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A Step in Line

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Derek had read through the different panels the convention’s itinerary offered. He saw a lot of them centering on the various up and coming superhero films and accompanying comics. He was glad to find that the room where the panel discussing his work was a smaller one than the others. He remembered Erica telling him it would be good for him to visit a fan panel.

Derek wanted to laugh at Erica. He hadn’t interacted with fans for a long time—not since his first book was released. It was a lot of attention for such a tiny book, in his opinion. He didn’t see the need for people to get so twisted up about his characters and story. He wanted people to like his book—he just didn’t want people warping it into something else.

Derek pressed his glasses up the bridge of his nose, looking at the different room labels. He finally found the hall he was looking for. He hiked his bag up higher onto his shoulder as he directed his way through the bustling crowds. He tried to be polite, despite his desire to just yell at people to move accordingly.

Derek’s steps slowed when he saw the rather large crowd of people gathered inside the hall. He hadn’t been expecting a fan panel to generate such a draw—especially centered on his own work. His stomach dropped when he started to overhear that the panel’s objective was to analyze the story arch of Wolfsbane . He wanted to kill Erica.

“It will be fun,” Erica had slyly smiled, turning her head to the side mischeviously.

Derek should have known better—of course she was sending him into the bowls of fandom to help dislodge his writer’s block. He startled when he heard one of the moderators clear their throat before asking everyone to get seated. He’d admit, to himself, that he panicked and grabbed the first available seat he could find on the aisle.

“First convention?” The guy next to Derek asked.

Derek looked at the guy. It was obvious that the guy had no idea who Derek was, and that was a relief. He was glad not to be recognized. “Um, kind of,” he answered, looking down at where he had placed his bag between his feet. “I’ve been to a few conventions, but never to a panel.”

“Wow,” the guy mumbled. “That’s kind of … unusual.”

Derek looked up at the guy, arching his eyebrow in question. “Thanks?” He could hear the sarcasm in his own voice, knowing that the guy was going to pick up on it.

The guy flushed as he began waving his hands in an abortive motion. “That’s not what I meant,” he quickly started. “I just meant that it’s kind of rare to not go to panels, especially at the beginning of conventions.”

Derek upturned his lip at that. “I don’t get it,” he admitted.

“Oh, um, it’s just that the Artist Alley and Merch Hall aren’t open early on the first day,” the guy explained. “What else is there to do but people watch and attend panels, right?” He lightly chuckled.

The guy had a really nice laugh.

Derek felt the tips of his ears burn red when he realized he was staring at the guy. He cleared his throat a bit, nodding in agreement. “I guess that’s true.” He didn’t want to admit that he had always been busy going over a crammed packed schedule of appearances and meet & greets.

“I’m Stiles, by the way,” the guy offered his hand in greeting.

Derek looked at the guy’s—Stiles’ hand. He accepted Stiles’ handshake, his mind focusing a bit too much on Stiles’ hand, his long fingers in particularly. It was a nice handshake, as far as handshakes go. He looked at Stiles, noticing the other man looking right back at him, like he was waiting for Derek to say something. He realized that he was now supposed to say his name—and that wouldn’t end well. As the panic rose, he couldn’t think of a good substitute. “D,” he finally uttered.

“D?” Stiles questioned, finally releasing Derek’s hand after an overly long handshake. “Parents stuck you with a long, complicated name, huh? No worries, I’m the same. My dad thought it would be a good idea to let my mom name me while she was still high off the epidural. And for some reason, her great-great uncle got the honor of having me named after him.”

“That’s,” Derek started, pausing as he thought about it. “That’s a really good name origin story.”

Stiles quirked an eyebrow at Derek. “Seriously?”

“Yeah,” Derek replied. “It’s much more real than most.”

Stiles laughed again. “Thanks, dude, I don’t think most people think that when they hear my name. But it’s nice to have a new perspective.”

They chatted for a while, waiting for the moderators to finish getting set up after a second technology issue arose with the display.

“So, what did you think of Wolfsbane ?” Stiles asked, his smile hesitant at first.

“Oh,” Derek paused. “Well, I really liked it, actually.”

“Thank you!” Stiles passionately exclaimed loud enough for the people in the rows around them to turn around and look. He waved them off as if it was nothing. “I was so worried I was going to have to go from liking you to hating you with that question.”

Derek felt fond of that remark. “You’d not like someone because of their opinion on a book?”

“I’m sick of people lashing out online,” Stiles answered.

Derek did his best not to cringe. Wolfsbane had been his most critically bashed by fans and reviewers. He knew it was a controversial ending, to dive into the main character’s sexuality, and finally have a romance play out. He had been banned from going online by Erica and his sisters when Wolfsbane was first released. He snuck onto some of the forums anyways to see what was happening.

There were some people who acted outraged—”betrayed,” they had said—with the way Derek ended the book. Others commemorated Derek for displaying diversity and giving positive representation to an often misrepresented group. A loud few tried to claim that Derek changed his characters to serve the “snowflakes”—whatever that meant—trying to argue that Booker had been proven to be straight in the first book when he showed no interest in Dale.

Derek had made a statement referring directly to that comment. He was firm in his conviction, stating that one’s bisexuality was valid despite never dating both sexes previously. He welcomed the criticism, but stood firm in disavowing the biphobia that was running rampant on the forums.

Derek kept away from fan centered activities after that.

“It’s so stupid,” Stiles’ voice dragged Derek out of his thoughts. “Like, Booker clearly had a thing for Dale,” he started to explain. “He just didn’t want to impose on their difference in position.”

Derek blinked in awe at Stiles.

“We can never know what Derek Hale was intending on doing with the characters from the start, but it’s pretty freaking obvious that he wrote the characters to be set up together,” Stiles passionately continued. “It’s just another trashing of bisexuals—like we’re nefarious, and can’t be trusted to be with one partner. The story does a great job of setting up Dale and Booker building an intimate and passionate relationship. It’s slow burn at its finest, really.” He paused himself, realizing that Derek was just blankly staring at him now. “Sorry if I’m a little loud about this—”

“No,” Derek quickly countered. “I’m glad that you are this passionate. It’s honestly refreshing to hear someone agree with what was intended.”

“I mean, we can’t know for sure, Derek’s never commented on it,” Stiles softly added as a reminder that his opinion might be cited, but was still just a theory.

“That’s exactly how it was intended,” Derek firmly stated.

Stiles arched his eyebrow, “You know that?”

Derek almost winced at that. “Um, yeah,” he uttered. “Yeah, I know the author, actually.”

Stiles’ eyes widened. “Really? That’s awesome. What is he like?”

“He’s pretty … recluse,” Derek offered.

Stiles laughed at that. “I can imagine,” he replied. “Why would you want to come out when you have such rabid fans?” He spoke with a laughter in his voice.

Derek offered a small laugh in return. “He’s not good at being himself, really.”

Stiles frowned at that. “That sucks,” he commented. “He’s really gifted—I’d like to meet him sometime.”

Derek fondly looked at Stiles. “I’m sure he’d love that,” he softly stated.

Stiles was about to say something when one of the moderators started speaking into the microphone.

~*~

Derek didn’t mind getting kicked out of the panel. He found it thoughtful that Stiles was willing to be so disruptive when the moderators clearly had in mind a goal of attacking Derek’s writing.

Stiles received a few high fives from others that left the panel when it became clear what their goal was. He started a movement of sorts, a small crowd following after him.

“You didn’t have to leave too,” Stiles told Derek as they walked through the main hub of the convention center. He offered up another high five to a passerby. “I always get a bit intense,” he added.

“It wasn’t such a great panel anyways,” Derek answered as he walked with Stiles. “I appreciated your answer, though.”

“Thanks,” Stiles lightly laughed as he scratched the back of his head. “That’s probably the first time someone thanked me for arguing.”

“You’d do well on a debate team,” Derek replied. He smiled when Stiles laughed.

They strolled to a stop near the opening of the Artist Alley. Derek looked at the flowing crowd of people, his stomach turning a little at the thought of wading through them.

“Do you want to check it out?” Stiles asked, a small smile on his face.

“Um,” Derek almost mumbled, pushing his glasses back up the bridge of his nose. “I’m not sure,” he softly stated.

“I usually walk along the outside,” Stiles explained. “Then I make my way to the inside if it’s not crowded.”

Derek nodded, finding Stiles’ method to be preferable to his own panicked observation. “That sounds like fun,” he uttered.

Stiles smiled at that, walking alongside Derek.

Derek had been surprised by how diverse every booth was. He found more than a few drawings of characters from Wolfsbane , the creativity giving him a fond happiness. He was glad that fans were passionate enough to create items based off his characters and stories.

Stiles bought a series of buttons. He smiled at Derek, lifting one of the pins up in a gesture of attaching it to Derek’s shirt. He was happy when Derek helped him actually pin it to his shirt.

Derek lightly laughed when he saw that the pin was for Wolfsbane , both Booker and Dale drawn with their foreheads touching, the words “DEAL WITH IT” arched over their heads.

“You think that will get the point across?” Derek lightly chuckled as he watched Stiles roll up another purchased poster to slide into his bag.

“Maybe,” Stiles answered. He stood up, sliding his bag’s straps back onto his shoulders.

Derek ended up having a really good time with Stiles. It was surprising that he didn’t want to just escape back to his hotel room until the signing. They talked about a lot of things, Derek learning more about Stiles and his personal life.

Stiles was a student, working through his first year of graduate school. He had a passion for literature, both contemporary and modern. He was working on researching fandoms and the way they interact with one another and creators. “I would love to write about the relationship that creators have with their fans, you know? I want to see if from a creators point of view. And that even goes for fan creators.”

Derek nodded along with Stiles. “You mean like fanfic writers and artists?”

“Yeah,” Stiles happily exclaimed. “My professor thinks I’m crazy for believing in the diverse dichotomy it can have, but he’s kind of a one track mind guy,” he explained. “But these creators”—he gestured his hand wide over crowd and booths lining the room. “They create beautiful things day in and out based off of something they love. And they don’t see themselves as creators. They think their stuff is lame because they aren’t like their idols—showrunners, authors, people like that.”

“I would love to see stuff like that,” Derek honestly stated.

Stiles smiled at Derek. “That’s sweet of you to say, D,” he uttered.

Derek could feel his blush reaching the tips of his ears. “I’m being sincere,” he offered.

“It’s still really nice of you to say,” Stiles answered. “My ex didn’t have an interest in this, and I really got on his nerves at times.” He paused, his eyes widening. “I meant ‘it’,” he corrected himself. “ It really got on his nerves.”

Derek frowned at that.

“He just thought I obsessed about fandoms too much,” Stiles added, unsure why he was telling Derek this. “He didn’t like all the time I spend with them. He used to say I could only go to one convention a year, as long as it didn’t interfere with plans.”

Derek’s features scrunched at that. “He doesn’t sound like a very good person if he acted like that about something you loved.”

“That’s why he’s an ex,” Stiles softly laughed, though it sounded hollow compared to his other ones. “He cheated on me, actually.” He looked at Derek. “It’s kind of why I get so crazy about Booker and Dale,” he uttered. “Booker liked Dale so much, but never said anything because he didn’t want to feel like he was trying to get with him just because he had amnesia. And then Charlotte knew Booker liked Dale, but tried to manipulate him anyways. It just … it really hit me hard, learning that Booker didn’t take any chances before Dale’s resurrection because he was afraid of being cheated on again, and not feeling like he was enough.”

Derek felt his stomach swirling with butterflies. He never had someone be so honest about what his characters could mean to them.

“I guess I love these characters as much as real people in my life,” Stiles added as an afterthought. “It scares me to think about sharing that passion with a creator, only to be shot down. I mean, you get people like Anne Rice and George Lucas who scare everyone into tiptoeing lightly, so I don’t think I’m ever going to get an honest response or nice interaction with a big time creator.”

And then Derek foolishly didn’t keep his mouth shut. “What about Derek Hale?”

Stiles looked at Derek in surprise. “Derek Hale? He doesn’t really offer a welcoming space when he’s never around.”

Derek tried not to frown at that. He knew Stiles was right, he just didn’t want to hear that from Stiles.

“There aren’t any photos of him on his books, and he doesn’t do photographed meet and greets,” Stiles answered. “It really is a bummer, because he’s got some great fans to comment on. Though I heard rumor he’s doing a surprise, last minute signing this weekend.”

Derek felt flustered. “I’m sure he would be interested still, despite his reclusiveness,” he added.

Stiles looked at Derek like there was something funny about him. “You’re pretty adamant about that,” he commented.

Derek sighed some, “I just think someone like you would be a refreshing face and perspective for someone like Derek Hale to meet.”

Stiles softly smiled at that. “Thanks,” he uttered. “But enough about me, what about you?”

Derek felt flustered—again. He wasn’t sure if he should reveal it all there or wait it out. He liked the time he was spending with Stiles, but he was terrified of what would happen once Stiles knew the truth about him.

“I’m pretty boring,” Derek offered.

“I’m actually glad you’re pretty down to Earth,” Stiles stated with a small chuckle. “There are some people who are down right crazy about this kind of stuff.”

“I believe it,” Derek replied.

They were talking about family, Derek mentioning some funny stories about his sisters, when Stiles’ phone went off. Stiles was surprised by the noise, seeming to have forgotten that it was on. He answered the phone with a light laughter in his voice, a smile on his lips as he talked to some person named Scott.

“I’m talking with someone right now, actually,” Stiles stated. “I met him at the Wolfsbane panel.”

Derek could hear a muffled voice on the other side of the phone.

Stiles flushed at whatever the person said. “No,” he defensively uttered. “Don’t be a jerk,” he lowly hissed.

There was a laugh on the other side of the phone.

Derek took his time to go through his own phone, not wanting to seem like he was eavesdropping on Stiles’ conversation.

“Oh, it’s that late already?” Stiles asked, looking at his watch to see that it was in fact well passed lunch and approaching dinner time. He had spent nearly the whole day with Derek, walking around and talking about the most trivial of things. “Um, well, I could meet you.”

Derek was busy flipping through his missed messages when he realized that Erica was yelling at him to hurry or he’d miss his own signing.

Erica: There are teens, Derek. I think they may start bawling if you don’t show up in the next 15 minutes .

Erica: I swear to god Derek, I will will murder you if you make these children cry.

Erica: I just had a thirteen year old pass out. You better get here.NOW

Derek checked the timestamp. He had 5 minutes to make it across the convention center and to the otherside where the events were held.

“I’ll ask,” Stiles softly said to the person on the phone. “No promises though. Okay, bye.” He hung up his phone, turning to look at Derek. “Sorry about that, friends,” he lightly laughed.

“That’s okay,” Derek answered, trying to think up a way to make it to his signing without completely screwing up … whatever it was he had with Stiles. “So,” he took a deep breath, the awkward tension starting to seep in for the first time.

“Wouldyouliketojoinmeandmyfriendsfordinner,” Stiles rushed the words all out in a string. A red stain of embarrassment crept up onto his cheeks as Derek just stared at him.

“I didn’t … catch that?” Derek asked, almost certain he wasn’t hearing Stiles correctly.

Stiles scratched the back of his head. “Um, would you, I don’t know, maybe like to join me—and my friends, of course—for dinner?” He gave Derek a soft, hopeful smile.

Dere felt his gut sink. He wanted to—he really, really , wanted to. But he had a signing to get to. “I’d like to, but ...”

“Oh,” Stiles perked up nervously, his body swaying a bit as he shuffled on his feet. “Yeah, no, I totally get it. Sorry, Scott just said that it was cool to invite you—since we were talking most the day. But you don’t know me, and I don’t know you, so … yeah, I get it. Sorry for making it awkward.”

“Stiles, that’s not it,” Derek started. “I just have something I have to go do.”

Stiles nodded quickly, absentmindedly taking a step back from Derek. “I get it, I do.”

Derek’s phone started going off. “Damn it, Erica,” he huffed, pulling his phone out of his pocket. He answered it to tell her he was busy.

“Um, it was really nice spending the day with you, D,” Stiles uttered, the back of his throat burning with unshed tears of embarrassment, feeling foolish for extending the invitation and hoping for the impossible. “Thanks for the perspective on Derek, too.” He accidentally bumped into someone, quickly apologizing before turning and making a quick exit.

“Stiles, wait!” Derek called after him, all to no avail.

What the hell is a Stiles ?” Erica’s voice questioned.

“What do you want?” Derek lowly growled at her.

Woah there, Der Bear ,” Erica whistled out. “ What I want is for you to get your ass here or else this convention is never going to pay you again to be a guest .”

“I was spending time with a someone,” Derek answered, sighing when he realized that he didn’t know where Stiles was going. He begrudgingly turned around and headed for the signing session.

Oh, really? ” Erica slyly asked. “ Tell me they aren’t underage.

“He’s a grad student,” Derek barked at her.

Erica laughed some. “ You always did like them smart. Did you want me to set up a date for tonight? I’m sure the hotel’s fancy restaurant will take you since you’re not a cosplayer.

“I don’t have any way of tracking him down,” Derek dejectedly admitted. “He doesn’t even know my name, either.”

Wow, way to fuck that one up, Derek, ” Erica answered.

“Thank you,” Derek sarcastically growled out. “I don’t need your criticism.”

Calm down, I’ll figure out what I can ,” Erica reassuringly stated.

Derek knew Erica was a miracle worker, but he wasn’t sure she could track Stiles down in the sea of other people.

~*~

Stiles was glad he was rooming with Isaac and not Allison and Scott. He knew he’d be left alone for most of the night, Isaac enjoying his time prowling the convention grounds to meet new people.

Stiles didn’t really sleep that great, playing out scenarios in his head where his departure from D was different than it had been. He wished he had gotten his name, more than just an initial to go off of. He didn’t see him at all on the second day. He had almost lost all hope that he wouldn’t find him again.

Then the announcement came on over the convention center’s speakers.

“Attention, would a young man named Stiles please come to Ballroom B, right off of Metcalf Hallway, on the 3rd floor.”

The message was repeated an additional two times, Stiles’ friends rushing to find him.

Stiles felt his entire body tingling as his friends all started showing up.

“Dude, what did you do?” Scott demanded as he reached Stiles.

“Nothing!” Stiles shouted at him.

Isaac was searching the map. “Hey, that’s the autograph area,” he commented. “What could they want from you?”

“I probably dropped my wallet or something,” Stiles answered. “I’ll just … check it out,” he waved them to go on without him, that he’d be fine meeting with the convention staff.

When Stiles reached the area, he frowned at seeing the long line. The crowd had made it impossible for him to get through to the doors. He received more than one glare for trying to get around them.

“Wait your turn,” a girl in vaguely sexual cosplay snapped at Stiles.

Stiles sighed, wondering if it was all that important. He perked up when he saw the sign announcing who was in Ballroom B. His eyes immediately honed in on Derek Hale’s name written high up on the list of content creators.

He figured he’d kill two curiosities with one Ballroom meeting.

~*~

Stiles went over his conversation in his head, trying to remember what exactly he was going to say to Derek when he saw him. He also thought about asking about anyone he knew who went by just ‘D’, before he figured it would be creepy to do so. Maybe D told Derek about a creep named Stiles who was just a bit too passionate about fictional characters.

His brain was making up the worst case scenarios in his head.

And then Stiles saw him. He saw D standing at the head of the line, his glasses almost hanging off his nose. He leaned out of line, making sure to keep his place with one leg in line, to see more of D’s figure. He smiled when he saw D laugh some, forgetting about the supposed heartbreak he suffered yesterday. He fiddled with his convention center map, looking up and down the line as he tried to convey what was happening when he saw D kneeling down by a child dressed up as a small version of Booker.

Stiles watched as D spoke with the child, the older man’s attention only leaving the child to look down at the book in his hands to … sign.

Stiles’ brows furrowed, his brain slowly playing catch up. “Hey, excuse me,” Stiles started, tapping the ‘vaguely sexual cosplay’ girl on the shoulder to gain her attention. “Um, where is Derek Hale?” He asked.

The girl gave him a look that told Stiles he was stupid for asking that question. “He’s the one at the front of line you’ve been standing in for the past hour.”

Stiles looked up to see that he wasn’t imagining the fact that D was signing the book for the small child and then posing for a picture. He saw that the sign for Derek Hale’s ‘no pictures’ had been taken down after the first few people had met with him.

That’s Derek Hale?” Stiles nearly demanded, his voice cracking a bit as he pointed at D.

D—or Derek goddamn Hale—looked up at the noise, catching sight of Stiles. A smile of relief took over Derek’s features before he turned to Erica.

Erica turned to look at Stiles when Derek pointed at him, telling her that he was Stiles. “He’s a cute twink, nice,” she mumbled low enough for the parents to not hear, but loud enough for Derek to blush. “I’ll make sure he doesn’t leave,” she added, taking her parting from Derek.

Stiles felt like bolting when Erica started walking towards him with purpose—enough purpose to make fans part for her like the goddess she was.

“Stiles,” Erica stated his name with a cat like grin when he didn’t react to her standing there. “I’ve been asked by Derek to make sure that you stick around so he can talk to you.” She arched her eyebrows when Stiles still stared at her. “Can I tell him that’s a ‘yes, you’ll stay’?”

Stiles nodded, his head feeling lightheaded from it.

The ‘vaguely sexual cosplay’ girl gave Stiles a deadly envious glare.

~*~

Derek was sitting at his booth, the last autographs of his session ending. He looked up, half expecting to see another stranger, only to see Stiles.

Stiles was standing there in front of Derek’s table, his hands tightly holding some of the Booker/Dale fanart he had bought earlier that day in Artist’s Alley to make him feel better.

“So,” he started, staring down at the artwork. “I heard Derek Hale did a signing last night.”

Derek softly smiled at Stiles, gently nodding. “That was why I had to leave,” he added.

Stiles released a heavy breath. “You weren’t avoiding me,” he elaborated.

Derek shook his head. “I wouldn’t avoid you, Stiles.”

A small smile pulled at Stiles’ lips. “Good,” he softly stated. “I thought you thought I was a crazy.”

“You didn’t know who I was,” Derek explained. “And even then, what happened didn’t imply you were crazy.”

A weight lifted from Stiles’ chest. “I’m happy to hear that,” he replied.

“So,” Derek started, looking down at the sharpie in his hands. He pushed his glasses back up the bridge of his nose. “Would you still be interested in getting dinner?”

~*~

A year later ...

“I’m not grumbling,” Derek huffed.

“Der, you are,” Stiles replied as he cozied up next to Derek, wrapping his arm around Derek’s waist. “You’ll be fine.”

“People know what I look like now,” Derek unpleasantly explained.

“And they’ll leave you alone if we are nice about it,” Stiles answered, holding onto Derek’s hand as they waited for the elevator doors to open up.

Derek took a deep breath. “Don’t leave me down there.”

Stiles laughed. He pressed a kiss to Derek’s cheek. “I won’t.”

Derek looked at Stiles, moving to kiss him on to lips.

Stiles leaned into their kiss, his hand moving to cup Derek’s cheek. “I’ll be the Booker to your Dale,” he stated against Derek’s lips.

Derek lightly snorted, kissing Stiles once more.

They ended up missing the first elevator.