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Fuel to Fire

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Stiles tells himself as he brushes his teeth in front of the mirror that this year will be his year. He fucked up freshman year, but that’s okay because he still has Scott. This year, however, is the year that he will become popular. He will no longer be the weird kid, he can do this.

Spitting out the toothpaste, he grabs his bag and makes his way downstairs, which is quiet and empty. His dad is asleep upstairs, having got in about an hour ago from his night shift. There’s a note next to Stiles’ car keys from him, wishing him good luck. Stiles quietly unlocks the door and shuts it behind him.

The drive to school has Stiles looking at himself in the rearview mirror, silently telling himself that this year is the year. He still looks the same as last year, but this year will be different.

The parking lot is awash with students, and Stiles has to park at the very back because it’s the only way he’ll find a space.

As he’s walking to the school, a silver porche pulls into the space right outside the doors, like it’s his own personal car space.

Stiles fights the urge to duck his head down and remain as unobtrusive as possible. This year is his year, right? This is the year his life changes for the better! He can do this.

“Oh hey, look what we have here, the train wreck. I thought we had finally got rid of you Stilinski.”

Stiles resolutely tries to ignore Jackson’s stupid face and starts to climb up the steps into the school. Jackson however jogs past him and slides in front of him, putting a hand out to stop him from moving.

“Hey, why are you ignoring me? You think you would have learnt after the last time you did that, huh?”

Stiles can’t help it, he ducks his head down to avoid Jackson’s gaze. God he hates him.

“Just because you’re not a freshman anymore doesn’t mean you get a free card this year. You’re nothing but an amusement to me, you know that? A freak. Isn’t he guys?”

A group of people have formed around them, always happy to see the stupid kid who can’t talk get beaten down. A few of them laugh but most of them just cheer in response.

Stiles just keeps his head down and wishes he had the confidence to fight back.

“I asked you a question, idiot. Don’t tell me your stupidity has increased so much that you can’t even tell what a question is. Or has a cat got your tongue?”

His cheeks are so heated, and Stiles wishes that Jackson doesn’t get to him as much as he does. It doesn’t even matter, Jackson is one out of the entire school who likes to remind Stiles of how different he is. He wishes that he had more friends than just Scott.

“Well?”

“I kn-kn-kn-know that J-J-Jackson.” Stiles curses himself in his head. Why couldn’t he just be able to speak normally?

“Ahh, there we go,” Jackson smirks, and the people who have crowded around the two of them laugh. “I’d say you’ve finally remembered how to talk, but if I said that then I’d be lying, huh? You couldn’t talk like a normal person even if your life depended on it.”

That cues another round of laughs from the people around them. Stiles, for a very long moment, wishes that he were dead, or very far away from any human being so that he can’t ever feel as humiliated as he does right now.

“Well,” Jackson says, looking at Stiles with an air of derision. “You’ve wasted my time long enough. Have a n-n-nice day st-st-Stiles.” Jackson walks off, high fiving a friend of his and laughing, Stiles clutches at his bag straps and steps forward again, but another one of Jackson’s friends sticks his leg out as he walks past, tripping Stiles and sending him sprawling to the floor. Everyone around him starts laughing harder as they walk off and Stiles has to try his utmost not to cry.

Stiles was kidding himself when he looked into the mirror this morning, this year is going to be just as horrible as every year before it. He doesn’t know why he even tried.

 

***

 

Stiles spends the next three lessons alone, staying as quiet and hunched as possible. A group of guys behind him keep blowing spit balls at him, and a couple of them go down the back of his hoodie. It’s disgusting. The teacher doesn’t notice.

Stiles goes to the dining hall for lunch, usually he would take his own lunch and eat outside but today he decides to get it from the cafeteria. As he’s walking to an empty table, some douchebag from Jackson’s table slaps his tray up, so it goes all over himself and on the floor. Stiles stands there covered in red meatball sauce, his hands still numbly holding onto his tray, listening the laughter in the hall. Everyone stopped to see what the noise was, and now everyone, everyone who he can see is pointing at him and laughing. Jackson is practically wetting himself with laughter.

What the guy did was pathetic, immature and ridiculous, Stiles tries to tell himself, but it doesn’t help the burn of shame and the urge to cry pathetically get any less severe.

Stiles steps over the mass of spaghetti on the floor, and puts his tray on the side, before walking as dignified as he can out of the hall. Everyone who passes him gawks at his appearance, and starts sniggering. He finally makes it to a bathroom which is apparently blessedly empty, and takes off his backpack, ripping paper towels from the dispenser, wetting them and trying to rub off the bright red stain from his white t-shirt. He has lumps of tomato in his hair, stains on his face, and he rubs harder trying to erase everything that happened.

When it becomes clear that the stain is not gonna move without some heavy duty cleaner and possibly a washing machine, Stiles yells “fuck!” and slumps to the floor underneath the hand dryer crying silently. He tries to stop crying, rubbing the tears away as they leave his eyes, but before long he just gives up and buries his face in his knees.

After about a minute, a stall Stiles hadn’t noticed was closed creaks open. Stiles curses his luck and wipes at his eyes, trying to make it seem like he hasn’t just been sobbing like a baby.

To make it worse, it’s fucking Derek Hale, possibly the most popular person in the school, and by Stiles’ reckoning, the hottest. He’s a senior this year, and captain of the basketball team for the third year in a row. Rumour has it that he’s got a 4.0 GPA and has already been offered a place at Stanford next year for Law. God, he’s basically perfect. Even if he is friends with douchebag Jackson, but Stiles guesses nobody is completely perfect. Plus, he doesn’t really spend that much time with Jackson at all really, he has his own little clique who he stays with.

And Stiles is sitting on the floor in front of him wearing a damp t-shirt stained red, with puffy eyes and probably looks like a total mess. Derek stops in the middle of the bathroom, face blank but his forehead is slightly creased.

“Are you okay?” He asks, and Stiles is so shocked at such a stupid question that he just barks out a laugh.

Derek looks taken aback, but also faintly embarrassed, like he, he, made a fool of himself.

“What happened?” He asks instead. Stiles sighs, it would be rude not to answer.

“I, well I t-t-tripped. I-in the c-c-c-cafet-teria.” He says quietly.

Derek doesn’t look particularly convinced, but he also doesn’t look like he’s gonna laugh at Stiles because of his stutter which is always a plus for Stiles.

“I have a spare shirt in my gym locker. I could get it for you?”

Wait a second. Derek wants to be nice to him? Wow.

“R-r-really? Y-you w-w-would do th-that for m-me?”

“Sure, your t-shirt is kinda stained. Just stay here, I’ll go grab it for you. I’ll only be a minute, promise.”

Stiles just nods helplessly and Derek strides off, ass looking particularly great from where Stiles is sitting on the floor, leaving Stiles alone in the bathroom. Stiles can’t believe it, Derek was actually nice to him. Like, super nice. Going out of his way kind of nice. Wow.

Derek is back less than five minutes later. In his hand he’s holding a plain black t-shirt. He hands it over to Stiles who stumbles over a thank you, and clutches the t-shirt in his hand.

Derek stands there and Stiles winces internally. He quickly shucks off the stained t-shirt, hoping to god Derek doesn’t laugh at his skinny, pale, freckled body, and quickly puts on the black one. It hangs off him, clearly meant for someone with far more muscle mass than he has, but it’s clean and that’s all he can ask for. It feels super soft and smells amazing, like Derek has worn it over and over for a long time.

“Thank-k you.” He says again, and Derek stops rummaging in his bag to look at Stiles.

“No problem,” He replies. “What’s your name by the way?”

“St-Stiles.”

“Stiles.” Derek draws his name out slowly, kind of like he’s savouring it. “Awesome. Give me back my shirt when you can yeah? I’m not fussy when.”

By the time Stiles has stuttered a reply, Derek is gone.

 

***

 

It started when Stiles was little. When his mom got ill he would spend all his spare time talking to her, and he would always try to talk as fast as possible so he could say everything he wanted to before she fell asleep again. He was loud and brash and energetic and he never stopped moving, and he was eventually diagnosed with ADD. Meanwhile, his mom got worse and worse, and Stiles still remembers to this day the crushing feeling of trying to make everything better, trying to help her, but failing miserably. Then, when she died, he would talk just to fill the complete silence in the house. When his mother died he was practically catatonic, and he had nightmares every single time he went to sleep that his dad would also die and he would be left alone. His ADD, coupled with a shit ton of anxiety, produced a stutter.

And Stiles couldn’t get rid of it. He had tried so hard, as well, started talking slower again. He even went to speech therapy for a while which helped a little but in the end he had to stop because the bills were too much for his dad, especially on top of the hospital bills he still had for his mom.

Then people at school started noticing it more and more, and started making fun of him for it, and it was like the more he teased him the worse it got, until Stiles basically stopped talking to 99% of the school’s population. The only times he really talks are when people ask him questions. He always has to talk in chemistry, because Harris figured out early on that Stiles hated talking aloud, and would vindictively use that against him. Stiles hated Harris, every lesson with him made Stiles feel even worse about himself.

So, Stiles was stuck with this god awful stutter, a school that continuously made fun of him for it, and no way of it ever stopping. It was like a continuous cycle of bullying.

 

***

 

Meeting the kid in the bathroom made Derek think. The guy had obviously been crying, even if Derek hadn’t heard the sobs, but he still tried to put on a brave face. Derek thinks he’s seen Stiles around the school before, and he recognised him more when he started talking.

When Derek gets to the lunch hall he grabs a sandwich from the counter and makes his way over to where Isaac, Boyd and Erica are sitting. As he passes Jackson’s table he notices the smear of spaghetti on the floor. That can’t be a coincidence considering Stiles’ shirt was also covered in spaghetti sauce.

“Hey dude, what’s up?” he says to Callum, one of the guys on the basketball team with him. “What happened to the floor man?”

Callum grins. “Oh dude, you should have seen it. You know that skinny sophomore, the one who can’t talk right? He was walking past our table and then Mark just flipped his tray up, and man it went everywhere. You should have seen his face, it was so funny. He’s such a little freak, it’s so easy to make fun of him.” The guys sitting round the table laugh in response, agreeing with Callum.

Derek did see his face, after Stiles had been crying. It wasn’t that funny at all really.

“Yeah. You remember the meet on Wednesday?”

Callum replies in the affirmative, and Derek walks off to find his real friends.

The whole thing with Stiles makes him feel uncomfortable. How can being so rude to someone be funny? Derek aims to get to know Stiles better, or at least find out more about him. 

 

***

 

The rest of the school day goes by fairly quietly, and Stiles thanks the lord that he can just slouch low in his seat and not make eye contact with anyone. Luckily he doesn’t have Harris today, and most of the teachers now know not to pick on Stiles, because he always fumbles and fucks up, even if he does know the answer.

When the last bell rings he packs his things away and gets into his car, speedily making an exit before someone like Jackson can find him or something.

Instead of going straight home, Stiles makes his way to the hospital.

He nods at the nurse on the front desk, and makes his way up the two flights of stairs, knocking on the door before allowing himself in.

As predicted, Scott is lounging on his back, playing on his shitty old laptop. Scott constantly whines that he needs to get a new one so that he can play more games on it, but on one nurse’s salary, they have no chance of being able to afford a brand new laptop any time soon.

 Two days before school started, Scott had another severe asthma attack, so much so that he had to have a breathing tube fitted. This is the sixth time it’s happened since Stiles and Scott have been best friends. He’ll probably stay in hospital for another day or so, and then spend another couple of days at home.

“Dude!” Scott says, shutting the lid of his laptop and sitting up higher. “How was school? Did you wow the school?”

Stiles huffs a sigh and slumps in the chair next to Scott’s bed. “If by wowing the sch-school you mean g-g-getting pasta chucked all over y-your shirt and-d having the ent-t-tire cafeteria l-laughing at you then sure, I w-w-wowed the school.” Stiles’s stutter isn’t so bad when he’s around Scott or his dad, mainly because he’s totally comfortable with them, and they never make fun of him.

Scott winces in sympathy. He had been so confident that Stiles would be happier this year and it just wasn’t to be apparently.

“Hey, it’s only the first day right? You have time!” Stiles just sighs and nods despondently. He’s not getting his hopes up anymore.

“Did anything else happen? I mean it’s the first day and all. Who got really hot over the summer?”

Stiles laughs. “Well there’s th-this new g-g-irl called A-Allison. She’s p-p-retty.”

Scott perks up at this. “What does she look like?”

“Tall, t-t-thin, with brown hair and eyes. She h-h-as dimples. I t-think she t-transferred here bec-cause she’s K-Kate Argent’s c-cousin.”

Scott groans and throws himself back into his pillow. “Ugh, she sounds amazing. Even if she is related to the bitch from hell. Kate is so hot though. I’ll have to look out for her when I go back. Anything else?”

Stiles blushes and looks down.

“Stiles? What happened? Come on, you can’t look like that and then not tell me anything!”

“W-w-well. I, um. When I w-was t-trying to get t-t-the st-st-stain off my shirt, D-Derek Hale was in t-t-the bathroom w-w-with me and he w-w-as super n-nice and gave me his s-shirt.” Stiles motions to it, and watches as Scott’s eyes go wide as he realises that yeah, that isn’t Stiles’ shirt at all. “Derek Hale knows my name.” Stiles finishes reverently.

Scott looks so excited. “Oh my god, Stiles this is awesome! I mean, you’ve had a crush on him for, like, ever right? You guys can finally get to know each other!”

Stiles grins but then his face falls.

“B-b-but we c-c-couldn’t be t-t-t-together because he’s st-st-still with K-Kate, remember? I mean, he’s s-s-straight!”

Scott also looks dejected. “Well, maybe you two could become really good friends and then he’ll realise what a bitch Kate is and fall for you instead? I mean, it’s always a possibility!”

Stiles just nods and then changes the conversation. They mess around on Scott’s laptop for a bit, before Stiles has to go home and make dinner for himself and his dad, before his dad has to leave for his next shift. When he changes into his pyjamas, he folds Derek’s shirt up carefully and reminds himself to put on a wash tomorrow so that he can give it back to Derek.

As Stiles lies in his bed that night, he thinks about what life would be like if Derek actually liked him. All of Derek’s friends would be his friends, people wouldn’t make fun out of the guy going out with Derek freaking Hale. Plus the kissing and the handholding and the… ugh.

Stiles shouldn’t get his hopes up like this. He rolls over so he’s on his side, and shuts his eyes, willing himself to go to sleep.