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Posted originally on the Archive of Our Own at

http://download.archiveofourown.org/works/4431092.
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Teen And Up Audiences


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M/M

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Published: 2015-07-26 Words: 10501

Teen Wolf (TV)


Derek Hale/Stiles Stilinski
Erica Reyes, Derek Hale, Stiles Stilinski
human AU, that is literally all I can think to tag this as lmao

Infatuation
by standinginanicedress
Summary

Hi, comes his voice, a little muted from the distance between them and the foliage
blocking some of its passage.
Derek swallows, palms his face for a second, and says the absolute very first thing that
comes to mind, like word vomit. I have your shoe. It's so stupid it's not even on topic,
but what else is he supposed to say to the kid he found passed out on his balcony a few
days ago?
There's a shuffling from above him, and the branch he's sitting on creaks. Like it's about to
snap at any second. Can you do me a big favor? He pauses for a moment, furrowing his
brow. A bigger favor than holding onto my shoe for me. A second pause. And a bigger
favor than not calling the police on me.
Seeing no other options in front of him, feeling like he's suddenly being taken on the ride
of his life, Derek nods yes.

Notes

prompt fill for : "I found you sleeping on my balcony when I went out to water my plants
why are you here and more importantly how did you get here we're eighteen floors up"
this fic is sooo self indulgent and simple, it's the first time I've ever done a prompt like this
and also the first time I ever gave myself a maximum word count to cut myself off
I know the prompt is so fuckin silly so you're probably wondering how I could possibly
have a trigger warning but I do and the tw is like super brief and vague mentions of past
domestic violence (nothing serious at all and Stiles says more than once it's really not that

deep but just so we're all aware)

Derek considers the handle of the broom he has in his hands he curls his fingers tighter around it
for a moment, then loosens them. Again and again he does this, furrowing his brow, pursing his
lips together. His tomato plants seem to be waving at him in the wind, wondering why the hell he
hasn't just gotten over there and watered them already, but it's just...
Derek starts considering calling the police again. The police would handle this situation probably
way better than the handle of his broom ever could. That would be the smart thing to do. A smart,
intelligent person would contact the authorities and have this individual arrested ASAP, because
although the balcony is technically outside of his apartment, it's still private property.
Right.
Here's the deal. There's a kid on his balcony. And not kid as in a toddler or even a ten year old
who's clearly lost their way and looking for their mother, but a kid as in a youth. One of those
obnoxious ones that wave their student ID's around in the air at the bar on Wednesday nights and
get two dollars off all their drinks, one of the annoying ones that drive past Derek's apartment
complex blasting Top 40 so loud he can hear it all the way at the tippy-fucking-top of his building.
One of those kids. Derek's really only four or five years older than the college generation, but it's
very hard for him to look at any of them and think peers.
He really, really doesn't like people younger than him. They annoy. If this were any other
situation, any other person, any other fucking college fuck-off that's somehow managed to weasel
their way up onto his balcony, he'd have called the police.
The problem is, this kid looks particularly out of sorts. Like, worst night ever out of sorts.
He's wearing jeans and a flannel, one shoe, and he's sprawled out face first with his cheek pressed
into the brick of the balcony, a small pool of drool collecting by his mouth as he breathes in and
out steadily through sleep. There's a patch of something damp near Derek's carrots, which he
thinks might be vomit but doesn't feel like inspecting, Jesus Christ, and an empty bottle of Jack
Daniel's curled in between the kid's long fingers like a teddy bear.
Most striking of all, is the purple-blue bruise he has in a ring around the eye that Derek can see
from his angle. Derek frowns at it.
This is not what he thought he'd be spending his morning doing, but here he is.
He's right smack dab in between Derek and the tomato plants, right there, sprawled out with limbs
just long enough to make it physically impossible for Derek to even try to step over him without
somehow stepping on one of his fingers or calves or forearms. With a deep breath, he grips the
handle of the broom tighter, and shakes his head. He should really call the cops.
Instead, he pokes the end of the broom into the kid's side, once, twice, three times. Hey.
A stutter in his breath, a snort, a twitch of his fingers. But other than that, he remains immobile.
Hey, Derek tries again, pressing the broom into his hip harder. Hey, buddy.
Eyes blink open, fluttering eyelashes, and then he's squinting against the harsh early morning

sunlight. Derek watches with a frown as the intruder smacks his lips together, probably tastes
something horrible in his mouth if his facial expression of absolute disgust is anything to judge by,
and slowly raises his head. He glares blearily around himself for a moment.
First, he looks at the bricks. Squints at them like he's looking at a math problem. Then, it's the
plants. Those, he must think are some kind of alien life forms, because he stares at them as though
they contain the mysteries of the galaxy, blinking every couple of seconds, his mouth agape with a
string of saliva connecting it down to the bricks underneath him.
Derek pokes him with the broom again. This is private property, he puts on his adult voice,
narrowing his eyes.
Finally, the attention of whoever-the-hell is set firmly on Derek. His eyes, even though they're
bloodshot and only half open, are startling in the sunlight. Amber, whiskey, honey, a dozen other
poetic descriptors, and Derek loses a bit of his righteous anger for a moment as this person looks
directly at him. Carefully, he drops his palms onto the ground, hoists himself up until he's almost
on his knees, and then gives up. He flops backwards onto his ass with a pained grunt, the empty
bottle of liquor ting-tinging against the ground, and goes back to staring around himself,
disoriented.
Hey, Derek starts again, waving the broom stick in the air like he's going to poke him in the face
with it again. You you've gotta leave.
Again, the eyes are on him. And Derek thinks that the look this person is giving him right now,
this angry-confused-baffled-scared-annoyed-what-the-fuck look, is completely unjustified. If
anyone should have that look on their face right now, it's Derek. For all he knows, this person is
about to pull a gun out from his skinny jeans and start open firing on him.
It's unlikely, given the fit, that any sort of weapon whatsoever is inside those pants, but a person
who breaks onto an 18th story balcony in the middle of the night is clearly not stable. It's best to
be prepared. Which is why Derek grips the handle of the broom tighter, thickening his resolve.
Are you alive in there? He prompts, and is met with stony silence. I said are. You. Alive -
Can you - a hand is held out in his direction to silence him, and Derek gapes at it, aghast.
...like, not scream? His voice sounds like it's been run through a meat grinder several times over
before getting shoved back into his throat in a hamburger surprise type capacity.
I'm not screaming, Derek says evenly, and the kid winces, like he is. That's probably the
alcohol. Now can you please -
Did we meet - a pause. He puts his fist to his mouth and closes his eyes for a second, like any
moment he's about to start blowing chunks all over Derek's plants, and Derek braces himself.
Then, he drops the fist down, swallowing heavily, and continues. ...at the bar, last night? Did we
um... he squints his eyes off in another direction, color rising to his cheeks like he's ashamed.
Derek looks at him like he's just grown about sixteen extra heads. Because, seriously? Does this
situation look anything like a we-hooked-up-last-night situation? The two of them, both fully
clothed, outside on a balcony, a pile of vomit two feet away? What? No!
Christ, he hisses, slapping a hand over one of his ears. Nails on a fucking chalkboard.
That just about does it. Listen, Derek takes one step forward, and the kid doesn't even flinch.
Just sits there blinking at him with a face of pure and total disgust. ...I don't know who the hell
you are, or how the actual hell you managed to scale the building up to my balcony -

I used the stairs, he points his hand off in a vague direction, frowning at nothing. Like a
person.
...but you need to go, now. All right?
With legs that look like they're made of Jell-O, he drags his knees up like he's about to try and
stand again, and then lets out a breath and shakes his head. Not happening. For a moment, he
blinks at the ground, hungover beyond all belief, it looks like, and then he flicks his striking eyes
right back up to look at Derek, the beginnings of a smirk crossing his mouth. I need two
seconds.
You've got zero, Derek snaps. Zero. You're lucky I'm not calling -
Oh, please, do, he waves his hand in the air, please call the cops. My dad will love this story.
He'll frame the incident report up on the wall, right next to my high school diploma. He's got all
this arrogance, and this smugness in him, and even Derek can tell that, while maybe sometimes
this person might be so cocky, this, right now? Is put upon. Forced. The words ring false, like a
robot response instead of a genuine one.
It's too soon for him to tell, and perhaps half of this is just the hangover that's making it seem this
way, but he looks - sad.
Derek doesn't understand none of this is making very much sense whatsoever. It doesn't make
sense how he got up here, it doesn't make sense why he's still here, it doesn't make sense why he's
so attractive and it doesn't fucking compute. None of it. He appraises this person again, from
head to toe, and shakes his head incredulously. Do you even live in this apartment building?
Um - he squints, looks around himself like he's not fucking sure. ...I live in a house.
Great.
I'm I don't normally - a bashful look crosses his features when ten seconds earlier, he was all
cocky and smirking. ...I'm having a weird night.
It's the morning, Derek clarifies brusquely, shaking his head.
Yeah. There's a couple of seconds of silence. Derek clutching his broom like he's getting ready
to wield it at any second, the stranger staring down at the muddy old sneaker on one foot and the
white ankle sock on the other with his lips puckered. The bruise on his face, now that the sun is
fully across it and Derek can get a good look at it, is a nasty one. Someone really clocked this kid
as hard as physically possible or, he somehow managed to clock himself at some point while he
climbed his way up here.
Right as Derek is starting to consider maybe asking him if he's okay, the question gets answered.
He starts crying. Right there, on Derek's balcony, surrounded by greenery and a set of wind
chimes, an absolute stranger starts sobbing hysterically. He cradles his empty bottle closer to his
stomach like it's a comfort to him, puts one hand on his forehead, and weeps.
Derek just stares. He's never been particularly great with displays of emotion, even for people he
actually knows. Most of the time, he just mutters something about needing to make a phone call
and excuses himself from the room before he has to try to deal with it. What's he supposed to say,
or do? Pat him on the back and go there, there? He doesn't even know what the problem is.
There must be a lot of them.

I'm so - his shoulders sag, and he heaves in a breath, -so sorry, so sorry, I'm just - another
breath, a hiccup, I'm having the worst night.
Derek palms his forehead. He should've called the cops. Now look at what he's saddled with.
Abruptly, a pale palm is slapping against the brick beneath their feet and is being used to push the
lanky form of the kid up into a semi-stand. He gets into a crouch, still crying, and then forces
himself up all the way to his full height. Only a couple of inches shorter than Derek, if that. He
still has the bottle cradled in his arm, almost like he's forgotten it's there, and swipes furiously at
the dampness on his face with his other, free hand, lowering his eyes to the ground and shielding
the bruised side of his face from Derek's view.
This is embarrassing, he moans, staggering forwards like a baby deer just learning to use its
legs. I should go. I - he moves forwards again, and Derek, on instinct, steps back to permit
some space for him to walk. This is so, so humiliating...
Er - Derek stutters, as he moves back into his apartment through the wide open sliding glass
door. The handle of the broom smacks against the outside wall and Derek startles, having
forgotten he even had that thing in his hands at all. ...it yeah. Yeah? Jesus Christ, Derek.
The kid sniffles, wiping at his eyes again, and follows Derek into the apartment without even
asking. Just waltzes right in. Derek guesses that he sort of has to, to get the hell out of here,
because there's very, very little chance that he remembers the other way that he managed to get up
to the balcony last night. All the same, it's weird to see this person in his place.
This kid is all scruffy, awkward, loud colors, clashing against Derek's well-kept, high-strung, dull
apartment. He looks bizarre. And that's not just because he's still crying and carrying an empty
bottle of Jack like it's his baby.
Door? He asks quietly, not even looking for it himself. Derek runs a hand down his face, looks
at the person standing in front of him, and sighs.
It - he points, one tan finger in the general direction of his front door, and then hesitates for a
moment. He drops the broom down to his side to hang limply in his fingers, and as the stranger
starts shuffling towards the front door without another word, Derek pipes up. For reasons
unknown to him, he fucking pipes up. ...are you all right?
There's no pause in movement. He keeps shuffling along, sniffling and huffing. No, he says.
Is there do you I can call someone, he tries again. He doesn't know why, but it feels
absolutely and positively terrible to just send this poor creature out into the world, crying with his
baby-liquor and only one shoe, all by himself to stumble his way home. Derek just feels bad for
him, all right?
The fact that his hips look just about the right size for Derek to fit his fingers around comfortably
has absolutely nothing to do with it. Because, let's be honest having a thought like that, that
nasty and that salacious, about a person who's crying...is gross. And weird.
Derek clears his throat again. I can -
That's fine, he mutters, still moving towards the door. There's only a handful of steps left until
he's there, until he's pulling the door open and vanishing out into the hallway where Derek's
nosy neighbor Mrs. Clark will snort and roll her eyes and gossip with all the other ladies on their
floor about Derek's bedraggled possible bedmate and Derek reaches a hand out to catch him on
the upper arm.

He turns, eyes finally wide instead of squinted shut, and Derek swallows. Holy. Shit, he thinks.
Those fucking eyes.
As if he's been burned, Derek pulls his fingers away from the cloth of his shirt, and clears his
throat again. Who - he waves his fingers to his own face, who hit you?
Blinking. Then, a gasp of surprise or realization, and long fingers at prodding at the bruising he
winces. I nobody. I'm just I gotta go.
Derek opens his mouth to say something else, to offer a ride home or another phone call to
someone or an extra shoe or something, but already the door is being pulled open, and then
slamming closed, without another word exchanged between them.
Derek feels weird. Not angry, anymore. Not annoyed. Not like he wishes he had called the cops
after all, but just...weird. Something like a hollowed out sensation, as if he's just made a mistake.
Let something slip through the tips of his fingers, maybe. It's not something he particularly wants
to think about or consider, because how fucking weird is it to be half hang up on a person whose
name he doesn't even know, who he poked with the end of a broom because he had passed out
after throwing up all over Derek's fucking balcony?
Later, as Derek is leaning over to water his plants, he catches sight of a bright purple converse
shoe hanging by a lace from the fire escape.
---Derek is standing outside on a busy sidewalk, basking in the summer time sun. He sips at his
coffee, people watches, and waits for Erica to come down from work so they can go on their
planned lunch date. This is a normal thing, and a normal day. The sheer number of times that
Derek has stood on this exact stretch of sidewalk, underneath this exact tree, drinking coffee from
this exact coffee place it's astronomical. It's comfortable. It's expected.
It's the exact kind of thing Derek likes. The expected. He hates surprise parties, surprise visits,
surprise presents, surprises in general. Mostly, he just likes to know things so that he can plan
ahead look himself in the mirror and plot out exactly how he's going to respond after opening up
a present at Christmas time so that his reaction isn't so forced or stilted. He's a planner.
When things don't go as he planned them to go, he gets a little freaked out.
Halfway through his cup of coffee, right as he's checking the time on his phone, he hears a twig
snap above his head. A bright green leaf flutters down towards the ground around Derek's feet,
and Derek blinks at it for a second. When he looks up, he expects to see a squirrel or a chipmunk,
maybe even a bird tweeting around up there building a nest.
Instead, he cranes his neck back and spots a very, very familiar set of eyes blinking down at him
owlishly. Which is fitting considering the fucking tree he's sitting in. They lock eyes with one
another, and recognition is immediately flashing across the kid's face as clear as day. There's a
silence, just for a second, neither one of them knowing what to say as they both bask in the
knowledge that they know exactly who the other is and exactly why they recognize each other,
and then a throat clears.
Hi, comes his voice, a little muted from the distance between them and the foliage blocking
some of its passage.
Derek had more or less forgotten about this. True, it's really only been a few days since The
Incident, but he's been forcing himself to focus on other things. Because, those first hours

following one of the most interesting things that's ever happened to him, he thought about it way,
way too much. And, not in a holy shit this is going to be a great dinner party story way because
he wasn't thinking about the actual event. He wasn't thinking about just the fact that he found a kid
passed out on his balcony at nine o'clock in the morning.
He was thinking, specifically, about the kid, himself. That kid. The one currently hovering fifteen
or so feet above Derek's head in a tree branch. That just wasn't working for Derek. Not at all. It
was weird, first of all, to think about him like that when they didn't even know each other's names,
and it was weird second of all because Jesus. It's amazing Derek has to explain this to himself.
The kid was passed out on his balcony. There's nothing attractive or endearing about that. The
term human disaster comes to mind.
The point is that Derek has deliberately tried to wash this person out of his mind, and as a result,
he had kind of been hoping and expecting that he would never, ever in his life, see him again. He
never saw him before, and he was never going to see him again. That was case closed.
So, he never really thought about what he would say if he did run into him again.
Derek swallows, palms his face for a second, and says the absolute very first thing that comes to
mind, like word vomit. I have your shoe. It's so stupid it's not even on topic, but what else is
he supposed to say to him?
There's a shuffling from above him, and the branch he's sitting on creaks. Like it's about to snap at
any second. Can you do me a big favor? He pauses for a moment, furrowing his brow. A
bigger favor than holding onto my shoe for me. A second pause. And a bigger favor than not
calling the police on me.
Seeing no other options in front of him, feeling like he's suddenly being taken on the ride of his
life, Derek nods yes.
Derek expects help me get down from here I'm stuck or give me back my fucking shoe you
absolute creep or something within the realm of reason as Derek has come to understand it.
Instead, he opens his mouth, and says, can you tell me when the guy over there - a long finger
points off in some vague direction, and Derek follows it with is eyes to the soft pretzel stand some
twenty odd feet away, ..is gone?
The guy selling the pretzels? Uh I think he's here until five...
Not him, he corrects mildly, pointing his finger a little bit more forcefully in the same direction.
Yellow t-shirt.
A second glance at the pretzel stand, and Derek does see a guy milling around in a yellow shirt,
eating a pretzel and talking to a girl. Derek observes him for a few moments, watches as he
finishes off the last couple of bites of his pretzel, wads up the paper it came on into a ball and
tosses it into the nearby trash.
What's he doing?
Uh talking to a girl.
A beat of silence. Then, dejected, oh.
This is literally the most innocuous person that Derek has ever laid eye on in his life. Derek
wouldn't glance twice at him if he were walking past him on the street, because he's just a guy.

And, yet, there's someone up in a tree above Derek's head hiding from him. Huh.
Derek scratches at his face, and realizes that a good twenty seconds have passed in dead silence
between him and his treed companion. I think he's getting ready to leave, now.
Really? He sounds a little too excited to hear this. Oh, thank God. A bird up here has been
eyeing me like it's getting ready to peck my eyes out.
More seconds of silence, Derek watching the guy in the yellow shirt because apparently he's
invested in this shit, now, until, finally, yellow-shirt is walking off down the sidewalk in the
opposite direction with the same girl he was talking with, getting ready to vanish around a corner
and be gone from the block altogether. Okay, he says, glancing upwards into the leaves. He's
er gone.
Long legs swing above his head, and then one of them is reaching downwards to step onto the
nearest branch. Derek can't help but notice he's wearing different shoes, and, of course he would
be. It wouldn't do to walk around with mismatched shoes, would it? He doesn't know why he
thinks about this, but he does.
More twigs snap, more leaves flutter, and there are a couple curses muttered as he makes his way
down the tree and back onto solid ground. Derek can't do much except stand there and watch,
while pretending very pointedly like he's not watching. This is an awkward situation, he decides.
This is fucking painful.
Once he reaches the lowest branch that won't collapse underneath his weight, he leaps down and
lands on the balls of his feet, nearly topples backwards onto his ass but catches himself with a
palm and a wince. Derek stands there, holding onto his almost empty coffee cup, and doesn't
know what to say or do. Part of him feels like he should still be incredibly annoyed at this stranger
for breaking onto his balcony, puking, and then crying all over the place pathetically before
fleeing the scene without so much as an explanation, but, for whatever reason, Derek can't really
work up the agitation about it. He just maybe thinks it's all a little funny.
He pulls himself into a standing position, and Derek watches as he brushes some tree bark dust off
his shirt, picks a small leaf out of his brown hair to flick down at the ground. Thanks, man, he
says earnestly, glancing briefly in the direction of the pretzel stand as if to make sure yellow-shirt
is really gone. That's the second time you've done me a favor.
Well - Derek starts, then doesn't finish it.
With a small, somewhat bashful smile, the kid holds his hand out in Derek's direction and says,
I'm Stiles.
Because it's the normal, polite thing to do, no other reason whatsoever, not thinking about how
he's actually about to touch those long fingers, Derek takes his hand. Derek.
Derek, Stiles repeats, and Derek pretends like the sound of his name off of his tongue doesn't
just do things to his brain. After a moment, too short a moment, Stiles pulls his hand back and
rubs at the back of his head, turning to squint off in a random direction as though he's about to say
something he doesn't want to make eye contact about. Okay, so I'm not normally you know. I
don't do things like this often.
Derek raises his eyebrows, and he doesn't even have to explain what that facial expression is
supposed to translate as. Because Stiles immediately gets it, if the reddish tint that the tips of his
ears take on has anything to go by. This is the second time that Derek has encountered this kid,
Stiles, in a less than proud situation, doing something bizarre and out-there and, frankly,

embarrassing. That's two first impressions. Derek's formed a judgment, and Stiles knows that.
The issue is, that Derek doesn't know what impression it is he's formed. Can't make up his mind,
just yet.
I'm going through a break-up, he announces in a rush. When I break up with people, I tend to
well. It's just not my proudest moments.
Okay.
That guy - he points back to the pretzel stand, even though yellow-shirt is long gone, now, exboyfriend.
Because Stiles still has the fading bruise around his eye, and because Derek has absolutely zero
fucking tact whatsoever, and because he didn't have the time to plan this conversation, he just
blurts it out. Is he the one that did that to you?
Stiles scrunches his face up like huh?, before realization dawns across his face and his fingers
immediately reach up to prod at the purpling skin. Oh no. He laughs briefly, and Derek feels
relieved. I sort of...got smacked in the eye with a basketball because I tried to throw it through his
window but it hit the side of the house instead and bounced back and - he trails off, waving his
hand to the bruise again like thus, this bruise.
Derek barely manages to stifle a laugh at the imagery.
I'm not usually like this, he says again, more forcefully. Derek wonders why his opinion on
what Stiles is or isn't normally like matters at all to Stiles. Look, let's just get it all out in the open.
Let's just cards on the table. He gestures widely with his hands, long fingers out on display, and
Derek follows the movement with his eyes almost like they're magnetized to follow Stiles' hands
wherever they go. ...I am, genuinely, super sorry I got onto your balcony.
Honestly, Derek says, no big deal.
And, also, super sorry that I um had phase one of my emotional breakdown on said
balcony.
We don't have to go over every detail, Derek insists, looking away before he starts laughing.
Blanket statement, I accept the apology.
For a moment, Stiles just stands there looking at Derek. It's not a stare, not exactly, but it is a look.
Calculating and sure, sweeping across every part of Derek as though he thinks he can somehow
figure him out. This is radically different from the still half-drunk glazed teary-eyed looks that
Stiles had given Derek the last time they saw each other, and Derek feels somewhat put on display
in a glass case, uncomfortable under the gaze. I'm really embarrassed.
You said as much.
That was one of the top five most embarrassing moments of my life. He admits this with a head
nod, as though he's done the math, ran the tests, laid out a pie chart and come to this conclusion.
And where does this rank? Derek gestures to the tree, and Stiles grimaces.
Eh. Top ten, maybe. It's funny, or maybe not really, but pretty much all ten of those have
happened in the past week and a half, a short laugh bursts out of his throat, but Derek wouldn't
call it particularly humorous. It's more forced. Choppy. Sad.

Derek tightens his grip on his coffee cup for a moment, and then releases the grip. Just for
something to do with his hands, just to feel somewhat in control of something, if he can't be in
control of the conversation or the words that are coming out of his mouth. Uh so it's been a bad
break-up, huh?
Bad. Stiles repeats the word like it's infantile, shaking his head somewhat bitterly. I just
climbed up a tree in broad daylight so I wouldn't have to see or talk to him bad doesn't even
begin to cover it. He rubs the back of his head again, maybe his go-to anxious move, before
letting out a long sigh. Thanks for that. Seriously.
It's no problem, Derek says back. Truthfully, it's not. Uh like I said before. I still have your
shoe, so...
Right, Stiles makes a finger-gun at him, nodding his head. I'll be needing that back. Most
likely. Right now I've gotta - he glances at his phone, widens his eyes at the time, and starts
backing away. I've gotta go, like, ten minutes ago. Nice to - he stutters for a second, glancing
over his shoulder at Derek and squinting his eyes like he doesn't even know how to finish that
sentence, and settles with, ...encounter you. Again.
He's off like a shot, moving through the moderately busy sidewalk while muttering excuse me's to
everyone he passes. Derek stands there with his empty coffee cup, lips parted, feeling like he just
lived through an experience.
Erica clacks up to him with a drawling hey, pulling her purse up higher on her shoulder. She
follows Derek's eye line, raises one eyebrow as she watches the lanky form of Stiles vanishing
around a corner. Who's that?
---The third time that Derek runs into Stiles, it might be under better circumstances. Although, Derek
is very quickly learning that better circumstances is sort of a subjective term, where Stiles is
concerned.
Erica has dragged him out to the bar, purring something about girl's night out, in spite of the fact
that it's just her and Derek. For her part, she's in her element. There's nothing that Erica likes more
than getting dolled up and having people look at her for an entire three hours, pursing her red lips
at anyone who gets too close and laughing in the face of any guy who tries too hard to come onto
her. Derek sits back and drinks, mostly. If anyone comes up to him, he matches their eyes with a
death glare, shaking his head back and forth. Maybe they think that he and Erica are a thing, after
all, or maybe they think he's just a fucking asshole. Either way, it works.
He's in the middle of his third drink, leaning back against the bar and listening with one ear as
Erica explains in detail to a random guy in a button down what it is exactly that she does for work
maybe in the hopes that it'll scare him off when he spots Stiles not that great of a ways away.
This, Derek thinks, is the first time he's seen Stiles doing something even in the realm of normal.
Stiles is literally just there, like any other person, wearing a crisp white shirt and leaning in to talk
to a guy who looks vaguely familiar to Derek. He's got a drink in his hand, but it looks relatively
untouched, as though he's been spending more of his time talking to whoever-the-hell than he has
actually being at the bar doing bar things.
Derek lets his gaze linger for a moment, because this is the first time he's been allowed to just look
at Stiles without Stiles being in some kind of pickle or trying to explain himself. The first thing that
comes to Derek's mind is shit, he's good looking and the second is not that it matters.

Because it shouldn't matter. It really shouldn't matter at all. Moles and pale skin and wide eyes and
unkempt hair...none of that shit matters. What matters is that he's an emotionally unstable 20something that climbs up trees and fire escapes and loses shoes and has some ex-boyfriend that
he's more likely that not still hung up over. That feels like case closed, to Derek, when he lines up
all the evidence like that. Too much trouble.
But, Derek looks. Why not?
It's as he's looking, sipping at his drink and tuning completely out of Erica's conversation, that he
starts to notice that Stiles isn't just talking to some random guy at the bar. From even a short
distance away, he can't hear them, obviously, but body language and facial expressions say more
than words really ever could. Stiles is pissed off. Or sad. It's a toss up. He's pissed off / sad and
leaning in closer like he's really trying to say something really important in this guy's face in spite
of the loud volume of the music blaring over their heads. The guy, for his part, is just as angry, if
not more so they're fucking fighting on the dance floor on Friday night. Oblivious to the swirl of
bodies moving around them, oblivious to the music, to their surroundings altogether.
Ah. And that's why Derek thinks that the guy Stiles is arguing with looks so familiar. It's that guy
yellow-shirt, AKA the one Stiles refers to as ex-boyfriend.
Derek looks away. This might be phase three of Stiles' break-up, and that's none of his business.
He might have inadvertantly gotten involved in what Stiles called phase one, and he might've also
gotten involved during phase two up in that tree, but that doesn't mean he's a part of any of this.
He doesn't know Stiles, at all. This is none of his business.
He takes another sip of his drink, but maybe he keeps watching in the corner of his eye. The same
thing that kept him from calling the police, that kept him from shucking Stiles out of his apartment
like the near-felon he was, that got him to stand underneath a tree watching some guy eat a pretzel,
is the same thing that has his gaze wandering back to him. Call it intuition. Derek can just sense
when something's not completely and totally all right.
So, it's not necessarily a surprise to him when ex-boyfriend grabs Stiles by his wrist and tugs,
harshly enough that Stiles stumbles forward and drops his drink down somewhere below their
feet. The music is too loud for the shattering of glass to be noticed or heard by anyone else around
them, but Derek imagines that Stiles' feet are crunching on the broken pieces, right now, as he
struggles to free his wrist and back away from the hold.
Derek smacks his drink down onto the counter and stands up. For a moment, he's just standing,
watching Stiles claw at the hand on his wrist and shove his palm against the bigger man's chest
fruitlessly, and the longer he watches, the more pissed the fuck off he gets.
Derek's not great at relationships. The last three he's had have ended in some pretty spectacular Abombs of fiery, hellish proportions, and he's not good at talking about his feelings, and he's not
good at saying what he wants, and he's not good at always being around or texting back or
whatever it is that people want from others in committed, successful relationships.
That being said, even he, the failure of failures in romance, knows there's some things you just
don't do. It doesn't matter to him that Stiles as good as laughed in Derek's face when Derek
insinuated that his ex-boyfriend has ever hit him before, it really doesn't. You don't lay your hands
on your partner when you're angy, and when they say let go, like Stiles has clearly said upwards
of a dozen times by now, you let the fuck go.
This is what he's thinking about as he bridges the distance between himself and the ex-couple,
leaving Erica behind and ignoring her squawks of where are you going!? He's thinking about
Stiles crying hungover drunk on his balcony, and Stiles treeing himself just to get the hell away

from this guy and Would you just try to listen to me for once? I wasn't trying to hook up with her, and even if I
was, what the fuck does it matter to you?
Stiles staggers back a step, only to get pulled right back in again by the unrelenting grip. I said
fucking -
You're the one who ruined the entire relationship by being so fucking obsessive and crazy all the
time.
Stiles' face twists up in something like hurt, maybe emotional or maybe physical, Derek isn't sure,
but he's close enough now that he can read the expression well enough. ...stop it, it's starting to
hurt -
Ex-boyfriend is opening up his mouth to say something else, wrapping the finger of his other hand
around Stiles' jaw to twist his face back to look at him, and Derek pretty much reacts on principle.
This is not what any other sane person would do in this situation, but. Derek has a temper.
Derek punches him square in the jaw, and he vanishes down onto the dance floor. Stiles staggers
back, now free from the hold on his wrist, and he widens up his eyes. He shouts, oh my god!
over the sound of the bass line.
Derek shakes his hand out, muttering a curse - he really, really hit that guy - and fixes his eyes on
Stiles, ignoring the guy he just punched on the ground altogether. Are you okay?
Stiles blinks at him, looking between him and the pile of man on the floor, his jaw half unhinged.
Like he doesn't even fucking know where to start, with this. Holy. Shit.
There's blood. There's blood, and security, and Erica screaming you got in a bar fight!! topped off
with a cackle, and before he knows it, he's being shoved out into the alley way with Stiles and
Erica in tow, security slamming the door shut behind them firmly to let them know they're not
going to be welcomed back in any time tonight. Or any other night, maybe.
Oh, man, Erica starts, eyes wide and glittering, like this is exciting for her. She paces around in
her high heels, clacking on the concrete, while Stiles stands back with a slightly dazed expression
on his face. I saw that whole thing. You straight knocked him out. It was like man! Erica's
seen Derek get into fights before. Just...not since high school. No one's ever pissed him enough to
get into a bar fight with since fucking high school, or maybe college.
He looks at Stiles, assessing him. Derek maybe expects Stiles to be kind of pissed, since Derek
pretty much just knocked the fuck out of his ex-boyfriend for almost no surface reason, or to
maybe start yelling at him right then and there. He seems upset enough, like he might start crying
again.
Instead, he's just got that same calculating look on his face from before, as he looks back at Derek.
Searching. The first words he chooses to say are...interesting. He never would've hit me, you
know.
That, to Derek, doesn't sound like someone who's positive. That sounds more like Stiles has been
trying to convince himself of this, every time he'd do something just like that, grab him and
squeeze and yell in his face and call him names and just be a general fucking asshole. That sounds
like Stiles repeats it in his head, a lot. That sounds like a flat out lie. He was being a fucking
asshole, Derek says, gesturing behind him at the wall of the outside of the bar.
I would've clocked that guy, too, Erica says, flipping her hair over her shoulder. Some guys

just need to be clocked, you know?


Stiles looks at her for a moment, and then back to Derek. I can't believe you did that.
Sorry, Derek says, because he doesn't know what else to say. I just reacted.
Yeah, Stiles agrees slowly.
I don't like that, he clarifies, shaking his head and looking away. I didn't like that. You
shouldn't see him again.
Stiles nods his head. I guess I'll just keep treeing myself every time he comes around, then.
Might be a wise idea, Derek agrees. Uh this is my friend Erica.
They shake hands, Erica grinning at him like a bobcat that's about to eat some other tiny creature,
Stiles smiling tightly back at her before he rubs at the back of his head. "I probably shouldn't have
even come out tonight."
Derek nods.
"He called me and I -" he trails off, shakes his head. "I should know better. He's such a fucking
asshole." Derek can't really argue with that, so he just nods again.
"You know," Erica starts, leaning in a bit towards him like she's about to impart motherly wisdom,
"I had a boyfriend who would treat me like that - I really wish I also had a Derek who would've
done me the favor of knocking him the fuck out and putting him in his place."
Stiles blinks owlishly at her, like she just blew his mind wide open and has him realizing things
about his past relationship that maybe he should've realized sooner. He swallows heavily, wipes at
his forehead, and huffs. I should probably go home, he says after, taking a few hesitant steps
down the alley towards the busy street.
I still have your shoe, Derek reminds him. This time, he doesn't know if that's an opening, or
what he's trying to say. But he just puts it out there.
Right. I should get that. Stiles air-guns him just like he did last time, scratches at his cheek, and
then turns around to keep walking. Next time.
---Derek doesn't know what he thinks about Stiles. Every single impression he's gotten of him has
been absolutely and completely bizarre. He insists he's not as strange as he's seemed, but he
might actually be. And he has some psycho ex-boyfriend, and he's so weirdly good looking, and Derek still has his fucking shoe. What the hell is he supposed to do with it if Stiles never comes
around to claim it? He keeps it in his closet with the rest of his own shoes, neatly lined up, and
every morning when he chooses his outfit and shoes for the day, he has to look at it. And he
doesn't know what he fucking thinks about it. Except that it clearly doesn't belong, clashing and
standing out so brightly with the drab blacks and grays that Derek has lined up around it.
The shoe has to go. Or, maybe it has to stay. Maybe Derek should've just left it hanging from the
god damn fire escape so every time Stiles walked underneath Derek's building, he'd have to look
up and see it holding on for dear life by a lace.
I think he's good looking, Erica says from Derek's couch, leaned back like she belongs there,

her feet up on the coffee table. So, I don't get what you're freaking out about.
He's I don't know. Which is as close to a true statement about Stiles that Derek is likely to ever
get. He's I don't know. That's all there is to it. I really don't know him, at all.
And yet, Erica gets that smirk on her face that she always gets whenever she's feeling
particularly vindicated or right about something, you literally punched another guy in the face for
him.
Knocked another guy out cold on the dance floor on a fucking Friday night before getting shoved
out the door by security. Derek honestly keeps expecting to have the police banging on his door
any day, now, drag him in to respond to assault charges. It's been four days since then, and still,
nothing. That's probably lucky as all get out.
I don't know why I did that, Derek admits, running his hands down his face and shaking his
head. I really just -
It was so white knight of you. Honestly, if I were Stiles, I'd be climbing you like a tree right
about now.
I just didn't like that guy. Something about him - maybe the abrasive yellow-shirt, or the cocky
set of his jaw, or his stupid goes to the gym five days a week body type, or...maybe something that
doesn't have anything to do with him, directly, at all. ...I'd punch him again. That's not a lie,
either. Given the opportunity, Derek would fight that guy anywhere, any time.
Erica leers at him, red lips stretching across her teeth, and Derek sighs. Because he broke your
boy's heart.
My - Derek can't repeat what she just said, because color rises to his cheeks just thinking about
the endearment term, I don't know him.
I can't believe I have to explain this to you, she throws her hands up in agitation, sits up and
twists her body so she can fix the entirety of her knowing glare on where Derek is sitting beside
her. Within the realm of love and relationships, there are, like, phases. It's not always about being
madly in love and knowing every single positive and negative quality about a person and still
liking them anyway, you know. There has to be an introduction.
Derek can't believe he's listening to this.
Nobody said you know you want this guy to be your husband, or whatever -
Jesus Christ -
...I'm just saying that it's pretty obvious you're infatuated with him.
Now there's a word Derek hasn't thought of yet. Erica might be onto something, here. There's
love, and there's hate, there's like, and there's dislike, but infatuation is something completely
different altogether. Infatuation is the thing that teenage girls get for boyband members whom
they've never met (and most likely will never meet). It's being into someone or something,
sometimes without any real reason, other than the surface. Looks and bare minimum information.
Derek would be willing to bet there are thousands of girls out there who would more than happily
punch the face of their favorite celebrity's ex-whatever, given the opportunity. Just on principle.
Still. There's something that Derek just doesn't get about this entire thing, still, there's a piece of it
that doesn't quite add up, and it's that - he broke onto my balcony, Erica. Passed out drunk,

crying, all over my tomato plants. And, say what you will, there is nothing, nothing at all,
attractive or endearing about any of that.
Yeah, Erica snickers, shaking her head. I can't wait until you tell that story to the kids you guys
have together.
Who the fuck said anything about -
You're looking at all of this the complete and total wrong way. She interrupts him, flicks a stand
of hair over her shoulder, and begins examining the chips in her nail polish as though she's
already checked out of this conversation and is itching to move into the next one, because to her,
the issue has been solved. Derek is just too daft to get to her level, yet. So, yeah, he's probably an
emotional mess, and he's embarrassed himself in front of you two times too many, but you still
like him.
Derek clasps his hands together in between his knees and leans forward, shaking his head. This is
starting to feel more and more like the plot of a very poorly executed romantic comedy, hitting
theaters sometime this summer. How would you even know I like him, Erica?
She lifts her eyes, grins at him, and says, have you thrown that shoe out, yet?
And that's it. That's the one detail of the entire situation that he can't quite spin to mean something
else, that he can't back away from with an explanation that has nothing to do with Stiles
whatsoever. There are probably a dozen reasons why Derek should just get rid of that stupid,
garish purple shoe, into a Good Will bin or into the dump, or just plain out the fucking window
but he hasn't fucking done it yet.
And he most likely won't ever do it, and he keeps reminding Stiles that he has it each time that he
runs into the kid, because he wants Stiles to come and get it himself. Derek has been waiting for it,
maybe, in the part of his brain where repressed wants and desires lurk like shadows, so to have it
thrust into his face like this? Christ.
This is so fucking stupid, Derek groans, squeezing his eyes shut and shaking his head.
Erica pats him on the back a couple of times. Poor, obsessed Derek.
Derek is not obsessed. Okay? He's fucking not.
He's just...fuck. It just feels too high school to admit it out loud. Maybe he is, and maybe any
minute he'll start scrawling Derek <3's Stiles across all his notebooks while staring dreamily out
his window and fantasizing about their future life together, or whatever but he's not going to
fucking admit that. He's a grown man. Stiles, infantile and spaztic as he might seem, is also mostly
a grown man.
Grown men don't do shit like this. That's all there is to it.
Still. When Derek catches sight of Stiles on the side of the road with the hood of a shitty Jeep
pulled up as he pokes around at the innards with his mouth twisted up like he has no fucking idea
what he's doing, it's really all he can do to sigh and turn on his blinker. What's the use in even
trying to fight this, anymore? The universe has dragged them into this same, stupid, mess of a
situation for the fourth time, now, and, obviously, Derek can't really avoid it.
Obsessed, infatuated whatever. Derek pulls over and gets out.
When Stiles squints up into the afternoon sun and sees Derek walking over to him, Derek honestly
doesn't know what he expects the reaction to be. There are a million different ways that Stiles

could choose to react to Derek, now, after the encounters that they've had and the moments that
they've shared, some of them positive, but most of them negative. Embarrassment, awkward
clearing of throats, no eye contact, shifty eyes...Derek expects the whole smorgasbord of this is
weird and uncomfortable to come flying his way once the two of them make eye contact.
Instead, Stiles' face splits into a grin and he waves a wrench in the air in Derek's direction.
Truthfully, Derek doesn't know if he's relieved by this reaction, or worried about it. Relieved
because yes, Stiles doesn't absolutely hate me and want nothing to do with me and worried
because Derek's not yet seen Stiles smile like that and it's nice. It's a very, very nice smile.
Especially when it's directed at Derek. Which is worrying because that might be the exact moment
that Derek realizes he's gone. Just absolutely and completely abducted and taken by this kid.
Have you come to rescue me again? Stiles teases, fluttering his eyelashes dramatically before
dissolving into a satisfied smirk.
Derek runs his palms down the front of his jeans and looks away from Stiles' bright eyes, briefly.
Uh about that me punching your boyfriend -
Ex-boyfriend, Stiles clarifies. Derek doesn't miss the way that the way Stiles says it right then
sounds more factual as opposed to hurt, like it had before.
...I don't just go around punching people all the time.
Stiles looks at him for a moment, a small smile on his face as he wipes dark black gunk off his
long fingers with a dirty rag. You really think I'd be mad about that?
Uh yeah?
If I had even half the muscle mass as you, he drops his dirty rag and leans his hip up against the
front of his car, so his body is facing Derek entirely, I'd punch him, too. It took me a while to
realize that I wanted someone to punch him, since I was still stuck in that limbo period of kinda
wanting to kiss him, but... he trails off, face souring like remembering something unsavory. You
did me a favor, man. For, what? The eightieth time?
Third, Derek corrects quielty, wiping his hands on his jeans again. Suddenly, he's producing an
excess amount of sweat in his palms and the back of his neck.
Fourth, Stiles gestures to his broken down car and grins. And, I meant what I said by the way.
I'm not usually passing out on balconies, climbing up trees, and fighting with people at bars
although, I am usually parked on the side of the road with a car that won't start. He scratches at
his temple with one end of the wrench, huffing. The point is, I think phase five moving on has
finally started, so.
Derek shifts from one foot to the other and examines the profile of Stiles' face, traces the pattern of
moles across his cheek. Oh. So -
So, hopefully, I won't be having any more embarrassing run-ins with you. He finally drops the
wrench, throwing in the towel on trying to fix the thing himself, and reaches up to slam the hood
closed.
Can I ask you something? Derek prompts, surprising even himself.
Stiles meets his eyes and shrugs, like yeah, go ahead.
How did you even get up to my balcony, that night?

My memory is a little hazy, he says, making sure the hood is latched firmly in place. I don't
remember why or where I thought I was going I just climbed up the fire escape and I think I
thought your balcony looked nice.
For a place to pass out on?
The plan wasn't to pass out, Stiles laughs to himself, shaking his head. Er I was hungry.
Derek gapes at him. You were going to eat my tomatoes.
That's a moot point! Because I didn't.
It's a moot point for more than just that, Derek thinks. Because he knows that even if Stiles had
gone to town and shoveled every single last one of Derek's precious tomatoes into his mouth that
night, even if he'd picked each plant up and hauled them over the edge of the railing to topple
down to the ground in a dirty mess, Derek would still be standing here, right now. He still would
have stood underneath that tree, and he still would have punched Stiles' ex-boyfriend in the face,
and he still would have pulled over to be here, right now, talking to him.
That's infatuation. Plain and simple.
Out of all the balconies in Derek's building, and out of all the buildings in town, and all the streets
that Stiles could've wound up stumbling down, he wound up at Derek's. That's well. Erica
would call that fate.
Derek still thinks it's a coincidence. Maybe someday, that'll change.
This thing's not gonna start, Stiles says dejectedly, rapping his knuckles against the hood of his
car. I think it's time to call it in.
Time of death? Derek offers.
No way. Roscoe doesn't die just slips into a coma every now and again. I know someone who
can get it back and running again.
Derek glances away, just for a moment, before looking back to meet Stiles' amber eyes in the
sunlight. You need a ride somewhere?
A slow smile creeps across Stiles' face, and he nods his head, before ducking it down a little
bashfully flirtatiously, Derek thinks. That's favor number four. I owe you, like, a million favors
back for all of this.
There are just so many ways that Stiles could repay those favors, that his mind almost short circuits
at the endless possibilities that Stiles just laid out for him without even meaning to, most likely. For
now, Derek knows that he can't really ask anything of Stiles, not in the way he wants to, and that's
fine. He could wait.
I still have your shoe.
Stiles doesn't finger-gun at him this time, and he doesn't say, right, I should get that sometime.
Unbelievably, his face splits out into another one of those grins, and, before Derek even knows
what's happening, he's leaning up to kiss Derek on the cheek. For just a second, Derek gets a
whiff of Stiles' cologne and deodorant, after shave, and something else that's just distinctly him.
His lips are soft against Derek's skin, and it's really nothing. In the grand scheme of all the things
two people can do together, romantically or otherwise, a kiss on the cheek is nothing.

Nothing it might be, Derek blushes so fucking hard you'd think that Stiles just pantsed him right
there on the side of the road. It's just so simple, and sweet, and, yeah, a little bit weird, but
everything with Stiles is just a little bit weird.
Derek guesses he likes it that way.
Stiles just got out of a bad relationship; the extent to just how bad it might have been, Derek's not
sure, not yet. But he knows that kisses on the cheek and maybe a couple of hugs are as far as he's
likely to get with Stiles, for a while. Until around phase seven or maybe even phase eight. Of
course, by then, Stiles won't be referring to them as phases anymore, because he won't even be
thinking about that guy if Derek gets his way.
Come on, Derek says once Stiles pulls back and gives him another smile. I'll take you to your
mechanic, or wherever.
Uh, Stiles shakes his head, smirking. I want my shoe back, Derek. I've been missing it like a
limb.
I almost threw it out, you know, Derek teases as they start crunching through the pebbles on the
side of the road towards where Derek's car is parked and waiting for them.
Stiles gives him an indiscernible look, something crossed between awe and amusement, and then
he ducks his head again. No, you didn't.
And, he's right. Derek would've kept that shoe for months. Just waiting.
---They're at a bar a different one from where Derek punched Stiles' whoever-the-hell a few
months back, because he got 86'd indefinitely from there, not that he fucking regrets it (regrets it
less and less each day, as it would turn out) and Derek's not having nearly as much of a
miserable time as he used to when Erica would drag him out.
Stiles did take some time to get to a point where he felt like he was moved on enough to start up
again with someone else. Maybe three weeks of he and Derek hanging around together in a just
friends capacity, going to see action movies and eating Chinese take-out on Stiles' messy bedroom
floor with nothing but their knees touching. During that time, Stiles didn't say much about them
getting together romantically. He never even really hinted at it. Derek started to think that maybe
Stiles really did just want a friend, someone to pal around with to help him feel okay again after
his shit break-up, and the fact that Derek was just sitting there staring at his lips all the time and
thinking about running his fingers along all that pale skin Jesus.
He felt like a fucking monster. Even if he was having fun with Stiles, he couldn't shake the
thought that he was somehow, someway, taking advantage. It was stupid. He knows that now.
Because, one day, after the last egg roll was gone and Derek was half in a food-coma, Stiles just
leaned in and kissed Derek full on the lips. Almost casually, like they had done it a thousand times
already at that point, and it was nothing to get worked up about. He pulled back, looked Derek in
the eye, and said, I might've eaten one tomato.
Derek blinked up at him, mouth hanging open, before shutting it around a grin. You were just
trying to butter me up so I wouldn't get mad at you, huh?
Instead of answering, Stiles leaned down and kissed him again. So Derek took that as a yes in
spite of the fact that there was literally no way that Derek could ever be angry at Stiles for much of
anything, at that point.

And things have been going well. Better than well, really. Stiles is smart, and witty, and he really
isn't that much of a spazz when he's not reeling from a break-up, and his dad sort of scares the
literal shit out of Derek even though Stiles always laughs and calls him a big softy. It's well
enough that Derek can't help but think about the thousand different ways that this entire situation
could have turned out, if he had made different choices, gotten rid of the shoe, walked away from
the tree thinking Stiles was an absolute nutcase. No matter what, though, no matter what happens,
Derek will never regret walking outside to find Stiles passed out. Even if he did have to scrub
vomit out of his bricks for ten straight minutes, cursing under his breath.
Now, they're at the bar with Erica's friends. Stiles is leaning up against Derek in the booth they're
all wedged into, forearm resting on Derek's shoulder while his fingers dangle down to brush
against the fabric of Derek's shirt every time he moves.
Across the table, one of said friends, Allison, maybe, if Derek's memory serves him correctly,
squints at them for a second, before pointing a finger in between the two of them and smiling.
How did you two meet, again?
Stiles nearly chokes on his drink from laughter, and Derek sighs. How many times they've joked
about what they're going to say when someone asks them that question is astronomical at this
point, but Stiles still thinks that it's the funniest thing he's ever heard in his life.
Once he gets his wits about him again, he looks at Derek and raises his eyebrows, tilting his head
just a bit. Do you want to tell the story, or should I?
Derek has to admit it's a pretty good story.

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