“What are you reading?”
The teenager at the end of the aisle starts and snaps his book shut. “Nothing! Uh, ah, a book about goldfish.”
Derek narrows his eyes suspiciously. “Goldfish?”
“Yeah, I was thinking of uh,” the boy backs into the wall as Derek advances upon him. “Getting one for my girlfriend?” he finishes weakly.
Derek removes the book from his limp hand. “History of Sex? Huh,” he peers at the kid over his glasses. “I don’t know whether to be concerned about the fact goldfish sprang to mind when you were reading this or make you check out the book in front of your girlfriend.”
“Get out of here,” Derek snaps. “Go and read a book suitable for your age.”
“I don’t care.” He bares his teeth at the kid and he scuttles off to where his girlfriend’s snapping her gum and pretending to be reading a Biology textbook. She’s surrounded by girls who look almost exactly like her— different variations of hairstyle aside— and are all texting. Don’t they have time in school to talk? What do they even need to say to each other once they’re finished for the day? He highly doubts they’re swapping theories on Shakespeare’s comic timing.
They’re the bane of Derek’s life. The library is not for socializing; it is for reading, for learning, for losing yourself in the pages of a book so powerful you feel disappointed when you close it.
He glowers at the group until they guiltily put away their phones. Several of the girls present try to smile at him, batting their eyelashes—it sort of looks like they’ve accidentally poked themselves in the eye—Derek frowns back and they all duck their heads, whispering at each other.
When he walks back to the front desk Erica gives him a round of applause. He feels his face heat up. “Shush,” he mumbles.
“Oh honey, that was impressive.”
“I was just doing my job.”
“Thoroughly terrorizing innocent teenagers?”
“They’re noisy and disrespectful,” he grumbles, settling back down at his desk and pushing his glasses back up his nose. “This is a library, not a common room.”
Erica sniggers and Derek spins round to face her desk, raising a quizzical eyebrow. “What.”
She clears her throat and then puts on a gruff voice he supposes is meant to be him. “A library is a sacred place where the community can find solace and lose themselves in the works of fiction or quench a thirst for knowledge in the irrefutable facts of science and—”
“I didn’t sound like that.”
“Whatever,” she says dismissively, packing up her bag. “You want me to kick them out before I head home?”
“No, thanks,” Derek glances back over his shoulder to where the teenagers are racing to clear out. It’s past four and any pretence at doing homework has been abandoned in favor of going home to their laptops and their myspace and— he wrinkles up his nose, he has no idea what else kids these days do.
They sure as hell aren’t reading anything worthwhile he thinks darkly, glaring at the pile of Twilight books he has to put out later.
Derek cannot begin to fathom what the appeal is.
A hush falls on the library as the last of the teenagers bang out of the doors, Erica yelling her own goodbye. She honestly has no respect for her work environment. Derek revels in the silence. He loves the peace of this place; the quiet, the serenity; the history and the words within pages just waiting to be unlocked when you open up a book; there’s nothing better.
His phone buzzing startles him and he glances down to read a text, sighing when he sees who it’s from. Lydia wants to know if he’ll be attending any of the book launches across California. He texts back a firm no and shoves his phone under a pile of returns.
“Seems like an odd place to keep your phone.”
Derek jumps out of his skin and then, as a bonus, forgets how to use his voice when he looks up and is met with a blinding smile.
“Hi, so,” the man in front of him scratches at the back of his neck. Derek takes in a grey henley covered in paint and slim, muscled forearms covered in what looks like soot. He’s so distracted wondering why the man might be covered in soot that he misses what he’s saying.
“I’m sorry,” he cuts in. “I missed that.”
The man grins at him; Derek is a little hypnotized.
“I’m looking for your art section? I’ve been going nuts in my studio all day, dude. I mean, I thought I was all ready to go after the dry spell but no, total wishful thinking on my part.” Big, brown eyes drag over Derek’s face almost like a caress and he watches as the man’s tongue darts out to wet his lips. “Anyway, my muse is dead.” He waves a hand dismissively. “No big deal you might say, I mean I’m twenty four, I’ve totally got time to find it again, right? Wrong,” he continues.
Derek blinks; he didn’t say anything to the contrary.
“I need to get my groove back, ok? I need a little inspiration. I tried painting a bird this morning, Derek, a bird. Do you know how nineteen ninety five that is?”
“How do you—I’m sorry, did I introduce myself?”
“Nah,” there’s that huge smile again, a hand restlessly rubbing across the filthy henley. Derek catches sight of darker lines of ink wrapped round the thicker part of his forearm, wonders if it’s permanent. Realizes he’s staring too little too late and snaps his eyes back up to the man’s face. “Your name’s on your desk—right in front of you, and I’m Stiles, by the way.”
“Hello,” Derek says awkwardly. People don’t normally introduce themselves to him, nor do they make small talk. They ask for their books, occasionally a recommendation and sometimes avoid eye contact altogether.
Derek’s mouth feels too dry and he sort of wants to hide underneath the desk where he keeps his emergency Irving.
Stiles is beaming at him, oblivious, rocking backwards and forwards on his heels. “Anyway, I figured instead of tearing my hair out, why not check out some local art. Then I remembered we live in Beacon Hills and the only gallery we have is only open twice a week, bless that Mrs Cranston for trying. But the next best thing is books, right? I mean you must like books?”
“No,” Derek says drily, surprising himself even as he speaks. “I work here for the money.”
Stiles throws his head back laughing and it vibrates through the library. Derek can feel his eyes widening. Everything about Stiles is loud and vibrant and unnerving; it should be repellent to Derek. Instead he feels drawn in, like he’s hearing a siren call. He’s sort of fucking captivated.
“Dude, you totally had me going for a second. You’ve got a kick ass poker face.”
“Who said I was joking?”
Stiles cocks his head to the side, small smile playing on his lips. “Alright, I’ll buy it,” he snaps his fingers, soot falling to the desk. “Is there a treasure map in here somewhere? Buried treasure under the place itself?”
“If there were, do you really think I’d share information with you?”
“Just when I thought we could be friends,” Stiles sighs dramatically. “We could have had an adventure together, Derek,” he says dreamily. “You couldda been a pirate—you’d really work eyeliner.”
Derek coughs awkwardly, feeling Stiles’ sharp gaze assessing him again.
“So, books?” he tries desperately.
“Yes!” Stiles cries, waving his hands in the air with a flourish. “Where do I start, oh wise librarian with many secrets? Indulge me; pretend I’m a library virgin.”
Derek nearly falls off his seat.
He can feel his face heating up and glowers at the floor. “Our selection is over this way,” he grits out finally.
Stiles bows. “After you.”
Derek’s not even aware of his feet moving but he can feel Stiles’ gaze on him right the way through the library. “Is there anything specific you’re looking for?”
“No,” he can hear a smile in Stiles’ voice, twists and Stiles’ eyes snap up from where they were staring, blatantly, at Derek’s ass. “Just wanted to browse, see if something strikes a chord.”
“Well,” Derek hesitates and then raises a hand to the shelves behind him. “If you find something you want to take home and admire, we’re open for another hour.”
“Sweet,” Stiles says excitedly. “Can I sit here?”
“On the floor?”
“How else will I be able to commune with the library itself?”
Derek stares at him. So, he’s a crazy person. He should have known.
Stiles bursts into laughter, clapping a hand on his shoulder before letting go. Derek sways after him.
“I’m fucking with you, man. I promise not to molest the carpet.”
“Scout’s honour,” Stiles says seriously, lifting his right hand and clutching at his heart with the other.
“You don’t strike me as the Scout type.”
“You’d be surprised,” Stiles replies easily, eyes flickering from the books to Derek like he can’t decide what he wants to look at more. Derek knows the feeling, intimately. “I know how to tie a mean Reef knot.”
Derek glances down at Stiles’ long, elegant hands still covered in the sooty texture. He has very nice hands. Artist’s hands. Hands Derek could imagine doing all sorts of things to him.
He blinks in shock and backs away stiffly. “Try and keep your hands to yourself while you’re here,” he says finally.
Stiles snorts and turns to face the books. “I’ll try.”
At five to six Derek turns the overhead lights off. He still has an hour of shelving to get through but he can’t finish up with the public present. The public being one very distracting artist currently lounging on one of their couches, devouring a book with ballerinas on the front.
Derek has not got any work done in forty five minutes. It’s not good at all. He has a system and Stiles is screwing with it. When he turns a page he licks his thumb, the crisp scratch of glossy paper against his jeans audible from the front desk. His eyes flicker across the pages like they’re dancing, like he’s lost in what he’s reading.
Derek’s still holding the copy of The Knife of Never Letting Go he was supposed to be re-shelving half an hour ago in his hand. He’d say he’s been what Erica would call a bona fide creeper, sitting dumbly watching someone read.
He shakes his head, tosses the book on the cart and heads over to where Stiles is still sprawled out on the couch. There’s a smudge of crimson paint on his black sneaker, splatters of turquoise and yellow at the hem of his jeans and a blue stain all the way up his Henley from hip to elbow. He looks like a painting, like art, like something Derek wants to take home and admire for weeks on end.
He clears his throat. “Having fun?”
Stiles raises his head from the book without closing it and grins at him. “Yup, time of my life, can’t you tell?”
“You look pretty enthused from where I’m standing.”
“Oh, you haven’t seen enthused,” Stiles smirks before snapping the book shut and standing. “You kicking me out?”
“I can if you like? Or you could just leave.”
Stiles smiles, dazzlingly and then shoves the book at Derek’s chest. “Can I check this out?”
“Do you have a library card?” Derek deadpans.
“No,” Stiles pouts. “Does that mean I have to steal it?”
“Only if you want me to chase you out of the library and have you arrested.”
“Chase me—” Stiles swallows and then stumbles to follow Derek back to the desk. “You wouldn’t have someone arrested for stealing a library book, would you?”
“Depends on how lenient I’m feeling,” Derek says, flashing him a grin of his own.
Stiles rubs his hands against his jeans. “Well, I’ve got an in with the Sheriff so I reckon I’d be ok.”
“Spend a lot of time at the Sheriff’s department then?”
Delinquent. Derek knew there was something wrong with him. There has to be.
“Yeah, but not like you’re thinking, though I do own a wicked pair of handcuffs,” Stiles winks and Derek drops the book whilst trying to scan it. “My dad’s the Sheriff,” Stiles adds.
“You probably shouldn’t be making jokes about handcuffs then.”
“I take the law very seriously,” Stiles says loftily.
“Mmm, name and address?”
“I need your name? For the library card?”
“Oh, just put Stiles Stilinski.”
Derek pauses, hands hovering over the keyboard. “As opposed to?”
Stiles flushes. “Just put Stiles, it’s what should have been on the birth certificate anyway.”
Derek tilts his head to the side, silently smirking for a second and Stiles scowls, scratches at the back of his neck and refuses to look at him.
“Shut up or I’ll go to Beacon Valley Library tomorrow.”
“A threat if I ever did hear one.”
Stiles rattles off his address and Derek finally scans the book, Degas By Himself : Drawings, Paintings, Writings and then holds it out to Stiles.
“Good luck with the inspiration.”
“Thanks,” Stiles says faintly.
Their fingers brush as he takes it and Derek is surprised to find it makes his skin tingle.
“It’s, uh, due back on the 27th.”
“Cool. Do I get in trouble if it’s late?” Stiles wiggles his eyebrows. “Do I get a letter of reprimand?”
Derek lifts a solo eyebrow back at him. “You get fined thirty thousand dollars and banned from public libraries.”
“Man, you guys take you library-ing very seriously.”
“You should see our most wanted list,” Derek says, grinning despite himself. He’s never been very funny before, it’s almost like he’s trying here. He doesn’t know why he wants to try. He doesn’t know why he cares about leaving a good impression.
Well, he does know. The explanation for his strange, unusual behaviour is wrapped up in roughly a hundred and fifty five pounds of lithe muscle, covered in paint, with a sooty smudge on his nose from where he’s rubbed at it whilst reading. He’s also beaming at Derek like he’s approving the joke. Like he finds Derek entertaining.
It’s another first for Derek.
Don’t think about firsts he reprimands himself, flushing regardless.
Stiles hovers for a moment before nodding and lifting a hand at Derek. “So, see you around?”
“Yeah,” Derek replies, not able to think of anything to stall Stiles’ departure. “Uh, we can order something in, if you uh, don’t find what you’re looking for, by the way.”
“Really?” Stiles brightens from where he’d been looking a little desolate. “Like more Degas?”
Derek rolls his eyes. “More ballerinas?”
“Oh, oh Derek,” Stiles breathes. “He’s so much more than ballerinas, don’t even try it.”
“You’ll have to educate me one day,” Derek says drily, missing the way Stiles’ pupils dilate in the late afternoon light before inclining his head awkwardly at the door. “I have to—”
“Oh yeah, dude, totally,” Stiles waves the book in the air and then walks backwards towards the doors. “See you soon, Derek.”
It sounds like the sort of promise Derek ends a chapter with.
Laura calls within three seconds of him arriving home. Isaac yells hello from the bathroom and Derek grunts his reply. He’s still just a little bit dazed.
“Hello Laura,” he sighs as he opens the fridge, phone stuck between his ear and his shoulder.
“Hey brother of mine, how’s it going?”
“Fine,” he says shortly, straightening up with half a fruit salad. He’s going to kill Isaac. He’s eaten all the fucking pineapple and left Derek with the stupid, squishy mango. “How are you?” he asks after a beat. Phone etiquette is not his forte. Etiquette in general, Laura would point out, is not his forte.
As if reading his mind, Laura laughs. “Things are good, bro. You hit record sales last week I hear, congrats.”
Derek hums, he doesn’t really give a fuck how well his books do. He likes receiving mail from people who’ve read them, however. He likes to take the time to write back, to draw readers into discussion. The whole point of writing is to connect on as many levels as possible, in his opinion. He’s not been fortunate to meet many people who he finds compelling enough to keep in contact with, through letter writing or in the real world. It’s not that he doesn’t like people, or sees himself as above everyone else, it’s just he doesn’t see why he’d waste his time with someone he has next to nothing in common with, or why he’d pursue a friendship or relationship with someone who doesn’t make his skin buzz with anticipation, frustration, someone who doesn’t enthral him.
He’s picky; sue him.
He realizes as he’s been setting up his laptop that Laura is still talking and he clears his throat.
“Say that again?”
She sighs. “Derek.”
“I’m sorry, I got distracted.”
“Sometimes I wonder if you ever listen.”
“You’re my least favorite sibling.”
“That’s unfortunate considering you only have the one.”
They snipe at each other for a while longer as Derek sorts through emails about work and writing. Lydia’s sent him three identical messages about the book launches and he deletes them all.
Isaac pads into the living room and steals his cell to swoon at Laura. Derek leaves to shower. He’d rather let his friend deal with his sister than have to hear any more about how dangerously close he is to becoming Howard Hughes.
He steals his laptop from the living room without Isaac noticing and settles at his desk. Keats curls around his feet, occasionally pestering Derek into throwing his ball against the wall so he can chase after it excitedly. Derek is extremely fond of his dog; he would literally shred apart anyone who implied dogs are not just as smart as cats.
He writes. Pages and pages. He has no idea if it’ll turn into something workable but he feels better than he has in weeks when he finally clicks save.
Derek is exhausted when he arrives at work the next morning. Erica smirks at him, tapping away at her computer. “Late night?”
“Yes,” Derek says gruffly.
“Who’s the lucky guy?”
Derek startles. “What.”
Erica lifts an eyebrow at him. “You haven’t shaved, you look sleep deprived but you don’t look like you mind.” She shrugs. “Look a little bit like someone who got laid is all.”
He can feel his jaw slacken, his eyes widening and Erica smiles triumphantly to herself.
“Four for you.”
“I didn’t—I don’t—I just wrote a lot last night.”
Erica stares at him, suddenly seeming disappointed. “Oh, Derek.”
“You sound just like my sister when you say that,” he complains testily, tossing his satchel underneath the desk.
“When was the last time you got laid? Just out of genuine concern for your health.”
“Erica,” he snaps. “We’re working.”
Erica glances pointedly around the empty library and Derek’s about to do something desperate like create a display for YA books when the doors open and two little old ladies come in.
Derek avoids Erica for most of the morning, hiding himself away in Science fiction and reorganizing Verne and Wells. When he returns to the front desk for lunch there’s someone leaning over Erica’s desk, hands waving around wildly as they talk.
It’s a little disturbing to discover he already recognizes the back of Stiles’ head. He finds himself frozen to the spot, unsure as to whether or not to approach Stiles or run for the exit. Stiles takes the decision out of his hands when he turns, face wide with a smile and his eyes find Derek’s.
“Did you go Beacon High too?”
“Erica and I go way back,” Stiles informs him, twisting to wink at Erica, who winks back—and Derek’s never had any desire to be violent towards a woman before but he sort of wants to glue Erica’s eyes shut to prevent her from doing that ever again, she looks far too sexy for him to compete with—before he turns back to Derek. “We can’t remember ever seeing you in school. And trust me, I would definitely have remembered. So…”
“I was home schooled.”
“That explains so much,” Stiles says, almost fondly and Derek blinks at him stupidly.
“I would have insisted we get married in like, first grade if I’d known you existed, my friend. It makes sense you weren’t on my radar because you weren’t there.”
Derek flushes. “You were pretty wily at six years old then huh?”
Stiles beams. “Yup.”
They stare at one another for a moment and finally Derek blinks, pushes his glasses up to the top of his head. “So, you’re back already? You eat the book or something?”
“Ha, no. It did look pretty tasty though, thought about it.” Stiles’ gaze flicks to Derek’s mouth and then suddenly he goes red and scratches the back of his neck. His fingernails, Derek notices when he drags his eyes from the moles on Stiles’ cheek, are covered in silver paint. When he pushes a hand through his hair it leaves a glittery path through it. Derek has never wanted to drag his own hands through someone’s hair before. He’s never wanted to trace someone’s moles with his tongue.
He’s extremely confused.
“I finished the book though,” Stiles launches himself at Derek’s desk and Derek watches his tee shirt fly up, tanned skin taut underneath. “I wanted to get a new one out.”
“Fast reader,” Derek muses.
“You thought I was just a pretty face?”
Derek snorts, shoots Stiles a look as he heads round the desk to check the book back in. “I would never dare underestimate you in such a manner.”
“Jesus,” Erica mutters.
They both whip round to look at her; Derek had forgotten she was even there.
“Just, praying for strength,” she says sweetly.
“Sure, sure, gotta keep in touch with the big guy,” Stiles says blithely before waving at the shelves. “So, who else ya got for me?”
Derek wants to say me. I have me for you. But he’s not entirely sure that’s appropriate. He has no idea how to flirt.
“I’m feeling the sixties today,” Stiles adds when Derek doesn’t say anything.
“We have a variety of books,” he says slowly. “I’m sure we can find you something.”
Stiles snorts. “A variety of books?”
Derek scowls at him, suddenly much more at ease. “Yeah, dumbass, this is a library.”
“I feel you shouldn’t call your customers names.”
“You can feel anything you want—”
Erica chokes on her drink and Derek realizes his mistake. “—I mean, you are entitled to your feelings. But you don’t actually buy the books, so I won’t lose out if you find my mannerisms unacceptable and leave.”
Stiles has been smirking at him the whole time, eyes dancing. “I bet my taxes pay your wages.”
“Privately owned library,” Derek says smugly.
“Well, I best be well behaved.”
“You could try at least.” Derek grabs Stiles’ book and a couple of others heading for the art section. “I’ll walk with you.”
“Wow you know just how to make a guy feel special.”
“Shhh, we’re in a library,” Derek reprimands.
“Sorry,” Stiles whispers dramatically at an old man reading the paper to their left. The old man lifts bushy eyebrows at him and then returns to the paper. “I love this place,” Stiles mutters, almost to himself.
Derek wants to kiss his stupid, dramatic face.
“Andy Warhol,” he gestures. “Kelly, Flavin,” he scrunches up his nose. “You don’t call that art do you?”
Stiles grins, opens up the book. “I don’t paint like this but this is… magic.”
Derek stares down at boxes of green lights in confusion. “Magic?”
“Yes, look,” Stiles flips the page and spreads his hand across the rainbow light structure across it. “Look at the way the light colors the room, it should be cold, dismal but instead it’s beautiful, he makes the room come alive.”
“They’re just lights,” Derek says frowning.
Stiles hesitates, looks around. “You know the way you look at books? Like they’re something special, like they’re gonna save the world or just your soul—”
Derek makes a noise and Stiles rolls his eyes.
“—Shut up ok, you totally look at books like they’re something precious. Well, he makes things beautiful, special. Something that should be ugly, a warehouse, concrete, emptiness, he makes it better. They’re not just lights, they’re art.”
“Alright,” Derek smiles teasingly at him. “You made me a believer.”
“I did?” Stiles asks excitedly. “With some rambles about Flavin? Dude, wait until I tell you about Warhol.”
“No,” Derek says flatly. “I might not recognize ‘art’—”
“Don’t you put quotation marks in there, I see you.”
“—but I do know something worthy of discussion and his work is not.”
“He defined the sixties! And seventies.”
Derek rolls his eyes. “And Stephanie Meyer will be infamous for influencing twenty first century authors; how does that mean anything?”
Stiles narrows his eyes at him. “Did you just compare genius to a woman who writes about vampire stalking habits?”
“Be grateful,” Derek says, lips curling into a smile. “That I didn’t compare him to E L James.”
“Oh, get out of my sight,” Stiles cries, waving his arms at him. “You go sit at your desk and think about your life choices.”
“I will,” Derek smiles widely at him. “Enjoy your terrible prints of Marilyn Monroe’s face.”
“I will,” Stiles echoes emphatically.
Derek heads back up the aisle grinning, Stiles still muttering behind him about heathens with no respect for art at all.
Erica is spinning on her chair, watching him as he returns to the front desk.
“Nothing,” she shrugs. “Just, didn’t realize there could be a reason you’re up late. You’re not as hopeless as I first believed.”
“Erica,” Derek hisses, shooting a look over his shoulder. Stiles is balancing six large print books in one hand and trying to reach another with his free hand. It makes him look extremely flexible. Derek swallows and looks away.
“He knows you’re into him.”
“He does not, I mean, I am not, into anything. At all.”
She swings round on her chair, turning back to her computer. “Fine, but he’s into you too so you really should just get over yourself and have a lot of sex with him. Someone should,” she sniffs.
“Maybe you should,” Derek says childishly. “Seeing as you’re seemingly so keen for it to happen.”
“Oh, Hale, oh honey, he doesn’t swing my way. I would have tried all through high school otherwise. Stiles is as gay as an episode of Supernatural.”
Derek blinks at her. “I don’t know what that means.”
“Ugh, you need to let Isaac buy a tv.”
“No, I need for you to get back to work and stop bugging me about my sex life.”
“It’s not like you have one anyway,” she hisses back.
Derek flushes and stares at his desk. He hears Erica suck in a breath and then suddenly she’s leaning over the damn desk, inappropriate work shirt shoving her cleavage right in his face. He scowls and looks away.
“What are you doing?”
She grabs his chin, twists his face from side to side. “You have the face of someone very attractive, you’re accidentally funny when you want to be, you own a car and you’re far too smart to work here.”
He huffs. “Thank you for the summary.”
“Why aren’t you married!?” she cuts in. “You don’t have a boyfriend. I’ve known you four years and I’ve never seen you go on a date. When was the last time you got laid?”
“I’m not having this conversation with you.”
She pulls his chin round to face the couches at the back of the library where Stiles is holding court. Books are spread out around him and he’s produced a sketchbook from his bag and is currently bent over it, his own face highlighted by the mid-morning sun. He’s a photograph Derek wants to take home.
“Then have it with him,” she says sharply. “Because he’s single and casually mentioned you and your fine self about six hundred times before you got here earlier.”
Derek jerks his head away from her and scowls. “Go away.”
“Fine, don’t blame me if you die alone.”
“I don’t know why I hired you.”
“For my pleasant mannerisms.”
“That or I was concussed the day I interviewed you.”
Erica huffs and stalks back to her own desk, typing something furiously as if she’s imagining Derek’s face is her keyboard. He’s not buying her a new one if she destroys it. It’s not his fault she finds him so frustrating.
And it’s not that the idea of Stiles talking about him doesn’t make his stomach wrap itself in knots, it’s that it does just that. It makes him unbelievably uncomfortable and he doesn’t quite know why. He’s twenty seven years old, he pays taxes, he takes his mother out for lunch on Sundays; he is a grown up. But he’s getting weird butterflies when he glances over his shoulder to look at Stiles and a heat in his chest that feels something like what he supposes want must feel like.
He felt occasional ‘flutterings’ at college he supposes but he never pursued them. He was always too busy trying to formulate stories in his head, thinking of sentence structures and character development. He never had any interest in going some place quiet with someone or making endless small talk in restaurants. He’s not a prude. He’s been kissed. He’s thought about going further, once or twice. But he’s never found someone so desirable he’s wanted to lay them out and worship them. He wants to do just that. He doesn’t want to mindlessly fuck someone in a bathroom stall or in a strange room. He wants to lie with someone for hours talking, kissing, letting it lead somewhere of its own accord. He’s never met somebody who could handle his awkward, somewhat intimidating (his mother would say straightforward, his father would say blunt) temperament. He’s never met someone who was charmed by his inability to deal with bullshit or chit chat. He knows himself. He knows what he wants. Nobody has ever ticked enough boxes for him to want to pursue them.
Then again he’s never met Stiles. Whom he would quite like to push up against one of the book shelves and thoroughly debauch.
It’s highly unsettling. He picks up a copy of Little Women someone returned yesterday and tries desperately not to relate to any of them.
“Yo, library heathen.”
Derek looks up from where he’s been reading through March’s reviews and Stiles smiles softly at him, shoves Derek’s glasses up his nose with two fingers—Derek goes cross eyed watching it happen in surprise— and then pushes three books at him.
“I’d like to take these out.”
“What’s the magic word?”
“Unicorn?” Derek waits him out and Stiles rolls his eyes. “Please.”
He glances down at the selection; Vettriano, Lovers and Other Strangers; 19th Century European Painting; Myth and Romance: The Art of J. W. Waterhouse. He blanches at the last one. “Mermaids?”
Stiles shakes his head, biting down on a smile. “Nymphs.”
“He does paint mermaids though,” Stiles says brightly. “Very pretty ones.”
“I’ll take your word for it. You sure you don’t want any books with actual words in?”
“I can’t read,” Stiles says blankly. “You, library, books, good?”
Derek huffs and passes the books back to him. “Go look at your pretty pictures, Stiles.”
“Until tomorrow, Derek.”
Derek watches him walk away, only because he has a very distracting splash of green paint on the back of his jeans though.
Fuck it, Stiles has an ass Derek would quite happily go to a gallery to look at on a six foot canvas.
Lydia’s sitting in his apartment sipping at a Starbucks cup when he arrives home. Isaac is hovering around her without actually daring to make contact.
“She wouldn’t leave,” he whispers to Derek, eyes fearful. “I tried to stop her come in. She told me I needed a haircut and that I dress like a homeless person. Why is she allowed in our lives, Derek?”
Derek snorts, claps him on the shoulder. “She won’t bite, you know.”
“She keeps telling me I should model for book jackets.”
“You should, the tramp look is in right now,” Lydia interrupts without looking up from her blackberry. “And don’t whisper Isaac, it’s very rude.”
“I hate you,” Isaac mutters as he disappears into his bedroom.
“He loves me,” Lydia says fondly after him.
“No I don’t!”
Derek pinches the bridge of his nose. He has six, seven people tops that rotate in and out of his life on a regular basis; he doesn’t know how between them they manage to make it so damn complicated.
“What can I do for you, Miss Martin?” he asks casually, swinging open the fridge and pulling out a bottle of water.
“You need to show for at least one of the launches, Derek.”
He snaps the fridge shut. “No.”
“The mystery is getting old.”
“Daniel Handler managed it for years, Louisa M Alcott—”
“I don’t need a list, Derek; I need for you to come out to the public. I’m not asking for your first born, I’m just asking for a face to go on the cover. Someone who will smile at the general public, sign things, be visible.”
“Why? Why now? You’ve been publishing my books for six years, Lydia.”
“Times are changing, people need more.”
“They shouldn’t,” he says crossly. “They should just enjoy the damn story. Use a fake photograph.”
“Ok,” her eyes narrow suddenly and he wishes he hadn’t suggested it. She’s taken on the steely edge she sometimes gets when he delivers chapters late, a clip to her tone that implies swift, painful retribution.
“No no,” she says briskly. “I think that’s a good idea. I’ll find a few pictures for you to approve at a later date.”
“Don’t worry,” she smiles coolly at him. “I’ll make sure your Sebastian Walker has just as pretty a face as yours.”
Something twists in his gut as he imagines someone else being thought of as the creator of his characters. Someone else being approached to discuss the layers beneath his words, the poetry they find there, when they worked out the twists, how they felt at the end of the book.
“No,” he says quickly. “I’ll go to one of the damn launches.”
“The one in LA.”
“Christ, I hate that city.”
Lydia puts down her cup carefully. “What about here?”
He flinches. “In Beacon Hills?”
“Yes, at the library. You could do a reading.”
“I’m not… pimping out the library, Lydia.”
“Lots of authors read at libraries,” she says dismissively. “Nobody would assume you worked there too.”
He looks at her dubiously and then scrubs a hand across his face. “Maybe, I’ll discuss it with the rest of the staff tomorrow.”
“That’s all I ask,” she stands and looks him up and down. “You look thin, are you eating?”
Derek rolls his eyes at her feeling petulant. “I’m fine.”
“I don’t believe you.”
Derek cracks his neck, stares at the floor. “I’ve just been caught up in writing.”
“Well, I’m sending a care package tomorrow.”
“I already have a mother,” he says crossly.
“That doesn’t mean the rest of us stop looking after you, even if you pretend to hate it.”
“I do,” he insists even as she’s kissing his cheek and he’s returning it.
“Oh, and you’re coming to dinner for Jackson’s birthday next week, yes?”
“See you then,” she says brightly.
Isaac’s sniggering from behind his door as Lydia disappears into the corridor. Derek tosses his water bottle at him.
“Seriously,” Erica gushes as she flies into work the next morning. “Derek, seriously.”
“What?” She waves a copy of November Crisis at him and he can’t help but grin. “Oh.”
“Oh? Oh? I’m three hundred pages in and I still don’t know who tried to poison Christopher. You are the devil.”
“You’re not supposed to know,” Derek says primly before it slowly dawns on him what he’s just said. And what Erica’s just said. “Wait—”
“Oh, like Isaac kept it secret for more than two seconds it was you writing all the books in my living room. I think he thought it would impress me that he lived with you,” she adds as an afterthought.
“I am not the kind of girl that kisses and tells.”
“He’s getting annoying with the pining, Erica.”
“So move out. You must be sitting on a shit load of money considering even I own half your books and I work at a library.”
Derek looks beneath his chair and then back up at her. “Nope, nothing here.”
“Don’t sass me,” she cries. “Tell me who it was!”
“No, think of it as punishment for refusing to let Isaac be your,” Derek pulls a face. “Boyfriend.”
“Of course you’d take his side,” she hisses. “I hate you and your stupid writing.”
“Sue me,” he says flippantly.
“Oh, I’ll do more than that,” she threatens.
“You can’t blackmail me into telling you the ending to the book; what would be the point of reading the rest?”
Erica hesitates and then points a finger at him. “This isn’t over.”
“It never is.”
Derek’s halfway through eating a salad and confirming shipments when a young woman appears at the desk. She’s wearing a purple floral dress with lots of silver bangles decorating her arms and when she smiles Derek sees actual dimples.
“May I help you?”
“Hi,” she pulls three books out of her bag. Derek recognizes the covers, feels his heart plummet. “I’ve been given orders to return these? Apparently there’s a super strict librarian who would have Stiles’ hide if they were late.”
“They’re not due till the twenty eighth,” he says flatly.
“I have a list of things to be swapped for them, though?” She pulls a face. “Sometimes it’s difficult to decipher what Stiles is saying but I heard something about there being a limit for books out?”
“Babe!” A curly haired young man flies out of the shelves, waving a book. “Robin Hood! We have to get this out.”
The girl laughs, takes the book when she’s presented with it and the guy winds an arm around her waist. Derek feels suddenly brighter, then a little nauseous at the way they’re giggling at each other.
He clears his throat and they both startle, two pairs of eyes snapping down to him guiltily. “Woah, he looks just like Stiles when he’s mad at us,” the guy breathes. The girl slaps his arm and pulls an apologetic face at Derek.
“Did you have books you needed me to find?” Derek tries.
“Yes!” The guy pulls a crumpled list from his pocket. “I have to read this out loud,” he says frowning. “Library heathen, apologies for my friends,” the guy scowls. “We haven’t even done anything!” Derek can’t help but smile and bites down on it. “Please don’t judge me—oh man, we are not that bad—I’m not reading that—something about how much he’ll miss you while he’s dying of the flu, uh, can he get comfort books to help bring sunshine back into his life seeing as he doesn’t get to see your face this week. Gross.”
The girl elbows him. “Scott.”
“What?! I didn’t say anything.”
“Just give him the list, please? before he throws us out for interrupting his day.”
“Fine,” the newly christened Scott waves the paper at Derek. “He wants these books if that’s cool, man.”
“It’s fine,” Derek nods as he reads through the books before folding the paper in half and slipping it under his keyboard. “I’ll be right back with them.”
He finds the books and then adds a couple of his own because Stiles needs to broaden his horizons. He throws in A Beautiful Mind and Slaughterhouse-Five because nothing says I secretly want to date you like screwed up genius.
He writes a cursory feel better soon on a new sheet of paper and then stamps the books. Scott stares down at them all in horror.
“There are like a hundred books there!”
“Six,” Derek corrects. “Can you manage them all?”
Scott scowls at him before trying to pick them all up with one hand. The girl laughs fondly and takes the top two, slipping them in her bag. “Thank you, Derek.”
He frowns at her. “You’re welcome,” he manages and then she’s grabbing Scott’s hand and pulling him out of the library.
Pretending he doesn’t miss the loud, vibrant presence that seems to be Stiles Stilinski (he tried googling Stiles’ real name and found nothing, nothing) is virtually impossible. Especially when Erica breaks into the silence every so often to talk about his eyes or his shoulders or his ass. Eventually he gives up trying to zone her out and spends the day shelving historical fiction.
“Who missed me?!” Derek jumps out of his seat, spilling coffee all down his shirt and goes to glare up at Stiles. He’s rendered without a menacing glower however, when he takes in Stiles’ outfit. He’s wearing a bright red bandana around his forehead, a white tank top covered in metallic gold paint and basketball shorts.
“Are you sure your fever has gone?”
Stiles scrunches up his nose at him and then gestures to his shirt. “Dude, sorry about that, I didn’t realize librarians were such jumpy types.”
“Just when there’s a loud mouthed artist around,” Derek says drily, pulling his shirt over his head.
He stills and peeks over the bottom of his shirt where it’s stretched over his shoulders, arms still tangled up in it. “What?”
Stiles shakes his head wordlessly, waving his arms at Derek’s torso.
“You—I—stereotypical librarians in books are a lie.”
“All except for the one where Noah Wyle preserves artifacts from the bad guys.”
“You work a beard better than him,” Stiles says automatically, still staring at Derek’s chest. “Shouldn’t you—not be naked right now?”
Derek snorts. “It’s not like we’re busy and somebody made me spill coffee all over myself.” He jerks his top drawer open and unfolds a sweater Laura gave him for Christmas a couple of years back. “If you feel offended you can always leave it on a comment card. I keep the box right here,” he nudges the bin with his foot.
Stiles snaps his mouth shut and smirks. “Oh, I’ll write you a damn comment.”
“I look forward to it.”
“You should, I write essays.”
“So, you pour your word vomit into what you write as well?”
“Not all of us like to reserve our word allowance of the day for when no one else can hear them. I can just picture it, you know,” Stiles says in a faraway voice. “You wandering round the library, talking to your books.”
“Shut up, I don’t do that.”
He smiles despite himself, shakes his head. “Was there something you needed?”
“Other than the pleasure of your company?”
Derek lifts an eyebrow and Stiles sighs dramatically. “Fine,” he rummages around in his bag and then pulls out a flyer. “I was wondering if I could put this on the community board?”
“You’re hosting an exhibition?”
“Yeah, just some of my smaller stuff.” Stiles shrugs, suddenly looking shy and rubbing at his vest awkwardly. Derek appreciates the way it clings to his torso, the way it provides an ample view of broad, lickable shoulders and the fact he can see the dark ink from before is permanent and winds intricately up Stiles’ left arm.
“I sell it mostly up state. But uh—I figured now I’m home, I could let everybody know? I mean, maybe, Allison sort of talked me into it.”
Derek reminds himself to take a breath before launching into a cross examination of who Allison is. He’s not the most subtle person, he’s aware but—
“She and Scott are like my biggest fans,” Stiles says, rolling his eyes affectionately. “Scott’s a little bit terrified of you, though.”
The names click with the faces and Derek tries not to look too relieved. “They came for the books.”
“Yeah, thanks for those. And your touching note, effusive by the way.”
“That was effusive for me,” Derek says primly.
“Sure,” Stiles grins. “I liked the random works of fiction in there mind, trying to expand my horizons?”
“Nobody should go through life without having read Vonnegut,” Derek sniffs.
Stiles laughs. “How dare they even try.”
“Precisely,” Derek waves the flyer in the air. “We can put this up—”
“Will you come?” Stiles blurts out.
Derek blinks at him. “I—”
“Oh, jesus me and my mouth.” Christ, Derek really can’t catch a breath as his eyes drop to said mouth. “I mean to the exhibition?”
“I’m… not very good at socializing.”
Stiles waves a hand. “Like I couldn’t already tell, dude I don’t give a fuck. It’d just be cool to have a few people there I know. And you know, can mock all my mermaid paintings.”
Derek feels frozen in horror. “I didn’t mean to offend you—I’m sure mermaids are—”
“I don’t paint mermaids, Derek! I’m messing with you, jeez,” Stiles tugs at his vest looking nervous. “Man, is it hot in here?”
“No,” Derek frowns and gets up, forgetting himself as he rests the back of his hand on Stiles’ forehead. “Maybe you’re still sick.”
“I don’t think so,” Stiles says faintly, staring across at him looking decidedly green.
Derek pulls back his hand. “Sorry.”
“No! No, you’re fine, it’s fine, I mean you are fine, you must know that but this situation I mean. God,” Stiles shoves his hands in his pockets. “I’m gonna go die now. Let me know about the exhibition.”
Then he’s fleeing the library before Derek can confirm his attendance.
He spends Saturday afternoon in front of the mirror. Isaac gives him useless advice from where he’s lounging on Derek’s bed, with Derek’s dog and eventually he snaps at him to get out.
Erica arrives fifteen minutes later carrying an armful of bags and Derek has never been so glad to see her.
“I hear you’re going on a date.”
“It’s not a date,” he says sharply. “I’m going to support Stiles.”
“Mhm, do it with your hands, under his ass, against a wall.”
“Wall sex is awesome, Derek. Everyone should try it.”
“Very true,” Isaac says easily from where he’s lingering behind Erica.
“Both of you shut up.” Derek turns to look at them a tad desperately. “I don’t know what to fucking wear, I don’t know what to say at this sort of thing—his friends looked like hippies; I don’t own anything that resembles artistic fashion.”
Erica rolls her eyes and tosses the bags on the bed. “We’ll help, sweetie. Isaac go get changed, blazer, tie, you know which jeans,” Isaac huffs but disappears regardless. Derek would perhaps say something about him being whipped but refrains because he’s far too distracted. Erica pushes his closet door open and shoves a soft charcoal gray sweater at him. “This, oh, this shirt underneath and,” she rummages on the floor of the closet before pulling out an old pair of boots Derek doesn’t remember buying. “These. Plus your glasses obviously.”
“Because going to an exhibition to view paintings without them would be something I’d do,” Derek retorts sarcastically.
Erica pats his cheek. “Keep that up all night and you might find yourself in the corner, alone.”
“It’s my personality, Erica, I can’t change that.”
She rolls her eyes, whips off her top and pulls a vibrant turquoise dress out of one of the bags. “Isaac are you dressed?”
“In a minute!” Isaac shrieks back.
“Wait, are you coming with me?”
“Duh, I told Stiles we would a week ago.”
“When did you talk to Stiles?”
Erica’s smirking as she pulls the dress down, turns so that Derek can do the zip without thinking. “When you were trying to persuade Mrs Avendon not to check out Anna Karenina for the fourteenth time.”
“She never finishes it,” Derek grouses. “What else did you talk about?”
“Wouldn’t you like to know?”
“That’s why I asked!”
Stiles’ paintings are like nothing Derek has ever seen before. He’s in awe as he stares around the gallery space. Mrs Cranston is wandering around looking pleased at the turn out (she told him earlier she wasn’t sure about being open on a Saturday but that it seemed to be attractive to the younger generations). She’s right about it being popular, Derek’s never seen this many people in the library at one time. Scott and Allison are holding court in one corner, Allison in a floaty silver dress and more bangles, smiling at anyone and everyone; Scott never leaving her side, even when greeting people. They’re the happiest people Derek has ever met.
He’s trying not to hold it against them.
Erica dragged Isaac off within three seconds of them arriving, despite her promises not to leave his side, and Derek’s currently trying to avoid eye contact with anyone. He’s nodded hello to a few regular customers from work but has managed to evade small talk thus far.
A hand claps down on his shoulder, startling him from where he’s been staring up at a gold and bronze canvas and he twists to see Stiles smiling at him.
“Yes, I—” he can’t remember what he was going to say, he’s struck by the fact Stiles is wearing a shirt and tie, and a damn trilby. He’s pushed up the sleeves of his jacket and his tie has a smudge of ochre paint on from god knows where but he looks incredible. Derek has no words. It’s the biggest irony of his life. He’s all about words, he writes thousands of them all the time. Now there’s this walking, talking embodiment of all the colorful, creative characters Derek’s ever written and wished existed and Derek can’t form words.
Stiles makes Derek speechless.
“You look like an artist’s fantasy,” Stiles says appreciatively, eyes sweeping up and down Derek’s form.
“I, thank you?” Derek tugs at his sweater. “This isn’t really me.”
“What, fancy boots and expensive looking homeless wear?” Stiles teases. “Works for you though.”
Derek hums, trying to avoid going beet red, grabs at a glass of champagne going past on a tray and downs the whole thing.
“So, whaddya think?”
Derek swallows, winces and Stiles’ face falls. “Not your thing, huh?”
“No!” Derek coughs. “Champagne is… not really my thing. I don’t drink much. This though,” he spins and waves at the eight foot canvas. “This is amazing.”
“Aw gee,” Stiles kicks his foot at Derek’s. “Thanks.”
“Just stating a fact,” Derek says softly. Stiles blinks, surprised and then gazes at him for a long moment. Derek wants to say something, anything, he wants to sound knowledgeable and have some sort of insight into art but he’s drawing up blank in the face of Stiles’ warm, open gaze.
“Stiles!” someone yells and they both jump.
“Sorry,” Stiles says haltingly. “Gotta go schmooze, you know?”
Derek doesn’t. He’s not charming enough or willing enough to do this for his own work but he waves his glass at Stiles.
“Sure, go get ‘em.”
Stiles elbows him gently as he passes and Derek watches him go wistfully.
“He’s good,” Erica says simply when she joins him in front of another canvas.
Derek nods, eyes tracing the dark roots of the trees that make up a jungle scene. There’s every different shade of green in there creating a beautiful canopy, a brilliant blue river in the background and right at the front a poised tiger, eyes watchful, following him as he sways side to side.
Erica laughs at him. “You look entranced.”
“I am,” he says slowly.
He peers over his shoulder to where Stiles is laughing with an older man, hand landing on his shoulder easily before throwing his other arm over Scott’s shoulders.
He’s so fucking screwed.
Lydia sends him thirteen messages on his birthday, only one of them regarding the fact he’s turned twenty eight. He hasn’t bothered to take the day off; he likes his job, it’s not exactly a hardship working through it. But he does eventually turn his phone off and dump it in the jar of coffee they keep in the staff room.
Erica presents him with a huge bouquet of roses because she feels equality means boys get to have pretty things too; Derek is loath to disagree. Before adding cryptically that his real present will be along shortly.
“Please tell me you didn’t hire a stripper again?”
“I suppose I could be persuaded,” he doesn’t even jump when Stiles interrupts. It’s almost like he’s grown used to the sudden appearances, never the actual sight of Stiles, however. He looks like a different canvas every time Derek sees him. Like he starts the day clean and then gets so caught up in his work he ends up becoming it.
He’s got burnt orange and azure paint splashed round his neck. The paint makes his skin no less appealing, Derek wants to lean over his desk and lick. He clears his throat.
“Stripping isn’t really my thing.”
“Uh huh, so what is your thing?” Stiles asks thoughtfully, eyes pensive as he gazes at Derek.
Derek licks his lips, suddenly nervous. “Right now, birthday cake.”
“Yes! You should have all the cake.” Stiles’ watchful look vanishes and he claps his hands together before stepping to the side revealing a brown paper package behind him. “I got you something.”
“You didn’t have to,” Derek says, touched regardless.
“Well, I wanted to.”
Erica slams several textbooks down heavily on her desk and they both turn to look at her. “Don’t mind me,” she says sweetly.
Derek glares at her and then shoots Stiles an apologetic look. “I can’t apologize for her enough.”
Stiles grins. “I have Scott. Erica is better than Scott.”
“Damn right,” Erica mutters.
“Anyway, here,” Stiles picks up the thin package and passes it to Derek. “Happy Birthday.”
Slowly Derek rips away the paper to reveal a small canvas with a wild ocean on the front. There’s murky indigo depths blended into a clearer, azure at the top, waves crashing against rocks. There’s a mermaid on one of the rocks. Derek snorts despite himself and then traces his fingers along the bumpy acrylics.
“It’s beautiful,” he says finally, looking up at Stiles. “Thank you.”
Stiles shrugs, going for casual and missing by a mile when Derek sees how relieved he becomes. “’S’cool, no biggie. I was gonna try and get metaphorical and paint your soul but I didn’t have enough black paint.”
Derek throws a copy of Sense and Sensibility at his head.
“Hey, I’m kidding. Anyway, I gotta jet, my muse is back and I don’t know how long I’ll get to keep it for this time,” Stiles’ eyes linger on Derek for another moment and then he ducks his chin, smiles at him and is gone.
“Wow, so, does nobody knows when the perfect time to initiate a kiss is around here?” Erica complains.
Derek sticks his tongue out at her. He’s not always above being childish.
He hangs the painting above his bed. His painting. That Stiles gave him.
He may or may not jerk off to the imagined sight of Stiles with blue paint all over his hands, leaning over Derek and kissing him breathless, his hands slipping lower and gripping Derek’s cock, soft smile falling into open mouthed pleasure as Derek flips them, slides into him.
He’s read enough porn, seen enough, to know how it would work, technically.
He comes at the image of Stiles’ gorgeous long neck bared to him; to Derek biting at his collarbones, to being so close to someone who instigates something inside of Derek he’d sometimes wondered wasn’t possible at all.
Stiles is shirtless. Derek is holding two coffees, feeling ridiculously awkward, a copy of Interpreting Pollock under his arm and Stiles is shirtless. There’s stripes of pale blue chalk across his side and two that Stiles must have intentionally drawn on across his cheeks. Derek aches in a whole lot of good ways.
“What are you doing here?”
Derek thrusts one of the coffees at him. “We missed you; and Erica made me bring you this. And uh, I took a wild guess,” he says, lifting the book.
Stiles’ face lights up and he makes grabby hands at the book. “Man, I love Pollock.”
“Me too,” Derek says suddenly.
“Yes, heathen knows stuff too, you know,” Derek grumps.
Stiles beams at him and then flings the door wide. “So, how d’you find me?”
“Your address is on file.”
“Oh, very Sherlock of you.”
“It wasn’t too hard.”
“Hmm,” Stiles grins. “I’m not even going to say it.” He leads Derek through a small hallway and into a huge empty space that Derek assumes is his apartment.
“Where’s your furniture?”
“Huh? Oh, I don’t have any yet,” Stiles shrugs and widens his arms. “This is all I need.”
Derek takes in a mattress with tangled sheets in the far corner, a pile of books beside it with letters and poems stuck to the wall, and then looks up at the back of the canvas Stiles has obviously been working on. It’s turned so the light from the floor to ceiling window hits it, Derek wants to see. There are dust sheets on the floor, scrunching slightly under Stiles’ bare feet as he crosses the room, opens the window.
“Sorry about the smell.”
“I hadn’t noticed,” Derek says, shocked. “It just smells of you and paint.”
Stiles bites his lip, smiling before he glances at his canvas. “Oh, shit don’t look.”
“No, I want to,” Derek moves forward and winds around Stiles until he’s facing the canvas. “Wow.”
“’S’meant to be a phoenix,” Stiles says depressively. “Looks more like a five year old’s drawing of a fireplace at the moment.”
Derek stretches out his hand and hovers his fingers over the burnt gold feathers at the bottom. The gold arches against fiery reds and oranges, the bird itself flying out into a scarlet backdrop. “It looks amazing.”
“You don’t know real art,” Stiles complains, collapsing on the bed and flicking through the Pollock book.
“It looks like Degas influenced you here,” Derek says proudly as he considers the curves of the wings, the way they look like they’re moving, fluid lines dancing in front of him.
Stiles drops the book and stares at him. “I—yeah he did, shit. Derek, did you learn things?”
“Shut up, I just wanted to know what the fuss was about.”
“Mhm, talk more art to me baby; whaddya think of the textures, the coloring, you know anything about tone yet?”
Derek glares at him and Stiles wiggles his eyebrows in return. His gaze falls to the books piled up and he stills. Stiles twists to look at them and then back to him, frowning.
“You read Sebastian Walker’s stuff?”
“Huh? Oh, yeah, love his stuff. Erica tried to twist my arm on the ending for November Crisis but I told her the wait was worth it.”
“Yeah,” Derek says slowly, moving towards Stiles before he even realizes he’s doing it.
He really wants the wait to have been worth it. He wants Stiles. He feels compelled by him, drawn to him, yearns for him. For the way his face expresses every emotion and Derek reads them like a well-loved book; the way his hands move constantly; the way he laughs; teases Derek; thinks for himself but isn’t closed off to anything; the way his world and his entire existence is so very different to Derek’s. But he doesn’t care.
“What? I got something on my face?”
Derek snorts and pushes his hand against the blue chalk. “Where did this even come from? You use acrylics.”
“God, you know all the technical words,” Stiles shudders and squints up at him. “Very sexy.”
Derek huffs a laugh and then drops his hand. Stiles catches it and looks down at it intently, splaying Derek’s fingers wide and running his own fingers over them.
There’s silence in the room save for their breathing and Derek can feel his heart beating a fricking thousand times a second. Slowly Stiles lifts his hand up, turns it over and presses a kiss to the palm. He looks up at Derek, eyes huge and intense. “Derek—”
Derek twists his hand so that it’s gripping Stiles’ and pulls him until they’re flush together. “I don’t know how to do this,” he says hoarsely.
“Which part?” Stiles whispers despite the quiet.
“All of it.”
“Be specific,” Stiles groans. “I need to know what I’m dealing with, I mean, Christ you have no idea what you do to me, man. I think about you all the time, I can’t get you out of my head—I freaking paint stuff that reminds me of you— and I don’t know if you feel the same or if you’re like this with everybody or if you don’t give a shit either way or—”
Derek breaks him off by leaning forward and kissing him. It’s been a long time but he remembers how. He remembers liking it. He does like it. Stiles sighs against his mouth and wraps his free arm around Derek’s neck, clutching at his hair. Derek teases his lips open with his tongue, licks inside and revels in the way Stiles lets him and then responds, their tongues pushing against each other’s. Stiles groans and Derek feels it against his chest.
“Derek, you should—we should—”
Derek swallows, takes a breath as he pulls away to look Stiles in the eye. “I’ve never felt sufficiently compelled to pursue a relationship with someone before.”
“You’ve—you’ve never had a relationship?”
“No, and I’ve never had sex either.”
Stiles pauses from where he’s been swaying backwards and forward, kissing at random parts of Derek’s face whenever he gets within reach.
He shrugs awkwardly. “I just... never wanted to.”
“You—are you fucking with me?”
“Why the fuck would I make a joke about this? Forget it,” he huffs before trying to untangle himself from Stiles completely.
“Woah, woah,” Stiles grabs hold of his shoulders and tugs so that they fall backwards on to the mattress and suddenly Stiles is straddling his waist, hands stroking over Derek’s face.
Derek stares up at him, breath coming rapidly and hips itching to push upwards, to grind into Stiles and take and take.
“You gotta gimme some credit,” Stiles says breathless, hands tracing over Derek’s shoulders. “You look like something Michaelangelo would have trouble capturing, Derek. Forgive me for being speechless when presented with evidence nobody has ever tried to climb you like a goddamn tree.”
Derek laughs despite himself. “I never had any interest in letting anyone.”
“But you do, now?” he can hear the hesitancy in Stiles’ voice, his fingers slowing in their patterns against his ribcage.
“Yes,” he says simply. “If you do, I do, very much.”
Stiles groans again, rocking forward and making Derek grunt, thrust up against him. “I like the thrill of under me you so quite new.”
Derek cocks an eyebrow. “You’re quoting poetry to me?”
“Derek, if this is gonna be your first time, I am gonna romance the fucking shit out of you.”
He laughs, pulls Stiles down so his body is draped over Derek’s. “How amorous of you.”
“You’re brand new,” Stiles say, smiling down at him and kissing him briefly. “You get it all.”
“Shut up and kiss me again, idiot.”
Stiles does just that and Derek basks in it, delights in the way Stiles’ fingers slip under his shirt and scrape against his ribs gently. And then the way he grips harder as Derek trails his own hands down Stiles’ bare back.
“Fuck, you know if we’d gotten married in first grade we’d have done this a lot by now.”
Derek huffs a laugh, sits up and lets Stiles pull his tee shirt off.
“We’d have waited till we could be properly wed obviously, I am a gentleman.”
“I don’t believe that for a second.”
Stiles hums, leans forward and sucks at one of Derek’s nipples, biting down gently. Derek drops his head back against Stiles’ solitary pillow. It smells like him, the sharp tang of paint, the heady musk of his aftershave, everything underneath that makes up Stiles.
“You should always be shirtless,” Stiles says casually, licking a map down Derek’s stomach, hands tugging at his jeans.
“Only if you are,” Derek pants out.
“If you’re going to be a permanent feature in my apartment, which I think you should be, then it’s a logical plan to be honest.” Stiles sits up briefly and gestures at the now very smudged chalk. “It’ll keep your washing machine happy.”
“Good logic indeed,” Derek spreads a hand out on Stiles’ lower stomach, runs his fingers along the muscles, dusting over the chalk. He pauses at the waistband of Stiles’ ridiculous basketball shorts. “Stiles—”
“Yeah, yeah, you should definitely help me take these off.”
“You need help? I’d have thought a grown up with logic like yours—”
“Shut up,” Stiles says, grinning against his cheek. He presses a kiss to Derek’s jaw. “We can wait if you want.”
Derek shakes his head, eyes still on where his hand is slipping into Stiles’ shorts, into the heat below. “I’ve waited a really long time already.”
“Maybe you were waiting for me,” Stiles says cheekily, biting at his chin.
Derek pushes Stiles’ shorts away completely and splays his hands out at his hipbones before tipping his head up to look at Stiles. “Maybe.”
Stiles makes a pleased noise, jerks forward and then Derek’s flipping them, ridding himself of his own jeans and they’re naked.
Derek is naked with another person.
It’s intoxicating. Stiles is exhilarating and fascinating and tangling their legs together even as Derek’s thinking. They roll again and Stiles wraps a hand around Derek’s dick and he jerks into it.
“Yeah, if you’ve got the energy after this,” Stiles says beaming.
Derek scrunches up his eyes even as he’s laughing. Stiles gets his hand around both of them, uses the other to lean over Derek and kiss him breathless. Derek clutches at Stiles’ ass, hands trailing everywhere and then dipping lower. Stiles cries out, loses his rhythm and Derek pushes one hand down to curl round both of them, ducks his head to watch mesmerized.
“I like your body,” Stiles says smiling against his mouth. “I like what it does.”
Derek snaps his head up to look at him and smiles, feels Stiles’ breath halt and then he’s leaning forward and kissing Derek softly, slowly and suddenly Derek’s losing his mind, forgetting himself, everything but the intense pleasure as he comes between them.
“Yeah,” Stiles mutters and then comes all over Derek’s chest.
He lies still on top of Derek for a moment before sitting up and considering him.
“What,” Derek asks nervously.
“How long till you can get it back up? I mean I know you don’t have a teenager’s refractory period,” he continues with a wicked grin. “But virgins—”
Derek glares at him and then pushes until he’s lying on top of Stiles. “Smartass.”
“So I’m told,” Stiles says, still smiling, pushing his hands through Derek’s hair. “Tell me something.”
“I don’t know… your favorite color.”
“Hazel,” Stiles says softly, fingertips brushing round Derek’s eyes, thumbing gently at his eyelashes.
Derek leans down to kiss him and then things get blurry. Stiles mutters something about Derek being too ridiculous to be real and Derek knows he laughs, kisses Stiles’ shoulder, mouths at Stiles’ neck. Stiles discovers the tattoo on Derek’s back and learns its pattern with his tongue. Derek finally gets to put his own tongue to Stiles’ own artwork. To his collarbones and his hipbones and his dick. Derek sucks Stiles into his mouth and relishes the way Stiles gets louder as he gets close. Watches Stiles slide slick, long fingers into himself, watches himself push into Stiles. Sees the way Stiles’ eyelashes flutter when he shuts his eyes tightly, demands Stiles open his eyes again so he can look, can drink his fill of Stiles and everything he’s being given. Everything he gets to have. They breathe against one another, exchanging sloppy kisses, nipping bottom lips and Stiles arches up against him, grips his shoulders. Derek feels like he’s removed from the world at large, like everything’s zoomed into this one apartment, their shared breaths, the way it feels to be inside Stiles.
He comes and it feels like he’s shattering into a million pieces, Stiles’ hands petting through his hair and his voice in Derek’s ear bringing him back to earth.
When he wakes, Stiles is sitting cross legged beside his head, tiny brush gliding across his sketchbook.
“Hey,” he says, his voice raspy.
Stiles looks down at him fondly, runs his free hand across Derek’s cheek. “Evening.”
Derek glances around for his phone or his watch and finds neither. He curls closer to Stiles, kisses at his bare hipbone. “What’re you doing?”
“Trying to capture art,” Stiles says simply, turning the page to Derek. It’s a rough watercolor, the paint still drying but it’s Derek. His eyelashes dusting against his cheekbones and the lines of his face smooth in sleep.
“This is going to be a thing you do, isn’t it?”
“I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of it,” Stiles says easily.
Derek crooks a smile at him, takes the sketchbook from his hands and pushes him down against the mattress.
“I don’t want to do this.”
Erica rolls her eyes and pulls his tie taut.
“Jesus woman, let me breathe!”
“Let Erica do your tie and shut up,” Lydia snaps from where she’s sitting on the staffroom table eating a banana.
“You’re both fired from my life.”
Erica scoffs. “You’d die without us, who would feed you?”
“And you are indebted to me for life for that, by the way.”
“For Stiles?” Derek scrunches up his nose. “How.”
“Without me you’d still be hovering around each other without actually making any contact. Now,” she pushes Derek’s head to the side and jabs at a hickey on his neck. “You get all the contact. You’re welcome, you know.”
The door of the staff room bursts open and Stiles sails in wearing a worn yellow tee shirt of Derek’s and his smart jeans. He has paint on his wrists but otherwise he’s clean. Like he showered before he came out. He’s clearly taken the day to be very important.
“You do your warm ups? Practice your smile in the mirror?”
“I’m never letting you talk me into doing that again.”
“You look sexy when you smile, Derek. The women will love it, they’ll be all over you.”
“You better make sure they know I’m yours then.”
Stiles smirks and kisses him, dabs a finger along Derek’s neck and draws away. Lydia shrieks. “What the hell is that?”
“’S’my mark,” Stiles sticks his tongue between his teeth and Derek thumbs at his skin, drawing it away to see lilac paint.
“You chose a color that would go with my tie, how thoughtful of you.”
“I am all about being selfless,” Stiles nods seriously.
Derek rolls his eyes but twines their hands together and lets Lydia lecture on him on dos and don’ts.
Eventually he cuts in. “I know how to read from my own book, Lydia.”
“I just don’t want you to get out there and bite anybody’s head off if they ask a question you don’t like.”
“I already have one planned,” Stiles says smirking.
“You,” Lydia points a finger at him. “Will sit at the back and look pretty and nothing else. No winking at him, no pulling your shirt up like last time and keep your eyes on his face.”
“Fine,” Stiles pouts. “But only because you called me pretty.”
Isaac groans from the couch. “Derek, get out there and read your damn book so Stiles can take you home and jabber at you instead of us, please.”
“I have to listen to you do it with Laura all the time,” Derek complains.
“Don’t listen to them,” Stiles says dramatically. “Besides we’re not going home after, we’re going looking for buried treasure underneath the library.”
Derek shakes his head, smiling at him regardless and lets Stiles drag him out to the front of the library.
“Good luck,” Stiles mutters. “Talk art to them after and you’re set.”
“You’re a terrible influence, the worst.”
“Please, you love me.”
Stiles smiles at him, that dazzling, achingly perfect smile that Derek gets to keep forever.
“I like kissing this and that of you,” Stiles says softly. “And later we’re going to have sex over there,” he waves at the shelf of art books and then pushes Derek out to the chair Lydia’s set up. Derek’s hardly even blushing at all. He still has paint on his neck though.