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We Don't Have to Be Lonely Tonight

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Before I start, let me just say that I ramble, ok. I ramble a lot. My thoughts are just a jumbled mess of loosely connected threads that often intertwine, but just as often don’t. I’m not gonna apologise for that, though. This is my story, and I’m the guy who has actually been there and done that. It is told how I saw it and how I felt it, and yes, I do have a tendency to exaggerate, but if you have anything against that, you can very well go and read something else.

My name is Stiles, I’m twenty eight now and I wanted to write down how I lost hope and regained it, how I fell and picked myself up, how I tried and managed-- Never stop trying, dude. That’s my motto.

It all started when I was twenty one. On my birthday no less. My dad and I were sitting in our kitchen, two glasses of just-opened whiskey in front of us. “It’s twenty one years old,” my dad said. “I bought it the year you were born.” He lifted the glass and took a sip, not anticipating my next words at all.

“Dad, I’m gay,” I replied.

It seems abrupt, I know. I remember the exact moment the words slipped my mouth. I was just as surprised as you probably are. I hadn’t exactly planned on it going like this, it went against every single of the fifty seven scenarios I had thought of and planned out before. All of them included some sort of prep, an easing into, a slow getting round to it... And yet there I was, looking down the glass of my first legal whiskey, and wondering what the fuck was wrong with me.

It’s not like my father rejected me or anything like that. Not really. He took the news with this stoic calmness that I mostly associated with his work as the Sheriff of Beacon Hills. Not necessarily the attitude I was used to at home. When I said the words he just stared at me, as if trying to read some other sense into them, as if my eyes were to tell him “Gotcha!” should he stare long enough. After a few minutes of silence he cleared his throat and said it probably meant no grandkids for him, and I saw this flicker of regret mixed with a desperate attempt at humor in his eyes. He was trying to lighten the atmosphere, to say anything else than “so, you like it up the ass, huh?”, and I appreciated it, even if the grandkids comment stung a bit. It wasn’t like I didn’t want children, it had nothing to do with that. But the fact is, if I ever have any, they might not be my own flesh and blood. And my dad? He was in favour of continuous bloodlines, if the pictures of our ancestors going as far back as the 1850s that lined the walls of our staircase meant anything.

“I might adopt… one day,” I said quietly.

He nodded with a quiet “Right,” that wasn’t more than a sigh.

“I’m sorry-”

“Don’t be sorry, it’s just, a lot to take in, is all.”

And that was that, the big reveal. So yeah, it wasn’t like he rejected me, or was disgusted or told me to get the hell out of his house, no. But, after that, he never really tried to find out more. He did stop asking me if I met any girls at this or that party, but he never asked if I met any boys either. He used to take interest in who I met at college, what I was doing, but after our talk, he either limited himself to asking about classes, or skipped the topic of college altogether, starting a rant on the neighbour’s aggressive dog as if I didn’t just come back home after six months of studying in another city. It was as if my personal life was no longer of any interest to him and it hurt. It hurt so much, that after a while I stopped coming home to avoid the pain of being less of a son to my father than I had been before.

We still talked on the phone, from time to time. Usually when I was making yet another excuse for why I’m not going to be able to visit this time. He never questioned it, and I never found it in myself to get angry. I missed him, I missed him so much it hurt, but still, I felt guilty in a way. Not of being gay, I was never one to feel ashamed of who I was, but of being a disappointment to him. Even if it wasn’t my fault, nor a conscious decision on my part; even if there was nothing that I could’ve done to change my preferences; I still felt as if there was something I could’ve done differently. Prepared him, eased him into it, just let him know that hey, I’m here, I’m still your son, I still have college anecdotes to share with you, and no, they do not include dicks in any way, shape or form. That is unless you include dickish jocks that like to make fun of me for my skinny frame and quirky attitude.

My dad told me once, years before The Talk, that I couldn’t possibly be gay because I don’t dress like it. He found me lurking outside of the only gay club in Beacon Hills while on patrol and he didn’t even question the sexuality of his sixteen-year-old son for a second. Like the concept of me being gay was so foreign it wouldn’t even cross his mind. As for me, it never really crossed my mind that there were special clothes for gay people. I liked my hoodie just fine.

I still liked my hoodies just fine at the age of twenty one. Though, my dad might have been right that day at the club. I didn’t seem to attract a lot of attention from gay guys. None, is closer to the truth really. Maybe it was because of my hoodies, maybe it was because my clothes weren’t “gay” enough (as in, not showing off my assets properly), or maybe it was because I was just awkward as hell. I don’t know. It certainly wasn’t because of my lack of trying. Boy, did I try.

Because of that, I don’t really think fondly of my time at college. Most people think of those few years as their prime time. For me it was just time spent learning something that, as it later turned out, I never even used once. I studied criminology, wanting to follow in my dad’s footsteps, I guess, but something happened during my last year of college, that changed my life forever.

Just like they had mock trials for law students, they had mock visits to the crime scenes for students of criminology. I wasn’t really into it the first time, but as I got to be the victim’s brother, the local preacher, the captain of the Lacrosse team and other characters who played a role in the countless imagined murders, I discovered, surprisingly, that I had a love for acting running deep within me. So deep that I only discovered it at twenty three. It came as a surprise, but I was so into it that it took me no time to find a club at college and sign up. It was there that I met Scott, who is my best buddy to this day.  

Not two months later we both took part in a play written and directed by the club members. A play that happened to be the biggest artistic event in the whole school, and therefore the biggest event in the whole town. We had no idea then, but the school invited some big names, scouts, if that’s what they’re called in the acting world. For most of my life, despite my clumsiness, I had more to do with sports than arts, so scouts I’m going to call them. They noticed us, apparently, because a week later both Scott and I received calls from an agency in L.A. looking for young talents. It felt like a dream. I was so convinced it was a dream I didn’t even respond to the woman calling me. I just hung up like the awkward idiot I was. She called again, thankfully.

I finished my degree while shooting a film about Google. Scott and I, we both played minor roles, but it was a blast. Funnily enough, they had me dress like a hipster, wear glasses and a beanie, and for the first time in my life I was hit on. Not only hit on, pursued, more like it. It must have been the clothes after all. First kiss with a boy at twenty three. First ass groping. First anything really. I was exhilarated. I was living my life, soaring the skies that were bluer, clearer and more beautiful than any of the skies before that.

I texted my dad when I got my degree. Received a “Congrats,” in response. Somehow, I never felt compelled to share my acting with him. It never really came up to be honest. We rarely talked and I felt like acting was somehow the cherry on top of my widely understood gayness. At least in my father’s eyes. Or so I thought at that time.

Nevertheless, the film turned out to be a success. I never expected my father to watch it, since it didn’t really seem like something up his alley, but someone from Beacon Hills must have seen me in it, and showed it to him. About two weeks after it hit the cinemas my phone started vibrating in my pocket. My father’s face was on the screen, a picture I took during one of our summer barbecues. He was making a face at a grilled eggplant. It was when I still had some say in what he was and wasn’t allowed to eat. I wondered briefly whether his diet went back to red meat and grease when I withdrew from his life.

I answered the phone before it went to voicemail.

“‘Sup?” I said.

“Stiles,” my dad started, and I had to admit I felt something stir in me from hearing his voice after months of silence. “I… How are you, son?”

“Well, good, you know. Getting by.”

“Just getting by? I saw you in a movie. One of my deputies made me watch it. Didn’t even say why, just made me. Stiles, I…” he paused, and I, for what must have been the first time in my life, didn’t feel like talking at all. What was I supposed to say? Ask him if he liked it? Apologise for not telling him? What did I even tell him anymore? So I stayed silent, waiting for him to continue. He obviously didn’t plan what he was going to say, because he seemed to be at a loss for words. Or maybe he did plan it, but just like my coming out, this conversation ran away from him when I didn’t say what he envisioned in one of his scenarios. I heard him breathing on the other side, so I knew he was still on the line. “Do you live in L.A. now?” he asked after what seemed like an hour.

It wasn’t what I expected, but it was a question I could answer.

“Yeah, I’m sharing an apartment with a buddy of mine,” I said casually, remembering that Scott asked me to buy toilet paper on my way back from casting.

“Oh. Is he… Is he good to you?” The question was tentative, but not hostile in any way. It’s probably because I was thinking of toilet paper that it took me a couple of seconds to realise the meaning behind it. I snorted when I connected the dots, the thought of me and Scott being anything but friends so alien to me, that laughter was my first reaction. My father must have thought I was snorting at him, for he backpedalled immediately “I’m sorry for asking. I know it’s none of my business.”

That made my temper rise. It could’ve been his business if he ever cared to make it so. I told him just that, for the first time in my life voicing my distress over how he treated me. “And for the record, Scott’s just a friend. A one hundred percent platonic buddy. Bro. Brother from another mother. And he has a girlfriend. So yeah, he’s good to me, but not how you’d think.” Maybe I was being an ass, when he obviously tried, for the first time, to find out something about me that had to do with my sexuality. I took a deep breath, my body trembling from the pent up irritation. “I’m sorry for lashing out,” I apologised, trying to keep my voice level. I was a grown up, I could behave like one.

“Can I visit you?” he said next, managing to surprise me again. “I can’t do this on the phone. I seem to make it worse, when I honestly called you to make it right.” He sounded so small, tired and… old , that I deflated, all traces of anger gone.

“Yeah. Yeah, you can visit me.” I could already feel a headache building behind my temples.

He came next weekend and met with me at a cafe across the street from my apartment. Scott was instructed to await my return with a healthy dose of booze, tissues and superhero movies in case The Talk 2 went as downhill as I expected it too.

I was seeing my dad in person for the first time in two years. He... aged. His hair seemed grayer, his face more hollow, there were lines around his eyes and mouth that I didn’t remember being there before. He was still my dad though, and there was this pressure in my chest that made it hard to breathe. Longing. I wanted to hug him, I wanted to cry and tell him I missed him. I wanted to update him on my whole life, to put the past two years behind us and pretend they never happened. To just be the close-knit family unit we used to be.

“How are you, son?” he asked for the second time, but right then, seeing him, I knew the question was honest, much more so than a mere pleasantry. He really wanted to know how life was treating me.

“Good, dad. I’m good.” I replied with all the sincerity I could muster. I was finally living the way I wanted to. I had my own apartment, I had a best friend, I had a group of people I could go out to have fun with, I had sex, I had money, I had just scored a main role in another movie. It really was good.

My dad smiled, the corners of his mouth turning up, while his eyes remained sad. “I’ve failed you, Stiles,” he stated, as if it was a fact he’s familiarised himself with well enough over the past two years. I was surprised at the depth of his self-reflection, yet I couldn’t exactly disagree. We weren’t what you’d call a model family after our… it wasn’t even a falling out. I think that’s what always hurt me the most, that we didn’t even fight. We just went our ways as if twenty one years of being ‘father and son’ didn’t matter, as if we were just acquaintances. “I never meant to hurt you,” he continued, as if reading my mind. “I didn’t know how to react. I…”

“Look--”

“Stiles, please, let me finish. I’m afraid if I don’t say all I want to say I will never make this, what’s between us, better.” I nodded at him to continue. I had to bite my lip so hard it bled, to stop myself from going into one of my LGBT+ activist rants. “I realised, when I saw you in a movie, that… I did this. I let you think that you can’t even tell me about something as big as this. I put a wall between us, and I don’t even know why. I don’t care who you sleep with, or who you love, Stiles. I mean, I do care, but not--” He slid his hand down his face, obviously irritated at his inept wording. “I care about you, and I want to know what’s happening in your life. I am sorry I stopped asking, I am so sorry that it seemed like I stopped caring, like I didn’t want to know. I just, I had no idea how to talk about it. Stiles, I never knew a gay man personally, I didn’t know the proper words, the things to say not to offend you. I had some… misconceptions about what it meant that you were gay. I saw those boys outside the Jungle, I arrested some for public indecency, I saw a seventeen-year-old boy put his mouth on another man’s- Behind a dumpster .” He took a breath, having taken none during his whole speech. He sounded despaired and I sat completely frozen – that was the first time my dad was telling me any of this.

“I was so worried, when you told me. That you would end up like this, sucking strangers in dark alleys. But I didn’t want to control you, to forbid you from anything, to lecture you. You were twenty one. Old enough to make your own decisions. I didn’t know what to do not to scare you off with my caring, so I didn’t talk about it, and it seemed like I didn’t care, but Stiles, I cared too much. I just didn’t want to see you hurt, but I didn’t know how to go about it without scaring you away from me, and in the process I pushed you away with my indifference. And I know it’s probably too late now, but if you can find it in yourself... to forgive me.” He was looking into my eyes, and I could see he was on the verge of crying. I only saw my dad cry once before that – when my mother had passed away.

I stretched my arm across the table and put my hand on his. “Dad, let’s just… start over, ok?” His eyes widened a bit, clearly, he wasn’t expecting me to be so welcoming. I squeezed his hand.

“Dad, I’m gay.” I said, not letting him go.

He let out a soundless laugh, shoulders jerking in one abrupt movement. Halfway through, it turned into a sob. He couldn’t stop his tears from falling then. “I know, son.” He said, smiling. I nodded encouragingly for him to continue.

“So, do you have a boyfriend?” I could feel tears starting to well up in my eyes as well.

“No, no I don’t.”

“And did you ever…?”

“Have a boyfriend? Not really, I was seeing this guy I met on the set of Internship, but it was casual. And before you ask, no we didn’t do anything against or behind any dumpsters.” I smirked and dad shook his head fondly, as if remembering how we always used to banter like that. “He was my first kiss with a man,” I added as an afterthought, and I saw my dad’s eyes go round.

“You’ve never kissed a guy before that?”

“Nah… I think it was the hoodies.” I winked at him and he laughed, shaking his head. He dried his eyes with napkins.

I felt a weight lift off my chest. I could breathe freely for the first time in three years. I got my dad back. And it was amazing. I knew it was going to take us time to restore the relations we used to have, but we took the first step and it was good. No, it was great .

We spent five hours at the cafe. I texted Scott not to worry about me. All was good in the land of Stilinskis.

Really, at that time, the only thing missing in my life was love. The romantic kind. And boy, did I try.

During the next two years I’ve met many men; out, closeted, bi. I looked for that feeling that I’ve read about in books and stories I liked to busy myself with in my free time. The kind of love that would make you tremble with feeling. With raw emotion. Love, that would fill you with this indescribable power, that would let you do anything, that would make you feel like you can achieve all your goals, be anyone you want. Love, that would let you soar higher and closer to the sun, but with wings that wouldn’t melt like wax. Wax was for lust filled hookups. Love was worth wings of titanium. And I was gonna get those wings. Like Marvel’s Falcon, I was gonna wear my love with pride and fly.

I’ve never hidden that I was gay. From my first interviews related to Internship I was clear about my preferences and my history as LGBT+ activist back in college. Some magazine managed to find my photos from my first Pride Parade, showing me in nothing but a rainbow toga. Good times. I never stopped participating in the Parades after becoming famous. Even more so, I wanted to use my influence to increase awareness. When gay marriages became legal across all States I was there in the streets, yelling in joy with my people. By then I was already well recognised, having played the main role in the hit Maze Runner series.

It was when I was twenty five, that I met Derek. Derek who was my polar opposite. Derek who I fell in love with at first sight. Scratch that. I don’t believe in love at first sight. Love is a deep and profound feeling that can only develop with time. But I was madly, deeply attracted to him. Craving to touch him, get to know him, be around him from the minute I saw him in his stupid cowboy boots, and cowboy hat and his tragically cowboy everything, including his southern upbringing.

To be completely honest, I had no idea who Derek was. I sauntered into the set of the new movie we were shooting. I was late only two minutes but it was enough reason to be subjected to The Glare. A glare that went straight to my dick. I whispered my question to Lydia, my agent, and learned that Derek was some big name country musician. I think I’ve heard, like, one country song in my entire life and it was Dolly Parton. Derek apparently won like ten awards or something. He was it when it came to country music. Apparently as big as you can get. It made sense for someone from the country scene to be present on the set of a drama that takes place in the South.

“Derek is from Oklahoma,” Lydia stage whispered to me, making all eyes turn our way. Go Lydia. The man in question only lifted his eyebrow at being talked about. Used to that, probably. I had no idea who he was, but it was more than possible that he had a fanbase thrice as big as mine.

“What is he doing here?” I asked much more inconspicuously, more invested in learning all there was to know about Derek than taking my seat and listening to the plan for today.

Lydia rolled her eyes at me like my question was idiotic. It probably was. “He’s composing the music, obviously .” She pushed me in the direction of my seat that was right next to Derek’s. I nodded at him as I sat down, and he nodded back, even if his face showed no emotion. At least he was polite, I thought, as I let my eyes roam over his godlike features. It was probably because I was used to being out and to everyone knowing that I was gay, that I was completely unashamed of the way I ogled him. I had nothing to hide, I was definitely interested and he had the right to know that. The ball was in his court.

It took about ten seconds for Derek to notice my staring, frown, and shift away from me with a displeased tilt to his mouth. It stung as if he picked the ball and threw it right in my face.

So yeah, I definitely didn’t fall in love at first sight. I spent the rest of the meeting barely listening, hoping that Lydia was taking notes to later instruct me on where I was supposed to be at what time. My eyes were fixed on Derek’s boots. Honestly, the only thing they lacked were spurs. They were worn, but obviously well-loved. Derek had rather big feet, and possibly a big dick, my mind supplied helpfully. Thank you, brain, I really needed that exact thought in my head at that moment.

I was jolted from my daydream about Derek’s dick upon hearing the man’s voice for the first time. I couldn’t really grasp the sense of what he was saying, too focussed on how he sounded. His voice was surprisingly high. Not at all like what I expected. I don’t know anything about country music but I imagined he’d have a lower voice with a little rasp to it. Instead, it was rather clear and a bit higher than my own. That wasn’t the most surprising thing about it though. That title went to The Accent™. I don’t know why it shocked me, the dude was from Oklahoma after all, but the way he drawled his words, the elongated vowels, the way he said “y’all”, it only added to the tension in my pants. It was then and there that I discovered I had a kink I had no idea even existed three seconds earlier. I wanted to hear him say my name. God, I wanted to hear him say it so much I was on the verge of interrupting him and introducing myself, just so I could hear something akin to “what the hell is a stiles?”

When he finished speaking, I could still hear his voice in my head, resounding like a favourite song that you can still hear long after you’ve finished listening. The meeting closed shortly after and once again I was brought back from my daze, this time by Derek standing up.

I scrambled up after him, eliciting yet another eyebrow-rise, but before I could say anything he was gone. I stared at his back, wondering what his problem was.

I couldn’t focus after that. I was being dragged around the set by some assistant, showed where everything was located, the bathrooms, the make-up stations, my trailer, but I barely registered anything. The set wasn’t really different from any other set I’ve been to over the two years I’ve been doing this. All the while my mind was going back to Derek and his angry eyebrows. Despite the fact that he totally ignored my existence I was still interested in getting to know him, still not intimidated enough to stay away from him.

We had an inauguration party later that day. The buffet table was in the corner of the room, hidden from view and therefore a great vantage point. I busied myself with food, which wasn’t even that conspicuous – I was known for my love of all things edible. They even had curly fries. I loved Lydia for taking care of details like that. I knew it was her doing that my favourite munchies were always there, wherever I went. I was stuffing myself silly when Derek entered the room. My eyes zeroed in on him immediately. He nodded at everyone he passed with a bright smile, lifting his hat off his head a little whenever he was greeting a woman. Gallant sonofabitch. He didn’t smile at me even once.

I decided to stay at the buffet. He was bound to get hungry and approach it at some point. It was easier to just wait for him there than try to follow him around without looking like a stalker. Besides, food was always a good conversation starter.

I was glad no one was paying me any attention, because I wasn’t very subtle about glueing my eyes to him. I was taking him all in, using the occasion to stare unabashedly. He was talking to my co-stars, nodding politely at what they were saying and giving them his full attention. I felt a bitter pang at that, remembering his purposeful disregard of my person. I was totally on the verge of changing my plan and joining the circle he was in to see if he’d be interested in what I had to say as well, when I saw him excuse himself and make his way over to where I was hiding behind the chocolate fountain. As he was getting nearer and nearer I felt slight panic rising in me. What should I say? Should I acknowledge him? Should I just nod again and let him start the buffet-appropriate small talk? If he didn’t, I would totally lose my chance. Not to seem like a frozen statue I put whatever I was holding in my hand under the fountain, coating it in chocolate and sticking it in my mouth before anyone could question my fondue skills. It took some great willpower not to spit the chocolatey curly fry on Derek’s shoulder as he came to a stop next to me. I smiled around the fry, trying to swallow it without having to chew it (impossible) and Derek looked at me reproachfully.

“Hey!” I finally managed to let out, swallowing the disgusting combo down. I extended my hand to Derek. “I’m Stiles!” I sounded ridiculous, like an overeager puppy. It had nothing to do with my initial plan to be cool .

He looked down at my outstretched fingers and frowned. I froze with my hand still between us, feeling like an awkward teenager that I haven’t been for at least eight years. Every second he didn’t do anything, a part of me died. “Um…” I half said, half hummed, not really knowing how to proceed. I took my hand back, mind already going to dark places, thinking he was disgusted with my gay-cooties or something. There was no other reason for him to be this cold towards me when he was Mr. Sunshine towards everyone else. I felt both anger and disappointment well in the pit of my stomach. Of course the first guy that managed to make my heart flutter with the rise of his eyebrow alone would turn out to be a homophobic asshole. Of course I would need to spend months in the company of this guy, while trying not to think of all that could’ve been.

I resigned myself to never hearing him address me in any way, when he surprised me, and said, “I’m Derek. Hale. This movie is very important to me, considering it tells the story of my great-great-grandmother, which you probably didn’t know, because why would you. I would appreciate it if you managed to actually focus instead of dozing out all the time. I get that a slow southern drama is way below your Hollywood standards, but since you’re here and getting paid for it, you might want to at least try to look interested.” With that, he turned around and stalked away, leaving me completely gobsmacked.

“Huh?” I let out, long after he was gone.

It didn’t take me long to find Lydia after that. “Why the hell didn’t you tell me it was about his great-great-grandmother?!” I didn’t want to shout at her, but I was pretty desperate at that point. I made a complete idiot out of myself, and I had to at least try and make it better somehow. I didn’t know why, but I was drawn to Derek. Like he was a magnet, and I a flimsy piece of metal. It wasn’t only his looks, there was something enticing about him. On one hand he was this really nice, polite, hat-tipping, toothpaste commercial smile owner, and on the other, he also had a different side to him – shut off and reserved. He was a riddle that I felt the need to solve. I needed to have that smile directed at me.

“Stiles, it was in the folder I gave you. Did you even read it?” Lydia’s judging tone brought me back from my musings.

“Folder?” I remembered her giving me a file with some info in it, but I only skimmed through it, fully expecting to be briefed on the first day. I mean, of course I knew the story the movie was telling, and knew the script almost by heart, but no one told me it was based on facts. I felt like an ignorant asshole. Derek was right. In a way at least. It’s not that I considered a slow southern drama to be below me, but I wasn’t really into the movie. It certainly wasn’t another action-filled Hollywood production to make me popular like Maze Runner did. However, Lydia convinced me to take the part to show the public that I can be versatile. And there were some parts I found interesting, which is why I agreed. The movie was about a Native American woman, from a tribe closely connected with wolves. It was a heartbreaking drama, telling the love between her and a white man, and… huh, that explained Derek’s dark hair and eyebrows.

Anyway, I liked the movie more when I saw the cast and realised my co-star would be of Native American descent and not another blonde with black wig and eyeliner. If there was one thing I truly disliked about Hollywood is how they produced movies about all those different cultures and cast caucasian actors as protagonists in all of them. I have nothing against Gerard Butler, the man is Hot Like Burning, but he is nowhere near what I would envision for an Egyptian God.

I read the script again, with a completely different attitude now that I knew it was Derek’s history. My character, Tobias Hale, was a hunter who got lost in the woods and barely made it. After few days of trying to find his way back home he used up all of his supplies and became weaker and weaker as days progressed. He lost consciousness and woke up upon having his face licked by a wolf. The whole pack was there, but instead of being hostile, they stood around him and sniffed cautiously. Finally, one of them deemed him harmless and sat next to him to keep him warm. The others howled. Soon a woman emerged from the trees, and that’s how they met. She nursed him back to health and they fell in love, despite the stigma that surrounded interracial relations of any kind back in 19th century.

She died, in the end. And Tobias was left to bring up their child, Jeremiah Avonaco Hale, Derek’s great-grandfather. While the story seemed to me like a more realistic attempt at Disney’s Pocahontas at first, after learning its roots, I felt drawn to it. I was moved, and I knew, that with this new knowledge I was going to do everything in my power to give it the justice it deserved. And… my curiosity was sufficiently sparked, I wanted to know more, I wanted to know what happened to Jeremiah, how he grew up in those hostile times while being a boy of mixed descent, how the next generations of Hales lived… Derek’s whole story, I wanted to learn it. To learn about Derek.

The first thing I did was buy all of his albums on iTunes. There were eight . How did I manage to never hear a mention of this guy before? I’ve no idea. I started listening from the very first one and I was surprised that I… liked it. The music was not at all what I expected. Yes, it was country through and through, the lyrics telling stories upon stories of falling in and out of love, with girls , I didn’t fail to notice. But at the same time there was this darker feeling to it, that I couldn’t really name. Halfway through the third album I decided to check out his music videos on YouTube. God. I will never regret that decision. Possibly the best decision of my life. Derek was… magnificent. He was the finest piece of m-- No. No, he was not a piece of anything. He was beautiful, talented and amazing. He was not manmeat. Even if I did jerk to a video in which he was shirtless, showing off the wolf tattoo on his back. It was as beautiful as the rest of him.

Wolves seemed to be a recurring theme in his videos. Before I knew it, I was on a research spree, watching all of his videos and googling him. I learned that his family owned a wolf sanctuary. There was a video of Derek talking about the sanctuary, showing the filming crew around. There was a scene in which he played with wolf cubs and I couldn’t help but smile like a loon at how adorable it was. I found their website to learn more, and there were pictures of Derek with the wolves, which I absolutely did not download to my tablet. There was a donate button on the site and before I knew it I was clicking it.

I donated an embarrassingly big sum to the cause. I had more money than I knew what to do with, and somehow helping the sanctuary felt right. I made the donation from Stuart Twombly, though, not wanting anyone to pick up on the fact that it was me.

And yes, I realise now, that it wasn’t the wisest decision I could’ve made if I wanted to be anonymous. When I saw Derek stalking to me with a piece of paper crumpled in his hand a few days later, I could take a wild guess as to what it was about.

“Stuart Twombly?!” he spat, voice incredulous. “Are you insane? You donated half a million dollars. Did you hit your head? Or did you type a zero too many and didn’t notice?” He was breathing harshly and while understanding his surprise, I didn’t know why he was so fed up. After all, it was money, for animals, that his family loved. Did I do something wrong? I must have looked pretty clueless for he rolled his eyes and spread the paper. “For dem wolves. Hope it’s enough to keep their tummies full. With love, Stuart Twombly,” he read with his southern drawl, and I felt a pang of regret at not using my real name, but the name of the character I played. I’d have done everything to have him say “Stiles” to me, preferably while I was riding him to oblivion. “You think we all don’t have enough money to feed our wolves? That it? Friggin’ Hollywood younguns, y’all think yourselves some holier-than-thou hot-shots. Well I don’t need your pity, or your bribes. Whichever of the two this is supposed to be.” He pressed the paper into my chest and my hands moved on their own accord to catch it before it fell. I had no idea what was going on. My fingers grazed his palms on accident, and he snatched his hands away as if burned. Right, gay-cooties. I prickled.

“I don’t want the money back. It’s for the wolves, and it’s neither pity nor bribe. Why would I even pity you, you’ve won ten fucking awards and have eight albums with singles that all topped the charts. And bribe? What would I even want in return?” I asked, and Derek flinched. “Oh. My. God,” I enunciated, as dread washed over me. “Please don’t tell me you thought I’d want… services of any kind from you.”

Derek’s eyes went wide with shock. “What--” he started, but I didn’t let him finish and barrelled on.

“Yes, I might be insanely attracted to you and yes, I can barely breathe when you’re standing next to me, and I get that you must be disgusted by that or whatever it is you straight fellas feel in your wounded little hearts, but do you really think so lowly of me and my kind that you’d think I’d pay you to sleep with me, like, what kind of a pervert do you think I am?!” And yes I was fucking insane for saying that, admitting that to him. What the fuck was I thinking? I was known for not being able to control my mouth, but this was too much, even for me. My words were harsh and they fell on him like an avalanche of contempt. I realised some of my spit landed on his face when he lifted his hand to wipe at his cheek. Whatever. Let him think he had AIDS now or whatever.

I fumed and waited for any sort of response. Derek was still looking at me in shock, unmoving. “You’re a f-- homosexual?” he asked finally, and it was like a slap in the face.

“As if you didn’t know that.” I rolled my eyes and started to turn away from him. All he did since the moment he met me was a clear sign he was appalled by everything I stood for.

“No I didn’t,” he said like a petulant child.

“You move away and flinch every time I touch you. You refused to shake my hand and you think I tried to bribe you for sex. Please don’t try to pretend this is something else.” I sighed and ran a hand through my hair. I didn’t know why I was still speaking to him, to be honest. Yeah, he might have been hot, talented and like a friggin’ catnip to my inner feline, but he was an asshole that I should avoid at all costs if I knew what was good for me. Which I didn’t, apparently, because I was still standing there.

“Sex? I… I have no idea what you’re talking about. And I hate touching people.” He sounded sincere which gave a pause to my internal tirade that still continued in my head even after I stopped speaking. “My sister says I have no idea how to function in a society. And I had no idea you were… that.”

I snorted. We might have had a little misunderstanding, but he still couldn’t even say “gay” properly, so I was pretty sure I knew what his stand was on the matter.

“The word is ‘gay’. And yes, I am. Are we done here?” I didn’t let him nod or reply before I was turning away for good. I fully intended to go back to my trailer and blast music to forget that conversation ever happened. Different music than was in the most recent additions to my iTunes library that was for sure.

“Stiles, wait,” he called and I froze. There. That was what I was waiting for. A+. Exceeded all expectations. 10/10 would recommend. I know that I might seem like a total hornball, I swear it usually takes more for me to get aroused, but at that moment, it was like my name was some secret code word to open the metaphorical cave of wonders. I was already sporting a slight hate-slash-fear boner, but him saying my name made the lil’ warrior in my pants stand to full attention. I was wearing my skinniest jeans, and it hurt like fuck. I needed to get out of there and take them off immediately. But Derek was asking me to wait, and he was using my name, and so I had no option but to stand still until he continued..

“How can you…” he started, and I already feared the rest of that sentence. Still, I never in my wildest dreams expected the amount of ignorance that came after. “How can you find me attractive? I don’t have... boobs or anything.”

It wasn’t even spoken with ill intent. Derek was literally that oblivious. As if he never stood foot outside of Oklahoma despite being a celebrity musician. He also sounded self-deprecating, which made me start, but I was too tired to mull over that particular fact. “Well, I don’t find boobs attractive. At all. So I’d say the fact you don’t have them is precisely why I would even look your way in the first place,” I explained with all the patience I could muster, still with my back towards him. My boner just refused to go down, despite the ridiculousness of the whole situation.

“But then, what do you see when you look at… men.” He still sounded unsure of himself and I sighed. This whole conversation was so absurd my mind refused to believe it was happening.

“I can’t do this now, Derek, sorry.” I couldn’t stay there any longer. To be asked to bare myself like that, in front of a man who didn’t even understand the basics. To tell him how he made me feel, how he made me alive. To have to explain to him what his cheekbones did to me, his washboard abs, his biceps and his friggin’ wolf tattoo. To try and make him see what a gift to mankind he was when he had been brought up thinking that men aren’t to even be considered in these categories. They weren’t to be admired for their looks. They weren’t to be thought beautiful.

I left him there and went to my trailer. Even opening my zipper hurt, but when I finally took my dick out it took but two strokes to come. I didn’t understand my body, I didn’t get how I could still be attracted to him after all that’s transpired between us. I wanted to just get over him. I’ve only known him for a week, but it felt so much longer considering the impression he’s managed to leave on me. It was ridiculous when I thought about it. What a masochist was I to yearn for a man whose only words to me were spoken with anger and frustration.

I called Scott and updated him on The Situation as we called it. He was the kinda guy who despite being straight as an arrow, was man enough to be able to talk about my gay endeavours, and even give advice, though naive most of the time. Scott saw the world through rose colored glasses and he didn’t always understand that it was a war out there for the rest of us. He lived in his happy bubble with his girlfriend of eight years and believed that love can conquer all. It had its perks, but it wasn’t really what I needed at that moment so I finished the call after hearing “go get him, tiger! I’m rooting for you,” for the third time that week. I couldn’t just “go get” Derek. Derek was so unattainable it was bizarre to imagine me getting him in any way.

The next person to try calling was my dad. I remember hesitating, wondering whether I should tell him about Derek. In the end, I decided it was worth giving it a try. After all, my dad and Derek did have something in common. Or had - my dad spent a lot of time educating himself after we reconciled.

My dad told me one thing that stuck with me. “Don’t judge him for his upbringing, son. Teach him instead, so that knowledge can replace ignorance,” he spoke with wisdom gained from experience.

I spent my whole evening thinking about it. I thought it was easier said than done. Of course I had no problem with educating people about homosexuality, but it was different when the person to be educated was the object of my desire, the reason behind my internal turmoil, the protagonist of my wet dreams. Being my-responsibility-shirking-self, I decided to ignore it. I figured it’s best to just see how i played out.

The ignoring was easier than I expected. During the following week, I noticed that Derek wasn’t really present on the set. To be honest, he had no reason to be there, not really, it wasn’t like he was cast in the movie after all. He probably only attended the first few days to get the feel of the thing, to get some ideas for the music he was to compose. While my stupid heart mourned his absence, my mind was trying to convince me that it was for the better. Without him there I could finally attempt to focus.

The shooting was going smoothly. I quickly made friends with my co-stars, and spent evenings sharing stories of our childhoods, playing party games and drinking non-alcoholic beverages that were doing a great job at pretending to be otherwise. It was best not to be hungover on the set, we all knew that.

I almost forgot the unpleasant exchanges I had with Derek. My thoughts still strayed his way from time to time but it wasn’t anything I couldn’t manage without losing my mind in the process. The bliss didn’t last long, though. About a month into the shooting Derek reappeared. I saw him talking to the crew. I should skip the next bit to preserve my dignity, but I want this thing to be honest, so I will admit that I hid behind the costume rack like a little kid and watched him. I was practicing for the role of a stalker, sue me. Derek looked somewhat different. He seemed thinner and a bit tired. Still gorgeous, mind you. I followed his movements with my eyes, breath hitching whenever he turned his head to the side so that I could see his profile instead of the back of his head. His jaw was incredible. I don’t know who was I kidding by pretending that I was over him, that he didn’t affect me anymore. He had me completely hooked and the time I spent away from him only seemed to fuel my infatuation.

It later turned out that he had prepared some songs already. We all thought he was gonna play the pre-recorded versions, but he surprised us by taking his guitar from his ridiculous Camaro (car induced boners are a thing, apparently) and playing them live.

I loved the songs. The director loved them. Everyone loved them. I was addicted to Derek’s voice. To the way his fingers glided across the strings. The way his foot was tapping the rhythm against the floor, drawing my attention back to his stupid boots. The way his vest was clinging to his back. The way his eyelashes contrasted against his cheeks when he sang with his eyes closed. All the feelings that I managed to push back were resurfacing. I was back to staring at him in a daze, unable to stop myself.

Our eyes met, but instead of turning away, he held my gaze and he sang his heart out. All the while I thought mine was going to beat its way out of my chest. Not wanting to show how shaken I was, I left before he finished the last song.

There was a knock on my trailer door an hour later.

I can’t say I was surprised when I saw it was him. He was wearing his cowboy hat, but took it off when I opened the door. Fucking gentleman.

“Derek,” I acknowledged him.

“Stiles,” he drawled, and I don’t think I need to tell you which part of my body was affected the most.

“Can I help you?” I asked, trying to remain professional and feigning calmness.

“Can I come in?” I knew letting him in wasn’t the wisest thing I could’ve done, but what was I supposed to do? Refuse? I could’ve, probably. But I remembered what my father told me. I stepped aside to let him in. His arm brushed against my chest as he tried to fit his large frame through the tiny door. I felt goosebumps rise all over my skin, but I don’t think he noticed. I waved in the general area of the couch, encouraging him to take a seat.

To delay the inevitable, I busied myself with taking two bottles of water from my fridge. I gave him one, which he took with a thankful nod. Our fingers brushed over the bottle. Electric shock. He didn’t flinch this time, but I decided to give him space and sat on a chair, leaving the whole couch to him.

After gulping down half the water, he put the bottle down, and swallowed, obviously bracing himself for what he was about to say.

“I can’t stop thinkin’ about what you said,” he started, but then fell silent. I promised myself not to disturb him, but when he still didn’t say anything after a minute, I felt the need to prompt him.

“I said a lot of things.” It was true. While I could guess that he was referring to the part where I admitted my attraction to him, it could have been anything else, from the paid sex to not finding boobs interesting.

“I never thought about guys this way. Never ,” he repeated the word as if I needed any more assurance that he was one hundred percent straight. “On that first day, I thought you were dazing out of boredom. I thought you found the story of my ancestors dull and uninterestin’.” I rushed to say it wasn’t that, but he interrupted me. “I know. I saw you act, you like the story, I can see it. But it’s what I thought. But then you said you… you can’t breathe when you’re next to me, and that you were attracted to me, and… I didn’t understand how it was possible. I still don’t really… get it. But at the same time, I can’t stop thinkin’ about it. I keep thinkin’ of that talk we had, I keep replayin’ those words, and I just keep, thinkin’-- about you. And it’s driving me mad,” he said while looking down at his hands, clasped tightly together between his knees. His knuckles were white, and I could tell that was probably a) the most stressful talk he’s ever had, and b) the most words he’s ever said at one time.

Right then, I knew, that I had two roads to choose from. It all came down to answering one simple question, really – did I, or did I not want to be Derek Hale’s gay experiment.

My body answered for me as I moved from my chair to sit next to him on the couch. A visceral reaction to his vulnerability. He tensed, but I wasn’t deterred. I lifted my hand and brushed my finger against his cheekbone, and over his ear, as if I was tucking away a stray lock of hair, even though his hair was too short for that. I heard him take a sharp breath, and when he released it, I could hear he was trembling. “Derek,” I whispered into his ear, the heat of my breath ghosting over its shell. If he had half the reaction to his name that I did to mine, then it had to be a success. It seemed to work, for he hid his face in his hands, not knowing I could still tell it was beet red. Just like the tips of his ears.

I placed my hand on his back and let it move up and down in soothing strokes. I could feel his whole body vibrating under the tips of my fingers. “Why am I feeling like this?” he mumbled from behind his hands, his voice so strained I could barely understand his words.

“What’re you feeling?” I encouraged him, while pulling his hands away from his face. He let them fall back to his lap. “What are you feeling, Derek?” I asked again, looking into his eyes. They seemed an even more striking blue against his blushing skin.

“My chest feels like it’s shrinkin’, and my head’s poundin’. My blood’s pulsin’, my heart’s racin’. I feel like I’m about to die.” He was completely overwhelmed, but he wasn’t running. I took that as a good sign.

“Hmmm,” I smiled at him, and brushed my thumb over his cheekbone. I slid my hand lower and rested it on his jaw. Then, I started closing in, as slowly as I could manage. I was giving him time to retreat, should he choose that moment to freak out. I paused when our noses brushed against each other. Hovering my lips over his, I let our breaths mix together. My heart was beating against my ribcage so fast it almost hurt. Blood was rushing in my ears and I prayed that I wouldn’t faint. I could feel each of his exhales on my lips, which I subconsciously wetted with my tongue. There was no sound except for the erratic pounding of our hearts.

I finally let the gap close between us. His breath hitched, and he let out a small whine, his mouth parting in surprise, despite the time I had given him to prepare. Our lips slotted against each other, skin on skin, soft yet burning hot. We stayed like that, frozen, breathing through our noses. I was giving him more time. I knew I had to take it slow, there was no rush, no need to push my tongue down his throat like we were teenagers. We weren’t. He was over thirty, and having his first kiss with another man. I wanted to make it good for him, to make it memorable. His upper lip was smooth, a stark contrast to his prickly stubble. I trailed the shape of it with the tip of my tongue, trying to memorize the feeling. I was about to move to his lower lip, when he woke from his momentary stupor.

He opened his lips slightly to better slot them against mine. At the same time I could feel his whole body shifting next to me. Soon, his hot palms were cupping both of my cheeks and pulling me even closer. I opened my mouth wider, encouraged by his bold actions, and he welcomed me, moving his head to the side so that our lips would fit perfectly against each other. My tongue found his and they moved in tandem, twisting and turning together. The pressure in my chest kept growing, and I swear I could feel every single beat of my heart. It was as if the time slowed down, and nothing mattered but our lips moving against each other, and the effortless slide of our tongues.

My body was on fire and I wanted more . I wanted to be closer to him, to align myself so that we’d be one, two halves reunited. I couldn’t control myself, I let my fingernails dig into his cheek, finding purchase in his soft flesh, not minding the marks I was bound to leave. My other hand was squeezing the fabric of his vest, all but ripping it off his back. His hands were still on my cheeks, and I could tell he was barely stopping himself from curling his fingers under my jaw and pulling me closer than physically possible. I felt lightheaded. I’ve kissed many times, but it never felt like that . It never felt like my mouth was the only part of my body I was aware of. It never felt as if the world would end if we stopped. I knew we’d have to breathe soon, but I feared that if we let our lips part the spell would break and we would never get the chance to do it again. I wanted to keep kissing him forever.

He tore away from me first, breathing heavily, obviously short of oxygen. I looked at his swollen lips, his flushed face, his ruffled hair… I smiled fondly at the feeling inside me, this pressure in my gut that I was silly enough to call butterflies. It was then, after kissing that marvel of a man, that I knew there was no way back for me. If I spent any more time with him I was bound to fall for him hopelessly.

I admit it took me a while to come down from my high and take notice of the panicked look in his eyes.

“Derek--” I started, prepared to do some hardcore crisis management, but he didn’t let me continue.

“What did you do to me?” he accused and I got defensive. His voice was charged with tension. He sounded so appalled all of a sudden, like he was in the middle ages and accusing me of witchcraft.

“Excuse me? I didn’t do anything.” Or at least I wasn’t alone in what I was doing. It takes two to make out like we did not a minute earlier.

“You kissed me.”

“You came into my trailer.” It was a fact I couldn’t help but state.

“Not to kiss you!” His voice rose and he moved away from me to the other end of the couch. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. He was the one who started it, who came to talk about my attraction to him. He could’ve ignored it! I sure would’ve, if he didn’t come and prod.

“Well why did you come here then, huh?!” I stood up, too furious to just sit there and let him shout at me.

“You tell me!” He stood up as well and took a step forward, his finger poking into my chest. “It’s your fault, you-- you did somethin’ to me.” His fingers closed around the fabric of my shirt and he pushed me into the wall. We were roughly the same height, but he was broader than me and I felt trapped.

“I. Didn’t. Do. Anything.” I stressed each word, hoping it would get through his thick skull. “You’re your own man, Derek. You came here, uninvited, mind you. You intruded on my private time even though I left your lil’ concert specifically to avoid you, and now you dare accuse me of, wait, of what, exactly? What, you think I put some spell on you? I know we’re filming a movie here, but it ain’t Harry Potter.”

His eyes narrowed at the sarcasm dripping from my tongue and he squeezed my shirt harder. He was so close I didn’t know if he was going to kiss me again or punch me. His chest rose with each breath he took to calm himself, and I could feel it pressing against mine.

“What do you want, Derek?” I asked finally, resignation clear in my voice. I was tired of the fucking limbo we found ourselves in. I fully expected him to huff and leave to go to his wolves back in Denial Land. Instead, after what seemed like hours, but was probably a minute, he let his face fall into the crook of my neck, taking a deep breath and familiarizing himself with my scent. The air he let out tickled my sensitive skin, making goosebumps rise all over my body. When his mouth took place of his nose, I couldn’t take it anymore. The feel of his wet lips on my neck was too much for me. I closed my eyes and rolled my hips so that our groins would meet. I wanted release. The tension building between us since the minute he entered my trailer was unbearable. I wasn’t too surprised to discover he was hard. I gasped when our dicks bumped against each other, I couldn’t hold my sounds in anymore. I was a moaner by nature, so it took a lot of willpower to keep quiet.

He pushed his hips into mine, creating delicious friction between us, while still sucking on my neck. I knew he was going to mark me, but I wanted it. I wanted to wear that hickey for the rest of my life. I wasn’t too worried about the movie, I knew they were gonna be able to hide it with makeup. I wound my arm around him and pressed my fingers into his hair. Pushing his head into my neck, I moved my hips up and down, knowing that I was close, and that with a few more jerks I was gonna be coming in my pants like a high-schooler. Judging by Derek’s ragged breathing he was in similar state.

We rutted against each other like dogs in heat. I let all thoughts leave my head, my mind gloriously blank, focussed only on the bliss filling my whole body. I was on the verge of coming, and it was Derek’s uttered “Stiles,” that finally pushed me over the edge. I came in my jeans, my fingers twisting in Derek’s hair. With one last push he was coming as well.

We stood against the wall for what felt like hours, quiet, waiting for our breaths to return to normal. He was still breathing me in, and I hoped he was getting addicted to the smell of me as much as I was getting addicted to his everything. I didn’t mind that my sperm was beginning to dry, creating an unpleasant crust in my pants. All was fine as long as I got to hold him close to me, without talking, without any shouting or accusations. I knew we weren’t on even ground. I knew that this was all new to him and that he had no idea what was going on, but I was only human. I wanted more. I wanted the whole deal. I wanted to date him, to share my hopes and dreams with him, to get to know him, to make him fall in love with me.

He pushed away all of a sudden, and as embarrassing as it was for me, I let out a clingy whine. My eyes immediately zeroed in on the wet spot on his light blue jeans. I caused it. My heart skipped a beat. I was scared to look up and see the look on his face. Was he going to look disgusted again? Was he going to blame me for everything and punch me in the face after all? I couldn’t force myself to look up. I glued my eyes to the floor and was foolish to hope he’d put his fingers under my chin, make me lift my head and then assure me that all was fine.

Instead, I saw him take his abandoned hat and place it strategically in front of his pants. He was gone a second later. Left without a word.

Feeling used, I slid down the wall and hugged my knees close to my chest. My only comfort in what was simultaneously the best and the worst day of my life.

Chapter Text

For the next two weeks Derek was everywhere . We never talked, but he hung around the set all the time, despite having no business to be there. I could feel his eyes burn holes into me. Whenever I looked up, he was there, on the other side of the room, hiding in the shadows, staring, his eyes dark. I could see the lust that filled them, but I didn’t want to make it easier for him. It was Derek who had to make the move this time, if only so he later wouldn’t have the audacity to say I did something to him. He was a grown ass man who had to take some responsibility for his grown ass man actions. Even if it meant I was on edge all the time, craving to touch him, to kiss him, to feel his stubble against my skin. I could only hope that no one would notice the true source of my distraction, because boy was I distracted. We had to reshoot scenes all the time because I kept fucking up. I was getting more and more annoyed with myself, as was the director. I just needed release. I needed Derek.

It finally happened in the evening on a particularly long Friday. We were shooting scenes in the forest in Oklahoma and not in the studio in LA. I had to spend most of the day climbing hills and crawling on the ground. I was tired and felt dirty. All I wanted to do was take a shower and fall face down into dreamless sleep. I went to the bathroom on the set, knowing that if I didn’t sprinkle some water in my eyes I was going to fall asleep on my way to the trailer. I was bending over the sink, massaging my temples, when I heard a click behind me. I turned around and saw Derek with his hand on the lock.

“What’re you doing?” I asked, though I had a pretty good idea of what was going to happen. I never expected him to have the guts to approach me again so soon. I must’ve had similar effect on him as he had on me to make him this desperate despite his misgivings. He was looking at me with such intensity that I felt pinned to where I was standing. My whole body refused to cooperate with me, instead filling with some sort of idiotic anticipation. I was a fucking masochist.

He took a few steps towards me. He didn’t seem like a predator. No, he was more like a schoolboy, trying to approach his crush for the first time, unsure of himself, doubting all of his moves. He still didn’t have it figured out then, acting on instinct alone. I knew I should’ve fled, should’ve said no, but his arms winding around me, pulling me into his embrace, they felt like coming home. I heard and felt him sigh against me. He ended up nosing my neck again and I let him, preening under the attention. God, how I missed it.

Afraid it was going to end too soon, I didn’t dare to go slow this time. There was this frantic rush to the way my hands moved down, grabbing at his shirt and pulling it out of his jeans, undoing all the buttons. I wasted no time sliding my hands over his abs as he moved his head from my neck to slot our mouths together. His skin was hot under my touch. I could feel him shiver when my fingers ghosted over his sides. Wanting to touch every single inch of his glorious body, I let my hands roam freely all over his chest, and let my fingers twist in the soft hair I found there. Eventually I trailed over to his nipples, feeling them harden under my caress, making him gasp into my mouth.

I noticed he didn’t know what to do with his hands, so I guided them to my hips. He froze for a second but then squeezed them and let his thumbs move over my hip bones. It was good, but I wanted more; I wanted to feel his touch on my bare skin, without any fabric in between. I grabbed his hands again, and moved them higher, under my shirt. I wanted him to do what I did; I needed him to learn my body with his fingers, to want to discover what gets me hot, bothered and gasping for more. He didn’t seem to need more encouragement. His hands were burning against my skin, wandering over places I didn’t let anyone else touch for months. He thumbed over my happy trail and stopped kissing me to look down. He hesitated for a moment, but then started to lift my shirt up with his other hand. I helped him, rolled it all the way up and then over my head to get rid of it altogether. Then I threw it in the sink, not caring if it got wet.

His hand was still below my navel, playing with my hairs there, while his eyes roamed the expanse of my chest. I didn’t say anything, letting him take me all in. I was rather proud of how I looked then. Years of acting, rushing around various film sets, maze running and whatnot helped me develop some lean muscles. I was no longer the scrawny college kid that jocks used to laugh at.  He trailed his finger up the shallow crease between my abs and stopped when he reached my sternum. It wasn’t hidden between breasts like he must’ve been used to, but he didn’t seem to mind, his curiosity winning over. He spread his hand over my pec, the inside of his palm ghosting over my nipple.

Instead of making me self-conscious, his scrutiny made me want to present myself to him. I lifted my arms over my head, needing him to get a full view of my hairy armpits, to make him understand that there were a lot of differences, but it was ok to find that attractive. To find a man attractive. To find me attractive.

I was sweaty and gross, I smelled of forest floor and my face had brown smudges on it, but he didn’t care. His pupils dilated when I arched my back, pushing my hips forward while my hands reached back to touch the mirror. I felt like a twink in a bad porn movie, but the look on his face was worth it. He placed both his hands on my waist and started to move them up, taking his time, counting my ribs on his way. He paused briefly to let his thumbs tease my nipples, wanting them to react just like his did. Satisfied with their response, he continued his journey, over my pits and up my arms. The movement required him to stand closer to be able to reach, and so he pressed into my space, pushing our bare chests flush against each other. I thought I would come from just having his hairy torso touch mine. The feeling of his hot skin, of his hard nipples rubbing against my pecs and vice versa, was indescribable.

He grasped my wrists, trapping them against the mirror, and pushed his hips into mine, pressing my ass into the sink. It wasn’t the most comfortable position but I didn’t care. I just wanted to feel his mouth on me again. I nudged his cheek with my nose, letting him know my intentions, and bit his lip softly. He started kissing me again, his hips continuing their erratic movements.

I had no intention of coming in my pants again. I tried to free my wrists to at least open my zipper and let my dick out, but he gripped them harder and didn’t let me move. As much as I was into being dominated from time to time, I needed to show him that this could be so much better if we both undressed just a little bit more. I turned my head sharply, and his still open mouth left a trail of saliva on my cheek. “Derek,” I gasped. He panted next to me, cheek moving against mine.

“Let me just--” I tried to wriggle my hands again and he let them go this time. I moved them down, sliding them in between us. He straightened and looked at me questioningly. He understood what I was doing only when my fingers found the button of his jeans. Mine wasn’t the only dick I wanted out.

“Stiles,” he warned, but I shushed him with a soft kiss. It placated him enough to let me do whatever the heck I wanted. His dick was hard, and I pulled the zipper down slowly, not wanting to put unnecessary pressure on it. My knuckles brushed against the bulge still hidden by his underwear. It was calling to me. I wanted to squeeze it, but I didn’t want to freak him out. My movements were slow and precise. All the while I kept my eyes on his, despite craving to look down to see what he was hiding in his jeans. I let my fingers follow his happy trail and slip under the waistband of his briefs. His pubes were thick and wiry, and below them was my prize. He was so hard, I feared he was going to explode the moment I made contact with him. When I chanced touching him, he swayed, legs momentarily giving out. Encouraged by his reaction, I sneaked my fingers around his girth and was elated to find I couldn’t quite close them around him. He was too thick. My asshole pulsed at the thought of him moving inside me, stretching me to my limit. God, how I wanted him to fuck me.

I knew I shouldn’t count on him making any moves to get my dick out, so I busied my other hand with trying to open the button of my jeans, while still stroking him. It took me a few seconds, but when the cold air finally hit my heated skin I gasped. I looked down for the first time, seeing both our dicks next to each other. His was darker and thicker, mine a bit pinker and longer. I noticed he was uncut, and felt faint at the discovery. It’s as if the world knew of my obsession with uncircumcised dicks when it was sending Derek my way. Derek, who was fucking crafted to fit all my tastes.

We were both oozing precome, but it wasn’t enough for what I wanted to do. I let saliva gather in my mouth and spat on my hand. Derek let out an honest-to-goodness moan when I pushed forward to make our dicks touch. One hand wasn’t enough even for his dick alone, so I used both of them to jerk us off at the same time. Finding the right rhythm, I fully intended to join our mouths again, and kiss till we both lose our breaths and come. I would’ve, if his face didn’t give me a stop. His eyes were closed, head turned to the side, as if he was trying to run the fuck away from this.

Oh no, I couldn’t let him do that. I squeezed our dicks harder, and leaned in, mouthing at the skin of his pec, closing my lips around his perky nipple. I sucked on it with all the finesse I had, knowing that I was quite skilled in that regard. I noticed his inhales quickened and smiled, my lips still attached to his chest. Then I let go with a wet pop, and licked my way up, all the way to his neck, where I attached myself to his jutting Adam’s apple. Derek made a noise then, halfway between a pant and a word, that sounded suspiciously close to my name,  and I could feel it vibrate in his throat. I sucked harder, knowing I was gonna leave a hickey, but if he was allowed to leave them on me then why shouldn’t I be granted the same honour.

His throat was almost purple when I was done with it. I licked up his neck and over his jaw, reaching his mouth, and wasted no time pushing my tongue inside it. I didn’t let him hesitate, didn’t let him think of anything else than being here and getting off with another dude, with me . That was the reality and he needed to face it. He started it, he ambushed me, he wanted it. I rutted harder against him, and he let out an open-mouthed gasp that I swallowed with my mouth. I was desperate for the taste of him, for the noises he made. I needed to see him come, to have our jizz mix, while we spurted it all over ourselves.

It didn’t take long. Soon he was coming with another broken moan, and I followed after him. I was still stroking us, much slower, while our come was shooting out. I took pleasure in spreading it on us, not caring about making a mess. I didn’t care about anything in that moment. His dick was throbbing in my hand. His dick was in my hand, and that’s all that mattered. He made a move as if to step back but I didn’t let him. I was done with his bullshit.

“What are you thinking?” I asked, one hand still on our dicks, and the other reaching for the paper towels. He grunted something noncommittal in response. “Words, Derek. Use them.” I started to wipe us, beginning with him. There is something intimate and tender about cleaning up after sex. The high and desperation for release are gone at that point, and it takes some willpower not to feel uncomfortable and ashamed from being naked in front of the other person. I could sense that Derek had trouble with it, trouble with me touching his dick when the haze was gone and he could use his warped logic to think again. He was unnaturally still, and I could swear he wasn’t breathing. “Don’t panic,” I whispered. “Don’t overthink it.”

“How can I not overthink it,” he snapped, making me flinch. I was done wiping him and he stepped away then, putting his dick back in his pants and turning around not to look at me. I swallowed the bile that rose in my throat. “Fuck,” he swore under his breath, his fingers dragging through his black hair. “Fucking fuck,” he repeated and I let out a humourless laugh at that.

“Just go.” I didn’t want to deal with it. I didn’t have the power in me to deal with how far in the closet he was. I don’t know if I’ve ever felt worse than on that day, with my dick hanging limp from my pants, coated in Derek Hale’s jizz, in a small bathroom in the middle of a fucking forest.

“I don’t know what’s going on with me,” he said and I was surprised he was still there. He sounded small, his voice hoarse and strained. I wanted to go to him, hug him from behind, but I knew it wasn’t my place. He didn’t want it. I was never going to be the one for hugs and hand-holding for him. No, that role was only to be filled by a woman.

“We all went through it, Derek… At some point. There’s this moment when you don’t know what’s going on, whether you’re gay, bi, pan, ace… You hear everyone talking about the opposite sex, and you’re wondering what’s wrong with you, you start questioning everything you’ve known since you were a child, and then you start reading about it, and discover that there’s nothing wrong with you, that, just because there’s some model of what a family should be in the society, it doesn’t mean that there aren’t different families, that you can’t fall in love with a person just for the person they are and not the body they’re in. I was sixteen when I realised it, but it doesn’t mean it can’t come later…” His back was still turned to me, but he was listening, and wasn’t running, so some of it must have resounded with him. At least. I cleaned myself in the meantime, zipping my pants and washing the come off my hands. I watched it go down the drain and wondered if it was an end or a beginning of something.

“I’m not gay.” He sounded as if he was trying to convince himself of that.

“Were you with women, before?” I don’t know why I was even continuing this conversation, but I was feeling charitable I guess. Derek obviously needed some guidance and if that meant I had to be the Qui-Gon to his Obi-Wan then so be it. I was leaning against the sink, arms crossed over my chest, and he was still turned away from me. If it meant talking to me was easier then I wasn’t going to question it.

Yes ,” he stressed, fully set on establishing his absolute heterosexuality. Again. I rolled my eyes.

O-kaay , but did you enjoy it?” I asked, talking to him as if he was in elementary school.

“Of course I did,” he snapped. “What sort of a question is that?” Ah, defensive. Gotcha.

I pushed myself from the sink and took a few steps towards him. Hovering my head over his shoulder, I whispered, “did they make your heart stop?” I felt him shiver in front of me. “Did they make goosebumps rise over your skin?” I softly blew air on the back of his neck, smiling when I saw the little hairs there rise. “Did they make you moan?” I pushed my crotch into his jean-clad ass, and he made a noise deep in his throat that made my dick interested all over again.

“I can’t be gay.” His voice was so low I probably wouldn’t have heard it if I wasn’t standing so close.

“It’s not something you choose, dude,” I patted him on the shoulder, and moved past him, over to the door. We were gone long enough for someone to start looking for us soon. I felt some weird satisfaction at being the one to leave him this time.

I started hyperventilating the moment I entered my trailer. Being this cool and collected went against my natural awkwardness, and my body decided some belated rebelling was in order. My mind was replying what I said to Derek,  how I said it, and I couldn’t believe it wasn’t a sick dream. Did I completely fuck it up? Was I too straightforward? Oh my God, I was definitely too straightforward. He was going to get scared off and flee, and I was never going to see him again. I banged my head against the trailer door and tried to focus on anything other than the impending panic attack. It was gonna be fine, it had to be fine.

My biggest problem, at that time, was that I had no idea what it was that I wanted. I already sort of heedlessly volunteered to be Derek’s tentative venture to the world of gay, but I never really weighed the pros and cons of my active participation in said venture. I never asked myself if it was worth the heartbreak. Those precious few minutes of intimacy, were they worth months or even years of pining for something that could never be mine? I couldn’t imagine someone as far into the closet as Derek coming out and taking strolls on the beach with my hand in his. At the same time I knew that there wasn’t anyone else I’d rather be on that beach with. It wasn’t like there was a way back, I couldn’t just pretend that I never held his dick in my hand, that he never gasped my name as we were rutting against each other. It already happened, I found out what it felt like, and the feeling was so amazing that there was no way for me to forget it. Derek was everything that I ever wanted, and now I freaked him out and he was never going to want anything to do with me ever again.

I wished I had never let him into my trailer. At least then I would’ve been able to pine from afar without knowing what I was missing, and would be able to forget he existed the minute we stopped filming. Alas, I started this, whatever it was, and I had to face the consequences. I didn’t like facing consequences, thank you very much.

I tried to convince myself that I needed to just cut myself off from all of this. I needed a plan. I needed to sit down and look at it all with a clear head. We still had a month and a half left on the set. There was high chance Derek wasn’t going to be present for most of it. It would be so easy to avoid him. I needed a distraction, to focus on something, or someone else. There was a cute cameraman that kept eyeing my ass when I crawled on the ground, maybe I should talk to him, see if he was interested in taking my mind off things. But then, what would Derek think if he saw me acting like that, materialising every bigoted thought about my people that he must’ve had. Did I even care? Should I care?

Basically, my head was a complete mess back then. I kept changing my mind every few minutes, deciding to ignore Derek one second, and then wanting to pursue whatever it was we had the next. I spent half the night tossing and turning unable to make a decision. As if it was my decision to make in the first place. Whatever the heck I decided, it would all depend on Derek still being there in the morning, which I wasn’t so sure of. Actually, I wasn’t sure what Derek was doing there in the first place. Why did he travel with us all the way to Oklahoma when he wasn’t even needed on the set? I was going insane with all the questions going through my head.

It was 3 a.m. when I called Lydia.

“This better be important,” she answered after the third ring. She sounded as collected as always and I briefly wondered how she was able to do that. When I was woken in the middle of the night it took me at least five minutes to be able to even tell the ceiling from the floor.

“I need a break,” I said without any preamble. I knew Lydia was all business so it was better to just go straight to the point. It took me two years of working with her every day to learn that the less talking I did the more likely I was going to get my way. It took practice but by then I mastered that much needed skill.

“How long?”

“A week, at least.”

“You owe me.” I could hear the soft click signalling the end of the conversation. I owed Lydia so much already I was sure I’d have to buy her a house in Malibu if this continued. For now, maybe a diamond collar for Prada, her beloved chihuahua, would be enough.

I was eager to get out of there that I started packing immediately. It was dark outside, despite the moon shining through the leaves. The lights in all the trailers were out, as everyone was probably asleep. I felt like a fugitive as I slinked towards my Jeep. I had that car for over ten years and before that, it belonged to my mother for almost twenty. It used to be a total piece of crap but I put enough money in it to make it a vintage classic. I loved that car and its baby blue paint, no longer tainted by any rust patches. It’s why I always had it delivered to wherever we were filming, call me spoiled or whatever. At that moment I was grateful that I had my car with me and could go the fuck away. I threw my bag in the back, thankful that the doors didn’t squeak anymore.

I blasted music and drove through the forest, speeding more than I probably should’ve, but I didn’t really care. My car was made for the uneven dirt road, and I felt adrenaline pulsing in my veins as I let out my frustrations through a little bit of irresponsible offroading. It took me about fifteen minutes to reach asphalt, upon which I turned right, or was it left. Without paying any attention to where I was going, I drove off. I had a playlist in my car, made specifically for driving, and I got lost in the music, banging my head as The Rat by The Walkmen started playing. I felt free.

Having completely lost the track of time, it was about 9 a.m. when I realised that I have no fucking idea where I was. I was driving through some small town, which was still asleep, not a single soul around. I didn’t even know what the town was called. Parking by the roadside, I fished my phone out of my pocket to open the GPS. Only, my phone was dead. I checked the compartment on the passenger’s side to see if there was a charger, but there wasn’t. And I was sure that I didn’t pack one when I was throwing random clothes into my suitcase before bolting from the set. Groaning, I looked around, trying to find some sort of a banner or anything else that would tell me where I was. Middle of fucking nowhere was where. To be honest, I wasn’t exactly sure where the set was either so it wasn’t like I could ask anyone how to get back there.

I started my Jeep and turned around. At least I knew the general direction of where I’d come from, so going that way was the sensible thing to do. I drove for about half an hour, trying to find something that looked familiar, but I was surrounded by acres of fields that all looked the same to me. By 11 a.m I was in another town, that looked eerily similar to the one I drove through before. Rolling my eyes at how “adorably quaint” it all was, I stopped my Jeep next to a small shop that seemed to be open and got out. I was hungry and craving coffee, I haven’t slept in nearly twenty four hours.

There was an old guy behind the counter, wearing a plaid shirt with a green hunting vest over it. He looked at me when I came in, rising a surprised eyebrow at an unfamiliar face. I guess they didn’t get many visitors around those parts. There was a pot of coffee behind the counter and my mouth watered at the sight. I went straight for it. “I’ll have a black coffee and a hotdog,” I said, throwing some bills on the counter. The guy took them without a word, and turned around to prepare my order. Only when I heard a feminine voice say “You’re Stiles Stilinski,” next to me, did I realise we were not alone. I turned to see a woman, taller than me, with long dark hair and penetrating green eyes looking right at me. She was terrifyingly beautiful, and I gulped before stammering out my confirmation. It wasn’t that surprising to be recognised, but I wasn’t really expecting it at World’s Butt, Oklahoma.

There was a different sort of recognition in her eyes, though. It wasn’t the usual OMG-I’m-such-a-fan-I’m-pissing-myself-as-we-speak adoration. “I’m Laura,” she said, extending her hand which I gripped automatically. “Hale,” she supplied, squeezing my hand more firmly. And wow, what a small fucking world.

I wanted to laugh in bewilderment but I just stood there, gaping at her. “I guess you know who I am, considerin’ you donated half the net worth of my family’s sanctuary less than a month ago,” she continued, a small smirk playing on her lips. And honestly? I should have probably referred to that, said something like “I love wolves, go wolves” or whatever, but instead I could only let out a relieved sigh and say, “Thank God you’re here. I am so fucking lost,” and then hug her, despite meeting her only a minute earlier. I was an idiot. What can you do.

Fortunately, she was no Derek when it came to physical contact and patted my back. “Awwww,” she cooed. “You’ve no idea where you are, do you?” I shook my head and she smiled at me. “You can come with me, see the sanctuary. I’ll show you what we bought with some of the money you gave us.” I started nodding my head eagerly, but then I paused, my whole body tensing.

“Will Derek be there?” Laura’s eyes narrowed.

“What did my idiot of a brother do again?” she asked, as if fully expecting that Derek did something to make me wary of him. “I swear to God, that boy is unfit to interact with others.” Now I was really taken aback, I remembered Derek saying something about his sister getting on his case when it came to social interactions, but this was totally uncalled for. Derek was really nice to everyone (but me), and a true gentleman.

“He’s not that bad…” I started, but she rolled her eyes, not letting me finish.

“He’s hiding it well under all the hat tippin’ and teeth showin’, but inside he’s emotionally stunted.” She clapped my shoulder and nodded outside. “Grab your hotdog and I’ll wait by your car.” I’ve never met anyone this authoritative before, and my dad was a Sheriff so that was saying something. Laura just left no room for argument, so I took my things and scrambled gracelessly after her. She was looking appreciatively at my Jeep, nodding to herself. “Now this is a car that’d actually be useful around here and not a soap dish like my dear baby brother’s drivin’.”

“Yeah, it has its perks.” I patted the hood with appreciation.

“Just follow me,” she instructed and went into the pickup truck that stood parked in front of my car.

It took us about twenty minutes of driving to reach a wooden sign announcing the sanctuary. Laura took a turn into the forest and I followed after her. The road was even bumpier than the one I drove at night, and I thought there was a lot of truth in what she said about Derek’s car. I wondered why he chose to drive it, when it was obviously not fit for this place.

As we were approaching the buildings I realised that Laura never answered my question. I had no idea whether I should expect Derek or not. He was at the set the previous day, though, and I had no idea how far we were from there, but maybe he didn’t drive all the way back home. Then again, if he was as set on running away from me as I was from him, then he might have very well been there. My heart was in my throat as we parked outside a huge barn. The only reason I was able to get out of the car at all was that I didn’t see any black Camaros nearby.

Laura was already on the stairs and talking to another woman, who was obviously her sister judging by the similarities between them. They were looking at me with an intensity that I already learned to associate with Derek. It was obviously the Hale family trait. When I made my way over, the other sister introduced herself as Cora and squeezed my hand with such force I was surprised my bones didn’t break. “So,” she started. “What brings you here? Laura said you got lost?”

“I, uh…” was running away from your oh so straight brother after I jerked us off in a very, very gay way. “Went for a drive and then, you know, got lost between one field and the next.” As far as lame excuses went, this one was rather close to the truth. “My phone is dead so I couldn’t even call my agent, I was just… driving around and hoping for some, you know, cosmic intervention. And guess what, that’s when I met Laura here.” I waved in Laura’s general direction in my typical, uncoordinated way.

“Fascinatin’,” Cora drawled and didn’t sound fascinated at all. Looking at them both, I sorta felt like I understood more about Derek and how he turned out. His sisters were… difficult, to say the least. “You do realise you’re like two hours away from where y’all are filmin’, though, right?” She lifted her eyebrow and wow, that was definitely Derek’s family all right.

“Well, what can I say, I got very lost.” I shrugged and she rolled her eyes, eliciting a slight shoulder punch from Laura.

“Stop teasin’ him, Cora. We should be very grateful. We are,” she assured, her eyes piercing into mine. “Come on in, Stiles. Let me show you around.”

She led me around their whole property, showing me all the buildings and the animals. It was so big it took a couple of hours to see everything, especially since we were walking on foot. The Hale family owned a large part of the forest in these parts.

Wolves were truly magnificent creatures. I never spared them much thought, but seeing the pack at the Hale Sanctuary, watching the wolves interact with each other and having Laura explain how their hierarchy worked, it made me really appreciate their beauty and their rather advanced social interactions. I loved the cubs the most. They were just like puppies, fluffy and running around, mock fighting each other, and walking all over their mom.

Our last stop was a construction site. “Here’s gonna be their new home,” Laura said, nodding her head at the foundations of a large structure. “We weren’t really plannin’ on building it this year, but… Christmas came early.” She winked at me and I grinned.

“I’m glad I could help.”

“I’m still not sure why you donated all this money.”

“Well--”

“But,” she interrupted the intro to my bullshit excuse. “I am goin’ to find out.” Her eyes were filled with her particular brand of intensity and I gulped. “Anyway, you can stay here as long as you like. You paid more than enough for it.”

“Yeah, I’d like that, I actually have the week off.” I said automatically, forgetting for a moment that this whole place was one huge danger zone that could have Derek entering it at any time.

“You’re welcome to spend it here, we’d love to have you. Maybe later we could do a lil’ photoshoot and upload some pictures with you on our website. It could really boost our popularity with donors if we had you listed as one.” I nodded my sure and she smiled. Her smile reminded me of Derek’s when he greeted people at the reception that first day we met. It was a truly marvelous smile. “Dinner’s in an hour. In the main building.” Laura interrupted my musings and patted me on the shoulder before leaving me alone.

I took a deep breath, enjoying the fresh forest air. I looked around one more time, using the rare occasion that I wasn’t being watched. I was excited to be there, to see where Derek grew up, see where he lived. I’m sure if Laura was next to me she’d have noticed the change in my demeanor. I couldn’t help the smile that entered my face. Being here was like getting to see a part of Derek that he’d never would’ve shown me on his own.

I walked along the fence, admiring the nature around me and thanking whatever force was watching over me for allowing me to find this place. The wolves were amazing, and they made me remember the videos I watched of Derek playing with the cubs. He looked so carefree - completely different from what he exuded around me. But it was knowing that he had this hidden side that pushed me into this this thing we started. I hoped that with enough time I’d be able to uncover it, to make him comfortable enough to show his true colors around me.

I got completely lost in my thoughts of his hidden side. It was when I walked all the way over to the edge of the forest that I realised how much time has passed. Turning around I walked back to the main building, hoping to make it to dinner on time. I didn’t want to be an ungrateful guest.

The table was big and filled with food. It wasn’t what I was used to, though - usually, I fed on buffet tables, on carefully arranged sandwiches with toppings I can’t even pronounce - here, it was homely - bowls upon bowls filled with potatoes, salads and soups. For a moment, I wondered what they needed this much food for, but then everyone started piling inside. Apart from Laura and Cora, whom I’ve met before, in came a woman who couldn’t be anyone else but their mother. Holding her hand must have been her husband. About 7 other people came in after them, but I couldn’t guess who they were. Some of them were wearing clothes that suggested they were employees at the sanctuary. I hovered awkwardly near the entrance, not really sure what to do with myself.

Laura must’ve noticed my discomfort for she beckoned me over and sat me between herself and a mountain of a man.

“Boyd,” he grumbled and nodded at me. My first thought was that he and Derek must get along swimmingly. Since I actually learned manners, I said my name back to him, only to hear a snort from across the table.

“Oh, we know who you are,” said a blonde woman with a killer lipstick. She winked at me, introducing herself as Erica, but it did nothing to calm me down. I was still feeling wildly out of my element. After all, this was Derek’s home, the place where he grew up… to become a homophobic asshole. Did they really know who I was?

“Yeah?” I said awkwardly and she laughed with this sort of scary mirth. She reminded me of Lydia.

“I think every rock around here knows who you are. The best surprise this year, amirite?” she asked in the general direction of Laura, who nodded and then looked at me, her eyes still piercing me with the question of why.

“So,” Cora started, her eyes equally as inquisitive. Seriously, it was impossible to take the both of them for anything else than Derek’s flesh and blood. The similarities were striking. I gulped, suddenly feeling as if I was being held at gunpoint. “We had an honorary viewin’ of all your movies after you donated.”

“You didn’t see any before that?” I asked, surprised.

“Honey, no offence, but you’re no Clint Eastwood. Too bad he was too old to play our great-grand dad.”

“Cora!” the mother scolded. “I’m sorry, Stiles, these kids are a real handful. I’m Talia, Derek’s mother, and this is my husband - Theodore Hale. We’re very pleased to have you here.” She said it with a pleasant smile, but I couldn’t help but think that if they had a honorary viewing, then they had no idea about me, and that was the only reason they were so welcoming.

“Thank you,” I stammered out. “Also,” I looked at Cora, “I didn’t ask because I expect everyone has seen my movies, I asked because Derek knew who Stuart Twombly was immediately, so I assumed you must’ve seen the Internship…”

Erica snorted again. “We called him to ask if he knew who Stuart Twombly was, he didn’t so he searched it online or somethin’, and when he saw the results he cursed so badly I thought I was talkin’ to someone else. See, Derek doesn’t curse, like, at all. He’s a goody two-shoes, he is.”

“It seems I make him swear a lot,” I laughed, remembering him swearing in the bathroom. After two seconds I realised I was the only one laughing and the rest of them were looking at me with undisguised curiosity. “I mean… yeah,” I finished awkwardly and looked down at my plate, wondering why no one was eating yet.

I was on the verge of asking, when suddenly I had Boyd take my right hand and Laura the left one. It dawned on me that they were the type of people to pray before eating. Talia started thanking the lord for the food on the table and everyone closed their eyes. I sat there awkwardly, not entirely comfortable with participating in that religious act, as I always felt particularly excluded by religions of all sorts. Ninety percent of the homophobes I encountered on my path were religious devotees of all persuasions. Fortunately, no one seemed to notice my predicament.

As Talia said her last words, they all chorused an “amen” and opened their eyes, letting go of each other’s hands. I half-smiled at Cora who was sitting the opposite of me, still scrutinising me with her intense eyes, and waited for my turn to ladle some soup into the bowl in front of me. The conversation around the table continued naturally but I still felt like I was sticking out like a sore thumb. No matter what, I couldn’t rid myself of the thought that they wouldn’t treat me this well if they knew the truth about my person. I wasn’t used to hiding it and I also wasn’t known for my self-preservation instinct, so every fibre of my body was screaming for me to mention it in some way. I had to bite my tongue not to answer every question thrown my way with some incriminating details about my recent tryst with their very own Derek.

They all seemed like nice enough people, if a bit rough around the edges at moments. I noticed that they tended to speak of Derek as if he was somewhat of a special case. Apparently he wasn’t very social and never had a serious relationship despite all his songs being about falling in love with girls over and over again. I couldn’t help feeling that his whole artistic output was one huge banner with glittery denial written all over it. It made a lot of sense for him being so far in the closet, having grown up in a very religious family, but still, I had a small inkling that there was more to it than met the eye.

After we ate almost everyone excused themselves and I was left alone with Cora. She looked to be about my age and I had a hard time believing she was so out of the loop not to have heard about me before. It’s not like I was stuck up enough to think everyone should know my name, but I was playing in a movie about their family history, and I was pretty popular among people my age. The gossip portals loved me almost as much as I hated them and there wasn’t a week when I wasn’t mentioned at least once. So yeah, her hardened stare made me quite certain that she knew more than she was letting on. Before I could say anything, though, she stood up, and said, “come on, I’ll show you where you can stay.”

I scrambled gracelessly after her and stayed quiet as she led me up the stairs. I felt it in my gut that I was about to have a talk with her that I wasn’t going to like. Instead of focussing on that I kept looking at the family photos that lined the walls of the staircase and the upstairs corridor. Derek was in many of them, both as a child and as an adult as well as in various stages of puberty in between. There was one picture of him doing a split with a wide grin on his face, and his hands thrown up in a quirky yet elegant manner. I could barely hold back a snort. I immediately remembered an article I read on reddit about parents who knew their kids were gay before the kids did, and showed them some photos from their childhood to prove it. This photo could very well make it onto that list.

What had happened in Derek’s life to make him go from that carefree kid to the closed off asshat he was now? I was determined to find out.

Cora stopped in front of a wooden door that looked exactly the same as all the other doors.

“The bathroom’s down the hall.” She waved her hand in the general direction of even more doors. “This is our guest room, where you can stay,” she said pushing the door open. She stepped inside and I trailed in after her. The door was heavy enough to close itself without any help from me and I felt trapped even though Cora wasn’t even looking at me. Instead she went on to open the curtains to let light into the room. It was spacious and filled with old, wooden furniture. Despite seemingly unused it wasn’t covered in dust as I assumed unused rooms always were.

The walls were bare apart from a painting of some wolves on the edge of a forest. I must have been staring at it, for Cora said, “Laura painted it,” without me asking.

“Is your whole family this friggin talented?” I asked turning around to find Cora smirking at me.

“And what do you think my talent is then?”

“Well… Let me think- Interrogation?”

She laughed and I could feel the atmosphere loosening around us, her eyebrows evening out, not a perfect impression of Derek’s anymore. “I know who you are,” she interrupted suddenly, and it was as if she switched the tension back on. I seriously couldn’t relax even for a minute around any of them. Frozen, I waited for her next words.

“My best friend’s a lesbian, she’s a fan.” I stared at her, still not knowing what she was aiming at with this, but a queer best friend lulled my fear a little. “My family,” she continued, “it’s best that they don’t find out. They don’t know about Malia either. Especially my uncle, he… isn’t here right now, but he wouldn’t really- get it. She’s his daughter and she never came out, too afraid of his reaction. He’s rather known for being- unreasonable.” I could sense that she was choosing her words carefully and it only served to strengthen the eeriness of the moment and my general unease. Was the uncle the reason for Derek’s behaviour?

“All you gotta do is google my name.” It’s not like my sexual orientation was any secret. Quite the contrary.

“They ain’t exactly a googlin’ bunch. Don’t say anythin’ and you’ll be fine.” It didn’t really put me at ease.

“Maybe I shouldn’t really be here.” Not only it didn’t feel right, I was also worried what would happen if Derek decided to drop by. Would he be angry I invaded his privacy like this? Knowing his temper, it was more than likely.

“Nonsense. You’re our biggest benefactor, it’s only right you actually see what you put your money in.” I let out a half laugh at that and she narrowed her eyes. “I might be all aware n’ shit but I will find out why you gave us all this ridiculous amount of money.”

The thing was. I wasn’t so sure myself. It was such a spur of the moment thing, I was enamored, by Derek, by the wolves, by the stories on their website. I had no particular goal in mind when I made the transfer and yet it somehow didn’t feel entirely selfless. Maybe I hoped for an opening with Derek, but then I used a fake name so it sorta cancelled itself out. It was difficult, even for me, to understand my own reasons. And in the end it did give me an opening with Derek, a more intense one than I could’ve ever expected.

It wasn’t something I was willing to admit to his sister though. She was still scrutinising me with her dark eyes and I shifted from one leg to the other awkwardly. “Can’t you believe I had no ulterior motive?” I asked and she huffed.

“No,” she drawled. “Laura mentioned something about a photoshoot. Let’s meet outside in fifteen minutes,” she said not waiting for my response and left the room. Even if she didn’t seem to mind my queerness she was still a Hale, and they all seemed to be just a little bit on the side of asshole. I exhaled and plopped down on the massive wooden bed. What have I gotten myself into?

Not wanting to have my balls ripped off I called Lydia using the landline phone in the room, to let her know I was going to have an ad hoc photo session. That also meant having to tell her about my donation as I was physically unable to keep anything from her.

“You what?” she asked, voice full of disbelief. “Why haven’t you told me, we could use it to our advantage, add this very positive page to your resume, give the haters something to think about-”

“I didn’t want that, it’s not why I did it,” I interrupted her. “And I don’t want this to become some advertising campaign for my person, do you hear me? It was a sincere donation not some sort of a marketing trick.”

“These aren’t mutually exclusive-”

“Lydia, no.”

“Fine, but you do realise that once they put the photos on the website it’s gonna come out anyway?”

“I do, and when it happens it’s going to be alright, but I don’t want any of the publicity to come from our side. Please understand, this is important to me.”

“Fine, but don’t think I don’t know where this all is coming from. I know you too well and that means I know your type. As your friend… I feel the need to warn you because you’re going to get hurt, Stiles. And as your agent I also feel it’s in my duty to warn you, because this… thing, that you’re having with him, it will have a lasting impact on your career as well.  Back off before it’s too late. We really don’t need this sort of scandal right now, when all’s going so well for you.”

I wasn’t even surprised she knew about me and Derek. Lydia had a keen eye, she saw everything, especially since it was her job to look.

“I’ll be fine, Lydia.”

She sighed, but knew it was pointless to try to warn me off anymore. Once I set my mind to something, nothing could stop me. “Just please, please wear something photo-appropriate. And shave for God’s sake. I’m still having nightmares about that beard you got yourself photographed with last year.”

I snickered at her and promised to make myself presentable. I only had five minutes left to change into a fresh shirt and run my fingers through my hair so that it at least resembled a semi-planned hairdo.

Satisfied with my look I went downstairs to where Cora was waiting with a guy i remembered seeing at dinner. I was trying to fit one of the names I had thrown at me to his face when Cora saved me with, “This is Isaac. He’s gonna take the photos.” The guy did indeed have a camera hanging from his neck. I threw him one of my smiles and he nodded politely.

“So, where do you want me?” I grinned and winked at Cora. She only rolled her eyes and shook her head, beckoning for me to follow her. We went back to where the new building was located. Isaac had me pose against the wooden fence. The sun was setting over the forest, getting lower and lower and shining right into my eyes. I kept squinting them and Cora snatched Isaac’s cowboy hat from his head, throwing it at me.

“Maybe you should wear this,” she suggested and Isaac nodded eagerly. He sure didn’t speak much, but from the way he did anything Cora asked him, and didn’t protest having his hat taken without permission, I was pretty sure he was into her. Cora, however, didn’t seem to notice.

I shook my head at them with a fondness I didn’t quite understand, I didn’t know these people and yet… I put the hat over my head, its large brim shielding my eyes from the setting sun. I’ve never expected I would wear one of those but there I was, having my photos taken in one. I briefly wondered what Derek would think, but quickly had my mind taken off it by Isaac asking me to point towards the building with a smile.

Later on we chose the best photos and Isaac uploaded them to their website with a comment on how grateful they were for the donation. My pictures ended up right next to Derek’s with the cubs and I felt a sudden pang at the thought that we would probably never take any pictures together. And even if we did, they would probably never end up online, because Derek would never allow for that to happen.

After the deed was done I excused myself. I was tired from getting no sleep the night before and all I wanted to do was close my eyes and snore myself to death. I didn’t even know what time it was, but I fell into dreamless sleep the moment my head hit the pillow in the guest bedroom. I couldn’t even be bothered to take a shower or change.

Chapter Text

I woke up on my own, as my mobile was still dead and I was too tired to set the alarm on the clock standing on the bedside table. I had no idea what time it was and I don’t know how much time I spent looking at the ceiling, wondering about all the possible outcomes of the situation with Derek and his family. In the end it was my bladder that finally forced me out of my stupor.

I left my room as quietly as I could, not really wanting to attract any attention or interact with anyone. I had no idea which door was actually the bathroom so I stepped down the corridor carefully, looking for some sign, like a different kind of lock or whatever. I couldn’t help looking at the photographs on the walls as I passed them. One in particular caught my attention. In it stood a tall man with a huge black beard, and beneath him was a handwritten caption: Jeremiah Avonaco Hale, 1937. “Huh,” I mused, and stopped to admire it more closely, bladder forgotten.

The photograph was black and white, old, but in mint condition. Jeremiah was alone, wearing loose pants and suspenders. In his mouth was a pipe with a smudge of smoke coming out of the rounded end. He was smiling and gesturing at the building behind him. I looked closer and realised it was the same barn I parked my car next to. He must have been the one to build it, if his proud face was anything to go by.

“My grandfather.”

“Holy f- Jeez, you scared me!” I spun around to see Talia, who must have had the ability to float above ground, because I didn’t hear her coming at all. She gave me an indulgent smile and moved to stand next to me.

“He built the barn. That’s the only original building left on our lands.”

“Oh?”

“The house burned down about 18 years ago. We’ve rebuilt it in the exact same shape, but it’s not the same house,” she indulged me with more information in a calm, yet somehow odd voice. I couldn’t put my finger on it, so of course, being me, I decided to pursue the issue instead of leaving it alone.

“What happened?” I asked, not really considering if the question was sensitive, and it must have been too ill-mannered, because Talia didn’t say anything, just pressed her lips into a thin line. I stood there awkwardly for a few seconds, but my natural need to fill silences came to save me only a moment later.

“I wondered about him,” I said, changing the topic back to Jeremiah. Talia looked at me questioningly, and I continued. “He’s born in the movie, and the last scenes are me, I mean- Tobias, bringing him up, but it ends when he’s only six years old. I wondered what happened to him after that.”

“They’ve settled here, Tobias and Jeremiah. It was grandpa who decided to start the sanctuary to honor his mother. But it was my dad who really got it goin’. I’m just continuin’ what the Hales have started. Fortunately, my husband didn’t have any trouble takin’ my name to continue the tradition.” She smiled and patted my arm. “Weren’t you lookin’ for somethin’?” She changed the topic and I immediately felt my bladder almost pulsing from its need of release.

“Ah, yes, bathroom, actually.”

She showed me to my destination and left me to my thoughts for which I was very grateful. I thought that being there, if only for a while, would greatly help me get into character and improve my performance in the movie. I took my sweet time pissing, thinking how happy I was to be at the Hale house, forgetting about the outside world and, admittedly, letting my guard down.

My scream of terror upon leaving the bathroom might have been a bit of an overreaction, I admit, but seeing a fuming Derek, leaning against the wall opposite the door just had that kind of effect, can’t really blame me. Before I could say anything he grabbed me by my shirt and pushed me back inside the bathroom, closing the door behind us.

“What the hell are you doin’ here?” He was breathing heavily, red in the face, eyes all narrow with the eyebrows of doom hanging low over them. I prayed to whatever extraterrestrial beings that were out there looking over this world to not let him notice the fear boner growing steadily against my leg. “Are you set on completely ruinin’ my life?”

“What the hell are you talking about?” I tried stepping away from him, but his grip on my clothes only tightened.

“What are you doin’ here? He repeated and I rolled my eyes. Internally.

“I got lost and your sister found me,” I explained, putting my hand on his to try to force him to let me go. He didn’t budge despite my fingernails digging into the skin of the back of his hand. Tough fucker.

“You expect me to believe that?” he spat.

“Well, pretty much, yeah.” Considering it was the truth and all that. He didn’t look particularly convinced. “Ask Laura if you want.”

“Don’t call her that!”

“What the fuck am I supposed to call her then?”

“Don’t call her at all.” He gave me one last push and dropped his hand, still fuming, his eyes never leaving mine.

“Derek,” I started, trying to find my inner calmness and broadcasting it with my voice, not to set him off. “You’re being unreasonable.”

“I’m not.”

“Yes, you are. I’m sorry I came here, I literally got lost after driving for hours, my phone was dead and your sister miraculously recognised me in a lil’ shop in the middle of nowhere. I’ve no intention of ruining your life or whatever you think it is I’m doing here. We took some pics to post on the website to encourage more people to donate.” I patted down the front of my clothes to straighten them out a bit, but they were so wrinkled from his manhandling that it was no use. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I got invited to stay here for as long as I like and I’m fully intending to use that time to get to know more about the background of the story we’re filming.”

I tried passing him, but he grabbed my elbow, making me stop. “You can’t stay here,” he said in a low voice that didn’t help the situation in my pants at all.

“And why not?” Was he going to go against his mother’s hospitality? Did he really dislike me that much?

I was on the verge of saying something childish like I was here first , when he dropped his hand from my elbow and mumbled, “I can’t control myself around you.”

“Derek…” I looked at him to see him with his head bent down, eyes squeezed shut as if he was reliving a nightmare of sorts. “Derek-”

“Stop it,” he uttered, barely opening his mouth.

“Derek…”

“Stop saying my name.”

“Derek, look-”

“I said stop it,” he almost growled and turned to me, pushing me into the wall in one swift movement. He was so close, our noses almost touching, his breath mixing with mine. I knew I shouldn’t do it, I knew it was playing with fire, but I wanted the fire too much to care.

“Derek,” I sighed against his mouth, and it was all it took for him to close the gap between us. A wave of pleasure traveled down my body as our lips touched for the third time. I was never going to get used to the overwhelming feeling of having him close, of the way he knocked my breath out with the simplest of touches. Feeling his big frame against me, the heat of his skin, it was the best feeling in the world. No one before him could elicit this profound a desire in me and I loved every second of it, no matter how stolen it felt.

“This is wrong,” he muttered against my mouth, before covering it with his again.

“No it’s not,” I argued the next time we came up for a breath.

“I can’t stop.” He let out a whine, as if it was physically hurting him to stop kissing me. He forced his eyes away from me, and I put my hand on his cheek to guide him back.

“Then don’t. Don’t fight this, Derek. I want this. I want it so much.” I stroked his face slowly, revelling in the way his stubble felt against my palm.

“But why?” And there it was again, the utter disbelief that anyone could find men, let alone him attractive.

“You’re so beautiful and talented, and you don’t even see it, do you?” I whispered. “I see it, and I want to see more, I want to get to know you, to spend time with you. You make me feel like no one ever has before.” This was it, this was my chance and I wanted to take it so bad, to make him see.

“But you’re a man.”

“So what?”

“I can’t. I can’t do this.” He took a step back so rapid he almost lost balance, and then turned on his heel, walking out the door faster than I could say wait . I failed. Again.

I couldn’t help but feel that there was this piece of the puzzle that I was missing that would make me understand why Derek was behaving like that. I fully believed it had to be more than just growing up in a religious home. There had to be something more involved and the sheriff’s son and criminology graduate in me decided he had to find out.

My phone was still dead, so I left the bathroom and walked around the house, trying to find someone with an iPhone charger. Fortunately, it didn’t take me long to spot Erica, the killer blonde with red lipstick charging hers. She was spread across one of the sofas in the sitting room, playing what seemed to be Candy Crush from where I was standing.

“If it isn’t our star,” she drawled, looking up at me with a smile, letting me know she was only messing with me.

“I noticed you have an iPhone,” I started and she rolled her eyes.

“This place might be the end of the world for you, but we’re not exactly livin’ under a rock you know.” She threw her hair behind her shoulder and regarded me with interest. Cora’s words about them not being a googling bunch resounded in my head. Somehow I had a hard time believing it was entirely true. After all, what stopped you from googling if you had a google ready machine in your pocket at all times. Nothing, is what.

“I just wanted to ask if you’d let me borrow your charger for a while.”

She smirked and leaned in, giving me an unobstructed view of her cleavage. “And what’s in it for me,” she said with a wink and I could feel my face heating. Oh God. She was flirting with me.

“Uh, my eternal gratefulness?” My whole body was frozen. I had no idea how to talk to girls when they were flirty. It was as if my brain couldn’t compute.

She stood up and came to stand in front of me, a contemplative look on her face. “Hmmm, not good enough,” she said eventually.

“I could pay you?” I said, making her snort.

“Nah I don’t want your money.” She moved her hand up, and landed two of her fingers on my chest, moving them up slowly as if they were walking.

“Look-” I stammered and took a rapid step back. “Can you just, not…”

“Relax, jeez. I’m just messin’ with you. I’m with Boyd.” She seemed completely unfazed by my lack of response to her. Meanwhile my heart was beating so loudly it was almost the only thing I could hear. Before I could reply she patted my cheek and pushed the charger into my limp hand. “I want it back by tomorrow.”

It was only after she left the room that I allowed myself to breathe. I was definitely gonna stick to boys.

Much later, I found myself in the guest bed, phone charged and ready for some google-fu. I didn’t know where to start, so I decided on just googling the Hales. Of course the first thing to show up was the Wolf Sanctuary website, but I was more interested in some articles in the press about them. There were countless mentions of the sanctuary and their charity work, and it was only on page three that I found something different. Hale House Fire , the title said, and it was dated eighteen years back. No one killed, sabotage, one suspect… I skimmed the article, my eyes growing wide. At the bottom of the page was a link to a related article - Kate Argent (28), a psychiatrist arrested for setting a patient’s house on fire. I clicked it faster than I could say “Kate”. There was a picture of a formidable woman next to the article, she was beautiful, if a little intimidating.

The article didn’t really say much, except confirming that it was the Hale House she burned down, and that it was the son of the family, aged sixteen, who was the patient. I was ninety percent certain it was Derek. It would add up, Derek was thirty-four right now and I saw no other sons anywhere in the photos lining the walls of the house. I tried calling my dad, but it went to voicemail. He was probably in the field, unable to pick up the phone. I still needed someone to bounce ideas off of, and decided to call Scott.

“My man, I hope you don’t mind I put you on speakers. Allison is here.”

“Hi Stiles,” I heard her say and said hello right back. I was so hyped about this whole thing I didn’t care who was listening. I immediately went into an excited rant about everything I’ve learned so far.

“Wow, Stiles, that is pretty heavy,” Scott mused after I was finished, and I could only agree. I knew there was something about them that screamed hidden secrets and this was it.

“Um, Stiles?” Allison asked timidly, and there was something to her voice that immediately had me on high alert. I hummed to prompt her to go on. “Did you say her name was Kate?”

“Yeah, Kate Argent is what the article said, why?”

“Uh, I’m pretty sure I know her.”

“Wait,” Scott interrupted. “Argent is your last name, that’s weird, right?”

“Yeah, she’s my… aunt.”

“What?” I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Was the world really that small?

“How come I’ve never heard about this aunt of yours?” Scott was sounding more and more agitated, and I didn’t need him freaking out now.

“Relax, Scott. Allison, could you tell me a bit more about her?”

“Well, we didn’t really know each other. My father cut his ties with the family, not too supportive of their main… thing.”

“Main thing ?”

“Don’t take this the wrong way, Stiles, I don’t agree with them at all, neither does my dad, but my family was known for being very homophobic. Both Kate and my grandfather were psychiatrists, and their main source of income was curing homosexualism,” She snorted, and I believed her when she said she had nothing to do with it. She was an instant friend to me when I first met her, and she knew who I was from the beginning.

Curing ? What the heck?” Scott sounded as outraged as I felt.

“I know. And now she’s locked in a mental hospital, because it turned out all this time it was her who needed a psychiatrist.” Allison didn’t really seem too broken up about that.

“Wait I thought she was arrested?”

“Yes, but no one died in that fire so her sentence wasn’t that severe. It was after it ended that she was admitted to the hospital.”

“Wasn’t she free to go?”

“She was, but… Well, my grandfather died while she was in prison and there wasn’t anyone to take care of his house. My father went there and he found some stuff that- I don’t really know the details, but he made a case out of it and they submitted her to the hospital after that. Apparently some of her methods were rather… unorthodox. He wanted for her to go back to jail, but she pleaded insanity. Now she’s in a fluffy white room with five meals a day and she deserves so, so much worse.” There was a vehemence in her voice that suggested she didn’t agree with her aunt’s less than just fate.

“Wow.” I breathed out, still trying to digest everything I’ve just heard. “And what do you mean by unorthodox?” I asked despite the sick feeling brewing in my stomach.

“Look, Stiles, from what you told us, Derek was almost for certain her patient. It’s not my place to tell you what used to happen in her office. Besides, as I told you, I don’t know too many details. My dad spared me, probably too horrified himself. I really don’t want to talk about this anymore.”

“Yeah, Stiles, let’s not talk about this anymore, I, for one, am really creeped out.” Scott said, sounding as shaken as Stiles felt.

“Ok, ok. I’m sorry for having you relive all this Allison. When I called you I never expected it would end up being something you knew about. You really helped me though, and I appreciate it. I owe you.”

“You’re welcome, Stiles. Just, I beg you, don’t do anything stupid with this knowledge.”

I assured her I wouldn’t, although I was already forming a plan in my head. The moment we disconnected I was already googling for more. After several attempts I was able to find more info about her practice. Her website was still active despite her being locked up for the past eighteen years. Bile rose in my throat as I read her tagline - Here to make you worthy of living again! Who the hell read that and decided that it was the go to place for their children. What kind of psycho would you have to be to have your own flesh and blood go through that? Well, Derek’s parents apparently. But something didn’t seem right still. I couldn’t believe it was their doing. They seemed like such kind people. Why would they do something like that?

I had to talk to Cora. She was my age, so she must have been about ten when it all happened, but maybe she remembered something. She was my only hope for finding more. I couldn’t imagine asking any of the other Hales for information on that particular topic, let alone asking Derek. The sun was high outside and I knew it was nearing lunch. I would have to somehow let Cora know I wanted to talk to her afterwards.

When I came down everyone was already gathering around the table. I noticed one face was missing in the crowd.

“No Derek?” I asked Laura who was the closest to me.

“He left shortly after he arrived. He’s barely here to be honest. The only Hale who doesn’t live in the house,” she replied, ushering me to my seat.

“Oh? Where does he live then?” I let the curiosity get better of me.

“He has a loft in Oklahoma City.”

“Is that near here?” I tried to sound natural, but I was dying to know everything there was to know about Derek. Quite stalkerish of me, but I couldn’t help myself.

Laura laughed. “You really have no idea where you are, do you?” I felt my cheeks redden at that.

“Not really, no,” I admitted. I was never that good with directions.

“Oklahoma City is about two hours away from here.”

“Oh. So it’s near the place we’re filming?” I asked, remembering that the sanctuary is apparently two hours away from there as well.

“No, it’s the opposite way, so about four hours away. Why? You planning on visiting him?”

“What? Oh, no. We don’t know each other that well. I was just, curious I guess. I’ve never been to Oklahoma before.” I tried to move the conversation away from the obvious fact that I would indeed love to visit him and do the nasty where there was no fear of someone walking in on us.

“Can’t say I’m surprised. But it’s worth visiting at least once. It’s really beautiful here, the nature, the forests. I can’t imagine livin’ anywhere else.”

“I grew up in a small town in the middle of a forest in California. I sorta know that feeling. Though I can’t imagine living outside of L.A. now. I guess it’s all just a matter of getting used to it, or finding people that make the place feel like home. I met my best friend in L.A. and we share a flat there. It’s somewhere to go back to.” I smiled at her and started pouring potatoes onto my plate. I guess to have abs like Derek’s one can’t live in a place where there’s this much food for every meal.

“You live in a shared flat?”

“Yes? Why?”

“Nothing, it’s just surprising is all. I always assumed all Hollywood stars lived in huge mansions overlooking the ocean or something.”

“Well… My flat is overlooking the ocean, but it’s far from a mansion. It’s a small two bedroom. Neither me nor Scott really feel like stars you know…”

“Huh,” she let out, looking at me with a slightly different kind of air around her.

“Just a normal dude, you know. I still have no idea how my career happened to be honest, but I try not to forget my roots. I’m still the same Stiles I was back in high school.” Just out and proud, but I wasn’t going to admit that in front of her, like I would in an interview.

The conversation continued around the table and I kept sneaking glances at Cora, trying to catch her eye to somehow signal that I wanted her to wait for me after dinner. When our eyes finally met i waggled my brows a little, silently communicating my intent, only to have her roll her eyes at me.

“You’re not very good at this,” Cora said not caring about my attempts to keep this between us. Her statement drew a couple of curious glances and my face started burning.

I shook my head and focussed on my food, hoping that everyone would lose interest soon enough.

Yet, despite her behaviour at the table Cora did wait for me after we finished eating. “You wanted somethin’?”

“Not here,” I replied and motioned for her to follow me upstairs. This conversation wasn’t something I needed anyone else to hear.

When we reached the guest room and went inside she seemed impatient, prompting me with a “well?”

“Kate Argent. You know anything about her?” I decided for the direct approach, since she seemed so impatient. I guess I expected her not to have a pleasant reaction to my inquiry, but nothing could have prepared me for the barely controlled fury in her eyes. Her whole face transformed within a second, as if Kate Argent was a trigger phrase programmed to wake the demon inside her.

“We don’t talk about that woman here,” she gritted out and I know I should’ve left it at that, but yeah, no self-preservation instinct whatsoever.

“I can imagine, but I really need to know-“

“Why? Who do you think you are, huh? Snoopin’ around in my family’s past like that, huh? Who do you think you are?! ” The barely controlled fury wasn’t controlled at all now and she looked ready to kill me, but I still needed to know, more than I needed to live apparently.

“Someone who cares about Derek a lot,” I said, not really caring if she knew that I didn’t mean it platonically.

“Please,” she snorted. “You said it yourself you don’t know him all that well.”

“That might be true. We haven’t known each other long enough, but we have a connection.”

“Oh yeah?” She smiled sardonically. “And what does Derek think about that?” And that was a low blow. If she knew who Kate Argent was she should know that Derek wasn’t really in the right state of mind to make calls like this.

“Derek has been hurt,” I replied, my voice colder than I usually allowed it to be. “He was hurt by that woman, and it makes me wonder, you know, how could his own family do that do him, his parents. Who are they to have allowed for this to happen, huh?”

“It wasn’t my parents!” She stage shouted at me, probably not wanting to draw anyone’s attention. The house was full of people after all.

“Well who was it then?” I asked, not really surprised. I had a feeling it wasn’t his parents.

“My uncle.” She deflated and plopped down on the desk chair, putting her face in her hand, massaging her temples.

“Your uncle.”

“I just said it.” she snarked, but it was lacking any real bite. “I don’t even know why they sent him to her, but my uncle came in one day and convinced my parents that Derek was having problems at school and that he needed therapy. I don’t know why, but they agreed and then I only remember that Derek wasn’t the same. I was a child back then. Didn’t fully know what was going on, and then she burned the house down.”

“You didn’t know why they sent him there? You didn’t want to find out?”

“I was ten! And then we all moved on, and we don’t appreciate you stirrin’ up this shit.”

I couldn’t help myself, I let out a disbelieving laugh at that.

“Moved on?! Maybe you! I’ll tell you why they sent him there. They wanted to cure him, can you imagine? As if you could cure your preferences. And he was a fucking child too.” I felt like I needed to explain to her the severity of it all but it was as if she wasn’t getting it.

“Cure him? Of what?”

“Homosexuality, apparently.”

“What? Derek’s not gay.”

“Yeah, well, consider him cured then. For fuck’s sake. No wonder he doesn’t live here with your lot.” I snapped my mouth shut and went to my suitcase wordlessly not feeling like staying there a second longer.

“Stiles, wait.” I continued packing, paying her no heed. “I had no idea, I swear.”

“Well, maybe if you paid attention to your brother instead of moving on you’d have an idea.” I was shaking my head, hardly believing the absurdity of it all.

“You have to understand that he was different, ok, a bit closed off, but he was mostly fine, he made a career, he’s really famous among the country music fans, he was always smiling in interviews and he seems to love it, we had no reason to suspect something was off.” She sounded genuine but I huffed a disbelieving laugh again.

“And it never crossed your mind that ninety percent of his songs are about falling in love with girls, having soulmates and whatnot and yet he’s never had a relationship?”

“I thought he was just waiting…”

“He’s deeply scarred, wounded. I have no idea what that woman did to him, but I’m going to find out and then do everything in my power to help him.” I threw Erica’s charger inside and closed my suitcase with a snap. I was ready to go.

“Stiles, for what it’s worth, good luck.”

I nodded at her. “You should talk to your family. Make them get off his case. I’ve been here for only a day but half of the conversations I had were about Derek being this or that.” I could see her eyes were getting wet and I really hoped I got through to her. Almost twenty years have passed, and they all might have moved on, but Derek hadn’t, and he was the only one I cared about right then.

I left the room and went down to the sitting room. There was a notebook on the mantle and I ripped two pages from it. On one I wrote a quick thanks for their hospitality. The other I turned into a makeshift envelope, putting fifty bucks inside. It was more than enough for the stolen charger. I wrote Erica’s name on the outside and left it all on the mantle.

My car was waiting for me outside the house, its baby blue paint in clear contrast with the rich green of the forest. I set the GPS to Oklahoma City and tried calling my dad again.

“Stiles?” he picked up this time, clearly surprised that I was calling him in the middle of the day.

“Dad? I need a favour.”

“What is it, son?” I have to admit that since our falling out and making up he was a lot more eager when it came to my favours.

“I need you to find out a bit about a case from a few years back. A woman was sent to jail and then locked in a mental hospital, I need to know what were her charges.”

“Stiles, you know I can’t-“

“Dad, I’m begging you. Her name is Kate Argent and it happened in Oklahoma.”

“I don’t have access to cases from different states, you know that.”

“Yes, but you have connections and it’s super important. I really need this info within two hours.”

“Stiles…”

“Dad, please.”

He sighed. “I’ll see what I can do, son. This better be worth it.”

“It is. Also, can you check the address of one Derek Hale in Oklahoma City?” I was already certain he would help me so I didn’t feel the need to play him to my favour anymore.

“Stiles!” He sounded like he wanted to scold me, but he didn’t say no, so I smiled to myself, only hoping I’ll get the info before I reach Oklahoma City.

I kept driving, looking at the GPS from time to time to make sure I was going the right way. I was glad I took the charger because my phone battery and the GPS hated each other with passion. I plugged the cable into the USB slot I had installed when I was redoing the car and sighed. I needed a plan, and a good one at that. This situation was very fragile and I wasn’t exactly known for dealing with delicate matters with due prudence.

I wasn’t even sure that Derek drove to Oklahoma City from his parents’ house. He didn’t tell me where he was going, he could’ve even gone back to the set, but I doubted it. What would he be looking for there? I tsked at my preposterousness. It’s not like I was the only person he could have business with. But I could imagine that Derek had more places to be except for his house, the set, and the sanctuary. I would be lucky to find him.

About an hour into my drive my phone started ringing, my dad’s face flashing on the screen. I hoped he managed to get the info I asked him for, but at the same time I was afraid of what I could find out. I picked it up and put him on loudspeaker, my heart pounding in my chest from the anticipation.

“Why exactly did you want me to look into this woman?” Hearing his tone of voice, I immediately knew that whatever he has found, it wasn’t pretty.

“She hurt someone I know, dad.”

“Derek Hale?”

“... Yes.” I guess it was obvious, considering I asked for his address too.

“Look, kiddo. I don’t think it’s my place to-“

“Dad, please, I need to know what happened so that I don’t say something stupid to make it worse.” The last thing I wanted is to make it worse.

“I still don’t think this is right, Stiles.”

“I just want to help him.” I wanted to help him so bad it hurt. I must have projected that through my voice, because i could hear my dad’s resigned sigh on the other end of the line.

“Well, this woman was clearly insane. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the report,” he started, sounding tired and old, as if this job was sometimes too much for him. “The main charge was paedophilia. She forced young boys to have sex with her, to cure them,” he continued and I felt bile rise in my throat. “She used some visual techniques to condition them as well, and when she didn’t like their response she tortured them.”

“Jesus, fu-” I gagged halfway through my curse.

“Be careful-“

“Yeah, I’m stopping my car now,” I said letting it slow down to a stop on the roadside. I had to take it all in before I could drive further.

“Anything else?” I asked even though I really didn’t want to hear more.

“Her torture methods are explained in detail, but I refuse to read that to you,” he said with finality in his voice and I couldn’t find it in myself to argue. My mind was already supplying me with images disturbing enough. I didn’t need to know that what Kate did to her patients was probably worse.

“God, I feel like shit. I swear if I got my hands on her I’d fucking kill her.”

“She’s dead,” my dad supplied, not even addressing the fact that I casually mentioned murdering someone. He’d probably help me cover the crime.

“What?”

“It says here she got killed last year. Apparently one of her ex-patients developed mental problems after a few years of her therapy in his youth. Someone didn’t connect the dots and he got submitted to the same hospital she was at. He attacked her and strangled her the moment he saw her. His fury was such that three male nurses couldn’t overpower him,” my dad explained and my mind was blown.

“Thanks, dad. I think Derek will be… relieved to hear that.”

“I have the address you wanted.”

“Can you text it to me? I really appreciate your help dad. I think… I think he might be it for me. I need to do everything in my power to help him.”

“Just make sure he wants your help, kiddo. I don’t want you to end up broken-hearted. He went through a lot. He might be unable to… reciprocate your feelings.” I knew he was right, but I needed to at least try. I wanted to do it for him. Not for myself, nor for some romantic notion of us, but for him, because he deserved for someone to finally be there for him when no one else had been before.

It took me almost an hour to finally reach Oklahoma’s capital after I finished talking to my dad and then another half to drive across it because Derek’s loft just happened to be right in the middle. It wasn’t Los Angeles but it had a nice feel to it. There was this one building that was way taller than any of the others and it stood out like a proud beacon in the centre of the city. I guess one could never get lost with it pointing the way all the time like a frigging compass.

Derek’s loft was located on North Broadway Avenue near the city center. I managed to find a spot to park my Jeep on the side of the street. Taking a deep breath I gripped my steering wheel tightly. Whatever I was about to do, there was still a chance to stop, turn around, go back. But I knew… I knew that I came all the way here not for myself, but for Derek, to help him. It wasn’t about my gain but about letting him know that it was Kate who had something wrong with her, not him. He possibly never had anyone say that to him. He possibly still believed all that shit she poured into his head. He most certainly believed it judging by his response to his own desires.

I exhaled quickly and nodded to myself. Now or never. I exited the car and looked up at the massive building his apartment was located in. There was a doorman at the bottom and I admit that wasn’t something I was prepared for. What if the guy didn’t let me in? Was I supposed to camp out in my car waiting for Derek to come even though I had no proof he was in the city in the first place? I walked towards the doorman all the while coming up with a convincing lie in my head when the guy noticed me and his face spread into a smile.

“You’re Stiles Stilinski!” he exclaimed and there went my convincing lie.

“Yep, that’s me. Here to see Derek Hale,” I tried to sound like I was invited so he wouldn’t question my visit. He seemed so excited to see me I shouldn’t really have worried about that.

“Would you be so kind, my daughter, you see, she absolutely adores you. If you could sign something for me?” He opened the door and ushered me inside before walking over to the concierge to ask him for a piece of paper and state my business in the building. I wrote a short greeting on the paper and signed it with a smile. It was going better than I could’ve hoped for, when I saw the concierge picking up the phone, while looking at me.

“Don’t!” I said louder than necessary only to have him look at me with wide eyes.

“Mister Stilinski. I have to announce you. Mister Hale hasn’t mentioned he was expecting anyone today.”

“That’s because my visit is a surprise!” I countered immediately, walking over to his station and giving him my red carpet smile. I slid a $100 bill over the counter to him. “Now, you wouldn’t want to ruin a surprise, right?” The concierge looked at the bill and then back to my face.

“No, of course not, Mister Stilinski.” He took the bill inconspicuously and put the phone handset down. “Mister Hale’s apartment is located on the 10th floor. The elevator is at the end of this corridor.”

I felt bad, I have to admit, but I knew that if the concierge announced me I would be kindly asked to leave the building if I didn’t want cops to escort me out. I found the elevator and pressed the correct button. My palms were starting to sweat. I tried rehearsing what to say, but my brain refused to cooperate. I was stressing out. I knew Derek would not be happy to see me. And yet there I was, when I shouldn’t even know his address in the first place.

I chose to drum my knuckles against the door instead of ringing the doorbell. Somehow that seemed less invasive, and less conspicuous. I could hear footsteps approaching on the other side of the door and my heart started pounding faster. What if Derek wasn’t alone in his flat? What if I was interrupting some heterosexual rendezvous? What if-

The door opened to a fuming Derek. He must have spied me through the peephole. At least he still opened instead of just ignoring me, hoping I’d leave. Maybe he was aware that wouldn’t work. I’d just camp outside his door forever.

“What are you doing here?” he asked, clearly furious.

“Derek-”

“How do you even know this address?”

“Look-”

“What the fuck, Stiles?” Ah, there was the swearing again.

“Do you even want me to answer? You’re not letting me get a word in-between.” I said, but before he could say anything we heard a door opening at the end of the corridor. I didn’t even have a chance to understand what’s happening, when I was yanked inside, the door slamming next to my head.

“Why won’t you just leave me alone?” Derek growled.

“I can’t,” I answered honestly.

“And why the hell not?”

“For the same reason you can’t leave me alone. Look, Derek, what we have-”

“We don’t have anything.”

“But we could! We could have something beautiful! Derek, if you’d just-”

“No.”

“Derek, I… know what happened to you” That made Derek pause.

“What?” he hissed, voice dangerously low. I gulped.

“I know about her, I know about Kate,” I forced out, starting to regret my decision to come here. I could swear his eyes were glowing, he was so angry.

He was breathing so deeply his chest was visibly expanding and contracting with every inhale and exhale. A vein was pulsing in his neck and his fingers were closed into tight fists. He was obviously stopping himself from punching me in the face, and honestly? I couldn’t blame him. Seeing him forcibly stripped bare of his cool demeanor, furious, like a ticking bomb, violated… My heart went out to him while guilt ate at me from inside.

“Who gave you the right, huh?” he forced out finally, his mouth barely opening. He couldn’t even look me in the eye, choosing to fixate on the wall beside my head. I wanted to hug him. I wanted to hug him and never let him go but I knew I would most likely die if I tried to do that right then.

“Derek-”

“WHO!” I winced at his wounded shout. He was shaking and I had to forcibly stop myself from walking over to him.

“I’m sorry, ok? I really am, for what it’s worth. And I know right now it’s probably not worth much, but I am. It’s who I am, ok, when I don’t know something I dig, and I dig deep, it’s in my nature. And I had no idea what I would find, but I knew something was wrong Derek, I felt it, I knew you must have been hurt, I knew-”

“Stop. Please, just- I don’t want to hear about it.”

“Kate’s dead” If there was one thing that I could come up with that would maybe make him feel better it was that.

“What?” he asked, voice quiet, disbelieving.

“She was strangled to death by her former patient,” I elaborated. “Served her right,” I added as an afterthought. “She was insane, Derek. And what she did to you, and other boys like you, it’s unforgivable. She’s the person at fault here. She and your uncle, who knowingly sent you to her.”

Derek closed his eyes tightly and turned his head sideways. I knew what he was doing but I also knew that letting those tears come was healthier. It was necessary, he had to let it all out. I braved a step in his direction.

It was barely a touch, my fingers on his arm. I was giving him time for a reaction, for stepping back or telling me to get the fuck out. He didn't. He just stood frozen, still facing away from me. I let my palm cover his bicep and stroked it slowly up and down, soothing him. I put everything I could into making sure it felt safe, that I wasn’t being unnecessarily aggressive, and most of all, that it wasn’t sexual in any way. It wasn’t about that. It was about comfort and letting him know he wasn’t alone. Someone else knew, he didn’t have to hide his pain anymore.

He gradually deflated under my palm, eyes still shut and tears held in, but it was a step in the right direction. I took a step closer to him and when he didn’t push back, wound my arms around him, placing my chin on his shoulder. He didn’t reciprocate the hug, but he didn’t refuse it either.

“Let them come, Derek,” I murmured next to his ear, palms stroking his back.

I was in no hurry, I could wait there forever if it meant I could help him in any way. He was warm against me, his frame so strong, but everything else so broken and vulnerable. I felt my own eyes water at the thought of what he had to endure, he was a boy for fuck’s sake, a child . If she wasn’t dead already I’d--

I felt his chin touch my shoulder lightly. I couldn’t breathe. It was me, frozen suddenly, while he moved, every gesture slow and unsure, and so very vulnerable. When his fingers touched my back I allowed myself to hug him more tightly. It was like an instant trigger for him. He grabbed at the back of my shirt, his fingers twisting into it with such force I felt it straining against my front. He turned his face into the crook of my neck and then it came. That heart-wrenching sob.

I couldn’t possibly say how long we stood like that, twisted together in this hug of despair, this cocoon of years of repressed feelings. He cried like he had possibly never cried in his life before and I for one didn’t feel the need to talk. I provided him with all the comfort I could while he grieved for the first time, for a piece of himself that he lost eighteen years prior.

My heart went to him, I knew then that these feelings I had, they run so much deeper, they were taking root, and they weren’t going to grow into some puny flower that would pass with seasons or would be blown away by a little breeze. No. I knew that those roots were of an oak tree, strong and durable. Ready to endure all the hardships that might come its way so that it can be revered a thousand years later.

I still don’t know how he had me so completely ensnared. From the moment I first saw him I immediately knew something in my life was going to change, it would never be the same. You don’t go back to where you’ve started after encountering Derek Hale on your way. Getting embraced by him so fully, even with the truth of the situation hanging above our heads, was making my chest feel too small for all the emotions I was trying to keep inside. His smell was going to be engraved in my head forever.

I stood there, letting myself be lulled by the sounds he made, my hands moving on their accord.

I didn’t entirely register when his crying stopped and so it was sudden, when I heard his barely-there whisper, “I need you to leave.” A knife to my gut.

I thought I misheard at first, but soon he was talking a step back, untangling himself from me, and turning around immediately, probably so I wouldn’t be able to see his face. As if not seeing it would change in any way what just transpired between us. I wanted to touch him, to hug him, to talk it out, and I almost did, but then I stopped myself. He needed time, he needed to do this at his own pace, and I couldn’t force him into any of it any more than I already had or he would just close up again, go back to hiding everything he felt. Go back to feeling small, worthless and wrong.

I swallowed and took a deep breath. Even if I didn’t do anything now he could still go back, I had to say something, to let him know…

“I’m staying in the hotel across the street. I’m… here. If you want to talk, I’m here. If you don’t want to talk, I’m also here. I just-- I just want you to know that you’re not alone, Derek. Not anymore.” I waited a moment, to give him a chance to react, but I only saw the slightest of movements in his shoulders. Like his body couldn’t decide between being tense and relaxed. With one last nod at his back I turned around and made my way to the door.

I had to give him space even if leaving him was the last thing I wanted to do.

It was one of the hardships, that the oak tree would have to brave out.

Chapter Text

I asked for a room that wasn’t overlooking N Broadway Ave at the hotel. If I was to restore faith in my respect for other people’s boundaries it was a necessary step. A step that ensured I wouldn’t be able to turn into a stalker, at least not any more than I already was.

I knew I overstepped. Possibly fucked up big time. But I also knew that what happened was cathartic. It was an opening. I couldn’t predict which way Derek would go from there, but at least he would go somewhere. He could go somewhere now.

I still had so many questions, but I knew I wouldn’t get answers to them any time soon. Like, even if it was his uncle, how the fuck did his parents not react in any way. What is wrong with that family? I cursed when I realised I didn’t take care to get Cora’s number. She was the only person there that I trusted, if only a little. I doubted any of the people who worked at the sanctuary knew anything, but Derek’s parents and Laura, who was old enough to remember what was going on back then, weren’t on my go-to list for fact sharing and advice.

Hoping for the best, I tried searching for Cora on Facebook. I needed to contact her somehow if I wanted to have more to go on with my amateur investigation. Like the name of their uncle for one. I couldn’t even hope to find out he was also arrested, incapacitated or dead, but I wanted to know what he was up to these days. And if his life was good, then maybe I would be able to do something to ruin it. It probably wasn’t my place to take revenge in Derek’s stead, but I needed to do something to restore the broadly defined balance in the universe and bring back the idea of fairness to it all.

I found three Cora Hales on Facebook and none of them had a photo to help me choose which one I needed to contact. Deciding to message them all despite my famous name which was bound to make some strangers’ eyes bug out, I sent a quick “Hi Cora” times three and hoped for the best.

Within minutes I received an excited message in all caps and groaned. I shot it down delicately with “sorry, wrong person, continue to be awesome” and waited. I hated waiting. My brain wasn’t wired for waiting. Not knowing what to do with myself, I called Lydia.

“Stiles.” She picked up with her usual greeting. Lydia. I still don’t know how she puts up with me. “Where are you?” she asked in her right-down-to-business voice.

“Oklahoma City?” I asked because that’s how most conversations with Lydia went, you could never be sure your answer would be the right one.

“Right. Well, I managed to convince the director, producer and the whole crew that you were truly indisposed, but that you would return as soon as you deal with your very pressing personal issues ,” she paused for effect, and her clipped tone left no room for wondering whether she approved of the nature of my personal issues or not. “Is that going to happen any sooner by any chance?”

I already used two days of the week I requested, but I knew I couldn’t return earlier, even if I was currently stuck at a hotel with nothing to do. But still, I promised Derek I would be at that hotel, so even if it killed me I had to stay in it and try not to get bored out of my mind, while I waited .

“No, that’s not gonna happen,” and I must’ve sounded off, because Lydia immediately switched from agent voice to friend voice.

“Stiles…” Fuck, I wasn’t equipped to deal with the friend voice. “Are you sure you want to do this to yourself?”

“He’s it , Lydia”

“You’re saying it now, after knowing him for what, a month? You sure you’re going to be saying it a year from now? Because your career is going to be here a year from now and he might not be.”

“Lydia--”

“What I’m saying Stiles is that you really need to consider whether some feelings that might pass are worth risking your career for, is all.”

She had no idea, no idea at all.

“It’s a fucking oak tree, Lydia,” I let out, frustration clear in my voice.

“Is this the moment where I pretend to know what you’re talking about?”

“It doesn’t matter.” I sighed and massaged my temples, feeling the beginnings of headache build up in them. “I’ll be back in five days, don’t worry about it. I know I have obligations.” I disconnected the line before I had to regret calling her out on her absolute inability to feel anything human. I didn’t need to make enemies right now, especially with unearthly goddesses like Lydia, who apparently could choose what to feel or not to feel at any time she pleases.

When I looked down at my phone I had another notification from Messenger. “What the fuck, Stiles?” it said, and I immediately knew I got the right one. Not wasting any time I pressed the video chat icon and called her.

“You look like shit,” she wasted no time greeting me. I let out a weak laugh.

“Thanks, I appreciate the sentiment.” I ran a hand through my hair as if that would help my already disheveled state.

“Look, Stiles… We all parted on a rather sour note,” she started quietly and I was surprised she was even capable of talking in such a meek way, especially after that greeting. “I just want you to know, that if you think, that what you’re doin’ is going to help Derek, I’m goin’ to help you. I honestly didn’t know the extent of the damage. I won’t pretend I was really interested in knowin’ more, since my family… They’ve all always just ignored the issue. It was just this topic that no one ever talked about. I had my own problems, and Derek, for the most part, he wasn’t even here. He moved out when he was eighteen, I was twelve back then. And after that he was more like a cool uncle that dropped by to play with the wolves or during holidays with expensive gifts than a brother…”

She was obviously forcing herself to be this honest with someone who was basically a stranger, but I knew why she was doing it. I was the only person she could really talk to about it, and she must’ve known it was the only chance to do some overdue damage control.

“I know it’s not right. It wasn’t right back then, and it’s not right now, and even if he will never forgive us… I just want him to be happy, Stiles.” Her finger went to the corner of her eye to dry a tear inconspicuously and I was certain she meant every single word she said. “Do you… do you think that’s possible?” She looked at me then, eyes glistening with unshed tears, and I felt a sting in my heart.

I didn’t know. How could I know? The amount of trauma he went through wasn’t something I could even begin to comprehend. He needed help and while I could try to provide it, there was no certainty that he would accept it, and there was also the fact, that the help he truly needed was of a more professional nature than I could ever give. But how do you tell someone who has been repeatedly raped and tortured by their psychiatrist, that they should consider therapy?

My hesitation must’ve been visible since Cora just smiled sadly and sighed. “It might be too late now… God, what have we done.”

“Don’t blame yourself, Cora. Kate is to blame for all this, and from what you told me - your uncle, maybe even your parents as well. But as you said it yourself - you were only a child.” I tried to reassure her, but she wasn’t really having it, her pain clearly painted all over her face. “Look, I could really use your help in finding out how exactly Derek ended up at that therapy and making the people responsible pay. Do you think you’re up for that? Even if it’s your family we’d be going against?”

She nodded her head with a, “yes, Stiles. Anything you need.” Some tension left my shoulders then. I had an ally in all this. An ally who cared about Derek and would do anything to right the past wrongs.

“Great, let’s start with your uncle. Tell me about him.” I leaned towards the phone, not willing to waste any time.

“Shouldn’t we start with Kate?” She looked surprised, and I realised that I didn’t share the most recent development with her.

“Kate’s dead, Cora,” I replied. “There’s nothing we can really do about that anymore.”

“Oh, how did-- does Derek know that?”

“I, uh... yeah, he knows.” I wasn’t really willing to go into detail about how that came about.

“That must’ve been a huge relief, or at least it would’ve been for me, if I… Let’s not go there.” She shook her head momentarily and changed the topic. “So, my uncle, he, uh, what do you need to know exactly?”

“His name, for one, so I can do my lil’ google-fu on his ass.”

“Well he is Peter Hale, he’s um, headmaster at a middle school in Tulsa--”

“Wait, what ,” I interrupted her before she could go on, because my brain simply couldn’t comprehend what I was hearing. “He works with children . And he’s in a position of power. Around children .”

“Yeah… He used to be a regular teacher, before. He started near here, was actually our teacher, mine, Laura’s and Derek’s. He taught English, had Laura and Derek for homeroom as well.”

“Ah. It makes way more sense now. That he could convince your parents that Derek had trouble at school… Still though, what is his deal? Ever noticed anything weird?”

“Well, I told you, he doesn’t exactly approve of… y’all’s lifestyle. His daughter--”

“Right, you mentioned her, your best friend, lesbian? Jesus fuck . Is she safe?”

“She is Stiles, she doesn’t live with him, they’re not even in the same city, she has her own life now, separate from him… But yeah, she never told him. I think, maybe, she had some inklin’ about what would happen if she ever did. Do you… do you think he did that to more kids? Other kids than Derek?” She sounded scared and I took a deep breath.

“That’s what we have to find out,” I said, already trying to come up with with ways to make Peter Hale’s life a living hell. I wasn’t going to let that bastard get away with it. “That still leaves the issue of your parents. Don’t get me wrong, they seem like very nice people, which just makes all of this all the more bewildering, that they would do nothing.”

“You have to understand somethin’ about uncle Peter, Stiles. He has this thing, about him, I’d rather not call it charm, but it is somethin’ that just makes people listen to him, believe him, admire him. My parents hold him in very high regard. And as I said, I can’t remember Derek lettin’ anyone know in any way that somethin’ was wrong back then. He was always a bit aloof, never really talked much, always prefered playin’ guitar to talking… After the fire nothing really changed, maybe he talked even less, but that was understandable, after his shrink tried to burn him down…”

“But that’s the whole thing, though, Cora. Why did she set the fire in the first place. Didn’t they want to find out? It still doesn’t make sense. Didn’t the police interview anyone? Didn’t they find anything about her practice? Nothing makes sense here. It’s like this whole thing was just swept under the rug and no one spent even a minute to try and understand it.”

“Because she got caught and admitted guilt no one ever dug deeper…”

“My father is the sheriff. I studied criminology. I know how these things work, they have to interview everyone, the prosecution needs it to prove guilt beyond reasonable doubt, they couldn’t just take her frigging word for it without checking her background first. This all just screams malpractice. And not only on the police side, the prosecution, the judge. How could they just get her for arson and not care about anything else?”

“I. don’t. know, Stiles” she said, frustrated beyond doubt. “All I can tell you is that the sheriff back then was Isaac’s dad, and he’s now in prison for child abuse, Isaac’s found refuge in our sanctuary about ten years ago, barely alive after bein’ kept in a fuckin’ freezer. So maybe they were just all in on it and purposefully didn’t want to make a big case out of it ‘cause they were all corrupt assholes. I’ve no idea.” It all just kept getting worse the more facts I got.

“Your uncle, is he… wealthy?”

“Yeah, he was always well-off. After his wife died he received a rather hefty insurance.”

“And his wife… she died of natural causes?” There was something about this… I just had to ask.

Cora looked at me with wide eyes, not saying anything for a moment.

“Cora?” I prompted.

“She, uh… she died in a fire.” And it all clicked, or at least most of it.

“Ok so here’s what I think is probable. Peter Hale was in cahoots with Kate Argent, sending her boys she could violate in her twisted quest for their redemption, in return she basically served as his general dogsbody and when he needed his house burned for money, she provided that service. Then for some reason she got even more unhinged and tried burning your house down, and since he didn’t want anyone to find any sort of connection between the arson and him, or the fire at his house, he paid off the police and everyone else he could to just get her in jail without any other revelations.”

There were still some pieces of the puzzle missing, but I was convinced that at least part of it was true. It just made too much sense for it not to have a ring of truth.

Cora was nodding her head slowly. “Yeah, it definitely seems probable. Still… why did she try to burn our house down?”

“I’m afraid the only person who could answer that question is Derek. And he’s definitely not in good enough psychological condition to be asked about it at the moment.”

I remembered his fingers, twisted into my shirt, sobs, rattling his body…

“Stiles,” Cora’s voice brought me back. “I have to ask… Why are you doing this? Don’t think I don’t appreciate it. I do. I’ll always be grateful that you opened my eyes, but I can’t help but wonder why you’re so invested in this when you barely even know Derek.”

“I might’ve… understated that, a bit,” I decided for honesty. After all, if we were going to be working together on this she had the right to know. “Maybe we haven’t known each other for long, but-” I paused, what could I say, really, that wouldn’t under- or overstate it. It’s not like we had anything apart from a few stolen moments, a few hurtful words… “I have… feelings, for him,” I said in the end.

“Feelings,” she repeated, looking at me with this fierce sort of wonder that probably no one else would be able to achieve with their face.

“Yeah,” I chuckled, a weight lifted off my chest. “Pretty intense ones.”

“Huh,” she mused, but she didn’t really seem against the idea.

“It doesn’t matter anyway,” I added. “He’s not, he doesn’t…”

“And still, you…”

“Yeah. Yeah I do.”

Because I wanted to do everything in my power to help him despite not knowing if anything will ever become of us. I just wanted him to heal, and to be able to move on. And if it was with me then hell, I would be the happiest man alive, and if it was not… I didn’t want to think about that at that time.

“So… what now?” Cora asked, obviously wanting me to take the lead on this thing. Could I? I was an actor, not a private eye, certainly not police, and definitely not prosecution. But I knew that if we ever wanted to go to police or prosecution with it, we had to have proof. And right now we had nothing.

“We’ll get him somehow. I won’t let this go, even if it takes time. I’ll find some private eye to dig into the facts from 18 years before, but I think if we really want to get him, and to make him rot in jail for the rest of his life, we need more. We need proof that his wife and Derek weren’t the only people he hurt. Also, I won’t lie, admission of guilt from his side would really help our case…” I was firing off whatever came into my mind but Cora was nodding eagerly throughout it all and it made me feel a little less hopeless about this whole thing.

“I’ll  do some diggin’ on my part too. I won’t let him get away with this,” she promised, obviously committed to making Peter’s life hell as much as I was.

“Let’s promise to talk to each other when we have more information.”

“Sure, take care, Stiles. I mean it. You’re a good person. I’m glad our paths’ve crossed, even if it’s under these circumstances.”

I nodded at her with a small smile. The circumstances could’ve been better for sure, but I was glad I got to know her as well. At least one relative that Derek could count on if he decided that I was… too early, too much or too impossible.

We disconnected and I let myself fall back against the bed, arms spread, eyes staring at the ceiling. I wasn’t a saint. And it took some will power to even consider that no matter what I do, in the end, Derek might not be mine.

Trying to distract myself, I googled Peter Hale. I was… surprised, when I saw his photos for the first time. For some reason I imagined a seedy old creep and what I was met with was an elegant middle aged man that most would call handsome. I immediately understood what Cora meant by his ‘charm’. With his eyes and his smile all he probably had to do was snap his fingers and people would fall over themselves to do his bidding.

I considered calling Lydia again, but in the end decided texting might be wiser. I needed her help and I was certain she’d follow through, even if she was annoyed or disapproved.

I need a private eye.

Trustworthy and discrete.

I don’t know what’s going on but it sounds like too much.

It’s not my place to explain, but this is really necessary.

For the record, I am rolling my eyes now.

I’ll send you the contact info for the best guy I know.

I love you.

You better.

I smiled to myself. Lydia was impossible not to love. While waiting for her to send me the details I realised I was beginning to go from hungry to starved. I haven’t eaten anything for hours. I didn’t want to leave the room in case… well, just in case, so I ordered room service.

When I finished talking to the staff I already had the number of one Alan Deaton on my phone and I wasted no time calling him.

“Deaton,” the man said upon picking up the phone.

“Hello, Deaton,” I started, making myself sound collected and cool, I was an actor for a reason. “I was told you can be discrete.”

“You were told the truth.” His voice was smooth and calm and not entirely what I expected.

“Well, then I have a job for you.” I filled him in on the situation, explained what I thought happened eighteen years before and asked for proof to be collected. “I really need it to be done under the radar. I don’t want this guy realising we’re onto him.”

“I understand. I am sure you understand this goes beyond the usual hollywood game of catching cheaters red handed…” he didn’t continue, but I knew what he was hinting at.

“You’ll be duly compensated for your trouble, Deaton,” I assured him. I didn’t care how much it cost, I had the money.

We said our goodbyes, Deaton promising to contact me when he knew more. I locked my iPhone, wishing, for some reason, that it was a flip phone so I could end the conversation with a little bit more drama. It wasn’t everyday that I got to commision a private eye. Falling back against the bed again, I sighed, suddenly tired from all the scheming. I was relieved, though. The wheels were in motion.

A knock on the door had me sitting straight up so suddenly I felt my head sway. Could it be… No, it was too soon, even I wasn’t delusional enough to believe that he would, mere hours after, no. My heart was beating so hard it was like a bird trying to break out from its cage. I took a few deep breaths, trying to calm myself before standing up slowly.

I was halfway between the bed and the door when the knock resounded again with a loud “Room service!” to accompany it. I deflated immediately. Idiot. Idiot, idiot, idiot .

The waiter greeted me with a “Mr. Stilinski,” and looked at me weirdly when I harrumphed before turning back. I couldn’t give a shit about my publicity back then, Lydia would have me hanging by my balls, but I just… couldn’t. I was still trying to get my heart to calm down. Fuck it. Was was the mere thought of Derek alone eliciting these sort of reactions from me. I was behaving like a high-schooler with a crush and not a grown-ass man.

The food tasted bland in my mouth. I took a few bites to stop the munchies and pushed it away. Washing it down with water I looked at the time and decided that the only thing left for me to do was try and get some sleep.

The events of the day kept playing in front of my eyes but after what seemed like hours I managed to drift off, imagining I had Derek’s arms around me, his face in the crook of my neck. I knew the exact way it felt now and so it was impossible to imagine anything else, when all I had to do was recall. Sleep was a welcome change for my overexerted brain.

While I stayed at the hotel I did more research on Peter. The school in Tulsa he was managing was an all-boys school for troubled kids. I felt bile rising in my throat at the thought of what those poor kids were going through behind closed doors. On the front it all looked pristine - great headmaster with vast experience, even received an award for his service to the community. I collected every article I could find and saved them all, hoping that something would stand out to me, but it all looked like a perfectly designed cover for a shitty book. My days went by with me going deeper and deeper into the Internet abyss, but there was nothing. Which in itself was suspicious. No one was this perfect. I knew his money must’ve been playing a large part in creating his spotless public persona for the past years. I just had to remind myself that no fortress was indestructible, we’d just have to use some bigger guns.

In the end, I think, somewhere deep down, I knew that Derek would never come. Every time the room service knocked I had hope, but with each knock it became weaker and weaker… And when the time to leave had finally arrived I… couldn’t exactly say I was surprised. Disappointed, maybe, but not surprised. Hope blinked at me, as it usually did when it saw a fool. Packing my things I looked around the room that has housed me for five days and tried convincing myself it was the right choice to stay. If I hadn’t I would’ve always wondered what would have happened if I had. This way I at least could tell myself I did everything I could to give him that chance.

Filming was… lackluster. Derek never made it to the set again and I tried not to overthink. Or more like- tried not to think at all. I went through the motions, making sure my acting wasn’t subpar, but the moment I was off stage I let myself go back to my zombie-like existence.

It probably wasn’t exactly healthy for me but I kept listening to Derek’s music in my trailer. The more I listened the more I realised how his lyrics weren’t what they seemed at all. They weren’t about falling in love, they were all about wanting to fall in love. But then there was the sense of longing for something that wouldn’t happen, not really.  Maybe I was overinterpreting, but I couldn’t help thinking that I finally saw the meaning that was so deeply hidden, only someone who knew what I knew about Derek would be able to notice it.

There was this one song, though, different from all the others, and it had me stop and listen to it again, and again, and again . Until the full meaning of you set fire to my heart, heart I’ve given to keep warm, instead you set fire to my heart, run, run, run from the firestorm , hit me in the face.

Was Derek- did he think he had loved Kate? Was she really that masterful at deception?

I wished I knew where she was buried so that I could set fire to her fucking grave.

After two more weeks in Oklahoma we went back to LA for some finishing touches. There were still some scenes left to shoot, but the end of it all was closer than ever. We were due to finish shooting in a month. Then post-production would take another three in which time I’d be doing a press tour. Lydia was already muttering something about an assassin role that I was being considered for, that was due to start shooting that year and so I knew I was going to have my hands full. I was glad, because, boy, did I need a distraction.

It was during one of the very last days on the set that Cora called. I was chilling at the buffet when I felt the phone vibrate in my pocket.

“Cora, long time no hear,” I said, knowing full well that the no hear was as much on me as it was on her. I was busy with the shooting, and also everything I found about Peter was just… nothing interesting. By now I had every single article about him and about all the schools he ever taught at on my phone, but none added up to any sinister truths.

“It took some time, because I swear, any links between cases either don’t exist in the first place, or were possibly made to not exist.”

“Tell me about it,” I let out a resigned huff.

“I was determined, though. Used all my free time, and, Stiles, I think I managed to find somethin’.”

“What?” I was honestly surprised.

“I went through all the classes Peter taught, through all the yearbooks… I was looking for people that were there one year and then weren’t there the next. Of course some of them moved away or dropped out, but then… Then I found two whose houses burned down, and they both died in those fires.”

“Oh my God, Cora, that’s--”

“That’s still no proof, Stiles. But I have a plan. See, one of those guys was a twin. And the other twin is still alive. And I think… I think I should go and talk to him.”

“I think it’s a good idea, Cora. Just be… safe, please. In the meantime you gave me an idea. I’ll try to see if there were any students who disappeared at his current school.”

“You’re in LA, Stiles. How exactly are you goin’ to do that, when the school’s in Tulsa?”

“I’ll just…” Go there? Lydia would kill me. And also there’s literally no time for that. And to think I was just being grateful for a distraction.

“Look, I’m way more equipped to deal with that, I’m closer and I can--”

“Cora, no . What if he sees you? What if he does something?”

“Stiles, he’s my uncle and for all he knows I’m still his lovin’ niece. If he sees me I’ll just tell him I came to visit ‘cause we haven’t seen each other in oh so long. He won’t do anythin’ to me.”

“How can you be so sure of that?”

“I can take care of myself, Stiles. And also, I need to do this. This is different for me than it is for you.” She paused, obviously trying to find words to explain. “For you, it’s a project--”

“Cora, what the hell,” I interrupted, suddenly angry.

“Let me finish. It’s a project you care about, I don’t doubt it, and I’m not sayin’ it’s a project to make is seem anythin’ less than it is. It’s a very important project. But for me? For me it’s a chance at redemption,” she said the last part quietly and I couldn’t really argue with that. Still though…

“I just feel like you’re doing all the work, while I’m sitting here, doing nothing and it’s making me feel useless, anxious and annoyed at the same time,” I let out, exasperated.

“You’re not useless, Stiles. You’re the reason we’re here in the first place. If not for you, Peter would continue doin’ what he’s been doing for all these years. More boys would be hurt, like Derek had been. Thanks to you we have a chance to stop it. To save people. Just because you can’t play detective right now it doesn’t mean you’re useless,” she said matter-of-factly, and I felt a little placated.

“Ok, but promise me that if you need any help at all, you’ll let me know.”

“Of course Stiles, I’ll also let you know when I find something more. Take care and focus on the movie. It is about my family after all so I want you to do well, ok? You have to slay the interviews!” She all but commanded, and I didn’t dare refuse, even if the interviews were the last thing on my mind.

Looking back, the interviews should’ve definitely been the first thing on my mind. While Aiyana, my co-star, and I were playing the main roles and I assumed it would be mostly us doing the press tour, the fact remained unchanged that the movie was about Derek’s family and that he was responsible for the soundtrack at the same time. Which meant that Derek was also at the interviews. And it was something I was completely unprepared for.

I was sitting at the makeup station, getting prepped for the Late Night Show with Brett Talbot, my eyes closed as the makeup artist applied powder to my face, when I felt movement to my right. The tell-tale sound of someone sitting on the faux leather chair had me a bit confused. Aiyana was already done with makeup and we were the last to be interviewed that day.

The “Hello Stiles,” that came immediately after they were seated, cleared any confusion I might’ve had. I wouldn’t be able to mistake that voice for anyone else’s. My eyes were flying open faster than you could say ‘powder’. He was sitting in the chair right next to me, another makeup artist preparing the same items mine was using. Which meant that I was missing some vital pieces of information, and that Lydia was definitely going to hear about it.

“Derek,” I started, my palms suddenly clammy. I haven’t seen him since that day at his apartment. “I, uh… didn’t expect you here.”

“It was a last minute thing…” He sounded tired, I could see the resignation in his face, plain as day, and I could just imagine how that came to be. His agent must have made him, and he fought, but in the end he had to be here, against his will…. And the only reason for that I could come up with was, well, me. I swallowed the lump in my throat.

“I see…” I closed my eyes, letting the makeup artist finish her job, while I wondered what to do about this plot twist. Within minutes she was letting me off the chair with an energetic “You’re good to go!” and I felt no more prepared for dealing with Derek than I had five minutes earlier.

He was sitting in the makeup chair, eyes closed, letting his face be powdered. I let my eyes roam over the lines of his face, using this rare occasion to see them relaxed. His face was a work of art and my fingers twitched, wanting to reach out and slide down his jaw, to feel that stubble again… His eyes opened suddenly and snapped right to mine. He must have felt me standing there, standing and staring. I gulped.

“I’ll, uh… stay out of your way, Derek,” I managed to force out and started to move towards the studio, when his hand reached out and grasped my forearm in a steel grip. I looked down at his fingers clutching at my skin, bound to leave marks and then back to him. My confusion and surprise must have shown on my face for he loosened his grasp a little before completely letting me go after a few seconds.

“Yes,” he gritted out, turning his face away and closing his eyes for the makeup artist to continue with her job. “That would be… best.”

I didn’t believe that for a second. And I think… neither did he.

They had us all sit on one sofa, Aiyana first, then me in the middle and Derek on the leftmost. When he took place next to me he was so close our legs were touching, so were our arms. I could move. I should’ve. I had some space to the right, I could totally shift a little without making Aiyana uncomfortable on the other side, but I didn’t.

With every little move I could feel him against me. The heat coming off his body made my brain short circuit, I was so focused on the proximity I could barely register what the host was asking. Fuck, did I take my meds? Of course I didn’t. I could feel my brain going a mile a minute but there wasn’t really anything I could do to stop it. Nothing could stop it after it went on its roller-coaster ride.

It was only when I heard Brett address me directly that I forced myself to focus and try to answer to the best of my ability.

“So, Stiles, you seem a bit distracted today.” And fuck, I didn’t expect to be called out so unceremoniously. I could feel Derek tense against me, and I was immediately reminded of him berating me for not taking the movie seriously. Fuck, I needed some damage control. Focus, Stiles. You can do it.

“Hah,” I chuckled. “Do I? No, man, I’m just really excited to be here. I’m so glad I was able to participate in this project with our wonderful Aiyana,” I turned my head to smile at her to which she grinned back, “and of course Derek, without whom this movie would stand no chance. The soundtrack is amazing.” There, that was good, I could do it. I could totally do it, I thought to myself as I tried not to think about Derek sitting right next to me.

“We’ve not been able to get our hands on the soundtrack prior to the release. Derek’s very secretive about it,” Brett said looking at Derek, following it with a tsk-tsk and a little shake of the head. Derek laughed, his arms moving up and down against me, the sound of his laughter hitting me right in the heart. “Maybe you’ll be able to tell us more about it, Stiles.”

“Well, um. I don’t wanna give away too much, but I can tell you that it’s really suited for the movie. The songs flow with it amazingly and the style is, I think a bit more similar to Derek’s earlier works, I’d compare it to the 2008 Acres album? It has this similar feeling of nostalgia and familiarity to it,” I fired off without thinking or focusing on what I was saying, only to feel Derek go completely rigid next to me. I looked up to see him looking at me with shocked eyes, I was about to say something, to explain, but Brett decided to intervene.

“Wow, Stiles. I didn’t take you for a country fan! That is certainly surprising,” he said, smiling at me and nodding his head, encouraging me to go on. And since I had no filter whatsoever, I did.

“Oh, well, I never really was? But then, you know, the movie happened, I decided to get familiar with Derek’s music. I was surprised myself when I realised I loved it. Wouldn’t really peg myself as a country fan, though, more like, Derek’s fan?” I said earnestly, trying to not pay attention to what Derek’s body was doing, shifting next to me. We were on TV for fuck’s sake, I had to act professionally.

“Aww, that’s really awesome Stiles,” Brett summed up my confession with a big smile, before turning to Derek. “What do you say to that, Derek?” Fuck. I turned left to see Derek looking like a deer caught in the headlights. His cheeks were a bit pink and he opened and closed his mouth a little bit before finally getting round to replying. F. o. c. u. s., Stiles . You can do it.

“I, uh, I’ve watched all his movies so... I think we’re even?” He laughed a little at the end, trying to seem lighthearted, but I could feel the tension against me. I could also hear my own heart beats so loud and clear as if they were coming from the studio’s speakers.

“You guys are just precious, aren’t you? So, Aiyana…”

Thump, thump, thump.

I couldn’t do it.

Everything was a blur after that. I couldn’t focus at all. I answered the questions that came my way the best I could, hoping that I wasn’t making a spectacle of myself, because Lydia was going to kill me otherwise. Fucking ADD, fucking brain. Why couldn’t it just cooperate for once?

All I could think about was Derek watching my movies. On his own, because he didn’t participate in his family’s honorary viewing as they called it. Fuck. Why was this making me so emotional?

Because he made a conscious decision to have something to do with me.

The next thing I knew Brett was thanking us for being there and I realised I couldn’t even remember half of what went on. I knew I had to say something, to make it better.

“Hey, so, uh,” I started, and suddenly all attention was on me, as I stood up from the couch. I could see the camera zooming in on my face, and I knew I had everyone who was watching the show, either in the studio or in front of their telly, watching me. I had to make this one count. “I just, wanna apologise for today. As many of you know I have ADD and I admit it slipped my mind to take my meds today,” I admitted, gulping and thinking what to say next. The activist inside me was screaming to go on. “So, dear parents watching this show, if you ever see your kid acting like what you just saw, not being able to concentrate, saying they don’t remember stuff that happened, believe them. Take them to the doctor, it can really help them further on in life.” I nodded to myself and smoothed the invisible wrinkles on the front of my shirt. “Or, you know,” I added, “save their dignity on public television,” I laughed, and let out a relieved sigh when the public laughed with me.

“Wow, thanks, Stiles, that’s really insightful,”  Brett said before turning to the camera. “Ladies and gentlemen, Stiles Stilinski, let’s give a round of applause."

The people were clapping as we said our goodbyes, shaking hands and waving to the camera. I excused myself to the bathroom as soon as I knew we were no longer live.

Gripping the sink as hard as I could, I told myself to get a grip, over and over again. I wasn’t at all equipped to be around Derek. ADD or no ADD, it was as if my whole body, including my fucking brain, was rebelling against me. Refusing to work until they became satiated in one way or another. They were hungry, they were so fucking hungry for everything, anything that Derek could give. Which was nothing, I kept telling myself. Derek couldn’t give me anything. Not like this, not now. And yet I yearned . I yearned so fucking much it hurt. It was stupid, I couldn’t let myself become this… this delicate card castle that keeps falling apart from the slightest of touches.

The sense of deja vu that hit me when I heard the lock click behind me was suffocating. I felt myself tremble as I turned around, fully, idiotically expecting Derek to be there, silent, unsure, and yet coming towards me, wanting something, wanting me . It felt like a punch to the gut when I saw Lydia, furious, striding towards me with her glare of doom.

“What the fuck was that, Stiles?” she asked, and I knew I must’ve fucked up more than I expected. I sighed, leaning back against the sink, remembering the last time I was in this position in a bathroom, with Derek between my legs.

“I don’t know,” I mumbled, running a hand through my hair.

“Well you better start knowing, cause this was a clusterfuck of an interview. Do you even realise how important these things are?”

“Well I don’t know what to tell you, Lydia, ok? You know I can’t function around that guy, so you know, maybe next time a little warning beforehand?” I raised my voice, pointing my hand in the general direction of the studio stage.

“You think I wouldn’t warn you if I knew? It was just as much of a surprise to me as it was to you! Still though, you’re a fucking actor Stiles, you should be able to act your way through it,” she said, gritting her teeth and crossing her arms in front of her. The tapping of her Louboutin against the tiles echoed in the bathroom. My head was suddenly pounding, stress, exhaustion, anger, all mixing together to create one hell of a migraine.

“Well, you could at least give me some points for trying! Raising ADD awareness is a good thing, ok?” I retaliated and pushed myself off the sink, fully intending to just walk out on her.

I was nearing the door when she scoffed, “Kudos to you. Seriously, though,  think of your career, Stiles. You can’t allow yourself to fuck up like this.”

“You just don’t get it, do you?!” I barked, turning away from the door. “I don’t care about my career right now. He’s the only thing I can think or care about!” I huffed and yanked the door open, storming out only to walk right into a broad, muscular chest. “Oh for fuck’s sake!” I swore and took a step back to glare at a flabbergasted Derek. Great, just what I needed. “I hope your eavesdropping was kind to you,” was the last thing I said before pushing my way through and walking away as fast as I could. I couldn’t deal with him now. Especially… especially if he heard what I screamed at Lydia before opening the door.  

I was fuming with anger and frustration as I left the studio, and made my way through the parking lot. My Jeep was waiting for me, the only thing I could count on. The tires squealed as I left my spot with way more revving that I should. I turned on the radio, wanting to blast my head off with bass, only to have Derek’s song come up. Of-fucking-course. I turned off the damned thing and gripped the wheel so tight my knuckles turned white. What the fuck was wrong with me?

My phone started ringing and I looked down, fully expecting Lydia, only to see it was my dad. Taking a deep breath I picked up.

“Heeey, Daddy-o, what’s up?” I said, trying, and possibly failing, to sounds as calm and collected as I could. My dad didn’t need to know how short of a fuse I had these days.

“Stiles? Son I just saw the live interview on TV, are you ok?” he asked and I barely stopped myself from cursing. Of course he did.

“Fit as a fiddle, dad.” Such a blatant lie. I wasn’t even surprised when he snorted in reply.

“Really, Stiles, you know you can talk to me, right?”

“What do you want me to say? I didn’t even see the interview, and I don’t remember most of it. I don’t know how bad it was, but I can only imagine.” I huffed a self-deprecating laugh.

“So… that’s the one, huh?” And I know he meant ‘the one I told him about’, but my brain got stuck on the one . Yep dad, he’s the one. The one for me. Except, not really?

“Yeah, that’s Derek Hale.” I went for the most neutral answer I could think of.

“For what it’s worth, son, he seemed just as distracted as you were during this whole thing. Honestly, if not for Aiyana it would’ve been difficult to watch,” he joked, trying to be reassuring, but I only gripped the wheel more tightly.

“Yeah… I can imagine.”

“He’s very handsome,” my dad added as an afterthought and I rolled my eyes.

“That’s a blatant understatement,” I said, smiling against all odds.

My dad laughed and agreed. “Yeah it is, isn’t it?”

I was glad that he called, that he didn’t go all this won’t end well on me, like he probably should have, like Lydia did… I knew it wouldn’t end well, I didn’t need to be reminded of that at every turn I took.

I drove back home as quickly as I could after the phone call. I couldn’t wait to get into bed and try to forget about this whole fiasco of a day.

What I didn’t expect is to see Scott hastily close his laptop the minute I entered the flat. I raised my eyebrow expectantly, knowing that he wasn’t one to be able to hold out with anything he was hiding from me.

This time, however, he didn’t say anything, instead clearing his throat and trying to look at anything but me.

“You’re really bad at this, you know?” I said before sitting myself next to him on the couch. “What is it, show me, I can take it. Nothing can make this day any worse that it is already,” I said, nudging my chin in the direction of the laptop.

“Stiles--”

“Scott, please. I need to see it.” Because I’m a masochist apparently.

“Well,” Scott started, taking his laptop off the coffee table and opening it slowly in his lap. “It seems you’ve already managed to become a meme.”

“What?”

“Here.” He put the laptop in my lap and showed me the site which had a gif of my completely clueless face with the words “uh, yeah, can you, like, repeat that?” written above it. I snorted. Right. That was to be expected.

“Well, it’s not so bad, all things considered…” I was sort of relieved. I expected it to be worse. I expected my face with cartoon heart eyes looking at Derek with an adoring Senpai *w* written above it. This was nothing.

“I’m surprised that’s the only one, after that clusterf-”

“Scott,” I stopped him. I didn’t need Scott to be team Lydia. I needed him to be team dad.

“Sorry, buddy.”

“Is it online, already?”

“Yep, but you don’t wanna watch it. Just focus on nailing the next ones, Stiles.” Scott clapped me on my shoulder and took the laptop from me. “This ain’t the end of the world. Everyone has bad days. This,” he said gesturing to the computer, “is nothing, ok? And also, that ending was really good. You recovered nicely.” Scott nodded with approval.

“Thanks man,” I smiled at him and decided he was right. I didn’t need to see the show. I just had to make sure to be as sharp as I could on the next one so that this one could be erased from people’s memories.

When Scott disappeared into his bedroom, I finally allowed myself to deflate. I needed a drink. And possibly a shower too. A drink in the shower? I couldn’t care less. I took a bottle of beer from the fridge and made my way to the bathroom. Being any more pathetic than that would be a challenge. At least in the shower there was no question about the water falling down my face. It was purifying, if only for a short while. I spent way more time than I should’ve, letting the water hit my body, making myself believe it would cleanse me of all those conflicting feelings that I had. Even though I knew that the moment I stepped out, all of it would be back.

I was right. I didn’t have to wait long after falling into my bed to feel the buzz of my phone next to my head. I opened one eye only to see it was Cora messaging me.

That was painful.

Fuck you.

Wrong Hale, buddy.

Oh my God, Cora!

I harrumphed and turned on Do Not Disturb so that I wouldn’t have to deal with her. I hid my face in the pillow and groaned. Why did everything have to be so goddamn complicated. And most of all, what did Derek think about it all. God, I wished I could just casually go to him and say ‘penny for your thoughts’. Was he disturbed by it? Was he going to avoid me? What was his plan?

I sighed and tried to force myself to sleep, even though it never worked like that. There was this one thought, that wouldn’t let me sleep, that just wouldn’t leave me alone.

When Derek went to the bathroom after the interview… was he expecting to find me there?