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"Look," Derek says. "I don’t mean to be rude or anything, but I should probably be talking to the Loans Manager." And not the monkey.
The kid doesn’t look up from where he’s poring over Derek’s business plan. “Shhh,” he says, and carries on reading.
Derek has better things to do with his time than sit across a desk from this power-tripping bank teller who’s playing dress-up with his pin-striped suit and his slicked-back hair. He’s probably given himself a promotion while his boss is at lunch.
"Okay," the kid says a few minutes later. "I have a couple of questions."
There are always a couple of questions. What you makes you think Beacon Hills needs another gym? Why should we invest in your idea? Have you lost your freakin’ mind?
And then the inevitable no.
It doesn’t seem to matter that Derek already has most of the money he needs to kick-start this venture. Most is not all.
"Tell me more about this ‘great outdoors’ theme," the kid - who for some reason insists on being called Stiles - says thoughtfully.
That’s a…surprise, and Derek is still pretty sure that he’s wasting his breath here, but it’s nice to tell someone about his baby. So he launches into his spiel about how people dislike being cooped indoors when the weather is fine, and how evening hikes and weekend trails would be a huge part of this project. There’s a whole social aspect just waiting to be tapped into. And a large outdoor area at the back of the building, with shaded areas for classes. Plus a coffee shop, and an events area for business meetings or book clubs or whatever. There’s also a pool - which the other gyms don’t have - and an ideal location, right next door to the pre-school. Business packages will be a priority, and Derek hopes to support the community by displaying art from up and comings, and promoting various…
Stiles cuts him off with a held up palm. “Okay,” he nods.
"Okay?" Derek repeats.
"Yes," Stiles says. "Yes. I’m going to take a chance."
Derek doesn’t fully believe it until the money is actually in his business account, and from there things move so quickly that he only knows his bed for about five hours a night over the following six months. And finally, on one bright June morning, All Hale opens for business.
Derek starts to sleep for four hours a night.
It takes Derek a couple of seconds to place him. The suit has been replaced by a graphic tee and skinny jeans, and the hair is product free, but the eyes and the mouth are still the same.
"Can I interest you in a tour?" he smiles professionally.
"Sure," Stiles grins back. "I’m specifically interested in the area where hot, sweaty, almost-naked men work out. Especially the hot, sweaty not-naked-enough owners."
Derek rolls his eyes. “Great. It must be ten minutes since I was last sexually harassed.”
Stiles flushes furiously. “Sorry,” he mutters. “I wasn’t trying to harass you. I was trying to…flirt. With you.”
"You’re terrible at it," Derek says, beginning to lead Stiles towards the outdoor compound where a yoga class is just starting.
"Ain’t got no game," Stiles agrees mournfully.
Stiles is back at least three times a week, but never to actually work out, or swim, or take part in classes. Instead he badgers Derek into having coffee with him and makes Derek laugh with wacky tales and mesmerises Derek with his always moving hands.
"You’re going to have to put that boy outta his misery," Erica says one evening when they’re shutting down reception.
Derek pretends he has no idea what she’s talking about. “I’m talking about the way he comes in here just to see you, I’m talking about the way he looks at you like there’s nothing else worth looking at. I’m talking about the way you look at him pretty much the same way. And I’m talking about the inevitability of him asking you out and you turning him down. Because you might go out with him and you might have fun and you might fall in love with him and marry him and have lots of babies. And let’s face it, Derek, it’s not like you are ever going to be that nice to yourself.”
She has a point.
Derek is going to find some way of derailing Stiles before it gets to that. He’s thinking that he might mention a fictitious crush he has on Erica, who is safely dating Boyd from Extreme Work-Outs. Anything just to throw Stiles off.
But the next time Stiles comes in, he looks tired and a little shell-shocked, and so Derek doesn’t say anything. Of course that’s when Stiles asks Derek if he can take him to dinner. On a date.
Derek is almost tempted. Stiles is gorgeous and smart and funny. But Derek’s been there, done that, got the house burned down, so he says no.
Stiles flushes and squirms a little with embarrassment, but he doesn’t look particularly surprised. “No worries,” he shrugs, in a tone that suggests this is not the first time he’s been shot down.
It’s hideously awkward, but Derek would rather have Stiles and the awkward than have the heavy feeling in his chest when Stiles leaves and he’s alone again.
Stiles stops coming to the gym, but Derek doesn’t stop looking out for him.
Derek eats well. Prides himself on it. It’s as much a part of his personal life as it is his professional one. But he really wants a fucking burger. A great, big, greasy burger with cheese and mayo. Something that might fill that void in his torso.
He walks furtively to the counter of Beano’s, the local fast-food joint, ready to ask for a heart-attack to take away, when the guy at the counter drones - “Welcome to Beano’s, home of the Beano Burger. Best burger on the West Coast. How may I help you?”
The graphic tee has been replaced by a yellow and red striped shirt, and the hair is hidden under a windmill shaped hat, but Derek knows it’s Stiles, even before Stiles looks up from lining trays with advertising sheets.
"What…" Stiles gasps, face falling horribly.
"I think that’s my question," Derek says slowly, and Stiles whimpers while closing his eyes. Derek watches him mouth from one to ten, before one eye peeks open.
"Shit," Stiles mutters, looking away.
"What are you doing here?" Derek asks, genuinely puzzled. "You work at the bank…"
"Worked,” Stiles corrects. “There was an audit a couple of weeks ago, and a little discrepancy came to light. One where I may have authorised a business loan that I had no author-uh-tay to authorise, and so…” He finishes by waving a hand around as if to say behold my new kingdom.
Derek grips the counter to stop himself free-falling. “You mean my…”
"Oh, don’t worry," Stiles says quickly. "There’ll be no problem with your account. Turns out you are a very worthy investment. It’s just that I shouldn’t have. Yeah."
"You didn’t show the plan to your boss?" Derek manages.
"I did," Stiles shrugs. "They said no. But they’re idiots. I know a good business idea when I see one." He wrinkles his nose at his shirt. "Believe it or not."
Two minutes ago, Derek was starving, but now he just feels really full, like there’s barely even enough room in his chest for air. He wraps a fist in the shirt Stiles is still frowning at and hauls him half over the counter to kiss him frantically, swallowing Stiles’ startled umph, and letting himself taste what he’s wanted since he saw a kid with gelled hair and pin-stripes. He’s going to tell Stiles that, when he can stop kissing him. And he’s going to tell Stiles what Erica said yesterday, about all the customers who have asked for him over the past two weeks, about how sales have dropped a little since Stiles stopped calling in and charming the pants off of potential clients. There’s a job waiting at front desk with Stiles’ name all over it. He can even slick back his hair and wear a suit, if he wants.
"Can I help you," someone nearby says, a mixture of shock and disapproval.
Derek pulls back from Stiles’ mouth and then kisses it again, because it’s wet, and beautiful, and there. He doesn’t take his eyes from Stiles’ gawping face when he answers the guy standing beside them.
"Yes, you can. I’ll take this one to go."
He tugs Stiles the rest of the way over the counter and sets him on his feet.
"What are you doing?" Stiles laughs, a little pitchy, but he’s easy for the way Derek is manhandling him.
"Taking a chance," Derek smiles at him, grabbing his hand and pulling the surest thing in his life out the door.