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House of Gold

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It’s an act of rebellion, sneaking out of the hotel with Isaac and Malia and heading to the bar down the street. There’s a show starting at 10 and they’re a half hour early because there’s a line out the door—San Francisco can boast a lot of things, but if the rumors are to be believed, there’s something worthwhile in their borders that they’re just ignoring.

Stiles is a musician. One name, like Cher or Madonna or Beyoncé. Erica heard about him only a number of hours ago, but she figures if there’s something in the city worth talking about, it’s also worth experiencing.

“What do you know about him?” Isaac asks her, pulling his jacket tighter around himself. His hood is up over his head, eyes darting around suspiciously for people with camera phones. “Is this another Justin Beiber fiasco?”

Malia rolls her eyes. “Did you at least Google him?”

“You both could do with a little fun,” Erica chastises. “We’re not stuck in a room with Boyd, Derek, and Peter—we’re out in the city, going to see a show. Why are you strung up on details?”

“You didn’t Google him.”

“It’s an adventure!”

Isaac groans. “He’s gonna be some hippy slam poet with eyeliner and a ponytail.”

“And he's not even Irish,” Malia grumbles.

Isaac turns with that easily distressed expression of his, forgetting to be suspicious about all the people around them. “What is it with you and Irish lately?”

She doesn't dignify that with an answer, but she hisses at Erica when she pushes them both forward with the moving line.

“Did you two have something better to do tonight?” Erica questions, arching an eyebrow at them. Both of them avoid her gaze, and she nods to herself. “I didn’t think so. Now, if there are really so many people here for this guy, would he be that terrible?”

“You heard my Justin Beiber reference earlier, right?”

“Keep an open mind, Isaac!” Erica beams, watching as a dozen people join the line behind them. “We’re going to a concert. We’ll have a couple drinks, listen to some music, and head back to the hotel. What’s the worst that could happen?”

Isaac scowls. “Look, I’m not trying to be a dick, but we did sneak out into a huge city without our security and Forgetting Vinyl is coming out tomorrow, Erica. We’re kind of in high demand at the moment.”

Forgetting Vinyl, Side A/Side B’s second studio album, has already had two singles to prepare for the launch. They’re in San Francisco for the party, the album drop, and some radio interviews, after which they will go back to Los Angeles. So, yes, it might be a little irresponsible of them to be wandering around without their security, but Erica was immensely bored following Peter’s orders of isolation. Something had to be done.

“If we’re recognized,” Erica tells him quietly, “we’ll take some pictures and leave. Just trust me. Please?”

It takes approximately three seconds of Erica blinking at him for Isaac to fold. He sighs, tension leaving his shoulders. “Fine,” he says. “But when the set’s over, we leave. Deal?”


Thirty-three minutes later, Malia is looking up at the stage like there's an entire rack of ribs on it and Isaac looks like he’s about to cry.

“Was this a good idea or wasn't it?”

“This guy is fantastic,” Isaac says while he claps with more enthusiasm than Erica has seen in him in three months.

“We need to tell Derek,” Malia says when she manages to stop salivating in the general direction of the stage. “He needs to hear this guy.”

Stiles is all of six feet tall, sitting on a wooden stool in the middle of a very small stage, guitar on his lap and microphone in front of his face. He’s been singing for the past ten minutes, two original songs, and Erica feels all bubbly in her stomach. He’s adorable and charming, and he cracks jokes at the crowd between songs. Erica isn’t sure whether she wants to fuck him or adopt him.

He launches into another song and Malia pulls out her phone to record him, like most other people in the bar are already doing. Isaac is apparently content to just stare, mouth slightly open, eyes narrowed like he’s not sure what kind of witchcraft he’s under.

When the song is over, Stiles just—talks. He asks the patrons how their night is going, asks if anyone is in the city on vacation. He’s got a rapport with some regulars, knows just how to charm the friendly bartenders, and then asks if there’s anything anyone would like to hear.

Half the crowd is apparently made up of avid fans, because they’re all shouting song titles at him that Erica has never heard of before. All the same, Stiles begins to play again, and she feels like swooning.

“How old is he?” Malia leans over to ask, still holding her phone aloft to capture the performance.

Erica shrugs. “Twenty two. Give or take.”

“Holy shit. If we show this to Peter—”

“We’ll decide what we do or do not show to Peter after the show,” Erica says. “Now shut up and listen.”

When the set is over, Malia is in all too much of a hurry to get her video to Derek. She grabs Isaac’s hand and takes off, leaving Erica to pay for their drinks at the bar. She does so, idly watching from the corner of her eye as Stiles signs a couple of T-shirts, a phone case or two. He’s there taking selfies with girls and boys alike for fifteen minutes or so before Erica manages to shove her way towards him. The crowd has mostly dispersed by then, only a handful of people still there purely for Stiles, and so she feels no fear at all in being recognized.

“Hey,” she says, sticking out her hand. “Stiles, right? My name’s Erica.”

The boy doesn’t move. His eyes widen, his jaw drops just barely, and there’s obviously something going on in his head, and so Erica is content to wait it out. After a moment, he says, “Oh my God. You’re—holy shit.” He takes her hand, shaking firmly. “Yes, hi, I know exactly who you are—what—what are you doing here?”

“I’m in the city for the next few days and someone told me this was the place to be tonight,” she tells him. “Look, I can’t stay, but I wanted to tell you that I was really impressed—you’re extremely talented. Do you have a YouTube channel? Something I could circulate?”

Stiles blinks. “No. I don’t have a channel, I just—do this. Live.”

Erica arches an eyebrow. “Well.” She lifts up the pen she borrowed from the bartender when she was paying her tab and grabs Stiles’ wrist, scribbling down her number. “You’re going to text me. Tonight. And I’m going to try to convince you to put some stuff online. How does that sound?”

“Unbelievable,” Stiles answers.

“I understand the feeling. Keep playing your music—and let’s keep in touch, yeah?” She winks on her way out.

“Where the hell were you?”

“Careful there, Derek.” Erica pats the security hunk outside the door before she closes it behind her. “You forgot to add I had you worried sick. Didn't call me young lady either.”

“Hey, if you want someone to come at you with scissors for a chunk of your hair because you're too cool for security that's totally up to you.”

She's sure Derek thinks he sounds casual and aloof, but he doesn't fool anyone in the room.

“I told you where she was,” Malia says. She's on the bed with a stick of beef jerky in one hand and her phone on the other.

“What Derek means,” Boyd says with an exhausted sigh from the couch, “is why were you there alone when you know it isn't safe?”

Erica smirks. “It was perfectly safe. There weren’t any teenagers allowed in the bar, and there were bouncers anyway. I know how to take care of myself, Dad.” She blows a kiss at Derek, who scowls.

“Don’t call me that.”

“So,” Erica says, dropping down onto one of the empty plush arm chairs. Isaac and Boyd are inhabiting two others, and the fourth is empty, Derek standing in front of it with his arms crossed. “Did Malia show you the video?”

“I did,” Malia says, kicking her foot out to nudge Derek’s thigh. “He liked it, didn’t you, Der?”

“It was fine. But you,” he says, pointing at her like she's about to get grounded, “aren't a scout. Is this Peter? Did he put you up to this?”

Erica rolls her eyes up at him. “Peter said we couldn't go out in the first place!”

“Erica promises not to go out without security ever again,” Isaac pipes up, “if you just admit this guy is nuts and we have to work with him.”

Derek frowns. “What? He’s some solo indie kid. He needs a YouTube channel and a good agent. Not you. Not me. Not us.”

“I think we should make a video with him,” Malia says, poking around in the bag of jerky. “A cover of something. Put it out on his channel and ours, get some tweets going. Peter would love it.”

Peter,” Derek says through a clenched jaw, “is not in the room right now. We are discussing this as a group.”

“Really?” Isaac asks, kicking his feet up. “Because it sounds like we’re making a proposition and you’re turning us down.”

Derek turns to Boyd, his obvious last attempt at maintaining peace. Erica can feel herself winning by the second, especially when Boyd just shrugs and turns back to something on his phone.

She jumps up, beaming. “Great. I’ll talk to Peter and set something up. Get some rest, Derek. Big day tomorrow.”

Derek turns back to Boyd, frowning deeply. He’s bothered obviously, but—less at Erica than he thought.

“She seems really excited,” Boyd says without looking up at him. “What am I supposed to do if she looks really excited?”

“If this kid is a mess and we get some stupid bad press for this—”

“You'll do what?” Boyd deadpans as he finally looks up from his phone. “Quit? Disown us?”

Derek fumes quietly for a second while he searches for some actual words. “I'll be really pissed off.”

Boyd shakes his head and smiles as he picks up his phone again. “Okay, Dad.”

It’s not exactly convenient, Erica’s little pet project. She’s on her phone all morning while they’re at the radio station, and again when they’re at a party in the afternoon. When they finally get back to the hotel room that evening to pack up their things and head to the airport, she barely looks up at him. Isaac is packing her bag for her.

“She’s texting Stiles,” Boyd says, putting on his sweater.

Derek exhales slowly through his nose. “What has she decided?”

“Peter said he’ll book him a flight down next week, once the bulk of our interviews are done for the launch.” He looks amused as he throws his backpack over his shoulder and lets a member of their security team take his duffle. “She’s already trying to figure out what they’re going to sing together.”

“I thought Malia wanted to work with him.”

Boyd nods. “She does. But not nearly as much as Erica.” He gives Derek A Look. “She and Peter are going over ideas for covers they can duet on. He was on the phone with some people in L.A. this morning. They’ve already set up a channel for him.”

Derek huffs. “Well. Peter works fast. And Malia’s really okay with this?”

“She’s following the very basic rule of dibs. Erica saw him first.” He pats Derek’s shoulder. “I’m gonna head down to the car. I’ll see you down there.”

Derek sits quietly for several minutes, watching as Erica sits on the bed and texts and Isaac double checks that all of the drawers in the suite are empty and their bags are full. When Isaac heads out of the room with another bodyguard, Derek closes the open door and clears his throat.

“I know you think it’s stupid,” Erica says quietly. “But—you saw the video.” She looks up at him, eyes somber. “You saw him, Derek. You have to have felt that. You have to have felt…” She inhales, looks down at her phone again. “Inspired.”

Derek bites the inside of his mouth. Erica has a lot of hobbies, a lot of projects she likes to get involved in. She likes their job, likes the music, but hates feeling like she’s not doing anything with it. Boyd and Isaac and Malia, they all have their own apartments. But Erica lives in a house with Derek and Peter. Erica buys clothes at Target and gets red carpet outfits from unknown designers just so she can meet new people. She likes watching YouTube and listening to new musicians—she likes feeling normal. And Derek is never going to take that away from her.

“It’s not stupid,” Derek tells her. “I trust you.”

She looks at him nervously. “Are you sure?”

“Yes. I’m sure.” He sticks out his hand. “Now, c’mon. The car’s waiting.”

The hardest part is trying to decide what to wear. Clothes for the plane are easy—jeans, a T-shirt, a hoodie. He brings his pillow too. He brings his pillow everywhere. But from what the itinerary he received in his email the previous day outlined, he was going to be in up to three separate videos, which meant he needed at least three “nice-ish” outfits according to someone called Peter Hale.

(He did some Googling after the email, of course, and aside from Peter Hale being Side A/Side B’s manager, he’s also Derek Hale’s uncle—which just makes so much sense.)

So he packs an entire suitcase of stuff for a week of being in L.A. because he figures he might as well bring too much and let some actual professionals help him out than bring not enough and get up screwed.

There’s a guy in a suit with his name on an iPad screen waiting for him at LAX and then he’s in the back of a big, black car with a guy in his 40s who has some pretty suave-looking facial hair and a too-tight T-shirt.

“Stiles Stilinski,” the man says, smiling in a way that is strangely disarming. He offers a hand that Stiles shakes. “Peter Hale. We’ve exchanged some words.”

Stiles blinks. “Yeah, hi. It’s nice to finally meet you. Um, I thought maybe Erica or—”

“Unfortunately she’s busy at the moment. The band is performing on Ellen today. She wanted to be here, though, I assure you.”

Peter taps on the thin wall between the backseat and the front and the engine rolls over, the driver heading out into traffic. He looks remarkably calm for a guy with his back to the driver, arms crossed over his chest and one leg crossed over the other.

“I trust you’ve had a chance to explore the YouTube page we built for you.”

Stiles nods slowly. “It’s, uh, something. I don’t have any videos—”

“We made playlists out of some decent quality videos of live performances,” Peter interrupts, swiping through his phone idly. “We also took audio off of your SoundCloud account and put it into a handful of videos we published for you. If you could make actual videos, however, that would probably be best. Give a face for the audience to connect the voice to. I sent my assistant out to buy you all the gear you’ll need—camera, laptop, things like that. She’ll be waiting for us at the house.”

Stiles’ first thought is that it’s all a little fast. Randomly meeting Erica Reyes at some tiny bar in San Francisco. Flying down to Los Angeles at her request to record some videos to put on YouTube. There’s no reason for Stiles to get his hopes up. There’s no record deal. There’s no contract. There’s just a couple of people who want to help him make videos. And Stiles is more than okay with that.

By house Peter obviously meant mansion. The building is three stories tall with a driveway the size of an Olympic swimming pool. There are already three cars parked there and Stiles can’t help but gawk when he finally steps out of the car. Even worse is the fact that none other than Derek Hale is standing in the front doorway, sunglasses fixed over his eyes and mouth set into a firm line. Stiles feels like a freak, the way his heart is racing.

“Derek,” Peter says, gesturing to Stiles, “you know of Mr. Stilinski.”

“Stiles,” Stiles tells him. “It’s really nice to get to meet you. I’m a big, big fan.” He bites down on his tongue before he says anything else.

Derek nods, barely looking at him. “Welcome to L.A. I’ll show you downstairs.”

There’s a basement with a little kitchen, a big TV, a couch, two armchairs, and a bed, tucked back into the corner. It’s made up with plain, clean sheets and a couple of pillows. Sitting atop it is, as Peter promised, a bunch of equipment obviously meant for filming.

“This isn’t for you to use now,” Peter tells him, gesturing for the driver to set down Stiles’ things. “We’ll send this back to San Francisco with you at the end of the week, but you should approve it all in case we need to make other purchases.”

Stiles shakes his head. “No, no, it all looks fine. Great. It looks great. I can’t thank you enough—”

“Stiles!” The cry comes from the top of the stairs, followed by a number of heavy footsteps and the appearance of Erica, coming around the corner to tackle him into a hug. “You’re here!”

“I am!” Stiles says with a laugh, hugging her back tightly. He lets himself get carried away in it until he makes eye contact with Derek over Erica’s shoulder and decides to step back just slightly, clearing his throat. “How was Ellen?”

“Amazing.” She grabs his hand in hers. “Come upstairs, I’ll tell you all about it.”

“They’re having sex,” Malia says, picking through the bowl of grapes she took from the fridge and eating all the green ones.

Boyd nearly spits out his drink. “They are not.”

She nods. “Erica likes him. He obviously likes Erica. They’re up in her room, looking at her vinyl and listening to music—they’re gonna have sex. They’re gonna have so much sex.”

Derek glares at her over his beer. She knows better than to say things like that about Erica when Boyd’s around. “I’m sure they’re not,” Derek says calmly. “I’m sure they’re just talking about music. Like Erica said.”

Malia shrugs. “Where’s Peter?”

“Out,” Isaac says, coming into the kitchen with his phone in hand. “He left forty bucks for pizza and drinks should we choose to celebrate the fact that there’s a barely-legal, flannel-wearing hipster living in our basement.”

“More like living in Erica’s room,” Malia mutters.

Derek hooks his foot in Malia’s stool and yanks until she slips enough to stand on her feet.

“Dude,” she protests.

“Go upstairs and ask them what they want on their pizza. Boyd and I will go to the liquor store. Isaac, order the food. And stop talking about Erica when she’s not in the room.”

There’s a makeup artist, Stiles notes. A makeup artist and a hair stylist and someone to help him pick out his clothes. There’s someone behind a camera and a dude setting up microphones. Peter is standing around, texting, and Stiles feels like he’s about to get swallowed whole.

“Hey, you’re Stiles, right?” The man is about Peter’s age, if not older, wearing a button-down and trousers. He has a nice smile, but there’s something that makes Stiles wary, and he takes a half step back before he nods.

“Yeah, that’s me.”

“I’m Chris Argent,” he says, offering his hand to shake.

Stiles does so, trying to place the name in the back of his head. “Uh, nice to meet you.”

“Listen, I got a hold of some of your demos and I was wondering if you had formal representation I could speak to about maybe signing a deal.”

Given that Stiles only woke up about ten minutes prior to this conversation, he thinks he’s allowed to be confused until the name click in his head a moment later. “Chris Argent,” he repeats. “Of Argent Studios. As in the record label.”

Chris smiles charmingly. “That’s me.”

“I…” Stiles glances around. “You’re not with Side A/Side B. You didn’t come here just—for me?”

“Well, what would you say if I did?”

From a few pace away, Peter makes an aggravated noise. “What are you still doing here?” he demands of Chris. “I swear to—are you trying to make my life miserable?” He gestures to the door. “Don’t let him waste your time, Stiles. Trust me, there’s nothing you need Argent Studios for.”

Chris arches an eyebrow. “So you’re representing him then?”

“Maybe I am,” Peter says snidely. “Maybe I’m not. Now will you please get out of my house before I call your daughter to come pick you up?”

Stiles is more than a little shocked by the display, but he keeps quiet, watching as Chris turns back to him to say, “Give me a call if you have any questions,” and then takes his leave, straightening his collar as he goes.

Stiles looks at Peter. “What was he doing here if you didn’t want him here?”

“Kid,” Peter sighs, “that is way, way above your paygrade.”

“You’re not paying me at all.”

“Exactly.” He pats Stiles on the back. “Go downstairs, have a coffee, and take Julia with you to start picking out some clothes. Come back when you’re ready.”

The shoot isn’t really as intimidating as it had looked from the outside. Once he’s dressed and a pretty girl with pink hair has brushed powder over his face—once he’s seated on a stool with a guitar on his lap and Erica to his right, it’s not really as frightening. Maybe it’s because he’s in his element, or maybe it’s the adrenaline pushing him through, but either way, it’s fun.

Erica is beautiful and sings like an angel, and they do three run-throughs of the song they decided on the night before—Ed Sheeran’s Thinking Out Loud—before they take a break. It’s the first time Stiles really snaps back into consciousness, aware of everything going on around them, and he notices Malia Tate standing in the corner, watching with her mouth curved up into a smirk.

They met the night before of course, along with Vernon Boyd and Isaac Lahey, but it’s still—surprising. It’s still weird to be in a building with five of Stiles’ favorite people in the universe.

Erica catches his staring, elbows him. “She’s pretty, huh?”

Stiles is blushing. “I’m not used to being around famous people. I stare. It’s a thing. Besides, she’s—she’s with Isaac, isn’t she?”

“You read the gossip sites?”

“I, uh, work at a library five days a week. Pretty much the only thing I do there is read.”

Erica smiles. “Yeah, they’re together. It’s on the hush hush, though. I trust you’re going to keep it that way.”

“Cross my heart.”

Stiles is a trending topic. Stiles, who wasn't even particularly prominent in his high school yearbook, is a trending topic in the U.S. Someone tweeted at Erica from Brazil begging for the band to make a stop there and added “BRING STILES PLEASE” to their precious 140 characters.

He's sitting in the basement belonging to one of his favorite bands, looking at a laptop he probably can't afford, watching people tweet and retweet the links to those videos.

He’s been there four days, will leave the following afternoon to head back to his little apartment in San Francisco, and yet all it took were those four days for his name to be plastered onto the Twitter homepage.

He watches as the YouTube videos Peter’s people put up gain hundreds of thousands of views, watches as he gains Twitter followers by the dozens, and can only stare for lack of a more appropriate reaction.

“We’re having a party,” Erica tells him, startling him into looking up at her. She’s leaning against the wall, smiling at him deviously. “I went through my contact list, asked if anybody was interested in a little get together to celebrate a successful endeavor. Taylor Swift is coming.”

“Shut up.”

She beams. “I figured you’d be okay with it. Come upstairs and help me get set up.”

Erica says that his clothes are adorable and apparently this is a bad thing because he finds himself in Isaac Lahey's closet.

“Your style is a lot more similar to Boyd's,” she sighs, “but we don't want you to look like a ten year old drowning in his dad's clothes.”

“And uh...” Stiles says as he takes in the rows of too soft sweaters. “What about my clothes?”

“They're good—but they're not party good. I know you can't tell the difference. It's okay. Neither can Malia.”

“Are you sure he'll be okay with me wearing his clothes though?” Stiles asks, mostly because he isn't sure that he's okay with it in the first place.

“Please,” Erica laughs, “he doesn't even remember this stuff is here. When he stays at home he brings stuff from his apartment.”

Stiles licks his lips. “You don’t all live here?”

“Peter owns the house, but we all have rooms here. We all grew up here, more or less. Except Malia.” She yanks at his shirt. “Off. We’ll have you looking like a real celebrity in no time.”

Honestly, Stiles loses track of who he meets and when. There are actors, singers, songwriters, producers—he thinks he even sees Chris Argent running around somewhere, but decides there are plenty of people who look like him in Los Angeles. It could be anyone.

Taylor Swift is inches taller than him and devastatingly charming. There’s an actor who used to be on Glee that Stiles recognizes and spends a handful of minutes staring at from across the room. He’s pretty sure he sees Justin Timberlake at one point too, but between all the hands he shakes and he people he meets (plus all the shots he does with Anna Kendrick really fucks him up), he’s not in any position to remember names.

Derek catches him at one point, probably after the sixth tequila shot. Anna says goodbye by giving him a stinging high-five and wanders away after greeting Derek, and Stiles watches her go.

“She was fun,” he says, wobbling just a little. “Are you having fun?”

“I don’t really do parties.”

“That’s not an answer.” Stiles smiles, sticks his hands in his pockets. “You don’t like me.”

“I don’t know you.”

“You don’t trust me.”

Derek shrugs. “I’m protective of my family.”

“What do you think I’m gonna do?”

“Plenty of people have tried to use one or all of us before. The only difference is that usually Erica can spot it before it hurts her.”

Stiles frowns. “I didn’t ask to come here. You know that, don’t you? This whole thing wasn’t my idea. Don’t get me wrong, I’m fucking thrilled for the opportunity, but I didn’t seek her out and beg her to make videos with me.”

Derek nods. “I’m aware.”

“And you still don’t trust me.”

“I still don’t know you.”

“I’ve been here for four days. We could’ve changed that.” He’s swaying closer without really realizing it, putting himself into Derek’s space.

Derek doesn’t move away. “You’re drunk.”

“Tipsy, sure.”

“Go flirt with one of the Victoria’s Secret models that Malia invited.”

Stiles smiles. “You probably get hit on a lot.”

“People usually have the good sense not to try.”

“I’ve never been accused of having common sense.”

“I can tell.” Derek steadies him with a hand to his side. “You should drink some water before you embarrass yourself in front of someone important.”

“You’re important.” Stiles laughs, palming his face. “I—I didn’t—your band is important me. My favorite band. It’s been less than two weeks and I have the entire new album memorized. Derek, I—I don’t have really great impulse control. And I thought we were maybe getting along since I’ve been here. But I’m obviously wrong. So I’m just gonna go be a rambling drunk somewhere else.”

Derek, for a moment, is quiet. Stiles literally bites his tongue to keep himself from saying something while Derek is thinking. Then, he says, “Good. And don’t puke on your sheets,” before wandering away.

Derek hates this house after parties. It's not that he has to clean up, because he technically doesn't, but because there are always bodies lying around. There's always someone whose people have to be called, someone who has to be discreetly removed from the premises, someone who appropriated the countertop or had sex on his couch. If he doesn't have sex on that couch neither should anyone else.

He nudges the kid's leg with the tip of his shoe. Stilinski doesn't look attractive when he's passed out at Boyd's feet like a drugged basset hound.

“Get off the floor. That hardwood you're drooling on costs more than your house.”

Stiles groans weakly, not opening his eyes.

Derek rolls his eyes. Boyd rolls over, hiding his face under a pillow. “Derek,” he says quietly. “Advil.”

He has the bottle in hand, already ready to hand over the Boyd’s waiting fingers. “It’s noon,” he tells them. “Isaac and Malia are making pancakes and Erica is in the shower. Stilinski,” he says harshly, “should make himself presentable since he was to be at the airport in two hours.”

Stiles simply groans again in response. He’s stretched out on his back, shirt riding up his stomach, hair a mess. He looks like he’s been through the ringer, but when he finally sits up and snatches the bottle of water Derek has in his hand, there’s something about the way he’s all rumpled up that makes him look like he’s just been through a sex marathon.

Derek steels his jaw and turns on his heel, heading into the kitchen before he says something he’ll regret.

Malia hands him a plate of pancakes in the shape of his initials. It makes them less...fluffy, but it might actually kill him to admit that. It might also kill him to criticize something that Malia does with so much childlike joy.

“Thanks,” he mumbles as he starts in on them. When Stiles stumbles into the kitchen looking pale, it alarms him how the kid could possibly be smiling when he looks so bad.

“Pancakes from Malia Tate, I can't believe this is even real.”

“All your pancakes look like snakes,” she says as she fills his plate, looking unsure as to whether she's okay with that turn of events.

When Derek turns his eyes back to his plate there's a round fluffy pancake sitting right at the center. Isaac winks at him and gets back to his own plate.

He eats it quickly so that Malia doesn’t notice.

Erica wanders in eventually, Boyd at her heels. He drinks milk straight from the carton—which earns him Derek’s glare—and then pours himself a full glass. Derek only watches, chewing thoughtfully as he takes in everyone around the kitchen island.

“So,” Erica says eventually, grinning at Stiles, “how did you enjoy last night?”

He proceeds to tell her as much as he can remember about the previous night, but after the first minute or so, Derek tunes his voice out, instead choosing to focus on Boyd. The man is leaning forward over the counter, eyes on the blonde on the opposite end. He’s not even pretending to listen to Stiles, entirely focused on Erica, to the point that he doesn’t notice at first when Derek says his name.

When he snaps to attention, it’s with a small look of contrition. “What’s up?”

Derek shakes his head. “Nothing.”

Boyd nods. “Saw you talking to Stiles last night,” he says quietly as the other conversation continues in the background. “Anything interesting?”

“He was drunk.”

“He was flirting with you.”

“He was drunk,” Derek repeats, as if it negates Stiles’ intentions. He knows that he’s handsome. He knows that, most likely, Stiles was being completely serious when he said everything that he said the night before. That doesn’t change that he was inebriated when he said it. “Besides, Erica did her thing. It’s over.”

“You know better than that,” Boyd says with a tired snort.

Derek does know better than believing that Erica will let this go. She's had projects before, yes, but not with as much potential as this kid. Derek knows that and it's very annoying. It’s annoying because he doesn’t trust Stiles, even though there’s a very, very small part of him that wants to, that thinks all of his protectiveness might be a waste of time in this situation. And yet he can’t stop himself from being doubtful.

He avoids Stiles until it’s time for him to leave, shakes his hand at the door and then heads back inside. He sits on the couch with the remote on his lap until Erica walks back inside and says, “Thank you.”

He mutes the television. “For what?”

“You know for what.”

“It’s Peter’s house. I had nothing to do with any of it.”

“I wouldn’t have done it without your permission.”

Derek squirms. “You don’t need my permission to do things. I’m not your father.”

“But you are.”

He sighs, pats the cushion next to him. “Come on. House Hunters International is on.”

Stiles comes out of that mansion in dark sunglasses and his suitcase rolling sadly behind him. It's like all of it was a bright and glorious dream, like a vacation to Disneyland. But now it's all over, time to go home and back to reality. He's grateful and heartbroken all at once, but all of that is overwhelmed by confusion when he spots the small sports car parked outside the house. Peter is standing at the end of the driveway, arms crossed and face scowling, while Chris Argent sits at the wheel behind a pair of visibly expensive shades.

“Good afternoon, Stiles. Ready to go?”

Peter clears his throat and Stiles turns to him, ready to ask what's going on.

“Mr. Argent wants to talk to you before you go. He thinks you're an idiot. I on the other hand know you're a deceptively clever young man with a good memory. Isn't that right, Stiles?”

“Uh,” Stiles stalls, entirely too hung over for this, “of course.”

Peter claps him on the shoulder, leaning to speak conspiratorially. “Don’t say yes to anything. Thank him for the ride and tell him you’ll consider whatever it is he’s offering you. Got it?”

“Sure thing.”

“Good boy.” Peter helps him put his suitcase into the back of Chris’ car. “Don’t get lost on your way to LAX, Argent. Mr. Stilinski has plenty of things he needs to do, I’m sure.”

“Not lost, Peter,” Chris drawls. “We might take a scenic route.” He rolls over the engine, waving goodbye as he pulls out of the driveway.

For the first few minutes, there’s nothing but the quiet hum of the radio on KIIS FM to keep Stiles awake. It isn’t exactly a long trip from the house to the airport—Stiles remembers it being less than a half hour in Monday afternoon traffic last time—but since it’s a Friday, Stiles doesn’t question the buildup of cars ahead of them.

“You’re curious, aren’t you?” Chris asks. “About why you’ve seen me three times already in the short span of time you’ve been here?”

Stiles swallows. “Well. You’re in the industry. I figure you have plenty of friends.”

“Peter isn't a friend,” he says, in the kind of heavy tone that contains a whole novel.

“So why are you around then?”

“Sometimes he can be convinced that there are better options for talented people,” he tells him as he moves at a snail's pace with the traffic.

Stiles laughs, genuine and loud enough to hurt his own head. “You don't think Side A/Side B are talented people?”

“Oh they're extremely talented. They wouldn't be so huge if they weren't. Peter's not that good with PR.”

Stiles shakes his head. “So then?”

“So then there are five of them,” Argent says as he throws Stiles what he assumes is his most charming and condescending smile. “He's got his hands full. A five person piece is hard on a good day when they're all 17-year-old boys with hard contracts. When it's family…well.”

“I'm sorry I'm just not picking up what you're putting down.”

That makes the man chuckle and Stiles should probably not find such an intimidating person sexy. “What I'm saying is that Depencia didn't make Side A/Side B and they aren't responsible for their success. Peter isn't as attached to the label as he'd make you believe, either. So while you'd think you'd be signing up along with a group you admire, the truth is Peter can't handle one more soul and you'd probably get some of that third rate, overeager Disney Star maker.”

Chris glances at him, obviously expecting him to say something. “How am I supposed to believe anything you say?”

Chris shrugs. “I don’t know. All I know that I’m telling you the truth and, one day, you’ll figure that out.” He clears his throat. “I think you’re talented, Stiles. I think you’ve really got something, and I think the world is gonna be figuring that out pretty quickly. You’re going to get offers for representation. You’re going to be invited to parties and meetings. You’re going to be shown contracts by people with very expensive watches. And I’m here to tell you that if you want the real deal, you’re sitting in its car.”

Stiles swallows. “I’m not sure what I want.”

“Yeah,” Chris sighs, “Peter said you would say that. And it’s valid. It’s why you’re going home for a bit, to think things through. But I’m not usually wrong, Stiles, and I’ll bet money that you’re back in less than six months. I’d wager this car that in less than six months, you’re living in L.A.”

Something twists in Stiles’ stomach. “How do you know?”

“Because I know talent. I know passion. I know real drive—and you’ve fucking got it.” Chris huffs. “I’ve got three dozen names of people who would make great representation, Stiles. Let me send you a list. You can do the calling, the emailing, the hunting. You can choose. You can make all of your own decisions. But it kills me to see someone like you get away because Peter Hale is too tired to work on you.”

“He didn't seem too tired when he was saying goodbye,” Stiles says, still not sure why he's even in the car with Argent when Peter seems to be at least vaguely interested.

Chris smiles, but this time it looks sad. “I know when Peter is tired. You wouldn't be here if he weren't. Don't get me wrong, he wants you. But he's like a kid eating with his eyes, piling up his plate too high. Not too deep inside he knows it's just greed.”

Stiles snorts. “And greed's not your sin?”

Argent's smile turns practiced again. “Greed's got a different definition in this town.”

“Yeah,” Stiles mutters. “I think I’m starting to get that.”

He gets the emailed list of names to his phone the second he lands in San Francisco. True to his word, it’s several dozen names long, none of which Stiles recognizes. They’re numbered by value, and at the very top is Lydia Martin.

He Googles her in the cab ride home, but has already exited the tab when he gets into his apartment and starts to put his stuff away. He doesn’t need to let Chris Argent into his head, not when he doesn’t even know what else is going on quite yet. He needs a few days, just to let himself calm down.

He’ll decide, he tells himself, in a handful of days.

A handful becomes two weeks. Two weeks becomes a month. One month becomes two. His YouTube channel was birthed in October and then suddenly it’s Christmas and he’s back home in a tiny town in northern California, sharing a meal with his father and reminiscing over everything they’ve missed in each other’s lives since they saw each other last.

“You’ll tell me, won’t you?” his dad asks as they’re washing the dishes. “You’ll tell me when you decide.”

“You know I will.”

He shrugs. “You used to call once a week, kid. Now I’m lucky if you send smoke signals.”

“I’m only an hour away. You could come see me.”

His dad sighs. “I’m just asking that you’ll—you’ll keep me in the loop. I want to be supportive. I want you to see that I believe in you, even if I wasn’t nuts about the idea at first.”

Stiles smiles softly. “I know, Dad. Thanks.”

“You know, your mom wouldn't have been as hesitant as me,” he says softly. “I'm not sure if you—if you really know that.”

Stiles nods, drying the plate slower. “I thought—yeah. I mean maybe, you know? Or maybe she'd totally want me to be a librarian.”

His dad laughs. “Your mom turn down a rock star in the family? I don't think so. She never doubted dreams.” He clears his throat. “I’m trying not to also.”

Stiles nods. “I know. And I appreciate it. And you know, whenever you wanna come to a show, just let me know.”

“I’ll do that, kid.”

He calls her two days before the New Year, pacing around his apartment, trying to formulate the right way to say the words he wants. He wants to be clear without being demanding, wants to get answers without sounding desperate. And most of all, he wants to know whether or not Peter is on board. Because with each passing day, Chris Argent’s list of names is getting more and more appealing.

She picks up on the third ring, practically crooning into the receiver. “Stiles Stilinski, well I never.”

“Hey, Erica.”

“How’s San Fran treating you? My sources tell me you’re doing a show a night, leaving lines out the door. And I’m very proud to note you’ve been putting things up on your channel.” She sniffs dramatically. “My little baby is growing up.”

“I was just—I don’t know. I was curious. As to what you guys were up to.”

She hums. “We’re finalizing dates for the tour. It’s gonna be a big one. Nine months.”

“Yeah,” Stiles says shakily. “Yeah, wow. So, listen—”

“You need to come here,” Erica says. “For New Year’s. It’s the best place to be.”

Stiles winces. “I would, I swear, but I’ve got to stick with my dad through the holiday season.”

“Sure. I get it. After, then.”

Stiles blinks. “Erica, would Peter take me on?” he asks abruptly, forcing the words out. “You’re his only act, I know, but I—would he? Would he be my agent?”

The other end of the line is quiet for a long moment. Then, “How about,” she says slowly, “instead of asking that, you ask me a different question.”

“Like what?”

“Like,” she drawls, “‘Hey, Erica, do you guys have an opening act for your tour?’”

Stiles licks his lips. “Look, I’m excited for you about the tour, I really am. But I—I really need to know what I’m doing, you know? I’ve been spending the last few months just thinking about it and I wanna do this. I want to be a musician, a real one. I want to do what you guys do, and I can’t do that here. I can’t do that without someone like Peter.”

“Ask me the question, Stiles.”



He huffs out a heavy sigh, struggling through his anxiety. “Hey, Erica, do you guys have an opening act for your tour?”

“Oh, well funny you should ask,” she says sweetly. “We’ve been thinking of asking this sweet indie artist named Stiles Stilinski if he wants to do it. You know, come along on the tour bus, the plane—play sold out stadiums every week for months—”

“Fuck off,” Stiles breathes, standing stock still in his apartment, staring at nothing.

“Peter was going to ask you when you called him,” Erica continues, “but you never did. So, here we are. And we really do need an answer because tickets go on sale pretty soon and we need to do some press, so—”

Yes,” Stiles says immediately, pushing his free hand through his hair. “Erica, I can’t believe—”

“I knew you’d say yes,” she tells him. “Now, go hang up and make a video. Call your dad. Call your buddies in the SF music scene. Take the rest of the day to celebrate. I’ll talk to you very soon, I’m sure.”

Chapter Text

Scott is already waiting at the coffee shop when Allison strolls in. He’s sitting towards the back in a little booth with two mugs, and Allison heads right for him, beaming.

“Hey,” he greets her, standing up slightly to kiss her cheek. “Traffic?”

“It was actually pretty fast,” she tells him, sliding off her jacket. “My dad just wanted me to double check some listing before I could take off. Sorry.”

“Not a problem.” He nudges her mug towards her. “Is he worried about something?”

Argent never asks Allison to double check. He already knows—being her father—that she triple checks anything before she gives it to him or his assistant.

Allison shrugs. “He’s a little stressed. Hale, you know.”

Scott laughs. “Of course. What’s Peter up to this time?”

“He’s invited this guy to come live at the house for a few months—some new artist that’s associated with the group. Dad wants to poach him.” She takes a sip of her latte, sliding back in her seat. “You should see him, he’s adorable. He’s going to be on tour with Side A/Side B, but he doesn’t have a label or representation, so Dad is gnawing at the bit.”

“And Peter is fine with that?”

Allison laughs a little and takes a drink of her coffee. “You know how they are.”

“I actually avoid thinking about it,” Scott laughs. “So you've heard him? Is he really good?”

“He's really amazing. I wouldn't call it showmanship. He's honest. I don't know if we can sell honest, but if anyone can it's Dad. And I hope we can, I think he'd be good for people.”

“I love that about you,” Scott says through a smile. “I've never heard of anyone else in the music industry caring about doing good for people.”

“Maybe there isn't anyone else like me,” she admits.

They smile at each other for a few silent moments. Scott loves Allison Argent. He's always going to love her. Even if it’s just that they've grown up a lot, grown apart and together again.

“How's Armand?” he asks, genuinely curious about the guy. He hasn’t spent a lot of time with him, but he’s nice. He’s good. The same way Allison is.

“With his mother,” Allison says, turning serious. “She's not doing well. I offered to go but he said—he said if it did get worse… You know.”

“He'd rather have you there when it's toughest. I get it.”

“He knows I can't stay away from work that long but I... I still feel guilty.”

“He's with his family,” Scott reminds her, “and if it does take a bad turn you can be there in a few hours.” He reaches over, takes her hand. “You’re good to him, Ally. Don’t forget that.”

She nods, a small smile taking over her mouth. “I know. Thank you. I’m just worried about him. But—that’s enough about that.” She sits up a little straighter, arching an eyebrow. “Dad’s having a dinner on Friday, some new signings and some new hires, stuff like that. Peter will be there of course, and he’s going to bring along the new kid.”

“He’s really trying to make Peter fold, isn’t he?”

“I’ve never seen him chase after an act like he’s chasing after this guy.” Allison nods at him. “You should be my date. Rub shoulders with some interesting people. Surprisingly, I think Dad actually misses having you around.”

Scott snorts. “Yeah, because I’m not French. I think you underestimate how intimidating that makes your boyfriend.”

“Still,” she insists. “Come with me. We’ll have a great time.”

“People are going to say things again,” he reminds her, half with his tone and half with his eyebrows.

“Scott, the only opinion that might sway me is my boyfriend's and he's invited you have sex with us more times than I can count.”

Scott nods. “He's never gonna give up. I admire that.”

Allison laughs again, reaching for his hands. “So it’s a date.”

“It’s a date.”

“Why am I going to this?” Stiles wants to know, tilting his chin up as Erica ties his tie.

“Because Chris Argent’s dinner parties are legendary, Stiles,” she chastises. “We’ve only been to one, and it was because Peter goes to a shit ton of them. He has gourmet chefs, and the guests are always interesting. Did Peter tell you who was invited?”

Stiles shrugs. “New hires, he said. He also said he invited Lydia Martin, in case I wanted to talk to her. And—Chris’ daughter, some other people from the label.”

Erica whistles, stepping back to look at her work. “Allison Argent is one flawless bitch, Stiles. She was a Disney Kid, remember? Started working for her dad at the agency, like, five or six years ago, when she was still in high school. She’s an inspiration.”

“She didn’t go into music?”

“She’s a producer,” Erica tells him. “That’s music enough for her, I think.”

Stiles isn’t scared, really. He might be nervous, but not scared. He’s only been in Los Angeles for a week and he’s in a suit and tie, going to some party with a dozen people he doesn’t know. He’s certain he’s going to make an idiot out of himself at some point during the night but—

“Can’t you come?” he asks her, swallowing tightly.

Erica smirks. “You’ll be fine. Cling to Peter if you have to.”

“Trust me, that’s likely.”

Erica smiles and claps to herself. “You're adorable. It's going to be great. Remember everyone there is as new to this as you are. Well, most of them anyway. So if you see them acting like they own the world just know they're on the same boat you are.”

Stiles nods. “Okay, I can do this.”

“Of course you can.” She kisses his cheek and looks thoroughly pleased when she looks him over. “Remember to find Allison and say hi. She's seen your set already and she loves you—so you can start there.”

“How do you know she’s seen it?”

“Because her father has.” She brushes down his shoulders. “You’re good. Peter’s downstairs. Go kill it.”

“I’ll do my best.”

When he gets downstairs, he’s a little bit surprised to see Peter by the door. Not his physical placement, but—Peter. In a suit. With his hair done. He looks—

Stiles may stare a little bit because it’s no secret that the Hales are unfairly attractive. At least Peter only rolls his eyes and says, “We’re going to be late if you stand there gawking.”

They’re not late at all. They are, in fact, several minutes early, which results in Peter and Chris wandering off into the kitchen and Allison Argent shoving herself towards him, a huge smile on her incredibly pretty face.

“I’m Allison,” she says, even though her father had introduced her moments before. She’s wearing a strapless teal dress that goes down to her toes and Stiles is about to offer his hand to shake when she says, “I’m a huge fan, really—and no, my dad didn’t ask me to say that.”

Stiles blushes, he can feel it in his ears. “I, uh… Really?”

“Yes, really.” She takes his hands in hers and pulls him further into the room. “I hear new people every day but you're really something. You don't have to know anything about music to be moved by what you do and that goes a long way.”

“That, wow, that means a lot. I don't really know what to say,” Stiles babbles.

“You don't need to say anything. Dad's the one who is out to impress you.” She pulls him into the sitting room, leads him to the couch. “Can I get you a drink? Beer, wine, martini?”

“I’m okay, really.”

“Tell me if you change your mind, honestly.” She sits down beside him. “I’ve been trained to be a good hostess.”

“You’re doing a fabulous job as far as I can tell, but I haven’t been to many things that require hostess-training.”

Allison’s laugh fills the room, happy and bright, and Stiles can hear the honesty in it, see the genuine kindness and excitement in her eyes. She’s stunning and real, and Erica was right. This is going to be easy.

They sit there chatting for a long while, about Argent Studios, about Stiles’ life in San Francisco. They talk about Allison’s charming boyfriend visiting his sick mother in France and Stiles’ father in Beacon Hills.

“Beacon Hills?” Allison asks, squinting just barely. “I’ve heard of that town before.”

“It’s like 30,000 people tops,” Stiles tells her. “You might be thinking of something else.”

“No, I’m positive!” she says. “My friend who’s coming tonight as my date—he’s from Beacon Hills.”

“Seriously? Who is it?”

“Scott, Scott McCall. You wouldn't—”

But obviously he can and obviously this beautiful girl can see his jaw fully dropped.


“You know him?”

Stiles takes a deep breath. “We used to be really…really close. Now we only say happy birthday to each other on Facebook.” He avoids wringing his hands by gripping his knees tightly. “Wow. I—that’s so weird. He’s really going to be here?”

“That’s not a problem, right?”

“No,” Stiles assures her, but in truth he’s not really sure.

They were best friends, him and Scott, from kindergarten through high school, but as soon as Scott got into UCLA (and not UC Davis like he had been planning), he was gone, and Stiles was left in Nor Cal. They tried to keep in touch the first year or so, but soon Stiles stopped going back to Beacon Hills for vacations and so did Scott. Now they don’t even Snapchat.

He clears his throat, an uneasy smile taking hold on his face. “I’m excited to see him.” He just hopes Scott feels the same way.

Scott does feel the same way and so do his hugs. He goes for it without hesitation, pulling Stiles into his body the second they make eye contact. And even though he's here now and everything is still essentially the same as it had been three minutes ago, Stiles hadn't realized he'd missed his friend this much. Stiles hadn’t known how hard it would be to suddenly be in the same room again.

“I'm gonna cry like a little kid in front of a bunch of rich people,” Stiles half laughs and half whispers as he holds Scott just as tight.

“It's okay,” Scott says. “We’ll do it together.”

When they finally pull away Stiles takes a deep breath and just shakes his head. “What—what were we thinking? What did we do?”

Scott mirrors his movements. “I have no idea but I hate it. Let's not do that again.”

Stiles feels topsy turvy in the most insane way. His life was strange enough when he entered the Argent’s house and now—now he has Scott. Now there’s Scott.

Allison worms her way in between them, phone held aloft. “Picture time,” she decrees, “before this night gets any more emotional.”

They move placards around on the dining table while everyone else is in the sitting room, having drinks and appetizers. They seat themselves next to each other, Allison on Scott’s other side, and when Stiles notices that Lydia Martin’s placard is next to his, he has to ask.

“How does your dad know her?”

Allison shrugs, taking a sip from the drink the bartender has just passed her. “They’ve worked together before. She’s not on his payroll or anything. In fact, they barely get along. But they respect each other.” She jabs her finger into his chest. “You could do with representation like her. She’s fierce and protective and she’ll keep you on the straight and narrow through to platinum records.”

“That sounds a little terrifying,” Stiles admits.

“Yeah, terrifying is exactly what you need,” Allison tells him. She nods out into the room. “The strawberry blonde in the blue dress. That’s her.”

She doesn’t look quite as intimidating as Allison had described. She looks about five foot three, and probably weighs ninety pounds when wet, but there’s something about the way she glares at the man she’s talking to that makes Stiles reconsider. There’s fire there, and he looks away before she can turn and notice him.

“She’s smart,” Allison tells him. “And she’s thorough. And as much as I love Peter Hale, he’s not going to be able to do what Lydia will.”

“But Side A/Side B is already a household name—”

“Trust me, Stiles.” She squeezes his arm. “Even if you want to sign with a different record label, Lydia Martin is the only person to represent you.”

Stiles nods. Somehow going with anyone other than Peter feels like turning his back on the band, on the people that have helped him get this far. But on the other hand sometimes it feels like Peter is encouraging him to go elsewhere just as much as the Argents.

“I'll keep it in mind.”

Allison smiles. “I'll introduce you two later.”

Lydia Martin is—in a word—exceptional. In two words, exceptionally terrifying. She’s impossibly smart and ridiculously interesting, and when she talks, Stiles feels like he’s racing to keep up. And he went to Berkeley.

They converse all throughout dinner, despite Scott on his left. They talk art and politics and music; they talk about Peter Hale and his deceptively charming attitude towards anything that moves. Throughout the entire evening, they never shut up, and even though Stiles is still scared of her when he leaves, he also somehow feels like she’s a friend.

“I’m not an idiot,” she tells him when they having after-dinner cocktails in the lounge. Most of the guests have gone home by now, all but Peter and Scott. “I know why Chris wanted me here tonight. He’s not exactly subtle.”

“He thinks he has you in his pocket.”

Lydia smiles. “No. He knows I’m not in anyone’s pocket. But he also knows that we get along, and I like him. Most of all, I understand him. And he thinks I’ll push you to sign with him.”

“Would you?” Stiles asks.

“No.” She takes a sip of her drink primly. “I’m good at my job, Mr. Stilinski. I know to go shopping for the right deal, and I know to research who would give you the opportunities you want.”

“And it isn’t Argent?”

“I can’t say for certain. We haven’t really talked about what you want.”

For a moment Stiles is silent. It’s a lot to consider, all of the ideas mashing around in his skull. “We should,” he tells her.

“I think I’d like that,” she says, but without waiting a beat, she stands. “You have my card. Feel free to call.”

Derek doesn’t like walking downstairs in the morning and finding Stiles in the kitchen. He doesn’t like it because it’s his house, and if he wants to eat breakfast in his underwear, he should be allowed.

“Hey,” Stiles says, looking over his shoulder to greet him. “Erica’s grabbing orange juice from the fridge in the garage. Bacon’s on the counter and coffee’s in the pot. I hope you like your eggs scrambled because that’s pretty much the only way I know how to make them.”

Derek blinks. “Um.” He looks down at himself, at his basketball shorts that he slipped on just in case. Now he wishes he had grabbed a shirt too. “I’m just gonna—”

“Der!” Erica calls, entering the kitchen with juice in hand. “Stiles made us breakfast!”

“I can see that.” He lets her dart in and kiss his cheek. “When is everyone else getting here?”

“Any minute,” she tells him. She looks to Stiles, smirking. “Derek is paranoid because he has a countdown in his room to when the tour starts, and he thinks we don’t practice enough.”

“You don’t,” Derek says, frowning as he takes a seat at the island.

“Says you.”

It’s not only breakfast. It’s every second that Stiles is around. Something about him makes Derek’s skin itch.

The third floor of the house is their rehearsal room. Derek spends a lot of his time up there, writing or listening or playing. It’s his space. And when Stiles is there, Derek feels like he’s being violated.

“Don’t listen to him,” Erica always says. “Derek’s just bitter because I’m not giving him all my attention anymore.”

He doesn’t hate Stiles. He just doesn’t like the guy either. They don’t get along. They don’t exactly have a lot in common. And since all Stiles wants to do is play his guitar and hang out with Erica, it should be easy to avoid him. If it weren’t for the fact that they live under the same roof and are going to be in close quarters with each other for the entirety for an international tour.

“What is that?”

Of course Derek knows that the thing being shoved under his nose is an apple-cinnamon muffin, because he has a sense of smell and it’s his favorite.

“Trying 4th grade level ways of getting you to like me,” Stiles sighs. “It’s fresh?”

Derek clears his throat. They’re up in the rehearsal room, Derek on the couch with a guitar in his lap, Stiles having just appeared out of nowhere. “You need to be practicing. You're not used to the kind of set up we're going to have on tour.”

“I practice,” Stiles protests. “I’ve been living in your basement for over a month and I’ve already made six new videos. All I do all day is practice and write because that’s all you guys do and I don’t know anyone else in this stupid town.”

He sits down on the couch next to Derek, setting the plate of muffins down on the coffee table in front of him. Derek feels bad for approximately three seconds before he shakes it off. “You could go out with that Scott kid,” Derek says, “if you're so bored.”

“I'm not bored! Are you crazy? And I do see Scott, I see Scott all the time. But he doesn't have a lot of artistic advice. Boyd doesn't talk to me, Isaac thinks I'm after his clothes, and Erica just tells me I'm adorable. I talk to Malia but she’s…not interested in talking about music, just making it. So we practice, mostly silently.” He leans back against the cushions, sighing heavily. “You’re pretty much my last chance at making a friend, and you hate me.”

Derek closes his eyes, trying not to be a dick. It’s hard. “I don’t hate you,” he says stiffly. “We’re different.”

“I bet we have things in common.”

“Well,” Derek says, standing, guitar in hand, “we’ll have nine months on the road to figure that all out. Until then, I’m gonna go work somewhere else.”

Derek likes his room, but it’s not exactly his most productive place. All the same, it’s pretty much the only place in the house he can go to get away from Stiles, so he’s been spending a lot of his time there. When he’s in his room, he can do whatever he wants and Stiles can’t infect it. It’s his sacred place—until it happens.

He cannot be held responsible for his unconscious mind. He won’t be blamed for the things his brain does when he’s asleep because it has no bearing on real life. So, when he has a dream that Stiles is singing to him from across a room—when he dreams that Stiles pulls him into a kiss by the front of his shirt—when he dreams that he takes Stiles to bed and keeps him there all night long—it’s not his fucking fault.

The first two nights of the tour are in Los Angeles, so it’s a little bit anti-climactic, considering that they don’t have to bus anywhere. All the same, it’s the first time Stiles has played in front of so many people, and he may be panicking a little bit backstage.

It’s been four months since he came to L.A. and in a few minutes, he’s going to be on a stage in front of hundreds of thousands of people. It would be stupid not to be nervous, but that doesn’t change the fact that Stiles feels like he should be ready for this. He should be perfect.

“You have your set list,” Isaac says, patting him on the shoulder. “Don’t be so nervous.”

Stiles huffs. “You weren’t nervous? The first time?”

“Sure,” he says. “But this isn’t your first time. This isn’t any different than the shows you do in San Francisco.” Isaac nudges him. “Relax.”

His worst fear is that no one will care. He’s not on the radio; he doesn’t have a single. He’s just a guy with a couple popular YouTube videos and not much else. He thinks that, once he’s finished tonight, it’ll be the end of everything for him and he’ll go crawling back to his little apartment in Nor Cal and forget all about what might have been.

“Go on,” Erica tells him, shoving his shoulder. “Go show them what you can do.”

Walking is suddenly so much harder than he ever would have thought, but he does it. He walks out from the side of the stage, walks out in front of more people than he could have dreamed, and expects nothing. What he gets instead of all of those people, screaming. Not just shouting nonsense noise at him, but cheering his name, screaming because it’s him. And Stiles just stands and stares for a second, overwhelmed.

When he remembers himself, he grabs for the microphone, grinning like a loon. “Hey,” he says, and listens as the cheering gets louder in response. “Wow, okay, hi—my name is Stiles, and I’m overjoyed to be here with you tonight. Um, I know you all came here to see Side A/Side B, and I don’t blame you, but how would you guys mind it if I played a little something first?”

That gets him an earsplitting cheer in response and he's glad for the ear monitor because the speakers and the crowd are more powerful than anything he's ever been on stage with. He can hear himself though. He can hear the way his voice shakes a bit when he starts to sing. But the crowd is responding. They know this one. Stiles can hardly believe it, but these people—most of this huge mob, knows his song.

Everything is easy after that. Show after show, hours on buses and planes, stuck in hotel rooms. The band starts warming up to him. Boyd plays cards with him, teaches him some bass lines to famous songs. Isaac plays video games with him, talks to him about songwriting. Even Malia starts behaving like a human being, shoving her feet in his lap when they’re hanging out, picking out movies for them to watch together. He’s made friends, and every night he goes out on stage, there are more voices singing along.

Everything is perfect. Except for Derek. Broody, dark, mysterious Derek, who says hello like he’s imagining different painful ways to turn Stiles inside out. Stiles learns, after about a week, that it’s better to just leave him alone. Even if that sucks.

It sucks because Stiles admires Derek. He always has. It's even more now that he knows him in person, knows how much work goes into his art and how little time is spent at the parties and clubs that get splattered all over the internet. He knows that he cares for his family, because it's so obvious that's what this band is. He knows that he cares about his uncle even though it always seems like there's some strange tension between them. He knows Derek, or at least he tries. He sees more of him than he thought existed but he doesn't get to be a part of his life because Derek—well, Derek doesn't like him.

They don’t talk, not if they can help it. Stiles avoids Derek just as much as Derek avoids him, and it isn’t until their first night in Chicago that it really bothers him enough to say anything about it. They had a disagreement on their way out of the stadium, something about the second verse of one of songs Side A/Side B had played. Stiles was valiantly defending Erica’s performance and there was a conversation.

A fight. A fight that culminated in cheap blows and loud exclamations, to the point of them going at it in the lobby of their hotel.

“You don’t care about anything I have to say!” Stiles shouts, storming out of the vehicle and into the hotel, mistakenly thinking that social convention will keep Derek from yelling at him.

“I’ll care when you say something worth listening to!”

It only gets worse from there, until it comes to blows. That’s not the worst of it, though. The worst of it is the next morning.

TMZ: Battle of the Bands has a whole new meaning!

On Side A/Side B’s tour stop in Chicago last night, drummer Derek Hale got into a little push-and-shove with their introductory act, newcomer Stiles Stilinski. Stiles has been taking over lately with his iTunes EP still in the top 10 after eight weeks, and so everyone coming to see A/B already knows they’re in for a treat, but what they apparently don’t know is that for all the sweet music going on onstage, things aren’t so musical behind closed doors.

In the lobby of their hotel last night, Hale and Stilinski were seen arguing, even going so far to push one another before their security escorted them up into the elevators and away from cameras. Pictured here is the probable subject of their fight: Erica Reyes.

Stilinski and Reyes have been seen on several occasions, getting cozy. It’s obvious Derek Hale has an issue with that, huh?

Click here to read more stories like this.

“Oh that's disgusting,” Erica says as she looks at the webpage with disgust. Boyd scrolls away from it and she leans forward on his back. “Seriously people think I'd date Derek?”

“Well actually people think you're with Stiles and Derek's jealous,” Boyd corrects.

“Oh that's disturbed,” she groans.

“People don't know,” Isaac reminds her. “They think we're an assorted collection of hot people. Mix and match.”

“And we are,” Erica agrees, “but not with Derek!”

“I'm missing something here,” Stiles says, not moving from his spot in the corner of the room but turning his eyes towards Malia, “aren't I?”

Erica shudders. “Derek is like our dad. We were all—Boyd and Isaac and me—we were pretty much homeless when we met Derek in New York. His sister had just died and I was a runaway. Boyd’s family had kicked him out and Isaac’s parents were dead. Derek took care of us.”

Stiles blinks. “You mean Peter. Derek couldn’t have been—he’s only like four years older.”

“Yup,” Erica says. “Derek. He was only twenty. I was sixteen.”

“I was fifteen,” Isaac tells him.

“I was sixteen too,” Boyd says.

Stiles glances at Malia. “And what about—?”

“We’re cousins,” Malia says, flipping through her magazine. “I was the reason he moved here with the three of them. And we never separated after that.”

Stiles stares at them all in complete disbelief before turning back to Malia. “Wait, you're—what?”

“Technically Peter's kid. But only technically.”

“Derek's more Peter's kid than Malia is,” Isaac notes.

Boyd nods solemnly. “The entire situation is unfortunate.”

“Where the hell is Derek anyway?” Erica asks, pushing away from the desk and looking to the other side of the suite.

“He went for a run,” Boyd says. “One of the security guys went with him. He’ll be back later.”

Stiles huffs. “Why would he do that?”

“He runs all the time.”

“No,” Stiles says, genuinely confused. “Why would he—he didn’t even know you guys.”

“He’s not a bad person, Stiles,” Erica says. “He’s actually a really good person.”

Malia gets up, walks over the desk and sits right in front of Stiles, looking him in the eye. “There’s a place in New York called the Hale House. Ever heard of it?”


“Derek founded it with his sister after their parents died. They had millions of dollars and nothing to do with it. They put some of it into college funds, into rainy day accounts. The rest of it, they used to make a homeless children’s center. The kids have rooms and beds and a huge playground. They go to school and have friends, and they can even get adopted.” Malia pokes him in the stomach. “Derek can be a dick. He can be rude, insensitive, and a total asshole. But he cares about people at a base level, whether he shows it or not.”

Now Stiles feels even more like he's missing out on this incredible person and he has no idea how to make it better, how to make Derek give him a chance. They almost beat each other up. How the hell is he ever going to be his friend?

The short and simple of it all is that they’re not going to be. They’re not going to be friends because the first time Stiles hangs out with him in a hotel room all by themselves, they end up—

They end up making out against the door. And it’s not sweet or slow or romantic. It’s aggressive, violent even, and Stiles wouldn’t have it any other way.

“What were we talking about?” Stiles asks, taking in a deep gulp of air as Derek bites on his neck.

“You want to be friends,” Derek reminds him.

“Yeah. Right. Friends.”

“Wanna stop so we can talk about that?”

“Not really.” Stiles grabs a handful of Derek’s hair and pulls him back into a kiss, and even though he has no idea why this is happening, he’s not going to stop it now

For all that Derek is intimidating with his gloom and his art, he's like a magnet to Stiles' skin. He wants to press every inch of them together and mark Derek as much as Derek is marking him.

It's aggressive and scary and the most wonderful thing that has ever happened to Stiles following a pretty steady flow of wonderful things. When he slips his hand over the skin where Derek's shirt has ridden up, the sound Derek makes is soft and surprised. Nothing like what Stiles might have expected.

“Do you want me to stop?” Stiles asks, kissing along Derek’s ridiculous jawline.

“No,” Derek chokes out. “Just.” He jerks back, yanking off his own T-shirt, and then silently lunges back in to kiss Stiles again as he unbuttons his button-down. “Stop wearing so much goddamn flannel. Buy a fucking Henley.”

“What a great idea,” Stiles drawls, distractedly trailing his hands up Derek’s stomach. “We could be twins. Are you gonna keep critiquing my fashion choices or—?”

His shirt is off before the sentence is finished, and then suddenly he’s facing the door and Derek is pressed up behind him, his hands on Stiles’ wrists, his chest to Stiles’ back. It’s as intimidating as it is ridiculously sexy.

Stiles waits a beat for Derek to do something. When he doesn’t, Stiles pushes his hips back, letting his ass brush against Derek’s jeans. “You want to fuck me, don’t you?”

“Do you want me to?” Derek counters.

Stiles sucks in a deep breath. “Yes,” he admits. “Yeah, I do.”

Derek, very slowly, presses his mouth against the nape of Stiles’ neck. He rolls his hips, letting Stiles feel where he’s rock hard beneath his waistline. “Good,” he says. “It’ll give you something to think about while I’m on stage tonight.”

And then he moves away. He’s gone. In an instant. Stiles feels like he has whiplash with how fast they went from 100 to zero.

“What?” he demands, turning around to watch as Derek moves around his room.

“Peter’s coming up,” Derek says. “He’ll be here any second, so you need to get the fuck out so I can shower and be ready for the show tonight.”

Stiles blinks at him, heart beating out of control in his chest. “You’re kicking me out. After all that.”

Derek stops his frantic movements around the room and stares at him. “Do you want Peter to see us fucking? Because he's coming up here. I can hear him.”

If Stiles is honest he can hear him too, he's on the phone and close to screaming and he's taken the stairs—possibly so that he could continue arguing on his cell.

“Fine,” Stiles says as he pulls on his shirt.

Derek snorts like some kind of pissed off bull and rushes him, grabbing him by the waistband of his jeans and mauling his lips, more bite than a kiss. “We'll pick this up later. Now get the hell out before he catches us.”

He jerks off in the shower, which is probably not great for the hotel’s plumbing, but he doesn’t really care. Derek Hale just kissed him. And groped him. And implied that they were going to have sex tonight after the concert—the concert, in which, they’re both going to be performing. As if Stiles’ life wasn’t weird enough already.

He doesn’t tell anyone else, not even Erica. They’re leaving the hotel at three in the morning, heading to the bus and going up to Wisconsin to play a show in Milwaukee. It’s after eleven when the concert gets out, which means everyone has a couple of hours to rest before they need to head out.

Stiles isn’t going to rest. He showers the concert stink off of him, puts on a T-shirt and a pair of sweats, and power walks down the hall to Derek’s room. Two knocks, five seconds, and he’s in the room with him, already making out. No words—because Derek barely knows how to use them.

“You were great,” Stiles tells him in between kisses. “Really fucking hot.”

Derek grabs him by his thighs and hoists up him, carrying him towards the bed. Stiles moans weakly, kissing him deeper.

“You were—when you were singing, with Erica, during ‘On Fire’. I thought I was gonna come in my jeans.”

“You’ve heard me sing it before,” Derek dismisses, dropping him on the mattress.

“Yeah, but not when I knew I was gonna get to go home with you after.” Stiles tugs on Derek’s shirt but can’t reach over his head when he’s sitting on the mattress and Derek is still standing. “Help me out, dude. Take it off.”

“I liked your set too,” Derek says quietly, tossing his shirt towards his suitcase and crawling on top of him, easing him back up to the headboard.

“Yeah?” Stiles asked, smiling as he brushes Derek’s hair with his fingers.

“Yeah.” He grabs Stiles’ shirt, pulls it up and off and proceeds to rid him of his sweats too. “You’re a good musician.”

“That means a lot, you know.”

Derek hums. “Don’t let it go to your head.” He ducks, kissing up Stiles’ stomach, over his chest. Stiles lets him, stays silent and plays with Derek’s hair as he explores. He’s hard but not impatient, and it’s fun to watch Derek do his thing. “Grab a condom from the nightstand.”

Stiles scoffs. “You haven’t even prepped me.”

“It’s for you,” Derek says, meeting his eyes. “So I can blow you.”

Stiles scrambles for an unlubed condom, handing it to Derek as quickly as he’s ever done anything, and a minute later, Derek is jerking him to full hardness and rolling it on, the most studious of blowjob-givers Stiles has ever seen.

It’s easier to stare at the ceiling than watch as Derek sucks him down over and over, taking him deep into his throat and out again, slobbering across his cock, down his balls, pressing his thumb against his opening, just trying to drive him insane. Stiles alternates between reciting state capitals in his head and just biting the inside of his mouth so hard that he draws blood, and he’s gone through thirty-eight states when Derek lifts his head and says, “Lube.”

“Don’t you want me to return the favor?” Stiles says, panting just slightly.

“I don’t want to be the one to explain to Peter before the show tomorrow night why your voice sounds like you’ve been sucking dick, so—some other time.”

Stiles nods eagerly. “Yeah. Good. Another time.”

With Derek, the fingering, the annoying prep that leads to the really good part, isn’t actually annoying. It’s not tiring or bothersome or boner-killing. It’s sex, and Derek is thorough and slow, kissing him throughout the entirety of it. It’s almost romantic, and Stiles is swooning by the time Derek says, “Ready?”

He moans, digging his nails into Derek’s neck. Derek is being sweet, and Stiles knew it was possible. Stiles knew there was this caring, genuine guy underneath it all.

“Yeah,” he says, nodding. “So ready. Super ready. Put it in me.”

Derek snorts, fumbling for a condom. “You might wanna work on your dirty talk.”

“Cool. You can train me some time.”

When Derek pushes inside, Stiles is not responsible for the noise that comes out of him. Derek grunts, dropping his forehead onto Stiles’ collarbone, obviously hiding his face in shame.

“Erica’s right next door,” Derek hisses. “You want her to come running in?”

“Next time,” Stiles pants, “get a room on a different floor. So you can fuck me like you mean it.”

“You’re ridiculous.”

“I know.” He grabs handfuls of Derek’s ass. “Now move, before I go crazy.”

He’s never really had bad sex, strictly speaking. He’s always come at least, and it’s never hurt. He’s always been safe, careful, and his partners have always been of-age, consensual human beings. But just as he’s never had bad sex, he’s never had truly mind-blowing sex either. Before now.

There’s something about Derek’s hips, his hands, his mouth. He’s a multitasking genius with a perfect cock, with more stamina than Stiles could ever hope to have in his life. He’s pretty much a sex god, and Stiles is just along for the ride, letting Derek take him any way he wants.

He loses track of time. He’s sweating like a pig, moaning quietly into Derek’s neck or mouth or throat, depending on the given moment. He hasn’t touched his cock since they started, too focused on the sensations, on the way Derek rolls his hips to perfectly brush up against his prostate, on the way Derek licks over his nipples and scratches under his ribs with blunt nails. It’s like he knows all of Stiles’ erogenous zones without asking, like he’s reading Stiles like a book, just following the footnotes.

“You can come,” Derek gasps, moving faster, losing rhythm for a moment.

“Trust me,” Stiles tells him, “I’m about to. Fuck—don’t stop—Derek—”

Derek’s hand is on him before Stiles can separate the sensations, before Stiles can tell him he doesn’t need the help. He comes a handful of strokes in, keeping quiet by shoving his face into Derek’s throat.

When he comes to, Derek is pulling out, still hard.

“You can—” Stiles starts, but Derek is jerking off over him anyway, the condom disposed of. He’s exhausted, barely able to keep his eyes open, but he watches anyway, because he can’t not. He can’t look away when Derek is saying his name, coming over his fist and onto Stiles’ stomach.

Derek collapses beside him, face to his pillow, and Stiles feels like he’s glowing. He feels like he could run up and down the hall, shouting—he could put it on TV, tell everyone and their mother that Derek Hale is best lay in the fucking universe.

“You can’t be here when security comes at 3,” Derek grumbles, already half asleep.

“I know,” Stiles says around a yawn.

“You should leave before you fall asleep.”

Stiles can’t even be upset that he’s getting kicked out. He’s on Cloud fucking Nine, and he smiles his way through minimal clean up in the bathroom, hums to himself while he gets dressed, and drops a kiss on Derek’s forehead before heading out the door, even though the guy’s already asleep.

Stiles climbs onto the bus in a hoodie and track pants with his duffle bag. He promptly drops onto the nearest cushioned vertical surface and falls back asleep, even before everyone is fully on board.

Derek watches from his seat at the back, pretending to read a book. Erica comes on next, hair tied up and bags under her eyes. She falls down too, hugging her pillow, and nods off. Boyd and Isaac board next, quietly heading to the back to sit with Derek, and Malia is last, skipping back to join them. She sits cross-legged at Derek’s feet and pulls her phone from her bag, putting her headphones in her ears.

Boyd and Isaac launch into a conversation and so Derek turns his attention back to Stiles, his open mouth and his tilted head, his open legs. He’s stunning, even when asleep, and Derek can’t help but remember Stiles naked, underneath him, less than four hours ago.

“You okay?” Malia asks, nudging his foot.

Derek nods, picks his book up again. “Yeah, I’m fine.”

“You could do with some sleep too, you know.”

“I’ll sleep when we get to the hotel.”

Malia looks skeptical but nods. “Okay.”

The drive isn’t that long, about an hour and forty minutes, and Stiles stays asleep the entire time. He rolls over once, says something to Erica, and then passes out again before Derek can come up with an excuse to talk to him. When they do finally arrive at their hotel, the stuff is waiting to them to help carry in their things. While everyone else unloads—including the bus driver—Derek nudges Stiles awake.

“Hey,” Stiles says, rubbing his eyes. “We’re in Milwaukee?”

Derek nods. “Rise and shine,” he says, ruffling Stiles’ hair. “I’m gonna take a nap, but—you should come to my room for breakfast. Room service.”

Stiles blinks at him. “Okay.”

“If you want.”

“I want.”

“Good.” Derek glances over his shoulder and, finding no one, shoves in for a fast, harsh kiss. “See you in a couple of hours.”

Stiles sets an alarm for nine-thirty, hits the snooze button twice, and is knocking on Derek’s door at ten, wondering what exactly he has planned. They can’t—well, Stiles isn’t exactly known for being the world’s most compatible bottom. He likes to switch it up, especially when he was the one getting fucked not so long ago.

Of course, the alternative is that Derek really just wanted to have breakfast with him. Which is, frankly, impossible. They may have chemistry; they may be good at sex with each other; but they’re not friends. They don’t just have meals because they can, because they feel like it. So Stiles is pretty sure he’s looking at Round 2 when he approaches Derek’s door. It might be a little awkward, considering the two security guards flanking the doorway, but they’re nothing compared to who answers the door.

“Hey,” Malia says, a piece of toast hanging out of her mouth. “C’mon in. There’s everything.”

Everyone is there, including Peter. Derek is sitting on his bed, and when he glances up as Stiles walks in, the look on his face says it all. He wasn’t planning on them being there.

“This asshole,” Erica says, gesturing to Derek, “ordered breakfast for himself without telling us. So when I came to say good morning, I decided we should do a big breakfast thing together. Which could’ve been Derek’s idea, had he been a little more considerate.”

Derek clears his throat.

“Right.” Erica shoves Stiles towards the carts of food. “Eat, Stilinski. You’re gonna need your strength.”

It’s a perfectly normal meal. Stiles forgets about Derek as soon as he and Erica start talking, and it’s just like being back in L.A., just like sitting around and hanging out. Derek is quiet, speaks when spoken to but mostly just sits on his bed, flips through some book he’s been reading. Stiles doesn’t stare. Even though he wants to.

“I don’t want to stay in the room all day,” Erica says. “Let’s go out and do something.”

Malia agrees, as does Isaac. Boyd, however, opts for using the hotel’s gym to get a long-awaited workout, and Derek says he’ll join him.

“Stiles?” Erica nudges him. “You wanna come with?”

He wants to look up at Derek, wants to silently ask him what he’s supposed to do. But that would be obvious. It would be dumb, and it’s clear that Derek doesn’t want his bandmates to know what they’re doing, so he keeps his eyes forward and smiles. “Sure,” he says. “Let’s go out.”

After Milwaukee, there’s Cleveland. There’s Springfield, Illinois, a handful of other Midwestern cities, and then further south. There’s Florida, and then climbing north along the coast. The last stop in the U.S. before they head to Canada is New York. It takes them three months just to do the country, and within those three months, Derek and Stiles have sex 52 times.

Canada is another month. 40 times. (They get four days off, three of which they spend doing nothing but fucking.)

There’s a month in Asia, then two months in Europe. They spend two weeks in Australia and come back to do another quick loop of the States. When they hit New York again, their first stop back after Australia, they have two days of nothing before a show. Stiles heads straight for Derek’s room after he sleeps off the jet lag and finds the guy packing up three huge bags of—

“Children’s toys?” Stiles asks, closing the door behind himself.

Derek glances over his shoulder. “I’m going down to the Hale House. I didn’t go last time we were here because…” He trails off.   “I was busy.”

“You could’ve said something. That’s more important than sex.”

Derek arches an eyebrow. “You waited for me in my bed. What was I supposed to do? Tell you to wait?”

“I would’ve.”

“Well.” He stands up straight. “You wanna come?”

Stiles blinks. “Are the others going?”

“They’re all still asleep as far as I know.” Derek hefts one of the bags. “How do you feel about little kids climbing on you?”

Not great, if he’s being honest. But Stiles knows it probably isn’t easy for Derek to share something like this, the thing that probably reminds him most of his sister, of his family. The thing that reminds him of the worst times in his life.

“Let’s do it,” Stiles says, grabbing one of the bags.

The House is bigger than Stiles imagined. There’s a lobby when they walk in the front door, a big desk staffed by three ladies in T-shirts, and when Derek walks in, they all grin at him hugely and call him Mr. Hale.

“Sorry for not calling ahead this time,” Derek says. “Is Jeanine around?”

“She’s supervising study hall,” one of the girls says. She can’t be older than nineteen. Her nametag says she’s called Sara. “We can have the toys brought into the playroom if you like. And then you and Mr. Stilinski can go and visit the children.”

“Let’s do that,” Derek agrees, and Sara rings a buzzer under the desk that calls out one of the security guards from a back office. Stiles stares as the guy takes Derek’s bags of toys—and the one that Stiles is holding—and leads them through the winding halls of the House, into a large playroom that’s already full of toys.

Derek takes one of the bags as soon as it’s set down. “I’m gonna take this to study hall,” he tells the guard. “It has some notebooks and stuff.”

“Sure thing, Mr. Hale,” the guard says, and Stiles is left staring, completely unsure what to say.

“I’m Joe,” the guard introduces himself.

“Stiles. It’s nice to meet you, Joe.”

Joe nods out to the hallway that Derek just disappeared through. “Mr. Hale doesn’t usually bring guests to the House.”

“I interrupted right when he was about to leave. He kind of had no choice.” Stiles licks his lips, looks around. “This is—really impressive. Do you know how many kids there are?”

“About 40, a little more. Mr. Hale talked about expanding, having another property on the other side of town. We’re having to turn older kids away lately.”

“That’s unfortunate,” Stiles says quietly, stuffing his hands in his pockets. “How old?”

“The oldest we accept is sixteen. We help seventeen- and eighteen-year-olds find jobs in the area, refer them to some programs, but we can’t house any of them. We don’t have the room. But Mr. Hale has a lot of requirements for the kids, holds them all to high standards and asks that we do too. Once they’re fifteen, they start looking for jobs, applying to colleges. We’re just trying to keep them off the streets, away from gangs.”

“It’s—smart.” Smart, yes. And kind. Thoughtful. Generous. He swallows tightly and turns just in time to see Derek coming back through the door.

“C’mere,” he says. “Come meet everyone.”

The study hall room is one giant classroom. Everyone’s sitting at tables and desks, doing homework or reading, coloring or sorting math tiles. When he and Derek enter the room, they’re all sitting quietly at attention.

“This is Stiles,” Derek says. “Say hi.”

A chorus of, “Hi, Stiles,” is returned, and Stiles feels his chest swell.

“Hi,” he says weakly.

“Get back to your work,” a woman who must be Jeanine says. “Don’t let our guests disrupt you.”

Stiles wants to apologize, wants to turn on his heel and take off, but Derek drags him through the room to a little table with a group of very young boys, all of them coloring big pieces of paper.

“Hey,” Derek says, kneeling next to the table. The boy directly next to him stares, hanging on Derek’s every word, eyes wide. “Aaron, there’s someone I want you to meet. This is my friend Stiles.”

Stiles only hesitates a moment before dropping to his knees too. “Hey, Aaron. What’s up?”

“Hi, Mr. Stiles,” Aaron says. He’s little and blond and can’t be older than five.

“Aaron was a baby when his mom left him here,” Derek whispers to Stiles. “He’s the only one I’ve known as long as he’s been alive.”

“That’s sweet,” Stiles tells him, unsure what else to say.

“Aaron,” Derek says, “what did you and Miss Jeanine do today?”

“We colored,” Aaron says, “and she showed me the alphabet.”

“That’s very impressive.”

“She’s teaching me the song.”

“I’m sure you’ll learn it very quickly.”

Aaron nods. “Are you gonna sing to us again like last time?”

“I’m surprised you remember that,” Derek laughs. “Not this time, bud. I can’t stay. But I’ll be back really soon, and I’ll sing as much as you want then.”

“You were gone for a really long time. Miss Jeanine showed us videos of you and Miss Erica and everyone else.”

“Well, I hope I won’t have to stay away that long again, okay?” Derek asks, brushing his fingers over Aaron’s head, pushing his hair back.

“Good,” he says.

“I brought you some toys, too. Miss Jeanine will show you later, okay?”

“Thank you,” Aaron says dutifully. “Miss Jeanine always tells us to say please and thank you.”

“She’s a very good teacher. We have to go now—you wanna say goodbye to Mr. Stiles?”

Aaron does so, and Derek pulls Stiles up and away, only pausing to say goodbye to Jeanine before they left the room.

Outside in the hall, Stiles feels like he can catch his breath. It feels like he’s just been bombarded with a stranger, a man who not only cares for children but establishes connections with them—loves them. It’s obvious that Derek loves Aaron a lot.

“How often do you come to visit?” Stiles asks, following him towards the lobby.

“Every two months or so. I don’t want him to forget me. This is probably the longest I’ve gone without seeing him.” He waves goodbye to the ladies at the front desk, thanks them before they head out, and even though it was a short visit, Stiles feels like the whole world has changed in the brief period of time they were in that building.

Derek follows Stiles into the black car that will take them back to their hotel, but as soon as the door is closed behind him, Derek is kissing him, hands on his face.

“Thanks for going with me,” he says against Stiles’ mouth. “I wanted to see them. And—now I wanna do this.”

Stiles shakes off the weird, tries not to think about the way Derek transformed in front of his eyes, and simply nods. “Finally,” he says with a laugh. “I thought you were just gonna forget that we were supposed to spend today screwing.”


After New York, they hit Chicago again. They’re there over Christmas, have a big band celebration. Then they’re off to Seattle and Las Vegas, where they ring in the New Year before their two concerts, and finish up with a closing night in San Francisco, of all places.

Nine months, and they end in Stiles’ favorite fucking city. It’s stunning, absolutely beautiful, looking out over a crowd of people that Stiles can identify with, that Stiles feels like he knows. His dad is out there somewhere. He sent him and the department tickets months ago.

He’s sitting on a chair in the middle of the stage, ready to do his entire set, but something just feels—different.

“I got my start in San Francisco,” he tells them, pausing and setting down his guitar after he’s played a couple songs. “Some of you might know that. Some of you might have even squished yourselves into tiny bars and clubs to watch me play. Thank you if you did. Thank you if you watched my videos or listened to my SoundCloud. Thank you if you’ve never heard of me before and just wanted to come see the main attraction tonight—I hope you’re enjoying what you hear anyway.” He huffs out a breath. “I love this city. I love the people. I love everything about it. But most of all—I love the way that my mom loved it.”

He shifts his weight in his seat, looks out at the hundreds of thousands of faces. “So, I’ve been singing this song as a part of my set list the entire time that we’ve been on tour. It’s by a great band that I admire so much, but more than that, it’s a song that I really identify with. My mom died of a brain disease when I was eight years old. She was, uh, my favorite person, really. My dad’s too. And we’ve survived without her, but we both miss her every day. And whenever I sing this song, I sing it for her, because it makes me feel just a little bit closer. I think that she’s looking down on me, every time I sing it, and knowing that I miss her every day.”

He takes a breath, sets his feet, and picks up the little ukulele sitting next to his guitar. “This is called ‘House of Gold’ by Twenty One Pilots.”

Security escorts his dad backstage after the show. Stiles was expecting to see him. He wasn’t, however, expecting to see Melissa McCall, flanked by her son, Allison Argent, and a devastatingly handsome dude wearing a scarf.

He hugs all of them but the stranger, who Allison introduces as her boyfriend Armand. He leads them back to a sitting room, where the band will join them after they finish signing autographs and taking pictures. Before he can sit, however, his dad pulls him into another hug.

“She would’ve loved that,” he says quietly.

Stiles closes his eyes. “I know, Dad. Thanks.”

Stiles loses track of time with all them, with Scott who can’t stop talking about how good the show was. Allison, who wants to gossip about everything and anything she’s heard the past few months. His dad, of course, who seems content to sit quietly and do nothing but listen as they all prattle on.

When the band comes in, Stiles doesn’t really know what to expect. They all know Allison, have vaguely met Scott, and are disarmingly polite to Armand and Melissa. But then there’s Stiles’ dad.

Erica gives him a big hug while Malia sticks to the classic handshake and moves away immediately to sit. Boyd and Isaac shake too, politely tell him how proud he must be of Stiles. Derek is as stiff and awkward as usual, introducing himself.

“It’s been a privilege to work with your son, sir,” he says, and Stiles decidedly does not look surprised. He simply swallows past the lump in his throat and focuses on Scott’s conversation with Malia. It’s easier than admitting what’s going on in his chest.

Over the past few months, there has been sex. There’s been a lot of sex. But there have also been—outings. Dates, one might call them. They go out to movies or dinner. They saw a show on Broadway while they were in New York the last time. They spend time together. They talk now, more than they ever did, and Stiles finally feels like they’re getting along. He also feels like he’s head over heels in love with Derek fucking Hale.

It was never meant to be more than a hookup, Stiles knows. Derek didn’t start making out with him one day because he found him irresistible. It was a chemical reaction to mutual want and they’ve been sexually working out some steam ever since then. And the only reason Derek is behaving like a person now is because he wants to have sex. It’s natural.

It’s late by the time his dad and Melissa get on the road. Scott, Allison, and Armand have hotel rooms, and they take off too. It isn’t long after that that Derek and Stiles find themselves alone together, waiting for the car to arrive to take them to the hotel. The others are gathering their things from dressing rooms, making sure they haven’t left anything behind.

“That was nice,” Stiles says, “what you said to my dad.”

“I meant it,” Derek tells him.

Stiles licks his lips. “Derek—”

“This has to be the last night.”

Stiles blinks. “Oh.”

“It was fun while it lasted, but we both knew it was a temporary thing.”

“Sure,” Stiles says, shoving his hands in his pockets. “If that’s what you want.”

“It’s what I want,” Derek says. He glances at the closed door and Stiles knows he’s about to be kissed, but instead of the joy and anxiety that usually comes with that feeling, there’s only dread.

Derek’s lips feel the same as they always have. Only this time, they taste like finality.

“I’m actually really tired,” Stiles says when Derek pulls back. “I was gonna say I didn’t think I could—come over. We have the flight at like five in the morning and I’m so behind on my sleep—”

“So that’s it then.”

Stiles nods. “Yeah. Yup. That’s it.”

Derek is quiet for a beat. Stiles waits for another, and then another, and when Derek still hasn’t said anything, he leans in for another kiss, slow and careful. A goodbye. One perfect final kiss, so he can remember what it was like, the few months he was with Derek Hale.

“If you ever—I just mean, I’m finding an apartment. In L.A. And so if you ever want—I don’t know.”

“I have your number,” Derek says.


“It’s not like we’ll never see each other again.”


Derek nods towards the door. “We better go.”

“Yeah,” Stiles says. “I guess we should.”

Chapter Text

Peter groans, loudly and extensively, into his cup of coffee. He feels hung over even though he hasn't had a drop.

“Tour fatigue?”

He looks up from the billowing steam and blinks up at Christopher, not even bothering to answer.

“You know,” he says as he idly runs his hand over the kitchen counter, “you could have woken me up when you got in. Or passed out in bed instead of the couch like a 16-year-old coming back from prom.”

Peter grumbles at his coffee. “I didn’t want to disturb you.”

“How long have you slept?”

“I slept on the plane. And I got a couple hours on the couch. I’m fine.”

“You’re obviously not,” Chris says, pouring his own cup of coffee. “So. What’s on your mind? Stiles?”

“He and my nephew spent the majority of downtime during the tour getting to know each other,” Peter says, rolling his eyes. “And then last night, something went wrong—they spent the entire flight being angsty and avoiding each other, and something tells me it’s not going to stop there.”

Chris takes a seat at the counter. “Why does it matter? You’re not going to be working with Stiles anymore, and Derek will get over it when he gets under someone else.”

“Who says I'm not going to be working with Stiles anymore?”

Chris glares at him while he pours some cream in his cup and some sugar in Peter's. “You did. You said that. You say that every night.”

“I said these kids are going to kill me,” Peter says, finally sitting up. “I didn't say I wasn't going to take Stiles.”

“You can't take Stiles.”

“Why,” Peter snaps, “because you want him? Want to give him to that screechy little thing?”

Chris snorts into his coffee. “You're not serious.”

“Aren't I?”

Chris smiles and puts his mug down. “You are not going to take on someone you know you can't handle because you're jealous of Lydia Martin.”

“I’m not jealous,” Peter mutters, taking a sip of his coffee.

“You know she’s the best thing for him.”

“I don’t know that, actually. I’m good at my job.”

“And you do it well with Derek and the band,” Chris allows, “but this is something different. This is a different situation, and you’re mature enough to know that you can’t handle Stiles and the group at the same time. Let someone with the time and the energy do it and do it effectively.”

“You know we're the same age, don't you, Christopher?”

“I don't deal with the kids directly,” he reminds Peter. “Frankly I don't know how you do it. There's no shame in having one client. It's good fucking client, Peter.”

Peter wants to argue, honestly. He wants to shout and throws things and turn into a child, but instead he sucks in a deep breath and says, “I know.”

It’s familiar, the comfort that settles over him when Chris throws an arm over his shoulder. “There’s no shame in letting go of him, even if it’s to Lydia Martin.”

“I don’t like her.”

“I know.”

Peter sniffs. “I can’t take him.”

“I know.”

Peter turns to look at him, sees eyes just as tired as his own. “You didn’t come to any of the shows.”

“I have a job.”

“I wanted to see you.”

“We talked on the phone every night.”

“It’s not the same,” Peter huffs.

“I know,” he says quietly, “that's why I was disappointed when you didn't come to bed last night.”

Peter sighs. “Well, we can go to bed now. After I shower the plane smell off me.”

“I have to go to work.”

“You’re the boss. You never have to go work. Take the day off,” Peter says, leaving his coffee to run his hands up under Chris’ shirt, leans in to start pecking kisses along his jaw.

“The whole day?”

“It’s been nine months,” Peter reminds him. “You’re telling me you don’t want to spend the day making up for that?”

Chris keeps his mask of concerned professionalism just another second before smiling. “Of course I do.” He dips his head to lean in close to him, stopping with his lips hovering over Peter's pulse. “Come on, I'll help you with that shower.”

Kira Yukimura’s days are not any easier just because her boss isn’t around. Sure, her job description is literally to follow him around and do his bidding, but when he’s not in the building, he still has a phone, and he leaves her a dozen messages before telling her he’s taking the day off, so she has plenty to do.

One of her tasks is to look in on Allison and get her notes on the projects she’s been working on—she has to do the same for every producer in the building today, so she’s happy to start with Allison. She likes Allison.

Allison’s office is cozy, comfortable, and she always leaves the door open, so Kira doesn’t both knocking before striding in, poised to ask her for an update she can jot down in her notes.

Allison isn't alone. She's with Scott McCall—the ex boyfriend that never goes away and no one (not even the new boyfriend) seems to mind. They're laughing and the man is shaking his head and Kira loses all the notes and words and thoughts that were running through her mind.

“You cannot borrow the new puppies for a photo shoot. That's awful.”

“Well you'd be there to supervise! Come on, the girls were there when you sent the picture and they're in love. They haven't seen their friends, or pets, or school, or anything resembling childhood in months.”

Scott sighs, too dramatic to be real. “I'll talk to my boss.”

“Thank you,” Allison says heartily, and when she glances up, her smile doesn’t fade. “Kira! Hey, what’s up?”

Scott turns too, looking at her, and she blushes to her ears. “Um, Mr. Argent wanted me to get notes on your progress for your projects.”

“Does he want my files?”

“No, just a brief update.”

“I can email it to you straight away,” Allison tells her. Then, looking to Scott, “Scott, you know Kira, right? Dad’s PA?”

“We’ve crossed paths before,” Scott says, and it’s so strangely charming with his bright smile and his crooked jaw and Kira feels butterflies in her stomach. “Nice to formally meet you.”

“Same,” Kira says quietly. “I mean, yes, you too.”

“Did you need anything else?” Allison asks.

Kira shakes her head too quickly, feeling hot and flustered. “I'll just—uh, Mr. Argent is taking the day off. So if you need anything just, um, get in touch with me?”

“Yeah, I'd assume so,” Allison says with a grin before turning to Scott. “The band is back, so Peter is back, so…”

“Please,” Scott laughs. “Say no more.”

“Thanks for letting me know, Kira,” Allison tells her, and Kira takes that as her cue to leave, turning and fleeing as casually as she possibly can.

Scott McCall is easily the cutest guy Kira has ever seen in real life. And she’s met Justin Timberlake. He’s sweet and funny and he works with animals. If only it weren’t for the fact that he’s Allison’s ex—and if he even cared that she was in the room. There might be hope for her in another dimension, but Kira isn’t under any illusions. As if Scott McCall would want anything to do with her.

Allison's smile is more than amused when Scott looks back at her. “She's cute isn't she?”

Scott blushes. “I wasn't—I—sorry. “

“Scott, it's fine. I think she likes you too.”


“Well last time I told her you were coming to one of dad's things she added those little baby corn dog things that totally didn't match the Japanese menu.”

“I love those things!”

Allison arches an eyebrow. “I know. And so does she.”

Scott leans back in his chair. “It’d be weird,” he says. “Wouldn’t it? I mean, she pretty much works for you—”

“We’re friends, Scott,” Allison interrupts, beaming. “And, honestly, Kira is one of the most composed, professional people that work here, and she turns into a babbling lunatic when she’s in the same room as you. Even if I didn’t approve, it wouldn’t matter. You two would be good for each other.”

“But you do approve. I mean, you don't mind if I—do you?”

“No, you idiot, I encourage it. Maybe she can function around you once you two start talking,” Allison says with a wide grin.

“I'm going to do it,” Scott says, sitting up and squaring his back.

“Armand will be heartbroken.” She points out the door. “If you’re gonna go get her, you better do it now before Dad has her running even more errands.”

Scott squirms. “What do I say?”

“Tell her you like coffee and ask if she likes puppies. You’re pretty much set after that.”

She’s waiting for the elevator when Scott ducks out into the hall, and he jogs to catch up with her, putting himself between her and the elevator door with a nervous grin and a, “Hi.”

She blinks at him. “Hi. Um. Did Ms. Argent need something else?”

“No,” Scott says hurriedly, “but, uh, I did.”

Kira frowns. “Oh. Okay.”

“Your number,” he says. “And a date.”

Scott watches as Kira’s face transitions through a dozen different expressions, each of them more excited and confusing as the last, and he waits—waits until the elevator arrives, at which point Kira says, “Oh. Wait, really?”

“Really,” Scott says. “Unless you don’t want to.”

“I do. I definitely do. I—” She scribbles something down on the pad of paper in front of her, tears it off and hands it to him, already getting on the elevator. “Call me whenever.”

“Tonight. I’ll call you tonight.”

She’s still grinning when the doors close.

“I think I’m gonna take this one,” Stiles says, walking around the fully-furnished apartment. “Because for the first time in my life, I have a paycheck with a ridiculous amount of zeros, and I’m going to use it to buy a real home, instead of a dinky corner.”

Scott, who’s standing the kitchen, eating from a bag of chips he bought at the downstairs vending machine, nods slowly. “It’s nice. What do you need two bedrooms for?”

Stiles shrugs. “Guests. You or my dad. I don’t know.”

“Well,” Scott says, “it makes sense, since you got money from the tour. But what about now? You don’t really have a job anymore.” He squints. “You actually haven’t had a job for, like, three weeks, since you guys got back.”

“I have savings to live on until I decide what I’m gonna do.”

Scott sighs. “Look, if you want, my couch is a pull-out. You can crash with me for a while, until you sign a deal, get some real money.”

Stiles has thought about it, has thought about asking, but it’s time. He wants his own place. He wants a place that’s just his, and he’s ready for it. “That’s nice, dude, but I’m really gonna be okay. I’m seeing Peter tonight and I have an appointment with Lydia tomorrow morning. One of them is gonna have something for me, and I’ll go from there. I’m really more on top of this than you think.”

Scott nods. “If you say so.”

“Can I, uh, tell you something?” Stiles asks, plopping down on the couch. It’s an L-shape, facing the television. (The TV doesn’t come with the apartment, but Stiles has his own in storage. It’s not nearly as nice as the one on display, but it’ll do.)

Scott joins him, propping his feet up on the coffee table. “What’s up?”

He’s given it a lot of thought, whether or not to tell Scott. But they’re friends—on their way back to being best friends, in all honesty—and Stiles trusts him. Besides, he hasn’t told anyone. He should get to tell one person.

“You can’t tell anyone,” Stiles says. “Not even Allison.”

“Cross my heart.”

He sighs. “Derek and I were sleeping together on tour.”

The incessant crunching of potato chips stops, Scott’s mouth hanging open as he stares at Derek, eyebrows furrowed. “What?” he says, finally swallowing. “You mean you—you two were—”

“Yup.” Stiles tilts his head towards the ceiling. “A lot. Like. A lot of sex. So much sex.”

“And now?”

“He dumped me, said it was casual. Which I knew, of course, but we were—so close at the end. We were hanging out and talking and I thought, maybe, he actually liked me. Now,” he says, grabbing Scott’s snack, “we’ve been back for a week and we haven’t spoken. I texted him the other day to say hi; he never responded. Erica says he’s just sitting in his room all the time, not talking to anybody. Back to his surly self.”

“That…sucks,” Scott says. “I mean, honestly, I don’t know what else to say. He sounds like a real dick.”

“He does, doesn’t he?” Stiles looks to him, frowning. “I need to go out. I need to stop feeling sorry for myself, find someone who actually wants to go on dates.”

“It also wouldn’t hurt to just—I don’t know—take time for yourself?” Scott looks worried, his lips turned down and his eyes narrow. “I just don’t want you to go rushing into anything because you feel bad about Derek. He’s not worth you hurting yourself more.”

“I know,” Stiles agrees. “But I think it would be good. I mean, it’s not like I dated in high school, and I barely dated in college. I haven’t been with a lot of people, and it’d be good to experience the dating pool.”

Scott shrugs. “Alright. Let’s make a night of it. I’ll bring Kira; you should ask Erica; we can be your wing-people.”

“I’ll probably have to ask Boyd, give Erica something to do.”

“There’s a couple bars I know of that might work,” Scott says, “but they don’t open until late, and you’re gonna pay my cover charge since I work 50 hours a week in a vet clinic and you are a professional musician.”

“You got it, dude.”

Erica orders Chinese food, gathers the five of them together in the living room in front of the TV. It’s quiet for a long while, nothing but the noise of the TV and their chewing, but it’s broken all too easily when Erica pauses the show and turns to face the group at large.

“We should talk,” she says.

“About what?” Isaac asks, head tilted back so he can drop a noodle into his mouth.

“About Stiles.” She looks right at Derek, and he doesn’t flinch. He stays cool, calm, and collected, because no one knows. He didn’t tell, and neither did Stiles. The only person who might have an inkling is Peter, but he hasn’t said anything about it. “He called today, wants me to go out with him and Scott this weekend, be his wing-woman.”

Derek’s heart gives a tug. Stiles is moving on, obviously, which is probably good. He’s—young and attractive, and he was only with Derek for sex, so it’s to be expected. That doesn’t change the fact that it hurts, because Derek’s suspicions have been proven correct.

The night in San Francisco, Derek had had a plan. He’d had late reservations at a restaurant, organized a quiet dining room where they could sit, where he could hold Stiles’ hand and tell him—tell him that he wanted them to date. To be boyfriends. Where he could tell Stiles that he loved him.

But every time he played the scenario in his head, Stiles had laughed in his face and told him he was nothing more than a conquest, a famous fuck to cross off of a bucket list. Stiles was never really romantic with him, just friendly, the same way he had been with the rest of the band. Stiles was nice to him, but he wasn’t in love with him.

“Okay,” Malia says. “Why are you telling us this?”

“Because,” Erica says insistently, “Derek has a crush on him.”

“Don't be so ridiculous,” Derek mutters.

“I'm not being ridiculous,” she insists. “Boyd saw you.”

“What did Boyd see?” Derek all but growls, looking up at the man.

“We all saw you,” Boyd says in his own defense. “We saw you looking at him like he hung the damn moon, Derek.”

“Don't say stupid shit like that in public,” Derek snaps. “Someone is going to hear you and then Peter is going to have to clean it up.”

“Well we’re not in public right now, are we?” Erica pushes. “Malia said so too.” She nudges the girl with her foot. “Tell him.”

Malia shrugs. “I saw you two heading out of the hotel in New York, when you were going to the Hale House. You two looked—close.”

Derek presses his lips together, trying to think of something to say.

“It’s okay, you know,” Isaac says. “You can tell us. We’re not gonna judge you or anything.”

“There’s nothing to judge,” Derek insists. “I don’t have a crush on Stiles. I don’t have any feelings whatsoever for the guy.”

“Prove it then,” another voice says.

Derek sits up and looks at Peter, smirking and leaning against the doorway like an idiot.

“Go with them. Help Stiles get laid.”

“That's stupid.”

“You sound stupid,” Isaac says. “Do you know how many times you've said stupid during this conversation? You sound twelve.”

“I wasn't invited and I have no interest in going barhopping with all of you, now leave me the hell alone.” He stands before anyone else can say something to get, taking his plate with him, and heads upstairs, just to get away.

He should’ve expected Peter to follow.

“Why does it matter?” Peter wants to know. “What they think?”

“You know why,” Derek grumbles. “They’re my family.”

“Right. But you have to expect them to behave this way when you’re lying to them.”

“I’m not lying.”

“Don't even try it,” Peter says as he jabs a finger at him. “I grew up with you and then I tried and failed at raising you. I know what disappointment looks like on your face, Derek.”

“Can't I just put this behind me? Can't I fuck up and forget about it?”

“No,” Peter says, “you can't, that's not how it works. What did you fuck up anyway?”

Derek huffs out a breath and looks away from his uncle. “I got carried away.” He stretches his neck to one side, then the other, trying to relieve the tension in his shoulders. “I thought I could do it. Be casual with him. But I can’t be casual with anyone.”

“You got attached. I know what that’s like.”

Derek scoffs. “Yeah. I know.”

“So tell him,” Peter says. “The worst that happens is he turns you down.”

“He already has.”

Peter's face twists into his most patronizing expression. “I highly doubt that.”

“He did.”

“Did you say, Hey, Stiles, I want to have your babies and he said thanks but no thanks?”


“Look,” Peter laughs and it sounds bitter and tired, “if you want to dance around each other for fifteen years and ignore things instead of actually talking like civilized human beings—well, you've seen how much fun that is. Be my guest.” He points out the door. “But those people, they care about you, Derek. And even if he doesn’t want anything to do with you, they do. So eventually you have to stop feeling sorry for yourself and let people help you.”

“Yeah,” Derek mutters as Peter leaves. “I know.”

“Shots,” Erica declares, lining up at the bar with Stiles, Scott, and Kira to her left, Boyd, Isaac, and Malia to her right. “Shots as far as the eye can see.”

Stiles laughs, shaking his head. “Seven shots of tequila,” he tells the bartender, sliding him his card.

The guy looks dubious. “Let me see your I.D.”

Stiles hands that over too, and within moments they’re tossing back shots. They each do three before Erica grabs him around the shoulders and says, “Okay. First, before any booty searching begins, we all have to toast our beloved Stiles.” She squeezes his arm, beaming proudly. “I heard from Peter today that he signed with Lydia Martin, and has a meeting with Depencia Records in two days!”

The five of them cheer appropriately and Stiles lowers his head, smiling embarrassedly. “Okay, okay,” he protests. “Thank you, I appreciate it. Now, can we get back to the point of the evening?”

“Right!” She grabs Kira and Malia on either arm. “We’re looking for at least an 8. Nice hair is a must. If male, broad shoulders. If female, long legs. No one who is already obviously with someone, but never let the opportunity for poaching go by.”

“I feel like I’m in a war film,” Isaac says, frowning.

“You’re telling me.”

Scott gets him out onto the dance floor, where they can hang out for a bit while the girls do their thing.

All the girls, especially Erica and Malia, seem to be impersonating rotating fans with the way they scan the room. Stiles just tries to dance and have a good time, tries very hard not to think about Derek and enjoy himself. He even manages it for a little while until Malia's nails dig into his arm.

“Found one,” she screams into his ear. “He has an accent and pretty hair. That one.”
She points at a man, a beautiful man, with a T-shirt that isn't too tight but tight enough, hair that looks soft even under the flashing lights, and a glorious ass.

“Did you talk to him?” Stiles asks.

“Maybe. He’s British. Everybody likes British guys, right?” She shoves him, gesturing wildly, and Stiles rolls his eyes as he approaches.

He leans up against the bar, flagging down the bartender.

“Another shot?” the guy asks.

The Brit to his left, the blond who’s no more than two inches taller than Stiles, who has eyes like a fucking emerald and shoulders as broad as the goddamn horizon, turns to look at him. Stiles smiles, then nods to the bartender.

“Yeah,” he says. “And a water.”

“Make it two shots,” Brit says, holding up two fingers. “And you can put them and the water on my tab, please.”

The bartender nods, heading back to grab the tequila, and Stiles’ heart thuds out of his chest. “Hey,” he says. “I’m Stiles.”

“You’re the friend Malia mentioned, I assume.” Stiles wants to hit his head against the bar. “I’m Anthony. And you are much cuter than she said.”

Stiles snorts. “Well, that’s—very nice of you to say.”

“Well, she likened you to a well-trained sloth so—definitely cuter.”

Stiles laughs and thanks the bartender when his shot arrives, throwing it back and gnawing briefly on the inside of his mouth. “Uh, so. You want to dance?”

“I do,” Anthony says, “but unfortunately, it is astoundingly past my bed time and I have early call tomorrow.”

“What do you do?”

“Actor. The same as everybody in this town. You?”


“I stand corrected,” he laughs. His tongue darts out, wetting his lips, and he reaches into his back pocket, producing a phone. “I’d like it if you wanted to put your number in. So I could call you some time. Because you look like you’d be a lot of fun to dance with when I have the time.”

Stiles smiles, nodding as he accepts the phone. “You’re not wrong.”

All-in-all it’s a very brief conversation, but Anthony leaves after darting in and kissing the corner of Stiles’ mouth, so by the time he rejoins his friends on the dance floor, his stomach feels funny in a good way and he doesn’t hate Derek as much as he once did.

“Do we need to continue the search?” Erica wants to know, swaying with Boyd to the Rihanna that’s playing.

“Nope,” he says, still grinning happily. “I think we’re good.”

Their first date is to a food truck downtown. Anthony follows the truck’s account on Twitter, calls Stiles just as he’s leaving a meeting with Lydia and Bobby Finstock, the owner and CEO of Depencia Records, and within minutes they’re eating macaroni and cheese sandwiches with bacon in Anthony’s car, listening to the radio.

Anthony drives him home, walks him to his door, and they end up having a beer in Stiles’ extremely empty apartment.

“It’s nice,” Anthony says, brushing his hand against the couch. “It’s a little—bare.”

“I just moved here,” Stiles tells him, handing him his drink. “All my stuff is getting shipped from San Francisco. It’s supposed to arrive on Friday, at which point I will finally feel like a functional adult. Cheers.”

Anthony taps the neck of Stiles’ bottle with his own. “Cheers indeed.”

“So,” Stiles says, heading over to sit on the couch. Anthony follows. “You’re working on Jane the Virgin?”

“Just a couple episodes,” Anthony dismisses. “I’m doing some Disney Channel work for now, because they’re literally always hiring. My agent is setting me up on some interviews—there’s a handful of pilots she wants me to read for, and there’s something going on for Agents of SHIELD—”

“Shut up, I love that show.”

“Me too.” Anthony grins. “Well, here’s hoping I get the part and you can come visit me on set.” He takes a pull of his drink, extends his arm over the back of the couch. “The place I picked you up from—the record company. Is there anything going on there that you can talk about?”

Stiles laughs. “Yeah, I—well, you really swept me off my feet today so I didn’t even get a chance to tell my friends, but I—I signed a deal. One full studio album. And my manager’s setting me up on a couple of shows in the city, trying to keep cash flowing in.”

Anthony smirks. “So, I hate to admit this, but I Googled you before I called today.”


“You’re, uh, kind of already famous in your own right. I mean—you went on a world tour with an established band. You have websites dedicated to your San Francisco performances. It’s more than a little intimidating.”

Stiles snorts. “Trust me, you have no reason to feel intimidated. I have no idea what I’m doing.”

“That might be true,” Anthony allows, “but you’re doing it remarkably well.”

They end up talking for more than two hours. There’s nothing else to really do in his apartment, and the only reason the conversation ends is because Stiles gets a phone call from Lydia. So they say their goodbyes and Anthony leaves, stopping only to duck in and kiss Stiles on the cheek before he heads out.

It’s endearing in the best way, and Stiles doesn’t know how he ever got lucky enough to hit a homerun the first time he stepped up to bat.

He doesn’t hang out at Peter’s house. It’s been a month since he’s seen Derek, and he’s trying to put as much distance between them as he can, given that he still feels like crap when he thinks about him. So, when Erica calls and insists he come over for dinner to celebrate his record deal and the line-up of concerts he’s playing in the city over the next few weeks (all of which have already sold out), Stiles hesitates over his answer.

“You have to,” she insists. “I miss you, and your big empty apartment makes me sad.”

“It’s all arriving on Friday!”

“The date of your first concert, by the way,” Erica reminds him. “You’re gonna sit at home all day and wait for movers, so there won’t be time to celebrate. We have to celebrate now rather than later.” She pauses. “So?”

“Fine,” he says. “It actually sounds like it might be fun.”

“Good. Be here in two hours—no need to bring anything but yourself. And,” she adds quickly, “not that I don’t think your British boyfriend is incredibly adorable, but I was hoping it could just be us. You know, you and the band, and Peter. Lydia’s coming too. You could bring Scott if you really wanted.”

He nods to himself. “No, that’s fine. I’ll be there in two hours. Dress code?”

“Jeans are fine, but wear a shirt with buttons. No flannel.”

“You got it. I’ll see you then.”

It’s imposing, the giant house. Even though Stiles lived there for months—even though that’s where he made really great memories—he can’t shake the anxiety and fear that fills him when he gets up the drive. He pays the cab-driver and stands at the front door, debating whether or not he should even knock, or if he should just tuck tail and run.

Derek Hale is on the other side of that door, he knows, somewhere in the great expanse of the building. And Derek Hale is the reason Stiles can’t breathe when he crawls into bed at night. Derek Hale is the reason Stiles hasn’t listen to Side A/Side B since they got back from tour, despite it being his favorite band. Derek Hale is the reason he’s rushing into things with Anthony, a decent guy with seemingly honorable intentions, even though he should be taking time to—

“Hey,” Malia says, swinging the door open. “Were you ever gonna knock, or?”

Stiles huffs. “Yeah, eventually.” He pushes in, kisses her cheek. “I know I’m late. I brought you and Erica flowers, though, so I think that excuses me.” He hands her her bouquet—which she sniffs at blankly—and follows her into the house.

“Erica’s in the kitchen,” Malia says. “She and Peter are cooking, so Boyd and Isaac are setting the table. Derek’s picking out some wine.”

“Lydia’s not here yet?”

Malia smirks. “She’s sitting in the kitchen, telling Peter how to do his job.”

“How just like her.” He knocks on the folded door that separates the kitchen from the rest of the house, pushing it open.

Sure enough, sitting at the counter is Lydia Martin in all of her glory. She stands when he enters, lets him kiss her cheek. He does the same to Erica, who’s pulling rolls out of the oven. She takes the flowers when offered them and hugs Stiles fiercely.

“Thank you,” she says, still squeezing him. “I really wanted you here.”

“I know.”

Peter nods in his direction, busy sautéing onions on the stovetop, and when Stiles turns, Derek is standing in the doorway, holding two bottles of red wine and one of white.

“Hey,” he says, and Stiles feels like yelling. He feels like tearing the house down around them with his voice, shouting and screaming until there’s nothing but smithereens.

Instead, even though it would make for a great party trick, he nods. “Hey,” he echoes.

“Congratulations,” Derek tells him. “On the deal. Peter told us.”

“And the shows,” Lydia reminds them. “Sold-out shows.”

“In very small venues,” Stiles laughs. “Nothing like the tour.”

“But at least you’re headlining,” Erica says. “Stiles, be a dear and start carrying platters into the dining room. Derek, you too.”

They don’t talk. They make three trips back and forth from the kitchen to the dining room, and they don’t say a single word. Stiles is fine with that, until the last of the dishes have been set down and he makes a move to go back to the kitchen—and Derek closes the door, standing in front of it.

“We should talk,” he says.

Stiles balks. “What? Why?”

“There’s some rumor going around,” Derek starts, and Stiles wants to crawl into a hole. “There were a couple articles written about—well, there’s a rumor that you and I are feuding.”

Stiles’ brow furrows. “Feuding.”



“Because,” Derek sighs, “there are pictures of us being friendly on tour, and then pictures of the last night—when we left the sitting room and those guys snapped pictures? We looked like we’d been fighting, and now we haven’t seen each other in months and—”

“So what?” Stiles asks. “If I haven’t heard the rumor, it’s not that big of a deal. And, let’s be honest, we’re not exactly friends, are we?”

Derek’s jaw goes tight. Stiles can see the way it presses against his skin, reminding him what it feels like under his mouth.

“Look,” Stiles says, “if there’s some big deal that comes out of it, we’ll deal with it then. But for now, it’s nothing, so just forget about it.”

“Peter thinks it’d be good publicity for us to be seen together.”

“How about we wait until that becomes absolutely necessary?”

“You really hate me that much?” Derek asks. “That you won’t entertain the thought of spending time with me in public?”

“I don’t hate you, Derek,” Stiles says harshly. “If you’ll recall, I’m the one who wanted to be your friend. And honestly I’m a little pissed that you felt you had to trap me in here to talk to me rather than just ask. I came here because I want to have a nice night with my friends—that includes you. So why don’t you quit the bodyguard act and let me enjoy dinner with everyone, huh?”

Derek hesitates. “Do you really have a boyfriend?”

“I don’t know. We haven’t talked about it. We went on one date. We haven’t even kissed yet.”

He nods. “Okay,” he says, and he opens the door to let Stiles through.

Friday comes too quickly. He wakes up, has a bowl of cereal, brushes his teeth, and goes TV-shopping with Anthony. His dad had called, said that the old one he’d left in storage up in San Francisco was totally toast, and Stiles takes that as a sign. He deserves a nice TV.

After they get it in the backseat of Anthony’s car, they eat lunch at a little restaurant on the strip, where Stiles gets recognized. It’s kind of hilarious, even though it used to happen all the time in SF. It’s nice, and he takes pictures quickly before sitting back down.

“Sorry,” he says sheepishly.

“No need to apologize. I think it’s great.” Anthony reaches across the table, squeezes his hand with a smile. “So, your show tonight. You need to rehearse, don’t you?”

“I practice every day, trust me, I’m gonna be fine. Besides, the movers are showing up some time today between one and three, so.” He glances at his watch, shrugging. “As soon as we’re done here, I just have to go home, sit on my butt and wait for them.”

“I could wait with you if you like.”

Stiles’ stomach twists. “Yeah. Yes, I’d like that.”

It should be no surprise then, when they end up making out on Stiles’ couch, the new TV playing nothing but static in the background. It had taken them nearly an hour to get it that far, and finally they had given up and—well, the rest is history.

Anthony’s hand moves up under Stiles’ shirt and Stiles hums.

“We can stop,” Anthony says, dragging his mouth across Stiles’ collarbone.

“Nope,” Stiles says, popping the end of the word. “No stopping. We have to be done before the movers show up.”

Anthony chuckles, fingers moving deftly across Stiles’ shirt. “Alright then,” he says, unbuttoning it quickly. “I guess we better take this to the bedroom.”

They make it all of three steps past the couch before the doorbell rings twice in rapid succession.

“Nooooo,” Stiles moans.

“You better answer,” Anthony says, kissing his temple. “Go on.”

“I’m sorry,” Stiles says, buttoning his shirt quickly. “That’s gonna be the movers—I just have to let them in and we can go somewhere else.”

Anthony grabs him by his belt, kisses him again, deep and thorough. “I don’t mind waiting,” he says.

Stiles groans. “You’re killing me. Just—stay right there.” He hurries towards the door, flipping the locks, and pulls it open. He’s planning on telling the guys to just leave it all in the living room and get out, but he’s stopped short by the vision of two moving guys flanking—his father.

His jaw is surely on the floor at this point, but his dad apparently takes it as a good thing because he rushes in and hugs him. “Surprise!” he says joyously. “I was your moving van!”

Stiles blinks, unsure what to say as John pulls out of the hug, still grinning. “Hi, Dad,” he starts. “I—it’s really nice to see you, but you didn’t have to do this.”

“Sure, I did,” John says, patting his shoulder. “I moved you into your dorm room, into your apartment in San Francisco. It’s tradition at this point.” His eyes move over Stiles’ shoulder. “So.” He nods, one eyebrow arched. “Who’s this?”

“Um.” Stiles winces. “Dad, this is Anthony. Anthony, this is my dad.”

“Pleasure to meet you, sir,” Anthony says dutifully, shaking his hand.

“Same here, son.” John turns to the movers. “Boxes are labeled, guys. Put them where you deem appropriate.”

They take off, heading back down to the U-Haul, and Stiles shakes his head. “Dad, you drove, like, 6 hours just to move me into the apartment I’ve been living in for a week and a half?”

“And to see your concert tonight,” he says. “Your friend Erica called me a couple of days ago, said I should see it, and you needed a mover anyway, and this is cheaper than hiring a driver.” He hooks his thumb over his shoulder, gesturing out the door. “I picked these guys up a block away.”

Stiles sighs. “Okay, well—I’m glad you’re here. I’m sure you have your own things to bring in, since you’re obviously staying the night.”

“Yeah,” John says slowly, eyes narrowing as he looks back and forth between Stiles and Anthony. “Yeah, I’ll just go grab those.”

The second he’s gone, Stiles shoves his face into Anthony’s neck. “We’re never going to catch a break.”

Anthony shrugs, hand stroking up and down Stiles’ back. “It’s fine, honestly. I told you I can wait, and it’s not like he’s going to be here forever.” He tilts Stiles’ chin up, kisses him sweetly. “Now, you go shower and get dressed. I’m sure Lydia’s going to be here any minute to escort us out.”

The hall is only slightly bigger than the bars Stiles used to perform in, and so it’s definitely more comforting than giant arenas. He’s waiting backstage for Erica to show up, standing a decent distance from Anthony while his father talks to Lydia about—something.

“It’s okay, you know,” Anthony mutters, low enough that John and Lydia won’t turn to them. “You don’t have to tell him anything.”

“Well, I don’t know what’s going on,” Stiles confesses. “We’re not—” He sighs, grabs Anthony’s elbow and pulls him a couple paces away. “We made out on my couch and we’ve been on barely two dates, and I like you, but we haven’t really detailed what’s going on.”

“Boyfriends is a pretty good place to start.”

Stiles exhales slowly. “Yeah. Yeah, I think so too.”

“You still don’t have to tell him.”

“He’s my dad. It goes against a whole crap load of familial rules.”

Anthony shrugs. “It’s your decision. I won’t pressure you.”

“You’re killing me,” Stiles decides. “C’mon.”

When they turn back around to rejoin Lydia, there’s a whole group standing there. Erica, for one, who is wearing a T-shirt with his EP album cover on it, as well as the entirety of Side A/Side B, plus Peter and Chris.

Stiles barely stops his mouth from falling open. “Hey, guys,” he says weakly. “Wow, you’re all here.” He looks at Chris, wondering what he’s supposed to say given that he flaked on Argent Studios in exchange for Depencia, but he doesn’t have to say anything, since he’s cut off before he even starts.

“Mr. Stilinski!” Erica says cheerily, stepping forward to hug the older man. “I’m so glad you came—we have great seats, right in the front.” She looks to Stiles. “Scott and his date are already out there with Allison and Armand.”

“Half the crowd is just gonna be my friends,” Stiles says with a half smile. “Thanks for coming.”

“Wouldn’t miss it,” Isaac declares. He points out towards the stage. “We’re gonna go get our seats. Nice to see you again, Mr. Stilinski.”

“Same here,” John says, waving mildly as Isaac, Malia, and Boyd all take off.

Lydia is next, claiming she has to check on some things in the sound booth, and then Chris clears his throat.

“Congratulations, Stiles,” he says politely. “I’m quite pleased for you.”

“I appreciate that, Mr. Argent.”

“Chris,” he corrects him. “I believe we’ll see ourselves to our seats.” He elbows Peter. “Won’t we?”

Peter arches an eyebrow. “Hi,” he says, sticking his hand out towards Anthony. “Peter Hale. You must be the Brit.”

Anthony’s eyes widen. “Oh. Yes, sorry, I’m Anthony.” They shake, and Anthony looks towards Erica as a friendly face, obviously questioning what it is he’s supposed to do next.

Stiles pats his arm. “He came for moral support. Peter is Side A/Side B’s manager; Chris owns Argent Studios; and this is—”

“Derek Hale, of course,” Anthony says, shaking his hand as well. “I’m a big fan of your songwriting. Stiles has everything you’ve ever written on his computer.”

“Kind of you to say,” Derek says gruffly.

“Right,” Stiles laughs, “well, this has been fun, but someone has to get on stage now, so why don’t you follow Erica and Derek to your seats, and I’ll meet you guys after.”

There’s a new song. He wasn’t sure—he didn’t want to play it. Not yet. But Lydia pushed him, told him he needed a reason to make people buy tickets, and since everybody has their phone out and there will be videos on YouTube within an hour after the show is over, it’s the perfect time.

He’s played the songs on his EP, played the Twenty One Pilots song, even done a cover of Kill Your Heroes, and so when he sits down on the stool in the middle of the stage, he feels relaxed enough to reveal the song he’s never played in front of anyone before.

“I just wrote this,” he says into the mic. “A couple of weeks ago. And, well, you guys are going to be the first people to hear it. This is called ‘Jetlag’.”

It’s maybe not perfect yet—he isn’t sure. But it’s a top contender for what he’s gonna put on the album, and it sounds like the way he felt, the very last night on tour. It sounds like loss, like a good thing gone in the blink of an eye. It doesn’t have a happy ending because it’s not supposed to, because sometimes sad songs are just meant to be sad, and when it’s over, he knows that that’s it.

He doesn’t wait before starting his most popular song, the one with the really good video that Erica helped him make a year ago. It’s poppy, catchy, and so the entire crowd is singing along in seconds, the misery of loneliness forgotten in something comfortable.

When Lydia drops them off at his apartment that night, she gives Stiles a look in the rearview mirror that speaks volumes. Stiles hands his dad his keys once Lydia’s sped away, tells him to go up and try to figure out how to turn the TV on, and he’s just going to say goodnight to Anthony.

John doesn’t look entirely thrilled about it, but he nods. “Goodnight, Anthony.”

“Goodnight, sir.”

They wait until he’s in the building to look back at each other.

“Hey,” Stiles says.

“The reason Malia was setting you up that night,” Anthony says. “You’d just gotten dumped.”

“A couple months ago.”

“Did you love him?”

“I don’t know. Maybe.”

Anthony purses his lips. “Okay.”


“Everybody has exes, Stiles. I don’t wanna sabotage what I think is a really good thing because we met in a bar and you were sad.” He steps forward, one hand resting on the back of Stiles’ neck. “I like you,” he says softly. “And I want this to go somewhere.”

“Me too,” Stiles admits, heart thumping wildly. “You’re easily the most charming person I’ve ever been out with.”

“That works in my favor.”

“It really does.”

They kiss, slow and sweet, and when Anthony pulls away, it’s not very far. “I’ll take you and your father to lunch tomorrow. And whenever it is that he ends up going home, I’ll cook you dinner. Just the two of us.”

“You’re really taking the charming thing to heart, huh?”

“I have to play to my strengths.” He kisses Stiles again, shorter this time. “Call me tomorrow.”

“I will.”

Erica decides they have to have weekly dinners. It’s going to be their thing, so that they can continue to be friends—so that Stiles can have them all as friends—even when they’re off doing their own things. So on the following Tuesday, Stiles is sitting in a restaurant, waiting for everyone to show up.

He isn’t surprised when Derek is the only one missing.

“He wasn’t feeling up to it,” Boyd says, shrugging one shoulder.

Malia rolls her eyes. “He’s being a baby.” She looks at Stiles, eyebrows high and shoulders set. “He told us. Today, when he said he wouldn’t come to dinner. He told us why you two don’t speak anymore.”

Stiles should’ve expected Derek would tell eventually. So instead of being upset, he simply swallows his pride and says, “I should’ve told you.”

“You should’ve,” Erica agrees, her mouth set in a strict line. “We’re not happy about this. But—it’s your life, and it was your choice. And you waited an appropriate amount of time before you started dating Anthony, so.” She sniffs. “We just wish you would still be friends. Even without the sex.”

“I told him I’m his friend,” Stiles insists. “He’s the one behaving like—like this.”

“Maybe because you’re parading the British boyfriend around,” Isaac notes.

“There has been no parade. He came to the show that all of you came to. That’s it. Now,” he sighs, “can we please talk about anything else?”

OMGossipLA reports: Feud Alert!

Like Swift versus Perry and Zayn Malik versus One Direction, Hollywood feuds just never go out of style. Side A/Side B drummer, Derek Hale, and the newest swoon-worthy sensation in singer-songwriters, Stiles Stilinski, used to be the best of buds! They’re pictured below at various events during A/B’s Forgetting Vinyl World Tour, but something obviously went wrong the night of the last show.

Pictured: Stilinski and Hale leaving the hotel, the last night of their tour.

They were reported having come to blows by TMZ earlier this year, but it seemed all had been resolved. We’d like to speculate that this has something to do with A/B keyboardist and singer, Erica Reyes, who is good friends with both, but we fear it’s something far worse.

Here’s Stilinski and the remainder of A/B, Malia Tate, Vernon Boyd, and Isaac Lahey, out at a restaurant in the city last night. Derek Hale is nowhere to be found.

Whatever made the friendship go sour, it’s obvious that the band is going to be choosing sides. Looks like Stiles got them in the divorce.

Comment below what you think made them split!

Stiles wishes, at times like these, that Derek lived alone. It would be easy to show up, to yell at him, and leave. But instead he has to take the Metro to the exit near Peter’s house and walk the rest of the way, storm up to the front door and knock, only to be greeted by—

“Why are you always here?” Stiles demands of Chris Argent, shoving past him and up the stairs to pound on Derek’s bedroom door. “Open up, asshole; we have to talk.”

He can hear Derek moving around, the bed creaking. When he opens the door, he’s shirtless, sweatpants hanging low on his hips and Stiles wants to drool.

“Look,” he says sharply, “I know your uncle has a Google alert set up so you’ve read the feud article. You have to come to Tuesday dinners.” He pokes Derek in the chest, glaring into his eyes. “You have to be around; you have to make an effort to be my friend, both for my career and yours. And,” he adds, squirming, “because I care about you and I want to spend time with you. I want to be your friend, Derek; I have since day one and I need you to put in the effort. Please.”

Derek is quiet, looks Stiles up and down. “Anthony’s your boyfriend now, right?”

Stiles sighs. “Yes.”

“He seems nice.”

“He is.”

“He’s an actor.”

“You Googled him?”

Derek shrugs. “I get bored.”

“Derek. Please come to the dinners.”

“Fine. I’ll come.” He leans against the doorway, crossing his arms over his chest. “When’s the album coming out?”

“Depencia wants twelve songs, and an extra four for a deluxe edition,” he says, shifting his weight nervously. “I only have, like, six.”

“You could rerecord come of your EP songs.”

“I’d rather not.”

Derek shrugs. “Okay. You should put ‘Jetlag’ on it.”

Stiles blinks. “I will.”

“Good.” He nods. “See you on Tuesday.”

Chapter Text

“When’s your birthday?” Anthony asks, scrolling through his phone. They’re lying in bed having only woken up moments ago. It’s around nine, and Stiles has to get to the studio, but he’s still lounging, trying to psych himself into heading out.

“Why?” Stiles asks, kicking the covers off.

“It doesn’t say on your Facebook and I wanna put it in my phone.”

Stiles stands, giving Anthony a very skeptical look. “Really?”

Anthony blinks. “Scott told me it was coming up, wanted to know if I had any ideas of what you might like to do to celebrate.”

“I knew it. You’re a terrible liar.”

“I think that’s a good thing.” Anthony stands too, tossing the covers back over the bed and following Stiles into the bathroom, where he turns on the shower. “So—when is it?”

“A week from tomorrow.”

“We should do something, you know.”

Stiles exhales slowly. “We should. But it’s on a Tuesday, and Tuesday is dinner night.”

“So we’ll celebrate before you go to dinner,” Anthony says, wrapping his arms around Stiles from behind, “and then after you get back. Or, we could turn dinner night into a bigger dinner. With people besides A/B.”

“I’ll ask them,” he says, turning to kiss him. “Now. Shower time.”

“Shower time,” Anthony affirms.

He spends the entire day in the studio, comes back when the sun is long gone and the night sounds like tourists. Anthony is asleep in his bed, and Stiles doesn’t mind—can’t think of a reason why he would.

They do this now. They go out and stay in; they have sex and they sleep in the same bed. It’s good for him, Stiles determines, because he wants this. He wants a real relationship. An adult relationship.

“How is it?” Erica asks a dinner the next evening, sipping her margarita thoughtfully. It’s only her and Boyd so far. The other have yet to show up. “The sex, I mean.”

“I understood the question.”


Stiles laughs, shaking his head. “It’s good.”

“That’s all you’re gonna tell me?”

Boyd huffs. “Erica.”

“You’ve seen the guy,” Erica argues, grinning. “C’mon. He’s tall, British, and his arms are like the eighth wonder of the world. I haven’t had a date in like a year. Let me live vicariously through—hey!” She waves across the restaurant, beckoning the rest of the group over, which, surprisingly, includes Derek.

Stiles scoots aside, lets them all fit in. Derek sits next to him, expression lacking for any sort of emotion. At least it’s not anger.

“Thank you,” Stiles says, putting his hand on Derek’s leg. “I appreciate this, you know.”

Derek nods after a moment. “I know.”

It’s off to a rocky start, Erica and Malia chatting about something that happened that afternoon, the rest of them sitting and listening. Isaac and Boyd seem to contribute something to the conversation, but Stiles is too focused on Derek sitting right beside him, on the way their thighs are touching, the way Derek’s elbow brushing against his when he turns a page on his menu.

By Stiles’ second beer, though, the night is looking up. He laughs, tells stories, lets Malia tell fantastic allegories about Isaac while he’s in the bathroom. It’s surprisingly fun, and even Derek chips in. Not without a little prompting first, however.

“Derek’s turn,” Erica decides. “Tell us about your trip. How were the kiddos?”

“Trip?” Stiles asks.

“His monthly foray to New York,” Malia tells him, shoveling guacamole onto a chip. “He got back yesterday and slept all day today.”

Stiles turns to look at him, half frowning. “You didn’t have to—you could’ve said you were jetlagged.”

“I’m fine,” Derek says, shaking his head. “The kids are fine. Jeanine’s taking great care of them.”

“What about Aaron?” Boyd asks. “How old is he now?”

Derek clears his throat. “He’s five. He’s—good.”

“Don’t you worry that the other kids will feel bad that you’re giving him special attention?” Erica wonders. “I mean, you go there to see him like clockwork, Der.”

He shrugs. “I see them all. They all get their turn.” He lifts his head, huffing out a sigh. “Besides, I brought him in myself. I’m allowed a personal connection to a kid I held two days after he was born. Can we talk about something else now?”

Erica clicks her tongue. “We can talk about Stiles’ birthday. Scott told us.”

“Of course he did,” Stiles laughs. “It’s next week. I just thought we could do something; us, Scott, Anthony. Peter. And, inevitably, Chris and Allison.”

“That sounds like fun,” Isaac says with a shrug. “We can have it at the house. A couple of drinks, dinner.”

“I like it,” Erica agrees. “Drinks and dinner it is.”

Kira really, really likes her job. It’s rewarding, has good pay, and Mr. Argent doesn’t make her do stupid things like walk his dog or pick up his dry cleaning. (Okay, she did pick it up once, but his car had two flat tires and he was late for a gala, so she didn’t mind that much. Also, he doesn’t have a dog, so that’s pretty moot.)

The point is, Kira likes her job. She likes her boss. She likes her boss’ daughter. What she doesn’t like is when her boss’ daughter’s best friend comes in to visit, because the best friend happens to be Kira’s boyfriend and she can never work when he’s around. Which is why she’s not crazy about seeing him in the building as she’s heading towards her desk, back from lunch.

“Hey,” Scott says, beaming as he ducks in to kiss her.

She kisses him quickly, pats his shoulder, and hurries past him.

“Whoa,” Scott whines, rushing to keep up with her. “Where’s the fire?”

“Someone did something stupid,” Kira says, wincing, “and I have to get Mr. Argent on it ASAP.”

“Who did something stupid?”

“I’m sure you’ll be reading about it soon enough.” She drops her things on her desk and raps quickly on Mr. Argent’s door, pushing in when he calls her to. She goes through the list of things she needed to say to him rather quickly—which calls to return, which ones she thinks he can push off a day or two, reminders for events and galas, album parties he’s not technically required to attend but should anyway—and when it’s over and she’s handed him her notes, she sucks in a deep breath. “The Disney girl from last month,” she says on an exhale.

“Brittney Deegan,” Mr. Argent says, pushing some things around on his desk. “What about her?”

“She’s fifteen.”

“I’m aware.”

“TMZ has pictures of her topless and drinking something out of a red solo cup.”

There’s a very heavy silence before Mr. Argent lifts his head, eyes filled with contempt. (Thankfully, she’s learned by now that that particular emotion is never really geared towards her.) “They called us?” he asks.

“They want us to comment. Her publicist and agent are both saying it’s not her. To be fair, the picture is fairly grainy.”


Kira swallows. “But she has a scar, from her heart surgery.” She gestures between her own breasts. “It’s, uh, pretty recognizable from the article People did on her a couple months ago.”

“Jesus Christ,” he sighs. “They can’t post the picture. It’s child pornography.”

She licks her lips, dragging out the picture from the binder clutched to her stomach. “The offending areas have been pixilated,” she says. “The man I spoke with said they’ll post it like this tomorrow morning with or without a comment.”

“Her family would sue.”

“They claim not to have the original picture. He said they were sent the pixilated version, so they’re technically not in possession of child pornography.”

“Jesus,” he says again. “Fuck, okay. You spoke to her publicist?”

“She said Brittney went to some party with kids from her high school, went swimming with a bunch of other people. They were apparently playing Truth or Dare and, well. Teenagers have camera phones.”

Mr. Argent nods. “Indeed they do.” He sighs again. “Okay. Okay, thanks for telling me. I’ll decide if we want to draft a comment, but for right now, I’m thinking no. Get me the guy’s number and I’ll call him back by the end of the day.”

She already has it written down, hands it over to him. “Anything else for now?”

“I’ll buzz you if I need you. Thanks, Kira.”

“Not a problem, Mr. Argent.”

She closes his office door on her way out and finds Scott still standing there, staring at her with wide eyes. She walks around to her desk, sitting down.

“What’s up?” she asks. “What’s Allison doing?”

“She’s in the studio with someone—holy shit, Kira. You were amazing.”


“That,” he says, gesturing towards Mr. Argent’s closed door. “You were so—composed. That was ridiculously impressive.”

Kira can feel her cheeks heating. “That’s just my job, Scott.”

“It was amazing. It was—crazy sexy.”


“It’s true.” He pulls her out of her chair, one arm around her waist, holding her against him. “Smart girls turn me on.” He kisses her then, fierce and excited, and Kira laughs into his mouth, kissing him back.

“Thank you,” she says, smiling. “But now you really do have to go. I have stuff to do.”

“Sure. Dinner tonight?”

“I’d love that.”

“And,” he adds, finally releasing her so she can sit again, “I was hoping you might want to stay over.”

“You know that I have work in the morning.”

“You can set the alarm as early as you want. I don’t care.”

She wants to, honestly. Things with Scott have been so, so good. They go out all the time—he met her parents when they came to take her dinner one night and he was perfect. They go on double dates with Allison and Armand, and they even sometimes do nothing but sit in one of their apartments and eat take out. It’s still romantic. It’s still perfect. It’s still Scott.

“You’re allowed to say no,” Scott says, smiling softly. “I’m not trying to pressure you. I’ll wait until you’re ready.”

Kira looks away, trying not to feel like the blushing bride. “When you say it like that it makes it sound so weird. We’re not in high school. I’m a grown woman.”

“You’re twenty-three.”

“You’re only a year older than I am,” she reminds him. “Don’t get snobby.”

Scott laughs, reaching for her hand. “Relax. You can stay over and we can do nothing but sleep. I don’t care. I just wanna wake up next to you.” He leans in for another short kiss. “I’ll call you tonight,” he says, and waves on his way out the door.

Absolutely nothing interesting happens at his birthday dinner. Everybody shows up. Everybody has a nice time. Nobody fights or shouts or leaves the room uncomfortably. Everything is perfect, and Stiles gets to turn 24 without much fuss at all. He leaves after midnight with Anthony on his arm, and they go back to his apartment and have birthday sex for the fourth time.

April bleeds into May, and that means days and days of writing, recording, rewriting, and rerecording. He loves his job—more than anything he’s ever done in his life. He loves being able to write music, and he’s happy to do it. When he’s done at the end of each day, when the sun has been down for hours and the roads are finally traffic-free, he gets home with a smile on his face because he got to spend all day doing something wonderful.

The first days of summer are hot as hell and honestly disgusting. Stiles doesn’t know anybody lives in the god-forsaken desert, but he decides he’s willing to put up with it since Anthony is just as miserable as he is.

They spend a handful of days at the beach. They put together a group—Scott and Kira, Allison and Armand—and go to the zoo, Six Flags, and the aquarium. Stiles likes getting out and doing things, but it’s a little hard when Anthony starts cancelling their plans in favor of staying in. Stiles decides to roll with the punches anyway, because he’s happy. And being happy is better than spending all day in the heat anyway.

He goes to his Tuesday dinners. He hangs out with Scott, buys Lydia drinks some nights after work. Late in the month, his dad drives down for a weekend, walks in the front door, and squints.

“What?” Stiles asks, grabbing John’s bag from him and taking it to the guest room.

“You know you’re kind of supposed to tell me when you move in with your boyfriend, right?”

Stiles rolls his eyes. “We’re not living together, Dad. He has his own place.”

“Uh huh. Which is why his computer is on your coffee table and his script is on your kitchen counter.” He gestures for Stiles to explain, then holds up a hand to stop him. “You know, never mind. Some things are better left a mystery as far as I’m concerned. Let’s go get dinner—the only thing I ate today was a sandwich Melissa made me, and it was with whole wheat bread, no mayo.”

Stiles grins. “Ah, I knew she was good for you.”

In July, he films his first music video. He’s chosen City as his first single because it’s probably got the most crowd appeal. It’s energetic, excited, and they’re gonna get great shots of L.A. to put in the video. Pretty much all he has to do is sing at a camera wearing various outfits for a couple of hours.

It’s fun, in the end, because he gets to see the finished product in only a couple of days. It’s embarrassing, watching himself perform, but Lydia shushes him and tells him it’s perfect. He decides to trust her.

“Did you choose one yet?” Derek asks at dinner the next Tuesday.

They’re the first ones there. It was Boyd’s turn to pick so they’re at some Mediterranean place, chatting while they tear up pita bread and dim it into bowls of hummus.

“Choose what?”

“A single. For the album.”

“Oh. Yeah, I—” He debates for all of a second what he’s really allowed to say, and then remembers that it’s Derek. “It’s called City.”

“You haven’t played it at any of your shows.”

“Yeah, Lydia told me to save most of the album material for the actual release.” He looks over his shoulder at the door. “Don’t tell Erica because you know if you do, she’ll end up tweeting about it tonight, but we filmed a music video for it on Thursday and Friday. It comes out in a couple of weeks, and we have KIIS doing the exclusive song premiere next Friday.”

Derek nods slowly. “That sounds good. Congratulations.”

“I was thinking,” he adds cautiously, “you might want to help me come up with a name for the album.”

Derek doesn’t speak.

“Because you named both of the A/B albums. There’s one song that I really like on it, and I feel like it kind of summarizes, like, me as a person. My dorky persona and my flannel shirts and my inability to speak to people like a normal human being.”

“I’m familiar with your behavior, Stiles. We’ve met.”

Stiles smiles. “Funny. It’s called Tasteless. What do you think? Good name for the album?”

The movement Derek makes with his head and shoulders could best be described as a nod/shrug. He leans forward casually, elbows on the table. “You should choose what you think is best.”

“But do you like it?”

Derek nods. “Yeah, I do.”

Scott wakes up in a bed that is definitely not his own and he couldn’t be happier. The blankets are softer, the mattress is nicer, and everything smells like Kira. He’s in total heaven, and the only reason he rolls over at all is because she’s no longer in bed, and he misses her.

He finds her in the kitchen, on the phone.

“Yeah,” she’s saying, “I can do that.” She hands a mug to Scott and holds up a finger before walking into her living room and sitting cross-legged on the couch. “Yeah, that’s not a problem. Mr. Argent is free at two. Great, he’ll be expecting you then. Not a problem at all—have a nice day.” She hangs up, smiling at Scott sleepily. “Sorry, a client from London. They’re eight hours ahead, so.”

“It’s not a problem,” Scott says, ducking to kiss her good morning. “How’d you sleep?”

“Fine. You?”

“Best sleep I’ve had in ages.” He sits next to her, putting the mug down on the coffee table next to hers. “You have to go in?”

She nods. “He has a couple of meetings today, and a conference call with the shareholders. He’s been a little stressed this week—I think something’s going on with Peter but I don’t really want to ask.”

“I’ll see if Allison knows anything.”

She shrugs. “It’s fine.”

“Hey,” Scott says, taking her hand in his. “You okay?”

Kira blinks at him, eyes widening. “Yeah, I’m fine.”

“Good.” He kisses her again, slower this time, and she leans into it, hand on his cheek. “Thanks for letting me stay.”

“I wanted you to.”

“Me too.” He kisses her nose, her forehead, down to her chin and across the left side of her jaw. “Your apartment is so much nicer than mine.”

She laughs, easing out of his way so she can stand, walking back towards the bedroom, obviously expecting him to follow. He does. “It’s not really,” she says, running a hand through her hair. “Mr. Argent hired decorators and bought the furniture. I don’t really know what any of it is.”

“Well it’s great.” He leans in the doorway of the bathroom. “You have to shower and go, don’t you?”

“You know me so well.”

“I’ll get out of your hair.” He can’t resist, however, kissing her one last time. “Dinner tonight.”

“I’ll never say no to that.”

Scott leaves her apartment like he’s floating on a cloud, but instead of going home, he heads straight to Stiles’, bouncing on the balls of his feet as he waits for the door to open. When it does, he shoves Stiles’ shoulder excitedly, darting into the apartment.

“I slept with Kira,” he says, grinning hugely.

Stiles’ eyebrows are high on his forehead. “Oh. Okay.” He closes the door to his apartment. “Just now?”

“Last night,” Scott affirms, swinging his arms.

“I thought—hold on. Scotty, haven’t you guys been dating for months?”

“We wanted to wait.”

“Uh huh.”

Scott shoves him halfheartedly. “C’mon, dude, I’m serious. We waited and we spent all night making out in her bed, and then we had sex.”

“Lights off, missionary position?”

“Well, yeah,” he says, “but that’s not—”

Scott can practically see it, when the light bulb over Stiles’ head turns on. He should escape, run out the door while he still can because—

“She was a virgin?!” Stiles nearly screeches. “You’ve never taken anyone’s virginity!”

“How do you know? I was at college for four years and we barely spoke!”

“Well, did you?”

Scott squirms. “No.”

“Told you.”

“The point is you shouldn’t assume, asshole.” He gesticulates randomly, unsure what to do with his arms. “What about you? Were you anyone’s first?”

“No,” Stiles says in a barking laugh, “and I never will be. Thank God. All that aside—how was it?”

Scott shrugs. “It was sex.”


“We did it three times. She was really, uh, energetic about the whole thing. It was great.”

Stiles nods approvingly. “Congrats.”

Scott beams. “Thanks. What, uh, what are you up to right now?” He points back around the corner, towards the bedroom. “Anthony in?”

“He stayed at his place last night.”

“Oh. Why’s that?”

“We had a little fight. Nothing major.”


Stiles shakes his head. “Really, dude, it wasn’t a big deal. We fought over what TV channel we were gonna watch last night, and I got upset over nothing. He left before I could calm down and by the time I realized I was being an idiot, he had already gone to bed.”

“As long as you’re sure that’s all it was.”

Stiles nods. “Yeah, definitely.”

Things aren’t perfect. They fight more than they used to. But someone always apologizes—they kiss and make up. They move on. Stiles honestly doesn’t even think about it anymore. They’re fine. They’re solid.

But they’re not perfect.

By September, City is #1 on every chart imaginable and the track list to his album has been posted online. The album art is pretty funny, he thinks. He decided to go with Tasteless, so the cover’s going to be some really wild, tacky painting. He and Lydia picked it out together. They both had a good giggle over it. It was one of his favorite nights of the summer, him and Lydia out on her porch, drinking wine and scrolling through the options she’d helped him put together. It’s the first night Stiles realizes that she’s his friend more than anything else.

He releases Jetlag next, performs it on Jimmy Kimmel. It doesn’t get a music video, but he likes it anyway. It sounds like the past. In a good way.

He sings City on Good Morning America, on Jimmy Fallon, and does Tasteless on Ellen. All of the videos are all over YouTube by the time the album actually comes out.

The album drops on October 20th. Between October 18th and October 25th, he’s doing nothing but press. Singing on TV, answering questions about the album, about his start, about Side A/Side B—it’s a whirlwind that Stiles can barely keep up with it. By the time the week is over, he’s so thrilled to be done that he could throw a party.

Lydia’s got that taken care of. It’s customary, she says, to throw a launch party, and since his launch was on a Monday, they waited until the end of the week to really have a chance at doing it right.

“It’s going to change your life,” Lydia says dramatically, finalizing emails to caterers and bartenders. “You’ll be thanking me tomorrow morning.”

It’s not like Derek doesn’t want to go to the party. He’s happy for Stiles, genuinely. There are people in L.A. every day trying to make it, and when someone like Stiles succeeds, Derek is pleased for them—but he really, really doesn’t like parties.

Everybody gets loud, everybody has too much to drink, and there is inevitably some reality star who keeps trying to fit in with the crowd. He’s seen the guest list that Lydia prepared, and he has to say that most of the names he recognizes are not all that bad. As long there aren’t any surprises, he should be totally fine.

He doesn’t have a date. He shouldn’t, since he’s pining for the guy whose party it is, but there’s still something a little messed up about showing up to a big party in an old abandoned theater (safely converted, of course, into a party location for rent) without someone on his arm. There’s the mandatory paparazzi line outside, and he gives them a smile and a wave on his way inside.

Erica, of course, pulls on his sleeve to stop him, and the five of them pose for a handful of pictures before heading inside.

“You should be excited,” Erica chastises. “It’s a great album.”

“I know,” Derek says, nodding. “I know because it’s been out for five days and you literally never stop playing it.”

She beams. “I’m proud of him. Our little boy, all grown up and dropping albums.”

Derek rolls his eyes, but pulls her close, squeezing her. “I’m proud of him too.”

He sees Stiles briefly at the beginning. He’s standing around, talking to Lydia. Before he can approach, a swarm of people descend on him, and Derek decides he’ll catch him later, when the novelty has worn off.

For the first hour, he sits with Peter. Then Chris arrives, and he’s dragged into a conversation with Malia and Lorde. Lorde abandons them when Taylor Swift arrives, and Malia makes Derek dance to a couple songs before she replaces him with Isaac. By then, Derek thinks he’s had pretty much enough of large crowds of people who only know each other through magazines, and he settles at a table towards the back of the expansive room.

Everybody, it seems, is in a relationship. Chris and Peter are standing near the kitchen doors, seemingly pretending that the reason for their closeness is to hear each other over the music. Lydia Martin and her date—her boyfriend, Jordan—are dancing next to one of the girls from Fifth Harmony. Scott is making out with his girlfriend Kira, pressed against the piano in the corner. Of course, the piano is actually a prop, meant to be used as a table from which to take blue-colored drinks, so there are a lot of people around them, reaching past to grab cups. It’s actually pretty entertaining to watch.

Erica and Boyd are doing shots at one of the popup bars, standing so close to each other that Derek can’t help but roll his eyes at them. And of course there’s Malia and Isaac, who are dancing freely, as if at a high school rave. He’s got to be the only single person in the room. And yet, Stiles is standing by another one of the bars, sipping from a glass cup and looking—entertained.

He approaches casually, hands stuck in his pockets. Stiles smiles, hooks his thumb towards the bartender. “Come to wet your beak?”

“Where’s Anthony?”

Stiles looks down at his drink. “He’s sick. He said I had to go—it’s my party. But he’s barely left his bed for the past two days.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.”

“It’s the flu, I think. I keep trying to get him to go to the doctor, but he’s stubborn.” He tosses back his drink, offers the glass to the bartender, who fills it again. “He’s so stubborn. And he doesn’t let me drink coffee anymore, keeps saying that tea is just so much better for me. He never wants to watch Say Yes to the Dress, and thinks video games are a waste of time. And he gets mad at me when I take a cab instead of calling him. He lives twenty minutes away—he can’t chauffeur me everywhere. And he thinks it’s ridiculous that I haven’t bought a car, but cars are expensive and it’s not like I really go anywhere anyway—”

“You really want to spend your party whining about all the things you dislike about your boyfriend?” Derek asks.

Stiles sighs, looks at his glass. “I just keep thinking—if we’ve only been together for six months, and I already hate these things about him, what am I gonna hate after a year together? The way he ties his shoes? The way he snores? The set radio stations on his car?” He shakes his head. “He’s my boyfriend. I care about him. But we spend every day together. I’ve never done that in a relationship. I’ve never been with somebody like that. Maybe this is totally normal and I’m stressing myself out over nothing, but I can’t help but wonder what’s wrong with me? Why do I hate things about the guy I’m supposed to be in love with?”

Derek looks at the bartender. “I’d like you to cut him off, please,” he says. “At least for an hour or so.”

The bartender nods, goes back to pouring drinks for other guests.

“C’mon,” he says, grabbing Stiles by the elbow. “Over here.” He guides him through the crowd of people, the tables, the photo booths. He drags him over past the DJ, behind the curtain where the storage is, and into the old sound booth. All the equipment’s been ripped out, but it’s still dark and cozy, tight quarters. It’s also much quieter than the party.

Stiles blinks at the ceiling. “How did you know this place was here?”

He clears his throat. “There was a party here once for some of the Glee people, a couple years ago. We were new, but we got invited and, uh. I ended up back here with one of the cast members.”

Stiles’ eyes widen. “Shut up, you did not. Which one?”

“Dianna Agron,” Derek says hurriedly. “We made out for, like, five minutes and then Erica called me and I took off.”

“Holy shit, Derek; you could’ve been dating Dianna Agron right now.”

“I doubt it,” he laughs. “Look, you’re allowed to not like things about your boyfriend. Isaac has plenty of things he doesn’t like about Malia, but he accepts them because he loves her. When you love the person, the little things don’t matter as much.”

Stiles snorts. “I can’t believe you’re giving me dating advice. Even worse, I can’t believe you’re giving me dating advice that sounds like something from a self-help book.” He purses his lips. “Hey, since we’re here—I have a question.”


“Peter and Chris are totally fucking, right?”

Derek smirks. “What gives you that idea?”

Stiles flicks his nose. “I knew it,” he grumbles. “Who else knows?”

“Just me and Chris’ daughter. And probably Scott. And probably Kira.”

“The band doesn’t?”

Derek shrugs. “They don’t go searching for information they don’t want. Unlike you.”

“Hey, I wanted to know. It would explain so many things.” He frowns. “How come they don’t live together? It’s not like Allison still lives at home. And if she’s accepting of it—”

“It’s the same house Chris lived in with his wife,” Derek says, and it’s mostly true. Peter doesn’t like going near any memories of Victoria Argent, but even though the bed is new and the wallpaper’s been replaced, it’s still the place where Allison grew up. It’s still the place Chris and Victoria lived and loved for nearly twenty years before her death. “Peter doesn’t like stomping on it.”

“But he spends nights there sometimes.”

Derek shrugs. “Not as much as Chris spends at our house. Peter’s not good at commitment. Malia’s mom was a fling. It’s a wonder he doesn’t have more children. He’s even worse at commitment when it involves someone he cares about as much as he does Chris.”

“That’s stupid,” Stiles laughs. “Why would you be afraid of committing to someone you love rather than someone you don’t?”

“Because if you don’t love them, it doesn’t hurt as much when they leave.”

The words hit him like a freight train. By themselves, they already hurt, the idea that Peter naturally expects people to abandon him. But then Derek looks at him, right in the eye, and the weight of the words becomes a million times heavier, punching Stiles right in the gut. It’s like Derek knows exactly what that’s like. It’s like—Derek’s had his heart broken, and Stiles feels like sitting down on the floor and crying.

He also feels like shouting, like pushing Derek away and screaming in his face that he has no right to feel crappy over some lost love when he made Stiles feel exactly the same way.

The anger surprises him. He hasn’t been angry at Derek in a long time, actually. He hasn’t wanted to hurt him, wanted to scream at him. He’s been happy, overwhelmed by Anthony and his career, blindsided by actual happiness that he forget all about being in pain.

Now the pain’s back.

He looks away, swallowing tightly. “You have to take risks when you’re in love,” Stiles huffs. “Peter should man up. Ask Chris to buy a different house with him. Have Chris move in to his house. You should get your own place anyway.”

“What about you?” Derek asks. “You and Anthony gonna move in together?”

Stiles snorts. “The dude’s seen me naked north of a hundred times by now, and I still can’t take a shit if he’s in the next room. I can’t watch lame reality TV because he hates it and I don’t want him to think I’m dumb. I can’t listen to Miley Cyrus because he hates her. I can’t even use Ebay because he thinks it’s so white trash. I’ve had to change so much of my behavior for him—I can’t imagine living together would go very well.”

“You pretty much already do.”

“Yeah,” Stiles agrees, rubbing his hand down his face, “and every time he leaves hair in the sink from shaving, I feel like punching something. Every time he uses the TV, he leaves the volume on way too loud, so when I turn it on next, my eardrums nearly explode. And he never folds my socks when he does the laundry—just dumps them into the drawer in singles.”

“Maybe…” He trails off. “You could tell him.”

“I should, probably. I should. But I’m pretty sure he’ll just come back with a list of things I do that he can’t stand. I’m not perfect. And relationships are about compromise.”

Stiles knows that at least. He knows that relationships are give-and-take, are all about working out the flow, the dynamic, how they fit together, like a puzzle. He fits with Anthony. But he also thinks that that might be a manufacturing mistake, two pieces with totally different colors, that somehow fit. The two of them work just fine, but when the rest of the puzzle starts coming together, something’s gotta give for it to work.

“I resented him,” he says quietly. “When I left him in my apartment tonight. He’s not even that sick. He just wanted me to tell everyone he was bedridden. He has the sniffles.”

“So then why isn’t he here?”

“He says he doesn’t fit in.” Stiles looks at his feet, his shoes that Lydia bought him, probably cost over $200. “He says that none of my friends like him, and that we can celebrate the album alone together. And I like being alone with him. But we can’t be alone together for the rest of our lives. Eventually he’s gonna make it somewhere and eventually I’ll have two albums, three. We have to be out. We have to be around people.” He scoffs. “He thinks everyone judges him.”

“Maybe they do.”

“Maybe. But he also shouldn’t care what they think.”

“He doesn’t want you guys to tell the press about your relationship.”

Stiles scratches his temple, remembering. “There was press outside my apartment building last week. He refused to leave until we knew they were gone.”

“Did he tell you why?”

Stiles nods, heart thumping painfully. “He doesn’t want to become famous by riding my coattails. Which is pretty honorable. But it also—it also sucks. It makes me feel like he doesn’t—like he isn’t proud of me. Like he’s ashamed of me.”

“I’m sure he’s not,” Derek says, but he doesn’t sound all that convinced himself.

“Whatever,” Stiles says, shaking his head. “It’s fine. It’s fine. I’m gonna go home to him tonight and I’m gonna talk to him, and everything’s gonna be fine.”

Derek nods. “Okay.”

Stiles leans back against the wall, crosses his arms over his chest. “You know, the last time we spoke this much, we were naked in a hotel room in Las Vegas.”

A slow smile grows on Derek’s face. It’s beautiful. Stiles is awed by it, wants to touch it and photograph it, remember it even as he listen to Derek’s response. “You’d just won five-hundred dollars on the slot machine,” Derek recalls. “We got cash for the quarters and you—”

“I made it rain,” Stiles laughs. “I’d always wanted to do that.” He pokes Derek in the stomach, grinning. “You stripped for me. I believe I gave you tens as tips. That was pretty generous of me.”

Derek groans, but he’s still smiling. “Yeah. I remember that I really, really didn’t want to do that.”

“You did, though.”

“Well, you’re a pretty hard guy to say no to.”

They’re standing really close now, closer than they have to, given the size of the room. But Stiles doesn’t tell him to move away. Stiles doesn’t really want him to move away. He likes the shape of Derek’s chest, the slant of his shoulders. He likes how tan he is, how he can see the little hairs between Derek’s eyebrows. He likes everything, actually, and it’s embarrassing how fast that thought makes him warm all over.

“We were really good together,” Derek says then, and Stiles’ heart leaps into his throat.


“During the tour. We were good. Didn’t you think so?”

Stiles licks his lips. “Yeah. Yeah, I did think so. You were good at—everything. Even cuddling, surprisingly.”

“Why is that surprising?”

“You’re a little rough around the edges, dude,” Stiles says, not unkindly. “I liked it, though. I still do.”

He feels guilty before it even happens. He feels horrible, awful, even before Derek drags him in and kisses him, firm and eager. He feels like the most despicable person—because he kisses Derek back. Hands in Derek’s hair, he kisses back with everything he has in him, heart pounding in his chest and knees weak. He kisses Derek without plans to stop, without even considering pushing him away, because it feels right.

Derek’s hands go to his ass, pulling their bodies close together, and Stiles moans into his mouth, scratching his nails down the back of Derek’s neck. He feels smothered in warmth, in heat. He’s surrounded by muscle and sex and he could die right now, completely blissful in Derek’s mouth.

Stiles thinks they probably would’ve ended up fucking right there if it hadn’t been for Lydia. Lydia, who’s been calling Stiles’ name for the past five minutes. Lydia, who’s probably been to parties in this building a million times. Lydia, who storms into the room with heels on and stops short when she sees them.

Derek moves first, backing away, hand smoothing down his hair. Stiles stays where he is, just trying to catch his breath. They both wait in silence for Lydia to say something, to do something.

She looks to Stiles. “Did you break up?”

Stiles’ heart aches, guilt stabbing through him like a lightning bolt. “No.”

“Do,” she says. She looks to Derek. “Fix your shirt. You look like you just got groped by an octopus.” And then she leaves, closing the door behind her as she goes.

Stiles licks his lips, straightens his tie. “Der—”

“Are you in love with him? With Anthony?”

He closes his eyes. “I don’t know. But I—I know I still have feelings for you. Even after months of bullshit, Derek, I still have feelings for you, even after you said we were casual. Even after you gave up on trying to be my friend and left me to mourn you like you’d died or something—”

“I’ve been in love with you since you came to the Hale House with me,” Derek says, hands clenched into fists at his sides.

Stiles stares, mouth open. “What? But you—you told me—”

“I was scared.”


“I love you, Stiles,” Derek tells him, mouth set in a grim line. “I’m in love with you.”

It’s probably not polite to leave his own party early. It’s not polite, and it’s not subtle, but he does anyway. He ignores Derek calling his name, asking him to stay. He ignores Erica following him to the door, asking him where he’s going. He even ignores Scott, who follows him all the way out to Anthony’s car, trying to get him to talk the whole time.

He leaves, goes to his apartment. He unlocks the front door to see Anthony at the kitchen counter, pouring himself a cup of tea. He stands in the kitchen with Anthony. He stands there, until Anthony leaves, and takes his things with him.

Chapter Text

His dad is surprised to see him, to say the least. He hugs him at the door, takes him inside and gives him a beer. They sit on the couch, watching baseball and eating delivery pizza. His dad only asks him why he’s there once.

“I needed to get out for a little while,” he says. When pressed, he adds, “I broke up with Anthony.”

John lets it go after that.

The first week he’s there, John keeps it mostly a secret. He’s dating Melissa McCall (which he had neglected to mention for the last three months, the jerk), and so he’s out of the house a lot, at work or with her. He’s talkative when he’s home, filling the silence that Stiles allows to exist.

The second week, John says they need to get out. They go to a restaurant in the middle of town. Stiles is asked to take five selfies and sign three phone cases. There are others who notice him, but when their food arrives, people stop coming over. Basic human decency.

The third week, they’ve settled into a routine. Stiles goes grocery shopping, cleans the house, does the laundry. He answers emails to Lydia to let her know he’s still alive, keeps track of his album on the Billboard Chart and the iTunes one. He reads article after article about it, until he finds one that mentions Side A/Side B.

By the fourth week, he’s pretty much abandoned the Internet entirely, except to watch Netflix. He cooks for his dad, brings meals to the Sheriff’s Department, takes pictures with the officers and their kids. It’s nice in an empty way, and Stiles prefers being at home, honestly. By himself.

Scott keeps texting, calling. Stiles texts him once or twice a week, just letting him know that he’s okay. He tells Scott about Anthony. He’s sure Scott will update everyone else.

At the beginning of his sixth week home, the boredom becomes impenetrable. He plays his guitar or the keyboard he pulled down from the attic when the silence starts to hurt, but now even that doesn’t do anything for him. He starts going to work with his dad, filing things for Deidre at the front desk, a woman of no less than sixty-four, who’s never missed a day of work in her lifetime.

Finally, when he can’t take the isolation anymore, he plays an impromptu concert at the local coffee shop, knows that people will take pictures and post them, tell everyone about how Stiles Stilinski is back in his hometown.

Sure enough, there are articles galore online when he wakes up the next morning. He doesn’t read them at first, glances at them and heads downstairs to get a cup of coffee. His dad is already gone for the day, but his laptop is open on the dining room table—open to one of the articles.


Hometown Retreat

Pop sensation Stiles, who just dropped his first studio album Tasteless, has apparently decided that Los Angeles is not quite where he wants to celebrate this achievement. As you’ll see below, the singer-songwriter took to his native town of Beacon Hills, California to spend time with his father instead of partying down south with us.

Check out the video of him performing in a local café. Sweet of him to keep crooning, even as he takes his break from Hollywood.

Speculations have arisen as to why he’s seemingly disappeared from all of his local haunts. The Coffee Bean near the Depencia Records building misses him, as do his friends in Side A/Side B. Their weekly dinner dates are apparently no more. A source close to Stiles says there’s been a recent breakup—we didn’t even know he was off the market!

At least we can expect more tunes out of this.


Stiles wants to puke when he reads it. As if anyone close to him would’ve said something like that.

He gets the same article sent to him in an email from Lydia, along with the message: I’ll tell the press whatever you want.

He thinks about ignoring her, about letting it all go and continuing the radio silence. But it’s harder than it seems.


I’m taking a sabbatical. I’ll do all the phone and Skype interviews you want, but I don’t want to come back yet. I’ll be back after New Year’s.


Given that it’s November now, it’s not exactly an unreasonable vacation. He’s done his interviews, his performances, his networking. There’s little else to be said at this point, and so he’s pretty much free to do whatever he wants.

He spends a lot of time watching YouTube videos. He watches Netflix. He goes to the 24-hour fitness really late at night when nobody is around to notice him. It’s boring. It’s typical. It’s everything he needs.

Derek spends the first few days thinking that Stiles just needs space. He hasn’t heard anything, but then again, he hasn’t reached out. He waits until he can’t take it anymore. But Stiles doesn’t pick up the phone. He doesn’t answer texts. And he’s not home when Derek drops by.

When Scott answers the door to his apartment, his hair is sticking up at odd ends and he’s wearing green basketball shorts with a pink polo. Derek arches an eyebrow.

“Sorry,” Scott says, blushing to his ears. “Kira’s here. My—my girlfriend—”

“I know who your girlfriend is, Scott. I was gonna call but I don’t have your number.”

“What’s up?”

Derek licks his lips. “Have you heard from Stiles since his album party?”

Scott frowns. “He—” Deeper frown, and he glances back into his apartment. “Look, I don’t know what happened between the two of you at the party, but if he’s not talking to you, there’s gotta be a reason.”

“So you haven’t heard from him?”

“He said he was gonna be unreachable for a couple of days. I figured he was going on vacation or something with Anthony.”

“Will you—Scott, will you please tell me if he contacts you?”

“Sure,” Scott says, shrugging. “You think something’s wrong?”

“I don’t know,” Derek sighs, “but I’m worried about him.”

“I’m sure he’s gonna be okay, man. Don’t stress yourself out too much.” He pats Derek’s shoulder. “I’ll see you around.”

Anthony is technically next on his list, even though it really should be Lydia. Lydia knows where Stiles is 100% of the time, but she’s also the least likely person to share information with Derek. Scott might be right, that Stiles took off with Anthony, wanted to try to fix their relationship. But if Stiles told Anthony that they had kissed, Derek is pretty sure he’d have been punched the morning after.

It’s also possible, he considers, that Stiles is camping out at Anthony’s apartment, trying to avoid him. But it’s not going to work.

He gets the address from Erica. Or, more accurately, from Erica’s phone, which she leaves lying on the couch when she goes to get popcorn from the kitchen. Fifteen minutes later, he’s knocking on Anthony’s door, adrenaline pumping through him.

When Anthony opens the door, he looks less than happy to see Derek. “What?” he snaps.

Derek’s eyebrows fly up. “Stiles isn’t here is he?”

Anthony presses his tongue against his cheek. “No,” he says. “He didn’t tell you.”

“I haven’t seen him since his party. He just—ran out.”

“That was like a week ago, dude. You waited this long to come find him?”

“I wanted to give him space,” Derek says defensively. “What are you—”

“I should clock you for kissing my boyfriend.”

Derek steels his jaw. “Probably.”

Anthony closes his eyes, shakes his head. “It doesn’t matter. He broke up with me the night of the party, told me what happened.”

Derek’s heart lifts. “Oh. I’m—sorry—”

“Don’t say things you don’t mean,” Anthony dismisses. “He told me where he was going. He also told me not to tell anyone. So find someone else to snitch on him. And, Derek.”


“Don’t fuck it up this time.” He slams the door. Derek deserved a lot worse than that.

There aren’t a lot of places Stiles would go as far as Derek knows. He might be crashing at Chris’ house, if Allison and Peter had talked him into it. But Peter is so meddling, he would’ve told Derek by now. He could be back in San Francisco, except the city is so populated that someone would’ve noticed him.

It has to be a small town, he reasons. Either that, or he’s somewhere without a lot of tech, somewhere where he can be anonymous. It doesn’t really narrow it down.

For weeks, Derek goes about his daily life as if everything is completely normal. For weeks, Derek pretends that he isn’t thinking about Stiles every second of the day. For weeks, Derek reasons that Stiles will come back when he wants, and it’s of no fucking use to run off looking for him.

On his birthday, he gets a Google news alert. It’s not like people don’t write about Stiles all the time—but this one is different. This one is recent and notable, and says that Stiles is camped out in Beacon Hills, California, his hometown.

He paces for an hour or more, wondering what he’s supposed to do with that information. He watches the video posted on the website about a hundred times. Stiles looks the same, handsome and charming as ever, sweet smile and warm eyes. He looks good. But he doesn’t look happy. Content, maybe. But not happy.

I could go, he thinks. I could get on the next plane and just sweep him off his feet. Except it’s obvious that that’s not really what he wants.

So he decides he will wait three days. One to meditate on it, another to let Peter meditate on it, and a final one to ask the opinions of the band. He doesn’t end up getting to the rest of the group, though, because hours after he asks Peter what he should do, there’s another story.


Sabbatical for Stiles

The rumors are flooding in, kids, and there appears to be a real winner in the case of the Disappearing Stiles. The native Californian singer-songwriter took off from L.A. shortly after his album premiere, his representation (manager Lydia Martin) turning down interviews and performance opportunities. Just an hour ago, she issued a statement to myself and three other journalists on a shared Skype call out of her office in Downtown Los Angeles.

She allowed it to be recorded for posting purposes, but there’s a transcript below. Essentially, our beloved Stiles is going to be taking some time off until the New Year, and although Ms. Martin would not confirm the reason, our main thought comes from this previous article from OK that suggests Stiles has just gone through one really rough breakup.

We all wish our lovely crooner well and hope he returns with a mended heart really soon!


Interview with Lydia Martin



Lydia Martin: Stiles left the city in early October and flew north to be with his family. Once there, he decided he had missed home long enough and was going to take the holiday season as downtime. He wanted me to say that he treasures the time he’s spent in the city, as well as the love and appreciation he’s received in response to his studio album. He hopes to return in January to the same open arms he left from.

People: Will Stiles be conducting any personal interviews?

LM: He’s agreed to phone and Skype interviews, as long as his sabbatical is not the subject of them. All of those arrangements will continue to go through me.

People: Can you tell us the reason for his sabbatical?

LM: It’s a personal matter. The same way any of us need a vacation, Stiles does too.

People: Any response to the rumors that he’s just been through a breakup?

LM: Neither myself nor Stiles wishes to waste our time with rumors.


Watch the video now.

The New Year. It doesn’t seem that far away, but it’s not even Thanksgiving yet. It’s still early November, and Derek’s chest aches when he thinks about the distance between then and now.

“You can’t go,” Peter says, collapsing next to Derek on the couch. “Did you read People?”

“It’s on US Weekly Online too,” Derek says, turning his phone’s screen off. “He went home.”

“He needs time to think.”

“He broke up with Anthony.”

Peter nods. “Scott told Kira, who told Christopher, who told me.”

Derek shakes his head. “I told him I was in love with him and he took off.”

“He needs time, Derek,” Peter stresses. “The first time after Christopher and I were together, he didn’t speak to me for three weeks.”

“His wife had just died.”

“And Stiles just cheated on his boyfriend.” Peter pats Derek’s knee. “Wait until the New Year. Then you can get as many answers as you want.”

He goes to the Hale House on December 23rd, like he does every year. He goes with a truck full of toys, books, and basic house supplies. He leaves them all at the front desk when he arrives—they always expect him on the 23rd—and heads back into the playroom.

It’s late afternoon, and most of the kids have just woken up from nap time. There are some playing outside in heavy winter clothes, but most of them are in, sitting by the fire or reading or pushing blocks around. When he enters, he’s met with the usual onslaught of hugs and shouts, all of them wanting to know what he’s been doing, what he’s seen.

Aaron climbs onto his lap without saying anything. The second he sits on the carpet, Aaron is there, sitting on his thigh, leaning back into Derek’s chest. His birthday is the first week in January, so he’ll be starting 1st grade in the fall. He’s growing, Derek knows, and soon he won’t be a kid at all anymore. For now, though, he’s playing idly with a Rubik’s Cube (he has no idea, of course, what the purpose of the toy really is) while Derek tells everyone about his past month.

“You’re coming back, right, Der?” Aaron asks, clinging to Derek’s jeans when he stands to leave.

“I’ll see you in a couple weeks,” he says, and drops to kiss the top of his head before he takes off.

It takes him walking into a big house, climbing up a tall staircase, and settling into an empty bed in a big, empty room to realize what he wants. When he thinks of it at first, he brushes it off immediately, rolls over and goes to sleep. But then the thought is still there hours later. The thought is still there during breakfast, still hanging around in the back of his mind as he shows Erica chords for a new song. It’s even there when he drops onto the couch next to Peter after dinner to watch TV.

“Chris is coming over.”

Derek nods. “He always does.”

“He asked me to move in.”

“He asks you every three months or so.”

“And I always say no.”

“Any change?”

Peter sighs, long and slow. “Nope.”

Derek nods. “That’s what I thought.”

Christmas morning is the same as it’s been for the last few years. They open presents, have a huge breakfast, and sit around watching Christmas movies. Around five, Chris Argent comes over accompanied by a cooked turkey and his daughter, and everyone sits around a table and eats until they can’t move.

Derek has always loved Christmas. But the thought is still in the back of his mind, sitting there in the shape of a little boy, who he can’t stop imagining in this house.

When Scott shows up with his mom for Christmas dinner, Stiles hugs him for a solid two minutes. They stand in the doorway, just holding each other, until Stiles finally pulls away, clearing his throat.

“Hey,” Scott says, hand still on Stiles’ shoulder. “How are things?”

Stiles shrugs. “Fine.”

Scott nods. “Okay.”

He shoves his hands in his pockets. “I called Anthony last night. We talked for a couple hours about—everything. Then he said—well, he’s moving back to London. He got a job on some BBC show, and there’s nothing keeping him here anymore, so.” He glances past the entryway, towards the kitchen, where Melissa and Stiles’ father are finishing preparing the meal together. “Did Derek tell you anything?”

“Just that you ran out on him during the party. Which I had already kind of guessed.”

“Right,” Stiles says on an exhale. “Sure.”

“You weren’t—you two didn’t—”

“We kissed.”

“Like a friend kiss?”

“There were tongues involved, and it lasted about three and a half minutes, so I’d say no.”

Scott hums. “Ah.”

“But I told Anthony about everything. I was honest.”

“That was nice of you to do.”

“Yeah. I think.” He jerks his head towards the kitchen. “C’mon, we better help before they start making out against the fridge.”

“Stiles,” Scott says, stopping him with a hand on his elbow. “You know you can tell me anything, right?”

It’s been weird, being home for the last few months. It’s felt like high school, only a version of high school that didn’t involve Scott. And so it’s more of a relief than anything to hear Scott say that, but it also reminds him that he’s keeping secrets. It reminds him that he’s been in love with Derek for a year now, and everything hurts.

Stiles nods. “Yeah, man. I know.”

Derek calls. Stiles doesn’t pick up. Derek doesn’t leave a message.

Derek writes emails, short checking to see that you’re okay notes. Stiles never responds to those, either.

On December 29th, Side A/Side B releases their new single, Alarmed, along with a music video. It gets 20 million views overnight. Stiles is at least a dozen of those views. He hadn’t realized, before it was in front of him, how much he had missed Derek’s face. Sure, the guy is sitting at a drum set, dressed in a tank top and jeans too tight to breathe in, and there’s something going on in the background involving a desert and a mirage and—it doesn’t matter. Because Stiles can’t focus on anything but Derek.

Stiles opens his email a hundred times. In the end, he ends up tweeting a link to the video without comment. He doesn’t turn his computer back on for three days after that.

He doesn’t ask Peter first. Maybe he should, but he doesn’t want to jinx anything. He calls lawyers, calls the Hale House, signs and scans dozens and dozens of legal documents to send to New York, and then it’s January 2nd and he’s on a plane, snoozing in First Class.

He wants to buy everything the second he touches down, but he knows there’s something else he has to do first. He gets into Laura’s old apartment in the late afternoon, drops his bags, and takes a quick shower. It’s empty but for emergency items, canned foods, so he has to step out to McDonald’s to get a few calories. Someone snaps a picture of him and he waves, asks if they want to take a selfie. The girl looks so surprised that she drops her phone.

The Hale House is still decorated for New Year’s when he pushes through the front door.

Jeanine is waiting for him. “Derek,” she says in a motherly tone, coming forward to hug him. “Don’t look so worried.”

“I’m not worried,” Derek lies.

“He’s going to say yes.”

“Maybe,” Derek agrees. “But L.A. is different. His friends aren’t there. You won’t be there.”

“I don’t think that’s going to matter much to him, as long as he has you,” Jeanine tells him, patting his cheek.

“I should buy a puppy or something, right?”


“I know.” He sucks in a deep breath. “Yeah, I know, okay. Let’s go.”

It’s Aaron’s birthday today, which means the House gives him a cupcake and he gets to watch a movie of his choice with his friends. Given that he’s all of six, he’s chosen to watch Cars, and that’s what he and some other kids are doing in the playroom when Derek walks in. It’s towards the end of the movie, so he and Jeanine sit in the back, waiting for the film to end.

He can see Aaron in the middle of the group, staring attentively at the screen. He doesn’t look any different than he had a couple of weeks ago, but he’s still enough to make Derek happy and nervous at the same time. It’s strange, he thinks, because all he’s been focused on for so long has been Stiles. The emptiness inside of him has only expanded, though, and there’s room for someone besides Stiles. There’s room for someone besides the band and Peter. There’s room for Derek to really, really love this kid.

When the movie ends and the lights turn back on, Derek stands. Most of the kids start going towards the new donated games from Christmas, but Sara (who was monitoring the group during the movie), stops Aaron before he can get to his toys and points back towards Derek.

“Derek!” Aaron cries, running up to him. Derek picks him up accordingly, holding him close for a hug. “I knew you would come! I told them all you weren’t gonna miss my birthday!”

“I wouldn’t dare.” He sets Aaron down again, and the boy is beaming.

“Miss Jeanine, Miss Jeanine,” Aaron says hurriedly, “can I show Derek my Pokémon cards in my room?”

“Say please,” Derek reminds him.


Jeanine laughs. “Of course. Don’t take too long.”

The House is set up like dormitories. There are sixty rooms, but four beds in the big rooms and two in the smaller ones. The younger kids get the rooms with the bunkbeds and the older ones choose roommates. Aaron’s bed in one of the bottom bunks, and he climbs up onto his mattress and reaches into his pillow case, pulling out a dozen playing cards.

“Jason gave me these for my birthday!” he declares happily.

Jason is a sixteen-year-old kid who’s leaving the House in a couple of months. He found an aunt in Montana, is going to live with her. It’s not surprising that he’s giving away his stuff.

“That was nice of him,” Derek says. “You said thank you, right?”

“Yup!” He lays them out on the covers and asks Derek to read them to him, their stats, their names, and so on. They lean back against the pillows, Aaron in his lap, and he does so.

When he’s finished, he moves Aaron to face him, looking down at him patiently. “Aaron.”


“You know how I live in California.”

Aaron nods dutifully. “But you come see us all the time.”

“I do,” Derek says, “because I love you guys and I want you to know that.”

“We love you too, Derek. You’re like our dad, and Miss Jeanine and the other ladies are like our moms.”

Derek sucks in a deep breath, steeling himself. “How would you like to actually have a dad?”

Aaron shrugs. “I don’t know. When would I see you?”

“Well, Aaron—I’m asking—do you want to come live with me, in California? And I would be your dad.”

Aaron’s eyes go so wide, Derek thinks they might burst. His little mouth is wide open and his hands have stopped moving over the cards still in front of him. “You mean it?” he asks. “You want to be my dad?” Without waiting for an answer, he shoves himself into Derek’s arms, already crying into his shirt, clinging close. And Derek clings back, hugging him fiercely.

They sit there for a long while, Derek holding him as he cries and babbles, calmly responding to everything he asks. They don’t leave the room until Jeanine comes to find them, waiting in the doorway with a knowing smile on her face.

He buys a car seat, a couple of stuffed animals. He buys pull-ups, a bunch of little socks, and some pajamas that the girl at the store says fit 6- to 8-year-olds. He’s not totally convinced, but he figures he’d rather have them than not. He drops all of that off at the apartment, and when he returns to the House after dark, Jeanine has all of Aaron’s things packed up, nothing more than a tiny suitcase and a backpack.

Aaron is already yawning, but he hugs each of the staff before taking Derek’s hand and walking out the door. He spent the afternoon saying goodbye to his friends, promising he would come visit. He will—Derek’s still going to be back every month or so.

He has spare sheets in the apartment, but no spare bed. He almost considers sleeping on the couch, but Aaron falls asleep on his arm that night when they’re already lying in bed, Derek reading emails on his lap top. He closes the device, puts it on the nightstand, and falls asleep too, content.

The next morning is shopping day. They have a flight back to L.A. at 3 o’clock so they’ll arrive in time to have dinner with the band, and so Derek gets Aaron out of bed and into a bath by nine in the morning so that they can go pick up essentials.

“Do you have a girlfriend yet, Derek?” Aaron asks while Derek is buckling him into the backseat of his rented car.

Derek smirks. “Nope.”

“Do you have a boyfriend?”

“Not yet.”

Aaron nods slowly. “Do you have a crush on a boy? Is he nice?”

“He’s very nice,” Derek says. “You’ll get to meet him soon.”

“Okay. I think I’d like that.”

Aaron enjoys shopping for the first hour or so, and then he gets tired being on his feet. Derek carries him around the giant Target, has him try on shirts and pants and little shoes. He even gets him swimming trunks, since it’s always warm in L.A. When the car is full of clothes, he runs his fingers through Aaron’s hair.

“Do you want to get a haircut?” he asks, pulling Aaron’s bangs down over his eyes.

Aaron frowns. “I don’t think so,” he says and Derek laughs in response.

“Okay, bud. Your call.”

He packs all of Aaron’s new things into the extra suitcase he brought, returns the car to the rental place at the airport, and carries Aaron through everything. He’s quiet mostly, staring at the security machines and doing as Derek tells him. When they get through to the gate, Aaron climbs into his lap and says, “We’re going to California?”

“We’re going on a plane,” Derek affirms, pointing out the glass windows. “Look, see?”

Aaron gasps. “Wow. That’s big.”

“It’s gonna take us high into the sky and then we’ll be in California.”

“Is it scary?”

“No, bud, it’s not scary. I’ll be there the whole time.”

He ends up falling asleep anyway. Derek doesn’t mind.

Stiles buys a car. A bit of it is a Christmas present from his dad, but most of it is his gift to himself. It’s brand new, a very reasonable Nissan sedan, and he buys it because he knows he needs a car, but he also gets it because he doesn’t want to fly back to L.A. He needs the time—he needs six hours in a car to think, because he still isn’t sure what he’s going to do.

When he gets to his apartment, it’s with a bag of fast food in hand, and he eats on his couch, watching TV in the dark. He falls asleep just before midnight and doesn’t dream.

He decides that he isn’t going to call first. He’s just going to show up. He needs to have the high ground, needs to show up and get some answers but still be able to leave when he wants. (He also tucks a couple condoms into his wallet because he’s allowed to hope.)

Peter answers the door when he arrives, looking—tired. “Well,” he says with a sigh. “Long time no see. Derek’s at the grocery store.”

Stiles’ heart thumps. “Right. Okay. I’ll, uh, wait?”

“Don’t be rude,” Chris Argent says, pulling the door wide open. “Let him in, Peter.” He pats Stiles’ shoulder, leading him into the house. “Nice to see you, Stiles. I trust you enjoyed your vacation.”

“Yeah, thanks, I did. Um, is Erica—”

“She’s down in the basement. Go on down.”

Out of all the things he might have expected to see down in the basement, astronaut sheets on the bed and a little boy in footie pajamas playing Connect-Four with Erica was not one of them. When he gets to the bottom of the stairs, Erica’s face lights up with joy and she runs to hug him, holding him as tightly as he holds her.

But he can’t stop staring at the kid. Aaron, he knows. That’s Aaron from the Hale House in New York—and yet he’s here. In Los Angeles.

“Aaron,” Erica says delightedly, “this is Stiles.”

Even though they’ve met, Stiles doesn’t expect him to remember it. It was a year ago.

“Hi, Stiles,” Aaron says, beaming. “Auntie Erica showed me videos of you playing guitar!”

“He really likes your music,” Erica tells him. She’s grinning hugely and she squeezes his hands. “Stiles. He’s Derek’s.”

Stiles knows he must have heard her wrong. “Sorry, what?”

“Derek adopted him. Isn’t it the greatest thing you’ve ever heard?” She drags him over to the couch without waiting for an answer and pulls Aaron into her lap. “Aaron is the sweetest little boy in the whole, wide world,” she says, tickling him. She tucks her chin over the boy’s shoulder and says, “How was your vacation?”

Stiles shrugs, eyes still on Aaron. “It was fine. I watched a lot of Netflix. I bought a car.”

“How’s your dad?”

“He’s dating Scott’s mom.”

“How cool,” Erica coos, pressing a kiss to Aaron’s cheek. “Aaron, Stiles and Derek are really good friends.”

“That’s good,” Aaron declares. “Everybody needs friends.”

Stiles feels like he stepped into an alternate dimension, one in which the sky is green and the grass is blue. He drags his hand over his face and says, “Okay. Okay, I can do this.”

“It’s not hard,” Erica says, smiling sweetly at him. “It’s not even that weird.”

And the truth is, it’s not. Stiles should’ve expected it. Derek has a connection to the kid, loves him like a father, and so it makes sense. It makes sense, and it makes Stiles’ stomach feel warm and fluttery.

“Hey, bud,” Stiles says, “this game looks fun.”

“I won!” Aaron declares, pointing out four red pieces in the game. It’s obvious that Erica allowed it to happen, but, then again, who wouldn’t? “Do you wanna play with me, Stiles?”

“I really do, kid. I really do.”

When Derek comes home, Chris and Peter are in the kitchen, making macaroni and cheese. There’s breadcrumbs and hot dogs mixed in, and the whole kitchen smells like cheese—it makes Derek long for childhood.

“Hey,” he greets them, reaching into the pot to pick out a piece of hot dog. “Erica and Aaron still downstairs?”

“Yup,” Peter says, swatting his hand away when he goes back for more. “It’s ready. Get bowls and bring it down to them.”

“Nah,” he says. “I’ll grab them and have them come upstairs. They shouldn’t eat in front of the TV.”

“Already behaving like a dad,” Chris notes, patting him on the back. “But really, you should just bring it down to them. Aaron’s already in his pajamas, and Erica’s been watching him for an hour. She’s gonna want a thank you.”

Derek rolls his eyes. “Fine. Dish some out while I put away the groceries.”

Peter begins to do so, humming quietly to himself, and Derek mostly ignores him while he empties out the grocery bags and folds them, tossing them towards the opposite side of the kitchen. When Derek is finished, he turns to find three big bowls of the pasta, plus one child-sized one.

“There’s just me and Erica,” Derek protests. “This is yours.”

Chris makes a very fake surprised noise. “Oh, yeah, we forgot. Stiles is downstairs.”

Stiles. Stiles Stilinski. Stiles with the pretty eyes and the hundreds of distracting moles. Stiles with the intoxicating laugh and overwhelming musical talent. Stiles, with whom Derek confessed to being in love a handful of months ago, only to be promptly run out on without a word. That Stiles.

“Oh,” he says.

“He came over to see you,” Peter says, elbowing him. “He made out with you at his party, broke up with his boyfriend, and came to see you.”

“He also took a four month sabbatical because he didn’t know what to say to me,” Derek points out.

“Now he does know what to say,” Chris reminds him, shrugging. “Seems kind of ideal.”

Peter hands him the tray with bowls. “Go,” he says. “And talk to him.”

It’s not quite as easy as it sounds, given that when he gets downstairs, Aaron is sitting in Stiles’ lap, playing Connect-Four against Erica.

“I think we should put the piece here,” Stiles says, showing Aaron where to drop it. He does so, and Erica groans dramatically.

“You beat me again!”

“I’m not surprised,” Derek says. “They’re both very smart.”

“Daddy!” Aaron cries, standing up on the couch. “You’re back!”

Derek decides not to look, not to watch what Stiles’ face is doing, what he might be thinking or feeling, because once he looks, he won’t want to look away. “I brought dinner,” he says, moving into the room to place the tray on the coffee table. He grabs Aaron, dropping him in a little plastic chair that puts him at perfect height to eat, and puts the bowl in front of him.

He then hands Erica’s bowl over to her, and one to Stiles. When they make eye contact, Stiles looks—sad. Sad in a surprised, happy way. Sad, maybe, that they haven’t spoken in several months, but happy that he’s there now? Or sad because he has sad news? Happy because Derek’s adopted Aaron?

Either way, Derek doesn’t ask because Aaron has taken over the room, chattering about his hour alone with Erica and Stiles.

“Is Stiles like Uncle Isaac and Uncle Boyd?” he asks, poking at his dinner.

“Not exactly,” Derek tells him. “Stiles is my friend.”

“Does Stiles know the boy you like?” Aaron questions before taking another bite.

Derek smiles, not looking towards the other man. “We can talk about that later, Bug. Eat your dinner. I’ll get you more milk.” He drops a kiss on the top of Aaron’s head before grabbing his little cup and heading towards the stairs.

He almost expects Stiles to follow him, thinks that, if this were a few months ago, he would’ve. He would’ve followed Derek up the stairs, trapped him against the fridge and kissed him stupid. As it is, Stiles is still sitting on the couch when he comes back down. He’s still there when Erica begs off to grab coffee with a friend. He’s still there when Aaron climbs into Derek’s lap and says he wants to go to sleep.

“Oh.” Stiles stands immediately, an apology tripping out of his mouth. “It’s late, I should—”

“Stiles should come look at houses with us!” Aaron declares, tugging on Derek’s shirt. “Please, Dad—please?”

“You’re moving,” Stiles says.

“Peter found us a couple of listings. We’re gonna go look at them all tomorrow.” Derek rubs Aaron’s back, nods vacantly. It’s not a terrible idea. It would be good for them to spend more time together. Derek likes Stiles. Derek just has no idea how Stiles feels about him. “You can ask Stiles if he wants to come with us.”

Aaron turns his wide eyes to the man, who can’t help but smile back, even as Aaron fumbles through the question.

“Of course I’ll come,” Stiles says.

“We’ll pick you up,” Derek tells him, and Stiles nods.

“I’ll see you tomorrow, Derek. Bye, Aaron.”

Aaron waves goodbye, one hand still wrapped around Derek’s shirt. When Stiles is gone, Aaron looks up at Derek and says, “I like Stiles.”

Derek feels like singing. “Me too, Bug.”

It's not often Kira has a free afternoon. In fact it's never happened before. But the stars aligned and Chris Argent has been in the weirdest mood and so she's home relatively early at 7:30 on a Thursday night. It would be lovely and wonderful if her boyfriend would stop moping around her kitchen like opening the fridge for the third time will give him the answers to everything.

“Is something wrong?”

Scott jumps. There's a pack of cheese in his hand and a butter knife between his teeth and his eyes are wide as saucers. Once he's gotten the utensil away from his mouth he licks his lips.

“I was going to ask you the same thing.”

Kira feels her stomach drop. Of course this is it. She knew she'd been doing something wrong and Scott, with all his experience in these things, knows she's been doing something wrong and she wants to crawl under the earth.


“Kira, listen,” he says, serious and full of energy like when he talks about animals in trouble, “I don't know what I've been—what I mean is I'd never been with—am I like really bad at sex?”

Kira nearly flails off the couch in shock. “You? How could you be bad?”

“It's just.” Scott sighs and takes a seat beside her. He takes her hand and concentrates on it as he speaks. “You always look kind of…disappointed after. And I know that orgasms aren't everything and for the love of God please don't fake them. You never have to. But if there's something I'm not good at or if you…if you don't want to have sex at all, I need you to know I'm okay with that.”

For a moment, Kira is silent. The obvious answer is no. Scott is actually—well, he's impressive, rather selfless, and exceedingly gentlemanly. Scott isn't the problem.

“I like having sex with you,” Kira insists.

“Is it—asexuality is totally valid—”

“No,” she interrupts quickly, “that's not it. It's nothing like that.”

“So what is it like then?” Scott asks quietly, taking her hand. “Do you—regret it?”

It's not easy to put into words, the feeling she gets when the sex is over, when they lie in bed together, warm and sticky, Scott kissing her elatedly, holding her close. She feels loved, cherished—and that's great. But it's also the exact same way she felt around him before they were having sex.

“I don't regret it,” she says.

“Then what?”

She swallows tightly, exhales. “I thought—before—sex is supposed to make people closer. And I feel exactly the same as I did before. Like it didn't work. Like this is it.”

Scott pulls his hand away and looks up. “I thought—I thought we were okay?”

“We are!”

“You're not happy? You thought having sex would fix it? I didn't know you weren't happy.”

“Scott, I am happy, you make me so happy. I—I'm sorry I'm messing everything up.”

Scott takes a breath and leans in closer. “Take your time, I just want to understand.”

Kira matches his breath and nods. “I just had this idea that when I had sex with someone, with you, that everything would be…more. That something would be different. Not because I wanted things to change it's just…what I thought was supposed to happen.”

There’s a heavy beat of silence in which Kira waits for Scott to say something, in which she counts her heartbeats and holds her breath, waiting.

“We’re intimate,” Scott says slowly. “We were intimate before we ever had sex. And maybe nothing changed because we’re already so close.” He puts a hand on her knee, looks her deep in the eye. “Kira, I don’t want you to be unhappy. I want you to talk to me about things that worry you.”

Unsure what to say, Kira lunges forward to kiss him, deep and slow. “I’m not worried anymore,” she whispers against his mouth. “And I really do like having sex with you. And I’ve never faked an orgasm.”

Scott chuckles, cupping her head as he kisses her back. “Good. I’m glad. Hey.” He pulls back, stroking her cheek with his thumb. “I love you.”

Kira hears herself gasp and for a second they both freeze. There's a buzz in her head and her heart beats too fast and she wants to kiss him, she wants to kiss Scott forever. Everything she imagined, the change and the shift, it happens then.

“I love you too.”

Chris is woken by clattering in the kitchen. He ignores it, rolls over, and falls back asleep. An indeterminable amount of time later, another clash forces him awake again. He shoves his face into Peter’s neck and grumbles, “What is Erica doing?”

“Sounds like she’s letting Aaron bang on pots and pans while she cooks,” Peter says. He’s already awake, scrolling on his phone. “It’s been going on for at least fifteen minutes. I’m amazed you slept through it this long.”

“What time is it?”


Chris groans again. “I’m late—you didn’t wake me.”

“I checked your calendar. You don’t have any meetings or calls until after noon. You’re allowed to sleep in sometimes.”

“I should be there,” Chris mutters. “Not fair to let everyone else—”

“The hell it isn't,” Peter says as he continues to scroll, “and even if it isn't I don't care.”

Chris leans on his elbow and plucks the phone from Peter's hand. “You woke up in that mood or have you been cranking yourself up while I slept?”

Peter rolls his eyes. “You barely take weekends and you work until 10 most nights. You’re the boss—you’re allowed wiggle room.”

“Wiggle room?” Chris echoes. “You’ve been spending too much time with Erica.”

Wordlessly, Peter rolls on top of him, craning his neck for a long, smooth kiss. Peter’s phone winds up falling off the bed and onto the floor, but neither of them stop kissing to grab for it. Chris squeezes the back of Peter’s neck, turning his mouth away.

“I really do have to go to work.”

Peter huffs out a sigh. “You’re impossible.”

“Not all of us were trust fund babies, Mr. Hale.”

Peter rolls his eyes and wraps his arm around Chris. “Are you coming back for dinner?”

“Are you going to tell me what's gotten into you?”

Peter pulls his hand away and rolls away and out of the bed. “No.”

“I'll be here,” Chris says, “but make sure there's actual food and not whatever Erica is concocting down there.”

“You got it,” Peter says, heading towards the en suite bathroom, closing the door behind him.

Chris sighs to himself, runs a hand through his hair. “I’ll call you when I leave the office.”

Peter doesn’t respond.

He dresses quickly from his side of Peter’s closet, checks his hair in the mirror, and is heading downstairs within a matter of minutes. Sure enough, Erica is cooking eggs on the stove while Aaron walks around with a bowl on his head, smacking at pots with a wooden spoon. Chris drops to kiss the top of the kid’s head, waves at Erica—and Derek, who’s sitting at the counter with a mug of coffee and the newspaper—and is out the door.

Aaron goes running into Stiles’ apartment the second he opens the door.

“Sorry,” Derek says. “He has a lot of energy this morning.”

Stiles only smiles, beckons him in. “It’s fine. You want coffee or anything?”

“I’m fine. We ate at the house.”

“Stiiiiiiiiles,” Aaron cries, climbing onto his couch. “Can I touch your guitar pretty please?”

“Aaron,” Derek starts to say, but Stiles waves him off.

“I’ll come show you how to do it,” Stiles says, going to sit down next to Aaron. His guitar is resting against the coffee table, where half a dozen pieces of sheet music are spread out. He’s been writing.

Derek hangs back while Stiles shows Aaron how to properly hold the instrument. Relief is spreading through him at the casual way Stiles speaks to the boy, how easily they get along. He’d been worried, for a long while, that Stiles would be bothered by Derek adopting Aaron. But Derek should’ve known he would be perfect.

The first house they go see is ridiculous. It's a bachelor pad in the worst ways, with dimmers and remote control fireplaces and couture architecture stairs with steps so far apart that Aaron’s entire body fits through them. Stiles actually laughs in the realtor’s face while he holds Aaron, hitching the kid up over his hip and reminding the man that they're looking for a family home.

“Oh,” the realtor—a thirty-something named Tobias—says, turning to Derek. “Your uncle said something a little different. But I can work with that. How long have you two been together?”

“We’re not,” Derek says, sure that he’s blushing to his ears. “We’re just friends.”

“Mhm,” Tobias says. “Well.” He writes down the address of another house on a piece of paper, hands it to Derek. “Meet me there. I think it’ll be more your style.”

It’s kind of like Peter’s house, except a little older. Everything is white or off-white and the yard is practically non-existent. There’s only two bedrooms, despite the size of the property, and it’s right next to the freeway.

Stiles grumbles a bunch of not-nice things about the realtor on their way to the third house.

“Oh!” Aaron squeals from the backseat. “Stiles said a bad word.”

“I’ll wash his mouth out with soap later,” Derek says, grinning.

The third house is only a couple of streets away from Stiles’ apartment block. It’s close to the city without being right on top of it, and it’s in a neighborhood with sidewalks and big trees, with a public park at the end of the road and pools in all the backyards. It’s gorgeous on the inside too, and has three bedrooms, two and a half baths. It has an attic for storage and a refurbished basement meant to be an entertainment room. The backyard is half grass and half concrete, with a little black gate separating the pool from the lawn.

Stiles leans into Derek while the realtor tells them about the previous owners. “I love it,” he whispers.

Derek’s stomach twists. “Me too,” he says honestly. He bends down next to Aaron, watching as the boy stares at the pool. “What do you think, Bug?”

“I like it! It has a swimming pool and a yard and a room for Stiles!”

Derek feels like the kid just kicked him in the stomach and he stays there, bent in half and gaping and incapable of turning around and checking if Stiles even heard that. He doesn’t know if this was a good idea anymore, bringing Stiles along. If Aaron thinks—if Aaron thinks that Stiles is going to stay and then he doesn’t—he can’t put his kid at risk like that.

He swallows tightly and stands, tells the realtor they’ll take it. There’s paperwork to sign and payments to set up, and Derek hands Stiles the keys, tells him to go start the car while he gets everything in order.

Stiles scoops Aaron up, blowing a raspberry into his exposed stomach, and heads towards the car, telling the kid all the fun things he’ll be able to do in his new house.

Derek feels like crying.

Aaron falls asleep on the drive back to Peter’s house, which leaves a large cloud of silence between him and Stiles.

“The place is great,” Stiles says after a long minute. “It's going to be so great for you two.”

Derek nods. “I just wanted to give Aaron his own space.”

“You're trying to make a home for him,” Stiles says. “It's exactly what he needs.”

He bites his tongue for a moment, breathing in deep through his nose. “He likes you,” is what he eventually says. “He likes you a lot.”

“I like him too,” Stiles says. “He’s a good kid.”

There’s another minute of nothing but the sound of the highway around them. Derek exits right in front of Peter’s house, pulls into the driveway without saying a word. Stiles has agreed to come to dinner—even though nobody knows when or what it’s really going to be—and so if Derek can get Aaron down for his nap, they can finally have a real conversation. A productive conversation.

Stiles ends up crawling into Aaron’s bed with him, eyelids heavy and breathing deep. “You don’t mind, do you?” he asks Derek, shoving his face into a pillow.

Derek blinks.

“C’mere.” He pats the other side of the bed, on the other side of Aaron. “We can make a baby sandwich.”

Derek should say no. He should remind Stiles that they're adults, that dinner will come eventually, and that they should talk. But he can't do any of those things. The man he might be in love with is cuddling his son as if he were his own and his heart won't let him move anywhere but closer to them.

He slips his shoes off and climbs into the bed, playing with Aaron's soft hair while Stiles drifts quietly to sleep.

Chris practically sprints up the drive. He’s not technically late since he didn’t specify when he was going to be back, but Peter likes dinner at 7 and it’s 7:23 now, with Chris frantically pushing his key into the front door.

Peter is sitting on the couch when he finally stumbles in, legs propped up on the ataman, TV remote in hand. When Chris walks in, Peter pauses the TV, sits up.

“Sorry,” he says, coming forward to kiss Peter hello. “Traffic was abysmal. You know how it is, Friday evenings.”

“It's alright,” Peter says as he flips channels without looking up. “Everyone's out. Well, no—Edward and Bella are downstairs taking a nap with the kid. I made quiche.”

“When did you make quiche? Didn't you work today?”

Peter lets his head fall back and glares at Chris, upside down and annoyed. “I bought quiche.”

“You look depressed.”

“I'm not depressed,” Peter snaps as he slips a bit more violently through the channels. “Go eat.”

“Did you have some already?”

“I’m not hungry.”

Chris sighs, grabs the remote from Peter’s hand and tosses it to the other side of the room after turning the TV off. “You have to tell me what’s bothering you,” Chris demands. “We agreed, we’re terrible when we can’t communicate, and we can’t just sit around pretending something isn’t wrong.”

He can see Peter’s jaw clenching and unclenching. He waits, though, because he knows Peter is on the verge of blurting it out. Even at his most unreasonable, Peter wants to make it work. It’s the only reason they got together in the first place.

“It’s been three months since the last time you asked me to move in with you,” he grumbles, avoiding Chris’ gaze. “Are you happy?”

Chris arches an eyebrow. “You always say no.”

“Maybe I wouldn’t have said no this time,” Peter says petulantly.

“Maybe you're just saying that because I missed it,” Chris says, “and you secretly love rejecting me.”

Peter snorts. “Who said it was a secret?”

“Peter,” Chris sighs, “I didn't ask you for a reason.”

“And what's that?”

“Your nephew is moving on with his life, your daughter and Isaac moved in together, and I get how all that might freak you out. I don't want you to say yes just because you're more scared of being alone than you are of being with me.” He scoots down the couch, rests his hand on Peter’s stomach. “You’re not as much of a grownup as people think you are. And you’re not used to being by yourself. If you moved in with me and then resented me for taking advantage of you, I’d lose you. And I don’t want that to happen.”

Peter crosses his arms over his chest. “Erica told me yesterday she found an apartment.”

“See?” Chris says. “You’re emotionally compromised.”

“You like it when I’m emotionally compromised.”

“I like seeing you display emotion. Not the same thing.”

“I like having you here,” Peter says with a frown, the way one might say that they deeply disliked broccoli. “You’re here practically every night. Everyone’s gotten used to you.”

“How romantic,” Chris says dryly.


“It’ll happen eventually, Peter. Don’t rush it.”

“I’m forty-three years old,” Peter says with a twisted expression. “We’ve been together for five years, Christopher, and we’re still no better than Derek and Stiles.”

“Well, you and Derek are related.” Chris leans in, resting his forehead against Peter’s temple. “It’ll happen. Let me ask you again in a couple of weeks, when you’re more used to the empty nest. For now, come eat dinner.”

Peter grunts. “Let’s order a pizza instead. The quiche has spinach in it.”

“You hate spinach.”

“You love it.”

“I love you,” Chris says softly, and captures Peter’s mouth in a kiss.

Stiles wakes up to the smell of pizza. Groaning, he rolls over onto his back and stares at the plastic glow-in-the-dark stars on the ceiling. He scratches at his stomach, slowly waking up.

“Peter ordered dinner,” Derek says from the other side of the bed, voice low and groggy with sleep. “What time is it?”

A glance at his watch tells him. “Eight o’clock.” He yawns, rolls onto his side again to look at Aaron and finds the middle of the bed vacated. Instead, it’s only Derek, inches away, eyes half closed, lifting his arm to wipe away a trail of drool down to his chin.

Stiles grins.

“You drool. I’ve never seen you drool.”

“Sure you have.”

Stiles shrugs. “I think I would remember, dude.” He sits up, scratching at the back of his neck. “He must’ve gone upstairs when he woke up.”

“Must’ve,” Derek agrees.

“We should…find him.”



“It’s been two years.”

Stiles looks over his shoulder at him. “Hm?”

“We met two years ago, last October,” Derek says, finally pushing himself into a sitting position. “It’s been two years.”

“No way.”

Derek nods. “And it’s been almost a year since the last time we—were together.”

“It doesn’t feel that long ago.”

“I know,” Derek agrees.

Stiles wants to says something, wants to tell him—wants to tell him that he figured it all out, in Beacon Hills, that he’s ready. He wants to tell Derek that Anthony was a foolish attempt at trying to forget the greatest love Stiles has ever known, that when they kissed at his album party in October, it was everything Stiles had ever wanted—

“Daaaaaaaaaaad!” Aaron calls from the top of the stairs. “Pizza!”

“I wanted to tell you,” Stiles starts to say, even as Derek stands from the bed and steps towards the stairs.

Derek faces him, one hand on the railing. His posture is relaxed, his hair a mess from the bed.

Stiles swallows. “I liked the single. The—new one. It was really good.”

Derek opens his mouth.


“Coming!” he calls up the stairs, and he gives Stiles a Look before climbing them, wordlessly.

Chapter Text

Erica thinks that most men are idiots. Even Boyd can be an idiot sometimes. Even Derek, considering the fact that he hasn’t realized she’s been sleeping at Boyd’s place almost every night for the past two months. (Although, he kind of has an excuse, she thinks. The love of his life ran away and was unreachable for months. So he gets a soft pass.) The point, though, is that Derek is sitting on the couch, looking like he wants to squirm out of his skin, all because Erica mentioned a party.

“The new album is coming out in a week, Der,” she reminds him forcefully. “We can’t just put our careers on hold.”

“I’m not suggesting we should,” Derek huffs. “The album is ready. I just—don’t like parties.”

Peter hums. “He still hasn’t spoken to Stiles about the last time they were at a party together. He’s a little repressed.”

Erica stands by her original thought. Men can be idiots. “Stiles wants a party,” she says, crossing her arms. “Stiles is more excited about the album coming out than any of you are.”

Malia points a finger. “Untrue. I’m very excited for the album and for the party. Because, unlike Derek, I enjoy things.”

Isaac laughs. Derek glares.

“Not a big one,” Derek insists. “No strangers. Just friends. And we’ll have it here, at the house.”

“You realize you’re going to have to mingle, right?” Boyd asks. “You can’t just sit in the basement with Aaron the whole time.”

“Speaking of,” Peter adds, sitting forward, “we need to over the babysitting pool, because all of us are going to be out for the next two weeks doing press, so—”

“Stiles is watching him,” Derek says with a nod.

Erica’s eyebrows fly up. “You asked him?”

“He offered.”

Malia laughs, patting Derek’s leg. “Great. Problem solved.”

“No,” Derek argues, “I still have no reason to go to the party—”

“Allison will watch the kid,” Peter says. “Or Kira.”

“They’re invited to the party,” Erica argues. “Derek needs to hire a babysitter.”

“I’ll figure it out when the time comes,” Derek dismisses. He’s already standing, leaving the room. “Aaron’s gonna wake up any second; we can talk about this at the end of the week, when it’s really important.”

Erica likes Stiles. Stiles, she thinks, is really, really smart. Except when he’s not.

“I told Derek I would watch Aaron while you guys are doing press,” he says, handing her a cup of coffee as they sit down on his couch. “I’m not doing anything else and you guys have a lot of stuff to do, so I don’t mind.”

“Yeah,” Erica agrees, “except for the party.”

Stiles clears his throat. “Party.”

“The album party.”


Erica groans, shoving Stiles half-heartedly. “You can’t be serious, Stiles. You have to come. You’re my friend. You have to be there.”

“Okay, okay! I’ll be there. I just—you know how I get with Derek and parties and—”

“If you ask me to, I will keep you far, far away from Derek the entire night.”

“Yeah, I mean, that might be a good idea. Not like I'm not going to talk to him just—don't let me be alone with him?”

Erica nods. “You got it. “You can be mine and Boyd's arm candy for the night.”

Stiles snorts into his coffee. “I can’t wait to see what TMZ thinks about that.”

#Gaslight is amazing! @Derek_Hale sounds incredible on “Raw”!

#nowplaying #gaslight @SideAxSideB is amazing as usual

Went to Target in L.A. to buy #gaslight and saw @StilesS! [LINK]

@StilesS @EW @DepenciaRecords I love #gaslight! When are gonna get a @SideAxSideB song that says “ft. Stiles” ??? <3<3

#ovaries @Derek_Hale singing Raw makes my body tingle – wonder who it’s about…

@QueenEricaReyes ‘s voice on “Midnight” is enough to turn me #girlcrush #gaslight

@StilesS did you hear #gaslight ? What do you think? :) <3

@Malia_AB has an AMAZING guitar jam with @isaaclahey on “Fearful” on #gaslight! It will change your life!

The morning of the album launch, Isaac’s shower is interrupted by a pretty brunette with crusties in her eyes and morning breath. Malia stands under the spray for a solid thirty seconds without moving a muscle and Isaac rolls his eyes as he grabs her shampoo and starts massaging it into her hair.

“I don’t think Jimmy Fallon is that funny,” she says, obviously referring to the show they recorded last night.

Isaac smiles to himself. “Okay.”

“And I really, really don’t like Conan O’Brien.”

“I know.”

“I like Ellen.”


She turns into his chest, wrapping her arms around his hips. “We should be on Ellen more often.”

“We’re going tomorrow.”

“I know. But I mean in general. We should make up excuses to be on Ellen.”

“I’ll get right on that for you,” Isaac says, bending to kiss her. “Finish up. We’re going to Target to take some selfies. Peter’s got us all over the place today for press.”

“Being famous isn't much fun,” she says while actually pouting.

“Not a fan of pre approved selfies?”

“I just want to be here and play music and pull your hair when you're not paying attention to me,” she sighs.

Isaac snorts. “That sounds fun.”

“I know! But Peter is all like, You have to socialize! Smile when people grab you for pictures! What an asshole.”

“How very rude of him.”

She leans into him again, nuzzling his neck. “After selfies, let’s stay in bed all day.”

“We’re on babysitting duty today.”

She jerks back, frowning. “What? What’s Stiles doing?”

“He’s in the studio all day. Someone asked him to co-write a thing, so he’s gonna be busy.” Isaac moves his fingers gently through Malia’s hair, washing out all the shampoo. She continues to drag her fingers along his torso. “Despite Peter’s objections, Derek is bringing Aaron out to Target with us and then he has an interview downtown with that one drumming magazine?”

“I didn’t know drummers could even read,” Malia says with a smirk.


“Thanks, I worked hard on it.” She holds out a hand. “Grab me the conditioner.”

“Since when do you use my conditioner?”

Malia shrugs. “Lydia screamed at me.”

“Lydia doesn't even work with us.”

“It's really scary when she screams.” She says seriously. “Hey, how about we skip the conditioner and the selfies and just have sex instead?”

“We have sex all the time,” Isaac says, handing her the bottle. “We can have sex whenever we want. We have to show up at the house in a half hour or Peter’s head will explode.”

“That might be kind of fun to see.”

Isaac nods. “Sure,” he agrees, “but we won’t be able to witness it if we’re stuck in our apartment, having sex.”

Malia huffs and begins to shove the conditioner through her hair. “Fine,” she says. “But later.”

“I’ll never say no to that.”

When they arrive at the house, Derek is glaring at something on Erica’s phone and Boyd is standing in the background, rolling his eyes. The car is waiting, Peter standing beside the driver’s door, texting. Malia takes the opportunity to pick up Aaron from where he’s standing at Derek’s feet, holding him against her hip and greeting him.

“What’s your dad so upset about?” Isaac asks the kid.

“Stiles has another friend that Dad doesn’t like,” Aaron says dutifully. “She’s really pretty—Auntie Erica showed me a picture.”

“It’s nothing,” Erica says insistently, pulling her phone out of Derek’s grasp. “Stiles just took a selfie with some girl he’s writing with. We don’t even know who she is. Derek’s bent out of shape because the girl has her arms around him.”

“I’m not bent out of shape,” Derek argues. “He can write music with whomever he likes.”

“As long as they’re not attractive, right, Der?” Isaac asks, winking.

Derek looks like he would flip him off if it weren’t for his son being right there.

“Load ‘em up!” Peter hollers. “Picture time!”

Derek is confused and knowing what he knows, he should probably speak up. He should ask questions. He should be honest. Instead he's letting his son play on an iPad for way too long while he obsesses over Stiles' Instagram and Twitter. At least 150 views on his latest Vine are all Derek trying to figure out if Stiles was going in for a hug or a kiss with the cute writer girl when the vine cuts off. So Derek knows he should pick up the phone and ask Stiles to come talk about what's going on and what they are for each other and how this will all affect Aaron, but instead he high fives his kid when he wins his current round and watches the Vine again.

He’s understandably distracted during their Target run. He keeps Aaron either in his arms or holding his hand at all times. The picture that ends up going on the band’s Instagram features the five of them plus Aaron, grinning hugely with his arms around Derek’s neck.

They don’t really get flocked, given that they didn’t tweet where they were going or post any notice at all, but they get a handful of fans asking for pictures, even one middle-aged dad wanting to pose with Erica. (Derek thinks it’s a little creepy, but Erica loves it.)

When they get back home, Derek pulls his phone out again, and all he does is watch the Vine, re-read the Instagram caption, and stare at Stiles’ Twitter page.

“You’re gonna be late for your interview,” Isaac says, ficking his ear. He drops down onto the couch next to him, pulling Aaron into his lap. “Aaron wants to hang out with Uncle Isaac and Auntie Mal, so you need to get going.”

Derek sighs, turning the screen of his phone off. “You’re right, I know.”

“You miss Stiles,” Isaac says with a shrug.

“Dad has a crush on Stiles,” Aaron confirms, still playing with the iPad.

Derek frowns. “Aaron.”

“Grandpa told me,” he says, swiping along the screen. “He said you love him like Uncle Isaac loves Auntie Mal.”

Not for the first time, Derek considers killing Peter.

“I like Stiles,” Aaron continues. “If you two got married, Stiles could be my other dad. Having two dads would be the coolest.”

Erica gasps, huge and exaggerated as she walks in with a glass of iced tea. “I just realized something. This child will have two dads—”

“Erica, I’m not even dating anyone.”

“And two grandpas! He is going to be a muddy, Cheetos-eating, uncombed little mess!”

“That's sexist,” Isaac says, pointing at her and raising his eyebrows, “and I have never met a more well-groomed man than Peter Hale.”

Derek sighs, finally standing. He ruffles Aaron’s hair, drops a kiss on the top of his head. “I have to get going. I’ll be back for dinner. Don’t let him eat a bunch of crap—and he’s down for a nap at two, okay?”

Erica huffs. “Malia and I need to spend more time with him, Derek. He can sleep when he’s learned how to woo a woman.”

Derek rolls his eyes on his way out the door.

Bea asks him to dinner. They’ve spent all day writing and rewriting, recording a song that’s both entertaining and heartwarming, and Stiles can’t wait to go to Peter’s house and spend the rest of his evening cooing over Aaron. But then Bea asks him if he wants to get tacos and a drink, and Stiles’ heart lurches into his throat.

She’s beautiful. She’s charming. She’s intelligent, and ridiculously talented, and Stiles likes working with her, spending time with her. They’ve only been friends for a handful of days and Stiles finds her incredible.

“As friends?” he asks.

She licks her lips. “If that’s all that’s on the table.”

“I have a boyfriend.”

Her eyes widen. “Oh. Really?”

Stiles swallows nervously. “I like you a lot and we should hang out more, but I—I’m seeing someone.”

A smile grows on her lips. “I like you too,” she says. “So. Tacos. As friends.”

“As friends,” Stiles agrees.

He doesn’t get out of the restaurant until ten, and by then he’s had three margaritas, two Coronas, and half a daiquiri, and he and Bea have to shove themselves into a cab. The cabbie drops Bea at her apartment and asks Stiles where he’d like to go.

He gives the address of Derek’s new house, unsure whether or not the guy’s gonna be there, but figures he can always walk back to his apartment if he’s not.

Derek opens the door in a white T-shirt and sweats, hair uncombed and mouth in a stiff line.

“Hey,” Stiles says, sure that he’s swaying a little bit. “Um. Hi, I—I just didn’t see you all day and, God, I listened to the album like eight times last night when it got put on iTunes, and then I bought the physical copy this morning on my way to the studio because it’s, you know, important and—”

“You’re drunk,” Derek hisses. “Stiles, you can’t just show up on my doorstep smelling like a bar. You—what if Aaron had seen you?”

Stiles pouts, sadness welling up inside of him. “Oh. No, I—I’m sorry, I didn’t think—”

“Yeah, that much is obvious.”

“I'll just—I'll go sleep it off at home—”

Derek doesn't say anything at first, just stares at him, and he's already turned around and on his way when Derek finally does. “Couldn't sleep it off at hers?”

Stiles turns, dizzy and flustered and thrown off by the tone of Derek's voice. “What?”

“Nothing,” Derek shakes his head, but his arms are crossed over his chest and he's leaning away from Stiles and it's all so wrong.


“We didn't talk,” Derek says too quietly. “I kept putting it off and we didn't talk because—I guess we just didn't. So we didn't agree to anything and you have every right to—”

It's all sad swirling noise in Stiles' head and he needs him to stop sounding so sad right now. “DEREK!”

Derek flinches. “We can’t have this conversation when you’re wasted, Stiles.”

“Why are you sad?” Stiles asks, feeling like he’s being weighed down by an invisible, crushing force. He steps forward, puts his hands on Derek’s chest. “Why do you sound sad?”

Derek exhales slowly through his nose. Stiles wants to kiss it.

“You were with that girl,” Derek finally says. “And I don’t know what we’re doing—what I’m doing. I told you that I was in love with you and you ran away. And if you don’t want me, I need to move on.”

Stiles has so many hundreds of things he wants to say, but they all feel garbled in his head. He feels heavy, a little bit sick, and really dizzy. He closes his eyes, breathing deep.

“Are you gonna puke?” Derek asks.

“I’m really drunk, Derek.”

“I can see that.” He wraps an arm around Stiles’ shoulders. “C’mon. Let’s get you to bed.”

Stiles walks with Derek’s help, totally aware that he’s stumbling and swerving but having no power to stop it. He ends up in the guest room, which is bare except for the bed. He collapses onto the sheets, wrapping his arms around the pillow. When he rolls over after a minute, Derek is setting a glass of water on the nightstand, looking at him with his big green eyes.

“You’re gonna feel terrible in the morning,” Derek says.

Stiles doesn’t say anything.

Derek leaves the room, and Stiles stares at the door until he falls asleep.

Unsurprisingly, Stiles does wake up feeling terrible. Breathing hurts and there is one point in his chest that hurts particularly worse.

“Stiles? Stiles, there's pancakes!”

Stiles blinks awake and yeah, that hurts also, but Aaron is looking at him—confused and suddenly mortified.

“Hi, buddy,” he croaks.

Aaron frowns. “Are you sick?”

“Just tired,” Stiles says weakly. He grabs for the water glass, sitting up and downing the whole thing in a couple of gulps. His bladder needs to be relieved, his stomach feels terrible, and his head is pounding. “C’mon,” he says, hand on Aaron’s shoulder, “go help your dad with the pancakes, I’ll be out in a second.”

He washes his face in the sink of the bathroom, runs his fingers through his hair. There’s a tiny tube of travel-size toothpaste under the sink—along with cleaning supplies and aloe vera gel—and he squirts some directly into his mouth, trying to alleviate the cotton feel on his tongue.

When he gets out to the kitchen, Aaron is sitting at the counter, telling Derek about the dream he had the night before. Derek is in front of him, cooking pancakes on a skillet, listening attentively.

Derek looks up when he enters. “Advil,” he says, nodding at the bottle on the counter.

“Pancakes!” Aaron adds, beaming.

The kid stuffs the pancakes into his mouth, his lips becoming increasingly sticky with maple syrup. “Grandpa is picking me up.” Aaron's eyes go wide and he slaps his tiny hand over his mouth. “Oops! Grandpa says not to call him Grandpa when people are here.”

“Grandpa is just being silly,” Derek says with a tiny smirk. “You can call him Grandpa whenever you want. As loud as you want.”

Stiles smiles, approaching the counter and taking a seat next to Aaron. “Peter secretly loves it.”

“Chris thinks it’s hilarious,” Derek tells him, and Stiles’ heart thumps wildly. He clears his throat. “They’re taking him to the zoo.”

“Sounds like fun. You’re not going?”

Derek shakes his head. “No.”

“Daddy has stuff to do,” Aaron says, licking his little plastic fork. “But I don’t mind because Grandpa says we’re gonna get to see monkeys.”

The doorbell rings and Aaron eats one more piece of pancake before attempting to jump out of his seat.

Derek holds him in place and pushes his glass of milk closer. “Finish your breakfast, there's no hurry.”

“But elephants!”

Stiles laughs. “Trust me they're not going anywhere, bud.”

Derek goes to get the door and Stiles leans his elbow against the counter, putting his chin in his palm so he can watch Aaron as he eats.

“What’s your favorite animal?” he asks eventually, picking up his cup of milk.

Stiles hums. “I like penguins.”

Aaron nods thoughtfully. “Me too. Penguins are birds that can’t fly—but they can swim.”

“That’s right,” Stiles says, chest filling with warmth and affection.

“Hey, kid,” Peter says, entering the room. He’s wearing a V-neck and cargo shorts and has a smudge of sunscreen still visible on his chin. Chris is dressed very similarly, sunglasses perched atop his head. “Who wants to go to the zoo?”

Aaron’s hand shoots into the air.

“Good.” Peter comes along behind him, ruffling his hair. Derek moves back in front of the skillet and flips a couple of pancakes onto a plate that he puts in front of Stiles.

“Good morning, Stiles,” Chris says cordially. His eyebrows are eye, face amused. “It looks like you had a nice night.”

Stiles chuckles dryly. “Got some work done in the studio and, uh, celebrated a little bit too hard.”

Peter smirks silently, hands on Aaron’s shoulders. He helps the kid out of his seat, turns him towards the hall. “Go wash your hands, kid. We’ll go when you’re done.”

Aaron practically runs towards the bathroom.

“This is why you’ve flaked on zoo day,” Peter says lowly.

Stiles frowns. “Wait, no, we’re not—we didn’t—”

“Stiles and I need to have a conversation,” Derek interrupts, not even bothering to look at him, “and the zoo isn’t really the place to do that.”

“It can wait,” Stiles argues. “Go to the zoo with your son.”

“He’s excited to go with you guys,” Derek tells Peter. “Trust me, I’m not depriving him of anything. And.” He finally looks to Stiles, eyes soft with something hurt and jagged. “It can’t wait. It’s waited long enough.”

Peter looks entirely too delighted. “I'd say I want details but I want as little to do with your drama as humanly possible.”

“He's lying,” Chris says calmly, “and he would appreciate live updates.”

“I'd appreciate if you could stay with Aaron until dinner time,” Derek counters. “I know Chris is busy—”

“Christopher is taking the day off or else,” Peter says, looking half satisfied and half menacing.

Stiles wants to fall into a hole. Instead, he passive-aggressively stabs at the pancakes, shoveling fluffy bites into his mouth. It’s easier not to talk when his mouth is full.

“We’ll be at the house when we get back from the zoo,” Peter says as Aaron comes running back. “Come pick him up whenever.”

Derek nods, waves goodbye to Aaron as they leave.

It’s terrible, how rotten Stiles feels inside. Not just because of his hangover, not just because he drunkenly stormed in on Derek the night before, but because Derek still loves him. Derek is still in love with him, and Stiles doesn’t know what to say.

Derek has his hands splayed over the counter. It shows off his arms and distracts Stiles from the adult conversation he's supposed to be having.

“Here's the thing. We can't screw around anymore.”

Stiles knows his eyes are wide and scared but he keeps quiet. Derek sighs.

“I can't expect you to be okay with that. I made a choice for myself when I adopted Aaron and you didn't sign up for this. So I won't hold it against you if it's not what you want. But it's what I have now. I can't just mess around with you—Aaron deserves better than that.”

Stiles licks his lips. That’s not even close to what Stiles thought he was going to say, so he sucks in a breath and recalibrates, trying to come up a response. What he gets is, “I would never hurt Aaron.”

“Not on purpose,” Derek says, nodding, “but if you’re here one day and gone the next, Aaron isn’t old enough to understand why. And I won’t put my kid at risk. You’re twenty-four years old and I’m not expecting you to settle down, so we have to agree right now that we’re not gonna do this anymore.”

“We haven’t been doing anything,” Stiles argues.

“But we have! We’ve spent practically every second of every day together for the past few weeks, and Aaron has it in his head that you’re gonna be around forever. We’ve been—” He clenches his hands into fists, shaking his head. “We’ve been dating without the sex. And Aaron has grown attached.”

“So have I,” Stiles mumbles.

“You’re an adult. You can handle this better than he can.”

Stiles shakes his head, feeling like he’s been thrown from a plane without a parachute. “I’m not interested in Bea,” he says for lack of a better response.

Derek blinks. “What?”

“The girl from yesterday. First of all, she’s eighteen, and while she’s perfectly talented and lovely to be around, that’s not exactly my style. Second,” Stiles hisses, “I told her that I have a boyfriend.”

“…well, why would you do that?”

“Because I thought I did! Or, well, I wasn't sure but I was aiming for the optimistic relative reality that I'm at your house all the time, your kid draws me in family portraits, and I still have feelings for you. The sex part, shockingly, hadn't crossed my mind.” He leans against the counter, looking Derek in the eye. “Since we kissed, the night of my party, I’ve known we were inevitable. I assumed you did too.”

“You shouldn’t assume,” Derek grumbles. “How am I supposed to know what you’re thinking when you won’t talk to me unless you’re drunk?”

“That. Yeah, that was a mistake.”

“No shit. Stiles,” Derek says, softer now, “I’m in this. I want this. But you have to be sure. Not for my sake—but for Aaron’s. And you can’t answer right now, because it’s not fair for you to just say it without thinking about it.”


“At least shower first.” He points down the hall, towards the bathroom. “There’s towels in there. You can take clothes from my drawers.”

Stiles spends half his shower with his head pressed to the wall and the other half wishing Derek were in there with him. It's all chaotic in his head and he decides he doesn't want it to be. He wants it to be simple. He wants to be with Derek and with Aaron. He doesn't care about his age or the fact that he didn't expect this kind of life for years. He wants it and Derek wants him and it shouldn't be more complicated than that.

It’s easy to say that, though, easy to think it. It’s easy to want something one minute and then turn around and be afraid of it the next. So he steels himself as he dries off, wanders into Derek’s bedroom to search through his drawers.

He opens the sock drawer first by accident and has it half closed before he notices the card. It’s tucked at the bottom, under everything, a little piece of cardstock that shouldn’t mean anything at all.

When they were in Rome, they had gone to see Juliet’s wall of letters. Erica wanted to take pictures, wanted to feel like they were in a movie, like they were a part of something huge and romantic. They’d wound up witnessing three different marriage proposals that day, and when they’d gone back to their hotel, Stiles had crawled into bed with Derek and written a letter on a piece of hotel cardstock. It was silly, a romantic gesture that had devolved into sex. Stiles figured Derek threw it out before they left. But here it is.

He pulls on a pair of Derek’s boxer briefs and a T-shirt, wanders back out to the kitchen with the card in hand. Derek is cleaning, loading dishes into the dishwasher, wiping down the counter. He looks up after a moment, blinking down at his hand.

“You were in love with me this whole time,” Stiles says softly.

Derek’s expression doesn’t change, stays hard and apathetic. “I told you. At your party. It was never casual for me.”

“Then why did you lie? Why did you let me think that you wanted nothing to do with me?”

“I didn't lie to you, Stiles, I was just—” Derek runs a hand through his hair and turns away from Stiles, going back to wiping down the counter. “I was nervous that everything was going so fast.”

“Fast?” Stiles all but shouts. “We were out there for months!”

“You were just getting into this business—you really still are.”

Stiles grabs Derek's shoulder and turns him around. “Can you just stop with the excuses, Derek? Just stop.”

“Fine,” Derek growls out, “I was scared. I was scared then and I'm scared now. But I love you, just as much as I did when I said so and you left. Maybe more.”

“You need to be able to use words around me, Derek!” Stiles insists. “We never had a problem when we were together on tour, and we shouldn't have a problem now. We should be honest.”

“So then tell me honestly,” Derek counters. “How do you see this going? Another 9 months of fucking before you decide you can't handle being with me? Before you decide Aaron is too much?”

“Stop assuming I'm a child just because I'm younger than you! I can want a family too, Derek. I can want a house and a yard and a son. I can want to wake up next to the same person every morning for the rest of my life, and you don't get to invalidate that.” He feels hot with anger, frustrated that Derek won't listen to him. “I've wanted you from the moment I first saw you, and the more time we spent together, the more obvious it was that you had ruined me. There's no one else, Derek,” he says fiercely. “There will never be anyone else because I'm crazy about you.”

“I'm still scared,” Derek sighs, but he's closer now. He's so close Stiles can barely breathe and then Derek wraps his arm around his waist and Stiles can't breathe at all.

“I love you,” he manages to get out. “Derek, I love you and it's okay to be scared but I want to be with you. Please.”

It’s like coming home. It’s like his birthday. It’s like Christmas and New Year’s and all of the best holidays rolled into one. It’s oxygen to shriveled lungs and it’s food to a starving stomach. When Derek lowers his mouth over Stiles’, the world feels right again. It reminds him of the party, of Derek kissing him with so much desperation, so much need. It’s the same this time, except there’s no guilt. There’s no worry. There’s just love, and Stiles can kiss back without feeling empty.

Derek traps him against the counter, one hand on the back of his neck, the other on his ass. Stiles moans into his mouth, inching his hands up Derek’s shirt.

“We don’t have to,” Derek says, rolling his hips into Stiles’. He’s already half hard, pressing tight against his jeans, and Stiles is so glad that Derek had the foresight to get Aaron out of the house.

He feels desperate, no time to waste, and he only captures Derek’s mouth in another kiss before unbuttoning Derek’s jeans and worming his hand into Derek’s underwear, wrapping his fingers around his cock.

Derek groans, pushing forward. “Fuck.”

Stiles smiles immediately, enjoying the pressure of Derek resting his weight on him and the feeling of Derek's body trembling slightly, the thrill of touching him again. Derek moans low and wounded and Stiles finally gathers his wits about him enough to push Derek back and shoving him towards the couch. He briefly considers the bedroom but deems it entirely too far away.

“What are you—”

“I'm taking you apart,” Stiles whispers, his hand still resting just inside Derek's jeans, “and then I'm putting you back together.”

He sits on Derek’s thighs, stroking him slowly, torturously. Derek’s head is tipped back against the cushions, mouth open. After only a moment, he comes back to himself, grabbing Stiles by the back of the neck and kissing him fiercely, one hand squirming under the fabric of the borrowed boxer briefs, getting reacquainted with Stiles’ dick.

“No,” he whines, low and patient. “Just you.”

“I want to touch you,” Derek says, voice rough with arousal.

“You will. Later.”

Stiles scoots off the couch, knees resting on the hardwood floor, and drags Derek’s jeans down past his knees, accompanied by his underwear. Derek’s cock is standing against his stomach, red and thick, and Stiles’ mouth waters.

Derek jerks as soon as Stiles takes him into his mouth and then grabs at his hair like there's nothing else to cling to in the world.

“Stiles,” he chokes out, but it only encourages Stiles to swirl his tongue and make Derek's legs shake.

It’s not long, doesn’t take long at all. Stiles is going slowly, though, dropping his head down and swallowing Derek into his throat, humming around him lazily while he plays with his balls, gets a finger against Derek’s perineum. He can feel Derek’s swollen prostate from the outside, massage at the gland while he bobs his head, licks Derek from root to tip and back again, and without warning, Derek comes, crying out.

“No,” he says, when Stiles pulls away. “Don’t—don’t fucking stop—please—”

He’s still hard, even with his come on Stiles’ cheek, dripping down his neck.

“Fuck,” he says harshly. “You look—” He spreads his legs wider, as wide as he can with his knees being trapped by his jeans. “Fuck.”

Stiles remembers, one night in Montreal, spending twenty solid minutes doing nothing but working over Derek’s prostate. He remembers Derek in Paris, fingering himself lazily while Stiles sat on the other side of the room, stripping his cock, watching. And Stiles’ cock is aching now, desperate to get inside, desperate to remind Derek how fucking good they were together. He kisses Derek first, trying to keep him grounded, and says, “Use your words.”

Derek shuts his eyes tight and takes a shaking breath. “Please. I need you, Stiles, I've needed you all this time.”

Stiles kisses over his jaw, down his throat, and presses his lips over Derek's heart. “There's no hurry. I'm not going anywhere.”

They wind up in the bedroom, undressing each other between fervent kisses and soft smiles. Derek licks his come off of Stiles’ face, bites into his mouth and jerks him steadily, holding him close. Stiles is trying to argue, trying to say that he needs to stay hard, needs to fuck Derek open now without delay—but then he comes all over Derek’s chest and his argument disappears into whimpers.

“You’re so gorgeous when you come,” Derek says gruffly, dragging his teeth down Stiles inner thighs, licking at his balls, his hole. Stiles moans weakly, batting at his head.

“You’re supposed to be the one getting fucked.”

“I can multitask. Roll over.”

Stiles doesn’t get to watch as Derek fingers himself while eating Stiles out. It’s truly depressing that he can’t witness it, but he’s so distracted by Derek’s tongue that he figures it doesn’t matter that much. Besides, he pretty much forgets everything but pleasure when he’s like this.

“I’m ready,” Derek says, shoving Stiles over and kissing him fiercely.

“Thank fuck,” Stiles decides, climbing on top of him. It might not be imaginative, but with Derek below him, legs spread and ass propped up, Stiles can look into his eyes all he wants, can push inside while blinking down at Derek’s sweet, red mouth. He can fuck into Derek steady and strong, all while watching his abdomen shudder and listening to his pretty moans and pants. He’s gorgeous, absolutely perfect, and Stiles feels himself fall even further in love.

They’ve done this so many times, Stiles knows just how to make it perfect. He knows when to move faster, when to slow down. He knows when to start playing with Derek’s nipples or biting along his ribs—he knows Derek’s body like he knows the neighborhood he grew up in, and it makes him proud, watching Derek come apart just from him.

He loses a lot of time, just burying his face in Derek’s neck, sucking and biting and trying to drive Derek nuts. He makes such pretty noises when Stiles gets his teeth into the tendon on the side of his neck, Stiles can’t help but exploit it.

Derek pulls on Stiles’ hair when he comes, grunting from deep in his chest and wordlessly gasping at the ceiling. Stiles is only seconds behind, collapsing atop him when he finishes, panting into sweaty skin and feeling like a wet noodle someone through against the wall.

For a long minute, neither of them says anything. When Stiles gets the feeling in his knees back, he sits up and removes the condom, ties it and tosses it into the trash can. He groans as he falls back into the crook of Derek’s arm, overwhelmed.

“I feel dead,” he says to Derek’s shoulder.

“You feel sticky.”

“I need another shower.”

Derek hums. “In a minute. Don’t move yet.”

“We both just had two orgasms in less than forty minutes. I don’t think I’m in any hurry to move.”

They end up falling asleep there. It’s a little over two hours before Derek wakes up, walks him into the shower where they clean off the dried sweat and come, kiss under the spray and lose themselves in the closeness. They wind up in the pool after that, Stiles fucking around while Derek does laps. Then the hot tub finds them rubbing up against each other all over again, and Stiles makes such a racket when he comes that he’s not sure the neighbors didn’t overhear them.

“I’m starving,” Stiles says while he’s getting dressed, pulling last night’s jeans on over clean underwear and grabbing a shirt from Derek’s dresser. “I’m gonna eat all the food Peter has in the house before they even get back from the zoo.”

Derek glances at his watch. “It’s just past five; I’d be surprised if they weren’t back already.”

“You’re a terrible boyfriend,” Stiles teases, coming to wrap his arms around Derek. “You didn’t feed me all day.”

“I was a little distracted.”

“Hmm.” Stiles kisses him, slow and sweet. “Let’s hurry. I could eat a mountain right now.”

Chris isn’t the least bit surprised when Derek and Stiles walk up the driveway holding hands. He nudges Peter towards the door, still staring out the window. “Told you,” he says with a smirk.

He heads back over to the couch, where Aaron is playing on Chris’ phone, Erica and Boyd sat beside him. Isaac and Malia are in the kitchen, unpacking the dozens of boxes of Chinese food they picked up on their way over.

“Hey,” Stiles says as he enters the house, patting Peter on the shoulder and heading straight for the kitchen. “I smell Chinese! Thank God, I’m so hungry.”

Derek goes straight for his son, picking him up.

“Daaaaaaad,” Aaron whines. “I’m playing!”

“You can keep playing in a minute,” he says, handing the phone to Erica and sitting with Aaron in his lap. “Did you have a good day at the zoo?”

“The best!” Aaron exclaims, and he proceeds to tell Derek all about it.

In the kitchen, where Chris heads to grab food—and Peter—and proceed upstairs, Stiles is sitting on the counter, eating chow mein out of the paper box.

“So?” Malia asks, smirking deviously. “You and Derek?”

Stiles swallows his mouthful of noodles. “Spent all day napping and fucking.”

“Unsurprisingly,” Peter says dryly.

“Hey, watch it,” Stiles chastises. “I’m gonna be your nephew-in-law one day, dude. Derek and I are in this. All the way.”

“Good for you, Stiles,” Chris says calmly, wrapping a hand around Peter’s wrist. “Fifty bucks says they fight within the next forty-eight hours.”

Peter snorts. “You’re on.”

After dinner, Stiles pulls Aaron onto his lap with a little ukulele Erica bought for the kid and begins to show him how to play. Derek is lounging across from them, full and content, warm with affection for the both of them. He sits, just watching, as they go through chords, Aaron sticking his tongue out in concentration.

Eventually, Isaac and Malia stand, say their goodbyes. Aaron waves heartily to the both of them.

“We’re going too,” Boyd announces, pulling a sleepy Erica to her feet.

Derek lets Erica kiss his cheek as they leave.

“You wanna go home too, Bug?” Derek asks, leaning forward in his seat.

Aaron nods, scooting back against Stiles’ chest. “I want Stiles to read me my books tonight.”

“You got it, dude,” Stiles says, moving the instrument out of the way. “Let’s get out of here before Grandpas come downstairs.”

In the car, Aaron sits in the backseat, humming to himself. “Is Stiles going to live with us in the house now?” Aaron asks.

Derek feels his chest go tight. They haven’t talked about that at all. They’ve said forever—they’ve said a lot of things. But even though they both want forever, Derek isn’t sure how fast Stiles is willing to go.

“That’s up to your dad,” Stiles says casually, typing something on his phone. “Hey, can we stop at my place so I can pick up a few things? As much as I like your underwear, I should probably have my own.”

Wordlessly, Derek points the car towards Stiles’ apartment, carries Aaron upstairs and sets him on the couch while he follows Stiles into his bedroom.

“Do you want to move in with me?”

Stiles looks over his shoulders, smirking. “Is that just curiosity or are you actually requesting it?”


“I do,” Stiles says, nodding. “But we don’t have to. I don’t mind having my own apartment if you want to wait for a little while.”

“I wouldn't mind if you owned the apartment but spent all your time in bed with me,” Derek says.

Stiles laughs. “Wanna have your cake and eat it too?”

Derek waggles his eyebrows playfully (and Stiles, naturally, cracks up at the gesture). “Grandpas do it.”

Stiles snorts. “They're terrible examples of people in an adult relationship.”

“That's true—I'm just thinking.”

“It's a good start. And I can afford it.” He walks over to Derek and kisses him as sweet and chaste as he can manage. “Let's do it.”

“Are you sure?” Derek asks, because in all honesty the only reason he would ask Stiles to keep the apartment is if something went wrong. And he’s sincerely hoping something doesn’t. “I can chip in—”

“I’ll let you know if I need the help,” he says, “but I’m sure I’ll be fine. We’ll be like Grandpas.”

“Except better.”

Stiles grins. “Except better.”

Derek cleans up some of Aaron’s toys that are lying around the house while Stiles helps him get ready for bed. He peeks in on them brushing their teeth together, Aaron standing on his little green step-stool, Stiles snarling dramatically into the mirror like a dog.

When they disappear down the hall to Aaron’s bedroom, all is quiet for a long moment. Then Stiles’ voice rings out, “Derek?”

He strolls over, leans in the doorway. Aaron is standing by his bed in his underwear, arms crossed and mouth turned down. “What’s up, Bug?”

“I don’t wanna wear my pull-ups to bed anymore,” Aaron says.

Stiles shrugs. “I wanted to check with you if that was okay.”

“You sure?” Derek asks him.

“I’m big now.”

“Okay,” Derek says, nodding. “That’s fine.” He presses his hand into the back of Stiles’ neck, kisses his temple. “Let him pick out his PJs and bring him out to the living room for the story.”

“Sure thing.” He twists his head to capture Derek’s mouth in a soft kiss and Aaron gasps dramatically.


“Yeah, Bug.”

“Stiles is staying?” He’s staring up at them with wide eyes.

“Stiles is staying,” Derek affirms. “Stiles is my boyfriend now.”

“So Stiles has a crush on you too?”

Stiles grins. “Yeah, kid. I have the biggest crush on your dad.”

Aaron claps and starts rummaging through his drawers, finding his pajamas. As he struggles into them, he asks, “Can you read me a story together?”

Derek looks over at Stiles who winks at him as he picks out a book from the small shelf.

“Yeah, Bug.” Derek smiles back at the boy. “We'll do it together.”

Peter Hale is trying to compartmentalize his life. He keeps his work separate from his family, his family separate from his lover, his lover separate from his work. It works. It's a great system. At no point does the system break down, nor is his family the main component of his work, or his lover sharing constant space with his family, or said lover in every business lunch Peter ever attends. Peter Hale is doing a great job at keeping his life separate, so it is a complete shock to him to find one of his daughter's tampons in his briefcase, Chris's cell phone in his pocket where he swears he'd placed his own, and a Lego lodged hellishly under his foot.

He groans, frustrated, and glares at the ceiling. He picks up the Lego, sticking it in his pocket, and pulls the phone out.

“Christopher!” he calls.

A pause. “I’m on the phone!”

Grumbling under his breath, Peter tosses the tampon out of the briefcase before closing it. He has its handle in one hand, his shoes in the other as he tramps down the stairs. He leans against the couch while he puts on his shoes, glaring into the kitchen, where Chris is speaking to Kira on the phone while pouring coffee into his travel mug. When he hangs up, he enters the living room.

“What’s up?”

Peter tosses Chris his phone. “You have mine somewhere on your person.”

“Oh.” He pats down his blazer and his trousers, hands it over. “Sorry, picked up the wrong one.”

“It's fine,” Peter says, taking his phone and yawning around the words.

“Don't remember keeping you up too late last night,” Chris snorts.

“No, you slept like a fucking log.”

Chris frowns and steps closer. “You could've woken me up if you couldn't sleep.”

“I didn't want to—”

“When are we going to stop living like college kids sharing beds for the first time? We've been together for years and you can't even—”

“I was thinking that it's too late to move in together,” Peter interrupts. “We're too old for that.”

Chris’ eyebrows fly up. “Too late? Too old? Are you serious?”

“It’s juvenile,” Peter says gruffly, staring down at his shoes. “We’re already set in our own ways. We have our own schedules. Living together—we would drive each other insane, trying to change the way the other did everything. We’d fight; we’d break up.”

“You’re panicking.”


“Fine,” Chris says, crossing his arms over his chest. “Okay, if we’re too old for that, let’s try something else.” Chris grabs his hand, snatches it tight even as Peter tries to pull away, and gets down on one knee.

Peter feels sick. “Get up, you idiot,” he snaps.

“Fine,” he says as he pulls himself up with Peter's hand. “Fine, I'm too old to kneel like a dumbass and keep playing whatever it is you're playing. I love you and you are an infuriating piece of shit. So I am going to move in here or you're going to move with me or we'll get a new place. And we're going to get married and all of our family is going to be there because we're going to be happy, goddamn it. You're old and I'm older and we're both tired and we're going to be happy or I swear to God, Peter, you are never going to see me again.”

Peter feels like saying no just to spite him. He feels like throwing Chris out, tossing his clothes out the window like so many rom-coms. He’s tired, and he doesn’t want to keep feeling like he’s losing control.

“Well?” Chris demands. “Have I wasted five years of my life on you?”

Peter closes his eyes. “I don’t like change.”

“No shit, Sherlock.”

“Well, what am I supposed to do, Christopher?” he asks, gesturing around at the state of their house. “I’m the only person who still technically lives here and yet there’s Erica’s things everywhere, Isaac’s sweaters up in a spare room, Boyd’s storage in the attic. Derek’s fucking kid has toys here, dishware in the kitchen and baby shampoo in the bathroom. And I still walk downstairs every morning and kiss you goodbye and there’s no one fucking here.”

“I’m here,” Chris says, stepping in close, tugging his fingers through Peter’s belt loops. “I’m here, and I’ll be here every day for the rest of our lives if you just tell me yes.”

Peter lets Chris pull him forward. He reaches into his pocket and touches the Lego with the tips of his fingers like it will ground him.

“If I say yes, will you delegate? Will you actually be in this hypothetical home we're building?”

“Yes,” Chris says quietly in the space between them. “I'll promote Kira, give more accounts to Allison—”

“You really want to do this?”

“So do you. You're just scared to admit it. Say yes, Peter.”

And, because he has everything to lose by saying no, he pulls Chris in for a kiss, whispering, “Yes,” against his mouth.

Kira is pacing in front of her desk at 9 am because, well, it’s 9 am and Chris Argent isn’t in yet. Usually if he’s late, he calls or texts or something, but 9 am because 9:30, which becomes 10, and Kira is answering phones and tracking progress and scheduling meetings. She’s doing her job, and she never gets a single notice from Mr. Argent that anything is wrong.

At lunch time, she locks the office door and meets Scott in Allison’s office.

“Hey,” he coos, pulling her close to kiss. She grins into it. “Hm, you look even prettier than when I saw you four hours ago.”

Allison gags dramatically in the background. “Hey, Kira, is Dad taking lunch?”

“He didn’t come in this morning,” she says, tearing her eyes away from Scott. “I figure he’s off doing something important.”

“Sure. Let me know if he ever shows up or contacts you?”

“Will do.”

Lunch is fast because ten minutes after they pick up their sandwiches from the fancy deli on the corner, she gets a call.

“No,” Scott groans, pushing his face against Kira’s. “He can’t call you in now.”

“He’s my boss. He can do whatever he wants.” She grabs for the phone, sliding the screen open. “Hello, Mr. Argent,” she says calmly.

“Kira,” Peter Hale says, smugness all too prevalent in his tone, “sorry to disturb you on what is probably your lunch hour. Christopher just needs to make sure you and Allison are in his office at one.”

She nods to herself. “I’ll tell her, sir.”

“What a dear—call me Peter.” He hangs up and Kira slips her phone back into her purse, dragging Scott to a nearby picnic table.

“It was nothing,” she says. “Just a meeting to schedule. Now, tell me all about all the helpless little animals you rescued today.”

She always feels more relaxed after a lunch with Scott. He kisses her goodbye at the entrance of her building, holding her close and getting in a little grope. She laughs into his kiss, worms her hand up his shirt.

“Oh ho,” Scott mutters, “don’t get me started or I won’t ever let you go back to work.”

“I’ll see if I can go home early today,” she tells him. “It’s a Friday and if he took the morning off to lie around in bed with Peter, he’s probably in a good mood.”

“I certainly hope so.” He backs off, about to say his goodbyes when he squints at something over Kira’s shoulder. Turning, she finds it to be—everyone.

“Scotty!” Stiles hollers, running forward to hug him. “What the hell are you two crazy kids doing out here?”

Kira arches an eyebrow. “I work here, Stiles.”

“I meant outside,” Stiles says, smirking. “C’mon. Peter called us, told us he and Chris wanted to talk to us.” By us, Stiles very obviously means every member of Side A/Side B, plus Stiles and Aaron. Kira’s only seen the boy a few times, but she waves and he beams at her.

“I have to get back to work,” Scott insists, “but catch me up on the gossip tonight.” He kisses Kira again, waves goodbye on his way down the block.

Kira isn’t sure what to expect. Maybe, she thinks, Peter’s made some kind of deal with Argent Studios for Side A/Side B. She knows they’re signed to Depencia, but perhaps their contract is up or they got out of it somehow. It’s the only explanation she can think of, except that it doesn’t really explain why Stiles needs to be there.

Either way, she grabs Allison on her way up and walks into the office with her pad of paper and a pen, poised ready to take notes.

“You won’t need that,” Peter Hale says, taking it from her. “This is very informal.”

She blinks. “Then why am I here?”

“Because it affects you too.” He smirks slyly at her, leaning back against Mr. Argent’s desk. Mr. Argent himself is already doing the same, looking like the cat that got the canary.

“So,” Erica says expectantly. “What’s this about?”

“Business first,” Mr. Argent says, still looking delighted. “Allison, you'll be taking the rest of my Disney accounts and the alum as well. If they've been on the Channel and we have them, they're yours.”

“That's a lot of people, Dad,” Allison says, eyes wide and a little terrified.

“I think you're ready.” He grins. “And Kira.”

Kira straightens up, ready for whatever is about to be assigned to her.

“Because Allison is getting about half my accounts and will be needing her own assistant—we'll get to that. You'll be stepping up as my representative on everything but the most fragile of meetings. If you're there, I'm there. We'll make sure our clients understand that before I throw you to the wolves, though.”

Uh,” Stiles starts and then clears his throat. “Are you retiring?”

“No,” Mr. Argent says as he turns his head to face Peter. “I'm settling down.”

Over her extra-loud heartbeat—over her fear and anxiety and, well, excitement—Kira can still take it all in as Peter takes Mr. Argent’s hand and says—

“We’re getting married.”

The entire room is silent. All of them are standing stock still, staring at the pair of them, except for Aaron Hale, who squirms in his father’s arms and says, “Grandpas!”

Derek laughs awkwardly. “Peter, are you sure this is—”

“You’ve all moved on with your lives,” Peter says, chin high, “and now so have I.”

“Um,” Boyd says. Isaac echoes the sentiment.

Malia clears her throat. “Well.” She looks to Allison, who just standing there, mouth open. “’Sup, sis?”

Allison closes and opens her mouth once, then again, before she says, “Is this what you want? Really?”

Mr. Argent nods, arm moving to wrap around Peter’s waist. “It is,” he affirms. “He’s what I want.”

“May I just say the joy is actually palpable right now,” Peter drawls.

Aaron turns to Stiles, his head tilted like a confused puppy. “I thought Grandpas were married and that's why they were Grandpas.”

Stiles bursts out into a full belly laugh and soon the entire room is in tears. Peter is trying his hardest to look annoyed but he can't, not with the way Mr. Argent is holding him without discretion or shame in front of everyone they give two shits about.

Kira doesn’t know what to do, if she should say something or leave or—

Everyone moves forward to hug them both, one at a time, and Kira stands there, squirming in her flats and wondering if she can escape unnoticed. She’s happy for them, so pleased that they’re happy, but it’s also obvious that she doesn’t really belong.

“Where do you think you’re going?” Peter says, gesturing for her to come forward. “C’mon, we don’t bite.”

“Mr. Argent,” Kira says weakly, “thank you so much for this opportunity and—and congratulations—”

“Kira,” he sighs with a big, content smile, “I think you can start calling me Chris now.”


“Kira isn't used to your mess,” Allison says as she shakes her head. “Kira, Dad trusts you, and that means you're part of this disaster. Like, probably have to wear a really horrible dress to the wedding and stand with us kind of trust.”

“Allison Marie,” Peter snaps, “I would never pick gaudy bridal dresses for my wedding, especially when there isn't a damn bride.”

Allison grins. “I’m gonna hold you to that.”

Stiles decides to post the picture five months after they start dating. He wanted the time spent with Derek—his time, their time—to have some isolation before they had to share with the world. But the problem is that there are articles everywhere of him and Derek. Grocery shopping, at premieres, at award shows, buying clothes for Aaron.

Everyone already knows about Aaron, knew days after Derek brought him home. He’s accepted now, but the idea of Derek Hale being anything other than straight? The idea of Stiles Stilinski being his boyfriend? All of that trumps Side A/Side B’s new tour announcements, trumps the recent spread in People about engaged Hollywood couples that featured Christopher Argent and his beau. There’s nothing that will stop people from talking about it, and so Stiles decides to take matters into his own hands.

He grabs the selfie out by the pool. It’s summertime and the band is leaving for tour in four days, so they’re grabbing all the time they can with each other. (Stiles is going to show up for a couple of dates, but mostly there will be Skype-calls and phone sex. Stiles keeps telling Derek he thinks he’ll be missing Aaron most of all.)

He grabs Derek, sits him up in the pool chair, and kisses him deeply, hand gripping his hair lightly. With his free hand, he snaps the picture, adds a filter, and posts to every single site he’s a part of. Then, he turns his phone off, tosses it over to the grass, and says, “It’s done. We’re free.”

Derek chuckles, scoots over so Stiles can lie beside him on the chair. “We’re far from free, but it’s a nice thought.”

They both look over at where Aaron is running around in the sprinklers, hopping from spot to spot, giggling delightedly.

“I bet you fall over before I do,” Stiles says.

“What’s the wager?”

He shrugs. “Blowjob?”

“How about loser cooks dinner?”

Stiles scoffs. “I would order dinner.”

“Loser does laundry?”

“Ugh. When did we get so domestic?”

Derek grins, swallows Stiles’ complaints in a deep, filthy kiss. “I love you,” he says sweetly, and he proceeds to push Stiles off the chair and race into the grass, picking Aaron up with a shout.

Derek falls over first, but it’s only because Stiles tackled him down. Stiles thinks it counts, and he plans on getting as dirty as possible to make his win worthwhile.

Derek doesn’t mind that much.

In late August, the band flies from Florida—where they were wrapping up the US leg of their tour—back to L.A. to see Peter and Chris get married.

Erica, Malia, Boyd, Isaac, and Derek stand behind Peter. Allison, Kira, and Scott (who only agreed because Chris’ side of the wedding party was looking a bit depressing) take their places behind Chris, and Stiles sits in the audience with Aaron on his lap, beaming like an idiot.

When the ceremony is over and the reception begins, Derek hands Aaron off to Kira and Scott, pulls Stiles into a slow, romantic dance. Even though Derek had seen him smiling all throughout the ceremony, Stiles’ face is now turned down into a frown, and Derek mimics it, pressing them closer together.

“What’s wrong?” he asks.

He heaves a sigh, moving his feet along to the music lazily. “We’re no longer the thing everyone is talking about.”

Derek snorts. “I should hope not.”

“It was kind of fun, for a while,” Stiles says. “People think we’re awesome. We have fangirls, Derek. We were like Neil Patrick Harris and David Burtka, except bisexual and musicians.”

“Mhm. So what’s on people’s minds now?”

Stiles grumbles. “Peter and Chris. Assholes stole our spotlight.”

“They’re married, Stiles. Beyoncé is here,” Derek points out, “and you want to quibble over who’s more famous?”

“We’re cuter than they are.”

Derek nods. “I agree.”

“We probably have better sex than they do.”

Derek rolls his eyes.

“Although, I mean, sometimes I look at the way Chris carries himself and I—”

Derek clears his throat.

“Right,” Stiles says, turning back to Derek. “Of course. My boyfriend. Hi.”

“If you’re done objecting my uncle’s husband, could we talk about something different?”

“Absolutely! I have a plan to get us back on top. I thought of it during the ceremony and Aaron has already agreed that it’s a wonderful idea.”

“And what’s that?” Derek asks, spinning Stiles quickly.

When Stiles returns to his arms, his eyes are wide, his smile bright. “We’re getting a cat.”