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In Your Eyes

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Stiles’ first attempt at drawing his soulmate’s face mostly just looks like Bert from Sesame Street. His mother hides her smile behind her fist, then ruffles his hair and tells him the drawings will get better. He hopes they do. Bert would be a sucky soulmate. He’s grumpy and always yelling at Ernie.

It’s pretty obvious he loves Ernie despite it all, though, so maybe it would still be okay.

-----

His second attempt is only slightly better. There’s less in the way of pointy-head and fewer random tufts of hair, for sure. The head squishes down and rounds out, and his hair looks more like black grass poking out of the top of his head. The Bert eyebrows are still there, though.

“He looks like a severe boy,” Claudia comments, and John glances over before resuming fixing breakfast. “But maybe Stiles needs that kind of seriousness to balance out his goofy, energetic nature.”

“It worked for us,” John says gruffly, and Claudia smiles and kisses him on the cheek. Stiles hopes his soulmate will be like that for him.

-----

His third attempt actually resembles a human. He unthinkingly picks up the green crayon to shade his soulmate’s eyes, but it feels wrong. Not the green, necessarily, but the shade of it. It’s too dark, too deep. He doesn’t know how to fix it, and he cries. His mother shows him how to blend in the white crayon, and it’s still not right, but it’s better.

“It’ll get clearer,” his mother promises him, and he trusts her. It’s frustrating because he’s eight and it feels like it takes forever for him to have flashes of his soulmate’s face, at least enough for him to draw, but he knows it’s like this for almost everyone. He just has to have patience.

He sucks at having patience.

-----

He starts to realize that the Bert brows are a legit thing his soulmate has, and not just a result of his poor artistic skills. They always look like two fat, fuzzy black caterpillars on his soulmate’s face, but they’re starting to grow on him.

Jackson, the jerk, makes fun of his soulmate. “He looks stupid, like you,” he points out with a rude laugh. “His face is all smooshed and covered in fur. He’s ugly. You two are perfect for each other.”

“Shut up, you bag of dicks,” he hisses, and Danny makes an impressed face. Stiles preens a little; he heard one of the fifth-graders saying it to someone and it was the meanest insult he’d ever heard. He’s torn between feeling smug and a little terrified that Mr. Dalton will hear him and send him to the principal’s office. He’d really like to not go there all the time this year like he did last year.

Jackson looks like he wants to say something back, but Stiles mean-mugs him and he makes a face instead, pulling back behind his own desk like a turtle and muttering something nasty under his breath. Stiles pretends he doesn’t hear him. His soulmate is perfect, and one day they’ll meet each other, and Jackson will be so jealous. Stiles bets Jackson’s soulmate has a face like a shriveled old prune.

-----

Stiles’ mom dies when he’s ten. He stops drawing his soulmate’s face.

-----

The flashes of his soulmate’s face get stronger, more vivid, over the next four years. They’re still always only flashes, a brief glimpse, but they’re more… tangible, almost, except not, because they’re still just pictures in his brain. He still doesn’t draw anything.

Sometimes his friends ask him why he doesn’t draw his soulmate like everyone else does. They’re getting older, their skills growing, and some of them have nearly portrait-like drawings of their soulmates. Stiles shrugs when they ask. It’s not like it matters anymore. His mom is gone, and she was the one who was always interested. She was the one who would speculate on what his soulmate was like and what his personality traits were, based on Stiles’ childish renditions. She was the one who would encourage him when he felt like his drawings were terrible, and help him figure out how to draw that one feature that was giving him problems.

His dad doesn’t ask about his soulmate, or why he doesn’t draw him anymore. His dad knows.

-----

Just after his fifteenth birthday he has another flash of his soulmate’s face, but this time it's accompanied by a cramping ache in his arm and hand. His fingers flex and curl and he sighs irritably, grabs a colored pencil, and starts drawing. It's been awhile so he's a little rusty, but his hand also flies across the paper faster than it ever did as a child.

The result is a picture that looks undeniably like a human. A real person. He’s got dark hair and eyes a green-ish color Stiles still can’t get right no matter which colors he blends, arms the size of cannons and a chest full of hair that Stiles blushes just thinking about. He quickly sketches in a shirt, a black henley because it’s the easiest thing to cover the chest hair, and hesitantly takes the drawing to his dad.

His dad says nothing as he studies the picture, then, “You started drawing him again.”

Stiles shrugs, uncomfortable to be having this conversation. They don’t discuss the soulmate thing, not ever. The one time he’d tried, his dad’s voice had cracked when he mentioned Claudia, and Stiles refused to bring it up again. “I didn’t plan to. My hand hurt until I did.”

John’s eyes narrow and sharpen. “Your hand hurt?”

“It ached and cramped and my fingers kept twitching and reaching for something to draw with. It was right after a flash, so I figured the cramp would go away when I started drawing. I was right.”

Rubbing a hand over his lined face, John sighs, the sound deep and weary. “I want you to go see your aunt this summer.”

He only has one aunt, his mother’s sister. She’d always creeped him out a little when he was younger, because she would stare at him until he started shifting in discomfort, then she would smile and tell him she couldn’t wait to show him who he was. He hasn’t seen her since the funeral.

“What? Why?” Stiles demands to know. John just shakes his head.

“It’s better if Alena tells you.”

It’s a highly dissatisfying answer, but he leaves his dad alone after that. Green-ish eyes and chest hair have stolen his focus, anyway.

-----

So yeah, Stiles is magic. He spends three months with Aunt Alena, who explains to him his family history. Claudia had always planned to tell him when his spark showed itself, but hadn’t lived long enough to do so. Fortunately she’d always been upfront with her husband, so John was able to recognize the signs.

Stiles doesn’t know what to think about it. On one hand, yeah, it’s kinda cool to learn how to use his spark to do things no one should be able to do. On the other hand, it’s scary as hell to realize that the monster and magic stories are real. There are werewolves, and vampires, and witches, and all manner of creatures out there. He’d kind of prefer to be back in that world where everyone is human and there’s no reason to think otherwise.

Aunt Alena explains to him that supernatural creatures tend to be drawn to each other, and his soulmate might very well be a supe. That’s what she calls them, because it’s less minimizing than “creatures” but “supernatural” is really long to say all the time. So he starts to think of himself as a supe. It’s weird, but by the end of the summer, he’s okay with it.

Then school starts again.

-----

Nobody asks him about his soulmate anymore. He hasn’t drawn him in years, and when he started drawing him again after his birthday, he hid it from all his friends. Stiles doesn’t exactly know why, except that it finally started to feel private. After he learns he’s a spark, and his soulmate might be something magical too, he really doesn’t want it on anyone’s radar.

Then Jackson starts in on him again, and Stiles might lose it. Just a little bit.

Jackson’s hung his newest picture of his soulmate in his locker, and unfortunately for younger Stiles, she does not have a face like a shriveled old prune. She’s pretty, with long, waving red hair and green eyes (an easy green, not like his soulmate’s, and that kind of makes them lacking in his opinion), and an austere, haughty smile. He pities her.

“Stop staring at my soulmate,” Jackson jeers when he catches Stiles looking at the drawing. “Just because your own soulmate is furry and ugly doesn’t mean you can try to look at mine instead.”

“Fuck off, Jackson,” he says eloquently. (His insults have gotten more mature, or less, depending on who you ask.) “My soulmate is gorgeous, more attractive than yours could ever be.”

Jackson scoffs at him, taking books out of his locker to shove in his backpack. “Some loser nobody like you would never get a hot soulmate,” he insists, “so your soulmate must be an ugly loser too.”

The picture of Jackson’s soulmate bursts into flames.

Later, his dad sits him down and gives him a stern lecture. “You can’t set fire to other people’s things just because you’re mad at them.”

“I didn’t mean to,” he explains weakly. “I didn’t even know what I was doing.”

Aunt Alena shows up in Beacon Hills the next week. She stays for awhile.

-----

Stiles learns better control with Aunt Alena around. It takes him a couple years, but he stops lighting things on fire when he loses his temper. He learns how to do more than literally be a spark, learns how to use his magic to manipulate his surroundings. He’s an elemental spark, apparently, so he gets pretty good with the Big Four-air, fire, water, earth.

He’s spiteful sometimes, so instead of lighting Jackson’s stuff on fire, Jackson frequently finds his beloved Porsche in a muddy bog. In the middle of otherwise dry land, in a state that hasn’t had rain for months. He spins his tires, digging himself in deeper, splattering mud all over the sleek silver paint. Inevitably he has to have it towed, and then washed, and while neither puts him out much expense-wise, it annoys him, and Stiles finds petty satisfaction in it.

He starts using charcoal to draw his soulmate. He’s able to manipulate it better than ink or colored pencil, and his drawings start becoming black and white portraits. Aunt Alena suggests that he could make a name for himself as an artist, but he doesn’t want to draw attention to it. It’s not like the talent is natural, after all, but magically induced.

Which is sort of natural (one might even say super natural), but still. He wants to keep all things drawing-related to himself.

-----

It’s on his eighteenth birthday (birthdays are powerful for sparks, apparently, with their connection to the earth they were born from and all that) that Stiles meets his first supe other than himself. At least he assumes it’s his first time; there may have been others who were just damn good at hiding themselves.

She’s pretty, with long, dark brown hair and green eyes. Claws extend from her fingertips and fangs drop from her gums as she snarls at him, her whole body leaning toward him in an aggressive stance. “Whoa,” he says hastily, raising his hands to indicate he means no harm. He’s trying not to panic, but fuck, she’s a werewolf. One who could apparently rip him to shreds, if the green-turned-red eyes are anything to go by. “I was just coming out to the Preserve to do my nature meditation,” he explains, wondering if the wolf is anywhere close to sanity.

Apparently she is; the fangs and claws recede and her eyes fade back to green. When she’s in control again, she blinks, a dumbfounded expression crossing her face. “It’s you.”

“Uh, yeah?” he laughs, uncomfortable. “Who else would I be?”

She takes off, and Stiles is a little creeped out, but he tries to shake it off. Time to talk to the birds and shit.

-----

He gets the sense that he’s being watched after that. It’s not that creepy, “there are eyes on me” sensation, but more of a general awareness that another supe is present, and it’s him they’re there for. At first he’s wary, but as time goes on he stops paying attention to it. If the person was going to harm him, they likely would have done it already.

Graduation is only a month off when the wolf from the Preserve approaches him after school, just as he’s getting ready to get inside his Jeep. He’s proud of himself for not jumping when she appears behind him (he’s a practicing spark and he still hasn’t managed apparition yet; he’s jealous that werewolves can do it without even being magical, per se). It’s quiet for several moments while Stiles waits for her to say something.

“I need you to come with me.”

“Fat fucking chance,” Stiles snorts as he shoves his backpack into the Jeep, then turns to face her. She’s oddly solemn, her arms at her sides and her posture stiff. “You’re a werewolf I don’t know and I’m pretty sure you’ve been spying on me for the past two weeks. I’m not about to follow you off to get eaten or something.”

Sharp teeth flash at him when she gives him a sudden grin. “I’m not the wolf you have to worry about being eaten by, Little Red.”

Damn it, he knew the red hoodie was a bad choice, considering his new affinity with supernaturals. It was like begging for the stupid jokes. “Yeah, because that’s reassuring.”

She sobers again, watching him steadily. “Do I not look familiar to you at all?”

He studies her, but doesn’t know who she could be. “No?”

“Look at my eyes.”

Stiles does, and a sense of… something grows in his stomach. He’s not sure if it’s excitement, dread, apprehension, or relief. “Who is he?”

She grins again, eyes flashing alpha red. “That’s for me to know and you to find out.”

Of course he follows her. He finds himself at a house on the edge of the Preserve, with a man standing on the porch, wearing a face he’s drawn hundreds of times.

His soulmate’s name is Derek.

And he’s pretty much an asshole.

-----

Okay, he's not an asshole, but he's rude. Laura brushes it off with an airy wave of her hand, explaining to Stiles that Derek is pretty much the grumpiest person she's ever known, and he is essentially an eighty year old man in a twenty four year old’s body. A really fucking hot twenty four year old’s body. (That last part is Stiles’ addition, not Laura’s, because eww.)

Stiles sits and stares at Derek when Laura leaves them alone. Derek ignores him. Stiles is fascinated by the eyebrows he now gets to see in person (his drawings were scarily accurate there), and mesmerized by the eyes (which he never, ever could have colored accurately in a million years).

“Are you going to ignore me forever?” Stiles finally blurts out, impatient with the ongoing silence.

Derek glances at him. “Would it work?”

Stiles glares back. “What is your problem? You hate me and you don't even know me! Aren't you supposed to be in love with me?”

“You just said I don't even know you,” Derek points out dryly. “How do you expect me to love you?”

Stiles shoves up out of his seat and goes to find Laura. “Your brother is impossible,” he fumes, and she gives him a sympathetic smile. “I'm leaving.”

“Come back tomorrow,” she suggests. “He'll warm up to you eventually.”

“That's flattering,” he mutters. He's never going to let Jackson know about this, or he'll never live it down.

Laura flicks a glance to the porch, where Stiles can feel his soulmate sulking. “There's a reason he's like this. Give him time, please. You'll love him before you know it.”

“Fat fucking chance,” he retorts, and she smiles, because the last time he said that he'd ended up doing exactly what she commanded.

He has a feeling he's going to have to get used to it.

-----

Stiles shows up the next day as “requested”. “I'm here, where do you want me?” he deadpans, and Laura rolls her eyes.

“Derek is upstairs,” she informs him. “Go on up.”

“I feel like I'm on a fucking play date,” he complains.

She grins. “I'll bring up juice boxes and PB and J’s later, if you play nice.”

“I hate you,” he sasses, and she laughs.

“Derek has no idea what he's in for,” she comments, amused, and he kind of hopes he annoys the dick until he gets kicked out.

Maybe he can swap soulmates with Jackson. He wonders if that can be a thing.

“What are you doing here?” Derek snaps, eyebrows drawn together in a scowl, when Stiles props himself in the open door frame to Derek's room.

“Apparently it's because I'm a glutton for punishment,” he quips, and Derek stares at him. Stiles sighs. “Look, if you really despise the idea of soulmates so much, I'll just, like, leave. For good.”

He waits, hoping that Derek doesn't actually want him to go. For as much as he really doesn't like Derek right now, for better or worse, they're soulmates. He would like to have a shot at a future with him. Maybe. Theoretically.

Derek eyes him. “Would that make you unhappy?”

“Do you mean more or less than when I'm around you?” Stiles snarks, and miracle of miracles, Derek cracks a tiny, barely-there grin. “I mean, yeah. I don't want to spend the rest of my life trying to find someone who is also soulmate-less who could be convinced to be interested in me. The odds aren't exactly in my favor for that.”

Derek huffs; whether it's in acknowledgement of the pop-culture reference or the difficulty inherent in matching up with someone who doesn't have a soulmate of their own, Stiles isn't sure. “I'm not the nicest person, or the easiest to get along with,” he concedes, and Stiles congratulates himself on not breaking a rib with his laughter. Derek waits until he's done, his expression flat. “You're not getting a bargain here.”

“Trust me, I'm aware. But the universe gave us to each other, so I'm willing to roll with it if you are.”

By the time he leaves, the jury is still out on whether Derek is willing to roll with it. But Derek doesn't kick him out, and he gives Stiles his phone number, so Stiles figures he's growing on the grump. Probably like a fungus, but whatever. He has a soulmate.

-----

The next week has him pestering Derek through text, relentlessly . He figures it’s better to expose Derek to his personality in full right away, so he knows what he’s getting into. Derek only responds to one out of five texts, but Stiles still counts that as a win.

He goes back to the Hale house every couple days. Derek is slowly growing to tolerate him, and Laura actually likes him. Stiles is starting to feel like he’s part of the family. Not that he’s trying to get ahead of himself, it’s not like there are going to be wedding bells any time in the next, like, decade. But he kind of, sort of, feels like he belongs.

“What are you up to today?” Stiles asks Laura, leaning over the counter in the kitchen. She’s stirring something in a pot at the stove. “Let me guess. Rabbit stew?”

“Nah, we wouldn’t bother cooking it,” she shoots back easily, and this is why Stiles loves her. “I’m making potato soup.”

“It’s the one thing she doesn’t fuck up,” Derek explains as he enters the kitchen, and Stiles glances up at him. Derek’s gotten more accustomed to him over the previous week, has started to relax a little bit. Stiles gets the sense that he wouldn’t be this accommodating if it was anyone other than his soulmate. It pleases him, a lot actually, that he’s the one person who’s able to draw Derek out of his crabbiness this, well, not easily , exactly, but quickly, maybe?

Laura mock-glares at Derek. “I cook a lot of things well. I just frequently get food that doesn’t cooperate with the cooking process.” She stirs the soup again. “Like now. The water doesn’t want to boil.”

Without missing a beat, Stiles focuses his thoughts on making the water boil. A second later, it’s bubbling merrily. Laura claps but Derek snarls. “What the actual fuck? What just happened?”

Stiles stares at Derek. It occurs to him that he never actually mentioned that he’s a spark. “I, um. I’m magic?” he offers. “Spark, actually. On my mother’s side.” And wow, he never mentions his mom. But if he’s going to mention her to anyone, it might as well be his soulmate. He’ll have to find out eventually.

Laura smirks when Derek’s Bert brows pull together. “You couldn’t smell it?” she taunts Derek, who scowls at her.

“You can’t smell a spark,” he protests.

She shrugs. “I didn’t know he was a spark, no, but he doesn’t smell human. He also doesn’t smell like a wolf, or a vampire, so something magic seemed the most likely option.”

“And you didn’t think to tell me?”

Scoffing, she returns to stirring the soup. “If you couldn’t use your nose, baby brother, I wasn’t going to make it easy for you.”

“The two of you should have been soulmates,” he grumbles, but there’s no heat behind it. “You’re both serious pains in my ass.”

“Aww, but you love us,” she coos, and Stiles flinches, because there’s no us to it.

Derek glances at him, and something in his eyes softens. “You, regretfully. Him… not yet.”

Not yet . That’s something Stiles can work with.

-----

The morning of his graduation is sunny and hot, and Stiles debates wearing a pair of booty shorts and a crop top under his robe. More for the reaction when he takes it off than the weather, to be honest, but it would serve a dual purpose.

His dad knocks on the door when he’s pulling out his clothes, though, and raises an eyebrow at the neon green shorts. “Whatever you’re thinking, don’t.” And yeah, he’s probably right.

“What’s up, pops?” he asks as he puts the shorts back and pulls out a pair of plain, knee-length khaki shorts and a short-sleeved burgundy polo shirt. It’s not near as entertaining, but Derek and Laura will be there, and he’d maybe like to act like an adult for once.

“I just wanted to say how proud of you I am,” his dad answers, scratching awkwardly at the back of his neck. “I know the past few years have been hard on you, and without your mom around to help with the spark thing…”

“Dad.” He has to stop this conversation or he’ll end up crying, and no. Just no. “You did the best you could. You put me in touch with Aunt Alena, and she’s been a lifesaver. You recognized I needed her. You’ve done everything you could for me, okay?”

His dad nods, fighting back emotions himself, and Stiles gives him a bright, watery smile. He moves to clap his hand over his dad’s shoulder, but then John’s arms go around and pull him in, holding him tight. Stiles squeezes him back for a few moments, then they break apart.

“Can you believe I made it to graduation alive?” Stiles asks, trying to cover the emotion of the moment, and John snorts.

“Honestly? No.”

-----

Graduation is mostly a blur. He moves where directed, walks to the stage with the rest of his row, and crosses to the podium when the principal calls out his name-sort of, anyway. He at least got the first letter right. He waves into the crowd and is pleased to hear some cheering. He imagines a lot of it is Laura, and is grateful she’s not howling instead.

Afterward, he finds his dad, Derek, and Laura in the crowd. He’s a little nervous because this is the first time his dad has met the Hales. Shooting Laura a warning glance to be on her best behavior, he makes the introductions. “Dad, this is Derek. My, uh. My soulmate.” He scratches at the back of his neck, feeling the heat crawling upward. He’s still not used to saying it. “And Laura, his older sister.”

“It’s nice to meet you both, finally,” John says, extending his hand to Derek to shake. Derek does, firmly, and trades a look with Stiles that’s soft and-is that-it is, it’s affection .

“It’s nice to meet you too, sir,” Derek replies as John shakes Laura’s hand. Laura is uncharacteristically quiet. “Stiles has told me a lot about you.”

“I wish I could say the same,” John remarks dryly, giving Stiles a displeased look, and Stiles ducks his head. He wasn’t ready to talk about Derek, since he didn’t know where he stood with the man.

Laura grins sunnily. “Stiles probably wanted to wait until he knew Derek wasn’t going to run away.”

Derek’s ears turn red. “I wouldn’t run away. I’m just wary.” Laura gives him a sympathetic smile and Stiles knows there’s a story there.

John claps him on the back. “Well just so you know, son, you’re family now. Both of you. You’re always welcome in my home.”

Derek’s eyes widen and Laura’s get misty. “Stiles has been family since the day I met him,” Laura says, and Stiles wonders which day she’s referring to. “We’re happy to welcome you into our family as well.” Stiles can see Derek’s throat working and he aches to know what the background is. He figures he will. Someday.

“Stilinski.”

And just like that, his good day goes to crap.

“Jackson.” Stiles knows his voice expresses his displeasure, but it’s interesting to see Derek tense and scowl. He’s ranted about Jackson a couple times, but he didn’t know either of them had even paid attention, let alone recognized the name. “I would have thought you’d be returning to your sewer to devour small rodents right about now.”

“Ha, ha,” Jackson retorts with a sneer. His eyes land on Derek and his expression smooths into something approximating suave charm. “Are you going to introduce me to your friend?”

A wicked, beaming grin splits Stiles’ face. “Sure. Jackson, this is Derek Hale. My soulmate.” He relishes the look of shocked dismay and wide eyes. “Derek, this is Jackson, the bane of my existence.”

Derek looks over Jackson dismissively. “Stiles, where would you like to go for dinner tonight?” he asks, instead of acknowledging the introduction, and Stiles knows he’s not really in love, it’s too soon, but yeah, he loves Derek right now. So, so much.

Also, this is his first date with Derek. Maybe.

“I don’t know, I was thinking Barrett’s,” Stiles replies after a moment. Derek nods agreeably, sliding an arm around Stiles’ waist and pulling him close, and Stiles is rethinking his hatred of Jackson. “Should we get going?”

“Absolutely. We should go somewhere where it’s not so, I don’t know, stupid,” Laura replies, giving Jackson a grimace. She links her arm through Stiles’ free arm and they lead him away, with John following, shaking his head and smiling.

-----

Dinner with Derek goes surprisingly well. He’s conscientious and attentive, and he asks Stiles questions about himself. Stiles tells him everything he can think of. He even briefly mentions his mother’s death, but follows it quickly with stories of spending the summer with Aunt Alena and learning how to use his powers. They talk all through dinner about Stiles and his childhood.

When dessert is served, he asks Derek about growing up as a werewolf. Derek stiffens at first, but gradually he starts telling stories about his family, about his little sister and his parents and his toddler twin brothers. Then, he falls silent. Stiles can tell this is the moment where he learns why Derek is so closed-off, so he waits, wordless. It comes in four words.

“There was a fire.”

His voice is thick, his throat working hard, and Stiles doesn’t know what he has the right to say. So he reaches out, places his hand on Derek’s, and squeezes gently. Derek lets him.

After a moment, Derek clears his throat and reaches for the slim package sitting on the chair next to him. They’d brought it into the restaurant with them, but Stiles had refused to ask. Derek would give it to him when he was ready.

Apparently he’s ready now.

Stiles takes the present that’s handed to him wordlessly, anxious about what it could possibly be. He didn’t think they were at the gift-giving stage yet and he didn’t want Derek feeling pressured to know him well enough to get him an appropriate gift. Maintaining eye contact with Derek, he slowly peels back the tape and discards the paper. Looking down, he can feel his heart stutter. It’s a picture. A portrait.

Of him.

“I drew it the day before Laura found you in the Preserve,” he explains, voice barely a murmur. “She came home that day, so freaking excited to tell me she’d seen you. I was scared shitless.”

His eyes snap up. “What? Why ?”

Derek swallows. “I didn’t want to love you.”

Stiles stares down at the portrait again. It’s done in watercolors and it’s so vivid, so lifelike , that Stiles feels he’s about to watch himself jump off the paper. He looks to be mid-laugh, mouth wide and teeth bared, eyes glowing a liquid amber color. His hair is messy and spiky, looking as if he’d just run his hands through it a half-dozen times (which was eerily accurate), and his lips are full and bitten-red like he’d just been chewing on them (again, accurate).

“You already do.” He can’t meet Derek’s eyes. “This portrait, this is love. You look at this and you think, the person who painted this loves the subject.”

Derek chokes a little on his next breath. “I spent my childhood talking about my soulmate to anyone who would listen. Your eyes were the first thing I was able to draw clearly, and I named my cat Honey because of them. But I lost my entire family, Stiles. I’m terrified of falling in love, of having someone else to lose. As long as you were just an image on paper, I could be happy with the idea that you were out there. When Laura found you, she brought back into my life the possibility of loss. I thought if I rejected you before I fell in love, I’d never have to worry about getting hurt again.”

“You’re an idiot,” Stiles blurts, and Derek raises one caterpillar brow in acknowledgment. “And now? Do you still want to reject me?”

Shaking his head slowly, Derek allows a fond smile to curve his lips. “Never. I’d rather risk losing you than never having you at all.”

Stiles has to tamp down the emotions that want to clog his throat. “Can we leave? I really want to kiss you and I don’t want our first kiss to be an awkward lip-skim because we have a table between us.”

Derek barks out a laugh and pulls several twenties from his wallet, dropping them on the table despite Stiles’ protests. “I invited you to dinner, and it’s your graduation day. Let me treat you.”

Stiles wants to kiss him even more.

When they make it out to the Camaro, Stiles is so impatient that he lacks both grace and words. Derek starts to open the door for him, but Stiles is having none of it and simply pushes Derek against the side of the car, leans in, and slides his lips against his soulmate’s.

Derek’s mouth opens immediately and Stiles presses in, his tongue dancing over Derek’s, tasting him and reveling in it. In the back of his buzzing brain, he’s pretty sure this is the best first kiss in the history of first kisses. The noises Derek is making… He’s exactly where he needs to be.

Pressing in against Derek, Stiles grabs fistfuls of his leather jacket to anchor himself. Large hands find his hips; strong fingers bite into his flesh, bruising it. Stiles whimpers into Derek’s mouth and Derek’s grip tightens, pulling him in closer. Stiles loses track of time as they sink into each other, as their heartbeats speed and sync and settle, falling into a matching rhythm.

When they separate, both breathing harshly, Stiles leans in and drops his forehead against Derek’s. “We didn’t start the way I imagined we would, but I think, maybe, it was better.”

Derek kisses him again, and Stiles takes that as an agreement.