It’s been really quiet around Sterek lately when it comes to official support or entertainment and media coverage, but the romance of Derek and Stiles is about to achieve the milestone of twenty thousand individual stories on the Archive Of Our Own.
While everyone else may have moved on from the phenomenon, Sterek shippers are busy creating more stories, more art, and more Tumblr gif sets than ever before.
I’m proud to be a Sterek shipper. I met my pack – so many new friends – because of these two characters and the potential they have; to be something bright and amazing, or something dark and awful. To be hot or funny but never, ever boring.
All we want as shippers is to enjoy our boys and their awkward, tension-filled possibilities, but there is always someone asking us why. “How can you ship it?” and “It’s not real” are constant refrains that a Sterek shipper needs to be able to answer. We’re supposed to enter any conversation with “I know it’s never going to happen, but” and to be sure not to offend. Criticism of Sterek is more often than not criticism aimed squarely at shippers and their mental faculties.
So here’s a tale of shipping Sterek.
You can ship it because they’re cute together. You can ship it because they are an example of your favorite tropes. You can ship it because you identify with them. You can ship it because you want to see these rather attractive men make out with each other on screen. You can ship it because you think it’s going to happen. You can ship it for any reason you want and it’s always, always going to be enough. There’s no barrier of entry for a ship to be valid; they’re all valid.
There are people who say they don’t understand Sterek and I want to believe that they are genuine. So maybe we can help. There have been many amazing words said about the whys and hows of our favorite pairing, many of them collected on specialized tumblrs for Teen Wolf meta, pairing specific tumblrs like fuckyeahstilesderek, or individual Sterek shippers’ accounts.
They have undeniable chemistry. Even Jeff Davis has admitted to this much and called Sterek one of the writers’ favorite pairings, although it was presumably in the context of writing engaging dialogue.
Stiles and Derek follow a long history of pairing tropes that date at least as far back as Benedick and Beatrice, appearing in a similar push-and-pull, banter heavy, slightly damaged and world-weary romance in Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. Theirs is such a powerful trope that only the best actors are capable of playing opposite that whirlwind. Conventionally romantic pairings, or the typical fairytale romance, often pale in comparison with this romantic archetype.
There are a lot of people who enjoy pairings with a bit of bite, when there’s snarky banter or even initial dislike. They love the kind of stories that put two opposing forces together and watch them collide to create something new. That’s drama and tension and people having to work for romance instead of love at first sight. I think it’s for those of us who want to believe that first impressions aren’t always right and that we can come to love even our rivals, enemies, or the pain in our ass.
Shipping Sterek is very rarely about pretending that they are already having a secret love affair and all their relationship needs is a reveal. It’s largely about the incredible potential they have, the fascinating and multi-faceted story they can tell. Stiles and Derek have the potential to understand each other and comfort each other, but they can also draw blood easily. Derek is already wounded and Stiles has the potential to twist the knife; just look at their argument in season 3, episode 10 when Stiles brings up Kate Argent.
Together, these characters have already come so far, their relationship has been growing steadily from the beginning. In season one, Stiles frequently tried to convince people that he wanted Derek dead, only to turn around and save Derek’s life again and again. He’s now in a place where he is the only source of comfort during one of the worst moments of Derek’s life. Derek goes from wanting to rip Stiles’ throat out with his teeth to being more than happy to indulge Stiles in his antics. He trusts Stiles with important research and believes him over the word of Jennifer Blake. He even lets Stiles get away with the Kate Argent comment because he understands a fundamental part of Stiles – clinging to your only remaining family. They have three years of little moments and long hours stuck in places together, growing to like each other.
Love won’t remove the teeth from this relationship. There is more than enough potential for angst and drama with Scott’s ambivalent dealings with Derek and the werewolf shenanigans and everything else that makes for a great young adult urban fantasy love story.
The show doesn’t have to change to sell them as a romance – it wouldn’t have to be easy for the characters, but from a story-telling point of view, all the necessary pieces are already there. It just needs a spark.
The most beautiful thing about Sterek, though, is that we’ll make our own spark. We will light the fireworks and celebrate like mad and make a thousand worlds where Stiles and Derek find each other, forever, for a lifetime or just for a little while. We’ve already told their stories a hundredfold – we’ve told how they meet, how they fall in love, how they live and how they die.
We ship it because we want, for as long as we want, and that’s the only reason we need.