Derek’s heart is aching.
It’s hard to breathe with all his muscles drawn tight, and he grips the straps of his backpack like a lifeline. He can feel a burning heat across his face, and pressure behind his eyes that tells him he’s about to cry or erupt in anger. Possibly both.
He’s never been more grateful that his apartment is just across the street from campus, and he hurries to it, trying to keep his expression neutral. The last thing he wants right now is someone asking him if he’s okay.
As soon as he gets inside he drops his bag and leans up against the door, body starting to tremble now that he’s not holding himself together.
He’d gotten complacent, he supposed, no longer expecting cruel words from the mouths of people he liked and respected. He certainly hadn’t expected Stiles to make a crude joke about parts, as though there’d been some sort of mix-up at the factory, and it had taken him right back to his high school days.
Very few people at the college knew about him—he wanted people to get to know him as a person, rather than just as that trans guy, or something worse. But still. Stiles is observant, and Stiles is very smart, and Derek thought he’d put together the little hints he’d dropped and figured it out.
Clearly he was wrong.
The only consolation he has is that Stiles had only looked shocked when he’d told him, not disgusted. And he doubts Stiles is the kind of asshole to out him to the entire campus.
He pushes off the door, heads deeper into his apartment. “Things are going to be okay,” he says softly, trying to convince himself.
Derek endures weeks of Stiles ignoring him in class, in the hallways, in the library. Sure, he hadn’t expected Stiles to be interested anymore, but he hadn’t expected the cold shoulder, either.
Stiles seems to be living in his own little world, and looks deep in thought every time Derek catches a glimpse of him. He wonders if he’s shifted Stiles’ world too far off its axis, and now he’s struggling to right it.
And he’s starting to doubt even friendship with Stiles will be an option now, not with the distance Stiles’ silence has put between them.
And it bites at him sometimes, the way his choices have led to situations like this. The way so many people struggle to accept him.
But he refuses to be less than exactly who he is, and he won’t change that for anyone.
Derek’s just finished lunch, and is debating on whether he’s ready to start working on homework, when there’s a couple of tentative knocks on his door.
He’s really not in the mood for any kind of sales pitch or free offer, so he puts on his most intimidating, surly expression before he yanks the door open. But it’s not a solicitor on the other side, it’s Stiles, and Derek has to work to hide his surprise. “I didn’t expect to see you again,” he says, entirely truthfully.
Stiles actually looks like he feels bad about that, and Derek tries not to let his heart soften. It’s awful how much he still likes Stiles, despite everything.
“Sorry, I just needed time to think everything over,” Stiles says apologetically.
“Yeah? And what’s the verdict?” Derek asks warily, arms crossed. He has no idea why Stiles is here, can’t imagine why he’d look nervous when Derek is the one who doesn’t know what’s going on.
He swears he can see Stiles weighing out his answer, carefully arranging it before he says, entirely unexpectedly, “I came to find out if I could take you on a date.”
Derek feels his heart stutter, tries to clamp down on the hope he feels blossoming in his chest. “Thought I had the wrong parts for you,” he says flatly.
To his surprise, Stiles doesn’t try to make excuses for himself.
“No, I was wrong. I said that because was trying to be clever by implying that I was bisexual and really into guys right now, instead of just, you know, actually saying that.” He shakes his head. “And being transphobic and hurting you was in no way intentional, but I did it, and I am sorry.”
Derek nods, accepting the apology. He almost desperately wants to say yes to Stiles’ offer of a date, but. “Do you really think you can handle dating a trans guy, though? You seemed pretty freaked out when I told you.”
“I was just surprised!” Stiles hurries to say. “You’re so big and muscular and you have that perfect beard, so I would have never even guessed—”
Derek feels himself blushing at the compliment. “Hormone replacement works wonders,” he cuts in wryly. “Though I’ll admit I was lucky and got started with it pretty early—I’ve been taking T for about ten years now, and this is the result.” He scratches his fingers nervously through his stubble. “And if you had asked me out before everything else happened, I would have told you I was trans anyway. I don’t like people freaking out on me, accusing me of tricking them, just when things are getting good.”
“Understandable,” Stiles says. “Finding out you were trans was a surprise, but not a bad one! I just want to make that clear. Though I feel like I should mention that I thought about sucking your dick a lot.”
Derek feels himself flushing in a whole different way at that. “Take me on a good enough first date,” he says, “and you still can.” It’s time to find out if Stiles really can handle it, so Derek smirks and adds, “It won’t hurt your jaw nearly so much when you do, so feel free to take your time.”
Stiles doesn’t look weirded out or confused, but he does look a little turned on. He visibly shakes that off, though, and holds out his hand to Derek, waiting patiently for him to take it.
“Then I hope you’re ready, because I’m going to date you so good.”
Derek grins. He definitely appreciates Stiles’ enthusiasm. “Yeah? Let’s see what you got.”
He doesn’t actually intend to sleep with Stiles on the first date.
Or first dates, he supposes. Stiles drags him to the park, a bowling alley, an arcade, and a really good pizza place, all the while looking so genuinely delighted to be with Derek that Derek can’t help but go along.
It’s a day of things he enjoys, but Derek also really likes sex, and he hasn’t had a chance at that for a while now. He has a high libido, but sometimes he’s not up for the amount of disclosure required before the clothes come off. So when they get back to the apartment and Stiles kisses him, Derek takes it to the next level, wondering if Stiles is interested.
He is. He’s also good.
He doesn’t seem at all bothered by what Derek does (or doesn’t) have, and he isn’t overly tentative and cautious. He just works to figure out what Derek likes, then keeps doing it.
He falls asleep to the gentle touch of Stiles’ hand on his hip, and the sudden realization that he has a boyfriend now.
And things go well between them, at least for a while.
But after several months of dating, Derek starts to notice things.
Stiles, who’d all but moved in, starts coming over less and spends more nights at his own apartment. On the nights he does stay, he only cuddles Derek until he thinks he’s asleep, then inches away and curls up at the edge of the mattress. Even the afterglow is less contented, with Stiles looking pensive and feeling somehow distant from him, even though he’s right there.
And Derek wants to ignore it, wants to pretend that it’s not happening, but he needs to know what’s going on.
He’s in bed with Stiles laid out on top of him, kissing him and slipping his hands under Derek’s shirt, when he decides he’s going to find out. He wraps his arms around Stiles and rolls them over, looks down at Stiles’ surprised expression.
Before Stiles can make a joke or distract him, Derek says, “You’ve been acting different lately. Stiles, what’s wrong?” Do you want to end this? He can’t bring himself to ask.
“I—” Stiles begins, looking away. He lets out a heavy sigh. “I’ve been worried.”
“About what?” Derek asks warily. He’s had other lovers who’ve dated him for a while, then decided that dating a trans guy was just a novelty, and just wasn’t feasible in the long run. Whatever that means.
Stiles’ gaze wavers, comes back to Derek. “Look, I know we haven’t been dating that long, and I know we never really talked about it, so I’m—I don’t know how serious this relationship is to you,” Stiles blurts out. “But I really, really like you, and I’ve been trying not to fall in love with you, because I’m not sure how much you want this, want me—”
“Oh,” Derek says, because of all the scenarios he’d pictured, this had not been one. “I—I thought you were pulling away because you knew I was falling in love with you.”
Stiles lets out a lightly tremulous laugh. “We’re a pair of fools, aren’t we? I knew I needed to talk to you, to let you know how I felt, but.”
“The certainty was frightening?” Derek asks wryly.
“It really was,” Stiles says, a hand coming up to trace Derek’s jaw. “Especially because you’re amazing, and I’m not much of a catch by comparison.”
“That last part’s not true,” Derek says with a smile, kissing Stiles neck and cheek and lips until he’s laughing. “Consider yourself caught.”