"Who's that?" Scott asked, his gaze following the cute brown-haired boy that trailed after Cora's older brother Derek.
"My brother," Cora said without turning away from her homework. The boy disappeared with Derek up the stairs, likely heading for Derek's bedroom.
Scott glared at her, unimpressed. "I meant the other guy. I've met your brother."
"Oh, Stiles?" Cora looked up and blinked. "He's Derek's friend."
"He seems like he's around our age." At least he seemed a few years younger than Derek. He couldn't remember exactly how old Derek was. Maybe twenty-three. Still it seemed a little weird for a younger kid to be hanging out with him. Well, not that weird. Derek was allowed to have younger friends.
Cora's voice cut off Scott's internal ramble. "That's because he is."
Scott paused. "Oh." He tried to remember if he'd seen the boy before. He was pretty sure he'd remember someone that cute. "I don't think I've seen him around school."
"He doesn't go to our school. He's homeschooled by his mom."
"Yeah. He's deaf, so he can't go to our school."
Scott blinked. Deaf? He'd never met anyone who was deaf before. How was he supposed to act? What should he say, or not say as was likely the case? How was he even supposed to talk to him, if he even got the chance?
"He's a cool kid," Cora said. "What'd you get for number two?"
"Oh." Scott blinked and refocused on their homework. "Twelve."
"I got sixteen."
They put their papers together and started comparing steps. He'd added where he was supposed to multiply. Scott erased the mistake and retried the problem. The second time around, he got the same answer as Cora.
Talia Hale popped her head in the room a few minutes later. "Scott, would you like to stay for dinner?"
"Sure, if you don't mind." His other option was going home to an empty house while his mom worked a double shift. He hated being home alone for hours on end.
"When have we minded?" She said with a smile before disappearing around the corner.
Cora nudged him in the side and Scott smiled. He was lucky to have Cora as a friend. They'd been friends for years, ever since they were little. The Hales were like a second family to him. They'd been there for him when his dad had been a drunken asshole, and then after when his dad had left and his mom had to work extra shifts at the hospital so they could afford to keep the house. He probably spent as much time there as he did at home.
They were just wrapping up their algebra homework when Talia called them in for supper. They took their usual places near the end of the table. Seconds later, Derek walked downstairs followed by his friend Stiles.
Stiles smiled as he took a seat opposite Scott at the table. "Hi. I'm Stiles." There was something odd about the way he spoke, the sound of his voice just a little off from normal, but otherwise he sounded fine. Scott hardly would have suspected Stiles was deaf if Cora hadn't told him.
Scott opened his mouth to respond and then stopped. He looked at Derek and Cora, panicked. "What do I do?"
Stiles rolled his eyes. "Look at me and talk like a normal person, dumbass." Cora chuckled while Derek just looked vaguely amused. Talia seemed to be fighting off a grin as she brought in a roast on a platter, followed by her husband Paul.
Scott blinked and looked at Stiles. "You can understand what I'm saying?"
Stiles smirked. "I'm deaf, not dumb. I can read lips."
"That's really cool."
They served themselves by passing bowls. Like usual, there was a pretty hearty spread on the table, though not nearly as much as when the whole family was there. Laura had to work late and Peter and his wife only joined them for Sunday dinner. It made for a pretty cramped table when everyone was there, but Scott loved it.
"How do you know the Hales?" Stiles asked.
Scott smiled. "I've known Cora for years. We go to school together."
Cora leaned across the table. "I saved him from some playground bullies in fifth grade. He's been beholden to me since."
Stiles looked at Derek, who signed something, his hands moving through a quick blur of shapes. Stiles laughed at whatever it was that Derek had said.
"Rude!" Cora said, sticking her tongue out at Derek. She made a sign at the same time, one hand flat, the other touching it with the fingers in a weird spread.
Scott blinked. "You both know sign language?"
Cora nodded. "I only know a few things." She leveled a glare on Derek. "Enough to know I'm being made fun of, even if I don't understand all the words."
Stiles grinned at Scott. "Derek said Cora saved you from bullies so she could bully you."
"That's not fair!" Cora protested. She pinched the fingers of one hand and dropped the other.
"It's the truth," Derek said with a shrug and a hand gesture that involved pointing at his mouth and then away from himself.
Scott figured it would be a good idea to change the topic before Cora and Derek got into one of their infamous sibling brawls. "How do you know Derek?" He asked, making sure he was looking at Stiles as he spoke so Stiles could read his lips.
"My dad's the sheriff," Stiles said with a shrug. "Dad saw sign-language on Derek's resume and made sure to introduce us after Derek was hired. He makes a good interpreter when my parents aren't around."
Derek shrugged. "I took sign-language as my language option during college. It seemed like the more practical option." His hands moved through a complex series signs as he spoke.
That made sense. Derek joined the Beacon Hills police department about two years ago, right after he'd come home from college. He was one of the youngest people on the force, but everyone there liked him well enough. Sign-language was pretty rare in Beacon Hills, so he supposed Stiles's dad just thought it would be nice for Stiles to have someone to sign with.
A thought came to him. "Why do you need an interpreter if you can read lips?"
Stiles looked at Derek, who signed at him. Stiles looked back at Scott. "Lip reading isn't one-hundred percent accurate. A lot of words look the same, so it's easier to have someone who can sign around to translate when I didn't catch something... like just now."
"That makes sense. Do you sign at home?" Scott asked.
Stiles nodded. "Most of the time. My parents still talk out loud to each other, but they usually sign what they're saying as well." Stiles's grin turned ruefull. "Unless my dad's on the phone for work. Makes it harder to snoop on what's going on when I can't just pick up the phone and listen in."
Derek frowned and glared at Stiles. "You shouldn't be snooping anyways."
Stiles just grinned back and Scott could see why those two got along so well. Stiles was the cheer that offset Derek's perpetual grumpy attitude.
"How are classes going, Cora?" Talia asked into the lull in conversation.
Cora groaned. Scott could relate. They were both close to failing Chemistry, something that neither Scott nor Cora were excited about bringing up in front of their parents.
Stiles left after dinner. Scott wandered upstairs during a break before he and Cora dove into the dreaded Chemistry homework. He knocked on Derek's doorframe before sticking his head through the open door. Derek turned in his chair and pulled out his earphones.
Scott fidgeted just outside the doorway. "Do you... do you think you could teach me some sign-language sometime?"
Derek's eyebrows rose but he nodded.
Derek stared after him as he left, but that was okay. It was worth it if it meant he could learn a bit of sign-language. He thought that would be something cool to do so that next time he ran into Stiles he wasn't left out of the conversation. If he was really honest with himself, thought, the real reason was that he just wanted something to impress Stiles with.
It turned out that Scott didn't have to wait that long until he saw Stiles again. He was on a break from work, barely two weeks later, when he ran into Stiles at the coffee shop near the Beacon Hills Animal Clinic. Stiles was waiting for his drink, not looking Scott's way. Scott almost shouted a greeting before he remembered that would be useless. He skipped the line and stepped over to tap Stiles on the shoulder.
Stiles turned and smiled. "Hi."
"Hi." Scott waved. "How are you?" He signed as he spoke, feeling a little awkward as he pressed his cupped hands together, inverted them, and pointed at Stiles.
Stiles's smile widened. "You learned sign."
Scott grinned ruefully. "Just a few things." He mimicked pinching the air.
The barista shouted Stiles's name. Stiles was looking at Scott so he realized Stiles probably hadn't noticed.
"That's you." He pointed towards the counter.
"Thanks." Stiles retrieved his drink and then hesitated. "Did you want to join me?"
"Sure. Just let me..." Scott nodded towards the counter. Stiles nodded and headed for the seating area.
Thankfully the line wasn't too long so Scott was able to get his drink and join Stiles after only a few minutes of a waiting.
"Hi again," Scott said as he sat down.
"Gimme your phone," Stiles said, abruptly.
Scott handed it over without a second thought. He watched as Stiles pulled up Scott's contacts and started typing in a new contact. Stiles sent a message and then pulled out his own phone as it started to buzz. Stiles typed something and then passed Scott back his phone as a new message appeared.
"I figured it would be easier to talk this way," Stiles said. "That way you don't have to sign and I don't have to guess what you're trying to say."
The text message, from Stiles, read: <<What brings you to the house of coffee?>>
<<Work break,>> Scott typed back. It was really ingenious of Stiles to think of texting each other. Scott didn't know enough sign language to hold a conversation and it was probably really hard for Stiles to guess what he was trying to say by reading lips. Scott had no idea how Stiles managed it. Scott couldn't even begin to make out what someone was saying through the shape of their lips.
Stiles tilted his head. <<Where do you work?>>
<<Beacon Hills Animal Clinic.>>
<<That sounds like fun.>>
Scott's smile widened, like it usually did when he talked about his job. <<It's great. I love working there and helping take care of the animals. Dr. Deaton is a great boss.>>
Stiles nodded. His thumbs flew over the keyboard on his phone as he typed back. <<Are you going to be a vet?>>
<<I'd like to, assuming I can get my grades up and get into a decent college.>>
Stiles quirked an eyebrow and looked over at Scott before typing back. <<You're having trouble with your grades?>>
Scott blushed. It took multiple texts to send his response. <<Yeah. School's just hard for me. I don't know. Cora helps where she can but there's just some subjects she's equally clueless about.>>
Stiles tilted his head and seemed to contemplate Scott for a moment. <<I could help you.>>
Scott blinked. He opened his mouth to respond and then closed it and typed out his response instead. <<You could? But you don't even go to our school.>>
Stiles snorted. <<The content's still the same no matter where you go. I mean, math's math, right? Same for the other subjects.>>
Scott paused for a moment, contemplating the offer. He really could use all the help he could get and it was an excuse to spend more time with Stiles. He wanted to spend more time with Stiles, even if it meant spending extra time on chemistry and math. He knew he wasn't going to say no. <<Well, if you don't mind.>>
Stiles smiled. <<It'll be fun. I don't get to show off this big brain of mine to anyone but my mom so it'd be cool to help out.>>
Stiles nodded. <<She's the one that homeschools me. Though at this point it's pretty much self-study while she works at the library.>>
<<That's right around here, isn't it?>> He'd never been there, but he knew it was around here somewhere.
<<Around the corner. I'm waiting for my mom to get off work.>
They paused and sipped at their drinks. Stiles's fingers tapped against the phone but he didn't type anything out for a few seconds.
<<What subjects do you need help with?>>
Scott suppressed a groan. <<Everything? Chemistry and math mostly.>>
Stiles grinned. <<I can help with those. Hit me up anytime. I'm almost always free.>>
<<I will.>> Scott drained the last of his tea and stared forlornly at the clock on his phone. <<I should get back to work.>>
Stiles waved and spoke. "Have a nice night."
"You too." He reluctantly stood from the table and dropped his empty cup in the trash.
As he walked out of the coffee shop, he wondered how long was an appropriate time to wait before asking Stiles for his help.
Scott ended up texting Stiles on Thursday for help before his math test on Friday. Stiles sent him his home address, which Scott saved into his phone just in case and then used his GPS to get directions for the bike ride over.
The Stilinkski residence was a nice house with a neat little garden out front, in a quiet residential section not too far from where the McCalls lived. Scott knocked on the door and then fretted, wondering how Stiles was supposed to hear the door. He was about to pull his phone out and text Stiles when the door opened. Scott smiled at the woman who stood there. She was about the same age as his mom, with short red hair and a pleasant smile.
"Hello," she said. "You must be Scott."
He nodded. "I am. Is Stiles home?"
"Of course." She stepped aside. "Come right in."
The interior of the Stilinski house was just as nice as the exterior. Everything was neat and tidy, kind of like what Scott's mom aspired to but never had the time for. Scott felt a bit like a bad son for not doing the cleaning for his mom and resolved to help out more when he got home. After his math test. He was pretty sure not failing would make his mom happier than a clean house.
"Stiles is upstairs." She pointed to the stairwell as she walked past it on her way to the kitchen. "First door on the right."
He headed up the stairs with a bit of trepidation. Scott didn't have many friends. It was pretty much just the Hales, and had been for years. He was unused to visiting a stranger's house and he felt a kind of nervousness that he knew was irrational but he couldn't help it.
He stopped at the edge of the doorframe. The door to Stiles's room was open. Scott felt slightly relieved at the mess inside, just like Scott's bedroom at home. It was nice to know that they were both similar when it came to keeping their bedrooms clean. His first instinct was to knock on the doorframe, but he'd already made that mistake once today. Instead he took a step inside the room and waved, trying to get Stiles's attention.
Stiles was sitting at his computer. He turned after a second and smiled. "Hey."
Scott waved again, feeling a little bit like a dork with a crush as he did so. He smiled awkwardly, feeling nervous and excited at the same time. "Hi."
"So," Stiles stood and dragged the chair in the corner of his room over next to the desk. "Math?"
Scott nodded. "Yeah." Stiles sat back in his desk chair, leaving the other free for Scott. He plopped down and pulled out his book and notebook. He flipped to a clean sheet of paper. <<So,>> he wrote. <<We're covering chapters 4 through 6.>>
Stiles nodded and grabbed the book. They went through it section by section, with Stiles making Scott do practice problems until he got each section right. Some sections were easier than others. Anything with balancing equations, he had down, but the more complex algebra made him confused. Stiles wrote out his corrections, using arrows to point to the parts Scott did wrong and leaving brief explanations in the margins.
<<Why not just say the answer?>> Scott wrote.
Stiles gave him a look. <<So you have something to study later.>> There was a hesitancy in Stiles's expression that made Scott raise an eyebrow. Stiles rolled his eyes. <<And my pronunciation would be horrible. It's embarrassing.>>
"Oh." Scott hadn't thought about that. Stiles's pronunciation was always a little off, but it was still pretty good. <<How did you learn to speak so well?>>
<<My mom. She coaches me.>>
<<Must be pretty hard when you can't hear what you're saying.>>
Scott paused and thought for a moment. <<Why worry about it? You can't help the way you sound.>>
Stiles frowned. <<I don't want people to know I'm different.>>
<<Different is awesome. You're awesome.>>
Stiles just looked at him. The longer he looked, the more Scott started to blush.
"What?" Stiles said.
Scott just shook his head. His blush had to be pretty bad, but he couldn't help it.
Stiles poked him. "What?"
He couldn't say it. Stiles just stared at him expectantly so he forced his fingers to spell out what he was trying to say. U R A Q T. It was broken and awful and took Stiles a minute to catch up, but when he did, his eyes widened and his face lit up so that he was blushing too.
Stiles's mom appeared in the doorway. She looked at both of them for a second before asking "Are you staying for supper, Scott?"
Scott looked at Stiles, who looked at his mom, who presumably repeated the question in sign language.
"Yeah," Stiles said, "he's staying." He looked at Scott for confirmation and Scott just nodded, helpless. He guessed he was staying for dinner.
<<Come over tonight?>>
Scott stared down at the text message. At first he thought it was from Cora, but Cora was sitting across from him, talking to her cousin Malia. Instead the message was from Stiles. Stiles was asking him to come over.
He groaned, earning a weird look from Cora. <<Can't. Work.>>
He barely had to wait two seconds before he got a reply. <<Tomorrow?>>
<<Sure.>> He was free tomorrow, at least as far as he knew. He didn't have any homework looming that he couldn't complete tonight. He'd planned to maybe clean the house a little as a surprise for his mom, but he could do that when he got off of work, assuming he had time.
<<Cool. You like Halo?>>
Scott blinked. <<Who doesn't like Halo?>>
A hand appeared over his phone. "What's so funny?" Cora asked.
"Does Derek really not like Halo?"
Cora frowned. "He doesn't really play video games. He's horrible at them. Why?" She tugged his phone down so she could see the screen. "Is that Stiles?"
Cora raised an eyebrow. "Since when are you texting Stiles?"
Scott frowned and tugged his phone out of her reach. "A couple weeks? Not that long."
Malia glanced between the two of them. "Who's Stiles?"
"Derek's friend that comes over all the time," Cora said.
"The deaf one?"
Malia looked at Scott. "How do you even talk to him?"
Scott blushed. He felt a little affronted on Stiles's behalf and then realized he'd essentially done the exact same thing to Stiles's face when he'd first met. "Like a normal person. We text a lot, and Derek's teaching me to sign."
He'd been looking up words on youtube as well, all the stuff he was too embarrassed to ask Derek about. Like the proper way to tell Stiles he liked him, or how to ask if he could kiss Stiles. He may never work up the courage to actually use those signs, but he knew them. Just in case.
Cora narrowed her eyes at him. He had the suspicion that he wasn't going to like what she had to say. "You like him."
Scott blushed. That was answer enough for Cora, whose face split into a shit-eating grin.
"Oooh, just wait until I tell Derek about this."
Scott pouted. "Cora! Come on!"
Cora shook her head. "Nope! This is too precious. My bestie and Derek's bestie are going to be boyfriends. This is perfect." Her eyes lit up. "Oh! We can have you both over for dinner Sunday. Mom's gonna have a field day."
"Cora," Scott whined, to no avail. There was no stopping Cora once she got on a roll. "I'm not dating Stiles. Come on."
"But you want to," Cora said.
Scott sighed. "Yeah, I want to."
"Then you will."
Scott didn't think it was going to be that easy.
"Cora thinks we're dating," Scott blurted out in the middle of a game of Halo.
Stiles paused the game and turned towards him. "What?"
It took Scott a second to realize Stiles wasn't asking because he'd misheard, but because he hadn't heard at all. He dropped the controller and thought about how to say it. He fingerspelled Cora's name then made the signs for 'think', 'us', and 'date'.
Stiles blinked at him. He picked up his phone, typed something, and then stared at Scott until his phone went off. Scott hastily pulled his phone out of his pocket.
<<Why does Cora think we're dating?>>
Scott stared down at the text and then over at Stiles. His mouth flapped wordlessly, as ineffective as a fish out of water. Stiles turned back to his phone and typed something else.
<<Do you want to date me?>>
Scott's entire face turned red. He slowly nodded.
Stiles grinned and chucked his controller to the side. His hand came up to rest lightly on Scott's cheek, pulling Scott forward. He closed his eyes as Stiles tilted his head. Their lips touched softly, hesitantly. He wondered if Stiles had ever kissed anyone before. The only people Scott had ever kissed were his mom and Cora on a dare.
This was much better than kissing Cora.
Stiles pulled back slowly. He was still smiling. "Did you still want to play Halo?"
Scott shook his head and signed as he spoke. "No, this is better."
Stiles, Cora, and Scott sat in the Hale living room. Cora and Scott sat on the floor, bent over their homework while Stiles read on the couch. Occasionally they'd interrupt Stiles to ask him a question about the problem they were working on. Scott was kind of relieved to have someone other than Cora to rely on for homework help. His mom tried to help but she usually didn't have the time and he felt weird asking Mr. and Mrs. Hale. It also helped that Stiles was their own age.
Scott was a little awed by how much Stiles knew. Stiles was going to have no trouble getting into college with his grades. His only problem was going to be choosing between a college for the deaf or one where he'd need an interpreter. Either way, Scott knew Stiles was going to excel. Scott, however, wasn't so sure about himself.
"Ugh," he groaned, "I hate Chemistry."
"I know. Mr. Harris is such a dick."
Stiles looked up from his book. Scott repeated what was said in sign. He was getting pretty good at it thanks to his studying. If only Chemistry were as easy.
Stiles smiled and leaned forward, setting his book aside. "Show me where you're having problems."
"Everything," Scott said and signed as he flopped backwards. His head landed on Stiles's knee. Stiles smiled down at him and Scott couldn't help but smile back, his expression fond and goofy.
"Get a room, you two."
Scott stuck his tongue out at her.
"Here. This part." Cora passed her book over to Stiles.
Stiles takes a moment to read it and then haltingly explains it, hesitating on the technical terms. Scott squeezes his hand. He knows how nervous Stiles is about his voice, so he smiles encouragingly. His pronunciation isn't that bad, and Scott's more interested in the content of Stiles's speech than the presentation of it. The way Stiles explains it actually makes sense to him, or at least enough that he can do his homework a bit easier.
Stiles is walking them through the second problem in their homework set when Talia calls them for dinner. They take their usual places at the table, but something feels different this time. Scott smiles across the table at Stiles and Stiles smiles back.
"How's the homework going?" Talia asks.
"Better," Scott says and signs, "thanks to Stiles's help. He really knows his stuff."
Talia smiles and turns to Stiles. "Thank you so much for your help, Stiles. Their grades are showing marked improvement."
Stiles looks at Scott who repeats what Talia said in sign. Stiles blushes a little and says "My pleasure. It's more fun to study with friends."
"And boyfriends," Talia says with a grin and a wink.
Scott and Stiles both blush. "It does help," Scott says.
"Pretty soon you're going to have to start thinking about colleges," Talia says, mirroring Scott's thoughts from earlier. It's a far off worry, but a worry still.
"That's still a ways off," Stiles says and Scott feels a bit nervous because he doesn't know Stiles's plans. Beacon Hills College is the only place likely to take Scott but Stiles could go anywhere. It makes Scott worry, like their relationship has no future.
"Something's bothering you," Stiles says after dinner, when they're settled back into the living room to study while Cora helps Derek with the dishes.
"It's nothing really." He looks away by reflex and almost forgets to sign.
Stiles nudges him with his foot. When that fails to provide a response, Stiles slides down the couch to sit on the floor next to Scott. "What is it? Tell me."
Scott sighs. He slowly raises his eyes to look at Stiles. "I'm just worried." His hands are slow as he signs the words.
"No shit. About what?"
"Which part?" Stiles frowns. "Is this about the college talk from dinner?"
Scott nods. He feels a bit ashamed that he's letting it affect him so much that Stiles has noticed. He didn't want to worry anyone. "It's stupid."
Stiles shakes his head. He takes Scott's hand in his and squeezes. "Not if you're worried about it. Are you afraid you won't get in?"
It's Scott's turn to shake his head. "I'm pretty sure I can get into Beacon Hills College." His fingers fumble with spelling out the college name but he's pretty sure he gets it right. It's close enough that Stiles can understand him.
Stiles frowns. "Then what are you worried about?"
"Where are you going to go?"
Stiles shrugs. "I haven't thought about it much."
"But you've researched it?"
"I've looked into my options. There are a lot of them, assuming I do well on my SATs."
Scott bumps his shoulder into Stiles's. "You will. I know you will."
Stiles smiles shyly and bumps Scott's shoulder back. "Thanks."
"So, what's got you so worried?"
Scott frowns and looks down at his hands as he signs out the words. "What if you go really far away and I never see you? Are we going to break up? What's going to happen?"
Stiles's arm wraps around Scott and he sets his head on Scott's shoulder. "I don't know what's going to happen, but I'm not going to stop being friends with you. I'd like to think we wouldn't stop being boyfriends either. We'll get through it."
"But what if we don't?"
"God, stop being such a glum sad-sack," Cora says suddenly. Scott looks up to find her standing in the doorway with her hands on her hips. After a second's delay, Stiles follows Scott's gaze. He raises his eyebrow. Cora signs an approximation of what she said and Stiles huffs a small laugh.
"It's not funny," Scott whines.
"It is," Cora and Stiles say in near unison.
"So what if you go to different colleges," Cora says as she walks into the room to take her spot on the floor next to Scott. "If it's meant to work out, it will, regardless of how far apart you guys are. And there's nothing saying you won't be able to see each other. Take weekend trips or spring and summer break when you're both back here. There will be opportunities if you make them. If you're really serious about making it work, then it will."
Stiles looks at Scott expectantly. Scott does his best to translate Cora's speech into sign. He skips a few parts but he gets the gist of it.
Stiles nods. "We can make it work. And I haven't decided yet. I may go to Beacon Hills."
Scott groans. "If you go to Beacon Hills, I will kick you. Don't sell yourself short."
Stiles laughs. "Fine. Fine. But we'll work something out. Don't worry."
Scott sighs and nods. He knows he's stupid for worrying but hearing Cora and Stiles logic out his problems really helps. He guessed he just needed to talk it out and to hear other people voice solutions. It helped. "Alright."
"So, now that that existential crisis has been averted, how about we get back to the oh so wonderful world of chemistry and how much we hate Mr. Harris for giving us all this homework to do."
Scott laughs and nods. Stiles's arm is still around him and he leans into it, taking comfort from Stiles's presence. He has chemistry and then math homework to deal with. Those two concerns are a lot closer than college plans. He'll worry about college when they get there. There's still another year of school left before they even need to start worrying about it. For now, he has Stiles at his side and that's all he needs.