You and your ways capture what I've misplaced
In the perfect fashion just watch my heart's reaction
This point of view is nothing that I'm used to
But I won't close my eyes cause they're on to you
And all this time it was staring me blind
I can't believe I never noticed my heart before
-Noticed by MuteMath
I woke up slowly, relishing the warmth of the bed. I opened my eyes to find Derek lying on his back, sleeping peacefully. One of my hands was entwined with his on his stomach. And our legs were tangled together, making my usually cold feet feel cozy for once. Neither of us had thought to close the curtains last night which meant a nice steady stream of sunlight was currently flooding the room. I glanced at the clock to see it was only 6:30. I still had a few minutes before I needed to start getting ready for work so I let myself enjoy the comfortable bed.
I felt like I should have been more panicked over what had happened the previous night, but I couldn't even muster a little bit of regret. Last night had been…I struggled to find the right word. It had been intense yes, but surprisingly intimate. I figured Derek was more a rough and tumble type guy, but instead he was focused and methodical in making sure I was satisfied. It was slow, but not necessarily romantic. There had been no long gazing into each other's eyes or whispered sweet nothings. No, it had been passionate but with no attachments.
I hoped that Derek didn't think I was going to get all clingy with him after last night or worse, that he thought it was a mistake and I had to move out. I shifted a little so I was facing him completely, studying his relaxed face. I released my hand from his and skimmed it across his features. He didn't look like the tyrant director or the confident womanizer. Instead he looked years younger and serene. It was an interesting mixture.
"Don't do that," he whispered, his voice full of sleep.
His eyes flew open, meeting my gaze. "You can't start thinking I'm actually human or you are going to have a hard time following my directions in rehearsal." His tone was light and teasing.
"How did you know that was what I was thinking?" I asked, suspicious.
"A person becomes humanized by being seen asleep and vulnerable. Of course you were starting to think I wasn't as bad I make myself out to be."
I couldn't believe he was so close to my actual thoughts. It was unnerving to be so easily read by somebody. I tried to deflect. "What if I was actually wondering if you were going to kick me out after last night?"
"Why would I do that?" It was Derek's turn to be confused.
"I don't know. I guess, I thought you might jump to the conclusion that I was going to start hanging off of you…"
"Like Ivy," Derek finished.
"I'm not going to be like that. It isn't like that," I assured him.
"I know. You seduced me in order to use me and my body to rebound from your boyfriend," Derek teased.
I laughed. "You poor guy. It must have been simply awful for you."
"I'm a silent sufferer."
"You weren't that silent last night."
Derek hesitated for a second and his eyes glazed over, as if somewhere else. He shook his head quickly. "Look, last night was great. So great in fact I slept through the night for the first time in ages. We are two consenting adults. I don't see why we have to make a big fuss about it. As far as I'm concerned you are still welcome here and if you happened to want a repeat performance tonight, I wouldn't say no. Also, if you were more comfortable with me back on the couch, that's fine as well."
I thought about his words. While last night was amazing I didn't know if doing it again would be the wisest idea. That seemed like it could be more…habit forming.
"Look, you don't have to make a decision right now. I just want you to know I'm fine and I know you are fine. Let's just leave it at that. I've got to take a shower in order to make a morning meeting with financial backers."
I nodded, watching him climb out of bed and head to the bathroom. While I was still hesitant on the idea of having sex with him again, I had to say the view of him retreating to the bathroom was enticing. Very enticing indeed.
Weirdly enough, the two of us pieced together a weird sort of routine over the next couple of days. In rehearsals we kept everything completely professional, Derek treating me no different than before and I did the same. After rehearsal Derek took me to a restaurant, so far a different one each night. Then we returned to his apartment. During the evening we were friendly enough to each other, although we allowed each other space. I would go to bed and usually Derek followed closely behind. Once the lights were off and he climbed into the bed, the air would crackle with desire and within a minute we were in each other's arms. The sex became less about forgetting about Dev and more about just having awesome sex. The next morning it was never awkward. We both had to get up early so we would tease each other a little before getting ready for the day ahead. There was an unspoken agreement that once we left the bed, we acted normally around each other. There was no kissing or mention of sex. We left that all for the night.
"That's it for the day people. Great work today," Derek announced.
I went to the back of the room and changed shoes quickly before packing up my stuff. I grabbed my bag and made my way back across the room.
"Hey there," Derek smiled, glancing up from his phone. "I actually have to have a drink with some people Eileen wants me to meet with."
"Oh, that's okay."
"Look, I should only be an hour tops. Here are my keys so you can let yourself in and why don't you order in some food. There are take-out menus in the drawer next to the silverware."
"Anything you want in particular?" I asked, pocketing his keys.
"So a nice, leafy salad?" I joked. What had become apparent was that while Derek was fit, it wasn't from healthy eating; it was from lots of exercise to compensate for his unhealthy diet.
"You wound me with your suggestion."
I rolled my eyes at his dramatics. "Okay, so enjoy your drinks and I'll see ya later.
I turned to leave and found Ivy standing next to the door staring at me. I glanced back to see if Derek noticed that we had an audience, but he had already turned back to his phone. Well, there was only one way out, so I forced myself to move and pushed the doors open. I walked down the hallway looking straight forward; trying to ignore the clicking of Ivy's heals as she caught up with me.
"So you and Derek?" Ivy queried in an overly friendly tone.
I ignored her, thinking that silence was the best method in handling Ivy.
"Look, it's okay if you are together. Derek and I've been over for weeks now. I just wanted to give you some friendly advice. Be careful."
"I don't know what you are talking about."
"I know he seems all sweet in the beginning and he tells you that you are different than all of the other actresses he has slept with, but eventually he'll tire of you and everything will change."
I was annoyed at her trying to sabotage whatever she thought Derek and I had. It wasn't like Derek and I were in a relationship, but if we had been, it would have been none of her business. Her words carried no weight, but I wanted to be careful to make sure she knew that she hadn't succeeded in getting under my skin. "Don't project your own failed relationships onto my life. I'm not in a relationship with Derek so leave me alone." I t was close enough to the truth to sound convincing.
Ivy huffed before exiting the building and headed off into the opposite direction I was going in. Good.
I took the subway to Derek's neighborhood. As I exited I passed by a grocery store and the idea to cook dinner crossed my mind. While I wasn't really complaining that Derek always took me out to fancy restaurants, it would be nice to make my own meal. There was always something satisfying about preparing dinner, even if it didn't always taste as good as take-out or a professional chef's cooking.
I glanced around the small market. It was cramped and didn't have a lot in the way of options. At times like this I did miss being from a small farming town. There was never a shortage of fresh produce and meat to choose from. I opted for some cheap chicken legs and I picked up some asparagus to steam and a handful of potatoes. A simple home cooked meal sounded delicious after a long day of work and rehearsal. On a whim I picked up a decent bottle of wine to go with dinner.
I lugged the food back to Derek's apartment and immediately got to work in the kitchen. Derek had a fully stocked kitchen, although most of the pans and utensils looked completely unused. I figured Derek wasn't much for cooking. I first went to work on the potatoes, pealing and cutting them before tossing them in a pot of boiling water. Once that was done, I laid the chicken legs out and seasoned them lightly before putting the pan in the oven. Finally, I found a vegetable steamer in a random cupboard and put water in it, before placing the asparagus on the tray over that. I covered it and turned the burner on.
I set the timer for 30 minutes and then went in search of a corkscrew. I quickly found one with the silverware and worked the cork on my bottle of wine. Once I freed the cork I poured myself a generous glass and set the bottle on the kitchen bar. I retrieved my laptop and brought it back to the bar. I spent the next 30 minutes searching for apartments fruitlessly. While I knew my dad was willing to help, I still had to find something that I could eventually afford on my own and that was difficult, especially if I wanted to live within a reasonable distance of both workplaces.
The buzz of the timer drew my attention away from my search. I hopped down and checked on everything. The chicken needed a few more minutes, but the asparagus and potatoes were done. I turned the heat on low and removed the lid for the asparagus. I took the pan of potatoes and drained them before returning the pan to the stove. In a utensil drawer I found a potato masher. I added some milk and butter and went to work smashing potatoes. I heard the door open mid-mashing.
"Hey, I'm back," Derek called. "God that meeting was awfu…" He trailed off.
I looked to see a slightly dumbfounded expression. And I quickly realized how this could look.
"What in God's name are you doing?"
"Just cooking dinner. This sounded better to me than take-out so I picked up a few things from the store. I made enough for you if you want some, or you can order out still. I won't be offended. I really didn't mean for this to be as domestic as it looks," I rambled, kind of sheepishly.
Derek surprised me by laughing and stepping closer. "Whatever you are making it smells bloody good."
Relief flooded my body, glad the situation wasn't awkward. "It's nothing that fancy, just some baked chicken, mashed potatoes, and steamed asparagus. You can poor yourself a glass of wine if you want. It should be finished in just a few minutes."
Derek retrieved a wineglass and glanced at the bottle. "How much did you spend on this bottle?"
"A whole $15."
He held the bottle gingerly, looking at disdainfully.
"Don't be a wine snob. Trust me, it tastes good."
He poured himself a glass and took a small sip. "It could be worse."
It was my turn to laugh. I took his comment as a compliment.
He took a seat at the bar and glanced at my laptop screen. "Any luck finding an apartment."
"No," I said as I pulled the chicken out of the oven. I grabbed two plates from a cupboard and started to dish food onto each plate. "It's getting really frustrating. Anything halfway livable is out of my price range."
"You just need to be patient. Something will pop up."
"I don't want to overstay my welcome," I responded, handing him a plate. I double checked to make sure everything was turned off before taking my plate and joining him at the bar.
"Trust me, you're not and even if you were, cooking for me definitely bought you a couple extra days," he teased.
"You'll let know if I start bothering you?"
"I promise. Now, please can I enjoy this wonderful meal?"
He didn't wait for me to respond before diving in. I tried to focus on my own eating, noting that everything did taste good, but I kept glancing back at Derek. I hoped he liked the food and I looked for signs of his approval. If speed was an indicator of enjoyment, then he loved my meal. I wasn't even halfway done before he cleared his plate.
"Is there more?"
"Yeah, on the stove."
Derek jumped down and went around, quickly dishing himself up another full plate. It did not cease to amaze me that he could eat so much and yet stay so fit. He had admitted yesterday that he usually devoted at least an hour or two to the gym each morning.
"So, I take it you like it?" I fished.
"It's delicious," Derek replied enthusiastically as he brought his plate back to his spot. "It reminds me of my mum's cooking."
"Really?" Derek talking about his mother? I didn't know what to do with that, but I was curious. "I take that that's a compliment."
"Of the highest order. I love my mum's cooking. Nothing too fancy or over the top, just plain old-fashioned hearty food."
"What's your mother like?"
Derek was silent for a moment, chewing. I wondered if I overstepped, but he spoke after a moment. "She's incredibly strong and fierce. My father abandoned us when I was nine. My mum was left to raise me and my two younger sisters. But, she did it; sometimes taking up two to three jobs to make sure we never went without."
"Wow, that's amazing. So, are you and your family still close?"
"Very. My family is back in London. Eva, the middle child, is a doctor and Lena, the youngest, is a teacher. We all chip in to help support my mum so she doesn't have to work anymore. I visit numerous times a year. After my father left, I was left raising my sisters and taking care of them, cooking, cleaning, and such. The three of us were extremely close. We are all strong-willed like our mother, so it hasn't been without bumps along the way. But they are siblings. We fight but we know at the end of the day we love each other."
I had to admit, I felt a little tug at my heart at hearing Derek talk about his family like that. Whatever came out of this time spent together, I knew I could never go back to seeing Derek as completely heartless. He was far from it. He was just more guarded than most, which made him all the more endearing.
"That must be so nice. I always wished I had siblings so I could have that bond with someone. My parents were great, don't get me wrong, and I was never in want of friends, but it was kind of lonely sometimes."
"Trust me, there were days I had wished I was an only child. But, at the end of the day, I wouldn't trade my sisters for anything in the world," he said, getting up after clearing his second plate full of food.
"Do you want anymore? Because if not I was going to pack everything away in the fridge."
"Go for it," I replied, going into the kitchen. I dumped my bones, rinsed my plate, and put it in the dishwasher.
"This is why I never cook. I hate cleaning up afterwards."
"I can't picture you cooking," I mused.
"Well, maybe I will have to cook for you sometime, to return the favor and show you that I'm an amazing cook, although not as good as you."
I smiled at his compliment. After putting the leftovers in the fridge he dumped the pans in the sink and shoved me over.
"Hey," I complained.
"You cooked, it's only fair I clean up afterwards."
"How about you rinse and I'll put them in the dishwasher," I countered.
We set to work and within 10 minutes the kitchen was all clean.
"Thanks again for dinner. That was lovely," Derek said in a warm voice.
"You're welcome. Are you going to do some more work before bed?"
"Yeah, I really need to figure out the staging for a couple more numbers. Eileen wants concepts so she nail down the budget."
"I'm going to look for apartments a little longer in here then."
"Okay, although don't stress yourself out about it. The right place will present itself eventually," Derek assured me, touching my shoulder gently before going to the couch where he liked to work.
The small gesture surprisingly affected me. We were careful to keep touches and caresses in the bedroom, to keep things separated. At least, that was what I thought. But, the stroke on my shoulder was so familiar and comforting. I was slightly unnerved by how much that small action meant to me. I took a gulp of wine, trying to sooth my nerves and focused on apartment hunting.
After an hour of searching, I growled in frustration. I remembered Derek's kind words and decided to call it a night. I powered down my laptop and took my glass of wine into the living room were Derek was listening to Ella Fitzgerald while he stared at sketches on the table, a pad of paper on his lap. I joined him on the couch, curling up next to him, although not close enough to touch.
"How's it coming?"
"Not so well." Derek ran his hand through his hair, similarly frustrated.
"What number is it?"
"On Lexington and 52nd street. I can't decide if it should be a cityscape or if there should be pieces of the studio behind him."
"Can I see?" I set my glass down and leaned in closer, placing my hand and my chin on his shoulder to get a better look. I looked at the mock-ups of the set. "Neither."
"Just have a simple starry night backdrop, similar to the one in Mr. and Mrs. Smith, except now there is no house. There is no future."
Derek was silent for a moment, staring at the pictures in front of him. "That's actually a good idea." Derek turned his head slightly so we were mere centimeters apart. "You have an amazing knack of surprising me Karen and I wouldn't have it any other way."
There was something else in his voice besides the normal teasing. But, I didn't want to analyze it or overthink anything. I merely went with my gut and closed the distance between us, skimming my lips across his softly. I felt his lips turn upwards before he reciprocated the kiss.
"Should we take this upstairs?" I asked breathlessly after what had seemed an endless kiss.
Derek grinned, pushing me back into the sofa so he hovered over me, careful to not put all of his weight on me. "I'm not sure I can make it up all of those stairs."
"Oh really?" I asked, coyly.
"For our safety, I think it's best if we stay right here."
"Well, if it's for our safety then." I pulled him down to me roughly capturing his lips for another kiss.
"Can you come here and help me with the choreography?"
"But, Tyra is about to reveal best picture."
"Bloody hell. So, when I get interviewed about the choreography for this number and they ask why it sucks, I will tell them that Karen just had to know which model got best picture."
"Fine, what do you need my help with?" I grumbled, going over the dining area where he had pushed everything to the side to create a space to choreograph.
"It's easier to do this waltz part with an actual partner than an imaginary person."
"Is this the real reason you've kept me around for so long?"
"You've figured out my devious ways. Now come here," he said, grabbing me around the waist and pulling me towards him. He turned on the song, the one where Joe and Marilyn meet, and started to lead me around the dining room.
After a minute or two of dizzying moves he stopped and paused the music. "I don't know, it still doesn't seem right."
"Maybe, because it's too formal. This song is just the two of them and they feel like they can finally be themselves. The dance should be more laid back."
"Like what? The funky chicken?"
I burst out laughing. "I would pay money to see the great Derek Wills do the funky chicken."
"There's not enough money in the world, darling."
I stuck my tongue out at him, but returned to the topic on hand. "The dance should be sensual but fun. You're the choreographer, come up with something that fits that."
Derek pulled me back in his arms, but a little more loosely. He turned the music back on and we started again. This time there were no sweeping steps, but smaller more informal ones. Derek spun me out and I came back.
"This is much better," I told him, as the song continued.
"It is, but I don't know exactly how to write down the moves to this."
"Then don't. Just tell them to have fun with the song."
"Is that what you're doing? Having fun?" Derek asked, lightly. He paused to dip me backwards.
I let out a giggle. "Yes I am," I replied when I was upright again and we began moving again. "Aren't you?"
Derek studied me a second, brushing a curl from my cheek. "I am," he whispered and pulled me in closer.
A/N: I hope you like the progression I'm showing. I'm trying not to be too fluffy, but I'm not sure I'm succeeding. There are worse things to be than being too fluffy, lol. There is one more chapter after this and I'm about half done with it. I would expect it in the next couple of days. I've got the words in my head, I just need to type it out, which always seems easier in theory.
Thanks for all for all of the kind words on the first chapter. I'm glad people like it, even if it is ooc or fluffy. I'm having fun writing this and I just hope you have fun reading this. I hope you enjoyed this and please let me know what you think.