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New York State of Mind

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Stiles checks to make sure he has his new NYU ID and key in his pocket. Jared, his new roommate, was video chatting with his girlfriend. They had been giving each other tours of their dorms for the past half hour, and after chatting with her for a few minutes, Stiles had decided to go out and explore. 

His dad had helped him scope out a few local places, like the closest coffee shop and grocery store, as well as the most direct route to the buildings where most of his classes would be. He also knows how to get to the nearest subway stations, so he's feeling pretty confident about his ability to navigate the neighborhood. 

Unfortunately, as soon as he crosses the street, he gets distracted by someone shouting up the block and glances over his shoulder. He turns back just in time to make eye contact with a brunette woman before they collide. She tried to swerve at the last second, which probably ended up saving one of the bags she’s holding, but the other one basically explodes as Stiles crashes into it. 

“Oh my GOD I’m so sorry,” Stiles gasps out as he kneels to grab at the boxes of cereal and pasta that fell. Luckily nothing is glass or anything. “I should’ve been looking where I was going. Oh my god.”

The woman laughs softly, “Sweetie, it’s no problem. We’re lucky you just took out the pasta and oatmeal. The other bag has eggs in it, and that would have been a much bigger tragedy.”

Stiles glances up where the woman gestures at a man who is standing behind her. The man is just staring at Stiles with wide green eyes. “I’m so sorry,” Stiles repeats, looking up at him. “I just moved here for school and I can’t believe that I literally ran into somebody on my first day. I must have looked like such a tourist. I don’t even know how I’m going to function here if I can’t even walk down the sidewalk safely.”

The woman chuckles again and holds her hand out for the pasta Stiles is still clutching to his chest. He apologizes again and holds it out to her. “You attending NYU?” 

Stiles nods several times, “Yea, how did you know?”

She gestures at Stiles’ dorm across the street. “Most of the dorms in this neighborhood belong to NYU. We’ve been here for a couple years now, so we’re kind of used to it.” Stiles nods several more times and glances over the woman’s shoulder at the man still standing behind her. He hadn’t taken his eyes off Stiles yet, but he doesn’t seem to be glaring or anything. Just… staring. She follows Stiles’ line of sight and chuckles. “My mute brother over here goes to NYU too.”

“I’m not mute,” he says, speaking for the first time and scowling at his sister.

Stiles purses his lips and tries not to laugh at the look the woman gives her brother. 

“Laura. I’m not mute,” he insists. 

“Well, I’m going to let you go,” Stiles says. “Again, I am so, so sorry that I ran into you and spilled your food all over the sidewalk. Are you sure everything’s alright?”

“I am,” the woman, Laura, laughs again. “And don’t worry. Derek and I have both done worse things before. And look, our building is just right here, so we don’t even need to go far. Just… try to look where you’re going from now on.”

Stiles laughs and steps backwards and immediately bumps into a pole. “Right. Looking! I should do that.”

He turns and begins walking up the street, resolutely not turning around. After a few moments, though, he can’t help himself and he glances back over his shoulder. The guy, Derek, is still staring at him from in front of his building. Stiles feels his cheeks flush and he quickly turns to look where he’s going again. 

Derek had been beyond hot. Like, one of those people you’d see in the movies or on TV, but never in actual life. Granted, Laura had been beautiful too. Maybe that’s just what people looked like in New York? 

*

The next morning Stiles tries to suppress a grin as he leaves his dorm and walks toward the coffee shop on the corner. He had been so happy to find a small-business type coffee shop, and not like, a Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts. He walks in and lets out a pleased sigh. He’d been here a couple times and he already loved the vibes. He steps onto the line, glad to see that there are only a few people ahead of him, and starts reading the chalkboard menu. 

As he rocks back and forth on his feet, one of the people ahead of him turns around suddenly and looks right at him. Stiles blinks in surprise. It’s Derek, from across the street. 

He smiles and gives a small wave, but the guy just turns around and steps up to the counter to place his order. Stiles feels his smile droop and shrugs slightly. Timing could be important. Or maybe this Derek really is just like… paralyzingly shy and doesn’t speak to people unless he has to. 

A couple minutes later Stiles finally places his order and steps over to where the rest of the people are waiting. He side-steps until he’s close to Derek, but not too close. “Good morning, neighbor.”

Derek glances at him, slightly wide-eyed. “Good morning.”

“I don’t want to be, like, intrusive or weird or anything, but you’re one of like, five people in the entire city that I’ve spoken to already, and you’re the only person who goes to NYU who I’ve met who I’m not currently dorming with, so, like, is it okay if we talk?”

Derek blinks several times before he nods. “My name’s Derek,” he says. 

Stiles nods and grins widely. “Your sister said. She’s Laura, right?”

He nods. 

“Right. Cool. Derek and Laura. Laura and Derek.” Stiles watches as the barista holds up a cup for Derek, who takes it with a small smile. “I’m Stiles, by the way.”

Derek’s eyebrows shoot up. “Stiles?”

“It’s a nickname,” Stiles shrugs. “My real first name is Polish and basically nobody can pronounce it.” 

Derek shrugs and glances at the door. “Oh shoot, do you need to leave?” Stiles asks quickly. “I’m sorry. I know I can chat people’s ears off on like, a good day, and today I’m nervous and all so I’m sure I’m worse.” 

“Where’s your first class?”

Stiles bounces on the balls of his feet as he pulls his phone out. “Um, the KJCC building? At, uh, 53--”

“I can walk you there,” Derek interrupts. “It’s like, three blocks from here.”

“Yea?” Stiles asks with a wide grin. He glances to the side as the barista holds up his coffee. He takes it with a thank you and turns back to Derek. “Really man, thank you! I’m sure I’d figure it out on my own, but it would be so great if you helped me out. I’ve studied the campus map like a hundred times, but it’s still so hard to figure out.”

“Come on,” Derek says. “What’s your major?”

“History,” Stiles says as he adjusts his backpack and trails out the door after Derek. “I’d really like to focus on the influence of the Bolshevik revolution on Eastern Europe.”

Derek’s eyebrows shoot up as he glances at Stiles, “That’s really specific.”

Stiles shrugs. “I really like research. Plus, I took every available AP history course available, as well as a couple others, so I satisfied most of the pre-reqs and I’m coming in as a second semester sophomore, even though I’m also a freshmen, so I figured the more I have figured out with my major, the better chance I have of graduating on time.”

Derek is silent as they walk for a few moments. “I’m a history major too.”

“No shit, really? Dude, that’s awesome! Are you going to the departmental meet and greet tomorrow night?”

Derek winces slightly and nods. “I’ve been told I have to go.” He glances at Stiles again, “I’m sure you’ve noticed I’m… kind of reserved.”

Stiles laughs softly, “I wasn’t sure if you were quiet or if I literally wasn’t giving you a chance to speak. Sometimes the only way to get a word in is to interrupt me or tell me to just be quiet. You can do that, by the way. I won’t be offended or anything like that. I know I ramble. It’s like, a problem I have.”

“I don’t think it’s a problem,” Derek says softly and Stiles beams at him. 

“Why’d we stop?” Stiles looks around suddenly at the building they’re standing in front of.

“We’re here,” Derek says with a gesture. “You have your ID handy?” Stiles pulls it out of his pocket and then follows Derek into the building. “I have a class here today too. What room is your class?”

“It’s um,” Stiles consults his phone again. “213.”

Derek nods. “I’m on the third floor. Do you want to take the stairs or the elevator?”

“Stairs,” Stiles answers. “But where is the elevator? I feel like it’s good to know, just in case…” He trails off as he sees Derek pointing with a small grin. The elevator is directly in front of them with a sign pointing to the stairs right next to it. “See? You’re getting the hang of communicating with me already.”

Derek gives Stiles a small wave when they get to room 213. “I’ll see you later, Stiles. Good luck on your first day.”

Stiles watches as Derek walks down the hallway for a moment before he turns to go into his first official college class. He’s glad that they’re a little early, but there are already a couple kids sitting down, so he makes his way in too and pulls out a notebook and his laptop.

*

Stiles arrives at the History department meet and greet a few minutes after its official start time and grins and waves at Derek, who’s standing with a pair of people on the other side of the room. Derek gives a small smile and waves Stiles over. 

He feels a minute of panic. Derek… wants him to come over? To talk to the people he’s with?

He walks across the room, trying not to focus on all of the strangers before he steps up next to Derek. 

“Stiles, can I introduce you to Professor Markiewicz and Professor Silvestra? Stiles is a freshman.”

Stiles grins widely at Derek before turning to greet the two professors, both of whom seem genuinely interested in chatting with Stiles for a few minutes. 

After a couple minutes, Derek taps on Stiles’ arm. “Can I introduce you to someone else?” 

Stiles nods before glancing at the two professors. “Go, mingle.” They both grin as they wave them off. 

Stiles follows Derek around and after meeting and chatting with almost a dozen people, Stiles directs them both toward the drink table. They pick up seltzers before Stiles turns to Derek, “So… did you just invite me over so you could pimp out my chattiness and get away with saying practically nothing all night?”

Derek blushes as he takes a sip of his drink. “Maybe,” he answers, glancing at Stiles with a wry grin. “You upset?”

“Hell fucking no,” Stiles says with a small laugh. “Dude, it’s like, our own little symbiosis. I know nobody, but can chat everyone’s ear off, you seemingly know everybody, but don’t want to chat extensively at all, right?”

“Exactly,” Derek says, shifting so their elbows bump gently. “Tell me if you’re mad or tired or anything though. I can handle this on my own. I just don’t like it.”

Stiles squares his shoulders, “Dude, I can do this all night.”

Derek's eyes widen comically, but then he laughs and gestures toward the room. "Then let's go."