Derek Hale stares out on the huge lawn right under his office window. It's Friday, so he's working from home today. Even before he became Head Bitch in Charge at his family's company, Derek's always taken Fridays to stay at home. Stiles says it's because he's spoiled. Derek knows it's because he can't deal with people more than four days a week. Either way, Derek does what he wants.
There's a knock on the door, then it opens before Derek even finishes turning around. Stiles walks in, wearing cargo shorts and a t-shirt. He's carrying a silver tray with a domed cover, which he sets carefully on Derek's desk.
"Tea is served," says the boy, face and voice nearly expressionless. Derek continues to stare.
"I didn't ask for any," Derek finally says. Stiles frowns and crosses his arms, looking defiant.
"I'm a butler, Derek. Butlers bring tea. It's what they do. I'm butlering," he says. Derek pinches the bridge of his nose.
"Stiles. I didn't ask for tea. I don't want any," Derek says.
"Come on, just drink it," Stiles says. Derek doesn't have to look to know that Stiles is pouting. "I made it just for you."
Derek sighs, then decides (as always) to just go along with Stiles' latest inane whim.
"Fine," Derek says. Stiles grins and uncovers the tray, presenting the single silver teacup with a flourish. Derek frowns, but accepts the cup without comment. He takes a sip of the brown liquid, stares down at the cup, then takes another sip. Derek's frown deepens.
"This isn't tea," Derek says.
"Dude, what are you *talking* about, of course it's tea, I made it myself," Stiles says, rounding the desk to stare into Derek's cup. He stares at it for a minute, then,
"This... I think this is cake," Derek says, unable to take his eyes off the teacup.
"But..." Stiles says, frowning, He takes a spoon from the tray and pokes the brown sludge. He looks thoughtful for a moment, then looks up at Derek. "My bad dude, this is cake."
Derek can't help but stare incredulously down at Stiles' nonplussed expression. Stiles, as unaffected as ever by Derek's 'Epic Pissy-Face Stare-Downs,' just continues to look thoughtful. Then his eyes widen.
"But if that's cake..." he says, then promptly turns around and sprints off. Derek looks down at his teacup, sighs, then puts it down to follow Stiles.
He follows the sounds of pots clattering and Stiles cursing to the kitchen, which does not look like a tornado hit it. It looks like Stiles hit it, which is much worse. Stiles is in the middle of it all, looking manic with oven mitts on, and placing a cake pan on a cooling rack.
"What did you do?" Derek asks, his arms crossed.
"So I was making cake, right? But I was listening to an audiobook on my iPod, and it got to a really good part, and I got kind of distracted, and now we have cake tea and teacake," Stiles says, poking at the cake with a toothpick. He looks up at Derek and grins. Derek glares back on principle. Stiles waits a beat, probably so Derek can say something, but Derek refuses to take the bait.
"On the upside, I think I just invented Earl Grey Cake," Stiles says, bright as ever.
Derek looks around at the wrecked kitchen, looks back at Stiles, and then turns around and leaves.
"I'll save you a piece!" Stiles calls after him. Derek walks faster.
Derek enjoys visiting the Hale family library. It’s tucked away in one of the house’s older wings; full of new and old books the family’s collected over the generations. Derek likes sitting in the comfy leather chair right under the east bay window, where he can see the forest and be surrounded by soothing dark wood and deep rugs. Derek enjoys the peace and -
Of course, it isn't all that unusual to find Stiles in here, either. Stiles loves reading and "researching," especially obscure bits of Hale and Stilinski family history ("Derek, did you know that your great-great uncle Peter thought he was a werewolf? The family had him committed, the poor bastard. 'Course, he later burned the asylum down, so...")
There's some muffled thumping, then Stiles rounds a bookcase. Derek expects to see a book or seven in Stiles' arms, so he's surprised to see him carrying a feather duster and a stepladder instead. He catches sight of Derek, stomps over, and plunks the duster and ladder down in front of him.
"I've decided. I'm not dusting anymore. I'm stopping. I hate it, it hates me, we have a mutual hating relationship, and it's just not healthy," Stiles says, gesturing dramatically.
"You dust?" Derek says, looking around blankly. Stiles stops moving entirely, staring at Derek. Derek watches in alarm as Stiles goes visibly from shocked, to angry, to incensed.
"Do I... DO I DUST?! Are you kidding me?!"
"Uh..." Derek says, suddenly nervous.
"Yes, Hale, YES I DUST," Stiles says, fists clenched.
"I - "
"No! You know what? I don't. I don't dust. I refuse," Stiles says, throwing his hands up. He stomps away, leaving a bewildered Derek behind him.
Derek sits, staring at the duster for a minute, then reluctantly pulls out his cell.
|Think I actually made Stiles angry.| Derek sends.
|LOL what did you do now| Laura texts back.
|I just asked him if he dusts.|
|Was he holding a duster when you asked?|
Derek pauses before he texts back. How could she know that?
|Yes. Did Stiles tell you?| Derek asks, suspicious.
|No, dude. I just know your kind of stupid.|
|Thanks.| Derek frowns.
|Don't worry, sweetie. Stiles has yet to figure out how to stay mad at you.|
Derek's not sure what to say to that, especially to Laura. Before he can figure anything out, she texts,
|Buy him some chocolate.|
Derek almost texts back 'Thanks' but Laura follows with:
|And smack his ass. Maybe tell him to make you a sandwich.|
|Shut up.| Derek texts, glaring at his phone. He waits, but Laura doesn't reply. He can just imagine her cackling to herself at his expense.
A day later, Laura texts,
|You owe me, bro. Stiles says that you're socially crippled but he forgives you anyway.|
Derek refuses to respond. That doesn't stop Laura, of course.
|Told you chocolate would work.|
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
“Is Stiles really your butler?” Jackson asks during their biweekly poker night. Derek ignores him out of habit.
“Yeah, Derek, is he?” Lydia asks, grinning for some unfathomable Lydia-reason.
“He is,” Derek says shortly, focusing on his cards.
“Really?” Jackson asks, raising his brows. “He doesn't really act like a butler. He doesn't wear a suit, I've never seen him be quiet, and he doesn't even open the front door.”
“That's true. When we knocked, all he did was shout at us to come in,” Lydia says, smirking, “I mean, it's okay for you to keep an attractive young man around the house, but isn't calling him a butler a bit of a stretch?”
“It is, isn't it?” Jackson says, grinning.
“He is pretty cute, so I can't fault your taste,” Lydia says, flipping her hair.
“I'd tap that,” Danny says blandly. Derek glares over at him, but Danny just continues calmly rearranging his cards.
“Jackson,” Derek grits out, “You know that Stiles is my butler. It goes back for generations between our families. Now shut up so we can play, Whittemore.”
“Whoa, chill,” Jackson says, sounding surprised. “We were just kidding. Learn to take a joke, man.”
“Derek knows not these 'jokes' you speak of,” Stiles says. Derek looks up from his cards to see him standing in the doorway, holding a tray and looking smug. “Also I brought cake. You guys want any?”
“Yeah,” Jackson says.
“Sure,” says Danny.
“Oh, I shouldn't,” Lydia says, eyes gleaming as she takes in the sight of the cake slices.
“You definitely should,” Stiles says, confident, “This cake is amazingly delicious, even Derek thinks so.”
Derek feels his eyebrows go up.
“I never said that,” he says. Stiles gives him a look.
“Due. It's not that hard to figure out, when two slices of the cake I baked yesterday are gone and I only ate one. You're the only other person living here, and burglars should know better than to steal some of my cake. Clearly, my astounding baking skills are too much for you to handle, and you were forced to steal a piece for yourself last night. Don't worry, I understand completely. It's awesome cake.”
Having served the cake while he was talking, Stiles sails out of the room, shooting a cheeky grin at Derek along the way.
“Ohmygod,” Lydia says, her voice muffled by the fork in her mouth. “This is delicious.” She takes another bite, and outright moans.
“This is really good,” Danny says.
“It's alright,” Jackson says as he shovels the rest of his piece into his mouth. He turns a calculating look on Danny's slice, but Danny glares him down and places a protective arm around his plate. Derek just calmly tucks into his piece.
“Derek,” Lydia says, snapping her fingers. Derek frowns at her, but she doesn't seem to care. “Make Stiles give me the recipe for this cake.”
“I can't make Stiles do anything,' Derek says, smirking and taking another bite of cake. Lydia glares at him, but then – her mouth falls open.
“Oh. My god,” she says.
“What?” Jackson asks.
“The reason Derek keeps Stiles around,” she says, “It's so obvious.”
She sounds gleeful, but Jackson just looks unimpressed.
“Yeah,” he says, “because of the cake.”
“No, you idiot,” Lydia says, exasperated.
“Huh,” Danny says, “It is kind of obvious when you think about it.”
“What is?” Jackson asks, plainly confused. Lydia rolls her eyes. Derek's not sure what she's talking about either, so he glares at her just in case. She ignores him.
“Think about it, Jackson. It starts with an 'L'...” Lydia says, speaking as if to a two-year-old. Jackson frowns in thought.
“...Lesbians?” he finally asks. Danny starts laughing while Lydia covers her face with her hands.
Derek just pinches the bridge of his nose and wonders why he spends time with these people.
Props and cake to you if you spotted the Scott Pilgrim reference
So, there was no chapter yesterday because during the short window I had to post, AO3 freaked out and I spend twenty minutes trying to wrestle with it. Clearly I failed. So to make up, there will be not one, but TWO chapters up today! As long as AO3 doesn't freak out again!
Every so often, Stiles will go into a fit of trying to be more 'butlery'; to be a 'real' butler. Derek doesn't really understand why, considering Stiles' father had been pretty relaxed about the title. He'd been professional and competent, but comfortable. Derek's not sure what Stiles is trying to live up to, but he tries to wait him out patiently until he goes back to normal. Well, normal for Stiles.
So he's not exactly surprised when, a month after the cake tea incident, Stiles shows up to breakfast wearing a three-piece suit. He just takes the toast Stiles hands him and updates Stiles on his schedule for the day.
Stiles seems otherwise normal as he drives Derek into the city for work, chattering and asking Derek's opinions about songs on the radio, and ignoring Derek's grunts of annoyance every time he flips it to a pop station. He waves cheerfully when Derek gets out of the car, his silver cufflinks glinting in the sun.
Derek is somewhat surprised to see Stiles back in his normal jeans and a t-shirt when he comes to pick him up. He notes a brace on Stiles' left wrist.
“What happened?” he asks, curious and concerned.
“Suits are evil,” Stiles says darkly. Derek blinks down a the suit he's wearing. “No, not yours. I'm never wearing a suit again.”
“Why?” Derek asks.
“Because clearly they're bad luck!” Stiles says.
“Why?” Derek asks, still patient. He's long since used to Stiles' rambling.
“All I did was try to change a light bulb! That's all! And then the stupid suit just had to go and make me fall down the stairs! I mean, yeah I was standing on a rolly chair at the time, but - ”
“You... fell down the stairs?” Derek asks, finally processing the Stiles-babble. “Are you hurt? Did you go to the hospital?”
Derek finds himself looking Stiles over again, frowning when he sees a light bruise on Stiles' cheek. Stiles catches his stare in the rear view mirror and rolls his eyes.
“Chill, caveman. I'm fine. I went to the hospital, and all I did was sprain my wrist and bruise myself. It's fine, and anyway I already burned the suit so all the bad mojo should be aired out of the house already and - ” Stiles rambles on. Derek's caught on one thing.
“You burned the suit?” he asks.
“Dude, of course I burned the suit! What, you think I was going to let a back luck vector remain in our home? Are you crazy? I salted and burned it, just like the internet said! I googled exorcisms and everything, but apparently earth-and-fire is the only way to be sure,” Stiles says.
Derek really has no response to that, like much of Stiles-babble, and just sits quietly and watches Stiles dodge expertly through Beacon City traffic. Stiles turns up the radio and hums along to Florence and the Machine.
It's too bad, though. Stiles looked really good in that suit.
Well damn. I am really really bad about this whole 'posting when I say I will' thing. Uh, sorry. :/
Don't tell Stiles that Derek said this, but... Stiles is kind of an amazing baker. Derek has eaten strange, carob-infused and wasabi-sprinkled Things that have no right tasting good but do because Stiles makes them. Laura fully admits that more than half the reason she ever visits them is because of the Stiles-patented Caramel Delight.
What makes all this amazing baking even more incredible is the fact that Stiles can't cook. He just can't. Stiles has burned out the bottoms of two pots, one pan, and an electric teakettle (don't ask). They once had to replace the entire smoke alarm system and repaint the kitchen because Stiles decided he wanted fry bread.
But. The point. The point is that when Derek walks downstairs one Friday evening to see Stiles grinning, and Stiles says,
“I made your favorite!”
Derek's heart stops. Or it feels that way. He's trapped, one foot still on the bottom step, until Stiles continues.
“I mean, China Express made your favorite! Szechuan chicken! But I'm still taking credit. I don't see you picking up the phone and haggling with Mrs. Ling. And let me tell you, she drives a hard bargain. Can you believe she wanted an extra ten bucks added to the delivery bill? I mean, yes the driveway alone is long and creepy enough to test the fortitude of any delivery person, but struggle builds character, right?” Stiles says, waving his hands around. Now that he's not silently panicking, Derek finally notices the takeout menu in Stiles' hand.
Thank god. Crisis averted.
“Right?” Stiles says again. Derek just nods, because if he's learned one survival skill growing up with Laura and Stiles, it's when to nod at the appropriate times.
Stiles beams and wanders out of the room. Derek watches him go and wonders... Why the hell did he come downstairs? There must have been a reason, but there's no way Derek's remembering it now, after his near heart attack.
...Oh well. At least he's getting Chinese out of it.
Derek's most of the way back up the stairs when the doorbell rings. He keeps going, figuring that since Stiles ordered it, he can get it. There's a muffled thumping, then,
“WHO IS IT?” Stiles shouts. Derek pinches the bridge of his nose.
“Um... delivery?” comes the reply. The voice sounds confused.
“ALRIGHT I'LL BE RIGHT THERE JUST COME ON IN,” Stiles yells back. Another pause, then the click and shuffle of the front door opening. Derek briefly considers going back downstairs on the off chance Stiles invited a serial killer into the house, but in the end continues on.
Poor serial killer.
Derek's heard Lydia Martin called a debutante, a lady, and a genius. It's been remarked that without her as Jackson Whittemore's right hand, Whittemore Inc. would be screwed. The gossip goes that Lydia Martin isn't merely the power behind the throne, she is the throne.
Derek thinks she's evil.
Today is Friday, and instead of peacefully going through paperwork in his home office, Derek is facing Lydia down in his front hallway.
“Derek. We need to go over the reports from R & D,” Lydia says calmly. Her handbag (no doubt ridiculously expensive) rests in the crook of her elbow, her hair and makeup are flawless, and her posture is perfect as always. Derek crosses his arms.
“No,” he says, firm. Lydia narrows her eyes.
“You don't want to lose this contract, do you?” she asks, and crosses her arms right back. “If we can prove that Hale Enterprises and Whittemore Inc. can play nicely over a shared military contract, it could be extremely lucrative for both companies.”
“I know,” Derek says calmly.
“Good! I have the most recent numbers from our lab, and - ” Lydia says, reaching toward her bag.
“it's Friday,” Derek says, just as calmly as before. “I work from home on Fridays. Alone.”
Lydia raises a brow at him, but Derek stays firm. She crosses her arms again. Derek glares. Her foot starts tapping.
“Well. I suppose I'll just have to stay and wait until you're more reasonable. Is Stiles here? I could use some tea,” Lydia says.
“Right here,” Stiles says. Derek blinks and looks around, but sees no Stiles. There's a thump, then Stiles stumbles out from behind a potted palm (Stiles' idea, not Derek's, for the record) in the corner behind Lydia.
“Oh, hey, look at that,” Stiles says, trying to grin, “I totally didn't see you guys there. Talking. About stuff. Uh.” He falters under Derek and Lydia's combined stares.
“And where did you come from?” Lydia asks, raising one terrifying eyebrow. Stiles' eyes widen, and he looks caught. Lydia tends to to that; make people feel like prey.
“Uh,” he says, eloquently, “Secret passageway?”
Lydia's other brow goes up, and Derek rolls his eyes.
“Really?” Lydia says, “Secret passageways.”
“Yep!” Stiles says, grinning again. “I've been wandering this place since I was like, five. I know all the secret passageways and where all the bodies are hidden and - ”
“Stiles. There aren't any secret passageways,” Derek says repressively. He just wants Lydia to leave, so he can go back to his quiet office. The last thing he needs right now is for her to get interested in the mansion's secret passageways of all things.
Stiles blinks, processing what he knows to be a patently false statement. Then his expression shifts from confusion to horror.
“...but there are bodies?!”
Derek looks up, at the ceiling. Takes a deep breath. Then another. Looks back at Stiles.
“No,” he says, with finality.
“But - ”
“Derek, if there are bodies, I think - ”
“Stiles. Just... Go get Lydia some tea,” Derek says. Stiles throws up his hands in protest, but walks off anyway (muttering about sour cavemen all the while). Lydia snorts, and Derek turns back to glare down her amusement.
“Go. We can go over the reports tomorrow,” he growls, his patience all worn out.
“Oh, I couldn't leave now,” Lydia says, smiling sharply. “Not when Stiles went to get me tea. It would be rude!”
“Besides. It still looks like if I want to get any work done today, I have to wait for you to be reasonable,” Lydia says, “Now, where's your sitting room?”
Derek locks eyes with Lydia, trying to force her out with sheer willpower. It doesn't work. Lydia's still standing there, tapping her foot. Derek breathes out heavily through his nose, then turns and starts leading the way.
Twenty minutes later, Stiles walks in to yet another staring match between Derek and Lydia. Lydia breaks it off to smile politely at Stiles, who grins back. She sips her tea, pronounces it worthy, then turns back to Derek.
“I thought you said you work alone on Fridays,” Lydia says, taking another dainty sip of tea.
“I do,” Derek grits out, still glaring. Lydiea looks pointedly to Stiles. “Stiles doesn't count.”
Derek doesn't have to look to know that Stiles is glaring at him.
“Gee, thanks, Derek,” Stiles says.
“You know that's not what I meant,” Derek says, continuing to glare at Lydia. This is her fault Stiles snorts.
“Right, right. Again – thanks,” Stiles says, sarcasm heavy. Lydia widens her eyes in faux sympathy.
“Oh, you poor baby,” she coos, “It must be so difficult, living with him.”
“You know, it really is,” Stiles says, sighing theatrically.
“Well, you can come stay with me anytime you like,” Lydia says, her sympathy turning sly,” I'd make sure you'd feel appreciated. I'd even help you bake those delicious cakes if necessary.”
“Well...” Stiles says. Derek can tell Stiles is only pretending to think about it, but he still finds himself stupidly holding his breath, waiting. His eyes are caught on Stiles' thoughtful expression, as Stiles continues to milk the moment. Then he sighs again, shaking his head.
“I'm afraid I have to turn you down,” he says, “Seeing as you'd only be using me for my mad baking skills. I have more self-respect than that.” Stiles sniffs.
Derek finally breathes out, relieved. Stupid. Of course Stiles wouldn't leave. He amps up his glare at Lydia, for making him even think about it.
“Damn. Foiled again,” Lydia says, undefeated. “Well, since I'm going to have to leave without your company, can I at least have some baked goods to salve my wounds?”
“Of course, m'lady. I have some cranberry muffins leftover from breakfast. That alright?” Stiles says.
“That would be lovely,” she says, eyes gleaming, her smile even more predatory than usual. She tends to get that way around Stiles' baking.
“Great! Be right back,” Stiles says. Derek watches him go, then turns back to glaring at Lydia. Lydia actually deigns to look his way again.
“You know, at first I thought it was funny,” Lydia says, placing her teacup and saucer daintily back on the tray. Derek doesn't take the bait. “I mean, the two of you are just so oblivious. Watching you two is like watching puppies bumble around each other. Or, was. Now it's just... annoying.” Her nose wrinkles.
Derek has no idea what she's talking about, which she can probably tell from his blank expression. Lydia snorts and reaches for her bag.
“Someday, one or both of you will figure it out, and you'll remember that I always know everything and I'm always right,” Lydia says, flipping her hair behind her shoulder. She stands, saying, “And in the meantime, you should know that I'm not going to give up on stealing Stiles away. The cake alone...” Her eyes start to look a bit glazed.
That's when Stiles walks back in, carrying a tupperware full of carefully packed muffins.
“You're not staying?” Stiles asks, sounding disappointed. Derek grits his teeth.
“Jackson texted me. Urgent meeting. He probably needs me to blow his nose or something,” Lydia says breezily, reaching for the muffins. Stiles hands them over.
“Ta,” Lydia says, “I'll show myself out.” She sashays out the door, and Stiles watches her go. Derek watches Stiles watching her, displeased for some reason. Finally, he stands, crossing his arms. Stiles looks over at him and blinks.
“You know that's not what I meant. Before,” Derek says, scowling. Stiles blinks again. “It's not... You don't annoy me. You count.”
Stiles blinks, again. He doesn't say anything, and a silence stretches out between them. Derek frowns and turns to leave, but Stiles says,
“Wait! Are you... apologizing?!” He sounds incredulous. Derek turns back to glare at him.
“No,” Derek says, teeth clenched.
“Really?” Stiles says dubiously, “Because that sounded like an apology. Well, for you.”
“I wasn't apologizing,” Derek says, narrowing his eyes. “I was... clarifying.”
“Oh my god,” Stiles says, “You totally just apologized to me!”
Derek glares harder, but Stiles just looks outright gleeful.
“I'm so texting Laura,” Stiles says, whipping out his cell phone.
“Don't,” Derek says, taking a step towards Stiles. But Stiles just cackles and dashes off, probably to one of the many secret passageways.
Derek groans. If Stiles texts Laura, Laura will know that Derek apologized to someone, without prompting or delaying. She'll never let him live it down.
“Is 'frowny-face' spelled with a Y or an I E?” Stiles yells from the hallway. Derek growls and starts after him.
I admit that this part got away from me. I was all ready for silliness, but Stiles was all 'Develop my character, bitch!' and Derek was all 'I have FEEEEELINGS.' What're you going to do, right?
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Derek looks down at the book in his hands and sighs. Oh Stiles.
Derek hadn't meant to find it, and had in fact been looking for a Stephen King novel that Stiles had stolen before Derek got a chance to finish it. He'd ventured into Stiles' corner of the library, hoping to find it among the stacks of books Stiles was in the middle of reading.
Instead he'd found A Comprehensive Guide to the Art of Being a Butler by Artraud Stilinksi, tucked between a treatise on the French Enlightenment and the latest Batman comics. Unlike the rest of the books on the battered desk, the guide has clearly been read all the way through. It has a plethora of sticky notes poking out of it, of varying colors and sizes. Curious, Derek flips to one at random, a purple one near the beginning.
The sticky note just says 'snowball's chance in hell' in Stiles' spiky scrawl, with an arrow pointing inward toward the page. The page reads, 'Chapter Two: The Butler Should Be Neither Seen nor Heard.' Derek snorts in amusement.
“What are you doing?”
Derek turns to see Stiles behind him, framed between the rows of shelves. He's frowning, and Derek snaps the book shut.
“Is this where you've been getting your ideas from?” Derek asks, raising the book.
“What? No!” Stiles scoffs. Derek's eyebrows go up. “Well, maybe a little. Okay, fifty percent and I took a lot from Batman.”
Derek looks at the stack of comics and back at Stiles.
“What? Alfred is kickass,” he says, “But that's not the point! The point is that you didn't answer my question. What are you doing with that?” He takes a step closer, as if he can protect the book from Derek. Derek frowns.
“Why is it important to you?” he asks, gripping the book a little tighter.
“It's not,” Stiles says, eyes glued to the book. Derek looks from the book, to Stiles, and back again.
“You know you don't have to be the perfect butler,” he blurts out. His mouth tightens. He hadn't meant to say that. He glances up to see Stiles looking stunned, then defensive.
“Look, I know,” Stiles says, advancing on Derek. He takes the book from his hands and places it gently back on the desk. “Just, maybe I want to.”
“Why?” Derek asks, frowning. Being a butler never seemed to matter to Stiles when they were younger. It had always been astronaut, detective, martial arts master, or maybe an archaeologist like Indy. Derek watches Stiles fiddle with the arrangement of the stacks, moving one or two books between them. He's quiet, which makes Derek tense.
“After Dad died,” Stiles says, startling Derek, “I just... didn't want to be anything anymore. And then, I figured, I could do this, at least.”
He goes quiet again, and Derek has no idea what to say. They don't talk about Stiles' dad, the same way they don't talk about Derek's parents. Stiles and Laura tend to have long, loud, involved discussions about their feeling and what kind of cereal they like. But that's never really been the way Derek and Stiles work.
Though, to be fair, it's just not the way Derek works. He's never been good with words and emotions the way Stiles and Laura are.
While Derek has been struggling with what to say, Stiles has been straightening the stacks into some kind of order only he can see. He gives Derek a half-smile that smooths Derek's frustration away.
“Anyway. You don't have to worry about me,” he says. “I'm just, you know, playing up the part. And I got some really excellent tips on getting wine stains out of waistcoats, so it's actually been a really big help. I mean, I never would have thought to use club soda and lemon before, but apparently the lemon is just enough of an astringent without harshing out the fabric too much, and...”
Derek's barely paying attention to the words, just watching the casual way Stiles is smiling now. And, Derek realizes Stiles does this all the time. He puts a good face on things, and distracts Derek from things that make him uncomfortable. Like feelings.
Stiles tends to joke about Derek being a caveman who won't talk if he can grunt, and Stiles has certainly always been there to fill the silences. Usually, Derek gets annoyed with people who say too many words to him, or at him. He hates feeling pressured to react, to expose his thoughts, and especially the pressure to respond to others' demands on his presence.
With Stiles, Derek feels calm. Well, almost. He doesn't feel pressured. Stiles talks a lot, but he never demands anything from Derek. Stiles knows exactly the limits Derek has on social interaction. And he respects them. He's never really acted afraid of Derek, or intimidated. He respects Derek, and understands him, and acts accordingly. Derek can count on one hand the people who have done that for him, been that to him.
And... shit. Just, goddammit. Lydia was right.
Derek is in love with Stiles.
“...and that is why it's so hard to get the cream into the cream puffs. Derek? Are you paying attention? Because let me tell you, this is prime stuff. All my baking secrets, revealed! Are you listening? No, of course you're not listening. Derek?” Stiles says. Derek just looks extremely constipated, turns, and walks away.
“Huh. I thought he liked cream puffs.”
Also I have no idea if lemon really works on stains, so don't try this at home.
So that whole 'posting a chapter a day' thing? Clearly didn't happen. I moved halfway across the country and started a new job, and am only now feeling settled enough to be posting fanfic. I *have* been writing while I've dropped off the face of the internet, though, so look forward to that.
Another update without months in between?! GASP! I'm just as shocked as you are, folks.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Derek still hasn't figured out a way to actually say the words. For all that Stiles is an open book, Derek has no idea how he'll take it.
Derek deals with this uncertainty the best way he can. By ignoring it.
Jackson and Derek have been sort-of friends almost since birth. Their parents ran in the same circles, sent them to the same boarding schools, and they both packed off the Stanford when the time came. They both did internships in New York, and even dated (briefly, at different times) that asshole Harvey Specter while they were there.
The only major differences that spring to mind are that Jackson still has parents while Derek doesn't, and Derek has Stiles. Jackson doesn't.
Jackson would gladly, gleefully trade his parents for Stiles.
When they were younger, the only part Jackson liked about being on break from school was seeing Lydia and Stiles again. Stiles was a constant, chattering presence during their childhood, always trailing around after them whenever they were at the Hales'. And they often were, since neither Jackson nor Lydia's parents were treats to be around. The constant, subtle put-downs and criticism tended to get old after a while.
Stiles never judged them. He never expected them to be the best. With Stiles, you never had to be champion of everything. It was a relief, even if he never did learn just when to shut up.
Jackson might need that relief even more now. It turns out that heading a multi billion dollar international company is more stressful than staying captain of the lacrosse team. And even if the investors and board members have nothing on his parents' demoralizing skills, they're still a bitch for Jackson to deal with. He could use something uncomplicated in his life.
So when Lydia complains over drinks that Derek and Stiles still haven't gotten their asses together and gotten together, Jackson perks up. And when she sends him alone to poker night later that week so she and Danny can deal with the latest interdepartmental crisis, well, Jackson sees his chance.
It's just him, Derek, and Stiles around the poker table that night, which means they're playing for Oreos (Stiles has a terrible poker face). During the first hand, Jackson keeps up a steady stream of conversation about Stiles' day, what he's been doing with himself lately, etc. During the next hand, he steps it up, reaching across Stiles to get to the pretzel dish so that his arm brushes his chest, and maintaining eye contact more than strictly necessary. After that he starts in with subtle compliments, about how smart Stiles is, how energetic and flexible... in regards to Derek's schedule, of course.
Stiles is no fool – he knows something's up. He's just not sure what, and is waiting for the punchline. One of Jackson's favorite past-times when they were kids was teasing him (“short,” “baby,” throwing snakes in his lap, etc.), and he's never really outgrown that (“short,” “baby,” throwing books about lizards at him, etc.). When Jackson is being charming, and he can be very charming Stiles will admit, it's best to be on the lookout.
So when Jackson eases the conversation over to how he and Lydia were talking about something-or-other the other day, Stiles shouts,
“Ha! I knew it! You're just here to get the Earl Grey Cake recipe out of me for Lydia! Admit it!”
Jackson looks flabbergasted, Derek is pinching the bridge of his nose, and Stiles feels pretty damn smug about figuring out Jackson's secret plan.
“Nice try, but that recipe, is staying safe with me,” Stiles says, looking back at his cards. He groans and throws them down, pushing his last two oreos into the pot. “And I'm out. I'm going to go play some Halo. At least that I have a chance of winning.”
“Do you have to go?” Jackson asks, brows furrowed.
“Like I said, Jacky m'boy, nice try. But I'm not giving up that recipe,” Stiles says cheerfully on his way out, slapping Jackson on the shoulder. Jackson watches him go, then turns back and scowls at his cards. He and Derek play out the rest of the hand in complete silence.
Before they can start the next one, Jackson turns to Derek with his eyes and mouth narrowed in a calculating expression.
“You know Stiles,” Jackson says. Derek grunts. “You know what Stiles likes.” Derek grunts again, making Jackson glare at him. “Can you tell me what he likes or not? I need an in with him. Are there any books or games he's said he wants?”
Derek glares viciously down at his cards. He'd sat through an entire game of Jackson flirting with Stiles, and hadn't said anything. He hadn't said anything to Stiles yet about his own feelings, so he had no right to interfere.
But there is no way in hell that Derek is going to help Jackson woo Stiles. He looks up from his cards, to Jackson. Jackson looks impatient, at first. Then confused. Then nervous.
“No,” Derek says.
Jackson leaves pretty soon after that, which Derek can't bring himself to regret.
Yes, that was a drive-by Suits reference if you caught it. And yes, another thing I wrote about though I know nothing about it – poker. Poker has 'hands', right?
So I realized that certain elements of this fic – mostly having to do with Stiles' obliviousness – only work if you assume that Stiles has cripplingly low self-esteem and believes that no one could really want him for himself. So. Um. Enjoy that?
An hour after Jackson leaves, Stiles wanders into the library with a couple of cupcakes. Derek takes one graciously and Stiles perches on the arm of his chair. Stiles is silent for a moment, munching on pastry. Then,
“Jackson seemed pretty frustrated when he left.”
Derek looks up at Stiles' face, trying to judge what he's thinking. His expertise in Stiles-wrangling says that Stiles is thinking of stealing Derek's cupcake. Not helpful.
Derek grunts and looks back to the book lying open in his lap. Stiles pokes him, and he hands over the cupcake.
“What, did you piss him off?” Stiles says. He pokes him again, and Derek glares up at him. “Did you glare him into submission? Threaten to muss his hair? You know it's the source of all his power. What?”
Derek looks back at his book. A beat, then, “Yes.”
“Yes? Yes what?”
“I glared at him,” Derek says. He goes back to pretending to read his book.
“Knew it! Wait, why?” Stiles says, Derek's expression is stony and he refuses to answer. Stiles pokes him.
“I didn't want to help him,” Derek says to his book.
“Oh... kay. Help with what? His plans for world domination? Lydia's got that covered,” Stiles says. Derek snorts, and a tiny smile makes an appearance. “There you go, big guy! So what's he planning, really?”
The smile vanishes and Derek scowls.
“To take you out,” Derek says. Stiles nods in understanding, then,
“Wait, what?! He's planning on taking me out? As in killing me? Why?! I haven't done anything to him! Lately! You told him no, right?! Oh my god, of course you told him no, that's why you kicked him out, right?” Stiles says. He's jumped off the chair and is pacing around, gesturing wildly. Derek briefly considers letting Stiles believe Jackson wants to kill him, but then he rolls his eyes and interrupts.
“Not kill you. He wants to take you out. On a date.”
“Oh,” Stiles says, blinking. His body comes to a stop. Then he narrows his eyes. “Are you sure? It seems way more likely that he wants to kill me.”
“He was flirting with you,” Derek grumbles.
“Jackson?” Stiles says incredulously. “Jackson Whittemore? The guy who stole my G.I. Joes and strapped them to bottle rockets?”
“He was twelve,” Derek says.
“Yeah, and I was ten and he made fun of me for playing with dolls. He called me a twerp,” Stiles says indignantly. Derek doesn't reply.
But Stiles isn't done. “Hang on. If you think Jackson was hitting on me, why did you glare him away?”
Derek looks shifty, but before he can respond, Stiles babbles on.
“Dude. You don't think Lydia is going to kill me? For going out with Jackson? I can never tell whether they're dating or not. Not that I'd go out with him, because come on. Those Joes were collectible.”
Derek gives him a strange look, and Stiles trails off.
“I just didn't want him flirting with you,” Derek says, going back to his book.
“Derek?” Stiles asks again, obviously confused. Derek doesn't answer, and eventually Stiles wanders back out.
When he's gone, Derek lets the book fall and rubs the spot between his eyebrows where a headache is forming. He probably should have said something then. About why he doesn't want anyone else flirting with Stiles. Probably.
He thinks about calling Laura for advice, but he can imagine her telling (yelling at) him to go talk to Stiles. And he knows how that would go. He wouldn't be able to find the right words, and Stiles would jump to conclusions, and Derek still wouldn't have the right words, like always. Nothing would be solved. And Laura would make fun of him for being twenty-five years old and not able to have a normal adult conversation about his emotions. Like always.
He could choose not to tell Stiles. Leave things the way they are. And end up killing Jackson Whittemore for touching Stiles.
Remember when this was just going to be a couple short scenes about Stiles being a dorky butler? I do. And then I decided to add just a teensy bit of character development and emotional culmination and then it snowballed like holy shit.
The next day, the latest comics from Stiles' pull box are waiting on his desk for him. He'd been too busy the past couple of weeks to pick them up, and had complained to Derek about it.
To reward Derek for his thoughtfulness, he orders Szechuan Chicken and lo mein for dinner and bakes chocolate chip cookies. He mentions offhand that Derek had better appreciate those cookies, because he hand-mixed them himself. Also, it's not his fault the stand-mixer broke down, because the box said it could handle any kind of dough. Any kind.
The day after that, a brand-new stand-mixer is sitting in Stiles' kitchen. Stiles shrugs it off as a not-so-subtle plea for more cookies, and makes plans for more baking.
The day after that, Stiles comes home from grocery shopping to find a landscaping service cutting down the bushes outside his bedroom window. He doesn't know how many times he's nagged Derek about how creepy the bushes around the house are, and how they tap against his bedroom window at night in particular. He never thought something would actually come of it.
It's when he's making cookies later that evening that it all comes together for him.
“Oh my god,” he says, dropping the spoon back into the bowl. Lydia looks over from where she's 'secretly' been putting cookies into a tupperware to take home with her.
“What?” she asks, stealing two more.
“Derek's dying!” he says. Lydia's brow furrows. “It explains everything! He's been acting really weird and nice the last few days, and he totally kept Jackson from killing me, and he keeps glaring at his phone like he does when he's thinking about calling Laura! He has cancer, doesn't he?”
Stiles is this close to panic, because why didn't he realize this sooner? But Lydia is just giving him an exasperated Look. It's a combination of the 'Oh Honey' and the 'Are You Really This Stupid.'
“What?” Stiles says, defensive. Lydia shakes her head.
“He's not dying,” she says.
“It's the only explanation!”
Lydia gives him the Look again.
“Think about it. He's doing nice things for you. Scaring off the competition. Maybe wanting to ask family for advice...” Lydia says leadingly.
“Yeah...” Stiles says. He ponders, rearranging facts in his head, looking at it from different angles, trying to figure out...
“Derek wants to date me?!” he squeaks. Lydia puts down her cookies and gives a couple of long, slow claps. Then she pulls out her cell phone.
“Huh. Looks like I lost that bet with Danny,” She says, starting to tap away. She pauses to glare at Stiles. “You just lost me fifty bucks, you know. If you'd just waited a week to figure out you're in love with each other - ”
“In love?” Stiles says, even more alarmed. His knuckles are white where he's gripping the edge of the counter, and he notices that he's breathing just a little too fast. Shit. He'll never live it down if he faints in front of Lydia.
Lydia walks briskly around the kitchen island and pushes Stiles down to sit on the ground with his head between his knees. She smacks his head when he tries to stand up, and finally he settles and tries to breathe. He takes a couple deep breath then says, calmly enough,
“Why do you think Derek is in love with me?”
“Are you kidding me?” Lydia says, “You didn't notice all the longing looks?”
“I thought it was indigestion?” Stiles says, feeling faint. Lydia snorts.
“Danny's right. You two deserve each other,” Lydia says, “You're the most oblivious people I've ever met.”
“Probably,” Stiles agrees from between his knees. He's just going to stay here in the fetal position. Just for a little bit. Maybe a week.
“Are you okay?” Lydia finally asks, the click of heels coming to a stop beside him.
“Me? Oh, I'm just dealing with having my assumptions and realizations brutally rearranged. I'll be fine,” Stiles says, counting the specks in the linoleum. He doesn’t look up, because if Lydia has any more epiphanies, she can just come back later.
“Good,” Lydia says brusquely, click-clacking away. “Text me when the celebratory sex is over. I have some briefs for Derek to look over on the joint project.” There's some rustling as she gathers up her bag and cookies, and then she's gone.
Stiles takes a deep breath, releases it. He does that a couple more times. Then he stands up, grabs a plate of cookies, and heads towards Derek's office.
Heads up, there's a whole lot of shmoop and not a lot of butlering in this part.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
When Derek looks up, Stiles is standing in the doorway. He's holding a plate of cookies, and he has a strange look on his face.
“What?” Derek says, putting down the papers he was holding.
“Um,” Stiles says, blinking and looking down at the plate in his hands. “I brought you some cookies. That I made. With Lydia. Today. Um.”
Stiles doesn't move to put the cookies down, or come any closer than the doorway. Derek can feel himself frowning.
“Stiles,” Derek says.
“We talked. While we made the cookies. About... dating,” Stiles says, starting to fidget a little. He hasn't looked up from the cookies yet. And when he says 'dating,' Derek can feel his face go blank, shut down.
He waited too long. He waited too long, and Stiles' childhood crush on Lydia never went away, did it? Lydia's smart enough to see what's right in front of her. She's smart enough to take it.
Derek doesn't respond to Stiles. He can't say anything. He's missed his chance.
“Okay. Look. There's no way I'm ever going to be smooth about this, or tactful or anything. Sooo... Are you in love with me?” Stiles asks. He's looking at Derek now, staring straight at him. And Derek's helpless, heart pounding, because,
“Yes. I am.”
And now Stiles is going to tell him that he and Lydia are dating, and -
“Oh thank god,” Stiles says. He sounds relieved.
“What,” Derek says.
“Me too. I'm in love. With you. Just – holy shit that was nerve-wracking. I mean – Lydia said – and she's never been wrong, but...” Stiles says. He walks forward now, fumbling the plate of cookies onto Derek's desk and flailing his hands about.
“You. You too?” Derek says. He clears his throat, and notices that his hands are clenched into fists on his desk. He relaxes them slowly, making them lay flat on top of his paperwork. It had felt, for a second, like the world had stopped. Then started again, brighter and clearer than before.
“Yeah. I mean, I've kind of wanted you for a while now, but I never thought it would happen and you never gave any sign that you felt the same way, so I kind of gave up on it,” Stiles says. He hesitates a moment, then walks around Derek's desk to stand beside him. Derek turns to face him, reaches out a hand to touch his arm.
“I didn't realize how much you meant to me until recently,” Derek says, frowning at himself. Stiles just grins and leans forward, pausing to look Derek in the eye. Derek smiles back and closes the rest of the distance, his hands coming up to grip Stiles' waist while Stiles' rest on his shoulders.. Then they're kissing, and – it feels like the first time he drank champagne. Warm, tickling vibrations hitting the back of his throat, which he soon realizes are Stiles' chuckles. He pulls back, raising an eyebrow.
“We're just so stupid,” Stiles says, “We could have been doing this already. Can you imagine how much Laura is going to make fun of us?”
Derek can. He lets his head thunk forward into Stiles' chest.
“This is all your fault,” Derek grumbles into his shirt.
“Too bad, you're not getting rid of me,” Stiles says brightly – smugly even. Derek's hands tighten on Stiles' hips, and he looks up at Stiles from hooded eyes.
“Good,” Derek says, and leans in to kiss Stiles again.
Well, that's finally the end of that fic. I hope y'all liked it. I'll be posting it over on my journal, and archiving it on FF.net as well. I've also started a sequel to it, but gods only know when I'll finish it, with all the other sequels and fics I've promised people.
Anyway, thank you for reading, and I'd love you hear from you!