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Behind the Lens

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Derek was painfully aware of the fact that he was antisocial. He didn’t even need other people to comment on it; it was obvious with every single one of his activities.

Photography was the one that figured at the top of his list. It was his passion, and he’d somehow been lucky enough to make it his main source of income as well. The activity hadn’t always been as soothing to him as it currently was, of course. It had started as a way to ensure he wouldn’t have any lost memories after his home burned with his family inside, taking away in one fell swoop all of his memories of the place along with most of his relatives. Photography back then had been a desperate denial, and a way to convince his grieving mind that such a tragedy would never occur again.

Over time, the art had shifted from a healing endeavour to a relaxing one. Derek didn’t go anywhere without his trusty camera anymore, and could more often than not be found in the forest where he laid for hours as he captured the daily life of its various inhabitants. Such activities didn’t lend themselves to much of a social life, but Derek loved it and didn’t feel as though he was missing out on anything.

His main source of socialisation had come to him a few years back in the form of a gaggle of teenagers however. “The Pack” as they liked to call themselves – “We’ll stop calling ourselves that when you quit being a brooding lone wolf, Hale,” Erica had griped – were his only source of human company, and even his therapist was beginning to look worried (that was a lie; she never looked worried, but Derek simply guessed she had the most powerful poker face ever).

“Did you meet anyone new recently, Derek?” Dr. Mustafina asked, prompting Derek to come out of his musings.

“The Pack showed up last week,” he answered evasively. He was sure she’d caught the underlying truth of his word: as usual, he hadn’t met anyone new, avoiding any sort of prolonged contact after the few fizzling acquaintances he’d made in the years prior.

“And when was the last time you met someone outside of the Pack,” she said kindly, a smile growing at the corner of her lips, probably due to what the now university students were still calling themselves.  After 6 years of friendship, Derek really thought they would end up finding a better nickname for themselves, but it seemed they were too attached to the name.

Derek eventually realised he’d let the silence last too long, but still didn’t answer, and both of them knew why: Derek didn’t willingly interact with people, and even the Pack he only interacted with because they didn’t let him avoid them.

In the end, he came out of that séance with a task: enroll in a social activity of some kind with the goal to form at least a peripheral acquaintance.

“It doesn’t have to be a meeting group of some kind, or even one that requires conversation. You can take a class on a subject you enjoy, for instance,” Doctor Mustafina had said. She seemed confident in Derek’s capacity to get out of his shell. Derek didn’t know where she found that belief.

Derek didn’t take the wheel right away after leaving Doctor Mustafina’s office. Instead, he walked to the nearby park, taking his camera out of his bag in a motion that had become automatic in the last few years. Breathing out slowly, he settled on the grass next to the pond and set up his camera, taking pictures of the ducks playing peacefully inside it. Maybe he’d listen to his therapist’s advice. After all, she hadn’t led him astray so far.


 

This had been a terrible terrible idea, and Derek would never listen to a single word from his therapist ever again. Taking a class? What had he been thinking, really? Derek had to admit to not having looked very far as far as socialising went. He mostly worked as a freelance photographer and thus didn’t really need to talk to people in his line of work. Most people who contracted his services only talked to him long enough to ensure he understood their instructions, and he otherwise sent digital files when the time came for them to select their pictures.

This wasn’t what he’d expected. At all. And he was currently bound to complete what was sure to be a failure of epic proportions.

“You’ve all received your grade for your first project by now, which means that it’s time for me to present the second one to you,” Onika had said. Derek had attempted to call her Ms. Ekongolo exactly once, and she’d seemed so uncomfortable due to the honorific that he’d respected her request to be called by her first name soon enough.

“Studying your portfolios and correcting the previous project has enabled me to notice where your zone of comfort as well of your strength lies, and my current goal is to make you explore outside of it,” she’d continued. “I’ve already handed out your personalised projects, which should present a challenge and yet, not be outside your range of capabilities.”

Derek had tuned her out as he’d looked at the deceptively innocuous piece of paper on his desk. Human after all, the words had taunted him. He hadn’t even needed to read the rest of the handout to know what his challenge would be. He did anyways, because life had taught him that running away from his fears would only ensure they could stab him in the back once he stopped looking. It wasn’t as bad as he’d thought it would be… It was worse.

His objectives were outlined in bold, and one in particular jumped at him: to find himself a human muse. He reread the prompt bemusedly once or twice, but he’d indeed read right. The words “human muse” were explicitly written, and Derek knew it had to be because 90% of the pictures in his portfolio portrayed animals in various states of motions.

Still, he couldn’t quite believe it. Find himself a muse? And a human one at that? Derek was going to fail. He was going to make a fool of himself, and take terrible pictures, and-

“That’s a wonderful idea, Derek! You’ll get to meet new people!”

Derek stared at Erica with the flattest expression he could muster. It did nothing to deter the young woman, as she simply smiled at him, like she didn’t know this was the exact situation he had been hoping to avoid.”This is not the issue here, and you know it,” he gritted out, looking to the side and away from her too sharp grin as the door to his loft swung open again.

“What is not the issue?” came Isaac’s voice as he entered. “And Derek, there’s dubious goop on your welcoming mat; you might want to check that out.”

“Derek’s got to meet new people for class!” Erica called back, and Derek resolutely did not glare at the ground, unable to focus his ire.

“That’s awesome dude!” Isaac’s face came into focus just long enough for him to start rummaging through the fridge. “Your hermit ways were starting to worry us; I’m pretty sure Lydia was gonna stage an intervention,” he added unhelpfully.

Derek didn’t need to look up in order to feel Erica’s smug gaze on him. Clearly he wasn’t going to find any help in this place.

Rolling his eyes, he headed to the kitchen in order to cook for dinner that night… After all, if Erica and Isaac were already here, others were sure to follow.

Chapter Text

“Boyd, please,” Derek was begging about a week later. “You know I wouldn’t ask you if I didn’t have any options. You’re not a fan of having your picture taken, and I get that, but I have so many ideas that would only work with you, and the teacher said the pictures probably wouldn’t even be presented at the end of semester exposition, so we could keep it between just the two of us, and my class.”

He hated this. Derek was being reduced to lying out of his ass in that last part, as the teacher had actually said that she would do her best to see to it that their work received the recognition they were due, with a worrying gleam eerily reminiscent of his pack members in her eye. He was at the end of his rope however, and surely Boyd would understand him?

“You know I wouldn’t even if I wanted to,” Boyd answered with a somewhat apologetic tone of voice, his soothing tones already calming Derek down despite the negative answer. “Besides, Erica promised to withhold cuddles if I went against her plan on getting you to socialise,” he added, which immediately dashed Derek’s mood.

“That little – ugh,” he groaned. Of course Erica had taken the necessary measures to ensure he’d have to choose someone new. Why, she’d probably even enlisted Lydia’s help to make sure she forgot no one in her vendetta against Derek. “I could cuddle you just as well, that’s no reason to refuse,” he grumbled. He knew when he was defeated however, and Boyd’s pointed silence only confirmed it. “Thanks regardless,” he said, defeated as he absently ran a hand through his hair.

“It’ll be fine, Derek,” Boyd reassured him. “Erica said she’d help you find someone.”

These words did nothing to calm Derek down, as Erica’s idea more often than not ended up badly for him.

He put the phone back into his pocket, holding the comforting weight of his camera in his hands to calm himself. Taking pictures of people would have been easy: after all, he had two contracts already scheduled for the next month. Finding a muse however… Impossible. He could potentially ask one of his contracts if they’d be free to take more pictures, and perhaps mention that all the ones he took then would be free, but… His skin prickled just at the idea, so it was out of question.

His footsteps eventually led him to one of his favoured haunts, which was in a more abandoned area of town. It had originally been host to a plethora of businesses and restaurants, but the area had been closed down due to the building of a children’s park. As the project was still pending municipal approval, the place had mostly been overtaken by a population of stray animals, which was mostly why Derek spent so much time in it.

Camera in hand, Derek turned his head around, and heaved a disappointed sigh when he didn’t notice any of his usual subjects running about. ‘One less distraction, I guess,’ he mused forlornly. It wasn’t that he wanted to avoid his current assignment, but every time he thought about asking someone outside the Pack – even one of his classmates – the grip of social anxiety seized him anew and his expression either shifted into something ridiculous, or terrifying, if he was to judge from other’s reactions.

“Might as well do something, instead of letting the whole day go to waste,” he encouraged himself aloud. He couldn’t let such a simple setback send his mood spiraling down again, so he shook himself, aimed his camera at the sky, and adjusted the settings to try and get a good angle from to capture the play of light and shadows amongst the top of the buildings that surrounded him. He aimed the camera, pressed his finger, and –

An unexpected shape suddenly crossed his field of view, almost making him stumble back in surprise. He bemusedly lowered his camera, but the shape had disappeared over a nearby wall. Never one to let a mystery go unsolved, Derek looked at the picture he’d just taken and there it was. Blurry, but recognisable, there was the silhouette of an actual person jumping overhead to land on a ledge on the roof of a building.

Derek knew, objectively, that extreme sports existed. He knew that some people like to put themselves in danger on a regular basis, test their limits and surpass them. He knew all that but –  That abstract knowledge had in no way prepared him for the sight of an actual human being taking a running leap between two buildings at least fifteen feet over his head with seemingly effortless ease. It was breathtaking, and Derek’s eyes were still fixed on the point where the other had disappeared when a face reappeared over the ledge, an impish grin painted on its features.

This time, Derek recognised the invitation for what it was and adjusted his camera’s features accordingly to allow for a much lower time of exposure. When the stranger jumped again, the picture was crisp and clear, and Derek felt an answering grin rise on his face as he followed the other person through their dangerous route over the rooftop.

Perhaps photographing people wasn’t that excruciating when they moved like his forest-bound creatures.


 

It didn’t take more than a week after that encounter for the entire Pack to tease him about his apparent crush on the mysterious stranger. “Derek, if I have to hear once again about how ‘exhilarating’ you found running after a stranger like a creep in an abandoned part of town, I will consider it as you volunteering to proofread my 95-pages long Law and Ethics essay,” Lydia threatened lowly when he found himself recounting the story for what he was sure was only the second time.

Ignoring Scott’s whimper from the corner of his loft (“Last time it was only 25 pages and I nearly died!”), Derek turned towards Boyd for confirmation. “Ninth time,” the other man mouthed, raising his fingers for further clarity. Derek winced at the number: considering that Boyd had only come back to town four days prior, he must have talked about the parkour artist more than expected.

A loud noise called his attention back to where the girls were studying, and Derek noticed that Erica had obviously gotten tired of studying with Lydia and stood up. “That’s it!” she growled out, only settling down under one of Lydia’s asinine glares. “While it’s awesome to see you be enthusiastic about people for once, this asshole clearly doesn’t deserve your attention if he’s left you high and dry,” she argued.

“We don’t even know if they’re –“ Derek was cut off before he could finish.

“Of course it’s a guy,” Erica retorted. “No other gender can be this careless, annoying, and inconsiderate by accident, Derek. He was literally flirting with you and then left without a word.”

Derek rolled his eyes. Surely a little bit of chasing through abandoned building, and increasingly complicated jumps couldn’t be considered flirting?

As though she could see his doubt, Erica bulldozed on. “There are a bunch of street shows for some event I don’t know about. Tomorrow, you are coming with us, and you’ll take even more beautiful pictures, and we’ll get this guy out of your head. No arguments.”


 

Much as he was reluctant to give Erica the slightest credit, considering how much pleasure she derived from his misery, he had to admit that this was a great idea.  He had his camera in hands, taking pictures idly as he watched the street artists perform. For once, he could see what his teacher had meant when she’d said taking pictures of people did not have to be overly technical and soulless.

He didn’t quite enjoy the noise and movement of the festival – nor did he enjoy being pushed on all sides – but it was well worth for all the pictures he would be sure to take.

“Derek, there’s something just starting here,” Allison called out to him, right as he was about to move on to the next attraction. Hearing the note of excitement in her voice, he moved closer, wondering what exactly had attracted her attention.

People were beginning to approach, but Derek managed to settle in between Allison and Scott, which ensured that he wouldn’t be pushed around by the crowd when it eventually grew thicker. Derek caught a glimpse of Boyd and Erica also settling to watch a few rows behind them, but there was no way they would manage to make a way through to reach the rest of them. Turning back to the show, he watched people set up poles in the center of the circle formed by the public as costumed dancers began slow stretching exercises to the soft sound of music.

“I’ve always wanted to learn pole dance,” he heard Allison say from beside him, though she was probably speaking to Scott. He didn’t answer, taken in by the sight of the dancers climbing onto the poles as the music became more upbeat. Derek didn’t even try to resist the lure of the camera as he put his eye behind the lens and aimed the camera at the show.

The dancers wove their bodies around the pole like it was natural, but try as he might, Derek always seemed to be focused on one in particular. The cause of his fascination was dressed in colours that reminded Derek of fire: all orange and red as he lowered his body parallel to the ground, held only by the strength of his thighs. The seemingly effortless nature of the movement was only accentuated by the wide sleeves of his costume, which almost looked like wings in a way. And just like a bird, that strangely familiar dancer turned and swerved around the pole, only touching the ground for the most fleeting moments before launching himself back in the air again. Derek’s fingers couldn’t move fast enough to capture every nuance of the dancer’s movement, but he didn’t even care at the moment, thrilled as he was to be able to witness such grace.

All too soon, the show ended and Derek came out of his trance, almost disappointed. For some reason, the man’s movement seemed almost familiar in a way, and Derek’s mind was brought back to those few times he’d glimpsed the free runner in the last week.  Could this dancer perhaps be the same person?

Despite his best intentions, Derek couldn’t find it in himself to do anything but watch as the setup was dismantled, dancing bantering quietly as the crowd dispersed, some people offering their congratulations. Derek didn’t know why he was hesitating so much. He was almost sure it was the same person. Surely it wouldn’t be strange if he just happened to ask if the other young man happened to do parkour in his free time as well, would it? Or ask if he would mind having more pictures of him taken?

“Derek, you’re looking particularly murderous right now,” Boyd quietly commented, and Derek jumped slightly at the interruption, though he found himself glad that no one else seemed to have noticed. As calmly as he’d usually bear the teasing, he was simply too nervous for it this time.

Breathe, he told himself as he forcibly relaxed his expression. Everything will be so much worse if you stress out right now.

With what he hoped was a welcoming smile, Derek stepped forward, intent on offering his own congratulations to the group, and perhaps even try to talk to the dancer he might have possibly seen before. Unfortunately, he was all too aware of the stares the Pack members who hadn’t left yet were probably directing at his back, which meant that some were bound to witness his no doubt spectacular failure.

One of the dancers frowned at Derek when she noticed his approach, and Derek’s smile gained a nervous edge as he tried to smoothe his expression. This did have the unfortunate side-effect of making him fiddle with his camera, but the woman’s countenance relaxed so he must have done something right for once.

“Stiles, there’s someone for you!” she called out to her friend, and the dancer Derek had been observing walked towards them with a beaming smile, and all of Derek’s words left him.

“Hey, did you enjoy the show?” the dancer – Stiles, Derek mentally corrected – asked as he extended his hand for a shake.

“It was… good,” Derek eventually answered, hands still clenched around his camera even as he mentally berated himself. Good? Couldn’t he have come up with any adjective besides good? He kept staring at the dancer’s – Stiles’s – face, as though hoping for the other to save him from his current disaster.

"Take a picture, it lasts longer,” was his only reply as Stiles retracted his hand, and it was only then that Derek realised he’d been supposed to shake it.

Derek wanted the ground to swallow him in that moment, and could only hope that the rest of the Pack had already left him to suffer alone.

"He did, actually. Several of them,” Jackson’s voice called out, and it was only when the two other dancers  turned to look Jackson’s way that Derek realised they were also listening in.

"Jackass!" Erica admonished Lydia’s boyfriend in a less than quiet hiss, before the sound of Scott’s voice rose above the sound of the petty squabble.

“Not in a creepy way, I swear!” the vet-in-training hastened to say as he drew close, bringing the rest of the Pack with him as Derek watched in dawning horror. “He just thinks you’re the best thing that’s been invented since –“

Derek was only saved from what would be sure to be a terrible comparison by Allison dragging Scott away to leave him with Erica, Jackson and Boyd to face Stiles and the only other dancer who’d remained behind while the rest of the troop had left.

“I’m sorry,” Derek tried to apologise. “I was going to ask if you wanted any of the pictures, or if I could use some of them for a project I’m doing…”

The course of the conversation had been completely derailed, and Derek didn’t know how to wrestle it back to its original subject. Stiles didn’t seem too upset however, because he grinned a broad smile and rummaged in his bag for a bit. “No, it’s alright, I get it! I always get sidetracked too, so I feel you, dude.”

He finally got a pen out of his bag, and took Derek’s arm to scribble something on it. Derek barely noticed, train of thought derailed by the feel of Stiles’s warm hand against his wrist, and the smile he was now sure belonged to the same face that had jumped over his head a week prior.

“So I don’t have much time right now, but here’s my number in case you want to contact me about those pictures of yours. Feel free to text or call me whenever, alright?”

Derek was in the middle of a nod, and about to give Stiles one of his own business cards when the quiet dancer next to him finally talked. “Stiles mentioned running over rooftops and playing chase with a scruffy photographer last week. Was it you he was talking about?”

“Kira!”

Stiles’s tone was high and obviously mortified, but Derek could only mentally thank the woman for her comment, because it caused Stiles to flush a deep shade of red and drop his professional composure for a moment. Stiles quickly took Derek’s card and scampered off with Kira in tow, presumably due to embarrassment, but it was too late for Derek.

The realisation hit him when he noticed he was tracing the numbers on his arm with a wandering finger: he was in love.

Chapter Text

Derek was a realist. He didn’t make himself any ideas about his chances in this world. He was the kind of man who looked at the path in front of him, looked at all the eventualities, and generally went for the path of least resistance. If there was one thing Kate had taught him, it was that good things did not happen to people like him. Not unless there was some kind of karmic retribution incoming.

According to everything he’d learned, Stiles shouldn’t make any sort of sense, which was why Derek still had yet to establish contact with Stiles. After all, what kind of person gave their real phone number to someone they’d just met, especially if that someone had proven themselves to be socially inept and literally admitted to taking probably more pictures than was socially acceptable.

However... Derek hadn’t been the one to ask for Stiles's phone number. The idea hadn't even crossed his mind, as he honestly hadn't expected to manage an entire conversation with Stiles in the first place. Surely that meant Stiles had given him the right number? The Pack was of no help with this either, because most of them were hounding Derek to make him call Stiles.

"But you don't even like him," Derek protested the third time Erica reminded him to call back. "Didn't you say he was a terrible person and not trustworthy?"

"That was three days ago; I've grown a lot as a person since then," she waved him off. "That's not the point anyways: the point is that you’re avoiding something good because you're afraid for no reason."

The implied 'again' didn't need to be said for him to hear it loud and clear. And Derek knew. He knew, alright? He knew he had a tendency towards self-sabotage; he knew it wasn’t doing him any favours. He knew all of that – he’d have to be deaf, blind, dumb, and completely lacking in self-awareness not to – but that didn’t mean he could bring himself to stop.

“I will call him,” Derek said, though he didn’t quite believe the words. It was no surprise that Erica didn’t budge at all in the face of such a ridiculous attempt to placate her.

Derek,” she very nearly growled, which belatedly made Derek realise that this was his house, and he didn’t have to stay here and listen to her.

“Come on Derek,” he heard as he retreated. “Do you really want to be the one to break that cute guy’s heart, even after he went through all the trouble just to – “

Derek turned around to argue, only to be interrupted by his phone vibrating in his grasp. Startled, he dropped it in surprise, only to watch nervously as it continued to vibrate on the ground. Derek and Erica both stared, transfixed, at the offending device.

“What are you doing, Derek, answer!”

“What would I even say, I haven’t prepared anything!”

“It’s a conversation, not an interview; why would you even need to prepare anything?”

By the time Derek had finally taken the phone to put it to his ear, the dial tone signalling the end of the call had already rung.

Derek pointedly did not look at Erica as he cursed himself for the 10th time that day.

“You are really messed up dude.”


 Derek also never thought he’d ever have to worry about exhibiting stalker-like behaviour.

“You know I’d probably think you were stalking me if you didn’t feel so obviously terrible about seeing me.”

Derek tried to remember Boyd’s tips: not look too threatening, not run away, not look guilty… That last tip had probably come from Scott, come to think of it.

“I meant to call you,” he tried, instead of attempting to explain himself and saying that he wasn’t actually a stalker. It was only after he talked that he realised what a poor excuse that was, especially considering that his lack of phone call and the way he was currently following Stiles were quite contradictory in nature. “And I don’t feel terrible about seeing you.”

Stiles gave this reply the dubious eyebrow it probably deserved, and despite the silence, Derek could feel all the judgement emanating from him. Derek… couldn’t entirely fault him. It had been far easier to interact with Stiles when he’d been a faceless, voiceless subject, but now that he had his number and a name to go with it… There were expectations to interact in a way other than the simple shutter of the camera and Derek wasn’t quite sure what the script was for this case.

Derek eventually realised that the silence had gone on too long and that it really was the moment to say something to justify himself, but for some reason the words wouldn’t come. Or rather, his head was full of words, but he was all too aware that saying any of them at the moment would lead to a degree of embarrassment he likely wouldn’t survive.

The silence must have been longer than Stiles could stand, because he jumped off his perch to fall into a roll and come to a stand in front of Derek. His expression didn’t quite seem irritated to Derek’s eye, but his mouth was turned in a way he couldn’t interpret so Derek didn’t dare make any guess as to Stiles’s state of mind.

“Just take the pictures you came here for,” Stiles said as he turned away, and that definitely seemed like irritation, Derek noticed as he tightened his fingers around his camera. He opened his mouth to do something – either protest or apologise, he didn’t know – but Stiles beat him to the punch.

“After that you can buy me coffee and snacks, and I won’t call you a creeper, deal?”

Derek felt the tension in his body ease as he let his fingers remove the cover of his camera. He raised it to his eye in lieu of an answer, capturing Stiles’s retreating back. The impish smile was all the warning he needed before Stiles took to the rooftops again, Derek hurrying into position to be sure to catch the best angle of his movement.


 Derek was still feeling the adrenaline of their impromptu photoshoot when Stiles led the both of them to a bakery. The acrobat seem utterly devoid of any sort of self-consciousness despite his bedraggled appearance and the shirt that clung to him like a second skin due to the sweat. “Take anything, I’ll get us a table,” he told Derek as soon as they crossed the threshold, leaving the photographer with the arduous task to choose a dessert for someone whose taste he didn’t know.

He was almost grateful for the line, as it let him survey the menu without the added anxiety of knowing he was holding up everyone else. When the time came, however, he still wasn’t ready. He stared at the girl behind the counter until she greeted him, and quickly named the first two items he could read off of the menu without even looking at the list of ingredients.

“Any drinks with that?”

It was probably meant to be a simple formality, but Derek realised that in his haste to choose the right dessert, he hadn’t even thought about the drinks. Stiles had said coffee earlier, but whether that meant he truly wanted coffee or simply something to drink, Derek didn’t know. Should he still order one just in case? But Derek abhorred coffee, and what if Stiles didn’t like it either? The girl shifted, and Derek realised he’d let the silence linger too long again.

“Sorry, um, yes. One small coffee please,” he asked, his eye catching sight of their seasonal drink as one. “And one medium maple frapuccino.”

She didn’t even blink as she input his order and Derek hoped she’d forget about him as soon as he was out of her sight, as the alternative seemed too mortifying for him to even consider. He went back to the table with both their cakes, only to run back and pick up the drinks he had forgotten.

He very much didn’t collapse in his seat once the interaction was done.

“So which one is mine?”

Derek froze and shrugged, making a motion that was meant to convey that Stiles should serve himself first. The other boy sighed and took the iced drink along with the smaller of the cakes.

“So, your photography thing,” Stiles eventually said, after having subjected Derek to the sight of him nearly inhaling half his drink in just two seconds flat. “How do you want to do it? Just me freerunning, or do you want a bit of pole too?”

Despite the return of a topic he felt more confident in, Derek grimaced as he took a sip of his coffee, before upturning the sugar container over it.

“I’m pretty sure that’s salt, dude.”

Derek stopped – too late, it seemed – and used the excuse of stirring his drink to avoid looking at Stiles. Of course it was, with his luck. He raised the drink to his lips and took a long swill, holding his breath as he swallowed. “No it’s not,” he lied, with the kind of bald-faced conviction he’d developed over a lifetime of observing his uncle Peter lie like butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth. “And I was thinking both would be better to have a bit of variety,” he continued in an attempt to change the subject. “Most of the pictures I have so far are not very detail oriented, and it’d be easier to direct you if you weren’t in movement.”

Stiles nodded his assent, though his eyes were still drifting dubiously to Derek’s coffee. “We’ll have to do it at my place then. I got lucky enough that the previous owner got a good pole installed to impress – I dunno, someone, probably – and my landlord didn’t want to remove it. It’s got decent lighting I think, and you probably have photo lamp stuff if you gotta bring in your own, right?”

“That’d be nice,” Derek agreed, another weight falling off his shoulders. Stiles smiled at him like Derek hadn’t just made an idiot of himself, and they spent the rest of their snack time eating cake while Derek pretended his salty coffee didn’t exist.


 “Derek!”

Derek closed his eyes as shouts of his name erupted as soon as he stepped into his house.

“I don’t remember handing out so many keys to my place,” he said, hanging his bag at the entrance.

He didn’t need to look at the Pack to know that he didn't want to see the expression on each of their face. Rolling his eyes, he faceplanted into his couch to avoid looking at any of them.

“Was that a smile on his face?” Scott asked, and the idiot sounded almost confused, which was a state Derek very much enjoyed him being in. There was a hand patting his head, and the photographer grumbled into the couch cushion when the offending appendage wouldn’t go away despite his attempts to dislodge by moving his head.

“Oh my god, he didn’t even try to bite you for touching his hair!” he heard Erica gasp, and there was no mistaking the note of glee in her voice.

He sighed noisily as the room devolved into a mess of loud whispers and squealing, but he knew he was proving them right when none of this brought his mood down. Maybe they were right. Sometimes.

That very evening, his phone buzzed a bit before he was about to fall asleep. 

See you soon ;) was the message from the contact he'd saved under the name Stiles. Derek felt a smile stretch his lips, and this time, his heart was devoid of nervousness when he answered.

See you.