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Hot Single Dad Derek Hale

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Derek is coming off a three-day flu stint when he finally lurches blearily into the office, smoothie in hand, sunglasses blessedly dimming Lydia’s idea of carte-blanche aesthetic.

If that’s even a thing.

There’s a person lounging across one of the sectionals, instantly making it all look untidy, tapping at his phone and loudly sucking on the complimentary mints perpetually laid out on the glass coffee table.

“Holy hangover, man,” the guy says before he can sneak by, crinkling his forehead. He gives Derek a pointed once-over without pausing in typing, and one corner of his mouth lifts in a smirk. His eyes are.... arresting--- the color of bourbon. Derek stops.

It’s 8:30 in the morning and he suddenly wishes he weren’t the kind of person who keeps a suit in his car that he changes into at work. His hair is still sticking up on one side - he knows this because he can see his dulled reflection in the glass outer wall of Lydia’s office - and there may or may not be finger paint on his cheek.

Then he remembers why he is that kind of person and frowns, clutching his drink closer like some kind of barrier.

“Hope whatever’s in there is virgin.”

Derek blinks down at the sparkly princess cup he’d reached for in caffeine-free delirium. “Kale is a super food,” he says intelligently. Sectional-guy looks happily bewildered, and Derek attempts to form a better sentence before they’re interrupted by his business partner.

“Stiles,” Lydia says, appearing out of nowhere in the same fashion that makes their interns scurry around in a state of constant alert. ‘Stiles’ simply swings his head back on the couch and blinks at her. “Ready for you.” She notices Derek and smiles warmly. “All better?”

“Think so,” Derek says, then clears his throat to break up the roughness of his voice. He’s fucking exhausted. “She’s with Cora today.”

Stiles is standing now, hands stuffed in his pockets and glancing between them. “Lyds,” he says, and makes some kind of raised-eyebrow-jerk at Derek with his chin.

Lydia just says, “No.”

There’s a long moment where some kind of unspoken conversation happens with their eyes, and Lydia’s narrow, then flit to the ceiling for strength. “Stiles, Derek, Derek Stiles,” she sighs. “Derek’s my partner. He was the original backer for the house when I came up with the business plan.”

“Good to meet you,” he says, remembering basic manners and holding out his hand. Stiles trips on the corner of one of Lydia’s artisan rugs in his quest to shake it. “And Stiles is...?”

“Coming with me,” she announces firmly and grabs the guy by the elbow, yanking him towards her office. Derek’s left standing there as they go inside - hand still held out in the air like an idiot - and watches as the door closes. A heated conversation takes place inside; there’s a lot of head-shaking from Lydia and gesturing from Stiles, and the last thing Derek sees before she activates the smart glass is a cheeky waggle of eyebrows, followed by a grin at him.

Derek pushes a flustered hand into his hair. He blames his exhausted mind on the fact that the first thing he said to the most attractive man he’s seen in months was about fucking kale, and the only word he can come up with to describe his current feeling is charmed.

Derek is charmed by him.

You are so easy, he tells himself.

___

He’s S. Stilinski?” Derek says, pulling the paper clip out of his mouth. “That freshman-looking guy with the--” lips like sin “--hoodie?”

Lydia turns her palms up. “He’s trying for the whole unkempt genius aesthetic,” she sighs, like she’s quoting directly from the guy himself. Derek suspects that’s exactly what she is doing. “I’m aware he doesn’t look like much, but he’s actually twenty-seven and hadn’t slept in two days when you met him.”

He looked like I needed to see him naked, actually.

Derek coughs at the thought, shocked that his mind immediately went there. He doesn’t think voicing his feelings out loud would exactly help their professional dynamic.

“How did you get him to come in?”

“We went to college together,” she says, straightening Derek’s master’s degree on the wall. “Dated for about a week.” She purses her lips. “We’re better as friends.”

There’s something that feels suspiciously like relief flooding through Derek’s veins, but he sips at his tea, paranoid his face is giving something away.

“So when were you going to mention the fact you have an in with the author of the most downloaded, self-published sci-fi novel of the last year?”

Derek had lost two night’s sleep and burned several home-cooked meals after Lightyear went viral. It could have used a little editorial input, but he’d even liked the rough-edged result. The novel was a revelation.

“When he agreed to contract negotiations,” she says, unapologetic. There’s a look leveled at him that seems to dare him to fight her. “He’s being courted by a lot of major houses right now. Stiles is a friend, but there are a lot of powerful people making empty promises to secure his next book. I had to convince him we’re the ones who’ll take the best care of him.”

“And?”

“He’s coming by with his agent tomorrow,” she shares smugly. “It’s just a formality, really. Plus, he’s never before mentioned having an agent. I’ve got a sneaking suspicion that the person he’s bringing is just his best friend Scott who majored in Communications.”

Derek grins, shaking his head. “Sounds like you’ve got it all figured out,” he says, glancing up at her. He’s kind of floored. It happens a lot with Lydia. “Great job.”

She lifts a shoulder in a shrug, a proud smile playing across her lips. ”I know.”

He snorts. “I look forward to meeting him properly, then.”

Lydia sobers. “Yeah, that’s-- it’s actually at the same time that the editors’ meeting is, so I was wondering if you could lead that on your own this week.”

“Sure...” Derek says and tilts his head. “It’s not like you to organize scheduling conflicts, though.” Lydia had gone through three assistants before deciding she could handle it all more efficiently by herself.

“Stiles is a busy guy,” she waves off, not looking him in the eye. “I’ve got a conference call in five with Allison. Don’t forget to bring home Lacey’s present.”

Derek smiles, imagining how excited she’ll be to get a gift from her favourite unofficial aunt. “Of course. You’re spoiling her, you know.”

Lydia raises a brow, reaching for the door. “You’re one to talk, Mister Baryshnikov.”

“She was nervous for the recital and needed a partner,” he says defensively, feeling himself flush.

“And we’re all thankful for Cora’s dedication to Instagram,” Lydia teases, stepping out.

___

He’s so busy sending off an email from his phone that he doesn’t realize the coffee nook is occupied. He almost walks right into the person standing in front of the Keurig in a smart button-down and slacks, and his eyebrows jerk when he recognizes who it is.

“Stiles... Hey, you...Hi.”

Jesus Christ, you sound like you’re about to ask him to homecoming.

Stiles is just obliviously beaming at him, looking right into his eyes. “Derek..” he starts, then trails off, shaking his head. “Sorry, you’re not in sunglasses and your--” He cuts his sentence short, turning back to the coffee machine. “Anyway... yeah, I needed a breather from all the shop-talk.” He picks his mug up. ”Lyds told me you were busy today.”

Derek shugs, catching himself watching where Stiles’ lips are pursed, blowing on the top of his drink. “General housekeeping stuff. How’s your meeting going?”

“Oh, you know,” he replies, stepping back to let Derek near the machine. “Lydia’s slightly terrifying, but my buddy Scott can pretty much win over anyone - even her.”

“Good, I’m glad,” Derek nods. “We’re all pretty excited to start working with you.”

“Oh yeah? Would you say you’re a fan?” Stiles asks jokingly, shooting him that half-smirk again. Derek tries to be casual. He’s definitely of the opinion that using Stiles’ face and charm and everything on the talk-show circuit will boost sales. He looks even better dressed up.

“Distinctly remember having to get up and walk around after that twist with the decompression chamber.” He shoots Stiles a shy look, hoping it comes off somewhere between fanboy and professional admirer.

Stiles looks pleasantly surprised at the comment on his work... Derek may have revisited the novel after their meeting last week. “Oh yeah? Didn’t see it coming?”

He shakes his head. “On second read-though, it seems so obvious, but not at all the first time.”

“You read Lightyear twice?” Stiles asks, voice rising a little. He shakes his head and smiles into his mug, reining in his obvious excitement as he takes a sip. “I didn’t think anyone other than me would go through that again.”

“More like three times?” Derek admits quietly, pressing buttons. “I kind of kept hoping a sequel would magically appear at the end.”

Stiles lets out a laugh that makes Derek look up at him, taking in the line of his throat, the way he thumps a palm on his chest and the beauty-marks dotting his jaw. It’s hard not to stare.

“You and about ten thousand people who signed that online petition,” he says, still grinning. “I gotta be firm, though.”

“I’ll have to pick your brain about what happened after the landing, then,” Derek says, picking up his own mug. He leans back against the counter, turning his body so they’re facing.

“Oh yeah? Maybe we could--”

“Stiles? We need you to come sign some paperwork,” Lydia interrupts, before frowning at Derek. “What happened to the caffeine ban?”

Derek angles his mug away from her. “Greenberg is literally afraid of one of his authors. He needs to be reassigned. I earned this.”

She rolls her eyes. “Fine, but don’t come bitching to me when you’re running on four hour’s sleep again.”

“Hm, that’s pretty much a norm for me,” Stiles pipes up, smirking at him. “Guess I don’t need much sleep.”

Derek just stares dumbly back. Did he just...?

“You, with me,” she tells her friend irritably, and Derek snaps out of it. He studies the tense set of her shoulders as she moves to walk away, feeling a roiling in the pit of his stomach that usually tells him Lydia’s pissed at him.

“Still not too late to back out, right?” Stiles mutters, stepping past Derek, too closely to be necessary. The fabric of their clothes makes a soft swish as they pass, making his heart thrum clumsily. A grin forms reflexively on his lips.

“Don’t even think about it,” he mock-warns, hearing the flirting tone in his own voice.

Derek wasn’t even sure he remembered how to flirt, but this guy, with his eyes and his crooked smirks and strong, distracting forearms is pulling it out of him, so subconscious it’s automatic. Stiles gives him a rueful look, lingering on his chest, and back up to his eyes.

“Not a chance,” he says loadedly.

Derek is suddenly warm all over.

___

 

TO: LYDIA

 

Please

 

No.

Lydia PLEASE. You’ve made him forbidden fruit!

Why must you deprive me of great things?

Stop being so dramatic, Stiles.

Don’t you have a draft to finish?

His butt looks like I conjured it out of my own dreams. I want to lie down in front of it, give

thanks to deities I don’t even believe in

 

Keep the wordsmithing to your ACTUAL WORK

Please, Lydia. Light of my being. Please help me hit that. I’ll owe you for life.

 

You already do.

Do I have to remind you about Mardi Gras?

lydiaaaaaaaaaa

 

__

It’s hard not to notice that Stiles is around a lot more after he signs the contracts. Lydia assigns their best editor, Kira, to him, and though Derek mourns the lost opportunity to get an inside-look at Stiles’ latest work as it’s being written, sci-fi is Kira’s specialty and she’s a much better fit. Well, it seems that way anyway, if the rambling, half-sentenced conversations he’s witnessed them have are anything to go by.

Derek doesn’t really do much editing anymore, anyhow - taking on a new project now would just look weird. Weirder than Derek’s awkward attempts at flirting and how he keeps zoning out of work-related tasks when he hears the deep tenor of Stiles’ voice around the office.

He doesn’t get to talk to Stiles a whole lot - and it’s fine, it’s professional and polite, but there is a little something that lights up in him when he thinks about him, sees him. Derek’s life has been mostly about preschool and Big Hero 6 and extra-curricular activities for so long now that it’s a shock to the system when he finds himself pre-occupied with something so... adult.

And there are many, many adult things on his mind where Stiles is concerned.

And he’s a client, Derek tries to remind himself.

His inappropriate thoughts make him all the more paranoid that Lydia can see through him. What’s worse is that she doesn’t seem to approve. There’s always something that needs to be done, somewhere one of them has to be when he runs into Stiles, and Derek should be happy about the fact that someone in the firm is keeping things on point, but that doesn’t mean that he is.

It’s not like anything will actually come of it; Stiles fits in the box in his life labelled work and Derek barely knows the guy outside of his talent and the fact that he looks equally as hot in a loose tie and vest as he does in skinny jeans and plaid. He’s not even sure he’s not making it all up. Derek doesn’t do casual; hasn’t been on a date in almost eight years, and even then he wasn’t exactly good at it. He was guarded before, and he has even more of a reason to be guarded now - a three foot, fifty-pound reason that’s currently going through his desk drawers searching for candy.

“Why don’t you draw me another picture, sweetie?” Derek tries, scootching back and smirking as she studies a pack of pens and throws them aside with a scowl.

“You already have three, Daddy. Don’t be greedy.”

“Oh well, I apologize. I just love your art so much.”

She rolls her eyes in a way that makes him mentally note to rib Cora about. “You’re s’posed to say that. You’re my Daddy.”

“It doesn’t make it untrue.”

She narrows her eyes up at him suspiciously, and he does his best to look innocent. She heaves out a put-upon sigh and gets to her feet, planting her hands on her hips. “Okay, but I get pop-tarts for breakfast for a whole week.”

“The weekend,” Derek bargains.

“And Friday.”

“And Friday,” he allows after a pause, shaking her offered hand. Derek needs to look into afterschool programs that nurture future business or law professionals. His daughter is way too good at negotiating.

“Sorry, am I interrupting something?” a voice cuts in, and Derek looks up with a start to see Stiles at the door, hand poised for a knock. He glances at Lacey, their hands, and back to Derek with a confused smile. Derek straightens out his tie self-consciously.

“Stiles, hey,” he says warmly and huffs out a nervous laugh. He reaches out to smooth a strand of hair behind Lacey’s ear and shakes his head. “Just closing an important business deal, but I think we’re done.”

“It’s gonna be of a unicorn,” Lacey decides and filches a blank page from the little stack on his desk.

Stiles advances hesitantly, smiling as she runs across to the empty floor space and lies belly-down, arranging her crayons. “I don’t think we’ve met...”

“Lacey, say hello to Stiles,” he says, remembering that he’s meant to be teaching her manners. He should not be distracted by the fact Stiles evidently got caught out in the rain. His bottom lip is shining.

“Hello,” she says distractedly, squinting up. “Did you forget to bring an umbrella?”

Stiles laughs, throwing a look at Derek and then down. “Yeah, I guess I did. Does my hair look funny?” He pats it down with his hand half-heartedly, and Derek presses his lips together.

“Yes,” she says, and then shrugs. “But it’s not your fault.”

“Lace,” Derek says with a warning tone, slightly embarrassed. “Stiles is one of our writers. Remember how you’re supposed to be polite to grown-ups?”

“Do your stories have unicorns?” she asks without hesitation, watching Stiles closely like it’s a test. He looks caught.

“Uh, no...” he admits, dipping his bottom lip. “But there was a spaceship in the last one.” He holds out his hands like he’s hoping for approval, and Derek fights back the smile at how endearing it all is.

“That’s okay I guess,” Lacey decides and goes back to drawing, humming under her breath.

“Critics are terrifying,” Stiles says, exaggerating a haunted look, and Derek shakes his head with a smile. “Maybe I’m not cut out for this.”

“She is well-versed in literature,” Derek agrees gravely. “Cats in hats, hungry caterpillars...”

“I can’t compete with those!” Stiles groans, and Derek snorts, rising to carry her juicebox over from the desk.

“So what brings you here?”

“Oh, uh, Lydia’s not out of her meeting yet, and I kinda seized the opportunity to say ‘hey’ when she’s not around to duck-face at me.” At Derek’s blank look, he raises a brow, and elaborates, “She seems kinda hell-bent on coc-- keeping me busy.”

“You noticed too, huh?”

His lips wryly tilt up on one side. “Honesty... I think she’s afraid it’ll sully the reputation of your company if we--” he swallows. “I mean, assuming you wanted...” His eyes, widening, dart to Lacey and back, and Derek is mesmerized for a moment at the gentle bloom of color creeping across Stiles’ jaw and cheeks. “You know what, forget it. You’re on... babysitting duty or whatever and--”

“Babysitting...?” Derek frowns, glancing to his little girl and back.

“It’s kind of short notice anyway. Just lunch...coffee even,” Stiles continues, flustered. He half-turns and takes a step back to the door. “It’s silly.”

Derek feels his pulse kick up at the prospect. Alright, so he’d been pretty shamelessly flirting with Stiles for weeks now, but he’d only ever let himself assume it was...physical. He’s caught Stiles looking at him, and he’s done his own fair share of appraisals, but this - a lunch date, away from the office, in the middle of the week? Doesn’t exactly lend to One-Night-Stand, a quick fumble geared to release the tension. Even stranger, the idea doesn’t scare the crap out of him or make him uncomfortable like it normally would. Like it probably should.

“No, if you-- we're just waiting until my sister gets off in a half hour.”

“Oh,” Stiles says, hesitating, and then turns around fully. “Oh, well if you wanted to grab a bite after? I heard there’s a pretty great noodle bar down the block.” He raises his brows and stuffs his hands in his pockets, looking at Derek imploringly.

“Sold,” Derek says, trying not to let his grin grow too wide. His heart is racing now and he can feel the beginnings of palm-sweat. He’s so fucked.

“Bye, Lacey,” Stiles says, fingers clenching and unclenching out in front of him in a tiny wave.

“Bye, Spaceship man,” she calls back, not even looking up.

__

“So that’s why I decided to take matters into my own hands. Wouldn’t want you thinking I’m not a proactive individual, Derek. ”

He almost chokes when he realises he’s been watching Stiles’ hands twirl his noodles around for the entire time he’s been talking.

“Uh-- course not.”

Stiles sucks a stray drop of sauce from the knuckle of his pinky and smirks.

Is it worrying to be aroused by hands? Derek wonders and then decides to blame the fact he hasn’t had sex during the current presidency on his own weirdness.

Derek has never found himself this hopelessly drawn to someone before. Stiles is sharp-witted, borderline antagonistic, and has the sense of humor of a twelve-year-old. When he laughs, Derek can see the roof of his mouth and most of his dental work.

It’s incredibly attractive.

On paper, the guy should be setting off alarm bells in Derek’s head. From their getting-to-know-you talk, it seems he’s barely in the getting-his-shit-together stage of his life. He claims he couch-surfed for three months when he moved to the city because he wanted to get a ‘feel’ for it, proudly announces that he’s on a first-name basis with his Dominos delivery driver, and shares that he picked up a job bartending from the first place that had a sign he liked.

He’s... everything a guy in his 20s should be, actually. There’s only three years between them, but Derek’s been paying a mortgage since he was twenty-six and his last social outing was a PTA coffee afternoon. Derek didn’t get to have a blessed period of limbo where he figured out who he wanted to be - he was a father before he was done college, and everything else was an offshoot.

Still, Stiles has a cynicism about him that Derek respects. He’s shrewd when it comes to the industry and seems to know what he wants from life. He waxes lyrical about the apartment he’s planning to put down-payment on in midtown and has an easy confidence in his own ambitions that doesn’t come across naive or flighty; there’s an endearing awkwardness cutting through it that stops him from seeming arrogant.

He’s also a pretty huge flirt. Hand-sucking notwithstanding.

Don’t act like you don’t love it, Derek thinks.

Talking to Stiles is refreshing. It’s the first time in a while that the conversation’s just been about Derek--what he likes, what he hates, guilty pleasures and passions. It’s when he bashfully admits that the last TV show he got hooked on was Lost that Stiles looks scandalized.

“Dude, tell me you’ve at least tried House of Cards.”

Derek’s lips migrate to one side of his face in lieu of an answer, and Stiles flails his distracting hands around like he’s just confessed to being a Brony.

“Seriously?”

“It’s not like I have a lot of time on my hands!” he says defensively, grinning at the fish-gape of Stiles’ lips.

Stiles shrugs, holding his palms up. ”Okay, sure. Reading second drafts of unpublished novels doesn’t leave room for small-screen masterpieces. That makes sense.” He still sounds exasperated, and Derek raises a brow.

“Try, reading bedtime stories and Pinterest tutorials on how to make age-appropriate Black Widow costumes,” he snarks. “Packing lunches and negotiating wake-up times. Defending my seat on the Parent’s committee from Helen Fucking Myers.”

A crease forms between Stiles’ eyebrows, and Derek dips his chin, suddenly nervous, but smiling wistfully.

“When you’re a dad, there’s not a lot of opportunity to be anything else.”

Derek hadn’t realised they were the only ones left in the restaurant until Stiles stopped talking. The background music cuts the silence, but not by much - and when he chances looking up, Stiles is just staring at him, totally still.

“What?” he asks, jerking back.

“A ...dad?” Stiles says slowly, and then it’s like someone flicked the Play button back on. “Who’s a--? You’re a dad?” The stool clangs as he tumbles off it to stand up. His face pales, and he stares at Derek with such open horror that it almost feels physical. “You’re a dad.

Derek watches him silently for a beat, feeling like something is going cold in his gut. “Yes,” is all he can manage.

“You’re... but you. Lydia never--” Stiles sucks on his lip like he’s choosing his words for the first time since they met, and Derek’s lungs feel a little bit tighter. “Lacey. You’re her... she’s your....”

“Lydia didn’t tell you?” Derek croaks questioningly, searching Stiles’ face. “That Lacey’s my daughter?”

Shit.

Derek straightens up, playing back the meeting earlier. He’d introduced them, but he’s accustomed to everyone around the office doting on his daughter, playing with her and helping her mastermind schemes to get around his rules, that it felt like Stiles was one of them.

“Oh, god, I didn’t tell you.”

“I thought she was your niece,” Stiles breathes out dazedly. “I assumed someone would have mentioned--”

“It’s not like we ever talked much, and I guess I’m just used to everyone being aware of...” He turns in his seat to face Stiles fully, bracing himself. “I’m sorry. It’s something I’d usually tell someone before-- not that I, you know.” Ever go on dates. “I’d understand if you changed your mind.”

“No, it’s...Sorry, just rebooting, here.” He twirls a hand around by his head and digs back into his noodles as he sits. Really, he’s just moving them around the bowl, but Derek isn’t going to point that out.

There’s an awkward pause, where Derek isn’t sure if he should grab his jacket and leave or stick it out, before Stiles says, “Lacey’s mom?”

“Not in the picture,” he informs, matter-of-factly. It’s gotten to the point where Derek can’t even imagine their lives with her.

The silence stretches on, and just as Derek’s about to make his excuses and leave, Stiles beats him to it. “I should really, uh, get going.” He fumbles with his jacket, stepping off the stool again, and he doesn’t meet Derek’s eyes once. “This was nice. We should do this again, now that we know basic details of each other’s lives.”

Derek can’t hold back a wince. “Look, you don’t have to do that,” he says. “It’s fine if this is all...” He makes a helpless gesture with his hands, heart sinking.

“I’ll see you Friday, probably?” Stiles says too easily, disregarding Derek’s words. He takes three attempts to properly button his coat and gives Derek a tight smile. “Later.”

The door closes so hard it swings back open again before slowly drifting shut.

Derek gives himself a minute - just one - to sit and feel bad about it when Stiles leaves. He likes him, genuinely, but if there’s no room in Stiles’ life for Lacey - and that’s not his fault, most people in his position wouldn’t take on the responsibility if given the choice either - then there’s no room in their life for Stiles.

Derek is a big boy. He can fucking deal.

What he’s been feeling could have ended up being something special and exciting, sure, but it doesn’t hold a candle to what his heart does every time he looks at his daughter. There’s just no comparison; she’s the light of his life. He will give up anything asked of him to keep her feeling happy, safe, and loved - even cute, sexy authors with sharp tongues and beautiful eyes. No question.

The next few months will definitely suck, though.

__

 

TO: LYDIA

 

We need to talk.

 

Does this have something to do with you sneaking out to lunch with my business partner?

Really, Stiles?

Why wouldn’t you tell me he’s got a little girl? I was completely blindsided!

You refused to discuss him at all! You KNOW that just makes me more curious.

 

 

Sorry. I forgot I’m dealing with a man-child who can’t be told ‘no’.

 

That’s not fair.

 

Fine. Be at my apartment at 7. We’ll talk then.

 

 

___

“...And we’re hoping to start promotion by late July. Any questions?”

Derek swipes through the outline with his stylus, concentrating. “All sounds good to me. Who’s handling that?”

“I’ve referred the account over to Erica’s team. They seem to work best with risqué titles.”

“Good choice.” Erica has a knack for promoting erotica - probably because every third sentence out of her mouth sounds like it’s quoting one. He checks the time and rises, unfolding his suit jacket from the back of the chair. “I’ve got a meeting with Accounts at four. Gonna grab a bagel or something. Want anything?”

Lydia seems to be watching him closely, but at his raised eyebrows, she shakes her head. “No, I.. carb free, remember?”

“Okay. Well, I’ll check in before I leave.”

“Derek?”

He stops, turning back to her expectantly.

“About Stiles. I’m sorry about getting involved.”

Derek swallows and offers her a smile. He’s been doing a pretty great job of not thinking about it, and he appreciates her trying to make things right, but she doesn’t really have anything to apologize for.

“Don’t worry about it. That all?” He really wants to be somewhere else, all of a sudden. Lydia looks torn.

“You should know that--”

“I’d prefer we didn’t discuss it, if you don’t mind,” he interrupts weakly, still trying to keep his expression neutral. “For the sake of professionalism.”

“Okay,” Lydia says after a beat, and nods down to her desk. “Of course. If that’s what you want.”

“It is,” he says resolutely, and walks to the door. “I’ll update you later on the Accounts status.”

“Yeah... thanks,” she says, and her lips curve into a fleeting smile, one that’s no more genuine than Derek’s was.

___

Derek is out of the office that Friday - a forgotten publisher’s conference has him tied up the entire day - and he’s torn between relief and loss that he won’t be around for Stiles’ visit.

He spends the evening framing Lacey’s drawings and packing two of them up to send to Laura, who takes full credit for any and all creativity her niece displays. The weekend is a blur of grocery shopping, errands, and Sing-A-Long Frozen. He’s expecting a polite note from the neighbours any day now.

The following week at work is the same as always, save for the stiltedness between him and Lydia. They’d built a relationship over the years together, honed by late nights and weekend phone calls, nightmare clients and fickle investors - so he knows when there’s something she’s itching to say to him, but he knows what the subject will be, and he’s not in the mood.

It’s Thursday before he finds himself stiffening at the echo of Stiles’ voice in the foyer, and he stalls on his way to the supply closet, completely at a loss whether to keep going. It lasts for about ten seconds before Derek catches sight of himself in one of the many shiny surfaces, recalls that he’s somebody’s father, for fuck’s sake, and rolls his shoulders back.

Stiles is on the phone when he passes, and the conversation halts when he sees Derek, eyes tracking him across the floor. Derek offers him a quirk of lips and a nod at the meeting of their eyes, hoping to get past without an awkward exchange, but Stiles says, “Gimme a sec,” into the phone and grins at him.

Derek’s legs stop working instantly.

“Derek, hey,” he greets, and his face is lit up - like seeing Derek is the best part of his whole week. It makes something small and sad and vulnerable turn over in Derek’s stomach, but he presses down on it.

“Progress meeting?” he asks Stiles, all business, and stands back at a safe distance. He doesn’t need to be able to count the moles on the guy’s cheek right now.

“Uh, yeah, you know, Lydia intimidates me into writing faster; Kira makes me feel like George Orwell.”

“Sounds about right,” Derek replies. He grins, despite himself. There’s a pause.

“So, uh, hey, I was wondering if you were free for lunch again. Or coffee! Either one.” Derek frowns. It must look angry enough to have Stiles’ cheeks paling, and he holds his hands up. “No pressure, I just... feel like we left things weird the other day.”

Derek searches his face, wondering what could possibly have changed in the last week, but the memory of Stiles practically tripping over himself to get out of the restaurant is too fresh. Derek doesn’t need the headache of waiting for Stiles to figure out what he wants. He and Lacey aren’t a ready-made family or a phase, and he’s not willing to sacrifice attention he could be spending on her, on a hot fling. On someone whose first instinct is to turn tail and run.

“Uh, I’m actually pretty swamped right now,” he says honestly, happy he doesn’t have to lie. “Maybe we could take a raincheck?”

Stiles looks like he physically deflates for a second, and then the tight grin from last week is back. “No worries, it was just a suggestion,” he shrugs. He holds up his phone. “Anyway, I better get back to...”

“Sure,” Derek says, taking a step away. “Don’t let me keep you.”

He makes it all the way to the supply closet before he starts berating himself for being so weird. It’s only when he turns to peruse the shelves that he realises he has no memory of what he’s there for.

___

“It’s not a barbecue, it’s a roof party,” Lydia informs, carefully repositioning a strand of hair away from her eyes. “You’re coming, you’re bringing that adorable daughter of yours, and you’re going to unclench for five seconds.”

Derek consciously tries to subdue the amused expression he knows he’s wearing and tilts his head. It’s the most casual Lydia’s been with him all month, and he’s surprised by how much he’d missed it.

“And if I decide I’m busy?”

Her lips purse, like she’s saying try me. “I heard Lacey’s got her eye on one of those free-standing microphones with the speaker. I bet she knows a lot of songs, with lots of power-choruses.”

“You wouldn’t dare.

“Are you busy?” she asks, all innocence.

“No,” Derek sighs. “But she is - she’s heading upstate to visit her cousins. Laura’s idea.” He raises a sardonic brow. “My five-year-old has a busier social calendar than I have.”

“All the more reason to come,” she says. “Did you know I spent an exorbitant amount of money on shoes last month, and the only place I’ve worn them is here?”

He glances down at her feet reflexively.

“They’re very nice. They look like I can’t pronounce the designer.”

She rolls her eyes. “Of course you can’t - they’re exquisite, but they’re wasted on you. You’re coming to the party, and you’re going to enjoy yourself. Clear?”

“Yes ma’am,” Derek salutes to her back, before realizing he probably should have asked who else was going.

__

If he’s here, just say hi and move on. You’re a grown man. You didn’t even date him - it won’t be weird.

He’s tackle-hugged by a slightly tipsy Kira when he pushes out onto the roof of Lydia’s apartment building, and he wonders how boring it makes him that his first thought is it’s four in the afternoon.

Lydia greets him with air-kisses, in heels that bring her almost to his height, and he’s got a drink in his hand before he’s even done with his hellos. The rooftop is full of people Lydia knows personally - families, work acquaintances, old friends. Derek recognizes a lot of them, to his surprise.

“You’re a free man for tonight,” she warns him, picking lint off his button-down, then smoothing a hand on his chest. “You’re allowed two phone calls and that’s it.”

“We’re still partners, right?” he asks mutinously. “You didn’t somehow buy me out and become my boss without my knowledge?”

“I’m everyone’s boss,” she responds, scrunching her brow. “I thought we had an understanding?”

He presses his smirk into the lip of his beer bottle and turns away. “I regret coming here already,” he tells her.

It takes a total of about six minutes before the crowds part in some cheesy, movie-moment, and he sees Stiles, hanging out by the catered spread, grinning at a joke. He's talking to Allison Argent, one of Derek’s business associates, and they seem at ease with each other like it's not their first meeting. Derek wrestles with the urge to melt into the crowd a little, but the decision is taken out of his hands when Stiles catches sight of him and raises his cup in somber greeting.

Okay, it’s weird.

And slightly soul-crushing, if he’s honest with himself. It’s not like he has the guts to just walk up and talk to the guy - and he shouldn’t, anyway.

Luckily, most of the guests here are actually people Lydia’s met through work, and Derek gets to mill around, exchanging greetings and nibbling on finger-food until the sun is well behind the skyline, and the fairy-lights strung across the roof switch on. Anyone with a child has already left, and Derek takes a breath, feeling strangely adrift to be here alone. The city is stunning at night, and his suburban backyard doesn’t really give him the same views as he’s seeing right now. Derek contemplates it, loosely cradling his beer by his side.

“See anything interesting?”

He hadn’t heard Stiles approach. He glances to the side, taking in his profile and how the tiny bulbs reflect off his eyes. Derek takes a sip to distract himself, lifting a shoulder.

“Kind of too far off to see inside anyone’s apartments,” he says, lips curling. “I get the feeling Lydia wouldn’t live here if you could.”

“True,” Stiles huffs ruefully, brushing a knuckle off his nose. Derek can see the dip of his clavicle and the hint of hair peeking out from under his shirt. He faces forward. “So, how’ve you been?”

“The same. Busy,” Derek answers, neutral. “Heard you’re almost done with the second draft.”

“Kira’s kind of amazing,” Stiles nods. “Can’t wait to get your feedback.”

Derek licks his lips, remembering the first real conversation they had with each other. It seemed a lot easier then, when it was just attraction that probably wasn’t leading anywhere.

“‘s not really my department,” he says. It comes out apologetic - which he guesses it is. If he’d met Stiles at a different time in his life - or if his circumstances were different, he’d probably fall so deeply there’d be a hole in the earth. But things aren’t different, and he can’t make them that way, even if he wanted to.

“Not even for a friend?”

The way Stiles says ‘friend’ sounds like he wants to replace it with something else, and Derek breathes deeply, feeling his face soften.

“Sure. I’ll be first in line when it’s about to be published.”

There’s a stretch of nothing but Lydia’s Pandora playlist, and then, “Cool.”

Derek picks at the label of his bottle, not sure how to proceed, when he hears Stiles take several breaths like he’s about to speak, then let them out.

He gives up and turns expectantly.

“About that day in the restaurant,” Stiles begins, looking like he’s choosing his words carefully again. “I think you got the wrong idea. Well, I hope you did, otherwise you’re, like, completely turned off by me and too polite to say so.”

There’s an argument on Derek’s tongue about how he doesn’t believe anyone could be turned off by Stiles for any reason, but instead he says, “And what idea was that?”

“That I was horrified at the thought of you having a kid. I wasn’t, I was just--” he lets out a breath. “God, Scott’s an idiot - Dutch Courage was not a good plan.”

Derek smiles sadly.

“Stiles, it’s fine. I don’t hold it against you or anything, I just think it’s better if we keep things professional. For everyone’s sake.” He says the last part pointedly, and Stiles stares back blankly for a moment, before he nods.

“Okay, that’s... Lacey’s pretty awesome,” he says with a soft cadence. “She’s lucky to have you.”

Derek dips his chin, reaching forward to set his bottle on a nearby ledge. “I think it’s the other way ‘round,” he smiles, and digs his hands in his pockets. “I’m gonna take off. It was nice seeing you again, Stiles. Really.”

“You, too.”

He gives up on finding the hostess to say his goodbyes and is half-way down the steps to the elevator when he hears the click of heels behind him and stops.

“You’re not leaving.”

“Lydia, hey, I couldn’t find you.”

She places a hand on her hip. “Then you didn’t look very hard. What are you doing?”

“Going home,” he says innocently. “There’s no rule against it.”

“There is when you’re leaving alone and it’s barely 8.30.”

He studies her irritated expression, and takes a step back up towards her. “What’s going on?”

“What’s going on is I threw an elaborate roof party for no good reason, in the hopes that you’d finally get your head out of your ass and give Stiles a chance. Then I can stop feeling so guilty all the time.”

“What do you have to feel guilty for?”

She sighs, like his bewilderment is somehow trivial, and lowers herself to sit. “It’s my fault things are so weird between you two.”

Derek raises a brow, and moves to join her. “Pretty sure things are weird because five years ago, I fathered a child, and Stiles only found out about it on our first pseudo-date.”

“Which was my fault.” She looks up at him and blows a breath out through her nose. She takes a moment to gather her thoughts and self-consciously fixes a stand of hair behind her ear.

“When I met Stiles, he was an idiot,” she begins, and it sounds part-way between frustrated and fond. “Think of every dumbass, fratboy stereotype, and Stiles was it - worse, even. That’s the Stiles I remember, and that’s the person I thought had developed a powerful crush on one of my closest friends.”

Derek searches her face, still lost.

“He’s got this way of.... charming people - his awkward, nerdy eccentricity somehow works for him. It doesn’t even make sense, but it’s Stiles - you’ve met the guy. Even I fell under his spell for a while.”

“I still don’t see what that has to do with me.”

“He was interested in you straight away, and he told me that. He asked me for your number that morning the two of you met outside the office. Told me you were probably his future husband,” she snorts.

Derek feels himself flush. “So, what, you kept us apart because you were protecting me?”

“You, and that amazing little girl of yours. I thought if I didn’t encourage him, he’d move on, forget about you - but that only made it worse.”

It becomes clearer to Derek as she talks, and he clenches his hands together, smiling almost bitterly. “We thought it was because you didn’t want me dating one of our clients.”

She raises a brow. “Our clients are possibly your only chance to date. You never leave the house for anything other than the company or something Lacey’s involved in.”

“That’s not true,” Derek scowls. He had a haircut yesterday. It took over an hour. At her deadpan look, he shakes his head. “So, what’s changed?”

She crinkles her forehead, looking out in front of herself. “Did Stiles tell you why it took so long for him to find a publishing house?”

“No. I thought it was because he had so many offers.”

“That was part of it... but mainly he was trying to find the best deal and a contract that would keep him in work for the foreseeable future.” She turns to Derek again. “I thought it was some stupid excuse to fund a party habit or something at first, but....Stiles’ dad is probably the most important person in his life. Last year, when he got injured on the job, they found out that his government pension is about half what they thought it was going to be. Even with comp. Some bullshit loophole they got him with when he was 20 and joined the police force.”

“He’s doing this for his dad?”

“Stiles started writing Lightyear the day they found out. There are a lot of thinly-veiled anti-establishment themes in there, if you look hard enough.” She lifts a shoulder in a shrug. “He wants to take care of his father as much as he can; he formed a plan, and followed through. That’s...not the Stiles I first met back in junior year of college.”

Derek smiles, letting the information sink in. It’s pretty endearing, in truth - but it doesn’t exactly negate Stiles’ reaction to finding out.

“This is all good to know, Lydia, but he seemed pretty horrified when he learned I was a package deal.”

She sighs heavily.

“He reacted like that because he was painfully into you and had a whole wooing-schedule worked out that would’ve been completely inappropriate. He left because he was hell-bent on chewing me out for not telling him. He was just...caught off-guard.”

She holds a hand up at Derek’s disbelieving look.

“I don’t know what it looked like, but that’s not how Stiles is. His friends Scott and Allison - you know, Allison Argent? - they're having a baby. Stiles is in full godfather-mode. When he found out about you and Lacey, I found him downloading a bunch of e-books on understanding pre-school development. It’s ridiculous.”

She smiles in exasperation, and Derek feels a warmth blooming up in his chest at the thought. That Stiles - whom he barely knows, really - would take that much time to worry about interacting with his daughter after a single, disastrous date, is awe-inspiring.

“But, that’s Stiles. Any time he’s thrown into uncharted territory he just researches his way out.”

“I had no idea,” he says breathlessly.

“Yeah, because you put an embargo on discussing it and avoided Stiles like the plague,” she scolds. “Look, I’m not saying you have to marry him, just... go on a couple dates, alone. Stop talking yourself out of taking the chance - and don’t think I haven’t heard you giving yourself little out-loud pep-talks, Derek Hale.”

“It’s something my therapist suggested,” he mumbles defensively, and she just splays her fingers out, clearly not wanting to know more. The hand held up comes to rest on Derek’s left biceps, and she squeezes.

“Take advantage of the huge network of people tripping over themselves to babysit your daughter. See if Stiles is someone you’d feel comfortable letting into your life. If not, then you tried, and Lacey doesn’t have to get her world disrupted. You’re big boys - nobody has to get hurt.”

Derek can feel her eyes boring into the side of his face as he thinks, and it’s clear before he’s even made a decision that there’s only one option. The idea of Stiles is wonderful--someone attractive and vibrant and engaging. Someone willing to try to fit all the extra parts of Derek into their life. Who can hold a conversation about literature and food and pop culture and make them all equally interesting. Someone pragmatic, and focused - which is about the last way he would’ve described Stiles when he first saw him, but people can surprise you. He just needs to be brave enough to make the idea a reality.

“We’d have to take it slow,” he says eventually, and she rolls her eyes like he’s wounding her with stupidity.

“Not the person you’re supposed to be having this conversation with,” she tells the ceiling. She rises to her feet, marches to the door, and holds it open. There’s a scared, childish part of Derek that wants to keep going on like this - passing notes via their friend, figuring out the lay of the land before taking a risk - but he knows Lydia is reaching her patience quota, and Stiles deserves a shot.

It’s not committing to anything, he tells himself. What’s the harm in trying?

“Fine,” he grumbles and ducks through the open door.

Stiles is still in the spot where he left him, but sitting now, gazing over his shoulder at the city beyond. He’s cut off from the rest of the revellers, looking reflective and - if Derek isn’t being completely egotistical - a little down. His profile is paradoxically delicate and defined. He taps a finger on the edge of his cup absently.

He flails so hard at the throat-clear that Derek reaches forward to catch him. Stiles rights himself, though, tugging at his shirt and glancing around for somewhere to put his drink when he sees who’s responsible.

“Derek, I thought you-- Forget something?” He licks his lips, and there’s a little swell of pride when Derek realises Stiles - who flirts like he’s in a 80s sitcom and will confidently argue his opinions until his opponent gives in from exhaustion, is breathless and completely flustered to see him.

“No, I... yes,” Derek says and winces. He shoves his hands into his back pockets and takes an ambling step closer. God, he can feel his cheeks burning already. “I forgot to uh-- to give you my number.”

Derek has the opposite of game. Do people even still call it that?

Stiles’ lips part for a too-long moment and then curve in a grin so blinding that Derek can’t help but mirror it.

“Let’s rectify that,” he says.

__

His phone rings around 10:30 the next morning.

“Is it too eager to call someone the morning after getting their number and invite them to brunch?” Stiles’ voice asks, sounding rehearsed and a little unsure. “I’m researching a novel.”

Derek snorts into the handset and folds up the newspaper. The TV channel is blessedly not switched to cartoons, and he’s only been awake for an hour. “Not if they were hoping to hear from you,” he replies.

“Okay good,” Stiles responds, sounding pleased. “So, totally unrelated...Wanna come to brunch?”

___

“This is the part where I make really endearing hints that I wanna see you again,” Stiles says, letting his momentum stumble his long limbs backwards down the subway steps. “And you play all coy but you’re totally thinking of letting me get to second base really soon.”

Derek squints at the signs in front of them, realising they have to take opposite trains - he’s a little saddened by that. “Is that so?” he asks casually.

Stiles nods. “Mmhmm. You’re also wondering if I’ll get the wrong message if you kiss me right now because we’re supposed to be taking it really slow, but you’ve been staring at my mouth so much I thought I still had hollandaise sauce somewhere on my face.”

“You come to a lot of conclusions,” Derek says, turning to look at him. He’d be mad that his eyes reflexively move to Stiles lips, except, well - they’re distracting. He’s only human.

“Hazard of the profession,” Stiles shrugs. “Every self-respecting author should be good with concl-- mmmff.

Derek’s first kiss in four years tastes like fresh-squeezed orange juice and makes his stomach flip like the drop in a rollercoaster. Stiles holds him close like he’s thanking him.

___

Their second, third, and fourth dates all happen to be lunchtime outings during daylight. It’s cute, Derek thinks, that Stiles is so hell-bent on making sure Derek doesn’t feel pressured into anything.

They’ve been through The Conversation: agreeing to take things glacially slow, to be honest with each other if any of it becomes too much for either of them, and to keep everything as private as possible.

The last thing Derek wants is for Lacey to find out that her dad is stepping back into the dating pool through a mistimed comment from a co-worker. It’s a lot; Derek tries to be open with her in every way appropriate, and avoiding lies without attracting her suspicious little glare is proving difficult.

Derek learns about Stiles’ dad, growing up the kid of a small-town sheriff. About going to college with his best friend because the thought of separating was too horrifying. About the summer he spent in Ireland because there were pictures of his mom posed in various tourist sites at Dublin and Dingle and the Giant’s Causeway--places that he wanted to experience personally since he never got to ask her first-hand.

It’s a lot of hand-holding and obvious flirting, stuttered questions and pseudo-arguments over pop culture and foreign policy and hot dog condiments.

Still, on dates two, three and four, he gets to kiss Stiles speechless before they part ways for the subway. His lips are as soft as they look, and he takes these hitching little breaths each time Derek leans in - like he's about to jump off a cliff into freezing, unknown waters - so there are certain incentives.

Dates five, six, and seven surprisingly don’t revolve around food. There’s an entire day traipsing around museums while Stiles mispronounces the names of painters and insists on touching everything; a matinee at the local foreign film festival where they sit as far away from the other viewers as possible and make out like teenagers; a shopping trip where they pick out least-stainable furniture because Derek, contrary to popular belief, does not have that much free time and sometimes he just has to make room. He has a list of brands ordered by durability and consumer rating, and Stiles makes fun of him the entire day yet looks at him like it’s the most endearing thing he's ever seen.

He worries that the PG nature of their relationship might wear them down a little. Thatit took five dates for him to slip his tongue in Stiles’ mouth or that he had to reschedule two of their dates due to Lacey-related issues might strain the tentative balance they’ve got. Somehow, it doesn't - Stiles is attentive and breezy, and every day with him feels like the start of something brand new.

It takes five months to get to date eight- an actual, honest-to-god night time outing - and Lacey is screaming when Derek answers the door to Stiles.

“I was just about to text you,” he blurts, noticing how his date takes a step backwards when hit with the wall of sound. Derek’s house is on the way to the seafront restaurant Stiles has been raving about for weeks, so it just made sense for him to pick Derek up.

Her yells have devolved to frustrated growling now, and the thud of each toy against the wall makes Derek struggle not to wince.

“Bad time?” Stiles asks, raising a brow, but his smile is uncomfortable, and in that moment it flashes before Derek’s eyes how this will play out: Stiles will get a glimpse into Derek’s life, see the realities of raising a kid, and bolt the other direction.

It’s fine. If Stiles isn’t ready for this, Derek can understand. It’s better if it happens now, before he gets attached.

More attached.

“I’m sorry,” Derek says, sighing through his nose. “We were having a discussion about which toys she can bring to Lydia’s, and then this happened.” Derek isn’t even dressed; his shirt is half-buttoned, revealing his tanktop underneath and his hair’s still flat on his forehead.

The ruckus dies down at the sound of voices in the hall, and Derek just knows his daughter’s cocking an ear to figure out who it is. The absence of sound is almost blissful.

“You look like you need a nap and a finger of scotch. Can I come in?”

“You sure you want to?” Derek asks self-deprecatingly, but he steps back nonetheless. Lydia had gotten held up after work, and he’d been trying to keep Lacey occupied until she arrived--until it backfired spectacularly.

“So, how are we doing this?” Stiles asks in lieu of an answer. When Derek just frowns at him, he drops his voice. “Is she supposed to be in time-out or...?”

“Oh,” Derek replies, caught off-guard that Stiles had even thought to ask. “When she gets like this it’s best to ignore her until she’s ready to have a conversation. Attention is just a reward.”

“Alright, cool.” Stiles gets a determined cast to his features and ambles further into the house, looking around thoughtfully. He gets to the living room, where Lacey sits scowling in the middle of the floor, amidst the scattered contents of her toy box. Her face lights up with curiosity when she notices a newcomer to her space, and she pushes her hair away from her tear-stained cheeks. It seems to be enough of a distraction to calm her down, but not a solution.

“Spaceship Man?” she says softly.

Stiles lets out a theatrical sigh directed at Derek and looks sadly at an oddly-bent action figure by his foot. “I kinda wanted to play, but I can’t when everything’s all over the floor like this.”

Lacey gets to her feet. Derek feels the beginnings of a smile tug at his lips but plays along. “Yeah, I’m sorry, maybe you’ll have to come back another time - when Lacey Hale is ready to talk like a grown-up instead of throwing things.”

He can see her move closer as they talk, but he keeps his focus on Stiles’ eyes, and the soft quirk of his lips.

“Yeah, that’s too bad.”

Lacey peers up at him for a moment, but Stiles determinedly stares at the toy and shrugs.

“I guess I’ll just have to go, then. I can’t even look at this mess.” He covers his face with his hands and shakes his head.

Lacey’s eyes widen, and Derek watches from the corner of his as she begins to scurry around, picking up armfuls of toys and depositing them back in the box with a single-minded focus he only ever sees when she’s claimed his phone for a game of Tiny Wings.

“I cleaned up!” she declares. “We can play now if you want to!”

Derek looks around seriously. “Well, look at that Stiles - it’s all clean now. Do you think you’re ready to play?” Stiles lowers his hands and looks around in mock awe.

“I think I could, what do you think?”

He crouches down to face his daughter and looks her in the eye. “Are you sorry for your behaviour?”

“I’m sorry Daddy,” she says morosely.

“That’s good - saying sorry when you do something wrong is good. But, do you know why it was wrong?

Lacey looks at the ground. “Because nobody wanted to play with me...?”

Derek tries not to laugh at the grave tone of her voice. “Not exactly - are we supposed to throw things when we don’t get our way?”

She shakes her head.

“Would you want to play with someone who throws their toys around?”

She shakes her head again.

“And why not?”

“Because they might break something.”

Derek nods his own head in acquiesce, remembering their discussion about consequences and forethought, quietly proud that she remembered it so well. “That’s true. Or they could hurt somebody, and all because they were mad for a few minutes. Do you think that’s smart? Screaming and yelling when we’re mad?

“No.”

“Babies scream and yell when they’re trying to say something - but that’s because they can’t talk. Someone who’s five and can talk so wellwould know better, right?”

She nods solemnly. “Right.”

He gives her a smile and straightens up. “I think you’ve shown me that you get it, though if it happens again, I’m not gonna be quite so lenient. Maybe you can show Stiles some of your toys until Lydia comes?” He phrases it like a question, casting a looks at Stiles who nods enthusiastically and falls to his knees, picking up random items out of the box.

“What does this one do?” he asks, and Derek wanders off to finish getting ready to the sound of Lacey’s overly-detailed explanation.

The face in the mirror is grinning so wide it’s almost worrying, and he catches himself zoning out more than once before the doorbell rings, and Lacey’s footsteps thud towards it.

“Hey Bossbabe!” she enthuses over Lacey’s excited shouting. “You ready to go?”

“I was showing Stiles how to pair an on-sum... en-sam...”

“Ensemble?” Lydia finishes, when Derek makes it out to the hall to find Stiles standing awkwardly with his hands in his back pockets. “I’ve been trying to do that for years. Do you think he gets it now?”

Lacey turns to give him an assessing look and chews her lip. “We’ll see.”

Stiles holds his hands out in mock offence, and Lydia shoots him a sweet smile, taking the overnight bag from a laughing Derek.

“Clothes and her bedtime books,” he explains. “No more than two stories: one for her to read to you, and one for you to read to her - but she knows not to ask for extra.” He gives Lacey a pointed look. She tilts her chin up defiantly.

“Are you bringing a toy?” Lydia inquires, then furrows her brow when both men wince. Lacey’s eyes train on the floor.

“Daddy and I got in a fight about it,” she informs. “I don’t think I’m allowed.”

Derek wishes she’d never learned what buttons to push and sighs through his nose. “I meant it when I said one or none. If you chose one than you can bring it.”

She’s a blur when she darts back into the living room and returns with her LeapPad, tucking it under her arm. “Lydia and I can get some work done,” she declares haughtily.

“I get the feeling whatever’s on yours will be much more interesting than mine,” Lydia grins. “Okay, kiss Daddy goodnight!”

She smacks one on his cheek when he crouches and then waves at Stiles. “Bye, Spaces-- Stiles! Bye, Daddy!”

Derek leans against the door when he shuts it, heaving out an exhausted breath.

“You sure you even have the energy to go out?” Stiles asks sympathetically, smirking at him. “It’s cool if you just need to crash in a quiet house for--”

Derek curls his fingers into the front of Stiles’ jacket and pulls, feeling the swell of fondness buzz over his skin when Stiles’ weight crashes into him. He kisses a genuine smile into Stiles’ lips, thankful and loving and happy. He snorts at the soft thud of hands breaking fall on the door by Derek’s ears. Stiles blinks at him in shock, eyes tracking over his expression.

“I don’t wanna go out,” he tells him and leans back in.

No one could ever say Stiles isn’t quick. It takes about a fraction of a second for him to take a breath, get with the program, and start kissing back. There’s a featherlight touch to Derek’s shoulders, but the moment Derek opens his mouth and sucks Stiles’ bottom lip between his own, the surprise has dissipated. Suddenly he’s being yanked away from the wood, Stiles’ hands weaving into his hair, led on a stumbling trip back to the living room.

This is more than they’ve done - by a long shot. Every press-of-lips was chaste and innocent in comparison. This is making Derek’s blood heat up, his hands tingling as he urges Stiles’ coat off his shoulders and they tumble on to the couch.

“Wait, wait! Kidneys!” Stiles pants, easing Derek back up to reach beneath himself and extract a headless doll from between the cushions. He makes a scandalized face at it, raising a brow. “That’s not creepy...”

Derek just pulls it out of his hand and tosses it away, nipping at Stiles lips’ and jaw until he’s lying back, pliant and sucking in tickled breaths.

He just needs to touch, to keep Stiles right here. Having him in his home, so comfortable and suited and fitting so perfectly there is waking up warring instincts inside Derek. He wants to debauch Stiles, to ruin him until he’s nothing but soft, bitten lips and spent cock and sweaty hair - then keep him, safe and domestic as they lie close, sharing breath.

It’s intense, and when Derek grinds his hips down, seeking blessed friction and Stiles groans and pushes back, something baser takes over.

It’s seven pm, and Derek’s stripping a man’s clothes off on the couch in his own living room, muffling curses into the guy’s throat like they shouldn’t be heard. The sun hasn’t even set. He’d think he was losing his mind if it wasn’t Stiles under him, throwing his head back and grinning even as he winces in pleasure.

“Spent way too long imagining what you looked like under your clothes,” Stiles confesses, pushing up to mouth under Derek’s collarbone. He’s got a hand splayed between Derek's shoulder blades, fingers digging in, but all Derek can do is press him back down. He hasn’t gotten his fill of looking at Stiles yet, either, and the way his stomach muscles clench when he laughs is nothing short of mesmerizing.

They move together, skin-on skin, and it’s not enough, not for the spill of emotions threatening to tumble from Derek’s lips when the light changes just so, and Stiles blinks up at him. There’s a tiny crease between his brows, like everything feels so good he can’t stand it, so Derek kisses him hard enough that he doesn’t even breathe.

Derek grunts “I need to--”

“Yeah-- fuck... You got anything?” Stiles asks when Derek moves on to his neck, and it says a lot about how rusty Derek probably is that it takes him a moment. He blinks.

“Any-- yeah. Bathroom. Wait... wait here.”

Stiles snorts, like he doesn’t have anything else in mind, as Derek stumbles off the couch wincing when he tucks his dick away in his briefs.

He races down the hallway, spinning around in a half-circle once he’s inside. He has condoms and lube, he thinks, in the cabinet, but when he opens it, he sees the top shelf - the same shelf as Lacey’s kid-friendly tylenol. He hesitates as he reaches for what he needs, letting the mirrored door slip shut. The silence of the room makes him realize how hard his heart is pounding.

In his reflection, there are marks from Stiles’ mouth on his chest and the beginnings of stubble burn on his neck. His hair, which hadn’t been exactly neat before, is pushed this way and that - but most obvious of all is the look in Derek’s eyes - awe-filled and nervous as hell.

Catching his breath, he marvels at the rush of affection and hormones or whatever the fuck it was that got him like this. Derek’s subconsciously shut down every prospective partner for the past four years because of his situation, and Stiles just broke down every single barrier like it was nothing.

It’s terrifying. He could easily talk himself out of this, he thinks, if he wanted to. But he finds he doesn’t. Not even if his muscles are trembling from anxiety.

This is a positive step, he tells the mirror, bracing his palms on the sink for support. His hands are sweating and he’s not sure if it’s because of Stiles or because he’s breathing so hard the glass is fogging up. He licks his lips. You can be both a dad and a person. Even if it’s not a forever-thing, you still deserve this. He nods, clenching his jaw as he realises how much he doesn’t want the last part to be true. Stiles is... good. He’s not gonna run. He knows your deal. Derek fights a smile, rolling his lips. He makes you feel... interesting, and like you’re a whole other person.

“He....said really nice things about your ass.”

Okay, so he’s speaking aloud now.

He straightens up just as there’s a knock to the door from Stiles. “Uh, you okay in there?”

Derek takes a calming breath and turns. You have a lot to offer, too, even if you do talk to yourself in the mirror, he decides, grasping for the handle.

Stiles looks at him unsurely when he gets the door open. Derek holds the box and bottle up awkwardly in explanation, but it doesn’t look like he’s really buying it.

“We can... I know this is kind of out of the blue and stuff, so...”

Derek snorts. “We’ve been dating for five months, Stiles.”

“I meant out of the blue tonight,” he says ruefully. He threads a hand into his hair and steps back. “I know I just invited myself in and I’m kind of irresistible and all, but if you still need time, I get it.” He’s hiding behind his well-honed bravado again, but Derek sees the thread of awkwardness in his stance, how part of him is bracing for rejection and giving Derek an out.

And that, right then, is what cements the decision for Derek. He takes Stiles by the hand and steers him to his bedroom--bed unmade and totally unprepared for this. He pulls Stiles backwards toward it, kissing as they go, and they stop at the last hurdle.

“You do this thing where you kiss me instead of answering me, and I’m into it... but also confused,” he says, nudging his nose against Derek’s. His lashes cast shadows on the delicate skin under his eyes, and Derek has to tense himself from just surging forward.

“You keep saying things that make me wanna kiss you,” Derek replies, pressing their lips together again. They fall back on to the covers, skin tingling at every point they touch. Derek braces himself above Stiles, looking at him intently.

“You still get to back out of this, you know,” Stiles tells him seriously, reaching up to tug lightly on Derek’s hair. It feels so good he wants to groan.

“Same goes for you,” Derek says quietly. “Tonight was just a taste. You sure you wanna walk into a situation where screaming and throwing things are the usual result of a disagreement?”

“You weren’t a witness to my previous relationship,” Stiles smirks. It falls away at how nervous Derek must look. “Hey, I’m not going into this with my eyes closed.”

“I just...know it’s a lot.”

“I think you underestimate how intelligent, kind, funny and incredibly fucking hot you are. I’ll run the risk of concussion-by-Barbie any day of the week for that combination.”

Derek lets himself feel relieved. “What about unexplained stains on your clothes?”

“Freshman year of college,” Stiles shoots back and then frowns. “Actually, every year of college.”

“Little to no sleep?”

“I chose my apartment based on the proximity to coffee shops.”

“Listening to the same kid-friendly versions of popular chart songs twelve times in a row.”

“Scott’s deep in an Ariana Grande phase. I’m actually kind of into it.”

“There’s a strong possibility that we’ll get interrupted seventy percent of the time we try to have sex.”

Stiles surges up and rolls them until he’s pinning Derek down. “Then why the hell are we wasting this golden opportunity?” he asks, and slides his hand inside Derek’s underwear. There’s a split second of wondering if he should be embarrassed that he’s getting hard again so quickly, that his chest is flushed with heat and his chin’s tipping back the second Stiles ghosts his lips across his throat, but he can feel the hard line of Stiles’ dick grinding against his hip and knows he’s not the only one feeling like this.

The noises he makes are addictive, and Derek gets so lost in drawing each one out of him that the sun disappears outside, casting the room in darkness save for a lone street lamp. All he knows is the fan of Stiles’ breath across his face, the touch of his hands on him, and the scent of his skin, salty-sweet with sweat and heat.

“How did you-- ngh. How did you wanna--” the sentence turns into a startled huff when Derek nips softly at his neck, and Stiles’ fingers tighten on his thigh, framing himself in. Derek’s bottom lip catches on his jaw, and his stomach flips when he realises what he wants.

“Sit,” he says, pushing him away. There’s a span of silence where Stiles seems to process what he means, and then the bed shakes as Stiles eagerly clambers to the headboard, obeying. Derek flips over, grinning, and stalk-crawls up the bed until he can lay a hand on Stiles’ knee, squeezing as he throws his own over, straddling him. He presses their lips together with enough force to bump Stiles’ head against the wood.

“Sorry,” he apologizes, but Stiles laughs against his clavicle, running his hand down between his shoulder blades. He stops at the curve of Derek’s ass, leaving wet little kisses over his shoulder.

“Can I?” he murmurs, tracing a finger down the cleft. Derek has to physically restrain himself from bucking at the sensation. It’s been so long.

He finds Stiles’ lips again, reaching for where he thinks he threw the lube bottle. His heart pounds when he gets a hand on it, tugging Stiles’ wrist between them to pass it to him.

“Slow,” he says self-consciously, breathing against Stiles’ jaw.

Patience is never a virtue Derek would have attributed to the guy he met all those months ago, but the way Stiles opens him up, teasingly slow, feels like it’s lighting every nerve ending Derek has. He’s all gentle hands and soft kisses, until he isn’t. Derek’s working his hips back without even thinking when Stiles finally gropes for the condom, stilling him with a strong, sure hand.

“You wanna take me in?” he asks quietly. This is the guy Derek has come to know: putting the control in Derek’s hands, letting him go at his own pace because they both want to get to the same destination. Derek can only hum in response and grinds his hips gently, enjoying the tease of where Stiles is holding his cock against his opening. He reaches back, then, breathing deep as he eases himself down. A passing car lights up the room for a moment, and Stiles has his head tipped back, biting hard on his bottom lip as Derek sinks lower. His eyes snap to Derek’s in the beam of light, full of pleasured awe. It’s been a while since anyone could make him feel so desired with just a look.

He takes a second to just breathe when he’s fully seated, sharing air with Stiles’ parted lips. He finds he’s shuddering, the intensity of being full making his muscles contract. Experimentally, he moves.

It feels so good he has to brace his hands on the headboard, rolling and grinding his hips to the soundtrack of Stiles’ bit-back groans and soft encouragements. He feels powerful, as gorgeous as Stiles is telling him he is. He can’t think or speak through the primal drive for release. Stiles holds him though it, kissing and heaving startled breaths into his shoulder. It’s a surprise to both when Stiles goes rigid beneath him, swearing deep and shamelessly as he comes.

Derek is covered in a sheen of sweat by the time his own orgasm comes. Muscles he forgot he had strain and protest under his movements, but the hand Stiles gets on his cock feels so fucking good, he’s boneless and shaking when he lets go. He breathes into the juncture of Stiles’ neck, mindlessly happy and sated, letting the fingers gently carding through his hair anchor him to earth.

___

“Hey, I read this one,” Stiles muses from in front of the bookshelf. He’s munching on a bowl of Lacey’s Cap’n Crunch, pointing at the spine of one of Derek’s parenting titles with his spoon. The image of him in a pair of Derek’s sweats, slung so low on his hips the adorable dimples above the swell of his butt are on show, is pretty fucking distracting. Derek only realises he’s staring when Stiles turns fully, switching the view for that of his happy-trail.

Derek thinks if he could time-travel like one of the characters in Stiles’ book, he’d warn his past self about this moment. That no matter how gone he thought he was over Stiles those first months after they met, it was only going to get worse. In the best way possible.

He smirks, pretending to be absorbed in the final draft that he’s finally getting to enjoy. “What, back when you started reading that stuff to get in my pants?”

“Hey, it worked, didn’t it?” Stiles shoots back, meandering over to plant his knees either side of Derek’s hips. He takes a victory-spoon of the cereal, crunching it obnoxiously.

“You have smug-face down to an art,” Derek tells him, dutifully opening up when Stiles offers him a spoonful. He’s going to have to replace Lacey’s Weekend Reward Breakfast anyway, so he feels less guilty about contributing to the theft.

As soon as he’s thought about her, the rattle of the front door has them both freezing in place.

“I thought you said Lydia wouldn’t bring her back until the afternoon?” Stiles hisses, but a glance at the clock makes Derek realise how caught up he’s been having Stiles in his space. It’s 1.37. Derek just gapes, and there’s a patter of little feet down the hall as Stiles is scrambling off of him, migrating to a safe distance at the other end of the couch. He pulls on a discarded shirt from who knows where, forcing his body to look relaxed.

“Daddy! Lydia brought me to the nail salon and--”

His daughter’s eyes widen when she sees that he’s not alone. Derek’s heart is pounding, cursing himself for getting so absorbed in this, for not putting his little girl first. This is how she finds out her dad’s dating again. This is among her earliest impressions of Stiles. His grip on the coffee mug in his hand is white-knuckled, mind racing desperately for something to say.

“Really Daddy?” Lacey says accusingly. She drops her overnight bag on the floor, folds her little arms, and glares. “How come you get to have sleepovers with your boyfriend, but I don’t?”

___

Six Months Later

“So, Stiles - a lot of the feedback coming about about this new title is commenting on several new themes. Can you tell us anything about the change to your focus? Was Lightyear a once-off?”

Stiles shifts under the studio lights, thinking about the question. “These are the same people who said I went ‘soft’, I guess,” he smiles, letting the criticism run off his back to the audience’s polite laughter. “I think that’s only if you look at each work on the surface. Lightyear came from a place of anger and disappointment. Gravitate is just as important to me. They’re polar opposites. I needed to tell a different kind of story.”

“So would you say that the central love story isn’t as important as some early reviews are making it out to be? People are already fan-casting the leads for the movie!”

Stiles glances off set reflexively, where Derek is standing with Lacey on his hip, watching the monitors. She’s holding a You can do it Stiles! sign distractedly in one hand, forgotten now that she sees someone she knows on TV. Derek glances up, catches his eye, and smiles.

“It’s absolutely important,” Stiles responds, before turning back to his interviewer. “Gravitate is about finding your way;, about things happening in your life that seem like you’re being dealt a bad hand... but it’s all learning. It makes you into the person you’re supposed to be. Maybe you meet someone who isn’t there to fix you, or coach you, but complement you after you’ve had that growth.” He smiles wistfully. “Maybe if you’d met each other three years earlier, you wouldn’t have been good together at all. It’s not about soulmates - it’s about individuals falling in and out of each other’s orbit until the circumstances are right, and they can finally line up. That’s the story I wanted to tell.”

The studio goes quiet, and Stiles shares another smile with Derek, his chest light and happy. That’s the story Stiles lives.

“But for the record, my dream cast are Pettyfer and Reynolds,” he smirks, breaking the seriousness of the moment. “If I had to choose.”

END