Like most teenagers, Derek had been a bit of an arrogant prick in high school. He thought that he knew everything and could do anything. Nothing was beyond his capabilities. He was a natural born werewolf; he had heightened senses, superhuman strength, speed, endurance, and impossibly fast healing abilities. He was endowed with so many inherited gifts that it was almost too much.
Fortunately, he came from a family full of people just as amazing as he was, and he had an older sister who seemed to make it her life’s mission to torment and embarrass Derek at every turn. So, he was a bit arrogant, but he also had the potential for humility and kindness. Basically, he was your average teenager with a decent-sized ego and a developing conscience.
That’s how he met Paige, a young cellist at his school. It took him a while to realize how much of jerk he’d been, but when he went to her with an earnest apology, she’d scoffed at him for only a few short minutes before accepting the apology with a smile. They became great friends, and maybe that friendship could have grown into something more. But it never got the chance, because soon after their friendship began, Derek’s entire world was torn apart.
A rogue Alpha who’d lost his pack was passing through, and he was searching for new pack members when he happened upon Derek and Paige in the woods. It was perfect, wasn’t it? The girl was young, strong, and friends with a werewolf. He couldn’t ask for a better candidate, especially since she was friends with a Hale. The Hales were the most powerful pack in the Northwest; friendship with them would a valuable tool to a newly reformed pack.
The young man tried to stop him, but he easily threw the teenaged Beta aside. Who cared about asking the human for permission? Who would turn down superhuman strength and healing? The bite was a Gift; even the stupidest human should understand that. Without hesitation, he sunk his fangs deep into the screaming girl and waited. Waited for the skin to start knitting itself back together, but nothing happened.
The bite didn’t take. The girl was going to die. And if he stayed, he was going to have to answer to Talia Hale. Oh, shit! Yeah, he took off and never looked back.
That’s how Derek was left alone, cradling a dying Paige in his arms and unable to stop the tears from streaming down his cheeks. She was gasping for breath, whimpering in pain, and her eyes showed the most horrific light of agony. He tried to take her pain away, but it wasn’t nearly enough to provide her any sort of relief. He tried to whisper comforting words to her, but they sounded shallow to his own ears.
This was all his fault. They had been in the woods because Derek wanted to show Paige his favorite spots in the preserve. Paige was pulled into the supernatural scene because she was friends with Derek. The rogue Alpha had bitten Paige because Derek wasn’t strong enough to protect her. Paige was dying because of Derek.
“De-rek,” her voice was so soft and weak that even his enhanced hearing could barely pick up on it.
“Shhhh,” Derek told her. “Don’t try to speak.”
“De-r’k, ple-ea-,” Paige kept going.
“What?” he asked in a halting voice. It was going to be her last wish, and he really didn’t want to think about that. Even though she was dying in his arms, he wanted just a little more time to pretend that all this wasn’t happening. But if he could do something to make it up to her…all of this was his fault…
“I-i-it’s---too—pai-ain-f-l,” Paige didn’t say it directly, but Derek knew what she was asking for.
“No…Paige…I can’t…” he started to protest, but that wasn’t true, was it? He could. He could stop her pain. He just didn’t want to. But this wasn’t about him; it was about Paige. So he steeled himself, let out his claws, and plunged them into his best friend with a fierce howl of grief.
From that day forward, his eyes no longer glowed a bright golden hue. No, they were blue to match the sorrow and guilt that formed the ice around his heart. He withdrew from the world, didn’t let people in. His whole family was worried, but he managed to keep the grief from ruling his life. Because it was what Paige would have wanted, he graduated from college and got a job. His family kept a watchful eye on him; Laura was particularly insistent that he get out of the house and socialize, but he never let anyone new get close. His walls were high, sturdy, and strong. He had to keep people out. He couldn’t let anyone else get killed because of him.
For well over a decade, that was how Derek lived his life – in isolation. Until one day, when, out of the blue, he started feeling better. The guilt started to lessen, and for some inexplicable reason, he didn’t blame himself so much. Instead, he felt warm and kind of happy. He felt protected and loved.
And the positive feelings persisted, growing day by day. His family was thrilled at the changes they saw, and Derek, who finally felt alive after so many years of darkness, clung to these feelings like a lifeline. He had to know who was doing this for him. He needed this person in his life for real, but he didn’t know anything about them. All he knew was that this person was a magic user, one with an incredibly warm heart, and Derek hoped with all his heart that someday that heart would belong to him. But their connection wasn’t strong enough for Derek to find that person yet, and he kept testing it every day until, finally, it was.
It had become routine for him. Get up, get ready, pull a little at the string inside of him that he felt connecting him to his savior, and get just a bit disappointed that it didn’t tug back. But that morning, it did tug back. As soon as he felt the magical tug, Derek raced after it, knowing it was pulling him closer and closer to his most important person.
Stiles was his! His to keep for the rest of their lives. Yes, the fifteen-year age difference and sheriff’s obvious disapproval were problems, but all of that paled in significance compared to the fact that Stiles was okay with this. Without realizing it, the teenager had married them, but rather than rejecting Derek, he wanted to take care of him. The Beta werewolf was overjoyed.
“Mine,” he growled softly into the teen’s neck before he could stop himself. “Mate.” He heard his mother let out a strangled sound that landed somewhere between a choke and gasp. Derek knew she was dying to say something, but they both knew how important this claim was. He was extremely grateful when she very gently yet firmly pulled the sheriff from the room.
“What?” Stiles sounded confused beneath him but still seemed perfectly content to continue cuddling. With great reluctance, Derek sat up into a cross-legged position and pulled Stiles with him, into his lap, so they could be eye to eye but still very close and still touching.
“You’re mine,” Derek said. “I’m yours. We’re mates.”
“Well, as long as it goes both ways,” Stiles replied with a wide smile that made Derek’s heart flutter. “We need to go into this marriage as equals. Understand?”
Stiles had already given Derek so much more than he could ever return, but he just nodded. Because he didn’t was to be lesser or more than Stiles. Derek wanted them to be equals, too.
“Stiles,” Derek said softly, absolutely loving the way his mate’s name rolled off his lips. Gently cradling the teen’s face in both his hands, Derek asked, “May I kiss you?”
“Yes,” Stiles said. Or at least, that’s the nice way of saying it. In reality, Stiles had squeaked out his answer and blushed a bright tomato red, and Derek let out a soft chuckle before pressing his lips against Stiles’s in a soft, sweet, chaste kiss. Stiles instantly pressed himself closer to Derek’s body and tried to deepen the kiss (his inexperience obvious, much to the werewolf’s guilty pleasure), but Derek didn’t let it go any further. It was just too soon to go too far into physical intimacy, especially with how his feelings were so raw at the moment. If they moved beyond this simple kiss, Derek wasn’t sure he would be able to stop himself from fully claiming his obviously very willing mate (god, the smell of pure want coming off Stiles was driving Derek crazy, and they hadn’t done anything yet). But no matter how much they both wanted it, it would be wrong.
“Shhh,” Derek said as he pulled back from the kiss, and smiled when Stiles whimpered at the loss. “We can continue that later…maybe. We need to talk.”
“Uuuuuugh!” Stiles groaned in frustration as he rolled his eyes, but Derek heard the slight increase in his heartbeat that indicated nervousness. “Nothing good ever follows those words.”
“Stiles, I’m being serious,” Derek stated.
“I know, I know,” Stiles’s tone continued to show his frustration, this time with whining. But at Derek’s unimpressed look, the human teen gave in and said, “Fine, fine. Talk.”
“I’m 30.” Derek spoke those two words and then stopped. Silence reigned for several minutes as Derek stared expectantly at Stiles, and Stiles stared right back, thoroughly unimpressed with that conversation starter.
“Yeah, I know,” Stiles snarked back in response. “Believe it or not, I managed to put two and two together when my father said that you’re thirty. Amazing observational skills I got there, right?” Never let it be said that Stiles wasn’t a little shit even to his husband?…mate?…spiritual life part partner?…his werewolf.
“Stiles, you’re still in high school,” Derek continued, his tone and body language making it pretty obvious that he was having trouble thinking of the right words. Still, if they were going to have this talk, the ball needed to get rolling, and well, Stiles was good with balls (pun intended).
“Duh,” Stiles commented. “That is another fact of which I am already intimately aware. Seriously, what did you want to talk about?”
“Our relationship,” Derek bit out in a tone that the human teen was sure had come out both more and less harsh than intended. “You’ve given yourself to me. You’re my mate. That’s forever, not like human marriage forever where they can still get divorced. For me, for the rest of my life, there’s only you. I will only ever love and want you as a mate, a husband, and a life partner.”
Hey, would you look at that? Stiles couldn’t stop his grin after realizing that he was pretty spot on with all his guesses as to what to label their relationship. However, he did recognize the need to be serious here, so it was with a much more sober tone that he replied, “I understand that Derek. Really, I do. Dude, I’m magic. I have to know these things. I told you, I’m cool with this. I just want to take care of you and make you happy.”
“But you’re still just a teenager,” Derek replied in a tone full of so many complex emotions and a face so carefully blank that Stiles really wasn’t sure how to take that statement.
“And?” Stiles said, deciding to just say whatever first popped into his mind. “You’re thirty. That’s a big age difference. I get it. We’re going to have to work on that part of the relationship. I’m not dumb enough to think that it won’t affect our relationship at all. But why do you keep bringing it up?”
After he asked this, silence fell between them once again. Except, this time it lasted far longer and was much more tense than the silence that had reigned after Derek’s two-word opening statement about his own age. It seemed to go on forever until something suddenly clicked inside Stiles’s brain.
“Oh…you’re scared.” Stiles didn’t mean for those words to come out in any particular way, but it was obvious that Derek was taking them to be judgmental. And if that didn’t hint at deeper psychological issues, then Jackson Whittemore totally hadn’t made voodoo dolls to kill his parents on purpose. So, yeah, that was something Stiles was definitely going to look into helping Derek with, since he really did want to help Derek be happy from the inside out again and not just because Stiles’s magic was helping him.
“Hey, Derek,” the human teen said in the most gentle, careful, comforting, and encouraging tone he had ever mustered in his entire life. He brought both his hands up to cradle the werewolf’s cheeks and force those beautiful gold-green eyes to meet his own. “It’s okay. I get why you’re scared. Teenagers are constantly changing their minds, right? But, you know, some teenagers do know what they want for the rest of their lives. I’d like to think I’m one of them. When I look at you, I just… My heart tells me that you’re mine. Mine to keep safe. Mine to care for. Mine to keep happy. Mine to protect. And when we get there, mine to love. It’s been that way since I saw you in the woods and made my first Voodoo doll for you.”
“I know you mean that now, but…” Derek trailed off, but his implications and fears were still very clear. His words did little more than confirm what Stiles had just said.
“One day at a time, Derek,” Stiles said, still gently, but also a bit more forcefully than before. “That’s how we’ll do this. And hey, look at it this way; forever is kind of in my blood. Mom and Dad were high school sweethearts.”
And if Stiles hadn’t already been sure that he would want to be with Derek for the rest of forever, the hopeful little smile that spread across the werewolf’s face at those words certainly would have done it.
“Can we make out now?” Stiles asked, hoping to lighten the mood a bit. Of course, he really did want to actually make out with Derek. Because, seriously, that sounded like the best idea ever. “Because, like, that kiss before was really, really awesome, but I would think a married guy could get a little more action.”
That got an amused chuckle out of Derek. Score one for Stiles!
“That’s another thing we need to talk about,” Derek told him seriously, but his tone definitively lighter and happier than it had been before. “We most likely will not be having sex until you’re eighteen.”
“But whyyyyy?” Stiles cried out, and it sounded like he was just whining again. Derek could smell the nerves though, could almost feel the unsettled energy practically buzzing under his mate’s skin. “Is it because I’m too skinny? Don’t have enough muscle? Are you hoping I’ll fill out more as I get older? What is it about my body? Because I know you like me. That much is obvious with the whole planning the future and giant human pillow hug cuddle thing from earlier. Do you not find me attractive? Do you not want me? In that way? At all?” By the time his rambling has subsided, Stiles’s voice had become tiny, desperate, and frightened, like he was truly afraid that Derek might confirm his worst fears.
“Shhh,” Derek hushed, pulling Stiles as close as before when he had first tackled the teen to the ground in the ‘giant human pillow hug cuddle thing.’ “It’s not any of that, not at all. Of course, I want you. There’s no such a thing as a werewolf who doesn’t want their mate. But I want to treasure you, and I want you to be really, truly ready. And I also need to be ready myself. As much as I want to claim you in every way possible, I’m just not ready for that yet. I probably won’t be for a long time.”
“That’s good to know!” Stiles said with a bright smile, heartbeat slowing as waves of contentedness began wafting through the air. It was a much more pleasant scent to Derek’s nose. Then, his expression and scent turned teasing. “And you don’t want to get arrested, huh?”
“Yeah, there’s that too,” Derek agreed, smile becoming the slightest bit wider. I imagine your father would want us to wait a bit, and being respectful of his opinion seems to be a good way not to get arrested by the very capable sheriff of Beacon Hills.”
“So, now that we’ve established a few boundaries…?” Stiles asked, trying and failing to sound sly and sexy, but Derek found it adorable. So, in the end, it did have the desired effect of making Derek want him even more. “Can we kiss now?”
“That would be acceptable,” Derek smirked back and thoroughly enjoyed making good on that implied promise until their parents decided they’d had enough time to “discuss” things by themselves. It was time to have the oh, so important family talk. Fun, awkward times for all! And although Stiles did blush when Taila and the sheriff walked in on them, Stiles shirtless and in Derek’s lap, neither of the two new mates seemed the least bit embarrassed or repentant.