Startling enough to pinch his lip between tooth and ceramic mug rim as someone thumped down onto the stool beside him, Derek threw a glare at his new companion.
“Coffee,” the newcomer breathed reverentially, caressing his own travel mug with large hands in a near-pornographic devotion that made Derek snort. “After the night I had, you should just be glad this isn't crack,” the fair-skinned guy told him wryly as he took a drink that had to have nearly emptied the mug.
“I'll try to be grateful,” Derek smirked, his attention returning to his book.
They sat at the bar table in Sydney’s busy Kingsford-Smith airport Starbucks in companionable silence, each drinking their respective coffees, until the coffee-worshipper shifted on his stool and groaned, folding his arms on to the table and dropping his head down onto them.
Derek raised an eyebrow as he glanced at him, admiring the slender curve of pale neck and broad shoulders displayed by the guy's posture, highlighted by the pull of the fabric of his white business shirt. He could feel his eyebrow inch even higher when the guy reached blindly for him.
“Please, if I pay you a hundred bucks will you go and get me more coffee?” he asked plaintive, long fingers wrapped around Derek’s forearm. “You look like you're strong,” he added, long fingers briefly squeezing --and Derek didn't flex, he didn't-- “you could pick up the entire machine and just… bring it to me, right?”
“I think you need more than just the machine,” Derek told him drily, "and I only have so many hands. Sorry.”
The guy withdrew his hand and turned his head so one bourbon-coloured eye was visible, lashes long and dark. “You don't sound sorry at all,” he accused.
Derek felt himself begin to smile but ruthlessly stamped down on it. “I'm not. Self-inflicted pain should be experienced and reflected upon so as to become a life lesson.”
“Ugh,” the guy groaned, shoving himself back upright. “You drink protein shakes and eat shit with kale and go running voluntarily, don't you?” he said.
Like those were bad things, Derek thought. “I aspire to do all things in reverence to our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.”
The wide-eyed surprise and discomfort were absolutely worth the effort that had taken Derek to keep a straight face, but he couldn't help the slight uptick at the left corner of his mouth.
“You fucker,” the guy breathed, sounding begrudgingly impressed. “I was about to begin speaking in tongues just to have an excuse to bail.”
“You can speak in tongues?”
“I have a very talented tongue, how hard could it be?”
They just stared at each other for a beat and Derek was amazed to actually see the flush crawl up the younger guy’s throat.
“Uh, so, that didn't at all come out the way I had anticipated,” he said, “and now I need to go away from you and your generally beautiful everything and hopefully die a fast death.”
“That would be a shame,” Derek told him easily, “as I was just about to get a refill and see if you wanted one, too.”
“I take back all the terrible things I said about you,” the guy said immediately, thrusting his mug at Derek with an imploring expression on his face.
“You didn't say anything,” Derek said as he got to his feet.
“Eh, I was thinking it.”
Derek rolled his eyes. “What are you drinking?”
“Caffeine and sugar, lots of both, in any configuration.” He reached into his pocket for cash but Derek waved him away as he left to the counter.
“Who would I be to capitalise on the suffering of someone so clearly desperate.” He grinned at the guy’s indignant exclamation, but did as asked and ordered a triple-shot with extra pumps of half the syrups they had and figured that would do the trick.
He glanced back at the guy still sitting at the table and watched idly as the muscles in his back worked beneath the white business shirt he wore as he fished around to draw a phone from his pocket and begin tapping away at it.
It had been a while since Derek had actively flirted, but he was pretty sure the guy was into him, so what would be the harm in seeing how it played out? His head jerked up when his name was called and he accepted the drinks, returning to his companion and nudging his elbow with his cup.
“You are a god amongst men,” the other guy sighed happily. “Thank you, you're amazing.”
“Sure thing,” Derek said easily, retaking his seat.
“Stiles,” the other guys said suddenly after a brief moment of worship at the altar of his travel mug.
“My name. It's Stiles.”
“Derek Hale,” Derek replied, accepting the proffered hand and shaking it firmly, ignoring how well their palms fit together and the shiver that coursed up and down his spine at how easily those beautiful fingers wrapped around his.
“Where you off to?” Stiles asked, angling his body to face Derek and resting his chin tiredly in one upturned palm.
“California,” Derek told him, unconsciously shifting to mimic Stiles’ posture.
“Business or pleasure?”
“Pleasure. Sort of,” Derek grimaced.
“Family?” Stiles guessed.
Stiles’ grin was wide and engaging, the faint creases at the corners of his eyes deepening attractively. “I'm familiar with the feeling,” he said wryly. “What do you do for work?”
“Uh, I'm an aerospace engineer,” Derek said after a mouthful of coffee.
“Oh really?” Stiles asked his face lighting up. “That is very cool, man.”
“Pays the bills,” Derek shrugged.
“But tell me,” Stiles asked, “do you know the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?”
“Asian or European?” Derek asked automatically, and the startled laugh that elicited from Stiles was like magic.
From there their conversation devolved into movies, books and tv, with Derek taking more pleasure than he probably should from Stiles’ horror at how pop-culturally illiterate Derek was. He may have feigned ignorance on a thing or two just to provoke a response.
Eventually Stiles glanced at his watch and bolted upright. “Fuck, I'm going to be late. Dude, do you have a pen?”
Derek pulled one from his carry-on and handed it to Stiles who tore off the top of a newspaper lying on the table on the other side of him and scribbled his number down on it.
“You can call me, or text,” he said, passing it to Derek and gathering his own carryon and jacket. “If you want. I'd love to further educate you on all the best things in life you've apparently been missing since birth.”
And with that, he was gone, the lingering scents of fabric softener, warm, vaguely citrusy cologne and coffee all that was left behind. Derek glanced down at the number in his hand and smiled, tucking it carefully into his wallet. He was probably in for a busy few days when he first arrived home, but he was absolutely going to make that call.
As it turned out, he didn't have to wait before he saw Stiles again. About halfway through the flight attendant stopped by his seat --his business class seat, upgraded at the gate, thanks very much-- and leaned down to speak quietly to him.
“Pardon me, sir, but is your name Derek? Derek Hale?”
Blinking up at her in confusion, Derek nodded. “I am, yes.”
“May I see some ID? Work ID, if you have it?”
Her expression was giving nothing away, but Derek was certain his was showing all of his confusion. He reached into his pocket and withdrew his NASA identification card, as well as his passport, and handed both to the red-headed woman.
“Thank you, sir,” she said with a bright smile, her eyes assessing. “I'll be right back.”
Frowning, and with absolutely no idea what was going on, Derek watched her walk through business class and into the forward crew area. She was gone for almost half an hour before she returned, her eyes alight with something akin to glee as she handed Derek’s card and passport back to him.
“If you would please come with me, sir, the pilot would like a word with you.”
Stunned and more than a little nervous, Derek got to his feet, ignoring the curious glances from the other passengers, and followed the attendant up through the crew area and to the cockpit door. The U.S. Marshall chatting to the crew gave him a wide grin as he walked past, and Derek wondered just what the hell was going on.
The attendant rapped sharply on the door and waited until it was unlocked from inside before stepping aside to usher Derek in ahead of herself.
“Well hey there, Stranger,” a familiar voice called, and Derek’s head jerked around to see Stiles sitting in one of the pilot’s seats, his plain white business shirt now adorned with the pins and regalia inherent to his role.
“Stiles?” Derek said incredulously. “Should you be flying while you're hungover?”
It wasn't the smoothest thing to have said, but after a moment of silence Stiles began to laugh.
“No, I wasn't drinking last night,” he explained, his eyes briefly scanning his instrumentation before looking back at Derek. “My best buddy, Scott -the marshall out there?- broke up with his girlfriend. Again. So I was doing my best friend duty and was up too late playing video games and listening to him wax poetic about Allison’s hair, face, general state of being. No alcohol involved, I swear.”
“Oh. Right.” Derek looked around curiously. “Not that it's not very interesting being here, but I didn't think the general public were really allowed to enter cockpits anymore?”
“They're not,” Stiles said happily, flicking a few switches and suddenly swapping his seat with the third pilot who was sitting back in the small space at the front of the bulkhead. “You good, Danny?” he asked his co-pilot, who just grinned and gave him a thumbs up.
Drawing Derek away a little, Stiles showed him the pilot's quarters and a paper systems schematic laid out on the small drop-out table there, the two of them crowding in close and pressed together from shoulder to thigh.
“We've had a system warning indicating that there's a premature component failure here,” Stiles said, pointing.
“Most likely contaminated hydraulic fluid,” Derek said immediately.
“Yeah, so we've discovered."
“Have you tried re-routing-”
"Yes, we've tried everything, which is how I managed to get approval from the F.A.A. to allow you entry to the cockpit to help us figure out a way around this shemozzle.”
“Not a legitimate Scrabble word, but an excellent descriptor nonetheless. So. What say you? Can you help?”
Looking over the schematic again, Derek frowned. “Maybe. What are the odds you'll be able to get an altered flight path, low and long to the tarmac?”
“To avoid a water landing and mass evac?” Stiles asked wryly, his gorgeous eyes heavy on Derek’s face. “I think they'll be willing to make concessions. What are you thinking?”
“Have you got any kind of movement within the landing gear?”
“None whatsoever,” Stiles informed him cheerfully.
“You're suspiciously chipper for someone piloting a plane with no landing gear,” Derek told him bemusedly.
The attendant who had summoned Derek earlier suddenly appeared behind them. “He did say he'd do anything to get you into his coc-”
“Lyds, I love you, but if you say another word I'll push you out an exit at altitude,” Stiles told her warning, which only made her smirk. “Anyway,” he said pointedly, looking at Derek with flushed cheeks, “No landing gear.”
“Okay. We can handle that manually, but my concern is that with frozen hydraulics from manually extending too early, you'll snap the landing gear when you hit the ground. If you can arrange to come in to land at a lower altitude and a slower speed-”
“-We can defrost the gear on approach.”
Derek nodded. “I mean, it's not foolproof, but it's the best I've got on a moment’s notice. I'm happy to keep looking it over to try and work something else out, but this isn't exactly my area of expertise, and I'm not overly familiar with these aircraft, either.”
“Hey, it's better than the ‘aim for the water and hope for the best’ plan we had before you came up with something. Can you stick around? I need to contact Control and they're probably going to want to speak to you.”
“Sure,” Derek nodded. He shifted away from Stiles a little to give him room to pass, but stopped when a big, warm hand curled around his wrist.
“Hey, thanks,” Stiles said quietly, his eyes intent where they roamed over Derek’s face. "I'm glad you're here. And not in the ‘saving us all from a fiery death’ kind of way. Well,” he amended, “not only.”
Derek smiled back, shifting his arm in Stiles’ grip to lace their fingers together and squeeze briefly before letting go. “Hey, if we're going down in a blaze of glory, there's no one I'd rather do it with than you, a stranger I just met in a Starbucks five hours ago.”
Stiles’ laugh was rich and sincere, and Derek felt something in his chest flutter with pride at having been responsible for it.
“God, this is probably not the place to be having a conversation like this.” He sighed and turned to the plane’s windshield. “Danny, call Control and let them know we might have a solution, would you?”
In the end, everything went to plan.
Lydia, the slightly terrifying attendant from earlier, bade Derek wait as the rest of the passengers disembarked. She reassured him that Stiles would be with him momentarily before leaving to supervise her crew in their cleanup.
Almost half an hour after landing Stiles appeared from the cockpit, laughing as Danny slapped him on the back.
“Get some, Stilinski,” he grinned, and threw a wink at Derek before leaving the plane.
Stiles collapsed into the seat beside Derek with a groan and scrubbed his hands over his face.
“Finstock wants to debrief you,” Stiles told him. “You don't have to do it today, but it'll need to be done soon so the reports can be investigated and finalised.”
“I'm happy to do it now, if you are,” Derek told him.
“Are you sure?” Stiles asked. “It'll probably be hours before you get away.”
Derek shrugged. “I called my parents and told them a little about what happened. Mentioned that I might spend the night in the city before driving home tomorrow.”
“Yeah, it'll probably be late by the time we wrap up.”
Derek glanced at Stiles who was just sprawled next to him, long, long legs splayed out and his head thrown back with his eyes closed. “Mentioned I might spend the night with a friend, so they wouldn't have to worry.”
“Solid plan,” Stiles agreed.
There was a moment of silence before Stiles’ eyes flew open and he jerked upright. “Me!” he exclaimed. “I'm your friend! You want to spend the night with me!”
Derek waited… and there it was, the dawning realisation.
“You want to spend the night with me?”
“Unless you had other plans?”
“Nope. No. Uh uh. Mos def do not. Nada plan-o.”
“Well then,” Derek said, shifting in his seat, “shall we wrap up this… shemozzle?”
Stiles barked out a laugh and leaned forward to press his smiling mouth to Derek’s own. What started out as fun and easy quickly deepened, slowed to something more passionate; more meaningful.
When they separated Derek ran his tongue absently over his tingling lower lip. “What was that for?”
“Just a simple thank you for saving my life,” Stiles said, eyes flicking back and forth restlessly between Derek’s eyes and his kiss-rosy mouth.
“I mean, it wasn't just your life,” Derek told him easily, “there were hundreds of passengers on board as well. The crew. Ground crew. Baggage handlers, even-”
Stiles kissed him again, cradling Derek’s face between his palms. “And I'll thank you thoroughly on their behalf later, but it's going to require bipartisan nudity and if I don't go and find Finstock soon he's going to come looking for me.”
He froze for a moment before shuddering and getting to his feet. “Come on- the sooner we get this done the sooner we can get a room.”
“Smooth, Stiles,” Lydia rolled her eyes as she strode past.
“Hey, we just saved everyone from certain, torturous death,” Stiles told her as he and Derek left the plane. “If there was ever a time to make the most of adrenaline-fuelled sex, this would be it.”
Stiles looked at Derek for confirmation, to which he shrugged.
“I can work with that.”