Stiles knows he's going to present as Submissive by the time he's eight. Most kids his age are playing house and switching Dynamics every five minutes at recess, when they aren't ignoring them completely. But Stiles has always been a little odd, a little on the outside and he knows. He's a Sub. His mom is Submissive and she's the best person in the entire universe. But she's brilliant and works as an assistant at the Beacon Hills Library. He knows she wants more for him.
He realizes, when he's older and his mom is dead, that it isn't enough to just not be Submissive. He has to be something else. People have such a need to classify each other that not choosing a label for himself is asking for somebody else to choose it for him. Stiles' Dad is a Dominant but Stiles is never going to be able to emulate him. Every Dom is different, but still. The Sherriff is a good man, all Stiles has left, and he looks at Subs with the same fond indulgence Stiles has seen from every Dom he's ever encountered. He wouldn’t understand Stiles wanting to hide, would worry too much to let him. It's too much of a risk to let him realize what Stiles really is. If his dad can't know, no one can.
Scott is Stiles best friend and a Switch. For a while, Stiles thinks that's the answer. A Switch is both Dom and Sub and Stiles is reckless and mouthy enough that he could probably convince people his lack of self-preservation instinct is a Dominant characteristic. But. Switches are rare. There are a few assholes around town who refuse to believe that Scott's one. Two Switches, who just happen to be best friends? That's stretching the bounds of believability too far.
Stiles can't be a Dom. He can't be a Switch. He refuses to be a Sub. So. He decides to be Neutral.
True Neutrals are beyond rare. They're controversial. Some conservative groups don't believe they exist or that it's a sin against God to be entirely without dynamic alignment. But there is no legislation restricting Neutrals from high risk fields and no fringe groups are constantly trying to control Neutrals by forcing them into relationships by law. (Fox News has been championing the 'Sub Protection Act' for years.)
It's perfect. Everyone talks about it. It makes some people angry and it gives his friends something to defend. No one thinks he's faking it. After all, who would choose to be without a Dynamic?
Once he makes his decision Stiles researches. He spends hundreds of hours, in front of the computer, in the library, observing. He immerses himself in the minutiae of human interaction; in facial ticks and gestures, posturing, voice modulation, handwriting and speech patterns. Most people self-identify by the time they're sixteen, right in the middle of the hormonal soup of high school. But personal Dynamics don't become a matter of legal record until eighteen. Everyone is self-absorbed, trying to feel out their own boundaries. It gives Stiles time, the barest bit of breathing room before he can't turn back.
He falls in love with Lydia Martin because she's brilliant and gorgeous and the most perfect Domme he's ever seen. He thinks she could figure him out if she ever gave him the slightest bit of attention. He thinks he would willingly submit to her if she ever did. He fantasizes about it at night when he's sweating and vibrating out of his skin because he needs. He needs so much. But she doesn't, and Stiles isn't willing to out himself over someone who won't care. Instead, he plays up the ADHD. It's real enough – he does need the Adderall – and it explains why he's loud and fidgety and can't settle into his own skin. It's a safer explanation than being a Sub who desperately needs to be put under.
Stiles walls himself up in his mask of neutrality, and it becomes…easy. (Except for the nights. Nights are never easy. Will never be easy.) He joins the lacrosse team with Scott and is terrible. Stiles loves it. Subs are banned from contact sports of any kind – ironic if you ask Stiles, considering what most Subs get up to with their Doms. Stiles would almost think his own awfulness at lacrosse might be proof of this one rule having something of a point, if it didn't force him into the company of Jackson Whittemore. Jackson is an asshole. Has been, ever since they were kids, but high school seems to make it worse. Like it's taken the essential asshole at the core of Jackson and brought it right up to the surface for everyone to really enjoy. He captains the lacrosse team, tops the school's popularity scene, destroys any male Dom that tries to depose him as BHHS' king. And he's a Sub.
Stiles hates the realization because he really just wants to loathe Jackson in peace. He doesn't want to look at him and see desperate posturing and a bizarre, driving perfectionism. He doesn't want to empathize with him. Because Stiles and Jackson are two entirely different sorts of people. Except for how, apparently, they're not. Apparently, they're really fucking alike because Jackson fucking Whittemore is in love with Lydia Martin too. Probably for the same reasons even. Sometimes, Stiles wants to tell Jackson he knows. Wants to commiserate with someone else who hides, or tell him to just give it up. Because Jackson's mask is not as perfect as Stiles'. While Stiles has spent hours, days, months learning how to subvert his own nature, it's painfully obvious that Jackson is just emulating everything popular media has ever said a Dom should be. Jackson will, inevitably, be outed. Stiles doesn't plan on ever letting that happen to him.
It's Stiles' determination and his hours of meticulous work studying humanity that leads to him becoming a criminal profiler. He's good, the best even. He should be, he's had lots of practical experience. The FBI recruits him. The agent sent to interview him confides that Stiles' lack of Dynamic alignment is a real plus for the Bureau. Stiles laughs for a long time after she's gone.
But for all Stiles' careful work there's one thing that could make it all worthless. Imprinting. Occasionally a Dom and a Sub Imprint on each other. Like baby ducklings but with more sex. All it takes is a bit of skin to skin contact and that's it. Poof. You're connected to someone else for your entire life, no matter what (or who) else you happen to have been doing before. Outside of gothic novels and romcoms, Imprinting isn't that spectacular. It manifests as an increased awareness and instinctive Dynamic behaviors between partners. But it is absolute, and if Stiles did imprint there would be absolutely no hiding his Dynamic anymore. Stiles obsesses about it all through college. It is utterly beyond his control and there is nothing he can do if it happens. He's more realistic about it by the time he graduates. Imprinting affects less than one percent of the population. The chances of him having to deal with it are absurdly small. Working for the FBI Stiles has given so many perfunctory handshakes to complete strangers that he's stopped thinking about it at all by the time he's handed the case file for the Hale murders.
After that, it's all he can think about.