Hey Rachel got a question for ya. Do you think Stiles would feel inadequate compared to all the buff sexy werewolves and push himself to the breaking point trying to look like he belongs? Cause I have this headcanon where he decides to work out to make himself look like he belongs beside the wolves but it doesn't work out to well and he winds up doing more harm than good. Which upsets Derek when he finds out (because he loves the idiot but he won't admit it)
Aw I can absolutely see this. Stiles, already prone to insecurity and the feeling of not being good enough, slowly being worn down by that itching knowledge in his skull of being that he’s not as strong as any of his friends, not as attractive as any of his friends, and sure as hell not as useful as any of them, right? Sure, he’s smart. He knows that. But what the hell use is that in battle? He can’t dive in front of a bullet to keep the others from hurting, can’t stand beside the others and fight at anything close to their level.
And no matter how much he smirks at enemies’ jibes and plays off as enjoying being the group’s token human (”means I get to leave all the heavy lifting to you guys, right?”) it’s a feeling that would keep building up over time, pushing at the back of his skull every time the pack insists he be left behind on a certain mission, that he should stay where he’s safe, or gets offhandedly told he’ll just slow the others down. Every time they go running out in the preserve and he gets to sit behind and watch the car. Every time he goes out with the group and finds himself wondering what he looks like in everyone else’s eyes: this circle of beautiful beyond belief, supernaturally perfect people and then… him.
He couldn’t share his worries with the others –– Scott would get that worried look in his eyes and insist Stiles is perfect the way he is. Lydia might not share the same speed and strength as the others but she’s always been supernaturally beautiful, and she’s got her own banshee tricks to help out in a fight. So he keeps it inside, bottles it up… and he starts to push himself. Stays after school lifting weights until his limbs are wrecked from it, goes out running until his legs are shaking under him. Thinking one more lift, one more mile, one step closer to belonging.
And it starts working, too. He’s able to keep up with the pack sometimes, on their more casual runs. He’s gaining muscle, losing any last hints of baby fat. But there are hollowed shadows under his eyes too and he’s not eating enough, probably, but that’s fine. It’s fine when he wrestles with Liam and ends up with a purpled bruise blooming out across his ribs from a too-hard tackle. It’s fine that he can’t really sleep anymore because his muscles are always burning. It’s fine because he’s started looking at pictures of the group after pack events and almost seeing a group of people who fit together, not a handful of perfect people around a lanky, awkward him. Who the hell wouldn’t sacrifice a little comfort and the ability to lift his arms above his head for that?
Derek’s the one who notices first, because of course he is. Drops in through the bedroom window one night like the supernatural stalking creeper he used to be, and finds Stiles collapsed to an exhausted heap against the side of his bed. Too tired and too sore to have stripped off his sweat-stained shirt or make it the extra step to lay down on it. He forces a smile when he spots Derek, but it’s more pained than it should be. Wavers at the edges. Derek ignores his opening jibe, doesn’t comment on the way Stiles tries to push himself up on unsteady palms and falters, a spasm of motion that starts and dies just as fast. Just moves silent, sits down next to him on the floor at the foot of the bed. There’s a world of words in his silence, a disapproving air Stiles can feel deep in his bones, and he finds himself saying “I’m fine,” low and head ducked, like it’s a lie.
It’s not a lie. But it’s not exactly true either, is it?
Derek’s eyes are on Stiles’ face now, flicking down his damp shirt, over his faintly trembling limbs, and it’s like he’s seeing too much suddenly, seeing through walls Stiles is too tired to pull up. People aren’t supposed to see him at this point in the day; they’re supposed to see him in the morning when he has the energy to grin and bounce and keep up with the rest of them like it’s effortless. They’re not supposed to see the tired bruises under his eyes or the way he shakes from hours of trying to hold himself at a werewolf’s level.
He wets his lips, a flash of frustration burning bitter through him.
“Look, I’m not strong like you guys.” It’s not news. It’s been a constant refrain for the past two years of his life, ever since Scott was bit and turned into a superhero sports star girl magnet and left Stiles standing awkwardly in his dust. Stiles couldn’t ask for the bite, Scott wouldn’t understand. And he doesn’t think he wants it either, not really. He doesn’t want the claws or the anchors or the pulls to the moon. He just wants to be able to keep up with them. Wants to not be the funny one in a group of supermodels. Doesn’t want to be the weak one in a group of heroes. Doesn’t want to be the one holding them back.
He bites over a frustrated sound, frowns at Derek’s faintly pinched brows, manages to lift one bone-dead arm and snaps out even more harshly: “I’m not… hot.”
It’s not the whole issue, it barely touches the issue, but it’s too much already and he scowls after he says it, daring Derek to snort or mock him or roll his eyes and agree, obviously, but that searching look only seems to sink deeper and Derek murmurs, “You’re wrong.”
Which is just… it’s worse than laughing. Because Stiles could handle people dismissing him, mocking him. He’s used to that. What he can’t take is Derek fucking Hale feeling so goddamned bad about his patheticness that he’s reduced to lying to try and comfort him.
“Oh, right, sure. I’m hot. You guys are all freaking Greek gods with all the muscle and the… faces.” He snorts, falling back against an overworked spine that protests the pressure. “You can’t even talk. You’ve always been the hottest person ever. You’ve got no idea what it’s like to be the one no one ever wants.”
Derek’s eyes flick down Stiles again, reassessing, and Stiles winces over the realization that Derek’s trying to find something, anything likable on his wiry frame.
“Don’t––” He starts, because he physically cannot handle that, but Derek’s saying “You’re wrong,” again, and it’s soft and warm in a way that doesn’t sound like pity.
But Stiles doesn’t let himself feel it. The “oh yeah?” he shoots back is sure and challenging, almost smug in its confidence because maybe he’s not beautiful beyond all reason like the man next to him, maybe he’s not strong and desirable and wanted but at least he’s smart enough to realize that.
Derek lets out a growl of frustration and turns where he’s sitting, crowds in close with palms pressed to either side of Stiles’ thigh, and Stiles is on the edge of rolling his eyes because does Derek seriously think he can intimidate Stiles into changing his mind about himself, but then “you’re wrong” falls out a third time, a too-warm growl of a whisper, and Derek closes the space between their lips.
Stiles loses his conviction in the contact.
Derek’s hands move over him while they kiss, dragging soothing tips and scolding pinches over his wrecked muscles in ways that leave him groaning, touches sinking you’re beautiful and you’re wanted under his skin in ways the best words probably never could. Hands trail down to play across Stiles’ fingers, silently praising the cleverness of them. Beard-rough lips drift up to kiss across his temple and a warmth of admiration seems to melt into him with each press. And Stiles can barely move, arms aching protest as he lifts them to thread into Derek’s hair, body quivering in ways that shift between exhaustion and want.
When Derek finally leans back Stiles whimpers, wanting more but too worn down to chase him. But Derek’s watching him from inches away in the dark room, and there’s no reflected flaws in those dark eyes now. Just you’re beautiful, you’re wanted. You’re important.
Stiles runs light thumbs down Derek’s beard, lets out a light laugh he barely recognizes.
“Guess I believe you,”
(And from now on, on nights when the pack goes out running, Stiles and Derek find a more interesting way to occupy themselves by the cars.)