In a sleek, industrial-style taproom downtown, with a light rain drifting onto the streets outside and reflecting the neon and traffic signals in a glowing haze, Stiles leaned against a polished quartz bartop.
And he looked damn good.
Earlier that night, Lydia came over. Her PhD program helped with housing, but she got bored of living on-campus with a bunch of undergrads—who were all her own age—so every once in awhile, she deigned to visit the commoners in Stiles’s and Scott’s shitty outer-borough complex.
“What’s up baby-doll?” She’d teased, leaning against Stiles’s banged-up doorframe luxuriously. “Is there a reason you’re wearing pants tight enough to strangle the python?”
“Hopefully the python won’t be strangled for long,” Stiles joked back automatically. “I’ve got a date.”
“Ohhh, with who?” She fell onto his bed, bouncing a bit before snuggling into his comforter.
“One of my clients.” No matter what he did, his ridiculous hair wouldn’t obey. “He’s nice, but—I don’t know. He’s older. Like, late thirties older. So I don’t think it’ll go anywhere. Yet I’m still nervous, for some weird fucking reason.”
“An older man, huh? Is he a hottie?”
“Meh, I think so.”
Stiles raised an eyebrow at her. “All my clients are rich. And busy. That’s why they hire a freakin’ dogwalker.”
“Nice,” Lydia said, smirking. “Free dinner.”
Stiles huffed a laugh. “It fucking better be. If he makes me pay, we’re not gonna get much more than water.”
“That’s my boy! Wring ‘em dry.”
Stiles ignored her. His hair was a much more pressing matter.
“Why are you nervous?” Lydia asked, rolling onto her back and checking her nails. “Isn’t he just some old geezer?”
“Honestly?” Stiles huffed. He’d have to leave his hair for later; he still needed to pick out a nice shirt. “He’s, uh—straight, sort of. He told me that I’m his first man.”
“Stiles,” Lydia said crossly. “What have I told you about straight men?”
He rolled his eyes, but couldn’t avoid grinning a bit. “That they’re boring and terrible in bed.”
“And am I ever wrong?”
“No, but—hey wait, why are you so sure I’m gonna sleep with him? It’s just a first date. I’m not that easy.”
“Stiles.” She rose from the bed, stood in front of him, and took both of his shoulders in hand. She smiled gently. “You absolutely are that easy.”
He opened his mouth to argue, but stopped. After a moment of thought, he asked: “Am I really?”
“When we took that red-eye to the Caribbean for spring break, you screwed one of the flight attendants in the lavatory.”
Lydia nodded in quiet victory. “But, if you’re absolutely determined to seduce a formerly-straight man to the queer side…” She turned him by the shoulders to face the mirror. “You’ll need a certain look.”
Over an hour and countless plucked eyebrow hairs later, Stiles was finally in the bar, waiting for his date to show up.
He’d never even come close to looking this good in his entire life. Lydia had let him keep the black pants—“How would we even get you out of them?”—but had added a gunmetal-gray button-up to the ensemble, along with a fitted blazer Stiles normally only wore to funerals. She’d insisted on his black boots—“We need to remind everyone you’re not straight”—and had fixed his disastrous hair effortlessly, somehow managing to squeeze a miracle out of a hair product bottle.
Then she’d gone to town on his brows, forcibly pinched his lips until they were pink and a little swollen, and “fitted” his button-up with a bunch of safety pins along his back.
So, yeah, he looked incredible. But it was only because—through the power of a girl genius and the magic of fashion—he’d been turned into a sexy pin-cushion.
And now, it seemed like his date wouldn’t even show.
Which meant no free dinner, time wasted, and one less dog to walk.
It was forty minutes past the allotted time of arrival when Stiles decided fuck it, hollered the bartender over, and ordered the absolute cheapest drink in the house. When it arrived, he pounded the near-entirety of it immediately. It was sour, but so was he, so they were perfect for each other.
Stiles had always known he’d find his soulmate over a glass of booze.
“Are you alone?” Some guy asked from behind Stiles’s shoulder.
Stiles huffed, took a final swig, and waved a hand flippantly, gaze never leaving the too-expensive black quartz under his arms. He said, bitterly: “Yes. Yeah, I’m alone. I’m assuming you have eyes.”
“Because that ass-muncher chickened the fuck out—oh…hi.”
Over-the-shoulder guy was attractive enough to be literally terrifying. He wore a fitted designer suit, as though he’d just gotten off from a job with a salary; yet his infuriatingly chiseled face was underlined with a five-o’clock shadow, like he was the one paying the salaries.
“What are you drinking?” He asked.
Stiles tore his eyes away in order to stare blankly at his empty glass. “I…don’t even know.”
The man huffed, amused, and Stiles thought he might develop cataracts from enduring his smile. “I’ll make a guess, then.”
“You do that,” he replied, nearly breathless.
The man sat down at the barstool next to him. Stiles was still not quite understanding this entire development, so he just blinked and mouth-breathed in silence.
“What’s your name?”
“Stiles,” he answered, perhaps too quickly. When the man seemed a bit confused, Stiles went on: “It’s not my real name. But my real name—you don’t need to know it.” Because it’s too hard to pronounce died in his throat, because he realized that he was probably being rude. He rushed out: “I mean…just, Stiles. My name is Stiles. Everyone calls me that.”
The man nodded, accepting. “I’m Derek.”
They shook hands. The situation was finally starting to dawn on him, so Stiles smiled, determined to salvage whatever he could of a shitty night out.
“It’s good to meet you,” Stiles said—and congratulated himself silently. That had seemed functional.
Derek smiled back, but his eyes swiftly left Stiles’s face to quite obviously peruse his neck and collarbones. After a moment of blatant staring—complete with raised eyebrows, a tense mouth, and flared nostrils—he coughed and turned away to place an order with the bartender.
Stiles made a note to buy Lydia flowers.
After their orders were in, Derek turned back and said: “So…you got stood up?”
Stiles laughed a little, shrugging awkwardly. “Aha, yeah, guess so. But in retrospect, I’m not really surprised.”
Derek frowned and narrowed his eyes, seeming truly puzzled.
“My date, ah…was a little scared to meet me, I think.”
Derek continued to look puzzled, frowny, and revoltingly handsome.
“It was one of my newer clients,” Stiles went on, trying to cover his nervousness with more light laughter. “He was an older guy, never been with another man, and—”
“Oh,” Derek said, finally seeming to catch on that Stiles was the type of person who got stood up in bars he couldn’t afford to use the bathroom in.
“Well,” Derek shrugged, shifting in his seat a little.
“Well…?” Stiles asked, grinning. He could totally pull this off.
“Well. His loss then.”
“I’ll cheers to that.”
The bartender must have smelled the wealth wafting off of Derek and his fitted suit, because their drinks arrived in record time. And the cocktails must have been costly, too: Stiles’s concoction was glinting with what appeared to be real flakes of gold.
It also tasted like Apollo had nutted directly into his mouth.
“So, Derek,” Stiles said, thanking his lucky stars that his first, much cheaper drink was blessing him with a bit of confidence. “What do you do?”
“I manage and rent out properties.”
“You’re a landlord?”
“Technically, I guess. I lease out luxury apartments and office buildings.”
Stiles blinked dumbly. “Whole buildings? Entire ones? Do you mean, like…out-of-state?”
“No. Here in the city.”
Apollo’s sperm nearly spurted out of Stiles’s nostrils. He covered it up with a cough and a smooth, almost-casual: “That sounds stressful.”
“Sometimes,” Derek said nonchalantly. “But my family’s always been in the business. I learned a lot from my mom and older sister.”
“Except they’re not really nice. They’re nicknamed the ‘alpha wolves’ of New York.”
Stiles couldn’t quite contain his hysterical laugh; it jolted from him like a hiccup. “The wolves of Wall Street?”
Derek opened his mouth to answer, but quickly stopped, looking away again. He actually blushed. “When you say it like that, it… sounds stupid.”
“No!” Stiles rushed out—even though it totally was. But he wasn’t willing to lose this miraculous opportunity over a half-baked wolf media reference. “It’s not stupid. But it is kinda funny.”
“Fair enough,” Derek said, sipping his drink almost bashfully. “I would ask what it is you do, but…I guess I already know.”
Stiles froze in horror. Did he smell like dog?
Abruptly, Derek swigged his drink and leaned closer, elbow splayed along the bar. “How much would it be?”
Stiles’s perfectly sculpted eyebrows fled towards his scalp. “What?”
“For the—oh, this must be tactless, right?” Derek leaned back, eyes shifty and avoiding. “Here, just—write it down, and I won’t say anything else.”
Derek reached into his suit jacket—chest beneath startlingly solid—and withdrew a small black leather book. He set it down on the shiny quartz bartop, flipped it open, and set a pen down next to it with a clack.
Finally, Stiles realized: it was his checkbook.
Derek was soliciting him.
In shock and a bit of horror, Stiles pushed the book away fiercely. “What is wrong with you?” He hissed.
“Is this not tact—”
“No, it’s not tactful.”
“Now you listen here,” Stiles interrupted, raising a single finger. But just as he was about to cuss the guy out, pulling every colorful insult from his inventive menagerie, he noticed how soft and vulnerable his face looked, eyes on Stiles like he was looking at someone out of his league.
It was so bizarre and jarring that Stiles just said the first thing that came to mind.
“This is highly unexpected.”
“I know,” Derek replied, gritting his jaw and shifting in his chair. “You came to meet another client. But he’s not here, and I just thought…” His eyes quickly flitted up and down Stiles’s body; he took a big breath in, avoiding eye contact all the while, and let the air out in a quiet huff. “This is probably a bad thing to say, but—just tell me how much. A thousand, or—whatever, I don’t care what it is; I’ll pay it.”
Stiles, once again, just stared and blinked at him, mouth hanging open.
He put his single finger up again, a little higher this time. “Excuse me. For just a second.”
Stiles practically back-flipped his way past the bar, through the sparse crowd, and onto the sidewalk outside.
“Scott, oh my god, Scotty. Thank fuck you answered.”
“What? What’s wrong?”
“I’m in a bit of a pickle.”
“What did you do?”
“Nothing! Well—I’m gonna do something.”
“…Is it illegal?”
“But—just hear me out, okay? Hear me out. So, I’m in this swanky bar. My date doesn’t show, even though I look edible. Like—sexy edible, not just regular made-of-flesh edible. Anyway—”
“Does it involve coke?”
“Hard drugs of any kind? You know your meds don’t play well.”
“What is it then?”
“I was getting there. So I’m edible, at bar, stood up, and this guy shows up out of nowhere—”
“Is he a cop?”
“…I’m not sure, actually, but I highly doubt it. This bar is too bougie for that undercover shit.”
“Okay. That’s good.”
“Yeah. Anyway, he’s incredibly hot, and we get to small-talk, and suddenly—he, uh…”
“…Is in the mafia?”
“He wants to fuck me.”
“He offered me a thousand dollars. Just, to, like…fuck me.”
“I didn’t lie to him! He assumed!”
“It’s a miscommunication!”
“Did you un-miscommunicate?”
“You’re not a hooker, Stiles.”
“Okay, yes, true, but—for a thousand dollars.”
“He implied that that was, like, the starting point. Like I could ask for more.”
“You’re sure he’s not a cop?”
“Way too sloppy to be a cop. He told me to write down my price on the bar counter. In his private checkbook.”
“Exactly. It’s shooting fish in a barrel. Extremely sexy fish.”
“But will the fish murder you?”
“There comes a time when we all must ask ourselves that question.”
“Stiles, seriously—can you at least keep me updated on your exact location?”
“Of course. Wait—are you giving me permission?”
“No! But I already know you’re gonna do it, and if I keep telling you no, you’ll just do it stupidly. I want you safe.”
“Aw, Scotty, my dainty darling clownfish…Remind me to marry you in a few decades, when both of us are lonely spinsters.”
“Shut up. I’m furious with you.”
“What? What if I die tonight? You really want our last convo—”
“Don’t you even fucking joke about it.”
“Okay, look, gotta go—and just FYI, I love you deeply, you’re the best, and I’m currently at a fancy taproom called Goose & Hollow, talking business with a guy named Derek Hale who is literally stupid enough to flash me his real checkbook that is plastered with his actual, real name. His whole family is in property management or some shit; I guess the name kinda rings a bell.”
“When you get back home, safe and totally unharmed, I am going to kill you.”
Stiles approached the bar again, chest throbbing in an intoxicating mixture of confidence and utter petrification. He caught Derek’s eye and smiled.
Derek, bless his heart, actually appeared relieved. “I thought you’d caught a taxi.”
“Without you? Never,” Stiles said, somehow managing to keep his volume and tone level. He laid a hand along Derek’s forearm gently. “Before we head out, though…”
“What?” Derek asked impatiently.
Slowly, Stiles grinned, trying his best to channel Lydia’s patented sweetheart, I’m better expression. “What’s the catch?”
“The catch, Der-Bear,” Stiles repeated, and slid his perfectly cradled, practically cellophaned ass into the closest barstool. While he wasn’t a slick or seductive person by any means, Stiles had some idea of what those people were like.
So he just. Pretended.
He started the charade by crossing his legs—gliding a quick touch along Derek’s calf—and propping one arm on the bar, then set his chin atop a delicately curled hand. He tilted his head in a way that should be vaguely cute, and let his neck stretch from his collarbones subtly.
When he spoke once more, Derek was yet again staring at the exposed crook of his neck. Success. “From what you’ve shown me so far, you’re a handsome, rich man with at least a bare handle on human language. I’d get it if you were older, or married, or just passing through—but honestly, you should have no problem finding dates. So why are you doing this?”
Derek frowned and looked away. “That’s none of your business.”
“Well, if you want to be inside me at some point tonight, I say it is my business.”
How the hell Stiles kept a composed face as he said that, he didn’t know—but it was all the sweeter as he saw Derek’s face go pink, tensing and cringing in discomfort.
Derek looked supremely pissed off as he said: “It’s because—just—I’m bad at dating, all right.”
“You’re…bad at it.”
Stiles raised a single brow. “I’m…sorry to hear that?”
“No, you don’t understand,” Derek went on, flicking the last of his drink back in frustration. “I consistently make awful dating decisions. My taste is terrible. Literally the absolute worst.”
“Oh come on; it can’t be that bad—”
“Two of my exes are in prison for attempted murder.”
“—Okay, yes, the worst.”
“I’m tired of the whole charade,” he said, scowling. “I’m tired of meeting someone, thinking they’re genuine, and finding out everything was just a huge lie.”
And Stiles, the charade-playing liar, just shifted in his seat awkwardly.
“Sorry,” Derek said gruffly. “You probably don’t want to deal with someone else’s baggage.”
Stiles shrugged and plastered a smile on, determined to fake it to make it. “I did ask. Don’t sweat it.”
“Do you have any more questions for me?” Derek asked, false-patience blatantly mingled with sarcasm.
On a panicked whim, Stiles asked: “Do you have any cash on you?”
Derek frowned, took out his wallet, and rifled through. “About six hundred. Why?”
“Why—why do you have that much?”
Derek looked at him like he’d just asked why the earth was round.
So Stiles said: “You know what—whatever. Can we leave?”
“Great, good, let’s go.”
As they walked towards the exit, Derek tried to place a hand on Stiles’s lower back. Stiles was so nervous about everything that he swatted it away.
To cover up that possible hooker-faux pas, he hurried away from Derek’s side and towards the curb, holding an arm up for the passing taxis.
Derek came to a stand next to him and scoffed. “Don’t be disgusting,” he said, and reached into his jacket to grab his phone. He jabbed at the touch-screen, brought the speaker up to his ear, and said: “I’m ready.”
Immediately, a black Lexus came to a halt in front of them.
“O-kay,” Stiles breathed out.
Derek held open the door to the backseat. “Is something wrong?”
In mild awe, Stiles looked from the backseat to Derek and back, absolutely motionless. “This is your car? With a chauffeur?”
“Yes,” Derek replied, curt. When Stiles still didn’t move: “I know it’s last year’s model—”
“It’s fine,” Stiles rushed out. He climbed in, slid over to the other side, and buckled up in record time. “It’s totally fine.”
“Next time, I’ll pick you up in the Camaro.”
Stiles huffed a laugh, sharp and quietly terrified. “Slow down buddy; there hasn’t even been a this time yet.”
And with that, Stiles crossed his legs, leaned against the car door, and considered the pros and cons of barrel-rolling into oncoming traffic.
He’d only been alive for two decades, so there wasn’t a lot that Stiles knew. But he did know one thing for sure: he was an idiot. What the fresh fuck was he doing? This was sex work; it wasn’t something you just picked up on a whim—especially when you don’t actually know the details, conventions, and norms surrounding it.
And when your dad was in law enforcement.
If he turned up dead, Stiles wouldn’t be surprised in the least. Even if Derek didn’t kill him, his father would gladly finish the job.
Which reminded him to text Scott: “Black Lexus, last year’s model; moving down Upper East Side on First Ave.”
“Are you texting right now?”
“Uh, yeah, why?” Stiles replied, glancing up with false nonchalance. Derek glared at him sternly—except he was pouting, so Stiles could hardly take him seriously. He teased: “Are you feeling left out?”
Derek looked out the window, seemingly resolved to sulk his way back into Stiles’s attention.
“Sorry, Der-Bear,” Stiles said. He smiled fondly. “I was just texting my contact. Gotta make sure they know where to look for my body.”
That got Derek to look at him again, face set in alarm.
“Kidding! Just kidding. But I am playing this safe. You can’t fault me for that, right?”
“No,” Derek said, crossing his arms petulantly.
It was the perfect opportunity for Stiles to slide over—scooch, really, since it wasn’t that spacious and he was buckled in—and graze a gentle palm along Derek’s thigh. “Don’t worry. I’ll keep the distractions to a bare minimum. Promise.”
Before he went any further, however, Stiles looked sideways at the chauffeur. He kept his face absolutely stone-still as he caught the man’s eye in the rear-view mirror.
Derek took the hint and rolled up the car divide.
“Don’t worry,” Derek said. “Boyd is discreet.”
“Not with his opinion,” Stiles mumbled, referring to the merciless stink-glare he’d received in the span of a blink.
“Nothing.” They were halted at a red light, so Stiles unbuckled his seat belt and swung himself onto Derek’s lap. Surprisingly, fear made him smoother than silk. “Hold onto me; we’re moving again and I’m spurning vehicular safety rules.”
That didn’t seem to be a challenging request. One moment, Derek was limp and relaxed in his seat; the next, he was groping and squeezing Stiles’s ass with a gusto heretofore unknown to humanity.
Other than that, though, Derek didn’t seem like a go-getter. Or maybe he simply preferred staring at his partners in utter awe instead of doing anything.
So, as though they had all the time in the world—or Stiles was in perfect control—he took Derek’s soft, fancy suit jacket in one hand. He pressed the other hand to the side of his face, skimming the pad of his thumb over his stubbled cheek.
Then, he brought their lips together tenderly, letting it linger.
That tenderness didn’t last long. Within seconds of contact, Derek was pushing up at his mouth, prying it open with his tongue and licking into him fiercely. Stiles let out a little gasp, and it only seemed to incense him further; Derek’s hands clenched, pulling him in and spreading him even wider—
Until they heard the sound of fabric tearing.
Stiles couldn’t stop it—he snorted an ugly laugh. Loudly.
“…I’m sorry,” Derek mumbled, looking sort of like he wanted to die.
“It’s—okay,” Stiles gasped out, unable to rein in his laughter any longer. “Is there a tear? Oh my god; you ripped my physically-impossible pants—”
“What are you doing wearing something like this anyway?” Derek snapped—and Stiles thought, oh no, he’s one of those types.
“Are you serious right now?”
“You’re supposed to wear what fits, not what cuts off circulation.”
Derek had still been groping him throughout, so he mentioned: “There’s no real tear.”
“Derek,” Stiles said, tilting Derek’s head up to force eye contact. “It’s fine. I’m having a good time. Are you just embarrassed, or are you really a giant grouchy asshole?”
He scowled. “Neither.”
Stiles raised his eyebrows, impressed. “Wow, both.”
Derek turned another glare on him. It was like being glared at by a wolf—but the wolf was secretly a giant, extremely earnest puppy.
“This is fun. Teasing you is fun.” Slowly, Stiles smoothed his hands along Derek’s shoulders, squirmed his ass down into his lap, and tilted his head innocently. “Anyway…do you wanna keep making out?”
Indeed, Derek did.
Mostly it involved more groping, tongue-wrestling, and a lot of enthusiasm directed towards Stiles’s neck.
After some unknown time, they pulled up to a sleek, reflective skyscraper. Stiles stared up at it bogglingly. “This is a nice place,” he mumbled.
“I own it.”
“It’s a hotel.”
“Okay,” Stiles replied, stumbling out of the car with Derek’s hand gripping his. “That’s—yeah, sure, why not.”
They walked in together. The uniformed lady at the register caught sight of Derek, smiled brightly and knowingly, and started looking busy with the things on her desk.
“Good evening, Mr. Hale,” she said, smirking like she and Derek shared an inside joke. “Your usual room?”
Something about that exchange—Derek had a usual room—turned Stiles’s mouth bitter, but he supposed he had no right to fuss. This wasn’t a date; Derek was going to pay him.
“Yeah, thanks Erica.”
Stiles frowned deeply as Erica the desk-lady got the keycard ready. On impulse, he said: “Hey, Erica?” and pointed at his side, where Derek looked startled that he was even speaking at all. “Does this guy actually own this place?”
Erica laughed. And laughed, and laughed.
“Okay but no, seriously,” Stiles said. “I’m pretty sure he’s just full of shit.”
Erica stopped cackling long enough to answer: “Both are true.”
Stiles sent Derek a shrewd, ascertaining glance. “You know you don’t need to impress me, right? Like. At all.”
“Yeah, got it.”
“I swear, he really does own it,” Erica butted in. She grinned at Derek, continued: “Where’d you find this one, boss? He’s got quite a mouth on him.” Then she stared at Stiles’s mouth longingly—utterly uncaring of Derek’s fuming glower—and bit her red-painted lip.
In that moment, Stiles admired her immensely.
“You’re cool. We should hang later.”
“I can’t fucking believe this,” Derek muttered under his breath, snatching up the keycard and dragging Stiles away by the hand.
“See you, Erica!” Stiles waved. She fluttered some fingers at him coyly.
“You said you’d keep the distractions to a minimum,” Derek bit out.
“I am! Okay, I’m not. But I’m having a great time.”
“It’s highly unprofessional.”
Instead of getting flustered, Stiles just rolled his eyes. “Says the man who told me to write down my fee in his private checkbook, in a highly public place.”
Derek led them into an empty elevator, where he fumed in agitated silence.
After a quick glance to see if there were cameras in here—not that it mattered, really—Stiles crept closer, sneaking his hands underneath Derek’s jacket and onto his waist. “I’m sorry, Der-Bear. But this gives you a good chance to show me just who I belong to, hm?”
Derek turned to stare at him, shocked out of his regular frown.
Stiles blinked. “That doesn’t do it for you? It’s just, in the car, you seemed like you really wanted mark me—”
This time, Stiles was the one shocked into silence—Derek shoved them both into the elevator wall, cradling Stiles’s head against impact and kissing him breathless.
By the time the elevator dinged open, Stiles’s perfect hairdo was destroyed.
“Keep up,” Derek commanded, tugging on his hand insistently.
“I—you keep up,” Stiles replied, bratty and winded.
It turned out Derek was literally faster than him, so Stiles needed to hop a little bit with each step. He led Stiles down a hallway that only had one door; that meant, surprise surprise, they were taking the penthouse suite for the night.
“The minibar must be huge,” Stiles said softly.
“The minibar,” he said again, and watched Derek jam the keycard into the door-reader roughly and sloppily. It didn’t bode well for the future of his asshole. “The minibar must be—”
But Derek didn’t give a shit about the minibar, because he finally got the door open with a beep, and he was dragging Stiles inside with a yank to the wrist. Again he shoved Stiles against a wall, this time the hotel room’s entryway.
Rather than being sexy, though, Stiles felt like he was trapped—and it was freaking him the fuck out.
He squeaked uncomfortably. Derek took it as an affirmative noise until Stiles pressed a palm against his shoulder and shoved.
“God,” Stiles gasped, dropping his head back against the wall with a thunk. “Can you, just, slow down for a minute?”
“I don’t want to slow down,” Derek mumbled, mouth busy on his exposed neck.
“I want to.”
Derek took in a big gulp of air. He leaned back.
“Thank you,” Stiles said. He squirmed out of Derek’s space and walked into the penthouse at a leisurely stroll, tucking his hands into his back pockets to hide the trembling. “These are nice digs you’ve got here,” he said.
That was the understatement of the millennium.
The penthouse was modern and sparkling white, lined with beams of silver and little pops of color—navy pillows on the couch, heavy navy curtains on the windows. And that was just the main room; through a pair of wide-open French doors, Stiles could see the grand king-sized bed, a white leather divan, and a little lounge area in front of a sprawling floor-to-ceiling window. Even as high up as they were, the lights from the city below twinkled and reflected in, giving the room a soft, multi-colored glow.
And the minibar was not huge—it was a full-sized stainless steel fridge. In a real, full-sized kitchen.
Stiles stood in the middle of it all and felt extremely insignificant.
Derek touched his lower arm softly. “Can I get you anything?”
“Water,” Stiles said, truthful in his vulnerability. “If—if it’s not too much trouble.”
As Derek went to get him a glass, Stiles sat down on the couch, spreading out and running restless fingers through his hair.
Stiles would ask for three thousand. He would kiss him, fuck him, say nice things, and then he’d be gone, thousands richer and dignity intact. And he wouldn’t die tonight—once again, he remembered to text Scott, mentioning the hotel name, Erica’s name as a witness, and the floor they were on.
“Here,” Derek said, offering the glass. It must have been real crystal. “We should talk, right?”
“Yeah,” Stiles nodded and sipped. “This—I don’t normally do this.”
“Spur of the moment,” Derek said, sitting down next to him and nodding in turn. “Makes sense.”
Lying by omission seemed to be the name of the game tonight. Stiles’s leg jiggled anxiously; he chugged the water quickly, sighed, and ran hands down his front, as though he actually cared about the upkeep of his outfit in these circumstances.
“Okay,” he said, shifting his body to face Derek’s on the couch. “First of all, I won’t do kinky shit with you. No choking, no hitting—you’re pushing your luck with the neck-biting; I really can’t afford to be covered in hickeys.”
“Fine,” Derek answered, calm and collected.
“Other than violent stuff, if it happens in your run-of-the-mill, generic porn vid, we can do it.”
“If you’re unsure, just ask me, and respect my answer.”
After a bracing breath, Stiles said: “I want three thousand.”
Derek’s eyebrows rose just slightly—as though he might be thinking it was a deal. “All right.”
“I’ll take a personal check, but in case it bounces, I’ll at least need the cash you’ve got on you.”
Derek scoffed haughtily. “It won’t bounce.”
“Good to know, but still—”
Derek waved a dismissive hand. “Fine, whatever.”
Stiles’s mouth pursed tartly at his attitude, but he asked patiently: “Do you have any questions?”
For a few seconds, all Derek did was blush and look shifty. He cleared his throat. “How are you with, uh, intimacy?”
“Yes, that’s what I said,” Derek huffed, rolling his eyes defensively. “Kisses, cuddling, spooning—being intimate.”
Stiles glanced at the distantly glistening fridge and back, a few times, as though it could clue him in on what this nonsense was all about. “Der-Bear, you do know this isn’t Pretty Woman, right?”
“I know that,” Derek snapped back.
“We’ve got similar eyebrows, so it may be confusing, but I am not in fact the actress and American treasure Julia Roberts.”
“Good. Then you’ve answered your own question.”
“Great, glad to hear it,” Derek muttered acidly, then reached into his suit jacket to pull out his checkbook. He scrawled on it for a bit, ripped out the new check, and slapped it on the nearby coffee table, adding the cash on top for good measure.
Stiles stared at the pile like someone had laid the Holy Grail in front of him, shimmering and beautiful, but had wrapped it in poison oak and ticking explosives.
“Are we good?” Derek asked, snappy tone distracting from how both of his hands were clenching his knees in vice grips.
Stiles nodded, then pulled his gaze from the money in a slow drag. “Yeah. We’re good.”
Derek nodded too. But he didn’t move.
So Stiles stood, took his hand, and pulled him up from the couch. He guided Derek’s hands onto his hips, then took Derek’s face into both hands softly.
“Do you wanna go to bed?”
Instead of nodding, or saying a single word, Derek just kissed him.