Stiles is standing on a rock in the middle of a rapidly rising river. His dad always said that Converse were an impractical choice for an archeologist and as Stiles begins to lose his footing, he’s starting to agree. Glancing around, Stiles sees some very angry treasure hunters on the left bank and steep cliff towering above him on the right bank, and he makes the obvious choice.
He grabs Derek’s hand, dives into the current and two feet later, over the falls.
To be very clear, Stiles is not a treasure hunter. It just so happens that his research often leads him to find treasure. There’s a difference.
“There is no difference,” Derek Hale sighs.
Derek is Stiles’ research assistant.
“I am not your research assistant; I am a highly qualified historian who can read, write, and speak in twelve languages! And I have tenure!” Derek interjects.
“Stop reading over my shoulder.” Stiles elbows Derek away even though he’s incredibly cute when he gets all up in arms like that. “There is such a thing as creative license.”
“Not when you’re writing non-fiction there isn’t,” Derek huffs, but he wanders over the hot plate to make himself more tea. The hot plate Stiles only has in his office because Derek complained one too many times about having to go into the lounge to make his tea when he’s visiting Stiles on the Anthro floor. Despite his own office only being two floors away.
“Don’t you have a class to teach or something?” Stiles asks, turning away from his laptop to glare at Derek. Half-heartedly, really.
Derek shakes his head as he adds far too much sugar to his tea. “No, my three hundred level on the rise of Islam in the Middle East was cancelled. Not enough interest.”
“Not even with your pretty face to stare at all semester, Indiana Jones?” Stiles teases, batting his eyelashes. Derek is sensitive about his looks in relation to his actual talent. In Stiles opinion, he’s far more talented than he is handsome, and that’s saying something, because Derek easily could’ve been a model or an actor or something.
Derek rolls his eyes. “No, not even that was enough to overcome rampant Islamophobia, apparently.”
“Well.” Stiles slams his laptop shut. “I guess that means you have time to come to the library and translate some Sanskrit for me.”
“Whatever did I do to deserve you?” Derek gripes.
Stiles raises an eyebrow pointedly. “You know what you did.”
Ten Years Ago
Derek has doctorate in History with a focus on Classical Antiquity. In the Middle East. And yet, here he is, trekking through the forest in Tamil Nadu, India. It’s not that Indian history isn’t interesting, Derek can even read and write in Sanskrit, but he’s supposed to be at a conference on Indo-Iranian languages. In Romania.
Too bad he and his sisters were kidnapped at his home in California before he could leave for the airport. His sisters are being held in his house, used to keep him in line as the other part of the kidnapping team shuffles him across the world.
An entire kidnapping team of females: Kate Argent, infamous art and antiquities thief. Kali, last name unknown, wanted for murder in at least three countries. Julia Baccari, also known as Jennifer Blake, also known as the Black Widow who has allegedly murdered four husbands. And the one holding his sisters hostage: Victoria Argent, sister-in-law to Kate, and principal at the local high school.
One of those is not like the others.
“Keep moving, Hale,” Kate Argent barks at him.
Kali unnecessarily prods him forward with her gun. He’d like to see her try to navigate what is supposed to be an inaccessible trail with her hands tied behind her back.
“It’s getting dark,” Julia/Jennifer mutters.
“We’re almost there,” Kate replies.
Not ten minutes later, they come upon a statue of an Indian goddess. Derek, again, is no expert, but it’s likely Kamakshi, given that they are wandering around what is supposedly her birthplace, near Thalaiyar Falls. But they aren’t alone.
“Oh hey,” the lanky, pale guy says. “One of you wouldn’t happen to know Sanskrit?”
Kali raises her gun and points it at the guy. While Kate smiles in what she probably thinks is a non-threatening manner, but is actually quite terrifying.
“Why don’t you step away from there, sweetie?”
The guy just crosses his arms over his chest. “Or what?”
Julia/Jennifer takes out her own gun and also aims it at the guy. Talk about overkill.
“Alright, ladies.” The guy tilts his head at Derek, eyes assessing. “And gentleman. I’m an equal opportunity guy, we can all take credit for the find, I promise. No need to get all trigger happy.”
This guy is either stupid, has balls the size of grapefruits, is crazy, or all three, Derek thinks. He’s also very pretty and under better circumstances, Derek would love to buy him a drink. And kiss that lush mouth. And maybe suck on those long fingers before taking them... But he mentally shakes himself and tunes back into the conversation.
“Credit?” Kate scoffs. “I don’t want credit, I want cash. Forty million dollars, to be exact.”
“Forty million dollars?!” The guy gapes, which doesn’t help Derek in the slightest. “What sucker is going to pay you that much for this?” He thumbs at the statue behind him. “It’s not even made of gold.”
Julia/Jennifer makes a frustrated growl and flicks the safety off her gun. “Enough already. Move out of the way, kid.”
He does move out of the way, but Derek notices that he runs his fingers behind the statue on the way, clearly grabbing something or moving something. Luckily, it doesn’t seem like the women noticed.
“Grab him, Kali,” Kate orders as she steps toward the statue.
The guy is making very exaggerated eye movements at Derek. Which Derek is distracted from when Kate screams in agony.
“Run!” The guy shouts, grabbing Derek by his elbow while Kali and Julia/Jennifer are distracted by Kate.
“Can’t you take a hint?” the guy pants, dragging Derek along.
“Maybe if you were better at it,” Derek retorts.
The guy doesn’t answer, having them zig-zag through the forest in what seems to Derek like a random pattern, but it’s also clear that the guy knows where he’s going. He yanks them through some dense brush into a small cave, collapsing to the floor in a heap, bringing Derek with him.
“What the fuck,” Derek gasps out.
“Punctuation? It’s a thing,” the guy snaps back. “And that was me saving your ass.”
“How do you know I’m not one of them?” Derek retorts.
“Uh, duh, you’re tied up.”
The guy digs in his pocket, pulling out a Swiss Army knife, and then yanks at Derek’s arms until he can get around to cut off the rope. Derek gingerly rubs at his wrists as circulation returns.
“Point,” Derek mutters. “I’m Derek, by the way.”
“What kind of name is that?” Derek scoffs.
“If you can pronounce my real name, you can call me by it,” Stiles smirks.
Derek smirks back. “Spell it.”
“Hmm.” Derek pretends to think, just to see Stiles start to look smug. “Polish, but derived from Medieval Slavic. Mścisław. Vengeance and glory. Your parents must have really had it out for you.”
Stiles gives Derek what he probably thinks is a very threatening glare. “Asshole.”
“Sorry,” Derek says, although he’s not contrite at all. “How do you propose we get out of here, anyway?”
Stiles huffs and rolls his eyes. “We wait until dark and then head further up. Assuming they don’t know the area as well, they won’t be able to follow us, especially not in the dark with no landmarks.”
“But you will?” Derek has serious doubts about the entire plan.
“I’ve lived here for three years. Transcribing the Sanskrit on that statue was the last piece I needed to finish my dissertation.”
“Oh.” Derek winces, now contrite, having just finished his doctorate a few years before. “Sorry.”
Stiles waves one hand. “I took a photo of the inscription before your merry gang of thieves showed, at least.”
Derek holds out his hand. “Let me see it. It’s the least I can do.”
“You know, Tamil derives itself from Sanskrit,” Derek says, pointedly nodding at the text Stiles is transcribing.
Stiles glances up and grins. He knows what’s coming. “You don’t say.”
“Meaning that you could learn it yourself.” Derek points at a word on the text in front of him. “See, this here is very similar to the--”
Stiles cuts him off by leaning across the table and kissing him. “I know, dear.”
Derek gently pushes him away. “Or you could have one of your eager grad students do this for you.”
“Please,” Stiles dismisses. “Mason confused the words for east and west, a very important distinction when looking for the right place to dig, I might remind you. And Liam and Hayden are too busy making out, even if either of them were half as good as you.”
Derek rolls his eyes. “And I have nothing better to do?”
“Hey, you said your class was cancelled,” Stiles smiles, it quickly turns into a smirk as he adds on, “And you’re very easily incentivized.”
The tips of Derek’s ears turn pink. It’s adorable. “Mścisław,” he hisses, as though the use of his first name is a deterrent to Stiles rather than an incentive. “This is a library.”
“You weren’t so concerned about that the last time we were in DC, if I recall.”
Eight Years Ago
Derek squints against the sun, looking across the Mall. Stiles had said he would meet Derek near the Museum of American History at eleven, but it was nearly noon and he’d yet to show. Maybe he meant another museum, Derek muses, then jolts when he feels something covering his eyes.
“Really, Stiles?” Derek turns around to find his boyfriend smiling at him. “What are you, twelve?”
“If I was, you’d be very naughty indeed,” Stiles points out, waggling his eyebrows.
Derek facepalms. “You are the worst.”
“Best,” Stiles counters as he grabs Derek’s hand and starts dragging him through the Mall.
Stiles dragging him around is a theme in their relationship thus far. Literally and figuratively.
“Where are we going?” Derek asks as he tries to not plow over a group of schoolchildren.
“To get a book, of course.”
Of course, Derek thinks, because everything Stiles does is logical, not. “That’s how you want to celebrate getting your Ph.D.?”
Stiles turns and grins, now walking backward, and still dragging Derek by the hand. “No, my plans for that involve you naked and lots of lube. This is for a paper I’m writing.”
Derek flushes. Stiles is incredibly brazen. He should know that by now, especially considering how they met, but Stiles complete lack of a filter when it comes to sex still causes him to blush like a schoolgirl. He’s still blushing when they enter the Library of Congress.
“Alright.” Stiles consults his phone. “This way.”
When they get to the correct section, Stiles runs his fingers across the spines of the books as he describes what he thinks is in the book. Something about diverting the Periyar river to cover up something, something. Stiles hands are very distracting.
“Are you even paying attention?” Stiles huffs, waiving his hand in front of Derek’s face.
“What?” Derek blinks, moving his focus to Stiles’ face. “Yeah, of course.”
Stiles smirks and reaches out to tap a finger against Derek’s lips. “Right.”
Two seconds later, Derek is being dragged into the nearest bathroom without protest.
“That was one time!” Derek protests, blushing even harder.
Stiles grins. “You’re so cute when you blush.”
“You are a menace,” Derek mutters and goes back to the book.
“You love me anyway,” Stiles says as he pokes Derek’s arm with a pen.
“It’s the least I can do,” Derek says with a wink.
Maybe Stiles should write a letter to those four ladies in prison. After all, he owes his greatest discovery and treasure to them.