Derek glances at the folder Peter’s handing him. “What is this?”
Peter smirks and Derek flips it open and feels his heart sink when he sees a stack of dossiers, various men and women, describing their careers, hobbies, and all of them with close-up photographs of what seem to be an identical mate-mark to the raven dotting Derek’s collarbone.
"It’s been five months," Derek says darkly. "Why am I still getting these proposals? You know these are probably all fake marks."
Five months since the paparazzi had snapped that photo of him with the overzealous fan tugging at his shirt, five months since millions of people on the Internet realized that the birthmark revealed was in fact, the mark, five months Derek was inundated by claims from people who desperately wanted him to believe that they were his soul-mate.
Derek shoves the folder back at Peter bitterly. He has no intention of even reading about any of these people and their marks; photos can easily be faked. Hell, even the mark itself, if you had a clever tattoo artist and one didn’t care about the “magical soul-bond” or whatever that happened when you touched the mark of your mate for the first time.
Derek thought he felt it, once. He didn’t even think that Kate had walked in on him changing once in his dressing room and spotted his mark before it was covered by makeup, and he was so in love with her when she revealed her own matching mark on her shoulder the next day he didn’t even question it. That elated, happy-in-love feeling was what the soul-bond was, right? Of course, after Kate used him for his family connections, landed a leading role, she dumped him publicly and humiliated him in all the tabloids.
"You’re going to have to date someone," Peter says, gritting his teeth. "We need to drum up press before your next movie comes out, and people love soppy-I-found-my-soulmate stories. As your manager, I strongly suggest you—"
"Hey, Derek, I’ve got those scripts you wanted to look at, and the car is already here for some reason to take you to the Inner-City Little League charity game, but I told the driver to—"
Derek makes a cutting motion across his throat and then a desperate, panicked look between Peter, the folder on the table, and back at Stiles. And Stiles, because he’s the most perceptive and capable personal assistant ever, instantly picks up on Derek’s plight. “I told the driver that we’ll be down shortly, since traffic in L.A. is terrible, and we can’t disappoint any of those Little Leaguers.” Stiles smiles his broad, wide grin and smirks at Peter.
Peter rolls his eyes as Derek gets up to leave. “This doesn’t mean the discussion is over, Derek,” he says.
"Thanks," Derek says to Stiles gratefully as soon as they leave the room.
Stiles laughs at him. “You know that we’re gonna get downtown, like two hours early, right?”
Derek shrugs as they get into the car. “I’m sure you’ll think of something.”
And Stiles does; he brings Derek to an amazing hole-in-the-wall burger joint where they enjoy a ridiculously perfect plump and juicy burger topped with all of Derek’s favorites. It’s an easy lunch and Derek automatically relaxes, like he usually does in Stiles’ presence.
He doesn’t really know who to thank for Stiles in his life; he’s not even sure how Stiles came to apply for the job. He only started working for Derek a few weeks after that paparazzi debacle, and according to his resume Stiles didn’t have any experience as a personal assistant or even seemed to have any aspirations in the film industry. Peter only hired him because all the other applicants had criminal records for some reason when they did a background check.
Derek watches in amusement as Stiles stuffs a generous amount of curly fries into his mouth, and they dangle precociously.
"Aha! There’s the Derek those kids need to see!" Stiles says around the mouthful, pointing at Derek’s face. "Not the brooding, unapproachable movie star, but someone real!"
"I am real," Derek says as Stiles swallows his fries.
"I know that," Stiles says quietly, patting Derek’s arm. They’re incredibly close for a second, and Derek notices, not for the first time, how attractive Stiles is. Derek knows if he had met Stiles at a party or somewhere, he would have kissed those long eyelashes of his, tongued that beautiful trail of moles on his cheek, taken him to bed right away, and then promptly forgotten him, like all of Derek’s other one-night stands. But Derek instead got Stiles as his personal assistant, and he’s gotten to know him these past few months, and he cares about Stiles now, and it’s terrible, dealing with this kind of attraction.
Derek realizes they’ve been staring at each other a little too long, and Stiles suddenly jerks his hand back, embarrassed. He quickly launches into a story about his best friend Scott and the antics they got up to in high school, and the rest of the conversation flows with ease. It’s comfortable, spending time with Stiles; Derek forgets he’s his personal assistant most of the time.
The Inner-City Little League game is incredibly fun, and Derek loses himself in the easy camaraderie of the kids that are there, and the familiar feeling of the baseball game. He misses it, giving up baseball to pursue acting, so it’s nice to be on the field again. The afternoon is actually really fun, and there’s a lot less picture-taking and autograph signing than there is just playing ball with kids that like playing ball. They raise a good deal of money, which Derek is happy about, since these kids deserve to keep their field.
Stiles is cheering from the sidelines, laughing wildly. The game is over almost too fast. The kids are rambunctious, wild with energy, and Derek doesn’t see mischievous Bobby and Jessica with the ice coolers until it’s too late, and both he and Stiles are drenched in ice cold water.
Stiles splutters, and Derek laughs and shudders at the sudden cold, but it’s hilarious. He watches Stiles chase the two around the field, pelting ice at them, until the scene degenerates into chaos with teenagers throwing ice everywhere.
They clamber into the car, wet clothes and all, and Stiles is still laughing hysterically. “Oh, that was great, man, did you see Joey when I got that ice down the back of his shirt?”
Derek tries not to admire for too long the sheen of the water on Stiles’ skin, or the way his white t-shirt clings wetly to his torso. It’s practically translucent, and Derek can see Stiles’ nipples, a few moles, a trail of dark hair, and a larger birthmark on his lower hip…
"Stiles?" Derek’s heart is pounding, ridiculously fast.
"Are you—can you—" Derek doesn’t know how to say it, he just leans close to Stiles in the backseat and brings his hand to the hem of Stiles’ shirt. Stiles freezes and his eyes widen, but he doesn’t move when Derek gently strokes the outline of the birthmark through the wet t-shirt. "Stiles?"
Stiles sighs a little, a small resigned sound, and he lifts up the shirt. It’s very obvious that it’s Derek’s raven; but he’s never seen it like this. It looks vibrant, natural, right, on Stiles’ skin, in a way none of the fake marks in those photographs had, or the flat way Kate’s tattoo had. Derek presses a finger to stroke the outline of the raven and a surge of warmth rushes through his hand, and he can’t breathe, like every inch of his skin is tingling with sensation.
When Derek is able to think clearly, he says, “Were you ever going to tell me?”
Stiles stares at him. "Would you have believed me? What, should I have just texted you, 'hey we're soulmates tbh' and called it a day?"
Derek tries to think, but its hard to concentrate with his body singing for him to complete the bond.
Stiles sighs. “Look, I just wanted to get to know you. Even if I couldn’t be your soulmate, I wanted to be a part of your life somehow. Make it better.”
"You do," he whispers, and guides Stiles’ hand to his collarbone where his own mark is. "You definitely make it better," Derek says, and kisses Stiles, gently at first, until Stiles moans, tugs him closer and kisses back enthusiastically, and it feels like home.