“You are not bailing on me. The contest is in four weeks!” Sandra glares at her dance partner. This can’t be happening. Not again.
Jordan shrugs. “Sorry, but you always knew this was a possibility.”
“No! Just because you found your soulmate does not make it okay to leave your dance partner in the lurch. That’s just unprofessional.”
“Yeah, um, the trouble is Lia isn’t really comfortable...anyway, there’s always next year. Maybe you’ll find your soulmate by then.”
Sandra literally screams in frustration, the echos of her shriek bouncing off the walls of the small studio they had rented to practice. Fuck, money down the drain. Money she didn’t have to waste. The Dance Like Everyone's Watching contest was supposed to be her big break. The prize money would be enough for her to set up her own dance company, so she would never have worry about pleasing another stuck-in-the-mud choreographer again. She’d be the one setting the tune.
Except Jordan was now beating a hasty retreat and there’s no time to find another replacement. He’s the third partner she lost to this soulmate crap. It’s like she’s cursed.
Maybe you’ll find your soulmate by then. What a joke. She has zero interest in a soulmate. Less than zero interest. Sex is revolting, dating is a waste of time. All she wants to do is bring to life fantastic new dance routines. If she had her way, she’d spend most of the time touring the globe with her own avant garde dance company. What sort of person would want her for a soulmate?
Her anger starts to turn into despair and she pushes it back. She is not going to give in to a universe that likes to fuck with people’s lives by defacing their flesh with stupid words. Her own words were so pathetic that they couldn’t be anything but a cosmic joke. She squeezes her eyes shut against the prickling tears and shakes her head to clear it. The sound of shuffling feet draws her attention to to the doorway, where a man stares at her cautiously.
Ugh, I do not want to deal with this now. “Can I help you find something?” she snaps out, hoping to drive him away quickly.
His eyes widen. “I was just...sorry!”
Now it’s her turn to stare. Four words plus an ellipse, ending in a exclamation point. The same stupid phrase she’s had on her arm since before she could read. She looks down at her words, and then up at the man who had spoken them. He looks as shocked as she is.
He is, objectively speaking, a beautiful man. Dark scruff, pretty green-blue eyes. Well built. She waits for the rising attraction that everyone and their mother (especially her mother) said would happen when she met her soulmate. Here is the man she is destined to spend the rest of her life with.
Yeah, still nothing. She strides towards the doorway, intending to brush past him. He braces himself against the doorframe and doesn’t move. She scowls up at him.
“Excuse me!” she says.
He raises an eyebrow. “Where are you going?”
“Anywhere but here. I don’t need a soulmate. I need a dance partner.”
He smiles at her, increasing his attractiveness tenfold. It still doesn’t make any difference.
“I can dance,” he says, spreading his arms wide.
She steps back and looks at his body carefully. Good muscles, if not as sleek as she’d like. But he’s the right height, and they’d look good together, with their similar coloring. A tiny hope flutters, but she tamps it down.
“I won’t have sex with you. Ever. It’s not up for discussion.” She braces herself, waiting for his protest.
“Good, because I’m asexual,” he says.
She narrows her eyes at him. A man that looks like him was asexual? That’s hard to believe. But then again, isn’t that what everyone says about her? Except the phrase“frigid bitch” tends to come up when she finally convinces a man that she really isn’t into sex. She reluctantly concedes that she shouldn’t be hypocritical.
“And I’m not into lovey-dovey stuff either. No cuddling in front the TV, no romantic dinners. I really just want someone to dance with,” she continues.
“Do you mind if I do that stuff with someone else?” he asks.
“Not as long as it doesn’t interfere with your dancing.”
His smile grows even brighter. “Good, because I have a boyfriend that I don’t plan to give up.”
Really? This is starting to seem too good to be true. “And I need you to chip in for dancing expenses. Jordan just ran out on me without paying his share of the studio rental, so unless you can contribute, we won’t have a place to dance.”
“Actually, I can do better than that. We can use the room for free.”
At her puzzled expression, he extends his hand to her. “Derek Hale. I’m the studio owner.”
Huh. Well that’s a lucky break. Maybe there is something to this fated soulmate business after all. She shakes his hand firmly.
“Sandra Miccoli. Soon-to-be-famous choreographer. Now let’s see if you can actually dance.”
Stiles re-reads the series of texts from Derek. Will be home late. I met my soulmate. She’s a drill sergeant disguised as a dancer. And then, five hours later, came the follow up. Can you food me? Worn out. Home soon.
Worn out? If it were anyone else, Stiles would’ve assumed a marathon sex session with a new-found soulmate, but he seriously doubts that his boyfriend’s orientation would change like that. He’s tempted to call and get the full scoop, but Derek hates talking on the phone and would probably respond better to questions after he was fed.
Sure, no problem. Will she be joining us?
No. Thank god.
Oh, this is going to be an interesting story. Stiles is glad to feel his incipient jealousy ease off. At least Derek’s soulmate isn’t going to drag him away from Stiles tonight. It gives him hope that they can figure something out that works for everyone. After all, if Derek, Peter, and he could figure it out, adding a fourth couldn’t be that much harder, right?
Yeah, right. He turns his attention back to stirring the pasta, making sure the cheese is mixed in evenly. He’s not as good a cook as Derek, but spaghetti carbonara is simple enough. He adds in the fresh cooked peas that Derek likes, even though that seems an insult to the dish.
The front door of their apartment opens and Derek stumbles in, radiating exhaustion. Holy cow, he really wasn’t kidding about being worn out. Given Derek’s level of fitness, Stiles hadn’t actually thought it was possible to exhaust him like that. He scans his boyfriend’s face anxiously and is relieved to see that despite his fatigue, Derek looks happy.
“Sit, sit! I’ll bring you food,” says Stiles, guiding Derek into the kitchen and seating him at the breakfast nook. Derek collapses onto the chair and then immediately starts eating from the plate that Stiles sets in front of him. Stiles wants to jump in with questions but clearly Derek needs sustenance first, so he just sits and watches his boyfriend eat, enjoying the visceral satisfaction that comes from feeding a loved one.
Finally, Derek scrapes the last of the cream sauce from the plate and sits back. Stiles waits half a second for him to speak up before he can’t stand it anymore.
“So, your soulmate. What she’s like?”
Derek gives a huff of a laugh. “Well, personality-wise she’s kind of like Cora. But pricklier.”
Stiles blinks at that image, since porcupines weren’t nearly as prickly as Cora. He gives a little hum to encourage Derek to keep talking.
“But her dancing...you know, I thought ‘poetry in motion’ was just a phrase, but Stiles, she’s really amazing. Seriously.”
Derek’s face bears an expression that Stiles has never seen there before. Rapture might be the right word. Some sort of religious experience. Stiles swallows his unease and focuses on his determination to be a supportive boyfriend.
“So you two spent the evening...dancing?”
“Oh god, she was relentless. I wasn’t kidding about the drill sergeant comment. I’m going to have to clear my evenings for the rest of the month.”
“What’s going on?” Stiles the supportive boyfriend, that’s him. Just watch him doing the support thing.
“We’re going to be doing this dance contest. On the TV. Dance like Somebody’s Watching ?”
“You’re what ?!!!” Stiles’ voice rises in alarm. “No really, what? You’re going on Dance Like Everyone’s Watching? ”
Derek frowns at him. Oops, that might’ve been a little less than supportive. But Derek , on a reality dance contest? Derek hates that sort of attention. What did this woman do to him? He reaches out to take Derek’s hand.
“Derek, you know that even though she’s your soulmate, you don’t have to do things that make you uncomfortable because she asks. I mean, look at me and Peter.”
Derek chuckles. “Just because you automatically refuse to do anything Peter asks doesn’t mean that would work for me and Sandra.”
“I don’t refuse to do everything Peter asks!” Stiles says. In fact, he takes great pleasure in following many of Peter’s requests. The man’s sexual inventiveness is amazing.
Derek rolls his eyes. “I wasn’t talking about sex. You guys argue about everything else. It’s your default means of communication.”
Well, that’s just...a fair point. What he and Peter had works for them, but it certainly didn’t fit Derek’s style. Thank goodness. There was a reason he looks to Derek for emotional comfort and Peter for sex. But that didn’t mean this Sandra person could just push his boyfriend around.
“Listen,” continues Derek, “You know I love my work, right?”
Stiles nods. He enjoys visiting Derek at the studio and watching him in his element. He’s made that place into such a welcoming environment that it serves as a community center of sorts. A lot of the programs the studio offers are discounted or free to disadvantaged students, and he also supports a dance and gymnastics summer camp program. Derek just loves bringing dance and fitness into people’s lives. He even had Stiles doing morning yoga with him.
“Well, what Sandra does, it’s not a job. It’s artistry. An all-consuming passion to express herself through dance. It’s amazing and terrifying and it’s something I’ve never felt. That I will probably never feel, not like she does. And that’s okay. But just to be a part of it, it’s a privilege.”
“A privilege that’s worth going on TV?” Stiles asks skeptically.
“Yes,” says Derek firmly, squeezing Stiles’ hand. Stiles squeezes back.
“Okay, then. Let’s make you a reality TV dance star.” Supportive boyfriend mode, engaged.
Sandra ponders her soulmate as she re-folds a stack of T-shirts. Happily, Derek’s a decent dancer. His mechanics are solid and he takes instruction well. Plus he’s strong enough that she can add the lifts back into the routine that Jordan couldn’t manage. He’s not quite as smooth as she’d like, but they had time to work on it.
“Excuse me, miss, might I have a word?”
Sandra represses a sigh at having to deal with a customer. She’s focused on straightening up her section of the Big Mart and hates the distraction. Especially by someone who’s probably come to mess up her neatly arranged system. If she could keep all customers out of her area it would make her job much easier.
She blinks in surprise at the man standing there. He looks older, not quite her father’s age, and wears a v-neck sweater and slacks that were definitely not bought at Big Mart. In fact, she wouldn’t be surprised if this was the first time he stepped into a Big Mart in his life. He has an air of a British explorer visiting some primitive tribe.
“Can I help you find something?” she asks, with a customer service smile glued on her face. She focuses on his nose, which makes it seem like she’s making eye contact. It’s a handy trick for talking to strangers.
“My name is Peter Hale. I’m Derek’s uncle. I was wondering if we could grab a cup of coffee?”
She steps away and focuses on him more critically, taking in his whole face. “You’re Stiles’ soulmate, right? The man he has sex with? Why do you want coffee with me?”
When Derek explained the whole arrangement between him, Stiles and Peter it seemed messy, but as long as no one is trying to have sex or romance with her, it’s not her problem. But now this Uncle Peter person wants to drink coffee with her. She doesn’t like it.
“I just wanted to chat a bit about my nephew. Given Derek’s history and position at Hale Corp, I want to make sure he’s being protected.”
She stares at him, waiting for him to get to the point, but he seems done talking. It must be her turn now. “Well that’s admirable, but I don’t understand the connection to coffee.”
“Coffee is an opportunity for us to talk without interruption.”
Sandra looks around, but there’s no one around that could interrupt. “But why not just talk now? It’s just us here.”
“Coffee would be more relaxing,” he persists.
Well, that just doesn’t make sense. “Coffee is a stimulant.”
She’d had any number of confusing conversations in her lifetime. People very seldom made sense to her. But this has to be one of the more pointless talks she’s had in a while.
Peter frowns a her, as if he’s also confused. “You’re not joking.”
She shakes her head. “I don’t joke.”
He sighs. “Okay, let me spell this out plainly. You see, while unusual, it’s not impossible for a person’s soulmate to take advantage of a partnership. If you are only pursuing Derek for his money, then soulmate or not, I can make things very unpleasant for you.”
Ah, that made sense. He’s protecting Derek from her . “Oh, that’s okay then. I only want Derek for his dancing. The money is just a nice bonus.”
She smiles at him. A real smile, not a customer service one, since she’s pleased that she’s able to answer his question without drinking coffee.
He just stares at her. Maybe it’s still her turn to talk? But she’s run out of things to say on the topic. Ugh. She’s probably supposed to make small talk now. Except she’s also supposed to be working, so that would be a good excuse to stop talking.
“It was nice to meet you, Peter. I should get back to work now.”
Now he smiles. It was a bit crooked, but it seems like a real smile. “Of course, I understand. I’ll no doubt see you again at a family dinner.”
“Okay,” she responds, since it’s probably inevitable. Dinner is worse than coffee, but it’s probably part of the whole soulmate deal. As long as there was time for dancing, she can handle it.
The “family dinner” turns out to be a Chinese take out order. Stiles insists she stay for dinner when she comes over to their place to deliver Derek’s dance outfits to try on.
“Beef with broccoli,” she says. “Or anything else with a lot of protein. Brown rice if they have it.”
“Cool,” says Stiles, from one of the couches next to Derek as he types their order into a laptop. “And I’ll order the salt-and-pepper shrimp for Peter. I just texted him. He should be by in a few minutes.”
“A few minutes?” she asks, puzzled.
“Yeah, he lives in the other penthouse apartment down the hall. He used to share this place with Derek, but when I moved in, we all decided that some additional privacy was needed, even though this place has an absurd amount of space. It’s nice not having to keep the sex just in the bedroom. Or the limo.”
Sandra wrinkles her nose at that, and then looks over at Derek to see an identical expression on his face. She bursts out laughing, and then Stiles joins in, even louder than her. Derek smiles a happy smile. She likes that about him. He doesn’t smile all the time like most people did, but when he does smile it meant he was really happy. Figuring out what smiles really meant was one of the hardest lessons growing up, and it’s nice not to worry about that with Derek.
An unfamiliar warmth flickers in her chest, and then she finds herself blinking away unexpected tears. She quickly sits down on the other couch, the one at an angle from Derek and Stiles, trying to regain her composure. Both men look at her in alarm.
“It’s okay, I’m fine,” she says, waving a hand at them. “It’s just…”
“Just what?” Derek asks softly.
“I’ve always been a freak, for as long as I remember. Socially awkward, with strange obsessions. Dance class was supposed to help fix me, get me out of my head, but it just gave me something new to obsess about. And honestly, most of the time I really don’t care. People don’t like me, I don’t like most people. The not liking sex thing was just the cherry on top.”
She glances up at them. They’re both staring at her, but it doesn’t seem to be a bad type of stare. She shrugs and looks down again.
“It’s just nice, you know? To find someone that I don’t need to worry about being a freak with. I guess there is something to this soulmate crap after all.”
Stiles makes a hurt noise. “Sandra, I think I need to give you a hug. Is that okay?”
Sandra sighs internally. At least he asked, so she has time to prepare.
“Sure,” she says, standing up so he can’t trap her against the couch. He hurries over and she braces herself.
It’s not a bad hug. He doesn’t squeeze too tight, and his body didn’t press too close. She wraps her arms loosely around him and holds still, waiting for it to be done. Then the apartment door is flung open and Peter strides in. Their eyes meet for a moment.
“Stiles, for heaven’s sake let that poor girl go! Can’t you tell you’re making her uncomfortable?”
Stiles leap back as if she was burning him, his expression horrified. “Is that true? I’m so sorry!”
“It’s fine,” she answers. “Really. I wasn’t repulsed or anything.”
Stiles’ laugh is shaky. “Yeah, and not repulsed is exactly what I was aiming for. I’m really sorry, Sandra.”
Derek’s voice interrupts softly. “If you really need to give someone a hug, there’s always me.”
Stiles flies across the room to the couch where Derek is sitting on and flings himself into Derek’s lap, burying his face against his neck. Derek gathers him close and tucks his chin over Stiles’ shoulder, and smiles up at her and Peter.
Peter gazes at them indulgently. “Disgusting, aren’t they?”
The warm feeling is back, and it isn’t so scary this time. A sense of satisfaction hits her, like when she was a little girl working on a thousand piece puzzle and snapped in that final piece into place.
“No, not at all,” she says. “Do you really think that?”
“No, I don’t,” he answers simply. “They’ll probably be cuddling for a while, though. Let’s see these costumes of yours while we wait for the food to arrive.”
Sounds like a good idea to her.
Stiles keeps his face buried against Derek’s neck, breathing in his scent and trying to calm down. His boyfriend rubs his back and hums quietly.
“I’m sorry, so sorry. I messed up,” whispers Stiles.
“Shhh, you’re fine. Everything’s okay.” Derek’s voice is soft and soothing.
“I didn’t mean to make her uncomfortable. She’s your soulmate. She shouldn’t ever feel uncomfortable here.”
“She’s okay. Sandra’s fine. You didn’t do anything wrong, Stiles.”
“I just want to be a supportive boyfriend. I don’t want to ruin this for you.”
“You are the best boyfriend in the world and I love you,” says Derek fiercely.
The muscles in Stiles’ back unclench, and he relaxes into the hug. “I love you, too.”
He’s a little embarrassed at what is almost certainly an over-reaction. He must be more stressed than he realized about Derek’s soulmate. He just wants so bad for this all to work out and for everyone to be happy.
Peter’s voice cuts across his thoughts, loud even from the other room.
“No, no, no! These are totally unacceptable.”
“What?” asks Sandra. “Why do you say that?”
“Sequins! Cheap nylon?! No nephew of mine is going to wear something like that on television. I’d burn them, but I’m sure the toxic fumes would kill half the city.”
Uh oh. Sounds like Peter is in full fashion diva mode. Stiles scrambles off of Derek’s lap and hurries to the guest bedroom, Derek on his heels.
Sandra and Peter are glaring at each other next to a bed covered with various bright outfits in primary colors. Stiles has to admit that they did have a lot of sequins. Neither seems to notice him or Derek.
“But they’re standard dance competition attire!” Sandra’s voice has a steel edge that says she’s not backing down.
“And is that what you are aspiring to? To be standard dance competitors?” Peter sneers.
Sandra glowers at him. “I did the best I could with the money I had. How was I supposed to know that I’d discover my soulmate was part of the Hale family! But we need these outfits to be ready in a couple of days so that we could get enough practice wearing them before the competition.”
Peter brushes her concern aside. “The new costumes will be ready in time, don’t you worry. But I’ll need to see you two in action first before I design them.”
“You design them?” asks Sandra. “Why would you design them?”
Stiles decides it’s time for him to break in. “Don’t worry, Peter is a marvelous designer, and when he says something will get done, it gets done. That’s what money is for.”
“Wait, I thought Peter was a lawyer?”
Stiles smirks over at his soulmate. “Peter is a lawyer and a clothing designer. He’s a man of many talents.”
He’s rewarded by a spark in Peter’s eyes that promises a full demonstration of certain talents later that evening. For a moment Stiles considers dragging Peter off to his apartment for a quickie, but quickly dismisses the idea. Derek wouldn’t mind, but Sandra might be uncomfortable. Plus he’d prefer to take his time.
A call from the building’s concierge reporting the food had arrived breaks the tension. They decide over dinner that the four of them will go to Derek’s studio so Peter can watch their dance routines.
It’s the first time Stiles has seen them dance together, and he is awestruck. They are beautiful in a way that goes well beyond their physical attractiveness. Peter also watches intently, and then has them go through it all again as he records them on his phone. Seeing Peter’s focused expression, Stiles realizes there’s no chance of sex this night, and probably not for the next few days either. Ah well, once Peter comes out of his designing trace the sex will be even hotter. He can wait.
A harried looking secretary immediately allows Sandra into Peter’s office. She’s feeling much more charitable with Peter than she was a couple of days ago. The dance outfits he designed for her and Derek were perfect. The crystal beading that makes their outfits sparkle does work better than the sequins, there was no argument. And the flow of the fabric makes dancing in them a dream.
“Ah, thank you for stopping by, Sandra. I just wanted to go over some paperwork I negotiated with the network about what they can and cannot discuss about you and Derek on the show.”
“Okay,” she says with a frown. She’s not sure why something like that is needed, but she’s not going to argue.
“We also need to discuss exactly what you will be saying. The secret to giving a good human interest interview, is to include enough of the truth to seem genuine, but not enough to scare anyone off,” says Peter with a smirk.
Sandra scowls at him. “Who says I want to give a good human interest interview?”
“Do you, or do you not, want to win this competition?”
“What does giving an interview have to do with winning a dance competition?”
Peter gives her such a pitying look that her stomach sinks. It must be one of those people things that she just sucks at.
“My dear, this is television. The human element is as important as your dance talent. Maybe even more important.”
Fuck. She doesn’t do human element.
“Now, don’t look like that. I have people that can help. Lucky for you, you and Derek have the best possible human interest story there is. People will love it.”
Strange, his last words sound happy but his face seems mad.
“Will you love it?” she asks.
He laughs, and the mad expression fades. “I’ll love that it will help you and my nephew win the competition.”
“Okay, so what is it?”
“Why, it’s the story of two cynical young people,who don’t believe in soulmates, finding their other half and suddenly becoming blissfully happy.”
Sandra frowns. “But that’s not what happened.”
“Isn’t it? Are you saying you’re not happy with Derek?”
“No, of course not. He’s been working harder than any partner I’ve ever had, plus he’s saved me a lot of money.”
“Yes, well, we’ll probably have to de-emphasize the mercenary aspects of your relationship and just focus on the emotional journey. Trust me, this will work.”
“If you say so.”
Miraculously enough, it does work. Peter’s PR people coach her and Derek through possible interview questions, and then later Stiles starts ambushing them with silly exaggerated versions of the questions that make her want to laugh. It takes her a little while, but she learns how to relax and enjoy the game.
“Now tell me, Ms. Miccoli, when you first met your soulmate, precisely how much brighter did the sun start to shine?”
Stiles’ earnest expression as he holds the wooden spoon he was stirring with out like a microphone makes his eyes seem huge. She struggled to keep a straight face.
“Hmm, I would say precisely 752 lumens.”
“And just how much sweeter did the birds sing?”
“I am unable to answer that question because there is no objective way of measuring the sweetness of bird song.”
She spots Derek sneaking up behind Stiles but quickly refocuses on Stiles when her soulmate puts a finger to his lip.
“Ah, very good point. So what would you say is your soulmate’s best characteristic….ack!”
Stiles’ chatter stops abruptly when Derek wraps his arms around him from the back and hugs him tight. Stiles tilts his head back, smiling as Derek runs his cheek against his face.
Sandra’s own smile feels as bright as Stiles’. From everything that she’s known all her life, she should be jealous right now, but instead the sight of the two men together makes her feel happy and warm.
“I’d say may soulmate’s best characteristic is that he’s light on his feet.”
That gets a laugh out of both of them. Derek releases Stiles so he can finish preparing dinner while she and Derek set the table.
“So, tomorrow’s the big day!” says Stiles as they finished eating the stir-fry he prepared.
She just looks at him. Of course she knows what day it is tomorrow.
He just charges on. “You know, no matter what happens, it will be okay, right?”
She nods. Derek has made it clear that win or lose, he’d be happy to invest in her dance troupe. But she still wanted to do this for her own sake. She looks over at Derek and somehow knows he understands.
“Don’t worry,” he says. “We’re going to be amazing. With you in charge, there’s no other option.”
She hoped that was true.
After the first two rounds of formal dancing, she and Derek are one of three couples remaining. They are also the last ones to dance. It’s the freestyle event that she’s poured her heart and soul into, and now it’s the one that was going to make or break them. In order to win the competition they needed close to a perfect score.
But before they can dance, they had to get past the infamous human interest interview. Their host is someone famous, although she can’t remember his name. She tries picturing Stiles in his place and relaxes just a little.
He starts with Derek, talking about his studio. Derek explains the different classes and activities, and how local dancers can rent out the small classrooms to practice, which is how he met Sandra.
“Which brings us to Sandra,” says the host. “Now Sandra, I understand Derek was not your first choice of dance partners, correct?”
“Well, he certainly would’ve been my first choice if I knew that was an option,” she explains, and is surprised when the audience laughs. Derek squeezes her hand reassuringly, so it must be okay.
“But you had other dance partners before him?”
“Yes. Three different partners, actually. They all dropped out when they met their soulmates, which was incredibly frustrating.”
“But understandable, certainly,” the host says.
She shakes her head no. “No, I didn’t understand it at all. But then the whole soulmate destiny thing seems ridiculous to me.”
The host raised his eyebrows in exaggerated surprise. “You mean you don’t believe in soulmates?”
She laughs. “Of course I believe in soulmates. I mean, I sort of have to, since the first words Derek ever spoke to me are written on my arm.”
She smiles shyly up at Derek and he grins down at her - they had practiced this expression in front of Stiles - and the whole audience goes awww .
“But it still seems so strange to me,” she continues. “I mean, I’m not an easy person to get along with. Ask anyone who knows me. I’m demanding and impatient and most of the time I forget that other people have feelings. The idea that fate would stick Derek with someone like me as his soulmate is just bizarre.”
Derek tenses up, and the host immediately turns back to him.
“So what do you say to that, Derek?”
“I say that I love Sandra’s passion and dedication and artistry, and I think it’s shameful if anyone has ever made her feel bad about it. I am proud to be her soulmate and I can’t wait to help show the world what an amazing person she is.”
“Well said, well said. Okay, it’s time. Derek and Sandra, everyone’s watching. It’s your turn to dance.”
As soon as the music starts, Sandra knows that this will be a great performance. She feels that click inside her when the music and the dance sensations all become one and there’s nothing else to think about. Nothing except Derek and his steady presence anchoring her through the turns, holding her up and then twirling her down. They dance like one being and it’s magical.
When the music stops and they stand there panting there’s a long moment of silence. Just as she wonders if something went wrong the whole audience explodes into applause, and she rides that sound up to the heavens. She doesn’t need to watch the scores; she knows that this was her best dance ever. She can hear Stiles cheers from the family section rising above the rest of the crowd as the numbers flash up. Ten. Ten. Ten. Ten. Ten. Ten. Perfect score!
Then she’s in Derek’s arms and she knows the camera is zooming in for a kiss, but he just tilts his head so their foreheads touch, and it’s perfect.
Stiles’ dad hosts the victory party. It’s just for close friends and family - and in Derek’s case only the few members of his family that were also friends - but there’re still over two dozen people gathered to celebrate and eat barbeque. Scott and Allison’s five-year old daughter Ellie looks adorable in her ballet outfit. She’s decided to be a dancer like her Uncle Derek, although her dance moves closely resemble martial arts techniques. Her little brother Noah toddles after her adoringly.
Stiles stands a little to the side by the rose bushes, watching the crowd. It’s Derek and Sandra’s day, and he can’t begrudge them their moment. They look like the perfect soulmate couple, well-matched in looks and interests, and Stiles fiercely fights the twisting feeling in his gut. He’s not jealous. Really. He knows Derek loves him, and he knows that Sandra is fine with that.
But it’s also true that Derek and he won’t ever be seen as a couple the way that Derek and Sandra are. Even here, where most of the people attending know that Derek and Stiles are together, everyone automatically treats Derek and Sandra as a single unit. It’s hard not to feel left out.
“You should go over there,” says Peter, appearing out of nowhere, and Stiles yelps.
“Jesus, warn a guy! What are you still doing here? I thought you would’ve slunk off by now.”
“Now, I could hardly abandon my nephew unsupervised to the trials of his newfound reality TV stardom, can I? Plus my two favorite nieces are here and I haven’t seen them in a while.”
Laura had moved out of the penthouse after she and Josh got married, and Cora was still neck-deep in her Phd studies in food science at Cornell University, although she made it back to California to cheer Derek on at the competition. They both found it hilarious that their brother was now a TV dance star.
“Somehow I don’t think Derek’s going to let stardom go to his head,” says Stiles drily.
He knows Derek had fun working on the contest, but that was despite the publicity, not because of it. Luckily Sandra didn’t seem interested in exploiting their new status beyond the fact that it would help out her dance company.
“True, although Sandra’s parents might be another story.”
Stiles represses a grimace. Joyce and Henry Miccoli weren’t stage parents, but there’s no doubt that they are prouder of Sandra’s new celebrity status than of her dancing ability.
“Come on, let’s go chat with the in-laws,” says Peter.
“Well, what else would you call your boyfriend’s soulmate’s parents? In any case, Derek is starting to look trapped.”
Derek and Sandra both look trapped by the ring of people around them. Sandra’s gamely explaining what her plans are now that they’ve won the contest.
“I’ve found an old theatre close to Derek’s studio that’s perfect for the troupe to practice and perform in. I’ll be starting auditions next month and hopefully we’ll be ready to tour by the spring,” she explains.
“Oh, that’s so romantic, touring the country with your soulmate!” says her mom.
Sandra sighs. “Derek’s going to help with developing some of the dance routines, but he won’t be touring with us. He has his own work at the studio.”
Her mom frowns at that. “But won’t it be hard, being separated from your soulmate like that?”
“Oh, I expect that I’ll be so busy that time will fly by. And Derek has Stiles, of course, to keep him company.”
“I don’t understand.”
Sandra waves her arms in frustration. “Mom, you know I’m not into all that lovey-dovey stuff. I never have been, and that didn’t change when I met Derek. We’re soulmates, we’re dance partners, we’re the best of friends. But we’re not romantic partners. Derek’s boyfriend is Stiles, and that’s didn’t change when Derek met me.”
Her mom’s look of confusion deepened. “But I thought you said Peter was Stiles soulmate?”
“Peter’s like me, he doesn’t care about romance. He and Stiles are just close friends.”
Peter smirks at Stiles, who gives him a keep-your-mouth-shut-or-no-sex-for-a-week-I-mean-it frown. Sandra’s clearly not going to explain the concept of fuck-buddies to her mom and Stiles can’t blame her. Peter gives a tiny shrug and engages his best PR voice.
“Mrs. Miccoli, I realize this sounds strange, but let me assure you that the whole arrangement works well for everyone involved,” says Peter smoothly.
“But are you happy, Sandra?” says her mom, still looking worried.
Sandra looks over at Stiles and Peter, and then moves to grab Stiles by the hand to lead him over to Derek. Stiles snakes an arm around Derek’s waist and feels his boyfriend immediately relax, leaning into the half-hug.
Sandra gives them a satisfied smile. “There, that’s better. Now I’m happy.”
Stiles smiles back at her, and realizes he couldn’t be happier himself.
~ Fin ~