Stiles’ little travel bookshop makes no money. It’s quaint and cute and the windows are dusty in the corners and he absolutely loves his shop, but it makes no money. This is why Stiles also works as a freelance copy editor for people who manage to write books that do in fact sell.
He can keep the lights on by the mere fact that his grandparents owned the shop for 35 years and passed it down to him free and clear. Back then it was a moderately successful bakery, but while Stiles inherited a good many things from his grandparents, the ability to make bread rise and cookies crumble was not among them. He pays no rent, just the taxes and utilities, which is why he’s still there, in his little shop with groaning wooden floors and a bright blue door.
Stiles loves his shop, uniquely named The Travel Book Shop, because Stiles panicked when he had to fill out the paperwork for the business. He sells travel guides, maps, travelogues, adventure literature, and little else. He’s got a corner upfront by the windows for postcards, greeting cards, and magnets because even when someone stumbles into his shop looking for regular books, they’ll often end up buying a postcard or two out of guilt before leaving in search of a Barnes and Noble. Or just going home.
Business is often tepid – anything anyone could ever want can be found online and often for cheaper. And online orders remove the requirement of getting up off the couch and going outside to an actual store. Stiles thinks it’s atrocious, never mind his own Amazon addiction. You can’t discover anything while online shopping. You can’t experience the miraculous joy of scanning through a bookshelf and happening upon a random title, a book you never ever knew about, but needed to own and to love immediately. That is irreplaceable by mouse and keyboard. He might not be rolling in cash, but the less-than-busy business gives Stiles ample time to get work done for his other clients and pay his bills.
A few hours into his day, Stiles is behind the counter and nose deep in a new YA manuscript when the little bell above the front door jangles merrily. It’s neither a surprise nor expected; on any given day Stiles never knows if someone is going to walk in looking for an up-to-date travel guide on Prague, or if he’s going to have to explain to yet another lost soul that no, he doesn’t have the complete set of Harry Potter, or if he’s simply going to spend most of the day alone.
Today, quite unexpectedly, a man walks in. He’s tall with broad shoulders and enough muscle to show through his leather jacket. His sharply defined jaw and cheekbones are shadowed by perfectly trimmed stubble, but the rest of his face is obscured by a hat pulled down low and dark sunglasses, even though it’s been raining for two days and the sunglasses are pointless. It doesn’t matter how much of his face he hides – he’s hot as fuck anyway. Stiles can tell.
“Nice shades,” Stiles calls out by way of greeting. And then, because he can never stop while he’s ahead, he asks, “You on the run from the law?” He’s never been known for his exemplary customer service skills, especially when the clientele is so very much his type.
The man smirks. “Would I tell you if I was?” His voice is higher than Stiles expected and something about it tickles the back of Stiles’ brain.
Stiles grins and taps his pen against his mouth. He likes this guy already, which is a shame because he’s probably someone’s cousin in town for a wedding or funeral or something. Guys like him don’t just walk into Stiles’ shop every day. He looks like he kind of man to disappear into quiet and foggy night without a word.
“Depends on the crime. I don’t aid and abet for just anyone.”
“Who said I was anyone?”
The man moves slowly around the shop, scanning the shelves and running his fingers down the spines of travel guides. Stiles watches him curiously. There’s something familiar about him: the longer shape of his chin, the little furrow between his eyebrows not quite hidden by his cap, the line of his shoulders under his jacket. Stiles just can’t quite place it though.
The man doesn’t seem to be shopping for anything, just looking; like he came into the shop simply to waste a bit of time. He lingers by the eastern wall, gazing intently at a series of old maps of the California coast that hang framed. Maps were a passion of Stiles’ grandmother; the walls of the shop are lined with some of the antique maps Stiles inherited from her. They’re faded and some of the corners are wrinkles and they are most definitely Not For Sale.
“Those aren’t for sale,” Stiles calls out just in case the guy got any ideas.
“Shame,” the man responds. “They’re exquisite.” He takes his sunglasses off to peer more closely at one of the maps and Stiles freezes. The tickle in his brain turns into a clanging bell of recognition. Even with the hat still on Stiles knows this man.
Derek Hale. Stiles doesn’t know him-know him, but he knows of him, who he is. Everyone knows Derek Hale. World famous movie star and reluctant heartthrob Derek Hale. Winner of an Oscar and several People’s Choice Awards.
“They were my grandmother’s,” Stiles says because he can’t say nothing. He can’t get weird now that he knows.
“This was her shop,” he continues. “Well, hers and my granddad’s. But it wasn’t a bookstore – a travel book store – it was a bakery. They were bakers. Both of them, actually. A lot of times people think it was just my grandmother, but it wasn’t. My granddad made this poppyseed cake like nobody else. Do you like poppyseed cake? I’m not asking because I have some, I don’t – I’m not a baker - I’m just asking because--”
Derek glances over his shoulder at Stiles, who snaps his mouth shut with a click that hurts his teeth. Stiles has definitely seen Derek almost naked in a magazine before. The memory of it flashes through his mind and he flushes a dull red that he hopes Derek can’t see. Those abs are something he’d never forget.
Stiles is going to say something, anything to break the suddenly awkward moment, when the bell above the shop door jangles again.
Another man wanders in, wearing a trench coat and a lost look. Stiles already knows how this is going to go. He lets the man scan the shelves for a minute, which are very much lacking in anything he probably wants to buy.
“Can I help you find something?” Stiles finally asks, though he’s still watching Derek, who has shuffled a few feet away from the newcomer.
“Austen?” Comes the hopeful query.
Stiles shakes his head. “Only travel books. Guides. Maps. Travelogues. Etcetera.”
The man looks around again. He’s standing in the South American section; Stiles would wager this man couldn’t name three countries in South America. “Do you have any Shakespeare?”
Stiles hears an amused snort from the other side of the store and his stomach does a happy little flip. “Yeah, no. I mean, sure, Shakespeare’s heroes often go on personal journeys, but that’s really stretching it, isn’t it? Travel books. Guides. Maps. Travelogues. Etcetera. That’s what I’ve got.”
“Well what about Henry James?”
Stiles resists slamming his forehead into the counter. “Well no, because that’s a novel.”
The would-be customer turns around helplessly; seemingly ready to leave the store without his Austen, Shakespeare, or James, when he spots Derek. The man stops and his mouth opens. Stiles hopes he didn’t look this stupid when he recognized Derek.
Stiles watches as Derek notices that he’s been made and his entire posture changes. His shoulders tense and then relax, shifting down into a configuration meant to look easy and casual, but is obviously completely calculated. A flinch flutters across his sharp features before easing into a polite smile that doesn’t show his teeth. The entire thing happens in the space of an inhale.
“You’re--” The man says, stepping towards Derek.
“Oh wow. What a strange place to run into someone like you.”
Derek shrugs. “I’m here buying travel books. Not so strange.”
Stiles grins and taps his pen against his chin again. He’s utterly fascinated by Derek. It’s not just the celebrity thing, though he’d be a liar to say that it wasn’t part of it. He’s only ever seen the man on a screen – in movies and during interviews, which turns out is not at all the same as in the flesh. In person he’s ever better – some how even more attractive, and most assuredly funnier.
“Can you – would you sign something for me?” The man digs through his pockets and pulled out a wadded up piece of paper. “My wife will never believe me.”
“Sure. Uhm…” Derek searches his own pockets for something he can’t seem to find.
“Hey!” Stiles calls out. Derek looks over at him and as soon as he does Stiles flips his pen across the shop with an accuracy born of muscle memory from years of lacrosse. Stiles laughs when Derek manages to snatch the pen out of midair. Derek’s expression flickers briefly from coolly polite to something like surprised before smoothing out again.
“Wow,” the not-customer says and thrusts his crumbled piece of paper towards Derek to sign.
“So what’s your name?”
“Gene, but make it out to my wife.”
“And what’s her name?” Derek asks with more patience than Stiles could ever have mustered. And he deals in sales.
“Irene. That’s my wife.”
Derek hums noncommittally and scrawls his name across the paper. “Since you’re here you should really pick Irene up a gift,” Derek says casually. “I think I saw a good selection of Mary Morris over in the American writers section. Your wife might like her.”
“Oh thank you, yes, I think I will!” Gene agrees brightly, taking his autograph and shuffling off towards the section Derek gestures to with a grateful bob of his head.
Stiles stands up straight as Derek makes his way back over to the counter. He is struck again by how ridiculous handsome the man is. It borders on inhuman.
“Thank you for the pen,” Derek says, handing it back. Stiles is careful to not immediately start chewing on the end of it like he wants to. He’s gotta keep this halfway decent impression up, even as he realizes how green Derek’s eyes are.
“Thanks for the business,” he counters, nodding his head in the direction of the man grabbing a few books off a shelf. It might be the only sale he makes that day.
Derek smiles enigmatically. “I should get going.”
It’s expected, but Stiles’ stomach sinks anyway. “Sure.”
“It was nice to meet you…”
“Stiles.” He holds his hand out for Derek to shake. Derek’s grip is strong and warm, and Stiles shivers.
Derek smirks, just a little. “Indeed. Goodbye, Stiles.”
“Bye,” Stiles responds faintly.
The bell jangles as Derek leaves and Stiles sighs wistfully as he watches him go. It’s the most exciting thing to happen in days. It’s probably the most exciting thing that will happen to him the rest of his life.
Stiles is still staring out the window in the direction Derek left when Gene approaches the counter with a handful of Mary Morris titles.
“I don’t suppose you have the Harry Potter box set, do you?”
Stiles closes up a little earlier than his posted time because no one has wandered into his shop in a while and he’s gotten hungry. It’s unlikely he’s going to lose out on major business by locking up.
The lock is old and the key sticks a little, but Stiles has his tried and true twist and jerk combo that does the trick most of the time. Even if it’s a bit violent. Stiles tugs the key out of the lock and spins around – directly into a solid wall of a body.
“Oof!” Stiles grunts.
“Shit!” Comes the response.
Stiles backpedals with an enviable lack of grace just as he feels the unmistakable heat of spilled coffee seeping into his shirt. Looking up, he sees Derek Hale standing in front of him, still wearing his leather jacket, but now with the addition of half a cup of coffee dripping from it and the t-shirt beneath.
“Holy fuck I’m sorry.” Stiles reached out pat Derek dry, but he only has his hands, which are completely ineffectual. His palms are pressed to Derek’s solid chest when he realizes what he’s doing and Stiles jerks his hands away as though scalded.
The scowl on Derek’s face is equal parts frightening and arousing. He’s no longer wearing the cap he was before, which only adds to arousing side of the equation.
“I’m so sorry,” Stiles repeats. His own shirt is soaked to his skin and sticking to him all the way down to his jeans. He never knew a cup of coffee could hold so much.
“It’s…it’s alright.” Derek’s Adam’s apple moves as he swallows. “I should – I was only…”
“I live just across the street,” Stiles interrupts. The words come before the thought is even fully formed.
Derek’s eyes go wide. “Excuse me?”
“No – I didn’t mean. I have clothes. More clothes. Dry clothes. You could borrow something.”
Derek looks pained and he glances around. At this hour there are more people on the sidewalks, more cars in the street; people getting off from work, families going home.
“I’m really sorry,” Stiles repeats. “Please. I’ve got clothes. Water. Soap. We’ll get you cleaned up and back out on to the street. In a non-prostitute sense.”
Derek glares at him, but there’s no heat behind it. “Well, what do you mean ‘just across the street?’”
Stiles points across the street to small apartment building with a blue door the same shade as the bookstore’s front door. “That’s my building.”
Stiles can see the stress in his eyes, the calculation going on before he makes a decision. Stiles doesn’t ask just what Derek was doing outside his shop again.
Stiles resists pumping his fist before he leads Derek across the street and into his apartment building. He lives on the top floor and the elevator ride is short and horrendously awkward, with neither of them saying a thing. The coffee has turned his shirt uncomfortably cold, and Stiles holds it away from his body as best he can.
“Uhm, it’s not quite as clean in here as I normally…” Stiles warns as he unlocks the door and pushes it open. “My roommate is, well, she’s my roommate.” Stiles surreptitiously kicks a pair of high heels out of the way and throws a lacy bra into the coat closet, hopefully before Derek sees it. Erica is fine to live with most of the time, but her neatness leaves much to be desired. Not that Stiles himself is any better half the time.
“It’s fine,” Derek says, looking around with an unreadable expression.
“Let me get you something to change into.” Stiles bolts into his bedroom and digs through his dresser for anything that might fit. Derek is broader than he is, if not quite as tall, and Stiles is pretty sure everything he owns is going to be comically tight. It’s not like he can try Erica’s closet for something.
Derek is still standing in the front hallway, staring at a framed photo of Stiles as a young boy with his grandparents.
“Here.” Stiles thrusts the shirt he’d grabbed at Derek. “Try this. The bathroom is down the hall, second door on the left. Help yourself to whatever.”
Derek smirks again. “Thanks.”
As soon as the bathroom door shuts behind Derek, Stiles whirls through the apartment, kicking clothes into Erica’s room, throwing dishes into the dishwasher, fluffing the pillows on the couch as though Derek is going to sit down and stay awhile. He sniffs the air and is satisfied that nothing smells rotten.
It hits him then that a movie star is in his little apartment in Beacon Hills. His. Stiles. There is an award-winning actor in Stiles’ bathroom putting on Stiles’ shirt. He doesn’t even know how this happened. Stiles rakes his hands through his hair, looking frantically around the apartment for anything even remotely incriminating. He doesn’t have a magazine with Derek’s face on it laying on the coffee table, but it’s not completely out of the realm of possibility. At least he doesn’t have to worry about Derek going through his browser history.
“It…doesn’t quite fit.”
Stiles spins around and can’t stop the laugh that bubbles from his lips when he sees Derek. The shirt is hilarious snug on him, sleeves straining around his biceps the hem barely reaching the waistband of his jeans. Less funny, however, is how the worn fabric skims the obvious ridges of his abs and dips in at his hips. Stiles swallows around his suddenly dry throat.
“Uhm, would you…like something to drink before you go?”
Derek holds the jacket in his hands. “No, thank you. I’m fine.”
“Orange juice?” It’s the only other thing Stiles can think of that might be in the fridge. All he knows is that he doesn’t want Derek to leave. They don’t know each other at all and Stiles wants him to stay.
Derek smiles, just a little. “That’s okay.”
But Stiles is already halfway into the kitchen. “Would you like something to eat?” He asks, opening the fridge and sticking his head instead. “Something to nibble on? What about some apricots, soaked in honey? I don’t know why I have these. And I don’t know why they even exist, because really, they stop tasting like apricots and just taste like honey. And if you wanted honey, you could just…buy honey, you know? Instead of apricots. But anyway, they’re yours if you want them.”
Stiles stops talking and looks up. Derek is staring at him, right at him, with the most peculiar intense look in his eyes. Like Stiles is a puzzle he’s trying to put together. Or perhaps Stiles has something on his mouth.
Derek shakes his head. “Nothing.”
“Do you always say no to everything?”
Derek blinks. “No.”
Stiles laughs. He can’t help it. “Okay then.”
“I’d better be going,” Derek says. Stiles thinks he detects a note of disappointment in his voice.
“Can I ask you something? Before you do.” Stiles leans against the kitchen counter.
“Hey! You didn’t say no. I’m going to call this progress.”
“You didn’t come into my shop to browse travel guides, did you?”
Derek shakes his head. “No. There was – I’m in town filming something.”
Stiles’ eyebrows come together. “In Beacon Hills.”
“I’m from here.” Derek says it like that answers everything.
Derek shoves his hands in his pockets. “I’m…working on something new. Something smaller. For me. I’m – well I’m directing it.”
That surprises Stiles, but in a good way. “Oh. Awesome.”
“And I’m trying to keep it kind of under wraps. For now. And there was…well I thought I saw someone with a camera and your shop was the closest door.”
Unexpected disappointment sits heavy in Stiles’ stomach. “Oh. Well, I’m glad you did. Without you I wouldn’t have sold those Mary Morris books.”
Derek nods. “I should…go.”
Stiles swallows. “Right.” He’s unhappy about it, but he can’t keep Derek forever.
Stiles follows Derek back towards the door, when something on the wall catches Derek’s attention and causes him to stop.
Derek gestures and says, “I can’t believe you have that picture on your wall.”
Stiles looks over at the cheap store-bought print of La Mariée hanging in an inexpensive frame. “You like Chagall?”
“I do,” Derek confirms. “It – it feels like how being in love should be. Floating through a dark blue sky.” His face opens, soft and beautiful.
“With a goat playing the violin.”
Derek huffs a laugh. “Yes - happiness isn't happiness without a violin-playing goat.”
Stiles doesn’t disagree. He picked up the poster years ago on a whim. He’d been looking for something to fill the empty spaces on the walls when he’d come across the print quite by chance. The image had stopped him – the young bride in the bright red dress with her white veil. Something about it had filled Stiles with a deep yearning, a longing. He’d even had it framed, so enamored with it he’d become.
“Anyway…” Derek mutters, when too much times passes without Stiles responding.
Stiles shakes himself a little. “Right. So, uh, this was surreal, but nice.”
“Indeed.” Derek unfolds his jacket and shrugs into it. Stiles absolutely watches the flex and pull of his muscles as the jacket settles across Derek’s broad shoulders. It looks absolutely ridiculous over the nearly threadbare shirt Stiles had given him to wear.
“You know where to find me if…you ever want to find me again.” Stiles can’t believe he’s still hitting on this guy.
Stiles’ heart gives a frantic tick. “Want to find me again?”
“Know where to find you if I did.”
“Right. Of course. Sorry about the ‘surreal but nice’ comment, by the way. I don’t always…brain, mouth…you know.”
Derek smiles that little quirk of a smile. “Don't worry, I thought the whole apricot honey thing was the real low point.”
Stiles laughs. “Yes, it was.”
Derek reaches for the doorknob. “Goodbye, Stiles.”
But Derek doesn’t leave. He lingers, his hand still on the doorknob but his eyes fixed on Stiles. Stiles flushes under the scrutiny of those peculiar eyes. If this were a bar, he’d think Derek might offer him a drink or a quickie in the bathroom. If Derek were anyone else, Stiles might offer the same right there. But he’s not anyone else; he’s Derek. World-famous actor Derek and Stiles is no one but a shopkeeper and an editor. But still, Stiles wants; he wants to kiss him and take him back to his bedroom. Desperately. It’s rising up in him and Stiles can feel himself leaning forward, leaning into Derek, who is not pulling away.
Suddenly the front door shoves open violently and Derek stumbles a little from the force of it. A gale of blonde curls and perfume blows past them as Stiles’ roommate, Erica, saunters down the hallway, paying neither of them any mind as she kicks her high heels off and leaves them behind her.
“I’m going to piss,” Erica calls out, “and then I’m going to tell you a story that will make your balls shrink to the size of raisins!” The bathroom door slams behind her and the apartment is silent one more.
Stiles exhales. “My roommate,” he explains faintly, reeling from faltered kiss. “I’m sorry. There’s no excuse for her.”
Derek clears his throat. His cheeks are pink beneath his stubble and Stiles doesn’t want him to leave. “I really do have to go.” There’s something new in Derek’s voice, something rough like regret.
“Okay,” Stiles says, even though it’s really not.
Derek looks at him once more, before turning and slipping out into the hallway. The door closes behind him with a soft snick and Stiles slumps against the wall in embarrassed defeat.
“Surreal, but nice?” Stiles tips his head back against the wall. “What the fuck is wrong with me?”
A wild flight of fancy fills him – the thought to chase after Derek and kiss him silly in the cool night air is so strong that Stiles almost does it. Almost. But he’s looking at the closed door when Erica’s voice rings out through the apartment.
“Was that Derek fucking Hale?!?!”
Stiles sighs and goes to change his own shirt.
Two days later, Stiles has such a busy day at the bookshop that he can’t hardly get any of his freelance work done. He’s not sure why so many people in such a small town suddenly came looking for hiking guides and books about taking long walks through the woods, but Stiles isn’t going to complain. Money is money.
He’s about ready to lock up for the evening when the bell above the door jangles.
“Hey, sorry,” he calls out without looking to see who it is. “I’m closed for the night, but I’ll be open again by ten tomorrow.”
“I’m looking for Henry James,” the would-be customer responds and Stiles looks up so quickly he fears he strains his neck. Derek stands near the door, almost smiling. “Or perhaps some Austen.”
Stiles’ stomach flips while his heart double-times and he has to grip the counter in his hands to keep himself from wriggling happily. “All out of both of those, I’m afraid. Can I interest you in some honey apricots though?”
Derek offers up that enigmatic little smile that makes Stiles’ stomach hurt in the sweetest way. “I came by to return your shirt.”
Stiles notices then that Derek is carrying a small paper bag. “Oh, you didn’t have to do that.”
“Well, I certainly couldn’t keep it. Not quite my…size.”
Stiles snorts, remembering with fondness how the shirt barely stretched across Derek’s chest. “Not quite.”
“So. Thank you again.”
“Don’t thank me for spilling your coffee all over your shirt in the first place.”
Derek doesn’t say anything to that. He simply shrugs noncommittally, and Stiles wonders if Derek is usually this taciturn, or if it’s Stiles making him so. Stiles is well aware that his personality takes some getting used to, if one can get used to it at all. And he’s driven many a person away simply by being himself. But Derek is still standing there, in his bookshop; Derek still came back to return his shirt even after their last mildly disastrous interaction.
“Do you want to do something? Like, go for a walk?”
Derek tilts his head. “A walk?”
“Yeah. I’m stuck in here all day, usually staring at a manuscript or my computer screen. I like to stretch my legs after work, get some fresh air. That sort of thing.” It’s not a lie. Stiles really does like to get out into the world, especially when the weather is nice. He even likes to go hiking, though no one believes him. Especially his dad.
“Is there somewhere…quiet we could go?” Derek asks.
“You mean private?”
Stiles forgets that a walk around the block is different for him than it is for Derek. For him he sticks his headphones in his ears and strolls along the familiar sidewalks, waving at people he recognizes and trying not to accidentally run anyone over with his long stride. Derek, however, must not have that luxury anymore. He must be recognized wherever he goes – followed, approached, talked about. He came into Stiles’ bookstore precisely to hide. Stiles can’t imagine living that life.
“Yeah,” Stiles finally says. “I know a place.”
The place is a private garden not too far from the bookshop walled in by a tall wrought iron fence. The gate has been locked as long as Stiles as been alive, but that’s never stopped him from sneaking in.
“It’s owned by some rich ass family,” Stiles explains. “Has been for generations. Their house is on the other side and only they’re allowed in.”
“Sounds like Hollywood,” Derek muses, gazing up at the fence. The harsh streetlight washes his skin pale and his eyes grey, and he is still the most beautiful thing Stiles has ever seen.
“Let’s go in.”
“I don’t have a key.”
Derek turns his gaze to Stiles. “I don’t think that’s stopped you before, has it?”
Stiles grins. “Be prepared to be astounded by my feats of strength and my innate physicality.”
Stiles gives Derek the bag holding his shirt and rubs his hands together. He knows how to get up and over the fence with minimal pain and suffering, it’s just been a while since he’s done it. He sort of has to leap onto the fence high enough to get a footing in the grating where he can then pull himself up and over.
His first attempt misses the mark by a scant few inches. “Whoopsidaisies!” He exclaims, hitting the ground and just barely keeping his footing.
Derek freezes. “What did you say?”
Stiles flushes. “Nothing.” He wipes his hands on his thighs and prepares to make another go of it. He resolutely does not look at Derek, who is standing very close to him all of a sudden.
“Yes, you did.”
“No, I didn’t.”
“You said ‘whoopsidaisies.’”
Stiles shakes his head. “I don’t think so. No one says ‘whoopsidaisies’ anymore, do they? Unless they’re…”
“There is no ‘unless.’” Derek interrupts and there’s laughter in his voice that makes Stiles undeniably happy. “No one has said ‘whoopsidaisies’ for fifty years and even then it was only little girls with blonde ringlets.”
“Exactly. And I’m not a little girl with blonde ringlets, now am I? All right, once more with feeling.” Stiles makes his second attempt at the gate. He gets his foot into position, but his hands miss their grip and he scrambles not to fall off again.
“Whoopsidaisies! It’s a disease I’ve got, you see.” Stiles pants as he finally secures both his foot and his grip on the gate. “It’s a clinical thing. I’m taking pills and having injections. It won’t last long. You’ll hardly notice it.”
He can’t see Derek behind him, but he hopes he’s laughing. It’s suddenly imperative that Derek is happy.
Now that he’s got a proper purchase, it doesn’t take much to scale over the top of the gate and Stiles lands on the other side with a soft thump in the grass. He’d never call himself wildly athletic, but he’s no librarian. He’s got a few skills.
“Let me figure out this lock and I’ll open--”
The gate rattles a little and Stiles looks up to see Derek skillfully and gracefully pulling himself up the gate and coming over the top. He makes it look so effortless, so easy, and it’s so unnervingly attractive that Stiles’ mouth goes dry watching him. Surely there are other ways that kind of athleticism could come in handy.
“Show off,” he manages to say as Derek lands softly on his feet.
“You do your share of action movies and you learn a thing or two from the stunt guys,” Derek explains casually, wiping his hands on his jeans, as though it’s not insanely impressive.
“And I suppose it has nothing to do with the 50 pounds of muscle you’re carrying in your back pocket?”
“It’s the job,” Derek shrugs. He shoves his hands in his pockets and looks around. “So, what in this world would make this garden worth all that ordeal?”
The words are barely out of Derek’s mouth before Stiles is kissing him. Stiles knows he probably should have asked, but seeing Derek standing in the quiet of the green garden with the lights of the nearby buildings casting long shadows across his face, Stiles could resist no longer. He thinks he should probably be awarded for waiting this long as it is.
Derek makes a soft sound of surprise against Stiles’ lips before easing into the kiss, relaxing against Stiles’ body and unfolding into the moment. Stiles can’t keep his hands still. He touches Derek’s shoulders, the heavy bulk of them under that leather jacket. He caresses the line of Derek’s jaw, fingers rasping against his dark stubble. He edges his palms across the hard plane of Derek’s waist, delighting in the flex of muscle as Derek inhales sharply. It’s perfect, as perfect as a first kiss can be, and Stiles’ smiles into it.
“Nice garden,” Derek whispers against his lips.
“I thought so.”
Stiles kisses Derek again, and again, reveling in the unhurried taste of him. The slick slide of their lips and gentle brush of tongue has him shivering all the way down to his toes and his heart is so full it could burst. Derek’s hands have abandoned his pockets and come to rest heavily on Stiles’ hips, holding in place, holding him close. Stiles delights in how he fits against Derek.
“But we’re not seeing any of the garden,” Derek muses, pulling back just enough to nose at Stiles’ hairline and press small kisses to his cheekbone.
“Fuck the garden. It’s not going anywhere.” Stiles cranes his neck to capture Derek’s mouth in another kiss, eager for him.
“I’d like to see it though.”
Stiles sighs dramatically and leans back. Derek is somehow more gorgeous than he was before, with his blown pupils and swollen lips. Even his hair has gotten a little ruffled from Stiles’ roaming hands. Stiles understands completely how he’s a goddamn movie star; he doesn’t understand why Derek is giving him the time of day, but he’s not going to challenge it.
“Fine. But just this once, and then it’s back to me.”
Stiles reaches out and takes Derek’s hand in his, lacing their fingers together. Derek’s palm is warm and Stiles’ can’t remember the last time he held someone’s hand like this.
The garden is small, but well kept and sweetly beautiful. The trees are lush and green and the bushes so thick one might forget they were in the middle of a city. And the flowers bloom brightly in neat patterns; brilliant bursts of color drawing the eye. It’s quiet, tranquil. A cobblestone paths winds around, leading them to an old wooden bench with a brass plate fastened to the back.
Derek squints at the slightly faded engraving: “For June who loved this garden; From Joseph who always sat beside her.”
Unexpectedly, Stiles’ heart pangs and he squeezes Derek’s hand. “Some people really do spend their whole lives together.”
“Some really do,” Derek agrees, though there’s a note of longing in his voice that Stiles wishes he understood.
“My grandparents did.”
“The ones who you left you the bookstore?”
“It was a bakery.”
“They really loved each other. Their whole lives.” Stiles has never known two other people so sublimely happy.
Derek squeezes his hand and is silent a long moment, just staring at the bench, before he quietly asks, “Can I stay a bit longer?”
Stiles tugs on Derek’s hand, pulling him closer, and is leaning in to kiss him again when a bright white flash of light has him blinking rapidly.
“Fuck,” Derek snaps, pulling and putting two steps between them in an instant. He stares hard at the wrought iron gate they’d climbed, glaring, and Stiles thinks he sees someone scuttle away.
“What was that?”
Stiles is completely unprepared for the fire in Derek’s eyes and the hard set of his mouth when he rounds back on him.
“Did you tell anyone where we were going?” He snaps the words.
“Your roommate. Did you text her while we were walking here? Did she tell anyone where we coming?” Derek’s voice is thin and hard.
Confusion has Stiles’ struggling to respond to this sudden and complete turn in Derek’s attitude. “How would I have even done that? My phone’s been in my pocket the whole time.”
“I knew this was a bad idea. That picture is going to be everywhere in three minutes. Everywhere.” Derek sneers and Stiles goes cold in an instant.
“Excuse me? You think I – I called someone? That I wanted someone to see us here? To, to take a picture of us? Why would I do that? What the fuck, man?”
Derek folds his arms across his chest. “Everyone’s always out to make a buck off me.”
“Fuck you,” Stiles snaps, growing angrier by the minute. He can’t understand Derek’s life, but he knows he doesn’t deserve this. “I’m not one of those people. You should know that.”
“I don’t know anything about you,” Derek counters. “You bring me to this place. Anyone could be waiting here.”
“Oh yes, this was my grand plan. Meet a movie star in nowhere fucking Beacon Hills, convince him to hang out with him, fall for him, and then sell him to the nearest kid with an Instagram account. What a plan it was. Couldn’t at all be that I just fucking like you.” Stiles throws his hands in the air before raking them through his hair while an aggrieved sigh escapes his mouth. He’s never had something so good collapse so suddenly before.
“I’ll regret this,” Derek spits. “Forever.” Something like shock flutters across his hard expression, his eyes widening as though he can’t believe he just said what he did. But Derek presses his lips together in a thin line and doesn’t take it back.
Stiles deflates, hands dropping to his sides. “Well, I think I’ll feel the opposite, if that’s okay with you. These minutes with you have been some of the best in a long time for me and I’m going to keep them.”
There’s nothing else he can say and so Stiles turns on his heel and strides as quickly back to the gate as he can without breaking into a run. Luckily the lock gives way quickly under his shaking hands and Stiles slips back onto the sidewalk, heading for home. He does not look back for Derek.
Stiles does not go into work the next day. He sleeps until 11am, mostly because of the double-dose of sleeping pills he took as soon as he got home.
He makes it to the couch by noon and stays there binge-watching the IT Crowd on Netflix until Erica comes home. He definitely did not search for any of Derek’s movies before settling on his old standby. He does, however, Google Derek’s name and his stomach drops when he see the grainy image of them kissing pop up immediately with some lurid and inaccurate headline attached. Derek wasn’t wrong about that part, anyway.
Stiles doesn’t even rouse at the clatter of her heels falling against the hardwood floors as she kicks them off in the hallway.
“What is going on here?” Erica asks, standing in front of him with her hands on her hips and severely unimpressed eyebrows.
“I am a fool,” Stiles groans, burying his face in a pillow.
“Undeniable, but what happened this time?”
“A foolish fool who does foolish things.”
Eric clicks her tongue. “Stiles.”
“I kissed Derek.” Stiles still can’t quite believe it happened. Or how it ended.
She sighs heavily and sits down in the sofa next to him. “And?”
“And it was amazing.”
“So why are you a fool?” She scratches her fingers soothingly through Stiles’ hair.
“Because. Someone saw us. We were in the garden, the one off 4th. We were kissing and then someone took a picture of us. Derek thinks I set him up.”
"Well, fuck him.”
Stiles laughs. No one is as protective of her flock as Erica. “I want to.”
“He’s an asshole if he thinks you’d do that.”
“I don’t disagree.”
Erica settles back on the sofa and hauls a pillow into her lap before grabbing Stiles and pulling him to her. “Can I admit something?” Erica asks, once Stiles has re-settled.
“I didn't like his last movie,” she says. “Fell asleep as soon as the lights went down. Utter shit.”
Stiles laughs again, he can’t help it. Erica wasn’t an obvious roommate, but he’s forever grateful for her and her lack of bullshit. “I really liked him.”
“What’s he even doing here?”
Stiles shrugs as best he can while lying down. “Making a movie. Some little indie thing. He didn’t say much. I guess I’ll find out when it comes to theatres.”
Erica sighs. “Listen, nugget. Let’s face facts. This was always a no-win situation. You know what happens to mere mortals who get involved with the gods.”
“I just thought…surely somewhere in the world is a person allowed to kiss him. Why not me?”
Erica pats his head and grabs her phone. “All right, so what horribly unhealthy take-out are we getting while you sulk?”
Stiles gets up and goes to work in the morning because it’s sublimely stupid to wallow over someone he hardly knew. And also because he has to. He doesn’t have enough regular business to not be open when the sign says he is. On top of that, he knows he won’t do any edits on the manuscript he’s in the midst of, the due date of which is fast approaching.
So he hauls himself out of bed, drinks the cup of coffee Erica makes for him, and gets in the shower. He even shaves. He doesn’t have a broken heart over someone he met two days ago, but his heart aches for the ‘what will never be’ of it all.
The slightly dusty interior of the Travel Book Shop is a comfort when Stiles walks in. He tosses his bag onto a chair behind the counter and powers up the iPad he uses as a register. He still has an old, nearly antique, register sitting on the counter from when his grandparents owned the place, but he doesn’t use it. It’s been years, but there’s still bits of flour stuck along the ridges of the round buttons and Stiles swears is still smells of baking bread.
It’s a perfectly normal morning. Around 11 o’clock a young girl and her mother come in looking for books about London and a little while after them a man nearly cleans him out of travel guides for Peru. Stiles doesn’t ask.
He grabs a sandwich for lunch, calls his dad just to say hi, and makes decent progress on edits for the manuscript. It’s a good day, all things considered anyway.
The little bell above the door jangles mid-afternoon and Stiles calls out a distracted greeting.
“I hope it’s okay that I’m here,” comes the response, and Stiles startles so badly he drops his pen.
Derek stands near the counter, gorgeous as always, but perhaps with slightly darker circles under his eyes. He looks tired, but maybe a little hopeful, despite the furrow between his eyebrows. Stiles wants to tell him to get out, but can’t.
“I stopped by your apartment,” Derek continues. “But obviously you weren’t there.”
“How do you know where I live?” Derek quirks an eyebrow at him before Stiles’ brain catches up with his mouth. “Nevermind.”
“I still have your shirt,” Derek continues. He sets a small bag on the counter. “You – you didn’t take it with you the other day.”
“After you accused me of trying to sell you out.”
Derek swallows heavily. “I’m sorry.”
“You better be.”
“I am. The thing is--” Derek begins to say just as Stiles does too.
“The thing is--”
“I wondered if you might let me see you--”
“You were totally out of line.”
“--or if you could like me again.”
Stiles pauses, cocks his head. “What makes you think I liked you?”
“You kissed me,” Derek points out, with just a hint of that smile.
“So I sort of assumed.”
“Listen.” Stiles takes a deep breath. “The thing is, with you I’m in real danger here. It would seem like a – a perfect situation, what with you being meteorically hot, aside from that quite temper of yours, which we’re going to need to talk about. But I think that my – my embarrassingly inexperienced heart would not recover if we – we went ahead with this and you did that again. I think I’d be pretty fucked, actually.”
Derek is quiet for an agonizingly long moment. His eyes rove over Stiles’ face, looking for something, and Stiles’ flushes under the scrutiny.
“So, that really is a no.”
Stiles scrubs his hands through his hair and knows it must be standing on end, surely looking at frazzled as he feels. “I live in Beacon Hills,” he says. “And you, you probably live in Beverly Hills. Everyone in the world knows who you are. My father has trouble remembering my name sometimes.”
Derek nods and Stiles swears he sees the man’s heart breaking. “Fine. It’s just – the fame thing, that isn’t real, you know. It’s not. It’s not me. And the other day, in the garden, I let it be real and I’m sorry. And don’t forget, I’m also just a guy, standing in a book store--”
“Travel book store,” Stiles interrupts, whispering, and then he slowly closes his mouth at Derek’s glare.
“I’m just asking for another chance.”
Stiles nods and presses his lips together. He probably made his decision the moment Derek walked into his shop. Then he steps out from around the counter, heading for the front door. He just barely catches the stricken look on Derek’s face as he walks by.
“Stiles…” The soft word dies on Derek’s lips when instead of leaving, Stiles locks the door.
“The other thing is,” Stiles begins, turning around, but still holding onto the doorknob. “I do live here, and you don’t, and that’s just--”
“I can move,” Derek interrupts.
Derek takes a step towards him. “I can move, or, or rent something. I do happen to have a lot of money, you know. And like I said, I’m working on this thing and I, well I guess I’m finding a lot of inspiration here.” There’s something new in his voice, something promising.
Stiles stomach twists happily and his heart starts beating faster. “Oh.”
“Right, so…” Derek closes in on him, slow measured steps across the bookshop. The look in his eyes has gone warm, the color greener than ever, and Stiles shivers.
“So.” Stiles’ own voice sounds husky even to his own ears.
Derek reaches out and takes Stiles’ face in his hands just before he kisses him, hard and a little desperate. Stiles gasps and flails and falls back against the door. The back of his head is saved by the cradle of Derek’s palm.
Stiles has seen Derek kiss other people before, on screen, but the thoughts of those people disappears with every press of Derek’s mouth against his own. Derek’s beard is raspy against Stiles’ skin and he presses Stiles back against the door, pressing as close as they can get through clothes. Stiles pants and gets his arms around Derek and if anyone saw him surely they’d accuse him of swooning and he is just fine with that assessment.
Stiles digs his fingers into Derek’s waist. “Ask me again.”
“Ask you what?” Derek sounds close to wrecked just from these kisses. He hands are eager on Stiles’ face, his arms.
“Ask me if you can stay.”
Derek groans softly and rubs his nose against Stiles’ temple. “Can I stay? Forever, perhaps, if that’s still on the table.”
“It is. You can.”
“Yeah?” Stiles is so happy he doesn’t care what else Derek might ask him.
“I do like poppyseed cake.”
Stiles smiles into Derek’s next kiss and doesn’t stop smiling.