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Derek can't believe he's actually doing this: taking a selfie snap of the guy he’s been crushing on for weeks to prove to Danny that one, yes, he really does exist, and two, he really is that hot and thus he is totally justified in being too scared to make a move.

Or you know, even talk to the guy outside of the class they share.

In his defense, this isn’t just any guy. This is THE guy. Hot Nerd. The utterly adorable but still somehow insanely sexy freshman in his twentieth century American Lit class who he’s been lusting over since the first day of the semester. If there were ever a time for him to be that person who tries to be subtle while taking snaps of other people, this is it.

He usually only sees Hot Nerd on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, from the precious, magical hours of nine am to eleven am. He’s totally unprepared to see him on a Tuesday, in the afternoon, standing a few feet behind him at his favorite coffee shop, the one just a couple of blocks from his house where he likes to study. They’re both both waiting for their coffee, pretending not to recognize each other, as if the versions of themselves that debate literature with lightning-speed and incisive wit cease to exist outside the parallel universe of the classroom.

Derek feels like a complete idiot, because really, what he’s doing is so painfully obvious he should be slinking away in shame, but he’s had nearly seven weeks of this and he might be starting to crack a little. He’s holding his phone up, pointing it at the bulletin board littered with flyers on the wall, pretending to take a picture of some flyer for a local band, not flipping the snapchat camera around until the last second. His embarrassment almost disappears completely when he sees just how perfect the photo is though – the angle is just right, catching just the top of his head and one wide eye, brow up as if to say see, asshole, catching nearly all of Hot Nerd, rumpled and nerdy and sweet, glasses slightly askew as he eats a scone, cutely and nerdily, of course.

(And yeah, he knows his name is Stiles, which is weird and adorable, just like him, but having named him Hot Nerd in his head pretty much the first moment he saw him, Derek’s kinda attached to it. He’s pretty sure he hasn’t even told Danny or Erica his actual name.)

Danny, his best friend and roommate since freshman year, has been urging him to put himself out there more, be more forward when he meets a guy he likes. Trouble is, Derek’s just not a put-himself-out-there type of person, the fear of heartache and rejection far outweighing any attraction he’s felt for anyone in a long time.

Until Hot Nerd, that is, who he’s barely had a real conversation with. They talk all the time in class, though. Or, rather, they argue heatedly about IMPORTANT LITERARY THINGS, both of them stubborn as hell and unwilling to back down; sometimes Derek finds himself pushing points he would have abandoned if he were debating anyone else, or continuing to argue for an interpretation even when Stiles’ argument has him convinced otherwise, just to keep it going, just to have a reason to be staring at him, taking every excuse he can get.

It’s not just his crippling fear of rejection that’s stopped him from trying to actually getting to know Stiles. There’s also Stiles’ boyfriend. Of course there’s no way a guy as smart and interesting and charismatic and lively and pretty as Stiles can be single, but it still stings, makes Derek's gut twist with jealousy when he sees the stupidly cute, shaggy-haired guy waiting for Stiles after class every once in awhile. Once, the guy brought Stiles coffee, which led to Stiles loudly and enthusiastically declaring his undying love for the crooked-jaw asshole, right as Derek was walking by, having lingered in the hallway to fill up his water bottle at the fountain, totally not waiting for Stiles to come out of the classroom after talking to Dr. Morrell about his final paper.

And, yeah, that day Derek bailed on his afternoon class so he could go to Erica’s to eat a pint of cookie dough ice cream and cuddle up on her couch to watch Bull Durham, but that was mostly just about not feeling like going to Anthro and missing Erica’s crazy good snuggles.

There’s no point in pining over Stiles, because even if he were single, there’s no way he’d be interested in Derek. Cora calls it resting murder face and his mom always says his serious expression just make his rare smiles all the more special, but no matter how you say it he knows that he doesn’t have the most welcoming visage. Add to that his high profile on campus as the starting pitcher for their very successful baseball team and, well, he knows he’s not the type of guy intellectuals like Stiles are interested in, to put it mildly.

On the first day of class, Stiles had rolled his eyes so hard when they both raised their hands to answer a question about postmodernism; when Dr. Morrell called on Derek, Stiles’ expression went from smug to open-mouthed shock when Derek answered it by referencing Frederic Jameson and Linda Hutcheon, Dr. Morrell complimenting him by name, thank you very much, you cute little arrogant nerd shit.

Derek gets it, is accustomed to it. He’s been an athlete all his life, baseball being his first love even before literature. For a lot of people, that’s all they need to know about him before they think they know who is, what kind of person he is. His ex Jackson had always said that his GQ motherfucker face and muscled, hulking menace of a body didn’t really help matters. Add to that his penchant for not shaving for weeks at a time and pretty much only ever wearing basketball shorts and sleeveless workout shirts to class, he’s fully aware of how most people see him, especially people like Hot Nerd.

After that first day of class, Derek had overheard Stiles talking to the other freshman in the class, Lydia, as they walked out of the classroom, seemingly unaware that Derek was behind him not intently studying his bedraggled hair or the thin little strip of pale skin on the back of his neck, right there between his hairline and the haphazardly-folded collar of his shirt poking out from under a tattered black and gray argyle sweater. "Huh," he had said to her, surprisingly husky voice not the least bit unbearably sexy. "Unexpected thing about college: the dudes who woulda beat the shit out of me in high school might actually have brains AND stupidly big muscles. I’m stunned. And I don’t really believe it."

So, yeah. Derek had tried to shake the feeling that he had been punched in the gut at the derision he heard in his voice, something he’s still working on, seven weeks into the semester. He loathes that his comment hurt him so much, but he can’t help it because…well, Stiles is kinda perfect. He’s just as well-read and passionate about literature as Derek is, seems to actually enjoy arguing against him, challenges him, pushes him to support his arguments better, articulate his ideas more clearly, fucking looks at him like he’s staring into the sun but is like, really annoyed about it.

That’s the thing that makes Stiles so hard to shake, so utterly impossible to get out of his head. He’s brilliant and gorgeous and witty and sarcastic in a way that a lot of people seem to find irritating but that Derek absolutely loves because often Stiles is just saying what he’s thinking but is too nervous to say himself. But as enchanting as all that is, those aren’t the only reasons Derek’s spent nearly every waking moment since that first day of class thinking about Hot Nerd. Stiles has gotten so thoroughly under his skin because he seems to have made it his personal nerd mission to do so, to attack Derek with the full force of his sparkling intellect and refusing to let up or back down. Even though Derek’s sure it’s just because he’s waiting for the moment he fails to rise to his challenge, thus proving him to be the dumb jock he really is, he can’t help but hold on to the small hope that maybe it’s something else.

~*~

Because of mandatory morning team workouts, he's always almost late to class, barely has time to shower and get his right arm and shoulder stacked with ice bags, wrapped up tightly with plastic wrap because Boyd, the team trainer, insists he needs almost daily icing now, his fourth year of pitching college ball. He has to hustle across campus to get to class by nine, usually getting to there just seconds before it begins, rushed and awkward with his bulkily wrapped shoulder. It means that he never gets to sit close to Hot Nerd, who always sits front and center, of course, and Derek is usually relegated to the left-handed desk in the corner. But at least it gives him a nice view of Hot Nerd's sculpted profile, and it means Stiles has to sit sideways in his desk to face him when they get into one of their debates, often slouching back a little, khaki-clad legs stretched and wide, practically begging Derek to stare at his crotch.

So maybe he got a little desperate, after yet again catching Hot Nerd staring at him when Dr. Morrell was lecturing, his face confused and suspicious, gold-brown eyes darting back up to the front of room when Derek caught his gaze. He just needs to talk to him outside of their notorious in-class debates, needs to do…something.

Yesterday, he arranged to get to class early by slightly exaggerating the severity of a minor knee sprain, pretending to reluctantly leave workout early after Boyd insisted that he not risk injuring himself further. They’re still weeks away from preseason play, so he knew he wasn’t risking getting put on the DL or anything (but he still would have done it anyways. Maybe. Probably.)

He had even considered bringing real clothes to change into after showering, nothing fancy, just jeans and a Henley, pretty much the only other items of clothing he owns other than his uniforms. But then he decided that would be too obvious, would most certainly look like he was trying too hard, and god, he can’t stand the idea of Stiles actually knowing about his crush until he was totally, completely, utterly, unequivocally sure that he felt the same way. The thought of Hot Nerd knowing just how head over heels Derek is for him and not feeling the same way? Well that just makes Derek kinda want to die.

But as much as he wanted it, as much he had hoped that showing up early would maybe give him an opportunity to talk to Stiles, he didn’t really believe it would actually work. But he was only in the classroom for a minute, sitting in the front row, just left of center, when Stiles arrived, clutching a paper coffee cup and yawning prettily as he pushed open the door. He startled a bit when he saw Derek there, but recovered quickly, nodding and maybe even smiling, then came to sit right next to him, even though Derek was literally the only person in the room, and there were at least twenty other desks to choose from. So what if Hot Nerd has sat in that same seat every day. Still.

Derek was thrilled and completely unprepared. To make it at all even worse (better), Hot Nerd wasn’t wearing one of his usual sweater-and-collared shirt combos that did something to Derek for some reason, even though he never had a nerd kink until Stiles.

No, this day, of all the days, Stiles was wearing those dark gray slacks that are cut just a bit slimmer than his others, hugging his sweet little ass beautifully, coupled with a plain black oxford shirt, sleeves rolled up to reveal surprisingly toned forearms dusted with dark hair, and oh god, delicious looking moles, matching the mesmerizing scatter across his cheek.

It was all just too much. He was so nervous, so wildly turned on, he could barely muster the composure to grunt a surly hello, glaring hard at the soft line Stiles’ mouth like it was attacking him, because it kinda was, okay? With adorableness.

Stiles replied with an eager hello but his smile faltered quickly, his brows coming together in a look Derek took for annoyance, which didn’t really do much to calm his blazing attraction to the guy. He didn’t know what in the hell to do so he chickened out and stared down at his phone on the desk, tapping hurried, manic texts to Danny, adding Erica and Cora to the convo too, because there was still fifteen minutes until class started and he needed all the help he could get.

OH FUCK HOT NERD SAT NEXT TO ME WE’RE ALONE I’M PARALYZED WHAT DO I DO

WHO GAVE HIM PERMISSION TO BE THAT HOT WHAT THE FUCK

Danny

TALK TO HIM. Ask him about his weekend. Or the reading. LITERALLY ANYTHING.

Danny

ASK HIM THAT!!!

Danny

Your face and body does almost all of the work for you.

Erica

Oh fuck I bet I know what face you’re making right now. Relax, try to smile. Don’t scare the lil’ guy.

Danny

JUST SAY WORDS

Cora

what the fuck assholes shut up some of us are hungover

Cora

go get the d, D.

That actually made him laugh a little, and when he risked a glance over at Stiles he was watching him, eyes still narrow, like Derek was a particularly frustrating puzzle he was trying to figure out. Heart pounding, he just raised an eyebrow in question, knowing damn well that he’d take it as a challenge. He leaned back in his desk too, trying to look relaxed and casual, sipping from his own to-go cup of coffee.

Stiles cleared his throat, ran his fingers through his messy hair. “So uh, the shoulder and the knee today,” he said, chin pointing vaguely in the direction of Derek’s leg, where his “injured” knee was wrapped in an ice bag just like his shoulder. “Should I be worried about our chances to go to the college world series this year, or are you guys training to play in the Arctic?”

Derek smiled; he liked the reaction he saw on Stiles’ face in response. Those eyes behind his sexy nerd glasses went wide and round, that mouth falling open just a bit before snapping shut. The problem though, is that it was so damn cute it just flustered Derek all the more, his mind going wild imagining what it would feel like to kiss the surprise off those lips. So he just continued to stare dumbly at Stiles, not having said anything since his tortured hello, and shit, just how long has he been staring at him like this?

Stiles’ expressive face changed again, going from beatific awe to disgruntled defensiveness in an instant when it became painfully clear that all Derek could do was stare at him in a way that surely looked more like a glare. “Jesus, dude. Just trying to make conversation.” Stiles huffed it under his breath, turning away from him and looking down at his phone.

“Just a sprain.” Fuck everything, fuck his whole stupid life and his stupid body and stupid mind that are powerless against this beautiful boy.

“What,” Stiles snapped, eyes darting over to Derek for a second before returning to his phone, thumbs texting rapidly.

“My knee. Just a mild sprain. I’ll be fine for the season.” His brain had started to go back online a bit, better late than never. It didn’t provide all that much in terms of salvaging the conversation, but he was at least able to appreciate the fact that Stiles not only knew who Derek was, but actually seemed to care about the baseball team. Or at least maybe knew enough about it to pretend to care, which, hell, he’d take what he can get.

“Good for you,” Stiles said, tone just as sharp, maybe even sharper than before, sending them into a pained, awkward silence until the rest of the class started showing up.

Fuck.

~*~

Of course, because the universe hates him and loves to see him suffer (gotta pay for those good looks somehow, big bro, Cora likes to say), that day in class was the day Lydia Martin decided to show herself for the she-devil Derek had always kinda secretly suspected she really was. There was really no other reason for what she did.

Derek, determined not to let his total and complete failure ruin the only way he is actually able to talk to Stiles, threw himself into their inevitable argument with even more enthusiasm and passion in their class discussion about Lolita, both of them getting even more heated than usual because they were sitting right next to each other, close enough to touch, if they wanted.

Derek wanted.

They must have been putting on quite a show for the class, but he was really only aware of Hot Nerd and that mouth and those hands and those eyes, and his single-minded focus to make this argument last as long as he possibly could. Derek had made an incredibly well-articulated point about Nabokov’s manipulation of form and style in a blatant, satirical attempt to elicit sympathy for a morally repugnant protagonist; Stiles responded with what Derek thought was supposed to be a dismissive groan but instead kinda sounded like he was about to come in his perfectly-fitted slacks.  

Lydia, who was sitting behind them, sighed not-so-quietly under her breath. “Do you two need to be alone?”

The room had erupted in awkward laughter, and they had both gone silent and turned red, pointedly not looking at each other for the rest of class, which Derek spent mentally cursing Lydia while fighting off the urge to hug her.

Because for a second, for just the tiniest of moments, he thought Stiles had smiled, maybe even nodded a bit before the embarrassment took over.

He told himself it was wishful thinking.

~*~

So now here he is, still mildly horrified by yesterday’s clusterfuck but, hey, maybe that’s what gives him the courage – or, more accurately, what finally takes away some of his fucks to give – to take his dumb sneaky selfie with Hot Nerd.

And so what if he screenshots it before he captions it, so he can save it…to just, you know, have. He captions the pic HOT NERD ALERT and adds a blushing emoji just because he knows Danny hates them. He risks a glance back at Stiles while he waits, takes advantage of the fact that’s he’s now staring at his phone to look him up and down. He’s back to the loose-fitting khakis and sweater-shirt combo, but this time still with rolled up sleeves.

Derek wants.

His americano is ready, so he quickly grabs the mug and walks to the cream and sugar station, his back to Stiles. He likes his coffee black, but he adds a packet of raw sugar and some soy milk anyways, just to stand there in Stiles’ line of sight for a bit longer. For once, he’s wearing real clothes, jeans and a nice, expensive blue v-neck he borrowed from Danny because he hasn’t done laundry in over two weeks, and he’s not wrapped in plastic and ice. He still hasn’t shaved in a month, but hey, beards are in (Erica says so). He stands there stirring his coffee for as long as he can without looking like a total ass, hoping that maybe he can make Stiles come over to him by sheer force of will.

When that flawless plan fails, he slinks over to his favorite table by the window, pulling his beat-up, used copy of Lolita from his backpack, pretending to read while keeping a close eye on Stiles, who’s just now grabbing his coffee and walking over to sit a few tables away from Derek, not directly facing him, but so that they’re both in each other’s line of sight.

Oh come on.

Elbow resting on the table, chin in hand, Derek keeps his head down, not even attempting to read the words on the page, just trying to use his standard reading pose as cover for surreptitiously watching him.

Stiles pulls out his own dog-eared copy of Lolita from his messenger bag, adopts a strikingly similar reading pose.

They’re just two guys who have been debating literature so passionately over the past two months that they were just accused of engaging in foreplay in class, reading the same book, in the same coffee shop, just a few feet from each other, each pretending that the other doesn’t exist.

Even Derek knows that this is just ridiculous, downright silly, really. But he still can’t bring himself to actually do anything about it, the memory of Stiles' hurt expression from the day before still too raw.

He’s pretty much given up, is starting to actually to focus on reading when his phone dings loudly with a text alert. It’s immediately echoed by a nearly identical sound from across the small café, from Stiles' phone. Derek can’t help but glance up at him, their eyes meeting briefly, expressions neutral, before they both look back down to check their messages.

It’s a picture, from Danny. At first, Derek isn’t sure what he’s looking at, because he sees the dark caption bar and text of snap, a screenshot of a snap, he realizes, spotting the little square in the corner, the number 3 inside.

But the picture. The picture is of Stiles, of his sexy nerd face slightly blushed, glasses pushed high on his precious nose. He’s making this face, biting his lip like he’s turned on, but dazed.

And the caption.

Dat ass is in my class. (God bless College). And a little stoned-looking emoji.

The ass in question, clearly a man’s, has bright orange lines drawn around it, like it’s glowing or something. And, yeah, well, it is a pretty nice ass, muscular and shapely, a little too bubbly for Derek’s personal tastes, preferring his men more Stiles-shaped.

Why the fuck is Danny sending him a snap of Stiles?

Wait.

What.

Stiles snapped this to Danny. Danny knows Stiles. Apparently well enough that they snapchat pics of dudes' asses to each other.

Stiles uses phrases like dat ass.

Stiles rhymes.

Derek feels his eyes go wide as he stares harder at the snap and all of the pieces start fall into place.

The Stiles in the snap is most definitely wearing the same light blue sweater the Stiles in the coffee shop - Hot Nerd - is wearing right now.

Dat ass is wearing dark, snug jeans and a blue shirt.

Danny’s blue shirt.

Dat ass is definitely Derek's.

No. Fucking. Way.

If Danny took a screenshot of Stiles’ snap to send to Derek, then he probably….

Derek jerks his head up just in time to see Stiles fall dramatically into the chair across from him, dropping his bag at his feet and his phone on the table, pushing it toward Derek.

He knows what he’s going to see, doesn't bother looking down, would much rather keep his gazed locked Stiles’, on the way he’s scrunching up one eye, mouth twitching like he’s trying so damn hard not to laugh.

“So,” Stiles says finally. “‘Hot Nerd?’” His sexy voice is dripping with mock offense and he's looking at Derek like he may have just finally figured him out.

Derek crosses his arms and leans back, eyebrows up, fighting off his own smile. “Dat ass‘?”

Stiles finally breaks, laughing with his whole body, a gorgeous musical sound that Derek wants to bottle and keep forever, tucked into his heart right alongside Stiles’ brilliant smile and sparkling eyes, and hell, his everything.

~*~

Several hours later, after they’ve gotten dinner and more coffee, Derek walks Stiles back to his dorm and nervously asks for his phone number, and his snapchat username, duh.

He’s nearly giddy with happiness at how he managed to stumble into a date with Stiles - whose best friend Scott, decidedly not his boyfriend, sometimes meets him after class, he's learned, much to his delight. Actually talking to and hanging out with Stiles - the hottest nerd - is just as good as he let himself imagine it would be. No, even better, because it’s real. And because Stiles is even more sarcastic and teasing than he is in class, and he has this sweet little habit of chewing his lip when he listens to Derek speak, and he knows everything about everything and looks at Derek like he’s staring at the sun and is totally in awe of it.

Outside the dorm, Derek leans forward and kisses him gently on the lips, sighing at finally getting to feel how soft they are. Stiles’ nimble fingers grip him by the hips and pull him closer as he darts his tongue against Derek’s chaste kiss, demanding and greedy. Derek’s surprised but recovers quickly, opening his mouth his to welcome him, body buzzing with heat, his own hands finding Stiles’ waist, feeling big as they curve easily around him to clutch at his back. He loses track of time and space for awhile, anchored to this plane only by the firm press of Stiles’ slender torso against his own, by his warm sweet mouth. It’s urgent and kinda sloppy and dizzying and perfect.

Finally they pull away, leaning their foreheads against each other for a long moment, both smiling softly. “See you in class tomorrow,” Derek eventually says, a huffed whisper against that mouth that just ruined him for all other mouths.

He walks away before Stiles can respond, smile growing even wider when he hears a low wolf-whistle from behind him, followed by that teasing, melodic voice. “Dat ass.”

~*~

The next morning, Boyd insists on examining his knee before letting him leave the training room, and it’s either admit that his knee barely ever hurt at all and that he made it all up in a failed attempt to flirt with a sexy nerdy freshman who admitted to him last night that he’s been infatuated with him since the first day of class, or just let him do his quiet, thorough examination, making him even more rushed to get to class than usual.

So Derek practically has to run to get there by nine, is taking the stairs up to the third floor of the English department building two at a time when his phone dings with a snapchat alert.

It’s from Stiles, a slightly blurry selfie with only part of his face, the camera pointed over his shoulder to show the empty desk next to him.

Saving you a seat.