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No Time Like the Future

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Soulmates were the absolute worst thing to ever have happened to the human race. 

At least, that was his own humble opinion on the matter, because really, soulmates were the absolute worst thing to ever have happened to the human race. It bore repeating, because it was true, and also, he hated it. 

Derek Hale remembered when he’d first been told about soulmates. He didn’t understand it at the time, because he’d only been around six years old, but he had a distinct memory of the day he’d been playing a game with his dad and had seen a whole bunch of colourful lines all along the inside of his right forearm. He’d stared at it in befuddlement before his father had laughed and calmly explained that it was just his soulmate and he’d understand when he was older. 

Honestly, he’d never given it much thought growing up. Random lines and colours would appear on his right arm, but he didn’t pay them any attention, because he understood enough to recognize that they weren’t really anything for him to worry about. They appeared and disappeared, and it was fine. 

It wasn’t until he was ten that the full explanation came to him, because every year when a group of kids turned ten, schools had a one-day course specifically about soulmates, what they meant, and why everyone had weird writing on their arms. 

Derek remembered sitting in that all-day class, completely horrified, and absolutely devastated. The course leader made it sound like a good thing. Soulmates were the other half of your own being, they were the person you were supposed to love and cherish, who would understand every part of you, and all that other garbage nonsense. He was not here for this. 

It wasn’t that Derek had any understanding of love—not romantic love, and certainly not at ten years old—but he read a lot of books and watched some shows and movies with his family, and love looked like something different in those environments. Love looked like a choice, like the meeting of people, and the getting to know them, and actively falling in love with a person because they were amazing and nice and just fit

Soulmates didn’t sound like that. It sounded like an absolute ‘this is your soulmate, this is who you’re meant to be with, and hopefully you get along’ kind of deal. And that had always terrified Derek, ever since the day he’d turned ten years old and found out why words and markings randomly appeared on his right arm. 

He’d gone home and cried. His mother had been worried, because Derek was not one of those kids who caused problems, and he certainly wasn’t someone to throw a tantrum or start crying for no reason, so having him arrive home from school after that entire day of learning about soulmates only for him to start crying, she’d definitely known something was wrong. 

He didn’t want the universe to decide for him. He wanted to fall for someone the same way people did in books and movies. He wanted it to be a choice, and he wanted it to be hard. Because if it was hard, it meant it was worthwhile in the end. It made it more meaningful and gave him the impression that if two people worked hard to make something work, it would last. He didn’t like the idea that he had a soulmate who’d always choose him over someone else no matter what. 

His parents had spent a long time over the next few days talking to him about it. Having a soulmate wasn’t a life sentence, and it didn’t mean he had to do anything with it. While most people did tend to find and marry their soulmates—his parents included—it wasn’t a requirement. Some people chose to live their lives alone without bothering to meet their soulmates. Others who’d lost their soulmates before even meeting them—and sometimes after—went the route that Derek wanted to follow, choosing someone on their own without having to commit to someone they didn’t even know. 

Overall, having a soulmate was something everyone in the world had, but it didn’t mean he absolutely needed to be with them. And that, at least, made him feel a little better. He still hated it, but knowing he truly did have a choice—even if it might hurt the person on the other end of his bond—alleviated a lot of his concerns on the matter. He wouldn’t be stuck with someone he didn’t like, and no one would be stuck with him if they decided he wasn’t worth it.

As the months passed since that fateful school day, he’d actually started doing a bit more research on it, wanting to know more than what the school’s curriculum was allowed to tell him. His father helped him, because it was clear he wanted to make sure Derek was all right, and he actually learned a lot of interesting things about soulmates in general. 

For one thing, something about the bond stopped people from revealing themselves. It was something the school had told him, along with his parents later that same day, but when he’d done research on it, he found that made a huge weight get lifted off his shoulders. The bond was actually trying to do what Derek wanted. Have people get to know each other without immediately being locked into something they didn’t want. Derek couldn’t pick up a pen and write ‘I am Derek Hale and live at this address’ on his arm. If he tried, while the words would appear on his own skin, they wouldn’t transfer to his soulmate. There had been copious amounts of research done on why that was the case, and the limitations of soulmates in that regard, but no answers had ever been found. 

Derek liked to think it was the universe’s way of trying to give them a choice. If Derek knew who his soulmate was because the moron had written it on their arm, he’d start avoiding them like the plague. So clearly, the intention was for people to try and form a bond simply through the act of speaking to each other—in a way—without knowing who the person on the other end was. Of course, there were probably some loopholes, and Derek had found a few articles on the matter such as people being able to write out the town they lived in or their appearance and the like, but anything that was too explicitly specific wouldn’t transfer over. 

He found that to actually be a little bit fascinating. And again, a huge relief. 

Additional research he did was related to how the bond worked. Which—nobody knew. All anyone had ever figured out was that people had to write on the inside of their left forearm, and it always appeared on their soulmate’s right forearm. That had made him sad when he’d first heard about it during the course at school, because left-handed people already got the short end of the stick since a majority of the instruments created were designed for right-handed people, so to discover that a left-handed person would have to awkwardly find a way to write legibly on their left forearm seemed cruel. 

Apparently they’d done a few experiments with left-handed people to see if there was a difference in the bond where their messages specifically could be written on their right arm and appear on their soulmate’s left one, but so far, it didn’t seem to be the case. So anyone who was left-handed had to figure out how to write on their left arm to communicate with their soulmate.

Those who wanted to, anyway. 

Derek himself, even before knowing about the soulmate bond, had never once written on his left arm. He was sure he might’ve gotten paint or markers on it when he was a toddler, but overall, he wasn’t prone to writing on his own skin. It didn’t seem like something one should do, even though he remembered growing up that his parents would often do so—hilariously, his mother and father used their bond for grocery lists, because occasionally when one of them was out at the store, the other would just grab a pen and hastily write something on their arm. Derek had always found it strange, and even once he understood why they did it, he still firmly believed cell phones were the better option. 

His father argued that it was easier to look at his arm when his hands were full than it was to pull out a phone. His mother insisted his father was stubborn and needed to use a stupid cart once in a while. 

Besides, a lot of companies had worked tirelessly over decades to create skin-safe, easy-to-wash pens and markers specifically so people could write on their skin without worrying about chemicals seeping into their bodies. Apparently there’d been a lot of petitions in the nineteen-thirties and forties about replacing all pens with the safer options, since they tended to be more expensive to buy and thus meant people who couldn’t afford them used regular pens, but it had been shot down due to the fact that they didn’t survive as well on paper. Derek hadn’t delved deeply into that since it wasn’t particularly thrilling to read—also, he’d been ten, so definitely dry stuff—but he knew that soulmate pens weren’t expensive anymore. 

The school had given all the kids attending the course their own set of soulmate-safe pens, and the next time Derek went to the store, he saw that they cost no more than regular pens, so somewhere along the way, it had been determined that making them didn’t cost any more than making regular pens and the price had been dropped. He was glad, because it wasn’t fair—not that much in life was. 

And it wasn’t even just pens, either. While writing words with a finger on someone’s arm didn’t work, anything that appeared on the specific arm that was visible and could stay for an extended period of time would transfer to someone’s soulmate. So writing with a pen or a marker always worked, but if regular pens were used—the ones that didn’t wash off as easily—the words remained on the soulmate’s arm as long as they were present on the penner’s arm. Similarly, some people who got tattoos had them appear on their soulmate’s arm and they would never go away. Scars and bruises seemed to be exceptions to the rule, though cuts and abrasions would appear on the other party, and boy oh boy was Derek’s soulmate prone to injuries because he often found red lines of broken skin all along the inside of his forearm. Nothing of concern, but just clearly evidencing that his soulmate was probably a clumsy little shit. 

Derek didn’t care about the injuries, because they didn’t physically hurt him, and it wasn’t like they broke skin on his side. It was just the image of the injury, like if he’d gotten one of those temporary tattoos except instead of a butterfly or a crossbone and skulls, it was just the length and shape of whatever injury his soulmate had inflicted on themselves. 

It was annoying. 

Needless to say that, overall, Derek still hated the entire idea, and he hated that everyone grew up with the realization that there was someone connected to them. He was sure some people speculated and had grandiose ideas of who their intended soulmate was supposed to be. Famous musicians or actors or the rich family in town, but he never did. He didn’t care, quite frankly, and had no intentions of ever finding out. 

Derek had absolutely no intentions of ever writing on his left arm. He never had, and he never would. A part of him had always worried that his soulmate might think he’d died, which was something that made him feel guilty, but upon doing more research, he discovered that soulmates always knew. If a soulmate wrote on the inside of their left forearm, and the words re-appeared on the inside of their right one, it meant their soulmate was ‘lost.’ 

It was just a less aggressive way of saying someone’s soulmate was dead. 

That had been another painful thing about the day course, because there was one girl in his class who’d mentioned that whenever she wrote on her arm, it always appeared on her other arm. The course leader had told her they would talk after the day was over, and Derek only found out after doing his research that it meant this poor ten year old classmate of his had already lost her soulmate. And that was kind of devastating to realize at ten years old, that everyone else had something you would never have. 

If he could, Derek would give her his own, because he didn’t want his, and it was clear with how sad the girl was for weeks afterwards that she very clearly wanted hers. He’d have traded with her in a heartbeat. 

And honestly, the absolute worst part of all of this was when his soulmate turned ten. Derek knew the day his soulmate had the course, because he’d been sitting in math class trying to focus on the teacher’s boring lesson when his right arm was suddenly completely overtaken with words. 

Derek had stared at it for a good few minutes, because he hadn’t known what else to do. He was twelve by then, which meant he and his soulmate had a two year age difference, but he had to wonder what was going through his soulmate’s head. Did they maybe think Derek was younger than them and that was why he’d never written anything? Or did they maybe think Derek was waiting for his own soulmate to touch base first? 

He didn’t know, but what he did know, was his soulmate was going to be the most obnoxious person ever, because pretty much once an hour that entire day, Derek got new words on his skin, his soulmate writing furiously before waiting a while, washing it off, and writing furiously again. 

Their penmanship was atrocious—Derek figured that made sense, his own handwriting hadn’t been great at ten, and still wasn’t great now—but more than anything, he hated the excitement

His soulmate was just so excited! They kept comparing having a soulmate to having a best friend. By the end of the first day, Derek felt like he knew more than he cared to about the person on the other end of his bond, mostly because he hadn’t been able to stop himself from reading what was being written. It was like a car accident, or a natural disaster or something. He didn’t want to look, but he couldn’t help it. 

Apparently his soulmate was a boy who loved pineapple but hated strawberries, as well as school, though he liked English, but definitely not Maths, and he’d always wanted a dog but his dad was allergic to animals so he couldn’t get one, though he’d been told he might be able to get a pet snake when he was older, except he’d feel bad feeding it mice or something because that’d be mean, but also snakes were cool and did Derek know that snakes used to have legs, they’d evolved over centuries so that now they didn’t, and evolution was so interesting he couldn’t wait until he could learn more about Science in general because it was his favourite class, and he hoped high school was fun because he wasn’t there yet, and did Derek go to high school yet, because if he did he wanted to know everything, also what was Derek’s favourite colour because his was blue, it was just a really nice colour and so pretty, and the weather was nice today with a blue sky which he liked a lot because again, blue was his favourite colour and—

And on and on it went. For literal hours. Cora had been making fun of him about it at dinner, having taken the course herself that same day, but he’d noticed her occasionally sneaking looks at her arm, like she was hoping to find something written there. Laura had long ago taken the course, since she was already seventeen. While she didn’t actively write on her arm anymore, he’d seen her exchanging pleasantries every now and again with her soulmate. They were both clearly interested in finding one another, but seemed to be focussed on school for the most part. 

It kind of annoyed him. Both his sisters seemed to be okay with the whole soulmates thing, and Derek as the one who wasn’t got stuck with the overly talkative and excitable soulmate. 

He’d been hoping that his continued silence would mean his soulmate would give up, but if anything, it made him more persistent. That entire first year, Derek got veritable essays on his arm. It got to the point where he’d started wearing hoodies year-round in an attempt to hide them because the messages were really embarrassing to him. He ended up getting heat stroke at one point and his mother had gone out to buy him arm-bands instead. That meant he could still cover his arms but not die from wearing a hoodie. She’d been sad when handing them over, but it was clear she knew he wasn’t going to stop wearing the hoodies otherwise. 

As time passed, he’d stopped wearing the bands quite as much. Not because his soulmate wasn’t still super annoying, but because his messages stopped being so essay-like. He still wrote to Derek every single fucking day—even said good morning and good night—but he didn’t write the essays anymore. Just regular comments like, ‘I hate my Chem teacher, he’s a freakin’ douchebag’ or ‘Roscoe’s been acting up again, if she wasn’t my first love, I’d have gotten rid of her by now’ or ‘my dad’s been breaking his diet behind my back, super annoying, ugh’ and things like that. 

Derek never meant to read them, but he always did. He often wondered what his soulmate must think of him, this silent, unknown person on the other end of their bond. He got questions about it sometimes, just his soulmate honestly asking, ‘Are you really NEVER going to respond to me?’ but it didn’t stop him from continuing to pester Derek every day of their lives. 

And Derek knew, he just knew his stupid soulmate was going to continue to pester him forever. Forever and ever and ever until the day he died. 

Soulmates were the absolute worst thing to ever have happened to the human race. And yes, it bore repeating.

Derek’s alarm rang at exactly seven-thirty on a cold, dreary Thursday morning. The moment it did, his eyes peeled apart and he gave himself exactly five seconds to curse consciousness before reaching over for his phone and turning his alarm off. He spent an additional few seconds lying there, letting his brain slowly reboot after being so rudely interrupted before finally pushing himself up off his stomach and heading for his bathroom. 

Relieving himself and washing his hands, he was in the process of putting toothpaste on his toothbrush when neat print slowly began to appear on his right arm. It was his usual ‘good morning!’ message from his soulmate, which he glanced at only long enough to confirm before promptly ignoring it, spitting foam out of his mouth and rinsing it out. 

Hopping into the shower, Derek went through his usual morning routine, continuing to ignore the message on his arm while he shampooed his hair and washed his face. When he thought about it, he and his soulmate seemed to have a fairly similar schedule overall, since he always got a good morning message shortly after waking. It usually lasted for about an hour before it started to run and disappear, like his soulmate was taking his own shower by then. He wondered if his soulmate ever considered that Derek might wake up much later than him and thus never see the good morning message. Maybe he didn’t care anymore, since Derek hadn’t ever responded to him. 

Maybe his soulmate just did it out of habit, by now. After all, Derek had turned thirty only a few weeks ago, which meant his soulmate was either twenty-eight or turning twenty-eight before the end of the year. It had been eighteen years of complete silence from Derek, but every morning, and every evening, without fail, he got a good morning and good night message on his right arm. 

Honestly, some days Derek was tempted to say something. Not even something rude, like ‘Stop trying to talk to me’ or anything, but just... He felt like his soulmate was still holding out hope that Derek would respond, and it made him feel guilty.

He wanted his soulmate to move on. To just live his life, find someone else, because it sure wouldn’t be Derek. He wanted to tell him that he should stop trying because Derek’s mind had been made up since he was ten years old and if that hadn’t changed in twenty years, then it never would. 

But every time the temptation hit, and he got a pen in his hand, ready to write something—he didn’t. He just... couldn’t. Despite never speaking to his soulmate, and despite having no interest in him whatsoever, it felt... nice. It made him feel like he wasn’t alone sometimes, which also made him feel like a dick since he never replied to his soulmate himself, but he liked having him there. He was a constant that Derek had lived with his entire life, who’d been speaking to him incessantly since Derek was twelve years old. A part of him was worried that saying something to make him stop would have him feel a bit empty inside. 

It was weird and confusing, and he knew it was selfish, but as much as he didn’t want his soulmate, he also didn’t want to lose him. So he said nothing instead, and maybe his silence was enough for his soulmate to realize that Derek wasn’t interested, but not annoyed enough with him to ask him to stop. 

Shrugging the thoughts off while Derek dressed for work, he checked the time on his watch while reaching for a tie and cursed when he saw the hour. He was running a little behind, and he did not want to be late. It would ruin his entire day if he was late! 

Hurrying to finish dressing, he pulled on his suit jacket, put on his shoes, grabbed his phone, wallet and keys, and then left his apartment. He nodded good morning to the haggard-looking guy who lived a few doors down from him, the man on his way back home after a clearly long shift at work. He was in the medical field—Derek didn’t know what, nurse, doctor, surgeon, whatever—and he seemed to work a lot of night shifts. Every now and then Derek ran into him when he was on his way home. 

He was glad to have seen him, because it meant he was back on track time-wise, and he checked his watch again while waiting for the elevator. He should be all right, it was only quarter-after eight, which was around the same time he usually left home at. He would make it, not a problem. 

Once he reached the garage, he walked briskly to his Camaro, climbed in, started it up, and left the building. It was about a twenty minute drive to his office, but that wasn’t where he was headed. No, he had another stop that he made every single morning, and it was one he’d been making for at least eight years. 

It pre-dated his current job, because the coffee shop was close to his parent’s place, and he used to go there every now and again for coffee and breakfast after he’d moved back home when he’d graduated from university. He liked their coffee, and he’d kind of gotten into the habit of going there, but the coffee wasn’t the only reason he detoured every morning. 

Arriving in the small outlet that housed the coffee shop, Derek parked near the end of a row to avoid anyone dinging his car and climbed out. He looked around the lot for the familiar vehicle, but was disappointed to find it wasn’t there. He hoped that didn’t mean he was late, though Derek usually always arrived first. 

But still, the vehicle was usually there, even if Derek stepped into the coffee shop a few minutes beforehand. 

Trying not to be disappointed, he walked into the coffee shop and nodded a greeting to the barista. He knew her name—Erica Reyes—since they’d gone to school together, but he didn’t actually know much about her overall. Her parents owned the coffee shop and apparently she liked to bake so she worked virtually every day. As far as he knew, she really liked it, which was good if not a little strange. She was actually super attractive, and he always felt like someone as beautiful as her would feel too important to work a job like this, but it was clear she loved it and didn’t give two shits what other people thought about her. 

Derek respected that. Working at a coffee shop was hard, even if people didn’t consider it to be particularly glamourous. 

“Morning Derek,” she said with a smile that was more of a grin. “How are you this morning?” 

He hated that she knew. He hated so much that she knew. He never acknowledged it, and she never said anything specifically, but they both knew that she knew. 

How could she not after seeing him almost daily for close to eight years? 

“The usual,” he informed her, pulling his wallet out so he could grab his card. 

“Coffee as black as your soul and the worst muffin we sell, got it.” 

He didn’t comment on her words while she rang him through. He tapped his card on the machine while she poured his coffee, and then went to put his muffin in one of the warmers since they always tasted better when it felt like they’d just come out of the oven. 

He moved to the end of the counter while he waited for his Cheddar-Jalapeno muffin to finish heating, and immediately felt his day improve exponentially when the door opened. 

“A lovely good morning to you, Erica! You look just as gorgeous as ever, how do you do it? Seriously, you know it’s basically illegal to look that stunning this early in the morning, right?” 

Derek felt the corners of his lips trying to quirk upwards but he managed to keep them from following through, watching the owner of that voice walk to the cash and lean forward on the counter. His eyes were bright and alert, a brilliant smile on his face, and he was wearing the most God awful outfit Derek had ever seen, but that only made him love the guy even more. 

Stiles Stilinski was the reason Derek detoured every single morning to come to this coffee shop when he really could go to the cheaper one near his office. 

Derek had always stopped in every now and then when he’d still lived with his parents, but it had never been as often as he did now. One day way back when, close to Christmas time the same year he’d graduated from university, he’d come in after a jog through the Preserve in the morning to grab himself some coffee and breakfast, just because he’d felt like having a few moments to himself without dealing with his family so early in the morning.

He’d been sitting at a table near the back, eating his breakfast in peace, and in had walked Stiles Stilinski. He knew him from high school—everyone knew the sheriff’s son, after all—but his time away at university had been so kind to him. 

Derek was pretty sure he’d been staring. His mouth might have dropped open and everything. Stiles had shot up in height, Derek willing to bet he was about the same height as him now. He’d grown into his gangly limbs, had definitely filled out like he lifted weights or something, and he’d grown his hair out. He had the beginnings of scruff on his cheeks, and he’d lost all the baby fat in his face so that his cheekbones were more pronounced. 

Honestly, if anyone had told Derek in high school that he would ever look at Stiles and think he was attractive, he’d have asked what they were smoking—and also possibly if he could have some, he’d been a bit rebellious in high school. But after that day all those years ago? No, Stiles was attractive. He was a very good-looking guy, and Derek had actually enjoyed looking at him the entire time he’d been in the shop chatting with the barista. 

He’d been wearing almost the same clothes as he was now, some God awful blue-patterned track pants that looked like they belonged in the garbage rather than on a person, and a tight black shirt with a puffy blue vest. It was still decently cold out that the vest was probably needed, but Derek much preferred the summertime outfit, where he wore blue shorts with the same horrible pattern—they had to be custom ordered or something—and a black muscle shirt. 

Stiles had come by every single morning for almost three weeks, and then suddenly disappeared. Derek realized that it was because he’d gone back to university, since Stiles was a few years younger than him. But when summer had rolled around, Stiles was back, and he came by the shop daily. Derek had learned this, Stiles had a routine. He jogged through the paths in the Preserve every single morning. Every morning. So he always inevitably ended up at the coffee shop, and because he came in after his jogs, he was always wide awake and super bright and happy and friendly

Honestly, looks aside, it was Stiles’ personality that Derek felt he was falling for. Stiles had always been loud and annoying in high school, in his opinion. Always pulling pranks, always causing trouble, just—super annoying. But they were teenagers back then, and Derek realized that he was just always mad and bitter growing up because of having a soulmate thrown at him. 

When Stiles had walked into the coffee shop all those years ago, loud and excited and kind, Derek had realized Stiles wasn’t ever truly annoying. Not really. He’d just appreciated it less when he was younger. 

Now though, it was what he looked forward to every morning. Stiles had not once missed his morning jog and coffee in the past eight or so years, even on days where he was feeling sick or had a cold. He even had a discount card for the coffee shop because Erica’s parents joked that he was single-handedly keeping them in business. Derek was offered one too, before long, since he’d started coming by every weekday himself in an attempt to see Stiles. 

He liked sleeping in on weekends, otherwise he’d come then too. But Stiles was crazy and woke up early to go running literally every day, so Derek was guaranteed to see him no matter what—except when he was late, of course. 

Derek watched Erica and Stiles chat, the barista sporting the most brilliant smile on her face at his kind words while she rang him through, knowing his order as well as she did Derek’s. She joked about Stiles running out of things to greet her with, since he tried to change it up every morning, but he insisted she had no faith in him and his impressive repertoire of greetings. 

Stiles was wearing a band over his left forearm, like he always did whenever Derek saw him. He found it interesting that it was the arm he had to write on for his soulmate and a part of him wondered if maybe Stiles didn’t like the whole soulmates thing, either. Maybe he wore the band as a way to ensure he didn’t accidentally write anything on his arm. 

Then again, it was also entirely likely he wore it so no one would see what he’d written on his arm, but a man could dream. 

He’d always been curious on what Stiles’ stance was when it came to soulmates, but he’d never had the courage to ask. For all he knew, Stiles was in a happy relationship with the love of his life and owned a huge house with three dogs and had a daughter or something. Probably not, since everyone knew he lived with his dad, but maybe they all lived under the same roof together

He didn’t know much about Stiles barring the general information the town as a whole knew about the sheriff’s son. He’d heard that Stiles had made it big after university in programming, which he felt inclined to believe was true given he seemed to be doing really well for himself financially. He wasn’t rich, but his father had always kind of been skirting the poverty line and in the past few years, rumour had it—aka Laura, who was a mortgage broker at the bank—that his dad had paid off the mortgage and renovated the house. It was common knowledge that Stiles still lived with him, so he was willing to bet that money hadn’t come from the sheriff’s meagre salary. 

When Erica finally went to get Stiles’ morning drink and meal ready, he turned to look down the length of the counter and offered Derek a smile and a small wave. Derek just nodded back, because he didn’t usually do anything more. 

Sometimes Stiles came over to chat with him. Other times he just stayed where he was at the till until Erica gave him his breakfast and he headed out. Today was a chatty sort of day, and Derek had to resist smiling because he loved chatting with Stiles. It didn’t happen nearly as often as he’d like. 

He really did have a crush on him, which just made the whole soulmates thing the absolute worst because he really wished he could just get to know Stiles, ask him out, go on dates and whatnot and maybe be with him. But life was stupid and soulmates existed and it was weird and awkward asking about it, so people didn’t usually do so unless the topic was offered up as being permitted. It was kind of bad form to ask someone about their soulmate if it wasn’t freely brought up in conversation. 

“Morning Derek!” 

“Good morning,” he replied, glancing over at Erica. She was taking her sweet ass time getting his muffin out of the warmer, which he both appreciated and hated. Because she looked so fucking smug

But similarly, more time with Stiles, so it was hard to be too annoyed.

“Off to work?” Stiles asked, as if they hadn’t had this conversation hundreds of times over the past eight years. 

“Unfortunately.” He eyed Stiles briefly, trying not to linger on the way his pulse was visible in his neck, and the sweat sliding down his skin. “Did you have a good run?” 

“Yeah, it was nice. A bit cooler than I was anticipating for this time of year though, so I’m glad I wore the vest today.” He patted his left pectoral lightly, offering Derek another bright smile. 

“I’m amazed you haven’t missed a day after all this time.” 

Stiles laughed. It was loud, and contagious, and Derek loved it. “My dad says the only reason I haven’t gotten really sick since high school is because my body won’t let me rest. Not that I’m complaining! Besides, running is good for you. Being active is important.” 

“I agree,” Derek said, Erica approaching them with his muffin and passing it over, a knowing grin on her face. He ignored her. “I only run through the Preserve every now and again. I’m not particularly interested in uneven terrain and unpredictable weather.” Or bugs, but he didn’t tell Stiles that. “My apartment building has a nice gym, and it’s less temperamental with how warm or cold it chooses to be.” 

“That’s fair.” Stiles leaned against the counter beside him, Erica moving to finish getting his order ready. “I don’t think I need to run every day, but I like doing it. I guess I’ve gotten into the habit of it and now I don’t know how to stop.” 

“Not a bad habit to have.” 

“Tell that to my knees,” he insisted with a small laugh. “My buddy wants to start rock climbing in the summer. I figure maybe I’ll give that a try, but I’m not big on climbing. Figure I can try and do a few of the more challenging hikes first though, maybe that’ll help get me ready for a disaster of a day rock climbing.” 

“You’ll probably do better than you think, you’re extremely fit,” Derek countered. 

“I try.” Stiles laughed, throwing his head back, and Derek resisted the urge to lean forward and bite it. God, he had it so bad for Stiles Stilinski, he fucking hated that he had some annoying soulmate bound to him for all eternity. 

His eyes strayed down to the band around Stiles’ arm and he thought, not for the first time, that he’d like to ask about it. He wanted to know about his soulmate, but it really, really wasn’t polite to ask.

Stiles obviously noticed him looking because he covered his forearm with one hand, as if uncomfortable about it, and pulled his arm off the counter, like he was trying to hide it. Derek’s eyes shot back to his face and Stiles’ smile was a bit tight. 

“I should go,” Derek said, feeling awkward. “Work.” 

“Have a good day at work.” Stiles beamed at him. “See you tomorrow, maybe!” 

“See you tomorrow,” Derek agreed, because he would be there, even if Stiles didn’t know that he timed his arrival specifically so he would run into him. 

After all, by the time Derek got to work after his morning stop, he had twenty minutes before his day actually started, but if it meant even five minutes with Stiles every day, he didn’t mind one bit. 

Derek’s soulmate was drunk again. He always knew when the idiot was drunk, because he wrote the most ridiculous and annoying things to Derek. Thankfully he never got all whiny and asked why Derek wasn’t ever replying to him, but it still frustrated him when he happened to hit him on a bad day. 

If nothing else, at least his soulmate seemed to help him win trivia night when his family forced him to play with them as a means of bonding. The guy was shock-full of useless but completely random information. 

Did you know that the hashtag actually has a name? It’s called an octothorpe. Neat, huh?

No, he hadn’t actually known that. He’d always assumed it was called a hashtag. 

I found out recently that the UNICORN is the national animal of Scotland. I wanna be Scottish man!

That was weird, considering that unicorns weren’t real. Why would anyone make it their national animal? Was it even technically allowed to be classified as an animal if it didn’t exist? 

It’s fucking WILD that 700+ grapes go into making ONE bottle of wine. We are all grape murderers! But MAN is wine good. So good. I love me some red wine

That was actually a lot more grapes than Derek would’ve guessed, if he was honest. 

Okay, my friend is trying to convince me that Superman didn’t always used to fly and I call BULL and SHIT!

Agreed, because in what universe did Superman not fly? 

I looked it up, apparently Superman didn’t always used to fly

Oh. Apparently this one. 

Were you aware, oh soulmate of mine, that WATER makes different pouring sounds depending on its temperature? Isn’t that crazy? That’s so crazy. Water is good for you, by the way, you should drink more water if you are prone to not drinking water

It was true that hydration was important, but Derek was too lazy to get up right then and grab himself a glass of water. Besides, he had a beverage, just not water specifically. Also, how had his soulmate managed to fit so many words on his arm? Unnatural. 

He kept staring at the message for a moment longer before going back to his show. Whenever his soulmate went off like this while drunk, the words were always fairly coherent, but the writing was so bad sometimes he couldn’t read it. Still, he had no idea why his soulmate turned into a walking encyclopaedia whenever he got drunk but, again, at least it helped on trivia night. 

He was watching a really good TV show on Netflix, but every now and then, the words on his arm would smudge and disappear, and new ones would appear. It was far less annoying than the essay-length comments he used to get as a kid, but it was still really distracting. In some ways, he was glad he wore suits to work, because the long sleeves meant his eyes didn’t stray to his arm every now and then as words began to form. Actually, maybe that was why everyone in his office wore long sleeves. Soulmates were distracting. 

At home, he always had short sleeves, so whenever his soulmate got particularly chatty—or drunk—Derek’s eyes inadvertently swung towards his arm to read whatever new idiotic comment the guy decided to grace him with today. 

Not that the comments were idiotic. Actually, he felt like his soulmate was probably quite smart. He seemed to be smart, at any rate. And Derek didn’t hate the random facts as much as he told himself he did. He was just determined to hate everything about his soulmate, which culminated in him hating being bothered while trying to watch TV, even though he knew he could just cover his arm.

Besides, he was the one sitting alone in his apartment on a Saturday night watching TV instead of out with friends or trying to do something with his life. At least his soulmate seemed to have a much more active social life than Derek did. And he knew this for a fact, because sometimes he’d get comments about how he’d just gone to see a movie and it had been amazing, or he’d had dinner with friends and had Derek ever tried a certain restaurant, or he was going drinking with a few buddies and he got carded again because people seemed to think he was a child despite being almost thirty by this point. 

The facts continued for well over an hour, Derek having long ago grabbed himself a beer just so that he could feel a bit less pathetic by drinking alongside his soulmate, even if they weren’t actually together right now. 

Nor would they ever be, but that wasn’t the point. At least for now, Derek felt a little less pathetic, and a little less alone by drinking alongside his soulmate. 

V drunk bed time good night SM

Derek stared at the words on his arm, wondering how long they would stay there. His soulmate usually always wrote good night to him and washed it off about five minutes later. When he got drunk though, it usually stayed there overnight. Derek knew he’d wake up tomorrow to a smooth, clean arm because his soulmate always got up earlier than him on weekends, and while he knew the guy wrote good morning since Derek sometimes woke up to pee before stumbling back to bed and saw it on his arm, his soulmate likely showered or washed off his arm before Derek got up fully for the day because it was always gone when he woke up the second time. 

He missed some of his show by staring at his arm for a long while, but as predicted, the words remained, his soulmate probably passed out drunk in an alley somewhere. Whatever, not his problem. He eventually managed to get his eyes back to the screen, tapping absently at the neck of his beer bottle. 

It frustrated him how tempting it was sometimes. To say something. Even if only to ask why his soulmate hadn’t just given up by now. Why he bothered talking to someone who never replied. Why he acted like they were friends when they very clearly weren’t. Why he hadn’t just moved on so he could be happy instead of waiting on someone who was literally never going to give him what he wanted. 

Derek rubbed lightly at the letters on his skin, wondering if his soulmate was someone in town. Someone he’d ignored just as thoroughly in person as he did behind his locked door. His mother still asked him about it sometimes, if he was sure he didn’t want to at least try, but Derek was stubborn and very set in his ways. It might be selfish, but he also knew himself enough to know that if he forced himself to get to know his soulmate, even if they ended up together, he’d probably inadvertently keep him at arm’s length because it wasn’t what he wanted. It was what the universe wanted him to want. 

That wasn’t okay. And it wasn’t fair. Derek liked having the choice, and he wanted the same for his soulmate because they both deserved to be happy. He’d dated a bit in university, and it had been really nice. He’d actually had the same girlfriend for two years, and things had been really good. She’d lost her soulmate before finishing high school, never having met them, and she and Derek lived in the same dorm. They’d started chatting whenever they hung out in the common room together, and had eventually started dating. It had been amazing getting to know someone and being able to decide for himself whether or not they fit. And they had, for a long time. Two years. 

They only broke up because she realized he was dead-set on moving back home to Beacon Hills after university, and she was more interested in travelling the world. Derek wasn’t much of a traveller and while they’d tried to see if they could make the relationship work, in the end they both decided it would hurt more later if they tried too hard and broke up in the end, so they decided to just break up right then. They’d stayed friends until the end of university, and even now they kept in touch. She still travelled a lot, and had a girlfriend now she was planning on proposing to. Derek was happy for her. 

When he’d moved back to Beacon Hills, he’d had a few one night stands, two boyfriends, and another girlfriend. One of his boyfriends was like him, didn’t want to know his soulmate or anything, but eventually he found out his soulmate was actually his best friend from childhood and he’d dumped Derek pretty quickly after that. 

Derek wasn’t bitter about it, people changed, and he knew that. But he liked that he’d had so many boyfriends and girlfriends because it felt like he had more of a say in his own love life. He didn’t have to listen to the universe, and look at a dumb comment on his arm knowing that had to be his life. He had a choice, one that involved dating his friend Braeden in university, and a few other people in town, and allowed him to have a crush on one Stiles Stilinski. 

He really, really liked Stiles. Like, a lot. He just always felt happy around him, because Stiles’ personality was just so bright and infectious and he was such a good person. He was a really good person. 

Derek started, almost dropping his beer, when his phone buzzed almost violently in his pocket. He was sure the vibrations weren’t any different from normal, but he’d been lost in thought so it had startled him rather badly. 

Pulling it from his pocket, he contemplated whether or not he actually wanted to answer before sighing and swiping towards the green button, putting his phone to his ear. 

“Don’t you have anything better to do than bug me on a Saturday night?”

“Oh boo hoo, like you’re doing anything other than sitting on your couch watching another lame Netflix show.”

Well, she wasn’t wrong, but he wasn’t going to admit that to her. 

“What do you want, Laura?” 

“To be rich and famous, but well, can’t have everything I guess.”

He rolled his eyes. “I’m hanging up on you now.”

“Wait! Jeez Derek, learn to take a joke. Fuck, your soulmate might have to be thankful you ignore him, imagine actually being stuck with you.” The jab hurt a bit more than he was sure she intended for it to, but Derek knew she didn’t mean it maliciously. Siblings were just like this, automatically assholes to each other. They didn’t intend to be, but sometimes they hit a bit too close to home by accident. “Cora and I have been talking about taking a roadtrip sometime in September. Get away for a while, just to hang out and do stuff. We figured it could be sisterly bonding time, but as we started planning, we thought maybe you’d like to come. Spend some quality time with the two best people in this family.”

“Oh, mum and dad are coming too?” he teased, a small smile on his lips. Laura let out a loud huff and he knew she was flipping him off without even seeing her. “What dates were you thinking?” 

“Cora and I managed to get the second and third week of September off, think you can swing that?”

“I’ll check with work on Monday. I should have enough vacation time left, and a lot of people tend not to book time off in September because of school for their kids, so I might be able to get the same dates.”

“Neat-o. Let us know on Monday? We want to start planning everything out, so the sooner the better.”

“You realize it’s literally March, right?”

“No time like the present to plan for the future!” Laura chirped, then made kissing sounds in farewell before hanging up. He just rolled his eyes and turned his screen off before putting his phone back in his pocket. 

He thought about her parting words for a little bit, tapping his finger against his phone through his jeans pocket. She wasn’t wrong, when he really thought about it. People often put things off with the intention of doing it ‘later.’ Tomorrow, people always said. They would do the thing they wanted to do tomorrow. 

Sometimes, tomorrow didn’t actually come. Sometimes today was the last day to do something before the opportunity was lost to them forever. 

Derek had been going to the same coffee shop for literal years just so he could see Stiles and possibly have a conversation with him every morning. But he never actually did anything with it. Or about it. He just chatted with him for five minutes and then left. 

Sure, it was because Stiles probably had all the good things in life and didn’t need Derek in it, but what if? What if he was single? What if he was one of those people who didn’t believe in the whole soulmates thing? What if his soulmate had died and that was why he lived with his dad? 

And really, so what if Stiles was happily involved with his soulmate? Really, Derek was severely lacking in the friends department, and he knew it was his own fault. He’d burned a lot of bridges in high school because of his behaviour, and when he’d come back from university, he hadn’t bothered trying to fix any. Sure, he spoke to his close friend Kira Yukimura every now and then, and he went for dinner with his coworkers sometimes, but overall he didn’t really see anyone. He lived a fairly lonely life, which was probably why he’d never told his soulmate to stop talking to him. 

At least with the words appearing on his skin, he didn’t feel quite so alone. 

Checking the time, Derek knew that if he didn’t do this now, he probably never would. Setting his alarm for seven-thirty the next morning, he turned off the TV and got up, finishing off his beer before setting the empty bottle in the sink. 

No time like the present to plan for the future, Laura had said. 

Derek was going to talk to Stiles tomorrow, and he was going to find out whether he had a chance with him or not. If he did, excellent. If he didn’t, well, the coffee shop near his work was cheaper anyway. 

“Excuse me? Am I dreaming? Did I fall into an alternate dimension?” Erica made a big show of looking around herself. “Who are you, because it sure isn’t Derek Hale!” 

“Hilarious,” he said, moving up to the counter, a little annoyed at her overreaction. So he’d shown up on a Sunday for once, whatever. Not like the sky was falling or anything. 

“Seriously, are you sick?” She started to reach over the counter to check his temperature, but he jerked back, scowling. She just smirked at him, giving him her usual knowing smile while she started to ring him through. “The usual?” 


Erica brought one hand to her chest and pretended to fall over slightly. “Oh my God, I’m seriously in another universe. What the hell is happening? Did you just say no?!” 

“Stop it,” he snapped, recognizing that he was being rude but unable to help it. He was nervous, and uncomfortable, and tired. Not to mention grumpy because he’d woken up early on a fucking weekend. Sure, he’d snoozed his alarm twice since he didn’t have to shower today given he wasn’t going to work, but he’d still woken up much earlier than normal and he hated that a lot. 

But he liked Stiles enough that it was worth it. Completely worth it. One thousand percent worth it. 

Which was the problem, because now he was nervous. He had no idea what Stiles’ stance on soulmates was, and he was basically about to out himself as not believing in that soulmate shit. What if Stiles disagreed? What if Stiles liked having a soulmate? What if this ruined everything between them and their friendship went down the shitter?!

“Yikes. Someone woke up on the wrong side of the cave this morning,” Erica said, giving him a look. “If your usual isn’t good enough for you, then what is it you’d like, your highness?” she asked dryly. 

Derek winced internally, because he didn’t need to be pissing off the person who made his breakfast every morning. Erica was basically the closest thing he had to a friend barring Stiles. 

It was kind of sad when he really thought about it.

“Just make a breakfast sandwich or something,” he muttered. “And a coffee. Black.” 

He heard her mutter something under her breath, probably “Like your mood,” but he wasn’t offended. He’d been a bit ruder than normal. 

“Can you also—Stiles. He’s coming today, right?” 

“He does every day,” she replied, finished with ringing him through and going to grab his coffee. 

“Can I pre-pay for him?” 

Erica’s perfectly sculpted eyebrows slowly rose up and a feral, knowing grin began to spread across her face. Perfect. Awesome. Why did she have to be so annoying? 

“Derek. Are you...?” Her eyes skirted back and forth quickly between his right arm and his face. He had a long-sleeved Henley on, so it wasn’t like she could see his annoying ‘Good morning’ message from his soulmate or anything, but he still covered it instinctively with his other hand, like she could see through the fabric. 

“No,” he said coldly. “Mind your business.” 

Erica looked surprised to hear that answer, but obediently raised both hands in surrender since soulmates talk was off the table unless it was offered up. Another reason that Derek was so nervous. 

Thankfully, Erica kept her mouth shut, and was still in the process of getting his coffee when the door opened behind him. 

“The fondest of greetings to the most stunning woman I’ve ever met in my life!” 

“You’re gonna run out of ways to say hello to me one day,” Erica commented, but Derek could see how pleased she was while bringing the coffee back to the counter, a smile on her lips. 

“Never!” Stiles stood a little further back, since he was trying not to crowd the person at the till, but Derek just took a slow breath and turned his head. Stiles started at the sight of him, but a smile immediately crossed his features and he moved forward a few more steps, getting as close to Derek as he normally did when they were chatting in the mornings. “Well good morning to you, Derek! This is new, you don’t usually show up on weekends.” 

“Just wanted a change,” he lied, ignoring Erica’s eyes on him. “I was thinking I could buy you breakfast today, if you had time to sit and chat for a while. We see each other all the time, I thought it might be nice to have a real conversation.” 

Stiles looked startled again, but pleased, nodding enthusiastically. “Yeah, sure! That’d be really great! We really do see each other all the time, would definitely be awesome to get to know you a bit better.” 

A weight felt like it had been lifted from Derek’s shoulders, and he nodded once. “Great.” He motioned Erica so that Stiles could order, and the man beamed at him before moving forward and ordering himself an iced coffee—probably because he was hot from his run—and a bagel. 

He was still as bright-eyed and enthusiastic as always, but Derek noticed his face was a little drawn, like he was tired. Or maybe sick? It didn’t seem to be affecting his mood any though, so he didn’t comment on it. 

“I’ll bring everything out to you when it’s ready,” Erica offered, which was nicer than she usually was, and more than Derek deserved. He figured she’d probably realized he was nervous, and had also kind of overstepped and was trying to apologize. 

Derek nodded a thanks while paying, then put his card away and grabbed his coffee, motioning for Stiles to choose their seats. He grinned and went to sit by the far corner at a two-person table closest to one of the windows. Derek followed him, taking a seat across from him and trying to ignore how attractive Stiles always looked after a run. It shouldn’t be possible to look that good after running through the Preserve, but Stiles was always full of surprises. 

He was wearing his usual hideous blue track pants with a black shirt and his puffy blue vest. He had one arm-band over his left arm like he always did, and Derek eyed it for a long while when Stiles finally spoke. 

“So this is new, what brought this on?” he asked with a smile. “I’m not complaining, but you always talk about liking your sleep so I guess I’m just surprised you’d willingly wake up early to come here today.” 

“My sister said something to me yesterday,” he admitted, feeling uncomfortable again. “It got me thinking.”

“Oh yeah?” Stiles asked, then turned and smiled, nodding in thanks when Erica set down his drink. He grabbed the straw to mix it a bit, the ice cubes clacking loudly against each other and the plastic cup they were in, and then took a sip, hollowing his cheeks. Derek tried not to stare and only managed it by sipping at his coffee and effectively burning himself. “What did your sister say?” 

Derek did his best to hide the fact he’d just burned his mouth, swallowing and clearing his throat once while setting his drink down, keeping his eyes on that instead of on Stiles taking another sip through his straw. 

“She said ‘no time like the present to plan for the future.’ I guess it was something I’d never really thought about.” 

“That’s a good line,” Stiles agreed with a nod, thankfully setting his drink down so he could lean back in his chair. “She’s not wrong, either. I think a lot of us put off things we really want to do just because we figure we can get to them later, but that isn’t a good way to live life. Should probably follow her advice, too.” He let out a small laugh and Derek just—loved him. He loved the way his face lit up like that when he was happy or even just in a good mood. 

Who’d have thought Stiles Stilinski would grow up to be such a fucking drop-dead gorgeous, amazing individual like this. 

His soulmate was lucky. 

“So you decided after hearing these words of wisdom that you wanted to get to know the weirdo who goes jogging literally every morning since forever?” Stiles asked teasingly, reaching for his drink again. 

Derek lowered his gaze, not only to avoid watching Stiles suck on that straw—really, it should be illegal, had he ordered that drink just to make Derek suffer?—but also because he was about to overstep the same way Erica had. 

“I—know it’s rude,” he admitted quietly. “I know it’s bad form, and goes against all manners I was ever taught as a kid growing up, but I was thinking... I was wondering about—if you’re single.” 

Even though his gaze was lowered, Derek didn’t miss the full body flinch from Stiles and that instantly made him protective, eyes shooting up. He didn’t know what reaction he’d been expecting, but it wasn’t that one. A part of him wondered if maybe Stiles was being abused or threatened by his soulmate, but when his eyes caught sight of the expression on his face, he realized it wasn’t that. 

He looked... sad. His eyes were locked on his covered left arm and he reached out to rub at the inside of his forearm absently, expression still pained. Derek wanted to reach through the bond and bitchslap whoever dared to put that hurt look on his face. 

“It’s... kind of complicated,” Stiles finally said, very quietly. Very differently from his usual exuberant self. “My soulmate and I—we don’t really get along.” He let out a startled laugh after those words, like it was funny. Derek didn’t think it was funny. “I’m just... I guess I keep holding out hoping things will change. I’m not ready to let it go, even though everyone tells me that I should. I think—I’m heading in that direction though. I think the universe was wrong about my soulmate, and I should probably just move on, find someone else.” 

“I’m sorry,” Derek said quietly. “You don’t deserve that. You’re an amazing person.” 

Stiles offered him a smile, but it didn’t reach his eyes. “Thanks.” He pulled his arms under the table, like he didn’t want to think about it anymore. “What about you? You and your soulmate get along?” 

Derek didn’t really know how to answer that question without admitting he wasn’t interested in anything soulmate-related. The safest answer he had was, “I don’t think the universe knew what it was doing when it chose mine.” 

That, at least, had Stiles smile a bit more genuinely. “Guess we both got screwed in that regard.” 

Shrugging one shoulder, Derek leaned back and crossed his arms over his chest. “I like this better. Going out, meeting people, getting to know them. I think it’s more meaningful if I have to work at getting to know someone without the almost-guarantee of them being with me in the end.” 

“I guess that’s true. Never thought of it that way.” Stiles’ left hand had reached up to wipe at the droplets of condensation on his plastic cup, eyes on what he was doing. “I suppose the uncertainty is what makes it exciting to meet new people,” he admitted. 

“Yeah.” Derek didn’t really know what else to say, because it was clear Stiles wasn’t interested in talking about soulmates anymore. He’d been polite about not bitching Derek out for bringing it up when it wasn’t his business, but he obviously felt a lot of confusion and pain regarding the topic and Derek felt like shit for having brought it up. 

Erica showed up then with their breakfasts, Stiles joking about Derek branching out since he’d gotten something different from his usual muffin. They bantered easily about their respective meals for a bit, which helped lighten the mood and allowed for Derek to steer them in a safer direction. 

He remembered Stiles talking about rock climbing on Thursday, and how he wanted to try some hiking trails before moving up that way, so he asked how that was going. Apparently Stiles hadn’t officially started on the hikes yet, he was still doing his usual running for now, but was planning to try and start hiking the following day. He liked to start things fresh with a new week, and he was going to wake up earlier just in case it took him a bit longer to complete the trail. 

Once he was done working through all the main trails, he was going to start on the few less intimidating rock climbing locations they had in the Preserve. He rattled off a few of them, which Derek knew by name but had never actually been by. Northern Hold, Mount Dacite, Miner’s Ridge, Quarry Rock. 

“I thought Miner’s Ridge was dangerous,” Derek said, licking the grease off his fingers from his breakfast sandwich. It had actually been pretty good, he may switch his breakfast during the week every now and then. 

“Nah, it’s only dangerous if you’re not careful, no different from anywhere else.” Stiles shrugged. “I’m kind of easing my way up towards Quarry Rock, to be honest. Miner’s Ridge may have the bad rap, but Quarry Rock is the hardest. I figure if I can get through Quarry Rock a few times without too many problems, I should be good for whatever crazy shit my buddy wants to try out.” 

“You have equipment and everything?” 

“Not yet, but I’m going to take a few courses at the rec centre next week. I’m not gonna just go for it without having some training. I already asked about the places I was thinking of trying, and the guy I’m going to be taking courses from said that those are good beginner spots so it works out well for me.” 

“That’s really cool. And smart, you know, that you’re looking into courses.” 

“I’m not an idiot.” Stiles nudged him lightly under the table, laughing a little. “I know my high school track record makes people question my intelligence, but I do have a brain.” He paused, eying Derek for a bit, then grinned. “Wanna come with me?” 

“No,” he said immediately. “I know myself enough to know I would hate every second of it, so I’m good. But thank you.” 

Stiles just laughed again and Derek managed a smile. He liked Stiles’ energy, and how he was always really enthusiastic about everything and willing to give things a try. His friend had mentioned wanting to go rock climbing, and Stiles was now taking courses and training up so he’d be able to keep up. That was actually really admirable. 

He was just such an amazing person, and Derek was jealous he couldn’t have him all to himself. They were actually having a real chat now though, so it was already an improvement, he just wished they could honestly move things forward as time progressed, but given Stiles’ previous words, he didn’t know if that was a possibility. 

Stiles was finishing up his second iced coffee when he checked his phone and almost choked. “Oh shit, is that the time? I gotta go, I have plans at eleven.” 

Derek checked the time of his watch and saw it was quarter after ten. They’d been talking for a long time, he just hadn’t noticed because he’d been enjoying himself. Evidently, Stiles had been enjoying himself too, and that made him happy. 

“This was fun, we should do it again,” Stiles said, getting to his feet. “Except I’ll pay next time, keep things fair.” 

“Sounds good.” Derek smiled. “Next weekend? Saturday?” 

Stiles beamed at him. “Sure. I can push back my run if you wanted to sleep a little bit.” He winked and Derek just about fucking died

“That’s okay, I don’t want to disrupt your schedule.” 

“Are you sure?” When Derek nodded, he just laughed and shook his head. “Okay then. I’ll see you tomorrow anyway, probably.”

“See you tomorrow,” Derek agreed. 

Stiles waved while heading for the door, calling a jovial farewell to Erica, but before he exited, he paused with the door held open, looking over at Derek for a moment. He let out a slow breath, nodded once, then said, “Just—so we’re on the same page. It’s not a no. What you were implying before. I just—a little more time. But it’s not a no.” 

Derek felt his heart double-thump in his chest at the words and he nodded in understanding. Stiles nodded back before exiting the coffee shop. Derek watched him walk back to his Jeep—he’d never thought to ask, but figured Stiles drove it to the Preserve, did his run, then drove it to the coffee shop afterwards—and then disappear. 

Erica wandered over a few moments later, looking a little excited but clearly trying to downplay it. “So, that looked like it went well.” 

He just gave her a look, but she grinned and started gathering the dishes on the table, a knowing smile on her face when she headed back for the counter. 

Derek himself couldn’t help the smile that threatened to overtake his features. It wasn’t a yes, but it wasn’t a no, and at least it was a start. 

It had been an extremely long and stressful day at the office, and Derek was more than ready to head home, kick back and relax when his entire evening was derailed by one little text message. He’d been walking towards the Camaro, pulling his tie loose so it wasn’t choking him quite so much—he’d worn an old tie, and was going to toss it out when he got home because yikes—when his phone went off. 

Pulling it from his pocket while unlocking the door to his Camaro, he paused the moment his eyes found the text preview on his home screen. 

Laura found her soulmate

A large number of emotions assaulted him all at once. He was happy, of course he was, but also horrified, worried, confused and—kind of sad. He knew Laura wasn’t like him, knew a lot of people weren’t like him, but somehow finding out his older sister had now found her other half and was probably going to get married in a few months made him a little upset. 

She and her soulmate would fast-track everything, because that was what people did when they found their ‘other half.’ This was who destiny had said was going to be their person for the rest of their lives, so there was no point in beating around the bush. 

Honestly, no one was good enough for Laura. No one was good enough for Cora, either. Derek didn’t know that anyone would ever be good enough for either of them in his eyes. His sisters deserved only the best of the best, and he was worried about what kind of garbage person had just won a spot at his sister’s side for the rest of their lives. 

Opening his messages, before he could type anything back, his screen lit up and his mother’s picture appeared. Hesitating, he sighed internally before answering the call and bringing the phone to his ear. 

“Hi mom.” 

“Hi sweetie. How are you?”

“Fine,” he said, because what else could he say? ‘No, I’m terrible, Laura just found her soulmate and now her life is over’? He didn’t think that’d go over well. 

“I’m sure you’ve heard the news by now. Cora’s been texting furiously.”

“About Laura,” he said. “I heard.” 

“He’s coming to dinner tonight. He doesn’t have any family in town, but we thought it might be nice if he got to know everyone.”

The words, “I’m busy,” were burning on his tongue. He so badly wanted to say them, but he knew his mother would be well aware of the lie. She wouldn’t call him on it, but she’d be disappointed in him. And Laura would probably be upset, too. She’d never say so, but he knew it would probably cause a rift between them and he didn’t want that.

She’d been looking forward to this day since she was ten years old. Laura had always, always wanted to find her soulmate, and now she finally had. Much as he hated the idea of it, he couldn’t take this away from her. He couldn’t make her feel like he didn’t care about her happiness. 

“What time?” 

“We were thinking six, but you know you’re welcome over whenever you like. This is still your home, Derek.” 

It was true he hadn’t been around in a while, he should probably visit. “I’ll drop by after I change and grab some groceries.” 

“See you soon.” She sounded happy. He figured she was thrilled for Laura, and happy to know Derek was making an effort. 

He hung up after bidding her farewell and climbed into the car, slamming the door. He sat behind the wheel for much too long, staring out at the road past the parking lot. He didn’t know how to feel. A part of him had always believed his family wasn’t ever going to find their soulmates. Laura was thirty-five, after all. Cora was twenty-eight. Derek was thirty. All three of them hadn’t ever found their soulmates. 

Sure, Derek had never tried, and while Cora hadn’t gone crazy attempting to locate hers, she still wanted to find her other half. Laura had always been very involved in trying to locate her soulmate. As far as he knew, her soulmate felt the same way because he remembered Laura always getting in trouble in class because she spent a lot of time writing on her arm, with her soulmate replying. She’d mellowed out in her later teen years, and definitely improved in adulthood, but she’d still never been shy about her desire to find her soulmate. 

Derek knew a lot of people could be like that, but they weren’t all that way. Cora paid attention in class, but she occasionally wrote to her soulmate too. Derek was the only one who didn’t, and given none of them had ever found their soulmates, he’d always figured maybe they weren’t meant to. 

But now Laura had, and it made Derek feel... he didn’t know how to feel. Sad for her, but he wanted to be happy. She’d always wanted this, and it wasn’t fair to push his own feelings on her. She was happy, so he needed to be happy for her, even if he felt like she was missing out on life. 

Shaking his head because it was not his place to ruin his sister’s big day, he started the car and pulled out of the lot, heading to the store. He did his shopping a little bit on auto-pilot, not really paying attention to much more than the carts around him so he didn’t walk into anyone. He didn’t even remember paying and heading back out to his car, mind a million miles away, but he was on his way home before long. 

Getting everything put away, he changed out into a pair of comfortable black jeans and a green Henley, then made sure he looked reasonably presentable before heading out of the house. Cora’s car was already parked in the driveway when he arrived at his parent’s place, so he parked on the road to let Laura have the last available spot. 

When he got to the door, he rang the bell, which earned him a hard smack from his mother when she pulled open the door. 

“How dare you? This is still your home. Don’t ever ring the bell again!” 

Derek couldn’t help the small smile and promised he’d know better next time, easing into the house. His dad was at the stove when he walked into the kitchen, and Cora was sitting at the island stirring a celery stalk in her Cesar before licking at the salt on the rim and taking a sip. She nodded to Derek in greeting, but that was it. 

He figured she also didn’t know how to feel about the whole situation. Maybe she was upset for Laura like he was, but it was more likely she was jealous and trying not to let that turn her into a bitch.

“So,” Derek said, taking a seat beside Cora and nodding to his mother when she opened the fridge and held up a beer in inquiry, “who’s the guy?” 

He knew Laura’s soulmate was a guy, it was one of the first things she’d learned about him. Funnily enough, she was the only one in their family who was in a heterosexual relationship. Derek knew his soulmate was a guy, and Cora’s was a girl. Their parents hadn’t batted an eye at either of them, because love was love to them, which Derek was glad about since Cora had been really nervous to admit hers was a girl for a long time.

Derek didn’t know why, since he’d outed that his was a guy basically right away and his parents hadn’t cared, but he figured maybe it was different for Cora because she actually wanted a soulmate, unlike Derek. 

“She hasn’t said,” Talia informed him, opening his beer and walking over to hand it to him. He took it with another nod of thanks and took a sip, Cora going a little hard on the Cesar beside him. “Wants it to be a surprise.” 

“Whoever he is, he’s not good enough for her,” Derek insisted. 

“Don’t be that way,” his father said from the stove, turning to give him a look. “No one will ever be good enough for any of you, but we have to be supportive even if the three of you deserve the world.” 

Cora gave Derek a look then rolled her eyes. Clearly Derek wasn’t the only one who thought no one was good enough for his sisters. 

“Has she told you anything about him?” Derek asked. 

“Not a thing,” Talia said with a smile. “All I know is they were both waiting for their orders at Starbucks when Laura pulled out her pen to write on her arm, and the gentleman beside her froze when what she’d just written appeared on his. It was very exciting, as I understand it. Everyone cheered.” 

That didn’t sound like something to cheer about, in Derek’s opinion, but he knew he was cynical. 

“How are things going with you and Stiles?” Cora asked, clearly able to tell Derek’s mood was souring. She licked at more of the salt around the rim of her glass, and Derek knew that meant she was going to ask for more in a minute. His sister was weird that way, she licked the salt off instead of drinking it with the Cesar.

“Good,” he admitted with a nod. “Really good, actually. Seeing him again on Saturday. He’s supposed to have his first rock climbing lesson on Friday evening at six, so it should be interesting. Looking forward to hearing how that goes.” 

He still saw Stiles every morning, and had spent a few hours with him again the past Saturday. This weekend would be their third unofficial coffee date since Derek’s appearance two weeks ago on Sunday morning. 

Things were going really well. They stayed away from the soulmates topic for the most part, but Derek could tell Stiles was really enjoying himself getting to know him. They had a lot of discussions about their pasts, things like school and hobbies and whatnot. Stiles mentioned he’d been a little lonely growing up, because his mother had passed early on and his father worked a lot to make ends meet. It meant Stiles spent a lot of time at the precinct in his dad’s office, since he couldn’t stay home alone yet, even though the man was always busy. 

When he got older, he was allowed to stay home alone, but it didn’t make him feel any less lonely. That was why he’d been excited about having a soulmate, because he’d thought it meant he’d feel less alone, but their relationship had never been a good one so he’d spent a majority of his life feeling isolated. 

Derek hated hearing about that, how alone Stiles had felt in his youth, but he seemed to be doing much better now. He often spoke about the multitude of friends he had plans with, and he even referred to Derek as such in some of his conversations sometimes, clearly of the opinion that they were both friends, which Derek was more than okay with. 

“I’m glad you and Stiles have been getting along,” his mother said with a fond smile, leaning forward on the counter opposite him and his sister. “He’s such a sweet boy.” 

“Doesn’t hurt puberty finally hit,” Cora said with a smirk. “He’s actually really cute.” 

“I saw him first,” Derek reminded her but she just rolled her eyes and motioned her right arm, where faded text was still somewhat visible from her soulmate’s last message to her. 

They chatted a bit about Stiles and Derek’s budding friendship—and hopefully more, though Derek wasn’t going to press his luck—and then about Cora’s work. His father was finished with dinner by then, having put the pot in the oven to keep it relatively warm while they waited on Laura and her new beau to show up. 

Cora was still ranting about her dumb co-workers and how incompetent her boss was when the door opened and she cut off abruptly. 

“Hello?” Laura called loudly. She sounded so happy. Thrilled. She was so, so excited. Derek had to remind himself he couldn’t ruin this for her. 

“In the kitchen, honey,” Talia called, and Derek saw her share an excited look with his father, who was beaming. They were both so happy, and even Cora was trying to look uninterested while clearly very interested. 

Laura walked into the kitchen first, looking as gorgeous as ever. It looked like she hadn’t gone home to change after work, so she was still wearing a very elegant pant-suit with heels. Her make-up had started to fade a bit from a long day, but she looked perfect. 

She was also smiling so widely it threatened to crack her face in half. 

“Hi,” she said, sounding over the moon. “Glad you could all make it, sorry for the short notice.” 

Talia was giving her a look, clearly annoyed this was being delayed, and she motioned for Laura to hurry up. His sister just beamed and then turned, holding one hand out for her soulmate to take and move forward. 

“Family, I want you to meet my soulmate. Jordan Parrish.” 

Cora’s mouth dropped open in shock and even Derek was a little surprised when deputy Parrish walked into the kitchen, looking a little uncomfortable but just as happy as Laura. He took her hand in his, kissing the back of it lightly, and Laura positively beamed at him. 

“Jordan.” His mother moved forward instantly, one hand out. “It’s very nice to meet you. I’m Talia.” 

“Hi.” He shook her hand, then did the same with Derek’s father’s when he moved forward too. 

“Michael. Good to meet you, son.” 

“Nice to meet you, as well.” 

“That’s my brother Derek, and my sister Cora.” Laura motioned them. Cora still looked like she was in shock, but Derek managed a nod in greeting, Parrish nodding back. 

Jordan Parrish had been the talk of the town when he’d arrived three years ago. He was young, attractive, single, and very good at his job. Beacon Hills was a small place, and news travelled very quickly. Everyone knew he was still looking for his soulmate, and many women had thrown themselves at the gorgeous deputy in hopes that it would be them. 

They didn’t get ‘new meat’ in town very often, so he was definitely a sight for sore eyes. 

Laura had been one of the people to have a massive crush on him, but not because she found him attractive. Of course he was, because she had eyes same as everyone else, but that had always been a bonus. She’d started liking him the day she’d gotten a flat tire at eleven at night with her phone dead. She hadn’t been able to change it on her own, because she lacked that particular life skill, and Parrish had just come off duty and was driving home. He didn’t have to stop, but he had, and ever since then Laura had been gushing about the kind, adorable new deputy. 

He knew they ran into one another every now and then, since the Starbucks Laura frequented during her lunch break was close to the precinct, but it was crazy to realize that this guy she’d had such a huge crush on happened to be her soulmate. 

Who knew? 

“Shall we move to the living room?” Talia motioned out of the kitchen. “The oven’s been on for a while so it’s quite warm in here. Might be more comfortable in another setting.” 

“Sure.” Laura looked like she was ready to bounce right out of her skin, she was so excited. 

“Jordan, drink?” Michael asked. “We have beer, or I can make you a Cesar if you like?” 

“No thank you, I’m on duty in a few hours. Graveyard shift.” 

“Coke? Water?” 

“Coke would be great, thanks.” 

Michael grabbed one while Laura motioned back out of the kitchen. When the two had their backs turned, Talia looked over at Cora, who was staring at her mother with her mouth hanging open. 

“What the fuck, she bagged Parrish?!” 

“Language,” Talia warned, but she looked so pleased. 

Derek had to admit, he wasn’t as unhappy as he thought he’d be. He still felt like Parrish wasn’t good enough for his sister, but if she had to have someone in her life, well, he was okay with it being Parrish. He was a good guy. Kind, caring, attractive, and a deputy on top of that. Not a bad catch, he’d be honest. 

They all relocated to the living room so they could chat, more Parrish getting to know them all and the family getting to know him. He was a really interesting person, Derek found. He actually really liked him, and he was well-spoken, which his mother seemed to adore, despite keeping her face relatively neutral for a majority of the conversation.

Derek just knew how to read her, it was his mother. 

When dinner rolled around, they headed into the dining room that they literally never used—they tended to eat at the kitchen table more often than not, and sometimes even just the kitchen counter—and Derek saw it was decked out with the fine china. 

He figured his mother wanted to make it clear this was a special occasion, and Laura seemed happy about it. 

Things were actually going really well for a majority of dinner, with Parrish and his mother doing most of the talking. They moved easily into the realm of soulmates, with Talia telling him how she and Michael had met, and Parrish recounting what had happened earlier that day in the coffee shop. 

Apparently he hadn’t even had any particular reason to be at Starbucks today, he’d just really wanted a frappuccino since his soulmate kept talking about smoothies, so he’d headed over there and happened to be there at the same time as Laura. He admitted he’d always been a little infatuated with her since he’d changed out her tire, and Derek couldn’t help but find it interesting the two of them had liked one another before even knowing they were soulmates.

He’d actually been enjoying hearing about their slow progression leading up to the big reveal when Parrish turned to him and asked a question that instantly ruined his entire evening. 

“What about you, Derek? How are things with you and your soulmate?” 

The entire table went still and it was clear Parrish realized he’d said something wrong. They’d all already been speaking about soulmates, so it wasn’t bad form for him to have asked, but Derek wished he’d started with Cora. 

“Derek doesn’t, um...” Laura winced, like she was trying to find a way to explain he didn’t believe in soulmates without insulting the happiness his sister had just found. “Soulmates aren’t really his thing,” she finally settled on. 

“I’m sorry,” Parrish said. “I shouldn’t have—”

“It’s fine,” Derek insisted, feeling a bit hollow inside. “I don’t really talk about it. I’m not the kind of person who believes the universe has someone picked out for me, is all.” 

“Sorry,” Parrish said again, and it was clear he looked like he wanted to just get up and leave but Cora, thankfully, came to the rescue. 

“I’m still looking for mine,” she blurted out, practically thrusting her arm out towards Parrish. “Do you recognize this gorgeous cursive handwriting? She’s a girl in her twenties who likes shopping and iced drinks. She prefers winter over any other season, recently cut her hair, has never gotten into an accident and is very fond of the colour yellow because it makes her think of sunflowers.” 

Parrish looked startled, but he did manage to let out a small laugh, giving her an appreciative look for trying to help. “Unfortunately not,” he admitted after inspecting her arm, the faded text from earlier still there. “I’ll keep my eyes peeled for you though.” 

“Thanks.” She sat down properly again, pulling her arm back over and staring down at it. “Must be really nice, finally finding your soulmate.” 

“You’ll find her,” Laura insisted, leaning into Parrish. “I found Jordan. You’ll find yours.” 

Derek couldn’t help looking down at his own covered right arm at those words. His family continued chatting around him, moving a bit out of the soulmates discussion in an attempt to get back to some semblance of normal, but Derek mostly tuned them out for the remainder of the evening unless someone directed a question at him. 

Parrish had to head out around nine to get ready for his shift, and Laura went with him since he’d been her ride over. Cora was planning on sticking around a while longer, so Derek bid his family good night and headed home. 

Once he was back in his apartment, he sat down on his couch, picked up the remote, aimed it at the TV, but didn’t turn it on. He just sat there with the remote in the air, thoughts going a mile a minute. 

He thought about Laura and Parrish, and how happy they were, and how much they’d wanted to finally have this day where they would meet their other half. He thought about Cora, who sometimes called him to talk about random things when she wanted to get her mind off how scared she was that she’d never find her soulmate. 

He thought about Stiles, who didn’t get along with his soulmate at all, and about Erica, who was going to marry hers next summer. About his parents, who just made it look so easy

Everyone made having a soulmate look easy. Like no matter what, it would always work out, but it couldn’t be that simple. Derek wanted a choice, he knew he did. He’d always wanted a choice. And he still knew he had the biggest crush ever on Stiles, no matter what the universe tried to tell him. 

But maybe a part of him had always rejected the idea because he was scared. Scared of being rejected, of not being good enough, of not even finding him. Derek hadn’t ever really given too much thought to why he was so against the idea, he’d always assumed it was more that he didn’t like having the choice taken away from him. But maybe the reason ten year old Derek had started crying all those years ago wasn’t so much that he didn’t like the choice being made for him, but more about being scared things wouldn’t work out for him. 

Derek knew he wasn’t the easiest person to get along with. He was surly and grumpy, and he had resting bitch face. He wasn’t super outgoing, he didn’t talk much, and he would much rather stay inside and read a book than go out for a hike in the Preserve, even though the guy he liked had invited him to do so. 

That was kind of why he liked Stiles, though. He recognized that Derek didn’t like to talk much, so he spoke for the both of them. And when Derek had declined his invitation to go out hiking, he hadn’t made fun of him or pushed, he’d accepted it and seemed perfectly content to continue doing so on his own. 

He felt like he and Stiles fit. He really liked him, and he was pretty sure Stiles liked him back. If he didn’t, he wouldn’t have agreed to all the coffee dates knowing they were pseudo-dates. He also wouldn’t have said what he had that one Sunday, about it not being a yes, but not being a no, either. 

Stiles was into him. He just wanted more time. 

Derek selfishly hoped Stiles’ soulmate continued to fuck up, because he’d give anything to have a chance with him.  

When he got ready for bed a few hours later, Derek stood in his bathroom staring at the neat little print on his right arm, his soulmate wishing him good night, just like he did every night. 

He couldn’t help but wonder how much longer he would see those words on his arm before the other man gave up. 

He didn’t like how empty the thought made him feel. 

“Goddess of coffee! The only woman in my life worth worshipping because of her beauty and her coffee! Praise and gifts to you, my queen!” 

Derek couldn’t help the fond smile on his face when Stiles walked into the coffee shop bright and early on Saturday morning, looking a little more tanned than he had earlier in the week and missing the vest today. It had started getting a little warmer out, so while he still had the track pants and the shirt, he would probably transition to the shorts and tank top relatively soon. 

Honestly, Derek couldn’t wait

“You know, my fiancé is going to start getting jealous with how much you flirt with me,” Erica teased with a wink. 

“Never fear, fair maiden! I wouldn’t dare get between you and your one true love!” 

Erica rolled her eyes and pointed towards Derek. “Shut up and sit down, you weirdo. Derek already ordered for you.” 

Stiles grinned at her before hurrying to Derek, looking excited and energized. Derek would never tire of seeing that expression on his face. 

“Sorry if I was a bit late, kind of had a mishap.” Stiles held up one hand where he’d wrapped gauze around his palm, a bit of red bleeding through the white cover. 

“What happened?” 

“I slipped, no big deal.” He pulled his plate forward, offering Derek a smile in thanks. They were alternating paying for each other, just to keep things fair. Stiles had texted to ask for something different today, which Derek was thrilled about because he still couldn’t believe he finally had his number

It had been an off-handed comment from Stiles a few days ago, when they’d both been waiting for their breakfasts before Stiles headed home to shower for work, and Derek was heading to work. He’d mentioned that it would be a lot easier to chat if they could actually chat and had asked for Derek’s number. 

They’d been texting off and on for a few days now, and Derek was fucking thrilled about it. Every time he saw a message from Stiles, it made him happy. He wished other people could realize that it was possible to be happy without relying on a soulmate the universe had chosen. 

“Did that happen just now?” Derek asked, not remembering seeing an injury on Stiles yesterday morning. 

“Nah, earlier. I cut my run a bit short today so I could patch myself up. My friend’s a vet and his mom’s a nurse, so I headed over there knowing one of them could help me out.” 

“Sorry,” Derek said, which earned him a weird look from Stiles. 

“Why? Not your fault.” He bit into his breakfast sandwich and let out a pleased sound. “Damn. This is good! No wonder you always get it. Erica!” he called across the coffee shop. She glanced up from scrolling through her phone and Stiles gave her a thumbs up. “Excellent food, well done.” 

“Shut up you loser,” she insisted, but Derek could tell she was happy to hear him praise her. 

Stiles was that kind of person. He just made everyone around him feel good. Derek couldn’t believe his soulmate wasn’t more appreciative of this wonderful, amazing man. He kept wanting to ask about it, what it was that made them not get along, but he knew it wasn’t his place. Stiles hadn’t brought it up again, but he also kept agreeing to breakfast every Saturday, so Derek took the win. 

“You’ve moved into rock climbing now, right? How’s that been going? Barring the casualty from today, of course.” Derek motioned his hand. 

“Really good. My last course is today, actually. I’ve been talking a lot to the guys down at the rec centre and they said I’m basically all good for the small areas I’m looking to do. Obviously not like, an expert or anything, and I still don’t have all the gear to be a hardcore rock climber, but for places like Miner’s Ridge and Quarry Rock and all those fun ones in the Preserve, they said I’m all set.”

“That’s awesome.” Derek smiled. “So were you at Miner’s Ridge today?” 

“Nah, I didn’t feel like climbing so I went for a run. I slipped on some leaves out near the waterfall and scraped my hand up on a rock on the ground.” He laughed, shaking his head while still holding his breakfast sandwich. “I sound like such a loser, but it’s what happened.” 

“Leaves are slippery when wet,” Derek allowed and Stiles grinned at him, kicking him lightly under the table. 

“So we don’t talk a lot about your hobbies. You know basically all of mine, but we’ve never really talked about what you like to do in your free time. You don’t like running, or the outdoors much, so what do you like?” 

Derek wondered how lame he’d sound if he admitted the truth, and he contemplated lying, but decided there was no point in doing that. If he wanted to eventually date Stiles, lying would just set them back. Besides, everyone had different hobbies, and Stiles had never made him feel like he was a loser or anything just because he didn’t like hanging out in the Preserve. 

“I like reading a lot,” he admitted. 

“Oh yeah?” Stiles licked some egg yolk off his thumb. “That’s cool, what genre you into?” 

Derek shrugged, picking up his coffee to take a sip before returning to his own breakfast. “It depends on my mood. I’ll honestly read anything. Action, mystery, biography, romance.” 

“That’s cool that you can jump around to different things depending on your mood. I am very set in what I like and don’t like. I can’t stand romance novels, to be honest. Or romance movies in general.” Stiles shrugged. “I don’t know, I guess I just don’t like how things are portrayed. They’re unrealistic in that they always tell stories where soulmates don’t exist, and yet the couple always ends up together in the end. I don’t believe that’s true, I think there’d be a lot more hardship and bumps in the road outside soulmates.” 

Derek hesitated for a moment, because it sounded like an opening, but just to be sure, he figured it’d be best to focus on himself and his own views. “I respect that, but I like to think things can work out without soulmates being involved. I’m—kind of on that side of things,” he finally admitted. “I don’t really like knowing the universe chose that one perfect person for me. I’d rather find them myself. What if my soulmate thinks they have no choice and have to be with me? I’d rather they decide how they felt without the expectation that the relationship has to work just because we’re destined to be together.” 

Stiles’ chewing slowed, eyes slanting to the side before he nodded once, slowly. “You know, I guess I’d never really thought of it that way. That maybe we do have a choice in the matter, but a lot of us are too hung up on our soulmates and finding them to really... look around at other options.” He frowned, setting his sandwich down. “Maybe your soulmate is who the universe thinks you should be with, but not necessarily in a romantic sense. Could just as easily be friends, I suppose.” 

“Maybe,” Derek agreed. “I just know I like making decisions for myself.” 

Stiles glanced at him again, looking a bit interested. “So—you’re not really looking for your soulmate?” 

“No, I’m not. I guess if I happened upon him, I’d at least talk to him, but I don’t think I’d fall for him immediately just because he was my soulmate.” 

“Is yours a guy?” Stiles asked curiously. 

“Apparently.” Derek snorted, then nodded towards him. “What about yours?” 

Stiles’ expression went a little sad again, like it always did whenever they spoke about his soulmate. “We uh... you know, they never actually said. They’re not very responsive.” 

“I’m sorry,” Derek said automatically, while also selfishly glad Stiles’ soulmate was a douchebag. 

“So... have you like, dated people then?” Stiles sounded curious again, like he hadn’t ever considered the possibility of just—going out in the world and being with someone else. It was clear he was headed in that direction, considering how shitty his soulmate seemed to be, but he evidently hadn’t given it much legitimate thought until hearing Derek’s opinion on things. 

“Yeah, a few. They all went pretty well, and it was kind of nice feeling like I had a choice. They all fell through for one reason or another, but not specifically because of them not being my soulmate. Just differences in opinions and some people thinking they didn’t want soulmates before deciding they did.” 

“Doesn’t that hurt though?” Stiles asked quietly. “Wanting to be with someone who eventually leaves you because their soulmate showed up?” 

“It did hurt,” Derek admitted, being overly honest about it because he felt comfortable with Stiles. Besides, he was asking questions because he wanted to know the truth, and Derek wasn’t going to lie when he was clearly interested in having a bit of factual information. “It took time to get over people sometimes, but I’m not upset I did it. And if I end up with someone and their soulmate shows up and they leave me well, it’s happened before.” Derek shrugged. “I got dumped by someone whose soulmate had already died, so it’s not like things don’t work out specifically for that reason. Sometimes people just want different things.” 

“I guess.” Stiles had started rubbing absently at his left arm while listening to Derek, and his gaze seemed a thousand miles away, like he was thinking really hard about his own life and his clearly shitty soulmate. 

“Sorry,” Derek said again, kind of automatically. “I don’t mean to—I know things are hard for you.” 

“No, no, it’s—actually, it’s kind of a relief,” Stiles insisted with a bit of a smile. “To know there are still options. I’ve honestly always worried I’d end up alone, and I know my dad worries about it too. I grew up alone, so when I found out that I had a soulmate, I was really happy. I was thinking here was one person in my life that would always be there, you know? No matter what, I’d always have them. But then I looked around and I saw all my friends with writing on their arms, and talking with their soulmates non-stop, and then meeting them, being happy, getting married.” Stiles’ lips turned down slightly. “I think I’m just scared of letting go because I’ve always been alone, and if I finally give up on them, then I’ll just be alone forever. I’ve spent enough of my life alone, I really wanted this to work.” 

“I can’t promise anything,” Derek said cautiously, not wanting to overstep, but this was too perfect an opening. “But I’d really like the opportunity to get to know you even more. I know you said you’re still thinking, and you don’t have to cut out your soulmate entirely just yet, but—I’d like to take you out to dinner. I’d really like it if we could move forward, slowly,” he said quickly, wanting to be clear, “just to see how you feel. If you would prefer we remain friends, then I’m okay with that. If you wanted more, well... I’m interested.” 

Stiles was quiet for an exceptionally long time, still rubbing absently at his arm. He looked like he was thinking extremely hard, Derek almost seeing the gears turning. He didn’t want to push, but things had been going so well for weeks now, and they’d basically known each other for years, even if they’d really only started talking recently. 

When Stiles let out a small exhale, Derek figured he was about to turn him down and ask for more time, which he would happily give him. Surprisingly, he just said, very quietly, “I think I’d really like that.” 

“Really?” Derek asked, surprised. 

“Really. Yeah. Your sister’s right. No time like the present to plan for the future. I’m probably never going to get along with my soulmate, the way things are going. It’s been eighteen years, so if we can’t make friendly in that amount of time, I guess it’s just not going to happen.” 

Derek felt guilty for how happy he was, but really, Stiles’ soulmate’s loss. 

“How about next Saturday?” Derek offered. He didn’t want to wait too long in case Stiles changed his mind, but he did want to give him enough time to change his mind. He wouldn’t be offended, he could see how hard this was for him. 

“I actually wanted to talk about next Saturday with you,” Stiles said. “It’s my dad’s birthday, so I was going to wake up earlier to get my exercise in to have enough time to head home to make him breakfast. He took the day off, so we had plans, which meant I’d have to cancel our standing Saturday morning breakfast date.” 

“That’s really nice,” Derek said sincerely. 

“Yeah, I’m pretty excited about it. Dad doesn’t take time off very much, so having him take his birthday off is kind of a relief, to be honest.” He laughed, licked his lips, then glanced at Derek before saying almost haltingly, “But uh, I’m free Sunday?” 

Derek smiled and nodded once. “I can do Sunday.” 

“Sunday then.” Stiles smiled. “Seven?” 

“Sounds perfect.” 

Sunday seemed entirely too far away. Derek couldn’t fucking wait

Every morning that Derek woke up and went to get his breakfast reminded him of how excited he was for Sunday. He still saw Stiles while he waited for his order, but they chatted more than before, to the point where Derek kept cutting it close on getting to work on time. Stiles also looked better. Not that he didn’t look amazing all the time, in Derek’s opinion, but he honestly looked like a huge weight had been lifted off his shoulders. 

Derek had to wonder about his soulmate, because if they’d been trying to work things out for eighteen years and the idiot hadn’t recognized how amazing Stiles was, well... that was just their loss. And it would be a huge loss for them. Derek really hoped that even if Stiles did find his soulmate later in life, it was too little too late. They didn’t deserve him. 

By Thursday afternoon, he practically had a perma-smile on his face at the realization that he had a date with Stiles in three days. He’d made sure to make a reservation at one of his favourite restaurants in town, because he wanted to spoil Stiles a little bit. It was kind of a pricy place, but after hearing what Stiles had said about being scared he’d live his life alone, he kind of wanted to spoil him a little bit. Derek could afford one expensive dinner every now and then, it wouldn’t break the bank. 

When he arrived home after work, still thinking about everything coming up with Stiles, he realized he hadn’t gone grocery shopping in a while and was kind of lacking in the food department. Also toothpaste. He’d started doing that desperate squeezing the end of the roll to death thing to get some paste out, so he figured a grocery run was in order. 

Heading back out, he parked in the lot when he arrived and had just made it to the door when his eyes caught sight of a familiar sky blue Jeep parked near the end of the first row. He paused, brain slowly realizing what that meant, and couldn’t help smiling because Stiles was also in the store. 

Grabbing a basket, Derek made his way past all the rows, not necessarily looking for Stiles, but figuring he’d stop to chat with him if he happened to bump into him. When he got to the end of the rows, he hadn’t spotted him so he just started from the end of the store, grabbing food and various household items he needed while slowly making his way through all the aisles back towards the tills. 

He was halfway down one of the aisles, perusing all the different cereal choices since he tended to grab a bowl of cereal on weekends—well, used to, but mostly just Sundays now—when he heard a very familiar voice from the next aisle over. 

“Come on, Lyds! No one else will go with me! It’s going to be good, I promise!” 

“We have very different taste in music, and clearly different perceptions of what is considered to be ‘good,’” a somewhat melodic voice responded. 

Derek didn’t really recognize the voice, but Stiles had said ‘Lyds,’ and he knew that Lydia Martin and Stiles had been friends throughout almost all of high school. They were in the same class, and same grade as Cora. 

Lydia and his sister had always had a somewhat antagonistic relationship because Lydia was gorgeous and studious, whereas Cora was gorgeous and athletic. It was like a weird nerd and jock battle between the two of them where both parties were idolized by the general high school population. They’d had a weird relationship, but Derek didn’t think they’d kept in touch. They’d never been friends, so aside from randomly bumping into each other, he figured they likely hadn’t seen one another since high school. 

“What’s the point of going to a concert if I have to go alone?” Stiles whined. “Please? Please, please, please?” 

“Ask Scott.” 

“He said no, he and Allison have plans to visit with her parents that night.” 

“Jackson, then.” 

“He’s gonna be visiting Ethan in London. Lyds, please! I need you. I am a man in need!” 

“You’re a man in need of help, that’s for sure. What happened to your wardrobe? Jackson and I didn’t spend two months breaking into your house and burning all your hideous clothes for you to still be wearing plaid.” 

“I like plaid!” 

Derek smiled at the indignation in Stiles’ voice while rounding the corner, and sure enough, there he was with Lydia Martin. Stiles was the one pushing the cart, but Lydia seemed to be putting things into it, suggesting he was likely only there to be her cart-boy and not because he actually needed anything. 

Lydia had always been a sight to behold, and even now, she looked stunning. She was wearing a grey pencil skirt with a white, sleeveless blouse and light makeup. Her hair was up in a tight bun, making her look a bit more severe than he was sure she intended to, but he felt like she’d probably been confusing a lot of people with their sexuality. She kind of looked like one of those sexy librarians in pornos, not that he would ever tell her that. 

Derek had seen how vicious Lydia Martin could be, and he didn’t want her to remove his testicles with her fingernails. 

Stiles was still whining while leaning heavily against the cart when his eyes shifted to the person approaching them. He jerked upright instantly, looking startled, but pleased. 

“Derek! Hey!” 

Lydia turned to Stiles, confused, and then the other way, eyes catching sight of Derek while he closed the distance between them. Her look was calculating, like she wasn’t sure how she felt about him. He wondered if that was because of her weird relationship with Cora in high school, or if it was because she knew Derek had asked Stiles out on a date despite both of them having soulmates. 

“Hi,” Derek replied, smiling at Stiles and stopping near the end of the cart. “This is a surprise. I don’t think I’ve ever run into you here before.” 

“Yeah, you’d think we’d actually see each other more often at the store, considering.” Stiles laughed, then noticed Lydia staring at him. “Oh, this is my friend Lydia. I’m just here helping her restock her pantry for a fancy party she’s throwing that I’m not invited to.” 

“You were invited, you just declined, don’t sully my name,” Lydia snapped, turning to Derek. “Apparently he had other plans.” 

Ah, so she was annoyed because she’d planned something on Sunday and Stiles was busy. Derek would’ve offered to move the date, except he didn’t want to risk Stiles changing his mind. He hadn’t so far, but any delays might be dangerous. 

Besides, it was obvious Derek had asked first, otherwise Stiles wouldn’t have said he was free on Sunday. 

“Could’ve changed the date,” Stiles insisted. “Yours was last minute and isn’t set in stone. There’s still time.” 

“Don’t make me regret letting you come here with me, I’m not in the mood.” Lydia turned away from him and reached up for something on the top shelf with her right hand. 

Derek had just opened his mouth to say something when he froze, eyes on Lydia’s arm. There was writing present on it, the text a little bit faded since it was evidently a few hours old, but he realized with a start that he recognized it. 

Holy shit, he recognized that handwriting! 

When Lydia pulled the product off the shelf and went to drop it into the cart, Derek moved to grab her wrist without really thinking about it, ignoring her offended remark at his actions, and just stared down at her arm. 

That was... impossible. If it was true, they definitely would’ve known by now. It didn’t make any sense that it would’ve taken this long for it to happen! 

“Derek?” Stiles asked cautiously. Lydia had stopped trying to tug free the moment she realized what he was looking at. 

“You—do you recognize it?” Lydia asked, Derek looking up at her. Her eyes had widened slightly and she looked like she was ready to jump on him and shake him uncontrollably for an answer. “Do you know whose handwriting this is?” 

Derek released her arm and dug into his pocket for his phone. Unlocking it, he moved to his contacts and immediately called Cora, putting the phone to his ear and listening to it ring. 

It kept ringing and ringing before clicking and going to voicemail. He hung up, dialled again, and waited. Still no answer. Cora was either ignoring him, or busy. It was hard to tell with her, but considering the time, it couldn’t be work. 

“Do you have a pen?” Derek asked her, Lydia still staring at him hopefully while Stiles looked a little shocked. 

“I do.” Lydia threw what she’d been holding into the cart and then moved to her purse, which was in the toddler holder at the back of the cart. She dug through it until she pulled one out, holding it up. 

“Write ‘Derek Hale is in front of me’ on your arm.” 

Lydia wasn’t one to take instructions easily, he knew that from high school, but she seemed a little out of sorts right then because she complied immediately, uncapping the pen and writing what he’d said in neat cursive on her left arm. 

Derek’s phone rang before she’d even finished and he answered it. 

“Your name just appeared on my arm! Derek, my—she just said you’re in front of her!”

“Holy shit,” Derek breathed. “Holy shit, it’s actually you.” 

“What?!” Lydia practically jumped him, wrenching his phone from his hand so violently that he actually worried she’d take his hand with it. “Give me that! Yes, hello? Who is this?” she demanded, turning to walk down the aisle, heels clicking loudly against the floor. 

Derek couldn’t help the small, surprised laugh that escaped him. Holy shit, all this time, she and Cora had been at each other’s throats in high school, and neither of them had ever thought that maybe it was for a reason. It was so strange to realize that Cora had always known her soulmate, she’d just never put two and two together.

Actually, it was just as weird to realize Laura had met her soulmate, too. They’d both actually known their soulmates, at least a little bit, before the big reveal. He hadn’t realized that was a thing, he’d always kind of heard about how people ran into each other, realized they were soulmates, and that was that. But with his sisters, they’d both known their soulmates before finding out it was their soulmate. That was kind of weird to him. 

It also made him uncomfortable to realize both his sisters had found their soulmates within a few weeks of each other. His mother was going to be ecstatic, and then look sad again at the realization that Derek was never going to find his, because he didn’t want to. 

He’d been so lost in thought that it took him a few seconds to remember that Stiles was still in front of him. When he focussed his attention back on him, the small smile he’d been sporting because of how happy he knew Cora would be instantly vanished. 

Stiles’ gaze was lowered, and he had one hand clenched tightly over his left arm, which was covered with his usual black band like it always was. His expression looked... actually, he looked almost devastated. Derek remembered what he’d said last Saturday, about growing up alone, and worrying he’d always be alone. 

He suddenly hated Stiles’ soulmate. 

“Stiles?” he asked cautiously, starting to reach out before thinking better of it. 

Stiles started, as if forgetting he was there, and looked up. He forced a smile, but Derek could see his eyes watering slightly. He sniffed, wiped at his nose with one hand and cleared his throat. 

“I can’t believe you know Lydia’s soulmate, that’s really cool. She’s going to be thrilled, she’s been looking for her for a while. Who was it?” 

“My sister.” 

“Cora?!” Stiles demanded, and then laughed. It sounded a bit hollow. “Holy shit, oh my God, everyone’s going to laugh themselves unconscious! I mean, I guess it makes sense when you really think about it, because they were always kind of going at each other in high school. I’m glad there was a reason for it. Opposites attract and all that, this is actually really great.” He glanced down into the cart. “Shit, some of this needs to be refrigerated, I should finish up for her, I think her list is in here somewhere.” He started rummaging through Lydia’s purse before pulling out a piece of paper with neat cursive written on it. “Awesome. I’ll grab the rest while she’s on the phone, I guess. Definitely not paying for her though, she has expensive taste.” He laughed again, but Derek felt his heart clenching in his chest. 

This wasn’t okay. Stiles was happy for Lydia, it was obvious he was, but having one of his friends find their soulmate right in front of him while he and his own didn’t get along...

When Stiles bid him a good day and started past him, Derek reached out and grabbed his arm. Not tightly, like he was going to make him to stick around if he didn’t want to, but with enough force to clearly show he wanted him to wait. 

“Stiles,” he said. And that was all he said. Because he didn’t know what else to say. 

“I’m fine,” Stiles insisted, forcing a smile at him, but his eyes were still wet and he reached up with one hand, using his thumb and forefinger to wipe the moisture away. “I was just surprised, is all. Lydia was the last one in my friend’s group to still be single aside from me, so we spend a lot of time together. Guess it’s back to being alone for me.”

“You’re not alone,” Derek insisted, tightening his grip slightly. “I’m here. I’m not going anywhere.”

“You don’t know that,” Stiles insisted quietly. “Even people who say they don’t want soulmates end up changing their minds.” 

“Stiles.” Derek turned more towards him, keeping a firm grip on his arm. “Listen to me. You’re not alone. I know your friends might have found their other halves, but they still care about you. They’re not going to abandon you. And I have absolutely no intention of forgetting about you. I’ve been going to the same coffee shop to see you every morning for years. I’m looking forward to our dinner on Sunday because you’re an amazing person, and I care about you. You’re not going to be alone, not as long as I’ve got a say in it. I promise.” 

Stiles wasn’t looking at him, but his jaw worked and it was clear he wanted to say something. His eyes were still a little wet, and Derek hated that Stiles didn’t understand what an amazing person he was. He hated that he’d grown up alone, had a shitty soulmate, felt like he wasn’t worthwhile. Stiles was an amazing person, and he didn’t deserve to feel this way. 

Derek loosened his grip on Stiles’ arm, but only so he could raise it to his face. When Stiles’ gaze shifted to him again, Derek cradled his cheek in one hand, made sure to give Stiles plenty of time to pull back, then leaned forward and kissed him. 

He’d kissed a lot of people before in his life, but testament to his years of crushing on Stiles for how amazing it felt having his lips press against his. It wasn’t even a deep kiss. It was just a light press of lips, Derek wanting to show Stiles that he truly did want this with him, at whatever pace Stiles felt comfortable with. He wanted to be with him, he wanted to have him in his life. 

Pulling back, Derek let his thumb brush lightly against Stiles’ skin, the other man letting out a slow breath through parted lips. 

“Thanks,” Stiles said. Then he made a face. “Not thanks for kissing me, though that was really nice too. But just—thanks. For thinking I’m worthwhile.” 

“You are,” Derek promised, the telltale sounds of Lydia’s heels returning meeting his ears. “You’re worth everything, and I’ll prove it to you on Sunday.” 

“Thanks Derek.” Stiles’ smile was small, but at least more genuine than any of the others he’d sported since Lydia’s big reveal. 

Said individual reached them then, Derek pulling away from Stiles entirely and letting his hand fall. She didn’t look impressed, like Derek touching Stiles irked her, but she held his phone out to him anyway, which he appreciated. 

“Your sister said to let you know not to tell your mom. She wants to be the one to tell her.” 

Derek nodded once, taking his phone back and shoving it into his pocket. He was sure Lydia and Cora had exchanged numbers, even if it was just by writing them on each other’s arms. Now that they’d found one another, he knew that they could communicate more freely about themselves, which he’d always found weird, but the whole soulmates thing was weird in general so he didn’t question it. 

Lydia turned to Stiles then, expression softening slightly. “Sunday’s cancelled, so guess you can be re-invited after all. I’ll postpone to next week.” 

Stiles sighed. “Does that mean I have to help you put all of this stuff back?” 

“Don’t pretend you don’t enjoy the pleasure of my company,” Lydia insisted, grabbing at the item she’d just pulled off the shelf when Derek had noticed her arm and reaching up to put it back. 

“I’ll see you tomorrow morning,” Derek told Stiles, offering him a small smile. 

Stiles managed one back. “See you tomorrow.” 

“Come on, Stiles. Let’s go. We have lots to put back.” Lydia turned to head back down the aisle and Stiles waved before manoeuvring the cart around and following after her. 

Derek was definitely going to make sure Sunday went well, even if he had to go broke doing it. 

Being able to sleep in on Saturday after all those weeks of waking up early to meet Stiles was literally the best feeling. Derek hadn’t realized just how much he’d missed sleeping in on Saturdays until consciousness slowly began to poke insistently at him. He blamed his bladder, it seemed determined to bring him out of his slumber, which he should probably do anyway. 

He always slept in far too late on weekends, and it messed with his schedule on Sunday nights. Given how hot his room currently was, and how bright, he knew it had to be at least ten, maybe later. He’d gone to bed relatively late the night before, so he knew it meant a late start to his day today.

A part of him didn’t want to get up, because he’d much rather sleep the whole day away so it could finally be Sunday, since he had his date with Stiles, but he had errands to run. He’d dropped one of his suits off at the dry cleaner’s and his mother wanted him to drop by for dinner—probably because of the whole Lydia-Cora thing from Thursday, her misguided attempts to make sure he was all right. 

Which he was. He was fine. Not finding his soulmate was his decision, so he didn’t know why his mother was worried about him. Besides, his soulmate was still going strong, sending him good night and good morning messages as normal. 

He probably wouldn’t have one today, given he tended to miss the good morning messages on weekends since his soulmate seemed to wake up much earlier than him. 

Lying in bed for a few seconds longer, Derek rolled onto his left side, bringing his right arm up by his head. His bladder was really insisting he wake up and he grunted in annoyance at it. Letting out another small breath, he obediently peeled open his eyes so he could get his day started, thinking that he should check the time just to see how many hours of his morning he’d wasted, when he froze. 

There was writing on his arm, like there always was, because his soulmate never knew when to give up. But the usual good morning text was still there—though smudged, faded, and barely legible—which it usually wasn’t on weekends. It looked like the normal neat print he’d grown used to seeing for years and years. 

But that wasn’t what he was staring at.

He was staring at the message underneath, which was written jaggedly, like it hadn’t been done with a pen, but more with a sharp object carving the words into his skin. 


Derek had never propelled himself out of bed so fast in his life, heart pounding in his chest at the words. They were burned into his brain as much as his arm, appearing behind his closed lids every time he blinked. 

He had no idea what had happened, but it was clear the words had been etched into his skin with something sharp, like a nail or a knife or something. His soulmate was in trouble, and it didn’t matter that Derek didn’t want to find him. It didn’t matter that Derek didn’t want to be with his soulmate and wanted to make his own decisions. 

His soulmate was in trouble, and Derek couldn’t ignore that. He was going to help him, no matter what. 

“Pen!” Derek insisted, throwing things urgently around on his desk in the office, trying to locate a pen. “Come on, pen! Pen!” How was it he literally could not find a single pen right now when he needed one?! “Fuck!” 

Racing back to the kitchen, he opened one of his drawers, knowing he had to have a pen somewhere, and finally located one in his cutlery drawer. He uncapped it urgently and for the first time in his life, he pressed it to the skin of his left arm and started writing. 

I’m coming. I’ll find you, you’re gonna be okay. I promise I’ll get you help, just hang on. I’m coming.

He was rushing back to his room while he wrote, a part of him terrified he was about to see his own words reflected back on his right arm, denoting his soulmate had died. He didn’t know what he’d do if his soulmate was dead right now. He’d probably lose his mind, honestly. He’d never wanted this, but he definitely didn’t wish death on anyone, least of all his soulmate. 

Ignoring his bladder entirely, Derek wrenched on clothes while casting glances at his right arm, worried his words would appear there. So far so good. He didn’t get an answer from his soulmate, but if he’d used something to carve words into his arm, then clearly he didn’t have a pen handy. 

Shit, was he okay? What had happened? Had he been kidnapped or something?! What if he was a secret agent on a mission and had gotten caught by the enemy? Shit, Derek didn’t even know what to do right now! 

Cops, he decided, getting his jeans done up and grabbing a random shirt. Police station first. It was really his only option, so he hastily shoved his bare feet into a pair of sneakers, grabbed his phone, wallet and keys, and raced out of the house. The elevator took entirely too long to show up, and Derek ended up giving up waiting on it, rushing for the stairs and racing down them to the garage. He sped out onto the street so fast he was surprised not to get pulled over immediately, but there didn’t seem to be any cops around. 

He kept glancing at his right arm, feeling his heart pounding and his mind going a mile a minute. Shit, was his soulmate okay? What had happened? Fuck, what was he even supposed to tell the cops?! 

And how long had his soulmate been waiting? Derek’s dash said it was almost one by now, meaning he’d slept in far later than he’d thought. When had his soulmate carved those desperate words into his arm? Had he thought Derek didn’t care enough to even bother helping him? Was he even still conscious? Did he know Derek wasn’t a heartless monster?! Jesus Christ, Derek couldn’t even begin to imagine how his soulmate felt right now. If he’d carved those words hours ago, his only option to get help, only to have no response for literal hours. Fuck. Fuck!

Derek’s car flew into the parking lot for the precinct, tires screeching loudly and multiple officers turning to him sharply from their locations milling about outside or near their cruisers. He didn’t care, he just slammed on the brakes once he was parked relatively well and then threw open his door, scrambling out of the car. 

He heard the sheriff shouting something from the other end of the lot, insisting he knew he wouldn’t have turned off his phone, and something was wrong. It looked like a few officers were trying to calm him down, and a part of Derek’s mind remembered it was the man’s birthday, Stiles having cancelled their Saturday morning breakfast date specifically because of this. He didn’t know why the sheriff was at work, but he also didn’t care. He had bigger problems. 

He was halfway to the entrance, having bolted across the lot, when Parrish intercepted him. He’d been with the group of officers near the sheriff, but had obviously broken off upon seeing Derek explode into the lot like he had. 

“Derek? What’s going on, everything okay?” 

“No, I—my soulmate.” Derek didn’t even know how to articulate anything right now, his mind was in a panic and he didn’t know what to do, and fuck his soulmate needed him and he was useless! “He needs help.” Derek held his arm out to show Parrish and the man started at the sight of the two desperate words. 

“Okay, come on. Let’s go inside.” He glanced briefly over his shoulder at the sheriff, who still sounded borderline hysterical about something, but seemed to determine he had enough people helping him and just hurried up the steps with Derek in tow. 

“When did you speak to your soulmate last?” Parrish asked, moving through the bullpen towards what was presumably his desk, Derek following behind him. 

“I—haven’t,” Derek said, the words like broken glass in his mouth. 

Parrish paused briefly to look at him, then seemed to remember their conversation at dinner when he’d been revealed as Laura’s soulmate. Instead of looking judgmental or frustrated, he just shifted gears while taking a seat, bringing his computer out of sleep mode and typing in his password quickly so he could open a new file. 

“What can you tell me about them? Do you know anything?” 

“Um,” Derek rubbed at his forehead with one hand, trying to think. What did he know about his soulmate? “He’s two years younger than me, he likes the colour blue, he works a stay-at-home job, he lives with his dad, he sprouts random facts when he’s drunk, he wakes up early every day—”

Derek realized, as words kept spilling out of his mouth, that he actually... knew a lot. About his soulmate. He knew so, so much about him. He knew that he liked pastries and breakfast sandwiches and bagels for breakfast over cereal or eggs and bacon. He knew that he’d graduated with an almost perfect GPA and gotten multiple scholarships for university. He knew that he was athletic and active, since he often spoke about all the sports he played. He knew he was the kind of person who kept talking to his soulmate, even though he’d never heard anything back in all the time they’d known about one another. 

He actually knew a lot, and it was clear based on the look on Parrish’s face that he was just as surprised as Derek was at how much he remembered. He’d never wanted a soulmate, he’d never even wanted to know anything about him. But he’d had years of reading the words appearing on his arm. He could’ve ignored them, but it was almost like a comfort having them there, knowing someone was on the other end, would always be on the other end, even if he didn’t deserve him. 

Derek kept sprouting out everything he could think of that would help him find his soulmate, Parrish typing furiously, like knowing the idiot’s favourite food was pizza and he had dreams of visiting the Amazon Rainforest was going to help narrow down who his soulmate was and what trouble they might be in. 

“And he—has a dog? I think? Could be a cat, but I think it’s a dog.” Derek was still rubbing at his forehead, getting a headache. He should’ve called someone, his mom maybe. He felt like he was falling apart. “He talks about his dog a lot, his dad is allergic to dogs, but apparently he managed to get one because he never shuts up about Roscoe and how much he loves her and—”

“Wait, Roscoe?” 

Derek looked up at Parrish, this being the first interruption since he’d started sprouting out everything he knew about his soulmate. 

“You said Roscoe, but you also said her. Did your soulmate say Roscoe was a dog?” 

“I—no, but—” 

“Does he talk about Roscoe being old? Is Roscoe old? Like, really old?” 

It was such a weird thing to ask that it took a second for Derek to think about the answer. His soulmate always complained about how expensive Roscoe was, presumably vet bills. He’d had the dog for a really long time though, because Derek felt like he’d been talking about Roscoe since his later years of high school. 

“He first mentioned Roscoe when we were still in high school,” Derek said, wondering if maybe Parrish knew something he didn’t. If he wanted to focus on the Roscoe aspect, Derek was all for it if it’d help them find his soulmate faster. “So she’d be pretty old by now, yeah. He talks a lot about how expensive she is, how much money he spends on her, but he loves her a lot and won’t ever get rid of her.” He assumed that was more about putting her down rather than giving her up. 

Parrish stared at him for an exceptionally long time, and then Derek jumped when he shouted, “Sheriff! Sheriff, we need you in here!” 

He was on his feet and striding quickly away, still shouting for the sheriff. Derek turned to watch him, confused, heart still pounding in his chest. Parrish ended up exiting the precinct, since evidently the sheriff wasn’t listening—or likely couldn’t hear him. Derek took the opportunity to pull his phone out of his pocket, noticing his hands trembling ever so slightly, and opened his contacts. 

He clicked his mother’s name, putting it to his ear while watching the door for Parrish’s return. His mother answered after the second ring. 

“Hi sweetie.”

“Mom, I’m at the police station. My soulmate’s in trouble, I’m trying to get help finding him.” 

“I’ll be right there. I’ll get your father.”

His mother was amazing. She didn’t ask any questions, she didn’t press, she didn’t make any comments about his lack of communication with his soulmate, nothing. He gave her facts, and she knew he needed her, and she was coming. 

He’d just put his phone back in his pocket when the sheriff exploded through the doors, eyes wild while searching the bullpen before locking on Derek. His look was intense, and kind of concerning. 

Derek noticed he was wearing civilian clothes, which made sense since he was supposed to have the day off. He wondered if Stiles was sitting at home waiting for him with breakfast, wondering what was taking so long for his dad to get back. 

Parrish followed the sheriff quickly while the man made a beeline for Derek. He wasn’t sure why, but as soon as the sheriff reached him, he grabbed him by the shirt and wrenched him out of his chair, Parrish letting out a startled shout at the action. 

“Do you know where he is?! Please, please. Where is he? Where’s my son?” 

“What?” Derek asked, feeling his stomach bottom out. Why were they talking about Stiles? “What about Stiles? Is he okay?” 

“Stiles has a Jeep,” Parrish said, the sheriff still looking at him desperately. “He calls her Roscoe.”

Derek stared at Parrish like he was speaking a different language. 


Stiles... had a Jeep. Yes, Derek knew that, he was intimately familiar with said Jeep seeing as how he always sought it out to know when Stiles was at the coffee shop. He’d been seeing it for years. 

He referred to his Jeep as a she? And he called her Roscoe? 

Derek felt like his brain was slowly short-circuiting because... Stiles wore blue. Like, all the time. He wore blue a lot. And he was smart, so smart. He’d gotten multiple scholarships, he and Derek had spoken about that once while talking about his programming job. 

And Stiles was active. He went running every day, and he’d played sports in school, and he was just... always moving. And Stiles rambled a lot. Literally every time they spoke, he rambled. He rambled so much it was endearing.

Just like his soulmate. Who Derek insisted he found annoying, but actually didn’t mind the rambles, despite how much he denied it, even to himself. 

Was Stiles...? 

But how could he know?! How could he possibly know right now?! He needed an answer and—

His brain instantly went to Thursday, when Lydia had been reaching for something, the words on her arm clearly visible. 

“Writing,” Derek blurted out. “Writing, do you—his handwriting! I need something with Stiles’ handwriting!” 

The sheriff let him go so fast Derek almost lost his footing and the man bolted for his office. Parrish was looking between Derek and the sheriff’s office, kind of like he had no idea what to think. It almost looked like he hoped he was wrong, but was also desperate to be right. 

Something had clearly happened to Stiles, which explained why the sheriff wasn’t at home on his birthday. He’d said something about someone never turning off their phone when Derek had been brought inside, so maybe Stiles had gone for his usual run this morning and then—he hadn’t come back. Derek hadn’t even thought of Stiles this morning because he’d woken up to the words ‘help me’ on his arm, but he was now positive if he tried calling, he wouldn’t get a response. 

And if Stiles was Derek’s soulmate—well, Derek would be able to help find him. He ignored the other implications for now, that being that he’d ignored Stiles his entire life, and all the horrible, terrible feelings Stiles had experienced were his fault, but he couldn’t focus on that right now. 

He had to know if they were the same person first, because if they were, Derek needed to help find him because Stiles was in trouble

“I’m looking for my son.” 

Derek turned at the words, as did Parrish, and the officer called that it was fine and motioned the pair over. Talia hurried forward, Michael right behind her, and when she reached Derek she pulled him into a tight, fierce hug. 

“What do you know?” she asked, pulling back and reaching for his right arm. Her lips turned down at the sight of the words from his soulmate, but she didn’t say anything about it. 

“We think it might be Stiles,” Parrish said. 

Derek flinched unintentionally at that and both his parents turned to Parrish, startled. Derek hadn’t exactly made it a secret he was crushing pretty hard on Stiles, and that he’d asked him out. His entire family knew they were supposed to go to dinner tomorrow, so he couldn’t imagine what his mother was thinking right now at the realization that Stiles might be his soulmate.

Jesus Christ, Stiles might actually be his soulmate. 

The sheriff rushed out of his office moments later, starling his parents with his abrupt arrival, and he thrust a birthday card at Derek. It was one of those ridiculous gag cards, and when Derek opened it, annoying music started playing. He ignored all that and looked at the handwritten words inside. 

It was a sweet message, Stiles basically thanking his dad for being the most amazing father in the world and how much he cherished their relationship. It looked like it was from a previous year, just based on some of the comments, but Derek tried not to pay too much attention to what the words were. 

He instead focussed on how familiar the handwriting was. How he could probably replicate it perfectly after years and years of seeing that exact same handwriting appear on his arm. Every morning, every night, every time his soulmate got drunk. He recognized the distinct slant of the T’s and the weird H’s that looked to be half-print, half-cursive. Even the language, the way the words were strung together, was familiar to him.

Stiles was his soulmate. 

This was both the best moment of his life, and the absolute worst

Dropping the card, he turned to grab a pen off Parrish’s desk and brought it to his left arm. 

Are you Stiles Stilinski?

He felt another stab of terror at the thought that maybe the words would appear on his opposite arm, but thankfully they didn’t. 

All of them just stood there while they waited. He didn’t know why, because what if he was unconscious? What if he was bleeding to death and hadn’t even seen the words?! 

What if Stiles was dying right now and Derek would never have the chance to apologize for—

All the air left him when he saw a line very slowly appear on his right arm. It was broken and jagged, just like ‘help me’ was, which proved he was literally using something to write into the skin of his arm. 

They all waited, nobody breathing, as the line very slowly turned into a ‘Y.’ 

Derek didn’t hesitate, he immediately brought the pen back to his other arm, starting to run out of space to write. 

Are you at Miner’s Ridge?

Stiles had been doing a lot of rock climbing lately, but Derek didn’t know where he was at. He knew he’d done Mount Dacite a few weeks ago, but he was working his way up to Miner’s Ridge and Quarry Rock. 

“Miner’s Ridge?” the sheriff asked. “Why would he be—?”

“He’s been rock climbing,” Derek interrupted, eyes on his right arm while they waited. “He and a friend were going to go and he’s been doing it in the mornings instead of jogging for the past few weeks.” 

Derek was so insanely glad that he and Stiles had started speaking because the only reason he knew this was because of all their Saturday morning breakfast dates. If Laura hadn’t said those words to him, if she hadn’t forced him to get off his ass and finally ask Stiles to sit down and have a coffee with him, he never would’ve known about his rock climbing goals. 

He never would’ve known where to start looking for him. 

When Stiles replied on Derek’s right arm, he only had to draw two lines before Derek recognized it as an ‘N.’ He didn’t need him hurting himself more for something that was clearly a negative so he started writing on his left arm again. 

Quarry Rock?

The answer this time was faster, because all Stiles did was underline his previously carved ‘Y.’ 

“He’s at Quarry Rock,” the sheriff shouted, making the Hales all jump. He’d turned away from them, and was shouting for people to get a chopper in the air. 

Your dad is coming. You’re gonna be okay, he’s coming.

Derek stared at his own words on his arm, knowing Stiles was reading them. Knowing Stiles knew his dad had found his soulmate. Had found the person who’d never once responded to him, who’d ignored him their entire lives. The person who’d made Stiles grow up alone, because even though he knew he was there, his soulmate had never once made an effort to speak to him. 

He was the reason for all those looks on Stiles’ face. All the hurt, and fear, and the belief that he wasn’t worth anything and that he was going to die alone just as he’d lived his entire life. 

It was Derek’s fault. He’d fallen in love with his soulmate without even knowing it was his soulmate. Because apparently the universe knew Derek better than even he fucking did. 

When Parrish started to turn to follow after the sheriff, Derek grabbed at his arm, feeling like he was dying a bit inside. 

“Don’t tell him,” he said quietly. “Stiles. Don’t—please tell the sheriff not to tell him. I want... to be the one. He deserves to hear it from me.” 

Parrish had the misfortune of knowing both sides. Derek knew all the officers at the precinct knew Stiles very well, him being the sheriff’s son. So that meant Parrish probably knew about how Stiles’ soulmate was an asshole who’d never once spoken to him. And Parrish also knew, courtesy of being Laura’s soulmate, that Derek had always wanted to make his own choice in who to be with. That Derek had wanted the ability to decide for himself. 

How ironic that now that Derek knew who his soulmate was, he was probably going to lose him for being a fucking asshole. 

“I’ll try,” Parrish promised, gripping Derek’s shoulder tightly before pulling away and rushing out after the sheriff. 

Derek fell into the chair he’d previously been occupying and buried his face in his hands. His mother wrapped one arm around him in comfort, and his dad was gripping his other shoulder similarly to how Parrish had just done, but it didn’t make him feel any better. 

He felt hollow and empty. 

And like he definitely wasn’t going to have that date tomorrow. 

He’d completely fucked up. 

Derek felt like he was going to throw up when he stood outside Beacon Hills hospital, staring at the automatic doors like they were the entrance to hell. 

It had been two days since Stiles had been admitted. He hadn’t been told everything that had happened, but Parrish had been kind enough to explain a little bit so Derek wouldn’t go insane. Apparently there had been a rockslide while Stiles had been climbing and while he hadn’t been far up off the ground when he’d gotten hit, the boulders had fallen on top of him when he’d lost his grip. Most of them had been small enough to cause minimal injuries, but his leg had gotten trapped—almost crushed—beneath two other larger boulders. When he’d tried to get his phone out of his pocket, he’d found that the fall had broken it and he’d had no way to call for help. 

Some of his friends had heard he’d started rock climbing, but they hadn’t known he was out doing it in the Preserve, they’d only heard about his courses at the rec centre, so nobody knew where he was. All anyone knew was that he was in the Preserve, but it was a massive piece of land and there was no way to find him easily without being able to narrow it down. 

With his phone out of commission and his leg trapped, the best Stiles could do was find a sharp rock and pray that his soulmate would actually care enough to help him. Parrish didn’t go into details about Stiles’ mental state, but it was clear that when hours passed with no response, Stiles had been positive he was going to be left there to die. Derek hated that, because if he hadn’t slept in so late, Stiles wouldn’t have thought that, and he honestly didn’t want to walk into the hospital right now. 

The sheriff had been using Parrish as a go-between, since he clearly had zero desire to speak to Derek at the moment. He’d only asked that Derek stayed away for a time, but had been kind enough to agree not to tell Stiles who his soulmate was. 

Derek didn’t know if it was as a favour for helping find him, or as a punishment so that Derek would be forced to look Stiles in the eye himself while he told him the truth. Honestly, he was surprised Stiles hadn’t put it together, given it sounded like nobody but him had known about his rock climbing haunts in the Preserve. He assumed maybe Stiles thought someone had gotten in touch with the people at the rec centre, had found out he was actually rock climbing, and had then used his soulmate as a means to ask which area he was in. 

Either way, Stiles still didn’t know yet. Parrish had texted him this morning to say the sheriff was giving him permission to visit. The man had to go to work, and Stiles had been asking endless questions about his soulmate since he’d been found. He’d been on morphine for a while, but apparently he was doing better, albeit with a badly damaged leg. Derek was worried about whether or not he’d be able to run, since he seemed to love running, but Parrish had insisted the doctors said it would be okay. It was a really bad break, so it would take a long time to heal, but it would heal. 

Derek was glad. He’d have hated to know Stiles had lost the ability to do something he loved. 

Still, now that he had permission to be there, he didn’t want to be. His mother had come down with him, but she was waiting in the car. The fact that she’d come meant she wasn’t optimistic about this encounter either. Laura and Cora had very kindly kept their mouths shut about it, but Derek knew this was going to cause problems all around. 

Parrish worked for the sheriff, and was Laura’s soulmate. 

Lydia was close friends with Stiles, and was Cora’s soulmate. 

He may have single-handedly ruined three entire relationships by being selfish his entire life. 

Knowing things weren’t going to get any easier, Derek forced himself to take a deep breath, and then walked through the sliding glass doors, wishing things had been different. Wishing he’d said something to his soulmate even just a week ago. 

The only solace he had was that he’d never told his soulmate to go away. If nothing else, at least he had that in his favour. 

He asked the front desk what room Stiles was in, and when they said he wasn’t allowed visitors, Derek awkwardly informed them that he was his soulmate and that the sheriff was aware he was coming by. The nurse checked the log for his name and then let him through, informing him what room Stiles was in. A part of him had expected her to give him the cold shoulder, but he supposed not everyone knew about Stiles’ soulmate situation. 

The town may know Stiles, but he probably didn’t advertise that his soulmate didn’t want him to everyone who lived there. 

Derek took his time making his way to Stiles’ room, wanting to delay his arrival as much as possible. The door was ajar when he reached it and he stood off to the side, out of sight, for entirely too long. It wasn’t going to get any easier. No time like the present, Laura always said, so he forced himself to move forward and knocked on the door. 

“Yeah?” Stiles asked. He sounded lucid, at least. He probably still had some drugs in him, but not enough that he was out of it. 

Derek pushed open the door all the way, and felt his heart clench. 

Stiles looked terrible. He had bruises along most of his face and visible skin in varying stages of healing. One leg was elevated and in a cast, the other hidden under a blanket that was arranged in a weird way given his one raised leg. 

The smile that split Stiles’ face at the sight of him hurt more than anything. 

“Derek! Hey!” He shut the laptop he’d had open on the small table his food usually occupied, wincing while he twisted to push it to the side and out of the way. “Sorry I missed our date, but my dad promised he told you what happened. Hopefully you understand.” He motioned his overall appearance and that just hurt Derek more. 

Stiles looked so fucking happy to see him. And he was apologizing for missing their date because he’d gotten caught in a fucking rockslide. 

Derek wanted to leave. He didn’t want to do this. 

But he’d promised him, hadn’t he? In the store, when Lydia and Cora had found each other, he’d promised Stiles that he wasn’t going anywhere. So now more than ever, he had to do this. 

Stepping further into the room, Derek shut the door behind himself, took a breath, then turned back to Stiles and moved forward so he could take a seat in the chair beside his bed. 

He had a plethora of flowers and stuffed animals on a table by the far wall, along with various cards. It was clear a lot of people were wishing him well and hoping for a speedy recovery. Stiles himself seemed to be in good spirits, which he supposed was a good thing, though that only made him feel worse. 

He didn’t deserve Stiles. He would never in his life deserve Stiles. 

“How’ve you been?” Stiles asked, as if Derek was the important topic of discussion right now. As if Stiles hadn’t almost died two days ago. 

Derek’s eyes strayed to his arms. His left one was bandaged, which made sense considering everything he’d carved into it. Derek was used to him having it covered. It was why he’d never seen the ‘good morning’ words etched onto them. 

Stiles had said good morning to him every day since he was ten years old. The past two days were the only days he hadn’t, and Derek knew it was because he couldn’t, not because he didn’t want to.

Actually, he was willing to bet Stiles was itching to get his hands on a pen so he could write something to his soulmate, but with the injury, he couldn’t. He had to know his dad had told his soulmate he’d been found, but Stiles himself probably wanted to say thank you. 

Derek didn’t deserve any thanks. 

His eyes shifted to Stiles’ right arm, where his own small print said, ‘Good morning Stiles.’ It was the least he could do after eighteen years of ignoring him. Derek didn’t know what else to do or say, so he’d written him a good morning greeting and a good night parting the past two days. It wasn’t enough, it would never be enough, but it was all he could do. 

Stiles seemed to notice where he was looking because he turned his arm inward, resting it on his stomach, hiding the inside of his forearm where Derek’s own words were staring back at him. 

“It’s—kind of a long story,” Stiles said, sounding a bit sheepish. “Um, but don’t worry, it’s fine. It’s not like we’re—”

“I’m sorry.” 

He couldn’t even look Stiles in the eye when he said it. That was how much of a coward he was. 

“For what?” Stiles asked with a small laugh. “It’s not your fault rocks decided to—”

“No,” Derek interrupted, because if Stiles didn’t let him get it out, then he never would. “I’m sorry that I made you feel like you weren’t worth anything. I’m sorry that you grew up alone, thinking you would always be alone, that you weren’t good enough. I’m sorry that I didn’t remind you every single day how amazing you are, and how lucky I am to have you in my life. I’m just—I’m sorry.” 

Stiles was silent for a moment, but Derek didn’t lift his gaze. He just kept staring at Stiles’ arm, even though he’d turned it so that the words were no longer visible. 

“I... don’t understand,” Stiles finally said, slowly. “What are you talking about? You’ve been nothing but nice to me since the day we met. And you’re interested in me, despite the fact that you’ve known since the beginning that I was still trying to make things work with my soulmate. You’re literally the only person who makes me feel like I’m worth something even though my soulmate doesn’t want me.” 

“He does want you,” Derek said quietly. 

“What?” Stiles asked, sounding more confused now. “What are you talking about?” 

He didn’t know what to say. He had no idea how to even begin to explain. Everything was fucked up, and this was all going horribly wrong, and his life was a mess. 

So Derek just lifted his right arm, the opposite one that Stiles had covered with a bandage, and he pulled his sleeve back to expose the desperate letters carved into his skin. The same letters Stiles had on his own arm, which had hurt a fuckton more than the ones that had appeared on Derek’s. 

The silence was fucking deafening

He didn’t want to look at Stiles. He didn’t want to see the expression on his face right now, because he knew it would be awful. Knowing all those pained looks, how sad Stiles had always seemed when soulmates were brought up, everything was because of Derek. He’d stood in front of him promising him he was worth something, all the while ignoring him in the only way that mattered to Stiles. 

The silence stretched on. And on. And on. 

It went on for so long that Derek started wondering if Stiles had passed out, but he knew he hadn’t even without looking up. Stiles was never one to keep silent for long, so Derek knew he just had no words right then. He could see Stiles’ right hand clenching into the material of the blankets over his mid-section and Derek finally let his arm drop, but didn’t lower the sleeve. 

“I meant every word,” Derek insisted, still staring at Stiles’ hand. “I know it might not mean much to you after everything you’ve told me, but what I said about you when I didn’t know—it’s all true. I absolutely think you’re worthwhile, and I care about you so much. I’ve been interested in you for-for years, I just never said or did anything about it. And I never spoke to my soulmate because I wasn’t—I didn’t want the choice made for me. I wanted to make it for myself. I wanted to fall for who I wanted, not who the universe dictated for me. Even if–if it ended up being the same person, at least I feel like I had a choice. And I read everything. I did, I read everything you ever said. From the first day you wrote on your arm up until Saturday, I read everything you wrote to me. Because even if I didn’t want the choice made for me, I didn’t hate you. I just didn’t want—” 

“Can you please leave.” 

Derek knew it was coming. The moment he’d found out Stiles was his soulmate, he’d known without a shadow of a doubt that he’d royally fucked everything up. So he wasn’t surprised when he heard the words, not really. They still hurt, but they were expected. And he deserved them. 

He deserved worse after hearing how lonely Stiles had been growing up. How alone he’d felt his entire life. How badly he’d wanted things to work with his soulmate, how hard he’d tried, only to be ignored over and over again like he meant nothing. 


“Please just leave.” 

Derek didn’t have the right to say anything further. He’d done this to himself, and he definitely deserved the hurt he felt at hearing those words.

Hesitating for only a moment, Derek obediently stood, still unable to look Stiles in the eye. He just kept his gaze lowered and moved around the chair, heading for the door. He pulled it open, but before leaving, he hesitated again. 

“I’m really sorry,” he said quietly. “I don’t deserve you. And you have always deserved much better than me.” 

Stiles said nothing in response, and Derek took that as his dismissal. Heart clenching in his chest, he walked out of the room and shut the door. 

He’d never given much thought to soulmates before. He’d only ever known he didn’t want one. Now that he knew who his was, he felt like the universe was playing some kind of sick joke on him. It had purposefully thrown Stiles into his path, knowing he was his soulmate, and had just let him watch Stiles suffer all the while being the cause of it. That was a special kind of torture. 

Derek pressed his fingers to the door lightly, wishing things had been different, and hating himself for having hurt Stiles so much. Turning, he started to head for the exit when he froze. 

Lydia was coming. 

She was walking down the corridor with a nurse and another guy Derek vaguely recognized as one of Stiles’ high school friends. Even though the person downstairs had said Stiles wasn’t allowed any visitors, it was clear they were being led to Stiles’ room, probably as another exception from the sheriff. 

Lydia didn’t look mad at seeing him there. A little surprised, but not angry. Which meant she didn’t know.

Which made sense, because nobody but Parrish, the sheriff and his family knew.

And now Stiles. 

Derek started walking, and when they were about to cross paths, he touched Lydia’s arm lightly, making her stop and turn to him, confused and suspicious. 

“Don’t punish Cora for this,” he said quietly. “She didn’t know. It’s not her fault.” 

“What?” Lydia asked, but Derek didn’t explain. He was sure Stiles would tell them everything in a few seconds anyway. 

He just released her arm and kept walking, wanting to be out of there before Lydia chased him down and eviscerated him. He really did hope she didn’t take it out on Cora though, it wasn’t her fault. 

When he reached the elevator, it seemed to take forever to arrive, but he finally disappeared into it and made it outside without a furious Lydia chasing him down. She knew where his parents lived though, so she might just camp out there waiting for him to return. He knew she was fiercely protective of Stiles. A lot of people were. He had great friends, even if Stiles insisted he felt lonely most of the time. It was easy to feel lonely with other people when the one person you wanted to notice you didn’t give you the time of day. 

Derek walked back to the car, climbing into it and shutting the door. His mother didn’t ask him how it went. She didn’t need to. It was pretty clear based on the look on his face, he was sure. 

“What do you need?” she asked softly, reaching out to grab his hand, squeezing tightly. “What can I do?” 

“Just take me home,” Derek said quietly, turning to look out the window. 

He’d done this to himself, after all. It was okay to want a choice, but he’d spent eighteen years making someone feel like they meant nothing to the one person who was meant to love them. 

It was his own fault. He shouldn’t have ignored him. He should’ve at least spoken to him, even if it was to say he didn’t want a soulmate. Even being friends, exchanging a few pleasantries, letting Stiles know he wasn’t alone would’ve been something

Now he’d lost both the guy he liked and his soulmate in one fell swoop. 

It was no more than he deserved. 

Derek changed his schedule. He went to the coffee shop only once to tell Erica he wouldn’t be around for a while, but didn’t explain why. He also didn’t say when he was coming back, and didn’t answer when she asked him if Stiles was okay. 

Honestly, he had no fucking idea if Stiles would ever be okay.

He also didn’t know what to do about him, because he wanted to keep saying good morning and good night to Stiles, but he didn’t know how well that would be received. He did it anyway, because he owed Stiles that much. He didn’t get any requests to stop, so he figured he’d keep doing it until he was told not to. 

Stiles didn’t send him any greetings of his own, but to be fair, his arm was still a mess. Derek could track the progression of his healing because he could see how the letters looked on his other arm. Even if Stiles no longer had the bandage on it, Derek certainly wasn’t expecting any more messages from him. 

Parrish wasn’t acting any differently with Laura, which was a relief, but Lydia had stopped talking to Cora for a few days. He didn’t know what happened after that, if someone said something to her or if she realized it wasn’t fair to punish her for Derek’s behaviour, but she opened up communication again relatively quickly, much to Cora’s relief. 

Laura was actually mad at Lydia for not respecting that Derek was allowed to have a choice in the matter, but he understood where she was coming from. Lydia’s friend was hurting, and she’d had to watch him hurt for years. She was just closing ranks, the same way his sisters were. They were mad at Stiles for not at least talking things out with Derek, because he was allowed to have a choice, and Stiles’ friends were mad at Derek because he’d left him in silence for eighteen years. 

Honestly, Derek didn’t blame the people who were mad at him, and he didn’t blame the people who were mad on his behalf. Sometimes he got angry himself about how everyone was treating this like it was simple. Like he shouldn’t have ignored Stiles, should’ve just gone with the flow like everyone else, at least made friendly with his soulmate and not ignored him. 

Other times he felt guilty, because it was still possible to have a choice without fully cutting someone off. Stiles had deserved better than to finally feel like he could move on from his silent soulmate, only to realize the guy he’d started crushing on was his silent soulmate. 

The person who’d told him he was worth something was the same one who’d acted like he wasn’t. Derek hated that Stiles was his soulmate, because he hated that he was the one who’d hurt him.

And honestly, another part of him wondered if he’d ever honestly truly had a choice. Because he’d fallen for Stiles, and he was his soulmate, so really in the end, had there ever been the possibility for a choice? Was he forever destined to be with Stiles whether he wanted to or not? Did he even like Stiles because he liked him, or because he was meant to? He didn’t know, and that was what he hated the most. That he didn’t honestly know if he’d chosen Stiles, or if the universe had tricked him into it. 

“But you had other people you liked,” Laura insisted, digging into her box of chicken fried rice with her chopsticks. Derek hoped she was careful, because she was sitting on his couch and he didn’t want bugs because rice slipped between the cushions. “You had that one girlfriend in university for two years. You were convinced you guys were going to move in together after graduation.” 

“But it didn’t work out,” Derek argued. 

“It didn’t work out because you wanted to move home and she didn’t want to live in Beacon Hills,” Laura argued. “That’s literally the only reason. If you’d both compromised, who’s to say it wouldn’t have worked out? You really liked her, and she really liked you. Maybe that would’ve been your future. Maybe you never would’ve met Stiles at all.” 

“But I did,” Derek snapped. “I did meet him. So was I ever going to have a choice, or was it always going to be about Stiles in the end?” 

“Does it matter?” Laura asked, sighing and letting the takeout container rest on her knee, giving Derek a look. “Forget about soulmates for a second. Forget about destiny and the universe and whatever else you’re over-thinking in that head of yours. The bottom line, soulmate or not, is that you met Stiles and you fell for him. You liked him, he made you happy. You fell for him without knowing he was your soulmate. So yeah, the universe does choose for you, but maybe it only does so in an attempt to help stop heartache. Maybe it chooses for you to avoid you having to go out and find your other half without ever truly knowing if they are your other half. In the end, you still chose Stiles, because you liked him and wanted to be with him. Him being your soulmate only came up after the fact.” 

Derek knew she was right, but he still couldn’t help but feel like the choice had been taken out of his hands. Then again, at the end of the day, did that really matter? Stiles was an amazing person. He was nice, and funny, and smart, and he’d always made Derek happy. Even as his soulmate, when he’d sent annoying messages while drunk, Derek had thought more than once about how much he’d miss seeing words on his arm the day his soulmate gave up on him. 

There was a reason he’d never told him to fuck off. To just stop and move on. Because a part of him hadn’t wanted him to. A part of him had kind of just been holding on to this person on the other end that he thought would never want to be with him. 

“Can I ask you something?” Derek asked, Laura having gone back to digging into her takeout. 

“Always,” she said, taking a bite and looking up at him. 

“Did you ever worry that you wouldn’t be good enough for your soulmate?” He poked absently at the ginger beef in front of him, but made no move to pick it up. 

Laura was silent for a long moment. “Is that what you thought?”

“I don’t know,” he admitted. “I always told myself it was about choice, but I think sometimes I just worried that my soulmate wouldn’t be interested. So instead of risking it with mine, I just pushed him away. And by pushing him away, I made him think that he wasn’t worth it. That he wasn’t interesting enough for me to want to be with him.” 

“We all have our insecurities,” Laura said softly. “Stiles is hurting right now because he thought he’d finally found someone who loved him.”

“I do love him!” 

“I’m not saying you don’t,” Laura insisted, holding one hand out in defence. “I’m just saying that... he needs a bit of time. Don’t give up on him. He never gave up on you.” 

Derek looked down at his right arm, where the words ‘help me’ were still etched into his skin. He couldn’t help but wonder what would’ve happened if Stiles had never gotten hurt. What if their date had proceeded as planned? 

Eventually, the words on Derek’s arm would’ve stopped. No more greetings and farewells. He felt like he’d have been sad, but also happy because he’d have Stiles in his life. But what then? What if one day something happened, one of them wrote on their arm and it suddenly appeared on the other’s? Would that have hurt more, or less

He’d like to think less, because by then they’d know one another more, but he didn’t think it would ever hurt less for Stiles. To know the person who promised he was worth it also didn’t think he was worth it. 

But it wasn’t like that. And Derek had spent hours over-analysing everything since he’d found out Stiles was his soulmate, and he was just... tired. Tired and upset and he just wanted to fix it. 

He just didn’t know how. He didn’t know if something like this could be fixed. 

“Don’t give up,” Laura said quietly. “He tried with you. Just keep trying with him.”

“Yeah,” Derek agreed. He had no intentions of giving up. 

He just didn’t know what to say

Good morning

Derek sat staring at the words for a good minute when he woke up on a bright, sunny Wednesday morning. It had been almost three weeks since Stiles’ accident, and exactly that same amount of time since Derek had seen any words on his arm. He’d known at first that it was because Stiles was still healing, but when the carved words had disappeared, he still hadn’t received any greetings. He kept sending his own, because he didn’t know how to stop, and he wanted to fix this. 

He knew he could text Stiles. He had his number, it wasn’t like he couldn’t just call or text him. But Stiles had spent his whole life feeling alone despite the bond, and Derek wanted to just... try

Getting up, he grabbed his pen to respond, but realized it’d wash off in the shower. He usually always sent his message after his shower, so he felt it would be safest to continue that tradition, however short of a tradition it was so far. 

Moving into the bathroom, he relieved himself and brushed his teeth, then jumped into the shower, mind racing every time his marked arm came into view. He wondered how long Stiles had waited before writing his morning greeting. 

He wondered why Stiles was awake so early when he couldn’t go running. His leg likely wasn’t healed yet, not with the amount of damage that had occurred, but he was still up bright and early. He probably just felt like he needed to keep to his routine. Derek could understand that. 

Once he’d dried off and pulled on a fresh pair of shorts, Derek went to his room and grabbed his washable pen, making sure his arm was dry enough before writing his own morning greeting. 

Good morning Stiles

He stood there staring at his right arm, waiting. He didn’t expect a response, Stiles didn’t usually send him much more than that in the mornings. After a few more moments, it became clear that would still be the case and Derek just let his arms drop, going to change so he could get ready for work. 

After years of ignoring his soulmate, it was weird for him to be so attuned to everything going on around him. He still wore his suits, but while before he always wore long-sleeved button-downs, today he’d opted for a short-sleeve one. When he sat at his desk, he kept glancing at his arm, waiting to see if something new would appear. 

It didn’t, and when Stiles eventually showered, his good morning message disappeared. It wasn’t replaced with anything else, but that was okay. Derek wasn’t worried, because he hadn’t been expecting anything at all, so having a good morning be his only message for the day was more than enough. 

When the day was over, Derek went to dinner at his parent’s place. Laura and Cora were both at their respective homes, but he didn’t feel like heading back to his empty apartment just yet. His parents didn’t seem to mind, he didn’t visit nearly as often as his sisters did. 

They didn’t talk about anything of importance, but he noticed they were both very careful not to bring up Stiles. He didn’t know why they bothered, it wasn’t like it was a secret he’d fucked things up. 

After dinner, he bid them good night, and when he turned to leave, his mother pulled him back into a tight hug, told him everything would work out, and then let him go. He headed home feeling sad that he was worrying his mother so much. 

Putzing around for a while, Derek finally called it a night around ten, and before heading to bed, He pulled a washable pen out and pressed it to his arm. 

Good night Stiles

He’d climbed into bed by the time he saw the words forming on his right arm.


He let his fingers run over the word, glad to see it, even if he didn’t know how long it would be there for. 

When he woke up the next morning, it had been replaced with the usual ‘good morning’ message. 

This continued up until Friday evening, the two of them saying good morning and good night to each other. It felt a little sad when Derek considered how much they’d spoken to each other in the past, but for now, he would take what he could get. At least Stiles was talking to him. 

When he woke up on Saturday morning, having set his alarm for nine because never again, he expected another good morning message on his arm, which was why he lay staring at it for a long time when his eyes focussed on what it actually said. 

We need to talk

Those... were not encouraging words to wake up to. He supposed he knew it was coming, but a part of him had been hoping maybe they could go a few weeks with good morning and good night messages, and then slowly work their way back up to texting, and eventually meet up again. 

Having Stiles write to him for three days and then ask for a meet up was definitely because he was about to get bad news. 

There was no point in delaying the inevitable, so he climbed out of bed a few moments later and picked up his phone, opening his texts with Stiles. 


He put his phone down to go and use the bathroom and brush his teeth. By the time he was done, Stiles had already replied. 

If you’re free. 
Coffee shop?
I’ve been here for a little while talking to Erica.
Drop by whenever. 

I’ll get dressed and head out. 

It all felt very formal somehow. They always spoke in full sentences when they texted, but there were a lot of periods today. Like writing a formal email to someone. They didn’t usually add periods, normally it was just the sentence ending when they hit enter. 

Periods felt like a bad thing. Very final.

He tried not to dwell on it too much, he was already expecting bad news anyway, he just wasn’t ready for it. He tried to think about what he wanted to say while he got dressed, but nothing felt good enough. He wanted to defend his position, because he was entitled to his decisions, but he also knew that Stiles had suffered a lot because of him and that wasn’t fair. 

Neither side had gotten off unscathed, and it wasn’t fair regardless of who was in the wrong. Derek would forever believe it was him who’d been wrong, but a part of him felt like it wasn’t wrong to want to have a choice. It wasn’t wrong to be scared and giving up before someone pushed him away. 

It just felt wrong because it had hurt someone other than himself. 

By the time he got into the Camaro, he was no closer to figuring out what he wanted to say than he had been back at the hospital. Three weeks, and he still couldn’t find the words. He honestly didn’t think there were any. 

When he parked in the usual lot, he didn’t see Stiles’ Jeep, but he figured he probably couldn’t drive with his leg the way it was. He likely got dropped off and picked up. Derek wondered if maybe he’d been hanging out somewhere outside the house so he wasn’t trapped alone in there like he had been his entire childhood. 

Derek’s chest clenched when it occurred to him that was probably why Stiles liked to go running so much. He was outside the house, away from the place that had always made him feel alone. It was probably torture being stuck there alone all day now that he couldn’t just get up and drive somewhere whenever he wanted. 

Walking up to the coffee shop, he could see Erica through the glass door. She saw him coming, and he expected her to be mad—for some reason, he felt like she’d take Stiles’ side—but all she did was smile encouragingly at him and he appreciated that more than he could ever express. 

Pulling open the door, he nodded hello to her, not trusting his voice enough to speak, and she just motioned the usual corner he and Stiles occupied when they came by on Saturdays. He turned towards it and saw Stiles already sitting there. He had his laptop, and was squinting at the screen, like he was trying to figure something out. It looked like Erica had swapped out their usual two-person table for a large four-person one, because there was enough space for two coffees and an empty plate, along with another covered coffee and a breakfast sandwich. 

The latter two items were on the opposite side of the table from Stiles, which made it pretty clear they were for him. 

He glanced at Erica again, who motioned for him to hurry up and get over there, and he sighed internally. She was way too optimistic about this, he honestly wasn’t sure how this was going to play out. 

Walking across the coffee shop obediently, Stiles didn’t look up until Derek was almost right in front of the table. When he did, he straightened slightly and then shut the top of his laptop. 

Derek let his hand fall onto the back of the chair he would be occupying, but didn’t sit. “Hi,” he said, because what else could he say? 

“Hey.” Stiles let his left hand slide along the top of his laptop. Derek noticed he wasn’t wearing one of his usual arm bands, his ‘we need to talk’ message still stark against his pale skin. It was weird finally seeing Stiles’ arm exposed, he honestly hadn’t in the past. It was a lot paler than the rest of his visible skin probably because he’d spent a majority of his life keeping it covered. 

Made for an interesting tan line, at any rate. 

“I didn’t—know what else to get you, so I just got your usual.” Stiles motioned the food in front of Derek’s spot. 

“Thanks.” Derek tightened his grip on the back of the chair, and then moved in front of it so he could sit, pulling the plate closer. He didn’t pick up his sandwich though, eying Stiles like he could read what was coming in his expression.

He couldn’t, because as much as he knew Stiles, he also really didn’t. 

“I know this is late, but thanks,” Stiles finally said. “For, you know. Replying when it mattered.” 

“I wasn’t going to let someone die because I was stubborn,” Derek admitted. “Even if it hadn’t been you, I wouldn’t have reacted any differently.” 

“I know. You reacted before you knew. I guess it just worked out that it was me since you knew where I was.” 

“You didn’t tell your friends,” Derek said. 

Stiles shrugged. “They’re busy. I didn’t find the time to really talk about my climbing with them.” 

That hurt to hear, and only reinforced that Stiles truly felt like he was alone in the world. He hadn’t even spoken to any of his friends about what he was doing, because he felt like they were too busy to listen to him talk about his hobbies. Not even the friend who’d specifically asked for them to go rock climbing.

“How’s your leg?” he asked, instead of dwelling on how much Stiles’ words hurt to hear. 

“Fine, I guess.” Stiles shrugged and one hand disappeared, reaching down to rub at his thigh. “I’m gonna need to do some physical therapy for a while once it’s fully healed, but everyone is saying I should be back to normal by winter. Feels like an eternity away, but could’ve been worse.” 

“Yeah.” Derek picked at the edge of his sandwich, then pushed the plate away. He didn’t know that he even had an appetite right now, not with what he was sure was coming. “You wanted to talk.” 

“I think we have a lot to talk about, don’t you?” 

Derek tried not to wince at the words, lowering his gaze so he wasn’t looking right at Stiles. They were both silent for a long while, Derek unsure of what he even wanted to say. An apology seemed fitting, but he’d already tried that and Stiles had told him to leave. He didn’t know what else to say. 

“Can you just... tell me why?” Stiles asked after a long silence. “I promise not to interrupt you this time.” 

“I’ve thought about it a lot,” Derek said honestly. “Ever since I found out it was you. I thought about—everything, I guess. I’ve never wanted a soulmate. I remember going home at ten years old and crying to my mom about not liking it. I didn’t want the universe to tell me who I was supposed to be with, who was meant for me. I wanted to be able to go out and make my own decisions. Wanted to experience life without this... noose around my neck. Getting tighter and tighter. I just wanted the freedom to make my own decisions.” 

Stiles nodded once, because this was nothing he hadn’t heard before. Maybe more information than last time, but still the same information for the most part. 

“I’ve always felt that way, about not wanting the choice made for me. But I think—I also felt worried. I think ten year old me couldn’t admit what adult me slowly started to realize.” 

“Which was?” Stiles asked when Derek stayed quiet for too long. 

“Maybe I’m not worth it,” Derek confessed, knowing that was exactly how Stiles had felt for years. “Maybe I’d find my soulmate, we’d get to know each other, and he’d just... leave. Think I wasn’t worth keeping around. So I guess on top of wanting the option of walking away, I figured if I just ignored that someone was out there for me in general, I could shield myself from rejection because I’d never give them the opportunity to reject me.”

“Hurt them before they can hurt you,” Stiles said quietly. 

“Yeah,” Derek admitted. “It was just easier to decide for myself who I wanted to be with. And when I met you, I knew I wanted something with you. I didn’t care what, whether it was friendship, or something more, I just—really wanted you in my life. And when Laura said that thing about planning for the future today, I figured why not? We were never going to move forward if I didn’t try, so I did. And things went really well. A part of me worried about your soulmate showing up and taking you away from me, but you kept saying you had a bad relationship so I thought maybe this was my chance. I could just give you what you wanted that your soulmate wasn’t and things would work out.” 

Stiles had the decency not to call him a hypocrite for that statement. After all, if Derek had just been honest about everything from the beginning, had tried with his soulmate from the start, they wouldn’t have been sitting there having this conversation. 

“When I saw your call for help on my arm, I—honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever been so scared in my life. When I finally wrote back to you, I was worried it would just appear on my other arm. I guess I never thought about how devastating it would be to lose my soulmate until the prospect of it was staring me in the face. And when I got to the precinct and Parrish started asking me questions, I was worried I wouldn’t be able to help you. How was I supposed to give him any information about the person I’d ignored my entire life? But then words just came out, and they didn’t stop. Because I’d always read everything you said to me. Even if I pretended I didn’t care, I cared enough to read it, and to remember it. I kept sprouting out everything I could think of until I said something that Parrish recognized.” 

“He mentioned you knew a lot,” Stiles said quietly. “Told me you could list off a lot of facts even he didn’t know.” 

“I guess whether I knew it was you or not, what you said always mattered to me.” 

Stiles nodded slowly, left hand rubbing along the top of his laptop once more, eyes on what he was doing. “I think—it makes sense. That you and me are soulmates. We both felt the same way, we just reacted differently to feelings of inadequacy.”

Derek hated how sad Stiles looked. He hated that they were having this conversation. He hated that things had turned out this way. 

“I never meant to make you feel like you were worthless,” Derek insisted softly. “I never meant to make you feel like you were alone. I didn’t—I’m sorry that you grew up alone in your house, your dad working long hours, and your friends happily chatting away to their soulmates while you sat there wondering why yours wasn’t replying to you. I’m sorry that I ever made you feel like you didn’t matter, because you do. Stiles, you matter to me. You mattered before I knew you were my soulmate, and you’re going to keep mattering until the day I die, regardless of a stupid bond that connects us together. I fell for you because of you, and I was just stupid enough not to take advantage of it when I could’ve years ago.” 

Stiles was staring down at his hand, sliding back and forth on his laptop, but he didn’t say anything for a long while. A very long while. 

“I want to be mad at you,” Stiles admitted after much too long. “I am mad at you. But I guess a part of me is trying really hard to see it from your perspective. I’m mad, and I’m not mad. It’s... confusing.”

“I’m sorry.” 

Stiles turned his left arm over, staring down at his own words for a few seconds. “You were there when it mattered most. You came for me when I didn’t think you would.” 

“I didn’t mean to take so long. I slept in.” 

“I know.” Stiles half-smiled, still staring at his arm. “I remember that you like your sleep.” 

“What can I do?” Derek finally asked. “To fix this. To start over. What can I do?” 

Stiles sighed and pulled his arm off the table, hiding it against his own stomach. “I don’t think you intended to hurt me. Even before everything happened, you were always open about how you didn’t really like the whole soulmates thing. I just don’t think I’m ready yet. For this.” He motioned between them. “Us. I think—I need time.” 

Derek felt his stomach drop but he nodded anyway. 

“I’m not saying no,” Stiles said, the words similar to the last time they’d had a conversation about being together. “I’m just saying not yet. I need time to—sort things out. And if you can’t wait for that, then I guess—”

“I can wait,” Derek interrupted. “You waited eighteen years. I can wait however long you need.” 

Stiles offered him a grateful smile and nodded once, then glanced at the breakfast sandwich. “You should eat that before it gets any colder. It’s not nearly as good when the egg is cold.” 

Derek obediently pulled the plate over again and started eating. It was already cold, and not very good because of it, but Stiles had bought it for him, so he ate it anyway. 

He didn’t linger when he finished, letting Stiles catch up on work, and bidding him a good day. 

It wasn’t a yes, but it wasn’t a no, either. 

Honestly, it was more than Derek was expecting, and he left feeling like maybe things weren’t entirely hopeless after all. 

Did you know that Comic Sans, the dreaded font, actually came from a comic book?

Is that right? 

Yup. The dude who created it apparently was a big fan of comics

Surprising people don’t like to use it more often

Right?! Comics are amazing

Derek half-smiled at the words on his arm, using a cloth to wipe away the ink on his left arm while he waited for Stiles’ next random fact of the evening. 

They still weren’t really talking much, just the usual good morning and good night messages. Every now and then Stiles would text him, and Derek would respond, but he tried not to crowd him since it was clear Stiles was still kind of trying to figure things out. 

It had been almost a month since their talk though, and while Derek worried sometimes that they’d never get through this weird stage they were in, he tried to be a bit more optimistic about it. Stiles hadn’t cut him off entirely, so he had to appreciate that. 

Apparently he was drinking tonight though, because about half an hour ago, the random facts had started. While usually Derek just read them and dismissed them, this was the first time since he’d found out it was Stiles on the other end that he was getting them. So he figured he’d respond. 

He didn’t know why Stiles knew so many random facts about... well, everything, but he figured it was because of a lonely childhood. He didn’t really know how to respond to some of them, but he did his best. 

Also I still find it FASCINATING that sweat doesn’t actually stink

Things like that. Stiles sent things like that, and Derek just stared with no idea what to say. But he had to say something, so he just went with whatever he could think of. 

How does sweat not stink?

It’s the bacteria. On our skin? It makes our sweat stink. It’s not actually stinky

That doesn’t sound right

Look it up if you don’t believe me!

Derek didn’t want to doubt the man of endless random facts, but he honestly wasn’t sure he believed that one, so he pulled his phone out and Googled it. Sure enough, Google informed him that his soulmate was correct, and that sweat didn’t actually have a smell until it was broken down by bacteria that caused the rather unpleasant odour. He had not, in fact, known that. 

That is actually interesting, I had no idea


I didn’t doubt you, I was just becoming more informed

Nice save

Derek smiled, wiping at his arm to clear his message and watching Stiles’ own words slowly disappear. He liked this. Drunk, fact-filled Stiles was easy to talk to. His handwriting was a little wobbly, but it was still legible, and he was still surprisingly good at spelling while inebriated. 

What about this then, did you know crows hold grudges?

That I actually did know. They have very good memories

Crows are awesome. I’d love to have a crow. Did you know I had a snake? Wanted a dog, but dad’s allergic

I remember. I always thought Roscoe was your dog


Yes Stiles, I am aware of this now. I wasn’t aware when you originally mentioned it. I am more informed now

He almost ran out of room on his arm writing that, but thankfully he wrote fairly small. He actually wondered if Stiles would be able to read it in his drunk state, but he didn’t seem to have any problems. Either someone was reading it out to him, or he was still able to decipher words despite being drunk.

Home time. V drunk. Bed soon

Hopefully someone is driving you home?

Scotty. Doesn’t drink anymore

I hope he drives safe. Let me know when you’re in

He didn’t get a reply, but he kept the message on his arm as a reminder for Stiles to let him know he’d made it home all right. It took almost twenty minutes, but he eventually got a confirmation that Stiles was home and going to bed. Derek bid him good night, and left the message so Stiles could see it when he woke up in the morning. 

Derek didn’t stay up much longer, finishing up the show he was watching and then heading to bed. He set his alarm for nine in the morning, like he’d been doing for weeks now, and then passed out relatively quickly. He missed sleeping in, but he didn’t feel comfortable doing it anymore. Not since the near miss with Stiles. He didn’t ever want to risk keeping him waiting like that again. 

When his alarm went off, he grunted and reached over to turn it off, burying his face in his pillow and inhaling deeply before exhaling. He allowed himself to lie there and snooze for a while longer until he risked legitimately falling asleep again and forced himself to get up. Rubbing at his face while he sat on the edge of his bed, he checked his right arm and frowned. 

Morning Derek! Favour? 

He reached over for his phone, since it would likely be an easier conversation to have without writing back and forth on their arms waiting for the other to acknowledge they’d seen it. He still found it weird sometimes that he and Stiles could communicate like that, but chalked it up to not having done it in the past. Other people did it all the time, Derek had just spent a majority of his life not doing it. 

What favour?

He didn’t even have the chance to put his phone down before he got a reply. 

I’m DYING Derek!
Like literally dying

What does that mean?

I’m hungover and still injured :( 

That was true. Stiles’ cast had come off a few weeks ago, but he still had trouble walking. He’d been using crutches for a while, and had only recently moved to a cane. Apparently his friends teased him about it, but Derek made sure not to. If Stiles was teased too much about using a cane, he’d stop using it and probably hurt himself. Until he could get back on his feet properly, the cane was supposed to help, and it seemed to be doing its job. 


I want one of Erica’s breakfast sandwiches :( 
And an iced coffee :( 

Derek stared down at the words for a long time. He and Stiles texted, but they hadn’t actually seen each other in a long time. Not since their face-to-face chat a month ago. But this was... It implied some things. It was an invitation for Derek to see him. 

He was sure Stiles could bully some of his friends to get him something. It wasn’t like they hadn’t all been going over to see him since he’d gotten hurt. And Stiles himself had been getting rides to the coffee shop, which meant he had the means to get there if he really wanted to.

But instead he was offering Derek the chance to do this for him. Extending the olive branch, so to speak. 

I can get you breakfast
If you want

It seemed to take entirely too long for Stiles to respond. That was probably just because Derek sat there staring at his phone, waiting on the reply.

That would be awesome :3 
Thank youuuuuuu~
Grab yourself something too, our place is lacking in food rn... 

Did you need me to pick anything up from the store?

Nah dad’s going after work
Thanks though :) 

Okay be there in a bit

Stiles sent back a thumbs up and a heart and Derek may have sat there looking into it a bit too much for way too long before he finally headed for the bathroom. 

He got ready to head out relatively quickly, not wanting to keep Stiles waiting if he was moments from death, the way his texts were suggesting. Derek wondered if Stiles had woken up at his usual ungodly hour of ass o’clock and had just been waiting for Derek to wake up to beg for food. 

Even though Stiles said he didn’t need anything from the store, Derek still stopped to buy some snacks, just in case Stiles had a hankering for something later. He tried to stick to the healthier options since Stiles was super athletic, but also grabbed some junk food since he didn’t want to assume anything. He actually didn’t know if Stiles liked junk food or not. 

Going to the coffee shop next, Erica’s eyebrows shot up when he walked in and she offered him a bright smile. 

“Well look who finally decided to grace me with their presence. It’s been a while, how are you?” 

“I’m good. How are you?” 

“Bored.” Erica sighed. “I swear, I feel like I have a ball and chain attaching me to this register.”

“Yeah, do you ever get time off?” It occurred to Derek that he... never really saw anyone else working. Sure he tended to come around the same time period every time he showed up, but he used to come every weekday for years, and had also dropped in on Saturdays and Sundays and she was still there. It was like she never had a day off. 

“I’ve been accumulating it.” She grinned ferally. “I want time off for my honeymoon, and my parents confirmed I’ll keep getting paid while on a beach in Mexico or something, so I don’t mind.” 

Derek just snorted at that and gave her his order. He didn’t miss the quirk of her lips when she realized he’d ordered for two people, one of whom she knew had a habit of ordering iced coffee this time of year. 

Erica chatted with him while she got his order ready, and Derek found he kind of liked being able to talk to her like this. He didn’t used to, not really. Not until Stiles kind of made him realize she was a fun person and he’d started making more of an effort to speak to her. 

When everything was ready to go, their breakfast sandwiches in a bag and drinks in a tray, he nodded a thanks to her and wished her a good day before heading for the door. He’d almost exited the coffee shop when he paused, using his hip to keep it open and turning to her. 

“Hey, you get time off in the evenings, right?” 

Erica cocked an eyebrow at him. “I do. Why?” 

“We should do something sometime.” He shrugged somewhat awkwardly. “I’ve known you for years and we’ve never just... hung out. I think it’d be fun. We could go grab dinner or something. You can bring your fiancé.” 

Erica’s smile then was probably one of the most genuine ones he’d ever seen. It wasn’t a grin, or a smirk, or a feral-looking smile. It was a soft, sincere, genuinely happy smile. 

“That’d be fun,” she agreed. “I’m free most nights, but we all work early, so maybe we can try and do a Friday or something?” 

“Sure.” Derek nodded. “We can talk, I’ll come by at some point this week and we can hash it out.” 

“Cool.” She was still smiling. “And uh, say hi. You know, to Stiles. I still see him a lot, but it’s weird not seeing him every day.” 

He nodded again, waved awkwardly with the hand holding the bag of sandwiches, and then left the coffee shop. He set both drinks in the cup holder once he was back in the Camaro and put the paper bag on the floor of the passenger side in case any grease leaked through it. Then he turned out of the lot to head for Stiles’ place. 

He’d never actually been told where Stiles lived, but everyone knew where the sheriff’s house was. It was the house to avoid when doing stupid things, and the man was actually surprisingly into Halloween so that it was the house to definitely hit up on Halloween. 

Everyone knew where it was, which meant Derek knew where it was. It took only about ten minutes to get there from the coffee shop and, sure enough, when he turned onto the street he was pretty sure the sheriff lived on, he found a sky blue Jeep parked in the driveway of the fourth house on the left. 

Easing to a stop at the curb and making sure to park properly—he didn’t want the sheriff giving him a ticket out of spite—Derek gathered everything he’d bought and climbed out of the car. It was harder in practice than in theory when he had the snacks, breakfast, and a drink tray, but he managed to get out of the car without dropping anything, shutting it with a slam and hitting a button on his keys to lock it up.

When he climbed the porch steps, he stood in front of the door for a few seconds to get himself under control, since he hadn’t seen Stiles for a while and he was about to step foot in his house. But he knew this wasn’t anything to get over-excited about. They were just having breakfast, nothing they hadn’t done before in the past. 

Moving up to the door, he rang the bell, and then waited. 

“Coming!” Stiles shouted loudly. “Uh, slowly!” 

Derek couldn’t help the laugh that escaped him, rolling his eyes. “Take your time, don’t need you falling down the stairs or anything.” 

Stiles didn’t say anything in response, but Derek could hear him making his way to the door, the distinct sound of his cane hitting the ground as he moved forward. He seemed to be going pretty fast, considering the damage to his leg, but Derek hoped he wasn’t overdoing it. If he tried to push himself too much, he was only going to set himself back in the end. 

When Stiles’ face came into view through the small windows in the front door, Derek saw him smiling at him before the lock clicked and he pulled the door open. 


“Is that all I’m good for?” Derek asked with a snort, but he wasn’t offended. 

Stiles just grinned impishly at him and stepped aside so Derek could enter the house. He toed off his shoes in the entrance, looking around with interest while Stiles shut and locked the door. Derek turned to him and motioned down the corridor in inquiry where he could see the kitchen through an open door. 


“Sure. Might as well sit at a real table.” 

Derek led the way, but tried not to move too quickly so that Stiles could keep up. It was weird seeing him with a cane, but it was definitely much better than it would’ve been with the crutches. Hearing about Stiles with crutches had kind of hurt Derek’s soul because he’d never really seen him not overly active. While he hadn’t actually seen him using the crutches, he could imagine it, and he hated the visual. The limited mobility was probably killing Stiles even now. 

When he reached the kitchen, he motioned both sides of the table, silently asking which side was Stiles’. When he pointed to a seat, Derek set the drink tray down and pulled the iced coffee out one-handed, putting it down at Stiles’ spot. He put the bag of snacks on one of the other chairs, but kept hold of their breakfast since the bag was dark with grease. 

Hunting down plates, he grabbed two of them from a cabinet and then turned back to the table, Stiles having pulled Derek’s own drink out of the tray and setting it down on his side. He was also peeking into the plastic bag of snacks. 

“Did you buy dried apples?” he asked, surprised. “Dude, I love dried apples!” 

“I tried to get a mix and match of healthy and unhealthy snacks.” 

“You’re the best,” Stiles proclaimed. “I am going to eat this entire bag of Doritos before dad gets home, and then the dried fruit when we’re watching TV together. That way, I’m not a dick for teasing him with stuff he can’t have.” 

“How kind of you,” Derek said with an eye roll, setting the plates down in front of himself and unstacking them. He dug into the bag for the two wrapped sandwiches, pulling them out and setting one down on each plate, sliding one over to Stiles. 

“Thank God,” Stiles moaned, grabbing the wrapped item and pretending to nuzzle it. He didn’t, likely because he didn’t want to get grease all over his face, but it was still the dumbest thing to witness. 

Derek couldn’t believe he loved this moron. But he did. He really did. 

Tossing out the paper bag, Derek went back to sit across from Stiles and unwrapped his sandwich, Stiles already having taken at least two bites of his own. 

“Don’t choke, then you’ll ruin your love for Erica’s breakfast sandwiches.” 

“Never!” Stiles proclaimed, mouth full. 

Derek just snorted again. “You know, for someone who’s hungover, you seem pretty okay.” 

“I’ve been awake for like, four hours, and the painkillers I take for my leg are doing wonders for my headache.” He waggled his eyebrows, taking another huge bite of his sandwich. Seriously, he was going to eat the entire thing in six bites, maybe five. 

Derek just shook his head and didn’t deem that worthy of a response, eating his breakfast much more slowly. He wasn’t any less hungry than Stiles, but he also hadn’t been waiting four hours for his soulmate to wake up and bring him breakfast. 

Stiles, predictably, finished first and then began sucking iced coffee through his straw like it was oxygen. Derek was pretty sure he didn’t stop to take a breath and just inhaled the whole thing at once. 

When he was done, he let out a happy sigh and leaned back in his chair, patting his stomach with both hands and closing his eyes. “Oh my God, so good. I feel like a real person now. Thanks for getting breakfast.” 

“Anytime. I know your mobility’s a little limited right now.” He used one of the napkins in the napkin holder on the table to wipe the grease off his fingers, then his mouth before dropping it onto his plate and pulling his coffee closer. It looked like Stiles was using his shirt as a napkin. “How’s your leg doing, anyway? You seem to be moving around pretty well with the cane.” 

“Yeah, it’s not bad. Still hurts every now and then, but I’m trying to force myself not to go too hard. If I’m not careful, I’ll just fuck it up and be stuck in physical therapy even longer. It’s one of those things you can’t rush.” 

Derek nodded his agreement, crossing his arms over his chest and leaning back slightly. “Recovery is definitely one of those things everyone needs to do at their own pace. We all manage pain differently.” 

He knew he must’ve said something wrong, because Stiles’ expression shuttered slightly and he went from happy-go-lucky to serious in a split second. Derek cursed internally, because he hadn’t come by to re-hash everything they’d already spoken about. He’d been planning on enjoying breakfast with him, and then leaving before he overstayed his welcome. 

“Actually—that’s kind of why I invited you over today. To talk about... not recovery, per se. But just... healing. I feel like I’ve been given the opportunity to figure things out and come to terms with our whole situation but the way I left things with you was kind of unfair. So I wanted to apologize.” 

Derek stared at him, his defences already sky high, but nothing that had come out of Stiles’ mouth made him feel like he needed to be defensive. 

“What?” he asked, confused. 

“You spent a lot of time apologizing to me for everything.” Stiles was staring down into his plate, playing with the edge of his greasy wrapper with two fingers. “You took all the blame for everything that happened, and made like you were the bad guy. And I guess I kind of saw you that way for a while too, because you didn’t give me a reason not to. But I realized that having a soulmate, knowing they’re there, doesn’t automatically mean they’re required to respond to you just because it’s what you want.” 

The words Stiles was saying made no sense, because he almost sounded like he was shouldering half the blame for their blowout and Derek didn’t understand. 

Because hadn’t everything been his fault? He was the one who hadn’t touched based with his soulmate his entire life, wasn’t that a bad thing? 

“I actually did some research for a while. It’s kind of—like a hobby?” Stiles made a face at that, like he wasn’t happy about the description, but it was the closest he had. “I was looking up soulmates who didn’t contact each other and it’s actually a thing that happens a lot, for different reasons. And I read a lot about all the things they said on why they didn’t touch base with their soulmates, and I guess I kind of saw things from your side by doing that.” 

Derek had never known how heavy the weight of his decision was until Stiles said those words and he felt it lifting from his shoulders. “Thank you,” he said sincerely. “Thank you for taking the time to actually look into my side of things. I really—that means a lot to me. And while I know it doesn’t forgive my actions in the long run, I’m glad that you were able to gain some insight on why I did what I did. And I’m sorry for what my silence did to you.” 

“I’m sorry too,” Stiles said, looking up at Derek, and the sincerity in his eyes made him lose his breath a little bit. “When I asked you to leave—you were trying to explain, and you were scared and upset, and I told you to leave. And I’m sorry. I was just...” 

“Hurt,” Derek said when Stiles trailed off into silence.  

“Yeah,” he admitted. “But ever since I read all that stuff online, and played back our conversations, it’s given me a lot to think about. Like, a lot. And I mean, what I said before is true. You wanted to be able to make your own decisions, and it’s not fair to be mad at you for wanting the chance to decide for yourself. And like you said, you were just as scared of rejection as I was.” Stiles shrugged. “We just dealt with it differently. I pushed desperately towards you, and you retreated urgently away from me. So I think... we both got hurt, in the end. And we both deserve apologies, because you’re not the bad guy, even if everyone, myself included, made you feel like you were.” Stiles let out a slow breath, squared his shoulders, then looked Derek in the eye. “So, I’m sorry. I’m sorry if I made you feel like you were the bad guy. I’m sorry that you grew up feeling like you didn’t have a choice. And I’m sorry you thought you weren’t good enough. But I want you to know that you will always have a choice with me. Even if you decide that I’m not—” Stiles cut off, winced, and bulled on. “Even if you decide that I’m not what you want, I’ll accept that. Because you deserve to have a choice, and I want you to do what makes you happy. But I need you to know that choice or not, you’re a good person, and you’re worth fighting to keep around. You are definitely good enough for me, no matter what your own head says.” 

Derek suddenly understood why soulmates were chosen. He was suddenly so keenly aware of how the universe looked at two people and went, “Yes, these two, they’re good for each other.” 

How many people could honestly say their soulmate had taken a seat across from them and apologized for making them feel like they didn’t have a choice in their own lives? How many people could say their soulmate was telling them they didn’t have to be with them if they didn’t want to? Had done research to understand where they were coming from, and had apologized for acting like they were the only party wronged? 

He understood why soulmates were chosen, because for him, having Stiles sitting there, earnestly telling him that Derek didn’t have to choose him if he didn’t want to—that just made him one-hundred percent certain that no one would ever come close to being as amazing as Stiles was. No one would ever compare to him. 

Derek stared at Stiles for a long while. At the way he was holding himself perfectly still, fists clenched and clearly worried, but still resolute in his decision that he just wanted what would make Derek happy. 

Well, he knew what would make him happy. He felt like he’d known since the moment Stiles had walked into the coffee shop eight years ago what would make him happy. 

“Even if I don’t deserve you?” Derek asked quietly. 

The smile then was small, but full of emotion. “Especially then.” 

Derek let out a laugh at that, shaking his head. Stiles nudged him lightly under the table, hopefully with his good leg so he didn’t injure himself. 

“Thanks Stiles. I mean it.” 

Stiles smiled at him, nodding once. He looked like he was a little lighter, and Derek himself definitely felt lighter. This conversation had not gone at all how he’d expected, and he was so thankful for it. 

“Okay.” Stiles clapped his hands after a brief silence. “Well, that was fun. Feelings are a thing, and super fun, not awkward and uncomfortable at all. So let’s pretend that never happened and just—watch TV or something. I mean, if you’re free today.” 

“I’m free,” Derek confirmed. 

“Cool. Don’t forget the snacks.” Stiles got to his feet with a grin, grabbing his cane and hobbling his way towards the living room. 

Derek just laughed again and stood so he could clear the table, putting the dishes in the dishwasher and throwing out their trash. Stiles’ coffee was finished, but Derek had barely touched his so he brought that out to the living room along with the bag of snacks while Stiles stood perusing his movie selection. He ended up giving up and joining Derek on the couch, booting up Netflix instead so they could watch something on there. 

“Any preferences?” Stiles asked. 

“I’m fine with whatever you want to watch.” 

“Careful what you say,” Stiles teased, grinning at him. “We might be soulmates, but I’ve heard about your music tastes. We might like drastically different movies.” 

“How do you know about my music?” Derek asked with a frown. 

“Cora told Lydia a lot of things about you. Siblings sound great, by the way. Super sad I missed out on that.” 

The sarcasm was not lost on Derek and he just nudged Stiles before throwing his arm over the back of the couch. He hadn’t done it to wrap an arm around Stiles, he’d just done it because it was comfortable. 

Stiles took it as an invitation to lean into him anyway, and Derek wasn’t complaining. He let his hand fall from the couch to Stiles’ shoulder, and kissed the crown on his head while Stiles babbled on about the multitude of choices Netflix had to offer. 

They were far from being okay, and Derek knew it would take time, but it was a start. 

At least it was a start. 

Of all the ways to get woken up in the morning, Derek could think of worse ways. 

He could also think of better ways, if he was honest, but there were definitely many more worse ways. 

A sweaty, smelly body fell on top of him heavily, plastering itself fully to his half-covered form. It had gotten hot during the morning so he’d kicked the covers off to about mid-thigh, which allowed for the sweaty, smelly body on top of him to positively drench his bare back in perspiration. 

He made a face while letting out a small noise of displeasure, lips kissing their way across the back of his neck and over his cheek, then up to his temple. 

“Rise and shine, sleepyhead.”  

“I take it back,” Derek mumbled sleepily into his pillow. “I don’t want you anymore. No way is my soulmate a morning person to this degree, we’ve made a horrible mistake.” 

Stiles just laughed, the rumble of it passing through Derek’s back from Stiles’ chest. He felt the lips making their way back down the side of his face to his neck, then over one shoulder, back to the centre, and over the other shoulder. 

“We’re gonna be late getting breakfast if you don’t get up to shower.” 

“Wouldn’t have to shower if my gross, sweaty boyfriend didn’t insist on falling on top of me every morning after running for ten hours.” 

“It was only one and a half, and you love your gross, sweaty boyfriend.” Stiles kissed the middle of his back before pulling away, slapping hard at Derek’s butt, eliciting a grunt from him. “Come on, up. I need my coffee.” 

Derek heard him walk out of the room, heading to their second bathroom off the guest room on the other side of the apartment. He contemplated snoozing for a few more minutes, but if he did that it meant he wouldn’t have time to sit down and have breakfast with Stiles because he’d be rushing to go to work. 

It would defeat the purpose of Stiles waking up earlier to go running and come home to grab him so they could go to the coffee shop together. 

Sighing explosively and hating mornings, Derek finally managed to roll onto his back, rubbing at his face with both hands before easing himself into a seated position. He sat rubbing at his head for a few seconds, blinking sleepily, then forced himself to climb out of bed. Walking into the en suite, he relieved himself, brushed his teeth, and then stepped into the shower. 

He loved the water pressure in their new place, because it was so much better than his old one. They hadn’t been living there for very long, just over two months, but it already felt so much like home that Derek forgot they hadn’t just been living there for years. 

Stiles had been surprisingly easy to hunt for a place with, because he literally had two requirements and left the rest up to Derek: the place needed two bathrooms, and it couldn’t be any further than a ten minute walk from the coffee shop. 

It was the easiest set of requirements ever, because Derek also wanted two bathrooms—living with Stiles in his old place with the one shower had been challenging, considering their different schedules—and he was also fond of the coffee shop and would like the ability to go there more frequently. 

They’d lucked out in finding this place, and on top of having Stiles’ two requirements, it also had an additional half-bath by the entrance, a huge open kitchen, and was on the first floor which meant they had a back patio for a barbecue. On two salaries, it had been an easy finance with the bank and they were both extremely happy with it. 

Derek moreso since he had his own bathroom again. He loved Stiles, but having to rush two showers in the morning had been annoying so he much preferred this new arrangement where they had their own showers. 

It had been a long, slow process getting to a comfortable place. Given their history, Stiles had predictably wanted to keep things slow, which Derek had been totally fine with. Overall, it was best for both their mental states to take things slow.

Though Stiles had spent the night at Derek’s every now and then for a few months, he hadn’t actually moved into Derek’s old place with him until after his leg had fully healed in November—his own fault, he’d tried to push near the end of his physical therapy and had set himself back a month or so. 

After he’d moved in, things had continued to progress slowly. But it hadn’t been as hard as Derek had thought. The shower situation was really the only hardship, in his opinion, and by the end of summer, they were in a comfortable place. They lived together, they understood each other, and they’d taken things much more slowly than other soulmates. 

Finding a new place to live with two full bathrooms had been Stiles’ hesitant request for Christmas, as if he thought Derek wouldn’t want to get a place together when they’d already been living together for a year. So in January, he’d started hunting around, and by mid-February, they’d moved in. He was sorely missing winter, if he was honest, because the new place had a lot of windows and if it was this hot when it was still only spring, he worried about the summer months. 

He figured he could talk to Stiles about possibly buying a portable A/C unit. He didn’t like being gross and sweaty the way his boyfriend did, so he definitely needed a solution before the summer months hit. 

At least he could take cold showers for now. It helped wash off both his own sweat, and his gross, crazy runner of a boyfriend’s. 

Stiles was already getting dressed in the room when Derek stepped out of the bathroom in a towel. And, just like every morning the past two months, Stiles turned to look at him, slapped a hand to his chest, and pretended to keel over. 

Somehow, it never got old. 

“Help, I’m dying, my boyfriend is so hot.” 

“Shut up and get dressed,” Derek insisted. 

Seriously, it never got old. He liked having this extra time in the morning, because Stiles had never done this in their old place and he kind of loved it. 

“You’re the one who’s naked,” Stiles reminded him. “Careful, or you’ll really be late to work.” When he waggled his eyebrows at him, Derek felt his blood rushing south and resolutely strode to his dresser. 

Stiles had made him late twice last week by getting all handsy while they were getting dressed. Derek didn’t mind the attention, he just also hated being late and Stiles made it very easy to not care about the time. 

Like, so easy. Derek had already checked his watch, calculating how much time they really had if they rushed through breakfast. The only reason he didn’t decide to go down that path this morning was because when he glanced over his shoulder, Stiles was already fully dressed and Derek himself was half-dressed. They’d lose time undressing again, so there was no point. 

Tomorrow. Maybe. If Derek didn’t drag his feet getting out of bed. 

Half-asleep morning sex with Stiles was probably one of his favourite things in the world, especially when Stiles was the one who was half-asleep. It didn’t happen often, but he had the dirtiest mouth on him when he was still waking up and Derek fucking loved it. 

When Stiles exited the bedroom, Derek managed to finish getting dressed without too many distractions and shoved his phone, wallet and keys into his pockets. Exiting the room while pulling on his suit jacket, Stiles was already tying his shoes at the door, straightening with a stretch. He was wearing a pair of dark jeans with a blue T-shirt, which Derek was jealous of because his wardrobe was so comfortable given he worked from home. 

“Ready?” Stiles asked, Derek moving to the door so he could slip into his black, polishable shoes. 

He kissed Stiles lightly on the lips, smiling. “Ready.” He kissed him again. 

When he went to pull away, Stiles wrapped his arms around his neck and dragged him back in for another kiss. And another. Derek knew they could play this game all day, because there was nothing quite as satisfying as the way they both felt when kissing each other. It was probably one of those weird soulmates things, but Derek liked to think it was just a Stiles thing. He loved him, and had loved him for a long time, and kissing him just made him happy. 

“Breakfast?” he reminded Stiles when they broke apart again, their lips still touching with how close they were. 

“Curse you for using my love of food and coffee against me.” Stiles did kiss him one last time before pulling away, letting his hands slide off Derek’s shoulders and turning to open the door. 

Derek just smirked while following him out, locking up behind himself while Stiles patted his pockets to be sure he had his keys, then they went to the elevators. 

Ever since moving in together, they’d had to change their schedules slightly so they could still do the things they loved while spending time together. Derek’s hadn’t been quite as drastic since he mostly liked quiet time to read and Stiles was pretty good about letting him have that, but his boyfriend’s hobby took a bit more getting used to, considering an alarm clock was involved. Stiles woke up half an hour earlier than he used to so he could go for his morning run, and had been for over a year now, ever since he’d been allowed to run again. 

Derek still remembered the day the doctor had told him he could start running again. He’d spent that night at Derek’s, and had been so excited when his alarm had gone off the following morning at ass o’clock that he’d practically somersaulted off the bed, waking Derek up with a start. Derek honestly wasn’t entirely sure he hadn’t somersaulted off the bed, if he was honest. 

Despite the early alarm, Derek had learned to wake up enough to recognize the sound of it and then fall back asleep after a few weeks of living together, so he still managed that extra time. However, when Stiles got home, it was half an hour earlier than it used to be, which meant Derek woke up half an hour earlier than he used to. 

In the old place, they’d both rushed through showers and driven their respective vehicles to the coffee shop to have breakfast together, but ever since moving, the mornings felt less hectic with the two bathrooms. 

So now they both showered, changed, and then drove the Camaro to the coffee shop for breakfast. They would both sit and enjoy each other’s company, Stiles chattering away as he was prone to do and Derek content to just listen to him. Then Derek would head to work in the Camaro and Stiles would walk home and start his own day. Depending on how busy they both were, sometimes they met up for lunch, sometimes they didn’t, but Derek loved coming home to Stiles. Even before they’d formally moved in together, Stiles had a key to his place, and the feeling of rightness that hit him whenever he walked through the door to find Stiles sitting on the couch, or scowling at his laptop at the kitchen table was just... overwhelming. 

He would never get tired of it. And he got to go home to it every day

And it had been a hard-earned routine. It had taken them a long time to get to a place where they were comfortable enough to be open with each other after everything they’d been through. But, slowly, they’d managed. One step at a time, with patience and understanding. 

It had been worth it for Derek to wake up that first morning two months ago, in a new apartment that he owned with Stiles. To have fought his way to that moment, and endured everything he had over the years. It had all been worth it to wake up beside Stiles, knowing this man was here, and he was staying, and this was the decision he’d made and would continue to make for the rest of his life. 

“What are you smiling at?” Stiles demanded, poking his cheek. 

“The fact that we’re having tacos for dinner,” Derek lied.  

“Tacos are delicious,” Stiles conceded, the Camaro pulling into the lot and parking near the coffee shop. Stiles grinned, kicking open the door—despite Derek constantly telling him not to do that—and then shut it behind himself. 

Derek had to move quickly to catch up with him, reaching the door just as Stiles threw it open, arms in the air. 

“And a lovely good morning to the loveliest of coffee-providers in the land!” 

“Seriously, one day, you will run out of greetings for me.” 

“That day is not today,” Derek informed her with a smile. 

She snorted, then waved them away to their usual table, Stiles dropping a twenty on the counter to pay for their breakfast and the tip.  

“Hey, we’re still on for mini golf tomorrow, right?” Stiles asked, walking backwards towards the table while Derek sat down. “Boyd owes me for cheating last time.” 

“He didn’t cheat, he is just naturally gifted,” Erica argued. 

“He cheated, and we all know it. I demand a rematch.”

“Yes, yes. You and Boyd can stroke your manly egos at mini golf like big boys.” Erica gave Derek a look along the lines of, “What do we even see in them?” 

Derek just shrugged helpfully, Stiles falling into the seat across from him and muttering under his breath that Boyd had totally cheated and he would definitely beat him this time. 

They were only a few minutes behind today, so it allowed them enough time to eat comfortably while Stiles told Derek about his run through the Preserve this morning. He’d been taking a lot of different paths the past few weeks to keep things interesting, but he always had a pen on him in case of emergencies and he had to leave a note before leaving on days where he planned on deviating from his normal runs. 

One near-death mishap was more than enough for Derek in this lifetime, thank you. 

Derek smiled slightly while he watched Stiles excitedly talk about an area he was pretty sure was new to him, having run further than usual in a straight line and thus hitting different places within the Preserve he hadn’t previously explored. Derek loved watching the way Stiles’ face lit up when he spoke about something he was passionate about, and even if he would never, ever join him for a run, it was nice that he got to experience it with him during their morning chats. 

When they were both finished, they brought their dishes to the counter and bid Erica a good day, Stiles re-confirming that they were on for the following evening—which he’d probably do again tomorrow morning. 

Stiles walked Derek back to the Camaro, and when he pulled the driver’s side door open, he turned to his boyfriend and leaned down to kiss him lightly. 

“Have a good day,” Derek said, kissing him again. 

“You too. Lunch?” 


“See you at dinner then.” Stiles kissed him again, lingering. 

Derek knew if they didn’t stop, Erica would come out with a spray bottle. He wished that was a joke, but sadly it wasn’t. That had been an embarrassing day for everyone involved, including Erica. 

“Bye.” Derek kissed Stiles’ cheek in an attempt to avoid getting addicted to the taste of his lips—more than he already was, anyway—and climbed into the Camaro. 

Stiles stood at the curb, one hand in his pocket and the other up in farewell while he watched Derek back out of his spot. Derek raised his own hand in parting, then turned the car around and drove out onto the road, heading for work. He saw Stiles begin to head for the opposite end of the lot to walk back to their apartment. 

When Derek got to work, he booted up his computer and started opening all of his programs, shrugging off his suit jacket and rolling up the sleeves of his dress shirt. He was out of short-sleeved shirts since he hadn’t gotten around to laundering them over the weekend, which just made him thankful for the A/C they had at work. 

While waiting on his email to load, he reached for his pen holder to grab one of his washable pens and uncapped it, pressing the tip to his left arm. 

Love you Stiles

He stared down at the words, feeling his chest warm at the knowledge that they would appear on Stiles’ arm. After years of ignoring him, he knew that any time Derek wrote on his arm, it made Stiles happy. He still wasn’t used to it, and he definitely texted more than anything else, but every now and then, just to make Stiles smile the way Derek loved so much, he wrote him something on his arm. 

He saw letters slowly beginning to form on his right arm and couldn’t help the snort and eye roll that followed. 

Back to work slacker! (And love you too, my grumpy sunshine boy~)

Derek shook his head and leaned forward to open a new email, not bothering to roll his sleeves back down to cover the words. 

He didn’t care if people saw the ridiculous things Stiles said to him anymore. Because Stiles was his soulmate. And he was wonderful and perfect and amazing. 

Derek had chosen to love him for the rest of his life, and he wanted everyone else to know that, too.