Actions

Work Header

Three Phone Calls

Chapter Text

In a sleek, industrial-style taproom downtown, with a light rain drifting onto the streets outside and reflecting the neon and traffic signals in a glowing haze, Stiles leaned against a polished quartz bartop.

And he looked damn good.

Earlier that night, Lydia came over. Her PhD program helped with housing, but she got bored of living on-campus with a bunch of undergrads—who were all her own age—so every once in awhile, she deigned to visit the commoners in Stiles’s and Scott’s shitty outer-borough complex.

“What’s up baby-doll?” She’d teased, leaning against Stiles’s banged-up doorframe luxuriously. “Is there a reason you’re wearing pants tight enough to strangle the python?”

“Hopefully the python won’t be strangled for long,” Stiles joked back automatically. “I’ve got a date.”

“Ohhh, with who?” She fell onto his bed, bouncing a bit before snuggling into his comforter.

“One of my clients.” No matter what he did, his ridiculous hair wouldn’t obey. “He’s nice, but—I don’t know. He’s older. Like, late thirties older. So I don’t think it’ll go anywhere. Yet I’m still nervous, for some weird fucking reason.”

“An older man, huh? Is he a hottie?”

“Meh, I think so.”

“Rich?”

Stiles raised an eyebrow at her. “All my clients are rich. And busy. That’s why they hire a freakin’ dogwalker.”

“Nice,” Lydia said, smirking. “Free dinner.”

Stiles huffed a laugh. “It fucking better be. If he makes me pay, we’re not gonna get much more than water.”

“That’s my boy! Wring ‘em dry.”

Stiles ignored her. His hair was a much more pressing matter.

“Why are you nervous?” Lydia asked, rolling onto her back and checking her nails. “Isn’t he just some old geezer?”

“Honestly?” Stiles huffed. He’d have to leave his hair for later; he still needed to pick out a nice shirt. “He’s, uh—straight, sort of. He told me that I’m his first man.”

Stiles,” Lydia said crossly. “What have I told you about straight men?”

He rolled his eyes, but couldn’t avoid grinning a bit. “That they’re boring and terrible in bed.”

“And am I ever wrong?”

No, but—hey wait, why are you so sure I’m gonna sleep with him? It’s just a first date. I’m not that easy.”

“Stiles.” She rose from the bed, stood in front of him, and took both of his shoulders in hand. She smiled gently. “You absolutely are that easy.”

He opened his mouth to argue, but stopped. After a moment of thought, he asked: “Am I really?”

“When we took that red-eye to the Caribbean for spring break, you screwed one of the flight attendants in the lavatory.”

“…Fair point.”

Lydia nodded in quiet victory. “But, if you’re absolutely determined to seduce a formerly-straight man to the queer side…” She turned him by the shoulders to face the mirror. “You’ll need a certain look.”

Over an hour and countless plucked eyebrow hairs later, Stiles was finally in the bar, waiting for his date to show up.

He’d never even come close to looking this good in his entire life. Lydia had let him keep the black pants—“How would we even get you out of them?”—but had added a gunmetal-gray button-up to the ensemble, along with a fitted blazer Stiles normally only wore to funerals. She’d insisted on his black boots—“We need to remind everyone you’re not straight”—and had fixed his disastrous hair effortlessly, somehow managing to squeeze a miracle out of a hair product bottle.

Then she’d gone to town on his brows, forcibly pinched his lips until they were pink and a little swollen, and “fitted” his button-up with a bunch of safety pins along his back.

So, yeah, he looked incredible. But it was only because—through the power of a girl genius and the magic of fashion—he’d been turned into a sexy pin-cushion.

And now, it seemed like his date wouldn’t even show.

Which meant no free dinner, time wasted, and one less dog to walk.

It was forty minutes past the allotted time of arrival when Stiles decided fuck it, hollered the bartender over, and ordered the absolute cheapest drink in the house. When it arrived, he pounded the near-entirety of it immediately. It was sour, but so was he, so they were perfect for each other.

Stiles had always known he’d find his soulmate over a glass of booze.

“Are you alone?” Some guy asked from behind Stiles’s shoulder.

Stiles huffed, took a final swig, and waved a hand flippantly, gaze never leaving the too-expensive black quartz under his arms. He said, bitterly: “Yes. Yeah, I’m alone. I’m assuming you have eyes.”

“But…how?”

“Because that ass-muncher chickened the fuck out—oh…hi.”

Over-the-shoulder guy was attractive enough to be literally terrifying. He wore a fitted designer suit, as though he’d just gotten off from a job with a salary; yet his infuriatingly chiseled face was underlined with a five-o’clock shadow, like he was the one paying the salaries.

“What are you drinking?” He asked.

Stiles tore his eyes away in order to stare blankly at his empty glass. “I…don’t even know.”

The man huffed, amused, and Stiles thought he might develop cataracts from enduring his smile. “I’ll make a guess, then.”

“You do that,” he replied, nearly breathless.

The man sat down at the barstool next to him. Stiles was still not quite understanding this entire development, so he just blinked and mouth-breathed in silence.

“What’s your name?”

“Stiles,” he answered, perhaps too quickly. When the man seemed a bit confused, Stiles went on: “It’s not my real name. But my real name—you don’t need to know it.” Because it’s too hard to pronounce died in his throat, because he realized that he was probably being rude. He rushed out: “I mean…just, Stiles. My name is Stiles. Everyone calls me that.”

The man nodded, accepting. “I’m Derek.”

They shook hands. The situation was finally starting to dawn on him, so Stiles smiled, determined to salvage whatever he could of a shitty night out.

“It’s good to meet you,” Stiles said—and congratulated himself silently. That had seemed functional.

Derek smiled back, but his eyes swiftly left Stiles’s face to quite obviously peruse his neck and collarbones. After a moment of blatant staring—complete with raised eyebrows, a tense mouth, and flared nostrils—he coughed and turned away to place an order with the bartender.

Stiles made a note to buy Lydia flowers.

After their orders were in, Derek turned back and said: “So…you got stood up?”

Stiles laughed a little, shrugging awkwardly. “Aha, yeah, guess so. But in retrospect, I’m not really surprised.”

Derek frowned and narrowed his eyes, seeming truly puzzled.

“My date, ah…was a little scared to meet me, I think.”

Derek continued to look puzzled, frowny, and revoltingly handsome.

“It was one of my newer clients,” Stiles went on, trying to cover his nervousness with more light laughter. “He was an older guy, never been with another man, and—”

Oh,” Derek said, finally seeming to catch on that Stiles was the type of person who got stood up in bars he couldn’t afford to use the bathroom in.

“Oh, indeed.”

“Well,” Derek shrugged, shifting in his seat a little.

“Well…?” Stiles asked, grinning. He could totally pull this off.

“Well. His loss then.”

“I’ll cheers to that.”

The bartender must have smelled the wealth wafting off of Derek and his fitted suit, because their drinks arrived in record time. And the cocktails must have been costly, too: Stiles’s concoction was glinting with what appeared to be real flakes of gold.

It also tasted like Apollo had nutted directly into his mouth.

“So, Derek,” Stiles said, thanking his lucky stars that his first, much cheaper drink was blessing him with a bit of confidence. “What do you do?”

“I manage and rent out properties.”

“You’re a landlord?”

“Technically, I guess. I lease out luxury apartments and office buildings.”

Stiles blinked dumbly. “Whole buildings? Entire ones? Do you mean, like…out-of-state?”

“No. Here in the city.”

Apollo’s sperm nearly spurted out of Stiles’s nostrils. He covered it up with a cough and a smooth, almost-casual: “That sounds stressful.”

“Sometimes,” Derek said nonchalantly. “But my family’s always been in the business. I learned a lot from my mom and older sister.”

“How nice.”

“Except they’re not really nice. They’re nicknamed the ‘alpha wolves’ of New York.”

Stiles couldn’t quite contain his hysterical laugh; it jolted from him like a hiccup. “The wolves of Wall Street?”

Derek opened his mouth to answer, but quickly stopped, looking away again. He actually blushed. “When you say it like that, it… sounds stupid.”

“No!” Stiles rushed out—even though it totally was. But he wasn’t willing to lose this miraculous opportunity over a half-baked wolf media reference. “It’s not stupid. But it is kinda funny.”

“Fair enough,” Derek said, sipping his drink almost bashfully. “I would ask what it is you do, but…I guess I already know.”

Stiles froze in horror. Did he smell like dog?

Abruptly, Derek swigged his drink and leaned closer, elbow splayed along the bar. “How much would it be?”

Stiles’s perfectly sculpted eyebrows fled towards his scalp. “What?”

“For the—oh, this must be tactless, right?” Derek leaned back, eyes shifty and avoiding. “Here, just—write it down, and I won’t say anything else.”

Derek reached into his suit jacket—chest beneath startlingly solid—and withdrew a small black leather book. He set it down on the shiny quartz bartop, flipped it open, and set a pen down next to it with a clack.

Finally, Stiles realized: it was his checkbook.

Derek was soliciting him.

In shock and a bit of horror, Stiles pushed the book away fiercely. “What is wrong with you?” He hissed.

“Is this not tact—”

No, it’s not tactful.”

“But—”

“Now you listen here,” Stiles interrupted, raising a single finger. But just as he was about to cuss the guy out, pulling every colorful insult from his inventive menagerie, he noticed how soft and vulnerable his face looked, eyes on Stiles like he was looking at someone out of his league.

It was so bizarre and jarring that Stiles just said the first thing that came to mind.

“This is highly unexpected.”

“I know,” Derek replied, gritting his jaw and shifting in his chair. “You came to meet another client. But he’s not here, and I just thought…” His eyes quickly flitted up and down Stiles’s body; he took a big breath in, avoiding eye contact all the while, and let the air out in a quiet huff. “This is probably a bad thing to say, but—just tell me how much. A thousand, or—whatever, I don’t care what it is; I’ll pay it.”

Stiles, once again, just stared and blinked at him, mouth hanging open.

He put his single finger up again, a little higher this time. “Excuse me. For just a second.”

Stiles practically back-flipped his way past the bar, through the sparse crowd, and onto the sidewalk outside.

[1]

“Scott, oh my god, Scotty. Thank fuck you answered.”

“What? What’s wrong?”

“I’m in a bit of a pickle.”

“What did you do?”

“Nothing! Well—I’m gonna do something.”

“…Is it illegal?”

Very.”

“Don’t then!”

“But—just hear me out, okay? Hear me out. So, I’m in this swanky bar. My date doesn’t show, even though I look edible. Like—sexy edible, not just regular made-of-flesh edible. Anyway—”

“Does it involve coke?”

“No.”

“Hard drugs of any kind? You know your meds don’t play well.”

No.”

“What is it then?”

“I was getting there. So I’m edible, at bar, stood up, and this guy shows up out of nowhere—”

“Is he a cop?”

“…I’m not sure, actually, but I highly doubt it. This bar is too bougie for that undercover shit.”

“Okay. That’s good.”

“Yeah. Anyway, he’s incredibly hot, and we get to small-talk, and suddenly—he, uh…”

“…Is in the mafia?”

“He wants to fuck me.”

“Uh. Okay?”

“He offered me a thousand dollars. Just, to, like…fuck me.”

“…Stiles.”

“I didn’t lie to him! He assumed!”

“Stiles.”

“It’s a miscommunication!”

“Did you un-miscommunicate?”

“…No.”

“You’re not a hooker, Stiles.”

“Okay, yes, true, but—for a thousand dollars.”

“Stiles.”

“He implied that that was, like, the starting point. Like I could ask for more.”

Stiles.”

Scott.”

“…”

“…”

“You’re sure he’s not a cop?”

“Way too sloppy to be a cop. He told me to write down my price on the bar counter. In his private checkbook.”

“Wow.”

“Exactly. It’s shooting fish in a barrel. Extremely sexy fish.”

“But will the fish murder you?”

“There comes a time when we all must ask ourselves that question.”

“Stiles, seriously—can you at least keep me updated on your exact location?”

“Of course. Wait—are you giving me permission?”

“No! But I already know you’re gonna do it, and if I keep telling you no, you’ll just do it stupidly. I want you safe.”

Aw, Scotty, my dainty darling clownfish…Remind me to marry you in a few decades, when both of us are lonely spinsters.”

“Shut up. I’m furious with you.”

What? What if I die tonight? You really want our last convo—”

“Don’t you even fucking joke about it.”

“Okay, look, gotta go—and just FYI, I love you deeply, you’re the best, and I’m currently at a fancy taproom called Goose & Hollow, talking business with a guy named Derek Hale who is literally stupid enough to flash me his real checkbook that is plastered with his actual, real name. His whole family is in property management or some shit; I guess the name kinda rings a bell.”

“When you get back home, safe and totally unharmed, I am going to kill you.”

“Smooches, TTYL.”

[~]

Stiles approached the bar again, chest throbbing in an intoxicating mixture of confidence and utter petrification. He caught Derek’s eye and smiled.

Derek, bless his heart, actually appeared relieved. “I thought you’d caught a taxi.”

“Without you? Never,” Stiles said, somehow managing to keep his volume and tone level. He laid a hand along Derek’s forearm gently. “Before we head out, though…”

“What?” Derek asked impatiently.

Slowly, Stiles grinned, trying his best to channel Lydia’s patented sweetheart, I’m better expression. “What’s the catch?”

“…What?”

“The catch, Der-Bear,” Stiles repeated, and slid his perfectly cradled, practically cellophaned ass into the closest barstool. While he wasn’t a slick or seductive person by any means, Stiles had some idea of what those people were like.

So he just. Pretended.

He started the charade by crossing his legs—gliding a quick touch along Derek’s calf—and propping one arm on the bar, then set his chin atop a delicately curled hand. He tilted his head in a way that should be vaguely cute, and let his neck stretch from his collarbones subtly.

When he spoke once more, Derek was yet again staring at the exposed crook of his neck. Success. “From what you’ve shown me so far, you’re a handsome, rich man with at least a bare handle on human language. I’d get it if you were older, or married, or just passing through—but honestly, you should have no problem finding dates. So why are you doing this?”

Derek frowned and looked away. “That’s none of your business.”

“Well, if you want to be inside me at some point tonight, I say it is my business.”

How the hell Stiles kept a composed face as he said that, he didn’t know—but it was all the sweeter as he saw Derek’s face go pink, tensing and cringing in discomfort.

Derek looked supremely pissed off as he said: “It’s because—just—I’m bad at dating, all right.”

“You’re…bad at it.”

“Yeah.”

Stiles raised a single brow. “I’m…sorry to hear that?”

“No, you don’t understand,” Derek went on, flicking the last of his drink back in frustration. “I consistently make awful dating decisions. My taste is terrible. Literally the absolute worst.”

“Oh come on; it can’t be that bad—”

“Two of my exes are in prison for attempted murder.”

“—Okay, yes, the worst.”

“I’m tired of the whole charade,” he said, scowling. “I’m tired of meeting someone, thinking they’re genuine, and finding out everything was just a huge lie.”

And Stiles, the charade-playing liar, just shifted in his seat awkwardly.

“Sorry,” Derek said gruffly. “You probably don’t want to deal with someone else’s baggage.”

Stiles shrugged and plastered a smile on, determined to fake it to make it. “I did ask. Don’t sweat it.”

“Do you have any more questions for me?” Derek asked, false-patience blatantly mingled with sarcasm.

On a panicked whim, Stiles asked: “Do you have any cash on you?”

Derek frowned, took out his wallet, and rifled through. “About six hundred. Why?”

Why—why do you have that much?”

Derek looked at him like he’d just asked why the earth was round.

So Stiles said: “You know what—whatever. Can we leave?”

“Yes.”

“Great, good, let’s go.”

As they walked towards the exit, Derek tried to place a hand on Stiles’s lower back. Stiles was so nervous about everything that he swatted it away.

To cover up that possible hooker-faux pas, he hurried away from Derek’s side and towards the curb, holding an arm up for the passing taxis.

Derek came to a stand next to him and scoffed. “Don’t be disgusting,” he said, and reached into his jacket to grab his phone. He jabbed at the touch-screen, brought the speaker up to his ear, and said: “I’m ready.”

Immediately, a black Lexus came to a halt in front of them.

“O-kay,” Stiles breathed out.

Derek held open the door to the backseat. “Is something wrong?”

In mild awe, Stiles looked from the backseat to Derek and back, absolutely motionless. “This is your car? With a chauffeur?”

“Yes,” Derek replied, curt. When Stiles still didn’t move: “I know it’s last year’s model—”

“It’s fine,” Stiles rushed out. He climbed in, slid over to the other side, and buckled up in record time. “It’s totally fine.”

“Next time, I’ll pick you up in the Camaro.”

Stiles huffed a laugh, sharp and quietly terrified. “Slow down buddy; there hasn’t even been a this time yet.”

And with that, Stiles crossed his legs, leaned against the car door, and considered the pros and cons of barrel-rolling into oncoming traffic.

He’d only been alive for two decades, so there wasn’t a lot that Stiles knew. But he did know one thing for sure: he was an idiot. What the fresh fuck was he doing? This was sex work; it wasn’t something you just picked up on a whim—especially when you don’t actually know the details, conventions, and norms surrounding it.

And when your dad was in law enforcement.

If he turned up dead, Stiles wouldn’t be surprised in the least. Even if Derek didn’t kill him, his father would gladly finish the job.

Which reminded him to text Scott: “Black Lexus, last year’s model; moving down Upper East Side on First Ave.”

“Are you texting right now?”

“Uh, yeah, why?” Stiles replied, glancing up with false nonchalance. Derek glared at him sternly—except he was pouting, so Stiles could hardly take him seriously. He teased: “Are you feeling left out?”

Derek looked out the window, seemingly resolved to sulk his way back into Stiles’s attention.

“Sorry, Der-Bear,” Stiles said. He smiled fondly. “I was just texting my contact. Gotta make sure they know where to look for my body.”

That got Derek to look at him again, face set in alarm.

“Kidding! Just kidding. But I am playing this safe. You can’t fault me for that, right?”

“No,” Derek said, crossing his arms petulantly.

It was the perfect opportunity for Stiles to slide over—scooch, really, since it wasn’t that spacious and he was buckled in—and graze a gentle palm along Derek’s thigh. “Don’t worry. I’ll keep the distractions to a bare minimum. Promise.”

Before he went any further, however, Stiles looked sideways at the chauffeur. He kept his face absolutely stone-still as he caught the man’s eye in the rear-view mirror.

Derek took the hint and rolled up the car divide.

“Don’t worry,” Derek said. “Boyd is discreet.”

“Not with his opinion,” Stiles mumbled, referring to the merciless stink-glare he’d received in the span of a blink.

“What?”

“Nothing.” They were halted at a red light, so Stiles unbuckled his seat belt and swung himself onto Derek’s lap. Surprisingly, fear made him smoother than silk. “Hold onto me; we’re moving again and I’m spurning vehicular safety rules.”

That didn’t seem to be a challenging request. One moment, Derek was limp and relaxed in his seat; the next, he was groping and squeezing Stiles’s ass with a gusto heretofore unknown to humanity.

Other than that, though, Derek didn’t seem like a go-getter. Or maybe he simply preferred staring at his partners in utter awe instead of doing anything.

So, as though they had all the time in the world—or Stiles was in perfect control—he took Derek’s soft, fancy suit jacket in one hand. He pressed the other hand to the side of his face, skimming the pad of his thumb over his stubbled cheek.

Then, he brought their lips together tenderly, letting it linger.

That tenderness didn’t last long. Within seconds of contact, Derek was pushing up at his mouth, prying it open with his tongue and licking into him fiercely. Stiles let out a little gasp, and it only seemed to incense him further; Derek’s hands clenched, pulling him in and spreading him even wider—

Until they heard the sound of fabric tearing.

Stiles couldn’t stop it—he snorted an ugly laugh. Loudly.

“…I’m sorry,” Derek mumbled, looking sort of like he wanted to die.

“It’s—okay,” Stiles gasped out, unable to rein in his laughter any longer. “Is there a tear? Oh my god; you ripped my physically-impossible pants—”

“What are you doing wearing something like this anyway?” Derek snapped—and Stiles thought, oh no, he’s one of those types.

“Are you serious right now?”

“You’re supposed to wear what fits, not what cuts off circulation.”

“You’re serious.”

Derek had still been groping him throughout, so he mentioned: “There’s no real tear.”

“Derek,” Stiles said, tilting Derek’s head up to force eye contact. “It’s fine. I’m having a good time. Are you just embarrassed, or are you really a giant grouchy asshole?”

He scowled. “Neither.”

Stiles raised his eyebrows, impressed. “Wow, both.”

Derek turned another glare on him. It was like being glared at by a wolf—but the wolf was secretly a giant, extremely earnest puppy.

“This is fun. Teasing you is fun.” Slowly, Stiles smoothed his hands along Derek’s shoulders, squirmed his ass down into his lap, and tilted his head innocently. “Anyway…do you wanna keep making out?”

Indeed, Derek did.

Mostly it involved more groping, tongue-wrestling, and a lot of enthusiasm directed towards Stiles’s neck.

After some unknown time, they pulled up to a sleek, reflective skyscraper. Stiles stared up at it bogglingly. “This is a nice place,” he mumbled.

“I own it.”

“It’s a hotel.”

“Yes.”

“Okay,” Stiles replied, stumbling out of the car with Derek’s hand gripping his. “That’s—yeah, sure, why not.”

They walked in together. The uniformed lady at the register caught sight of Derek, smiled brightly and knowingly, and started looking busy with the things on her desk.

“Good evening, Mr. Hale,” she said, smirking like she and Derek shared an inside joke. “Your usual room?”

Something about that exchange—Derek had a usual room—turned Stiles’s mouth bitter, but he supposed he had no right to fuss. This wasn’t a date; Derek was going to pay him.

“Yeah, thanks Erica.”

Stiles frowned deeply as Erica the desk-lady got the keycard ready. On impulse, he said: “Hey, Erica?” and pointed at his side, where Derek looked startled that he was even speaking at all. “Does this guy actually own this place?”

Erica laughed. And laughed, and laughed.

“Okay but no, seriously,” Stiles said. “I’m pretty sure he’s just full of shit.”

Erica stopped cackling long enough to answer: “Both are true.”

Stiles sent Derek a shrewd, ascertaining glance. “You know you don’t need to impress me, right? Like. At all.”

“I know.”

At all.”

“Yeah, got it.”

“I swear, he really does own it,” Erica butted in. She grinned at Derek, continued: “Where’d you find this one, boss? He’s got quite a mouth on him.” Then she stared at Stiles’s mouth longingly—utterly uncaring of Derek’s fuming glower—and bit her red-painted lip.

In that moment, Stiles admired her immensely.

“You’re cool. We should hang later.”

“I can’t fucking believe this,” Derek muttered under his breath, snatching up the keycard and dragging Stiles away by the hand.

“See you, Erica!” Stiles waved. She fluttered some fingers at him coyly.

“You said you’d keep the distractions to a minimum,” Derek bit out.

“I am! Okay, I’m not. But I’m having a great time.”

“It’s highly unprofessional.”

Instead of getting flustered, Stiles just rolled his eyes. “Says the man who told me to write down my fee in his private checkbook, in a highly public place.”

Derek led them into an empty elevator, where he fumed in agitated silence.

After a quick glance to see if there were cameras in here—not that it mattered, really—Stiles crept closer, sneaking his hands underneath Derek’s jacket and onto his waist. “I’m sorry, Der-Bear. But this gives you a good chance to show me just who I belong to, hm?”

Derek turned to stare at him, shocked out of his regular frown.

Stiles blinked. “That doesn’t do it for you? It’s just, in the car, you seemed like you really wanted mark me—”

This time, Stiles was the one shocked into silence—Derek shoved them both into the elevator wall, cradling Stiles’s head against impact and kissing him breathless.

By the time the elevator dinged open, Stiles’s perfect hairdo was destroyed.

“Keep up,” Derek commanded, tugging on his hand insistently.

“I—you keep up,” Stiles replied, bratty and winded.

It turned out Derek was literally faster than him, so Stiles needed to hop a little bit with each step. He led Stiles down a hallway that only had one door; that meant, surprise surprise, they were taking the penthouse suite for the night.

“The minibar must be huge,” Stiles said softly.

“What?”

“The minibar,” he said again, and watched Derek jam the keycard into the door-reader roughly and sloppily. It didn’t bode well for the future of his asshole. “The minibar must be—”

But Derek didn’t give a shit about the minibar, because he finally got the door open with a beep, and he was dragging Stiles inside with a yank to the wrist. Again he shoved Stiles against a wall, this time the hotel room’s entryway.

Rather than being sexy, though, Stiles felt like he was trapped—and it was freaking him the fuck out.

He squeaked uncomfortably. Derek took it as an affirmative noise until Stiles pressed a palm against his shoulder and shoved.

God,” Stiles gasped, dropping his head back against the wall with a thunk. “Can you, just, slow down for a minute?”

“I don’t want to slow down,” Derek mumbled, mouth busy on his exposed neck.

I want to.”

Derek took in a big gulp of air. He leaned back.

“Thank you,” Stiles said. He squirmed out of Derek’s space and walked into the penthouse at a leisurely stroll, tucking his hands into his back pockets to hide the trembling. “These are nice digs you’ve got here,” he said.

That was the understatement of the millennium.

The penthouse was modern and sparkling white, lined with beams of silver and little pops of color—navy pillows on the couch, heavy navy curtains on the windows. And that was just the main room; through a pair of wide-open French doors, Stiles could see the grand king-sized bed, a white leather divan, and a little lounge area in front of a sprawling floor-to-ceiling window. Even as high up as they were, the lights from the city below twinkled and reflected in, giving the room a soft, multi-colored glow.

And the minibar was not huge—it was a full-sized stainless steel fridge. In a real, full-sized kitchen.

Stiles stood in the middle of it all and felt extremely insignificant.

Derek touched his lower arm softly. “Can I get you anything?”

“Water,” Stiles said, truthful in his vulnerability. “If—if it’s not too much trouble.”

As Derek went to get him a glass, Stiles sat down on the couch, spreading out and running restless fingers through his hair.

Stiles would ask for three thousand. He would kiss him, fuck him, say nice things, and then he’d be gone, thousands richer and dignity intact. And he wouldn’t die tonight—once again, he remembered to text Scott, mentioning the hotel name, Erica’s name as a witness, and the floor they were on.

“Here,” Derek said, offering the glass. It must have been real crystal. “We should talk, right?”

“Yeah,” Stiles nodded and sipped. “This—I don’t normally do this.”

“Spur of the moment,” Derek said, sitting down next to him and nodding in turn. “Makes sense.”

Lying by omission seemed to be the name of the game tonight. Stiles’s leg jiggled anxiously; he chugged the water quickly, sighed, and ran hands down his front, as though he actually cared about the upkeep of his outfit in these circumstances.

“Okay,” he said, shifting his body to face Derek’s on the couch. “First of all, I won’t do kinky shit with you. No choking, no hitting—you’re pushing your luck with the neck-biting; I really can’t afford to be covered in hickeys.”

“Fine,” Derek answered, calm and collected.

“Other than violent stuff, if it happens in your run-of-the-mill, generic porn vid, we can do it.”

“Sounds good.”

“If you’re unsure, just ask me, and respect my answer.”

“Obviously.”

After a bracing breath, Stiles said: “I want three thousand.”

Derek’s eyebrows rose just slightly—as though he might be thinking it was a deal. “All right.”

“I’ll take a personal check, but in case it bounces, I’ll at least need the cash you’ve got on you.”

Derek scoffed haughtily. “It won’t bounce.”

“Good to know, but still—”

Derek waved a dismissive hand. “Fine, whatever.”

Stiles’s mouth pursed tartly at his attitude, but he asked patiently: “Do you have any questions?”

For a few seconds, all Derek did was blush and look shifty. He cleared his throat. “How are you with, uh, intimacy?”

“…Intimacy?”

“Yes, that’s what I said,” Derek huffed, rolling his eyes defensively. “Kisses, cuddling, spooning—being intimate.”

Stiles glanced at the distantly glistening fridge and back, a few times, as though it could clue him in on what this nonsense was all about. “Der-Bear, you do know this isn’t Pretty Woman, right?”

“I know that,” Derek snapped back.

“We’ve got similar eyebrows, so it may be confusing, but I am not in fact the actress and American treasure Julia Roberts.”

“I know.”

“Good. Then you’ve answered your own question.”

“Great, glad to hear it,” Derek muttered acidly, then reached into his suit jacket to pull out his checkbook. He scrawled on it for a bit, ripped out the new check, and slapped it on the nearby coffee table, adding the cash on top for good measure.

Stiles stared at the pile like someone had laid the Holy Grail in front of him, shimmering and beautiful, but had wrapped it in poison oak and ticking explosives.

“Are we good?” Derek asked, snappy tone distracting from how both of his hands were clenching his knees in vice grips.

Stiles nodded, then pulled his gaze from the money in a slow drag. “Yeah. We’re good.”

Derek nodded too. But he didn’t move.

So Stiles stood, took his hand, and pulled him up from the couch. He guided Derek’s hands onto his hips, then took Derek’s face into both hands softly.

“Do you wanna go to bed?”

Instead of nodding, or saying a single word, Derek just kissed him.

[~]

Chapter Text

Derek fucked like he was in love.

There were soft kisses, grazing fingertips, and small smiles. When Stiles fell back on the bed and bounced back up, almost in slow-motion, to take Derek’s face and give it a light peck, there was even a quiet chuckle—soft eyes, a tilted head, an indulgent smile that said you’re ridiculous but I love it.

They kissed for long, spread, warm-blurred minutes, Derek covering Stiles with his entire body like he wanted to gently weigh him down.

They stripped, Derek peeling the clothes from his body with a hushed, earnest “Let me”—which was briefly interrupted when Derek needed to take a minute to laugh over the safety pins all along the back of Stiles’s shirt.

“How the hell did you think I got these clothes to fit so well?” Stiles had snapped, embarrassed.

“Got them fitted?” Derek had replied, cheeks flushed and smile wide.

“Shut up, shut your stupid face, just get me naked and kiss me again—”

Then they’d rubbed together languidly until they were coming, their slight gasps wet and breath-hot against one another’s skin.

But that was only at first.

They did have the entire night.

After that first round, while they were still breathless and flushed on the ridiculous-thread-count bedsheets, Stiles dropped a kiss on Derek’s shoulder and asked: “Should we get the lube?”

That was when the tenderness started to go downhill. Derek’s eyes went dark, determined; he wouldn’t let Stiles off the covers, finding the small tube of lubricant in Stiles’s discarded clothing himself, and returned to bed with slick hands and a glint to his exposed teeth.

A full thirty minutes later, Derek’s fingers were still inside him, and all Stiles could think was: my god he is attentive.

“I want you to come on my fingers,” Derek had told him, and Stiles—

He just nodded. And did.

Then, Derek didn’t fuck him like he was in love. Stiles’s body was blissfully, brutally invaded.

Hours, hours, hours—Stiles came more times than he expected; he’d been prepared for nothing, so to actually lose count—he was just breathless. He was utterly side-swept, flummoxed, scrambled.

And Derek hadn’t been kidding about the cuddling.

“Do I really have you the whole night?” He asked, sounding awestruck as he pressed up to Stiles so closely that he was a bit overheated.

“—Yeah,” Stiles said. “I mean, yes. Yeah.”

“…That sounded reluctant,” Derek pointed out, but he seemed amused.

“I’m just,” Stiles waved a rambly hand; even his wrist was trembling. “I’m kind of. Words are hard.”

Derek’s hands brushed up his arms, up and down, soothing and soft. “Really?” He said, and pressed his lips briefly to Stiles’s neck. Now he sounded shy, of all things. “I can take that as a compliment, right?”

Stiles barked a weird, high-pitched laugh.

They kissed again.

Fucking hell—it was only 12 AM.

But time passed both slow and fast at once. One minute, it was 12:18, and Stiles was getting his hair pulled and his head pinned to the pillow; the next, it was 1:03, and Derek was stroking his hips as he kissed down his spine, keeping his cock pushed inside as deeply as possible until it went soft and slipped out.

1:30 – Stiles rode him, eyes shut tight and parted thighs clamped tighter.

2:05 – Derek brought him water and watched the movement of Stiles’s throat.

2:18 – Derek fucked his throat.

3:01 – They fucked in the missionary position as Derek nuzzled his throat. Stiles spotted a pattern.

3:40 – Derek took pity on him and got off between his thighs, spooning up behind him and cuddling under the covers.

4:10 – Derek asked, “Could you go again?” And Stiles responded, “My ass just sighed.”

4:12 – Apparently, Derek had the sense of humor of a sixteen year old boy, because it took him that long to stop silent-laughing into the pillow.

4:15 – After giggling together like a couple of high teenagers, Stiles changed his mind; they went at it again. His ass wasn’t nearly as disappointed as it had implied.

4:55 – Derek asked, “Can you sleep with me?”—and Stiles was passed out within twenty seconds, his what do you think we’ve been doing dying a cold, hard death in his fucked-out throat.

5:40 – There was a phone call.

“Hello,” Derek grumbled into his phone, groggily pulling Stiles’s body closer to his chest by a grip on the back of the neck. “Yeah, Laur…yeah. No.”

Stiles made an uneven, croaky, displeased noise.

Derek ran his fingers through his hair apologetically—but then his hand and breath just stopped. “He’s what?”

Stiles sat up. He glanced down at Derek warily; in reply, Derek squeezed his wrist, a signal to wait.

“Yeah. I’m leaving now,” Derek said. The call ended.

“…You are?” Stiles asked.

“I am,” Derek replied brusquely. He got out of bed in a rush, searching for his rumpled clothing on the floor.

“Yeah,” Stiles muttered. He pulled the covers up when Derek flicked the nightstand lamp on; suddenly everything felt a little more real, more severe. “You shouldn’t—you don’t need to explain it to me, or anything.”

Stiles hadn’t even used a cutting tone—he was too tired, too dull-minded for it. But Derek paused in place anyway. “It’s a family emergency,” he explained, expression and tone beseeching. “Believe me, Stiles—if I didn’t have to go, I wouldn’t.”

“Okay,” Stiles said quietly. Perhaps his cheeks were still flushed; without a doubt, there must be bags under his eyes.

Derek pulled up his underwear and pants, tugged on his shirt, and gathered his socks. He glanced at Stiles a few times before coming back to the side of the bed and sitting down.

“Can I see you again?” The words drifted back; Derek wasn’t facing him, busy with putting on his socks.

Stiles gritted his teeth. “I don’t think that’s a good idea.”

It was a terrible idea. Stiles wasn’t actually a hooker.

“Oh,” Derek said—and that was it.

After a quick reminder to leave before checkout at 11 AM, Derek was out the door, and Stiles was thousands richer.

He didn’t bother staying. The thread count on the bedsheets was incredible—but now, it felt too cold.

[~]

Twenty minutes later, Stiles was on the next train back to the boroughs. He was staring blankly at the window, swaying slightly, and trying to ignore the general agitation of his anus.

Forty minutes after leaving the hotel room, he hobbled back into the apartment he shared with Scott, fully prepared to flop face-down on his bed and temporarily die.

“Stiles!” Scott said, gasping in relief from his seat at their shitty Ikea table. “You’re back!”

Then Stiles was swept into a warm, comfortable hug, Scott’s grip just shy of too-tight and cloying. “Hey, buddy,” he said, patting his friend on the back.

Satisfied that his gladness and affection had been received, Scott punched him hard in the arm. “I can’t fucking believe you!”

Ow, Scotty—please remember your biceps,” Stiles gasped out, referring to the pretty-meaty muscle mass Scott had gained through a recent obsession with crossfit. “My body can only take so much pounding in a twenty-four hour period.”

“I hate you,” Scott told him. But he corralled Stiles onto the nearby couch and said, “I’m making you breakfast. Rest.”

“Oh my god, I love you.”

“I still hate you.”

“Love,” Stiles repeated, body falling down into the cushions and eyes sliding shut. “Love, love, love.”

There was the sound of the stove’s dial clicking up, the stovetop heating, and overall kitchen-clanking noise. Scott opened the fridge door and rooted around in their meager shared food-piles before saying, cautiously: “So…what happened?”

Stiles sighed. “Nothing bad. Honestly.”

“Okay,” Scott replied swiftly—obviously relieved once again. “That’s—okay, good.”

“He was a gentleman.”

“Somehow I doubt that.”

Stiles huffed a laugh. “As much of a gentleman as you can be, buying a hooker’s time. But yeah…he made me work for it.”

There was a pause, then: “But nothing bad, right?” Scott cracked some eggs into a pan; they sizzled on contact. “Like…will you need professional help?”

“I already need that.”

“You know what I mean.”

“I know,” Stiles said, sighing. “And I already said: nothing bad.”

Then he sighed again. And again.

“It’s just…Scotty…”

“…Yeah?”

“Scott, Scotty, my precious satin-soft chinchilla…”

“What is it?”

Stiles rolled his head on the couch’s armrest to give him a full, long look. “It was really, really incredible.”

Scott’s eyebrows rose in surprise. “It was?”

“Yeah. Really incredible.”

“Exactly how incredible are we talking?”

“My asshole is still fluttering.”

Scott laughed once—more like a squawk. “You’d think you’d be sore!”

“Oh, I am,” Stiles responded, raising a single finger, a nonverbal as a matter of fact. “While my asshole is a butterfly on the wind, fluttering its wings on the breeze, my extended ass is the oncoming hurricane.”

“That doesn’t make any sense.”

“My rectum is angry, Scott; I don’t know how else you want me to say it.”

“Less poetic.”

Stiles groaned and burrowed down into the couch cushions. “Just…make me eggs.”

Scott huffed another laugh. “Yeah, yeah.”

There was a solid five-minutes’ worth of quiet, morning-sun-drenched domesticity before Stiles broke into it again. “Hey, Scott. Guess what.”

“What?” Scott asked, absent-minded as he shoved scrambled eggs onto a plate.

“I made just over three thousand dollars.”

Scott burned his hand on the pan, sent it flying across the counter, and almost face-planted into the refrigerator. “You made three grand? In one night?”

“Yep. In one sex-fueled, orgasm-rocked night.”

“You’re fucking kidding.”

“I’m not kidding, and I am no longer fucking.”

Scott didn’t speak again until he’d grabbed the plate of eggs, a fork, and some hot sauce and walked over to the couch, settling onto the side of the couch occupied by Stiles’s feet. Without a hitch, Stiles lifted his sock-covered heels and dropped them on Scott’s lap; Scott automatically rested a single hand on his ankle.

“Three grand,” Scott repeated, dumbfounded.

“Yeah.”

“Three thousand dollars.”

“Uh-huh,” Stiles mumbled, shoving sauce-drenched eggs into his yawning mouth.

“Did he even let you sleep?” Scott asked, suddenly noticing the deep circles under Stiles’s eyes.

“A little. Not much.” After taking another mouthful, chewing, and swallowing, Stiles noticed the haggard appearance of Scott’s under-eye situation. “Did you sleep?”

Scott looked at him like he’d just spit on the floor. “Of course not!”

Stiles let his head drop back onto the armrest.

“Would you have been able to sleep, in my position?” Scott clutched Stiles’s ankle a bit tighter. “I was a wreck. I even considered calling your dad.”

Stiles’s mouth pursed, and he took a sharp breath through his nostrils. After a split-second of thought, he let it out just as quickly. “I can’t say I’m surprised by that, actually.”

Again, Scott glanced at him with concern—but also with hurt. “Don’t do this again.”

“What—make a boatload of money for something I’d do for free anyway?”

Stiles.”

That worried, upset, puppy-eye look was deployed in full force.

Stiles puffed yet another sigh. “I know. I won’t.”

“Do you promise?”

Another deep breath. Stiles watched the raggedy, years-old stain in the carpet for a long moment. “You weren’t the only one who was scared last night. I know I talk a big talk, but—I was freaked out too. And I was the one living it. I don’t want to ever be that shook up again.”

Scott’s grip on his ankle tightened sharply.

“Well,” Scott said, loosening his hold to a small pat. “You’re home now. And you’re safe.”

“Yeah.”

“And you’re richer.”

“Yep.”

“And you’re buying me and Lydia a sushi dinner tonight.”

“Ye—wait.”

“I already told her. There’s no stopping it now.”

“Wait, you told her? How much did you tell?”

Scott glanced sideways, practically squirming. “Maybe…all of it?”

“Oh my god. She’s gonna want details.”

Stiles’s head slipped back onto the armrest with a final, resounding thump.

[~]

Lydia wanted details, timestamps, profiles, sketches, and any photograph or video footage available.

For the most part, however, Stiles’s friends seemed willing to let the entire incident pass with little fuss. Possibly it was because—deep down, past the teasing and forced sushi dinner—they knew the situation hadn’t been a joke. It had gone well, sure; but there had never been any guarantee that it would, or that there was ever a decent chance of it doing so.

Stiles could have been in incredible danger. He hadn’t, but he could have.

The check didn’t bounce, and a week of peace passed.

Then, seemingly out of nowhere, the flaky client sent Stiles an email.

Stiles –

            This is a bit long after the fact, but I had a small accident that caused me to miss our meetup. I don’t think a date is on the table anymore, but at the very least, I’d really appreciate if you came over to walk my dog.

Thanks,

            P

Which, cool, fine; the three thousand wouldn’t last him forever.

In this town, it probably wouldn’t even last him three months.

He showed up to the client’s apartment building on a boring, plain old Tuesday, after his classes had finished up for the day. Lydia had a conference downtown, so she tagged along on the train ride in, gabbing into Stiles’s ear about quantum physics like he cared or understood any of it (after sleeping at his apartment like she paid rent, or didn’t constantly complain about their living standards).

It turned out her conference was in the grand ballroom of a shining, sparkling hotel just next door to the client’s building.

The very same hotel Stiles had gotten royally fucked in. Surprise.

Stiles looked up at it and frowned at its looming, majestic, contemporary-architecture beauty. He dragged his eyes away from where he knew the penthouse must be as he and Lydia parted ways on the sidewalk, just outside the two buildings.

“Send me pictures of the puppy, okay?” Lydia said, grinning and waving like she was sending her kid off to school. “I’ll probably be bored enough to check my phone at some point.”

“Sure, fine. Have a fun time at the mathlete convention, nerd queen,” Stiles replied—and bolted from Lydia’s ire by flailing his body through the revolving door.

Escape: narrow.

Now, it was time to make more money.

The client’s apartment was fairly high up, level 34, so Stiles boarded the elevator, tapped a foot and a few fingers restlessly, and watched the glowing number over the doorway change steadily.

He wasn’t wearing anything nice today; this client had stood him up, after all, and “accident” or not, Stiles wouldn’t make an effort to impress someone who obviously was no longer interested. He’d tossed on a t-shirt and a plaid before wriggling into some ratty, torn-up jeans—ones he should really replace while he had the extra money.

The door dinged open, and Stiles saw a grand spread of four doors—four roomy apartments—on the hallway in front of him.

He’d forgotten how exceptionally rich this client was.

He knocked on 34A. “Hello? Peter?”

Approximately five locks slid out of place before the door cracked open, revealing the flaky client in all his glory. “Stiles, hello. It’s good to see you.”

Except Peter didn’t look nearly as glorious as Stiles remembered.

He looked like hell. His right arm and leg were both in casts; the side of his face was bandaged, and there were glaring burn wounds all over the right side of his body.

“Peter…oh my fucking god.”

“Oh, yes, I mentioned the little accident in my email, didn’t I?”

“Little? This is little?”

“Just a slight incident. A little fender-bender.”

“Was the fender-bender on fire?”

“A little, yes.”

From inside the apartment, Peter’s she-is-a-husky-mix-definitely-not-coyote yelped and howled in complaint.

“Well,” Peter said, shrugging and then grimacing in pain. “You can see why I’m not exactly fit to walk Malia—or do much of anything, really. My family members have been checking up on me daily whether I like it or not.”

Stiles just nodded in awed, distracted silence. Peter’s injuries were bad enough to be hypnotizing.

Peter’s brows rose in impatience at that, but he moved on from Stiles’s agape staring rather quickly. “Can you take her to the park?”

Stiles blinked, tried to make polite eye contact, and nodded again. “I think I can manage that, yes.”

“And make sure she doesn’t kill any other dogs?”

“I hope I can manage that, yeah.”

Peter sighed. Normally, he was flirty and quick-tongued; his injuries must be taking a toll on his energy levels. “That’s all I can hope for, I suppose.”

Then Stiles took the pup’s leash, a fetch toy, and a doggie bag. After wrangling Malia into a collar, onto her leash, and watching helplessly as she devoured her last muzzle, they walked from the apartment building and to the nearby park.

Once there, Malia promptly destroyed all competition for dominance at the designated dog play-area, literally killed a squirrel, and shredded approximately five tennis balls into ribbons before trying to snack on a real, live pigeon. Stiles tried to teach her how to be a good member of society. His lessons met with very, very mixed results.

And before he knew it, he was back standing in Peter’s doorway, watching the way his newfound burns caught the light in a shiny, red-flushed glimmer.

Please stop staring, Stiles. It’s not that bad.”

Stiles snapped his gaze away like his eyes were being dragged. “What? Staring? Who, me?”

Peter just scoffed—the skin of his cheek pulling and tugging on itself in a way that must be painful. Down the hall, the stairwell door creaked open; Stiles barely took notice, eyes now glued to where Peter was stuffing a personal check and a wad of tip-money cash into an envelope.

“Thank you,” Peter said, handing over the envelope with his un-casted arm. “And I’m sorry I missed our little date, but—”

“It’s fine,” Stiles gasped out, feeling a bit guilty over all of it. “You have a really good excuse. Like, really good. I hope—we can still keep up a business relationship, right?”

Finally, Peter’s attitude seemed to relax: he smiled, slow and curling. He placed a hand over Stiles’s, closing his fingers over the envelope. “Of course. I’d never miss a chance to see a cute little thing like you.”

“Stiles?”

A familiar voice rang out from only a few steps away—well within earshot distance away.

“Oh, Derek,” Peter said, suddenly sounding a lot more bored. “It’s you.”

Peter could have been wallpapered-over for all Derek saw him. He just stared at Stiles: eyes wide, mouth open, cheeks a little flushed.

“Are you—” Derek looked down at the envelope. He stared at the way Peter’s hand was resting on Stiles’s fingers. “You’re his client?”

Peter looked at him weirdly. “Yes…?”

Stiles removed his hand with a jolt. He stuffed the envelope in his pocket.

“Do you know my nephew, Stiles?”

Stiles didn’t answer.

He began to walk steadily, very carefully, towards the elevator.

Derek called out, sounding desperate, hurt, his voice even cracking the slightest bit: “Stiles? Stiles!”

And, nope. He wasn’t dealing with this. No, no, no.

Not today. Not ever.

If he opened his mouth, Stiles would scream; instead, he kept it tightly closed, and a high-pitched hum began to emanate from his chest and throat. The hum escalated as Stiles turned around, looked down the hallway, and watched the elevator door begin to slide shut, because—

Holy god, Derek was chasing him.

Fuck.

Door close button.

Stiles, wai—”

The door slid shut.

Stiles’s mouth flew open and let out a wordless yell.

In a flurry, he ripped his phone from his back pocket, jabbed at the speed dial, and shoved it against his ear. It rang twice before picking up.

[2]

“Stiles, for the record, I’m still miffed about the ‘nerd queen’ comment.”

“COME GET ME.”

[~]

Lydia hung up on him.

Silently, Stiles watched his own wide-eyed reflection in the shimmery-silver elevator interior. There he was, Stiles’s one true friend: himself.

As the elevator door slid open, revealing the black-and-chrome lobby, Stiles felt an odd wave of post-terror calm wash over him. He’d just put thirty floors between himself and a mild nightmare. That was nice. He could totally get through this, all by himself, with no help from anyone.

But then two things happened at once: Derek flung open the lobby stairwell doors, panting and sweaty and wild-eyed, like Stiles remembered him being

And Lydia emerged inside from the revolving door.

There were no other words for it: Stiles fled to her.

“It’s him,” he gasped out, quiet enough that only she’d be able to hear.

In one moment, all confusion or concern wiped from her face. The only expression on her face was ferocity.

She stepped just in front of Stiles, one arm bracing his side comfortingly, as Derek approached in a hurried stomp. “Can I help you?”

Derek blinked at her like he’d just been very rudely informed that she existed. “Who the hell are you?”

“I’m Stiles’s contact,” Lydia said—and her voice contained absolutely no trace of hesitation. “Now, I’ll ask you again: can I fucking help you?”

For a few long seconds, there was only more venomous blinking on Derek’s part; then he managed to snarl out: “I need to talk to Stiles.”

Lydia stared him down. “About. What?”

Derek was, give or take, six feet tall. Lydia was all of 5’3” and one-hundred-ten-pounds soaking wet. Yet Stiles had an inkling of who was winning this match—and it wasn’t anyone who’d had their exceptionally pretty dick in his mouth.

At the same time, however, Stiles was starting to remember they were in a public place. The apartment building was nice, yes, but it was also trendy enough to be attached to a high-end café, and patrons were glancing over at them quizzically.

He placed a hand on Lydia’s; she immediately entwined their fingers together.

“That’s what I thought,” she said brusquely, to Derek’s ferocious, silent glare. “Come on, Stiles.”

She began to tug him away.

“Wait—please,” Derek grit out, seeming absolutely enraged at having to use polite vocabulary. “Here—take it. I need to talk to you,” he said, directing the last words to Stiles alone.

It was his business card.

It was a nice business card.

Lydia probably thought as much, because she accepted it, one of her eyebrows arching up in apparent interest.

“That’s up to Stiles,” she replied. When she tugged Stiles’s hand again, he didn’t resist whatsoever—even when he noticed Derek’s jaw gritting at the sight of them holding hands.

“Bye,” Stiles muttered, against his better judgment.

Derek just stood still and seethed.

When they were out on the sidewalk, Stiles mumbled to Lydia: “Thanks.”

Lydia ignored his gratitude—like protecting Stiles from riled-up sex work clientele was just a matter of course. Instead, she handed him the business card and asked, brows lifted pointedly: “That was him?”

“Uh-huh.”

“But…you would have fucked him for free.”

“Uh-huh.”

Lydia grinned—a confident, I’m-proud-of-you smile; something Stiles didn’t always think he deserved, especially from her, especially now. “Well, come on then. I still have a mathlete convention to reign over.”

To which Stiles replied, laughing shakily: “Haha, guess what? That’s the hotel he fucked me in.”

Or I could walk you to the station, and we could buy a shitty pretzel on the way.”

Stiles gripped her hand a bit tighter. “But—what about your conference?”

Lydia shrugged. “They can miss me for another twenty minutes. Let’s go, sugarplum.”

In Stiles’s back pocket, the business card weighed both heavy and promising.

[~]

That night, Stiles sat on his bed and glared at his phone for a solid half hour.

He should just text him. Derek had handed him a business card with both ‘day’ and ‘night’ phone numbers, so why not? It would be easy: hi, it’s me, the dude who swindled you out of a few thousand when I would have gobbled your dick in a back-alley for nothing, or maybe a slice of pizza; how’s it going? Is work tough?

Maybe in less words.

Stiles typed out: hi.

Backspaced it.

Hello.

Too formal; backspace.

Hey. It’s me

Would Derek be able to guess? Should he include a name?

Hey. It’s Stiles

And, sent.

Literally less than a minute later, he got a response: message error.

“What the fuck?” He double-checked the number; it was correct. “What the fuck? What the fuck—”

He tried another message, then another; everything just got sent back with an error message. But Derek didn’t seem the type to pass out cards with an outdated or phony number.

Oh dear god, Stiles thought to himself. It’s a fucking landline.

Would he be forced to endure the indignity of actually calling? But Derek had seemed so intense that afternoon, so desperate to talk to him that it was—kind of terrifying, actually. Not to mention weird.

And Stiles had to know why.

So, before he could chicken out, he poked the ‘Call’ icon on his touch-screen.

The dial tone rolled into his ear once.

Twice.

Three—

“Hello.”

Stiles’s mind went blank. He said nothing.

Hello.”

Derek sounded annoyed. He should just hang up. He should just open the window and screech madly into the night sky. Then he should go put his head in the toilet and flush.

“You know, I can hear you breathing.”

Then Stiles’s fear just spewed out of his mouth, and it sounded like: “I didn’t fuck your uncle!”

And then, there was only silence.

[~]

Chapter Text

The silent seconds chugged by excruciatingly

Until there was a strange, soft, brusque gasping sound across the line.

“Are you…” Stiles began, narrowing his eyes in disbelief. “Are you laughing at me?”

Another curt noise, not unlike a hiccup, trickled through the phone. With a weak voice, Derek managed to say: “Not.”

“You are!”

Not.”

“You totally are.” Stiles rubbed a hand over his red-glowing face. “Just…let me know when you’re capable of speech.”

Derek tried clearing his throat, but it didn’t work all that well; his throat-clear turned into a cough, which turned into a weird snorting noise.

Stiles huffed. “Okay, come on. Pull it together, champ.”

“I’m—” Another throat clear; a sniffing sound. “I’m good. And I wasn’t laughing at you.”

“Yeah, sure.”

“I swear to god.”

“Sure, uh-huh.”

Anyway,” Derek started, coughing briskly one last time for good measure. “So—you haven’t had, uh, illicit relations with Peter.”

Stiles flushed even further. “No, I haven’t. And Jesus, do you have to say it like you’re a politician or something?”

“He’s my uncle, Stiles,” Derek said, voice flat and finally serious. “I’d rather not talk about it at all.”

“Oh, yeah, right.” His foot was falling asleep, so Stiles shifted slightly on the bed. “Then, um…what did you want to talk to me about?”

“Well—Peter, for one.”

“But you don’t want to talk about Peter.”

“Right.”

“But you do.”

“I don’t,” Derek growled out. He was grumpy again; they were back in familiar territory. “I just need to say one thing: stay away from him.”

“What?” Stiles shifted again, restless. “Why? Is it just because he’s family? But I still don’t think that’s any of your—wait, pause. Have you spoken to him since we last saw each other?”

Suddenly, Stiles’s heart was practically vibrating in his chest. Had Peter told Derek the truth? Was the jig finally up? Did Derek know Stiles wasn’t a hooker, and was still laughing at him, talking to him, existing in Stiles’s life in general?

“Peter lies like he breathes, Stiles,” Derek replied. “I don’t listen to anything he says.”

For some reason, Stiles’s chest dropped.

He just mumbled in reply: “Oh.”

“And that’s why you should stay away from him,” Derek went on. “You mentioned—that time, in the bar, you mentioned that your older male client had never been with another man before. Even that was a huge fucking lie.”

Stiles’s wasn’t sure why, but he didn’t much care about what Derek was saying. He also wasn’t sure why a huge, gaping, metaphorical hole had popped up in the general vicinity of his sternum—but he didn’t think he wanted to understand that one.

Derek went on: “Unless that client was a different client, in which case, maybe it wasn’t a lie; but Peter’s still—”

“I don’t care about Peter, or his character,” Stiles interrupted, that strange hollowness in his chest making him candid. “Let’s talk about something else.”

“…All right,” Derek said, sounding dejected.

“No, no—shit.” Stiles pursed his mouth, looked around the room frantically, and finished it off with a heavy sigh. “I’m not saying—I mean—what I mean is, you don’t need to worry about it. And, um, thanks, for worrying. I guess. But we didn’t even sleep together in the first place. So now let’s talk about something else.”

“Okay,” Derek replied. He sounded a lot more at ease this time. “Wait—if you didn’t sleep with him, why was he handing you an envelope?”

Stiles yelped an uneasy, slightly hysterical laugh. “You really wanna know?”

“Peter said…” Derek scoffed; Stiles imagined he was rolling his eyes in disgust. “He said you walked his dog for him.”

Stiles’s laughter went from slightly hysterical to full-on unhinged.

Derek spoke over him: “Don’t listen to anything he says, Stiles. He’s such an asshole. For fuck’s sake—a fucking dogwalker?”

Would Stiles ever stop laughing? Would that feeling in his chest erupt from his ribcage and swallow this entire, worthless world whole? These were the real questions.

“I’m a dogwalker, Derek,” Stiles gasped out through the tail-end of his laughing spree.

“Very funny, Stiles. I’m in stitches.”

“What’s so funny? I could do that,” Stiles said, using a joking tone to cover his nerves. “I could walk people’s dogs.”

Derek replied gruffly: “Yeah, and so could a fucking monkey.”

Stiles’s laughter died out into silence.

“Anyway—that, ah, second thing I wanted to talk to you about…”

But Stiles stopped listening, because another gut-punching roll of anxiety was sweeping through his veins. Handsome, rich, not-so-grumpy Derek was on the phone with him. Derek refused to believe that he was anything other than an extremely expensive hooker. Derek, who had veritable piles of emotional baggage—Louis Vuitton, most likely—was giving Stiles the time of day precisely because Stiles’s time could be bought or dismissed just as easily as a snap of the fingers.

And unlike a bitter, violent ex, he’d never betray or threaten the man who paid his fees.

That was it. That was the crux of why they were even talking to one another at all.

“Stiles?”

“Huh? Yeah?”

“Are you even listening to me?”

“Oh, um—” Stiles swallowed; he squirmed again, tucking his legs back under himself. “I’m on my cell; it got cut off a bit.”

Another blatant lie, but what was another added to the pile?

“Oh,” Derek said, seeming shy again. Why the fuck he ever got shy, Stiles couldn’t figure out. “Well, uh, I said—I said I wanted to see you again.”

“Oh.”

“Yeah.”

“Well, um…”

Stiles’s door was half-open. At the edge of the empty doorframe, he spotted the tiniest sliver of dark, wavy, floppy hair.

Well, Derek—”

The sliver of dark hair turned into Scott’s exposed forehead. And raised, disappointed, disbelieving brows.

“Again, I don’t know if that’s a good idea.”

The brows receded slightly.

Derek sighed—but it was sharp and huffy, not submissive. “You’ve said that once already. But seeing you before, with Peter, and thinking about you with—with other people, I just thought—”

Oh my god, oh my fucking god, bitch don’t do it

“—I thought it was a sign. It doesn’t have to be like that.”

Stiles’s breathing stopped. His eyes bulged a bit. “It doesn’t?”

There was a beat of silence. Then: “Could we…do you think we could work out a deal for exclusivity?”

Stiles held the phone slightly away as that terrified, closed-mouth humming noise emanated from his chest again. He should really get that checked out sometime.

But Derek wasn’t done. “Maybe—what about five thousand a week? Would that be enough?”

Stiles held the phone far, far away as he almost barfed a lung and repeated, nearly silent and dumbfounded: “Five thousand—a fucking week—”

Scott’s entire shocked, puppy-eyed face emerged from the side of the open doorway.

“Hello? Stiles? Is the phone cutting out again?”

How can this guy be real, Stiles thought, and brought the phone back to say: “Yeah, no, I’m here—it’s just. This is all very sudden.”

Derek sighed—this time in relief. “Yeah, I know. Could we—let’s meet in person. To talk more. Maybe in a few days so you can think about it? It doesn’t have to be anything special, just a casual dinner.”

No, Scott mouthed at him. He didn’t even truly know what he was encouraging, but he was very fervent about it. No! Say no!

“Sure.”

In the open doorway, Scott started waving his arms and silently cussing.

“Great. How about Friday?”

They made plans for dinner. Derek told him the directions for accessing the restaurant, which included a secret password, a dress code, and discreet identification, because it was so exclusive that it wasn’t even listed in public records.

“I don’t think that’s even legal,” Stiles mumbled.

Derek gently laughed at him. Stiles, being concerned about the legality of things.

“I look forward to seeing you again,” Derek said, and Stiles swore he could hear the blush.

“Kay,” he muttered back dumbly.

Stiles hung up.

He looked Scott square in the eye, right where he was poised and glowering in the doorway.

Then they both sprung into action at the same time—but somehow, possibly through the power of sheer adrenaline, Stiles was faster. He pinned Scott to the floor as he tried to squirm away, crawling towards where his phone was perched on the nearby coffee table.

“I’m—calling—your dad—” Scott gasped out, struggling.

“Like fuck—you are—!”

Stiles turned his hand into a pointed jabby weapon, dug sharply into Scott’s ribs, and scrambled over to the coffee table while he was incapacitated, narrowly avoiding Scott’s breathless and frantic grab for his ankle.

“Stiles! Wait!”

Stiles snatched up the phone. When Scott tried to get up, Stiles hovered it threateningly over a nearby glass of water.

“Stiles, I just want what’s best for you—”

“I decide that!” Stiles snapped out. His clutch on Scott’s phone was a little shaky; luckily, Stiles could literally buy him a new one if he slipped up. “Maybe five thousand a week is what’s best for me.”

Scott called his bluff and slowly began to hoist himself up. “If it sounds too good to be true…”

“The check didn’t bounce before,” Stiles rushed out. “It was—he’s fun, okay? He’s fun, and cute, and good in bed, and not violent, and yeah maybe he’s a fucking idiot but he could be my idiot—”

“You want to date him.”

“Yeah!”

“So date him,” Scott said, running a hand through his hair in frustration. “Just date him! For free.”

Stiles stared at him for a few seconds.

Scott stared back, eyebrows raised as high as they could possibly go.

“It’s not that simple.”

Oh my god, yes it is!” Scott flung out an irritated hand and turned away, seeming to head for Stiles’s bedroom—where his phone was still laying where he’d dropped it on the comforter.

Stiles flailed from the couch and hurried to catch him around the arm. “Scotty, please!” When Scott was too determined, stomping forward anyway, Stiles grabbed him in a full wrap around the waist. “Scotty, my sunshine, my diamond in the rough, my cabbage patch kid—”

They tumbled to the floor again.

Scott huffed. Deeply. “You’re seriously asking me to just trust you on this?”

“Yes.”

“You’re asking me to trust you to handle prostitution. Which could put you in jail, or the hospital, or dead, not to mention make you lose all your scholarships.”

“Yes.”

“Even though your dad would murder both of us.”

“Let me meet with Derek,” Stiles said—begged. “We have a dinner date. Just let me talk with him. I can—I’ll come clean. I promise.”

Scott scoffed. Then he huffed.

Finally, he sighed.

“Fine.”

“Scotty! My precious pearl, my sweet and spicy enchilada—”

But, if you don’t tell him the truth, I will go tattling to your dad. Got it?”

Stiles nodded his head against Scott’s ribs. “I got it. I promise, I’ll get everything out in the open and under control.”

Of course, Stiles’s promises were only about fifty-fifty. But this time, he meant it.

[~]

Stiles took back everything he ever fucking said.

He’d gone to meet Derek for dinner. When he’d told Lydia about their plans, she’d screamed and insisted on dressing him again; Stiles was pretty sure she’d mugged and stripped a male model in the back of some seedy club somewhere, because she’d miraculously drummed up a trendy suit-and-button-up number just for the occasion.

So, once again, he’d gone to meet Derek looking far better than he had any business looking. He’d obeyed all the instructions to access the restaurant. A silent, two-man team of hosts-slash-bouncers had met him outside an unmarked building in the financial district, taken him into a nondescript hallway, guided him into an elevator, and finally let him out onto a sprawling, all-glass-walled penthouse dining room—which was lit by dozens of candles, sparkling crystals, and the consuming, permeating, ever-present glow of the city.

Just a casual dinner, as Derek would say.

And when Derek had first seen him, his eyes had lit up, a soft smile drifting onto his lips like Stiles was the rising sun after fifty years of darkness. He’d even stood from the table—which was a little too big for them, but whatever; Derek was filthy rich—and his first words of the night had hovered the line between disbelief and awe.

“Stiles, you—you’re here.”

Jesus fucking Christ, Stiles had thought, grinning not-so-brightly. I am in way too fucking deep.

But he didn’t even know—not yet.

As Derek crossed the small space between them, his phone chimed obnoxiously; but he didn’t so much as glance at it, eyes plastered to every movement and curve of Stiles’s form. Candlelight illuminated Derek’s clear, orange-glinting eyes, and gentle hands took Stiles’s wrists as Derek pressed a tender, reverent kiss to his lips.

They must have shared breath for a solid five seconds before Derek remembered his manners—or perhaps his surroundings—and invited Stiles to sit down, even jerking the chair out for him before returning to his own seat in a rushed flurry.

“I’m—thanks. For coming. I mean—thanks for meeting with me.”

Stiles smiled, nodded, and averted his eyes nervously. One of his hands began to drum a quiet, automatic beat onto the edge of the table.

“I know you probably have a bunch of things you’d rather be doing,” Derek started—and Stiles just gawked and thought: What things?

What on fucking earth would I rather be doing than having dinner in a place that looks like God’s throne room?

I mean, how much does just the chandelier over my head cost? What the fuck is that blue jewel in the middle of it? Is that a fucking sapphire?

And is the table next to us literally eating a roast pheasant? How much does that cost?

Wait, how come there are no prices on the menu? And this isn’t even paper—is this silk? A slab of upholstered silk with the letters fucking stitched on?

Oh my god, if we were going to split the check, would I have to rip out one of my own fucking kidneys in order to afford it?

I am not this rich; I am not even rich enough to look at this shit; how long is it gonna take for one of the wait-staff to sniff out the filthy stench of working class?

What am I even doing here?

“…But I’d be willing to discuss that further, if you wanted something different. What do you think?”

Stiles blinked.

A blush crawled up his face as he glanced at their table, then the cooked-up pheasant, and finally the sapphire dangling over his head, all in quick and terrified succession.

“I’m…sorry. What were you saying?”

Derek’s jaw dropped.

But he didn’t look angry. If anything, he was devastated.

“Oh,” he muttered—as if to say: so that’s how it is.

No,” Stiles responded, slapping both palms onto the table and nearly jostling the crafted ceramic worth more than his entire bloodline. “No, no ‘oh.’ I wasn’t bored, or—or whatever; I was just—there’s a sapphire.”

“A…what?”

“A sapphire!” Stiles stuck a pointer-finger into the air. “There’s a freaking precious gem hovering over my head!”

Derek gave him a look like Stiles was speaking in tongues. “That’s not a sapphire, Stiles. It’s an aquamarine.”

Oh,” Stiles said—but unlike Derek’s, this one was less devastated, more fucking excuse me, then. “An aquamarine, of course. Well that’s much less impressive.”

“…Is it?”

No it’s not less impressive,” Stiles hissed under his breath, right hand raised and clenching in a weird, giddy frustration. “All this fancy crap—I’m not in my element, Derek. I don’t normally eat surrounded by jewels.”

Derek’s eyes flitted between Stiles and the uncountable crystals, ridiculously chiseled face bent into a frown.

“You…don’t?”

Stiles just stared at him, wide-eyed.

Derek’s phone chimed yet again; he ignored it.

“Maybe…we really need to talk,” Stiles mumbled. It was rude, but he leaned both elbows onto the table; he needed full support in order to rub his temples as deeply as possible. “We should really, really talk. About a lot of things. So many that I honestly don’t even know where to begin.”

Persistently, Derek’s phone started blasting—and with a noise like a growl, he accepted the call with a snap of the finger.

“This better be life or fucking death,” Derek practically snarled.

But whoever was at the other end only said one sentence before Derek’s eyes widened, his face paled, and he hung up without a word.

He looked like he’d heard a banshee’s shriek as he asked: “Stiles, I have to know right now. Are you here to reject me?”

“Um—” Restlessly, Stiles looked at Derek’s phone, his face, the fucking aquamarine. “No?”

Derek’s eyes lightened, just barely. “You’re not?”

No, of course not; but Derek, we still have seriously a lot to talk about—”

“No time. Does this mean you’re my boyfriend?”

Um—?”

“Are you my boyfriend, Stiles?”

Ah—yes, I am!”

For a moment, Derek seemed to forget whatever was troubling him: his face opened up, his mouth dropped open, and a slight red crept into his cheeks. “You are? You really—you’re okay with that?”

“Derek, what the fuck is going on?”

“You’re really willing to be all mine? The regular five thousand is enough?”

Shut up about the fucking money; I literally don’t care—are we going to die? Is someone coming to kill you? Can I still duck out, or should I just, like, accept it?”

But Derek was too distracted to answer—his gaze flashed towards the slowly rising elevator, which of course was mostly made of glass. Inside the lift-car, two dark-haired women were flanked by the same host-slash-bouncers that Stiles had been led by before.

A few of the wait-staff appeared to set two more places at the table; they were there and gone in a mere few seconds of practiced, perfectly executed movements.

“You’ll do great. I’m sure you’ll do great,” Derek said suddenly. He leaned across the table and offered a slightly sweaty palm.

Stiles accepted his hand, lacing their fingers as he took in the new setup warily. “I’ll do great at what?”

“Just be yourself. And don’t lie to them. They call them alpha wolves for a reason; they can tell when you lie. But I’m sure they’ll love you.”

“…Who will love me?”

The elevator finally slid open, and the hosts-slash-bouncers led their guests straight towards them—two sets of high heels clicking ominously on the marble floors. As they approached, Stiles caught the older woman’s icy, unflinching gaze.

And she grinned at him brightly.

“You must be Stiles, Derek’s new boyfriend! It’s so great to meet you! I’m his mother, Talia Hale.”

Derek quickly squeezed Stiles’s hand over the table, as if to say: Don’t run.

But Stiles just smiled at the newcomers in a friendly, automatic, not-too-tight manner—and dug his fingernails viciously into the back of Derek’s palm. I am going to destroy you.

“The poor kid looks shocked,” the younger woman said. She sat down diagonal from Stiles, next to Derek, and she was ludicrously beautiful. “Derek, don’t tell me you didn’t even try to warn him?”

“Of course I did,” Derek replied, turning bright red and waving a dismissive hand. “I already explained everything.”

The woman smirked, expression shrewd and lethal. “Liar.”

Once they were neatly seated, the older lady offered a hand along the table. “It really is wonderful to meet you, Stiles.”

Stiles relinquished his grip on Derek in order to shake her hand politely. He hoped the slippery combination of their terrified palm-sweat wasn’t too obvious.

The younger woman offered her hand next, and an informal greeting: “I’m Laura, this geekwad’s big sister.”

Stiles nodded and continued to smile stiffly. He didn’t trust himself to speak quite just yet.

“And, to be fair to Derek,” Talia said, “I swear to you, none of this was planned. Laura and I wanted to use our usual table for dinner tonight, and we’re accustomed to just dropping in; so when we find out our table’s already being used, and our little baby Derek has a date—”

“And with Stiles, who he just won’t shut up about—”

“Right, exactly; we thought—let’s drop in, shall we?” Talia winked. “We couldn’t resist seeing Derek’s new amour.”

How lovely, Stiles thought. He tilted his head slowly, giving Derek his most unhinged, demon-posssesed smile. How peachy fucking keen.

But even if Talia and Laura thought they were in perfect, picturesque boyfriend-bliss, they couldn’t possibly be unaware of how extremely early in the relationship it still was—and thus how off-color this impromptu meet-the-family dinner was.

Meaning: they knew how shitty Derek’s taste in dates was.  They wanted to test Stiles’s caliber—and, most likely, to frighten him away.

But if he was anything, Stiles was stupidly stubborn and contrary in the face of a challenge. If he was expected to be Derek’s cute, smitten new boyfriend, then so be it.

He’d be the cutest goddamn boyfriend Derek’s ever had.

Within a moment, Stiles’s smile rivaled even Talia’s in sweetness. “What a surprise,” he said, letting out a light, self-depreciating chuckle under his breath. “I admit, I feel a little unprepared—but I guess I was going to meet both of you both sooner rather than later. Right, Derek?”

Derek hesitated—possibly startled by Stiles’s change of pace and easy stride. “Uh—yeah. Sure.”

Stiles just raised his brows at him mildly.

Talia tsked at her son, flashing Stiles an isn’t-he-ridiculous smile. “How mean, Derek. Of course we were going to meet you soon.”

Stiles almost missed it, but off to the side, Laura rolled her eyes. Stiles could already tell she’d be a much more difficult opponent to handle than her mother—at least, in this particular instance. He probably didn’t want to meet either of them in a stock exchange or dark alley.

And considering how Talia proceeded to order dinner for all of them, including Stiles, and dismissed a bowing, fumbling waiter with a mere glance of withering dominance, Stiles assumed he never wanted to anger her in the slightest.

“So, Stiles,” Laura piped up. “Tell us—because Derek won’t—what is it that you actually do? How did the two of you even meet?”

Derek rushed out: “I haven’t told you because it’s still early, Laura. You always do this, pushing for answers and nosing around where you’re not wanted—”

“I’m a dogwalker.”

For one moment, the table was suspended in quiet.

“And we met at a bar,” Stiles added.

“A…dogwalker,” Laura repeated. She only sounded mildly put out. “Really?”

“Yeah,” Stiles said, nodding. He flushed a little. “I know it’s not very, uh, respectable, or high-brow—”

“Nonsense,” Talia said over him.

“But I have rich clients, if that helps?” Stiles glanced at Derek and laughed shortly. “Ask Peter; I’m sure he’ll tell you I’m the best damn dogwalker in town.”

“That’s so charming,” Talia said, and ignored the obvious, vivid flush on her son’s face. “I can’t believe Derek wouldn’t tell us that; it’s so—quaint.”

Backhanded compliment aside, Stiles was confident he had Talia’s approval well under hand.

But Laura soldiered on: “Your suit’s so nice; how did you get it?”

Stiles ignored her choice of words—how, not where, as in: how did a prole like yourself gain access to such finery, and why aren’t you toiling in the wheat fields where you belong?

“Honestly? I don’t even know,” Stiles replied, good-humored. “My friend, Lydia—”

“The redhead?” Derek asked, frowning.

“Yeah, we ran into her together. I’m such a scatterbrain; I forgot to introduce you two formally—but that’s so like you, to remember her anyway,” Stiles said, still grinning as he rested an affectionate hand on Derek’s arm.

As they interacted, both Laura and Talia blinked and tilted their heads oddly, just watching them. Their eyes were so eerily scrutinizing that Stiles felt a chill crawl up his spine.

“Anyway,” Stiles said, trying to get over that creepy-crawly feeling. “When I told her about our date tonight, she insisted on dressing me. I don’t know where or how she does the things she’s capable of, but she’s seriously a genius.”

“Aw, Derry—you’ve already met Stiles’s friends?” Talia gushed. “Why don’t you let us know these things? We practically knock down your door for updates!”

“That’s exactly why,” Derek replied, tone taut and falsely calm.

But Talia had obviously perfected ignoring her son’s annoying, rude, or unacceptable behavior to an art form, because she carried on like he’d never even learned intelligent speech in the first place. “And you’ve met some of Derek’s friends, I presume?”

“Yeah, I’ve met Erica.”

“And what did you think of her?”

“Oh my god, I thought she was great.”

“Isn’t she? I adore that girl.”

Oh, yeah—he had Talia’s approval in the damn bag.

If he ever lost it, he might end up floating face-down in the East River—but whatever; details, details.

Yet Laura’s disapproval dragged on, getting bolder and more bald-faced by the minute. “I hope I’m not being too intrusive, Stiles, but aren’t you a student?”

Stiles nodded. “Yeah, I am.”

“And students these days have to deal with so many loans.”

“Laura,” Derek growled out warningly.

“Just curious, had you ever heard of the Hale name and enterprises before you agreed to date my brother?”

Laura.”

She tossed a flippant hand up and sipped from her etched-crystal glass, seeming utterly bored. “I’m just making conversation, Derek. I don’t know why you’re being so uptight—”

“If you’re trying to imply that I’m a gold-digger,” Stiles drawled out, sipping at his own drink casually, “then you’re not the first Hale to do so. When we met, Derek ordered me a drink with gold flakes in it. Then he flashed his leather-bound checkbook at me, like I was a two-bit floozy.”

Derek turned his glare on him, eyes sharp in betrayal.

“What? It’s true,” Stiles said, shrugging—the fact that he actually was a two-bit floozy notwithstanding.

Talia cackled in amusement. “I guess this means Derek’s flirting skills haven’t improved much since he was a teenager.”

Stiles smirked. “Don’t tell me he’s always pulled crap like that.”

“Worse. He bought his high school crush Paige a real live pony.”

“Mom!”

“Hush, Derry. We’re bonding.”

After being evaded so easily, Laura’s disposition quickly turned to match her brother’s exasperation. Her glower was sharp and her lips were pursed as she set her glass down with a heavy clink. “Stiles, answer yes or no—would you ever accept a bribe in exchange for Hale family secrets?”

Derek smacked his hand on the table. “Laura! Shut up.”

“No, you shut up! You have shit taste, Derek; you can’t expect me to just sit by while another snake squirms its way into your life—”

Both of you, stop it this instant.”

The moment Talia had spoken, both her children closed their mouths with audible clacks—and Stiles could’ve sworn he saw the older woman’s eyes flash red.

When she continued, Talia’s voice was heavy and terrifying. “Now. I am trying to get to know this adorable boy. If neither of you will be pleasant, and behave yourselves, I will dismiss you, and Stiles and I will speak in peace. Do you understand?”

Derek nodded his assent pretty much immediately. His sister, however, crossed her arms and pouted, looking off into the distance as though searching for the conveniently missing waiter.

“Laura,” Talia said, tone dripping with deadly impatience. “Do you understand?”

Laura sniffed. “Yes, Mama.”

“Good. Now apologize to Stiles.”

Mom—”

Now.”

Laura looked as though she’d rather roll in the sewer, but she sucked it up anyway, glancing at Stiles like he was the crocodile living in the sewer. “I apologize. Please excuse my rudeness.”

“Hey, it’s fine,” Stiles replied, laughing to cover his nerves. “Derek told me about some of his exes. That’s gotta be enough to cause some trust issues.”

“Yes, for Derek,” Talia cut in. She raised a single, displeased eyebrow at her daughter. “I don’t think his protective sister has that prerogative.”

Laura’s stance and criss-crossed arms remained firm, but there was the slightest bit of a flush growing across her cheeks.

“Well!” Talia exclaimed, shirking her displeasure as easily as a fur coat. “After all this fuss, I think I’d like a drink. Stiles, do you like wine?”

Stiles’s taste in alcohol was basically yes, so he nodded and shrugged noncommittally. He hoped she didn’t ask further questions; he was still only twenty.

But Talia’s expression turned sunny and delighted. “Then I’ll order a bottle for the table.”

She did. They drank it.

They ate their dinner—which, not-so-surprisingly, was pheasant.

Overall, Stiles thought he did pretty well.

[~]

“You were amazing,” Derek told him, taking Stiles’s face in both hands.

They were standing outside the restaurant together, shrouded in the dim ever-glow of the skyscrapers and light-polluted cloud cover. The restaurant was, by loose definition, in the middle of nowhere; outside of office hours, the streets nearby were only sparsely populated with pedestrians and the occasional passing taxi or town-car. From where they stood, it was likely a solid ten minute walk to the nearest station.

Derek’s family had already left by a chauffeur of their own, so the pair of them were quite well isolated—or, more accurately, they were as alone as the city could offer.

“Yeah?” Stiles asked, smiling and leaning his face into Derek’s touch.

“Yeah,” Derek replied. He pressed brief kisses to Stiles’s forehead, both cheeks, and lastly his lips. “I don’t know how you did it, but…you were perfect. Incredible. The kind of amazing that deserves a bonus.”

Stiles leaned his entire body back and away.

“Are you fucking serious?” He asked dryly.

“Yeah…?” Derek said, searching Stiles’s face in gorgeous, focused confusion.

Stiles sighed. Heavily. “I don’t want your money, Derek. I don’t want any of it.”

At first, Derek just watched him in silent thought.

Then, his face opened into an expression of quiet, contemplative astonishment.

“Would you rather…should I get you presents instead?”

Stiles turned to look into a make-believe side-camera.

“What should I buy for you? Is there a certain price expectation? Did you like that aquamarine chandelier?”

Stiles took one large step back, swiveled around, and started a steady walk towards the nearest station.

“Stiles! Where are you going?”

“Home, Derek. I’m going home,” he tossed over his shoulder.

“Why? I don’t understand—”

In sheer frustration, Stiles tilted his head to the sky and yelled: “I’m not a goddamn hooker!”

“…What?”

“I’m not a hooker! I’m a dogwalker.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean I walk dogs.” As they spoke, Stiles kept moving forward, even stomping into intersections without really looking. At this point, he’d welcome a brush with an unruly cabbie as totally in-line with the rest of the fuckball that was his life. “I mean that I am not a hooker, Derek. All my clients? They are dog owners. Because I. Walk. Dogs.”

“But…Stiles,” Derek reached for his hand; Stiles was walking briskly enough that he could only catch his wrist before tugging him to a quick stop. “Stiles, just listen to me for a second. You are a hooker.”

“But I’m not,” Stiles grit out, avoiding Derek’s stare in shame. “I lied to you, Derek. You offered me a fuckload of money, I eat ramen five days a week, and I’m probably one of the easiest, sleaziest people in this fucking city, because I just rolled with it.”

“No, Stiles, you’re not listening,” Derek repeated. His grip tightened slightly. “You are a hooker.”

“No, seriously, I’m not.”

“I offered you money for sex,” Derek said slowly, like he was talking to a child. “And you accepted money for sex. That…makes you a hooker.”

Stiles lifted one finger, opened his mouth, took a sharp breath—and let his hand drop.

“Huh,” he muttered. “That…I hadn’t thought of it like that.”

“You’re a hooker,” Derek said again, just to really drive the point home.

“But…I lied to you.”

How, exactly? Were you planning on returning the money?”

Stiles’s face locked in horror. “You want it back?”

No—I don’t give a shit about the money, Stiles; you really think if I’m willing to drop thousands a week just to see your face I give a fuck about some four thousand—”

“Three.”

“What?”

“It was…you wrote a check for three thousand. And there was that six hundred in cash that I assumed was just, like, gratuity or something.”

Derek tossed an impatient, whatever hand up into the space between them. “See, I don’t even remember how much it was.”

Stiles leaned away from him again. “How much money do you have?”

“Doesn’t matter,” Derek huffed, which probably meant: I don’t even know. “Point is—I thought you were a prostitute because you prostituted yourself. Sorry to burst your ridiculous, oblivious bubble.”

After a second of stunned silence, Stiles snorted a short, mangled laugh. “Why are you acting all angry now?”

“Because you keep slipping away from me,” Derek admitted, flushed and aggravated all at once. “You roll in and out of my life like a sexy, infuriating rainstorm, and trying to keep you is like grabbing for the fucking clouds.”

Stiles slipped a tight hand over his mouth.

And snorted.

“Stop laughing at me.”

“I’m sorry. That was—you’re so poetic.”

“Fucking Christ, Stiles,” Derek grit out. But his annoyance was quickly turning to exhaustion. “Just…what do you want me to do? How can I stop you from leaving my life again?”

“You really want me?” Stiles asked, barely letting the words leak from between his fingers. “I mean…all the time we were together, I acted a lot cooler and sexier than I really am. It was really quite the charade.”

“You can’t fake sexy, Stiles.”

“Don’t underestimate me; I can fake a lot of—wait. This is the second time you’ve called me sexy. You really think I’m hot?”

It was Derek’s turn to lock eyes with a side-camera.

“I mean me, the real me, not…Hooker Me.”

“You are—”

“Okay! I get it! I just thought you were, like, confused or something! I’m not exactly sex-on-a-stick, okay? Unlike some people.”

“Can you just…” Derek rubbed his forehead in exasperation. “Keep focused for a second. And answer my original question.”

“But…you hate liars,” Stiles went on, avoiding Derek’s gaze yet again. “I’m not the most honest person, Derek. Even if I haven’t much lied outright, I’m…well, let’s just say my morals aren’t exactly screwed on right.”

“Uh-huh. Well then—do you have any more Big Reveals for me?” Derek asked dryly. “Are you in a cult, maybe? Do you worship pagan gods? Have you been looking for any human sacrifices lately?”

Stiles blinked. “Um, no…?”

“Wait, let me guess,” Derek went on, tone so dry it rivaled the Gobi. “You’re the simple type, just looking to sell Hale family secrets to a satellite organization of the Russian mafia.”

“Who the fuck do you normally date?” Stiles asked, face scrunched in both discomfort and confusion. “Because that’s some next level shit, Derek. Like, wow. I’m actually feeling kind of boring in comparison—all I am is poor.”

Derek huffed sardonically. “I’m pretty sure that’s a dirty secret I can handle.”

“Oh well don’t force yourself; us blue collar kids are used to a bit of disap—”

Derek shut him up with a fierce, possessive kiss.

[3]

“Well, well…if it isn’t the prodigal son.”

“Hi, Dad.”

“Hey, kiddo. To what do I owe the honor?”

“Oh, come on—can’t a guy just want to hear from his beloved, venerable, highly esteemed father?”

“Uh-huh. You need money?”

Ha, nope.”

“Scott needs money?”

“No!”

“Then what is it?”

“…I kind of met someone.”