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Barefoot in the Forest

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Derek hangs up the phone and walks downstairs to find Stiles. He sighs when he sees him. His mate, usually an energetic flurry of motion and sound, is lying motionless on their couch, hugging a throw pillow and staring off into space. Even his chosen outfit for the day reflects his sadness, just a plain white t-shirt and faded jeans, no socks. Derek dressed to match, but he assumes that Stiles won’t notice.

He walks over to the couch and sits on the arm rest next to Stiles’ face so he can slowly run his fingers through the unruly brown hair. “Babe, how are you doing?”

Stiles slightly leans into his hand, but closes his eyes and doesn’t respond. A single tear squeezes out and runs down his cheek onto the pillow.

Derek can’t take it. He lifts Stiles up so he can sit next to him and wraps the slim man into his arms. Stiles starts sobbing into Derek’s shoulder while Derek tries to calm him down.

“Hey, hey. It’s going to be okay. We knew this day was going to be tough and you made the difficult and right call. You’re keeping everyone we love safe. This whole situation sucks, but it doesn’t mean we won’t get married, you know that.”

Derek feels Stiles’ arms pulling him in tightly and hears his breathing calm down. Derek reaches toward the Kleenex box on the table and starts to gently wipe the tears and snot leaking all over his fiancé’s face. He can’t help but smile, who would have ever thought he would love someone in such a way that he finds their puffy, snot covered face beautiful.

Stiles pulls in a final shaky breath. “I’m sorry, Der. This shouldn’t be all about me. I’m just so overwhelmed. I just can’t stop worrying about Dad, with his heart condition he’s definitely at risk with this virus and I can’t imagine losing him. And since we had to...” Stiles pulls in another shaky breath and closes his eyes to compose himself. “Since we had to cancel the wedding, I keep thinking that he’s going to get sick and not be able to be there for whenever we reschedule it. I just. Dammit.” He wipes new tears away, clearly annoyed with himself. “Today was supposed to be the best day of our lives, but we’re just stuck here trying to stay away from everyone to keep them safe. It’s just a lot.”

Derek pulls him in for another hug and rubs soothing circles on his back under Stiles shirt. “I love you so much, Stiles. You don’t need to apologize. I’m just as sad as you that we had to cancel all of our plans.”

Stiles grumbles. “I know, I don’t know why I’m being so much more emotional today than you. But, I mean, we’re already lost so much money on all of our deposits for the reception hall and the food. And dad has that huge, sugar and butter filled cake at his house and YOU KNOW he’s going to eat as much as possible while I can’t be there to stop him.”

Derek laughs and nods, Stiles is 100% correct. “But Der, it’s not just that. I know Dad is doing his best with the social distancing, but he’s the Sheriff! His job means he literally can’t stay away from people. He could get sick at any time and I’m not even there to know what is happening.”

Sensing Stiles’ spiking anxiety, Derek shushes him. “Stiles, hey, keep breathing. You know that Melissa is there and keeping track. She’s got him so well trained on how to stay as germ-free as possible you dad should be clean enough for an operating room. You aren’t the only one looking out for him, right?”

Stiles nods, clearly working to focus and calm himself down.

“You’re right. Ugh. It’s exactly these types of situations that make having anxiety the absolute worst.”

Derek surreptitiously glances at the clock, then back at Stiles. “Come on, let’s clean up your face and go for a walk. It will do us both some good to get a little fresh air while staying away from other people.”

Stiles lets Derek drag him off the couch and herd him into their powder room. He doesn’t say much, but as Derek gently washes his face with a cool wet washcloth, Derek can virtually see Stiles’ love and appreciation as a physical thing. Once he’s all cleaned up, Stiles pulls Derek in for a slow, sweet kiss. “Love you so much. Thank you for taking care of me.”

Derek just smiles. “Always.”

 

***********

 

“Derek, why did you insist on no shoes? Our feet are going to be filthy.”

Derek just smiles and swings their joined hands. “I thought it would be refreshing. And you love Die Hard. I thought the no socks in the carpet idea might also work with grass in the woods.”

Stiles snorts and gives Derek a bemused look. “Sillywolf. Also, do you realize that you dressed just like me? We look like that cheesy couple who coordinate. Anyone who knows you would never believe it.”

Derek just keeps smiling and walks Stiles toward their surprise destination. He can tell that Stiles isn’t really paying attention to where they are going, which is good. Derek is particularly pleased that their new house borders the Preserve, making these walks a regular and easy thing for them to do.

After about 15 more minutes of walking, Derek stops and pulls Stiles in for a slow kiss. Aside from a small surprised sound, Stiles smiles into the kiss and almost melts in Derek’s strong arms. Derek pulls back and looks at Stiles, still amazed and eternally grateful that somehow, against all the odds, they two of them have arrived at this place. “Marry me, Stiles.”

Stiles cocks his head to the side with a confused smile. “Of course I’ll marry you, you do remember that I proposed to you months ago, right?” Stiles laughs while Derek, grabs his hand again and starts pulling him toward a clearing in the woods.

“Marry me, Stiles, right now.”

Stiles breath catches when he takes a moment to look away from Derek’s gorgeous face. He sees Deaton standing by the creek, dressed in the official Emissary Robe that he was going to use to officiate their wedding before they cancelled it. Then he looks and sees his Father standing off to the side, a good distance away from Deaton, holding his iPhone up toward them with a giant smile on his face.

Stiles turns back to Derek. “What? What’s going on?”

“Today is the day we picked to marry. It’s just us, Deaton, and your Father. They are staying physically separated from each other and from us and aren’t at risk of spreading anything out here. Our marriage license is all ready, we just need Deaton to officiate and your Dad to act as a witness. We can have a reception to celebrate when it’s safe, but all I care about is being married to you. Is this okay?”

Stiles eyes start to brim with happy tears as he pulls Derek in for a ferocious hug. “I don’t deserve you, but hell if I’m not keeping you forever anyway.”

“Hey you two, the kissing is supposed to wait for after the ceremony!”

Stiles smirks toward his father. “Watch it, you. I’m calling Melissa and making sure she distributes the cake to the nurses and doctors at the hospital. They deserve it for being on the front lines of the COVID-19 spread. She will be instructed to leave you exactly 2 pieces of cake. But, if you keep up the sass it will be no cake for you.”

Stiles and Derek start laughing at the appalled look on the Sheriff’s face.

They turn away and walk hand-in-hand toward Deaton, making sure to stop more than 6 feet away like all the public health officials instructed.

“Stiles, Derek, it is my pleasure and honor to officiate your marriage on this day.” Derek notices the Sheriff moving around while continuing to hold his phone up, obviously taking a video or some pictures.

“In a melding of both human and werewolf traditions, I ask you both, do you agree to support, love, prioritize one another as you move forward as mates and husbands?”

Just as they practiced weeks ago, Derek and Stiles speak in unison. “We do.”

“Derek, do you promise, as Alpha of the Hale Pack, that will cherish, protect, and honor your mate, your husband Stiles, all for the good of the pack?”

Derek looks directly into Stiles eyes. “I do.”

“Stiles, do you promise to adopt the role of Alpha Mate, to cherish, protect, and honor your mate, your husband Derek, all for the good of the pack?”

Stiles smiles and squeezes Derek’s hands. “I do.”

“Derek, do you have the rings that you both choose to wear as a symbol of your never-ending love and commitment?”

Derek releases one of Stiles’ hands and pulls the rings out of his back pocket. He passes his ring to Stiles.

“Derek, Stiles, as you place the ring on your mate, your husband, repeat the following: I choose you, I support you, and together we make our pack strong.”

The men place the rings on each other’s fingers and repeat the words.

“Now, it’s time for the pack tradition of exchanging a symbolic gift.”

Derek looks at Deaton with slight panic, because he never prepared Stiles to have a gift ready for today. “Don’t worry Derek, Stiles is able to give you his gift today.”

Derek looks confused at the cryptic smile Deaton is throwing his way, but when he looks at Stiles, he can see that his mate is not worried. “Derek, why don’t you begin.”

Derek takes a deep breath, praying that he will be able to get through this without losing control of his emotions. “Stiles, I know one of the hardest parts for us about this day is that we aren’t able to share it with the family we have lost. As my gift to honor you and your mother, I’ve created the Claudia Stilinski Fellowship, which is available to medical and graduate students to cover educational expenses dedicated to finding a cure for early onset frontotemporal dementia.”

As he finally gets through the words, he watches as Stiles throws a hand over his mouth and shakes as he fights off tears. “Oh my god, Derek.” Stiles breaks down and throws his arms around Derek’s neck. “Thank you. I can’t even express. Just. Oh my god, thank you!” Derek nuzzles his face into Stiles’ long neck, rumbling in pleasure from Stiles’ reaction. Derek briefly glances at the Sheriff and sees that the older man has tears of his own streaming down his cheeks, but that he looks happy rather than sad.

Stiles pulls himself together and stands tall while looking at Derek.

“Stiles, would you like to present your gift to Derek?”

Stiles gives him a nervous smile. “I’ll admit, this feels like it will pale in comparison to your gift. Okay. So, Derek, I know that for werewolves, mating is for life, and that the closest comparison for humans is formal marriage. You, standing here today, are willing to take part in this human custom for me. My gift to you is to do my best to do the same, a symbol reflecting that you are my mate forever, that I am Hale Pack forever. With this I honor you, your family, and your history.” Stiles pauses and Derek can just make out the sound of mumbles coming from his mouth and the delicate odor of magic in the air. He realizes that Stiles is doing something with his spark. Then the sound and air quiets and Stiles gives him a vibrant smile. Those long, beautiful fingers of his grab the bottom of his white t-shirt and Stiles pulls it over his head.

Derek forgets to breathe, because centered right over Stiles’ heart is a tattoo. It’s the Hale Triskelion. He can’t help himself, without conscious thought his fingers reach out to trace the ink over that gorgeous, pale skin. “Stiles. This is perfect.”

Stiles grabs Derek’s hand to press it flat against the tattoo. “Derek, this tattoo is my vow to you. It is permanent, it’s magic and can never be removed or altered. Just like my commitment and love for you.”

Derek didn’t even realize that deep down, in a place within his heart he failed to acknowledge, there was a small voice that worried about Stiles commitment as a human.  He knows he can trust Stiles and that their love is mutual, but this gift is a balm to any doubts he still had.

It wasn’t until Deaton spoke again that Derek was reminded they were not alone in the woods. “Derek, Stiles, your love and devotion is a joy to behold. It is my true pleasure to announce you as husbands and mates.”

Neither man wastes any time, they fly together in a long and deep kiss, pouring all their love and happiness into the physical display.

They pull apart just enough that their lips are still touching but they can look into each other’s eyes. “Husband.” Derek whispers. “Mate.” Stiles responds. They mirror smiles and don’t even notice when the Sheriff and Deaton quietly leave the forest. Derek and Stiles will later find out that the older men took care of all of the paperwork, and even dealt with communicating the news to the pack to take the sting out of not being included.

It may not have been the wedding that either envisioned, but it was perfect, nevertheless.