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ships passing in the night

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Stiles is so close to getting somewhere with Derek. He can feel it.

They have inside jokes. They eat lunch together every day in the cafeteria. Stiles has found out that Derek can play like fifteen different instruments and likes to fiddle around with composing music in his spare time, and Derek knows all about Stiles’ fascination with folklore, unexplained phenomena, and The X-Files. Stiles overhears Derek telling Boyd that Stiles is a “brilliant researcher.” Derek has seen Stiles having a panic attack in the men’s restroom and talked him through it, and he went with Stiles as his (sadly platonic) plus-one to his dad’s wedding. There’s even a drunk almost-kiss at their boss Lydia Martin’s engagement party, Stiles making an idiot of himself but Derek smiling fondly anyway, and then—nothing.

“Hey, where’s Derek?” Stiles asks Greenberg when he comes in Monday morning. Derek is one of those annoyingly productive morning people and always beats Stiles to the office. Today his desk is empty. Like, weirdly empty. Stiles would almost venture to call it bare, except that makes no sense. “He’s not sick, is he? Or hungover?”

Although, as far as Stiles knows, Derek doesn’t drink.

“He quit,” Greenberg says, not looking up from the magazine he’s reading, as if this is totally normal.

There’s a strange ringing in Stiles’ ears. “Like, for the day?”

Greenberg doesn’t look up. “Like, for forever.”

It really is that sudden. One day he’s plugging away in the cubicle next to Stiles’, and the next, Stiles finds out from fucking Facebook that Derek Hale is overnight famous.

*

When he asked about Derek’s hobbies once, a couple months ago, Derek had hesitantly shown him a song he’d been composing in his apartment. He hadn’t shown it to anyone else yet.

Whatever Stiles had been expecting, it wasn’t this. This was one of the best fucking songs Stiles had ever heard in his entire life. It was hopeful and pained all at once, a soft rock beat that made Stiles think of long car rides at night on empty highways, Derek’s voice drifting through it all so achingly lonely and perfectly it gave Stiles goosebumps just to hear it. The lyrics were vague enough that a stranger might think Derek was talking about an ex-boyfriend or girlfriend, but Stiles knew. This was about Derek’s family, the family he’d lost when he was fifteen.

Derek hovered nearby the whole time, leaning his elbows on the break room counter and watching him nervously, trying to gauge his reaction, and all Stiles could do was stare at him, speechless for once in his life, because he’d had no idea Derek was so talented.

When Stiles finally managed words again, he ranted at Derek for ten minutes straight about how awesome it was and begged him for the mp3 so he could listen to it again and again for the rest of time. Derek bit back a smile and said gruffly that maybe he’d show him some more songs sometime.

Instead, Derek’s sister, who had about ten thousand YouTube subscribers and also thought the song was great, uploaded it to her channel with the excuse that it was “too amazing not to share with the world.”

Not fifteen minutes later, some internet-famous blogger, and then another and another, posted about it on their Tumblrs.

By the next day, it had gone viral.

That was the start of everything.

*

Stiles can’t say he blames Derek for quitting. Hell, this is basically the best thing to ever happen to Derek, Stiles knows that, and it’s awesome. They’d talked about their dreams, and Derek had always said he’d love to be a musician. Now his single has climbed to number eight on Billboard’s Hot 100 and his face is at the top of Stiles’ news feed every day for a week, and Stiles wouldn’t take that away from him for anything.

BUT. Just because Derek gets his dream job doesn’t mean he can just—just leave and never contact Stiles again.

Only, that’s exactly what he does.

What makes it worse is that Derek’s song plays at least ten times a day on every radio station in Beacon Hills, and Stiles can’t stop missing Derek even though it’s increasingly obvious that Derek doesn’t miss him at all.

THEN. Then. There’s an interview. The interview, really, the only one that matters as far as Stiles is concerned.

It’s been two months since Derek quit his desk job. He’s just released his first full album, and Stiles hasn’t listened to anything else in a week. It’s been a revelation. Critics are, rightfully, raving about it. Especially the most popular song on the album, “Ships Passing in the Night.”

Stiles hates “Ships Passing in the Night.” Not only is it absolutely stunning—it almost brings Stiles to tears the first time he hears it, and Stiles is not a crying kind of person, okay—but his stupid brain can’t stop twisting the lyrics into some kind of Stiles-and-Derek love story. Which is ridiculous. Really. Derek hasn’t sent Stiles so much as a text since he quit. Stiles has probably been the last thing on his mind.

Anyway.

The interviewer starts out asking Derek all the getting-to-know-you questions about how he got interested in music (it was something he got into as a form of therapy after the death of most of his family) and what he’s planning next as a musician (it’s a little early to say), and then… then she’s leaning forward like she and Derek are about to share a secret and asking if his latest hit song is a true story, if there really is a “honey-eyed boy” Derek’s hopelessly and unrequitedly in love with.

Stiles is toasting a sandwich in his panini press and nearly sears the flesh off his finger because he can’t look away from the screen, from the way Derek fucking blushes like they’re in middle school or something and says, “Yes. He’s real.”

“What the fuck,” Stiles breathes.

On Stiles’ TV, the interviewer puts a hand on Derek’s knee and asks, “So tell me, what’s the story there?”

“Well,” Derek hedges. He not-so-subtly shifts his knee away from her hand. “I saw him my first day at work and I… fell in love, I guess.”

“Just like that?”

Derek shrugs. “When you know, you know.”

The interviewer practically has heart eyes at this point. “Wow. That’s so romantic. So what happened? From your lyrics, it sounds like he was the one that got away.”

“We were friends. He was even my first real fan. He was the first person I ever showed my music to.”

Stiles is pretty sure he’s forgotten how to breathe.

Derek sighs sadly and spreads his hands in a what-can-you-do kind of gesture. “I’m not good enough for him, though. I’ll never be as special to him as he is to me. I haven’t even heard from him since I quit my job to pursue my music.” He gazes wistfully somewhere off-screen. “He’s probably forgotten about me by now.”

*

Stiles marches over to Derek’s apartment. He hasn’t even stopped to put his shoes on. He doesn’t think until he’s already climbing the stairs to Derek’s floor that maybe Derek isn’t home at 9 at night on a Friday in sleepy Beacon Hills, not when he’s suddenly the next big thing in music.

Also, Stiles is not technically supposed to know where Derek lives, but he might’ve hacked the company database a while back to snoop one night when he was alone at the office, working late. He just wanted to know when Derek’s birthday was; it was totally innocent and not stalkery.

He pounds on the door and then paces, and when Derek opens the door, looking bewildered with unfairly messy hair, Stiles doesn’t even say hello like a normal person. Instead he just comes out with, "I saw your interview on TV.”

Derek winces and says, “Oh,” and Stiles says, “‘Oh’ is right, you idiot,“ and kisses him.

Derek falls back against the doorframe and makes this little whimpery noise Stiles never wants to forget as long as he lives. His hands fly up to curl in Stiles’ hair. He kisses the breath right out of Stiles’ lungs.

“Stop telling people I’m not in love with you,” Stiles says at some point. He’s trying to be stern, but he can’t stop smiling.

“I can do that,” Derek says.

Stiles nods. “You better.”