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call me, maybe (but not in the library)

Chapter Text

Of course, Stiles has to be in the library when his phone goes off, blaring "Call Me Maybe" at an obnoxious volume. (Thanks for changing my ringtone behind my back, Scott. Very funny.) He half-jumps out of his chair, scrambling to stop the noise before Uber-Grumpy Librarian Guy shows up again. The last thing he needs right now is to be kicked out of the library the day before his huge WWII history paper is due. His hand swipes over the table as he flails, and his phone, notes, and coffee go flying to the floor. Somehow, his coffee doesn't fry his phone, which is busy blasting, “Hot night, wind was blowing / Where do you think you're going, baby—”

Stiles finally grabs it and darts into the bathroom across the hall. His hands are shaking from caffeine but he manages to hit “Accept Call.” Before he has time to say anything, an unfamiliar male voice says—well, more like growls—“I guess you think you can blow me off, but you're wrong. This isn't going to go away just 'cause you're ignoring it. There are things you need to know before your first full moon.

Stiles holds the phone away from his ear and frowns, checking the caller I.D. for the first time. He was expecting it to be Scott, because they were supposed to meet here an hour ago and Scott's probably ditched him again to make out with Allison, but this is definitely not his best friend since second grade. It's an unknown number with a local area code. He leans back against the sink and holds the phone to his ear again in time to hear the mystery caller demanding, “Hello? Are you there?”

Stiles settles on a bewildered “Mm-hmm?”

Mystery Caller huffs. “Fine, you don’t want to talk to me, I get it. I don’t want to talk to you either, but we are going to have this conversation. You’d better be here for coffee in half an hour or I'm breaking into your dorm again. I don't care how many weird looks you get from your roommate.

“Coffee’s good. I like coffee,” Stiles says cautiously. Obviously it's a wrong number, but this is an interesting conversation.

There’s a long pause, and then: “You’re not Erica.”

Stiles can’t help it. He snorts. “Yeah, no, dude, that’d be pretty difficult since I’m a guy.”

“Right. Uh. Sorry, wrong number—” Mystery Caller starts to say, sounding gruffly embarrassed, but Stiles is distracted by the fact that a redhead in dangerously high heels has just burst into the bathroom, head down as she digs through her purse.

Stiles straightens, gaping, and the movement apparently catches her eye. Her head snaps up, and she gasps a startled “Oh!” followed by an indignant, “The hell are you doing in here?”

“What does it look like I’m doing? And what do you mean, what am I doing? What are you doing—” Stiles starts to say.

She gestures expansively. “This is the ladies’ room!”

Apparently Mystery Caller can hear her through the line, because he makes a noise in Stiles’ ear that’s somewhere between a cough and a laugh. Stiles is too busy apologizing and blushing and fleeing to pay much attention. He tumbles out into the hall again and is so focused on making sure no one saw him coming out of the girls’ bathroom that he forgets for a few seconds that he’s still holding the phone to his ear.

“Are you still there?” he pants at last, clutching at his chest. His heart is rabbit-like under his fist.

Mystery Caller chuckles. “For some reason, yes.”

“Right. Well. Sorry I’m not this Erica person, or actually, I’m not really sorry since you sound hella creepy and you're obviously pissed at her, but anyway, I guess, uh, bye.” He flips his phone shut and slumps against the nearest shelf, taking deep breaths. Then he remembers the coffee he just spilled and curses under his breath. He still has to write an abstract and a conclusion for his paper, and now, on top of that, he’ll have to mop up his espresso-stained notes and go get more coffee. There’s no way he’s functioning without coffee after pulling an all-nighter.

It’s only when he steps into the bathroom—the men’s room this time, he triple-checks—to get a handful of paper towels that he sees his reflection in the mirror. Shit. There’s coffee splattered all across the front of his mostly white t-shirt. He really should start carrying around a change of clothes, he thinks moodily, considering how often he spills stuff on himself. Now he's going to have to walk all the way across campus to his dorm to change.

His phone rings in his pocket as he’s on his hands and knees under the library table, pressing a wad of paper towels into the patch of carpet he stained. He jerks up, bonking his head on the underside of the table, but he still manages to whip his phone out with close to ninja speed. Assuming once again that it's Scott, he says immediately, “Hey, so I’ve just broken some kind of personal record for clumsiness, I just spilled coffee all over the library floor. Again. But anyway, what’s up?”

“This just really isn’t your day, is it?”

He swears his heart stops beating. That’s not Scott. That’s—

“Sorry to burst your bubble, but I’m still not Erica,” Stiles says, grinning even though he knows Mystery Caller can’t see.

"You hung up on me," Mystery Caller says.

Stiles frowns, confused. "Um, yes? Wrong number, remember? I didn't think there was anything more to say."

"I'm not creepy," he grumbles.

Stiles laughs. "Non sequitur much?"

"I just wanted to clear that up. I'm not creepy. You said I was. But I wasn't really breaking into Erica's room. We went out for a while, and I've still got a key."

"Ah. Good for you." Stiles decides that's as good as the carpet's going to look. At least it's a dark grey. The new brown stain is hardly noticeable if you're not looking for it.

"And that bit about the full moon," Mystery Caller goes on, "Erica's just really into astronomy. We've got to meet for coffee to talk about astronomy."

"Sure. Enjoy your coffee date." Stiles hangs up again. What a weirdo. A weirdo with a sexy-as-hell voice, but still. Stiles clears his throat. He has bigger fish to fry. Time for that coffee run.

Chapter Text

Derek’s phone pings as he’s carrying his coffee back to his usual table by the window. He slumps down into his chair and glances at the message. It’s from Laura.

Hey baby bro, Erica’s on her way. She’ll give you her number when she gets there. Don’t rip her throat out with your teeth, k?

Are you ever going to forget I said that? Derek replies, and takes a sip of his coffee. He grimaces. The barista used too much sugar, again.

The door jingles. Derek glances up and freezes, stomach flip-flopping. It’s that guy again. The lanky, clumsy patron with the constant bedhead and the distracting moles and the hipster glasses that always manage to slide down the bridge of his nose. He makes a beeline for the counter and starts babbling away as he waits for his drink. The shirt he’s wearing today really emphasizes the sharpness of his shoulder blades, and his jeans are so tight it’s amazing he’s got any circulation going. Derek realizes he’s clenching his coffee cup almost hard enough to break it and forces himself to relax and look away.

His phone pings twice.

Haha, god no, you know I’m never letting that one go.

But hey, see any cute guys while you’re waiting?

Derek grinds his teeth and jams his phone in his pocket. He’s not going to deign to reply to that. At the counter, he can hear the fast rhythm of Clumsy Hipster’s heart and the tenor of his voice as he monologues. He realizes too late that he’s sniffing through the mire of bodies and the aromas of cream and sugar and coffee and a myriad of lesser scents, seeking that warm, unmistakable scent of books and grass and lemon verbena soap and something else he’s never quite able to identify. There. The faintest whiff reaches him, mixing heavily with the inevitable rich overlay of coffee. The promise of it clouds his head, and he blames that for the way he continues to stare even as Clumsy Hipster turns and his wide brown eyes find Derek’s.

Derek blinks, and Clumsy Hipster gives a little hesitant wave and smiles sheepishly. He’s got an impressive coffee splatter all down the front of his shirt, Derek observes distantly. He realizes he’s glowering again (his default expression) only when Clumsy Hipster's smile falters and he turns away.

A blonde in a leather jacket, weapon-like heels, and flamboyant lipstick sweeps through the door as it’s closing behind Clumsy Hipster. Derek straightens in his seat and puts on a deliberate glower this time. Erica just grins widely and makes her way over to his table.

“Ready to have that talk?” she asks, and—because she obviously has no sense of self-preservation—pinches his cheek and winks as she drops into the chair across from him.

Derek breathes heavily through his nose and fists his hands to avoid sprouting claws. “Yes,” he grits. “But first, I want your phone number. Your real phone number.”

“Aw, baby, you’re no fun,” she pouts, but she reaches across to write it on his napkin. He dials it immediately, just to check, and hears her phone buzz in her pocket. No more wrong numbers.


 

Derek doesn’t think of Clumsy Hipster again until his shift comes on at 8 p.m. He’s settling in behind the front desk, flipping through his phone, when he sees the unfamiliar number in his call history. He stares at it for a long time, until a student comes up to the desk to check out a tome on clinical psychology. As he checks it out for her on autopilot, his mind races. The wrong number guy was in a library, spilling coffee. Clumsy Hipster came into Jimmy's Cafe having obviously spilled his coffee. Clumsy Hipster frequented this library, was a student here, had even spilled his coffee here before. What if . . .? But no, that would be too easy, too much of a coincidence.

As soon as he gets the chance, though, Derek heads to the table where he knows Clumsy Hipster always sits. He’s not there now, so Derek sidles up to Clumsy Hipster’s table and inspects the carpet around his usual chair. Sure enough, there’s an ugly new stain in the carpet, dark brown and about the size of his splayed hand. Derek’s emotions war within him. Derek has explicitly told him he’s banned from bringing drinks back here, and here’s proof that Clumsy Hipster’s going to do it anyway, has been doing it. But he can almost hear Laura’s voice in his head: Oh my god, you got his number! You’ve had a thing for him ever since you laid eyes on him and now you’ve got his number! Text him right now!

“This doesn’t change anything. I don’t have a thing for him,” Derek mutters to himself as he makes his way back through the stacks. “And how would I explain having his number anyway?”

But he finds himself programming it into his phone as “Wrong Number Guy” nevertheless. He might as well. It doesn’t mean he’ll actually use it.

Chapter Text

Stiles gets the text two days later as he’s sprawled on the floor of his dorm room, reorganizing his econ notes.

For the last time, I’m NOT ripping anyone’s throat out with my teeth.

Stiles surprises himself by recognizing the number. It’s the astronomy guy. He stares confusedly at the text, thinking, “This guy just gets weirder and weirder,” but before he has time to think of a reply, his phone lights up again.

Sorry, ignore that. Wrong person again.

Stiles can’t resist. Chatting with Erica?

Astronomy Guy answers less than a minute later. No, Laura. My sister. And then: I’m really not going to rip any throats out. That was an inside joke.

Right, Stiles texts back, and adds on impulse, So how was your date with Erica? Get to talk a lot about lunar cycles? ;-)

Ugh, you’re one of those people who puts noses on emoticons?  Astronomy Guy texts instead of answering the question.

Stiles laughs at that because “ugh” is one of the last things he expected fierce, growly Mystery Caller to ever say (or write). And that’s how it starts. Stiles finds himself texting the guy a lot, almost daily. Some girl with a nose ring stole my favorite table in the library, or, Just spilled my coffee again. That makes twice this month, but at least I was outside this time, or, Econ is so boring, but on the upside, I’ve gotten super good at drawing Batman in the margins of my textbook.

Just Batman?

Well, no, there’s a whole DC community cropping up in the margins of this chapter on optimal stopping (worst yet! I hate econ). Anyway, I draw Batman the most because he’s easiest. Also coolest.

No, that would be Wolverine, Astronomy Guy replies, and oh, it is on. They debate the awesomeness of various Marvel and DC characters for roughly the next hour and a half, while Stiles is supposed to be working on a lab that’s due the next day. No regrets.

By the end of their second week of texting, Stiles knows that Astronomy Guy dresses almost exclusively in black and grey, tries to make subtle references to Star Wars whenever possible, and hates yogurt, speakerphones, and small talk (among other things). He prefers waffles to pancakes and can’t go a day without coffee. Stiles even knows Astronomy Guy’s at UCLA, too—not that he’s ever suggested they meet up, and neither has Astronomy Guy. They don’t have that kind of friendship. Stiles knows little things about him, but he doesn’t even know what Astronomy Guy’s name is, what he looks like, or if he’s single.

Not that Stiles is hoping Astronomy Guy’s single or anything. He’s pretty sure it’s a bad idea to crush on someone when your entire relationship consists of random text conversations. Nope, there are definitely no feelings involved, no matter how many pointed looks and prompting questions he gets from Lydia whenever he texts Astronomy Guy in her presence. Astronomy Guy is not going to be Stiles' next Lydia. He's not. Stiles knows better now.


 

Derek’s just sent off another text to Clumsy Hipster when a patron comes up to ask about some obscure poetry book Derek’s never heard of.

“No, I’m pretty sure it started with a ‘C,’” the girl is insisting, leaning further over the circulation desk and tucking her dark hair behind her ear. “And it was just one word . . .”

“What was?”

Derek’s heart jolts. Clumsy Hipster, wearing a funny-looking red knit hat, has materialized out of nowhere to lean casually beside the girl. Derek doesn’t like how close to each other they’re standing.

“Oh, hi, Stiles,” the girl says lightly to him.

“Stiles? What kind of a name is Stiles?” Derek demands, and scowls to disguise the victorious feeling that surges through him at finally knowing Clumsy Hipster’s name without having to ask (because that would mean he was interested in the guy, and he totally isn’t. At all).

“It’s a nickname, because my last name’s Stilinksi and my first name’s atrocious,” Clumsy Hipster explains patiently before returning his attention to the girl. “So, Allison, what’re you looking for today?”

“Last time I checked, you don’t work here,” Derek says, but Stiles and the girl—Allison—ignore him. 

Allison begins describing the book again, and Stiles interrupts almost immediately. “Ooh, ooh, I know! Crush by Richard Siken!”

Allison blinks, surprised, and then shoots him a dazzling smile. “Wow, yeah, that’s the one!”

Stiles beams back at her in a way that makes  Derek’s stomach turn—are they together? do they want to be?—and says, “This is like literary Jeopardy. I rock at this stuff. Got another one for me?”

“Nope, just Crush,” Allison says. “But can I just say how awesome it is that you’ve heard of it? I didn’t know you liked poetry.” Allison sounds impressed, and Derek’s scowl deepens.

"It comes up on my Tumblr dash sometimes," Stiles explains easily, and draws her into a lively conversation about Tumblr blogs.

Derek, meanwhile, realizes he's staring at the way Stiles' lips move as he talks, so he forces himself to look at his monitor instead, staring at the blank card catalog search screen as though doing some intense reading, until Stiles and Allison have wandered off.

What does it matter that he knows Stiles’ name now? Derek’s still just some random guy Stiles texts when he’s bored, nothing more, and Stiles barely glances at Derek in real life. No, it’s worse: he usually actively avoids Derek because he’s trying to sneak in food and coffee. Stiles probably hates him, and Derek can’t blame him. But he can’t help it. Stiles is just so frustrating and annoying and flaily and chatty and attractive

His phone pings, and Derek feels that familiar rush of anticipation, hoping the text is from Stiles. But no, this time it’s that redhead from his applied cryptography class, Lydia Martin, and he really shouldn’t be so disappointed. He knows Stiles is probably still walking around in the stacks with Allison in search of that poetry book, not sitting down to text Derek back.

Derek reads the text. It’s an impersonal invitation (I hope to see you all there, etc.) to a stupid party at Lydia's ass of a boyfriend Jackson’s house next Wednesday night. Derek doesn’t work Wednesdays, but there’s still no way in hell he’s going. He hates standing around in corners at parties, warding off drunk girls (and sometimes guys) flirting with him and trying to get him to dance. Last time one of them even spilled beer on his favorite pair of sneakers. Nope, not going.

Only, Lydia is apparently a mind-reader, more than that, a long-distance mind-reader, because she follows up the group text with: That means YOU, Derek Hale. (Derek imagines her pointing fiercely at him like Uncle Sam on an army poster.) I’m not above blackmailing you into having a social life.

Derek doesn’t know what exactly she’s threatening him with when they've barely talked outside of class, but it’s Lydia and he knows she can find something if push comes to shove. He sighs heavily and sends a concise You win, I’ll be there.

He’ll go, all right. Long enough for Lydia Martin to see that he showed up, that is, and then he’s going straight back to his apartment before Laura even realizes he’s been out.

Chapter Text

Stiles can take only so much of Grumpy Librarian Guy appearing at his table out of nowhere as soon as Stiles so much as opens a bag of chips. Seriously, does the guy have super hearing or something? After years of trying to keep his dad on a diet, Stiles is the master at quietly opening crinkly bags of junk food, yet he can’t ever get one past this guy.

“So get on his good side,” Scott says, interrupting Stiles as he’s mid-rant about this.

Stiles sits up on his bed. “You think he’d bend the rules for me if we were friends? You even think we could be friends?”

“Or more than friends,” Scott says, raising his eyebrows suggestively, and adds, when Stiles splutters, “I know you think he’s hot.”

Stiles flops back on his bed again with a melodramatic sigh. “Hot like the sun, and about as far from attainable.”

“No. You’re not allowed to think like that. Positivity, Stiles.” Scott manages to sound stern for an instant.

Stiles huffs. “Fine, then. I concede that he is objectively attractive, with the muscles and the stubble and the eyes and yeah, I’m just going to stop there before I embarrass myself. What I’m trying to say is that yes, I may be a little in lust with the guy, but—”

Stiles’ phone pings.

From: Astronomy Guy

I keep telling myself I’m not going to buy any more books until I finish the ones I already own, but once again, not happening.

From: Astronomy Guy

Remember how you told me I was living under a rock b/c I’ve never read Ender’s Game? Well, no more. I bought it today. And The Maze Runner, so you can stop bugging me about that one too.

Stiles smiles stupidly and starts to tell Astronomy Guy it’s about time he read Ender’s Game and—

“Hey.” Scott snaps his fingers in Stiles’ face. “We’re having a conversation here. No more texting Mystery Guy or whatever you call him in your head—”

“Astronomy Guy,” Stiles supplies, and, “I didn’t say that’s who I was texting.”

Scott rolls his eyes. “No, but it’s hardly ever anyone else these days, especially not when you’re looking at your phone like that. Whatever he wants, though, it can wait. I haven’t seen you for two days and now we’re finally hanging out, and if I’m not-texting Allison you can be not-texting Astronomy Guy.”

Stiles shoots a regretful look at his phone before pocketing it again. “Okay, fair’s fair. So where were we?”

“Grumpy Librarian’s hot, but . . . ?”

“Oh, right. He’s hot and I may be in lust, but that’s all it is. So no interfering, Mr. Secretly Hopeless Romantic. That means no implying things about feelings or trying to set us up or anything like that. Got it? Now, let’s get back to the part of this conversation where you think I have a chance in hell at getting the world’s grumpiest librarian to like me. In a totally platonic way.”

“Because I do think that,” Scott says, looking amused. “I mean, maybe I’m biased here, but I think you make a great friend. You’d have to be crazy not to want to be friends with Stiles Stilinski.”

Stiles throws a pillow at him. “Aw, you’re adorable when you’re trying to boost my ego. But seriously, you’re being crazy optimistic right now if you think I’d ever manage to get on Grumpy Librarian’s good side. I think the only thing he likes about me is seeing me leave.”

“Well, yeah, maybe,” Scott concedes. “But he’s like that with everybody and you haven’t done anything yet to make him appreciate how awesome you are, so what do you expect?”

“A shred of leniency and understanding when I've missed dinner and I'm hungry and I have a ton of research to do?” Stiles suggests. “Or a smile? Just one tiny smile, just once? Hell, even just a cessation of glaring would do in a pinch. Do you think that’s asking too much?”

Scott rolls his eyes. “For him, quite possibly, but look, if anyone has a chance with him, it’s you. You send out good vibes and you’re funny and smart and you go after what you want—unless it’s Lydia Martin, but hey, don’t give me that look, I know, we have a deal, we don’t talk about that. What I’m saying is, you actually do have a chance in hell this time, if you decide you want it.”

“Well,” Stiles sighs, going for casual, “if it means eating in the library without getting my chips confiscated every single time . . .”

Scott grins. “There we go, motivated at last! Now how about we call it quits on the heart-to-heart and play some WoW?”

And that is an idea Stiles can definitely get behind. He knew there was a reason Scott was his best friend.


 

Derek is confused.

Stiles usually sneaks past the circulation desk on his way to the stacks because he’s trying to hide the crinkle of contraband junk food in his backpack, but today he makes a beeline for Derek, looks him in the eye, and says, “It occurred to me that I don’t think we’ve ever been formally introduced, so. I’m Stiles Stilinski. I'm from Beacon Hills, I’m a sophomore, and I’m a Criminal Psychology and English double major. And you are?”

“Derek,” Derek answers, too surprised to even pretend to be grumpy, and before he can say anything else, Stiles is saying, “Nice to meet you, then, Derek. I’m gonna go write a paper on the history of male circumcision now, but rest assured, we’ll be in touch,” and he honest to god winks at Derek before turning on his heel and heading for the stacks.

It’s a slow night, and so Derek spends most of the next half hour just staring absently at his computer screen and overanalyzing Stiles' every word and gesture, and when Isaac comes in, he gives Derek his most suspicious look because Derek, king of scowls and master at cowing recalcitrant freshmen in ten words or less, is smiling.


 

Derek remains confused, because Stiles’ weird behavior doesn’t end there. No, it turns out that was just the beginning.

Derek starts his shift Thursday night only to discover a steaming cup of coffee waiting for him by his keyboard. He thinks maybe Boyd left it there since Boyd has the shift right before Derek and also uses that desk, but no, that’s Derek’s name in permanent marker on the side of the cup, and when Derek takes a sip, he discovers it’s his favorite, an Americano with just the barest hint of sugar. Over the next few days, Derek finds a new Americano waiting for him at the start of every shift, and when he comes in early one day, he catches Stiles leaving one out for him. After a bit of prying, Derek discovers he bribed Isaac to tell him Derek’s usual order.

When Derek asks why, Stiles just smiles, leans in almost like he’s going to give Derek a kiss (unfortunately, no, but that doesn't stop Derek from glancing down at the fullness of Stiles' lips and then internally freaking out that maybe Stiles noticed), and says with a shrug, “You looked like you could use some cheering up.” From the skip in Stiles' heartbeat, Derek knows he's lying, or at least being only partially truthful, but he can't bring himself to ask for the real reason.

Art by Dark Mousy

And on top of the coffee, Stiles seems to have decided he likes talking to Derek. It seems like he's in the library all the time now, and almost never at the table where he's left his backpack and his laptop and his snacks that Derek suddenly, surprisingly, doesn't feel like making a fuss over.

Stiles seeks him out all the time, as Derek’s shelving books or pulling holds or manning the desk. Derek tries to come off as disinterested, yet Stiles maintains an impressive stream of commentary on everything from the books Derek’s got on his cart, to the cafeteria food, to how annoying and just plain gross it is whenever his roommate, Scott, steals Stiles' leftover Chinese takeout from the minifridge. Stiles hangs around Derek like they're the best of friends and seems genuinely interested when he asks Derek whether he likes being a librarian (yes, usually, when he's not being pestered by clingy undergrads) or which Harry Potter character he relates to most (Snape) or what his favorite color is (black, and Stiles' is red, Derek knows from texting him, but he can't say that).

Derek thinks and thinks about this sudden change in Stiles, and after a week of free, slightly sugared Americanos and gratuitous study-break conversations, he thinks maybe Stiles has figured out who he's texting and is trying to get Derek to admit to it, but no, it's apparent in his texts (which Derek most certainly does not overanalyze) that he still has no clue, and so Derek can come to only one conclusion: Stiles wants Derek to like him. Even more thrilling, Stiles inexplicably likes Derek. Maybe even really likes Derek.

Of course, it makes Derek hopeful. Every new cup of coffee, every almost-shy smile, every bit of banter breaks down his resistance a little more, until he can’t help himself: He lets himself want it. Want Stiles. Want something more serious than a few chats in the stacks and an occasional sighting in Jimmy’s. He lets himself want it more and more every day.

From their text conversations, Derek knows even better than Stiles how much they have in common. And it's infuriating knowing so many little things about Stiles and knowing there's still so much more to find out. It seems like everything reminds him of Stiles—punny T-shirts, books he shelves and recognizes as Stiles’ favorites, crime shows on TV, hipster hats and hipster glasses and black skinny jeans and god, they're everywhere all of a sudden, and unfailingly distracting, and Derek never thought he'd have a glasses fetish but apparently he really, really does. Even the scent of coffee has Derek's heartrate spiking. And he doesn’t think he’s ever seen anyone as beautiful as Stiles. He can't remember ever wanting to touch someone this much before.

He remembers Stiles leaning flirtatiously over the desk, those long-fingered hands waving and gesticulating as he talked about his newest favorite book or related something funny Scott said the other day, and gradually memory blurs into fantasy as he imagines Stiles trailing off, looking at Derek with those honey-brown eyes. He imagines that Stiles is glancing down at Derek’s lips, thinking about kissing him. He imagines Stiles asking him out to see the latest Iron Man movie or maybe inviting him back to his dorm (where his roommate will be conveniently absent, because this is Derek’s fantasy and he can make it as perfect as he likes) for too-buttery popcorn and an X-Men marathon. He imagines Stiles being impressed by Derek’s Camaro, laughing at something Derek says, smiling with his whole body, standing so close that Derek can feel the tantalizing heat of Stiles’ body and smell the sharp aroma of his arousal and hear the fast, excited thrum of his heart, as loud as Derek's own. And then, later, Stiles letting Derek kiss Stiles’ eyelashes and that delicately upturned nose, throwing his head back, letting Derek trace his jaw with his tongue and press an open-mouthed kiss to each mole on that long, pale neck. He imagines other places Stiles might let Derek kiss him, bite him, mark him. Touching himself in the privacy of his apartment, Derek comes, just from the thought of his hands innocently on the small of Stiles’ back and his mouth on the delicious curve of Stiles’ collarbone, the pulse there rapid and strong, all for him.

It’s only been about a week since Stiles’ formal introduction, but the more Derek thinks about it, the more he’s sure Stiles feels the same way.

Chapter Text

So far Jackson and Lydia’s party has been pretty fun. Stiles is pretty sure his entire house could fit inside Jackson Whittemore’s. Twice. There’s plenty of room for dancing and mingling with what seems like half the UCLA student body. After some serious dancing (read: leaping up and down and spinning around dizzily and managing by some miracle not to give anyone a black eye) with Danny for the first half hour or so of the party, Stiles heads off in search of a bathroom. He’s been to parties here a few times before, and he thinks he remembers where it is. He crosses through several rooms and finds himself in the foyer, just as the front door’s opening. He’s looking back over his shoulder because someone behind him just dropped a glass on the hardwood floor, so he runs straight into whoever’s coming in, who happens to be a solid wall of muscle.

“Oof,” Stiles says into the other guy’s chest, and steps back, pushing his glasses up the bridge of his nose in more of a nervous gesture than anything else. He finds himself looking straight at Derek. Of course. Because Stiles has all the luck.

Derek, predictably, looks like someone just kicked his puppy, and dammit, there goes a week’s worth of trying to get on his good side. Not that his attempts so far had necessarily been a success, but Derek had at least started to look like he might actually be willing to tolerate Stiles, if not harbor any degree of fondness for him.

“Sorry! Wasn’t looking where I was going!” Stiles squeaks (in a manly way, okay) and ducks past him, feeling suddenly self-conscious in the tight black Henley Allison insisted he wear in place of one of his usual witty t-shirts and plaid.

To his surprise, Derek follows him through the crush of people, keeping so close behind him that Stiles can feel the other man’s breath hot on the back of his neck. Stiles turns when he gets to the bathroom and finds himself almost nose-to-nose with the guy.

“Okay, I’m going to use the bathroom now, and I don’t need any company in there, so stop following me,” Stiles says, and shuts the door in Derek’s face. It’ll probably take two weeks of Americanos and flirty nerdy talk to make up for that, but Stiles can’t find it in himself to care right now.

When he comes out a few minutes later, there’s a line for the bathroom, and Derek’s still lingering by the door, although he has backed up a few steps. He has a funny expression on his face, not his usual glower at all. On anyone else, Stiles would call it embarrassed, hesitant, maybe even hopeful. But Derek doesn’t do those emotions, Stiles is 99% sure.

“I didn’t know you were going to be here,” Derek says, so quietly Stiles can barely hear him over the bone-jarring volume of the bass spilling into the hall from the main part of the house.

 “Yeah, I’ve been friends with Lydia Martin since middle school. It’s pretty much a given that I’ll be at any party she throws. Don’t worry, though,” Stiles reassures him, running a hand through his sweat-dampened hair and forcing a smile, “you can probably avoid me tonight without trying too hard, what with the size of this place.”

Stiles starts back down the hallway, and Derek steps forward hastily to block him. Stiles is painfully aware of the proximity of their bodies, chests almost touching in the crowded space.

“I don’t want to avoid you,” Derek says, voice rough and low in a way that makes the hairs stand up on the back of Stiles’ neck, and he’s staring at Stiles’ mouth and leaning forward slightly, and Stiles can feel his heartbeat ratcheting up, and fuck, Derek's eyes

Aaaaaand the guy who’s next in line for the bathroom doubles over and retches all over the carpet at their feet.

Stiles jumps back just in time to avoid getting splatters on his sneakers, while Derek’s face twists into an expression of supreme distaste. The guy who just threw up wipes his hand across the back of his mouth and groans before swaying into Stiles, who reaches out automatically to catch him from falling. He’s heavier than he looks as he bear-hugs Stiles’ waist, and Stiles stumbles back, hitting the hallway wall with a thump. Derek’s there in an instant, grabbing the kid’s arm, taking some of the weight, and together they steer him towards the door.

When they finally step out onto the front porch and get the guy into a standing position, it turns out to be Greenberg—of fucking course it is—and Stiles mutters, “I know him, I’d better take him home.”

Greenberg slaps a hand down on Stiles’ shoulder and says a little too loudly, “Heeey, Stiles! Lookin’ good, buddy! Very sexy, very, very . . ." He frowns in the general direction of Stiles' crotch. ". . . tight pants . . .”

Derek ignores that, bless him, and asks Stiles, "Are you sure?"

Stiles hesitates, still hearing the hum of voices and the low pulse of music from the other side of the door, all that energy and excitement, then sighs. “Yeah, I’m sure. Who knows what’ll happen if he stays here much longer.”

“Okay.”

Stiles starts to guide Greenberg down the porch stairs. They don’t get very far. Greenberg dissolves into giggles and they sag against the railing, and Stiles pats Greenberg's back awkwardly.

Derek stands back and smirks until Stiles makes what he hopes is clearly a "Help me" face, then volunteers, “I’ll come, too. Looks like you won’t be able to get him back to his dorm by yourself.”

“Really?” Stiles feels his eyebrows shoot up as Derek steps in to hold Greenberg’s other arm again. “You’d do that? I’ve at least gotten some partying in already, but you only just got here.”

“Really. It’s no great sacrifice. I hate parties.”

Stiles laughs and pulls his car keys out of the back pocket of his red skinny jeans. “Why does that not surprise me?”

Together they get a sleepy-looking Greenberg situated in the backseat of Stiles’ Jeep. Derek looks sullen as usual, but Stiles thinks he’s getting better at reading the myriad Derek Scowls because he’s pretty sure Derek’s not actually too disgruntled right now. More like a tiny, tiny bit amused.

“So why’d you come, if you don’t want to be here?” Stiles asks at last, as they’re pulling away from the curb.

“Lydia told me I had to,” Derek says simply, and Stiles laughs again.

“Ah. ’Nuff said.”

“So, um.” Derek fiddles with his seatbelt, then the AC, then the radio.

“I have some CDs in the center console if you’re interested,” Stiles offers, because music is an awesome way to avoid awkward silences.

Derek flips through them and picks ABBA. “Does Your Mother Know” starts up half a minute later, and Stiles feels the tension easing.

“So how do you know Greenberg?” Derek asks, actually initiating a conversation for once.

“Lacrosse.”

“I didn’t know you played.”

“I don’t, anymore, and neither does Greenberg, thank god.” Stiles feels his usual chattiness firing up again and offers up silent thanks to the gods that be. “Give that guy a stick to wave around and he’s an accident waiting to happen. But we played on the same team in high school, and we have a lot of mutual friends, so we keep in touch, kind of. Enough that I’ve been over to his dorm for group hang-outs a few times, anyway.”

“Ah, okay.”

From there, Stiles keeps the conversation going pretty much single-handedly until they get to the parking lot in front of Greenberg’s dorm, telling a few lacrosse anecdotes and petering out with, “And Scott still plays lacrosse. He’s on the men’s team here. Scott’s my roommate now, too, by the way, I think I’ve mentioned that before. Everyone told us we’d ruin our friendship if we roomed together, because apparently that’s been the downfall of many a best-friendship, but so far it’s all good between us. And we’re here!”

Stiles leads the way to Greenberg’s room, and Derek follows, carrying Greenberg bridal style because he’s fallen asleep, head lolling in a way that makes him look years younger. Stiles is not impressed by Derek’s show of strength. Okay, maybe a little impressed, but he thinks he’s doing a pretty good job of hiding it. (Unlike Greenberg’s roommate, who blatantly checks Derek out while Derek’s busy dumping Greenberg unceremoniously on his bed.)

Once they’ve got Greenberg taken care of, they head back to Jackson’s with what Stiles feels is a fairly comfortable lapse in conversation. (They’ve got ABBA, after all.) That lasts until Derek leads him over to his car. Stiles gapes because he’s not really a car person but even he can see that the gleaming black Camaro is a really nice car, so nice it makes Stiles’ sky blue Jeep look like scrap metal.

“Dude, you drive that?!” Stiles reaches out to touch it, then catches himself a second before it’s too late and drops his hand back to his side. “I am so envious right now.”

Derek shrugs modestly and doesn’t meet Stiles’ eye, but Stiles thinks he sees the corners of his mouth curl up in a tiny smile.

“It was my sister’s car for a few years, but she gave it to me when I got my Bachelor's.”

“Nice! You should graduate more often. So, I think my dad’s probably planning on taking me out to eat for my graduation present.”

“That sounds nice, too,” Derek says politely, and there it is, the awkward silence they managed to avoid on the car ride back.

“Thanks again for coming along,” Stiles says, just to say something. He’s never been good at goodbyes, always drags them out too long.

“Thanks for being my excuse to leave early.”

Derek turns, and now they’re face-to-face, and since when are they standing so close? And ugh, Derek’s doing it again, leaning in with his eyes on Stiles’ mouth in that way that makes Stiles’ insides twist themselves in a knot.

“No problem,” Stiles breathes, wiping his sweaty palms absent-mindedly on the seat of his pants, and Derek is so close now that Stiles can feel their mingled breaths and almost touch his forehead to Derek’s, and he can’t help it; his eyes flicker down to Derek’s lips, and he knows Derek sees because there’s a quick inhale of breath and then Derek’s lips are on his lips and oh my god Derek is kissing him, Derek’s mouth is on Stiles’ mouth, shifting now to slot their lips together, no tongue but that’s not the point, the point is that Derek is kissing him, has been kissing him for the past two seconds now, trying to get Stiles to kiss him back, and Stiles freezes up instead because what the fuck? Derek hates him, why is Derek kissing him—

Stiles jerks his head back. Derek is looking back at him with an expression of dawning horror, like he really didn’t mean to do that and he’s only just now coming to his senses.

Well, crap. 

“Hey, Stiles!” a clear voice calls across the lawn.

Stiles jumps and almost trips over his own feet turning around. It’s Allison (no Scott in tow, for once—he bailed on them at the last minute because he felt a headache coming on), and Stiles doesn’t think he’s ever been happier to see her in his life.

“I’m so glad I finally found you! I didn’t see your Jeep out front and I thought you might’ve left without me and I was just about to call . . .” That’s about when she notices the way Derek and Stiles are still standing in each other’s personal space. Like, way in each other’s personal space. “Are you ready to go?” she asks, a little uncertainly.

“Uh . . . Yes, yes, going! Going is a great idea,” Stiles calls. He glances back once more at Derek, who suddenly seems immensely interested in his shoes, and starts backing away, babbling with nervous energy. “Now that I’ve chauffeured Greenberg around for a bit and probably have traces of his spit and upchuck smeared all across my shirt, I can’t say I really feel much like jumping back into the party, and Allison’s obviously ready to go, too, so yeah. I guess I’ll see you soon, like, tomorrow probably, because I have a pretty hefty paper to work on, and, uh, bye!” Stiles calls over his shoulder, already fumbling to get the door of his Jeep open.

“You going to tell me what that was about?” Allison asks as soon as they’ve pulled away from the curb.

“I can’t. I. Words. I just—” Stiles realizes his hands are shaking and clenches the steering wheel until his knuckles turn white. “Maybe later. Probably later.”

“Okay,” Allison says, seeming torn between amusement and concern. “Later works.”

Chapter Text

As soon as Stiles’ blue Jeep is out of sight, Derek buries his head in his hands, awash in mortification and trying to tune out Stiles’ lingering scent, that increasingly familiar paradox of meadow and library, an innocent fragrance sharpened tonight by sweat and the musk of arousal. The way it mingles in the air with Derek’s own scent is too much. It tortures him, returning him again and again to that moment.

His desire and nerves and the distant music from the house and the heat between their bodies had all come together to blossom into that one daring movement, Derek closing the distance and trying to put everything into the kiss that he couldn’t say: gentleness but also hunger, softness and warmth on the verge of becoming something wilder, overwhelming, reckless and starved.

Please, he thought, bringing his hands up to hover uncertainly over Stiles’ chest, not quite touching him. Please, please want this.

But Stiles didn’t want it. Derek's hope darkened into desperation and then something bordering on panic as Stiles kept his mouth slack, not pushing Derek away but not reciprocating, either.

And then Stiles was breaking the kiss, and Allison was crossing the lawn towards them, and Stiles was retreating, jittery and bewildered, talking a mile a minute, and Derek found himself looking anywhere but at Stiles because under his embarrassment, Derek still wanted him, and he couldn’t have him.

How could Derek have ever allowed himself to think Stiles wanted him, too? He should have listened to his instincts the day Allison came into the library looking for that poetry book. They really had been standing too close to be just friends. They had been so at ease with each other, and so pleased when they'd exchanged smiles, and Derek had let wishful thinking get in the way of seeing that.

Of course Stiles wouldn’t want to kiss him. He has a gorgeous girlfriend and he’s probably straight. And those cups of coffee, those conversations in the stacks? Well, Stiles tried to tell him: “You just looked like you could use some cheering up.” It was just Stiles being kind and Derek seeing what he wanted to see.

Derek’s chest aches at the thought of Stiles feeling nothing but pity for him. He kicks at the perfectly manicured grass of Jackson’s lawn and gets in his Camaro. Then he just sits there with his head on the steering wheel. He hates the thought of going back to his empty apartment and trying to sleep, hates that because he’s a werewolf he can’t get drunk enough to forget what just happened, hates that he still has to go into work tomorrow and probably see Stiles. What will he say then? What is there to say? Derek’s even more in love with Stiles than he thought, and Stiles is in love with someone else, and that’s all there is to it.


 

“I don’t know what’s wrong with me,” Stiles says, hugging his pillow. It’s a little after 2 a.m. and Scott is staring blearily at him, but Stiles needs to talk about this or he’ll never be able to fall asleep.

He presses on: “A hot guy kissed me, and I didn’t leap at the opportunity. I mean, yeah, he can be kind of a jerk, but in an understandable way. He’s not a bully, he’s just really strict, and I’m breaking the rules by eating in his library, and I don’t listen to him, and yeah, I can see why he wouldn’t feel overjoyed to see me.”

“But he did kiss you,” Scott points out.

“As if I need reminding.” Stiles rolls his eyes. “And I totally would have kissed him back if he’d given me a sec to wrap my head around the fact that he wanted to make out with me—me, of all people! Do you think he was a little bit drunk?”

“I wasn’t there, let me remind you, but . . . No. It doesn’t sound like he was drunk.”

“Yeah. But, booze or no booze, he obviously regretted kissing me as soon as it was over. You should’ve seen the way he looked at me! It was like I’d just turned into a giant cockroach right in front of him or something.” Stiles sighs. “And yeah, maybe I’m not in love with him because I’m too busy pining for Astronomy Guy, but I really would have kissed Derek back, because hello, who in their right mind is seriously going to pass up someone that attractive wanting to make out with them? Against a Camaro? A Camaro, Scott.”

“So this is just about missing an opportunity to make out mindlessly at a party?”

“Yes? Maybe not?” Stiles groans into his pillow. “Ugh, I feel like we’re two preteen girls right now, talking about our feelings like this.”

“Talking about your feelings,” Scott corrects.

“Yeah.”

Scott just stares at him expectantly, waiting for him to go on, but he doesn’t.

“Okay, granted, it does make me kind of uncomfortable,” Scott admits at last, “but you need to talk about it and I owe it to you after all the times you’ve had to listen to me idolize Allison and cry over every little bump in our relationship. Not that I'm saying Derek is your Allison, but you know.” He nudges Stiles with one bare foot. “Go on.”

“Okay, fine,” Stiles relents. “Surprise of all surprises, I like Derek. Even after all the times he’s made it abundantly clear he hates me, I like him. But like I said before, it’s just physical. I would get so physical with that, it’s not even funny—”

“I don’t wanna know,” Scott cuts him off.

“Right. Well, suffice it to say I’m practically drooling over him, but I really don’t know him that well. And he confuses me. I can’t understand why he’d want to kiss me.”

“Stiles. Don’t do that. You’ve got a great personality—”

“—which is supposed to make up for the mire of averageness that is my face, I get it, no need to say it.”

No,” Scott says, flicking Stiles’ nose and looking uncharacteristically stern. “Bad. No. You’re like a brother to me, and I’m not gay, but otherwise I’d totally be into you. You’re cute, okay? I’m not just saying that because I’m your best friend. I wouldn’t describe you as conventionally hot, but”—he speaks over Stiles’ noise of protest—“you’re beautiful, and that’s awkward for me to say, but I’m just going to say it anyway because it’s true, you are. And you have a nice ass. And abs? You kind of have abs. So that’s hot.”

Stiles pokes at his stomach thoughtfully. “Huh. Well, Derek must think I’m attractive enough to kiss, and, wow, I can barely process that. But he can’t possibly like me for me, not when we’ve barely ever talked before this past week.”

“Then it sounds like last night won’t be a big deal to him in the long run,” Scott reasons. “I bet it was just an impulse, like, ‘Hey, we’re at a party and you’re kinda cute and you’re not with anyone and I’m not with anyone so why don’t we try making out?’ And it’s not a big deal to you, either, right, ’cause it's just physical?”

“Yeah,” Stiles says, too quickly. “I guess.” It hadn’t felt like that kind of scenario to Stiles, but then again, he always got emotionally invested too fast. He already knew he was going to be thinking about that kiss for weeks and getting butterflies in his stomach about it every single time, but that was Stiles. There was no evidence it had meant anything to Derek.

“Yeah," Stiles says again, a little awed. "You make it sound so simple.”

Scott beams. “There, see? No big deal. You can just ignore Derek and his wounded pride and keep texting that other guy until you finally man up enough to suggest you two meet in person.”

“That’s probably actually what’s going to happen. Except, I don’t want to ignore Derek, unless he really does hate me. You can hate someone and still want to fuck them, right?”

“It happens all the time,” Scott affirms. “Hate sex can be pretty hot.”

“Yeah. But I don’t think he does hate me. He didn’t kiss me like he was mad at me.” Stiles pauses, thinking back. “And before that, he was actually pretty civil. No sense of personal space, but civil. So I think I just annoy him sometimes. A lot of times, I mean. All the time. But hey,” he finally manages a smile, “I’ve been buying him the world’s grossest coffee for at least a week now to get him to like me, and I’m gonna finish what I started. We Stilinskis don’t give up that easily.”

Chapter Text

Stiles wasn’t lying. He really does intend to keep up the (totally platonic) wooing. But when he gets to the library with Derek’s steaming cup of Americano the next day, he finds that it’s one of those rare days when Derek’s arrived early for his shift. Boyd’s still there, just standing up from the desk, preparing to go.

“Hey, how’s it going,” Stiles says with pretend casualness, and he hates that he can feel himself blushing even though Derek’s steadfastly not looking at him. He raises the Americano and adds, “I brought you this.”

“I assume you don’t mean me,” Boyd grins, just as Derek says coldly, “Thanks, but you can have it. I got coffee on my way here.”

Stiles stops short, something painful curling itself tight in his gut. “Oh. Well. In that case, I’ll go then.” And he does.

He pours the Americano down the drain in the men’s bathroom because there’s no way he’s drinking that crap. Then he settles down to work at his favorite table and repeats Scott’s words under his breath: “No big deal, no big deal.”

It doesn’t help. Neither does texting Astronomy Guy, because Astronomy Guy has his phone turned off or something and isn’t replying.

Finally Stiles decides he needs a study break, because who is he kidding, he’s been reading over the same paragraph for fifteen minutes. He bags his laptop and gets up with the vague intent to wander through the stacks and maybe stroll outside for a few minutes. He’s not looking for Derek, not really. After hearing the ice in Derek’s tone earlier, he thinks there’s no way Derek wants to see him right now. But almost as soon as he starts walking, he turns a corner in the stacks and feels a jolt run through him when he sees Derek’s there behind a cartload of books, reaching up on tiptoe, sliding a book out from the top shelf.

Their gazes lock and they both freeze.

Stiles finds that he can’t look away. He forces himself to smile and walk closer, his laptop bag bumping against his thigh with every step. There’s no way he can fake nonchalance now, Stiles knows that, but he tries anyway. “Pulling holds?”

“Yeah,” Derek says, finally lowering his arm to put the book on the cart.

“Is that a new sweater? Looks comfy.” And it does. It’s a dark foresty color, complementing the pale blue-green of Derek’s eyes, and it looks soft, so soft, so that Stiles just wants to hug Derek, snuggle into him, bury his face in Derek’s neck—and nope, full stop, Stiles is not going to go there.

Derek frowns. “No. It’s been in my closet for a while.”

“Oh. Well, it’s nice that it’s finally cool enough out to wear that sort of thing, right? Late autumn’s just the best that way, I mean, all the leaves changing and the frost and the hot cider is awesome, but I’m not gonna lie, fall fashion’s my favorite part. I love summer and early fall and all, but it’s always too hot to wear any of my hipster hats, and that gets to be a problem on bad hair days because beanies are just the thing for hiding bed head. Not that I think you’d ever have that problem. Your hair always looks perfect and anyway I can’t imagine you ever wearing a hat. . . .”

Stiles shuts up when he realizes he’s babbling.

He wishes Derek would say something.

They keep staring at each other.

Stiles takes another step forward almost without realizing it, and then another, and then he’s stepping around the cart, his heart pounding wildly. It feels like Stiles’ mind is in a fog. Some small voice in the back of his mind whispers that this might be a bad idea, that Derek regretted kissing him last night, that Stiles still barely knows Derek, but it’s increasingly hard to remember that when the air between them is charged and alive with tension and Stiles is close enough to get a whiff of Derek, his aftershave or cologne or shampoo or something, a weird but fantastic combination of citrus and woodsy musk.

Stiles moves forward into Derek’s personal space, their noses almost brushing. Derek looks wary, but he’s also eyeing Stiles’ mouth, and he doesn’t move away, so Stiles takes a deep breath and goes for it, cupping Derek’s jaw with one hand and ghosting his lips tentatively, questioningly, over Derek’s.

Derek responds almost immediately, the kiss going from 0 to 60 in about two seconds as Derek presses their mouths together, nips at Stiles’ bottom lip, grabs Stiles’ hips and grinds into him until Stiles moans into his mouth. It’s ravenous, frantic, almost violent, and they’re both painfully hard in their jeans when Derek finally pushes Stiles away.

For a minute Stiles just slumps back against the shelves, panting. He can’t help but smile dazedly, eyes still closed, skin still tingling from Derek’s stubble. But his euphoria withers away in an instant when he opens his eyes and sees the way Derek’s looking at him.

“We shouldn’t have done that,” Derek says hoarsely.

Stiles feels stunned, as if he’s just been slapped. He finds himself repeating Scott’s words automatically: “Don’t worry about it. It’s no big deal.” Only it is a big deal, Stiles realizes as he speaks, it is such a big deal, because the thought of this being a mistake to Derek is a sudden, jabbing pain in his chest and he thinks he might have forgotten how to breathe.

But Derek is looking down and nodding like Stiles is absolutely right, it is absolutely no big deal, it was just a kiss.

Stiles stumbles back, banging his elbow on the edge of the book cart with a bloom of pain so distant he barely notices it. Derek still won’t look at him. 

Stiles leaves without another word. 

Chapter Text

Derek’s sitting in Jimmy’s a month later when Stiles comes in. Derek doesn’t even need to scent the air or turn in his seat to glance at the door; the back of his neck prickles with some kind of subconscious awareness of Stiles’ presence an instant before he hears that distinctive heartbeat.

Derek doesn’t panic. He doesn’t. But he does slouch lower in his seat and pray, Please don’t see me. Please don’t see me. Damn it, he’s made it four weeks and three days without running into Stiles at all, but now there’s no avoiding him if he happens to look around the room as he’s ordering his coffee, and it’s almost guaranteed he will. Stiles never stays still, and he’s easily distracted.

Stiles comes over a minute later, fresh coffee in hand, smiling but smelling like sadness, and Derek hates himself for immediately wanting to kiss him until his scent lightens with elation. He forces himself to keep his eyes on Stiles’ eyebrows; he can’t bear to look him in the eye but he also doesn’t want to be caught staring at Stiles’ mouth.

Stiles adjusts his grip on his coffee and asks, unusually subdued, “Can I sit with you?” His heartbeat spikes nervously as he says it.

Derek can’t bring himself to say no, not when Stiles is looking at him like that, vulnerable and unsure, so he sweeps his hand in a careless go ahead gesture, and Stiles sits.

“So how are you?”

Stiles appears genuinely concerned, and Derek doesn’t blame him. He knows he’s been moping and currently looks like shit, sporting several days’ worth of stubble and dark shadows under his eyes. He’s also pretty sure he wore this same wrinkled Henley yesterday. He knows he slept in it. (He also slept with the green sweater that still smells faintly of Stiles, but there’s definitely no way he’s telling Stiles that, because he already feels pathetic enough as it is.)

He tells Stiles he’s fine.

“Have you been sick lately or something?”

“No, I told you, I’m fine,” Derek snaps.

“Okay.” Stiles doesn’t look like he believes him, but he shrugs and says carefully, “I just haven’t seen you around much at the library lately, and I usually run into you all the time. You still working there?”

“Yeah.”

“Oh. Good.”

They both sip their coffee. Derek doesn’t remember Stiles ever being this quiet before, and he hates it. He’s just about to say something about how Jimmy’s makes good coffee or isn’t it nice how unseasonably warm it is today, when Stiles puts down his coffee (so forcefully it sloshes on the table, typical Stiles, making a mess) and blurts out, “Listen, I’m sorry I kissed you.”

And there it is, the elephant in the room. Derek tenses.

“I liked it, really liked it, and I won’t even try to pretend I didn’t,” Stiles goes on, “but you have to know, I wouldn’t have made a move if I knew you didn’t want me to.”

Derek scrubs a hand over his face and says without quite meeting Stiles’ eye, “No, it’s fine. Okay, actually, it’s not, but . . . It’s not your fault. I did want it, and I made that pretty obvious at Jackson and Lydia’s party. I just—can’t.”

“Okay,” Stiles says again. His expression is surprisingly unreadable, but the waver of confusion in his voice gives him away. Derek doesn’t see what he has to be confused about. Derek wants to reach across the table and shake him and growl, You have a girlfriend, dammit. You can’t just go around making out with other people on a whim. Intellectually, he thinks he should be repelled, not merely disappointed, by the fact that Stiles proved himself so willing to cheat on Allison (as Laura wasted no time pointing out when he told her what had happened). But the truth of the matter is, he isn’t put off by it, doesn't even care like he should, just tells himself that Stiles is human and has flaws like everyone else, because Derek is stupid and in love, no matter how hard he’s tried to get over it.

Stiles leans forward over the table, snagging Derek’s attention again. “So are we good? Apology accepted?”

“Yeah,” Derek sighs. “We’re good. And you're getting coffee on your sleeve.”

Stiles grins, on the verge of laughing as he starts to mop up the mess with paper napkins, and Derek's a little in awe that he made Stiles smile that much. It's beautiful, and Derek adds without thinking, “We could hang out sometime.”

Stiles’ smile falters slightly and his hands still, but only for a fraction of a second, and then he’s nodding enthusiastically and wiping up the last of the coffee puddle from the table. “Sure, yeah, that’d be great! Scott and Allison and I are going to see that Nemo sequel sometime next week, once we’ve all figured out when we’ll all be free. You should come with us, then there won’t be any awkward third-wheeling. Give me your number and I’ll send you the date and time later?”

Derek freezes. For a while now, he’s been seeking an opportunity to tell Stiles that he, Derek Hale, is the anonymous guy who’s been texting with him about comic book characters and puns and ice cream flavors and books and so many other things, but all of a sudden he thinks, What if I’m not who you were hoping for? Then: No, no ‘what if.’ I know I’m not. You don’t like me enough to stop seeing Allison. And there’s the awkward fact that after the kiss in the stacks, he abruptly stopped texting Stiles, and how is he going to explain that now? Stiles had left him at least a dozen messages, all some variant of “You’re being weird and not answering your phone. Are you okay? Are you dead?” and Derek had wanted to carry on as if nothing was wrong, but he just couldn’t handle getting anymore attached to someone he couldn’t have. He’d sent a stilted Fine. Busy. just so Stiles wouldn’t worry, and then nothing else, until slowly Stiles stopped texting him. Laura had assured him he was making the right decision. 

And now Stiles is looking at him expectantly, and instead of admitting, “You already have my number,” Derek clears his throat and says smoothly, “I’d prefer it if you just let me know in person, at the library. I know I’ll see you there before next week.”

“You must be psychic,” Stiles jokes lamely, and gets up to throw away his little pile of wadded up napkins.


 

“Are you just trying to get your heart broken?” Laura demands, jabbing the knife into her apple with unnecessary force. Maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to bring this up while making apple pie. Or while doing anything involving knives, really. “Seriously, what were you thinking? Because, Der, you know you can’t be just friends with that jerk. That’s the worst possible way to get over him.”

Derek winces and focuses on peeling his apple. It’s hard to explain, but he knows Stiles isn’t a jerk. Stiles may have led Derek on with the Americanos (a practice he’s resumed now that they’re something like friends, with definite plans to see Finding Dory on Friday night), but it was all very unintentional leading on. Stiles was, and is, just trying to be nice. He's never tried to hide the fact that he has a girlfriend.

And the kiss? Well, Derek did kiss him first. Stiles isn’t a jerk. Stiles is friendly and thoughtful and funny and actually kind of almost perfect—

“Derek.” Laura snaps her fingers, and Derek’s paring knife skids, almost cutting into his finger. “I don’t care if your hand'll grow back if you lop it off. Pay attention.”

“I am,” Derek protests weakly, and reaches for another apple. “Look, I know I’m an idiot for suggesting hanging out. It just sort of, um, came out of my mouth. Unexpectedly. But I also know I tried avoiding him for a whole month and it didn’t work. At all.”

Laura raises her eyebrows, unimpressed. “Oh, you think that doesn’t work? Well, wake up call,  going to the movies with him really won’t work. You have to cancel. Hell, Derek, you didn’t even like Finding Nemo in the first place! You hate animated kids’ movies!”

“I don’t mind them too much,” Derek lies.

Laura purses her lips. “Fine, dig your own grave. But there is literally no good reason for you to go.”

“Can we just make this pie and not talk about it?”

“Yeah, fine, we can not talk about it. For now.” Laura sighs. “I just hate to see you doing this to yourself. I want you to be happy.”

After a long hesitation, Derek finally says, “I will be. Stiles makes me happy.” And he knows Laura can hear the truth of it in his heartbeat. Being around Stiles is wonderful and gutting, both at the same time. Even if they're just hanging out as friends and Stiles' girlfriend is there between them, there's no one Derek would rather spend an evening with than Stiles Stilinksi.

Chapter Text

Scott and Stiles arrive at the theatre early, and not just one or two minutes early. Which is weird, because Stiles is never even remotely early to anything.

But then again, Stiles has been weird all evening. He came bursting into their dorm fairly buzzing with nervous energy and proceeded to dig frantically through his closet and his drawers and toss clothes all over the floor and scarf down chocolates from the emergency stash under his bed. Scott had tugged on a V-neck shirt and jeans and sat back to watch in puzzlement as Stiles fretted with his hair and spewed facts about the history of Pixar and brushed his teeth three times and banged his hip on the edge of his dresser. He ended up talking Scott into leaving for Regent fifteen minutes before Scott estimated they really needed to head out, and so here they are.

They buy four tickets—Scott was already planning on buying Allison’s, and Stiles figures Derek can just pay them back later for his—and then they lurk around the door to wait. Stiles immediately checks his phone and frowns at it, shoulders slumping.

“Are you still waiting to hear from Astronomy Guy?” Scott asks, exasperated. 

“No, not really anymore. Just habit,” Stiles sighs. “Tonight is not about me pining over him, though. Whatever his problem is, it’s not my problem, and we’re going to enjoy ourselves tonight and forget about depressing stuff like this.”

“Yeah, enjoyment, right. So remind me again why Derek’s coming?” Scott grumbles. He’s not as familiar with Derek as Stiles is, but he has run across the guy a few times at Powell, and geez, Stiles couldn’t have picked anyone broodier and more mood-killing if he’d tried.

“Because I invited him, Scott. You’re sharp as a spoon tonight,” Stiles huffs.

“I’m not the one who’s brought Mr. Doom-and-Gloom down on what was supposed to be a fun night out,” Scott mutters. “It’s going to be so awkward and unpleasant having him here because we're all really close and none of us know Derek that well and I can’t say any of us really want to, either.”

“Stop complaining. He's coming now and there's nothing you can do about it. And I don't regret inviting him, for the record. He was all alone and looking really terrible, and he outright said he wanted to hang out with me, and I’d be an ass to say no to someone wanting to be friends with me. Don’t say you’d have turned him down, either, you big puppy.”

“Yeah, okay, but I would’ve picked something better than this! I’d have bought him a pizza or something. I wouldn’t make plans to inflict him on other people for an extended period of time.”

“Harsh. But on the upside, it’s a movie. No talking required 95% of the time.”

“But I thought we were going out to eat afterwards. Are we all going to sit in dead silence through the meal?”

“Oh, come on, worst case scenario much? And we don’t have to get dinner together anyway. We can see how things are going after the movie and decide then. You never know, he could turn out to be bucket loads of fun outside of work. By the end of the night, you and he—you and him? he and you? god, grammar—you guys might be BFFs.”

Scott just looks at him blankly, until Stiles sighs, “It’s called sarcasm, Scott. Anyway, I didn’t realize being in Derek’s presence would be such a hardship for you.”

“Won’t it be, for you?” Scott asks sincerely.

“No,” Stiles answers after a beat.

Scott thinks Stiles probably means yes, because there was that impulsive kiss at a party, and that’s got to make things awkward. And Stiles has mentioned (well, more like ranted about at length, several times) his growing suspicion that Derek actively avoids him most of the time and never says thank you when Stiles leaves out a coffee for him at his desk, so Scott is pretty sure Stiles misinterpreted something in the course of talking with the guy the other day. There’s no way Derek doesn’t loathe Stiles or at the very least find him annoying despite his attractiveness, so there’s also no way Derek could have told Stiles anything along the lines of I want to spend even a second of my free time with you, voluntarily. Scott’s actually pretty pleased with himself for figuring all this out. It proves he’s capable of being insightful, whatever Lydia might say to the contrary.

“But hey,” Stiles interrupts Scott’s train of thought, “here’s an idea. Let’s talk about something else. You-know-who’s not here yet, so there’s really no excuse for all this negativity.”

“You-know-who? Really?” Scott snorts. “Now I’m going to be imagining him as Voldemort all evening.”

“No, he’s more of a Snape kind of guy. He told me so himself,” Stiles corrects automatically, and then blushes.

Scott decides to ignore that. “Anyway, you’re right, we should be taking advantage of this gloriously Derek-free moment.”

“Bro bonding time,” Stiles agrees, looking relieved. "I just remembered, you were going to tell me something about Allison?"

So Scott begins telling Stiles about Allison’s little sister’s new kitten, until he hears Derek say behind them, “Have you already gotten tickets?”

Stiles just about jumps out of his skin. “Yep! Yes, indeed. We’re just waiting for Allison now and then we can go in.”

Derek grimaces. “Right.”

See?  Scott wants to hiss in Stiles’ ear as an awkward silence descends. I told you he was going to ruin this. Scott doesn’t understand why Derek took Stiles up on his offer. He looks like he’d rather be anywhere but here.

But Scott doesn’t have to dwell on that for long, because only a minute or so later, he spots Allison crossing the parking lot towards them. He knows he’s beaming goofily, but he can’t help it. He abandons Derek and Stiles to dash over to her and sweep her up in an enthusiastic kiss, and then they mosey over to the theatre together, fingers comfortably interlocked. Scott can already feel his bad mood dissipating. Even if he has to watch this movie with Derek (who’s currently giving them a shocked look as though he’s never seen PDA before, seriously, what a prude), he’s still got Allison, and he can never be upset for long when he’s around her.


 

After the movie, Stiles and Allison both head straight for the bathrooms, leaving Scott and Derek loitering awkwardly together in the hallway of the theatre. Derek knows Scott dislikes him, but he's Stiles's best friend, so Derek tries to make pleasant commentary on the movie they just saw. It's a difficult task, since his mind is still spinning around the epiphany that it’s Allison and Scott, not Allison and Stiles, and he can hardly think about anything other than how stupid he was to assume they were together, especially when Stiles never smells much like Allison, like he would if they were really together, and how did Derek not pick up on that?

Finally he can’t stand it any longer. Stiles is going to be back any second now, and Derek doesn’t know when he’ll get another chance to ask. He clears his throat. “Uh, Scott.”

Scott looks up from his phone. “Derek.”

“Is Stiles seeing anyone?” He doesn't think he is, because Stiles mostly just smells like himself, but he has to be sure.

“No," Scott admits, "he's single."

Derek's eagerness must show on his face, because Scott adds warningly, "He’s in love with someone else, though. He won’t shut up about him. That means he’s practically off the market. Whatever fling you want to have with him, just don’t expect too much, okay? Because he's not interested. He barely knows you.”

But Derek can’t get past the Stiles-is-single part. Stiles kissed him, and Stiles isn't with Allison, and doesn’t that mean Stiles wants to be with him? Derek’s had the entire movie to think about this already, and it seems so clear now. 

So Derek says a bit smugly (because he and Stiles are practically on a double date with Scott and Allison right now), “Maybe you’re misinformed. Stiles has been buying me coffee. A lot. And asking me about myself, and complimenting my sweaters. And we even kis—”

Scott interrupts impatiently, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know. It’s called bribery.” He stutters on the last syllable as his eyes widen and he looks up from his phone. “Oh crap, I wasn’t supposed to tell you that. I’m pretty sure it defeats the purpose. Just pretend I didn’t say anything and try to be nice to him, okay?”

Derek’s mouth has suddenly gone dry. “Bribery?”

“Nope. Not saying anything else.”

“Scott,” Derek begins warningly.

“Derek. Seriously. Don’t ask. Just take my word for it: It's bribery.”

Derek wishes for once that he couldn’t tell truth from lies all the time. He wishes he didn’t know Scott was telling the truth right now. But he can’t pretend, and he can’t look away from the earnestness in Scott’s eyes.

Scott caves. “Ugh, don't look at me like that. Fine. Don’t tell him I said this, but he’s been getting on your good side so you won’t take his snacks or yell at him for stuff. And it’s been working, hasn’t it?”

Yes, it most certainly has been working, Derek realizes, a lump forming in his throat. Stiles could crush an entire bag of Doritos into the carpet on the second floor and Derek probably wouldn’t say anything anymore.

“Thank you for answering my question,” he hears himself say neutrally, politely. “I won’t tell him you told me. But I need to go now. I, uh, just remembered I left the stove on in my apartment.” It's a classic excuse, but he really can't think of anything better. Can't really think at all.

“Yeah, you'd better go. See you,” Scott says. He returns to looking at something on his phone. The conversation’s over, and Derek walks away. There’s nothing else he can do. Derek knows how things stand now, and it’s worse than thinking Stiles had a girlfriend. Then at least Derek thought Stiles liked him, even if he liked Allison more. Now? Now it turns out Stiles doesn’t like him at all, not even as a friend. He's just trying to get Derek to like him enough to leave him alone.

He can do that much, he thinks bitterly, and slams the door of his Camaro. Laura was right. He shouldn’t let himself keep hoping like this.

Chapter Text

It’s been a sucky week, even worse than usual since Astronomy Guy dropped off the face of the earth. First there was the not-date at the theatre, where Derek couldn’t even be bothered to wait two minutes after the movie for Stiles to get back from the restroom; he’d taken off at the earliest opportunity without so much as a “Bye, Stiles,” or “Thanks for inviting me along, I enjoyed it,” and apparently he told Scott it was because he left his stove on, and yeah, that had worked on Scott, but how stupid did Derek think Stiles was? He hadn’t paid Stiles back for the ticket, either, and Stiles wasn’t even going to ask, he was just planning to pretend it was a date, but now he kind of resented paying eight bucks for someone who’d just sat through the movie looking spaced-out and kind of unhappy and then left immediately afterwards.

Unfortunately, that was just the beginning of Stiles’ terrible week. Stiles brought in Derek’s usual Americano the next day, but apparently Stiles’ very existence offended Derek again, because he saw Stiles coming with two coffees, pursed his lips like he’d just smelled something rotten, and promptly abandoned the circ desk for the back room where he knew Stiles couldn’t follow. Good riddance, why do I even bother, Stiles thought, and kept on walking.

On Monday, Stiles’ Jeep died. It turned out the camshaft needed replacing, whatever that meant, and most wonderful of all, it wasn’t going to be cheap. Tuesday, Professor Finstock caught him doodling an elaborate Batman/Wolverine faceoff in the middle of econ and assigned him a bonus 5000-word essay, due in two days’ time. Wednesday, he burned his finger making toast, and Scott found out from his mom that Stiles’ dad was cheating on his diet again. Thursday, Stiles accidentally dropped his iPod into a glass of water. Miracle of miracles, it still worked once Stiles fished it out, but by Friday it had started glitching, playing songs Stiles hadn’t selected and randomly turning itself off.

Little things kept going wrong, too: the guy at the deli getting Stiles’ sandwich order wrong, Stiles tripping and whacking his head in front of Lydia Martin, Stiles getting more than his fair share of paper cuts, Stiles getting caught out in the rain and showing up for class soaked and shivering.

And on top of all that, Derek was blatantly ignoring him, except for the occasional I-hate-your-guts glare, every time he set foot in the library. Stiles didn’t know what he’d done to offend Derek’s delicate sensibilities, but he was sure he didn’t deserve this. He wished he could hate Derek for it, but he couldn’t. Instead he thought about Derek almost as much as he thought about finals and Astronomy Guy. 

He stepped into Jimmy’s Café and found himself looking for Derek’s spiky black hair among the crowd.

He turned on the radio in Scott’s car and “Does Your Mother Know” was playing, the same song Derek had put on when they were taking Greenberg home.

One of the dark-haired students in Stiles’ abnormal psychology class showed up in a leather jacket, and Stiles’ heart jumped in his chest before his brain could register that this guy wasn’t actually Derek.

It’s all irrelevant, though, since Stiles is starting to think he’s never going to speak to Derek again. If Derek wants to be a jerk, Stiles isn’t going to stop him. He decides to ignore the problem until it goes away because that’s what Stiles always does.

But when he’s walking back to his dorm after class on Friday, he looks up from his phone just in time to recognize that the leather-clad guy abruptly making a U-turn on the path ahead of him is Derek, and frustration spikes through him before he can tamp it down. In that moment, he doesn’t want to ignore the problem. He wants to know what’s so repulsive about him to Derek all the sudden.

“Hey, asshole!” Stiles yells at Derek’s retreating back, which stiffens. “Whatever’s pissing you off, why don’t you just say it to my face?”

And, oh yeah, that did it. Derek turns rigidly and stalks over to stand in front of Stiles, hands shoved in his jacket pockets, anger flushing his cheeks. “Oh, so I’m the asshole now? That’s just rich. How about we talk about how you led me on for weeks?”

“I led you—what?” Stiles asks, his anger winking out almost as fast as it'd flared up, leaving behind a growing dread that somewhere along the way there’s been some sort of misunderstanding and Stiles has just made it worse.

“The coffees!” Derek hisses. “The flirting! The kissing! The movie!”

Stiles blinks, taken aback. “You mean, me being nice to you? That’s insulting to you somehow?”

“It wouldn’t be if you actually gave a flying fuck about me, but since you so obviously don’t, then yes.”

Stiles works to keep his voice level. “Who says I don’t?”

Derek cards his fingers through his hair and stares at Stiles incredulously. “Are you denying you were trying to get me to stop bugging you about snacking in the library?”

Stiles doesn’t even want to know how Derek knows that. He’s torn between wanting to laugh that that’s all this is, a tiff about junk food, and feeling guilty and embarrassed that yeah, that’s what it started out as and it sounds so petty when Derek says it out loud. Stiles just stands there, speechless, until Derek’s scowl deepens in an ‘I thought so’ look and he starts to turn away.

Stiles’ hand darts out and snags the sleeve of Derek’s leather jacket. “Wait! I do give a flying fuck about you!”

Derek raises his eyebrows, staring down at Stiles’ hand on his arm, and Stiles steps back, letting his hand fall.

“I like you, and I wanted you to like me,” he goes on. “Admittedly, part of that was getting you to stop confiscating my food, but I mean, I was kind of kidding about it all. Mainly I just wanted you to like me. You can’t seriously think I’d make out with you for the sake of a stupid bag of Doritos.”

Derek just raises his eyebrows, like Uh, yeah, I did.

“Seriously?” Stiles throws his hands up, a little exasperated now that Derek’s looking more stunned than angry. “Dude, no. Just no. I can’t believe you thought—”

“Well, I did. And now I have to go,” Derek says brusquely.

"Oh. Okay." Stiles takes another step back and rubs his thumb reflexively over the sharp teeth of his dorm key in his pocket. His frustration comes surging back as he watches Derek walk away with his shoulders hunched and his head down. He feels like an idiot.


 

The text comes in that night, a flare of light and a hopeful little ping. Stiles almost ignores it. After replaying his earlier conversation with Derek in his head for a little over an hour, he’s finally on the verge of sleep, everything around him a hazy soft warmth in the dark. But after a minute of trying and failing to remember what he’d been half-dreaming, half-thinking, he reaches out with a sigh and grabs his phone from his desk.

 

From: Astronomy Guy

Hey.

 

 

Stiles nearly drops the phone. One little 'hey' should not get his heart beating like this.

 

Whoa, you’re alive, this is awesome, he types once he gets over his surprise. Astronomy Guy texts back less than a minute later.

 

From: Astronomy Guy

Yeah, sorry. We should talk.

 

From: Stiles

We should indeed! Start typing, I’m listening.

 

From: Astronomy Guy

No, I meant we should talk irl, face to face, in the flesh.

 

From: Stiles

Omg, really? You want to meet me? I think I’m hyperventilating right now.

And I'm totally not being sarcastic, sorry if it sounded that way.

 

From: Astronomy Guy

I want to explain everything. 10 AM at Jimmy’s tomorrow?

 

Stiles knows it's still possible Astronomy Guy could be some kind of serial killer, but he can’t resist the opportunity to find out what Astronomy Guy looks like and whether Stiles is as attracted to him in person as he is through text, and anyway, they'll be in public, so it'll be safe enough. He wonders if Astronomy Guy knows Jimmy’s is Stiles’ favorite coffee place, then dismisses the idea. There’s no way. It’s just coincidence.

 

From: Stiles

OK. You’d better wear a funny hat.

 

From: Astronomy Guy

??

 

From: Stiles

Or paisley pants or a Darth Vader costume or something else distinctive.

So I’ll recognize you.

 

From: Astronomy Guy

You don’t need to worry about finding me. I’ll find you.

 

Stiles thinks that’s a funny thing to say. It sounds so corny at first, like, “We’re destined to meet because we’re soul mates,” but somehow Stiles doesn’t think that’s what Astronomy Guy means.

 

From: Stiles

So you want -me- to be the one wearing the funny hat?

 

From: Astronomy Guy

No, just come as you are. I’ll recognize you

 

From: Stiles

You know what I look like already???

 

From: Astronomy Guy

Yes.

I’ll explain tomorrow.

 

From: Stiles

You’d better, ’cause you sound like Creepy McCreeperson right now

 

There’s no reply, and eventually Stiles falls asleep like that, with his phone still cradled in his palm.


 

10 o’clock comes and goes, and Stiles still hasn’t shown up. Derek fidgets with his phone, looks at photos in the magazine he brought, tries to read the articles but finds he’s too jittery to concentrate for more than a few sentences. He feels like Stiles, the way he can’t ever keep still. He keeps glancing up at the door, scenting the air, listening for the sound of Stiles’ heartbeat or his voice. Nothing.

After polishing off his second cup of coffee, Derek resigns himself to the fact that Stiles isn’t coming. The disappointment crashes over him, and he leaves with his head down, not looking where he’s going. Which is why he steps outside and immediately slams into someone, so that they both stumble back a few steps, dazed. The familiar scent hits him then. Stiles, his brain supplies, and a flurry of hope uncurls inside him.

“Sorry, sorry,” Stiles wheezes, already reaching past him for the door.

Derek feels offended for a second that Stiles is going to walk right past him, before he remembers Stiles doesn’t know yet. “No, wait,” he says, and grabs Stiles’ arm, leading him a few steps away.

Stiles is flailing, protesting: “That really was a mistake! You can death-glare me later, but I’m late right now, so late, and I’m supposed to meet someone if he’s still there, which, probably no, I mean, god, I’m way more than fashionably late, just let me go—”

“Stiles,” Derek cuts in, and turns Stiles with his hands on his shoulders until they’re facing. He can feel the heat of Stiles’ skin through his T-shirt and forces himself to concentrate. “Stiles, I know.”

Stiles’ brow furrows. “About what?”

“The guy you’re meeting.”

“How could you . . . ?”

Derek steels himself for rejection and says far more calmly than he feels, “I’ve been waiting for you to show up for almost an hour now.”

“No, that’s not . . . You . . . You, really?” Stiles’ stare is breathtaking. It’s as though he’s looking at Derek for the first time, really seeing him now, taking in every detail of his face. And then his expression shifts to one of disbelief. “No.”

“You want me to prove it to you? Fine.” Derek paces. “Your dad’s a sheriff and you make him eat veggie burgers at least twice a week. You’re scared of spiders. You met Scott in second grade when he shared his chocolate pudding with you. You listen to Yann Tiersen and Shostakovich when you study. Your mom died of cancer when you were in fourth grade. Reese’s is your favorite candy and Halloween is your favorite holiday.”

“This can’t be happening,” Stiles says faintly.

“You hate economics and you doodle in class instead of taking notes,” Derek persists. “You have a DFTBA poster in your dorm room. Batman’s your favorite superhero. You’re an only child. You’ve loved The New Pornographers ever since Lydia Martin gave you a mixtape of their songs for your 15th birthday. You first saw The Matrix when you were 8 years old and your mom lit into your dad for showing it to you because it’s rated R—”

“Okay,” Stiles says. “Okay. You’re—yeah. Okay. It is you, I believe you.”

He sounds less than thrilled, and Derek’s heart sinks.

“How long have you known it was me?”

“Ages. Since before we started texting,” Derek admits sheepishly.

Stiles’ scent sharpens with anger. “And you didn’t bother to let me know? What, were you laughing at me or something? Thought it'd be fun to pretend—”

“No. God, no, I wasn't laughing at you. I was just trying to find the right time, I guess, and I also thought you probably wouldn’t want to text me if you knew it was me. But I should have told you. I’m sorry.”

“Yeah, you should be,” Stiles says sharply.

This isn’t going well, Derek knows, but he has to keep going and say all of what he came here to say. If Stiles rejects him after that, fine, Derek wouldn’t blame him after the way he’s been acting. But before he gives up, he has to know for sure that he has no chance. He has to hear Stiles say it.

He says in a rush, “I want to be with you. The only reason I didn’t keep kissing you that day was that I thought you were with Allison. And that’s why I stopped texting you, and I shouldn’t have; I should have at least tried to be just friends, but I wanted more, I’ve always wanted us to be more. And then I ignored you for a week because I thought, well, you know, the bribery thing. My problem’s always been that I assume too much and talk too little. But I’ve missed texting you and chatting with you, and I’m saying I’m sorry for everything and I’m really not usually this much of an asshole, and I just want you to give me a chance to prove it to you because I’m ridiculously, hopelessly, stupidly in love with you.”

Stiles stands dumbfounded, hands hanging at his sides, clothes rumpled, hair spiking out messily from underneath his favorite red knit hat. His heartbeat is out of control and his scent is a confused mess of emotions. Derek waits, sweating and apprehensive and losing hope with every new minute that passes without Stiles saying a word. Several students glance at them curiously on their way in and out of the café. Derek shifts from foot to foot, resists the urge to take a huge step forward and kiss Stiles until he’s too stupefied to say anything but yes.

Finally, Stiles moves, taking a cautious step forward and fiddling with the zipper of his hoodie. “This is . . . a lot to take in. I need to think about it.”

“Okay.” It’s not exactly what Derek was hoping for, but it’s better than a no. "I'll wait. As long as it takes."

Stiles nods jerkily and goes past him, into Jimmy's. Derek breathes out a long breath he hadn't realized he was holding in, and then he starts walking. There's nowhere he needs to be, nowhere he particularly wants to go, but he craves movement. It terrifies him how much he wants Stiles to love him, and right now he can't let himself think about it.

Chapter Text

When Stiles was applying to colleges, he freaked out. The enormity of the decision intimidated him—it was his whole future he was deciding here, and he was only 17!—and so he sent in applications to all the major schools in California and then didn’t think about it again for the entirety of his senior year. He ended up giving himself the last two days of April to really sit down and think about where he wanted to enroll. When he chose UCLA, it felt right in a way he couldn’t explain. It also felt like kind of an impulse decision. But that’s how Stiles has always made the big decisions in his life. Procrastination, putting off the moment of truth until the last possible second.

So it doesn’t surprise him when he finds himself coasting through the next few days without thinking about Derek at all.

Outside of class, he spends a lot of time gaming with Scott in their dorm, avoiding Jimmy’s Café and Powell Library, eating massive bowls of sugary cereal, listening to his iPod nonstop for hours at a time, and rereading his favorite comics.

And every time his mind brushes against the memory of Derek’s confession, he nearly has a panic attack. It’s a strange feeling, knowing what he wants is right there, and all he has to do is admit he wants it. But if he does, he knows there won’t be any going back. No treading lightly, no thinking this is just a fling until he’s ready to make it something more. He keeps catching himself thinking, “I barely know Derek,” and then remembering the hundreds of texts and how really, Astronomy Guy’s become one of his best friends. Who is in love with him. Which is what Stiles wanted. Still wants?

Stiles is not afraid of commitment. He’s not. But he knows what this is. This is crushing on the scale of Lydia, and yeah, he has a right to be wary of that.


 

Five or six more days go by before Scott finally lets slip what he said.

They’re walking back from the one class they share this semester, about white collar crime, when Stiles finally sighs, “I can’t stop thinking about Derek.”

Scott stops walking, so Stiles does, too.

“Yeah, you're giving me that look, and I know, I feel so stupid and girly and fluttery and shit, but I can’t help it.” He’s going to have to get the notes from Scott because he really wasn’t paying attention to the lecture at all—

“Why don’t you just bone him and get it out of your system?”

Stiles gapes at him, the words jolting in him, crude and harsh and just wrong. “No, you don’t understand, Scott, I don’t want to fuck him. Well, not just that, anyway. I’m trying to decide if I want to be his boyfriend.”

“Oh. Well. That’s awkward,” Scott mumbles, and starts walking again.

Stiles runs to catch up with him. “Why? Dude, we talked about it before, and it didn’t weird you out then.”

But Scott’s suddenly not very talkative, and they’re almost to their dorm by the time Stiles finally weasels it out of him.

“Imayhavetoldhimyoudidn’tlikehim,” Scott admits in a rush, jamming his hands in his hoodie pockets.

“Say that slower.”

“I kind of said, at the theatre, that, um, he shouldn’t ask you out because you’d say no.”

“What? What the fuck!” At least now he knows why Derek left so suddenly.

Scott winces. “’Cause it’s true! Or I thought so, anyway, until a few minutes ago. Look, you’re into that astronomy dude you’re always texting, and you told me not to interfere in your love life, especially with Derek, and you said Derek was hot but not much else, and—”

“Dude,” Stiles breathes. “Scott. Derek is Astronomy Guy.”

It’s Scott’s turn to gape now. “Since when?!”

“I found out a few days ago.” Stiles drags his hands through his hair. “Thank god he ended up not listening to you.”

“So he did ask you out?”

“Not exactly.” Stiles narrows his eyes. “But you don’t get the inside scoop ’cause you’ve been a bad friend. What part of telling Derek not to ask me out counts as you not interfering?”

Scott blinks big, puppy eyes at him. “Oops?”

Stiles stares him down for a long minute, before he can’t keep being angry anymore and lets his shoulders slump. “Okay, I know you weren’t trying to sabotage things for me. I know you wouldn't do that. And you failed anyway, so I guess it’s not a huge deal.”

Scott brightens. “So he likes you, you like him, and I didn’t screw it up! So what’s holding you back? You said you couldn’t decide if you really wanted to date him?”

“Yeah. I don’t even know if I can explain it. I just have to think some more. It's really complicated and weird.”

Stiles turns to head up the steps to their dorm, but Scott pulls him back by the strap of his backpack, saying, “Nope, no, that’s b.s. I promise you it’s not complicated. At all. Here, I can solve this for you in two seconds.”

Stiles raises his eyebrows skeptically.

“Really!” Scott digs around in the pocket of his shorts and comes out with a penny. “Heads, and you turn him down. Tails, and you get your happily ever after. Now I’m gonna flip it, and—”

“Scott, this is stupid. I’m talking about a serious relationship here, not coin games—”

“Heads or tails?” Scott speaks over him, jumping back when Stiles tries to snatch the penny from his palm. “Heads or tails, Stiles?”

“I don’t know!” Stiles shouts.

Scott flips the coin. It flashes in the air, turning over and over, and Stiles knows it’s stupid and meaningless, but he finds himself holding his breath regardless.

Scott catches the penny on the back of his left hand and peeks at it.

“Well?” Stiles asks, nervous despite himself.

Scott smirks and keeps his hand over the coin so Stiles can’t see. “Doesn’t matter what it is. What matters is what you wanted it to be, when it was in the air and you didn’t have time to think about it.”

“I told you, that’s stupid and I don’t know what I wanted it to be,” Stiles insists, but even as he says it, he realizes that’s not quite true. He had hoped . . .

Scott just looks at him, smugly, like he can read Stiles’ mind, and pockets the coin again. “Coming inside?” he asks.

“Yeah,” Stiles says, absently. “Yeah.”


 

Everything outside is wintergreen and grey, drizzly and chilly and dim, but Derek can’t stand another minute of hunching over the desk in his apartment, working halfheartedly on his thesis. His whole body quivers with the restlessness of waiting. He shoves on his running shoes and is out the door before he has time to think twice about it. He runs for hours, the rain eventually soaking through to the skin, until he’s finally chased the nerves away, leaving behind a mindless, animal weariness.

When he jogs up to his door, shivering and wiping his dripping hair from his eyes, he stops short because there's Stiles, crouching by Derek’s door with a folded umbrella across his lap and wiping at his glasses with a corner of his shirt. When Derek clears his throat pointedly, he scrambles to his feet, jamming his glasses back on his nose.

“What the fuck, Derek, you’re soaking wet! What were you thinking? I mean, I know it’s sunny California and all, but it’s still December and it’s cold.”

“You know where I live,” Derek says instead of answering. Seeing Stiles here was the last thing he'd expected.

Stiles rubs a hand across the back of his neck, flushing. “Isaac told me your address.”

“That’s a breach of confidentiality,” Derek says, just to say something as he pulls his key from his pocket and unlocks his door. He privately thinks he should buy Isaac coffee or pastries or something tomorrow, as a thank you.

“Do you want to come in?”

Stiles nods and follows him in. He’s all movement now, his hands brushing nervously over his clothes, his eyes darting inquisitively over Derek’s face.

“Want some coffee? I can make coffee,” Derek offers, even though it'll probably just make them both jittery. Or, in Stiles' case, jitterier.

“Sounds good.” Stiles reaches out, strokes Derek’s hair. “But you’re still soaking wet,” he says softly, and Derek shivers. “How about I make coffee while you change into dry clothes?”

So Derek points out the coffee maker and heads back to his bedroom, where he changes quickly into a black T-shirt and soft grey sweatpants. When he comes back out, the coffee’s brewing and Stiles has settled himself on a stool at the kitchen counter, thrumming an off-beat rhythm with his fingers on the granite surface. For a second, it feels so domestic, so intimate and quiet and right, and Derek’s chest aches at the illusion of it.

“I hope you weren’t waiting long,” Derek says, coming up to lean his elbows on the counter beside Stiles, and Stiles shakes his head no. He’s taken his glasses off, and Derek’s too distracted with taking in the way that changes Stiles’ appearance to come up with any more conversation starters.

“I’m sorry if it feels creepy, me just showing up on your doorstep,” Stiles says at last. He twists in his seat, shoots Derek an almost bashful look. “I just didn’t want to have this conversation in the library. In public.”

Derek’s immediate thought is that Stiles wants to let him down gently, without embarrassing him in front of Isaac or Boyd. He clenches his fists and nods for Stiles to go on. He doesn’t trust himself to say anything right now.

Stiles swallows audibly, his long fingers fiddling with his folded glasses on the counter. “You know, we’re really different people. And I still can’t believe you’re in love with me.”

The awful anticipation of Stiles’ rejection settles deeper, but Derek forces himself not to look away.

“But the thing is,” Stiles goes on, “even if you do think Wolverine’s better than Batman, I still think I might be a little in love with you.”

Derek stares.

“Or, you know, a lot.”

When the words finally sink in, Derek doesn’t hesitate. He just straightens up, slides his hands around Stiles’ waist, and kisses him. It’s kind of a fail because Stiles grins maniacally and Derek ends up mostly just kissing his teeth, but Derek doesn’t care because the elation of it is shooting fireworks through his veins, eclipsing all thought.

Stiles breaks off with a little huff of laughter and presses his nose to Derek’s neck, nuzzling there as he slides off the stool to stand pressing Derek back against the counter.

“I can’t believe this,” Stiles mumbles, “I really can’t believe this is my life right now.”

Derek just hums a little and kisses him properly, kisses the smile from Stiles’ face, kisses him until he moans.

His world narrows to just that, the feel of their mouths moving against each other, the slide of their tongues, and the warmth of Stiles’ body against his own from chest to knees, and then the rush of adrenaline when Stiles’ hands begin wandering hungrily, up his body, under his shirt, down the knobs of his spine, lower still. Derek moves his mouth lower, too, latching onto that spot on Stiles’ collarbone and sucking a bruise. Stiles bruises so easily, so beautifully. Derek thought he would, had hoped for it.

Stiles makes a series of exquisite little noises in the back of his throat when Derek breaks off sucking hickeys to nip along his neck, up towards his ear, pausing a few times to feel the strength of Stiles’ pulse under his tongue. Stiles’ fingernails scrape along Derek’s shoulder blades, unknowingly brushing over Derek’s triskelion tattoo, and before he can think through the fact that they haven’t even gone on a date yet, Derek is sliding his hand down, around Stiles’ hip, and palming his erection through his jeans.

Stiles’ whole body goes rigid and his hands pause on Derek’s hips.

Derek can feel color flame across his cheeks as he yanks his hand away. Damn it, he’s messed this up not ten minutes into their relationship. “Sorry, I’m sorry,” he rushes, leaning back, away from Stiles, until the counter digs into the small of his back. “I don’t know what I was thinkin—mmph—” He breaks off as Stiles surges forward and mashes their mouths together again.

Stiles breaks away, finally, and pants against Derek’s neck. He’s grinning again. “Well, I have a pretty good idea what you were thinking.” He takes Derek’s hand and presses it very intentionally back against his crotch. Derek’s breath catches in his throat. “And as you can tell,” he murmurs into Derek’s ear, “I am very in favor of that happening. Very, very in favor. Like, words cannot adequately express how much I. want. this.” He emphasizes his last words by clutching at Derek’s shoulders and grinding into his palm.

Derek squeezes his eyes shut, intoxicated by the sharpening scent of Stiles’ arousal and trying not to shift, so that it takes him a moment to realize Stiles’ hands have slipped away from his shoulders and he’s fumbling with the button and zipper of his jeans, shoving them down, stepping out of them.

“Stiles,” he croaks, eyes drawn down to the tent of Stiles’ horrid plaid boxers. He can’t help but think, It’s too soon. I want to do this right. It can’t be just about sex. And we barely know each other— And then stops, because no, they do know each other. They’ve texted about everything under the sun. Granted, it hasn’t been deeply personal stuff. Stiles doesn’t know Derek’s a werewolf; doesn’t know Derek’s family is a bunch of werewolves, too; doesn’t know that Derek’s never been in a casual relationship in his life and he’s never going to want to let Stiles go; doesn’t know so much. Derek doesn’t know about Stiles like that, either. But he knows how Stiles reacts to things, to stress and happiness and misunderstandings, and he knows what makes him tick and what makes him laugh, and he trusts Stiles. He’ll tell him everything, soon, and Stiles won’t react the wrong way. Derek knows it.

He realizes he’s been gazing at a random spot on Stiles' T-shirt, deep in thought, and now Stiles is fidgeting in front of him, looking suddenly smaller and insecure and biting his lip, his lip red and swollen from kissing, and that does it. Derek pulls off his shirt, then Stiles’, and pulls him close again. “I want this,” he whispers, and kisses Stiles on the soft skin behind his ear. “I want you.” His lips trail down Stiles’ neck, and he lifts Stiles by the backs of his thighs until Stiles wraps his legs around Derek’s waist.

“How are you so hot?” Stiles breathes against the juncture of Derek’s shoulder and neck. “I mean temperature-wise. Looks-wise, too, obviously. But seriously, you were just outside in the rain in winter. You were shivering. And now you’re like a space heater or a furnace or, I don’t know, you get it, hot stuff, and I’m not complaining because, wow, you feel nice. So nice. So hot. But you’re supposed to be a little cold, still. I would be.”

Derek dumps him on the sofa and crawls atop him. It’s amazing, feeling Stiles beneath him, all lean muscle and warm skin and surprisingly sinuous movement.

"Please don't tell me you have a fever," Stiles says.

Derek shakes his head impatiently. “I just run hot, I guess. And it’s been a good 20 minutes at least. I’ve had time to warm up.” Now isn’t the time for the werewolf talk.

Apparently Stiles is on the same page, because he sits up on his elbows and demands, “Okay, off, take your pants off! Since you’re not dying of hypothermia, this is a fantastic time to get naked. Take 'em off.”

So Derek does, laughing a little, before licking down Stiles’ chest, down his happy trail, tasting salty sweat and faint lemon verbena on his skin, to mouth at his dick through his boxers. Stiles falls back, hands curling in Derek’s hair.

“Fuck—fuck me,” Stiles  groans after a minute, bucking his hips up a little. “Please. Derek.”

But Derek sits back on his haunches, blushing and hating himself for it. “I don’t have condoms.” He hasn’t ever taken anyone back to this apartment, no one-night stands or fuck buddies. His last relationship was Kate, two years ago, and he hasn’t touched anyone since. Honestly, she put him off sex for a long time.

It’s not like he needs condoms, anyway, but he can’t think of a way to tell Stiles that without broaching the topic of werewolves.

Stiles takes it in stride. “But you have lube, right?”

“Yeah. In my bedroom. I could go get it if you want. But . . .” Derek hooks his fingers in the waistband of Stiles’ boxers, tugs a little, exposing the sharp lines of his hipbones. Fuck. “I really want to blow you.”

“I have no complaints about that plan.” Stiles raises his hips enough for Derek to pull his boxers off. “Absolutely no complaints. Zero complaints. Nil, nada—”

The monologue stops abruptly when Derek rests his hands on the insides of Stiles’ thighs and presses his lips tentatively to the head of his dick.

“I’ve never done this before,” he admits, looking up to meet Stiles’ eyes. His pupils are wide and dark. “Any of it. I’ve never been with a guy before. Just women.” Woman, singular, he thinks but doesn’t say. Kate. The last person he wants to think of right now.

Stiles shrugs like Derek’s inexperience doesn’t matter. “Just don’t use your teeth. I mean, that’s kind of common sense, no biting down there, but just in case, well. No teeth. And don’t worry, even if you’re bad at it at first, it’ll still be hot to me, because it’s you, you know? Jesus, just the thought of you doing . . . God. Trust me, you’d have to mess up pretty majorly for me not to find it hot.”

“Okay." Derek smirks. "Good pep talk.”

He lowers his head and licks experimentally. Encouraged by Stiles’ answering gasp, he licks again, following a particularly prominent vein. He does that a few more times, then takes a deep breath and goes for it, taking as much of him into his mouth as possible and sucking. Stiles’ fingers tighten in his hair, on the verge of painful. Derek decides he likes that, and he sucks a bit harder, bobbing his head, until Stiles wriggles backwards on the sofa, his cock sliding from Derek’s mouth with an obscenely wet noise.

“Gonna come,” he says, and he does, as soon as Derek wraps a hand around him and pulls. His back arches, his ribs standing out beneath his pale skin, his mouth falling open wordlessly, and Derek thinks that this is probably the most beautiful thing he’s ever seen, and then he's embarrassed by his own corniness.

He gets up just long enough to fetch tissues and wipe the come from his palm and Stiles’ stomach, and then he laces their hands together and spoons him, even though there’s barely enough space for them both on the couch and their feet hang off the end. Stiles goes limp, lets Derek position him back against him.

“You’re still hard,” Stiles mumbles sleepily after a few moments. He pushes his ass back against Derek’s erection, sending sparks up Derek’s spine. “And you haven’t even taken off your underwear yet.”

“It’s fine,” Derek replies honestly, because yeah, he hasn’t come, but he also doesn’t want to move, not when Stiles is boneless and spent in his arms, radiating contentment and drowsiness and warmth. Derek can’t resist pressing his lips to the corner of Stiles’ jaw and giving his hand a little squeeze. He stays like that, not moving, until Stiles’ eyes flutter shut and his breathing eventually deepens into sleep.

Lying like this, Derek can feel as well as hear the slow, calming beat of Stiles’ heart against his own, and he doesn’t know what to do with this light, ballooning feeling in his chest, the elation at knowing this is real, Stiles is really in love with him, he’s here and he’s not leaving and Derek can hold him like this.

“I carry your heart,” he murmurs into Stiles’ hair. “I carry it in my heart.” He wouldn’t say it if Stiles were awake, because it’s cheesy and embarrassing, especially when they’ve only been together for something like forty-five minutes now, but knowing Stiles isn’t awake to hear, he whispers it again, and presses Stiles a little tighter against him.

Eventually that’s how he falls asleep, with his face buried in Stiles’ shoulder, and surrounded by the scent of them, together, indistinguishable from one another. He smiles a little in his sleep, because what he told Laura was true: Stiles makes him happy, happier than anything, happier than he thinks he’s ever been.

Chapter Text

Stiles wakes from their nap with his face smooshed into the warm skin of Derek’s chest. His own skin feels sticky and sweaty (thanks to Derek’s insane body heat), and when he extricates his hand from where it’s curled in Derek’s mussed hair, he discovers there’s sleep crusted in his eyes. Grosser and grosser. Then there’s the coffee deprivation. His mind is all foggy and the only clear thought in his mind is the need to shower. And then possibly make pancakes, because—he raises his head enough to see the window over the back of the couch—it’s getting dark out, which means it’s dinnertime, which means Stiles should make breakfast. Obviously.

He allows himself a moment to smile groggily at Derek’s adorable, open-mouthed sleeping face before he wiggles out from Derek’s octopus embrace to find the bathroom.

And then he thinks, I just let my local librarian give me a blowjob and I don’t even know where anything is in his apartment.

It’s a bit of a discombobulating thought, that he’s now in a serious relationship with this guy (like, holy hell, Stiles is pretty sure they’ve gotten to the brink of the I-love-you stage) and he’s never even been over to his apartment before. They’ve never movie-marathoned or cooked dinner together or gone out for ice cream or sat up late talking. They’ve only kissed, what, three times now? Four? Aside from Lydia’s party, a platonic impromptu coffee date at Jimmy’s, and a not-date at the movies, they’ve never even seen each other outside of the library as far as Stiles can recall.

The newness of it all contrasts oddly in his head with the familiarity of their texting selves, the adoring way Derek kept looking at him, and their spooning this afternoon. And there’s the mental love triangle issue. Stiles can’t help but automatically see Derek as two separate people, still: Grumpy Librarian and Astronomy Guy. One he’s mostly lusting after, and one he’s got a brain crush on. Stiles doesn’t think it’ll take him long to adjust. He just has to spend time getting to know Derek better outside of texting. For now, though, it’s disorienting, like looking at one of those optical illusion portraits, seeing a beautiful young woman one minute and a big-nosed old woman the next. Well, it’s like that except for the fact that Derek is insanely attractive from any perspective.

And now Stiles feels uncomfortably exposed, wandering stark naked around a strange space. Thankfully, the apartment’s not that big, and the first door Stiles tries turns out to be the bathroom.

He locks the door behind him. Then he stares at the doorknob for a minute in his sleepy, coffee-deprived state, thinking sluggishly about why he just did that. He reminds himself there’s nothing in here Derek hasn’t already seen, and he unlocks the door again.

Stiles may be a little weirded out by suddenly being Derek’s boyfriend, but he has no qualms about using some of Derek’s amazing citrus-y shampoo and soap. Derek has invested in some really nice personal hygiene products, a far cry from the cheap stuff Stiles buys from Wal-Mart.

As he’s toweling off, he briefly considers scrounging around in Derek’s room and borrowing some of his new boyfriend’s clothes as well, but he decides pretty quickly that he’d rather don his own clothes (still in little piles on the floor around the area of the kitchen) because rifling through Derek’s bedroom drawers would feel a bit too creepy/invasive/intimate. Somehow more intimate than a blowjob.

Stiles reminds himself that he hasn’t even seen Derek naked.

Yet.

Good things are in his future.


 

Derek’s first instinct upon waking is to freak out, because he’s no longer curled around Stiles. The empty strip of couch beside him is cool to the touch and Stiles’ scent there is at least half an hour old.

Derek shoots upright, eyes flashing beta blue, his whole body trembling, and a mantra of, He’s left me, he’s left me, gone, gone, gone . . . drowns out all other thought, all sensation.

And then Stiles’ voice breaks through his panic. “Oh, hey, you’re up. Good timing. I’m making pancakes!”

Derek closes his eyes until he can be sure the electric blue of his irises has bled back to their usual hazel-green. When he opens them, Stiles is standing in front of him, fully clothed, wearing his glasses again, and smelling like Derek’s soap—which helps calm Derek, spreading a warm, possessive feeling through him.

Stiles is also holding out a steaming cup of coffee. “C’mon, sleepyhead, drink up,” he croons teasingly, so Derek takes the mug from him and sips.

“If you wanna get a shower, the pancakes should be all done by the time you get out,” Stiles goes on brightly. “Unless you’re one of those people who take thirty minutes to shampoo their hair. But you’re probably not. I mean, you don’t have thirty minutes’ worth of hair on your head. But that reminds me, your shampoo, man. It’s amazing stuff. Hope you don’t mind, but I borrowed some. Or, not borrowed since it’s down the drain now and I can’t really get it back, but you know what I mean. . . .”

Derek drinks his coffee and listens to the soothing rhythm of Stiles’ voice until his heartbeat has slowed to its normal pace. It surprises him, as a fairly quiet person, how much he really doesn’t mind Stiles’ babbling. How comforting it is. He’s not sure if that’ll always be the case, but even if it does eventually annoy him, he thinks he could overlook it. He could overlook a lot of things about Stiles, if he had to.

“I think I will shower,” Derek finally says, when Stiles pauses to take a breath.

As he stands, he’s aware for the first time that while Stiles is in a T-shirt and jeans, Derek’s still wearing nothing but a pair of briefs. It feels a little awkward, but not as much as he would expect.

He puts his empty coffee mug in the sink, and then, because he can, he cups Stiles’ face in his hands and kisses him slow and sweet, tasting the cream and sugar of Stiles’ own coffee on his tongue. When he pulls back, Stiles looks a little dazed.

“Your pancake’s about to burn,” Derek smirks, and heads off for the shower as Stiles darts over to the stove.


 

In the shower, Derek has time to think. Of course, his thoughts go immediately to Stiles, whose heartbeat he can hear through the walls, whose scent is now all over his apartment, in his kitchen, on his couch, in this bathroom. It’s taunting Derek, giving him a taste of what it could be like if Stiles stuck around and came here all the time.

There’s no reason to think that won’t happen. Stiles hasn’t rejected him, after all. Just the opposite. But he doesn’t know about the wolf yet, either. He doesn’t know all of what he’s accepted.

Derek was so confident earlier that Stiles wouldn’t mind. He would want to be with Derek no matter what. Now Derek wonders if that was just wishful thinking. Stiles can be hard to predict. And he’s human. His only contact with the supernatural so far has been in video games, books, movies, and comics. Who’s to say he won’t be like all the others when he finds out some of what he’s read about is real? Worse, not only real but also often dangerous?

Most werewolves date other werewolves, and for good reason. Derek remembers vividly what happened to Laura and her last serious relationship. She and Josh were engaged, after dating for two years, by the time she showed him her beta form for the first time and started to explain everything. He lost it. Left that very night and refused to speak to her again, except for a single envelope left on her doorstep, telling her she’d lied to him and he was sorry but he could never love a monster.

Laura hasn’t dated anyone since, hasn’t even seemed interested in anyone else. She’s not broken—she can still boss Derek around and flirt with waiters and look at the world with confidence—but she has a hard time trusting humans, and she’s more cynical and cautious now. And every time something reminds her of Josh, every time she calls Derek at three a.m. to sob into the phone or shows up unannounced at his door with a pile of rom-coms and a tub of ice cream and red-rimmed eyes, Derek finds himself fighting his wolf’s urge to hunt Josh down and tear him to shreds. He would show that piece of shit what a monster really looks like.

He fights that impulse, of course, because logically, he knows it was Josh’s right to make an informed decision. He knows Laura shouldn’t have kept it from him for so long.

Nevertheless, the fact remains that when his sister told the love of her life what she truly was, he looked at her with utter disgust and fear and unhesitatingly cut himself out of her life. Before she told him, he was a doting fiancé. He was excited about every detail of the wedding and would wax poetic about Laura at the drop of a hat. After she told him, he said he never wanted to speak to her again.

Derek tries to imagine Stiles doing that to him and can’t. It’s just too painful. But he got a taste of it a few minutes ago when he thought Stiles was gone. Subconsciously, he’d thought that maybe he’d shifted in his sleep and Stiles had seen and left. He can’t ignore that that’s what he’d thought. That’s what he’d been afraid of. He has to acknowledge the Josh reaction as a possibility.

And that’s why he has to tell Stiles sooner than later. He can’t go months or years pretending to be human to Stiles and simultaneously wondering if Stiles loves him or just the person he shows himself to be. He has to know from the start that Stiles wants and accepts the real him.

By the time Derek’s finished his shower, he’s made his decision.


 

Derek bites into one of Stiles’ pancakes and freezes mid-chew.

“That good, huh?” Stiles says nervously.

“Actually . . . I thought these were blueberries, but nope. Chocolate.”

“Ah.” Stiles relaxes, grinning. “Yep. Chocolate it is, mi amigo.”

Derek shoots the pancakes a resentful look. “This is almost worse than that time Laura put cream cheese on cornbread and I bit into it thinking it was vanilla cake with icing.”

Stiles can’t help but laugh. “That’s a clever prank. I’m gonna have to remember that one.”

“I’ll never accept cake from you, ever,” Derek says solemnly.

“Your loss. I make an awesome vanilla cake. Also lots of other kinds of cake, and just food in general. Not to brag or anything. I’m just saying, you won’t regret eating anything I make. Unless it’s like, from my plate. I will stab your hand with my fork if you try to do that couple-y thing where you steal food off my plate. I’m possessive that way.”

Derek snorts and goes back to eating his chocolate chip pancakes with relish. Evidently they’re pretty good now that he knows what to expect.

“Anyway,” Stiles says, “I wish I’d seen your face when you bit into Laura’s fake cake.” He supposes it wouldn’t look much different from Derek’s normal sour expression, but still. He suspects there are lots of variations of the Sour Face. Stiles wants to be able to recognize them all. And that’s a bit of a scary thought—anything long-term is, this early on—so he pushes it to the back of his mind and says lightheartedly, “And just so you know from the start of this relationship, I put chocolate chips in almost everything. Pancakes, banana bread, oatmeal—”

“Ew, you have no taste,” Derek groans, but Stiles can tell he’s teasing. “Chocolate chips in oatmeal, really?”

“Hell yes! Breakfast of champions. Plus sugar.”

Derek’s still looking unimpressed.

Stiles just shrugs. “Dude, how did we go all this time texting each other without you finding that out?”

He didn’t mean it as a complaint, just as another bit of banter, but Derek frowns, metaphorical storm clouds gathering over his head.

“There’s a lot I still don’t know about you,” he says quietly. “But I’d like to know.”

Stiles puts down his fork. “Oh. Uh, same here.”

The mood’s too serious for Stiles’ taste now, so he smiles, leans across the table, and pecks Derek on the cheek with syrup-sticky lips.

“So what’s on the agenda for tonight, O boyfriend of mine?” he asks with a suggestive eyebrow waggle, as Derek makes a face and wipes at the sticky spot on his cheek with the back of his hand. At the words “boyfriend of mine,” though, his whole body goes rigid, and his eyes, oh—for a second Stiles thinks he sees them flash bright blue instead of their normal greenish hue, but he dismisses it as somehow being a trick of the light or, more likely, something Stiles imagined.

“We are boyfriends, right?” he asks, because weird eye flashing or no, Derek definitely tensed at that word.

Derek leans forward and laces his hand with Stiles’. His face has gone all intense, the way Stiles is used to seeing him look when he’s confiscating food in the library.

“Yes. Absolutely yes, we are.” Derek squeezes Stiles’ hand. His gaze is unwavering. And then he says without a trace of exaggeration in his tone, “You’re mine, and if anyone else touches you, I’ll gut them.”

Stiles blinks, instantly taken back to his first conversation with Astronomy Guy. On the phone, thinking Stiles was an ex-girlfriend, he’d said something about breaking into her dorm room. And then, thinking he was texting Laura, something about the ripping out of throats. With teeth. Stiles had thought Derek was joking. Derek had said as much, in Laura’s case. He was joking, right?

Stiles clears his throat and asks apprehensively, “Can we just clarify that you’re not, like, secretly a serial killer or crazy-possessive stalker?”

He is not going to freak out about this. He is not going to let his mind run wild, pointing out how much stronger Derek is than Stiles and how they’re alone in the privacy of his apartment and how really, there’s no reason Stiles should trust this guy because of some adorable nerd texts about Star Wars. He is not going to panic. He’s not.

Okay, maybe he is, a little.

But before he can really register what’s happening, Derek’s crossed to his side of the table and is scooping Stiles up into his lap like he weighs nothing. Normally Stiles would find being cradled in another man’s lap emasculating, but right now all Stiles can feel is the controlled power of Derek’s body surrounding him, keeping him safe, and being painfully gentle and careful with him. That, more than any words, is reassuring, but panic’s not like flipping a light switch on or off. Stiles can’t just logic himself into instantly calming down. The panic is still there, swelling inside him, fizzing darkly on the edges of his vision.

“Breathe, Stiles,” Derek orders, and then, more softly, “Breathe. Come on, calm down. It’s okay.” He’s speaking into Stiles’ hair now. “It’s all right. I’m sorry. I—I promise I don’t go around killing people. I’m a librarian, remember? It’s, like, the least violent profession on the planet. And you have to know I’d never hurt you.” He hugs Stiles fiercely. “Never. Because I love you.”

Aaaaand there we go. I-love-you stage reached. Bridge crossed. Also, still Day 1 of their relationship. Somehow all of this is not helping Stiles relax.

“Can we just finish our pancakes and not talk about feelings right now?” Stiles gets out in a rush, after who knows how long of clutching at Derek’s shirt and forcing himself to breathe in, breathe out. His words come out a bit muffled because he’s speaking into Derek’s shoulder, but Derek understands, because he strokes one large hand down Stiles’ back comfortingly and lets him go.

Derek slumps back into his own chair. “Do you want to stay tonight?” he offers, almost shyly. “There’s, ah, something I still need to tell you.”

“Something important?”

“Yeah. Pretty important.”

“Like, relationship-altering important? I mean, I know there’s not much of a relationship to alter yet seeing as we’ve been together just a few hours, and we were asleep for most of it anyway, my point being that I don’t think we’ve really set a precedent yet for how this relationship works, but—”

“Yes, possibly relationship-altering,” Derek cuts in.

He looks so insecure all of a sudden. Stiles can’t stand it. “I do want to stay,” he decides. “Lemme just text Scott”—Derek narrows his eyes at the name—“and let him know I won’t be home till tomorrow. He’ll be up all night otherwise, worrying about me.”

“Good,” Derek says gruffly, and abruptly gets up to take their plates to the sink.

Stiles is halfway through composing the text when he gets it. Scott. Scott and Derek.

He leaves his phone on the table and goes to stand at Derek’s side. Derek’s mouth is a thin line and he’s pointedly looking away. Stiles rests his cheek tentatively on Derek’s shoulder and twines his left arm through Derek’s right.

“I know what he told you about me,” he says gently. “About how I felt about you. He says he’s sorry about that. He just—didn’t get it. And I mean, it’s kinda my fault because I wasn’t entirely open with him about the clusterfuck of things I feel about you. I should’ve mentioned it earlier, but . . . I’m glad you told me how you felt about me, despite what he said. I’m glad you didn’t give up on me.”

“He said you loved someone else,” Derek whispers. “He said you said that. And I know you told me you’re in love with me now, but still. Scott said . . . and it was just a week or so ago. . . . I guess that’s enough time to get over someone else—”

“Dude, no. Stop. I am in love with you.” Stiles means it, too. “And I told Scott that. It’s just, it was before I knew you were the same person I’d been texting so much. I was in love with that guy, and kind of in love with you in person, too, and—it all gets messed up in my head, but trust me, there wasn’t anyone else.”

The tension goes out of Derek’s shoulders then, and he turns and buries his face in Stiles’ neck. Sniffing him?

“So, um.” Stiles decides not to point out the awkward sniffing. At least he’s freshly showered. “Is it just me, or does it feel like it’s time to have that relationship-altering discussion, while we’re being all serious?”

Derek leans back and fixes Stiles with a grave stare. “Yes. Now’s good.”

He reaches up and slowly runs the pad of his thumb over Stiles’ cheekbone. When he kisses Stiles, chaste and lingering, it feels sad. It’s like he’s saying goodbye in a touch.

Stiles won’t have any of that. “You’re scaring me here, Derek. No sad faces allowed, not when I’m not breaking up with you. I think we can make this relationship last two days at least. So. What’s up?”

“I’m a.” Derek stops. Starts over. “I.” He scowls. “I should show you first. If I just say it, you’ll laugh at me.”

“I’m not going to laugh at you,” Stiles assures him.

“But you won’t believe me.”

“Oh-kay,” Stiles says, drawing the syllables out. He’s not a gullible person, but he does trust Derek. He’s pretty sure he’s going to believe whatever Derek’s big, relationship-altering secret is. But whatever. They’ll do this Derek’s way. “Show and tell it is, then.”

There’s no mistaking it this time. Derek’s irises change color, the gorgeous green and hazel gradually brightening and intensifying into an unnatural blue.

“Derek, your eyes! That’s so beauti—” Stiles starts to say, and stops. Because Derek’s eyes aren’t all that change.

“Those are fangs. Derek, why do you have fangs? And weird flashy eyes, but mainly fangs. Dude, fangs. Oh. And claws, apparently,” he adds as Derek raises one hand, splaying his fingers.

Derek’s eyes fade back to normal, and he lets his fangs and claws retract, before he speaks. “I’m a werewolf.” His flat tone says, Go on, get it over with, tell me you’re going to break up with me over this. I’m bracing myself for it.

But that’s not the train of thought Stiles is going down at all. “So that’s why you think Wolverine is better than Batman! You both have retractable badass claws!”

Really, Stiles? That’s the first thing that comes to mind?” Derek’s words are exasperated, but he doesn’t look exasperated. He looks relieved.

“Do you have super healing, too? And super strength and stamina? And heightened senses?”

“Yes to all of the above.” Derek continues to sound exasperated, but he’s even less convincing now.

“Ooh, and can you tell when someone’s lying by their heartbeat?”

 “Almost always.” Derek shrugs modestly. “Wolverine’s actually a good comparison. Except that my skeleton isn’t reinforced with adamantium.”

Stiles knows he’s got a dreamy look on his face, but he can’t help it. “I can’t believe I’m dating a real-life Wolverine,” he sighs. “This is nerd heaven.”

"Oh," Derek adds a little too casually, "and I don't need to use condoms. No chance of STDs."

"Good to know," Stiles replies, nodding sagely. He can fake casual, too. "So . . . One more question. Are you really into astronomy?"

"What?" Derek wrinkles his nose, confused. It's adorable.

"You're the guy I've been texting, so you're also the guy who called me in the library by accident to chat about the full moon with your ex. Ringing any bells?"

Derek blushes. "Yeah. About that. Erica's not really my ex. She's the newest member of our pack."

"Wolf pack?"

"Yeah. My mom's the leader, the Alpha. My whole family's in the pack: my sisters, Laura and Cora, and my dad, and Uncle Peter and his family. Plus a few others we've taken in. Erica, for one. And Isaac."

As if this day couldn't get any weirder. "Angelic librarian Isaac who knows your coffee order to a tee? That Isaac? Is a werewolf?"

Derek nods.  

"Wow. I'm trying to imagine him with fangs, outside of a sexy Halloween costume, and it's just not happening." Stiles is going to have to see it to believe it. "So . . . Anyone else I know moonlighting as a supernatural creature?"

"I don't think so, no, but I haven't met all your friends yet."

"Yet," Stiles echoes. Right. He's going to have to tell his friends he's dating Derek. His friends who all think Derek is a jerk who hates Stiles. That's going to be a fun conversation.

It's like Derek knows Stiles is plunging into anxiety territory again (is mindreading a werewolf power, too?), because he hastily changes the subject. "You’re still staying the night?” His smile is affectionate, like he knows Stiles will say yes. This smile doesn’t have quite the radiance of his adoring look from earlier. No, this is a new smile, more subdued but also somehow more focused, like he’s looking deep into Stiles’ soul and liking what he sees. Stiles decides he likes this smile. It’s one of his favorites.

. . . And then he wonders when he became a hopeless romantic who moons over his boyfriend’s every facial twitch.

Not that Derek seems to be any better.

“Staying forever,” Stiles corrects without thinking. But before he can talk his way out of having said that (seriously, did he just propose marriage to Derek? Is that what that was? Talk about breezing through the stages of a relationship . . .), Derek is kissing him in earnest and backing him up against the kitchen counter.

“Well,” Stiles breathes when Derek moves on to kissing Stiles’ neck and licking at the sizeable hickey he left there earlier. “I don’t know about you, but I’m definitely getting a feeling of déjà vu here.”

Derek huffs out a laugh. “I can fix that. How about no couch this time?”

Without further ado, he takes Stiles’ hand and starts to lead him away—towards his bedroom, Stiles supposes. He still hasn’t seen it yet, but he’s about to.

He grins wickedly and pulls his hand away. Derek only has a moment to be confused before Stiles is jumping on him, encircling Derek’s neck with his arms and wrapping his legs around Derek’s torso. Derek doesn’t stagger back, not even a little, even though Stiles is Derek’s height and weighs at least 170 pounds and has momentum on his side. No, Derek just brings his hands up to grope Stiles’ ass, supporting his weight with ease. Supernatural boyfriends are officially awesome.

“I should totally start calling you Logan now! Also, congrats, you just won our longest standing argument. Wolverine is better than Batman.”

Derek pulls his head back to look Stiles in the eye, incredulous. “Really?”

“No. You’re so gullible.” Stiles giggles into Derek’s neck. Literally giggles. He feels a little like he’s high right now. “But I’ve decided it’s a tie, so we can both be happy.” Stiles digs his heels into the small of Derek’s back impatiently. “Now, I never thought I’d say this, but enough about Batman. We’ve got some fucking to do.”

I’m not the one who brought up superheroes.”

Stiles pouts even though Derek can’t see. “You aren’t going to say anything about part where I said we should be fucking?”

Derek throws Stiles down on the bed and smirks when Stiles squeaks.

“I have no complaints about that plan,” he quotes, as his smirk widens into something decidedly more predatory. “Absolutely no complaints. Zero complaints—”

“Nil, nada, gotcha,” Stiles finishes, making grabby hands. “Just get down here and kiss me already.”

Derek doesn't need to be told twice. He straddles him and mumbles happily into his mouth, "Mine, you're mine."

"And you're mine," Stiles agrees as they rut together. "You're mine, I'm yours. Which is why you should fuck me into the mattress right now." 

Derek sets a more languid pace than that, though, stripping them slowly and teasing him with little kisses and nips and licks on his face and neck and chest until Stiles can't stand it anymore. He takes Derek's hand and presses it between his legs. "Lube?" he prompts.

Derek rolls off him just long enough to grope around in the top drawer of his nightstand. 

They take it slow because Derek's never done this before. Stiles opens himself on his fingers and guides Derek, easing him in. They pause a lot just to kiss and murmur meaningless little phrases and stroke their hands down bare skin, familiarizing themselves with each other's bodies. And when Derek finally starts thrusting, it's over too soon, both of them too overwhelmed with sensation to last. It's good, though, so good. Stiles wasn't lying when he told Derek anything they did would be amazing because it's Derek doing it.

Afterwards, Derek licks him clean, and for some reason Stiles doesn't find that gross. He also manages not to make a dog joke about it. They burrow down under the covers, kissing lazily, and Stiles falls asleep loose-limbed and sated, with his legs tangled in Derek's and his nose pressed into Derek's shoulder. If this is just Day 1 of their relationship, he can't wait for Day 2.