“I don’t see it,” Stiles says, frowning, because he definitely sees it.
He jabs at his tablet maybe a little more forcefully than necessary, scrolling through the latest findings in the P7 caverns that Greenberg had forwarded him. “That guy’s a psycho.”
“Well, I mean.” Scott squints at him. “Yeah.”
Stiles can see him squinting, even though he’s definitely not looking up or around, because then he’d have to see Dr. Derek Hale freaking smiling at Captain Rapp. Derek Hale doesn’t smile. Derek grumps and glowers all over the lab and yells at Stiles about leaving mugs everywhere and propping his feet up on the delicate ancient equipment. It’s lasted thousands of years, Stiles is pretty sure it can handle his rubber soles.
Scott says, “It’s basically you with a beard, of course he’s evil.”
Good old Scott, Stiles thinks, still not looking. “How is that even regulation?” he says. He knows the troops get a little lax when stationed in another galaxy, but face shaving is at least the norm. Captain Mitch Rapp looks like a hobo. With, like, fantastic arms. Geez.
He’s tragic, too, which apparently is Derek’s kryptonite.
Stiles can be tragic. Stiles has depths.
Maybe not the kind of depths that can relate to having his fiancé gunned down in front of him, but look. Stiles isn’t trying to take away from Rapp’s pain here, but before he beamed down from the Daedalus, Derek was down to only yelling at Stiles sixty percent of the time, and twenty percent of their remaining lab shifts were spent giving Stiles looks that he’s almost certain were fond. He gets him coffee on their morning shifts together. Sometimes he waits for him for lunch. Any smiles Derek is throwing around should be for Stiles, not a dude who’s probably carrying at least ten hidden knives on his person.
Stiles has the kind of past that involves werewolves, but does anyone sympathize with that? Nope. Never mind the fact that nobody but the government is supposed to be in the know—he’d still maybe like a slice of the good pie every once and a while.
Rapp apparently has these sad eyes that always trick Private Hicks into giving him extra pudding.
And make Derek dip his head and laugh softly, Christ.
Stiles’s chest tightens.
This is so unfair.
Rapp has kind of a reputation for being a crazy, heartless assassin, and it’s both hard and easy to remember that when he’s got a dude twice his size pinned up against a wall for checking Stiles so hard in the commissary that Stiles clocked his temple against the doorframe.
Rapp says, “Watch yourself, Graves,” with his bulging forearm leaning into Grave’s windpipe, and he doesn’t let go until Grave’s lips tinge blue and he taps him weakly on the wrist.
Then Rapp helps Stiles upright with serious eyes and says, “You’re alright, Stilinski,” and is it weird that they’re the same exact height? That Stiles sees his mother’s eyes looking back at him, sees the little tight half-smile his dad always gives him when he’s working off a migraine? That’s weird, right?
Stiles shakes it off, though, and says, “Thanks, man,” and wishes, with all his might, that Derek hadn’t seen all that.
Derek, standing behind Rapp, frowning at Stiles like this is all Stiles’s fault.
Derek follows him through the food line, hovering like a weirdo until Stiles flails a hand and says, “What?”
“What was that about?” Derek says.
Stiles looks at him, brow furrowed. “What was what about?”
At Derek’s glare, Stiles says, “Oh, Graves, he’s an ass.” Isn’t that common knowledge? Graves doesn’t like Stiles. Graves hasn’t liked Stiles since Scott got him stuck on the cleaning crew for tripping him in the hallway when he was struggling with a box full of rocks.
Derek looks adorably concerned, and Stiles doesn’t even think about it before patting his arm lightly and saying, “Don’t worry, big guy. He’s too afraid that Rapp will murder him now to retaliate.”
“I wasn't… I didn't…” Derek flushes, mouth pinched, and then he turns on his heel and stalks away.
Stiles spends eighty percent of his time in the geology labs. Mostly because of Derek—he’s a grump, but he’s a hot, adorable grump—but also because the tiny little paleontology nook where he and Greenberg are stationed doesn’t have enough room to do basically anything other than write reports. They have two desks squished face-to-face, for maximum annoyance, and a little bent cart in the corner with an ancient coffee machine sitting on top that doubles as a filing cabinet.
While the number varies between Daedalus runs, currently there are five geologists. There’s a big sign on the far wall reminding scientists not to lick alien rocks. There’s a giant red geode in the middle of the room with a nametag that reads FRANK.
Any rocks that have fossils get tossed in a big plastic bin, and every Monday morning shift, Stiles sits on the floor with a tablet and deems which ones are worthy of extraction.
Monday morning shifts are the best, because usually it’s only him and Derek and sometimes Marnie, who listens to music too loud with her earbuds in and can’t hear Stiles’s frankly delightful attempts at flirting.
This Monday morning, however, Derek is back to being a full-fledged sourwolf, and arrives at the lab minus Stiles’s usual cup of coffee and glares at Stiles’s regular Monday morning piles of Maybe, No, and Awesome all over the floor with a faint snarl.
Stiles graciously doesn’t comment on the lack of caffeine sharing—it’s not like he promised to bring one, it’s just that that’s their routine, but Stiles isn’t going to be a baby about it—and goes back to his bin.
Marnie sings, “If you wanna be my lover, you gotta get with my friends,” lightly under her breath, a hunk of something starlight navy pressed up close to her nose.
The light clinking of rocks and Derek’s huffy breaths are the only other sound.
The lab doors slide open moments later, and Stiles glances up to see Rapp and his tragic face—he’s leaning into the doorframe, holding up a clear plastic bag.
He says, “Hey, Doc—”
Stiles makes a face, Doc, ugh.
“—as promised. Weird lumpy green rock we picked up during yesterday’s mission.” Rapp gives the bag a little shake with a small, quirky smile. He flicks an unreadable look toward Stiles, smile still holding, and then back to Derek again.
Stiles bites his lip and burns hot with jealousy as Derek beams back at him. God.
“Great,” Derek says, breathy, and Stiles wants to die.
He could be just excited about the rock, Stiles has seen how the geologists get about alien sediments, but Derek stands there and gazes at the door once Rapp leaves. Stiles would bet all his money that Rapp isn’t even interested, he’s got the worst kind of love-lost past, but Derek has his thinking face on, and it only falls into a scowl when he notices Stiles looking.
It’s pure stupidity and the fact that Stiles wants to prove he’s got one up on Rapp that makes him say, “So does Rapp know about—” He makes a growl face and claw hands, because he’s an idiot.
Derek stares at him. “What.”
“You know,” he leans over his bin, glances at Marnie to check and make sure she’s still bobbing her head to old pop tunes, and says, “werewolves.”
He expected maybe an annoyed, pissed off look, or a hissed, “Shut up,” but the one thing Stiles does not expect is for Derek to lunge at him.
Stiles says, “Whoa,” and scrambles to his feet, knocks over a chair to his left and manages to make it halfway across the room before Derek is practically on top of him.
“How do you know that?” Derek growls, twisting a fist into Stiles’s shirt and dragging him up close and personal with rapidly sharpening teeth.
“Uh.” Stiles winces at the sound of tearing—he’s got limited shirts here, god, it’s not like he can pop on down to the nearest clothing store for a new one. “I’m best friends with Scott!”
Derek’s eyes narrow even further. "So?“
"So? So! I’ve been best friends with Scott since we were five. I grew up in Beacon Hills! Please don’t eat my face!” Stiles hasn’t been afraid of Derek since he proved himself to be the most mild-mannered alpha Stiles has ever known—maybe his scale is a little skewed, since devil alphas were pretty rampant around Beacon Hills growing up, but Derek wears soft sweaters in his off time and talks to rocks.
Stiles has been on Atlantis for six months, though, and apparently Derek Hale hasn’t even thought enough about him to check his records and references. Beacon Hills has a goddamn Nemeton.
Derek’s grip finally softens, then slips, and Stiles absently checks his shirt seams with a huff, willfully ignoring the heat in his cheeks.
Derek sounds like he’s biting a lemon when he finally says, “So you’re in Scott's…” he trails off, and Stiles rolls his shoulders.
“In Scott’s pack, yeah.” What there is of it, at least. Each of their families and Lydia—there’s a distinct lack of wolves, which is why Stiles thinks this stint in Atlantis had so much appeal. “I mean, you actively recruited him, didn’t you think to…” check me out, he doesn’t say, because contrary to popular belief he has some self-control.
Someone clears their throat pointedly and Derek stiffens. Stiles turns wide eyes on Marnie, who has her earbuds hanging around her neck now, and one eyebrow arched at them.
She stands up, hands clutching her coffee cup, and says, “If you guys are gonna have sex in here, maybe give me a heads up next time.”
Derek practically trips over his feet to get away from Stiles. “We’re not… I mean…” His eyes are sort of insultingly wild when he looks at Stiles, silently pleading with him to back him up.
Stiles presses his lips together. Deal with THAT, he thinks.
“Sure,” Marnie says, walking toward the door. “Remember Paul’s shift starts at ten.”
Derek groans into his hands when it swishes closed behind her. “Why?” he says.
“Why what?” Stiles says stubbornly.
Derek pinks up so damn easily, Stiles is pretty sure he uses the facial hair to help shelter all his delicate emotions. “Why would you let her think that?”
Stiles crosses his arms over his chest. “Is that the pinnacle of embarrassment for you, Hale? That she thinks you’re sleeping with me?”
“No, I…” Derek frowns, hunches his shoulders. “This is a sterile environment!”
Sterile is stretching it. Paul spilled soup all over one of the lab tables just yesterday. “Right,” Stiles says. “Whatever.” He stares down at his half-finished piles. He needs a break. He takes a deep breath and says, “I’m gonna go get coffee.”
“Oh, I…” Derek glances over at his own cup on his desk, almost startled, like he didn’t realize he hadn’t brought one for Stiles.
Stiles manfully refrains from digging his palms into his eyes in frustration. Has Derek always had this much trouble finishing sentences? How has he not noticed that before?
“I’m going,” Stiles says.
Derek visibly deflates, it’s so freaking confusing, and Stiles swallows down a groan and leaves.
“Okay,” Scott says. “But, like, they’re not having sex.”
Stiles scowls and stabs at his spaghetti with his fork. “You don’t know that.”
“They don’t smell like they’re having sex,” Scott says, and Jared at the other end of the table scoots back his chair and says, “C'mon guys,” with a whine.
Stiles ignores him and says, “They could shower.”
Scott, like a bro, taps his nose with a grimace and says, “The nose always knows.”
Stiles stuffs a meatball in his mouth and says, “But they’re, like, weirdly close, right?” There’s just too much standing together, silently smiling at each other for anything to be normal.
“I don’t know, I kind of feel like neither of them know how to be regular people, and when you put them together it just… amplifies, you know?” Scott’s having ice cream for dinner. He still eats like he’s sixteen, because he doesn’t have to worry about cholesterol, and sometimes Stiles hates him for it.
Scott says, “Did you know that one of Derek’s old girlfriends set a house fire that killed pretty much his entire family?”
This sounds like something Stiles should have known about, but in fact did not. He sits back in his chair, stunned. “How did I not know that?”
“Kira told me,” Scott says. “She’s dating Derek’s cousin.”
The only thing Stiles knows about Derek’s pack here on Atlantis is that most of them had to cycle out for a tour on earth, and that Kira and Isaac stayed. It was supposed to help Scott acclimate, particularly because Kira isn’t a wolf.
“Huh,” Stiles says, drumming his fingers on the table. “So a sharing of their crap pasts?” That could be a thing. Doesn’t really explain all the palpable pining, though. And the way Derek looks like the moon shines out of Rapp’s ass. Ugh.
Scott is nodding, though, and scooping chocolate and peanut butter into his mouth like a five year old at a birthday party.
Stiles says, “All right, buddy. So what should I do now?”
Clearly six months of extremely subtle wooing have not worked on Derek at all. According to Scott, Stiles really needs to up his game.
Scott’s entire romantic life is comprised of a single girl when they were teenagers whose family had honed the craft of killing werewolves, though, so despite Stiles’s complete faith in Scott as a diehard friend and alpha, he’s understandably wary of his advice about love.
Stiles knows Derek’s lab schedule by heart. Usually, he carefully plans to be there at the same time just enough to not be totally accused of stalking. Except for Monday mornings, he’s got a four-day rotating system that repeats only every three weeks, every other month, but since Rapp arrived Stiles is pretty sure he’s figured him out.
He’s got a scarily blank face when he thinks no one is looking, and winks cheekily at Stiles whenever he catches him out on it. Like they’re sharing secrets. Like Stiles can relate.
If Derek wasn’t a werewolf, Stiles might be more worried about his well-being than how much sex he’s hypothetically having with this handsome sociopath.
Anyway, Stiles has to scramble to reroute some of his geology lab days, which is why he finds himself scrolling through an ancient bestiary in the lab at eight pm on a Thursday with Paul and Junior for company instead of snuggled up with Scott in his room watching The Burbs.
The door is stuck half open because Derek, who is supposed to be off shift for the night, is hovering there with Rapp, whispering. Neither of them seem like the type to whisper like that. It’s making the back of Stiles’s neck itch.
They probably didn’t expect to see him there. Is he making this awkward? Should he just graciously bow out of the way while Derek fucks his heavily muscled doppelganger? Stiles hates how normal that sounds, he’s been stuck in another galaxy with eerie space tech too long.
The main thing that Stiles is going to take away, right now, hunching his shoulders up around his ears, is that Scott was super wrong.
He’s concentrating so hard on his Very Important Business—he’s looking at birds—that he misses the hiss of the door finally closing, and startles a little when Derek steps over to the station he’s currently commandeering and says, “Here.”
Stiles glances up to see a weird green rock being held in front of his face. It’s a very familiar rock. A gifted rock. Stiles wants no parts of that rock. He slouches lower in his seat. “No, thanks.”
Derek makes a strangled noise, and Stiles looks beyond the rock to his constipated face. “It’s for you,” he says, like he didn’t just try to give it to him, and Stiles didn’t just freaking refuse to take it.
Stiles doesn’t want Rapp’s fucking rock. This is torture.
Derek isn’t moving away, though, and finally Stiles huffily snaps on a new pair of latex gloves and reaches up for it. “Is this—” he stops, mouth dropping open, and brings the rock closer. It’s big enough to take two hands to hold it, and he spins it in his fingers, swipes thumbs along the tiny, amazing bones along one side and says, words heavy with awe, “Is this a dinosaur?”
“Isn’t that your job to figure out?” Derek says, but he sounds so happy with himself that Stiles maybe wants to kiss him.
Really wants to kiss him. Which would be inappropriate, given Rapp and all, so Stiles definitely doesn’t do that. For very long.
When he pulls back, Derek has his palms flat on the lab table from where Stiles had pulled him forward, and looks a little like he’s been slapped.
“Crap,” Stiles says. He presses his hands over his mouth. “Oh my god, Rapp is going to murder me.”
Derek’s eyebrows go from popped to deep v and he says, “Why would Mitch murder you?”
“Oh my god,” Stiles says, pushing back his chair to stand. He’s going to die. “You call him Mitch. He lets you call him Mitch!”
“Are you…” Derek cocks his head. “Is this some kind of…?”
“Oh my god. Finish a goddamn sentence, Derek!” Stiles rounds the lab table and debates making a run for it, but FRANK is in the way on one side, and the other has Paul, staring at him like he’s an alien, and a tray full of rocks.
Derek is bright red. He says, “Hey, you kissed me!”
“Yeah,” Stiles shoves a hand in his hair and then rips it out, he’s feeling super crazy right now, “and now your assassin boyfriend is going to slit my throat in my sleep!”
Paul snorts, Junior gasps, “NO,” like the giant drama-queen he is, and Derek says, “Wait, my what?”
Stiles is still holding the amazing green alien dinosaur rock and would consider whipping it at Derek’s dense head if it wasn’t as precious to him as a baby.
“I,” Stiles announces grandly, “am going to wrap this rock up in blankets and then find some duct work to hide in.”
In retrospect, hiding in Kira’s room was probably a bad idea. Not because she’d rat him out to Rapp, but because she’s Derek’s beta, and is apparently on his goodnight rounds, which is honestly so adorable it makes Stiles want to scream.
Derek says, “Stiles.”
Kira flutters her hands and says, “I’ll just, uh, slip across the hall for a sec.” She hovers at the doorway, looks from Stiles to Derek and back again before saying, “Please don’t have sex in here,” and then flees like a coward.
Stiles pulls the afghan from Kira’s couch over his head.
Derek says, “Stiles,” again, coming further into the room. “Why do you think I'm…?” The way he crosses his arms makes his biceps bulge—he’s a geologist, for god’s sake—and he does some sort of half-shrug that Stiles has trouble interpreting.
He silently pulls the afghan further over his head, so he can only see Derek through the quarter-sized holes.
Derek’s mouth twitches. “I can still see you, you know.”
Maybe if Stiles flattens out completely Derek would think he melted from total embarrassment. The responsible thing to do here, if Derek had any heart, would be to just leave Stiles alone for his last few hours alive.
Stiles groans and Derek squares his shoulders and drops his arms.
“Stiles,” Derek says for the third time, “I don’t know why you think I’m, uh.” He rolls his eyes. “For the record, Mitch isn’t my boyfriend.”
“Okay, so you’re fuckbuddies, it doesn’t matter. He’s still going to kill me.” Rapp has Issues and knife skills and has managed to snag a werewolf, why would he want to ever give that up?
“Are you kidding me right now?” Derek never gets screechy. He gets lower, when he’s really angry, and has this roar in his voice when he yells, but right then Derek’s voice kind of… breaks… in the middle. “Stiles. Mitch and I are friends.”
Stiles waits a beat. He shifts, and the afghan slides off his head to puddle on his shoulders. Static crackles through his hair, he’s sure he looks fantastic. “With benefits?” he says.
“No,” Derek says, slowly taking a step toward him. “Just friends.”
Stiles can’t believe this. “You realize he’s like… me, only dangerous. With extreme hair. And thighs.”
Derek’s eyebrows look confused. “You have thighs,” he says, dropping that bombshell casually like he didn’t just admit to looking at Stiles’s thighs, wow. "He’s nothing like you.“
"Nothing like me,” Stiles says. He comes up on his knees on the couch, watches as Derek moves warily closer. “But I think our mouths match. And our moles. We’re talking clone here, not mirror image. You don’t think that’s weird?”
Derek’s only a little taller than him, from where Stiles is kneeling on the couch. Stiles leans into the back cushions, rests his hands on them, lets the afghan fall all the way off to tangle in his calves and feet.
“I don’t see it,” Derek says, staring into Stiles’s eyes like he’s mesmerized. “Will you kiss me again?”
“Is this some sort of see with your nose type of thing,” Stiles says. His heart’s beating high in his throat, but he’s bravely leaning up into Derek’s space, and Derek’s leaning down.
Derek’s hands hover over Stiles’s upper arms, like he wants to hold him. “Don’t make dog jokes.”
“Oh my god, it is.”
“I hate you.”
“No,” Stiles says softly, and Derek is definitely sniffing him now; their noses are touching and it’s beautiful. “No, I don’t think you do.”
Derek finally smooths his palms over Stiles’s arms, and Stiles reaches out to grip Derek’s afterhours soft shirt, a Henley with two buttons undone. There’s chest hair, and if Kira wouldn’t slice him in half with her katana he’d totally try to wrestle Derek out of it. He tilts his head, licks his lips, and Derek makes a sound that Stiles will make fun of forever and kisses him.
Graves gives Stiles a wide berth in the commissary now, which is gratifying and also wigs him out. He doesn’t get how Derek can’t see how bat-shit crazy Rapp can be.
He’s maybe a good guy, Stiles honestly doesn’t know, but it’s just alarming to see Derek sharing a cupcake with him.
Stiles takes his tray over to their table with only a little sliver of envy that dissipates when Rapp says, “Here,” and hands him a piece.
“It’s Paul’s birthday,” Derek says, by way of explanation, and then leans over and kisses Stiles with icing all over his mouth.
Stiles is fine with this, beyond fine, but there’s a still that tiny part of him that’s waiting for Rapp to shoot him between the eyes. When Derek shifts back with a small smile and blush on his face, though, Rapp just winks at him.
It’s bizarre and familiar and makes Stiles’s skin crawl a little, but he takes it, because apparently Derek and Mitch are best friends. He’s Derek’s sociopathic wingman. That Derek still doesn’t think looks like him.
Stiles isn’t going to push him about it, though, because Stiles gets kisses and eventually—fingers-crossed—sex, and he knows it better be true love. It better be till the end of the line with him, because Stiles has a feeling neither his heart nor his body will survive if he somehow fucks this up.
Rapp nudges the piece of cupcake toward him again. This is somehow a metaphor for his life now, probably, but Stiles isn’t going to overanalyze it. Anymore.
A tray suddenly clatters onto the table across from Rapp. “Heyyyyy,” Scott says, grinning widely. “Oh, cool, birthday cupcake! Are we sharing?”
Stiles says, “Scott, no—” just as he swipes a finger through the icing on the piece in front of Rapp, and everything slows down.
Scott freezes with his hand in the air, like he just realized who’s at the table with them. “Oh, shit,” he says.
Rapp’s eyes narrow.
Scott says, “Sorry?” hunched up like a small, little puppy.
Stiles knows he shouldn’t be worried, because Scott’s an alpha werewolf with sharp teeth, claws, and an enhanced healing ability, but there’s still that flash of panic. Rapp isn’t the flipping tables, throwing grenades kind of dude. He waits.
The look he gives Scott is calculating.
Scott swallows hard and whisper-shouts to Stiles, “Is it bad that that’s turning me on?” before pressing a hand over his mouth.
Rapp grins, slow and wide, pushes the rest of his cupcake over to Scott and says, “Here. Have some more.”