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"Derek, how long have you been coming here?"

He blinked, tilting his head at Stiles in consideration. "A year and a half?" he guessed, and Stiles nodded as if he'd made a point that Derek was now proving. The last thing Stiles had said prior to his question was that his elderly neighbor's cat had just had kittens and he was making posters to put up around their apartment building to find new owners for them, so Derek wasn't entirely sure what point he could have proven. He'd learned long ago that he would never understand Stiles Logic, however, so he was less confused and more just waiting to hear what his stylist would say next.

"That's right, a year and a half. Nineteen months, one week, and four days, to be precise, but that's irrelevant. What's relevant is that in all that time, you have not once mentioned a girlfriend, or boyfriend, or a soulmate, or marriage."

Derek stiffened; it was something that everyone always wanted to talk about, except for him. Unfortunately for him, his reluctance to discuss the subject meant that everyone in his life was dying of curiosity and wanted nothing more than to discuss it with him. "I know," he said instead, voice tight, willing Stiles to drop the subject.

It was no surprise that he didn't.

"Why not?"

The pressure he was putting on his jaw nearly made it crack. "I don't have a boyfriend, don't want a girlfriend, and couldn't care less if I ever find my soulmate."

There were many ways he might have anticipated Stiles' reaction to that statement, but the last thing he expected was for a wide, beaming grin to cross his face and for him to shout, "That's perfect!" When other patrons of the salon turned to look at him warily, he waved them off with an impatient expression. Derek was studying Stiles bemusedly, waiting for clarification. "We should get married."

Derek choked on his tongue.

"I mean it!" Stiles insisted, pulling over one of the stools meant for family members to sit on and plopping his decidedly gorgeous ass on it, leaning forward and waving his hands animatedly. "I want to know who my soulmate is, you don't care if you ever meet yours. I've deduced through my rather brilliant sleuthing skills that you're gay, so getting married shouldn't be a hardship for you and would be mutually beneficial." He smiled proudly, as if he'd solved one of the major problems of the planet.

Derek was still trying to kick-start his brain back into gear. "How would it be mutually beneficial?" he asked doubtfully, wondering in the back of his mind why he wasn't just getting up out of the chair, throwing off the dramatic silver lame cape, and leaving Stiles' crazy (but gorgeous, don't forget gorgeous) ass where he sat.

Stiles rolled his eyes. "I know you have family, and I know they can be overbearing." That was true; Derek had complained about it once or twice in the past. "You can't tell me they're not hounding you about your lack of relationships or desire to find your soulmate."

Gritting his teeth, Derek stared Stiles down without saying a word. That was also true, but he wasn't about to admit it to Stiles, who would only use it against him.

"So if you marry me, I get to find out who my soulmate is, and you get your family off your back!" Stiles exclaimed triumphantly, and Derek opened his mouth to rebut it, but found he couldn't. Stiles smirked when Derek slammed his mouth shut with a click of his teeth. "Tell me it's not perfect."

"It's so far from perfect it's squarely in the realm of insane," Derek objected, but Stiles simply shrugged. "We barely know each other!"

"You know that isn't true, and even if it was, why would it matter?" Stiles asked. "We know it's not going to be permanent. It's just so I can find my soulmate, and then we'll divorce, and you can either decide to go find your soulmate or not."

Derek sighed in exasperation. "You're forgetting the part where we'll be required to stay married for six months," he reminded his (former) stylist. "If we drive each other crazy, we can't get divorced."

That particular caveat, courtesy of the government, made Stiles' brilliant smile dim a little in thought. "Separate bedrooms," he offered. "We'll be like roommates, except for the kind that are legally tied to each other. Besides, we mostly know each other. You've heard about everything going on in my life every four weeks for a year, seven months, one week, and four days. That's a lot of Education in Stiles hours you've put in. You know me better than some of my friends do."

"The way you talk? I can't believe that even a little," Derek countered dryly, and the wide grin slid back onto Stiles' (apparently resilient) face.

"It's true, Derek," Stiles insisted earnestly. "And be honest, is there anyone in your life who knows you better than me?"

Stiles was three for three with nailing the truth, and Derek flinched. Truth be told, he showed up every four weeks like clockwork not because he needed his hair cut that often, but because Stiles made him feel more lighthearted than his mundane life normally allowed for. Stiles made him smile and he did actually find himself opening up more often in recent months. It also didn't hurt that he'd developed a near-intoxicating crush on his stylist the first time he pushed Derek's shoulders down, shoving him into the chair and cheerily attacking his hair.

"Blow job?"

Derek did a double-take. "What? Are you trying to seal the de-." He stopped when he saw Stiles waving the blow dryer at him, grinning knowingly, and he exhaled in relief while simultaneously narrowing his eyes. "You're an asshole."

"And you'll grow to love me." He beamed winningly, batting his eyelashes. "What do you say? It'll be, like, a business deal. You can write up a contract or something."

Derek studied him, all energy and face-splitting smiles. "You're serious about this, aren't you?" His voice was somewhat awed; he'd never felt so passionate about something that he was willing to do whatever it took to make it happen. This soulmate thing must really matter to Stiles.

He flushed, nodding. "My parents had that marriage. They were one of the lucky ones. They fell in love, got married, and found out they were soulmates. I want that."

"So you decided to proposition one of your clients, whom you've spent less than an hour a month with for a year and a half-."

"Nineteen months."

"Nineteen months, in order to get that fairytale love and marriage and soulmate happily ever after?" He raised a disbelieving eyebrow. "You know that's not how it works, right?"

"I have to try, and I have no other options." His voice was quiet, beseeching.

Derek snorted. "Stiles, you're like, what? Twenty-two? You've got plenty of time."

Stiles gave Derek an affronted glare. "I'm twenty-seven!" He bit his lip. "And I've been single nearly all my adult life. Just never found the right one. I've decided if I'm ever going to find the right one, it's only going to be because I knew who that person was before I met them."

"Don't you think the whole process completely lacks romance?" Derek pointed out, wrinkling his nose, and Stiles barked out a seal-like laugh.

"Something tells me that romance isn't generally something you worry about," he retorted with a smirk. The mirthful expression faded as he sighed. "What do you say, Derek? Please? Six months of your life to help me find the love of mine."

When he put it like that… "Yes. I'll marry you."

lllll

Two weeks later, Stiles was shifting anxiously from one foot to the other, waiting for their turn to go in front of the justice. Derek hadn't had any interest in putting on a farce of a wedding, and Stiles wasn't about to push it because he was, after all, marrying someone he'd never seen outside of the salon, someone who was going above and beyond to help out someone who basically amounted to an acquaintance. Derek had drawn up a simple pre-nup to protect them both, just in case, and once Stiles' lawyer (okay, his best friend and the woman he once thought was the love of his life who was so scary smart she was better than a lawyer) had approved it, they scheduled an appointment.

It was clinical and emotionless, and Stiles couldn't lie, it was disappointing as hell. It wasn't at all what he'd imagined for himself, but he pushed the discontent away and focused on the fact that it was simply a stepping-stone toward the life he had imagined. Tomorrow morning he'd wake up with a name on him somewhere, and in six months he'd be free to find that person and fall in love for real.

Derek's hand on his arm startled him, and surprisingly, calmed him. He lifted his chin slightly to meet Derek's warm, understanding eyes, and he felt himself settling as he inhaled a ragged breath. To look at him, one would think this wasn't affecting him in the least. Stiles had spent several evenings over at his place, though, getting to know him and moving his stuff in a little at a time (and man, was he not sad to say goodbye to his rat-trap of an apartment and hello to Derek's gorgeous loft), and he had found Derek to be someone who felt things deeply. Just not when it came to anything romantic or relationship-centric.

He blamed his nerves for the fact that less than an hour later he and Derek were walking out of the courthouse, solid platinum bands wrapped around both their ring fingers, married, and he had only the vaguest memory of it actually happening. The next six months of his life couldn't pass fast enough.

To his credit, Derek took them both out for an expensive dinner as a celebration of sorts. "You know you don't have to do this, y'know?" he asked awkwardly, and Derek cocked his head. "Acting like a doting husband. We both know this arrangement comes with an expiration date, and I don't expect anything from you."

Derek raised one eyebrow in amusement. "If we're going to live together for the next six months, Stiles, we don't have to act like strangers. As you pointed out when you proposed, we do know each other relatively well. Maybe we can spend this time getting to know each other better and come out of this as actual friends."

Stiles perked up, grin widening. "You mean it?" Derek nodded. "That would be awesome! I don't have any real friends here in the city, most of my friends are back in California."

"Why don't you tell me more about them?" he offered, and Stiles did.

He launched into a full rendition of his friendship with Scott, starting in the second grade when Stiles had glued his hands to the back of Lydia's chair because he'd been leaning on it, trying to talk to her while she waved him away like she would a gnat. Even at the age of eight she was regal and could stare someone down until they crumbled. Stiles had forgotten he'd been gluing a collage together and his hands were glued to her chair, and she was annoyed as shit, and Scott came over and helped him carefully peel his palms from the cheap plastic. They'd been friends ever since, and eventually Lydia came around and they were the Three Musketeers.

Derek smiled at him the whole way through, and fucking hell, he didn't want to be reminded of his enormous crush on his (former) client. Although he'd probably be giving Derek free haircuts for life for being so accommodating during the entirety of this situation. He wanted so badly to tell Derek to stop smiling, to start thinking of something that annoyed him (like that douchebag Jackson at his office, Derek had ranted about him one day until Stiles patted his cheeks with shaving cream and used a straight razor to calmly and soothingly shave him, and Derek grumbled for a little while, though it gradually tapered off until he was almost purring like a kitten), just so that he would scowl and Stiles could stop thinking about how gorgeous his smile was. Not that the scowl wasn't just as sexy in its own way. He'd definitely thought about it more than once in the privacy of his own home, with his hand wrapped around his cock and his head thrown back, teeth gritted until he came all over his fingers.

Fucking hell, he hoped Derek didn't have any issues with listening to him jerk off, because there were virtually no walls in the loft. Stiles didn't even have an actual bedroom, just an area of Derek's room that he'd sectioned off with a dressing screen for a modicum of privacy. It was an oddly intimate arrangement and Stiles was only now thinking of how awkward it could (would) get.

Dinner flew by, with Stiles spending the better part of the hour and a half talking about his life back in California. Derek knew all about his dad and Scott and Lydia, and how he'd first dreamed about joining the Sheriff's Office until one of his mom's old college friends came out to visit and was talking about her job as a salon academy instructor, and it planted a seed in young Stiles' brain. He'd started cutting hair (his first victims were Lydia's and Allison's Barbies, which got him banned from their houses for an entire summer), and mixing up dyes and trying them out on his own hair. He'd gotten grounded for staining the couch purple with Kool-Aid, but he'd been popular with the fifth-grade girls who were all eager to try it out.

Derek spent the majority of the time laughing and smiling, obviously entertained by Stiles' anecdotes, and it scared him how much he was enjoying watching that expressive face watch him. He had to keep reminding himself that he was doing this to find his soulmate, not to manipulate his fantasy boyfriend into marrying him under false pretenses. That would make him creepy, pervy, and horrible. The fact that his fantasy boyfriend was the person he was closest to and felt most comfortable asking was simply a coincidence.

When dinner was over, Derek suggested they walk back to the loft, which was only ten minutes away. Stiles glanced at the cab that was drawing closer to them, sighed, and nodded, and they set off on foot. It was a quiet walk back to the loft, with Stiles having exhausted most of his words for the evening and Derek never having many of his own to begin with.

Derek let them into the loft and Stiles glanced around, feeling slightly overwhelmed that this was his home for the next six months, and the man next to him was his husband. It was incredibly surreal, and he had to stop and take a moment to let it sink in.

"Do you want to shower now or in the morning?" Derek asked politely.

"Um, in the morning?" Stiles offered, squinting like he wasn't sure if it was the right answer, but Derek simply nodded.

They climbed the stairs silently, Derek letting Stiles take the lead and Stiles panicking that Derek was staring at his ass the whole way up (if he'd known Derek did that on purpose, he would have felt much more relaxed, or, honestly, even more anxious), and when they were in the expansive upper level of the loft, it suddenly felt as small as the tiniest cottage. Stiles shifted from one foot to the other, not sure what protocol should be, and Derek nodded toward the privacy screen. "I'll wait until you're in bed to change," he said, and Stiles flushed. He hadn't even thought about that.

"Should I, like, give you warning before I come out from behind the screen?" he suggested.

"If you hear me moving around, that would be good," Derek replied. "Otherwise, I don't care."

Stiles nodded dumbly, finally making his feet work and shuffling toward the screen. Once he was behind it, he could hear the soft sound of Derek's jacket hitting the floor, and the unmistakable rasp of a zipper followed by his pants landing next to the jacket. His throat went dry when he heard Derek climbing into his own bed, the knowledge that Derek hadn't redressed in sleeping clothes playing on a bright, burning loop in his brain.

Hurriedly, he shucked his own clothes and tugged on a pair of pajama pants and a thin t-shirt before sliding under his own covers. His heart was pounding and he couldn't stop listening to the even sounds of Derek's breathing across the room.

Sleep was a long time coming.

When he finally woke up, Derek was still asleep. Stiles eased from behind the screen and tiptoed across the loft toward the stairs, but his straying eyes landed on Derek's bare chest and he stopped dead, unable to tear his gaze away. The sheet had slipped low on his hips, and there was a pronounced (mouth-watering) bulge just below the edge of it. One of Derek's arms was thrown above his head, his forehead pressed against the inner curve of his elbow, and the visible tangle of dark hair in his armpit sent a rush of desire straight to Stiles' groin.

He forced himself to face forward and he made his way quickly down the stairs to the bathroom. The sight of Derek in his sleep, soft and relaxed and trusting, slipped to the back of his mind in his haste to examine every inch of his body to find the name of the love of his life.

It took three solid minutes of standing in front of the bathroom mirror before he finally spied a thin line of black curling up his side and under his arm. Heart pounding, he twisted his head to an angle where he could read it, and as his eyes greedily devoured the letters, his brain finally registered what they said. His heart dropped. Derek Hale.

He was so fucking screwed.

lllll

When Derek finally pulled himself out of sleep, he felt an itch under his skin that he couldn't quite place. Something was wrong, off, but his sleep-addled brain wouldn't let him focus enough to make the connection. Then he heard the sounds of the shower running downstairs and remembered. He was married.

He was married to Stiles.

The memory of the previous day overwhelmed him, and he couldn't say that it was in a bad way. Watching Stiles over dinner, the animation in his face and voice and every gesture, had entranced him. He'd found himself wondering what it would be like to watch that face across the table every day for six months, and if he was honest with himself, he was looking forward to it.

The next (sobering, disappointing) thought to shove its way into his brain was that he and Stiles were already meant to be split apart. Stiles undoubtedly knew his soulmate's name already, and the next time Derek looked in a mirror, he would know his as well. The thought filled him with more dread than anticipation.

It didn't stop him from swinging his legs over the edge of the bed and lifting himself up, bending to rifle through the chest of drawers built into the underside of the bed and pulling out a pair of boxer-briefs. Normally he wouldn't bother, but he didn't want to traumatize Stiles on their first morning together.

He padded downstairs, knocking lightly on the bathroom door. "Stiles?" He waited a beat but didn't get a response. He knocked louder. "Stiles?" Still no answer. Carefully, he pushed the door open and saw the silhouette behind the shower curtain, his heart nearly stopping with the delayed realization that Stiles was naked behind it. "Stiles?"

This time Stiles reacted. He spun, clutched at the curtain, and nearly pulled the whole shower rod down on top of him when he stumbled from one side of the shower to the other. "Ow! Motherfucker!" he yelled, and Derek cracked a grin. "What's going on? Is everything okay? Am I taking too long? Oh God, I'm wasting all the hot water, aren't I?" he babbled, and a split-second later the water was off and he was poking his face sheepishly around the edge of the curtain.

"It's okay," Derek started to reassure him, but the look on Stiles' face stopped him. He was suddenly extremely pale, almost sickly, and he swallowed past a lump in his throat. He wouldn't lift his eyes to meet Derek's gaze, and Derek felt bad. "Don't worry about wasting the hot water. I have a huge tank and the world's fastest water heater." Derek's eyes tracked the pale shoulder poking from behind the curtain and he turned away, swallowing. "I need to start getting ready for work. Pretend I'm not here."

"Pretend you're not-. Derek. Seriously. You're walking around in a pair of underwear and I'm naked. This is all a little bit more husbandly than I anticipated." Stiles' voice cracked and Derek winced in guilt.

"We may have forgotten to go over a few of the finer details of living together," he admitted ruefully. "I'm not going to stop living in my home, Stiles. I'll try to be respectful of you, but I'm not going to make sure I'm fully dressed every time I leave my room. And there's only one bathroom. We'll have to get used to sharing it."

Stiles huffed. "I can share just fine. But I kind of thought it would be the, 'we each take our own turn' kind of sharing, not, 'let's use it at the same time like an old married couple'." He snatched at the towel on the rod and retreated behind the curtain. When he pushed it aside and emerged, the towel was wrapped snugly around his hips and Derek flushed. The two of them, side-by-side and barely covered, were enough to make him discard the idea of going into work in favor of unknotting that towel and seeing what happened.

Then he noticed Stiles' body language. His arms were tucked into his sides, his hands rucked up under his armpits, and he was practically wrapping himself up in a hug. "Did you find your soul mark?" Stiles nodded. "Is it someone you know?" Another nod. "Are you unhappy about it?" Stiles paused, lifted his shoulders in a half-shrug, then slowly shook his head no. "What are you going to do about it?"

"Die alone," Stiles quipped morosely, and Derek watched in stunned silence as he slipped out of the bathroom.

The exchange sparked his curiosity and he stepped squarely in front of the mirror, examining his body, twisting this way and that to find the name that he honestly didn't want to know. His brow furrowed when he realized there was no black ink etched anywhere into his skin. He even dropped the briefs to study his thighs, palming his heavy cock to move it out of the way. Nothing.

Derek stared at himself in the mirror, feeling oddly detached from the realization that he didn't have a soul mate.

lllll

Derek hadn't said a word about his soul mark and it was killing Stiles. Killing him. He spent the entire day absent-mindedly cutting hair, nearly shearing the top of one guy's ear because he was so lost in thought. He wondered if there was any chance that Derek had gotten his name. They'd all heard the stories about people going crazy because their soulmate was soulmates with someone else, and they couldn't handle their soulmate being platonic. Stiles knew he wouldn't go crazy over it, but… He'd wanted this more than anything else. Being alone his entire life had sucked balls and he wanted to know he had someone to go home to at night.

Ironically, now he did. He just wasn't certain if it would last any longer than the next six months.

Letting himself into the loft, he called out cheerily (okay, with false bravado, because his stomach was playing leapfrog and he felt like he was going to hurl his lunch all over Derek's slate entryway), "Honey, I'm home!"

Derek appeared at the top of the stairs, smirking. And shirtless. Very, very shirtless. "Hi, honey," he drawled, eyes raking over Stiles' Superman tee. "I still can't believe they let you wear those things to work."

Shrugging, Stiles made his way into the kitchen and pulled open the fridge to grab the orange juice. "The talent is more important than what it comes wrapped in," he explained, unscrewing the lid and lifting it to his lips.

"Haven't you ever heard of glasses?" Derek grumbled, making his way down the stairs and into the kitchen. He cast Stiles a half-hearted glare. Stiles glanced at him out of the corner of his eye before swallowing and lowering the container.

"My bad?" he offered, and Derek snorted. "It was a busy day and I didn't get a chance to take a break very often. I'm thirsty as fuck." Derek pivoted to stand in front of him, arms crossed over his bare chest in amusement, and Stiles swallowed painfully. Yep. Thirsty. Tooooootally thirsty.

Instead of answering, Derek reached over Stiles' shoulder holy shit it should be illegal to smell that good, he's so close, I could lick the sweat off his bicep and pulled down a glass. "Manners, Stiles. My house isn't a barn, so don't act like you live in one."

Stiles stuck his tongue out, simultaneously thankful and disappointed that Derek had moved back enough that the aforethought licking scenario didn't actually play out. "I'm good, I don't need a glass anymore," he said, winking, and Derek narrowed his eyes at him.

"You are going to be a huge pain in my ass the next few months, aren't you?" he realized aloud, and Stiles wasn't sure whether that was said with affection or annoyance, so he offered a sheepish grin.

"I'm an acquired taste, according to Scott and Lydia." Derek smirked but declined to comment, reaching instead for the orange juice to pour himself a glass. "So. Um." Stiles stumbled over his words, uncertain whether being legally bound entitled him to ask Derek about his soul mark. "Did you, uh-."

"No." Derek cut him off swiftly and shortly. "I didn't get a mark."

Stiles blinked. "Wait. What the fuck? The rule is, you get married, the soul mark appears. That's the rule, Derek!"

Rolling his eyes, Derek took a deep swallow of the orange juice. "Apparently I'm a rule breaker."

Visions of leather jackets, taunting smirks, and a lot of unexcused absences in high school rolled tantalizingly through Stiles' brain before he shook it, clearing the distracting thoughts. "Are you sure? You didn't miss a spot? You looked everywhere?"

A slow, sly grin spread across his face. "You want to see for yourself?"

It took all the control Stiles possessed to not squawk and flail backward. Instead, he coughed when his throat ran dry and clenched his fingers over his hip, biting into it. "You joke, but it's not such a bad idea." Derek's grin widened, and Stiles rushed to add, "I mean, the places you can't see easily or at all. Like the back of your neck."

"Sure," Derek agreed, and then Stiles found himself shifting to be able to run his fingers through the bottom edge of Derek's hair, lifting it so he could verify there was no ink underneath it. The heated, sweat-streaked skin was slick under his fingers and he continued to stroke through the strands dazedly while Derek hummed under the light touch. "Well?" he asked huskily, and Stiles shivered. He fucking shivered at that low, caressing voice.

"No soul mark," he whispered.

"Anyplace else you think you should look?"

His face was burning and he stumbled back. "If I think of something, I'll let you know." Derek twisted slowly, a rueful smile lighting his face, and Stiles felt himself melting. "I'm going out for a walk and grabbing something ridiculously unhealthy for dinner. I'll be back later."

"You don't have to leave," Derek objected.

Stiles waved him off. "It's fine. Just because we're married and live together doesn't mean we have to be up each other's asses all the time." The look that flashed across Derek's face made him acutely aware of what he'd just said, and his face flared into the color of a tomato. "Oh my God, I really just said that. I'm leaving now."

Before Derek could stop him, he was escaping through the front door and groaning in abject humiliation. It took several blocks of rapid walking for the sting of embarrassment to fade, and Stiles would be grateful except that disappointment eased in to take its place.

When Derek had explained that his soul mark hadn't appeared, Stiles had been torn between elation and misery. The lack of a mark meant there wouldn't be someone coming along to tear Derek away, and he might be able to spend the rest of his life with his soulmate after all. It also meant that even if they did spend the rest of their lives together, he would never be Derek's soulmate. It would always be one-sided, and Stiles was doomed to love someone who would never love him back, at least not on the same level. Everyone knew soulmate bonds went deeper than simply falling in love.

It wasn't like it was a surprise that someone as gorgeous, as smart and talented and rich and sexy as Derek freaking Hale wouldn't be meant for him. Derek was so far out of his league Stiles couldn't find that league with a map with a giant red X on it. It hadn't stopped him from hoping that maybe, just this once, the universe would smile at him.

It wasn't even that Derek was gorgeous and sexy and rich. Those were definite perks, but it was more how Derek had always made him feel. The day they met, Stiles had taken notice of how damn gorgeous he was (obviously), but Derek had been so tight-lipped that Stiles had shrugged, written him off, and just chattered at him until the haircut was done and Derek was gone. Then he'd come back the next month, and the next, and within a few months he was actually talking to Stiles as comfortably as if they'd known each other for years. Stiles chalked that up to his inherent charm, and, y'know, inability to keep from bulldozing over people.

The ache from knowing that the man he'd fallen hard for over the last nineteen months was meant to be alone made him feel sick. He debated with himself for several moments before heaving a sigh, pulling his phone out, and scrolling through his contacts.

"Hello?"

"Deaton?"

"Stiles." It wasn't a question, it was resignation. "To what do I owe this honor?"

"Soul marks," he blurted out before taking a frustrated breath. "What do you know about people whose marks don't show up after getting married?"

There was a heavy sigh. "A friend of yours, I assume?"

He chewed on his lip for a second, wondering whether to be honest. "My husband," he admitted quietly, and Stiles could almost hear Deaton's shock. "I got my mark. He didn't get his."

There was silence on the line for so long that Stiles had to pull the phone away from his face to check that they hadn't been disconnected. Finally, Deaton replied, "Stiles, the soul mark appears when people are ready to make the commitment of getting married, proving they're ready to make a commitment to their soulmate. When the mark doesn't appear, it's generally an indicator that despite the willingness to get married, the individual doesn't want to make a lifetime commitment."

"Guess it's a good thing I didn't marry him hoping for happily-ever-after," Stiles mumbled, and Deaton was silent. Stiles knew that was the best he was going to get out of the older man, who had studied for years on the soulmate bond and yet very rarely imparted any of his knowledge to others. "Thanks, Deaton," he sighed, stabbing at the end call button. If he hadn't known it before, he definitely knew it now: Derek not only would never be his soulmate, he was so resistant to the whole thing that he apparently would never be anyone's soulmate.

lllll

It was torture. Sheer fucking torture.

Derek lay in bed, staring up at his ceiling, listening to Stiles shift in his bed across the room. There was a good twenty feet of space between them, but the soft sighs and snuffling noises Stiles was making were as loud as if Stiles was curled up beside him, lips pressed to Derek's ear. It was killing him to have to listen to them without being able to soothe a hand down Stiles' back, rubbing gently until he settled back into a peaceful sleep.

And without jerking off.

He was incredibly grateful it was finally Stiles' late shift at the salon. He only did one a week and that one night Derek had to himself was the night he lived for these days, because it meant he could indulge his need to take himself in hand without worrying that Stiles was going to come bounding in the door any second. It allowed him the opportunity to fantasize about his husband in all sorts of erotic positions; on his knees with Derek's cock in his mouth, flat on his back while Derek opened him up with his fingers, straddling Derek's hips and riding him with his head thrown back and panting gasps torn from his throat.

The thought alone had him so hard that he debated whether to risk waking Stiles up. Tentatively, keeping a keen ear out, he slid his hand under the sheets and between his thighs. His cock was hard and heavy and he had to bite back a groan as he wrapped his fingers around it, stroking upward with a tight grip. After the first few strokes Derek's eyes closed and his lips fell open, a muted groan rasping between them. Then Stiles moved, and yawned, and Derek dropped his cock like it was on fire.

Two full months of having Stiles in his home was wreaking havoc on his sanity. The more time they spent together, the more Derek realized just how fucking amazing his husband was. Funny, smart, sarcastic and sassy and compassionate and as good a listener as he was a talker. Derek was falling harder and harder for the man he'd married and it was killing him day by day, because each one was taking him closer to the day when Stiles would leave him to find his soulmate, whoever that was.

"Der?" Stiles mumbled sleepily, and Derek swallowed a sigh. Stiles had adopted the nickname around the beginning of week three and had refused to give it up, even when Derek gave him The Eyebrows. "Are you going grocery shopping after work?"

"Yeah," he affirmed, voice soft, loving their early-morning conversations from bed. It was never anything important, just mundane day-to-day stuff, but it somehow felt more intimate than when they flirted. Or, well, when he flirted. Stiles usually panicked and withdrew, and it made him wonder if Stiles thought he was going to press his advantage. The thought made him feel sick, and it usually kept him from flirting for another few days before it slipped out again, like an unconscious habit. "Why? Do you need something?"

There was a pause, then, barely audible, "Lube."

Oh holy fuck. No. He did not need to know what Stiles was doing with lube. Either it meant he was sleeping with someone else, or he used it on himself when Derek was at work. Regardless, Derek was pretty sure the answer was going to devastate him. "There's lube in my bedside stand," he croaked. "You're welcome to help yourself any time. As long as you're not bringing someone else back to my loft," he added, voice growing harder.

"Jesus, Der!" Stiles' voice was horrified. "We're married! It may not be the real thing, but I'm not going to cheat on you. I wouldn't do something like that." Derek could hear him moving around until he came around the screen, crossing over to plop down on the foot of the bed. Derek sat up, allowing the sheet to slide down around his hips even though he was naked under it. Stiles' eyes dropped for a brief moment, then shot back up, round and wide and pleading. "You know I wouldn't ever violate your trust like that, right? I said vows, and for as long as we're married, I mean them and I'll keep them."

Derek breathed easier, nodding. "I know. I just didn't know why else you'd need…" He trailed off, and Stiles' cheeks pinked as he stared down at his hands.

"It, uh, it's been awhile," he mumbled. "I just use it on myself."

Derek was pretty sure the sheet was about to lift with a little bit (a lot) of assistance from below, showing Stiles he could break his celibacy streak the second he said the word. For the sake of keeping things a little easier between them, he tugged the sheet up until it was bunched around his waist. Stiles' gaze flickered up just enough to watch and then dropped back down.

"So what else do you have on the agenda for today?" Stiles asked, whisking the potentially tense moment away with his breezy question. Derek sighed imperceptibly in relief when he went back to his side of the room, disappearing behind the screen and shuffling through his drawers to find clothing.

Derek rolled out of bed quickly, yanking on a pair of underwear and his jeans but leaving them unbuttoned. He might not necessarily want to take things too far, but he enjoyed teasing Stiles a little bit as long as Stiles didn't feel like he was being propositioned. "Have to run a couple errands before I go into the office for a few hours to work on that brief I need to finish, then I'm seeing Cora and Isaac and meeting my new nephew. I'll go grocery shopping after that."

Stiles emerged from behind the screen again, fully dressed and looking completely fuckable. His wide-eyed gaze landed on Derek's waist and the treasure trail that peeked out from the top of the zipper, and he swallowed hard before gesturing for Derek to precede him down the stairs. "Sounds like you have a full day."

"Somewhat. I can stop by and bring you lunch if you want, though," he offered shyly, the tips of his ears turning pink. It was something new he'd started doing in the last couple weeks, dropping by with lunch on Saturdays when Stiles was insanely busy. It gave him a sense of being domestic and husbandly, and he was willing to admit to himself how much he liked that feeling. "I don't have to meet Cora and Isaac until two."

He found himself pausing on the stairs long enough to glance back at Stiles, who, at two stairs above him, towered over Derek. That delectably full lower lip was tugged between his teeth and Derek felt an insane urge to tug Stiles down, latch his mouth over his husband's, and claim that lip for his own. Stiles smiled back, as shy as Derek's had been. "That would be nice," he murmured. "Wherever sounds good to you is fine. You know what I like."

And he did. He knew Stiles' favorite restaurants, and how he took his coffee, he knew the sounds he made as he fell into a deep sleep, and he knew which movies would put Stiles into a trance and which would send him on epic rants. He knew how adept Stiles was with his hands, whether it was cutting hair or gesturing wildly while telling stories, or coaxing their stubborn coffee pot to work. Derek was intimately familiar with every curve of muscle in Stiles' back and shoulders, the exact shade of the trail of hair that whorled over his belly button and down into the top of his jeans, and he knew how Stiles' hair looked when it was matted to the side of his head from sleep and when it was spiked from being tugged at in frustration. He knew how much Stiles missed his mom, and how worried he was about his dad, and how sometimes he wondered if maybe he should have ended up at the Sheriff's Office after all, because while it wasn't as lucrative as the tips he made at the salon, it was more stable and arguably a more "adult" job.

Derek had protested at that, reminding him of the importance most people place on how they look, and how Stiles helped make them feel good about themselves. Stiles' shoulders had slumped during that particular conversation, and Derek found himself giving Stiles a shoulder rub until he relaxed against Derek's side, practically melted and nearly sprawling onto his chest. Derek hadn't minded in the least.

It shook Derek, to realize how much they'd melded into each other's lives in just two months. It wasn't that he hadn't known Stiles before-he had, despite his initial protests to the contrary-but now he felt like he knew his husband inside and out. He felt like maybe this marriage wasn't actually a sham, something for convenience. He felt like maybe he could honestly fall in love with Stiles.

Not that it mattered. Stiles still had yet to divulge who his soulmate was, which told Derek how important it was to him. He'd be walking out of Derek's loft, potentially out of his life, in just under four months. It didn't matter how Derek felt, Stiles was temporary. Their marriage, this situation, was temporary. It was better for him to resist getting too emotionally involved.

Derek was still standing there, lost in thought, when Stiles poked him. "Time to move there, Princess Daydream. You might be able to go into work whenever you want today, but I still have a time clock to punch." Blinking, Derek came out of his reverie to finish making his way downstairs.

"I'll see you around one?" Stiles suggested, and Derek nodded dumbly, keeping his gaze focused down at the kitchen counter. Stiles slapped a hand on his shoulder, gave it a brief squeeze, and when Derek's eyes shot up, Stiles offered him a slight smile, eyes softening and roaming his face. Before Derek could wrap his mind around what it might mean, Stiles was heading out the door.

He was so fucking screwed.

lllll

Stiles could kick himself. If he was double-jointed, he absolutely would have. They were at the halfway point, they were doing okay, chugging along, Derek not having made one mention of the D word (divorce, okay? It was a four-letter word in his mind), and Stiles had to go and fuck it all up.

He could still see the look of irritated dismay on Derek's face when Stiles had made a self-deprecating joke about not being the kind of guy someone would want to marry, even though that was kind of the whole point of why he'd asked Derek to marry him. Then Stiles, afraid of having insulted Derek, rushed to explain that he just didn't think anyone would want him, and it kind of devolved into babbling that he didn't think he was good enough for his soulmate, and… Derek's eyebrows had drawn together in a thundercloud and Stiles was afraid Derek thought he was being manipulated into some kind of false love confession to soothe Stiles' battered ego or some shit like that, and basically Stiles had meeped and run the fuck out the door.

He hated that his fucked up dating history had made him so wary and so unbelieving that someone might want him to be the one for them, that someone might get his name on their skin and be happy about it. He knew he was awesome, it just felt like no one else knew it.

A soft buzzing in his pocket drew him out of his funk and he fished around for it, pulling it out of his pocket and making a face when he saw Derek's name on the screen. Brilliant. Probably calling to say he was uncomfortable having Stiles in his home, considering the situation. Stiles debated declining the call, but sighed and answered it anyway. "Hi."

"Get your ass back here," Derek demanded roughly, and Stiles blinked. The bossy thing was new. It was also hot.

"If it's all the same to you, I'd like to wallow in my embarrassment alone," Stiles grumbled, kicking at a piece of trash on the sidewalk that he knew he should probably pick up and throw away, but seriously, who knew what was on it or what it had touched? Derek would really hate him if he brought some disease back to the loft.

"Stiles." He could picture Derek right now, pinching the bridge of his nose and struggling to wipe the scowl off his face. "You have no reason to be embarrassed, unless it's because you're an absolute fucking idiot."

Stiles flinched away from the phone, holding it out as if getting some distance from it could create distance between him and the words that had just been heartlessly flung at him. "Jesus, Der, I know I'm an idiot," he shot back, wounded, when he finally put the phone back to his ear. "That was kind of the whole point of that little pity party I threw."

"That's not why you're an idiot," he replied, sighing. "Look, come home, okay? I think we need to talk."

All of a sudden, he knew the origin of all those clichés about "his heart stopped" and "her blood ran cold". "Gee, that doesn't sound ominous at all," he snarked, and Derek practically growled at him. "But maybe it's better to do this sooner rather than later," he conceded with a sigh of his own. "Give me ten." Without waiting for an answer, he disconnected and slid the phone back into his pocket.

It only took him five to get back; his long legs were an asset in that respect. He spent the next five pacing back and forth in front of the building, and it was a good thing he'd lived there for a few months because Albert, the doorman, was giving him the side-eye and he knew Stiles. (To be fair, that was probably why he was giving him the side-eye.)

At the last possible second, Stiles slunk through the front door and crossed into the living room, throwing himself down and sprawling over the couch, chin touching his chest as he burrowed in on himself. Derek emerged from their room and stuck his head over the staircase railing. "You done pouting?"

"No," Stiles muttered, but he at least pulled himself into a mostly upright position as Derek descended the stairs and came to sit beside him. "Look, I didn't mean to emotionally manipulate you or whatever. I was just having a down moment, okay?"

Derek's brows furrowed as he looked at Stiles in concern. "What do you mean, emotionally manipulate me?"

Flushing, Stiles stared down at his lap. "My pity party. It wasn't designed to get you to say something you don't feel."

The Eyebrows smoothed out, finally. "Is that what you were freaking out about?" he asked with a relieved sigh, and Stiles nodded silently. "Stiles. Your soulmate should be damn glad they get you," Derek said gently. "You're an amazing person, funny, smart, compassionate. You've become one of my best friends, and I don't let people talk shit about my friends," he added, a playful lilt to his words.

Stiles' chin tilted up, wanting to bask in the praise and simultaneously wanting to cry that of course Derek was saying his soulmate was lucky, because that's what people did when they thought they wouldn't have to own it. Of course you're awesome, who wouldn't want to date you? I mean, obviously I don't mean me, we're friends, but everyone else should want to date you. "I appreciate it, Der, but-."

"No," Derek interrupted him. "You can have your pity party all you want, but don't do it around me."

Stiles gaped at him. "You're the one who fucking made me come home!" he bitched. "I was trying to mope someplace else!"

He had the good grace to blush. "Why don't we watch a movie?" he suggested instead, choosing not to address his gaffe. "Your choice."

"Star Wars," Stiles retorted, folding his arms over his chest, and Derek just grinned. Stiles watched him suspiciously until Derek grabbed the remote, turned on the TV, and there was the DVD menu for Return of the Jedi, already queued up. Stiles' cheeks pinked. "I'm predictable, aren't I?"

"You totally are," Derek replied, laughing, as he settled into the couch beside Stiles. "Just forget the bullshit, okay? Like you said, you were having a down moment. Don't let it get into your head, because you're the best person I know. Whoever your soulmate is, he or she is lucky." Before Stiles could blurt out something that would further embarrass him, something like, Would you still say that if you knew it was you?, Derek slung an arm around his shoulders and hit the remote, and within seconds the screen was scrolling.

Stiles chose to take Derek's advice, forget the bullshit, and cuddle into his side. If he dropped his head on Derek's shoulder and pretended this was just one of many similar moments he'd experience for the rest of his life, well, it wouldn't hurt anyone but him, and only in the long run. For the short term, he was going to enjoy the hell out of it.

lllll

Things had changed between them after that day. Derek hadn't taken particular note of it at the time, but right now, now he was realizing that Stiles had gotten awfully comfortable around him. Too comfortable. The kind of comfortable that allowed him to start jerking off while Derek was in the same damn room.

Derek squelched a groan as he listened to Stiles on the other side of his dressing screen. It had almost become unnecessary, as they talked-or, well, Stiles talked-regularly, and it was normal for Stiles to come plop down in Derek's bed. They cuddled without a thought (okay, Derek thought about it, a lot, but he was pretty sure Stiles was just that kind of touchy-feely that he would cuddle with literally anyone who wanted to cuddle with him, so he tried not to think that it might mean something), and sometimes they stayed up talking until three in the morning, Stiles on one side of the screen, Derek on the other, and it felt like having a sleepover with your best friend, except it was real. It was every night, and Derek loved it and was afraid of it all at the same time. When Stiles left it was going to break him.

Of course, that was assuming that the sound of Stiles whimpering his way to an orgasm didn't kill him first.

Derek had thought Stiles had fallen asleep half an hour ago. His voice had drifted off and he'd finally stopped speaking, so Derek fell silent himself. His brain was racing and he didn't have to work in the morning, so he allowed himself to simply drift in his own thoughts. And then there was a rustling of sheets, which was normal because Stiles wasn't a sound sleeper and he tended to toss and turn a lot. Then there was the sound of the nightstand drawer sliding open and shut, gently, but still with a distinctive enough glide that Derek recognized it. Then came the click of a cap, the one on Stiles' own bottle of lube, and Derek froze in place, his breath trapped in his lungs.

Derek listened shamefully, straining to hear the sound of Stiles' hand sliding under the blanket, then the muted groan as he closed his fist around himself, followed by a shaky inhale. He could hear the slick sounds of Stiles' fist moving up and down, and then he was panting softly, little bitten-off gasps and whimpers tumbling out of his mouth, quietly, but loud as a thunderclap in the otherwise utter stillness of the room.

He was going to have a heart attack.

Under the covers, his cock was so hard that the sheet brushing against it was too much, he was too sensitive. Pre-come dotted the dark gray sheet, turning it nearly black in spots, and Derek bit his lip before giving in and sliding his own hand under the covers. He rolled his lips inward, trying to stem the flow of sound from his own mouth, but Stiles must have hit a particularly good rhythm and a low moan rumbled up and out of his chest, and Derek lost his grip on his control and let out a long groan of his own.

Instantly, the sounds from across the room ceased, and Derek held his breath, hand stilling on his cock. He could hear the harsh pants of Stiles' breath and he waited, wondering what Stiles would do. Oddly, there was no fear or embarrassment, just him mentally pleading with Stiles not to stop.

A few moments later, Derek could hear the wet sucking sound of Stiles' fist, covered in lube, sliding up his cock. He hissed, breathing out an "oh fuck, fuck," and Derek couldn't help it. He reached into his nightstand for his own nearly-empty bottle, popping the cap without caring how loud it was, and coated himself. Wrapping his thick fingers around the base of his cock, he squeezed as he cupped his balls with the other, and a shiver ran through him.

"Christ," he moaned, and Stiles moved in his bed, the sheets rasping as they pushed against each other. Derek could visualize Stiles arching into his fist, his heels digging into the mattress, and he bit off a gasp as he thrust hard into his own hand. The sounds picked up until they were a steady stream flowing from his lips, from panting to groaning to cursing softly, and for several minutes, both of their frantic little noises mixed with the sounds of lube-slicked fingers stroking their erections simultaneously.

Across the room, Stiles let out a little whine. "Fuck, so close," he whispered, the words barely making it to Derek's side of the room, and Derek threw his head back, coming with a low grunt. Thick, milky white streams spurted all over his hand and belly, and he inhaled sharply before exhaling on a shuddery breath.

As he came down from his orgasm high, he could hear Stiles frantically stroking himself, panting in soft breaths, and when he finally let go, it was with a long, gasping hiss. The sound of him achieving his release was almost enough to make Derek hard again, but he focused instead on rolling over and grabbing the nearest article of clothing from the floor and wiping himself off. Stiles must have been doing the same thing on his side of the room, and then both settled again, breathing regular and even.

Derek wondered for a few moments if he should say anything, if Stiles would say anything, but then he realized he was finally starting to drift into sleep and he allowed himself to go with it. They could always talk about it in the morning.

The problem, of course, was that they didn't. When Stiles came downstairs the next morning, Derek was already in the kitchen making breakfast, and he glanced over his shoulder with a tentative smile. Stiles didn't see it because he had his eyes averted as he went straight to the fridge, grabbed a thing of yogurt and a spoon from the silverware drawer beside the fridge, and headed back into the living room. A sour knot formed in Derek's throat. Apparently there was nothing to talk about.

It didn't stop it from happening again. And again. Every few days Stiles would slide his nightstand open while Derek drifted in the quiet of being half-asleep, and he would tingle in anticipation. Neither tried to hide their groans and gasps and whimpers, and Derek usually came harder than he had in the decade leading up to their marriage.

Three days after the fourth time they'd done it, Derek decided to initiate. He wasn't quiet about the way he yanked his drawer open, pulling out the newly-replaced bottle of lube, and cracked the cap open. He could hear Stiles' sharp intake of breath from across the room as he scrambled for his own bottle, and they fell into their usual, easy rhythm.

Stiles' groans were louder suddenly, his whimpers filling the room instead of whispering across it. "Oh, fuck," he gasped, "Fuck, yes!"

Derek was about to lose his mind, jerking on his cock as hard as he could without actually hurting himself, when he realized what was different. Instead of the usual slick-slide noises, he could hear what was more like a squelch, and he went rigid when he realized Stiles was fucking himself right across the room. The visualization of Stiles fingering himself, or maybe even fucking his own ass with a toy, was enough to tip him over the edge. He shot streaks of semen across his chest, all but shouting out his release.

Stiles let out a long, shuddery groan, and his harsh, panting breaths signaled both his orgasm and the comedown. They both lay there, chests heaving until their breathing settled into something slow and steady in the quiet of the room, when Derek finally got brave enough to say something for the first time.

"Good night, Stiles."

There was a pause, like Stiles was afraid to acknowledge him, but then, softly, "Good night, Der."

lllll

Stiles was more confused than he'd ever been in his life. For the last three weeks, he and Derek had spent a fair amount of time getting off in the same room to the sounds of the other doing the same, and yet their marriage hadn't changed, not really. They went on, day by day, as if everything was the same, neither mentioning their late-night mutual masturbation sessions.

He'd convinced himself it was a way for Derek to pass the time. He was apparently taking his vows seriously too, because as far as Stiles knew, Derek hadn't slept with anyone else. It was probably as simple as Derek enjoying the opportunity to get off to something that was, mostly, right there in front of him, rather than porn on a screen.

It didn't keep him from wondering if maybe when that ever-approaching six-month-mark hit, Derek wouldn't be in a rush to get divorced. The six-month rule had been put in place decades earlier because people were rushing into marriage when they were barely eighteen just to learn who their soul mate was, rushing out of it to go find their soulmate, and then everything falling apart because despite the willingness to commit, they'd never really learned how. Businesses were spending so much money on counseling benefits and divorces were occurring in record rates, the divorced soulmates so emotionally wrecked that they couldn't become functioning members of society, so the government finally stepped in and imposed the decree that people marrying to find their soulmates had to stay together for six months. It taught them how to live with someone, how to be a good partner, and how to weather through the bullshit because they couldn't leave right away and they might as well figure it out. Those people who were lucky enough to find that their spouse was their soulmate weren't able to abandon them when shit got hard, and the number of successful soulmate marriages had increased significantly.

Right about now, Stiles was wishing the six-month rule had never been implemented. It wouldn't change the fact that he'd ended up with Derek's name inked into his skin, but it would have kept him from falling head over heels in love with his husband, the one person who would definitely break his heart. He was meant to love Derek, but Derek wasn't meant to love him.

"Shut up, Cora."

Stiles paused as he let himself into the loft, Derek's words coming clearly from the bedroom. He debated turning around and leaving again, but fuck it, the loft was his home, at least for the time being. It wasn't a requirement that he run out every time Derek was on the phone.

"I don't know what I'm going to do," Derek admitted, and Stiles felt like the worst kind of ass, but he started deliberately listening. He consoled himself that maybe Derek was having a problem that Stiles could actually help with, and that would make Derek feel better. "He's not my soulmate. I can't imagine having him stay here after the six months is up."

Shit. Now there was the reason he should have learned years ago to stop being nosy.

"Of course not, dumbass. Stiles is nothing like that asshole." Derek's voice went hard, and Stiles frowned, pulling his lower lip between his teeth. He knew so little of Derek's past relationships. It was one of the few things they hadn't talked about, because Derek clammed up when the subject was broached and Stiles respected him enough not to push. "Jackson is a fucking douchebag who only wanted me for what he could get out of our relationship. He never put me first, and he clearly never gave a single fuck about me. Stiles wouldn't even have to try, and he'd still be a better partner than Jackson ever was. He was a better partner before we even got married, and he's been a million times better every day since."

Emotions warred in Stiles' heart. First, the pride and pleasure at knowing Derek considered him to be a good partner. Then, the sobering realization that the douchebag at work who Derek had ranted about on more than one occasion was his fucking ex-boyfriend brought him to a protective anger, and, to his shame, severe jealousy.

"Cora, I can't do that. I'm not going to allow us to settle for a relationship in which we're not equals," Derek protested. "Besides, you're assuming that Stiles will want to stay married to me. He has his own soulmate, remember? That's the whole reason we're in this mess to begin with. He wanted so desperately to find his soulmate that he married a client, and the day we hit six months, I'm going to wake up to wet ink on the divorce papers and an empty loft," he concluded bitterly.

"Shit, Cora, if I would have known you were going to be like this, I would have called Laura instead," Derek groused, and Stiles couldn't help but smile even as his heart broke. Derek's sisters were powerhouses, that was for sure, but Cora shared more of Derek's cynicism whereas Laura was more like Stiles, believing in the power of the soulmate. "I figured you'd agree with me that it's not fair to either of us to stay in a marriage where we can't be to each other what he wants, what he needs. I thought you'd believe the way I do, that proceeding with the divorce is the best for both of us, instead of trying to talk me into staying with him."

A noise of grief escaped Stiles, and a split-second later, Derek was standing at the top of the stairs and staring at him with wide, disbelieving eyes. "I've gotta go, Cor. Yeah. Call you later." He disconnected the call and tossed his phone out of his sight into their room, presumably on his bed. Descending the stairs, he leveled a pleading gaze on Stiles. "I'm sorry you heard that," he said quietly.

Shaking his head, Stiles took a step away. "You don't need to apologize," he said hoarsely, not quite meeting Derek's eyes. "Everything you said was right. I married a client to find out who my soulmate is, and it's clear that we're not meant to be together. It doesn't make sense to stay together just because it's easy."

"Stiles, I'm not trying to get rid of you," Derek protested, but Stiles pushed past him and up the stairs, needing to be away from Derek, even if it was only the dressing screen between them. Derek, of course, followed him, expression worried and face drawn tight.

"Just don't," Stiles mumbled. "We've got two weeks left. We've gotten this far companionably, we can do two more weeks. Just, don't. Don't say anything. When it's time, you'll 'wake up to wet ink on the divorce papers and an empty loft', and our lives will go back to normal." And he would go back to being alone, only with the knowledge that there was no hope for it to ever be different.

Derek flinched at having his words thrown back in his face. "I don't want to go back to normal," he whispered, and Stiles whirled on him, eyes wide. Derek swallowed, and Stiles took a cautious step toward him, drawn in by an instinctive need to soothe the hurt on Derek's face. "Maybe we won't stay together, but does that mean we have to go back?" he asked lowly.

Stiles shook his head. "There's no such thing as going back," he admitted. "Not after being married and living together for six months." He considered his words before offering, hesitantly, "Maybe we can be the friends you thought we could."

The rueful, wistful look in Derek's eyes tore at him. "I don't think we can," Derek admitted, and Stiles took another step forward, his heart beating in his throat. "Because I can't look at you the way I do my other friends."

The next step had Stiles a breath away from Derek. "Why's that?" he murmured, and instead of answering, Derek closed the tiny gap between them and lifted one hand, crooking his finger under Stiles' chin and tipping it up. Stiles exhaled softly when Derek's mouth met his, his hands fisting at the loose fabric of Derek's t-shirt around his hips. What started out as butterflies rampaging through his stomach quickly shifted to sparks of pleasure, of anticipation, and without any preamble, Derek tugged him backward toward his bed.

Stiles beat him to the punch and twisted them, falling onto the bed and pulling Derek down with him. Derek let out a surprised "oomph" as he fell, but he managed to catch himself before he crushed Stiles, instead bracketing his arms around Stiles' head. "I take it you want this," he acknowledged, amusement threading his tone.

Ugh. Conceited ass. Still… "You have no fucking idea, Derek," Stiles admitted. He knew his eyes were probably shining like he had an entire galaxy of stars in them, but at that moment he couldn't bring himself to care. Derek at least wanted to sleep with him. He'd take that, and any time in the next two weeks that Derek was willing to let it happen again, and hold them as precious memories once the divorce was final.

"I've been thinking about you fucking your ass," Derek said breathlessly, dropping his hips to roll them against Stiles', both of them grinding into each other as their erections strained their jeans. "I can hear the difference, you know. I can tell it on the nights when you're not just jerking your dick. What's been driving me crazy is not knowing if it's your fingers you're fucking, or a toy."

Stiles grabbed at Derek's hips, pulling him harder into the cradle of his thighs, and whined at the several layers of clothes in between them. "My fingers, mostly," he grunted. "I have a dildo, but it always disappoints me because it's not you."

"Oh yeah?" Derek's eyes gleamed, and Stiles shuddered. "You wanted me?"

"Christ, Derek, of course I did," Stiles bit out, sliding his palms up Derek's abs, pulling his sunny yellow tee along with them until his dark, pointy nipples were exposed. Stiles leaned in and licked one, following it up with a gentle bite which resulted in an enthusiastic buck of Derek's hips. "Every time I fucked myself I was fantasizing it was your cock in me, pounding the hell out of me. God, you should have seen how hard I came, thinking about it," he sighed.

Derek made a strangled noise. "You like it rough, huh?" he gritted out, and Stiles beamed up at him.

"Fuck me like you're trying to win a medal for it, and I'll come apart all over you," he promised in a throaty voice, and that was apparently all it took for Derek to lunge for the nightstand. He fished around in it for a second before pulling back with both a foil-wrapped condom and the lube. Stiles eyed it with a smirk. "Think you get to fuck me without any foreplay, hmm?" he murmured, and Derek shook his head.

"I'm going to make you come apart before I ever get inside you," he growled, and Stiles felt his throat close. "Then I'm going to fuck you until you come apart all over again."

"Promises, promises," he teased, his voice thin and faint. Derek just grinned slyly at him before sliding down the bed, unbuttoning Stiles' jeans and tugging them down with less finesse and more impatience. Stiles was wearing briefs that clearly outlined the length of his cock, fully hard and weeping, and Derek's eyes zeroed in on the spot where his pre-come had soaked through the fabric. The look of hunger in them was almost more than Stiles could take.

He moved to pull his underwear down, but Derek pushed his hands away without even sparing them a glance. Instead, he dipped his head, rubbing his nose along Stiles' erection, and his hot breath made Stiles' cock jump. "Fuuuuck," he groaned, his hands finding purchase in Derek's hair and running through the raven-wing strands.

"We're just getting started," he breathed, hooking his fingers in Stiles' underwear and pulling it down, eyes never leaving Stiles' cock as it slowly emerged. It was long, red, and the head was a perfect mushroom shape, and his eyes were practically worshipful. Stiles blushed, never having been the recipient of such a look, full of awe and reverence. "Tonight is about you," Derek started, pausing to lick a stripe up Stiles' length. "But maybe, one time before you go, you can fuck me."

The bittersweet reminder had Stiles pulling back. "Sure," he agreed sadly, and Derek looked up at the change in Stiles' tone.

"Don't. Don't make this painful. We've got two weeks, and we can enjoy each other as much as we want until then, okay?"

Stiles nodded with difficulty, and determination seemed to flood Derek as he dropped back down, wasting no time in drawing Stiles into his mouth. Stiles made a noise that sounded suspiciously like "Hngh!" and Derek smiled around him, but didn't break stride. There was no gentle rhythm; Derek had apparently decided he was going to suck Stiles' internal organs out through his dick. One hand was wrapped tightly around the base of Stiles' cock, which Derek held firm as he bobbed his head up and down the shaft. The thin skin was wet and shining with saliva, and every once in awhile Derek would go back up far enough that the head escaped with a loud pop, nearly purple now and dripping with pre-come.

"Jesus fuck, Derek, ohmyGod," Stiles groaned, trying to restrain himself from fucking up into his mouth. "You're going to make me come!"

Derek stopped abruptly and Stiles whined, clutching at him to try to pull him back. "Nope," Derek teased, trailing one fingertip over the sensitive skin of Stiles' inner thigh. "I told you I was going to make you come apart."

"You were about to!" Stiles grumbled. Derek simply smiled.

"Roll over," he commanded, and Stiles did without hesitation, getting onto all fours. In the process, he scrambled out of his shirt so he was finally naked, which made Derek take pause as he realized he was still fully dressed. "Hang on," he muttered, and Stiles watched over his shoulder as Derek stripped off his tee and shoved his jeans and briefs down with efficiency. The glorious body that was suddenly on display almost made Stiles forget about the incredible blow job Derek had just given him. He wasn't given a chance to appreciate (ogle, okay, he means ogle) the beauty in front of him before Derek rejoined him, slipping one finger over Stiles' puckered hole and rubbing across it almost in an absent-minded way. "Do you like being eaten out?" he asked, matter-of-factly, and Stiles' brain was swimming. "Some people don't, so I want to make sure."

He stared blankly back at Derek. "No one's ever done that to me," he admitted, and Derek's grin widened. The sheer pleasure in the expression rocked Stiles to the core.

"Then let me be the first to do so," he murmured. Stiles clenched a little in anticipation, but Derek simply continued to rub his finger against Stiles' hole until he relaxed again, followed by using his thumb to pull down at the rim a little. Stiles could feel the pressure but Derek didn't try to push inside since he was still dry.

Then Derek shifted, and his face was pressed to Stiles' cheeks. He flushed crimson with embarrassment, but Derek's hands were pulling him apart and his tongue was delving into Stiles' hole before he could do more than give it a cursory thought, and… holy. Holy fuck. Dear God.

"Derek," Stiles whimpered around a throat suddenly gone dry, and he could feel Derek smile harder into his skin as he buried his tongue deeper. Stiles was certain he was going to blow his load any second, dropping his head and gritting his teeth as the pleasure threatened to drown him. Stiles clenched his fingers into the sheets, tentatively thrusting back, and Derek made an encouraging noise low in his throat so Stiles pushed back harder. "Fuck, Derek, ohmyGod," he rasped, bucking his hips backward and feeling Derek's tongue spear into him. "Don't stop, shit, just keep doing that until I come," he begged.

Derek pulled back with a mischievous grin, and Stiles all but purred in satisfaction when he saw that Derek's lush, sexy beard was glistening wet. He gestured for Derek to continue and he dove back in, flickering the tip of his tongue over Stiles' rim, and Stiles let out a helpless whine.

"Touch yourself," Derek mumbled into his cheek, and somehow Stiles not only heard but understood. His fingers slid around his cock and stroked down with a light pressure, followed by a tighter one on the upstroke. He fucked into his hand as Derek licked at him, pushing his tongue back inside Stiles' hole before joining it with a finger a few seconds later. Derek's tongue and finger stroked into him a few times and Stiles went over, coming messily all over his hand and Derek's sheets as he cried out, back bowing while he rode out the aftershocks.

Stiles flopped onto the side of the bed that didn't have a giant wet spot, and Derek curled into him from behind so they could share the small space. "What did you think?" Derek asked as he nuzzled his lips against Stiles' ear, and the younger man could hardly do more than groan his satisfied approval. Derek chuckled, lazily skimming his fingers over Stiles' thigh, humming happily into the sweaty skin of his neck.

"Don't you want me to get you off?" Stiles asked, twisting so he could look somewhat into Derek's eyes, and the look that crossed his face coiled low in Stiles' belly, burning him from the inside out.

"I'm waiting for your body to not be oversensitized," Derek explained, gaze turning predatory. "And when you're ready for me again, I'm going to fuck you like it's an Olympic sport and I'm going for the gold."

Stiles' stomach clenched at the promise in the words and he gave his dick an experimental tug. It didn't respond immediately, but it also didn't give him that "too much, too much" sensation, so he grabbed Derek's hand from where it was curled over his hip and pulled it around, cupping it over his cock. A pleased purr rumbled through his skin and he twitched, starting to come alive again as Derek gripped him and stroked leisurely.

"I think I'm ready for you," Stiles murmured. "You don't have to wait for me to be hard again. I'll get there soon enough."

Derek groaned, lifting himself and allowing Stiles to roll onto his back. "Condom," he rasped, and Stiles scrambled to grab the condom and lube from the other side of the bed, where they'd been forgotten when Derek decided to inhale Stiles' cock like it was oxygen. Stiles batted Derek's hand away when he reached for it, choosing instead to open it carefully and smooth it over the head of Derek's dick. Derek thrust helplessly into Stiles' hand and he broke into a wide grin, loving having this bear of a man trembling in his grasp.

When the condom was finally smoothed onto him, Derek grabbed for the lube and poured a generous amount in his hand. After making sure his cock was fully slicked up, he settled in between Stiles' legs and spread them, exposing his glistening hole. "I'm going to fuck your ass so hard you won't be able to walk tomorrow," he groaned, and Stiles couldn't breathe.

"Stop talking and just do it already," he bleated, and Derek leaned over him to lock their mouths together. As his tongue plunged into Stiles' mouth, one lubed finger slipped inside his hole, stretching him. It didn't take more than a few seconds before Stiles was ready for a second finger, then a third. As Derek pushed his fingers into him, Stiles' cock started filling in again, thickening and lengthening. Instead of being pleased, Derek pulled back and frowned at him.

"You opened yourself up already, didn't you?" Derek accused, pouting a little.

Stiles gaped at him. "Are you jealous that you don't get to finger me open?" he asked, and Derek covered his flush by leaning in for another kiss, simultaneously scissoring his fingers inside Stiles until he arched up off the bed, trying to fuck himself on the thick digits. "Fuck, Derek, now," he begged. "I'm going to go out of my fucking mind if I don't get you inside me right this second."

Derek complied immediately, easing the head of his cock inside Stiles' stretched, puffy rim. Stiles whimpered when Derek pushed harder, sinking into him, filling him slowly, inch by inch, until he bottomed out. "Jesus, Stiles," Derek panted. "God, you feel so good around me."

"Can't be as good as you feel inside me," Stiles returned with difficulty. He canted his hips up with a pleading look on his face. "Please, just fuck me already."

Derek drew back until only the head of his cock was still inside Stiles, pulling at his rim, and then snapped his hips forward sharply. Stiles cried out, clutching at Derek's arms, and Derek smirked. "You asked for this," he gritted out, pumping into Stiles with single-minded determination.

"I thought you were going to ease into it," Stiles protested weakly.

"I eased into you, but you asked me to pound your sexy ass, and that's what I'm going to do," Derek groaned, hips driving forward. "Are you going to complain?"

"Not a fucking chance," Stiles breathed, and Derek narrowed his eyes wickedly. He pulled back just far enough to lift Stiles' legs, placing them over his shoulders so that his chest was braced against the backs of Stiles' thighs, steadying him as he drove forward.

Stiles' whimpers and moans were pulled from him roughly, almost involuntarily, as Derek pounded into him, hitting his prostate with every stroke. He couldn't breathe, getting oxygen in little bursts as Derek withdrew, only to have them forced out of him as Derek thrust back in. The pressure filling him was overwhelming, and he could feel the threat of orgasm tingling a warning. "Der, fuck, I'm going to come," he choked out, and Derek shifted one of Stiles' legs off his shoulder so he could reach in between and take Stiles' erection in hand.

"I want to see you come again," Derek ground out, not slackening his pace. "I want you to come all over both of us."

"No problem," Stiles wheezed, fingers joining Derek's to wrap around him so they could jerk his cock together. His hips thrust up helplessly to meet Derek's while they frantically tugged at him, and then the tendons in Stiles' neck strained as he arched up, panting, "Fuck, Derek, I'm gonna-!"

A burst of come spurted out of Stiles, his dick pulsing out several more as Derek gritted his teeth, sweat dripping into his hairline, before finally losing control of himself. His hips jerked and stuttered, slamming into Stiles several more times as his release filled the condom. Derek and Stiles heaved in rasping lungfuls of air as they collapsed. Derek grumbled as he rolled onto his hip, sliding the used condom off, tying it, and tossing it into the bedside trash before letting himself fall, sprawled half over Stiles' chest.

It was several moments before Stiles finally spoke up. "You were right." Derek grunted at him, unable to form words, and Stiles snorted. "I'm not going to be able to walk tomorrow." A muffled laugh skittered across his chest, making his skin tingle, and Stiles reached down to card his fingers through Derek's sweaty hair, allowing a fond expression to creep onto his face.

Derek lifted his head to press a kiss to Stiles' chest, then stilled, glancing up at Stiles with a stricken expression. "What the hell, Stiles?" he choked out. "How could you not have told me?"

Stiles froze, glancing down at the soul mark Derek was currently staring at. "Because you didn't have one," he said quietly. "I couldn't trap you into a relationship with someone you could never feel the same way about."

"You should have let me make my own decision," Derek argued, and Stiles felt the crushing weight return to his chest, shifting until it settled in, presumably for the long haul.

"Derek, please don't do this," Stiles said quietly. "We both know my love will feel like a burden because it will always be more intense than anything you could possibly feel for me. You were right, it's better for me to go. But not for two weeks, okay?" He tried to smile, tried to make the mood less somber.

It didn't work. Derek gave him a stricken look, reached up to kiss him, something lingering and bittersweet, and then settled back in beside Stiles, clutching him to his chest as if that would make their only problem, the one that would keep them apart, go away.

They stayed like that, clinging together desperately, until they drifted into a restless, draining sleep.

lllll

Derek woke up the next morning feeling restless. Stiles was still curled into his arms, but despite the solid warmth pressed against him, he felt cold and alone. This was temporary, and one day (much too soon) his arms would be empty. He wasn't sure if he wished they'd been doing this from day one, allowing them more time to have incredible, bone-melting sex, or if he wished they hadn't done it at all. It was going to make it hurt a thousand times worse when Stiles walked out his door for the last time.

Stiles shifted in his arms and Derek resisted the urge to hold him closer, to beg him not to leave. He could withstand what Stiles considered a "burden", because he loved Stiles in return. It might not be on the level that a soulmate would, but it was already such an overwhelming feeling that it nearly crushed him, though in a welcoming way. He would love Stiles enough to make up for the fact that he wasn't Derek's soulmate.

"Der?" Stiles mumbled, and Derek lost the war against his impulses. He snuggled deeper into Stiles, tightening his arms and nuzzling into his neck. "You feel like an overheated octopus."

A laugh snuffled against the side of Stiles' throat as Derek reluctantly relaxed his grip. "I'm calling into work today," he informed Stiles, sliding one hand over his hip to discover that he, just as Derek hoped, had a morning erection. "I know you have today off. Let's spend the whole day in bed."

"Derek." Stiles twisted in his arms, watching him steadily. "I love that idea. I want to spend every day of the next two weeks with you. But it's going to break us both."

"You don't have to go." Derek's voice was small, and he hated it. He didn't want to beg Stiles.

"We talked about this," Stiles began unhappily, and Derek cut him off, gaze burning into his.

"I love you, Stiles," he bit out, taking in Stiles' wide-eyed Bambi face. "I've loved you for months. You think your love will be a burden for me, but you don't understand how much I want that burden. I want you, Stiles. I want happily ever after with you, I want to go to sleep with you every night and wake up with you every morning. I don't want our marriage to end. I don't care if you think you'll love me more and it will eventually be what tears us apart. Stiles, I love you so much that I can't imagine being able to love you more."

It was, quite frankly, the longest speech Derek had ever given in his entire life, but he figured these were desperate circumstances. He needed Stiles to believe him, and that called for an impassioned plea. Damn it, he'd delivered on that front.

Stiles frowned, not exactly the reaction Derek was looking for, and he reached out to stroke a thumb over Stiles' cheek. Before he could make his goal, he caught sight of something and did a double-take. The breath caught in his throat until, finally, he burst out laughing. Stiles stared at him, shocked, and Derek couldn't stop laughing. He grabbed Stiles and hauled him in, planting a steamy kiss to his lips, and Stiles clutched at him helplessly, probably thinking Derek had lost his damn mind.

"Look!" he exclaimed joyfully, thrusting out his wrist.

Stiles gave him the kind of cautious look associated with dealing with crazy people, but he twisted his head to look at the hand waving in front of his face. When it slowed down enough for him to focus, he choked, casting disbelieving eyes up at Derek. "Der," he whispered.

"What was it your friend Deaton said?" Derek asked, marveling at the ink scrolling over the inside of his left wrist.

Stiles leaned in, pressing a kiss to where his name was emblazoned. "He said when the soul mark doesn't appear, it's usually because the person doesn't want to make a lifetime commitment to someone." Derek winced, and Stiles gave him a wry smile. "I overheard you talking about Jackson. I know why you weren't ready to make that commitment. I mean, I did know before we ever got married that you didn't want to find your soulmate."

Derek sighed, laying back against his pillows and smiling when Stiles, his soulmate, Stiles, snuggled in against him. "Jackson was the last in a long line of people who only wanted me for what they could get out of it," he explained, and Stiles groaned. Derek looked down at him quizzically.

"Jackson wasn't the last," he reminded Derek glumly. "I am. I only married you to find my soulmate."

"You didn't pretend with me, though," Derek pointed out. "I was under no illusions when we got married. And I fell in love with you because you're a good man, and you made it clear that you cared about me for more than what you were getting out of it."

Stiles walked his fingers across Derek's abs. "Looks like we both got something out of this," he mused.

"Our soulmate," Derek agreed in wonder. He had never had a desire to know who his was, not until he found Stiles, but now that he knew, he couldn't imagine not wanting to spend the rest of his life with the one person meant for him.

Beside him, Stiles was shaking his head, a wide grin spreading across his face. "Nope," he disagreed, and Derek's forehead wrinkled in confusion. "We got guaranteed bone-melting sex until we're too old to get it up," he announced, and Derek curled into him, laughing against his throat.

"I love you," he whispered, trailing kisses over Stiles' collarbone.

"I love you too," Stiles murmured back, hand sliding down to cup Derek's erection, which was pressing into his thigh. "Time for round two of bone-melting sex?"

Derek shifted, taking Stiles' earlobe between his teeth and nibbling on it gently. "Pretty sure it's round, eighteen," he said, referring to all the nights leading up to the previous one.

"Fine, eighteen. Whatever. Fuck me."

Derek shook with laughter as he pulled Stiles on top of him, grinning up at his soulmate as he sprawled out. "We're going to have to invest in lube."

"I'll go on Amazon, find a good deal on it in bulk," Stiles said breezily, nosing against Derek's nipple. He perked up. "I just thought of something."

"Yeah?"

"We're staying married now, right?"

"Of course."

"You know your family is going to want to throw a real wedding now, with a reception and everything."

There was a pause, followed by a groan. "Christ. Let's run away to Aruba or something."

Stiles slid his arms around Derek's neck, leaning down for a lengthy, soul-consuming kiss. "Whatever you want, Derek. I'll follow you anywhere."