Stiles has always maintained that if Scott weren’t quite so slow on the uptake, they could totally be soulmates.
When they were kids, this thought depressed him; now, he has to admit, he’s more relieved than anything else. He loves Scotty to pieces, but jeez, does Allison have to put up with a lot. Besides, although platonic soulmates do exist, very occasionally, Stiles is a romantic at heart, and he definitely, definitely doesn’t see Scott that way.
It happened when they were four years old, and they met at the playgroup both their moms sent them to. They’d been doing that thing kids do when they play alongside each other but not actually together, and as a consequence they’d spent the entire morning together without actually talking. That was enough for Stiles to decide that he wanted Scott as his soulmate.
He took a peek at his words, curled up in a rough, uneven scrawl along the line of his ankle, and then gestured imperiously to Scott to follow him into a quiet corner of the room.
Scott waited patiently as Stiles mouthed the words silently to himself, making sure he knew them off by heart. Then he told Scott: “Say ‘yeah, pass the salt, Stiles’.”
This was the moment where, if Scott had simply done as he’d been told and said the words, everything would be different and they would be soulmates. According to Stiles. Scott always throws an affectionate arm around his shoulders when he tells this part of the story, which is his way of apologising for letting the side down.
At the time, he blinked and said: “What?”
“Aw!” Allison coos at this point in the story. Stiles grins, completely unashamed, because come on. Scott may not be his actual soulmate, but even at four years old, he had pretty fucking awesome taste.
“How arrogant would that be, though,” Scott says thoughtfully, picking up his burger – they’re at the diner – and taking a large bite. “I mean, if someone else’s words were you telling them to say your words.”
“Saves time,” Stiles pointed out. “My words are so generic. For all I know, someone’s already said them and I didn’t even notice.”
Scott gives Allison a mushy look. “You’ll notice,” he says. He used to complain about his words being mundane as well, until Allison transferred halfway through their sophomore year and he lent her a pen. Stiles was there; it was sickening.
“Hey, did you find your inhaler in the end?” Allison asks, for which Stiles is extremely grateful. Although he doesn’t mind talking about the time when he thought Scott could be his soulmate – after all, they’ve been best friends ever since, so he was almost right – he’s not the biggest fan of discussion about soulmates in general.
Of course, he knows hypothetically that not everyone meets their soulmate at sixteen, that Scott and Allison are the exception rather than the rule, but it does feel like he’s surrounded by loved-up couples while he’s still alone. Lydia, the second person in his life he was convinced could be his soulmate – if she would only have looked at him, let alone spoken to him, at high school – has just got engaged to her soulmate Jackson, who happens to be one of the biggest douchebags on the planet. Stiles can admit, now, that he and Lydia are far better as friends, but still. It’s kind of galling, when everyone he knows met their soulmate at high school, and he’s still nineteen and lonely.
“It wasn’t on the quad,” Scott is saying, his brow furrowed in consternation. “I was thinking I might have dropped it in the forest when we went camping last week.”
“I’ll come with you to look for it,” Stiles says magnanimously, because he knows Scott was about to ask Allison and she has class in the afternoon. Scott grins at him, because Scott is awesome.
This is how they find themselves trawling through the woods behind campus after they’ve finished eating, trying to find the random spot where they’d decided to pitch their tents after Stiles had had the bright idea to camp out. Given that everything looks the same – the same silvery trees, the same heaps of dried leaves crunching underfoot, the same winding muddy trails curling between the vegetation – this is easier said than done.
“This looks familiar,” Scott says, frowning pensively at the little clearing they’re standing in. “Didn’t we set up our fire over there? That could be a scorch mark on the tree.”
“Sure,” Stiles says supportively. Scott kneels down, pushing his hands through the leaves on the ground.
“I hope so,” he mumbles. “That inhaler cost, like, eighty bucks.”
Stiles, hands shoved into his pockets, swings around on his legs because he’s incapable of staying still – and stops.
“Dude,” he hisses to Scott, whacking him on the shoulder.
There’s a man standing a few feet away, watching them with a stony expression on his pale face.
Scott jumps to his feet immediately; Stiles opens and closes his mouth, trying to figure out what to say. The man is wearing all black, including a black leather jacket that looks kind of ridiculously good on his muscular arms. He has dark hair, and a pair of the most impressive eyebrows Stiles has ever seen. He looks… murderous, but also hot. Really hot.
His eyes – green, pissed off – fasten onto Scott. “What are you doing here?” he snaps. Beside Stiles, Scott gulps. “This is private property.”
“Sorry,” Scott says quickly. His gaze flickers to Stiles. “We didn’t know. We were just… looking for something.”
The man puts a hand into the pocket of his leather jacket, drawing something out of it and tossing it over. Scott catches it automatically; it’s his inhaler. Scott blinks; the man turns around, striding away without so much as a backward glance.
“Thanks,” Scott calls after him, but he’s already gone. He turns to Stiles. “That was weird.”
Stiles shrugs. The dude was hot, but Stiles pretty much falls for a different person every Wednesday, so that’s nothing new. “Hey, you got your inhaler back,” he says. “Come on, I’ll kick your ass at Mario Kart.”
Scott rolls his eyes as they turn to walk away. “Dude,” he says. “You always kick my ass at Mario Kart. It’s the only video game you know how to play.”
The next time Stiles sees the hot dude from the forest, he’s in the library, a mountain of textbooks surrounding him and his laptop, trying to make sense of his Econ paper. Stiles wears headphones when he’s studying – the absolute silence of the library is seriously bad for his concentration – so he doesn’t really notice when someone comes over and pulls out the chair opposite him. It’s nearly midterms, so the library is crowded; it’s not like a little company at his table is unexpected.
It’s at least ten minutes later that he pulls his headphones off his head, reaching for the now-cold Styrofoam cup of coffee that he’s definitely not supposed to have in here. He looks up as he sips it – and freezes.
The man sitting across from him, currently engaged with a highlighter and several photocopied sheets, is the hot dude from the woods.
And man, he’s even hotter close up.
Obviously sensing Stiles’ eyes on him, he looks up, catching Stiles’ gaze. He still looks pretty murdery, but there’s something insanely cute about those eyebrows and the glint of silver in his green eyes. He stares at Stiles, as if to say, what?
Stiles grins, waggling his fingers like an idiot. The dude just glares at him, so he grabs a piece of scrap paper from his binder and starts to scribble on it.
You’re the guy that found Scott’s inhaler!
He shoves the note eagerly across the table; after a couple of seconds just staring at it as though it might spontaneously combust, the hot forest dude gingerly reaches out and picks it up. Stiles watches him read it; his eyebrows lift, and he looks over at Stiles again. Then he shrugs, as if to say so what? and slides the piece of paper back across the table without writing anything on it.
Stiles rolls his eyes, picking up his pen again.
This time, the guy just looks confused when he picks up the note. His eyes flicker across to Stiles again, and then back to the words on the page; slowly, he picks up his pen, and Stiles gives himself an internal high five.
That’s it. Just a name. Stiles grins at Derek Hale, returning his attention to his paper; he figures he probably shouldn’t push his luck. Honestly, he’ll probably never see Derek again, but it’s nice to be able to put a name to the extremely attractive face that he definitely hasn’t jerked off to ever since seeing him standing all tall and fierce amongst the trees.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that when the time comes to pack up his stuff, Stiles doesn’t slip the note in his pocket. Just to make sure he doesn’t forget.
“Stiles!” Scott says excitedly, in that tone of voice that means he’s definitely drunk. Stiles pushes through a group of girls to where his best friend is standing with Allison and Isaac in the kitchen. He never realised, when they talked about throwing a party, just how big it would turn out to be.
“Isaac,” he says curtly, because Isaac is a friend-stealer and shouldn’t be given too much leeway. Isaac just grins infuriatingly at him, and Stiles rolls his eyes.
“Stiles,” Scott says insistently, and for the first time Stiles looks over at him. To his surprise, Derek is standing next to him, looking somewhat awkward in his leather jacket. “This is Derek!” Scott exclaims.
“I know, Scotty,” Stiles says patiently. “We’ve met before, remember?”
“Yeah, but,” Scott says, his body listing to one side slightly the way it always does when he’s had too much to drink, “he found my inhaler! And he plays lacrosse, and he’s into X-Files!”
Isaac says to Derek: “Stiles is, like, obsessed with X-Files.”
“I’m not obsessed,” Stiles objects. Derek looks at Isaac over the top of Stiles’ head.
“X-Files is awesome,” he says. “There’s nothing wrong with being obsessed with good TV.”
This is the longest, least aggressive thing Stiles has ever heard Derek say, and kind of makes him about twelve thousand times more attractive in Stiles’ not-so-humble opinion, but he ignores that in favour of pointing gleefully at Isaac. “Exactly,” he says triumphantly. “Isn’t that what I always say?”
Isaac rolls his eyes. “Okay, so you’re both nerds,” he says. “Whatever. Can we do tequila shots now?”
What are you studying?
Why do you care?
Because I don’t know anything about you? Come on, dude. Give me something here.
That’s cool. Are you an artist?
I want to open a gallery. I went to this amazing one in Paris that had a café attached, and ran all these classes and things in the evenings.
What kind of classes would you run?
Life drawing maybe. I used to be really into pottery.
That’s awesome. I’m so unartistic it’s embarrassing.
I guess you’ll have to come to one of my classes.
You’re a mature student, right?
What’s with the twenty questions?
I’m getting to know you?
Is this how you usually make friends?
I haven’t made a new friend in about fifteen years, dude. I’m rusty, give me a break.
Isaac told me you guys only met last year?
Isaac is NOT my friend.
Don’t you tutor him in your spare time? For free?
Yeah, and he practises lacrosse with me. It’s a purely business arrangement.
I guess he’s kind of a douche. He has really obnoxious taste in scarves.
Hey, that’s not cool. He’s not a douche, you just have to get to know his sense of humour. Although his scarves are obnoxious.
You’re pretty defensive of someone you’re not friends with.
Oooh, that was a trap, right? Did you just fucking trap me?
Maybe? Just to be clear, Isaac seems cool.
Very stealthy, my friend. Do you have a cell #?
No, I exist in the 1800s & don’t believe in technology.
Okay, touchy! I figured you could come round tomorrow? I’m feeling an X-Files binge.
I can’t tomorrow. I have work. You could text me while you’re watching?
Only if you promise to provide a healthy running commentary.
That implies I’ll be able to get a word in edgewise.
Salty bastard. Give me your number.
“Um,” Scott says, looking between Stiles and Derek. They’re actually all hanging out, which is pretty rare; Derek works a lot, so most of their interaction happens over text or through the rapid exchange of notes in the library. But now, of course, Stiles is fucking pissed.
“Tell Derek I’m not speaking to him,” he says coldly, arms folded across his chest. “Tell Derek that next time he thinks it’s hilarious to sic his sister on me, it isn’t.”
Derek looks equally annoyed, glaring out of the window with his murder-brows pressed heavily together. “Tell Stiles,” he says, his voice hard, “that I did not sic my sister on him. I didn’t even know Cora was going to be in town. It’s not my fault she pounced on him in the middle of the street!”
“Um,” Scott says again, politely uncomfortable. “Do I have to?”
“Ask Derek,” Stiles says heatedly, “what the hell he told his sister that had her fucking interrogating me. Ask him why she somehow found it necessary to tell me that I wasn’t good enough to be friends with her brother.”
Scott turns to Stiles. “She said that?”
“Yes!” Stiles says angrily. “She said she didn’t know what I was sniffing around Derek for, but he’s apparently been hurt enough and can do without someone like me. Which again, begs the question of exactly what Derek said to her about me!”
“Dude,” Scott says to Derek, who looks somewhere between angry and concerned. “That’s really uncool.”
Derek’s eyes flicker to Stiles, and then back to Scott. “I’ll talk to her,” he says quietly. Then he’s gone, the door to the apartment slamming shut behind him, and Stiles can only shake his head at the madness of it all.
“Stiles,” Scott says uncertainly. “Is, um, something going on between you and Derek?”
Stiles frowns at him. “No?”
“Well,” Scott says apologetically. “It’s just you guys seem, I don’t know, quite coupley?”
“We’re not a couple, Scott,” Stiles says scathingly. He looks down at his ankle almost without thinking. There are people who date, before they meet their soulmate, but Stiles has never really seen the point. Derek is so awesome, so sexy and weirdly, drily funny, that despite the fact that the thought of dating him makes him go hot and cold all over, he figures it’s better not to open himself up to that kind of heartbreak. Sooner or later, one of them will meet their soulmate, and knowing his luck he’ll be the one left behind watching Derek go off into the sunset with someone else.
“I know you’re waiting,” Scott says gently. “But you like him, right?”
“Argh!” Stiles moans, throwing himself dramatically across the sofa. “This is so unfair, Scotty! I like him, like, even more than Lydia. Even more than you! Why can’t any of the people I want to be my soulmate actually be them?”
Scott pats his shoulder sympathetically. “That sucks, buddy,” he says. “You’ll find them, I know you will.”
“Yeah,” Stiles says miserably. Because the truth is, yeah, eventually maybe he’ll meet his soulmate. But honestly? He can’t really imagine feeling about anyone else the way he already does about Derek. Which is just about the most depressing thing ever.
Derek brings Cora over to the apartment to apologise, which has Stiles extremely nervous. In a show of surprising solidarity, Scott, Isaac, Allison and Lydia are all there as well, standing sourly in the kitchen while Cora comes in. They’ve all expressed extreme displeasure about the way Cora spoke to Stiles, because his friends are awesome.
“I misunderstood your relationship with Derek,” she says stiffly to Stiles, Derek standing behind her with his arms folded. “I’m sorry.”
Stiles, feeling awkward, swings on his feet. “Um. That’s okay, I guess? I mean, I don’t know what you thought I was doing to Derek, but yeah. It’s fine.”
Cora rolls her eyes. “Oh, please, like you don’t know exactly—”
“Cora,” Derek growls, and she subsides.
“Isaac made pasta,” Scott offers. “You guys want some?”
So that’s how they end up all sitting around the kitchen table, eating spaghetti with meatballs and trying to pretend that things aren’t totally weird. Isaac, it turns out, is actually a pretty good cook, and he also preens quite a lot when Stiles grudgingly tells him so. Goddammit; Stiles wants so badly to hate Isaac for his friend-stealing ways, but he can’t quite manage it.
“I knew you guys secretly like each other,” Scott says happily, because he’s always wanted Isaac and Stiles to get along better.
“No, we don’t,” Isaac says vehemently.
“Yeah, I don’t like anyone except you, Scotty,” Stiles agrees, which may just be the first time he’s ever agreed with Isaac about anything.
“Not even Derek?” Lydia asks slyly, which is just completely unnecessary.
Stiles rolls his eyes, because the way he feels about Derek is such common knowledge at this point that there’s no point getting offended about someone pointing it out. “Well, Derek is different,” he says.
Cora is looking at him curiously. “He is?”
Even Derek seems like he’s interested, so Stiles bows his head grandly. “Derek Hale, you know full well that you’re a magnificent specimen of humanity, and totally awesome,” he says with as much grandiose as he can muster. Lydia laughs, and Derek snorts.
“Yeah, pass the salt, Stiles,” he says drily, which is exactly the way Derek is funny when he wants to be.
Scott chokes on his mouthful of pasta.
“Scott?” Allison says, sounding concerned. Scott’s eyes are wide, and he gestures frantically at Stiles.
Across the table, Cora’s mouth falls open. “Oh, my God,” she says. She reaches out blindly, gripping Derek’s arm. He stares at her.
“What?” Derek says.
“That’s not possible,” Cora says slowly. She turns to stare at Derek. “How is that possible?”
Slowly, something like realisation begins to spread across Derek’s face; he looks up at Stiles, looking utterly shocked. Derek grips his forearm, pushing up the sleeve. Stiles, still completely lost, spreads his hands. “Okay, what?” he demands of the table at large.
“Stiles,” Scott coughs. “Your words.”
There’s a second or two when it doesn’t make sense. When it doesn’t sink in. And then it does.
“Derek,” he says seriously. “Please tell me that that’s not the first time we’ve actually spoken to each other.”
“Um,” Derek says. His voice is a little shriller than usual. “We text a lot?”
“And you talk through me, like, all the time,” Scott supplies.
“But that’s ridiculous,” Stiles says. “We’ve known each other for, like, six months!”
“Yeah, and you’ve been crazy about him for what, five and half of them?” Isaac says helpfully, which, yeah. He may have a point.
Cora turns to Derek, her mouth still open in shock. “You’ve been talking about him forever,” she says breathlessly. “How have you managed to not actually talk to him?”
Unexpectedly, Stiles finds himself grinning. “Dude,” he says. “This is awesome.”
Derek furrows his murder-brows at him. “What?”
“You’re my soulmate,” Stiles says. “I mean, yeah, sure, I’ve been pining totally unnecessarily for like, forever, but dude. You’re my soulmate.”
“Oh,” Derek says. Very slowly, a smile begins to unfurl on his face, lighting it up. He’s so pretty when he smiles. “Yeah,” he says, almost shyly. “That is pretty awesome.”
“Are you going to kiss now?” Lydia asks with interest.
That sounds like an excellent idea. Stiles stands up, walking around the table; Isaac covers his face in his hands. Derek still has that small, oddly sweet smile on his face.
“Totally going to kiss you now,” he warns, just in case Lydia hadn’t made his intentions clear enough.
“Okay,” Derek says. He stands up, looking kind of ridiculously beautiful in his leather jacket. “I can get behind that.”
“I might be complete crap at it,” Stiles says thoughtfully. “I’ve never kissed anyone, if you don’t count that time in third grade when Scott and I decided we’d practice—”
“Okay!” Scott says loudly.
“You know, this is kind of unfair,” Stiles says as he draws up to Derek. Derek smiles at him, reaching over to tuck a strand of hair behind his ear. “All these years, I’ve just had ‘pass the salt’ on my ankle, whereas you—”
Derek looks down at his forearm. Stiles can see the words, long and curling in his own messy scrawl: Derek Hale, you know full well that you’re a magnificent specimen of humanity, and totally awesome. “I got lucky,” Derek says, so sincerely that it makes Stiles blush.
“Well, wait until after I kiss you before you decide that, I guess,” he jokes weakly.
“Hey,” Derek says, thumb brushing Stiles’ jawline. “That’s my soulmate you’re talking about.”
They’re moving into the kiss, warm and delicious and just completely right, but Stiles wouldn’t be Stiles if he didn’t get the last word in, so he murmurs into Derek’s mouth: “Hell yeah, it is.”
Then his lips find Derek’s, and words – heaven-sent or otherwise – just kind of stop being important.