“Do you have a latex allergy?” the nurse asks.
When Derek shakes his head she smiles and sticks a Snoopy bandage over the cotton ball jammed into the crook of his elbow.
“All done!” she says. She snaps off the nitrile gloves she’s wearing and they disappear into a biohazard bin.
“Thanks,” Derek says.
The nurse looks up at him, really looks at his face, and the cheerful blankness on her face starts to change into recognition. She opens her mouth, slightly, and Derek can see the questions forming on her lips.
He shouldn’t have said anything.
“Thanks,” he says again, and starts leave, walking quickly into the twisted mess of hallways that lead to the waiting room.
“Mr. Hale!” the nurse says, standing up too, following. She hadn’t known his name before, just called him darlin’.
Derek walks through the door to the waiting room and picks up his pace a little once he’s through. He really just wants to run to get away, but that would cause scene. He can picture it now, the grainy camera-phone coverage, the obnoxious TMZ voiceover.
The nurse catches up to him, putting a hand on his shoulder, right as he gets to the sliding doors out of the clinic. “Mr. Hale,” she says again, breathless.
“Yes,” he says, knowing the next words out of her mouth are going to be some variation on Can I have your autograph/Can I take a picture with you/I have a nephew…
“You forgot this,” the nurse says, putting her hand on her hip, panting. She holds out a piece of paper.
Derek doesn't move, confused.
The nurse catches her breath with deep, raspy inhales, says, “Well weren’t we in a hurry!”
She stares at him, blinking at him for a long moment with big, heavily-mascara’d eyelashes. Finally she pushes the paper towards him again, says, “Well, take it then!”
“Oh,” he says, “Right.”
Derek takes the paper from the nurse, who smiles again, shaking her head and laughing. It’s the prescription the doctor wrote out for him earlier, he must have left it in the examining room. Derek had said, I get these headaches, and the doctor had said, Didn’t I just see you in? and Derek had said, Yes, yes, that was me. About my headaches? The doctor had shaken his head and peered into Derek’s eyes with a flashlight and then scribbled something down on a prescription pad. There’s nothing physically wrong with you, the doctor had said, But try this.
“See you around, Wolf Man,” the nurse says, and winks.
He pinches the bridge of his nose and winces. He looks down again at the prescription, where he can read in the doctor’s cramped, spidery handwriting: Do a romantic comedy.
I got 10 minutes to talk to Laura and Derek Hale in a hotel suite as part of their weeklong New York City charm offensive to promote their surprising new romantic comedy. My time was part of a junket at a swank hotel, and the very accommodating publicist who led me into their suite told me, "Just don't ask if they're actually werewolves and you'll be fine."
So you’re working together again. How long has it been?
LH: Hm. I can’t remember.
DH: Not since 2013, I think.
LH: No it was last year, remember? Tommy brought me in as a script doctor on that awful werewolf thing you did for Paramount. Well, it was awful until I got ahold of it.
It takes Laura a long time to stop laughing. Derek eventually puts down the phone and starts doing dishes in his suite’s little kitchenette sink.
“Derek,” she says. “Derek, come on, pick the phone back up.”
Derek rinses the soap bubbles off his wrists, dries his hands carefully, and picks the phone up, holds it to his ear. Laura starts laughing again.
He gets through the spaghetti pot and sauce pan and part way through the silverware before she calms down.
“Well,” she says, “This is actually, it’s perfect.”
“How is it-“
“I finished it. I finally, effing, God-damn, Jesus Mary and Joseph finished the damn thing.”
Derek doesn’t need to ask what it is.
“Well,” he says, “Did you show it to mom?”
“She cried,” Laura says. “She actually cried.”
It’s hard to imagine.
“I was calling you to tell you about it, actually,” Laura says and Derek can hear how excited she is. How happy. “It’s happening, I mean it’s actually happening. You have to play the lead. I talked to Uncle Peter first, don’t get mad, and he said you weren’t doing anything until that Marvel thing next year. We start shooting in August. We’re talking, hmm, six weeks on location. You can skip a lot of the preliminaries if you’re busy, it’s not like you’ll be coming in cold.”
“Wait,” Derek says, “This is already – what do you mean you shoot in August. When did this happen, where’s the money coming from?”
“Kickstarter,” Laura says, and over the phone Derek can’t tell if she’s lying. She’s probably lying. “I promised the internet pictures of you naked.”
Derek sighs. Laura's sense of humor, she must have gotten it from Dad. He's known her as long as he's been alive, and he still doesn't get it.
“Do you have a director in mind?” he asks.
Laura makes an mm-hmm noise, which means Derek’s not going to like the answer.
So what’s it called?
LH: It doesn’t have a name yet, unless you count the working title, The Movie Laura’s Been Writing Since Kindergarten. That’s what my husband calls it.
DH: It hasn’t been that long.
LH: It feels like it.
The contract arrives by courier the next day, along with a grainy twice-photocopied copy of the script and torn-off sheet from a legal pad that says, Really, Derek? - Peter
Derek glances over the script briefly, sets it aside, and puts the sheet of legal paper on top of a stack by the door, to be filed away with all the rest of Peter’s passive-aggressive notes in a storage unit outside of Century City.
Derek takes a longer time looking over the contract. It's all fine, no surprises. Peter’s just disappointed because Derek isn’t getting paid very much, and that makes Peter’s percentage almost nothing. Derek signs anyway. It’s not like Peter needs the money.
He sends an e-mail to Laura, just a note saying I signed it, are you happy? and she replies, almost instantly, with, It's McCall, the director is McCall.
Derek has his phone in hand, dialing Laura’s number before he fully realizes he’s decided to call her.
“McCall,” Derek says, when he can hear her inhaled breath but before she has a chance to speak, “Scott McCall?”
“No, Casey McCall,” Laura says. She sounds far away, muffled, she must have put him on speaker. “Of course Scott McCall.”
Derek thinks, Who the fuck is Casey McCall? He says, “Why would you pick-“
Laura interrupts, says, “He’s the best!”
Derek’s knowledge of McCall’s work is not exhaustive, but he knows the name from projects he’s passed on. “Best is stretching it.”
“Ok, fine.” Laura pauses, more strange cloth-on-cloth noises emanating from her half of the conversation.
“What are you doing?“ Derek asks. Talking on the phone with Laura means you’ve only ever got a third of her concentration. It’s aggravating, though really she’s not that much better in person.
“I’m taking off a turtleneck,” Laura says.
Derek says, “Why did you put on a turtleneck-“
“I admit it was a mistake,” Laura says, “Can we move on? Scott McCall-“ Laura stops, obviously searching for a way out of the sentence.
Derek says, “Scott McCall is terrible. He’s an idiot.”
Laura makes a noise of frustration, starts again, “No he-“
Derek says, “But he directed-“
Laura cuts him off, says, “Obviously he did the best he could given the remarkably shitty source material.”
“It was based on a brand of gum.” The more horrifying aspect was how much money it had made.
“He’s trying to redeem himself now, get taken seriously as a director. Just give him a chance,” Laura says. “He might surprise you!”
“I doubt it,” Derek says, “All of his films are unwatchable.”
“Ok fine! You’re right! He’s the second coming of Ed Wood,” Laura says. “But it’s not like we have a choice. A private investor is putting up the money and he insisted it had to be McCall. I need to—you know what this means to me. I don’t care if I have to work with Michael Bay.”
Derek stayed up until two AM reading the script the first time Laura thought she was done with it, back when she was still finishing up her MFA. When he’d finished it he’d gone back through and read it again. If Laura thinks it’s ready, even Scott McCall can’t fuck it up that badly.
“Fine,” Derek says. “It’s fine.”
Laura takes a second, Derek listens to the quiet sound of her breathing, before she lets out low growl and Derek can hear a ripping, tearing sound, like claws through fabric.
“Good,” she says.
This film is a pretty big departure for you, huh?
DH: Not really.
LH: Oh man, he really means that. He’s like, he finds the same character in a nebbish librarian and a cold-blooded sociopath.
Which one are you more like, then? The librarian or the sociopath?
LH: It can’t be both? (She laughs.)
But the sociopath is more familiar, I’m sure. Horror films for you two, aren’t they like…
LH: The family business, yeah. Some families have restaurants and you grow up chopping onions or waiting tables. I grew up smashing ketchup packets and stabbing my brother in the throat.
Good way to work out that sibling rivalry, huh?
LH: Oh yeah. I kept the knife.
August comes quickly, more quickly than Derek’s really ready for it. He wraps up a play he’s doing for a Shakespeare festival in Utah (And what part will you be playing? The bear? – Peter) and boards the next flight into Newark, because celebrities fly into JFK.
“You’re famous,” Laura says, the first thing she says before she hugs him, before she even says hello. “You need to accept that about yourself. You need to own that. You need to wear big sunglasses and hire limos and give TMZ flippant, glib answers when they ask you stupid questions. I don’t know why you keep pretending you’re like normal people.”
Derek picks up his bag off the baggage carrousel, shrugs. “Thanks for picking me up.”
“I hired you an assistant for the shoot,” Laura says. Derek doesn’t stop walking – there’s a kid near the cart return that’s started to watch them – so instead he tries to convey his annoyance by walking faster. Laura has to scramble to keep up.
“I can pick up my own dry cleaning,” he says.
“You can’t just wash your clothes in the sink again,” Laura says. “It’s not cute, it’s not eccentric, you’re not Christian Bale.”
He wishes he got that comparison less.
“I don’t want attention-“
“Oh Jesus,” Laura says, “It’s just for a few weeks. Pretend he’s a puppy. Tommy's in L.A. until November, I have my own shit and I can’t look after you. You know how you get.”
“So you hired a spy?”
“Yes!” She wrenches his bag out of his hands, darts ahead into the parking garage towards her stupid electric car, pops the batch hatch, and throws the bag in before slamming the hatch back down. “I hired a damn spy.”
Derek clenches his jaw. “I wish you trusted me.”
Laura just looks at him. He knows what she’s thinking.
“What’s his name?” Derek asks.
“Stiles,” she says. “Don’t ask.”
Derek raises an eyebrow at that. What kind of name is Stiles?
What’s it about?
DH: It’s a true story.
LH: I don’t want to give away more than that.
A guy Derek doesn’t know is sitting, waiting for someone, on steps of their building. Derek assumes this is Stiles.
When Derek gets closer, the guy stands, half-smiles, and pushes his hair back from his face. He has big, ugly hipster glasses and brown eyes, long eyelashes. Narrow face. Freckles. He doesn’t look like anyone Derek’s seen before, and Derek works in Hollywood. He’s seen everyone.
“I’m Stiles,“ the guy says, holding his hand out.
“Laura told me,” Derek says. “She’s parking the car.”
Stiles takes his hand back, jams it into the right front pocket of his jeans. He says, “You gonna invite me up? Or are you not that kind of girl.”
Derek unlocks the door to the building and walks in, Stiles catches the door with his fingertips and follows. He flips up the lids of the mailboxes, peering inside each one, before sprinting up after Derek, who’s already unlocking the door on the second floor.
Stiles trails into the apartment after Derek, dumps his messenger bag in a heap by the couch in the living room.
“Nice place,” Stiles says. Derek nods, leaves him standing awkwardly in the living room, and takes his suitcase back with him to his bedroom.
After a few minutes of silence, Derek hears Laura come inside and ask, “You like it?”
She parks her car in a garage three miles away; she must have run all the way back.
She says, “We own this one and the one above it.”
Their mom bought two apartments in this building in the seventies when her neighbors were mostly women who traded sex for drug money and she’s just stubbornly held on through the waves of gentrification. They’re each worth a million dollars and change, but she’d sell a kidney first.
Derek walks back into the living room, where Laura and Stiles are smiling at each other like idiots.
“You should install a fire pole between the two,” Stiles says.
Laura says, “That’s what I always said! But my mom swears the permits would be a nightmare.”
Stiles glances up at the ceiling like he’s actually considering it.
“I live upstairs,” Laura says, “If you need me.”
“We don’t,” Derek says.
But it’s a love story, right?
DH: All she writes are love stories.
LH: Oh, it’s true! I’m a hopeless romantic, I can’t help it. Everything I write, it’s like… Nora Ephron with sharper teeth.
LH: Oh God, yes. I can’t tell you how many times I watched Sleepless in Seattle. I drove everyone nuts.
DH: Yes. She did.
LH: But mom was always on us to follow our passion and I was an ok actor, not like Derek or Cora, so I realized at a very young age that I wanted to be a screenwriter. Oh man, did you ever see… what was it called? One of Mom’s later movies, it’s set in Elizabethan England. Anyway, she let me re-write the dialog for the scene in the carriage.
Within a few days, Derek more or less admits to himself that Laura was right. Having Stiles around is a lot like having a puppy.
There’s a reason Derek doesn’t have any pets. Many reasons.
“Yo,” Stiles says, shouldering his way into Derek’s apartment without permission.
Derek has to wait for Stiles to come fully into the apartment, close the door, get settled, before he can get past him, into the kitchen. The living room – every room – is narrow, maneuvering more than one person at a time is difficult and Stiles’ flailing limbs make it even more difficult.
Stiles rummages around in his messenger bag, muttering to himself about something some guy did on the subway and Derek tries to ignore Stiles’ presence, concentrates on putting water on to boil.
“Ok,” Stiles says, pawing through a small, leather-bound book, “Busy day today.”
Derek had expected Stiles to be like every other mid-twenties douchebag in NYC and be surgically attached to his smartphone, but Stiles has an actual pen-and-paper organizational system. He uses an old-fashioned day planner to keep track of when he’s supposed to be shepherding Derek to appointments, interviews, costume fittings, the kind of boring minutia that Derek has a bad habit of forgetting or skipping outright.
“We have the read-through at ten,” Stiles says, loud, trying to pull in Derek’s attention.
We. Derek isn’t crazy about how that sounds. He nods, even though he knows Stiles can’t see him.
“I said, we have the read-through at ten,“ Stiles says, again, looking over his schedule, his personal copy of Derek’s life, and the constant flip-flip-flip of the pages grating against Derek’s nerves.
“I heard you the first time,” Derek says, voice sharper than he intended.
Stiles’ eyes snap up to Derek, startled, and he just blinks there for a few seconds.
Stiles says, “You don’t like me, do you.” Not a question.
“Laura likes you,” Derek says. Not an answer.
It’s not even that Derek doesn’t like Stiles, he just doesn’t like having someone new in his personal space, doesn’t like the smells, the constant noises, the crowding. It’s not a big apartment, and he feels like a teenager again, fighting Cora for space in the bathroom before school. It’s making him short tempered, likely to yell at people who probably don't deserve it, people who are just doing their jobs.
“Sorry,” Derek says, between gritted teeth.
Stiles nods, slowly, and his focus returns to that damned schedule again, to the process of living Derek’s life for him. Derek takes a deep breath, tries to remind himself it's not Stiles’ fault that Laura shoved him on Derek.
If anything, Derek is the reason Stiles is here. You know how you get, Laura had said. She'd had a point.
"Sorry," Derek says again. The water on the stove starts boiling, Derek can hear the bubbles forming, breaking, crashing against the side of the kettle. "I'm making some - would you like tea?"
Stiles glances up again, briefly, shakes his head. Derek pours a little bit of hot water into a teapot, puts the kettle back on the stove.
“You know, you’re not at all like I thought you would be,” Stiles says, not looking at Derek, comparing something on his phone to what he’s written down.
“Sorry to disappoint you,” Derek says. He turns the burner of the stove off, rattles around in the cupboards for a cup, a tin of loose-leaf jasmine tea.
“What?” Stiles says, distracted, simultaneously speaking and jamming a pen into his mouth. “What do you mean, what did you do?”
“What you said,“ Derek says, “People don’t mean that as a compliment.”
“Why would you think-“ Stiles starts, glances up at Derek, and interrupts himself to say, “I like you fine.” He’s casual about it, but not flippant, sincere. In Derek’s experience, people like him professionally. Nobody likes him personally, except his sisters, and their mother, sometimes.
“I just said you weren’t what I expected. And I expected you to be an insufferable, entitled dickhead, so,” Stiles says. “Good for you. Way to not be that guy. Great job, team.” He pumps his fist in the air weakly.
Derek wants to be insulted at that Stiles assumed he'd be that kind of asshole, but he knows how he’s portrayed in the media. Mom encouraged it, when they were younger, and he’d gone for it, building himself a persona, something to hide behind. He had a juvenile record, had stolen a car when he was 13, he was dangerous and troubled, a young James Dean without the motorcycle. It’s changed a little over time, but it’s still useful, mostly. It’s only sometimes that it feels like a trap.
“Thanks,” Derek says, “I think.”
“You’re a reasonable human being,” Stiles says, and Derek winces at the word human. Stiles narrows his eyes, shrugs, adds, “I’ll admit I set the bar low.”
“Look,” Derek says, “I don’t-“
Derek’s never told someone he doesn’t dislike them before, it’s never come up.
“You’re alright,” Derek says.
Stiles smiles, cautious, but warm. Inviting. It’s a look that’s hard to fake.
“Shit,” Stiles says, looking down at his phone, breaking open the small, strange moment, “We got to get going soon if we’re gonna make the read-through. Which is at ten.” Stiles smiles again, different, conspiratorial, like an inside joke. “I know, I know,” he says, “You heard me the first time.”
I remember that scene. How old were you?
LH: I think I was fifteen. The screenwriter on it was furious, but he calmed down when he saw my second or third draft. He ended up being a good, close friend. I get his input on all my work. He was the first man I ever had a real thing for. Way out of my league. He probably never knew that.
DH: He knew.
LH: What? You jerk! You told!
DH: You weren’t as subtle as you thought you were.
Week three, day something. Late August in New York is hot, a sticky-damp heat that feels like a fever about to break.
They’re filming a series of street scenes on a nondescript street in the West Village and craft services is set up nearby in a small concrete space next to a few benches. Derek is tired and restless, waiting for the lighting guys to finish setting up for his next scene, watching as Stiles methodically dishes a small mound of everything onto a red plastic plate.
“Some guy named Peter keeps calling the apartment,” Stiles says. Derek doesn’t ask when Stiles has been in the apartment without Derek there. Laura must have given him keys. “He says he’s your manager. You have a manager?”
“No, I don’t,” Derek says. Then he says, “No, he is, but he doesn’t-“
He just doesn’t do anything.
Stiles patiently waits for Derek to behave like a normal person and explain himself or finish a sentence and when Derek fails to live up to that expectation, says, “It’s complicated, got it, I can do stoic and complicated.”
Stiles sits down on a bench and Derek sits down next to him. The silence between them drags out for a long moment.
“You’re an assistant,” Derek says, for lack of anything else to say. Stiles nods. “Is that it?”
Stiles picks up an Oreo, bites it in half, asks, “Is what it?”
“Is that what you want to do forever?” Derek asks. It just seems like a waste of time, helping someone else live their life instead of living your own.
Stiles pushes his glasses up the bridge of his nose with his index finger. “I don’t know yet.” He looks sideways into Derek’s eyes and his voice drops low, conspiratorial, as he says, “I’m secretly a billionaire, I do this just to kill time and get to know celebrities.” His heartbeat is fast, erratic.
“There are better ways,” Derek says.
Stiles spent most of the morning on the phone with a plumber about the backed up toilet, plunger in hand, phone wedged between his shoulder and the side of his face.
Stiles shrugs. “I don’t like people when they’re being fake. This way, you know, I get to know for sure that they’re dickheads.” Stiles looks up at Derek for a second like, Know what I mean? Celebrities, right? And then a panicked look crosses his face and he adds, “Not that you’re a dickhead.”
Derek decides to let that one go, but Stiles keeps backpedalling, all the way back to the start of the conversation, and he says, “I wanted to be an actor.”
It’s more or less the answer Derek expected, except in the wrong tense. “Wanted?”
Stiles nods, says, “I did the whole bit: local plays, toothpaste commercials when I was in high school, undergrad at USC. But then I was doing a bit part in this horrible indie thing in Arkansas when I realized-“ he pauses.
“Realized what?” Derek asks, impatient.
“I suck.” Stiles cracks up laughing. Derek stares. “No, I mean it, I’m a God-awful actor. Oh I know you’re going to be all, I’m sure it’s not that bad, gotta get back up on that horse, but no. Really. It’s better this way.”
Derek’s a good actor, even his bad reviews have usually included the line, Despite a strong performance from Hale. He works hard, it’s not easy, but he’s been acting as long as he can remember, hasn’t really seriously considered doing anything else.
Stiles says, “My mom always used to say you’re never too old to not know what you want to be when you grow up.”
Derek’s mother hadn’t said anything like that. When she’d expressed an opinion, it had mostly been about how Derek’s facial hair was going to present a lighting problem. Maybe if Derek had wanted to be a dentist or a car mechanic or an anthropologist, she would have been disappointed. He’ll never know.
“What about you? What did you want to be when you were a kid?” Stiles asks.
Stiles says, “I bet you wanted to be a veterinarian.” He phone buzzes, and looks down at, says, "Oh shit, I gotta go. Eat this." He takes off, handing Derek his lunch as he goes.
Derek feels awkward, left behind, but he's hungry, so he starts eating Stiles' food.
"Hey," Laura says, having come up, preternaturally quiet, from the direction Derek wasn't looking.
She sits down next to him, nudges him with her hip until he slides over a few inches. She doesn’t ask, just grabs half a sandwich and a handful of chips from his plate. She takes two large bites, doesn’t finish chewing before she asks, “How’s Stiles working out?”
Derek doesn’t have an immediate answer.
Stiles… he shows up at Derek’s apartment around nine in the morning and disappears after seeing Derek home after last cut. He washes dishes, does laundry, prods Derek out of the house on time, hails taxis, reads Derek’s e-mails and sorts Derek’s mail into piles of things he has to read and things he can ignore. He’s in constantly motion the whole time, tapping his fingers or shaking his leg, chewing on pens when he’s reading and twitching when doing anything else. It’s dizzying to watch, more than once Derek has wanted to grab him by the shoulders and make him just sit still.
“Stiles is…” Derek starts.
Stiles asks and answers his own questions, too fast for Derek to respond, whole conversations passing a one-sided blur of words. Deciding on dinner last night had consisted of Stiles saying, Thai? Do you want Thai? I want Thai, let’s get Thai, and Derek nodding, confused.
Everywhere they go, Stiles is always carrying something to drink: a paper cup of coffee, a mug of tea, a can or bottle of some sugary drink he’s always rushing in and out of bodegas to buy. He brings a book, everywhere, but never reads it. When he has down time he annoys Derek with questions or he does crosswords puzzles.
His phone (cracked screen, nicks and scratches all along the back and sides) never rings, except for texts that make him smile, eyes crinkling up into half-moons behind the chunky frames of his glasses. What? Derek had asked, when Stiles had laughed, suddenly and too-loud during a quiet moment on set. Nothing really, Stiles had said, and shown him a picture of a trampled, half-eaten vegetable garden with a message reading: the rabbits obviously don’t know I have a gun.
“He’s…” Derek says.
Stiles is noisy, talking all the time to Derek or himself, half-signing under his breath. He flirts with the wardrobe girls, talks with his mouth full to the people working craft services, but he gets quiet, ghostlike around the perimeter of the set when Derek is working. Sometimes Derek can forget that he’s still there, except Derek can hear his heartbeat, steady and constant and faster than most people Derek’s met before.
“He's working out fine,” Derek says.
Can we talk about Cora?
DH: What about her?
LH: We’re so proud of her.
Is she going to make a cameo in the film?
LH: Maybe, you never know.
DH: She’s very busy.
LH: You’re never too busy for family.
Cora only has two weeks, between doing Leno and flying to São Paulo to work with Kathryn Bigelow, so they've blocked out a chunk of the schedule at the very end, just for her scenes. Her flight arrives early on Sunday, she doesn't bother calling to say she's coming over, but Derek isn't surprised when hears her pull up in a hired car. He is surprised when she knocks.
“Hi,” she says, when Stiles answers the door, “I’m Cora.”
“I know,” Stiles says. He stumbles backwards, tripping over his own feet.
“Is my brother home?” Cora asks, politely, like she doesn’t already know.
Stiles nods, star-struck, mouth gaping open, and she takes a few steps past him into the apartment.
“Hey,” Derek says, and she walks into the kitchen and throws her arms around his neck.
She says, “I missed you, bro.”
“No, you didn’t,” Derek says. Cora takers her arms down from Derek’s shoulders and punches him in the arm, hard, hard enough that on anyone else it would leave a bruise.
Derek catches sight of Stiles over Cora's shoulder, says, “Stiles, you can close your mouth now.”
“What’s a Stiles?” Cora asks. She turns her back to Derek and tilts her head to the side, assessing.
“Cora,” Derek says, “This is my-“ Derek pauses, realizing he was about to say my friend. “My assistant.”
Cora looks back at him over one shoulder, an eyebrow raised, and mouths, Assistant? Derek says, “It was Laura’s idea.”
"Does he have a name?" Cora asks. Derek wants to say, Not really.
"Stiles," Stiles says, "That's what a Stiles is. It's my name."
“Nice to meet you, Stiles,” she says, reaching out. Stiles shakes her hand, looking dazed, and Derek has the strangest urge to pull them away from each other.
“Are you staying here?” Derek asks. They didn’t coordinate this very well, he’s not sure if Cora’s getting a hotel room or if she's going to be crashing with Derek or upstairs with Laura and Tommy or at Mom’s new pace near the park.
Cora shakes her head, points up and says, “Laura demanded sister time.” Derek breathes out an audible sigh of relief, and Cora punches him in the shoulder again.
“I’ve been homesick,” Cora says, “I missed New York. Let’s go out.”
Derek hates going out with Cora, she always attracts stares, people taking photographs, but Stiles says, “Sure. Let’s do that, yes.”
“Sick of Derek’s face yet?” Cora asks, and Stiles laughs. He doesn’t say no.
The three of them leave the apartment together, and start walking, taking in the humid and acrid air of the city, heading nowhere for a while. They end up wandering around Chinatown, buying chrysanthemum tea and steamed dumplings and looking over the knock-off merchandise for sale along the sidewalk. Once Stiles is over the shock of The Cora Hale being a real person, one about his age and level of maturity, they get along well. Better than Derek did with Stiles when they first met, and he feels a mild twinge of regret about that.
Stiles drops off around noon, disappearing down into at the Canal St. station, and Cora watches him go, face serious, until he’s out of range. She turns to Derek, raises her eyebrow at him again, and asks, “You have him working weekends?”
“Don’t-“ Derek starts, not sure how he means to finish. Derek’s never asked, Stiles just shows up. Derek just hasn’t ever told him to leave. “Just don’t.”
“I did miss you,” she says, and Derek believes her this time. They walk home in silence.
How did you all get into acting? Was it your mother’s idea?
LH: The infamous Talia Hale. Yes. She always said it was cheaper than getting a babysitter. And the sooner we started, the sooner we could start getting SAG credit.
Derek knows Mary, the wardrobe supervisor, from a few other things he’s done with Laura. Usually she spends the whole shoot yelling at him about eating in his costume or griping about keeping blood spatters consistent between takes. Derek likes her, but he doesn’t think the feeling is mutual.
“Hm,” she says, tone disapproving. “I think we need to take it in at the waist and out at the shoulders. When were these measurements taken?”
Derek doesn’t know, probably the last project he was working on. He’s not surprised if he’s lost weight, Laura’s always on him that he doesn’t remember to eat when she’s not around to supervise.
Mary writes a couple notes into a battered composition notebook and jams a few pins into the back of his suit jacket before she takes it off and hands it to an assistant.
Stiles wanders into the small, cramped fitting area, sits down on a cracked and faded loveseat. He must have gotten bored looking at the racks and racks of leisure suits in the back.
“Wait here,” Mary says, “I’m gonna throw some tacks in to see if it gets any better.” She leaves, taking her cloud of assistants with her and Derek sits down next to Stiles, tugs on the high collar of his dress shirt.
The movie is set in 1977 and the wardrobe is awful: pastel colors, wide-wale corduroy, itchy polyester and wool. Cora got off easier, her look is based loosely on Farrah Fawcett and for most of their scenes she’s in shiny, draped dresses and jumpsuits while Derek’s been slowly suffocating in awful turtlenecks and wide, knit ties.
“I have a question,” Stiles says. “Why is Laura weird about this movie?”
He wants to say that Laura’s not weird about this movie, and that this is how she always gets, but that’s not true. She’s getting a producer credit this time, and she’s everywhere, scattered and not sleeping. Derek can hear the tap-tap of her doing rewrites late into the night and she’s always already on set when he gets there, has been for hours, her eyes bright and focused, over-caffeinated.
“What is it? I mean, it’s weird, right. You guys usually do really, really disturbing movies. That one with, what’s his face, from Pan’s Labyrinth, I had nightmares for a long time after I saw it.“ So did Derek. “But she’s all serious about this one and it’s…” Stiles gestures at the mustard-yellow suit pants Derek’s wearing, taps his foot against the side of Derek’s wing-tips.
“It’s-“ Derek starts to say, then stops. He stands up. “She’s been working on this script for a very long time.“
Laura comes in then, speak of the Devil, while Derek is still trying to figure out how to explain it. She looks at Derek for a little while and she smiles, but her eyes look sad. “You look like Dad,” she says.
Derek catches sight of himself in the mirror that the wardrobe department has propped up against the corner. He doesn’t look exactly like Dad, but it’s close, close enough that his heart hurts, a little, and he has to look away.
He says, “Dad was hairier.”
Laura laughs, asks if everything’s going ok and then drifts out again when her phone starts ringing.
After she’s gone, Stiles looks, for a second, like he’s going to ask Derek another question, but he stops himself.
Mary comes back in by herself and puts Derek back into the jacket, which fits a lot better. She pats the lie of the shoulders approvingly, says, “Gain ten pounds and I cut you.” She snaps her fingers impatiently. “Off with that and then you can go.”
Derek strips down to his boxers, grateful to be able to breathe again, unconstructed. He hands the whole outfit off to Mary, who disappears into the back.
“Ok, we have to,” Stiles says, and looks up at him, turns red. Stiles looks back down at his hands, quickly. His heart starts to beat a little faster. “We have to, uh, rehearsal.”
Derek finds his pants on the floor, pulls them on, but his shirt is on the couch, wedged under Stiles. He must not have seen it when he sat down.
Derek tugs at the corner of his shirt and Stiles looks up and up at him, before he realizes what Derek wants and leans over enough that the shirt slips free.
Stiles coughs, looks away while Derek pulls his shirt on over his head.
Stiles' phone vibrates loudly on the end table, next to the couch. Stiles coughs again, clearing his throat, and grabs for it. His heart is still beating like crazy, his face is flushed. He smells – Derek has to take a step away.
“This film is important to Laura,” Derek says. “This is how she gets when she really cares about something.“
Stiles looks down at his phone, pads at it with his thumb, and says, “She just revised the ending again.”
“She thinks she’s helping.”
Stiles sigh, says, “She’s not helping.”
Was there a lot of pressure growing up with such a famous parent?
LH: Oh no, not at all. (She laughs.) That’s a lie. Oh God, it was awful. Cora and Derek got the worst of it, though.
DH: That’s not true.
LH: But it wasn’t that bad I guess. We went to an arts high school so everyone was like, too into their own shit to care that our mom was collaborating with Quentin Tarantino. Wait, I take that back, all the acting kids all wanted bit parts. We cast a lot of teen werewolves that way. After high school… that was different. Cora quit acting for a while, but she couldn’t really stay away. Family, right? We’re crazy, but we love each other, and that’s what’s important.
On Cora’s last day they film on location in Washington Square Park and she says before then instead of before that for four consecutive takes. On the fifth screw-up, Laura throws her hands up in frustration and says, just loud enough that Cora and Derek can hear her, “Why do I bother, if you’re not going to even try.”
“Jesus Christ, Laura,” Cora says, breaking off character half-way through the start of next line, “I am trying. Ease off, it’s just one word!”
“Fine.” Laura says, “It doesn’t matter. I only worked on this thing for five years, but say whatever the fuck you want.” She calmly stands up, sets her script down on her chair, and walks off.
Derek watches her go, rooted to the spot, in full costume and make-up. If he follows her off set he’s going to get reamed out by half a dozen people and they’ll lose at least an hour resetting. They’re already losing light as is. Derek looks at Cora, who’s looking back at him with wide eyes, and then he looks for Stiles.
Stiles is in his usual spot, set a little ways behind the ring of primary crew members, and he nods when Derek catches his eye. “I’m on it,” he says, voice only a little louder than usual, but carrying in the pervasive, uncomfortable silence that’s fallen over the set. Stiles leaves, following in the same direction as Laura went, and some small part of Derek relaxes. It’ll be fine.
“Uh, cut, I guess,” McCall says, picking up the clapper board and clicking it together. The rest of crew starts giggling nervously. “Maybe we should try that again?”
Derek looks back at Cora, who’s still kind of shocked-looking until Derek catches her eye and she loses it laughing. Derek starts laughing, too, and for a while neither of them can talk, or breathe really. Every time he looks at her he loses it again, until his sides start to actually hurt.
“Oh man,” Cora says, gasping for air, “This is so going to end up on YouTube. This is our I Heart Huckabees.”
Derek says, “It was bound to happen someday.”
McCall walks up, smiling lop-sided. Derek was wrong about him, he’s been good, so far; actually he’s been great. He’s easy to like, easy to get along with for the most part, a perfect counter-balance to the frenetic intensity Laura’s been carrying around the whole time. He’s said, more than once, This is your story, I’m just trying to help you tell it, and while Derek usually would read that as cop-out bullshit, he’s been right. He’s had a good handle on the story, the script, the Hales. Derek gives him credit for that, they can’t be easy to work with.
“All good?” McCall asks. Cora nods, Derek takes a deep breath in.
“All good,” Derek says.
“Ok, we’ll do it again,” Scott says. “Just, you know, try not to mess up the line again. Pixels are expensive.” He sounds earnest, like he maybe believes that, and Derek can’t help smiling back at him.
Cora nails the line on the next take and Laura comes back half an hour or so after that, holding a glass-bottled Coca-Cola, with Stiles at her heels giving them all the thumbs-up sign. McCall calls a wrap for the night, comes up to shake Cora’s hand. She takes a little bow, and a couple people start clapping, and she goes over to where Laura is sitting, but Derek stays behind. He can hear them interrupting, talking over each other to apologize.
“Stiles is really good at calming people down,” McCall says, nodding in Stiles’ direction.
Derek looks at Stiles, then at McCall. He hasn’t once seen them so much as talk to each other, but then again, he’s not always around Stiles every waking moment.
“We go way back,” McCall says, “Since like, middle school.”
McCall gets pulled away by a P.A. to do… something, leaving Derek confused. Cora detaches from Laura, comes back and hugs Derek tightly. She says, “See you at Thanksgiving,” and then she’s gone again.
Laura stays after with the crew, they’re all going someone’s sister’s boyfriend’s restaurant, but Derek begs off and finds Stiles, who hails a cab for them back to the apartment. The drive is a slow, unsteady start-stop movement between bright pockets of light and half-lit shadows, through a surprisingly quiet West Village north to Hell’s Kitchen.
“Where do you live?” Derek asks, on the continuing, evolving realization that he doesn't really know very much about Stiles at all. He never even asked about Stiles’ full name.
“Williamsburg,” Stiles says, and his mouth quirks up in an amusement. He pushes at his glasses and adds, “Isn’t it obvious.”
“Why-“ Derek starts, but doesn’t say what he’s thinking, which is, Why are you here?
It doesn't make any real sense for Stiles to come with, make sure Derek gets home ok. Derek didn't even ask, Stiles just got in, even though it'll add at least half an hour to Stiles’ already long day. But Derek is glad he did, glad for the company, the sound of Stiles' steady, fast heartbeat next to him in the dark.
The cab pulls up in front of Derek’s building and when he gets out Stiles looks small and alone in the back. Derek hesitates, still holding open the door, and he lets himself acknowledge something he’s been pushing back and out of his mind for weeks.
“Do you want to come in?” Derek says. For all the times Stiles has followed Derek into the apartment, this the first time he’s ever asked.
“What?” Stiles says. “I’m fine, it’s not that late, I’ll take the train home.“
Derek shakes his head, and he looks at Stiles, pointedly, says again, “Do you want to come in?”
Derek doesn’t think he’s wrong about this, he’s noticed the way Stiles reacts to him.
“Do I-“ Stiles looks shocked, then scrambles quickly out of the cab, throwing an uncounted wad of money at the driver.
Derek had thought – he doesn’t know what he thought, but before even the front of door of the building closes, Stiles is on him, one hand one on the side of Derek’s neck. He kisses Derek, hot, desperate, urgent. It feels like a scene from a movie. Part of Derek is waiting for someone to yell Cut!
Derek puts his hand on Stiles' hip, warm through the denim of his jeans, and pushes, a little.
"We're still in the hallway," he says, pulling back, making just enough space to speak, lips still brushing against Stiles' as they move.
“Oh,” Stiles says, “I forgot this wasn’t your door.”
Derek laughs, close, so close to Stiles’ smile, his eyes, shining in the ugly yellow light of the hallway. He wants to pick Stiles up and carry him upstairs, but instead he lets Stiles grab his elbow, hustle him to the door. Stiles unlocks it with ease, dumps his messenger bad in its usual heap by the couch.
Stiles closes the door and locks it, putting the chain on. He turns and puts both of his hands on Derek’s chest, backs him expertly in the dark through the living room, through the narrow hallway past the bathroom. Stiles is clumsy almost all of the time, knocking into the walls, tripping over the rug, but right now he’s focused, careful.
“Wow, this is,” Stiles starts, hesitating on the threshold of the bedroom. “Are you sure?”
Derek’s been publicly linked with a few people, not often, in gossip columns. People he’s been seen with more than once, and they’ve all been a Hollywood kind of perfect: unique, beautiful, charismatic.
Derek hooks his fingers in the waistband of Stiles jeans and pulls him forward.
Derek hates Hollywood, and those kind of people. He wants Stiles and his freckles and his bad haircut and ugly shirts. He likes Stiles’ narrow hips, the slight swell of his stomach, soft, over the waistband of his underwear.
“Yeah, I’m sure,” Derek says, and Stiles smiles, breathtaking, imperfect and gorgeous in the moonlight streaming in through the half-opened blinds.
Do you think it’s easier or harder to keep the family together, since you’re all in the same line of work?
LH: Can I say both? Sometimes it’s like we’re all in each other’s pockets and sometimes it’s like we’re on different planets. When we were younger we used to stay at home with our Dad, we had a house in this small town in northern California, while Mom was working all over the world. I think she got lonely. That’s really why she started having us work with her, too keep us close.
At a quarter past midnight, Laura scratches at the apartment door, too low for Stiles to hear. It’s a long-established signal, one Derek can’t just ignore. He eases out of the apartment and into the hallway.
“Derek,” she says, and she seems nervous. “Is that, do you have Stiles in there?”
Derek nods and Laura looks sick to her stomach. “There’s something I need to tell you,” she says, “I should have said something but I didn’t notice. How did I not notice?”
“What are you talking about?” Derek asks.
“It’s about Stiles,” Laura says. "I didn't even know you were…" She darts her hand out in a quick gesture towards the apartment.
“I’m going to tell him about us,” Derek says, “I have to.”
When Derek had woken up this morning, he had noticed things he hadn't really bothered to see before: a stack of unread paperbacks by the couch, a half-empty six-pack of Mexican coke in the fridge, a plaid shirt thrown over a chair by the kitchen table, things that were already there, had been for weeks now. And now, Stiles, asleep in Derek’s bed, he isn't someone Derek has brought home for the first time, someone he’s just getting to know. He’s already embedded, already part of Derek's life, inextricable. It would be wrong to keep him in the dark about something this important.
“What?” Laura says, loud and startled. She looked sick before, but she looks terrified now. “You can’t.”
“You told Tommy,” Derek says.
Laura crosses her arms, hisses, “I married Tommy! And I waited a year to tell him! We were engaged first! What the hell is going on, I expect this kind of thing from Cora, but not you.”
“What does that mean?”
“It means that, Jesus, Derek, I don’t know what it means. This isn’t what I was going to talk to you about.”
“I don’t care if you don’t like him or you don’t approve or whatever the fuck you came to tell me,” Derek says.
Laura says, “No, that’s not – listen to me!”
"I'm listening," Derek says, but he isn't listening to her, he's hearing, clearly and for the first time, footsteps on the fire escape outside. Laura hears it too, he can see her eyes narrow, flash yellow.
Derek quietly opens the door to the apartment, and Laura follows him in. The window over the kitchen table is open, the curtains moving with a slight breeze. Some small things have moved – papers pushed off the table, a vase of fake flowers shoved a few feet out of its normal position, like someone climbed in through the window. Derek can hear the sound of two distinct heartbeats coming from the bedroom and he doesn't think, runs towards them.
There's a man Derek doesn't recognize standing over Stiles, watching him sleep.
"What are you doing here," Derek says, "Get out."
Stiles starts to stir awake.
"I don't want to hurt you," the man says, and Derek’s attention was too scattered when he first came in, he’s just now seeing the gun in the man's hand. "I'm just here for Stilinski."
Something in the back of Derek's mind takes note of the name Stilinski, but the rest of him is focused, ready. He can hear Laura moving, covering the exits in case the man tries to run.
"You don't know what you've gotten yourself into," Derek says. "You don't want to do this."
"What the fuck," Stiles says, low, voice raw with sleep.
"Stiles," Derek says, "Stay down."
Derek can feel a bad decision coming on, he's felt it before. He feels exactly like he did when he stole that car to what, prove a point? At least this time, he's got a good reason. He takes a step forward and the man raises his gun, swinging it up away from Stiles and towards Derek. Good.
"Derek!" Stiles says, coming online, sitting up and panicking.
Before the man can train the gun back on Stiles, Derek springs forward and the man fires. Derek can feel a bullet hitting him in the shoulder, ripping through the muscle, splintering his collarbone. Fuck, it hurts, but Derek doesn't stop moving. He's on top of the man in a few seconds, pinning him down, ripping the gun out of his hand. The man looks shocked, and then blank, as Derek grabs his face and slams his head into the ground, knocking him unconscious.
"Laura," Derek says, calm, voice at a normal volume, "I need you to call 911. We have an intruder."
"What the fuck!" Stiles says again, and he's closer, off the bed, reaching towards Derek's shoulder. "You've been shot!"
"I'm fine," Derek says. He can already feel his shoulder knitting together. "What was that? He called you-" And that's when it hits him. Stilinski. The man had said Stilinski. Derek feels dizzy, sick to his stomach. Stilinski?
"Oh," Stiles says, "I think we need to have a conversation. About that. After, you know, after- holy shit what is happening to your shoulder?"
Derek can hear the sound of police sirens approaching. He wants to say, I was going to tell you, or I can explain, or Don't be afraid. But there’s too much going on, it's too much to take at once, and what he says is, "You lied to me. I trusted you."
Stiles looks pale, except for two bright spots of color high in his cheeks. He reaches out with his fingertips, wipes blood away from Derek's completely healed bullet wound, and says, "I don't think I'm the only one keeping secrets here."
You lost your father when you were pretty young.
LH: That was, it hit us all really hard. It was difficult. I still miss him, all the time. Sometimes I think I keep writing the same story so that, you know, in a way I can finally give him the happy ending he deserved.
After the cops arrive, after they take Derek downtown to make a statement, after Laura picks him up from the precinct and they have to push their way through paparazzi to get home, Derek goes back to his dark, empty apartment alone. He makes himself a pot of tea and looks over the contract again, calls Peter to confirm what he already suspects.
"This is what you get for sleeping with the help," Peter says, because he’s an asshole. "Or is it the other way around?" Derek hangs up on him.
The movie, Laura's movie, is being financed by an independent studio based out of California called First Line Productions. Derek never asked, he’s not a producer; according to Laura he just shows up and scowls on cue. As long as there’s a light tree, a camera, he’s fine, he usually doesn’t care.
Derek walks up the stairs to Laura's apartment and finds her drinking a large glass of red wine and watching dailies on her laptop. On the screen Derek is looking at Cora, saying, How's my tie? and Cora is rolling her eyes at him and saying, The tie is the least of your problems. Laura hits the space bar, freezing the video on Derek, mouth half-open.
"This is my fault," Laura says. "It was my idea. I set this whole thing up." Laura gestures with her free hand, the sweep of it encompassing Derek and whatever other ghosts Laura has brought here with her.
"How?" Derek asks. The more he thinks about it, the less it comes clear. Stiles was lying to him the whole time, why? What did that buy him?
“Tommy…” She sighs, takes a sip of wine. “It was too good to be true, I should have asked more questions, but it was so perfect. It felt like fate. I finished the script and I called Tommy and he said, That’s funny, I just met this producer, he’s interested in anything Hale related. So Tommy set up a meeting and when I met with him, Stiles – that’s not his legal name – he wanted to meet you.”
First Line Productions is owned by an umbrella corporation whose primary stakeholder is Genim Stilinski, the Millennial generation's answer to Warren Buffet. I’m secretly a billionaire, Stiles had said. It hadn't occurred to Derek that his heart was beating faster because he was afraid of telling the truth.
Laura says, “But you always hated it so much when mom would treat you like a show pony for the people with money, so I thought this whole assistant thing would be a good idea. I didn't think it would go this far. I didn’t know-“ Laura cuts herself off, but he knows what she was about to say.
Laura says, “I was stupid, it was a mistake. I'm sorry. I was just so focused on the story. On-" Her eyes drift over to her laptop.
Derek came upstairs fully prepared to be angry, but he’s surprised to find he isn’t mad at all.
“I miss Dad, too,” he says, "This sounds like something he would have done."
Laura smiles, just a little. On her laptop screen Derek is frozen, just about to speak, wearing a decent replica of the one suit Dad had owned in the seventies. It’s the one he was wearing one night in 1977 when he got bored at a wedding reception in upstate New York and wandered out the back door into the woods. It was a stupid thing to do, he could have died, but if he hadn't done it he would have never met their mother. It's a funny story, really, the kind of story that would make a pretty good movie, and if Dad hadn't had one too many glasses of chardonnay and started making bad decisions, none of it would have happened.
If he hadn't made that mistake, Laura and Derek and Cora wouldn't be here.
Laura says, "I was wrong, you should tell Stiles about us. I mean, you have to tell him now, but I want it to seem like it was my idea."
"Right," Derek says.
He reaches over, hits the space bar on Laura's laptop and the scene starts up again.
On screen, Derek says what their father said to his own sister that night, Why do I have to come to this stupid thing? And Cora, who looks so much like Aunt Karen, flips her hair and says, You might be surprised. You might meet somebody. Or you might die in a ditch, really, who cares? You're coming anyway.
I’m surprised, I didn’t think you believed in happy endings.
LH: I think you have to, you know, to keep going. In all my movies, you know, not everybody dies. There's always some hope.
At nine AM sharp there’s a knock on the door and a familiar heartbeat behind it, faster than usual.
“Ok,” Stiles says, when Derek opens the door. “Hi. I came here to apologize. And also to tell you that you still have to be on set in an hour. So we don’t have a lot of time.”
“Why are you still-“ Derek starts to ask, and then switches tracks and says, “You’re not wearing your glasses.”
“Well, I didn’t need my Clark-Kent-esque disguise anymore, now did I,” Stiles says. His eyes look huge, dark, vulnerable without them. “Can I come in?”
Derek takes a step back, leaving the door open. “You don’t,” he says, “You never needed permission.”
“I didn’t need it before,” Stiles says, but he comes inside and drops his messenger bag. It’s a familiar, normal gesture, but he looks unsure doing it.
“I have to tell you something,” Derek says, and it takes a disorienting second to realize that the echo he thought he heard was Stiles saying the same thing at the same time.
Stiles looks startled, then laughs, but he sounds nervous.
“You go first,” he says. He runs a hand through his hair, crosses his arms, uncrosses them. “No, I should go first. No, no, it should be you.”
“I’m not human,” Derek says, abrupt into Stiles’ momentary pause for breath.
“In what sense?” Stiles asks. He doesn’t look shocked or revolted, he just looks confused. Derek half expects him to pull out his phone to Google for an answer. There isn’t really a Wikipedia article for this. Not a credible one, at least.
“I’m a werewolf,” Derek says. It’s strange, in this context. I’m a werewolf is a sentence he’s said over and over and over, but it doesn’t feel right to say it when there aren’t any cameras. “My whole family, we’re all werewolves. Werewolves are real.”
“Ok,” Stiles says, and he takes a deep breath. “I would probably have argued with you before last night. Werewolves? Man, I need to sit down.” He collapses heavily onto the couch.
“What you saw last night – we’re stronger and we can heal faster than other people,” Derek says. “But we’re not, I would never hurt you.”
“So that movie, uh, The Pack,” Stiles says, “The one where your whole family — that was what, a documentary?”
“Yeah, for the most part,” Derek says. “It was partially scripted, but there weren’t any real special effects. That’s what we look like when we change.”
“That’s… a lot of hair,” Stiles says. “Write what you know, huh. So Laura…”
Stiles trails off, and Derek looks down at his hands for a minute.
“I expected worse,” Stiles says. “I thought you were some weird government experiment or an alien or something. I mean, I think I’m ok with this.” Derek looks up at Stiles, and Stiles just looks blank. Derek wasn’t sure what to expect, how Stiles was going to react. Laura said Tommy had passed out, but he’d been fine with it when he’d come to. He’d been a big fan of Mom’s movies, too.
“I’m not gonna lie, I’m into the thing where you can take bullets for me,” Stiles says. “But please, you know, don’t do that a lot. It was cool the once, but I think that’s more like, that’s a problem I gotta get to at the root. Gotta treat the disease –which is, really, people thinking that coming after me is a good idea – and not the symptom – which is, right, the people actually trying to hurt me. It’s all because of the stupid fucking money.”
Stiles takes a deep breath, says, “Ok, that brings me to my part. You already know about, about me, but you don’t know… a few years after my mom died, my dad won a malpractice suit against the hospital. So when I was like eighteen I had all this money, but it’s not like I knew what to do with this. I was taking this economics class at USC, and you got extra credit if you bought some stocks or whatever. So I took all of my mom’s settlement and I put it into some really, really ill-advised high-risk investments and they paid off. So I did it again and again and suddenly it was, it was so much money.”
“Why are you telling me this?” Derek asks. This isn’t anything he couldn’t look up, it’s all in Forbes, Fortune.
“Because if you know where the money came from, you know, you could understand. It isn’t who I am,” Stiles says, “That’s what I wanted to tell you. Do you know what having money like that feels like? I don't want to touch it. It’s not going to – it can’t bring her back.”
Stiles voice cracks and he looks away for a second, blinking hard.
“So yeah, I’m a billionaire, but I didn’t lie to you about everything. I really do, I mean, I take the subway. I live in Brooklyn,” Stiles says. “I only started First Line because I was trying to help Scott out. I was the reason he got into directing in the first place. And not that, you know, Zebra Stripe wasn’t great and all, but he was looking to do something more serious. I ran into your brother-in-law at an industry thing and then he introduced me to Laura and, well, you know.”
“Laura told me, yeah.”
Stiles says, “I just wanted to meet you. Did you know we’re both from the same home town?” Derek nods. Stiles’ Wikipedia page lists Born: Beacon Hills, California somewhere above Net worth: $ 23.5 billion. “I didn’t think I’d actually like you. I used to look up to you, but I thought if I got to know you, you’d be some asshole and I could just get over it.”
Derek says, “You weren’t what I expected either.”
Stiles stands up straight, looks Derek in the eye, and says, “Anyway, what I came over here to say is: I’m sorry I lied to you. If it’s ok, I’d like to keep working for you.”
“What?” Derek asks, because that was not at all where he thought Stiles was going with this.
“Well, see,” Stiles says, “I just figured what I’m really good at. I’m really good at you, I mean I’m good at taking care of you. Not that you need me to do it, but I like doing it. And I want to keep doing it. That’s what I want to do when I grow up.”
Derek takes a deep breath, then another, thinking. Eventually, he says, “Ok.”
Stiles nods, serious, and he pulls his – their – schedule out of the pocket of his hoodie. “And now we really have to go or we’ll be late.”
“Wait,” Derek says, because that wasn’t what he meant. He’s not being very clear, Laura’s always on him that he doesn’t communicate. “I don’t want you to work for me anymore. That’s fucking creepy.”
“Oh,” Stiles says, sounding disappointed. He slowly puts the schedule back in his pocket, and then looks up at Derek and says, “What did you say ok to, then?”
“You. All of it, I mean, but mostly you,” Derek says. “You shouldn’t work for me, you should just be here, with me. You almost live here already.”
“Oh you mean-” Stiles says, and he shakes his head. “We did this badly.” He’s smiling, eyes bright.
“Yeah,” Derek says.
“Someone could make a movie about it, someday.”
“They shouldn’t,” Derek says. “It would probably be terrible.”
“Laura could write the script,” Stiles says, “And Scott could direct.”
Derek pulls Stiles in, close, and kisses him, again and again, to make him stop talking, at least for a while.
For the first time since Derek met Stiles, he’s late on set.