s got a lot on his plate. Why can’t Stacy understand that? Her work ethic is atrocious. God.
“If you like her so much, why don’t you ask her for lunch?”
“Still don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“She’s only three floors up.”
“Really. It’s like you’re speaking Klingon.”
“You know Klingon.”
“No, I don’t.”
“Oh, so that wasn’t you screeching out Jingle Bell Rock like a dying koala last year? In Klingon?”
“It was a spoof on Mean Girls.”
“I really don’t think anyone got that.”
Did Stiles say ‘favorite’ desk buddy? More like ‘only’ desk buddy.
“I’m trying to work, here.”
“Don’t work too hard. You might miss out on the view.”
Stiles’ response dies in his throat. Behind him, Lydia sucks the breath clear out of him. He knows she’s there because she reaches right over him and hands Stacy a folder as she explains that she “forgot to take the new coordinator specs.”
Stiles tries to make himself turn, but can’t. He’s as petrified as Moaning Myrtle in that instant before she met her magical death. All he can do is watch as Stacy’s finely tweezed brow arcs up and she responds, “We haven’t agreed to open any new positions yet.”
“But you will.” God, that voice. So imperious. Stiles is drowning in an endless sea of terrified arousal.
“Let’s chat once you’ve found a few candidates.” The conversation is clearly over.
Stiles has to reveal himself, make eye contact, something. He manages to turn around a second before Lydia does. But she pays him no mind. Doesn’t even bother to glance in his direction as she takes in what Stiles is certain is a venomous scowl from Stacy. Lydia just smiles a little wider and then she’s off, back to the land of PD.
“I don’t like her.”
Stiles isn’t surprised -- not many can appreciate the ferocity that is Lydia. But he also doesn’t have the spirit enough to reply. He feels like he’s just been shoved through a paper shredder, stringy bits of him scattered all over the floor.
He was right there. She was right there.
She didn’t even notice him.
Stiles technically promised to knock before coming in, in case of sex-happenings and other things Scott maybe doesn’t want him to see. But Scott has also known Stiles for going on almost fifteen years, now, and if he really expected Stiles to stick to a promise like that when Scott gave him a spare set of keys to his apartment last year, he doesn’t really deserve Stiles’ word, anyway, now does he?
“I need to get buff. Pronto.”
“Why?” Scott is too busy stirring what smells like pasta at the stove to fully face Stiles, but he can tell from Scott’s peripheral face-twitching the he’s already mostly put two and two together.
“I was right in front of her, and she didn’t even look at me.”
It’s a few counter-clockwise stirs before Scott replies. “Maybe you should try meeting her somewhere not so… elevator-y.”
“It wasn’t the elevator. It was at my desk. She’s working with Stacy and she literally walked right up to me, less than an inch of cubicle walling between us, and she didn’t even bother to look down at me.”
“I thought you said she had my pheromones!”
“I said maybe she caught scent of your pheromones. It’s not an exact science.”
“Gaaaunghhh.” Stiles is an empty hole of emptiness.
“Aw. Don’t be sad. I’m making cheesy spaghetti.”
Which is so not far because Scott knows what his cheesy spaghetti does to Stiles.
“No. No way. I’m going on a diet. An all-protein, man diet. I need to get big, and fast. Then Lydia won’t be able to help but look in the direction of all my Tony Stark manliness.”
“I thought buff dudes were gross.”
“They are. But Lydia likes them, and it can’t just be all about me, me, me. Relationships are about compromise, Scott. I’ve got to give if I want to get.”
“And what exactly are you going to be giving?”
“Uh… sexy man pecs, duh.”
“So… you don’t want cheesy spaghetti.”
“I don’t even like cheesy spaghetti.”
“So I’m just gonna eat this whole pot by myself.”
“Go ahead. Gorge yourself until you’re one giant ball of fatty carbs.”
“Okay.” Scott is grinning, and Stiles doesn’t know why. The contents of that pot are lady repellants. They ward away all love and happiness. Scott is going to grow up to be an old and lonely man. With a gut. And oil-induced acne. And—
“Wait, is that beef?” Which, how could Scott betray him like that?
“Yeah. I switched it up a bit. Thought some meat would go nice with it.”
“Why didn’t you say so? Obviously, I’m gonna have some.”
“But you’re on a man diet.”
Oh, Scott. So naïve to the world of man food. “Yeah, and men eat protein, which you get from meat, and beef is meat. Need I go on?”
Scott’s still grinning, but at least now he’s grinning and serving Stiles, which somehow makes all the difference.
They eat on the couch, and Stiles is miles deep in a relaxing, cheesy spaghetti coma, hand resting comfortably atop his pleasantly bulging belly, when Scott hacks the good mood to pieces.
“Wow. This man diet really is working. You look bigger already.”
Stiles slaps Scott across the face with a pillow. Or well, he would. If he weren’t already so comfortable and full right where he is. He thinks about it though.
“Shut up. It won’t work till I add in my new exercise routine.” Obviously.
For once, Scott looks genuinely interested at that. He perks up next to him on the couch. It’s surprising enough that he makes himself crane his neck to look at Scott. Suspiciously.
“Nothing. I’m just stoked. I’ve been trying to get you to come to the gym with me for months. Everyone at my gym judges me so hard for not having a workout buddy. They’re always staring at me, I swear. This one guy even felt so bad, he actually came over and offered to help me do my reps.”
Stiles debates explaining that Scott was probably actually getting hit on for approximately half a second before giving it up as a lost cause. He’s told him a million times before, and every time Scott swears there’s no way. He probably wouldn’t believe it even if someone grabbed Scott’s hand and rubbed their whole body with it. It’s kind of cute, in a pathetic sort of way.
“Well, you’re just gonna have to keep ignoring ‘em, buddy, because I’m still not joining the gym.”
“But you just said--”
“That I’ve got a new exercise routine.”
“That doesn’t include the gym.” Scott’s face reads like maybe he thinks Stiles isn’t all there.
“Nope. No gym at all.”
“And how exactly do you figure that?”
“I’ve got one word for you, my friend: Insanity.”
“I wouldn’t say you’re completely insane.”
Jesus. When did Scott turn into a sarcastic sass queen?
“Hah. Excuse me while I get over my hysterical bout of laughter.”
“Do you have a point?”
Stiles needs new friends.
“I just said it. Insanity. That infomercial we saw a few weeks ago, remember?”
“You mean that ridiculous at-home video workout we both made fun of for like half an hour?”
Scott obviously suffers from dementia.
“Dude. The people in those ads are like a hundred percent ripped.”
“Yeah. They’re also professional trainers who probably did those workouts in addition to their twenty thousand hours of exercise a day.”
“Oh, Scott. Such little faith. It makes me sad, really.”
“Oh, yeah. Real sad. I can see the tears coming any minute, now.”
Which is not cool, because Stiles distinctly recalls having called dibs on the ‘sarcastic friend’ title long before Scott. Maybe they’ve been spending too much time together again. (Like that one time Stiles accidentally moved into Scott’s room and his dad had to borrow a moving van to haul all his stuff back to their house.)
“Mock me all you want. What you don’t understand, dear compadre of mine, is that I have a tool none of those TV buffsters had.”
“And that is?”
“Isn’t it obvious?” Stiles would wait for Scott to guess, but really, he never was very good at patience. “Love.”
Scott air gags.
“Whatever. Just you wait and see. I saw the 30-day before and afters. With love on my side, I bet I’ll get there in ten. You and Lydia will be begging to kiss these guns before I’m through.” Stiles is even feeling charitable enough to offer a quick preview. A little flexing here, a little flexing there. He can already see the muscles starting to form.
In fact, it’s a nice view, already, and Stiles can’t help but appreciate it. Intently. Which is why it’s totally uncool – not to mention, uncalled for – when Scott steals Stiles’ idea and mercilessly knocks him off the couch with an inhuman pillow-thwack across the head.
“Ungh.” Stiles does not remember pillows being that painful. “Not cool, man. Not cool.”
He goes to download the workout videos (because he’s poor and lacks morals and it’s not like his sheriff dad is ever going to find out anyway. He hopes.) only to realize that the file’s about five times bigger than he anticipated, and it’s going to be about half an hour before anything actually downloads.
And sure, he could wait the thirty minutes and then start the workout, but it’s already ten o’clock, and he’s got to be in the zone to get this sort of thing done. Plus he was really looking forward to doing a little more online research before calling it a night, which, okay, is definitely going to go well past midnight anyway, but just. No. It’s a sign. The conditions are not right.
He puts the file to download and reconfigures his schedule.
It can wait another day.
He dresses to impress, old lacrosse gear hugging his frame as well as it did seven years ago. Which is perfect. Because not only has he not blown up since high school, but the fit will be an excellent indicator of just how much muscle he gains as the uniform no doubt gets tighter and tighter. His fashion choice for the first of many fabulous workouts is a careful and calculated decision.
The fact that Stiles owns approximately zero other workout gear has nothing to do with it. Really.
He shoves his living room couch aside with only a little more exertion than the average male would usually need. He’s grunting and a little sweaty, but it’s cool. Definitely nothing to be embarrassed about. It’s a heavy couch with even heavier pillows. Nothing Stiles can do about it.
Next is the laptop, which he sets up on the coffee table before hitting play and letting the magic begin.
Except that the first video is just a fitness level indicator, and Stiles so does not have time for that. He’s a man on a mission. He’s got to get buff, and fast. He closes out and skips to the next video, only to find that it’s only about a gazillion hours of warm up before the actual work out starts. Christ. Who do they think he is? Spongebob, the teddy-bear-lifting-wimp-pants?
He fastforwards until he gets to the good stuff. Some jumping, a few push ups, each for only about a minute at a time. And seriously? This is what everyone’s been going crazy over? This is supposed to be the most insane workout that no one can handle?
What a joke.
But it’s too late to look up another workout program, so Stiles decides to just go for it already. Might as well give it a try. Worst case scenario, he’ll just have to find something else tomorrow.
It takes Stiles something like forty-two seconds to reevaluate his perhaps somewhat hasty ruling. It’s not that he’s dying, but he’s maybe two push ups away from a heart attack, and he’s pretty sure his muscles weren’t meant to burn like a thousand fiery suns. He rewinds to the warm up and tries again.
The thing is, he’s listening this time, and the main workout guy -- Shaun T., apparently -- says Stiles is supposed to customize this workout to himself. Well, he doesn’t actually say it in those words, but it’s more or less implied. He tells him to stop when he needs to, to take water breaks when he needs to. And Shaun T. is right. Stiles can’t overexert himself. This workout is supposed to be insane, after all. It’s called Insanity for a reason. Following the whole workout to a tee would literally be insanity.
So Stiles takes a few liberties.
He puts his all into it for about three hours (which the video timer somehow miscalculates as twenty-three seconds) and stops only when he feels his heart literally palpitate a mere high-knee away from death. Shaun T. says his breaks can be as long as he needs, so Stiles takes a few seconds to catch his breath and drink some water. Only he doesn’t actually have a water bottle, so he half-crawls to the kitchen and climbs up the kitchen counter for a cup of water from the sink.
It’s delicious and refreshing and exactly what Stiles needs.
He starts the video up again and does another twenty or so hours (fuck the video timer; the producers were obviously high off their asses when they put this together) before giving in to his wailing body and hitting pause. He doesn’t so much collapse to the floor as gracefully flutter down to it.
The point of his break is to recuperate for the next round, but it’s sort of a waste to just lie there and do nothing. Stiles never has been a one-task sort of guy. Needs to multi-task -- all day, every day -- so he drags his computer down over his stomach and opens up a new window to browse while his energy supplies recharge.
Of course, one thing leads to another, and then he’s live chatting with Scott and checking his emails and snorting at the nauseatingly burly men littering the last year’s worth of Lydia’s Facebook albums, and then it’s 2 a.m. and Stiles really hates his forever terrible attention span.
It’s not his fault. He has a medical condition, okay.
Whatever. He got through, what? Like ninety percent of the workout video? He checks just to make sure, and then abruptly shuts the laptop closed.
Okay. Well… not exactly ninety percent. But hey. Thirty percent is okay, too. It’s decent. Impressive, even. Especially for a workout known for its killer intensity.
Stiles will just have to try harder tomorrow.
As a reward, he downs a pint of peanut butter and chocolate ice cream. Because peanuts have protein and protein is man food.
It’s practically a protein shake. Just… frozen.
“I lost an inch.”
“Hungh?” Scott eats like a chipmunk, stuffing all the food in his cheeks and only swallowing at full food-stuffing capacity. It’s a skill he learned from Stiles, sure, but it’s a little annoying when Stiles is trying to carry an intellectual conversation during the one hour a day he’s allowed with Scott during the work week.
(Except for pizza night, which is the obvious exception, because pizza.)
“My arms. I’ve been doing these stupid workout videos for like nine days now, and I’ve actually lost muscle mass.”
“Mehbeh ih’ juh’ faah’.”
“Oh, please. It’s not fat. I am as sleek as a prima ballerina. I have no fat on my body to lose. This workout is melting what little muscle I had and turning it into gold.”
“I bet that’s exactly how they make so much money, too. Find innocent men, hopeful and doey-eyed and totally unsuspecting, and steal all their muscle to be sold on the black market for leprechaun gold.”
Alright. Stiles doesn’t blame Scott for the eyebrow he gives him at that comment. Stiles is maybe going just a little bit insane.
“Okay, no, but seriously. What the fuck am I supposed to do. I’ve been breaking my back with this thing for practically ever, and I’m actually further away from goal now than when I started.”
“Dude,” Scott says more clearly, now that he’s swallowed his food hoard. “Just come to the gym with me. There are machines and weights and actual people that you can just copy if you don’t know what to do. I’ll help you, too. You’ll bulk up at the gym for sure.”
Stiles tears viciously into his burger. He really doesn’t want to. He hates the gym on principle. They’re like hamster cages with little trained hamsters racing across their wheels like they think they’re going somewhere when they’re really just hamsters running on a hamster wheel and going nowhere.
(Stiles may or may not have accidentally killed his hamster when he was twelve. It’s not an issue.)
“Man, I don’t know. Everyone’ll probably just stare at me and my skinny rooster legs, and my pale…everything.”
“No, they won’t.”
“Yes they well, Scott. And they will judge. They will judge hard.”
“Not harder than they’ve already been judging me. Buddy-less gym goer, remember?”
Stiles really wishes his biggest problems in life stemmed from misunderstandings while constantly being hit on.
“Yeah. I remember.”
“Come on. You won’t even have to sign up. Just try it. I’ve got a few free vouchers I still need to use up. You can just come and check it out. If you like it, you sign up. If you don’t, we’ll try something else.”
It is truly beyond Stiles how his life came to this point.
“Fine. But I’m not happy about this.”
“I know, buddy. I know.”
But it’s cool. Stiles isn’t jealous. After all, that’s what he’s here for. If Scott can do it, so can he. A few days in the gym, and he’ll beef up just as nicely as Scott. He’ll just have to make sure to avoid any and all mirrors in the meantime. Not because it’ll get him down or anything. He just wants it to be a surprise. The difference will stand out more starkly if he doesn’t watch the in-progress changes.
The gym’s pretty nice, actually. It even has an Olympic-sized swimming pool and everything. But swimming’s for wussies, and Stiles is no wuss. He passes the pool altogether and goes straight for the big guns: the bench press. There’s a woman just finishing up with it. She’s lean but cut, definitely well toned all over, and if those are the sorts of weights that are getting her in kickass shape, that’s exactly what Stiles is going to do, too.
“Alright, bro. I’m going in.” He thumps Scott’s shoulder as he heads over to take the woman’s place. The bar feels smooth beneath his grip, warm in the places where the woman before him held it. He doesn’t know why he was so reluctant to come to the gym, really. He feels comfortable and at home, already, lying back and letting the magic happen. All he has to do is lift this bar a couple of times. Easy peasy. Deep breath, tight grip, and he’s off.
Only, the bar doesn’t actually move. Hunh. Okay, then. No big deal. A little more pressure ought to do the trick. He inhales once more, deeper this time, plants his feet steady on the ground to push like he means it, and… Stiles is pretty sure the only thing he manages to push is himself, uncomfortably hard against the bench.
He darts a quick glance in Scott’s direction. Not because he’s embarrassed or anything. He’s not. Stiles just wants to see if maybe Scott is as shocked as him. Clearly, the lady before him is an Avenger in disguise, the freaking Black Widow or something. Which is cool, in a way, but also totally unfair. How the hell is Stiles supposed to match up against an actual real life superhero?
So he checks the weights. They’re ridiculous, as predicted. He goes to remove the heaviest round, but it’s stuck or something because he can’t get it to slide off the bar. Typical. Scott’s been boasting about this gym for months, but Stiles has been here five minutes, and already he’s finding all sorts of malfunctions. Stiles really needs to have a talk with Scott about exaggerating the truth.
He moves over to another weights machine. This one’s a kind of chest exercising contraption. Or maybe it’s more for your arms. Stiles sidles into the seat and slips his arms into the handles on either side of his head. The picture shows a red little muscle man arcing his arms around to meet in the middle about half a foot from his face. Simple.
Only, the handles won’t budge.
Stiles is starting to see a pattern, here.
Absolutely not searching out Scott this time, Stiles leans over to lower the weights. And seriously? What the fuck? Is everyone at this gym a superhero in disguise? Because 120 pounds is not a normal amount of weight to toss around with your arms alone.
Stiles drops the peg to a hundred pounds and tries again. But it doesn’t-- the machine is clearly broken.
It is a testament to their long and practiced friendship that Scott dodges fast enough to avoid a set of black eyes reminiscent of the Panda Eyes of ’09 Incident. “Jesus!”
“Maybe you should try something a little lower for your first time.”
“Maybe you should go back to flexing for your new boyfriend.” Because yeah. Stiles may be busy trying to work these superhuman machines, but he’s not blind. The curly-haired blonde at four o’clock has been checking Scott out since they walked in, and Scott hasn’t been the least bit discouraging about it, either.
“Oh, please. Ten bucks says that’s the guy that offered to spot you last week.”
Scott follows Stiles’ gaze, but only turns back looking even more flummoxed than before. “Who? Isaac?”
“Who? Isaac?” Yes, Stiles is a twenty-three year-old, moderately high-functioning adult, but he is not above high pitched mimicking. “Yes, Isaac. The guy who’s been eyeing your ass for the past five hours.”
“We literally just got here.”
“Yeah, uhuh. Don’t try to change the subject.”
“He has a girlfriend.”
“And you know this, how?”
“Because they come in together all the time?”
Or Scott is a lying liar who lies and completely making her up.
“I don’t see her anywhere, now.”
“They don’t always come together.”
“And how do you know they’re not just friends?”
“I’ve seen them kiss.”
Oh. Well. “Maybe they have an open relationship.”
“Yeah. Probably not. Plus, even if they did, did you forget the part where I’m straight?”
“Oh, sure. I remember. Doesn’t mean you’re not totally basking in the fact that he’s head over Nikes for you.”
But Scott is blushing, and Stiles knows that look.
“Oh, my god. You totally knew.”
“And here I thought you were actually oblivious.”
“You’ve been peacocking.”
“Stiles, shut up. I swear to god.”
“You’ve been peacocking like the alpha of all peacocks.”
“Can we please get back to the part where you pretend to not be totally embarrassed about your zero percent muscle content?”
“What’s wrong? Scared your little boyfriend’s gonna hear how much you’ve been preening for him?”
“I will cancel pizza night.”
Aw. It’s cute when Scott tries acting tough. If Stiles wasn’t currently in the middle of the most important mission of his life, he’d gleefully drag it out a little longer. As it is, he’s got bigger fish to fry.
“Fine, fine. Help me get this stupid thing in motion.”
Scott squats and lowers the peg to sixty pounds.
“Seriously? Do I look twelve?”
Scott gives him that stupid, half grin that means ‘yes.’
“Oh, shut up.”
“I didn’t say anything.” And still with the stupid grins.
“Yeah, well your face did.”
Scott smirks a little wider. Well, fine. If that’s how Scott wants to play it, Stiles is game. He’ll just prove how incredibly ineffective and pointless this little charade is.
“Dude. I’m not going to build any muscle with something this pathetically eas—” Stiles’ words cut off with a grunt. It’s not that it’s hard. It’s just… not as easy as he thought. “How many of these do I have to do?” He may or may not be sweating a little.
Scott shrugs. “As many as you want. Two or three reps, then take a break. Switch machines. Just get a feel for what you like.”
“Okay. Not cryptic at all.”
“You’ll be fine. I’m gonna head over to the treadmill for a bit.”
“Yeah. You do that.”
Stiles is only a little bit dying by the time he gets to his third rep. His arms feel like watered down jelly and his temples are damp with sweat. He takes a minute to remind himself he’s doing this for Lydia. Then he takes another, mind-boggling moment to remember that Scott is doing this for fun.
And people say he has issues.
He could fiddle around with another machine, but really, he’s already exerted himself more than he planned for today. It’s time for a break. And a reward for a job well done. He heads into the locker rooms for his gym bag – Scott’s gym bag – and pulls out a packet of Reese’s.
To compare the sensation of the chocolate against his tongue to a long overdue orgasm is probably a bit of an overstatement. But only just barely.
He checks his phone for messages while he sucks – because you don’t chew a gift like Reese’s. You suck and you savor – and spends another few minutes trying to beat his word search high scores.
Stiles’ head shoots up. “Hey, man. Want a Reese’s?”
Stiles really hopes the answer is no.
“No.” Score. “You’re supposed to be working out.”
“I am. I’m just taking a break.”
“Bro, you did like one workout.”
“Yeah. And it was a really hard and strenuous one.” His arms still feel sore.
“It was two minutes of arm weights.”
“That drained me of a lot of energy. I’m refueling.”
“With junk food.”
“It’s not junk food.” Duh. “It’s man food.”
“Because chocolate is definitely man food.”
“No, but peanut butter is. Peanuts are condensed protein super foods. It’s basically like eating a protein bar. Only way more awesome.”
A pinched look tugs at Scott’s features. “Stiles, I’m starting to think that maybe your workout videos weren’t the problem.”
“Dude. What’s that supposed to mean?” If Scott’s implying with Stiles thinks he is, Stiles is definitely glad he didn’t share his Reese’s after all.
“I’m just saying that maybe your work ethic needs a little… improvement.”
Scott is lame and uncool. “You’re mean.”
“Sorry?” To his credit, he does actually look it.
“Okay. Apology accepted.” Because that’s what bros are for. Then, “Being buff is hard.”
“Well, you’re not actually there yet.”
“Really, Scott?” Really?
Scott lifts his hands in surrender. “Sorry. Backing away now. Refuel as you see fit.”
Stiles glares at Scott’s retreating back until he remembers he’s still got another peanut butter cup left. Stupid Scott and his stupid truths. He stuffs the whole chocolate in his mouth in one go. It doesn’t taste nearly as heavenly as the first time around.
He’s not upset. Definitely not. But his plan to get Lydia to marry him is more or less burning up in flames all around him.
He spends the next week alternating between avoiding mirrors altogether and checking obsessively for muscle growth. Not that he’s actually exercising, but he sort of has this vague notion that if he hopes hard enough, maybe his muscles will spontaneously develop on their own anyway.
On Tuesday, Stiles is halfway through some very intense work research – well, okay. Not so much ‘work research’ as research that he does at work. Apparently you can get muscle implants, which, go figure. Now Stiles just has to figure out a way to save up about fifty something grand or so – when he gets a text from Scott.
-what about a personal trainer?-
Stiles does not follow. -?-
-my gym doesn’t have any, but there’s a branch nearby that does-
“Problem?” Stacy’s knee-deep in resumes for Lydia’s new assistant position, and Stiles is not trying to get on her bad side.
He shakes his head tight-lipped, and goes back to texting sans audio track.
-dude. i’m not getting a personal trainer-
-oh, I don’t know. Maybe because I don’t feel like spending my evenings being yelled at by some over glorified drill sergeant?-
-they’re not that bad-
Stiles sincerely doubts that.
-how would you know-
-because Isaac told me. Of course he did. And because you’re paying them, so they have to make sure you like them at least a little-
-Jillian Michaels isn’t nice and people pay her all the time-
Stiles has watched Biggest Loser. He’s no fool.
-that’s just on tv. Seriously. You should give it a try. Plus, whoever you get will probably be hot-
Stacy cuts Stiles off mid-sigh with a vicious glare. Right. Quiet emoting. He face palms, instead. Silently.
-thanks, bro. really. But I just don’t think it’s for me-
Stiles and Scott both still have another few hours before they’re out for the day, so the conversation ends not long after. (Though not before Scott forwards along the contact details, anyway.) But Stiles thinks about it even as he scrolls through page after page of online pictures later that night by himself. It’s a testament to his unerring love for the masochistic that he makes himself stare at every guy he sees in Lydia’s pictures.
They’re tall and tan and strong and confident and pretty much everything Stiles isn’t.
But he could be. He knows he could. It seems impossible, sure, but it’s not like any of those guys was born a muscle-ensconced supermodel. (Well, he’s pretty sure, anyway. It seems anatomically unlikely that any woman pushed something out that large. Then again, there’s always C-section.)
He just needs to try harder. He needs something to help him focus. And maybe Scott’s right. Maybe a personal trainer is just the thing Stiles needs to get him to Lydia-worthy status. A few whistles here, a few death threats there, and Stiles will be right on track to get Lydia to notice him again. (Though hopefully not in the “move out of my way, loser” way she noticed him the last time they knew each other.)
He pulls up the contact info Scott sent him and punches the number determinedly into his contact list. He schedules an appointment the next morning.
He stares at all the manly men and womanly women, flexing their muscles and flaunting their abs, and he just knows they built these glass walls to mock him.
Stiles watches the automatic doors slide open and shut four times before a petite brunette comes out to greet him. “Is there something I can help you with?”
“Uh…” Stiles is pretty sure shouting Save me! wouldn’t get him the desired results. “Yeah. I, uh… I have an appointment? With um… a personal trainer?” Great. Apparently Stiles only knows how to speak in questions, now.
“Oh, yes! Mr. Stilinski, right? Right this way.”
“Uh… Stiles is fine.”
“Okay, Stiles. Just step inside and I’ll go tell your trainer you’re ready for him.”
Stiles tries not to fidget too obviously while he waits at the front desk for the girl to do her thing. (He’s not overly successful.)
She jogs bag after a minute, artfully messy bun bouncing as she comes to a stop. “He’s setting up a space for you near the weights. Would you like to drop off your gym bag first?”
“Oh, right. Yeah. That’d be great. Thanks.”
Stiles shifts the strap on his shoulder as he follows her. His anxiety has been steadily increasing since he walked through the doors, and he’s not sure he sees it plateau-ing any time soon. When his bag is safely tucked away in a locker, the girl guides him back through the main area and into the weights section.
“Your trainer’s name is Derek, by the way.”
“Cool.” Stiles doesn’t actually care, but he’s nervous as hell, and he figures talking might help him tune out the worst of his nerves. “At least it’s not a crazy name. Like mine. I have a really crazy name. Not Stiles. Stiles is a nickname. My real name, no one can pronounce. Not that I’ll tell you. I’m not gonna tell you. But Derek’s a good name. Not too weird. Not too common. I don’t even know any other Derek’s. Do you?”
The girl’s still smiling, but it’s brittle, and accompanied by a set of creeped out eyes that tell Stiles she’s only humoring him because she’s paid to. Stiles shuts up.
“That’s him over there,” she says when they come to a stop. “In the gray shirt with the company logo.” She points one lilac-varnished fingernail in the direction of her gaze for emphasis.
Not that Stiles needed it. He’d have to be pretty fucking blind to have missed out on the behemoth of a man in front of him. Alright, not heavy weight champion behemoth, but Chris Evans in Captain America 2 behemoth. Because the guy is built. Like, really built. And if Stiles didn’t already have a complex before (he did), he’s definitely got one now (and it’s worse).
Stiles doesn’t know why he didn’t associate ‘eye candy’ with ‘inferiority complex’ when Scott first brought it up -- because of course working out alongside an already perfect resemblance of Stiles’ goal is going to present him with some issues -- but it’s not like Stiles is going to complain to the cute brunette beside him that his trainer is too good looking for him. She’s already judging him hard enough.
Shoving his trepidation as far the hell away from him as he can, he gives the girl a nod. She smiles back, tight and perfunctory and clearly eager to get back to the front desk and away from Stiles, and turns away before he can change his mind.
“Okay,” Stiles says to himself. A little personal pep-talking never hurt anyone. “You can do this. You can do this.” He can. He just has to look on the bright side of things. Maybe the guy’s a total but-his-face, all brawn, but no… beautiful face. Yes. Definitely. He probably looks about as appealing as moldy bread.
(Stiles makes the best analogies.)
Nodding once to himself, he gathers his determination and walks right up to the guy – who’s actually not as huge as he looks now that Stiles is up close and personal with him. He’s got maybe an inch on him. Less. Not so scary after all, really.
He clears his throat to get the guy’s attention. The guy starts to face him and Stiles says, “Hi, I’m—.” Oh, no. Please, dear god, no. “Derek?”
“I think you got that backwards.”
Stiles is not even remotely in the right mindset to appreciate the fact that Derek Hale just made an objectively lame and terrible joke.
Derek Hale is… the last person Stiles wants to see right now. Or ever. He’s a bully and dick, as self-absorbed and entitled as every other jock at Beacon Hills. Only, Stiles thinks maybe he was the worst of them all for having been given everything in life – a perfect family, perfect grades, teachers and students who adored him alike – and still treating people like Stiles like scum.
Stiles has always tried to comfort himself by thinking – hoping – that people like Derek Hale get their just desserts in adulthood, that they reach their prime in high school and go downhill from there: beer bellies and bald spots and periodic unemployment. Looking at Derek, now, Stiles can tell he was wrong. It looks like the bullies never face up to their bad deeds after all.
Stiles can’t. This is so humiliating on so many nonlinear levels, he can hardly wrap his mind around it. Pathetic and weak in high school, even more pathetic and weak in adulthood. And here he is, putting it all on display for Derek Hale, the guy who once stuffed him in a locker and laughed until Stiles had a panic attack and then called him a pussy for ‘freaking out’ and getting him in trouble.
Stiles can’t believe he just remembered that.
(He really wishes he hadn’t.)
“Are you actually planning to do any exercise today, or would you rather just stand there and stare at the wall for another few minutes?”
Stiles snaps back to the present with a bolt of fury. He glares at Derek, eyes narrowed and tense as he takes in Derek’s grin, stupid and condescending as ever.
“I’d rather eat dirt than spend another second with you.” Which… not exactly Stiles’ best, but hey, he’s under a lot of stress, okay?
He expects Derek to snap back, yell something haughty and punitive like he always does. Instead, his face goes blank for a moment. Then he snorts.
“Whatever, man. It’s your money. No refunds. I get paid either way.”
Of course he does.
“Shouldn’t you try being a little less rude to a paying customer?”
“I get paid to train you, not hold your hand and be your friend.” And there’s the Derek Stiles knows and loathes.
The only problem is, Stiles loathes him so much, he can’t actually think up a suitable comeback right now. He wracks his brain for something appropriately scathing, but the only thing he can think up are a few pitiful ‘yo’ mama’ jokes. It’s not his fault. He’s been caught off guard. He didn’t come in prepared for this shit.
Stiles clearly needs to spend more time looking up non-‘yo’ mama’ joke insults.
So he does the only thing he can and glares some more before turning in a swift arc and stalking dramatically back through the gym and past the sliding door entrance. Which is stupid and slow and makes him stand undramatically while he waits for them to open enough for him to lurch himself through.
Which is of course when he remembers he left his car keys in his gym bag, which is back in the gym, which is back with Derek.
Stiles really hates his life.
Exhaling through flared nostrils, he stomps back into the gym, through the lockers, grabs his bag, and… hurls it back against the lockers. The echoing ring across the room is somewhat mollifying.
This is so fucking typical, Stiles can hardly process it. Here he is, just minding his own business, and out of no where comes Derek Hale, back from hell to ruin Stiles’ life all over again. Christ. He feels like he’s all of seventeen again, helpless and frustrated and seething with impotent rage.
But he’s not seventeen, Stiles has to consciously remind himself. He’s not helpless. Or at least, he doesn’t have to be. Stiles is paying Derek. Derek is work for him. Derek has to do what Stiles says, and even if he doesn’t, this isn’t about Derek. This is about Stiles, and Lydia, and Stiles is not going to let Derek get in the way of that.
And sure. Stiles could try another gym, find another trainer, but he won’t. Because Derek doesn’t run Stiles’ life. He doesn’t get to dictate Stiles’ level of happiness and self-worth anymore. Stiles is going to finish what he started, and Derek Hale can just go fuck himself.
So Stiles takes a second to calm down. He grabs his bag and tucks it neatly back into a locker. Then he straightens his shirt and walks back through the main entrance and to the weights room.
Derek is there where he left him, sitting at a bench and furiously punching out arm curls. Stiles would think he looked genuinely upset if it weren’t for the fact that angry and hateful is probably Derek’s default setting.
He clears his throat.
Derek looks something between surprised and unhappy as he looks up at Stiles. Stiles isn’t shocked at all. It’s little wonder Derek would be pissed off about Stiles coming back and taking away Derek’s freebie hour for more muscle building. Well too fucking bad. Stiles paid for an hour, and he’s going to get his hour.
Moving before he can over think things and change his mind (again), Stiles puts on his brightest grin, thumps Derek on the shoulder, (ignores the angry jolt that goes through him at the contact) and says, “Alright, big guy. Let’s do this.”
And if Derek looks at him with something approaching suspicion and dislike, Stiles doesn’t care. He’s doing this for Lydia.
He’s doing this for Lydia.