Beginnings are often strange and confusing, and more often than not, they’re impossible to recognize as a beginning until the pieces all come together near the end. This story begins five years earlier, but Stiles wouldn’t know it until the cusp of his twenty-sixth birthday.
It started when Scott dragged Stiles to the masquerade themed party at The Triskelion—the only four star, five diamond resort within two hundred miles of Beacon Hills—he didn’t expect much. Scott was an employee there, not a guest—but he’d won a contest at work and he’d scored both tickets.
“Dude, it’s the night of your birthday. It’s open bar. You’re twenty-one and what better way to celebrate. No one’s going to know who we are!”
Things hadn’t been going exactly well for Stiles—every romance ending in painful disaster after no longer than a week, his undergrads coming to an exhausting end, and his dad well…doing okay but not the best, leaving him with a ball of ulcer-y goodness in the pit of his stomach. What he really wanted was to buy a bottle of cheap scotch and curl up under his covers and binge Star Wars until he passed out.
But Scott had those damned puppy-dog eyes, and the mannerisms to go along with it, and Stiles had always had a hard time telling his best friend no. So he sucked it up and called up Lydia to see if Jackson had left anything good behind. She scrounged him up at tux that didn’t fit too terribly, and even managed an ornate, half-mask with a plume of peacock feathers and huge, costume jewels imbedded along the forehead.
He let her paint his eyes with black liquid eyeliner, and rub a small layer of shining gloss, and she only wrinkled her nose a little when he told her he was driving the jeep to the party. “Not everyone got a Porche for their sixteenth birthday, Lyds,” he reminded her.
She waved him off, then went back to her books.
Scott was true to his word—the champagne flowed like the crappy little creek in the Beacon Hills preserve, and there were tons of server walking around with big trays of foods that Stiles would probably never again eat in his life. There was a massive table set up with the most intricate pastries he’d ever seen, and that’s where the stranger found him.
Stiles was openly staring at these little chocolate squares with painted tops, and gold flakes. “The gold can’t be real. I mean, you can’t eat gold,” Stiles muttered to himself.
“It’s real. It won’t kill you. Just make your shit a little shiny the next day,” came a voice to his left.
Stiles’ head whipped to the side, and he saw a tall man with broad shoulders, wearing a tux with a cut so precise, Stiles wondered if it was sewn on him. His mask was one of the half-phantom deals, all pearlescent white and showing just enough of his cut jawline to tell Stiles this man was way out of his league.
“So you have experience with shining shit?” Stiles said, because he was a fucking dipshit and well, it’s not like he had a chance anyway.
He expected the guy to sneer, but instead he just let out a small, deep-chested laugh which showed off the sweetest little bunny teeth. His eyes crinkled at the corners, and in the dim light Stiles couldn’t tell if they were blue, or brow, or gold, or green.
“Something like that,” the guy finally said, stepping a little closer. He reached with a long arm and seized two more glasses of champagne, replacing Stiles’ nearly empty one.
“Thanks,” Stiles said. “Anyway, I love chocolate but goddamn this is just…”
“Ornate?” the guy offered.
“Pretentious. And who the hell is this chef trying to impress, anyway? Beacon Hills’ most elite?”
The guy’s smile went a little wry. “Some people think it’s an artform.”
“Well it’s certainly artistic.” Stiles shrugged. “One year, my friend dragged me to this modern art show, and in one corner there was like this literal pile of garbage. Like I swear, the person had gone to the dump, arranged it in a pile, and was like, this represents the garbage that is my soul.”
The stranger laughed a little louder. “That sounds horrific.”
“Another piece had a canvas that was painted black. Like, no texture, no nothing. Just black. Then they tied a string to the top and hung one of those metal washers you get from home depot for like twelve cents? Some asshole probably paid like six grand for that shit.” Stiles reached out and seized one of the gold-flaked pastries and held it up. “At least this has a purpose.”
The guy took his own. “To artistic shits?”
Stiles beamed so hard his cheeks hurt. “You understand me.”
They at them at the same time, then Stiles nearly swallowed his own tongue when the guy’s hand reached out, his thumb brushing the corner of Stiles’ mouth. He then put his thumb in his mouth, his bunny teeth scraping at a smear of chocolate. “I know a secret way out of here. Just leads to the balcony, but no one else has any idea it’s there.”
Stiles had a feeling it was more than just an invitation for fresh air, but fuck it. It was his birthday, he was still mostly a virgin (two sloppy hand-jobs in the library bathroom during the sophomore stress of finals week counted, but not much), and this obscenely hot guy in a mask was…offering.
He cleared his throat. “It is getting a little hot in here.”
The stranger offered over a large hand, and Stiles placed his in it, palm-to-palm. His skin was warm—god, so warm—and his fingers were gentle as they curled over Stiles’. Neither said a word as the stranger ducked through the crowd, then just before they reached the exit, he pulled back a tapestry and gave Stiles a shove.
No wall, just an empty archway which led to a dark hall. Five feet later there was a door, and it opened to a darkened balcony showing off the resort grounds below, and the sea of stars above them. Stiles hadn’t realized how oppressive and stuffy the ballroom felt until he gulped in fresh night air. His relief lasted only moments, as the stranger’s body pressed up against his back.
“Is this okay?” he murmured against Stiles’ ear.
Stiles nodded. “Yes. This is…super okay.”
The guy’s hands gripped him by the hips, and a warm mouth nipped at his neck before he was spun, and pressed back against the balcony railing. Stiles let out a slight yelp, but the guy merely laughed and held tighter.
“I won’t let you fall.” He pushed in a little further, his lips brushing against Stiles’. Stiles could feel the hard plastic of the guy’s mask pressing into his cheek, and the awkward press of the barrier separating their foreheads.
“Should we de-mask?”
“Isn’t this part of the fun?” the guy murmured. “Strangers.”
Stiles flushed all over. “I…I don’t…”
Maybe it was the hesitation in his voice, or the slight prickle of fear at the idea of sex with a random stranger, but the guy paused. His hands lifted from Stiles waist then, to the back of his head where he unfastened the ties. The plastic peeled away, leaving a face so perfect, Stiles wanted to cry. He’d been right to assume this guy was far, far out of his league.
When the guy’s hands came up to Stiles’ face, he reached up, seizing him by the wrists to still the movements. “I…maybe um…”
“You hiding something under there?” he asked playfully.
Stiles flushed. “I’m not entirely sure you’re going to be interested once you…unravel the mystery.”
The guy huffed, smiling gently. “Don’t sell yourself short. I noticed you the second you walked in.” His thumb brushed against Stiles’ lips. “Impossible not to notice.”
Stiles shivered again, unable to stop himself from pressing in closer. “Trust me, I’m not…”
“Let me,” the guy whispered.
Stiles couldn’t seem to deny him. He tipped his head forward, and suppressed a full body shudder as the stranger’s warm hands pulled loose the ties, and eased the mask away. Stiles hesitated before lifting his face, and couldn’t look away from those impossible eyes.
A warm hand touched his cheek, the thumb brushing his jawline. “Beautiful,” the man whispered.
Stiles’ heart was in his throat, and then warm lips were on his own. The guy’s tongue gently slid between his lips, hot and slick against his own, and Stiles groaned into his mouth. He felt the bite of hard stone against the small of his back, a juxtaposition to the warm, soft hands caressing down his shoulders, at his waist, gently tugging his shirt from the waistband of his trousers.
Stiles’ head tipped to the side as the guy laid sucking kisses along his jaw, down his neck, biting gently at the junction where his neck met shoulder. Stiles’ fingers scrambled for purchase in the stranger’s well-fitting jacket as a hand went for the trouser button on Stiles’ front.
“Can I? Please, please, I need to touch you,” he murmured.
Stiles whimpered, but in a flurry of hands, suddenly buttons were popped, and zippers were down, and Stiles found himself rutting into a hot fist, against a warm, hard penis gripped in the stranger’s fist. It was so much—it was so fucking much. He felt like a complete loser as his head fell to the man’s shoulder and his body curled in on itself as he came.
He would have felt much worse, actually, except the stranger let out a muffled, deep-chested groan, and then spilled himself all over his fist, his own spunk mixing with the drops of Stiles’. They were both breathing hard, clinging to each other against the cool breeze which now felt bracing against his sweat-soaked skin.
The stranger stepped back, but lifted his clean hand to Stiles’ jaw and dipped his head in to kiss him, long, slow, and familiar like they’d been doing it for years. When they broke apart, Stiles felt himself staring, felt himself smiling, which was mirrored by the stranger’s own lips curling up.
“Hey, what’s,” Stiles began, because he should at least know the name of the guy who just gave him an orgasm outside on a balcony.
His words were cut off by the shrill ringing of a phone, and the guy held up a finger as he fished it out of his pocket. “Yeah? No, I’m busy right now. I can’t just…oh my god. What? He what? Jesus fucking…alright fine. You get five minutes, do you understand? That’s it. Five.” The guy shoved his phone back into his pocket with a growl, and then reached for Stiles, kissing him hard, just this side of desperate. “I have to run. Wait up here for me? I promise I’ll be back.”
“Okay,” Stiles said breathlessly. He took a step back as the guy tucked them both back into their pants, trying to smooth away any evidence of what had just taken place.
“I mean it,” the guy said, cupping his cheek. “I’ll be back.”
Stiles nodded. “I’m not going anywhere.”
Famous last words.
Stiles watched him leave, and when the little door shut, he hugged his middle and tried to keep back the ridiculous smile from his face. His cheeks ached with the effort, and his head was spinning because he’d never, ever done anything like this. And he’d never, ever wanted someone as much as he wanted him.
And he didn’t even know his name yet.
Stiles closed his eyes and started to count the seconds. Five minutes was three hundred seconds, give or take a minute or two for elevators. Five hundred seconds then. He could be patient for that.
One hundred and six seconds in, his phone began to buzz. His smile got wider as he pulled it out, ready to brag to Scott about how this might be the best birthday ever. Only Scott’s name wasn’t on the screen. Parish’s was.
Stiles’ heart began to thud, because there was only one reason his dad’s deputy would be calling him right now. This late.
“Jordan,” he said, his voice choked.
“Stiles. We’re at Beacon General. You should get here as quick as you can.”
Stiles nearly dropped his phone as he ran, and he didn’t look back.
Five Years Later
“This is the worst idea in the world,” Stiles groaned as he followed Scott in through the employee entrance. “Worst. Idea. Ever.”
Scott huffed as he dragged Stiles past the uniform drop-off, and through the little, narrow door which led to HR. “Dude, you’ve been avoiding this place since your birthday five freaking years ago. Like I know your Cinderella story didn’t end the way the Disney Movie did but…”
“Oh fuck you,” Stiles said. “And dude, I was the bad guy there. He told me to wait, I promised, and like an asshole I ran out.”
“Your dad was shot,” Scott reminded him in a quiet voice. But Stiles didn’t need to be reminded. He didn’t need to, because the consequences were lasting—his dad had been shot in the back, and he’d recovered, but he also wouldn’t walk again.
It hadn’t been the worst thing in the world. Stiles hadn’t lost his remaining parent, and his dad went back to work at the station, and they’d sold the house and bought a one-story, and had gotten all the necessary modifications done. Stiles had put grad-school on hold, but things got better and his dad was just as capable as he’d ever been, and now Stiles was looking at his future again.
Broke, but you know, that’s what this job was for. A server position to keep some extra cash flowing in which also worked with his batshit research hours for his thesis. And it was fine. It’s not like the masked man lived at The Triskelion or anything. He’d been some rich dude who’d fucked Stiles on a balcony, and then had run off, not returning before Stiles had to bail. And that was life. Sometimes a beginning was an end.
“This is Amanda,” Scott said, opening a door to a closet-sized office. “She’s going to give you the tour, and get you set up in the lounge. Uhh…who’s managing tonight?” Scott asked.
Amanda, a tall, brown-haired woman, looked up from her computer and rolled her eyes at Scott. “Erica’s always on the floor on Saturday nights.”
Scott grinned at her, then at Stiles. “Alright, dude. Have fun. I’ll come check on you later.”
Stiles gave him a mock salute, and tried not to think about how fucking weird it was that Scott was basically like his boss. He was a sales manager, and did all sorts of grown up shit like traveling across the country to get new business accounts, and to secure celebrity stays.
Stiles would be wearing an apron and slinging drinks like some college frat boy, and if anything was a kick to the groin, it was knowing all of his friends had moved on—some married, some with kids, all of them with big, career jobs. But this wasn’t his ending, not here. This was a year at best to get his shit together, and line his pockets with some extra spending cash while he finished selling his soul to the Grad School Gods.
He could do this.
“You look nervous,” Amanda said as she pushed herself up from the desk.
Stiles waved off her comment. “Uh. No. It’s just been a while I guess? I had to take some time off from school and work to help my dad out, but he pretty much threatened to sell my organs on the black market if I didn’t get out and start earning my keep.”
She raised a brow, but he was grateful she didn’t ask any questions. “Well, this place is a pain in the ass, and it’ll eat you alive if you let it. But Scott said this isn’t a work your way up type of situation here.”
“Uhh, no. And like no offense to anyone in hospitality. I watched Scott work his ass off to get to where he’s at and dude…better man than I am. But I’m in my last year of Grad school and I’m trying to secure a teaching position at the University. It’s just you know…hard to come by these days.”
She snorted. “My sister just got tenure at Berkley. She’s been working at that for the last seventeen years, so yeah. I get it.”
Stiles let out a puff of air. “I just need to keep my shit together for twelve more months, then…I don’t know. Something else. And frankly I appreciate being allowed to do this and not needing to lie and sell some, ‘I’m here because I super care about what rich hotel goers get drunk on,’ kind of BS.”
Her smile got a little wider. “I think you’ll be okay here, Stiles. I mean, it might be best if you don’t say that to upper management when you meet them. The owners are a little more involved here than a lot of resorts, so try not to run your mouth too much. But you’ll learn pretty quick you can be real with, and who you can’t.”
Stiles felt another rush of nerves, but he reminded himself that losing the job here wouldn’t be the end of the world. There were other places, and he was pretty sure it wouldn’t reflect poorly on Scott.
He shoved his hands into his pockets and tried to pay attention as Amanda gave him the run down about the uniform pick up and drop off. “We launder everything here so in the morning, you come pick up your new uniform and change in the staff rooms. You’ll drop it off at the end of your shift right before you clock out. Never, ever drop your uniform off after clocking out. Anything you do for your job needs to be paid. Got it?”
Stiles’ eyes widened. “Yeah man. Got it.”
“Credit card tips are always paid out through your paycheck, so you won’t see them for two weeks, but the people here are usually decent tippers, especially in the lounge. It’ll save your ass come tax time. People bitch but trust me, they’d rather have it that way.”
Stiles nodded, and poked his head into the staff room where a couple of guys he vaguely recognized—maybe from High School, maybe from trolling the Jungle—were changing. Amanda didn’t linger, though. “We have housekeeping through there, and this is the elevator which leads to the sales offices, reservations, and catering. F&B shares their offices with Restaurant management, and pretty much anything you need, you’ll get it from them. I’m here as your secondary. Someone tries to grope you in the walk-in, you come find me. You’re pissed about your hours? You bother them about it. Make sense?”
Stiles nodded again. “I think so, yeah. I don’t really anticipate that being a problem.”
Amanda snorted as she pushed open a door, and Stiles saw it leading right into the huge, lofty resort lobby. It was all brick and stone, with a sort of industrial, metal sculpture kind of look to it. The front desk stretched half the distance of the lobby, and there were three people working a handful of guests waiting to be checked in.
“You won’t come through here normally, but I’ll let Erica give you the main tour and she can show you were to go for your first shift,” Amanda said, leading him down a small ramp, into a large room with a brightly lit bar along the back wall. “It’s hotel business, and there’s a certain…almost culture to it. You get used to it.”
Stiles wanted to say that he wasn’t worried about it, because by the time he adjusted, he’d probably be gone. But he didn’t want to seem ungrateful, so he merely nodded and let her lead him through the empty lounge floor, through a set of swinging server doors and into a kitchen.
Stiles had worked his fair share of server jobs through undergrad, so none of it was a surprise. The strange, not-quite-offensive smell of cleaning product from the dish pit, mixed with whatever lunch-rush left-overs which sat off to the side in big garbage bins. The floors were brick-red tile, covered in scuff marks and mop smears, and the line was cool, but Stiles could see how easily it would get piled up.
No one was behind the line at the moment, but he caught a glimpse of chef’s whites in the pantry where salads and sandwiches would be made. Still, no one popped out to greet them.
“I’m texting Erica now,” Amanda said, fingers flying on her phone. “If you want to grab a drink, you can. There are cups and the soda fountain right through that door.”
Stiles decided to give himself something to do, and moved into the side station. He grabbed one of the plastic cups, digging out ice, and filling it with sparkling water. He was rooting around for a lemon when he heard a raised voice coming from the kitchen.
“…always in my fucking kitchen. Seriously, it’s like you want to violate every health code…”
“Oh calm down, Derek. Jesus. I’m giving the new lounge server a tour and I can’t find Erica.”
“Typical. Tell her she’s got five minutes or I’m going to fire her ass. And you tell that server that she’d better keep her shit in line. If I have to deal with one more incompetent…”
Stiles decided to take that moment to venture out, mostly because he was a little bit of a masochist. The tall guy in chef’s whites was facing Amanda, away from Stiles, so all Stiles could see was broad shoulders and black hair a mess from a chef’s hat.
Amanda spotted him and sighed. “He’s right here, Der. You can tell him yourself. And Stiles, this is Derek. He’s our head pastry chef so he’s not actually in charge of anything you do, though he is a manager so…”
The guy turned. Stiles had never really had an out of body experience until that very moment. Not until he found himself staring at blue, green, brown, yellow eyes, and a mouth—a mouth that had once kissed him until his knees were weak—now set into a furious scowl.
It was him.
His Cinderella story was about to end at the end of a chef’s knife, probably.
Stiles gulped in air, but after a second, it became very apparent the guy didn’t recognized him at all. “Chef,” Stiles managed to croak out.
The guy huffed. “I might not be your direct boss, but this is still my kitchen and you will respect it. Do you understand?”
Stiles nodded, unable to say another word. Luckily he was saved by a blond woman in six inch heels and assassin-red lipstick. She eyed Derek and rolled her eyes. “Will you please stop terrorizing my newbies, Derek. You want this place to function, we need people actually willing to work here.”
“And if you want to keep your job, Reyes, you’d better be around to actually do it. If I walk into dry storage and find Boyd in there…”
She grinned toothily. “I have no idea what you mean,” she said loftily, then approached Stiles. “Scott’s friend, right? I like Scott. You have a lot to live up to.”
Stiles pinked a little, but then Derek stalked out of the room, and he suddenly felt like he could breathe again. “Jesus.”
Erica huffed and slung her arm around his neck. “His bark is worse than his bite.”
Stiles choked, because well…he actually had something to compare it to, and fuck. Fuck. This was going to be a disaster. The only reason he wasn’t walking out was the simple fact that Derek hadn’t recognized him. “Uh. Well. Like you said, he won’t really be working with me. Right?”
“Nah. He’s the pastry chef. And mostly he does the fancy shit—huge banquets, weddings, fashion shows. If you pick up any banquet shifts, you might see him, but he’s not exactly a public face kind of guy.”
“Shame,” Stiles muttered, then flushed.
Erica and Amanda both laughed. “He’s pretty but trust me, you do not want to unleash him on poor, unsuspecting guests. Anyway, let’s go. I want to give you the tour, and then we can talk about your schedule. You good?”
Stiles took another breath, then nodded. “I’m good. That’s…yeah. It’s all good.” He ignored her smirk, and told himself this was for the best. Derek might have remembered the asshole who left without a word, but he didn’t remember it was Stiles.