Stiles was an awkward adolescent. He was taller than his classmates from 6th to 9th grade. He was pudgy and adorable until the summer before his growth spurt, where he grew and gained that slightly pinched twiggy look that he rocked until sophomore year. His arms and legs were long and awkward, always flailing and smacking into things, just a bit out of his control, like he couldn’t tell where they all were at any given time.
He spent the summer between sophomore and junior years goofing off with Scott, and the first semester of junior year passed like the rest—possibly with more sexual frustration and hormones than either of them were used to.
Over winter break, he and his father took an actual vacation to visit some distant cousins on a farm in Mississippi.
Scott laughed at his longer hair when they came back, asked how he’d gotten sunburn on his face in the winter.
If people stared more than usual when he told Allison, Scott, and Isaac about his antics at lunch, he didn’t notice. He was used to his peers giving him the stink eye for talking too loud and gesturing too wildly.
“-and Diane just flipped him over her shoulder like a backpack, not even joking,” Stiles finished, laughing. He would never forget his five foot tall cousin flipping her 260 pound brother over her shoulder.
“Wow, that is impressive,” Scott said, glancing nervously at Allison.
She smiled widely. “It’s actually a pretty basic maneuver. I could show you guys sometime.”
A crumpled napkin landed on Stiles’s empty tray.
He scoffed. “Nice shot, asshole. Too bad I was done eating,” he snapped, getting up to dump his tray in the trash. He didn’t see Leah Alder, who’d thrown it, watching him toss away her carefully written number, her face set in dismay, but Scott did.
Stiles was waiting for the spaghetti squash to finish baking when the doorbell rang. This was slightly alarming, since the McCalls generally let themselves in, and any deputies tended to use the sides of their fists three times to knock. Stiles looked at his dad, who looked at him and shrugged; he’d just gotten home and hadn’t even changed out of his uniform yet.
Stiles sighed and went to get the door.
“Oh, hi,” he said, surprised, when he opened the door.
It was Carrie Villanueva, she of the smoky black eyes, straight A’s, and wild black curls. “Hey,” she said cheerfully. “I was, um…” Her eyes flicked away for a moment, over his shoulder. Her face turned red. “I was just stopping by to…ask…you…” Her cheeks went redder, and her gaze dropped to her feet. “Ask if you had notes from chemistry. That I could borrow.”
“Um, yeah. Sure.” Puzzled—Carrie had never seemed shy, and she’d never taken notes in class before—Stiles grabbed his bag from behind the door and yanked out his sloppy sheaf of notes from his text book. “Sorry they’re a mess,” he said with an awkward laugh. “Usually it’s just me reading them.”
She snatched them from his hand. “That’s fine. This is—fine. Thanks, Sti-les.” There was a weird break in her speech when she said his name. She left in a hurry.
“That was weird,” Stiles decided, turning around and jumping when he saw his father behind him. “God! No wonder she sounded funny there at the end. You’re still in uniform.” He rolled his eyes and went to the kitchen with his dad right on his heels.
“I forgot,” John said pleasantly. “What was it she needed?”
“Notes for chemistry. Weird, since she usually acts like even suggesting she take notes is an insult to her ability to remember things.”
“She’s pretty smart, then?” he asked casually.
Stiles shrugged, stirring the sauce. “Sure, she’s competing with Lydia and me for best grades in our year. She has a really good memory for things. Last year some people tested it; she recited a couple pages from our history book verbatim.”
The sheriff hummed under his breath.
Taylor, a trans boy Stiles had known for years, showed up at his house Wednesday night, and stammered out a request for Literature notes. Confused—Taylor wasn’t shy, either, just reserved, usually—Stiles handed them over and asked if he was okay.
“Oh, yes,” Taylor laughed nervously. “Just—uh—worried about my grade.”
Stiles’s brows drew down. Lit had been Taylor’s best and favorite subject forever. “Do you want to study together before the test on Friday?” he asked, concerned.
Taylor started to smile, cheeks turning pink, before his gaze jerked somewhere over Stiles’s head. “Um, no, thanks. I just—notes.” He held up the papers Stiles had given him. “Thanks,” he muttered, and fled.
“Who was that?” John asked from over his shoulder where he was sitting on his recliner.
“Oh, Taylor Benton. Lit notes. I guess my note taking prowess is legend,” Stiles joked, stretching his arms over his head and closing the door. He took in his father’s state of dress. “Are you going back in tonight?” he asked, frowning.
John blinked, for all the world looking like a startled deer, before he nodded. “Yes. For a couple hours, until Ryans gets in. He said he’d be a few hours late.”
Stiles huffed. “Fine. I’ll leave a plate in the microwave for you.”
John nodded again, looking back at the TV.
“Are you watching The X-Files?” Stiles asked incredulously.
“Um…yes. It seems so,” he answered warily.
“Cool.” Stiles vaulted over the back of the couch and settled in.
“The furniture is not as sturdy as the fences at the farm, Stiles, be gentle,” John said dryly, but he was secretly pleased that Stiles was watching TV with him.
Stiles knew these things.
Declan Monroe was on the basketball team, along with Derek Hale and Vernon Boyd, and they were all pretty gorgeous in their own ways. Declan, for instance, had these tumbled auburn curls and a slow, sleepy grin that made just about everyone imagine him grinning at you like that before kissing you stupid.
He came around to Stiles’s house at 9 on a Thursday, and John answered, since Stiles was doing the dishes and too slow at drying his hands.
“Uh…” Stiles managed at the sight of him staring solemnly up at the sheriff.
When he caught sight of Stiles, Declan gave him that sleepy grin of his, eyes half-lidded like he might just fall asleep on the front porch, and would invite Stiles to join him.
“Can we help you?” John prompted, is hands at his belt; Stiles elbowed him.
“Smells like something’s burning,” Stiles said pointedly. Then he grinned at Declan, trying to pretend like his dad did not have his hand inches from a firearm. “Did you…?”
Declan nodded. “I wanted to know if you wanted to go…” He blinked, and his eyes suddenly looked more alert. “Go, um, study. For chemistry. Together.”
“Sure…? Tonight?” Stiles tried not to look skeptical.
“Yes. Right, uh, now.”
A sinking feeling like dread clutched Stiles’s stomach. Suspicious, he glanced over Declan’s shoulder. “Is this some sort of prank? Is the team in the yard or something?”
Declan’s gray eyes widened. “No!” He muttered a curse, then went pale and glanced over Stiles’s shoulder nervously. “We can, uh, study here. If you want.”
Declan lasted 20 minutes before claiming he had to get home and fleeing like the house was on fire. Stiles let his pen sag from the corner of his mouth, sighing.
“Are you leaving, too?” he asked, seeing his dad in full uniform in the doorway.
“Just for a few hours,” John said, shuffling his feet. “Lock up, okay, kiddo?”
Stiles rolled his eyes, trying to perk up. “I always do. You’re sure going in a lot,” he muttered. “Crime rate go up? Are there two break-ins a year now?”
“Oh, be quiet, kid. I’m…building up vacation time.” He rolled his eyes in a move so like Stiles’s own that they both laughed. “Get some sleep, son.”
“Will do. Be careful.”
After he was gone, Stiles wondered if Declan had been trying to find a way to ask if Stiles would do his homework or something.
Stiles started to keep neater notes, and started to take them in more detail in class. In fact, he kept them so neat and organized that even his own near-perfect grades rose a bit. He started to answer the front door with his binder full of notes in hand, resigning himself to being the go-to note guy, but never an actual study-buddy.
Nichole Patterson, Lucas Mitchell, and a couple more came after Declan, all leaving quickly with notes clenched in their hands. Stiles had started making copies of everything to keep things simpler.
“Tyler,” he said cautiously, “we don’t have the same chemistry teacher. Aren’t you taking animal science?”
Tyler looked lost for a moment. “I—I meant Lit. Um, literature. We’re doing, uh, the stuff that Ms. Hawkins covered a few weeks ago? And, um, Taylor said you took really, um, good notes. Yeah.”
A little helplessly, Stiles passed over the notes and watched Tyler run for it. He sighed and closed the door. “Dad, please stop wearing the gun around the house. I think you’re scaring my classmates away.”
John huffed, his gaze darting toward the kitchen—no doubt wondering when dinner would be done. “I wasn’t even in sight of the door.”
“Yes, but…something’s got them running away. Like, I get that I’m not GQ material, but I’m also not some lake creature. Dad. They are literally running away from the house.”
John let out a snort. “They aren’t running away. Just…speed walking. Maybe they’re in a hurry to study. It is your junior year. Gotta keep those grades up.”
“My grades are up!” Stiles flung his hand toward his binder of notes. “They’ve never been so up! And none of these people have ever even spoken to me before! Why do they need my notes?”
At school the next day, Tyler tried to give Stiles his notes back in the hallway.
“Um, no, it’s okay,” Stiles laughed. “I actually started making copies? So you can keep those. I mean-” he tried to backtrack when Tyler looked like he was starting to deflate. “Thanks, seriously, it’s cool that you brought them back so, uh, promptly, and everything. But I don’t—I’ll take them, it’s fine,” he finally blurted, unable to handle the increasingly crestfallen look on Tyler’s face any longer.
He took the notes and waved at Tyler, who still looked sort of defeated, and skidded into geometry a little late. Scott hissed about the lit test he had to take the next day in Ms. Hawkins’s class, and, with some relief, Stiles handed him the copy of notes Tyler brought back.
“You are so lucky,” Stiles hissed. “You should thank Tyler McKinney for those notes.”
“This is your handwriting,” Scott pointed out, rifling through the pages.
“I let him borrow a copy and he brought it back. I guess he couldn’t have known I had copies,” Stiles mused.
Before Scott could tell Stiles what he’d found on the 2nd page—Text me! @ 444-1219—Mrs. Thomson had walked in and started talking, and he forgot all about it.
Jessica Masters, usually very shy and studious, asked quietly for his notes from geometry 2. She asked with her eyes on her shoes, and asked if she could text him sometime. Stiles, cheered by this, obligingly wrote his number on a corner of the notes and said he’d love to study for exams together soon.
“Sure,” she said softly. “Okay. Thank you, Stiles. Bye, Sheriff.”
Stiles spun around and saw his dad leaning against the wall, arms crossed, a huge grin on his face.
“What? What’re you laughing at?” He shook his head and turned back to Jessica, but she was already fast walking down the sidewalk. He sighed and shut the door. “What are you grinning at?”
“Not a thing, kid. You’re just…” He shook his head, smirking. “Just you.”
Stiles was confused.
Derek Hale was at the front door. He had his backpack slung over one shoulder, a notebook under his arm, and a set scowl on his face. It was a familiar look. It was the only expression Stiles had ever seen him wear outside of a basketball game. When he was playing basketball, he grinned and struck terror into the hearts of his opponents.
“Uh,” Stiles managed, but Derek looked right over his shoulder; instead of stammering and blushing like all the rest, he just stared.
Derek was known for his stare downs. He would easily be the most ogled person in school, if he didn’t sense a gaze on him and make immediate and aggressive eye contact with whoever it was staring at him. He could make you feel cold in all your extremities with that stare.
Derek finally looked at Stiles. “I want to study for history.”
Stiles sighed, his shoulders slumping. “Yeah, alright.” He stepped back to reach for his binder, but instead of waiting on the porch, Derek stepped into the space Stiles had left, closing the door behind him.
“Sheriff,” he said politely, turning toward Stiles. “In the kitchen? The lighting is probably best in there.”
Stiles gaped at him.
Derek lifted his brows expectantly.
“I—guess. Yeah, the light is….good…in there. At the table.” He picked up his binder. “Did you want my notes…?”
Derek snorted. “I brought my own. I figured we could compare and go over what we thought Sanchez was going to cover in the test.”
Stiles looked to his father for confirmation that this was happening, and noticed for the first time that John was, once again, in full uniform, with his arms crossed and a foreboding scowl on his face.
“Dad,” Stiles hissed. He glanced back toward Derek and laughed weakly. “Sure, let’s go in the kitchen.” He shot his father a dark look while he led the way to the dining table. “Um, so…don’t take this the wrong way, but…why…are you here?”
“To study,” Derek said flatly. He dumped his stuff on the table and looked around the kitchen. A little curve came over his mouth. “I like your kitchen.”
Stiles looked around, too, seeing the parts of it he was used to and usually ignored, the worn linoleum, the slightly scarred and stained counters. “Thanks,” he muttered, sitting down. His stomach felt tight, making him realize that he was waiting for the punchline, the part where the popular jock caught the gullible lower lifeform by surprise in his moment of weakness.
It didn’t come.
They studied for an hour. Derek was serious about his history grade, and, for some reason, Stiles’s, too.
“I’m starving. How is your brain not melting out of your ears yet?”
“I like history,” Derek grunted without lifting his head from his textbook. He flicked his eyes up toward Stiles though, a little under-the-lashes look that made Stiles’s heart lurch in his chest.
“I like it, too. I just like food more,” Stiles said, jumping up. “Do you want some snacks?” he asked cautiously, because he was sure Derek was going to bolt as soon as they were done studying.
Instead of doing that, Derek closed his book on his pen. “Sure, thanks.” He turned his head toward the door. “I can clear the books off if you want to join us, Sheriff,” he said politely, and Stiles turned to the doorway.
“Dad.” Stiles was sure he made crazy eyes at his father, who was glowering at Derek.
Derek did not seem phased by the sheriff of Beacon Hills glaring at him.
“I’m going into the living room,” John finally said gruffly. “I can still hear you,” he added menacingly, and Stiles was horrified.
“Sorry about that,” he whispered. “I have no idea what he was doing.”
To his utter shock, Derek was smiling, a softer smile than the one he wore to games. “It’s okay, he’s just being protective.”
Stiles frowned at him, and Derek held his hands out in front of him. “I guess I should come clean now.” His ears were turning a little red. “I actually came over to ask you out.” He kept his gaze on the table, as if he were embarrassed.
His head snapped up. “I don’t want you to think I’m asking you out because you changed over winter break like everyone else.”
Before Stiles could ask “everyone else?”, Derek continued. “When I moved here freshman year, you accidentally flung a packet of Reese’s at my face and, trying to catch it, knocked me flat on my ass. I have also been told to let you know that I move with the speed and grace of a lame turtle with bifocals in these situations,” he muttered, glowering at his hands.
“Me assaulting you with candy is sexy to you?” Stiles wondered, sitting down heavily on a chair.
“Your genuine apology was cute,” Derek mumbled. “I had to work up the nerve to talk to you again over the years and you always brushed me off.”
“I never brushed you off!”
But suddenly Stiles could remember Derek saying hello to him in the hallway, walking toward their lunch table, occasionally sitting near him in class. Little things that Stiles didn’t pay attention to—because he was used to being ignored, and so he had ignored in return.
“You—you tried to…oh, god, sophomore year…you tried to ask me to…that dance thing…” Stiles remembered with abject horror.
“And you thought I was talking to Lydia and wished us luck, yeah,” Derek muttered. “It’s nice and all, remembering the most humiliating times of my high school career to date, but could you just maybe answer me?”
“Yeah, yes, of course,” Stiles said hurriedly, and blushed bright red. “I mean, yes. I would love to go out with you.”
Derek’s smile was like literal sunshine.
It wasn’t until a few weeks, multiple date nights, and three family dinners later that Stiles found out his father had been scaring away everyone that had come to ask Stiles out.
“I wasn’t scaring them away, exactly. Besides, you were doing fine rejecting them on your own,” John said, winking toward Derek.
The two had bonded and now they could tease Stiles together. Scott, on the other hand, was not too keen on Derek at first. He was warming up, though.
“He was weeding out the weak,” Derek said. “You should’ve heard people talking about the Sheriff staring at them like he was going to devour their soul.” He pressed his face against Stiles’s shoulder when he laughed.
“And how did you manage to make your way past the sheriff?” Stiles demanded, elbowing him.
“My sister’s one of his deputies and practiced her cop-stare on me and our younger siblings,” Derek said casually.
John, from his recliner, swore under his breath. “I forgot Laura had a little brother. Dammit.”
Derek laughed again and pressed his leg to Stiles’s.
“So people were really coming over here to ask me out?” Stiles wondered aloud. “Even Declan?”
Derek’s grin dropped immediately. “Yes,” he said casually. “Yes, he was.”
“I must have gotten so hot over break. I’m sexy,” Stiles crowed, wiggling in place.
Derek wisely kept his mouth shut, and John didn’t have to go put his gun on his belt.