I want to start by saying that I absolutely adore fluffy, happy, loving, schmoopy Sterek. I love Sterek happy endings. I really do. These are just some thoughts about a darker interpretation of the Derek/Stiles relationship. This got really long, so I’m putting it behind a read more.
Derek and Stiles have a lot of chemistry on screen. But chemistry isn’t always positive. As is often said, there is a fine line between love and hate, as both are passionate emotions. When you have a passionate, antagonistic relationship that gets coupled with sexual attraction, you have the perfect building blocks for an unhealthy, destructive relationship.
Things to examine in this essay: the characters, the power discrepancies and age difference, past history between the two, and speculation on how their relationship may progress.
First, let’s look at the characters individually.
Derek is an older man, some continuity problems place him anywhere between 20 and 26, with 23 being the most commonly supported age. Derek has a metric fuckton of issues. We’ll start with the fact that he’s a werewolf.
In the TW canon, werewolves have lots of anger management issues. They have to work really hard to stay in control of themselves. Derek’s more restrained than most, because he’s been doing it longer, but he still has a lot of anger. Hell, according to the promo for 2.09, anger is the anchor that keeps him in control. He is not a happy man.
His entire family is dead. He has nobody to turn to for advice or guidance, he has no compass. He has nobody close to him that isn’t a subordinate. He has nobody to talk to about his feelings or his stress, or anything in his life. He doesn’t have a sounding board. He can’t talk to his betas about romance or feelings or PTSD or baggage, because it’s not how his relationship with them works. He doesn’t have parents or his sister, or even any close friends that we’re aware of. He has betas, but they’re more like soldiers below him in rank and he’s their general. They’re not equals. So all his baggage just stays there, not being dealt with.
Derek is aggressive. He’s very dominant. He doesn’t talk about things easily, or at all. He’s learned how to get what he needs with force, manipulation and aggression. Derek doesn’t ask, he takes. He may not believe in turning new wolves without their consent, but he’s also pretty good at manipulating them into giving their consent. The scene in which he talks to Erica for the first time sends up warning bells left and right. It’s creepy and manipulative and sexually exploitative. It’s also very reminiscent of Kate’s behavior in season 1.
Kate is the only romantic partner we’re aware that Derek has ever had. The one person we know that Derek trusted enough to let in. He let her in, he had a relationship of some sort with her, and she took advantage of him. He was a teenager, and she was somewhere in her twenties, she manipulated him into a relationship, got information out of him, and then used that information to slaughter his family. Because of that, it’s unlikely Derek will ever be able to truly trust a partner, until he deals with this baggage. Right now, in Derek’s mind, trusting somebody is completely intertwined with the slaughter of his family.
Derek has shown a Machiavellian willingness to cause pain and destruction. He broke Isaac’s—a victim of domestic abuse—arm to make a point. He seduced and manipulated Erica to get her to join the Pack. He broke a promise to Scott to make sure he killed Peter and gained the power of the Alpha. He was eager to kill Lydia on mere suspicion that she was the Kanima. He’s eager to kill Jackson to take care of a problem, and it was even implied that he bit Jackson hoping Jackson would die so he didn’t have to deal with him anymore.
I’m not saying Derek can’t be redeemed, but he has a lot of work to do on himself before he’ll ever be able to manage a healthy, loving relationship.
Stiles is sixteen. He is, as far as we know, a virgin who’s never had any sort of romantic or sexual relationship whatsoever. He’s carried a torch for an unattainable girl for half his life. It’s very common for people who aren’t ready to face something inside themselves to fixate on an unattainable goal, to avoid their own issues. This may or may not be the case of Stiles’ crush on Lydia.
Stiles doesn’t have anyone to talk to about his problems either. He has a father and a best friend, as well as some other friends, but there has been no indication that any of those relationships allow for the kind of conversation Stiles needs. His relationship with Scott is not an equal partnership. Stiles is the “sidekick.” His purpose in Scott’s life is to act as Scott’s sounding board, and there has been no indication that it goes both ways. He’s regularly overlooked by his friends, after helping them with their problems. His relationship with his father is not the best either. Because of the absence of his mother, Stiles has become a caretaker of sorts for his dad, looking after him, watching what he eats, etc.. They don’t seem to have the kind of relationship where they can talk about their feelings, and that’s at least partially Stiles’ doing. Stiles doesn’t trust people.
Stiles is manipulative. Getting his father drunk to get answers out of him, putting Derek in front of Danny to get his cooperation, talking people into things. He may not be physically imposing or dominant, but he’s shown a decent amount of skill at emotionally intimidating people to get what he wants.
Stiles has a bit of a malicious streak. This may very well be justified based on the way he’s been treated by people around him, but he is not some quiet sweetheart, not all the time. He lies a lot. I can’t remember the source at the moment, but there is a fanfiction in which Lydia says to Stiles, “How can you tell Stiles Stilinski is lying? His mouth is moving.” And it’s a fairly decent representation of Stiles on the show. Maybe he has his reasons for his deceptions, but honesty doesn’t seem to come naturally to Stiles.
Stiles doesn’t trust people, and Stiles doesn’t tell the truth.
Like Derek, Stiles has shown a thread of Machiavellian resourcefulness. He was one of the first people to suggest killing Jackson to stop the Kanima, and he’s shown no real problem with committing various crimes to meet his objectives, including breaking and entering, theft, fraud, and kidnapping. He might not be strong enough to beat information out of somebody, but he’s skilled enough to manipulate people to his own ends. He’s clever and resourceful, and when combined with the belief of “the ends justify the means,” that can lead to a lot of bad choices.
I’m not saying Stiles is a bad guy, but he really needs to learn to trust people if he ever wants a meaningful and positive relationship.
The power discrepancies and age difference.
The age difference between Stiles and Derek is approximately 7 years, which wouldn’t be that big of a deal if they were both adults, but is definitely important right now that Stiles is 16.
Derek is bigger, older, stronger and physically imposing/dominant. Stiles is smaller, physically weaker, and younger, meaning he has less life experience.
Derek has the ability to overpower and dominate Stiles. He has already done so on more than one occasion. At the same time, Stiles is a good manipulator and knows how to press buttons, and which buttons to press. Stiles is more intelligent, and shows a greater capacity for thinking on his feet.
The age difference is important in part because it’s very similar to the one between Derek and Kate. Derek was in high school and Kate was in her twenties. She used him, manipulated him, fucked him over and slaughtered his family. Stiles is in high school and Derek is in his twenties. He has used Stiles, but he’s yet to have done the damage to Stiles that Kate did to him. But let’s not ignore the fact that just by being in Stiles’ life, Derek has endangered the life of Stiles’ father, and of Stiles himself.
Past history between the two.
Both Stiles and Derek have saved the other’s life on more than one occasion. This indicates that they at least care about the other’s continued existence, but right now it’s more about the way the other can serve the first than anything else. Stiles needs Derek alive because he can’t fight the Kanima/control Scott/control the betas without him. Derek needs Stiles alive because he can’t find solutions, solve problems, or deal with Scott without Stiles there.
Both have threatened the other’s life. Derek has hit Stiles, pushed him around, thrown him into things, and physically dominated Stiles in some way on multiple occasions. Stiles has manipulated Derek and used Derek as a tool more than once.
It has been stated out loud that neither trusts the other.
Speculation on how their relationship might progress.
If they got into a relationship now, without a slow build and both of them dealing with personal issues, their relationship would not be healthy. Right now neither of them has the ability to trust the other. Stiles has never been in any relationships whatsoever, and Derek’s only relationship ended with the death of his family.
I believe that if they hooked up now, their relationship would be passionate, explosive, manipulative, and abusive on both sides. Both would constantly be using the other as a tool to achieve his own goals. They might truly love one another, but love isn’t always enough.
Stiles always knows exactly what to say to cut another person down emotionally. He knows exactly what buttons to push, and it’s his standard operating procedure right now to manipulate people rather than trust them with the truth. Derek has shown a great willingness to throw Stiles around and physically abuse him. They’re different kind of bullies, but they’re both bullies.
Without more character growth and a slow build towards love, I believe that Sterek would only end in tears.
So, that’s my dysfunctional!Sterek manifesto. I have now fully depressed myself and must go off in search of fluffy Sterek to deal with my feels. I hope you enjoyed this. :)
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