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The PlayLiszt

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Derek’s only got one research paper left to grade, the last ten pages of the last final from the last semester, and it’s the last thing standing between him and the glory of his bed, plus a playlist of classical music. And as much as he wishes it’ll be prime relaxation time now that he’s caught up on grading, he’s probably going to be typing up a lesson plan for his next class, full of young scholars eager to learn about music theory. He does love his job—a full time professor teaching two of the same class three times a week is a dream—but sometimes it’s a little draining working with a class of twenty-five when half of them want to be there and the other half don’t. It’s by no means an easy course, Derek’s made sure of that, and it’s in high demand as an upper level music elective, making it a required class for the next generation of musicians to graduate.

Derek’s an alum of USC himself, having attended the Thornton School of Music for his Bachelor of Music in Composition before moving onto a Master’s in Music Education at Eastman School of Music and then a Ph.D. in Musicology from Princeton University, making Dr. Derek Hale one of the most qualified musicologists in the country, considering his last gig was teaching at Harvard. He’s damn proud to be one of the most sought-after specialists in the world, his area of expertise being French music, literature, and culture of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, which means any course they sign him on for is going to be a lot of philosophy, musical meaning, music-text relationships, identity and authenticity, and symbolism, which is all music is about, right?

At least that’s what he thinks, and he’s articulated it in multiple publications in periodicals, musical journals, even textbooks he’s co-written with some of the top scholars across the globe. And while USC is a permanent position, he’s done his fair share of travelling to colleges all over the country to lead seminars about his studies abroad in Paris and to give insights on the musical structures of some of the most famous pieces of classical literature. What’s so charming about Derek—people don’t just like him for the fancy framed doctorate hanging in his office believe it or not—is that he’s only twenty-nine and already making waves in the wide world of music, and strangely enough, his fan base is mostly middle-aged teachers that he greets after the conventions. Derek likes to think it’s because he’s smart and talented, but the vain part of him knows it’s because he’s tall and muscular, with bright green eyes and a perpetual shadow of scruff decorating his sharp jawline, and his default expression is brooding and mysterious, which to the cougar-moms means that he’s the cover model of their favorite romance novel. The rest of his fan base is actually interested in what he does before they’re known to Derek as the people that ogle his ass during his presentations for the entirety of the three-day convention.

Despite his knowledge and passion for preludes and symphonies, Derek isn’t known for his ability to really play anything. Sure, he’s dabbled, he’s got a bit of experience with a cello and a guitar, and even the smooth timbre of his own baritone voice, but most of his proficiency is in piano, and even still, it’s limited. He’s got enough capability to play basic chord progressions to prove a point, and he can play some easier works if he gets a few days’ worth of practice in, but the complexity of Rachmaninoff’s Prelude in C-Sharp minor from Morceaux de fantaisie is what shatters his heart when he hears what could have been. In his opinion, the worst decision a musician can make is to quit the fucking piano lessons once they’ve entertained the idea of learning the instrument.

This brings him to his playlist of classical music, most of which is from the three volumes of Norton’s Anthology of Western Music spiral-bound and torn from wear sitting on the bookshelf behind his desk. He’d never really had a preference of artist, nearly all of the incredible orchestras in Europe sound equally as talented, but every piano piece has to be played by a man by the name of Mieczysław.

Derek likes to think he’s in love with the guy, even though he isn’t sure if Mieczysław is a first name or a last name or even a name at all, and he never once gotten a glimpse of the pianist’s face. Every album cover and concert poster has it covered, in the shadows, or absent completely, but what can he expect? It’s about the music, the money-makers, and the guy’s hands are plastered on everything. Derek thinks they’re a work of art themselves, thin and veiny with elegantly long, willowy fingers that flow swiftly over a keyboard with ease and determination. And this Miecyzsław absolutely has a gift for music, because Derek has never heard such emotion and expression through a percussion instrument before he’d stumbled blindly upon the pianist entertaining the immensely overdone Prelude in C Major from Johann Sebastian Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier. After that, he’d searched every other overrated piece he could think of, Fryderyk Chopin’s Waltz in D-flat: Minute to Ludwig von Beethoven’s Für Elise with a doubt in his mind that they’d all be a breath of fresh air. It has to be true love.

He slides the last research paper across his desk and into the wire basket for papers to be returned and gathers his belongings languidly before he hangs the messenger bag over his shoulder and heads out of the building to his Camaro. He’s exhausted, per usual, but once the cool January air hits all of his exposed skin, he’s suddenly awake and moving hurriedly across the parking lot. Once he gets to the car, he tosses his bag across the center console and makes quick work of throwing his black leather jacket over his thermal clad shoulders, before he slips into the driver’s seat and wastes no time in plugging his phone into his car to let the classical music ooze from its speakers.

The song hops back in to where he’d left off, right in the middle of The Lark, one of Derek’s favorites. It’s beautifully complex and full of quick passages up and down the keyboard, and every melismatic cluster is so perfectly executed that Derek can’t help but imagine how proud Mikhail Glinka would be to hear his piece rendered quite so elegantly. He sighs contentedly and pulls out of the parking lot as all of the campus lampposts flicker on to illuminate the sidewalks in the darkness. They twinkle, like the lark’s wings, and cast the night in a warm, golden glow as his Camaro speeds quickly down the road leading off campus.

It takes Derek a mere twenty minutes to get home and he’s already exhausted, but lucky for him, he has no class tomorrow, which means an extra hour of sleep before he heads to the coffee shop to work on another segment of an article he’s writing for the Journal of Musicology, analyzing the aesthetics of Debussy’s various preludes.

A yawn drags him out of his thoughts and he wastes no time getting ready for bed before he slips into it, bleary-eyed, with the phantom notes of The Lark hypnotizing him into sleep long after the music had stopped playing.

 

——

 

There’s a newspaper at his doorstep every morning, a New York Times, and if he’s being completely honest, the only reason he gets it is for the Arts section. Derek’s a sucker for a good crossword puzzle and the Times seems to have the one that challenges his brain the most, so one of his favorite parts of the day is when he finds some time to decipher the checkerboard.

Derek starts his routine once the sun shines brightly through the window wall in his loft and rouses him from his slumber at a ripe seven am. He rubs his eyes and lets them flutter open to watch dust particles glint in the sun beam that’s playing across the edge of his mattress. His alarm is supposed to go off in an hour but now he’s wide awake and shuffling to the steel barn door to slide it open and grab the paper where it’s waiting outside the door. The newspaper finds its place beside his bag on the couch and he quickly showers, tugs a black thermal over his head and dark jeans up his legs, slides his feet into a pair of boots and throws a black leather jacket over his broad shoulders. It’s not like his attire makes a difference, he looks unapproachable either way, but the scarier he looks, the less likely a student will approach him, and that’s all that matters.

The first stop of the morning is to a bookstore downtown to donate a stack of textbooks he’d fished off of the free shelf outside of his office that he hasn’t a use for. He finds himself wandering up the sidewalks until he stumbles into a little coffee shop and settles at the bar, alone, in a corner away from the rest of the patrons in the shop. Derek opens his laptop and the unfinished lesson plan pops up in a document and he leaves it up in front of him, hoping that the crossword burning a hole in his pocket will give him some inspiration. He reaches into his bag and pulls out his favorite silver Montblanc—he’s used it on every single crossword he’s ever done in his life and now it’s a good luck sort of thing—and the folded crossword he’d pulled out of the newspaper that morning, and with the soft, sweet melody of Clair de Lune floating around in his head does he start piecing together his puzzle.

Twenty down, famed Milan opera house.

The barista comes over with a smile and takes Derek’s order.

“Large cold brew with vanilla, no room,” he says, making sure he doesn’t show too much of his face in fear he’ll be recognized on his day off, because he never knows where he’ll find a student and they never seem to avoid talking to him as he feels they should upon seeing a professor out doing normal people things. La Scala, he thinks, and scribbles the first solution into the puzzle. His coffee comes, and Derek smiles tightly at the barista, and sucks down some coffee, eyes slyly trained on the lanky guy who’s slid into the seat next to him at the bar chattering on the phone. He’s in a blue Henley with a soft red hoodie draped over the back of the high chair, and Derek can’t help but overhear the man muttering at a guy named Scott, his exact words being, “I’ve entertained you and Kira for the entirety of last night, the least you can do is let me entertain myself for the fucking morning.”

Seven down, The blank Song (Lákme aria).

“No, I will not bring you coffee and no, I will not tell you where I am. Scott, I—no, I don’t—for fuck’s sake, go bother your girlfriend.” And he hangs up with a huff, a fingerless-gloved hand snaking into his jacket pocket to retrieve his own folded up New York Times crossword. It’s only got a few words filled in, and Derek’s trying to scoot over in hopes that the wall will open up and swallow him away from the guy’s incessant tapping on the countertop. The tapping stops when barista hands him a cold brew, which means he must frequent the place if they don’t even need to ask for an order, and the man turns back to his crossword silently, shooting a glance right to catch Derek’s gaze with soft brown eyes. “The answer is bell. To seven down.”

Derek looks at his own crossword and sees he’s been circling the clue number over and over again in his absentminded state. He lifts his head to get a good look at his puzzle pariah, and his face is dotted in little moles and freckles, with bushy brows arched over beautiful brown eyes. He doesn’t seem to show any sign of recognition, meaning Derek is probably safe to be normal instead of acting like the shady fuck he has been since he entered the shop. He just grumbles in response and fills in the boxes. The man’s phone lights up and it catches Derek’s eye, but the man is too busy watching him intently to notice it. “You should get that.”

“I’d rather talk to you,” the guy smirks, “considering you’ve looked like you want to rip my throat out since I sat down. What gives?”

“It was quiet,” Derek mutters. Now, he can’t even focus on his crossword. The laptop in front of him comes to life when he moves it closer, and his lesson plan reappears on the screen. “I’m busy.”

The boy scoots closer into Derek’s space as if he’s never heard of something called privacy. “You’re a music professor? My best friend is a music major. I thought being a good friend meant playing through a bunch of classical piano music that he has to know by memory for a test at the end of the week for the entirety of an evening but apparently that isn’t enough for him. He’s been harassing me all morning.”

“You do know there’s something called personal space and right now, you’re about three feet too far into mine.” He moves his laptop clenches his jaw because this kid is swirling his tongue around the straw of his coffee and it’s absolutely infuriating.

He seems to ignore the disgruntled green eyes glaring at him and continues like he’s not sticking his nose into the business of someone he just met. “I guess I would understand his struggle if I were also in the class. I just need these few hours of java and crosswords before his head is back up my ass again.”

“Is that why your head is up mine?”

There’s a charming little snicker that comes out of his perfect little mouth, and it shouldn’t appeal to Derek as much as it does. Regardless, the guy leans back into his own space and shrugs with another swig of his coffee. “Is that the reason you haven’t left yet?”

“What do you want? I’m busy.” Derek’s taken to his lesson plan again with a glimmer of hope that this man will just leave him alone.

“Yeah, you already said that,” the guy replies, leaning over again to draw his eyes over Derek’s leather-clad chest. “You’re probably always working, aren’t you, doctor?” Derek’s eyes snap down to…his fucking ID badge. Of course, he’d forget to take it off of his jacket. So much for his peaceful day off. “Whaddaya say you help me out with this crossword and maybe stop looking like you’re figuring out the best way to murder me? You get a break from your fancy teaching job and I get a big ol’ overqualified brain to double check my answers before I write them in pen. C’mon, doc.”

He knows the kid isn’t going to let up so Derek closes his laptop and clenches his jaw in agreement. “Don’t call me that.”

The kid reaches out a svelte, fingerless-gloved hand, “Well, I’m Stiles,” and Derek just examines those fingers a bit too long, before he finally shakes it and yet something in his mind is telling him that that hand looks a little familiar. “And I call you…?”

“Derek.” He drops Stiles’s hand and turns back to his coffee when Stiles reaches over and takes Derek’s crossword.

“So, have you figured out eighteen across yet?”

 

 

 

Derek has been sitting in his car outside the coffee shop for at least thirty minutes just dreaming about those hands. They looked vaguely familiar, and Derek can only assume they’ve literally been in one of his dreams before, because he’d surely remember them more vividly if he’d seen them in person. The guy in the shop, Stiles as it were, was a whirlwind of entertainment and Derek’s feeling a little smitten at the blissful hour and a half they’d been sitting in the shop just talking for crossword answers and coffee refills, and Stiles even seemed to break through his angry little wall to get him to talk about life.

He learns that Stiles had started at USC three years prior and actually spent the past semester off at home in Beacon Hills—and Derek thinks it's fate rather than coincidence that he also happens to be from Beacon Hills—to take some time ‘perfecting his craft’, he called it. Stiles had originally began his schooling with the intention of studying music history, yet instead chose to pursue piano performance which, unlike the history major, requires a proficiency exam after the third year. So, Stiles was back, roaming the campus, sitting in on classes, trying his best to figure out a schedule of classes to satisfy the requirements for both piano performance and music history with the hopes of scratching an itch for the ins and outs of romantic composers and perhaps a double major.

Derek sighs and is kicking himself for actually being a little bit attracted to a student, perhaps not one of his yet, but a student nevertheless. It was evident in how Stiles was trying to subtly pick Derek’s brain that he was exceedingly interested in the distinctions between each era of composers and what exactly to look for in order to correctly categorize a piece, and Derek really didn’t want to admit that it felt incredibly gratifying to have someone genuinely interested in his craft, and not just his ass. Stiles also kept hinting that he did in fact know who Derek was by artfully weaving in bits of his own research from a convention he spoke at last month in San Francisco, and it only pulls Derek in even more, so much so that he knows he’s going to have a hell of a time crawling out of the grave Stiles is digging for him.

He’s also kicking himself for not offering the kid his card, his business card, complete with his office number. Only for educational purposes, maybe, but he’s reveling in how easy it was for the conversation between them to flourish and explore the minor budding topics that come up in passing, something he isn’t quite sure he’s experienced with anyone before. If anything, Stiles could’ve used the number to call with any questions, set up a lunch meeting perhaps, to pick Derek’s brain a little more, yet he didn’t even think of it at the time because he was too wrapped up in the kid’s teasing smirk and charming attitude. All he can really do at this point is hope Stiles registers for his class. He has room for him; they’re only five classes in to the spring semester and the last day to drop/add is in a whole two months, which means that if luck is on Derek’s side, he’ll be handing Stiles a syllabus in a little less than twenty-four hours and catching him up on the importance of Satie in early 20th century avant-garde Paris.

Derek drives himself back to his loft and spends the rest of his off day inside, foregoing the gym for once in his life and instead typing up a lesson plan and printing copies of public domain Debussy while listening to the airy, blissful themes of Maria Szymanowska’s Nocturne in B-Flat Major. He marks up one of the Debussy scores as a key for when he has his class mark them up tomorrow and pauses in the middle of a sentence to listen to the tinkling of the piano keys that are soaring through the loft from the speakers mounted in the corners of the space. He closes his eyes and knows exactly what the playlist cover looks like, compiled by whomever runs Mieczysław’s Spotify profile, every single track played by the pianist himself. It’s as if the music is sinking into his skin and flooding it with goosebumps, sending a wave of chills up Derek’s spine where he’s on the couch briefly immersed. What he’d give to see the musician live, fingers nimbly tapping the expanse of keys and stringing together extraordinary chords and melodies, each filled with a torrent of musical expression and emotion, foot easily pumping the pedals to glide the notes together and dampen the earthy, rich tones that pour out of a Steinway grand piano.

He stops, an idea swimming around in his head. He immediately searches for any upcoming solo piano recitals and sure enough, there’s one in May at the Walt Disney Concert Hall a few blocks from his loft. It’s a charity function, all of the proceeds going towards purchasing new instruments for schools that need them, and one of the participants is Mieczysław himself. A familiar warmth of excitement rushes through Derek’s body and he can’t stop smiling because a stupid dream he’s had is finally going to come true. He hastily purchases a ticket and prints it out, knowing it’s easily the best fifty bucks he’s ever spent. It hangs clipped to the calendar on Derek’s refrigerator where he can get adrenalized about it every single morning leading up to the event when he goes for a glass of orange juice.

He reaches for the mug of tea on the coffee table and takes a sip of chamomile, furiously typing more notes into his powerpoint lesson and a ping notifies him of a new email. It’s from the registrar, informing him that a new student has enrolled in the school and has requested to observe his class tomorrow, an M. Stilinski, and Derek doesn’t understand why his heart flutters a bit because it could be Stiles—it sure sounds like Stiles—if the last name doesn’t give it away. So, Derek pushes his glasses up his nose and does a bit of sleuthing, as he assumes Stiles is probably doing on him right about now, and discovers the beauty of the student directory photo that proves Derek’s suspicions correct. There’s Stiles, smirking at the camera, and according to the system, twenty-one-year-old is set to graduate in a half a year with a degree in piano performance and, as per how he’s registered, he’s apparently declared a musicology major as well. Derek’s about to be seeing a lot of Stiles Stilinski.

 

——

 

“Should I just stay after class and ask all my questions?” Stiles asks as soon as he walks through the classroom door. The only one in the room is Derek, albeit the class starts in two minutes. He can’t blame teenagers for their insatiable need to snooze an alarm.

“Sure,” Derek replies, meeting Stiles’s smile with his usual scowl, a little nag in the back of his brain reminding him of something called professionalism. He reaches up to fix the collar of his white button down and fiddles around with the computer just to make sure he doesn’t stare too long. “I’m free for about an hour after this class for lunch if you’d be okay with a lunch meeting. I’d be happy to fill you in and answer all questions.”

Stiles bobs his head in agreement and chooses a seat in the front row—fucking shocker—and he sheds his coat, leaving his lithe frame covered in a red flannel with a thermal shirt underneath it, hands tucked in the sleeves with thumbholes. “Sounds solid, doc. Wait—what do I call you? Do you do the whole formal Dr. Hale thing or are you a Professor Hale kind of guy?”

Derek swallows thickly and resists the urge to prevent the words doctor and professor from ever preceding his name when this particular boy says it, but offers a sarcastic smile at the front of the room as students start to file in lazily.  “Anything is fine, really. Most of them call me Dr. Hale, but just Derek is fine, too.”

“Well, okay, Just Derek. I—”

“Stiles!” A tan, doe-eyed boy wraps Stiles in a hug and they laugh for a moment before sitting. “Why are you here? I don’t un—don’t get me wrong, I’m glad you’re here—but I don’t understand why you’re taking this class. I thought you—”

“I was convinced by a rather persuasive scholar to sit in for a day, Scott,” he interrupts, and Derek doesn’t miss the wink Stiles shoots at him that sends a shiver up his spine. Let’s hope he’s not as annoying in a class as he is in a coffee shop.

Derek clears his throat as the last few stragglers bolt through the door and he moves to close it behind them. “Okay, guys, any questions from the listenings or the Satie readings from last class? I know we didn’t get all the way through it, so I’m just covering my bases here.”

The entire class is silent.

“Are you too afraid to ask questions or do you not know what you don’t know?”

“That one,” Scott sheepishly replies, tapping his pen over the metal spiral of his notebook. “Could you do like, I don’t know, a quick recap or something?”

The class murmurs in agreement for a second and Derek shrugs, rolling up his sleeves. “Alright, but I’m not about to butcher Gymnopédies again for the sake of the group, unless one of you—” he scans the room full of musicians, knowing full well that Danny played it in his recital last semester and Lydia is completely capable of sightreading it near flawlessly, “would so graciously volunteer to entertain us with your talent. The more time you take up, the less new information you have to learn today, and the less likely it is that we get to the Debussy analysis.”

The class collectively groans at the mention of another analysis, Jackson starts badgering Lydia and Ethan and Aiden start badgering Danny, and then Scott is in the front jabbing a finger in Stiles’s arm. “Come on, you’re better than everyone else in this room and if I have to hear Dr. Hale play it again, I think my brain might explode and leak out my ears.”

“I heard that,” Derek chides with a frown, and Scott sinks down in his desk. “Not like I blame you, Scott.”

“I’ll do it,” Stiles says nonchalantly, folding the desk down and heading languidly over to the baby grand in front of the right side of the chalkboard. Derek hands him the sheet music and it’s his own copy, which means it’s so old the pages nearly flutter out of the book when Stiles opens it. “Jesus, ever heard of spiral binding? I’m terrified if I open this book all the way it’s going to turn to dust.”

Derek acknowledges with a vengeful side-eye, because Stiles is charming him again with those big whiskey eyes as he opens the old book and sets it up on the music rack above the keyboard, and Derek almost gets lost before he hears someone ask a question and all of a sudden he remembers, oh yeah, he’s supposed to be working and not checking out his fucking students. “What?” he asks into the room.

“Page number, in the anthology. Is it in there?” It’s Jackson.

Derek shakes his head. “It was the analysis you did for today, unless you didn’t do it.” Jackson’s superiority complex dissipates when Derek stares daggers right through it. “Hope I don’t collect it. Stiles, whenever you’re ready.”

And the kid takes a few deep breaths. “I’m a little rusty and I’ve never actually played this before, so I’ll do my best.” He wiggles his hands in his sleeves, still looped through the thumbholes in his shirt, and once he starts playing, the room goes silent.

It doesn’t sound rusty at all. It sounds perfectly timed, perfectly weighted, perfectly dreamy. Stiles’s tongue sticks out to rest on his bottom lip while he plays, and Derek can tell he’s invested by his concentration, the way his eyes flicker across the staves of notes and his hands just seem to follow suit, as if it’s something so natural. The tempo is slow, like a tender waltz, and Derek leans against the podium and just closes his eyes, letting the smooth, consonant chords wrap around his head and beckon him to get lost in their beauty. Stiles is sightreading it perfectly, and it’s not that difficult really, a simple melody and some simple chords at a leisurely pace, but it’s the execution of simplicity that makes the piece so timeless and romantic.

“Wow,” someone whispers, and Derek hadn’t even realized it was over until the class erupts into applause, and there’s Stiles closing the score with a smirk, and trying to hide the rosy blush creeping up the sides of his neck.

“Nice job,” Derek affirms when he’s offered the sheet music back, and Stiles lets his mouth curve up on the left in a lopsided simper to bask in all the attention. “Any observations?” he asks the class.

Ethan pipes up from the back corner. “That’s definitely not the piece you played. It sounded completely different.”

“That’s because Stiles actually played it well,” Lydia adds.

"I’m fairly certain we’re all smart enough musicians to figure out that my doctorate is not in piano performance and definitely does not qualify me to put on a premier concert for you. That’s above my pay grade.” Stiles laughs at that one and it gets the rest of the class going, so at least that’s one win for Derek today. “Now, intelligent observations?”

They take turns shouting out terms that they know, even if they don’t apply, and Derek’s categorizing them on the chalkboard into what should be ‘relevant’ and ‘irrelevant’, but he’s instead labeled them ‘Satie’ and ‘Maybe Satie’. Clearly the only people who understood the readings and lecture were Lydia, Danny, and Stiles, who wasn’t even in the class. They’re supplying useful terms like minimalist and modernism and avant-garde so that the whole side is full of applicable terms and while the three brightest are satisfied with themselves, the rest of the class looks more baffled than when they didn’t know anything. Reluctantly, Derek sighs and pushes his glasses up the bridge of his nose.

“Okay, I guess we’re doing a recap lesson today. I’ll give you the Debussy to look over and listen to for class next Monday—because Kira’s running the theory and terms quiz on Friday— and then we’ll break it down together.” He runs a hand through his hair and catches Stiles in the front row lick his lips and let his eyes flutter down his body, from his glasses and clean-shaven cheeks, down to the two open buttons on his dress shirt, to his slim fit navy slacks and dark brown oxfords. A wolfish grin spreads across his face when he finds that Derek’s spotted his eyes wandering, and Derek just scowls in response. Still fucking annoying. “Jackson, it’s your lucky day. I’ll collect the Satie analysis on Monday. You’re getting a chance to fix any mistakes you’ve made. Now, let’s talk about Satie.”

 

 

 

“So, what exactly are you hoping to get out of this class?” Derek asks, taking a bite of his salad. “You’re clearly well-versed in Satie, so I’m sure you know just as much about the rest of the old dead guys we’re studying this semester.”

Stiles shrugs across the table and swirls a curly fry around his plate. “I don’t know, I—I really didn’t want to take the Madonna to Mahler class I sat in on yesterday. Like, Professor Parrish seems great and all, but I felt like a knew a little too much to be in a one-hundred level course,” he informs, finally eating the fry. “He’s definitely easy on the eyes, but I prefer mine more ‘staring daggers with an intent to kill’.” Derek chokes on his water when Stiles purrs that last part and scowls across the table, hoping that for once, daggers would literally shoot out of his eyes. “I mean, I know some stuff but not enough,” Stiles continues. “I research most of the pieces I play, so I’ve got a bit of headway on the rest of these guys.”

“Try a lot. They’ve all been required to take my music history crash courses and those aren’t easy either, but all the upper level history courses are covering the popular composers in an intense amount of detail that you don’t get in a crash course. You doing some studying on your own gives you a huge advantage.” Stiles just shrugs and fiddles with his thumbhole sleeves before Derek resumes, attempting to pretend he didn’t just asphyxiate at a student so blatantly hitting on him. “Take today, for example, you were already familiar with Satie in his entirety.”

“The guy wrote a series called ‘Desiccated Embryos’ to make fun of Chopin, Puget, and Debussy with pieces named after fucking shrimp just because he thought they were delicious, so how can I not know about him? You can’t be friends with someone and then just, whip around and write ‘obligatory cadenza’ at the end with more than half a page of fortissimo F-major chords and arpeggios just like—" He stops when he looks up and realizes Derek’s just glaring at him with pursed lips and a raised brow.

“You wanna try again and tell me why you really want to take my class?”

Stiles lets out a breath he didn’t realize he’d been holding. “Look, I’ve been going to your conferences and reading your articles since my dad bought me a real piano for my seventeenth birthday. The previous owner left some books in the bench and one of them was Outspoken Essays on Music by Camille Saint-Saëns, translated by you, with an introduction by you, and I’ve read it cover to cover more times than I can count. I just—” there’s the grin again. “You’re one of the best there is and I’m just really fucking…intrigued, so I didn’t know what else to do except go straight to the source.” He’s scanning Derek’s face with a fiery intensity and a lascivious leer lingering on his lips, and it’s got Derek a little hot under the collar because wow, he can’t bring himself to shut it down.

“Intrigued by my ass, maybe," Derek mutters quietly.

Stiles does this stupid drumming thing with his fingers over the table top like he’s sitting at a keyboard and his features are soft and genuine when he looks up at Derek. There’s a song that Derek recognizes as Chopin’s Nocturne No.2 in E-Flat Major playing softly over the speakers in the campus café, and whether it’s unconscious or not, Stiles is tapping out the fingerings of the piece as if he were in a practice room right there on the tabletop. Derek doesn’t say anything, just thinks of how suitable the music is for Stiles in that moment; he looks easygoing, amorous, embarrassed at the fact that now the man he idolizes knows his secret agenda, but still, the moment feels right, even with the faint rapping of the boy’s fingers. It’s strange, how bare he seems without a simper tugging at his lips or desire swirling in his bourbon eyes, how easy the conversation feels when Stiles isn’t trying to talk his way into Derek’s pants.

“You know,” Derek encourages, “if you’re really serious, you can apply for an independent study. I can sign off on it, be your advisor. It’s a great way to start researching and getting some recognition for your insights, especially as a pianist. There seems to be a ton of studies dissecting symphonies and concertos and operas, but no one really focuses on independent piano works.” He takes another bite of salad and keeps talking. “You’d have full access to my resources, and I’ve got more bookshelves of literature at home that you can use as well. Plus, I’m probably one of the best resources in the library.”

“You’re bringing me home already?” And the smirk is back.

Derek just hands Stiles a business card, complete with his school email, office number, and scribbled on the back is his personal phone number in red pen. “Go talk to the registrar. Normally, it’s only available for summer school unless you get special permission. Once you get the application, send me an email or something. I’ve got a few student meetings during my office hours today, so I can let you know a time I’m free and we can go over your topic idea and I’ll sign off on it.”

His heart jerks at the prurient smile Stiles gives him. “Awesome.”

“Don’t fuck this up,” Derek warns, “My patience is a virtue.”

 

——

 

From: 2095550826 (mobile)
01/19/18  12:57 PM

It’s Stiles
The lady at the registrar swooned when I said your name
I finished the application so lemme know when you’re free

 

Derek’s furious typing stops when the message pops up on the screen of his laptop. This meeting was supposed to be over ten minutes ago, and according to his calendar, he’s got an open time slot before his office hours are over and he has to get to the practice room he’s signed up for. It’s not like anyone else is going to play the excerpt for the class on Wednesday.

 

To: 2095550826 (mobile)
01/19/18  12:58 PM

If you come to my office now, you can have my next time slot
And I specifically remember mentioning an email, not a text message

 

“Liam, I can’t help you if you’re not going to put in the work. You take this class now, you save yourself from taking it next year when you’ll arguably have more work to sift through. Kira is running a help session on Thursday night and I think you should really go to it and see if it helps before you drop the class.”

Liam rolls his eyes on the couch in front of Derek’s desk. “And if it doesn’t?”

“Then I’ll sign the drop slip. Listen, Kira is the best TA I have, okay? I promise, she knows what she’s talking about, and I trust Mason has a pretty good grasp on the material based on his class participation, and you’re roommates, no? I’m sure he’d be more than happy to study with you.” Derek hands the kid back his drop slip, unsigned, and he just stares at it with big, blue eyes and an uncertain look on his face. “Hey, my door is always open if you have questions or need someone to talk to, alright? I’m not as scary as I look.”

Liam takes the slip and tosses it in the trashcan, slowly nodding. “Okay. Thanks.” He stands with another nod and heads out the door, letting out an “Oh, shit, sorry man” before Stiles’s head pops into the doorway.

“You’re scarier than you look, actually.” He’s waving his hands around as he speaks, and Derek thinks he’s bound to knock something over. He looks windblown, with rosy cheeks and his mouth parted slightly with each breath, and he unwraps the wool scarf from around his neck and shrugs out of his jacket before hanging both on the coatrack next to the door. Derek tries not to stare so fondly, but something about this boy is tugging at his heart and making it awfully hard for him to just do his fucking job.

Derek reaches a hand out and accepts the packet Stiles offers, reading through the boy’s scrawl. “Area of study?”

“Music of the 19th through 21st centuries.”

“Project proposal?”

“I’m curious as to why some are more popular than others.”

Derek skims through the schedule plan. “What are you going to do with this research?”

“Presentation. I want to take the specific elements that make these pieces so popular and combine them to make my own piece or something. Maybe do a recital of the pieces in my research, that way it satisfies my proficiency requirement.”

He’s searching Derek’s face for a sign, anything. The older picks up a pen and adds a confirming signature on the last sheet of paper and slides it back across the desk. “Take this to the music office and the department chair should review and approve it to the registrar. It’ll be the only class on your schedule for a month, and then you’ll be able to pick the last few classes you need to graduate.”

“Technically, I only need two music history electives and a proficiency exam to graduate, so you actually get to keep me for the rest of the semester.”

"I’m thrilled.” Derek scribbles some notes on a major requirement sheet and hands it to Stiles, irritated and a bit excited, though he’ll never admit that part to himself. “You'll have to write a research paper in addition to the presentation and do a thirty minute recital or proficiency test to fulfill all the credits, I hope you know."

"I do." The knowing smile is back, curling in Stiles’s lips. "I also know that means you can say yes when I ask you to dinner in four months."

Derek ignores it. “You can start your research tomorrow.”

“Are you free tomorrow?”

Not if you’re hitting on me, is what he should say, but instead he says, “I’m off tomorrow and Friday.” We are professionals. Teacher-student. Strictly. It is not a date.

Stiles smiles and gathers his stuff. “It’s a date, I’ll text you specifics.”

And then he’s gone before Derek has the chance to say anything. Not a date.

 

——

 

“Do you always invite students to your house?” Stiles pries once they enter the apartment building. Derek can sense that he’s both a little skeptical and a lot intrigued, judging by the slight stiffness of his body and the way his eyes keep hovering around the tower.

Truthfully, no, he doesn’t invite just any students to his home, he’s really only done so with the master’s students at Harvard for celebrations, but it somehow felt like the right approach with Stiles’s independent study. “Yes,” he lies, and he tries not to take note of the falter in Stiles’s smile, as if he was hoping to be at least a little special. “Don’t give me a reason to kick you out.”

He’s sure Stiles is about to say something snarky when he slides open the steel door of the penthouse and walks in, only to leave the boy gazing in the doorway. “Wow,” he whispers. Derek can’t tell if it’s at the wall of windows overlooking downtown Los Angeles, or the bookshelves flooded with literature—Derek thinks there’s at least ten in the whole loft—or that the space is so open and so minimally furnished and it’s a bit intimidating. “This is incredible.” Stiles finally enters the area and Derek slides the door shut, concluding that maybe he was amazed by everything.

“Here,” Stiles says, eyeing the bookshelves, “Hang it up with yours, will you?” The older angrily snatches the red hoodie offered to him and loops it on the rack by the door next to his pea coat, a cedary, earthy scent wafting from where it’s been wrapped in the boy’s warmth.

“I’d tell you to make yourself at home, but then you’ll never leave.”

“Fine, take away the temptation.”

Derek does his best to ignore Stiles’s wiggling eyebrows. “All the books down here are French, I think there’s some German and Russian on the bookshelf by the staircase, you’ll probably get some info on Schoenberg and Stravinsky, and the British is over by the elevator. I’ve got a book of Britten’s letters to Peter Pears. I’ll go make some coffee.” He needs to get out with the way Stiles seems to be wistfully scanning his bed.

“Cool,” comes the reply, the boy staring up at one particularly old manuscript, copyrighted 1863, Fauré’s Romances sans paroles, Op. 17. His fingers brush the yellowed paper and over the worn spine before he turns toward Derek. “Are all of these fair game?” He’s reaching for another hardcover with an unraveling spine.

Derek nods and disappears up the stairs, yelling over his shoulder, “If you touch anything that isn’t a book, I swear to god you’ll find out whether or not I’m actually a murderer.” Stiles puts a little bust of Bach back on the bookshelf and opts for running his fingers over the spines instead, looped through the thumbholes in the sleeves of his blue sweater. Something glints in the corner of the loft, right by the service elevator, and Stiles can’t help but let his curiosity get the better of him and he sees the shiny piano leg twinkling from the sunlight flooding in through the windows. His hand caresses the soft fabric of the blanket haphazardly tossed on top of the instrument and he knows he shouldn’t. He really shouldn’t. But there’s the little voice in his mind that reminds him how this is research and he’s researching and if Derek murders him, it least he’ll be slumped over a keyboard and before he realizes what he’s doing, he grips a handful of the fabric and yanks it, and the blanket slides smoothly off of the polished ebony lid.

There are laid diamond patterns on the case, lid, legs, and fallboard, all hand-cut lead crystals, over a hundred thousand pieces. Stiles knows this instrument, he’s dreamed of it, all 1.2 million dollars’ worth. His fingers play a quick sequence over the lower keys and they sound buttery and warm, soothing to his nervous heart that’s been fluttering uncomfortably since he’d met up with Derek in the library that morning. He finds the Fauré manuscript again in the stacks and pulls it out, delicately flipping open the pages, a smile slipping over his features as he starts sightreading the staves.

Derek nearly drops the mugs of coffee when he hears the piano come to life; he’d almost forgotten it after he’d moved in, not ever having a reason to entertain the ivories. Never in a million years did he think the instrument would still be in tune and sound as lively as the day he bought it. He descends the stairs and quietly watches the boy tinker through the short pieces before he approaches him with a mug. “I thought I told you not to touch anything.”

Stiles jumps slightly. “I—sorry, I know it was covered but I just—it was shiny and—”

“I didn’t think it would still be in tune,” is all Derek can say. He wants to be angry but he can't. 

“It’s more beautiful than I ever imagined.” He brushes his hands over the keys. “How do you have one of the only Kuhn-Bösendorfers in the world?” Stiles doesn’t know if Derek’s just rich or if it was a gift, but maybe he’s going into the wrong profession if he’s ever wanted to buy his own.

“Family inheritance,” is all Derek offers and sips his coffee, walking over to the couch. “I’ll be working if you have any questions. I can translate any French if you need it. There’s a few books in there you won’t be able to read.”

Stiles wiggles his eyebrows again. “You’re fluent?”

“J'ai étudié à Paris pendant deux ans, bien sûr que je parle couramment français.” I studied in Paris for two years, of course I’m fluent. Stiles is staring at Derek so dotingly with a smug look on his face, and he has no idea what Derek even said, but wow, he wants to hear it again. “Just—take your time, use whatever. Just don’t annoy me.”

So, Stiles does, moving from bookshelf to bookshelf, taking texts to where Derek is reading on the couch in the middle of the room and flipping through them, asking for his opinion and translations, re-shelving them. Every manuscript he chooses to play through are ones Derek never seems to find a recording of—to be fair, he has accumulated a ton of lesser known pieces with the intention of learning them someday—so most of the time, Derek’s listening to Stiles zip around rather than focusing on his own research.

They order Chinese take-out somewhere in between lunch time and dinner time, and Derek resigns to helping Stiles find relevant information for his project a little while after the food gets delivered. It’s nice, peaceful, having someone else appreciate his collection, and Derek realizes that’s the reason he invited Stiles into his home.

And this becomes sort of a routine for them, at least on every day off Derek has. He’s taken to writing his lesson plans and powerpoints once his office hours are over and then spends his free time at home, with Stiles going over resources and excerpts of research that he thinks are relevant. Sometimes they order food, sometimes Derek finds himself cooking, sometimes Stiles runs late and brings something with him, but it becomes strangely comfortable, natural almost, and their time together seems to have some semblance of friendship rather than something so rigidly professional. Derek isn’t so sure that’s a good thing, playing with temptation like that.

Stiles is staying later and later, sometimes leaving into the wee hours of the morning—and Derek makes sure he always leaves—before Derek retires to bed, and even then, the fresh, cedar smell of Stiles lingers on the sofa and the bedsheets from where he sits and spreads books all around. It lulls him to sleep.

 

——

 

About three weeks in, Stiles presents Derek with a first draft of his research paper.

“It’s not done, just a rough semblance of thoughts. There’s a tentative program order in the back of the tentative recital I’m planning, and I’d be eternally grateful if you’d give me your opinion on it?” He says it like he’s asking a question, even though it’s literally Derek’s job as an advisor and professor.

He takes the stapled packet and sticks it in his bag with Stiles looking expectantly at him from the other side of the desk. Derek’s eyes flicker up from the test he’s taking—although he made it and is taking it himself to make an answer key, it’s fairly challenging—and Stiles is just fidgeting nervously from one foot to the other in a soft red flannel and gray gloves that match the gray beanie on his head. “I’ll have it edited by tomorrow.” Derek’s eyebrows lift when Stiles doesn’t move.

“Can I possibly come get it tonight? I sort of need the recital order for tomorrow morning.” He doesn’t elaborate, and it puzzles Derek, but he just nods slowly and shoos the boy out of his office with the promise of having the draft edited.

And Derek does, as soon as Stiles leaves. He reads through the draft at least six times and seems to pick up on something new with every single pass. He elaborates on the popularity of pieces due to film, nostalgia, recognition, to the fact that sometimes it’s about the success of the composer as to whether or not they’ll be remembered, and Derek picks up on small allusions to his own research and writings. It makes him feel all warm and tingly, reading through the works cited and seeing his own name multiple times amongst them.

He makes edits and revisions, asks questions in the margins, makes suggestions between paragraphs and between lines of text, and by the time he’s done with the edits, meetings, and office hours, a storm has rolled in and is making it difficult for Derek to get home. He doesn’t have time to go grocery shopping—he’s run out of coffee—and he’s soaking wet from having to run across the parking lot to his car. He speeds home and sheds his drenched pea coat before he heads up to his loft and when he gets there, Stiles is waiting for him outside the door with a box of pizza and a six pack of beer, and judging by how wet his flannel is, it looks like he got stuck in the rain as well.

The older just stares at him, because it’s the first time Stiles has showed up and waited, and Derek wants to ask why are you here? because an edited draft doesn’t seem like it makes driving home in the storm worth it. Stiles stares back, eyes wide. “Shit, you ate already, didn’t you?”

“I, uh—no, I h-haven’t yet-t,” Derek replies, and why is he stuttering? Maybe it’s because Stiles is smirking and waiting for Derek to open the door with a typical college meal in his little fingerless-gloved hands, maybe it’s because he’s dripping wet and shivering.

“Perfect,” Stiles murmurs. He leads the way into the loft once the door is open and waits until Derek puts his stuff down before he says, “I wasn’t sure what kind of pizza you like, but you seem like a sausage and pepperoni type to me, so that’s what I got.” He doesn’t mention that he saw a magnet on the fridge for a pizza place and just showed up and asked the blonde girl behind the desk what tall, dark, and broody normally gets.

He’s about to put the food on the table when a crack of thunder startles them both, and then the lights flicker off. “S-Son of a b-bitch-ch,” Derek mutters from somewhere near the French bookshelf, and once his eyes adjust, Stiles snickers at the older trying to feel his way around the furniture. He finds the bookshelf and knocks the bust of Bach onto the floor in his haste to grasp the matchbox. He strikes a match in the darkness, a warm, orange glow illuminating his exasperated face before it goes out. “F-Fuck.” 

Stiles uses his phone as a flashlight and catches Derek in the bright beam, a breath catching in his throat at the sight of his white button down clinging wetly to his sickeningly beautiful torso, small curls of jet black hair matted to his forehead and his face glimmering with little rivulets of water gripping to the scruff he hasn’t shaved in a few days. You are so fucking gone, you dumb shit, Stiles thinks to himself as Derek walks toward him trembling with the chill of rainwater seeping into his skin.

“I’m going to c-change,” he says, and Stiles follows Derek with the light, across the room, up the stairs, and into a bedroom off the kitchen. Stiles hasn’t ever noticed it was there, probably because he’s never been up the stairs, but Derek doesn’t stop him so he just kind of assumes it’s okay. He’s also the one with the only working light source in the whole apartment. It’s nice, he thinks when he points to light at the ceiling to illuminate the whole room, with a couple photos of Derek and two girls that look just as murderous as he does—which means they absolutely have to be his sisters because if anyone’s going to help him on a killing spree, it’d be them—and a large gray tapestry is hanging on the wall behind the bed with a black triskelion in the center. There are some plants scattered around, on the nightstand, the dresser, and it feels lived in, more so than the downstairs area of the loft. He’s so busy reading the spines of the novels on the bookshelf in the corner that he barely hears a voice say, “Stiles, c-come here, I need th-the light.”

And when he turns, there’s Derek, rummaging shirtless through a drawer with one hand, a rumpled ball of white fabric in the other. He glances up at Stiles and catches him staring with those piercing green eyes and his eyebrows knit together exasperatedly before he stutters again, repeating the request. “Sorry, yeah, I—you just—”

Derek takes the phone when Stiles gets close enough and shoves the wet shirt in the boy’s hands as a replacement, water soaking into the woolen gloves that are warming his palms. He peeks up at the older, who’s glaring at the fact that Stiles is just existing, before he tugs a pair of sweatpants out of the drawer. “St-tiles, out.”

“On it,” he immediately shoots back while backing out the door and closing it. He doesn’t know why he feels embarrassed, because all he’s wanted from day one is to get Derek naked underneath him, fucking him into the mattress while he argues how Debussy’s should be classified as symbolist rather than impressionist because music is not a visual art and simply cannot be classified into impressionism and Jesus, now his shoulders are quaking because he’s fucking freezing with all of his bodily warmth headed south.

A bolt of lightning illuminates Derek’s face where he’s opened the door and another crash of thunder startles Stiles out of his thoughts. The older is holding out a thermal and a pair of sweatpants in a stack underneath where the phone is face down lighting up the kitchen area, and he takes the wet shirt from Stiles’s dripping hands. “Quickly, p-please, before you c-catch c-cold.”

Stiles nods and takes the clothes, pushing into the room past Derek to strip out of his own waterlogged chinos. He slips out of his flannel and his khakis and only then does he debate keeping his underwear on, because they’re chilly and drenched, just like his socks and sneakers. He weighs his options: extremely inappropriate and risky or soggy and borderline hypothermic? He strips himself naked and thinks, fuck it, letting his body be caressed by the plush fleece lining the joggers. Stiles tosses his flannel and tee into a ball with the rest of his clothes before he tugs the thermal over his disheveled hair. He smiles when his hands slide smoothly into the sleeves and he realizes Derek’s given him a thermal with thumbholes.

He makes his way back out to the loft and Derek’s sitting on the couch downstairs surrounded by candles, on the coffee table, on the bookshelves, on the dilapidated dining table that’s normally covered in manuscripts. He’s cross-legged and typing away on his laptop while the rain thrums against the wall of windows with the faint lull of Debussy’s La Cathedrale engloutie underneath it, the box of pizza waiting on the cushions next to Derek.

“The dryer is in the room on the other side of the kitchen. You can toss your clothes in and I'll run it when the power comes back,” he insists without even looking over his shoulder.

So, Stiles does, and makes his way to the spot on the couch next to the pizza. “Thank you,” he says earnestly through another bout of thunder, “I really appreciate the clothes and the…clothes.”

“Consider it reimbursement.” He gestures to the pizza. “You’re going to be here for a while, so we might as well talk about your draft.”

 

Stiles ends up falling asleep with Music, Gender, and Culture splayed open in his lap to an essay about Biology and Culture: Music, Gender, Power, and Ambiguity, and Derek doesn’t wake him. He tells himself it’s because Stiles is tired and because his clothes are drying and because there’s a raging storm outside, but he knows it’s really because Stiles looks permissive and beautiful with the way his skin glimmers in the—no, Derek. He stops himself. The rain lets up. The backlight on the number dial over the service elevator flickers dimly on. Derek still leaves the candles.

Stiles wakes up on his own around midnight, a solid four hours after he’d arrived at the loft, worn Derek’s clothes, discussed his paper over pizza and seasonal lager, and fallen asleep in the midst of a riveting essay of gender in music. He’s covered in a thick gray blanket with printed staves that his mind pieces together as one of Bartók’s Roumanian Folk Dances—typical for any music nerd to have a manuscript blanket and he doesn’t know why he’d think Derek exempt from that—and Derek is nowhere to be found. His laptop is on the table neatly next to the novel Stiles was thumbing through when he drifted off, the pages spread to the place he’d left off. The candles are still lit and waning in addition to a weak glow of lamplight from behind the bookshelf and his edited draft is on the corner of the coffee table next to a full, steaming mug of tea and a cold, half-full one, which he can only assume belongs to Derek. He sticks around for another half hour drinking his tea and when Derek doesn’t return, Stiles takes it with a grain of salt and forgets about his clothes, taking the draft and slipping quietly out the steel door.

 

——

 

 

About a month in, Stiles presents Derek with a first draft of a composition he’s written for his project.

“It’s not done, just a rough semblance of thoughts. There’s a tentative program order in the back of the whole shebang and I’d be eternally grateful if you’d give me your opinion on it?” He says it like he’s asking a question, even though it’s literally Derek’s job as an advisor and professor.

Derek gets a weird feeling that he can only chock up to déjà vu when he grabs the draft. “When do you need it by?” He’s in the middle of grading short essays that he’s been putting off all week and the last thing he really has time for is this draft for Stiles, right at this moment.

“Preferably tonight,” the boy replies with a sheepish grin, and he takes it upon himself to start elaborating before Derek sighs in exasperation. “I have to be up early tomorrow to give my hands a quick warm up before I play through this on the grand piano in the recital hall…I booked the room to judge the acoustics, y’know, see if my internal dynamics are okay.”

“Why can’t you print another copy? You—” Derek glances down in his hands and Stiles has handwritten the manuscript instead of using your standard music notation software. “Never mind. I’ll get it done. Don’t—”

“Great! I’ll drop by later!”

“No, Sti—fuck.” He’s gone before Derek can stop him. Does he ever listen?

Derek sighs and flips Liam’s essay back to the cover page and sets it aside, now that he’s lost his train of thought, and instead starts flipping through the manuscript. Stiles wasn’t kidding when he said rough draft because Derek’s only three measures in before he’s fixing stem directions. The thematic material doesn’t seem to make sense and it’s a bitch to read when the meter changes every measure or two from simple into compound and into another compound. He’s editing in a red pencil to make it easier to discern from the boy’s scratch marks and there’s a bar of music that has a literal hole erased through the center of the measure.

One he’s spent the better part of an hour editing, he takes it to the upright piano in the corner of his office and plays through the right hand melody to a steady eighth note metronome and it’s okay for a first draft, for a semblance of thoughts, but Derek knows that Stiles, of all people, can come up with something way better if he stops overthinking the project. He can pinpoint maybe five or six popular pieces that are represented, so he takes it upon himself to make a list of fifty or so compositions that would be easy to combine key-wise, meter-wise, and tempo-wise.

 

 

“There’s a lot of red on this.”

“You did make a copy, didn’t you?”

“No,” Stiles groans without taking his eyes off of the manuscript. “You re-barred half of the second page!”

Derek shrugs. “It needed to be re-barred.”

The boy looks pained and Derek knows the feeling, having something you’re so sure of ripped apart considering he's a composer. He watches Stiles pace behind the coffee table from his spot on the couch and clacks away on his laptop without looking at the keys. There has to be a nicer way to tell Erica that her theory of Beethoven faking his deafness to ‘rake in the cash with an angsty life experience’ doesn’t count towards the prompt. Stiles groans again, this time by the Russian bookshelf, pushing around a 3D printed model of Rachmaninoff’s hand. “This caesura absolutely makes sense!”

“Not if it’s the one right after the whole tone planing in measure thirty.” Derek doesn’t turn around to look at Stiles, not even when he starts whining.

“But why?” He moves to the British literature shelf and thumbs at a bobblehead of Handel. “Like, I get that you’re a doctor and all, but—”

Derek glares over the screen of his computer to warn the boy to choose his next words carefully. “My bachelor’s is in composition. You asked my professional opinion. I gave it to you.”

There’s a carton of lo mein on the table by Stiles’s backpack that he picks up when he throws himself on the couch next to Derek, who’s sipping a mug of blonde roast with one hand and still typing with the other. He glances to his right to see the younger slurp a noodle right between his perfect supple lips when a pair of honey eyes catches him with raised brows, and Derek chokes on his coffee, nearly spilling it on his macbook.

“You didn’t have to fucking destroy my draft.”

Derek shrugs again. “That’s what a second draft is for.”

“I just—I—” Stiles fumes, handing Derek the draft. “Show me how to fix this.”

The older takes it and ponders the first page for a moment, Stiles watching in anticipation, and Derek peeks up at his face for a second before he throws the draft in the trash can near the dining table. “Start over.”

“Wha—you can’t just fucking toss it!” Derek knows the boy’s anger is rationalized, and he doesn’t flinch when the yelling begins. “I spent a fucking month on this goddamn piece, checked it once, checked it twice, and then you’re just going to shit all over it?”

“Okay, Santa Claus, build a bridge,” the older mutters into his coffee. He knows he’s being harsh, but he also knows Stiles is a brilliant musician, and judging by how pissed off he is, he knows it too. “Go get your fucking draft and sit at the piano. I’m going to say a piece and I want you to play the melody if you know it, and however many you get is what’s going into your composition. You need to focus your ideas into one place and be smart. Layer melodies, change their keys, I don’t care, but you don’t get to come in here and get shitty with me because I gave you criticism.”

Stiles huffs and retrieves his hard work from the garbage, and as angry as he wants to be, he knows Derek is right. He’s also admittedly a little turned on by feisty Derek, who stared daggers right through him when he chewed him out. So, he smirks right at that perfectly scowled face and sits at the piano with every intention of winning whatever little dominance battle is going on between them. “Fine. Whenever you’re ready, my liege.

Rachmaninoff, Prelude Opus 3, No. 2 in C-Sharp minor.”

And over his steaming mug of java, Derek rattles off a ridiculous list of pieces, and he’s nearly certain Stiles is going to know every single one, and while he’s aware the younger thinks it’s some sort of pissing contest, he has every intention of letting Stiles win. It’s about education, making him realize his potential, not about who’s more qualified—granted, Derek knows it’s obviously him, with three degrees and all—and not about who’s a better musician.

“Mozart, Eine Kleine Nachtmusik.”

Stiles turns. “That’s orchestral.”

“I know you’re not completely helpless. Use your brain and transcribe it.”

Reluctantly, Stiles does, he plucks out the melody and strings a few chords underneath it and before he can say anything, Derek’s drilling him with another, and another, and another.

“Verdi, La Donna é Mobile from Rigoletto.”

“Tchaikovsky, 1812 Overture.”

“C.P.E. Bach, Solfeggietto.”

“Paganini, Capriccio 24.”

“Williams, Imperial March.”

That one gets a scoff from Stiles because, really? “Star Wars? Seriously?”

Derek doesn’t look up. “I bet you if you walk to the old lady that lives two floors down in 2J and sing her the first phrase of the Imperial March, she’ll sing the second one back to you.”

He just rolls his eyes and tries to ignore where the older’s sweatshirt has ridden up above the waistband of his joggers to let a sliver of smooth, tanned skin peek out from the fabric. What he’d give right now to just touch it, run a hand underneath to grip Derek’s hip, spin him around and trace the line of muscle that leads straight to his—

Hello? Mendelssohn, Wedding March from Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

Stiles sighs.

 

——

 

About two months in, Derek gets an email from Chris Argent, the man running the benefit concert downtown in May, asking if he’d write a piece and program a set for the concert.

 

 

Dr. Derek Hale,

           

            My name is Chris and I’m the head of Silver Linings, a company that helps raise money to restore and provide instruments to schools that need them. My daughter went to one of your conferences last year and brought to my attention that you’re one of the world’s leading music scholars, so we would like to extend an invitation to you to join us at the benefit concert that we’re holding at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in May. We’ll provide everything for you including food and drinks, premium seating, and access to the VIP reception afterward, all we ask in return is that you’d write a composition or transcription and format a program around it of fifteen minutes or less for one of the performers. We’ve reached out to a few others for original compositions and paired them with performers in the production, and we think that because your specialty is French music with deep emotional roots, that Mieczysław would be a perfect fit for your undoubtedly rich program. We look forward to hearing from you and would love to answer any questions you may have!

 

Chris Argent
Allison Argent
Silver Linings Co.
34 Lumberton St.
Beacon Hills, CA 90925

 

 

This isn’t real, it can’t be. He crosschecks the address and does some digging on all the social media platforms to find Chris and his daughter, Allison, travelling across the country and providing music to those who need it the most. Derek absolutely accepts, almost immediately, and he doesn’t know if he’s ever been this thrilled for a commission before. Mieczysław, of all people. Playing his music. He thinks it’s Allison’s doing, she’d been so enthusiastic when she’d stopped him for his signature in her textbook at the conference at Harvard. He may have mentioned in the presentation that all of his music excerpts are from a single pianist, and he may have put it in the information packet for the rest of the audience’s reference.

Derek celebrates by faintly playing the pianist’s Master Genius playlist as background noise while he works in his office, and he finds himself unconsciously humming to Grieg’s Melodié.

“Knock knock.” Stiles’s face peeks into the office. “I have—whoa, you good?” It’s not that Derek looks especially pale or angry, he just looks happy for once in his life. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen you genuinely smile before.” He hands Derek a warm cup of coffee and the older takes it, gently beaming.

“I…” He still doesn’t know what to say or even how to speak, because his brain is going a thousand miles an hour and he doesn’t think he’s ever felt like he’s floating before this moment and he takes a breath and just smiles. “Someone is commissioning a piece from me for a benefit concert in May. And I—I mean, I’ve been commissioned before but this—I—my favorite pianist is going to play it.”

It’s weird seeing Derek like this, flustered, excited, processing an emotion besides irritation, and Stiles can’t help but smile in return because, wow, Derek’s glowing and his eyes are bright and jade and wrinkling in the corners where his grin is getting too wide for his face to contain it, and he’s smitten with this, knowing that this is something he could see for the rest of his life and never get tired of it and—oh, shit, Stiles, stop. He feels his own smile falter. He cannot be thinking long-term right now. So, he just sighs contentedly and hopes one day, he’ll be able to make Derek smile like that. “That’s fucking insane! Congrats! I mean, I’m not surprised, you’re literally one of the most sought out scholars right now, but still…” He trails off.

“I hope I get to meet him, tell him how much I—”

“Meet who?”

Derek rolls his eyes as if Stiles is supposed to read his mind. “The pianist.”

“Which is…?” He’s curious now, and sipping his coffee, he thinks maybe he could learn from whoever Derek seems to be so hot for. He’s gotta be at least a halfway decent musician if someone with a fucking doctorate is fangirling over him.

“Haven’t you been to any of my lectures? I promote him as a resource for teachers to use in the classroom. He does this thing…I’ve never heard anyone play as musically as he does. It’s incredible, really. Captivating, emotional, flawless, passi—”

“I get it, he’s a dreamboat, but who is he?” Stiles feels himself getting impatient and a little jealous, and he just pretends Derek isn’t glaring at him again because that comment may have come out snarkier than he anticipated, so he just keeps sipping his coffee.

Derek turns back to his computer. “Mieczysław.”

And Stiles inhales his fucking coffee and nearly sputters it all over the carpet. “Mie—Mieczysław?” The name rolled off of Derek’s tongue like he was born to say it and the younger was quite literally born to say it. He’s choking on his drink and Derek isn’t the least bit fazed by it, just keeps reading his emails while Stiles is actually freaking out. Does Derek know? No, he thinks, he wouldn’t be this amazed or this calm if he knew. No one ever was, which is primarily the reason he’s decided to lay low for a while, but now, Derek…

“He’s a big deal in the field of music education. We all use his tracks as tools. They tend to give students a new appreciation for solo piano music. You’ve listened to him, haven’t you? Or do you not read the handouts I give at lectures? I have him playing right now, for Christ’s sake.”

“Not a clue,” Stiles says, using the back of his gloved hand to wipe the latte from his chin. “What the hell kind of name is Mie—uh, Mees—Meechislaw? What the fuck, how do you—”

“Mieczysław,” Derek responds without looking up, instead choosing to glower at the lesson plan he’s writing, and Stiles is nervous and fucking aroused from how Derek’s silky voice sounds saying Mieczysław and he just wants to hear it forever. “It’s a Polish name.”

Stiles watches Derek’s stone-cold expression while he drafts an email. “Say it again.” And again and again and again.

“Mieczysław?” he responds, like it’s a question. Derek takes a moment to look up at Stiles, who’s got a pink blush creeping up the back of his neck, mouth parted slightly, perfectly pink, and Derek knits his brows together in an attempt to ignore how obscene the boy looks. “I—why are you here? I thought our meeting was tomorrow.”

“I—it is, I just finished early and figured you’d want to look over it before or something.” Stiles flutters his long lashes in slight embarrassment because he’s really hoping Derek doesn’t notice how tight his jeans have become. He digs through his bag and hands the professor a new manuscript, neatly printed from notation software, and it has notes and dynamics and everything. “I, uh, took your advice. There’s a list stapled to the back of every piece I used, sorted by composer, in case you wanted to check.”

Derek skims through several pages and already picks out melodies from Bach, Mozart, Paganini, layered over Tchaikovsky and Haydn.

“I put in some extra Bizet…I have a soft spot for Carmen.

“It looks decent. I’ll edit this tonight for our meeting in the morning.” He peers at the boy thumbing at the seams of his fingerless gloves, still sporting a splotchy flush over his cheeks, and after he mutters a ‘thanks’ and is halfway out the door, Derek feels a tug in his chest and finds himself calling after him, “Hey and, uh, thanks for the coffee. It’s on me tomorrow.”

The simper that plays on Stiles’s lips and the wink he throws over his shoulder has goosebumps prickling up Derek’s neck and Jesus, that needs to fucking stop. He sets the manuscript down and pulls his email back up to finish drafting his response to Chris.

 

Dear Chris,

 

            I would absolutely love to be a part of your wonderful cause…

 

——

 

About three months in, Derek sends two program orders to Chris, and if it weren’t for his decision to let the students breathe a bit and held off on homework over spring break, he probably wouldn’t have finished his compositions so easily. It’s a Saturday, and Stiles has been hounding him for weeks trying to sneak a peek at the new music, and he’s lucky that the boy went home for the week that they were off because he can ignore a few phone calls and texts, but it’s hard to ignore a student that’s sitting on the couch in front of your desk who keeps staring you down with big amber eyes.

He’s opted for two different programming directions, one more his style—he’s a sucker for good French romantic music— and one less his style. He’s hoping the directors choose the latter because Derek’s sure he’s never heard Mieczysław play anything even remotely like the tango music he’s transcribed and arranged just for the hell of it. He’s got one of Jean-Philippe Rameau’s Suites opening the first program, followed by a more modern prelude by Olivier Messiaen, and then Fauré with Derek’s own piano arrangement of Pie Jesu from Requiem, and finishing it with his own piano transcription and arrangement of the main themes in Georges Bizet’s Carmen. It’s nice, it’s safe, it’s exactly what he’s known for. He really does love it, he wouldn’t have programmed any of the music if he didn’t, but it just feels safe.

Which is why the second program is absolutely optional, and he’s given more freedom to himself and his amazing pianist. The second program is why Derek’s holed himself up in his apartment for the whole week with a constantly brewing coffee pot and limited contact with everyone outside of it, because he’d spent so much time making it perfect and the last thing he wanted was someone to throw him off of his game. It starts with an entire piano transcription of movement four of Hector Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique for a brilliantly passionate and suspenseful opening to demonstrate both his skill as a music scholar and the pianist’s skill to mimic the intensity of an orchestra, then Derek’s pride and joy, his piano arrangement of Piazzolla’s Libertango, with sections of artistic liberties for Mieczysław to improvise on the theme, for some pop culture, a piano arrangement of Tango de Roxanne from one of his secret favorites, Moulin Rouge—Derek claims it’s because of the setting in France, but he’ll never admit it’s actually for the music—and the finale is the piece that got him started into French symbolist music in the first place, Debussy’s La fille aux cheveux de lin.

The programs get sent off with all the music attached as PDFs and all he can do now is breathe with the weight of the deadline off of his chest. It gives Mieczysław about a month and a half to learn everything, and he doubts it’ll take him so long, with practically being a prodigy and all. He imagines those long, beautiful hands climbing up and down the keys with ease and delicacy, feather light and still with a hammering intensity…he so desperately wishes he could play himself because then he wouldn’t have to wait so long for his pieces to have life beyond an electronic piano, unless—

A knock startles him out of his daze and he pushes his glasses up his nose. Perhaps, it’s the package he’s been expecting, a midi keyboard controller to make it easier for him to demonstrate chord progressions right on the screen in class. He’s not expecting anyone, he hasn’t even spoken to anyone in a week, but nevertheless he walks to the pot of coffee and fills up his mug when another knock resounds through the apartment. He takes his time, stretching the tension out of his shirtless form that hasn’t moved from the couch since he got out of the shower three hours ago, and he scratches up the center of his chest lazily, fingers brushing over the hair there he hasn’t bothered to shave. There’s another knock as he’s sliding the door open and there’s Stiles, with a box of apple pie and a neatly formatted research paper sitting on top.

Is he drooling? Stiles is sure he is. His mouth is watering, at least. He can’t stop staring. Oh, god, this is how it ends. Face to face with his shirtless professor who’s somehow able to make unkempt and scruffy look utterly breathtaking, and he wonders if he’s at least closed his mouth.

“Stiles?” Derek thinks this is undoubtedly crossing a professional line here, but somehow, he can’t bring himself to care. He swigs his coffee and tries again, because the boy’s mouth is still hanging open. “Hey, Stiles, can I help you?”

“I, uh—um—” Words are a struggle, and his mouth is suddenly the fucking Sahara. Pull yourself together, fuck. “Pie?” Good God.

Derek steps aside and lets Stiles move past him into the apartment. “It’s the Saturday after break, why aren’t you home?”

“Don’t sound so excited, fuck, Derek,” Stiles mutters, climbing the stairs without looking back at the older in fear he’ll pop one of the most inconvenient boners of his short fucking life.

Stop, Derek thinks, burying his nose into the mug, his thoughts whirring with the words ‘fuck, Derek’ floating around, ethereal in his mind. “I actually—”

“The pie is actually, uh, from my dad.” Stiles rummages around for plates and brings two slices back down to where Derek is standing, peering out the wall of windows over downtown LA, now in a white tank that he doesn’t really think is much better. “You mentioned you were from Beacon Hills a while back and I may or may not have dug around the police files while I was home. My dad said it’s your favorite.”

Derek looks down at the slice and scowls but takes the plate graciously and nods. “Give him my regards.”

They eat in silence, a comfortable silence, and Derek is grateful Stiles doesn’t apologize. It’s irritating enough when people figure out that he indeed is one of the proprietors of Sun, Moon, Truth, Co., a leading music publisher run by his uncle, and it’s even more irritating when that leads to the news articles of the house fire when he was fifteen and it overshadows everything he’s put his life into, the work he’s done. But he really is thankful for the pie, as dumb as it sounds, but the extension from one of the people that was there every step of the way warms his heart.

“Well, I guess I should go,” Stiles says after a while, glancing over at Derek, who he’s been watching study his profile in the gleam of the window for the past ten minutes.

Derek stops him. “Actually, I have a favor to ask.” His plate finds its way to the dining table and Stiles saunters behind him when he walks toward the couch. “Can you sightread this?”

It’s odd, Derek asking instead of telling. The pages he hands Stiles are covered in markings, dynamics, tempos, but he nods when he sees the top of the page where the composer’s name reads Derek Hale. “I—yeah. Did you—is this for the piano man?”

“My mom’s favorite Fauré. I figured it time to rearrange it.” His features are soft for a moment before they harden back into a scowl. “And if it gets your head out of my ass about my compositions…I want to hear it on a real instrument anyway.” He nudges Stiles to the piano—he’d had someone come tune it over the break—and the boy sits down, his hands hovering over the keyboard in their burgundy fingerless coverings. He looks up at Derek, a frown engraved into his features as he stares at the manuscript leaning on the piano stand in front of the boy’s face.

“You’re sure?”

“Shut up, Stiles, and play the fucking piece before I change my mind.”

There’s Derek. The boy obliges and starts gracefully moving his hands over the keys, honey eyes darting across the page, body lightly rocking with the gentle chords erupting from his fingertips. Derek gets lost in it. He gazes at Stiles while the soothing music washes over him, and he’s unconditionally stunning, the way his tongue presses on his bottom lip and his eyelashes flutter while he skims the staves. His fingers reach up to flip the page carefully with one hand while the other rolls the chords he’s memorized from the previous measure, and wow, those long, slender fingers. He wants so badly to see what the rest of his hands look like, past the first knuckle, everything his gloves and his thumbhole sleeves have been disguising for the past three months.

“Derek, I need you to turn the next page,” he whispers, trying not to ruin the trance the older seems to be in.

He listens and moves to grip the corner of the page. “Tell me when.” Stiles whispers an affirmation but doesn’t look up. Derek can feel the younger’s breath ghosting over his bicep and goosebumps prickle up his arms and flood across his skin and what is this? Stop it, Derek.

“Now,” and those whiskey eyes flicker up to stare straight through him.

The ending comes swiftly, and Stiles doesn’t add flourishes or make it grandiose, he plays it as written and it’s flawless and soft when it rings through the warm, wet acoustic of the loft. It hangs there in the air, thick and cozy. Derek’s still remarkably close to him, and Stiles can feel the heat radiating from the older’s skin on the back of his neck from where he’s watching from over his shoulder.

“It’s beautiful, Derek,” he says, holding the manuscript up over his head. “They’d be crazy not to program it.”

“Thank you,” Derek replies, face firmly frowning once again. “They’ll probably choose this program anyway. I hope they at least give him a choice of which he wants to play.”

Stiles turns. “You made more than one?”

“Two.”

“Do you wanna hear that one, too?” He wiggles his fingers in Derek’s face with a smirk. “I know these guys are dying to play it.”

Derek wanders back to the sofa and picks up an old, leather-bound book of essays by Saint-Saëns filled with untranslated French text. “I’d rather they play through your second draft.”

 

——

 

About four months in, Stiles foregoes the recital he was planning and schedules a proficiency exam in its place without Derek’s consent. All he receives in recognition from his advisor is an email that reads:

 

 

            My office. 11 am sharp.

 

Derek S. Hale, PhD
Chair, Musicology
Assistant Professor of Music
USC Thornton School of Music
Los Angeles, CA, 90089-0851
derekhale@usc.edu

 

           

 

“What in the fuck were you thinking? Do you know how much fucking time went into planning this? Two goddamn drafts and months of work between the both of us and you’re just going to throw it in the shitter? Unfuckingbelieveable.”

Yeah, Derek’s pissed. “Look, I’ll submit it with my research and I’ll argue for putting it up in the music library as an interactive art exhibit, like an audio thing. Pop the manuscript drafts up on the wall, a noise box, a set of headphones—”

“You don’t get it, Stiles. It’s not an issue as to whether or not you’re going to graduate, because fucking believe me when I say, I will personally walk you out of this fucking school myself.” He’s fuming, an irritant rage burning inside of his brain because this stupid fucking kid can’t follow a damn instruction. “I am i-fucking-rate, and you wanna know why? Because you don’t listen. You go behind me, your advisor, for fuck’s sake! It’s my job to help you, and I can’t do that if you’re fucking me over.”

Stiles knows Derek’s right. He also has his reasons that Derek doesn’t—can’t—know. “I’m sorry, okay? I just—” He’s at a loss for words, doesn’t have a fucking clue on what to say. Not when Derek looks both angry and disappointed. Fuck. “I didn’t have time for it in my schedule and it got away from me, I—”

“Time, Stiles? This is your fucking education, you make time.” He drags a hand through his hair and he’s been pacing around his office, face burning hot and a temper bubbling in his stomach. “The entire music faculty set aside the time in their schedules to show up and grade your ass, not to mention the paperwork to get everything sorted out, and the composition…Jesus, Stiles.”

He’s shuffling from foot to foot, back and forth, wringing his hands around in the thumbholes of his red hoodie. “If it makes you feel any better, I passed proficiency with flying colors.”                                                    

“Get the hell out of my office before I shove my foot up your ass.”

Stiles does.

 

 

 

Three days later, Derek offers him his extra ticket to the benefit concert as an apology for chewing him out.

Stiles declines. He’s busy that night.

Derek gives it to Parrish instead. He’ll appreciate the music.

 

 

 

A week later, Stiles gathers his research materials and puts his interactive composition project on display in the music library with the manuscripts, the noise box, and the headphones.

Derek doesn’t come see it.

 

 

 

The next time he sees Derek is at graduation, in his pink satin-lined doctoral robes. He’d come for the processional and opening ceremony but didn’t stay for the entire thing. Stiles doesn’t blame him. It’s hot, they’re having it outside, and his robes look heavy and warm. He doesn’t know whether to be irritated or relieved that Derek isn’t in the crowd when he walks across the stage and the reader can’t pronounce his name. He knows Derek would be able to.

“Stiles Stilinski is fine,” he whispers to the guy.

His father cheers from his place on the quad when Stiles raises his two diplomas in triumph and shakes all of the hands on his way back down the stairs.

“I’d, uh, take you out for drinks to celebrate, but you don’t have much time, do you?” The Sheriff asks once the ceremony is over. He’s beaming with pride at his son, in his cap and gown, a small pink tassel swinging from the side of the mortarboard.

Stiles checks his phone and reluctantly shakes his head. “I have to change and head downtown. We have a soundcheck and a few adjustments to make before the concert starts. But tomorrow, before you leave, we’ll celebrate. I promise.”

He rushes forward to wrap his father in a warm embrace. “I’m so proud of you, Stiles. And I know your mother is too.” When the sheriff finally lets go, Stiles tries frantically to wipe the tears he’s let stray down his cheeks.

“I, uh, I have to go change.”

“Of course. I can’t wait for the concert.” He turns to leave and Stiles stops him quickly with a hand on his shoulder and a small, panicked timbre in his voice.

“No one knows, dad. Please, don’t tell anyone. Not even Derek.” Stiles is stern when he says it, not because he doesn’t want Derek to know, but because he has to be the one to tell him. There’s a tug in his chest and he takes a deep breath to calm it before he lets go of the shoulder he’s been grounding himself with.

His father nods, a soft wrinkle in his forehead smoothing with the small smile on his face. “Okay.”

 

 

 

Derek doesn’t know what to expect when he shows up thirty minutes early for the benefit concert. It’s a Wednesday, it was graduation, he’d honestly thought there would be more traffic at six-thirty on the middle of downtown Los Angeles. Perhaps he should’ve just walked.

It’s been nearly two weeks since he’s talked to Stiles, and there’s something in his body that doesn’t feel quite right. Not a text, not an email, not a spoken word. No office visits, no house visits, and part of him almost misses it, the company of someone enjoying you for your knowledge is a rarity now, especially in Derek’s world. He tries not to dwell on it too much, until he sees a blue jeep parked in the alley on the side of the venue. Stiles? It can’t be. He’s busy.

Derek parks his Camaro next to it and finds his way to the side door of the building, and the security lets him in the performer entrance when a tall man with piercing blue eyes waves Derek through.

“Dr. Hale, pleasure to meet you. Chris Argent,” he introduces, offering a firm handshake and a dazzling smile. “I trust you’re as excited about this performance as I am.”

Derek offers a smile in return and pushes Stiles out of his head for a moment. It’s not important. What is important is the concert, the music, the possibility of bringing an art to children who need it most. “Absolutely. I can’t thank you enough for inviting me.”

“Of course! When Allison told me how deeply passionate you are about the fine arts, I knew it was too great of an opportunity to pass up, for the both of us.” He leads Derek through the backstage area where he can hear keys faintly tinkling behind doors and stringed instruments being tuned in hallways. A cool breeze blows the black curtain and it flutters along the sleeve of Derek’s jacket. “And your programs were spectacular, by the way, really stunning.”

“Did you—which one did you choose?”

Chris shrugs. “We gave them to only Mieczysław to look at and he memorized them both. He gave Allison the final say about a week ago and I think he picked the first program. The kid’s got a soft spot for Carmen.

Derek gets a sense of déjà vu for a moment and can’t figure out why, almost like someone’s talked about Bizet like that before, but he can’t remember. “Great, uh, you guys can keep the other manuscripts if you’d like, maybe use them at another concert or something. If you do, keep me updated and I’d love to fly out and meet you for their premieres.” He blinks away the odd feeling and Chris leads him up a flight of stairs and into the lobby of the building.

“I’ll definitely give you a call. Now,” he grabs a glass of champagne from the bar and hands Derek a laminate, “this is your pass. You get anywhere with this. You get anything with this. You’re seated up in one of the boxes on stage right with my daughter and I and a few other VIPs. Enjoy yourself, alright?”

And Derek does, mingling with other scholars, performers, and composers, and yet Derek can’t relate when they ask him if he’s met his performer yet. He hasn’t, and it doesn’t seem like anyone else has either. He’d like to think he’d be able to recognize Mieczysław when he meets him, like a feeling of knowing from across the room and then there he is, beautiful and lanky and staring back at him with brilliant bourbon eyes and—no. He’s filling a void. Has his mind really been filling the empty space where his pianists face should be with Stiles? He’s confused. He doesn’t know what he wants anymore. The only thing that rescues him is the call for the show to begin.

His program comes through about a half hour into the concert, and Derek still can’t fucking see him. There’s a warmth that spreads through his chest though, from what he can see. The entire stage is dark, he doesn’t even know where the piano is, he doesn’t even know where he is. And then a single white light floats over the lid of the piano and dissolves with a key press. The dissolution of the note into white smoke illuminates the finger that pressed it, and there’s those hands. The mat on top of the piano floods with more lights and Mieczysław’s fingers dance across the keyboard to burst each one into a glow. It’s stunning, the suite, the prelude, the Fauré, but his sonatina from Carmen…he could listen to it forever. Derek’s mesmerized by it, by him, and he finds himself leaning forward in his seat until he’s up against the railing and his hands are clutching the wrought iron so tightly his knuckles are white.

The lights turn to red and Mieczysław’s hands are gliding up and down the instrument without a sheet of music, and Derek still can’t see his face. He does see the black satin lapel of the navy suit jacket shine with each burst of light, he sees the two open buttons of the white dress shirt underneath it, and he sees the shine of the piano reflecting the man’s chin in glimpses as he sways along with the music, along with his arms as his fingers pound out chords and arpeggios and melismatic passages. Derek’s glad he didn’t make it easy, he’s glad he didn’t write in dynamics, he’s glad that he’s letting Mieczysław make all of the artistic decisions because they sound exactly like the ones he would make himself. It’s better than he ever could’ve imagined.

He tries after the concert to find his pianist, to tell him how incredibly grateful he is for the performance, to tell him how much he appreciates the work he does in the field of music, to tell him how he’s unconditionally and irrevocably in love with him even though he’s never seen his face…or maybe just ask him if he’d like to get coffee sometime. Derek pushes through the crowd and roams the backstage area with a jack and coke in his hand in search of Mieczysław, congratulating other performers and composers, greeting scholars, blushing profusely at any mention of his own works. He’s slightly bombarded with people, just like at conferences, and even still at the benefit, people seem more intrigued by how well his arms are filling out the sleeves of his cerulean leather jacket, or how tight his ass looks in his gray slacks. He stumbles upon Allison and offers a slight smile of relief when she pulls him out of the throng of people and mentions something about his piece.  

“Am I going to be able to meet my pianist?”

The question strikes her with a tinge of what looks like fear and Derek doesn’t understand why. “I’m sure he’s around here somewhere. I’ll see if I can find him for you.”

Derek nods in appreciation and attempts to follow her through the crowd, but almost immediately gets separated when a waiter takes his now empty glass and replaces it with a fresh flute of champagne. He’s surrounded and disoriented until the flock opens and there’s Allison, arguing with someone in a white dress shirt and a red hoodie thrown on haphazardly over top of it and Derek’s heart is racing because is it? Could it be? And when Allison spots him and the man turns around, it’s just fucking Stiles. Stiles, who was busy and couldn’t come. Stiles, who’s company he’s been missing ever since he walked out of his office two weeks ago. Stiles, who’s now staring at Derek, angry and terrified and wide-eyed.

"I thought you were busy,” is all Derek’s brain can come up with to say.

“My schedule cleared up,” Stiles replies unwavering, brown eyes shifting between both of Derek’s jade ones, searching for something unknown to the older.

Derek clenches his jaw and sips his champagne. “Well, I’m off to find a pianist that I’ve been searching for all evening, so if you’ll excuse me—”

“Maybe he doesn’t want to be found.”

Derek’s head turns abruptly toward Stiles with something sickening swirling in his stomach. “What?” All he’s ever wanted is to meet this incredible man and now some kid is making him second guess himself?

Stiles looks less afraid, but his eyes are still large and wide. “What if your pianist doesn’t want to be found? Don’t you think enough people would’ve told him that his composer is looking for him and if he wanted to meet you, he’d be here?”

He can’t help but think Stiles might be right. It seems unlikely that Mieczysław would be unaware that the man behind his music has been looking high and low in a desperate attempt to meet him. Derek clenches his jaw again and downs the rest of his champagne, handing the empty glass to the boy in front of him, who reluctantly takes it with a gloved hand. “I suppose I have no other reason to be here then. Thank you, Allison, but I’ll be on my way.” He offers a hand that she then shakes before he just shoots Stiles a glance. “Goodnight.”

“Derek!” It’s Chris. He catches Derek as he’s making a beeline for the door and Derek reluctantly smiles and accepts the handshake Chris extends. “Could we chat about you potentially composing for another benefit like this in the future?"

 

——

 

An hour passes before Derek stumbles into his apartment building, opting for the stairs to help clarify his muddled brain. His limbs are heavy, and his eyes are tired, but he’s somehow more energized by the end of the twelfth set of stairs leading to his steel barn door. That’s slightly ajar.

Derek stops, fear pooling low in his abdomen because he’s sure he locked the door. There’s a low ringing noise and he can’t figure out what it is—it’s so faint he can barely even hear it really—and only then does he peek through the crack to spot a red hoodie hanging on the rack just inside the door next to his pea coat. Stiles. He really doesn’t like the way his heart flutters at the thought of the boy breaking and entering and he throws the door open with an intent to kill when he stops.

The notes ring through the loft, sharp, passionate, dotted rhythms and chromatic steps, and Derek’s only ever heard this on a midi before in a stupid program on his laptop but this…this was a real instrument with emotion and dynamics and Derek doesn’t realize he’s moving again until he’s stopped right behind where Stiles is sitting at his brilliantly polished Kuhn-Bösendorfer in a white button-down with the sleeves rolled up and beautifully veiny hands elegantly pounding over the keyboard.

Those hands, Derek thinks. Why do I know those hands?

“Sounds different than a laptop, doesn’t it?”

It’s not angry, there’s no malice, yet somehow, Derek is still taken aback. “How do you have this?” It’s his Libertango arrangement, and the only person that has a copy is Chris Argent.

Stiles stops playing and turns around, but the haunting melody is still wrapping itself around Derek’s head and he’s tipsy and confused and Stiles is staring up at him and those hands. Those are—

“It’s you,” he blurts, and his heart feels like it’s going to crawl up his throat. “Oh my fucking fuck, it’s you.” Derek feels like a fucking fool because it’s fucking Stiles and his knees are staring to shake and his heart aches and he doesn’t know what flood of emotions he’s feeling because it’s Stiles.

“It’s me.” And he wiggles his dumb fingers in front of Derek. “Surprise.”

“You’re him.

“You can say it,” Stiles says, standing up from the bench. There’s a sliver of space between his body and where Derek’s standing, and he can feel the warmth of Derek’s skin and the ghost of his breath faintly over his cheeks. He’s studying the older’s face for a sign of anything other than shock, and he catches a glimmer of something shimmering in the green eyes he loves to get lost in.

“You’re Mieczysław,” Derek whispers, and Stiles just hums in response. He doesn’t know what else to say, and he’s spent so much time being angry at Derek, all he can do is revel in the way he’s made him unequivocally speechless. His gaze trails over the older’s smooth, tanned skin and he doesn’t meet his eyes, because Derek’s too busy staring down and where Stiles’s hands are fiddling with the seam along the outside leg of his blue slacks. “You’re not wearing gloves.”

Stiles raises his fingers up and Derek’s eyes follow until they’re staring at each other once again, and the glimmer is back in those jade eyes. Stiles can feel his heart pounding loudly in his ears and he’s not sure what to do to stop it. He wants so badly to just touch Derek everywhere, run his hands over the broad chest and slip his fingers beneath the waistband of those perfectly hugging pants until he’s got him melting into every little caress, but he can’t…can he?

“I’m not wearing gloves,” Stiles repeats, gauging the look in Derek’s regard hungry. He lets his mouth drop open slightly and takes a chance, reaching up to brush a thumb over Derek’s stubbled cheek. “I don’t think I have to anymore, do I?”

“No,” and Derek leans into it, dragging his stare down to where Stiles’s obscenely supple lips are parted. “I—”

“You what?” Stiles rubs his thumb down, pulling over the older’s bottom lip and trailing through the scruff over his jugular before dropping it to his side once again. “What do you want?”

Derek doesn’t know. His mind is spinning, and he’s drunk with the lust that’s been craving the smell of Stiles for nearly two weeks, and he opens his mouth, and nothing comes out but a shaky breath and it’s enough to let his body just reach forward and fist the coarse dress shirt Stiles is wearing. He breathes out, “You.”

There’s a pause before Stiles closes the gap between them and his hand is gripping the back of the older’s neck, lips pulling over lips, breaths tangling into each other and Stiles yanks Derek closer until the weight of him knocks the boy backward into the keyboard with a barrage of sour notes. He doesn’t care; he’s busy with the feeling of Derek’s hands threading up the back of his neck and the sweet taste of brut champagne fresh on the older’s tongue. “What do you want?” he asks again, this time firmly whispering across Derek’s lips, letting his body slump on the piano bench and the older onto his knees at his feet. “Tell me.”

He doesn’t take his eyes off of Derek’s face when he leans his back against the lip of the instrument behind him, one veiny hand bracing himself while the other shoves forward over the front of his zipper, the heel of his palm easing the tightness pulling at the fabric. He’s being ferally watched, and his fingers splay out and grab, the tendons branching from his long fingers pulling taut with the moan he lets spill from his lips. And Derek’s breathless yet again, with the way Stiles is glowing in the moonlight streaming through the wall of windows, with the way his beautifully dexterous fingers are dancing up to the button on his waistband to pop it open and let the zipper push itself down.

Derek meets Stiles’s whiskey eyes, heavily lidded and blown wide, and his mouth is dry when he tries to swallow down the lump in his throat and Jesus, he’s mesmerized. “I want—Stiles, please, just fucking touch me.”

“Get up.”

Derek does, towering over Stiles. The boy stands and presses a hand flat against the center of Derek’s firm chest, leading his entire body backward through the shelves of literature. Derek surges forward and catches Stiles’s lips again, stumbling, knocking into the bookshelf and letting volumes and scores tumble onto the concrete floor. He can’t get enough of the way Stiles tastes, sweet and inebriating and it’s so good. He slides his tongue along the boy’s lower lip and his hands are fumbling with pulling Stiles’s shirt up and untucking it from his pants when the backs of his knees hit the mattress. He’s falling, and Stiles lets him go, disheveled and panting at the foot of the bed with the bottom of his shirt half open and rumpled from where Derek’s yanked the tails out of the front of his slacks. He’s gorgeous in the lunar glow and Derek’s heart is thumping heavy in his ears because he wantswantswants everything from Stiles, starting with his graceful fingers.

“Look at you,” Stiles purrs, toeing off his brown monk-straps, “God, you’re perfect.”

Derek’s hands reach up for the buttons on Stiles’s shirt and they slide along the trail peeking out over his waistband, before he gets impatient and rips the shirt open, buttons flying and scattering on the floor. “Take this off,” he mumbles, “Need this off of you.”

Stiles obliges and shrugs out of it, his lean, sinewy frame rippling with every movement in the gleam of the windows and wow, Derek’s on tenterhooks waiting for Stiles to just fucking take him, and he’s so hard it’s got him whimpering at just the sight of Stiles’s pants unbuttoned and sliding down his slender legs. “You don’t know how badly I wanted to tell you, Derek, fuck, I wanted to tell you. At that coffee shop,” Stiles hums, palming the prominent bulge in the front of his black boxer-briefs, “I bet I could’ve just told you who I was and had you on all fours in the backseat of my jeep, watching my cock disappear into that perfect little ass of yours, and then showed up the next morning to observe your class like I didn’t just fuck the breath out of you the day before.”

Derek whines at the feeling of his own cock twitching in the constricting confines of his pants and he immediately starts kicking off his shoes in an attempt to speed up the process of stripping out of his gray slacks, when Stiles’s hands replace his own and work the button open to push them down his legs. “Please.”

“I’ve been trying to get you out of these for the past four months, imagining what you’d look like bent over your desk.” And Stiles smirks at the sigh that slips past Derek’s lips. He doesn’t know what he’s even saying or why it’s coming out but it’s like a running dialogue in his head that’s flowing and wringing the life out of Derek. Stiles is pleased with himself, how Derek’s already so hard and so flawlessly stunning, sprawled on the bed like this, fumbling with his clothes because his hands are excitedly quaking in anticipation and Stiles helps him, sliding a hand behind his knee and tugging the older forward on the bed to help unzip the leather jacket and jerk it over Derek’s brawny biceps before he returns to unbutton the dampened dress shirt sticking to his abdomen. “Jesus Christ, you’re wearing too many fucking clothes.”

Stiles latches onto the older’s salty skin at the base of his jaw and nibbles there while his fingers make quick work of the remaining buttons hiding the dark hair lightly covering the man’s chest. Derek helps, baring the side of his neck to give Stiles more access and his hands desperately try to tug his shirt open because it’s taking up the valuable time that Stiles’s hands should be using to explore his body. He catches a set of lusty brown eyes and their faces are so close, he grabs the boy’s neck and drags him down, “You should’ve told me,” he murmurs against Stiles’s lips, pushing his own pants down his legs while the younger pushes his shirt off of his shoulders. “I would’ve eaten you alive.”

“No,” Stiles says between kisses, “All I’ve been looking forward to is wiping that flawless, angry little scowl right off your face and just fucking ruining you. You’re gonna let me, you understand?”

“Yes, I—oh, fuck, Stiles.” Derek arches up into the hand that’s slipped below the waistband of his boxer briefs and his head is spinning because god, it feels good. He glances down and all he needs is to watch, he’s craving those willowy fingers and it’s like Stiles knows because all he can say is, “I need—ah, hands,” before his boxer-briefs are stripped from his body and there’s those svelte, agile fingers wrapped steady around his cock, tendons morphing under an expanse of tanned skin with every stroke, and it’s only something Derek’s seen in dreams before but now, it’s happening right in front of him, sending searing hot chills all the way up his spine and drawing breathy moans from the back of his throat.

Stiles loves how Derek is thrusting into his fist, how his tight figure is contracting with every breath that leaves his lips, how his thick eyebrows are knit together in an expression of ecstasy with his mouth dropped open in an obscene, silent scream. His palms are pressed into the bedsheets with the tightness pooling low in his stomach, and his crystal green eyes fly open when Stiles halts all movement, a greedy groan attempting to encourage him to start again. “What are you…?” Stiles drags his fingers up over Derek’s cheek, brushing the scratchy stubble there softly before he’s tracing the cupid’s bow of his immaculate lips.

“Shut up, Derek,” and he leans down to lick little kisses along the vein running up the underside of Derek’s blushing cock. It’s glistening, slick with Stiles’s spit and laying flush up against the older’s thewy, defined abdomen as the younger teases the head with his tongue. He throws an arm over Derek’s hips in an attempt to mildly restrain him, and Derek’s so fucking close it’s almost painful and he can’t stop muttering obscenities until Stiles pushes three of his slender fingers right past Derek’s lips. “Get them wet for me.”

And Derek obeys, trying to will his mind to focus on swirling his tongue over the digits in his mouth instead of thrusting his hips up into Stiles’s, and the boy keeps hooking his fingers around Derek’s lip as the older’s hips stir more and more. He’s so gone and he can’t think right, his body is on fire and it’s so good and Stiles is so good and he’s nearly drowning in the pleasure building in his stomach. He wants so badly to see it, Stiles’s face sucking every drop out of his body, leaking down his chin, and it’s got Derek’s eyes rolling back in his head and a moan vibrating around the fingers in his mouth and god, he’s so close again, and then it all fucking stops.

Derek wants to scream in frustration when Stiles pulls his hands away because he’s itching for a release, and Stiles is getting too much enjoyment from letting him beg for it. “Fucking Christ, Stiles,” Derek gasps, voice raspy and deep with arousal, “just fuck me, please, I need it—”

“You need it, do you?” There’s a confidence in his voice that reminds Derek of when they first met. There’s something about it that’s making his cock twitch firm against his stomach, still shimmering with the boy’s spit, and Stiles smiles a smile dripping with the same confidence that’s making it really hard for him to not fucking explode. “I know what you really need right now, Derek.”

Stiles meets desperate green eyes while one of his gorgeously long fingers nudges its way between Derek’s spread legs, trailing a slick line to the small pucker quaking with anticipation. Derek bites his lip because Stiles is pushing a finger into him and whoa, it feels like all the air has left his lungs with the way the boy is caressing the curve of his hip and gazing right fucking through him and it’s amazing—“Son of a bitch, Stiles,” he groans, hands squabbling for something to grab and he just clutches Stiles’s hair and pulls when he slips in a second finger and starts scissoring Derek open. “More, I need more,” he manages to breathe out, strangled and breathy because oxygen is something he’s being deprived of.

Stiles quickly shoves in a third finger and is careful not to let Derek hear the whimper that comes out of him when his hair is nearly ripped out, and his body is running warm with the feeling of Derek’s abs contracting underneath one hand and his velvety heat contracting around the other. It’s making him lightheaded with how much he’s in love with it and it takes every ounce of willpower he has to stop and withdraw his fingers, despite the irritated growl he gets in return.

"Stiles.” It’s a warning, husky and low, accompanied with heavily lidded jade eyes and a leaking, solid cock. Derek’s grip releases enough for Stiles to smirk up at him, and with mischief playing across his lips, he braces his knees on the mattress and hoists the older’s calves up around his waist. He watches Derek’s mouth open to give another warning, no doubt, and shuts him up fast, lining himself up and sliding his slick, aching cock into Derek’s heat with a shaky breath.

Derek chokes on a moan and it sounds absolutely pathetic; he’s already wrecked, and Stiles hasn’t even gotten to the best part yet. “Love how you need me,” Stiles whispers where he’s leaned forward to breathe across Derek’s jaw, planting nips and kisses along the stubble there. He loves the way Derek sighs at how full he feels and it’s damn near an intoxicating sound, and with his nose buried in the crook of the man’s damp neck, inhaling the spicy, woodsy aroma of his skin, he rolls his hips forward to feel a rumble vibrate through Derek’s entire body. “Make more noise, Derek, I want to hear you.”

“You feel so good, please,” he begs, desperate for the blissful euphoria of release, “fuck me.”

And Stiles absolutely does. He works his hips up to a steady rhythm, his long, spidery fingers finding their way along Derek’s toned arms to lock their hands and press the older firmly into the mattress, and Derek’s so fucking into it, his vision is splotchy, and he can only really watch Stiles’s muscles move and work underneath the broad shoulders restraining him. Stiles lets his mouth just drop open because he’s panting heavily into Derek’s skin until he finds his lips again and Derek’s nearly eating him alive.

He’s thrusting faster because there’s a boiling in his stomach that’s hot and searing and it’s insane with how good it feels and Derek’s licking at his lips, desperately moaning into his mouth when Stiles angles it just right and catches that sweet spot. “Fuck, again.” comes out as a breathy whine against Stiles’s jaw and he’s staring at Derek’s face, knitted eyebrows, eyes squeezed shut tight, and buxom lips parted wide with the pleasure coursing through his frame. He’s struggling against the boy’s restraining hands, and Stiles just shoves them down further into the comforter, steadily fucking into Derek with perfectly measured thrusts.

“Legs up, come on,” Stiles orders, and Derek obeys with a cry of pleasure, chanting a string of obscenities as he stretches his legs higher around the boy’s waist. “So fucking good for me, aren’t you? You’re so tight, I bet you’ve been craving me for a while.”

Derek just whimpers a yes because there’s no use in denying it, and he’d never dream of it with the way Stiles is driving into him with blinding force, it’s making his legs go slack again and he’s so fucking close for the third time that night and he just needs that release. “Stiles, I—shit, again,” Derek cries, and Stiles hits his prostate again, and again, “Harder, Stiles,” and again, and pleasure seizes his whole body and he lets out a sob of euphoria when his orgasm crashes into him like a fucking freight train. Stiles keeps plowing through it relentlessly, swallowing Derek’s moans and milking each rope that splatters over Derek’s chest, all the while using all of his strength to keep his quaking arms down.

Stiles can feel it too, he’s on fire, and Derek just clenches around him and he fucking loses it, buried completely, hips flush against Derek’s ass when he spills inside of him, lips lazily finding Derek’s again to just slide their mouths together in a soft, tender kiss that leaves them both breathless. He lets go of Derek’s hands and carefully separates their bodies before he finds his discarded underwear and haphazardly cleans them up, tossing them somewhere in the apartment as he lies next to Derek’s rapidly falling chest.

“I can’t fucking believe you,” Derek chides, gaze trained on the ceiling, “I should’ve suspected something. Four fucking months of planning and studying and you suddenly don’t have time for a recital.”

Stiles reaches for one of the older’s hands and brings it to his lips. “I’m sorry for lying to you but—"

“You’re fucking Mieczysław, you don’t even need to do a goddamn recital.” Derek’s stare shifts to his right where Stiles is planting kisses on his palm. “Maybe it’s good that you lied. Look what happened.”

“I guess I’ve made up for not going with you to the concert. Or I guess meeting with my composer,” Stiles grins against Derek’s warm skin. “I figured I should make it worth your while once I realized you actually wanted me.” He’s studying Derek’s glowing face, his dazzling green eyes, and his eyebrows are relaxed for once, making his face rest in a soft, joyful expression. It’s something he wants to wake up to every morning, he just doesn’t know how to tell Derek that.

“What do you mean?” Derek’s sure he’s been discreet, but he’ll admit to sneaking a glance or two every once in a while, although he’s sure he’s never been caught in the act of drooling over Stiles’s ass or daydreaming about the hands that lay beneath the fingerless gloves.

Stiles rolls over and hooks his arm over Derek’s fuzzy chest, and his body fits perfectly behind Derek like they’re puzzle pieces meant for each other. “You didn’t write that Carmen arrangement because you particularly enjoy Bizet, Derek. I, on the other hand, really enjoy Bizet. I have a—uh—a soft spot, if you will, for Carmen.”

That’s where Derek’s heard that before. He’d always filled in his Mieczysław gaps with Stiles’s beautiful face anyway, which means that his theory might actually be right. “I’d never really thought about it.”

Stiles works a blanket up from the foot of the bed with his foot and drapes it over them, scattering kisses along the back of Derek’s neck. “Some part of you did.”

“I guess,” he admits, leaning into the warmth of Stiles, drowning in the cedary smell enveloping them both, dozing into a blissful sleep with his head somewhere on cloud nine.

 

——

 

Some people like to wake up to the smell of bacon cooking, or pancakes sizzling on the stove, but when Derek’s eyes flutter open to the dust particles caught in the sun beams pouring in through the window, he’s greeted with an empty bed and calming harmonies dancing around the damp space of the loft. There are floating melodies over pentatonic planing and the tinkling of rolled chords that would nearly put Derek back to sleep if it weren’t for the flood of goosebumps prickling up his back where it’s exposed to the air. For a moment, he thinks it’s his alarm, but he doesn’t have class, school’s over, so Mieczysław’s playlist shouldn’t be stirring him from his slumber. Except his phone is nowhere in the vicinity, and the notes are ringing warm and live in the space.

There’s a pair of sweatpants folded neatly at the foot of the bed and Derek takes the opportunity to put them on before he stretches and pads over to the piano where Stiles has managed to tug one of Derek’s older copies of his favorite Debussy from the shelves, particularly the one in the upstairs bedroom with all of the irreplaceable valuables Derek has collected over the years.

“Tell me what you hear, Derek,” Stiles says, not looking up from the prelude book.

“It’s symbolist, about a girl with golden hair in Scotland,” he replies, resting a hand on the back of Stiles’s neck while the boy’s fingers delicately touch the keys. “He creates a pastoral setting by blending pentatonic scales with diatonic chords and modal cadences. It has plenty of plagal leading tones and the melody alternates between conjunct and disjunct movement to give it a folk-like tune, more like a Scottish ballad.”

Stiles doesn’t really need the music—he’s already memorized the piece with the knowledge that it’s Derek’s favorite—so his eyes find Derek’s and he smiles through the pianissimo drone-like motion and brings out the consecutive fifths when Derek hums in satisfaction at the calming sway of the melody.

Le fille aux cheveux de lin brings a gentle lyricism and warmth uncharacteristic of Debussy at this period in his life, which is why it’s so remarkably emotional and breathtaking,” Derek finishes, and he just listens to Stiles carefully follow the phrasing and take liberties with the written dynamics, and it’s no wonder it’s his favorite because the way the ethereal chords hang in the air once the piece is over nearly steal his breath all over again.

When he’s done playing, Stiles’s hands wrap around the backs of Derek’s thighs and he’s pressing soft kisses to the trail above the waistband of his gray sweats, and Derek hugs him back contentedly, and they sit in comfortable silence until Derek whispers, “So what happens now?”

“I think it’s time for me to come clean,” Stiles responds against the older’s skin. “No one knows who I actually am, except for five people. I figure it’s about time I start working properly, given that I’m a graduate now.”

“I meant with us.” Derek’s frowning again. He shouldn’t’ve asked.

Stiles just smiles and stares up at Derek with joy in his whiskey eyes. “World-renowned Dr. Derek Hale, one of musicology’s best, spotted at the LA Opera’s premiere of The Marriage of Figaro with boyfriend and world-renowned pianist Mieczysław Stilinski.”

“Are you asking me on a date?” Derek’s hands slide from Stiles’s hair to his shoulders as the boy stands from the piano bench and captures the older’s mouth in a sweet kiss. “Because The Marriage of Figaro doesn’t open until August.”

“I guess we’ll have to find something to do until then.” Stiles glances back at the rumpled chocolate sheets they’d emerged from and plants another kiss on Derek’s lips, guiding him backward toward the bed. “You could say my name a few more times.”

Derek melts into it and mumbles against the boy’s lips. “What, Stiles?” He makes a noise of disapproval into the older’s mouth, which Derek only laughs at and replies, “Oh, you mean Mieczysław.”

“Yes.” Stiles lets Derek turn them and he’s tumbling onto the mattress this time with a grunt when all 200 pounds of muscle lands on top of him. “I love the way you say it.”

Derek kisses Stiles again and they just revel in each other for a moment before he murmurs, “Make me say it then.”

And Stiles plans on making him say it more. A lot more.