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One Slow, Golden Day

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On Wednesdays, Derek always gets home first – he has American Lit 101 at 8.30, then the weekly departmental breakfast because their head of department hates all his staff. Then his favorite senior Post-colonial literature class, then office hours, which always run over, especially as they get closer to the start of finals. Despite that, he's usually on the train heading toward Milpitas by one, coffee in hand and journal open on his knee.

It's not a bad journey – BART, then the train and a walk to their house in the suburbs that still makes Derek miss winter days in New York. Not that he'd change life in California, but it's a change from how he grew up that, even five years out of college, he hasn't yet gotten used to.

He loves their house though, a quirky place with an overgrown garden that Derek's bound and determined to put a writer's shed into one day. Like California, it's not where he expected to live – a junior faculty salary at Berkeley couldn't come close to covering the rent on house like theirs, let alone a mortgage. He lives, though, with the starting goalie for the Sharks, a second-line D-man with the Rangers, and the Team USA women's volleyball captain, face of Under Armor and a shampoo brand Derek can never remember the name of, campaigner against women's homelessness and period poverty, and favoured guest of every blog, TV show and podcast with anything to say about women. It's not as though he's paying the mortgage.

Derek stops at a bakery when he gets off the train to pick up rolls for dinner, resisting the owner's attempt to sell him an apple pie – "It's practically health food, it's mostly fruit."

"I don't think the Sharks' nutritionist agrees," Derek tells her, instead of explaining that Bitty's pies have spoiled him for all others.

Instead, he texts Bitty on the walk home, begging a little for pie on the grounds that Dex is coming into town two days before the Rangers play the Sharks, and Farms will be back from training camp at the same time. Although the four of them technically live together, Derek and Chowder are the ones who spend the most time there – Dex really only comes home for the summer, and Farms travels a lot, though she tries to be in Milpitas regularly for the girls' volleyball team she coaches. It's a rare treat to have everyone at home, and Derek plans on making the best of it – especially since Chowder will be leaving for a ten day road-trip right after the Rangers game, and Derek will be rattling around the house on his own for most of that, while Farms travels to Chicago for a women in sport conference where she's a keynote speaker.

Bitty, because he's the best, sends back pictures of the pies he's apparently already started baking, and offers to bring patisserie of their choice when he comes out with Jack in a few weeks for the last Falcs/Sharks game of the season.

u have to wear chowders jersey, Derek tells him, then sends a photo of Chowder, napping in the hammock with their cat, Mouse. dont make this face cry.

Bitty sends back a selfie of his disappointed face. i would never do that to my frog.

Mouse greets Derek by trying to kill him, winding through his legs and purring when Derek nearly steps on her tail – Dex tells him constantly that they picked the worst possible cat for someone who fell out of bed twelve times in their first month of sharing a room at the Haus. Derek doesn't care – they got Mouse as a kitten, a tiny ball of grey fluff, and he'd happily die for her. Risking his limbs is nothing against the way she puts her paws on his shoulders when he picks her up, purring in his ear as she gives him the cat version of a hug.

Derek rubs his cheek against the top of her head, seriously contemplating taking her into the garden for a nap in the sunshine. He's had the beginnings of a headache all day, and the Tylenol he took before he left campus is definitely wearing off. He has plans for the afternoon though: the latest round of edits on his first poetry book, another 500 words of an article he's writing on metaphors of motion in sport poetry (because when you're best known on campus as that hockey professor, you might as well lean into it) and, assuming Chowder goes out for goalie bonding like he usually does on Wednesdays, a couple of hours' work on a new sophomore course programme he's trying to get the department head on board with.

"Being an adult sucks sometimes," he tells Mouse, and lets her go so he can fill a pint glass with water to take up to his office. There's always a chance his headache is driven by dehydration.

Derek's office is tucked into the back corner of the house, with barely enough room amongst the books for his desk and laptop, and a cushion for when Mouse decides to keep him company. There's a couple of weeks of February left, still cool enough that it's nice to open the little window over the desk instead of turning on the air conditioning. Derek drinks half of his glass of water, boots up his laptop, and settles down to go through his editor's comments.

Or he would, but there's a video file right in the middle of his desktop, titled "Watch Me ))", and there's only one person who likes to hack Derek's password over his morning coffee.

The file opens on Chris, snuggled down in their bed and clearly not wearing a shirt. "Hey, baby," he says softly, and Derek can't help reaching out, brushing his fingertips against Chris' bare shoulder. "I just woke up and realised it's Wednesday – I thought it was Tuesday for a bit, I was waiting for you to come back to bed." He smiles, warm and soft, the way he does on the mornings that Derek has to leave for the university while Chris is still sleeping off a late night flight home from a game. "Sorry I didn't wake up in time to say goodbye. I'll see you later though – we can say an extra hello to make it up." Chris touches his fingers to his lips, then to the screen, just a little to the left of where Derek's hand is still resting, and the screen freezes.

Derek can feel himself smiling, probably as goofy and soft as Chris smiled at him on the video. It's been happening to him a lot, ever since he and Chris started sleeping together, and he really likes it.

Mouse meows at Derek from her cushion like a reminder that he's supposed to be working. Chris' sleepy smile makes for an even better reminder – of what's waiting if he finishes before Chris gets home, if nothing else.

In deference to that, Derek only plays the video through twice more before he knuckles down with his edits for real.

They're actually fairly minor, though they do come with a strongly worded reminder that, if Derek doesn't write something for the acknowledgements, Rowena, his editor, will, and it will mostly consist of how great she is. Which she is, but Derek's got a few other people he wants to say nice things about first.

Those are scribbled in the back of a notebook, though, written in the early hours of the morning when no-one was home and Derek missed them all so much he couldn't sleep, could barely sit still, and Derek's waiting for everyone to be back home before he digs those up again.

He sends back the edits, and digs into his paper instead, seven different webpages open on his laptop, three different anthologies open on his desk, and a pile of printed out poems next to those. He gets more involved in it than he expects to, finds it's gone dark when he gets up for more water and to top up Mouse's food bowl. He only means to finish up a trailing thought when he heads back up to his office, only turns on the desk lamp that doesn't really cast enough light to read all his papers, but one thing that hasn't changed since Samwell is how easily Derek can get caught up in words on paper, so he's not hugely surprised that the office door creaks open when he's still typing.

"Hey, baby," Chris says softly from the doorway.

"One second," Derek says, typing faster – he's not entirely sure whether he's actually had a brilliant thought, or just thinks it is because he's been staring at the screen for too long, but he's got to put it down, just in case.

He feels Chris come up behind him, then warm hands settle on his shoulders and Chris' fingers dig into the base of his neck. Derek groans a little, hits save, and tips his head back, resting against the solid muscle of Chris' chest. Chris keeps up the steady motion of his hands, leaning down to drop a kiss onto Derek's curls. He smells a little of sweat and still faintly of the sun on his skin, which usually means he's been playing basketball with the other goalies. "Working hard?" Chris asks quietly.

Derek hums a little, letting his eyes drift closed, soaking up the sensations, their closeness.

"Headache?" Chris digs his fingers deeper into Derek's neck, making him moan again. "When did you take your pills?"

"S'not that bad." Chris smooths his thumb up slightly, pushing a bright buzz of pain up Derek's neck and out the top of his head, leaving behind a numb trail of eased pain. "Just a headache."

Chris tips Derek's head forward and works his warm palms up Derek's neck, humming softly. Unlike Dex, who tries to force-feed Derek his migraine meds if he so much as winces, Chris usually trusts that Derek knows the difference between a regular headache and the migraines he's been getting on and off since a bad concussion his senior year. All three of them still learned the massage techniques that sometimes work to keep headaches from turning into migraines.

Derek keeps his eyes closed, breathing in time with Chris' hands. "How was practice?"

"Good. Bibs just got here this morning, we took him out for lunch…" Chris keeps talking, voice low as he tells Derek about going to one of the Sharks' favourite lunch places with the other goalies and half of their D-core, and Derek just lets it all wash over him, doing more to ease the pain in his head than anything else has today.

"Hey," Chris says eventually. Derek has to blink really hard to focus back on the words instead of just the sound. "Come on, let's go nap for a bit, okay? We can order in later, you can tell me the latest from Bobby."

"He skipped today." Derek lets Chris pull him to his feet, Mouse opening one eye then curling back into herself. "Emailed to say his boyfriend's visiting from Canada."

Chris laughs a little. "I thought office hours with you was the only thing keeping him from flunking his freshman year. You want me to help you with that?"

It takes Derek a second to realise Chris is asking about his shirt, and that they're in the bedroom, blinds drawn against the dark outside. "I got it," he promises, though he fumbles the buttons, not sure if it's because of the headache or because he's halfway asleep. Chris still ends up helping him out of his socks when leaning forward to do it himself nearly tips Derek right off the bed.

"Got you," Chris says, easing them both down horizontal and pulling the covers over them. Derek rolls into him the moment they're settled, tucking his head against Chris' chest where the familiar rhythm of his heart can lull him to sleep.

"Missed my hello kisses," he says, reaching up blindly to pet Chris' hair.

Chris makes a soft, pleased noise, kisses Derek's temple. "Nap first," he says, "And then kisses later, promise," and that's the last thing Derek remembers before he falls asleep.