sparsenicjade
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AN: Thanks to conditionsofhappiness and ihearttwojacks for the beta.

***


The three of them had been in Boston for about six months when Une came home from her busking gig and said, “I might have a stalker. Or a fan. Hard to say.”

Duo, whom they both counted on to be the voice of reason when it came to social interactions, asked, “Boy or girl?”

“Boy. Well, man. He’s probably a few years older than us.”

Heero, at a probable twenty-three, was the oldest of them, but only by a year. Duo pressed, “Has he tried following you away from any of your spots?”

Une studied bass violin at Berklee, but they lived in an apartment in Cambridge to be nearer to MIT, where Heero was doing an undergrad in robotics. She tended to busk in the Cambridge area, since it was slightly less stuffed with struggling music students. “No,” she said slowly.

Heero asked, “But?”

“But he’s figured out all my spots and when I’m there, and he tends to drop twenties in my case.”

Heero and Duo shared a look. After a moment, Heero said, “You are pretty awesome.”

Duo asked, “Have you tried talking with him?”

Une gave him a Look. Duo sighed. “I know, not your strength, but, just, um...it sounds like he might be a fan. In which case, maybe invite him to one of your recitals? The guy drops you twenties, is all I’m saying.”

“Unless he gives you the creeps,” Heero added. “Then just make it clear you can eviscerate him. With your teeth.”

Une shook her head. “I think he might just be...like me.”

“A quiet genius?” Duo grinned.

Une rolled her eyes. “Socially awkward as fuck.”

Duo laughed. “Also possible.”

*


It took another two weeks for Une to get up the nerve to clear her throat when Fanboy--as she’d taken to thinking of him--came near enough to drop a bill in her case. He looked up with a slightly startled expression and she said, “Une. I mean, um. That’s my name, Une Barton-Winner.”

His expression did something complicated for a few seconds and then he held out his hand. “Derek Hale.”

Une grasped his hand, conscious, as always, of how tight she made her grip. She’d learned the hard way that she could subconsciously threaten others in tiny ways. His hand was large, but he didn’t try to press an advantage. Now that he was standing here, shaking her hand, a person rather than an abstract, it occurred to her that he was seriously good looking. TV-show good looking. Slightly unreal in that way Neal was, or Natasha.

She could feel the tips of her ears flushing at the thought, and the realization that she was still shaking his hand, despite it having gone on for too long. She pulled her hand back and said, “I, uh. I do concerts. Well, recitals, but. Just, you seem to enjoy--”

Just as she was thinking about never speaking again, ever, to anyone she didn’t know, Derek said, “Yeah. I’d like that.”

“Oh,” she said. “I mean, right. That’s--yes, I’d like that. I can, um, I mean, I have a Facebook page? Here, wait.”

Duo had been the one to insist that she create an artist page for her events. Heero was the one who put the graphics up and updated the content it, but Duo had made her cards with the info on them. She rarely ever used them, but for once she was glad to have them. She rustled around in her case and brought one up. “Here.”

Derek took the card and looked at it for a moment. Something akin to a smile flickered over his face and he said, “Great. This is...thanks.”

Smiling wasn’t Une’s greatest strength either, but she was pretty sure she managed. Then she bent her head, wishing she had worn her hair down so she could hide behind a curtain of it, and went back to playing.

*


Une called Kat that night. She loved her brothers, and her fathers, for that matter, but sometimes she needed a female perspective on things. Even if Kat didn’t always have one, she could rely on Pepper, who usually did. Kat picked up with a warm, “Hey.”

None of them stood on ceremony, so Une didn’t feel bad jumping right in with, “How’d you know you liked Peeta?”

Kat, bless her, went with it, asking, “Liked or liked liked?”

“The second.”

Slowly, Kat said, “I’m not sure it’ll make any sense.”

Une laid back on her bed and said, “Try me.”

“There was just a point where I knew I wanted to taste his smile as badly as anything he baked for me.”

Une thought about that, thought about Derek’s tiny smile. She wasn’t sure she wanted to taste it, but maybe...possibly she wanted to touch. And that was definitely a first. “Okay.”

Kat laughed. “Yeah, I dunno. I just...at some point all the little things and big things added up to more than the sum of their parts, I guess.” She paused. “Is there someone--”

“No,” Une said. Then, “Maybe. I--there’s this guy. He listens to my music. And he has kind eyes.”

“Solid attributes,” Kat said, but it wasn’t facetious.

“We’re both awkward turtles.”

Kat snorted. “Should be interesting, then.”

Une lifted her head up so she could slam it back against her bed. “Fuck.”

*


Derek showed up a few days later with a cup of hot chocolate for her. He scrunched his nose a little bit and admitted, “I didn’t know if you liked coffee or tea, but I thought, I mean, hot chocolate.”

“I love hot chocolate,” Une told him, taking the cup. She could stop playing for a few minutes. There was a negative wind chill, nobody was stopping to listen anyway.

That small smile appeared again. “I got you the one with the marshmallows made in-shop.”

She blew into the small lid-opening and then took a sip. It was creamy and bittersweet and the heat seemed to pour through her. “Perfection.”

Derek looked down at his cup and mumbled something. Une frowned. “Sorry?”

Derek brought his face up, the area around his eyes tight. “I said maybe we could get one together, sometime? Like, at the cafe?”

Like a date. She almost said it aloud, catching herself at the very last second. Instead she took a breath in. Before she could answer he was saying, “Or not, if you don’t--”

“Yes. That would be good. We should...we should get hot chocolate.”

Derek’s expression eased and he said, “Okay, that’s...that’s good.”

She took another sip. “Have any requests?” She smiled. “On the house.”

Derek shook his head. “I trust your taste,” he said, and dropped her a twenty after a few songs, all the same.

*


“He’s coming to my recital,” Une said, “so I need you to try and act normal.”

Heero and Duo both looked at her, and she amended, “Try not to scare him.”

Heero tucked his arms over his chest. “I thought our job was to scare people who want to get in our sister’s pants.”

“He hasn’t made any insinuations about my pants, first of all, and second of all, my pants are mine to defend.” Une sighed. “Although it’s sweet that you want to help. I think.”

Duo made a face. “You’re sure you can’t date one of, y’know, us?”

Une made a face right back. “Sooner or later, one of us is going to have to go outside the fold. I’m not even really the first. Mike’s dated girls at Harvard. Spence dates. Is it because I’m a girl?”

Duo rolled his eyes at that. “Yes, Une. We’ve seen you incapacitate people twice your size with your non-dominant hand, but we’re worried about your virtue. No! Jesus. It’s because we don’t have any say over Mike and Spence. And for the record, Brendon and Ryan both had a genuine meltdown during Spence’s first date, so this is completely, one hundred percent normal.”

“We are not basing normal behavior on Brendon and Ryan.”

Duo and Heero each gave reluctant nods after a silent discussion. Une said, “Look, I just...I think I could have a good time with him. I don’t know about anything else. I’m not ready to know about anything else. But I think that, and I need you guys in my corner.”

Heero frowned. “We’re always in your corner.”

Duo nodded. “We’ll behave.”

“That’s all I ask.”

*


Derek attended the concert with a bouquet of hydrangeas in all different hues, and a brother with a different last name who looked nothing like him. The brother, gangly and jittery, was introduced as Stiles, and Une didn’t miss the look on Heero’s face, like he knew Stiles, but didn’t know him well enough to say, “Hi, remember me?”

She’d have to ask later. In the meantime, she was just glad that while Heero and Duo were both standing with a threat drawn into the lines of their posture, they’d managed polite civility with their expressions and words. Duo even smiled at Derek and told them to, “Have a good time, you crazy kids.”

Stiles asked her about sixteen questions, one of which was, hand-to-G-d, “What time will you have him home?”

Derek literally growled at him over that one. Stiles laughed and held up his hands, but Une knew the look in his eyes. It was reflected in Duo and Heero’s. It said, “Hurt him, and I’ll have your entrails for breakfast.”

When they finally managed to disentangle themselves from the sibling brigade, Derek said, “I know we discussed hot chocolate, but are you hungry?”

“Starving,” Une admitted. She’d been too nervous to eat that day.

“Dinner?”

“Please.”

“Brazilian okay?” The back of his neck flushed. “I’ve been craving it.”

Une shrugged. “Sure.” She’d never gotten to the place where she was willing to be picky about food. She no longer hoarded and could stop herself from eating long before she was sick, both of which had taken years to completely train herself out of, but she would still eat anything and everything you put in front of her. It was just the way things were.

Derek had a car, so he drove them over to East Somerville where they sat in a hole-in-the-wall and ate copious amounts of meat. He asked her, “How’d you get started in music?”

“My dads are both into it. They’re kind of into that whole ‘support your kid no matter what’ thing. So, music degree.” She wouldn’t have done it if Tony hadn’t been paying. If Tony hadn’t found out she was thinking of going to a regular school and embarked on a campaign to annoy her into doing what she actually wanted to do. She hadn’t lasted long against him—Tony could be fucking obnoxious when he wanted to be. “What do you even do, Mr. Twenties-by-the-Dozen?”

Derek looked down at his food. “I buy and sell antique and collectible books. The money, it’s not--I inherited it.”

Sensing his discomfort, she said, “Hey, no, it’s none of my business. Sorry.”

He shook his head and looked at her. “No, it’s--my story, it makes other people uncomfortable.”

Une finds herself huffing out a short, bitter laugh. “Bet not as uncomfortable as mine.”

Derek held out his hand. “You’re on.”

She shook on it. “But first, drinks.”

“Agreed,” Derek said, and only argued a little bit when she insisted on splitting the check.

*


“Okay,” Derek said slowly. They were three drinks in, and Une had just finished her story. They’d flipped a coin for who would go first. “That’s...intense.”

Une raised an eyebrow. Derek took another sip. “Well, horrifying. And awful. A lot of things, really. But you’re--I mean, you won.”

Une had never told her story. Duo told it to a couple of people when they were still in high school and neither of those people ever spoke to him again, too overwhelmed, unsure of what to say. He wasn’t the only one of them to garner that response. All things being equal, she’d been expecting the worst. “Maybe. Or maybe the nightmares I still have mean they did.”

Derek shook his head. “Side effect of survival. Has nothing to do with winning or losing.”

Une took another sip of her drink, let it burn softly all the way down. She wasn’t sure how to respond to his calm support, so she said, “Your turn.”

She almost took it back when Derek ordered a shot of whiskey and waited for the drink to settle before he started talking, but fair was fair, and it seemed insulting, somehow, to give him an out. He drew in a breath and said, “I came from a large family. Three brothers, two sisters, a bunch of cousins, big. For the most part, we all lived together.”

Une pushed her glass away, suddenly feeling nauseated. Her own story was...well, familiar, if not comfortable. But it was hers, and she’d learned, in small ways, to have a certain peace with it. This wasn’t her story, or the boys’.

“When I was twelve, this sixteen year-old girl started paying attention to me, and I--I thought it was cool, you know? She was so much older.” He swallowed. “She, uh, I mean, she eventually wanted things, and I wasn’t ready for that. But by then I was an obsession for her, something she had to have. My family.”

Derek stopped and bit his lip, staring into the distance. “She hired people to set my house on fire. With my family in it. Because they were--because they had me, and she didn’t.”

“Derek,” Une made sure her voice was steady. “Derek, you don’t have to--”

“My uncle survived, but had to be put in a mental hospital, between his injuries and what he’d seen. My older sister Laura had been at college. She took me in for a little while, but she was killed by a drunk driver less than a year after and I got put in the system.”

Derek reached out for Une’s abandoned drink. “You mind?”

Une shook her head. Derek drank. “I was too old to really be considered for adoption. And I...I kind of had a thing about responding to the world with my fists at first. So I ended up in families where the parents responded with belts or bottles or, I mean, whatever was convenient, I guess.

“I ran away, and spent a few weeks starving on the streets, scared and having no idea what to do, when I was picked up by the town sheriff. To this day I’ve never been able to get him to tell me why instead of taking me to the station he took me to his place, sat me down at the dinner table with his son, who was nine to my fifteen, fed me, let me shower and sleep and then just kept me.”

Une thought of all the times she’d been starkly aware of how much easier life would be for Trowa and Q without the three of them and said, “I know that feeling.”

Derek’s expression--grief and confusion and gratitude all mixed into one--softened. “Yeah. I kinda think you do.”

*


Une walked into the apartment somewhere around two fifteen in the morning and was not at all surprised to see both Heero and Duo sitting up, waiting. Duo said, “Jeez, young lady, no respect for curfew at all.”

She threw her keys at his head, knowing he’d catch them. He did, laughing.

Heero tilted his head. “Have you been drinking?”

Une came in and sat down on the arm of the couch. “There was some liquid courage involved in the later part of the evening. I’m not drunk.”

Heero and Duo looked at each other and it took a second, but Une caught on, “No, we weren’t--we were just talking. About stuff that can be hard to talk about. Do you honestly think I’d let some guy I just met pressure me into anything? Jesus, I’d brain him with the bottle before I drank to help out. Seriously, you two.”

Some of the tension leached from both of them. Heero said, “I know it’s rich, coming from me, but neither of you seemed like big talkers.”

Une couldn’t deny that. “We do better one on one, I guess.”

After a pause, both of them digesting that, Duo said, “You look good.”

“He listens,” she said softly. “Not just to my music.”

Heero nodded. “Bed time?”

Without discussing it, all three of them set to making a nest on the living room floor. Some nights, there was no way any of them were sleeping alone.

*


Derek had a loft in Chinatown. It was sparsely furnished, but filled with books of every shape and size. Derek dealt in antique and collectibles, yes, but he read pretty much everything. He invited her over one day after class, and the two of them spent five hours going about their own business, not speaking to each other once.

It was kind of absolutely perfect.

It was exactly that sort of comfort she was seeking when she showed up, uninvited, after busking one evening. Derek opened the door and before she could even say “Hello,” she sneezed. And sneezed again.

Derek herded her in the door and onto his sofa, where he wrapped her in the nearest throw. Derek had a thing about being cold. She hadn’t realized it at first, since he was willing to stand out in the cold to listen to her play, but his place had blankets neatly folded on half the surfaces, and he kept his heat no lower than seventy degrees.

Une wasn’t going to complain. The cold reminded her of the cages, of the way it had always been too cold or too hot, but never just temperate.

He sat down with his knees touching hers and said, “Hey.”

She meant to say “hey” back. Instead she swallowed--which hurt--and said, “I feel shitty.”

The pronouncement probably surprised her more than it did him. It was hard for her to admit feeling crappy even to Heero and Duo. Derek just nodded. “How ‘bout I make you some tea and read to you?”

Une closed her eyes. Her head hurt. Everything hurt. “Please.”

She drifted in and out as he made the tea, only really waking when he folded the cup into her hands. Quietly, he asked, “Have something you want me to read you?”

She shook her head. “Trust your taste.”

Even feeling the way she did, she didn’t miss the smile that engendered. He wandered around the loft for a bit, picking his way through the endless choices. When he came back, she sneaked a peek at what he’d chosen. She said, “Never read that one.”

“Good,” he said. “I’m glad your first time could be with me.”

She snorted. He opened “Charlotte’s Web,” and started reading.

*


Une woke up from a nightmare about Dory reaching out, begging Une to keep her safe, and immediately panicked at the lack of familiar surroundings. A voice called, “Une. Une!” and she worked to focus on the voice.

The voice said, “Hey, breathe,” which she tried doing, only to be interrupted by a bout of sneezing. But, when the worst of that passed, she was able to draw in a breath. As soon as she could speak, the first thing out of her mouth was, “Do Duo and Heero know where I am?”

“Yes,” Derek said. “I figured, well--I kind of freak out when Stiles just disappears on me, and we don’t even live together, so I figured it would be okay if I got your phone out and texted them.”

With a sigh, Une laid back down from where she’d shot up when she’d awakened. Then, after a second, she asked, “Did you put me in your bed?”

“I was worried you’d fall off the couch.” Derek didn’t look at her as he said it. In the back of her mind, Une found that adorable. In the front of it, she was a little wigged that he’d picked her up, moved her, removed her shoes, and she’d never once woken.

She managed to contain her response to, “Okay.”

He reached out and lightly, ever so lightly, brushed her hair from her forehead. “Would the nightmares stop if I took you home?”

Une considered the offer. They might be better with Heero and Duo there. But she really didn’t want to go out in the cold, and Derek had known not to touch her while she was still in the worst of the nightmare. She huddled down in the regular cocoon of blankets he’d placed atop her and shook her head. “Not if you don’t mind me staying.”

He leaned over and pressed a chaste kiss to her forehead. “Sleep.”

*


Une woke up again at some point, feeling slightly more human. She wrapped herself in one of Derek’s blankets and made her way into the main area of the loft to find Derek asleep on the couch. He twitched awake as she crossed past him to go to the kitchen. She looked over at him and said, “Sorry about stealing your bed.”

He gave a little shake of his head and said, “I went and got you egg drop soup.”

She held onto the blanket with one hand and made a grabby hand gesture with the other. He smiled and led her to the table, where she sat while he fiddled with heating the soup back up. Once he set it in front of her, all her concentration was on eating. When she finished she said, “You’re basically my favorite, right now.”

“Right now, huh?” Derek asked, but it was amused more than anything.

She stood up and walked over to where he was standing, dropping the soup container in the recycling, and wrapped herself around him, blanket and all. He stilled, then melted into the embrace. She said, “Right this very moment.”

*


They ended up sharing the bed, tangled up in blankets and each other. When Une crawled out the next morning, she felt ninety percent human. She wasn’t going to be going on a run, or even playing outside that day, but she didn’t feel so much like road kill. She padded to the kitchen and made herself some tea. She flipped around on her phone until she found all of Peeta’s “fail proof” recipes that he’d put into a collection for the other kids.

She went with the three-ingredient biscuits, since she could find all three necessary items. She brewed a pot of coffee for Derek, and the smell must have woken him, since he came stumbling in, glanced at the cooling biscuits, and asked, “Did you bake?”

“I have a friend who made sure I could always do basic stuff.”

“You baked.” He made it sound equivalent to doing magic.

She laughed. “Wow, you’re easy.”

He looked over at her, eyes crinkling in a smile, and said, “You’re gorgeous.”

The change of conversation caught her off-guard. “I haven’t brushed my hair.”

He shrugged. Keeping her gaze he said, “I’d really like to kiss you. If that’s okay.”

She swallowed. “I should brush my teeth.”

“I’ll wait, if--”

“I might be terrible at it,” she said, like it was a connected thought.

“You can decide whether you want me to help you get better, if that’s the case.” He sounded like he had his doubts.

She took a step toward him, and then another. When she was close enough, she leaned in brushed her lips against his. He whispered, “Une.”

She said, “I don’t--” and he swiped his tongue over her lower lip. She nearly caught it in a hum.

He ran his thumb along her cheekbone and said, “Whatever you want.”

She thought about Katniss and the biscuits waiting for them and said, “Want to taste.”

He opened himself to her.

*


They were making out on his couch in early February, he had one hand under her rucked up t-shirt, splayed over ribs, another supporting her neck, when he pulled back and asked, “What are your thoughts on California?”

Une was just-this-side of lust-stupid, so she blinked. “It’s a big state?”

“Is that...a good thing?”

Une frowned. “What the hell, Derek?”

Derek sighed and fell backward until he was sitting on the couch, rather than crouched over her. “Stiles’ spring break is next week.”

“I know. Heero goes to MIT, too, remember?”

Derek nodded in acquiescence. “I always go home with Stiles, for break.”

“Okay. I mean, I’ll miss you, but I think we can make it.”

Derek stiffened ever so slightly. “Yeah. I mean, yeah, you’re right.”

“No, seriously, what is going on? I’m stupid about people, but not about you.”

Derek swallowed. “I was kind of hoping you’d consider going with me.”

Une made herself run the words through her head several times before asking, “What?”

“I know--”

“You’ve only known me like six months.”

Derek still wasn’t looking at her, and now he wasn’t saying anything, so she put her fingers under his chin and made him face her. She said, “We haven’t even had our first fight.”

“I think we might be having it.”

Une shook her head. “No, trust me, I’m vicious. There will probably be insults to your lineage. You won’t want me to come near you again. Fuck, I’m not sure I won’t hurt you. There was a long time for me where fighting was about survival.”

Derek shook his head. “You fight with Duo and Heero, right?”

“We argue. It’s not the same.”

“How is it different?”

She put her hands on her hips. “You’re telling me it’s not different with you and Stiles?”

“Only by degrees. Love is--” His eyes went wide and his breath stuttered, but he squared his shoulders and said, “Love is love.”

Une liked to think that Q and Trowa, Heero and Duo, all the kids, made it so that she knew she was lovable, but the scoff that came out of her mouth was instinctive. Derek looked like he was about to say something, but she held up her hand to give herself a second. “You can’t love me. You’ve only known me six months.”

“My parents were married after six months. Maybe it’s a Hale thing. You don’t have to return the sentiment, but you don’t get to tell me how I feel.”

She tried to think up an argument for that and utterly failed. He must have seen something in the line of her shoulders, her spine, because he said, “You can say no. I’m going to ask again, maybe this summer, maybe next fall, but you can say no.”

Because it applied to so much, she told him, “I’m not ready.”

*


Duo rolled his eyes when she told the boys about the fight. “Do you think either of us would hit a partner in a fight? Any of the rest of us, for that matter?”

It was a good point, and she knew it, but it didn’t change how she felt. Heero said, “It’s still scary, though. How much damage we could do.”

She gestured at him in a thank you motion. Duo shook his head. “Une, seriously, think about it: was there any point at all that you even so much as felt the inclination to hit Derek?”

The thought made her vaguely nauseated, truth be told. She said, “That doesn’t mean I won’t.”

“I--” Heero started, then stopped. He toed the floor. “I don’t think you will. The fact that you’re worried about it alone suggests you won’t.”

“You guys are biased.”

Heero nodded. “But, honestly, have you ever wanted to hurt someone? Since we got out?”

“Yes,” she said, because it was rare, but it happened.

“From anger?” Duo asked.

She thought about it. “No. Fear.”

“Good,” Duo said. “If he ever scares you, you should damn well hit him. Hard. It’s not like you’re easy to scare. If that happens, it’s probably the right reaction.”

Heero nodded tightly in agreement.

Une rubbed her face. “Okay, but can we at least all agree that it’s ridiculous that he thinks he’s in love with me?”

Duo and Heero looked at each other and then back at her. Duo grinned. “So far, that makes more sense to us than anything he’s done.”

*


Derek texted her pictures over the week he was gone. Stiles with their dad, the sunrise from his room, the cup of coffee he was having. That last one came with the message, “one is the loneliest number,” because Une’s boyfriend was weirdly sappy over text. He came back with the softest fingerless gloves in existence.

He put the gloves on her, the two of them sitting on the couch, which was strangely intimate and a little bit charming, and she said, “I missed you.”

He said, “Yeah,” and leaned in, pressing their foreheads together.

She smiled and asked, “That the best you can do?”

“Depends,” he said.

“Mm, on what, exactly?”

His lips brushed over her ear as he said, “Whether or not you’ll let me go down on you.”

Une felt her eyes widen, her breath catch in her chest. She pulled back a little so she could see his face. He was smiling just a bit, hopeful but not--there was no pressure there. “Yeah?” she asked.

“Yes,” he said, sure and intent.

“Well then,” she paused. “How could a girl say no to that face?”

He rolled his eyes, then bent forward to kiss her neck. She swallowed under the attention, making a small sound in her throat when his hand found the clasp to her bra and undid it, his other thumb sweeping the edge of her breast.

He pulled her shirt over her head and took a nipple into his mouth and she buried her fingers in his hair. He laughed against her skin, warm and gentle, and she said, “Yeah, okay.”

He nibbled at her ribs, one by one, the dull-sharp edge of his teeth making her arch up, into him. He folded onto his knees and undid the button of her jeans, pulling them and her underwear down, off and aside before lifting one leg to lick at the back of her knee. It made her laugh and squirm, but he held her where he wanted her, and she said, “Derek.”

He made designs with his tongue all the way up her inner thigh, concentrating just a bit on the scarring where a fight with Finn had landed her a compound fracture. Just as she was sure he was getting down to business, he switched to her other leg. She gritted her teeth and said, “Fuck.”

“Soon,” he whispered against her skin, and went back to teasing her.

When she really thought she might beg, or at least ask nicely, he splayed a palm, heated and heavy, over her belly and used his other hand to widen her thighs ever-so-slightly. Then he flattened his tongue and swiped upward nearly from her ass to her clitoris and she almost killed him tightening her thighs. He still had his hand against one thigh, so was able keep her from completely clamping down on his head.

“Hey,” he said, against her clit, which didn’t calm her down at all.

Instead she buried her second hand in his hair, as well, and pulled him into her. He went willingly enough, sucking her clit into his mouth, at first gently, and then with serious pressure. She said, “Yes, Derek,” and didn’t loosen her grip, couldn’t. She tilted her pelvis up, into him, and he met her evenly, with a broad stroke of his tongue, a caress of her thigh.

He did something with his teeth, a scrape or a soft bite, something, and she came, bright and sharp and somehow sweet at the same time. She came down panting, the edges of everything a little softer than normal, and tugged a bit on his hair, mumbled, “C’mere.”

He went with her tug, curling up next to her. She fumbled with the button on his jeans before pushing her hand down the waistband of his boxers and curling it around his cock. He went shock still and said, “Une, baby, please--”

She tightened her grip, trying to be gentle in the absence of lube, but not so gentle she couldn’t get him to climax. He shuddered and writhed, hooking his top leg over hers, and she said, “C’mon, gorgeous, c’mon.”

He wrapped his arm around her, pressed his mouth to hers, and did as she said.

*


When Une had auditioned for a summer internship with the Philadelphia Harmonic, she hadn’t imagined she would actually get it. Now, holding the letter of acceptance in her hands, she was calling herself ten kinds of idiot. She was smart enough to know that she handled shit only because when it got to the point where she couldn’t, Heero and Duo were always there.

She could handle being on “her own” if she was near to Trowa or Q, or at least one or two of the other kids, Tony’s brood particularly. What she couldn’t do was go somewhere herself. She wasn’t Nyota, who could fly across the ocean without Jamie and ‘Karu and still breathe.

Q asked her about it less than a week after she’d gotten the letter. He’d always been weirdly knowledgeable about when one of them was freaking out. She hadn’t said a word to anyone, so the others couldn’t have ratted her out. She meant to lie, to tell him she hadn’t gotten it. He wouldn’t be disappointed in her. He’d tell her they’d missed out, or something like that. Instead what came out of her mouth was, “I can’t do it. Q, I can’t.”

“Okay,” he said, so calm it nearly forced her to be as well. “Why not?”

Une tucked herself into a ball and tried not to feel stupid as she muttered, “I’ll be alone.”

“Darling, if Trowa and I have to rent a place in Philly for the summer and stay with you, you’re not passing up this opportunity for lack of support.”

“You guys have summer school to teach.”

“Between our job and our daughter, I know what’s coming first.”

“No,” Une said. Even as the thought made her feel safe, cared for, the answer was still, “No. You’re not ditching your jobs, anymore than Duo is ditching his or Heero’s giving up his summer job at SI. I either learn to be a big girl or I don’t get to do adult things.”

“Une.” Q’s voice was filled with so much fondness she almost missed the exasperation, but not quite. “Being an adult isn’t defined by certain things. Certainly not when you’ve survived the things you and the boys have. Being an adult is defined by being able to take care of yourself, and admitting that you can’t do it alone? That’s taking care of yourself.”

“I miss you,” she admitted, feeling childish.

“Yeah, baby girl, trust me: not as much as we miss you.”

*


Une told Derek about it, because Derek was good at listening without needing to try and fix things. Which was why it took her by surprise when he asked, “Would it help if I were there?”

Une said, “What?”

Derek shrugged. “Stiles goes back to California for the summer. Usually I go with him, it’s not like I can’t work from anywhere, but Philly’d be fun. And I could come see you play. I realize we’d be living together, but it’s just a few months and just because you need someone, I’m not trying to get you to move in with me on a permanent basis or anything.”

She was still staring at him when he said, “If it’d help. If it needs to be family--”

She kissed him. She didn’t even feel herself crossing to him, just that moment when their mouths met, and she was saying, “Derek, fuck, of course it’d help--”

And then it was him kissing her, pulling her to him until it was the most natural thing in the world to just wrap her legs around his waist, his hands supporting her as he walked to his bed, tumbling the both of them into it. She laughed, and pulled him down, even further atop her, and asked, “Have any condoms?”

It was his turn to say, “What?”

“Those things people use when they want to have sex? Rubber, inflatable?”

“Une--”

She kissed him again and repeated, “Have any condoms?”

He didn’t hesitate after that, just inched up far enough to reach the drawer on his nightstand and pull out a few packets. Une smiled. “Glad to know you bothered to be optimistic just this once.”

He smiled back at her and then came down to where he could kiss her, the two of them rubbing insistently at each other through their clothes. Derek reached down and undid the button to Une’s jeans so that he could tease her with his fingers, causing her to arch into the kisses.

She pushed her hands under his shirt, digging her fingers into his back ever so lightly. He liked the drag of fingernails, of teeth, a slight pulling of his hair.

He worked a little more pointedly at her clit, and she rolled with it, letting him bring her over the edge, take some of the urgency out of it for her. When she’d surfaced again, she rolled them over, pulling Derek’s pants down just enough to get her mouth on his cock. She started with the tip, unsure of what she was doing, and uninterested in choking.

Derek flailed, but stayed silent, his hands not touching her. She came off of him and said, “You have to tell me when to stop.”

His eyes were huge, but he nodded at the instruction, and she leaned back down to suck him in slowly, going as far as she could. Une couldn’t say how she felt about the feel or the taste of it, but the sensation of him under her, in her grasp, that, oh that she liked.

His choked, “Une,” brought her up, and she reached for the condoms, opening one and holding it out to him. She wasn’t sure of the mechanics and that wasn’t something she wanted to fuck up.

He slid it on, but didn’t move and she smiled, rising up to straddle him. She was wet and ready and it still wasn’t comfortable at first. She’d felt plenty of pain in her life and she wouldn’t exactly have categorized the sensation in that area, but it wasn’t good.

Then she settled, and Derek said, “You’re magnificent,” and put his fingers back on her clit, and soon, soon, she felt herself wanting to move, just a bit.

She moved slowly, Derek staying ever-so-still except his fingers, careful and clever. She leaned over to kiss him and said, “Come with me, this summer.”

He stayed silent, but his hips tilted up into her and he came, his lips reaching for hers.

*


The hordes descended for Une’s first concert. Philly being a quick train ride away from New York, not only did Q, Trowa, and Heero decide to attend, but Tony, Pepper, Kat, Peeta, Finn, El, Peter, Neal, Gee, Mikey, Ryan, Brendon, Spence, Harvey, Mike, Jen, Sam, Leo, Jamie, and ‘Karu. Basically, anyone who was still in New York, or there for the summer.

Heero failed to mention this, probably because he knew she’d try and convince them it wasn’t necessary. She came to the station expecting to see Q, Trowa, and Heero, and when she noticed the crowd said to Derek, “You’re about to meet way more people than you probably wanted to.”

Derek, who’d already been silently freaking out about meeting her parents--not that he’d admitted it the one time she’d asked--somehow managed to go even more stiff beside her. She took a breath and said, “Stay here, okay?”

She went up to meet the others, letting them pull her into their arms in the case of Q and Trowa, and otherwise wait to get inside, have their turns. When the first greetings were finished, she held her hands out in front of her, keeping everyone where they were and said, “He’s nervous, okay?”

El kissed the crown of her head and said, “Pepper and I made them all promise to be gentle.”

Une nodded. That would keep them in line. El and Pepper were not to be trifled with. “C’mon, I’ll introduce you.”

Luckily, she’d told Derek a fair amount about every single one of them, so introducing them en masse was less confusing than it probably would have been otherwise. He even managed a, “Nice to meet you.”

And if he looked mildly panicked when she left him with them to get ready for the concert? Heero was there, she trusted him to take care of things.

*


After the concert, Tony insisted on taking them all out to dinner before most of them went to the hotel and slept in order to catch the early train out. She seated Derek between Heero and herself, with Kat and Peeta across from them. Derek didn’t actually say anything, but he didn’t disappear into the bathroom for an hour, either, so she considered it a win.

And when they parted, he told Kat and Peeta it had been nice meeting them, which was practically effusive for him.

On the way out, she said, “I’m gonna spend some time at the hotel with Q and Trowa, but if you wanna head home, I’ll understand.”

She could see on his face that he did want to. But after a second he shook his head and said, “I’ll come with.”

She leaned into him and kissed him, ignoring Tony’s, “Oo la la.”

*


Once back at the hotel, Derek sat in the one chair in the room, Une planting herself in his lap. She hadn’t met his dad, but she imagined if and when she did, she’d want Derek as close as possible. She could hardly do less for him.

Q, however, was as careful as Une had supposed he would be, and Trowa was equally quiet, measuring. Heero sat on his bed in the room, while Q and Trowa sat next to each other on theirs. Q asked, “So, how’s your summer been?”

She’d talked to him, of course. She talked to both him and Trowa at least once a week, if not more. She and Heero texted daily. She said, “Derek’s going to leave me for one of the used booksellers here.”

Derek made an amused noise, but didn’t argue. She continued with, “It’s sordid, really. I should never have let him leave Boston.”

To which Q replied, “Is that so, young man?”

Derek’s arms tightened around her waist, but all he said was, “No, sir.”

“Q,” Trowa said, without elaborating.

Q gently elbowed him before explaining, “It took the kids a long time before we could get them to stop with honorifics. We don’t like them.”

Derek nodded. Une put her hand on his knee and squeezed. Quietly, she said, “It’s been good, hasn’t it?”

Derek looked up at her and smiled, just a little, something between them despite there being others in the room.

Q sounded happy when he said, “Yeah, I can see that it has.”

*


In August, with only a couple of weeks left before they headed back to Boston, Une was hit with the uncomfortable realization that she was going to miss coming home to Derek. She could hardly wait to be in the same space with Duo and Heero again, but the thought of going back to her own bed, not getting a kiss and a neck rub when she walked in the door, simply not having him there, quiet and steady, sucked.

She might have gotten a little more physical than usual, because after the third night of her aggressively cuddling with him, Derek asked, “You okay?”

“Yeah,” she said, even as her hands were fisted in his t-shirt.

“Une,” he said, rubbing her back, paying a little extra attention to the scars left from when John, desperate to keep Rodney out of the cage, had dug in with his fingernails, and basically clawed her open with sheer willpower.

“I just like the way you make coffee better than Heero, that’s all. I’m going to miss it.”

“Yeah?” he asked.

“Yeah.”

“I’m gonna miss the sounds you make when you brush your teeth.”

Une frowned. “I don’t make sounds when I brush my teeth.”

Derek’s, “Okay,” was the okay of someone who was mollifying someone else.

“I take it back. I’m not gonna miss anything about you.”

“Okay,” he said again, this time with laughter in his voice.

*


It was Heero who pushed. A week after they’d all reconvened on the Boston apartment, regularly sleeping in each other’s beds, just reassuring each other of their presence, Heero caught her having breakfast and said, “You know we don’t want to be the thing that holds you back.”

Une said, “It’s not like that. I need this. I need the three of us.”

“Jo needs Kat and Finn, and Ronon needs John, but John went into the Air Force and Jo and Ronon moved. It’s not like Uhura doesn’t need Jamie and ‘Karu, no matter how far she went.”

She knew all this. Rationally, she knew this. She took several bites of cereal before admitting, “It feels like I’m choosing him.”

Heero nodded. “You are, a little, I guess. But not over us.”

It wasn’t that she didn’t believe him, it was that the thought of choosing still terrified her, made her want to cry. Before she even noticed him moving, Heero was in her space, holding her. She clung back as he said, “We’re never gonna have the heart to kick you out. But that doesn’t mean we think it’s best for you to stay.”

She buried her face in his shoulder. He let her hide.

*


Une spent the weekend at Derek’s. He looked so pleased when she came with a couple of changes of clothes, she almost discussed staying with him right then and there, but when she opened her mouth all that came out was, “It’s been a long week.”

After that he spent the evening pampering her: running out to get Indian from the place she liked that didn’t deliver, rubbing her shoulders, letting her bitch about the events that made the week so long.

They had sex, but it was slow, relaxed, more like they were touching base than anything else. And in the moments before they both dropped off into sleep, Une found herself saying, “I want this.”

“Mm?”

“I want to fall asleep like this every night and wake up to you every morning.”

Derek opened his eyes at that. “Are you saying what I think you’re saying?”

“I’m inviting myself to move in with you. To take over your space, to--”

“Yes,” Derek said.

“Derek--”

“I want to fall asleep like this every night,” he said with a smile. “I want anything I can have, small or large.”

Une rolled her eyes. “I might be a little bit in love with your stupid face.”

Derek said, “Good. It was getting scary over here without you.”


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Skin by egelantier, photo by microbophile