It starts with a gallery opening in the city.
There’s a new artist that Allison’s up in arms about—apparently he’s a genius who’s never had a real show—and she insists that Scott and Stiles attend.
Stiles doesn’t want to go.
He’s three weeks behind schedule with his publisher, stuck with no ideas and no desire to write, and it’s frustrating. Writer’s block has hit him before, but nothing like this. Nothing so intense and crippling that all he can do is sit around and watch stupid movies without feeling a single urge to break out his laptop.
“C’mon, dude, it’s my job.”
Stiles rolls his eyes and shoves another handful of Reese’s Pieces into his mouth. “No,” he says to Scott around his chewing, “it’s not. It’s your girlfriend’s job—you have to go because you’re the one who sleeps with her. I don’t.”
“Please?” Scott whines at him. “I’ll love you forever.”
“You already love me forever. I just—dude, I don’t want to go. C’mon.”
“I will literally do anything if you come with us. She’s gonna be working all night, I don’t wanna just hang out by myself.”
Stiles glares at the muted television screen and adjusts the phone that’s held against his shoulder. “Scott.”
“Seriously, dude. Anything. Any. Thing.”
So Stiles deflates, eyes closing, and he grumbles, “Fine. Pick me up in an hour.”
Scott makes an overjoyed noise and there’s a thump in the background. Stiles assumes he knocked over another pretty thing that Allison keeps in the apartment, and hears the curse that confirms it, but he hangs up before Scott can say anything else.
He doesn’t really go to these types of things. It’s San Francisco, though, so there are artsy-type events by the dozen every night, and mostly, if he goes out at all, he goes out with Lydia or Danny or some friends from college who stuck around. But he doesn’t go to gallery openings.
He gets a text from Allison just as he gets out of the shower that orders him to wear a suit.
Part of his job is talking to a lot of people. Conferences, book signings, teasers for book releases. He’s fairly proud of his success, five books published, three of those belonging to a New York Times Bestseller trilogy, and yeah, he has money. He has money and he has friends who do what he does or at least something similar, and he feels…accomplished.
But that doesn’t mean that everything that comes with that accomplishment is all that exciting.
He attends stuffy events when Lydia makes him, cracks jokes and kisses ass and tries to make it a reasonably enjoyable night, but this. This isn’t even about words. This isn’t about writing or books or even poetry—it’s art. And Stiles knows literally nothing about art.
Scott picks him up an hour and four minutes later, dressed similarly to Stiles. Black coats, trousers, and shoes, and white shirts underneath. The only difference is that Scott’s tie is a muted blue and Stiles’ is bright red.
Scott tilts his head at it. “Subtle.”
“Whatever, dude—everyone loves a little bit of flashiness.”
“Just so you know,” Scott says as he pulls away from the building and back into traffic, “most of the guests tonight are, like, high-society buyers. If you try to hit on them, they might not respond that well.”
Stiles shrugs. “What’s the point in going out at all if I can’t have fun, Scotty?”
Scott fixes him with an all-too familiar look. That’s his I-am-responsible-for-you-tonight-and-if-you-upset-my-girlfriend-I’ll-have-to-sleep-on-the-couch-for-a-week look.
Fine, Stiles decides. He’ll just let the beautiful people come to him. Maybe he’ll make pointed eyes at them first, but what else is he supposed to look at? Art? Psh.
Allison greets them at door since their names aren’t actually on the list, and when they get hurried inside and shoved near the bar in the corner, Stiles settles in.
“Beer?” he asks the raven-haired girl pouring drinks. She has a nose ring and she’s wearing dark red lipstick. Stiles wonders if she has tattoos.
When she looks up at him, she smirks. “Champagne and white wine only. Sorry.”
So he drinks champagne and blinks through dim lighting at the artwork that’s scattered around the immense room. He’s not really a great judge of these things, doesn’t really know how to act, so he mostly wanders, letting his eyes slide but never really seeing.
And that’s when he sees him.
The man is standing in a particularly dark corner of the room, close to the bar, and he’s holding a small, wide glass filled with dark liquid.
That lying bitch gave him scotch.
Stiles forgets to be disappointed, though, because the man is kind of easy on the eyes. And by kind of, he means that he’s drop dead gorgeous. He’s dressed cleanly and he has dark hair, a bit of stubble on his face that drags attention to his perfectly-structured jaw and his lips that look nice and soft. And he’s looking at Stiles.
Stiles is kind of good at making moves on people now. The last time—about a month ago—it had only taken two minutes of fruitless conversation to make his partner suggest they find a place more private in which to finish the conversation.
Stiles thinks he can beat his time.
“Exciting, huh?” he says to the guy, stuffing his free hand into a pocket and letting his shoulder brush the stranger’s for just a second as he turns to look at the wall of artwork displayed. “Who doesn’t want to spend Saturday night at one of these things?”
Stiles expects a Daisy Buchanan kind of character. He expects a voice full of money and a longing for nothing more than success. But what he receives instead is a voice that’s not as deep as he would expect, nor as rich. It’s just…a voice. Calm and precise and patient. “I think I would have to agree with you,” he says.
“Did your girlfriend drag you?” Stiles asks, taking a swig of champagne. Scotch isn’t really his thing, anyway. So he supposes he can let the traitorous actions of the bartender go. “Or boyfriend—whatever.”
The man smiles softly, white teeth glinting in the dim light. “No. I’m single.”
“So you came of your own free will?” Stiles nods, like he’s absorbing that information with extreme interest. “Cool.”
He doesn’t seem to be like the other people wandering about. Women with stern, judging eyes and men with arm candy who don’t even glance at the paintings except to examine the price tag. He’s wearing a classic suit, nothing too ridiculous, and is—shockingly—missing a watch. Every wealthy person Stiles knows (read: not many) own either expensive watches or expensive cars.
This guy doesn’t fit in with the rest.
“Why are you here if you don’t want to be?” he asks.
Stiles snaps back to attention. “My best friend’s girl is a junior curator. Showing support and what not. Also,” he adds quickly, smirking, “who doesn’t want to stare at paintings of naked people and call it critiquing?”
“There aren’t any nude portraits in the collection,” the man tells him.
Stiles quirks an eyebrow. “Are you a fan?”
He shrugs. “Sometimes.” He sounds uncaring, Stiles thinks, but when Stiles looks over at him again, he finds the stranger looking back, his eyes dark. He’s staring at Stiles like he wants.
It’s definitely not the first time Stiles has gone home with someone shortly after meeting them, so Stiles doesn’t have any second thoughts about sticking his free hand out and saying, “I’m Stiles.”
The man arches an eyebrow but takes Stiles’ hand, anyway. “Derek.”
Stiles doesn’t let go of his hand, but instead contemplates Scott’s comment about how the elites of San Francisco (even if this guy is apparently the least elite out of all of them) would most likely not react well to his advancements. He almost scoffs to himself. Fuck that. “Do you wanna get out of here?”
A quick smile overtakes Derek’s face, just for a moment. “Where would you suggest?”
“Oh,” Stiles says, stepping close, “I think I know of at least a few places.”
There isn’t even a glimmer of hesitation in Derek’s eyes, but he does remove his hand from Stiles’ grip, only to lean in especially close so that his lips are on Stiles’ ear when he whispers, “Meet me outside.” And then he’s gone, wandering through the scattering of people.
Stiles is grinning as he tries to find Scott. He locates him a moment later, in the back, towards the alcohol, and he has one arm around Allison’s waist, his face pressed into her hair.
“Allison,” Stiles says too loudly, kissing her forehead dramatically, “you are definitely the best person ever and this party is awesome and I met someone—fuck you, Scotty. Later!”
And then he goes outside to wait for Derek.
They take Derek’s car, since Stiles came with Scott, but Derek doesn’t ask where Stiles lives. He thinks maybe that’s for the best, since his funk has brought out his messy side, and there are candy wrappers and pieces of trash and a million other unpleasant things scattered around his apartment.
Derek, however, apparently lives in a mansion.
Well, it’s a loft, but it’s beautiful, and as soon as Stiles crosses the threshold he thinks he definitely needs to scoop some money out of savings and get himself a nice place—it’s the least he owes himself.
“Want a drink?” Derek asks him.
Stiles licks his lips. “Sure.”
Derek pours red wine while Stiles looks around his apartment. There’s a huge bookshelf that acts as a wall, blocking off a room that Stiles can’t see that well, but he decides not to venture into it. Rich people and their private lives, you know. Instead, he walks slowly around the edges of the room, taking in the leather couches, the granite countertop in the kitchen, the beautiful stained wood that makes up the rest of the apartment, the tastefully-exposed brick along a wall. It’s stunning, Stiles thinks, but he’d also like to see what Derek’s bedroom looks like.
Derek offers him the glass and he takes it, smiling. His apartment is brighter than the gallery had been—even though the paintings were illuminated, the rest of the room was dark, supposedly adding to the ambiance—and Stiles can see the lines near his bright, green eyes. He’s gorgeous, Stiles knows, but he’s also at least five or six years older than Stiles. He kind of likes that.
“I’m new to the city,” Derek says.
Stiles arches an eyebrow. “Really?”
“Lived in New York for a while. Just moved about two months ago.”
Not too new, then, Stiles thinks. “I’ve lived here a few years. Since college.”
Derek looks amused. “How old are you?”
“How old are you?” Stiles counters.
“Older than you.”
“I thought you might be.”
Derek rolls his eyes, but it’s not malicious. Stiles rests a hand on Derek’s hip, pushing his finger through a belt loop.
“What do you do?” Stiles asks.
“Lots of things.”
Smirking, Stiles nods. He’s been with guys (and girls) who aren’t really into the small talk thing, and he can accept that. In fact, sometimes it makes things easier.
They’ve slowly been inching their way closer to each other through the minute of faux conversation, and so when Stiles leans in to seal his mouth again Derek’s, he barely has to move. Sometime during the kiss, his glass disappears, stolen by Derek’s hand, but Stiles can’t find it in himself to care, but Derek is a great kisser.
It’s not rushed, not like other times have been, but it’s not slow either. It’s calm and deliberate as Derek leads Stiles backwards towards the hall that leads to his bedroom. He lets his own jacket fall to the floor, uncaring, and Stiles does the same, smiling to Derek’s mouth. They unbutton each other’s shirts, tug on each other’s ties, and by the time they reach Derek’s bed, they’re left to their undershirts and Derek’s pants are open.
Stiles knows he’s a little pudgy, having been lounging around on his ass for the last few weeks—also, it’s not like his job really lends itself to exercise—but when Derek gets his shirt off and lays his hands over the muscle that’s less defined that it had been a while ago, he doesn’t appear to have any complaints.
Derek… Derek is fit. He’s firm and gorgeous and Stiles can’t stop touching him.
He makes a choked off noise when Stiles’ hands flutter over his ribs and quickly catches the offending fingers.
“Sorry,” he says, and he’s flushed. “Uh…ticklish.”
Stiles grins. That’s adorable.
Their pants go next, their shoes having been kicked off somewhere in the hall, and when Derek situates himself on his knees before licking at the skin above Stiles’ waistband, he lets himself melt back into the mattress that he’s been eased onto and enjoy Derek’s mouth.
Stiles is the one that asks Derek to fuck him. Derek’s response is a low moan around his cock.
Stiles takes it as a yes.
He likes it when he’s on his knees, leaning over onto his elbows. He likes it when he gets fucked slow and deep and intense, likes it when it’s fast and hard and desperate, but the way Derek fucks him, it’s a whole new level. It’s sensuous and exciting and Derek sucks on the back of his neck, digs his fingers into Stiles’ hips and grinds inside of him until he sees stars.
There had been a lot of very thorough prep that had involved Stiles straddling him, riding his hand, but now—now he gets to just take it. And it’s so, so good.
Stiles is a talker during sex. He mumbles his partner’s name, often babbles on about how good it all is, about how good it all feels, and this time is now different. Derek, on the other hand, seems like a quiet guy in most aspects. But as soon as Stiles starts babbling, Derek grunts and groans and moans and says his name, too, and Stiles can’t help but feel a little responsible for how he falls apart.
“Stiles,” Derek hisses. “Gonna—I have to—you—please—come for me.”
Stiles is already shaking, so close to coming after everything, and so he just lets go, gripping the sheets tightly and trembling. Derek follows seconds later, leaning his sweat-slick forehead against Stiles’ spine and grunting as he comes.
They collapse in bed together, breathing into each other, and that’s how Stiles falls asleep, breathing in the warm, damp skin of Derek’s shoulder.
Stiles goes to the gallery when Scott calls, frantically begging him to swing by and help Allison out. She’s apparently panicked and Scott can’t get down there to help because he’s seeing animals all day at the office, so Stiles pulls on his big boy pants and goes down, muttering to himself about what he does for friends.
When he gets there, however, all he finds is a man leaning over a desk, smirking at Allison, who sits on the other side.
“Stiles!” she coos, grinning and standing, just in time for the man to turn.
Stiles mimics her grin. “Hey. Derek.”
Derek looks good. Really good. Like…really, really good. Dressed down and relaxed, if still wearing a tie, and he smirks at Stiles like… Well, like he’s seen him naked.
“Stiles,” Derek says, nodding. “I was just paying for a painting.” He taps the wallet that sits on Allison’s desk.
“Did Scott send you?” Allison asks. “Of course he did—go down the hallway and find Linda, she’ll tell you how you can help.” She grabs Stiles’ head and kisses his cheek before shoving him away. “Thanks, Stiles!”
He goes, peeking over his shoulder to send another smirk at Derek, who is watching him walk away with great apparent pleasure.
He works with Linda on organizing paintings for shipment (they must be pieces from the other night, but Stiles doesn’t recognize a single one of them) and then, when he’s ready to leave, he walks back to Allison’s desk with the hope that Derek might still be there.
But something else is.
“Allison,” Stiles calls towards the hallway. She’s not at her desk. “Your friend left his wallet.”
There isn’t a response.
So, because Stiles is a kindhearted person, he’ll make the sacrifice and look through it. For contact information.
He’d like to point out that his hand doesn’t shake as he dials, but his heartbeat may speed up a little bit.
“Hey,” he says when the phone stops ringing, and he forces himself to relax. “It’s Stiles—from the other night.”
He can practically hear Derek smiling. “Don’t tell me you begged your curator friend for my number.”
“Hardly,” Stiles scoffs, but he’s grinning now. There’s something about Derek that puts him at ease. “But you did leave your wallet at the gallery and you have a ‘if found, please call’ card inside.”
Derek sighs heavily. “Shit. I’m already on the other side of town.”
“Well, you could give me a call back when you’re home and I could…drop by.”
“Oh, really?” Derek sounds amused.
“I wouldn’t want to cause you any trouble.”
“Or, you know, you could come by my place. It’s probably closer to where you are right now, actually.”
Derek chuckles. “Stiles.”
“You’re not really as subtle as you think you are.”
“Oh, you thought I was trying to be subtle? Let me try again.” He clears his throat dramatically and cleans over the counter, glancing over his shoulder to make sure Allison and the others aren’t listening. “I would very, very much enjoy your company again. Preferably naked.”
Derek doesn’t even bother hesitating. “What’s the address?”
Stiles is already heading to the door as he prattles it off, waving to Allison wordlessly—who has appeared once more—as he leaves.
This is really shaping up to be an awesome week.
Derek has, unsurprisingly, not changed since their chance encounter earlier, but he does look a bit more exhausted. He smiles at Stiles when he opens the door.
“So I have a question,” Derek says in lieu of a greeting, walking past him and strolling into the apartment. “You hate art shows, right? So why were you hanging around the gallery at two o’clock in the afternoon?”
“That’s two questions,” Stiles tells him, shutting the door behind him. “And I don’t hate art shows, not really—I just never go to them.” He gestures around his apartment, which is in a slightly less sorry state than it had been a week ago. “As you can see, I’m not really the artsy type. And by artsy, I mean stuffed to the gills with cash I don’t know what to do with.”
“Was that offensive?”
“I haven’t decided yet.”
Stiles smiles, nodding, and walks over to the kitchen nook, grabbing Derek’s wallet off the counter. But when he turns around, he finds Derek is examining his rows and rows of books.
(He’d spent a whole summer organizing them into a manageable library. He’s quite proud of them.)
“You like S. E. Fenton?” Derek asks, and for a second Stiles thinks it’s a joke.
When he’d first started out writing, he knew he needed a pen name. He couldn’t very well put his legal name on the cover—no one would read it. And putting Stiles Stilinski, or even just Stiles, seemed just as bad. So he’d created the pseudonym using S for Stiles, E for his legal middle name, and Fenton, because it was his mom’s maiden name.
Stiles blinks at Derek, but he’s just looking through Stiles’ bookshelf, where he has all of his books stacked together.
“Um. Yeah,” Stiles says, “I guess.”
Derek nods. “Me too.”
Derek turns, hands stuffed in his pockets. He looks down at the wallet in Stiles’ hands. “My wallet.”
“If I had that, it would be an excuse to leave, don’t you think?”
God, Stiles loves the way he flirts. It makes him all tingly and excited—it’s been ages since he met anyone who could banter with him. So Stiles tosses the wallet over his shoulder and doesn’t even look to see where it lands.
When Derek kisses him, it’s just as good as it had been the first time (and every time after that) but Stiles feels slightly more aware. It’s still bright outside, sunlight streaming into his apartment, and so when they fall onto the couch and begin tugging on clothes, there’s nothing dark and secretive about it.
Stiles blows him this time, nearly coming himself just from how hot it is, and when Derek scrambles to get Stiles back in his lap, straddling him, it’s a whole different story.
“We don’t have to,” Stiles mumbles into his neck, sucking on the skin there. “We don’t have to have penetrative sex every time. I could just blow you until you come. I really like that.”
Derek kisses him, holds him close by the hips, grinds up into him. “Will you—how do you feel about—rimming?”
Stiles almost chokes on his own spit. “I—good, mostly, yeah. You or me?”
“Fuck.” Stiles grinds closer. “Yeah, I can do that. Shit, that’s really fucking hot.” He stands then, yanking Derek up with him, and leads them to the bathroom. He starts the shower before he yanks off his T-shirt, and then he practically climbs Derek in his effort to undress him fully and kiss him at the same time.
Derek pins him up against the cool tile wall once they finally get inside the shower, pins him and touches him, twists his fingers in his hair, does all of the exploring he half-assed the last time. And then, Stiles’ hands grab at his ass, and he moans into Stiles’ mouth, fingers digging into his ribs.
“Just tell me how you want to—tell me how you like it,” Stiles whispers against his lips.
“I need to hold onto something,” Derek says, low and growly. “It’s so—I’ll fucking fall apart.”
Stiles moans, tugging his dick to alleviate some of the ache, and he watches as Derek turns to rest one hand on the slippery wall, curling the other around the bar that holds the curtain.
“Fuck everything,” Stiles whispers to himself.
Rimming Derek is fucking awesome. He’s responsive and beautiful and the sounds that come out of his mouth make Stiles so hard he thinks he might come even before Derek does, maybe without even touching himself.
He fucks into Derek with his tongue, holding onto his hips, and Derek shouts. Stiles is so caught up in it all that he almost doesn’t see it when Derek’s hand comes down off the wall to start jerking himself off.
He just speeds up, goes deeper, licks and explores and teases and Derek is making these soft, muffled noises like he’s trying to keep himself from babbling, and it’s just all wonderful, so Derek comes shaking and grunting and nearly collapsing, but Stiles is standing up in an instant, holding him.
“Stiles,” Derek says into his shoulder, hands on his sides.
“Your dick is poking me in the stomach.”
Stiles laughs. “Well, whose fault is that?”
Derek’s answer is a kiss.
Stiles writes and writes and writes and the next thing he knows, it’s been two days since he talked to Derek and so he texts him again.
And they text and Stiles writes and Lydia coos over the phone to him how amazing the pages are that he sent him, and Stiles is happy.
Stiles is really, really happy.
He sees Derek at least twice a week for almost two months, and it isn’t until then that something hits him.
“Wish I could stay,” Stiles drawls to Scott as he heads towards the door of the apartment, “but I have a date.”
“And by date you mean booty call.”
Stiles shrugs. He supposes that’s kind of what he and Derek have been doing—they meet up, sometimes get a drink, and inevitably wind up in a bed or on a couch or against a wall. It’s pretty awesome. “Don’t knock it ‘til you try it, Scotty.”
“Dude, I’m engaged.”
“Point.” He waves goodbye to Allison, who’s sitting bent over her desk with a million portfolios in front of her, and she looks up, taking a headphone out of one ear.
“Leaving so soon?”
“Got a date.”
She smirks. “Have fun.”
“I intend to.” He makes to slap Scott’s shoulder or something equally bro-like, but before he can, Scott grabs his elbow and looks at him with big, worried eyes. Stiles sighs. “Scott.”
“Dude, just listen, you don’t—you don’t really even know this guy, not from everything you’ve told me. You don’t know what he does or, fuck, even his last name.” He fixes Stiles with a pointed glare. “I just want you to be careful, you know.”
“Safe sex all the way; aye, captain.” He ruffles Scott’s hair and opens the door. “Later, gator.”
He doesn’t actually think about it until he’s at the bar, pushing through the crowd to find Derek in the booth at the back, two beers already on the table. He’s sitting slumped a little bit, texting on his Blackberry, but as soon as Stiles slides in, he sits up and leans in to kiss him.
“Hey,” Derek says between kisses. “You look good.”
“Mm, you too.” Stiles nibbles Derek’s lower lip. “So, I have a question.”
Derek smirks, picking up the beer bottle closest to him and taking a swig. “Shoot.”
“What are we—what is this? I mean, I’m totally cool with how everything’s been, but we just—I don’t even know your last name.”
Derek arches an eyebrow. “Stiles, you saw my driver’s license.”
“I’m woefully unobservant.”
“Hale,” Derek tells him. “Derek Hale.”
“Would you like a shaken—not stirred—martini to go with your name?”
“That would make you a Bond girl.”
“I could definitely rock that. Do you think I’d look good in a skirt?”
Derek looks him up and down and settles a hand on his waist. “I think that’s a different question for a different time. Your turn. Last name?”
“Stilinski. Stiles is—I took the name because my legal name is a mouthful and it’s just—bad.” He shudders. “Just bad.”
“Acceptable.” Derek moves his hand from Stiles’ hip to his thigh, his thumb circling a pattern in his jeans. Stiles suddenly feels a million times hotter. “So—I don’t suppose you’d mind cutting the evening short? I have to work in the morning.”
Stiles smirks. “No, Mr. Hale, I don’t really mind at all.”
Stiles has this problem. As soon as he likes someone—really, really likes them—he can’t fuck around with other people.
In high school, when he’d been madly in love with Lydia, he couldn’t really fool around with Danny until he was sure he was over her. And by that time, Danny had a boyfriend. In college, he’d been seeing someone casually, but wasn’t really in love with her, and so they’d agreed that they wouldn’t be exclusive. So they weren’t exclusive. And now… Now Stiles really likes Derek. He likes their banter and their flirtations, and he likes when they lounge around in bed and whine about their weeks.
But now, right now, he and Derek haven’t spoken for a week. And Lydia wants to go out. So, Stiles goes out with her.
They drink and they dance and there’s a woman with long legs who drapes herself over Stiles and smiles coquettishly. Stiles has no idea what possesses him to settles his hands on the woman’s shoulders and ease her back, opening his mouth and saying, “I have a boyfriend.”
Because he doesn’t. He doesn’t have a boyfriend. Derek is someone he has sex with, someone he laughs with and drinks with—he’s basically Lydia, except… Except sex.
So Stiles goes home and sleeps off his hangover and lies around in bed all day.
Derek doesn’t text him.
Stiles doesn’t write.
“You’re depressing me,” Lydia informs him.
Stiles arches an eyebrow. “Hm?”
“I legitimately don’t understand. Your new book is the sappiest, most deliciously quirky young adult novel I’ve ever read—thanks for branching out, by the way, I really appreciate it—and I love it. I really do.” She reaches forward and holds his face in her hands. “But you are so fucking sad. What happened with lover boy?”
Stiles shrugs. “It’s over.”
“I don’t know. A while. When I tried asking him over, he was busy. And then I just stopped asking. And he didn’t ask me either.” He licks his lips. “Look, I don’t know when it happened, okay? But somehow, I fucking fell for him, and the same thing obviously did not happen to him.”
“How long have you guys been bumping uglies?”
“Couple of months.”
“And you guys see other outside the bedroom, right?”
Lydia sighs, patting Stiles’ knee. “Honey, you were dating.”
“We were not. We just had sex.”
“And then you left, right? If you were at his. And he left when he was at yours?”
Stiles blinks. “Uh, no.”
Lydia looks amused. “No?”
“No, we didn’t—I mean—no.”
“So what part of that isn’t dating?”
“That part where I don’t even know what he does for a living or his dreams in life or anything else!” He slumps against the bar dramatically, cheek squished as he says, “I’m hopeless. Why do I always fall for people who don’t want me?”
Lydia makes a contemplative noise. “What’s his favorite color?”
“Do you know his favorite color or not?”
Stiles blinks, sits up. “Red.”
“And his favorite TV show?”
“Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”
“And his favorite band?”
She continues with the questions over and over and Stiles can feel his heart twisting and straining, and finally, he stands, nearly kicking the barstool over in his haste to get to the exit.
So fine, so maybe they were kind of dating, but that doesn’t mean that Derek felt anything. It doesn’t mean that Derek wanted him for anything more than sex. It doesn’t mean that they had a single thing in common emotionally.
Stiles knows this.
So why does it hurt so much?
Stiles is back to sweatpants and Ben and Jerry’s when there’s a knock at the door. He figures it’s probably Scott or Allison or Lydia (or maybe even Danny, God knows he hasn’t seen the guy in months) come to cheer him up, but when he opens the door, he finds—
Derek is standing there, grinning ear-to-ear in a smooth leather jacket and dark-wash blue jeans. The smile falls, though, when he takes in Stiles, and instead he cocks his head. “Bad time?”
Stiles blinks. “Uh, what are you doing here?”
“I finished my—I—okay.” Derek licks his lips, pushing inside of Stiles’ apartment. “So, I wasn’t really totally honest, you know, and that’s my fault—”
“Yeah, it is,” Stiles spits, because he just can’t help it. He puts a hand on Derek’s chest, shoving him back towards the door. “You ignored me, Hale. You shut me out without so much as a word goodbye and I don’t know how that works with guys in New York, but it’s not really my thing.” One more shove and Derek is out, on the opposite side of the threshold, and Stiles sneers at him. “Have a nice life.” And then he slams the door in Derek’s face.
He thinks he should feel good after that.
It ends with an art show in the city.
At least the beginning of the end does.
Allison is organizing it again, sitting at her desk in her apartment, going over where to hang what paintings, muttering to herself about decisions, decisions, decisions.
Stiles sits at the counter and drinks a beer, ignoring Scott’s puppy dog eyes.
“Wanna talk about it?”
Her phone rings and she has her professional voice so Stiles and Scott quiet down. “Oh, hello, Mr—uh, yes. Yes, he is.”
Allison's head is tilted to the side and then she stands, smiling at them and waving them off as she walks out to the balcony.
Stiles raises an eyebrow. “What's that about?”
Scott shrugs. “Probably the artist; she sounded extra peppy.”
“She likes her job.” Stiles looks down at his drink. “Fuck, man.”
“Let’s talk about it. You always want to talk about it.”
“It’s different this time. He—we talked, you know?” He looks up at Scott again, looking helpless. “We talked about our families and the stuff we liked and—and—and he likes my books, dude. He read my books.”
Scott’s eyebrows shoot up. “Wow. You never tell anyone your pen name.”
“That’s just it! I never told him! He didn’t know—fuck.” He shakes his head, finishing off his drink. “Forget it. Just. Forget it.”
Before Scott can say anything else, Allison walks in from the balcony, grinning at them.
Stiles sighs as he takes a sip of beer—Allison promised he could have some this time—and glances at Scott. “The shit I do for your woman, dude.”
Scott rolls his eyes. “Look at it this way. You got fairly lucky last time? Maybe it won't be a douchebag this time.”
Stiles frowns at him but Scott can't see it, distracted by the way Allison smiles at him across the room while she speaks to potential buyers.
“You’re the one who told me I couldn’t bed the fancy rich types.”
“Your book’s coming out in a month, yeah?” Scott asks, and without waiting for a response, he shoots Stiles a look and continues, “How many pre-ordered copies?”
Stiles coughs a number.
“Looks like, tonight, you are a fancy rich type.”
Stiles rolls his eyes but wonders off into the gallery, if only to give Scott the illusion that he isn't a heartbroken shell of a man. Scott's about to get married after all, the world should be rosy.
Without hook-ups on his mind he makes a point of actually looking at the art this time. It must be the same artist, the same strokes of coal or something else black on big white canvases. But they look clearly different, a different theme a different mood. They look happy. They look like post cards to leave on your lover's pillow while you're away. They look like promises. They look like the strands of Derek's hair falling over his eyes when he sleeps.
Stiles doesn't realize he's crying in front of a very expensive painting until he hears steps behind him.
He’s already wiping at his eyes with both hands, having left his empty glass with Scott, and he’s about to move out of the way when he hears, “That’s my favorite.”
Stiles doesn’t know if he’s relieved or horrified.
He had hoped, even wished, in one dark corner of his mind, that Derek would be there. It was where they’d met. It would be…symbolic.
He’d given up about a half hour ago.
Derek comes to stand next to him, arm brushing his.
Stiles thinks maybe he should step away, make an excuse and run, give in and cry into Derek’s shoulder, but all he does is stand there, staring at the painting silently.
The brushstrokes are calm and warm and, if Stiles could say that paintings had feelings, this one would be content. Happy. Complete. Abstractly, it looks like a bed and a bookshelf and a window with sun pouring in. Literally, it looks like random lines over a piece of canvas.
Stiles swallows the heart that’s somehow managed to find its way into his throat.
Stiles licks his lips. “It doesn't make sense but it's beautiful.”
He hazards a glance sideways and sees a soft almost sad smile playing on Derek's lips. “Like people sometimes.”
Stiles laughs once and his shoulders threaten to start shaking from holding everything in so he glares resolutely down at the floor. “I know that… I should have told you I felt something for you. Given you a chance to tell me that you didn't. I shouldn't have assumed anything I just thought… It doesn't matter. I was wrong.”
“You should’ve given me a chance,” Derek agrees, and he sounds a hundred times calmer than Stiles feels. “Would you? If we could go back in time?”
Stiles swallows tightly and rubs at the back of his neck. “Yes. Probably.”
“Okay.” Derek turns then, facing him, and Stiles feels his heart jump again. He’s so handsome. And he looks…sad.
Stiles closes his eyes, turns away. “Derek.”
“This is you giving me the chance, Stiles. Let me explain.”
“Explain?” He looks desperately around at the other patrons wandering, whispering over art and cocktails. He sees Scott and Allison by the bar, leaning into each other. He wishes he had that. “There’s nothing to—”
“I disappear sometimes,” Derek interrupts. “I—I lock myself in my apartment and I just—disappear. It’s not a bad thing. At least it never had been until you came along.”
Stiles snorts. “Oh, great, blaming me.”
“No, never.” Derek lays a hand on his shoulder. “Stiles, please.”
Stiles closes his eyes again, sucks in a breath. Thinks of whispers. Thinks of drinks. Thinks of kisses and caresses and secrets and books and movies and music—thinks of what they shared and how hard he fell—and he turns around, because he doesn’t have any other choice. Not with this. Not with Derek.
Derek reaches out for his hand as soon as he turns, as if he's scared Stiles might run away again, might leave. “It'd never been a problem because there had never been anyone to miss me. To even notice I was gone. Not for a long time. I lock myself away and when I come out I make a few people happy with what I've done and then my work goes off to hang in cold dead office buildings and post-modern libraries that these people never use. But these, this one especially. It could never hang somewhere frigid and lifeless where no one laughs and no one is ever ridiculous and hilarious and sexy and beautiful all at once. It's not for sale, Stiles, it's just for you. All of these are for you, because you made my art warm and alive again, you made me feel alive again. This is all yours.”
Stiles blinks at him, looks down at their hands, then back up. “Wait. You—you did—you’re the—oh, God.”
Derek smiles softly. “Allison didn’t tell you. I thought—maybe.”
“No, she didn’t—I—Derek.”
“I’ve been doing this for years. New York, no one really cared this much. I did all right, but nothing noteworthy. And when I came to San Francisco, it was supposed to be a new opportunity.” He steps closer, tightening his grip on Stiles’ hand. “I didn’t expect you to breathe life into me again.”
“That is the cheesiest line I’ve ever heard.”
“Stiles.” He lifts a hand, cupping Stiles’ cheek and brushing his thumb over the bone that accents Stiles’ pink-tinged skin. “Shut up.”
Stiles leans in to kiss him, softly at first and then harsher as Derek's fingers press hard and pull him closer, his other hand spread across Stiles' lower back until they’re as close as they can be. Stiles buries his fingers into Derek's hair and only pulls away when Derek moans quietly into his mouth.
Derek tries to go for a kiss again but Stiles lays his hand over Derek's chest with a wicked smile. “Do you wanna get out of here?”
Derek grins. “I’m shocked you think you have to ask.”
“You got mail,” Derek announces, strolling in through the front door of Stiles’ new apartment, holding up a cardboard box. It’s not too big, Derek can hold it one hand, and Stiles knows immediately what it is.
It makes his heart grow warm.
“My pre-ordered copy,” Stiles laughs.
Derek arches an eyebrow. “You have fifteen author copies in your bookshelf.”
“Shut up, it’s a ritual.” He’s standing in his brand new kitchen, unpacking boxes. “Open it up.”
Derek rolls his eyes, shoving Stiles with his hip and reaching for the scissors to cut off the tape. Stiles watches, smiling, as Derek bends off the cardboard and rips, not even sparing it a glance.
The book is simple and plain and beautiful. Fitting. And Derek grins at it, opening it up at the middle to take a whiff.
“Smells like success.”
“Smells like a new book—which is the same thing.” Stiles hooks his chin over Derek’s shoulder. “You’re allowed to read it now, you know.”
“I appreciate the consent.”
Derek smiles at him, one hand reaching back to squeeze at his hip. The other flips to the front of the book, laying it down on the counter so he can flip page by page.
He stops when he gets to the dedication.
Ernest Hemingway once said, “There is nothing to writing.
All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”
Hemingway was fairly dramatic,
But the point stands.
All I had to do was open my wrists
And everything in my heart came pouring out.
Because you inspire me.