The music was just loud enough that Derek could feel the beat as it reverberated in his chest. It was a pretty decent mix, but dancing was the very last thing on his mind at the moment. It wasn’t that Derek hated crowds or noise, he wasn’t even that averse to parties altogether -- the issue was the kind of party he was currently attending. His gaze flicked from person to person, elbows resting on his knees as he sat alone on the couch, and he couldn’t make out a single person in his age group. He couldn’t mingle, he couldn’t make conversation or new friends, because none of these kids were anywhere near even the general vicinity of his social circle.
And that’s exactly what he was surrounded by -- kids. Just the crowd he had expected to find at his little sister’s sweet sixteen birthday party and the primary reason he hadn’t wanted to attend. He tore his eyes away from the teenage horde in front of him when his phone vibrated in his pocket. He fished it out with a sigh, glancing at the time as he swiped the screen on to a message from Laura.
so hows the crowd lil brother?
He grunted, glaring down at the text. Carefree words from a person that got to not be there.
haha loosen up, go make some friends
not that desperate
you’d better not be sulking in a dark corner somewhere
Derek scoffed, insulted. The couch was in plain view. It’s not like he was afraid of the teenage mob around him, moving to and fro, eating all the junk food and drinking all the punch (unspiked, he checked), talking too loudly and dancing too closely and--
surprised cora even knows this many people
lol -- harsh
step out of the shadows, bro, and socialize
He glanced up again, noting the tail-end of a few curious gazes that darted away as soon as he turned in their direction. Of course people would stare at him. He was the oddity, the scruffy-bearded twenty-something in the middle of a gathering of children, half of which weren’t even old enough to drive yet. With a grunt that was lost to the beat of the music, he lowered his gaze again and punched out a terse reply.
Cora had insisted that he be there for her sixteenth birthday party, badgering him until he promised to attend. So there he was. And there he would remain until enough time had passed that he could slip away, drive to the closest bar, and drink it all. For now, he’d settle for whatever distraction her otherwise unnecessary texts provided.
Stiles loved parties. He had a strict policy of never turning down a party invitation, even when Scott couldn’t make it. Because sure, going places where lots of people were going to be was a lot more comfortable when you brought a friend, but he’d never really been the shy type. Large crowds equalled an increased opportunity to meet new people and make new friends, or to at least hear an interesting story or two, because something always went down at a party and who the hell would voluntarily miss out on all of that? Plus, he had plans of getting laid at some point within the next decade, and since all the people Stiles already knew lacked the desire to step up to the task, meeting new people was a bit of a necessity.
So there he was, worming through a surprising number of attendees on his way to the punch bowl at Cora Hale’s birthday party. Holy crap was it crowded. At least that meant he didn’t need to track her down to wish her a happy one, because even though she was a few months younger than him, she was a little bit terrifying.
The punch was delicious, and surprisingly free of alcohol. He wondered if that was because someone was keeping an eye on the bowl, or because everyone else agreed with Stiles’s opinion that Cora was one scary lady best left unchallenged.
He was just turning away from the snack table to look around when he caught the scent. It was faint, heavily masked by the smell of the countless others moving about around him, but all he needed was that single whiff to freeze completely. The rest of his senses seemed to dull down, the music fading away until all he could hear was his own hammering heartbeat, his entire awareness narrowing down to the woodsy smell of pine and leather and mate. He found himself inhaling deeply, just to make sure that the smell was still there.
And it was. His mate was in the building. He’d questioned the legitimacy of the soulmates belief before, but there really was no denying it now. Stiles owed an apology to every single person he’d interrogated about the whole deal, thinking them liars when all they had to say was that he’d simply know when it happened. Because he knew, now. It wasn’t simply that he liked the smell of the person; there was lightning crackling in his stomach and his chest burned with the desire to find the source of it and to breathe it all in, because what he could pick up through the haze of food and sweat and all the cologne and perfume that polluted the air around him just wasn’t enough.
It took him a long moment to snap out of the shock of his discovery, to blink his vision back so he could look around. If everything he’d been told about soulmates was true, it wasn’t just the person’s scent he’d recognize instantly.
Yet the faces around Stiles meant nothing to him, which made sense, because if the person was still in the room, then Stiles really would have noticed it sooner, right? He set his drink down on the table absentmindedly as he started meandering through the crowd, taking his time now. The crowded foyer was a bust, and so was the kitchen, though his mate had apparently been everywhere, because Stiles never lost the faint scent.
But then he stepped into the living room and his pulse skyrocketed again, because he could really smell him. Definitely a masculine scent, which should have surprised Stiles, but really didn’t at this point. He stopped walking a few steps into the room, glancing from person to person, wondering which one the universe had decided he belonged with. The room was brimming with bodies, some people standing in groups and talking, others dancing, and on one of the couches up against the wall--
Stiles was instantly glad he’d left his drink behind, because he probably would have dropped it. There was one guy sitting where there was clearly enough space for three, and though a romantic would have believed that it was the universe’s way of making space for Stiles to sit, Stiles himself knew it was because the rest of occupants of the room probably didn’t want to die. Because the guy was good-looking, definitely, but he was also clearly a few years older and seemingly in a terrible mood, if the way he was glaring at his phone meant anything.
‘Holy crap,’ Stiles thought as he continued to stare. ‘Holy shit. That’s my mate.’
His stomach twisted into a tight knot as his worry grew. What if the guy noticed Stiles and only got angrier? Because Stiles was an optimist, sure, but the dude was definitely out of his league. And what guy would be happy to find out the forces of the universe saddled him with a lanky sixteen-year-old with a penchant for rambling and very little ability to focus? The guy’s glower seemed to be intensifying as Stiles watched, thick eyebrows almost touching, and what a set of eyebrows they were, by the way, and what if this was just how the dude was and he just hated parties and hated fun and hated Stiles and--
Stiles was no stranger to rejection, but suddenly it really seemed to matter. He didn’t even know the guy’s name, but he realized with a sudden clarity that getting turned away by this man would break him in some phony-sounding, soul-deep way that he used to mock up until a few minutes ago but that was no longer a joke. He considered leaving, slinking away to find out who the guy was and maybe find him some other day, when he wasn’t so obviously pissed off and more likely to tear Stiles limb from limb than to accept him as his predestined.
But then the guy must have caught Stiles’s scent, because he blinked and the angry look on his face instantly vanished and was replaced by one of surprise. He jerked his head up, his gaze locking with Stiles’s right away.
It knocked the very breath out of Stiles. He had looked handsome before, sure, but now that the heated glare was gone, he was beautiful. The guy was staring right back at Stiles, his expression now one of wonder, lips parted slightly in an amazement that was undoubtedly mirrored on Stiles’s own face.
And then a corner of his lips twitched up before morphing into a full smile, and his shoulders shook with what Stiles realized was a laugh, a sound he was suddenly very disappointed he didn’t get to hear over the noise of the world that just kept spinning around them. His gaze got caught on the man’s smile, and he wanted to get to know it, he wanted to know everything about this person, to get familiar with every sound and every thought and every intimate detail, because there was no way a person with a smile like that could be anything but perfect.
That realization was followed by a few short seconds of quiet panic, because his mate was probably absolutely wonderful and Stiles was far from tolerable on a good day and there was a chance that was a recipe for heartbreak and disaster, but all those thoughts scattered when the guy, when his mate, lifted one arm from his lap to beckon Stiles forward.
Stiles’s legs started to move before he made the conscious decision to do so. They carried him through a sea of bodies that continued to party, oblivious to what was how monumentally Stiles’s life was about to change. He slowed his steps as he reached the couch, where his mate was seated, gazing at Stiles as if he was the most amazing sight in the world and not just an awkward-limbed teenager that hadn’t thought twice about what he was throwing on when he’d dressed to come over. Should he introduce himself? Should he just...sit down? Or maybe stand there for a moment to let the guy get a better look and better understand what he was getting into?
The man didn’t give him long to flounder in indecision, however, reaching his extended arm over a little more, offering it to Stiles with his palm raised. Heart still hammering wildly and now somehow lodged in his throat, Stiles wiped a sweaty palm against his leg before shakily placing it into the other man’s.
His hand was soft, fingers gentle as they closed around Stiles’s and tugged him forward. Stiles almost stumbled straight into the guy’s lap, but managed to throw an arm out and regain his balance, dropping into the seat next to the other man while he chuckled softly. Stiles could feel the vibrations of his soft laughter from where their shoulders were now pressed together. He wondered just how red his face was.
“Relax,” he said, his voice a gentle tenor. Stiles coughed nervously and shrugged.
“Sorry, I just. Don’t really know what I should, uh.”
“Don’t worry. I don’t bite,” he promised, flashing a wolfish grin that was all canines. Stiles shuddered involuntarily, but he could feel the laughter bubbling up inside of him. The nervousness that had been simmering inside of him burst out of him in a fit of giggles, and he would have felt embarrassed if it weren’t for the proud look that came over his mate’s expression. As if he was gratified at having made Stiles laugh.
They were distracted when his phone vibrated again, his eyes darting away from Stiles to check it. Stiles almost expected him to start glaring again, but an almost wistful look came over him instead and he punched in a quick reply single-handedly before powering his phone down. Stiles couldn’t help but blink at him in confusion when he turned around again.
“That was, uh,” he started, then shrugged awkwardly before nodding in the general direction of the guy’s phone. “You don’t have to end the conversation just for me, dude.”
“It wasn’t important,” he assured him, frowning slightly. “And it’s Derek.”
Derek. That name sounded oddly familiar. Stiles was about to start figuring out where he’d heard it before, when he realized that his mate, Derek, was still watching him and that he had to offer his name back in return. “I’m Stiles.” And something in the way Derek raised an eyebrow at the sound of his name rang with familiarity. All at once, he remembered exactly where he had seen that eyebrow quirk before. “You’re Derek Hale,” he pointed out. “Cora’s brother.” Because of course that’s how his life would go.
“Please tell me you’ve never made out with my sister,” Derek said, shoulders tensing and voice dropping with dread that was so entirely unwarranted, Stiles found himself laughing all over again.
“Oh God, no.”
Derek looked relieved for all of a second before masking the expression with one of mock insult. “My sister not good enough for you?”
“Apparently not,” he replied, squeezing Derek’s hand where they were still clasped together. Derek glanced from Stiles’s eyes to their hands and back again and he smiled, his expression soft and a little uncertain.
“You don’t know anything about me.”
“I don’t,” Stiles agreed, then took a bracing breath before continuing, “but I’d like to.”
And somehow, despite the cheekbones and the scruff and the wolfish grin, Derek managed to pull off looking adorable when he smiled, his cheeks flushing with color. Yeah, Stiles was definitely screwed.
So they sat together, ignoring the rest of the world while they talked. They started small, working their way up to the more important things as they got to know each other. Stiles told him about Scott and how he was so very conveniently absent that night, Derek told him about Laura’s business in New York and how he’d lived with her while he studied, Stiles talked about his dad and how it was just the two of them, and Derek explained just how large his own family was and how he’d almost lost them all to attempted arson a few years ago. Derek was easy to talk to and Stiles found himself relaxing into his presence easily.
Which is how he didn’t even realize that they’d gravitated together until he noticed Cora standing in front of them. Derek had an arm over Stiles’s shoulders, and he was lying against Derek’s side as if they did this every day. He blinked up at Cora, gulping nervously as she crossed her arms over her chest, her eyes demanding an explanation from them. Derek, on the other hand, tugged Stiles a little closer and met her inquisitive stare with a set of eyebrows that dared her to say something about the situation.
She quickly rose up to the challenge. “What the hell are you doing?” she asked, and Stiles was only partially relieved that she had decided to focus her attention on Derek instead of himself. “This isn’t what I had in mind when I told you to make some friends, Derek.”
Derek shrugged, lips thinning in an exaggerated look of ‘what can you do?’ Cora scoffed, but didn’t seem all that amused.
“That’s the Sheriff’s kid.”
Derek turned to Stiles at that, but he didn’t look panicked. He just considered Stiles for a moment before nodding. “Stiles Stilinski, then.” Stiles nodded, worrying his bottom lip as he watched Derek’s expression for any sign that he was starting to regret this.
“If this is some kind of prank, Derek--”
“He’s my mate,” Derek interrupted, and Stiles tried not to preen at hearing the statement said aloud. Or to feel too insulted by the incredulous look Cora turned on him right after. “Go back to your party, Cora.”
“Yeah, yeah,” she huffed, waving an arm at them as she started to walk away. “Get to know each other or whatever. Ugh, freaking weird.”
“...I’m struggling not to take offense to that,” Stiles grunted as he watched her leave the room, only half joking. But then Derek was chuckling right into his ear, bending down to nuzzle at Stiles’s neck and sending goosebumps down his arm and all of his worries scattering.
“She was talking about me,” Derek explained, his voice a soft rumble. “She’s not used to seeing me like this. Now, stop worrying about my sister.”
“I’m not worried about her,” he lied. Derek pulled away, laughing.
“Yeah, sure. You think she’s terrifying.”
Stiles opened his mouth to argue, but thought better of it and shoved at Derek’s side instead. The way he kept laughing, Stiles didn’t mind letting himself be the butt of the joke. Just this once. After all, they were still getting to know each other. And now that Stiles had found him, they could take their time.
They had all the time in the world.