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(there is nothing wrong with) helping a buddy out

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"Your guy is here," Laura says when she pops into his booth with a bottle of water. "Looking super cute, might I add. Leather pants."

Derek's getting ready to fade into a Ministry song. "He's not my guy," he says, staring at the console.

"You're adorable." Laura ducks down to plant a kiss on his head. "Have a good night, okay?"

Derek grunts in response. Maybe he turns the volume up a little, whatever.

"We're on for 11:30," Stiles says, leaning against the bar. "Then I'm probably going to peace out, I have a meeting at ass o'clock tomorrow."

"Ugh," Scott says through a mouth of maraschino cherry.

Normally, Stiles works from home on Fridays; he's beat—not literally, unless Lydia's feeling really generous—after Thursday nights, staying out until two if they close the place down. He's been pulling 12-hour days for the last week, though, getting ready for the code push that went through last night, so turning in early is not going to be that much of a hardship. He has a great mattress. He misses his mattress. His mattress is the best lover Stiles has ever had.

Erica sidles up to them, bottle in hand. "Reed's extra spicy, just for you, dollface," she says, sliding it across the bar to Stiles. "Pony up."

Stiles shoves a five and two ones at her, grinning. "Keep the change."

They linger over their drinks for a few minutes—Scott with his tequila sunrise that's more cherry than alcohol, Stiles with his ginger ale because he doesn't like to top unless he's sober—while the front room DJ cranks out some Ke$ha dubstep remix. Matt's kind of terrible, but he's been working Thursday nights as long as Stiles has been coming to Leather & Latex. At least he'll take requests.

Unlike the guy in back.

When Laura first bought the bar, Derek had been DJing for a year—this was back in undergrad—and the opportunity to spin a few nights a week looked like a gift and not underpaid labor. Five years later, Derek has lost interest in a professional DJ career, is halfway through his PhD, and can't quit his job. Because—Laura.

And he's still DJ Shadow Wolf, which sounded a lot cooler when he was 20.

So he's in the back room every Thursday night, spinning aggressive electronic music while people get paddled and spanked and whipped, same old, same old. The novelty wore off fast. Derek's not really into S&M, or even the cute girls wandering around with electrical tape on their nipples. A lot of the regulars are nice, middle-aged people who've been coming to Leather & Latex for years and just followed along when it moved to a new venue. Finstock, the usual DM, even buys Derek a beer every now and then when they run into each other at the bar around the corner from Derek's apartment. Derek was pretty blasé about it until Stiles showed up.

Stiles is lanky and broad-shouldered and laughs with his whole body; he looks like a gangly teenager, someone Boyd or Cora should have stopped at the door. His movements are loose and relaxed right up until he gets his boyfriend chained up on a cross and flogs him, motions as precise as a ticking metronome, syncing perfectly with whatever Derek's spinning. And—Derek might have, okay, he might have a little bit of a problem. With that.

Lydia is sitting on one of the bench seats in the back room with Jackson and Aiden kneeling at her feet, collared and leashed. That always makes Stiles wince—the floor here is kind of gross—but maybe that's the point. She's wearing latex: thigh high boots, short-shorts, and corset all in pristine white, leashes in one hand, fingers of the other twined through Jackson's hair. Her grip looks affectionate, if tight enough that Jackson's head is tipped back, the arc of his neck exposed. Aiden's leaning his head against against Lydia's knee on her other side, eyes closed, face rapt, mouth gagged.

Yeah, Stiles still thinks about it sometimes, how it would feel to get down on his knees for her. But he and Lydia are bros now, with the occasional casual play between them. She sent him a Christmas card last year, one with her in a Santa costume and Jackson and Aiden kissing her perfectly blacked boots. They're cool.

"You have your pining face on, Stiles." Lydia scrunches her nose at him. "Not attractive."

"I'm thinking of requesting 'Peace in the Holy Land,'" Stiles says, ignoring her. He's totally not pining. Even though he's been staring covertly at DJ Shadow Wolf's ridiculously attractive face and harassing him with requests since approximately forever. He can't help it, the guy is—

"It's September," Lydia says flatly.

Stiles shrugs. It's not like DJ Shadow Wolf doesn't have Voltaire's entire back catalogue; he played "It's Bigger on the Inside" last week.

"I think it's cute." Scott slings an arm around Stiles's shoulders. "Maybe the guy has a thing for pigtail pulling, you don't know."

Lydia sighs. "Maybe he'll break a slate over your head." She lets go of Jackson's hair to unhook his lead, petting his neck. "Get me a drink, baby?"

"Yes, Mistress," Jackson says, ducking his head. He used to shove Stiles into lockers in high school; now Jackson works at a hedge fund and wears Lydia's padlocked collar under his hundred dollar shirts, which Stiles is never going to stop finding weird.

"Go on," Scott says. He tugs at Stiles's arm. "I really don't want to listen to Ministry all night."

Laura was telling the truth about one thing: Stiles is wearing leather pants.

Leather pants that look tailored, tight enough to hug his ass but cut loose enough not to restrict his movement. Derek's eyes hang out at ass-level for a while before he manages to steer his gaze upward, to Stiles's matching leather vest that nips in at the waist over a blood-red shirt that Stiles has rolled to the elbows to exposed his strong, muscled forearms. He's talking to his friend in the Emma Frost latex gear with her leashed slaves cowering at her feet.

Next to Stiles is his boyfriend, who's shirtless and tattooed and has one arm casually draped across Stiles's shoulders. Which would be why Stiles is definitely not Derek's guy.

After a minute or two, Stiles turns around, a familiar determined expression on his face. This is the moment that Derek alternately dreads and impatiently awaits every Thursday night: the one where Stiles tries to convince him to play him something abjectly terrible, and Derek turns him down. Derek used to be irritated, but lately, his stomach roils, his palms go clammy—it's humiliating, how hung up he is on this asshole— and jesus, fuck, leather pants.

"Hey," Stiles says when he's as far up the stairs to the booth as you can go without unlatching the gate, arms folded on top of it. "So, I was thinking, maybe something festive today?"

"For Columbus Day?" Derek says.

"Nah, something more… jolly," Stiles says. "How about 'Peace in the Holy Land'?"

"That album was a Hot Topic exclusive," Derek says before he can think better of it.

Stiles grins—grins—at him. "Hey, we've all made terrible life choices in our time. I bet you wore bondage pants in high school. I bet you bought Nightwish concert t-shirts off eBay."

Derek has untagged himself from those photos on Facebook and deleted them from his hard drive, which is almost the same as them never having been taken, so he tears his eyes away from Stiles and his shirt that's open at the collar and clears his throat. "Nope. And if you push it, I'll play Wumpscut all night."

"Awesome," Stiles says. His eyes go all starry and bright like the kind of live-action anime Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon always wanted to be. "You're my favorite."

"Shut up," Derek says; he does not whimper. "Go away."

"Your wish is my command," Stiles says, and with a brief wave, he's gone.

"What does his wolfiness drink?" Stiles says to Isaac, who tends bar in the back room. He's leaning on the bar, elbows on the edge, chin braced on his woven fingers. "I mean, if I were to buy him a drink. Hypothetically."

"G&Ts, mostly," Isaac says, tapping his fingers on the counter. "Why do you want to buy him a drink? Hypothetically?"

"Because," Stiles says.

Isaac gives him the narrow-eyed, they'll never find your body look he usually saves for mundanes trying to order shitty beer.

"Are you asking me my intentions?" Stiles says. "You know me, dude! I've been coming here every week for two years. I tip! We're friends!"

"You and Erica are friends," Isaac corrects him. "I don't know you outside of work, I don't even know what you do for a living, and Derek's like my brother, okay?"

Stiles doesn't know a lot about Isaac, except that he used to date Cora and he's a student at SFSU. So—fair enough. He tends to think of everyone who works at the bar as part of the community, but he's not friends with them on Facebook or Fetlife, he's not close to them the way he is Scott and Allison or Lydia. They work here. For wages. And tips. "Oh. Um. I don't—I don't want to, like, 50 Shades of Grey him. I just—and I, I do web dev for a startup, I live in Potrero Hill, I was the best man at Scott's wedding, I—is that enough?"

"Eight bucks," Isaac says, picking up a bottle of Bombay Sapphire.

"You got it," Stiles says.

Derek eyes the cup warily. "You bought me a drink."

"I bought you a drink," Stiles says. "It's—Isaac said you like gin and tonics, so."

After everything that happened with Kate, Isaac's—protective, the same way Derek's been since Isaac's dad kicked him out and he moved in with the Hales. "He did," Derek says slowly. "Is this a bribe? Do you really want me to play Christmas music that badly?"

"Would it work?" Stiles says, face brightening.

Maybe. "No." Derek looks down at the board in front of him, tweaks the treble balance.

"It's just a drink," Stiles says. He takes a breath sharp enough that Derek can hear it over the beat of this Sorrow Church song. "Maybe I can buy you another, too? Like, coffee? Sometime?"

"What?" Derek says, head jerking up.

"I'm asking you on a date, dude," Stiles says. He looks—nervous. "If, um. If you—but you could just, uh, take the drink, if it's weird, I don't want to—"

"You have a boyfriend," Derek says. He knows that plenty of people in the scene are poly—something that seems to work fine enough for Erica and Cora and Boyd—but he's kind of clingy and possessive and, yeah, embarrassingly jealous of the guy Stiles flogs the hell out of every Thursday night.

Stiles frowns for a moment. "No? I, um—oh, oh, you mean Scott?" He stares at Derek, incredulous. "No, Scott's my best friend. He's married!"

"But you—" Derek throws his hand out, almost knocking over the cup in Stiles's hand with his gesture. "You're always—"

"Uh, yeah," Stiles says. "We're bros? His wife isn't really into physical discipline?"

"Bros," Derek says tentatively.

"Bros," Stiles agrees.

Derek at Stiles, at his open, earnest face. "Do you want to—do that to me?"

"Not unless you want me to," Stiles says. "But, uh, I'm totally okay with it if you like to watch."

Derek takes the cup.

"Oh my god," Scott says when Stiles comes back from the booth. "This is worse than when Danny asked you to Ball & Chain last year because he was on a break with Ethan."

"I want to marry his face," Stiles says dreamily.

"That's touching," Lydia says, rolling her eyes. "It's 11:25 and I'm booked for midnight. Don't make me wait."

Scott puts his hand on Stiles's back and starts pushing him toward the play area, toward Finstock and the bag with Stiles's gear in it and their half hour slot. "You're the best," Stiles says, glancing behind him.

"Bros help bros out," Scott says. He squeezes Stiles's shoulder.

"I told you so," Laura says, preening, when Isaac rats him out the next day.

Derek tugs his sleeve down, covering the number Sharpied on the inside of his wrist, like that's going to help; Laura has some kind of x-ray vision when it comes to warm and fuzzy feelings. "I don't know what you're talking about."

"You're adorable," she says.