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Dirty Little Secret

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He was sick. He had to be sick. Clearly, he was entirely, one-hundred percent sick, and there was no possible way he could go to work today. He should call in sick. They would survive without him for one day, he was sure. Wasn’t like he was the only one to call in sick ever, they knew how to handle being down one body.

Stiles Stilinski stared blearily at his phone. Or, more accurately, at the time on his phone. His alarm had just gone off at quarter past four in the morning, and it was a struggle trying to convince himself to go to work. After all, he felt a tickle in his throat, he was probably coming down with something. Best he stay home and not infect the whole office.

As soon as the time changed to four sixteen, he sighed and dropped his phone on the nightstand before kicking the blankets off himself and climbing out of bed. This was an argument he had with himself every morning, and unless he was legitimately sick, he tended to get up and stumble around to get ready for work.

It was extremely hard having to wake up so early, especially since he didn’t sleep much at night to begin with, but he didn’t mind his job and he needed to stay employed. He’d rather wake up at the ass crack of dawn to a job he kind of enjoyed, than wake up at a more reasonable time for a job he hated.

That was how life worked. You went to school, you worked, then you died and wondered what the whole point of it was.

Stiles stumbled into the bathroom, yawning widely and pulling his shirt up over his head, tossing it over his shoulder to land on his bed. He did his business, washed his hands, then brushed his teeth. When he looked up into his bleary face in the mirror, he considered his hair, then decided it looked fine and just turned to strip off his sweats, tossing those onto the bed to join his shirt.

He got dressed on auto-pilot, then contemplated grabbing breakfast before checking the time. He’d dilly-dallied too long and would miss his bus to the train if he didn’t leave now, so he just pulled on his shoes, grabbed his messenger bag, and headed out the door. He winced when it accidentally slammed, but he doubted any of his neighbours would’ve woken up, so he just locked his door and headed for the stairs.

Once he was outside, he walked the four blocks to the bus stop in the pitch black darkness of early morning. The 7-11 on the corner was open, as it always was given it was open twenty-four hours, and he checked the time on his phone before craning his neck to see as far down the road as he could. He ho-hummed for a few seconds before making a detour and entering the small store, hurrying to the back to grab a carton of chocolate milk and a small bag of chips.

When he brought them to the till, the teller was shaking his head at him and Stiles managed a small grin despite his sleep deprivation.

“How are you not dead?” the other man asked, his name-tag reading ‘Isaac.’

“I’m made of sugar and bad life choices,” Stiles offered, handing over some change when the total came up. “Have a good rest of your day.”

“I’ll be sleeping, so I will,” Isaac called after him. “Enjoy pissing people off!”

Stiles just waved one hand over his shoulder in farewell before hurrying out of the store and down the last block to the bus stop.

He was the first one there, as normal, but he could already see his usual morning companion halfway down the block, coming from the opposite direction. He sat down on the bench located beside the stop beneath a small shelter and he opened his chocolate milk. He took a few large swallows before licking his lips and closing the flap over, opening the bag of chips and beginning to munch on them. They would hopefully tide him over until he reached McDonalds later.

Or Tim Horton’s, he hadn’t decided yet.

He watched his morning companion approach, the girl wearing an oversized black hoodie with the hood up, despite the weather being fairly warm. She had her headphones on, as always, and was staring down at a PSP, which she seemed to be aggressively playing. Evidently, things were not going well for her on the screen.

When she moved to stand beside where he was seated, she glanced up at him and offered a tight smile. He smiled back.

It was a routine they had started since Stiles had moved to his apartment almost a year ago. The first few days had seemed to confuse her, because she was the only other person at his bus stop this early in the morning, and she was probably wondering who the hell else was dumb enough to get a job that required being awake at this ungodly hour. After a few days, she seemed to realize he was there to stay, and while she was obviously not a morning person, she’d made an effort to at least smile every morning.

Stiles appreciated that, so he always smiled back. That was the extent of their interactions, despite both of them getting on at the same stop, getting off at the same stop, climbing onto the same train, and disembarking at the same place. She worked somewhere past where he did, but he’d never stuck around to check. Not his business, and they weren’t friends. It would be creepy if he just followed her one day, so it was best to stick to the smiling.

Checking the time on his phone, Stiles sighed and put it back, continuing to munch on his Cheetos with the occasional sip of chocolate milk. The girl just stayed standing beside him, fingers tapping at her PSP, and scowl on her face. He could hear angry metal music playing through her headphones, but didn’t really mind. She had good taste in music.

When he was done his pre-breakfast, he stood to toss the items out in the trash can a few steps from the bus stop and saw the bus down the road, slowly chugging its way to their stop.

He hated the bus system in their city. The reason he had to be at the bus stop so ridiculously early was because it only ran every half hour at this time of the morning, and the fucking thing was never on time.

It could be anywhere from 10 minutes early, to twenty minutes late. When he didn’t leave the house at the exact right moment, of course it was early and he watched it pass him by. If he left earlier than normal, it was always late and he was standing outside in the cold winter or hot summer waiting for the damn thing.

He’d timed it down to the minute. As long as he was out of the house by four thirty-two, he would make the bus whether it was early or late. He sometimes deeked into the 7-11 because it was a block from the bus stop and he could see all the way down the road. If the bus was coming, he would be able to make it to the stop in time.

The girl—whom he’d dubbed Deborah in his head—was always there between three and five minutes after him. He figured she could afford the extra minutes because her entire trek to the bus stop was downhill, so she could run for the bus, if necessary.

Stiles had to run uphill, and he was not fit enough for that.

And, sadly, if he missed his bus, he had to wait half an hour for the next one, and then he’d be on the later train, and he’d be late for work. And that was annoying. So, he sacrificed a bit of sleep to make it to the stop early so he wouldn’t be late.

When the bus was only about two blocks away, Stiles pulled out his phone and turned on the flashlight, holding it up slightly. There was no light near the stop, and it was so pitch black out that, more than once, the buses passed them right by. Deborah never seemed to have clued in to the flashlight idea, so two weeks after Stiles had moved and was waiting for the bus, he’d started waving his phone’s flashlight around so the drivers would know to stop.

She’d looked thoroughly impressed, and kind of annoyed, like she should’ve thought of that. Now, she mostly relied on Stiles to do it, since she never looked up from her PSP.

The bus eased to a stop beside him, Stiles putting his phone away, and he climbed onto the bus, swiping his bus pass. He turned to make sure Deborah was coming—she’d gotten distracted once and stayed on the bench until he’d waved at her like an idiot from the door—and then moved further into the bus when she climbed on behind him.

The same six people were on the bus, and he went to sit in his usual seat at the far back right corner. Deborah sat in her own usual seat beside the back doors, still tapping furiously at her PSP.

Stiles pulled out a book from his messenger bag and flipped it open to his last page, beginning to read while listening to the automated voice tell him each upcoming stop. After ten minutes, he rang the bell, putting his book back and stood. He went to stand at the back door while the bus eased to a stop by the train station and Stiles turned to make sure Deborah was on her feet.

She wasn’t, so when the back doors opened, he leaned back a little so his bag hit her shoulder. She jerked and looked up at him, then hastily got to her feet, following him off the bus.

He smiled to himself, and often wondered how she managed to make it to work on time before he’d shown up. For all he knew, she’d always been late.

He hated to think of how she fared when he took a day off.

They descended the stairs to the train platform, waiting for it to arrive with a few other staggered morning commuters. When it arrived, they climbed on and Stiles sat once more, pulling his book out. He read the entire forty minutes, and when his stop came up, he made sure to check that Deborah was by the door, which she was.

They got off together, and headed up the escalator, then outside. Stiles detoured to McDonalds for his breakfast, and Deborah continued on her way towards the crosswalk to head to work. Stiles smiled at her back endearingly and went to stand in line for breakfast.

When he had a large coffee, sausage McMuffin and three hashbrowns, he headed out to the crosswalk and towards work. Reaching the doors of the large building, he had to juggle his food so he could swipe his pass, then headed for the elevator, going up only one floor and then walking towards the large ICBC sign. When he tried the door, it was locked, so he knocked on the glass until the morning manager peeked out of his office and wandered over to let him in.

“Morning, Stiles. How are you?”

“I showed up,” he said in response, walking further into the area, his manager following.

“That’s about the best I could hope for,” the man said with a small smile, patting his shoulder before heading back to his office.

Stiles went to his usual post at the front desk, dropping his messenger bag on the floor and kicking it beneath the desk. He didn’t really have anything in it aside from his book and some painkillers, but he brought it to work every day anyway. Habit from high school, he supposed.

He sat at the front desk, eating his breakfast and nodding to people as they came in, keeping an eye on the time. Work started at six, and the building’s front door unlocked around five-to, so he had to make sure his food was done before then.

He managed to scarf it all down with time to spare, and got to work re-arranging various pamphlets and pulling some magnetized ‘New Driver’ signs out.

The usual morning crowd was getting organized at their own desks behind him, since he was the front line and everyone had to go through him before they could be sent to a teller. It was a job he had mastered, and it paid remarkably well.

The only two downsides were how far it was from his apartment—which was cheap as shit, hence the commute—and the early hour. No one should be awake and trying to update their driver’s license at six in the fucking morning.

And yet, when the building unlocked and the elevators opened at six on the dot, three people walked into ICBC and formed a line, waiting to speak to Stiles.

He tried for a smile, and almost managed, his exhaustion probably showing.

“Good morning, how can I help you?”

“Yeah, I need to renew my driver’s license,” the guy in front of him said, pulling it out. “It expired last week.”

Stiles took the license from him and set it at the top of his keyboard, typing in the man’s information and then sending the file that popped up into the teller queue. He printed a number and held both it and the license out to the man.

“Wait for your number to be called and someone will be with you.”

He thanked Stiles, and by the time he moved to go to the first available teller, since his number lit up right away, Stiles saw he had an additional four people in his lineup.

Did these people not like sleeping? And seven people first thing in the morning?

It was going to be one of those days.

Stiles was going to drop all of his groceries, he was sure, and it would delay his return home even more. But if he didn’t rush like this, he would also delay his return home, and he had only four minutes according to the time, and he could not be late!

He managed to juggle everything to get into his building, and rushed to the stairs, hurrying up the four flights, panting by the time he reached the top floor, and racing down the corridor to his unit.

One bag was set down so he could dig out his keys, and he hastily unlocked the door, pushed it open, kicked the bag on the floor into the apartment—hoping it didn’t have the eggs—and then shut it. He rushed through the unit in the dark, still holding two bags in one hand, and snatched up the remote, turning on the television.

It was already on the right channel, and he sighed when he saw it was still on a commercial.

Moving back to the kitchen in the light of the television, he set his bags down on the island, then bent down to grab the one on the floor, turning on the light and locking the door when he straightened.

He began to unpack all of his items onto the counter, shoving the plastic bags in the cupboard under the sink and then moving to put things away—mostly in the pantry, because what were vegetables?

He was still in the process of clearing off the counter when the tune on the television changed and he rushed around the island to the couch, standing in front of it with his eyes locked on the screen.

“Previously on ‘The Last Son of Krypton’,” the television said.

Stiles was holding a block of cheese in one hand and the eggs in the other, eyes locked on the screen, lips slightly parted, and his full attention on the recap from the previous episode.

He inhaled sharply. “Shit, I forgot about that. Oh fuck.”

He waited for the opening credits to start, still holding his perishables, and sighed dreamily when Derek Wolfe appeared on the screen in his full Superman suit. Stiles watched him alternate back and forth between being Superman and Clark Kent—looking amazingly sexy in the glasses—and then turned to rush to the fridge when the other actors were introduced.

He wouldn’t have time to get dinner started before the first act, but he knew that with the recap and the opening, it would be about ten minutes, if that, of actual screen time before the next commercial. He could wait that long.

Still, he grabbed a bag of Ketchup chips on his way back to the couch, just in case, falling onto it and sitting cross-legged, opening the bag and beginning to shove chips into his mouth.

He remembered the first time he’d ever seen Derek Wolfe. Stiles had been scrolling through channels, bored and with nothing to watch, when he’d stopped on Supergirl. It just so happened to be one of the few episodes with Derek Wolfe’s Superman character on it.

Stiles had no idea what was happening in the show, but he sat mesmerized by the actor. It wasn’t even that he was attractive—though he was, very—it was just that he had this presence. He sucked people in, made them believe what they were watching. It was incredibly thrilling, and Stiles was just in awe of his acting skills.

Apparently, many other people felt that way, too, because within a year, Supergirl was having problems with the ratings, and suddenly skyrocketed back upwards when they began to add Derek’s Clark Kent/Superman character to more episodes.

It became clear who the favourite was, and while Supergirl was still on the air, it was only barely afloat, riding on the crossover episodes with Superman’s very own show, The Last Son of Krypton.

It was now on season three, and Stiles didn’t know how the writers were doing it, but every episode was better than the last. Or maybe it was just Derek Wolfe’s acting that was getting better and better.

He’d gotten a few movie deals, too, and Stiles had watched all of them. He was just so fucking phenomenal, he couldn’t handle it. And apparently he’d grown up in the same area Stiles currently lived in, which was awesome and amazing!

While unlikely, he always hoped he’d run into him sometime when he was back visiting family, but he apparently only had a sister in the area, the rest of his family having passed away in a tragic accident when he was still a teenager. He didn’t know how close the two were, as he never spoke about her in interviews and always refused to answer any questions about his family.

He was a private person, he said, but that could also be a cover for him not getting on with his sister.

When the first commercial hit, Stiles hurried to the kitchen to make dinner—well, boil water to make ramen, because anything more substantial would take too long. He stood at the stove waiting for it to boil, then ended up back on the couch because the show had come back.

He really admired how involved Derek Wolfe got with his character. He was all awkward and quirky as Clark Kent, and then a veritable sex machine as Superman, with a winning smile and great hair.

Though Stiles had seen him with stubble between seasons and good fucking Lord he wanted to rub his face all over it. Actors were so unfair. They were so attractive and made Stiles want to do things. Which he did.

In his dreams, anyway. Because yes, he daydreamed about hot actors, and Derek Wolfe was number one on his list of sexy men he wanted to bang.

Stiles’ phone began to ring loudly in the middle of a serious discussion, and he shushed it emphatically, as if that would work, but at least had the brain capacity to dig it out of his pocket and reject the call without even looking. It cut off abruptly and he leaned forward on the couch, licking his lips and wondering what was going to happen next.

His phone buzzed and dinged, but he ignored it until the next commercial, glancing down at it.

u around?

“You should know better!” Stiles insisted to his phone, but he began texting back while heading for the kitchen, since the water was definitely boiling by now—and evaporating.

it’s tuesday scott
no talky @ 7 on tuesdays

Stiles dumped the packet of ramen, and the stock into the boiling water, then grabbed a wooden spoon to submerge the noodles, as if to make them cook faster. His phone dinged while he was doing this and he checked it again.

u hav a date w/ the bf

Scott was talking about Stiles’ TV, but damn would he give anything for Derek Wolfe to be his boyfriend. Then again, he didn’t know if he’d like to date an actor. It seemed amazing in theory, but was probably hugely inconvenient in practice.

Not to mention Stiles had watched enough interviews to know he seemed a little bit like a pompous prick. He acted like a dick with a lot of people who interviewed him, and he never went to big events for the fans. Overall, he was probably a typical snooty actor, but man, a guy could dream.

chat l8r
wanking to derek wolfe

He sent the eggplant emoji along with the water emoji, grinning while waiting for Scott’s response.

call me when ur done

will do

Putting his phone away, he kept pushing down on the noodles when the commercial ended behind him. He hastily put the spoon down on the counter beside the stove and rushed back to the couch, sitting down and staring at the screen while Superman had a heart to heart with Lois Lane.

They shared a passionate kiss before Superman flew away, and Stiles felt like Lois’ expression perfectly encompassed how he felt. At least the actress got to kiss Derek Wolfe, and she had admitted in interviews that he was a phenomenal kisser when he put effort in.

Apparently he hated on-screen kisses, and often argued to have them cut out of certain scenes in the show because they were ‘unnecessary.’ Which Stiles understood. It was a show about an alien with superpowers, not a love story. But, Hollywood was obsessed with adding a love story, and Lois Lane was always going to be Clark’s number one priority. Disappointing, but inevitable.

Stiles was so engrossed with the show, that by the time the next commercial hit, his ramen had cooked and almost all the broth had evaporated or soaked into the noodles.

He didn’t care, pouring it all into a bowl and bringing it back to the couch.

Derek Wolfe was one-hundred percent worth ruined ramen.

Derek Hale was one-hundred percent done with this fucking bullshit.

If the God damn extra fucked up his scene one more fucking time, he was going to explode on him. He had dinner plans and he wasn’t exactly looking forward to having to cancel again because some dumbass with no fucking talent couldn’t figure out where he was supposed to fucking stand.

“You need to calm down,” his assistant said quietly.

“I’m going to be late to dinner,” Derek snapped back heatedly, eyes still on the extra while the director tried—again—to explain what he was meant to be doing.

“Probably, but I’ve already texted her. She knows, Derek. It’s not your fault.”

“I don’t want to cancel on her again,” he insisted, turning to glare at Lydia Martin. “What’s the point of me having taken this job in the same city as her to spend more time with her if I can never actually do it?”

“You will,” Lydia insisted with a huff, clearly displeased with his tone. “Five more takes, tops. He’ll get it eventually.”

“I almost fucking dropped him because he can’t figure out how to go limp,” Derek snapped, turning to glare at the extra again. “I’m not actually Superman, my muscles are not going to hold out forever. And I have to be back here early tomorrow, so I can’t stay out late. I am not cancelling again!”

He could practically feel Lydia’s eye roll, but the woman walked away from him when the director turned and motioned him over. Feeling frustrated—something not at all helped by the huge crowd of people lingering to watch them film—he stormed back over to the director.

The man spoke to both him and the extra, re-iterating what needed to be done, and they set up for the next shot. Derek had to take a second before the cameras rolled to school his features and get back into acting mode. He usually tried not to break character between scenes, but he was steadily getting more and more impatient as time passed, because he still had three more scenes to shoot after this one, and he was going to be late!

Once he got his Superman face back on, he waited for the call to action, and then took a second to get back into character before he began to run towards the extra.

By some miracle, the guy actually followed directions this time, and Derek was able to grab him and jump slightly, knowing the action would be corrected in post-production since he couldn’t actually fly.

He ran a few more steps towards another part of the set and then jumped again like he was landing, making it look like he’d flown the guy across a short distance. Derek always felt kind of stupid doing things like this, but he knew the end result on the screen always panned out, so he tried not to dwell on it. Acting was embarrassing sometimes, that was just the way things were.

“Go, get somewhere safe,” he said to the extra, who stared at him in awe—well, at Superman, anyway—and then turned to run off.

Derek turned back towards the perceived threat, eyes narrowed, and took a few more running steps before jumping, arms raised like he was taking flight.

He got back to the part where the villain was, knowing the in between part would be cut out, and the scene progressed smoothly before the director called them to a stop. Derek hoped the shot with the extra was over, because he couldn’t handle another scene with the idiot.

Every time they were between takes, Derek would check the time to make sure they weren’t going over too much. By eight, he was positive that she would’ve already eaten, but he would go over anyway. He just wanted to spend some time with her, something he’d been trying to do for the past year.

When he’d been offered the Superman role in Supergirl, he’d been excited because it was a good opportunity, but also because it filmed in the same city he’d grown up in. It meant more time with people from his past, and for the most part, that had been true.

Eventually, when he’d become more and more prominent on Supergirl, his time with others had begun to dwindle down a little bit until he finally got his own show. Originally they’d wanted to film it elsewhere, given Supergirl was already filming there, but Derek had put his foot down and insisted he wanted it filmed at the same place. So, they’d acquiesced—it was that, or they find a new Superman, and he seemed to have a lot of pull in this case—and he’d thought it meant more time with friends and family.

And he’d been wrong. Because he spent a majority of the time filming, at all hours, and it wouldn’t be until the mid-season and season finale breaks that he’d actually have time to himself. He figured it was better than nothing, but still.

They finally wrapped it up at half past nine and Derek made a bee-line for the costume trailer. He hastily changed out of his Superman outfit—something extremely hard to do, considering how fucking tight it was—and then pulled on his jeans, shirt, leather jacket and combat boots. He stuck a hat on his head for good measure, despite the fact that he knew it wouldn’t help much, but it made him feel better.

Hurrying out of the trailer, he rushed towards where his car was, Lydia already standing beside it, texting on her phone. She glanced up when he approached, then slid into the passenger seat, Derek moving around to the driver’s side and climbing in.

He knew he shouldn’t technically be leaving without talking to someone, but he’d scheduled all his Wednesdays like this, and he would just deal with the consequences in the morning. He was making almost two-hundred grand per episode, so if they decided to boot him, he’d survive for a while until he found another job.

Not to mention they’d have to find another Superman.

They managed to escape the thicker parts of the crowd that had been surrounding the set, mostly because no one had seen him exit his personal trailer, which made sense since he hadn’t entered it. It meant no one knew the baseball cap-wearing guy in the Camaro was Derek Wolfe nee Hale.

No one knew his real name was Derek Hale. It was something he had spent a lot of time and effort ensuring. He didn’t need his friends and family to get harassed for who he was, so he’d worked hard to keep that name close to his chest. He could count on one hand the number of people who knew his real name outside his current family.

“She hasn’t eaten yet,” Lydia informed him when they stopped at a light. “She’s going to order Chinese. Any preference?”

Derek smiled, pleased about that, and said, “Ginger Beef and Bok Choy.”

“I hate Bok Choy,” Lydia informed him, typing away on her phone.

“Then order something else for yourself. I want Bok Choy.”

“You’re so annoying.”

“And you’re a bitch.”

She smiled at her phone and Derek couldn’t help the one trying to take over his face.

He and Lydia had known one another for as long as he could remember. Her family had been the ones to help Derek and his sister, Cora, when their parents and older sister had passed away. Derek had still been in high school, and Cora and Lydia had been best friends. When his parents and his older sister, Laura, had all gotten on a plane to head to her university so they could get her settled in, Derek still remembered waking up and checking his phone for a text confirming they’d landed safely.

It hadn’t come. And when he’d turned on the television during breakfast, he and Cora getting ready for school, he could still see the images of the plane wreckage in his mind when he closed his eyes.

The plane they’d been on had crashed. Cora hadn’t realized it was their flight, chatting away with Derek while getting her cereal together and bitching about her Chemistry teacher. Derek hadn’t heard a word, eyes locked on the screen, remote held loosely in his hand. He remembered not knowing what to do. He’d just stood there staring until Cora had come up beside him to ask what was wrong.

He hadn’t known what to do. He hadn’t said anything to Cora, because she hadn’t realized what was wrong yet, and had just driven her to school. He went to the principal’s office the moment he parted ways with his sister, and had sat down across from the burly old man and told him what had happened.

In retrospect, he shouldn’t have gone to school at all, but he hadn’t known what to do. Their uncle Peter was God knew where in the world, probably in jail in some random city in Asia, and they had no other family. They’d never spoken about what to do if something ever happened to Talia and Michael Hale, so he didn’t even know if he and Cora had Godparents.

Derek was only seventeen at the time. He couldn’t legally take custody of Cora, and he didn’t know what he was meant to do, who he was meant to talk to about all this. So he’d just gone to the principal and told him what had happened in a detached voice.

The man had been incredibly kind and sympathetic, and had asked a lot of questions until finally calling Lydia’s mother. She and Talia were very close because of Cora and Lydia’s friendship, and within ten minutes of the call, Natalie Martin was in the principal’s office crushing Derek against her chest.

Derek and Cora owed a lot to the Martins. They took them in, no questions asked. They helped Derek and Cora with their parents’ estate. They helped them with the courts when Peter was deemed their legal guardian, because he couldn’t be found and they didn’t want to go into social services.

The Martins helped Derek get into university, they supported him when he got a small part in a TV show, they drove him to his first real audition. When Derek made it big, he’d bought them a new vacation house. The Martins had money, they’d always had money, but they weren’t as rich as they used to be given the economy. They’d sold their vacation house when Cora and Derek had moved in, needing the extra funds, and Derek immediately bought them a new one the second he could afford it.

He took Lydia on as his assistant more because it was what she wanted than what he needed. She insisted someone with his prickly personality needed someone just as catty to tolerate him. He’d never regretted that decision, because Lydia was amazing.

Derek had repaid the Martins for both his and Cora’s university fees, despite their insistence he didn’t have to. Even now, he always made sure to stay in touch, visit during special occasions and the traditional Sunday brunches when he could, and he always, always made time for them at Christmas. He and Cora owed them everything, and he was never shy in advertising that with them.

He didn’t think he would’ve survived losing his parents and Laura if it weren’t for the Martins.

“What are we getting mum for her birthday?” Derek asked Lydia while turning onto a dark street, half of the lights out. He hated this part of town, but it was the fastest route to where he was heading.

“I don’t know yet,” Lydia said with a small frown. “I’m still thinking. I figure something relaxing. Spa day?”

Derek hummed. “Maybe. Could set something up for you, her and Cora to go together. Did you schedule dinner?”

“Pick-up from Giovanni’s, like you asked. I also made sure to drive it home that you weren’t working that evening, so your shoots have all been scheduled for the morning.”


They drove in relative silence for the remainder of the trip, Lydia only breaking it to tell him the food had arrived when they were five minutes away from their location.

When he pulled into the outside lot of a large apartment building, Derek parked in one of the visitor stalls and set up the parking pass he always had in the glove box. Climbing out, he and Lydia made their way to the front door and Derek swiped his spare fob, holding the door open for Lydia.

They made it into the elevator and Derek swiped the fob for the Penthouse at the top, the two of them waiting. When the elevator doors opened, he stepped out into the entrance hall, and motioned for Lydia to go first.

He followed her towards the kitchen, where they could hear plates clattering against marble and drawers opening and closing. When they rounded the corner, Derek smiled at the girl moving around the kitchen, her dark hair up in a messy bun, wearing sweats and an oversized hoodie.

“Didn’t think you’d make it,” she informed him with a small smirk. “Thought I’d have to eat all this food myself.”

“I’d have shown up even if you’d already eaten,” he insisted, moving up to her and wrapping her in a hug, kissing her temple. “How are you? Haven’t seen you in a few days.”

“Fine. You know, busy with work and all that.”

“I can’t believe you still work at that bakery,” Lydia said, turning up her nose. “You could literally open your own catering service, and yet you work there.”

“I like that bakery,” Cora Hale insisted, sticking her tongue out at Lydia before crushing her in a hug.

Derek saw Lydia melt into the embrace and hug her back, face buried in Cora’s hair.

He’d been suspicious for a while about their true relationship, but after spending so many years around Lydia, he knew that they were just best friends, even if it was clear—to him, anyway—that both wanted much more than that. The two girls had both long ago admitted to him, and each other, that they were bi-sexual, and Derek was positive that Cora was in love with Lydia, and Lydia was in love with Cora. Neither of them ever did anything about it, though, and Derek always worried about bringing it up in case it ruined a lifelong friendship. He figured if it was meant to be, they’d talk it out amongst themselves eventually, though he was admittedly getting impatient. Sometimes he just wanted the two of them to fess up and move on instead of this obnoxious dancing around one another.

Cora started asking questions about work while passing out the take-out containers, the three of them piling various items onto their plates while they all stood at the counter. Cora had a dining room set, but they never used it unless it was a special occasion. The three of them much preferred standing at the counter, talking and laughing while eating. It made Derek feel more normal, and given the past few years, he really liked normal.

He hadn’t been famous for very long, probably only about four years, but sometimes he missed the old days where he could actually leave his house without a million people coming at him from all sides. He’d always thought actors who swore at fans or paparazzi were dicks with no compassion, but after four years of constant harassment, various stalkers, and a few death threats along with one very real attempt, he understood how so many people became bitter and angry.

Derek just wanted to do what he loved, and be left alone. People didn’t follow a baker like Cora around because she did her job so well, why was that different for actors?

Though he knew if anyone found out about his sister, she’d likely get harassed. It was why he’d made sure to keep his name a secret. He didn’t want her, or the Martins, to have any problems because of him. He’d heard a lot of horror stories of famous actors’ families being harassed and threatened in an attempt to get the actors to do things, and Derek didn’t want to add more stress to Cora’s life.

The only upside was the money, really. He’d bought the Martins their vacation house, he’d gotten himself a nice condo in the middle of downtown, he’d bought Lydia one right next door to himself, he’d bought Cora her Penthouse along with two other apartment in the same building. Overall, money was good, but half the time he didn’t know what to do with all the money he had. He’d grown up comfortable, so he’d never really worried about money, and now he had so much of it he didn’t know what to do with it.

He donated a lot to charity, and bought a lot of things for people he cared about, but that still left him with a lot of cash in the bank. He invested some of it, but at the end of the day, he still had more than he knew what to do with. He figured he’d eventually end up without work at some point in his life, so it was good to have a comfortable buffer, but his buffer was almost a million dollars right now, so he wasn’t too concerned about it.

“So what are we doing for mum’s birthday?” Cora asked, taking a bite of her chow mein.

Derek and Lydia told her about what they’d discussed in the car, and the three of them spent a majority of dinner trying to determine what would be best to get her. Cora and Lydia didn’t like it when Derek paid for everything, so they usually tried to find something all three of them could afford to chip in on. They ended up looking at cruises, and figured since Geoff Martin would likely want to spoil his wife as well, Lydia texted him to ask if that was a good idea and if they should buy two tickets. He agreed and said he’d pay for his own, and to just split the cost of Natalie’s between the three of them.

Derek lied about the price so Lydia and Cora would pay less. He also bought Geoff’s, since he was easier to earn forgiveness from.

By the time he and Lydia left, it was past eleven, and when they made it home, it was quarter to twelve. Derek knew he and Lydia would be messes when they woke up at four to get ready to head to another day of shooting, but he didn’t care.

He’d spent the evening with his sister, it was worth all the lost sleep in the world.

Stiles was positively, absolutely, one-hundred percent sick. He had to be sick right now, there was no other explanation. He was completely run down, exhausted, and he definitely had a tickle in the back of his throat.

He stared at the time on his phone, having just turned off his alarm, and when one minute passed, he let out a pathetic groan and crawled out of bed, just like he did every other morning. Mondays were the hardest, because he always slept in late on Sundays, which meant his entire schedule was out of whack.

But, he persevered. He went to the bathroom, got himself organized for the day, managed to pull on some clean clothes, and then stumbled out into the kitchen. He had enough time for breakfast today, so he stood beside the fridge with a bowl of cereal, slowly chewing and trying to stop his eyes from closing while he did so.

Imagine if he choked on cereal. Death by cereal. How embarrassing.

Grabbing his messenger bag and leaving his dirty bowl in the sink despite the dishwasher being right there, Stiles headed out of the apartment and slowly made his way to the stairs. When he exited his building, he took his time walking up the hill towards his bus stop, bypassing 7-11 today since he didn’t want to miss the bus. Besides, he’d already eaten, and he didn’t need Isaac scolding him over his horrendous eating habits.

He reached the bus stop and sat on the bench, like he always did. He pulled out his phone to text Scott, despite the other still sleeping and likely not answering for another few hours. He was only there for a few minutes when Deborah appeared, shuffling along like she always did, hood up, headphones on, and PSP in her hands. She came to stand beside Stiles, as usual, and the two of them did their morning smiles before returning to their own activities.

The bus showed up, Stiles waved the light, they climbed on, it was all the same as always. The same it had been for the almost-year Stiles had been there. They climbed off the bus, got onto the train, exited at their stop, and headed outside. Stiles didn’t need to get food today, so he walked with Deborah to the cross-walk, standing beside her with his hands in his pockets.

Sirens sounded down the street and Stiles turned to look in their direction. There weren’t very many cars on the road at this hour of the morning, even downtown, but he saw the few cars around him slow and stop.

He understood why as he stared towards where the sirens were. A black car was careening down the street, being chased by a cop car with the lights flashing and sirens blaring. Stiles idly wondered if there was a bank robbery or something. He grinned, finding that kind of funny. Did people even rob banks anymore? It was such a movie thing to do.

He took a step forward, craning his neck to watch the cars approach, and heard someone shout across the street. Turning to see what was going on, he felt his heart drop when he saw Deborah halfway through the crosswalk, not having looked up. She’d probably seen Stiles move in her peripheral and assumed the light had changed. She was still staring at her PSP, and he could only assume her headphones were blaring music so loudly she couldn’t hear the sirens.

“Hey!” he shouted, even as he knew it was useless. If she couldn’t hear the sirens, she couldn’t hear him.

Turning to see where the cars were, a part of him had hoped she’d clear the street by the time they reached them, but they were closing the distance quickly, and Stiles saw the black car swerve towards Deborah. The driver probably assumed that if he hit a pedestrian, the cops might stop chasing them in favour of saving the injured party.

Stiles hesitated for only a second before shouting, “Shit!” He dropped his messenger bag and sprinted into the street, heart slamming up in his throat from fear. If he wasn’t fast enough, they’d both get hit, or at the very least, him. But his dad was a sheriff, and Stiles had a hero complex sometimes, and he couldn’t let Deborah get hit.

He couldn’t!

Stiles didn’t look to see where the cars were. He ignored the sounds of engines and sirens getting closer. He just ran like his life depended on it—which, it might have—and slammed into Deborah. He wrapped one arm around her waist, the other awkwardly around her head, and flipped them mid-air so he would land first.

The black car that had been aiming for her was so close that Stiles felt it hit his sneaker on its way by while he was still in the air. He clenched his eyes shut, holding Deborah tightly with both arms, and then slammed into the ground.

His head cracked against the pavement and he blacked out. He didn’t know how long he was unconscious for, but when he came to, his brain was screaming at him, and pretty much everything hurt. Someone was shouting and shaking him by the front of the shirt, and he could hear music, for some weird reason.

There was a lot of noise and commotion around him, and he heard some people talking about an ambulance coming. Stiles felt like he needed an ambulance. His left elbow was on fire, and he wasn’t entirely sure it wasn’t broken. His brain felt too big for his skull, and he knew he had scrapes and abrasions along his skin from having slid across the ground.

He kind of wanted to take a nap right now, but the screaming girl above him was persistent, shaking him roughly, despite someone telling her that she should stop, that she might be making things worse, that his neck might be broken.

Stiles forced himself back to consciousness at that comment and wiggled his toes, relieved when he felt them moving. He let out a loud groan and opened his eyes, everything way too bright despite the fact that it was still relatively dark out.

That wasn’t good. He probably had a concussion or something.

Deborah was crouched over him, looking terrified, headphones around her neck and continuing to blare loud, angry music. She let out a relieved breath when his eyes opened and stopped shaking him, which he appreciated.

Except now that he was awake, the full force of his various injuries hit and he heard a long, loud whimper escape him. It would’ve been embarrassing if he weren’t hurting so fucking much.

“Are you okay?” Deborah asked, still looking worried, but also extremely relieved, as if she hadn’t been sure he’d wake up.

“Do I have to answer that?” he asked in a tight voice. He struggled to sit up, but someone else who was on his other side pushed him back down and told him to stay still.

He again wiggled his toes to be sure they still worked, and lay on the pavement until another set of sirens approached. When the paramedics converged on him, he was actually really worried something worse than he could feel was wrong with him. Had he cracked his head open and his brains were all over the sidewalk or something?

Thankfully, that wasn’t the case, but they were careful when they helped him stand and he instantly felt dizzy. He could feel blood on his skin and when he reached up to touch the back of his head, one of the paramedics stopped him and he was helped onto a gurney. That didn’t bode well, his dad was going to freak out when he found out.

For now, they let him stay sitting up, and one of the paramedics was shining a flashlight in his eyes while asking him questions.

What his name was, how old he was, where he was, and so on. Stiles answered them all, but admittedly much slower than usual, and he struggled with his real name before giving up. He also couldn’t really move his left arm, and the second paramedic was doing something beside him. When he felt the man touch it, he inhaled sharply and the two medical professionals in front of him began speaking to one another in low tones.

He could see Deborah off to the side with another paramedic, likely the ambulance’s driver, but she insisted she didn’t have a scratch on her and even had her phone at her ear, speaking to both someone on the other end, and the paramedic.

“No, I told you, I’m fine,” she insisted to the paramedic. “Help him, he’s the one who broke my fall.” She turned slightly from the woman, who seemed to give up and came back towards Stiles and her colleagues. Deborah kept speaking though, still on the phone. “I promise, I’m okay. No, you’re working. No. I swear, it’s fine. No. That’ll just be so much more trouble than it’s worth. Yes. Yes. I promise. I’m okay. Fine, but later. I’ll go home. Yes, I’ll take a cab. Yes. Yes. Fine, I’ll go see mum and dad. Fine. I’ll call them. I will. Stop it, I’m fine!” She sighed and covered her face with one hand, and Stiles thought he saw it shaking. “Please don’t. Der, please. I’m sorry. I’m okay, I am, I promise. I’m right here, I swear.”


Stiles turned back to the paramedic, blocking out Deborah. He was asked a few more questions, and then told he should be brought to the hospital. He felt uncomfortable with that, because he knew he’d have to pay for the ambulance, as well as his visit, but he’d figure it out. He had some money saved, and he had health insurance with work, so he’d probably be all right with whatever his medical care didn’t cover.

The paramedics were speaking amongst themselves briefly, one of them radioing in that they’d be bringing him back, and Deborah approached during this brief stint, her phone tucked away and her music turned off.

“Hey,” she said when she was close enough for him to hear her. She looked ashamed and uncomfortable, but Stiles just forced a smile, despite it hurting.

“Hi. Are you okay?”

She let out a wet-sounding laugh, and he saw her eyes beginning to water. Oh no, he didn’t want her to start crying. He couldn’t handle crying women!

“Am I okay, you say. Are you serious? If it wasn’t for you, I’d be...” She trailed off, letting out a slow breath. “Thank you. I should’ve been paying attention, but I guess I got so used to watching you that I didn’t... I’m sorry. But thank you. Thank you so much.”

“No problem,” he said, still trying for a smile. “I’m glad you’re okay.”

“Are you okay?” she asked, eying him critically.

“Who, me?” He scoffed and waved his good hand at her, that one being the one that still moved, considering it had some bandages on it that were slowly turning red from the roughness of his fall. “I’m like a brick house, don’t worry about me. I’m fine.”

Deborah smiled at him, letting out a small laugh. “My very own Superman.”

“I’m more of a Batman person,” he teased. “Though Superman’s cool, too.”

She laughed at that, and he was glad she was calming down. She had her arms crossed, as if defensive, and he saw the paramedics eying her critically, clearly wanting to get Stiles to the hospital, but to have Deborah checked out. She wasn’t going for it, though.

“I’m Cora,” she told him. “Cora Hale. What’s your name?”

“Stiles,” he informed her.

“Seriously?” She smirked a little. “Sucks.” Stiles loved her already. “Last name?”

He found it weird for her to ask, but said, “Stilinski.”

He got a real look for that one.

“Your name is Stiles Stilinski? Did your parents hate you or something?”

He laughed, then winced when it hurt his ribs. Jesus, how injured was he? Though it made sense, he supposed. Deb—er, Cora didn’t look like she weighed a lot, but he’d still landed hard with someone at least a hundred and thirty pounds falling down right on top of him. He was probably going to be sore for weeks.

“Stiles isn’t my legal name. I don’t like talking about my real name.” He frowned. “I also can’t really pronounce it right now.”

“You can’t pronounce it?” she asked skeptically.

“Hey, it’s a hard name, okay! No judgement. This is a judgement-free zone.” He motioned around himself with his good arm, then winced. “And I mean, I feel like sometimes even my dad can’t pronounce it. When he yells at me, he still calls me Stiles.”

“Come on, it can’t be that hard.” Cora moved a little closer to him, but one of the paramedics stopped her.

“We really need to be getting him to the hospital. You can speak to him there once he’s been checked out.”

“Oh. Okay.” Cora glanced at Stiles worriedly. “Is he gonna be okay?”

Another paramedic appeared beside Stiles and told him to lie down. He felt stupid doing that, but he lay down anyway just in time to hear a new voice somewhere in the crowd.

“I said move, you overgrown ape, let me through!”

“Ugh, no,” Cora’s voice said while Stiles was being wheeled into the ambulance. “Did he send you? Why? I’m fine! Why is he worrying everyone?”

“Excuse me, but did you or did you not almost get hit by a car while—”

The voices cut off when the doors slammed shut and Stiles closed his eyes, head throbbing.

Today was going to suck.

By the time Stiles was released from the hospital, he was completely miserable. He’d called work to let them know he’d be late, and his boss had snapped at him to take the week off because only an idiot would come to work while that badly injured. He hadn’t known his boss cared so much, but he sounded stressed when Stiles recounted what had happened.

He gave a bit of an abbreviated version when he spoke to his dad, because he didn’t want him to worry.

Stiles felt a bit like a mummy when he left the hospital. His left arm was, thankfully, not broken but he’d bruised the bone and was told to avoid using it for a few weeks. They gave him a sling for it, and bandaged up all his other injuries. Most of them looked really gross, deep gouges in his skin from sliding along the ground. A few others were shallower scratches, but just as painful.

They’d also shaved his hair at the back of his head because apparently he’d needed stitches. That was going to be embarrassing for a while, but at least it was nostalgic for him, given he’d had a buzzed head in high school. Still, having only parts shaved made him feel weird. He figured he’d decide what to do once his head stopped throbbing.

Stiles had tried to go to work, despite his boss telling him not to, and ended up getting yelled at and sent home. His boss reiterated that he didn’t want to see him until the following Monday, otherwise he was fired.

He looked pissed enough to be serious, so Stiles figured he should obey. He took the train back to his bus stop, then winced the entire ride because of the bumpiness. Managing to survive climbing off the bus, he walked home slowly, everything still hurting, and felt like he wanted to die by the time he got into his apartment.

He realized only once he’d gotten home that he didn’t have his messenger bag, which made him sad, because he’d liked that bag and he now had to buy the book again. Maybe. He couldn’t afford it. The hospital bill was going to fucking decimate him.

Wincing, he went to his couch and pulled out his laptop so he could check his bank account. His medicare as well as insurance from work would cover at least eighty percent of the charge, but he still had to pay the last twenty and the ambulance trip. He did some math to figure out how much he would need and sighed before closing out of his bank account.

It would be tight, but he could do it.

Stiles winced and turned to the door when he heard loud knocking. Sighing, he got to his feet, setting his laptop down on the coffee table, and hobbled over to it. When he opened the door, he wished he hadn’t.

Scott McCall was standing on the other side, and the second he got a good look at Stiles, he paled and looked horrified. Stiles should’ve figured if someone was going to drive up from home to check on him, it would be Scott.

“Don’t tell my dad,” Stiles insisted, wincing and moving aside so his friend could come in. “Just—don’t tell him. He’ll drive up here and he’ll worry and just—I’m fine.”

“Stiles, you’re not fine,” Scott insisted, closing the door behind himself while looking his friend up and down. “You look like you got hit by a bus.”

“It was a car, and it didn’t hit me. This was me trying to avoid it hitting me.” Stiles went back to the couch and sat down gingerly, his left arm aching despite him not having used it. “What are you doing here?”

“Your dad sent me to check in on you. Said he thought you were lying about how injured you were.”

“And you’re not going to tell him,” Stiles insisted. Scott opened his mouth, likely to argue, and Stiles pointed his finger at him. “Scott, his heart is in bad shape, and we’re not gonna do that to him. If you tell my dad about this, I’ll tell your mom what really happened that summer you went to Vegas with Liam.”

His friend looked horrified, and it almost seemed as if he would argue that Stiles wouldn’t dare. Then he seemed to think better of it and sighed before sitting down on the couch beside him, eying him.

“Are you sure you’re okay? I mean, this all looks pretty bad.”

“Nothing’s broken,” Stiles said, looking down at himself. “Just a few scrapes and bruises. I have a concussion, too. Sleep’s gonna suck for the next few days. But, I’m off with pay so that’s good.” At least, he thought he was off with pay.

“You gonna be okay money-wise?” Scott asked softly. “Paying the bill for all this, I mean.”

Stiles shrugged. “It’ll be tight, but I’ll manage. Don’t worry.” He slapped his friend in the shoulder and smiled. “It’s all good. But uh, since you’re here, can you help me make dinner?”

Scott rolled his eyes, but obediently got to his feet. He started rooting around in the kitchen for something to make, and found some jars of pasta sauce in the pantry, so he set about boiling water for some spaghetti.

“So what happened, anyway? You were kind of vague on the phone with your dad.”

“Deborah almost got run over,” Stiles said, then frowned. “I mean Cora. Apparently her name is Cora.”

“Whoa, you guys spoke?” Scott turned to raise his eyebrows at him. “That’s different.”

Stiles laughed and recounted his heroic tale of saving his bus buddy from certain death. Well, probably certain death, he honestly wasn’t sure. Maybe she’d have cleared it, but he doubted it, given how close the car had been to hitting them both even with Stiles tackling her out of the way.

He didn’t know who’d come to see her, or who she’d been on the phone with, but it sounded like she had good people who were worried about her. He hoped she was doing okay tonight.

Derek tapped his foot impatiently while waiting for the elevator to finish its ascent. He felt itchy all over, heart rate faster than normal, and he couldn’t stop clenching his hands into fists. It was taking a conscious effort for him to loosen them, but he knew he wouldn’t calm down until he reached the Penthouse.

Despite Lydia being with Cora all day, and everyone insisting she was fine, Derek wouldn’t believe that until he saw her. He’d wanted to leave set the second she called him, and had been distracted all day because of it. He knew she’d only done so in case he found out on his own, and he appreciated that, but he hated that she’d ordered him to stay at work the rest of the day. He’d been fucking useless and even the director had noticed.

It was probably why he’d sent him home early. Derek hadn’t told anyone why he was off, but he suspected the man knew it was personal. He just told Derek to fix whatever was throwing him off his game before he came in tomorrow.

No problem, given he would be fixing it as soon as the fucking doors opened!

When the lift finally halted, he almost pried the damn things open himself, but thankfully they parted before the urge overtook him and he hurried out of the elevator, hearing people talking in the living room.

He entered it and immediately sought out Cora. She was laughing, sitting on the couch beside Lydia, with Natalie on the arm rest and one arm around her shoulders. Geoff was sitting on the loveseat beside the couch, and all of them turned when Derek entered the room.

A weight he’d been carrying all day seemed to leave him then and he closed the distance between them quickly, Cora standing so that by the time he reached her, he could wrap her in a hug so tight he knew he was hurting her.

She held him back just as tightly, Derek burying his face in her neck and struggling to keep himself under control. He could feel himself trembling, and Cora was sniffing, probably crying. He didn’t want her to be crying, he was just so fucking relieved.

If he’d lost her... he couldn’t. He couldn’t. She was the last of his family, all he had left. If he lost her, even the Martins wouldn’t be able to pick up the pieces. He would be destroyed, and the thought of how close it had been...

“I’m okay,” she said quietly, though her voice was scratchy, like she was holding back tears. “Derek, I’m okay.”

“Are you sure?” He managed to pull away, cupping her face in his hands and inspecting every inch of her. “You have to be sure, Cora. If you need to go to the hospital—”

“Derek.” She placed one hand on his chest. “I’m fine. I didn’t get hurt. My bus buddy took the brunt of the fall.” She winced at that. “Actually, I was-I was hoping that—”

“He saved my sister,” Derek said, already knowing what was coming. “Any hospital bills he has, I’ll cover them. Anything he needs, I’ve got it. Okay?”

She smiled and Derek leaned forward to kiss her forehead before hugging her again. He didn’t know how long he stood there, but it was evidently a while because Natalie eventually stood and touched his shoulder gently, motioning the couch with a nod of her head.

Lydia moved over one seat so that Cora could sit in the middle and Derek on her other side. Natalie went to join her husband on the loveseat, the man wrapping one arm around her shoulders and rubbing gently at her back.

“What happened?” Derek asked, only having gotten the cliffnotes from both Cora and Lydia, since they didn’t want to distract him at work.

Not that it had done any good.

“It was my fault, really,” Cora insisted, raking one hand through her hair. “I wasn’t paying attention, and if my bus buddy hadn’t reacted...” She trailed off and clenched her hands together. Lydia put one hand on Cora’s closest leg and Derek wrapped one arm around her.

She recounted the story, only being able to tell them what others had relayed to her since she wasn’t paying attention. She’d spoken about her bus buddy before, some guy who always showed up at her bus stop before her, and the two of them had come to an understanding of him making sure she always got on and off at the right stops since they went to the same area.

They’d never spoken, but apparently the guy was cute, and really friendly considering he’d taken it upon himself to make sure Cora didn’t miss any of her stops.

Apparently there had been a police incident, and Cora had started crossing the street without paying attention. Others in the area had said her bus buddy had thrown his bag aside and raced into the street to tackle her out of the way. He landed first, which was why Cora wasn’t injured, but apparently he’d been in pretty bad shape when the ambulance had taken him away.

“I took his bag,” Cora said, motioning a messenger bag sitting on the kitchen counter. “Figured I could give it back to him tomorrow. And thank him. If he’s even there tomorrow.” She let out a slow breath. “What if he’s still at the hospital? What if he’s really badly injured?”

“He looked okay when I showed up,” Lydia insisted, rubbing gently at Cora’s closest arm with her free hand. “I’m sure he’s fine.”

“Did you get his name?” Derek asked. “So we can get his bill paid?”

“Kind of.” Cora frowned. “His last name is Stilinski, but he didn’t give me his real first name. Hopefully we can find him with just the last name.”

Derek looked at Lydia, who nodded. “I’ll do it first thing tomorrow.”


Cora let out a slow breath and a small laugh. “I just can’t believe I was so stupid. I wasn’t even paying attention, and he could’ve died trying to help me.” She wiped furiously at her eyes and Derek pulled her closer, kissing her temple.

“But he didn’t. Everything worked out.”

“But maybe stop playing your PSP when you’re crossing the street, hm?” Natalie asked, smiling slightly at Cora.

“Right.” She agreed, laughing slightly and wiping at her eyes again. She cleared her throat and slapped her thighs before standing. “Let’s eat. I’m starving. Derek, you eaten yet?”

“Nope.” He watched her walk towards the kitchen, Geoff following suit and wrapping an arm around her shoulders while the two spoke about what to make for the family.

Derek turned to Lydia instantly.

“How is she really?”

“Shaken,” the redhead said, eyes on her best friend. “But she’s tough. She’ll be all right. I think she’s more worried about her bus buddy, if I’m being honest.” She looked at Derek then, lowering her voice. “He didn’t look okay, Derek. She’s been worrying about him all day, so I didn’t want to make things worse, but there was a lot of blood on him, and on the pavement. His arm might be broken, too, and he didn’t seem all there. He told Cora he couldn’t pronounce his own name. Who can’t pronounce their name?”

“Let’s not worry about that tonight,” Natalie said quietly, giving her daughter and Derek pointed looks. “The important thing is Cora is all right, and this gentleman is getting the proper care he needs. The hospital will ensure he’s taken care of, so there’s no point fretting about him when we don’t know anything about his condition.”

“I’ll look into it tomorrow,” Lydia promised Derek. “For now, I think we just need to be normal.”

“Normal,” Derek agreed, and the three of them turned to watch his sister and surrogate father banter while they made dinner.

Whoever Cora’s bus buddy was, he would never, ever be able to repay him for what he’d just done for him. Derek would pay his hospital bill, and his mortgage, and his phone and cable and hydro. He would do anything he had to do for this guy, because he had saved his sister’s life.

This Stilinski person was now Derek’s new favourite person.

Stiles was glad for his week off from work, because it let him sleep in, which he really needed since he had to wake up every few hours. He didn’t get the gist of why, all he knew was the doctor had told him to wake up every few hours for the first two days.

Staying home also let him be a giant baby about how injured he was, because when he woke up the second day, he felt way worse than he had the previous day. He also felt dizzy and the light hurt his eyes. He’d been told that was possible, and normal, but that if the symptoms didn’t dissipate after a few hours, he should go to emergency.

Scott stayed over the first three days, which Stiles appreciated. His friend had to sleep on the couch, which wasn’t exactly the most comfortable thing in the world, but he was glad Scott was worried enough about him to stick around. He bore the brunt of Stiles’ whining, but took it in stride and helped make sure he was doing all right.

By his fourth day off, Stiles felt—better. Not great, but better. His various injuries didn’t hurt as much anymore, and while he still didn’t want to move his left arm because it was like someone was stabbing him repeatedly in the elbow every time he tried, he at least felt like the throbbing had gone down.

Stiles tried to distract himself from how much pain he was in most of the time by watching TV. Most notably, by watching everything with Derek Wolfe in it. He watched a few episodes of Supergirl, all the episodes of The Last Son of Krypton that he had on DVD, and every single movie the man had appeared in.

When he ran out of things to watch with Derek Wolfe in them, he moved on to his second favourite celebrity crush, Kira Yukimura. He watched every episode of her own show, a revamped version of Nikita, as well as the eight movies she’d starred in, one alongside Derek Wolfe—so he watched that one twice.

On the sixth day, he actually decided to venture outside, because he was low on groceries and he needed some vitamin D. He walked slowly while heading for the store down the road, almost tempted to just go to 7-11 and be done with it, but he needed some sustenance and on top of that, 7-11 was expensive. He had to save money considering the huge bill he had coming.

He realized he probably already had it, which was a depressing thought, and he made sure to watch his budget while he shopped. He couldn’t carry much home with only one good arm anyway, so he bought the essentials and figured he’d have leftovers for dinner. He had a huge supply of pasta sauce, so he supposed he could live off pasta for the next month or so.

The noodles were cheap to buy, at least.

When he reached his apartment once more, he stopped at the mailbox to check his mail and sighed when he saw an envelope with the hospital logo on the front. He shoved it—along with two other bills—into his shopping bag and then picked it back up off the floor, since he’d had to set it down to get his mail.

Reaching his home once more, he locked the door behind himself after setting the bag down on the counter, and then wandered back over to it, sighing. He knew he should pay the bill now, get it over with, but he was worried about how big it would be. He also didn’t know how insurance with his work covered this. Did he pay up front and they reimbursed him? Or did they pay their portion and he only paid the rest?

Deciding to stop procrastinating the inevitable, Stiles sighed and reached for the envelope, ripping it open and pulling out the letter. He unfolded it with trepidation, wincing and almost shutting his eyes, as if it would save him from the amount if he just couldn’t see it.

His eyelids were so close together, that when he stared down at the amount owing, it almost looked like zero. Opening his eyes properly with a sigh, he checked again, and then stared because it still looked like a zero.

Blinking a few times and wondering if his brain was still fucked up, he shook the paper, cleared his throat, and then widened his eyes before bringing it closer to them.

It still said zero.


Despite not wanting to, Stiles dropped the letter and pulled out his phone. He dialled the number at the bottom of the bill, which was for payment inquiries, and then stood in his kitchen for twenty minutes while listening to hold music.

Finally, someone answered and he pulled the bill closer.

“Yeah, hi there. My name is Stiles Stilinski, I mean, Mieczyslaw Stilinski. Uh, I just got my bill, but I’m a little confused, because it says my total is zero.”

“What’s the reference number, please?”

“Oh, uh...” Stiles looked at the bill, flipping it over and trying to find it. The lady told him where it was and he read it out to her. He could hear her typing on the other end for a few seconds.

“It shows the bill was paid on September nineteenth, the day after your admittance.”

Stiles felt like she was speaking another language. “That’s impossible, I didn’t pay it.”

“Our system shows that it’s been paid, sir.” She sounded like she was getting impatient, as if him wanting to pay his bill was inconvenient.

“Listen, I’m not trying to argue with you, but I’m just worried someone paid my bill by mistake. Is that possible?”

“With a name like that, no.”

Stiles frowned at that, the woman clearly having reached the end of her short temper. She’d probably had a long day of people bitching about their bills, and while Stiles was probably the opposite of what she usually heard, she was clearly done with this conversation.

“Your bill’s been paid, sir. There is nothing further for you to do. Have a good evening.”

“Wait—” Stiles cut off because he heard the call end. Pulling his phone away from his ear, he frowned down at the dark screen, then looked back at his paid bill. He didn’t understand. How could someone have paid for it? He hadn’t told his dad he’d been in the hospital, and even if Scott knew about it, there was no way he could’ve afforded it, not to mention he’d been with Stiles all day on Tuesday.

He suddenly thought about the girl at the bus stop, Cora Hale. She’d been asking him about his name, and had specifically requested his last name. Had she paid his bill for him as thanks for saving her?

Not that he was going to complain or anything, but it hadn’t been necessary. He was just trying to be helpful. Though he supposed she was probably trying to be helpful, too. Maybe she had money and this was nothing to her. He doubted that, given how she dressed, but he figured he’d talk to her about it on Monday if she was at the bus stop.

Given he apparently didn’t need to save money for a massive bill anymore, Stiles decided to order pizza for dinner. He felt like he’d earned pizza, and had mostly been avoiding buying anything the past few days because of the looming expense. Now, he decided to spoil himself, and ordered a large pizza from Pizza Hut, along with one of those giant cookie desserts.

He was injured, he was allowed a dessert!

He’d have to remember to say thank you on Monday.

Stiles wondered if he could call in sick. After all, he was legitimately injured, and he still couldn’t really use his left arm. And by “couldn’t really use” he literally meant he couldn’t use his left arm. When he didn’t jostle it, it was mostly fine, and he could use the hand so long as the elbow didn’t shift. But oh man, when the elbow moved! Stiles felt like getting kicked in the balls would hurt less.

Just a theory, though. He didn’t want to test it. Just in case he was wrong.

He’d had to set his alarm for earlier than usual, because it took him longer to get ready with one arm and all his injuries. That only reinforced his desire to take another day off, but he didn’t know if this time off was eating into his vacation time, or if it was his boss being nice and sending him on temporary medical leave with pay. He didn’t want his boss to get into trouble.

So, when one minute passed, Stiles sighed and got out of bed. He was moving slowly, and way more tired than usual—the earlier time as well as his sleeping in during his week off were not doing him any favours. He managed to get himself organized in the bathroom, but didn’t bother even attempting to tame his hair right now. He was injured, and it showed, people could cut him some slack.

He dressed slowly, wincing the entire time, and then went to grab some breakfast. Even with his head start on getting ready, he was almost a minute late getting out the door, but he eventually managed to exit the apartment and start the uphill trek to the bus stop.

When he reached it, he sat down gingerly on the hard wooden bench, and pulled out his phone. He sighed when he realized he’d have nothing to read on the bus, but he hadn’t gotten around to replacing his messenger bag or the book. He figured he’d just browse the internet on his phone or something.

“Oh, thank God!”

Stiles jumped and glanced up, seeing D—er, Cora rushing towards the bus stop from the opposite direction he’d come from. He frowned when he thought she had his messenger bag.

“You weren’t around for so long, I thought I’d never see you again!” she pulled the bag off her shoulder and held it out to him. Stiles realized, quite startled, that it was his messenger bag and he took it from her slowly, confused.

“Thank you,” he said.

“Thank me? What is wrong with you? Thank you, seriously.” She sat down beside him. It was the first time they’d ever spoken in the morning, and she didn’t even have her PSP out at all. Her headphones were also missing, and he wondered if she’d been more observant since her near-death experience and had opted not to shut down completely anymore.

“Are you okay? I mean, obviously you’re not okay, you’re all injured and everything, but seriously, are you okay? I was really worried when I didn’t see you around.”

Stiles smiled at her, appreciating how concerned she looked. “I’m okay. A little sore, and my left arm is still in rough shape,” he motioned the sling, “but overall, I’m okay. Are you?”

“I’m fine,” she insisted, letting out a small laugh. “Thanks to you. Seriously, you saved my life. If the car had hit me...”

“I did what any other decent person would’ve done,” Stiles insisted.

“Say that to the dozens of bystanders.”

Stiles couldn’t argue that so he just smiled. Then he remembered the bill and turned to her more fully. “Hey, did you pay off my hospital bill?”

“My brother did,” she admitted, suddenly looking nervous. “He, uh... we had a rough childhood and he almost lost me. You saved me, we just wanted to do something nice for you.”

“Thanks. Truly, thank you, that’s really appreciated. But, uh, are you okay?” Stiles rubbed his fingers together, denoting money. “I mean, you know.”

“Oh.” Cora looked startled, then laughed. “Oh, yeah, no. We’re, you know, comfortable. It was nothing, I promise.”

“Is that why you wanted my name,” Stiles asked suspiciously.

“Partly.” She grinned. “But also because I figured, after our bonding moment, we’re officially friends now. But maybe we should actually do this properly.” She held out one hand. “I’m Cora Hale. I work at Loafing Around, the bakery on Helmcken.”

“Oh shit, I love that place! You guys make the best cinnamon buns!” Stiles exclaimed with a grin, holding out his good hand and shaking hers. “I’m Mieczyslaw Stilinski, but everyone calls me Stiles.”

“I’ll bet,” Cora teased and Stiles grinned.

“I work at the ICBC on Georgia. Front desk. Super thrilling.”

“Oh hey, you just reminded me, I need to renew my driver’s license!” Cora laughed and dug it out of her wallet to check the expiry, then laughed harder when she realized it was expired as of the day before. Stiles told her if she dropped by between nine and ten, there was always a lull and she’d get helped faster so she agreed to come by.

The two of them chatted up until the bus lumbered down the street. Cora got up to wave her phone around, since Stiles was still injured, and when they climbed on, Stiles expected them to sit in their usual seats, but Cora slid in right beside him at the back of the bus, continuing to speak to him.

They kept up an easy conversation all the way to Stiles’ building, since Cora was a few blocks past it. Before they parted, Cora asked for his number, and Stiles handed his phone over so she could program hers into it, and then called herself from his phone. She said she’d drop by around nine fifteen if she could get out of the kitchen and that she’d talk to him later.

Somehow, having someone to talk to during the ride to work made him feel more awake and less focussed on his pain. He was actually in a relatively good mood when he exited the elevator and walked to the entrance for work. The door was unlocked today, which meant someone else had shown up first, and when he walked in, his boss and one of his coworkers froze when they saw him.

“Jesus.” Chris Argent wandered over to him while his coworker Heather just kept staring incredulously at him. “I know I saw you when it first happened, but you had bandages then. You look like hell, are you sure you should be here?”

“I’ll go stir-crazy at home if I stay there,” Stiles insisted, dropping his bag and kicking it under the front desk. “I’m okay. Arm’s just a little sore, but I’m a lot better than I was.”

“What happened?”

Stiles went through the whole story for what felt like the millionth time, a few people showing up while he was still telling it and stopping to listen or make sure he was okay. He appreciated it, though a little less when a few people laughed at his weird haircut from the stitches at the back of his head. Chris sent them packing and told everyone not to bother the injured.

He appreciated that, and promised that he would do his best not to slow anything down. Chris insisted if he needed a break to just let him know and he could find him something to do in the back. Stiles knew that would mean paperwork, and he didn’t like paperwork, so he would push through the pain, if need be.

When the doors opened at six on the dot, a few people wandered in like they always did. Most of Stiles’ injuries were difficult to see because of how his desk was set up, so they really only noticed his arm in the sling and while some people were being assholes and impatient, most of them were pretty chill when he apologized for being slow. They insisted it was fine and for him to take his time, which he felt was extremely nice.

A little bit past nine, he’d just finished helping the last person in line when the door opened and Cora walked in. She beamed at him, as if they hadn’t seen one another for years and were old friends reuniting, and set a plastic bag on the counter.

“This is for you.”

Stiles gave her a confused look, but took the bag and peeked inside.

“Oh my God, I love you!” Stiles insisted, pulling out the plastic container inside. “Oh, they’re still warm. Oh my God, I seriously love you!”

She’d brought him a six-pack of cinnamon buns from her workplace, still gooey-looking and warm, and he was definitely going to take five minutes once she was helped to go and devour at least two in the back.

“Figured you’d like a pick-me-up. How are you holding up?”

“Still going strong.” Stiles grinned, holding out his good hand once he’d set the cinnamon buns down. Cora handed over her driver’s license and he began typing the details in one-handed. “My tailbone hurts a little from the constant sitting, but everything else is fine. I was more worried about my arm, but it’s surviving.”

“That’s good.” Cora crossed her arms on the counter, leaning forward and looking around. “It really is dead at this time.”

“Most people start work at nine, so they try and come in earlier. By ten, they’ve been at work for an hour so they feel less guilty stepping out. Noon is a gongshow, don’t ever come at noon.”

Cora laughed, but held out her hand when Stiles got her number, handing both it and her license to her.

“Hey, what time are you off work at?” Cora asked.

“Usually around two, sometimes two-thirty. Depends on how the lineup looks and when my replacement gets here.”

“I’m off at one-thirty. I was thinking we could head back together and maybe get a coffee? We see each other every morning, and you saved my life, it’d be nice to have a friend who lives in the area.”

“That sounds great!” Stiles grinned. “I mean, if you don’t mind waiting. I’ll try for two, but it might be later, like I said.”

“No problem. I’ll hang out at work and help out until two, and then come by afterwards. If you’re still working, I’ll just wait downstairs in the lobby. We can meet there.”

“Sounds awesome. I’ll see you then. And thanks.” He tapped the container of cinnamon buns. Cora just smiled at him, wished him a good day, and walked over to the seats so she could wait for her number to be called.

It only took five minutes before she was at a teller, and she got her picture taken and was gone within ten, waving goodbye to Stiles. He waved back with his good arm, grinning, and somewhat happy.

He didn’t really know anyone close to his age around his neighbourhood, and Cora seemed to live relatively close and she had a great sense of humour, as far as he could tell. He was pretty excited to see where this relationship was going to go.

“So why baking?” Stiles asked while shoving another piece of cinnamon bun into his mouth. He knew he really shouldn’t be eating it, not only because it was his fourth one today, but also because he was in a coffee shop that sold them, but Cora’s workplace cinnamon buns were just so fucking good. “I mean, not that I’m complaining, obviously.” Stiles held up his sticky fingers.

“I don’t know,” Cora admitted. “I started baking in middle school with my mum. It’s just one of those controlled things. Something you can make the same every time as long as you follow the recipe.” Cora looked down into her latte, both hands around the mug, and her lips downturned. “She died when I was thirteen. I guess it’s just a way for me to stay close to her.”

Stiles’ chewing slowed, watching Cora, and he let out a small sigh before swallowing and setting the cinnamon bun down.

“I’m sorry. I know it doesn’t help to say it, but I am.” He hesitated, then figured it would help her know he truly understood how she felt. “My mom passed away, too. When I was nine.”

“I’m sorry.” Cora let out a bitter laugh. “Like you said, it doesn’t help, but I guess you know that more than most.”

“Yeah.” He smiled. “But I think it’s nice you’re keeping her alive in your heart with the baking. I’m sure she’d be proud of you. Especially with cinnamon buns this good.” He winked and went to shove another large piece from the roll into his mouth.

“You’re disgusting,” Cora informed him, but she was smiling endearingly. “You have any siblings?”

Stiles shook his head, wiping his dirty hand on a napkin. “Just me and my dad. My best friend Scott’s almost like a brother, but we’re not related and I don’t see him much anymore. You?”

“I have a brother. Used to have a sister, but she passed away along with my mother and father.”

“I’m really sorry.” Stiles didn’t think this was the best way to start their friendship. Talking about their dead relatives. He supposed it was just one of those things they wanted to get out of the way so they could move forward without any awkward conversations come mother’s day, or father’s day, or any day, really. “You close with your brother, then?”

“Oh yeah, we’re super tight.” She smiled. “He even actually moved back here for work because he hated the distance. We grew up in the area, and when our parents passed away, we got taken in by my best friend’s parents. They live a few blocks from me, so it’s really nice for all of us to be in the same area.”

“That’s really cool.” Stiles took a sip of his hot chocolate. “What does your brother do?”

“He’s an entertainer,” she said.

Stiles cocked an eyebrow and she burst out laughing, nudging him lightly in the shoulder. He grinned.

“Not, like, porn or anything, God.”

“Oh, so he’s a stripper, got it.”

Cora laughed again, and Stiles felt like if he weren’t so injured, she’d have been punching him in the shoulder. He liked that. She seemed like she was going to turn into an amazing friend.

“What about your best friend?” Stiles asked, since Cora had said her parents had taken them in.

“Oh, she works with my brother. They got really close when we moved in.”

“That must be nice,” Stiles said.

Cora just shrugged. “I guess, but she goes where he goes. Means I don’t see her as much as I’d like, which kind of sucks.”

“Well,” Stiles nudged her lightly with his foot, “now you got me. We can do whatever you want. Movies, video games, spa days to get our nails done, the works.”

Cora laughed and nudged him again, and Stiles was positive once he was healed up, she was going to be particularly abusive. She seemed pretty touchy-feely, which was good for him, because he didn’t know what personal space meant. They’d get along great.

Something he already knew, given they’d been chatting in the coffee shop by the train station for almost three hours. By this point, he almost felt like they might as well just do dinner, even though he’d been gorging himself on cinnamon buns all day.

Figuring they might as well, when they both paused to take sips of their drinks, Stiles licked his lips while setting his down and said, “So hey, since we’re already out this way, and it’s nearing six, wanna grab dinner together?”

The look that crossed Cora’s face almost made him wonder if he’d said something wrong, but then he realized maybe she thought he was asking her out. Way too early in their friendship to even entertain that idea.

“I meant in a purely platonic way,” he clarified, motioning between themselves. “As friends.”

“Oh.” She looked embarrassed, now. “Yeah, of course. Sounds good. What did you have in mind?”

Stiles shrugged. “I’m pretty easy. I like everything. Sushi?”

“Sure.” Cora smiled and the two of them finished off their drinks, both of which were mostly cold and almost empty, by that point, anyway. They packed up their items, Cora taking the trash since Stiles only had one hand, then walked out of the coffee shop. They headed down the street almost two blocks to the sushi place. When they arrived, it was moderately busy, but they got seats right away at the bar and got to watch the sushi chefs make dishes, which Stiles always loved.

It was interesting to see how they worked, and amazing to watch them slice everything super thin. He’d probably cut off his fingers if he tried to do something like that.


Stiles turned to Cora, having been distracted by the chef making onigiri. “For what?”

“How I reacted.” She winced. “Not to be conceited or anything, but that happens to me a lot. People just—asking me out like that.”

“Hey, I get it.” Stiles smiled. “Don’t worry. I figure we’re still way too new in our friendship, and while I like you, I’d have to get to know you a lot better before even entertaining moving that way.”

“Well, full disclosure, I’m kind of... well, I like someone.” Cora was almost nervous now and Stiles cocked an eyebrow. “My best friend. She’s a girl.”

Cora watched him, waiting, and Stiles wondered if she’d just thrown that out there because she wanted to know now if there was any point in keeping this friendship train going. Stiles knew there was a lot of intolerance in the world, but he liked to think things were changing. Still, it was evident she didn’t want to waste her time making friendly with someone if they’d end up being disgusted by her when they found out she was into girls.

“Is she hot?” Stiles asked, which seemed to startle Cora.


“Hey, if she’s hot, just remember it’s what’s on the inside that counts. She won’t be hot forever, so make sure it’s her soul you love.” Stiles winked. “But bonus if she’s hot, you two will have beautiful babies.”

Cora took a second to overcome her shock, but then she burst out laughing again, and when she punched Stiles, it was a little harder than he was sure she’d meant to, but she looked relieved.

He figured he’d help her along with that.

“I get it, though. I’m bisexual, so I don’t judge. And you? Demi? Lesbian? Bi?”

“Actually, I am also bisexual.” She played with the straw in her water, smiling down at it. “Guess this means we can both ogle people together and see what our tastes are like.”

“If we have the same taste, that would be both epic and tragic.” Stiles squinted. “Then again, you’re kind of taken, so more for me. Best of both worlds, right?”

“Exactly!” Cora turned to him more, grinning like an idiot. “My brother doesn’t get it. He’s only into the one gender, and he thinks it’s stupid to oscillate. He doesn’t judge or anything, he just thinks I should pick one gender and stick to it. I figure, why limit myself, you know?”

“Yes!” Stiles slapped his good hand lightly on the bar. “Why should I just look at all the hot women, when I can also stare at all the hot men? Really, it’s a win-win for me. The rest of the world is missing out.”

The two of them spent a majority of their dinner discussing all the pros and the very few cons of being bisexual. Stiles had admitted to losing a boyfriend once because he was worried Stiles would suddenly “go straight” and ditch him for a girl, but Cora insisted it was his loss. And to boot, she admitted she’d always thought Stiles was cute, which he appreciated, whether it was true or not. He just figured it was best to cut off any attachments to Cora now, since she seemed pretty smitten with her best friend.

He asked about her on the way home, wanting to know more about Cora’s life. Her friend sounded like a bombshell, and super sassy, which Stiles loved. He asked about her chances, and lo and behold, apparently she was bisexual as well, which Stiles personally thought was amazing!

“Why don’t you ask her out then?” he asked while they were climbing off the bus at their stop, standing just by the bench so they could continue to chat.

“I’m just—worried.”

“Worried?” Stiles frowned, then realized what she meant. “Oh. About how she feels. About whether or not it’ll ruin the friendship.”

“Yeah,” she said quietly. “I mean, obviously we’re both fine with each other’s sexualities, considering, but it would—what if she doesn’t like me, you know, that way? Then every time we hang out, or I go to hug her, or like, anything, it’ll just be weird, you know?”

“I guess, but what if she does feel the same way?” Stiles shrugged. “I just don’t really believe living life with regret. Sometimes I do stupid things, or I take a chance on something, and while I know the result could crash and burn, I still do it. No point living life with regret, right?”

“I guess.” Cora shifted her weight uncomfortably. “I don’t think I’m there yet, though. I’m pretty forward with most things, but that’s one of the things I’m too scared to touch.”

“Hey, it’s cool.” Stiles nudged her lightly. “You’ll get there. We can talk strategies some other time, though.” He checked the time on his phone and winced. “Right now, I need to go home and attempt to shower so I can actually wake up at a reasonable time tomorrow.”

“Shit, right!” Cora leaned over to see the time on his phone. She was perfect, Stiles knew they were going to be great friends, because she didn’t believe in personal space, either. “I should let you go. We should do this again soon, though. It was fun.”

“I’m free Friday if you wanted to hang out for a bit longer.”

“Sounds good.” Cora smiled at him. “And it’s not like I won’t see you tomorrow, anyway.”

“True.” Stiles began walking backwards, shoving his phone in his pocket. “See you in the morning.”

“Have a good night!” Cora waved, then turned and began walking away. Stiles did the same, the two of them heading towards their respective homes.

This was going to be the most epic of friendships, Stiles could feel it already.

“I don’t like this bus friend person,” Lydia said coldly from the end of the couch. She was sitting with her back against the arm rest, and her feet in Derek’s lap. He was reading over the script for the following day’s shoot since there had been changes done again, but Lydia wouldn’t stop talking to him.

He figured he could always learn the lines in the morning, it wouldn’t be the first time, but he’d been hoping to sleep in a little bit. That wasn’t working out since Lydia invaded his apartment and was now hanging out on his couch bitching about everything coming through on her phone.

She’d been staring at it for hours, texting off and on with Cora, but he could tell the responses were coming slower and slower as the days wore on.

It had been almost a month since Cora’s bus buddy had become an actual friend, and Cora and Lydia—as well as the Martins—heard nothing but how much fun she was having with him. They went to work together every day, and they’d been having coffee or dinner almost daily since they’d officially met. Apparently it hadn’t been planned, there were just days where one of them would finish work and ask to hang out, and they’d end up spending the entire evening together.

So far neither of them had gone to each other’s places, which Derek knew Lydia was happy about, but Cora had made it pretty clear that she was only interested in friendship with her bus buddy. Lydia was getting jealous for nothing, though he’d admit it was kind of cute watching her get all disgruntled over someone who was literally no threat.

“Cora keeps saying they’re only friends, there’s nothing to worry about.”

“Excuse me,” Lydia said coldly, glaring at him over her phone. “She has spent more time with him the past month than she has with me in the past year. Besides, have you seen him?” Lydia was swiping angrily at her phone before she flipped it around. “Look at this. Look at it!”

Derek sighed and obediently turned to look at the picture she’d pulled up on her phone. It was a selfie of Cora with some guy, presumably her bus buddy. They were both smiling at the camera, looking like they were having a good time.

Derek had to admit, he was a little surprised at how good looking her bus buddy was. He didn’t know what he’d been expecting when he’d turned to look at the picture, but it wasn’t this. The guy had dark brown hair he wore in a kind of dishevelled sort of way, soft brown eyes, a spattering of moles across his cheeks and the most kissable lips Derek had ever seen.

“Shit, maybe you should be worried. He’s cute.”

“Right?” Lydia demanded, almost angrily, and then flipped it back around to glare at the photo. She frowned, then looked up at Derek. “Wait, why are you commenting on me being worried because he’s cute? So what if he’s cute? You’re cute!”

“And very gay, thank you.”

Lydia rolled her eyes and kicked at him with one foot. He grunted when it hit him in the stomach and grabbed for her ankles with one hand to stop her from injuring him further.

“What are you implying, Derek Hale? Are you implying something about me? What do you know?”

“Please, you’ve had a boner for Cora since high school,” Derek insisted, frowning down at his script. “The fact that you haven’t done anything about it is actually frustratingly exhausting for me.”

Lydia was silent, which never boded well, and when Derek turned to look at her, she immediately began kicking at him with her feet, Derek having to drop the script so he could grab at both of her legs to stop her from injuring him.

“It’s not obvious! I am perfectly stealthy! You just eavesdropped on my conversations with my mom about it!”

“I have more important things to do than listen to your teenage angst,” Derek insisted, then grunted when he got kicked in the chin. Lydia stopped kicking at him immediately and threw her legs over the side, moving closer to him and grabbing his face, as if making sure she hadn’t done anything noticeable.

She inspected his face for a few seconds, then seemed satisfied he wasn’t hurt, releasing him and moving back to her original position. She leaned back against the arm rest, but bent her knees instead of putting her feet back in his lap.

“You won’t tell her, right?” she asked, voice condescending but words betraying how nervous she really was.

“Not my place.” Derek picked the script back up, rubbing at his chin, eyes on the papers he held. “You didn’t out me when I finally told you I was into guys. I’m not about to out you to my sister. Though you guys should talk about it.” He turned to give her a look. “Her bus buddy is really cute, and if she’s fawning over him this much after only one month, I think you should consider having a chat with her before she goes for him.”

Lydia just scowled at him, but said nothing, returning to glaring down at her phone. She began typing a text rather angrily, and Derek figured he’d done the best he could to move things along.

He felt kind of bitter when he thought about Lydia and Cora. They’d been best friends for years, were both into each other, had the ability to be together if only they’d stop being so damn chicken.

Derek, on the other hand, had to be so, so careful. So many people had mentioned that homosexuals were never going to make it big in the industry, and while that had been changing slowly but surely, he knew that it was the truth. There were so many people who discriminated that when he first starting getting bigger roles, he’d actually sat down with the Martins and Cora and asked them what he should do.

Derek had been gay since he was twelve. He’d known it the first time a girl had kissed him that he wasn’t really into that. He didn’t fully understand it until he was about fifteen, but he distinctly remembered being twelve and extremely uninterested in girls, whereas he thought some of the boys were pretty nice to look at.

He’d come out to his family when he was sixteen, and the Martins had already known when he’d moved in with them, but he hadn’t really explored it much in high school or university. He’d had a few flings here or there, but nothing serious, and it was different once he got his first real acting gig. He knew that he would be risking a lot if he made it known he wasn’t into women, so he’d asked for their advice.

All of them had told him to be himself. And he’d wanted to, he really had, but he kept reading things in magazines and watching interviews, and it was just so awful being anything but cishet in this day and age that he hadn’t wanted to ruin his career before it even began.

He didn’t lie to people, he just didn’t tell them the truth. When they asked him why he never had dates to events aside from his assistant Lydia, he just said he was waiting on the right person. Never the right woman, but the right person. No one had caught on, yet.

He made sure to make his kissing believable on set when he had to kiss women, and the one sex scene he’d ever done had been highly praised by his female co-star because she’d insisted he’d been very professional and she’d felt very comfortable with him.

That had been Kira Yukimura, whom he was now very close friends with, though she didn’t know he was gay, either. It was something no one outside the Martins, Cora, and one university friend knew. It wasn’t something he wanted to advertise, despite doing well for himself. He was waiting to hear back on a huge role he’d auditioned four times for, and they were close to making a decision. He’d figure out his next move once he knew whether or not he got the job.

He didn’t even know where he’d start to look for someone, though. He was kind of a big name, now, and he knew that most people would just look at his face and bend over backwards for him. He felt like his safest bet was in the Hollywood circles, but not many people were out, and those who were generally already had partners.

Sometimes, Derek felt like he was just going to be living old and alone in a giant mansion, looking back on his life and wishing for something different. Maybe one day he’d wake up and realize that he should’ve cared more about his happiness than money.

Though money helped him keep Cora and Lydia happy, so at least there was that.

“What’s with the face?”

Derek jerked away when Lydia poked him in the cheek with her toe. He slapped her foot away from his face and scowled at her, but she just gave him a look, waiting for an answer.

“This is how my face always looks.”

“Usually your eyebrows are higher. What are you thinking about?”

“Nothing,” he muttered, looking down at his script. “Just annoyed about this one scene, is all. I hate scenes with Jennifer.”

“Well, she’s your Lois Lane, not like you can avoid that.” Lydia looked at her phone again, then frowned and let it fall once more. “Has she calmed down a bit? I haven’t heard you whining about her lately.”

“I don’t whine.”

Lydia rolled her eyes and motioned for him to answer. He shook his head, letting out a sigh.

“No. She hasn’t calmed down. She just isn’t on set as much right now because she’s meant to be trapped in Fort Rozz so we don’t have any scenes together.”

“That’s good, at least.” Lydia looked down at her phone again and let out an insulted scoff. “Really? He’s taking her to ice cream now? Ugh, I hate this guy!”

Derek turned obediently towards her when she motioned for him to look at her phone. It was another selfie of Cora and her bus friend.

They both had ice cream on their noses, and her friend was cross-eyed while staring at it while Cora had her tongue out, as if trying to reach the ice cream on her own nose.

Derek couldn’t help the smile that slid onto his face.

While he was sad for Lydia, he was happy for Cora. Whether this was truly just a friend, or someone who would one day become something more, he was just glad she was less alone. She didn’t have many friends her age anymore, since most of them had moved away, so it was nice seeing her hanging out with someone who seemed to make her so happy.

This was a good thing. Cora having a close friend was a good thing.

Derek still thought the guy was really cute, though.

“You realize this is a huge step forward in our relationship, right?” Stiles asked while walking slowly up the hill, phone at his ear. “You better be sure about this, because if I walk into some weird witch’s lair, our friendship is going to suffer.”

“Don’t worry, Stilinski, I hid my cauldron and all my eye of newt. I promise I’ll pretend to be a perfectly normal human for tonight,” Cora teased on the other end. He could hear clattering, like she was making something, and he couldn’t help but grin.

“Aw, are you making me dinner?”

“Someone’s gotta feed that bottomless pit of yours, and I worry for my limbs if I don’t do it. I wouldn’t put it past you to cannibalise me if you got hungry enough.”

“You do look pretty tasty,” Stiles teased, grinning while walking into the 7-11 and nodding to Isaac. It was the beginning of his shift, based on the time, and Stiles wandered to the back to find some chips. “I’m at 7-11. Since this is the first time I’m going to your place for a fun evening, what kind of chips do you like?”

“Anything, really. Doritos, Ruffles, Miss Vicky’s. Dealer’s choice.”

“Well, in this case, you’re the dealer. It’s your house.” Stiles reached out to pick up a bag of Nacho Cheese Doritos and some Lays Ketchup chips. “You cool with nacho cheese and ketchup?”

“Sure. Can you get a sour cream and onion Lays, too?”

“Sounds good. Anything to drink?”

“I have some Coke and some beer, so up to you if you wanna grab something else, or if you’re good with that.”

“Sounds good to me. I’ll buy the chips and be there in a bit.” He repeated her address to ensure he still had it right, and she confirmed it, reminding him to buzz her. He hung up and put the phone away, wincing a little at the twinge in his elbow. It had been almost two months since his accident, but his elbow still hurt more often than not.

He’d gone to see a doctor about it, something his medicare covered, and the man confirmed it was still bruised and that wounds like that took months to heal, if they ever healed at all. Stiles hoped that it would, he didn’t want to have this pain for the rest of his life. It hurt a lot less than before, but he made sure never to use it to carry anything too heavy. That worked out just fine, for the most part, since he was right-handed.

Moving to the till, he nodded to Isaac again while setting his purchases down, then grabbed a random tub of brownies from a rack by the counter and added that to the pile.

“Looks like your eating habits haven’t improved,” Isaac teased while ringing him through.

“It’s movie night. I’m going to hang out at Cora’s for the first time. I invited her to mine, but apparently she had a fifty inch and surround sound, so if we’re gonna do a Star Wars marathon, her place sounds like the best bet.”

“You been hanging out with her a lot,” Isaac commented, getting everything into a bag while Stiles waited for the machine to load so he could tap his VISA. “You guys a thing?”

“Nah, we’re just friends.” Stiles was still watching the machine to make sure the transaction was approved, then put his card away and shoved his wallet back into his pocket. “She’s into her best friend, which is cool. I like our friendship, she’s fun to hang out with. Though it’s my first time going to her place, so I’m pretty stoked.”

“She been to yours?”

“Not yet.” Stiles grabbed his bags, being sure to hold both in his right hand, left arm bent and pressed against his stomach, which he’d been doing a lot since the sling had come off. “I think we both wanted to make sure neither of us were serial killers before hanging out alone in someone’s apartment.” He grinned. “Don’t worry, Isaac, I’m sure you’re not a serial killer, you’re welcome over whenever you want.”

Isaac rolled his eyes, leaning forward on the counter. “You’re a real riot, Stiles. But hey, while we’re on the topic, we’re going paintballing next week and we lost our fourth player. You interested in spending a night getting pelted with paint?”

“What day?” Stiles asked, pulling out his phone so he could check his calendar.

“We usually go around six on Wednesdays.”

“That actually works out perfectly.” Stiles grinned at him. “Cora has dinner with her brother on Wednesdays, so I’m free. Where should I meet you?”

He and Isaac exchanged numbers, something Stiles had always kind of wanted to do since they chatted a lot, and Isaac promised he’d text him the details the following week before their outing. Stiles waved over his shoulder, wished him a good night, and then exited the store.

It was almost eight at night, and Stiles didn’t really know why he and Cora had decided it was a good idea to do a marathon of extremely long movies at this hour on a Saturday, and yet, here he was. Heading over.

They’d been texting about how bored they were, and Stiles had offhandedly mentioned he might watch one of the Star Wars movies. Cora had said she owned all of them, including the new ones, and asked if he wanted to come over. She said they could make an entire evening of it and camp out in her living room. He could even spend the night, as long as he promised not to eat her liver while she slept.

Stiles promised her liver would be safe, but he couldn’t guarantee her brain. She’d agreed to live with that risk and had told him to come over in something comfortable so she would be allowed to look like a bum.

And that was how Stiles found himself walking up the hill towards her apartment in dark blue sweats and a grey T-shirt. He had his hoodie on overtop, because it was November, and thus cold, but it wasn’t far between their houses and it hadn’t snowed yet so he figured he’d survive with just the hoodie.

When he reached Cora’s street, he turned down it and headed for the apartment building at the end of the cul-de-sac. He whistled when he approached it, because it looked really fancy, but Cora had already admitted to being “comfortable,” and Stiles’ own apartment was actually extremely nice for the price he paid. He knew it was the area that made it so cheap, but it was still pretty fucking fancy.

He supposed maybe it was the same for Cora, though she’d admitted to her best friend’s parent’s house being a few blocks away, so maybe she just wanted to stay in the area overall.

Moving to the box at the front of the building, he dialled the buzzer for Cora. When she answered and he confirmed it was him, she told him to hit the top floor in the lift and then buzzed him in.

Stiles wandered into the lobby and moved to the elevators. When he hit the ‘up’ button, the one on the left opened right away and he walked inside. His finger hesitated by the controls, because the top button was for the Penthouse. After a few seconds, he hit the floor beneath it, figuring she meant the top floor before the Penthouse.

Nothing happened, so he hit it again, but it wouldn’t light up. He paused for a second, then hesitantly hit the Penthouse button.

It lit up.

“Holy shit, she’s more than just fucking comfortable,” Stiles whispered to himself. Cora lived in a Penthouse?

No wonder she always insisted on paying for dinner when they went out. Stiles always fought her on it, but she was very violent and tended to win most of their fights. Stiles had always been told never to hit girls, but sometimes he wanted to make an exception for Cora, because she punched hard.

The elevator doors opened at the top and Stiles stared out at the entranceway, complete with shoes and an umbrella rack, and leading directly into the apartment, the living room visible from where he was standing.

“Uh, hello?” he asked uncertainly.

Cora’s head peeked around the corner on the left and she grinned. “Come on in. Sorry, just finishing up with the sausage rolls.”

Stiles walked slowly into the apartment, the elevator doors shutting behind him. He turned to look at them, then faced forward again, feeling uncomfortable.

“So your door is just the elevator? Isn’t that kind of creepy? What if someone hit the top floor?”

“You can’t come to the Penthouse without a fob unless I buzz you in,” Cora informed him. When he rounded the corner into the kitchen, he saw that she had a few plates out, some with sausage rolls, others with pizza rolls, some spinach puffs, and a heaping plate of nachos.

He idly wondered if anyone else was coming, but then figured maybe she didn’t have people over very much and was just excited. She made it sound like Stiles was kind of her only friend aside from her best friend, who was always busy.

“What about when you order in?”

“Oh, I always go down to get it, I never buzz delivery guys in. Only people I know.” Cora closed the oven, having just pulled out the last of the sausage rolls, and she set the pan down on top of the stove, taking off her oven mitts and turning to him. “So, think this is enough?”

“More than enough. You remember it’s just two of us, right?” Stiles asked, setting the chips on the counter. “I brought brownies, too.”

“Oh, sweet. I have ice cream, we can make sundaes.”

“I would ask you to marry me if you weren’t already taken,” Stiles said with a grin. Cora grinned back and slugged him in the good arm on her way by towards the living room. “So, uh, this place is really nice.”

“Thanks.” Cora turned on the large television and began fiddling with the remotes, likely getting Star Wars cued up. “My brother bought it for me.”

“He must be one hell of a stripper,” Stiles teased, opening her cabinets in search of bowls for the chips.

“My brother is the best stripper.”

“You shouldn’t really be commenting on how amazing of a stripper your brother is, that’s weird.”

Cora laughed, but conceded his point. Stiles looked around while setting a bowl down on the counter, opening one of the bags of chips and dumping it out into it.

The Penthouse looked like it had two floors. This floor had the entrance, along with the kitchen, living room and a dining room in the back corner. There was also a small bathroom out near the entrance, with only a sink and toilet. There was a flight of stairs just past the dining room that led to another level, which likely housed Cora’s bedroom, and possibly a den and another bathroom.

Stiles popped a chip into his mouth, then picked up the bowl and the plate of nachos and headed for the living room. Cora had set up a whole bunch of pillows and blankets on the floor in front of the coffee table, and Stiles grinned while putting the items down.

“Nice setup.”

“Yeah, I figured if we passed out, we could be comfortable this way. The couch would mess up our necks.” Cora was still fiddling with one of the remotes, and Stiles realized she was scrolling through a huge library of movies. He figured she probably had them all digital, though he did see a bookcase of movies in the corner, so he wandered over to check out her taste.

He was pleased to find a lot of things he himself liked, and he perked up when he got to the TV shows.

“Hey, you like The Last Son of Krypton, too?” he asked, grabbing the case and pulling it down so he could flip it over. The back had a super sexy picture of Derek Wolfe in his Superman outfit. “I love that show.”

“Oh?” Cora asked, still flipping through the movies. “I actually don’t like it that much. I find it kind of boring. My brother got that for me.”

“Oh.” Stiles put the show back and kept browsing what she had. “I get it. I can see how it’d be boring sometimes, but I think it really picked up in season two. Oh hey, you like Firefly? I love Firefly!”

“For real?” Cora was beside him instantly, looking thrilled. “Isn’t it the best? Oh God, Nathan Fillion is amazing.”

“Right?” Stiles exclaimed, shaking his head. “Oh man, and the actress who plays Inara—”

“So hot!” Cora exclaimed.

So hot,” Stiles agreed. “But also a great actress,” he insisted, pointing at Cora before heading back to the kitchen to grab more of the food. “We shouldn’t forget the important things, like acting. But oh man, is she ever gorgeous.”

Cora went back to setting up the movie and Stiles moved all the food from the kitchen to the coffee table. He brought over the other two bags of chips, but left them unopened under the table, so they could grab at them later.

When Cora set up the fourth Star Wars, insisting they had to watch them in order—which Stiles was not complaining about—she went to the kitchen to grab drinks and came back with a Corona for Stiles, who was already comfortably seated on the pillowed floor.

Cora joined him and they clinked bottles before she started the movie.

They had both seen it so many times that it was easy for them to talk about all their likes and dislikes without worrying the other would miss out on anything important. By the time the first movie had finished, Stiles had devoured most of the sausage rolls and at least half of the nachos. He’d taken a few pizza rolls and spinach puffs, as well, but because of how the food was laid out, he tended to stick more to his side and Cora to the other.

When Cora worked to set up the next movie, Stiles switched the snacks around so that they could both have a bit more of what had been in front of the other.

They pulled out the brownies and ice cream when they’d finished Episode VI, wanting the sugar high to get through the worst of all the movies, which was Episode I. By the time they finished, they were delirious from sugar and exhaustion, but they still started the next one, anyway.

Cora passed out first, Stiles still shovelling chips into his mouth while he watched the movie, but he fell asleep at some point during the middle. He didn’t even remember what he’d last seen, but it didn’t matter.

When he woke up next, sun was streaming through the windows beside them, and Cora had her head on his shoulder, drooling slightly onto his shirt. Stiles inhaled deeply, rubbing his face with both hands, and looked around.

He started violently and let out a shout which woke Cora at the woman calmly sitting on the loveseat to their left, reading a magazine.

She didn’t even glance up at his shout.

“Stiles, what the hell?” Cora demanded, burying her face in his chest and trying to go back to sleep.

“Uh, Cora?” Stiles shook her shoulder lightly, but she just batted his hand away. “Cora, there’s uh, someone here.”

“What?” Cora shifted her face slightly so she could look up at him, then turned to where he was looking before she jerked into a seated position. “Oh shit! It’s Sunday! Brunch!”

“Indeed,” the woman said, still perusing her magazine. “I’d be mad, except it’s been a long time since I’ve seen you spend time with someone other than Lydia.” She finally closed the magazine and set it in her lap, looking up at them and smiling slightly. “Hello.”

“Hi,” Stiles said awkwardly, kind of figuring this was Cora’s best friend’s mother, the woman who’d taken Cora and her brother in when their parents passed away.

“I’m Natalie Martin, Cora’s mother.”

“Stiles Stilinski. It’s nice to meet you.” He felt incredibly uncomfortable and wondered how long she’d been there. The coffee table had been cleared, and their plethora of beer bottles were nowhere in sight, so at least long enough to clean up around them.

“And you, as well,” Natalie said, standing. “Now that you’re both awake, Geoff is waiting for us for brunch. We should go.”

“Sorry,” Stiles said, hurrying to get up while Cora whined and tried to bury herself in a coccoon on the pillowed floor. “I didn’t mean to—I’ll go. I didn’t know she had plans today.”

“Oh, you’re coming, too,” Natalie informed him, which had Stiles pause in his backing away.

“I’m sorry?” he asked.

“All we ever hear is ‘Stiles this,’ and ‘Stiles that.’ Well, I now have Stiles in front of me, so you’re coming to brunch. You live nearby, yes? Run home and change, we’ll pick you up once I’ve gotten Cora more presentable.”

“Mum,” Cora whined. “Can’t we skip today?”

“We have not skipped a single Sunday brunch since my daughter and your brother went off to work elsewhere, and we’re not about to start now. Come on, up. Stiles, leave your address on the whiteboard in the kitchen, we’ll be there in twenty minutes.”

Stiles kind of wanted to run, but he didn’t know where the emergency exit was in the Penthouse so he just obediently went to the kitchen to write his information on the whiteboard and hurried to the elevator.

He rushed down the street in his sweats and hoodie, a few people giving him odd looks, because it was cold as balls today and he was wearing barely anything, but he made it home with all his toes and started rushing through his usual morning routine, brushing his hair and teeth, getting some presentable clothes on, and trying to make himself look like a normal human being.

He knew it was a lost cause, at this point, because Cora’s surrogate mother had already seen him passed out and likely drooling—though not as much as Cora. He wondered if Natalie and her husband, presumably Geoff, knew that he and Cora were only friends. He supposed she’d walked in on something a little suggestive, but then again, they’d been in the living room with their clothes on, so he doubted it.

When he was ready, he exited his apartment and was heading down the stairs when Cora texted to say they were outside. He moved faster, racing down them as quickly as he could and exiting the building.

There was a sleek, dark grey Mercedes in front of the building, so he climbed into the back, Cora up front with Natalie.

“Wow, you really live super close,” Cora said, sounding a bit more human than she had earlier. “That’s cool. Party at yours next time, where people with spare fobs can’t invade our space and kidnap us for brunch.”

“Brunch is tradition,” Natalie insisted, easing out onto the street and beginning to drive back the way they’d come from Cora’s. “And you’ve spent almost every evening with Stiles since he saved you, I think it’s about time Geoff and I got to meet him.” She glanced in the rearview mirror at Stiles. “Thank you, by the way. For what you did. I understand you were badly injured.”

“It was nothing, I’m mostly fine now.” Stiles smiled. “Just a bruised bone in my left arm, but it should go away.”

“Well, we’re very lucky you were there. If something had happened to Cora—”

“Mum,” Cora insisted, giving her a look. “Can we not? Please.”

“Of course.” Natalie smiled at her, then faced forward once more. “Either way, thank you. It’s very nice to meet you, finally.”

“Thanks. You too.”

Stiles was extremely worried about this brunch. He hoped it went well, because he really, really liked spending time with Cora.

“He’s won over my mom!” Lydia insisted angrily, pacing behind Derek. “How did he win over my mom?! She loves him, Derek! That’s what she said! Loves him! Why is he even at Sunday brunch, anyway?!”

Derek’s make-up artist looked amused while she worked on him, but it was probably mostly because of Derek’s expressions. He didn’t know what he should be saying right now, because everything that came out of his mouth seemed to be making Lydia angrier.

He tried to be sympathetic, and she snapped that he was condescending. He tried to be understanding, and she said he was being uncaring. He tried to side with her, and she said he was treating her like a child.

It was safer to just keep his mouth shut.

“And they were cuddling, Derek! Cuddling! Why was he even at her place?! Your sister never invites people over, she likes her home to be hers! No one except us are ever allowed over, so how did he get an invite? What, is he a magician or something?!”

“You’re all done,” his artist said to him, but Derek just shook his head and widened his eyes, then motioned his face again. The woman smiled to herself, covering a laugh with a cough, and continued pretending to apply makeup on him while Lydia raged behind him.

“I bet he has alternative motives! Bad intentions! Probably knows she paid his hospital bill and wants to get some money out of her! We should investigate him, send out a private detective or something!”

“Lydia, they’re just friends,” Derek said, for what felt like the millionth time. He had to catch himself before saying her name, and amended to, “My sister said they’re just friends, and I believe her. She’s just been a little lonely since we both left, and I think he’s the first person she’s really clicked with since you. She doesn’t see him that way.”

“But that could change!” Lydia insisted, moving to stand beside him and pointing a finger at Derek. “You need to do something, Derek!”

“Or you could,” he suggested, giving her a look.

Lydia glared at him, and went back to pacing furiously. Derek thanked the makeup artist, since he didn’t want to keep her any longer, and then stood to get out of the chair, moving out of the trailer and towards wardrobe.

“Derek, this is an actual problem. He’s super cute, and my parents love him, which means your sister probably does, too! I mean, look at this!”

Lydia thrust her phone in his face, showing off a picture Natalie had taken of Cora passed out on her living room floor, head on her bus buddy’s shoulder. They made a cute couple, if he was honest, and he felt a pang in his chest at the realization that he might never have that.

When Lydia’s screeching started to get on his nerves enough, he turned to her and pulled at her arm to get her between two trailers, lowering his voice before speaking and cutting her off mid-sentence.

“Lydia, nothing is going on between this guy and Cora, but if you don’t want anything to happen, you should do something about it. You and Cora are best friends, you’ve known each other forever, you have a chance to be happy, which is more than I can say for myself. Instead of bitching at me about how you want her and can’t have her, maybe you should just talk to her and see about a relationship before you regret it.” He let her arm go, feeling his chest ache. “There are a lot of things I regret in my life, including not having told my parents and Laura how much I cared about them before they got on that plane. Cora almost died two months ago. She would have if this guy hadn’t saved her. I think the two of you have been dancing around each other long enough, just fucking do something about it.” He turned on his heel, walking away, and called back for her to buck up or shut up.

She didn’t follow him into wardrobe, but she was waiting for him outside when he emerged in his Clark Kent getup, complete with glasses and everything. She didn’t look happy, but he just raised his eyebrows at her while heading for the set.

“I’m having coffee with her at her place next Thursday,” Lydia said bitterly. “She said she already had plans with Stiles Monday and Tuesday, and she has you Wednesday.”

“At least she made time for you,” Derek insisted. “And try and tone down the hate for her new friend, it might make things awkward and uncomfortable if you don’t.”

“Like you’re one to talk about awkward and uncomfortable,” Lydia insisted with a scoff.

Derek smiled slightly but it instantly slid off his face when two hands wrapped around his middle and he felt boobs pressing into his back, hot breath ghosting along his neck.

“Hi Derek.”

“Jennifer,” he said coldly, pulling her hands away from around his middle and stepping away from her.

“I’ve missed you these past few weeks,” she insisted, moving into his space again. He just kept moving backwards, Lydia half-stepping in front of him like some kind of shield, staring at her phone like she didn’t even notice she was doing it.

It was something Lydia had perfected months ago when Jennifer Blake had first started making her interest in Derek known.

“I’m sure you survived,” he informed her.

Jennifer laughed, as if he’d just told a funny joke, and tried to side-step Lydia, who just shifted her weight and kept typing on her phone.

“We have a lot of fun scenes today,” Jennifer said, eying Lydia with irritation, but the smile staying on her face. “I was thinking maybe we could practice some of them. Or maybe go for a coffee between takes.”

“I think we can manage just fine without practising beforehand,” Derek insisted, wondering what he had to do to get her off his back. He’d been polite with her at first, wanting to stay professional, but when she started ignoring his requests to stop harassing him, he’d started getting a little less polite. Now, he was downright rude to her, yet she still persisted. Not only was it a huge concern for him, considering his last avid fan, but it was also getting on his nerves to the point where he was going to end up asking to have Lois Lane written out of the show.

Maybe they could kill off her character, it’d be really emotional for Superman, he’d probably cry. Women loved it when Derek cried on screen, it would be a good episode.

“You need to get to set,” Lydia said to Derek, shifting her gaze to look over at him. “You’re gonna be late.”


Derek turned without a word to Jennifer, Lydia following him. Jennifer herself called goodbye to him and said she’d see him later when they had their heartfelt reunion.

“I really hate her,” Derek informed Lydia.

“She could try a little harder not to climb you like a tree,” Lydia agreed, scowling down at her phone. “Look at this. Looks at this garbage. This is unacceptable.”

When Lydia turned her phone to show it, Derek smiled at the sight of the two Martin parents, along with Cora and her bus buddy taking a selfie together.

Cora really did look good with her bus buddy, and he kind of hated it, because the guy was really fucking cute. And anyone who could make Cora smile that widely after all the shit that had happened in their lives was someone Derek desperately wanted for himself.

Stiles felt a huge pressure against his chest, stumbling back a few steps before clutching at his injury. He let out a pathetic gasp, falling to his knees, gasping for air.

“Isaac,” he said throatily, dropping the gun in his other hand so he could stretch it out towards his friend desperately. “Avenge me.”

Stiles fell face-first into the grass and lay still, hearing Isaac laugh beside him before he let out a loud, “Aw, man! Come on!”

Turning his head, Stiles saw he now had red paint splattered against the side of his headgear, blocking a majority of the protective shield in front of his face to avoid getting hit in the eye with a paintball.

Grinning, Stiles jumped back to his feet, picking up his fallen weapon and wiping smears of dirt off the front of his own shield, since he’d practically buried his face in the mud. He wandered over to Isaac and slapped him in the shoulder.

“Good game.”

“That was a great game, what are you saying?” The busty blonde who’d taken Isaac out came forward, lifting her headgear off now that the round was over, grinning toothily at them. “You know how to pick ‘em, Isaac. This was the best game we’ve ever played. Screw Dahler, he’s not invited anymore.”

Stiles just laughed while the last of their four-man team showed up, silent and intimidating, despite Isaac insisting he was a gentle giant. They hadn’t really had much of a chance to talk, because they’d been rushing to get out on the field since their time was limited.

He’d only managed to catch their names: Erica Reyes and Vernon Boyd. They were pretty cool, he supposed, but he would know more when they headed out to dinner. None of them had eaten before coming out to play paintball, and Stiles was starving.

“I can’t believe we almost won, for once. I’m never on the winning team, and we were so close.” Isaac sighed and led the way back towards the road, where a large building stood to mark the entrance and exit of the playing field.

“Not my fault you weren’t fast enough,” Boyd informed Isaac in a deep baritone. “Could’ve been yours, but you waited too long.” He wrapped one arm around Erica’s shoulders and kissed her temple as they walked. She grinned ferally when Stiles turned to look at her.

“Erica’s a cop,” Isaac informed him, stumbling a step before catching his footing. “She has impeccable aim. Boyd’s in med school studying to be a surgeon, so he’s got really steady hands.”

“You work at 7-11, and I work at ICBC. That seems unfair,” Stiles insisted, but he was still grinning when he said so.

“I argue that all the time, but they don’t want to switch teams.” Isaac pulled open the door to the building so the others could all file in, taking up the rear, but continuing to speak as if there weren’t two people between him and Stiles. “They insist it’s bad for their relationship when they’re on opposing teams.”

“The last time I won a game against Erica, she made me sleep on the couch for a week,” Boyd insisted, turning to look at Stiles. “She’s a sore loser.”

“You cheated, and you know it,” Erica insisted, the four of them moving to the front counter. They returned all the added gear they’d been lent for the game, but Stiles still had spatterings of paint all over his clothes. He didn’t care, because this had been fun as hell, but he hoped it washed out. He hadn’t exactly thought his outfit through, and he really liked these pants.

They headed back outside, the four of them piling into Boyd’s truck and heading back towards town, since they’d driven almost half an hour outside of it to get to the paintball place. Apparently it was the cheapest and most satisfying, so Stiles couldn’t complain. He was poor, and shooting at people had been fun.

Isaac and Boyd were teasing one another the whole ride to the diner they wanted to have dinner at, mostly about Erica and how Isaac had had his shot and blown it. Stiles learned that the three of them had been friends since middle school, and when Erica had started becoming more like Erica and less like “oh, that’s just Erica”—namely, she wasn’t ‘one of the guys’ anymore—both Isaac and Boyd had been interested.

Being a good friend, Boyd had backed off when Isaac made it known he was into her, but he took too long to ask her out, and eventually Boyd got tired of waiting on him to decide what he wanted to do. He told Isaac to ask Erica out before a certain date, or he would.

Isaac had chickened out. Boyd hadn’t. Six years later, and they were still together.

Stiles could tell Isaac wasn’t bitter about it, but he was sure he regretted not taking that leap. It was hard, sometimes, seeing someone and thinking ‘what if,’ but Isaac insisted that by the time he got his head out of his ass, he realized Erica was more like a sister to him, and it wouldn’t have worked out, anyway.

“What about you?” Isaac asked when they all finally took their seats, having ordered at the bar and each being given a separate number tag for their orders. “You’ve been hanging around with that Cora girl a lot. You guys serious?”

“Nah, it’s not like that.” Stiles took a sip of his Sprite, the carbonated drink fizzing against the back of his throat. “We just hang out a lot.”

“You hang out a lot, but you’re not dating?” Isaac gave him a skeptical look. “What do you do then?”

“This might come as a surprise to you, Isaac, but there’s this thing that sometimes a guy and a girl do. It’s called building a friendship.” He pretended to gasp in awe. “Sometimes, they just like spending time together because they enjoy each other’s company, and not because one of them wants to sleep with the other.”

Erica grinned at Isaac, who rolled his eyes and wisely decided to keep his mouth shut.

“So, you’re not into this girl?” Erica eyed Stiles. “She not hot enough for you or something?”

“No, we’re just not like that.” He shrugged. “She’s cute, and we get on, but she likes someone else and she told me that from the get-go. Maybe if she hadn’t, things might’ve turned out differently, but because I knew from the beginning that she wasn’t interested and never would be, she kind of just got relegated to the friend zone in my brain and now she hangs out there.” He shrugged again. “I don’t know, we have fun. We hang out. I like spending time with her. Neither of us have many friends out here, all of mine are back home and most of hers have moved away. It’s cool having someone to spend time with.”

“Well, now you’ve got us.” Erica reached across the table and rubbed his head almost violently, Stiles positive he’d lost more than a few strands of hair. “Keep Wednesdays open, okay? We should do this every week.”

“What about your other friend?” Stiles asked with a frown.

“Honestly, he’s not really a friend.” Isaac winced. “He used to go to school with us, and when we needed a fourth player, he was around and available.”

“He’s kind of weird,” Boyd informed Stiles. “And not in a quirky way. In a serial killer kind of way. You’re a lot more comforting.”

“Yeah, you’re the quirky weird.” Erica grinned at him again, all teeth. “We like you.”

“I feel like you’re trying to get me to join a cult,” Stiles said slowly, uncertainly.

“If paintball is considered a cult.” Isaac rolled his eyes, then turned to Stiles fully, suddenly excited. “Hey, did you see that trailer yet for that new horror movie?”

Stiles realized, very quickly, that he and Isaac had a lot in common, including their love for horror movies. Before he’d even realized it, Stiles had another outing scheduled with Isaac and Erica—Boyd decided he preferred sleeping at night—to see the newest horror movie that weekend. The two of them began trying to monopolize his time, but Stiles had to pump the brakes after realizing they’d taken more than half of his afternoons the following week. He didn’t want to start ditching Cora, and was somewhat relieved when Erica insisted she should come, too.

Erica didn’t seem to have many girl friends, and it looked like Isaac was tired of being the third wheel. It worked out well for all of them, since Boyd had exams coming up and would likely be studying his ass off before winter break.

They gave him a ride home, Stiles wincing at the time since it was fairly late and he had an early morning. Isaac called goodbye to him, and Erica informed him they would steal his number from Isaac later. Then, they drove off, leaving Stiles standing in the doorway of his apartment building feeling pretty damn good.

It had taken him a year, but at least he had people to hang out with, now. Non work-related people, to boot! Not that there was anything wrong with the people he worked with, but most of them were either much older or much younger than him. Isaac and Erica were one year older than him, and Boyd was two years older. Cora was one year younger than him. Overall, it worked out well.

And they were all awesome.

Heading into the building, he reached his apartment relatively quickly and pulled out his phone to check it for messages. He’d put it in a ziploc bag, because Isaac had insisted his phone had gotten ruined once, and Stiles was kind of glad when he pulled it out and found some paint along the edges.

Making sure his hands were clean, he pulled it out of the bag before tossing it, then sat on the couch to check over all his messages.

He had a few from Scott about Christmas, since it was quickly approaching, and one from his dad. Stiles replied to those ones first before checking the ones he had from Cora.

Why do I let myself be talked into dinner with my brother every week?
He’s always late
And I’m hungry :(
He’s here! FINALLY!
My bestie didn’t come with him though :(
Trying to break my poor little heart
Though I’m seeing her tomorrow so <3
Hope you’re having fun getting pelted with paint!

He knew it was late, and she was probably sleeping, but he’d feel bad if he didn’t reply, especially since he’d see her in the morning, so he did.

sry your brother sucks at time
buy him a watch 4 xmas
and i know you have fun with him :)
even when he’s late :)
paintball was fun
will show you bruises tmr
sleep well!

He started to set his phone down when it buzzed, his eyes returning to it. He smiled at Cora’s response, then put the phone away.

You too, dork. Missed you today.

yea me too

He groaned while getting back to his feet and headed for his bedroom to get ready for bed.

Tomorrow was going to suck.

Stiles was dutifully stuffing his face with cinnamon buns from Cora’s workplace, having been brought a batch of six at work during one of Cora’s breaks. It was her apology for ditching him two nights in a row, which he thought was adorable, but didn’t say so.

He didn’t want to get punched.

He hadn’t really had anything planned for the evening, so he’d ended up watching reruns of Friends on TV. He’d already eaten dinner, but now he wanted something sweet and he was working on cinnamon bun number four of the day, and was going to have to tell Cora to stop giving him a six-pack or else he was going to get diabetes.

His fingers were still sticky with gooey cinnamon and frosting when his phone rang. Stiles hastily got to his feet and rushed to the kitchen sink, rinsing off his hands and digging into his pocket for his phone. He got the screen wet trying to answer the call, but finally managed it after much effort.

“Hey Cora, wha—”

“I have a date with Lydia!”

Stiles held the phone as far away from his ear as he could, because the level with which those words had been delivered was actually painful. It even took him a few seconds to figure out what she had just said, but once the words registered, he brought it close to his ear again, grinning.

“What, for real? That’s great!”

“No, Stiles! That’s not great! That is the opposite of great!”

Uh oh, Stiles thought, knowing immediately what was happening. “Cora, listen to me,” he said softly, moving back into the living room and picking up the remote so he could mute the television. “This is great. You’ve liked her for a long time, and you’re close friends. Everything is going to be fine, and you’re going to have a great time.”

He could hear her laboured breathing on the other end, and knew she was two seconds away from completely losing her cool.

Stiles could completely understand where she was coming from. While he, himself, had never experienced the desire of wanting someone and then actually getting them, he could imagine how scary this was for her.

Cora had liked Lydia for years, as far as she’d told Stiles, and to finally have a shot with her, all she could think about was what she would do wrong. It didn’t matter that they were best friends, it didn’t matter that they both wanted this, to Cora, everything was about to go down in flames because she would somehow mess up this perfect thing that she wanted.

Unfortunately, the human brain was a giant asshole, so he knew that no matter how happy Cora was for this date, she was also completely terrified for it.

He hated that. He hated that she was getting something she wanted and too busy worrying about fucking it up to be excited about it. He felt bad she couldn’t just be happy.

“Cora,” he insisted a few minutes later, interrupting her mid-sentence. “Cora, you’re going to be fine!” When she just continued, voice shriller, Stiles sighed. “Cora, what is the most embarrassing thing you’ve ever done in your life?”

That threw her off enough for her to pause. “What?”

“Most embarrassing thing you’ve ever done. Go.”

She was silent for a moment, then said, “Probably that one time I bet some asshole in high school that I could eat more hotdogs than him. I couldn’t. I threw them all up.”

“Was Lydia there?”

Another pause. “Yes.” 

“So if you consider that to be the most embarrassing thing you’ve ever done, and Lydia still asked you out despite witnessing it, what could you possibly do that would make her change her mind?”

Cora was quiet for a moment. “But it’s not the same thing,” she insisted quietly.

“How is that not the same thing? Cora, you and Lydia have known each other for a long time. She’s seen you laugh, and cry, and make an ass of yourself. She’s seen you angry, she’s seen you angry at her, she’s probably seen you drunk off your ass, and she’s definitely seen you ugly-sleeping.”

Cora let out a weird nose, crossed between being offended and laughing.

“Cora, she knows you. Every part of you. She took the chance to ask you out, even though she was probably terrified. Think about what you were thinking when I asked you all those months ago why you never asked her out. Everything you were thinking is probably what she was thinking tonight. But she took a chance, and it worked out in her favour. You’re both freaking out about this, but it’s only reinforcing how much you want to be together. If you didn’t, you wouldn’t be this worried.”

Cora let out a slow breath, and Stiles could practically see her calming down. “Yeah. Yeah, you’re right.” She let out another slow breath and Stiles felt like she was probably pacing. “Thanks, Stiles.”

“I know you’re just scared of disappointing her. But you won’t. You’re gonna have a great time, and she’s gonna monopolize you all the time, now.” He half-smiled at that. He was secretly glad he had Isaac, now, otherwise he’d have gone back to being alone and bored all the time.

“You’re not wrong,” Cora said with a laugh. “But I wouldn’t just ditch you like that. Besides, she works a lot, and if nothing else, I’d get to harass you in the mornings.”

“True.” He smiled. “When’s your date?”

“Sunday night. She’s gonna come to Sunday brunch, too. She might be able to drag my brother, but I doubt it. He usually relishes his quiet Sundays when he can.”

“Well, I can come over tomorrow and we can pick out the sexiest outfit you own, if you want.”

“That sounds like the best Friday plans ever.”

Stiles grinned and started planning for food and music to bring, because choosing the right outfit was going to be an all night affair, obviously.

Even as he was happy for Cora, he couldn’t help but feel a little jealous, too. Cora had a crush on her best friend, who ended up asking her out. Stiles’ crushes never worked out, so it was always a little disappointing to hear about friends making their dreams come true in the romantic sense.

He figured it was safest to just stick with people he could never have. Like actors.

Like Derek Wolfe.

Not like something that could never happen would ever hurt him.

Derek was going to break his remote. He knew he was going to do it, even as he continued to change the channels viciously, scowling at the television. There was nothing good on. There was fucking nothing on!

Every time he turned to a new channel, it was a rerun of something stupid, or his own fucking show—which was also fucking stupid, if he was honest. He didn’t want to watch himself on the screen. Sure, he watched the episodes as they aired, just to remember what was going on while he was filming episodes ahead, but he only ever watched them once.

Whenever they sent him the new box sets, he gave them to Cora, even though she didn’t watch the show. He couldn’t just toss them, that would be ruder than even he felt comfortable with, and he figured one day Cora might get bored enough to watch the show. She’d liked that one movie he was in with Kira, though it had been extremely uncomfortable for him knowing she was watching a movie he’d had a sex scene in.

She had even mentioned how she couldn’t watch and had just stared down into her lap so the guy she’d gone to see the movie with wouldn’t notice she was uncomfortable.

He wondered where that guy was, now. They hadn’t lasted long, though they never really did with Cora. She didn’t really date them, she just wanted friends, but guys who looked at her didn’t think about friendship. They saw dark hair, tanned skin, gorgeous eyes, and they wanted her. Derek had hated that about high school, always having to chase assholes off his sister.

But this new bus buddy... he was interesting. He didn’t seem at all interested with getting into Cora’s pants.

Hell, apparently he’d been at Cora’s the Friday before her date with Lydia, helping her choose the perfect outfit and being an all-around supportive friend. Derek hadn’t really known how to feel about someone else helping Cora get ready for her date, but he also acknowledged that he’d been busy that Friday and Saturday, and then had lounged and done nothing at home all day on Sunday.

He regretted not going to brunch, but it was so much effort being ‘on’ all the time, and while he knew he could just chill and be himself with his surrogate family, sometimes he just wanted a minute to breathe.

Lately, he seemed to have a lot of those breathing minutes. Ever since their date, Cora and Lydia seemed to be together more often than not. Lydia didn’t like driving in the city, so Derek was usually the one to get her where she needed to be, but since they became official, Lydia had started driving her yellow VW bug from downtown to where Cora lived in the suburbs. She spent the night sometimes, and Derek only saw her when they both showed up on set.

Most of the evenings, he was left alone. With shitty TV. And now that they’d hit the mid-season finale and had a break until the new year, he was frustrated. He wanted to be able to spend time with Lydia, or with Cora, or with both of them, but he was also conscious of the fact that they’d both been waiting for this for a long time, and he didn’t want to be the awkward third wheel.

Not to mention he couldn’t actually go anywhere without being recognized. If the girls wanted to go out, they would sacrifice their plans to stay in with Derek, if he asked them to. He didn’t want that. He wanted them to go and enjoy themselves.

Didn’t mean he wasn’t bitter about it, though.

He’d been texting off and on with Kira, who was one of his closest friends since their movie together two years ago, but she was in Portugal filming a new movie, so they couldn’t really hang out, and the time difference made it so that they barely caught one another to text live. Usually, it was Derek sending a message, then getting a reply right before bed.

He wished he had more friends in the industry, but it was so hard, nowadays. So many people cared only about looks and how much visibility they’d get to be seen with such and such a person.

Jennifer Blake was a perfect example. She just wanted Derek because he was nice to look at. She hadn’t even attempted a friendship with him! It was all about his toned muscles, his chiselled jaw, his bright eyes. Everyone looked at him and saw a piece of meat, and Derek fucking hated it.

He acknowledged it was the same for Cora. And for Lydia, actually, when he really thought about it.

It was probably why they both fell for each other so hard. They’d both seen one another in the awkward, gangly, growing up stages, and had still stuck by one another. Cora had held back puking Lydia’s hair after a night of too much drinking, and Lydia had taken care of drugged out of her mind Cora when she’d gotten her wisdom teeth pulled.

They just... they fit. Derek wished he’d made closer friends in high school, but even though he had a few, they’d grown apart as time passed, and by the time Derek became famous, none of them even knew it was him anymore. He’d been attractive in high school, but it wasn’t until he’d landed his first big role that he’d been classified as ‘gorgeous.’ He looked vastly different from when he’d been in high school, which he was thankful for because the last thing he needed was for someone to figure out who he was and then throw the media at Cora.

Derek Wolfe was an extremely private person, and he knew without a shadow of a doubt that the second any nuggets of his past came out, the paparazzi was going to swarm it. He didn’t want that for Cora.

She just wanted to bake things and make Derek fat.

Still, it would be nice to have a friend to hang out with. Better to have a partner, but Derek knew he’d chosen this. He wouldn’t be able to find anyone without admitting he was gay, and that wasn’t good for his career.

It reminded him that he needed to ask Lydia about whether or not she’d heard from his agent on that one role. He’d gone back for another screen test, but so far they were keeping everything under wraps. He knew they hadn’t chosen anyone yet, at least, but it was still nerve wracking to sit back and wait.

Marvel was a huge industry. If he got in, he was set for at least five movies—provided he didn’t fuck up and piss anyone off. Even coming out as gay once he did the first movie wouldn’t be enough fodder for them to get rid of him. He’d have to legitimately fuck up, yell at a director, be a total dick.

Not that he wasn’t a total dick, but he knew when to amp it up and when to tone it down.

God, Derek was bored. He was horny, too.

He couldn’t remember the last time he’d gotten laid. Before he made it big, for sure. He didn’t trust anyone to keep his secret, and it was hard to go out and find a one night stand when most people took one look at him and went, “Hey, you’re Superman!”

He should probably grow his beard out again. It made him at least marginally different, people didn’t recognize him quite so fast. But that was always a lost cause, because he always grew a decent one, and then had to shave it off for Superman.

Why couldn’t Clark Kent and Superman just have beards? Then again, it wouldn’t solve his problem.

Derek sometimes wondered if he shouldn’t just drop the whole thing, but then he remembered how much he wanted to give to Cora, to the Martins, to his eventual partner. He wanted to be able to provide anything for anyone, and he didn’t have any other marketable skills. Sure, his looks had started his acting career, but his actual talent was what had allowed him to come this far.

He just needed that Marvel role!

Derek started when his phone went off loudly on the coffee table. He reached out to snatch it up, and felt his bad mood instantly dissipate.

Stop brooding, I’m on my way home.

Wasn’t brooding
How’d it go?

I’ll tell you when I get there.

Derek resumed his hunt for something mildly entertaining to watch, so that Lydia would actually believe he’d been watching it and not brooding like he had been.

Not that he’d been brooding, exactly.

He was just bored, lonely and horny! Not brooding!

He eventually found a channel playing reruns of Happy Days and just settled on that. It was old school, but still entertaining, and it had Ron Howard, so it was a win all around.

Derek wasn’t sure he’d ever seen this episode, so he was actually mostly paying attention to it, and trying not to get distracted by waiting for Lydia to get back. It was her first time meeting Cora’s bus buddy, and she’d been stomping around angrily for a while before heading out, determined to hate him because Cora liked him so much.

He was kind of interested to know Lydia’s opinion of him. Anyone Cora liked this much was absolutely a threat, in her mind, but she would have to tolerate him because it would likely cause problems if she didn’t.

Derek hoped it went well. Lydia’s text was as vague as possible, so he figured it really could’ve gone either way.

When he heard a key in the lock, he turned towards the door, waiting for it to open. Lydia walked in a moment later, pink-cheeked and smiling. It wasn’t one of her haughty smiles, the ones she often sported that reminded people she was better than them. It was a genuinely happy smile, like everything in her life was slowly falling into place, and she couldn’t be happier.

Derek was glad, though also envious.

Probably not a complete disaster, then.

“So?” he asked, knowing she’d come over for a reason. “How did meeting the guy you hate go?”

Lydia shut the door and moved towards him, falling down onto the couch and immediately removing her shoes and setting her feet in Derek’s lap. He grabbed one out of habit, digging his thumb into the arch on the bottom, but his eyes never left her.

Letting out a slow breath, Lydia said, “If I wasn’t so in love with Cora, I think I might have a crush on her bus buddy.”

Derek’s hands stopped moving instantly, eyebrows raised. “That’s...” He didn’t even know what to say. He’d figured it had gone well, but that was high praise for someone like Lydia, especially since she was adamant he was trying to steal Cora from her.

“He’s amazing, Derek. He’s so nice, and supportive, and selfless, and super, super cute. I’m pretty sure once Cora and I are more settled, she’ll probably ask if we can have a threesome.” Lydia squinted slightly, thinking. “I’m angry at myself for not minding that. I would never want to share Cora, but I get it, now. I get how he sucked her in so far. How my mother immediately fell for his charm. I get it. Derek, he’s so, so great.” She smiled sadly at him. “I wish you could meet him.”

Derek shrugged, trying to play off her words like they didn’t affect him. He turned back to the television, where Happy Days was still playing. He knew the chances of him meeting one of Cora’s friends were slim, but he didn’t begrudge her for it. Cora had only ever introduced him to one of her friends since he’d become famous, and considering how that had gone, he didn’t blame her for not wanting to try again. It had been hard enough convincing him to keep his mouth shut, and at the end of the day, Derek was still positive the only reason they’d succeeded was because of Lydia.

It was better this way. They kept their lives separate so that it didn’t cause Cora problems.

“I know she’s just worried. About me, about herself. It’s fine.”

Lydia nudged him with one foot, making him turn back to her.

“I know Cora doesn’t like introducing you to people, but he seems different. I think, after some more time, if he proves what kind of person he is, she’ll change her mind.”

“It’s fine.” Derek faced the television again. “I don’t really care.” He paused. “Did you hear if they cast Lois Lane’s new partner yet?”

“They did, I heard from Jeremy on it,” Lydia said, pulling her phone from her purse and typing in her password. “He wouldn’t give me the name, they want to keep it quiet until we start filming again in the new year, but he’s a newbie. Really big personality, though. Huge presence. I’ve heard good things, so hopefully he’ll be good to work with.”

Derek grunted in response. He could only hope.

Maybe he could even have someone to hang out with who wasn’t Lydia. So far, he wasn’t doing well on the friends front, and it was starting to get really, really lonely.

It felt like entirely too long since Stiles had pulled his Jeep into the driveway of this particular house. He stared up at it with a grin, pleased everything looked exactly the same from the outside, save the Christmas decorations, and then turned off the engine.

Kicking open the door, he grabbed his duffel off the passenger seat and climbed out of the car, slamming the door and looking around as if he’d never been there before. He didn’t visit often enough.

He really needed to visit more.

He’d barely made it halfway up the porch steps when the door opened and Stiles beamed. His father was smiling brightly at him, and when he finally reached the door, he wrapped his free arm around his dad, the man crushing him tightly to his chest.

“Hey Pops,” he said, patting his father’s back twice before pulling away.

“Hey yourself.” His dad gave him a once over, still in his sheriff uniform. He’d probably just gotten off work. “Look at you. Still in one piece. I’m amazed.”

Stiles let out a sarcastic laugh and his dad patted his shoulder endearingly before stepping back into the house, Stiles following him. He was actually pretty surprised at how similar everything looked. His dad always joked that once Stiles moved out, he would redo the place in a more comforting image, but everything looked the same. When he went to drop off his bag in his room, which his father had insisted would become a mancave upon his departure, he found everything the same. His bed was even unmade, and some of his clothes were on the floor.

For some reason.

He set his bag down, and when he turned, he found his dad in the doorway. He pointed to the clothes in a pile on the floor and raised an eyebrow in question.

The sheriff shrugged, arms crossed over his chest. “I missed the place looking lived-in. Figured if I left some random things lying around, it’d be like you were still here.”

“That’s the saddest thing I’ve ever heard,” Stiles insisted, but he went to give his dad another hug and promised himself he would visit more often.

They headed back downstairs to make dinner, something easy since neither of them could cook. Stiles pulled off his hoodie and tossed it onto the back of a chair. He missed, having it land on the floor, but didn’t bother to pick it up and just went to the fridge to find some things to chop. He ignored the way his dad smiled at the mess, not wanting it to affect how badly he should move home.

But there was no work here. His dad was sheriff, he would always be fine, and he had a decent pension coming his way when he retired. But aside from being in law enforcement, or being in the medical field, everything else was either too high level for him, or too low level. Stiles had gone to university, he had an undergraduate degree, but nothing back home would allow him to make a decent living. He’d have to go back to school to learn a trade or something, and that wasn’t him. He was happy where he was, doing what he was doing, he just hated how far it was from his dad.

Stiles set his dad to boil water and cut up some tiny cubes of chicken while he chopped vegetables. He figured they could have a pasta dish with a chicken and vegetable-filled tomato sauce.

“So how are things? How’s work?” Stiles asked while he chopped, his dad off somewhere behind him apparently intent on banging all the pots and pans he owned. Stiles heard him set one down on the stove, and then almost cut his own finger off when he felt a light touch on his elbow.

Turning quickly, but keeping the knife firmly on the board, he saw his father right behind him, eyes on his arm, light fingers brushing the skin. Stiles twisted his arm to glance at it, as well.

A lot of his injuries from his fall saving Cora had scarred. His own fault more than the severity of them, he was an avid picker and he had picked the shit out of all his scabs. He didn’t really mind the scarring, it was proof of a life he’d saved, and he was a-okay with that.

His left elbow was doing better, too. It still hurt on occasion, but it was rare, now. Mostly when he picked up something really heavy with only his left hand. It tended to jar his elbow a little bit, but otherwise it was mostly healed. He was glad.

“How could you do something so stupid?” his dad asked in a quiet voice. “You could’ve gotten killed.”

Stiles sighed and set the knife down, turning to face his father and leaning back against the counter. “Guess I take after my dad.”

“I’m serious, Stiles.” He was using his sheriff voice, now, eyebrows downturned and hard set to his mouth. “Scott told me how bad it was.”

“Dammit, Scott!”

“He only told me after you’d already healed up. He knew you’d blame him, but he also knew I’d blame him if he didn’t say anything before you came home.”

“Oh.” Okay, now he felt bad for cursing Scott.

His father sighed, running one hand down his face, and Stiles felt a little guilty. He hadn’t meant to run out into the street while a black car was trying to hit Cora, he just... he didn’t want to see her get hurt, even before he’d known how amazing she was.

“Dad, I’m okay,” he insisted quietly. “I’m fine, and because I take after my dad, because I was determined to save someone’s life, I did. Cora is here and alive and completely fine because of how you raised me. I know you’re unhappy, but in the grand scheme of things, I think you raised a pretty good kid, don’t you?”

His dad sighed, giving him a look, and Stiles just gave him a ‘right? I’m pretty great, right?’ look. The sheriff rolled his eyes and pulled him in for another brief hug, then he inspected every visible inch of skin for more scars of war. It really wasn’t that bad, it was only his arms, and the scar on his head, but his hair had mostly grown back so it wasn’t visible anymore.

Besides, he kept reminding his dad Cora would’ve either died, or been in a wheelchair. The car was aiming for a pedestrian to get the cops off its tail, Cora would not have walked away from that hit.

“How is she, anyway?” his dad asked, once he’d finally started cutting up the chicken. “Your friend Cora. She doing okay?”

“She’s amazing,” Stiles said with a grin. He proceeded to tell his dad all about the various outings they’d had this past week.

He’d spoken to his dad about Cora before, during their various phone calls, but it was somehow easier to go into detail when they were face to face. He spent a majority of the dinner prep talking about Cora, and once they were sitting down and eating, he moved on to Isaac, Boyd and Erica, whom he’d been spending tons of time with lately, given Cora’s new relationship status.

It wasn’t that Cora ditched him or anything, she made time for him, but he knew she was excited about dating Lydia and he didn’t fault her for that. Lydia was pretty cool, too. She’d taken a bit of time to soften during their first meeting, but Stiles had met her a few times before heading home, and he felt like she didn’t mind him so much anymore. She was kind of a hard read, if he was honest.

“Sounds like you’re starting to like it up there,” his dad said with a fond smile.

That made Stiles feel a little guilty. He knew his dad wasn’t trying to make him feel guilty, but the last time he’d come home, he’d been talking about being unhappy and having no one to hang out with. Now, he was in a good place. He had a nice, affordable apartment, he liked his job, he had great friends.

All he was missing was a significant other, at this point.

And maybe a dog. Or a cat. He wasn’t sure. Maybe both?

“Yeah,” Stiles admitted quietly. “It’s been... the past few months have been really great.” He winced. “Sorry.”

“Why are you sorry?” His dad patted his shoulder and smiled at him. “I think it’s great, Stiles. I was worried about you, out there alone like this, but you seem to really have found yourself. I can’t wait to visit and meet your friends.”

“Thanks dad.” Stiles nudged him lightly under the table. “And who knows? Maybe by the time you drag your ass out there, I’ll have a partner.”

“Don’t tease me like that, no one would have you,” his dad said with a fond smile.

Stiles threw a piece of garlic bread at him, and grinned.

He didn’t admit that he thought his dad wasn’t necessarily wrong.

A depressing thought.

Derek tried extremely hard not to be annoyed. He knew he wasn’t succeeding, but everyone present was used to his attitude by now, so he just sat there and watched Cora bring the cake towards him while the whole family sang ‘Happy Birthday.’

He hated his birthday. Just another year of loneliness and regret. Another year of dealing with obsessive fans, worrying about getting another stalker, and having to keep himself in the closet for as long as he possibly could.

When Cora set the cake down in front of him, he gave her an unimpressed look. She gave him one back.

“Don’t be like that, Derek, you knew it was coming.”

“I specifically said I wanted Christmas to be about Christmas this year,” he reminded her. “Not my birthday.”

“Cora just wanted to do something nice for you,” Natalie insisted, rubbing gently at his arm. “We know you’re not big on celebrating, but we can’t ignore it. You’re an important person in our lives.”

“Don’t be a dick,” Cora added, then winced when Natalie gave her a look. “Sorry.”

Sighing, Derek stared down at the cake. It was truly a spectacularly beautiful cake. Chocolate, if he wasn’t wrong, with a thick layer of icing and a wolf design on the top. Derek really liked wolves, and Cora always tried to make his cakes wolf-themed, despite the fact that he told her every year that he didn’t want to celebrate his birthday.

The candles were beginning to melt, wax sliding down the sides and congealing on the surface of the cake. He knew it was stupid, wishing when blowing out the candles on a birthday cake, but it was tradition. Something everyone did when they blew out candles, and something his mother had always said to him whenever a cake was set down in front of him.

“Make a wish.”

Every time. Until the last time. And even then, the following year, Natalie had put a cake down in front of him, and said those exact same words. And he remembered going to his room after dinner and crying where no one could see or hear him, because the only wish he’d had that year was for his family to come back, and he knew it wouldn’t happen.

His wishes never came true, and after twenty-nine years of them, he was starting to feel like they held no purpose. There was no point to them. He could wish for something as hard as he wanted, but he knew at the end of the day, he had to go out and get it himself.

If it was even possible for him to get, considering resurrection was one of those things he didn’t think he could pull off.

Everyone was staring at him expectantly, and Derek just kept watching the wax melt. He could see Cora starting to shift, looking sad, uncomfortable, like she knew he was thinking depressing things. He didn’t want to make her sad.

I wish I wasn’t alone. It was the only thing he could think of, and he blew the candles out.

The tension between him and Cora lifted and she grinned, wrapping her arms around him from the side and kissing his temple wetly. He winced and shoved her off him, but she just laughed and turned to get some plates while Lydia plucked all the candles from the cake.

Geoff was cutting them all pieces when Cora returned with plates and cutlery.

“So what’d you wish for?” she asked, taking her seat and pushing the items she’d brought along into the center of the table, closer to Geoff.

“He can’t tell us, it won’t come true,” Lydia insisted, flipping some hair over her shoulder, but leaning slightly against his sister.

“Even without telling people, they don’t come true.”

“Don’t be a grump,” Lydia insisted, pointing at him. “Think positive.”

“I’m positive it won’t come true,” he amended.

Lydia gave him a look for that and Cora rolled her eyes.

“I’m sure that’s not true,” Natalie insisted, reaching over and brushing some of his hair back. He’d been letting it grow out since the break from work had started. He knew she liked it better when it was short, but sometimes, he just wanted to let himself go for a little while. He had the beginnings of a beard, too, but Natalie insisted it made him look handsome, so that she didn’t mind.

They said nothing more while Geoff handed out slices of cake, Derek pulling his plate closer and stabbing his fork into it before shoving a much larger than necessary bite into his mouth. It was delicious, and somehow, the middle was gooey. Almost like a lava cake and a regular cake had a baby. It was fucking amazing.

“Thanks Cora.”

“Welcome, loser.”

They chatted briefly about their morning plans while eating the cake, discussing how they wanted to proceed. They always had a huge breakfast party the day after Christmas, but they tended to alternate where it was held and who cooked. It was Cora’s turn this year, and they were trying to determine what they wanted without going overboard.

Derek had just about finished his cake when a phone went off. Cora immediately dug it out of her pocket, smiled endearingly, then began to respond to the text message she’d evidently received.

“Cora,” Natalie insisted. “No phones at Christmas dinner.”

“It’s your other son,” she insisted, but she obediently put her phone away once her message was sent.

“Oh please, Derek’s my only son.” Natalie reached out to brush his hair back once more.

“That’s not what you said the other day,” Lydia whispered softly into her glass of wine, smile on her lips.

Natalie looked affronted and began to scold them both for telling dirty, dirty lies. Derek didn’t actually mind, he thought it was great that Cora’s new friend was so close with everyone. He wished he could meet him, but he didn’t want to make things awkward for Cora.

The one and only friend of hers he’d met in the past had immediately freaked out and ditched Cora once it became clear her brother wasn’t going to lend him money, sign autographs, get him into ‘the biz.’ While her bus buddy didn’t sound like that at all, it was something that had stuck with Cora.

The same way Derek’s last stalker had stuck with him, making it impossible for him to want to go to any conventions or events. It was also why he was becoming more and more nervous around Jennifer Blake.

“What’s he like?” Derek asked a few minutes later. He hadn’t even realized he’d spoken until everyone was looking at him. It became clear fairly quickly that they had moved on to another topic while he’d been thinking, because they all looked confused.

“Who?” Cora finally asked.

“Your bus buddy.”

Derek had heard a lot about him, of course he had, but it was still nice knowing more about him. It was like he’d actually met him when they gave him all the little details.

Though he noticed they were very careful not to say his name. He figured it was for Derek’s own benefit. If he knew his name, it made it harder not to know the guy it was attached to. When they described him, he was just a random person. It was easier to pretend it was a coworker or something.

He didn’t know why it worked on him, but it did. The second he knew his name, he’d feel left out whenever they talked about him.

“He’s thoughtful,” Cora said with a smile. “He wished me a Merry Christmas just now. He’s back home with his dad for the holidays, but we’re gonna meet up to go party at New Year’s while you and Lydia are at that work thing in Seattle.”

“His parents are divorced?” Geoff asked while Cora took a sip of her wine.

She shook her head, lips downturned when she set the glass down. “His mother passed away. Cancer. He was nine.”

“I’m very sorry to hear that,” Geoff said quietly. “He’s a very happy kid for someone who had to endure something so hard.” He reached out and touched her shoulder. “Like you.”

Cora smiled at him. “Yeah, we went through our sad backstories pretty early on. But he’s really great, and I love spending time with him. And Lydia likes him, which I thought would be impossible.” She nudged her, an easy feat since Lydia was still leaning against her.

“I tolerate him,” Lydia corrected, but her smile betrayed her. She shifted her gaze to Derek, offering him a small smile. “You would approve, Derek.”

She didn’t repeat what she had a few weeks back, about how she thought they would be great friends. He knew that was for Cora’s benefit.

But maybe one day.

“Well, I’m glad you’ve got such a good friend.” Derek smiled at her, then took another bite of his cake.

I wish I wasn’t alone echoed in his head when he set his fork back down.

“So we’re going to set it up like this,” the director finished, motioning the set again and turning to make sure Derek was on board. “Are you sure you want to do this stunt yourself?”

“It sounds doable,” Derek said, eyes scanning the entire scene. “I should be all right. Do you think we ca—”


He turned on instinct, every hair on his body rising. That was a shrill, terrified way for his name to exit that particular person’s mouth, and he had only ever heard it three times in his life.

The first time was when he’d gotten drunk and tried to get behind the wheel of his car after a fight with the Martins. The second time was when Cora’s appendix had burst and she was being rushed to the hospital.

This was the third time. And the second he heard it, he knew something was wrong.

“Excuse me,” he said to the director without even looking at him, and rushed away from the part of the set he was on, hurrying to Lydia who was pale-faced and looked extremely worried. “What is it? What happened? Is Cora okay?” he asked urgently, grabbing her arms and squeezing. “Lydia, what hap—”

“Well, well. Look who it is.”

Derek froze at the voice and whipped his head to the left to look at who’d spoken. This had to be a fucking joke.

Jackson Whittemore was walking slowly towards him, eying him with a look that promised an extremely hard future for him. He was wearing dark jeans and a plaid button-up that was nothing like his usual style, and the second he saw the satchel at his hip, Derek’s heart dropped.

He made sure to keep his expression completely neutral, like Jackson was barely even worth his time, and said, “What are you doing here?”

He knew perfectly well what Jackson was doing there, he just didn’t want to believe it.

“Imagine my surprise,” Jackson said with a vicious flash of teeth, “when everyone told me I would be working with the up and coming Derek Wolfe, only to be greeted at the gate by his very attractive assistant.” His eyes shifted to Lydia when he said this. Derek could feel her tensing beneath his hands, but didn’t look away from Jackson.

“You’ve grown up, haven’t you?” Jackson’s smile was all teeth. “Hale.”

Derek released Lydia and grabbed Jackson by the front of the shirt, dragging him forcefully towards the trailers and slamming him back between two of them, making sure no one else was around.

“Easy on the outfit, I have to return this later,” Jackson drawled, digging his hand into Derek’s wrist. He looked entirely too pleased with himself, and Derek felt sick to his stomach.

Jackson Whittemore had been the bane of Lydia’s existence for four years of high school. He’d been obsessed with her, adamant that they were the perfect power couple, and determined not to take no for an answer. Derek had been forced to put him in his place multiple times until he’d graduated, and once he’d been gone, Lydia had been forced to deal with him herself.

He was not a kind person, and the fact that he was here right now was a huge problem for Derek. It wasn’t common knowledge his real name wasn’t Derek Wolfe, but with Jackson here, a piece of his past, that was now going to make itself known. People would find out about Derek Hale, with his tragic past, his struggles in adolescence, his sister.

“How many people did your dad pay to land you this gig?” Derek demanded, baring his teeth. Lydia appeared beside them, having been slower to follow likely due to her heels.

“I got here all on my own, same as you,” Jackson sneered. “Some of us actually have talent.”

Derek slammed him back against the trailer again, hard. “I’m warning you, Jackson, if you tell anyone my real name, I’ll—”

“Careful, Hale,” Jackson sneered, still looking extremely pleased with himself. “I know more than one secret.”

Derek’s head snapped back, and he had to wrack his brain to figure out whether or not Jackson could possibly know he was gay. Derek had had a fling in his last year of high school with one of Jackson’s friends, but neither of them were out of the closet at the time, so he doubted he’d have said anything to Jackson about it.

But it was possible it’d come out somehow.

“Here’s how we’re gonna play this,” Jackson said, pulling Derek’s hand off his shirt. Derek grit his teeth, but released him, taking a step back. “We’re going to work together. You’re going to be impressed. You’re going to praise me. And maybe I decide not to let the world know Derek Wolfe doesn’t actually exist.”

“Jackson, don’t be a dick about this,” Lydia insisted, taking a step forward.

“Careful Red,” Jackson turned to her. “I wouldn’t want you to say something you regret. Hale might not survive it.”

Derek clenched his jaw, and he hated that Jackson had all the cards here. But he didn’t have a choice. If he wanted to keep his name a secret, he would have to be polite, at least. He wouldn’t praise him, but he’d work with him, and he’d tolerate him. Hopefully it would be enough.

“I don’t like being blackmailed,” Derek informed him.

“Then I suggest you behave.” Jackson patted his cheek, grinned at him, then motioned Lydia out of his way so he could go back out to the set.

Derek and Lydia both watched him walk away with matching scowls on their faces.

“This is problematic,” Lydia said.

“As long as I don’t piss him off, it’ll be fine,” Derek insisted.

“You really believe that?” she asked as he started heading back to the director.

“No,” he muttered, but there was nothing he could do about it, now.

He just had to prepare himself for his name getting out by summer, and hope that whatever other secret Jackson knew, it wasn’t that one.

“It was super, super fun. Like, you had to actually crawl through a fake mineshaft to get to the other end, and open the door from the other side! I mean, really only one person had to do it, but we all wanted the experience, so we all did it!”

“Uh huh,” Cora said in response, eyes on her phone and frown on her face.

Stiles tried not to let it bother him, but she’d been like that the whole time they’d been together. He hadn’t seen her aside from in the morning for a few days because apparently something was going on. She didn’t really talk about it, but this was the first time they’d met up to hang out downtown after work, and she spent more time looking at her phone than listening to him.

It was kind of making his epic story of the Escape Room he’d done with Isaac, Boyd and Erica a little bit less epic. He didn’t want it to bother him, but it did.

And not even because she wasn’t listening, but because she was obviously distracted and he wanted to help.

“Hey.” He nudged her with his foot and she looked up.

She almost seemed startled to see him across from her and hastily set her phone on the table, screen down. “Sorry, I wasn’t—I’m sorry. What were you saying?”

“Is everything okay?” Stiles asked gently, shifting a bit closer to the table. “You’ve been off the past few days, and I thought you were just tired, but...” He trailed off, not knowing how to continue. “I know you said something was going on, but are you okay? Can I do anything? Can I help?”

Cora covered her face, let out a hard exhale, then raked both hands through her hair. “I’m sorry, I’m being a bad friend. It’s just—someone from our past recently showed up and it’s been... well, it’s a concern.”

Stiles frowned. “A concern?”

“Yeah.” She winced. “He, uh, well he just started working with my brother a week and a bit ago. He used to pursue Lydia fairly aggressively in high school, and he and my brother don’t get along. Right now, he’s kind of... well, he’s sort of blackmailing my brother into playing nice. I’m just worried about him.”

Stiles didn’t even know her brother, and he was angry for him. “What? That’s bullshit! Can’t your brother complain to his boss or anything?”

“Not really.” She sighed. “If word gets out on what my brother has been trying really hard to keep hidden, it’s going to cause problem for my family.”

That gave Stiles pause, and it must’ve been noticed, because Cora looked over at him and rolled her eyes.

“We’re not, like, terrorists or anything. Jesus, get that look off your face.” She raked an aggravated hand through her hair. “It’s just—it’s hard to explain without telling you what my brother does.”

“Say no more,” Stiles insisted, holding up both hands. He didn’t want her to feel obligated to share what she clearly didn’t want to. Stiles figured maybe her brother was FBI or CIA. Maybe he was undercover somewhere, and Lydia was his handler, which was why she was around whenever she wanted to be, but Cora’s brother wasn’t.

“Sorry,” she said softly.

“Don’t be. It’s okay. I’m sorry it’s stressing you out, though.” Stiles frowned. “Is your brother gonna be okay?”

“Yeah, he’ll be okay. He’s more worried about me, which of course makes me worry about him, and it turns into a huge cycle.” She tapped at her phone, letting out a slow breath and then shook herself once. “Okay, no more looking at the phone. You are literally the only person who can keep my mind off it, so, take it.” She slid the phone across the table.

Stiles pulled it closer, but he didn’t hide it anywhere. He wanted it easily accessible if someone texted or called, because he could tell how much this was freaking Cora out. He just kept it in front of himself, screen down, and restarted his story about the Escape Room.

They had a good conversation about it, Cora insisting she wanted to go. Stiles had tried to get her involved with some of his other outings with Isaac and co, but they always seemed to fall through. Cora bailed a lot, but always because of her brother, never anyone else. Once Isaac had bailed, and then there was that time he and Cora had been waiting at a movie theatre for the others and Boyd had phoned him to say Erica had been called into work and they would have to bail.

It was unfortunate, but Stiles hoped one day they could all hang out together. He figured an Escape Room would be fun, and even said Lydia could come, which just had Cora burst into hysterics because apparently Lydia wasn’t the kind to go crawling through mine shaft, fake or otherwise.

Cora seemed to be in a relatively good mood by the time they were finishing up their coffees, and Stiles handed back her phone when they were tossing things out. His own went off while he waited for Cora to come back from the bathroom and he checked it, seeing a message from Scott.

dude r u still dt???
derek wolfe is filming 2 blocks from ur wrk!

Stiles instantly whipped around to stare out the window, practically leaning against the glass. Sure enough, there were trailers and ‘closed road’ signs a few blocks from the Starbucks they were in. There were also some trailers and various cables being set up, and Stiles wondered how long they’d been there.

He had to walk in the opposite direction of the set to get from his work to Starbucks, so he’d probably completely missed it in favour of rushing to meet Cora, since she’d been off for an hour already and had been waiting for him.

“Holy shit,” Stiles breathed.


He whipped around and grabbed Cora by the shoulders. “Holy shit, Cora! Derek Wolfe is outside! He’s right down the street!”

A few people turned when he spoke and two girls who’d been waiting in line immediately bolted for the doors, exiting the Starbucks. A few other patrons looked interested, but no one else stood.

Cora just stared at him, as if she didn’t know who Derek Wolfe was. Which was unlikely, since she owned The Last Son of Krypton, too.

“Can we go? I want to see if I can get a picture.” Stiles grinned excitedly, leading the way out of the Starbucks. He made it outside and a few steps towards the set when he realized Cora wasn’t with him.

When he turned, he saw her lingering by the Starbucks door, looking uncomfortable and a little sad. No, maybe not sad. Disappointed?

“Sorry, I’m not—it’s not my thing. Hanging around, watching people film.” She shrugged. “I’m not really feeling up for it. You can go, though, I’m gonna head home.” She thumbed over her shoulder, then waved and turned to head for the train.

Stiles watched her go for a second, then turned back to the set.

The show never filmed downtown, because it was always too much of a hassle to close off streets. They generally stuck to the areas outside of town, and various outlet malls they had in the vicinity. To have them downtown was literally the fucking jackpot.

Stiles wouldn’t get another opportunity like this unless he specifically sought Derek Wolfe out. But then...

He glanced at Cora’s retreating back once more. She was upset, and going through something, and worried about her brother. Realistically, how likely was it that Stiles would even see Derek Wolfe? He’d probably wait around for hours and get a glimpse of him and then get sent on his way. Not to mention there was a huge crowd.

Did he really value some actor over his closest friend?

Sighing, Stiles cast one last look towards the set, then turned away from it and jogged to catch up to Cora.

“You walk fast for such a tiny person,” he told her when he finally caught up.

She started, then whipped around to look at him, eyes wide and mouth hanging open. It was like she couldn’t believe he’d walked away from the set, which was kind of hurtful, but he supposed he understood. Given how excited he’d been, she’d probably assumed he would one-hundred percent ditch her for Mr. Wolfe.

How wrong she was.

“What about Derek Wolfe?” she asked, confused.

Stiles shrugged. “He’s not important to me like you are.” He wrapped one arm around her shoulders, pulling her into his side while they turned to head for the stairs leading to the train. “I’d rather ditch a hundred Derek Wolfes than one Cora Hale.”

The look she gave him actually made him concerned she was going to kiss him. She didn’t, but the grin that overtook her face was a little scary, if he was honest. She laughed, punched him in the chest—that never stopped hurting, she punched hard—and then descended the stairs with him.

They stood waiting for the train, Stiles thinking about what they should grab for dinner, and whether or not they should go to one of their places and order in, when Cora spoke again.

“He’s a massive dick.”

“Huh?” Stiles asked, turning to her with a frown.

“Derek Wolfe?” Cora said, not looking at him. “I’ve seen interviews, and heard people talk about him. Apparently, word is he’s a huge dick.”

“I know,” Stiles said, facing forward again. He still had one arm wrapped around her shoulders, one of Cora’s around his waist, and he squinted at the sign across the tracks, trying to read the fine print. “I’ve seen him in interviews, and he’s always really rude. And people talk about how he never goes to any of the sponsored events. The only other actor I’ve ever heard praise him for anything is Kira Yukimura, otherwise people call him impatient, rude and kind of an asshole.”

“Why do you even like him, then?” She glanced at him out of the corner of her eye. “It’s because he’s pretty, isn’t it? You just like how he looks.”

Stiles turned to her, startled. “Are you joking?”

She shrugged in response as the train pulled in, which Stiles thought was perfect timing, because Cora was about to get schooled, and hard.

He dragged her onto the train once the doors opened, shoved her into a double seat—which had her giving him a weird look at the treatment—and then sat beside her, turning so he was more angled towards her.

“Let me tell you something about Derek Wolfe. I know he’s a giant douche, I’ve seen enough interviews and heard enough comments about him to know the same things you do. And while I’ll admit, he’s gorgeous, the first thing I ever saw him in was Jones’ Blackout Day.”

“He had, like, a two minute role in that one.”

“I know, and he was fucking phenomenal!” Stiles insisted.

Cora was staring at him like she couldn’t believe he was real. He ignored why and just continued.

“Derek Wolfe was on screen for exactly two minutes and forty-two seconds, and in those two minutes and forty-two seconds, I believed that he was being violently murdered. I believed the agony he was in. I swear, I could feel it! He was just... his presence was so intense, I could hardly stand that they killed him off after only two minutes of screen time! He was literally the best part of that entire movie!
“And when he moved on to other things, I wasn’t even looking for him, but I just kept coming across his stuff, over and over. And he was good! He kept getting better and better the more acting gigs he got! When he finally joined Supergirl as a regular, I almost shit myself. He had so much more presence than the actress who played Supergirl, and he was just... I believe he’s a fucking alien whose home planet was destroyed!
“When he got his own spinoff, I was actually really fucking proud of him. He deserved that show, and he’s doing such an amazing job. Everything about his acting is just on point, and like, if you watch the way he is with the other characters, you’d swear he’s actually Superman! Like, even the switch on screen between Clark Kent and Superman is actually noticeable! I swear, he has, like, a switch in his head, and he just flips it back and forth. As Clark, he’s so perfectly nerdy, and awkward, and so in love with Lois. As Superman, he’s confident, and suave, and you believe he’s actually Superman.
“No actor has ever made me feel that immersed in anything since Ian McKellen played Gandalf in Lord of the Rings. Derek Wolfe is the best big thing in Hollywood, and I literally cannot believe you don’t even like him!”

Stiles eyed her critically, then said, “You know what? We’re gonna change that. You own season one of TLSOK, so we’re gonna watch that while we eat dinner tonight and I’m going to point out every single reason that you should be madly in love with this man’s acting. He is literally a fucking gift to us all, and I will prove it to you. So we’re going to yours, hunkering down, ordering pizza and I will make you like him!”

Cora was still staring at him like she didn’t believe he was real. It looked like she was scared to breathe, lest she blow him away and discover he didn’t actually exist. He wasn’t sure why, and the longer she stared at him, the more concerned he became.


He jerked slightly when she threw herself at him, but thankfully remained on the seat, considering all she was doing was hugging the life out of him. He frowned, hugging her back tightly.

“Hey. Hey, are you okay?” He rubbed at her back while she tightened her grip on him. “Cora? What’s wrong? I’m sorry, I wasn’t actually going to force you to watch the show, I was just... Are you okay? Hey.”

He tried to push her away so he could look at her, but she just held onto him tighter, so he gave up and wrapped his arms around her again.

“You are the best thing that’s ever happened to me,” she whispered, her words almost lost in the loud rumble of the train moving along the tracks. “Thank you.”

“For what?” he asked, confused.

“Being you.”

Derek stared at Cora, a little confused, and then glanced over at Lydia. The redhead just shrugged, obviously not knowing what was going on, either, and Derek looked back at his sister once more.

They were standing at the counter in Cora’s apartment, eating Indian food and chatting about their weeks, like they did every usual Wednesday. Cora had been in a particularly good mood for the past few days, and Derek had no idea why.

And now this? Something had obviously happened.

“You want me to what?” Derek asked, sure he’d misheard her because Cora never wanted this.

“I want you to officially meet my bus buddy.” She beamed at him, then shoved a bite of rice into her mouth. She let out a small exclamation, then opened her mouth and began fanning into it, the curry mixed in with the rice evidently a bit too hot.

“You never want me to meet your friends.” He didn’t add that she didn’t have many, but that was mostly her choice. She didn’t seem to like many people, and while he didn’t know why, he suspected a lot of it had to do with him.

Which he hated, because he wanted her to be happy.

And she seemed really happy right now.

“Well,” she said once her mouth was free of the fiery burn of food, “I want you to meet this one.” She took a few sips of water, and when she brought the next bite to her mouth, she blew on it a few times before actually eating it.

“Are you sure?” Derek asked uncertainly, glancing at Lydia. “I mean, I thought you didn’t like it when I met your friends.”

“Who said I didn’t like it?” Cora cocked an eyebrow. “I just always worry about them keeping your secret. The name one, anyway, since we’re not exactly going to blurt out the other one.”

“You’ve only known him five months,” Derek argued. He didn’t know why, but somehow, knowing this was a friend Cora wanted him to meet made Derek incredibly worried and determined not to meet him.

“Trust me, if there was anyone I thought would be a perfect fit for this secret, it’s him.” Cora took a bite of her naan and motioned Lydia. “Right?”

“He’s certainly going to keep his mouth shut,” Lydia agreed. “And he’s an amazing person. I don’t see what the harm is, really.”

“You seem particularly on board with this,” Derek said, narrowing his eyes.

Lydia affected innocence, but Derek could feel an ulterior motive. He’d have thought it was about her relationship with Cora, if it weren’t so incredibly obvious they were in love and doing well, and that the bus buddy was super supportive and seemed to have both Cora and Lydia convinced he was some kind of God.

Derek glanced back at Cora, who looked excited and was waiting for him to be excited, too.

He wasn’t. He was worried. And nervous. He didn’t want to fuck this up for Cora. He didn’t know how this guy would react, didn’t know if he was going to run out and start telling anyone who would listen that Cora Hale’s brother was Derek Wolfe.

Things were bad enough with Jackson blackmailing him every chance he got, he didn’t need another person to worry about.

“I don’t know,” he said hesitantly. He didn’t want to say no, because Cora looked so damn excited, but saying yes seemed... it just seemed like such an unnecessary risk.

“Derek, would I ever steer you wrong?” Cora demanded, giving him a look and stabbing quite viciously into her curry. “Do you know why I know he’s perfect?”

“Why is that?” he asked with a sigh, exasperated.

“Because he spent a good five minutes telling me why you were the most amazing actor on the planet, and he didn’t bring up your looks once.”

Derek stared at her. “What?”

“He thinks you’re amazing. He literally thinks you’re the next big thing, and he forced me to sit and watch your stupid show, and proceeded to explain why every single scene with you in it was made of gold. He actually made me appreciate that Superman garbage you’re doing right now.” She motioned herself. “I hate superhero shows, they’re dumb and repetitive, but he made me like yours.”

He had absolutely no idea what to say. He just stared at her, a little floored, and then turned to look at Lydia. She shrugged in a ‘I’m not surprised’ sort of way and continued eating her curried cheese dish.

Derek turned back to Cora, who was looking at him expectantly. He’d never seen her like this before. Proud and excited and eager for him to meet someone in her life that she obviously had a strong connection with. Even with the one and only guy she’d ever introduced him to, she hadn’t been like this. She legitimately felt like his meeting her bus buddy was the most logical next step and would be rewarding for everyone involved.

He couldn’t deny her that, so he just let out a small sigh.

“Fine. Yeah, okay. But,” he insisted, pointing a finger at her when she started getting more excited, “we’re not doing it on Wednesday. Wednesday is our day, and the only person I accept being around for that is Lydia.”

“Damn straight,” she muttered from beside him, but he ignored her.

“So you talk to him, and pick a day, and I’ll let you know if it works in my schedule.”

“Or we could just check your schedule now and pick a day,” Lydia insisted, pulling her phone out and typing in the password. She scrolled through what he assumed was the calendar, then let out a small hum.

“He has next Thursday off,” she said.

“Mm, Stiles has movie plans with his other friends on Thursday.” Cora frowned. “He and I had plans for Friday, though, is Derek good for Friday?”

Lydia hummed. “He could, but it’d be a bit late. Around eight, at the earliest, so maybe have a late afternoon snack together and then he can come by for a late dinner?”

“Sounds good.” Cora slapped the counter. “Book it in.”

“Does my opinion matter here at all?” he asked dryly.

“No, shut up,” Cora said.

Derek rolled his eyes, but was kind of glad she was so excited. He smiled at her when she and Lydia began confirming their various dates for the next week, Lydia complaining about having to sleep over when her bed was much more comfortable, and Cora should just go to her place.

He knew she wouldn’t, and Lydia did, too. It was too close to Derek’s place, and while he didn’t like thinking about his sister and closest friend having sex, that wasn’t why she wouldn’t come.

They needed her to stay away from where he was. It was already bad enough he came by every Wednesday, and now with another person soon to be in the know, it was safer for everyone involved if they avoided each other wherever anyone might see them. Sure, they could argue she was just Lydia’s girlfriend, but that lie wouldn’t hold up for long once they got Cora and Derek side by side.

They were both extremely similar, and very obviously siblings once they were next to each other. He didn’t want to tempt fate.

“So, next Friday?” Cora asked with a huge grin.

Derek sighed, trying for exasperated, but her happiness was infectious and he found himself smiling slightly. “Friday,” he agreed.

This better not be a mistake, he thought, spooning another bite of curry into his mouth.

“So wait, Lois ends up in Fort Rozz because of the weird glowy thing, and because it’s a teleporter, it went with her and Superman can’t follow?” Cora asked over the back of the couch, eyes on the screen but head tilted towards where Stiles was in the kitchen.

“Yeah, it’s a prisoner transport. It’s only meant to take one person, and it’s a one-way ticket, so once she picked it up, it sucked her into Fort Rozz as a prisoner,” he said, eyes on what he was doing.

“Well that’s stupid, why did she pick it up?”

“She didn’t know it was a teleporter,” Stiles insisted, rolling his eyes. “Superman didn’t have a chance to tell her.”

“Still, don’t pick up weird alien tech. She should know better, she’s dating Superman.”

“They’re not dating,” Stiles reminded her. “Not yet, anyway.”

He stepped back and grinned, pleased with the sundaes he’d made for them both. Ever since his first time over, sundaes had kind of been a tradition for them. He always brought the brownies, whipped cream and marshmallow sauce, and Cora bought the ice cream, wafers and chocolate sauce.

Stiles usually made them, because Cora seemed to suck at not making a total mess. Which was funny, considering she was a baker, but Stiles didn’t mind. It worked out well, in this case, because he’d already seen the current season and Cora hadn’t, so he wasn’t missing anything he didn’t already know.

Cora had found a channel that was playing reruns of the show, and had been recording them on her PVR to watch with Stiles on Tuesdays when he came over after the current episode aired. They were almost caught up, which meant if they finished tonight, next Tuesday he could come in time for the actual episode live and they could both watch it together. That was the plan, anyway.

He headed over to the couch with the two sundaes and some spoons. He handed Cora hers before taking a seat, dropping a spoon into her lap and turning back to the screen before taking a bite. It was cold against his teeth, but the warm marshmallow and chocolate sauces kind of made up for it. He brought the bowl closer to his mouth so he could take a bite out of the mountain of whipped cream on top, and watched Lois run through the wasteland of Fort Rozz.

“It’s gonna cut back to Superman soon, and my God is it fucking emotional. Derek really puts on a good show, you’d swear he’d just lost the love of his life.”

“Doubt it,” he heard Cora mutter, but it sounded more like she was doubting his comment about the love of Derek’s life moreso than his comment on how emotional the scene is.

They both sat in silence while they watched, and he grinned when he heard Cora’s breath hitch, like she was feeling the pain Superman was in down to her very soul. It was such a heart-wrenching performance, and Stiles felt his own chest aching. Derek Wolfe was truly such a phenomenal actor, he couldn’t even handle it.

The end credits rolled, the usual theme replaced by a sad, melancholy kind of tune, and Stiles turned to grin at Cora.

“Dun dun dun!” He said, then stared at her. “Holy shit, are you crying?!”

“I’m not crying!” she insisted, shoving him hard and wiping at her eyes with the back of her free hand. “You’re crying. Shut up.”

“Aw, it’s okay,” he insisted with a fake pout, patting her head. He snatched his hand back before she broke it. “Superman will fix it, don’t worry. I think Lois is coming back soon, maybe the next live episode. She’s not in Fort Rozz forever.”

He leaned forward for the remote, the PVR asking if he wanted to delete or keep the episode they’d just finished. He opted to keep it, like all the other ones, and then tabbed through to the next episode before starting it.

“They’re a cute couple, right?” Stiles asked, the recap starting up. He set the remote down so they could chat a bit without her missing any pertinent details. “Jennifer Blake and Derek Wolfe, I mean.”

“What?” Cora looked offended. “No. She’s gross. I heard that she’s always all over him, even when he asks her to leave him alone. She’s totally creepy.”

“For real?” Stiles’ eyebrows shot up. “I was so positive they were an item! I mean, they’re really good looking together. They make a hot power couple.”

“Gross. No. Don’t. Stop talking.” Cora covered his mouth with one hand. He licked at her palm and she let out a disgusted noise, pulling it away and wiping it on his face while the opening credits started.

“Jennifer Blake not on your ‘hot’ list, then?” Stiles asked, shoving a bite of slowly-melting ice cream into his mouth.

“No. She’s not good enough to be on my list.” She eyed Stiles. “Is she on yours?”

He shrugged, looking back at the screen. “She’s hot. I mean, if given the choice between her or Derek Wolfe, it’d be him hands down, but I mean, she’s still pretty hot.”

“I just lost so much respect for you,” Cora insisted, grunting while leaning forward and snatching up the remote. It was almost at the end of the opening credits, but she paused it and turned to look at Stiles.

He stared back, shoving another bite into his mouth, and kept the spoon there when he saw the look on her face. She looked a little nervous, but determined, and he slowly slid the spoon from between his lips.

“What’s up?” he asked cautiously.

Cora stared at him a moment longer, then let out a slow breath and nodded. “So, I know that we’ve been friends for a while, and things have been really good between us.”

“Yeah,” Stiles said slowly, a little concerned. “Why?”

Cora looked down into her ice cream, poking at it randomly with her spoon. “I’m really—protective of my brother. He means everything to me, and he’s all I have left. I love him more than anything in the world, more than Lydia. I would do anything for him, no matter what it was.”

“Okay,” Stiles said, not sure he understood where this was going.

“I just—I need you to understand. What he means to me. How much I care about him. I would do anything, anything to protect him.”

“Okay,” Stiles said again. “I think that’s great. It must be really nice having a sibling who cares that much about you.”

“Yeah,” she said, still poking at her ice cream. She let out another slow breath, then looked up at Stiles. “I want you to meet him.”

Stiles stared at her. He hadn’t been expecting that. “What?”

“We’re hanging out on Friday, and I invited him to come. I talk about him a lot with you, and I talk about you a lot with him. I want you guys to meet, I’m just... scared.”


“He means so much to me. I don’t want him to get hurt,” she said quietly.

“And you think I would hurt him?” Stiles asked, confused. Was her brother frail and sickly or something? Would he blow on him too hard and knock him over, or laugh too loudly and shatter his eardrums?

“No,” Cora said softly. “I don’t. It’s why I want you to meet him. I think... I think he’s lonely. Like I was lonely. But then I got you, and now I’m not as lonely. And Lydia thinks you’d be good for him, too. Someone he can spend time with who isn’t his sister and a childhood friend. Someone new.”

Stiles watched her for a few seconds, Cora staring right back at him. After a moment, he smiled and leaned forward to nudge her shoulder lightly. “Sure. Sure, I’d love to meet your brother. Thanks for trusting me with him.”

She gave him a small, hesitant smile, then exhaled slowly again. “You just—you need to promise you’re not going to do anything. You can’t be like the others.”

“Others?” Stiles cocked an eyebrow.

“My one ex who met him, and Jackson.”

“The guy who’s blackmailing him?” Stiles frowned, a little hurt. “I wouldn’t.”

“I know.” She grabbed his free hand, squeezing it tightly. “I know you wouldn’t, but I just—I’m so scared, but I want this. I want you to meet him, I just... please just don’t be like the others.”

“I promise.” He squeezed her hand back. “I won’t be like them. I’ll be better, I promise.”

She nodded, but didn’t let go of his hand. Cora hesitated briefly before speaking again, then licked her lips and said, “Please don’t ditch me once you meet him.”

“Why would I ditch you?” Stiles asked, a little exasperated. What the hell was going on? She thought he would blackmail her brother, she thought he would ditch her. He was getting his feelings a little hurt. “I would never ditch you. You’re like my friendship soulmate, I freakin’ adore you.”

“Promise?” she asked quietly.

“I promise.” He squeezed her hand, offering her a smile. “You’re my favourite Hale. Forever.”

Cora relaxed slightly, but she still gripped his hand tightly for a few minutes, like she was scared he was going to disappear on her. After a while, she seemed to compose herself and she released him, turning to the television and starting the episode.

Stiles watched her out of the corner of his eye for a little while, but eventually they returned to normal, eating their ice cream and commenting on what was happening on the screen. When the first commercial came up, Cora started fast-forwarding through it, and Stiles turned to her.

“Thank you.”

“For what?” she asked, eyes still on the screen.

“Trusting me with your brother.”

She turned to him, smiled slightly, then looked back at the screen. “If there’s anyone I would trust my brother with, it’s you, Stiles. I really hope you like him.”

“I’m sure I will,” Stiles insisted.

“I don’t know, he’s kind of a dick.”

“So are you, and I like you just fine.”

Cora elbowed him, restarting the episode, and Stiles smiled through the rest of the show.

“You’re not gonna be hungry for dinner if you keep eating like that,” Stiles insisted, watching Cora shove another handful of popcorn into her mouth, eyes on the screen.

“My brother is always late, and I’m not interested in starving,” she informed him, leaning closer to him and purposefully shoving another huge handful into her mouth. She couldn’t even chew it, because she’d overfilled it.

“You are so hot right now, I can hardly hold myself back,” Stiles teased.

She flipped him off. He laughed.

Honestly, he was also getting quite hungry. When he checked the time, he found that it was half past eight. He’d been hanging out with Cora for the past few hours, the two of them having started a Harry Potter marathon, but the last snack he’d had was a bag of Doritos around five. It wasn’t exactly the most filling and nutritious thing in the world, and his stomach was beginning to growl.

Not to mention he’d been sucking down beers like they were oxygen just for something in his stomach. And also because of nerves.

He couldn’t stop thinking about Cora’s reaction when she’d told him she wanted him to meet her brother. It had been such a weird reaction to have, and now he was kind of terrified to meet the guy. So, in went the alcohol. This was already his third one, and if he wasn’t careful, he would get completely hammered before the guy even showed up.

Apparently they were having Greek for dinner. Lydia was going to pick it up for him and he’d drive over with it. Stiles wasn’t really a big fan of Greek food, but he didn’t tell Cora that. When she’d handed him the takeout menu and asked what he wanted, he just pointed at the shrimp souvlaki and figured he couldn’t go wrong with shrimp and rice. And potatoes, probably. Maybe a Greek salad. And tzatziki.

They were still watching the second movie, and Stiles had absolutely no delusions of the two of them being awake long enough for the full eight, considering the time and the movie they were currently on. But, he figured they’d do what they did every other time they marathoned movies, which was pass out on the couch.

Cora had a date with Lydia tomorrow at five, so Stiles had to make sure he was gone in time for her to get ready, but he figured they’d probably watch at least one more movie before he left and she started getting ready.

Harry was in the process of fighting the Basilisk when Cora’s phone went off and she checked it, wiping her cheese-dust covered hands on her sweats.

“He’s almost here. Just stopped for gas down the road.”

“Cool.” Stiles took another sip of his beer, eager for the food, but also a little nervous to be meeting her brother. When he thought about it, he realized he didn’t even know his name. Cora had always been very secretive about him, and he really assumed he was some kind of spy or government agent with how cryptic she got.

It would be interesting to finally meet the guy.

They were both still watching the screen, Fawkes having just saved Harry’s life with magical tears of magic, when Stiles heard the elevator doors slide open down the corridor.

“About time,” Cora called over to him, leaning back so she could look around Stiles on the couch. “Did you bring the food?”

Stiles was taking another sip of liquid courage before turning to look at Cora’s brother, just as the man replied.

“Of course I brought the food, it wouldn’t be dinner if I’d forgotten it.”

Stiles promptly spat all the beer he had in his mouth onto the coffee table, coughing roughly when some of it went down the wrong way, and ignoring Cora’s cry of disgust beside him when he managed to spray her a little, as well.

“I see your taste in men hasn’t improved,” Cora’s brother teased, moving behind them to the kitchen while Stiles continued to try and hack his lungs out.

“Stiles!” Cora insisted, letting out another sound of disgust. “Come on, really?”

Stiles turned in his seat, beer dribbling down his chin, some probably in his nose, and bottle still in his hand. He was positive he was hallucinating, but sure enough, when he finally faced Cora’s brother in the kitchen, taking out containers from a plastic bag and acting like he didn’t have a care in the world, the vision didn’t change.

Derek Wolfe.

Derek Wolfe was standing in Cora’s apartment.

Derek Wolfe was Cora’s brother!

“What the hell is a Stiles?” Derek Wolfe asked, turning to grab plates from a cabinet, and acting like this was all perfectly normal.

“Me,” Stiles blurted out, rushing to his feet, but not moving from where he was in front of the couch. “Me, I am. I’m a Stiles. I mean, Stiles. I’m Stiles. That’s me.”

Derek Wolfe turned to glance at him, nodded once, then went back to what he was doing.

“Are you going to clean this up, or what?” Cora demanded, tugging on his shirt.

Stiles turned to look at her, then at the mess behind him. “Right. Sorry.” He set his beer down on the floor by the coffee table and rushed around the couch to the kitchen. He paused right at the threshold, because Derek fucking Wolfe was still in there, getting their dinners on plates, and Jesus Christ Derek Wolfe was getting his dinner ready! Stiles was going to eat something he touched!

“I don’t bite,” the man snapped, giving Stiles an annoyed look. “Paper towel’s over there.”

“I know where it is,” Stiles insisted, the other’s tone chaffing a little. Never meet your heroes, his dad had always said. At least Derek being an asshole would help him not be so nervous, but he was definitely yelling at Cora later for not warning him.

Really? Really?! Her brother was Derek fucking Wolfe?! Stiles had been waxing poetic about him for the past few weeks since they started watching The Last Son of Krypton together, how could she just sit there and not say anything?!

He made his way around the actor, trying not to be weird about it, and grabbed the roll of paper towel off the counter. When he headed back towards the couch, he noticed Cora looking a little... he didn’t even know. He couldn’t class her expression, but it was obvious his reaction had kind of upset her. He figured she’d probably assumed he would be completely cool with it, and Stiles felt like he would’ve been if he’d been warned ahead of time. Having Derek Wolfe just walk in like that had been a bit of a shock.

He bent down to begin cleaning the beer he’d spat everywhere, feeling embarrassed. Not even because of Derek, just in general. That had been kind of embarrassing, regardless of who was around.

Stiles turned with a clean paper towel and began jokingly cleaning Cora’s closest arm. She swatted at him, but he was glad to see her smile a little, and grinned back.

It made sense now, why she was so protective of him. Why she was so scared for him. Why she’d reacted so badly to Stiles’ excitement to him being down the street. And why she’d hugged him after Stiles had said he loved Derek Wolfe because of his acting, and not because he was gorgeous.

Even though he was gorgeous. So fucking gorgeous. But still a phenomenal actor.

Cora was probably used to people using her to get close to her brother, or blackmailing him. He figured that was what the concern had been of late, with that Jackson person. He probably knew Derek’s real name was Derek Hale, and now everyone was on edge because they didn’t want Cora to be harassed.

And with an up and coming actor like Derek Wolfe for a brother, she would definitely get harassed. It was unlikely this would all stay secret for long, but they probably wanted it to be hush-hush for as long as they could manage it.

Stiles decided he would have to try extremely hard tonight to be normal, otherwise Cora would think this was a mistake. And besides, sure Derek was a famous actor that he totally loved, but he was also just a dude eating Greek food with his sister. He probably felt more tense than anyone in the room, because Cora had likely told him how much Stiles liked him. He probably thought Stiles was just going to be all over him the entire evening so he was going to have to work hard to just chill.

He could do that.

Stiles was the embodiment of chill. Kind of.

Moving back to the kitchen, he put the paper towel back on the counter and washed his hands while Derek continued to divvy their food up on the three plates. Stiles pretended it was just Lydia. He was chill with Lydia.

“Cora, you want another drink?” Stiles asked, moving to the fridge and opening it.

“Sure,” she called back.

“You want a drink?” he asked Derek without looking at him, face buried in the fridge.

“I have to drive,” was his clipped reply.

Stiles turned to him, giving him a fake-shocked expression. “That must mean you can never drink anything ever because only alcohol exists in the world, oh no.”

Derek turned to him sharply but Cora let out a snort of laughter from the couch. Stiles looked back into the fridge to grab both himself and Cora a beer, then turned to Derek expectantly.

“Well? Coke? Water? Blood of a virgin?”

“You’re willing to bleed into a glass for him? That’s nice of you,” Cora teased. Stiles flipped her off, but waited for Derek to respond.

“Water,” Derek said, scowling at him, then turning back to what he was doing.

Stiles shut the fridge, opened the two bottles he held, and wandered back to the couch to hand Cora her beer and set his own beside his nearly empty bottle on the floor. He went back to the kitchen to grab a glass and filled it up with the water dispenser connected to the fridge door.

He brought that back to the coffee table and fell down beside Cora, stretching and then scratching at his stomach. It was still kind of weird, but Derek was as much of an asshole as he interviewed as, which was making it much easier to pretend he was a normal person.

Stiles was used to assholes. His automatic response to assholes was sarcasm.

He didn’t think Derek was going to like him very much.

“What are we watching?” Derek asked, moving up behind the couch and handing Cora her plate, then Stiles his.

Harry Potter,” she informed him. “We missed the end of two just now, but that’s cool. We’ll just start on three.”

“I hate Harry Potter,” Derek muttered, walking back to the kitchen.

Stiles whipped around, eyes wide and mouth hanging open, an affronted noise escaping him.

“You ha—what? What?!” He turned to Cora. “What?!”

“I know, he’s fucked up.” Cora sighed sadly. “I’ve asked many times to have his head examined but alas, no cure.”

“Hilarious,” Derek said, moving around the couch with his own plate. There were many seats available in the small apartment, including two arm chairs, a love seat, and a beanbag on the floor.

And yet, Derek sat down on the couch, on Stiles’ other side, so that he was sitting between the two Hale siblings.

This was literally so fucking surreal.

“Why don’t you like Harry Potter?” Stiles demanded, turning to him, still mostly horrified. It was easier to forget he was Derek Wolfe when faced with the blasphemous idea of someone not liking Harry Potter.

Derek shrugged, taking a bite of his food and then looking down at his plate, rearranging some of his potatoes with his fork. “It’s unrealistic.”

“Unre—you’re fucking Superman!” Stiles insisted, completely floored. “Magic is so much more realistic than a flying alien who wants to save the planet!”

“Alien life is a proven fact,” Derek argued, turning to scowl at him. “Magic is just made up.”

Stiles gaped at him, then turned to Cora, who was pulling a piece of lamb off her skewer. “What is wrong with him? You need to have him checked again.”

“Trust me, I’ve tried.” She sighed and motioned the TV. “Change it.”

“I changed the last one!” Stiles insisted.

“You spat beer all over my coffee table!”

“I also cleaned it up!”

Cora just stared at him until he let out an exasperated sound and stood, setting his food down and wandering around the coffee table to get to the DVD player. He pulled out the disc, returning it to the case, and then had to hunt for the third movie since Cora’s shelves weren’t in alphabetical order. He finally found it and went about putting the disc into the player, wandering back to the couch once he was done.

“I’m not changing the next one, that’s on you,” he informed her, picking his food back up and falling down between the siblings.

“Yeah, yeah.” Cora rolled her eyes. “Lazy.”

“Lazy?” Stiles demanded, mouth full since he’d just taken a bite. He pointed his fork at her angrily. “You’re the lazy one!”

“Hey, you get to sit all day. I was standing in front of an oven.”

“Cry me a river,” Stiles scoffed, swallowing what was in his mouth. “You don’t have to deal with assholes angry I can’t issue them a driver’s license because they lost their birth certificates.”

“Boo hoo,” Cora teased. Stiles flipped her off again, then looked at the television. Cora navigated through the menu and started the movie, Stiles bending down to grab his nearly empty bottle and finishing it off. He set it back down and grabbed the other, taking a larger sip and setting that one on the coffee table before shifting to get more comfortable, sitting cross-legged on the couch.

The position made his knees touch both Cora and Derek’s thighs, but neither said anything so he didn’t worry about it and just kept eating his shrimp. For Greek food, it wasn’t half bad, which was a relief. But he definitely wanted their usual sundae after this, though he thought they might be out of brownies. He’d probably have to go and grab some.

When the movie started, he and Cora began to talk about the differences between book and movie. They’d been doing that with the first two, as well, but Derek hadn’t been there during those ones and all Stiles could hear was the annoyed sighs coming from his right.

Cora and Stiles were in the middle of a debate over whether or not the Dementors were scarier in the book or the movie when Derek finally spoke up.

“Can we actually watch the movie without the commentary?” he demanded, annoyed.

Stiles turned to him with a scoff. “Hey man, your opinion doesn’t matter, you don’t like Harry Potter, you’re dead to us.”

Derek turned to him sharply, still scowling, but Stiles just shrugged, pretended to wipe away a tear, and turned back to Cora, who was grinning broadly. They continued with their commentary and ignored Derek’s incessant sighing on Stiles’ other side.

By the end of the movie, Derek was actually trying to shove a pillow into Cora’s face over Stiles, because the time travel was the most interesting part and Cora wouldn’t stop talking. Stiles was having trouble watching the movie because he quite literally had Derek Wolfe on top of him, trying to shove a pillow into his laughing sister’s face.

He eventually had to slide off the couch under Derek’s body and sat on the floor while the two siblings wrestled on the couch. When it got past the interesting bit, Stiles stood to head for the kitchen so he could investigate the sundae situation. As predicted, they were out of brownies, so he checked for everything else. They had chocolate and marshmallow sauces, but no whipped cream and Cora was low on ice cream.

He made a mental note for after the third movie ended to grab those three items from 7-11 before they started the fourth one. He’d also been looking up sundaes online lately—just for shits and giggles—and a lot of people put crushed Oreos on them, so he figured if he could find a bag of those at the store, he’d grab those, too.

He returned to the couch, sitting on the end since Derek had essentially taken his seat while still crushing Cora against the side of the couch, and picked up his mostly empty bottle of beer. He downed the rest of it, and the three of them sat there in relative silence watching the end of the movie.

When the credits began to roll, Cora sighed and leaned back against the arm rest. “Emma Watson is so fucking hot.”

“Amen,” Stiles agreed. “But my favourite in this movie hands down is Gary Oldman. That guy can act like nobody’s business. But oh, man!” He turned to the other two and waved one hand insistently. “My absolute fave in this whole franchise is Helena Bonham Carter. My God is that lady fucking fantastic. I have never seen her in a bad role. Like, she’s been in shitty movies, for sure, but she still gives it one-hundred percent at all times and I can’t even handle it!” He bit at his closed fist and let out a sound of contentment.

Cora snorted and rolled her eyes, but Derek was watching him with something akin to interest. Stiles didn’t know why his love for Helena Bonham Carter warranted his interest, but there it was.

The actor looked at the time then, and grunted, pulling off Cora and standing. “I should go. It’s late.”

“Sure.” Cora sounded disappointed, but understanding. Derek probably had filming to get done in the morning—and holy shit Derek was actually going to film in the morning! “Wednesday?”

“I’ll try and come to brunch on Sunday,” he informed her, kissing her forehead. She batted him away impatiently, but Stiles could tell she was happy for the love he was giving her. “Have a good night.”

“You too.”

Derek turned to Stiles. “It was nice meeting you.”

“Yeah, good to meet you, buddy.” He held out one hand and Derek stared at it, a little surprised, before shaking it. “Cora talks about you a lot, so it’s nice to finally know about the dick she complains about all the time.”

Derek snorted and Cora laughed, nudging him. The man nodded to them both, then headed for the elevator. Once he’d called it, Stiles realized the movie was over and the elevator took forever sometimes, so it would be the perfect chance for him to run out and get their goodies before they started four.

He got to his feet quickly and rushed to grab his hoodie off the back of one of the high chairs at the kitchen counter, yanking it on before checking his pocket for his wallet and phone.

“Where are you going?” Cora demanded, and when he turned to look at her, his heart broke a little at how crestfallen she looked.

He suddenly realized what this must’ve looked like. Her brother, the famous Derek Wolfe, leaving her apartment, and her friend rushing out after him. He hadn’t thought that through at all, he’d mostly been thinking about ice cream and how much he hated the slow elevator.

“We’re out of brownies,” he informed her, motioning behind himself at the kitchen. “And whipped cream. And almost ice cream. I was gonna run out and grab some, and figured the break between three and four was the perfect time for it.”

Cora relaxed slightly, but only slightly. Stiles smiled and moved over to the couch, leaning over the back of it and crushing her in a hug, lips against her temple.

“I told you, didn’t I? You’re my favourite Hale. Always.” He kissed her temple and then straightened, hearing the elevator ding. “Do you want anything else?” he asked while walking backwards towards the lift. “Drinks? Chips? Candy?”

“Can you grab me Ginger Ale, actually?” Cora called after him, Stiles having reached the elevator and Derek’s hand against the side of the door to keep it open for him. “I think I’m getting sick.”

“You should be drinking orange juice, then, not Ginger Ale.” Stiles rolled his eyes, stepping into the lift. “But I’ll just grab you both. See you in a bit.” The doors began to close and he called, “And it’s your turn to change the disc!” before the gap disappeared.

Stiles grinned at the groan he heard through the door, but just cackled to himself. Cora was so lazy, it was amazing she got anything done in a day. Not that Stiles was one to complain, considering he was just as lazy. It was why they were such good friends, but he felt like they should consider joining a gym together with the amount of junk they were both eating.


Stiles jumped, having forgotten Derek was even there—which was insane because Stiles had the hugest celebrity crush on him.

“Oh, yeah.” He smiled. “The first time I went over to Cora’s, I brought brownies and she had ice cream so we made sundaes. It kind of turned into a tradition, so every time I go over, we have a sundae.” He laughed, rubbing at one arm. “Actually, I was literally just thinking she and I should join a gym. We eat really badly together, and considering how often we hang out, I’m worried we’re both gonna get fat.”

“Not a bad idea, going to the gym is known to increase people’s happiness.”

“I think you mean life expectancy,” Stiles insisted with a laugh.

They reached the bottom then and the doors opened, the two of them heading out of the building. Derek turned to head for the visitor parking but Stiles went towards the road so he could walk to the 7-11. He wondered if Isaac was working, the guy’s schedule was always all over the place, it was hard to keep track.

“Hey. Stiles.”

He turned, still walking, and saw Derek standing at the edge of the lot, looking uncomfortable.

“Do you want a ride?”

Honestly, he would’ve loved a ride, and his heart did a weird jolt thing in his chest at the thought of it, but if this had been anyone other than Derek Wolfe, he would’ve said no. So, in the spirit of separating the hot actor Derek Wolfe, and his friend’s older brother Derek Hale, he smiled and shook his head.

“Thanks, but it’s just down the street, and I need the exercise. Thanks, though. I hope you have a good night.” He waved one hand.

Derek looked shocked, one hand raising in a weird half-wave, but Stiles just smiled and turned his back on him, beginning the trek down the road towards the 7-11. He didn’t know what Derek thought of him, but he hoped this had been a good first meeting. Considering his very first impression of Stiles was that he didn’t know how to swallow beer, he was kind of worried the guy thought he was an idiot.

Stiles didn’t really care, though. Cora was his friend, he loved her, he liked spending time with her, so at the end of the day, if her big shot actor brother didn’t like him, well, it wasn’t like he was spending time with him, so he would surely survive.

Derek’s hall light was on when he opened his front door, and he knew that, if the light was on, the apartment was occupied. He sighed, shutting the door behind himself and locking it, then moved further into the unit until he was in the living room, Lydia lying on his couch and watching some kind of documentary.

“I bought you your own apartment for a reason, you know.”

“I know,” she insisted, pausing what was on the television and sitting up, turning to look at him. “But I can’t bother you from my apartment.”

“Exactly,” he emphasized, sitting down on the couch beside her with a sigh. She immediately put her feet in his lap and he grabbed the closest one, beginning to massage it.

They were silent for a long while, Derek staring at the paused screen and Lydia watching him with all the subtlety of a slap in the face. He finished with one foot and moved on to the other, looking down at her feet and pulling at her big toe.

“Your pedicure is starting to chip, you should get that redone.”

Lydia sat up more and slapped him, hard, in the arm. “Don’t be all fucking stoic, tell me everything! How did it go? Was it good? How did he react?”

Derek knew it was coming. He knew that was why she was there. Everyone was waiting with baited breath on his opinion of Stiles, because the rest of the family adored him. Cora had been texting him the entire time he’d been driving home, but he couldn’t answer anything because he was driving. She’d only stopped when, presumably, Stiles had returned with their spoils for the night.

Lydia had probably been waiting up for him specifically to ask how things had gone, because normally she’d be in bed by now. He was sure he was also going to get interrogated on Sunday if he showed up for brunch, which he was really thinking of doing. He hadn’t gone for a while, and with Jackson around, he felt like his real name was going to be out sooner rather than later. Might as well spend time with the people he cared about.

“So?” Lydia insisted, poking at him with one foot. “Spill.”

Derek let out a slow breath, then turned to look at her. “He’s fucking perfect.”

“I knew it!” Lydia thrust both hands in the air and did a little wiggle dance, smiling brightly. “Oh, I just knew it! Isn’t he so great? He’s amazing! How was it? What happened when you showed up? Tell me everything!”

“He was awkward at first,” Derek admitted. “The first few minutes, he didn’t seem to know what to do with himself.” He let out a small snort. “He spat a mouthful of beer out when I walked into the apartment.”

“Yeah, that sounds about right,” Lydia said with a small laugh. “But he was okay? He was normal?”

“After a few minutes, yeah. He was okay. I think it took him a bit to kind of... compartmentalize?” He frowned. “He acted really awkward and all over the place at first when I showed up, but after a while he just started pretending I was like a male version of Cora.” He smiled, digging his thumb harder into the arch of Lydia’s foot. “She looked really happy. He’s been really good for her.”

“He’d been good for both of you,” Lydia said quietly, smiling fondly. “You seeing Cora so happy has made you happier. And now that he knows who you are, I think it’d be a good opportunity for you to hang out together a bit more. We can plan it better going forward. Like, Tuesday are his day with Cora, Wednesdays are yours, and Saturdays are mine. All the other days, we should just... show up and hang out. It’ll be fun.”

“I have work,” Derek reminded her pointedly. “And so do you.”

“Not always,” she insisted, rolling her eyes. “But tomorrow, yes. I should go.” She stood then, swinging her feet off his lap and stretching. She bent down to kiss his forehead, which he gave her a look for, but she just winked, flipped some hair over her shoulder, and left the apartment. He heard her lock the door from the outside with her key, and another door opened and shut a moment later.

Derek stared at the screen ahead of him, at the paused image, but his mind was nowhere close to what had previously been playing on his TV. He kept thinking back on Stiles. What he’d told Lydia was true, the first few minutes Derek had hated him. He’d spat out beer, stared at him like he was a fucking God, and then had just hovered like an overeager fanboy. The second Derek had snapped at him, though...

He’d turned into a completely different person. It was like his brain had just flipped a switch and been like, “Oh, Derek Wolfe is just like Cora, okay.” and the rest of the night had been... amazing.

Just so fucking nice. To sit there, beside Cora’s friend, the two of them bitching about the movie and telling Derek to shut up with his complaints. It had been like life before he’d become famous. Before he was Derek Wolfe. It had been the most enjoyable evening he’d had in a long time.

And fuck was Stiles ever attractive. Derek had been seeing pictures of him every now and then when Cora or Lydia sent them to him—or just showed them to him, in Lydia’s case. But a picture was never a true reflection of a person, and in this case, truer words had never been spoken.

Stiles’ eyes were just so bright and energetic. His hair was so fucking soft-looking, Derek had been forced to hold himself back a majority of the night, because he just wanted to bury his hands in it. And his smile, God his smile. Derek hadn’t been this taken in by anyone in so long.

He’d found men attractive over the course of his career, of course he did. He worked in Hollywood, and he wasn’t blind, so of course he was attracted to various people in the business.

But Stiles was... he was so different. He was gorgeous and perfect and everything Derek had never even known he’d wanted. He knew a lot of how he felt was because Lydia, Cora and the Martins had been talking him up, but realistically, when something was being talked up so much, it generally ended up being a disappointment.

Stiles was the opposite. He’d been talked up to the point of disbelief, and yet when Derek had met him, he was somehow better than everyone had been describing him as.

And fuck, he’d rejected a ride from Derek!

Realistically, Derek knew the 7-11 was close, but he’d kind of wanted to keep some of Stiles’ energy close for as long as possible. Asking if he wanted a ride was kind of just on a whim, but to have him reject it? Jesus Christ, this guy was fucking perfect.

He valued his friendship with Cora more than he had a celebrity crush on Derek, and while Cora had already said he’d proven that once, it was an entirely different story when Derek had been right in front of him offering him a ride.

And Stiles had still chosen Cora. It was just a car ride, nothing more, but the act of refusing it spoke volumes.

His phone went off again and he shifted on the couch, pulling it from his pocket and seeing a new message from Cora. He still hadn’t responded to her plethora of texts, and figured she would worry until he did so he sighed, and knew this was going to become troublesome, but responded anyway.

What did you think?
He’s great, right???
Derek, don’t leave me hanging!
You can’t honestly NOT like him!
I’m pretty sure it’s impossible
He’s so fucking PERFECT
And the two of you were just so fucking ridiculous
And he only froze up for like a second.
It was so nice!
He’s so chill about it!
He went to the bathroom and I KNOW you’re home so answer me now!

I like him
He’s great

Her response was instantaneous, as if she already knew what he was going to type.

He’s great, right???
And bi-sexual ;)

Derek scowled at his phone, fingers pressing against the keys harder than he’d meant them to.


I’m just saying

Not happening

You just gonna live alone the rest of your life?

Jesus Christ Cora
I JUST met the guy

And the more time you spend with him
The more you’ll realize resistance is futile
Back to HP
Nighty night. Love you dickface <3

Fuck off

Derek scowled down at his last message, let out a sigh, then added,

Love you too

He switched the screen off and tossed his phone aside, rubbing both hands down his face and wondering what the fuck he’d just gotten himself into.

Even with his eyes closed, he could see Stiles’ brilliant smile while he explained the tradition of sundaes at Cora’s.


Stiles let out a startled snore when a loud bang interrupted his sleep, eyes peeling open and immediately shutting once more at the bright sunlight streaming into the room through the blinds. He groaned and rolled over, the action making the whole world feel like it was tilting on an angle, and pulled his blankets over his head. He was more than ready to go back to sleep when the banging came again.

It took a few seconds for his sleep-muddled mind to figure out it was someone banging on his front door. He pulled the covers off himself, squinting at his swaying closed bedroom door, and waited to see if whoever it was would go away.

No dice. Ten seconds later, the banging started up again and this time, it didn’t halt.

“Fucking hell,” he muttered, kicking his covers off himself angrily and stumbling to his bedroom door. He wrenched it open, the banging louder in the living room, and used the wall for support while he made his way to his front door.

“All right, all right, I’m fucking coming,” he insisted loudly, shuffling to the entrance. He unlocked it, the banging ceasing, and pulled it open.

Cora was smiling brightly at him.

“What the fuck, Cora?” he demanded with a whine, leaning heavily against the door, his free hand coming up to rub at his face. Everything was tilting around him, and he wasn’t entirely sure his feet were firmly on the ground. “What time is it?”

“You’re late for brunch.”

“What?” Stiles asked, muddled brain confused once more. “What brunch?”

“I couldn’t invite you to brunch before, in case Derek ever showed up, but now that you’ve met him, we have a standing Sunday date with Natalie and Geoff. And Lydia and Derek, whenever they decide to come by.” She moved into his apartment, pushing at his shoulders and forcing him back a few steps. He almost stumbled and fell over. She shut the apartment door, then clapped her hands together.

“Chop, chop. Get dressed, let’s go.”

“What time is it?” Stiles demanded, completely exhausted. He’d been out late with Isaac and Boyd the night before. They may or may not have gone out drinking until close to five in the morning, and he may still be slightly drunk.

Those were all mere possibilities, though.

Considering he didn’t have a pounding headache and his stomach didn’t hate him, it was entirely likely he was still drunk. And now Cora was asking him to go to brunch. This was going to end badly, he could feel it.

“It’s almost eleven. Come on, get dressed, let’s go.”

“Cora,” he insisted, even as she shoved him towards his room. “Cora, I think I’m still drunk from last night.”

“Probably, you smell like a brewery.” She paused. “Change of plans, shower, then get dressed.”

She shoved him into his bathroom and slammed the door, Stiles staring at it.

“I hate you,” he informed her through the door.

“You adore me.”

“Nope, no love, just hate,” he said, but he obediently stripped out of his clothes and stumbled into the shower. He had to use the wall for support, and even out of sorts, he could tell this was a bad idea. If he slipped, he was going to crack his head open, and once in the past six months was more than enough.

He managed to get himself showered and dried off without braining himself. He brushed his teeth at the sink, eyes barely even open, and exited the bathroom with the towel around his waist. He walked in on Cora throwing random things onto his bed and muttering to herself.

“What are you doing?”

“Finding you something to wear.” She turned to him. “Do you own anything other than plaid?”

Stiles very deliberately motioned the bed, where she’d dumped pretty much every T-shirt he owned.

“No, I got that, but like, something nice?”

“Natalie saw me in my pyjamas drooling, and you’re worried about me looking nice?” Stiles stared at her, exasperated. “I’m too tired and drunk for this.” He went to his dresser to find some boxers and pulled them on, letting his towel drop, and not even caring if Cora was looking. He turned back to her once he was done and found her still scowling into his closet.

Yanking a pair of jeans off his bed, he grabbed a white tee with the batman logo on it and pulled it on over his head. He’d just grabbed socks and had turned to head out of the room when Cora was in front of him, looking appalled.

“You can’t wear that!”


“Take it off!” She began tugging at his shirt, trying to get it up over his head, partially choking him.

“What the hell is wrong with you?!” Stiles demanded, starting to lose his temper. She was acting weird and obnoxious, and he was tired and still fucking drunk. All he wanted to do was sleep the day away, not go for fucking brunch with her family.

Cora got the shirt pulled off and began rifling through the ones on his bed, finally settling on a grey shirt with a Captain America shield on it. He didn’t think she knew it was a Captain America shield, but he wasn’t going to inform her. He just pulled it on when she tossed it to him.

“You’re gonna clean this shit up, right?” he asked her, following her out of his room and towards the door.

“After brunch, sure. I’ll come over and nurse your poor hangover once it kicks in.” She grinned over her shoulder.

“If I sober up before we get back, I won’t have a hangover,” he informed her. “Bitch.”


“Rude,” he said, sitting on the couch and waiting for her to bring him his shoes. He took them from her hand when she held them out and yanked them on once his socks were in place. Standing, he swayed a little, wincing, and then shook his head.

He allowed her to lead the way out, and then realized he didn’t have his phone, wallet or keys. He headed back inside to grab them all, shoving them into their respective pockets, and then locked the door.

When they got outside, he paused at the entrance, because a sleek black Camaro was parked just outside the building. He had seen that Camaro only once before, and it had been in the visitor parking lot of Cora’s building.

“Come on, we’re late,” Cora insisted, climbing into the back seat on the far side.

Stiles was way too drunk to be dealing with this, but he just sighed and walked down the steps, opening the back door closest to him and sliding into the car.

“You look like shit,” Lydia informed him from the passenger seat.

“I’m still drunk,” he snapped back, slouching and closing his eyes. “I was not originally invited, or I would have stopped Isaac from dragging me to the fifth bar we went to.”

The car began to move and he could feel Cora manhandling him to get his seatbelt on. He batted at her weakly, but she finally got the belt clicked into place and leaned away, letting out a small huff of laughter. Probably amused by his pathetic state, the bitch. He was going to give her a piece of his mind later.

Much, much later. When his brain was working.

“So who’s Isaac?” Lydia asked from the front, a note of teasing in your voice. “A special friend?”

“No,” Stiles muttered. “He works at 7-11. He and I started hanging out a few weeks after Cora and I did. It’s usually him, me, and his two friends Boyd and Erica. Erica was working last night, so Boyd, Isaac and I went barhopping for shits and giggles. And now I’m sitting in a car, still drunk, going to brunch. Yay.”

Lydia laughed, but Stiles noticed she was the only one. Cora and Derek were both silent. That wasn’t unusual on the Derek front, though. Stiles may only have met him once, but the guy wasn’t really a big talker.

“Is he cute?” Lydia asked.


“Your special friend Isaac.”

“He’s not a special friend.” Stiles cracked open his eyes to glare at her, but she wasn’t even facing him, head forward and eyes staring out the front window. “He’s just some guy I know.”

“He into guys?”

He felt like he was being interrogated or something, what the hell?

“Isaac is straight, so I’d say no. I’m sorry, does my being bisexual mean that anyone I hang out with is automatically someone I’m involved with? I’m confused about how we got onto this topic. I went out, I got drunk, and I got dragged out of bed to go to brunch. Why are you not more focussed on how drunk I am while heading to meet your parents for like, the third time ever?”

“They won’t even notice you,” Cora insisted with a small smile. “Derek’s here, and he rarely comes to brunch. They’ll be too busy fawning over him being around to notice you’re drunk.”

“What was the occasion?” Derek asked while they turned onto the street Stiles knew belonged to Lydia’s parents’ place.


“Why did you go out?”

“Because I was bored, lonely and horny?” Stiles said, not exactly meaning for it to be a question. “Not that I got laid or anything, but at least it helped with the boredom and loneliness.”

“Aw, did you miss me?” Cora poked at his cheek and he turned to bite her finger off. He missed, but it was a close thing, and Cora laughed.

Derek parked in the driveway of the large house and climbed out. He was out of the car and through the front door so fast, Stiles wasn’t sure he hadn’t just run for it. Lydia and Cora were slower to exit, and Stiles was definitely the slowest, practically crawling from the car and slamming the door.

“What’s his hurry?” Stiles demanded, getting back to his feet from his position on the ground.

“He has to be quick so no one sees him,” Lydia insisted, she and Cora waiting on him before heading up the stairs. “You get used to it.”

Stiles just grunted and followed them into the house. He could hear Natalie and Geoff in the kitchen, sounding pleased to see Derek, and he followed the girls through the door. Natalie’s pitch changed instantly.

“Stiles! You made it!”

Stiles shot a dirty look at Cora when Natalie crushed him in a hug, because she’d said no one would even notice him with Derek around. What a liar.

“How are you? It’s been a long time.” Natalie looked so fucking pleased to see him, it was weird.

Nice, but weird.

“I’m good.” He forced a smile, hoping he didn’t look as drunk as he felt. Thankfully he seemed more in the tipsy stage, and he could definitely ride this out. “I hope you’ve been doing well.”

“We have, thank you.” She released him and headed for the stove, evidently to check on something, and Geoff came up to shake his hand.

“I see you’ve met Derek,” he said with a smile, motioning the actor, who was standing at the counter scowling at whatever was on the stove.

“On Friday, actually. He doesn’t like Harry Potter. I immediately judged him for it.”

“As one should,” Geoff agreed, patting his shoulder and pulling him further into the kitchen.

It was a little bit chaotic, having so many people in one space, but Lydia and Cora sat on the stools at the counter with Stiles wedged between them. Geoff was setting the table in the dining room, and Natalie and Derek were bantering about what was being made.

“Have you heard anything yet?” Natalie asked while pulling some chocolate muffins out of the oven. Stiles was drooling just staring at them, but tried to reign himself in.

“No,” Derek muttered, annoyed. “Apparently it’s between me and some other guy, though, so we’re almost there. I just hope I didn’t waste my time with this.”

“If you get this role, it’ll be a huge stepping stone for you.” Natalie patted his cheek. “Just think positive.”

Stiles perked up. “Did you audition for something?”

Derek glanced at him briefly, eyes dipping down to his shirt and then turned away. “Yeah,” he muttered.

“And you sound so excited about it.” Stiles rolled his eyes. “Never mind.”

Natalie smacked Derek across the head and he scowled before turning back to Stiles.

“I auditioned for a part in the next Marvel movie.”

Stiles’ jaw dropped and he slammed both hands on the counter. “Shut up! For real?! Oh my God! That’s amazing! Which one? Stupid question, there’s only one uncast superhero coming up, and that’s Daredevil. Holy shit, are you auditioning for Daredevil?!”

Derek looked annoyed by his excitement. “Yes.” He turned away from him, grabbed something off the counter, and left the kitchen, likely to put it down on the dining room table.

Natalie and Lydia shared a look while Cora shifted uncomfortably.

Stiles frowned, annoyed about his reaction, and instead of just letting it go, like he normally would have, he left the kitchen to hunt Derek down. Geoff was on his way back in, but he sidestepped him and kept going, finding Derek putting the bowl of fruit salad down on the large dining room table.

“What is your problem?” Stiles demanded, crossing his arms.

Derek straightened, scowling at him. “I don’t have a problem.”

“Clearly you do. What, I’m not allowed to be excited for you? You may be Cora’s brother, but you’re still an actor I really admire, and hearing you’re auditioning for the new Daredevil movie is fucking dope, okay? And I mean, I get excited about everything! Cora told me she had a new recipe for chocolate cinnamon buns and I spent ten minutes freaking out at her. I’m excitable, it’s who I am. If that’s a problem for you, maybe make sure your sister doesn’t invite me around when you’re in the vicinity.”

He turned and stomped back out of the dining room, heading back to the kitchen. He didn’t know how loud he was, but nobody spoke when he walked in, and it looked like Cora was trying really hard not to smile.

Derek didn’t come back into the kitchen, and conversations started back up, albeit awkwardly for a few minutes. Once everything was ready, they were back to normal and everyone helped bring stuff out to the dining room. Derek had taken a seat and not moved since Stiles had yelled at him, and now it looked like he was sulking.

Cora took the seat next to him, but Lydia took the one across from her, which forced Stiles to sit across from Derek, which he didn’t want to do anymore. He still loved him as an actor, and would defend his acting to his dying breath, but man was the guy a fucking asshole.

They started passing around the food, everyone serving themselves, and Natalie asked Stiles about how work was going. He didn’t really have much to report, considering where he worked, but it did remind Geoff that his license was expiring and Stiles laughed.

“I feel like I’m a personal reminder for everyone,” he said, grinning. “I reminded Cora about hers, too.”

“Isn’t yours up soon, too?” Cora turned to Derek. “I swear it was around the same time as mine.”

“I already renewed it,” he grumbled, stabbing into his eggs.

“Does it say Derek Wolfe, or Derek Hale?” Stiles asked with a frown.

“Derek Wolfe.”

“Huh.” He tilted his head. He was about to ask why he used a fake name—or a stage name, he supposed—but Derek was still giving him attitude, so he turned to Lydia and started another conversation.

Brunch was fun, when Stiles ignored the black hole of sucking happiness out of the world across from him. Derek hadn’t even tried to contribute to the conversation, and Stiles was more than happy to leave him out of it if he was going to be a colossal douchebag.

After they finished eating, everyone stood to head for the living room so they could play Clue—apparently the Martins loved board games, and Stiles had been sucked into three games of Monopoly the last time he’d been over for brunch.

They were filing out of the dining room when Stiles felt fingers touch his elbow. He turned and saw Derek scowling down at him. Stiles cocked an eyebrow, a very clear, “Yes? What do you want?”

The scowl softened slightly and Derek pulled his hand back.

“Can we talk?”

Stiles eyed him suspiciously, then sighed explosively and followed him, moving towards another part of the house. They ended up in some kind of study, Derek closing the door and scowling again. It was like a perpetual look for him, Stiles wondered if his face was just stuck like that.

“I wasn’t annoyed that you got excited,” Derek said.

“Oh really?” Stiles asked sarcastically. “That’s a relief.”

“Will you let me finish?” Derek demanded, scowl deepening. “I just don’t like it when people get excited for something that’s not a done deal. I’ve already got my hopes up, and the role isn’t mine yet. Having you get all hyper about something that may not even be mine is only going to make it worse when I don’t get it.”

Stiles rolled his eyes so hard it actually almost hurt. “Are you serious? Dude, if you don’t get the role, it has nothing to do with you not being good enough for it, it just means you’re not a good fit, there’s a difference. And it leaves you open for other things. I mean, the Marvel cinematic universe is kind of a huge time-suck. They have minimum two movies out every year, and a majority of the actors involved in it barely have time to do other projects. If you get it, that’s fucking awesome, but if you don’t, look at it as a learning opportunity, and take away everything you’ve learned about yourself from all the auditions you did. You can use them for your next audition.
“And I mean, you have your own TV show, and you’re a big deal in the DC universe right now. I don’t know why being in a Marvel movie would make or break you, you’re already a big thing, and a rising star. You shouldn’t let one rejection dictate what you think of yourself. You’re a good actor, maybe start believing that, and the people you auditioned for will believe it, too.”

Derek stared at him, and Stiles wondered if he’d said something wrong. Or maybe no one had ever said anything like that to him before. But Stiles meant every word he said. He’d once told Cora he took risks, whether they panned out or not. He still believed in that, and felt like Derek should, too. Especially given the industry he was in.

Just because he didn’t get the role didn’t mean he was a bad actor. It just meant he didn’t mesh well with all the others. Hell, Edward Norton had been replaced due to artistic differences, and he was a fucking three time Oscar nominee. Fuck, Chris Evans was Captain America and he hadn’t won a single Oscar. They weren’t going for the best of the best, they were going for who fit well with the overall team.

With Derek’s attitude, he might not be it, but Stiles wasn’t going to rub salt in the wound.

“Thanks,” Derek muttered, which was more than Stiles could’ve hoped for, really. “I appreciate it.”

“No prob.” Stiles slapped him lightly in the arm. “Can you stop being a dick now? It’s getting old, and I already deal with one dickish Hale, I don’t want two.”

He grinned at Derek’s scowl, then preceded him out of the room, heading for the living room where the rest of the family was waiting for them. Apparently they were splitting into teams of two for the game, and since he and Derek were the last ones to show up, he got stuck with Mr. Sunshine.

They argued almost the entire game, but despite that, Stiles could tell Derek was having the best time of his life.

TBC... (because Ao3 made me split it)

Chapter Text

Derek didn’t know how to act around Stiles. The guy was a fucking enigma, and every time he was with him and Cora, something... weird happened. Like Stiles would simultaneously remember Derek was a famous actor, but also not give two shits about it.

One of the nights Derek had come to crash his and Cora’s movie-watching, Stiles had said they were ordering pizza. Derek had insisted they shouldn’t eat so unhealthily, and Stiles had promptly shot back, “What, are you too good for the poor man’s pizza? Should we fly you to Italy to get real authentic pizza for your super famous palette?”

Derek both loved and hated him. Stiles was just so quick at his quips. It was like he had an automatic reaction to anyone being an asshole, and every time Derek let a part of his dickishness peek through, Stiles was there with a comeback.

It was... weird. But nice. He really liked it. Actually, he liked it a little too much, because he was spending a lot of time at Cora’s, and while Lydia tended to tag along so the four of them could hang out, Cora was also starting to whine that she missed her alone time with Stiles.

Derek had even shown up one day on a Tuesday, forgetting that his show aired on that day, and Stiles had resolutely told him he was sitting and watching it with them, or he was fucking leaving because there was no exception to watching The Last Son of Krypton on Tuesdays.

He’d finally acquiesced, and had even been given his very own sundae. It had been entirely too sweet for him, but he ate it all, anyway. It was weird watching Stiles and Cora react to the show, especially since he was episodes ahead in filming and knew the outcome of pretty much everything. Whenever he tried to hint at something, they would both yell at him to shut up, and Stiles even smashed a pillow into his face at one point to get him to stop talking.

Things with Stiles were so easy. It was like hanging out with Lydia and Cora. They knew he was famous, but he was just Derek to them. Stiles was acting the same way. Aside from that first time when he’d been a little star-struck, Stiles was completely normal. Derek was just any other guy.

He still came by for brunch on Sundays. Most times Derek didn’t go, because he was too tired or too lazy, but the more often he heard about Stiles showing up, the more he forced himself to crawl out of bed on Sunday mornings and go with Lydia.

Whenever he did go, he picked up both Cora and Stiles, and they all drove to the house together. When Stiles wasn’t drunk in the morning, he was fairly chatty, and he always knew how to carry a conversation, even when others were starting to lose traction.

And he was interesting. God, was he ever interesting. He didn’t often speak about his home life, but when he did, it just sounded so interesting and like something Derek never got tired of listening to.

They always got paired up during board games after brunch, but they’d started arguing less and discussing things more. They still disagreed on a lot of things, but they took turns yielding to the other. They always ended up losing when they listened to Derek, but Stiles never seemed to care. He just found it funny that Derek was so bad at board games.

One Thursday night, Derek had the evening off and he rushed to Cora’s early, expecting to have a lot of time with her and Stiles, only to discover that Stiles had plans with some other friends, and Cora was getting ready to go out with Lydia. Derek just went home and watched TV like a loser.

He was still sitting there watching a documentary on different kinds of flightless birds when his door opened. He didn’t bother to turn, knowing it would be either Cora or Lydia, and was proven right when both of them actually walked in, Lydia taking her usual seat beside him and putting her feet in his lap.

Cora took the armchair on his other side, tucking her feet up under herself.

“How was dinner?”

“It was good.” Cora smiled. “Really nice. We went to Braeden’s new restaurant. She’s in town.”

“Really?” Derek hadn’t known, and he felt kind of bad about it. She was his friend, after all. “I should stop in and say hi. How’s this one doing?”

“Really well. Her food is still to die for.” Cora laughed. “It’s still funny that she went to school to be a Criminology major and came out being a world-renowned chef. How does that even happen?”

“Derek was in university for Business and he came out an actor,” Lydia argued. “Anything’s possible, clearly.”

Cora just shrugged, and the three of them watched the screen, a penguin waddling along on some snow. Penguins were pretty cute, Derek wouldn’t mind having a pet penguin. Then again, having a pet anything was impossible with his schedule. He couldn’t even keep fish alive, let alone a penguin.

“So?” Derek asked.

“So what?” Cora said.

“You’re both here for a reason. Spit it out, I’m not in the mood.”

“When are you ever?” Lydia poked at his cheek with her toe and he slapped her foot away, scowling at her. “You like Stiles.”

“Yes, we’ve already established that,” he insisted, annoyed. He’d been coming around to hang out with him and Cora for almost two months, evidently he liked Stiles. Thankfully, filming would be done soon, they were three episodes away from the finale, and then he’d have a few months off.

He planned on taking advantage of them by harassing Cora as much as possible, especially when Stiles was around.

“No, Derek,” Cora insisted. “You like Stiles.”

Derek turned to look at her and she raised both eyebrows. He scowled and she rolled her eyes.

“Doesn’t matter,” he finally said, turning back to the screen. “Nothing can happen, especially not now.”

‘Now’ being only a week since he’d heard he’d officially gotten the role of Daredevil. They hadn’t announced it yet, and they were already negotiating his contract with his agent considering his commitment to The Last Son of Krypton, but the role was officially his as soon as he signed papers.

“Are you just going to find excuse after excuse to not be happy?” Lydia asked, sighing explosively. “Derek, you like him, and he treats you like a normal person. You should go for it before that Isaac guy decides he wants to be bisexual and steals Stiles from under your nose.”

“I’m not out,” Derek reminded her sharply. “It’s not fair to him. He’d have to hide everything, it’s not fair.”

“Stiles would understand,” Cora insisted. “Or haven’t you noticed? He would get it, and he wouldn’t fault you for it. But you like him, and he adores you. Which, really, you should jump on now, because no one else would have you, let’s be realistic.”

Derek scowled at her, but she just grinned and leaned over to poke at him with one hand.

“You deserve to be happy, Derek. What good is all the money in the world if you have no one to spend it on?”

They had a point, and he knew it. He was just... he was worried. He really wanted that Marvel job, and he didn’t know what would happen if this got out, somehow. Were any of the other actors gay? Then again, while not actively in the Marvel universe anymore, Ian McKellen was gay, and he’d done extremely well for himself, but Derek didn’t like comparing himself to someone as amazingly talented as Sir Ian McKellen.

And really, did it matter? Once he got the role, they couldn’t fire him over being gay if it came out, because it would clearly be discrimination and there would be a lot of backlash. There had been a lot of that with the new HellBoy reboot, and it had worked out well for the fans. Sure, Derek might lose a few if they found out he was gay, but maybe it would keep Jennifer off his back.

Besides, he was mostly thinking of the backlash if it got out. There was no guarantee that it would.

“After I’ve signed the contract,” he muttered, ignoring the pleased looks Lydia and Cora shared. “I’ll think about it. But only once the contract’s signed.”

“You are gonna have your hands so full with him,” Cora teased. “I can’t wait for him to put you in your place.”

Derek could think of a lot of places he’d like to put his hands when it came to Stiles.

It was almost one in the afternoon, and Derek still hadn’t gotten dressed. He didn’t have any filming to get done, and he didn’t feel like leaving his house today, so he’d just sat down on the couch with a container of leftover chow mein and was watching various talk shows to pass the time. Lydia was out meeting with Derek’s agent, likely arguing his salary for Daredevil, but Derek didn’t care.

He’d officially signed everything the night before, his scheduling conflicts with The Last Son of Krypton had been resolved, and he was going to be out for training and choreography in September, with filming beginning in October, if things went well. It meant he didn’t have the summer off anymore, since he had to film as much as he could of the show before he left to film for the movie, but he’d have a break around Christmas, and would hopefully be back to his usual schedule by the following summer. All in all, he was pretty happy.

His name was everywhere now, his casting having been announced, and Cora had told him Stiles had lost his shit when he’d found out and insisted he congratulate him in person. Derek hadn’t seen him since he’d signed, but he was looking forward to their next encounter.

Though it also meant he had his word to keep about thinking of asking him out on a date. He didn’t know that things would pan out for him and Stiles, but he was hopeful. He wanted things to work out, he just wasn’t sure how to go about doing that.

After all, Stiles didn’t know that he was gay.

Derek had just tuned in to another talk show, one he’d scheduled himself to watch, considering he knew Jackson would be on it. No doubt he’d have some things to say about Derek’s casting of Daredevil, but thankfully the person interviewing him was Kira’s mother, Noshiko Yukimura. He’d met her many times, and she was a wonderful woman. She wouldn’t let Jackson badmouth him, and he was already trying to decide what kind of flowers to send her.

He should also touch base with Kira, he realized, but she was still in Portugal. Apparently she and her co-star were getting fairly serious, but she’d heard about his role and told him she couldn’t wait to meet up with him when he was in LA for Daredevil.

That was actually one downside to the movie: Derek was leaving town. It was only for a few months, but he hated the distance from Cora. Then again, it only reinforced that he needed to do something about Stiles sooner rather than later, otherwise he was liable to lose out on a chance with him.

Derek started paying attention to the talk show once it started, finding that Noshiko looked fucking flawless and he wondered if she was some kind of immortal being. No woman her age should look that perfect, and he knew for a fact she hadn’t had any work done.

When she called Jackson onto the stage, to much applause, he was as pompous and arrogant as always, waving to everyone and acting like he was the most famous of celebrities when barely anyone knew him. He’d only been an extra in most things, and even his stint on Derek’s show had been short-lived. His character hadn’t been well-liked by the audience, and he was slated to be killed off in the next season, but he still acted like he was God’s gift to mankind.

“Asshole,” Derek muttered, slouching more in his seat. It made his boxer-briefs ride up uncomfortably, but he ignored that and just scowled at the TV.

Noshiko was very polite, asking all the right questions and praising him for his success. Jackson was a typical asshole the entire time, like he thought he could gain people’s favour by being a ginormous asshat. There was a palpable difference between his level of asshole and Derek’s. Derek’s was genuine, and he did not care if the audience didn’t like him. Jackson was just an asshole trying to act like he was pretending to be an asshole. It was infuriating to watch.

They talked about his few acting gigs before moving on to his current role, and it was Noshiko’s next question that had Derek straighten, paying attention. He and Jackson had been fighting a lot lately, and a part of him was positive this was going to be met with more retaliation, especially since he’d been announced as the new Daredevil.

“What has it been like for you to work with someone like Derek Wolfe?” Noshiko asked him politely.

Jackson snorted, rolling his eyes. “Everyone keeps asking about that guy, but honestly, I don’t see the appeal. I mean, yeah, he’s pretty, but he can’t act to save his life and he’s a huge jerk. He’s always been like that, though, and fame hasn’t helped.”

Derek stood instantly, eyes on the screen and hand clenched around the remote. Shit. Shit, was he actually going to do it?!

“Always been like that?” Noshiko asked, frowning slightly at his tone. “You’re suggesting you’ve known him for a long time.”

“Oh yeah, he and I go way back. I used to date his assistant.”

“No you didn’t!” Derek snapped at the television.

“He was always the pretty boy in school, and when his parents and sister died in a plane crash in his senior year, he became almost intolerable. The guy’s a real piece of work, and we’ve never gotten along, but well, I guess that’s just what Derek Hale is like.”

Derek turned instantly, having caught only the briefest glance of Jackson smirking right into the camera. That fucker. That absolute fucker!

He could hear the crowd freaking out behind him and Noshiko trying to calm everyone down, even as her curiosity poked through in her tone. Derek ignored it all and snatched his phone up from where he’d left it on his nightstand. He dialled Lydia, and she answered on the fourth ring.

“Hey Derek, I was just on m—”

“Where are you? Are you close to downtown?”

“Hello to you, too,” she said dryly. “And no, I’m—”

“Jackson just outed my real name on national TV,” he blurted out. “I need to call Cora!”

He hung up before she could say anything and immediately dialled Cora. He’d been hoping Lydia was close enough to her to swing by and pick her up, but evidently not. The phone rang, and rang, and rang some more.

Derek cursed and hung up, then called again. It rang through to voicemail a second time, so he hung up and called again. This time, she answered on the third ring.

“Derek, I’m at work, what?”

“Jackson just outed my real name, you need to go home,” he said, wandering back into the living room. Jackson was still on the screen, talking to Noshiko about his relationship with Derek Wolfe, aka Hale. He could tell she was trying to steer the conversation away from it, given Derek wouldn’t have kept his name under wraps unless he had a reason, but Jackson was still talking away about how Derek’s parents had tragically died in a plane crash with his older sister, and all the blood drained from his face when Jackson ended the sentence with,

“He has a younger sister, too. Cora Hale. I think she works at that bakery in the downtown core. You know, the one with the pun in the name?”

Noshiko cut to commercial, and Derek could’ve kissed her, but it wouldn’t take long for hardcore fans to figure out what that meant. Jackson was pushing his buttons on purpose. He was pissed he was getting outed, and he was retaliating, and the only way he knew how to hurt Derek was to hurt Cora.

Derek’s brain flashed back to Lydia being attacked. To someone coming onto set with a gun and shooting at him.

Not Cora. Not Cora!

“Cora, he just told everyone you’re my sister, you need to get home now!”

“Just give me a second, I’m trying to find my boss, it’s rush hour.” He could hear a commotion in the background, and figured it was the customers, but his blood was pumping double time. He wanted to race down there and grab her, but that wouldn’t fix the problem. If anything, it would make things worse.

She seemed to have found her boss, and explained that she had to leave, but the man was being a bit of a dick about it, insisting it was rush hour and she had to just wait. Derek listened to them argue for a few minutes, but he knew she’d won the argument the second a loud voice broke through the background noise.

“Hey! Hey, Cora Hale! Is it true you’re Derek Wolfe’s sister?” 

“Shit!” Derek hissed.

“Shit,” Cora echoed, and he heard the shock in her boss’ voice before he ushered her into the back. Shit, Derek, I’m going to kill that fucking bottom-feeder!”

“I’m coming to get you,” Derek said, turning to head for his room to change.

“That’ll just make it worse, don’t!”

“Fine, then I’ll send Lydia!”

“She’s stuck in traffic, I was talking to her earlier.”

“Well I’m not leaving you there by yourself!” Derek shouted.

“Calm down, asshole, there’s one person who’s closer than both of you that I know I can count on.”

“What?” Derek frowned. “Who’s that?”

Stiles smiled pleasantly to the woman in front of him, handing back her license and number, and wishing her a good day. He turned before the next person walked up and motioned for someone to come take his spot for a second.

His phone had been buzzing incessantly in his pocket for almost a solid two minutes, and that was cause for concern. His brain was trying not to panic, but all he could think was Scott trying to call him because something had happened to his dad.

When Chris wandered over to replace him, Stiles told him he had to check something and would be right back, then hurried to the back room, pulling his still buzzing phone out. He barely caught the name before it was redirected to voicemail, showing he had seven missed calls. He’d just entered the back room, and was getting ready to call her back when it started ringing again.

He answered immediately and put the phone to his ear. “Hey, sorry, I couldn’t answer before. What’s up?”

“I need you to come and get me, now.”

Stiles frowned. “Is everything okay?”

“No, it’s not. Please hurry.”

She hung up.

Stiles stared down at his phone, then pocketed it and rushed to grab his bag. He pulled his hoodie out, yanking it on, then slung the strap of his bag over his shoulder and headed out of the back. He rushed to the front, where Chris was still covering for him, and stopped beside him to wait for him to finish up with the person in front of him.

Once they’d stepped away, Stiles leaned in and Chris turned to look at him.

“I just got a really distressing phonecall, and I have to go.”

He frowned with concern. “Is everything okay?”

“I have no idea, which makes it worse. I’m sorry.”

Chris just shooed him away and told him to call if he needed tomorrow off. Stiles thanked him and hurried out the door, rushing for the elevator. He pulled out his phone while waiting for it and quickly texted Cora.

whats going on?

She hadn’t answered by the time the lift arrived and he just bounced on his feet waiting to hit the ground floor. Once he did, he raced out of it and sidestepped someone at the door to exit the building. Cora only worked a few blocks away from him, but he jogged the whole way there, knowing he couldn’t run and worried he’d lose stamina and end up walking if he even tried.

When he rounded the corner where the bakery was, he frowned at the cars parked outside and the multitude of cameras he saw. People were speaking over each other, and the crowd was so dense he wasn’t sure he’d be able to reach her.

“What the...?” Stiles paused at the edge of the crowd, unsure of how to proceed.

“Are you Stiles?”

He jumped and whipped around, seeing a middle-aged man in a white shirt with an apron around his waist standing a few feet behind him.

“Yes,” he said uncertainly. “What’s going on?”

The man just motioned for him to follow and Stiles obeyed, moving around the side of the building and away from the crowd. They walked through a back door, Stiles feeling a little uncomfortable, but when they ended up in a large kitchen, the panic he’d felt began to ease.

Cora was sitting on a crate in the corner of the kitchen. There was a girl with her, and another guy standing guard by the door that led out to the front.

Stiles hurried towards her, bending down beside her. “Hey. Cora. Hey, what’s going on?”

She had her face buried in her hands, and when she lifted her head, Stiles saw she was crying. They weren’t tears of grief, though. They were tears of anger.

And she looked pissed.

“Jackson fucking ruined everything,” she spat hatefully.

It took a second for the name to click, but once it did, Stiles scowled. “He told everyone Derek’s real name.”

“Is she actually related to Derek Wolfe?” the girl beside her asked. It was obvious she was trying not to be excited, but she was failing miserably.

“Come on,” Stiles said, ignoring the girl, and helping Cora to her feet. “Come on, get your stuff. Let’s get out of here.” He turned to the man who’d led him inside, evidently the owner. “Can you get us a cab for the back door?”

“Too obvious,” he insisted.

“Right.” Stiles thought for a moment. “Did anyone see her?”

“Briefly,” the girl beside Cora said. “Not clearly, though. We got her back here pretty quick.”

“Okay.” Stiles thought for a minute, then asked the owner to call a cab for the movie theatre down the street. He helped Cora into her hoodie, pulling the hood up and grabbing her things. He wrapped an arm around her shoulders, pulling his own hood up, and walked out the back door when the owner confirmed he’d called a cab for them at the theatre. Cora had her arm around his middle, and he made sure they walked slow, the two of them heading around the other side of the building and making their way towards the theatre. Most of the people in front of the bakery didn’t even spare them a second glance, and even those who did dismissed them instantly because Stiles kept leaning in as if he was kissing Cora’s face, but he was actually just pressing his nose against her cheek.

When they reached the theatre, they waited only a few minutes for a cab to pull up and climbed in, Stiles giving his own address. It would be stupid to give Cora’s, considering people had probably already hunted that information down, by now. He’d probably have to go and grab her some clothes. He figured he could sleep on the couch.

He doubted the Martins were faring much better, though they probably had a bit more time to prepare for the fallout.

“Why are people like this?” Cora asked angrily, glaring out the window with her hood still up. “Why does it even matter that I’m his sister?”

Stiles shot a glance at the driver, but he was using his bluetooth, clearly on the phone with someone and, by the sounds of it, having an argument.

“Your brother’s been trying to keep his past hidden since he made it big,” Stiles said quietly, just in case. “People are getting a shot at it, and they all wanna be the first to expose him.”

“It’s stupid.”

“Yeah, it is,” he agreed quietly. “Unfortunately, the people who try the hardest to stay hidden are the ones people chase the most aggressively. He worked hard to keep everything under wraps, especially you. People are going to start dissecting all the interviews he’s ever done where you’ve been mentioned, and are going to piece together that he was being like that to protect you.”

“I hate Jackson.”

“Yeah, me too.” Stiles wrapped an arm around her and pulled her close, staring out the window.

Honestly, this was mostly Derek’s fault, but he would never say that. What he’d said was true, though. He may not have been famous himself, but Stiles had noticed that the people who were the most open about everything were least likely to end up in magazines. They just told people everything they wanted to know, and it became old news and boring and nobody wanted to cover it.

But something like this? Derek Wolfe wasn’t his real name? He had a tragic backstory? His sister worked in town?

This was all new and fresh and nobody had this. Everyone was going to work to be the first to expose Derek Wolfe aka Hale’s life. They would talk to his teachers, to some of his old friends, find out the secrets of his dead family, harass his sister.

Whoever this Jackson person was, Stiles felt like he’d chosen a convenient time. Derek had just been announced as being cast as Daredevil, and magically this was revealed? It was because all eyes were on Derek right now. Evidently he wanted to hit Derek right where it hurt, and Stiles knew as well as anyone else that Cora was the place to hit to inflict the most damage.

She was probably stressing about work, whether she was going to get fired, if she was going to get harassed trying to get there every day. Hell, she was probably worried to go home, at this point.

By the time they reached Stiles’ house, he winced at the meter but just handed over his credit card to pay. Once he got it back, he climbed out with Cora and led the way inside, wanting to make sure she was okay before they talked about their next move.

He got her seated on the couch and pulled his messenger bag off, dropping it on the counter and grabbing a Coke from the fridge. He brought it back to her and sat on the coffee table across from her holding it out.

She took it and drank half of it down in one go, which had Stiles’ throat aching, but she seemed to be calming down, at least.

“Sorry,” she muttered, recapping the bottle. “I didn’t mean to... I’m just really mad.”

“You have a right to be mad,” Stiles agreed. “But I hope it’s with that fuckhead Jackson and not Derek.”

“No, it’s not Derek,” she agreed quietly. “This isn’t his fault. He called me the second he saw the interview.”

“I’m sorry that happened.” Stiles sighed. “But you know, it’s only going to be for a little while. This will die down relatively quickly. He’s big news right now because of Marvel’s announcement, but give it a few weeks and Kim Kardashian will pop out another baby or something and this’ll be old news.”

Cora let out a small laugh, playing with the Coke bottle. She sighed and raked a hand through her hair. “Shit, I should call mum and dad.”

“I’m sure they know, but it’s not a bad idea.” Stiles stood. “Did you want me to go and check out your place? See if we can get you in there?”

It looked like she wanted to say no, but she sighed and nodded, thanking him. He was intending to go alone, but figured that it may be best for her to come, too. If he went alone and it was safe, and then came back to get her, there was no guarantee people wouldn’t have found her place by then.

He waited for her to call Natalie and Geoff, and felt like it might be a lost cause, since apparently they had some people outside their house already. News travelled fast with bottom-feeders looking to make a quick buck, apparently.

“I think it’d be better if I stayed here,” she said once she’d hung up.

“That’s okay. Did you want to give me your key? I can grab some stuff for you.”

“Thanks, Stiles. I really appreciate it.”

“Ah,” he waved one hand at her and grinned. “What are friends for?”

She handed over her keys, explaining how they worked since he was usually just buzzed in. He said he’d call her when he was there so she could tell him what she needed and headed out. He took the Jeep, since he was probably going to have a lot to bring back, and when he turned to park in the visitor’s lot—he hoped he didn’t get towed, since he didn’t have a pass—he winced when he saw a bunch of cameramen and some photographers.

Probably a good thing Cora hadn’t come with him.

He exited the Jeep and headed for the door, giving the various people an annoyed look when they tried to get in his way. One of them had the nerve to ask him if he would let them in so they could find Cora Hale and Stiles just snapped that he wasn’t letting strangers into the building and slammed the front door in his face.

He hurried to the elevator and made it inside relatively quickly. He swiped the fob so he could hit the Penthouse button, and once he was in the apartment, he called Cora.

She gave him directions to a suitcase in her closet and Stiles went around her room grabbing various things for her. He did it all with as much detachment as he could, since it was obvious she was uncomfortable having him rifling through her underwear drawer, but he just kept saying, “Done, what’s next?”

He eventually got everything she needed, and then headed back out. The crowd of people outside was still there, and seemed to have grown, but he just made sure to slam the door shut behind himself when he exited, and shoved his way through them when they asked if he was a neighbour and whether or not he knew Cora Hale—and if he’d ever met Derek Wolfe.

“Oh, yeah, I know Derek Wolfe,” Stiles finally snapped, turning to the closest person, who eagerly shoved their microphone in his face. “I see him every Tuesday, yeah, we have a standing date. He looks really great in blue spandex.” He shoved the suitcase into the Jeep, the woman looking annoyed that he was referring to when The Last Son of Krypton aired, and then slammed the door.

They’d lost interest in him, assuming he was just another tenant, and he was able to leave without any problems. He pulled into the 7-11 on his way back down the street, because he figured Cora was in need of some comfort. There was an Indian place next door, so he ordered a bunch of food for takeout, then went to 7-11 while he waited for the order.

It was someone other than Isaac when he walked in, so he just grabbed some chips, a tub of brownies, some ice cream, whipped cream, and some chocolate sauce and dumped everything onto the counter. They didn’t have the marshmallow sauce here, but he figured what he’d grabbed was close enough for their sundaes.

He headed back to the Indian place once it was all bagged up and paid for and arrived in time for his order. He grabbed it, thanked the worker, and went back to the Jeep.

Getting everything back to his apartment with two hands was a struggle, but he managed to balance one of the bags on the handle of the suitcase and made it home without dropping anything. When he opened the door, Derek and Lydia were both sitting on either side of Cora on the couch. He didn’t know if she’d called to say where she was, or if they’d just assumed she would be there, but Stiles was glad he’d ordered extra Indian food. He figured maybe his brain had just assumed they would show up.

“I got dinner,” he said in way of greeting, the door shutting behind him. He turned to lock it and made his way to the kitchen, leaving Cora’s suitcase by the door.

Lydia joined him while he was unpacking everything, touching his shoulder lightly.

“Thank you.”

“Nothing to thank me for,” he insisted, pulling the various curries out while Lydia turned to find some plates. It was the first time she and Derek had ever been inside his apartment. He’d have been embarrassed at the mess of it, except he knew they weren’t even thinking about that right now.

Stiles decided it would be easier for everyone to just serve themselves so he brought the curries to the coffee table and set the containers down. He went back for the rice and naan while Lydia brought over the plates and some cutlery.

He only had the one couch, so Stiles sat across the table on the floor, the other three beginning to serve themselves while Stiles tore a chunk of naan bread off and dropped it onto his plate.

Everyone was quiet, which was making him a little uncomfortable, but he figured they were still trying to process. He didn’t have anything to process, so he was just sitting there staring at them while they all ate. The food was good, which was nice, but he wanted to say something to help them fix this, he just didn’t know what.

“What if you did an interview?” he finally said when they’d all mostly polished off the food.

“What?” Derek asked, turning to him startled, as if having forgotten he was even there.

Rude, this was his apartment.

Well, sort of. It was rented, but still his rental!

“An interview. If you were to go on stage somewhere and spew out your whole life story, then it’s already out there and people will tone down their attempts of catching Cora and the Martins.” He shrugged, biting off a piece of naan bread. “Most people tend to pursue what hasn’t been touched. If you share everything, a majority of the people looking for the next big score will leave you alone.”

Derek looked unhappy, but Lydia said, very softly, “He’s not wrong.”

“Look, either you do it, or Jackson will keep this up as long as he can, and then he wins. If you go out there, tell your whole story, then what else does he have?”

The look Cora and Lydia shared meant there was one thing that Jackson may still have, but Derek was still staring at Stiles. After a moment, he turned to Lydia and told her to set it up. Lydia stood and pulled her phone out, moving elsewhere in the apartment to make the call. Stiles took the opportunity to clean things up and dump it all in the sink. He found four bowls that were almost the same size and went about making some sundaes, figuring they could all use the sugar. Lydia was back before he finished, and he got the final touches done before bringing two bowls out for Derek and Cora, then the last two for himself and Lydia.

“Is it cool if I stay here for a while?” Cora asked quietly.

“No problem,” Stiles said with a grin. “I’ll sleep on the couch.”

“We can share the bed, loser.” She rolled her eyes.

“You might rethink that when you see how small it is.”

“It’s fine, you shouldn’t be inconvenienced because of me,” Cora insisted.

“Okay, well, only if your girlfriend is okay with it.”

Lydia eyed him critically, but eventually said, “Just keep your hands to yourself.”

Stiles grinned, but Derek still looked uncomfortable. He didn’t know why, but given the day he’d just had, he figured it was safer not to ask. He just shoved another bite of ice cream into his mouth, and hoped this all blew over soon.

Derek did end up doing the interview. Lydia had called Noshiko about it, since Derek wanted her to be the one to do it, and she very kindly rearranged some things for him so he could get in sooner.

He hated every second of it. He felt raw and exposed. He admitted that he’d always stayed silent about his life for his sister and the Martin’s benefits, but now that it was out, he just went through the whole story, giving them everything they wanted except his orientation.

It was more than he’d ever admitted, and he felt so fucking exposed, but Stiles had been right in the end. Once the interview aired, people calmed down and there was less chaos around the Martin’s and Cora’s places.

Cora ended up being able to go home two days after the interview aired, and back to work only one day after that. It was a relief, really.

Jackson got another interview, but they all breathed a sigh of relief when he grudgingly admitted he had nothing more to share. Either he didn’t know Derek was gay, or he wasn’t that much of an asshole.

Once things calmed down a bit, Derek called Braeden to see if she was still in town. She was, so he invited her over for coffee and she showed up an hour later.

“That was quite the story,” she said, sitting at one of the stools at the bar while Derek stood across from her, leaning against the counter. “I didn’t think you’d ever come clean about your name. When’s the other thing coming out?” She was teasing him, he knew, eyes sparkling while sipping at her iced coffee, but it still had Derek’s skin crawling.

Braeden was a friend from university. Before the interview, aside from that one guy Cora knew, and Stiles of course, she was the only person who knew Derek Wolfe’s real name was Derek Hale.

She was also the only person outside his current family who knew he was gay. But they were close enough that he trusted her not to tell anyone. Besides, he had dirt on her, too, since she’d made her fortune by counting cards in Vegas to afford to buy her first restaurant so really, mutual destruction.

“Actually, I wanted to talk to you about that.” Derek looked down into his coffee, scowling, and trying to convince himself this wasn’t a huge mistake. But he needed to do this now. He’d had a shitty two weeks and he just... he needed to do this now. If it fell through, it would be another shitty thing to add to the week, and he could deal. If it worked out, it would be a fucking relief and Godsend. God, he hoped it worked out.

“Oh?” Braeden cocked an eyebrow. “Do tell.”

“Your restaurant closes early on Sundays, right?”

“It does,” she confirmed, eying him suspiciously. “Why?”

Derek clenched his jaw, looking into his drink again. “Do you think once it’s closed you could stick around for me? For a-a date?”

Braeden’s eyes widened and she set her drink down. “Holy shit, Derek, are you actually seeing someone?”

“No,” he insisted, then winced. “Well, not yet. But I’m hoping. I just—I can’t take him anywhere right now. I’m not ready for that to come out, but I want—he should get a proper date. I wanted to bring him somewhere nice, and when Cora said you were in town...”

Braeden smiled, shaking her head and laughing slightly, picking her drink back up. “Sure. Yeah, okay, Derek. I’ll do this for you. But,” she pointed one finger at him, “set menu. I’ll be in the kitchen by myself, so I don’t want to have to make thirty dishes.”

“That’s fair.” Derek pulled his phone out, calling Cora and putting it on speaker. “I don’t know what he likes,” he explained when Braeden cocked an eyebrow and took a sip of her drink.

Cora answered on the fourth ring. “Hey, what’s up?”

“Hey, I’m with Braeden, you’re on speaker. Is Stiles with you?”

“Yeah, why?” she asked slowly.

“Can you go where he isn’t?”

“Okay.” He heard her say something to Stiles, who called, “Hey Derek!” down the line. Derek managed not to smile, but only because Braeden was watching him.

“Okay, I’m in my room. What’s up?”

“Out of the goodness of my heart, I have agreed to lend your brother my restaurant and services after hours,” Braeden said dramatically, smirking at Derek. “He wants to bring someone to mine for a date.”

“Oh my God, for real?!” Cora asked excitedly. “Oh my God, yes! This is amazing! When?!” 

“Sunday,” Derek said, trying to keep his excitement down, but Cora was making that hard. “Provided he agrees.”

“Derek, this is awesome. This is so, so great. I’m so excited!”

“Don’t get too excited, this might not work out,” he muttered. “Anyway, I’m calling to find out what he likes. What should Braeden plan for him?”

“Honestly? And I know, Braeden, this will hurt your soul, but a burger and fries.”

Braeden made a wounded sound. “No. No way. I’m not making him a burger and fries! I own six restaurants with two Michelin stars apiece, I’m not making a burger!”

“You asked. He’s not really into the whole fancy thing. I took him to a nice restaurant once when we were still getting to know each other, and all he ordered was mashed potatoes and cheesy mushrooms.” 

Braeden gave Derek a clear look of “I am not making a burger!” and he sighed.

“We’ll figure it out. Thanks, Cora.”

“Sure. But uh, make sure you do the lava cake for dessert. I’m pretty sure Stiles would murder a man for some good chocolate, and if you give him that before officially asking him out, he might be more inclined to throw his life away by agreeing to be with you.” He could hear the grin in her voice and scowled.

“Goodbye!” He hung up.

“No burgers, Derek.”

“No burgers, I got it.” He scowled. He figured maybe steak? If Stiles liked burgers, he’d probably like steak. And potatoes, of course.

He and Braeden spent the next half hour planning out the meal, starting with an appetizer, main course, and the lava cake for dessert. She recommended a few different wines for him to choose from, and eventually, they had a menu.

Derek already felt like this was a bad idea, but he would never know if he didn’t try. He kept thinking ‘what if?’ and he didn’t want to miss out on this chance.

Stiles was... he was so different. He was a good person. Kind, honest, loyal. He was always there when Cora needed him, he was supportive, he was selfless. He was just... he was everything Derek had ever wanted, and he was just lucky enough for him to happen to meet his sister.

He wanted this. Derek hated having to admit it, but he wanted this. He wanted Stiles. And he had for a while, but he was too damn scared of letting someone in. Of letting them see him, all of him. What if it wasn’t what Stiles wanted?

Derek knew he was attractive, and he knew that Stiles liked how he looked—he’d admitted as much to Cora before he knew she was his sister—but he also challenged him as a person and only ever commented on how good his acting was as opposed to how pretty he looked on the screen.

If this was going to work, if he was ever going to find someone who would love and respect him for him, and wouldn’t get mad, offended or insecure about Derek wanting to keep their relationship a secret, it was Stiles.

Stiles would be understanding, and he would be respectful, and he would just be happy to have someone in his life.

And Derek hoped it was him. God, he hoped it was him.

Stiles was doodling on a piece of paper in front of him, cheek against one hand and boredom beginning to set in.

It was slow today. Actually it had been slow most of the week. He figured it was probably because of the Easter long weekend, most people away on vacation, but it was almost intolerable. He was so bored, and it wasn’t even ten yet.

No one had walked in for almost half an hour. Half an hour! Stiles hated slow days, it made him feel like time was standing still and he’d never escape the monotony of life.

His head shot up when the door opened, smile on his face and mouth opening to greet the newcomer, but that died when he saw who walked in.

The smile was still there though, and he watched Lydia approach, looking around with interest. She stopped at the counter and leaned forward on it.

“So. This is where you work.”

“Yup.” He motioned behind himself. “I’m the guy who sends people over there to get pictures taken and whatnot.”

“Sounds boring.”

“Hey, I like my job,” he insisted, crossing his arms and leaning back in his seat. “So what’s up? What are you doing here?”

Lydia didn’t answer, she just pulled out a business card and handed it to him. He frowned, confused, but took it. The front had the name of a fancy restaurant, and the back had a date and time.

“Okay?” he asked, confused.

“Don’t be late, and wear something nice.” Lydia’s smile was all teeth, and a little scary. “You’re free, right?”

“I mean, I guess? I was supposed to do something with Cora.” He cocked an eyebrow at her. “Is this with Cora?”


“Oh. What is it?”

“Guess you’ll find out, won’t you?” Lydia winked at him. “By the way, I’m stealing Cora tonight. I know you guys normally hang on Fridays, but I need her for something this weekend. You can have her back on Monday.”

“Okay?” He had no idea what was going on.

“Perfect.” She turned to leave, then paused and faced him again, pointing one finger at him. “I mean it. Wear something nice. If you show up in a T-shirt, I’ll strangle you with it.”

“Yes ma’am.”

She smiled and left, Stiles staring after her with the business card still in his hand. He pulled out his phone to text Cora a bunch of question marks, but she just sent back a smiley face, so that was completely useless.

He went home after work and lounged on the couch, brain occasionally going back to the business card in his pocket. He didn’t know what to make of it, and he kept pulling it out every now and then to stare at it.

He ended up Googling the restaurant, making a face at the menu. It wasn’t his thing, it had all these weird, fancy recipes with horse liver and snail and shit. Definitely not what he was into.

Maybe this was a family thing? Maybe it was someone’s birthday, actually.

If it was someone’s birthday, though, he needed to bring a gift. Or at least a card! He didn’t want to show up to a birthday dinner empty-handed, that would be so rude!

He spent most of Saturday texting Cora and trying to get an answer out of her on whose birthday it was, but she insisted it was no one’s birthday and to stop being a loser.

On Sunday, he got dressed at half-past four and Cora said Lydia was demanding a picture. He snapped one in the bathroom mirror and sent it along, waiting for the approval.

Apparently Lydia wasn’t thrilled, but Stiles insisted it was the best he had and she deemed it acceptable this one time, but threatened to take him shopping soon.

Stiles just sighed and went to sit on the couch to wait. He felt uncomfortable, and weird. He hadn’t worn these clothes since prom, and was actually a little surprised they still fit.

He didn’t have the jacket on, but the slacks were still a good fit, and he’d managed to do up and tuck in the white button-up with only minimal difficulty. It was kind of depressing to know he hadn’t changed much in eight years, but oh well.

When it was almost half-past five, he went to the garage and climbed into the Jeep. He had to use his phone to get to his destination, and once he arrived, he drove up and down the road, looking for street parking. When he finally found a spot, he checked the time and saw he had a few minutes to spare, so he hurried the two blocks back towards the restaurant.

When he approached it, he frowned, because it looked closed. The front lights were off inside, and there was no one at the door. He walked up to it, pulling the business card out to double-check the name and address, but he was definitely at the right place.

“Wrong day?” he wondered aloud, but he knew it wasn’t. Lydia wouldn’t have asked for a picture if it was the wrong day. So he was definitely at the right place, at the right time, on the right day. And yet, nothing.

He moved up to the window, cupping his hands around his eyes so he could see into the restaurant. He started when a woman appeared right in front of him and jerked away from the window.

“We’re closed,” she informed Stiles, motioning for him to ‘shoo.’

“Yeah, I’m getting that,” he said. “But I was just—”

“Closed,” she repeated, more emphatically. “Lights off and everything.”

“I got it,” Stiles insisted, reaching into his pocket for the business card again. “But I—”

“Am I speaking a foreign language or something?” the woman asked, annoyed. “We. Are. Clo—”

“I was given this business card and told to be here at this time on this day!” Stiles insisted, getting just as annoyed as her and slamming the business card against the glass door.

The woman stared at him for a second, then seemed to give herself a shake. “Really? You?”

“What does that mean?!” Stiles demanded, temper flaring.

“Nothing, you’re just—you are nothing like I expected.” She stared for a second longer, then seemed to realize he was still outside and hurriedly moved to unlock the door, opening it. Stiles put the business card back in his pocket and stepped inside, the woman closing the door and turning to give him another once-over.

“What?” Stiles demanded.

“Nothing,” she said, a small smile on her face. “Don’t get me wrong, you’re cute and all, you’re just... Well, I guess I pegged him wrong. I always thought he was a bottom bunk kind of guy.”

Stiles stared at her. “What?”

“This way.” She smiled brightly and turned to lead the way into the main dining area. Stiles followed, a little hesitantly, and wondered if he was about to walk into something completely horrific. Was this maybe some kind of S&M thing? Stiles was not a big fan of S or M. And this was literally the only nice shirt he owned, he didn’t want to get any blood or other bodily fluids on it.

When they moved into the dining area more fully, he saw that there was nothing unusual about the place. It was still brightly lit back there, with some quiet music playing, and all the tables cleared.

All save one.

With a person already sitting there.

Derek stood up when Stiles approached, straightening the suit jacket he was wearing, and Stiles wondered if he shouldn’t have worn his, too. Was this a huge fancy party? It was kind of dead for a fancy party, but he wasn’t picky. The less people there were, the less of a chance he would have of getting embarrassed out of his mind.

“Stiles,” Derek said when he finally reached him.

“Hello,” he said awkwardly, the woman giving Derek a knowing smirk before turning to head back the way they’d come. She disappeared through a door near the front and Stiles frowned, turning back to face Derek. “So this isn’t weird and creepy at all.”

“My friend Braeden,” Derek informed him, still standing in front of Stiles. He looked nervous, and a little red-faced. He also looked like he was sweating, but the temperature in the restaurant was fine, so Stiles didn’t know why he was so hot.

Maybe it was the jacket.

“So uh,” Stiles looked around, “are we waiting for people, or...?”

“No,” Derek blurted out, then winced. “Uh, no. It’s just you and me.”

“Oh.” Stiles didn’t know what to say to that. A part of him wanted to ask why he was there, but maybe it was Derek doing the whole big brother thing, making sure Stiles was going to treat Cora right, despite the fact he was only her friend and not her boyfriend.

They stood there awkwardly for a few seconds before Stiles motioned the seat he was beside. “I’m gonna sit down.”

“Yeah, good idea, yes.” Derek moved around the table quickly and helped push Stiles’ chair in, which was the weirdest thing anyone had ever done.

Derek obviously recognized that, too, because his face was set in a scowl when he went to sit back down in his own seat.

Silence reigned over them, heavy and suffocating. Stiles couldn’t sit there in silence like this, it’d kill him.

“So,” he said, a little too loudly. “How’s work?”


Stiles waited, though he didn’t know why he’d assumed Derek would elaborate, because Derek never elaborated. He just expected other people to hold the conversation, and normally that was fine, Stiles could deal with it, but normally there was someone else for him to hold the conversation with.

Like Cora.

There was no Cora here.

“Cool,” he said, not knowing what else to say.

It was almost a relief when the woman from before—Braeden, Derek had said her name was—returned with a bottle of wine and two glasses. She smiled knowingly at Derek, who scowled at her, and poured them both some red wine before disappearing again.

Stiles drummed his fingers on the table, trying to find something to say while he looked around at the empty restaurant.

“So, uh... what’s with the empty restaurant?”

“Braeden owns it. She was kind enough to let me borrow it tonight since they close early on Sundays.”

Thank God, he was actually speaking now!

“That’s cool. You know her long?” Stiles took a sip of the wine, and it took a conscious effort for him not to spit it back out. He forced himself to swallow it down, then set the glass back on the table, pushing it away from himself as subtly as possible.

“Since university.”

“Oh, neat. Where did you go?”

Derek gave him short, clipped answers, and no matter how hard Stiles prodded, he was just not cooperating, and it was making his life really difficult!

Eventually Braeden came back with two plates, setting one down in front of Stiles, and the other in front of Derek.

“Can I get some water?” Stiles asked hesitantly. He wasn’t a wine person, but didn’t know how to say that without being rude. He wished Derek would just get on with whatever this conversation was supposed to be so that Stiles could just go home and make some Kraft Dinner or something.

“Sure.” Braeden smiled and left.

Stiles looked down into the plate in front of him, frowning slightly. It was some kind of weird souffle thing, almost like a savoury cake, surrounded by a yellow cream sauce. He glanced up and saw Derek already digging in, using his fork to drizzle more sauce on top of it from the sides. Stiles just waited for Braeden to come back with his water and smiled politely to her before pointing at his dish.

“Sorry, what is this?”

Flan au crabe,” she responded, which meant nothing to him.


She nodded and walked away. Stiles stared back down into it, wondering if it would be rude to poke at it and make sure it wasn’t still alive. Whatever it was. What the fuck was a ‘flan’? He wanted to Google it, but that might be rude.

Then again, when he glanced up, Derek was on his phone, scowling angrily at it and tapping much harder than was necessary.

Stiles sighed and picked up his appetizer fork, poking it into the flan thing and taking a hesitant bite. He thought it might have been crab—which made sense, if his twelfth grade French was still accurate, though really, crabe and crab were pretty much the same word.

It was gross.

No, that was inaccurate. He was sure it was quite delicious to a sophisticated palette, but to a mere mortal like him who lived off takeout and sundaes, it wasn’t good at all. And now he didn’t know what to do. He felt bad not eating it, but if he forced it down, he’d probably make the worst faces, and now he didn’t know which would be more insulting.

Why was he even there?! Derek had yet to clue him in to what the fuck they were doing.

“Um,” Stiles said, making Derek look up at him from his phone. He’d already finished his entire flan thing, what the actual fuck? “So, is Cora, like... is she coming? Or-or Lydia?”

Derek scowled. “No. Why would they be coming?”

Stiles wanted to shake him and shout, “Why wouldn’t they be coming?!” but that didn’t seem wise. He’d never hung out with Derek alone before, and it was super awkward. He felt like it was Derek’s fault. Stiles was usually fine, but Derek was just being so fucking weird. And rude, actually, because he was back on his phone, tapping angrily at the screen.

He let out an annoyed snort, then tossed it screen-down onto the table, leaning back in his seat with his arms crossed. He seemed to realize it made it look like he was sulking and immediately straightened again, picking his wine up and taking a sip.

Stiles kept trying to play with the food to make it look like he’d actually eaten some of it.

“How do you like the flan?”

He looked up at Derek and let out a forced laugh. “Oh, it’s great. Super delicious.” He didn’t quite manage to tone down the sarcasm, which was evidently caught, because Derek was back to scowling and had just picked his phone back up.

He wondered if it would be rude to ask what the fuck he was doing there.

Braeden came back out a few minutes later, eying Stiles’ plate, but saying nothing. She’d just asked him how he liked his steak—and ugh, steak, it was so fucking chewy—when there was loud knocking from the entrance.

They all turned towards it, despite it being hidden behind some walls and an archway, but Braeden turned back to Derek and said she’d make whoever it was leave.

She disappeared towards the front with the two plates still in her hands, and Stiles drummed his fingers awkwardly on the table. Derek was scowling down at the tablecloth, apparently annoyed.

“I know, I know,” a familiar voice said from the front and Stiles whipped around. “Just focus on dessert, okay. I need to save the moron before he completely fucks this up.”

Stiles had never been so happy to see Cora in his life, because thank God! He wanted to run up to her and hug her for saving him, but when she approached the table, eyes on Derek, Stiles turned and realized, quite startled, that it was Derek she was saving, because he looked so fucking relieved at the sight of her he almost melted off the damn chair.

It was impossible not to perk up when Cora dropped a rather large paper bag on the table, emblazoned with Fat Burger on the side, which was the best burger joint in town, in Stiles’ opinion. She set a six-pack of Corona beside it, giving Derek a knowing look.

“I told you. This isn’t his thing, and your money means nothing. Beer and burgers. I even got double for you, because I’m nice that way. You’re welcome.”

She turned to Stiles, offering him an apologetic smile.

“Go easy on him, would you? He’s kind of pathetic.”

“Fuck off,” Derek snarled, but Cora ignored him and straightened, heading back for the door.

“Oh, and try the lava cake, yeah?” Cora called back, grinning over her shoulder. “That’s one thing I know you’ll like. Bye! Have fun! Be safe, kids!”

Braeden was likely still at the door, because Stiles heard it lock and then she wandered towards the kitchen with the other two plates still in her hand.

Stiles was watching her disappear through the door, thinking about what Cora had just said, what Braeden had said when he’d shown up, how nervous Derek was, and it suddenly hit him like a fucking freight train.

Stiles suddenly remembered a conversation he’d had with Cora, way back at the beginning of their friendship. She’d mentioned her brother only liked one gender, but she’d never specified which gender.

“Holy shit, this is a date!” he blurted out, turning back to Derek wide-eyed. “This is a date! You intended for this to be a date, this was supposed to be a date!” He figured if he said it enough times, maybe he would believe it, but so far, no dice.

Derek was scowling again—seriously, did he want wrinkles?—but he just reached into one of the bags and pulled out a burger, checking what was written on the foil in sharpie before handing it over to Stiles.

“Of course it’s a date, what did you think this was?” He pulled another burger out and set it down in front of himself, moving the bag aside so it wasn’t obscuring Stiles.

“I don’t know!” Stiles insisted, flailing his free hand. “I mean, not that I’ve been on many dates or anything, but usually people actually, you know, ask you on a date.” Stiles motioned himself. “I didn’t get asked out. I got handed a business card and told to show up dressed nicely, and then sat across from you for an awkward twenty minutes trying to figure out what was going on.”

Derek’s scowl deepened. “It wasn’t awkward.”

“Dude,” Stiles insisted, giving him a look. “It was awkward as fuck! And you were on your phone the whole time!”

It looked like he didn’t want to admit his next words, but Derek grudgingly said, “I was asking Cora why you weren’t having a good time.”

That made Stiles pause, and he suddenly felt bad. He knew it wasn’t exactly his fault, since he’d spent a majority of the time wondering what was going on, but he figured his antsiness probably wasn’t helping Derek with his nerves. Clearly, he was nervous, and uncomfortable, and Stiles hadn’t exactly been making it easy for him.

Sighing, he shifted in his chair, kicking off his shoes, and sat with one foot under his butt, unwrapping his burger. The cheese had melted and become all gooey, just the way he liked it, and he bit into it, juices from the patty sliding down his chin. He didn’t even bother wiping it up, because this was who he was, and he wanted Derek to just be comfortable.

“I love Fat Burger,” Stiles said, food tucked into one cheek so he could chew and talk at the same time. “I am very easy to please, I don’t need anything fancy and special.” He motioned the restaurant with one hand. “I mean, thanks and all, but I’m a lot more interested in talking to you rather than sitting across from you in a restaurant that serves whatever it was we were eating.”

Derek managed a half-smile, Stiles pleased the scowl was finally gone. “Noted.”

“So what did Cora get for you?” Stiles leaned forward. “Looks like it has bacon on it. Bacon is amazing.”

“Yeah, it’s a bacon cheeseburger.” He eyed Stiles’ food. “What’s yours?”

“Mushroom Swiss.” Stiles kissed his fingers and grinned at Derek. “Best burger in the world, but don’t tell my dad that. He’d get offended.” Stiles took another bite, chewing quickly since Derek looked lost again. “My dad’s a sheriff. Small town, but you know, still dangerous. I worry about him a lot, but he likes his job so what can you do?” He shrugged. “How did you get into acting, anyway?”

Derek seemed startled with the sudden segue, but he recovered quickly and began explaining how he’d gone from Business school to acting. Stiles picked up every time he started to falter, and by the time they were eating the fries and downing a bottle of beer apiece, Derek seemed a lot more comfortable.

He’d even opened their beers by hitting the edge against the side of the table, glancing towards the door to ensure Braeden wasn’t around to see him trying to destroy her furniture. Stiles preferred this Derek to the scowly, nervous one.

Dick Derek was actually the best of the Dereks, if he was honest.

“So...” Stiles trailed off, playing with the lip of his bottle and debating having another. His fries were done now, though, and he figured if dessert was coming, he didn’t want beer to wash it down. Chocolate and beer were not a good combo.

“So?” Derek asked, taking a sip of his own drink. He was much slower, but Stiles got the impression he didn’t drink alcohol very much.

“So,” Stiles repeated. “I guess... you like guys then, huh?”

Derek’s hand paused halfway back to the table, but he eventually followed through on the action, setting the bottle down and licking his lips.

“Braeden’s the only one outside my family who knows that. It’s not—I haven’t exactly advertised it.”

“No, I get it,” Stiles said, nodding. “I mean, it’s tough, you know, being out in that industry. Makes sense you’d keep it to yourself.” He played with the edge of his bottle, then almost knocked it over and quickly grabbed it, pushing it away from himself. “I guess I was just... I don’t know, surprised?”

“That I like guys?”

“That you like me.”

“Why wouldn’t I?” Derek asked, frowning slightly. “We’ve been spending a lot of time together, and it’s been really enjoyable. Freeing, actually. I feel like I don’t have to put up a front with you. I can just... be myself. As assholeish as I want.”

Stiles snorted, shaking his head. “Yeah, you’re a huge dick, that’s for sure.”

Derek grinned at him and Stiles just rolled his eyes, grabbing his water and taking a sip since he was out of beer. Only Derek would be pleased at being called a dick.

Braeden came out a few minutes later with two giant lava cakes. She gave Derek a dirty look for the state of her tablecloth, and she’d probably caught him opening the beers, because she smacked him across the back of the head fairly hard, then gathered up all their trash before stomping back to the kitchen.

“I don’t think she’s going to do you any more favours,” Stiles loud-whispered to Derek.

“That’s okay, I’m hoping I won’t need her to do this again.”

Stiles stared at him, then grinned and leaned back, picking up his spoon and staring at the lava cake. It had a dollop of vanilla ice cream in the dead center, and when he poked into the cake, gooey chocolate oozed out and he felt himself salivating.

“I think I want to marry this cake, and I haven’t even tried it yet.” He quickly rectified that, cutting off a piece of cake, sliding it through the chocolate ganache, and then topping it off with some ice cream. The first bite would’ve made him groan if that wasn’t fucking weird to do, so he instead just slammed his free fist on the table.

“This cake is amazing. I am officially marrying this cake.”

“Figures I’d bring you to a two Michelin star restaurant and the only thing you’d like is the dessert,” Derek teased.

“Only two stars?” Stiles pretended to be offended. “Is that all I’m worth to you? Two stars? How cheap.”

Derek rolled his eyes, but the corners of his lips were upturned and Stiles grinned, the two of them eating their cake in relative silence since Stiles was too busy inhaling it to speak. When they were done, Derek paid Braeden—despite Stiles’ protests—and thanked her for helping him out.

Stiles was quite vehemently told he was getting a ride home, and they went out the back where the Camaro was parked, Stiles sliding into the passenger seat for the first time and getting comfortable.

He felt bad their date was so short because he’d spent most of the beginning of it worrying and speculating, so when Derek started the car, he said, “Wanna go somewhere?”

Derek cocked an eyebrow at him. “Like where?”

Stiles shrugged. “Anywhere. Just drive, hang out, chat.”

It looked like Derek was thinking about it, and he eventually agreed, beginning to drive them out towards the highway. Stiles kept up a steady commentary on the way, asking Derek questions about his childhood and giving him pieces of his own. They hadn’t ever really spoken like this before, it was usually all banter while watching something at Cora’s.

And now that he thought about it, that should’ve been his first clue that Derek liked him. He just didn’t think it was possible for someone like Derek to be gay. And he knew he was gay, because Cora had said he only liked the one gender, and if he liked Stiles, clearly is was that gender.

He wanted to ask him what it was like, having to hide who he really was, how he really felt, but he didn’t think it would be appropriate. He understood why Derek was the way he was, though. It probably hadn’t helped when he’d seen Lydia and Cora get closer and closer, and now they were officially dating. He’d probably been really lonely, and with his job and having to hide his orientation, it was entirely likely he thought he’d never find anyone.

Stiles didn’t know why he’d settled for him, but he liked to think Derek wouldn’t have bothered with him if he didn’t actually like him. He wasn’t a consolation prize or anything, and that felt kind of nice.

They drove on the highway for close to an hour, Stiles commenting on Derek’s horrible driving skills and razzing him, because he could. Derek kept shoving at him, and it was nice to know he felt comfortable enough with him to act like this. Open and honest.

Eventually, they took one of the exits and drove through a small town before Derek turned out onto a path that led through some trees. It was so fucking dark, Stiles was positive they would go over the edge of a cliff or something, but eventually they made it out onto the other end of the road, a barrier erected at the end—presumably to stop the aforementioned going over the edge of a cliff thing. Derek eased the car to a stop and climbed out, Stiles following.

Derek jumped up onto the hood of the car and lay down with a loud groan, hands behind his head and eyes on the sky. Stiles glanced up, finding the light pollution still pretty dense, but he joined Derek on the hood anyway, lying beside him. The metal was hot beneath him, seeping through his shirt, but it was a nice contrast to the cool air blowing around them. It was barely spring by this point, though the weather had warmed up a lot since Christmas.

“I used to come here with my dad,” Derek said quietly, still staring at the sky. “He wanted to study astrology when he was younger, but it wasn’t a good enough career for his parents, so he studied in on the side. He really liked the stars.”

Stiles turned to look at him, pressing his lips together. “I know it’s just words, and it doesn’t make anything better, but I’m really sorry about your parents. And your sister. Laura, right?”

“Yeah.” Derek hesitated. “Cora told me about your mom. I’m sorry.”

“Yeah, me too.” Stiles looked back up at the sky. “I like hearing about your family, though. Cora doesn’t like to talk about them, but I think it’s because she’s scared to admit she didn’t know them very well.”

“She was a bit of a rebellious shit when she was younger,” Derek said, fondness in his voice. “I think, for her, it’s easier not to remember sometimes. It hurts a lot.”

“Yeah,” Stiles admitted. “But you know, I think it helped shape us all into who we are today. I’m not saying I’m okay with my mom passing away, because I’m not, and I’ve never been okay with it, but I think I wouldn’t have become as independent as I am now if she’d still been alive.”

“I wouldn’t be an actor,” Derek admitted quietly. “Some days I wonder if it’s even worth it. The only reason I agreed to take a chance with you, was because Cora said there was no point in me having money if I didn’t have anyone to spend it on.” He frowned. “I know she didn’t mean it literally, but I guess I couldn’t stop thinking about it once she said it. What good was it if I was rich and famous if I was alone?”

“She cares about you a lot, you know.” Stiles said, watching the clouds move across the sky. “You’re her everything.”

“I know,” he admitted softly. “I was always worried about her. I didn’t think she’d ever be okay, especially after Lydia and I moved away. Even though we came back, she wasn’t the same. She was different. Lonely. When she met you... it’s like she went back to being who she was before. You’re so good for her, Stiles.”

“Eh, you’re giving me too much credit.” He shoved Derek lightly, not looking at him. “I just lucked out that I met someone as awesome as her when I did. Honestly, I was kind of lonely, myself. I feel like meeting her helped me meet other people. It reminded me that it’s more fun hanging out with others as opposed to staring longingly at my TV.”

He heard Derek shift beside him, but didn’t look over, eyes still tracking a cloud rolling across the sky. It was kind of peaceful here, and he wondered if anyone else knew this road existed. Probably, but they’d hear anyone coming, and it didn’t appear to be well-travelled.

“I want to kiss you.”

Stiles turned to Derek, startled, and found him sitting up and angled slightly towards him, gaze so intense it was making all of the hairs on his arms stand on end.

“What?” He had to be hallucinating. First he was on a date with Derek, and now he was asking to kiss him? Was this real?

“I want to kiss you,” Derek repeated. Then, he frowned and said, more firmly, “I’m going to kiss you.”

“Okay.” Stiles didn’t know what else to say.

Derek moved closer, bracing one hand on Stiles’ other side so his upper body was half-hovering over him. Stiles felt like a fucking idiot, because his heart was going a mile a minute in his chest, but he couldn’t stop thinking about how insane this was.

Yes, this was Cora’s brother, which was already insane, but it was also Derek Wolfe. Derek Wolfe was hovering over him, informing him he was going to be kissing him. Things like this didn’t fucking happen, this was like a cliche romcom. Stiles would not pay money to see this romcom, it was so stupid!

Derek bent down and Stiles felt him press his lips against his. He was really soft, at first. Almost hesitant. It made Stiles wonder how many people he’d kissed in his life. Not like, fake-kissed, but actually kissed. People he legitimately wanted to kiss.

Stiles reached up with one hand to tangle it into Derek’s hair, pulling him down a bit more forcefully. Their lips slotted together more comfortably, and he felt Derek’s upper body pressing against his chest, the hand previously bracing him by Stiles’ head now shifting to a forearm instead.

For a mega-hot, super coveted actor, Derek was so fucking unsure, and it made Stiles a little sad. Nobody should be forced to live a lie, and he was determined to make this a good kiss for him, even if he wasn’t necessarily the best kisser in the world.

Stiles wrapped his other arm around Derek’s neck, pulling him down more and arched his back a little, parting his lips and licking at the seam of Derek’s. It had the desired effect, Derek opening his mouth so he could suck on Stiles’ tongue.

It shouldn’t have been hot, but it was. Derek sucking on his tongue like that was fucking hot.

After a few seconds, he stopped, but only so that he could prod at Stiles’ tongue with his own, the two of them exploring each other’s mouths almost lazily, and trying to get used to how the other kissed. Derek seemed really into sucking and rubbing his tongue against Stiles’. Stiles was more of an explorer, using his tongue to brush against Derek’s, and the roof of his mouth, across his lips.

He could feel some stubble beginning to scratch at his skin, and idly wondered what Derek would look like with a beard. He’d seen photos, of course, but they were probably nothing compared to how he looked in person. Stiles would love to get stubble burn somewhere private.

Like his thighs. Oh God, he’d love that so much.

When Derek started to pull away, Stiles chased him, arching his back more, trapping Derek’s bottom lip between his teeth before he was finally forced to lay back on the hood, releasing it and staring up at Derek.

Fuck he looked gorgeous. And not because he was gorgeous—because he was, Stiles wasn’t blind—but because he just looked so damn happy. He looked liked he’d been waiting for this his entire life, and for all Stiles knew, maybe he had.

Derek was leaning most of his weight on his right arm, wedged under his body, but he shifted his left up by Stiles’ head, moving it down so he could run his thumb lightly along Stiles’ bottom lip. Stiles took it into his mouth and sucked, enjoying the way Derek’s eyes darkened at the action.

He pulled his thumb free, then bent down to kiss him lightly again before resting his hand against Stiles’ cheek, staring down at him.

“I want this,” Derek admitted, so softly Stiles would’ve missed it if they weren’t literally inches apart.

This was fucking crazy, and Stiles never wanted to wake up from this dream. “I do, too.”

“It’s not fair.” Derek frowned, looking pained. “I can’t... we couldn’t tell anyone. It’s not fair to you.”

“It’s not fair to you,” Stiles corrected, one hand playing with the hair at the nape of Derek’s neck. “It’s not fair you have to hide this side of yourself. If you want this, Derek, I’m on board. I won’t tell anyone, I promise. Even if it doesn’t work out, even if you end up with someone else, I won’t ever say anything until you choose to come out. So if you want this, I’ll be your dirty little secret.” He couldn’t help the smirk that came out at those words.

Derek snorted, rolling his eyes, but he bent back down to kiss at Stiles’ cheek, then his temple, then his forehead, like he was mapping out his face with kisses.

“I want this,” Derek repeated. “I want this, if you want it.”

“We’ll make it work,” Stiles promised. “Though you’re leaving to film Daredevil soon, right?”

“Not for a while,” Derek insisted, frowning at him. “We have time.”

“That’s good.” Stiles smiled, then frowned and shifted one hand, moving it out of Derek’s hair and reaching for his pocket. “Speaking of time...” He checked his phone and winced. “Yeah, much as I would love to stay right here, exactly like this, with a lot more kissing, I have work tomorrow, and we still have an hour’s drive back to town.”

“Right,” Derek said, shifting away from him. Stiles missed his warmth already, but said nothing or they’d never leave. “Work. You work early, I forgot.”

“All good,” Stiles said with a shrug, though he was pretty sure he was going to be late tomorrow.

Oh man, if he was late, he would never hear the end of it from Cora! She was probably going to pump him for all the juicy details the second she saw him. He wouldn’t be surprised if she showed up early, for once in her life, just for more time to demand a recap.

Stiles hoped she remembered Derek was her brother and she didn’t want all the details.

He slid off the hood, landing beside Derek, but before he could even move to get to the car, a warm hand wrapped around his wrist and pulled him back, Derek reaching up to cup his face with his free hand and kissing him again. Stiles felt like he was melting. Derek was being so fucking careful, and for some reason, he loved it. It was like he was treasuring every part of Stiles, unable to believe this was happening.

Stiles felt like it should be him having those feelings, but he didn’t say anything. He just let Derek kiss his fill, the other pulling away every few seconds before kissing him lightly again. And again.

“Thank you.”

“For what?” Stiles asked.

“Being you.”

“That part’s easy,” he insisted, leaning up to kiss Derek again, then moving back a step. “Come on, we should go. I’m sure I’m not the only one working tomorrow.” He grinned at Derek over the Camaro, having moved to the passenger side. “You’ll have to wear the spandex home one day.”

“I’m not allowed to take it off the set,” Derek insisted, climbing into the car, Stiles doing the same and buckling in.

“You should make friendly with the costumer and ask for it just once. I’d love to make out with Superman.” He waggled his eyebrows.

“I thought you were more of a Batman person,” Derek insisted, raising his eyebrows.

Stiles laughed, because that had Cora written all over it. Yes, Stiles loved Batman, but he felt like he could start preferring Superman.

He argued his stance on Batman, though, almost the entire way home. Derek was more interested in the villains of DC than anything else—which should’ve been concerning, but somehow wasn’t—and they argued over whether or not Derek could pull off a convincing Joker.

Stiles feared for his life when Derek grinned maniacally at him and asked, “Why so serious?”

He’d gotten so used to hanging out with Derek as Derek that he sometimes forgot that he was a super talented actor.

Stiles spent a majority of the way back to his place from downtown asking him about his ideal roles, and if he’d really wanted Daredevil or not. Derek admitted he’d wanted Captain America, but he was a nobody when that role was up for grabs, and Chris Evans was doing a phenomenal job, anyway. Derek was just happy to be part of the franchise, and Stiles couldn’t wait to sit in a theater two years from now and excitedly say to himself, “That’s my boyfriend!”

He’d have to say it to himself, because he couldn’t tell anyone. Except Cora, Lydia and the Martins, he supposed.

And that was only if they were still together, but he had high hopes. He was feeling good about their relationship.

Derek finally eased to a stop in front of Stiles’ building, and it was kind of disappointing realizing he couldn’t lean over and kiss him goodnight, but he’d get used to it. They would have to be careful, and he didn’t want to cause Derek any problems. He was still struggling with the world knowing his real name, Stiles definitely didn’t want his orientation getting out because of him.

“Thanks for the date,” he said with a small smile. “Sorry I didn’t realize it was one.”

“Sorry I didn’t ask you out like a normal person.”

“Well, you’re not normal, so it makes sense. Where are you from again?” Stiles squinted and pointed at him. “Uranus, right?”

Derek rolled his eyes so hard his whole head went with it. “Hilarious.”

“I know.” Stiles grinned and unbuckled his seatbelt. “See you later?”

“As soon as I can,” Derek promised. It looked like he wanted to kiss him again, but Stiles knew they couldn’t do that. Right now, they were just two friends in a car together, so if anyone recognized him as Derek Wolfe, it wouldn’t be a big deal. Kissing, though? That would be a big deal.

“Night.” Stiles started to open the door when he froze, realizing something.

“What?” Derek asked.

Stiles turned back to him. “My Jeep is still at the restaurant.”

“Oh.” Derek paused for a second, then smiled. “That’s a shame. I guess we’ll have to go back and get it.”

Stiles laughed, shoving Derek’s shoulder lightly, but he didn’t argue and just put his seatbelt back on. Derek smiled at him, a genuine and pleased smile, and shifted back into drive.

Stiles was definitely going to be late for work tomorrow.

He wondered if it was written across his face. If everyone knew exactly what had happened the previous night, because every single person who came in seemed determined to make Stiles’ day horrible. They hadn’t succeeded, not yet, but they were trying so fucking hard it was making him want to murder people.

He’d been late, as predicted, but only by about ten minutes because he’d taken a cab to the train when Cora had called to ask where the fuck he was. He’d walked in before any customers had, but Chris had been less than pleased. He hadn’t been a dick about it, but he’d made it clear he was unhappy. Stiles didn’t fail to notice that his wedding ring was missing, suggesting he and the missus were officially having issues.

Not his place, so he just apologized and got to work. His first customer proceeded to yell at him and throw—thankfully lukewarm—coffee in his face when he told her he couldn’t issue a new driver’s license if she didn’t have the required documentation. He didn’t know why people thought it was okay to treat employees like this, but he just convinced himself to ignore her bad temper and cleaned himself up as best he could.

He was used to dick customers, but today, they seemed to be coming in by the boatload. It was literally like he had a sign on his forehead that said, “I am in an extremely good mood, try and ruin it! I dare you!”

And boy did they ever fucking try. He was so done with the day by the time Cora came in with some cinnamon buns. With Chris in a mood, Stiles had told her they’d have to chat later—since she was literally vibrating with the need to know what had happened the previous night—and she left while he tried to cheer himself up with the cinnamon buns.

They were the chocolate ones, and they were helping him hate life a little less.

The afternoon progressed with more and more assholes, and he was literally willing to call it quits and tell Chris he was done when someone walked in, jumping the line entirely, and came to stand a little too close to Stiles. He was holding a wrapped giftbox in his hands, large enough to contain a great many things, and he asked,

“Excuse me, I’m looking for a Stiles Stilinski.”

Stiles turned to him, exasperated, the woman in front of him still berating him for the comment on the back of her license that proclaimed she had to wear corrective lenses while driving because her eyesight was bad. He hadn’t written the damn thing on her license, she would’ve admitted she wore glasses when she renewed it and it automatically printed!

“That’s me. Why, do you have a bomb for me?”

“Uh, hopefully not?” the guy said, looking uncomfortable, now. He handed over the box and Stiles sighed, taking it and setting it at his feet. He didn’t have time to open it now. He just signed off on having received it and the guy left, Stiles turning back to the woman who was still acting like he had any control over her damn eyesight.

A little before two, when he was scheduled to leave, they had enough of a lull that he pulled the box off the ground and set it on the table in front of him, using scissors to cut through the tape and throwing the wrapping paper away. It wasn’t his birthday, so he had no idea what this was, or why he had it.

He opened the box, peered inside, and every shitty thing that had happened that day was suddenly so, so worth it.

There was a small card on top, and he pulled it out to read it. The cover was a picture of Derek as Superman, and when he opened it, it only had the generic card’s text, and “DH” at the bottom in neat print. But it was enough.

You’re my Kryptonite.

“You are such a dork,” he whispered with a grin, setting the card aside and pulling items out of the box. He suspected Derek was trying to change his stance on his favourite DC superhero, because it was full of Superman merchandise.

There were a few pairs of boxer-briefs, some shirts, a magnet, a fucking colouring book—which Stiles was definitely going to colour in full and give back to Derek. There was a box of cupcakes at the bottom, with Superman logos in the frosting, and a framed picture of Derek and the actress who played Supergirl. It was signed by both parties, though Derek’s signature said “Derek Wolfe” instead of “Derek Hale.”

It was so fucking nice getting this at work today that he could barely handle it. Grinning broadly, he re-packed the box, putting Cora’s cinnamon buns inside as well, and spent the last few minutes of his shift elated.

When it was finally time to leave, he actually switched out of his shirt and pulled on one of the Superman shirts. He hadn’t noticed originally, but the left sleeve was signed in sharpie, and Stiles had to laugh. He left with his messenger bag across his shoulder and the box in both arms, calling goodbye to everyone.

He found Cora waiting for him in the lobby, and she almost squealed at the sight of him, jumping excitedly towards him and looking so fucking happy, he couldn’t stop smiling. It was hurting his face.

“Oh my God, did the nerd get you that?” she demanded, opening the box before he could stop her and rifling through it. “What a fucking loser.”

“Should’ve gotten me a new messenger bag,” Stiles insisted, teasing. Cora laughed and dragged him outside by the elbow. There was a bright yellow VW bug waiting on the corner and Cora shoved Stiles into the back before climbing into the front passenger seat.

“Hey Lydia,” Stiles said, without even bothering to look. It couldn’t be anyone else.

“Hello Stiles,” she replied politely, Cora slamming the door.

Lydia eased back into traffic slowly, and both of them were silent until she’d made it one block. That was when Cora whipped around and stared at Stiles intently.

“Tell me everything. Everything! Don’t leave a single detail out!”

“Well, Derek’s dick is very—”

“I take it back!” Cora slapped her hands over her ears, Stiles grinning. He waited for her to lower her hands, scowling at him, and just rolled his eyes.

“I didn’t see his dick, I don’t fuck on the first date, what do you take me for?”

“I don’t care if you blew him until his brain oozed out of his ears,” Lydia informed him, turning onto another street and shifting into the middle lane. “How did it go? What happened?”

“Well, first off, I didn’t know it was even a date.”

“How could you not know?!” Cora demanded.

“My invitation was Lydia handing me the restaurant’s card with a date and time on the back,” he insisted. “How could I possibly know that was a date invitation?”

“I told him,” Lydia said haughtily, twirling some hair around one finger while she waited for a red light to change. “I told him to ask you himself. He insisted you would know what it meant.”

“I didn’t even know he was gay!” Stiles insisted, flailing one arm. “It wasn’t until Cora showed up with the burgers that I realized what was happening. The entire time before that was awkward as fuck because he wasn’t talking, he kept texting on his phone, and I didn’t know what was going on. And the food was bad.” Stiles scowled. “Wine and weird crab flans. What even is a flan?”

“A baked pastry with an open top and some kind of filling,” Cora informed him.

“Thank you,” he replied sarcastically. “It wasn’t a real question. Either way, the beginning was... rough. Weird. Uncomfortable. But once I realized what was happening, I figured out he was acting all weird because he was nervous. I mean, has he never dated anyone before?”

Cora shook her head. “Not since high school, and even then, he didn’t so much date people as just kind of... he had flings with people. I think he slept with a few guys in university, but since he made it big, for obvious reasons, he’s been flying solo. I don’t think he’s ever actually liked someone before.”

“He’s certainly never taken anyone out on a date before,” Lydia agreed. “You were his first. I hope you didn’t tell him it was awkward.”

Stiles winced. “Uh, I uh, kind of did? But,” he insisted before either of them could freak out at him, “I only said that when I finally realized it was a date! I mean, like I said, before I knew, I couldn’t figure out why he was all weird and nervous and awkward. Once I found out it was a date, it made sense. I didn’t really know why he was nervous, but somehow his nerves made me feel, I don’t know, less worried? He’s already seen me make an ass of myself multiple times, so I just... acted normal? And it was nice. The end of the dinner was really nice.”

“You were late this morning,” Cora accused, eying him suspiciously. “And Lydia says Derek got home extra late last night. So you didn’t go home after dinner.”

“No, we didn’t.” Stiles grinned at her. “We went to a hotel to have loud, raunchy sex!”

“Oh, fuck you.” She tried to punch him, but couldn’t reach him at her angle. “This is my brother, come on! I just want to know what happened. I like that he’s happy.”

Stiles’ face softened, and he smiled at her words. “He was happy?”

“My first words to him this morning were literally, ‘somebody is extra chipper today’.” Lydia looked at him in the rear view mirror. “He was smiling so much, I had to wear my sunglasses to avoid blinding myself on his teeth.”

That was really nice to hear. To know that Derek was happy, even though all they’d really done was talk and kiss. He loved that Derek was happy, because he was happy, too.

“I had to get all that ridiculous crap for you, too,” Lydia said, waving one hand absently. “He was adamant that you be converted to Superman’s side from Batman’s side. He said he didn’t want to lose you to Ben Affleck.”

“I think he’d have to worry more about Christian Bale, really,” Stiles teased. Lydia hummed in agreement, and Stiles laughed.

“Don’t try to distract us,” Cora insisted. “What happened after dinner?”

“We went for a drive. He took me out of town to this place, I’m not sure where it was. We drove through a forest for a while and there was a lookout at the other end overlooking the city. It was really nice.”

“And?” Cora asked.

“We had wild, raunchy sex.”

She just stared at him, exasperated, and clearly no longer perturbed.

“We talked,” Stiles finally admitted. “We hung out on the hood and talked. And kissed.”

Cora screamed, Lydia jumping at the action, but her girlfriend didn’t notice or didn’t care, because she had both hands gripping her car seat and was freaking out. Stiles didn’t know how to handle that reaction, so he just laughed again. Lydia looked pleased, but Cora looked fucking elated.

“This is so amazing!” she insisted, hugging Lydia as best she could while the other drove. “Oh my God, Stiles, you have no idea. I’m so, so happy! If I have a brother-in-law, I want it to be you!”

“I think you’re getting ahead of yourself,” he insisted. “We just kissed.” He frowned. “Actually, I think we’re dating.”

“You’re dating?” Lydia demanded, whipping around. Stiles made a sound of alarm and motioned the road, forcing her to face forward once more. “Are you really? Because that would be huge for Derek.”

“I mean, I think so. He said he wanted ‘this,’ meaning us. I said I did too. He said we’d have to hide it, and I mean, I get it.” Stiles shrugged. “He has an image to worry about. But I like him. And if he likes me, well, I’m okay with hiding it.”

Cora was smiling at him so widely he was surprised her face didn’t hurt. She turned to look at Lydia, who also looked pleased, then looked back at Stiles.

“No matter what anyone ever says, Stiles Stilinski, I am forever going to be grateful that I crossed the street without looking up.”

Stiles smiled at her, nudging her seat lightly with his knees. “Me too, and not just because of Derek. Favourite Hale.”

Cora beamed at him, then faced forward once more, informing him they were going to get takeout for dinner. Silence fell afterwards, the three of them enjoying each other’s company when something occurred to Stiles.

“I don’t have Derek’s number.”

Cora almost laughed herself unconscious. Lydia just sighed and prayed for patience.

Stiles grinned.

Derek was jiggling his foot impatiently while watching the screen, resisting the urge to ask what the time was, since he’d already asked recently and he doubted it had changed much. The director was still ho-humming how he felt about the scene. Not because of anything Derek had or hadn’t done, but simply because of the way it was laid out.

He had to fucking go. He was meant to be meeting up with Stiles and Cora to have dinner, and he was already over an hour late. It wasn’t exactly his fault, and he knew it, and he knew they knew it, but still! It was just... he could’ve pushed more. He should’ve pushed more. To be done on time. But he was scared to push, so he just sat there anxiously, waiting to find out if they would be doing the scene again.

Lydia was probably fuming in the car. Derek wouldn’t blame her. She’d left in hopes that it would speed things up, but had now been sitting there for an hour waiting on him. Not to mention Derek still had to get out of his Superman suit and that was always a fun task.

The director finally confirmed he was okay with the shot and had barely called an end to the night when Derek was out of his chair and hurrying across the set, cape billowing behind him. He’d just barely reached wardrobe to get his costume off when someone grabbed at his cape and he halted, whipping around.

“Where are you off to in such a hurry, big boy?”

Derek had never found the term ‘big boy’ as repulsive as he did in that one moment. He especially didn’t like the person it was attached to and yanked his cape free rather violently. He was worried it would rip, but thankfully, she let go.

“Don’t touch my costume,” he insisted, rather childishly.

“Are you heading home?” Jennifer asked, following him into the trailer even though she had no reason to be there. Her scenes had ended hours ago, she’d changed out long before Derek had finished filming.

“No,” he snapped, hating that she was standing there watching him, but he ignored her as best he could while the costumer helped him out of the suit. It was awkward and uncomfortable, and he despised the damn thing, but he would try and bring it home one day, if only because Stiles wanted to see him in it.

Then again, Stiles was probably thinking about sexy things, and with how hard it was to take the damn thing off, it wouldn’t be sexy at all. Maybe he’d have to let him know that.

“I was thinking we could go out for dinner,” Jennifer persisted, Derek grabbing at his jeans and yanking them on. He didn’t want to turn around, he didn’t want her to get a view, since that was clearly what she wanted.

He knew she was probably staring at his ass, though, but not much he could do about that.

“I’m having dinner with Cora,” he bit out, snatching up his shirt and yanking it on over his head before hunting down his shoes.

“Perfect,” she said, sounding thrilled. “It’s about time I meet your sister. You know, considering.”

Derek paused then, turning to stare at her. “Considering what?”

“You know. Our relationship.”

Derek kept staring at her. He honestly had to wonder if she was completely insane, because in what possible universe did she live in where they had any kind of ‘relationship’? They were barely even coworkers, because Derek had expressed his severe dislike of her multiple times to the director, and the man had been kind enough to try and ensure their scenes were filmed with extras as much as possible.

Derek hated playing the ‘somewhat famous actor’ card, but his new role in Daredevil was increasing popularity for the show, and the man wanted to keep him happy. And Derek was happy whenever Jennifer was nowhere near him.

He kept secretly hoping she’d get killed off, but that was a harder sell than Jackson’s character. Lois Lane meant something to Superman. Maybe he could push for a Wonder Woman. He doubted he’d get Gal Gadot, but even a TV Wonder Woman would be just as exciting.

And he doubted the actress playing Wonder Woman would be half as creepy as Jennifer.

“That’s not happening,” Derek finally said, pulling his shoes on and doing up the laces. He nodded a thanks to the costumer and headed out of the trailer, Jennifer following along behind him.

“Don’t be so coy, Derek. I’m gonna have to meet her eventually. I mean, now that it’s out that she’s your sister, it shouldn’t be a big deal to introduce us. She’ll be thrilled to meet me.”

He rounded on her, pointing his finger in her face. “You stay away from my sister, or you’re looking for another job,” he hissed threateningly. “Cora is off limits. Don’t make me repeat myself.”

He turned again, hurrying towards the car, Jennifer still following along persistently and asking why he was being so grumpy.

Lydia looked ten different kinds of annoyed, but at least he knew she was aware the delay wasn’t his fault. She also noticed Jennifer following, and he was thankful she was such an amazing assistant because when he reached the Camaro, only the driver’s door was unlocked and the engine was already running. He managed to climb in, and while Jennifer tried the back door, it remained firmly closed. Derek slammed the door, locked it for good measure, and peeled off before Jennifer could even knock on his window.

“Are you okay?” Lydia asked, evidently concerned while he buckled his seatbelt, eyes on the road in front of him.

Derek said nothing for a long while, but after he was sure they were far enough away, he pulled over and parked the car, resting his forehead against the steering wheel and tightening his grip on it, feeling sick.

Every time he saw Jennifer, it brought back memories of Kate. She’d been an obsessive fan, who’d gotten it into her deluded mind that she and Derek were secret lovers after seeing him in his first ever big role movie. Derek used to like going to events, and Comic Con and all those other fun things that people always did in franchises.

But Kate had effectively killed that. She was obsessive, delusional, and fucking batshit crazy. She’d followed Derek around for almost a year, stalking him incessantly and even going so far as breaking into his house one day while he was gone and stealing a majority of his dirty underwear.

Which was fucking disgusting.

She’d also gone after Lydia, at one point, thinking she was Derek’s girlfriend, and everything had ended the day she showed up on set during filming of the seventh episode of season one’s The Last Son of Krypton and had actually fired a gun at him, insisting that they would be together forever in death.

Thankfully, nobody had been hurt, but Derek hadn’t really known how to respond to something like that. The stalking had been worrisome, but relatively harmless. When she’d gone after Lydia, he’d gotten a restraining order, but even then, he hadn’t realized how crazy she was. The woman had followed him across the country from LA to his hometown and had actually aimed a gun at him.

Derek had gone to therapy for a year after that incident, and he’d been better—mostly—in the past year, which was why he’d stopped going. But Jennifer was steadily getting worse and worse, and it was making him think about how to proceed.

He didn’t want to show up to work with another gun-wielding maniac.


He straightened, ignoring the concerned look he was getting from Lydia, and eased back onto the road.

“Derek?” she said again after a few minutes of uncomfortable silence.

“I’m fine,” he insisted. “I just... we need to get to Cora’s.”

Lydia looked upset that he wasn’t speaking to her, but she pulled out her phone and began texting. He hoped she wasn’t worrying Cora, it was nothing. He’d just have to talk to the director, and maybe they could have a sitdown with Jennifer and tell her to stop being a fucking psychotic creeper.

When they reached Cora’s building, Derek made it to the entrance long before Lydia did, and was already waiting for the elevator by the time her heels clicked across the marble floor of the entrance.

“Derek, if this is turning into a problem, we need to talk to someone.”

He didn’t want to admit it was, but it very obviously was. “Yeah,” he finally said. “I just don’t want another Kate.”

“I really think a discussion needs to be had,” Lydia said quietly. “In case. For Stiles.”

Derek turned to her sharply. “What about him?”

Lydia was staring at him exceptionally hard, and he realized what she meant. Kate had gone after Lydia when she thought she was his girlfriend. If Jennifer was as crazy as her, and found out he was dating Stiles, that would end extremely badly and he would not let anything happen to Stiles.

“Set up a meeting with the director tomorrow,” Derek said, facing the elevator when the doors opened and stepping inside. “We can talk to him first and determine how to proceed.”

Lydia was already typing an email on her phone, Derek swiping the fob and hitting the Penthouse. It seemed to take an eternity for the lift to reach the top of the building, but once the doors opened and he stepped out into his sister’s apartment, he felt all of his tensed muscles relaxing.

Cora and Stiles were both there, sitting on the couch, pointedly ignoring his arrival. They were probably pissed he was so late, but he knew it wouldn’t last long.

It never did.

Derek would be leaving for filming in LA soon, and he knew that was his only saving grace. They couldn’t afford to be mad at him for long.

They didn’t have the time.

“Hey,” he said, moving into the living room and leaning over the back of the couch. He kissed Cora’s temple, then Stiles’ cheek, pressing his own cheek against the top of his boyfriend’s head.

It was still so surreal to him that Stiles was his boyfriend, and he fucking loved it!

“You’re late,” Cora said coldly.

“The director needed scenes re-shot.”

“You need to learn to say no,” Cora insisted, turning to glare at him.

“It’s not that simple,” he insisted with a sigh. “Is that why I’m getting the silent treatment?” He shifted so he could kiss at Stiles’ temple and cheek again, moving to wrap his arms around him as best he could from the back of the couch. “I’m sorry.”

“Your time with us is limited right now,” Cora insisted, turning to him more fully. “You spend all your time filming the show, and by the time you’re done, you’ll be leaving for LA. You need to assert yourself a bit, get some free time. Stiles and I already share you, and that’s not fair to either of us.”

Derek sighed, kissing at Stiles’ head before saying. “I’m speaking to the director tomorrow, anyway. About something else. I can address this with him then, too.”

“Thank you.” Cora shifted a bit more, pressing herself into Stiles’ side. “What’s for dinner?”

Derek frowned. “You didn’t order anything?”

“We didn’t know what,” Stiles finally said, but he didn’t move to kiss Derek like he normally would have. Derek just smiled and bent down to lick and suck at Stiles’ neck, despite Cora’s sound of disgust.

“Lydia, make him stop,” Cora whined, Lydia’s heels clicking down the corridor. She’d evidently stuck by the elevator while finishing off the email, and she appeared beside Cora, kissing her lightly on the lips before sitting on the couch beside her.

“If your caveman brother wants to mark his boyfriend, that’s his prerogative.” She wrapped one arm around Cora’s shoulders and pulled her closer. “Vietnamese?”

“We had that yesterday,” Cora insisted, motioning her and Stiles.


“We have to go pick it up, and I can’t feel my legs,” Cora whined.

“What?” Lydia cocked an eyebrow. “Why not?”

“Stiles and I went to the gym.”

“It wasn’t fun,” Stiles insisted, voice a little breathy, probably from the abuse to his neck. At least it meant he was losing some of his anger, and Derek pulled his lips away, satisfied with the mark he’d left behind. It would likely darken over the course of the evening. Stiles was going to bitch about that later, but only later.

He never complained while it was happening, only when he saw the mark left behind.

“You’re going to the gym? That’s adorable,” Derek said, kissing his temple again before pulling away, the angle causing the couch to dig into his chest. “We could do Red Robin. They’re still open. I’ll go pick up the food.”

“I’ll go with you.” Stiles started to stand, but Cora yanked him back down.

“You are way too conspicuous. I’ll go. You stay.”

Stiles just rolled his eyes, but Cora got to her feet, bitching and moaning the whole way, and Lydia called farewell even as she began to bully Stiles into massaging her feet.

When Derek and Cora got into the car to head over, she texted Stiles to find out what he wanted since they’d never done Red Robin with him before. Lydia’s order they knew, but not Stiles’. Lydia responded for him, since it seemed she’d succeeded in coercing him into a foot massage.

“You need to be careful,” Cora said quietly. “You can’t do this to him.”

“I didn’t mean to be late,” Derek insisted, despite knowing that wasn’t a good enough reason.

“Then don’t make plans you can’t keep,” she argued. “Derek, you’ve been late consistently all summer. He understands, as I do, but if you’re not careful he’s going to think you don’t want this.”

“I do want this.” He turned to her, giving her a worried look. “Why would my being late mean I don’t want this? Cora, I’m doing my best. It’s just hard.”

“You’re Derek Wolfe,” she insisted. “Make it easier.”

“I’m double-filming right now because of Daredevil. I promise, I promise, when I’m back from LA, it’ll be better. I’ll take a break, spend some time with both of you, real time.”

“You can spend time with me whenever you want, now,” she said quietly. “I’m not a secret.”

That hurt to hear, and he knew it. Cora wasn’t saying it to be cruel, to make him out himself, but it was a valid point. People knew about his sister, now. She could come out with him in public, go for coffee, hang out at the movies.

He couldn’t do that with Stiles. He could try, in the guise of friends, but Derek had a hard time keeping his hands to himself. And Stiles refused to go out in public with him anyway, because he was worried about Derek.

Because he was so fucking perfect and deserved all the good things, and God did Derek want to give them all to him. He fucking adored that moron more than he could handle.

“I’ll make time,” he promised her.

“Good.” She looked back at her phone. “Now hurry up, before Lydia falls asleep on me. You’re not the only one missing out on time with their partner.”

Stiles was bitter over how quickly summer had come and gone. It felt like he’d blinked, and it was already late August. Normally, that wouldn’t bother him, because heat was evil and there were always more people out and about during the summer months, but this year, he wanted summer to last forever.

He and Derek had been dating for almost four months, and while most of the time it was great, sometimes it wasn’t. He figured it came with the territory, the whole dating thing. They got on each other’s nerves, they fought, they made up. Stiles hated fighting right now, though. Derek was leaving to begin filming Daredevil in just over a week, and he felt like time was moving way too fast.

He was losing out on time with him, and he hated that. He understood, of course he did, but sometimes it was frustrating. Derek was never on time—literally ever—and he kept having to reschedule plans. He would film all day, and come home exhausted, and he couldn’t find the energy to go to Cora’s to meet up with Stiles.

And again, Stiles understood. He did. But he wished that Derek would just stop making plans with him if he was going to be too exhausted to follow through. Which was what he told him angrily the last time they spoke, and now he was worried he’d fucked up.

It was hard. Relationships were hard. Both parties had to work to keep it together, and while Stiles knew Derek was trying, it sometimes felt like he wasn’t trying hard enough. He wondered if that was what everyone in a relationship felt like, though.

Cora and Lydia fought, as well, though about different things. Stiles listened mostly to Cora’s side, but sometimes Derek would tell him Lydia’s and it was clear both thought the other wasn’t trying hard enough to make it work. So it was likely just a couples thing.

Like the way Derek always complained at Stiles about how messy his apartment was, but in Stiles’ defence, Derek always showed up unannounced in the middle of the night. Stiles liked the way his apartment was, and he wasn’t going to change himself for Derek, which was something they had argued about a lot the first few weeks of being together.

Stiles operated this way. He left dishes in the sink. He didn’t fold his laundry. It was just how he was. It was things Derek would have to learn to accept about him and, for the most part—and grudgingly—he did. Just like Stiles had to learn to accept he was always late, and he’d mostly gotten that one under control, but the making and breaking of plans was still a work-in-progress.

More often than not, Stiles got pissed and couldn’t reign it in.

He was sitting watching TV, still worrying about not having heard from Derek. He picked up his phone to check the time, and realized it had been over twenty-four hours since they’d spoken. He hated that. He fucking hated fighting with Derek.


He set his phone back down, trying extremely hard not to check it every two seconds for a response. He managed to watch a few more minutes of TV before checking it, seeing Derek’s name on the main screen.


Stiles tapped the phone against his knee. That wasn’t a good response. Derek was probably frustrated, and sometimes when they were both mad, they just spent the whole time snapping at each other.

Sighing, he typed out.

i get it
i kno it’s exhausting
but youre leaving soon
it’s gonna be so hard without you

Derek didn’t reply, and Stiles was a little angry again, but only for three minutes. Because that was how long he waited before someone knocked on his door. It was past midnight, which meant it was Derek, and he hurried to the door to pull it open, letting him in before they continued their conversation so that no one would see him.

He had a plastic bag in one hand, his duffel over his other shoulder, and he looked miserable. It made Stiles’ stomach drop.

“Were you already heading over when I texted you?” Stiles asked.

“I was already at 7-11,” he said. “I had to wait out of sight for a while because someone was smoking on their balcony.”

“Oh.” Stiles crossed his arms and looked at the bag. “What’s that?”

“Ice cream.”

He nodded, shifting his weight uncomfortably. He knew he was being defensive, but he couldn’t help it. Every time they fought, he worried that Derek would just be done with him. He could have anyone he wanted, and while he kept insisting Stiles was the only person he’d ever want, that was hard to believe sometimes.

“I’m sorry,” Stiles said quietly. “I know you can’t help it sometimes, and I’m trying, I am, but it’s hard. And I’m sorry.”

“Me too,” Derek said, shifting his weight again uncomfortably. “I don’t like it when we fight. But it happens. We’re still figuring each other out.”

“Right.” Stiles sighed and uncrossed his arms, reaching for the bag. “It’s gonna melt.”

Derek let him take it, and Stiles saw him scowling into the sink, where a few days’ worth of dishes still sat, but he said nothing. Progress. That was progress.

Stiles put the ice cream away and turned off the TV while Derek used the bathroom first. When he exited, Stiles went to brush his teeth and get ready for bed. He walked into the bedroom to find Derek in his boxer-briefs beneath the covers. His bed was too small to comfortably fit two grown men, but they made it work. Derek kept threatening to buy him a new bed. Stiles argued he could afford his own bed, but the room was too small to accommodate anything much bigger.

Stiles was wearing sweats and a T-shirt, his usual pyjamas, and he turned off the light before crawling into bed beside Derek.

When he was settled, Derek pulled him close, practically wrapping himself around him. Stiles had learned very early on that Derek was big on cuddles. Especially after fights. He figured it had something to do with reassuring himself that Stiles was still there, and that kind of made him sad.

Derek seemed like a very lonely person.

His chest ached at the thought, and he turned more into him, trying to press himself closer, one arm around Derek’s middle and hand pressed against his back.

“Are you okay?” Derek asked quietly.

“I’m fine,” Stiles insisted. “Just missed you.”

“Me too,” Derek admitted.

They were silent for a long while, Derek holding him tightly, and Stiles felt guilty again. Nothing they’d ever fought about was grounds for a break-up, and while he knew he thought it a lot because his insecurities insisted that the great Derek Wolfe didn’t need him in his life, it was obvious that Derek was actually terrified of losing him.

“We’re gonna be okay, you know,” he finally said.

“What?” Derek asked, confusion in his tone.

“When you’re gone. We’re gonna be okay.”

Derek said nothing for a long while, then tightened his hold on Stiles, burying his face against his hair. “Of course we are.”

“You’re worried.”

“I want this,” Derek said, repeating the same words he had the first time he’d kissed Stiles. “I can’t lose this.”

“You won’t.” Stiles sighed. “But you need to spend some time with Cora.”

“I know,” he whispered.

“I’ll miss you, but she’s your sister. And I want you to spend the next few days with her before you leave, okay?”

“I’ll have to coordinate with Lydia,” he said, a smile in his tone. “She’s gonna want some time with her, too.”

“You can come to me on those nights.”

“Only if you buy a bigger bed.”

“Don’t pretend you’re miserable with how close we are.” Stiles smacked his back and Derek laughed.

“I’m sorry about cancelling yesterday,” Derek said quietly after a few minutes.

“Sorry I got mad.” Stiles kissed whatever part of him he could reach. Collarbone, most likely. “We’re okay. Now shut up and sleep.”

“You’re so romantic.” Stiles practically heard the eye roll. “Good night.”

“Night, Derek.”

When Stiles closed his eyes, his chest hurt a little less, and he held onto Derek as tightly as he could.

Derek hadn’t thought it would be this hard. He’d known it would be difficult, because he’d done it before, but he hadn’t realized how hard it would be this time around. It wasn’t just about Stiles—though it was still partly about Stiles. It was about leaving again. Leaving Cora. Leaving the Martins. Being away for months.

He already knew that he’d get two weeks at Christmas, mostly because that had been negotiated into his contract, but he was going to be out filming until close to June the following year. It was why they’d had to shoot so much of The Last Son of Krypton in advance, because he’d be gone virtually the entire filming season while it aired.

And Derek knew filming wouldn’t start right away when he arrived. There was the choreography, the workouts, getting himself into shape for the role—though being Superman mostly helped with that last one. Filming probably wouldn’t even start until closer to end of October, if he was honest, and it also depended on how the director worked with him. Some directors were good and could get everything they wanted from their actors in a few shots. Some directors were perfectionists, and demanding, and Derek had no idea which one he’d gotten. He wasn’t familiar with this director, or their style, so he was a little nervous.

And now, sitting in the Martin’s house with them, having their last dinner together, it was hard.

Stiles had been invited, but declined to come, insisting it was family time. Natalie had been annoyed with that, since Stiles was practically family at this point, coming to every Sunday brunch with Cora since he’d found out Derek was her brother.

Derek understood, and appreciated it, but also hated it. He was going to spend the night with him tonight, Lydia staying with Cora, and then he and Cora would have breakfast alone together the following day while Lydia and Stiles hung out. Their flight was leaving at three-thirty in the afternoon, so they would still have time to do things. Cora wanted to drive them to the airport. Stiles did, too, but wouldn’t, mostly for Derek’s sake, though Cora was going to spend the night with Stiles after dropping them off.

It was hard. He’d had trouble leaving Cora the first time, but now he had a second reason to want to stick around, and he didn’t know how to handle that. He didn’t want to leave them, but he knew he had no choice in the matter. Daredevil was filming in LA, so he had to be in LA.

The past few months felt like they’d flown by, mostly because he’d spent so much time working. Once he was done filming his scenes for the show, it was like he had no time left to spend with the people who mattered. He knew that, realistically, it would be fine and was only for a few months, but every time he got on a plane, he always thought, “What if this is the last time I’ll ever see Cora?”

And now he got to add Stiles to that. While the chances of his plane crashing were slim, the fact that Cora had almost gotten run over the previous September was still something he thought of frequently. And then he thought about what would happen if Jennifer found out about Stiles, and he worried all over again.

She’d been spoken to after her attempt to meet Cora, and while she’d been better since then, she was still very clearly interested. Derek worried about Stiles, he didn’t want anything to happen to him because Derek happened to have a crazy lady in love with him.

“Have you figured out accommodations?” Natalie asked, evidently trying to break the tension. Nobody wanted Derek and Lydia to go, but this was huge for him, and they wanted to be supportive.

Some days, he wondered if all of this was worth it. But if it let him support the people he loved, it was going to have to be worth it.

“Kira said we could stay at her place,” Derek said, cutting into his steak. “She’s travelling in France right now for a few weeks with her new boyfriend. Her mom gave me the spare key when I saw her last month.”

“That was very nice of her.” Natalie smiled. “Try not to get in her way too much once she’s back.”

“She’s not working on anything right now,” Lydia said. “If anything, she’s excited to have Derek around while she’s off work, though how much they’ll see of each other is debatable.”

“Well, all the same, make sure you’re not a bother to her.”

“I’ll try my best,” Derek said with a small laugh.

“You’ll call us, won’t you?” Geoff asked. “Just to let us know how things are going?”

“Even if he doesn’t, I will,” Lydia said, giving her dad a pointed look. “I’m leaving too, remember?”

“I know you are, sweetheart.” He reached out to pat her cheek lightly. “But you don’t do anything while Derek’s training and filming, so I don’t doubt you’ll call.”

“Thanks, dad,” she said dryly.

“Oh,” Cora suddenly said, pointing at Derek. “I almost forgot to tell you. Completely off topic, but I bumped into Satomi the other day. Her son just bought a house with a basement suite, he gets possession mid-September, so she wanted me to tell you that she’s moving out end of that month.”

“Hm.” Derek scowled. “End of September’s not a great month for renters.”

“Could always rent it to someone else,” Lydia sing-songed. For a second, Derek didn’t know what she meant, then it clicked.

Derek owned three apartments in Cora’s building. One on the ground floor, one on the seventh, and the Penthouse that Cora lived in. All three had been for sale when he’d bought the Penthouse, and he’d figured that one day he and Lydia would move into the building with Cora—of course, by then, Cora would have to move out of the Penthouse.

The other two apartments had been rented out, with the seventh floor apartment being the one Satomi lived in. If she was moving out, it meant there was an opening to get Stiles in the same building as Cora. That would be great for the two of them, given their close friendship, but also convenient for Derek since anyone seeing him entering the building would always assume he was going to Cora’s.

He wouldn’t have to hide out and sneak into Stiles’ place in the middle of the night. He was already going to have to look like a fucking thief tonight to get to his door without anyone recognizing him, since he couldn’t afford to show up after midnight. He had an early breakfast with Cora.

“I don’t think he’d go for it,” Derek muttered, stabbing at his green beans. “He yelled at me the other day when I told him I was going to buy him a new car.”

“That’s because he loves his Jeep and you were thinking of buying him a Porsche,” Cora said dryly. “I told you, Derek, you can’t buy him. Same as your first date.” She pointed her fork at him. “And I happen to know for a fact his lease is up soon. I don’t know when, exactly, but I can find out.”

“He won’t go for it,” Derek insisted.

“He will if you don’t act like you’re flaunting your wealth at him,” Natalie piped in. “Tell him you’ll rent it to him. He can pay you, same as Satomi did. I think he’d be more amenable if you let him support himself instead of doing it for him.”

That wasn’t a bad idea, but Derek said he’d wait to find out when Stiles’ lease was up. It would be a moot discussion if it was before the end of September, so Cora promised she’d find out.

They finished dinner and dessert in relative silence, mostly because they were enjoying each other’s company. Around nine, they finally headed out, Lydia driving since Derek had to park his car at Cora’s whenever he went to Stiles’ place.

Derek pulled on a hoodie and a baseball cap, and waited until they reached Stiles’ building. He called good night to the girls, promised he’d see Cora in the morning, and climbed out with his duffel. He rushed up the stairs and used the spare key to get into the building. He had one to Stiles’ apartment, too, but he rarely used it. It somehow felt a little too... he didn’t know. Stiles had only given him the keys because Derek had to be in and out super fast so no one saw him, and he couldn’t exactly stand at the intercom waiting for Stiles to buzz him in.

Derek figured that was why he didn’t like using the key. It had been given to him out of necessity, and he didn’t want that. He wanted the key to be his because Stiles wanted him to have a key. Something that wouldn’t happen until Derek came out.

He just hoped he was still dating Stiles, by then.

When he reached Stiles’ floor, his door was open and he was leaning against the jamb. He smiled at him, and Derek felt his chest warm. God, he was fucking beautiful.

“Your sister called,” he explained when Derek approached. “I figured I’d save you from knocking.” He moved back inside, Derek following and shutting the door. He locked it, yanked off the cap and hood, and then grabbed for Stiles.

He kissed him like he hadn’t seen him in years, hot and desperate. He only had a few precious hours left with him until he was gone, and while he’d be back at Christmas, there was always that “what if?” fear that maybe Stiles wouldn’t wait for him that long.

Stiles was breathing hard by the time Derek moved his lips from his mouth to his neck, sucking and biting at his skin, even as he shoved Stiles back against the kitchen counter. He wanted to mark him as much as possible so that all Stiles would think of for the next few days was Derek.

“Easy, easy!” Stiles insisted, and Derek thought at first he was talking about his teeth against his neck, but Stiles grabbed at his wrists a moment later and Derek realized he’d been trying to shove them down his pants.

He pulled away instantly, breathing hard and feeling ashamed. “Sorry.”

“Why?” Stiles asked, just as breathless. “I don’t mind, just—you know, not in the kitchen. I make food here.” He grinned and waggled his eyebrows, motioning for Derek to follow.

He did, but Stiles didn’t get far before Derek was on him again, whipping him around so he could kiss him and suck on his tongue, hands roaming beneath Stiles’ shirt while he forced him backwards towards the bedroom.

His heart was pounding in his chest at the thought of what might be coming. They hadn’t really done much in terms of sexual activity, mostly because Derek was usually too tired when he saw Stiles, and because he was more than happy to have him in any way he could. Kissing, cuddling, lying together on the couch. He didn’t care, so long as he had him.

But tonight, he was about to leave for a while. They’d been together for months, and he wanted this.

He wanted Stiles.

God, did he ever want Stiles.

He broke the kiss so Stiles could fall backwards onto the bed, grinning impishly at him and waggling his eyebrows again.

“Did you plan this or something?” Derek asked, wrenching the hoodie off himself and crawling over Stiles once he’d succeeded.

“No, but it’s not like I haven’t been thinking about it for a while. Figured you weren’t ready for it.”

Derek snorted. “I’ve had sex, you know.”

“Yeah, but—” Stiles bit off the end of his statement, scowling at himself and Derek frowned.

“But what?”


Derek watched him for a moment, then realized what he’d been about to say. “But not when it meant something, right?”

Stiles flinched, and he looked ashamed of himself. Derek just leaned forward to kiss him again.

“You’re not wrong. All my other times were just... me getting off. It didn’t really mean anything. This, though? This means something. And I was ready for it the first time I saw you, I just care about you more than I do about the sex.”

“So, no sex?” Stiles asked, almost sounding disappointed.

Derek rolled his hips downward, hard, and Stiles groaned, eyes rolling slightly. Derek bit gently at his jaw. “How can I resist when you’re so willing?” he breathed against his skin.

“Fuck, Derek,” Stiles whined, squirming beneath him. “Top or bottom?”

“I don’t mind,” Derek admitted, biting along Stiles’ jaw. “You?”

“I don’t mind either.”

“Well, given our positions right now, let’s roll with it. You can top next time.” It was actually kind of a relief for Derek that Stiles didn’t seem to care. He liked topping most of the time, but every now and then it felt nice being on the bottom, being cared for. They’d never really discussed this, mostly because Derek would do whichever Stiles preferred, but it was still really fucking nice to know that it was working out for both of them.

Stiles really was the chillest person in the world, and Derek fucking adored him.

Getting each other undressed was not a slow and sexy thing. Derek got elbowed in the face when Stiles went to wrench off his own shirt, and Derek himself accidentally kneed him in the stomach while trying to get his jeans off. More than once, Derek almost fell off the too-small bed. Thankfully, Stiles was just laughing at how awkward they were, which made everything even better.

There was nothing sexy about sex, but as long as both sides could laugh about it, that was what mattered.

When Derek finally got the last of Stiles’ clothes off, already naked himself because apparently Stiles struggled with things like buttons and zippers when he was excited, he leaned back to stare down and admire him. He had a spattering of moles all across his skin, and patches of hair on his chest and lower stomach, leading down to his happy trail.

“This is pathetic,” he informed Stiles, tapping at his chest. “Can you even grow a beard?”

“Fuck you,” Stiles insisted, reaching up to twist one of Derek’s nipples. He grunted, but smirked through the pain of it anyway. It wasn’t like Stiles had twisted hard enough to hurt.


“Night stand.”

Derek pulled away from Stiles and moved up the bed. They were lying on it the wrong way, across the middle instead of lengthwise, but Stiles shifted so he was lying properly when Derek went for the lube. The bed was small enough without tempting fate into having one of them slide clear off the damn thing.

Opening the top drawer, Derek pulled out the lube and saw a pack of unopened condoms. He hoped that was for him, and not something left over from before, though he knew Stiles had had previous relationships. Still, he didn’t like to think about them.

He ripped open the box and pulled out one of the condoms, moving back to slide between Stiles’ legs. He dropped the condom on the bed for now and popped open the lube.

If he was honest, he didn’t know that he wanted to do this with Stiles right now.

Not because he didn’t want to, because fuck did he ever, but mostly because he wanted to be able to take his time. Do it slow, fuck him to the point where Stiles was a begging, incoherent mess, and then cuddling with him until the following afternoon before maybe getting fucked himself. Or just fucking Stiles again, he hadn’t decided.

But he couldn’t do that today. He had to sleep tonight, because of breakfast with Cora, and he couldn’t show up for breakfast smelling like sex. And he was too far in to stop this now. His traitorous brain kept saying, “what if, Derek?”

What if something happened to Derek on that plane tomorrow?

What if something happened to Stiles while he was gone?

What if Stiles decided this was too much effort, dating an actor across the country, and left him?

What if their relationship fell apart?

What if? What if? What if?

His brain was full of what ifs, and he hated them. But he wanted this, and even if he wanted it differently, he would just hope to get that next time. This time, he just wanted Stiles. He wanted him bad.

Stiles spread his legs and bent his knees, arching his back slightly to give Derek more room. He slid one finger along his perineum, teasing Stiles a little before pushing his middle finger into him. Stiles groaned and reached up to grab at Derek’s shoulders, trying to pull him down.

Derek obliged, shifting so he could kiss Stiles while his finger continued to press into him. It meant one of Derek’s legs was hanging off the bed in this position, but it would only be for a little bit.

“How do you like being fucked?” Stiles asked between kisses, arms wrapped around Derek’s neck.

“What?” Derek asked with a small laugh.

“Just curious for my turn,” Stiles insisted, biting at Derek’s bottom lip and worrying it between his teeth. “Hard and fast? Slow and sensual? Or do you like to suffer and hold off the orgasm as long as possible?”

Every word out of Stiles’ mouth was making Derek’s dick pulse, pre-cum drooling from the tip. He’d never had this kind of conversation with anyone before, it was usually just incoherent “fuck, yes, oh fuck, yes” when things started. He knew Stiles would likely get there eventually, but considering Derek now had two fingers in his ass and Stiles was still staring at him like Derek’s answer was important, it was a little much.

“I don’t know,” he admitted. “I’ve never really thought about it.”

“Oh?” Stiles’ hips were pushing down on the fingers, squeezing at them, and Derek could feel his arms trembling slightly around his neck. “We’ll have to experiment, then.”

“How do you like to be fucked?” Derek repeated, watching the way Stiles’ body unconsciously gave away how excited he was.

His pupils were blown, his lips were wet, small pants escaping him, and he already had a thin layer of sweat coating his skin. Derek wanted to fucking devour him.

“Normally, hard and fast,” Stiles informed him, breath hitching when Derek added more fingers. “But with you? I don’t know yet. Could go either way, really.”

“When I’m back,” Derek said, biting at Stiles’ jaw, teeth scraping along his skin, “I’m going to fuck you until you can’t speak. And when you beg me to let you cum, I’m going to make you work for it until you don’t remember your own name.”

“Fuck,” Stiles moaned out, hips rocking upwards. Derek hissed when Stiles’ dick brushed against his own, and decided that was enough.

Pulling his fingers out, he sat up, forcing Stiles to release his hold on him, and then grabbed the condom. He ripped through it and rolled it on, grabbing lube to make sure it was suitably lubricated, and positioned himself back onto the bed properly. Stiles opened his legs wider, left one beginning to shake, probably from the strain. Derek held his dick with one hand, Stiles’ hip in the other, and slowly pressed into him.

“Fuck me,” Stiles groaned, both words stretched out.

Derek couldn’t help the laugh that escaped him. “That’s what I’m doing, didn’t you notice?”

“Not yet,” Stiles panted out, Derek sliding in to the hilt and letting out a slow breath, Stiles tight around him. “Maybe you should make it more obvious.”

“You little shit,” Derek growled against his lips. He proceeded to try and suck the air right out of Stiles’ lungs, tongue sliding wetly against Stiles’. He pulled his mouth back and instead kissed along one cheek, not wanting his tongue bitten off when he pulled out and slammed back in in one fluid motion.

Stiles cursed, hands which had previously been against Derek’s neck shifting so one was in his hair and tugging, and the other was drawing angry red lines along his back with blunt nails. The headboard banged against the wall and Derek laughed.

“Your neighbours will hate you.”

“My neighbours can suck my dick,” Stiles bit back, breathing hard and wrapping both legs around Derek’s waist. “Fuck yes, Derek. Come on.”

“Do you ever stop talking?” Derek asked, struggling to inhale and laugh at the same time.

He pulled back out and thrust in hard. Stiles had said he liked it hard and fast. Derek didn’t want this to end too quickly, so he figured he could meet him in the middle and go with slow and hard.

It was difficult to tell if Stiles liked that or not, because every time Derek slammed back into him, his nails would rake across Derek’s back painfully and he would be muttering, “Please, please, fuck, please” into whatever part of Derek’s skin his mouth could reach.

Derek’s arms were killing him after a few minutes, and he had to shift positions so that he could brace his forearms on the bed instead, on either side of Stiles’ head. He kissed and sucked at whatever parts of Stiles’ skin he could reach, the other’s face buried in his neck. He was clinging to Derek like he never wanted to let him go, hips rocking back against each hard thrust. Derek had increased his speed a little bit, because this was hard enough on him without making himself go crazy.

He could feel Stiles’ dick rubbing between them, and when Derek shifted again so he could grab it in one hand and thrust back in, Stiles let out a strangled version of his name and tugged harder on Derek’s hair.

Keeping that same angle, Derek began increasing his speed, working his hips faster and harder, the headboard slamming against the wall with each thrust. The neighbours were definitely going to complain, but Derek didn’t care. He would buy the whole fucking building, if he had to, just to be able to do this with Stiles whenever he wanted.

Just to have him begging him, like he was doing now. Clinging to him, tugging at his hair, raking his nails across his skin. Derek had fucked people before, but it was never like this. It was never about making sure the other party was enjoying it, and it was so fucking gratifying having Stiles grunting against him, moving his hips, asking Derek to just come on.

When he wrapped one hand around Stiles’ cock, he squeezed hard while slamming into him, and then began to pump him almost brutally fast. Stiles was shouting less than ten seconds later, entire body jerking as he came between them, squeezing around Derek’s dick tightly enough that he almost couldn’t pull back out.

Every thrust back in made Stiles’ entire frame jerk, and he was still clinging to Derek tightly, eyes squeezed shut and dick continuing to ooze cum.

“Fuck, fuck, fuck.” Stiles was breaking skin on Derek’s back. He could feel it, but he didn’t care. He just kept thrusting into him as fast as he could, stomach clenching and going rigid for a second when he came. He bit into Stiles’ shoulder, not hard enough to draw blood, but enough to leave at least a bruise come morning.

His entire body was locked up while he came, eyes clenched shut and teeth closing harder around the skin in his mouth. Finally, after minutes, months, years, he opened his eyes and could feel Stiles’ hand scratching lazily at his scalp, playing with the stands near the base of his neck.

He extricated his teeth from Stiles’ skin and lay on top of him, dick softening and feeling uncomfortable with the condom still on it.

“You good?” Stiles asked, voice low and extremely sexy.

“Mm,” Derek replied, cheek resting against Stiles’ damp chest and eyes closing once more. “Gimme a second.”

“Take a year.” Stiles was definitely grinning. “Took you a while to come back, there. Didn’t know I was that good,” he teased.

“Shut up,” Derek muttered. He didn’t want to move. He just wanted to lie there and bask in the relaxed feeling and warmth of the body beneath him. But, sadly, only movies allowed people to have sex and then lie there until dawn. In reality, without cleanup, morning was a fucking bitch.

Derek took a few minutes before he sat up, pulling out of Stiles, who hissed at the action but said nothing else. Derek stood to head for the bathroom, tying off the condom and grabbing some tissues to wrap it in before tossing it in the trash.

Though it was the last thing he wanted to do right then, he went hunting through Stiles’ things for a washcloth, wiping himself down before rinsing it off and heading back for the room. Stiles was still lying where he’d left him, eyes closed and flushed. Derek felt a pang of sadness at the realization that he wouldn’t see him again for months after tomorrow morning.

He bent down to wipe Stiles off, the other letting out a shout and slapping at Derek.

“That’s fucking cold!”

“Needed to wake you up a little,” Derek insisted with a grin. Stiles just smacked at him again, and warned him to watch himself the next time they fucked while Derek headed back for the bathroom.

He rinsed the cloth off once more, then tossed it into Stiles’ hamper, wandering back to the room. Still naked, he lay down on top of Stiles, wrapping his arms around him as best he could, and got comfortable on top of him. Stiles’ hands returned to his hair and back, one playing with the strands, and the other rubbing at his sweaty skin.

“I’m gonna miss you,” Stiles said quietly.

“Me too,” Derek replied. “You’ll watch out for Cora while I’m gone, right?”

“Always. She’s my favourite Hale.”

Derek tried to slap whatever part of Stiles he was holding, but given his position, it fell flat. He just closed his eyes and tried to ignore that this would be gone come morning.

He was already counting down the days until his return.

Derek knew they had to go. It would take a while to get through security at this hour, but he didn’t want to let go. He didn’t want to walk away from this again. It was getting harder and harder each time.

Maybe he should just convince Cora to come with him going forward. He and Lydia, Cora and Stiles. All of them moving around together. Unrealistic, but he could dream.

“Be careful,” Cora said against his skin, hugging him tightly enough he knew her muscles were aching. “You come back, or I’ll fucking murder you.”

“I promise,” he insisted. “Stay out of trouble while I’m gone.”

“I’ll try.”

It was like this every time Derek had to get on a plane. He knew the chances of him going out the same way as their parents and Laura were slim, but it didn’t stop the panic. He hated flying, always had, always would.

He kissed at Cora’s temple a few times before finally pulling away, ignoring that she was wiping at her face. He stepped aside and turned away so Lydia could say goodbye. It was always really hard for them, too, but likely moreso now that they were together. He politely kept his gaze on something across the airport so as to give them a little bit of privacy.

When Cora hugged him around the middle again, he turned and hugged her back, kissed her head again, then lightly shoved her away.

“Go on, get out of here. Go have some sundaes with Stiles.”

“We’re gonna mope so hard together, it’s gonna be epically sad,” Cora informed him, wiping at her eyes again. She held up one hand in farewell, Derek’s keys in them, and promised she would look after both of his babies.

Derek assumed Stiles was the one that wasn’t his car.

They both watched Cora leave, Lydia turning to Derek and smacking him across the arm to get him back to reality. Heading for security together, they waited in the long line to get through, Derek removing his shoes and tossing out the water bottle he’d forgotten he had in his bag. Once through, they went to their gate to wait, Derek staring out the window at all the planes taking off and landing. He’d already turned off his phone, because it was hard enough without texting Stiles and Cora until the moment he left. It was better this way.

It didn’t take them long to board, and when he was seated, he immediately pulled out the script and began reading it over, Lydia pulling a sleeping mask over her eyes and leaning back for some shuteye.

He didn’t know if she’d gotten much of it the night before, but doubted it, considering he and Stiles had been up much later than intended. At least Derek had showered before meeting Cora for breakfast, which was more than he could say for her.

Every time they hit a bout of turbulence, Derek’s hands clenched at the armrests hard enough to turn them white. Lydia always woke up and rested one hand reassuringly on his. It helped, but only just. It was something of a relief when they finally landed and made their way to baggage claim.

They had to grab a cab to Kira’s place, the cabbie chatting away like someone famous wasn’t in his back seat. He supposed that given where the man worked, he’d probably seen his fair share of celebrities.

The guard had let them in at the front of the compound, having been told by Kira earlier in the month that Derek would be staying at her place, and once he was inside, he looked around appreciatively, picking up the note Kira had left for him.

It mostly detailed when housekeeping came around, and where various stores were in the vicinity, since Derek hadn’t lived on this side of Beverly Hills. He’d lived in the downtown core of LA when he’d been out here.

He and Lydia found their rooms relatively quickly, and started unpacking for the long stay. He’d have to remember to get Kira something to thank her for letting him crash at hers. He could stay in a hotel, and he knew the production team would pay for it, but it was nicer to be able to hang out with a friend. He and Kira kept in touch, but they didn’t see each other much given their schedules.

He sat down on the bed and pulled out his phone, turning it back on. There were a few messages from both Cora and Stiles, and he confirmed he’d landed safely to both of them. They both responded simultaneously, and he wondered if they were still together. Probably, Stiles was meant to be sleeping over at Cora’s.

He texted with them both for a bit before telling them to stop ignoring each other. When the last response came back, he exited out of his messages and locked his phone, staring at the lock-screen.

It was a picture of Stiles and Cora from before Derek had even known him. It was one of the ones Cora had sent Lydia—who’d then sent it to Derek once he and Stiles became more than friends. They were both making weird faces with ice cream on their noses. It was an endearing picture, and he missed them both terribly already.

Thank God for Lydia, who walked in at that moment, as if summoned by his thoughts.

“Smart idea,” she said when she saw his lock screen. “The picture.”

“Yeah,” he said quietly. “My two favourite people.”

Lydia smacked him, hard, and he turned to glare at her. “Excuse me? What am I, then?”

Derek thought for a moment. “Not a person. A goddess.”

“Hm. Nice save,” Lydia said, giving him a look before heading out of the room. “I might go to the store, find some things for dinner. I think Hayden might still be available to cook, couldn’t get a hold of her before we left.”

“If not, we’ll live,” Derek insisted, still looking at the screen. He sighed and shoved the phone into his pocket, then dug through his clothes to find something to work out in. He was about to go through some intense physical activity for his role, and he figured he might as well stay on top of things now.

Grabbing a pair of shorts and a wifebeater, he pulled them on, did up his sneakers, and headed downstairs. Lydia was still in the kitchen writing out a list, and he motioned over his shoulder.

“I’m heading for the gym. I have my phone if you need me.”

“Mm,” she said in affirmation. Derek turned to leave, and had barely exited the kitchen when Lydia screeched, “Stop!”

“What?” he whipped back around and she hurried towards him and turned him once more.

“Christ, really, Derek?” She let out an aggrieved sigh, like his existence was a huge hassle. “Go change into a T-shirt or something, let’s not advertise it.”

“What?” he asked again, looking at her over his shoulder.

The look he got was unimpressed and Lydia pulled out her phone, motioning him back around. He heard the click of her camera, and then she was in front of him, holding out her phone. He instantly felt himself flushing, because there were very noticeable broken lines of skin on his back peeking out from various areas. His wifebeater wasn’t going to cover them, and he was going to have to wear T-shirts until they healed over and disappeared. Hopefully it wouldn’t take too long, but he could still feel the embarrassed flush creeping up his neck.

“Right. T-shirt,” he agreed.

“T-shirt,” Lydia repeated. “Guy really wanted to make sure you remembered him.”

“Yeah, well,” Derek couldn’t help the smile on his face. “He’s gonna have a bruise to last a lifetime.”

Stiles winced and rearranged his messenger bag on his other shoulder, finding it weird and uncomfortable since he wasn’t used to it being there, but unable to keep it on his normal shoulder, thank you very much, Derek!

During the sex and high on the pleasure, Stiles hadn’t really given much thought to Derek biting into his shoulder like he had. Now, though, a weekend later, it fucking hurt. It had bruised over, some of his teeth impressions still in his skin, and he couldn’t put anything on it without it aching.

He was going to have to pay him back for that later, but right now, he just trudged up to the bus stop with his bag on the wrong shoulder, and fell onto the bench. He was exhausted, and sad, but at least he and Cora were hanging out with Isaac and Erica after work. Boyd was busy doing homework, but the rest of them were going to catch a movie and grab dinner.

It would be nice, since Cora likely wouldn’t cancel this time and they’d all finally get to know one another. Stiles also felt a little bad, since he’d been declining hangouts with Isaac a lot lately because of Derek. Isaac was pretty chill, so he didn’t seem bothered by it, but he was glad to finally be able to make plans with him.

Stiles was staring into space for a long while, and he jumped when a short blare of a horn sounded, looking up at the car in front of him. His heart leapt into his throat at the sight of a sleek black Camaro, and a grin almost overtook his face before he realized who was behind the wheel.

Not that Cora was anything to be upset about, but for half a second, at the sight of the car, he’d thought it might’ve been Derek.

“Get in, loser.”

“How can I resist when you say it so nicely?” Stiles teased, moving to the passenger side door and climbing in. Cora began driving the second he was buckled in. “Nice ride, you steal it from your brother?”

Cora grinned at him, looking tired, but better than she had all weekend. “He said I could use it while he was gone. I figured we could drive to his place downtown, park it in the lot, and then catch the train down the street from his place. It’s about six stops from his place to our work, so it’ll save us both a lot of travel time. I meant to tell you yesterday, but I forgot, so we’ll have to time how long it takes and bear that in mind for tomorrow.”

“Sweet.” Stiles could get used to being driven to work. “Home as well?”

“Sure.” Cora shrugged. “I’m gonna be feeling his departure a lot, so the more time I get with you, the better.”

“Aw, I feel so loved,” Stiles insisted, but he knew what she meant.

Cora and Derek had both often told him how important they were to each other. Given their family tragedy, it made sense, but he hoped that in time, it would be less suffocating for them. Derek had been texting with Cora almost all of the previous night, which was sweet, but probably unhealthy. They were very dependent on one another, and Stiles hoped Lydia could help on the Derek side while he helped on Cora’s. They needed other people to rely on, too.

They made it to Derek’s building in no time, walking to the train station together and getting on the next one that arrived. By the time they reached their workplaces, Stiles was more than forty-five minutes early, so he went to hang out at the Starbucks on the corner, drinking a coffee and waiting for time to pass. When he was sure Chris would be there, he headed over and actually met him in the lobby. He and Cora were definitely going to need to do some trial and error on this, because Stiles wanted those precious extra minutes of sleeping time.

Around lunch, he told Chris he had to leave to buy something and headed across the street to the store. There were some ready made items in their deli section so he grabbed himself a samosa and a chickpea salad, moving to the till to cash out.

He was second in line when a picture caught his attention out of the corner of his eye. He turned to see what it was, and noticed it was Derek on the cover of a magazine. The header read, ‘Most Eligible Bachelor in the Marvel Universe.’ Beneath it was a smaller comment of, ‘Will Derek Wolfe ever settle down?’

On a whim, Stiles grabbed it and added it to his pile. He mostly just wanted to know what the tabloids were saying about him, regardless of what it was and how true or untrue it may be.

When he got back to work, he sat in the staff lounge to eat, reading through the article about Derek. It mentioned his real name, his sister, what had come out about his family the past year. Then it moved on to how he didn’t seem to have anyone ‘special’ in his life. Apparently Jennifer Blake—whom Stiles had vaguely heard about since meeting Derek—insisted they were on the cusp of becoming an item, but an anonymous source close to Derek had said it was never going to happen. Stiles assumed it was Lydia, based on the wording of the particular quote.

It made him sad to read the article, because everyone was speculating as to why he was still single. Some people insisted that he was too much of an asshole to attract anyone’s attention, and others insisted he was too picky. There were even some comments about religion and his dislike of certain races, which was downright bullshit and slander, in his opinion.

He hated that Derek couldn’t even just say, “I’m gay.” He didn’t have to admit he was in a relationship, or even say anything about Stiles at all. Stiles just wanted him to be able to tell people the reason they never saw him out in public with a woman was because he was gay.

Finishing off his lunch, he went back to work, trying not to think on it too much. It wouldn’t do him any good to dwell on Derek’s closeted life, so he just forced a smile and did his job, then headed home with Cora to wallow in self-pity until their outing with Isaac and Erica.

They were honestly a blessing, because they distracted Stiles from how much he missed Derek, and it allowed him to focus on cheering Cora up. It was harder for her, because this was her brother and best friend/girlfriend. For him, while he liked Lydia well enough, he mostly just missed Derek.

Erica tried to pry about Derek a bit, since she knew Cora was his sister, but Stiles made her back off pretty quickly and she got the hint. When the night was over, Cora asked him to stay the night with her again, and despite work being the next day, he agreed and stopped at home to pick up some stuff.

It kind of turned into a routine, the two of them hanging out, Cora wanting him to stay, him sleeping with her in her huge and comfortable bed. It was always purely platonic, even if they woke up tangled together. Cora even took a picture one day and sent it to both Lydia and Derek.

Both of them said it was cute, but threatened bodily harm to the other party if they stole their partner. It was amusing to Stiles, and he loved Cora for how easy everything was with her.

No drama, no developed feelings, no weirdness. They were just two friends hanging out, sleeping together platonically, and chilling as much as possible.

It was two weeks later that Stiles came home to grab more stuff to head to Cora’s when he found a letter on the floor, having been slid under his door. He opened it while getting his stuff organized, and realized it was his lease renewal for November. It was early, but he understood why when he read it over.

Apparently the building’s strata fees were increasing, so the landlord had to increase Stiles’ rent by a fair margin. Almost five-hundred dollars. The whole reason Stiles had moved there was because it was affordable, but if his rent went up...

He didn’t want to move. Cora was right up the street, if he moved he’d live somewhere further out, and he’d miss out on time with her. He liked this area, but five-hundred dollars was a lot of money.

Tossing the letter onto the counter, he figured he would think about it. Crunch some numbers, see if he could afford it. If not, well, he wouldn’t have a choice but to move. Not the end of the world, just inconvenient for hangouts with his best friend.

He arrived at Cora’s two hours later, having done some laundry since he was running low on clean clothes, and went about helping her make some food. They were mostly trying to eat healthy for dinner now so that they could have sundaes whenever they wanted, but it was hard when they were both lazy.

Tonight was fajitas, and Stiles did all the chopping while Cora actually cooked everything. By the end, they had a large enough amount to last them at least three days, and they loaded up before heading to the couch to watch something on Netflix.

“You’re quiet,” Cora remarked, Stiles taking a bite of his fajita, sauce and sour cream dribbling down his chin.

“Yeah, just thinking,” he said, food tucked into one cheek so he could speak, and free hand coming up to wipe at his chin. “Lease is renewing in November, but the price went up. I’m trying to figure out what to do about it.”

“Did it go up by a lot?” Cora asked curiously.

“Yeah, about five hundred.” Stiles took another bite of his food, chewing while he thought of how to phrase his next sentence. “I want to stay here, I like being close, but it’s a little tight for me. I’ll probably have to move.”

“Oh.” Cora didn’t sound upset, which kind of stung, but when he glanced at her, he saw her looking over at her phone. He pretended not to notice when she picked it up to text someone, and hoped she wasn’t telling Derek his money woes.

He and Derek had had enough fights about money since they started dating.

When she stayed on her phone for a while longer, mostly ignoring the movie playing, Stiles sighed, having finished his food while she still had one and a half fajitas left.

“You’re telling Derek, aren’t you?”

She jumped and turned to him, offering him a sheepish smile. “Just hear him out, okay?”

“Cora,” he whined, slouching in his seat. “He’s my boyfriend, not my sugar daddy.”

“He could be both if you’d let him,” she teased. He just scowled at her and she shrugged, putting her phone down and taking a bite of her food.

His phone began to ring a moment later and he shot her a scathing look before setting his plate aside and standing. He answered the call while heading for the stairs, wanting some privacy in Cora’s room for when he and Derek got into a yelling match over this.

“Hey,” he said on his way up the stairs. “How are things?”

“Hey Stiles. They’re good. Almost done with the fight choreography, so anticipating we’ll start filming relatively soon.”

“How’s that been?”

“Hard. Really hard. A lot more demanding than Superman, that’s for sure.” He let out a small laugh and Stiles’ chest ached. He missed him so much, it was kind of stupid.

“I’m sure it’ll pay off, though.”

“Yeah. Beard’s growing out, sorry you’re missing that.”

“Next time,” Stiles said with a small smile. “Can’t wait to see it in person and drag my nails through it.”

Derek let out a small groan, mostly of pain. “Don’t do that. You’re too far to do that to me.”

“Incentive for you to come back faster.”

“Fast as I can, trust me.” He let out a small laugh, then paused for a moment. Stiles assumed he was trying to figure out how to say what he’d called to say, and he was already tensing for a fight. Derek was his boyfriend, not his fucking dad. He didn’t want him paying for his shit.

“I have a rental up for grabs,” he finally said. Which... wasn’t what Stiles had been expecting, actually.


“I own three apartments in that building. Cora’s, one on seventh and one on the ground floor. The woman on the seventh floor is moving out at the end of the month. Cora mentioned your rent was going up. I was thinking maybe you could, you know, move into that unit. You can pay the same rent as you were at your old place, so that you can still afford it, but at least you’ll still be in the area and you’ll be closer.” He hesitated, then added, “It also means I can come over more easily. People seeing me enter the building will just assume I’m going to see Cora.”

Stiles said nothing for a moment, thinking it over, but his silence obviously concerned Derek because he spoke again.

“You’d still be paying rent! It’s not a freebie or anything. Sure, you’d be paying less than the place is worth, since it’s just under two thousand square feet. But it’s a two bed, two bath, it’s still in the area, and you’d be paying rent. I mentioned that, right? You’d still be paying rent, so it’s not a handout or anything. It’s just... Cora and I don’t want you to move. You’d end up far away somewhere, and this is just... good timing.”

It was true. Stiles mostly hated when Derek flaunted his wealth, because that wasn’t what he liked about him. He didn’t like it when Derek dropped two grand on a fucking dinner, he liked it when he and Derek went through the McDonalds drive-thru and sat on the hood of his car eating while looking up at the stars.

This was closer to the latter. Stiles needed a new place given his rent was increasing, and Derek had one, but he’d still have to pay for it. Sure, it was probably worth more than what Stiles was currently paying, but this was actually perfect. A nice place, but affordable, and still close to Cora. Closer, even.

A part of him wanted to say no and insist it was charity, but the more reasonable side of him understood that Derek was trying really hard to do something nice for him without making him feel like he was being bought.

Letting out a slow breath, he said, “Yeah, okay.”

“Yeah?” Derek sounded so damn excited, which was kind of rare for Stiles to hear.

“Yeah. Thanks. Let’s do that. I’ll send you details of rent and hydro and stuff in the morning and we can talk about it. Because I am paying you rent,” he threatened.

“Understood. Yes.” Derek was definitely smiling on the other end, and it kind of annoyed Stiles.

Then, a thought occurred to him, and he also grinned, leaning against the wall and saying, “Hey Derek? Now I really am your dirty little secret.”

Derek snorted at that, but told Stiles to get back to Cora and that they’d talk more tomorrow. Stiles hung up and went back downstairs. Cora had paused the movie, and was watching him nervously. He could only assume she’d known about the open apartment, and was now wondering if Stiles was going to be stubborn and move away, or if he’d be living only a few floors below her.

“So?” she asked hesitantly when he fell back into his seat and got comfortable.

“So?” he echoed, giving absolutely nothing away.

Cora fidgeted, but it didn’t last long. She was impatient. “Are you taking it, or not?”

Stiles turned to her, face as expressionless as he could manage, but she looked so damn worried and hopeful at the same time that he couldn’t hold it for long and ended up smiling.

“Yeah, I’ll take it.”

“Yes!” Cora cheered and punched him in the arm. He winced and rubbed at it, but let her have her fun. “Oh, this is awesome! We should get you moved in as soon as Satomi moves out. I’ll hire the cleaners to get it sorted out, and you can start moving in right away in October. You don’t have to pay for October—fuck you, don’t argue—and we can have you moved out before your November lease agreement is due. If you tell your owner now, it’s almost two months notice, more than enough time for him. This is so awesome, I can’t wait!” She hugged him tightly from the side and he just smiled.

He was happy, too, even if he didn’t like the partial handout. But it would’ve really bit the big one if he’d moved elsewhere. Sure, he had the Jeep and could drive over, but it wasn’t the same as being down the street. Now he’d be just downstairs, it would make things even easier.

When Cora calmed down, they restarted the movie and finished it off, then Stiles got talked into watching The Notebook with her, even though it wasn’t his thing. He found he appreciated it more now that he had someone in his life that he cared about and missed, and he wasn’t ashamed to find out his cheeks were wet by the end, though he didn’t like the added liquid to the sundae he still hadn’t finished.

Cora turned to him and let out a laugh, though she was practically sobbing.

“You realize we’re sad for sitting here moping about our partner being gone, right?” she asked, wiping at her cheeks with her shirt sleeve.

“Oh my God, are we Bella from Twilight?!” Stiles blurted out, realizing they were totally fucking moping and pining like a sixteen year old girl.

Cora stared at him, deadpan. He just grinned and she rolled her eyes, saying, “You have no idea how much respect for you I just lost because that means you’ve read them.”

“Hey, everyone has read them!” Stiles pointed his spoon at her. “At least I didn’t read that Fifty Shades garbage.”

“Please don’t, I’ll have to nullify our friendship.” Cora took another bite of her sundae and sighed, the two of them silent for a moment. When she turned to Stiles, he knew what she was going to say. “Twilight?”

Twilight,” he agreed, and Cora picked up the remote to find it.

They really were Bella. Stiles had never been so ashamed.


The man grinned and rushed forward towards the woman heading his way, arms out and eager smile on her face. He wrapped himself around her, hugging her tightly and lifted her off the ground. She laughed, holding him just as hard, and he resisted twirling with her in his arms, mostly because it wasn’t the kind of thing he normally did.

“Oh my God, it’s been so long!” Kira Yukimura pulled away from him, both hands on his stubbled cheeks and pulling him down to kiss incessantly at one of them. “This is unacceptable, we can’t not see each other for such long stints.”

“You’re welcome to keep him, if you want,” Lydia teased, descending the stairs with a smile. Kira called her name and was rushing for her, the two of them hugging tightly while Derek smiled at them.

He loved Kira. Truly. She was an amazing human being. Kind and compassionate, but would bite someone’s head off if they deserved it. The perfect woman, really. Strong and caring all in one very attractive package.

If Derek were straight, he’d probably have a crush on her. As it was, she was just an exceptionally good friend, someone he treasured dearly and was so glad he’d met.

“So, how are things? How have you been?” Kira asked, pulling Lydia’s hand to drag her into the kitchen, Derek following along. “I heard from mum that you were very kind with her when you were on her show, given the trouble Jackson’s interview caused.”

“That wasn’t her fault,” Derek insisted, Kira sitting at the counter, Lydia beside her. Derek just leaned against the opposite counter, crossing his arms and shrugging. “It worked out, in the end. She made time for me, and everything kind of died down. I appreciated it.”

“I’m really glad. I was worried about you for a bit, I know how protective you are of your sister.”

And she did, too. Despite their friendship, Kira still hadn’t met her. He supposed now that the cat was out of the bag, it would be easier to set that up, but not right now. If he went home now, after only a month and a few days, he’d never want to come back.

They chatted a little bit in the kitchen, Kira asking Derek how the movie was going, and Derek talking to her about her last project. She had nothing in the pipes for right now, but she insisted she was focussing on her happiness. She and her co-star from Portugal—who was a native and had been taking her sight-seeing across Europe since the end of their filming—were really hitting it off, and Derek wouldn’t be surprised if news came out eventually of them being an item. So far the tabloids were quiet, but they couldn’t resist a new Hollywood couple, and Kira was much more coveted than Derek.

Well, before the whole Marvel thing, anyway. His agent was calling non-stop lately about new projects to get involved in, and while some were interesting, he had to be careful it didn’t conflict with his show. Not to mention he didn’t want to spend that much time away from home, so he hoped a few projects were for back there and not just LA.

“Man, I am starving,” Kira said after they’d been in the kitchen for a while chatting. “Have you guys been ordering in?”

“No, I’ve been cooking as much as I can,” Derek said with a shrug. “Lydia helps when she feels like it.”

“Do you want me to poison you?” Lydia asked, giving him a look. “No. You don’t.”

Derek just chuckled, but asked Kira what she wanted. She’d just come back, she was likely tired, but she hummed for a bit and insisted she’d join him. She needed to grab some things for herself anyway, and it was more fun being out with a friend.

They left Lydia behind and drove out in Kira’s car, a grey hatchback Audi, and parked in the lot for the supermarket. When they climbed out, Kira was grinning again and hugged him tightly, obviously happy to see him.

He just smiled and wrapped one arm around her shoulders, kissing at her temple endearingly. They walked into the supermarket like this, Derek grabbing a basket and Kira leading the way towards where she wanted him to go.

They would split off every now and then, but sometimes Kira would grab at his hand and drag him down a specific aisle before releasing him. She kept talking to him about her new beau in Portugal, and even stopped in the middle of the way to pull up a picture for him. He was handsome, and Derek said so, which Kira seemed pleased about.

He liked listening to her talk. She sounded very in love, and it was nice to know that she’d found someone who seemed to appreciate her. She’d been in a lot of bad relationships, but this one actually sounded pretty good.

He was glad.

“What about you, Mr. Most Eligible Bachelor?” Kira teased, motioning the cover of a magazine that was now a few months old. “Anything new on the love front?”

It hurt his soul when he smiled at her and said, “No, nothing yet.”

“Really?” She seemed surprised. “You sure? You seem different.”

“Do I?” He cocked an eyebrow. “Why does that mean I have someone?”

Kira shrugged. “I don’t know, you just seem... happier? I don’t know. Less bitter about things. That usually means someone softened you around the edges,” she teased, poking at his stomach. He recoiled, being ticklish, and she started coming after him to try and get him to fess up. He just stood his ground—verbally, anyway, since he was quite literally running away from her in the store.

He realized they were acting like children, but that was what he loved about Kira. She brought out the best in him, and she didn’t care if they were famous or not. They were also people, and she reminded everyone of that on a regular basis with antics like this.

When they got to the till, Derek insisted on paying, since Kira was letting him and Lydia take over her place for the next few months. They headed back out to the car, bags in hand, and put everything into the back.

They’d just climbed in when his phone chimed and Derek pulled it out. He smiled at the message on the front from Stiles, unlocking his phone so he could read the whole thing and respond.

this place is fucking GORGEOUS, Derek!
$1200 is nowhere NEAR enough

Take the damn apartment
Rent’s due first of November
Cora will set up the payment if you need her to

damn dude
i don’t think it needs a cleaner
grandma left it in good condition

You’re not moving in until it’s clean
And please, show mercy, buy a new bed

The next text was a picture of a bed from a catalogue, along with a message.

way ahead of you big guy

Derek smiled, texting back that he was with a friend and he’d call him later, and Stiles sent him a thumbs up and a kissy face. He put his phone away, and turned to see Kira watching him from the corner of her eye.

“That’s quite the smile,” she teased. “You sure you don’t have someone?”

“Just my sister,” Derek lied. “We have a new tenant moving into one of my units. He’s a handful.”

“How is she? Your sister?”

“Good. Really good.” Derek pulled his phone back out. “Actually, now that everything’s out...” he trailed off and pulled up his photo album, pulling up pictures from the last few months. He waited for Kira to be parked in her spot at home before handing the phone over. She scrolled through them, and Derek realized ninety percent of them had Stiles in them, as well. Cora and Stiles were pretty inseparable, even while both were dating other people.

“She’s really pretty,” Kira said with a smile. “Who’s the guy? Her boyfriend?”

“Her best friend,” Derek said, wishing he could admit it was his boyfriend. He wasn’t ready for that yet, not even with Kira. “Cora’s actually dating Lydia.”

“For real?” Kira’s eyebrows shot up. “I had no idea she was into girls.”

“She says she’s bi-sexual,” Derek said, taking his phone back and replacing it, “but I think she’s actually demi. She’s never really had an interest in anyone but Cora. Either way, worked out well for them. They’ve both been dancing around each other since high school.”

“That’s really nice,” Kira said with a kind smile. “I’m happy for her. And for you.” Kira poked at his leg and he cocked an eyebrow.

“I told you, I’m not seeing anyone.”

Kira just smiled and exited the car. Derek frowned at her, but said nothing more and followed her out.

Stiles hated people who didn’t know how to fucking count. This was the fifteen items or less line, not the fifty items or less! He wished the cashier would say something to the surfer bro unloading his groceries, but he knew why she wasn’t. It was always hard to enforce the rules when “the customer is always right.”

He knew he should say something, but he didn’t have the energy. He was tired, his muscles were sore, and he just wanted to get home. Cora had taken a few days off work, so he’d been going by bus alone. It was crazy how much he missed his mornings with Cora—regardless of whether or not there was a car—because it was so hard to entertain himself now. He’d gotten too used to having her around.

The only silver lining was that Cora had been helping him move stuff during her time off. It meant Stiles often came home to a lot of items missing, and he’d have a bitch trying to figure out where his shit was in his new place, but Cora was trying to get him moved over there as quickly as possible.

His new bed had already been delivered and set up, and Cora had fitted it with some sheets and a blanket, but Stiles still hadn’t spent the night there, since he was usually in Cora’s bed with her.

They were almost done with the move, though. Mostly the big items remained, and a few day to day necessities. They had movers coming on Sunday after brunch, so Stiles had tonight and tomorrow to finish up moving everything he could.

It would be weird, living in the same building as Cora, but nice. She’d even gotten him an extra fob so he could get up to her apartment whenever he wanted. He figured they’d still spend time up there, for the most part, but he was going to insist she come to his place sometimes. She didn’t have the excuse of it being too far anymore.

And his new place was fucking nice. He couldn’t believe the deal he was getting—well, yes he could, his boyfriend owned it, but still! It was spacious and gorgeous. He was planning on keeping his current bed and putting it in the second bedroom for when his dad visited—if ever, dad! Or at least Scott, when he came around every now and then.

His kitchen was really nice, too, with a huge island similar to Cora’s. He was going to try really hard to keep it clean and avoid piling it full of dishes. He didn’t want Derek to come back to that, or else they might fight.

Stiles moved forward a bit in the lineup, dumping a bag of quinoa, some frozen breakfast burritos and a few boxes of chocolate for Halloween on the conveyer when his eyes caught sight of the display of magazines.

Normally he didn’t pay much attention to them, but dating Derek, he looked at them a little more frequently, now. And his eyes immediately zeroed in on a huge picture of Derek Wolfe with his arm wrapped around a slim Asian actress’ shoulders, kissing at her temple.

The large header read, “Young love blooming between Marvel star and ex-co-star?”

Stiles’ eyes stared at the picture for so long that he hadn’t even realized the guy in front of him had left and it was his turn.

“That motherfucker,” he hissed angrily, snatching up the magazine and dropping it on the conveyer. It was obvious to the teller something had shifted his mood, because she hastily got his items scanned and gave him the total. He paid much more aggressively than necessary and stormed out of the store, slamming the shit out of his Jeep when he reached it. His hands clenched around the steering wheel, and he was literally going to fucking murder that asshole. How dare he? How fucking dare he?! Stiles was going to murder him! God fucking dammit, that asshole!

He fumed the whole way home, parking in his spot in the underground parkade and storming to the stairs. He made it back to his apartment in record time, rage like a speed booster. He dropped his groceries on the counter, pulled out his phone, and dialled Derek when he checked the time. He tended to know his filming schedule, more or less, thanks to Lydia, and he knew he wasn’t filming right now.

Derek answered after two rings, a smile in his voice. “Stiles, hey. How are—?”

“You absolute fucker!” Stiles shouted angrily into the phone, startling Derek into silence. “I can’t fucking believe you! Are you serious?”

“Stiles, what’s going on?” Derek asked, sounding extremely nervous and confused. “What happened?”

“I just bought a magazine today,” Stiles spat, turning to head back to the kitchen and yanking it out of the bag. “It’s one of the tabloids, and guess what’s on the fucking cover?!”

“Stiles, what magazine? What are you talking about?”

“It’s you, Derek!” Stiles shouted. “It’s you on the cover, getting all cozy with Kira Yukimura!”

There was silence on the other end, then a loud curse and when Derek continued, he was speaking extremely fast. “Stiles, listen, it’s not what you think, I’m not—”

“How could you do this to me, Derek?!” Stiles cut off, still furious. “She has been my favourite actress since before I knew you existed, and you’re friends with her?! I can’t believe this! How could you not have gotten me her autograph, you fucking asshole!”

There was another silence, this one longer, and somehow sounding more confused.

“What?” Derek finally asked, voice quiet and confused. “Stiles, go back. What-what exactly are you mad about right now?”

“You and Kira!” Stiles insisted, waving the magazine angrily. “There are pictures, Derek! You’re hanging all over her, getting in her space, being all cute! You have to be close for her to let you get that intimate, which means you could’ve gotten me her autograph multiple times since we’ve known each other, and you haven’t! How could you not tell me?!”

Derek still sounded confused when he said, “Stiles, I swear to you, there is nothing going on between Kira and I. We’re just friends.”

“Of course there’s nothing going on between you, you’re dating me!” Stiles insisted. “That’s not my point, Derek! I made a point! Are you listening? It’s very important! Can you, or can you not, get me Kira Yukimura’s autograph?”

Derek was quiet for another moment. “You’re-you’re not mad? About the pictures?”

“Why would I be mad?” Stiles demanded.

“Because according to the tabloids, we’re now dating?”

Stiles felt his anger drain out of him at those words. Derek sounded so adorably confused and worried, and it hadn’t occurred to Stiles at all that Derek was worried Stiles believed the tabloids. In retrospect, considering he’d started the call by yelling and swearing at him, it made sense, and now he felt like shit. Derek thought Stiles believed he was cheating on him with Kira, but what he was actually mad about was how many times he’d mentioned his love for the actress to Derek, and his boyfriend hadn’t even mentioned they were friends!

He knew they’d done that one movie together, but Derek never talked about Kira, and never said anything when Stiles waxed poetic about how flawless she was. He’d had no idea they were still in touch, and friends, to boot. Close friends, based on the photos.

Letting out a slow breath, Stiles tried to calm down.

“Derek, you’re dating me. I am well aware of the fact that you are dating me, and thus, not dating her. I figure if you were going to break up with me, you would do it in a less showy way. Besides, the tabloids always lie, I didn’t even really read the header when I saw it, I just grabbed it because you never told me you were friends and she is my all-time favourite actress after Helena Bonham Carter.” He let out another slow breath. “Can you, or can you not, get me Kira’s autograph?”

“Uh, yes?” Derek said uncertainly. “Lydia and I are currently living in her house, I can get her to sign something for you right now.”

“Thank you. That would be amazing.” He let out another slow breath. “Sorry, I didn’t—I was just really mad because I told you how much I liked her, and to find out you’re friends... sorry. I didn’t mean to worry you.”

“You’re sure?” Derek asked, sounding nervous. “Stiles, I mean it, there’s nothing going on between us. She has a guy she likes in Portugal, he’s coming to visit in a few weeks.” 

“Derek,” Stiles insisted, sitting down on the couch. “I promise, I wasn’t mad about that. I should’ve thought it through before calling you in a rage, I’m sorry. I just... I kind of lost it because I like her so much as an actress, and you never told me.”

“Sorry,” Derek said quietly. “I guess because of how close she and I are, I didn’t think about it too much? Didn’t know you were so passionate about it, either.”

“I just had a bad day,” Stiles said, rubbing at his eyes. “It’s not an excuse, but it was bad, and I just saw that and I flipped. I’m really sorry. Shit. I’m sorry.”

“Stiles, it’s okay.” He could hear Derek moving around, and a door close. “Tell me about it.”


“Your day. Tell me about it.”

Stiles let out a small sigh and told him about all the shitty things that had happened. The only saving grace was that it was Friday, and now he would be getting an autograph from Kira, so that was an upside. Plus, he was talking to his boyfriend. That was always nice.

They chatted for a bit over an hour before Stiles said he had to go. Cora was waiting on him, and he still had a few things left to pack up so that tomorrow would be the end of it barring the big items for Sunday.

Derek bid him farewell, but before he hung up, the other said his name.

“What’s up?” Stiles asked.

“Just so you know, you’re the best boyfriend ever.”

“Because I yell at you?” he asked with an awkward laugh.

“Because you trust me.”

“Of course I do.” Stiles frowned. “Why wouldn’t I?”

“That’s why you’re the best boyfriend ever.”

Stiles grinned, bid him good night, and hung up. He felt all floaty and happy for a few minutes, like a bonafide idiot, then grabbed at the magazine to flip through it and read about what utter garbage people wrote about his boyfriend.

It was hilarious when he read about a possible proposal by Christmas.

Tabloids were so fucking stupid.

Derek had been putting it off, because he didn’t know how to ask without it being obvious or weird. He kept trying to think of how to word it, insisting it was for his sister’s friend, but no matter what he came up with, it fell flat. But he was running out of time.

He only had two more days of filming before the negotiated Christmas break, where he’d be heading home. He was planning on spending time with Cora the first week, but the second week was all Stiles. Because he had an idea. Plans, even. He was nervous as fuck about it, but he wanted this. And if he wanted it, he had to go for it.

But Kira was about to leave to go stay with her parents for Christmas, and Derek wasn’t going to be able to get this from her while they were both back home, because they would both be busy.

She was in the middle of packing away her toiletries when Derek knocked on her door.

“Hey,” she said with a smile. “What’s up?”

“All set?” he asked, motioning her suitcase.

“Yup. Just finishing up.” She checked her watch. “Still have some time, though. Might run out and grab something to eat. You still okay driving me?”

“You’re letting me stay here for free with Lydia, driving you is the least I can do. Besides, it’s your car,” he said with a small smile.

“True.” She sat on her bed and crossed one leg over the other, eying him. “So, what’s up?”

Derek hesitated, then moved a bit further into the room. “You have some photos, right? Like, headshots for fans and stuff?”

“I do,” she said slowly, more suspicious now. “Why?”

“My sister’s best friend, he’s a huge fan. Like, really huge. He yelled about me knowing you and not having told him.” He smiled a little. “I was hoping I could get an autographed picture for him. Kind of like a Christmas present, since he likes you so much.”

“What’s his name?” Kira asked.


“Stiles,” she said, as if testing the name. She smiled again. “Is that the guy in the photos with your sister?”


“Mm,” she hummed. “Is he the one that puts that smile on your face?”

Derek stared at her, saying nothing, mostly because he didn’t know what to say. Kira sighed, shaking her head, but she was smiling kindly at him and shrugged one shoulder.

“I’ve suspected for a while. From back when we were doing our movie together. It wasn’t that you weren’t interested in me, it’s that you weren’t interested in anyone. And then you went home, and you were still so surly and assholeish. And one day, like a switch, you started talking about your sister and her new friend. And you were like a completely different person. Happy, excited, approachable. I figured you’d found someone, and I assumed it was your sister’s friend, but it wasn’t until you showed me pictures that I realized her friend was a guy. I kind of pieced things together from there.”

Derek’s heart was slamming against his chest. He was finding it hard to breathe, hard to swallow. It was like the room was getting smaller and smaller.

Someone else knew. Someone else had figured it out.

Someone outside of his family, Stiles and Braeden knew he was gay.

“Derek.” Kira was on her feet, hands on his shoulders and staring at him. “Derek, I won’t tell anyone. I won’t. It’s not my place.” She smiled. “I’m just glad you’re happy. He sounds amazing, and I hope when we’re both back after Christmas that you’ll tell me about him.”

“Please don’t tell anyone,” Derek said quietly, the words almost punched out of him. “I’m not—it’s not the right time. I’m still filming, and there’s my career to think about, and—”

“Derek.” She gave him a small shake. “I won’t tell anyone. I promise. Like I said, I’m just really glad to see you so happy. And you need to tell me about him.” She pointed one finger in his face, then turned to head out of the room.

He stood frozen, unsure of what to do with himself, but he wasn’t left alone for long. Kira came back with a headshot and a sharpie, putting the picture down on her dresser and uncapping the pen. “How do you spell his name?”

Derek spelled it out for her numbly and she wrote it down. She added a personalized note and then signed it before handing it over. Derek took it and read over what she wrote.

Stiles, thank you for the support, and for being such an amazing person. I never knew he could smile the way he does now. Hope to meet you soon. Kira Yukimura.

Derek felt some of the pressure easing. Realistically, if anyone was going to find out, he was glad it was Kira. He was still worried about it, but she wouldn’t tell anyone. He had to trust that she wouldn’t, and he liked to believe that she wouldn’t.

“Let’s order in and you can tell me about him,” Kira said, zipping up her suitcase and leaving the room with it. Derek followed her, descending the stairs behind her, and she left the suitcase at the door. She went to order some Vietnamese food in the kitchen and Derek just stood in the middle of the room, unsure of what to do with himself.

Lydia wandered in right before Kira had hung up and gave him a weird look.

“Are you okay? Why are you being so weird?”

“I figured things out about Stiles,” Kira informed her, sitting at the counter. “He’s worried.”

“Worried?” Lydia smacked him, hard, across the back of the head and he turned to scowl at her. “What are you worried about? Kira? If anyone was going to find out, you thank your lucky stars it’s her. She isn’t going to tell anyone.”

“Thanks Lydia,” Kira said, smiling pleasantly. She patted the stool beside her and Derek wandered over to it, sitting down. “So, tell me about him.”

Derek had to steel himself for a minute, take a deep breath. He wanted to talk to her about Stiles, it was just... scary. Eventually, he gave himself a shake, and told her about how he’d saved Cora, and how their friendship had grown.

Lydia piped in every now and then to mention how much she’d hated him at first, but for the most part she stayed silent. She went to pay for the food when it arrived, Kira and Derek continuing to speak, and Derek still wasn’t done by the time he’d stopped the car at the airport for Kira’s flight.

“I’m really happy for you, Derek,” she said quietly with a small but fierce smile. “He sounds amazing, and it’s so nice seeing you like this.”

“Thanks.” He smiled, genuine now. He was still terrified, but if this got out, well, it got out. He wasn’t ready for it, but he sometimes felt like he never would be.

“How long have you been together?”

“Since April.”

“That’s a long time.” She smiled. “Will you be back with him for your one year?”

“Probably not,” he said with a small sigh. “Filming’s not gonna be done until early next year, but I’m anticipating ‘early’ means around summer. I’m seeing him in two days, though. He lives in the same building as Cora.”

“That’s really great.” She checked her watch. “I have to go, but we’ll talk more when we’re back, okay? I want to hear about how things went over the break.”

“I promise.”

“Good.” She leaned over to kiss his cheek and smiled. “He’s good for you, Derek. He really is.”


She waved and exited the car, pulling her suitcase out of the trunk. Derek only didn’t help her because Kira liked to do things on her own. Be independent, and all that, even if it was just about luggage.

She turned to him and waved again on her way through the doors, and he waved back, the tightness in his chest loosening. Yes, someone else knew, but so far so good. And Lydia was right, as was the less panicked side of his brain. Kira would never tell anyone about this. They were close friends, and she respected him too much to risk their friendship. He was just glad she seemed so chill about it. First Lydia was dating a woman, now Derek was dating a man. It was a lot to take in about two people she probably thought she knew fairly well.

Derek tried not to dwell on it and turned to head back towards the house. He was practically counting down the hours before he headed home and saw Cora and Stiles. The first night he was going to spend with Stiles, and Lydia would spend it with Cora. They’d already agreed on that.

Derek had also spoken to Cora about his plans for the second week of Christmas, and while she wasn’t necessarily happy, she also kind of was. Because of what it entailed.

When he got back to the house, Lydia smacked him again, then hugged him, and told him everything would be okay. He knew it would be, but it didn’t stop him from feeling guilty.

Stiles kept joking that he was Derek’s dirty little secret.

Derek wanted to be brave enough to one day have that secret come out.

Because Stiles should never be anyone’s secret.

Stiles was slouching on the couch, changing channels on the TV and resisting the urge to get some ice cream. Though he really wanted some ice cream right now. But he was meant to be waiting.

Because Derek was coming home today. Cora was picking him up from the airport, and he was coming home. And he was supposed to spend the night. And he’d said he wanted a sundae. So Stiles had dutifully bought all items required for a Sundae, and was now waiting.

But he was nervous. He didn’t know why, but he was. What if things had changed? What if it was different, now? What if Derek came back and realized Stiles wasn’t what he wanted?

Overall, he’d be sad, but as long as they remained friends and he wasn’t cut off from Cora, he figured he’d survive. Maybe. Possibly.

Probably not, he’d be a sobbing wreck. But he tried not to dwell on it. He was just worried because they hadn’t seen one another since August. Stiles had even cleaned the apartment for him. Sink was empty, laundry was put away, everything was neat and tidy and hopefully Derek would appreciate how much Stiles was taking care of this apartment.

Considering it was Derek’s, he’d probably really like that.

Stiles had just changed the channel again when someone knocked on his door. He tripped over his own feet and almost fell over in his haste to rush and answer it. He realized only when he unlocked the door that he was still holding the remote control. Ignoring that, he wrenched the door open and was pushed backwards instantly.

Someone muscled their way into his apartment, bags were dropped by the door and it was slammed shut. Then, hands were on his face and lips were on his, Derek kissing him like he was dying and Stiles was his only remedy.

Stiles wrapped both arms around his neck and let Derek walk them backwards, pushing him up against the wall and attempting to lick the back of his throat from the front. All worries and reservations he’d been having over the past few hours vanished instantly at the way Derek held him, a desperate man aching for just one last piece of sanity.

When he finally pulled away, Stiles leaned forward to press his lips lightly against his before backing off. “Hi,” he said softly.

“Hey.” Derek smiled at him, still holding him tightly.

“Miss me?” Stiles teased.

“Not even a little,” Derek said, leaning in to kiss him again.

Stiles buried his hands in Derek’s hair, pulling him closer, and let out a little groan when Derek shifted and he could feel the hard press of his cock against his leg. He didn’t want the first day back to be sexual, he just wanted to curl up on the couch and hug Derek like a really big teddy bear.

They made out against the wall for a few minutes, reacquainting themselves with every inch of each other’s skin. Stiles was very aware of the new muscles Derek seemed to have, and Derek evidently noticed that Stiles had lost some weight, considering how much he was focussing on grabbing his ass.

“Missed you,” Stiles said when they finally parted once more.

“Me too,” Derek admitted, kissing Stiles’ forehead before backing up a step. It took a few seconds for Stiles to convince himself his legs would hold him without the wall for support, but he finally managed it, moving towards the kitchen so he could grab Derek a beer.

He opened it and handed it over, Derek watching his every move like a predator waiting to pounce. It was really hot, but evidently Derek wanted to spend time with him in the same way as Stiles did. Sex could come later. Like, tomorrow.

“I’ve been craving my sundae for hours,” Stiles informed him, pulling out two bowls while Derek moved to lock the door. He was looking around while Stiles started pulling everything out that they would need, wandering through the apartment. He made a sound of agreement when he saw the new bed, and Stiles grinned and waggled his eyebrows when the other came back to the kitchen.

“Place looks good. You like it?”

“Yeah, it’s awesome,” Stiles agreed. “And I really like how close it is to Cora’s. Not that I was especially far from her before, but it’s great just going up a few floors.”

“I’ll bet.” Derek was still smiling, leaning against the counter opposite Stiles, sipping at his beer.

Stiles was heating the ice cream scoop under some hot water, since he knew it would be a challenge getting some out of the container. His freezer was colder than Cora’s was.

Derek was just watching him, drinking him in, playing with the label of his beer bottle.

“So I wanted to talk to you about something,” Derek said while Stiles dug into the ice cream with the scoop.

His heart stuttered for a brief moment at those words, because nobody liked hearing anything akin to “we need to talk.” But, he forced the panic aside, because Derek’s greeting suggested it was nothing bad.

“Sure.” He managed to get a small scoop out, putting it into one of the bowls. “What’s up?”

“It’s about next week. Christmas. And, um, my birthday.”

“Right!” Stiles paused, having forgotten. He felt like a bad boyfriend. “Your birthday is on Christmas day. Shit, I need to get you a second present. Sorry. I totally spaced.”

Derek rolled his eyes. “It’s not that. I just was thinking about it. I want to spend time here, with Cora, so I was thinking I could spend time with her this first week I’m back, and then, I could, you know, spend time with you the second week.”

“I’m heading home to see my dad,” Stiles reminded him, a little sad, still fighting with the ice cream.

“I know,” Derek said. He paused for a moment, then added. “I meant I’d like to go home with you and meet your dad.”

The ice cream scoop slipped and skidded across the counter, leaving a trail of ice cream in its wake. Stiles barely noticed, eyes locked on Derek, who looked a little uncomfortable, avoiding his eye and playing with the label on his beer bottle.

“What?” he asked breathlessly, heart pounding in his chest.

“I want to meet your dad,” Derek said again. “I know it’s Christmas, and he would probably prefer to have you all to himself, but I just... you matter. And I was thinking about this for a long time. And I spoke to Cora, and I just... want to do this. Meet him.”

“But what if someone sees you?” Stiles asked, despite it not being what he actually wanted to say.

“I’ll be careful. And if they see me, well...” Derek half-shrugged. “I’m hoping they won’t, but if they do, I’ll live. So... what do you think? Is that okay?”

Stiles stared at him, then shoved the ice cream aside with the very real intention of climbing over the counter to kiss him. He didn’t manage to get onto the counter, cursed, and instead ran around it to grab Derek’s stupid handsome face and kiss it. He hugged him tightly, grinning from ear to ear.

“Yeah. Yes. Of course. That sounds awesome. Dad’ll be thrilled.” He pulled away, still grinning. “Are you sure? I’m not—you know I’m okay with this, right? Being your secret.”

“I know.” Derek reached up and brushed his thumb along Stiles’ cheek. “But Kira found out, and she says I’m a different person. Less angry, and happier. She’s right. And I know it’s thanks to you. Not even because we’re dating, but because you’re in my life. You did this, and I just... I want to meet the man responsible for bringing you into the world.”

“That’s so sappy,” Stiles insisted with a laugh, but he kissed Derek again and hugged him. “I love it. Yes. I’ll tell dad I’m bringing my boyfriend.”

“He knows?” Derek asked, surprised.

“Yeah, I tell dad everything. Just not, you know, that you’re my boyfriend. Just told him that the guy was very private. He’s a cop, and he knows about Cora, so he probably figured it out, but he won’t tell anyone.” Stiles waved one hand dismissively. “Dad’s awesome. You’ll love him.”

“If he’s anything like you, I’m sure I will.”

Stiles beamed at him, then went back around the counter after another kiss to finish up with the ice cream.

Derek felt ready to throw up when Stiles eased the Jeep to a stop outside a small, well-kept house. It was almost exactly as Derek had pictured it whenever he thought about where Stiles had grown up. Small, but homey. Inviting. Everything that Stiles was.

He knew this had been his idea, but he was nervous, now. He knew that being an actor meant it would eventually put Stiles front and center if—when—their relationship got out, and he didn’t know how Sheriff Stilinski would take it. He didn’t know if the man would be okay with everything that Derek would be bringing to the table.


He turned to Stiles, who was watching him, concerned. He forced a smile, pulled his hood up over his baseball cap, and then climbed out of the Jeep. He lingered by the trunk, Stiles opening it and the two of them getting their things, then followed Stiles up the drive to the porch. They climbed them, and Stiles had barely started to slot the key into the lock when the door opened.

“Stiles.” His father was a large man, about the same height as Derek, with a kind face and a booming voice. He wrapped his son in a huge hug, patting his back a few times before pulling away to get a look at him. “You’ve lost weight.”

“Yeah, did you find it?” Stiles teased, poking at his stomach.

“I’ll have you know, I’m down eight pounds, wiseass,” the sheriff said, eyes shifting to Derek, who was standing awkwardly behind him. “You must be Derek.”

“Yes sir,” he said, holding one hand out.

“Good to meet you, finally.” He shot a look at Stiles then. “Though I suppose I understand the reluctance.”

“What?” Stiles asked innocently. “You’re a cop, I knew you’d figure it out.” He slapped his dad in the arm and moved into the house. The sheriff released Derek’s hand and motioned him in shutting the door behind them both.

“Just because I suspected it was Cora’s brother doesn’t mean I couldn’t have gotten a heads up on having a celebrity in my house,” the sheriff insisted, the three of them moving further into the living room.

“Sorry,” Derek said, feeling awkward.

“Don’t worry about it, son,” the man said, slapping his shoulder lightly and squeezing. “I just like giving Stiles a hard time.”

“The hardest of times,” Stiles insisted, heading up the stairs. “Come on, Derek. I’ll show you where to drop your stuff.”

“In the guest room,” the sheriff said, giving Derek a look. “Not under my roof, I don’t care who you are.”

“Yes sir,” he said hastily, hurrying after Stiles. He climbed the stairs to the second level, Stiles motioning the guest room for him to drop his bag off in. He did so, but went back to find his boyfriend, walking into his room and looking around.

It was like Stiles had never left, with the way the place looked. Posters and books and clothes everywhere. Even the bed was unmade, though the sheets smelled fresh. When he frowned at it, Stiles just laughed and shrugged.

“Dad says he likes to make the room look lived in. Makes it seem like I’m still around.”

“You should probably visit him more.”

“Yeah, I keep meaning to.” Stiles sighed. “It just never happens.”

“You should try harder,” Derek said quietly. “You never know.”

Stiles turned to look at him then, expression softening, and moved over to hug him. He sighed against his neck, the two of them rocking slightly from side to side before kissing at his jaw and pulling back.

“Come on, let’s go bug dad about dinner.”

Derek followed him back downstairs and went to sit at the kitchen table while the two Stilinski men went about making food. They joked and bantered the entire time, and Derek felt his chest aching slightly at the sight of them, missing his own father. He knew things weren’t perfect for Stiles either, though. There was a notable absence in the house, and when the two men were busy trying to figure out why the oven wasn’t working, Derek went to explore a little bit.

He ended up in the living room, staring at the pictures of the family on the mantel. Some of them included a beautiful dark-haired woman, who disappeared after Stiles seemed to have hit a certain age. He knew it was his mother, who’d passed away from cancer when he was younger.

Stiles’ smiles seemed to dim a little bit in the pictures that followed, only ramping back up to what they were now sometime around his graduation photo. Derek wasn’t sure if it was high school or university.

“He hates that picture.”

Derek started and turned, seeing the sheriff approach with two cans of beer in his hands. He passed one to Derek, who nodded in thanks, and looked back at the photo.

“Does he?”

“Keeps asking me to take it down.” The sheriff took a sip of his drink, the two of them staring at the photo. Derek could still hear banging around in the kitchen, which meant Stiles was probably finishing up dinner in there.

“You have a great son,” Derek said softly.

“Yeah, he’s a good kid,” the man agreed, patting Derek’s shoulder. “As I understand it, so are you.”

Derek managed a small smile, but it was hard. “I’m sorry everything has to stay so quiet.”

“I understand,” the sheriff said. “He does, too. I know it probably worries you, that he gets bitter or annoyed about it, but he doesn’t. Stiles has always been a firm believer of going after what he wants. He has you, and that’s all that matters to him. He doesn’t care about the other stuff, as long as you’re happy. And he adores your sister, won’t shut up about her.” He laughed. “Talks about her more than you, actually. Says she’s his favourite Hale.”

Derek laughed at that, having heard that a few times himself. He didn’t mind, he liked that Stiles and Cora were so close. He truly was her best friend, and Derek was sure Lydia would’ve been annoyed about it if she weren’t her girlfriend. He honestly didn’t know that Cora would’ve survived without Stiles while Derek was gone.

“He saved her life.”

“I heard.”

“No, I mean, yes.” Derek frowned. “But it’s more than that. He brought her back. To who she was. Before everything went to shit.” Derek turned back to the mantel, eyes on a family picture showing all three Stilinskis. “It’s never easy losing family.”

“No, it sure isn’t.” The sheriff sighed, squeezed his shoulder again, then tugged. “Come on, son. Let’s get back in the kitchen before Stiles burns the place to the ground.”

“I heard that,” Stiles shouted from the kitchen.

“He’s living in an apartment I own, should I be concerned?” Derek asked with mock-seriousness.

“Just make sure you’re insured.”

“Heard that, too!” Stiles shouted again.

Derek smiled and the sheriff laughed, the two of them heading back for the kitchen.

He forgot why he was nervous in the first place. Anyone who could raise someone as amazing as Stiles had to be just as amazing.

Turned out he was right.

Derek’s second departure was almost harder than the first. Stiles hated it, but he understood it, and he spent more time with Cora, trying to keep both their minds off it. Derek still called or texted on a daily basis, but it was obvious how exhausted he was. There was so much more physical work in Daredevil than there had ever been in any other movie or show Derek had worked on, and Stiles hoped he was taking care of himself.

Lydia always reassured them, since making sure Derek was in one piece was pretty much her job, but it was something of a relief when halfway through May she texted them both to say he was officially done with filming. He had to stick around for a little while longer, in case of re-shoots, but for the most part Lydia was optimistic they would return home in early June.

Stiles could hardly handle it, he was so fucking excited. He and Cora were pretty much living together, by this point, because they missed their partners so much, and while he would be sad to say goodbye to her and their weird nightly conversation while lying in bed, it would be amazing to finally have that with Derek instead.

The real shocker came when Derek was finally back, showing up at his door in June and dropping his bags off before muttering to himself and wandering around the apartment. Stiles hadn’t been expecting him back, so there was a bit of a mess, but Derek seemed more focussed on whatever he was doing. He hadn’t even greeted Stiles, which was concerning in and of itself.

When he was finally done with whatever he’d come in to do, he greeted Stiles properly, plastering him to the wall and making out with him for so long that Stiles’ lips actually hurt, not to mention his pants were entirely too fucking tight.

It was only the next morning that he found out what Derek had been doing, which was checking the space for more furniture, because the man had casually informed him over breakfast that he was tired of living downtown, and since his apartments in the building were all rented, he was going to commandeer Stiles’.

While he was still in it.

Essentially it was a weird, roundabout way of asking to move in together, but Stiles was used to Derek’s weird brand of asking him things. And it wasn’t like he was complaining, because after months apart, finding out he was moving in was fucking amazing and they ended up cuddling together on the couch for a majority of the day.

Derek and Lydia both ended up moving into the building, Derek a little pouty and jealous about the fact that Cora had the Penthouse. She just insisted that it was his own fault for gifting it to her, but Stiles could tell he wasn’t actually upset. In fact, he seemed pretty thrilled about it, because he was still close to her, and living with Stiles.

Lydia liked to boast about it a lot, living in the Penthouse with Cora, but overall it was in good fun.

Having them all together like that meant a lot of fighting, though. Derek’s pet peeves about Stiles surfaced more often than not, especially on days where he was out filming The Last Son of Krypton, mostly because Jennifer would rile him up and he’d come home already in a bad mood.

Lydia and Cora struggled, too, with Lydia sleeping in the spare room of Stiles and Derek’s apartment every now and then. Stiles tended to go up and spend the night with Cora when the two of them fought, mostly because she always panicked that she’d fucked things up with Lydia.

When Stiles and Derek fought, they just took turns sleeping in the spare room, though generally by morning, the angry party would end up in bed with the other. It was hard to stay mad for long, and they both knew it was just them trying to figure out how to live together.

It was always a struggle learning each other’s boundaries, but every relationship had some give and take. They had to meet in the middle, even if they didn’t want to sometimes.

By that Christmas, they’d mostly figured it out, and the Martins couldn’t stop commenting on how different Derek was. How happy he seemed, how changed he was just because of Stiles being in his life.

The sheriff came up to visit—finally—and it was great having him around, letting him meet Cora. Kira came around, as well, and Stiles almost shit himself at the sight of her. He had her autographed photo framed and on his wall in the bedroom, which Derek didn’t like, but he tolerated it because it made Stiles happy.

All in all, it was a good year, and Stiles could hardly believe he’d been dating Derek for almost two of them. It would be two actual years by April, which was around the same time as the Daredevil premiere, and Stiles was fucking stoked.

Derek would have to go back to LA for the premiere, which was disappointing, but Stiles was just excited to finally be able to see him in the movie. Not to say he didn’t love him as Superman, but Derek always spoke highly of the experience filming the movie, and he often discussed favourite scenes with Stiles, who had to slap his hands either over his own ears or over Derek’s mouth to avoid being spoilered.

“Stop,” Stiles whined one night in February, the two of them lying together in bed with the television on in the background. “I wanna fucking see it, not hear about it.”

Derek slapped Stiles’ hands away lightly and rolled so he was on top of him, smiling down at him and dropping a soft kiss on his lips. Stiles melted beneath him, wrapping both arms around his neck and pulling him closer.

They kissed lazily for a few seconds, Stiles enjoying the purely domestic feel of having Derek in bed with him. Eventually, Derek pulled away and kissed along his cheek to his neck.

“I wish you could come.”

“I know,” Stiles said, because it wasn’t the first time Derek had said so. Stiles was sometimes still amazed people in the building hadn’t caught on, but he honestly never saw his neighbours so it was entirely possible no one had noticed that Stiles and Derek Wolfe lived in the same apartment. So far, one year and ten months in, and Stiles was still a secret.

He didn’t mind, but he could tell it was starting to bother Derek.

“I worry,” Derek said quietly, still hovering over Stiles, face in his neck. “About you.”

“Why?” Stiles asked with a frown.

“I don’t want anything to happen to you. Backlash and whatnot. You saw how people were with Cora.”

Stiles was silent for a moment, thinking, one hand sliding up and down Derek’s back absently. “People will find out eventually,” he finally said. “I guess it just depends on if it’s on your terms or theirs. I’ll be fine either way. If you want to stay secret longer, I support you. If you want to come out, I support you. Don’t worry about me, just focus on what matters to you.”

You matter to me,” Derek insisted against his skin.

“And I’m not going anywhere,” he promised.

They were both silent then, Stiles continuing to rub absently at Derek’s back while the other tried to crush him under his weight. Stiles wouldn’t have it any other way, if he was honest.

“If I told people I was gay,” Derek finally said, quietly, “I would want them to know about you.”

“Well I sure hope I wouldn’t be a secret anymore,” Stiles insisted with a laugh. “But I mean it, Derek. I’m happy as long as I have you, sappy as that is. Just do what you want. I don’t care, at the end of the day, as long as I have you.”

Derek tightened his hold on Stiles. “I love you, Stiles.”

“I love you too, big guy.” Stiles kissed whatever part of his head he could reach and lay back, staring at the ceiling.

He knew Derek wasn’t ready to come out, especially with the premiere coming up, but he was hopeful that one day he would. Not even for himself, either. It was for Derek. He wanted Derek to be able to be himself in public, to admit he was gay, to show young kids who were huge fans of Superman that being gay was okay.

There was too much hate and prejudice in the world, and while Derek was just one man, he was a big name right now. It would mean a lot to little boys to know that even a gay man could become a hero, like Superman and Daredevil both.

Derek was really an inspiration, whether he knew it or not.

“Look at this garbage,” Cora muttered, throwing a magazine onto the counter while moving to pull out some plates. “Do people not have anything better to do?”

“No,” Derek said, pulling it closer and reading the cover. It sported a rather large picture of him, wearing a suit and smiling at the camera. The caption was talking about the upcoming premiere and who famous actor Derek Wolfe would be taking as his date.

That was partly why he was here today. Not that he needed an excuse to want to visit Cora, but usually Lydia and Stiles were around, and today he’d told Lydia to go bond with Stiles somewhere so he could have Cora to himself for a while.

They’d settled on Chinese for dinner, which Cora had been kind enough to pick up, though had obviously stopped elsewhere since she had some chips, ice cream, and the magazine. She seemed so offended every time there was talk of Derek dating someone, because it would never be Stiles.

It was nice that Cora cared about Stiles so much, actually. They really were best friends, which they both needed. They held each other up, and Derek still couldn’t believe how lucky he and Cora were to have Stiles in their lives.

It was crazy to think this had all started because Cora had crossed the street without looking up.

Cora handed him a plate and began opening all the containers, Derek serving himself a few things first before swapping them out with Cora so they could both get a little bit of everything.

“How have you been?” Cora asked while Derek chewed slowly on some sweet and sour pork, flipping through the magazine and snorting. There was a quote from Jennifer, unsurprisingly. She was being coy, talking about how she wouldn’t ever out Derek’s date, no matter who it might be. The interviewer asked if that meant she knew who it was, and her answer was, “Of course I do. Would be a little strange if I didn’t, no?”

He wondered if the public was stupid enough to believe it. Him and Jennifer. He’d never shown any interest in her, and it was public knowledge on the set that Derek didn’t like her and she’d even almost gotten booted off the show because of it. Thankfully she was a little less concerning than she had been in the past, but she still acted like they were meant to be together.


He looked up at Cora, still chewing, and realized she’d asked him a question.

“Sorry. Just distracted.” He shut the magazine. “Just... wanted your opinion on something.”

“Sure.” Cora took a bite of some vegetables, watching him. “What’s up?”

Derek let out a slow breath, then said, “I want to take Stiles to the premiere.”

Cora stared at him for a long while, saying nothing, then slowly, a smile began to creep along her lips, and she looked so happy that it threatened to break her face.

“Derek, that’s-that’s really great.”

“I don’t know if I can,” he said quietly. “I want to, so much, but... I’m worried. About him. I don’t want to put him out there to be judged.”

“He knows it’ll happen eventually, do you really think Stiles is the kind of person to care about that kind of thing?” she asked, using her chopsticks to push from peas out of the fried rice, making a little pile of them on the edge of her plate. “Stiles doesn’t care about that kind of stuff. Derek, he called to yell at you after seeing a suggestive picture of you and Kira only because you hadn’t told him you were friends. He didn’t even react to the fact that you had your arm around her and you were kissing her. He just cared that you didn’t tell him you were close with her and could get him an autograph.”

“I can’t lose him,” Derek insisted, looking up at her. “Cora, I can’t. He is literally everything to me. I never thought I would have this in my entire life, especially being who I am, but he’s here, and he stayed, and he’s mine.” He dropped his chopsticks and rubbed at his face. “I don’t know what to do. I want people to know, I want it out there, I want to be able to go to the premiere, holding his hand, waving at the cameras, being proud to have him beside me. But I’m worried about him, and I’m scared for myself, and I just don’t know what to do.”

“I know, Der,” she said quietly. “It’s scary. It really is. I’m not going to pretend it isn’t scary, because we both had to come out to people and it was terrifying. We’ve made and lost friends along the way, some people care and some don’t. If you come out, you’ll probably be criticized. People will judge you, and him. They’ll call you heathens, they’ll make you feel like there’s something wrong with you. But fuck them, Derek. What do you want? What makes you happy?”

That was easy.

“Stiles,” he admitted. “Stiles makes me happy. So fucking happy. Even when he doesn’t fold the laundry. Even when I come home and the sink is full of dishes when the dishwasher is right there. Even when he makes me want to yell in frustration at something idiotic that he’s done, he still makes me happy. He is literally everything I never knew I wanted and couldn’t begin to start to hope for.”

“Then I guess you need to decide if you want to be happy, or if you want to keep hiding,” Cora said softly, reaching out to touch his hand lightly. “I know it’s not as easy as that, Derek, but it’s not like there aren’t gay actors out there. Famous ones, even. Ian McKellen is gay.”

“I’m not Ian McKellen,” Derek insisted, laughing slightly. “That man is a God. I’m just... I’m nothing compared to him.”

“That’s not the point, though. The point is, there are gay actors. People come out every day, and you are a fresh new face, the newest Marvel hero, and Superman. Studios aren’t going to be dumb enough to reject you because of your sexual orientation, you’re kind of a big deal right now. And you already have projects in the pipeline, if they were to force you out, they would get a lot of backlash over it. Besides, at the end of the day, acting is just a job. You can love it as much as you want, and you can enjoy doing it, but it’s never going to be enough. It’s not going to be something you can come home to and curl up against at night. But Stiles is.”

“I know,” he said. “I know, Cora.” He sighed and raked one hand down his face again. “What if this isn’t what he wants? What if I’m making a mistake?”

“Derek.” Cora gave him a look. “Since when does Stiles not tell people in detail what he wants? He doesn’t care about the fame or the money or anything else. He cares about you. He gets sad every time he sees comments about you being a bachelor, not because of your relationship, but because you have to hide who you are. Stiles just wants you to be happy.”

“Right,” he whispered. He knew that, he did. He knew it. “Right, yeah, okay. I’ll talk to Kira.”

“Kira?” Cora asked, confused.

“Yeah. See about her mom... maybe... I don’t know. Just thinking out loud.”

“Well, better decide soon.” Cora tapped the front of the magazine. “You have one month before the premiere. Lots of speculation.”

“I want him with me,” Derek admitted. “Guess I just need to figure out how to do it.”

Derek did end up calling Noshiko, asking her off the record if she’d like to be someone to interview him for a secret. She said she would love to, but unfortunately wouldn’t be able to because of a conflict. He already had an interview with someone right before the premiere, but it was someone he didn’t know well, and Noshiko made a few calls to get him in with one of her colleagues.

Noshiko didn’t say anything about what she thought the secret was, but he suspected she knew. She was too polite to say anything, was all. She managed to get him into an interview with someone named Marin Morrell, who was actually someone Kira interviewed with quite frequently.

The woman was kind when they spoke on the phone, but Derek didn’t tell her anything about the reason for the switch in interviewer. She was just happy to have him on her show for the pre-premiere talk, since that was mostly what the other interview had been for. He’d just have to make sure she asked about who he was taking to the premiere, though he was sure it wouldn’t be difficult to steer the conversation in that direction.

He bought tickets for Cora and Stiles to fly out to LA one day after the interview, and two days before the premiere. Kira was off in Portugal again, and Derek was given her key once more with the caveat that there would be no fucking in her house. Derek said he was sure he could hold back, but couldn’t guarantee anything when it came to Lydia.

He had four seats for the premiere, and when that got out, rumours went wild. A lot of people knew that Lydia would be in attendance, and most speculated that Derek was finally bringing his sister, which he had no problem confirming. When it came to the last seat, though, he just told people “No comment,” whenever they caught up to him on set.

Stiles, so far, wasn’t paying attention to the news about the date his boyfriend was apparently bringing. He was just supportive, like he always was, and happy to have Derek in his life. Derek loved him so much, he didn’t know how to handle it most days.

A week before the premiere, he and Lydia left. He double-checked that Cora had the plane tickets, and was a nervous wreck the entire flight to LA. He couldn’t stop thinking about the interview, about what could go wrong, about everything he was about to do.

Come out, and expose his relationship with Stiles. Coming out was scary enough, but Stiles was something he wanted to keep to himself. He didn’t want him out in the world, where others could see him. A small part of him kept worrying someone would steal him away from him, and another louder part was adamant that a crazy fangirl would blame him for turning Derek gay and try and take him out. People were insane that way.

Lydia spent a majority of the flight trying to calm him down, and by the time they landed, she immediately booked him a massage, which ended up being a bad idea, because he and Stiles had fucked before he left and there were scratches on his back again. Word got out fairly quickly about that, but it didn’t matter. Derek was going to clear the air with the news soon, no matter what.

If he didn’t lose his nerve, which he kept feeling like he would every time something happened. He even went so far as having Cora pilfer the sheriff’s number from Stiles’ phone so he could call him and tell him what he was about to do. Expose his relationship with his son. A part of him was hoping the man would tell him not to, but he just told Derek that Stiles would want him to do what made him happy, whatever that was.

Everyone was telling him to do what would make him happy. Stiles was the only thing that made him as happy as he was. He didn’t want to lose that.

The day before the interview, he called Stiles to remind him to watch it, and his boyfriend let out an insulted sound.

“As if I’d forget, Derek. Please. Looking forward to it. Try not to spoil anything on live TV!”

He knew Stiles and Cora would be watching together, and he hoped everyone was right about Stiles. He couldn’t lose him, he couldn’t.

A sentiment he was still feeling while sitting backstage, one leg jiggling nervously and his hands clenched together.

“Tell me I’m not making a mistake,” Derek said quietly to Lydia. “Tell me this isn’t going to ruin everything.”

“Derek,” she said softly, bending down in front of him. “Are you worried about coming out, or about Stiles?”

“Stiles,” he said immediately. “It’s always been about Stiles. Coming out is... that’s easy by comparison.”

“Stiles loves you,” she said with a small smile. “It’ll be fine. Just go out there, and do what will make you happy.”

“Holding hands with Stiles at the premiere will make me happy,” he said, with conviction.

“Then when they call you, find that spine of yours, and use it to get his hand in yours for that red carpet.” She smiled. “Derek, everything will work out.”

When he was called to the wings, he couldn’t help but feel like nothing was going to work out, but he just steeled himself, plastered on a brilliant smile, and walked across the stage, heart slamming against his ribs.

“Cora,” Stiles insisted loudly, waving over the back of her couch. “Cora, Cora, it’s starting! He’s on stage!”

“I can see him, dumbass,” Cora insisted from the kitchen, but she still rushed back quickly, falling down beside him with a huge bowl of Lucky Charms. Stiles had opted for McDonalds, heading over in his pyjamas and grabbing food through the drive-thru. Cora had insisted on something healthier, though why she thought sugary cereal was healthier, he had no idea.

The two of them watched Derek cross the stage, smiling and waving at the crowd before shaking hands with the host, Marin Morrell.

She wasn’t someone Stiles usually watched, though he’d seen a few of her interviews with Kira, and even one with Chris Evans at one point. She seemed pretty nice, and Derek obviously didn’t mind her because they started off the interview joking about how overdressed he was, him insisting he hadn’t known what the dress code was and it was better to be safe than sorry. He did end up chucking his coat, though, so he was just in black slacks and a white button-down. He looked delicious, Stiles would’ve ravaged him if he were there.

After the fun banter, which was a far cry from Derek’s older interviews where he was surly and a dick, they moved on to talking about the movie. He actually managed not to give anything away, which was good, but he kept talking about how physically challenging it was, and how impressed he found all the stunt doubles, and that he felt they deserved so much more recognition for what they did.

He went off on a tangent about a friendship he’d formed with one of his body doubles, and that he actually might be working with him again in the next movie he was shooting in the fall alongside his show.

Marin commented that he probably had a busy next few years with the hype of his Marvel role, and he agreed it would be challenging, but that he’d mostly taken jobs close to home, and would only be coming back out to LA when he was slated to start filming his next Marvel movie, given he’d signed on for a multi-movie deal.

They were more than halfway through the interview before Stiles’ stomach dropped and he felt sad again, because Marin had just asked the inevitable question, and he hated having to hear Derek lie.

“Rumour has it there’s a date in your future for the premiere coming up. It’s been going around that you have four tickets under your name. One is obviously for you, and people are assuming your assistant Lydia Martin is another. You’ve already confirmed the third is for your sister, Cora Hale. But the fourth is the real mystery.”

Stiles just sighed, because Derek hadn’t gotten four tickets, he’d only gotten three. But people seemed convinced he had four.

“I know, people have been itching to get an answer out of me on that fourth ticket for a while,” Derek said with a kind smile, which... wasn’t what Stiles was expecting. He straightened in his seat, eyes on the screen, and ignored the way Cora was covering her mouth with both hands beside him, letting out small whispers of happiness.

This couldn’t be... happening. This was insane, this wasn’t happening.


“Rumour has it the top contender for that fourth seat is your Last Son of Krypton co-star, Jennifer Blake.”

Derek laughed loudly at that, shaking his head. “I cannot even begin to tell you how wrong those rumours are. It’s been happening a lot, people assuming things about my love life. I guess it’s common with this industry, but don’t believe everything you read.” Derek licked his lips, then glanced somewhere off-stage—likely looking at Lydia—before returning his focus to Marin. “The truth is, I am bringing someone to the premiere. Someone really important to me. It’s... difficult for me to talk about, if I’m honest, because I don’t want to cause problems for them. The thing is, everyone’s been calling me one of Hollywood’s most eligible bachelors, but that isn’t true.”

“Holy shit,” Stiles breathed, Cora squealing beside him, but he didn’t turn to look at her. He couldn’t look away from the screen.

“It’s not true?” Marin asked, managing to tone down her excitement, even as she leaned forward to get closer to him. “A lot of people have said there was a blooming relationship between yourself and Jennifer Blake, but this is shot down by your PR every time. Others suggested you and ex-co-star Kira Yukimura were in a relationship, but she’s been seen in Portugal many times last year with her own co-star from her upcoming movie.”

“Unfortunately, a lot of people guess at things, but they’re rarely true. To be honest, I’ve been seeing someone for two years. Two years yesterday, actually.” He smiled fondly. “I was sad to be missing our anniversary for the second year in a row, but I’m hoping next year will be different.”

Marin whistled softly while the audience started murmuring loud enough for the cameras to pick up. “Two years. That’s a long time to keep a girl hidden from the media, Derek.”

“They’re not in the industry,” he explained, and it looked like, the more he spoke, the calmer he became. He was relaxed, and speaking easily, like he’d decided this was what he wanted.

Like he’d decided Stiles was what he wanted.

Stiles himself could hardly breathe, eyes locked on the television even as his phone began to ring, his dad’s ringtone sounding in the apartment. He ignored it, watching the screen, unable to look away.

Cora ended up answering, moving to the kitchen so that Stiles didn’t miss anything happening in front of him.

“I wanted to shield them from all of this, same as my sister. We’ve had our challenges, but we’ve made it work. We actually moved in together when I came back from filming Daredevil. We fight, like every other couple, but I can honestly say I think this relationship saved me.” He smiled slightly, shaking his head and laughing. “I’m sure everyone remembers how I was. Surly, angry, not very nice.”

“It was the impression everyone got, yes,” Marin agreed, not unkindly.

“And an understandable one. I was miserable. All I did was work, I barely saw my sister, I was unhappy. I was lonely. But one day I realized that I had everything I needed to make me happy. It was hard, and scary, and there’s still a lot of challenges ahead of us, but I’m hoping we’ll be together for a long time. I truly, deeply care for them.”

“Tell us about her,” Marin said with a kind smile. “What’s she like?” 

Stiles found it amusing that Marin had failed to catch the neutral pronoun. She was so convinced it was a woman, that Stiles almost wondered if Derek would chicken out at the last second and blurt out that it was Lydia.

Didn’t appear to be the case so far, though. He was still relaxed and speaking like he’d prepared the entire speech before getting on stage.

“Funny. Thoughtful. Selfless. Amazing, just—so amazing. Never got mad about my job, never got jealous. Actually, the only time I got yelled at about my job was when I didn’t tell them Kira and I were friends.” Derek laughed, and Marin did, as well. “I was ordered to get an autograph. Kira actually came down over Christmas for a few days, so that was great for me, I got a lot of brownie points for that visit.”

“I’ll bet.” Marin winked and a few people in the audience laughed. “So this mystery woman, the one you’ve been with for so long, she’s who you’re taking to the premiere?”

“Yes.” Derek smiled. “Provided they agree to come.”

“I, for one, can’t wait to meet her,” Marin said kindly. “Does she have a name?”

Derek paused here, and it was obvious he was preparing himself. He took a slow breath, releasing it, and then pulled out his phone. Marin leaned closer while Derek did something on the phone, and then gripped it tightly in both hands.

Cora had gone quiet behind Stiles, but he didn’t turn to look at her, eyes locked on the screen. He couldn’t believe this was happening. Derek was actually coming out. He was coming out for him! Because he wanted to take him to the premiere!

And he knew that was why. Because it was all Derek could talk about for months. How badly he wanted Stiles beside him for the premiere. How much he loved him, wanted to have people know how much he meant to him.

Stiles could barely breathe, because if Derek did this, he might fucking explode.

“This is the love of my life,” Derek said softly, and held the phone out to Marin. She took it, and paused, like it was taking her a second to collect her thoughts, but Derek continued before she could say anything. “His name is Stiles Stilinski. He’s been my boyfriend for two years.”

Cora screamed behind him and Stiles jumped. She leapt over the couch and hugged him sideways, still screaming and holding him so tightly.

“He did it! Oh my God, Stiles, he did it! I’m so happy!”

Stiles didn’t even know what to say, how to react. Derek looked nervous on the screen, but not like he regretted it at all. The audience was actually cheering, like finding out Derek was gay was actually amazing news.

Marin immediately began apologizing for assuming it was a woman, and started asking more questions about Stiles, the audience loud enough that it was hard to hear her.

“I can’t believe he did that,” Stiles said breathlessly, watching Derek smile awkwardly and take his phone back. “Cora, he actually... I can’t believe he did that.”

“He loves you,” Cora insisted, still hugging him. She’d actually managed to get her legs around him, too, like some kind of weird octopus clinging to him. “We’re going to LA tomorrow morning!”

Stiles whipped his head around to look at her. “What?”

“Yeah!” She was still laughing like a maniac, holding him tightly. “Derek bought tickets for us for tomorrow. We’re going to LA so we’re there for the premiere. Which he wants to take you to. He wanted it so bad, Stiles. He loves you so much.” She was screaming into his neck, so excited Stiles didn’t even know how to handle it. “God, I’m so happy. He can finally be himself. This is so amazing. Thank you!” She kissed his cheek.

They both jumped when his phone rang and Stiles turned to look at it. Cora had dropped it on the couch beside herself when she’d jumped back over it and his blood ran cold.

Derek’s name was flashing on the screen and when he turned to the television, Stiles saw Derek holding his phone close to his mouth, evidently on speaker.

“Oh my God!” he blurted out, scrambling to grab it, but not answering. “What do I do?!”

“Answer it!” Cora was slapping at him repeatedly, like the violent octopus she was. “Answer! Answer!”

Stiles let out a harsh breath, said a small prayer, and answered the call.

“I love you,” he blurted out before really thinking about it. His voice echoed on the screen and he winced. God, did he really sound like that?

Some people in the audience laughed, and Derek did, as well. Marin just looked incredibly pleased, like this was the best news she’d heard all year. This was probably doing wonders for her ratings.

“Glad to hear that, considering I just called you the love of my life on live television,” Derek said, voice coming through on the phone and then delayed on the television. It was a bit disorienting, and Cora actually reached out to mute the TV, then kept hugging Stiles tightly, a grin on her face.

“Yeah, I uh, I saw that,” he said awkwardly. “Your sister’s trying to crush me to death.”

He heard Derek laugh, seeing it on the muted television, but he sobered quickly, still smiling fondly, and said, “Stiles, I’m going to be going to the premiere of Daredevil in three days. I’d love it if you came with me.”

His breath hitched, and it was hard to breathe for a few seconds, but he finally said, “Yeah. Yeah, I’d really like that.”

Derek positively beamed at the camera.

“I would, too. I can’t wait to see you.”

Cora had been a nervous wreck on the plane to the point where Stiles was starting to lose his cool. He didn’t have a problem with flying, but literally every sound was freaking her out and he was thankful when they finally touched down in LA. The flight hadn’t been long, but it had felt like an eternity seated next to a stressed to the max Cora.

When they exited the main part of the airport and headed for baggage claim, Lydia and Derek were waiting for them. Derek had a baseball cap and hoodie on, like he usually did when he went out, but regardless, he beamed at the sight of them and hurried forward. He crushed Cora in a hug, Lydia coming to hug Stiles and smiling at him, and then Derek was in front of him, kissing him. It was crazy, because they were in the middle of the airport, but he didn’t care, so Stiles didn’t, either. He just kissed him until he felt like he couldn’t breathe anymore.

“Hey,” Derek said when they finally pulled apart, smiling so widely it was almost blinding.

“Hi,” Stiles said quietly. “Missed you.”

“Missed you, too.”

“Oh God, you’re both so disgusting,” Cora insisted from beside them, grabbing at Stiles to yank him back. “Save that for the house, would you? Come on.” She dragged Stiles towards the conveyer belt, Lydia and Derek following behind them. Lydia was smiling to herself and Derek couldn’t seem to get the grin off his face. Stiles just grinned back at him.

“I had to go shopping with Stiles to get him a decent outfit,” Cora said while they waited for their bags. “All he had was that one suit he wore to dinner with you. Did you know it was from his prom? His prom, Derek. How embarrassing. I had to fix that immediately.”

“It was so expensive,” Stiles said with a sigh. “But worth it.”

They chatted about the suit while waiting for the bags, and once they arrived, Lydia led the way out. Thankfully there were no cameras around for the moment, but Stiles was sure that would eventually change when people realized the guy beside him was Derek. They still managed to make it to the car without any trouble and Lydia drove them back towards the house they were staying at.

Stiles nearly shit himself when he realized it was Kira Yukimura’s house, but she was unfortunately away. He figured he’d met her once, and it was more than he could ask for. Besides, he’d likely see her again given she and Derek were apparently close friends, the fucking dick.

He was still mad about that.

It had been a long day for Stiles and Cora, so they ate in, Derek barbecuing something on the back patio, and all of them retired to bed early. Derek reminded Lydia that Kira had said no hanky-panky, and she just told him to mind his own business.

Stiles laughed at that and headed into the room he was sharing with Derek, falling onto the bed still fully clothed and grinning at him.

Derek shut the door and crawled over him, leaning down to kiss him softly before lowering his weight onto him and settling comfortably, Stiles’ arms going around him and rubbing absently at his back.

“You seem different,” he said quietly.

“I am different,” Derek admitted. “It was terrifying, being on that stage, knowing I was leading up to telling everyone everything, but it was also liberating. I can actually kiss you in public, now. Hold your hand, wrap my arm around your shoulders.” He looked up at Stiles and smiled. “You don’t have to be my secret anymore. Everyone knows, and I want them to know. They should know that the reason I’ve been so different and happy the past two years is because of you.”

“And I love that,” Stiles insisted, one hand coming up to smooth Derek’s hair back off his forehead. “I love that this finally came out. I’m just worried about you.”

“The backlash, you mean?” Derek asked. When Stiles nodded, the other just smiled. “Stiles, I don’t care about the backlash. You are worth everything. You have no idea how much you changed me, how badly I needed you. I was more worried about you, about how this would change your life, but I’m hoping we’ll work through it like we do everything else. I want to be with you, always. And I don’t care if people don’t like it, it’s what I want. And what I want is you.”

Stiles smiled and kissed him again, slow and deliberate, letting Derek suck lewdly on his tongue before retreating it and forcing him to chase after it.

It would take a while to get used to this life, and Stiles knew it. Dating a celebrity wasn’t something he’d been planning when he’d grabbed Cora and leapt out of the way of an oncoming car. Some days, it was still surreal to think about where his life had gone, and what he was doing.

All he knew was that, two days later, when the limo he was in with Derek, Cora and Lydia pulled up to the curb, his heart was pounding and his hands were sweaty, but Derek just laced their fingers together and held it tightly in his, kissing the back of it and smiling at him.

“Ready?” Derek asked.

“Are you?” Stiles countered with a small smile.

“With you, I’m always ready,” Derek said, and he opened the door, dragging Stiles out behind him.

Derek never let go of his hand.