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The Socioeconomic Repercussions of Mutually Assured Destruction

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The trouble with having the kind of brain that likes to write essays on male circumcision for an Economics class, is that it also likes to turn PowerPoint presentations for Biology into odes on the perfection of notorious bad boy Derek Hale’s backside.

Which is to say that having the kind of brain that Stiles has? Fucking sucks.

In his defense, it really is an incredible ass. An incredible ass that’s attached to the most attractive, most infamous, “most likely to kill a man with just his eyebrows” guy in the whole freaking school.

So it’s a damn good thing that Scott happens to be both an amazing friend and Stiles’ current lab partner, because it means he’s the only poor soul who has to suffer through any of it.

“I’m not really sure how to do my half of the project,” Scott says uncertainly on the other end of their video chat the night before the assignment is due.

Stiles sighs. “Don’t worry, I’m putting together something more ‘on topic’ right now. And I’ll do your half too.”

“Oh thank god.”

“I would apologize, but we both know you’ve let me get away with worse.”

“I don’t know, man, I think that graph in the shape of Derek Hale’s dick might be seared into my brain forever.”

Stiles scoffs, twirling in his desk chair. “It was a rough approximation based on circumstantial evidence, you’ll be fine. I am sorry, though. Kinda. I think I just needed to get it out of my system.”

Scott’s face on Stiles’ computer screen does not look convinced. “Yeah, right. So what was Lydia wearing today?” he asks, eyes narrowed.

Stiles narrows his own eyes right back at him. “Whatever ideas you’re getting, stop it right now.”

“You don’t know the answer, do you? Ha! I totally called it. You’ve switched obsessions. Mom so owes me twenty bucks.”

“It’s not an obsession, okay? It’s-- Wait, your mom bet you?”

Scott shrugs. “She said you were too stubborn to ever give up on Lydia. But I know you, dude. It’s not ‘giving up’ if you’ve just, you know, refocused.”


“So you admit it!”

“Oh my god, I am deleting this entire conversation from my memory. Anyway, I have to go redo an entire PowerPoint presentation now so, goodnight, Scott.” Stiles smiles less than genuinely and flips him the bird. Scott laughs at him and disconnects the call.

Stiles has not “refocused,” okay?Really. He has an appreciation for beautiful things is all. Like Derek Hale’s... Well. Like Derek Hale. It doesn’t mean the guy is his new Lydia.

Besides, if Derek Hale even knows Stiles’ name--hell, if he could even pick Stiles out of a lineup--Stiles would die of shock. And Stiles refuses to go through that again, alright? He and Lydia are tentative friends now, but he in no way wants to relive the experience of being crushed like a bug every time the object of his affections completely ignores him in the school hallway while he tries to strike up conversation.

Which is exactly what Derek would do. That, or murder him.

So Stiles stays up until four in the morning working on a Biology project from scratch, and he’ll be damned if it doesn’t get them an A. Stiles is good at some things and terrible at a lot of things, but when he’s able to actually focus, school falls squarely into the former category.

And that’s why he doesn’t bother having Scott proofread anything before he uploads the project to the class message board. And that’s also why Stiles walks into school the next day to the sound of applause, along with several pats on the back followed by the words, “Big fan of your work, Stilinski. Kudos on the attention to detail.”

He’s confused for all of five minutes before a tense looking office aide meets him at his locker with implicit instructions not to even bother unpacking before he goes to see the Vice Principal. On their way there, the aide leans in with a small smirk to whisper conspiratorially, “That pie chart changed my life.”

Oh God, no.

No no no.

Stiles blanches as it suddenly clicks in his brain what’s going on here. Did he really... Yep. The lecherous twinkle in the office aide’s eyes pretty much confirms it. He submitted the wrong presentation.

A second string quarterback attempts to fistbump Stiles on his way to class.

Stiles groans and drops his head into his hands even as his feet keep moving, and the rest of the short walk to the front office feels more like a march to the gallows.


Derek knows he has a reputation. Has known it ever since his first week after transferring to Beacon Hills High his Sophomore year. He knows there’s a widely circulated story about him and an unsolved murder investigation that Coach Finstock uses to scare underclassmen. He knows one of the cheerleaders last year created a Facebook group just for people who want to talk about his abs, and that someone else created a twitter account pretending to be his eyebrows and has tweeted nothing but angry emojis every day for months. He knows that people at this school are equal parts terrified of him and in love with him.

He has no idea why, but yes, Derek is well aware of his image.

Mostly he tries to keep his head down and just make it to graduation with decent enough grades for an academic scholarship, and without letting any of the gossip get to him. If people want to go around speculating that his lack of a love life is because he’s having an affair with the super model widow of the man he shot in Reno, that’s their business. Derek doesn’t care. And he will more likely than not leave this hellhole come graduation in May without a single reason to look back.

So when the school hallway goes abruptly still on his arrival Thursday morning, he doesn’t really think much of it. There’s some pointing and some hushed conversations, all eyes on him, but he knows better than to engage.

If he actually acknowledges the ridiculousness, smart money says that Laura will then use it as fodder to tease him mercilessly for years to come, and Cora will use it as an excuse to beat up anyone who looks at him twice.

Anyway, his locker door tells him everything he figures he needs to know. On the front of it is taped a photocopy of a rather elegantly plotted graph in the shape of a penis. Scrawled across the x-axis in purple glitter pen is written the email address of someone who apparently would really like to do a calculus project based on his junk. Beneath that, on a post-it in blue ballpoint, someone else has offered to start a sexual harassment suit for him through an aunt who’s a lawyer. It’s signed with seven x’s and six o’s.

Derek is well and truly prepared to ignore all of this, if not for the jittery Freshman who approaches him with a hall pass thirty seconds later.

“Vice Principal Clemmons would like to see you,” he croaks, barely above a whisper. Derek takes pity and is careful not to look the kid directly in the eyes. Apparently eye contact makes him look either like a serial killer or a Chipendale’s headliner; there are conflicting reports.

Just outside the front office, Derek freezes, his heart stuttering in his chest, when he sees what awaits him there.

Stiles Stilinski sits in one of the uncomfortable plastic chairs beside the closed door to the Vice Principal’s office, hunched in on himself miserably and playing with the drawstring on his hoodie. Occasionally the drawstring ends up in Stiles’ mouth, and Derek feels momentarily gutted with the knowledge that he would sacrifice every single one of his worldly possessions to become that piece of fabric right now.

It’s possible Derek has a problem. A Stiles-shaped problem, to be exact. But he’ll be damned if he let’s that fact slip to anyone, especially his sisters, and most especially Stiles himself. Derek is well aware of what happens when his personal life is made public--thank you, Kate--and he knows it’s even worse than the insane gossip that he currently has to deal with.

Stiles shifts in his seat, his hoodie riding up and, with it, his T-shirt, exposing a line of pale skin broken up by a dark trail of hair at his naval.

Derek chokes back a whimper, clears his throat and looks away.

Obviously, Derek never meant for this to happen. Obviously, after the fire that nearly killed his entire family and the subsequent media storm when Kate decided incarceration was a worthy price to pay for her fifteen minutes of fame, the last thing Derek wanted in this new town, at this new school, was to fall for someone.

But then, on Derek’s third day at Beacon Hills High, Stiles came barreling into the middle of Derek’s Economics class, shouting something unintelligible about foreskin.

Coach Finstock just yelled right back, immediately abandoning his lesson in favor of having a very loud argument with a random student about an essay grade in front of the entire class. Over the course of the next ten minute show, Derek learned that said student was named Stiles, that he was absolutely beautiful when he was angry, and that, when finally allowed to say his piece with minimal interruption, could talk even Coach into adjusting a letter grade based solely on the insane theory that capitalism wouldn’t even exist without an abundance of cut dicks. Uncut skew socialist, of course. Because of science.

Derek suspects Finstock just wanted Stilinski out of his hair already, but the damage was done. Derek was smitten. And horrified at himself for it.

“Sign this,” the receptionist interrupts his thoughts, shoving into his chest the standard sign-in sheet for office visits. And as soon as his signature is on the paper, Derek has no choice but to go and join Stiles to wait.

Stiles looks as dejected as Derek has ever seen him. Judging by the set of his brow, mouth and shoulders, the world will probably be ending any second now. But when Stiles glances up and spots Derek? It gets worse. The world isn’t just ending, it looks like Derek’s the one who set off the nukes.

Derek tries not to let it get to him, though he can feel his shoulders droop regardless, and he sits down with as many empty chairs between him and Stiles as possible.

Time moves slowly for the next several minutes, both of them refusing to glance in the other’s direction. Derek prays to every god he can think of that they’re not sitting here regarding the same matter, but then Clemmons steps out of his office, flanked by Derek’s mom and Sheriff Stilinski, and requests with thinly veiled disdain that Derek and Stiles come join the party.

“Ultimately, like we said, I think it comes down to Derek to decide,” Sheriff Stilinski says once they’re all situated awkwardly in the small space and Clemmons has his hands steepled beneath his chin, elbows on his desk, gaze managing to convey both profound annoyance and profound boredom in equal measure. The sheriff turns to Derek. “Son, how would you like to proceed? Because I can tell you right now that a restraining order would not be unjustified here, and it’s sadly not a term that’s unfamiliar in our household.”

Dad,” Stiles starts, indignant, but slumps back down in his seat at a single, hard look from the sheriff.

Everyone stares at Derek, expectant.

“...I’m sorry, I really don’t know what’s going on right now.”

Stiles perks up slightly. “You mean you didn’t see it?”

“See what?”

Stiles pumps his fist into the air with sudden enthusiasm, “Holy crap there is a god.”

Clemmons sighs and turns his withering gaze to Derek. “There was a fairly... let’s say ‘graphic,’ PowerPoint presentation that was submitted for a class assignment by Mr. Stilinski and has been making the rounds rather rapidly this morning. You, Mr. Hale, would be the subject of this unseemly production, and as this school has a no tolerance policy in regards to sexual harassment, I’d like to make it clear that my first instinct is expulsion. However, with both your parents’ consent, I leave the final decision in your hands as to how to proceed.”

It takes him a moment to get it, but then suddenly the penis graph makes a lot more sense, and Derek can feel his ears burn.

For one, foolish moment he allows himself to get his hopes up. Because if Stiles is creating entire presentations about Derek’s body then he at least must find Derek attractive, right? Which is more attention than Stiles has ever seemed to pay him in the past.

“You guys are making way too much out of this,” Stiles jumps in to argue, and Derek immediately deflates. “It was a joke. A stupid prank that I really did not think through. As per usual, am I right? But I’m not, like, a sexual predator or whatever, okay? I’m not peeping into Derek’s window at night, and I really have no desire to, I swear.”

“This isn’t about you right now, Stiles,” Sheriff Stilinski says in a stern, no-nonsense tone. “It’s about Derek feeling comfortable in his own school. So do us all a favor and quit worrying about your own hide for three damn seconds, and instead try showing a little compassion for the actual victim here.”

Stiles sinks down in his chair, guilt and humiliation practically radiating off of him in waves, though something in his eyes is just plain sad like Derek has never seen.

And Derek can’t take seeing that. Not from someone he... likes? Cares about? Not from Stiles. He sighs, long suffering, pinching the bridge of his nose. “It’s fine. Can we just forget this happened and move on?”

Everything sort of stops at that. He lowers his hand and opens his eyes to a room full of parental figures staring at him like he’s about to have a nervous breakdown.

But Stiles is the first to react. He blinks at Derek dumbly, and then his sadness immediately evaporates as he’s propelled to standing in his sudden outrage. “But it’s not fine! Oh my god, it is so not fine, what the hell, man? Somebody at least suspend me, please.”

“It’s okay, Stiles,” Derek holds his hands up in what he hopes is a placating gesture, and tries desperately to make his eyebrows not look as murdery as ninety percent of the student body claims they are. “It’s really not a big deal.”

“First of all, holy shit, you know my name.” Stiles takes a second to stare in slack-jawed disbelief at him over that, and then promptly closes his mouth, shakes his head and jumps back in. “And second of all, it is too a big deal.”

“But it’s not-- It’s--” Derek folds his arms over his chest defensively and stares hard at the floor to avoid everyone’s judgmental gazes. “I’m used to it, okay?” Having this argument with his crush is one thing, but having it in front of the Vice Principal, his mom, and the local sheriff is kind of making him want to start applying to colleges overseas.

He can hear the frown in Stiles’ voice. “You don’t deserve that, dude.”

Derek rolls his eyes. “And how would you know?”

“Uh, because no one does? But also because you’re kind of amazing and the fact that everybody at this stupid school has no idea that you tutor kids at the Y in your spare time is the most endearing fucking thing I’ve ever heard of.”

“Language, Stiles,” the Sheriff pipes in half-heartedly, but Derek isn’t really paying attention to anyone else in the room anymore.

“I-- How do you even know about that?”

Stiles forces a shrug, cheeks coloring. “I might’ve overheard you talking to Boyd once? I swear I’m not actually stalking you! It just, you know... seems like I am. Dear god, I should never be allowed to be my own defense attorney.”

“I’ll second that,” Clemmons mutters. And then he’s heaving a world-weary sigh and closing the open file on his desk with the kind of finality that makes both parents straighten to attention. “As entertaining as all this is, I do have other appointments today. So. Mr. Stilinski: three weeks detention unless either of your parents come to me requesting further punishment. Mr. Hale: the counselor’s office is always open to you should you need it. I trust you all can see yourselves out.”

Derek is still dumbly trying to process everything that just happened as they all file out of the office. Stiles knows who he is. Stiles not only knows who he is, he knows things about Derek that no one else in this entire town has bothered to learn about him except for his family and Boyd, and he uses words like ‘amazing’ and ‘endearing’ to describe those things.

But Stiles also apparently finds it funny to make crude and elaborate jokes about Derek’s body in a public forum. All while vehemently denying having any interest in said body. So...

Derek’s not sure what to think. It’s kind of a lot to take in at eight-thirty in the morning.

Sheriff Stilinski promptly grabs hold of Stiles by the back of his neck and starts leading him towards the exit, grumbling about appropriate punishments possibly including, but not limited to, being grounded until Stiles is forty. But Stiles weasels out of his grip, pleading a thirty second moratorium on behalf of a moral obligation, and jogs back toward Derek.

Derek freezes, horrified, as Stiles comes to stand directly in front of him and Derek’s mom pretends to look at NHS pamphlets barely two feet away.

“Look, man,” Stiles runs a hand through his hair nervously.

Derek is truly not equipped to deal with this right now. “I said it’s fine, Stiles.”

“I’m trying to apologize here, okay? And also thank you for not getting me expelled.”

Derek swallows thickly, uncertain what to do with his hands other than stuff them deep into his pockets. “Don’t mention it.”

“But I--”

“No, really, Stiles,” he interrupts. “Don’t mention it.” And when Stiles looks ready to barrel on anyway, Derek turns pleading, hoping his voice is too hushed for his mom to catch it. “Please.”

Stiles stares into Derek’s eyes for a moment, and looks absolutely wrecked by whatever it is he finds there. He casts his gaze away and down. “Still. I am sorry,” he says quietly, fidgets a moment like he wants to do or say more, and then turns and bolts after his father.

Derek feels his mom lay a careful hand on his shoulder. He resists the urge to shrug it off, instead turning to give her a tight nod and an even tighter smile. “I’m good. I have to get to class, though.”

She doesn’t stop him, but he can tell by her expression that it’s a close thing. Derek will take small mercies where he can get them today.

He goes to class. He continues to keep his head down and ignore the whispering, the pointing, the inappropriate notes handed to him. And he tries to forget that Stiles Stilinski apparently knows that Derek volunteers at the community center three days a week, and that he maybe thinks it’s cute.


Stiles is going to hell.

Stiles is going to hell and Derek Hale’s beautiful, ethereal, completely devastated eyes are what he’ll say finally drove him over the edge.

Because he starts keeping a notebook after that day in the Vice Principal’s office. An honest to god notebook about Derek.

The words “restraining order” are about to become extremely popular in the Stilinski household again. Possibly also the words “military school.”

But he doesn’t-- He didn’t mean-- It’s not like he starts this whole thing with the intention of becoming an obsessive nutjob. He starts it because he needs to prove to himself that he’s not as shallow as that damn PowerPoint makes him out to be, okay? He is not completely hung up on Derek Hale just because Derek’s biceps are freaking ridiculous and his jawline could cut glass. That’s not how Stiles arrived at dedicating an entire Biology presentation to Derek’s ass... ets. And Stiles needs to remind himself of that so that he doesn’t feel nearly as guilty and lost over the whole thing as he did when Derek gave him that horrible, pleading look after their meeting.

So Stiles begins keeping a list. He buys a standard composition book at the drugstore for a buck fifty, writes “Socioeconomic Repercussions of Mutually Assured Destruction” across the cover to scare away the faint of heart, and starts jotting down everything about Derek Hale that happens to come to mind that has nothing to do with the guy’s looks. Both the good and the bad. Though even the bad ends up sounding kinda flattering on paper, seeing as Stiles is beyond biased at this point.

But can anyone really blame him? Derek is... Derek is Derek. He keeps meticulous notes on every single thing that happens in his classes in the most precise handwriting Stiles has ever seen. The only fight Derek’s ever been in was with a guy who cheated on Derek’s older sister and then had the gall to comment about the availability of Derek’s younger sister. He volunteers at the Y every week, and he walks his bedridden neighbor’s dog for her every morning, and he singlehandedly got the mystery meat taken off the cafeteria menu just by scowling hard enough.

Derek is going to be graduating with honors, second in his class, and nobody even knows.

So Stiles apparently has a type. That’s all this is. Secretly brilliant badasses who are completely out of his league just happen to be a weakness of his.

But within a week the composition book is already over half full, a chewed up, number two pencil acting as a bookmark, and Stiles knows suddenly, with total, horrifying clarity, that he’s made a huge mistake.

“Shit, I’m in love with him,” he mutters to himself in the school library during Study Hall when it hits him, all at once, what this would probably look like from the outside. He groans and lets his head fall down onto the table with a pathetic thunk.

Obviously nobody can ever know that this happened. Not even Scott. Especially Scott, because Stiles will never hear the end of it.

A stack of books drops down within a centimeter of Stiles’ face, startling him back upright. “What the--”

Isaac something-or-other, the rudely tall Sophomore who’s required to spend this period re-shelving books ever since he got caught fingering a girl in the stacks rather then sitting and pretending to do his homework like the rest of them, smirks down at Stiles. And then hands him a book.

“O--kay,” Stiles says slowly.

Isaac gives him an impatient look and nods down at the book.

It’s Foucault’s Discipline and Punish. Stiles is even more confused.

But he opens up the cover to find a piece of torn notebook paper waiting for him. I accept your apology, it says, and it’s signed, Derek.

Stiles looks up sharply, twisting around in his seat back and forth until he finally spots Derek Hale at the opposite side of the library, half-hidden by the Biography section and studiously ignoring everything around him in favor of his Physics textbook.

Stiles scowls, rips out a page from his composition book, and writes: You can’t accept an apology that I never had a chance to really give you.

He sticks the note in the book and hands it back to Isaac.

Isaac looks like he’d rather staple his own head to the floor than do anything Stiles asks of him, but he puts the book on his rolling cart and heads in Derek’s direction anyway.

A minute later, Isaac drops a hardcover copy of Plato’s Republic into Stiles lap, and chuckles meanly to himself when Stiles doubles over, winded from the force of it.

The paper inside the book reads: Why are you fighting me on this? I forgive you.

Stiles rolls his eyes and writes, But I haven’t done anything to earn that forgiveness. You should punch me or something.

I’m not going to punch you JFC.

Thank god. I bruise like a peach.

Stiles thinks he sees the hint of a blush across Derek’s cheeks when he reads that one, but he’s too far away to tell for sure, and Stiles can’t figure out what the blush would be in response to anyway.

Stiles doesn’t get a message back, though. Instead, he gets Isaac putting all his weight onto a battered copy of Don Quixote in order to lean forward across the table and hiss, “Hale is not paying me enough for this. Either cough up a twenty or learn how to text.”

“Uh. I don’t have his number?” Stiles tries.

Isaac is unimpressed, and throws the book at Stiles’ head as he walks away. Stiles narrowly manages to evade the attack, mostly thanks to falling out of his chair in a heap at the mere idea of a concussion. Survival instinct is a funny thing.

“This is the only time you’ll ever hear me say this,” Stiles begins as he plops down into the chair beside Derek, hiding his nerves behind his ability to bulldoze through just about any situation on kinetic energy alone. “But you can’t just let me get away with my bullshit when the meter hits the red. You gotta make me pay, dude.”

And yeah, Derek is definitely blushing now. Stiles doesn’t know what it means, though, so he does his best to ignore it rather than get his ass kicked over questioning it. Not that the threat of violence has necessarily ever stopped him before. But whatever, he’s turning over a new leaf.

“What, uh,” Derek clears his throat and stares at the table rather than at Stiles. “What did you have in mind?”

“Well, at the very least, I should probably grovel a little. But, I don’t know, is there anything you need? Parking tickets I could accidentally delete when I go help my dad this weekend? Errands you need to do that you don’t have time for? Mindless homework assignments you don’t feel like bullshitting through? I’m game for just about anything, as long as you know that I mean it.”

“You mean it,” Derek repeats flatly, finally looking Stiles in the eyes and raising a single, questioning eyebrow.

Stiles gulps but presses onward. “Yeah, I, uh, I want you to know I’m actually sorry, okay? That I really do want to make it up to you. I’m kinda known for always having a lot of words on hand, but I don’t always mean even half of them. Or any of them, sometimes. So when I do mean them I feel like I need to prove it. Let me prove to you that I mean it, Derek.”

He really doesn’t intend for this to come out nearly as dramatic as it probably does, but it’s said in earnest and with good intentions, so he should at least get points for that.

Derek’s breath stutters as he continues to stare back at Stiles, and Stiles continues to hold his gaze, and, Jesus, Derek’s eyes really are god damn magical. As well as... hopeful, maybe? Some emotion, anyway, that makes them shine bright even in the stagnant fluorescent lighting of the high school library.

“I guess I’m... having some trouble in English?” Derek offers.

Mrs. Russo’s English?” Stiles tries valiantly not to sound like he’s making fun. He fails. “The class that literally awards extra credit based on how glittery your diorama is?”

Derek scowls, thick eyebrows furrowed inwards in a way that should not be adorable. “I didn’t know her quizzes were serious. The questions were about what Myers-Briggs personality type Richard III was and what we’d ask if we were Dante’s therapist. I didn’t think they actually counted for a real grade.”

“Well, okay, so you failed a few quizzes. She’s pretty good about make-ups.”

Derek shifts in his seat. “She said I could do a multimedia presentation on Sonnet 18 to bring my grade back up.”

“Ouch. So she basically wants you to get up in front of everybody and do something romantic. Can you play guitar?”

“No. And even if I could, I’m not doing that.”

“So you need help figuring out how to ace this thing without making a fool of yourself, is that what I’m getting?”

Derek nods his head stiltedly.

Stiles claps him on the shoulder, quickly removes his hand when Derek winces slightly at the touch, and forces a grin. “Not to worry. I got you covered, Derek.”

Stiles does not got him covered.

Twenty-eight hours later finds Stiles lying on his bedroom floor after another day of school, surrounded by crumpled academic journal printouts and wondering if it’s too late to convince his dad to take that job two counties over.

He’s seriously got nothing here. No idea what to tell Derek to do for this project that will guarantee him a good grade, and no idea how to talk his way out of it because Derek is supposed to be here in the next ten minutes to work on this with him.

Stiles groans and picks himself up off the carpet, throws himself into his desk chair and stares at his laptop with a betrayed expression. It’s not often the internet fails him like this.

He clicks on the folder where he keeps all of his own schoolwork, searching in vain for inspiration. Stiles knows Mrs. Russo and he knows she probably gave Derek this assignment hoping he’d come back to her with, like, an oil painting of his first love and an emotional breakthrough. Somehow he can’t picture convincing Derek of that, though.

The doorbell rings, startling him into motion and propelling him down the stairs before his dad can answer it. Stiles does not want to have to explain Derek’s presence to his father after their uncomfortable conversation about “boundaries” last week.

“Hi,” Derek says, shuffling awkwardly on the front porch, hands stuffed deep in his coat pockets.

“Hi,” Stiles repeats.

Neither of them move.

Stiles has never felt like such a lovesick dork in his entire life, and he once tried to give Lydia Martin a flat screen for her birthday.

He clears his throat. “Alright, so, my computer’s upstairs, but if you’d rather--“ he starts, at the exact same time as Derek says, “If this is another joke at my expense--“

“What? Joke?” Stiles asks, confused.

Derek narrows his eyes at him, looking as though he’s trying to decipher an extremely hard math problem. After a moment, he shakes his head and glares down at the welcome mat. “Nevermind. Let’s just get this over with.”

And, yeah, it’s not like Stiles was under any illusions about Derek’s interest in coming here today, but he still feels something sharp twist in his gut at Derek’s tone. He swallows heavily, nods, and gestures for Derek to follow him inside.

Things get progressively more awkward from there. Once they’re in Stiles’ bedroom, Stiles takes a seat in his desk chair, then realizes the only place that leaves for Derek to sit is the bed, and promptly jumps back up, flailing unattractively. In a last ditch effort to appear casual, he takes up position leaning against the windowsill and has to bite back a wince when he bangs his hip against the edge in his haste.

Derek’s gaze on him remains suspicious and wary, but he takes the vacated desk chair after a prolonged moment of staring.

“Right. Okay.” Stiles rubs his hands together, and attempts to power through. “So, have you ever been in love?”

Derek visibly startles. “Excuse me?”

“Oh, sorry, that wasn’t-- I didn’t-- It’s just that if you ever went through a phase where you tried to woo someone with poetry or maybe blogged about pining for them or something, we’d have this thing in the bag. Mrs. Russo just wants you to prove that our generation are all romantics at heart. She’s a sap. She wants you to do something ridiculous and embarrassing about love in front of a group of your peers.”

Derek averts his gaze and stares down at the rug for a long moment. “I thought I was in love once,” he admits quietly. “But there wasn’t any poetry.”

Stiles has no idea where to even begin unpacking all the layers of horrible that seem to hide behind that statement, so he clears his throat and pushes off the windowsill to begin pacing back and forth across the room. “Okay, what about a crush? Or we could just make something up. How do you feel about interpretative dance?”

Derek stares at him flatly. Stiles bites his bottom lip to keep from laughing and nods. “Yeah, I figured. Ix-nay on the ancing-day. Noted. How about we make it about the actual poem and not about you then? A risky move, I’ll grant you, but if we go about it the right way, Russo might not care. We could, like, write up some fake online dating profiles for Shakespeare or something.”

Derek scowls. “This is ludicrous. How does this qualify as academic?”

Stiles shrugs. “I didn’t design the system, Derek, I just occasionally get it to do my bidding.”

He goes to root around in a stack of unreturned schoolbooks that he could swear he saw a rhyming dictionary amongst, but freezes at Derek’s low voice behind him. “So, uh, have you?”

Stiles whips back around. “What?”

Derek shifts in his seat and doesn’t look directly at him. “Have you ever been in love?”

“Oh. Uh. I thought I was? But unlike your case there was a little too much poetry. Like I said, I’ve got a lot of words, and... sometimes I get in my own way, you know? Sometimes it’s just all words and nothing-- nothing real, and I don’t even notice until after the fact.”

“Words are real.” Derek leans forward in the desk chair suddenly, like he can’t help himself. Like his whole body believes what he’s saying and needs to get it out. “Words can do just as much good and just as much damage as anything physical. I wish I was better with them sometimes. Maybe I’d be better armed.”

Stiles stares at Derek with no idea how to respond. The air feels charged and thick and Stiles is really worried that he’s going to break something vital right now if he so much as breathes too loudly.

But then his dad goes and breaks it for him.

“Stiles, have you seen my--“ The sheriff barges into Stiles’ bedroom distractedly and stops short at what he’s met with. Derek leaning earnestly forward in his seat and Stiles standing over him, frozen and tense.

His dad looks back and forth between them several times before his gaze falls down hard on Stiles. “What did you do?”

“Nothing!” Stiles rears back.

His dad turns to Derek. “Son, if he blackmailed you or threatened you in any way, even if it was only implied--”

“Oh my god, Dad, no.”

Derek’s got the wide eyes of a trapped woodland creature, so it doesn’t look like Stiles is going to be getting any help on this one there. He approaches his father with both hands raised in innocence. “I didn’t coerce him. We’re studying.”

“The last time you ‘studied’ with someone who wasn’t Scott it was because you were plotting to smuggle the Whitmore kid out of the country. What’s going on?”

“Derek needed help with an English project. I’m helping him.”

His dad does not seem convinced.

“Look, Derek is literally the most popular and most feared guy in the entire school,” Stiles tries. “If he wanted to say no to me, I’m pretty sure he would.”

“You should never assume--”

“Dad, he could break me with his pinky. He’s probably broken bigger guys with less. This guy dates underwear models and, like, steals cars in his free time; he is not in danger of being corrupted by the likes of me and my loserdom.”

Stiles’ dad studies him for a long moment, and then turns abruptly to Derek. “I’m calling your mother.”

Stiles trips over his own feet trying to stop his dad from leaving, but reaches the doorway too late. He turns back to Derek, apology already half formed on his lips, even as his feet itch to chase after his father to keep him from making this situation even more embarrassing.

But Derek doesn’t look like he’s in a place where he’d accept Stiles’ apology. His expression is the kind of shuttered that Stiles knows isn’t just the usual resting-face scowl that everyone else assumes means Derek’s about to punch somebody but Stiles thinks is kinda cute (god help him). No, this is almost... sad. And definitely impenetrable. “Dude, I--”

“That’s not who I am,” Derek interrupts, with the kind of calm that belies an underlying fury.

“Wait, what? No! I never thought-- Of course it’s not who you are, I was just trying to get my dad off my back. Derek, I didn’t mean...” Derek looks away and Stiles bounces on his feet in indecision. He’s only got a small window here before his dad will be on the phone with Mrs. Hale and then everything will be a thousand times more awkward than it already is, but there’s no way he’s leaving Derek looking like that.

Stiles takes a step back into the room. “Derek, I promise you that I didn’t mean anything by that. I know you’re not what everyone says you are.”

Derek lifts his head, chin jutting out defiantly. “It’s fine. Go talk to your dad.”

Stiles growls in frustration, grabbing at his hair with a fist. “Damn it, it’s not fine. Stop saying that. You shouldn’t have to say that.”

Derek stares at him like he really can’t figure him out at all, but Stiles can only set out one fire at time. “Listen, I’ll be right back, okay? Don’t go anywhere. Just-- don’t move. Okay? Okay.”

And then he races out of the room without looking back, feeling like a character in a slapstick comedy. How is this his life? He manages to catch his dad, cell phone in hand, leaning against the counter in the kitchen like he was just waiting for Stiles to catch up. He probably was.

“Give me one good reason,” his dad says, raising the phone up threateningly.

Stiles falters for a moment, then determinedly breathes in deep and holds his ground. “I really like him, alright? Like, more than I know what to do with.”

“Then why did you make that damn--”

“Uh, because I’m a ginormous idiot? Have we met?”

His dad hangs his head with a heavy sigh and pinches the bridge of his nose. “Stiles, if you like somebody that much, the first thing you do is you respect them.”

“I’m trying! I really did invite him over here to help him with an English project. Completely selflessly, might I add, since he pretty much hates me so there’s no chance of reaping any romantic rewards here.”

“Am I going to have to start monitoring my credit cards again for extravagant purchases?”

No. This isn’t like with-- I mean he’s more than just--” His dad’s face softens suddenly and Stiles silently curses himself for revealing way too much.

His dad puts the phone down on the counter and steps forward to place a hand on Stiles’ shoulder. “Be safe, alright?”

Stiles blushes. “Dad.”

“What I mean is... don’t get hurt. And don’t hurt him. There’s a lot of hurt that goes along with being in love anyway, so try not to add to it. Be honest. Be kind. And if he doesn’t feel the same way then leave him the fuck alone, got it?”

Stiles ducks his head. “Language,” he warns halfheartedly, but his father just swears again and reels Stiles in for a hug.


Derek slumps back in Stiles Stilinski’s desk chair, staring at his hands for a long time. He doesn’t know what to think. He came over here today braced for the worst, but also hoping... he doesn’t really know for what. For Stiles to “prove that he means it,” maybe. For Stiles to show that he actually cares.

And Stiles does seem sincere. But it’s hard to tell, sometimes, through all the natural sarcasm. Especially when Stiles can seem just as sincere when he’s talking to Derek as when he’s outright lying to his father.

At least, Derek hopes it was a lie. He hopes, but he also knows better. Where has “hoping” ever gotten him before?

When he looks up from his hands, it’s to Stiles’ laptop screen, on which is a list of files that all look like school assignments. One, in particular, immediately catches Derek’s eye, and he chokes a little.

Derek doesn’t want to watch it. But, well, it’s right there.

He regrets his decision almost immediately.

The headers are in rainbow wordart. There is an entire section dedicated to theorizing as to whether he’s a boxers or briefs man, complete with sample polling statistics. And the icing on top is the “works cited” page at the end, which is a rather long list of varying descriptions of his ass in MLA format.

Some part of him finds the whole thing hilarious and just so uniquely Stiles that he might think it endearing if he were in a better frame of mind. But the rest of him is too busy remembering the way Kate had always praised his body before telling him how worthless the rest of him was. How much she appreciated his physique, how much she used it, all the while proclaiming it to be the only worthwhile thing about him.

It hurts like a physical blow to think that Stiles feels the same way. Even more so to basically have proof of that fact staring him in the face. Stiles likes Derek’s body, but just like the entire rest of their high school, just like Kate, doesn’t like anything else about Derek enough to keep from using that body against him and making a mockery of him for it.

“Disaster averted!” Stiles falls all over his own limbs as he basically throws himself into the bedroom. As if using only his legs to get from point A to point B wouldn’t be enough. “My dad saw the light, there will be no mortifying parental gossip sessions, so--“

“This was a bad idea.” The words erupt from Derek’s lips of their own accord. He doesn’t feel in control of anything right now, including his voice. His body stands up for him and makes to leave. “I should go.”

He registers Stiles’ face falling, big brown eyes going from lively to wounded in the space of a heartbeat. Ordinarily that would give Derek pause, but he can’t quite call up the appropriate reaction. He feels like he’s just watching everything now, letting the show run its course, with no real investment in the characters.

“But I think I figured out what to do for your project! You don’t even have to do anything embarrassing, you can leave that part to me.” Stiles smirks good naturedly, but it’s so forced and brittle that it breaks almost immediately as his eyes track Derek’s movement towards the door. Stiles goes to intercept him at the last minute, reaching a hand out. “Derek, hey.”

Derek shoves him away without thinking, making Stiles stumble back a couple step. Though Derek hardly notices. He just... he needs to get out of here.

It honestly doesn’t feel like Derek starts breathing again until he’s all the way back home, halfway across town, and unable to remember how he got there. He throws his bedroom door shut and falls back against it, gulping down large, painful breaths and trying to will away the encroaching blurriness at the edges of his vision.

He hasn’t had a moment this bad in over a year, and he hates himself so suddenly, so powerfully, for allowing it to happen now that he sinks to the floor in a heap with the force of his own self loathing.

Derek hides out in his bedroom for the next two days, avoiding school under the guise of a stomach bug that his mother definitely does not believe but knowingly indulges him in nonetheless. He’s not proud of it. He hasn’t felt this cripplingly pathetic since Kate, and the mere fact makes him feel all the worse and burrow deeper into his solitude.

Boyd’s the one who eventually forces him back into the real world.

“So I heard the mafia finally caught up with you.”

Derek groans and buries his face further into his pillow.

Boyd pays him no mind. Per usual. “Also heard you eloped with a Victoria’s Secret model. And got extradited to a country with no name for war crimes.” Boyd shrugs out of his jacket and sits down on the edge of the bed, giving Derek a sarcastic look. “Rough break.”

“Please shut up.” Derek finally turns over and glares at Boyd over his quilt. He’s pretty sure his horrendous case of bed-head negates its vehemence, as does the quilt, but it’s not like Boyd has ever been particularly affected by Derek’s glares anyway.

Boyd sighs, heavy and mocking, “I feel your pain, Derek, I do. No one man should have to live with the weight of so much raw, animal magnetism. But it’s a burden you and I both must bear.” He puts a solemn, steady hand on Derek’s shoulder.

“Fuck off,” Derek shoves his arm away and sits up. “I think I liked you better before you decided you were funny.”

Boyd folds his jacket over his arms, shoulders back, and looks just as intimidating and stoic as ever. “I’ve always been funny.”

Which isn’t actually a lie, Derek knows, but it took a long time to realize that. Boyd’s the only friend Derek’s managed to even accidentally make since moving to Beacon Hills, and at first it was solely due to the fact that they were both maybe the loneliest guys in history to ever have fanclubs. People liked to point and whisper and ogle, but never actually approach.

They’d sit alone, and everyone around them thought it was what they wanted. At some point they started sitting alone together. And then, somewhere along the way, they realized neither of them were sitting alone anymore.

“I’d say I’ve been worried, but I wouldn’t want to get dramatic on you or anything,” Boyd tells him mildly.

Derek sighs and scrubs a hand down his face. “I’m fine. Working through some shit.”

“The kind of shit where I get to go beat up that Stilinski asshole?”

“He’s not an asshole.”

Boyd levels a look at him.

“Alright, he’s kind of an asshole. But, I don’t-- It’s my own baggage to deal with, okay? He hasn’t technically done anything worse to me than anyone else has.”

“That isn’t a very high bar, man.”

It really isn’t. Derek swallows heavily. “I wanted him to be better than everyone else,” he says lowly, not looking at Boyd. “That was stupid of me, and unfair, and when I found out he might really be like... I mean, intellectually I don’t really think he’s anything like her,” thankfully he knows he doesn’t have to say Kate’s name for Boyd to get it, “but it feels like it, in a way. And I wish that I hadn’t, for whatever idiotic reason, gotten my hopes up.”

When Derek finally looks back up, Boyd is staring at him with an unreadable expression. “Shit. You like him.”

Derek drops his head into his hands with a groan. “I really don’t want to talk about this anymore.”

“This definitely continues your track record of extremely questionable taste in romantic partners is all I’m saying.”

“I hate you.”

Boyd quirks his lips into a small smirk. “You take a shower and come out of hiding for some pizza with me, and I will consider dropping the subject.”

It’s not a bad deal. So Derek hauls himself out of bed and tries to remember how to be human again.

Boyd makes it easier. He’s quiet in all the right places and only ever as judgmental as Derek requires to get his head out of his ass. “Not for nothing,” he tells Derek at the end of the evening, “but you’re allowed to want things. Whatever bullshit you’re beating yourself up for right now, it shouldn’t be that you let yourself hope for something.”

Derek just nods and shrugs it off, not trusting himself to respond verbally.

School the next day isn’t exactly a picnic, though, despite his friend’s moral support. Keeping his head down feels like more of an effort rather than a reflex. When other students give him a wide berth in the hallways, but don’t bother to lower their voices when they talk about how his arms look in this particular shirt, it stings a bit for the first time.

Or else he’s only just now starting to admit to himself that it always did.

It was easier before to pretend it didn’t matter. Back when he was still freshly bruised from Kate and still too angry at the world to really want much to do with it or anyone in it.

That anger’s faded with time and therapy, but no one around him seems to give a shit. With Laura away at college, and Cora more interested in her future kickboxing career than in bothering with the peons who make up her Freshman class, Derek’s alone in this, save for Boyd, who he only shares one class and a lunch period with.

Derek hides in the library stacks during study hall, occasionally glancing through the spaces between the books at where Stiles is hunched over a table, furiously scribbling in a beat-up composition notebook. Stiles seems determined, focused, in a way that no one’s ever come close to duplicating, and it was exactly this that first drew Derek to him over a year ago. Something about how all of that seemingly chaotic energy could be directed towards one thing so passionately and compulsively made Derek go a little weak in the knees. He wanted desperately to know what it would be like to be on the receiving end of that focus, to have that attention honed in on nothing but him...

But maybe he does know now. Maybe the most Derek warrants of Stiles’ undivided attention is a stray innuendo and a Powerpoint about Derek’s ass.


The moment Stiles first saw Derek Hale wasn’t back on Derek’s first day at Beacon Hills High like everybody else at school. It wasn’t when Derek walked through the doors to a hushed crowd of students blatantly staring at him. When the rumor mill that would keep Derek from ever being seen as approachable was already in full swing, and the secret admirers were not so secretly declaring their love for his strong jaw and broad chest to anyone within earshot.

That would all come later.

No, Stiles first saw Derek several weeks earlier, handcuffed to a deputy’s desk down at the station, the day after the Hales moved to town.

He pretended to continue filing cold cases in the back room while subtly sneaking glances through the open doorway at the guy, and eavesdropping on Mrs. Hale arguing with Holly at the front desk about Derek’s vandalism charge, before the sheriff came out and led her into his office to speak privately.

Stiles would later find out that “vandalism” was just a polite way of saying “tore to shreds every magazine at three different newsstands that contained a picture of Kate Argent’s smirking face and her ‘tell all’ from prison.” But, at the time, all Stiles knew was that Derek was new to town, that he was hot like burning, and that he looked angry.

Only, not the kind of angry someone might feel as a consequence of being arrested. And not the kind of angry that Derek’s peers would later come to think of as his default, rebel-without-a-cause, murder-spree-waiting-to-happen attitude.

It was more a damaged kind of anger. Like all his other emotions had been broken so thoroughly that anger was the only functioning one left that he knew what to do with.

Stiles understood that particular emotion a little too intimately. Had worked his way through his own version of it between the ages of eleven and fourteen, after his mother’s death, and still sometimes had minor panic attacks when reminded of that time. Of how helpless and guilt-ridden a person had to be in order to experience that kind of fury. Of how much damage a person could inflict on the rest of the world, and on themselves, when under its thrall.

It was for this reason that Stiles kept his distance from Derek at school as much as possible. Easy to do since Derek obviously had no idea who Stiles even was and would never have any reason to.

It was for the very same reason, however, that Stiles found himself idly intrigued by the guy. Okay, really intrigued. His attention was caught, no matter how much he tried to fight it, and over the course of the next two years it snowballed in the back of his mind until he was faced with not just a casual fascination any longer, but a full blown investment.

And he hadn’t even seen it coming. Hadn’t let himself see it coming.

“I want to impress him with my wit,” he tells Lydia in Social Studies the day after Derek practically ran out of Stiles’ bedroom. “Obviously charm is a no go.”

Derek didn’t show up for school that morning, and there’s a pit in Stiles’ gut at the knowledge that he’s might be the reason for that. He wouldn’t presume to think that he could ever have such an impact on what Derek Hale does and doesn’t do, but Vernon Boyd keeps sending death glares in Stiles’ direction that are pretty telling.

Lydia actually deigns to give Stiles a condescending side-glance before returning her attention back to her textbook. “Are you talking about Hale?”

“That you already know who I’m talking about is terrifying, FYI.”

“You made a slideshow about his ass. Everybody knows who you’re talking about.”

“Ugh, okay, fair. But I’ve grown as a person since then. I don’t just want to salivate over his glutes anymore, I want to, like, argue with him about Russian literature.”

Lydia cocks an eyebrow but doesn’t look at him. “Russian literature?”

“He wrote a paper on Gogol last semester that was so well researched I nearly got a nerd boner reading it.”

“Never say the word ‘boner’ in my presence ever again.”

“I don’t know what to do, Lydia. How do I make him like me?”

Lydia huffs. “You can’t make someone--”

“Poor choice of words, I’m sorry, I know I can’t-- But I just-- I’m less than nothing to him, and I always have been and probably always will be, but at least he knows my name now! And he put up with me for two whole conversations! Even if he left after the second one completely pissed at me for reasons I have yet to figure out. But I have to try. I’ve never... Not like this, anyway... I...”

Lydia finally turns her whole head to face him, though Stiles can’t interpret her expression. It seems softer than the one she usually gives him, but that could just be a trick of the light and wishful thinking. Lydia doesn’t really do soft. At least, not in public, and Stiles has never had the privilege of seeing her in private.

She stares at him for a long moment, and Stiles gulps at the attention he’s never really gotten from her before. It will always be intimidating to be in the presence of Lydia Martin, even if he hasn’t felt the compulsion to doodle “Mr. and Mrs. Stilinski-Martin” in the margins of his notebooks for over a year now.

“Don’t buy him a TV,” she says at last.

Stiles barely suppresses a grimace. “Noted.”


“Did that.”

“Do it again. And keep doing it even when you think you haven’t done anything wrong, because odds are you have.”

“Should I be taking notes right now?”

She reaches across the aisle between them and delicately pats his forearm with her hand. “Just try not to do anything that will get you slapped, and you might have a shot.”

Stiles sighs and slumps down in his seat. “Too late.”

Derek isn’t in school the next day either, and Stiles feels like maybe drastic measures might be required here.

Also, Stiles discovers that he kind of misses Derek. Which is ludicrous because they never even spoke to each other before their adventure in the Vice Principal’s office. But Stiles misses just... knowing that Derek’s there. Misses looking for him in the hallways and staring at the back of his head in their shared math class. Misses trying to show off with his answers, hoping for a reaction. Why bother showing off when there’s no one around whose opinion he cares about?

Obviously he’s got it bad, no use denying it anymore. And obviously he needs a plan.

His usual methods are all out at this point, because his usual methods involve a lot of morally questionable antics and invasions of privacy that Derek would definitely not appreciate. And that Stiles’ father would probably wring his neck over. And that Scott would give his “I am disappointed in you but am hoping you learned from this” look at him for. And okay maybe Stiles should really update his “usual methods” to something that doesn’t leave him feeling so gross in the aftermath. Just a thought.

But basically he’s not allowed to stalk the guy. That’s number one. Or break into the school records to look into Derek’s past. Or hound Derek’s younger sister for information. Though that last one is based more on the fact that Cora, though two years younger than Stiles, could kick his ass without breaking a sweat.

This, unfortunately, leaves Stiles at a bit of a loss as to how to gain Derek’s favor back. If he ever had it at all. And he’s fairly certain that he didn’t.

He and Scott are going over homework together across the countertop of the coffee shop on Third where Kira works, when the bare bones of an idea finally hits him. Or, well, Scott is going over homework. Stiles has so far only contributed by glaring at his latté and muttering expletives about where Harris can stick his sorry excuse for a study guide.

“I have a plan,” he declares.

Scott groans a little more melodramatically than Stiles feels is warranted. “Does it include helping me get our Bio grade back up?”

“No, but it might get Derek Hale to stop hating me.”

“Derek Hale hates everybody.”

“He doesn’t hate Boyd. Or Cora.”

Scott sighs and looks over at Kira pleadingly. Kira shrugs and pulls another shot of espresso.

“Will Derek not hating you make Harris not flunk us?” Scott asks plainly.

“Probably not.”

“Then you need a new plan.”

Stiles scowls at him and gulps down the rest of his drink belligerently. Whatever, it’s a good plan, and the lack of moral support will not deter him. He will get on Derek’s good side and he will do it with fucking panache, okay?

He will, apparently, also be doing it right this very second, since Derek just entered the coffee shop looking as small and as lost as Stiles has ever seen anyone in a leather jacket manage to look. How the hell is Stiles the only one who ever notices this?

“Wish me luck,” Stiles whispers, sliding off his stool and gearing up to head over. It’s the first time he’s seen Derek in three days and he isn’t going to waste the opportunity. He has it on good authority that the guy actually showed up to school today, but he skipped their shared class and who knows where he got off to during study hall.

Scott pats Stiles’ shoulder absently in support, not looking up from his homework. “Don’t be an ass.”

Yeah right. Dream big, Scott.

The moment Derek spots Stiles headed for him, his shoulders tense up so suddenly it looks like it hurts. His expression remains carefully blank, that default resting murder face that Stiles has seen scare away Freshmen when all Derek was doing was returning library books. But the only thing about the guy that scares Stiles anymore is how fast he makes Stiles’ heart beat just looking at him.

The thing about Derek is that, yes, he’s objectively gorgeous, but he’s also... well, beautiful. From the multicolored intensity of his eyes to the way his knuckles are only just visible peaking out from the too long sleeves of his leather jacket. From his defined collarbone to the way he stands like he’s expecting to have to run or fight at any second. A marble statue carved from violence and yet the finished piece is somehow too delicate for the world.

“Hey, Derek,” Stiles approaches carefully, mindful of how Derek reacted to him the last time he got too close. “Can we talk?”

A muscle in Derek’s jaw twitches, but otherwise he’s silent and stiff and barely even fully inside the shop.

“Are you--” Stiles glances around for potential eavesdroppers and then leans in slightly to whisper, “Are you okay? I don’t really know what happened the other day, and then you weren’t in school, and I just--”

“I’m fine. I-- I have to go.” And then Derek’s back out the front door without even ordering, not having taken more than two steps inside.

Stiles follows him out into the parking lot, struggling to keep up with Derek’s quick, long strides. The man is on a mission to get back to his car and Stiles has only a second to wonder if that means he should back off, before he’s diving in headfirst anyway. Per usual. “Hey, man, look, I told you I’d help you, so I’m going to help you.”

Derek whirls around, his hands clenching into fists at his sides. “Right. Because you mean it.”

Stiles pulls up short, startled. There’s a sudden trembling feeling in his chest and a sinking feeling in his gut that, combined, seem an awful lot like his body knows a major blow is coming well before his brain does. “I-- I did mean it. I do.”

Derek sneers. Stiles has never seen him look so unapologetically mean before and it kind of scares him. “Would you just leave me alone already? I accepted your apology. I really don’t care what you do with that, or with that damn PowerPoint, or with whatever other shitty jokes you want to make at my expense.”

“I wasn’t making fun of you, Derek, I swear. It wasn’t meant to--”

“Why do you even care, Stiles? What are you getting out of this? Did you lose a bet? Did someone dare you to get close to me? Do you have another project up your sleeve about my worth as a human being in relation to my fucking dick?”

“No! God, no. I would never--”

Never, huh?”

I’m sorry,” Stiles insists, and has to swallow thickly against what feels suspiciously like the threat of tears. “I just want to fix it.”

“Fix what, Stiles?” Derek asks, his voice suddenly soft, sad, tripping over the words. “There was never anything here for you to break.”

It’s all a bit of a blur after that. Derek leaves and Stiles doesn’t try to stop him again. Instead, he heads home, uncertain if the hollow sensation in chest is heartbreak or self-loathing or the prelude to a freefall into an epic panic attack.

Stiles did not actually realize that sitting down in the shower was a thing real people really did until today. Today he peels off his clothes as soon as he’s in his bedroom with a methodical numbness, knowing his dad is still at work, heads to the bathroom, and the moment the lukewarm spray hits his head, he collapses in on himself until he’s sitting on the tub floor. He lowers his head and stares at the water beading on his knees and at the steady flow of it falling off of his hair in a curtain around his face.

He considers burning everything in his possession that has anything to do with Derek. He’d burn his laptop along with it all if the existence of that PowerPoint wasn’t already reposted on every social media site in existence. He considers packing up and moving in with his great aunt Dixie in Ohio, or maybe with Karen and Sasha in New Hampshire, his step aunts from his mom’s side who send a Christmas card every year with a holiday themed pun about veganism.

At the very least, he’s going to leave Derek alone. No more plans. No more grand designs. Not if their ultimate goal is getting Derek’s attention, at any rate, or trying to win his affections.

Stiles is lying in his pajamas on his bed an hour later, his hair wet on the pillow, staring up at the glow-in-the-dark stars covering his ceiling. He feels like shit, and he wonders what he ever thought he was going to accomplish when it comes to Derek.

He never really thought he had a shot. Romantically or otherwise. So why did he even put himself through any of this? Why did he put Derek through this?

And it occurs to him then that, if he ignores his own feelings on the matter, he still more or less wants the same end result really. That underneath all the bullshit, it was never about him anyway. And that maybe it never has been. Not just since the PowerPoint disaster, but since Stiles first saw Derek at the station that day two years ago, angry and broken and drawing Stiles in not as a mystery to be solved but as the answer to a question he felt like he already knew.

His father’s words come back to him and he feels his determination start to slowly return to him. Because if you truly care about someone, the first thing you do is you respect them.

So maybe Stiles should stop worrying so much about what Derek thinks of him, and maybe he should start worrying about what Derek thinks of Derek.


Despite her reputation, Mrs. Russo does not immediately come across as a bleeding heart romantic. She’s terse and unapologetic and, when the mood strikes her, abruptly sarcastic in a way that suggests she’s making fun of her students and not even bothering to do it behind their backs.

Which is why Derek was convinced for so long that most of her more creative assignments weren’t completely serious. He knows better now, of course, though is still at a loss on how to complete his extra credit project in a way that will appease her.

Not that he’s having much luck thinking about anything other than Stiles lately anyway. He almost doesn’t go to school again the day after their confrontation at the coffee shop, feeling sick to his stomach about the whole thing. But he knows it would probably result in a conversation with his mother that she’s so far refrained from forcing on him.

So Derek braces himself to get through the day, sticking close to Boyd when he can. He keeps his recently acquired acceptance letter from Columbia on hand to focus on rather than the students whispering about him in the hallways or the threat of running into Stiles around every corner, and he finds Mrs. Russo after class to request an extension.

She doesn’t stop grading papers, but one corner of her mouth twitches up like she wants to smile. Or maybe smirk. It’s a toss up. “No need, I already have it.”

Derek blinks. “What do you mean?”

“I already have your completed assignment, Mr. Hale. Your grade will reflect the update on Monday.”

“But I didn’t turn anything in yet.”

Her mouth does that small, aborted upward quirk again, and she reaches over with one hand into a desk drawer while her other hand keeps marking off wrong answers. She pulls out a beat up composition book and hands it to Derek, her eyes finally glancing up meet his, though only briefly. “I’d say you contributed to this more than enough to qualify for the credit. Even if unwittingly.”

Derek recognizes the thing immediately, of course he does. But he doesn’t let himself fully acknowledge what he has in his hands until he’s outside the building and sitting on the parking lot pavement with his back against the Camaro’s driver’s side front tire.

“Socioeconomic Repercussions of Mutually Assured Destruction,” the composition book proclaims in scribbled capital letters across it’s front. The same book he’s watched Stiles pour every amount of attention and energy into over the last couple weeks, whenever he thinks nobody is looking.

Derek is more than a little afraid to open it. He has to count down from ten and force himself to remember to breathe before he’s able to. And then he’s nothing but confused at the first line of text that greets him.

Either he’s allergic to olives or he hates them with a fiery passion, because one time an olive touched his lunch tray and he was so upset about it he threw the whole tray away.

Derek frowns and keeps reading.

His handwriting is way too pretty. Like abnormally pretty. Who even writes in cursive anymore???

He’s the only person in his class that read the entire summer reading list. And he probably enjoyed it, the dork. (OK yes I read it too but I only enjoyed half of it.)

Knows apparently nothing about cars and has to get his sister to take care of his. I bet she changes his flats for him too.

At some point, several pages in, Derek finds he’s crying a little and didn’t realize it until a teardrop falls onto the page, startling him out of his stupor.

Everything he says sounds important even when it’s not important. But it’s always worth listening to, and I always end up wanting to hear more.

He doesn’t deserve any of the shit he puts up with.

A third of the way through, Derek skips ahead to the end. Every page of the book is filled, front and back, and the last one goes right to the very bottom, handwriting crowding together to make room for the words.

Nothing that Kate Argent did was his fault. But he acts like he doesn’t believe that.

Nothing that Kate Argent did was his fault.

“Alright, who do I need to kill?” Cora asks when she finds him a couple hours later and settles in beside him with her legs crossed and her backpack thrown haphazardly to the side.

Derek gives a small smile, staring down at the book in his hands, uncertain how much time has actually passed. Obviously quite a bit for Cora to have even noticed and to have come looking for him. “You sound like Boyd.”

“Good, I like Boyd. Mom likes him too. And my friend Erica says he’s ‘dreamy,’ but don’t tell her I told you that.”

Derek chuckles softly, but still can’t make himself tear his gaze away to look at his sister. Like if he so much as blinks, all of Stiles’ words might disappear. His grip on the composition books tightens at the thought.

He can sense Cora’s eyes on him, assessing. After a quiet moment she shuffles closer and leans over to rest her head on his shoulder and look down at the book with him. He feels her features scrunch together in confusion as she scans the words on the cover. “Did economics make you cry?”

“...Sort of.”

She huffs. “You’re so weird.”

“I love you, too.”

“Is it that Stiles guy again? Because I’ve kinda wanted to punch him in the face from the moment I saw him.”

Derek sighs and resigns himself to his fate. “And I’ve kinda been in love with him from the moment I saw him.”

Cora pulls away to make a face at him. “Gross. Is ‘mutually assured destruction’ a euphemism for sex?”

“It’s a military strategy,” Derek rolls his eyes.

“Did a ‘military strategy’ make you cry, then?”

“I’m fine, Cora, I promise.” He takes a deep breath and hoists himself onto his feet, rolling his shoulders back to work out the kinks. “I was just... caught off guard.”

Cora stands up as well, and then jumps up to sit on the Camaro’s hood, swinging her feet and hitting her heels against the tire. “By Stiles?”

“By how he sees me. By the fact that he sees me at all.”

“Okay, but does he not like what he sees? Is that why you’re emotional?”

Derek cradles the composition book tightly to his chest, as if it were precious. “I don’t know if he does, honestly. But... I don’t think that was the point.”

Cora doesn’t understand, but she leaves Derek to it with an affectionate punch in the arm and the assurance that she’s ready and willing to disembowel Stiles should the need arise.

He corners Stiles behind the bleachers once Stiles has showered and changed after a lacrosse practice spent sitting on the bench. Stiles squawks and flails as Derek pulls him away from his teammates, but goes tense and eerily still once they’re alone and facing each other. The corded muscles in his arms twitch like they’re desperate to move but can’t.

Derek swallows and holds up the composition book. “You wrote this,” he says, not making it a question.

Stiles’ eyes widen. “Oh no," he breathes. "I mean, yes, I did, but-- Shit. She didn’t show it to anyone else, right? God damn it, she wasn’t supposed to show-- It was supposed to be private! Because you like privacy. And because no one in this school fucking deserves to know any of that stuff about you if they’re too stupid not to pay attention and figure it out themselves.”

Derek stares, feeling wrong footed. “She didn’t show it to anyone else. Just me.”

“...Oh. Uh. Well, good.”

“I’ve seen you writing in here every day for weeks. That whole time, you were writing about me? Writing for me?”

“Er. Yes?”

Derek steps forward. “Why?

Stiles throws his long arms out wide in exasperation, and stomps his foot. God help Derek, but he finds it too endearing for words. “Because you’re amazing! And you deserve to know that.”

“The fact that I hate olives is ‘amazing’?”

Everything about you is.”

Derek actually loses his breath for a moment.

Stiles looks down, scuffs the toe of his shoe into the dirt and grabs the back of his neck nervously. “I don’t expect anything in return. And I’m sorry I got my feelings all over you, and basically all over the entire school without your permission. I’m sorry I’m not the kind of person you deserve, and that I pushed, and I’m going to leave you alone from now on, I promise. But everything in that book is true and is worth something, not just to me, but in general. You’re worth something. And I wanted you to know that.”

“Stiles,” Derek takes another step towards him, the distance between them closing to a couple of mere inches. “Why?” he asks again, pleading.

Stiles’ breath hitches, his wide eyes glowing gold in the evening sunlight. He looks down at the composition book and reaches for it seemingly unconsciously, only to stop himself halfway there and look back up through his eyelashes. “I told you before that I always have too many words. But not when it comes to you. When I started writing this, for the first time in my life I didn’t have enough.”

It’s doesn’t feel like such a leap after that, doesn’t feel like anything other than natural, anything other than inevitable, to close the rest of that short distance and pull Stiles into him.

The kiss is the sweetest thing Derek’s ever tasted. It tastes like thank you and I’m sorry and I understand. Stiles’ lips are soft, pliant and slightly parted. Open for more but not pushing for it. Or, rather, wanting to push for it, but patient, trembling slightly with the effort.

Derek pulls away slowly after only a moment, but stays close enough to share breath. He ducks his head, the tip of his nose brushing down Stiles’ cheek, and stares down at where their bodies sway into each other. He allows one hand to swing just a little closer, knuckles ghosting over Stiles’ forearm.

Stiles shivers, and Derek grins.

“I think you saved my English grade, by the way.”

A startled laugh escapes Stiles, bright and beautiful. Everything about Stiles is beautiful, and Derek can’t believe that Stiles thinks the same is true about Derek. “Told you I meant it.”

“You did,” Derek agrees, and kisses him again.


Dating Derek Hale is a little bit like becoming an overnight celebrity. Stiles was already fairly well known in Beacon Hills as a result of who his father is and how many times his tendency towards good natured juvenile delinquency has resulted in lifetime bans from any store that wants to keep the Whitmore family’s patronage. But now Stiles is, like, internet famous too.

He and Derek spend an hour making out under the bleachers like some sort of teenage cliché that Stiles is far too happy and aroused to complain about. They part ways a little awkwardly in the parking lot, agreeing to meet up after school the next day at the place on Third for coffee and pie.

Stiles loves pie, alright? And Stiles loves Derek for somehow knowing that. How does Derek know that?

“Your face lights up like it’s Christmas every time the cafeteria restocks those shitty apple turnovers. Of course you love pie.”

Stiles gapes. “You notice my face? Oh my god, how long have you noticed my face?”

Derek’s ears start to turn pink at the top and it is fucking adorable. “I’ve noticed you since my first day of school here. You’re hard to ignore.”

“So I’ve been told. It’s never sounded nearly as flattering before, though.”

Derek just kisses Stiles’ cheek (his cheek) and then drives off in his sleek, black sports car, looking for all the world like the bad boy his reputation would have everyone else believe he is. Those losers don’t know what they’re missing.

As soon as Stiles gets home he texts Scott, PINCH ME, and then takes a long enough shower that he gets semi-judgmental looks from his dad periodically throughout dinner.

He goes to bed that night almost afraid to sleep for fear that he’ll wake up to find the world has returned to the dreary place it once was before Derek Hale put his face on Stiles Stilinski’s face while birds sang.

Scott’s responding text message is not the excited confusion Stiles was expecting from his friend.

Don’t check Facebook, it says.

So obviously Stiles needs to check Facebook.

Aside from the shit ton of new friend requests, and an unusual amount of disparaging comments on his posted photos, Stiles isn’t sure what Scott’s talking about at first. And then he finds the poll. The poll about exactly how long he and Derek are expected to last together, down to the hour, and on which one of them during that time is going to be doing the pitching and which one the catching.

How anyone even knows about them already Stiles has no clue, but now everybody does. And apparently none of them have any qualms about publicly discussing their supposed sex life in minute detail, holy shit.

He’s not sure how to feel about it. A little violated, certainly, but it’s more than that. Because yeah, he kind of wants to shout about Derek from the rooftops, but this? This wasn’t his doing. He had no say in this. Derek had no say in this. And he feels a little sick.

Stiles walks through the hallways of school the next morning half expecting someone to ask for his autograph and half wanting to hide in the boiler room for the rest of the day rather than face the onslaught of stares, whispers and obscene comments written on crumpled up pieces of notebook paper and thrown at the back of his head during every class period.

But he makes it through the day relatively unscathed, at least physically, and heads straight to the coffee shop. He spots Derek standing outside waiting, and his heart does this embarrassing little triple time dance routine in his chest.

Derek, however, looks rigid and nervous. He keeps shifting his weight and running his hands through his hair before stuffing them back into his coat pockets so hard he’s eventually going to split a seam. Stiles figures there’s no way Derek’s doesn’t know what people have been saying about them all day. And he must wonder if Stiles is up for handling it, or if he’s already reconsidering. It’s exactly what Stiles would wonder if he were in Derek’s shoes.

So Stiles takes a deep breath and, as he approaches, abandons every fantasy he’s ever had about being even somewhat smooth on his first date with the probable love of his life. “Hey, so Teddy Roosevelt has got to be on the top ten list of most ridiculous presidents. I know he’s your favorite, but seriously? Your favorite president was responsible for the teddy bear?”

Derek is so startled and offended that he momentarily forgets to be nervous. “What the hell? Are you kidding? He was a brilliant strategist and a master political manipulator, and a relatable public figure.”

Stiles scoffs. “He was so desperate to be president again that he created his own party. And what did he name it? The Bull Moose Party.”

“How can you even-- Stiles, one of that party’s primary goals was women’s suffrage.”

“Yes, and that’s great, Derek, but he called himself a Bull Moose.”

They enter the coffee shop practically yelling at each other, and spend the majority of the date arguing. It’s awesome.

And even while in heated debate over the merits of current foreign policy, Derek keeps making these aborted gestures like he wants to reach out and put his hand in Stiles’, only to lose his nerve halfway there. Finally, Stiles reaches out himself and laces their fingers together on the table beside their now scraped clean pie plates. Derek blushes prettily, and Stiles would tease him, but he’s pretty sure his own face is tomato red even as he continues ranting about world politics.

Afterwards, Derek leaves his car parked on the street and they take the Jeep back to Stiles’ house, ostensibly to do homework and play video games, though they both seem to be on the same page as to how much of an excuse that is just to prolong their time together.

When they pull into the driveway, Derek immediately hones in on where the sheriff’s cruiser is missing, and he turns to Stiles with a confused frown. “Your dad’s not home?”

“Uh, yeah. He’s working late. I was going to mention that, but I couldn’t figure out how to say it without it sounding like I was propositioning you.”

“Oh,” Derek says, still frowning out the windshield at Stiles’ garage door. “So, did you not want to...”

“Wait, did you want to? I didn’t know that was on the table, but I would not say no, man, social conventions about first dates be damned.”

Derek looks down at his hands in his lap. “I’ve been in love with you for two years, Stiles. I’m not sure if social convention is something I’m worried about.”

Stiles’ jaw drops and his brain bluescreens before a forced reboot.

Derek looks suddenly ready to bolt, hand going for the door handle. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have said that. You don’t have to--”

“No, wait, Derek, it’s fine, it’s--“ Stiles swallows, his tongue thick in his mouth, sticking to the roof until he forces a second, harsh gulp. “I mean, whatever, I totally fell in love with you first, okay? I just didn’t know it until recently.”

The awed, wondrous expression on Derek’s face in response to that is one Stiles hopes he never forgets or takes for granted.

They barely make it to Stiles’ bedroom without spraining something due to their inability to keep their hands or mouths off each other along the way. Once inside, the bedroom door shut behind them, Derek pulls away a fraction of an inch to catch his breath. They’re both panting heavily, overwhelmed by the combination of arousal and emotion. It’s so much more intense then Stiles ever could have imagined it, and he can’t help but stare at where Derek’s mouth is spit slick and swollen and calling to him.

“I’ve only ever been with...” Derek confesses quietly, unable to say Kate's name.

“Well I’ve only ever been with myself, so you’re one up on me.”

“Tell me if I do something you don’t like?”

“Only if you promise to do the same.”

Derek drops to his knees and runs his hands down Stiles’ thighs along the way. It’s the most erotic thing to ever happen to Stiles and they’re both still fully dressed.

When Derek leans in to mouth at the inseam of Stiles’ jeans, barely an inch away from his dick, Stiles’ breath catches so hard he chokes on it.

“Bed,” he says desperately. Or thinks he says, because it’s possible it comes out mostly as a groan.

But they do somehow make it to the bed, and then Derek’s divesting Stiles of his clothes like he can’t wait to get to what’s underneath.

Stiles only has a moment to feel self-conscious when he’s finally laid out bare across the top of the duvet and Derek’s hurriedly shucking his own clothes, before Derek’s eyes are on him, pupil’s blown so wide there’s no mistaking their interest.

Derek licks his lips and then ducks down to take Stiles in his mouth.

One hand grips Stiles’ thigh like a lifeline, fingers digging in to the point of bruising. Derek’s other hand works the base of Stiles’ cock where his mouth doesn’t quite reach, pumping with every bob of his head, until Stiles starts to writhe and whimper at the oncoming climax. That same hand slides down to cup his balls, and then goes even further, brushing two fingers roughly across Stiles’ hole as Derek gags himself on Stiles’ cock and Stiles comes so hard he might just pass out for a second, only barely giving Derek enough warning to messily pull off before he chokes.

Stiles can’t seem to catch his breath, his brain dumb with euphoria. He’s vaguely aware of Derek moving up his body until they’re at eye level, and then grinding against him frantically. Derek’s cock, flushed red and desperately hard, presses into the groove between Stiles’ hip and his groin, too far gone to bother getting a rhythm going, sweat and saliva and come his only lubricant.

Stiles has no idea how that can be as amazing as Derek’s expression suggests, but it’s hot enough to witness and to think about that maybe that’s all that matters. He wants to come again just watching Derek get off on the semi-slick slide of his dick against Stiles’ skin, but even virginal teenage refractory periods have their limits.

Derek comes all over Stiles’ stomach and chest, and Stiles thinks dully that it should be gross but instead might totally become a new kink for him, wow. All the same, he doesn’t complain when Derek finds his box of tissues and gently cleans him up before collapsing on the bed beside him and throwing one arm possessively across Stiles’ middle.

“That was fucking incredible,” Stiles sighs. “Can I blow you next time?”

Derek hides his face in Stiles’ neck with a distressed sound in the back of his throat. Stiles grins and brings one hand up to card his fingers through Derek’s hair. “I’ll take that as a yes.”

They manage one more coffee date, and weather an insane amount of unwarranted gossip, before Stiles is subjected to an unexpected “meet the parents” while standing in Derek’s kitchen with a jug of orange juice that he was definitely not about to drink straight from the bottle just to torment Derek. No, sir.

Mrs. Hale rivals the sheriff in the "intimidation through prolonged judgmental eye contact" department. Stiles ever so slowly puts the juice back in the fridge while Derek looks on in silent horror.

“I trust you boys aren’t getting up to too much trouble on a school night,” she says, like she knows exactly what they’ve both been up to on every school night of their entire lives.

“Just homework,” Derek manages, taking a step closer to Stiles, like he wants to shield Stiles from his mother’s scrutiny. Which is sweet.

Mrs. Hale does not look convinced, but she smiles at her son and then addresses Stiles with a gleam in her eyes like her words are a threat, even though all she says is, “Staying for dinner, Mr. Stilinski?”

“Yeah, um, sure,” Stiles croaks.

Fortunately, Derek drags him upstairs before he can wet himself, and then makes a show of leaving his bedroom door open a crack while Stiles collapses onto the end of the bed.

“I think she likes you,” Derek says.

Stiles doubles over in laughter.

Derek moves to sit beside him on the mattress and quirks a half smile at him. “Boyd doesn’t, though. Just as a warning. He’s worried you’re going to do something to hurt me.”

“Funny, Scott said the same thing.”

“Your best friend is more worried about what you’ll do to me than what I might do to you?”

“Well, he knows me,” Stiles gives a self-deprecating smirk and a half-hearted shrug. Of course Scott worries about Stiles’ potential heartbreak, too. But Stiles has been a force of nature since he took his first steps, and sometimes Scott is so busy trying to protect the world from Stiles that he forgets Stiles sometimes needs to be protected from it as well.

Derek looks into Stiles eyes, and then lifts his hand to brush fingertips across the freckles on Stiles’ cheek. “Well I worry about you. About hurting you. Though I think we’ve proven that we’re both equally capable of doing about the same amount of damage to each other.”

Stiles stares back at him, barely able to contain how grateful he is for this moment, for these words, for any and all words Derek is willing to give him. “You’re probably right. Good thing we both know that now.”