January rolls into Hogwarts bitter and cold, but Stiles doesn’t feel it. Things had been heavy on his shoulders in the warmer months. Between feeling like he was losing his best friend, and the distance between him and his father, summer and fall might as well have been the dead of winter for all he enjoyed them. He reached a dark place that he hadn’t even realized he was heading for at first. But from all dead things, life eventually grows.
And by life, Stiles means chiseled abdominal muscles. Not his own, of course. Stiles is destined to be forever lanky and awkward. No, Stiles is referring to the beautiful pectoral muscles that he very frequently gets to use as pillows. Sure, Stiles usually hated it when Derek took time to work out when that time could be spent with him. But it was hard to argue with the end result.
Today he couldn’t fall into the joy of this guy’s body like he usually did. Actually, for the last week he’d been on edge, wanting to talk about something but unsure how to bring it up. Even now, curled up on an Astronomy tower window sill under a warming charm, he has to sneak his hand up from running fingers under Derek’s shirt in order to gnash his teeth on his thumb nail, a nervous habit he knows he should break.
Clearly, today had to be the day to mention it, because his pillow heaves a large sigh and starts to sit up.
“Hey, I was enjoying myself there.”
“No you weren't.” Derek is frowning, and wraps an arm around Stiles’ waist. The message is clear - Derek wants to face him, but isn’t pushing him away. “What’s wrong?”
“I have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about.”
Derek’s eyebrows do their judging tribal dance, and Stiles frowns at knowing just how unconvincing he is. “You’ve been acting weird ever since we got back from break. I can tell. I wish you could just tell me what you’re thinking, instead of laying around fidgeting.”
Stiles twists his lips, fully sitting up instead of hanging out awkwardly in the hopes that his pillow would be conveniently placed for him again. “Okay, so there is something.”
“I mean, I don’t know. Maybe?” Derek’s look is slightly alarming, so Stiles holds up his hands. “I don’t want to stop doing what we’re doing.” There is a measure of relief that flashes, which makes Stiles feel guilty. Had Derek been worried about that the whole time? “But I think I want to change it.”
Derek’s arm had loosened on Stiles’ waist, as if preparing himself. “What is it?” He all but demands, even when trying to be polite.
“Listen. We’ve been fooling and sneaking around for, what? Three months now? And it’s been amazing. I love spending time with you. I love… I love a lot about you, Derek. And being away from each other at Christmas break made me miss you badly enough that I really realized how much I like spending time with you.”
“Okay… why is any of this bad?”
Stiles raises his eyebrows. “Well, I’m noting that the first mention of the ‘L’ word didn’t send you running to the hills, so I’m not forgetting that.” Derek’s lips curl in the perfect little way that makes Stiles want to kiss him, but he holds back. “What I’m saying is that hiding isn’t working for me anymore. I get why we did it in the beginning, everything was so new and everyone thought we hated each other, which… well, we kind of did. But now I feel the exact opposite of that, and I’m so freaking sick of pretending I don’t want to talk to you in class, or sit with you at meals, or do all kinds of annoying couple-y stuff. I’m stupidly obsessed with you, which was not our plan, but I think I may have been obsessed with you since before we ever got together. And I don’t want that to scare you off, so if that freaks you out, please tell me so I can just zip my lip and we can backtrack and pretend that never happened and move on with life, okay?” He goes ahead and zips his lip closed anyways, figuring jumping the gun would be a safe bet.
But Derek doesn’t look like he wants Stiles to stop talking. If anything, Derek looks nervous, or as nervous as chiseled cheekbones and perfect lips can look. “I think I should tell you something that I’ve never told you before.” It’s not what Stiles expects as an answer. He’d been expecting either frantic denial or maybe sex, but confessions didn’t even fall in the middle of those. “Do you remember what you told me right before we kissed for the first time? About what happened last year with Cora?”
The memory flashes forward like it was yesterday. No, not Cora laughing at Stiles’ somewhat awkward offer of friendship and Derek hightailing away. The memory just a few months ago of Derek saying it wasn’t what Stiles thought, and the kiss that seemed so unavoidable after. “Yeah, what about it?”
“I walked away because I thought Cora had been playing a joke on me. You know how she can be, she’s a brat. But do you know what you’re learning about in Potion’s class in February?”
“Uh… Potions Association careers, and Amortentia, I think. Was that the same for you?”
“Yeah. And about two weeks before you came up to me, I studied Amortentia. I smelled the leather-bound books that used to be in my mom’s study, the trees of the forbidden forest, and something else that I couldn’t figure out.” He waited, and Stiles isn’t sure what he was supposed to be picking up from this but he’s pretty sure he’s coming up completely short. “About a week before you came up to me, Cora was with me when I realized that smell was that stupid Muggle deodorant you use.”
Stiles smells his own armpit, as if knowing the smell could possibly help his comprehension. It takes a little too long to let the truth of Derek’s words sink in, but when it does his jaw pops open like someone had alohamora’d him. He can tell that gentle annoyance is creeping in on Derek’s face the more he looks at him like that, but Stiles' brain takes its sweet time fixing its breakdown. When it finally does, it’s instant. Stiles launches himself at Derek, knocking them both off of the window sill in a clatter of limbs, but there doesn’t seem to be any pain in Derek’s face, so he assumes no collateral damage. “Holy crap! You totally love me too, don’t you?! You want all that cruppy love shit, you want to hold my books in the hallway and sit at the Slytherin table!”
“No, you’ll sit at the Hufflepuff table. I’m not eating with Cora.”
Stiles can’t help but laugh, pure relief at all of the worry he had before dissipating like steam. “Why were you such a dick to me if you had such a big, fat, embarrassing crush on me, huh?”
Derek rolls his eyes, but he’s clearly smiling. “You were a dick first, remember?”
Stiles’ face hurts, he's smiling so much. He grabs the sides of Derek’s face and kisses him until they are both breathless. When he’s done, Derek looks content, an emotion Stiles only ever saw on him when they were together. “We are so screwed.” He mutters as he looks down at him.
“Because we both just agreed to tell our friends, and we have to do it, like… tomorrow. Maybe even tonight.” He runs a thumb over Derek’s jaw softly. “I don’t think I can wait much longer than that.”
“Is that such a bad thing?”
Stiles bites his lips, leaning his forehead against Derek’s. He whispers, because being that close really feels like the words are safe and just for them. “I’m a little freaked out. Maybe a lot. Not only do I have to tell Scott I’ve been lying to him, but we’re coming out of the closet, you know? That’s… kind of terrifying.”
Derek’s hands grip him comfortably, making him feel just a bit better. “Do you really think anyone is going to judge us?” Stiles raises an eyebrow, choking back a laugh as he feels it push up against Derek’s own in their position. “I mean, anyone who actually matters?”
The night sky is bright from the top of the tower, stars clear to see, and Derek is warm beneath his body. He decides pretty easily that the whole thing can wait until tomorrow morning. Besides, it gives him plenty of time to brainstorm. He always thinks up his best ideas when he’s kissing Derek.
-- -- -- --
The next morning arrives, and Stiles has a plan. Well, if someone could call it that. He came up with all kinds of ideas the night before, inspired by all the mushy-gushy stuff mixed with the bright light of the moon. They included, but were not limited to, trapping Scott, Cora, and anyone else they wanted in a room with pictures of them making out until they got the idea, or maybe crude drawings of the two of them on banners throughout the Great Hall. Derek was the voice of reason saying that a one-on-one conversation with Scott may be a better choice, since the Gryffindor was his best friend. It seemed lame then, but in the light of day it was definitely the better choice. If anything, Stiles was considering being even more lame. Why have a person to person conversation when a letter could do the trick? Especially when the end of the letter told Scott to never talk about it.
Why did Stiles want to do this again? Oh, right, because Hale had to go and make Stiles fall in love with him. Dammit.
He’s so nervous he shows up at the Great Hall way too early, one of the first one at the Slytherin table. Hell, the Gryffindor table was still empty. He tried to busy himself with the paper when it came, but mostly he just spent time flitting his eyes between the pages and the door, all while tearing apart a scone with his fingers. Derek walks in after a while, but Stiles tries not to stare, knowing talking to Scott first was Derek’s idea, and a good one too. Finally, Scott stumbles into the hall, not looking his best, and Stiles can only grumble at the chances that the guy would be so late the one time Stiles needs him to be early. Scott had barely sat when Stiles slid into a seat next time, his green tie a stark contrast amongst all of the red but not really surprising to anyone anymore. “Hey man, I need to talk to yo-- wow, you look like crap.”
Scott glares at him, picking up a biscuit and half sloshing jelly onto his hand in his rush. “Thanks. I couldn’t sleep at all last night. You’ll never believe what happened.” Stiles answers with a raise of his eyebrows. “Mr. Argent wants to have a meeting with me and Allison. Together. Tonight. He caught us making out in a hallway, and made it very clear I should be nervous. Like this is some kind of interview or something!”
Scott shoves the biscuit into his mouth, and Stiles picks up the cloth napkin, already prepared for Scott to ruin his robe with crumbs. “What, did he think you guys were dating and just… not kissing?”
“Who knows!” The words are muffled, and Scott washes everything down with pumpkin juice. “He just told us to eat dinner with him in his office. I don’t even know what I’m supposed to wear. I feel like he’s trying to freak me out. And guess what? It’s working. All I could dream of last night was him challenging me to a duel for her honor or something. He teaches Defense, Stiles! He could probably chop me up and hide the pieces and no one would ever know. I’m so screwed.”
“Listen, I’m sure it’s going to be fine. He probably just wants to give you guys some sort of threatening safe sex talk or something, ask you your intentions, and send you on your way.”
“Yeah, if I’m lucky. I don’t even know how I’m going to be doing classes today. This is all I can think about.”
Stiles grinds his teeth. He feels guilty to put his own shit on Scott’s shoulders, but he has to do it. Because Scott always has other things wrong, everything is always the end of the world for him. “Listen, I have to talk to you about something. Something big. It’s important.” Stiles gets bumped forward by the Gryffindor behind him, almost knocking over Scott’s drink with his elbow. It’s so close to being time to head to class, but they won’t even see each other again until right after lunch.
Scott turns in his chair to look at Stiles head on, but his eyes flit over Stiles’ shoulder. Stiles turns to see Allison just walked in, looking exhausted herself. Stiles wants to kick himself, or maybe kick Scott, thinking he just lost the guy completely, but when he turns back Scott is only looking at him. “I mean… are you okay? Is your dad okay?”
“Yeah, he’s fine. And I’m fine.”
“Okay…” Allison walks over and sits across from them, quickly grabbing some food just like Scott did. “Do you want to do it now, or does it need to be private? We have a couple minutes before I have to head for Potions.”
Stiles gets bumped into again, because Gryffindors are freaks of nature that don’t believe in personal space, and he’s shaking his head before he can stop himself. This should be a private conversation, and should last longer than a few minutes, but Stiles knows he’s agreeing because he’s scared and it makes him hate himself a little bit. “Later. Just me and you. When?”
“I don’t know. We won’t be able to talk in class, we’ve got staggered lunches, and tonight I have dinner. Unless you want to wait until tomorrow.” Stiles gives Scott a look to show exactly how he feels about that suggestion, and Scott laughs. “Or I could break curfew and just come down to the dungeons after meeting with Professor Argent?”
The idea of pretending for another full day sounds like torture, but Stiles nods. What else is there to do?
-- -- -- --
He’s walking to Muggle Studies after lunch when he’s pulled through a door to an unused classroom. The wood closes behind him with a harsh slam, but Stiles doesn’t even flinch, fully prepared for who it is. He kisses Derek immediately, and Derek only takes a moment of surprise at his fervor. But Stiles’ day had seriously sucked. Now that the possibility of the truth being revealed was out there, not showing it was horrible. Stiles couldn’t shake it, he was obsessed with just letting it out. They split and Derek is frowning only seconds after their lips part.
“What happened this morning?”
“Nothing, clearly. I tried but he was having some kind of crisis, and then Allison was there and it was time for class and I panicked. And I know him - he says he’ll meet with me tonight, but he’s going to be with Allison. So, either he’ll have a good night with her or a bad one, but either way he’s going to forget and I’ll get the puppy dog eyes tomorrow and we start the same thing over again.” Stiles’ fingers drag through his hair in aggravation. “I feel like I’m losing my mind, Derek. I just want to get this over with. I’m too young for this much stress.”
Derek shakes his head, clearly thinking Stiles is ridiculous, but his hands rub the tense muscles of Stiles’ shoulders firmly. “I think you’ll survive.”
“No, I won’t. I just want to get it over with. Let’s just rip the bandage off. Walk down the hallway hand in hand or something.”
“No, Stiles. He’s your best friend. You need to tell him first.”
“Why? You’re not telling Cora.”
“She’s my little sister, and she’s not going to care. This is different and you know it.”
He knows Derek is right, but at the same time his mind is convinced that any plan that does not include an awkward one on one conversation is the new best plan. Stiles grasps at ideas, and then nods decisively. “Let’s do it now. Two person tables, Professor Morrell won’t make a big deal about it, and all we’ll do is partner up and they can deal with whatever confusion they have while class is happening. Scott is going to sit with Allison anyways, he always does, so I’m not even screwing him over. I’m always stuck sitting with Greenberg.” Derek doesn’t look convinced it’s a good idea, but Stiles knows it’s because Derek is a nerd and takes his classwork too seriously. Which is why Derek takes mixed year electives in his seventh year when it’s not even required. Not that Stiles is complaining about the classroom view. “I promise to not feel you up under the desk so you can learn all about Mozart, alright?”
Derek rolls his eyes but there must have been something in Stiles’ eyes because he nods, holding open the door and leading them towards their destination. A few people give them curious looks as they walk side by side, but Stiles tries to ignore them, focused on his goal. When they step through the doors the class is already full, with barely any seats left. He gets to a table and slides onto the stool, anticipation high when Derek sits next to him. Scott and Allison are already sitting together towards the front, holding hands, but don’t turn around. Stiles feels a bit like he’s watching a kettle boil, and starts to get his stuff out, but he only manages to search his bag for his quill before he hears Allison’s voice.
“Hey, Derek, do you want to be partners today?” He looks up sharply, head flying, and sure enough there she is, standing next to the table and looking nervously between the two of them. “I’m sure Stiles wouldn’t mind, right Stiles?”
Allison had always had this weirdly innocent way about her, all sunshine, rainbows, and sweet smiles. Stiles has seen her mad at Scott, in one of their very few fights, so he knows there is fire in there somewhere, but in normal conversation it’s hard to see anything but a sweetheart. He’s pretty sure Derek is having the same dilemma, because he looks over at Stiles at what to say, and Stiles is grappling with not wanting to be rude to her too. A hand wraps around his bicep while he’s thinking, giving him a tug that probably meant to be gentle, but Stiles is off kilter enough that he fumbles off his stool.
He glares up at the offender, which is a sheepish Scott who is already helping him up. “C’mon man! Come sit next to me today!”
“Man, I’m sitting here for a reason,” Stiles says, gesturing wildly to his chair, but a throat clearing has him biting his lips. Professor Morrell is standing in front of his chair, and the rest of the class is watching them.
“If you four would take your seat, then I can start class. Would that work for you all…?” She says softly, in a way that makes it clear what their answer should be. Stiles turns, but his stool is already being picked up and Allison is sliding in. Derek is covering his face with his hands and Stiles can imagine the teacher getting involved does not bode well for the reputation of Stiles’ plan making skills.
He sits next to Scott, and after a few moments of the teacher speaking he nudges him. “Dude, I was sitting there for a reason!” It’s what he already said, but it stands to be repeated.
Scott sighs, and when the teacher is looking away again, he whispers back. “I don’t think fighting with Derek right now is worth it, man.”
“Just let him have the table. You two don’t need to start fighting again, and you can’t seem to be near each other without tension. You’ve been doing so good, you seem like you’re more you again, you know? I mean, other than whatever happened that we need to talk about, you’ve been happy lately. Don’t fall back on that. Allison and I can totally split in class if he’s your only option for a partner.”
The sincerity in his voice is painfully clear, like he’s begging Stiles to just keep his nose clean.The ignorance and the kindness makes Stiles’ heart hurt in equal terms. “We weren’t fighting, we were—“ A sharp rap comes down in front of them, and Stiles turns to find a wand tip pressing into the tabletop, the professor at the other end.
“Speak out of turn again, and it’ll be detention. For the both of you. I think you’ve delayed class enough.” Her eyes always betray just how serious she is, and they both swallow and nod in turn. Even if it does make Stiles want to tear his hair out. He considers for a brief, crazy moment making a note and telling Scott now, but he only writes out, “Scott I’m” before he crunches the scroll in his hand and vanishes it from sight. He spends the rest of class resisting turning around to look at Derek.
By the time he gets to dinner, Stiles is about to lose it. It feels a lot like being on the quidditch pitch last fall after losing the game, but instead of rage bubbling inside of him it’s a different frustration. He’s not trying and failing to grasp the snitch, but he is failing to figure something out. From where he’s sitting, he can see Derek, who also seems to be frustrated. He wonders if his emotions are on his face. His dad always told him he sucked at hiding them. There’s not much he can do about it.
Except maybe act. Acting on impulse is what got him in trouble last time, but he never said he was good at learning life lessons. But why shouldn’t Stiles go and sit next to his boyfriend? It’s not like they would be making out on top of the table. Just showing everyone that they were friends. At least it’s doing something, right? He catches Derek’s eye pretty easily, and tries to express his plan with his eyebrows, but they aren’t nearly as expressive as Derek’s own so he doesn’t think he does a good job. So, he just goes for it.
Except he gets halfway down the Slytherin table before a hand grabs his bicep and pulls him back down onto the bench. “Ow!” He yelps, rubbing the skin that Scott had grabbed earlier. Bruises galore. This time it’s Cora, who is giving him a glare for the ages. “What?!”
“Leave my brother alone.”
Stiles’ jaw drops. “What does that mean?”
She gestures over at Derek, who looks half ready to stand up himself. “I saw you staring him down. If you’re thinking about messing with him, then do us all a favor and don’t. Derek’s actually been happy the last few months, and you don’t need to start being a dick to him and ruin that.”
He can feel himself start to reach the point of no return, and does his best to hold himself back. “Listen, you have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“He’s my brother, I think I know a bit more than a dimwit like you. Back. Off.”
And much like the Quidditch Pitch, Stiles is storming out of the Great Hall before he even realizes he’s doing it. His hands curl into fists, storming down the hall, and he tries to take deep breaths through all of his emotions. It’s a sick sort of Deja Vu when he turns a corner and feels a hand on his shoulder. He turns on his heel, but when he sees Derek there it’s a much different feeling than before.
“What did she say? Are you okay?”
Derek looks so worried, but Stiles doesn’t know what to say. He feels like the teenage boy he is, stuck and emotional, his impulses just wild synapses in his brain, electrical currents uncontrolled. Scott and Allison are walking down the hall, concern blooming over Scott’s features quickly, and Stiles realizes he’s walked toward Professor Argent’s office without even realizing. When he hears more footsteps coming up behind them he knows what he’s going to do only a second before he does it, and he pulls Derek into a fierce kiss, gripping the back of his neck. Derek doesn’t hesitate to wrap his arms around Stiles’ waist, and Stiles licks into his mouth with one purpose in mind.
He knows it works when he hears the small laugh from the end of the hall. It actually worked far better than he could have expected, because when he turns his head all three of his tormentors are there. Scott’s jaw is hanging open, and Allison is covering her mouth to hold back more laughter. The final footsteps had been Cora, undoubtedly following her brother, and she just looks angry. Stiles slides his hands down to Derek’s chest in order to grip the lapels of his robe, but Derek doesn’t look mad, just prepared for whatever may come. Which is exactly what Stiles loves about him. Allison looks between the three of them, and shakes her head. “I think I should probably go tell my dad we aren’t having dinner tonight.”
“I hate you both.” Cora says, and Stiles frowns at her.
“Feel bad about calling me dim witted?”
“Nope.” Cora is deadpan as usual, arms crossed over her chest. “I don’t know how long you two have been doing this, but it still took you way too long to figure out my brother was loopy over you. Don’t mess this up.”
She turns and walks away, and Stiles watches as her words sink in and sends Scott into even more of an addled shock. But despite everything, that’s one bit of relief he can feel. Derek’s hand is strong enough in his, he’s pretty sure not even he could mess this up.