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Stiles can see his soul at the bottom corner of his sclera. It’s nearly covered by his lower eyelid. He can’t see his soul completely unless he’s looking up, but at seven he learnt that no matter how often he tries to look up and see his reflection in the bathroom mirror, he’s only going to make himself sick. The blot isn’t tiny or very big. About average size. The shape and size of a ladybug, really.

Nothing like Scott’s soul that touches the edge of his iris and extends to the actual corner of his eye like polished opal. Brown that leaks into milky white with a rainbow trapped in its center. Stiles’ soul is labradorite. Green, blue, yellow, splash of orange. Blending into and out of each other. He loves the ladybug his soul manifested into. It makes him different. Sets him apart. It’s why Scott and him became such fast friends in daycare.

Their souls were odd, Stiles prefers the word odd, they both do, because weird or strange makes it seem freakish that their souls would contain so many colors in the tiny space their eyes allow.

He’d been born with it. His soul. Not everyone is. The only way the aether appears in your eye was if both parts of a soul existed on the same plane at the same time. “You were born lucky.” His mom would say whenever she caught him trying to get a better glimpse if it in the mirror.

His classmate Melanie had two perfectly plain blue eyes. No aether anywhere. She even rolled her eyes to expose all the white to Stiles when he asked her nicely, and what everyone else called endless badgering. Her eyes had remained plain until they were eight.

And she shyly showed him the splinter of garnet by the caruncula of her eye. “My soulmate was finally born.” She sounds so excited and breathless like she honestly thought for a second she wouldn’t have a soulmate even though her soulmate just took their time being born. Stiles wonders how long his soulmate had waited for Stiles to be born. If it was a long time. If his soulmate sounded like Melanie when her aether appeared, breathless and excited and dreamy all rolled into one.

“That is so cool.” Stiles breathes and spends the next week asking her every question he can think of.

“Did it hurt?”

“No?”

“Did you feel anything at all?”

“It sort of itched?”

“Does it feel different to have an aether?”

“I didn’t really notice except my eye itched so bad I looked in the mirror to see if it was an eyelash and it was there.”

“Did it grow? Or come all at once?”

“I don’t know?”

“Okay, Stiles, time to leave Melanie alone now.” Scott says, dragging Stiles away from the increasing flustered girl. “Lydia promised us curly fries if you leave Melanie alone.”

(His dad and mom had cat’s eye, matching marks of it in the shape of jelly bean at the corner of their eyes. Honey and milk. When his mom died, the honey and milk jelly bean left his dad’s eye as quick as a blink. Like his eye lid erased it forever.)

Scott met his soulmate the very first day of kindergarten at the library where all the kindergartners were gathered to talk about sharing, being polite and the golden rule.

Her name was Lydia Martin and she had pretty red hair in pigtails and she was five. Younger than everybody in the class, but only because she was super smart. Or so she said and continued to say in increasingly biting ways as they got older. Stiles remembers how she stood out from everybody else because she was the only one with red hair.

Then he remembers her because, “Hey, Scott! Her ay-thea-er is opal too!”

Lydia’s aether was identically placed to Scott’s and when both kindergarteners went to an Appraiser that weekend, the man confirmed it. Scott and Lydia were soulmates.

It didn’t make them friends. If anything, Stiles was pretty sure Scott would have preferred never knowing Lydia Martin was his soulmate. Scott didn’t know what to do, although Stiles didn’t know what Scott had to do but talk to her. Maybe be friends, but Lydia adopted Scott’s awkwardness and acted like Scott was a pet. And Scott let her.

At six, Scott and Stiles didn’t really care, but as they got older, the more Scott hissed unsavory things about his soulmate and Stiles itched under Lydia’s condescending attitude regarding his best friend.

Stiles tried to make it easier for his bestest friend in the entire world and became friends with the younger girl in hopes that having Stiles as a common ground would force the two of them to be friends. It sort of backfired.

The only thing it changed was now when Lydia and Scott wanted to say something to each other, they said it through Stiles. He was very frustrated with them both by the time they entered high school.

Not everyone had it easy like Scott and Lydia. Not everyone met their soulmates on the very first day of school.  Only Scott and Lydia and Tyler and Caroline.

Erica didn’t meet her soulmate – alexandrite, a greenish purple, eating part of her upper iris – until he moved to Beacon Hills in second grade. Erica was a little blonde girl that always wore her hair in a ponytail and blue overalls that would shake – seizures, Stiles learns the word later from Ms. McCall– at random times scaring people. People that would later tease her, but then Boyd made them stop. Boyd was awesome. He was bigger than all the other kids but really nice too. Something Scott and Stiles were happy about at eight because they were used to being teased to for being odd but at least they had each other and now Erica had Boyd.

In fourth grade, everyone heard about Kate Argent. She tried to burn down Natalie Hale’s house. Natalie was three years older than him, in the seventh grade and she excitedly told everyone about how “some crazy lady tried burning down my house this weekend!” Even little fourth graders.

Stiles saw Kate Argent once.

His dad had been the one processing her and him and his mom had been waiting for his dad to get off work already so they could go to dinner. She had been pretty. She hadn’t looked insane at all. She looked a lot like the librarian's assistant at school, actually. He’d caught a quick look at her soul though, when his dad had lead her past them – kunzite, light violet, nearly touching the pupil of her eye – and Stiles wondered how her soulmate felt about her trying to kill a house full of people. How her soulmate felt about her going away to prison for attempted murder.

Sometimes people are in the same grade, but never meet because of chance.

Isaac lives next door to the Jackson for eleven years, has been going to the same elementary school as everyone else  before meeting Danny face to face and seeing the matching “t” shaped agate aether. It had been the talk of everyone in sixth grade, more so than the fact Lydia made Elizabeth cry for calling Scott stupid.

(Scott isn’t. Stupid, that is. But he thinks he is because he hangs out with people like Stiles and Lydia and comparing yourself to the smartest people you know will always leave you feeling insecure. Stiles is glad people will stop talking about it. It makes Scott and Lydia even more difficult to be around. Why couldn’t they just be friends and tell each other how they feel is beyond him. Really. He’s tried everything, including popsicle stick puppets and drawings. The summer before high school starts, Stiles actually takes them apart and tells them in very tiny words that they care about each other so stop driving him insane by using him as messenger.

“Lydia cares about your feelings. She wants to be the only one who wants to hurt them. She helps you study because she wants you to be with her in college. She likes you. She likes you more than she likes almost everyone else.”

“What are talking about, Stiles? She hates me. Resents me for ruining her stupid plans.” Scott mumbles.

“Where the hell do you get this shit? Despite what you may think, no five year old has their lives planned out! I can kind of guarantee dude that the only life plans she’s made involve you!”

“Whatever.” Scott shakes his head.

Stiles’ conversation with Lydia is about the same but with hitting.

“You like him! You are fond of him! Ow! Just because you hit me doesn’t mean I’m going to shut up! Ow! That was my shin! You like Scott! Probably half in love with him!” – “Shut up!” –  “Ow! And he loves you too! All he wants is your respect! Damn it! That hurt!”

It was a failure on both sides, but Stiles is hoping he’s given both parties something to think about. His poor shins.)

Isaac and Danny aren’t really friends either.

They partner up on school projects, even when Danny could partner up with Jackson. But for the most part, Danny and Jackson are still inseparable – Jackson’s aether fire opal, a yellow sunburst in the middle of red, just a fleck in the upper right of his eye in the sclera. Besides, Jackson and Isaac don’t get along. No one really understands why, but Danny does his best to keep the peace.

But who does get along with Jackson? No one. Except Lydia and Danny because they are crazy. And just as mean. Maybe that’s why all three of them were friends? Because if they were friends with normal people, they wouldn’t have friends per se but more like minions.

In eighth grade, Danny’s arrest is all anyone will talk about.

Stiles understands, abstractly, that computer hacking is a very bad thing. Mostly, he can’t think of how Danny would use anything the internet tells him to hurt anyone. Seriously. Even Lydia scoffs and says pointed things about the Patriot Act and Big Brother.

“God. He’s thirteen. Not a twenty-one eco terrorist.” She mutters to Stiles.

“Do you think Jackson can be arrested as an accessory? I’m pretty Danny’s done it at least once in the same room as him. We should turn him in. It’s our civic duty.” Stiles counters. “Oh! Wait! Jackson is the leader of a new terror group that plans on getting its funding from selling state secrets and he forced Danny to break into government agencies!”

Lydia’s flat and unamused face is more than enough to make Stiles grin widely. “I’d believe it.”

“You believe everything horrid about Jackson.” She sniffs.

“Well, maybe if he wasn’t such a horrible person…”

During the summer between eighth grade and freshman year, their freshmen orientation packet comes in the mail. In the packet of papers are things that need to be signed, promotions for things they need to buy or should buy, the school rules and numerous handouts for the sports teams. “Oh, look. They’re starting a lacrosse team. Cool.” And Stiles with his natural sloth like abilities and Scott and his asthma toss the whole bunch of them in the trash.

The current sport to follow is football. The Beacon Hills team made it to the semi-finals and they have an impressive school rating so they compete across the state. Before football, it was the baseball team and before that it was the track team and before that it was basketball. The Economics teacher wants to start a lacrosse league and he’s mostly looking at freshmen and sophomores so they can teach the basics of the sport to underclassmen as each year passes.

“You and Scott should consider it.” Lydia says, shoving her copy of the handout in Stiles’ face. “It would look good on your college applications. Lacrosse is a demonstration in athleticism and leadership skills.”

“Scott uses an inhaler. He has severe asthma. Are you trying to kill him?” Stiles demands, but takes the handout with renewed interest.

“It’d be good for him.” Lydia repeats. She treats Scott like an adorable pet, but she really does have the best intentions for him. She wants Scott to succeed nearly as much as she wants to succeed. “It’ll help him get into more universities.”

“Erugh, I’ll tell him.” Stiles says which is nearly as good as making a blood pact that he and Scott would be on the lacrosse team freshmen year.

Coach Finstock keeps a concerned eye on Scott while he wheezes and pants, but all of the boys that showed up to learn the basics of the game are considered a part of the team. There’s a good thirty of them that dwindles to sixteen by the beginning of the school year because the summer lacrosse practices are killer. Stiles is sure he’s never ran before so much in his life. And by the time school is in full swing, there’s only thirteen boys. Enough to make one full team and have three benchers.

Scott, Stiles and Isaac are unsurprisingly on the bench.

“Did you know bats only have one baby a year?” Stiles asks.

“What?” Scott asks, distracted by the game play.

“Really? That seems counteractive.” Isaac frowns, sticking his head in Stiles’ book.

The lacrosse team’s first game, needless to say, is a disaster.

They lost spectacularly and that’s when Jackson gets a bee up his ass and then they actually start winning. Coach makes Jackson captain, when before the position had been unfilled, and good God, if Stiles hadn’t promised Lydia he and Scott would stay on the team, Stiles would have crawled away from Jackson’s training regime by now. They had a zero period now. As in, they had class before school actually started for weight training. Stiles hadn’t even known school could start at seven in the morning.

Stiles’ mom dies in the spring and Stiles –

He doesn’t really remember much. He remembers being terrified he was going to be alone forever, that one day he’d wake up and the ladybug of labradorite would be gone from his eye. It’s all an honest blur of tight lungs and loneliness.

He spends most of his days at school in a daze and after school in his room, locked away. If he hadn’t had Lydia to bully him through his school work, and then correcting it, he probably would have lost his stellar GPA that his mom had been so proud of him for. If he hadn’t had Scott, Stiles is pretty sure he never would have left his house.

“Hey,” Scott whispers.

The great thing about having a best friend like Scott is how every day after school when he could be doing something else, anything else, he’s in Stiles’ bed, under the covers with Stiles as Stiles tries working through all the grief that stabs him when he thinks he’s gotten used to her being gone.

“Hey.” Stiles whispers back.

And that was it. For weeks and weeks under the covers, Stiles’ blue of comforter making their skin blue tinged every afternoon. Scott’s breath mingling with his own, until finals roll around and he’s better than he was. He still feels hollow, but Scott is there.

(Stiles makes a slideshow about why Lydia should be grateful Scott is her soulmate that he plans on making her watch as soon as he’s ready for the mental agony she’ll inflict on him in retaliation. Number one on the list is Scott’s ability to make horrible things stop being horrible. If Stiles had a choice, he’s 75% sure he’d marry Scott.)

Sophomore year is more of the same, except Scott’s dad abandons his family.

Melissa McCall’s aether disappeared from her eye when she was fifteen. Her soulmate died in a tragic childhood accident. Scott’s dad had assumed his soulmate died before he was born, already thirty when he met Melissa. It made sense when they were attracted to each other to pursue it and it lead to a civil partnership and a baby. Close to fifty, Scott’s dad found his aether – onyx, extending from his caruncula to his pupil, like his pupil bled ink – and left the next day.

Stiles has learned from the best how to take care of someone when their heart is bleeding all over the floor and sticks close to Scott. He listens to every angry rant, bites his tongue and doesn’t share his opinion because that isn’t what Scott wants. Stiles spends days and nights at Scott’s playing video games, eating pizza and watching bad Syfy movies, playing lacrosse and wandering around town at night on their bikes.

It’s Lydia that finds a solution.

(She’s Scott’s soulmate. Scott and Stiles may be best friends, mind twins, brothers in all the ways that matter, platonic life partners but Lydia is the one born with an innate sense for what will make Scott feel better. She hadn’t even needed to say something.

Stiles saw her in Scott’s doorway, cheeks red with a spring chill and her hair wild like she ran from her car and up the stairs, and got up and left the room. Leaving Scott to her tender mercies.)

Lydia got Scott a job at Dr. Deaton’s veterinary practice that he loved to death.

Scott even went into work early.

They’re in the preserve in the middle of the night with Isaac and (lacrosse benchwarmers have to stick together! that and Stiles is pretty sure hormones are making Isaac want Danny to notice him and any in with Danny is a step forward)  Lydia and her dick friends. Why would they go to the preserve at midnight before junior year starts? To look for Danny’s flashdrive that Jackson either lost or threw. Stiles is a little iffy on the details. Either way, Danny is pissed at Jackson and Lydia is sharpening her tongue whenever Jackson so much as opens his mouth.

“Did you do the summer reading for English?” Scott asks Isaac. “Did you get Romeo and Juliet? I didn’t understand like any of it. I don’t think it was English. Shakespeare probably made it all up and laughed behind everyone’s backs when they said it was a masterpiece of gibberish.”

Stiles laughs when he hears Lydia sigh heavily. She hadn’t particularly liked Shakespeare, preferring mathematics and science to language arts but she probably took it as a personal insult regardless because she had forced Scott to read the play and recite the most memorable passages. Stiles had told her she was trying too hard, but had helped her by giving Scott beef jerky for every line he recited correctly.

“It’s a suicidal love story.” Jackson says flatly. “McCall, what don’t you get?”

“Shut up, Jackson, before you embarrass yourself.” Lydia snaps to Scott’s defense. “You didn’t like it either.”

“I meant,” Scott says, cheeks nearly glow in the dark. “What was the point? They were soulmates. Why wouldn’t their parents let them be together? It might have taken some time, but everyone knows soulmates belong together. “ The last is said, somewhat bitterly.

“Parents don’t always do the sane thing, trying to do the right thing for their kids.” Stiles shrugs. “Back then, it was normal for parents to arrange civil unions to people of higher station or more wealth. A family feud would have been more than enough to keep Romeo and Juliet apart.”

“But wouldn’t they have been able to have Tybalt’s and Juliet’s union dissolved if Romeo and her protested it?” Isaac asks with a frown.

“Are we really talking about this?” Jackson moans.

“Jackson,” Danny says sharply.

“What? What’s the point? It has no bearing on today’s society.”

“My parents had a civil union.” Lydia says stiffly.

Stiles feels a little proud of the redhead. Never would she volunteered the information she was a love-child like Scott. It wasn’t widely shared information. How Lydia’s parents were introduced and encouraged to like each other if not love for the sake of making two business practices into one monster practice. Stiles is 98% sure that Lydia only said it because of Scott’s clenching jaw and fists.

“And awkward silence.” Stiles says under his breath.

“Let’s just find my flashdrive? Okay?” Danny breaks the silence. “Scott, Stiles go look over there. Lydia, can you go with Isaac and look over there? Jackson, you’re with me.”

“I didn’t throw it over there.” Jackson sulks.

“No, but we’ve been looking in this area for twenty minutes. And we haven’t found it yet. It has my English paper on it. The one that’s due tomorrow.” Danny snaps. “So let’s go.”

Stiles is pretty sure it’s because they split up that caused the hounds from hell to chase them and attack Scott, Jackson and Isaac. It happened all the time in Scooby Doo. Life lesson learned. Obey the teachings of cartoons.


…….


“Are you okay?” Stiles mother hens. Scott’s shirt is sticking to his skin because of all the dried blood. Really. Dried blood is plastering Scott’s shirt to his side. There has to be an injury, a serious one if all the blood is an indicator. “Clean injury, put a band aid on it.” Stiles nods to himself. “Right.”

When they wipe all the blood off, there is an impression of teeth – fangs – in Scott’s side that Stiles somewhat hysterically wants to credit to wolves, but wolves aren’t native to this area even if they are trying their damnedest to make a comeback. Next, he thinks a rabid dog and oh my god, Scott needs a rabies shot. Twelve of them to the stomach!

“Stiles, calm down.” Scott tries soothing, and how mess up is that? Scott is the one with teeth marks in his side and he’s telling Stiles to calm down. “Keep breathing nice and easy. I’m pretty sure rubbing alcohol will be fine. So it doesn’t get infected?”

“You know what you could be infected with?” Stiles asks shrilly. “Rabies. Rabies, Scott! It eats the brain and can be passed by salvia!”

“I don’t feel like I have rabies.” Scott says doubtfully.

Stiles is too busy trying not to have a panic attack. Scott helpfully handing him Scott’s inhaler. “I’m going to call Lydia. She’ll know for sure if I have rabies.”

Stiles is puffing on the inhaler, wow is that good air, while Scott calls his soulmate.

“Isaac was attacked too?” Scott asks and nods to whatever Lydia is saying. “It was a smart idea to take him to the hospital.” He compliments. “And they’re pretty sure Isaac doesn’t have rabies? Not even like a little rabies?” Scott makes a lot of noises to pacify Lydia before nodding. “Right. No rabies. So, I got bit a dog earlier too. Just in case I try to eat Stiles’ face or something. Just so you know.”

“I don’t think that’s a symptom of rabies.” Stiles wheezes and takes another puff of medicated air. “But thanks for giving it thought. I feel real warm and fuzzy knowing the idea passed through your mind.”

Scott smiles wolfishly, which in two days Stiles will laugh so hard he cries, because werewolves.
Werewolves.

If Jackson were a normal human being, even before being bitten and turned into a werewolf, when he met Allison Argent --  fire opal, yellow sunburst in the middle of red, fleck in the upper right of her eye – he would have introduced himself politely and asked her if she was interested in visiting a Appraiser with him, because their aether looks the same. A normal human being would maybe have compliment her on her appearance and intelligence and made her feel special.

Jackson, because he has never been a normal human being, gets shoved into the lockers, Allison shoving his arms up his back in her hold, her foot hovering over the back of his knee. “Sure, we can go to an Appraiser.” She agrees and wow.

If Stiles ever thought for a second fairies existed, he’s pretty sure they would be like Allison. All pretty and petite with a sweet voice with the ability to shove muscle heads into lockers like it wasn’t a big thing. Maybe if Stiles asked nicely, she’d teach him?

Lydia beats him to the new girl, very much a social event at Beacon Hills since they are a small town and don’t see very much action. “You are a moron.” Lydia informs Jackson. “I’m sorry.” Lydia smiles pretty at Allison. “Let me make it up to you by showing you to your classes?”

Allison eyes Lydia suspiciously before nodding and bringing her foot down on the back of Jackson’s knee, forcing him to slam his face into the locker. “That’d be nice.” Allison turns back to Jackson. “Get in my personal space again without my permission, I will break your nose.”

Stiles can’t hold the laughter in. “What did you do?”

“He crowded her against the lockers and started sniffing her hair.” Isaac shares.

“That is creepy.” Scott accuses. “Even I know better than to shove some girl against some lockers.”

“She’s my soulmate.” Jackson protests.

“Lydia’s my soulmate and you don’t see me shoving her against lockers to sniff her.” Scott shakes his head. “That is sad, man. How about you, Isaac? Do you corner Danny and sniff him?”

“Nope.” Isaac says, popping the “p.” “Can’t say I do.”

“Like Danny would let you.” Jackson says mutinously.

“Exactly.” Stiles says. “You expected the new girl to take your special brand of asshole at face value? She probably thought you were after her virtue like a Neanderthal.”

Sometimes, it feels like everyone around him has already found their soulmates. Which was only partially true. Most people his age haven’t found their soulmates. Stiles just likes torturing himself by surrounding him with people who have. He likes to think the pain keeps his brain sharp.

Logically, he knows eventually he’ll find his soulmate. At some point or another, they are bound to meet. Stiles just has to wait for it. A virtue he is severely lacking in is patience. He could die tomorrow. Why wait when he could do it today? That and his ADHD was counterproductive to waiting. Stiles did not wait. He got distracted or completed his task. Nine out of ten times, he’s distracted. He’s not ashamed of admitting it.

Stiles is busy waiting for his soulmate to run into him and researching the three cases of lycanthropy that half of his friends have been diagnosed with it. There’s a lot of information online and he has no way of knowing what isn’t and is true except for sending condensed information to Lydia and have her weed through some of it and then experimenting on their friends.

He’s looking forward to that part the most.

The front door slams closed, startling Stiles. It’s before seven, not too late and he shrugs and figures why not. He goes downstairs, two steps at a time, cheerfully informing his dad what is possible for dinner. If he’s honest with himself, Stiles was not expecting to see his dad sitting at their dining table, still in his uniform, drinking whiskey heavily. At least he was using a glass.

“Uh, dad?” Stiles ventures. “You okay?”

His dad blinks and stares at Stiles like he’s never seen his son before a crazed looking passing over his face. “Stiles! I need to see your eye!”

His dad doesn’t wait for Stiles to step closer or to have a reaction of any sort before his dad is staring intently at his left eye, muttering to himself. “Labradorite, ladybug, partially covered by the lower eyelid. Christ!” His dad abandons his focused gaze on Stiles’ aether and turns back to his whiskey. “You’re only seventeen! You haven’t graduated high school yet!”

“Uh, no?” Stiles eyes his dad nervously. “You feeling okay? Maybe you should sit down and I’ll get you some water. Hey, we can order a pizza? Pizza sounds good, yeah? All that greasy cheese and dead veggies. Yum.”

His dad has slowed his drinking considerably by the time Stiles has placed their order. Simply staring at Stiles with his plain eyes that when Stiles concentrates he can almost visualize the cat’s eye jelly bean in the white of his dad’s right eye. He’s staring at Stiles like he has something to say. Something serious that will forever change their lives, a lot how he looked when he told Stiles mom was sick.

“Dad? I’m getting a little worried here. You can’t just come home and go straight to the liquor cabinet and not freak me out. Are you dying? Did you get fired? Is Mrs. McCall and Scott okay? Dad!”

“It’s…nothing like that, Stiles.” His dad says, sighing heavily and rubbing his eyes. “Christ, I always expected you to meet your soulmate when you were in your last year of college.”

“My soulmate?” Stiles asks, his throat feeling dry and his tongue too big.

“I met your soulmate today.” His dad says. “I’ve seen your aether everyday of your life. I know it as well as I knew my own. It’s no mistake. I met your soulmate today. He was delivering Jo a gift from her soulmate.” Stiles heart begins to pound in his chest, so hard he wouldn’t be surprised if it was making indentations on his chest. “He’s six years older than you.”

His dad sounds close to crying and talking about his baby boy and how tiny and perfect Stiles had been the night he was born. Stiles is torn between comforting his dad and badgering his dad for more details about his soulmate. Stiles has never seen his complete aether firsthand. He always had to rely on pictures taken by his Appraiser and the glimpses he could glimpse in the mirror. He wants to see the labradorite ladybug more than anything. Wants to see how it looks on his soulmate.

“Dad—“

“I know, kid.” His dad smiles sadly. “I know. Give me a minute. I’m still coming to terms with the fact my son’s soulmate is a delivery boy.”

What Stiles was not expecting was Derek Hale.

Make that Derek Hale small business owner of Hale’s Landscaping and in fact not a delivery boy. Thanks, Dad.

Also werewolf Derek Hale.

Eventually, Stiles will stop stressing werewolf in his head. Today is not that day. Scott woke up in Lydia’s yard last night, the remains of her neighbor’s cat all around him. Werewolf deserves to be stressed.

(It was miles better than Jackson who spent most of last night’s moon mania breathing on Allison’s window and only Stiles and the many favors Lydia, Danny and Jackson will owe him for saving Jackson’s ass kept a bullet from scaring him off. Allison’s dad sells guns to Stiles’ dad. Jackson more than owes him. Jackson better be fucking nice to Stiles for the rest of ever. Seriously.

Danny, unsurprisingly, foresaw Isaac would hunt him down to breathe heavily on his face and had been with Isaac at the graveyard because no one goes there at night unless they plan on grave robbing so they deserve getting the body fluids scared out of them if they come across werewolf!Isaac.)

Ask Stiles how he knows Derek’s a werewolf. Ask. It’s a funny story.

Surprisingly, Stiles does not meet his soulmate because they meet at an Appraiser’s office to have their aether confirmed identical. Stiles doesn’t even get to official meet Derek -- that was supposed to happen tomorrow. It happens because Jackson can’t control himself like Isaac and Scott can.

Stiles is doing his third Good Samaritan deed for Jackson at Lydia’s bidding. Lydia called him, not panicking because Lydia Martin does not panic, about Jackson running off again. Grumbling about getting out of bed after he’d just laid down, Stiles pulls his hoodie on smacking into things in the dark as he listens to Lydia’s reasons why she and Scott can’t get Jackson. They’re pretty good reasons as far as reasons go. Scott may not run off like Jackson does with no intention of coming back, but Scott does disappear if he sees Bambi or Thumper.

(“Dude, what’s with the obsession? It’s freaking me out.” Stiles asks.

“I just hate them.” Scott mutters. “They always laugh at me.”

It was something Lydia was keeping an eye on. It was quite possible Scott was going to have a psychotic break brought on by a werewolf stressor. It was also fully possible Scott had some lament resentment towards the deer that split up Scott and Stiles and got Scott bitten by a werewolf. Thumper could just be incidental.)

Stiles takes a lucky guess and begins to drive to the Argents’ on autopilot. He’s taken this route twice before at night and three times the day of the full moon two days ago. He parks down the street -- yes, he has a routine and yes, this is becoming a habit -- and jogs to the Argents’. He gets into their backyard easily enough and spots Jackson at Allison’s dark window on the roof. There are days Stiles sorely misses human Jackson. At least then he’d never been able to climb up to some poor girl’s roof to stare into her bedroom window.

Previous experience has taught Stiles to hiss at Jackson from the bushes. The bastard can hear him and eventually regains his common sense when Stiles explains the characteristics of a stalker, the beginnings of abusive relationships begin with controlling behavior, Allison’s war mongering father and legal aspects like restraining orders and jail time if Jackson is discovered. Soulmates or not, being a creeper was Not Good. Tonight is different.

“Jackson, you asshole, we’ve talked about this. Stalking is not okay for many reasons because of a) --” Stiles is cut off when Allison’s bedroom window snaps open and Jackson is grabbed and pulled inside. Stiles blinks a few times trying to process the arm he saw kidnap Jackson. “Lydia is going to kill me.”

“Not before I do.” A woman says from behind him and Stiles squeaks. “Now, what are you doing here?”

A tight grip grabs Stiles’ hoodie and jerks him to face his woman captor. “Extreme sports?”

“I think you better come inside.” The woman growls.

Stiles had no intention of going into the Argents’ home. He satisfied his curiosity about them a hundredfold with how often he was here with Jackson. He knew Allison lived her with her dad and step-mom. He didn’t know the step-mom’s name because it never mattered before. Allison would visit her dad during the summer and winter break while she stayed with her mom during the school year. Lydia explained to a pathetically hopeful Jackson. “She got in a fight with her mom and left. So try not to bring her up.”

The house was as huge on the inside as it was on the outside. Stiles could appreciate it, especially the home decor. It was all greens and blues and flowers everywhere. People who had this many houseplants surely wouldn’t kill him and bury his body next to the tulips. Would they? Probably not. They would like the tulips too much to do that.

“I’m very sorry Mrs. Argent for, uh, trespassing. I was just trying to talk my buddy Jackson, the guy being held in a menacing grip by tall, dark and menacing, out of a dare.” Stiles smiles hopefully at the rather gorgeous woman glaring at him. “We’re harmless. Morons but harmless. So we’ll be on our way. No reason to get the sheriff involved. Really. The sheriff does not like being woken up because of teenage shenanigans.”

“Stiles?” Allison asks incredulously.

“Allison. Heeey.” Stiles waves at his classmate as she comes into view. “How are you at two in the morning? You look absolutely stunning. Lovely. You should come to school like that. In your pajamas. It’s a good look on you.”

Allison huffs a laugh and turns to her dad. Who Stiles just noticed. Now that Stiles is reasonable sure he’s in deep, he notices the full living room. There’s two men besides Allison’s dad and the guy holding onto Jackson. Mrs. Argent, presumably, directs Stiles to the couch and sits him down.

“You know him?” Mrs. Argent asks.

“He’s my classmate.” Allison explains. “And one of Jackson’s friends.”

“I wouldn’t call us friends except for in the loosest definition.” Stiles protests.

“Shut up.” Jackson snarls as he struggles to escape tall, dark and menacing. “Stiles, they’re like us, so shut your goddamn mouth.”

Stiles snaps his mouth shut with a click. Stiles and Jackson have for few things in common. Two of which are they are both students at Beacon Hills High School and they’re both male. Jackson must have been referring to the royal us in which case Stiles was going to strangle Jackson or have Lydia do it because he tipped these scary people assembled in Allison’s living room off there were more werewolves.

There were more werewolves in this living room. Stiles thought somewhat hysterically. Werewolves were everywhere and infesting everything. Werewolves were bedbugs. They got into everything and turned people like Stiles insane and now Stiles would have to burn his house to the ground and move to another town to escape. Werewolves.

“I think he’s going to hyperventilate.” Mrs. Argent says in surprise.

“I didn’t know werewolves could do that.” Allison says.

“They can’t.” One of the strange men says. “Alli, go get a paper bag.”

“Much appreciated.” Stiles manages from where he can feel his lungs tightening.

The man approaches Stiles and puts a comforting hand on the back of his neck and begins to coach him to keep his breathing deep and slow. Stiles wishes he had the breath left in his lungs to laugh. God damn Jackson. A werewolf is telling Stiles to calm down before he kills Stiles. Jackson couldn’t stalk Allison from afar like every other soulmate that was too shy to say hi?

“That’s good.” The werewolf says. “Now let me see your eyes.”

“Why? So you can check me for werewolfism?” The werewolf pulls the bag away when the Stiles begins to use to shield his eyes.“Because that dumbass over there had no clue what he was talking about.” He looks into the werewolf’s eyes with a scowl and wheeze. His eyes are light green and his aether is a jade tiny petal along the curve of his lower eyelid. “He never mastered pronouns in middle school. Why are you looking at me like that?” Stiles asks when the werewolf stares stunned at Stiles without speaking.

“Stiles wouldn’t happen to be short for Stilinski, would it?” The werewolf asks. “Short for Grimuwcyn Stilinski?”

“Your name is--”

“Shut up Jackson or so help me.” Stiles cuts the other boy. “I will sic Lydia and Danny on you. I will tell them you are a mean and ungrateful asshole.” Their audience visible startles. “Why? Who told you? Only three people know that name.” He glares suspiciously.  

The other man next to Mr. Argent snorts in amusement. “This is turning into a positively interesting night.” The man goes and seizes Jackson from tall, dark and menacing. “Go greet your soulmate, nephew.” The man says gleefully. “Although I doubt there is any force in this universe that could salvage this meet and greet.”

“My soulmate?” Stiles splutters. “That means-- You guys are Hales? All of the Hales are werewolves? What? Seriously. What?”

“Oh boy.” Mrs. Argent says somewhat guiltily.

“Can I have my paper bag back?”

…....

It was Laura's idea to expand the business and make the Hales the name in landscaping and florist endeavors.

She always preferred arranging the displays than planting them. She had an eye for color and after watching one or three bridal shows as a teenager, she decided to try her hand at making a bouquet. It was pretty simple as bouquets went. Red roses, giant pink daisies and rice flowers. Her mom proudly displayed the bouquet next to the register and immediately young women and teenage girls were asking her mom if they also doubled as florists.

Laura was an amateur at the art at seventeen, but when people asked her again at twenty-one with her florist certificate she gladly took on their commissions and began saving for a florist shop. She quickly became well known in three counties for her flower arrangements and ability to beautifully under extreme pressure.. She even had an article dedicated to her arrangements in a local bridal magazine.

She spent all her time working in her shop, creating new designs and selling that it was little wonder it was the setting of her encounter with her soulmate. Laura meets her soulmate while working the cash register at her new little shop. She had been damning the machine to hell and back, swearing she'd get one of those iPhone gadgets if it didn't t behave this second when a man and his daughter came in.

“Hello.” She says too brightly. “I’ll be right with you as soon as I’ve got things settled here.”

She keeps an ear trained on them as they look around. Her customers liked to call her a mind reader when really she abused her werewolf hearing to overhear what they working looking for. It gave her a reputation that she liked for being all knowing. She hears easily that the man and his daughter are looking for a birthday arrangement for the girl’s thirteenth birthday. She smiles to herself, losing her bad temper slowly, as she hears the man’s uncomfortable and confused, “That’s very pretty?”

The girl continues to name a bunch of flowers that she claims are her favorites. Laura is struggling not to laugh now, using the information the girl was sharing to think of the type of arrangement her prospective customers would like the best. She’s thinking lilies, daisies, roses and wax flowers and approaches the father-daughter couple to offer her insight.

The girl gasps when Laura looks her in the eye, much to Laura’s and her father’s bewilderment, and begins to say, “I have the best birthday ever. Oh my god, dad. Look. Look at her aether.” Laura thinks stunned for a moment, what, before what the girl is saying processes. "Daddy! She has a moonstone eye like you!" The girl says and when Laura had looks into the girl's father's right eye, she sees the white of his eye was mostly encompassed by moonstone like her own.

Exactly like her own.

They had stare at each other stunned because they recognized the other. By reputation at least. Christopher Argent. One of the up and coming hunters well known for respecting The Code and putting rogue werewolves out of everyone's miseries. He’s a handsome man with the recognizable facial features of Gerard Argent and know that she’s paying attention, she can smell wolfsbane oil on him. She doesn’t know whether to be ecstatic she’s finally met her soulmate or terrified a werewolf hunter has found her.

“Miss Hale?” Christopher Argent begins somewhat sheepishly, an embarrassed and shy smile forming. “Would you like to go somewhere later? To get to know each other and talk? Maybe set up an appointment with an Appraiser?”

His daughter squeals and Laura’s heart melts. Just a little.

....…


“Jackson, my daughter’s soulmate, is a werewolf.” Mr. Argent says. He sounds like he’s trying the words and idea on. “A werewolf so new he’s only had one full moon.” He sighs and rubs his eyes. Stiles can relate. Jackson sucks even ignoring the werewolf part. “Son, we have a lot to talk about. But first.” Mr. Argent looks to the werewolf kneeling in front of Stiles.

“Right.” The werewolf says. “We need to know who else was bitten.”

“Why?” Stiles asks. “Because no offense or anything, but I don’t really know you guys. You guys could be a cannibal werewolf cult  wanting to devour their hearts for cooler superpowers. I’m willing to sacrifice Jackson, but I actually like the others so...”

“Stiles.” Jackson glowers. “I hate you so much.”

“And this is why I’m going to let them eat you!” Stiles says. “I’ll pretend to be sad at your funeral. Maybe.”

The new werewolf holding on to Jackson laughs in amusement and the one in front of Stiles chuckles. Tall, dark and menacing -- Derek -- doesn’t do anything except for inch a little closer to Stiles. Stiles stares at his supposed soulmate at the movement.

Holy God.

Stiles must have saved a building of orphans and kittens and puppies in another life to get that as his soulmate. There’s muscle. More muscle than Stiles had been aware was capable and the guys on the lacrosse team were not shy about stripping down to only their shorts if Coach let them get away with it. Stiles has a healthy amount of muscle himself. Like, he’s reasonable toned. Not like Derek at all who was probably confused as a Celtic warrior from the past.

The werewolf kneeling in front of Stiles raises an eyebrow, and okay. Stiles will stop staring and thanking his luck any second. And thinking about Derek covered in oil and glistening. He’s positive that’s a sight he needs to see at least once before he dies. He hopes he isn’t saying anything out loud. That’d be embarrassing. Mrs. Argent’s soft snickers and shaking body aren’t really installing confidence in him on that front, but hopefully it’s not anything too incriminating.

“Why is he humming?” Mr. Argent asks the room at large.

Derek’s too far away for Stiles to see his aether properly but it is in mirror eye of Stiles’ and roughly in the right place. His eyes were green like an algae pool and he was tan. Probably from the hours of yard work he did for landscaping business. He was also a little scruffy, which was appealing to Stiles as much as it disturbed him. He never really thought about what gender his soulmate was. It hadn’t mattered. And when his dad revealed it was Derek Hale, Stiles didn’t think about what it’d mean. It made Stiles really want to find out how Derek’s stubble would feel on his cheek and if Stiles would like it or not.

Stiles really, really wanted to touch Derek and unless Stiles was blind and dumb, Derek really, really wanted to touch Stiles too.

“My name is Quinn.” The werewolf in front of Stiles says. “Holding your friend is my brother Peter. My daughter Laura is the one who caught you in the bushes and the cub pretending to be discreet is my son, Derek.” The werewolf named Quinn gives Derek a look. “Back away. You know the rules.”

Derek’s eyes fill with sadness that makes Stiles twitch and unwittingly say, “No, it’s okay. Really.”

Mrs. Argent -- Laura -- smiles and shakes her head. “You’re underage. We need to do things right. Come one, baby bro.” She grabs her brother and begins to steer him past Stiles. “Alli, would you like to come to our mom’s? I’m sure she won’t mind being woken up for waffles.”

Allison bites her lip, looking between Jackson and Stiles and her dad. Stiles tries his best to convey to her not to leave him alone with crazy people, but she merely pecks Jackson on the cheek with the promise, “It’s going to be okay,” and leaves.

Stiles tries his best not to be too obvious about watching the three of them leave. His soulmate kept looking over his shoulder to stare at Stiles and Stiles had a strike of terror. What if Derek walked out that door and Stiles never saw him again? What if he was all a part of Stiles’ imagination? What if Stiles was having a psychotic break? That would make more sense than werewolves and his soulmate being gorgeous.

“I think I’ve lost my mind.” Stiles informs the room at large.

“Now you question reality.” Jackson snipes.

“The evidence seems to support it.” Stiles continues. “Things like this don’t happen!”

“They do in Beacon Hills.” Quinn says. “Now, the other werewolves. How many are there?”


…....


It was Romary Hale nee Rey’s idea to open a plant nursery.

It was a story Derek and Laura heard often enough that they could mouth the words along with their mom as she retold the story for anyone who showed the slightest interest. Derek teased his mom about her going senile and Laura gave repeat customers ten percent discount if they had listened to their mom's story more than once with grace.

It starts as many stories do.

Of a young girl with a love for plants. Romary lived as much in the woods as she did in the house on the outskirts of Beacon Hills. Her parents would lovingly call her their changeling. She found she had a gift for growing plants and decided she wanted to open a plant nursery as Beacon Hills was horribly without.

This is how she meets her future husband, Quinn Hale. Everyone and their twice removed cousins knew about the Hales. The Hales lived in the middle of the wildlife preserve and had for years. Certainly longer than anyone's great-great-great-great grandmother can recall. "That Hale boy," as all the grandmother types called him, had stolen Romary's heart with a look.

They both had a jade aether in the sclera of their eyes, shaped like a rose petal.

Falling in love with Quinn had been the easy part. Discovering he and his entire family were werewolves was a completely different matter.

…....


After Quinn, Peter and Mr. Argent all proved to the best of Stiles’ abilities and Jackson’s new senses they were trustworthy and were indeed not going to eat his friends, Stiles calls Lydia. Lydia would know what to do. Maybe she’d know whether or not to trust these guys. And if she didn’t maybe she’d be able to give Stiles an escape plan.

“I,” Stiles declares. “Have to make a phone call.” He stands up and goes for the stairs. “Which I will be doing upstairs because three out of four people in this room are nosy super hearing werewolves. Mr. Argent may come with me to make sure I don’t try crawling out of Allison’s bedroom window.” He allows graciously.

Mr. Argent stares at Stiles as he paces and waits for Lydia to pick up her phone. “What? I’m busy.” She growls. Stiles is of the opinion Lydia would have made an impressive she-wolf based on that growl alone.

“Jackson got caught.” Stiles opens with. “And the Hales are werewolves.”

Lydia breathes sharply and faintly, Stiles can hear Scott in the background. “What? What did he say?”

“Did you say anything? No, of course you didn’t. But Jackson did.” She says mostly to herself. Stiles patiently waits for Lydia to catch up. He mouths ‘one second’ to Mr. Argent as he hears Lydia berate Jackson before coming to the next logical conclusion. “They want to meet the others.”

“Yup. To help them. The Hales say they can teach everyone how to control themselves from chasing the neighbors’ cats.” Stiles bobs his head.

“Can we trust them?” Lydia asks.

“Well, I’m invested to.” Stiles says. “My soulmate is Derek Hale and well, you’re never going to believe this, but Allison’s dad? He’s a werewolf hunter so...”

“Damn it.” Lydia swears. Stiles can hear her thinking furious. It’s like a buzzing, terrifying swarm of honeybees fast at work. “We’ll be right there. Where are you?”

He gives her the address and ends the call. “They’ll be here soon.”

“That’s good.” Mr. Argent says. “Now get out of my daughter’s room.”

Sheesh. I’m going.”

It’s maybe the most awkward fifteen minutes of Stiles’ life, including when Stiles told Scott he was 80% sure that Scott was a werewolf. That conversation should win awards for awkward. Scott had been laughing at Stiles -- not with -- up to the point Jackson and Isaac started fighting and throwing each other into walls and BAM. Isaac was thrown through a wall. Jackson had claws and weird face. Scott had glowing yellow eyes. No one was laughing at Stiles after that.

Stiles is actually twiddling his thumbs while he’s waiting for Lydia and the others to arrive.

There’s a quiet knock at the door.

…....


Sheriff Stilinski and his wife met like this.

He’d been at POST.

John spent most of his free time mumbling codes and laws under his breath. There was so much information the academy tried stuffing down his throat and he was terrified he was going to take the test only to have it all fall out his ears. John’s free time was limited. He was training Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on the weekends he sometimes had training too.

John had been looking for dinner. On his way to one of his favorite sandwich shops when he tripped over a woman sketching the place across the street. Her tongue had been peeking out slightly and she’d been smudging the lines determinedly. John would have left her alone, except she was also cursing the sketch.

“If I didn’t need this credit, I swear to God I’d burn the damn building down. No. The street. Then Mrs. Golick can’t make me sketch urban realism every again.”

“Probably not.” John agreed. “Since you’d be in prison for arson.”

The artist had shrieked and clutched her sketchbook to chest. She had a few seconds to realize someone overheard her before she blushed. “I was kidding. I swear. I would never burn a street down.”

John chuckled as the woman  continued to assure John she didn’t have a violent bone in her body except for that one time in high school, but Michelle had deserved it. “Miss, it’s okay.” John eventually cut her off. “I know everyone has to relieve stress some. I have four detailed plans to destroy the police academy. Trust me.”

He’d been ready to shake her hand, wish her luck on her sketch and continue his hunt for a sandwich when she tucked her hair behind her ear and he saw her yellow catseye aether like his own.

…....


Stiles finally manages his way home closer to sunrise than to any reasonable bedtime hour and makes the executive decision that he is not going to school today. It’s really for everyone’s best interest. Lydia and Scott had refused to be alone with the Hales and Mr. Argent until they were convinced beyond a doubt there would be no heart eating. It had taken two hours. Stiles had left as Quinn was explaining what anchors were and why stress was a bad idea in the werewolf lifestyle.

He was tired and freaking out.

He needed sleep.

His dad was sleeping when he snuck out and with any luck he was still sleeping and not scouring the streets for his wayward progeny. Keeping from his dad’s keen sheriff senses involved climbing through his bedroom window. A skill Stiles learned when he was twelve and kept locking his key inside the house. He’s only sprained his wrist once, so it was a relatively safe activity. He heaves himself into his bedroom and quietly steps in. He’s listening hard for his dad, except fat lot of good that did him.

Because Derek Hale is able to creep right behind him and clamp a hand over his mouth and whisper, “It’s me.” Stiles tries to elbow the guy once and misses and then does it until he lands a hit. “You scared me.” He accuses his soulmate. Derek.

His soulmate’s name is Derek.

“You’re a little delinquent, aren’t you?” Derek says.

“Window climbing is a useful life skill, I’ll have you know.” Stiles whispers. “And you aren’t supposed to be here! Kettle, pot! This is breaking and entering.”

“You left the window open.” Derek says.

“You’ve entered! You are an entering criminal!” Stiles says.

“I could leave.” Derek allows and only manages a step back before Stiles is pulling him away from the window.

“Now, let’s not be hasty.” Stiles says.

Stiles sits on his bed gracelessly because it’s six a.m. He blames his lack of restful sleep on the fact he tilts his head back to stare at his soulmate. He wishes he could see the labradorite aether in Derek’s eye. Wishes he could see the little ladybug to really confirm it. There was his dad confirming it and Quinn confirming it, but it was something else when he would get to confirm it.

“That’s why I’m here.” Stiles must have been talking out loud again or werewolves had previously unknown mind reading powers. Stiles wasn’t willing to rule anything out. “I want to see your aether. Everyone else keeps telling me but.” Derek shrugs in the dark.

“It’s not the same.” Stiles agrees. “Yeah okay. There’s a lamp on the desk. My dad usually expects me up around now. For the school thing I’m not going to tomorrow.”

Derek doesn’t so much as rustle anything when he turns on the lamp. Confirming Stiles’ theory that werewolves had night vision. It made sense with how their eyes changed and how eyes worked. It was a working theory among Appraisers and scientists studying the aether and akasha energy that if the aether was located in the iris or pupil of the eye, it increased vision. People with their aether in their iris or pupils were the least likely to develop eye infections and go blind in their old age.

When Stiles can focus that he has found his soulmate, he stares intently at the labradorite ladybug in Derek’s eye mirroring his own. It’s beautiful. He doesn’t understand why his classmates used to call it weird when he was younger. It makes him a little breathless in fact to see it. Maybe this is what people mean by true love? Seeing the other half of their soul for the first time, and accepting it completely.

Is this how Lydia and Scott felt on their first day of school? Like there was no one else on this world that could make them feel so much, make them angry, make them happier and sadder and fake and real and God. Stiles never wants to be anywhere else but right here, Derek’s eyes on his. Just as eager to see the labradorite in his eye.

Stiles doesn’t know why there is such a thing as Appraisers. He knows --can feel it-- that Derek is his soulmate. There could never be any mistake. Stiles could never make that mistake. He’s seen his aether every day of his life. He knows all the colors like he knows the sky is blue and the grass is green. “Oh. Wow.” He breathes. He sort of just wants to stare at Derek until the giddiness dissipates.

Derek swallows hard and kneels in front of Stiles. He’s inhaling deeply. His eyes glued to Stiles’. Stiles can’t say how long they spent staring at each other. Only that the sun is up and his dad is moving around the house getting ready for work when Derek drags himself away seconds before his dad opens his bedroom door.

Stiles tries not to be obvious that he was doing something he shouldn’t have been, but he is wearing his hoodie and shoes still. Staring at the open air in front of him and the window is wide open.

“Stiles.” His dad sighs. “What the hell, kid?”

He’s faced down werewolves that have wanted to eat his face. He’s faced down Lydia Martin. He’s gone toe to toe with every member of the lacrosse team including I-Squat-400lbs Boyd. Stiles is surprised every time Boyd bumps him he doesn’t go flying into the dirt. He can so do this.

“Uh, dad.” Stiles shakes his head to clear it. “Time for work already?”

“Shouldn’t you be downstairs eating breakfast?” His dad counters with.

“Yes. I should be.” Stiles agrees, nodding. “But as you can probably infer, I did not sleep well last night. Lydia called me last night because Jackson was creeping on Allison. Remember how I told you his soulmate was Allison Argent? She asked me to go pick him up since he was drunk. We’re pretty sure anyways. He smelled like it.” Stiles lies as he goes. “He’s been having a crisis since he found his soulmate. Kind of how Mr. McCall did.”

His dad enters the room cautiously. “And did you find him?”

“I’m not hiding him under the bed if that’s what you’re wondering.” Stiles says. His dad shares his feelings about Jackson. That he is a prick, except his dad actually had to pretend to be nice to Jackson and his parents. Probably why Stiles ran his mouth off to Jackson so often. “Mrs. Argent found us first and after I sacrificed Jackson to Mr. Argent, they let me run home. In case they say anything about me hiding in their bushes.”

His dad tries to control his life and makes a terrible sound that makes Stiles concerned for his health. “I’ll check in with Argent.” His dad breaks and chuckles. “You should probably stay home. I’ve met both Argents. Chris by himself is an intimidating man. Laura is terrifying. You probably need the sleep. I’ve talked to Romary Hale and she agree to chaperone a visit with Derek today. The earliest Mr. Ficci could get you guys in was next week.” His dad frown apologetically. “Since the beginning of the school year is the busiest time year.”

“Okay.” Stiles says, trying not to give it away that he’s meet Derek already and sort of wanted to live in him. “That works. I’m just going to fall over and sleep now.”

His dad raises a suspicious eyebrow.

…....


There’s three Appraisers for Beacon Hills. Mr. Ficci who confirmed Lydia and Scott were soulmates nearly ten years ago and his assistants, Ms. Haining and Mr. Meses. Ms. Haining confirming Isaac and Danny and Mr. Meses confirming Jackson and Allison.

Stiles had always been curious about the little office off of main street. It was decorated like a doctor’s office, including squishy chairs that only succeeded in being uncomfortable and magazines from the past six months. Like a dentist’s office except for eyes. An optometrist's office? There were huge framed diagrams of the human eye and stone charts with every color and kind manageable.

Stiles smiles reassuringly at his dad, who was still coming to terms with his son’s soulmate. It helped that Derek wasn’t a delivery boy like he initially thought and didn’t go out of his way to molest the sheriff's son on the street. Not that there was molesting of any kind. Or kissing. Just friendly touches here and there that Stiles was still coming to terms that he could initiate. It was a little awesome. After a bad day that included werewolf wrangling, a pop quiz and a lacrosse practice that was nothing but suicide runs because Jackson and Isaac got in another fight and if one person was being punished, they all were, it was nice to be able to go the Hale house or plant nursery to get a hug from Derek.

“Mrs. Hale!” Mr. Ficci comes to greet personally. “So wonderful to see you again. And Derek!” Mr. Ficci laughs, adjusting his glasses. His hair was wispy white and his fingers were skinny and knobby, but most importantly his smile was kind. “Ah, Sheriff Stilinski. I was wondering when I’d see you and your son again. Let’s get you boys in the back and just confirm what everyone here already knows, yes?”

Mr. Ficci leads them to a room with three chairs, a huge machine hanging from the ceiling like an x-ray machine at the dentist and jeweler’s loupe. “First, we’re going to confirm your aethers match physically using the loupe.” He pats the black loupe. “It will allow me to see the minute details of each aether. Then I will use this machine to take a akashic photograph to match them at the akasha level.”

“And it won’t melt our brains, right? Because I’m rather attached to my brain. Even when I have headaches, I’m rather fond of it.” Stiles says dubiously. The camera was intimidating to say the least.

“It hasn’t melted any brains yet.” Mr. Ficci says cheerfully.

“It would explain Scott though.” Derek says under his breath and Stiles holds in his laugh like a good friend, even if he still grins.  

“Now have a seat and let me look at those pretty labradorite aethers. How about you first, Derek? So Stiles can watch how it works.” Mr. Ficci smiles. “That way if Derek melts his brain, you can still back out.” Derek eases himself down on one of the chairs and Mr. Ficci adjusts his stool so he could peer into Derek’s eye with ease. “Mirror eye of Mr. Stilinski, blue by the vein of green, four line of deep blue giving way to yellow and orange flecks along the deep blue veins. Shape is a circle with an irregularity. Aether extends from approximately four millimeters past the lower eyelid and above by four.” He clicks his tongue. “And now for you, Mr. Stilinski. Corresponding veins and orange flecks, similar yellow coloring and approximate measurements.” Mr. Ficci leans back and puts down the loupe. “Now let’s get you boys photographed. Don’t worry, Derek, your mother has already informed me of your eye condition and I’ve prepared the camera accordingly.”

Stiles glances at Derek, curious what the Appraiser meant by eye condition but bit his tongue when Derek flashed icy blue eyes at him. Oh. That eye condition. He hadn’t known a werewolf’s true eyes would bleed through in photos. It seemed that the myth about a picture capturing your soul was true, at least for werewolves. He wonders why and knows the next time he’s at the Hale house, he’s going to bug the elder Hales until they tell him.

The picture leaves Stiles feeling dazed and blinking spots from his vision and carefully doesn’t move until he can see again while Derek keeps a steady on the wall, blinking slowly. “It’s normal to feel a little disorientated afterwards. Remain calm. Any black spots or blindness will soon dissipate. It will only take a few minutes for the pictures to develop, so if you’ll excuse me. It’s really for the best if I oversee it.”

“Stiles?” Derek’s voice is soft and vulnerable and Stiles did not like it.

“Yeah?”

“Can you come here? The camera. Mr. Ficci had to use a different setting.”

Stiles blinks rapidly to clear his vision as much as possible, his other eye unaffected and making it possible for him to move to Derek’s side. Derek’s eyes, both of them, Mr. Ficci wasn’t kidding when he said he’d have to do something different for Derek’s akasha photo to come out, were a dazzling mess of green and blue, striving to match their labradorite aethers and his pupils like pinpricks.  

“I’m right here,” Stiles says softly. He reaches out to Derek, touching his shoulders as an anchor and to steady himself. Derek is tense under his hands for a long moment before relaxing and leaning back against Stiles’ chest. The warmth from Derek’s back jumps to Stiles’ chest, pushing thoughts and feelings into Stiles’ mind at the same time. He likes it. Feeling like Derek can lean on him, trust Stiles to be there for him. It’s heady. The weight of Derek’s trust.

Mr. Ficci lets them each keep a copy of the akasha photo. Stiles had always thought his aether was beautiful with all the colors and how it was shaped into a ladybug, but the photo showed the energy that made his aether manifest. It was beautiful. The photo showed tendrils of colors expanding from their aether, turning the ladybug into a complicated knot that seemed more like moon. A Celtic full moon.

“You’re imagining things.” Derek says. “It’s a blob of lines and blots.”

“Shut up, you’ll offend our soul.” Stiles pokes Derek. “It looks even prettier like this.” Stiles adds quietly.

Derek hums but doesn’t actually say anything, although a few weeks later Stiles sees their akasha photograph on Derek’s bedside table.

…....

The Hale library is ridiculous and make his fingers itch to start pulling books off shelves. Lydia was touching the spines of the books, reading the titles and remembering them no doubt. Romary and Laura have set a plate of cookies on a table with Peter and Quinn communicating mostly in hand gestures and eyebrows nearby. It looks complicated.

“Dad, Uncle Peter.” Derek greets.

“So this is everyone?” Romary asks. “Please, sit down.”

Derek snags Stiles with a hand to the back of his neck, pulling him closer to Derek’s side gently enough, Stiles is sure he could shake Derek off if he really wanted. But he goes. Derek’s warm, radiating heat that is hard to resist leaning into and he doesn’t think he’s going for his sake. This is a Derek thing, a comfort thing for his soulmate (and the idea he’s finally found his soulmate still makes his heart sing) and it’s good, knowing Derek is tactile. Not that Stiles is particularly touch starved but everyone likes being touched, a little.

Peter smiles when he notices them and then turns his attention to the book in his hands and ignoring his brother. A leather peeling monster with no name and when Stiles noisily cranes his neck to catch a look at the text, it’s all cursive and faded. Old.

He’s not paying attention to the conversation. Not really. Lydia will break it down for him later if it’s important. He’s too busy inching towards Peter, a slow process because it involves moving Derek at a glacial pace. He’s blatantly staring at the words because that’s not English.

“It’s Archaic Latin.” Peter supplies helpfully and Stiles squawks.

Peter’s green eyes are amused and he’s tilting the book towards Stiles so he can look at it without wrenching himself out of Derek’s hold. Derek is also staring at him, fond exasperation and shuffles closer to Peter in order to keep his hold on Stiles and so Stiles can stare at the Latin until it makes sense. They’ve drawn Lydia’s attention who wanders over to take the book from Peter who surrenders it.

She takes a few minutes of reading, her mouth moving soundless before raising an eyebrow to stare at Peter. “You’re reading about werewolf laws regarding territory and “cubs.” Why?”

“There’s been discussion whether or we can extend an invitation into our pack to your friends since they were bitten by another pack.” Peter answers, looking surprised. “It could cause a war that the we would like to avoid with Natalie in New York. You know Archaic Latin?”

Lydia smirks. “Of course.” Like everyone knows a dead language.

“What? A pack war? Like a bunch of you snarling and killing each other like animals over land?” Jackson demands and Stiles wants to hit him. Was asking him to be a polite, decent human being too much to ask for? Didn’t he understand these were the people that could help him and he was now a part of because he was an asshole and had to throw Danny’s flashdrive?

“It shouldn’t be a problem.” Peter cuts in smoothly. “They intruded on Hale land and began recruiting people under our protection. They are in the wrong.”

“Thank you, Peter.” Quinn nods his head and stares at the teenage werewolves with intent. “You were all bitten and turned into werewolves against your wills. We failed to keep you safe. If you want it, we’d be glad to have in our pack. If you decide against it, we will still help you with your new abilities. The choice is yours. We won’t take it from you.”

“Your first conclusion was werewolves?” Peter asks curiously while his friends think about the Hales’ offer.

“My best friend got chomped on by a big dog looking thing and started flashing yellow eyes and fangs at me. It wasn’t a big stretch.” Stiles says dryly. “He also tried to eat me. He could have just been growling for a hug, but I don’t think it’s likely. If Lydia hadn’t been there I don’t think we’d be having this conversation right now.” Stiles says. “Hey, would you know why Scott tried eating me but not Jackson? Because that’s been bothering me. Even Isaac tackled me down and slobbered all over my face before Danny was able to pull him off.” Stiles says, Derek oddly stiff and silent. “But Scott is the one tries the most. Like I think we’re restricted to Skype dates only until he learns to control his super powers.”

“Please. Stop. Talking.” Derek growls out, not sounding pissed like when Jackson and Lydia growl but more like he doesn’t know if he can control himself from doing something stupid like hyperventilating.

“Right.” Stiles nods, feeling like a bobble head. But Stiles has seen this act before from Jackson when Scott and Allison were assigned as partners in Chem. and Jackson got stuck with Stiles. “Anything I can do? Besides not talk? Because I can do that for you. If I need to. It may not seem like it, but I totally can. I can respect a man’s need for silence. Seriously, how can I help you defang ---mhmf!”

Stiles glares at the werewolf for enforcing silence on Stiles via a hand over the mouth.

“So, how long have you been a werewolf?” Stiles says changing the subject in the way only a novice at avoiding the subject could appreciate once Derek has his breathing under control.

Derek’s stare says he knows what Stiles is doing but is willing to go along with it because Laura is watching them intently. “Since I was born.”

Stiles perks up, “So it is genetic? How does that work? Is it dominant? Recessive? Maternal? Do you guys operate like real wolf packs or is it more best of both worlds? Is there an alpha? You guys mentioned omegas earlier, so a little like wolf packs.”

Derek sits besides Stiles and blinks at him a lot, and Laura is the one who answers Stiles’ questions. Sort of.

“The werewolf gene is primarily dominant.” Laura says. “There’s a 75% a child born to a werewolf parent will be born a werewolf, no matter if both parents carry the gene or not. Why aren’t exactly sure why,” Laura shrugs. “It’s not like we can have geneticists look into it for us. But that’s what our records show.”

“A pack is like any family.” Romary says, re-entering the room. “The alphas are the parents and the betas our children. Omegas are werewolves without packs.”

“Oh,” Stiles nibbles his lip. “So how would Scott and Isaac fit into this? And Jackson? You guys don’t go putting them down like stray dogs, do you?”

Derek snorts, sounding amused. Laura sighs and mumbles something Stiles doesn’t quite catch, but sounded a lot like “Be easier.” Romary smiles and shakes her head. “Of course not. Your friends can chose to be adopted by our pack, choose to align with another pack or remain omegas.”

“That’s good.” Stiles nods. “That you guys don’t get all territorial and ‘grrr, I’m going to claw off your face.’”

There’s a heavy silence that follows. Derek is pointedly looking at his mom and Laura is looking at the ceiling. “Oh my god, really?”

Romary smiles again, patient. “You have to understand. Our family has been settled into this area for decades. Quinn’s thrice great-grandparents ran in this woods as children. It..unsettles our instincts to have our territory invaded.”

“We’ll do it!” Scott announces oblivious to Stiles gaping at the Hales. “We’ll join your pack!”

…....


Scott, Isaac and Jackson go to the Hale house after lacrosse practice Tuesday and Thursday to learn from Quinn and Laura. Stiles has heard secondhand accounts and their training is brutal. Stiles is very happy he isn’t a werewolf because it sounds painful. On Mondays, Lydia goes to the Hale house to pick Peter’s brain and magic. Magic was also a thing, which made a lot of belated sense once Stiles’ brain rebooted itself to accept magic as part of his reality. If werewolves existed, why wouldn’t magic?

His main question though was: what else exists?

Stiles sat in on anchor lesson Romary taught Danny and Lydia at Derek’s scowling insistence. (Allison having received The Talk from Laura already.) Stiles only put up an argument because it was pretty obvious to him Derek and Laura were champs at controlling their inner wolf. He wanted to go snooping through the library and research more about supernatural beings. The Hales have well documented proof of three inch trolls living in the nearby woods and he wanted to know what else lived in the woods. But when Derek’s quiet insistence turned more aggressive, Stiles found himself sitting next to Danny and Lydia learning how werewolves control their inner wolves.

It was called an anchor and it could be anything, but mostly werewolves that had found their soulmates used their soulmates as their anchor. “That’s what happened in this case. Most people know their soulmates are important. Werewolves take it one step further. Soulmates are precious. Scott and Isaac know better than to ever hurt you two, knowing instinctively harming you will be self-destructive.” Romary explained.

She also explained in that very informative lesson why Scott kept trying to eat Stiles’ face. “I’ve talked to Quinn about it,” she started slowly. “And we believe it’s because he’s trying to add you to his pack. You’ve been his best friend for years and smell similar. His wolf simply wants to bring his brother into the fold.” Which lead to a supervised bro-hug because dude. If you ignored the face eating, it was touching.

“Why isn’t Jackson trying to maim me? Or Lydia? To bring us into his pack.” Danny had asked. “I’ve known Jackson since we were seven.”

“Werewolves can sometimes fall into a more primal, primitive mind state, especially bitten ones.” Romary explained. “You are marked as Isaac’s and Lydia as Scott’s. Jackson knew better than to stake a claim on you two. Stiles, I’d guess, he doesn’t have such a close relationship to.”

Things were good.

Jackson had even convinced Allison to talk to him without twisting his arm behind his back. Lydia and Scott were actually working their shit out. They may fight more – loud angry arguments about everything when before Scott would just go with whatever Lydia wanted – but they’ve actually kissed Scott admitted goofily. Jackson’s continuous efforts with Allison meant he left Danny and Isaac alone and they may not be ready to jump each other’s bones like Scott and Lydia are, but they were closer than they had been before. It made Stiles beam proudly.

The werewolves if they want to run excess energy off have to do so under a Hale’s supervision. There’s frown tugging at each Hale that disappears after too long scrutiny. Stiles, because sometimes subtly was overrated, flat out asked Derek.

“They’re worried about their control.” Derek shrugged. “And the alpha that turned them. My dad and Laura couldn’t find traces of an alpha in the woods anymore, but they’re still worried.”

Today was one of the those days where even Coach Finstock’s run-them-into-the-ground practice hasn’t made a dent in the three werewolves. Stiles is a boneless mess of a human being, but his teammates wanted to run even more. Danny had grumbled about going home to shower again, hot water a balm to achy muscles, and a nap, and Lydia had a father-daughter bonding shopping trip to attend. That left Stiles on the Hale porch, eyes half closed and enjoying the bite of the air.

He could hear Isaac wheedling at Laura and Romary’s laughing insistence that Laura go play with the “cubs.” “Come on, Laura! Just for a little bit! An hour tops!” Scott begs.

“Jackson will even say please. Right?” Isaac says.

Stiles’ can’t hear if Jackson says yes, but he must because Laura laughs and she’s out the door, nudging Stiles with her foot as she passes. She takes off at a run, the boys quickly following after her. It’s when he can’t hear them trampling through the woods any longer that Derek shows up on the porch and sits beside him. “You were waiting until they were gone, huh?” Stiles asks.

“I’m tired.” Derek shrugs. “And they’re annoying.”

Derek’s recounting a werewolf legend about a girl with a moonstone aether who searched the countryside for her soulmate, but it wasn’t until she reached a forest and came upon a wolf with a matching aether and how she worked her magic to allow the wolf to turn into a man. Stiles traces the lines in Derek’s palm with a pen as he listens, breaking in with commentary here and there. He wonders if Derek realizes Stiles is stealth holding his hand, but decides with a quick look to his face Derek is oblivious as he begins another myth.

“Do a lot of people abandon their soulmates when they find the other is a werewolf?” Stiles asks Laura two weeks later after she’s explained why her family was so tense. “Does anyone think Lydia or me or Danny would ever do that?”

“Lydia, she loves Scott. She tries to hide it, but they’re well suited.” Laura shares. “Like two wolves constantly at each other’s throats, but always willingly to lick the blood away at the end of the day. I don’t think it’s ever occurred to her to abandon him.”

“How bloody.” Stiles winces.

“Love isn’t all romance and happiness.” Laura says. “Love is blood and determination. It’s ripping someone apart and putting the pieces back better. Love is supposed to hurt. If it doesn’t, you’re doing something wrong.” She bites her lip. “But it’s happened before. When humans found out about their soulmates being werewolves. All of you are oddly accepting. It’s weird.”

“It’s Beacon Hills.” Stiles says. “It’d be weird if it wasn’t weird.”

Stiles finds Derek in the backyard after Laura excuses herself. Derek is patiently waiting for him with a rolled up bundle in his hands. “You need to learn how to defend yourself.” Derek says bluntly before Stiles can do anything more than open his mouth.

Stiles clicks his mouth shut and takes the bundle Derek is holding out to him. “What is it? Because I’m telling you now, guns and I will never be friends. The recoil tries to get me in the face every time.”

Derek snorts but doesn’t say anything. Just looks at Stiles expectantly. Stiles unties the strings holding the bundle together and when he manages to get it open, he discovers four knives of differing sizes. The littlest knife has a blade as long as his index finger while the largest knife is from the bottom of his wrist to the tip of his middle finger. Surprised, Stiles catches Derek’s eyes.

“What? Knives? What am I supposed to do with knives?” Stiles asks.

“Daggers.” Derek corrects. “And use them. I’ll teach you. You aren’t safe if you keep insisting on hanging around hormonally imbalanced teenage werewolves.” You’re too important to die. Stiles infers.

“Your first lesson is how to carry and care for one without slicing your fingers off. Careful, they’re sharp.”

Derek has Stiles practice for an hour every day. Stiles will never be able to do anything spectacular with them. Not against a werewolf. Werewolves are too fast. Stiles doesn’t know if it’s just Derek or if it’s all werewolves but the guy is half acrobat. Derek moves in ways Stiles has only seen in parkour videos on Youtube. Half of the time, Derek is able to disarm him in ten seconds flat because Stiles is too interested in watching Derek move. Like Isaac though, Stiles will take any in. He wants to be with his soulmate. If Stiles had another five or ten years, he’ll be a force to be reckoned with. But now he’s a seventeen year old kid learning how to keep the pointy end of a dagger away from his body and everything he can about his soulmate.

Derek snorts. “Passable, but if a werewolf attacks you, run towards Allison. She’ll protect you.”

“Hey!” Stiles says indignantly.

It isn’t all sharp objects.

Stiles’ favorite part about his lesson always comes after. The few minutes Derek sits next to Stiles so he can catch his breath and telling him something new. Stiles is learning the Hale pack lore one story at a time.

There’s a private hide-n-seek game they play when Stiles’ fingers are too cold to hold the handles properly and Derek is afraid Stiles will hurt himself. Stiles will run into the woods. Given a minute head start to put as much distance between him and Derek – “I promise when the cubs are completely trained, I’ll give you an hour head start.” Derek says into his ear, breath hot and making Stiles shiver. “So you can get good and lost.” – as he possible can.

His breath comes out in steam and he crashes through the woods. Stiles doesn’t dare look behind him anymore. Derek always comes after him and he needs every advantage he can get. The hairs on the back of his neck are the only warning he gets before he’s tackled. It’s gentle. A lot more gentle than when Stiles is messing around with the other guys on the lacrosse team. It still knocks the air out of Stiles, hitting the ground. Derek settling over him.

Stiles loves Derek’s eyes. They spark, glowing with the colors of labradorite. He could stand to be stared at for the rest of his life as long as it was that gaze. Warm and relaxed and amused. It wasn’t an unhappy place to be, under Derek. Derek seems content with their position and settles against Stiles more comfortable, eyes half lidded.

Stiles tilts his head back, so he can stare at the sky. Tree branches and clouds all he can see. His fingers twisting in Derek’s hair. Curling the black strands around his fingers and combing them smooth, scratching his scalp.

…….

Since werewolves have been introduced to Stiles’ life, there never seems to be enough time in the day. A state of affairs his dad seems pleased about.

“You’ve been calmer.” His dad says. “I’ve read cases about ADHD settling when the inflicted find their soulmates.” His dad chews on his dinner thoughtfully. “Probably helps that lacrosse is driving you into the dirt. What does Romary have you and Derek doing? You’ve been asleep by ten the past week. At first I thought maybe you were taking sleeping pills—“

“Dad!” Stiles says appalled.

“But I check your room for those. And when I asked Derek, he told me he’s been teaching you a little self defense. He’s been wearing you out, huh?”

“Yeees.” Stiles says. That’s actually pretty close to the truth and he feels relaxed enough to talk about it. “If I didn’t know better, I’d say he was half jaguar or something. All pouncing and tackling.” Stiles sighs and looks at his dad forlornly. “Even Laura does it when she joins in. The Hales are hunters. Why are Stilinskis gatherers, dad? Why? Our ancestors were probably eaten by deer.”

“Deer are herbivores.” His dad refutes.

“That’s just what they want you to think.” Stiles says. “I’ve been thinking about this and it’s all a deer conspiracy. Do you know why there’s no more wolves in California?”

“Increase of human population?”

“No! Because the deer have eaten them all. I bet they look all cute and innocent and then bam! Chewed on wolves and all the other wolves were like, ‘whoa man, we should probably get out of town and go to Canada or Yellowstone because these deer are bastards.’ And our ancestor the Stilinski gatherer found out about this conspiracy and they had to take him out to keep their secret.” Stiles nods wisely. “Luckily our Stilinski ancestor had a wife and five kids at home otherwise we wouldn’t be having this conversation right now.”

“Forget what I said about your ADHD calming down.” His dad says. “It has become clear to me I was sorely mistaken.” Stiles sticks his tongue out. “But back to what you’re trying to avoid. How are the Hales? Derek?”

“The Hales? Derek?” Stiles echoes blankly. “They’re fine. I think Romary and Quinn are going on a date tonight. Laura is good. I think she’s working on her drawings tonight. Alicia Marsh’s wedding is coming up soon, so she’s kind of stressed about it. I have a feeling I may be helping her with it.” Stiles makes a face. “She keeps having me make these little arrangements and complementing my hands. It’s weird.”

“That’s interesting.” His dad says. “And uh, Derek? How is he?”

“Dunno.” Stiles shrugs. “I’m pretty sure you saw him last dad. How is Mary’s new baby? Did Mary like the flowers her husband sent? Laura wasn’t sure she would since the guy picked out the cheapest arrangement he could. She wanted to make a puppy out of flowers, but.” Stiles shrugs.

“She’s fine. Mary was happy enough. But that’s not what I meant.” His dad coughs and Stiles is getting the suspicion this isn’t a friendly inquiry into the health of the family he’s been visiting every day. “I mean, how are you guys? Things going okay? I mean there’s that age gap. That has to be difficult.”

“Are we really?” Stiles groans. “Do we have to?”

"I think we do and since I'm your father we do what I decide to do." His dad says.

"But it's not a problem!" Stiles protests and his dad looks immediately alarmed. "Because there's nothing to be concerned about! Not whatever you're think. Geez, dad. I've only known him a few weeks!"

"I'm aware of that." His dad clears his throat, uncomfortable. "But I also know how people jump into things with their soulmates thinking they've found their happy ever after. "

"You've been watching Lifetime movies again, haven't you?" Stiles ask suspiciously. He sighs. "Dad, I know. And I'm being careful. I'm just working on being friends with him right now. You don't have to worry."

"You're my kid. I'm allowed to worry."

Stiles is a liar.

He wouldn't know what careful looked like if it dressed up as a Disney character and hugged him. Stiles is a goner. He never stood a chance. He'd been spiraling downward towards the word love since the day he met Derek. How couldn't he be when he only has to look at Derek to understand what he was feeling and what he was trying to say. Stiles has been waiting his whole life to be understood. Now that he has it, freely given, it’s little wonder he’s become addicted to Derek. Little wonder Derek could read him just as well and give the little signs of affection that Stiles has always been starved for.

There are gestures -- actions -- that every couple has. Lydia will drag her nails threw the hair at the bottom of Scott's neck. Scratching when Scott is tense, grazing it when they pass each other in the hallway, swiping the skin with her thumb when she's pleased. Isaac and Danny have a whole language of knee movements. Stiles is attempting to decipher it. They communicate little messages that way. Amused and secretive expressions easy to read even if the why isn't. Even Allison and Jackson have a gesture. Jackson's thumb pressing her right dimple when she smiles so brightly it hurts and she leans into it and holds his hand to her face.

They're the tiny signs of love and trust that develop the longer you've known someone. Subconscious and routine actions developed to express affection.

Derek and him are slowly creating their own. He hopes he isn't delusional when Derek leans into his space wherever they are or when Derek always searches for him. He thinks how Derek puts his hand in Stiles' without question when they sit on the porch.

It's a little late for his dad to be giving him the safety talk, but better late than never.

"Thanks, dad. I’ll forever keep this conversation in mind."

…....

 

Derek -- Stiles is finding -- is very good at his job.

When Laura is busy at her store and the elder Hales are busy with the plant nursery and they need someone to watch over three troublesome werewolves, Derek gets saddled with the job. “You can actually put them to work.” Laura whined at Derek. “They keep mangling my flowers. No one likes mangled flowers, Derek. At least you guys have heavy shit to pick up every now and then.”

The yards and lawns Derek takes care of are alternating between plain, elegant and too rich. There’s the simple trimmed bushes and weeding and cutting grass Derek does. There’s the houses where Derek explained they laid down the little pathways and planted the flowers. And then there were the houses with a gazebo and pond and so many flowers and trees, Stiles is certain there’s a honeybee hive somewhere.

“I’ve had to talk to Mrs. Grinshaw out of peacocks more than twice.” Derek shares. “But Mrs. Bradley ordered a dozen canaries for the spring. I think Mrs. Grinshaw is going to be getting her peacocks with or without my help.”

Stiles laughs.

“Every year it’s the same thing with those two.” Derek grumbles. “They always try out doing each other, who can spend the most money and have their yard look the most--” Derek sighs, lost for words.

“Gaudy? Ugly?” Stiles supplies. “Because the pond in Mrs. Grinshaw’s yard would have looked better without all the bushes and flowers. Maybe one or two flowery bushes. Like accents!”

Derek huffs slightly in embarrassment. “Shrubs. The flowering bushes are called shrubs.” Stiles grins stupidly at his soulmate.

“It’s so cool you know that.” Stiles says partially to see Derek flush, but also because now he wouldn’t go look it up when he got home. To save Derek from his embarrassment, Stiles continues on. “And Mrs. Bradley tree swing would have looked awesome if she’d left out the gazebo and fire pit.”

“I tried.” Derek says. “But they ignored me and when I talked to Laura about  it, she said to do whatever they wanted if they were paying for it.”

“Laura has no qualms about robbing little old ladies, does she?” Stiles asks.

Derek shakes his head, amused.


…….

During the winter, it snows lightly.

Derek, Isaac and Scott could be seen on the weekends salting the sidewalks of people’s homes and shoveling snow. During the week, Derek and his full time crew checked trees for weakness. They also attend cracks in cement, rotten wood of porches, did light pest control, created composts and cared for people’s indoor plants. Once a week, Derek would stop by the Stilinski house to share the cookies or sweetbreads Mrs. Carter insisted on giving to Derek for helping her with her greenhouse.

Stiles’ dad always looked at his cookie with a bemused expression that Derek insisted he have that Stiles would glower at them both for. At some point, it developed into Derek smuggling confiscated goods to his father that gave Stiles conflicted feelings. On the one hand, his dad and Derek were getting along. On the other, his dad was breaking his diet. He’d allow it to continue for now.

Stiles had been right. He had been kidnapped by Laura and held in her shop until he could make bridesmaid bouquets in his sleep.

“Winter is one of our busiest seasons.” Laura explains frazzled. “There’s Christmas, New Years, Hanukkah, birthdays, anniversaries and weddings. So you’ll be making yourself useful.”

If Stiles never sees another flower not in the ground ever again, it would be too soon. He spends most of winter at the bossy mercy of Laura and Allison or hiding with Derek. Derek knew all the best hiding place in the woods, so that even when Laura used her nose to try hunting him down, she was unable to. Stiles was hanging out with Derek to keep his sanity, not to get in to his pants like Jackson kept claiming. But if it did happen – which it doesn’t in this lovely winter season – Stiles wouldn’t argue.

The season passes in a daze of flowers and snow, until California spring comes back. If Stiles sees another snow shovel, he'll be forced to use it on himself.

Derek and his crew are preparing their clients lawns for spring planting and the summer. Stiles may never see another machine as cool as a tiller. But then again, his soulmate was a werewolf. It was highly likely he’d see something kind of cool like it. Maybe the PlayStation 4. But that wasn’t the point.

The point was it was finally spring. Stiles and the other could go running around the woods like lunatics again. Which they promptly did. It was all Laura’s idea.

Stiles could understand the wolf-woman was slowly going insane because of her business and because of the three teenage werewolves constantly under foot. Cabin fever. Stiles was actually surprised she hadn’t forced the werewolves into the wilds of the preserve before today. She disguised it as training, but she gave Derek very firm instructions to make sure Scott, Isaac and Jackson plus their mates would take hours to get back to civilization.

“Do I want to know why?” Stiles over hears his errant soulmate ask when he goes looking for him.

There was a budding food fight starting in the kitchen that he wanted no part of. Jackson and Isaac were still being bastards to each other for no clear reason and nothing stayed playful between those two.

“I want alone time with my soulmate.” Laura says flatly. “And I will describe every filthy thing I plan on doing if you don’t get them out of here for a few hours. I will literally sit on you and share my entire sex life if they come back before six. Understood?”

“Why.” Derek says pained. “Why did you have to say that? You’re horrible. I hate you.”

“Make sure he does it, Stiles.” Laura warns. “Or else.”

Derek has Stiles sit with the cars before grumpily telling Stiles to stay put, he’d be gone two hours tops.

“Why doesn’t Stilinski have to go?” Jackson complains.

“Because all of you are slower than shit.” Derek scowls. “I need someone to keep me company when it takes you the next five hours to get back here.”

“It will not take five hours.” Scott protests. “You just told Stiles you’d be back in two hours.” Uncertainty passes Scott’s face. “Will it?”

“Guess you’ll find out.” Derek smirks before they go trampling into the woods, Derek leveling Stiles with one last glance that managed to communicate ‘stay put’ and affection.

Stiles spends the next few hours digging through the various cars his friends left behind for entertainment. He finds a book about magical runes in Lydia’s that interests him for awhile, until he gets bored and his knee begins to jiggle. He finds Scott’s iPod and started changing all the ratings of songs and making new playlists all dedicated to making Scott roll his eyes. He’s snooping through Jackson’s dashboard when he feels the hair on his neck stand up again.

It’s enough warning for Stiles to pull away from the car and whistle innocently, Derek breathing heavily and staring at Stiles with a raised eyebrow. “What? If I’d known I’d be sitting in the car for so long, I would have brought a book or something. I was unprepared, which is all your fault by the way. Besides, I found Jackson’s condom stash. You should be thanking me for preventing his future attempts at defiling your step-niece.”

Derek rolls his eyes and stalks forward. “I did tell you. You didn’t believe.” Derek frowns thoughtfully at Jackson’s car. “I’ll let Chris know. He’s been waiting for an excuse to scare the shit out of Jackson.”

“Do you think I could be there?” Stiles asks hopefully.

“Maybe.” Derek says. “If you’re good.”

"Good is boring." Stiles mumbles, feeling dizzy and flushed.

Derek is close enough now he can feel the heat pouring off him from his run. Stiles is considering on insisting Derek dunk himself in the creek or moving closer. It wasn’t exactly cold anymore, but the extra heat did feel nice. The decision is take from him before he could decide.

Stiles has thought about what it’d be like to kiss his nameless, faceless soulmate when he was younger. He used to imagine it’d be short and sweet so they could stare each other in the eyes like in the movies. He used to believe it’d be long and hot and they’d pant into each other’s mouths as they tried to keep breathing.

Stiles wasn’t expecting Derek Hale.

He wasn’t expecting Derek’s hands to pull him close and hold him, like he craved Stiles to be as close as possible. He wasn’t expecting Derek’s mouth on his, gentle and hungry – how does that even work – trying to pull Stiles’ soul to his so they could finally reunite. Scott told him once, Stiles thinks dizzily as he grips Derek tighter, kissing Lydia for the first time had been like the first time they screamed at each other. Blinding and deafening, like his every sense was focused entirely on Lydia. Stiles hadn’t understood. He thought he did, but now he knows he hadn’t really understood. Kissing Derek was like all of Stiles’ words and Derek’s silences coiling, every touch and comfort offered since they’ve known each other rolled into the one action. Stiles didn’t know how people breathed without this. He didn’t know if he’d ever remove his mouth from Derek’s.

He didn’t want to.

Derek tries to pull back, blue and green a dazzling mixture again but Stiles doesn’t let him get far. He needs Derek to insert himself and make their shared soul whole. Make it one instead of two halves they have in common. The kiss maybe started as a harmless idea in the woods. The thing to do when you’re alone in the woods with your soulmate waiting for your friends to finish their survival training.

It happens like Derek has thought about it. Like he’s wanted to do it for days, weeks, since he first met Stiles and now he can’t stop himself. Derek shouldn’t stop. Stiles wouldn’t let him. He needed more. He needed to keep feeling like this.

Derek searches his eyes – what does he see to look at Stiles like that – and pushes him to the ground.

…….

Stiles can see his soul in the bottom of Derek’s eye. It’s in the bottom corner of his sclera. When Derek smiles or laughs, Stiles’ soul disappears from view briefly. The colors continue to dazzle Stiles. The green, yellow and orange ladybug something Stiles can finally spend hours looking at without making himself sick if he chooses to. Stiles has spent so many years wanting to see it fully, but after meeting Derek he prefers closing his eyes to receive a kiss or smile.

He considers it character growth.