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I Call You Names Because I Love You

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Derek knew Stiles was panicking. He knew this because Stiles was sweating. There was a dark spot right between his shoulder blades that was making his black CREW tee stick to his skin. Despite being the head technician for their crew, Stiles was always ahead of everyone else when it came to stage prep. The fact that Stiles was bolting past Derek, leaping over an amp with a jingle of his khaki shorts and jabbering into his headset at Danny, was proof enough that Derek needed to get out of the way and let Stiles do his job before the guy had an aneurism.

Ducking out of the way when Scott hurried past him with Isaac’s keyboard clutched in his arms, Derek made a beeline for the small green room backstage. He might as well bug Erica into doing a few vocal warm ups before the show.

“Where’s the spare microphone!?” Stiles cried, running past Derek and tripping over a coil of cords on the ground. Derek reached out, grabbing him by the arm to stop his fall. Stiles grinned wide, panting and wiping at the sweat on his brow. “Thanks, Chief,” he chirped, clapping Derek on the arm and then jogging off, arms waving wildly at Scott about some technical jargon that Derek didn’t completely understand.

Heading for the green room (which was hardly bigger than a bathroom), Derek slipped inside to see Erica and Isaac playing cards with Boyd. Derek was tempted to point out that Boyd should be talking with the head of security for the venue, but he had a feeling that had been taken care of the second they’d crossed the Oregon state line heading to Portland.

“We should warm up,” Derek suggested, grabbing a chair and pulling it up to peek over Isaac’s shoulder at his cards. Isaac leaned away, eyes narrowing suspiciously as Erica scoffed and tossed down a jack of spades.

Permanent Fixture has a minute of humming and scat before we even sing. That’s plenty of warming up,” she pointed out, cursing when Boyd won the hand. Derek stared, scowling and mentally willing her to look up and see his angry glower of doom. She shuffled the cards, “that stopped working three years ago, buddy.”

Boyd snorted, taking the cards as Erica dealt them out and peeking at his watch when there was a knock on the door. The three of them looked up as Lydia popped her head into the room, waving around her PDA. “Ten minutes, and Stiles is going to cry if you try to be fashionably late.”

“He’s a techie,” Isaac pointed out, pushing himself up out of his seat, regardless, “he gets paid either way.”

Erica snorted, bumping shoulders with Derek when he rolled his eyes. “I don’t think it would matter, you know he’s impatient about getting the show going. Guy is like my grandmother during Christmas parties,” she muttered. Derek bit the inside of his mouth, resisting the urge to point out that Stiles’ obsession with punctuality was one of the only reasons that every single one of their shows had gone off without a hitch since they hired him four years prior.

As soon as he was in Stiles’ line of sight, Derek found himself the subject of 153 pounds of nervous energy as Stiles tugged his headset off and waved Derek down. “Hey,” he began breathlessly, barely waiting for Derek to respond before he went into his routine habit of giving Derek a rundown of everything that was going on. When Stiles had first done it, Derek had figured it was just to prove himself a good crew member; now he knew Stiles did it to help organize his thoughts and empty out all of the activity buzzing around in his head.

Throwing his arms up, Stiles gestured to the stage, “okay, everything is set up, but the mic gives a lot of feedback if you get too close; just keep a couple inches away from it and when you hit high notes, lean back a little and you’ll be good. Your guitar is tuned to play Outrun Your Ghosts first, and then you have to remember to retune it for Cupboard Love, got it? After that, it’s smooth sailing.”

Derek resisted the urge to make some sort of offhanded comment that would inevitably make Stiles roll his eyes and snap back at him, instead nodding and patting Stiles on the shoulder before heading out on stage.

He was still trying to wrap his head around the fact that they’d doubled in popularity in just the past year alone. Peter had gone on and on about the blessing of internet radio broadcasts and indie stations, and that they were starting to climb up to Fleet Foxes level of play time on Pandora alone. Even just staring at the full house cheering and whistling was enough to get Derek’s head reeling.

He slung his guitar up onto his shoulder, greeting the crowd and then shutting everything out as he started to sing.

It wasn’t hard to power through the entire set list, and a glance to Lydia told Derek they had enough time to play a request before they ran the risk of going over their scheduled time. He leaned into the microphone, eyes scanning the crowd for a second. “Any last requests?” he asked, voice a low gravel like it always was after singing Cherrybomb, which was high for the range of his chest voice and always left his throat feeling rough afterwards.

There was a cacophony of shouts as people started listing off songs, before Derek zeroed in on one of his favorites, You Are The Moon, which was a song he’d written and dedicated to his sister, Laura. Derek grinned, taking a sip of his water bottle. “You Are The Moon?” he echoed, glancing off stage to see Stiles flailing frantically at him.

Once Stiles had his attention, he made a cutting motion at his throat and shook his head frantically, gesturing to Erica and then making a guitar-playing motion. It took Derek a second to decipher what Stiles was trying to say, and then he realized that they hadn’t brought out Erica’s acoustic guitar at all. It made sense--she mostly played bass and only had two songs where a backup acoustic was required.

Derek nodded, watching Stiles sag a little in relief, and then turned to the audience with a grin. “How about Sleepwalking After You?” he suggested, satisfied to hear the sound of the crowd cheering in agreement. Gesturing at Isaac to start up the beat, Derek bounced his leg in time with the rhythm before he and Erica started to sing.

As soon as Derek walked off stage after the end of the song, Scott and Stiles were flitting out to the stage to clear it off. Derek had barely set his guitar down when Stiles was bustling backstage again to grin and clap Derek on the arm. “That was awesome--good save with the guitar thing, by the way.”

Derek shrugged, watching Scott take his guitar and run off to put it with the rest of the instruments. He turned to Stiles, giving him an odd look. “The only reason there was a save was because you were there, you know.”

Stiles totally preened. Derek knew Stiles’ preening face; his chest puffed out and his cheeks rounded with a smug little grin every time he was complimented. Squeezing Derek’s arm, Stiles crinkled his nose and cooed, “aww, thanks cuddle-bug,” and then wandered off back to the stage to finish helping the rest of the tech crew clean up.

With the flurry of activity that always came after a performance, Derek was quick to retreat to the tour bus the second he was free so he could shoot Laura a text message. They went back and forth for a few minutes; Derek musing about reworking the song into another version without guitar, and Laura teasing him about his ability to read Stiles’ incomprehensible flailing.

Derek could hear Stiles and Scott arguing before they even got on the bus. Scott was going on about something to do with his girlfriend--a nice girl named Allison who he had left behind in Beacon Hills to tour with them this year--and Stiles sounded like he was protesting. The door swung open, the two of them stomping onto the bus as Stiles’ voice rang loud and clear.

“--come on, dude. We do this every tour. Just because there’s a few extra months this year doesn’t mean you can back out. We’re living the life; the open road, following a band, making money doing stuff people spend money to do? Some guys would kill for this job, man.”

Derek peered up from his phone, watching Stiles chug an entire bottle of water before wiping his mouth and rummaging around in his backpack for another. Scott looked like he wanted to keep arguing, and Derek felt himself talking before he could think about what he was doing.

“You don’t have to stay,” he began, watching Scott and Stiles snap their heads up to stare at him, “but you’re going to spend an entire paycheck finding a way back home if you just leave in the middle of a tour.” Derek went back to texting Laura, catching Stiles making a very obvious gesture at Scott that could mean only there you have it. He had to bite the inside of his lip not to grin.

Scott was a good crew member; when he wasn’t answering text messages from his girlfriend or trying to hook up an amp and talk to her on the phone at the same time. Derek, technically, understood what it was like to miss a significant other--but the memory of Kate served only to make guilt and regret burn low in his gut like an acid ready to eat him alive.

If they had planned on continuing their argument, it was put on the backburner as the rest of the crew started to clamber onto the bus. For such a small place, when ten people were packed into it at a time, it could be unbearably noisy. Derek was halfway to pulling out his noise-cancelling headphones from his bag when Peter brought his hands up and started to quiet everyone down.

“We’ll be in Seattle by tomorrow night, so everyone should get some rest and put on a few layers. I don’t want to use the heater if I can avoid it,” he reached out, patting Stiles on the head and getting his hand batted away with a jerk of Stiles’ arm. “We’re not stopping for a few hours, so if you didn’t use the bathroom before we left, you’d better ask me for some Imodium,” he pulled out the small box of pills from his pocket, waving it around before he retreated to the front of the bus to sit with the driver.

Derek slipped out of his seat at the booth table, heading back into the sleeping area of the bus to grab his blanket. It was better to travel light--which meant Derek had two pairs of jeans, three shirts, a leather jacket, and his headphones in his bag on the bus. It was easier to just wrap up in his quilt than to bother packing a hoodie; saved space and the blanket was more comfortable.

He grabbed one of the books Stiles had picked him up at the gas station, (Hide of A Life of War, which was actually really engrossing for a gas station paperback) and carrying it back into the common area of the bus. He curled up in his corner of the table while Stiles and Scott set up their old N64 that had to be turned on eight times before it even registered whatever cartridge they put in it. It took ten minutes of cajoling Boyd into playing before Boyd finally looked up from his sketchbook and scowled at the two of them. “I get paid to do security, not to school the two of you in South Park Rally.”

“Come on, Boyd, buddy; friend; compadre; home slice--”

“Shut up,” Derek snapped, having read the same sentence in his book for the tenth time before realizing they were throwing off his focus. Stiles perked up, blinking owlishly at Derek over his shoulder and then narrowing his eyes into a look that was a cross between annoyed and pouting.

“Okay, Captain Crankypants. You know headphones exist, right? You can tune us out if you want,” he sniped, turning back to mash buttons on his controller when Scott started the game without him.

Derek set his book down, glaring at the back of Stiles’ head, “you know I’m the reason you have a job, right?” he muttered darkly, trying to keep the mocking edge out of his voice. Stiles laughed, shrugging.

“You’d be lost without me, puppy cakes, and you know it.” he sang, peeking over at Derek and fluttering his eyelashes dramatically. Derek snorted and Isaac let out an awkward laugh from where he was sitting on Scott’s other side, controller in hand.

Erica’s foot shot out from her spot curled up next to Boyd, shoving against Stiles’ back with a half-hearted snarl of, “you’d be lost if I threw your ass out of the bus while we were driving.”

Stiles laughed, and Derek tried to bury himself into his book.

The hours ticked by slowly--as they always did when trapped inside a bus with ten other people--and Derek was over halfway through his book when Stiles came shuffling back into the lounge from the bunk area. He rubbed at his arms, hopping in place and looking downright miserable while scouring the rec area before sighing loudly, “dude, I can’t find my hoodie,” and staring at Derek like he could do something from inside his bundle of blankets.

Derek pulled his quilt more tightly around himself, resisting the urge to pull Stiles into his arms and just curl together with him to help warm him up. “Sucks for you,” he said, sticking his nose back in his book and grinning when Stiles shot him a dirty look.

“One of these days, pal, one of these days,” he hissed, wandering to the front of the bus--most likely to pester Boyd or Peter for their jacket. Peter had a creepy obsession with Stiles; one that the whole crew knew about and avoided bringing up. Peter had a habit of petting Stiles on the head, or doting on him like he was some sort of pet. Stiles hated it one minute, and the next he was milking it to get things like extra water bottles or a free meal out of it. Derek had a feeling Stiles was just an opportunity seeker--because he always slapped Peter’s wandering hands away at any given chance.

Derek knew his uncle was mostly harmless, otherwise he would have hired another tour manager with less creepiness to them. For all Peter’s brilliance when it came to planning a tour, he was a few fruit loops short of a cereal box.

When Stiles returned, he was almost swimming in Boyd’s leather jacket, a blissed out look on his face as he tugged it shut and fumbled with the zipper. “I knew someone on this bus loved me,” he sighed, fingers almost engulfed by the sleeves as he zipped the jacket closed. “Oh sweet, glorious leather.” Stiles shuffled past Derek, heading for the bunks and disappearing for a second. Derek didn’t even get to look back at his book before Stiles popped his head out, glowered, pointed two fingers at his own eyes, jerked them at Derek, and then ducked back out of the room.

Alone in the lounge, except for Lydia (who was obliviously watching a movie on her kindle with her headphones on), Derek rolled his eyes, ignored the warm coil of fondness in his gut, and went back to reading.

By the time they hit a rest stop, Scott and Stiles were bolting out the door, wrestling their way to get inside of the gas station. Derek was stepping off of the bus when he saw both of them slap-fighting in front of a door on the side of the building, bickering loudly.

“Come on, dude, I had a microwave burrito--I’m going to die. Let me go first!” Stiles wailed, one hand over his ass and the other elbowing at Scott to try and grab the key from him.

Scott shoved at Stiles’ face, shouldering him out of the way and struggling to get the key in the lock to the single outdoor bathroom. “No way, dude. I called bathroom like three hours ago,” in a maneuver only honed from years of high school lacrosse, Scott rolled Stiles off of his shoulders and slipped into the bathroom.

Stiles wailed, hopping up and down in place and pounding on the door. “This is a violation of the bro code!” he cried. Derek was across the gas station parking lot and grabbing Stiles by the back of his shirt by the third violent death-threat. Stiles squawked, and Derek dragged him into the gas station and straight for the register.

He dug a $10 out of his pocket, shoving it on the counter and firmly asking, “do you have an employee bathroom?”

The clerk stared at Derek, and then looked out the window at the tour bus before finally glancing at where Stiles was hanging miserably from Derek’s hand. He nodded, mouth twitching like he was trying not to laugh, and gestured for Stiles to come around the counter. “Yeah, it’s this way.”

Stiles lit up like a Christmas tree, turning and grabbing Derek to drag him into a sloppy, enthusiastic kiss before he was gone and hobbling after the employee. Derek rubbed at his mouth, grimacing at the taste of soda and popcorn, trying to tell himself that it was a kiss of gratitude, and that his stomach shouldn’t be fluttering the way it was.

He scrubbed his mouth again, taking the time to buy a pack of water bottles and some trail mix before heading back out to the bus.

They hit Seattle at four in the morning at a hotel with only three rooms left and half the crew asleep on their feet for check-in. Derek was barely awake to hear Peter splitting the rooms, listening only when he was handed a hotel key and told ‘room 427’.

He shuffled to the elevator, backpack sagging on his elbow while Stiles and Scott leaned against one another and Isaac started to fall asleep against the wall while they waited for the doors to open. Boyd had to shove both Stiles and Scott into the elevator when the doors opened just because neither of them were awake enough to do much more than stand there.

It took two attempts for Derek to get the door opened, and another one to actually walk in the room without running into anything. He went straight for the first bed, face planting onto it at the same time Isaac dove for the second bed. Derek cracked an eye open to see Stiles scrambling to get to the cot folded up in the corner of the room when Boyd grabbed him by the seat of his pants and dragged him out of the way.

Derek was almost asleep when the sound of Scott’s sleepy whine of Isaac’s name woke him up. He snorted, eyes slitting open to see Scott hovering next to Isaac’s bed and gently hitting Isaac with a pillow. Isaac grunted, rolling to one side of the bed so that Scott had enough room to climb in with a happy noise.

Seeing Boyd on the cot, Derek picked his head up, tiredly peering around the room. It took him a second to see Stiles with a spare blanket, crawling under the small table in the corner of the room and curling up into a ball with a loud yawn. He sighed, wondering if it was really that hard for him just to ask Derek to make room, or if Stiles actually thought Derek wouldn’t share the bed.

“Stiles, get your ass over here,” he croaked, shifting to make room. Stiles snapped up so fast his head cracked up against the underside of the table, making him yelp and hiss in pain. Derek rolled his eyes, sighing, “last time you didn’t sleep enough before the show, you almost forgot to plug in Isaac’s keyboard,” and then dropping his head back on the pillow.

He was already drifting off when he felt the bed dip, only to be dragged back into wakefulness when Stiles started to, literally, sing his praises.

“Derek Haaaaale is one Hale of a guuuuy; he lets me sleep on the bed, not on the floor like a ... dropped apple pieeeee,” Stiles hummed sleepily, knees bumping into Derek’s back as he curled up. Derek reached back, elbowing whatever he could reach of Stiles and getting a grunt and a squawk for his efforts.

“Shut up and go to sleep,” he snapped, satisfied to hear a breathy laugh before Stiles quieted and his breathing evened out.

The first time Derek woke up, it was because someone had turned on one of the lights and was shuffling around the hotel room. A bleary look at the clock told him he still had a good two hours before he needed to get up, and he brought a hand up over his face. There was movement against his back, and Derek could feel the warm huff of a sleepy breath as Stiles pressed his face up into Derek’s shoulders.

“The light, it burns my retinaaass,” Stiles whimpered, mashing his face until he had nosed himself between Derek’s back and the bed. The light flickered off and Derek fell back asleep between one breath and the next.

The second time Derek woke up, it was because there was loud chatter going on in the room and Derek couldn’t ignore it any longer. He cracked an eye open, peering around the room to see Peter and Erica sitting at the breakfast table with Stiles. The shower was running, and Boyd was nowhere to be seen, while Scott was flipping through channels on the television. Derek grunted, scratching at his stomach and stretching before he rolled onto his side to tiredly watch Erica and Stiles arguing over a bagel.

“You should get your own; half a bagel isn’t healthy,” Stiles harped, stabbing her hand with his plastic knife when she tried to grab at his bagel again. She grinned, grabbing the knife and chucking it across the room. Peter reached out, stroking a hand over Stiles’ head before Stiles threw his hand up and karate-chopped at his arm with a loud, ‘hi-yah!’, repeating the chopping motion until Peter was withdrawing with an air of nonchalance.

“Unlike you, I have to maintain my girlish figure,” Erica said, snatching half the bagel and taking a huge bite before Stiles could stop her.

Stiles scoffed, taking a dramatic crunch of his own half and chewing with one cheek puffed out like a squirrel. “Esscuse you, I have a nice figure too.”

Leering, Erica reached out to steal his cream cheese, scooping some onto her finger and sucking it off loudly. “It shows.”

Derek’s mood plummeted the second Stiles gaped and then gave her a dopey smile instead of doing something like laughing in her face or dismissing her words. He didn’t like the way they flirted--it was disgusting and childish. Besides, Erica shouldn’t be messing around with Stiles when she and Boyd clearly had something going on.

Rolling out of bed, Derek ignored Stiles and Erica’s ‘good morning’s in favor of grabbing his hotel key and shuffling out the door with the intent of going to the lobby for some coffee and imitation-eggs.

His mood wasn’t any better for the rest of the day, up until they were already at the venue and Derek was doing one last once-over of the set list. He frowned, noticing that Erica had a lot of songs where she shared the vocals with Derek. She was getting too much spotlight; it must have been making her cocky. A cocky Erica was a dangerous thing--one who flirted with anyone and everyone.

Derek brought the set list over to where Stiles, Lydia and Jackson were talking about the stage setup.

“I want to switch out a song,” he said, showing the set list to them. Stiles’ eyes widened and then narrowed suspiciously. “We’re not doing By Any Other Name; I want to do You Are The Moon instead.”

If possible, Stiles managed to look scandalized at the very idea of such a drastic song change. He snatched the set list from Derek, staring at it and then back up at him. “You’re kidding, right?”

“No.”

Stiles continued to glare at the paper before he looked up at Derek and hissed, “you’re the anti-christ,” and turned on his heel, stomping towards the stage and waving the paper around with a shout of, “hey Scott! The D is riding our asses tonight!”

It was Derek’s least favorite pet name; one Stiles only used in certain situations like the current one. It had everyone in hearing range choking on their laughter and Derek’s face heating up. He watched Stiles stop to talk to one of the local crew members, a busty black girl that was probably around Stiles’ age, and his already bad mood got even worse when she made Stiles’ distressed look turn into a laugh. Derek’s gut burned, watching him wrap his arms around her larger body, hugging her tight before running off to catch up with Scott.

Derek didn’t even notice he was glaring at the local crew member until she gave him an unimpressed look and then turned and walked away. Derek knew Stiles didn’t have much of a preference when it came to people--his choices over the years had always gone more for the strong willed than anything. This girl, though, Derek had been hoping just a glower would work for intimidation purposes... he had been sorely wrong. That didn't explain why Stiles was so into her. Yeah, she had a great smile that lit up her face and was on the bigger side, but Stiles had mentioned he could care less about size and that he loved hugging squishy people.

Derek could be squishy. Muscles were squishy.

If the concert went a little worse than most of their shows, Derek couldn’t be blamed. Every musician had their off days where they missed some chords and forgot a few lyrics--because of exhaustion, not because they noticed their head techie bumping hips with some random girl he had just met and therefore had no reason to get all buddy-buddy with.

Nobody pointed out Derek’s shortcomings once the show was over, instead they all gave him encouraging smiles and pats on the shoulder. Derek had no idea why he was so angry about it. He’d been sharing Stiles for years; had planned to keep sharing him until Stiles finally quit and decided to settle down.

Derek didn’t want to think about how, now that Stiles was actively showing interest in people, he was realizing maybe he didn’t want to share as much as he had thought.

It only made the sinking in his gut worse when he bumped into Stiles exchanging numbers with his new friend--Shantal, her name was--and giving her a huge hug before he went back to cleaning up the stage. Derek didn’t even realize he was staring at her until Stiles walked by with one of the amps, frowning and poking him in the arm.

“What’s with the laser eyes, Cujo?” he asked, grinning and then walking off with a wave to Shantal when he passed her.

Technically, Derek was supposed to meet with some of the fans and sign autographs and take pictures. That was part of becoming popular; facing your popularity. However, Derek wasn’t in the mood to deal with people. It was like his past was rearing it’s big, ugly green head. He couldn’t help but remember Kate’s voice, teasing him for thinking that they were dating, joking that the whole point of being a musician was to fuck around.

That nobody ever wanted to actually date a singer.

Derek was almost out the door leading to the tour bus when Peter came from the shadows and snagged him by the elbow. “Your fans are this way, darling nephew,” he purred, manhandling Derek down the hall and practically shoving him into a room full of the fans who had paid extra to meet Derek, Erica and Isaac.

Thankfully, none of them were raving lunatics. Most of them just wanted to talk music with Derek--or grab his ass or hip in the obligatory photo. His head was spinning, still trying to respond to the questions like, “who were you singing about in Cherrybomb? What was your inspiration for Outrun Your Ghosts? Do you plan on doing an acoustic cover of Just Act Normal? Why did you decide to name your band Pack Mentality?” when Lydia dragged him aside and started to prod him angrily in the chest with a perfectly manicured nail.

“Derek, sweetie…you look like someone killed your dog. We don’t pay you to look like Fido just kicked the bucket. We pay you to play music and look pretty; which means smiling for the camera,” she said, voice venomously sweet. Derek struggled to gather his wits enough to tell her off, when she reached up and fluffed his hair.

“I’m sure Stiles prefers more cheerful people, anyway,” she said flippantly, pulling away and giving him a knowing smirk before stepping away so the fans could crowd back in as Erica and Isaac looked on with mixed expressions of horror and hysterical amusement. Derek wanted to die under a rock, or maybe go and murder Lydia and bury her under said rock. It was bad enough he was second-guessing the level of pining he had for Stiles. The fact that even Lydia was aware of it was shocking enough to bring on existential levels of internal crises.

“Quit staring,” Derek snapped, dragging the both Erica and Isaac into a just-shy-of-painful embrace and putting on the scariest grin he could manage just as a group of hipster looking girls brought up their camera for a photo.

It became a blur from there; more fans, a surprise press interview, and being hustled back into the van so they could make it to San Francisco by the end of the week all happening within a two hour time span. Derek’s head was spinning when he finally sat down in the lounge to take a breath.

Stiles was running to and fro, bickering with Scott about taking tourist photos, and if they even had time to do anything other than crash before the show. Lydia and Peter were arguing with Jackson up front, sniping back and forth about whether they were moving the tour too fast; Derek’s shoddy performance coming up every other sentence as an excuse to cancel at least one show so the crew could get proper rest.

Erica, Boyd and Isaac had disappeared back to the bunk area--most likely to sleep off the adrenaline of the show. It left Derek sitting in the lounge with Danny, who was more focused on his laptop than he was anything going on around him.

Things finally settled by the time they were cruising down the highway. Stiles was sitting at the table with Derek, excitedly scribbling in his little journal that he used to write down interesting things that happened on the tour. Every now and then, he would pull his cell phone out to text someone with a grin. It made Derek frustrated, mostly because everyone Stiles could think of texting was on the bus with them, except for his dad.

His dad, and his new friend... Shantal.

Stiles snickered to himself, and Derek lifted his head out of reflex. Stiles glanced up, looking sheepish and then shrugging. “Sorry, friend said something funny,” he mumbled, slinking down into his seat. Derek thought about Lydia’s words earlier, telling him how Stiles loved cheerful people. It made Derek’s stomach churn and his chest ache upon realizing he’d never get Stiles to laugh as easily as this girl did.

Come to think of it, Kate had told him over and over again that his constant seriousness was probably what scared off anyone who might have been interested in him. It was no surprise that she was, yet again, right. Even after six years, she still haunted him.

The exhaustion must have been making him more depressed than usual. Derek didn’t usually think about Kate this much. It made him miss Laura, in a way. She was good at pulling him out of his bad moods. Not as good as their mother--but their mother was dead, just like everyone else.

Derek pushed himself out of his seat as soon as that thought struck him. He never thought about the family unless he was tired and had a few spare minutes to wallow in his self-loathing. That meant it was time for a nap.

He stepped over Stiles’ lap, despite Stiles’ voiced protests about how normal people just asked to be let out of the booth, and made his way back to the bunks. They probably would stop at a diner at some point to eat, so Derek had at least a handful of hours to catch up on lost sleep before then.

Climbing into his bunk--one of the larger ones in back--Derek shut his curtain and put his headphones on. It didn’t take long before the soft sound of Fleet Foxes and the hum of the bus lulled Derek off to sleep.

One minute, Derek was rutting wetly against Stiles’ body, kissing at his throat as colors swirled around them and the paparazzi cameras flashed, and the next, someone was calling his name and dragging him out of sleep. His headphones had fallen off at some point, sitting next to his head and still quietly playing music.

“Derek?” Isaac knocked the panel next to Derek’s bunk again as Derek dragged in a sleepy breath, his hips still following through with the slow undulating motion he must have been doing in his sleep. Isaac knocked more hesitantly this time. “We stopped at Denny’s. Peter says we’re gonna be here for a little bit if you want to get some food.”

Dragging one hand down, Derek bit down on a hiss when his fingers bumped against the outline of his dick, trapped inside of his jeans and painfully hard. “Go on in,” he rasped sleepily, yawning and dragging the heel of his palm along his crotch to try and alleviate some of the pressure. “I’m going to sleep for a little more.”

“Okay,” Isaac chirped, “we’ll order you something and bring it back if you’re not up in time.”

Derek listened to the sound of Isaac and the others getting off the bus, staring up at the top of his bunk and wondering if he should try to will away his boner, or rub one out before going inside. When thoughts of Kate and uncle Peter were whisked away with the memory of Stiles’ laughter, Derek realized it was going to be one of those days.

It would take a little while for them to order and get their food--Derek had the whole bus to himself…might as well make use of his time.

He’d barely closed his eyes before his mind was dredging up the feeling of Stiles’ lips against his own. Sure, it had been a rushed, playful kiss, but it was enough to make Derek fumble with the button to his jeans when he thought about how soft Stiles’ lips had been. Just wondering about it, thinking about those long, soft fingers on parts of his body other than his face or shoulders, it drove Derek out of his mind.

Fisting himself, Derek started to stroke slowly. He pulled up fragments of his dream that he could remember: Stiles’ body against his own, moans and gasps, wet kisses that bordered on desperate.

Derek was starting to get into it by then, biting down on the corner of his lip and rocking his hips to thrust into his hand when the door slid open to the bunk area and footsteps neared. Derek stilled, and then jerked when Stiles’ voice called out, “Derek, are you in?” with a slightly breathless edge to his voice.

He had to squeeze the base of his dick just to keep from blowing his load then and there. Stiles knocked on the panel, panting a little like he’d jogged all the way from the restaurant. “We’re waiting for food; we ordered you something. Did you want it in a bag or were you gonna come get it?”

Even the most innocent question from Stiles had Derek’s dick twitching in his hand. It took all of his self control not to bust right then and there when Stiles sucked in a breath and hummed in confusion before knocking again. “Derek?”

It was like being ripped in half--Derek didn’t know if he wanted to tell Stiles to get out, or wait for him to leave on his own. Either way, when Stiles must have stretched, judging by the grunting groan he let out, Derek’s cock decided to ooze precum all over his hand. There was no way that Stiles wasn’t going to smell what was going on soon enough.

“Derek? Are you sick? Do I need to get Lydia or Peter?” his uncle’s name coming from Stiles’ mouth was enough for Derek to maintain some form of control, grabbing the edge of the curtain and pulling it back enough to give Stiles the most irritated glower he could manage.

“I’m. Fine.” he gritted out, trying to look as sleepy and annoyed as possible. Whatever he looked like, it must not have been sleepy or annoyed because Stiles’ face flickered into a myriad of expressions.

“Well, normally you don’t take a--” he cut off, eyes going wide as he involuntarily dragged in a breath through his nose and nearly choked on air, “oh….oh you’re… okay well--ahaha--” Stiles’ face grew progressively red, looking as mortified as Derek felt while he began backing up towards the door. Bringing his hands up, Stiles gestured for the exit.

“I’m just gonna--wow, Jesus. Sorry dude. You should have said something. Just, you know… open the windows and yeah. I’m going now.”

Stiles bolted and Derek really should have lost his erection at some point during the exchange. He couldn’t get out of his head the way Stiles hadn’t looked disgusted, just flustered--like he hadn’t meant to interrupt Derek…

The idea that the red in Stiles’ cheeks had been from arousal and not embarrassment had Derek getting off in a few short strokes, making a mess all over his stomach before he could think about grabbing a tissue from his bag.

It took a good minute to get his breath back, blinking away the spots in his vision and then staring at the stickiness covering his hand and stomach. Thankfully, he’d pulled his shirt off before taking a nap.

Tucking himself back into his jeans, Derek slipped out of his bunk on wobbly legs, digging through his bag with his clean hand and grabbing some wet wipes to clean his stomach and hand off.

He got dressed, opening the windows in the back and then in the front to make it look like he was airing out the bus because of mustiness--not because it smelled like sex--and then headed inside Denny’s. He detoured to take a quick trip to the bathroom to go pee and wash his face and hands before heading for the booth at the other end of the restaurant where the band and crew were all seated.

Stiles glanced up, eyes going wide at the sight of Derek and red spots appearing high on his cheeks before he let out a strangled laugh, coughed, and then waved Derek over while becoming vastly interested in drinking down half of his soda.

Derek sat down, crushing Stiles up against Scott and Isaac and snagging a handful of French fries from Stiles’ plate. Stiles released an affronted noise, flicking at Derek’s fingers. “Excuse you, poptart, your food is coming. Don’t eat mine.”

With a smirk, Derek turned, chewing loudly and then shoving another handful of fries into his mouth. This hadn’t been the first time someone had run into someone else during their private time (everyone had walked in on Scott having phone sex with his girlfriend at least once). If Derek acted like nothing had happened, then Stiles would probably feel more comfortable than if Derek ever mentioned it.

Well, not that Derek ever planned on bringing it up. In fact, he’d be perfectly happy if they never talked about it again.

Stiles stared for a long second, and then rolled his eyes, muttering, “or you can keep eating my food, you heathen,” and turning to chase his straw around his cup with his tongue (which reminded Derek of a giraffe) before sipping at it with faux irritation. The back of his neck and ears were still red, though, and it made Derek want to see if that blush covered other parts of his body.

Luckily, Peter brought distraction in the form of discussing the next show they would be playing at a concert hall in San Francisco.

After everyone had eaten their fill and Stiles was sprawled across Scott’s lap groaning about how he was too full to sit up, Derek slipped out of his seat to go for a walk around the restaurant. The diner food had been too greasy for his taste, and it sat heavy in his stomach, made his body itch to work off the fat and calories as soon as possible.

Derek was on his third lap, working his way into a jog, when a girl in clashing clothes and a fur hat approached, clutching a camera and looking ready to faint.

“E-excuse me… are you Derek Hale from Pack Mentality?” she asked, voice soft like talking too loud might make Derek run away before she could get her picture. Derek nodded, stopping himself from rolling his eyes at the idea of having to act nice for another fan.

Her face split into a huge grin and she brought her camera up, snapping a picture before Derek had time to even blink. “Oh, I love your music. I just--wow. It’s really good, you know? I read about you, how Burn by Night was inspired by the death of your family. Really deep stuff. My dad died a few years ago, right after you came out with Wolf Whistle,” she stepped in close, talking a mile a minute with bright eyes. Not many people actually had the courage to bring up Derek’s past. That, in itself, was surprising enough to leave Derek speechless as she continued on, heedless of his shock.

“What you went through with that person, the one you wrote Wolf Whistle about, it really helped me. I felt like we had a connection, we shared a feeling of loss and betrayal. My father was really abusive and whoever you were with seemed to do the same to you. I just, it would mean a lot to me if I could talk to you about it more, you know?”

Derek was still struggling to at least thank her for her sentiments, or maybe ask her to step out of his personal space, when Stiles came up from behind him. “Hey,” he smiled, and then slapped Derek’s ass hard, palming the flesh before walking by with the parting words of, “van is leaving in 15, honey muffin.”

Speechless, Derek turned to look at the gobsmacked face of his fan. She fumbled with her camera, turning and snapping a picture of Stiles’ retreating form. The idea that this might hit the news didn’t bother Derek as much as the fact that she’d just taken a picture of Stiles without his permission. Stiles didn’t sign up for this job to have random fan girls take his picture.

“Did you want me to sign something or what?” Derek barked out, a little rougher than he’d intended.

Whirling around, the girl almost dropped her camera in a mad scramble to grab something out of her massive purse. “Oh, yes, yeah. You know--” she thrust a notebook at him covered in scribbles that could be considered artistic in some obscure cult followings, “I won’t tell anyone. I support gays. I love gays-- I might be a little gay, I was thinking. I had this girl in high school that I always thought was really pretty--”

“That’s great,” Derek interrupted, scratching his name down on a blank page and shoving the notebook back at here, “congratulations on the self discovery. Here you go.”

When he finally got in the van, he was tempted to just leave Stiles stranded in the Denny’s parking lot just so that nobody had to hear the round of mad cackling he let out every time he looked at Derek. It was kind of sad that Stiles got more of a kick out of an extreme fan making Derek flustered than he did walking in on Derek jacking off.

It probably said something about Stiles’ priorities that whatever awkwardness there should have been had instantly dissipated in the face of telling the entire crew about Derek’s failed attempt of interacting with one of his fans. It was like Stiles had some sort of sick pleasure out of seeing Derek squirm--and not in the way Derek would have happily squirmed for him.

Once everyone settled after a good hour of ‘lets try to make Derek hate ever having become a musician‘, the rest of the trip was a silent one. Half the crew went to bed within the first two hours of the trip, while the other half kept themselves quietly occupied with reading, writing, or talking quietly to one another.

Derek curled himself into his usual seat in the lounge, staring blankly at the notebook he usually wrote songs or ideas in. His hand was itching to write--mind focused solely on the memories of Stiles hugging that girl, laughing with her and smiling like she could be his reason for happiness.

Pulling his comforter tighter around his shoulders, Derek scratched down a few lines, frowning and then scribbling through them. It was hard to really put what he was feeling into words; to express things that spoken language had no name for. Sure, there was a concept, but some emotions could only be conveyed through hours of bringing a person through the thoughts and feelings of an individual. He was tempted to call Laura and ask her for help, but Laura was worse with emotions than he was.

Laura hadn’t smiled in years--and Derek was sure if it wasn’t for Stiles and the rest of the crew, he’d be just like her.

Stiles wandered into the lounge, tripping over Derek’s foot in his preoccupation with his cursing the magikarps on his gameboy. He yelped, fumbling when he almost dropped the gameboy. It was life or death for a second, Stiles’ mad scramble making the game flip up in the air twice before Stiles bodily snatched it into his chest. Erica and Scott laughed while Derek bit down on a grin, watching Stiles check to make sure nothing had broken on the ancient device, and then closed his notebook.

“Nice save,” he said, earning a laugh from Stiles.

“I know, right? All skill right here, buddy.” Stiles scoffed at himself, and then made a delighted sound when he realized his game was still going. He moved to sit down, half sitting on Lydia’s lap before she swatted at his shoulder to get him to squish in between Danny and herself.

Derek flipped his notebook open, staring at the page that had more crossed-out lines than actual words, and then looked up to see Stiles answering a text on his phone. Danny peered over his shoulder and the both of them started laughing at whatever message Stiles had gotten.

“That’s a good one,” Danny grinned. Stiles chuckled under his breath, agreeing with Danny before typing up a response on his phone.

A hot flash of jealously shot through Derek like a fire. He’d always been accepting of sharing Stiles--but there was a difference between sharing and giving him up. If this kept going, it could mean Stiles leaving the crew. What if Stiles decided to go back and stay with her? He could easily find a job at any concert hall. It would be stable and less stressful than traveling around with Derek and the rest of the band.

Derek didn’t want that to happen, though. The feeling of possessiveness was foreign to him--it made guilt and shame so strong it was hard to breathe and be in the same room as Stiles and the others. Derek slid out of his seat, grabbing his notebook and ignoring the questioning looks from the others over the fact that Derek was actually going back into the bunk area to write.

He didn’t write, though. Well, he did, but it wasn’t comprehensive. By the time they hit San Francisco, all Derek had was a half page of guitar tabs and four lines of words that were never going to see the light of day. They played the show and Derek couldn’t stop thinking about his song--the song he was writing for Stiles--the entire time. If it showed in his music, he couldn’t be blamed. Every musician had a few off days.

Apparently, he’d had too many off days, because Lydia finally cajoled Peter into pushing the LA show back by half a week so that everyone had time to relax and enjoy the city. If it was because of Derek, nobody said anything to him. Even Stiles seemed to be avoiding Derek more than usual, but that could have been a combination of his new friend distracting him, and Derek locking himself in the hotel room to work tirelessly on his song.

It had been a long time since Derek had composed something based on his life. The last song had been Wolf Whistle, which he had written as a means of finally letting go of the vice Kate had kept around his heart. It had taken him months to finish it; the end result being the first single to actually break out of the tiny pocket of fame that he and the band had been carved into. It had been a shock, among other things, when Derek and the others had been walking through a mall in the middle of Oregon and Wolf Whistle had come over the radio.

The day before their LA show, Derek was in the hotel, fiddling with the E chord on his guitar, when the sound of shouting came from just outside the hall. Normally Derek would ignore people arguing outside in favor of minding his own business, but he recognized the voices far too quickly to just brush it off.

When he opened the hotel door, he wasn’t expecting to see Danny and Jackson watching in a mix of horror and amusement as Stiles and Scott pulled and shoved at one another like they were on the verge of a full-on fight.

“You don’t even care that I haven’t seen her in months! All you care about is that stupid book you‘re writing!” Scott slammed Stiles up against the wall just as Boyd came jogging down the hall.

Stiles pushed at Scott’s face, kicking him in the shin. “Oh yeah, because it’s just about the book. At least I have other things on my mind besides wanting to get laid!”

Derek was still in shock when Scott brought his hand up, ready to sock Stiles right in the face. “That has nothing to do with it!” Scott roared. It was enough to get rid of that stunned feeling at witnessing the closest friends of the whole crew actually fighting.

Derek grabbed at Scott’s arm, wrenching him off as Boyd reached the fight. Stiles took that second to lunge for Scott and Derek grabbed him around the stomach. He squirmed, kicking and shoving at Derek like a child on the verge of a tantrum. “Let me go, Derek!” he snarled, chest heaving even when Derek’s arm looped around it to bring Stiles’ body flush against his own and limit his struggling.

“Yeah, I get it, all right. You care more about this stupid band than you do about going back home! I’ll make sure to tell your dad that!“ Scott shouted as Boyd pulled him away. Stiles went utterly still in Derek’s arms, and Derek started to tug him towards their hotel room.

“Fuck you!“ Stiles spat over Derek’s shoulder, apparently hell bent on getting the last word in as Derek shut the door behind them.

He didn’t move, at first, waiting to see what Stiles would do. Just being in a different room was apparently enough to calm Stiles down significantly. He dragged in a few shaking breaths, bringing his fingers up to dab at the cut on his lip and look up at Derek with a sheepish shrug of, “Scott’s a dick.”

No matter how much Derek would have loved to get on Stiles’ good side, he did genuinely like Scott when he put his mind to the work and didn’t let his temper get in the way.

“Yeah,” Derek began, slipping into the en suite bathroom and wetting a wash cloth for Stiles’ lip, “well he’s your friend, too,” Derek tossed him the wash cloth, going to the door and hooking the chain up so that Scott didn’t try to come in and start arguing again.

Stiles sat on the edge of the bed, wiping at the blood on his mouth and shrugging. “Some friend.”

Derek crossed his arms, leaning against the wall next to the bathroom and shrugging. “Wanna talk about it?”

Focus wandering to Derek’s notebook and guitar, Stiles shrugged. “Wanna talk about the song your writing?”

“It’s not done yet.” Derek shot back, for once glad that he’d never really been in the habit of playing a song prematurely for anyone until he’d at least perfected the basic tune. Stiles sighed, crossing over to grab Derek’s acoustic guitar, fiddling with it for a second before plucking out the tune to Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.

“He wants to go back home,” Stiles muttered, running his thumb over the strings and tapping the frets. It didn’t really come as a shock to Derek. Scott had been homesick for two months, and made sure everyone knew about it.

Shrugging, Derek waited for Stiles to continue. At first, there was silence while Stiles drummed a beat on the guitar. “He wants me to come home with him; says I’m just as stressed out about it as he is and that we’re not getting paid enough for the work. I mean, I get that he misses his mom and his girlfriend… and I do miss my dad, okay? I really miss him, but--”

“You can leave,” Derek interrupted, dread heavy in his chest, “If you really want to go, I’ll talk to Peter.”

The strangled tune of the guitar cut out as Stiles snapped his head up, widening eyes locking on Derek’s. He looked like he’d been slapped, eyebrows pinching together after a long moment of staring. Derek didn’t even know how to interpret the expression, but he couldn’t help himself from exhaling in relief when Stiles shook his head, gripping the neck of the guitar. “No, dude, I couldn’t do that to the band.”

Derek shrugged, clenching his jaw to feign indifference. “If you’re not happy--”

“I know you guys need me,” Stiles interrupted, plucking the guitar off of his lap and laying it on the bed. “I kind of like being useful, you know? It helps the self esteem…” Stiles looked up, grinning at Derek in a way that looked almost hesitant. Derek kind of wanted to tie him to the bed and demand that he never leave the band; but that would probably be a little dramatic. Instead, Derek approached the bed, sitting down next to Stiles and picking up his guitar. Stiles dragged in a slow breath, huffing softly.

“Scott can suck it up. I wanna stay here with you--with you guys.” Stiles nodded, like he was assuring himself, and Derek had to resist the urge to kiss him then and there--be it from relief, gratitude, or a feeling of accomplishment knowing that he held some sort of priority in Stiles’ life.

Then Derek realized that Stiles hadn’t said he was staying for Derek. He was staying for the band. It hurt, just the tiniest bit, if only because Derek had thought for a fleeting moment that Stiles had been talking solely about him. He grinned anyway, setting the guitar down on the floor and reaching out to rub the top of Stiles’ head. He expected Stiles to bat him away like he always did with Peter, but Stiles just grinned and shoved playfully at Derek’s chest.

Derek pulled his hand back before it grew a mind of it’s own, and Stiles reached out to tug on the scruff of a beard that Derek had started to grow in the past week. “Hey, Chewbacca, you’d better shave before the next show,” he teased, “Peter might have a coronary if you go up there looking like a lumberjack.”

Grabbing Stiles’ wrist, Derek used his other hand to palm at Stiles’ face, shoving it away and then turning to shove Stiles’ head into the bed. Stiles laughed, kicking at Derek and elbowing him. They wrestled for a minute, until Stiles flailed too much and went tumbling off the bed. Derek laughed loudly, smirking over the edge of the bed.

“I win,” he said smugly, standing up to grab his guitar and notebook while Stiles struggled to free himself from the death trap of bed sheets.

Derek was halfway out the door when Stiles popped his head over the side of the bed, fist waving angrily and his face flushed red as he cried, “I shall be avenged!” to Derek’s retreating back.

Despite the fact that Derek had spent endless hours obsessing over the song and perfecting the lyrics, he still finished before the show. That didn’t mean he wasn’t on the verge of an anxiety attack over the sheer idea of talking to Lydia and Peter about adding it onto the set list by replacing another song. That was probably why he waited until the very last possible minute--twenty minutes before the start of the show-- to tell them.

“You didn’t even run it by any of us yet,” Lydia pointed out, jabbing him in the chest with a very angry pointer finger. Derek took a step back, avoiding eye contact entirely with both her and Peter.

“Well I just finished the tune last night,” he muttered with a shrug. Stiles, who had been jogging by with a mic stand, stopped so fast he almost tripped over his own feet.

“Wait--you’re playing the new song tonight? You said it wasn’t done yet!” he exclaimed, waving the mic stand around like it was some sort of weapon. Derek shot him a dirty look, because now Lydia and Peter were looking at each other like maybe Derek was suffering a quarter-life crisis.

Peter sighed dramatically, reaching out to gently stroke Stiles’ arm and getting stabbed in the chest with a mic stand for his efforts. He stumbled back, rubbing his sternum and watching as Stiles scrambled away, hurrying to finish getting the stage ready. He turned to Derek, hand coming to clasp at his shoulder and squeeze. “If you are having a mental breakdown, you can tell us. I’d rather have you put in an institution for a few days than have you ruin the band’s reputation,” he said empathetically, eyes beseeching.

For a minute, Derek wished Stiles would come back and give Peter another whack with the mic stand. Instead, he shoved off his uncle’s hand. “It’s fine. I’ve been working on it for a few weeks. It’s why the last two shows weren’t as good,” he lied, gesturing vaguely. Lydia made a soft noise of understanding--because she knew nothing about the ‘plight’ of being a musician. That’s why she was their production manager, she saw the technical side of things and didn’t let other things get in the way of finishing the job.

“Well,” she said curtly, bringing her hand up and daintily checking the time on the thin wristwatch that hung from her arm, “as long as you play it last in case we have to cut the song and blame it on a technical difficulty,” she informed him, turning on her heel and flagging down Danny and Jackson to tell them the change of plan.

For a second, Derek felt a little bad for not including the head audio technician and the stage manager in on his little announcement--but then again, that’s what Lydia was for. She’d get less complaint about it, anyway.

It was five minutes before curtain when Stiles came jogging over from where he was chatting with Danny and Scott to grab at Derek’s arms. For a second, Derek’s heart was going to leap out of his throat as a panic hit him in thinking Stiles had figured everything out. He quickly pushed it down, though, because Stiles had a habit of grabbing him all the time. This should be no different than any other time. If only Derek could get his stomach and heart to stop freaking out, he could breath evenly.

Stiles grunted, pulling Derek in close like he was about to convey a super top-secret secret.

“Derek, my sweet cuddle-bug,” he began seriously, fingers digging into Derek’s biceps, “my darling honey muffin; the light of my life. If you fuck this song up and they call technical difficulties, I am disowning you.”

Derek stared, and Stiles narrowed his eyes, “they will blame me if anything goes wrong on the stage,” he elaborated with a hiss.

The anxiety that was squeezing tighter and tighter around Derek’s lungs eased just the tiniest bit--because only Stiles threatening him could actually make him feel relief--and he reached out to pat Stiles on the cheek.

“Don’t worry, shnookums,” he assured, mouth twitching into the smuggest grin he could manage, “I’ve got it under control.”

With that, Derek pulled away from Stiles’ shocked and limp fingers before his courage could fail him, and walked for the stage. Stiles finally seemed to get his wits about him because he bellowed, “Do you even have lyrics?!” just as Derek walked out to greet a cheering crowd.

The set went off without a hitch. Isaac didn’t miss a single note for either of his piano parts, and kept a solid rhythm the entire time. It was even better when coupled with how Erica was amazingly on key with the harmony and back-up bass. Just this alone helped to bolster Derek after they finished Outrun Your Ghosts and things quieted in preparation of his new song.

He set down his electric guitar in the stand, turning and realizing for the first time that nobody had brought out his acoustic for him. Panic reared it’s ugly head until Stiles suddenly scrambled onto the stage with the acoustic in his hand. Derek traded him guitars and Stiles took a second to re-adjust the mic for him so it could pick up the acoustic’s audio better.

Stiles thumbed the power for the mic, shutting it off long enough to hiss, “you’re out of your mind,” to Derek before turning it back on. Derek had to bite the inside of his mouth to keep from laughing. He knew Stiles was agitated about this spur-of-the-moment decision; Stiles hated change. He was the type who wanted to strategize things for peak productivity and have eight different contingency plans. Any time someone threw a wrench in his plans, they were always on the receiving end of the patented Stilinski Scowl for a good hour or two before Stiles’ ADD kicked in and he forgot why he was mad in the first place.

Derek, in a rush of adrenaline, blew a smooch at Stiles before he hurried off stage. Stiles turned to gesture something but whatever it was he planned on doing was cut off when his foot caught in a coil of cable and he tripped over himself before disappearing off the stage. The crowd tittered with laughter and Derek ducked his head down into the mic.

“That’s probably my fault,” he said softly to the crowd, giving Stiles his best apologetic grin, “he hates surprises like this.”

“Damn right!” Stiles shouted from backstage, earning more laughs from the crowd near the front who could pick up his outcry.

Derek took a deep breath, focus already waning in light of the humor, and closed his eyes. Mouth almost brushing the mic, all he said was, “This song is called ‘Don’t Speak’,” to give the crowd something to work with. He bounced his head and foot to the beat in his head, gearing himself up for a second before he started the chords to the song.

“Well, I know the words; but I can’t really speak them… to you,” as he sang, Derek couldn’t help but think of every moment he’d ever shared with Stiles. Their first year together--when it had been a constant butting of heads and Derek threatening to fire Stiles every other minute because he didn’t like the way Stiles called him out on his behavior. He remembered hating Stiles for months; hating how good he was at his job and how he didn’t let Derek lock himself inside of his head.

“…and I hide all the pain--that I’ve gained with my wisdom--from you,” in all the years they had been touring together, Stiles had grown more and more perceptive. He’d forced himself into Derek’s life, weaseled his way under Derek’s skin, became so valuable to Derek that it was hard to think of giving him to someone else.

When Scott had come into the picture, Derek had been so sure he would be pushed aside--but that didn’t happen. “--and I’m eaten alive, by what I hold inside,” Scott had his own place in Stiles’ life, just like Derek. There was no competition because Stiles divided his focus so flawlessly between them, “all the things that I‘ve lived with, I can‘t easily hide.”

He tried not to think about how it could have been because Stiles loved them both so differently that it was instinctual for him to make time for Derek and Scott. It didn’t help that, even knowing the things Derek had done in his past, Stiles still cared.

“--and I’m left here with nothing,” because Stiles didn’t care about Kate, “nothing to live for,” he didn’t care to find out about what really happened to Derek’s family--or why, “but you,” as if all Stiles cared about was Derek, and Derek alone.

“It’s not easy to hide all this damage inside,” even Laura and Peter still treated Derek like a problem sometimes. There were moments--no mater how far and few between--where they would remember that Derek was the reason everyone was dead. “I’ll carry it with me, until I’m not alive…“ the guilt was suffocating; all-encompassing in a way that he knew it could drag Stiles down if it got to be too much.

“When you look at my face, does it seem just as ugly to you--” he hated himself; hated who he had become. “I can’t seem to erase all the scars I have lived with from you,” there were days that it was hard to remember how to smile, and days where he had to force himself to wake up and go through the routine of life…

“I’m so sick of this place, this taste in my mouth,” there were days where Derek wanted to kill himself; and then he remembered that disappointed look that came across Stiles’ face any time he found Derek trapped in his own head. That look that Stiles gave him like he expected better from Derek--expected him to know how much everyone cared about him. “because of you, I can’t figure what I’m all about,” it was a look that made Derek’s chest ache and his stomach burn with the need to prove himself and to make Stiles’ grin come right back on his face.

“I’m left here with nothing,” he was scared, though. So scared.

“Nothing to live for,” he hated it. Hated being trapped between this state of wanting to be with Stiles and too terrified to do anything. “but you,” no matter how much Stiles proved that he would never judge Derek; it didn’t stop that fear gripping him tight and telling him he would never be good enough and would never be worth ten thousand of Stiles.

“It’s not easy to hide all this damage inside,” it was too late, now, though. He’d let the fear stop him, and now Stiles was with someone else. He’d lost his chance and he could no longer be that person worthy of Stiles’ love and devotion.

“I’ll carry it with me until I’m not alive…” which was why he had made this song; because everyone needed a last goodbye. It was the song to expel everything that had built up inside him, that threatened to burst out of him.

Even as he plucked the last few chords, Derek still felt unbearably raw inside. He knew the others would pick up on the fact that this was a personal song, and just looking at the crowd had his eyes burning with this feeling like he wanted to scream or cry. He swallowed, blinking a few times and then giving a weak smile to the speechless audience.

“So yeah, that was it,” he breathed, pushing himself into a stand as the applause broke out.

He couldn’t even bear to look at where he knew Stiles was standing just off the stage with the rest of the crew. Instead, he pulled the mic in close, giving a wave to everyone. “Well, pretty good since I just finished it three hours ago, right?” a few cheers, and then Derek nodded once, “well, thanks for having us, guys. Have a good night and drive safe.”

When he made his way off of the stage, he could hear Stiles’ voice weakly calling his name out. Stiles reached for him and Derek shoved his guitar out, pressing it into Stiles’ hand instead of letting himself be touched. He didn’t want to know what Stiles thought--didn’t want his pity or guilt. He’d done the equivalent of speaking his peace, and he wanted to leave it at that.

He elbowed his way past Scott, muttering, “I’ll be on the bus,” when Scott asked him where he was going. Derek made it exactly twenty feet before Lydia intercepted him, hands on the swell of her hips and lips pursed into that wide-eyed frown that made her look like she was ready to claw his face off.
Lydia was the last person--after Peter--that Derek wanted to deal with after he’d basically scrubbed himself emotionally raw. He brought a hand up, pinching the bridge of his nose and tried to look pained. “I have a headache, I’m going to the bus.”

Apparently, Lydia wasn’t buying any more of Derek’s excuses. She rubbed her lips together, popped them, and then gestured behind Derek to where Boyd had apparently been lurking. “Take him to the green room,” she said firmly, bracelets clinking with a sense of finality.

“Wait, what?” Derek barely managed to say before Boyd was grabbing him around the waist and hauling him up into a fireman carry. His head spun and he wheezed when his gut dug into Boyd’s shoulder. He didn’t even have a chance to protest before he was being carted off towards the green room.

“Boyd, put me down,” he snapped, digging his nails into Boyd’s back like some sort of agitated feline. “You are fired. Put me down! I’m going to kill you--”

Boyd flung open the door to the green room, probably cracking Derek’s head against the entry on purpose before he tossed the protesting musician on the couch and walked right back out of the room. Derek leapt to his feet, tripping over himself before he stomped to the door, intent on leaving. The only problem was that, when he flung the door open, Stiles was standing there with one hand hovering in the air like he had been about to enter.

Stiles looked…happy…really happy. His eyes were red rimmed and there was a pinkish hue high on his cheeks, but his face was split into a massive, blinding grin. The only problem was that the grin fell the second he locked eyes with Derek; quickly turning into a frown.

Derek swallowed and took a step back, only for Stiles to move forward with him. “I can’t believe you actually wrote a song about me because you're too emotionally constipated to hold a conversation longer than twenty syllables."

It was like driving a burning torch right into Derek’s stomach, nerves and bones burning with shame and surprise at Stiles’ bold comment. He knew he was obvious, but he didn’t think Stiles would actually do anything about it. Stiles had always been a fan of ignoring problems until they went away.

Instead, Derek was being crowded into the room as Stiles threw his hands up in a gesture that usually meant, ‘isn’t it obvious?’ and said, “You’re an asshole and you don’t pay me enough to put up with all of the pre-performance crap you make me do. Why the hell else would I still be here if I wasn’t in love with you?”

Which--it made sense. It made sense in the way that it was completely impossible. Stiles was a hard worker, he was dedicated and he was amiable with everyone on the crew. Just the idea that maybe Derek hadn’t been seeing what he wanted, and that Stiles really had been interested? It was hard to wrap his head around.

Stiles took the silence as it was--one of Derek’s processing errors--and ran his hand over his head, dragging his backwards cap off and scrubbing at his hair. “Please tell me the pet names tipped you off? No? Not at all? Come on, I called you names ‘cuz I love you. I mean, well I do, but, still...how did you even make it at all in this industry, man.”

Derek was pretty sure he was getting lightheaded because he’d forgotten how to breathe. Floundering for words, Derek’s mind grasped at empty air before he finally blurted, “what about the girl from Seattle?”

“The wha--Shantal?” Stiles laughed incredulously, looking at Derek like he’d grown a second head, “she’s my techie buddy--we talk about trade secrets and complain about the existence of stupid people,” as he spoke, understanding dawned on Stiles’ face.

“Oh my god, Derek. You’re a dumbass. You’re a complete--you know what, fuck it,” Stiles stepped forward, fisting his hands into Derek’s shirt and dragging him in until their lips crashed together in more of a face-mash than an actual kiss. Stiles was quick to remedy it, leaning back a little and dragging a hand up to hook it behind Derek’s head so he could ease it into something less painful but more desperate.


It seemed that Derek didn’t reciprocate fast enough for Stiles’ liking, because he pulled back to grab viciously at Derek’s right nipple, twisting it until Derek grunted and slapped at his hand. Stiles grinned with lips bruised red, and shrugged. “Just making sure you didn’t go into emotional shock,” he teased.

Any and all shock Derek might have had before was completely gone from that comment alone.

“Shut up,” he barked, and pressed Stiles against the door to seal their mouths together a second time. Stiles seemed totally on board for this, because his arms looped around Derek’s back, lips opening into a smile that Derek tried desperately to kiss away, but only made worse.

If they planned on going any further, it was wholly interrupted by a sharp knock on the door. Derek didn’t pull away though, far too addicted to the taste of Stiles’ laughter, and kept peppering slow, wanting kisses even as Peter spoke up from the other side of the door.

“We don’t have time for love confessions and sex today. The bus leaves in a half hour. Come along, boys,” Peter chided. Derek groaned softly, wanting more than ever to just buy Stiles a katana and let him go to town with his desires to inflict stabby pain upon his uncle. Instead, he pulled away as Stiles chuckled against his lips.

Unable to keep himself from echoing that ridiculous grin on Stiles’ face, Derek’s hand came up of it’s own volition. He curled his finger around Stiles’ jaw, thumbing the curve of his cheekbone, fingertip brushing the thick lashes on Stiles’ bottom lid.

Stiles cupped Derek’s face, pulling him in for another kiss and muttering into Derek’s mouth, “so…next time you wanna jerk off in your bed, you should invite me to give you a hand. Pun intended.”

“I regret ever becoming emotionally invested in you,” Derek said flatly, trying to school his face into something expressionless and failing when Stiles pecked him on the lips.

“Love you too, cuddle-pumpkin.”