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Roller Coaster of Emotion

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     Derek stands behind his two sisters, arms crossed, lips drawn in a thin line, glaring daggers at their backs. He specifically said that he would not be going on any of the rides. Least of all the ‘Wet N’ Wild’ roller coaster, that drops a bucket of water your head at the end. It’s a small miracle that no one’s been electrocuted to death. Not to mention that he isn’t ecstatic to be soaked, but Laura and Cora seem to carry the notion  that they’ve convinced him it’s just what the humid afternoon called for.

     Laura is laughing while Cora tries her best to gulp down the last of her slushie before they reach the front of the line. Which is absurd, because they’re looking at least at a twenty-minute wait. She downs the last third, and then screws her face up and clutches her forehead.

     “Ow! Brain freeze!” She whines. Laura laughs turn hysterical, and even Derek can’t help the snort that escapes through his nose. Cora turns and takes one hand away to point it accusingly at Derek. “Nothing from you, you complete potato!”

     And now Derek is laughing freely, along with his older sister. “Potato? Did you just call me a potato?”

     “It’s actually a pretty decent insult, as far as modern-day slander goes.” Says a voice behind them. Derek turns with an arched brow, looking at the three teens that have stepped into line. The one who spoke looks about Cora’s age, and he’s wearing the most ridiculous outfit that Derek has ever seen. Tan Chinos, a white t-shirt that says ‘ORGASM DONOR’ in large black letters, and an oversized, unbuttoned red flannel. Frankly, his eyes feel accosted.

     “Stiles! Scott, Allison!” Cora is grinning widely as she winces through the tail-end of her brain freeze. The other two teens untangle themselves and greet her back with warm smiles.

     “Hey, Cor. Laura,” Stiles nods to the two of them, then looks at him. “And… Derek?”

     Derek scowls. “Do I know you?”

     Cora smacks his bicep with the back of her hand. “They’re my friends, asshat.” She rolls her eyes and returns her attention to Stiles. “Forgive my dear brother, I’ve told you all about his stunted emotional growth.”

     Derek opens his mouth to argue, then snaps it shut with a huff. Poor Laura is going to pass out, because now she’s doubled over, guffawing at Derek’s expense.

     Allison, the girl, gives him what looks like an apologetic smile, and asks, “What are you guys doing here? We could have all came together if we’d known you were coming.”

     “Just enjoying the last few weeks before little Cora heads off to college.” Laura says affectionately, ruffling Cora’s hair with a hand. Cora growls and ducks out of her reach.

     “Samesies! Although, I’m deeply suffering from third-wheel syndrome.” Stiles sighs and casts a dramatic look at Scott and Allison. Scott turns pink, and Allison just shrugs, taking it in stride.

     His sisters seem to be pretty familiar with the teens, and Derek is mildly nonplussed that he’s never heard of or seen them before. And he’s sure he would have remembered Stiles, the kid is already on his nerves and he’s known him all of two minutes.     

     “Well, it looks like you’re in luck! We have a third wheel too!” Laura says cheerfully, grabbing Derek by the shoulders. Derek tries valiantly to shrug her off, but she holds tight. “They even offer convenient third-wheel seating!” She points out a sign and Derek’s stomach drops.

     SINGLES WILL BE PAIRED it says in large white letters. Oh god. Derek can feel the tips of his ears turn pink and he resolutely does not look at Stiles.

     Stiles, however, has other plans. He closes in on the few feet of space separating them and loops his arm around Derek’s, unabashed and brazen.

     “Don’t worry, big guy, they can pair me with you any day.” He gives Derek a over-the-top wink, and waggles his eyebrows. Derek makes a small strangled noise and looks back at Laura, silently pleading.

     Of course, she just laughs, along with Cora, Scott, and Allison. Stiles chuckles and lets him go, giving him a playful pat on the back.

     “Settle down, buddy. I know when someone is out of my league. Can’t blame a man for trying!” His laugh is relaxed, and Derek can tell that he isn’t slighted or angry. His laidback disposition has Derek warming up to him. Stiles turns to Cora and they start chatting about some movie that’s out in theaters.

     Derek’s impressed with how easy it was for Stiles to casually throw out there that he’s gay- or bi? It definitely wasn’t the initial read he had gotten. Derek doesn’t keep it a dirty little secret that he’s interested in men, but he’s found that women are much easier to approach, so he’s never really gone after a guy. And here’s Stiles, acting like it’s the easiest thing in the world.

     “Derek.” He’s pulled from his reverie by the clipped but gentle tone of Laura’s voice.

     “Huh?” He says stupidly.

     She hip-checks him. “Stiles said that he was accepted into Berkeley College in New York City on scholarship.”

     “Oh?” Derek replies, looking at Stiles, interest piqued. This is a conversation he could relate to. “Good for you. Berkeley is like two miles from my school.”

     “Oh yeah? Where are you studying?”

     “New York Studio School of Drawing, Painting, and Sculpture. It's not as pretentious as it sounds.” He adds. That makes Stiles smile, and Derek can’t help the one that pulls up one side of his mouth, satisfied with the fact that he put it there. “I focus almost exclusively in third-dimensional art. Pottery, woodworking, welding metal, that sort of stuff. I’ll be starting my third year.”

     “Really? That means you would have been a senior when we were freshman. I don’t remember ever seeing you in the halls.”

     “That’s because he’s an overachieving freak.” Cora explains. “He’s supposed to be two years ahead of us, but he graduated early so he could whisk himself away to New York.”

     Derek narrows his eyes at Cora. It’s not like he’s some sort of super-genius; all he did was apply himself and pick up extra classes during summer. He doesn’t parade the fact around like he’s better than everyone.

     “A body and a brain. I dig it.” Stiles says, giving him a playful punch in the shoulder.

     Derek gives an embarrassed chuckle and rubs his hand on the back of his neck. He can’t entirely tell if Stiles is being flirtatious or joking, but it heats his cheeks all the same. He clears his throat.

     “What’s your major?” He asks, wanting to steer the conversation away from himself.

     “I’ll be studying criminal justice and law enforcement. My dad is the sheriff, and - not to toot my own horn or anything - I’d make one hell of a detective. FBI is my long-run plan though.”

     They seem to separate into their little groups of two as the line slowly progresses forward. Laura and Cora talk about what food they’re going to get after the ride, Scott and Allison are rubbing their noses together, whispering and giggling, and Derek and Stiles talk about New York.

     They fall into easy conversation. Derek is in his element, talking about New York City, what there is to do around Manhattan, and what projects he’s working on in school. Stiles is listening, nodding, and sometimes adds to the conversation with a haphazard wave of his arms.

     They get to the front of the line all too soon, Derek thinks in disappointment. He had actually been enjoying talking to Stiles. The employee at the gate ushers them through, and Stiles is practically vibrating with excitement.

     “Quick! Let’s get the caboose!” He grabs Derek’s hand and drags him towards the back. Derek’s stomach flutters at the carefree contact, and he tightens his grip, telling himself that it’s so he doesn’t lose Stiles.

     They get to the last car, and Stiles lets go to slide in. Derek silently mourns the loss of contact and slides in after him. Their thighs press together. Stiles looks at him and wiggles his butt, rubbing their hips against each other, and gives him a jokingly suggestive look. Derek gives a breathless chuckle and feels his cheeks heat. The operator comes by to make sure that their bar is pushed down securely. She gives them an aww face and says, “I just have to say, you two make the cutest couple.”

     Okay. Now Derek’s sure that his entire face is beet red. Stiles leans back to wrap an arm over his shoulder, puts his other hand over his own chest, and says, “Right? I am just so blessed every morning when I wake up and remember that I bagged this total babe!”

     “So cute.” She croons and walks away.

     Derek just stares ahead, at a loss for words. He’s gripping the bar in front of him so tightly that his knuckles are white. Stiles’ fingers are lightly digging into his shoulder, and the sensation is going straight to his groin.

     “Sorry, man. Didn’t mean to break you.” Stiles says lightly, removing his arm and giving him a playful bump with his shoulder.

     The ride starts to move, and Derek is saved from having to try and articulate anything.

     “Oh yeah! Let's do this!” Stiles rubs his hands together, and Derek gives him and apprehensive side-smile.

     The sign next to the ride stated that it’s two minutes and forty-seven seconds long. Derek feels every second of it. He’s still white-knuckling the bar in front of him, hyper-aware of Stiles’ body. Every left turn they take, Stiles is pushed against him, and with every right turn, Derek slides into Stiles.

     Stiles is laughing and yelling like mad, clearly enjoying himself to the fullest. Derek finds it contagious, and before long he’s  loosening up, laughing and enjoying himself just and much.

     Stiles puts his hands up for the first big drop, and when he brings his hands back down, his right hand lands on Derek's left one, grasping it tight. The move seems accidental, and he turns to Derek, a flush on his cheeks and he chews his bottom lip. Derek readjusts his grip, allowing Stiles fingers to fall between his own. A huge, goofy grin breaks out over Stiles’ face, and he grips tighter, turning to face the front again with a laugh. Maybe riding the roller coaster wasn’t such a bad idea at all.

     With all good things, the ride comes to the end far too soon. They’re climbing the final hump (which the sign had boasted was two-hundred-and-sixty feet tall) before the buckets of water at the end.

     “Oh man, oh man!” Stiles squeals and lets out a nervous laugh. “This is the one part that’s always kind of terrified me.”

     He reaches over with his left hand to tuck it in between their forearms, grabbing on to Derek’s arm tightly. The pressure makes his heart stutter. They’re cresting the top, and Stiles faces him, eyes wide and catching the sunlight just right. His pupils are dilated, and only a thin ring of honey-brown iris is visible.

     Derek’s higher brain function has shut down. He’s reduced to base desires. He grabs a handful of Stiles’ flannel with his right hand, and hauls him in for a kiss. It’s a bold move, but his body is spiked with adrenaline, he’s fraught with tension that has nothing to do with the ride, and he can’t form a single thought past how kissable he looks in that one moment. Stiles makes a tiny noise of surprise, and then leans into the kiss. They speed down the drop, but they could be sitting on the ferris wheel for all Derek and Stiles notice.

     And then they’re doused in cold water. They break apart, Stiles yelping and Derek groaning, and then they’re both laughing. Stiles shakes his head, spraying droplets of water onto Derek. Derek shoves him playfully. They load off, and can see the others coming towards them.

     “Man, that was so cool!” Scott exclaims. He looks at Derek and Stiles. “You guys got totally drenched!”

     Derek looks at the others, who are moderately wet, and then looks down at himself. He’s completely soaked. They must have gotten the worst of it from sitting at very back. He picks at his shirt with a frown and it peels his from his stomach. Ugh.

     Derek looks over at Stiles, to see if he had gotten it as bad as he had. His breath catches in his throat when he sees that Stiles did indeed. His shirt is plastered to his chest and stomach, and it reveals a much more defined body than Derek would have initially thought. Why he wears baggy clothes that hide it is beyond him. He swallows thickly.

     In the least, Stiles seems to be giving him the same appreciative once-over. Derek preens at the attention. His concentration is broken when Cora snorts and shoves between them.

     “Nerds.” She says, without malice. “Let’s go see the pictures!”

     They walk a short distance to the picture stand, and wait for their pictures to cycle through. Derek stands awkwardly by Stiles. He’s not sure what to do or say, and he’s at a total loss. Was it too presumptuous, kissing him? Derek honestly hadn’t meant to. He resolves that whatever happens, he won’t regret it.

     Their pictures pop up onto the screen, and Derek is too busy staring at his hands to pay attention. He hears some gasps, laughter, and Stiles says, “oh man,” next to him. He looks up and his mouth drops open.

     Right there on the screen, is them in the heat of the moment. Derek has his hand twisted in Stiles’ button-down, and his neck is bared towards the camera. Stiles has his eyes closed, and his eyebrows sit high on his forehead.

     “I’m not even mad,” Stiles says, scrambling forward to lean over the counter to get a closer look at the photo. “We look hot!”

     Scott laughs and pats Stiles back as he stands up straight. “Third wheel my ass!”

     Cora rolls her eyes, and Laura gives Derek a soft smile and two thumbs up. Derek is blushing, again.

     “Welp, cat’s out of the bag, sweet cheeks!” Stiles says with a big grin. He marches up to Derek and laces their fingers together, holding his hand firm. “I’m buying twenty of these. I need proof when I wake up tomorrow and convince myself that it was only the best dream of my life.” With a tug, he pulls Derek after him and confidently walks up to the stand.

     “Twenty copies of the two hotties making out!” He announces loudly to the girl working the stand. She’s blushing like mad and can't meet their eyes. She prints them off, and Stiles takes out his wallet with a grimace, the contents soaked.

     “Here,” Allison says, grabbing the pictures and putting them into her noticeably dry purse. “For safekeeping.” She winks. Stiles pays the girl and thanks her.

     They meander around the park as a group. Stiles has still not let go of his hand, and he’s not about to break the connection. He feels like he’s in a waking dream, it all feels so surreal. Only half an hour ago, he was convinced that this kid was quite possibly the most frustrating person on earth. Now they’re walking hand-in-hand for everyone to see.

     “I could use some ice cream.” Derek says suddenly, giving his sisters a pointed look. Cora points a finger into her mouth, making a gagging noise, and Laura gives him a quick peck on the cheek before they wander off in a different direction.

     “Me too!” Scott says obliviously, and it’s followed by an oof when Allison elbows him in the ribs. “I mean, like, I wanted ice cream… but... on the other side of the park?” He looks at Allison like he’s trying to discern some sort of direction from her. She rolls her eyes fondly and tugs on his hand, leading him away. “We’ll catch you in an hour.” She says over her shoulder.

     And then it’s just the two of them. Derek is overcome with sudden shyness, which annoys him. You were just kissing him, he mentally reminds himself. Stiles is looking at him expectantly, waiting for him to say something.

     “So, ice cream?” He asks finally, motioning in the direction of the food vendors.  “I’m buying.”

     “Absolutely.” Stiles says breathlessly.

     He smiles and grips Stiles’ hand tighter, leading the way.

     “Anyways, I can't wait to show you the American Museum of Natural History. It's an amazing place. You’ll love it.”

     “Can’t wait.” Stiles replies, and the way he speaks the words make it sound as if he’s talking about so much more than a simple trip to a museum. It does funny things to Derek’s heart, and he’s never felt more sure of anything in his life.