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Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon

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Life as a teenage werewolf wasn’t exactly what Derek would call exciting. Sure, he could bench press 300 lbs. without breaking a sweat, could run a two-minute mile, and could hold his breath for five minutes without really trying but that didn’t mean he was allowed to. It took him all of middle school, and a lot of begging, for his parents to allow him to even try out for the swim team. Even that was a bit of a stretch for them, considering they hadn’t let Derek’s older sister Laura so much as try out for any school sports at all.

When they were younger, they did gymnastics. No team sports, no close contact to other children. It was to protect not only Derek and Laura, but others as well. Learning one’s strength was difficult at a young age, and it was something that Derek, at age seventeen, was still struggling with, especially surrounding full moons.

Derek took what he could get when it came to his extracurriculars and switched out gymnastics to swim team once he hit high school. He did Habitat For Humanity with his father because bonding time was important and helped in the garden with his mother. They lived outside of town, close to the preserve, down a long winding dirt path that was hidden behind trees. Privacy was everything to the Hales.

Which is why Derek never had friends over to their house, their den. It wasn’t really a problem for him, per se, since to him it made sense. He could go over to friends’ houses, but they couldn’t come over to his, not for sleepovers or for school projects, anything. It was their home, their sanctuary, and it wouldn’t be encroached upon.

Derek’s room was much like his family’s home, but on a more personal level. No one was allowed in his room except for him, just like he wasn’t allowed in Laura’s or Cora’s rooms, either. They each had their own space, with their own scents, their own safe haven. Derek’s room was a dark blue color, painted himself the summer between sophomore year and junior year. He even did an accent wall, which he heard about from one of the television shows his mom always had on about home improvement. His parents were always doing something to the house, so he had wanted to repaint his childhood room which had had his parents’ and his handprints on the walls from when he was six.

His room faced the front of the house, with two windows looking down over the front porch. Another window, which faced north, had a makeshift window seat, made out of an old trunk, so that he could sit and read by it, with bookshelves on either side for him to lean his back against. To him, his room was perfect. He spent all of his time in it, when he could. They did a lot together as a family, such as game night and camping trips, but he liked to think of himself as a normal teen who needed his space, especially near the full moon.

So that’s why straight after Saturday morning swim team practice, Derek was up in his room in front of his computer with his headset on, logged onto Mythical Mayhem, an online MMORPG where he spent countless hours slicing the shit out of werewolves, vampires, orcs, and other ‘made up’ creatures. Derek’s character, a level 38 Sylvan Elf, was a kick-ass archer. His raiding party was small, only him and an online friend with the username ‘RobieLody’ whose character was a werewolf. Derek thought it ironic, really. They always raided together if they were online at the same time. It just so happened that they were almost always on at the same time.

“Okay Robby,” Derek said into his headset. “Got any other plans today?”

“Only kicking some ass and stealing all of the loot, until I have to go at three.” Derek looked at the clock on his bedside table, it was only eleven.

“We got this.”

Derek wasn’t really much of a gamer, and Laura actually bought it for him as a gag gift for Christmas because it had a horrible rendition of a werewolf on the cover. Derek, of course, was hooked on it. He met RobieLody on the first day he signed on. Robby had gotten it for Christmas as well but was a veteran MMORPG player unlike Derek. They played it almost daily, talking to each other the entire time.

After playing for two hours, Derek needed a break.

“Alright, I gotta piss,” Derek said. “And make a sandwich or something.”

“Sounds good, I think I’ll do the same.”

“Be back in ten,” Derek said as he took his headset off. He stretched as he stood up, almost reaching the ceiling. As soon as he walked out of the bathroom not even two minutes later, he ran into Laura.

“How’s the boyfriend?” Laura asked with a wry smile. Derek rolled his eyes at her as he tried to pass her to get to the stairs.

“Not a boyfriend.”

“The amount you two talk, it’s like you are.”

“Pretty sure I’d be getting some if he was,” Derek pointed out, putting a hand on the railing before jumping over it and onto the landing below. He looked up at Laura, quirking an eyebrow, and grinned. “Besides, I don’t even know what he looks like.”

“Weirdo!” Laura called out just before she walked into her room, slamming the door behind her. Derek rolled his eyes as he made his way into the kitchen, foraging the fridge for ingredients for a sandwich. Werewolf metabolism was insane. The amount that a household of their size consumed felt like it should be able to feed an entire army. Derek made himself two sandwiches with ham and turkey piled high with lettuce, tomato, cucumbers, and banana peppers. He also grabbed a bag of chips and a Coke. Halfway up the stairs, he was stopped by his mother.

“I need your help in the garden,” she said. Derek’s shoulders sagged. Not only was she his mom but his alpha too. It wasn’t a request.

“Mom, I’m talking to Robby,” Derek whined a little. “After I eat?” He asked when he saw the look she gave him.

“After you eat,” she conceded.

Once Derek was back upstairs with his headset on, he heard Robby talking, but not to him.

“Yeah, no bro, I’ll be there at three.” It sounded like he was on the phone, probably with his headset down around his neck by how close it sounded. “Scott, man, I will definitely be your wingman but you gotta calm down. I’m in the middle of something right now -- what? Of course MMORPG’s count as being in the middle of something. I don’t judge your weird ass hobbies. Hey, I gotta go though. Yeah, see you.” Derek cleared his throat before he took a bite. It felt like he had been invading their privacy a bit, but it wasn’t like he’d done it on purpose. There was some shuffling around and then Robby was back online. “You there, man?”

“Hey,” Derek said through a half full mouth. He finished swallowing, then took a gulp of his Coke. “Bad news though, Mom has requested that I go help outside.”

“Ah, balls.”

Derek laughed, the corner of his mouth lifting.

“I can stay on headset until I’m done eating though, if you want. Or we could hang up.” It was weird, now that Laura pointed it out to him. He and Robby talked... a lot. Not just about the game. He knew a lot about him, like how his dad was a cop and worked weird hours, how he was an only child and had a best friend named Scott. Robby, too, knew stuff about Derek that not even his friends at school really knew about him. Like how he had a yearly reading list and usually went through a book every three days or so, that Derek climbed onto the roof on clear nights to look at the stars, and that one time Laura had caught him jacking off in the bathroom.

Robby didn’t know the real details around it, like how usually their family just knew when privacy was needed, but it hadn’t been jacking off. It’d been fingers and lube and awkward poses and a lot of embarrassed screaming. Derek choked a bit when he recalled it. He shook, pushing the bad memories away.

“Sure man, no problem. I’ve got to go soon anyways. I sort of haven’t showered yet and I can’t really go out smelling like I currently do.” Derek snorted, because he could imagine. They’d stayed up late the night before playing, too. Derek didn’t need much sleep, really, so when he got up for swim practice he’d been fine. “I just took a whiff a bit ago when I stretched and you know what they say about being able to smell yourself.”

Derek bit his lip, thinking about what Robby, in fact, did smell like. Derek’s life revolved around smells, scents and aromas. He could scent strong emotions in the air such as fear, anxiety, happiness, even arousal. Everyone had a distinct smell that was theirs and only theirs, and Derek wanted to know what Robby’s was.

“You okay over there?” Robby asked. Derek looked down at his last half-eaten sandwich.

“Yeah, I was just thinking-- about nothing.”

“Sounds trippy,” Robby said with a half hearted laugh. “I’m gonna sign off. I’ll be around later if you are!”

“Sounds good, see you.”

“See you, man.” With that, silence fell over Derek’s room. Sighing to himself, Derek finished off the sandwich and Coke, leaving the chips alone. He brought the bag downstairs, putting it away before he joined his mom outside. His afternoon was spent with his family, getting his hands dirty as they readied the garden for spring. He pulled weeds with his little sister, and only ended up getting in a fight once. After that, he showered, then helped his sister make dinner. Every Saturday the two of them made the meal, together. Their parents were all about bonding activities, about being close to one another.

They decided to make pizza from scratch. The dough was already rising, Laura had made it that morning, so Derek was on vegetable chopping duty.

“I think I’m going to get rid of some books tomorrow,” Laura said. “Take them to the new used bookstore.”

“Hmm,” Derek said as he moved from the tomatoes over to the mushrooms. Laura was going to make her own sauce with the tomatoes he’d just cut.

“Want to come with?” She asked, looking at Derek out of the corner of her eye as she got the tomatoes ready to puree. Derek shrugged. He didn’t have any plans, except for playing his game. “Maybe get rid of some old books and exchange them for new ones.”

“That-- maybe,” Derek said, his brow furrowing. “I’d have to think about it.”

Derek spent an hour after dinner going through his books, making a pile of the ones that he’d be willing to get rid of for new ones, when he heard a ping on his computer. He looked over to see that Robby had instant messaged him via the game.

You on? He asked. Derek sat down, unable to help but smile as he got ready to respond.

I’m here. Wanna play?

A call came up, RobieLody popping up. His user picture was blurry, as was Derek’s, but all Derek could make out was two middle fingers. Derek put his headset on and hit accept as he logged his character on.

“Heyo,” Robby said. “What’s up?”

“Nothing,” Derek said as he watched Robby’s werewolf appear. He wasn’t alone while raiding with Robby, not the only werewolf. He didn’t know any others, besides his family, and even though it was just a game, it mattered to Derek. “Ready to kick some ass.”

“Then let’s do it.”

They played until Derek fell asleep at his computer. He woke up to the sound of silence, Robby had disconnected at some point. Before climbing into bed, Derek sent an instant message for him, whenever he’d sign on next, ‘sorry for snoring’.

The next day, after running five miles around the preserve and showering, Derek, Laura, and Cora headed into town with bags full of old books. The new used bookstore, named 2nd & Charles, coined by the two streets it sat at the corner of, was barely open a month yet was full of books. Derek loved the smell of books, especially older ones. They dropped off their books in order for them to be assessed. Derek browsed the rows and rows of books, stopping in teen fiction. He looked around him, then rolled his eyes at himself. He didn’t care if anyone saw him in the section: he loved teen fantasy. It was the closest thing he had to being normal. He liked stories where the main character was supernatural or had powers thrust upon them.

Laura teased him about it, but he teased her right back because he knew she’d been in the romance section. Laura’s guilty pleasure was bodice rippers, the cheaper the better. Derek lost himself by reading the backs of books he hadn’t heard of and didn’t notice someone trying to get his attention. He took a step back, his nostrils flaring when he saw that it was an employee with messy hair and a pair of glasses that Derek would use the word ‘hipster’ to describe. With a Marvel shirt covered by a long sleeved plaid one, he definitely fit the part of a bookstore clerk.

“What?” Derek asked, after he realized they probably asked him a question.

“Can I help you with anything?” He asked, looking at the stack of books Derek had in his arms, his eyes ghosting over the titles. Defensively, Derek turned his body away from him, which got Derek a smile. “It’s just-- I couldn’t help but notice the trend in what you’ve picked out and that’s basically my genre so--”

“Your genre?” Derek asked. Glasses licked his lips before answering, running his fingers through his hair.

“Yeah, I’ve basically read all the ones you have in that pile.” Derek looked him up and down again. He looked familiar. “We go to the same school, you know.”

“Really?” Derek asked. He looked at the name tag that simply read ‘Stiles’. It didn’t sound familiar. Stiles shrugged, sighing as he pointed at one of the books.

“This one isn’t worth it, the summary sounded awesome, but there was no follow through.” Stiles picked up a book from the shelf, adding it to Derek’s pile. “This one is better. The main character is female, which is awesome because she’s a badass. So, yeah.”

With that, he left, leaving Derek alone in the aisle to read the back of the book that was thrust upon him. He ended up putting the other one back, the one Stiles said wasn’t worth it. He decided to trust his judgement.

Derek ended up getting almost thirty credits for the books he turned in. He only needed to pay five dollars in the end, because he went home with over ten books.

“The point was to get money,” Laura said as they exited. Derek caught the eyes of Stiles, who gave him a thumbs up. Derek lifted his chin in recognition as they walked out the door.

“You get twice as many credits than cash, though,” Derek said as they piled into the car, Cora with her nose already in a book she’d started once she dropped her used books off. “I’d rather have more books.”

“Weirdo.”

Derek stuck his tongue out at her, not caring.

He didn’t so much as turn on his computer until after dinner, when he realized he had a paper to write. As soon as he did, a slew of messages popped up, most of which had been in the last hour, all of them from Robby. Derek grinned as he paged him, hoping he’d pick up. Derek barely had his headset on when they answered, out of breath.

“Hey,” they said. “What’s up?”

“Nothing, you okay?” Derek asked. “You sound like you were running.”

“I mean, I was on my bed, fell off it, and ran to my computer. Does that count?” Derek rolled his eyes but smiled as he leaned back in his swivel chair.

“In bed, huh?” Derek asked. His cheeks reddened because he could hear his heart beating fast, the certain uptick and sound of his voice: fucked out. Derek knew exactly what he’d been doing. They laughed, sighing as if laying back down.

“Yeah,” they said. Silence hung between them, though it wasn’t awkward “So, hey, want to raid?”

“I can’t, actually,” Derek groaned. “I have to write a paper I forgot about.”

“Oh yeah? What about?”

“It’s on Canterbury Tales.”

“Shoot me now, I just had to write a paper about that, too.”

“Huh,” Derek said, biting his lip as he waited for Microsoft Word to open. “Public school.”

“Right?” Robby said with a laugh. “Well, I don’t want to keep you--”

“No, I mean-- It’s fine. I could use the company.” The words were out before Derek had time to think about what he said, what it implied. They hadn’t really ever talked outside of playing the game. Sure, they talked for hours but that was because they’d been playing the game for hours, too.

“Oh, yeah, sure. We can stay on, then. I’ve got some calc I need to do.”

“You’re in calculus?” Derek asked, whistling low. “Smart.”

“Yeah, AP. I regret taking it,” he said. “That and AP English and history, I’ve got my plate full.”

“I get you, I’m in AP physics, English, and Spanish. Math is not my forte.”

“Spanish? Hardcore. I’m in basic, but I dropped Spanish for Latin this year since we only really needed three years in one language.” Derek found it interesting that he’d just drop a language like that.

“So you’re a senior too, then?” Derek asked.

“Yeah,” Robby said. They’d never discussed that, Derek had only assumed he was in high school like him.

They fell silent as they worked, Derek typing away as he listened to the sound of Robby breathing. It calmed him. By the time he got to his conclusion, he realized that they hadn’t talked in over an hour. He yawned, checking the time.

“Hey, do you need to go to bed?” Derek asked. It was past midnight.

“Huh?” Robby said after obviously being woken up, judging by the sound of his voice. “Dude, I’ve been in bed.”

“What? Really? Why didn’t you say something, we could have hung up.”

“The sound of you typing was sort of like white noise, you know? I -- I didn’t mind staying on.” Derek’s neck heated up. “You done?”

“Almost. I’ve only got the conclusion to write, which is basically reiterating what I already wrote.”

“And yet it’s so hard to get the words out,” Robby said with a yawn. Derek adjusted himself, realizing that he was getting hard at the thought of being on headset while Robby slept. As his hand grazed over his basketball shorts, he let out a low grunt, then cleared his throat.

“I’m -- I’m gonna let you go.”

“Alright bro, I’ll talk to you tomorrow.”

“Yeah.”

Derek was fucked, so fucked. He put his headset down around his neck, then pushed his shorts down just enough that he could palm at his growing erection. Derek moaned as he pulled at it, biting his lip as he got harder, his head showing as he jacked himself off. With ragged breaths, he let his legs fall open as he watched his own hand stroke up and down. He let his head fall against the back of the chair as he thought about how much a voice could get him off. Derek let out a short, choked sob as he pictured Stiles from the bookstore as he came on his own hand. Panting as he rode out his orgasm, Derek let out a sigh, his eyes widening when he saw that he was still connected to their chat.

Derek panicked, immediately hitting end, his hand still covered in come. All he could do was hope that Robby hadn’t heard, that he’d fallen back asleep. Derek decided as he reached for the tissues that he was going to tell himself that yeah, this crush wasn’t anything really. You can’t actually like someone you’ve never met, have never even seen. And they definitely, definitely didn’t hear him jacking off.