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Arch Your Back (How to Keep Your Shirt Tucked in)

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Arch Your Back (How To Keep Your Shirt Tucked In)

 

It’s times like these that Derek was glad he went away for college, well, for another degree anyway. He’s kicking himself for not choosing anything practical to major in, or something useful for that matter, but he couldn’t complain because he was just doing what he loves. He’d gotten his double degree Bachelor’s in Classics and in Medieval Studies from University of Southern California, so it only seemed like a natural choice to accept an offer at a small liberal arts college to get another bachelor’s degree in the hobby he’d accidentally picked up while he was there.

Derek has a weird fascination with art. He walked into the studio his senior year at USC to borrow the letterpress for a project on the calligraphic hand of ancient manuscripts and was immediately smitten. So, he couldn’t pass up an opportunity to indulge himself with an Art and Art History degree from a little Lutheran college in rural Minnesota. The program has everything he could ever want; he gets to live off campus but use all of the facilities that the school provides, and for his work? Unlimited supplies and studio space to create a show to go up in the Twin Cities at the end of the year, plus the gallery in the school’s art building. There really wasn’t a better offer.

When his last school year starts up, Derek drives to Minnesota, not just because he needs his car, but for the road trip experience. He’s always loved the sense of adventure that comes with packing his life into the back of his black Camaro and taking off into oblivion, with only the destination to look forward to. Derek thinks that’s the main reason he’s going eighty up I-35 north towards Minneapolis, ecstatic about all of the opportunities that are waiting for him in his final year at this tiny, private college.

Derek has exactly three friends, all seniors, and they’ve been calling him a super senior since the first day they’d met him. Isaac Lahey, nursing major, ended up partnered with Derek in Principles of Psychology for a group research paper which in turn led Derek to Vernon Boyd, exercise science major, and Isaac’s larger-than-life roommate. Boyd brought Derek to his girlfriend Erica Reyes, social work and race and ethnic studies double major, met Boyd freshman year in their required general education religion class. Derek has been friends with the trio for a whopping year, and it's so refreshing to have people since the rest of Derek’s class graduated. He's in his fifth year, taking his sweet time and spreading out everything that he absolutely could’ve done in four. He does the same college shit, week after week, for the first three weeks; he slaves in the studio, takes a class or two for fun, goes to the gym religiously, and parties. Hard.

In late September, Derek gets a friend suggestion from some kid in his oceanography class, Scott. Derek does what any bored, Criminal Minds watching twenty-seven-year-old does and sifts through nearly everything there is on this guy’s Facebook page, which honestly isn’t much. His name is Stiles, and Derek honestly can’t figure out why Scott—whom he spoke to for a single thirty-minute Echinodermata dissection—is suggesting he friend this guy. He’s clearly not very active on social media, considering he has under five hundred friends and he and Derek have forty in common. Derek has legitimately never seen this guy before, he knows because he would remember. He’s got smooth pale skin and tawny brown hair with a strong jawline, supple lips, and the most flawless whiskey eyes Derek’s ever seen. Surely, he’d remember this guy. So, Derek sends the request, not because he knows Stiles, but because he’s one of the finest men he’s ever laid eyes on and they go to the same school. Plus, once Stiles accepts the request almost immediately, Derek’s sure he’s bound to see him eventually.

He doesn’t see Stiles. Ever. He sort of forgets about him, mainly because there’s clearly no one that fits Derek’s taste so perfectly that also happens to be a real person. He also forgets because he’s trudging through the everglades that is his homework. The Intaglio and Monotype class that normally uses the studio is replaced with Sculpting in Direct Metal, so Derek does have the space all to himself, but he also has readings for his Medieval Art History class and for Music in Christian Worship, research for Oceanography, and most importantly, he has prints to be making for his senior show.

It’s a Saturday in November, and Derek wakes up at nine via the sunlight blinding him through the window that overlooks the college. He lives in a loft on the avenue that leads into the school, so he’s got a great view of the campus up on its hill for when there’s an event happening that Derek’s trying to avoid or when there’s drunk people walking off campus to the honor houses that line the opposite end of the avenue. This morning campus is quiet, the only sounds stirring come from the chapel bell and the chime tower in the center of the quad besides the chirping birds. He stretches with his eyes shut, and the sleep is shaken from his body with every crack of his bones, beckoning him to open his eyes. His loft wakes with him when he pulls open his linen curtains, the winter sun illuminating the hepcat space full of an eclectic mix of antique and modern furniture and vintage prints and posters. It’s fairly small and closed off from the rest of the penthouse apartment, but that’s why Derek loves it so much. He has a total of eleven plants in corners, on tables, hanging from the ceiling, all healthy and watered because his mother loved horticulture and definitely would not appreciate Derek giving up on the one thing that brought them together when she was still alive.

So, he begins his morning routine, picking up his untouched glass of water from the nightstand and watering the dieffenbachia next to the brushed copper lamp on the end table. Once half the glass is empty, he rolls to the opposite side of his queen bed and gives the rest of the drink to the Chinese evergreen on the other nightstand. Derek swings his feet over the side of the bed and pads across the Persian rug into the bathroom across the hall and refills the glass, taking the time to start brushing his teeth while he steps over the creaky wooden floorboards outside the bathroom to water the spider plant on the pedestal in the hallway and the heart leaf philodendron on the antique chest at the foot of his bed. He heads back into the bathroom and rinses his mouth, again filling the glass, and ducking past the L.T. Piver poster that’s hanging on the angled ceiling, circa 1925. He moves back and forth, watering the viper’s bowstring hemp, string-of-pearls, and the jade plant, pulling on his gym clothes, filling the glass. He gives the three succulents on the windowsill a good flooding before picking up a spray bottle and misting the orchid on the coffee table, picks up his gym bag, and flurries down the spiral staircase.

There’s a pre-workout shake in the fridge that Derek grabs on his way out, along with the backpack that’s on the couch and a parka for the single digit morning weather. He checks his watch, it’s only been twenty minutes, which gives him ten to get to the gym and start his workout. He knows that the studio has been open for nearly two and a half hours already, but some calculus kids always reserve the studio to work on homework which is actually one of the most bizarre things Derek’s ever heard of, but to each their own. It gives him enough time to get in a workout and shower before he’s working for at least four hours on his project.

He rides the elevator all the way down and hops into his Camaro. He catches a girl walking into the apartment building with a small little rat dog, and she stares at Derek’s car before flipping her strawberry blond curls behind her shoulder and yelling something about Prada while she drags the dog inside. Maybe the dog’s name is Prada. Derek isn’t sure. He ignores it and backs out of the parking space and speeds up the avenue and right to the gym.

He spends his hour jogging the indoor track, lifting free weights, and some yoga, and then he hits the showers. There’s something about a hot shower on a five-degree morning that eases Derek’s anxiety about the day, and that’s why he likes the studio so much. He doesn’t have to talk to anyone.

Once he packs up, he drives back up the hill to the center for art and dance, slipping into the back door by the firing kiln before anyone has the chance to spot him. Derek migrates up the stairs one floor, sliding into the printmaking studio, and pulling the door shut behind him. The room is quiet, except for the steady whirring of the ventilation system that someone left on over the graining tables. He likes it in here because it’s homey. There are plants in the windowsills and student work hanging up on the walls, shelves and shelves of books, magazines, animal bones, and bottled ships. The air smells greasy, like linseed oil and lithotine and there’s a haze in the sunbeams of powdered rosin puffing from the aquatint cabinet.

Derek shrugs out of his jacket and tosses it on one of the worktables in the middle of the room, thumbing through his backpack and pulling out his laptop to plug into the stereo to play music throughout the studio. He settles on some boho chill playlist he finds for something low key for the overcast winter Saturday and goes over to his workspace drawer to grab the apron he keeps in there. It’s homemade, hand-stitched cotton with leather crossback ties and its old and caked with bone black and Indian red and process blue. He smiles and pushes his glasses up his nose, knowing the next time he does so he’ll end up with a streak of ink across his face.

He reaches under the counter and picks up a chunk of limestone with a portrait on it, 18 by 14, and he easily carries all fifty-eight pounds of it over to the graining table. Moving the levigator over the smooth stone and erasing that old etch is just one of the reasons Derek loves it so much. There’s something so cathartic about using the same stone over and over for hundreds of years, graining it down in tiny layers and never knowing the images on that stone except the one before your own. He likes the chemistry involved in the etching and the drawing, watching the stone slide under the scraper bar of the press, wiping the stone down and doing it all over again. And don’t even get Derek started on the ink. The soft, buttery etching inks in every color imaginable are sticky and greasy, they smell amazing, like plants and gamsol. The lithography inks are thick and stiff in the can, and it takes Derek a bit of muscle to get out a glob and work it with a little linseed oil, until he can pull out a ribbon and coat the glass counter with a smooth, even eggshell of shop mix from a conditioned leather roller. It’s an art form for a reason, and it’s also unpopular. It takes time and patience, and Derek’s lucky he has both, along with an affinity for being alone most of the time.

Until Isaac shows up with a cup of coffee in one hand and a bag in the other.

“I brought you crack in a cup and some Minnesota wild rice and chicken soup. I assumed you wouldn’t come to lunch with us even if we asked,” Isaac admitted. Derek’s always thought he was pretty, with a head of thick, curly hair and dazzling blue eyes that light up with every smile. He’s brilliant and clever, and absolutely right about Derek’s lunch habits.

“Thanks,” Derek says, wiping a slurry-soaked hand on the front of his apron. “I hundred percent wouldn’t have showed up.” He takes the paper bag and a sip of the Peace Coffee Pollinator roast, nearly burning his tongue off in the process. They can’t have food in the studio, but coffee is a whole other story because honestly, most great artists were drug addicts anyway, Derek might as well be addicted to something.

Isaac watches Derek put the food down on the worktable with his jacket and just go right back to graining slurry off of the litho stone, like the circular motion of the steel levigator isn’t hurting his biceps at all. “So, Derek, what are you up to tonight?”

Derek does not want to go out. “Working.”

“We’re taking you out,” Isaac immediately promised. “You told us last week you would. Plus, I just bought a bottle of Jack to celebrate your return, y’know, since you’ve been on a leave of absence for like, a whole month.” Despite it being a dry campus, the students were sneaky, selling to minors and stashing booze behind books and in closet corners. Derek thinks that making it dry only increases the number of alcohol-related incidents because kids are always wanting something they can’t have. The government funding is a bonus, though.

“Fine.” He reaches for the hose to rinse the slurry into the graining basin. “But I’m not going to like it, am I?”

Isaac lights up, and there’s those dazzling eyes again. “It’ll be so fun! We’re having a party down at lacrosse house, they’re sneaking in a keg and everything!” Even though Isaac doesn’t live there, he and Boyd are on the lacrosse team and spend hours at the house running plays and team bonding. Derek hates that house. It ends up so overcrowded in the right-side basement with the horny kids and the keg that the walls are slick with condensation, and the left-side basement is just the drunk sports guys playing beer pong in a room lined with beer boxes. Fights break out in the garage where smokers gather to light cancer sticks and joints, and the few lacrosse guys staying sober for the night are the bouncers at the door, making sure assholes get kicked out, underage kids don’t get in, and that they know the people showing up to have fun.

“Where are we meeting?” Derek questions, fanning the stone dry. “We’re doing dinner?”

Isaac nods, it’s the ritual. Meet up at the caf for dinner and drive to Derek’s, pregame the party, walk there shitfaced, and have a good time until sober Derek drives them home. He just nods in understanding and lifts the stone from the graining table to take it over to the workspace, so he can get a gum stencil on it before he gets sketching. He won’t have much time to get ready for the party, but it’s not like there’s ever anyone he’s trying to impress. The farther along you get in college, the less you start to give a fuck about your party appearance, they’re all fucked up anyway and have don't care what you look like.

“I’ll be there, six o’clock.”

Isaac practically skips out of the studio in pure joy and Derek just shakes his head. The kid may be twenty-one, but he’s got the heart of a four-year-old. At least he was kind enough to bring Derek lunch, which the artist so graciously indulges in before heading back to the worktable with fistfuls of lithography drawing tools, gum arabic, and a rag. “Okay, lets gum this thing and then I can get a sketch going.”

 

——

 

After dinner, the group dissipates, Derek goes back home to get ready for the night out, and Isaac, Erica, and Boyd all head to their dorms to get ready themselves. Derek’s expecting them at nine, which gives him about an hour and a half to make himself look decent. He knows they’re going to hound him if he doesn’t put any effort into his appearance, so he opts for a shower to rinse the rubbing ink and charcoal off of his face and arms, even though he never truly gets the smell of linseed oil out of his skin. Derek’s only going to appease the kids, maybe one beer, he’s not really in the drinking mood. He spends a half hour in the shower, another half hour making himself look good, and another half hour working on sketches until there’s a knock at the door and Isaac slides open the industrial steel door and walks into the loft with Boyd and Erica in tow.

"Derek is that you?” Erica teases, standing in the middle of the penthouse with her hand on her hips, giving Derek a onceover. “I’ve never seen put in effort for a party before.”

She’s right, he never has. He’s the type to tug on a sweatshirt and joggers, but something in his mind told him he might as well make an impression, considering it’s his last year. Derek’s gone with a hunter green Henley to bring out the striking nature of the jade eyes that he normally hides under a bushy, brooding brow, slim-fit black jeans with rips up the thigh, and his favorite pair of Givenchy leather boots. He’s cleaned up his beard a little, styled his hair up out of his face, and even busted out his leather jacket for the chilly walk down to the lacrosse house. Derek goes to push up his glasses and the three laugh at him before he rubs his fingers together in realizing he’s opted for his contacts instead, not wanting to risk losing them in the animal house they were about to enter.

Erica throws herself down on the couch in the living room next to Boyd and waves an arm around in the air at Derek and Isaac, both standing in the kitchen pulling four lowball glasses out of the cabinet over the sink. “What’re we drinking tonight?”

“Whiskey, neat,” Derek replies, taking a bottle of Jack from Isaac and pouring four glasses before looking over his shoulder to see Erica wrinkle her nose, “and one whiskey sour.” He brings the whiskey to Boyd and hands Erica the cocktail, motioning Isaac to the couch before perching himself on the coffee table. “Drink up.”

 

Derek praises them for being competent to understand that just because they’re off campus doesn’t mean they can’t get in trouble for drinking, and he’s glad they’ve all done their fair share of acting sober. He’s only a whiskey in and feels nothing, while Isaac, Boyd, and Erica are in two whiskeys and three shots each, and very much looking forward to five bucks all-you-can-drink Boxer. Disgusting.

When they get to the rickety screen door, Isaac goes first, Boyd and Erica following behind with cheers of welcome. Derek lingers and nearly doesn’t make it in while the other three disappear into the house, a lean, angry man with a remarkably smooth complexion and a lot of anger issues stopping Derek with a firm hand on his leather clad chest. “Do I know you?”

Derek sees Isaac turn around and he’s moving back toward the door when a cheery “Derek!” comes from the kitchen to the left of the screen door. A tan boy with big brown eyes and a crooked smile hooks an arm over this bouncer’s shoulders. “It’s okay Jackson, Derek’s great.” Scott, he reminds himself, biology major on the pre-med track to veterinary medicine, extremely awful at detecting sarcasm and steroid references. Jackson, the temperamental dickbag, reluctantly steps aside and lets Derek in, and Scott claps him on the back. “Sorry ‘bout him. It’s good to see you. Pong’s downstairs on the left, shirt’s off o’clock on the right.” And Scott’s gone down the stairs in front of Derek, pushing through a ridiculous amount of shirtless men and women in tiny shirts to get into the room on the right to check the keg.

“Derek, come on!” It’s Isaac, pulling him down the stairs by the sleeve of his leather jacket that’s already become excruciatingly hot. The house is packed with people and just like the last time Derek was there, the painted cinderblock walls are slick with condensation from the mass of hot bodies huddled indoors away from the cold winter air. The music isn’t even good, some boring remixes of the top fifty chart and the lights are strung haphazardly across the ceiling and along the walls. It’s dark in the room on the right, so Isaac pulls him into the room on the left, where Erica and Boyd are finishing off the two reigning pong champs at the other end of the table.

He watches Isaac hop in and play two, three games before they’re defeated and full of cheap beer that they didn’t even have to pay for. Lacrosse players get it free, and Scott, team captain, likes Derek—for reasons still unknown to him—which means Derek also gets free beer. That’s how he ends up in the room on the right, pushed through sweaty lacrosse players and the girls desperate to get with them, a ton of kids he’s never seen before, and an obscene number of freshmen by Erica, and encouraged onto a cedar chest in the front of the room by the speakers where random people are dancing. Erica hops up with him and Derek finally lets go a little, just tipsy enough to let her toss his jacket to Isaac in the back and coax him to take his shirt off when Boyd yells from the corner next to Isaac, “Shirts off o’clock!”

Derek immediately senses eyes on him because honestly, who expects some art guy to be a strict, routine-oriented gym rat? He knows he’s in good shape, and he likes to keep it that way, but he doesn’t realize that his warm-up is their workout. Then again, his casual drinking is their blackout, so perks of having already done the college thing, he guesses. Erica leaves him swaying on the pedestal and someone replaces her body with hungry hands wrapping around Derek’s torso from behind. They sway with him, hips sliding against the curve of his ass like damn puzzle pieces and their fingers sliding up and down the ridges of muscle on his abdomen and tracing circles in the soft, dark hair on his chest he hasn’t bothered to shave. A mouth starts nipping at the back of his neck and he’s sweating, thick droplets slipping from his forehead all the way down his jaw as one of the hands palms over the zipper of Derek’s jeans. “I’m Danny,” the guy whispers, vodka and beer on his breath. He turns Derek around and wow, he’s ripped, too, tan, lean, and not Derek’s type at all. He goes in for a kiss that Derek dodges, because he’s definitely panicking, and he doesn’t know why.

“My friends,” Derek starts, “I’ve got to find them,” and he jumps down, Henley in hand, and pushes his way through the crowd to the rear, where he can’t find his friends. He’s back in the crowd again, this time pushing to the pong room, where they aren’t either, until he makes his way up the stairs and find them all in the kitchen nursing glasses of water, courtesy of Scott.

Scott lights up when he sees Derek. “Hey, Der—shit, man, you’re yoked. You ever try lacrosse?” He hands Derek a glass of water, and the older graciously guzzles it down because, fuckinay, the house is a furnace.

“I’m not much of a sports guy,” Derek admits. He never has been, and he’s always wary of telling people what he actually enjoys. How do you let people know your hobbies involve stones, metal, and acid without sounding like a fucking psychopath? “I usually just—”

“He’s an artist,” purrs Erica from Boyd’s arms.

Boyd nods in agreement. “The dude’s really talented. Has his own work hanging up in the natural sciences building all term.”

“Those plants are yours?” Derek’s a little offended Scott sounds so surprised, but he nods, feeling a red warmth spreading up the back of his neck. “Those are dope, man. My roommate loves them, passes them every day.”

Isaac hiccups and the plastic cup in his hand falls, cracking in half when it hits the floor. “Sorry, Scott.” He hiccups again and blinks his baby blues at Derek. “Maybe we should go home.”

“Okay, big guy, let’s get you home,” Derek agrees, and he grabs his jacket from Erica and tosses it over his shoulder before guiding them out of the house. He gets them all in the driveway with Scott waving from the kitchen, glad to see Derek, welcoming him back any time.

 

Derek spends a half an hour walking the kids back to his loft and getting them into his Camaro, where his heavyweight beer buzz has effectively dissipated and let him drive up the avenue and to Isaac and Boyd’s appropriate dorm. Erica goes with them, probably to sleep on the futon, and Derek goes home to get some sleep himself. He follows his routine like clockwork and just as he’s about to turn his lamp off, his phone buzzes with a Facebook message.

It reads:

          I think I saw you so now I know you exist :)

It’s from Stiles. Derek’s heart pounds in his chest as surfs the guy’s Facebook page again to remind himself of how absolutely flawless this boy is. Now he knows Derek exists, but Derek is sure he still hasn’t seen him anywhere.

I do exist, where did you see me?

He’s curious, and clearly inattentive, because Stiles answers with:

I was playing beer pong and I thinkkkkk you were next to the table

Derek was. He absolutely was.

I was next to the table. I migrated to the other room to dance though because I knew I wasn’t going to get to play.

No delay and Stiles is typing:

Sorry about that… and yeah I didn’t end up dancing much because I was super duper sober, midterms week!

And so the easy conversation goes on for an hour before Derek realizes he needs sleep, because it was almost two in the morning and he needs to wake up an hour early to drop the printed bulletins in the chapel before 9:30 mass and then head to the gym.

But that night, he falls asleep with a soft smile on his grumpy face.

 

——

 

Derek loves yoga in the morning; there’s something about stretching the workout out of his body that starts his day better than a hot cup of joe. He feels the aching stretch of his hamstrings in a downward-facing dog and turns his head to the right out of sheer curiosity at the gray adidas that’ve been pounding past him for the last fifteen minutes. They’re attached to the nicest ass Derek has ever seen, in a pair of small, black running shorts dashing away from him on the indoor track. He tries to focus back on his adho mukha śvānāsana, transitioning into sirsasana easily, using the supported headstand to catch a glimpse of the face the ass is attached to.

He tucks his butt and straightens his knees, steadying himself with deep breaths as his tank falls down around his neck and exposes the entirety of his chest, glistening with a sheen of sweat over rippling muscles. Derek opens his eyes and spots those shoes running toward him, eyes tracing up lean, muscular legs to a svelte torso, shirtless and dotted in little moles, with a small patch of hair deliciously leading underneath the waistband of his little running shorts. Derek lets his gaze trail up to a strong jaw, also splattered with freckles, perfect supple lips, and a set of striking honey brown eyes staring directly at him.

Derek’s breath catches in his throat and he loses his balance, curling at the last minute as to not knock the wind out of his chest by landing flat on his back. Derek breathes. Stiles. The man he’s been chatting with and learning about, he exists…which means Derek is now panicking and praying to God that Stiles doesn’t talk to him. He shoves his shirt down over his chest and puts his glasses back on from where they were sitting next to his water bottle, the polycarbonate fogging at the heat radiating from Derek’s misty skin. He packs his stuff and rushes out of the gym, catching another glimpse of those whiskey eyes trailing him on his way out.

 

“Hey, Isaac?”

He’s sitting at a workbench writing up a pre-lab for biology, glancing up at Derek, who’s sitting across from him drawing on a lithography stone. “What’s up?”

“Do you know a Stiles?”

“Yeah,” he replies, “he’s on the lacrosse team. He just joined our intramural broomball team for this January interim.” Isaac doesn’t stop staring at Derek and Derek doesn’t stop drawing, doesn’t even look up once. He narrows his blue eyes at the fact that Derek’s completely unfazed, because Isaac knows Derek doesn’t ask many questions. “Do you know Stiles?”

Derek shrugs and starts rubbing at the stone with a rag. “Not really, he just saw me at that party last night and we’ve been messaging.”

Isaac’s eyebrows shoot up as Derek keeps working. “Whoa, whoa, what?” He tosses a pencil at Derek. “Why are you and Stiles talking?”

Another shrug. “We’ve been Facebook friends for a few months because our mutual friend, Scott, suggested him as a friend to me but I don’t think either of us thought the other actually existed until yesterday.”

“What the fuck, Derek!” Isaac throws another pencil at Derek and this time he looks up from his work. “Tell me everything.”

“You sound like my fucking sisters, Jesus Isaac. You’ve been around Erica for entirely too long.” Derek smiles a little, jaw clenching with the story of Stiles rushing through his lips. He tells Isaac everything, from the friend suggestion to the embarrassment he made of himself in the gym that morning, and Isaac drinks up the entire thing with the latte in his hand. Derek’s giddy, unsure what to do with this interest Stiles has in him, with an interest piqued of his own.

“Throw a party,” Isaac suggests, “I’ll invite the lacrosse team. And Stiles.

Derek agrees. “Saturday. My place. Starts at ten. BYOB.”

 

——

 

When Saturday night rolls around, he makes sure he looks good, keeps the glasses though. He’s an artist, loves the details, and his contact prescription isn’t as strong as it should be, so he’d rather wear his glasses to see Stiles’s beautiful face. He feels more fashionable than his normal Patagonia quarter zip and light wash jeans, instead sporting a thin, soft camel sweater and dark gray cropped slim fit dress pants that manage to stretch around the parabolic curve of his ass in some sickeningly immaculate way. He decides on cream low-top converse, because if that degree in Classics and Medieval Studies taught him anything, it was how much men love those scandalous ankles.

Derek also knows not nearly enough people are coming to this party. Most of them are gone since Thanksgiving is the next week and they’ve got the week off for it, and though the lacrosse team has extended the invitation to nearly all of their friends, he doubts many will show. Even Stiles, already driven an hour up into the cities for Thanksgiving dinner with extended family.

But imagine Derek’s surprise when the lacrosse team and their friends show up and the party is actually a huge hit, all the students pouring in on a range of tipsy to sloshed, and Derek’s somewhere in the middle with a double long island in his hand. He’s surveying his pridelands from halfway up the spiral staircase and walking through the sliding steel door is the boy he was sure had already left. But there he is, hugging Isaac and Boyd, who lead him through the crowd to the kitchen for his choice of whatever poison the partygoers have supplied.

Isaac finds Derek and grabs him by the pantleg. “Unless you want these to wrinkle from me ripping your ass down the stairs, I suggest you come with me.” So, Derek does, and is brought down the stairs and into the kitchen, face to face with Stiles, man of his dreams.

“Derek,” he breathes as his smooth, pink lips erupt into a goofy smile. “Glad to finally meet you.”

Derek shakes the boy’s hand and can’t help but stare at his willowy fingers, so long, so filling, he thinks. “Stiles. It’s good to know you exist.” Derek sends the stupid grin right back and he could get lost in the pools of honey staring back at him because they’re so blown in the dark loft and he’s licking his lips and why is he still shaking Stiles’s hand?  Derek abruptly lets go and shuts his mouth that he hadn’t even realized was open and catching flies while Stiles just laughs a charming giggle at Derek’s expense. He didn’t notice Boyd and Isaac had snuck away until he spots them dancing around Derek’s coffee table, and he just takes Stiles’s hand and pulls him up the staircase for a full overview of the party below.

“So, Derek,” Stiles starts, finger tracing the rim of the red solo cup in his hands, “great party.”

He’s so transfixed on Stiles’s profile, it’s so flawless he can hardly help but imagine what it would look like in an ultramarine blue etching ink nestled into the acidic grooves of a copper intaglio plate. He just blurts, “I thought you went home.”

“I did go home. I drove up last night,” the boy replies, scanning the party and still tracing the rim of his cup. “But when I got Isaac’s reminder in the group message, I came back. Lydia told me I could crash with her tonight instead of leaving late.”

Derek frowns a little and takes dangerously larges sip of his drink. “Lydia?”

“Yeah, she lives in this building with Jackson, long red hair, annoying dog.”

“Is the dog’s name Prada?” Derek inquires. It'd been bothering him ever since and he needs to know.

Stiles nods. “No matter how much real Prada she has, she still keeps that fucking dog. He’ll bite your goddamn head off.” There’s that laugh again, like soothing music to Derek’s longing ears.

They sip their drinks in comfortable silence for a few minutes before Derek leans over. “So, Stiles, what do you do?”    

“Environmental Science and Psychology double major with concentrations in neuroscience and biomolecular science. It’s definitely a hell of a mouth full. I want to dedicate my life to searching for a cure for frontotemporal dementia, or at least find a way to slow down the deterioration of the brain.” He clearly doesn’t talk about his reasoning a ton, because Derek watches him take a couple swigs of his poison before he continues with a grimace. “My mom had it really young, so I want to search through genetic code to figure out if it’s hereditary and how we can detect it earlier. Any environmental factors that contribute or are preventative, I just need to know.”

“You’re afraid you’re going to have it too, aren’t you?” Shitshitshit, Derek realizes what he’s said before he can stop it from coming out. Fuck him and his curiosity for subjects he doesn’t understand.

But Stiles stares straight ahead and nods with a furrowed brow, swirling his drink around. “Yeah. I don’t want to know if I could’ve stopped it for my mom, I just want to stop it for everyone else. No more rapid growth. No more kids losing their parents at ten.” He takes another sip and turns to Derek with soft features and a tiny smile curling at the corner of his lips. “What about you?”

Derek chuckles awkwardly. “I’m majoring in Art and Art History. I’m a printmaker.”

“Whoa, cool!” Stiles is definitely interested with a spark lighting up his honey brown eyes. “How’d you get into that?”

“I, uh, was doing extensive research on the ancient calligraphy in medieval Islamic texts and came across the beauty of the letterpress trying to recreate some for project visuals.”

Stiles turns to look at Derek with a swirl of confusion wrinkling his nose. “Medieval Islamic texts? You must have taken some rad religion class freshman year.”

Now comes the awkward explanation that usually sends all potential love interests running for the cornfields. “Actually, it was so I could graduate. I already have a BA in Classics and in Medieval Studies from USC. Double degree sort of thing.” Derek glances to his left and Stiles is just gazing at him with an astonished look on his face and his mouth is hanging open in some obscenely sexual way.

“You already have two degrees? Holy shit, I’m way fucking inadequate,” Stiles mutters, downing the rest of his drink. “I—” He stops when Derek offers up his half full long island and he graciously accepts it. “Shit, Derek, how smart are you? You’re probably ridiculously fucking talented too, I mean Scott told me your work is up in the science building and I just—I walk past it every day and it still amazes me.”

Derek’s amazed himself at the way Stiles’s face is animated as he’s talking about always wanting to be an artist. Derek’s eyes roam the younger’s body, the same lithe frame he’s seen almost every day in the gym this week running the indoor track and working on some free weights. He’s in a hunter green Henley and slim-fit black jeans with rips up the thigh, and Derek smiles because he knows it’s nearly exact to the outfit he was wearing when Stiles first saw him. He’s wearing an old, well-worn pair of brown boots and a fur-lined denim jacker that’s streaked with motor oil, his tawny brown hair styled messy from the graceful fingers that keep running through it.

“The only art in my life is managing to fix my Jeep,” Stiles sighs, “He’s forever needing new parts and I get to wear the canvas.” He motions to the light denim jacket he’s got on. “I know it’s never coming out, but it looks like half the clothes you wear anyways. I assume its ink on your gym clothes?”

“Yeah, it is,” Derek answers, still hungrily drawing over Stiles’s body. “I can’t get the ink off me, ever. I’m sure I still smell like linseed oil.” He shows Stiles his hands where the bone black etching ink is worked into the lines of his palms from days of attempted scrubbing to get it off. “It ends up more on my face than my brayers.”

Stiles smiles and looks at Derek through long lashes. “Y’know,” he starts, downing the rest of the drink in his hands and setting it on the loft railing. “I told Scott to send you that suggestion. I’ve had a crush on you for, I don’t know, almost three months?” Derek is just staring because he can’t believe what Stiles is even saying. “I just saw you on my Facebook and I didn’t think you’d accept it if you didn’t know me and I never actually saw you and I didn’t know if you were real so I didn’t talk to you until I made sure that someone as insanely good-looking and fucking gifted as you are exists in this world and—can I just kiss you? Is that okay?” He’s sweating now, and Derek can see it beading on his forehead in nervousness, but honestly, his heart is probably pounding just as hard as Derek’s.

Derek’s eyes meet Stiles’s amber ones and all he can do is breathe out, “Yes.”

And Stiles does, he steps forward and wraps one arm around Derek’s lower back, grabbing a fistful of his soft sweater as he presses their lips together softly, and Derek is immediately fond of the way Stiles runs those long, nimble fingers right up the back of his neck to thread in the baby hairs that reside there. Stiles’s lips are just as pliable as they look, soft yet firmly drawing Derek in and he wants more. Derek groans and nibbles back at Stiles’s bottom lip, eliciting a sharp inhale from the other boy as he snakes his hands up his green Henley and starts gently pushing him backwards. Stiles tenses, his fingers tightening in Derek’s hair as he pulls their faces apart just enough to brush their lips together. “Wh—”

“Trust me, Stiles,” Derek sighs over the younger’s red lips, breath ghosting over them before he leans in and captures that mouth again in a rough, bruising kiss. Stiles doesn’t resist when Derek guides him backward, past the bathroom, past the spider plant in the hallway, and into Derek’s garnished bedroom. The bedside lamp is on next to the dieffenbachia and it casts the room in a warm, subdued luminescence that immediately makes Stiles’s skin illuminate a stunning golden glow, and Derek only notices when he’s suddenly thrust back against the door, slamming it shut. 

“Jesus, Derek, you have no idea how long I’ve been waiting to just take you.” Stiles presses his whole body against the older’s and traps him against the door, his dexterous hands grabbing Derek’s and pinning them over his head. He’s attacking Derek’s lips with bites and his tongue sneaks its way into that perfect mouth, knowing the beard burn on his neck tomorrow will all be worth it.

Derek’s panting into Stiles’s mouth, knees quivering, pants impossibly constricting as the blood rushes from his brain straight to his groin. “Fuck, Stiles,” he whines when one of Stiles’s hands comes down to palm at the front of Derek’s ankle pants. “Need more.”

He grips the front of the camel sweater Derek’s wearing and yanks him away from the door, never once letting their lips release from one another. “This week I’ve seen you everywhere, since the party,” Stiles just rambles between kisses, guiding the sweater up Derek’s chest and over his head. “Your fucking muscle car, and your stupid glasses, and your pert little ass teasing me with that yoga at the gym.” His spidery fingers trace their way down Derek’s furry chest, thumbing over both nipples and earning a low moan from Derek, whose hands reach for the button on his pants. “No,” Stiles commands, “you’re going to let me do it. I’ve been waiting for you to let me get these off.”

Derek just nods and toes off his converse while Stiles sinks to his knees and leaves a trail of bites down the center of his chest, one hand running tantalizingly up the back of Derek’s thigh and the other reaching down to pull off Derek’s socks. He’s sweating, and his breaths are coming out in hot puffs over the button on Derek’s pants, and Derek can only gape at the veiny hands popping the button and sliding up the backs of his thighs, kneading the hard muscles and grabbing his ass roughly, until he looks down and nearly loses control.

Stiles looks up at Derek through heavy-lidded eyes and his longue darts out to wet his lips as he presses a kiss right along the dark trail leading under the waistband below. His thumbs hook into the two belt loops that are low on Derek’s hips and he smiles and kneads his ass again, “Can I?” Stiles pleads, kissing down along the open button and straining zipper that’s managed to slowly unto itself.

“Please,” Derek chokes, and Stiles obliges, pugnaciously wrenching them down in one swift motion. Derek just gasps lightly and he’s struggling to keep his knees from giving out underneath him. “Wait, wait,” he whispers, gripping the fuzzy collar of Stiles’s denim jacket and yanking him up to his feet, “my fucking body is shaking, what are you doing to me?” Stiles smiles, and does exactly what Derek hoped he would, puts both hands on his intercostals and guides him to the right before those beautiful hands slide back up to lay flat on Derek’s pectorals, Stiles driving a force through his palms hard enough to bruise so Derek’s dead weight hits the bed and bounces there.

He’s splayed out with a misty sheen glowing in the yellow lamplight, Stiles hovering over him with a knee on the bed next to Derek’s left hip. He doesn’t know if the alcohol or the lust is what’s making his vision hazy and his entire body is burning from the inside out with every single kiss Stiles litters on his skin. He’s more beautiful than Derek’s ever imagined, and he’s just content watching Stiles try desperately to get his boots off in a timely manner with his Henley sticking to his skin where his collar has soaked up the perspiration from ravaging Derek. He wants everything Stiles has to offer, tout de suite, right fucking then, so Derek sits up and pulls Stiles forward with firm hands around the back of his upper legs.

“I want you, Stiles,” Derek murmurs, nose buried in the hair at the hem of Stiles’s Henley, “right now.”

“Say it again,” Stiles orders, pulling his socks off and threading his hands in Derek’s hair to tug him away from where he’s mouthing at the front of Stiles’s jeans. Derek lets out a small laugh and sneaks a hand from the back of Stiles’s thigh to the front to wiggle it up into one of the rips in the jeans. His fingers feel up in search of another layer of fabric that doesn’t seem to be there, and Stiles grips Derek’s hair a little harder. “I won’t last long if you keep taunting me like this.”

“You’re so goddamn prepossessing and it’s fucking killing me,” Derek insists. “I need you to fuck me so hard I won’t be able to go to the gym tomorrow.”

As soon as Stiles lets go of Derek’s hair, he shrugs out of his denim jacket and lets Derek’s hands guide the Henley off of his body. His chest is heaving, the muscles rippling under his slender frame, and Derek wastes no time in latching onto the expanse of pale, flecked skin to decorate it with small bruises in his wake. Stiles feels his cock twitch in response to Derek unbuttoning his jeans and slowly sliding them down his legs, and Derek moans from just looking at Stiles, glistening and exposed. Stiles is by no means small, at least an inch larger than Derek, rock hard and pressed flush against his stomach.

“Look at you, you’re perfectly proportioned, exquisite, beautiful.”

Stiles laughs, amused at the artist’s hands sliding softly over the bruises he’s made. “Is this what it feels like to be a nude model in one of those figure drawing classes? I thought they couldn’t touch you.” He smirks, grabs Derek’s hand where it’s tracing his abdominals and kneels in front of where Derek’s sitting on the bed, and Derek grimaces because Stiles is right, they can’t touch you. “Draw me like one of your French girls, Derek.”

“Shut up, Stiles,” Derek grins, lifting his hips so Stiles can rid his body of his constricting boxer briefs. He’s not at all quiet, swearing loudly when Stiles nips the inside of his thighs and makes his way up to lick a stripe up Derek’s leaking shaft. “Fucking hell.” He arches his back and groans, hips snapping upward involuntarily.

Stiles stops Derek watches as Stiles crawls up his body to capture his mouth again. His mind is whirring because Jesus, Stiles is flawless and he’s being anything but gentle and it’s all Derek’s ever wanted. Stiles grinds their hips together and Derek bites back another moan, closing his eyes and letting his head hit the mattress. And then the extra warmth is gone, and his eyes flutter open as he leans back on his elbows.

Stiles gets off of Derek and he’s panting and flushed, and Derek hasn’t ever seen him so disheveled before, all he wants to see is Stiles come completely undone. “In the nightstand,” he whispers, pointing at the lamp. He listens to Stiles rummaging and he returns with a condom and a bottle of lube, before he tosses both on the bed and makes a rolling motion with this hand.

“Get on your knees,” Stiles drawls, and Derek obeys instantly, licking his lips at how the younger is looming at the edge of the bed before he moves his body and shoves his ass in the air. “Good god, your ass is insane.” Stiles admires it for a second before reaching forward and giving it a rough squeeze, a well-earned shout ripping from Derek’s throat before Stiles surges forward and starts tonguing at Derek’s hole. He traces the ring of muscle experimentally before pressing past it and kneading the older’s ass to relax and let him in.

“Fuck, Stiles,” Derek moans, and he rocks backward into the warm heat Stiles’s tongue is trailing from his perineum all the way up, that turns into a body-wracking shiver that shoots right up his spine. “I need more.

Stiles withdraws and grabs the lube, slicking up his fingers and teasing one at Derek’s puckered entrance before working one finger into the tight heat. “Good?”

“More,” Derek whines as he tries to sink farther onto the second finger Stiles has added. “Jesus Christ Stiles, just fuck me already.” Derek would be lying if he said he didn’t fuck himself on his own fingers in the shower before the party because honestly, he was hoping he’d’ get laid tonight, he just wasn’t expecting it to be the dreamboat that’s been showing up to watch him work out every morning for the past week.

Stiles curses and his heart is thumping in his chest because Derek’s head is hanging low between his arms, cock firm and leaking between his quaking thighs, and his elbows are quivering at the anticipation of what’s to come. He’s stunning, and Stiles has no idea how he got this lucky, especially because his fucking stupid plan to get Derek to notice him actually worked. And as much as he’s in love with how angry red Derek’s ass is from the bruises that most definitely will be there tomorrow, Stiles needs to see how angry red he can get Derek’s cock without even touching him.

“I want you on your back, I want to see your gorgeous face when you fall apart.” Stiles lands a weak smack to the side of Derek’s thigh and sighs as the older obliges and rolls onto his back, bending his knees to splay his legs open. Stiles grabs a pillow and smiles down at Derek, “Arch your back,” and he slides the pillow underneath to prop up Derek’s hips.

“Hurry,” Derek whines, “fuck me.” His hands reach for Stiles, any part of his skin, he just wants to feel him.

Stiles pins them down. “Arms out. No touching the models, remember?” He smiles at Derek’s discomfort and grabs the condom, rolling it quickly onto his dick before slicking himself up and teasing at Derek’s hole. “I wish you could see yourself, sublime and unraveling. It’s better than any time I’ve imagined it.”

“Sti—fuuuck, so good,” Derek whimpers, swallowing thickly in an attempt to soothe his scratchy throat as Stiles slowly pushes into his tight heat. He’s relaxed and pliable under Stiles, between the grip on his hips and the lips sucking at his jugular, Derek’s sure he won’t even need to be touched before he spills all over himself. “Fucking move.”

And Stiles does, pulling out enough that just the tip of his cock is stretching Derek open before he snaps his hips forward and swallows Derek’s wanton moans with a bruising kiss. He sets a steady pace, hands stopping to tweak at Derek’s nipples before sliding over his biceps to hold down his hands. “You feel so good,” Stiles whispers into the older’s mouth, “so tight, no resistance,” he teases little kisses along Derek’s jaw into his scruff, “and the thought of you with one hand around that beautiful cock and the other with three fingers stretching yourself open for me in the shower—you’re fucking lucky I’m not already spent.”

Derek knows he can’t touch, but he wraps his legs around Stiles’s waist and locks his ankles to pull the boy closer and deeper and Stiles takes the hint, thrusting harder and faster to see Derek’s jaw fall open in a silent scream. His eyes trail down Derek’s heaving chest when he leans back and the older’s dick is just bouncing, twitching, heavy and solid on Derek’s stomach, smearing precum in the dark curls with every brutal snap of Stiles’s hips. He can feel the tightness building in his own abdomen, watching Derek hold his own arms up over his head to prevent them from disobeying Stiles’s orders, and it’s so fucking hot that Stiles’s needs to slow down before he loses it.

He reaches for Derek’s legs and hoists them onto his shoulders, ruthlessly fucking into Derek and he hits that sweet spot at the new angle and Derek chokes on a sob of pleasure, gasping for Stiles to do it again. He just wants to touch Stiles so badly and himself, he’s so hard it hurts, and all he wants is the rush of release with Stiles’s cock buried deep in his ass. His body is on fire and his hands reach up, attempting to grab for the bars of his headboard to grip, something to brace himself for the searing heat burning in his stomach.

“Stiles, I’m so close plea—shit, again, do it again,” Derek hisses, trying not to lock his ankles together again with the concern of choking Stiles, but he’s managed to find that little bundle of nerves with every single thrust and it’s setting him on fire. “I’m—”

“Come on, Derek, let go,” Stiles breathes, locking onto Derek’s blown jade eyes with whiskey ones of his own, and he braces himself on one arm and runs a thumb over Derek’s swollen lips with his other. “I’ll put you back together.”

And Derek falls apart right there, the edges of his vision going white and his orgasm hitting him like a truck, shooting his seed all over his chest. His arm flies up to grip the back of Stiles’s neck and pulls his face down into another rough kiss, thumb pressing into the side of the younger’s neck. Derek’s riding a wave of pleasure and clenching tight around Stiles’s dick while Derek feels the thumping of the boy’s pulse race underneath his fingertips. Stiles is a little lightheaded and he feels high, a rush flooding south and he’s spilling his load with his hips planted flush against Derek’s ass. “Holy fuck, Derek, what did you do to me?”

Stiles’s arms wobble and he falls on top of Derek, mushing their mouths together in a lazy kiss, hand coming up to caress his scruffy cheek. “You made me a fucking mess.”

Derek smiles and nuzzles his nose under Stiles’s chin. “You know, you could spend the night here if you want. I’m going to text Isaac to get everyone out, so we don’t have to go back down there.”

“I’d like that. I’m all about post-coital cuddling.”

“Never say that again,” Derek murmurs, kissing Stiles’s soft skin.

Stiles slowly peels himself away from the older man and gently pulls out, tying off and disposing of the condom before searching for a towel. “You’ve got eight thousand fucking plants in here but no towel in case you spill something?”

Derek shrugs. “I’m really good at watering plants.”

Stiles eventually finds one and cleans himself off before moving to clean Derek, who’s still lazily splayed on the bed with no intention of moving. “So, since you’re not going to the gym tomorrow, you think you could spend a little extra time showing me what you do in the studio?” He crawls up next to Derek and pulls a blanket over them both, immediately assuming position when Derek smiles, lolling his head onto Stiles’s chest.

“I’ll do more than show you.”

 

——

 

A month later when the semester ends, Derek calls Stiles to invite him to the student gallery opening on campus, so that he can see all the work they’ve made together. They’ve learned a lot about each other, and Derek is eternally grateful that two possessive sisters, a five-year age difference, and an intense love for Debussy hadn’t scared Stiles away. He was also grateful that Stiles had a genuine interest in learning what Derek does—other than cry at tenth-century Kufic pottery from somewhere in Iraq—and he loved having a muse at his disposal to help him create art.

“It’s a triptych, and it’s about how I’ve found myself split by my identity as bisexual and my ambition to start a career as a professional.” Derek walks Stiles to the corner of the gallery where the three large prints are hanging. “I’ve never considered it a hinderance until recently, and in retrospect, I realize I’ve always been compensating for it. I constantly strive to maintain a high level of professionalism in order to prove myself to be just as capable. So, the series is me exploring the question: Can I embrace my sexuality and still be taken seriously?”

Stiles is awestruck at the prints, mainly because the scenes unfolding before him are the product of himself directly, and he’s getting a bit hot under the collar just replaying them in his mind. They’re lithographs, when the oil-based drawing materials etch into the stone and will only take oils-based inks when the rest of the stone takes water in those non-image places…no wonder Derek was rubbing himself with Vaseline.

The first print is titled Get on your knees (How to Find the Navy Sock You Lost Under the Bed), and it’s from the time Stiles showed up to the studio late at night in nothing but sweatpants and that denim jacket. The print on the wall is Derek’s hand and knee prints from where they rested on the huge lithography stone when Stiles was fucking him on the table, still in his sweatpants and jacket.

Stiles moves to the second print with a slack jaw, titled Arch your back (How to Keep Your Shirt Tucked in) and that’s also Derek’s body, from when Stiles showed up to the studio late at night and Derek was wearing nothing but an apron. It’s shoulder blades, an ass print and thighs, all from Derek laid on the stone while Stiles sucked him off and drained the energy right out of his inky body.

The last print Stiles smiles at because it’s his own body, his sweaty back print from when he showed up to the studio after a late-night run. It’s titled Arms Out (How to Determine Your Suit Size) from whenDerek tripped over an extension cord and took Stiles with him as he fell, landing in a heap on the limestone slab on the table and lazily made out until they realized the building was about to close.

“They’re gorgeous,” Stiles grins, wrapping an arm around Derek’s lower back. “How about we head to the studio later and make a fourth one? Call it You Can Take it.”

Derek licks his lips and gives Stiles a lusty glare. “You gonna show me how to take criticism like a professional?”

“Something like that.”

 


 

 

Get on your knees (How to Find the Navy Sock You Lost Under the Bed)

 

  Arch your back (How to Keep Your Shirt Tucked in)

 

      Arms out (How to Determine Your Suit Size)