He’s still beautiful.
Extraordinarily, mysteriously so: that guileful kind of beauty that sneaks up on the poor fool lucky enough to recognize it, a peculiar constellation of dazzling features that, once recognized, become the only stars in the night sky.
That’s how it felt to Derek at least, during his fling with Stiles Stilinski, the musician who wandered into his bar late one night while on a break from his first national tour. Derek had no idea that the bewitching man was the next up-and-coming singer-songwriter the entire music industry was buzzing about. All he saw was the perfect storm of cocky, clumsy grace; disheveled hair and pink cupid’s bow lips that made him weak in the knees; bloodshot-but-still-glittering eyes the color of single malt scotch and even more intoxicating.
All it took was an impish grin and a knowing wink as Derek poured Stiles a 7 & 7, and he was completely spun, pulled in by the undertow of Stiles’ long, fluttering lashes and the blistering heat of his fingers on his hand when he handed him the glass.
They spent every moment of the next eight days together, drinking and smoking weed, talking and laughing, fucking each other into exhaustion, eating takeout and watching Netflix before falling back into each other’s arms. Derek even shared some of his novel with him, and Stiles played him a couple of his new songs on the beat-up old acoustic guitar Isaac left at Derek’s place.
On the third day, Derek realized how happy it made him to wake up next to Stiles, limbs tangled and warm, sweat-damp bodies pressed close; on the fifth day, while kissing him awake, Derek realized he had fallen utterly and completely in love with him; and on the eighth day, after Stiles had thoroughly turned his life upside down, remapped Derek’s sky, he left without even leaving a phone number.
It’s been nearly a year since Stiles kissed him goodbye with a smirk and another devious wink, utterly oblivious to what he was doing to Derek’s heart. A year spent trying, and failing, to forget his feelings for him, something even more impossible because the man’s goddamn voice, wrecked and smoky around infuriatingly poetic lyrics, seems to be pouring from every speaker no matter where he goes (he banned Stiles’ music from the bar, but he’s caught both Erica and Boyd playing it when he’s shown up unexpectedly).
He’s spent the year since Stiles left admonishing himself for his absurd feelings, trying to fuck them away. For the first time in his life, he considers his looks a blessing instead of a curse, now that he actually wants the attention, wants so badly to be touched, to find the hands and lips and body that will once and for all wash away the memory of Stiles on his skin and in his mouth, someone who can salvage his heart from the wreckage wrought.
He needs sex to keep the loneliness at bay, needs the alcohol and drugs too, floating through his life since Stiles in a constant quest for numbness however he can get it. Each blowjob, given and received, each threesome and foursome, every soft, supple pussy he’s buried himself in and every hard, punishing cock he’s opened himself up for, each panting man he’s bent over and shoved himself deep inside of: every single fuck of the last year has been an attempt at refuge, fleeting escapes from the constant, insistent thrum of Stiles in his head and his blood, always making his skin feel too tight, his ribcage too small, his bones too weak to contain the churning, ever-roiling, sour-tinged, glass-edged shards of his heart.
Derek swallows hard, watching Stiles stare down at him from the end of the bar, their gazes locked for what feels like an eternity, but has really only been a few seconds. He wills away the tempest rising in his chest, the stunned excitement and trepidation rising lightning-fast at seeing him so suddenly, without warning, just appearing at his bar again with that fucking face of his.
He hoists the keg he just hauled up from the basement on to his shoulder and stalks resolutely back behind the bar, shielding his face from him for a moment’s reprieve. Boyd takes the keg from him, and with a barely-noticeable lift of his eyebrows, silently lets Derek know that he’s seen Stiles too, that he’ll ask him to leave if that’s what Derek wants. He smiles small and quick at his best friend, grateful for his understanding and unconditional support.
With a reassuring pat on the shoulder, Derek lets Boyd know that he’s okay – well, as okay as he can be, he supposes – and steps past him, into the eye of the storm, stopping in front of Stiles, letting the weathered oak bartop he restored lovingly with his own hands be a barrier between them, an illusion of safety.
Derek holds his breath, thoroughly unprepared for seeing his terrible beauty up close again. There are dark circles under his eyes, and he has that patchy, unshaven scruff that Derek swears he can still feel on the inside of his thighs, and it’s all too much, too overwhelming, because he wants him so fucking bad and has no idea what to do or say because he’s not sure he could survive Stiles’ disappearing again – fuck, he’s not even sure he can survive Stiles appearing again.
“Hey you,” Stiles smiles, fingers toying at the rim of his glass, biting his bottom lip.
“Stiles,” Derek manages to say, impressed with his ability to sound so calm and collected. “You’re back.”
“That I am, big guy. Miss me?” He winks and takes a sip of his whiskey, eyes never leaving Derek’s, gaze seemingly sincere, intense and serious, even as his voice is lilting and carefree, yet another of his endless contradictions that have enraptured Derek this long, torturous year.
Derek asks his own question instead of answering. “How long are you in town this time?”
“Three days,” he replies. “Playing Bumbershoot this weekend, and then I’m off to Europe for three months.” Stiles gulps the rest of his drink in one seductive swallow and sets his glass down. “Still have room for me in that big bed of yours?”
His grin turns downright destructive in its mischievous beauty, his eyes devilish with silent innuendo, and despite it all, it makes the edges of Derek’s heart soften and dull, like sea glass finally tossed into smoothness by the ocean’s furious waves.
“Always,” Derek answers, letting himself drown.