Stiles wakes up, first and foremost, with a crippling hangover. All of the other information surfacing, and there’s a lot of it, is very much secondary to the feeling that his brain may be trying to cleave itself free of his skull. He’s also in the bathtub, freezing cold, naked, and partially wrapped in plastic. Is he possibly the victim of one of those crimes that happen to everyone’s cousin’s best friend’s mail carrier? Possibly. But that won’t matter if his head explodes and kills him.
The medicine chest beckons him. It feels like it’s a mile away, and the lip of the tub is very much the only thing holding him upright, so how the hell is he supposed to climb over that?
“Scott!” Stiles groans at the volume of his own voice in his ears and echoing off the tiles. He presses his forehead against the cool lip of the tub, listening for sounds of Scott coming to his rescue.
“Scottie!” Stiles tries again, and there’s not a single damn sound for it. He mumbles swears to himself as fuzzy bits of information begin to pop out through the pain. Scott is gone. He’s flying out to see Allison for Christmas and left early this morning. So without a single window or clock, Stiles has surmised that it’s sometime after 7 am. Really, he’s making great progress.
The aspirin isn’t getting any closer, though.
Stiles braces himself on shaky arms and grunts as he tries to pull himself upright. The plastic wrap around his hips and leg squeaks and slide against the tub. His right hip burns when he pulls himself up, and he almost falls out of the tub trying to make it take his weight. It’s not until he’s prying the child safety cap off a bottle of Tylenol that he glances back at the tub and sees the mess left behind. Streaks of reddish brown stand stark against the white tub. Reddish brown and black. And… green?
Oh god, he’s dying. And possibly rotting.
Derek isn’t expecting any customers today. There are no appointments and business overall has been slow because Christmas is a big traveling and doing-stuff time of year. Which means it’s a horrible time to have a giant gaping wound. His friends have told him there’s no point in opening the shop. But then, they all have Christmas-type things to be doing and Derek doesn’t. He’ll have the best-organized inventory of all of them come January, though. So there’s that.
So he’s fairly surprised when he’s barely put his coffee down and queued up the Twisted Sister Christmas album on the shop speakers when the door swings open and lets a cold gust of air inside.
Derek turns to the door with his standard greeting ready. “Can I help y- are you okay?” Derek drops his inventory binder and rushes over to the door when a guy staggers in, holding the push bar like it’s the only thing keeping him upright.
“I think… I got a defective one,” the guy groans, switching his grip to Derek’s shoulder. His long fingers are surprisingly strong as they dig into the muscle. “It’s broken.”
Derek has to glance over his shoulder at the rows of line art and a few professional photos of finished work on the walls. Yep, he still owns a tattoo parlor. His product is still tattoos. “You got a broken tattoo?”
“Yes. It’s coming out.”
Derek holds the guy at arms-length and finally takes a look at him. He just saw him last night and it was overall… memorable. All he can remember about the guy’s name, though, was that it was unpronounceable. Well, that and he had to read it off the guy’s license because he was pretty drunk.
“Are you wearing jeans over a new tattoo?” he asks, slightly alarmed.
“What else should I have done?? I had to come here so you could make it stop leaking! Also it feels like it's on fire!”
Derek pulls him the rest of the way in and leaves the sign on Closed. “Of course it’s going to hurt if you button denim around it,” he says, opening the button on the jeans and pulling the zipper down. “I told you last night, basketball shorts only. And high on the waist.”
“This is really hot and everything, but I’m way more worried about it draining out.”
Derek groans and closes the flaps of the guy’s fly when he sees way more than he wanted. Not that he hasn’t seen it already. “You’re still in the plastic. Why are you still in the plastic?”
“Why am I in plastic at all??” the guy asks, voice slightly shrill.
“You’re in plastic to keep your new tattoo protected.” Derek sighs and rubs the bridge of his nose. “Where the hell is your friend? I gave him the instructions too.”
“On an airplane to see his ex.”
Derek stares at him. The guy throws his hands up, nearly losing his balance on his sore hip.
“I know! That look right there? That’s exactly what I told him. I said Scott, what are you doing man? You don’t do a Christmas visit with your ex. Because it’s going to turn into a Christmas hookup and then feelings are going to get involved and you just don’t drag this stuff into Christmas. Now a normal hookup, I mean, I guess whatever, but…”
“Please stop talking.” Derek keeps ahold of the guy’s waist to keep him upright.
“Sorry. I’m Stiles, by the way. If I told you that last night, I meant it. That wasn’t drunk talk.”
“That’s not the name on your license, but let’s go with that.” Derek helps the guy over to the chair. “Hold onto the chair. You’ve been wrapped in plastic for over 12 hours. I need to take it off.”
Stiles groans and grasps the back of the chair. “I’m naked under it.”
“You were naked in the chair last night too.”
“Wait, I was?” Stiles narrows his eyes. “Is that professional?”
“Nope.” Derek lets the jeans drop and begins peeling the tape off Stiles’ waist, taking care with the moles that dot his skin. “But you kept pulling the sheet over your head and telling your friend that you were a ghost, so I took it away from you.”
“Oh. That’s fair.” Stiles watches him unwind the plastic wrap around his hips and makes a pitiful sort of whine when he sees the ink and ooze moving around freely on the wrap. “Look at everything on there! That’s what was all over the tub. It’s like… bleeding and leaking ink!”
“It’s just healing like any other wound.” Derek frowns at him. He’s professional enough to act like it’s normal that he’s talking to another guy who’s naked from the waist down. And really, he did see pretty much everything last night. “Why were you in a bathtub? I told you, no submerging in water.”
“And I told you, I don’t remember last night. Or not anything important anyway,” Stiles snaps. “And I wasn’t taking a bath. Scott left me in the tub because I got that stuff on my sheets. He texted me from the airport so I wouldn’t wake up and think I was down a kidney.”
“Your friend has some interesting priorities.” Derek tosses the plastic wrap aside, balling it up to keep the floor clean. “All of this is normal. Your tattoo is fine.”
Stiles prods gently at his thigh where the skin is red and swollen against the crisp lines of a black and silver lightsaber hilt on his hip and down his thigh, with just the start of a green glow at the business end. Derek slaps his hand away.
“Stop that. Don’t poke at it.”
Stiles makes a face at him. “Ow. Why did I get it in such a weird spot?”
“You said you wanted it to look like you had a lightsaber shoved into your pants because that's sexy.”
Stiles groans and drops his forehead against the back of the chair. “Are you serious?”
“Yep. I don’t judge.” Derek prods Stiles hip (the left one, because he has a brain). “Sit in the chair. I’ll show you how to wash your tattoo.”
Stiles looks at the chair dubiously as Derek stands. “But I’m naked?”
“You were naked last night,” Derek repeats. “I sterilized it. Just sit down.” He hears Stiles oblige and settle himself on the leather seat as he goes to the sink and grabs a bowl for water. At least he’ll have an interesting story when Cora calls him tonight because it’s Christmas Eve and they have to talk. He can tell her about being really up close with the same dick two days in a row, and neither time being any fun.
“Dude!” Stiles startles up in his chair, hissing slightly when that obviously hurts. “Dude, look at what lightsaber this is!”
Derek catches his shoulder and pushes him back against the back of the chair. “Stop yanking it around. That’s going to hurt. What’s wrong with the lightsaber?”
Derek looks at him blankly, setting the water on the tool tray beside the chair. “Sorry?”
“This is Qui-Gon Jinn’s lightsaber.” Stiles flails his hands like that’s supposed to mean something. “From The Phantom Menace!”
“How drunk was I to ask for that??”
“You asked for the green lightsaber,” Derek says, pulling over his stool. “That’s the green lightsaber.”
Stiles drops his head back against the back of the chair and makes a sound like he’s in physical pain. “Then obviously it was supposed to be Luke’s!”
“Hm. Isn’t that the blond guy? His lightsaber was blue.”
“Excuse you, he had a green one in Return of the Jedi!”
Derek rolls his eyes. “I showed you the picture and you said it was perfect. I showed your friend the picture and he said it looked like the right thing. Maybe one of you needs to be sober next time.”
“Actually Scott could have been dead sober and said that,” Stiles admits. “It’s tragic.”
“Whoever’s lightsaber it is, you still have to clean it.” Derek dips his fingers into the water. “Now, pay attention. Clean hands, warm water.”
Stiles picks up his phone when Scott’s face shows up on the screen. He’s probably been at Allison’s about six hours by now, which is more than long enough for his life to have gotten way more complicated. “So is it weird yet?”
“Yeah,” Scott says, with way too much kicked-puppy guilt in his voice.
“You want to get back together with her.”
Stiles pulls up the leg of his new basketball shorts to look at the end of his new tattoo with the green glow. The skin is angry and red, but now that it’s clean, it’s kinda growing on him. “Told you so.”
Scott sighs. “I know. But it’s just so… good when we’re together.”
“Of course it is. But you gotta get out of bed sometime and then it gets complicated again,” Stiles says, hating that he has to be the sensible one here. He likes Allison. She’s awesome, smart and funny and a bit of a badass. Things just always end up weird. Mostly because her family is kind of insane.
“Yeah, well… I’ll figure that out tomorrow. Did you get my text about the bathtub?”
“The one about you dumping me in there so I wouldn’t bleed through to the mattress? Yeah. Thanks for that.” Stiles tugs the shorts higher and traces a finger just above the line work, over the single flash of red of the button. Heat radiates off of it, which Derek said was normal. “Cleaning instructions would have been more useful. I had to go ask the guy who did it.”
“Wait, did we get cleaning instructions last night?” Scott asks. “Are you serious?”
“Yep. Like, a lot of them. There’re hardcore rules to keeping these things clean. You have to use special soap and like, use your fingers on it. And Derek said it’s gonna ooze and be gross for a few days.”
“Ew. Who’s Derek?”
Stiles snorts. Scott was seriously as trashed as him. “The guy who did the tattoo. And the one who washed it for me. I got it in like, the worst possible place. It’s really weird to have your dick like just… out while a hot guy has his hands all over your thigh. That was an exercise in willpower.”
“Oh, you didn’t get hard this time?”
Stiles sits up abruptly, inhaling sharply as his hip burns and pulls. “What? What do you mean ‘this time,’ Scott? Explain that.”
“Yeah, you spent most of the tattoo session like, half hard. I asked the guy if it was weird and he said kinda, but as long as you weren’t squirming then he didn’t care.”
That’s going to be what Scott held onto from their drunken haze? Stiles has to live with this information now. And he is going to dig a hole and crawl into it and stay there. That’s the only proper reaction. “Oh god.”
“Wait, so he had a boner the whole time?” Cora asks, grinning from ear to ear. Derek doesn’t even have to be there to see it, he can hear that grin through his phone, all the way from South America.
“Yeah. But he was pretty trashed, so I don’t know if I can say it’s all his fault.” Derek plugs in the little tree that sits on his breakfast bar. Cora threatened to get in her car and make the drive to his house if he didn’t send her photographic proof that he wasn’t living treeless this year. Derek isn’t brave enough to test her commitment on that. It was easier to just drop twenty bucks on the tree and a strand of lights.
“I don’t think he’d have any friends to go drinking with him if he got a boner from it. Must have been just for you.”
“Thanks, that makes it so much less weird.”
Cora laughs. “Well, was he cute? You said his friend was out of town. You could maybe… you know.”
“His tattoo isn’t in a spot that allows for a hookup, Cora.” Derek is disappointed. He’s taught Cora the ins and outs of exertion and friction on new tattoos better than that.
“I was more thinking you could ask him on a date, but you obviously don’t have a romantic bone in your body,” she snorts. “Good to know where your head is at though. Means you liked what you saw.”
“I’m hanging up now.”
Cora cackles at him. “You know I’m right. Merry Christmas, Derek!”
Derek hangs up his phone and rubs his forehead. He really should block her number. She doesn’t know what she’s talking about, clearly.
But the reminder that Stiles is all alone and with a new tattoo and a spotty attention span does have him hovering his phone over the new entry in his phone book. The one that reads ‘Stiles- note to self: delete Feb. 1.’
It’s there just in case there’s an issue while Scott is away. So really, he could delete it after a week if he wanted to. But… giving the guy a month to heal seems prudent. Anyway, it’s only there for Stiles to call Derek if he wakes up with gangrene or something, so there’s no reason for Derek to text him.
He texts him anyway.
[Did you remember to wash your tattoo? -DH]
Derek sighs. It’s Christmas Eve. Almost everything is closed. What else is he going to do with his time?
[I am so sorry I had a boner while you were stabbing me. I swear I’m not freaky that way. -SS]
Well. That’s a tough text to follow.
[It’s fine, don’t worry about it. -DH]
Derek knows that’s probably not precisely the right thing to say, but fucked if he has anything better.
[Can I buy you dinner to make up for it? -SS]
[I was going to cook all of my dad’s favorite stuff and send him photos so he could be jealous on his stupid department cruise. -SS]
[But then I realized he probably doesn’t have cell phone reception in the middle of the ocean. -SS]
[And also now I don’t want to keep getting up and down to glaze the ham because that’s super not fun right now. -SS]
[But I found a Chinese place that’s open and I was gonna order a ton of stuff and just eat it for 2 days. -SS]
[I know that’s kind of a weird ‘broken Christmas’ cliché but Chinese food sounds super good anyway. -SS]
Derek looks at the line of texts that pop onto his phone in rapid-fire succession. Stiles texts pretty much like he talks, apparently. And he’s already got the 3-dot icon on his phone again, so he’s still going. And will probably keep going until Derek answers him.
[Stiles. It’s fine. -DH]
The line of texts stops, which is a relief. Derek is not a people person, and dealing with Stiles is like dealing with way more than a single person at once. He gives is another few seconds and almost puts the phone down, but… he didn’t actually get an answer to his question.
Derek hesitates over the keyboard on his phone. He should quit now while he’s ahead. He’s only going to be inviting another wave of texts. It’s a bad idea to ask another question.
[You didn’t answer me. Did you clean your tattoo? -DH]
The 3 gray dots appear on his screen. Then they disappear. Then they appear again. And disappear.
[Why not? Get your soap and clean it. -DH]
[I forgot how. Come show me. -SS]
Derek eyes his phone. This feels like a trap. He’s still half tempted to do it, though, just so he can chew Stiles out at the same time. Derek absolutely does not want his name as an artist smeared by Stiles taking terrible care of his tattoo.
[I just showed you this morning. -DH]
[Go to the bathroom and I’ll tell you again. -DH]
[Too sore, don’t wanna get up. -SS]
[Did you put ice on it? -DH]
[Ice is in the freezer. Come bring it to me. And stay for dinner. -SS]
Derek doesn’t answer. For a bunch of words on a screen, he’s highly annoyed by them. He should ignore them. Ignore Stiles and he’ll go away and eventually he’ll wash his damn tattoo site because he’s obviously a smart guy and perfectly capable of handling soap and water. Derek has other things to do, like… like…
[I RESPECT YOU AS AN ARTIST. LET ME BUY YOU DINNER TO APOLOGIZE FOR MY DRUNK BONER. -SS]
Derek growls and tightens his grip on his phone until the case creaks under his fingers. Juvenile asshole, typing in all caps just to rile him up. Which works.
[Good. See you at 7. -SS]
Derek stares at his phone, then rubs his sinuses as a gentle throbbing begins. So… he has plans for Christmas Eve now. Chinese food with his annoying customer who’s being obtuse about caring for a tattoo he got on accident while drunk. It’s either the start of something bad or, maybe, something good.