Stiles loved his gym, alright? It was just hipster enough without being so obscure that it couldn’t even be called a gym anymore. It was built just over a year ago in a refurbished candy factory, so the whole building had a lingering sugary type of smell that was never going to go away. The windows were large and let in lots of natural light, and all of the exposed brick just gave the space a sort of… sturdy look that all of the glass and chrome in the city could never achieve.
Plus, the juice bar had an ‘all- you- can- drink’ wheatgrass special on Tuesdays.
It was among several gyms in the city to follow the new 'common locker rooms' trend, which caused a huge public uproar when the first one opened in the city. The omega rights movement groups were collectively in support of the change, many considering it the necessary progress for society. On the extremely conservative side, these new shared facilities have been called ‘lewd’, ‘disgusting’ and a ‘shame on decent members of society’.
Still, Stiles could admit he was completely freaked out the first time he stepped into the locker room full of alphas, betas, and other omegas, all in various stages of undress. And after he’d calmed down a little, and gotten a good eyeful of many, many bodies, the nudity wasn’t so novel anymore, and faded into the backdrop. Occasionally someone would catch his eye, but Stiles had been leered at enough times in his life to avert his eyes and offer some shred of privacy.
It actually wasn’t all that different from his old gym; Stiles didn’t know why he’d been worried to the extent that he showered at home for a few days before getting up the nerve to go into the locker room. The thing about gyms, no matter where they were, or who they were catering to, whether it was a pre-natal exercise centre or fitness for seniors, was that the types of people there were exactly the same. There would always be the one extremely proud of their hard-earned body, strutting nude up and down the lockers just begging for anyone to comment. Then there was ‘questionable BO person’, who loved to stand close and talk for days, and ‘the one whose hair dryer blows out the fuse and ruins it for everybody’.
Also ‘ridiculously hot guy’. Every gym has one.
Good looking people at a gym were not uncommon, but every gym definitely had a ‘ridiculously hot guy’. Like so hot that it was just unfair for the rest of humankind. The kind that could somehow look more attractive all sweaty in a gym shirt and the sight of whom walking around the changing room with a towel inevitably drew the eye of everyone present.
Stiles’ gym definitely had one of those. He was tall, dark, and horrifically handsome. And also looked slightly serial-killer-y when the line was too long at the juice bar. So, definitely alpha. He tended to come in halfway through Stiles’ workout, starting on the rowing machine (unfair, nobody’s back should have muscles like that), then weights, and cardio, never speaking to anyone, and glaring at anyone who tried. Sure, there was always the odd alpha or two that stood close to him and tried to lift more to show off, but a sideways glance from serial-killer/juice lover was usually enough to discourage them from embarrassing themselves any further.
Stiles may have extended his workout a few times to watch the alpha do squats. What? He was sure his treadmill buddy Mrs. Miller did the same thing, only her opinions on the subject matter were usually voiced aloud.
It was a rare day when Stiles’ morning routine didn’t include Mr. Alpha, and a lack of eye candy equaled a lack of motivation to push himself an extra mile on the treadmill. Still, Stiles couldn’t shake the idea that his morning was missing something, and sat down in the change room to text Scott the latest development in ‘serial killer alpha watch’.
Texting one’s best friend naked while wrapped in a towel? Normal. Doing so in a public locker room? Perhaps should be reconsidered. Because Stiles had just received the most judgemental throat clearing he’s ever heard. Oh, would you look at that, Mr. Alpha was here after all. Seriously, Stiles’ life.
“Can I help you?” Crap. That sounded like a come on. “Wait, no. I’m not offering to like- or anything. Not that you’re not. You know. Well, you know.”
“You’re sitting on my bag strap.” Stiles wasn’t sure how to feel about the fact that he found the ‘long juice line’ glare a surprisingly effective turn on. He shuffled over on the bench awkwardly and handed the strap over, and because he had the social grace of a hippo, he belatedly noticed the fact that his- how to put this delicately- intimates, were hanging from his grip. In his defense, Mr. Now-Very-Pissed-Alpha’s face was very distracting.
Oh god, Stiles just became the creep from the gym everybody told their friends about. The alpha would probably tell all his friends about the time that some omega at the gym propositioned him in a towel by handing him a sweaty jock strap.
Except, now the alpha just looked more confused than anything.
“Are you initiating a courtship?”
“No! God, no.” Stiles quickly snatched back his underwear and hid it behind him. God, the man must think he’s such a slut now. Why couldn’t he have accidentally handed over a shirt or something normal? The traditional omega offering at the start of a courtship was a handkerchief. Nowadays the standards are much more lax, and the offerings have evolved to include neckties and scarves. Something of such an… intimate nature was only something one read about in harlequin novels. “I’m sure you’re very….desirable. But I’m just not- I’m trying to get promoted at work and…” Stiles took a deep breath, forcing himself to just stop talking, and handed over the strap.
“I’m not initiating a courtship. Sorry about the confusion.” There, he was finally starting to sound like a civilized human being.
Mr. Alpha took his bag and walked away. Stiles melted into a puddle of shame.
Funny thing was, they sort of became friends after that.
It started with Derek (they used names now, it was all very civil) greeting him with “Morning, Jock Strap” when they were both in the juice line. To which Stiles retorted with a spectacular eye roll and an “I don’t call you Strawberry Protein Shake.”
It became routine to greet each other every morning with a cheeky nickname, some small talk, and both of them feigning ignorance at the glances Mrs. Miller threw their direction.
“Grass is for cows, Stiles. Not people.” Derek was bringing up their argument about Stiles’ love for wheatgrass shots again. Whatever, at least Stiles’ favorite drink didn’t look like it was for a twelve year old girl.
“Why do you even bother at the juice bar, Derek? You might as well go get a Frappuccino across the street.”
“That place doesn’t deserve to be called a coffee shop,” Derek muttered while he waited for his protein shake, face twisting at the sight of Stiles downing his bright green shot.
“Well, not all of us have fancy editor jobs that let us work at the hipster espresso bar across town.” Stiles had taken Scott once on Derek’s suggestion, and it was admittedly the best coffee he’s ever had. Sadly, he never had time in the morning except for a quick drive through coffee, and Cherry and Smoke Espresso Bar was the type of place one needed to really sit down and relax in to fully appreciate.
“How nice that you look in on me as I work, Officer Stilinski,” Derek retorted dryly as they cooled off on some yoga mats.
“I’m working too! Driving around town looking for suspicious activity is my work! Stop flattering yourself, Hale.” Maybe the place wasn’t exactly on his patrol route, but nobody had to know. As an officer of the law, Stiles needed to keep the criminals on their toes.
“Well, I’m off to work at the ‘suspicious’ café. You should stop in on your break; I hear there are almond croissants today.” Sometimes Stiles was reminded of how unfair the world was. Possibly the only alpha that didn’t treat him like some simpering, useless thing was not only gorgeous, but as Stiles had come to discover: well read, a vocal supporter of omega rights, almost as sarcastic as Stiles was, with a wickedly dry sense of humour. His life.
“I can’t believe you’re going to order a drip coffee here.” Stiles almost jumped in the air when the voice suddenly appeared in his ear. He turned around to give Derek a disapproving look, decidedly not staring at the twinkle in his eye as Derek tried to contain his laughter.
“Fine, Mr. Hipster-Alpha. You can order. And pay. I’m going to get a seat before the hangover crowd comes.” It occurred to Stiles as he sat that this was… kind of like a date? No. You know what? Stiles was a firm believer in the fact that alphas and omegas could be just friends. Look at him and Lydia, once they got past the awkward high school confessions thing. He will pay for coffee next time. Will there be a next time? There will totally be a next time. Friends have coffee, it’s a thing people do.
Derek came back looking smug with what looked like an antique wooden tray bearing a glass carafe, two mismatched mugs, and Stiles’ favorite pumpkin loaf. This man, Stiles can’t even sometimes. Oh, and there was already sugar for him at the bottom of one of the mugs. Of course there was.
“I was reading the reviews online for this place, and apparently the owner travels to Ethiopia to talk to farmers and select beans every few months. Who even does that?” The process seemed a little extreme to Stiles-- surely one can find a good quality bean without actually seeing them being grown.
Derek seemed to grow a little uncomfortable at the change in topic, eyes darting toward the cute barista behind the counter before being inexplicably enthralled with arranging the little glass terrarium on the table just right.
“She doesn’t always go to Ethiopia.” He finally spoke; pouring coffee into his own mug after Stiles had taken his share. “She only uses bean sourcing as an excuse to travel. Last summer she went to Turkey for three weeks and ended up sourcing from Morocco instead. ” At Stiles’ confusion, he gestured to the barista from before. “We know each other. I was one of her first investors.”
Ah. She was definitely cute. If one were into the brunette, lean, great coffee maker type. Damn Derek Hale for having such attractive friends. Were they involved? Did they used to be involved? They had to be, Derek practically spent all of his work day here. Just as Stiles was starting to make up some excuse and leave Derek and his pretty barista friend alone, she started walking out from behind the counter and approaching their table.
Was she going to warn Stiles off? He was mostly sure he could subdue her in case of an attack. Mostly. Her nails looked quite long. Maybe escape was the best tactic.
“Der-Bear!” She exclaimed loudly, pressing behind Derek’s chair and wrapping her arms around his neck, nuzzling against his cheek like an eager kitten.
“Stiles, this is my sister Cora.” Okay, not involved. Yay? What did Stiles care? He didn't care. “Who should start acting like a responsible business owner instead of harassing her customers.” Derek looked apologetic at her sudden appearance, though the gentle hand he laid on top of hers spoke of his fondness for her.
Seriously, this man. Adorable nicknames and letting his sister cuddle him in public? How was Stiles expected to deal with this bullshit?
“Der-Bear” was all Stiles could process in this moment. If Derek thought that was going to be ignored and never mentioned again, he was in for a world of disappointment.
“Technically, it’s Sir Derek, the Grumpy Bear. It’s nice to meet you, Stiles.” Cora had straightened up out of the embrace and pulled up a chair to seat herself at their table. Stiles was surprised at the soothing scent of a fellow omega coming from her. Owning and operating this place on her own and maintaining such a reputation in the neighborhood must not have been easy. “How come you’re sitting with my socially inept brother, deputy? You should sit at the counter next time and keep me company. Maybe you can flash your badge at the rowdier alphas. I can pay for your services in coffee and pastries.”
“Stiles has actual work to do instead of chatting with you all day, Cora,” Derek interjected, throwing a pointed look in her direction.
“How about you let Stiles speak for himself, Derek?” Cora threw back.
“Stiles would like free coffee,” Stiles piped up, more amused than anything at their interaction. “I’ll come by on my lunch break next time.”
Lunch with Cora soon became a thing as well. She was just so easy to get along with, and the free coffee was a definite bonus. Stiles relished in the fact that she was also an omega who refused to abide by some of the older traditions and lived a fulfilling, single life. Soon, he was beginning to spend every work day lunch and dinner sitting at Cora’s counter, unpacking food for the both of them while she made them drinks.
And all of a sudden, Stiles found his life being invaded by an influx of Hales.
They were sort of hard to avoid once one began associating with one of them. It was sort of a ‘buy one get twenty free’ deal. Cousin Nathan helped out after school on Thursdays and Fridays, working the cash register and learning the barista trade from Cora during their downtime. Uncle Peter- who was an incorrigible flirt, but an incredible baker- came in just before closing once every other day and always managed to make Stiles cringe with the crudeness of his innuendos.
And then there was Derek. He was just… around. All the time. Though to be fair, Stiles was the one that hung out at his sister’s café. But still, couldn't the man go do his work at an office or something? The day Stiles walked in bearing a homemade pizza and was assaulted with the sight of Derek Hale staring intently at his laptop, dressed in a soft looking cardigan, black rimmed glasses, with the sunlight hitting him just so, Stiles literally tripped over the threshold and almost dropped the pizza.
“Your brother needs to just stop with the urban hipster and tortured writer look,” Stiles huffed as he set lunch down on the counter. “I swear all he needs is a circle scarf and a minimalist tattoo.”
“He has our family crest tattooed on his back,” Cora admitted, moving the pizza out of the way before Stiles’ forehead made contact with the counter in frustration.
“I need to get laid. Do you know if Laura is single?” Stiles looked up at Cora pathetically, though she was not falling for his puppy dog look at all.
“You’re not really her type. She likes them buff, or curvy.” She patted his arm on the way to grabbing another slice of pizza, though it did little to console Stiles. “Though she has said to me she’d like to take a bite out of your ass.”
Stiles perked up at that, all those squats at the gym were paying off after all. He could never hope to get the washboard abs in the brochures – nor did he really want to- but it was nice to hear that all of his work had been noticed.
“My leave is coming up in two weeks,” Stiles confided quietly. He was prepared to stay on his suppressants and just take the time off to deal with things around the house. Having been on them for a little over two years was starting to take a toll on his body. Medically, he was still safe to be on them for another two years at least. But. Well. The big ‘but’ in this situation was sitting by the window.
“Ask him,” Cora told him sternly.
“Ask him,” she said again, in a gentler tone. “Believe me when I say ‘I know what it’s like’. The hormones are technically safe, but they’re definitely not designed to provide a comfortable experience, especially when you’ve been on them continuously. If he decides to turn you down, he’s going to be nice about it. Our mother raised us to have manners. And if he does turn you down, we’ll go clubbing and talk about what a dick he is.”
Stiles got up with every intention of approaching Derek, but quickly backtracked after a few steps. “Tomorrow. I’ll do it tomorrow,” he promised Cora when she gave him a disapproving look.
“Tomorrow. Unless you’d rather I ask him for you,” she threatened. “Over family dinner.”
Stiles gave a dramatic gasp and pointed accusingly at her, their theatrics drawing the attention of everyone (except Derek, Derek was used to their strange brand of friendship) in the café. “You witch. I shall have my revenge!” He exited in what he hoped was a melodramatic enough fashion, refusing to break character even when he heard Cora’s giggling behind him.
Stiles mulled over his proposition all night, tossing and turning until he was forced to give up on the idea of sleeping and instead camped out on his couch reading various advice columns and relationship blogs. On the bright side, there was this really cute cat that kept jumping in and out of boxes.
Needless to say, his workout the next morning was borderline pathetic. A few rows in and he’d given up on the idea of a productive day and resolved on going home and taking a long nap. He started the treadmill on a sluggish pace and slowly sipped at a kale smoothie whilst watching the news, barely registering Derek’s appearance on the treadmill beside his.
“Wild night with your Netflix queue?”
“Ha-ha. When’d you get a sense of humour?”
“It’s been known to happen.” Derek shrugged, jogging on his own machine. Stiles wished he was awake enough to run, if only he could postpone the conversation they were about to have. “What’s on your mind?”
“I’m seriously questioning my friendship with your sister.” How did one even begin to approach this? Stiles wished there was some sort of government sanctioned request he could just email Derek, where all he would have to do was fill in their names.
“Sometimes I wish I had the luxury of reconsidering my relationship with Cora. Is this about anything in particular? Does she want to take you to that alpha strip club again?”
“No! Well, yes. Maybe. But that depends on you.” Derek just gave him a confused look, sort of like ‘I’d love for my baby sister not to go to a strip club for happy hour but that’s not really my decision’.
“I have a heat coming up in three weeks and I wanted to ask if you could like, get time off? And spend the week. With me. Because the hormones are really messing with me and I don’t want to spend the week overdosing on Midol. Not that you’re a substitute for Midol. I know you work on your own schedule but I assume you have deadlines and stuff. And if you can’t or you don’t want to that’s totally fine. Cora’s going to take me to Hot Knots where we talk about what a dick you are,” Stiles blurted out. Though two seconds after his monologue, Stiles flushed in mortification and began to regret the whole thing. But what Stiles regretted even more was the fact that he didn’t film Derek’s stumble following jabs at the emergency stop button.
“Yes,” came the definitive answer as soon as Derek righted himself.
“Seriously?” Stiles was expecting a whole inquisition. Or at least a few polite ‘are you sure’s’ before Derek reluctantly consented or gently rejected him.
“We’re talking about spending your heat together, right? Not about going to a strip club and calling me names.”
“I’m not going to a strip club!” That drew a few stares in their direction. “Sorry, I’m not used to doing this. I’ll come find you at Cora’s when I’m a little more alert and capable.”
He escaped to the locker room before his mouth got him into more trouble, pausing in the doorway to look back at Derek. The poor alpha had resumed his running, though he offered Stiles a private smile when their eyes met.
A familiar flutter bloomed in Stiles’ chest, not unlike when their fingers met over his jock strap.
Crap, it was all going so well.