Really Nice Eyes
In the Blink of an Eye
"I'm not sure I'll be able to eat all of that," Chloe pointedly stared at the plate of one gigantic brownie that Derek brought to their table. Looking over at the second plate he held in his other hand, she commented, "I'm not sure you'll be able to eat all of that."
The coffee shop was a block away from the school, taking them only ten minutes to easily walk there, including waiting two minutes to wait for a lull in traffic so they could cross the street. Derek's long legs carried him forward with efficiency and speed, and Chloe had been nearly huffing and puffing in an attempt to keep up with him during the entire stroll. The boy, taking one look at her, had remarked how she needed to work on her endurance or stamina or something like that, and received only a narrowed glance in reply. Chloe was beginning to learn that Derek wasn't the type of guy to idly walk next to her or slow down his pace so she wasn't flat out running to keep up with him.
"Trust me, I'll eat all of mine," One corner of his mouth twitched in what might have been amusement as he watched her poke at the edge of the brownie with a fork. "And I'll probably eat most of yours."
"We'll see about that." With that issue challenged, she promptly stuck a bite of the baked good in her mouth. Derek at his with less of a rush, apparently unconcerned that his food would fill him up before he had a chance to eat it all.
Together, they basked in the fudge-y morsel, Chloe exclaiming its deliciousness and Derek nodding his head in agreement. It was at this point that Chloe's nerves began to act up. Compared to the anxiety she felt not even two weeks ago, this was different. No longer was she afraid that he'd harm her or brush off her efforts at getting to know him. Gone was that irrational fear brought on by his severe glares, now replaced with a quiet shyness because it was just him and her, in a small, cozy cafe with brownies and he had a six pack, she was sure of it, and maybe that shouldn't count for much, but it counted for something, and this certainly was a date-like setting except she paid, so did it count as date? Did she want it to be date? No, no, I don't want it to be a date. Because what would that say about her? See one bare chest and suddenly she's smitten, that Chloe Saunders, she could hear school gossips saying now. Maybe it was just that, how others would see the situation. Shirtless boy saves girl from other boy's unwanted advances, go on date right after. Which is how it might be for other girls who felt okay doing that sort of thing, but Derek didn't deserve a thank-you date. If- a big if-she ever wanted to date Derek, it would be for his...finer points? Did Derek have finer points? And you're still thinking about Derek and dating...why, Chloe? She shouldn't be over-thinking this at all, so she really just needed to say something to distract her mind...
"So, you like math?" An image of an advanced edition of trigonometry floated in her head, but apparently he didn't recall such a book, if the wide eyes of puzzlement he was giving her were an indication.
"Yes, I do." Great. They were back to the one syllable words.
"Oh. Um... Who do you have for your teacher? I've got Mrs. Wang and she's really good at explaining the concepts," Her brain told her to shut up while she was ahead, and listen to his answer because he seemed to be participating in the conversation despite that it was the most mundane and uninteresting one ever. When he finished chewing and did answer, her jaw dropped. "But he's a calculus teacher. For seniors. Are you saying you're in the senior math class?"
"No." Putting down his fork (that brownie of his was two-thirds already eaten, she noticed and took another bite of hers to catch up), he sat back to explain, "I'm in the EGP."
If her mouth wasn't gaping open still, it would have with that confession. "Ed-Edison Group Program?"
He nodded. "May your brain burn bright as the light. Stupid motto."
Lyle High's Edison Group Program was a noted bonus of the school's curriculum. it took kids who were above average in their studies and gave them access to higher forms of learning. Most of the students Chloe knew in the program were taking classes from a nearby community college. She asked Derek if he was one of them.
"I'm in the between stage right now, transitioning from high school classes to the college ones," he said. "Some of the teachers are helping by giving some projects to work on until I'm officially enrolled in the program." Although the cutting edge in his tone suggested that maybe some of those teachers weren't quite so helpful. Chloe understood why, too. Anyone looking at Derek wouldn't be able to guess he was at such a high level in his schooling, let alone deserved to be in such a prestigious program.
"Why are you in our English class then?" It was for ninth graders, so even if he wasn't in EGP, he certainly would have been in a normal tenth grade English class.
He shrugged, resuming his eating. "I suck at English."
The simple, honest truth. It made her smile down at her plate. Derek wasn't one to beat around the bush and although that may have at first made her cringe, Chloe was starting to warm to it.
"Is that why your family decided to move here? To be in the program?"
"No." And there was that closed off expression. Derek didn't want to talk about it. Too bad. She did.
"Is it because you..." She stalled, swallowing the knot in her throat that kept her from asking her question. Avoiding his eyes and the tense vibe she was sensing from him, she asked softly, "D-did you really break a guy's b-b-back?"
She knew she shouldn't have asked. They'd already established that all those rumors about him weren't true and were slightly on the side of completely ridiculous. Why shouldn't this one be any different? It was just blather some bored person made up because it seemed to be the kind of thing a boy like Derek was capable of. With Derek's looks and the fact he never outright shot down the talk about him made it that much easier to come up with more fodder for the rumor mill. So, Chloe should have just dismissed what she heard right off the bat, not even asked him about it because it wasn't going to be true. Yet, the way he got quiet, the way he squirmed in his seat, as if he wanted the conversation to end quickly...
She had to know. It was all part of her goal to Know Derek Souza, a goal that was quickly transforming into Become Derek Souza's Friend. That's what she wanted, she realized. To be his friend. He might not like that, might prefer that she just stare at him from across the room rather than be with him up close and personal, but Derek needed more friends. Or maybe just people to see, like Simon did and like she was starting to, that he wasn't about to go all psycho on them one day. So, she was going to continue with getting to know everything about him, including the good, the bad, and the potentially dark truths.
" 'Break' is a very exaggerated term," came his mumbled voice.
Chloe's fingers, white from being clenched too long on the edge of the table, relaxed. "What happened?"
"Just some guys looking for a fight with me and Simon. Things got out of hand?"
"How out of hand?"
The breath that left his lips caused Chloe to finally look up at him. Those green, green eyes fixed on hers as he said, "He's still able to walk. It was just a fight. Us boys get into them all the time, over any stupid little thing. Yesterday, Simon punched me for eating the last of the Doritos."
Strain hanging in the air around them broke as Chloe's laughter rang out, picturing the image of friendly Simon trying to land a hit on his brother's larger bulk. Suddenly, Derek didn't seem quite as dangerous anymore. Maybe it was the way he looked her right in the eye and explained himself, or the fact his logic was sound and straight to the point, but Chloe could tell that when it came right down to it, Derek Souza told it like it was.
"Just a fight. I'd have to have superhuman strength to do that kind of damage."
"So," she licked her lips, a relieved sigh escaping past them. "Guess you won't tell me if you used laser beams in that fight, will you?"
"New Girl, I said I wouldn't comment on that, so give up already."
This time, they chuckled in unison, Chloe's grin growing wider and wider. So, maybe he wasn't entirely a monster, and he was proving to be less and less dangerous by the minute. It seemed foolish now that she'd spent so much time trying to avoid him. Setting her elbows on the table, she rested her chin in her hands while staring at him. He copied her posture, green eyes staring right back. A smile played on his lips, and that's when Chloe knew. She almost had him figured out and told him so. "You're not as mean as you try to be, Derek. We could be friends, you know."
He blinked, not expecting the observation. Leaning back, he gestured in front of her. "You going to finish that thing or what?"
She saw his empty plate, then her barely eaten brownie, rolled her eyes and pushed the treat across the table. For now, that was as good as agreement.
"You got some guts."
"It didn't take guts, Rae," Chloe said, squeezing past a heavyset senior to get to her locker. Rae was already standing next to her, fist propped on a hip and staring down her friend with unbelieving eyes. "It didn't take anything. Unless you count the energy it took to walk down to the restaurant. Derek's easy to get along w-"
"All right, so he's not exactly the nicest of guys."
"Chloe, you've got to stop trying to sugar coat it. The guy's an a-"
"Fine, Rae!" She opened her locker so roughly it jerked out of her hands and crashed into the one next to it. The loud clang caused heads to turn in their direction. As if they weren't spying before. Chloe had been the subject of many a wandering eye ever since she had approached Derek and Simon that morning and chatted with them before the first bell rang. Like a new zombie virus had broken out among the students in the school, the news was spreading so quickly that everywhere she went, people were scrutinizing her with shaking heads. They couldn't believe it. That after Simon had walked off to his class, Chloe and Derek had stayed put and continued speaking. Or that Derek hadn't taken one look at Chloe and sent hr crying for the girls' restroom. "Derek's rude, short-tempered, and a bit on the impatient side, but he doesn't deserve all the bad things people say about him."
"Oh, like the throwing kittens out of car windows and stealing candy from babies? Because in my chem class the other day, someone swore they saw him..." Chloe hoped the glare was enough to shut Rae up and make her listen to herself and those crazy stories. Instead, she might just have sent Rae into a fit of giggles. But Chloe wasn't giving up. She stared down her friend until the laughter subsided, and Rae saw she was being serious.
Rae was quiet for a moment, her breathing deep from trying to catch up from laughing, but now she was staring at Chloe, gaze critical. As if she could see just how serious Chloe was being, how she wasn't backing down and going along with Rae and the rumors. Something grabbed her attention over Chloe's shoulder and after a quick glance, she asked, "Are you trying to tell me, after spending one whole afternoon in Derek's presence, that you learned underneath all those glares, he's actually not a bad guy?"
"Yes. That is exactly what I'm saying, Rae. A-And I know you don't believe it because it doesn't seem possible—I'm not even sure if it is possible, and I might be imagining it all in my mind-"
"It really isn't. Possible. Or else your new best friend forever wouldn't be walking into the principal's office right now."
"What?" She followed Rae's pointing finger to see Derek being led into the office down the hallway, students making room for his walk of shame. Lyle High never had much discipline problems, its students being more the type to obey and not get into terrible mischief, despite the fact that is what normal high schoolers do. So, not many were seen entering Principal Davidoff's office. Ever. When such an event did happen, it was always a cause for a commotion, and it figured that the student in trouble must have done something really, really bad.
Chloe gathered the books she needed for the rest of her classes, then snatched Rae's arm to pull her over in the direction of the office Derek just entered. They met with other students surrounding the door, all talking in that hushed, hurried whisper that assured juicy gossip. Rae took it upon herself to tap on the shoulder of the blond girl in front of them and asked what had just happened.
"Derek Souza got into a fight." Her eyes shined with excitement, then surely glowed as they settled on Chloe. "Hi! You must be new here. I'm Liz."
She introduced herself, then saw as awareness crept into Liz's face, looking Chloe up and down as if she was really seeing her for the first time. "Oh...you're that new girl."
And there it was. Liz was going to ask her about why she was talking with Derek that morning. Chloe didn't even understand anyone's fascination with the morning chat. It wasn't like they had been doing anything worth people getting excited about. Morning talk, just like every other student. She barely remembered the topic herself. Something about the movie she had watched the night before and how Derek had seen it, too, and enjoyed it. Then a sentence or two exchanged about their homework and the classes they had to hurry off to. Nothing that great, except maybe to Chloe herself, who was happy to be talking to Derek like she was his friend.
"The one that my friend Tori doesn't like."
"T-Tori?" The name surprised Chloe, having been expecting Derek's. And then she groaned. In her newfound determination to make nice with Derek, Chloe had completely forgotten the scene that had gone down in the cafeteria not too long ago.
Liz must have remembered the same incident, no doubt from hearing Tori's end of it, and placed her hand on Chloe's arm. "Tori's really nice, once you get to know her. I'm sure you guys would be friends if you just spent more time together." Chloe didn't think so, but the reassurances Liz was spouting seemed oddly familiar. It took her a moment to remember saying something along the same lines not a minute ago to Rae about Derek. It gave her second thoughts, thinking that maybe Liz was being truthful, maybe Tori wasn't really bad. Besides, she'd mistaken Derek already, so why not Tori, too? Then she pushed those thoughts away. What were the chances she wrongly judged two people? Slim. And she sure as hell wasn't misjudging the freezing look Tori had given her.
"Oh, you should hang out with us, go shopping soon. There was this green sweater I saw at the mall, but now that I think about it, it would look perfect on you. Although your hair might clash with it. Not that the red streaks aren't cool. Totally edgy, you know? But it might make it seem like Christmas, but hmm...No, it just might work."
"Liz, cut to the chase!" Rae snapped her fingers in front of the girl, giving her a moment to catch her breath because Chloe was sure she hadn't taken a single one in all that yakking. "Who was Derek fighting with?"
"Some guy off the football team, I think," Liz said.
The bell signaling class was starting rang, and Rae cringed. She told them she'd talk to Chloe later and then goodbye, but not without a piercing look at her friend before heading off to class. Chloe tried to ignore Rae's insinuation that Derek was just a nasty, mean thug, but it unsettled her to know that she had no idea what was going on behind that office door, or what had happened to put him behind the door in the first place.
"-I guess it happened sometime after school yesterday. The guy had a huge bruise on his face where Derek punched him. Someone said he kicked him, though, not punched him. That out of nowhere, Derek pulled out a couple of ninja karate moves and knocked the guy out. He'll probably get a suspension. Who knows? Maybe even expulsion. Lyle High doesn't like students fighting." Chloe had the urge to check Liz for an Energizer battery compartment, but she shook it off. Liz seemed pleasant enough, and some people were more talkative than others. She knew that, but the more Liz went on and on about Derek getting kicked out...
"-everyone knew he was trouble from the start. I heard that not even juvie would take him after that fight happened at his last school. The one where he broke that kid's back? Scary, stuff, right?"
Chloe opened her mouth to reply, then stopped as a lightbulb lit in her brain. "Did you say it happened after school?"
"Yeah, but the football guy saw Derek in the hallway and went crazy. Almost got into another fight right then and there."
"B-B-But it w-wasn't his fault!" Liz looked taken aback by the outburst, the second time that day, Chloe knew, that she had surprised someone by speaking out on Derek's behalf. All within the span of ten minutes. "Liam st-started it. We were in the gym and he was coming on to me-"
"You were there?"
"You have to tell me about it." Liz was bouncing on the balls of her feet, the prospect of more news to share too much for her to maintain standing still. She stopped bouncing and rolled her eyes with a whine. "But I have to get to counseling. Don't look so worried, it's nothing serious. Jeez, you throw one pencil at a teacher and they act like I threatened to blow up the whole school. They really don't like conflict here. It's not as if I'm crazy. Oh! An escapee from an insane asylum. Wouldn't that make the coolest costume?"
"It sure would be interesting." By this point, Chloe had tuned out most of Liz's talking, her eyes trained on the office door. Although the pencil-flying at the teacher comment had caused her to take a discreet step away. "But a costume for what?"
"The dance, Chloe! The Annual Lyle High Halloween Dance! Don't tell me you haven't heard about it yet. Tori and I were going together because I broke up with my boyfriend recently. You and Rae should come with us, too. We'll all meet at my house and get ready, then go to the dance from there."
"I don't think Rae or Tori would like that much."
"Just think about it, okay? It'll be so much fun." She started her way to guidance counselor Dr. Gill's office, her hand waving excessively. "Gotta go now, but we'll talk about it later."
With that, Chloe was left standing alone in the hallway, everyone else beginning their next class. Her own class was a free study, but Chloe didn't think she would be able to concentrate on getting an early start on her homework. Not when Derek was possibly being expelled for something he didn't purposefully do. It was very likely he wouldn't even mention that she had been involved as well, choosing to take the blame on himself because who would believe him otherwise? Simon was off in class somewhere, probably just hearing about the trouble his brother was in. He hadn't seen what happened the day before, either, so even if Simon was there, he wouldn't have been much help. Liam was an active member in school athletics and his rep would certainly look cleaner in comparison to Derek's. What Derek needed now was someone on his side. What he needed was a friend.
Chloe was his friend. He may not think so, may not even count what she was about to do as an act of friendship, but it was. She made a promise to herself about Derek, and she was going to keep it.
So, with a deep breath to brace her nerves, she reached forward and opened the office door.
"We're looking at serious consequences here, Mr. Souza. You punched another student. We have little tolerance for that kind of thing here at Lyle High." Davidoff could be called an intimidating man, with his height looming over everyone else, but not much intimidated Derek when all he could think about was punching Liam again. Just to get that annoying, self-satisfied grin of his ugly face. The principal should be thanking him, in his opinion. The black stretching along the football player's cheek sure made one hell of an improvement.
Davidoff sure wouldn't see it that way if Derek pointed it out, so he kept his mouth shut. As principal, the man tried hard to appear as buddy to all and enemy to none. Yet, the fact remained that he was the principal and liked others to remember it, too. He liked his control over the students, Simon once told Derek, and he wasn't going to stand for a student telling him how to do his job.
Which was why Derek's role in that office was to sit and do nothing as Liam ratted him out as a bully who took advantage of innocent football players on their way to the locker room after practice. His story was riddled with faults, all of which Derek could have easily turned around on him. (What football player returns to the locker room without his team? What reason did Derek have to be in the gym, when he was known to walk home with Simon every single day before? Why didn't Liam run crying like a child to his coach after said fight?) Except Derek could see in Davidoff's eyes that he was in for some harsh punishment. Perhaps Davidoff had been waiting for this day to come. Sure, the man had been eager to include Derek in his ultra-smart-kid learning program after seeing the above average grades on his transcripts when they'd first transferred. A couple weeks into his time at Lyle High, Derek had only proven to be a giant terrorizing the rest of the masses with their overactive imaginations, and Davidoff had seen his chance to assert his position as top dog.
The principal had chosen his side in advance and nothing Derek said would change that. He might as well grab his bookbag and leave now, instead of hoping for someone to come save him like normal students would be doing right about then.
"I-It's n-n-not his fa-fault!"
Oh. Hell. And there was Chloe Saunders. Rushing through the door, ready to play superhero.
Authoress's Notes: I'm still alive. Unless you all decide to kill me...but please...don't do that. Major apology to all! Life, you know. It gets in the way of important things, like fanfiction. Luckily, I'm on summer break when life is finally winding down and giving me a break (meaning, it is impossible for me to find a summer job, so I have time to reread DP and refresh my mind). Now, I'm working on more DP stuff, and planning what I'm going to do with this story because the more I write it, the more new ideas for it jump out at me. This chapter was planned to be much longer than it was, but I think I'm going to start sticking to shorter chapters so I'm not working on one chapter forever.
My friend and I both dared each other to write something for a respective fandoms and post it at midnight, so it'd be a lovely little Friday gift to our readers. So, happy Friday to all. Enjoy it and your new chapter!
Thanks for reading, and reviewing, if you choose to do so!