Stiles Stilinski was a beautiful man. He used to be an awkward teenager with a buzz cut that made him look younger than he was, but now he had grown his hair out and had grown into his features.
His dark brown hair was usually a pure mess, always looked like he had just rolled out of bed, but it always looked so good on him. Somehow bed hair fit him perfectly. His nose was slightly upturned, cutely so. His lips were full, always tugged back in a grin or a smile or open wide as he laughed loudly at everything.
His brown eyes were beautiful and if the light hit them right, they looked almost golden, and it was like looking into the sun. His lashes were dark and long, making his eyes pop more when they got touched up a little in the make up room. His skin was pale, covered with moles that went all over his body as well as his face.
His body was lean, muscular but lithe. He filled out plane shirts nicely, and he could make any jeans or pants look good with the way his ass was shaped. There wasn’t a single hair on his chest, but his forearms were covered with them, his happy trail thick with dark hair, and he had refused to shave either when Laura had suggested it. His hands were large, his fingers long, and he would always touch his face absently, stroking either his lips, chin or jaw.
Stiles Stilinski was a beautiful man, and he had become Derek’s favorite subject to photograph.
Derek Hale worked as a photographer for his sister Laura’s magazine she had cleverly named Howl. It wasn’t a particularly popular magazine, but they were slowly rising to fame, had caught a lot of people’s attention when they had featured a known actor on the cover in their November issue the year before.
They had a few regular models. There was Lydia Martin who only worked as a model for them part time, too busy being a mathematical genius to be full time. There were Vernon Boyd and Erica Reyes, the couple who didn’t mind doing shoots together. Those two also happened to be Derek’s best (and only) friends. And then there was Stiles, the man Derek had been slowly falling in love with ever since he met him the first time.
Derek had been immediately taken aback by the beauty of Stiles when he waltzed into their at the time crappy studio. Stiles had looked like he had just rolled out of the bed or the dumpster in the back, but somehow he managed to pull off the look of a sleep deprived college student, who had just crammed for an exam all night long.
And now they had a better studio, a building with an actual team putting the magazine together, and a team of stylists to make the models look good. Stiles still came in looking like he had just rolled out of bed, sometimes he probably had, but then he would go into the stylist room and would pose in front of Derek’s camera looking like a million bucks.
Sometimes it was hard for Derek to concentrate on the job, because Stiles would just look so good, and he had to push away any urges to go over there and kiss him at least three times a week.
It was getting frustrating. Not only for Derek, but for Laura and Erica too. They had often told him to just go for it, but Derek never had. He didn’t want to lose their best model just because he couldn’t control his feelings.
Besides, he was pretty sure Stiles was straight and only had eyes for Lydia.
Derek’s secret crush on Stiles became a lot less secret if you looked through his camera roll. Yes, most of the pictures were from photoshoots of all the models. Some good, some bad, some perfect. But once in a while - once in a while meaning often - a picture of Stiles doing mundane things like eating, taking a nap on the couch, laughing with the other models or his best friend Scott when he visited, would pop up.
Sometimes those kinds of pictures would fill out several scrolls, because Derek had found Stiles particularly beautiful that day.
The only people who knew about his “secret stalker album of Stiles” as Erica had called it, were Erica, Boyd, and Laura. The girls had laughed at him, Erica had teased him about it during her shoot for the cover the day after she had found out, and Boyd had shaken his head at him, called him pathetic, and Derek had send him a look of narrowed eyes and low brows as a warning.
A warning that clearly didn’t work, because Boyd didn’t stop. Neither did Erica, and Laura only teased him about it when they didn’t talk about work. Which was often.
Point was, Derek was completely gone on Stiles, and it was slowly getting worse.
“Derek!” Stiles jogged up to him, a smile on his face and his hair tussled like it usually was in the morning. He was still wearing sweats and an oversized hoodie, and Derek kind of hated how adorable he found that. “You’re late. Pretty sure that’s a first.”
Derek shrugged, hooking the strap of his camera bag over his shoulder as he locked his car. “The shoot isn’t ‘til noon, and you’re nowhere near ready, obviously.” He gave Stiles a quick once over, then he turned to walk to the entrance of the studio. Stiles fell into step next to him. “Thought I could be a little late just once.”
“Dude.” Stiles took a step quicker than Derek and pulled the door open, holding it for him. “You know what would be awesome? A pajamas shoot. Or!” His eyes lit up and he turned to Derek, walking backwards with a bright smile. “What if we had a whole night time theme next month? We could so do that.”
Derek honestly wouldn’t mind doing that. Not if it meant he got to have a shoot with Stiles looking soft, tussled, and sleepy while curled up in a bed. It would either be adorable and sexy, and Derek would gladly do it either way. Except it wasn’t really up to him what the next month’s theme was going to be.
“Talk with Laura about it,” he said as they rounded the corner to the studio. “Maybe she’ll like the idea.”
“Yeah, but do you like the idea?” Stiles looked at him, beautiful brown eyes wide with curiosity. “I mean, you’re the professional photographer and really good at it, so your opinion counts.”
Derek pretended to think about it. Pretended because he would go with just about any idea Stiles had, even if those photos would never be published. “It’s an interesting idea,” he said, putting his camera bag next to his computer on the desk. “I don’t think we can make it a whole month’s theme, but we could do a few pages with it.”
Stiles beamed at him, and Derek ignored the way his heart practically skipped a beat. “Awesome!” Someone from the other room called for him, and he snapped his head around, lifted a hand, and then turned back to Derek, a smile on his face. “Well, better go look presentable. See you when I look good.”
“But you always look good,” Derek nearly blurted, but he managed to stop himself. Instead he rolled his eyes, shook his head, and tried not to look when Stiles winked, made lame finger guns at him, and turned around to jog to the stylist waiting for him.
He also tried not to look at Stiles’ ass in those sweatpants, but he failed at that.
Shooting Stiles was easy, just like it always was. It was easy because Stiles was naturally beautiful, and he knew how to make himself look interesting, capture someone’s attention with his eyes and intriguing them long enough to pick up the magazine and flip through. Maybe Derek was biased because of his feelings for the man, but Laura had agreed with him the times he had shown her a particularly good picture, and that picture had ended up as the cover for the following month’s issue.
Stiles had always come to him with the magazine the day of the release, a wide and excited smile splitting his face in two as he rambled on about how cool it was to be on the cover, his hands moving around wildly. Derek never really listened to the exact words spoken, too busy spacing out watching Stiles - and sometimes he managed to sneakily snap a picture or two of him like that.
“One more and we’re done,” Derek announced as he zoomed back out from Stiles’ face, Stiles who was giving him bedroom eyes. Or rather, he was giving the camera bedroom eyes.
Stiles blinked, the bedroom eyes fading away. “What, really?” He glanced over at where Erica was flipping through a magazine at Derek’s station, a magazine that was not Howl. “Wow, time flies when you’re having fun.”
“Pose, Stiles,” Derek said, bringing his camera back up to his face. Stiles moved back into pose and let a smile tug at his lips, reaching his brown eyes. Derek snapped a few more photos, then he brought his camera down and went to the gallery. “Okay, we’re done. Go eat.”
Stiles shook himself loose and held up a hand as he walked past Derek. Derek slapped his own palm against Stiles’ without looking at him, high fiving him as he went through the gallery. He wasn’t sure when that had become a thing they did once they finished a shoot, but he didn’t mind it. It was the closest he could get to holding hands with Stiles, so he gladly took it.
Derek stood there for a couple of minutes, before he turned and headed over to his desk. His desk where Erica was still sitting and where Stiles had now joined her, picking off the pieces of pineapple on the pizza slice he had grabbed.
Derek wasn’t listening to what they were talking about, so he didn’t feel bad when he interrupted. “Erica, move,” he said, flicking his hand at her.
Erica gave him one look, quietly calling him rude, before she got up, grabbed Stiles’ arm just as he took a bite of the slice, and dragged him over to the couch. “Anyway, as I was saying before I was rudely interrupted…”
Derek stopped listening again, pulling the memory card out of the camera and replacing it with an empty one, plugging the filled into the computer to transfer the photos of the shoot with Stiles. As they loaded, he let his gaze slide over to Erica and Stiles on the couch. Erica had her legs thrown over Stiles’ legs, talking about something, and Stiles was listening, eyes on her, as he happily swallowed down the pizza slice.
And before he knew it, Derek had picked up his camera, zoomed in on Stiles, and snapped a few shots. He got several of the build up to a laugh, and one really good one where Stiles’ eyes widened, his lips pulled back, and his mouth opened wide. A split second after that shot, the studio was filled with a joyful and loud laugh, and Derek found himself smiling softly at the sound.
Twenty minutes passed, and Derek sat leaned forward in his chair, eyes glued to the series of photos of Stiles on his monitor, slowly picking out the good ones. Unsurprisingly, there were a lot of them.
He had sat there for twenty minutes, blocking out the sounds around him, when a tap on his shoulder pulled him back to reality. He snapped his attention from a picture of Stiles sticking his tongue out at the camera and looked up at Stiles back in his sweats, hair still perfectly styled instead of tussled like it had been that morning.
“Hey, you mind if I hang out here a while?” Stiles asked, the corner of his lips tugged back into a half smile. “Scott has Allison over and y’know, I don’t wanna walk in on something that might traumatize me for life.”
Derek let out a huff of a laugh, giving a short nod. “Make yourself at home,” he said and returned to the photos on his monitor.
Except he didn’t sort through them for long, because he found his attention wander over to Stiles laid out on the couch, reading glasses resting on the bridge of his nose, book in front of him, head resting on his fist, and his one leg propped up, giving perfect view of his crotch. And Stiles was too deeply buried in his book, occasionally mouthing the words he read, to even notice what he was doing.
Derek picked up his camera, silently hoping Erica wouldn’t notice, but she did and snorted at him from where she had positioned herself next to him. She said nothing though and returned to her phone.
Derek took several photos, both zoomed in close on Stiles’ concentrated face and of his entire body laid out the way it was. It was only when Erica nudged the tip of her high heel into his back, that he stopped, his memory card half full.
It was worth it though. Because the lighting had been perfect, and Stiles had looked beautiful laid out there.
And looking through those pictures on his private laptop later that night made him wish he could see that in the studio every day. He wished he could come home to Stiles laid out like that on the bed or the couch every day.
The pictures made a smile appear on his lips, but the thought of never being able to have any of those things he wished for become reality made the smile fade right off, his chest tightening.
He slammed his laptop shut and went to sleep, ignoring the longing he was feeling.
“I honestly don’t see why you don’t just ask him out,” Laura said, her eyes glued down on the first draft of next month’s issue of Howl laid out on her desk. “You’ve been crushing on him for way too long. I think it’s time for you to do something about it.”
“It’s unprofessional and you know it,” Derek responded, throwing his feet up on the edge of Laura’s desk. She pointed a finger at him, her eyes still on the papers, and he rolled his eyes as he dropped his feet back to the floor. “Besides, he’s one of our best and most popular models. Can’t risk losing him.”
Laura scoffed and lifted her gaze for just a second. “Stop coming with excuses. There’s no way he’s going to say no, so just go for it.” She moved a few things around. “And if he says no and quits, we’ll just find some new model to take his place. I’m sure we can find someone hotter than him.”
“But Stiles isn’t just hot,” Derek started, scooting down to the edge of the chair and laying back, eyes on the ceiling. “He’s intriguing. He captures people’s attention. He’s why Howl has become so popular.”
“No, that was Oscar Isaac on the cover and in the middle pages,” Laura interjected.
Derek rolled his eyes with a huff. “Oscar got people’s attention, people kept reading because of Stiles.” He folded his hands on his stomach, his eyes following the lines on the ceiling. “Stiles has a natural glow around him, and it shows on his pictures. He’s full of life and joy, people like that. Stiles is just… He’s beautiful.” Somewhere in the middle of that, a small smile had formed on his lips.
Laura was quiet for a moment, and when Derek looked over at her, there was a huge grin splitting her face. “Holy crap, you don’t have a crush on Stiles.” She pointed her pen at him, the grin growing wider. “You’re in love with him.”
“What?” Derek knitted his brows together, scoffed, and shook his head. “No.” He paused for a moment, then quickly looked away. “Shut up.”
Laura laughed and tossed her pen at him. “You are such a lovesick fool. You want to marry him and have his babies and grow old with him.” Derek stood up, and she rolled back on her chair, laughing loudly as he tried to reach for her across the desk. “I’m gonna have Erica take a picture of your face when you daydream about your future husband.”
“Laura, shut up!” Derek yelled, trying to reach her to slap a hand over her mouth, but she was only just out of reach.
When Isaac Lahey, Laura’s assistant, walked in a few minutes later, Laura was laughing loudly, and Derek was laying halfway across the desk trying to reach for his sister, everything previously on there either pushed around or dropped to the floor.
“Uh, I’ll just come back later,” he said with a nod and walked back out.
Laura had decided that July’s cover would feature all the regular models, Lydia included. When Derek had tried to cut the people on the cover down to two, she had started teasing him about his feelings for Stiles, so he had let it go.
Having four people on the cover was a challenge, but Derek would make it work.
The stylist team had bribed him into buying them coffee. “The models are going to be stuck getting ready for a while anyway,” one of them had said with a sweet smile, and before Derek knew it, he was on the way out of the building.
When he came back, coffee tray in hand, Stiles and Erica were talking loudly at each other - probably another superhero discussion. That was all they ever talked this loudly about - while Lydia and Boyd were standing to the side watching them in amusement and slight confusion.
Like a sixth sense, Stiles snapped his head around to look at Derek the second he came into the studio, and Derek tried not to trip over his feet because Stiles looked really good in that outfit. The grey short sleeved shirt hugged his biceps and hang just over his black belt that was holding up the tight, black pants.
“Derek!” Stiles threw a hand out in his direction, letting it fall against his thigh right after. “Do you not agree that Batman is way better than Superman?”
Derek let his eyes move from Stiles to Erica. Erica who looked beautiful in her white, form fitting dress, her hair hanging loosely over her chest. She was looking at him with her eyes slightly widened and her brows raised, her arms crossed and her head tilted.
He looked between the two of them for a moment, then took his eyes off them as he placed the to-go coffee cups on his desk. “No. Wonder Woman’s much better than both of them.”
Stiles gaped at him, Erica laughed, and Boyd snorted as he rolled his eyes.
As it turned out, Derek was right to have disagreed with Laura on the amount of people to have on the cover. These four worked great apart, Boyd and Erica worked better together, but all four together was chaos. Mostly because Stiles and Erica were goofing around, and he couldn’t get them to do the same thing at the same time for more than a few seconds.
When they finished off, Derek didn’t think he had gotten any really good pictures, was sure they had to do a re-shoot with less people, was sure he had to go talk to Laura about it.
But as he transferred the pictures from the memory card to his computer and scrolled through them, he found several that were pretty good. He stopped at one where Lydia stood in the front, looking gorgeous like she always was, Erica and Stiles just behind her with wide smiles at each other, Stiles looking more at the camera than at Erica, and Boyd behind all three looking handsome with a little smile tugging at his lips.
“Wow, that’s really good.” Derek lifted his gaze from the screen and looked to his right, looked at Stiles who was close enough that if he turned his head, they would practically be kissing.
It made his heart pound in his chest, and he had to swallow back the nerves. “Yeah, I like it,” he said, turning back to the photo enlarged on the screen.
There was a large hand on his shoulder, and Derek tried really hard not to look into the little rub the thumb did. “You’re coming on Friday, right?” Stiles asked, leaning slightly closer to Derek.
Derek couldn’t help the huff that passed him. “I think Laura will kill me if I don’t show up, yeah.” He noticed Erica making kissy faces in their direction, but he chose to ignore that. Lucky for him, Boyd grabbed his girlfriend and dragged her away, nodding at Derek.
“Awesome.” Stiles squeezed his shoulder and stepped back. He walked around the desk and turned back to Derek, grinning widely as he winked. “See you then, Derek.”
Derek found himself staring after Stiles for several minutes, his rapid heartbeat the only sound in his ears.
Friday was the mandatory work party Laura had arranged months back in celebration for making it semi-big in their business. She had been very firm on the mandatory part, especially to Derek.
“You’re the photographer, Derek,” she told him an hour before the party. She had called him the second he had stepped out of the shower. “You have to show up.”
“Why?” Derek held the phone between his shoulder and his ear, as he rummaged through his drawers, picking out underwear. “People don’t care about the photographer. They care about the owner and the models.”
Laura’s snort was loud and long. “Obviously you haven’t been to enough business parties. Trust me, people give a shit about the photographer. Besides, I know a certain someone will definitely care whether you show up or not.”
Derek dropped his towel and slipped into the black boxer briefs, then turned to his closet to find a suit. “Who?”
“Stiles, you dumbass. If you don’t show up, I know it’ll ruin his party, and he will definitely be disappointed.”
He grabbed his phone from his shoulder and pressed it to his ear, as he went through the few pairs of suit he had. Laura had made him get at least three a while back, so he didn’t show up in the same one at every formal thing. “He’ll be too busy flirting with Lydia to notice I’m there anyway.”
“Derek, Lydia has a boyfriend, and Stiles isn’t interested in her.”
Derek paused with his free hand on a black suit. He paused because what? Even if Lydia had a boyfriend, Stiles was definitely interested in her. “Laura, you don’t see him around her. He’s definitely interested.”
“Interested in being her friend, yes. They’ve been friends since high school, I thought you knew that.”
He did know that, but he also knew that Stiles was in love with Lydia all through high school. He knew because Stiles had told him when they hired Lydia as a part time model. “Doesn’t mean he doesn’t still love her.”
“Of course he loves her,” Laura said as Derek grabbed the suit and threw it on the bed. “In a purely platonic way. Trust me, Stiles is interested in someone else.”
That didn’t exactly make him feel better.
“See you at the party.” He hung up before she could protest or say anything else.
Derek arrived a while before everyone else to help Laura finish preparing. He was still in the kitchen helping out the few servers they had hired, when the first guests arrived, two of those being Erica and Boyd.
Derek had just filled the last two glasses of champagne, when Erica threw her arms around his neck and hoisted herself up onto his back. “Well don’t you look handsome, Der,” she greeted him, planting a kiss on his cheek. “And you trimmed your beard too, wow.” She slid off him and came to face him, a grin on her lips. “Are you trying to impress someone?” she asked teasingly.
Derek gave her a warning look, then moved his attention over to Boyd in the doorway. “Control your girlfriend, Boyd.”
Boyd just shook his head, the grin on his lips matching Erica’s. Sometimes Derek hated having those two as his best friends.
“You look great, Derek,” Erica said, grabbing a champagne glass. “Stiles is gonna swoon at the sight of you.” She patted Derek’s cheek, walked over to her boyfriend, and leaned up for a kiss. “Now, I’m gonna go find Laura.” She squeezed Boyd’s hand and smiled at him. “See you two out there.”
The two left in the room stood in silence until neither could see Erica. Then Derek looked at Boyd and took a step closer. “You find a ring yet?”
Boyd nodded and pulled a little, black box out from his jacket pocket, handing it to Derek. “Yeah. I think I’ll do it tonight. After the party.”
Derek popped the box open, revealing the diamond ring inside. The diamond wasn’t huge, but it was beautiful and would look amazing on Erica. Derek couldn’t help the smile that formed on his lips, and he nodded in approval, closing the box, and handing it back to Boyd. “I’m happy for you two.”
Boyd put the box back and didn’t waste a second to move on. “When are you planning on asking Stiles out?”
Derek let out a long sigh and gave Boyd a look. “Don’t you start too.”
“Derek, you’ve been pining over him for way too long. You like him, he likes you, so ask him out. It’s not that hard.”
Derek shook his head and walked past Boyd. “Easy for you to say.” He walked out of the kitchen to the main room just as Stiles walked in from the front door.
Stiles who looked like a million bucks. His suit was black and simple, fitting him perfectly and probably made by a tailor. His tie was tugged down and the first button on his dress shirt was popped open. Derek guessed he had done that on the way over. Stiles’ hair was only slightly styled, messy in the way that looked amazing on him.
Stiles looked incredible, and Derek didn’t realize he had stopped to gape slightly at him. Not until Boyd nudged him out of his trance.
Lydia walked in right after Stiles, and Derek was prepared to be disappointed, thinking they had come together, but then Lydia’s boyfriend, Jackson Whittemore, walked in behind her, and she grabbed his arm as they walked inside together.
And Stiles scanned the room, immediately spotting him, and the smile that formed on his lips as he headed over to him was wide and toothy. “I didn’t know you owned a suit,” was how Stiles greeted him, his eyes moving down Derek’s body. “Looking good.”
Derek pushed the sudden insecure feeling away. “You too.” His eyes quickly scanned around the slowly filling room. “You came alone?”
Stiles sighed, lifting his left shoulder in a quick shrug. “Well, there weren’t really any girls I wanted to ask out, and the guy I wanted to ask out… Well, it’s complicated.”
Apparently the surprise showed on Derek face, so Stiles continued. “Oh yeah, I never told you I’m bisexual, did I?” His brows furrowed slightly, and he looked almost scared, nervous. “Is that a problem?”
“No,” Derek responded maybe a bit too quick. That was definitely not a problem. “No, it’s the opposite of a problem.” The problem was the guy Stiles was interested in. That was the actual problem.
Stiles was interested in someone else, and there Derek was. Daydreaming about taking the man apart in the bathroom.
He needed to get out of there.
“Enjoy the party,” he said, offered Stiles a tight smile, and then left before Stiles could say whatever he opened his mouth to say.
People had never been Derek’s thing. He didn’t like being around too many people for too long, so 30 minutes into the party he found himself walking down the stairs to the studio.
He just needed a few minutes alone. It wasn’t because he was avoiding Stiles, not really. Although that was part of why he was down there. It was pathetic, he knew that. Stiles just looked so good, and Derek didn’t trust himself not to do something stupid. Not with the bit of alcohol he had consumed over the past half hour. It hadn’t been much, nowhere near enough to make him drunk in any way, but it could potentially be enough to give him the confidence he needed, and he didn’t want to take that chance.
Derek loved being at the studio by himself. He loved taking pictures of people, sure, but sometimes he missed going back to where he started out: nature. He had started out with a shitty camera and running around the woods surrounding the Hale house taking pictures of everything he found interesting.
Sometimes he would still do it, go outside with his camera and take a few pictures, but it wasn’t often. Not as often as he wished. Maybe he should do a photoshoot outside. Yeah, that could make a great fall theme.
The studio was quiet, the sound of the party a few floors up distant, and Derek let out a tired sigh, his shoulders loosening up a little. He unbuttoned the first few buttons on his shirt, tugging his tie down as he sat down on the chair behind the work desk, leaning back.
He heard the music get lower and a few people cheer in the distance. He guessed Laura was giving a speech at this point, knew she would mention him and be either mad or disappointed or both that he wasn’t there to make a very public appearance.
He picked up his camera from the bag and went to the gallery, slowly going through the pictures he had taken over the last few days while there hadn’t been any photoshoots to worry about, July’s issue of Howl being edited and put together.
He found several pictures of the stylists having fun in the next room over, and he couldn’t help but smile at the one where they had noticed Derek taking pictures and started posing dramatically.
He had a great team, and he wouldn’t know what to do without them.
Derek scrolled through a few pictures of Laura working, Isaac pointing at something in a couple of them, and a few pictures of Erica and Boyd hanging out on the studio couch.
He paused when he made it around to a picture of Stiles. Stiles was leaning against the wall, one arm crossed and another holding his phone to his ear. He had been talking to Scott or maybe Allison, Derek couldn’t remember. But Stiles was smiling widely on the picture, his eyes shining and he looked beautiful. That wasn’t surprising though, he always looked beautiful.
“Hey.” He lifted his gaze from the small camera screen to see Erica in the doorway, a smile on her red lips. “Stop torturing yourself and come dance with me and Boyd. Have a little fun, you deserve it.”
Derek sighed and shut off the camera. He didn’t put it down though. “I don’t feel like dancing, Erica.”
“I know you don’t.” Erica walked over, her heels echoing in the empty room with each step. “Which is exactly why you’re gonna do it anyway.” She glanced at the camera in his hands, the smile going softer. “Bring your camera and take some pictures. I do need a new Facebook picture, this could be perfect.”
She held out a hand to him, the smile still soft on her lips. Derek looked at her, thought about it for a moment, before he huffed and grabbed her hand.
The music was loud, as were the people around him. Derek tried not to let the feeling of exhaustion overtake him, but it was getting harder as the minutes ticked by.
He tried to focus on Boyd and Erica dancing together in front of him, tried to focus on them through the lens of his camera as he took pictures, the flash bright in the otherwise dim room. He tried to focus on Laura occasionally coming over to give him a half hug and calling him a piece of shit for missing her speech. He apologized, and Erica grabbed his camera to take a picture of the two of them.
He tried to focus on all of that, on his friends, but he kept finding his attention on the sea of people around him, his eyes scanning the room for Stiles.
Stiles who he hadn’t seen for over an hour now, and it left an aching feeling in his chest, a feeling of longing.
It was Boyd tapping his shoulder that brought Derek’s attention back to his friends. Not for long though, because then Boyd pointed over to his left, pointed over at Stiles. Stiles who was standing by himself with a drink in his hand. Stiles who was watching everyone else while looking as out of place as Derek felt.
Derek didn’t think twice when he walked over toward him, eyes locked onto him and taking in the beauty of him. Even when he looked like he was seconds from running out of there, a sad look clouding his beautiful, brown eyes, he looked amazing, and Derek wanted to do nothing but pull him into an embrace and make him smile like the sun again.
When he was only a few steps from Stiles, he lifted his camera and captured the split second before Stiles looked over at him. Stiles smiled at him, but the smile didn’t quite reach his eyes. “Photographer at your own party, huh?” He lifted his drink and gave him a look, a brow raised. “Hope you get paid well for that.”
“Not my party,” Derek responded and walked over to lean against the wall next to Stiles, their shoulders brushing. “I also only take pictures of my friends.”
“D’aw, I’m your friend now?” Stiles bumped their shoulders together, the smile slowly getting a bit brighter. “I feel so special.”
They both fell silent for a minute, watching the people in front of them dance along to the beat of the music. Derek turned to look at Stiles, noticing the smile fading away. “You okay?”
Stiles looked back at him, then dropped his gaze to what was left of his drink and shrugged. “My dad took off his ring,” he started, a small but sad smile on his lips. “I mean, I know my mom’s been dead for… 14 years but I don’t know, I kinda thought he’d always wear it?” He shook his head and shifted against the wall. “I thought partying would help me take my mind off it, but nope. Instead I’m the loser who stands by himself drinking, because he came alone and everyone he knows brought a date.”
Derek watched Stiles for a moment, watched him touch the rim of his nearly empty glass, and watched his brown eyes watch the crowd in front of him. There was a frown on his face, and Derek wanted to do nothing but kiss it off.
“Come on.” He took the strap of his camera and hooked it over his shoulder, as he stepped toward the crowd and held a hand out for Stiles, a little smile on his lips. “We can be dateless together.”
Stiles looked at his hand, then at him and snorted. “You’re such a nerd,” he said and grabbed Derek’s hand, his cheeks going a shade of pink when Derek closed his hand around his.
Stiles could dance. Derek was surprised by how well, actually. There were a lot of limbs thrown around, a lot of jumping, and a lot of singing along to the songs Stiles really liked, but he was good.
Derek, however, was not. He was too tense, as Erica told him when she and Boyd came over to join them. Stiles had agreed, grabbed both Derek’s hands, and moved in close to help him loosen up.
It did the exact opposite of that, and Erica threw her head back as she burst out laughing.
The party turned out to be not as bad as Derek had thought it would be, even though he ended up having to drive everyone home because everyone but him had been drinking excessively.
Stiles had kissed his cheek before he left the car to get inside his apartment, and Derek felt like his entire body was going to go up in flames the rest of the night.
Luckily for him, Boyd was the only one who remembered it the following morning. He said nothing though, because Erica was too busy showing off her engagement ring and rambling on about the wedding.
And being absolutely no help with the cleaning.
Derek spend the weekend in bed doing nothing. He had worn himself out at the party and thought he deserved a few days to himself. Laura agreed and let him have his alone time.
The following week there were no photoshoots, the month’s issue ready to be published the week after, so Derek took days out in the woods, filling not only one but two memory cards up with pictures. It felt good and while he was out in the fresh air, his mind didn’t go to Stiles and the kiss and the dancing as often as it did when he was at home.
But then he would get home and see a bunch of texts from Stiles, texts about everything and nothing, and Derek didn’t know whether to be sad or happy. Stiles was interested in someone else after all, but at least Derek was his friend.
On Tuesday Howl’s July issue was put out to the public, and Derek found himself back in the studio Wednesday morning, despite everyone having time off until Friday. He looked at the pile of Howl issues Laura had laid out for him on his desk, eyes going over the cover.
She had gone with his favorite, the picture with Erica and Stiles in the middle goofing around, Lydia in the front with an amused glint in her eyes, and Boyd behind them all. On the bottom right was the announcement of Erica and Boyd’s engagement, and Derek felt a smile tug his lips back.
He reached out to go to the page he knew the engagement photos would be on, when the door was slammed open and Stiles stormed in, his cheeks red and eyes fiery.
Derek didn’t have time to do anything but give him a confused look, before Stiles opened his mouth. “What the hell is this?” he yelled, slamming a copy of the issue onto the table, eyes locked onto Derek.
Derek glanced down at it, then looked back at Stiles, still confused. “July’s issue of Howl?” he spoke slowly, his brows knitting together.
Stiles groaned, frustrated, and started flipping through the pages. Derek spotted the picture of Erica holding her hand up, showing off the ring, while Boyd stood behind her, arms wrapped around her and a smile on his lips.
Stiles kept flipping and then he stopped, pointing down at the page. “This! What the hell is this?”
Derek dropped his gaze to the page. The page filled with pictures of Stiles. Pictures of Stiles that Derek had taken. In secret. Pictures that had been on his private laptop. Pictures that only a few people knew about, and pictures only him and one another person would have access to.
“I’m gonna kill Laura,” he grumbled between his clenched teeth. He took in a deep breath through his nose and slowly lifted his gaze to look at Stiles. Stiles who still looked at him with wide, fiery eyes, his finger still pointing at the page.
“Look,” he started, swallowing back the nerves. “Those were never meant to be seen. By anyone. I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have taken those.”
“No, I don’t care about the photos, Derek. I’m not an idiot, I know you’ve taken pictures of people when they’re not looking. I’m talking about this!” Stiles pointed at the page again, twice, and then looked firmly at Derek.
Confused, Derek dropped his gaze again. He didn’t know how he missed it the first time he looked at the page. He didn’t know how he missed the quote in giant letters underneath a picture of Stiles with a happy smile on his face.
“His face is like the sun. Not because looking at him hurts, but because he shines like it, brightens my day. […] Stiles is beautiful, and he should be on the cover of every issue.” – Derek Hale, Photographer For Howl
Derek stared at the words for what felt like forever, taking them in. He couldn’t even remember when he had said that, knew he had probably said it in Laura’s office after a day of shooting with Stiles. Slowly, he lifted his head to find Stiles watching him carefully. “I-”
“Do you mean that?” Stiles interrupted, eyes wide and unblinking.
There really was no way around it, so Derek could only sigh and nod. “Yeah. Every word.” He looked into those beautiful, brown eyes watching him carefully. “You’re beautiful, Stiles. In every way.”
Stiles’ lips twitched, but he fought the smile and stepped around the desk. “Do you like me?”
Derek didn’t hesitate to shake his head, his heart pounding in his chest. “No, I don’t like you.” He took in a deep breath, his eyes scanning Stiles’ face. “I love you.”
Stiles stopped fighting it and let a wide smile form, his cheeks turning pink. “Good,” he said, stepping closer, his eyes flickering from Derek’s eyes to his lips, “because I love you too.”
Stiles was the one to make the first move. He was the one to step forward, grab Derek’s face, and close the distance between them.
Kissing Stiles was nothing like Derek had imagined. There weren’t fireworks or anything they showed in the movies he may or may not have watched with Erica a few years ago. But kissing Stiles felt right, it felt like home.
Derek wrapped his arms around Stiles’ middle and pulled him closer, happily kissing him back and breathing him in. Stiles’ lips were soft, he noticed. They were soft and firm against his own. The hands on his face moved to the back of his neck, then into his hair.
They kissed for a while, neither knew how long, and then Derek pulled back, although he stayed close enough to feel Stiles’ lips still ghosting over his own. “Wait,” he let out in a breath. “What about the guy you’re interested in?”
“Oh my God, are you kidding?” Stiles laughed and pulled far enough back to slap Derek’s chest lightly. “You’re the guy I’m interested in, dumbass! Did you seriously not know that? I thought it was pretty obvious.”
Derek’s brows fell heavy over his eyes, and he shrugged. “Not really.”
“Oh.” Stiles looked at him for a moment, then grinned wickedly and moved closer, leaning in so their lips were just barely touching again. “Well, then I’m gonna make it really obvious,” his hands slid down Derek’s chest and his hips rolled forward, their crotches firmly pressing against each other, “that you’re the only one I’m interested in.”
Stiles Stilinski was a beautiful man. Especially when writhing underneath Derek, mouth open in a moan and sweat forming on his naked body. Stiles wasn’t quiet. Had there been other people in the building, they would probably have heard him.
Derek wouldn’t have cared though. Stiles was moaning his name and that was all that mattered.