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tracing patterns on your skin

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Soulmates. The very idea that there was someone else in the world perfectly suited for you, someone so well attuned to all your desires, fears, and needs had felt more like a cruel joke than a blessing. At least to people like Stiles. And to a few others. Things worked fairly simply; if you injure yourself in a way that leaves a scar, then corresponding scars appear as a mirror image on your soulmate's skin. These help identify one another. If you're lucky, your soulmate is nearby and you will one day meet them. If you're unlucky then you live in New York City while they live in Beijing, your chances of ever meeting one another being extremely low. It would be possible to go an entire lifetime, a body being littered with scars that aren't theirs and giving others in return, to only die without ever meeting them.

Death – now that was something they never tell you the full consequences of once your soulmate has been found and you've bonded. Your bodies become linked at almost every base level. If they are nervous, you feel it. If they're happy, then so are you. When they die, you soon follow. Stiles's parents were soulmates. Their love was pure and almost blinding. It was all Stiles could ever hope for. But then his mother died in a car accident when he was 6. His dad died at home not even an hour later.

That idea of soulmates drove some people mad. Others scoffed at and rejected the idea of soulmates. Happiness could still be found. There were also, of course, this old idea of 'platonic soulmates.' This particular idea began circulating in the late 1800s. Men started finding other men bearing their soul marks, women with other women. Instead of embracing this the government decided these were platonic bonds. There was strong vocal resistance to that decision. The government continued to argue that it simply went against the biological imperative to breed. Obviously, they failed to account for people who didn't want children. They also failed to account for creatures that were not human coming into play. In 1902 a man in England found out that his soulmate was a selkie. In 1907 a woman found her soulmate was a werewolf. In 1918 a woman found her soulmate to be a female banshee. All of the couples lived very happy lives together, some even had children. Eventually the 'platonic soulmates' campaign dwindled, but some hung onto it with iron grips.

There were behaviors that developed over time, ones that made Stiles cringe. He saw it happen for the first time when he was 12. There were 3 girls in his first class all wondering who their soulmates could possibly be when one girl came up with a "brilliant plan." They opted to make small cuts on their arms and try and seek out anyone who found a new scar that day. It was not a good plan. Only once did anyone find their soulmate with that tactic. The self-harming behaviors prompted by the longing for the soulmate launch a new campaign about valuing your person and doing your best not leave anymore scars on your body or the body of your soulmate. The campaign had some success, at least no one was openly harming themselves in an effort to find their mate. All Stiles did was pull his sleeves down more to cover his hands, tug up his collar or dawn his hood. Unlike most of his classmates, he didn't have a small scar here or there. He was covered in them. By the time he turned 16 he had enough scar tissue snaking along his skin that comparisons to Wade Wilson were apt. His adoptive mother, Melissa, held him tight after each new one popped up. She spent hundreds of dollars on clothes. She didn't think there was anything wrong with them, but if he felt more comfortable covering them up then she would help him. Scott, his adoptive brother and best friend, help him too. Along with his other best friend Lydia. If it weren't for her he would have no idea how to properly accessorize with a scarf. Practicality meets fashion. 

Looking at his scarred body every morning he wasn't sure what to think of his soulmate, whoever they were. Were they reckless? Were they being abused? Were any of these on purpose? The first one he noticed happened when he was 5. 3 lines on his arm. His mom said they looked like cat scratches, but much bigger. Maybe a dog. Stiles was happy about it, at first. But more scars came. They piled on and littered his skin. Then his parents died and the word soulmate became more bitter in his mouth. He didn’t know if he ever wanted to find them. But he did often wonder if they were alright. He sort of hoped one day he never saw a new scar, not that it was easy to tell anymore. If they scars stopped then maybe it meant any suffering they had endured was done. Now, at 16 years and 3 months old, he hasn’t seen a new scar (that he could notice) in over 6 weeks. But he'd be lying if he said he kept looking.

 

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                Stiles was making his way through the preserve towards where Scott said he'd be. They were trying to navigate a very new situation. Lucky for Scott, Stiles was incredibly knowledgeable in a variety of areas.  Scott was bitten by a werewolf 3 weeks ago. He didn't know who it was. He didn't know where they went. He knew there were rules. He knew he needed an alpha. Stiles had been told there was one alpha werewolf in their town. He had no pack because they had all died several years ago. He lived alone in the old, burnt out cabin in the woods.

               "Hello?!" Scott shouted out in front of the building. He was nervous. He almost wished he made Stiles come with him instead of staying back, but he didn't want Stiles in danger should this werewolf be...less than welcoming. He was ready to turn tail and leave when the door swung open.

              "What are you doing here?" A tall man with dark hair asked.

              "I – I need your help," he stammered. The man flared his nostrils and glared at him.

              "You've been turned. When?" He demanded.

               “3 weeks ago. Please help me. The full moon is coming and I’m afraid I’ll hurt or kill someone, like my mom or brother,” Scott was rambling in a panic.

                “Calm down,” he growled, “How did you find me? I masked my scent so no other wolves or creatures could find me.”

                “My brother found you for me,” he answered.

                “Your brother?” he barked.

                “Stiles. He’s not really my brother, but he is my best friend. My mom raised him. With me. Since we were little. He somehow just knows everything. Said you were an alpha and could help me get control,” he revealed hurriedly. The wolf seemed to consider this information but only found himself getting more upset. Someone found out about him despite all the work he had done to hide. He was about to step forward and shove Scott right off his property when a new smell assaulted his sense.

                “Who is that? Who came with you? They smell like cloves and…agitation?” he huffed.

                “You can small agitation?” Scott quirked a brow.

                “Yes,” he stated. When he looked up he could see a man in the distance. He was wearing a dark red, thumbhole sweatshirt with the hood pulled up. Sunglasses on with a clove cigarette hanging from his lips. Smoke was billowing around him as he waltzed, without a hint of fear, into the wolf’s territory.

                “That’s Stiles,” Scott mumbled.

                “Hey, wolfie. Glad Scott here managed to find you. He has a habit of wandering off course,” he drawled. The wolf continued to glare.

                “Not feeling hospitable? That’s fine,” Stiles stamped out his cigarette on the bottom of his shoes and put the butt in his pocket. “So, Derek Hale. Of the infamous Hale pack. Nice to meet you.” Derek growled and moved right into Stiles’s space. Scott growled at Derek, eyes flashing blue for a second.

                “Don’t worry, Scott. You know I’m not afraid of much,” Stiles interjected, “Besides, if he tried anything I have enough mountain ash on me to leave his housebound for a week.” The warning was clear and Derek’s eyebrows shot up to his hairline.

                “Mountain ash?” Scott asked.

                “How do you know about that?” Derek demanded.

                “I’m a man of many talents. Plus, Lydia has an extensive library,” he remarked.

                “You both need to leave,” Derek grunted.

                “Not so,” Stiles smirked, “Scott is one of 4 teenagers who have been bitten by some random werewolf alpha. In your territory. I know it wasn’t you but whoever did the biting is not sticking around to make sure no dies or gets hurt. So you need to step up and fix this.”

                “There are others? Why didn’t you tell me?” Scott gaped.

                “First off, I didn’t know right away. Lydia is the one who figured it out. Second, I wasn’t so sure it would be a good idea for all of you to get together in one spot without an alpha to keep you in check,” Stiles explained.

                “He’s not entirely wrong,” Derek said.

                “How did Lydia know?” Scott pressed.

                “Nu huh, not my secret to tell,” Stiles deflected, “The others are on their way here too. The new moon is too soon for them to be without leadership.”

                “What?” Derek flashed his eyes at Stiles.

                “Don’t try to alpha out on me. It won’t work. They’re all entering from different areas of the preserve. So just hang tight,” Stiles pulled out another clove and lit up, “So glad you kicked the asthma, Scotty. Though, I suppose it would’ve been nice to have been consulted on this whole werewolf thing.” The cigarette nestled gently between Stiles’s soft lips and Derek stared for a minute before focusing in on the sounds of others approaching.

                “Who are they?” Scott directed at his friend.

                “Vernon Boyd, Erica Reyes, and Jackson Whittemore,” he listed.

                “Jackson?!” Scott grimaced.

                “Yep. Gonna be a real fun time,” Stiles saw Erica stepped out from behind a tree and motioned for her to come forward, “You guys have a nice and wolfie time. I’m going to go research some more stuff with Lydia. Scott, I’ll see you at home.” Stiles lifted his sunglasses and winked before smiling and walking back off. Jackson and Boyd found their way into the clearing as well. Derek found himself facing 4 recently turned, teenage werewolves with no guidance. He tensed up and took in each of the people standing before him. As much as he wanted to walk away and ignore this problem he knew he had to step up. His mother would have so he should too.

                “Not gonna hang around, Stilinski?” Jackson taunted.

                “Nah, I’m going to go spend time with a cute redhead. You can run around in the woods with tall, dark, and broody over there,” Stiles quipped. Derek bit the inside of his cheek to fight the small smile that threatened to break across his face. He might find that kid to be annoying, but he also found him to be fearless and clever. Scott and Erica were laughing softly while Jackson scowled. Once Stiles was out of eyesight Derek moved to claim his new pack.

                “I’m Derek Hale. From this point on I will be your alpha. We will find who turned you and I will punish them for doing this without your consent. We will train and work on helping you control your new abilities. The day of the full moon you will come here. We will run together and we get through it. Do you all understand?” he barked as he flashed his eyes at them. All 4 of them looked between one another before nodding in agreement.

 

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                Stiles was perched on the windowsill of Lydia’s bedroom while she busied herself with trigonometry homework. She had her hair pulled up in a loose bun, revealing the 3 scars in the back of her neck. When she was in school she generally kept her hair down to conceal the marks. She knew who the scars belonged to and it was better to keep everything under wraps.

                “When are you going to tell him? After he sorts out all this werewolf business?” Stiles asked, blowing smoke out into the night.

                “When he’s ready. Certainly after he gets control. He barely values himself, he’s not ready to have his soulmate around. Plus, he’s a jerk most of the time. It’s easier to knock him down a peg when I’m just a random girl,” she hummed.

                “You’re hardly a random girl, Lyd,” Stiles laughed.

                “Such a charmer,” she affirmed, “Did they all seem ok when you left them with Derek?”

                “Yea. They were all nervous but it will be good. The alpha instincts will take over and he will gather his pack. I’m glad we could utilize your fun creature powers to find him,” Stiles flicked out his cigarette and made his way into her room.

                “You didn’t tell them about me, right?” Lydia narrowed her eyes.

                “Of course not. You know I keep all your secrets. No one needs to know you’re a banshee. Especially when there are still so many hunters keen on eliminating you and people like Scott for old and absurd reasons,” Stiles reminded.

                “Good. So, how are you feeling?” Lydia turned to really look at him.

                “I’m fine. A little tired but,” he shrugged.

                “You know that’s not what I mean,” she scoffed.

                “I’m fine,” he stressed.

                “No new scars?” she sought.

                “I stopped looking. I don’t want to find any new evidence that my soulmate sustained another injury. Whoever they are, I just would like for them to be ok. If I’m lucky, they died and we never have to worry again,” he droned. Lydia moved to place her hand on his and he flinched away. He wasn’t sure when it happened exactly, but sometime right about the time he turned 11 he began to avoid human touch. It wasn’t that he didn’t want it, because he did, but something inside him quietly whispered that he didn’t deserve it. Melissa continued to give him affection despite his compulsion to withdraw, but Scott stopped touching him and no one else had ever tried in the first place, save for contact during lacrosse practice. Lydia, like Melissa, still wanted to give him comfort.

                “Stiles,” she frowned.

                “I know. Sorry. It’s just…I don’t know,” Stile lamented.

                “Maybe if you actually meet your soulmate you’ll let them touch you,” she offered.

                “Oh yea, because I’m all sex appeal under here. I’m sure they’ll want to get their hands all over me,” he countered.

                “You realize they will have the same scars as you. They’ll think you’re beautiful,” she soothed.

                “Yea, well. It is what it is. I’d much rather focus on what is happening with Scott right now. He’s afraid to tell Allison,” Stiles redirected. Scott and Allison were soulmates. They found out on her 2nd day of school after she transferred. He was coming around the corner in a hurry since he was running late for class. They collided in the hallway and she accidentally stabbed him in the hand with one of her pens. She panicked and tried to help him clean up the wound. As she was wiping the blood away she noticed a corresponding mark appear on her hand. Once they realized the injury was forgotten and they ended up making out in the girl’s bathroom before a teacher found them and broke them up. Stiles was happy for him, but also a little jealous.

                “It’s complicated. I think Allison will be fine with it. They’re soulmates. That means accepting things like that. I mean, I know they haven’t mated or anything yet, but she probably has an idea something like this has happened. She can sense the change and she will stick around after she gets used to the idea,” Lydia put forward.

                “But what about her family? Her dad might keep the code, only killing creatures who kill others, but we know they had some rogue agents in the past. What if they find out?” Stiles argued.

                “And risk Allison dying? Are you kidding?” she practically cackled, “It’s mutually assured destruction. Keeping him alive keeps her alive.”

                “Or they keep them apart. If they don’t consummate or anything, then she’s safe from untimely demise. Maybe they’ll take her away and just kill him,” he pointed. When you found your soulmate the bond wasn’t complete until you consummated it, or mated, had sex, whatever verb you preferred. A lot of people put it off for fear of potentially ending their lives. People who had dangerous professions generally waited, like people in the military, firefighters, police officers, or just those engaging in dangerous behavior regularly. When teenagers found their soulmates and parents were informed they usually had to have several uncomfortable conversations about chastity for the sake of safety. Not that it kept teenagers from having sex.

                “You’re catastrophizing, Stiles,” she breathed.

                “Or you’re under-reacting,” he crossed his arms over his chest.

                “How about you just relax. Allison is definitely on board with fucking Scott silly. It’s just a matter of time. If her family finds out about him and she reveals their roll in the sheets, then we will have nothing to worry about. Let’s just cross the ‘hunters maybe killing Scott’ bridge if we come to it,” she huffed.

                “Fine. But if he dies then you and me are going on a rampage,” Stiles sprawled across her bed.

                “Agreed,” she turned back to her books and saw her phone buzz, “It’s Jackson. The introductions apparently went well. He still hates you and Scott, but is glad there’s someone to show him what to do. Also, he intends to use his werewolf speed to embarrass you on the field.”

                “Great,” Stiles rolled his eyes, “I’m gonna go. Scott will be home soon and will probably be full of questions. Or complaints. Whatever. As long as it isn’t him waxing poetic about Allison’s hair again.”

                “Night, Stiles. I’ll bring you breakfast tomorrow,” she waved as he climbed out her window and crawled down the trellis, “You can use my door.”

                “But everyone loves this trope,” he laughed once his feet hit the ground. He climbed into his jeep and made his way home. He knew he’d find an exhausted Scott who would need coaxing into bed. But Stiles would stay up for at least half the night to research more into werewolves.