“Your eyes, blue and bright / Like Mountain Frost Gatorade,” Stiles reads aloud, not bothering to contain his glee. “Now that is powerful stuff. Oh, but this next line is my favorite: Your skin, warm and soft / As an underbaked loaf of bread. Bread, Derek? Really?”
Derek Hale, Stiles’ most favorite and least talented client, has his head buried in his arms and is producing a constant growling noise to drown the words out. “Stop,” he groans desperately. “Why are you doing this to me. I will murder you.”
“We’re going to have to add the proper copyright symbol after ‘Mountain Frost Gatorade,’ of course.” Stiles almost feels guilty about how much he’s enjoying this. Almost. “Are you sure that’s the blue one and not the kind of dark purple one?”
“It’s discontinued,” Derek sighs, raising his head and scrubbing his hands violently through his hair a few times. “Stiles. Please just do whatever it is you do and leave me out of it.”
Stiles scoffs. “Oh my god, suck it up, Hale. According to the New York Times Bestseller List you’ve become the Stephanie Meyer of love poetry, which, first of all, congratulations!”
“I will jump out of that window,” Derek says, and wow, he actually looks manic enough to try it.
“We’re only four floors up; you’ll probably just break your legs and have to write another book anyway,” Stiles points out. Derek’s eyebrows are starting to draw together in a really threatening way, which would be terrifying, except that Stiles has been working with Derek for months now and is able to recognize the sheer mortification in Derek’s eyes.
Derek’s eyes, Stiles thinks, would be difficult to classify by Gatorade color. They’re sort of several colors at once, pale and shifting, and Stiles sometimes loses himself a little bit contemplating the shape of them, tracking the motion of Derek’s long, dark eyelashes. There’s no metaphor for what those eyes can do to him—unless Gatorade has a flavor called Pretty Enough to Cause Frequent and Inappropriate Workday Fantasies, of course.
It’s taken a while for Derek to warm to Stiles—if you can even call the barely-restrained impatience that Derek tends to exude around Stiles ‘warmth’—but he thinks they’ve got a sort of trust going, at this point. After a late night of drinking cheap bourbon mixed with the Diet Coke they stole from his boss Ms. Martin’s mini fridge, he knows that Derek’s first book (a little volume of clumsy, unsubtle love poems that make Stiles feel severe secondhand embarrassment and intense fondness in equal measures) is actually just a compilation of Derek’s most heinous attempts at self-expression from his early teenage years. They never would have seen the light of day if Derek’s sister, Laura, hadn’t sent them in to Stiles’ publishing house as a joke.
The joke is on Laura, though, because Ms. Martin saw the poems and Derek’s headshot and demanded that Stiles negotiate the contract as soon as humanly possible—with express instructions to make Derek sit for a cover photo. Ms. Martin and the marketing team wanted to use one with Derek’s broody face, glaring and smoldering, but Stiles fought hard to use one with him smiling, instead. It’s a really good smile. Stiles may or may not have a copy of the book propped up against a lamp on his nightstand.
Derek, meanwhile, still doesn’t understand how he suddenly became a bestseller, and Stiles doesn’t know how to tell him that coming from that face, even the most embarrassing poetry is bound to make hearts skip a few beats.
“Please. Can this be the last one,” Derek is begging, and wow, Stiles has no defense against that. That is completely unfair. “I know. I know I said three books. I just… I was only thinking about…”
“The crazy amounts of cash?” Stiles grins. “Which I also appreciate a great deal, by the way. I’m gonna buy an Xbox.”
“I will buy you an Xbox. Just don’t make me…” Derek is shrinking in his chair a little bit, and suddenly it’s all a little bit less funny. “These poems, they’re from a time I don’t like to think about. I was such a stupid kid. I thought I was in love, and she. And I wasn’t, okay.”
Holy shit. “Are you… sharing with me, right now?”
“Shut up. I’m telling you I can’t see another volume of those poems published. I won’t.”
“Hey.” Stiles should be panicking over the possible breach of contract happening right now, but all he can think about is making that wild, hunted look disappear from Derek’s face. “It’s okay. It’s fine.” He reaches out and lays a hand over Derek’s, which is clenched painfully tight on Stiles’ desk. “We’ll just publish something else. We’ll get a ghostwriter. You can write limericks for all I care. We’ll figure this out, all right?”
Derek is staring down at Stiles’ hand on his, and his eyebrows are going up slowly. His jaw looks tight. Stiles realizes abruptly that his thumb has been moving, stroking, tracing the bones of Derek’s wrist.
“Oh, right, sorry,” Stiles says, flushing and pulling his hand back. “Sorry. But I mean it. I’m on your side, Derek. We can make this work. And still get our Xboxes.”
Derek actually huffs out a laugh at that, mouth drawing up at the corners, and Stiles cheers internally. “Actually,” says Derek, hesitant, “I brought some things. New things. That I’ve written. I thought maybe you could look them over.” He pulls a well-worn leather journal out of his bag and hands it over. “Just you. Not Ms. Martin.”
“Lydia’s supposed to give the go-ahead on all of my—”
“Just you,” Derek repeats, and fucking hell, of course Stiles is going to break whatever rule Derek asks him to break, why is he even pretending otherwise.
“Just me, yup, okay,” he agrees. “Now. How about some dinner, do you—”
“I have. Plans, or something.” Derek winces. “I mean, yes, plans. I have to go.”
“Oh.” Stiles tries to ignore the way his chest aches at the brush-off. “Of course. I’ll give this a read and we’ll talk about our options next week, how’s that?”
“Yes. Thank you, Stiles.” And Stiles is still reeling from the weirdness of being thanked by Derek that Derek is up and out of the office before he can even respond. Stiles thinks he should probably leave it for tomorrow, but his curiosity literally burns, and he can’t stop himself from opening the journal the second Derek is gone. Then he thinks he should have waited for tomorrow after all, because he’s clearly delirious from hunger and exhaustion and his usual end-of-day caffeine crash, because there’s absolutely no actual way in hell that the first page of Derek’s journal says
By the time Derek comes sprinting back into the office, waving another journal over his head and saying “—wrong one, I left the wrong one, you don’t have to read—” Stiles is already on the third page of the poem, his poem, and his mouth is open and his breath is coming fast, partly because Derek wrote a huge poem for him and partly because it’s actually good.
“Oh my God,” Stiles breathes. “These few lines here about his mouth… or, mine, I suppose, wow… they’re really…”
“You can’t—” Derek is suddenly right in his face, pushing the journal out of his hands. He grabs Stiles by the front of the shirt and hauls him in, lifting him out of his chair a little. “Not this. You make fun of this, I swear I’ll—” He draws in a breath, shuddering and impossibly vulnerable, and Stiles’ heart turns right over. “Just don’t,” Derek grits out, mouth twisted in a snarl, and he’s letting go and pulling back, and Stiles absolutely cannot have that.
“No,” Stiles says, and he moves up and actually grabs Derek’s hand and keeps it where it is, fist pressed over Stiles’ heart. “No. This is fantastic. I mean in so many ways, this is fantastic. First of all, you actually can write, apparently. Not a sports drink metaphor in sight so far. Which is great, because now I don’t have to be embarrassed to be your editor. But mostly because—me? Really?!”
“I’m not known for having good taste,” Derek says sardonically, and oh, that is it. Stiles has had so many daydreams about just grabbing Derek and hauling him across his desk that this doesn’t even feel like the first time he’s done it; he knows the scene by heart. He gets his hands into Derek’s hair and kisses him hard enough to bruise, probably, because there are like eighty more pages of that poem—Stiles checked—and Derek is ridiculous and wonderful and clearly needs to have Stiles’ mouth on him always.
“You’re not, mmmmmmm,” Derek rumbles, sliding his hand down Stiles’ chest and hooking it around his waist. “You’re not going to publish it.”
“Are you crazy? It’s gorgeous, of course I’m going to—yesssss,” Stiles trails off when Derek sinks his teeth gently into his neck, just under the curve of his jaw. “—that, but harder, and also, I’m going to publish this because it’s beautiful.”
“You’re beautiful,” Derek growls, sounding profoundly annoyed about it. He drags Stiles all the way over the desk and pulls him in tight, and Stiles figures they can argue about this tomorrow.