Derek opens his eyes, blinking in the sunlight streaming through his windows. He smiles. Warmth fills him from head to toe. He turns around, reaching for the person next to him. The sheets are cold to the touch. The cold seeps into his fingers and spreads throughout his body, stifling the warmth and contentment he felt a moment ago. No one slept there. No one has slept there in a long time. Closing his eyes again, he turns onto his back. The familiar post-soulmate dream loneliness spreads through his body, then he crushes it all in a little ball and shoves it into a small corner of his heart.
He checks the time on his phone, 8AM. He panics, before he remembers it’s Saturday. No school on Saturdays. He loves his job as a high school Spanish teacher; not all of it’s great, but there’s more good than bad. And after nights when he’s had the dream, it’s a good distraction. You can’t let your mind wander when in front of a group of fifteen year-olds, explaining all the different verb tenses. If you make a mistake, they never let you forget it.
Soulmate dreams are rarely detailed enough to really help you find your soulmate, or to know that they’re your soulmate when you first meet them. Hell, most soulmates don’t even have the same dream. But finding your soulmate isn’t the point of these dream; they’re supposed to be a comforting glimpse of a happy future. It's a moment of contentment, when everything just fits. The dreams stop after the moment happens in real life. Most people dream about small moments, like having breakfast together, riding to work, walking the dog, simple everyday occurrences, and don't know it happened until they realize the dreams have stopped.
The best you can hope for from the dreams is an idea of what kind of relationship you will have with your soulmate, romantic or platonic, and maybe one or two characteristics, like eye colour or a nervous habit. Or a laugh.
That laugh. Derek doesn’t have to concentrate to have that laugh, so free and happy and boisterous, echoing in his mind. He used to look for it; whenever he was outside and he’d hear a laugh, he’d search for the source, keep it playing in his head, comparing it to the laugh from his dream. It only took a couple months after his dreams started for him to start wearing headphones whenever he went outside.
He used to be a serial dater, staying single for no more than week in his chase for that warm contentment the dreams left him with, and stayed with someone even though he knew they weren’t his soulmate at the first laugh. He stopped dating so much after a couple bad relationships in a row. In the past three years he’s been on exactly two dates.
Derek pushes himself out of bed. The sun is shining, the air is a crisp blue, and it doesn’t look too windy. A run might be exactly what he needs to get rid of some of his funk.
Outside, locking his door behind him, breathing in the autumn air, he already feels better. He’s a little cold, but he’ll warm up when he gets going.
Not a lot of people are out this early on a Saturday, mostly dog walkers and other runners. Derek nods as he passes people he recognizes, but his focus is on the pounding of his feet on the pavement. He passes a path into the preserve, and decides he’s feeling like a cross-country run. He soon starts feeling the demands of the uneven path in his calves an thighs, together with fresh, earthy smell of the autumn woods, it spurs him on.
The dream, and its accompanying feelings have been almost pushed out of his mind, so when he’s suddenly overwhelmed with the memory of it
a warm hand on his stomach … warm breath ghosting across his collarbone … a body draped half on top of him … fitting comfortably … one of his hands idly combing through short hair …his voice almost inaudible … laughter filling the private air of the bedroom … the laughter fills him up … it settles right next to his heart …
takes him by surprise, forcing him to a stumbling halt.
What the h –
Laughter rings through the woods. It’s so similar to the laugh from his dreams. Maybe that’s all it is, he thinks, a memory of the dream bubbling up. But then he hears it again. And it’s close. Pushing through the underbrush, Derek follows the sound. Branches scrape at his shins, and he’s going to have to thoroughly clean his shoes from leaf mulch when he gets home, but he doesn’t care.
The laughter leads him to a small clearing. It’s almost entirely covered in fallen leaves, a carpet of yellows, reds, and browns. At first he’s confused, because he doesn’t see anyone. The carpet moves and a man emerges from it, followed by a dog. Both have leaves stuck in their hair, and neither of them seems to care. Laughter and barks ring in the air as the man and the dog chase each other.
Derek stays half-hidden behind a tree. The sight is funny and endearing, and he doesn’t want to interrupt. Or actually, he does. But what would he say? Hi, I heard your laugh, and I followed it here because I think you’re my soulmate. Wanna go out on a date? No, that sounds weird at best. Maybe he can pretend he was going through the clearing on his run, and then tell the man how cute his dog is. That definitely sounds more normal. He turns around to the path into the clearing.
Derek looks over his shoulder just in time to see the dog launch at him. It’s not a big dog, but he’s taken by surprise. One of his feet slips in the mud, out from under him, when he tries to steady himself. He falls to the side, barely getting his hands under him and catching himself. He scrunches his face when something warm and wet moves across his face.
‘Leia, down,’ a stern voice says.
Derek pushes himself to sitting, and when he looks up, he’s caught in the beam of two golden-brown eyes. His mind goes completely quiet.
‘I’m so sorry. Are you okay?’ the man asks, his hands hovering around Derek.
Derek keeps staring, until he finally manages to nod.
‘I have some water with me, so you can at least wash your hands,’ the guy offers. His eyes are wide, and his brows are contracted in worry.
Derek nods again.
The man helps him up, and the strong hands on Derek’s arm bring his mind back online. Pretty, is the first thing that goes through it. He follows the man to a picnic bench with a bag on it. Nice, is the second thing that goes through his mind as he takes in the man’s figure, broad shoulders and jeans stretched tight over his butt.
‘Sorry about Leia,’ the man says as he pulls a water bottle out of the bag. ‘She can be a little enthusiastic sometimes. Good thing you’re such a big guy.’ He ducks his head to pour the water over Derek’s hands, but Derek thinks he catches sight of a blush.
‘Don’t worry about it. She’s cute,’ he quickly adds, trying to keep the conversation going.
‘He speaks!' the man grins. ‘She’s cute now. God, when she was a puppy she was so awkward, and she was constantly fighting with all the furniture and getting food and drinks spilled on her, or getting her fur into a thousand knots. I constantly had to cut something out so she looked all weird and patchy the until she was about two and realized getting brushed and bathed wasn’t actually a terrible thing.’
Derek watches Leia racing through the leaves, trying to catch them. One lands in her open mouth and she freezes, not sure what to do now she actually has one. She catches him looking, and runs towards him, placing the leaf on his leg.
‘I think that’s a peace offering,’ the man laughs. He pulls out a towel and pats Derek’s hands dry.
‘Offering accepted,’ Derek grins. He holds out a hand and Leia puts her paw in it. They shake on it, and then Leia is running through the leaves again.
‘I think she likes you,’ the man says. He’s looking intently at Derek, a half-smile on his lips.
‘I like her, too.’ Derek’s heart is beating fast. He hasn’t flirted with anyone in a while, and he hopes this guy will take the lead.
The man sits down next to him. ‘I’m Stiles, by the way.’
They talk—about their jobs and movies and the weather—while watching Leia. Well, mostly they watch Leia. Derek’s eyes keep getting pulled to the man next to him, and every time he finds Stiles already looking at him. Leia keeps bringing them leaves until she’s had enough, and lays down in front them, panting, and rolling onto her back to get her belly scratched.
‘Listen, uhm,’ Stiles starts when he sits back up. ‘I was wondering if maybe you wanted to go out some time?’
Before Derek can answer, Stiles quickly continues.
‘Unless you’re someone who’s waiting for their soulmate. Which is fine, of course. I tried that, but then I figured the dream would happen anyway, so there wasn’t a need to live my life grumpy because I was still single and not having sex.’ Stiles flushes. Derek is fascinated by how quickly Stiles is working himself into a highspeed ramble, by how it’s not just his mouth but his entire body, arms flailing and leg bouncing. ‘Anyway, if you’d rather just be friend first, you know, get to know each other, that’s cool. We’re here almost every Saturday, unless it’s like raining or really cold, so you could join us after your run or something if that’s what you’d like. Although, if your soulmate’s platonic, the dating thing wouldn’t really be an issue, but I thought I’d check. You know?’
Derek waits a beat to make sure the avalanche of words is at an end. ‘I’d like that,’ he says.
‘Which part? The friends part or the date part?’ Stiles asks.
‘The date part.’ Derek looks down at Leia for a moment, who is looking at him expectantly. She’s right, of course. ‘But I should tell you that the reason I’m here is because I think you might be my soulmate.’
Stiles frowns in confusion.
‘I heard you laughing, and it sounded a lot like the laugh I remember from my dreams, so I kind of followed it,’ Derek admits. His cheeks are burning, and have probably gone as red as Stiles’.
‘Oh,’ Stiles breathes out. ‘Full disclosure, from what I remember from my dreams you could be my soulmate, too.’
Derek doesn’t really know how to respond to that, so he leans back against the table, smiling down at his hands.
‘But we’re not gonna pin all our hope on that, are we?’ Stiles asks.
Derek looks up, and there is real worry in Stiles’ eyes. He shakes his head. ‘Like you said, whatever happens, happens. And if we don’t work, I’ll still get a new friend.’
Stiles nods. ‘Well, I am very good at staying friends with my exes.’
‘I was talking about Leia.’
Stiles blinks at him, then bursts out laughing. Warmth tentatively wraps itself around Derek’s heart.
‘Can I ask what your dream is?’ Stiles asks when his laughter has died down to the occasional giggle.
‘Isn’t that more of a third date kind of thing?’
‘You’re the one who brought up the fact that I might be your soulmate.’ Stiles narrows his eyes. ‘Is it embarrassing for you? Oh shit, is it embarrassing for me? If it is me, of course.’
‘It’s not that special,’ Derek says, rolling his eyes. ‘We’re just lying in bed, waking up or getting ready to sleep. We’re talking. I think I’m telling them a story about one of my students. And they laugh.’
‘That’s it?’ Stiles asks.
‘Sounds nice.’ Stiles’ face is soft and bright when he says that, and Derek can’t look away.
‘What’s your dream?’
‘Uhm.’ Stiles’ face is suddenly bright red again. He puts the chord of the hoodie he’s wearing under his coat in his mouth and starts chewing. ‘Oh god, I can’t tell you.’
‘I told you.’
‘Yeah, but mine’s a little more… intimate.’
Derek frowns, then he raises his eyebrows. ‘Oh.’
‘Just know that the beard and the eyebrows are very prominent features.’
Derek raises said eyebrows a little higher. ‘You could seem my face?’
‘Not… really. If I did I would be certain it was you.’ Stiles groans. ‘Please drop it.’
‘Hmm,’ Derek hums. He lets the pause hang heavy in the air. ‘I’ll drop it.’
Stiles sighs in relief, the chewed chord falling from between his lips. It’s a little gross, and cute at the same time.
‘You’re an asshole,’ Stiles mutters, but he’s smiling.
A sharp bark has both of them jumping. Leia is standing at the path leading away from the clearing.
‘I should go.’ Stiles stands up and grabs his things. ‘So, the date? Are you free tonight?’
‘I am,’ Derek nods eagerly. He’d actually planned on catching up on some of his grading, but that can wait.
They just manage to agree on a time and place, when Leia starts tugging on Stiles’ jacket.
Derek takes the quickest route back, jogging at an easy pace. He doesn’t know if Stiles is his soulmate, but even if he’s not, he’s sure he’ll have a good time tonight.
A little over a year later, they’re in bed, both catching their breath. Derek has his head on Stiles’ stomach, tracing circles on Stiles’ thigh. Stiles has his fingers in Derek’s hair, soothing the sting from when he’d been gripping it tightly earlier, when suddenly Derek feels him freeze.
Derek tilts his head up. ‘Everything okay?’
‘I think we’re soulmates, dude,’ Stiles says, awe in his voice.
Derek crawls a little further up the bed and lies down so he can look Stiles in the eye. Stiles is smiling, more radiant than Derek has ever seen him.
‘This was your moment? Cuddling after sex?’
Stiles has never disclosed everything he remembers from his dream in the year they’ve been together. Derek barely knows more now than he did that first day.
‘Not exactly,’ Stiles admits, smile faltering a little.
Derek raises his eyebrows. If not the cuddling then…
‘That was one hell of a blowjob, then,’ he teases ‘Did you actually see my beard in the dreams or was it the beard burn?’ He taps the inside of Stiles’ thigh.
Stiles wriggles away from his prodding fingers. ‘You’re never going to let this go are you?’
‘I gave you an epiphany worthy blowjob, of course I’m not gonna let it go.’ Derek puts his head on Stiles’ chest and hums, wondering when his dream will happen.
In another couple weeks, Derek realizes his dream has already stopped, but that he has no idea since when. It could even be before Stiles’ dream. He can’t pinpoint it, because almost every day with Stiles has a moment like the one he dreamed of.