“Absolutely not.” Peter doesn’t even turn his head, all his focus on the fondant flowers he’s applying to the wedding cake in front of him.
“Absolutely yes. You lost the coin toss, you get the kid,” Derek says, and Peter doesn’t need to look to know his nephew’s arms are folded across his chest and his face is set in stone.
Peter huffs and stands up straight. “I’m sure you cheated somehow. Suppose I’ve changed my mind and don’t want to look after a ...what the hell is it even called again?”
“A baking buddy,” Derek says. “And even if I did, prove it. Suck it up Peter, you’re going to be mentoring this season.” The corners of his mouth twitch up with a barely suppressed smile, and Peter can hear what he’s not saying. Sucks to be you.
Peter can only imagine the nightmare it’s going to be. And sure, their reality baking show Blue Moon Bakery makes them a decent chunk of cash, and Peter’s dramatic ass loves playing up to the part of the big scary baker known for his perfectionism and short temper while Derek gets to be the laid back gentle giant with a heart of gold, but he really wishes he’d put his foot down when the network had insisted on bringing in a home baker as a protégé this season.
He knows exactly why the network’s doing it, knows they’re after drama, want to boost ratings. And it means he has free rein to play bad cop to a whole new wet-behind-the-ears assistant, but it doesn’t make him any more eager to have someone trailing around after him.
The shitty attitude and quick temper aren’t completely for show.
Peter knows he’s not particularly social, doesn’t refute Derek’s claims that he’s a workaholic, more interested in his cakes than the people he makes them for. They actually named the business after a quip Derek made when they were first opening about how now Peter had his own business he’d only go home once in a blue moon. But his focus has resulted in a successful business and a reputation as one of the best, and if Peter gets a little lonely some nights, it’s a small price to pay. Most people he’s dated in the past weren’t interested in someone with his sarcastic manner and biting wit. They wanted someone to give them warm fuzzies and pointless pandering, someone to sweep them off their feet.
But Peter is not that person. He doesn't sweep people off their feet. He's more of a 'kick them in the back of the knee' type.
So he embraces singleness and work and spending time with his nephew and his staff, and it’s enough. Mostly.
Now, Peter honest to god whines. “You know I don’t play well with others! It’ll be a disaster. Our little miss easybake will get her knickers in a twist and cry the first time I shout at her and I’ll have to pretend I care, and more importantly, I’ll have to put up with someone in my workspace Derek. In my workspace!” He indicates around him, in case Derek wasn’t aware of how sacrosanct Peter’s kitchen is.
“Him.” Derek’s full on smirking as he speaks.
Peter’s rant is temporarily derailed by that. “Sorry, what?”
“Him,” Derek repeats. “They wanted to change things up, so they picked a guy. A bi guy. They’re going for inclusion.”
Peter can’t decide if that’s better or worse. He knows damned well that the ‘winner’ will have been chosen based mainly on how they film, and he has visions of a model-type jock preening at the camera. “Oh, gods,” he moans. “Why do I get the feeling I’m about to be saddled with six foot something of pretty idiot who made his mommy a cake from a packet for her birthday once and thinks he can bake?” He flings an arm over his eyes, fully aware he’s being dramatic and not caring.
When he lowers his arm though, Derek’s watching him with an amused expression on his face, and Peter’s filled with suspicion. “You know something,” he accuses. “What do you know?”
Derek raises his eyebrows and gives Peter a significant look. “I’ve seen the audition tape.”
Derek grins wider. “You’ll like him.”
“Rubbish,” snaps Peter. “I don’t like anyone, you know that.”
Derek just keeps grinning.
Peter watches the tape, transfixed.
The boy’s a mess, but somehow that adds to his charm. He’s wearing a flannel overshirt that’s rolled up to the elbows and a t shirt with a band name Peter doesn’t recognise, and his hair looks like he’s been running his hands through it since he got up that morning, but Peter can already tell the camera loves him, because somehow the kid’s pale skin, turned up nose and assortment of moles translates onscreen as endearing. The kid has an amused grin on his face as he points to himself and says, “A bisexual baker? It’s more likely than you think!” before winking and giving the camera finger guns.
Whoever’s filming snorts and says, “Focus, Stiles. Why do you want to be on the show? Why do you like to bake?”
Stiles (Who the hell calls their kid Stiles?) straightens up slightly, and his grin becomes less manic, if still a little too wide. Peter’s not sure, but he thinks the kid’s been drinking.
“Oh man, where to start? Baking’s always fascinated me. I love that you can take the same basic ingredients, and depending on how you combine them, you get a dozen different results. And you gotta be so damned careful! Beat that sponge too hard? You’re screwed. Overwork your dough? Also screwed. Use the wrong strength flour? Forget it. Cakes can fuck you up six ways till Sunday, so getting it right? It’s a trip. That’s what I get off on - the challenge of it, the science.”
His expression is animated as he holds forth on the quirks of baking, waxing lyrical about the protein content of flour in different countries. Peter doesn’t catch all that he says, distracted by the boy’s lush mouth and muscular forearms as he gestures at the camera. Those, thinks Peter, are the forearms of someone who makes bread. It’s a very particular type of muscle development – Peter’s arms show the same telltale signs.
He wonders absently if the boy prefers bread or cakes - bread making’s satisfying on a base level, the way he gets to punch and shape and twist, take out his frustrations on a ball of dough, but cakes carry more of a sense of accomplishment - they’re a far trickier beast. He’s drawn from his musings by Derek nudging him, and he focuses his attention back on the screen.
Stiles is saying, “I don’t know why you’re taping this Scotty, honestly. Let’s face it, doesn’t matter how good this tape turns out, some blonde cheerleader called Britney or Amber from SoCal with a perky rack will win, same as always. Nobody wants a bi guy with ADHD unless they’re aiming for diversity points, right?” His shoulders slump a little, and Peter’s not sure if he was ever meant to see the next part. “And it’s a shame, because Peter Hale? He’s a cranky, sarcastic asshole and I don’t even care. Those cakes, man. They’re art. And I mean sure, he’s a dick, but I could learn so much, if I ever got on that show.” He seems to remember that there’s a camera and shrugs again. “But like I say, never gonna happen. And it’s not like I’m sending this anyway, so.” He shrugs, lifts his hands in a hopless gesture, and the screen goes black.
It’s so different from every audition tape Peter’s ever seen that he’s momentarily speechless. There’s something about the boy, a raw energy, an honesty, that Peter finds intriguing and refreshing. He tears his eyes away from the screen to find the producer looking at him expectantly.
Peter gives a curt nod and says what he knows they’re waiting to hear. “Yes, fine. I suppose we can use him,” which gets him approving nods from the execs. Then he gestures to the screen and says asks the room at large, “But I ask you, who the hell makes an audition tape like that?”
Scott McCall, that’s who.
But he doesn’t tell Stiles it’s an audition tape, no, because Scott knows Stiles, knows he’ll will just refuse to be part of it, despite having watched every episode of Blue Moon about seventy times and constantly bemoaning the fact he’d give his left nut to meet either of those guys. Stiles doesn’t always have the confidence to take a chance, despite being a smartass ninety seven percent of the time. So when Scott sees them advertising for applications to work with the Hales as a ‘baking buddy’ on Blue Moon Bakery, he knows what he needs to be.
He needs to be Stiles’s three percent.
He downloads the application form and fills it out over the course of a week, casually asking Stiles about anything he’s not sure of, and it’s not like it’s hard, because Stiles loves to talk about what he’s making, about baking and cakes in general. It doesn’t take much of a nudge to get him started.
The tape’s a little more difficult, but luckily they have a habit of making stupid videos of each other when they’ve been drinking – Scott will always treasure the twenty seconds he has of Stiles dancing round the kitchen drinking wine and singing let it go loudly and off key.
So when Scott gets Stiles tipsy and suggests, grinning, “We should make a tape for the Blue Moon auditions,” Stiles just giggles into his tequila.
“They don’t want me. They want some cookie cutter pretty girl so she can swoon over Derek,” he sighs.
“Not over Peter?”
Stiles shakes his head. “Girls don’t swoon over Peter, Scott. Because one, Peter’s terrifying, and two, he’s as out as you can be without putting it on a billboard.”
“You swoon over him,” Scott points out.
“That’s because I’m aroused by danger, and also he’s incredibly hot. That fucking neck, man.” Stiles flaps a hand. “Anyway. Besides the point. I can tell you now though, if I was gonna audition, it wouldn’t be the simpering bullshit everyone else sends in, that’s for sure.”
Scott senses his chance and takes it. “So show me, and I’ll film it. For funsies. We can watch it tomorrow.”
Stiles only hesitates for second, and then grins. “Why the hell not? The audition tape nobody asked for, sure.”
He waits till Scott shouts action, spins on his heel, smiles at the camera and says, “A bisexual baker? It’s more likely than you think!”
This is going to be pure gold.
Scott can’t, in good conscience, send in the tape without Stiles’s consent. He could forge his signature, sure, but what then? What if they call?
So he confesses to what he’s been doing and asks Stiles if he can send it. Or rather, he hounds Stiles, pleading with him constantly, and when Stiles tells him it’ll never make it past the screening process, Scott’s quick to come back with, “Then what does it matter? Just send it so you can say you did.”
In the end Stiles signs the form just to shut Scott up.
Wonder of wonders, he gets a call.
A week later, another call.
A week after that, a skype interview.
And then Scott’s woken up one morning at 6 am by Stiles jumping on his bed and screaming at him that ‘they want to fly me to LA Scott, the producers want to meet me, oh my god I might actually get it!’
Whatever he does on his weekend there must pretty impressive, because he does, indeed, get it.
Stiles is going to be the new baking buddy, and when he hangs up the phone, he honest to god cries before declaring that Scott’s the best friend and roommate ever, that they’re going drinking, and Stiles is paying.
Scott’s allowed to feel a little smug, okay?
Unlike other shows, where introductions would have been made well before filming, Peter insists that his first meeting with Stiles be on camera. “I want an honest reaction from him,” he insists, “not something scripted that he’s had a chance to work on.”
It will make for better TV, but it’s also because Peter is a little shit at heart, and if he has to suffer through a season of this kid, he wants the kid to suffer right along with him. So, no nice introduction, no pre-planned pleasantries, just Peter in the raw, so to speak.
Derek rolls his eyes and makes a point of introducing himself and spending some time talking to Stiles before they start filming. Peter watches out of the corner of his eye as he sets up his workstation for the day. He and Derek do actually run a bakery quite apart from the TV series, and he has orders to get out today, so he hopes his little sidekick doesn’t get in the way. Peter has some basic gruntwork for Stiles to do, assuming he’s capable. He talked a good game, but Peter has yet to see any evidence the kid (can you call someone in their twenties a kid?) can bake at all.
He hears Derek laughing, and looks over to see him with an arm slung over Stiles’s (that’s really the kid’s name?) shoulder, and the kid grinning widely. Smile while you can, Peter thinks. You won’t be once I’m done with you. it’s mean, he knows it’s mean. But it’s also Reality TV, and the producer has let it be known that they’d really like it if Peter can make Stiles cry at least once today.
He doesn’t think it’ll be a problem, given his track record. Sometimes it happens without him even trying - people are so sensitive nowadays.
Finally, they’re ready to start. Stiles is told by the director to introduce himself to Peter and then ‘just do whatever comes naturally, don’t think too hard about it.’
He nods, and walks over to Peter, eyes bright with excitement. He extends a hand and says, “Hi. Stiles Stilinski. I’m your baking buddy.”
Peter stares at the hand for a long moment before saying, ”Have you washed that?”
Stiles swallows nervously. “Uh, yeah, kitchen, dude?” He indicates the apron and stupid hat he’s wearing as a nod to food safety standards. “All clean and shiny.”
“Then why would you touch me and sully us both?” Peter affects a bored drawl, and smirks to himself when Stiles’s lips draw together in a tight line.
He’s not expecting the response he gets.
“Wow, you’re right. You could be crawling with germs. An absolute cesspool,” the boy deadpans. He ducks under the workbench and Peter wonders briefly what the hell he’s doing, but then Stiles produces a box of latex gloves. He pulls them on with an exaggerated snap, wiggles his fingers in a way that absolutely shouldn’t be as filthy as it is, and then he fucking winks at Peter. “Ready for action.”
Peter hears Derek snicker, and frowns. Oh, so he thinks he’s clever?
“Take those off. Nobody who works with food uses those, they’re for cleaning up messes,” Peter snaps. Stiles starts to say something, but Peter turns his patented Peter Hale Eyebrow of Disdain on him and his mouth snaps shut. “Amateur,” Peter mutters, exactly loud enough for his mic to pick up.
Stiles strips off the gloves and slaps them on the counter in front of Peter. “Well duh. That’s the point of this right? You, king of cakes, showing me, a poor ignorant soul, how it’s done? God forbid I might actually have a clue.” There’s something of a challenge in his expression, and Peter perks up. This could be interesting after all.
Peter can hear the director murmuring, “That’s it, give us some tension, Peter,” and he’s been at this game long enough to know what they want.
So Peter folds his arms across his chest and looks Stiles up and down pointedly. “You have a lot to say, but can you back it up?“ He jabs at the steel countertop with a finger. “Show me what you can do, Stiles. Impress me.”
Stiles blinks, wide-eyed. “What, now?”
“No time like the present. Unless you’re not up for it?”
Stiles juts out his chin at that. “Nope What do you want me to make?”
Peter shrugs. “You’re the one who ‘has a clue.’” He deliberately adds the air quotes. “Find some ingredients, make me something. Show me the breadth of your experience.”
Stiles only hesitates for a moment before heading over to the storage cabinets where the ingredients are kept. Peter’s momentarily surprised, but then he remembers that Stiles has probably watched the show, knows the setup. He watches, intrigued despite himself, as Stiles loads up with ingredients, dumping them on the bench before walking over to the big industrial cool room and emerging with milk and butter.
Then Stiles walks over to the oven, checks it’s on, and adjusts the temperature. At least he knows the basic rule of preheating. Whether that translates into something edible though, that’s another thing.
Stiles digs around under the bench and produces a bowl, a knife, and a set of measuring cups, and without further ado he starts measuring and mixing. Peter can tell the second something changes about the boy, the way his focus is suddenly laser sharp, intent on the task before him. Peter knows that look, has seen it often enough when he watches footage of himself.
“What are you making?” he asks. It’s partly because he wants to know, and partly to see if he can distract the boy. May as well know what he’s working with.
Stiles’s eyes never leave the butter on the scales as he says, “I figured something quick, since we don’t wanna be here all day while my bread rises, and I’m not game to try a sponge in an unknown oven. So, scones.”
“Scones,” Peter parrots back, unaccountably disappointed. For some reason, he’d expected something more.
“Hey, don’t diss the humble scone, dude. It’s a great, fast, fill me up food, and if you get it right it can be divine.” Stiles works as he talks. It’s almost hypnotic, watching him chop the butter into cubes and work it through the flour with long, nimble fingers, creating a soft, silky crumb, and it’s obvious this is something he’s done often. He mixes the milk through (using a knife, Peter notes approvingly), then scatters a handful of flour on the bench, tips the ball of dough out of the bowl, and cuts it in two. He plops one half back in the bowl and shapes and kneads the other half lightly. Peter watches the corded muscles in his forearms bulge as he works, before dragging his eyes away to the dough. Stiles has worked it into a square and is now rolling it out lightly.
“Don’t overwork that,” Peter says, unable to help himself.
Stiles nods. “I know, it’ll get tough otherwise.” He slices it into even squares and transfers it smoothly onto an oven tray, and Peter’s ever so slightly impressed, despite himself. That’s so often the step where people fumble, making a mess of their soft doughs, but Stiles doesn’t miss a beat. Stiles pulls out a chopping board and starts dicing up bacon, grating fresh parmesan and then adding in a handful of cheddar. He mixes it through the second half of the dough and at the last minute adds a generous pinch of smoked paprika. “Scotty and I had weeks in college where we lived on this shit – uh, I mean stuff,” Stiles says, with a sidelong glance at the camera. “I learned to change up the flavors so it wasn’t boring.”
Knead, roll, slice. The muscles in his forearms ripple with the movements. It’s mesmerising.
Stiles picks up both trays, but before he can go anywhere Peter stops him with a hand on his wrist. He takes one of the raw dough lumps off the tray before giving Stiles a tiny nod, and the boy carries on and puts them in the oven, setting the timer. When he comes back over Peter’s prodding at the dough with a critical eye. “Reasonable texture, but far too much flour on the outside,” he says with a frown, because it’s the only thing he can find fault with.
Stiles just shrugs like he doesn’t care about Peter’s opinion, and that’s not how this is meant to go, so Peter ups his sarcasm game. “Congratulations. You’ve managed domestic baking, mommy level. Hopefully they’re edible.”
Stiles shrugs again, and it’s infuriating. “I know they’ll be good, dude. They’re always good.”
“Good is subjective,” Peter argues. “Good by whose standards? Your starving, hungover roommate’s?”
Stiles glances at his watch. “Another nine minutes and you can judge for yourself.” Peter feels distinctly…dismissed. Stiles busies himself with a handmixer, whipping the cream to top the scones and selecting a pot of raspberry jam, then cleaning up his mess, and Peter can’t believe that he missed the chance to order the boy to keep his kitchen clean. It would have made great viewing, berating him for a messy bench. He’s off his game today, distracted. It doesn’t help that Derek’s smirking in the background.
The scones smell amazing, and Peter wanders over to the oven, peeking through the glass. Stiles’s voice cuts through the room, threatening. “Don’t open that door.”
Peter turns and arches his eyebrows high. “Oh, so sorry! I didn’t realize! You must excuse me, it’s not like I’ve ever baked before.” He raises his hands in mock surrender, and Stiles has the good grace to flush and look down.
“Sorry,” he mutters. “Habit. Scott – that’s my roommate – is forever opening the oven, no matter how often I tell him to leave it alone. He killed a souffle dead last week.”
Derek hisses between his teeth, and there’s genuine sympathy in his voice when he says, “Oh, that’s awful.”
“It was tragic, you have no idea,” Stiles mourns.
Peter says nothing, just quietly files away the fact that Stiles can make souffles. Maybe he’s not entirely useless after all – depending on the scones of course.
The scones are perfection. Fluffy and buttery, soft and moist without being heavy – they’re a delight. Peter slathers butter on the bacon and cheese one Stiles hands him, and when he takes a bite, he makes a truly filthy noise that he’ll be ashamed of later. Stiles grins. “Good, yeah? I told you.”
Derek leans over and picks up a plain scone, holding it to his nose and inhaling, tapping the outside to check the firmness. He splits it with a knife, tiny tendrils of steam escaping, and reaches for a spoonful of cream.
“No!” Stiles and Peter yell at the same time, and Derek stills his hand, giving them a look that clearly says, ‘What now?’
“Jam first, then cream,” Stiles says firmly.
Peter turns, both pleased and surprised at finding an ally. “That’s what I’ve been telling him for years. But he insists on being a barbarian.”
Stiles shakes his head sadly. “That’s criminal.”
Derek rolls his eyes. “Cream first is best, you get the tartness of the fruit then,” he insists.
“Absolutely not, the cream makes the scone soggy and the jam spurts out when you bite,” Peter snaps back, as he sees the director giving a subtle nod. It’s a feature of the show, Derek and Peter’s good-natured bickering, and this will tick all those boxes.
‘Jam first makes no sense!” Derek frowns at Peter, eyebrows radiating disapproval.
“You just have no appreciation for the classics, nephew.” Peter gives Derek the obligatory poke in the chest that’s his trademark.
They’d probably carry on for a bit more, but Stiles derails the whole thing then and there. He plucks the scone out of Derek’s hand and sets about preparing it, a layer of jam under the cream. “Dude, just try it.”
“Don’t call me dude,” Derek grumbles, but then he takes a bite, the angry eyebrows disappear, and he smiles around the mouthful. “ ‘ud onfs’ he says before he swallows and tries again. “Good scones.” He shoves the other half in his mouth.
“And do they meet with your approval, masturbator?” Stiles asks Peter with a gleam in his eye.
Peter chokes on his scone at the same time the director calls “Cut!”
“What did you just call me?” Peter demands, incredulous.
“Master baker, what did you think I said?” Stiles says innocently, but those eyes sparkle with mirth.
Peter can’t stop the smile that makes its way across his face at the sheer cheek of it.
Derek was right, dammit.
Peter likes him.
They film a lot that first day, stopping and starting numerous times as Stiles learns how to work with the camera, not to block the shot with his forearms, to stop spilling curse words under his breath. Peter’s entertained despite himself when for the fourteenth time he hears “Cut! Language, Stiles!” followed by Stiles muttering “motherfucking asshole dickface fuckweasel shit.” He lifts his head and flushes when he catches Peter watching him. “Trying to get it out of my system,” he offers with a grin that Peter should absolutely not find charming.
“Try harder,” he advises drily. “I’d like to get some actual work done.”
The bulk of Peter’s real work gets done out of sight of the cameras, early in the morning before the film crew arrives. He’ll recreate the process later in the day, but most of the time the ‘last minute wedding cake’ he’s working on and may not finish (cue dramatic music) is already safely completed and resting in the cool room.
Peter would like nothing more than to kick the cameras out and declare the show done, but at least this is the last season – he declined the offer to renew their contract. After five years, Peter’s ready to get back to an ordinary workday without cameras getting in his way. Besides, it’s cake – there’s only so much you can do to add drama. Thus the addition of Stiles.
Stiles, who is currently making something with Peter’s leftover fondant while they wait on the cameraman.
“What exactly are you doing to that poor icing?”
Stiles glances up and bites his lip. Peter resists the urge to lean forward and tug it out from under his teeth, because the last thing he needs right now is to be thinking about Stiles’s bottom lip. Or top lip. Or his mouth at all, really. He forces his gaze back to the fondant just as Stiles says, “Um, it’s a swan?”
It really, really isn’t.
Peter’s eyebrows raise in judgement. “It might be a swan, if a swan made love to Yoda and the resulting swan baby was dropped on its head after hatching.”
Stiles’s cheeks flush. “Yeah, decorating’s where I drop the ball. The fondant goes sticky and I can’t make it work.”
“You two, do that again,” the director interrupts. “Stiles, that’s going to be your thing, making awful decorations. Peter, you’re going to ride him about it all season. From the top.”
Stiles looks around, confused. “What?”
“We have that same conversation, only this time they film it,” Peter explains, while he shoves any thought of riding Stiles far, far to the back of his mind.
Stiles’s brow clears. “Oh! I mean I guess I knew that.”
They do the whole thing again, only this time its on film.
“That –“ Peter points “–is not a rose. It’s a cabbage, at best.”
Stiles groans, and Peter smiles to himself. He’s standing directly behind Stiles, peering over his shoulder as his young charge tries and fails to make fondant flowers by hand, the most basic of skills. They’ve been filming for an hour, and Peter would be lying if he said he wasn’t enjoying being pressed close to those broad shoulders. He reaches around and takes the monstrosity from Stiles, their fingers brushing. Stiles’s hands are warm and pleasant to touch, the skin baby soft. Peter lets his own hand linger for just a fraction too long before reluctantly pulling away.
“You’re hot,” he says, close to Stiles’s ear, and Stiles stiffens. “Your hands,” Peter clarifies. “That’ s why you’re having such trouble. You give off unusual amounts of body heat, it’s softening the icing.”
Stiles relaxes again. “Yeah, I’ve always been hot.”
“I’ll bet you have.” The words are out before Peter can stop them, and Stiles turns his head and gives Peter an eyebrow that’s Derek-worthy. Peter cringes internally. That was either the worst come-on ever, or a lawsuit for harassment waiting to happen.
After a second though, Stiles breaks into a grin. “It’s a bitc – bother in summer. I spend most of the time just wearing boxers when I’m home. Scott always calls first when he brings friends back to make sure I’m decent.”
Peter wonders briefly if Scott and Stiles are just roommates or if they’re something more, but there’s no way to ask without seeming nosy or jealous. Which he’s not. Nosy, maybe. Jealous? Definitely not.
The question’s answered for him anyway when Stiles continues, “He obviously doesn’t want the girls he brings back to see this sweet, sweet bod and ditch him.” Peter chuckles dutifully at the joke for the cameras and doesn’t examine the relief he feels too closely.
A week into filming, the director takes Peter aside ‘for a chat.’ He gets straight to the point. “You’re not giving us the Peter we need.”
“Excuse me?” Peter fixes the director with a glare.
“You’re being nice. People don’t tune in for nice. They tune in to see you throw things and snap and growl and make your assistants quit. We want that Peter.” The man runs a hand through his hair. “It’s never been a problem for you before, but it’s like you’re not even trying. Give us some drama. Pitch a fit over something. Make the kid cry.”
Peter’s mouth draws into a thin line. “I’m not going to yell at him when he hasn’t fucked up.” He’s inexplicably offended by the very idea of it. Stiles has proven to be an asset over the last week, and Peter’s an asshole, yes, but he’s a fair asshole.
“So set him a task you know he’ll fuck up. You’ve done it before.”
But I don’t want to. I like this boy, Peter doesn’t say. Instead he gives a terse nod.
God, he hates reality TV.
Peter goes home after they wrap for the day and pulls out a bottle of scotch. He pours himself a couple of fingers’ worth over ice and goes and sits on his balcony, closing his eyes and soaking up the sunshine. He breathes deeply, and thinks about what to do next.
The problem is Stiles.
The director wasn’t wrong – he hasn’t been able to bring himself to snap and snarl nearly as much as he usually would, too busy hiding his smiles at Stiles’s ridiculous commentary on the whole filming process, the cameraman’s t-shirt, the weather, what he had for dinner last night. He rambles constantly, and Peter really shouldn’t find it as charming as he does.
The more time he spends with Stiles, gets to know him, the more he’s reminded how refreshing it is to be around someone who honestly doesn’t seem put off by his brusqueness, his sarcasm. Stiles just seems to take it in his stride, and Peter’s insults and attitude just slide right off like water off a duck’s back. For his part, Stiles is loud and brash and inappropriate, and really, Peter shouldn’t be surprised at his own fascination with someone like that.
But still, it came as a shock when Peter realized that for the first time in a very long time, he’s actually attracted to someone. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to keep his composure, to stop himself from running a hand over the back of Stiles’s neck or across those broad shoulders, to hold back from herding the boy into the cool room and kissing him. If he knew for certain the feelings ran both ways, he’d probably have done it by now.
And yes, Peter wants, but it’s more than just physical. He really likes Stiles – more than likes, if he’s honest. He thinks he’d like to see if maybe this could go somewhere. But that won’t happen if he treats Stiles like shit for the sake of ratings. And Stiles doesn’t seem like the type who’d be particularly forgiving if Peter went to him after the event and explained it was just for the cameras. He seems more like the type who’d punch Peter in the face and then spread it all over the internet.
Peter sighs, takes a drink, tries to imagine how it would even work. Crush Stiles with his acid commentary for the next six weeks, and then after, tell him it was all for show, and ask him if he’d like to go on a date?
No, that won’t work at all.
Peter stares into his glass, thinking, and after a minute a half-smile plays around his lips as he considers the alternative.
What if he tells Stiles about it beforehand?
It goes against all the production guidelines, but Peter doesn’t care. It’s their final season anyway – what are they going to do, sack him?
He corners Stiles after filming. “Derek and I like to unwind with a drink after a long day, but he’s not free. Care to join me instead?” He ignores the disbelieving look Derek shoots him and silently wills him to keep quiet about the fact that they’ve gone for a drink post- shoot maybe five times, total.
Stiles hesitates. “Are the cameras coming?”
“Definitely not,” Peter assures him. He sweetens the pot a little. “There’s a lovely little tapas bar just down the street, we could get dinner. My treat.”
That seems to decide Stiles. “Lemme grab my stuff.”
Derek sidles over and raises a perfectly arched brow. “Peter, what are you up to?”
Peter huffs, offended. “I’m just getting to know Stiles better, that’s all. You always accuse me of being antisocial. Well, this is me, being social.”
“If you say so,” Derek sounds doubtful. Peter doesn’t blame him, but he also doesn’t enlighten him.
Stiles appears in his street clothes, looking far more appealing than he does in his boxy chef’s jacket. Peter strips his own jacket off, and doesn’t miss the sharp intake of breath when he exposes the low-cut v neck he’s wearing underneath. It reassures him that the attraction he feels isn’t one sided – it’s been a long time, and he readily admits he’s more than a little rusty at reading the signs. Peter turns on his most charming smile, extends an arm, and says “Shall we?” Stiles only pauses for a moment before looping their arms together and letting Peter lead the way.
Peter offers to drive them, but Stiles shrugs and says he’d prefer to walk after being cooped up inside all day, a sentiment Peter shares. They stroll the two blocks to the bar, and Stiles leaves their arms looped together. Peter enjoys the comforting weight of it, further reassured that he’s not misreading this. The let go of each other when they reach their destination, and after ordering a variety of food and getting their drinks they slide into a booth facing each other.
Peter takes a sip while he tries to think of how to start, but Stiles beats him to it. “So what gives? You don’t go out for drinks. It’s one of the things Derek teases you about in season two, how you’ve worn a path between your house and the bakery because you never go anywhere else.”
Peter smirks. Smart boy. He knew he liked him for a reason. “You’re right. I just wanted to talk to you away from listening ears and hidden microphones,” he admits.
Stiles leans forwards on his elbows, expression eager. “Yeah?”
Peter decides to keep it simple. “I like you, Stiles.”
Stiles goes pink to the tips of his ears. “I like you too.”
Peter sighs. “I like you, but I’m still going to treat you like dirt for the next six weeks.”
Stiles tilts his head. “O-kaaay.”
Peter lifts his hands in a ‘what can you do?’ gesture. “I’m known for being prickly and difficult to work with. It’s what the viewers like.”
“But you’re not really like that,” Stiles observes.
“I really am like that, in fact. You’ve just gotten off lightly because you’re competent and as I said, I like you. But the network wants me to be more…”
“Of a giant dick?” Stiles guesses, astute as ever.
Peter slumps a little. “That’s one way of putting it.”
“A douche-canoe? Twat-waffle? Fuckface? Asswipe? Absolute tosspot? Sir Bastard McBastardface of Bastardtown? An utter wan –“
“Yes, all of those,” Peter interrupts. “But it puts me in a difficult position.”
“That’s what she said,” Stiles snickers, and Peter can feel the corners of his own mouth pull up despite his best attempts to keep a straight face. Stiles grins, and it’s in that moment that Peter decides to stop dancing around and lay all his cards on the table at once, like ripping off a bandaid.
“I’m going to insult you for six weeks solid, attempt to crush your self-worth and make you cry daily, and I’m going to do it because the director wants the ratings, and then as soon as filming wraps I’m planning to ask you out,” he says bluntly.
Stiles looks a little stunned by that, and Peter thinks that this was a bad idea, he’s blown any chance he had, but then Stiles’s grin gets wider. “For the ratings, huh?” he seems completely unfazed by Peter’s declaration.
“And then dating,” Peter says, because maybe Stiles didn’t hear him.
Stiles waves a hand. “Yeah, I got that part. But tell me about the treating me like dirt bit. How bad are we talking?”
Peter just blinks. This conversation isn’t going at all like he expected. “So when I ask you on a date, you'll say yes?” he persists.
Stiles doesn’t even hesitate. “Of course I will. You’re gorgeous and clever and I have impure thoughts about your collarbones on a daily basis.”
The relief Peter feels should not be as intense as it is. “A daily basis, you say?”
“Sometimes a nightly basis,” Stiles says, waggling his eyebrows furiously.
Peter laughs out loud at that. He leans in closer. “Your hands are the stuff of fantasies,” he confides.
It’s Stiles’s turn to look surprised. “Me? I’m the skinny white boy special. The twink deluxe. I’m the fantasiser, not the fantasisee.”
Peter shakes his head. “You probably were that boy once, but not anymore. Now? You’ve grown into yourself, and you’re frankly delectable.” He licks his lips deliberately, feeling braver in his flirting now he knows Stiles is on the same page.
Stiles’s eyes track the tip of his tongue and his own mouth opens slightly. “Tell me again why we have to wait six weeks?” he asks, slightly breathless.
“Because America’s not ready for a gay onscreen reality tv romance,” Peter says. “It’s okay for me to be out, but not for me to be attracted to you. The joys of television.” The eyeroll’s automatic.
“And that’s why you’re going to shout at me and insult me for six weeks? To keep them happy?” Stiles looks more entertained than anything.
“In a nutshell, yes. They’ve indicated that they want you in tears.”
Stiles snorts. “Sounds like bullshit to me.”
“Oh, agreed. There’s a reason why this is my last season. It’s exhausting, being the villain.”
The waitress interrupts them with their food just then, and as they eat, Stiles gets a thoughtful expression on his face. Peter waits and watches as Stiles picks at the tray in front of them, and finally Stiles speaks. “How would you like,” he says around a mouthful of calamari, “To go out in an angry, angry blaze of glory?”
Peter finishes his own mouthful. “I’m listening.”
“It’s just, I’ve been accused of being a motormouth, and I can be pretty annoying.”
“Really? I hadn’t noticed,” Peter says drily.
Stiles pokes his tongue out. “Ass. Anyway. What if I didn’t fall apart in tears like I’m meant to? What if I snapped back? What if we hated each other? I mean, a few thrown plates have to be good for ratings, right?”
“You want me to throw plates at you?” Peter’s intrigued.
Stiles grins widely. ”No, Bastard McBastardface. I’ll be throwing them at you.”
Peter knew he liked Stiles for a reason.