Stiles had become the most popular matchmaker of Beacon Hills in less than a year.
And he really didn’t know how that had happened.
Okay, he probably did.
One day he was just the geeky nerdy kid with the thick rimmed glasses whenever he couldn’t be bothered to put his contacts in, and in the next moment he was sitting at the table with the popular kids, feeling completely out of place and like an ugly duckling between all the pretty swans.
In fact, it wasn’t even the usual popular kids' table. Nope. It used to be Scott’s and Stiles’ table. The Loser Table. Where the popular kids suddenly sat down without any form of polite warning, or even waiting for an invitation. Like it was their right. Which it probably was.
Stiles would like to pretend he didn’t know where that had come from. Unfortunately, he did.
Scott had been picked for first line, and was surprisingly good. He had worked his ass off over the summer holidays so Stiles knew he more than deserved that place. Just a few weeks later he got himself a super-hot girlfriend; who just happened to be best friends with Lydia Martin, recurring actress in Stiles’ wet dreams ever since he was eleven and found out what else he could use his dick for.
That’s what happened.
Scott got a super-duper cool kid high school life.
And Stiles was dragged along.
To say the beginning had been awkward, would be the understatement of the year.
Lydia had looked at him with disdain; like he was the dirt under her perfectly manicured nails—and considering how she had her lips wrapped around his dick more than once a week in his dreams, it probably wasn’t unwarranted. But it still felt like shit though. He had been crushing on her for years; he’d rather go back to being ignored if it meant she would stop sending him pulverizing stares.
Jackson had always been a jerk and only gotten worse the more time they were forced to spend together. Boyd had made it painfully clear that he hated Stiles, even though the brunette didn’t even know why. Danny usually just ignored him.
After two weeks—during which Stiles had feared that Scott would finally drop him like the hot awkward social life destroying potato he was—everything exploded.
Stiles was miserable, which made Scott miserable, which made Allison miserable, which made Scott even more miserable, which led to Stiles’ string of patience finally snapping.
He picked up his bruised self-esteem, individually glared at each and every one of them and told them to fuck off, that if they didn’t like him they needed to leave them alone, because Scott and Stiles? They were a package deal! And if they wanted to get all buddy-buddy with Scotty they better treat Stiles with the respect he deserved or he would kick them in their literal and/or metaphorical nuts.
Lydia was shocked. Boyd was amused. Danny ashamed. And Jackson was… Jackson.
It took them a while but eventually apologies were traded in a very subtle manner. Sometimes it was worse than pulling teeth. Lydia offered him her hand for a kiss as some weird form of reconciliation. Stiles pondered for a second if he had enough pride to refuse and eventually concluded that no, no he did not. His only condition had been that Jackson was forced to watch the exchange.
Lydia rolled her eyes. “And you wonder why everyone hates you?”
“Come on Lydia, you love me.”
The pretty red-head glowered at him.
“Too soon?” Stiles asked.
“Too soon.” Lydia confirmed, flipped her hair over her shoulder and left.
Eventually everything started to settle down and six months later, Stiles found himself regularly in or on Lydia’s bed, talking about politics and philosophy and yeah, it wasn’t what he had been imagining when he had thought about them sharing a bed or time with each other, but it was nice and easy going and he probably still loved her a little and he would always love her, but being friends was totally fine for him.
He was even getting along with Jackson, though their relationship consisted mostly of fighting about basketball games and scowling at each other.
Boyd helped Stiles with his workout, although he still suspected the other boy secretly hated him a little, pushing him almost to unconsciousness.
And after he had made the mistake of asking once, Danny had started to explain gay sex to him. In very great detail.
And that was that.
Stiles was suddenly in the ‘it’-crowd. And they liked him. More or less. It wasn’t just them and that little animal thingy hanging from Scott’s hips anymore.
It was Them.
Team Beautiful and Their Mascot.
There were no inappropriate boners over Lydia’s hotness anymore. Or Danny’s hotness. Or occasionally Boyd’s hotness, when Stiles caught himself staring at his abs.
He was totally past that.
And everything was fucking great.
It was around that time that Erica from his PE class approached him in the hallway, stuttering and nervously playing with her blond hair, and Stiles was already thinking about how to let her down gently when she suddenly asked him if he could maybe find out if Boyd had a girlfriend. Or like, if he might be interested in something like that. With her.
After his initial confusion, Stiles agreed, because:
a) she was shivering like a leaf just talking to him. Apart from the core group consisting of Scott, Allison, Lydia, Boyd, Jackson and Danny, there were some real jerks with them at that table now and they would eat her alive if she ever dared to approach them.
b) he knew that Boyd had a crush on her as deep as the Mariana Trench.
Which was why he hunted Boyd down and a month later Erica had joined their table, all cute smiles and blissfully happy and painfully in love. Boyd stopped friendly hating him. As it turned out, Erica used to have a crush on Stiles in junior high—he could admit that he was flattered by it—which apparently led to Boyd’s unfounded hate of Stiles. Lydia and Allison adopted the blond and took her out shopping. After that Erica came back with tight jeans, some sexy curly hair and a confidence boost that made Stiles believe magic had been involved.
Secret sexy girl magic.
He wanted some.
For research reasons only, of course.
However, when Matthew Daehler uploaded a video of one of her seizures, that new-found confidence had almost been shattered. Erica had hid in the girl’s bathroom and cried her eyes out. Boyd had been out for blood. Allison and Lydia were so scary Stiles thought his testicles might be in danger just for being of the male species—and it made him wonder how he even still had testicles considering his highly inappropriate thoughts about Lydia in her red, tight dress which he was sure she knew about. He might have told her. When he had been drunk. She had been drunk too. Hopefully.
So anyway, Stiles came up with a better idea than just beating the asshole to a bloody pulp—which Boyd still got to do and no one was any the wiser when people asked around. All Stiles had to do was talk to the right people and Matthew Daehler, aspiring journalist, would henceforth never be able to set foot on the grounds of Berkeley. Or Columbia University. Or the University of Missouri. Or really any journalism school in the US. Stiles knew Matt had been aiming for Berkeley ever since he was a little kid running around with a camera and yep, he had most likely basically destroyed the dude's life, but that’s what you got for messing with one of his friends.
A few weeks later Isaac Lahey approached him, telling him that he had heard about what Stiles had done for Erica. The brunette had already pen and paper out, prepared for some bully who was doing bullying stuff to sweet little Isaac, and he kind of started feeling like a super hero, when the other boy blabbed out that it wasn’t about that but the, 'you know, ‘dating thing’.'
Apparently, Boyd had neglected to let Erica know that he had been in love with her since kindergarten, because that was actually the only reason Stiles was able to hook them up.
Stiles was not ‘Amor’, ‘Kamadeva’, ‘Eros’ or any other form of love god, thank you very much.
But now sweet, innocent, big blue eyed Isaac was asking him for a date. With Danny. There was no way Stiles could say no to those cursed puppy dog eyes. But then again. It was Danny. Danny was open-minded and willing to give anyone a chance. And it wasn’t like Danny wasn’t at least a tiny bit interested, if his lingering looks were any indication.
So he approached Danny, all brazen and confident.
And got an instant no. A flat, unimpressed ‘no, Stiles, go away’.
The matchmaker in the making stared at his friend's retreating back for a few minutes. Literally minutes, because that had been a very uncharacteristically reaction and he just knew there was a story behind that, and he wanted to get to know that one in particular.
Never one to give up, not when his interest has been piqued, he worked Danny for hours and days, until the other boy finally cracked and told him the reason behind his refusal.
Apparently Danny liked Isaac.
And he wasn’t interested in being a one-night stand, which was usually the outcome of Danny's hook-ups.
Stiles assured him it wouldn’t end like that. That he had a feeling, that Isaac was in it for the long term, for the mushy ‘I want to play footsies under the table with you and take care of you when you’re sick because I fucking love you and even with snot dripping down your nose you’re still adorable’ love. He added that it was disgusting. Just to state his opinion.
A couple of days later, Danny had liked Isaac alright. In the boy’s bathroom. Loudly. Or maybe Isaac had liked Danny. Stiles wasn’t so sure about the logistics of their copulating habits and he wasn’t inclined to ask, but someone had loved another loudly and intensely and wetly in the school’s boy’s restroom and it had made them very, very happy.
Isaac had thrown himself at Stiles an hour later. In the cafeteria. In front of the whole student’s body.
Stiles had tried not to think about where those hands had previously been.
And thus began his matchmaking career.
After he had hooked up even Greenberg with a girl—there had been that one creepy sophomore head over heels with him for whatever reason—Stiles had been declared some kind of underhand, black market, date-dealer. The thing was, Stiles wasn’t really a matchmaker. He wasn’t even remotely good at handling people outside his comfort zone and even the ones in that zone had to endure his social awkwardness, if only on a slightly lower level.
Stiles was just the keenest observer to have ever… observed.
The only reason he could actually hook someone up was because of his observational skills, and if he, by some miracle, already knew there was some kind of mutual liking going on, he would take his chances and talk to them.
Therefore his success rate was 100%.
But when Miss Avery from next door suddenly came to him, her Chihuahua tucked under her arm, Stiles knew this was more than just some high school thing.
It became so big a deal, he wasn’t even surprised anymore, when people of various ages, sizes, looks or social positions randomly approached him and handed him names and telephone numbers with a coy smile.
If someone had told him, that strangers were going to push their numbers at him on an almost daily basis, he would have let Boyd punch them in the face.
But there he was.
The not-so-secret Eros of Beacon Hills.
Strangely in high demand.
Almost a year after the start of his dubious matchmaking career, just as he was fighting the urge to throw his soggy fries into the trash because he had paid good money for them, someone walked up to him in the school cafeteria. Though he almost jumped five feet into the air in surprise, when they slammed their hand down next to his elbow, he only briefly glanced at the words on the paper trapped under the offending extremity.
The hand didn’t look like a Derek but it was the only name on the paper, so. “You’re supposed to write down two names,” he remarked as he followed the arm up to shoulder and face, then barely avoided a strangled wince when he realized who he was talking to.
“Uh, hey… Cora?” he asked, squeaked, definitely squeaked, but who cared, she was scary as fuck. Because Beacon Hills? Didn’t have a bad boy. Beacon Hills had a bad girl. Who had for whatever unspeakable reasons beaten up three guys behind the gym just yesterday.
“What can I do you for?” he continued at her unimpressed stare.
She removed her hand from the paper, wordlessly nodding at it with an impressively expressive arch of her brow.
“So, you, uh, like that Derek person?”
She arched another unfazed eyebrow. “He’s my brother.”
“Pretty sure that’s illegal then,” Stiles muttered. “I mean, not that I judge. True love, you know? Like with that cat and dog? I, yeah, I mean, I would never judge—”
“I want you to find him someone, you idiot,” she interrupted with a growl, scrunching her nose in disgust, and oh thank God, because seriously, he didn’t want Cora to beat him up near a dumpster because he wouldn’t hook her up with her own brother. “He’s kind of an asshole, but he’s miserable and lonely and still my brother. So I want you to find him someone who will love him for more than his face. Because that’s what he deserves, okay?”
“That’s not what I do,” he replied slowly, pushing his disgusting fries to the side as Cora plunked down next to him with an inquiring frown. “I don’t, you know, find people.” They mostly found him and he checked whether or not they were compatible, or whether there was some mutual attraction or maybe tried to find out how to woo them by virtually stalking them and finding out their preferences. And yeah, the last part was kind of creepy, he could admit that. “I don’t run around thinking: Oh, they could work. I’m not a cherub or whatever you had in mind.” She glanced at him. “I’m sorry?” he squeaked again.
Seriously, where was that squeaking coming from?
Dammit, he wasn’t some stupid squirrel, even if his attention span begged to differ.
“I don’t see much of a difference,” she finally said, pulling his abandoned plate to herself and starting to eat the fries. Normally Stiles would be scandalized. But this was Cora Hale. Lucifer's right-hand woman and ruler over the seventh circle of Hell, where people like Descartes rested in hopefully not so peace. “Look,” she started after a moment’s silence, her hands dropping into her lap. She looked a little vulnerable but still intimidating. Stiles knew because everyone kept a big distance and Scott—that traitor—waved at him from the entrance and pointed to another table, the furthest from them actually, and everyone else followed him quickly, guiltily averting their eyes.
Worst. Friends. Ever.
“He hasn't had much luck. With dating.” She chewed her lips, probably trying to figure out what she should tell him and what not.
“And?” Stiles slowly probed, because he was nothing if not curious. He didn’t know Derek, but he knew the Hale family reputation: raw beauties, intelligent and athletic and all kinds of super in every way possible. His father was constantly raving mad over Talia Hale whenever she showed up at the police department, and if it wasn’t for the fact that she was married and his father all business, he’d almost suspected he had a crush on her. And her husband. Oh God, her husband. Stiles had to hear a lot about Frederick Hale at home. A very lot. From his dad. Stiles recognized a man crush when he saw it, and his dad was definitely, very manly and in no uncertain terms man-crushing on a married man. And his wife.
“And I want him to be happy. Even if he’s an asshole who won’t help me with my homework. Or never takes over my chores when I don’t have time. Or—”
“I get it. Your brother. Happy. Sorry, no can do.”
Because that was one hell of a burden. What was he even supposed to do? He didn’t even know the guy, let alone any girls he could possibly introduce to him. What? Did Cora expect him to run around, set up interviews with people about their likes and dislikes and compare them? Facebook would be a bigger help than Stiles for that kind of thing.
And anyway, he was a seventeen year old boy with a social life, okay? He didn’t have the time. There were two BioWare games he hadn’t even touched yet. Two! He was only halfway through Brotherhood, and Witcher 2 was about to be released. And all those TV shows he needed to keep up with!
“You haven’t even tried,” Cora scowled.
Stiles gnawed on his lips in contemplation. He should probably take it as a good sign that she hadn’t tried to kill him yet. Yet, even though her glare was very intimidating, she had her hands clasped together in a tight grip and her shoulders were all straight and tense so, yep, she was super-super serious and a little bit desperate.
“Alright,” he relented, a sly smirk on his face as he leaned forward, setting his elbow on the table and resting his cheek on his hand. It was supposed to look cool and casual but made him feel stupid. Though now it was too late to change the position without it looking even weirder. Cora’s eyes lit up, but before she could say anything, he held one hand up to silence her. “But you have to let me in on your family secret.”
She furrowed her brow.
“Because,” he leaned in slowly, his voice low. “Werewolf?”
Before he had time to react, his head was bashed down on the table. He was lucky she didn't aim his forehead at the edge, because then he would surely have been a goner. It still fucking hurt like hell. “Owww, man. What was that for?”
“You’re the smartest kid here, figure it out,” Cora snarled at him, then pushed herself from the table, glaring down at him. “Meet me after school,” she added and then was gone in a whirl of fury and scary indignation.
Just a second later Scott sat down next to him. “Dude, what happened?”
“I think I pissed off Cora Hale,” he replied, wincing at the pain and rubbing a hand over his forehead as if that would help.
“Yeah, I saw. Why would you do that?”
“She approached me, okay?” he answered, scowling.
“What did she want?”
Stiles looked at him, then shrugged. “Cupid’s bow, I guess.”
Scott blinked at him.
Yeah, his thoughts exactly.
Cora was already impatiently waiting for him when he found his way behind the gym on a hunch, because it wasn't like she had given him a location to meet in the first place. He warily eyed the dumpsters the girl was known to throw people in. Single-handedly. Because presumably werewolf. Stiles should have asked Boyd to come along. To protect him. It wasn’t like Cora had told him to come alone.
“He works at Hilda’s,” was all she offered before she grabbed his wrist and pulled him along.
“What? Wait! I haven’t agreed!”
“You have,” she said, then turned and ohmygodreally?
“Fangs?” he squealed and she glowered at him with blue eyes.
“If you tell anyone—”
“I knew it!” he interrupted her, victoriously pumping his fist in the air. “I fucking knew it. I mean there was no way in hell your sister could have saved all those school kids by pulling a bus out of a lake. With her car.”
She stared at him like he was crazy. “So your first assumption was werewolf?”
“Fuck no. It was female hulk, actually.”
“So uh… your whole family?”
“No,” she said, shaking her head.
She froze for a moment and Stiles almost tripped right into her. “Yes,” she replied after a long hesitating pause.
“So I like, what? Have to find someone who is a dog person and likes Derek for more than just his undoubtedly good looks?” Not that he knew what that dude looked like but if it was running in the family, well, Greek God could be a safe assumption.
“And who doesn’t want him and his family dead,” she replied, tight-lipped.
Stiles thought she was joking. But she didn’t smile. And then he remembered the arson case a few years back.
Bad luck in dating?
Understatement of the year.
Stiles used to come to Hilda’s Library almost on a daily basis before he was upgraded to popular mascot and matchmaker; and started to have friends beside Scott. The library was a limited menu cafe with an extensive book collection available for use by the patrons. Most of the books were donations and sold at whatever price people chose to pay, the money going straight into the funds of the local orphanage. Stiles used to spent his time there after school before heading home when his father’s shift ended. Mostly just doing his homework, reading through the weirdest books he could find or just passing time chatting with Linda, the sixty-something owner of the library.
It used to serve the best coffee ever.
Stiles knew, even though he hadn't been allowed to drink it.
Because too young.
However, after the brunette got his own personal life he sort of forgot about the place. Whenever he passed the building, he did think about stepping in, greeting Linda and chatting with her for old time's sake, but he usually was lead astray by one thing or another. And then three months ago he had heard the library was closed due to Linda breaking her hip or something. Stiles hadn’t even known the place was open again.
The second Stiles entered the building and took in the musty smell of old books and coffee beans, he felt immediately at home. In fact, the place had been a home to him for a long time. His dad had probably saved mountains of money by foregoing a babysitter for his son because he had been hanging around with Linda for years.
The first thing Stiles noticed was that the cafe was… full.
Well, not really packed, or crowded or anything but definitely more people than he was used to. And different customers as well. Along with the regulars—a couple guys in their fifties playing chess in a corner, and some elderly people in their eighties talking about the latest fashion in dental prostheses—there were young mothers, over-dressed women in their twenties, and teenage girls. Teenage girls. Throw in some randomly hot guy and it was like the Twilight Zone. Where had all the hot or cute people been when Stiles had practically been living there?
And yeah, okay.
The second his eyes drifted to the coffee counter it became pretty clear why books were suddenly hip again.
Because yep, drop-dead gorgeous over there, scowling at everyone approaching him?
Definitely Hale genes right there.
Cora pulled Stiles out of his mulling and dragged him to a table, glaring at two girls who were painting their nails—which, seriously, rude—and giggling at Derek, whenever he turned to look their way. But as soon as they noticed Cora's death glare, the girls scrambled so fast that the still wet ink of their nails left color stains on the surface of the table. Stiles raised an eyebrow at the dark-haired fury but she wordlessly pushed him down into a chair, then stormed off in a fit of anger. Like always. He was pretty sure no one was as rage filled as those two siblings.
Maybe it was a family thing?
He hoped not, because that would shed some pretty awkward new lights on his father’s two favorite human—or not so human—obsessions.
Because from what he could gather while surreptitiously glancing at him, Derek Hale was fucking scary. That dude could kill him with his hands and glares alone. And he was a freaking werewolf to boot.
Alright, werewolves really existing? Super cool!
Werewolves with an attitude problem, reeking of blood lust? Not so cool.
And he was rude to the customers, too. Snarling at them the second they approached. Actually telling them ‘shut up’ or ‘go away’.
Stiles rolled his eyes at his own lot in life, because it was just his luck to try to get the meanest cookie in all of Beacon Hills a date. He glanced at Derek again, who looked at Cora with something like aggressive fondness. Like he couldn’t decide whether to hug or punch her. Or do both at the same time.
Probably a sibling thing.
Though Derek was still glowering, his eyes were at least a little warmer, his facial expressions a little softer. That was, until some woman approached them and he barked at her to leave them alone.
And, yep, asshole right there.
He hoped Linda still had that complaint box because he could finally put it to some very good use. Apropos Linda. He could use that chance to seek her out, talk a little about her hip problem if she was still around somewhere. She wasn’t out front but maybe she had withdrawn to the little office in the back.
Cora had the same sour look on her face as her brother as she watched the indignant woman eventually taking the hint and stalking away, then clapped him once on the shoulder before she turned around and headed back to their table, randomly pulling books out of the shelves on her way over.
“It’s a library, genius,” she said with an eye-roll, pushing the books in his direction. “You’re supposed to read.”
Stiles just arched an eyebrow, decided against picking a fight with her over and changed the topic. “What was that all about?”
Cora snorted in disdain. “All these people,” she growled and shook her head without elaborating further.
“You can’t hold it against them,” he reasoned absently, inspecting the backs of the books she had pushed at him. “I mean look at him. What with his muscles you’d expect him to want people getting all up on that.”
“Well he doesn’t,” she snapped and Stiles flinched back at her forceful tone. “And people should respect that and not literally throw their bodies at him like he is a rubber doll to be used for their disgusting desperate needs.”
“Ooookay,” Stiles said, blinking, because right, what were you even supposed to answer to that? He couldn’t actually understand why someone had a problem with sexy women throwing themselves at them, but he was a fucking virgin and desperate for some action himself and that—that was too pathetic to get into. He glanced at Derek, before he pulled his notebook out of his backpack. “So what do you expect me to do? Watch women with honest interest or what?”
“Forget looking here,” she scoffed. “Just wanted you to get an impression of him. All these people here—”
Stiles looked around. Old Lady Beatrice was still there, crocheting what must be like the millionth sweater for one of her twenty-thousand grandchildren. The family spawned like rabbits. At least the bigger part of the family was a very nice, friendly, helpful bunch. With only a handful of foul apples. One residing in state prison somewhere in Iowa and the other being his chemistry-slash-biology-slash-physics teacher. Because why ruin Stiles’ life in only one subject if you can ruin it in three?
Bobby and Benny were quietly growling and arguing with each other over the chess table, full cups of coffee next to them. As usual untouched and Stiles would bet a thousand bucks that they were already cold and disgusting and long forgotten.
“I told you, I’m not a private investigator for love.” He internally chuckled at that. PI Love. That would be a great name for a show. And all the π jokes he could make. “And I don’t have the time running around looking for people who might be compatible. How would I even know if they liked him?”
“Alright, I’ll make this easy for you,” Cora said, leaning forward. “He’s a good guy, albeit a shitty older brother, because—”
“Yeah, I get that. Not doing your homework. What a douche.”
She scrunched her nose as if she had smelled something disgusting. Probably Stiles’ sarcasm. “You study him,” Cora continued like he hadn’t interrupted her. “You get an impression of him and then, when you meet someone who you think could genuinely be interested in him, has a nice personality, is not some psychotic bitch, doesn’t take pleasure in hurting him, doesn’t see him as merely eye-candy without feelings and might eventually be mentally stable enough to accept our… family circumstances without trying to burn our fucking house down, you’ll let me know.” Stiles had warily looked at her ticking everything off from her finger and well, if that wasn’t just from the top of her head and real history talking right there, Stiles felt a little bit sorry for Derek and could understand his shitty attitude.
“And then I try to get them together.”
“And if it turned out to be either of these above?”
“Then you’re dead.”
“No pressure then.” Stiles sighed.
Cora opened her book. A ridiculously cute picture book about a rabbit and his day on a farm. She smiled a little at the pictures, and Stiles was about to just forget whatever he was about to say, but then he shrugged, because, hell, this was Cora Hale.
“What do I get out of that?”
She put the book down, surprised. “I told you about my family.”
“That was the deposit,” Stiles explained, waving his hand.
“I thought you worked charity.”
“First of all, I really don’t know how that rumor started, because I don’t have that much free time for other people’s love-lives. Hell, I don’t even have my own love-life—”
“What do you want then?”
He chewed his lips. “A date for the formal.”
Cora leaned back, blinked. “You want to take me on a date.”
“Well, not exactly you per se. I want to take someone who is interested in me and hopefully in a way that involves sexy times and kissing, yep, kissing would be good. But all the people I asked said no and then asked me if I could instead find them someone, so that’s that.”
“And you did?”
“Find them someone?”
“Of course. Just because I don’t get any action, doesn’t mean I cock-block my fellow bachelors or… bachelorettes or—Whatever. So yeah, if you, like, could pretend to be into me for about five minutes while my father looks all proud and I chew down my self-hate that would be splendid.”
She stared at him. Then: “Okay.”
She snorted. “Yeah, no problem. But I’ve got a girlfriend. And if you even so much as think inappropriately about me she will tear you limb by limb.”
“Limb. By. Limb.”
“No. Wouldn’t you rather go with her then?”
Cora twisted her lips, before she averted her eyes. “She can’t go.”
“So, right!” Stiles exclaimed, just to change the subject. “Now that that’s settled, Derek. Men or women?”
Cora scoffed. “My family really doesn’t care about stuff like that.”
Stiles blinked. “Yeah, well, it’s not about your family but whether or not Derek would touch dick.”
“Yeah, he would. If it’s the right dick.”
Stiles almost choked on his own spit. This conversation was becoming more and more bizarre.
“Stiles, I’ve seen you hook up people that under no normal circumstances would even talk to each other. I mean: Erica and Boyd?”
“Oh my God! Could people please stop making that out to be my biggest achievement ever? Because it wasn’t! Boyd had been crushing on Erica since kindergarten. Kindergarten!”
“Just have some confidence.” She smirked. “Dude.”
“Yeah, confidence,” Stiles mumbled, looking at Derek who had a man’s wrist in a tight grip, hissing something into his face.
He was screwed.
After Cora had left, Stiles stayed back in the library, kept doodling in his notebook, sometimes writing down stuff like, ‘hates talking’, ‘hates people’, ‘hates ice cream’, ‘probably hates puppies too, who even does that?’, ‘hates life’, ‘hates everything’. An hour later he rolled his eyes at the notes, tore the page out and threw it in the waste bin.
Really, he didn’t know what Cora expected him to do.
It didn’t even look like Derek was interested in any form of human interaction, if the way he held his body tense, his answers short and his attitude stoic, was anything to go by. Which it was. Stiles wasn’t Paul Ekman but he knew enough about body language to figure out that Derek’s whole stance was practically screaming Leave me the fuck alone in fifty different languages.
That some people where still trying to hit on him was a mystery in itself. Derek just wasn’t interested. In anyone. Not even a hint of something. A lingering look, a little tilt in someone’s direction; his shoulder, minimal relaxing and expression softening.
Nothing. Nada. Zilch.
And Stiles was screwed.
Ah, man. Leave it to Cora Hale to turn the best thing that ever happened to him into a nightmare.
He waited another hour while doing his homework because what was the point in just sitting around when he could pretend to be productive for a while. Surprisingly, it wasn’t really difficult to fall back into his routine. If at all he could really concentrate. He missed his laptop a couple of times but found that the library offered answers to the same questions. So did the PC, which were ancient and so slow, he actually started to just look things up from books or when he was desperate with his phone because of course reception sucked too. The search with the books took longer, but wasn’t less helpful. Considering he wasn’t in a rush because he was apparently stalking a twenty-thirty-ish man, Stiles didn’t really care. The only thing he did really miss was Linda, putting juice instead of coffee on his table, ruffling his hair fondly before quietly leaving again.
He was still wondering where the old lady was. Because Derek was handling the circulation desk and the tiny, unimportant coffee-desk alone. Which had never been a problem when it had been just Stiles and a couple few other old geezers.
But now, with the new clientele, especially considering that Derek—huh?
Was actually talking to a customer. Still with that semi-frown on his face, but lacking the bubbly pissed off aura when he had been talking to a few others. Whatever had been eating up his ass had been—or not, he remedied as he watched Derek flipping at yet another person.
The way Derek was running this place Stiles wouldn’t be surprised if Linda went out of business before summer. Not that there was much business to speak of. Stiles wasn’t even sure how she had kept the place that was stuck in an identity crisis and couldn't decided whether it was a cafe or a library all these years. Maybe she was secretly rich. Maybe the library was a front for some super secret operation and Derek the unlucky agent who lost at rock-paper-scissors or pulled the shortest straw and was now stuck with tending to the front desk.
Maybe... yeah, maybe Stiles should get himself a coffee.
And a snack.
His eyes landed on Derek.
God, he was scared.
Maybe Derek would, like, chew his arm off for asking for two things at the same time? But damn he had to man up, because obviously he wouldn’t find anything out about Derek if he didn’t attempt to talk to him. And how should he even sell the guy to other people if he was too sacred to approach him on his own?
‘Hey, you ever watched X-Men? Dude is like Wolverine, vicious on the outside, a big softie on the inside—maybe—and super hot’?
Yeah, that would probably go over swell.
No, Stiles was going to act like a Stilinski. The way his dad had raised him. Like a man. Who kind of felt like a pussy. But Derek wasn’t even the biggest problem in this picture, no, Stiles was a little intimidated by the woman currently speaking to Derek. She was shooting glares at him as he approached, because his existence meant they would have to stop whatever they were engaged in. Talking about hemorrhoids or at least that was what Derek’s slightly pained expression revealed.
God, she had a toddler with her.
What could she actually want from Derek?
Unless of course there was no father to that kid.
Now he made himself sad.
The woman shot him a glare and Derek looked over to him, nodding in acknowledgment. The brunette was glaring some more, now, like she could make him get lost with sheer will power. If Stiles hadn’t already been used to Lydia’s death glare he might have hauled his ass out of there, alas, he was familiar with Harris and Lydia and therefore kind of immune against amateur glaring like hers. Instead he just rolled his eyes, because, seriously, paying customer here. He had a wallet in his hand. How obvious could he be?
It took Derek two gruff attempts to finally get away from her, which was just rude.
At least it gave Stiles enough time to study the menu, which, as usual, wasn’t offering much. Tea, coffee, hot chocolate, soda and juice and a few snacks. Nothing fancy you would get from Starbucks or the coffee house down the street but enough to keep you awake for long hours of studying. And cheaper. Most of all cheaper.
“What do you want?” Derek asked, voice grumpy.
Stiles rolled his eyes. “A coffee and a Mint Brownie.”
“You planning on staying longer?” Derek asked and wow.
“Way to kick someone out, dude,” he replied. Derek stopped punching some keys in on the register, looking up at Stiles and frowned.
“Refill or no refill,” he asked and ohhh.
“Oh. Oh, yeah, refill. Sorry.” Ups. Hey, up to this point Derek had been a straight-up asshole. How would he know he was actually asking for refill? Though of course he was, and Stiles was stupid. He should really stop listening with his relationship ear and pay more attention to the matter layer in other people’s words. Especially when dealing with someone like Derek who he just can’t help but approach with a certain amount of prejudice.
Stiles tried to hide the embarrassing flush that crept over his neck and cheeks, snatched the brownie and the coffee and practically bolted back to his table.
Ah, goddamn it.
He put the the cup and brownie down and shamefully headed back to the counter were Derek was raising his eyebrows at him. He pushed a bill into his hand, mumbled ‘keep the change’ and trotted back.
When Derek snorted, he flushed an even deeper shade of red but didn’t stop his walk of shame. So much for the Stilinski’s manliness. Yeah, his father would be so proud if he’d saw that. Totally.
Still, as far as first impressions went, this wasn’t his worst, he reassured himself, chucked down the coffee and pulled a face because Disgusting. With capital D. How could you screw up simple coffee?
God no, Linda didn’t deserve that.
He might be scared of Derek, but hell no, she was the sweetest woman on earth, and maybe she had a thick Dutch accent that sometimes made her really difficult to understand, but shitty customer services and shitty coffee?
God, this place didn’t deserve that.
With a determined—and anxious, no denying that—deliberation he headed back to the counter, putting the cup on the wood, waving it at Derek’s general direction. “This,” he started and waited for Derek to turn his way as he had already been lured into yet another one-sided conversation about something by the same brunette woman with the toddler—Stiles suspected Jamila—again based on Derek’s complete lack of interest, “is not coffee. This is water with drops of something vaguely caffeinated. You have a coffee maker machine. There’s no way you can mess something like that up! It’s simple. Black. coffee!”
Derek raised his eyebrows at him. And yeah okay, Stiles internally squeaked. Maybe even externally, he wasn’t sure. “Where’s Linda, I want to talk to her,” he continued before Derek could even think about murdering him. If he hadn’t already thought about it, that was.
Stiles shook his head in frustration, then opened the slide latch from the swinging door and marched right behind the counter to the coffee machine before Derek could even stop him. Hah, home advantage!
“Back,” Derek growled at him.
“Nope,” Stiles replied. “You know, I’ve come here for years,” he explained, getting a box from underneath the small working table and put it on the surface. “I’ve watched Linda use the same beans for years and make the coffee—owowowowow.” Derek wrenched his arm away from the package with the coffee beans, pulling him along on his wrists, completely ignoring Stiles’ wailing. “Hey, that hurts!”
“Good,” Derek grunted and pushed him behind the swinging door. Some of the customers stared at them, the woman smirking. Benny had the guts to laugh loudly.
“Seriously, Benny?” Stiles called out to him. “Ever heard of keeping quiet in a library?”
“Says the lad yelling over the place?” Bobby shot back. Stiles narrowed his eyes at them, glared at Derek who, okay, glowered back. With an indignant huff he turned on his heels and marched over to the old men, crouching down in front of them.
Benny still chuckled, quietly now, to himself.
“What’s up with that hardass,” Stiles asked, pointing his thumb at Derek.
“He’s a good kid,” Bobby said. “Just a little … out of his depth.”
“Yeah I get that.”
“He’s trying hard, though,” Benny amended.
“That... I don’t get,” Stiles rolled his eyes. “He’s like a complete douche. To like everyone.”
Both men frowned at him. “No, he’s not.”
“Yeah right,” he huffed.
“Always gives Beatrice secret refills,” Bobby said as if that would put the universe back in place. “Even though she buys without and just sits there, talking his ear off.”
Stiles just rolled his eyes and went back to his table.
For the next few minutes he tried to ignore Derek, but failed spectacularly. Frustrated, he collected his books, pushed them in his backpack, stuffed the brownie in his mouth and left. He was going to tell Cora that this wasn’t working. That there was no one in hell who would date a douche like that for anything but his appearance. At least not someone with a nice personality. Or only with the personality of an angel. And Stiles wasn’t sure he wanted to condemn an angelic being to staying with Derek even for an hour.
“Oh come on.” Stiles was begging here. Stiles wasn’t above begging. “Let me off the hook, this is hopeless.”
“One afternoon and you tell me it’s hopeless?”
“He dragged me all over the place!”
“Because you went behind the counter,” Cora explained incredulous, staring at him like she couldn’t believe him. And what?
“He told you?”
“Of course he told me. Stiles, I introduced you as a friend. He came home snarling at me because you acted like a dick.”
“Hey, I didn’t—”
“You didn’t,” She said, or asked, or, what was she even doing with her voice? “You really didn’t.”
Stiles stopped to think for a moment and then shrugged. “Maybe a little?”
Cora rolled her eyes.
“Come on, he had been an ass to everyone else, too. It was just a taste of his own medicine.”
“Was he rude to you?”
“Yes!” Stiles hissed, and at another glare stopped, because aw, man, no he hadn’t been. Maybe a little monosyllabic, but not outright mean.
“He’s not getting paid much,” Cora suddenly said. Stiles squinted his eyes at her. “Linda’s gotten sick. He’s just helping out for a few months, so give him a break for not dealing with other people’s crap. Took a gap year before his master degree. Mechanical engineer major, by the way.”
Stiles eyebrows went to his hairline by the lack of segue. He thought he was the only one who did that.
“Write that down, Stiles,” she growled. He was stupefied for a moment and then scrambled for his notebook and pen.
“Jesus, he must be like great at physics and stuff.” Explained the low social skills, he added in his head. Obviously not out loud in front of Cora. Because seriously, the girl was showing the same lack in social awareness. He was impressed. They kind of rivaled Stiles’ own. Which was saying a lot. He wondered if that was still a family thing because as far as he knew, Talia and Frederick Hale—as much as he had never met them in his life but heard more than his share from for the next life. And the life after—didn’t show the same digress their kids did. Or maybe it was just skipping a generation. Or maybe spawning too many kids left the last two out of the loop or something? Not that Stiles knew about stuff like that. He was an only child and inherited the best of both his parents. And then some. Though he could have really gone without the ‘and then some’.
“Are you even listening?” Cora growled.
“Nope,” he answered, popping the 'p' and completely amazed at his own brazen behavior and lack of self preservation. Just yesterday he had been flinching at every movement of the girl. Yeah well, it probably only took so many picture books with fluffy bunnies to destroy an image. She was still verbally assaulting, but not as physically as he had expected, given the rumors going around.
However so far she had only dragged him around—and oh yeah, there was that incident with the table and his head, which why did he even forget? It left a fucking bruise and he had to tell his father he had run into a door to explain that away.
Yeah, Stiles had never thought he would reach for such an obvious lie, because it was stupid. But there he was. Being stupid. Making notes. About Derek Hale’s favorite pie.
Alright, what—no. What the hell?
“Pie, Cora?” he asked incredulously.
She just pinched her nose. “He loves pie.”
“Everyone loves pie. Only Satan would hate pie. I wrote a whole essay on my fondness for pie in fifth grade for English class. But why would I have to know his favorite pie if I’m trying to find his soul mate or whatever?”
Cora pulled a face at the word ‘soul mate’.
He just rolled his eyes. “Do you seriously think soul mates,” —okay, he really only repeated that to see Cora cringe at the word again— “care about pie preferences? And what… urks, of course it’s rhubarb. “Probably as bitter as his soul,” he mumbled. And earned himself a slap against the back of his head. Which really hurt. “Watch the fucking werewolf strength. Human here,” he growled at the girl. Her eyes widened slightly, before she snorted in amusement.
“You’re an odd one, Stilinski,” she eventually opted. “Why aren’t you scared? Usually people would run away screaming.”
“Scared of what exactly?” he asked, chewing on his pencil and re-reading the notes his hands had made while his brain had been preoccupied with finding a way to escape this madness with some dignity and all body parts in tact. There were bruises now thanks to Cora. Real bruises. Dark brown-bluish-green-lilac ones. Bruises.
He was taking back what he had said.
Cora Hale was physically abusive and that was not a healthy contribution to a relationship.
“Us. My family.”
Stiles furrowed his brow at her words. “Dunno. Maybe because your sister saved a whole friggin’ bus full of kids from drowning in a lake? Probably with the help of some convenient freakish werewolf power. Or maybe because your mother is the best mayor this town has seen since forever? And that includes Peggy Delanore and she had been a crafty old woman till the day she died in the same chair your mother sits on now in her office. Or maybe because your father rescued more cats from scary high trees than the fire brigade and the police station altogether? Seriously, if you wanted to off or harvest or, I don’t know, breed us you would have probably done that ages ago.”
“There’s some kinky shit on the internet and I’m still sorting through what’s true and false. All I have to go by is you.” He spun his pen between his fingers, thoughtfully processing his own words. “You know what,” he finally said and Cora looked at him. “Screw the formal. If I find Derek’s soul mate, I want answers. To every question.”
Cora smiled, slow and easy. “Nope,” she said, imitating him. “A deal’s a deal. You wanted the formal, you got the formal. Or are you going back on your word?”
Stiles wanted to say yes, yes, please let me.
“Come on, you need to give me something, if you want me to suffer through Derek’s douchbaggery for however long this takes.”
Cora boxed him against the shoulder. Hard.
He wasn’t wincing, nope. His breath was just super breathy.
“Tell you what,” she said. “Everyday you spend finding Derek’s ‘soul mate’,” even her air quote marks were sarcastic, “I’ll answer one of your questions. That fine by you?”
Operation ‘Soul mate’ was officially in motion.
He was so going to find someone for Derek and if it was the last thing he did on earth. And if it took, like, maybe six months or whatever, the Hale family would just have to deal with it, because Stiles was getting secret werewolf information in exchange! Best payment ever.
He was so giddy about the prospect he almost danced into the library and not even Derek’s death glare could dampen his spirits. If at all Stiles stopped his enthusiastic wave at him a little sooner than he had planned, but that was about all.
Maybe in the meantime Derek would even come around on his own and find himself a soul mate. Stiles noticed the attraction before every one else did, so he could even pretend that he had sought out the chosen one and maybe would even get his hands on some super awesome super secret family heirloom. With super powers.
Maybe they would make him an Honorary Werewolf.
That would be awesome.
However, they wouldn’t do anything if he didn’t get his ass moving. He had a plan and he’d follow through, because that’s what—nope, not going there.
Step 1: Make contact with subject. Try to make it sort of friendly-ish.
He threw his backpack on one of the unoccupied tables, turned on his heels and marched right up to Derek.
Who looked up at him.
Stiles spun around and fled in the other direction.
He really shouldn’t be so scared of the guy, but Derek was more intimidating than Lydia when she had a critical craving for chocolate but was on one of her many, many diets. Stiles chanced a glance at Derek, immediately averted his eyes again. Seriously, if looks could kill. And for all he knew maybe werewolf looks could kill. Google had been in quite some disagreement about that one.
Stiles fiddled with the strap of his bag for a moment, contemplating his current position in the library. The table he was on right now was obstructing his view, therefore he needed another good place he could conveniently spy on Derek from. Because spying was how it was going to be until he got his courage together to actually start a conversation with the scary dude. His original plan just wasn’t going to work if he was too chicken to even talk to the dark-haired menace.
Surprisingly, he realized, the library wasn’t as full as the day before, though the table he had sat on was occupied by two little girls in frilly pink dresses, with cute braided hairstyles. Stiles wasn’t cruel enough to make them go away and stop coloring their books. No parents in sight though. And the table was long, designed for more than ten people, so.
He headed over to them, bag thrown over one shoulder and knelt in front of the kids, waiting for one of the girls to look up before he threw his brightest smile at them, all wide and charming and hopefully not super creepy. “Mind if I join you?” he asked, motioning to the empty chairs as non-threateningly as a seventeen year old could. The girl with blond hair stared at him with narrowed eyes, the other however just enthusiastically nodded her head, patting the chair next to her with a giddy ‘sit, sit’.
Stiles took a seat next to that because he knew he was going to spread his books and notes all over the place. And this time he even came prepared. With his laptop. Just that, urgh, of course. No power outlet. Dammit. He forgot. There weren’t that many to begin with.
He groaned in annoyance.
“Everything alright, Mister?” the brunette gril asked.
Stiles brain froze for a few unhealthy seconds, because he had just been called Mister. With seventeen. And something in his conception of the world shifted precipitously. It couldn’t have been worse if the girl had called him ‘fuckface’. Not even his father was mister. His father was Sheriff
“It’s Stiles, dude,” he replied huffily.
The brunette’s nose twitched. She furrowed her brow before she turned to look at the circulation desk in confusion. He followed her eyes and spotted Derek glaring at him. Stiles recoiled in his seat and nooo, God, please noooo.
“I’m Emilia!” she suddenly beamed as her head snapped around, but Stiles barely heard her over the glaring accusation of villain eyebrows from outer space.
“Is Derek your… uh… family?”
The blonde snorted.
“He’s my uncle,” the brunette said proudly, then flinched and glared at her sister, who was lifting herself up, leaning over. “It’s father here. Our Moms said so,” she whispered loud enough for everyone to hear.
Well, that explained the lack of intruders. Everyone would feel awkward hitting on someones parents with the children watching. Smart move, actually. Stiles was a little proud of whoever came up with that.
“Even to him?” the brunette asked, wide-eyed. Stiles frowned at her, opened his mouth to interrupt their hushed conference—
“Everyone,” the blonde growled.
Emilia pursed her lips, then turned to Stiles. “He’s my daddy,” she amended as if he hadn’t been able to hear the conversation.
It was probably very impolite, but Stiles laughed. “Your dad,” he nodded, playing along. “Who’s your mom then?”
“My mommy,” she answered truthfully, which earned her a kick from her sister under the table. This time Stiles actually noticed it by the way the blonde had to slide down a little and hold her body on both sides of the chair.
“Don’t talk to him,”
“Don’t,” the blonde ordered again, glaring daggers at Stiles. Honestly, Stiles wouldn’t even be surprised if he found out she was Derek’s daughter because they seemed to have a lot in common.
Stiles wasn’t proud of the day he found out he could be scared of a six-or-something year old girl with pink ribbons in her hair. Nope, he really wasn’t.
“I’m still allowed to sit here, right?”
“Yes!” Emilia squealed, the same moment the other let out an unimpressed “No.”
“But... he’s family,” the brunette pointed out and—wait. What? Family? “He smells like family.”
The blonde’s eyes widened in surprise at these words and she gave Stiles a calculating once-over. Twice. And then her eyes got even bigger and her mouth dropped open—and then her face hardened in the beat of a moment and returned to her previously disinterested glare and she returned to stare at her coloring book.
Stiles quietly collected what he had already unearthed from his bag. Was as good as any chance to look for a free power outlet. And anyway, it was probably not such a good idea to make this look like he was trying to bond with Derek’s family. That was not his intention. Well, not like that at least. He was indeed trying to establish some sort of friendship with Cora to get information on werewolf business.
Because they were real.
And he could tell no one.
It was awesome.
Until it wasn’t.
“Where are you going?” Piercing blue eyes bore right into his heart, when he stood up. Stiles found himself flinching. Yes dad, you have certainly raised a fine specimen of a real man, right here.
“Uh,” Stiles said eloquently.
“You don’t have to go,” Emilia said, reaching for his hand.
“Power outlet,” he said weakly, holding the plug from his charger up.
Both girls looked at the plug, then nodded in understanding and Stiles was released on his quest to find a free power outlet that still allowed him to watch Derek to a degree. He found a table next to Benny and Bobby, unperturbed view, if a little awkward angle to the front desk. The power outlet however was right next to the chess table. Stiles looked at them, measured the length of his cable and decided that it should be long enough. The mean old men smirked at him in unison when he dropped to his knees, trying to surreptitiously wind his way under the chess table and tangle the cable around their feet in a way it wouldn’t disturb them. Or more like in a way they couldn’t kick it out during one of their quarrels.
“A little help here, guys,” Stiles moaned in annoyance.
They just laughed, and he hit his head on the underside of the table as he was about to get up. When his laptop was finally connected with electricity he glared at the old farts, called them that to their faces and then dropped down on the comfortable cushioned chair.
That was at least something.
That day he wrote a detailed history paper on methods of torture during the Algerian Revolution on both sides of the war, finished his homework on vector algebra, translated a poem from English into Spanish and learned that Derek Hale still hated everyone and the world.
All in all it was a good afternoon.
At least for his school work.
“Ah yes, Abhay and Emilia,” Cora said, slurping her drink before crushing the tetra pak in her hand, throwing it over her shoulder and dunking it in the waste bin behind them with no effort at all. Stiles watched her natural grace with awe. “Peter and Laura’s kids,” she elaborated.
Stiles furrowed his brow. Laura was the oldest sister, Peter was Talia’s brother and—
“Not like that, you pervert!” she growled, throwing a paperback copy of ‘Perks of being a Wallflower’ in his face. “God, get your mind out of the gutter! Emilia is Laura’s, Abhay is Peter’s, you dumb fuck.”
“Well excuse me. I don’t know about werewolf relationships,” Stiles defended himself. “How should I know you’re not like the old aristocracy? Working to keep the blood pure or whatever, even if it meant incest.”
Cora’s eyes were wide. Part of Stiles knew that he was talking bullshit, the other part had been excessively studying werewolf sociability on the internet and the line between truth and fiction was beginning to blur.
“The same as everyone else’s. God, seriously,” Cora rolled her eyes, then stopped. “Well, not exactly. There are a few differences but not like that.”
“Good to know.”
“That, by the way, was your question of the day.”
Stiles glared at her. “Then I want details. What differences?”
She eyed him, then shrugged. “Werewolves more or less can tell by smell who could be a potential partner. It’s a chemistry thing. Human’s do it too, but on a more subconscious level.”
“So you like, sniff each other’s butts and know you want to tap that?”
Cora smacked him hard over the back of his head. Stupid fucking werewolves and their stupid super fucking strength and tendency to use violence in order to get a point across. Or maybe Stiles was just a baby, because he still had to chew on that tiny bit of information that he had been afraid of a little girl.
“What do you need me for, then? Can’t you just sniff Derek’s soul mate out or something?”
“You find the ones psychologically compatible with Derek, I check the chemistry part, that’s how it’s going to work.”
“That’s why you wanted me to compile a list?”
“Yep,” she said with a shrug.
“Anyone I smell compatible with? Because I really want to get laid in this life.”
“Nope,” Cora dead-panned.
Well that was nice.
Stiles grumbled, but then realized he was human and human’s have been finding themselves partners without sniffing hormones so he could care less about her crushing revelation. Then again, humans did use their noses, too, just like Cora said. Maybe that was the reason why Allison and Scott hit it of immediately. They caught each other’s scent and were like matey mate come here and ravish me!
“You could have lied to me. I mean, you should be nice to me,” he whined. “After all I’m family, right?”
Cora choked on something and Stiles looked up, surprised at her non characteristic reaction. “Who said that?”
“Emilia did. She said I smell like family.”
“Yeah, because of me, idiot,” the girl explained, rolling her eyes.
“What?” He lifted his arm, sniffing on his clothes, then furrowed his brow. “She can pick that up? We have barely touched. Not that I would mind touching. If it was the none-lethal kind.”
“Werewolves have heightened senses, like smelling or hearing,” she said like it was normal. And maybe it was. To them. “We can even hear heartbeats and tell if someone is lying. And we can smell emotions, too.”
“Wait,” Stiles said, backtracking the last few days. “Does that mean Derek could have heard us in the library as well?”
She pressed her lips into a thin line. “No.”
“But he is a werewolf, right?”
She visibly dithered over her answer. “Technically, he is.” Stiles lifted his eyebrows. “It’s complicated.” Cora huffed an exasperated sigh. “Stop asking so many questions,” she growled, pushed him on his shoulder to the side and stormed of.
Stiles picked himself from the ground, where he had—of course—toppled over, confused and a little bit pissed. He rolled his eyes, shouldered his backpack and went to Lacrosse practice. Because he hadn’t been humiliated enough for one week.
When he arrived at the changing rooms Scott was waiting for him expectantly. Stiles just looked at him, then opened his locker.
“Are you going back to Linda’s Library today?” Scott asked from the bench.
“Yep,” Stiles said, looping his finger into his shoe. “And it’s Hilda’s.”
“But Linda is the owner,” Scott declared, confused.
“Hilda was her mother,” Stiles continued, exchanging his shirt with a simple gray one and strapping the chest protection over it.
“Dude.” Stiles stopped at his friends hesitant words and looked quizzically at him. “Sounds like you are really getting invested?”
“Yep,” he affirmed. “But Cora goes to the formal with me in exchange, so.”
Scott’s eyes went wide at his words. It was honestly amusing. “Do the girls know?” he asked, a little breathless. Stiles just furrowed his brows.
“I don’t think—”
“Dude, you have to tell them!”
“They have all our clothes sorted out. Like with color scheme and matching colors for pairs and all that stuff I don’t even understand!” Yeah, Stiles didn’t understand anything as well. “Stiles! Lydia asked you weeks ago who you’d take to the formal! You said no one!”
“Because no one wanted to go with me, thanks for the reminder. Really great for my ego, bro.”
“You don’t understand!”
“They made sure we could all dance with each other and the dresses would still match, Allison and Lydia had spent hours on a color plan. They even have the make up planned and—and—” And Scott was starting to hyperventilate.
“Relax, I’ll sent Lydia a message,” Stiles assured, not really following anything but if Scott said it was important, it probably was. Scott nodded, but his eyes were still wide and his breath still came in little puffs. Stiles tried to be a good friend and not laugh.
Stiles started to go to the library almost every day, doing his homework or clicking through Wikipedia tags or reading the strangest books he stumbled upon in the shelves, ignoring while simultaneously not ignoring Derek. Because research.
It wasn’t bad, coming back to Hilda’s Library. His concentration was better than at home, where he got distracted by every little thing. Now there was only Derek, his laptop and homework and the occasionally pissed off customer.
So after a week and a half of enduring Derek’s more or less angry snarls and god awful coffee—because bad coffee was still better than no coffee—he finally gathered his nonexistent courage and walked up to the man to finally set operation ‘Soul mate’ into motion. Again. He assumed after ten days of silent acknowledgment through stoic nods they could move on in their relationship to a place where they actually used words.
At least Stiles hoped.
“I can’t take this anymore,” Stiles said, waving the plastic cup in front of him. “I really, seriously don’t know how you can’t make a decent coffee. Or handle customer service. Like do you really, really want to bring Linda’s business down?”
Derek furrowed his brow at him.
“I know you don’t know but ask around, I’ve practically lived here—”
“I know,” Derek interrupted. Stiles stopped. Derek pointed to Benny and Bobby, who waved at them.
Stiles just rolled his eyes. “Then will you please let me help you?”
“Help me?” Derek repeated.
“Yeah, like, let me help you not ruin Linda’s life. Because that coffee? It’s awful. Your social skills? Sub-par at best.”
One of Derek’s eyebrows twitched and he was about to turn away, but Stiles was having none of it. His hand snatched out and stopped him by his shoulder, and then let go the second Derek glared daggers at him. “Listen, Cora told me you’re the science kind of guy. And I have trouble with chemistry. And physics. So if you help me with my problem, I help you out here, okay?”
“You want me to tutor you?” Derek asked, eyebrow arched and eyes full of disbelief.
To Stiles it sounded like he had asked Derek to torture him.
“I need the help, so,” he shrugged, leaving the rest open.
“I don’t need your help,” Derek said and turned away from him.
Well fuck you too, Stiles thought and stomped back to his seat.
Stiles was sitting in the cafeteria. He should really stop doing that. Obviously it made him easy prey. However, it was the only place to get a decent meal on school grounds. So nay.
Anyway, he was in the cafeteria, minding his own business, gnawing on his pencil and thinking about another strategy to deal with Derek, when a foot suddenly came crashing down on the chair next to him. Dangerously close to the hand he had parked there. Heart jumping to his throat he let out a string of curses, before he turned to the offender.
Cora stared right back at him.
She didn’t look pleased.
Stiles was maybe a little about to pee himself.
“So,” she started with an air of indifference, arm crossed over the knee as she leaned forward. It was all a tad too menacing for his taste. “I got a call from Princess Lydia.”
“Uh,” Stiles said intelligently. “How did she get your number?”
“How indeed,” she replied, took the foot from the chair and instead dropped down on it. Stiles may or may not scoot a little to the other side with his chair. “They want to take me shopping.”
“And that is?” he asked, motioning for her to finish the sentence.
Instead of answering, she glared him down, than stole his mashed potatoes and vegetables.
Stiles didn’t dare complain.
Two days later, he wasn’t even surprised to see Cora sitting with the rest of the bunch at the table, boyishly laughing at something Erica had said, with the same unique snort to finish her howler.
Lydia looked scandalized, Allison just joined the laughter.
When Stiles sat down, he was confronted with a few worried glances from the male brigade on the table, like they wanted him to make sense of the bonding procedures female humans went through in order to get someone like Cora to sit with them. And laugh.
Cora and Erica obviously hit it of immediately and hard. They shared the same humor, the taste in movies and clothes and apparently in comic books. On the other hand, there was a tension between Cora and Lydia that was mostly annoyed and slightly sexual at the same time. Stiles could see Jackson plotting a threesome in his mind by the way his eyes glanced at his girlfriend whenever she was berating Cora for her behavior. Allison was a firm neutral, too cautious and shy to promise friendship bracelets, but outgoing enough to accept the girl and include her in their conversation. Scott was simply Scott. A little puppy happy about another play mate in the litter that was steadily growing. Strangely enough because of Stiles. Like he was the mother giving birth—Oh God, so not going there!
Isaac obviously couldn’t care less, though he felt the need to express how utterly hot he thought Cora was. Danny blew him in the boy’s restroom for that comment, stopped at the peak and walked away. Stiles only knew because he had entered the moment Danny had left the rest room with the words ‘ask Cora to finish it’ and Stiles had the pleasure to get an eyeful of something he really never wanted to see.
“Seriously, guys?” he scolded, backtracked and turned to find the restroom at the other side of the school.
It was fine though. They got along and Cora fit in the group like the lost shoe to Cinderella’s foot.
“What don’t you get?” Derek stood beside him, coffee pot in hand while glaring down at the chemistry book and notes Stiles was practically draped over in an attempt to ignore the metaphysics of whatever he was trying to read there.
He hated chemistry.
Actually, he hated chemistry because he hated Harris.
“What I did in an earlier life to get punished like this,” Stiles replied unhelpfully. Derek rolled his eyes, but before he could turn around and walk away Stiles stopped him with a hand at his apron. Which only Derek could pull off still looking manly as fuck. “Wait. No. It’s not like I don’t understand. I’m not really that bad.”
Derek lifted an eyebrow.
“I want to kick Harris in the fucking face with my über-knowledge, is what I want.”
“Harris?” Derek repeated.
Derek put the pot down, turned the book and let his eyes skip over the page, then reached for the sheet of questions he had to answer for next class. “Never scored better than a C in Harris’ class,” Derek eventually said. In words. Many word strung together. Almost like a sentence!
“Guess that means he’s not only an asshole to me, then.”
“It means he cuts those that are too smart,” Derek explained and turned the material back to Stiles. He wasn’t sure if Derek had been complimenting himself or Stiles but he wouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth so, hey, yay, compliment! “You’re doing good.”
“Yeah, well, I don’t want to ‘do good’,” he mimicked, offended. “I want to stomp the dude in the ground with my overwhelming knowledge about atoms and particles. I want to impress him into submission. I don’t want to give him any reason to give me a C when I absolutely deserve an A plus plus plus plus plus. I want to see him visibly struggling with himself when he has to hand back my test paper with an A at the top because he hates it. That’s what I want.”
Derek looked at him for a moment, then took the pot into his hand and turned around to go back to the coffee counter. “Show me how to work the coffee wonder,” he said while walking away. Stiles gaped at him. Then scrambled up with a bright smile.
“Does that mean you’re gonna help me?”
“Yep,” Derek replied.
Stiles didn’t know what was happening, but it was probably a minor miracle.
Surprisingly enough, Derek might be smart, but was still a lousy student. Seriously, Stiles had watched him go through the motions of making coffee. There was nothing wrong with what he did per se, but the result was always, well, luke-warm and watery at best.
Stiles was amazed. Derek was embarrassed.
It was hilarious.
Stiles wrote down in his note book: Genetically incapable of making decent coffee. There was no other explanation, really. It had to be the genes.
“I heard you’re taking Cora to the formal,” Derek suddenly said from his side, voice strained with defeat, when Stiles pushed his hand away to fasten the lid on the machine. Seriously, the problem couldn’t be something like that.
“Yep,” Stiles replied, starting the coffee machine. “I’m helping her with something, and she has to endure my father gushing over her. Perfect deal.”
“Watching her getting ready,” Derek interrupted him with a snort. “I should pay you as thanks.” The dark-haired man didn’t elaborate and Stiles had to content himself with that statement, though he really wanted to pry further into the topic. At least now he knew why Derek was willing to help him out. Whatever was going on in the Hale house because of the school dance, it must be hilarious. Derek actually seemed a little less angry, which probably meant a lot. Stiles wanted pictures. Stiles wanted videos.
“Well, at least I don’t have to go alone, while all my friends have their SO’s hanging on their arms.”
“Neither does she now,” Derek said as he turned away to the register, stocking back on the brownies while the water was heating, making bubbly noises. “Complained no one asked her out. Not even friends.”
Stiles didn’t even know Cora had friends. She had always been alone as far as he could tell. Cora interacting with his friends was the first time he had seen her behaving like a high schooler and not like a rebel without a cause.
“Ohh, so it’s like I’m doing her two favors?”
“I really should have taken money for my help,” Stiles mumbled under his breath.
Derek scoffed, then turned his face away and for a moment Stiles thought he was seeing things, or maybe he was day-dreaming, because at the corner of Derek’s lips was a little tilt that could almost be interpreted as the beginning of a tentative little smile. But whatever it was, it died before it had even taken its first breath.
Stiles stared at Derek for a long time, until Derek’s lips twisted into a snarl and he realized that he had been… well… staring. “So coffeeeeee—” he said as he spun around.
Stiles routine had changed after that. As soon as he entered the library he made his way behind the counter, brewing a fresh pot of coffee which would visibly lessen the tension of regulars already seated at some table. Usually they downed their old coffee in one gulp and lined up at the front for the freshly made one. Stiles tried to keep his smugness to a minimum and in return Derek tried to use actual sentences when explaining science problems to him.
Stiles would finish his regular homework, sometimes stopping to brew a new pot of coffee. A few days later his regular table had been switched with the chess table, giving him better access to the power outlet and an even better view of Derek. Stiles had thanked Benny and Bobby for their courtesy but they had just laughed at him and told him it had been that way when they had entered that day.
Stiles made a note in his Derek Diary: Doesn’t like to show kindness openly.
He tried not to think too hard about the gesture. At least now he didn’t have to crawl on all fours to plug his laptop in.
There was even a visit from Linda in her wheelchair when she had gotten wind that the coffee in her shop had suddenly returned to its old flavor. Stiles had felt a pang of guilt at seeing the old woman, who raised him like her own grandchild and he didn’t even take the time to visit her in the hospital.
She didn’t seem to care, which made it worse for Stiles. She just talked to him like she had done before, the old mischievous twinkle in her eyes, asking whether she needed to pay him, too.
Stiles immediately refused with every flailing limb available and he only stopped in his distressed babbling when Derek put a hand on his shoulder and literally grounded him. And then Derek, that fucker, told Linda that she didn’t need to worry about payment because it was enough Derek didn’t kick him out for harassing her employees.
Stiles pouted at that, but Linda just laughed and told Derek to let Stiles drink for free.
He had probably preened at those words, and waggled his eyebrows at Derek and didn’t even try to tune the smugness down this time.
It took some time but eventually even the last woman started to lay off on Derek. It took them surprisingly long to take the hint that Derek was as emotionally available as an answering machine. After they stopped approaching and instead just ogled from afar, it was actually easier to talk to him. Bobby had been right when he had told Stiles that Derek didn’t snarl at every customer. He was stiff, a little uncomfortable but tried to answer every question as long as it wasn’t about his telephone number, favorite whatever, body size or workout procedure.
Who even wanted to know someone’s training schedule?
Sometimes Stiles really didn’t get other people.
The first time Stiles had actually witnessed a conversation like that up close, he almost toppled over in amazement at their… for lack of better word, brazenness. Now it only happened every other day in a way that made Stiles think bets were placed who could land the hot dude from the library.
“Anything you would advice?” the blonde harassing Derek unabashedly right in front of Stiles asked, her long manicured fingernails scraping over Derek’s lower arm, her body draped over the counter which left absolutely nothing to the imagination when it came to her cleavage. Stiles was surprised he wasn’t all hot and bothered by her …uh, visual generosity, but was instead slightly disgusted.
“Well,” Stiles drawled, before Derek could open his mouth to snarl at her. “We’ve got a whole DIY department in aisle five.” She glared at him for having the audacity to interrupt her seduction technique. He waggled his eyebrows in response. When she finally got the meaning, which took her long enough, she scrunched her nose, turned on her heels and headed back to the table she had been occupying with some friends.
“That was awkward,” Stiles laughed, smiling at Derek when he turned to face him.
Derek just furrowed his brows. “We have a DIY department?”
“Sure. For landscaping. And garden shed building. Home repair,” he counted on his fingers. “And I wasn’t lying. I do believe I’ve seen some stuff about masturbation there.”
Derek’s lips twitched in something.
One of these days he would get a smile out of Derek.
If it was the last thing he did.
Stiles was shopping at the mall with Team Perfect, currently saving a table at the ice parlor, with Isaac hanging on to him like a wet sack while Danny made a show of not getting jealous over them.
He really didn’t know what was going on.
Maybe they were role-playing? Maybe it was their foreplay? Lydia said it had something to do with Isaac’s self-esteem. Seriously Stiles didn’t know and he really didn’t need to know.
Fact was, Isaac was literally mouthing on Stiles’ ear—chewing, really—his breath hot against his neck, while they waited for the rest of the group to march in with their orders of icy sin, when something caught his attention out of the corner of his eyes and he spotted Derek walking out of Luxury Perfume with a blaring Emilia on his hands. He looked distressed, sorta panicked, his shoulders hunched when he spun around and crouched down to get on Emilias’ eye level, saying something, his eyebrows high up to the hairline and eyes wide.
It was adorable.
Stiles was staring.
And so was everyone else.
Stiles was torn between running over there to help—not that he really could help because his experience with children was none-existent—and being a nuisance. Isaac had an arm slung over his shoulder, following his eyes and snorting.
“He’s hot,” Isaac said into his ear. “You know him?”
“Cora’s brother,” he replied and watched Emilia stomping her feet, balling tiny fists to her side. Derek’s expression turned more frantic and some women to the side started to giggle, while other’s rolled their eyes at the commotion.
“Holy shit, seriously? What’s in those genes, really?”
Derek’s ears were tainted red, his hands half way up to her shoulders like he wasn’t sure if he could touch her.
That was just heart breaking.
“Emilia,” he whispered under his breath, because she was a werewolf and could hopefully hear him. “I’ll buy you ice cream, if you stop crying.” Emilia suddenly stopped, eyes growing wide and she tilted her head to the side, her nose twitching and Stiles knew she had heard him. Derek let out a hesitant breath as she turned around and stared directly at Stiles. He shrugged Isaac off, wiped the saliva from his ear, because gross, Isaac, gross, the second Derek followed her eyes. And suddenly his facial expression hardened. Emotions gone, instead the mask was back on and Stiles was so used to the sight, he wasn’t even insulted by the sudden change.
Instead Stiles waved at them, and then Emilia was approaching him with odd determination.
Isaac was still halfway draped over him, curiously watching the little girl storming over to them with Derek following grudgingly. “You shouldn’t do that,” she said, pointing one accusing finger at Isaac, shaking it. “With someone who doesn’t belong to you.”
Isaac nipped at Stiles’ ear again, teasing the girl, then smiled wide and playful while Stiles wondered what the hell was going on until he realized that they could probably smell Danny all over Isaac. Which was a gross thought. Just saying.
“Hello there Emilia,” Stiles greeted. “Nice to see you here. And you too, Derek,” he added, like it was an afterthought. “Meet Isaac, human cuddling machine. And his boyfriend,” Stiles pointed at Danny standing at the counter of the ice parlor, still waiting for his triple mint-chocolate-cherry atrocity and staring at them curiously. Cora behind him looked like she was contemplating murder. “Don’t worry, he’s well aware that little Isaac here is a puppy who likes to chew on his toys.”
Isaac flicked him against the ear and Stiles pushed his hand in his face.
Derek and Emilia silently glared at them.
And then before Stiles could do anything, the girl climbed into his lap, pushing the sleeve of her shirt over her hand and furiously wiping Stiles’ ear, like she was trying to get rid of Isaac on him.
“Emilia,” Derek said, taking a step forward, but she just growled. And then licked his ear.
Derek snarled, Stiles squeaked, clamping his hand over the spot, Isaac laughed, Cora shouted from the ice parlor.
Emilia ignored them. “You too, Derek,” she said after leaning back.
“No!” Stiles cried panicked because he really didn’t need embarrassing boners just thinking about that. Derek looked at him like he was being stupid. Yeah, like he had been remotely in danger of getting licked by Derek Hale. Sure, whatever.
Derek lifted the girl up under her arms and put her down in front of Stiles.
The deities of the ice parlor chose that exact moment to finish their order and his friends strolled over to appear with their servings. Lydia flipped her hair behind her shoulder and pushed Stiles vanilla-strawberry yogurt cone at him, before she sat down next to Isaac, looking bored like this was normal.
God, in his circle of friends, this level of craziness was normal.
“You can’t do that, Emilia,” Derek growled. “Apologize.”
“It’s his fault,” she replied, glaring.
“Emilia,” Cora said, lifting her eyebrows.
“But he was—”
“Playing,” the brunette girl replied firmly. “They are friends. They were playing.”
Emilia frowned at Stiles and Isaac, then looked up to Derek. “I’m not sorry,” she finally growled, stomping her foot again, then took Derek’s hand and dragged him away. “You own me an ice,” she shouted over her shoulder at Stiles while walking away.
Stiles was validly confused.
Derek was a surprisingly good teacher, patient with Stiles’ unlimited number of questions jumping all over the place and field, from the Arrhenius equation to the Beer-Lambert law in under a second.
Stiles learned to read Derek’s state of confusion from minimal to completely lost by counting the wrinkles on Derek’s forehead whenever he frowned and then tried to back-paddle a few steps in his thought process to get him on the same track.
It worked well.
Actually, it worked a little too well. Derek showed an incredible skill in following Stiles’ thoughts to places other people were afraid to touch with a ten foot long stick. Not even Scott would endanger his sanity and argue with Stiles about the Law Abiding Citizen and vigilantism after talking about thermodynamics just a few seconds prior. He wasn’t even sure how Derek understood his question and correctly related it to the movie like it was the most natural thing. Hell, even Stiles didn’t know how he had gotten there.
And even stupidly earnestly answering that no, Stiles, the funeral scene wouldn’t work like that in real life and was all about action elements.
Stiles’ brain had gone off-line for a few seconds. It must have taken some damage during reboot because suddenly Derek Hale wasn’t all that scary anymore, even though he was talking about the trigger mechanisms of a sub-machine gun in frightening detail.
Stiles may or may not have been awe-struck for another few seconds.
Derek made a segue Stiles still didn’t know how that brought them neatly back to calculating the transmission of light through a substance.
They were usually focused on their task at hand, united by the wish to kick Harris’ in his academic nuts with scientific finesse, but found themselves more often than not drifting off, talking about whatever movie Stiles had seen. Stiles had found out fairly soon that Derek was a closeted sci-fi nerd and had fun picking apart scientific nonsense in movies, or in other cases, explaining the plausibility of something else.
Stiles added closeted nerd to his pro list, when the dark-haired man wasn’t watching, then laughed at the fact that he was dividing between pros and cons based on his standards and that sobered him up.
He blacked out the pro and con with a thick marker and chose to ignore the impulse that must have led to this misconduct.
“My transformation?” Cora asked perplexed. Stiles nodded enthusiastically, leaning in to whisper in her ear. They were watching the big Lacrosse game against Middlelake High, there was chaos all around them when Danny stopped a ball getting into the goal with only three minutes left to play and one score ahead and everyone was yelling and cheering and roaring. Stiles really didn’t need to lower his voice, but it was more or less for effect anyway.
“Your wolf form. I’d like to see it.”
It had taken him weeks to finally work up the nerve to ask her, because he really, really, really had been wanting to see it for ages.
Cora’s eyes darted around. “Derek’s teaching you, right?” she asked, which didn’t make much sense, but Stiles nodded anyway. “And how is your... progress?”
Stiles shrugged. “I guess he’s not as bad as I thought. There’s hope on the horizon?”
Which was a complete and utter understatement.
Derek Hale was nothing Stiles had thought he would be. Because he was more than the brooding mess of muscles he appeared to be at first sight. Derek was smart, had a terrible sense of humor and it still made Stiles laugh. He didn’t talk much but if he did it wasn’t without rhyme and reason. He knew what he was talking about and he wouldn’t back down just to avoid a heated discussion. Actually, sometimes Stiles would just for the kicks of it mention something he read online and, without even really believing in what he said, defended the theories just to see Derek get all passionate on him.
About that topic.
Not about Stiles.
Stiles decided, as soon as he knew more about several topics and had an opinion about them he was actually backing he would so engage Derek in all the discussions of the world just to see him growling and snapping at him with impatient words.
On the other hand, Derek made learning fun, made science fun, made staying late into the evenings that they forgot the time talking about Physical Science fun. It didn’t even take analogies of bouncers and clubs to describe photosynthesis to Stiles, like he had to use for Scott and Allison to make the whole ordeal enjoyable. Derek explained the citric acid cycle without any metaphors and still made it sound like kinky science porn. And Stiles may or may not have found himself unable to look away from Derek’s mouth, sucking in every word with an interest and attention he thought impossible with his ADHD.
Cora watched his face going blank and somewhere between his answer and his musing Jackson must have made a final goal, because people stood up from the bleachers, screaming and yelling, and someone dipped Coke over his attire. Stiles yelped and jumped up but whoever it was was gone and lost in the mass of people all flooding to the middle of the field.
“Okay,” Cora finally answered, and Stiles looked at her, raising both eyebrows. “Today at your house fine with you?”
Stiles blinked. “You mean now?”
“Yes,” she replied simply.
Stiles practically manhandled and hauled Cora into his Jeep before she could even so much as bid good bye to their friends who only watched them in amused bemusement. He kept to the speed limit because knowing his luck one of his dad’s deputies would spot them together speeding and then he wouldn’t even get so much as a glimpse on the form.
At home he ushered Cora up and into his room, where he locked the door and the window and closed the blinds and sat down on his bed, hands between his legs, waiting expectantly. Cora rolled her eyes at his enthusiasm but she couldn’t be that angry considering how she had taken Stiles’ bossy behavior without a word of protest.
“We start slow, okay?” she said, her hands clasped in her shirt.
Stiles nodded. “Have you ever shown someone—uh, like me?”
“No,” she admitted. When Stiles had asked he hadn’t been sure whether this was a big deal. Whether this was maybe something considered intimate? Like a family thing? Maybe Stiles was just intruding or stomping on some serious werewolf rituals or whatever?
He was just about to extend his apologies, when she snorted in amusement. “Relax,” she said at whatever cue his body must have given her. Then she huffed out a breathy laugh. “Give me your blanket and turn around.”
Stiles did as he was told and then he heard a zipper being pulled down, rustling of clothes and holy mother of jesus fuck he hadn’t thought about that. She had to be naked for this? Fuck no, Stiles didn’t know. “Uh, Cora, I uh wasn’t trying to get you all naked and stuff in my room—”
“Shut up, Stilinski,” she bit back, more bark than bite. “You can turn around now.”
Stiles did, eyes shamefully wide as he looked at Cora wrapped in his blanket, clothes discarded on the chair.
“Watch,” she said with a smirk.
And Stiles did.
The first thing he noticed were her bright blue eyes, then the teeth, the bridge of her nose swelling, eyebrows drawn together and ears growing longer. There was a sick sound of bones breaking and realigning, and Stiles could hear his own heartbeat picking up speed at her transformation, not entirely wolf but even less human, hunched over and hairy and face pointy with some remaining human features, paws at hands and feet, the chest area completely flat, half on all fours. It should be freaky or disgusting or anything really, but Stiles found himself getting down on his knees in front of her and she looked up with wild eyes.
“Can I?” he asked.
She nodded and Stiles poked on the crease between her eyebrows, pulled back immediately, then laughed nervously and shakily.
“My God, it’s real,” he breathed and stopped at that.
She snarled something around her teeth, a combination of growls and hisses and groans and it took him a while to decipher the crude ‘change back’ which was Stiles cue to back off.
“I’ll uh, get us something to drink and then yeah, water, okay?” he asked, not waiting for her answer. Instead he just bolted down the stairs. His heart was still beating like crazy, his face was red and it had nothing to do with embarrassment. He was super excited and super happy and holy fuck werewolves were real! And they were awesome and not some inhuman killer machines. He had expected them to look more like wolves but whatever.
When he returned to his room Cora had changed back, fully clothed again, waiting patiently on his desk chair, her face carefully guarded.
“That was awesome,” he told her and handed her a glass of water, plopping down on his bed again. She let out a shaky breath, then allowed herself to finally relax. “I mean, with that fur and your ears. I was tempted to pull them,” he admitted. Cora tilted her head, then laughed, genuinely and happy.
“Do it, I’ll bite your head off.”
“Noted,” Stiles nodded to himself. “Thought you’d be more like wolves. But you’re still partly human, right?”
“My mom and Derek used to be the only ones that could make a complete shift. To a wolf, I mean.”
“Now it’s just my mom.” Bitterness tainted her words as she looked away, to the window and closed blinds. “Laura will be able to do it at the latest when she becomes the next Alpha. It helps to trigger innate abilities. I’ve been working my ass off for years but that’s as far as I come. Derek was a natural. My mom only taught him for three weeks and he got it down to perfection.”
Cora growled at herself, spinning the glass in her hand. “Paige,” she replied simply and left it at that. She left shortly after and Stiles continued to stare at the untouched water on his desk, before he pulled the covers over his body and fell into a long restless sleep.
Derek liked reading Popular Science and Scientific American. Stiles wasn’t even surprised. What he was surprised about was the fact that Derek hid it. Like it was shameful. Worst, he hid the magazines behind Muscles & Fitness. Apart from the fact that they were slightly bigger and stuck out over the edges—not that anyone actually noticed, and if they did, they probably assumed he hid the latest Playboy or Us weekly—it was strange.
It bothered Stiles in a way he didn’t know why, which was the only reason he kept staring at the edges sticking out from the workout magazine, belatedly answering to one of Derek’s questions.
“What?” Derek replied and Stiles flinched back, because when did Derek get so close? He was bent over Stiles’ notes, looking up through lashes Erica would kill for, confused and partially annoyed.
“What what?” Stiles asked back.
“What’s not to get?” Derek asked, leaning back. “Do you want me to draw you a diagram?”
Stiles didn’t even know what Derek was talking about, but he was defiant by default. “Yes please. If that helps.”
Derek stared at him for a good second, trying to figure out whether Stiles was serious.
Stiles’ eyes landed on the periodic table they had been discussing. Or more likely attempted to discuss, if he hadn’t lost track of the conversation.
And then Derek drew him a fucking chart.
Stiles would never get over his handwriting. His own was messy, and it was admirable that Derek could actually read his notes. Stiles argued that it was all about his thoughts running faster than his hand being able to follow. That he was smart. Too smart for his hand. He was sure some scientists sat in their rooms, comparing handwriting to character profiles and an IQ test to prove him right.
Derek had told him about an experiment involving pitch and a funnel with drops falling every few years or so. It must be the most boring experiment ever so there had to be someone working on what was really important.
Namely proving Stiles smart.
Derek’s handwriting however, it wasn’t just readable, it was neat, without unnecessary curls or other nick-nack, straight forward and strong. It was fucking Arial. It disproved his smart theory because Derek was one of the smartest people he knew, including Lydia and Danny—and seriously, these three were not allowed to meet. Ever.—and his handwriting was perfect.
So were is hands actually, Stiles noticed absentmindedly, blinking.
And then there were fingers snapping in front of his face. Derek frowned at him and Stiles didn’t even bother to cover his mental absence.
“Tired?” Derek inquired, pushing the notes back to Stiles. His voice was carefully void of emotion, which was something else Stiles had noticed over the days they spent together.
Derek wasn’t broken. He wasn’t unhappy. He wasn’t miserable. He was simply guarded. He could be sassy, he could get snarky, he could show anger or confusion. Only when it got closer to home did he clamp up. It was cute and Stiles hoped Derek would never notice. How shutting down didn’t make him less accessible or more difficult to read. It made it actually easier. Because if Derek got deflective, dismissive or distant about a certain topic, it was important to him.
Stiles smiled, lopsidedly and slow.
Because Derek liked him to a degree. He showed it by trying not to. And it was adorable.
The man frowned at him again.
“Make up your own sentences if you want,” he said, dropping his pencil on the table. “Those are the ones I used. It helps if you do it yourself. Or use the common ones. I read about a song. Use that.”
Stiles looked down at the periodic table Derek had scribbled on his notes, adding letters to the elements. And then started to laugh. Because leave it to Derek Hale to chose sentences more complicated than memorizing the whole periodic table without using Mnemonics.
“Just a forewarning,” Cora said when she sat down next to him on the chair in English Lit class. “One of Derek’s exes is back in town.”
Stiles frowned at her.
“It means he might be a fucking asshole for a while.”
“Ergo I should avoid him?”
“No. But she might appear at his work place.”
Stiles’ eyes went wide as he stared at her incredulous. “She what?”
“She’s tried getting into contact with him for a while now, but he doesn’t want it. My mom told her to get lost. She left her phone number and when we gave it to him he burned it in the fireplace without even looking at it.”
“Seriously,” Cora said, rolling her eyes at him.
Stiles had to bit his lip even though he wanted to know. What happened? What did she do? Was she the one who tried to set your house on fire? Cora glanced at him, and for a second her face was open and vulnerable.
He kept his mouth shut and didn’t ask.
Cora had been right.
Derek was short tempered, uncommunicative and more distanced than he had been before Stiles got to know him. It was all boiling down to something and Stiles didn’t know what and it made him nervous and icky.
“Your reputation precedes you,” Derek said one evening, when they were cleaning up. It had become another part of their routine, Stiles staying behind late, helping Derek clean before they sat together, Derek teaching him stuff Stiles would never need for school.
Stiles looked up from the table he had been wiping, furrowing his brow. His first reaction was to look around and find out who Derek had been talking to, but of course there was no one else.
He still pointed at himself just to make sure anyway.
Derek rolled his eyes, “Yes, you. The matchmaker.” Derek spat the word out like it was poison.
“What? I’m—” Stile stopped himself at the other man’s skeptical look. “It just sort of happened. I’m not really a matchmaker or anything,” he confessed. Derek just cocked his head a little to the side before he continued to sweep between the tables.
“I know what Cora is trying to do,” Derek revealed and Stiles’ heart dropped to his stomach, because that was the moment Derek was going to kick him out, tell him to get lost and leave him in peace and die in a ditch or somewhere and Stiles would lose his source for werewolf business. It was a little unacceptable.
“How long have you known?”
“A few weeks,” Derek replied with a shrug.
Stiles started to tear fluff out of the cloth, stopped as soon as he realized. “And you agreed?”
“Can’t remember giving my consent to getting stalked,” Derek answered, concentrating on what must be one hell of a vicious spot considering the vigor he went at it; vicious and invisible.
“I meant the tutoring. Why?”
Derek was silent for a while. “Cora,” he finally offered and stopped scrubbing the invisible spot.
Stiles looked at him, wringing the cloth between his hands, pondering the answer. Stiles knew Derek had started tutoring him for whatever entertainment Cora had provided after being forced to go shopping with Lydia and the rest of the girls.
“Why are you telling me now? About you knowing?” he asked, because Stiles didn’t understand. It was like Derek was trying to get rid of him. And maybe he was, because his ex was back in town and probably wanted to get back together with him and maybe Derek was actively contemplating saying yes.
“Don’t want you entertaining delusions.”
Stiles fiddled with the fabric in his hand. “Delusions?”
Derek snorted. “About what you’re doing. You can try, but you’re wasting your time.”
“How would you know?”
It wasn’t like Derek knew. He wasn’t even trying, because he wasn’t interested, but that didn’t mean that no one else could be and maybe all Derek had to do was opening up, letting someone in. Maybe if he just cracked a smile once in a while, showed his sarcasm that Stiles secretly thought was kind of endearing but wasn’t maybe a real turn on? Stiles had it on his plus side—not that he had one anymore, nope—of the notes but now that he thought about it, most people didn’t like sarcasm. Was that the reason Stiles was single? He had to make some serious contemplation of his past failures.
Derek stopped for a moment, rolling his eyes. “Would you talk to me? If it weren’t for your arrangement?” His question wasn’t angry or even curious. It was just there.
Stiles swallowed because no, he wouldn’t. He would have changed side walks seeing Derek’s glare and try not to get killed by the scary dude. Which made it even more surprising that women just ignored his aura promising painful deaths if not approached with caution and still went for his… looks.
Because in the end, it was all about appearance. About a trophy. Even the people still hitting on Derek were probably only doing it because he was hard to get, because he was a challenge, because they wanted to brag about the hot dude between their sheets before the sweat was even cold.
Stiles turned away to wipe the table.
“Thought so,” Derek said softly.
And Stiles felt like an asshole.
And a liar.
Because screw this.
“You know what?” Stiles snarled, angrily turning around and throwing the cloth at Derek but the asshole didn’t even have the grace to let it whack into his face, instead caught it easily. “Yeah, I wouldn’t have talked to you if it hadn’t been for this ‘arrangement’,” he said, putting air marks around the word. “Because you are fucking scary, dude. The first time I came by you looked like you wanted to use me like a chew toy”—hah! Dog joke!—“you yelled at everyone who approached you and when I asked for coffee you made it sound like I asked you to bring me the fucking moon!”—he was on a roll here—“so forgive me for running away like a scared little bunny from a predator”—okay, this one was intentional—“And you know what else? I’m fucking glad Cora made me do this, because dude, under all that gruff exterior, killing intent glares and biting snark, you’re kind of awesome. And totally not scary. And funny. You discussed the pro and cons of genetically modified food just because I kept wondering aloud if my peach could attack me one day. You said the only reason people know about Schrödingers’ cat was the Big Bang Theory and then rambled on about their theories. Rambled, Derek. About axions. I would say you were marveling at the scientific correctness portrayed on the white-board,” Derek opened his mouth, “except that one time with the Indiana Jones pun or whatever,” he amended before Derek could start with that discussion again, “if you wouldn’t kill me for it. And anyway, you are a mechanical engineer. Are you even supposed to know about neuroscience or quantum physics or whatever? Why aren’t you in applied physics? Or is that just your hobby? And the way you suck at making coffee? Because, yes, you simply suck. And it’s adorable.”
Derek frowned at the last word and Stiles reeled back. Okay, so he maybe shouldn’t have used ‘adorable’ to describe Derek Hale, grumpy werewolf deluxe.
“What I meant,” Stiles started again after a cough, but Derek interrupted him.
“I wasn’t accepted.”
“What?” Stiles asked, confused.
“I applied for engineering physics. I wasn’t accepted,” Derek elaborated and Stiles added ‘Because of Harris’ in his head.
“Okay,” he said slowly.
They awkwardly stared at each other.
Then Derek turned away, sweeping the floor, eyes cast down. “Just stop wasting our time,” he said. “If you’re only here to gather data for Cora’s little game, stop it.”
“I’m not,” Stiles said. “It’s fun, learning with you. And the thing with the tutoring was all true, okay?”
“I don’t believe you,” Derek answered.
Stiles huffed in exasperation. “Who in their right mind would invest so much time in something he doesn’t even get paid for? Which brings me right back to you, Derek, why would you humor me?”
“Cora,” Derek replied again after a beat.
“Yes, I know you started this for Cora. But why are you still doing it?”
Derek rolled his eyes. “Because she’s finally happy.”
Stiles shook his head. “What?”
“I’m not stupid, Stiles,” Derek said, growling at him. “She was an outcast in school. She never had any friends.”
“And now she has,” Stiles realized dumb-founded. And Derek was right. She had been integrated into their group, Erica loved her and Stiles knew for a fact that she had been spending more and more time with the other girls at the mall or movies. She was studying with Lydia and Allison and played Lacrosse with the guys during their private practice. She laughed more than Stiles had ever seen before and she was playful and relaxed and people had stopped avoiding her.
“Oh,” Stiles said as realization dawned on him. “Oh, you used me! You thought that if we stopped learning together I would assume this wasn’t working. And then Cora wouldn’t have an excuse to hang out with us anymore.”
Derek shifted on his feet, not looking at him.
“Oh wow, you’re an asshole.” Stiles assessed dryly. “A stupid asshole. Sorry to break the news to you, but there’s nothing I could do to detach Cora from my friends. Because they fucking adore her.” Derek growled at him. “Not that I would want to. Detach her. I adore her, too,” Stiles emphasized, nodding to underline his words. “She’s like the younger sister I never wished I had. Rambunctious, boyish, violent and super cute. She loves picture books, Derek. Picture books. With tiny pink little bunnies. The ones that make noise.” Because when they met in a book shop Cora would usually head for the children’s department and punch every talking book.
Derek was silent for a moment, and then: “Cora’s always looking for books she could read to Emilia. She keeps forgetting she isn’t three anymore.”
“Was that supposed to change my opinion about her? Because that just made her a hundred times cuter.”
“You can date her, but—”
“What? Whoa there! Easy, tiger! Oh my God, ugh, noo! I don’t mean like that. I told you, like a sister!”
Derek rolled his eyes. “Does that make me your brother?”
He laughed after a picosecond of stunned silence. “Sure, you’d be a great older brother. You could protect me from bullies. You’d only have to glare.”
The dark-haired man looked offended, then threw the wiping cloth back at Stiles, who flailed to catch it. It still slapped him straight in the face. Derek snorted in amusement and then returned to sweeping the floor.
Stiles watched him for a short moment, realizing that yes, indeed. He wasn’t doing it for Cora, or for the tutoring but for Derek. Because he liked spending time with him.
“Hey Derek, you’re still going to teach me now?”
There was a moment of silence, than a short sigh. “Yep.”
“Great. Uh. Thanks.”
Stiles wasn’t going to ask. No he wasn’t.
He didn’t even know what it meant.
“Derek told me you don’t love me,” Cora growled, banging his locker door shut, almost crushing his fingers. Stiles yelped and jumped back, staring wide eyed at the girl. “Why,” she continued unperturbed, looming intimidatingly closer, “did Derek feel the need to let me gently know that you don’t love me?”
Stiles slapped his hand against his forehead and groaned into his palm. “Because he’s useless. Useless!” he cried, then stopped abruptly. “How gently are we talking?”
Cora crossed her arms in front of her chest, raising both eyebrows. “White Chocolate Raspberry Truffle ice cream from Häagen Dazs and Stallone movies.”
Stiles was in a dilemma. Because he simply couldn’t decide if this was adorable, awesome, funny or frustrating. He wasn’t even sure what his face was supposed to do. Finally he knew how Derek’s face muscles must feel like everyday, all confused and straight up undecided.
“He thought I’m in love with you, too,” he eventually offered, because it had looked like Cora had been about to punch him in the shoulder and he had enough bruises from their encounters, he didn’t need more.
“Which I’m not.”
Cora kicked against the locker next to Stiles’. Which was nice. His door was already a little unhinged which made it frustratingly difficult to open even without another dent in it.
“Just as protocol, I sucker punched him,” Cora said after a moment, “Mom gave me house arrest but it was damn worth it. And I stole the movies and left him with the ice cream. And then I came back for the ice cream.”
Stiles choked back a laugh. And then he had a mental image of Derek sitting alone on the couch, munching ice cream like a kicked puppy before his sister came back in kidnap that as well. Cora was evil. “Why did he think you were into me anyway? You have a girlfriend.”
She hesitated a moment.
“You do, don’t you?”
Cora’s shoulders slummed and she took in a deep breath. “Her name is Petya. She’s my bond mate.” She turned to look him in the eye. “She’s forty-seven.”
“We met when I was ten. Remember when I told you we know by scent? I knew the moment I set my eyes on her. I only saw a picture. She lost her previous bond mate to a hunter when she was thirty.” Cora put a hand on his elbow, maybe to keep him from fleeing which was unnecessary seeing as his muscles decided they didn’t need to work that much anymore. However, she nudged him in the direction of the library. “I annoyed the living hell out of her for four years until she and my parents agreed.”
Cora sat him down at the a table in the far corner, which he was glad for because his brain wasn’t really working anymore.
“Your parents agreed?”
“Well, they weren’t what you’d call ecstatic,” she shrugged, “but I knew she’s the one I’ll always love the most. It’s nothing sexual though. I will have boyfriends, maybe I will marry, but it won’t be the same.”
“I don’t get it,” he said.
Cora just patted him on the shoulder. “You don’t have to,” she simply assured.
Stiles really didn’t know how it happened, but both of them fell asleep in the library. He remembered solving Derek’s chemistry problems from his first semester at college, while the other had snoozed off in the armchair across from him. Stiles didn’t want to wake him, considering Derek was up early morning to open the library and stayed late to help him with his pride issues. Free of charge he might add.
Something felt strange about that, but Stiles wasn’t intent on destroying something good when it came his way just by questioning it.
Not now at least.
He let Derek snore, even though he got distracted by the soft sounds he made every now and then. For such a big guy you’d guess he would roar in his sleep. Instead it sounded almost like he was purring. Fucking unfairly adorable. One moment Stiles was secretly taking pictures of the sleeping man and the next he was waking up at dawn with a back aching like he had been run over by a truck, drooling on the paper and Derek nowhere in sight.
Cursing and assuming Derek had just left him, he packed his bag before he stormed off to the bathroom. His bladder was about to burst and he felt all icky and sweaty. He did his business and committed himself to a quick wash while completely ignoring the disgusting taste in his mouth or feeling of his teeth when he brushed them with his tongue. His finger and water would have to do and hopefully he had a chewing gum left somewhere. He would just avoid talking in people’s general direction. When he returned, his shirt still off to let his body dry on air, he was in the middle of another muttered tirade and right in the middle of calling Derek an inconsiderate nasty asshole, he stopped to see aforementioned asshole waited at their desks, two steaming paper cups in front of him, tilting his head.
“What was that?” Derek asked with arched eyebrows, looking him up and down.
Stiles flushed, hastily threw his shirt on and ignored how it stuck to his damp body, before he literally fell on his knees to beg for forgiveness. “I take everything back. You’re a Samaritan. The God of early mornings! My personal Saint Drogo. In the coffee sense. Not in the unspeakable repulsive sense. Gimme!” Stiles wasn’t ashamed to make grabby hands at what he assumed was coffee from the coffeehouses a few shops down.
“Please?” Stiles tried again, when Derek just stared at him.
Shaking his head, muttering something under his breath, Derek eventually offered Stiles one cup, then cracked his neck and took a sip from his own. Stiles noticed that Derek, too, was still wearing the same clothes from yesterday, hair tousled, face still unfairly attractive even with sleep deprived wrinkles, shirt askew, jeans slightly rumpled—which was kind of impossible considering how tight they were. Derek couldn’t have woken up long before him and the sight of his disheveled state led his thoughts astray. Derek had gone out looking like that to buy them coffee. Whoever the unlucky person serving him had been, he hoped they survived it.
Stiles’ finger tips warmed around the paper cup and when he brought it to his mouth he stopped at the aroma.
“Why do I get hot chocolate and you get coffee?” he asked with a pout. Not that he really minded. It just made him feel like Derek was patronizing him.
“First, you drink too much coffee,” Derek replied, stretching his arms, the hem of his shirt riding up and Stiles wasn’t staring, no sir, he wasn’t. “Second, I don’t drink coffee.”
“Explains why the coffee machine hates you,” Stiles mumbled into his drink, averting his eyes. “What’s yours then?”
“Same,” Derek answered easily, retrieving a sandwich from a paper back. Stiles almost hoped Derek had bought him one too, but didn’t dare ask. Instead he opted for openly staring. Because hunger. Growing boy and all that jazz. “You should go. School starts in twenty,” Derek interrupted his thoughts, before taking a bite. Stiles’ eyes went huge and he looked around for the clock above the counter and—Oh God he was going to be late! He stammered out his thanks for the hot chocolate, apologized for making them sleep in the library and dashed. Derek just waved him wordlessly off and Stiles left the building, throwing himself behind the steering wheel.
Luckily he didn’t have any missed phone calls so his father hadn’t noticed him being away for the night. Youth protection would be scandalized. Stiles just felt guilty for cheering double shifts. He still didn’t have time left to go back home and change or grab a bite if he didn’t want to miss first period—chemistry. He sped, with just two minutes to spare and bolted into the class room, dropping down next to Scott who frowned at his rumpled appearance.
“Over-slept,” Stiles just breathed, ineffectively fanning himself with a hand. “God I’m so hungry,” he moaned, dropping his head down on the table. “Scott. You’re my friend. Give me something.”
Scott just pulled a face in confusion, but bent down to get his bag up. Stiles glowered, opening his own bag to retrieve his books when he stopped, frowning at the paper bag neatly sitting at the top.
“Here,” Scott said.
“Don’t need it,” Stiles realized stupidly.
Derek must have put it in there before he had returned from the restroom. At least that was what he assumed. Or some well-meaning kobold had snuck into the library and left him a peanut butter sandwich in his wake. Which was impossible. Or not. Maybe kobolds were real, too? Contemplating the existence of friendly fairies back or forth, the only logical conclusion was still Derek.
Stiles realized that he couldn’t even send Derek a message to say thanks. Because he didn’t have his number.
And that he wanted it.
Cora cornered him in the boy’s bathroom. Stiles was glad he had his junk already put away when she slammed the door open and walked in without an ounce of self-conscience. Stiles still felt kind of yucky though, crouched against the wall, unwashed hands up in defense while Cora got a little too close for comfort.
“He didn’t come home today,” she stated with a deliberate calm.
“We fell asleep in the library,” Stiles answered truthfully, because lying to a werewolf? Probably not a good idea. And it wasn’t like he had to be ashamed of something. It wasn’t like they did anything. Besides sleeping, of course.
She furrowed her brow and thankfully took a step back. “What?” she inquired, frowning eyes widening, narrowing, then widening again. Honestly, it was amusing. Stiles certainly did not laugh or comment on it though. Contrary to popular belief, he valued his life.
“My brother. Fell asleep. In the library. With you?” Cora asked in disbelief. Stiles huffed.
“For the record, I’m a good sleep companion. According to Scott I don’t snore. And to the surprise of everyone including me, I do not kick nor do I flail or talk in my sleep and, most importantly, I don’t steal the covers.”
Stiles was an awesome bedmate.
Cora stared at him.
“What?” he asked defensively, lowering his hands. And then it hit him like a bullet train. Trust issue Derek Hale fell asleep with someone else in a semi public space. “Oh.”
“Maybe because of the full moon,” Cora contemplated, “has to be it. It’s exhausting for him.”
“Wait, what?” Stiles said, blinking slowly. “Full moon?”
“Stiles, seriously?” she groaned, pulling him in on his collar. “You’re walking with werewolves and you don’t keep track of the full moon? Are you insane?”
“I didn’t know I was supposed to do that,” Stiles defended himself. “I mean, who keeps track of the moon circles anyway?” Cora opened her mouth to reply. “Apart from witches and werewolves and what do I know.”
Cora rolled her eyes so hard Stiles thought her head would fall off. It was a frighteningly good impersonation of Derek’s, actually. Definitely siblings. “Two days, the waning and waxing are important, too. Though not for Derek.”
Stiles nodded slowly. Not that he knew what to do with that information. Like was he supposed to avoid Derek?
“Another thing,” she said, though more hesitant, finally letting him go. “Don’t do this just for getting information.”
“Get close to him. Friendly.”
“Like I would do that.” It seriously annoyed him that the Hale siblings seemed to think this was the only reason he would spend weeks with someone. Stiles wasn’t that altruistic. For no one. Not even for Scott. “I’m combining three things at once here. I can multitask. And anyway, I like spending time with him. It’s fun.”
“Yeah, he’s, you know, kind of shrewd. I like that. And funny, too,” Stiles replied, shrugging.
“My brother is not funny,” Cora dead-panned, like he had insulted her.
“Course he is.”
She shook her head. “Even before all this he couldn’t tell a joke. At all. He would always start laughing before delivering the punchline. And then it wasn’t even funny! He made jokes about electrons.”
Stiles refrained from replying, because he knew she was right. He was well aware that he shouldn’t laugh about “keeping an ion on that” as much as he did. And there were only so many ‘neutron/electron/whatever walks into a bar’ jokes that should humor him.
Frankly, it was probably only the fact that Derek was the one who presented them that they tickled a laugh out of him. Anyone else and he would try to hide his face behind his hands in second hand embarrassment. Most of them were so plum, even Derek knew it. He tried to tell them with a straight face yet his lips almost always twitched in a treacherous way, betraying his own amusement. Derek was such a dork. It made Stiles roll his eyes at him, but internally howl with laughter even when he was lying in bed and replaying the scenes in his head.
“Oh my God. You really think he’s funny.”
“Oh my God,” she repeated, retreating backwards out of the restroom.
Derek’s face did a thing. To be fair, Derek’s face always did a thing. Like it wanted to express emotions but was struggling over the how. Stiles was just short from heading to the social behavior department and get every book on body language out and shove it at Derek. He just had the hunch it wouldn’t end well.
Same as now, actually.
Derek was probably a stealth-wooer. One wouldn’t even notice him wooing until it was too late.
It wasn’t like Stiles didn’t know Derek did nice things and acted like they never happened or like he wasn’t the cause. He had done it with the table, he continued doing it by refilling blessedly oblivious Beatrice’s mug with coffee and he had done it by hiding a sandwich in Stiles’ bag.
But this was just ridiculous.
Stiles had just wanted to say thanks, but now Derek looked like he’d rather die or punch him in the face before he could even utter the first syllable and Stiles really liked his face, thank you very much.
Instead he was awkwardly staring at Derek now, at a loss of what to do because this chipper moment of bro-hood was destroyed by Derek scowling and shifting and looking like he was embarrassed, angry, anxious and nervous at the same time.
Stiles didn’t even know what Derek was afraid off. Like Stiles would laugh at him, or mock him, or what?
Stiles wanted to hurt whoever was responsible for making Derek react like that for showing kindness. Or maybe it was just a Derek thing. He hoped it was a Derek thing. It wasn’t healthy and Stiles would have to work to get him over that, but it was at least better than someone programming Derek’s head to act that way.
However, instead of getting his face punched in, Stiles decided to stealth-thank Derek back.
He left the library and went to the coffee shop a few streets down.
“There’s this guy that’s always coming in here,” he said to the barista, who was looking at him expectantly. “Tall, broody—”
“Derek Hale?” she interrupted him unimpressed.
“That’s the one!” Stiles said, making a finger gun at her, but then put his hand away when she glared at it. “I want what he usually gets.”
The woman rolled her eyes, which, rude and turned away from him, mumbling something about stupid teenage stalkers with too much self esteem than was good for them like Derek would ever chose a kid like him. Stiles wondered if she knew he could hear her. Insulted, and maybe a little bit hurt at her disregarding rant, he put the money on the counter and left with the container.
It smelt like hot chocolate.
So Derek really wasn’t a coffee guy. Or the old hag was just screwing with him. He stopped by the 7/11 next door and kept staring at the display of magazines until he eventually chose the latest issue of American Scientists, wishing Derek wasn’t subscribing that too. And as an afterthought an Us Weekly to hide it with.
When he returned to the library, Derek was glaring at a woman, her body angled so far over the counter, she was almost falling over to the other side. Stiles hip-bumped her to the side, making her stumble, and put the container in front of Derek. “Hey Derek, how’s the wife doing?” he asked conversationally, looking for all the world like he really cared for that answer while ignoring Derek’s semi-confused stare. “Fine,” he replied wryly after a pause. “Idiot fell asleep in the armchair last night and woke up whacked.”
That… was a jab at him. Right? Derek just made him his wife, right?
“You’re a terrible husband. You should have woken her,” Stiles teased, trying to ignore the fluttering of his stupid, stupid heart.
“The terrible husband bought her breakfast,” Derek pointed out dryly, raising both eyebrows.
Stiles had to bite his cheek. “I’m sure she appreciates it.”
The woman grumbled behind them. Derek let his eyes glance over to her and Stiles turned around, looking at the woman like he had seen her for the first time. “Pardon me,” he said all chivalrous, then knocked on the counter once, before turning on his heel and heading to his usual place. When he returned his attention to Derek, the woman was gone and Derek fiddled with the paper cup, turning it in his hand, puzzled or bewildered, before he looked up and caught Stiles’ eyes.
Stiles looked hastily away.
Okay, as far as stealth went, he probably had to work a little on his finesse.
It wasn’t until an hour later that he realized his stealth-thanks had been so sneaky even he hadn’t noticed it. Because fuck him, he had involuntarily thanked Derek for the sandwich and hot chocolate. With actual words. In a banter. And without getting punched.
He circled the day with a red marker in his calender.
Not joking. He really did.
The first time Stiles saw Derek… well, smirk, but it was progress, was when he picked Cora up for the formal. Stiles had been twitching for about ten minutes in front of the house, pacing up and down even though they probably had already known he was there.
So there it was, Hale family, werewolves, little baby sister.
How protective could they be?
Not, of course, rip-your-heart-out-overprotective but it was still, well intimidating.
When Stiles eventually spotted a group of curious people watching him from one of the windows, probably laughing their asses off on his account, he hung his head, manned up and knocked on the door. Derek was the one to open it and for all Stiles knew it was because he had won at rock, paper, scissor.
Stiles hated Derek a little for enjoying the situation as much as he obviously did, but somehow that thought was completely pushed to the back of his head because the dark haired man gave him this tiny little half-smile that made his heart skip a fucking beat.
Stiles should get his heart checked out.
This shit wasn’t normal.
However, before Derek could say anything or more like before Stiles could say something stupid like ‘I want to lick your jaw’, Derek was bumped to the side with a hip that was attached to his older sister, Laura.
Derek snorted in amusement, turned around and swaggered along the hallway before he disappeared into a room at the end.
Stiles was screwed. Because Derek Hale in his own home was nothing like the Derek Hale everyone met in public. And it was probably the best thing Stiles had ever witnessed. Derek looked relaxed, open and friendly. Laura cocked her eyebrow at Stiles when he finally had the willpower to let go of Derek’s retreating form and instead threw her a little smile, insecure. It was probably more a grimace than anything else.
“Laura,” she introduced.
“Stiles,” he said, offering his hand. She hauled him in by his wrist and dragged him into the same room Derek had disappeared to and what appeared to be the living room. Full with people. There were quite a few adults, then the two little girls he had seen at the library once and a little boy in the corner playing with a Thor figurine.
Good choice there, buddy, Stiles wanted to tell him. Instead he nervously rubbed the back of his neck, eyes drifting to Derek who leaned against a wall, arms crossed in front of him. Still smirking.
“So, uhm, I’m Stiles. Stilinski. The Sheriff's kid. Nice to meet you all,” he offered into the silence. They just looked at him. “You’re really not going to make this easy for me, are you? Is that like what, your intimidation technique? A ritual? Let me tell you, I’m dealing with him,”—he yanked his thumb at Derek, who just watched him in open amusement now and Stiles maybe stumbled a little over his words when he noticed the look on Derek’s face. Maybe. Not that anyone noticed—“on an almost daily basis, there’s nothing that can really scare me anymore.”
Derek snorted, Stiles purposefully didn’t look at him and eventually the woman furthest to the left broke the silence and introduced herself as Talia Hale, the man next to her as Frederick. Apparently the whole family lived together. Talia and her two brothers plus husband and wives and children and their parents. It was a big family. Stiles had his own theories about that, being werewolves and all. Anyway, there were… a lot. Names he was going to forget the second he left the house he was sure. However, they were polite and didn’t try to make a fool of him.
Instead they told him about Cora’s excitement weeks before, shared jokes about the days Cora went shopping with some of her friends—Lydia and Allison, Stiles assumed—and it slowly hit him, what Derek had meant when he said Cora getting ready for the dance was sheer entertainment. Their stories were interrupted by loud yells from upstairs. When Cora actually came down the stairs, face completely red, dressed in only her underwear, her hair in a bun, to tell them to shut the fuck up, they eventually did.
Stiles, gentleman that he was, looked away the second he had noticed her half-dressed condition.
“Excuse her for taking so long.”
“No problem, really,” Stiles assured.
God, he wanted to get out of there.
“Why is he going with Aunt Cora to the dance?” Emilia suddenly asked. “Isn’t that cheating?”
Stiles froze at the words. Really, someone should teach that girl that two people could be friends.
“We have talked about this, Emilia,” Laura told her with a stern face.
“But,” the girl started again, however was interrupted by her cousin? great cousin? Cousin of the second degree? What was the daughter of your grandmother’s brother anyway? Stiles had never been good with keeping track of family relations. “Let’s play with our dolls,” Abhay said, reaching out and pulling Emilia from her mother’s lap.
“No,” Emilia refused, tearing away, glaring at Stiles like he was the Antichrist. “I’m going to play with Uncle Derek.” She huffed as she stalked past Stiles with another nasty glare and over to Derek. Stiles was honestly just a few seconds away from getting his mobile out to take a picture, because Derek bent down to the little girl, welcoming arms open, smiling at her before picking her up and lifting her on his shoulder and Stiles thought the freaking sun was rising.
Oh God, where the hell was Cora? He had to get out of there or he was going to die of a heart attack or something.
“Cora should be down shortly,” Talia said with a smile as if she could sense his panic and maybe she did. Maybe everyone in this room could and that, yeah, that was not a comforting thought. If nothing else it made the whole situation worse.
Before he could push himself into hyperventilation, however, Cora finally came down the stairs, completely dressed this time. Derek turned slightly and everyone else almost bumped their heads together to get a better view. Stiles mouth dropped open. Cora entered the room with a shy smile, looking absolutely astonishing in her white… something dress. It was a dress, short, and white. And her hair was pinned-up in a bun thing. She looked great. A little like a Disney princess. Stiles was sure if he told her that she would kick him in the nuts. He wanted to keep them for a little while longer, thank you very much.
“Wow,” he breathed instead.
She smiled at him. “Just looking, no touching.”
Stiles just laughed and offered his arm. “Pray my dad doesn’t ask you to marry me then.”
“We would be happy to have you join our family,” Frederick said with a little twinkle.
“Yeah, well, my dad would pay good money to have you adopt me. Big fan of you.”
Frederick got a distant look for a few moments at the mentioning of Stiles’ dad, then he coughed embarrassed. “He’s a good man.” That… was a verbal swoon. There had been a honest to God fucking swoon in the slightly higher than usual voice.
The man crush was mutual.
Stiles didn’t need to know that.
For a moment he wondered if Talia knew, too. She probably did. Because she looked like a know-it-all. Before he could stop it, his brain jumped to the question whether she minded her husband crushing on another man. She probably didn’t, he decided in a beat, then chuckled internally. Considering how she adored his father as well, it would probably end in a threesome.
The second that thought crossed his mind, he paled.
What the hell was he thinking? Oh god, he had just pictured his dad in a threesome.
Where was Scott when he needed him? Because Scott would have stopped this train of thought the second he had seen his face and told him to fucking stop thinking whatever the hell he was thinking.
Oh God, Freud would have a field day with Stiles’ thoughts. But then again, fuck Freud. Freud was a misogynistic asshole with a mother complex in Oedipus proportions.
Stiles had read Dora, okay? He knew his stuff.
The thoughts flickering through his brain probably took up about three seconds in real life, but when he emerged from the horrible place called his brain because someone cleared their throat, everyone was staring at him strangely and goddess, his face? Open book?
Yeah, that wasn’t an exaggeration.
It was all Stiles could do not to slap his hands in his face and groan at his own stupidity.
Could werewolves read his mind?
But before he could find out or anyone could open their mouths, Stiles threw one last hesitant smile at Derek, and practically hauled Cora out of the house. She kept shooting him suspicious glances on the ride back to his own home, but he was determined to ignore it.
As expected, his dad was ecstatic. He took more pictures than Stiles wanted to count, asked about her parents, wished them a happy night and almost threw them out of the house after that.
Stiles wasn’t sure if he was glad or insulted. Cora just tugged on his hand, laughing, and dragged him back to his car.
The formal was more fun than he had expected. Someone spiked the drink shortly after ten. Stiles as designated driver of course had to stay sober, sharing his lot with Lydia and Allison. Even though Cora downed one drink after the other she didn’t even get tipsy.
Stiles decided it had something to do with her unique condition.
That night was the first time he acutely realized how integrated Cora had really become in their group. It hit him when he saw her dancing with Jackson. Of all people. The girls dancing with her didn’t surprise him. They had bonded over the dress hunting ordeal and different other outings, Scott was a puppy who wanted to be nice to anyone, and Danny got along with everyone, but Jackson. Jackson was the cherry on the cocktail.
And then Stiles realized that it had already been two months since he had accepted Cora’s … request. For friendships sake he was going to call it request and not black mail.
The thing was, the evening was great. Even after the doors to the gym closed for the night, the teenagers gathered at the lacrosse field, sharing jokes and drunken kisses, talking about random stuff. When Erica tickled Boyd to make him laugh, it turned into a full out tickle match. Erica kicked ass. Stiles laughed so hard he had tears in his eyes at seeing the pile of humans.
Yet his mind was still distracted enough to realize that he’d rather spent the night talking with Derek about Fusion and Fission. And that only meant, that something wasn’t right.
Stiles may or may not have become borderline creepy in his obsession with everything Derek Hale related after the formal. He knew this wasn’t strictly job-related anymore because he had stopped taking notes somewhere along the way about really important stuff. Stuff like: “Compared to life, math is easy.”
In fact, he had enough data to go by to get Derek someone decent but he still kept telling himself it wasn’t enough. He wanted to know more, more, more. Wanted to talk, wanted to get that stupid idiot to smile once at him, wanted to listen to his far too serious answers to Stiles’ obviously stupid questions.
And Stiles was becoming increasingly greedy. Because at the end of the day, all that knowledge he kept gathering, he wasn’t willing to share it with anyone anymore.
Like for example Derek’s weird habit of making sneaky jokes Stiles only got an hour later because he wasn’t prepared for Derek making jokes at all and they were so effing subtle he didn’t catch on immediately. Derek seemed to like his belated reaction to them though. Because when the drift finally hit and he spluttered his reply, Derek had this wrinkle around the corner of his eyes.
Stiles never would have thought he would have to use minuscule facial muscle reading to understand another person and not get freaking annoyed by it. Instead he found it partially challenging, fascinating and adorable. It wasn’t something other people would get or understand when they only knew Derek superficially. It was like their own super secret, barely noticeable, sign language. They could become secret agents with their level of eyebrows and wrinkles communication.
Derek didn’t even need to study because yeah, Stiles’ facial language was as loud and as obnoxious as his voice, screaming emotions and thoughts at everyone. He had that thing Scott called his “asshole thoughts” face whenever evil, nasty, bad, bad thoughts entered his brain. The first few times, Scott had made the mistake of demanding from Stiles to tell him what he was thinking about. He had stopped after the third or fourth time and instead just pointed out that he was doing it again.
Stiles didn’t know what it looked like but even Isaac had learned to fear that expression so it must be rather noticeable.
Anyway, the fact that Stiles knew Derek’s face so well?
Well, it was a nice face, okay?
It wasn’t his fault that Derek chose to look at him with that kind of perfect eyes and cheek bones and chiseled jaw and constant five-o’clock shadow, okay? Derek should just wear a fucking paper bag over his head if he didn’t want Stiles looking at him and thinking distracting thoughts like what he must have looked like at six or nine or ten or seventeen or what he was going to look like at forty or fifty or a hundred.
Stiles realized he wanted to see that face age.
As far as life-altering moments came, this one snuck up on him and whacked him over the head with a fucking chair.
For a life-altering moment, this one was a fucking asshole.
They hadn’t even touched yet.
And what the hell sort of life-changing moment was that anyway? Wanting to see someone's face grow old? Fuck that. Where was the moment that made Derek almost sparkle in Stiles’ eyes like Edward fucking Cullen? Where had been that accidental touch of hands when Stiles dropped his pen and both bending down to retrieve it and their fingers brushing and where was this magical spark everyone was always talking about? Where was that stupidly, dreamily gazing into each others eyes during a firework moment?
There were none of these romantically great moments showcased on TV. Stiles would have known if there had been.
He felt cheated.
Fucking cheated by his body.
Because screw his life, he was in love with Derek freaking Hale.
The first time he had met Lydia Martin, Stiles had been ten years old and fell head over heels in love with her English translation of Le Petite Prince.
It took him almost six years to get over that crush.
Now he was seventeen and it took him two months to realize that he started to develop something more than just investigation feelings for Derek-‘Of course, Cora, I’m going to find him his soul mate even if it breaks my heart’-Hale.
Leave it to Stiles to fall for the most emotionally unavailable person-slash-werewolf in all of Beacon Hills.
Really, he should have noticed the second he made a pact with himself that he was going to make Derek Hale smile no matter what. It wasn’t like he hadn’t noticed that he liked Derek, but he had always assumed in an older brother kind of way. But thinking about kissing Derek? Yeah, not thoughts you entertained about your older brother. Especially not while masturbating and messily coming over your hands at the mere thought of Derek’s lips pressed to his own.
God, he was such a virgin.
Which led him to life crisis number two.
He wasn’t only a virgin, he was an inexperienced male virgin.
With a dick.
He felt the need to especially point that part out.
And then there was the fact that Stiles wasn’t even much to look at compared to Derek. Yeah, he was working out with Boyd but his diet included too many snacks and chocolates and unhealthy junk food to let him develop a six-pack. And anyway, since he had started spending time in the library he hadn’t even looked at a treadmill twice. Not even once. So woe was his life that he always fell for the unattainable. Mentally and physically in this case.
Luckily it wasn’t too late to stomp down those obnoxious feelings. It was most likely some form of Stockholm Syndrome. Because he had been professionally invested in Derek Hale and his habits and quirks and behavior for a long time now.
A few days of distance and everything would be gone, he told himself and avoided the library like the plague for a week. He hated himself a little that he actually went back there every once in a while and only remembered a couple yards before reaching the double doors that he was avoiding it.
When he finally returned he took a deep breath before opening the doors, just a glimpse, he told himself. The second he saw Derek he would realize that this was all just hormones, or something, really. Nothing serious, at least.
He kept his eyes to the floor until they reached the circulation desk, let them trail up and to the coffee counter. When his eyes met Derek’s he groaned internally.
Seriously, Stiles should go and find Derek’s soul mate.
But he really, really didn’t want to.
This, in all honesty, should have been another hint.
Stiles may or may not have tried to sneak-touch Derek.
As a matter of fact, it kind of rankled him that they hadn’t even shared the barest hint of physical contact. And the opportunities had been limitless. Fingers brushing while exchanging his chemistry notes, shoulders bumping when they stood side by side at the coffee table, front against back as Derek leaned over shelving books in the upper levels while Stiles crouched or semi crouched on the floor.
All those miracle moments that did absolutely happen?
Yeah, they never happened with touching involved.
No finger brushing, back touching, shoulder bumping touch action going on at all.
And it was beginning to irk him.
As if Derek was careful to avoid contact. It was probably a Derek-thing, he decided while watching the other man playing with what he had called an ion source. Apparently friends—first time Stiles had heard about friends but he suspected Derek was using the term freely to avoid saying ‘people I used to study with before I dropped out for a year for whatever reasons’—from his college were currently working on building a GCMS from scrap metals or whatever. He had seen a picture on Derek’s mobile and it had looked like a jumble of wires, zip-ties and microwaves blindly thrown together on a rack.
Anyway, Derek had told them he had an ion source lying around—whoever has something like that lying around at all?—and while Stiles was in the middle of solving Derek’s third semester quiz about Engineering Thermodynamics Derek busied himself with checking the ion source for any damages. He was wearing latex gloves and all that shit, and had tiny thin wrenches on the table that looked like they could break at the slightest resistance.
Stiles was maybe a little amazed at seeing Derek’s big hands carefully handling the small metal parts he kept pulling out from somewhere. And seriously, what was that long strangely butterfly shaped thing now?
“Quadropole,” Derek said. Stiles snapped his mouth shut, which had been hanging open in an entirely unappealingly fashion. “It’s called a quadropole,” Derek repeated, then pointed to the four round edges. “Four poles. As the name might suggest.”
“Uhu,” he said, nodding.
“You realize you asked?” Derek offered slowly, probably dithering over the question.
Derek rolled his eyes and then only motioned to the test paper as he continued to break bigger parts further into smaller bits, frowning every once in a while.
“Do I need to know what Carnot’s theorem is?” Stiles asked, after reading the question for the third time, vaguely recalling something about maximum efficiency.
“Do you need to know any of this?” Derek asked, not looking up from pulling another screw out.
“And listen to this shit,” Stiles continued as if Derek had never spoken, “A vessel having a capacity of 0.05m³ contains a mixture of satur—”
“I know that paper,” Derek interrupted him. “If you don’t want to do it, you don’t have to,” he eventually offered, looking up this time, eyebrows furrowed. “Or if it’s too difficult, just—”
“Oh no, I might be only in high school but I’m smart, okay? I mean, I don’t get everything you say, but I do try!”
Something in Derek’s face softened. It was minuscule and Stiles only noticed because he had been watching Derek’s face for years. Literally years. Stiles actually contemplated studying psychology just to write a dissertation about Derek’s facial expressions. He was sure he would get an A just for putting a photo of Derek on the front.
“Your commitment to something you hate is admirable,” Derek said, reaching over a round corpus and pulling a wired square out. “It borders stupidity.”
“What about science?”
Derek frowned at him. “You hate it?”
“I don’t,” Stiles declared, incredulous. “I mean, yes, I’m bashing it, like, all the time but I don’t outright hate it. I mean, it’s awesome, actually. I just hate Harris. If it wasn’t for him, I don’t know, maybe I’d be already building big-ass rockets.”
“I always thought you did.” Derek’s eyes skimmed over the parts laid out in front of him.
Stiles huffed. “Well, I don’t. And you help. Overcoming this—aversion. Because of Harris. You’re a good teacher, you know that? I mean, even though you kind of tend to drift off. Not that I mind,” he reassured quickly. Derek stopped fumbling with his ion source, simply looking at Stiles with a sort of blank expression.
“I tried comparing my notes with Cora’s notes,” he said after a moment. “I don’t know how deep you want to go.”
“I don’t mind getting down to the core,” he replied with a shrug. “I mean, knowledge, power and all that jazz.”
“Good to know,” Derek replied, before he proceeded to uncork another screw.
Stiles just continued to watch his hands.
After another moment Derek looked up again.
“Just get over here,” he commanded with an exasperated sigh. Surprised, Stiles jumped from his chair and rounded the table, hovering over Derek’s shoulders, when he suddenly stood up and pushed him on the chair. With hands. On his shoulders.
Stiles was shifting, then gazed up at Derek, back to the table as the dark-haired man removed the gloves without folding them inside out, tugging at the tips, before handing them to Stiles. “Wear those. Don’t get sweat or cheese on the parts.”
“You looked like you wanted to do it,” Derek said, still offering him the gloves. “Come on, it’s not rocket science.”
“It’s not? Are you sure?” Stiles asked while taking the gloves and putting them on, squirming a little under the strange feeling. “Maybe nanotechnology?”
Derek huffed. “I’ll talk you through.”
“I’m not going into labor,” Stiles deflected but then eagerly took one of the screwdrivers. Derek leaned over him and Stiles unabashedly leaned a little back, because touching. Derek didn’t seem to notice. Or mind. At least he didn’t say anything. He just removed the tool from Stiles’ hand and replaced it with another screw driver, maybe thicker or thinner, considering the minimal size they were in Stiles really couldn’t tell.
“Are we taking it further apart?” he asked and something at the thought of calculated destruction made his eyes sparkle. “Or are we putting it back together?”
“The latter,” Derek replied.
Stiles pouted. And then forgot why, because now Derek’s hand was on his own. Granted, his own hands were still covered in lilac latex but he could still feel the warmth radiating from them and it made his heart pick up speed several notches.
“I can’t touch the parts,” Derek explained, like he was apologizing, which Stiles was having none of. Oh no, Derek was so not apologizing for something that felt strangely amazing. Still no sparks but Stiles kinda got the feeling they were overrated anyway. Not like he would have been able to handle them, too.
“No worries,” Stiles replied with a lopsided grin, “I’ll be your tool for however long you need me.”
Derek paused for a moment. Then turned to look at Stiles. “Thanks,” he replied toneless.
“Alright, what do you want me to do?”
“Put the ion source back together,” Derek started and then pointed to several round pieces Stiles had to put into another round corpus and yes, Derek was using appropriate terms but Stiles wasn’t able to remember all that stuff.
The only things he wanted and could still remember when he was lying in bed that night, staring at his ceiling, stupidly grinning to himself, were the little touches. As if Stiles leaning back into Derek had broken a dam. Maybe Derek had abstained from touching, waiting for a sign from Stiles that he actually could, and Stiles had granted wordless permission by initiating first contact.
Stiles should stop thinking about Derek as an alien.
On a less romantic note, Derek probably had only pressed so close because he had been afraid Stiles would break something.
He did in fact.
Derek had reassured him it wasn’t his fault that that tiny little porcelain ring thing—repeller insulator—broke. However that time Stiles hauled one of the screws over his shoulders when Derek had involuntarily breathed into his neck? Yeah, okay, that had been his fault and the dark-haired man had growled at him and Stiles couldn’t even bring himself to care much because a second later they were both on all fours looking for the lost part and Stiles got a pretty nice view on Derek’s ass more than once.
Stiles was tempted to throw another screw to the ground just so see more of Derek crouching on the floor but the way the other man had looked the first time, not exactly angry or murderous but a steady middle-ground between disappointed and yeah, okay, murderous, held him back.
Now in bed, Stiles held his hands decisively to his stomach, limbs tense and fingers white where they were tightly clasped into his comforter, because no, he wouldn’t. No. He would not.
A beat later his hands released the fabric.
Oh screw this, he would.
The next day, he avoided looking Derek in the eyes for all of three minutes. Because no matter how bad he felt, Stiles could not not stare at them anymore.
Stiles was screwed.
Derek’s ex showed up at the library on a Friday night.
Derek was about to close up and Stiles was already wiping the tables when the bell over the door chimed and a dark-haired woman waltzed in. Stiles knew who she was by the way Derek suddenly stood tall, body tensed like a coiled spring, his face wearing that painfully blank expression for the fraction of a second before it turned into a frown.
She was nothing like Stiles imagined. Beautiful, yes. But he had expected elegant or more feminine. However she was rather tomboyish. Hair pulled in a messy Pony tail, no trace of make-up, loose baggy clothes. Maybe she couldn’t be bothered to dress up when meeting with her ex. Maybe she just came from a run. She was confident in her steps but disregarding in her manner as she passed Stiles with a short nod.
“Derek,” she greeted and Derek flinched minutely at the word. Stiles thought about running her over with his Jeep just for that reaction. If Scott had been there he would have pointed an accusing finger at him and told him, ‘Don’t. Whatever you’re thinking, don’t!’
“Paige,” Derek replied, his eyebrows making some elaborate gesture Stiles had never seen, communicating something he didn’t understand. And there went his Reading Derek Hale’s Expression Master flying out of the window.
“Do you, uh, want me to go?” Stiles asked, glancing at the woman.
“No,” Derek replied, pushing Stiles in the direction of their usual table. Stiles tripped over his feet at the shove, and Derek caught him to steady his fall, before he turned around to address the woman. “I’m busy. Don’t come over again.” His face was set in stone, hard and unyielding and not even Stiles had ever seen him like that.
“I want to talk to you.”
“That decision is not up to you,” Derek replied. “Now go. I have to close at eight.”
She huffed, glanced at Stiles who was still in a sorta half hug, spun on her heels and left.
The learning session was awkward for all of ten minutes. And then got a little worse, when Stiles tried to ask who she was—like he didn’t know—which was the moment Derek closed off completely.
“Not everyone is like her,” Stiles started presumptuously.
“No, really. I mean, I don’t know what happened but—”
“Then don’t presume.”
“Well, she’s the reason you believe I’m wasting my time, right? Finding someone for you?”
Derek blinked. “You’re still doing that?”
Derek groaned into his hand. “I told you to stop.”
“But… it’s all I can do to repay you…” he argued. “I mean, for tutoring me? There’s nothing you gain from helping me. Because Cora and the rest of us are like so,” he crossed his middle and index finger, pushing them in Derek’s face. “Like double so. Attached to the hip, sharing friendship bracelets, braiding each others hairs, the whole shebang. And let me tell you a secret, Jackson looks awesome with braided hair.”
Derek snorted in dismissal, but his shoulders relaxed so Stiles called it a win.
“And you know, there are people who would want to date you. Who could like you. If you let them in.” Like me, me, me. “I mean, why wouldn’t anyone?”
Derek looked at him, then held his hand up and started to rattle down a list he must have compiled during boring physics lessons, because what? “Grumpy, boring, don’t talk unless it’s about science—”
“Alright, stop right there,” Stiles interrupted him, horrified. “Are you fishing for compliments? Because I told you, you’re awesome like, a whole while back.” Derek frowned. “Oh my God, let’s do this again: What exactly makes you believe you are boring, because Jesus, you’re an adventure or a treasure hunt. In a good way. I mean, like there’s always something to discover? And you’re passionate about science, careful in your affections—” so heart-breakingly fucking careful“—and—”
“You’re good at this,” Derek interrupted him. “That’s how you hook them up.”
Derek sounded disgusted.
“By lying and twisting?”
“I’m not lying. Fuck, Derek, are you for real? You can tell if I’m lying, right?” Because Cora could. Apparently every werewolf could. And oh fuckery fuck fuck fucker. Derek didn’t know Stiles knew about werewolves! Oh shit, oh—
“I can’t,” Derek said, narrowing his eyes. “What would make you think I can?”
“Because uh Cora? She like has a sixth sense for that? I thought it might be hereditary?”
Derek looked him up and down suspiciously, his expression an ounce darker than it had been before. “It isn’t,” he eventually replied with a tiny growl at the end. “And I can’t.”
Stiles knew that Derek was trying to deflect, but something in the words rang true.
Because maybe that was the truth. Because Derek couldn’t transform—’shift, Stiles, it’s called shift, we are shape-shifters not the the fucking transformers’—into a real wolf anymore, because when Stiles had asked Cora whether Derek was a werewolf she had stopped for a moment. Because Cora hadn’t been worried about Derek being able to hear them talk in the library. Which explained the technically and the complicated. Which explained the ‘Paige happened’.
“Holy fuck,” he whispered to himself, but Derek’s head jerked up nevertheless in surprise.
Paige had severed Derek’s fucking wolfy ties.
In a manner of speaking.
“I’m really going to run her over with my Jeep,” Stiles concluded aloud.
“Cora?” Derek asked, horrified for a brief second.
“What? No. I meant Paige! I’m going to fucking—”
“Stiles, what the hell?”
“You know what? I’m not doing this with you. Whatever self-depreciating shit is going on with you? Sort it the fuck out. You’re not boring, you’re not grumpy. You’re a snarky, smug, smart asshole who can give me a run-down of every element of the periodic table, including Copernicium—which I didn’t even know existed and I checked okay? My chemistry book still tells me it’s called Ununbium, just for the record so I’m not the one to blame here—but knows shit about cooking, because I’m still laughing about the fact that you actually set spaghetti on fire. Raw spaghetti. Twice. And I don’t say that because I’m good at what I do. I told you I’m really not a matchmaker! I hook people up, who already are attracted to each other. It explains the 100% success rate, okay? If whatever your ex told you is the reason you’re not putting yourself on the market, yeah, well, your loss. Because there are awesome people out there. And you’ll miss every single one of them.”
Derek stared at him.
“Because you’re a thick-headed dickhead,” Stiles added, throwing himself back in his armchair, huffing in annoyance.
Derek’s eyes flickered over his face, like they were looking for something. Maybe a trace of a lie. Maybe finally the truth behind his words. “Okay,” he said after a while. “Put me out there. Proof me wrong. Show me one person who is worth sticking my neck out for again. Give me one name and I will try.”
Stiles’ heart fluttered.
And then it stopped, dropping into his stomach.
Ladies and Gentlemen, introducing Stiles Stilinski, the only person on earth foolish enough to talk his very real and not at all virtual LI into setting him up with someone else.
“The first girl Derek dated, it was pretty deep,” Cora opened with a lack of introduction that left Stiles in a sort of confused limbus for a few seconds. She sat down next to him, folding her legs underneath her body and took a breath like she was going to tell him a fairy tale. Stiles suspected this wasn’t going to end in a Happily Ever After.
“Uh, why are you telling me—”
“Derek had been kind of old-fashioned then,” she continued unperturbed, “wanted to do everything right. Kinda knew she would be the one for life.”
“Derek knew that with, what? Sixteen? Seventeen?” Stiles interrupted her, closing his notebook with a sigh. It was apparent that Cora wouldn’t stop in whatever she was going to tell him. It wasn’t like he did anything important anyway. He had just stared at his notes about Derek, lamenting his life and internally cursing that there was no person out there that he thought deserving of Derek. Not that he had looked hard. And with that he meant not at all.
Cora smacked her lips together. “Remember? I was ten.”
“Right,” Stiles said and shrugged. Because he really didn’t know how you could know stuff like that at such a young age. Stiles was seventeen and afraid of committing himself to anyone. Anyone but Derek but that was probably his hormones speaking for him.
“She was smart. Played an instrument. Cello or something like that. Got a big mouth on her. She was nice. We liked her. A lot. Derek asked my mother for permission to tell her. Because he wanted to… uh… bond with her. I guess.”
Stiles looked at Cora, ignoring the light flush on her cheek. “Bond,” he repeated and remembered Cora using the term ‘bond mate’ to describe her girlfriend.
“It’s a werewolf thing,” she explained.
Maybe it was like hand-fastening? Or some form of biting? Marking? Claiming? And then he remembered that wolves mated for life so maybe werewolves did too and that’s where the bonding came in, sealing the deal. But Cora was kind of squirmish so maybe something related to kinky werewolf sex? And then he remembered Cora telling him that there was nothing sexual between her and her mate.
Stiles was confused.
“There are things,” Cora said with a frustrated sigh, “you don’t do with humans, who don’t know.” The girl was clearly uncomfortable. It was a first. “Especially when you are… young. Things might slip. And he liked her a lot, so he didn’t want to screw up by freaking her out or anything. I think.”
“Uhu…” Stiles said, getting the gist of it.
“So, well, they had been dating for two years—”
“—and mom eventually agreed. When Derek told her she was calm at the beginning. Told him she needed time. To process. To get used to it. We understood.” She frowned for a moment and Stiles chose to ignore the use of plural pronouns. “A few days later she appeared on our doorstep, nervous. She said she was fine. But whenever Derek tried to touch her she flinched. I think she really did try, but after a few days of keeping her distance even I realized she would never come around. In the end they went to different colleges. End of story. I don’t even know if they had an official break up or if she just disappeared on him. They were supposed to go to the same college. She must have had a change of heart.”
Stiles thought his heart was maybe breaking a little on Derek’s behalf.
Cora shrugged, her eyes wandering over the empty lacrosse field. “Happens all the time, but it was kinda, you know?”
“Yeah”, Stiles affirmed, drawing doodles in the sand with his capped pen.
“That girl was Paige.” Her face soured before she continued. “He lost connection to… his wolf because of her.”
She glanced at him out of the corner of her eyes, then stared over the field. They remained silent for a while, Stiles processing what Cora had told him. On an intellectual level, he knew that it probably wasn’t easy to learn of the existence of a werewolf. Then that the boy you’d been dating for two years was one. And his whole family, too. That he didn’t know what she had been going through. That usually people probably didn’t adapt easily to the knowledge of things they can’t explain to begin with. However, another part was just angry on Derek’s behalf for whatever protective bullshit hormones were putting in his subconsciousness.
“The second woman he dated knew about us,” Cora continued after a pause.
“A werewolf?” Stiles asked.
“No, a hunter.”
Stiles furrowed his brow.
“There are werewolves who are not like us. Who are dangerous. The hunters take care of them.”
“Like a supernatural police,” Stiles concluded.
“Sounds like a Romeo and Juliet thing.” Stiles could taste tragedy in the air.
“Not really. It’s always easier with people who know and it’s not exactly forbidden or anything. Maybe a little frowned upon.”
Same difference really, Stiles thought.
“There are not a lot of people who know about us. It’s usually just human pack members, hunters or people we call emissaries.”
“You told me though.”
Her face was grim, when she turned to him as he pointed it out. “Yes, well no. You asked me. And if you hadn’t stalked me through the whole school, bugging me with questions all the time and yelling at the top of your lung ‘Cora are you a werewolf?’ I wouldn’t have had to tell you.”
“That never happened,” Stiles said, blinking.
“If my family asks, this is exactly how it happened.”
Stiles grumbled to himself, then waved his hand at her. “Right. So. Lucas Lee?”
“The second Evil Ex,” he explained with an exasperated sigh. “Really?”
Cora just shrugged. “Not much to tell. Derek’s a family person, she wasn’t that into us. When he broke up with her, she set our house on fire. Though I think that had been kind of her plan from the beginning.”
That was the arson case then. Great. Derek almost got his whole family killed because he dated a psycho. Stiles could only assume the amount of self-loathing, guilt and anger Derek was bathing in on a daily basis.
“Right, yes, not much to tell. Just like any other break up,” Stiles snarked, rolling his eyes. “Just your usual arson psycho break up. It’s a classic.”
“The third,” Cora continued, blatantly ignoring him, “was an evil witch. Or something.”
“Yeah. She wasn’t quite human, but not a shifter. I shouldn’t tell you about her anyway, because I don’t think Derek had a say in that relationship.” Stiles was already entertaining thoughts about a wicked dominatrix, when Cora continued. “We only realized when he told my mother he wanted to bond with her. After one week.”
Stiles didn’t know if that was fast, but considering that Derek had waited two years for the first time, he guessed it was.
“She was nice, but pushy. Turned out she wanted an in with a pack because she needed protection from her old one. Best way to do that is usually marriage. Take the first gullible werewolf and twist him around your finger with the help of a little magic.”
“Magic,” Stiles repeated.
There was a thing like magic.
Why was he even surprised?
“So what, bonding is like marriage?”
“No, not really, but it usually goes hand in hand.”
“So bonding is like werewolf marriage?”
“I think you really need to tell me what bonding is because right now, you don’t want to know what I’m imagining.”
Cora chuckled. “That’s not really something you need to know. Unless of course you are thinking about bonding with a werewolf.”
“What if I am?” And oh God he didn’t just go there. Why was he doing that to himself? Stiles blamed a dormant masochistic spark because that was the only thing that could explain Lydia and Derek.
“Then you should ask the werewolf you are thinking about bonding with. Because it depends on the person and the relationship.”
“That’s the weirdest conversation I’ve ever been part of. And I’m me.”
Cora clapped him on the shoulder in mock sympathy.
“Well then, let’s continue with Roxie,” he said, twirling the pen between his fingers. And wouldn’t it be fun if number four was a man? There must be some kind of humor in this row of tragic fuck ups. Although, he really didn’t want to know more. While the first relationship was at least mutual and not crazy the fall out had been a little heartbreaking. The other two were just disgusting. ‘A little trouble dating’ his ass. That was the understatement of the century.
Because that shit wasn’t a little trouble.
It was traumatizing.
Stiles hoped Derek was seeing a shrink to deal with that.
Great, now he felt like an asshole for yelling at Derek, implying he was a pussy for chickening out on the romance stuff. And then internally freaked out at the fact that Derek trusted him to find someone worth fighting for.
“Yeah, the fourth.” Cora's expression darkened visibly. “She loved the thrill of the chase more than the catch. The second he caved, she lost interest. You can't even call it a relationship but she did woo the shit out of him at the beginning. Dumped him before she even claimed her prize. Though I think that Laura had something to do with that. The only time she ever intervened.”
“Told her what I told you. Said she wouldn't stop Derek, but if she wasn’t serious she should stop. In reply, she told Derek that she lost interest, because he was, I don't know, gloomy or whatever.”
“Grumpy,” Stiles recalled Derek's words. “Boring, does’t talk unless it’s about science.”
Cora narrowed her eyes.
Cold anger started to fester in his stomach. “I thought they were his words. I should have let him finish. I would have negated every. Single. Fucking. Word!”
“It was probably her way of getting rid of him as soon and fast and final as possible,” the girl assumed. “It's called mercy killing?”
“I feel sick.” Stiles wasn't lying. He really was getting sick of this shit. “Please tell me that’s all.”
“That’s all,” Cora said.
“Oh thank God,” Stiles groaned. “I mean, thank God for Derek because I think he deserves like a break from humans or non-humans alike, because that’s really sick shit. So anyway—” he stopped, when the words finally sunk in. “But… he only had girlfriends.”
Cora arched an eyebrow. “Yeah?”
“You said he was bi?”
“No, I said he would probably date a guy, if it was the right one.”
“Cora,” Stiles groaned into his hand, “you can’t just make your brother gay. Or… I don’t know, bisexual, when he isn’t.”
“I thought, he’d let a guy closer after all the mishaps with woman.”
“Cora, the last guy who came close to Derek almost got his arm broken!” Stiles stated, remembering the scene in the library with the guy who had squeezed Derek’s ass when he had been refilling Beatrice’s mug.
She just glanced at him. “He doesn’t care.” Stiles wasn’t sure why she insisted but he damn well didn’t need false—what? Information? Expectations? Hope? What the fuck was he even doing, agreeing to find Derek the right person. He wasn’t even suited for this job anymore because he really, really didn’t want to find Derek someone.
Seriously, he really, really didn’t want to.
Stiles got an A- in chemistry.
His first reaction wasn’t to show his father. Or his friends. It was to show Derek.
Therefore, as soon as the bell rang, Stiles bolted out of the class, forwent Lacrosse training, because screw Lacrosse and Finstock, he had a freaking A- in Harris’ class. He sped the Jeep like the speed limit was just an abstract concept, parked haphazardly in front of the library and threw the doors wide open.
Derek frowned at him, surprise written over his features, but quickly concealed by the usual scowl when he glanced at the clock. “Shouldn’t you be in school?”
Stiles ignored his question, while contemplating a victory dance, pumping the air, some bro-code eyebrow action, something. Instead he marched up to Derek with purpose, chest out, flapped the paper on the counter and carefully studied his face as Derek’s eyes roamed over the sheet of paper. Just like Stiles, Derek had to squint to make out the tiny letter at the top written in barely there pressure. Actually, the moment Harris had pushed the test on his table without even looking at him, Stiles had assumed he had forgotten to grade it until he spotted what could easily be mistaken for a red blotch.
He wasn’t expecting anything, really.
Not a hug, no congrats.
Okay, maybe a ‘Great Stiles, you are the most awesome person alive. A science genius. The love child of Science Bros Tony Starks and Bruce Banner, IQ multiplied by ten.’
What he got was a, “Great. Coffee?”
Stiles face fell. A little. Not visibly, hopefully. Nothing Derek caught on, he hoped. He wasn’t even sure how to operate that reaction, like what was he supposed to do with that? And most of all, he didn’t understand. If not about Stiles, Derek should have at least been proud of himself for being an awesome teacher.
“Yeah, I’ll make some,” Stiles replied on auto-pilot, crumbling the test and pushing it in his jeans pocket. He waited for the water to boil before he turned around, staring blankly at Derek’s back, tense and straight and his shifting far too self-conscious. As if he noticed Stiles staring and knew he did something wrong but still not willing to admit or question it.
Something in Stiles just snapped.
“You’re awful!” He declared, jabbing Derek in the shoulder, because no, Stiles wasn’t going to do the self-pity party here. Derek grunted in surprise, turned around but Stiles continued unperturbed. “You know what? I’m going to Lacrosse practice now—which I skipped, just for your information—to vent my anger, and when I return we will talk about you being a massive asshole. Again! Because this,” he pulled the crumbled sheet of paper out of his pocket and pushed it against Derek’s chest, “this deserves more than a ‘great’,” he repeated the word in exaggerated boredom. “I deserve a fucking cookie.” Pointedly glaring at the display, he stormed past Derek and out of the library.
Luckily, Finstock wasted about the first quarter of an hour talking some random bullshit that was supposed to power the team up. Which didn’t make Stiles late, unless he had been anticipating yet another anecdote about Finstock's dead grandmother.
Stiles may or may not have played his most aggressive, shoving into Jackson, bumping Scott out of the way, unintentionally kicking Danny in the knee—that one was seriously, purely by accident—actually tackling Boyd to the ground. His team mates frowned at him, he could feel Lydia’s penetrating glare and when he turned around, Cora was standing right next to the bleachers, hands in her pockets, legs apart like a bouncer. Stiles was smirking because being an open asshole every once in a while was alleviating. And it wasn’t like the guys were seriously hurt. Players from opposing teams had done worse.
However when Finstock was sick of his foul play and benched him, between Lydia in over-protective girlfriend mode and Cora, he was sure he’d rather deal with a werewolf, so he approached the latter.
“What’s gotten your panties in a twist?” she asked, and if he didn’t know better, she sounded almost worried. “I could smell your anger miles against the wind.”
“I’m not angry,” he lied.
“Don’t lie. I can tell when you do, you know that.”
“I’m pretty sure I have to agree to a lie detector test.”
Cora rolled her eyes but didn’t comment further. Stiles was bouncing on his heels with nervous energy and frustration before he finally blurted out, “Derek’s a fucking asshole, that’s why.”
She stared at him, then rolled her eyes. “Should have warned you,” she mumbled under her breath and before he could reply, she continued. “Paige came over yesterday again.”
Stiles froze on the spot. He really was getting sick of that name.
“She’s pregnant. And getting married.”
Stiles stared at her, working his mouth. “Huh?”
“She wanted to apologize. To all of us. But she wanted to speak to Derek first. Which we made kind of impossible. So she just gave up and told us at our front door. Looks like she’s planning on moving back to Beacon Hills with her fiance and didn’t want any trouble with us.”
Sorta explained Derek’s bad mood. Sure his ex, who broke him into little pieces suddenly announced she was getting married with a baby under the way all happy and smiles and Derek was supposed to just nod it away? Stiles couldn’t imagine how Derek felt about that. But that didn’t mean that Derek could use him as some kind of verbal punching bag or an anger outlet. If at all, this just made Stiles even madder and brought his anger to another level. It was adding insult to injury. Because now he wasn’t just hurt at getting brushed off for something he was proud of, no, now fierce jealousy at the power Paige still held over Derek mingled with the already existing negative emotions.
How was he supposed to even earnestly look for someone for Derek if he felt like that over an ex?
Stiles lolled his head back, staring at the blue sky and the fluffy white clouds, pressing the heels of his hands once against his eyes and when he removed them he spotted a cloud in the shape of a fox. “Derek told me to find him someone, you know that?”
“Yeah, he mentioned it,” Cora said with a frown.
“What if I can’t do it?” he continued, snapping his head back. “What if Paige was supposed to be his soul mate but she freaked out and ran away. What if he tries to leap and fall and whoever he decided to let in runs away because of what you are? What if that happens again and this time it would be my fault.”
“If they run, they aren’t the right ones,” Cora stated stubbornly.
“Cora, life is not a Disney movie,” Stiles had to bite his cheek to refrain from yelling. “There isn’t always a Beauty to a Beast”—there was only a scrawny delusional seventeen year old spaz—“and I can’t promise either of you the Happily Ever After romance you try to find.”
“You will,” she replied firmly, eyes not wavering. “I know you will find someone.”
Stiles was about to stomp his feet. He didn’t need this. Didn’t need the pressure. Didn’t need the burden. He should just tell Cora no. Should just tell Derek no. But he didn’t. No, he just turned on his heels and stormed to the changing rooms, ignoring Finstocks calls. After the door closed behind him he run up and down before he dropped down on a bench, running his fingers through his hair. He should cut it back, it was getting too long.
“What happened?” Scott suddenly asked, dropping down next to him. Stiles yelped in surprise and scooted a few inches into the other direction. “You almost dislocated Jackson’s shoulder out there.”
Scott looked at him, eyes soft and warm and then he moved his hand to ruffle Stiles’ hair. “Did you fall for Cora?”
Stiles choked on his own spit. Or air. Or both.
“Oh my God, no!” He was screeching now and hopefully Cora had left the premise and couldn’t hear him because anyone would be offended at the vehement reaction he had to Scott’s absurd suggestion.
“But,” Scott started, and then stopped, furrowing his brows. “That’s your Lydia face.”
“I don’t have a Lydia face.”
“You do. It’s that ‘my love life will forever be none-existent because I keep falling for the wrong people’ face.”
Horrified, Stiles stared at his best friend, then groaned and let his head drop into his hands. Fucking open book, his face. “Is it that bad?” he asked.
Scott hesitated for a moment. “I don’t know. Is it?”
Stiles frowned into his hand, starring at the floor tiles. “At least he knows I’m alive,” he admitted with a shrug. Kudos to Scott for not even flinching at the notion that he was bi. Then again, the way Stiles had listened to Danny’s detailed sex talk might have been a hint months ago.
“So, it’s not Cora?”
“No, it’s not,” Stiles snorted, bumping their shoulders together.
“Thank God, because she still scares me.”
At that, Stiles laughed, long and loud and a tad hysterical. If Cora scared Scott, he didn’t know what Derek would do to his best friend. Stiles only stopped when the rest of the lacrosse team pooled in from the outside, glaring daggers at him.
Stiles entered the library with less bravado than he would have wished.
Derek looked up from the counter, raising both eyebrows but Stiles just went past him and plopped down on his armchair, waving at Bobby and Benny in greeting.
He wondered if he was made of glass. Wondered if everybody could see what Scott saw. Wondered if Derek knew. If he did, he would probably make this easy for him, right? Letting him down? Either never breaching the subject or letting him down gently. It wasn’t like Stiles was a stranger to rejection and he had made it work with Lydia. Now they were incredibly good together. A dangerous combination. A force to be reckoned with. Maybe he could be friends with Derek too after the awkward air around him had left.
They did talk a lot. They had some things in common. Maybe he was a great catch when it came to being friends? He wanted to at least stay friends with Derek. Really. As soon as he had found someone Derek could date, yep, Stiles would forget his stupid crush-love-not love thing.
Rolling his eyes at his own inner consolation he bent down to plug his laptop in and did his homework. Ten minutes later—not that Stiles had actually watched the little digital clock on his laptop—Derek stopped by his table. Stiles didn’t look up. He wasn’t prepared to put himself out there yet. Derek hesitated for a moment before he placed a cup—a real porcelain cup—next to Stiles’ laptop. And then a chocolate chip cookie that so wasn’t in their usual assortment made it into his field of vision. His head snapped up, but before he could say anything Derek was already halfway back to the counter, tips of his ears bright red.
Yeah, no, ‘just friends’ was so out of the book.
Before he could nourish that ugly thought into a full on panic attack he threw himself into his work. He had Calculus waiting for him. And history. And English. Stiles was engrossed in his essay about the Baltic Sea Anomaly and why he thought it was more likely the Millenium Falcon from Star Wars than a fucking mushroom, when someone next to him cleared their throat. He startled, then blinked at Derek for a few blurry seconds.
“Yeah?” he asked, confused.
“It’s closing time,” Derek said, like Stiles was an idiot. He was. He wasn’t even going to argue that anymore. “Do you want to—”
“Yeah, I can help,” he said, stretching his arms, working the kinks out of his bones.
“No. That wasn’t—” Derek rolled his eyes. “I’m done.”
Stiles blinked again in confusion. Seriously, it had been a long time since he had been able to concentrate on one subject that well. “Oh,” he simply said. For a moment, Derek shuffled on his feet, before he just sat down on the armchair opposite Stiles.
And right. Stiles had said something about talking. Then again, the cookie had redeemed everything, really. That’s how easy he was. Just give him food and he could forgive everything, apparently. And it wasn’t like he didn’t know that Derek was completely incapable of showing real emotions when he needed to.
They were silent for a moment, and when it was clear that Stiles wasn’t going to start this conversation even though he had wanted to, Derek cleared his throat again. “Do you still want tutoring?” Derek asked carefully, like he expected Stiles to tell him something he wouldn’t like to hear.
“You got your A,” Derek said, strangely defensive.
And oh. Oh!
This hadn’t been about Paige at all. This had been about Stiles all along.
“You gotta be kidding me,” Stiles almost choked on his laugh. “Oh my God, you foolish, socially-awkward, perfect, idiot.”
“What.” Derek looked offended
And even that was endearing, when it really shouldn’t be.
“I thought you—because you—just that you always,” Stiles flailed his hands to bring his point across. If Derek’s face was anything to go by, he didn’t. But seriously, he wasn’t going to tell him ‘I stopped by first thing, because I wanted to show you. Be proud of me. Love me, love me.’ like a goddamned puppy. “I thought you didn’t care. That I annoyed you—”
“You do,” Derek said, with a shrug. “You’re talking too fast. And too much. Use words where they aren’t needed. Or twist them around. You can’t keep still. You keep tapping your pen on the table, I can barely follow your—”
“If your list of all my bad quirks isn’t followed by a ‘but’ I’m really gonna get offended,” Stiles said, a little aghast at the fountain of words Derek used to describe him and not the ECMLink with enhanced datalogging and total control over fuel and timing and many more features. At one point, Derek had been kind of gushing about that stupid thing, Stiles had been convinced Derek was techno-sexual and he was forced to find him a cute android or something equally high tech.
Derek turned his head to the side. “But I don’t mind.”
Stiles’ mouth was wide open, and Derek shrugged again. Finally, Stiles noticed that the shrug wasn’t a sign of not caring. It was blatant Derek speech for being at a loss of words, being embarrassed about something, for Stiles and not in the: ‘Oh my God I can’t believe I let myself be seen with him in public’ way. It was the ‘I kinda don’t mind spending time with you but you can be so annoying it’s hard to let you know’ way. Or something.
Derek liked him.
Aww, fuck keeping face and all that stupid crap.
“Dude, I got the paper back and bolted out of the classroom. I was so awfully proud of that A- I wanted to show you first. And you verbally slapped me in the face.” Derek did a thing, a soft sound that might have been a wince and something else with his eyebrows but Stiles barreled on because with Derek, you had to use words. Derek was so socially inept it was ridiculous. “What did you think? That I wouldn’t come by anymore now that I got my A? Do you even listen to me sometimes? Because there are only so many times I can tell you that I like spending time with you. And I wouldn’t mind spending time with you outside of learning anything not school related. Like trashing movies in the theater,” he added because that was important. He wanted to say something like ‘because we are friends’ but he was not going to friend-zone himself.
No, if Derek wanted to be friends with him—and only that—Derek would have to make it painfully clear, like he did with all the other people.
Which was unfair because Stiles knew Derek was nothing if not a big teddy bear when it came to people he cared about, as proven by the frantic look he had when Emilia had latched onto his leg and started to cry. If he cared even just a little about Stiles… well, he would try to let him down gently. Very, very gently. And not like the douche he wanted people to believe he was.
Which he wasn’t of course.
“And you’re not an asshole, by the way. Even if I keep calling you that. It’s meant in a totally endearing way. Like a cute nickname, ya know?” Stiles said, because he couldn’t keep his fucking mouth shut.
“Thanks,” Derek replied dryly. And after a beat, he added, lowly, “Shithead.”
Stiles’ brain short circuited.
He could taste the carbon on his tongue, see the lights go out and feel the bulb exploding in his head, because that was an honest-to-god, he didn’t even need to squint, tiny, tiny smile on Derek’s lips. Stiles was glad his body was trapped in overload and therefore frozen to his seat because otherwise he would have jumped Derek. Alright, it was a smile at his expanse but it was still a smile because of Stiles or for Stiles and it was his to own.
He really didn’t know what had been wrong with Derek’s exes. Because that guy was the most adorable thing on the world. Messing with Derek was like kicking a puppy and that included hyper vigilant overly scared Paige who couldn’t deal with Derek turning furry about twelve times a year.
Stiles would never understand.
Derek eyed him over the notebook, was silent for a very long time and his face was doing some incredibly interesting things that Stiles couldn’t decipher but was still entertaining to watch. Eventually, Derek just snorted. “There’s… a science fair next month. In Sacramento. You wanna go?”
“Alone?” Stiles asked, rebooting brain slowly coming back online.
Derek rolled his eyes. “Together.”
“With you?” Stiles inquired further, because clearly Derek made him stupid.
Derek didn’t even dignify that with a verbal answer. Just gave him a look.
Derek opened his mouth, then pressed his lips into a thin line. Actually, he looked like he was preparing for battle. “To celebrate kicking Harris in his academic pride?”
It was disconcerting how fast his heart rate sped up, how his posture was suddenly straighter and his face probably glowing when he smiled at those words. “You’d really go there with me?”
“I told you, stop double checking. There’s nothing I do without wanting to.”
He actually had to kick himself to stop an “Oh God, yes, yes, yes and all the yeses in the world” and eventually settled on a neutral, “Great.”
Derek kicked him against the shin.
Stiles let out a startled laugh and Derek shook his head in amusement.
“Yeah, let’s do it,” he said quietly.
Until then, he would do what Cora had hired him for.
Because Derek deserved it.
Stiles was kind of avoiding the library. Most of all, because he thought his barely there ambition would crumble to nothing as soon as he saw Derek. His half-life was probably shorter than Franciuim’s. He had told Derek he would be in less, because he was going to be busy for the next couple of days. But it had been a week now and Stiles was still kind of in the middle of his research and he wanted to see Derek.
He wasn’t even joking.
It was killing him.
“He’s killing me,” Cora burst out when she arrived at their table, pushing her tray on the table with enough force to make Stiles’ juice wobble.
“Who is?” Scott asked confused, chewing on his vegetables.
Stiles’ heart did not skip a beat. Nope.
Cora locked her eyes to his, then pocked her fork at him. “What did you do?”
Stiles gaped. “What? Me?”
“He’s been in a foul mood for days. And keeps giving me those betrayed looks, like I did something wrong. What could I have possibly done wrong besides introducing you to him?”
“Hey, wait a sec,” Stiles said, making a T with his hands and calling a Time Out, “first of all, it was your glorious idea to make me spy on him—” Isaac let out a gurgled laugh, but Stiles just glared at him. “Second, I haven’t talked to him in days.” Six days, not that he was counting, really. “And third, I’m working hard here to make this better for you all, okay?”
“He’s right,” Danny confirmed, chewing on a lettuce. “He’s trying to pick up girls left and right. It’s like a train wreck.”
“You just can’t look away,” Erica agreed.
Cora furrowed her brows.
“For Derek, Cora. Not for me.”
Her mouth dropped open in a silent ‘oh’.
If Stiles had learned anything form Ian Flemming’s Goldfinger, it was that once was an accident.
So when he was sitting in his father’s office, sharing a late lunch over veggie burgers on Sunday he didn’t think much about Frederick and Talia Hale walking into the room. He might have been a little surprised at seeing them both but his father acted like it wasn’t a big deal so Stiles just continued to eat.
Until Frederick dropped down on the couch next to him, his arm thrown over the back, almost draped over Stiles’ shoulder.
“Stiles,” he greeted amiably.
Stiles swallowed, then gave a shaky laugh. “Uh, hey, Mr Hale. Mrs Hale.” He nodded at the tall woman, who looked down on him with a face that seemed to literally look down on him. He was very familiar with that kind of face. Had been on the receiving end for years whenever he had tried to talk to Lydia and she actually gave him the time of the day to look at him.
“Thank you again for taking Cora to the formal,” Frederick continued, seemingly unaware oh his wife’s hostile glares.
“Uh, yeah, pleasure?”
“Cora can’t stop talking about you.”
“Derek keeps bragging about you, too” Talia Hale suddenly added with a smile that didn’t reach her eyes. She looked like she wanted to eat him for lunch. In a definitely painful I’ll kill you kind of way.
“Technically,” Mister Hale interrupted him, “he said: ‘that little shithead I tutor got an A- in Harris’ class’. Even showed us your test.” He chanced an apologetic look at the Sheriff. “And with little shithead he meant—”
His father just waved him off
“And then he went on a rant on how you are throwing away potential,” Talia continued, eyeing his dad like she had just waited to throw that comment in. Parental intervention and those two weren’t even his parents? What the hell was going on? They hadn’t even said what they were doing in the Sheriff’s office! “What was it you wanted to do?”
Stiles tried to curl into a small ball, while his father expectantly crossed his arms in front of his chest, prompting him to answer with a look that obviously said, ‘Go on, Stiles. We all would like to know about your stupid future plans’. He couldn’t even remember telling Derek. And why would Derek tell his parents?
“I thought about Mythology? Maybe?”
Because with the existence of werewolves certainly came other stuff. There was magic, okay? It was super cool. Yeah, so maybe at some point in time he had thought about going into Parapsychology or Cryptozoology or Folklore or other things common people referred to as crazy, but it wasn’t like it was set in stone. And considering that the Hales—fucking werewolves—didn’t seem to be too inclined with him going into any kind of paranormal research field was a little suspicious.
So Stiles narrowed his eyes at them, like he wanted to tell them, ‘I know what you are, I’m watching you’. God, he felt like Dib talking about werewolves and Nosferatu and stupid green aliens. No wonder he couldn’t get a freaking date. He was a menace.
“I didn’t know Derek was tutoring you,” his dad said, completely missing the point. “Or about that A-.”
“Didn’t I tell you?” Stiles asked, clearing his throat. “Derek tutoring me? No? Must have slipped my mind.”
His dad lifted both eyebrows.
“Well, I’m glad our kids get along,” he eventually opted but Stiles was sure this wasn’t off the table.
Frederick dropped his arm on Stiles’ shoulder. He flinched, looked up but Frederick had his eyes on Stiles' father. “It would be nice if our families could meet sometime. I mean Stiles practically belongs to family now. We haven’t talked about the flower arrangements yet but the marriage with Cora is still on the table, right?”
“It was a joke!” Stiles cried, flailing his arms.
“We have a traditional barbecue at the end of July with the whole family and some friends. Would you like to join us?” Frederick continued, completely ignoring Stiles’ interjection.
Stiles knew what this was. This was Frederick Hale man-crush-flirting with his dad and he was using Stiles as an excuse. He cried internally because there was no way in hell his father would decline this invitation.
He didn’t of course.
He hated his karma.
Twice was a coincidence.
So Stiles might have been a little surprised but not overall concerned when another Hale cornered him in the grocery store between fruits and vegetables. Thanks to Cora’s weird habit, he even had gotten accustomed to the cornering which really couldn’t be healthy.
“Stiles,” the man greeted him, cool blue eyes lingering on him like they were trying to decipher an encrypted message. “Was it?”
“Uh, yeah, hey,” he said.
“Oh yeah, I know,” he lied. Okay, half-lied. He knew it was a Hale but matching face to name had always been a problem for him. Compared to name and fact, well, that was a different matter altogether.
Because Peter? He was known in town as the eccentric. Peter was the odd one of the bunch. The less than charming one. The creepy one. Peter chuckled in amusement and then, without a sensible segue, he said: “Cora thinks it’s her fault.”
Stiles blinked owlishly at the guy. “What is?”
“What condition?” Stiles asked confused.
“He lost his wolf,” a tiny voice quipped up from Peter’s leg area and for the first time he noticed Abhay standing next to her father, hand clasped into his jeans, looking up with a bored expression and cruel blue eyes.
Peter must be proud of her.
“And it is,” Peter affirmed. “That’s why she desperately wants to find someone for Derek.” Stiles narrowed his eyes. Peter raised one fine eyebrow, clear amusement in his eyes. “It’s why her mate is a woman in her mid-forties.”
“Excuse me,” Stiles simply said and waved a hand between them, indicating the lack of space. Peter took a step back. “And I have no idea what you’re talking about,” he continued, already turning away.
“But you do,” Peter decided. “Which makes this all the more interesting. My sister keeps wondering what your angle is. I think it’s simple curiosity. She believes it’s… exploitation. She’s not a fan of you.”
Stiles threw his head back, staring at the ceiling because, what the fuck?
“Still no clue,” he sing-songed, nudged Peter out of the way with his cart and headed over to the fridges.
“Everyone knows Cora does it to redeem herself. But what is your intention?”
“Good marks?” Stiles questioned hopefully. He just wanted to be left alone. Why was the whole Hale family suddenly so adamant to intercept him? Next thing he knew, they would stage an intervention. He wasn’t sure what kind, though. Like was this the ‘don’t hurt my nephew’ talk or the ‘stay away from my nephew you creep’ talk or ‘hurry the fuck up and find my nephew a freaking mate’ talk?
Stiles seriously didn’t know.
Peter went after an apple, twisting and turning it in a nonchalant manner before he threw it to Abhay who caught it easily, politely thanking him.
“Did you know that Cora went to talk to Paige before she left? Cora was nine back then. Everyone believed she was too young to understand any of this. When Derek found out, he was furious and tried to stop her. Unfortunately, it only let to him overhearing them. Do you want to know what Paige told her?”
“No?” Stiles tried, rummaging through the fridge vegetables for carrots and peas. He had a feeling Peter would tell him anyway.
“She tried. But there was no way she could love a monster.”
Stiles stopped in his movement.
“That’s when he broke, right, papa?” Abhay asked in a bored voice.
And that was the last straw. Stiles took the first package he could find and threw it at Peter. The onions dropped to the ground after they bounced off the surprised man’s face and Abhay’s mouth fell open.
“He’s not fucking broken, you ass—” Stiles stopped himself, staring wide-eyed at the girl. “You not very nice person,” he corrected lamely, but then worked his voice back into a growl. “He’s guarded, not completely damaged. Just because he,” he threw a look around, noticed some of the other customers staring at him. “He’s doing good. All things considered. It just takes him longer.”
Peter arched both eyebrows. Abhay mimicked him.
“Momma. Peter and Abhay are being meanies again.”
Stiles body went rigid. Out of the corner of his eyes he could make out Emilia, hand latched onto Laura, who looked between them in confusion. Before he could stammer an apology or something, because he had just yelled at and attacked Laura’s uncle with frozen goods, the woman stepped forward.
“Uncle Peter!” she growled, tugging Emilia behind as she marched up to hr uncle, poking him in the shoulder. “What are you doing? Stop bullying the boy!”
Stiles looked between them, choked down a laugh at the slightly panicked and trapped look on Peter Hale and his daughter mirroring it. Stiles watched Laura reprimanding him for about a minute before he got bored. He coughed once, then pointed to the next aisle. When the Hale family ignored him, he just shrugged, took his cart and left.
“Stiles,” his father asked as soon as he picked up the telephone. “Why did I just had to listen to one of my deputies telling me about my son attacking Peter Hale in a grocery store with frozen apple slices?”
“Uh,” Stiles said, and cursed. “My hand slipped?”
His father hummed at the phone, then, “Did you at least buy the apples?”
“They were onions,” Stiles corrected helpfully.
His father tsked into the telephone. “I thought I raised you better,” he said before he hung up and Stiles wasn’t sure what part of the interaction in the grocery upset his dad more. The involvement of a Hale and his daughter, the un-bought onions or playing with food.
At least Stiles knew what bothered him the most: the fact that his father sounded amused.
Once was an accident. Twice was a coincidence. Three times was an enemy action.
And as far as enemy action went, this one started as a sneak attack and ended with a bang.
Stiles had just innocently been watching a dark-haired goddess or maybe saint, because the way she treated these evil monsters was with an inhuman patience that had Stiles believe she was a fairy or something.
Which reminded him, were fairies a thing? He would have to ask Cora.
Anyway, there he was, inconspicuously checking out the woman while she kept looking at him in confusion which kind of made him revise his opinion about his sneakiness, when someone sat down next to him.
He looked up, then palmed his face.
“Oh God, just get it over with,” he said, voice strained. “I mean, I don’t know what’s going on but just do it. And if you could ease on the cryptic, that would be awesome.”
Laura just looked at him, amusement playing in her eyes, as she leaned back, her legs stretched out and crossed at the ankles. And then there was a thundering of hasty steps and before Stiles could see what was going on, there was a stingy pain in his knee. He yelped and stared in confusion at the little brunette girl in front of him, legs and arms akimbo, chin jutted out in challenge.
“Did you just kick me?” Stiles asked.
“Emilia,” Laura said, voice stern. The girl just lifted her chin further. “Apologize.”
“Emilia,” another voice piqued up behind her. Stiles wanted to flee when he noticed Abhay. “Papa said it’s fine. They are just being idiots.”
Emilia spun around to her cousin, dubiously, then back to Stiles. “I’m sorry. But stop doing that!” she continued, pointing her finger accusingly at his nose. “I won’t forgive you if you hurt him!”
Stiles just stared after her, mouth hanging open, when the girls started to chase each other away.
“What just happened?”
Laura, next to him, chuckled to herself. “I’m sorry for her. She just really loves Derek.” Yeah, well, she wasn’t the only one, Stiles thought bitterly. “I’m not here to do anything,” Laura added, “except watching them play.”
“If you say so,” Stiles replied suspiciously. “But if that’s the truth, that makes you the sanest person in your family I’ve had the pleasure to meet so far.”
She snickered at that. “What can I say? I take after my dad.”
Who was maybe one of the scariest of them all. At least Talia was open in her hostility. Frederick had been charming and nice and normal and Stiles had kept wondering what he wanted from him until he noticed that Frederick probably couldn’t care less about Stiles and all the more about his dad.
“Me too,” Stiles finally replied.
After a moment of silence, he started again. “What is going on, anyway? I feel ambushed. Violated. And Emilia hates me. I thought she liked me but now she hates me. Did I do something wrong?”
Laura barked out a laugh. “You did nothing wrong, Stiles.”
“But it feels like it.”
“I’m sorry for my family,” she apologized earnestly. “They just want Derek to be happy.”
“He’s not unhappy,” Stiles replied, rolling his eyes.
“No, he isn’t,” Laura agreed. “But they think he is.”
“Having a significant other isn’t all the hype it’s about,” Stiles said, even-though he was a loser with no one who even wanted to look at him twice, so maybe it was just the frustration talking for him.
“Emilia’s dad,” Laura started, “was kind of a jerk, but I didn’t want to see it. When he heard I was pregnant, he left the apartment and never came back. Funny thing, he easily accepted me being,” she glanced at Stiles, then smirked, “a dog person,” Stiles rolled his eyes in exasperation, “but a kid? That was messing with his ten year plan.”
“Congrats, then,” Stiles said. “For getting rid of him before you were married and were forced to file divorce papers. I know from first-hand experience that they are a hassle.”
Laura laughed in surprise. “Thanks I guess.”
Stiles leaned back on the bench.
Laura would be a great sister-in-law.
“Stiles?” His father entered with a knock to his door frame and Stiles looked up from his screen, distracted as he was still in the middle of his elimination process.
Two fucking weeks and by now he was so done with this shit. Two weeks in which he went through hell collecting telephone numbers, taking pictures, strolling in every cafe or club house or gym. Hell, he even started to chat up women in groceries stores. The only reason it ended in only a handful of slaps in the face was because apparently ‘his reputation preceded him’.
Thank God it had made things explaining a lot easier.
When he thought someone could be suitable he walked up to them, explained who he was and what he was doing and it was unbelievably embarrassing, especially when his friends witnessed his clumsy attempts at trying to not sound super stupid. He left out the name but told them almost everything he knew about Derek, and carefully gauged their reaction to every word he said.
All in all, Stiles was sure he had never talked to so many people before in his life and he was actually getting really good at it.
Too bad it wasn’t for himself.
“You have a guest,” his dad said strangely and Stiles frowned at him. Usually he would let Scott or whoever just barge right into Stiles’ room, yelling up the stairs in a three second forewarning.
“It’s Derek Hale.”
Stiles’ body went rigid. Bones snapped at the force he straightened his back and his dad watched him suspiciously.
“I’ll be right down,” Stiles said, “just tell him to wait.”
“Okay,” his dad replied haltingly, then left the room.
Okay, cool. This was cool. This was Derek on his front porch. Nothing strange about it. Nothing at all. He was freaking out and he didn’t even know why. Staring at the open document on his desktop he threw his head back and hit print, then shoved the still warm paper down his jeans pocket. Before he left the room, he spared a glance into the mirror. He was… presentable… He had shaved his head back to the buzz-cut so there was nothing to worry about bad hair and the clothes were the ones he had worn at school and since neither Lydia nor Erica had sneered at him they should be fine for Derek, too. Not that he was getting dressed for Derek. Or worried about getting dressed for Derek.
Before he could continue to lie even more to himself, he just gave up and bolted down the stairs, spotted his father in the living room staring at him through the reflection of the cupboard window. Very subtle, really, dad, Stiles thought, rolling his eyes and then turned to the entrance hall. He could see Derek through the glass, his back to the house, hands in his pockets, staring at the ground and Stiles’ shoulders relaxed somewhat.
Screw the way he looked, he had really missed Derek and all he wanted was to see that guy again.
When he threw the door open, Derek turned his head. Seeing Stiles seemed to have the complete opposite reaction to him though. His shoulders tensed immediately.
“Oh God Derek, you’re a sight for sore eyes,” Stiles opened despite the others body language as he leaned against the door frame.
Derek startled at his words, opened his mouth before he closed it again, tilting his head with a frown. “You alright?”
“Peachy,” Stiles replied, “I’ve just been busy, busy, busy. But now that I’ve seen your grumpy face everything looks brighter already. Gotta say I missed you snarling at me. That said, how can I help you?”
Derek looked confused.
Stiles hoped he wasn’t going to ask. Why he was busy, what he had been doing, how his search was going. The paper in his pocket weighting him down like lead. “Oh wait!” he continued before Derek had the chance to answer. “Did you want to check up on me?” Derek pressed his lips together and Stiles thought he should have visited him. Just say hello. Just let Derek know he was still alive. “Aww, that’s so sweet,” he cooed and ignored his heart skipping a beat or whatever.
“I thought—” Derek started, then stopped. “Look if you avoid me—”
“I’m not avoiding you!” Stiles assured, eyes wide. What? How—what? “Why would you even think that? I told you I was going to be busy.”
“We don’t have to go the science fair,” Derek continued as if he hadn’t spoken.
Stiles shook his head and almost threw himself at Derek. “Oh. My. God. This is so not going to happen. The science fair is the only thing keeping me going right now. You will not take that away from me!”
Derek stared at him for a moment.
“I’m serious, Derek. You. Me. Sacramento. It will be a blast. I won’t allow you to take it back.”
Derek tilted his head.
“You really don’t get how much I like you, do you?” Stiles said with an exasperated sigh. “You—” And then he stopped. Furrowing his brows. Stiles had thought Derek was all about words. About being as honest and vocal and verbal as possible because he wouldn’t catch a drift if it hit him square in the face.
He was wrong.
Derek didn’t trust words.
Because Paige had told him she would come around and she never did. Because that evil witch had used words to coax him in. Because strangers kept telling him what they thought he wanted to hear, feeding him lie after lie. Derek wasn’t about words. Derek was about doing. About action speaking louder than words.
“Did you have dinner already?” Stiles changed the subject. He’d be damned if he couldn’t get Derek convinced there was someone out there who actually liked spending time with him on none-studying basis. According to the clock it was only shortly after eight so Derek had probably come around right after closing the library. “Because I’m starving.”
“No,” Derek replied.
“Wanna go to Wanda’s then?”
Derek just blinked for a moment, then raised his eyebrow. “Alone?”
Stiles laughed, “I take that as a yes,” he said and made a finger gun at Derek. “I’ll be down shortly and you take me out for dinner. I’m paying.” Before Derek could reply, Stiles hurried back inside, leaving the door wide open. Pretty smooth, considering it was the first time he asked someone out. Even if the other person didn’t know that he would treat this like a date.
With Derek Hale.
“Dad, I’m going out for a bit,” he told his father who was still sitting on the couch, watching TV.
“Be back by eleven.”
“And tell Derek to give his father my regards.”
Stiles frowned, rolled his eyes, before he threw a look at the doorway where Derek had quietly, hesitantly and insecurely crept his way into the house. “Yo, Derek, my dad says he wants your dad’s private number.” The second the words tumbled from his lips, he chided himself for the choice. That sounded way too suggestive.
“Stiles!” his dad cried out.
“I mean cell phone number,” he corrected himself unnecessarily. “Mobil number,” he added, internally chanting a rant of ‘Don’t think about threesomes, don’t think about threesomes, dammit now I’m thinking about threesomes’. “Jesus Christ, just give him something so they can plan fishing trips to the amazon for productive bonding time,” Stiles finished, exasperated with himself and pushing every thought of threesomes from his mind.
He was scarred for life.
Derek however just shrugged, not even batting an eyelid at Stiles’ craziness anymore, and pulled his phone out of his back pocket. Stiles would never stop to wonder how he even fit that in there. “And dad, don’t think I didn’t realize the TV is still on mute,” he chided, as he turned to walk up the stairs.
His father cursed and Stiles just chuckled to himself.
Stiles had only ever seen Derek’s Eagle Talon from the outside. A slick black sports car with red sidelines. Beauty and beast combined. Stiles was sure the thing wasn’t sold with an engine that could roar like a tiger. Forget the godawful ‘purred like a cat’ analogy. This thing was a fucking monster and Derek was its Frankenstein.
Stiles was sure the metaphor war 200% accurate.
Especially considering that he had asked Derek about it, who had immediately fallen into a litany of tuning jargon. Telling him about upgrades to the engine, suspension and interior and bolting some fancy new Forced Performance turbocharger. How he exchanged four different components for an EMCLink, which had been stuck together with what felt like forty zip ties. He was throwing abbreviations and words like HKS VPC, Apexi Super-AFC and EPROM ECU around, quoting a manual about "Discontinue use of this product immediately if there is smoke or a burning odor,” before he abruptly stopped in embarrassment as he looked at Stiles’ blank expression.
Stiles honest to God knew nothing about cars. He was glad he found front and heck of his Jeep.
But listening to Derek explain tuning procedure on his car? Yeah, Stiles shouldn’t get that fluttery feeling in his stomach and wish he could have been there to watch it. Stiles had urged him on to continue even though it probably wasn’t helping with his libido and after a short moment Derek continued to ramble on about installing a wire to the clutch cut wire and explained that it would enable features like no lift to shift and launch control and Stiles just sat next to him in a daze.
They didn’t go to Wanda’s, though.
When they stopped at a red light, Derek hesitated. “Mind a change of plans?”
“Nope,” Stiles replied, because if he could spend time with Derek he really didn’t care much about the how. Yep, he was that much of a cliché.
Derek nodded and made an illegal U-turn they will never talk about. Ever. They headed out of Beacon Hills, Stiles noticed, and a few miles after town exit they arrived at a stretch of barren land, a straight empty road apparently leading to nowhere. Derek sped along the highway and for the next twenty something miles Stiles enjoyed the thrill of speed, sanctimoniously ignoring the speed limit of 75 mph and studiously keeping his eyes off the speedometer of Derek’s car.
As the Sheriff’s kid, he would have felt the need to point something out that he’d rather not. Stiles really tried hard not to think about all the points Derek could have gotten in one day.
It wasn’t the Fast and Furious. Thank God it wasn’t. Derek was driving fast but not reckless. He didn’t do an 180 in the middle of the street to change directions or took 90° bends doing 80 or whatever crazy shit people were pulling.
“We should go to Germany,” Stiles suggested over the engine, once. “Barely speed limits on their highways.” He wasn’t going to lie. He freaking loved the exhilaration that came with the adrenaline of driving fast.
Derek laughed at that. “Let’s try Bonneville Salt Flats first.”
Stiles’ mouth dropped open for a brief moment and then he hastily closed it, hoping that Derek hadn’t noticed his reaction because that would just make things awkward and Stiles really, really, didn’t want that.
Jesus Christ, Derek had laughed. At him. For him.
It wasn’t a belly hurting laugh, it had been sharp and short but clearly genuine. Smiling? Forget smiling. He was going to make Derek laugh all the time. Scratch that, he was going to make Derek feel all kinds of happy good feelings for like forever.
Stiles had been prepared for awkward. He had been prepared for some silent treatment. He had not been prepared for getting fucking jealous over every woman throwing Derek a second glance and for the waitress to openly ogle him for what felt like an eternity before taking their order after Stiles sort of snapped at her while Derek seemed like he wanted to hide under the table.
“I don’t go out often,” Derek admitted, not making eye contact.
No shit, he just thought as they waited for curly fries, double cheese burgers and cokes and Stiles was so planing on getting that chocolate cherry sundae deluxe with smarties after his fries.
Stiles knew Derek was not interested in any of the woman but he still wanted to chase them off. How bad was this going to be when Derek was having a real girlfriend? One Stiles had picked himself, seal of approval by little sister and lastly chosen by Derek which would make her awesomely perfect?
Stiles was ready to sabotage.
He really was.
No, he wasn’t.
Because Derek told him he had been talking to someone from college who was studying anthropology in Sacramento and took several courses that covered mythology extensively.
“If you really want to pursue that direction, she said you should look for a college that lets you put your own majors together.”
Stiles just gaped at him. “When I said I want to study mythology you looked like I was making the worst life choice anyone ever made and that includes the Germans voting for Hitler 1933.”
Derek rolled his eyes. “So?”
“You hate it!” Stiles pointed out.
“What does it matter?” Derek replied, startling when the waitress brought their food and leaned extra close as she presented Derek with his plate. And if Stiles wasn’t wrong—and yes, he was never wrong when it was about food—he had double the portion curly fries Stiles had. Without even looking at Stiles, though, or even asking, Derek pushed half of his fries on Stiles’ plate. Charitable soul that Stiles was, he gave Derek his salad in exchange. “It’s your decision and if it’s what you want to do, then do it.”
Stiles was maybe hating Derek a little. Because he wasn’t playing fucking fair. “You,” he told him, “are the worst.” And then he unceremoniously shoved curly fries in his mouth. Derek grimaced but luckily, not even Derek Hale had the ability to make eating a burger look any less ridiculous, which Stiles felt the need to point out.
Derek flung a closed ketchup package at Stiles.
Stiles retaliated with mayo. In his defense, he had not known it was open. Miraculously nothing hit Derek, the seat next to him however was splattered like it had been in a lethal collision with a mayo truck. The two waitresses chose via rock, paper, scissor who had to clean up the mess. Derek muttered something under his breath about them being rude, that if they didn’t want to clean it they should just let them do it.
Stiles stared at him incredulous.
However, when the petite blonde waitress—the winner—sashayed over to them, Stiles engaged Derek in a discussion about the most unscientific sci-fi movies he had ever watched which led to Derek not even looking up when the girl stretched to clean as he ranted on about The Core and hacking the entire internet.
Stiles noticed but chose to ignore her and Derek was distracted drawing on a napkin what the hell a sonic weapon could do and more importantly, could not.
The feeling of superiority when Stiles noticed that Derek wouldn’t look at anyone else for the rest of the night?
Yeah, well, he was going to bathe in it for a while without feeling all that bad about it.
Instead he countered Derek’s claim about the Core with Armageddon. After all the NASA used it in their Management Training Program. And not because it was so very well researched. Derek looked at him skeptically but Stiles nodded enthusiastically to underline his statement. In the end they bet on who was going to pay the bill.
Derek looked it up with his phone, then paid for Stiles’ share without another word. In exchange Stiles didn’t voice his assumption that Derek had wanted to pay all along and just needed an excuse. Grateful to Stiles that he kept his thoughts to himself for once, Derek raised Armageddon with 2012 and mutating neutrons. They continued to sit in the diner, their discussion spiraling downhill leading from good unscientific movies to bad b-movies of the good kind until the waitresses, who had eventually given up on Derek, kicked them out.
Derek wasn’t speeding on their way back. He was actually driving a little under speed limit, but Stiles didn’t care because it only meant it would take them longer to be back in Beacon Hills.
They said good night at Stiles front door about four times, always stopping because someone had to add something to whatever the other had said before another attempt.
It wasn’t until Stiles’ dad knocked on the window that hey eventually broke up. Partially. They got as far as Stiles opening the door, one leg already in the entrance hall, when he turned around and called back to Derek, who had already reached his car, and told him that Sharknado was so trashy they absolutely had to watch it together some day. Derek suggested adding Werewolf. Stiles almost toppled over. Until he realized that he was talking about the movie. When he did, Stiles took another step towards Derek and added Hobgoblins to their mental list.
“And Iron Sky,” Derek said with a shrug, back on the steps to the porch.
Stiles narrowed his eyes at him. “The Room.”
Derek opened his mouth, then closed it. “That’s a long list.”
“We don’t have to watch them in one day. We can make it a weekly thing?”
“You want that?” Derek asked, faux-skeptical.
“Dude, stop double checking every time,” Stiles fake-complained, wiggling his eyebrows.
Stiles' dad yelled from the living room.
“I guess that’s my final cue,” Stiles sighed, trying not to show his disappointment. “I suggest you enjoy your Stiles vacation as long as you can because I’ll be back. With all my stupid questions. Soon.”
Derek looked like he wanted to argue, but instead he just nodded. “Night,” he simply said. Neither of them moved, but for Derek playing with his car keys and Stiles watching them with distracted fascination. He tore his gaze away the moment Derek moved to take a step forward, but then stopped mid-movement as his eyes locked at something over Stiles’ shoulder. Abruptly, Derek spun around without another word and headed back to his car.
Confused, Stiles turned his head to find out what he had been looking at and spotted his father, arms crossed in front of his chest.
“Oh my God, I’m coming, coming,” the teenager groaned, rolling his eyes, but he waited until Derek had pulled out of the drive way, waved at him before he finally entered the house and went back upstairs.
Too bad he had forgotten to give Derek the soul mate list.
“What did you do this time?” Cora hit him against the back of his head and Stiles cried out in pain. Because pain!
“Nothing!” Stiles replied, bewildered.
“Liar,” she accused but then stalked off.
“Why? What happened?” Stiles called after her but she just left him standing alone at his locker without further explanation. And then proceeded to growl at him from the back of the classroom in every class they shared.
Stiles had been wrong. Laura had not been the enemy attack. Laura had been the calm before the storm, the eye of the twister, the hidden knife behind a smile, the distraction before the hit.
One moment Stiles was standing at his Jeep, fumbling with his keys to open the door and the next his world turned upside down. Loss of orientation ousted by the sudden realization that his world wasn’t only spinning but moving forward made him pretty aware of the Moscow Rules.
When he finally got his bearings back and was somewhat convinced he wasn’t going to die in the next three seconds he opened his eyes, slowly, and realized that he was in the sidecar of an Ural, driving through the streets of Beacon Hills at an insane speed that he was about to revise his earlier statement.
Death in three seconds seemed so much more likely now.
It took him another moment to gather the courage to glance at his kidnapper.
When he did his mouth fell open.
Because that was a fucking legend next to him.
Who was Talia Hale’s father.
In his early twenties, he used to serve in the navy, later worked as a sailor, then as a truck driver. The old guy had spent his days adventuring and living off his parents money. His body was covered in nasty big tattoos. He was freaky seventy years old with muscles that would put Danny’s and Jackson’s to shame. And he still drove a freaking Ural motorcycle.
Which he had just kidnapped Stiles with.
From the school parking lot.
Where his Jeep was.
Stiles just continued to gape.
However, Eugene didn’t say much. Considering that the speed he was going at rendered all effective communication impossible and considering that Stiles was clamping his mouth shut after the first insect made its way inside he wasn’t really surprised, though. At least it gave him the time to think about what the hell was going on. Though when he noticed the direction they were taking, right into the center of the small town and not further out, there wasn’t really much to ponder.
He was being taken to the library.
For whatever reason.
He assumed it had something to do with his stalling. That even after promised Derek he’d be back, he simply couldn’t because meeting Derek would mean giving him that. It. The B-movie title would have been The Horror List: Heartbreak and Humiliation Ensued.
On several levels.
Because this wasn’t about jealousy anymore. About hooking Derek up with someone else. No. Because in a fit of masochistic, hopeful optimism, he had written his own name on there.
Like on the top.
First choice and all.
It was so stupid.
Stiles was just waiting for his heart to get broken.
He leaned his head against the backpack placed in his lap.
In case he chickened out, he had printed out two versions of the list. One with his name, one without. They had both been folded, opened and closed a dozen times, tattered at the side, kinks in odd places, resting in his jeans pocket, sometimes somewhere in his backpack between books and pencils and empty snack wrapper. He had planned on giving it to Derek soon. Maybe at the end of the week. Maybe later.
Abruptly, they jolted to a stop, pulling Stiles out of his thoughts.
When he looked up, he noticed the light brown building with the brown double doors. Unmistakably the place he’d rather not be. Stiles blinked at it once, then at Eugene, who pushed his goggles up, messy grey hair sticking to his forehead, a croaked smile on his face showing an interrupted line of white teeth.
This was as strange as it would get.
“Are you going to wait here and bring me back?” he inquired, because otherwise that meant he would have to walk halfway through town and he sure wasn’t up for that. Nearly 90° in the shadow and all that. Meaning hot.
There was a mischievous grin on the old man’s face, when Stiles got out of the side car. The teenager squinted at him, but before he could voice further complaints Eugene Hale started the engine, and was gone.
Stiles rolled his eyes, then turned towards the library.
Who was he kidding.
He would have probably avoided this until his hard drive crashed, all his research gone and the list miraculously vanished or was destroyed in an unlucky laundry incident.
With a heavy sigh he pushed the doors to the library open and declared, to no one in particular but obviously to Derek: “Your whole family consists of complete wackos!” as he marched up to the counter, rummaging through his bag for the thing that was going to sound the bell to the end of this crush.
“What?” Derek asked, startled.
“Lovely wackos, but still,” Stiles sort of elaborated. “I really don’t know if they hate you or if they are trying to help.” The teenager hummed in success when he finally found the note with names and telephone numbers. The one with his name at the top. Last name shortened to first letter like he had done with every other name. In case Derek decided to look at it immediately and Stiles really didn’t want to see his first reaction in person.
“What,” Derek repeated.
Stiles pushed the paper in front of the dark-haired man. He was going to play this cool. “First your mother judges me for my choice in possible college major. She could have only told me I was ruining my life in clearer words if she had used these exact words. And while I try to defend my honor, your father keeps up all this bonding stuff with my dad—which I would have been able to deal with, if I could have stopped thinking about threesome for just one fucking minute.”
“And then Peter tells me how you broke up with Paige with Abhay being all creepy about it. Emilia kicked me on the shin and told me if I screw this up she’s going to screw me up. Cora keeps growling at me for no apparent reason all day long. And now your grandfather kidnapped and abandoned me in front of the library. Without my car. Dude, it’s like a 100° out there and that’s about fifteen miles by foot.”
“What?” Derek repeated for a third time, completely ignoring the note. Stiles nudged it further in his direction. “Yeah, like, totally crazy. It’s like they couldn’t wait or anything, really. But here you are. Names and all. I would have collected more but then your family interrupted me, so, yeah, it’s only five. I deem deserving. Of you. Not you of them. Though, yeah, probably that too. Because they are all great people. Four of them at least. And they are waiting for your call. So call them.”
Derek watched him for a moment.
“Took me two weeks but they seemed like good people and just so you know, I’m a brilliant judge in character most of the time. I still used my dad’s work password to check for any offences, and Lydia vetted them too. Danny did some thorough internet stalking to check out their credit cards and—you know what, you don’t wanna know. It was probably illegal. Anyway, nothing worrying on their part. They shouldn’t try to, you know, burn someone's house down. I hope.”
And shit, he wasn’t supposed to know that, was he?
But then, small town, gossip, grape wine, do the math.
Derek looked at the piece of paper like it was poison. Stiles was suddenly nervous. No, he was suddenly aware of his nervousness. And Derek still wasn’t saying anything.
“So, uh, those five?” he started to diffuse the situation. “Most of them are really nice and cute and, yeah, you’re going to find out. When you date. One of them. Not all of them together. That could get messy. Unless they approve. I mean, oh God, I’ll just go for today. Just… you know. Try. You promised? Right? Okay then, bye.” He had taken a step back with every word and was glad when he had reached the door at the bye and only needed to jump out.
Outside he leaned against the building, sliding down along the wall to his ass, taking deliberate steadying breaths.
Biggest mistake of his life.
Stiles was randomly staring into space when a knock at his door pulled him out of his… well, staring. There weren’t even thoughts running through his head. No, his brain was completely empty.
Which was kind of a first.
“Stiles,” his dad called. The boy swirled around on his chair, expectantly watching his dad, who was pointedly staring at Stiles’ desktop. The teenager didn’t dare turn around to see what his browser was showing right now. He couldn’t even remember the last thing he’d looked at before his mind started to drift into vast nothingness.
“Yes?” he supplied cheerfully.
His dad coughed, tearing his eyes away. “I just got a strange call from Derek Hale.”
Stiles hoped his face muscles were frozen into place because if his expression was giving away what his heart was doing he was so fucking screwed. He was well aware that his father suspected something was going on. He had not so surreptitiously hinted on a relationship to a Hale—not naming anyone specifically but probably because he didn’t want to think about his son with another, older man.
“Yes?” he forced out.
Stiles hadn’t even heard the phone ring. He had been anxious for all but three hours and then abandoned the land line, figuring that Derek wouldn’t call from his work space. And if Derek called that meant Stiles must have been lost for—his head snapped around to the digital clock on his laptop, noticing the lesbian porn on his dash and oh, that so wasn’t his fault! Bubbline was a top notch pairing, okay? He could live without seeing them naked but it was an aesthetically pleasing picture. Nothing explicit. His dad wasn’t allowed to judge anyway. He was involved in a bisexual threesome. And seriously, when would Stiles stop traumatizing himself with these kinds of thoughts?
Damn, wandering thoughts. “Derek Hale. Phone call. Yes?” Stiles summed the conversation up, head snapping back to his dad.
“He asked if you have a brother. He tried to pronounce your real name. Twice. Before he gave up.”
“Oh,” Stiles said.
“I told him you were an only child?” His father waited for a conformation. Stiles didn’t know what kind. Like, was he asking whether he should have rather lied to Derek and tell him Stiles had some kind of long lost sibling?
His dad deserved a hug for that.
“And then?” he probed.
“He muttered something I couldn’t catch and hang up.”
“That’s… not nice?”
“Stiles,” his father sighed, rubbing his temple. “How did you manage to end up in a love triangle with the Hale siblings? And please don’t tell me you told them you had a twin brother so you could date both at the same time.”
It was nine PM. Stiles still had to do some research for history and The Great Gatsby wasn’t going to read itself. And his dad just accused him of leading the Hale siblings on. Sounded like his usual Thursday.
“I don’t even know how to reply to that,” Stiles finally supplied, blinking at his dad.
“I know being a teenager—”
“Oh God, dad! I’m not involved in a love triangle. Jesus, Cora has a girlfriend, alright? And Derek is just—” ‘a friend’ was wrong, ‘a crush’ wouldn’t do his feelings justice, “Derek,” he finished lamely. “No love on their side, really.”
“And on your side?"
“My side is well aware that it doesn’t want both,” Stiles muttered.
His dad opened his mouth, but whatever he was about to say, died on his lips. Instead the elder Stilinski just huffed, shook his head and then started anew. “I like the Hales.” Yeah, no shit. “Don’t antagonize them.”
“I’m not,” Stiles declared, insulted. Well, at least he thought he wasn’t. He couldn’t be sure with all these creepy run-ins he suspected weren’t as casual and incidental as the werewolves tried to make them out to be. Besides Eugene. That old man had made it pretty clear that he had been out to get Stiles.
“Okay,” his dad said.
“Okay,” Stiles second, nodding agreeably. “Everything’s fine.”
Not, he let himself think as soon as his dad left the room. Because Derek Hale hung up. The second he knew it was Stiles. It really didn’t mean anything. Derek could have been surprised. Yeah, Stiles didn’t know for sure what it meant, but he sure as hell was going to find out.
Sooner or later.
Turned out it was sooner.
“Stilinski!” Cora roared through the hallway. Students parted in the middle like the fucking Red Sea for Moses to let her storm through. For the first time in his life, Stiles flee instinct kicked in. He would marvel at that turn of event the second a predator wasn’t out to get him. Slamming his locker door shut, he attempted to flee. Before he could even get to the boy’s restroom—not that that would have saved him as experience had shown—he was hauled back by his collar, fabric tearing as he was dragged into the opposite direction.
He couldn’t see the girl’s face but the students they passed gave him sympathetic looks.
Stiles Stilinski did not receive stares like that.
He just knew he was screwed. He hoped she would let him make a will, let him text Scott that he should delete his browser history. No, not Scott. Danny. Danny would be thorough, would know what to do and hide every trace of whatever freaky porn Stiles had stumbled upon and watched with apt fascination and not even an ounce of arousal.
Cora dragged him to the library behind a shelf, before pushing him against a wall. Hard.
“Ow! Ouch, Cora, I told you—”
“I could rip your fucking throat out right now so you better be grateful I let you off with only that!” she hissed, leaning closely in. “It’s like you put Derek on a fucking emotional roller coaster ride. What the hell is wrong with you?”
“What are you even talking about?” Stiles asked in confusion.
“First he is all grumpy, then he comes home brimming with happiness, then he goes back to being grumpy. And yesterday he was so furious when he got home, he actually yelled at all of us. I don’t even know if Derek has ever yelled before. And when we were convinced he had finally cooled down and wanted to ask what happened, we couldn’t even get one coherent sentence out of him, because he kept spacing off. Now tell me. What. Did you. Do?”
Stiles mouth was open as he stared at her. “Yesterday?”
“I only gave him the list, honestly.”
“The one you asked me for? Soul mate list?”
She took a breath, opened her mouth to say something before she let it snap shut again. “That explains the phone calls.”
She eyed him strangely. “He asked some people to meet him. I didn’t know who they were.”
And there was Stiles’ answer.
Because Derek hung up on him, but arranged dates with the strangers. What a surprise. The punch to the gut didn’t even register as a three on the scale of one to ten. By now, he was so used to rejection his picture was probably right next to the fucking explanation in a dictionary.
Really. What had he been expecting?
“Stiles?” Cora asked, voice suddenly uncharacteristically soft.
“Huh? Oh, yeah, that’s great right?” He mumbled. “I mean, I tried really hard, you know? They’ll be perfect. You’ll love them. All in their early twenties, because I still don’t know how old Derek is, but I thought that’s about right. Gorgeous. Like raw beauty gorgeous. All au natural,” he continued to explain, because something in Cora’s dark brown eyes worried him. “They are smart, just like his exes, because, let’s face it, that’s the only similarity I could spot there. They are kind, committed, monogamous and wanted a long-term relationship. They like pets and aren’t allergic to animal hair, and I thought that that was probably a teeny bit important. I mean there’s nothing I can do about that little secret reveal because you never know how people react, but two of the woman have the hots for wolverine, so hey, that might help? And they value family! They want to have kids—and you can’t tell me Derek doesn’t want kids, because I’ve seen him with Emilia—”
“Stiles, stop it.”
“Who did you put on the list?”
“Why do you want to know?”
“Just tell me.”
Stiles leaned the back of his head against the wall. “Jennie Rowe, Margie Stephens, Rebecca Horton and Lewis Simmons.” It didn’t matter that he left his own name out. Cora didn’t need to know. The girl waited another beat before she finally let him go, and the hand suddenly taking his own was surprisingly warm. He flinched at the simple touch. “What?”
“From all the people you know, are those all you wanted to add?”
“There really is no one else?” Cora continued to question. Stiles was about to snap at her because he knew where she was trying to take this. Because of course she had noticed his feelings.
“Someone with parents in law enforcement?”
“You wanted me to add Scott?” Stiles deflected.
Cora’s eyes widened. “You're shitting me.”
“Yeah, I am,” Stiles said, averting his eyes. “And it was on there. My name that is,” he finally admitted. “His answer basically was a ‘thank you, but no thank you’.”
Cora froze, confusion and surprise written all over her face as she stared at him with wide eyes and slightly open mouth. “He said no?”
“Not in so many words, because we all know, Derek, words, emotions? Bad combination. But yes, he hung up on me and ignored it, which is fundamentally my modus operandi for everything I can’t deal with. Waiting for problems to solve themselves. But no worries, I know he likes me. Like a brother probably. So I’m going to try and make us work, okay? No awkwardness or whatever. I’ll just punch down whatever feelings threaten to spill over and we can go back to whatever the fuck this was before I fucked it up by practically announcing that I want to commit myself to his wolfiness.”
Cora didn’t answer. Instead she pulled her phone out of her jacket, dialed a number and left him alone in the library.
Stiles blinked after her.
Stiles was adamant to make this work.
It was Derek who wasn’t.
When Stiles entered the library after school, Derek didn’t even look at him. When Stiles waved in his line of vision to get his attention, Derek turned around and busied himself with the coffee machine.
Stiles let his hand drop, slunked over to his table and dropped down. He had neglected a whole bunch of homework and had hardly gotten any sleep the past weeks and he really needed to get some work done. Maybe it wasn’t really the greatest idea to do that where he could see Derek and trip over his own feelings, but watching Derek calmed him down. At least more than it stirred him up at the moment. Right now Derek was still scowling at everyone. It was probably just a matter of time, when one of his hand picked pile would show up. Maybe regularly. If that started to happen, well he would just go back doing his stupid homework where it should officially be done.
An hour later he gave up on lying to himself and headed home.
When he pulled into the drive way, Cora was sitting on his front porch, a white plastic bag between her legs, playing with her phone until Stiles slammed his door shut.
“What’s up?” he asked, as he took the stairs and unlocked the front door.
The girl lifted the plastic back, dangling it in front of him. “Cappuccino Truffle Ice Cream from Häagen-Dazs and Pixar’s finest. Toy Story 1-3, WALL-E and Up!. And because I couldn’t resist, How To Train Your Dragon.”
“My consolation?” he asked weakly, walking into the house. Cora followed him on his heel.
“Told you he’s a dick,” she said, toeing her shoes off.
“No, he’s not,” Stiles defended Derek, then rolled his eyes at himself.
Cora flung down on the couch while Stiles got spoons and soda from the kitchen. Then he played the movie Up!. Because there was nothing like manfully holding tears back while watching the first ten minutes of that evil movie and munching on big spoons of ice cream, pretending he wasn’t sort of heartbroken over something not related to the animations.
Halfway through HTTYD, his dad returned from work. He assessed the teenagers on his couch for a few seconds, before he headed into kitchen and made spaghetti with meat ball sauce. For once, Stiles didn’t complain at the choice of dinner. They ate in front of the TV, Cora’s content moans with every bite she took almost drowning out the voices on screen.
His dad blushed furiously the first two or three times, but the Stilinski men got used to her vocal appreciation of the Sheriff’s culinary art after that. By the time Cora finished her spaghetti, licking the plate clean, Stiles had already transferred the leftover sauce into a Tupperware container for her to take home.
Ten minutes into WALL-E Cora suddenly tensed up. Stiles eyed her suspiciously for a moment but she just gave him a reassuring smile before relaxing back into the couch with a shrug. A few minutes, later a wicked smile played on her lips. Considering that the cutest robot on earth was currently falling in love with a probe Stiles thought that expression was a little uncalled for.
Another few minutes later the door bell rang.
Stiles’ head snapped up. While his dad stood up to open the door, he stared wide eyed at Cora who continued to studiously watch the movie.
“Stiles,” his dad said, coming back in, looking confused. “Derek on the door.”
“I’m not home.” The words were out of his mouth before he could even stop them. Cora glanced at him from the side but didn’t comment.
“Son,” his dad sighed, rubbing his temple. “He knows you're here. I told him.”
Stiles threw his head against the back of the couch.
“Come on, just get it other with,” Cora chipped in. “It’s like peeling off a band aid.”
“Easy for you to say,” he scowled, standing up while his hands nervously fiddled with his sleeve before he ran his fingers over his buzz-cut. “It’s not you who’s getting dumped.”
There was a strangled sound from his dad. Stiles looked up, then just patted his shoulder. “Don’t worry. He’s just here to let me know that we are never going to happen,” he assured his father, whose expression was torn between sympathy and relief. Well, at least one good thing coming out of that.
“I should go home,” Cora said, standing up. “He probably doesn’t want to talk with me around.”
“Take the blue container,” Stiles called back to her as he headed for the entrance hall. He stopped at the front door, before taking a deep breath in and opening it. Derek was waiting on the porch, arms crossed over the railing.
“Hey Derek,” Stiles greeted, glad his voice was sounding completely normal. Small mercies.
“Hey,” Derek greeted, stiffly.
“Thanks for dinner,” they heard Cora from the interior. Derek glared past him to his sister and Stiles turned to see her talking to his dad, hugging him once before she put on her shoes and joining them on the porch. “Lets finish the movies another time,” she said to Stiles, who nodded in reply. “See you at home, Derek,” she acknowledge her brother then.
Derek frowned. They waited until Cora was out of sight. Which didn’t mean out of earshot for werewolf hearing, but Stiles trusted Cora enough to leave him alone with his humiliation.
“I need to talk to you,” Derek started after a moment of awkward silence. Stiles made an elaborated gesture with his hand that hopefully conveyed that he was all there for Derek to talk to, but he just stared pointedly at the open door behind Stiles.
“Go away, dad,” Stiles called out, turned around and closed the door before he ushered Derek back to the Talon. “We can talk in your car.”
“We don’t need—”
“Let’s rephrase this: I want us to talk in your car.” Because he really didn’t need his nosy neighbors and parent seeing him getting dumped on his own front porch. Derek unlocked the car with his keyfob and Stiles opened the passengers’ door without hesitation.
“Alright big boy,” he mumbled as soon as he was sort of comfortably seated in the leather, hand on the handle for easy escape. “Let’s get this over with.”
Instead of launching into a tirade of why he would never date Stiles, Derek started to play with his keys. After another moment he caught them in a tight grip. “Why was your name on the list?”
From all the questions. “Do you really need me to say it?” Stiles asked, appalled, shook his head once. “Out loud? To your face? Dude, if you don’t want to date me, that’s fine, okay. But don’t make me confess before you reject me.”
“Oh come on, Derek, I know you called the other four, so let’s just get this over with. Please? And then we can both ignore I ever made a fool of myself and—”
“Stiles,” Derek interrupted him. “I met them today.”
“Yeah that’s great. I’m happy for you. Anyone to your liking?” Torture before dumping. Great strategy. Stiles could already feel himself getting pissed at the other man.
“I didn’t meet them for that,” Derek growled. “I told them I wasn’t interested.”
It took Stiles a second before the words soaked in. Belatedly, he narrowed his eyes. “Why not? They were perfect.”
“They were not,” Derek disagreed.
“But they were super attractive,” Stiles argued. Because what the hell was wrong with them? He felt irrational insulted that they weren’t to Derek’s standards, after all the work he had put into them. And Derek didn’t even try.
“Yes,” Derek admitted, rolling his eyes.
“And smart and funny.”
“They were nice. Modest. They had personality of the good kind!”
“Then what the fuck was wrong with them?”
“They weren’t you,” Derek finally spit out, frustration heavy in the air.
Stiles tensed at the harshness beneath the spoken words, before the meaning finally hit him. He usually wasn’t slow in catching up. But for whatever reason his thoughts were taking the slow train today.
“What?” he croaked.
Derek groaned, repeatedly hitting his head against the steering wheel. Stiles scrambled to bring his hand between Derek’s forehead and the wheel. There was no way in hell he would give Derek the excuse of temporary insanity caused by head trauma when he was getting second thoughts about this conversation.
“I don’t need to meet strangers,” Derek pressed out between gritted teeth, his forehead now resting against Stiles’ hand, nuzzling into once before he realized what he was doing and stopped, “that bore me to death after ten minutes. I don’t need to meet people who are ‘cute’ and ‘smart’. Because all I keep doing is comparing them to you in my head. And they don’t even measure up.”
Stiles flushed bright red.
Derek straightened his back again, turned to look at Stiles, eyes steady and Stiles was maybe starting to panic at the notion that Derek was not likely to appeal to head damage anytime soon.
“If you are serious—”
“You won’t believe how serious I am,” Stiles interrupted quickly, half sitting, half kneeing on the seat. “Because I am. Serious. You, me, totally in favor.”
Derek rolled his eyes, but there was a tug at his lips, before they turned down again. “Just. There’s something I need to tell you.”
“I don’t want a repeat—”
“You’re a werewolf,” he blurted out.
Derek froze. “What?”
“Your family, you, werewolves. I know.”
“That wasn’t—You know?”
“Yeah,” Stiles said, nodding vehemently. “For months.”
“Your family isn’t really subtle,” he admitted. “I asked Cora, she said yes. Well, no, I asked her and she showed me her fangs, but that’s as much an answer as I needed, so.”
Derek was silent for a moment, just watching his face before he turned away and stared ahead at the house. “And you don’t mind?” Derek couldn’t even look at him, shoulders tense, jaw clenched, eyes hard. It had been a long time since Stiles had seen him like that. He didn’t like it. He wanted the somewhat relaxed Derek Hale, the one that would snort at his stupid jokes, hiding a smile behind a snarl, who gave him once this super private, shy smile that Stiles will probably dream about for the rest of his fucking life because it had made his heart explode in billion little particles and he was still picking up left-over pieces.
“No,” he said as earnestly as he could. “I don’t.” Derek’s head turned slowly, his eyes assessing him. “I’ve told Cora before. If you were planning world domination, you probably would have done it already. And certainly not chosen Beacon Hills for operation base. Though I had my suspicions about the library for a while.”
“Maybe it’s a work-in-progress,” Derek replied, shoulders unwinding.
Stiles leaned forward. “Yeah? Gotta admit, though. Beacon Hills wouldn’t be my first choice.”
“It’s a test run,” Derek argued with a shrug.
Stiles had to bite his cheek for all the inappropriate and bad comebacks he had on his lips. “Guess it still needs some experimenting.”
Derek tilted his head. “Maybe.”
“So this, us, you... want that?” Stiles asked, getting them back on track, his heart hammering in his chest. Even though he didn’t mind bantering with Derek he really needed to get this off the table first.
Derek just nodded in reply. A stupid grin spread over Stiles’ lips, but he couldn’t stop it. Didn’t want to stop it. “I guess Cora was wrong then. I do match with someone.”
The man blinked at that.
“Because smell?” Stiles elaborated.
Derek arched an eyebrow in questions, but then his eyes suddenly widened. He pulled Stiles in by the collar and leaned forward as he—huh. What?
“Hold still,” Derek told him and oh, okay, Derek’s face was really close. Like maybe a little too close. Stiles could feel his stubble. On his cheek. And his breath ghosted over his neck, tickling him.
Stiles was short from hyperventilating.
“Uh… what… uh are you doing?”
Derek leaned back and suddenly his eyes flashed bright blue.
“Is that a good flash or a bad flash?” Stiles semi-squeaked, because according to Cora that eye-flashing thing could be triggered by several factors, ranging from uncontrollable anger to uncontrollable euphoria and Stiles really didn’t want to get maimed now that they were both sorta on the same page here.
“Good,” Derek growled. “Just give me a sec. It’s been a while.”
“Sure,” Stiles said, fondling with the hem of his shirt, glancing up at Derek who had his head in his hands, taking a few deep breaths. Maybe he should call Cora. Ask her to come back. Because apparently Derek was in the middle of reintroducing himself to his wolf part.
“Cora’s lying,” Derek opened as if his words explained everything.
And after a few comprehending seconds it did.
“Fucker!” Stiles growled. “She knew from the beginning, didn’t she?”
“Everyone did,” Derek confirmed, face looking grim. "Explains Emilia.”
“She thought you belonged to me.”
Stiles halted, mouth open in mid-word, when he snapped it shut. “Oh fuck, it does. Oh God. Cora set me up! Set us up! Wait. Does that mean I’m all delicious smelling to you?”
Derek winced, probably at his choice of words, but nodded nonetheless, eyes averted.
Alright, so maybe that was one seriously fucked up conversation and being told that he smelled good probably shouldn’t be a turn on, but it still made his heart flutter a little and that was probably the part where he asked Derek to marry him—wait, no, kiss him, then dating, then marriage and little werewolf babies—whatever, just to do something.
Derek watched him and Stiles’ face must have the stupidest expression with his open mouth and wide eyes and disbelief written all over it, but Derek just raised his eyebrows in amusement and Stiles didn’t care about the fucking neighbors or his father who was probably watching from one of the windows when he threw himself at Derek, drivers stick pressing uncomfortably against his thigh as he smashed their lips fiercely together.
It was clumsy, it was awkward and everything but sexy and his lips trembled under the slight pressure and he thought he was about to throw up or faint, but then Derek placed one hand into his nape, pulled a little back to change the angle and ohhh, much better!
“You’re an asshole,” Stiles breathed against Derek’s lips, then looked into these stupid wide eyes and he could feel Derek’s lips twitching and fuck, he was so fucking easy it wasn’t even funny. “For ignoring me today. For just hanging up. For—”
“Thought you were just joking,” Derek interrupted him. Stiles wanted to pull back at those words, but Derek wouldn’t let him, reeled him back in immediately. “Knew you wouldn’t do that. Had to think about it though,” Derek continued, his hands framing Stiles’ face as he pressed another short kiss to his lips. “Wouldn’t have made a clear decision with you right there.” A peck to the corner of his mouth. “I’m sorry. Go out with me?”
Stiles thought about letting him stew, acting like he seriously needed to contemplate that answer but Derek was looking at him like he was the best thing that ever happened to him, eyes searching his own for answers to the freaking universe and breathtakingly earnest and hopeful.
“Yeah,” he replied but the trembling in his voice belied his fake courage. Still, just because he was easy, didn’t mean he would have to let it on. Not that Derek couldn’t tell. He probably could. “I mean, I’m totally a dog person anyway. And not allergic to animal hair,” Stiles offered offhandedly.
Derek snorted, but slowly the edge of his lips tilted upwards and Stiles breath hitched in his throat.
“Gonna make you smile more often,” he promised, pressing another chaste kiss to Derek’s mouth. Derek just huffed out a laugh. Stiles was magnetized. “Gonna make you laugh. Gonna make you happy.” Derek shook his head in amusement, his fingertips working circles into Stiles’ nape. The position was uncomfortable, but Stiles was allowed to touch and Derek touched him back and there were shivers running down his spine. Good shivers. “I think you really need to tell me everything about bonding. Soon-ish.”
Derek rolled his head back and groaned. “What has Cora told you?”
“Not enough,” Stiles breathed, “but you’re going to tell me everything.”
Derek was silent for a moment, before he nodded. “Okay.”
“And you are going to show me everything. Want to see you as a wolf, too. Could use you as a foot warmer in winter.”
“Okay,” Derek agreed, chuckling.
Well, who would have thought. Making Derek Hale laugh was actually easy.
It was a surprise to absolutely no one when Stiles, still high on serotonin, proudly and formally introduced Derek as his boyfriend to his dumbfounded father just an hour later. And when Derek sheepishly introduced Stiles to his whole family a week later.
Cora just snorted in disdain and left the room, but Stiles caught her smile as she passed him on her way out.
Emilia nodded in approval, arms crossed in-front of her chest. Stiles was going to shower her in ice-cream. In fact, he did so much that Laura felt the need to intervene and forbid him to ever buy her ice-cream again as it had resulted in a nasty stomach ache. The Hale family didn't even know that was possible.
Talia Hale still eyed him with suspicion. Peter kept making jokes about Stiles’ throwing technique while Frederick was already planning outings with Stiles’ dad over the phone. Apparently, as far as those two men were concerned, everything was fine with the world as long as they could fly-fish together.
Abhay was still scary as shit, but Stiles learned soon that he could coax her to leave him alone with some well placed treats.
Laura apparently couldn’t care less. She was just glad the whole teenage drama was over and everyone would hopefully go back to acting like normal functioning members of society. Without threats. Or kidnapping. At that, she glared at her grandfather who just proudly lifted a glass of whiskey and downed it in one go, a smug air around him like he had been responsible in making this all happen.
The first time Stiles kissed Derek in public—well, in the library—a surreptitious amount of money traded hands between Bobby and Benny and Stiles stared at them incredulously. They didn’t even look ashamed. Beatrice continued to crochet another sweater, blissfully ignorant of everything going on around her.
It took Derek three months to get used to his werewolf instincts again. Another two months later he showed Stiles his complete wolf form. Stiles squealed, hugged the huge dark wolf to his chest, played with his ears and paws and was generally misusing him as a stuffed animal. The day after Talia finally stopped treating Stiles like an intruder—which previously had led to some tension between Derek and his mother—and completely embraced him as part of the family.
Stiles hesitated before telling his friends. He wasn’t even sure why. They knew something was different. In the end Cora let it slip and everyone stared open-mouthed at Stiles who just spread his hands, mumbling “Surprise!”
After the official outing, he was in even higher demand as a magical matchmaker. But Stiles stopped taking requests.
He thought it was fitting to end his career with his biggest coup.
A year later he finally found out what bonding was all about.
It was awesome.
And totally worth the wait.