The world was pulsing, blackening at the edges like a singed photo. Derek had long ago stopped fighting, opting instead to curl into a ball on the ground and protect his already screaming ribs and groaning stomach. He could see her through blurring light and creeping black. She clung to one of the men, her body language suggesting meekness and fear, inspiring the men to protect her, to fight for her. Beneath the fall of her wavy blond hair, her eyes were harsh and her smirk was nothing but sadistic satisfaction. It was obvious only to Derek that she was using them, just like she used everyone.
His assailants seemed to grow tired or bored, or merely figured they'd driven the point home enough, because the blows slowed to a stop and they began to shuffle away. Thinking it was finally done, he allowed himself to roll onto his back and unfurl in order to allow his aching muscles the chance to gather their strength so he could rise. Her heels clacked against the pavement as she approached, and he looked up at her with dread. She dropped down to straddle him, reminding him in a flash of disgust of another time. As she leaned in, her hair curtained them from the rest of the world, hiding her cruel sneer from the men.
"No one humiliates me," she whispered harshly. Then she reared back, raising her right hand high. When the back of her hand struck his face, he tried and failed to contain any sound of pain, feeling the sharp sting of her ring taking with it some of his skin and flesh.
"Yo, Grumpy-pants!" came Stiles' affectionately mocking tone from down the hall.
Derek ducked his head and picked up his pace, foolishly hoping he'd be able to shake his friend.
"No, seriously. Wait up, man!" Stiles had moved quicker than anticipated, and his hand came down on Derek's shoulder so fast it startled him.
He supposed there was no use running. He had two classes and lacrosse practice with Stiles that day, so his friend was bound to see, anyway. Bracing himself for Stiles' reaction, Derek stopped and turned to face him.
Stiles' hand flew away as he stumbled back a bit, startled. "Woah! Derek, what the hell happened? Are you okay?"
"It's nothing," Derek tried to insist, but as he started turning away again, Stiles gently grabbed his chin to get a better look at the damage. Derek glared sullenly from his uncovered eye, but allowed the manhandling.
Stiles frowned, obviously not impressed by Derek's glare or his attempt to brush off the subject. Placing a hand on each of Derek's shoulders, Stiles looked him right in the eye and said, "You are coming home with me tonight, and you are going to tell me everything. Don't even think about saying no. There is no room for argument here."
Sighing, Derek tried to resist leaning into Stiles' warmth, closing his eyes against the impulse. "I'm okay, Stiles."
"Sure you are, Mr. Eyepatch."
Derek snorted, having long ago lost his immunity to Stiles' personal brand of humour. "It's really not that bad."
"Yeah, you can't lie for shit, buddy. I'm going to drop the subject for now, but only because I am going to grill you horribly this afternoon."
"When you put it that way, I'm pretty sure I've got a few essays I have to do, or something, so I can't come over."
Stiles shot him a Look, before wrapping his arm around Derek's shoulders and directing him into their first class. "What did I just tell you about your inability to lie? Just stop. Seriously. You're embarrassing yourself. Hell, you're embarrassing me with how much you are embarrassing yourself."
"Take it off and let me take a good look," Stiles commanded as soon as they entered his bedroom, causing Derek to trip over a stack of comics in his blind spot and bump painfully against the wall in his attempt to regain his balance.
Biting his bottom lip to try and pretty much fail at withholding his laughter, Stiles waved at Derek's face. "Your bandage, idiot. Take it off so I can see the extent of the damage. Besides, you've had that same one on all day, even throughout practice. It has got to be disgusting by now and need a change. Did you bring any extra gauze and tape?"
Derek scratched at the back of his neck and moved to slump down on the floor beside the bed. "I left it at home."
"Well, that's stupid."
"I hadn't exactly anticipated getting kidnapped after school, so excuse me for not planning ahead." It really should be more troubling that Derek's glare (said to be quite potent with most people) was completely ineffective with Stiles. It really shouldn't give him little butterflies in his stomach to know that Stiles was the only person besides his own family who wasn't repelled by it.
"At least you're man enough to acknowledge your faults," said Stiles with a cheeky half-grin. "I'll forgive you this time, and even be so kind as to use some of our own first aid supplies on your sorry ass. Now just sit tight." Before Derek could shoot a retort, Stiles was out the door and thudding loudly down the hall.
Releasing a long, slow sigh, Derek leaned back against the bed and tilted his head back to stare blankly at the ceiling. This was unhealthy, he knew it, to remain so close to something he could never have. When he was still lying to himself it was almost bearable, but once he'd finally admitted to his feelings it was constant torture. Moments of sweetness, of warmth and happiness and feeling like maybe, just maybe...only to be dashed by a clap on the shoulder and a friendly uttered "bro," and the knowledge that he could never be what Stiles wanted. What Stiles wanted was wavy strawberry blond hair and glossy lips and curves. What Stiles wanted was petite and pretty and sharper than knives. Derek was none of those things.
Stiles' words preceded his return into the room. "We should probably restock a lot of this soon. Seriously, what the hell are my dad and I doing to go through this shit so quickly?" Then he was kneeling beside Derek on the floor, setting down a large red box and reaching for the gauze pad taped over Derek's right eye.
Derek considered fighting him, but he knew it would be a lost cause, so he just forced himself to sit still and endure it. Stiles hissed in sympathy once the pad was removed and he got a good look at the damage. "Is this gonna scar?" he asked, the pads of long fingers hovering just above the line of stitches but close enough to make the area burn with his radiant heat. There were two gashes, but only the one across his brow had needed stitches. The line broke at the recess of his eye, only to continue more faintly across the very top of his cheek. "Dude, how cool would that be if it did? You'd look like a super villain!" Stiles smiled at him, but Derek could read the other boy too well after spending a lifetime beside him. Derek knew when Stiles was just trying to bring levity to a situation that upset him.
"It might," he said softly in response, looking over Stiles' shoulder and trying to avoid everything pertaining to his injuries. Maybe he could change the subject. Talk about the new Tomb Raider game coming out. Stiles liked Lara Croft, right?
It didn't work. Even Stiles couldn't maintain his front any longer, his smile crumbling into a twisted frown, his eyes flashing brightly with something fierce and dangerous. Everyone always underestimated Stiles, which Derek found both amusing and a damn shame, because the boy was brilliant and strong and not someone you should fuck with.
Suddenly Stiles was straddling Derek's legs, gripping his chin more firmly than he had that morning, and focusing intently on cleaning the damaged areas with a swab that possessed something damp and cool. "You are going to tell me who did this to you," Stiles said with steel galvanizing his voice.
"It doesn't matter."
"Derek." The grip on his chin tightened, and Stiles was glaring at him, jaw muscles twitching as he ground his teeth. "You know what I'm hearing when you say things like that? That you don't think you matter. Which, you are totally wrong, buddy. Because you matter. You matter a hell of a lot. So, tell me. Now."
Derek didn't know what to do with his hands, and his fingers twitched forward a bit like spiders trying to crawl to Stiles' legs. He closed his eyes and clenched his hands into fists to keep them still. "It was Kate. Well, her and some guys I've never seen before. She told them that I took advantage of her. That I was only dating her to get into her pants, then threw her away once I'd gotten what I wanted." When only silence answered this revelation, Derek risked opening his eyes again.
Stiles had gone completely still, swab paused mid-dab. His eyebrows were slowly rising to his hairline, and he was obviously going for incredulous even as he practically vibrated in rage. "That doesn't seem like you, but I'm going to ask anyway...did you?"
"No." Derek's face scrunched up in disgust, only to make him cringe in pain as it tugged at his wounds. "No, we never got that far. She kept pressing, kept trying to instigate it, but I... It wasn't something I wanted. From her."
Slowly Stiles nodded, lowering the swab to his side but not moving from his position across Derek's lap. "So. These stitches imply you went to a doctor. Please tell me you reported her sorry ass and that my dad's going to tell me a happy story about locking her up when he returns from his shift in the morning."
Sighing heavily, Derek closed his eyes again and bumped his head back against the soft cush of the mattress. "No. My family is livid, but I refuse to press charges. Since I'm eighteen, there's nothing they can do. Uncle Peter looked like he was out for blood, and kept trying to convince me we had a solid case against her."
"And why, pray tell, are you not pressing charges?"
"Because I deserved it."
Stiles smacked the mattress beside Derek's head, startling his eyes back open. "Bullshit! You just told me she was lying! So you guys didn't work out, so the fuck what. That's no reason to get a bunch of goons to beat the shit out of you!" The boy's eyes were blazing, and Derek had to fight to keep his breathing regular, to not be affected by sight in front of him.
"I still used her, Stiles, even if it was in a different way than she'd told them." She'd called him a beast, a monster, as she clung to one of the men and cried crocodile tears. She was using them, but Derek had used her, so did that make him just as bad? Did it make her right, even while she lied?
"The fuck are you talking about? How can you use her if you didn't even want to have sex with her?" Confusion tempered some of Stiles' anger, but his voice was still a growl. The sound sent a thrill down Derek's spine, and he had to bite his tongue to suppress the shiver.
"She was a test. An experiment," he finally relented. It was time, he decided, that he at least say this much. He'd had to tell his family the night before, to explain why the relationship had turned as sour as it had, why she'd felt humiliated enough to lash out like that.
"What?" Stiles' brows came down low over his large eyes, scrunching together and wrinkling up his brow. Derek hated himself for finding even that to be beautiful.
"She was an objectively beautiful woman," he started, only to be interrupted by Stiles.
"Pretty sure beauty is subjective. Eye of the beholder and all that."
Derek gave a mock glare, waiting for Stiles to shut up so he could finish. "She was someone who, by popular definition, was beautiful. I figured that made her a good choice for my experiment."
"What experiment? Usually when someone talks about experimenting with a relationship, they mean something to do with sex, not the lack thereof."
"Well," said Derek haltingly, "that's it exactly."
"I'm afraid I don't follow."
Taking a deep breath, he plowed on through, ripping the bandage off in one tug. "I wanted to see if I could find her, a woman, sexually appealing. The experiment was a success in that I got a definitive answer in the way I was repulsed by any of her sexual advances."
He watched as those words sank in with Stiles, watched as the wrinkle in the brow smoothed away with understanding, and his lips parted in silent surprise. He also noticed how Stiles still made no move to stop straddling him. "So, you dated her just to see if you were really gay? You're gay? This is what you're saying to me? Derek Hale is gay. He likes men. He wants to be with men in a sexual capacity."
It was Derek's turn to raise his eyebrows. "Yes. This is what I'm telling you. Are you going to tell me that you can't handle that? Because it's kind of dick to throw away years of-"
"That's not it at all! I'm just confused as to why you didn't come to your friends to discuss this, instead of instigate some stupid experiment. Hell, Derek, if you weren't even attracted to her to begin with, why would you think that would change while she pawed at you? And, seriously, did you think you were the only teenaged boy in existence who's been trying to work through his preferences?"
Derek opened and shut his mouth, not entirely sure how he should take that last line. He knew how he wanted to take it, but with Stiles one could never be too sure.
"I mean," Stiles continued, turning his gaze away from Derek to fetch some gauze and tape, "I'm pretty sure I'm bi. Like, ninety-five percent sure."
"Ninety-five?" Derek's heart was slamming against his bruised ribs, and his hands twitched in an attempt to break free of his clenching.
Still avoiding eye contact, Stiles started taping on the fresh pad. "Well, I gotta leave room for error, since I don't have much practical experience either way. Just know that fantasy-wise, I can get it up for both. Mostly men, though. But still."
Swallowing thickly, Derek blinked at his friend, at his crush, at the young man he never thought he'd ever stand a chance in hell with. "Oh?"
Suddenly Stiles was all exaggerated leering coupled with a large, fake grin. "Yeah, so you totally should have come to your friend, instead. Maybe we could have worked on our own experimentation." He waggled his brows and acted cocky and confident, but Derek felt Stiles' legs trembling against his own.
Derek's fingers slowly uncurled and crept the last few inches to their desired goal, sliding up those firm thighs, feeling the tremors increase. He watched Stiles' mask fall apart, revealing someone vulnerable and nervous and so amazingly hopeful that it made Derek choke on thin air. "We could still," Derek said softly, amazed that he could get the words past the tightness in his throat.
It was fascinating to watch Stiles' face; Derek never tired of it. In that moment, he watched as insecurity faded to disbelief, then bled away into drunken lust, all within the span of a few words. "Yeah? Yeah. Yeah, yeah okay." When Derek grew bold enough to curl his fingers around Stiles' hips and pull him down while raising his own hips up, he watched, entranced, as Stiles hissed and tilted his head back ever so slightly. "Fuck."
"Yeah," said Derek, because that's what he wanted. That's what he'd wanted from Stiles for such a long time. He rocked them together, loving and hating the chafing friction, feeling Stiles getting harder and harder against his own trapped erection.
Stiles took to bracing himself on the bed, hands to either side of Derek's head as he rolled his hips and bit his lip and looked so fucking gorgeous that Derek hurt just looking at him. "I'd say this experiment is going quite well so far," Stiles laughed out, the sound shaky and rough with need and lingering anxiety.
"Just confirming something I already knew," Derek murmured, daring to slide his hands up Stiles' back and pull him closer, close enough to kiss if Derek leaned forward just a breath more. So, he did. The kiss was slow, tentative at first as if both of them were still unsure of their welcome. But then Stiles groaned and slid one hand over to grip at Derek's hair, and all bets were off. They devoured each other, teeth pulling at lips, and panting breaths lapped up by eager tongues.
But Derek's zipper was pressing painfully against his dick, and he wanted to get them both free, to touch Stiles and look at him and (hopefully, maybe, if he was brave enough) taste him. "Stiles," he gasped into the other's mouth, "stop for a moment. Move back a bit."
Stiles jerked back and Derek saw walls start to be hastily erected. "No, you idiot," Derek sighed, rolling his eyes and grasping Stiles' hip firmly with one hand. "I just need better access.
"Better access for what?" Though no sooner had Stiles asked that, when his question was answered by Derek one-handedly working their flies open. "Oh. Oh. Oh, fuck, man, yes."
"You're very repetitive today," Derek remarked almost casually while he watched his hand wrap around Stiles' hard, twitching dick. He licked his lips and played with the head, rubbing his thumb against the slit and smearing the precum leaking there.
"Can't help it." Stiles' breath was ragged, his eyes staring transfixed on his lap and Derek's hand. "You're kind of making my brain shut down at the moment."
"Impossible," chuckled Derek, leaning up to lick at Stiles' chin and give it a playful nip. "Your mind's always running a mile a minute."
"Yeah, well...ah, ah fuck, like that, yeah...um...I don't usually have my ridiculously hot friend instigating sex with me, so I-ah-I think I am allowed to be...be...what the fuck am I talking about, again?"
Derek grinned, dizzy with the thought that Stiles thought he was hot. "I understand. Not everyday I have my ridiculously hot friend straddling my lap."
"Derek." When Stiles looked up and made direct eye contact, his pupils were blown so wide his eyes were nearly black. "Tomorrow night. We're going out. Dinner. Movie. The whole deal."
For a moment, Derek couldn't breathe, and his hand spasmed over Stiles' dick in a way that had the boy's eyes fluttering for a second even while he resolutely tried to maintain eye contact. Then Derek was kissing Stiles, trying to convey his happiness in a way no amount of words could ever capture. His hand moved quick and firm, only stuttering in its pace once, when he felt long, thin fingers wrap around his own neglected flesh. They panted into each other's mouths and took turns holding the other through shuddering releases, until they were left with sticky hands and tingling nerves.
Free of lust's desperation, their kisses turned soft, sweet, and were like lazy, meandering trails that led to nowhere in particular. "So," Stiles said, resting his sweaty forehead carefully against Derek's so as not to come into contact with his bandage or any of the obvious bruises, "was that a yes for tomorrow?"
"For tomorrow and any other night you want."
Stiles sat up straighter, eyes wide and brows high. "Really?"
Derek also straightened up, so that he could pull Stiles closer with his clean hand and draw him into another long, lingering kiss. "Yes," he said into that kiss, feeling Stiles smile against his lips.