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"Dude, you’re staring again.”

Stiles jerked his head up, and spun around to glare accusingly at his best friend. “What? No, I’m not!” he sputtered.

Scott looked unimpressed. “Really? So you just happened to spend the last five minutes looking in Derek Hale’s general direction without blinking?”

Damn it. Dating Allison has made Scott too sassy for his own good, in Stiles’ opinion.

“Shut up,” he muttered, while Scott laughed.

It’s not his fault, though. Stiles had been sitting in the school library, working on his homework, minding his own business, when Derek came in, with his stupid leather jacket and stubble and smile. Derek’s best friend, Boyd, was working the front desk, and Stiles had sat, entranced, as they talked and laughed. Maybe if Derek didn’t look like a fucking supermodel when he leaned against the desk, or if his throat didn’t look so long and bitable when he threw his head back…

Stiles was human, okay? It would have taken exceptional self-control to look away.

“Dude, maybe you should try talking to him,” Scott suggested.

Stiles rolled his eyes. “Yeah, and maybe I should ask Harris for help in chemistry. It’d be about as painful.”

“Derek’s really nice!” Scott protested. “We’ve worked out a few times together. He’s been showing me some exercises to get me in shape for next year’s lacrosse try-outs.”

“I know he’s nice,” Stiles said. “That’ll just make it worse. He’ll stand there and be polite while I ramble and make an idiot of myself, and he’ll feel sorry for me, like I’m so pathetic he has to pretend to be interested so I don’t feel bad.”

Scott opened his mouth, probably to disagree, but seemed to change his mind. “Whatever, man,” he said, shaking his head. “But I think you’re underestimating yourself.”

Across the library, Derek suddenly turned his head. Stiles’ breath caught as Derek met his eyes. He knew he probably looked like an idiot, with his mouth a little open and staring like a creep, but he couldn’t look away. Derek smiled softly, and turned back to Boyd, saying something that made him laugh.

“No,” he said to Scott. “I don’t think I am.”

 

“My heart is full of so many things to say to you - ah - there are moments when I feel that speech amounts to nothing at all.” – Ludwig van Beethoven, to an unknown lady

 

After study hall, Stiles was halfway to the cafeteria when he remembered that he’d left his wallet in his locker. He told Scott to save him a seat – yeah, because real estate at their table was so hard to come by – and hurried away. Today was curly fry day, and if Stiles didn’t get there before they sold out, there would be hell to pay.

He jogged around the corner and ran straight into a solid tower of muscle, sending him crashing to the ground.

“Ow, fuck,” he moaned, clutching his back. “Dude, you broke me.”

A hand grasped his wrist. “Are you all right?”

That couldn’t be – Stiles opened his eyes. Yep. He just ran down Derek Hale, basketball player extraordinaire and star of all of Stiles’ thoughts and dreams. Great.

“Fuck,” he flopped back. “I’m so sorry, man. I was just trying to get to my locker before I missed the fries, and I wasn’t even paying attention. Feel free to leave me here to die.”

Derek snorted, and hauled Stiles to his feet. “Somehow I doubt it’s that serious.”

“Me falling or getting curly fries?” Stiles asked. “Because curly fries are always serious. They are like fried manna, sent down from heaven to cure everything bad in the world.”

Derek raised an eyebrow at him. “Poetic.”

Stiles flushed. Why couldn’t he ever talk to an attractive guy like a normal person? It’s like his brain short-circuited and just started sending out whatever random thoughts he had.

“I should get going,” he said awkwardly. “But thanks. For helping me up, I guess. Not for running into me. Even though I’m the one who ran into you. Sorry. Again.” Derek didn’t say anything, and Stiles took that as his cue to scurry away.

Stiles berated himself all the way to his locker. The sooner he could get his wallet, the sooner he could go complain to Scott about his total lack of social competence, and maybe score a sympathy pudding.

Stiles opened his locker to find a piece of paper laying on top of his jacket, with his name written neatly across the front. He looked around for people with cameras, frowning. If this was some sort of prank, he didn’t feel like becoming a viral video.

After satisfying himself that there didn’t seem to be anyone around, he opened the paper. There were only a few short sentences, written in the same hand as the front.

 

I think about you all the time. I wish you saw me the way I see you. Not like that’ll ever happen. Sometimes I think I’ll scream with how badly I want you.

 

Stiles read it again, his heart pounding. This had to be a joke. No one talked to him this way. No one saw him this way. He was the annoying, spastic kid. The one who was good for a joke, or for pushing around.

Stiles ignored the small, hidden part of him that wished it was real, that wanted to believe his life could be some cheesy fairy tale. That wasn’t real life – at least it wasn’t his life.

He shoved it in his backpack and grabbed his wallet. He knew he should just throw it away, but he couldn’t bring himself to. Fuck, this was weird. He needed curly fries.

He rushed through the lunch line, grabbing one of the last curly fry containers (thank you, Jesus) and sat down to Scott.

“Hey, man,” Scott greeted him. “That took you a while.”

“Oh, yeah,” Stiles flushed. “Minor collision in the hallway, no big deal.”

Scott nodded knowingly. He was a frequent victim of the damage Stiles could inflict with his clumsiness.

Stiles thought about sharing the note with Scott. It seemed like the sort of thing you should share with your best friend. But he knew Scott. He was a romantic. He’d insist Stiles had a secret admirer, or something just as ridiculous, and get Stiles’ hopes up.

And then when it turned out to be a prank, it would hurt even more.

Stiles tried to force the note from his mind, and asked Scott about his date with Allison. That was sure to keep Scott distracted from asking any further questions.

 

“Frances! I am so lonely I can hardly bear it. As one needs happiness so have I needed love; that is the deepest need of the human spirit.” – Rockwell Kent to his wife, Frances

Several days passed without any more notes. Stiles figured that maybe it was a one-time thing, and when he didn’t show a reaction, the pranksters had dropped it to move on to an easier target.

He was absolutely not disappointed.

And if he took out the note when he was in his room alone, and poured over the words, memorizing the handwriting, that was his business.

A week passed without any more messages. On Wednesday afternoon, Stiles sat, bored and doodling in the margins of his notebook. The last class of the day was AP English. It wasn’t a bad class, but Scott had had a severe asthma attack this morning, and Stiles was eager for the day to end so he could visit him. Ever since Scott had had his first asthma attack when he was nine, Stiles visited him every time he was in the hospital. It was what they did, just like Scott always went with Stiles to his mother’s grave on her birthday.

It’d help take his mind off things if they were at least discussing a good book, but this week they were on Measure for Measure, which had to be Stiles’ least favorite Shakespeare. It was hard to have a serious conversation about the meaning in the text when it felt like Shakespeare completely half-assed this one.

“All right, class,” Miss Blake said, standing in the front of the classroom. “For the last twenty minutes, you’re going to partner up and discuss Act V. It’s one of the most complex scenes in the play. So much is going on, all of the characters are involved, and I’m curious to see what you make of it.”

Stiles looked around. Of course they would be doing partner work on the day Scott was absent. There wasn’t really anyone else in the class to work with. Danny and he were relatively friendly, as much as they could be when Danny was friends with Jackson Whittemore, but he knew Danny would pair with Ethan, his boyfriend. Lydia would be interesting to work with, but Allison was in the class, and they always worked together. Even when Allison and Scott began dating, nothing could pry those two from each other. Lydia liked to say that Allison was the only one she believed could keep up with her, but Stiles suspected that Lydia was insecure about losing Allison to Scott.

“Hey.” A voice jerked Stiles from his scan of the classroom, and he turned to the right, where – Holy shit. Derek was leaning across another kid to get his attention.

“Stiles, right?” Stiles nodded dumbly. “You wanna work together?”

Stiles gaped for a moment. “Uh, you sure? There’s no one you’d rather work with?”

Derek grinned. “Nah. Besides, this’ll be fun. I’m sure you have lots of opinions about the Duke.”

“Oh my God, you have no idea,” Stiles said fervently.

Derek laughed. It was warm and lit the insides of Stiles’ stomach like a shot he’d stolen from his dad’s liquor cabinet. Being around Derek tended to make Stiles feel just a little drunk.

“Can you move now?” the kid in between them snapped.

Derek jerked back, as if he’d forgotten there was a person in between them. “Oh, sorry, man.”

“Whatever,” the guy muttered.

Stiles rolled his eyes as Derek grabbed his books and walked over, sitting in the empty seat in front of Stiles. He swung the chair around to face Stiles, and leaned onto Stiles’ desk, smiling. “So. Tell me about the Duke.”

“Oh my God, so I know this is supposed to be a comedy, but that guy is a fucking sociopath,” Stiles began. Derek laughed softly, and gestured for Stiles to continue, his face expectant.

Class flew by after that. Stiles found Derek easy to talk to, and enjoyed tearing apart the play with him. He was pleasantly surprised to find that Derek had a really strong understanding of Shakespeare, and could unpack the characters’ motivations without trouble. They even had a heated debate about the fate of Isabella after the play ended. Derek insisted that she refused the Duke and returned to the convent, to fulfill her calling as a nun. Stiles maintained that she most likely had to marry the Duke.

“I mean, she wouldn’t have had a choice, would she?” Stiles argued. “Not while he was holding her brother’s life in his hands. She owed him a debt for saving Claudio.”

“You’re not a romantic, are you?” Derek asked, eyes glittering with mirth.

“Uh, says the guy who wants her to become a nun,” Stiles retorted.

“She wanted to be a nun!” Derek protested. “She’s the only good person in the play, and being a nun would make her happy.”

“Yeah, but life doesn’t work like that,” Stiles said. “Sometimes you don’t get what you want.”

Derek frowned, looking down. “Yeah, I guess you’re right.”

Stiles wondered if he’d said something wrong. All around them, teenagers were laughing and talking – most of them not about the play – but they sat in silence for a minute before Derek looked up again, shrugging self-deprecatingly.

“Well, I’m going to hope for the best,” he said.

“Fair enough.”

Once class ended, Stiles hurried to his locker. For once, he wished class hadn’t had to end. How often did he get to sit and discuss books with Derek Hale? It’d probably never happen again, too, so Stiles planned on remembering every moment.

But still, he needed to see Scott. As soon as the bell had rung, he’d blurted a goodbye to Derek before grabbing his books and running out the door. He wanted to get out before the parking lots turned into a nightmare.

The halls had just begun to fill when he got to his locker. He grinned triumphantly while entering his combination. Getting out before the crowd was basically a miracle, but this way he’d have time to stop by the store and grab some snacks for Scott.

He was planning what to bring Scott when he opened his locker and saw another note lying on his books.

Stiles looked around, heart pounding. This time, the halls were filled with people, but no one appeared to be paying him any attention. He had no idea if anyone was watching him. He knew that he should probably open it in private, in case it was something awful, or even better, just throw it away, but his curiosity was too strong.

He looked around once more before opening the note. It was written in the same hand as the one previous.

You’re so smart. The class we share is my favorite 50 minutes of the day. I think I could listen to you talk for hours, just about anything that came to mind. I’m sure I’m just a dumb jock to you, but I feel like just being around you makes me smarter.

Stiles gaped. Now he was more sure than ever that this was a joke. No one liked listening to him going on one of his tangents. When he was a freshman, his world history class had started a fund to bribe him into being quiet.

Obviously it hadn’t worked. Stiles might have considered getting over the insult if the price was right, but they didn’t collect near enough to make it worth the effort.

The point was though, that Stiles knew this was a joke. He didn’t know what the point of it was, or who might be behind it, but it definitely wasn’t real.

He still tucked it into his backpack, slipping it between two of his books so it didn’t wrinkle.

When he got to the hospital, he found Scott hanging out at the nurse’s station with a pleasant looking older woman.

“Does your mom know you’re out of bed?” Stiles asked immediately. Melissa’s wrath when it came to protecting her Scott, even from himself, was terrifying.

“She said as long as I have supervision it’s fine,” Scott said. “Barb was just showing me pictures of her new granddaughter.”

“Did Molly have her baby?” Stiles asked excitedly. “Let me see!”

Scott and Stiles huddled around Barb’s computer, cooing over pictures of the baby, all thoughts of school and love letters forgotten. Eventually, Scott became tired, and asked Stiles to help him return to his room.

“So how was school?” Scott asked as Stiles fussed with his blankets.

Stiles stilled. Maybe he should tell Scott about the notes. It would be good to have a second opinion on them, right?

On the other hand, if the notes were a prank, Stiles didn’t want to spring that on Scott while he was in the hospital. He would just get worked up and angry, and wouldn’t focus on taking care of himself and getting better.

“I talked to Derek today,” Stiles said eventually. There. That was a perfectly normal topic of conversation. Besides, if he hadn’t found the note right after, it would have been the first thing Stiles told him. “We were partnered in English.”

“That’s awesome!” Scott said, grinning. “What did you talk about?”

“What a twat the Duke is,” Stiles admitted.

Scott winced. “Did you scare him? You can be a little intense.”

It was a fair point. Last week Stiles made Scott listen to an hour long rant about people who called Lolita “romantic”. Fucking pervs.

“I don’t think I did, actually,” Stiles thought back on the class. “He kinda thought I was funny? We talked a lot.”

“That’s because you’re awesome,” Scott said. “I’m sure he knows that too, now. You should ask him to prom.”

Stiles spluttered. “Are you joking? I just managed to have a semi-coherent conversation with him today! That would definitely scare him! Plus, I’m like 95% sure he’s straight. And even if he weren’t, he would never be interested in me.”

“Are you finished?” Scott interrupted.

Stiles narrowed his eyes. “Finished with what?”

“Making excuses to hide the fact that you’re scared,” Scott said plainly. “You’re scared he’ll say no, and you’re scared he’ll say yes, so you would rather just drift in uncertainty than take the chance of being happy.”

“I’m going to pretend you didn’t say that,” Stiles said, walking toward the door. “Poor thing, delirious with fever.”

“I don’t have –"

“No, no! I should let you rest. Feel better!” Stiles scooted from the room, closing the door behind him.

Scott was clearly insane. Why would he be scared of Derek being into him? That just didn’t make sense. What was there to be afraid of? Of being happy? Of finally getting to be the one with the perfect love life, of having a date to prom, a boyfriend to brag about and show off? Maybe they would go to the same college. They could room together! Maybe one day they could get married and have a little family, like his parents. Their kids would hopefully take after Derek. Stiles bet Derek would make a great father.

Until one day, something would go wrong. Maybe they would break up in college, or not even make it there, or Stiles could die young, like his mother, and leave a devastated family behind.

Damn it. Stiles thumped his head against the door. “Damn it, Scott!”

“Told you!” Scott called from inside.

Fucking Scott.

 

“Ah, how good it was to hear your voice. It was so inadequate to try and tell you what it meant.” – Eleanor Roosevelt to Lorena Hickok, her suspected lover

 

Okay, so maybe Stiles had issues with trust. It just seemed like if you gave anything enough time, something would go wrong. Wouldn’t it be more painful to get everything he wanted, only to have it ripped away, than to continue on like he was?

It’s not like Stiles was lonely. He had friends. Well, one friend, and some acquaintances. His dad and him were pretty close, and Allison had turned out to be pretty fun to hang out with. He did just fine for himself. He didn’t need someone – and he definitely didn’t need Derek.

He wanted him, though. And maybe that was just as bad. It was what kept him up at night, in any case.

Scott was held overnight in the hospital for observation, and wasn’t at school again the next day. Stiles worked on homework in the library during lunch. He was trying to keep his mind busy so he wouldn’t start freaking himself out about English. He hoped he would get to pair up with Derek again. When class had ended the day before they had just barely started discussing Claudio’s role in the play, and Stiles wanted to hear Derek’s opinions.

It would be so much easier if Derek was just a pretty face with an empty mind. But he wasn’t. He did his homework and researched his opinions. He was articulate and funny, and it was completely unfair. Stiles had no natural defense against hot smart people; they were his kryptonite.

By last period, Stiles was allowing himself to cautiously hope for the best. Since the AP test two weeks ago, Miss Blake had loosened up a lot. They really didn’t have much of anything to study for anymore, but she had to do something with them. They had had three movie days so far.

To Stiles’ shock and horror, however, when he walked into the classroom he was not met with Miss Blake. Instead his worst nightmare in the form of a mean little man stood in the center of the room.

“Stiles, how nice of you to join us,” Mr. Harris said. “You’re late.”

“The bell just rang!” Stiles protested.

“You had one foot out of the classroom,” Mr. Harris sniffed. “Detention, after school. Now sit down before we waste any more time on you.”

Stiles groaned and plopped in his seat. Allison smiled at him sympathetically from her seat. It was well-known that Harris hated Stiles and Scott more than any other students in the school. They weren’t really sure why, but Stiles liked to think he was overcompensating for something.

“Now, before Mr. Stilinski deigned to wander in, I was about to tell you that Miss Blake is out for the day, and I will be filling in. She has left me a list of approved discussion topics for you to partner up and discuss.”

Stiles perked up. Spending the next hour with Derek would help take his mind off Harris, at least. He sneaked a glance to his right and saw Derek looking back at him. He grinned and gestured between them. Derek nodded, smiling, before looking forward again, ears slightly pink.

“Far be it for me to criticize a fellow teacher,” Mr. Harris continued, “but I detest when teachers allow their students to become lazy after the AP Test has passed. School isn’t
over yet, and there’s plenty of time to cram some knowledge into your tiny minds. So I have used the material Miss Blake left to create a pop quiz. Pull out your pens.”

Stiles slumped. Figures. Fucking Harris.

The quiz was ridiculously hard. The questions were all based on tiny details within the play that Stiles couldn’t remember for the life of him. Some of the questions were completely subjective, asking opinions on what a phrase meant or about a character’s intentions. Stiles was pretty sure Harris threw those in just so he could mark wrong what Stiles wrote.

When they turned in their quizzes, Harris instructed them to work quietly while he graded them. Stiles pulled out his reading for next week and tried to ignore Harris at the front, tutting and slashing across papers with his red pen. A few minutes before the bell rang, Harris stood and began handing the papers back. He saved Stiles for last, looming over Stiles’ desk and glaring down at him.

“Last and certainly the least, we have a horrendous exhibition by Mr. Stilinski. Maybe if you had been to class on time, you could have at least skimmed the Sparknotes version.” Harris set the paper on Stiles’ desk, the red F written largely across the top. “I suppose you think your snide little comments are enough to get you by in an English class, but don’t think for a moment that translates into actual brains. But, hey. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Some people just can’t be taught.”

The bell rang as Stiles slumped down in his seat, face burning. It was bad enough that he put up with that shit from Harris in chemistry every day last year, but now he had to come into English, Stiles’ favorite class, and ruin that for him too? And in front of Derek no less, who had to think Stiles was the worst kind of idiot now. He shoved his paper into his bag and kept his eyes to his desk as everyone stood and walked up. Allison squeezed his shoulder as she walked by, because she was an angel, but he didn’t want to see anyone else’s reactions. He could hear a few kids laughing at him, but if he didn’t look up, he wouldn’t have to see if Derek was one of them.

When the classroom cleared, Harris stood in front of him again. “I think you’ve gotten lazy since last year,” Harris said. “Obviously not having me around to push you has made you complacent.”

Stiles said nothing, staring at the board in front of him. If he didn’t acknowledge Harris, he couldn’t be goaded into saying something he’d regret.

“Well, it’s your lucky day. We have some time together today to correct your bad habits. Wait here.” Harris walked behind his desk and brought back an empty bucket. “Go to the janitor’s closet and fill this with water. You’ll be cleaning the chalkboards.”

“Did you have that waiting for me?” Stiles asked incredulously.

Harris smirked. “Call it an intuitive guess that I would need it. Get going, or you’ll be doing the boards of every room in the hall.”

Stiles grabbed the bucket and walked out. The janitor’s closet was on the other end of the school. It was going to be a pain in the ass to haul water back from there. He was daydreaming about adjusting Harris’ record so he looked like he had some unpaid tickets when he bumped into someone.

“Sorry!” he exclaimed, and looked up. He bit back a groan. Of course, he had run into Laura Hale, Derek’s twin sister. Laura was just as popular and gorgeous as Derek, and every bit as intimidating.

“It’s okay,” she smiled. “At least there wasn’t water in it.”

“Yeah,” he chuckled awkwardly. “That would have been bad.” When Laura didn’t respond right away, Stiles began to step around her. Harris did not like being kept waiting. The last thing he needed was for Harris to decide to add another hour to his detention.

“You’re Stiles, right?”

Stiles stopped. “Uh, yeah, I am. How did you know?”

Laura rolled her eyes. “It’s not that big a school, dumbass. And Derek’s mentioned you.”

Stiles blushed. “He has?”

“Uh-huh,” Laura nodded knowingly. She did not elaborate. Stiles wondered if the Hales made a hobby out of being enigmatic, then decided it was probably a family trait. Anyone that beautiful and smart could keep people hanging if they wanted.

Stiles began to step away again. “Well, it was nice meeting you.”

“Oh, you too,” she assured him. “It’s been interesting. You were just like I thought you would be.”

Stiles blinked. “Thanks?”

Laura laughed and walked away, leaving Stiles to finish his trudge to the janitor’s closet. He had no idea what that was about, but he would have to wait to think it over later.

By the time he got back to the classroom, the chalkboards had been covered with chalk. Random writing, chemical formulas, and math problems filled every corner.

“I hope you don’t mind,” Harris said. “I was just trying to write out some thoughts while you took your time out there. Better get going.”

Stiles rolled his eyes, but got to work.

Washing the boards took him a while. Harris had managed to get a lot on them while he was gone. When he was halfway through, he went back to the janitor’s closet to get some fresh water, only to return to find Harris had begun working on the clean part of the board.

“Whoops,” Harris said. “You should probably get that part again.”

It ended up taking him an hour and a half to get everything clean, and by the time he was done he was covered in chalk and in a foul mood. He didn’t say anything when
Harris released him, knowing that Harris would love a chance to give him more detention, but hurried from the room to his locker. At this rate, he wasn’t going to have time to visit Scott before he started dinner for his dad.

Stiles wasn’t even that surprised when he opened his locker to find a new note. This one was the longest note yet.

I hate the way Harris talks to you. He’s an asshole – he’s just jealous because you’re a student but you’re smarter than him. He won’t take it out on Lydia because she scares him, but you’re the next best kid in our class, probably even the school. Whenever he says horrible things to you, I imagine standing up to your defense, taking him down with some clever words. I want to do something to help you because you don’t deserve it – you’re wonderful and smart and amazing - but I’m a coward.

So whoever was writing these had to be in his English class, and had witnessed his humiliation today. Right away Stiles’ mind turned to Derek. Could he really be the one leaving these? It was starting to look like maybe it could be, but Stiles was afraid to hope. He slammed his locker shut and hurried from the building. Screw making dinner; they could order a pizza. His dad would be thrilled to get a break from his diet. In the meantime, Stiles needed to tell Scott about the notes.

Scott had been released from the hospital a few hours earlier and was back home. Before he could knock, Mrs. McCall opened the door, smiling.

“Stiles! I expected you a while ago.”

“Detention,” he said guiltily. It was hard admitting to Mrs. McCall when he messed up, even though he hadn’t done anything wrong. Ever since his mother had died, Mrs. McCall did her best to look out for him. She had always had high expectations for Scott and Stiles, and made disappointment into an art form. It was probably why Scott was such a good person.

“Uh-huh,” she said, raising an eyebrow. Stiles winced. “Well, Scott is upstairs. He was napping for a while but I bet he’s ready for some company.”

Stiles thanked Mrs. McCall and ran up the stairs. Scott was indeed up, and playing video games in his room. He brightened as Stiles came in.

“Stiles! Took you long enough!”

Stiles grimaced, and told Scott about Harris while they began a race on Mario Kart. It was far from the first time Harris had punished them for some imaginary misdeed, or exaggerated their offense so he could torture them.

“Shit,” Scott said. “I’m glad I wasn’t there. All that chalk would have really messed with my asthma.”

“Yeah, I wouldn’t put it past Harris to stick you with something that he knows would make you sick.” Stiles hesitated, fidgeting with his Wii remote. Scott took advantage of
his distraction to run him off the track before pausing the game.

“What’s wrong?”

Stiles braced himself before speaking. “For the past week, I’ve been getting these notes,” he said. “I dunno, either they’re love notes or a long-con, I can’t decide.”

“Really?” Scott asked. “Can I see them?”

Stiles dug them out of the book he’d been storing them in and handed them over. Scott read them quietly. After he read them once, he flipped to the first one and read them again. Stiles’ stomach was in knots by the time Scott was finished. He didn’t know what he wanted Scott to say, but he felt oddly vulnerable showing the notes to him. Which was crazy because Scott was his brother, and always had his back. “Well?” Stiles asked nervously. “What do you think?”

“I’m not sure,” Scott said. “I think there’s a good chance that whoever it is is for real. But I don’t know how you can know who it is.”

“I had a theory about that, but it’s stupid,” Stiles admitted. “What if it’s Derek? He was in class with me when Harris was ragging on me, and I got the note about sharing a class together after we talked in English.”

Scott brightened. “He refers to himself as a jock, and that fits Derek,” he pointed out. “See? I told you that you had a shot!”

“All right, let’s not get carried away,” Stiles said. “We don’t even know if it’s him. It could be anyone. And I’m still not ruling out that it’s a prank.”

“Of course you’re not,” Scott rolled his eyes. “God forbid something good actually happen to you.”

“Well I think this conversation has just about wrapped up,” Stiles said loudly, and picked up his controller. “Oh look, the race is starting.”

Scott huffed but grabbed his remote without comment.

 

“You have no idea how stand-offish I can be with people I don’t love. I have brought it to a fine art. But you have broken down my defenses. And I don’t really resent it.” – Vita Sackville-West to Virginia Woolf

 

The next day Scott was back at school, thank God. Stiles was not prepared to spend another lunch in the library, pretending he wasn’t lost without his one friend.

“Hey,” Scott dropped into the seat across from him. Allison sat down next to Scott, and smiled at Stiles. Normally she ate with Lydia, but it seemed she wanted to keep a closer eye on Scott today. “So you left these at my house yesterday.” Scott put the stack of notes on the table.

“Scott!” Stiles hissed, grabbing them up and putting them in his bag before anyone saw.

Scott continued obliviously. “I showed them to Allison, and she agrees with me!”

“Et tu, Brute?” Stiles demanded.

“I think it’s sweet,” Allison assured him. “And it could totally be Derek! Yesterday at lunch he kept talking about your conversation in English; he wouldn’t shut up.”

Stiles blushed. “Yeah, he was probably amazed by what a spastic freak I can be.”

Scott whapped Stiles on the arm. “Dude, quit it. Derek’s really nice; he’d never talk about anyone like that.”

“Especially not you,” Allison added. “The other day Jackson started making fun of you and Derek got in his face about it. Jackson almost cried. It was hilarious.”

Scott got dreamy-eyed, and kissed Allison on the cheek. “You’re the best.”

“As much as I appreciate Jackson being driven to tears,” Stiles said, “all that means is that I’m this pathetic loser Derek thinks needs protection.”

“Then why is he staring at you right now?” Scott asked, a smug grin on his face.

Stiles whipped his head around. On the other side of the cafeteria, Derek ducked his head, and started digging through his backpack.

“Real subtle,” Allison said drily.

“Hey, cut the sass,” Stiles said. “Are you being serious right now? Was he really staring at me?”

“I know he was, because I managed to look in his direction without pretending I was having a seizure,” Allison said.

Scott jumped in. “Seriously,” he assured Stiles. “He’s been watching you all lunch.”

Huh. That was new.

Stiles got to English early that day. He wasn’t going to risk another detention. It turned out to be unnecessary, however, because Miss Blake was back. Miss Blake had always weirded Stiles out a little, but he was glad to see her.

“Stiles,” Scott whispered to him as they walked into the classroom. “I want you to know, if we do partner work again today, I won’t mind if you work with Derek.”

“Scott, not a chance,” Stiles said. “We always work together. And then who would you work with?”

“I’d be fine,” Scott said cheerfully. He probably would be, too. Scott was always the more easygoing of them. He could get along with much more of their class than Stiles could. Sometimes Stiles worried that he was holding Scott back, but when he refused multiple invitations to sit at Allison’s lunch table because it was clear Stiles wouldn’t be welcome, Stiles let it go. But he still wasn’t going to abandon him just so he could talk to Derek for a while – even if it did sound awesome.

“I know you would, man,” Stiles said, clapping Scott on the shoulder. “But I still wouldn’t do that to you.”

Derek walked in, talking to Danny. He caught Stiles’ eye and smiled. Stiles felt his heart skip a beat. Even if their partnership had been a one-time thing, at least Derek hadn’t forgotten Stiles’ existence. Maybe they could even be friends? Stiles thought about hanging out with Derek outside of school, talking and hanging out. The thought made his insides feel pleasantly warm, even if it wasn’t exactly what he wanted.

They ended up watching another video in class, so the conversation with Scott had been a moot point. Stiles raced to his locker after class, but there was no note.

“Cheer up,” Scott told him once he swung by after stopping at his own locker. “There’ll be more.”

“Yeah, I guess,” Stiles grumbled, closing the locker. “Come on, let’s go.”

“I can’t,” Scott said. “I’m working out with Derek after school.”

“What?” Stiles hoped to God he heard that wrong.

“You know he helps me sometimes,” Scott said defensively. “And hey! I can put in a good word for you!”

“Please don’t,” Stiles begged him. Scott was not known for being subtle. “Just don’t mention me.”

“Fine,” Scott threw up his hands. “I’ll talk to you later.”

Stiles worried the whole way home. He regretted showing the notes to Scott. What if he said something about them? It would be humiliating if Derek thought Stiles was so lame he needed his best friend to pimp him out.

His dad was still at work when he got home, so he decided to take his mind off things by making a nice dinner to make up for yesterday. He pulled out his mom’s old family recipe book, and found her favorite pork recipe. He concentrated on marinating it just right, and set it in the oven before getting to work on the sauerkraut.

Once he had it on the stove on a low simmer, he wandered into the living room and pulled out the notes to look at them again. He couldn’t believe someone was taking the time to send him these. He especially couldn’t believe that the sender might be Derek.

But God, he hoped it was.

 

“I already love in you your beauty, but I am only beginning to love in you that which is eternal and ever previous – your heat, your soul. Beauty one could get to know and fall in love with in one hour and cease to love it as speedily; but the soul one must learn to know.” – Leo Tolstoy, to Valeria Arsenia

 

Stiles passed the weekend in a state of anticipation. He was distracted, constantly imagining what Derek was doing, what he might say to Stiles on Monday, if there would be more notes. He mulled over Scott and Allison’s theory until he felt sick with not knowing. Stiles slept in Saturday, and spent a leisurely morning dozing and jacking off before meeting Scott to see the new Marvel movie. Sunday he spent with his dad, watching a baseball game and working on his homework. He could only put half his mind on anything, though. He felt as though he was in limbo, just waiting for something to happen, only he didn’t know what.

Of course, Monday morning his jeep wouldn’t start. His dad had gone in early to cover a deputy who was out sick, so he had to walk. He managed to get to school right as the bell was ringing. He swore, running through the halls, bypassing his locker to slide into homeroom right as his teacher was finishing up attendance.

“Late again, Mr. Stilinski?” his homeroom teacher remarked snidely, handing over his tardy slip.

Stiles took it silently and slid into his seat. He couldn’t believe he hadn’t had time to go to his locker and check for a new note.

His phone lit up with a new message from Scott. Once Stiles was sure his teacher had her back to the room, he slid his phone out.

anything??

Didn’t have time to check, he typed back. Scott responded almost immediately.
:(

Stiles fidgeted through first and second period until the next class break where he could check his locker. When the bell finally rang, he was already packed up and ready to go. Stiles dashed out the door, knocking into a kid as he hurried past.

“Sorry, Greenberg!” he called over his shoulder. Greenberg flipped him off, which Stiles ignored.

Like an awesome bro, Scott was waiting by Stiles’ locker. “Allison is on her way,” Scott informed him as he fiddled with his combination. “She said she’s too curious to miss this.”

“Got it,” Stiles replied absently. There, folded neatly on top of his Spanish textbook, was a note.

He pulled it out and shut his locker, staring down at it.

“Is that - ?” Scott asked.

“Yeah.”

Stiles continued to look down at it. Now that the moment was here, he was struck dumb with fear. Anything could happen once he opened this. He wondered if it was maybe nicer not knowing, like Schrodinger’s cat. As long as the note was folded, he could believe it was from Derek, and it was declaring his love for Stiles, and how Stiles was about to get the cheesy, perfect happy ending he’d always wanted.

“Dude,” Scott said quietly. “You should open it. It’s never better not knowing.”

“Sometimes it is,” Stiles said. He sighed. “But you’re right. It’s probably nothing, anyway.”

Allison ran up. “Sorry!” she said breathlessly. “Miss Morrell held me after to discuss our final project. Have you opened it?”

“No,” Stiles said.

“Well the bell is going to ring in a minute,” she said. “You don’t want to have to wonder all through next period.”

Stiles smirked. “You mean you don’t want to wonder.”

Allison pointed a finger at him threateningly. “Don’t test me, Stilinski.”

Stiles laughed slightly, and unfolded the note.

He was wrong. It wasn’t nothing. It was something.

I wonder if you know who I am. Sometimes it feels as though no one in this school does. I’m the jock, or the kid from a big family, or the twin brother. It’s horrendously cliché. But still. I would bare my soul to you, if you’d let me. I would tell you things no one else knows, show you the side of me I’m too afraid to share with the rest of the world. Maybe, if I’m lucky, one day you’ll think enough of me to do the same.

Apparently I’m a contender for prom king, which is pretty stupid in my opinion. I could not give less of a shit, but Laura says it’s good for me to take it seriously. Since I’m probably incapable of doing that, it would be nice to have someone with me who could help me mock everything. Something tells me you’d be good at that.

So what do you think? Do you think you could go to prom with me?

~Derek

Stiles gaped at the note. He re-read it quickly, trying to understand. It’d been a nice daydream, but he hadn’t actually thought that Derek was the one writing the notes. The likelihood of it was so low it’d seemed impossible.

But …. Derek had been sending the notes. Derek Hale had been sending him, Stiles Stilinski, love letters. And he asked him out. To prom.
Stiles re-read the note again, just in case the words rearranged themselves while he wasn’t looking to something more on par with his life.

The words remained stubbornly the same. Stiles couldn’t stare at it anymore, so he silently handed it over to Scott.

“Are you okay?” Scott asked.

“Just read it.”

Scott read, Allison leaning over his shoulder so she could read it as well. Stiles could tell when she got to the second paragraph by her slight intake of breath, her hand coming up to cover her mouth.

“Stiles,” she murmured, eyes wide.

He grinned weakly. “I know, right?”

Scott finished a moment later, and looked up, his face slack with shock. “Holy shit.”

“Who would have thought, right?” Stiles chuckled.

“No, it’s just – fuck. Stiles!” Scott laughed suddenly, and clapped Stiles on the arm. “Stiles, this is good! This is amazing.”

“I still don’t really understand,” Stiles admitted. “It doesn’t feel real.” He felt strangely detached from the moment. He could see students milling around him, Allison and Scott looking happy and a little proud. But all he wanted was to snatch the note back, read the words over and over until they made sense.

“Stiles,” Scott said seriously, grabbing Stiles by the shoulders. “This is not a dream, or a mistake. You can feel happy about this. You can be excited. Derek likes you. You like Derek. Things are going to be okay.”

Reality started to realign in Stiles’ brain, and he felt his calm shatter, to be replaced by a jittery mess of nerves and excitement. Holy shit.

Thinking it wasn’t enough. “Holy shit!”

A teacher passing by glared, but didn’t seem to care enough to write him up.

Stiles started laughing. “What is it?” Scott asked.

“You know how I couldn’t wait until after next class to open this?” Scott and Allison nodded. “Now I have to wait until lunch to talk to Derek.”

“You’ll be fine,” Allison said soothingly, taking him by the arm and guiding him to class. “Just try to focus on the lesson.”

Behind them, Scott snorted. Stiles chose to ignore him.

Stiles somehow made it through his next two classes, although he could not say for the life of him what they discussed, or even what subjects they were. He was going to have to beg Lydia for her notes later, because daydreaming in Calculus was a death sentence for his GPA, but he couldn’t help it. Numbers couldn’t compare to how he was feeling right now. He felt alive, charged with an excitement and an energy he hadn’t had in years. School was an annoying obstacle to get through, but there was a light at the end of the tunnel, and its name was Derek.

That almost made sense, too. Stiles was a little proud.

The nice thing about not paying attention in class was that Stiles used the time to plan how he was going to talk to Derek. It was going to have to be at lunch. They couldn’t talk about this in English, and there was no way Stiles was going to last until the end of the day. But Stiles didn’t want to do this surrounded by a lot of people. Derek’s notes had been private, filled with personal thoughts. He didn’t want to embarrass Derek by bringing them out in front of his friends.

Stiles decided that he would try to catch Derek by his locker. He knew that Derek was always a little late to lunch because his class was on the other end of the building, so the hall would be pretty deserted by the time Derek got there. It would have to do.

When the time came, Stiles hovered anxiously near Derek’s locker. Passing students gave him odd looks, as he was nowhere near his own locker, but he tried to ignore it. Nothing to see here, just a guy casually hanging out at another guy’s locker for no particular reason…

He caught sight of Scott and Allison lurking around the corner at one point and scowled at them from afar, shooing them with his hands. Scott gave Stiles his most innocent look, but Stiles wasn’t buying it. That was the same look that got Stiles to trade him his best comic book for a brownie when he was nine. It was not to be trusted.

He was distracted by Derek walking up with Laura. He raised an eyebrow at Stiles as he stopped. “Hey, Stiles,” Derek said curiously. “What’s up?”

“Hey-y, Derek.” Stiles coughed. Great. This was not the time for his voice to give out on him like a fucking twelve year old. “I was wondering if I could talk to you.”

“Sure,” Derek shrugged and began to open his locker. Laura waited silently, pulling out her phone to text. “What do you need? Is it about English?”

“It’s about the notes,” Stiles blurted out. Derek frowned in confusion.

“I’m going to get going,” Laura interrupted, pushing away from the lockers. She smiled at them both, and patted Derek on the cheek. Derek batted her hand away without looking, a gesture that was clearly familiar to them both. “You two have a nice talk.” She smirked and walked quickly away.

Derek continued as if they hadn’t been interrupted. “What notes? Do you need to borrow mine? You always seem to take a lot, I don’t know what you would need mine for.”

“No.” Stiles shook his head. Why was Derek being difficult about this? He had to know why Stiles was here. He couldn’t expect to write Stiles something like that and not answer. “I meant the notes you left me.”

Derek stilled as he reached inside his locker. His face shifted, became something impassive, unreadable. Stiles had never seen him look so distant before. It was like looking at a stranger. “What do you mean?”

“You know, the ones you left in my locker? Look, I’m sorry if I was supposed to pretend I didn’t know it was you, but when you signed your last one, it was kind of a giveaway.” Stiles pulled the notes out of his bag. “I wanted to tell you it meant a lot to me, what you said about Harris. I can’t believe you said all those things about me. I mean, I don’t see myself as wonderful or amazing or anything, but it’s really cool of you to say. And it would be beyond awesome if you told him off, but you’d probably get in a lot of trouble, which, trust me, is not worth it. I have a lot of personal experience in that area.”

“What is that?” Derek asked. He had finally turned around, and his eyes were locked on the pieces of paper.

Stiles looked at it, clutched in his left hand. “It’s today’s note. And all the others. Yeah, I know, it’s kind of lame that I was carrying them around with me, but it was just really cool. And kind of incredible. It’s just – some of the stuff you said was amazing. I don’t know how much of it you meant,” Stiles swallowed thickly, fighting past the nerves in his stomach, “but if you were serious about the prom, I’m game.”

Derek didn’t acknowledge that Stiles had said anything, and continued staring at the note, eyes narrowed. “Can I see that?” he asked abruptly, reaching for the notes and taking them before Stiles could say anything.

He flipped through the notes, scowl deepening as he got to the last one. He slammed the locker shut, the sound echoing through the empty hall. Derek was vibrating with anger, and he seemed to be holding himself together by a thread. “Is this a joke to you?” he asked, his voice deadly quiet.

“What?” No,” Stiles said. “What are you talking about?”

“This isn’t my handwriting,” Derek said. “I don’t know what’s going on, or what you’re trying to pull, but it’s pretty fucked up.”

The words hit Stiles like a bullet. He had been right the first time. Someone was pulling a prank on him. Derek didn’t have feelings for him. Derek was disgusted by the very idea of Stiles and him. The look on Derek’s face told Stiles everything he needed to know. “I’m sorry,” he said shakily, backing away. “I thought – sorry.”

He turned, and ran down the hall. He saw Jackson standing off to the side as he hurried past. He was laughing with one of his friends, clutching his side. “Dream big, don’t you, Stilinski?” he called. “Maybe you could find a nice, lobotomy patient, though. That’s more your speed.”

His friend laughed, and Stiles kept his head down, tears pricking at his eyes, as he turned the corner into the main hall. Scott and Allison stood from where they had been sitting on the steps, their excited, expectant faces dropping.

“Stiles?” Scott asked hesitantly.

“I can’t right now, Scott,” he said numbly. “I have to – I have to go.”

Scott nodded, his jaw set. “I’ll call you in sick for the rest of the day.”

Stiles grimaced in the closest approximation to a smile he could manage right now, with tears welling up and his face still red from the humiliation. “Thanks, man,” he said, and left the school.

Making it home was a blur. One moment Stiles was staggering to his Jeep in the parking lot, and the next he was in his room, collapsing on his bed. He felt numb. He took small comfort from the fact that Derek had seemed genuinely confused, which meant he wasn’t the one who had been pranking Stiles. But Stiles couldn’t get the image of Derek’s angry face from his mind. The idea of dating Stiles, of writing him love letters and wooing him, clearly repulsed Derek. He could not have rejected Stiles more thoroughly.

His bedroom door opened just as Stiles was trying to figuring out a homeschool plan for the rest of high school. “Stiles?” his dad asked. “What’s going on? Why aren’t you at school?”

Stiles buried his face in his pillow. “I don’t want to talk about it.”

The bed dipped as his dad sat down. “If you don’t want me to drive your butt back to school, you’re going to have to.”

Stiles sighed and rolled over onto his back. He knew his dad would carry through on the threat. As the Sheriff, he kind of had to take truancy seriously, even with his son. “It’s not a big deal,” he said. “I – kind of thought this guy liked me, but it turned out to be a prank.”

The Sheriff frowned. “I’m sorry, kid. I can talk to his parents, if you want.”

Stiles winced at the idea. “Nah, it wasn’t the guy’s fault. Someone else was pulling a prank on both of us. He was just pretty horrified, is all.”

“Well then he’s an idiot,” the Sheriff said firmly. “You’re a great kid. And I’m not just saying that because I’m your dad,” he added as Stiles opened his mouth to protest. “In my line of work, I get to meet a lot of messed up teenagers, and you’re a good one. Trust me.”

“Yeah, I guess.” Stiles shrugged.

The Sheriff sighed and pulled Stiles in, wrapping his arms around him. Stiles took a moment to just be a little kid again, and clung to his dad. It had been a long time since hugging his dad could make all his problems magically go away – around the time a doctor had sat them down in a room, and said the words “terminal” – but it still helped.

“Come on,” his dad said, pulling away. “I don’t work until tonight. Why don’t we go get something unhealthy to eat and visit someone who might actually know how to help?”

Stiles grinned shakily, and stood. “You’re not doing so bad.”

They drove to the diner on the edge of town, and picked up burgers and shakes to go. The Sheriff cut off Stiles’ protests about his cholesterol by saying that diet rules didn’t apply when you were helping your kid through their first heartbreak. Stiles let it go, since his dad hadn’t pressed him about skipping school.

They took their food to the cemetery, and spread out in front of a tombstone in a shaded corner. Daisies bloomed in front, and a stream burbled nearby. Stiles placed a vanilla shake – his mom’s favorite - on top of her tombstone.

“Hey, Mom,” he said, sitting down and pulling out his burger. “So, no change here, but Dad’s taken me to you to handle the sensitive stuff.” He took a bite, thinking about what he wanted to say. “Life’s been kinda shitty lately. Scott’s great, and Allison, his girlfriend, has turned out to be a good friend. I’m just lonely. And I thought – it seemed like maybe I had found someone. But I was wrong.”

Stiles’ eyes started to water again. He took a long sip of his shake to cover it, but there was no hiding it. His dad placed a hand on his shoulder. “Do you want me to wait in the car?” he asked.

Stiles shook his head. “No, it’s okay. I know whenever I tell something to one of you, you just tell the other,” he joked feebly. “There’s this guy I like a lot.”

Stiles stumbled through the story, blushing at times when he thought of his dad sitting next to him, listening. But he carried on until he got to confronting Derek at his locker. When he finished, his food was gone, and his throat was hoarse. “And that’s what’s going on with me,” he finished lamely. “What do you think?”

His dad pulled him into another hug. “We think you don’t deserve him. And when I find out who did this to you, they better never go a mile over the speed limit.”

Stiles laughed. He felt better, getting everything out there. They didn’t do this often, but he liked checking in with his mom, and telling her what was going on with him. It made him feel like they were back at home, in a different time, when he could just sit down at the kitchen counter after getting home from school. Mom would pull out the milk and
cookies and they would talk about whatever was bothering him.

They stayed there a little while longer, before gathering their trash. Stiles poured his mom’s shake on the grass in front of her tombstone before throwing the cup away. When they got home, it was almost time for the Sheriff to go into work. Stiles went back upstairs to work on his homework. As much as he would like to avoid school forever, he knew he would have to go back tomorrow with his head held high.

And really, he told himself, what did he have to be embarrassed of? Derek’s the one who acted like an asshole about the whole thing. He should be embarrassed, not Stiles.

Maybe if he kept telling himself that he’d start to believe it.

The next morning, getting out of his Jeep in the school parking lot felt like the hardest thing he’d ever done. After sitting in his car for several minutes, someone rapped on his window. Stiles was surprised to find Lydia tapping her heels impatiently next to his car.

He rolled down his window cautiously. “Hey, Lydia.”

She raised an eyebrow at him. “How much longer are you going to sit in there?”

“Uh, excuse me?”

“You heard me,” she said. “You should be interested to know that I’ve questioned Jackson, and he wasn’t the one sending you those notes.”

Stiles snorted. He had a hard time believing that.

“Do you think Jackson can lie to me?” Lydia asked icily. “Please. He likes to pretend he’s tough, but I have him neutered. Now come on.” She yanked the car door open and pulled him out. “No more hiding.” She pulled Stiles towards school.

The hallway became noticeably quieter as they walked in. Obviously word had gotten out. Stiles winced as they walked toward his locker, still arm in arm, and people whispered behind their hands.

“Do you see that girl with the purple backpack?” Lydia asked suddenly.

“Uh, yeah.”

“She pays a college student to do her homework. And that guy, there, in the Aerosmith t-shirt, is cheating on his girlfriend with his older and recently divorced next door neighbor. That girl by the water fountain accidentally sent out a mass text to everyone on her contact list while she was asking her mom to buy her some Immodium.”

“Okay,” Stiles said confusedly.

Lydia huffed and pulled him to a stop. “Everyone in this school does stupid or embarrassing shit. It happens. People will get over it, as long as you do. Stop walking around here like a victim, and they won’t treat you like one. Got it?” With that, she flicked her hair over her shoulder and sauntered away.

Scott walked up as Stiles stared after her. “What was that about?”

“I think Lydia just gave me a pep talk,” Stiles said.

“Huh.” Scott slung an arm around Stiles as they walked. “I didn’t think she had it in her.”

“Me neither,” Stiles shook his head as they stopped at his locker. “Also, we need to be really nice to her, she knows everything.”

 

“I can’t help loving you more than is good for me.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, to his lover, Charlotte von Stein

 

Getting through school was hard, but not impossible. No one said anything to him outright, which he suspected was Lydia’s doing. Even Jackson kept quiet about the whole thing. At lunch Stiles tried to sneak off to hide in the library, but Scott found him. They ate together amongst the books, working on homework and goofing around.

English was what he was dreading the most. During lunch, Scott reluctantly told Stiles that he had an appointment with the guidance counselor to talk about college during last period. He offered to blow it off, but Stiles told him not to worry about it. He wasn’t going to mess with Scott’s future just because Stiles’ present was a mess. If he thought he could get away with it, Stiles would have just skipped class, but he thought he had pushed his dad’s good graces enough for the week. With any luck, he could just slip in right before the bell, keep his head down, and get the hell out of there as soon as class was over.

Obviously that’s not what happened.

“All right, class,” Miss Blake said cheerfully. “Since you all seemed to enjoy it so much last time, we’re going to partner up again. I’d like you guys to spend your time comparing and contrasting Measure for Measure, and Richard III.”

Everyone stood immediately and began to move about the room. Stiles looked around desperately for someone to partner with, but everyone seemed to already know who they wanted to work with.

“Stiles!”

Stiles closed his eyes and tried to pretend he couldn’t hear Derek calling his name from two rows over.

“Stiles!” Okay, so it was a flawed plan. “Hey, Stiles!”

“Oh my God!” the kid in between them barked. “Here, take my seat, just stop fucking talking over me.”

Derek grinned at him as he sat down next to Stiles. “Thanks, man.”

“Yeah, thanks,” Stiles muttered.

Derek turned to him, smile sliding off his face. “Stiles, we need to talk.”

“You know,” Stiles said blithely, pretending he hadn’t heard Derek, “if you think about it there are a lot of similarities between Richard and the Duke. Except for their fates, of course. That’s kind of interesting.”

“What?” Derek shook his head. “I mean, yeah, I guess. But I wanted to talk to you about yesterday.”

“You know what?” Stiles interrupted. “Let’s not. Let’s just pretend yesterday never happened, okay? I get it, you weren’t in on it, but I would still rather just not.”

“We can’t do that,” Derek frowned.

“Of course we can!” Stiles said. “There’s only two weeks of school left. School lets out, we go our separate ways for the summer, and we won’t have to interact at all. It’ll be
like nothing ever happened.”

“Stiles,” Derek sighed as if Stiles was being dense. Which, hey, rude. Stiles was trying to be helpful here. “I just wanted you to know that I didn’t – I mean I wasn’t –“

“Yeah, I figured out that you weren’t actually trying to pull one over on me,” Stiles snapped. He was getting sick of this. Derek could take his pseudo-concerned act and shove it, as far as Stiles was concerned. “But did it ever occur to you that you didn’t have to be such a piece of shit about it? I mean, I know, you weren’t thrilled, but you were pretty fucking rude. It’s not like a simple “no” wouldn’t have been enough.”

Derek flinched. “I know. I should have handled it better. I was surprised.”

Stiles snorted. “Oh, you were surprised? That makes it all better.”

Derek opened his mouth – probably to protest some more about how he was a totally good guy who just happened to be disgusted by Stiles’ existence – when the fire alarm went off.

“An act of a merciful God if I ever saw one,” Stiles muttered as he grabbed his books.

Derek grabbed his arm. “Stiles, please. I know how it looked yesterday. I shouldn’t have reacted like that. It was shitty, but I just wasn’t thinking. I was just so surprised by the notes.”

A small hand wrapped around Derek’s, pulling it off of Stiles. “Stiles,” Lydia said coolly, “are you planning on just hanging around until you burn to death, or are we going to leave at some point?”

Derek’s face tightened with an emotion Stiles couldn’t quite parse, and he let go, stepping away. “Sorry to bother you,” he said gruffly.

Stiles stared at Derek, packing up his books with his shoulders hunched. He looked almost defeated. But that didn’t make any sense, he told himself. Derek had no stake in this besides convincing Stiles to forgive him for being rude. Stiles had meant what he had said before. He and Derek had very little interaction outside of this class, and once school let out, they wouldn’t see each other again until September. It really shouldn’t matter if Stiles forgave Derek.

For some reason, Stiles thought it might, though.

“Stiles.” Lydia tugged on his arm.

“Are you going to just drag me around all day?” he asked, tearing his gaze away from Derek.

“If I have to,” she said primly. “Let’s go.”

Outside, the teachers were half-heartedly trying to keep order. Most students had decided that this was close enough to the end of the school day, and were climbing into their cars to go home. Stiles figured that he had suffered enough for today. He had everything he needed in his backpack, so there really wasn’t any point in hanging around until the final bell.

He was unlocking his door when Derek ran up. “Listen,” he said seriously, “I know you’re mad at me, and you have every right to be. I was an asshole, and I was surprised, but not for the reason you think. Just, please, take this.” He thrust a small notebook into Stiles’ hands. “Do whatever you want, but please, read it. I never meant to hurt you. I hope this explains everything.” He turned and jogged away.

Stiles stared after him until Derek got to his black Camaro. Erica Reyes and Vernon Boyd were waiting for him. They seemed to be teasing him about something, but he flipped them off as they all climbed in. Only as they pulled out of the parking lot did Stiles get in his own car and look down at the notebook.

He had no idea what any of this was about. This didn’t explain anything; it just made him more confused. Finally he opened the notebook, heart pounding.

The first page was filled with messy handwriting. Derek had had a point. If this was his handwriting, it looked nothing like the notes. No wonder Derek had been able to tell right away. The notebook looked like a journal. The first page dated back to the beginning of their sophomore year. Stiles wondered why Derek had given him this. It was a pretty big sign of trust, for sure, but he didn’t get the point. Maybe Derek thought this would make them even? They both could learn something personal about each other?

Stiles flipped to a page that had been marked by a post-it.

October 10

There’s this kid, Stiles, in my chemistry class. He’s so smart. The class we share is my favorite 50 minutes of the day. I think I could listen to him talk for hours, just about anything that came to mind. Harris is a dick to him, but Stiles still always has something to say. I’m sure I’m just a dumb jock to him, but I feel like just being around him makes me smarter. I consider things from new angles, question what we’re being taught more. I love having class with him. The fact that he’s gorgeous doesn’t hurt.

Stiles stared at the page in shock. He re-read them, just to be sure it said what he thought it did. It was almost word for word what his first note had said. He quickly flipped to the next post-it, to find another entry that sounded suspiciously like one of his notes. Every marked page was one of his notes.

Stiles sat back after reading the last one, dated from just a week ago, where Derek complained about prom and wished he could ask Stiles. If this was real, that meant that Derek had liked Stiles as long as Stiles had liked Derek. But how were his journal entries used as love notes to Stiles? It occurred to Stiles that if someone had access to Derek’s private journal and was sending bits of it to Stiles, the prank might have been on Derek all along.

Stiles felt angry again, but this time on Derek’s behalf. These were obviously private thoughts. He didn’t even want to read anything besides what Derek had earmarked for him. Derek had written some of his most private thoughts and desires in this, and someone had used it against him. It was horrible. Derek was a nice guy – despite some rather uncharitable things Stiles had thought about him in the last 24 hours. He volunteered at the animal shelter on the weekends, and he tutored middle schoolers once a week. He was always friendly and nice to people, even if they weren’t friends. He didn’t deserve to be treated like this.

Stiles put the journal on the seat next to him, and put his car in drive. He had to get to the bottom of this. He drove to the Hale house, veins thrumming with righteous indignation. He had never been to Derek’s house before, but everyone knew where it was. You had to drive past the mansion on the edge of the Preserve to get to any of the hiking trails. Not that Stiles had ever used them, but there was a large clearing he and Scott would go to sometimes to hang out.

Stiles pulled through the wrap around driveway to park in front of the house. He grabbed the door and jumped out of his car before he could stop and think about the possibility he was about to make a huge mistake. He had been cautious before, and that certainly hadn’t gotten him anywhere.

“Stiles?” Derek opened the screen door and stepped out onto the porch, looking confused. “What are you doing here?”

Stiles ran up the stairs and shoved the journal at him. “What is this?” he demanded. Derek flinched, looking hurt, and Stiles backtracked. “I mean, obviously I can see what it is, but what the hell? I’m so full of myself, I just assumed that Jackson or someone was pulling one over on me, but I didn’t even think it was you.”

“Stiles,” Derek said slowly, as though he still wasn’t sure what Stiles was talking about. “That really is my journal. This isn’t a joke.”

“No, I get that!” Stiles flapped a hand impatiently at him. “I should have realized the handwriting wasn’t yours, it was too neat. But how did someone get access to your journal? It’s kind of a horrendously shitty thing to do, writing down your private thoughts and just handing them out to people. Obviously I get why you were upset now, I mean, you had to have been shocked to see your words staring back at you. But what was the point?” Stiles began pacing as Derek looked on, looking a little steamrolled. “I bet it was Jackson, he’s always been jealous people like you more than him. Lydia said he swore he didn’t do it, but that was when the question was pranking me. That’s just the kind of loophole that snake would come up with.”

“Do you want anything to eat?” Derek interrupted.

Stiles blinked at him. “Uh, I’m okay. Thanks though.”

Derek nodded to himself. “Okay. Okay, let’s sit … over here.” He guided Stiles to the swing on the far side of the porch. “Stiles,” he said carefully. “I think you’ve
misunderstood.”

“Again?” Stiles asked. “Man, my track record is for shit this week.”

Derek smiled. “I won’t tell anyone,” he promised. “The thing is, it wasn’t a prank. I can see how you might think that, given how unbelievably stupid the whole thing was.” Inside the house, a door slammed and Stiles could hear footsteps stomping away. Derek looked pleased. “Laura was eavesdropping,” he explained. “It was all her. I confronted her after school yesterday. She was tired of me pining, and not doing anything, and was trying to play matchmaker.”

Stiles frowned. “How did she think that was going to work?”

“I think she was hoping I would be so happy you were asking me to prom I wouldn’t question it,” Derek said wryly. “It wasn’t one of her best plans.”

“It doesn’t really sound like you,” Stiles agreed. “But it wasn’t a prank? On either of us?”

“Uh, no,” Derek admitted.

Stiles grinned. “But you do have a crush on me.”

Derek blushed furiously. Stiles was delighted to see Derek blushed with his whole body, from his ears down to where his neck disappeared into his shirt. He bet it continued even further. Pity he couldn’t see.

“And you want to go to prom with me,” Stiles pressed.

Derek scowled. It was pouty and adorable and Stiles melted a little. “Is that your version of asking me?”

“Not romantic enough for you?” Stiles asked. “It was almost a complete sentence!”

“I’m swooning,” Derek said sarcastically.

“But?” Stiles prompted.

“Yes,” Derek sighed, sounding incredibly put-upon. “I suppose I could.”

“Good,” Stiles stood up. “See you later!”

Derek hopped up and grabbed Stiles’ hand. “Not so fast,” he growled, and oh, there went Stiles’ knees. Good thing he had Derek there to lean on.

Derek cupped a hand around Stiles’ neck and brought him in to brush their lips together softly. Derek’s lips were just this side of dry, but they felt luxurious and heady
against Stiles’. Stiles covered Derek’s hand against his cheek with his own, holding him in place as they kissed. Derek deepened the kiss for just a moment, tugging on Stiles’ lip and flicking his tongue out briefly to swipe along the outside of his mouth before Derek stepped away, sliding out of Stiles’ grasp.

Stiles gaped. He felt like he had just been hit by a truck. Every inch of him sang to reach out and reel Derek back in, until their bodies were flush against each other. Derek backed away toward his front door, pulling it open and looking incredibly smug, and Stiles wanted to hit him a little. With his mouth.

“See you tomorrow,” Derek said, closing the door behind him.

“I think I hate you again!” Stiles yelled at the house. The sound of Derek’s laughter followed him back to his car.

 

“I’d like to paint you, but there are no colors, because there are so many, in my confusion, the tangible form of my great love.” – Frida Kahlo, to her husband, Diego Rivera

 

“Stiles, are you sure about this?” Scott asked nervously.

Stiles beamed at him. “Of course I am, Scotty. You worry too much.” He slipped a piece of paper into Derek’s locker and began walking away.

“Yeah, I worry too much,” Scott grumbled. “I wonder why.”

Stiles patted him on the shoulder, and wondered when Derek was going to get to his locker.

Stiles didn’t see Derek that day, except from a distance, but he continued stopping by his locker every few periods to leave a new note. By the time last period came, Stiles was a bundle of nerves just barely held together by the promise that it was all going to be out there soon. Derek walked into their English classroom, and bypassed his usual seat to stand in front of Stiles.

“Hey,” he said, sounding deeply amused. He held a stack of notes, not unlike the ones Stiles himself had once received. “Wanna explain what this is all about?”

Stiles smiled. “You said I needed to be more romantic.”

Derek rolled his eyes. “You know I was just kidding, I didn’t mean you had to do all this.”

The bell rang, and Stiles stood, winking. “Don’t worry, big guy.” He grabbed some index cards off his desk and walked to the front of the room.

“What do you mean? Stiles? What are you going to do?”

“Derek, if you could take your seat, please,” Miss Blake said. Derek sat in Stiles’ chair, looking deeply apprehensive. “Now class, at the beginning of the semester I offered the opportunity for anyone to create a presentation for extra credit. It’s a little last minute, but Stiles has decided to take me up on it. Everyone, please give him your attention.”

Scott clapped enthusiastically, and Stiles smiled. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Lydia hold up her camera, recording. Stiles had tried to fight her on it, but it had been a lost cause as soon as Allison had told her what he was planning to do.

“Love letters have long been a treasured means of communication between lovers who are kept apart, whether by geography or circumstance. Today they provide historians and scholars with valuable information about the personal lives of notable figures. John and Abigail Adams wrote over 1,100 letters to each other through their 50 year relationship. We have letters from everyone ranging from kings of old to 20th century poets to Michael Jordan. The appeal of the love letter lies not only in being able to communicate across vast distances before technology. It’s often easier to write down how one feels, rather than saying it to someone’s face. One has the time to review and edit their words, until one can be sure it’s perfect. Some people say that with all the new ways we have to communicate, it’s becoming a lost art form. However, I disagree. While there is indisputably value in being able to text or Facebook the person of your desires, there is no replacing the feeling of putting pen to paper to try to capture what you have in your heart.”

Stiles took a deep breath. Every eye in the class was glued to him, but he only had eyes for Derek. “For example,” he continued, looking down to read from his paper, “Talking to you makes me really happy. I think you get me like no one else has since my mom died.” He flipped to the next index card. There was some confused murmuring from the class, which he ignored. “You’re kind of heart-stoppingly gorgeous, but I could get over you if it was just that. You’re so selfless and kind, and you try to hide it by being a snarky asshole, but you can’t.” He flipped to the next card. “I’ve been on kind of an emotional rollercoaster the last few days, but I would gladly spend the rest of my life getting my heart torn up and put back together by you.” Stiles didn’t dare look up as he flipped to the next card. “You’re my first boyfriend, my first kiss, my first anything. I don’t even mind because I hate the idea of sharing any of that with anyone but you.” He flipped to the last card. “You told me I need to be more romantic. I know it was a joke, but you should know I’m very susceptible to suggestion. And now that I’ve matched you letter for letter, I have to ask.” He looked up. Derek looked gobsmacked, leaning forward on the edge of his seat, face intent on Stiles. “Derek Hale, go to prom with me?”

The class started clapping and catcalling (led by Allison and Scott, Stiles suspected), as Derek stood up so forcefully he pushed his desk back. He strode to the front of the classroom and captured Stiles in a devastatingly deep kiss. He cradled Stiles’ face gently, as his tongue swept into Stiles’ mouth, licking along the seams and demanding entrance. Stiles felt foggy when Derek eventually pulled away. He wondered if Derek would always be able to make him go fuzzy-brained. He hoped so.

“Yes,” Derek said.

“What?” he asked stupidly. Someone in the classroom snickered (this time he suspected Lydia).

Derek rolled his eyes. “Yes, I’ll go to prom with you.”

“Oh, good,” Stiles said faintly. “You should kiss me again.”

“All right,” Miss Blake stepped in hurriedly. “That was very sweet, guys, but let’s leave the kissing for after school, okay?”

Derek blushed again, before nodding sheepishly and went to sit again in their regular seats.

“Oh, for fuck’s sake!” the kid in between them snapped before Derek could sit. “Like I really want to sit between you now. Just take my seat already.”

Derek slid in next to Stiles, and reached over, entwining their fingers. Stiles glanced over. Derek smiled, small and happy.

I did that, he thought. I hope I get to for a long time.

As Derek raised their hands to brush a soft kiss against Stiles’ knuckles, Stiles suspected he would.

 

“I look back to the early days of our acquaintance and friendship as to the days of love and innocence, and, with an indescribable pleasure.” – Abigail Adams, to her husband, John Adams

 

Stiles looked around the crowded banquet hall with no small amount of satisfaction. Prom was almost over. It was strange, considering how much it had taken over Stiles’ brain the past month, but it was a little anticlimactic. The food was decent (the dessert was better), the decorations were the typical fairy-lights and balloon arches, and the music
wasn’t bad.

If he had been there with anyone else, or, even worse, by himself, he might have asked for his money back. But as he watched Derek blushingly accept his Prom King crown, and head out onto the dance floor with Lydia, his Prom Queen, Stiles couldn’t imagine being anywhere else.

Derek and Lydia danced together for a few moments before Stiles decided that he had been gracious about this long enough. He and Derek had only been dating for five days, and excuse him for not wanting to leave Derek unattended for too long.

“Excuse me, Lydia,” he said, tapping her on the shoulder. “But I think I’m going to have to cut in.”

“Go ahead,” Lydia sniffed. “Jackson should have done it already, anyway.” She stomped off to look for Jackson, and Stiles turned to Derek with a grin.

Derek pulled him close, snaking an arm around his back. They began to sway gently, more concerned with the press of their bodies against each other than the rhythm.

“I’m really glad we’re here,” Derek murmured.

“Me too,” Stiles shivered. He tucked his head against Derek’s neck. “I didn’t think I ever would be.”

“Stiles,” Derek sounded exasperated. Stiles couldn’t see, but he bet Derek was rolling his eyes. He did it a lot around Stiles. “You would have had a hard time keeping me
away.”

“Yeah, you were doing a great job before Laura got involved,” Stiles said fondly. Derek pinched his side in retaliation. “Hey! No manhandling the goods!”

Derek leaned back so Stiles could see his face, grinning lasciviously. “Oh really? Sure that’s what you want?”

“How dare you?” Stiles squawked in mock outrage. “The very presumption, I am offended –" Derek cut him off with a quick kiss, swift and bruising that left Stiles gasping. “Okay, I’m possibly less offended and more ‘let’s blow this joint’.”

Derek smirked. “I thought you might feel that way. Come on.” He grabbed Stiles’ hands and they walked from the room, only stopping to kiss twice along the way, which Stiles thought was very refrained of them. He definitely did not appreciate Scott pretending to heave from across the room. Like he was one to talk, with the way he and Allison carried on at every opportunity.

When they were settled in Derek’s Camaro, Stiles swallowed nervously. The car seemed so much smaller than it had on the way to prom. Derek was right there, and Stiles was maybe starting to panic a little. Okay, it was prom, and he had kind of declared his love for Derek in front of everyone they knew (Lydia’s YouTube video had reached hundreds of views by now), but suddenly he was finding it a little hard to breathe.

“Stiles?” Derek frowned, concerned. “Are you okay?”

“It’s hot in here, isn’t it?” Stiles winced. His voice sounded strangled and high-pitched. Great. That was one way to cool Derek’s jets. “Do you think we could open a window?”

The window next to Stiles immediately scrolled down. “Stiles,” Derek said again, low and earnest. “What’s going on? Talk to me.”

“It’s just – this is going to sound stupid, but I’m maybe … not … ready?” Derek looked blankly back at him. “For sex! Or whatever. I don’t know. I like you a lot, like a crazy
amount, and it’s not that I don’t want to, because oh wow do I, but, uh, we’ve only been together a few days, and I know it’s prom, but I just think maybe we should wait, just for a little while. Not forever! Just not … right now.”

To his surprise, Derek snorted before reaching over and grabbing one of Stiles’ hands. “Breathe,” he told him. “It’s okay. That’s not what this is about. I like you a lot, and I don’t want to pressure you or take things too fast. There’s plenty of time for that. I just thought, since it’s early, we could get some shakes and hang out.”

“Oh,” Stile said faintly. “That sounds good.”

Derek smiled and shook his head. “Come on. After everything that’s happened, you think I’m in this for the sex?”

Stiles felt an indescribable affection sweep through him as he looked across the car at this beautiful, incredible boy who he was already very nearly in love with. Without thinking, he lunged forward, kissing Derek. Derek gasped against his mouth, opening to allow Stiles’ tongue inside. Stiles clambered clumsily over the gear shift to straddle Derek’s lap. He groaned as the movement brought their cocks up against each other in a delicious slide. Derek leaned down to mouth along the cords of Stiles’ neck, nibbling at his collarbone and laving it with his tongue.

“Shit, Derek,” Stiles moaned. He hastily pulled at Derek’s shirt, tugging it out of his pants until Stiles could grasp at his skin. Derek moaned happily and rocked forward, sliding his hands to cup Stiles’ ass. Stiles gasped and brought their mouths together again.

They spent a few very enjoyable minutes like that, kissing heatedly and grinding against one another, before Derek pulled himself away.

“Stiles,” he said. “We should stop.” Stiles pouted, and leaned forward again to gently bite Derek’s ear. “Stiles,” Derek said again, pained. “If we don’t stop soon, I’m going to
come, and this is definitely not how I want my first time to be.”

Stiles leaned back in surprise. “Your first time?”

Derek startled before looking around shiftily. “Our first time. I said the first time for us. As a couple.”

“Derek.”

“Okay,” Derek sighed. “I haven’t had sex with anyone either. I was too hung up on you to ever do anything besides the occasional awkward date. I couldn’t imagine being with anyone else.”

Stiles couldn’t help it. He might have cooed a little.

“Stop it,” Derek said sternly. “I want our first time to be special, and right, and not just because we’re horny and in formalwear.” He nudged Stiles back to his side of the car. Stiles decided he would allow it because Derek was being adorable.

“I totally understand,” he said solemnly. “And I’m not in a rush. Whenever it’s right, okay?”

Derek nodded, looking relieved. Stiles thought it was a little funny that just a few minutes ago Derek had been the one reassuring him, and now they’re places were turned. It’s probably how relationships worked though, he figured. He’d have to check with Scott.

“Once our boners go down, can we get those milkshakes?” Stiles asked. “I really want one now.”

Derek laughed and started the car.

By the time Stiles got home, a little rumpled, but with a belly full of ice cream and a happy heart, he knew it didn’t matter how long they waited, because they were in this for the long haul. If John and Abigail Adams could keep writing love letters for fifty years, then damn it, so could they.