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Hale of a Design

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When Peter went back to school to be an interior designer, he can honestly say an HGTV show wasn't what he had in mind for a career path. He and Derek, owners of Hale Contractors, were doing fine, but Peter was tired of making other people's (sometimes awful) designs a reality instead of his own. So back to school he went and got his degree in interior design.

One of Hale Contractors' first jobs with Peter as a designer happened to be for the cousin of an HGTV executive and bam, a week after they finished the job, Peter got a called from the exec asking him to come in about a possible TV show. Now he, Derek, Cora, and Laura star in Hale of a Design, a show where they go in and help people who tried DIY home repairs or upgrades and failed spectacularly. It's been three seasons now. Derek and Peter work together with one team, and Laura and Cora work with the other, literally smashing gender rolls with their sledgehammers.

He gets a surprising amount of creative control, and that's why he and Derek are sitting in an HGTV meeting room watching submission tapes for the next season of Hale of a Design. To be honest, Derek isn't overly concerned with who they choose as long as they aren't entitled and rude, but he goes anyway.

"We just have a few more today," Peter's producer, Emily says, pressing play on the next recording.

A young man appears on the screen, smiling brightly at the camera. There's a little girl next to him, probably five or six, who looks shockingly like him. They have the same hair color, same eyes, all the way down to the scattering of moles. Derek glances over at Peter, as if knowing that he is exactly his uncle's type.

"Hi, I'm Stiles! I'm a web designer in San Francisco."

"And I'm James!" the little girl says.

"And, uh, we kind of need help," Stiles says sheepishly. "I tried to redo the living room, kitchen, and bathroom, and it's just a mess."

"And it smells," James says. Stiles winces.

The video changes to Stiles walking through the living room to the kitchen. Stiles and Derek both make faces. It's a nice space, open concept and large, but the bad do-it-yourself laminate flooring is raised in places and the edges don't hit the wall quite right.

"You can see that my attempt at flooring was kind of a disaster," Stiles says. He turns the camera to the kitchen. Derek rubs his temples. "We tried to paint the cabinets and it just looks like a kindergartner got a hold of a spray paint can."

"Hey!" James says.

The video pans down to see James glaring up at him.

"Oops," Stiles says. "Okay, a kindergartner would have done better."

James gives a satisfied nod and Stiles sighs.

Stiles isn't wrong. The cabinets obviously weren't sanded down first so the finish is strange and uneven and the hardware is quite outdated. The backsplash is made from the peel and stick tiny square tiles that Peter wishes were never invented and is peeling off. Peter wants to get his hands on the counters too, which are so old that the color is completely bleached in some places. He thinks it was a light blue tile at some point?

Stiles walks into the bathroom and Derek sighs loudly. The tiles, which are pink and clash horribly with the brown spotted floor, are mostly cracked or missing. Stiles obviously tried to fix it with more peel and stick tiles, which are also falling off.

"As you can see...Yeah, you can see it," Stiles says with a self-deprecating laugh. "It's bad, I know. Pinterest made it seem a lot easier."

Pinterest, the bane of Peter and Derek's existences. They could do an entire season on Pinterest fails alone.

The camera changes again and it's just Stiles sitting on the front stairs to his house. He looks serious for the first time and it makes Peter pay attention.

"James' mom...she isn't around," Stiles says. "And I don't want her to feel like she's missing anything else. I want James to have a home she can grow up in and play in and be proud of. Just because it's only me and her doesn't mean she should have to suffer any more than she needs to."

James comes running out the front door and Stiles turns in genuine surprise. He scoops her up and smiles at the camera, James grinning and squirming in his arms.

"Come help us!" James shouts. "Daddy's bad at it!"

Stiles sighs dramatically, but says, "She's not wrong. Thanks for the consideration!"

The video cuts out and their producer looks at them expectantly. Now, as a rule, Peter isn't a fan of kids. Sure, he likes the kids in his family fine, but in general, kids smell, are loud, make a mess...and yet he is irresistibly charmed by James and her dad. Derek's lip is quirked up in a half smile, like he can't help but like them, too.

"We'll do it," Peter says, not even asking Derek. Derek doesn't look shocked.

"Excellent!" Emily says, clapping her hands together. "I'll set it up!"

Peter avoids Derek's knowing look the entire way back to their office.

-

It's a couple of months before they actually get to filming Stiles' episode. Peter and Derek have a few projects lined up before Stiles and honestly, Peter needs them to be done. The first is a couple that basically ignored all of Peter's design and insisted on going with the cheapest materials possible. Peter understands wanting to be frugal, but you get what you pay for and Peter guarantees their floors are going to look like garbage in a few years. He and Derek do their best, but there's only so much he can do. He wonders if the episode will capture just how much he hates putting his name on that project. He hopes so.

The other project is someone who apparently has never seen the show and doesn't understand that the homeowner is supposed to work alongside Derek and Peter, not just leave them to do all the work. The homeowner, a very uppity man about Peter's age, keeps walking out in the middle of filming, saying, "Oh, you have this under control." Peter wants to strangle him.

It's a relief when they finally get to Stiles' house. They're running a bit behind so Peter and Derek don't get to meet Stiles before cameras roll, like they usually do, so when Stiles answers the door, it's the first time Peter sees him in person and he's all but dumbstruck. How is it possible that someone can be significantly more beautiful than they were on camera? Stiles' smile is wide and bright as he shakes Peter's hand, then Derek's. Derek gives Peter a nudge in the side, reminding him that he's supposed to be speaking.

"Hi, Stiles. My name is Peter, this is my nephew Derek. We're here to help," Peter says.

"Try to keep the laughing at me to a minimum," Stiles says with a smile and lets them in.

"Let's start with a walk through of the living room," Peter says.

"Sure," Stiles says. "Like I said, the flooring is pretty bad. The guy at the flooring store told me, 'Oh dude you can totally install this yourself, it's easy!' It was not easy, and it looks like garbage."

Peter has to agree. It's a light color laminate that really doesn't fit the house's style, and it's warped in places with holes between some of the tiles.

"Flooring can be extremely hard if you don't know what you're doing," Derek says. "It's not uncommon at all for issues to come up."

"Laminate is a good option for floors that are going to have rough treatment, like with kids or pets," Peter chimes in. "If you get a high-quality laminate, it can last longer and withstand more than hardwoods can. So you were on the right track."

"Just poor execution," Stiles says.

The floors continue into to kitchen, which has a straight sight line to the living room.

"The floor plan is laid out well," Peter says. "You have open sight lines to the living room where I assume James plays."

"Yeah, that was a main selling point on the house for me, honestly," Stiles says. "I wanted to be able to keep an eye on her while I was cooking. It's the rest that didn't work. The cabinets were lime green when we moved in, so we tried painting them white and, well, you can see how that worked."

They're pretty rough, with bumpy patches in places and a little bit of the green poking through. Derek takes a closer look, opening and closing the cabinet doors.

"Well the cabinets themselves seem to be in pretty good shape. We can sand them down and do another coat of pain on them. I'd suggest a darker color than white, just because it gets dirty so easily, especially with a kid. But Peter will have ideas on the design end of things," Derek says.

"Oh good," Stiles says, looking relieved. "I wasn't looking forward to replacing them all."

"No, no," Derek says. "The cabinets should be fine."

"The countertop and peel and stick backsplash on the other hand..." Peter says.

"I know, it's awful," Stiles says. "But I can't afford something fancy."

"I'm sure I can design something in your budget that will work," Peter says. "Because honestly, this just doesn't. I'm surprised the seller didn't replace it when you bought the house."

"It was an estate sale, the lawyers just wanted to get rid of it quickly, so I got it for a steal and figured I could put the money I saved into fixing it up," Stiles says.

"That's smart," Peter says. "There's definitely a lot we can do with your kitchen and living room space. Even a new coat of paint will make it look completely new."

"What's with the window?" Derek asks, pointing to the window about the sink. It looks strangely blue around the edge and Peter thinks he sees a crack.

"Oh, it got cracked, so I put some aquarium sealer on it," Stiles says.

Derek stares at him.

"So a new window," Peter chimes in. Derek shakes himself out of it.

"Yeah, definitely. Can we see the bathroom?" Derek asks.

Stiles winces.

"Don't judge me," he says.

Stiles leads them through the hall to the bathroom. It's a small space, but functional, though it feels even smaller with Stiles, Derek, Peter, and the cameraman jammed into it. The missing tiles look even worse in person, and there's a stack of the peel and stick tiles in here, too.

"First, we should definitely paint the walls a lighter color," Peter says. "With a bathroom this size with no natural light coming in, the dark walls are just going to make it feel more cramped. I'd suggest a tile floor and of course, new tiles in the shower/bathtub area."

"Yeah, the green walls, brown floor, and pink tiles don't really speak to me," Stiles says.

"Not at all," Peter says.

"Taking the tiles down should be easy, they are already loose," Derek says, poking at a tile. The tile instantly comes free and falls into his hand.

"And the floor looks the basic linoleum and should come up fine," Peter says. "Though no promises. With older houses like this one, anything can happen."

"I knew that when I bought it, but I like the charm," Stiles says with a shrug.

"The architecture is beautiful," Derek agrees. "We're just here to face lift a bit."

"Now, you and I can talk design, and we can get this going," Peter says.

"I think we have what we need," the director says.

The cameraman backs out of the room and Stiles blinks like he forgot they were being filmed.

"Now, can we see the rest of the house?" Peter asks. "It helps us get a sense of the style of the owner and flow of the house so we don't do something in the kitchen and living room that will completely clash with the rest of the house."

"Yeah, sure," Stiles says.

Stiles leads Peter and Derek, sans camera crew, a little further down the hall. The first door on the right is James' bedroom and Peter blinks. The room has beautiful white moulding and baseboards and the walls are a pale blush. The floor is a pale, plush carpet with a bright pink area rug in the middle that matches the bedspread. It's as if Stiles put all the effort into his daughter's room. Derek and Peter stare at Stiles, who shrugs. Before they can say anything, James is walking out of her closet, her outfit complete with a sparkling black tutu and a purple feather boa.

"Daddy!" she says and runs at them. She hugs Stiles around the waist and Stiles hugs her back with a grin.

"Hey kiddo. This is Derek, and that's Peter. They're going to help me get the house in shape."

"Hi!" James says, holding out her hand. Derek and Peter shake, unable to keep the smiles off their faces. "You're going to make the floor not bubbly in the living room?"

"Yep," Derek says, squatting down so he's eye level with her. "We're going to make it nice and flat so you can play in there."

"Yes!" James says. "Wanna see my drawings?"

Before Derek can answer, James is dragging him further into the room and to her desk,

"This room was mostly done when we moved in, I just had the carpet and mouldings added. I didn't want to do it myself and mess up her bedroom, you know?" Stiles says to Peter.

"It's beautiful," Peter says. "She's lucky."

"I just want to do all I can for her," Stiles says quietly. "She deserves it."

"She's in good hands with Derek, want to show me the rest of the house?" Peter asks.

"Sure," Stiles says.

They walk across the hall to the other bedroom and there couldn't be a more stark difference. The room is white with flakes of chipping paint. There's an awful popcorn ceiling, the blinds are broken, and half the baseboards are missing. Peter looks at Stiles incredulously.

"I don't need much," Stiles says, rubbing the back of his neck. "I wanted to focus on her room."

The master bathroom is slightly better. The tiles at least are in good shape in here. The floor needs to be redone and it desperate needs a fresh coat of paint, but it's not awful.

"I know my budget isn't the biggest," Stiles says. "So I don't need to do anything in here. I don't care what my room looks like, I want the spaces for James to be good."

"You're a great dad," Peter says before he can help it. Stiles flushes.

They walk back across the hall and James leads them all to the unfinished basement where the washer and dryer are.

"We don't do anything in here besides laundry," Stiles says with a shrug. "At some point I'll probably get it finished, but until then, the living room is fine for space."

"Makes sense," Derek says. "Can you walk through the living room and kitchen with me one more time? I want to ask a few questions."

"Sure," Stiles says.

Stiles and Derek start up the stairs and Peter makes to follow, but James tugs on his hand, stopping him.

"Hey, Mr. Peter?" she asks.

"Just Peter is fine," Peter says.

"Peter," James says. "Can we do something nice for my dad in his room? I know he wants to do this for me but he's a really good dad."

And, fuck, pull on Peter's heartstrings. Well, they do sometimes do surprises for homeowners. The network might not be thrilled, but...

"We can think of something," Peter says.

James grins and grabs Peter's hand, pulling him up the stairs.

-

Work starts a few days later, since they need to move all the furniture out, and also giving Stiles and James enough time to pack up the necessities and head to Stiles' dad's place. It would be easier to stay in the house during construction, but Stiles doesn't want his kid in the middle of the danger zone, something Peter doesn't blame him for in the slightest.

With the camera crew ready, they start on the floors. Peter shows him exactly how to use the crowbar to get the flooring up without hurting himself, something that Peter has the feeling might happen a lot. The floor, despite Stiles' shoddy work, just doesn't want to come up. It takes them most of the day to get through the living room and into the kitchen.

The nice thing is that Stiles is enthusiastic. He does everything Peter and Derek tell him to do, and listens and learns quickly. It's so much nicer than when they work with most homeowners, who just bitch and moan the whole time. Stiles seems to actually appreciate their time and Peter could just kiss him for that.

"The good news is the subfloor is all in good shape," Derek says when they've finally pulled up all the laminate and the old, damaged hardwood floors that were under it. "That means we don't need to do any costly repairs before we install the flooring."

"Tomorrow, flooring shopping and sanding down the cabinets for painting," Peter says.

"Aye aye, captain," Stiles says.

"We're wrapping for the day," the director says. "Good work everyone. We'll start at the flooring store tomorrow at 9:00 a.m."

There's a murmurs of agreement and the crew starts to break down all their equipment.

"I appreciate you being here," Peter says. "A lot of the time people just come for show and expect us to do all the work."

"What?" Stiles asks. "Have they ever watched the show? That's not how it works!"

Peter smiles at Stiles' indignation.

"We do work with some rather...entitled people," Peter says.

"Rude," Stiles says, shaking his head. "Nah, I took all the vacation time I had and if it runs over, I can work from home when we're done here, so it's fine."

"Your work is okay with you taking that much time? I don't want you to have trouble with your job," Peter says.

"Nah, we're fine," Stiles says, waving his hand. "My boss likes me, it's all good."

"Good," Peter says. "I'll see you tomorrow morning."

-

Stiles is less bright and chipper in the morning. He's grumbling when he gets to the store, has a huge cup of coffee, and has to slap himself a few times to try to wake up.

"Everything okay?" Peter asks warily.

"Yeah," Stiles says, trying to stifle a yawn. "Just a late night and early morning. James had a hard time sleeping, and my dad's place is pretty far away from her school, so the early morning didn't help. I'm awake, I'm here, I promise."

"Okay," Peter says, trying not to smile at the sleepy picture Stiles makes.

The makeup crew is less amused and hurries to try to hide the bags under Stiles' eyes. By the time they're ready to start filming the store is open.

"Ready, and action!" the director shouts.

"We have a few flooring options we can go with," Peter says, walking through the store with Stiles. "Up here we have the hardwoods, then further back are the laminates. We could do a hardwood if you want, but a laminate is more in your budget and a good laminate can last quite a while longer than a hardwood."

"Lead on, Macduff," Stiles says.

Of course, Stiles and Peter have already talked design and Stiles is good with a dark laminate, but the audience doesn't know that. They do need to pick the color, though. Peter leads Stiles to the laminate section and pulls out two sample tiles.

"These are the two I have in mind. With the soft, dove gray we're going to paint the walls, either of these dark laminates would look perfect," Peter says.

"These are laminate?" Stiles says, looking surprised. "They look like hardwood!"

"That's the mark of a good product," Peter says.

"Wow, I guess so," Stiles says. "Uh, I think I like the one on your right. I'm not a fan of the red tones in the other one."

"Perfect, that's the one I like, too," Peter says. "Let's get out of here."

Of course, that's not the end of the shoot. They have to have to same conversation a few more times so they can get all the angles they need before they finally move on. They're talking, about to get in their cars and head back to the house when Peter gets a call from Derek.

"Hey," Derek says. "Cora tipped me off on a quartz countertop sale. The place is going out of business and liquidating."

"Perfect, do you want to meet us there?" Peter asks.

"I'm stuck at the office, I'll meet you at the house for sanding this afternoon," Derek says.

"See you then," Peter says. He hangs up then turns to Stiles. "Okay, great news. Derek found a great deal on quartz countertops. They're liquidating so who knows how fast everything will go, so we should go today."

"Wow, yeah, okay," Stiles says.

Stiles rides with Peter since the place is across town and there's no point in taking two cars. Now that Stiles is awake, he's a lot more chatty. Normally, this isn't a trait Peter enjoys in someone, but he finds himself drawn into the conversation nevertheless. Their discussion jumps from home design, to James' kindergarten, to Peter's own nieces and nephews.

"Derek and I originally started Hale Contractors alone and just took small jobs we could handle. And we grew, eventually adding my nieces, Cora and Laura," Peter says.

"Is it great or awful to work with family?" Stiles asks.

"Yes," Peter says. Stiles laughs. "No, I don't mind working with Derek. He looks surly but he's actually a giant teddy bear."

"Yeah, I got that from how he was with James," Stiles says.

"He's good at his job. Laura and Cora work with our second team and they work well together. Sometimes when we aren't filming we'll all do one project together, but that can be too many cooks in the kitchen at times," Peter says.

"Are you the only designer?" Stiles asks.

"Well, I'm the only one who went to school for it," Peter says. "They've all been around the business long enough that they could all probably do a design on their own easily."

"It must be nice, having a family that close. It's just me, James, and my dad."

"More attention for James," Peter says.

Stiles laughs.

"Yeah, I guess so."

"Here we are," Peter says, pulling into a parking lot.

The shop sign is obscured by a giant banner that says LIQUIDATING! ALL ITEMS MUST GO! There are a lot of people going in and out and Stiles' face falls.

"Is everything going to be gone?" Stiles asks.

"Such a lack of faith in me," Peter says with a tsk. "Cora was in here earlier for the house she's working on and called Derek. Lots of picture texting back and forth and there are two slabs on hold for us to look at."

"If I weren't buckled into a seat, I would hug you," Stiles says.

There's a pleasant fluttering in Peter's stomach.

"I'm sure we'll have the time," Peter says.

There are enough people that setting up for filming takes forever once they finally get the manager's approval. The poor man is so harried that he just shouts, "FINE," before running off to deal with a couple trying to haggle a lower price. When they're finally set up, the cameras ready to follow them around, the director signals them to go and Peter launches into it.

"Okay, so we have two slabs on hold for us that would work with the design for the kitchen," Peter says. "The first is a black quartz with different dark shades flecked through it, the other is a white marble."

"I mean, I like the dark," Stiles says, though he sounds unsure. "I think it would look better with the walls?"

"We have the light gray walls, dark gray cabinets, and white for a backsplash. I think either would work, but the dark is probably better," Peter says.

"Is the marble a better material?" Stiles asks. "Everyone always says they want marble countertops but I thought quartz was better."

"Quartz is actually a lot stronger than marble. It can take more wear and tear and is very low-maintenance. Plus, it's significantly cheaper," Peter says.

"Sold," Stiles says. "I think it'll look great."

"Excellent, I do, too," Peter says.

"And it's a bitchin' deal. Shit! I can't say that on TV, damn it. I mean crap!" Stiles says.

"We can edit it out," Peter says, laughing. "You're right though, it is a very good deal. I'm tempted to send some of our guys down here and stock up."

They do a few more shots, and get Stiles to say something besides 'bitchin' deal', then head back to Stiles' house. By the time they get there, it's well into the afternoon and Derek is there. He's started sanding without them, which Peter can tell Stiles feels bad about.

"It's not a problem," Derek says. "I've taken off the cabinet doors so if you guys want to start on those then join me on the cabinets when you're done, that'd be great."

"So do-it-yourself sanding can be a pain," Peter says. "A lot of the time we can use an electric sander, but your cabinets have these decorative grooves on them that can make it difficult, so we'll be sanding the doors by hand." Stiles groans, making Peter smirk. "We can use a power sander on the main cabinets, don't worry."

Stiles has no idea how to sand, and Peter apparently likes to torture himself, because he takes Stiles' hand and moves it slowly with the grain of the wood, showing Stiles how to get the paint and finish off of the cabinets. Stiles smiles up at Peter and damn it, Peter needs to get it together because a simple smile shouldn't flood him with warmth.

It's slow work, and their hands are sore, but after hours of work, the cabinet doors are finally done.

"My hand is stuck in a permanent claw," Stiles says, holding up his fingers.

"Well you get a power sander next, so that will help," Peter says.

The rest of the cabinets go a lot faster. Peter knows that Derek could have easily finished them in the time Peter and Stiles had been hand sanding the doors, but that's not really the point of the show. So Derek shows Stiles how to use the power sander, and sets him loose. It nearly shoots out of Stiles' hand the first time and Derek, looking rather alarmed, shows him again and has him grip tightly. Stiles sheepishly tries again, this time managing to make contact with the wood of the cabinets.

Derek or Peter could have gotten the sanding done in half the time, but they let Stiles do his portion, helping him and correcting him along the way. By the end of the day, all the cabinets are sanded and ready to be painted tomorrow. Stiles looks completely exhausted and is rubbing his hand. Peter can relate; even he, who is used to the work, is a little sore.

"Painting will be more fun," Peter promises.

Painting is not more fun.

Stiles knocks over the can of primer, which luckily hits the drop cloth they have down, and nearly takes out the can of paint too before Derek wisely moves it out of the way.

"I'm sorry!" Stiles says for the third time.

"It's okay," Peter says. "You're not the clumsiest we've had."

Derek looks over at him at the obvious lie, but doesn't call him out on it.

They finally get the priming done, after a quick trip to the hardware store to buy a new can of primer. The director calls for a break since there's nothing they can really do until the primer dries. It's hours later that Peter and Derek deem it safe to paint.

"We're going to start on the cabinets first. Work for the back to front so you don't accidentally run a hand through what you've already painted," Peter says. "Then we'll do the doors after."

Painting goes relatively quickly, much to Peter's surprise. Stiles is very meticulous on the details and edges, but he moves quickly, following Peter and Derek's instructions to get an even coat. The cabinet doors are a little trickier with the grooves and detail work needed and are going to take longer since each side needs to be painted, but they still get done in good time.

"Okay, we're going to need about four hours between each coat, so let's get out of here and let's go look at backsplash tile," Peter says.

After a quick change, Peter takes Stiles to the store to look at tiles for the kitchen.

"This is a store that only contractors have access to, so we can get deals that the general public doesn't have access to," Peter says.

"So it pays to be your friend is what you're saying," Stiles teases.

"In many ways," Peter says.

He leads them through the maze of products until they get to the tiles.

"I was thinking a simple white tile would tie in well and if you really wanted a pop of color, maybe a turquoise. We have a few options," Peter says, grabbing a few sample sheets.

"I think the turquoise would just be a little much?" Stiles says, touching each other the samples.

"It's a personal preference thing, I think it would look fine but if you don't like it, we can eliminate it," Peter says, putting the blue aside.

"I like these," Stiles says, pointing to one of the samples.

"White subway tiles are definitely in right now and look good anywhere, good choice," Peter says.

By the time they get back, there's only a half hour left before they start painting, so they sit outside and eat a simple lunch of deli sandwiches. Peter finds himself laughing much more than normal, and ignores Derek's assessing gaze by focusing on Stiles, but that's a dangerous path. He can't help but focus on the line of Stiles' jaw, the way his long fingers wrap around his bottle of water, the way his eyes catch the sunlight.

"They should be ready now," Peter says, jumping up.

Stiles looks startled but says, "Okay," and follows Peter and Derek inside.

The second coat of paint is easy and before Peter knows it, they're done for the day.

"Tomorrow we'll get ready for the countertops. Hopefully the flooring will be here by then and we can get started on that, too," Peter says before they all break for the day.

"Sounds good," Stiles says. "Thanks for everything guys. You're really saving me here."

"It's what we do," Derek says. "You're welcome."

Peter makes the mistake of offering Derek and ride home and is on the receiving end of Derek's gaze the entire car ride.

"What?" Peter finally snaps,

"You know you can't get involved with a client," Derek says.

A million responses race through Peter's mind, from sheer denial to something scathing about Derek's own romantic past, but he bites his tongue for once.

"I am aware," Peter says. There, neither confirm not deny.

"Okay," Derek says.

Peter likes that about Derek. He doesn't push. Normally.

The flooring arrives the next day, thankfully. They'd been waiting a little longer than normal and Peter and Derek were both starting to get a little annoyed. The countertops are set to arrive later in the day and before that, Derek wants to check over the plumbing under the sink, just to be sure everything is okay and they haven't damaged anything. Stiles and Peter are chatting while Derek's under the sink. He's humming in a way that Peter know means bad news. Stiles seems to read his face and frowns.

"What?"

"Well," Derek says, sliding out from under the sink. "Your pipe has a steady leak and it's almost completely rotted through. It's miracle it hasn't gone by now to be honest."

Almost on cue, there's a load groaning noise. They all look apprehensively at the pipe and Peter just has enough time to yank Derek by the shoulders and use him as a human shield before the pipe bursts, spraying them all with water. The crew jumps out of the way but filming keeps going. Stiles shouts in surprise and backpeddles out of the spray zone.

"Cap the pipe!" Peter shouts.

"Let go of me and I can!" Derek shouts back, jerking out of his uncle's grip.

Derek rushes forward and dives back under the sink. Peter can't see what he's doing and to be honest, plumbing was never his forte, but the flow of water stops. He's finally able to look around and see the damage. Derek, Stiles, and half of the crew are looking like drowned rats while Peter only got a bit of water on his arm. Derek is glaring at him for the whole human shield thing, but Peter has no shame and really, Derek should know that by now. Stiles' eyes are wide and he looks about three seconds away from a meltdown.

"It's okay, we set up the contingency in the budget just in case something like this happens," Peter says, trying to cap off the panic.

"Thank's such a big thing to go wrong though, oh my god!" Stiles says.

"It's not the worst thing that could have happened," Derek says.

"There are three inches of water covering my kitchen floor!" Stiles says. His breath is coming in short and Peter is pretty sure he's about three seconds away from hyperventilating.

"Stiles!" Peter says, grabbing Stiles by the shoulders and making Stiles look at him. "It will be fine, we've done this for years, trust us."

Stiles takes a deep breath and nods.

"Okay," he says. "Okay."

"Good," Peter says. "First step is to call a water mitigation company."

Luckily, the company Peter calls has availability right away (not that they would turn down free TV exposure) and comes out immediately with all their equipment, including water pump, industrial dehumidifiers, and fans.

"How long will this take," Stiles says, anxiously watching the water mitigation crew head inside.

"I'd guess two or three days," Peter says. "We got to it in time that there shouldn't be too much damage, though we'll need to check on that."

"Okay," Stiles says, though he still sounds worried.

"There is a bright side," Peter says.

"Oh yeah?" Stiles says doubtfully.

"We don't have to stop work all together. Tomorrow we can start in the bathroom while this airs out so we don't lose too much time," Peter says.

Stiles still looks morose but he seems to take that to heart at least.

The fans and dehumidifiers are running the next day, so it's a little loud for filming. Peter doesn't really care, what he wants to do is deal with the bathroom. All that really needs to be done is taking out the tile in the shower and pulling up the bad linoleum floor before they paint the vanity.

"We have some leftover countertops from a job Laura and Cora are on, and they graciously let us use it so we'll have new countertops in here," Peter says.

"What, really?" Stiles says. "That's awesome! Will you thank them for me?"

"Of course," Peter says.

It's small for Peter, Derek, and Stiles all the be in the bathroom at one time, so Derek excuses himself and says he'll go help Cora and Laura for the day. Peter has to say, he isn't sorry to have more time relatively alone with Stiles. The filming crew doesn't film the entire day, just enough to get an idea of what they're doing, so after they're gone, Peter will get his time with Stiles.

"So the tiles are already loose, so we're going to use a pry bar and a hammer to get them off the rest of the way," Peter says.

Peter places the end of the pry bar at the edge of the tile and gives it a light tap with the hammer and the tile easily pops off.

"That looks a lot easier than I thought," Stiles says.

"Normally it's a bit of a process, but they're already almost ready to fall off, so it won't be too difficult," Peter says.

Famous last words. The tiles toward the top are loose, but for some reason the ones on the bottom are stuck on much harder. It takes a lot of reefing and pounding on the pry bar to get them all loose. Stiles slips once and almost falls, face planting into the tub, but Peter manages to get a hold of his arm and keep him from a broken nose.

Finally, the tiling removal is done. Derek comes back to check on them and Peter frowns. It didn't feel like it'd been hours, but apparently it's almost 3:00 p.m.

"It's almost 3:00? Shit, I have to get James from school!" Stiles says. He starts shaking at his shirt, trying to get the dust out. Peter does his very best not to laugh.

"I can pick her up," Derek offers.

Stiles stops and stares at him.

"What?"

"If you call the school and tell them I'm coming instead of you, I can pick her up," Derek says. "It's not a problem."

"Are you sure?" Stiles asks.

"Yeah," Derek says. "It's fine."

"Oh my god, thank you so much, I look like I just got out of a dust tornado and I haven't showered and I'm just not prepared. Normally her daycare can take care of her but they're on vacation this week and my dad is working doubles and won't be home until tomorrow oh my god," Stiles says.

"Am I bringing her back here?" Derek asks.

"Yeah, I guess so, I can't leave her alone at my dad's. I'll just confine her to her room so she doesn't stumble into the work zone," Stiles says.

"Call the school, I'll head out," Derek says.

"Thank you!" Stiles calls at his retreating back.

Peter and Stiles work on tearing out the linoleum flooring while Derek is picking up James and, to Peter's great annoyance, every since inch of it is glued down with nearly double the amount of adhesive needed.

"Is this supposed to be this hard?" Stiles asks, panting as he unsuccessfully tries to yank up a piece of floor.

"No," Peter says. "Whoever did your house in the first place is a heathen."

"Great," Stiles says.

Derek comes back with James when Peter and Stiles are halfway through the floor.

"Dad!" James says.

Peter and Stiles look up to see James holding Derek's hand, a huge smile on her face. In her free hand is a new package of markers.

"Hey, kiddo," Stiles says. "I'd hug you, but I don't want to get you dirty."

"That's okay! Look, Mr. Derek bought me new markers!" James says, excitedly waving the markers at him.

"He did? That's so cool! Did you say thank you?" Stiles asks.

"Yeah!" James says.

"Well, hers were in one of the drawers and got soaked when the pipe burst," Derek says, rubbing the back of his neck.

Peter notices that the markers aren't just Crayola, but a nicer, expensive brand. His nephew likes to act so tough but is such a marshmallow inside, it's ridiculous. Peter smirks and Derek subtly flips him off so James can't see.

"James, you're going to have to stay in your room until we're done, okay?" Stiles says. "I don't want you to get hurt. If you have to use the bathroom, use the one in my room."

"Okay, dad! Mr. Derek, will you come color with me?" James asks.

"I don't know if Derek has the time, honey," Stiles says.

"No, I can," Derek says. Stiles looks surprised, but Peter isn't at all. Derek is putty in the hands of children. "Let's go color, James."

James excitedly tugs Derek from the doorway and down the hall and out of sight. Stiles is smiling fondly and Peter feels and irrational tug of jealousy at the idea that it might be directed at Derek. He's just happy for his daughter, Peter reminds himself. It's not a big deal. Get a grip.

Ripping the floor out takes a few more hours. Occasionally Peter and Stiles will hear laughter from the room, which never fails to make Stiles smile.

"I appreciate you treating James like this, you know?" Stiles says when they're taking a short water break. "Most people act all pitying when they hear her mom isn't around and it really gets to her. She doesn't want to be treated differently."

"Where is her mom?" Peter asks. Stiles' face hardens and Peter immediately backtracks. "I'm sorry, that's a very personal question. You don't have to answer."

"No, no it's fine, I'm not mad at you," Stiles says. "Anne and I were together for a few years and when James turned two, she just decided she was done with us. She said she never wanted a family and we were holding her back. She signed over all parental rights to James and was out of the apartment by the end of the day. She didn't even say goodbye."

Peter is stunned. He's an adult, he knows that there are absentee parents and people that never should have had kids, but to hear about it like that...How can someone have a child for two years and not care about her at all? How can you leave like that with no warning? Stiles sees the look on Peter's face and gives a hollow laugh.

"Yeah, that was about my reaction, too," Stiles says. "James was just heartbroken. She kept asking for her mom. How do you explain to a two-year-old that her mother doesn't love her?"

"I can't imagine," Peter says softly. "And how hard it must have been on you."

"I was heartbroken, too," Stiles says. "But it wasn't about me, it was about making sure James is happy."

"You're a wonderful father," Peter says and finds that he means it. Most parents he knows love their kids, sure, but they do the bare minimum. Everything he's seen of Stiles with James has been Stiles going above and beyond to make sure his daughter wants for nothing.

"Thanks," Stiles says. "I try. I mean, she's the most important thing in my life, you know?"

"I can only imagine," Peter says.

"No kids of your own?" Stiles asks.

"No. I have an army of nieces and nephew, but that's it," Peter says. "I don't know if I'm up for the challenge."

"You'd be great at it," Stiles says.

Peter disagrees, but doesn't say so.

"Why don't you let Derek and I watch James tonight?" Peter blurts out.

Stiles is taken aback by the change on subject.

"What?"

"Let us watch James for you. You've been working hard for a long time and deserve a night off. Go out to dinner, go to a movie, whatever," Peter says.

"You're serious?" Stiles ask incredulously, like it's a shock that someone would actually do something for him like that.

"Absolutely," Peter says.

"I - wow, thank you," Stiles says. "I don't really remember the last time I went out."

"You deserve it," Peter says.

The thing is, Peter is good with kids. He's never been a particular fan of kids that aren't in his family, but he's good with them. He made babysitting money growing up and all that. Kids seem to like that he talks to them like they're adults, not like they're babies. And somehow, despite his aversion to children in general, he actually likes James. And Derek will be there, who is like the child whisperer. To his pleasure, Stiles trusts them. He doesn't even hesitate trusting them with the most precious thing in his life.

Peter actually has a house not too far away. When the network had approached them, Peter had been insistent that they film in San Francisco. Their company is established there, the Hales all live there, and Peter wasn't willing to relocate. Because of this, he gets to go home every night to his own home, and has a place to watch James that isn't a hotel room.

Stiles drops James off at 6:30 that night and thanks Peter again profusely before leaving. Derek is on his way with pizza so for now, it's just James and Peter. Peter at first is worried. It's been a while since he's babysat someone as young as James, most of his nieces and nephews being in middle school at least by now, but he needn't have worried. James brought her new markers and homework and settles down at his kitchen table to work away.

Peter works across the table from her, drawing up designs for another project he has going. He tries not to think about Stiles, not to roll in jealousy over whoever he's with. Stiles had been dressed up when he dropped James off, that means he must be on a date, right? Some lucky woman is out there at dinner with Stiles, laughing at his jokes, being irresistibly charmed and it makes Peter want to break something.

"Mr. Peter?" James asks after about a half hour of practicing her letters, breaking Peter out of his self-pitying spiral.

"You can call me Peter," Peter says.

"Peter," James says. "Can we talk about my dad's surprise?"

"Absolutely," Peter says. He closes his laptop and pulls out his tablet, pulling up the program he uses to design rooms. He already has the dimensions of Stiles' room loaded, he just hasn't had time to tinker with it yet. "So what did you have in mind?"

"I wanted to make it a better color," James says. "White is boring."

"I agree," Peter says. "Does he have a favorite color?"

"He likes dark blue and pink," James says. "But he can't have a pink room."

"Why's that?" Peter asks, expecting the usual line about how boys don't like pink.

"Because my room is pink!" James says. "His has to be special."

"Okay," Peter says, smiling. "Let's look at some blues."

Peter pulls up about a million swatches of blue until James finally finds one that she says is her dad's favorite color.

"How about this," Peter says, tapping on the tablet before turning it around to show James the room design. "We do the wall right behind his bed that beautiful, rich blue you picked out and do the rest of the walls a soft eggshell white."

"But white is boring!" James says.

"If we do the whole room blue, it'll be overwhelming and make it look smaller," Peter says. He taps a few times and all the walls turn blue. James frowns. "But if we do a soft white, it makes the blue stand out and gives the room a pop of color."

"I like that better," James admits. "What about pictures on the wall?"

"How about you draw the best pictures you can, then we can make them really big and hang them on the wall?" Peter asks.

James lights up at that.

"We can do that?" James asks.

"We sure can," Peter says.

James squeals in excitement and pushes her homework out of the way, pulling the markers from her bag.

"Do you have white paper? Mine has lines," James says, frowning.

"I have better," Peter says. He retrieves an old sketchbook for the living room and hands it to her. "You can have that. I haven't used it in years."

"Thank you, Mr. - thank you, Peter!" James says.

James opens the sketchbook and hums, her tongue sticking out of the side of her mouth as she contemplates what to draw. It's fascinating really to watch her work. She is so careful and meticulous in picking the color she wants, and she draws slowly, making sure every line is perfect. She discards the first few in disgust.

"What do you dislike about these?" Peter asks.

"The lines are wobbly," James says. "I'm trying but they look all squiggly."

"Here, trying holding the marker like this," Peter says, adjusting her grip.

"It feels weird," James says, making a face.

"It will at first, but once you get used to it, it will be a lot easier," he says.

"Okay," James says doubtfully.

She tries it out on the ruined drawings first, getting used to holding the marker a different way, before starting again on a fresh sheet. Before Peter knows it, she's flown through three drawings. The first is very abstract and honestly, Peter doesn't think it would look out of place in a store. Very Jackson Pollock. The next is a picture of James and her dad together. There's even one of Peter and Derek with James and Stiles.

"This one is for you," James says matter-of-factly, passing the drawing of the four of them over. "So you don't forget us when you're done helping Dad with the house."

"I wouldn't forget you," Peter says.

"People forget people," James says, staring very intently at her new drawing. "Or they stop caring."

Peter doesn't know what to say to that, but luckily, that's when Derek walks in the front door.

"Hey, Derek has pizza, want to take a break for a bit?" Peter asks.

"Pizza!" James says, dashing from the kitchen table and grabbing Derek around the waist. Derek laughs and ruffles her hair.

Peter clears the table off, careful not to bend James' drawings, and gets out plates so they can eat. James talks a mile a minute, telling Derek all about her and Peter's secret plans for her dad's room. Peter has to remind James to stop to breathe once in a while and she reminds him so much so Stiles then that it's hard not to smile.

"A secret, huh?" Derek asks, eyeing Peter who pretends to be very engrossed in his piece of pizza.

"Yeah!" James says. "Because he self..self not...not selfish."

"Selfless?" Derek asks.

"Yes! He's selfless," James says. "So it's his turn to have something nice."

"That's very nice of you," Derek says. Peter meets Derek's knowing look defiantly, utilizing his well-honed poker face. He has the disturbing feeling that Derek isn't fooled at all.

James runs out of energy around 9:00, later than Peter had assumed, and falls asleep on the couch. Peter covers her with his expensive wool blanket and sits on the other end of the couch with his tablet to work on Stiles' room. Derek pulls out his own laptop, working on an estimate for another job. He glances up at Peter once in a while, opening his mouth to say something, but seems to think better of it and goes back to his work. Peter appreciates that. He doesn't need Derek to tell him he's in too deep, he knows that already.

Stiles knocks quietly around 9:30. Peter lets him in and lets him know James is sleeping.

"Wow," Stiles says. "She normally doesn't sleep well at new places."

"We tired her out," Peter says. "Pizza, games, drawing, homework."

"Thanks again," Stiles says to Peter and to Derek, who's still sitting at the coffee table. "I went out with my best friend, we haven't had time to catch up like that in years."

The jealous monster in Peter recedes and all he feels is wave of selfish relief.

"I haven't packed her stuff up yet," Peter says.

"That's okay, I can do that," Stiles says.

Peter leads Stiles into the kitchen, making sure that the sketchbook with her drawings for Stiles' room is closed. He helps Stiles pack up James' backpack and it about to head back to the other room to wake her up, when he notices Stiles staring at his fridge oddly.

"What?" Peter says, turning. Ah. There, hanging on the fridge, is the picture James drew of Peter, Derek, Stiles, and James on green grass with a rainbow behind them. "Oh. She drew that tonight."

"You don't have to put it up," Stiles says quietly.

Peter frowns.

"Is it a problem? I can take it down..."

"No!" Stiles says quickly. "No, I didn't mean it like that. It's just...it's really nice of you, that's all."

Peter shrugs. He's called a lot of things, but nice is usually not on the list.

"It was a gift. It'd be rude of me not to display it," Peter says.

"You can just say you like the drawing," Stiles teases. "No need to make excuses."

"Fine, I like it," Peter says with a smile. "She captures my broad shoulders."

Stiles laughs loudly, then winces. They wait for a few moments and sure enough, they hear James stirring in the other room.

"Dad?" she calls out.

Stiles grabs her backpack and walks back into the living room, followed by Peter.

"Hey, kiddo," Stiles says. "Have fun with Peter and Derek?"

"Uh huh," she says, rubbing the sleep from her eyes.

"Why don't you put on your shoes and we can head out?" Stiles says.

"Okay," James says.

She shuffles sleepily to the front door and sits down, pulling her shoes on.

"Thanks again," Stiles says. "I'm glad she doesn't have school tomorrow so I can let her sleep in. She's usually asleep by now."

"It's not a problem. We'll see you tomorrow," Peter says.

"See you. Bye Derek," Stiles says.

"Goodbye, Stiles," Derek says.

The door closes behind Stiles and James and Peter really doesn't want to turn around and face Derek and his judgmental eyebrows. But he refuses to cower to his nephew so he does. To Peter's surprise, Derek isn't frowning at him, but he looks thoughtful.

"What?" Peter asks.

"Nothing," Derek says. He starts packing up his laptop. "I just don't want you to get hurt, is all."

"Your concern is touching," Peter drawls.

Derek rolls his eyes but doesn't snap back. That's just as well, Peter doesn't have the energy to verbally spar with Derek tonight.

-

The next day is a shopping trip for tiling. It's the weekend and Stiles doesn't have a sitter, so James comes with them. The camera crew eats up the loving, single dad thing Stiles has going on. Peter kind of wants to snap at them that Stiles and James' lives aren't here to sell the show, but he manages to bite his tongue.

"Okay, so we're looking for floor tiles and tiles for the shower," Peter says. "I have a few ideas already and want your opinions."

"Okay!" James says excitedly.

Stiles and James follow Peter through the store until they get to the tiling section. Peter pulls out tile samples and holds them out.

"Ooh!" James says, touching one of the samples. It's an aqua and turquoise Moroccan fish scale tile.

"I figured you'd like that one," Peter says with a smile.

"This one, dad!" James says excitedly.

"It looks good, kiddo," Stiles says.

"I wouldn't do the whole shower with it," Peter says. "Just the long wall and the rest would be while tiles. Otherwise it could be too much and overwhelming."

"I can see that," Stiles says.

"The other option is the turquoise subway tile instead. It still adds a pop of color and is a little cheaper," Peter says.

"Hmm," Stiles says. "I like cheaper, but those Moroccan tiles..."

"The price difference would be about $50 if that helps," Peter says.

"What do you think, James?" Stiles asks.

"The scales, Dad! It'd be like having mermaid pattern on the wall!" James says.

Stiles laughs.

"You heard the woman. We want a mermaid bathroom," Stiles says.

"Perfect, on to flooring," Peter says. "We have a few options here, too. I like the large, square porcelain tiles, but there are also smaller tile options."

"The bigger looks better," James says wisely. "Otherwise it would look silly with the shower tiles being the same size."

"That was my thought, too," Peter says. "You should be a designer."

James' whole face lights up.

"Really?" she asks.

"I think you'd be great at it," Peter says.

Stiles is smiling at him softly and Peter smiles back before looking away, unwilling to look like sappy fool on TV.

Derek is waiting for them back at the house after they're done buying tiles. James once again is in her room to keep her out of the way (Stiles' dad is working and can't watch her this weekend). She doesn't seem to mind. Peter sees her clutching the sketchbook he'd given her in her hands when she goes into her room and he grins at her, sending a wink her way.

Stiles has been able to catch on to most of what Peter and Derek have shown him, but he's really, really useless at tiling. His tiles are either off kilter or fall off and after the third tile falling into the tub, Derek finally says, "You know what? I'll just do it."

Stiles winches sheepishly.

"Sorry," he says.

"It's fine," Derek says. "It's better I just do it then you get a lopsided-looking shower."

"Probably," Stiles admits with a sigh.

Since there's not room for Derek, Peter, and Stiles in the bathroom at once, Peter goes with Stiles to check on James.

"Hey, kiddo," Stiles says, walking into her room.

"Dad, look, I drew rooms!" James says excitedly, running over to Stiles and Peter.

"Rooms?" Stiles asks.

"Yeah, like a house!" James says.

She thrusts the drawings into Stiles' hands. Peter looks over Stiles' shoulder and has to smile. James had tried to recreate the style of the design program Peter had showed her the other night. And indeed, she has drawn rooms, lots of rooms in fun colors and funky furniture. She seems to have taken Peter's comments about being a designer to heart.

"Is it okay, Peter?" she asks earnestly.

"They're great," Peter says.

James beams at him.

When Derek is done tiling, they go back in to try the floor. It turns out Stiles is slightly better at tiling the floor for whatever fucking reason and manages to get the tiles mostly straight. Peter is able to at least correct what Stiles gets a little crooked before they set.

The bathroom is small, so luckily the flooring goes quickly, which is perfect because the man from the water mitigation company comes to check on the kitchen right as they're finishing up the floor. After a lengthy inspection that has Stiles biting his nails (Peter bats his hand away from his mouth), the man deems them done.

"There's no lasting damage and everything is dry. You're good to go," he says.

"Yes!" Stiles shouts. He vigorously shakes the man's hand. "I was 100% sure you were going to tell me I had to replace the entire thing, dude."

"No, you're good to go," the man says, looking a bit startled at Stiles' enthusiasm.

"Thank you," Peter says.

"No problem."

"So tomorrow, we install flooring in the living room and kitchen," Peter says and hopes Stiles is better at that than he is at tiling.

-

Stiles is much better at installing flooring than tiling, though it's still slow. Peter does the first few rows, always the hardest, before helping Stiles with the rest. He shows Stiles exactly how it tap the flooring in to make it snug and fit. Considering how awful the laminate job that Stiles did before was, Peter isn't expecting much, but thankfully Stiles is all right, just slow. With Peter and Derek helping, it goes by quicker, but they still aren't done at the end of the day, needing to finish up the kitchen.

The problem is that Stiles makes Peter feel like a high schooler again. Every little touch Stiles gives him, every soft look has Peter's heart racing. He can't tell if Stiles is doing it on purpose or if he just doesn't see his own appeal, though the latter is more likely in Peter's opinion.

The next day is just as bad. They're working close together and every time their bodies brush together, it's like a zing of electricity goes through Peter. It's absolutely ridiculous and Peter can't help but get a little thrill out of it. When Peter and Stiles reach for the hammer at the same time and their hands brush, they both laugh and pull back, each insisting that the other take it. Out of the corner of his eye, Peter can see Derek look deadpan directly into the camera like he's on the Office.

They're almost done with the floor when Derek gets a call from Laura. Peter can only hear Derek's half, which consists of a lot of 'okay' and 'uh huh', then Derek is hanging up.

"They're way behind on the Watson house and want to know if I can come help them with the bathroom tiling," Derek asks.

"Go ahead, we're almost done here," Peter says.

"Don't you need help with the countertops?" Derek asks.

"Freddy is delivering, he and his guys can help," Peter says. "Go ahead."

The fans will be happy at least. They love it when the teams cross over for some reason.

When they finish the last of the floor, Stiles is kneeling next to Peter, flushed with exertion and excitement at finishing another part of the house. The cameras are long gone, and Peter's heart is racing and Stiles is right there and he can't help it. He leans forward and kisses Stiles. He worries for a second that Stiles will pull away because damn it, he hasn't thought this through, but Stiles is kissing him back enthusiastically.

Peter would like to say it's a gentle thing, full of caresses and tenderness, but that would be a lie. They kiss hungrily, tugging at each other's clothes. They manage to stagger down the hall to Stiles' room and Peter says a mental thank you that James is at school for the day.

Peter and Stiles quickly lose their clothes and crawl onto the bed, not able to stop touching each other. Now that Peter has Stiles under him, he doesn't want to let him go, doesn't want to stop. Stiles doesn't ask him to, just spreads his legs and hands Peter the lube.

Peter opens Stiles up quickly but thoroughly, making sure Stiles feels no pain when he finally slides into him. It's fast and hard, with nails digging into sweat-soaked skin and gasps and moans of pleasure. Stiles bites at his neck, runs nails down his back as Peter hits his prostate, thrusting into him over and over.

Stiles looks beautiful when he comes, face lost in bliss. Peter wishes he could last longer, but Stiles is hot and tight around him and he can't hold back, spilling his release soon after Stiles. Pleasure courses through him and it's almost like he'd forgotten how good sex can be with a partner you truly connect with. He collapses to the side, arm still slung over Stiles' waist.

They're both catching their breath, lying tangled together, when Peter's phone goes off. He ignores it, going back to tracing patterns on Stiles' skin. But then it rings again, and again. Stiles laughs a little.

"You better get that," Stiles says.

"Fine," Peter says dramatically and leans over the bed to sift through their clothes until he gets to his pants and yanks the phone out of his pocket. He reads the text and curses. "Derek is on his way back."

"What?" Stiles yelps. "How late is it?"

"Almost 3:00," Peter says.

"Fuck!" Stiles says, jumping out of bed and frantically searching for his clothes. "I need to pick up James!"

They hastily dress and Peter desperately hopes they don't look too rumpled, like they don't reek of sex.

"Why is Derek coming back?" Stiles asks, hopping into his shoes.

"He wants to check the flooring," Peter says. "It's almost like he doesn't trust us to get it done."

Stiles laughs.

"Well, we waited until we were done at least," Stiles says.

"True," Peter says.

Stiles turns and gives him a quick kiss before running out the door.

"I'll see you tomorrow!" he calls and with a slam of the door, he's gone.

Peter's afterglow is officially ruined so he might as well get the house ready for tomorrow. There's not much left to do now, just the kitchen counters and a few coats of paint. Which means soon he won't have an excuse to see Stiles at all.

-

The next day is busy and weird. The countertops come first thing in the morning and Stiles wisely stays out of the way while they're put in. He seems a little off to Peter, a little distant, and it fills his stomach with dread. If Stiles is regretting yesterday...Peter tries to ignore it, tries to work past the lump in his throat but every awkward smile from Stiles just seems to stab him in the heart.

Derek keeps giving them odd looks and even nudges Peter once when he's been staring at Stiles for too long. Peter shakes his head and continues working.

After the cabinets are in, they start on the painting. The living room is big enough that they aren't working exactly side-by-side, each of them taking a different wall. Peter shows Stiles how to tape correctly, how to make sure no drips get down. Unlike yesterday, the casual touches don't happen, almost like Stiles is purposefully keeping his hands to his sides. Peter doesn't realize how many little touches they'd been sharing until they're gone.

The cameras don't stay long while they paint, having gotten the gist of it pretty soon. Once they're gone, it's just Peter, Derek, and Stiles working in relative silence. They chat a little, but it's nothing like the easy, snarking conversation that they've had every other day. Derek tries to engage them in conversation but when he gets nowhere, he gives up and just paints in silence.

When Peter goes to refill his tray of paint and accidentally bumps Stiles, who jumps back with wide eyes and says he's sorry a dozen times, Peter finally says, "Okay, this is ridiculous." He grabs Stiles by the hand and drags him from the room. Derek doesn't even look over.

"Peter, what the hell?" Stiles asks.

Peter ignores him and drags him to Stiles' room and closes the door.

"Okay, Stiles," Peter says. "What's the problem?"

"Well you just dragged me through my house, so - "

"No, what's your problem with me," Peter says.

"I don't - "

"You're been acting strange to me since yesterday. Do you regret it?" Peter asks, bracing himself for the rejection.

"What? No!" And Stiles is so shocked and sincere that Peter can't help but believe him.

"Then why are you acting like you can't even bear to look at me?" Peter asks. "What, did you think I just used you for sex?"

"No!" Stiles says.

"Then explain it to me, because I'm at a loss," Peter says.

"I'm scared, okay?" Stiles says.

That makes Peter pause.

"Scared of what?"

"I haven't, I don't, ugh, okay. I haven't been with anyone since Anne, okay?" Stiles says.

"But that's - "

"Over three years, yeah, I know," Stiles says. He runs a hand over his face and groans. "I don't know how to do this, how to hook up or whatever. I was a serial monogamist. I don't - what are we even doing? Are we hooking up once? Did you want to do it again? I don't - what does this mean?"

"We can do whatever we want to do," Peter says. "If you wanted it to be a one-time thing, that's fine. If you want something more, that's fine, too."

"You'd want to date me?" Stiles asks quietly. The amount of incredulity in his voice annoys Peter a bit.

"I would," Peter says. "If that's something you'd like."

"I - yeah," Stiles says, smiling. "Yeah that's something I'd like."

"Good, I'm glad we settled that," Peter says. "Obviously we have to wait until the show is over, I don't know if there's something in the contract that says we can't be involved with the homeowner, though I wouldn't be surprised if there were. But when the show is over..."

"When the show is over," Stiles says. "I can wait."

"Me too," Peter says. Then he leans over and presses a soft kiss to Stiles' lips, feeling the man's answering grin. "Starting now."

"Not fair," Stiles whines.

"Come on, the faster we finish your house, the faster I can take you out," Peter says.

Stiles' only answer is a goofy grin and to rush out of the room.

When they get back into the living room, Derek only sighs at the two of them.

-

The paint needs time to dry so the next day, everyone is back to do the second coat. Stiles has to bring James with him because she's too sick to go to school and Stiles' dad can't pick her up for a few hours. She looks completely miserable walking in, all bundled up.

"Hey," Stiles calls, smiling softly at Peter.

"Hey there," Peter says, squatting down to James' level to avoid pulling Stiles into a kiss. "What's going on, jelly bean?"

"I'm sick," James whines. "And Dad says it's not nice to go to school and get all the other kids sick."

"Your dad's right," Peter says. "I'm sorry you don't feel well, though."

"It's just a sore throat for now. I'm hoping she can sleep it off while we work," Stiles says.

"I seriously doubt it'll be quiet enough for her to sleep," Peter says with a frown.

"She can sleep through anything," Stiles says. "And my dad will be here to pick her up in a few hours when he's off."

James whispers, "Pst, Peter!"

"What?" Peter whispers back.

She beckons him closer so she can whisper in his ear, "How's my Dad's surprise?"

"It'll be done in time," Peter whispers back.

"Good," James whispers, then rears back so she can sneeze into her elbow. Peter winces in sympathy.

"Come on, let's get you in bed," Stiles says, leading James through the work area and into her room. He reappears a few minutes later and looks at Peter curiously. "What's with the whispering?"

"It's a secret," Peter says.

"A secret?" Stiles asks. "She's six, what secrets does she have?"

"You'll find out," Peter says.

"You dick, you're enjoying this," Stiles says.

"Oh, absolutely," Peter says.

"Okay, guys, we're going to roll camera soon!" the director calls.

Peter sighs dramatically but picks up his paintbrush and gets to work. This time, Stiles works close by him. Peter wonders if the cameraman catches how often they bump into each other.

It's a few hours later that James stumbles out of her room, rubbing her eyes.

"Dad?" James asks.

"Hey sweetheart, how are you feeling?" Stiles asks.

"Better," she says with a yawn. "Can I help?"

"Oh, honey, I think you should just rest," Stiles says.

"Dad, I'm bored," James whines. "I've just been staring at the ceiling."

"She can help me if she wants," Derek says. "I'm not quite done with this wall."

"Please, Dad?"

Stiles sighs, apparently useless against James' perfected puppy dog eyes.

"Fine, be careful. If you start coughing, you're going back to bed," Stiles says.

"Okay!" James says.

James runs over to Derek, who gives her a small paintbrush and shows her just how to paint to make sure there are no missed spots or weird strokes. The crew members are cooing, cameras pointed at where James and Derek are working.

"Derek working with kids is always a fan favorite," Peter murmurs to Stiles. "It's the whole angry face outside, squishy marshmallow inside thing."

Stiles snorts.

"I can see it," Stiles says.

"Come on, we need to finish, then we have a bit of a shopping trip," Peter says.

"Shopping for what?" Stiles asks, but Peter doesn't answer. "Peter? Peter!"

-

"Furniture shopping?" Stiles asks.

"Furniture shopping," Peter says.

"I don't need new furniture."

"You do."

"Why?"

"A bean bag chair is not suitable for the dining room, Stiles," Peter says.

James giggles.

"I told him he's too old for bean bag chairs, but he didn't listen," she says.

"You're never too old for bean bag chairs!" Stiles says.

James is holding up well for how sick she'd felt earlier, and Stiles' dad hadn't been able to leave the station on time, so Peter and Stiles decided to bring James with them to the furniture store.

"Okay, we're looking for a couch first," Peter says.

"What's wrong with my couch?" Stiles asks.

"It's a futon," Peter says.

"I've had it since college!"

"And it shows," Peter says. "Trust me, I do this for a living. I know what looks good."

"Fine," Stiles says dramatically, but he follows Peter through the store.

Peter thinks that couch shopping is going to be a lot harder than it turns out to be. James and Stiles are apparently easy to please with comfort and as long as it's big and squishy, they're both happy. They let Peter pick the color, which Peter loves. The same goes with kitchen chairs and a table. The only thing Stiles falls in love with is a big, heavy coffee table with ornate feet and distressed wood.

"Please tell me that will fit into your design," Stiles asks.

"The couch you don't care about, or the kitchen chairs, or if the TV is wall-mounted or not - "

"That'd be cool, actually," Stiles says.

" - but the coffee table is what you put your foot down on?" Peter says. Stiles gives him pleading eyes and Peter sighs, though he's not actually that put out. "Fine. We'll get the giant coffee table."

"Yes!" Stiles says and fist pumps.

Peter rolls his eyes.

"Okay, area rugs," Peter says.

For all her excitement about couches and chairs, James doesn't seem to care much about area rugs, though that might be the exhaustion. While Stiles and Peter are talking, she lists sideways, leaning heavily against Peter's leg. Peter looks down at her in amusement and she looks right back up at him with those puppy dog eyes that Stiles can't seem to resist.

"Yes, jelly bean?" Peter asks.

"I'm tired," James says with a yawn and reaches her arms up. "Carry me."

And Peter is apparently becoming as much of a sap as Derek because he doesn't even hesitate, just scoops James up and settles her on his hip.

"You're too big to be carried, James," Stiles says, though it looks to Peter like he's about three seconds away from cooing.

"It's fine, Stiles. I don't mind," Peter says.'

"See, dad? It's fine," James says.

The director is absolutely eating it up. Derek with kids is always a huge draw for audiences and Peter's pretty sure she's thinking it'll be the same for Peter. Peter doesn't doubt it.

They're almost done with area rugs when Peter looks down and sees that James has fallen asleep with her chin on Peter's shoulder, drooling on his expensive sweater. He finds himself not minding nearly as much as he thought he would.

"Sorry," Stiles says when they're doing filming and leaving the store. "She never really grew out of wanting to be carried. It means she likes you, though."

"I'm glad. I like her, too," Peter says honestly. "Now's the time though when I banish you and James from the house until we're done."

"You're banishing me from my own home?" Stiles says.

"Yep," Peter says. "We want the finished product to be a surprise."

"You don't need any more help?"

"You've seen the show, Stiles," Peter reminds him. "You know this is how we do it."

"I know, but it seems like a dick move expecting you to do the rest of the work," Stiles says.

"It's my job, Stiles. I do this for a living," Peter reminds him.

"All right," Stiles says, raising his hands in submission.

Peter follows Stiles to his car and sets James in the backseat, getting her all buckled in. He glances around, seeing that all the crew is gone, and reels Stiles in for a heated kiss. Stiles moans into it, wrapping his arms around Peter's neck. When they part, Stiles looks a little dazed and his lips are a bit swollen. Peter finds he likes that look on him.

"What happened to waiting until after the show?" Stiles asks.

"I couldn't fight the urge," Peter says completely unapologetically.

Stiles snorts and glances down at James, making sure she's still asleep.

"Is it going to be a problem, me having a kid?" Stiles asks. "I know a lot of people out there aren't exactly looking to date single parents."

"I never was looking for that either," Peter admits. "But I like you, Stiles. And I like James. It's not something I saw in my life plan, but I can't regret it."

Stiles beams.

"Good answer," Stiles says. "So I'll see you in a few days?"

"They're planning to do the reveal Thursday. I'll call to tell you the details," Peter says.

"Sounds good," Stiles says. He leans over to kiss Peter quickly, like he's afraid the network will pop out of nowhere and yell at them. "I'll see you then."

-

By 'finishing touches', Peter had really meant Stiles' surprise bedroom. Since the bathroom is in good shape except for the floor and paint color, Peter uses some of the leftover tile from the main bathroom to redo the floor and slaps a fresh coat of paint on it and bam, beautiful master bathroom.

The bedroom takes a bit more work. The flooring is good, but they need to pull off all the baseboards because the weird, warped wood is just unacceptable to Peter. He's able to find new baseboards that nearly match the ones in James' bedroom for relatively cheap thanks to a friend of Laura's. The painting is easy, the blue that James picked out looking pretty great for the accent wall in Peter's opinion. Updating the rest of the walls to a softer white makes the room look completely different, more inviting and less like the dorm of a college student. Derek takes James' drawings that she'd done for the room to a print shop and gets them blown up and put onto canvases that they can hang in Stiles' room.

The crew is side eyeing Peter and Derek, probably because it's more than they do for most people. Peter really wants to tell them to shove it, but that's probably not a good idea, so he follows the Derek school of action and just ignores them until the director needs him to say a piece about Stiles' master bedroom surprise for the camera.

"Stiles' daughter, James, came to me and asked if we could do a special surprise for her dad, so we're doing a quick face lift of the master bedroom," Peter says. "Stiles is a great father who works hard to give his daughter everything he can, so we wanted to do something for him."

The director and some of the crew are looking at him like they've never seen him before, and Peter can't help but be a little irritated. He's not unfeeling, he doesn't treat people badly, he doesn't think wanting to do a nice thing warrants such surprise. Derek seems to notice his annoyance and quickly pulls him aside, saying he needs some help finishing the trim. Peter knows damn well that Derek could do the trim in his sleep, but he appreciates the rescue if for no other reason than he doesn't want to scream at his crew.

The new furniture arrives a little late, giving Peter a mild coronary episode when he thinks that they wouldn't finish on time. They hustle to move in the new couch, living room set, and dining table. They also bought a new bed frame for Stiles, one that doesn't have half of the supports snapped in half. Peter is truly in his element here, directly where things are to be placed, adjusting the couch by an inch to make it look better, making sure the wall mounting for the TV is perfect, setting up the dining table. Derek, blushing furiously, sets out a new sketchbook for James of the coffee table, making the cameraman coo. Peter has a hard time not rolling his eyes. Sure, it's cute if Derek does something nice for someone, but if Peter does it, it's weird. Fine.

Peter is so particular about everything that it really is down to the wire when they're finished. Stiles and James are just arriving as Peter fluffs the last pillow. Peter and Derek stand back, ready to greet them. Peter knows he's good at his job, and he's confident in his design, but there's always that split second before the door opens that he has the horrible thought of what if the homeowner hates it? What if he got it all wrong? The director yells action and Stiles and James are let into their newly redone home for the first time.

"Oh my god," Stiles says, looking around in awe.

James squeals in delight, running around the room like a missile. She goes from the couch to the new squishy arm chair, to the coffee table, where she finds the sketchbook from Derek.

"Dad, look! A new sketchbook!" James says excitedly.

"I see that, kiddo," Stiles says, his eyes a bit watery.

"We wanted to incorporate as much of your style as possible into the design, but make it functional for you and James," Peter says. "The laminate flooring will take almost anything you throw at it, the couch is made of high-quality material and won't sag like your futon." Peter's lip twitches here, trying not to smile. "And I know it was a concern, but I promise that the wall-mounted TV won't fall on you, don't worry."

"It's gorgeous," Stiles says. "I can't even believe this is the same house."

"We flowed the hardwood into your kitchen," Peter says, leading them into the kitchen. "And with a fresh coat of paint, new countertops, and a dining table, it completely transforms the space form that dated, falling apart look to something functional and modern."

"We even fixed the aquarium sealed window," Derek says with a smirk.

Stiles blushes, but looks around, his eyes are wide. His watering eyes finally overflow, tears falling down his cheek. James groans and covers her face in embarrassment.

"Ugh, Dad, don't cry on TV," she says.

"Sorry, sorry, it's just overwhelming. I never thought it would look like this," Stiles says. "I knew it would look great but this is just so much more than I expected."

"Well we're not done, so follow me through to your new bathroom," Derek says.

Peter, Derek, James, and Stiles walk down the hall and open the door to the new bathroom. Stiles gasps and James screams in happiness.

"Dad, the mermaid tiles!" she yells and jumps into the bathtub, running her hands over the tiles.

The bathroom is probably one of Peter's favorites that he's done. Sure, it's not the fancy, $50,000 bathroom he'd done for the Whittemores with it's waterfall shower and marble countertops, but this is fun and pretty, and James loves it.

"We were able to do new countertops with materials salvaged from another project, which gives the bathroom a new, sleek look. The Moroccan scale tiles add a pop of color and aqua wall art and towels really tie the room together," Peter says.

"It's perfect!" James exclaims.

"It really is," Stiles says. "I don't know how to thank you."

"Well, we aren't quite done," Peter says. Stiles looks at him, head cocked to the side. "James wanted to do a surprise for you, so we have one more room to show you."

Peter leads a confused Stiles down the hall, Derek, James, and the camera crew following behind them. When they stop at Stiles' door, Stiles looks at Peter with wide eyes.

"You didn't," he says.

Peter opens the door and Stiles' jaw drops.

"We did."

The master bedroom came together beautifully in Peter's humble opinion. Stiles obviously agrees, if his shocked gasp is anything to go by. His hand flies to cover his mouth as he looks around the room, taking in every detail.

"You're an excellent father and James wanted to make sure that we did something for you since you're always doing everything you can for her," Peter says.

"Oh god," Stiles says. He slides to his knees and hugs James tightly. "Thank you, sweetheart."

"We added new flooring and a fresh coat of paint in the bathroom, updating it. A new bed and a few coats of paint, plus James' art, give you a modern master bedroom face lift," Peter says.

"You kept her pictures?" Stiles asks, voice trembling as he looks at the framed art now adorning his walls.

"Of course," Peter says.

Stiles looks like he doesn't know what to say for a few moments, then he throws himself at Peter, fiercely kissing him like they're the only ones in the room. Peter can do nothing else but wrap his arms around Stiles, tugging him closer.

"Gross," James groans and covers her eyes. Derek pats her on the shoulder, but his lips are twitching toward a smile.

The director yells, "Cut!" and Peter can hear arguing in the background about if they can even use that on TV. Peter doesn't care at all.

It's the highest rated episode Hale of a Design has ever had.