"Breathe," Stiles said, waving a hand to indicate that Scott should put his head between his knees. "Deep breaths, come on, you can do it."
"I'm not freaking out," Scott said to the floor, shaking his head. "I'm not freaking out. I'm not—"
"Sure you aren't." Stiles circled to crouch down in front of Scott, dangling his arms over his knees. "Yeah, totally, I see it. Not freaking out at all."
"I'm not," Scott insisted, glaring at Stiles. "I just — I forgot to watch that YouTube tutorial Lydia sent me about how to tie a bowtie and — I don't know how to do it, and if I can't even learn how for my wedding does that mean I'm going to mess up bowties for the rest of my life?"
"Oh my god, chill," Stiles said. "I'm pretty sure she's going to love you even if your bowtie looks like crap, which it really, really does, but don't worry, I can fix it. All right, no, I can't fix it, I didn't watch the tutorial either, but I'll find Lydia and she'll fix it."
"I wasn't talking about bowties," Scott admitted.
"Yeah, I got that, buddy," Stiles said, giving him a pat on the shoulder before standing. "Are you going to be good here if I leave you alone for a few minutes to find Lydia?"
"Yes," Scott said, unconvincingly.
Stiles poked his head out into the hallway, looking for another member of the wedding party, or a trustworthy-looking random passerby, anyone. Danny! Thank god.
"Danny, thank god," he said, frantically signaling for him to come into the room. "Do you know how to tie a bowtie? We're at sea here, it's pathetic."
Danny took one look at Scott and sighed, shaking his head.
"Stand up," he said. Scott shot up off his chair, gratefully handing Danny his tie. "I thought Lydia was going to teach you how to do this."
"Yeah, there was homework, we skipped it," Stiles says, giving Danny a what can you do shrug and a grin. "You got this? I need to go talk to Lydia."
"We're good here, go," Danny said.
"Thanks, Danny!" Stiles called out as he left, backing into the hallway—
—Where he immediately collided with a pretty brunette and her enormous camera, stumbled back into the wall, and knocked over a tacky pedestal and a tackier pot full of fake vines.
"Oh, man, sorry, sorry," Stiles said to the fake vines, frantically getting everything back into place before anyone else could see. Except — oh, crap. He swung around, belatedly remembering the woman he'd knocked into. "Your camera! Did I—"
Her camera was obviously fine, given that she'd lifted it and was clicking pictures of him flailing around over the fake vines.
"It'll live," she said. "How is the décor?"
"I don't know what you're talking about," he said with as much dignity as he could manage (not much). "Excuse me."
He thought he heard her laughing as he escaped down the hall. Fine. If he were her, he'd probably laugh at him, too.
"Are you with the wedding?"
Derek glanced up from his laptop, pushing his headphones down around his neck. There was a redhead in a pink bridesmaid's dress standing in front of him, looking him up and down.
"I'm working the wedding," he said. She looked vaguely familiar. Maybe she'd been there when they'd met with Scott and Allison.
She pursed her lips. "Is that what you're wearing?"
He looked down at his clothes, up at the pinched expression on her face, and back down at his clothes. He was wearing the same white dress shirt under the same charcoal vest and trousers he wore to most weddings; he knew the dress code for this one, and there was nothing wrong with anything he had on, so what the hell?
"You're going to clash," she said, stabbing a finger at his tie. "Take it off."
Derek just stared at her, eyebrows climbing.
"You're going to clash with the flowers," she hissed, clearly on the brink of a meltdown. He'd seen more than his fair share of wedding meltdowns, but this was the first one that involved his tie clashing with the wedding color scheme. If she didn't look like she could and might kill him, he'd already be telling her to fuck off. Politely.
As it was, he unknotted his tie and pulled it free, silently holding it up to show her how very much he wasn't wearing it anymore.
She lurched forward like she was seriously considering ripping the tie out of his hand. He had a split-second to wonder if they were about to have a tug-of-war over it before something else drew her attention, someone else.
"Stiles," she said, redirecting all that intensity at a hassled-looking man in a tux. Derek took advantage of the moment to quietly tuck his tie into his computer bag, out of sight.
"Lydia!" Stiles looked relieved to see her, which immediately made Derek doubt his judgment. "Do you have my index cards? Scott said he thought he saw you take them."
"You shouldn't need index cards," Lydia said, sounding slightly unhinged. "You're going to look ridiculous reading off cards, Stiles, you should have had it memorized."
Stiles blew out a breath, cheeks puffing out, and took a step toward her, demonstrating a real lack of self-preservation instincts.
"What is with everyone but me freaking out right now, it's opposites day," Stiles said, making placating gestures with both hands. "Look, I promise you I have my speech memorized, but if I freeze up and forget my lines in front of everyone, I'm gonna need my cards, so can you please just give them back to me?"
"I just want this to be perfect," Lydia said, a line Derek had heard so many times that the words were now virtually meaningless.
"Hey, hey, come here," Stiles said, settling his hands on her shoulders but not, Derek noted, attempting to pull her in for a hug. "Everything is going to be fine, what are you worried about? Is Allison freaking out?"
"No," Lydia muttered.
Stiles eyed her critically. "Are you freaking out on Allison's behalf because she isn't freaking out and that freaks you out?"
"Stop saying 'freaking out,'" Lydia snapped, folding her arms.
"Okay, I will." Stiles dropped his arms to his sides. "And you're going to give me back my cards, and stop — panicking all over the lobby, right? Because if you're frightening me right now, I can only imagine what you're doing to unsuspecting—" He stopped, doing a double-take at Derek. "Guys who are really — are you with the wedding?"
"I'm the DJ," Derek said, drumming his fingers against his headphones. "I'm waiting to set up."
"Huh," Stiles said, staring at Derek.
Lydia rolled her eyes, stomping off. "I'm going to check in on Allison," she called back. "We're going to get behind schedule if we don't get moving, come on."
"Yeah, be there in a sec," Stiles said absently. "Do you have the YMCA?"
"Yes," Derek said, silently adding, unfortunately.
"No, no," Stiles said, waving his hands. "Next time someone asks you, 'do you have the YMCA?' Just say, 'no, sorry, completely slipped my mind this time.' I can't be held responsible for what'll happen on the dance floor if you play that, Scott might put someone's eye out. I know what you're thinking—" Derek doubted that very much. "It's a little hypocritical of me to accuse anyone else of being a danger to others, but the YMCA has an unholy power over that guy, it has to be seen to be believed."
"Scott's the groom," Derek said.
Stiles nodded. "Yeah, Scott McCall."
"Then I guess if he asks me to play it, I'll play it," Derek said.
"I'll give you five bucks," Stiles tried.
Derek's mouth twitched. "Your friend is paying me more than five bucks."
"Well, maybe he won't think of," Stiles said, and then he startled, swiveling toward the hallway Lydia had gone down. "Oh, crap." He rubbed a hand over his hair, grimacing. "I was supposed to ask her to fix my tie."
"I wouldn't," Derek said. "She's having a thing about ties right now."
Stiles' eyes flicked down to Derek's throat and up again, his brow creasing. "What?"
"Forget it," Derek said, shaking his head. "You really don't know how to tie a bowtie? Shouldn't you have learned that before the day of the wedding?"
"There was homework," Stiles said awkwardly, tugging at the mess he'd made of his bowtie. "We — I'm just glad I remembered the rings, can we be grateful for all the things I didn't forget to do? I'm doing pretty good right now, even if I'm the only one who thinks so."
Derek closed his laptop and set it on the chair next to him, standing. He reached out toward Stiles, who jerked back reflexively, eyes widening.
"Hey, what, what are you—"
"Do you want my help," Derek said slowly, gesturing at Stiles' bowtie, "or don't you?"
"I don't even know your name," Stiles said. Derek had no idea how his name was relevant to Stiles' bowtie, and he gave Stiles a look that hopefully said as much. "Right, yes, help would be good, please, I have no idea what I'm doing."
"I can tell," Derek said, moving in closer, pulling the knot loose and tugging on the pale pink silk to reposition the ends. He and Stiles were roughly of a height, and this close up Stiles' eyes were huge, flicking back and forth across Derek's face, his throat clicking as he swallowed. "My name is Derek."
"Stiles," he said, gesturing at himself. "I mean, I'm Stiles. Stilinski. I'm the best man. In the wedding, that you will be at, laying down the beats. Or, knowing Scott, laying down the best of wedding reception cliché. No offense, I'm sure your own musical taste is wide and varied. Unless it isn't and you like reception cliché, in which case, to each his own."
Derek tied Stiles' bowtie while he rambled, the backs of his fingers brushing Stiles' throat now and then, catching the vibrations from his nonstop flow of words. The tie matched Lydia's dress exactly, which probably matched the flowers exactly. Derek had no idea how the green and purple tie in his bag clashed, but he wasn't about to risk Lydia's ire by putting it back on.
"Was Lydia yelling at you? I thought I heard her yelling. She's kinda tense right now, but don't worry, she'll mellow out later. I hope." He sounded doubtful. "She's a scary perfectionist on a good day and Allison has been really chill about all of this, it's been driving Lydia up the wall. I expected her to freak out today, but my money was on her melting down at the catering staff, not the DJ. Sorry."
Derek shrugged, glancing up to find Stiles watching him, all nervous earnestness and warm brown eyes.
He could feel Stiles' breath on his cheek.
"It's fine," Derek said, hastily letting go of Stiles' tie and stepping back. "This isn't my first wedding."
"Right," Stiles said, staring at him for a moment longer before abruptly looking away, the tips of his ears turning bright red. "Right, good, I — I need to go get Scott married, it's a thing I'm doing today, so I'm going to — go."
"Okay," Derek said, his mouth curving up on one side.
Stiles muttered something under his breath that sounded a little like oh, man, unfair, and then he headed off in the same direction as Lydia, stealing a glance back at Derek before he disappeared down the hallway.
Derek scrubbed a hand over his face, dropping back down onto his chair. Had he really just — he had, all of that had really happened.
He hadn't actually meant to hit on Stiles. Had he? He'd tied his bowtie. That hadn't exactly been subtle on his part, so obviously he had meant to do it. Maybe.
Stiles hadn't seemed to mind.
"No," he muttered to himself, dragging his laptop back over and yanking his headphones up. "No, no, absolutely not."
He had a feeling that if he wanted to flirt with Stiles at the reception, on purpose, Stiles wouldn't be averse to it, but — no. He wasn't going to do that. He didn't hit on people at weddings, and right now he wasn't in the business of hitting on people, in general.
He had no idea how to flirt with Stiles without looking like an idiot, anyway. When it meant something — when he meant it — his flirting skills were virtually nonexistent.
Not that he was going to.
Absolutely not. Very bad idea.
"Dibs on the DJ," Stiles said as he swung back into Scott's room, missing a step when he realized the brunette photographer was in there with them. She was staring fixedly at her camera, biting her lip so hard it looked painful. "Oh. Hi. We meet again. Sorry about — you know."
"It's fine," she said, sounding a little choked. "Pretend I'm not here."
"Can do," he lied. He was terrible at pretending people weren't looking at him, he had it on good authority that getting decent candids of him was hell. "Anyway, yeah. Danny, dibs on the DJ, hands off."
"I brought a date," Danny said, which was news to Stiles. Was Danny seeing someone? He bookmarked that for later, because right now, the pressing issue was—
"I guarantee you your date is not as hot as Derek," Stiles said, sounding way too dreamy, like a fourteen-year-old girl ogling a picture of Jonas brother. Did fourteen-year-old girls still ogle Jonas brothers? Probably not. "But that isn't a slight on your date. I don't think there's anyone as hot as Derek. Derek might not even be as hot as Derek, I'm honestly concerned that I hallucinated the entire thing and when I see him again later, if he exists, he won't be nearly as hot as he is right now, in my head."
The photographer was having a coughing fit.
"Uh, Stiles," Scott said, glancing at the photographer and back at Stiles.
"No," Stiles said, holding up his hands. "Let me dream, Scott. Derek the smoking hot DJ can reject me just fine on his own, later, after we get you married. Until then—"
"—I'm going to be over here, fantasizing about—"
"Stiles," Scott interrupted, sounding desperate. "Can we not talk about him? Right now?"
"Oh, yeah, sorry," Stiles said. "Yeah, we're all about you today, dude, sorry. I just — hot. Sorry. Done now."
Danny glanced at Stiles' bowtie. "Did Lydia fix it for you?"
"No, that was Derek," Stiles said, hand flying up to his neck.
Danny's eyebrows shot up. "Seriously?"
"I'm going to go take more pictures of the bridal party," the photographer said, and bolted out of the room, almost slamming the door behind her in her haste to be out.
"Weird," Stiles said, frowning after her. "And, yeah, seriously, he — sorry, no, we're on Scott now, I'll tell you all about it later."
Scott had a hand over his face, and he was pointedly not looking at Stiles.
"Oh my god, Stiles," Scott said, words muffled by his fingers. "That was his sister."
"What? Whose—" Stiles' stomach dropped. "Derek's sister?"
"Yes," Scott said, shaking his head. "Derek Hale's sister. Laura Hale."
"Only you, Stiles," Danny said.
People started trickling into the reception hall after the ceremony, most of them making a beeline for the open bar. Derek didn't see Stiles yet — not that he was looking for Stiles — but he knew it'd be a while before the wedding party came in; Laura had to photograph them from every possible angle first.
He hadn't seen Laura since they'd arrived. She tended to keep busy at least until the dancing started, which meant he had some time yet to work on his no, I didn't semi-unintentionally hit on any groomsmen today face.
Derek was so focused on not thinking about Stiles that he didn't realize someone was standing in front of his table until they cleared their throat, startling him.
"Hi," said a tallish, attractive guy in a blue tie. Not a member of the wedding party, then. "You're the DJ?"
"Yes," Derek said, eyeing him. "Music won't start for another hour, but if you have a request, I can write it down."
"No request," the guy said, unsubtly checking Derek out. "Do you have a card?"
"Sure," Derek said, handing the guy his card. "Are you planning an event?"
"No," the guy said, tucking Derek's card into his pocket. "Thanks."
He walked off without another word. That was ... different.
A couple minutes later, Derek spotted him near the back of the hall with a laptop out, something that looked very much like Derek's business card propped up against the screen.
Derek craned his neck, trying to see the guy's laptop screen better over the steadily increasing crowd of people. Was that Google? Was he being Google-stalked at a wedding?
A blonde in a tight red dress came up to his table, giving him a wide, distinctly predatory smile.
"You're Derek, right?" She said, hands on her hips.
"Yes," he said warily, not sure where to look: the guy with the computer who might or might not be stalking him, or the second scary woman to attempt to physically intimidate him this afternoon. What the hell was with this wedding?
"Derek the DJ," she said, like there might be another guy named Derek behind the DJ table. How did she know his name, anyway? Maybe she'd heard it from the McCalls.
"Yes," he said again, giving up on the guy for with the computer — for now — and giving her his full attention. "Music won't start for—"
"Do you have a girlfriend?"
He stared at her silently, hoping that would make her go away. This wasn't even the least subtle way he'd ever been hit on at a wedding, and usually he was a little smoother about handling it, but Jesus Christ, the reception wasn't even in full swing yet and it felt like there were sharks circling him in the water.
She tilted her head, blonde curls spilling over her shoulder. "Do you have a boyfriend?"
He took a deep, steadying breath through his nose, squared his shoulders, and summoned up the most charming of his catalog of fake smiles.
"Let's start over," he said. "Yes, I'm Derek. I'm the DJ. Music doesn't start for an hour, but if you have a request, I can write it down."
"Stop that, it's terrifying," she said, wrinkling her nose. "Is that supposed to be a smile? You look like you're going to eat me."
"You're one to talk," he muttered.
She tapped the table to emphasize each word. "Do. You. Have. A. Boyfriend?"
There was a diamond on her ring finger. Not hitting on him, then, so — again, what the hell?
If he were a better person, or maybe just a more professional one, he would've taken that diamond as his cue to pour on the charm; Laura would've wanted him to. As it was ... he already wasn't sure he could handle another wedding with these people.
"Why do you care?" He said bluntly, folding his arms.
Her eyes narrowed dangerously. "Why won't you tell me?"
He glanced over the room, looking for someone who could get rid of her, anyone.
Stiles was already headed toward them, scowling. It wasn't the most impressive scowl Derek had ever seen, but when the blonde saw him coming, she jerked back from the table like it was on fire.
"Erica," Stiles said, not so much as glancing at Derek. "What are you doing?"
"Placing a request," she said unconvincingly, flipping her hair back.
"I don't believe you," Stiles said, jerking a thumb over his shoulder. "Leave him alone."
Erica gave Derek one last, threatening glare, and headed off to join the guy with the computer. Great, they were joining forces. That didn't make Derek feel creeped out or irritated at all.
Stiles still wasn't looking at him. Derek didn't know why that bothered him, but it did.
"Sorry," Stiles said to the carpet, rubbing the back of his neck. "Word travels fast, I guess."
Derek frowned at him. "What word?"
"That — er — nothing." Stiles was blushing again. Derek really wished he didn't find it so fucking cute. "Just — sorry. I'll get them to leave you alone."
"Okay," Derek said, deciding not to ask. "Are pictures done?"
"No, not yet, I think Laura is going to be out there with Scott and Allison for a while." Stiles' blush deepened. "Your, um, your sister Laura."
Derek had no idea what that was about. Had Laura said something to Stiles? Was Stiles — shit, was Stiles interested in Laura? Had Derek read the situation entirely wrong, before?
Stiles peered up at him. "Have you talked to Laura? Today?"
"Not since we got here," Derek said.
"Oh." Stiles sounded incredibly relieved. Just like that, the weird carpet-staring shoulder-hunching awkwardness melted away, and he smiled at Derek, sticking his hands in his pockets. "I saw Laura talking to Erica, earlier."
"Oh, god," Derek said before he could stop himself. Stiles' smile widened into a bright, cheerful grin.
"Yep," he said, rocking back on his heels. He looked ridiculously pleased with himself. "Looked like they hit it off. I have a feeling we'll be seeing you again."
Oh. Right. Derek had just been handed an excuse to see Stiles again. If he wanted to. Which he didn't.
"Maybe," Derek said, glancing at Erica. She was standing over the cyberstalker's shoulder, peering at his laptop. "I don't think she likes me very much."
"Probably not," Stiles admitted. "Erica doesn't like anyone very much. But she likes your sister, and Lydia likes your sister, so — as long as you don't mortally offend anyone tonight, I think you're good to go."
"For better or worse," Derek grumbled. He hadn't meant that as a wedding joke, but Stiles laughed anyway. He had a distractingly nice laugh: the sound of it was sort of goofy, but he laughed like he seemed to do everything, with his whole body, and he beamed at Derek like a ray of fucking sunshine.
"Do you have any requests?" Derek asked, sounding more than a little desperate.
He didn't want to like Stiles. He didn't want to ask Stiles out. It was nothing personal; Stiles could be Paul Walker and Matt Bomer rolled into one and Derek still wouldn't want to ask him out. Stiles could speak six languages and rescue puppies for a living and Derek would still not want to ask him out, because Derek wasn't ready to date anyone, he knew this to be true, so Stiles needed to stop looking at Derek like that and go away.
"Do I have any requests," Stiles echoed thoughtfully, oblivious to Derek's internal crisis. "I don't know, what's your favorite wedding song?"
"I don't have one," Derek said. He wasn't going to set himself up for a contrived romantic moment with Stiles, that was the opposite of what he'd been trying to do.
"Come on." Stiles took a shuffling step closer to the table, his smile smaller now, inviting confidences Derek didn't want to give. "You can tell me. I promise I won't tell anyone else."
"I don't," Derek said through gritted teeth, leaning forward with his palms flat on the table. "I don't have a favorite."
Stiles seemed to find Derek's irritation funny. Derek had been absolutely right about his lack of self-preservation instincts.
"Yeah, you're totally lying to me right now," Stiles said, amused. "Is it that bad? Is it, like, Backstreet Boys?"
"What, no, it isn't Backstreet Boys," Derek said, appalled enough to lose sight of his objective for a moment.
"Hah!" Stiles smirked at him. "You do have one, you big liar. You don't strike me as the Backstreet Boys type, anyway."
"You've made a lot of snap judgments about my musical taste today," Derek said, trying not to be secretly relieved that he wasn't the Backstreet Boys type, whatever that meant. "I'm not sure what you're basing any of it on."
"Wishful thinking, mostly. I don't know much of anything about you, so I'm free to make it up as I go along."
"Then why don't you just make up a song for me to like," Derek said dryly.
Stiles brightened. "Okay."
Wait, no, that wasn't — dammit.
"I'll bet you like the classics," Stiles said, gaze sliding down Derek's chest, lingering on his fitted gray vest. "Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra. I really wish I didn't know this much about wedding songs, but Scott made a playlist on his iPod and forced me to listen to it for the better part of a month."
"Could've been a lot worse, if he was making you listen to Nat King Cole and Sinatra," Derek pointed out.
"It wasn't all Sinatra." Stiles grimaced. "He was swerving dangerously into All 4 One territory for a while there. He claimed that one was Allison's idea, but he, like you, is a liar. I had to talk him down off that ledge. That might as well be my wedding present to Allison."
Derek snorted, shaking his head a little as he looked down at the table. He liked Scott, as much as he ever liked anyone. They hadn't interacted a whole lot, but Scott seemed nice enough, and he was obviously smitten with Allison.
Stiles studied him for a moment, then shook his head too, an odd, self-deprecating look on his face.
"Yeah, Sinatra," he said.
Derek almost smiled. Close — for certain values of close — but not quite.
"What's the one Scott kept making me listen to, that one," Stiles said, nodding to himself.
"The Way You Look Tonight," Derek said. He didn't hate that song. At the very least, he wished it were currently more popular for first dances than Jason Mraz.
"Yeah, that one," Stiles said, smiling at him. "But, listen, I don't want you to play that tonight."
Derek's eyebrows drew together. "You don't?"
Stiles shook his head. It wasn't a song Scott and Allison had specifically asked for, so he supposed he could skip it, but — why? Wasn't that what Stiles had been leading up to?
"You keep looking at me like I'm going to lunge across the table and make you dance with me by force," Stiles said, his smile fading. "So, no, I don't want you to play it, because I don't want to dance with you unless you want to dance with me too, okay?"
"I don't dance at weddings I work," Derek said, deflecting.
"All right," Stiles said. He didn't look hurt, just accepting, and he was still smiling a little, eyes warm on Derek. "The cake is amazing, I helped pick it out. Make sure you have some."
"Okay," Derek said, and watched Stiles walk away.
He'd wanted Stiles to go away, and Stiles had picked up all of his signals, so why was he disappointed?
He was being watched, Stiles realized. Erica and Danny in the corner, Lydia near the far door, Isaac in line for the bar: they were all watching him, they'd probably watched the entire thing, seen him crash and burn with Derek way earlier than he'd meant to.
Well ... crap. Nothing like being shot down in front of all of your friends. Not that Derek had been a dick about it or anything, but he clearly wasn't interested in Stiles, and Stiles had spent too many years ignoring exactly that signal from people he liked to ignore it now.
If anything, he was hyperaware of it these days. He tried not to make an ass of himself, whenever possible. He tended not to succeed at it, but he did try.
He hesitated a moment, then shouldered his way through the closer door and out into the sunlight. Across the lawn, Laura was still taking pictures of Scott and Allison, and they looked happy. His best friend was married to the love of his life; Stiles felt like he'd accomplished something, somehow, even though he'd had extremely little to do with it.
If he managed to read his speech without having to pull out his index cards, that would be an accomplishment.
"The hot DJ is getting death glares like you would not believe," Lydia said, the door clanking shut behind her. "Do you want someone to kick his ass? You'd have a lot of takers."
"Oh my god," Stiles groaned, dropping his face into his hands. "Please don't kick his ass, he's a nice guy."
"You've talked to him twice, you have no idea if he's a nice guy or not," Lydia pointed out. "Hotness doesn't automatically translate into niceness, you know."
"Believe me, I know," he said, sharper than he meant to. Her eyes widened, and he gestured frantically, trying to walk it back. So much for not making an ass of himself. "No, I — I didn't mean that, I'm sorry, I just — I really like him."
"You've talked to him twice," Lydia said again, softer.
"I know," he said, sighing. "I know, but haven't you ever just looked at someone and thought maybe they were exactly what you wanted, that maybe you should get to know them better?"
"I don't believe in love at first sight," Lydia said.
"Neither do I," Stiles said, because, like Derek, he was a liar. It'd been like that for his parents; he was pretty sure it'd been like that for Scott and Allison. He believed, maybe stupidly, that there absolutely was such a thing as love at first sight.
That wasn't it, though. He wasn't magically in love with Derek after two conversations, he just — he liked Derek, he wanted to have more conversations, he wanted to find out what kind of music Derek listened to on his own time and take him out for coffee and kiss him, a lot. He thought that was all reasonably within the realm of things he should be allowed to feel about someone after talking to them twice.
Lydia eyed him for a moment, then moved closer, nudging at his arm until he lifted it and curled it around her shoulders, pulling her in against his side.
"Read me your speech," she said.
"I'm surprised you didn't read it yourself," Stiles said, reaching into his coat pocket. He'd half-expected his index cards to come back marked up in red pen.
She grabbed his wrist. "Without your cards, Stiles."
"That's a much shorter speech," he said.
"Then give me the short version first, and read from your cards next, and I'll compare," she said, leaning her head against his shoulder.
Lydia smelled amazing. She was amazing, and there was a small, neglected part of him that felt wistful, watching Scott and Allison pose for pictures across the lawn. When they were kids, he'd thought that it'd be them someday with the rings and the flowers and all of it. That wasn't what he wanted for himself now, and hadn't been for a long time, but still — it was strange.
"Scott has been my best friend since preschool," Stiles said, resting his cheek on the top of her head. "He's my brother, and I love him, and I'm glad Allison will be there to help me keep him out of trouble for the rest of his life, because it really isn't a one-person job."
"Like he's the only bad idea machine in your brofest," Lydia interrupted.
"Quiet, I'm giving a speech," he said. Lydia elbowed him gently, huffing. He smiled into her hair. "Allison loves Scott almost as much as I do, and there's no one else I'd trust to look after him. So here's to Scott and Allison. I love you guys, and I know you'll be happy together and good to each other."
The version on the index cards was a lot longer and involved several key anecdotes, but that was the gist of it.
"I don't know whether to cry or hit you," Lydia said. She delicately wiped under her eyes, careful not to smudge her makeup. "That version, definitely."
"You haven't heard the other one," he said.
"I don't need to." She leaned up to kiss his cheek, and he closed his eyes and just for a second, he imagined — but it felt hollow, and it took no effort at all to smile at her when he opened his eyes. "It's perfect as-is."
He gave her shoulders a squeeze. "At least I won't suck at something today."
She rolled her eyes, officially ending the moment they'd been having.
"Don't sulk about the hot DJ," she ordered him, elbowing him for real this time, hard enough to make him wince. "It's Allison's wedding, you aren't allowed to pout your way through the reception."
"His name is Derek," Stiles said, fully aware of how pitiful he sounded. "And I'm not sulking. Or, fine, I won't be sulking once we go back inside, right now I'm totally allowed to sulk, did you see that back there? I know everyone else did."
Lydia stepped out from under the circle of his arm, turning to face him with her hands on her hips.
"Get over it," she said, tactful as ever. "He isn't the only hot guy on Earth, and you talked to him twice. He's probably going to be the DJ for Erica and Boyd's wedding, so there's no time like the present to cross him off your list and move on. I can find you someone hotter to lust after tonight."
Stiles opened his mouth to explain — again — that there wasn't anyone hotter than Derek, that he knew this to be true without even having gotten in a good look at Derek's ass (yet). Stiles had found his own personal hotness ceiling, and his hotness ceiling had a love-hate relationship with shaving, which it turned out he was entirely onboard with. Tragically, Derek didn't want to rub his face all over Stiles' body, but if he had, Stiles wouldn't have stopped him, stubble or no stubble.
He was going to tell Lydia all of that, every last oversharing, painfully embarrassing word, but then the door swung open and Boyd walked out, blinking in the sun. "Oh, hey, here you are."
"Good, you deal with this," Lydia said, giving Stiles a light push toward Boyd. "In fact, Boyd is a hot guy, why can't you lust after him tonight?"
Boyd made a face like something smelled bad. Stiles would've been hurt if he hadn't been making exactly the same face, because ew, no. Boyd was male model gorgeous, but they'd been friends long enough that it would practically be incest. Besides, Erica would kill him without a second thought, of that he had no doubt.
"Saw the thing with the DJ," Boyd said, after Lydia went back inside. "Brought you this." He handed Stiles a plastic cup of something almost clear that smelled like limes.
"Thank you," Stiles said, touched. "And yeah, I think everyone saw."
"Everyone saw," Boyd confirmed. Stiles took a too-large sip of his drink, choking on a mix that was vodka and limes and maybe nothing else. "You want me to kick his ass? I will."
"Why does everyone want to kick his ass," Stiles said, tipping his head back to glare at the clouds. He knew Boyd was mostly kidding, but come on. "He didn't do anything wrong, he just isn't into me, it's fine."
Boyd gave him a strange look. "Did he say he isn't into you?"
"I thought you said you saw everything."
"I saw a lot of mutual flirting, and then you running out of the hall like your hair was on fire," Boyd said, shrugging. "I just assumed he was a dick to you somehow."
"Mutual flirting." Stiles snorted. "Right."
Boyd looked slightly pained. "Stiles, are you even aware of what's going on around you sometimes? That guy is into you. When you walked out, he gave you one of the most pathetic looks I've ever seen on a grown man."
"Derek is not into me," Stiles said, maybe a little louder than he'd intended. "He couldn't have made it any clearer if he'd put it in writing. I don't need platitudes, okay? Lydia was right, I've only talked to him twice, I'm not, I'm not going to pine or something, it's fine, so please tell everyone to call off the hit on him, he didn't do anything wrong."
"Um, Stiles," Scott said, sounding a lot closer than he had been a minute ago.
Crap. Laura was right behind him, wasn't she.
Stiles turned around slowly. Scott, Allison and Laura were standing at the bottom of the steps, about to come up. Allison clearly wasn't in the loop, going by her confused expression; Scott was giving Stiles some real are you kidding me with this stink-eye, which, fair.
Laura was watching him thoughtfully, her lip caught between her teeth.
"Can we please pretend you didn't hear any of that," Stiles said, right on the verge of being genuinely upset about it all. He'd managed to avoid that so far — Lydia did have a point about how he'd known Derek for all of two seconds — but seriously, how many times could he humiliate himself in front of Derek's sister in one day?
Laura gave him a small smile and walked past him into the hall, not saying a word.
"Drink up," Boyd said, patting his shoulder. "I'll get you another one."
"You're a good friend," Stiles told him, tipping back his cup of vodka and lime.
Derek was doing a decent job of playing it cool. At least half a dozen people had spent the past few hours glaring at him like he'd kicked their puppy, but he'd pretended not to notice, and he thought he was selling it.
Lydia, at least, wasn't glaring at him, but it turned out she had an incredible ability to freeze out a complete stranger across a crowded room. Normally, he wouldn't have thought twice about someone at a wedding ignoring him — most people at weddings ignored him, if he was doing his job right — but somehow Lydia made it clear that she was making a statement with it, icing him out on purpose. He didn't know how, but she was.
Stiles didn't seem half as upset as his friends did. When their fingers brushed over the mic Derek handed him for his best man speech, Stiles didn't react at all; when Scott and Allison cut the cake, Stiles brought him a piece, not saying anything, just putting the plate on the table and giving him a half-smile.
Derek watched Stiles laugh and dance and cry, a little, when he gave his speech. He watched Stiles tap his glass to make Scott and Allison kiss so many times that Scott took his glass away, and he watched Stiles and Scott do the YMCA, which, as predicted, almost ended in Scott giving Stiles a black eye. He watched Stiles eat piece after piece of cake and drink whatever anyone handed him and talk, talk and talk, with his words, with his hands, with his quick, bright smiles.
He watched Stiles so much that he couldn't decide if he was being creepy or masochistic, but he knew it had to be one of the two. Or both, maybe.
Laura didn't come over to his table at all. He had a feeling she was avoiding him, which meant she'd overheard something, which meant the drive home was going to be incredibly uncomfortable.
This wasn't exactly Derek's favorite wedding ever.
Scott and Allison ducked out at eleven thirty, half an hour before the reception was due to end. By then, the crowd had thinned out considerably, only the wedding party and a handful of their friends left on the floor. He knew some of their names, now; the guy with the laptop was Danny, the other groomsman was Isaac, Erica's fiancé was Boyd. Allison had pointed them all out to him in a happy, tipsy haze.
Boyd stopped by his table at quarter to midnight, leaning in to be heard over the unfortunate but necessary sounds of Katy Perry.
"Is there time for one more slow one?"
"Sure," Derek said, glancing at his playlist. He hadn't planned on closing with a slow dance, but they seemed like a group that would like that. "What do you have in mind?"
"Doesn't matter." Boyd shrugged. "Just want to take my girl for one more spin before we go home."
"I can do that," Derek said, giving Boyd a practiced, friendly smile.
Boyd looked at Derek for a moment before shaking his head and laughing at him.
"She was right," he said, smirking. "You do look kind of creepy when you smile."
Derek felt his fake smile collapse into something honestly offended. Boyd laughed again, retreating onto the dance floor. He said something to Stiles that made Stiles look over at Derek, eyes locking with his.
He was tempted to play Sinatra. It was a bad idea, but he wanted to do it anyway. He wanted Stiles to keep smiling at him like no one who actually knew Derek would ever smile at him. He just wanted.
Stiles was waiting to see what he would do.
Derek chickened out and queued up Rod Stewart.
The song wouldn't come on for a few minutes yet, but Stiles must have read the answer in Derek's expression. He finished his drink, deposited the empty cup on a nearby table, and turned his back to Derek, catching Lydia's hand and pulling her in.
Someone separated from the herd and approached Derek's table. Isaac? Isaac.
"That was some of the most epic indecision I've ever seen," Isaac said, digging a pen out of his pocket and scribbling something on a napkin. "And I watched Scott and Allison go on and off again eight times, so."
"Really," Derek said inanely, trying to make out what Isaac was writing behind the curl of his hand.
"They're solid," Isaac said, clicking his pen off. "Now. But there were a few years there when I never wanted to hear Scott say the name Allison ever again. You should ask Stiles about it sometime, he tells it better than I do."
Derek didn't know what to say to that, so he didn't say anything. Isaac was the first one to try to push Derek at Stiles, rather than interrogating him or acting like brushing Stiles off was a criminal offense.
"Do you like him?" Isaac looked up at Derek, folding the cocktail napkin in two.
Derek rubbed his eyes with one hand. "Stiles?"
"Yes, Stiles," Isaac said, with more patience than Derek merited.
"He's all right," Derek said evasively, willing Isaac — willing all of them — to leave him alone.
"You like him," Isaac said. "So why did you...?"
Derek turned away from Isaac for a moment to announce the last song of the night, and Boyd gave him a thumbs up, grabbing Erica. Danny was dancing with a middling cute guy in a blue suit, a few people who hadn't been painstakingly pointed out to him were swaying more or less drunkenly in place, and Stiles and Lydia were sitting in chairs at the edge of the floor, their heads bent together, faces serious.
"Because he seems ... nice," Derek said, watching Stiles lean comfortably into Lydia's space, idly pulling petals off a flower in her hand as they talked. "And I'm—"
"Not?" Isaac was eyeing him with his head tilted slightly to the side, evaluating.
"I was going to say, I wouldn't want him to be anyone's rebound." Derek didn't think he owed it to Stiles' nosy, weirdly over-invested friends to tell them even this much, but he knew if he told Isaac it would get back to Stiles, and then at least Stiles would know it wasn't personal. "Even mine. Especially mine."
Isaac looked down at the napkin in his hand, over at Stiles, and back at Derek, hesitating.
"Okay," he finally said, pushing the napkin over to Derek. "I know you didn't tell him a word of that, and I get it, this is your job, I wouldn't want to get into my entire relationship history with someone I'd just met at my job, either. So." He pointed at the napkin. "Don't pretend you don't want to. You aren't really fooling anybody, except Stiles, because Stiles is an idiot."
"Hey," Derek said reflexively, even though, for all he knew, Stiles was in fact an idiot. He knew nothing at all about Stiles, certainly not enough to be acting defensive, like a teenager with a crush.
Isaac smiled. "Yeah, I figured." He shrugged. "You're probably going to see him at Erica and Boyd's wedding, anyway, it'll be way less awkward if you just call him now."
Derek unfolded the napkin. It read, CALL STILES, with a phone number underneath.
When he looked up, Isaac was back on the dance floor.
Derek only hesitated a moment before he took his phone out of his pocket, programmed in the number, and balled up the napkin. Just because he'd taken Stiles' number didn't mean he ever had to use it.
Only — he had it now, and Stiles was looking almost sad for the first time all night, methodically destroying Lydia's rose and staring at the floor.
As Rod Stewart wrapped things up, Derek tapped at his phone.
Your friends annoy the hell out of me. One of them just gave me your number.
Across the floor, Stiles fished his phone out of his pocket and flicked his thumb over it, pulling up the text. His eyebrows drew together in a fleeting moment of confusion, and then his head jerked up, eyes wide as he looked right at Derek.
Derek kept his eyes on his phone, watching Stiles in his peripheral vision as he typed out a second text.
Is it okay if I use it sometime?
Stiles swallowed, gaze flicking back and forth between Derek and his phone. He ducked his head to squint at his screen, and after a moment, Derek's phone lit up with a new message.
Derek smiled, couldn't help it. When he looked up, Stiles was smiling too, puzzled but pleased.
The music was over. The wedding was over. Thank god; Derek didn't think he could take any more weddings like this one.
Still. Not his favorite wedding ever, but maybe not his least favorite wedding, either.
"You look awful happy about something," Laura said, startling Derek so much he jumped half out of his skin. She laughed, clicking several pictures of him in a row. "Wow. I don't think I've ever managed to creep up on you before."
"It's been happening to me all night," Derek grumbled.
"Instant karma's gonna get you," she said, pushing her hair out of her eyes and tucking it back behind one ear. "Consider it just a small taste of the payback you deserve for years of scaring the crap out of me."
He didn't feel like getting into a bickering match with Laura just then, so he let it go, silently starting to unplug his equipment.
"So I hear you're spoken for," she said. "I also hear you're the hottest guy ever."
"Do you," he said, striving to sound uninterested.
"I do. There's no accounting for taste." She swiped the crumpled up napkin off the table before he could think to grab it, flattening it out and laughing again as she read Isaac's sideways scrawl. "Word a few hours ago was you either were or weren't really into the guy with the Bambi eyes — Stiles — depending on which of Scott's friends you listened to, but I take it by the dopey look on both your faces that the question has been resolved."
"I don't know what you're talking about," Derek tried.
"I'm only telling you this because Bambi went on an impressive rant about how his friends shouldn't be mean to you," Laura said, sticking the napkin in her pocket, probably as blackmail material to hold over him later. "It was sweet. I think I like him. Go say goodnight, I'll watch your stuff."
"I need to pack up," Derek said, glancing over at the remnants of the wedding party, who were rounding up centerpieces, boxes of cake, and several crates of alcohol.
"You've got a minute before they need the table," she said, unimpressed with his evasion tactics. "Go."
Derek wasn't nervous. He wasn't. He'd thought the text thing was a pretty good way to end things for the night, and he had no idea what to say to Stiles now, but he wasn't nervous.
"Go," Laura said again, impatiently.
He took a breath, steeled himself, and stepped out from behind the table.
"Hottie at your six o'clock," Erica hissed.
Stiles turned around and almost dropped his precariously stacked boxes of wedding cake. Derek was headed right toward him, looking equal parts nervous and determined.
Derek's entire existence was mixed signals, wasn't it? Stiles had a feeling that if he wanted to see Derek again, this was something he would have to get used to. He wasn't sure how he felt about that.
Isaac took the cake boxes from him and Boyd gave him an unsubtle shove toward Derek, and then they deserted him, all of them, scurrying away like rats fleeing a sinking ship.
"Hi," Stiles said when Derek came to a stop in front of him. Derek's nicely tailored clothes were wrinkled now, his sleeves rolled up to his elbows, and he looked dead tired. He was still the hottest thing Stiles had ever seen, and now he had Stiles' number, and apparently meant to use it. Maybe. Sometime.
"Hi," Derek said, just as awkwardly.
"Isaac repeated your conversation word for word," Stiles told him, in the interests of full disclosure. Derek nodded like he'd been expecting that, which made Stiles think Derek had been deliberately playing a game of telephone. "He's convinced you're ... interested. In me."
"I more or less told him I was," Derek admitted, which was almost as good as him saying outright that he liked Stiles. Almost.
"Call me crazy, but it doesn't seem like you want to be interested in me," Stiles said.
"I am," Derek said. He exhaled all in a rush, like that had been difficult to say.
"Yeah, I got that," Stiles said. He wasn't stupid, no matter what his friends seemed to think tonight. It hadn't been difficult to pick up on the fact that Derek was interested, what with Derek staring at him all night like he was the last gumdrop in the candy store.
Derek was quiet for a moment, looking at Stiles indecisively.
"I didn't want to be interested in you," Derek said slowly. Not at all what Stiles had wanted to hear, but given the past tense, he was willing to wait on the rest. "I'd ... like to get to know you better, take you out, but this isn't — it isn't a good time for me."
"Okay," Stiles said. He couldn't help a laugh at the surprise on Derek's face. "I have my Save the Date for Erica and Boyd's wedding, and I'm guessing any minute now, so will you — professionally speaking — so it isn't like I won't ever see you again."
Derek looked like he was waiting for the catch. Good, then the feeling was mutual.
"Maybe we can just," Derek said, and stopped, scowling at the floor. Not good at using his words, was he? Stiles really shouldn't find that cute, but he knew the cuteness of it would wear off real fast, so maybe he'd just enjoy it while it was still new. "In the meantime, maybe..."
"You have my number," Stiles said, hoping he wasn't misinterpreting what Derek was trying and failing to say. "And I know now that you know how to text. With punctuation and everything."
"Yes," Derek said, looking relieved.
"Okay," Stiles said, deciding to end the conversation there, before Derek sprained something trying to form any more sentences about his feelings. "Goodnight, Derek."
"Goodnight," Derek said, his voice lower than it needed to be, intimate. Stiles couldn't help a shiver, and he knew Derek saw, he knew, because Derek shivered too, his eyes closing for a second. Stiles' mouth went dry, and he flicked his tongue out over his lower lip without any real intent behind it.
Derek spun around, marched himself back to the table where his sister was waiting, and started packing up his stuff a lot faster than was strictly necessary.
"Hot," Lydia said, handing Stiles an armful of flower arrangements. "I thought you were going to jump him, for a minute there."
"So did I," Stiles said on an exhale, clutching the flowers. "Can we get out of here before I change my mind and do something stupid?"
"Oh, honey." Lydia patted him on the back. "We can get out of here before you change your mind, but doing something stupid is definitely in your rearview mirror at this point."
"Yeah," Stiles said, only half-listening. "Just — hold on."
Derek was bent over the table, collecting stray cables. His ass was every bit as nice as Stiles had hoped.
Lydia rolled her eyes, grabbed his arm, and pulled him toward the exit.
Laura was laughing at him again. His day in Hales had officially come full circle.