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written on our skin

Chapter Text

Stiles was sixteen when the soulmate mark started to show on a patch of skin underneath his left pectoral.

The boy found it during his usual morning routine: Stiles was staring at his reflection in the mirror of his bathroom, searching for any traces of chesthair and evaluating the amount of hair he was growing on his armpit when he first realised there was a strange stain on his ribs, just a couple of shades darker then his actual skin tone.

It wasn't outstanding and it barely even resembled a word, so it was understandable that Stiles' first reaction was to try and scrub it off his skin. 

His skin was starting to look an angry shade of red, tiny blood vessels breaking under the undelicate attention Stiles was showing to his already peachy skin, when he realised that maybe, maybe, it wasn't just a simple stain. 

The scream Stiles let out made his dad bang the door of the bathroom open, Sheriff's uniform on and hand on his holster.

When the tattoo started to darken, making the name more and more comprehensible, Stiles was rather shocked the name wasn't Lydia's. 

Don't get him wrong, he had tried hard to make her name fit in the word that was emerging from his body; he bended it, stretched it, changed the inclination of the handwriting, and at the beginning it had worked, but the days passed and the letters were getting darker and neater and there were less and less chances it could be her name, untill it was clear it was not.

It freaked him out, because he already had at least a dozen reasons why it was going to be Lydia.

Stiles had it all planned out: he was going to get her name as soulmate mark and she was going to have his written on herself (and she was going to freak out, of course, because there was going to be Stiles' actual name and not just 'Stiles' and that was overwhelming per se), they were going to find it out, fall in love, promptly get together as a official couple, and then live happily ever after.

But that plan was never going to come true.

Not that relationships, love stories, and marriages couldn't happen between people who didn't have each other name as their soulmate mark. There was plenty of people living their lifes happily, side by side with a person who wasn't their soulmate. And there was plenty of people who only had a platonic relationship with their soulmate, and plenty of people who didn't get to find their soulmate at all.

Stiles simply had taken for granted he was going to be one of the lucky ones who could get the 'whole' deal, if you know what he means.

It took months for the soulmate mark to settle clear and solid on Stiles' skin so he really wasn't supposed to be that surprised with the result. Still, it was kind of a shock for the boy when he realised it. It had been cathartic experience, a sort of epiphany, finding out his soulmate wasn't the girl he's been in love since he had memory. 

Stiles found himself at a turning point of his life, not only because there was no 'Lydia' written on his body, but because the name that months after the bathroom accident now standed proudly on Stiles' chest, was a boy name. 

Stiles couldn't be sure it belonged to a boy, of course, but the more he looked at it the more the handwriting made him assume it was a man's hand writing it down (Stiles also checked multiple handwriting and soulmarks websites, and they all have done nothing but reinforce that idea in his mind).

So of course the boy had a totally unnecessary heterosexual crisis, because Stiles never actually thought about anyone other than Lydia in a romantic or sexual way, not even other girls (for years he'd been pretty sure he was 'Lydia-sexual'). Yeah, Stiles could easily admit he had appreciated both female and male beauty since he was a kid, but from this to the possibility of being something other than hetero, oh boy. That, he never thought. 

His father, bless his soul, was there along the wild ride that was Stiles revaluing his sexuality, hawkwardly watching over him and giving him advices. Scott was there as well, cheering him up when Stiles needed it and being the most supportive he ever being. It was mostly thanks to the both of them that Stiles made it through.

Then, Stiles found out gay porn and well, maybe he wasn't as Lydia-sexual as he thought.

Don't get him wrong, Stiles still liked Lydia a hell of a lot. It wasn't easy to get over a decade long infatuation after all, but the mark changed it somehow: the soulmate mark shouldn't have changed the way he felt about Lydia, since Stiles was sure his feelings were genuine, but it did anyway. Maybe it was due to the delusion, maybe Stiles was more romantic then he ever realised, but the fact was that his infatuation started to slowly fade into something that looked more like admiration than anything.

It may have helped that while Stiles was coming to the conclusion that he still could possibly be together with Lydia even if they weren't soulmates, Lydia's soulmate mark decided to make it's appearence, a sharp, clear Jackson spread across the girl's left wrist. It made it even easier for Stiles that the girl couldn't be happier when a neat and elegant Lydia started to peep out of Jackson's t-shirt collar a couple of months after. 

So, there wasn't much Stiles could do about it. Lydia and Jackson were not only happily dating, but they were also soulmates. Chances were they were going to get hitched as soon as the where both out of the educational system. Stiles came to the painful conclusion that he had to let her go, for the sake of both of them (and Jackson, of course, but just because he was now a deal with Lydia, and Stiles cared about her).

It took time, but Stiles eventually started to take interest in other people how weren't Lydia; he became friend with Danny and met new people while going to parties and clubs, at the beginning with Scott and Allison in tow, then on his own or with Danny when they both flew out of the O.C. to attend university in New York City.

At the beginning, Stiles didn't cared much about the mark on his skin, his soulmate's name written in what it was supposed to be their handwriting. If there was something that he learned from what happened with Lydia, it was that he wasn't going to let his soulmate mark stop him from enjoying his life and goof around, like he should have done with Lydia, instead of waiting for things to magically happen.

And so Stiles did all the things he didn't while waiting for the girl of his dreams: he had fun and kissed people drunkly at parties, had sexual encounters with at least three different people in the cubicles of his favorite club, he even dated girls and boys, and generally had a rather eventfull (love) life -the more eventfull he actually ever had. He even manage to mantain an healthy relationship for an entire year before breaking up.

He wasn't in a rush so he took his time and enjoyed every single new experience, making up for his fruitless decade long infatuation in the span of nearly another decade.  

Of course, Stiles's interest always picked up when he heard his soulmate's name spoken out lound from someone new as they introduce each other. It was only natural that the boy was curious, it didn't mean he was actively searching for his soulmate. Still, Stiles couldn't stop his heart from aching a little bit every time he saw that the name written on his partner's body wasn't his.

Which had happen an awful lot of times, to be honest. Stiles couldn't fantom how it had been possible for him to come across so many people that could potentially be his soulmate: thirty-six, since the first time he actually found out what his soulmate mark was spelling, and still counting, since apparently Stiles had the magical hability to attract them.

But who was counting? Not Stiles, of course. He'd started to notice during his second year of University, thanks to a joke Danny threw at him on a late Saturday night, when they both should have been too high to even formulate a sensible sentence. It wasn't much, but Stiles' high mind caught the hit and spent the night (or morning, who remembered) thinking about it. Sunday afternoon saw Stiles waking up feeling nauseous and finding a list of friends, fellow students, ex-schoolmates, and mere acquaintances he'd met during his entire life that he'd wrote down while high. Every single one of them, named as Stiles' soulmate.

And that's how Stiles realised how amazingly common his soulmate's name was.

The fact that Stiles had already met thirty-six people who could have possibly be his soulmate during his life time and none of them had turned out to be the one gave him something to think about. So Stiles did a quick brainstorming during one of his lunch breaks and decided to take one quest at the time. As it always happened to Stiles, thinking led him to overthinking, and overthinking led to investigating. So Stiles got nosy.

He dug everything he could up: it might sound stalker-ish but not later than a week after he drunk-wrote the list, Stiles had gone as far as to find them all on social medias and discover what their soulmate mark said - Stiles had the sensibility of not searching for the eldery ones and the ones already married; them, he didn't wanted to know. 

One issue down, another one still up.

Once established that he hadn't already met his soulmate and spectacularly missed them, to Stiles it was pretty clear that he was probably a lost cause, with his soulmate's name being the 163th most common name in the United States (he checked) and his own real name being so rare it didn't even made it in the rank.

So, by the age of twenty-six, Stiles had pretty much stoically accepted his fate of never finding out his soulmate. He wasn't exactly pleased about it, Stiles had always dreamed about finding his soulmate, falling in love like they show in those sappy romcom, and then live the proverbial fairytale. And even if it didn't happened with Lydia, it didn't mean Stiles had lost his hope.

But as the years passed by with no sign of his soulmate, Stile made peace with himself and decided not to bother looking for them as the odds where totally against him.

The slender and firm name never came in the way during the early years of Stiles' juvenile and messy love life, none of his lovers never actually caring if their name matched on each other skin, so he let it sit on his ribs like it was an ordinary tattoo. Which of course it wasn't, because it was the name of his soulmate, but that was a thought Stiles was planning to ignore for as long as possible.

Untill he noticed that all his hook ups and dates had started to turned out as one night stands. Which, while Stiles could still appreciate them greatly, weren't exactly his cup of tea. He'd always been a long term commitment kind of guy but somehow in the middle of his PhD he found himself incapable of having an actual relationship.

So Stiles did the only reasonable thing he always did when he couldn't wrap his head around something: he asked Danny.

And Danny, bless his patient soul and clever mind, had the right thing to say to Stiles: "You're about to turn twenty-seven and your partners are about our age or older. Part of them may have being uninterested in an actual relationship, but most of them are searching for their soulmates."

In a matter of days, Stiles figured it all out. Like Danny had suggested, his lack of dating and relationships depended on a combination of bad luck in finding partners who weren't interested in dating and finding people that were actively searching for their soulmate. So all Stiles had to do was finding someone who couldn't care less about the soulmate thing and wanted to have a solid relationship with him.

In order to do so, among needing to find people who shared his thoughts, Stiles felt he had to do something about the soulmate mark. He thought it was going to make it easier for his future partner not to see someone else's name on their beloved one, and it was going to be a lot easier for Stiles himself to just forget about the whole soulmate thing and let himself be happy, no matter with who he was going to share his life.

(Plus, Stiles was going to get rid of the painfull pangs he felt in his chest every time he looked himself in a mirror, expecially while shirtless.)

People couldn't get rid of a soulmate mark as easily as if it was a common tattoo, laser and other medical tecniques were pretty much useless and overly expensive. There were only two possible things you could do: try and hide it with clothes or bandage, but it was tiresome and ofter impracticle expecially during the summer, or hide it with other tattoos. Only one of those options were going to do the job Stiles needed.

(Stiles only questioned his decision when Danny had dutifully noted that he was going to get something else forever on his skin so he had to choose wisely, because Stiles might have being brilliant but he didn't have much imagination. When Stiles had said he was going to get a black rectangle on his soulmate mark, Danny facepalmed so hard he almost gave himself a concussion.)

Even if it was only his decision to make, Stiles didn't esitate on asking his friends and his father for advices: predictably enough, Scott and Stiles' father weren't enthusiastic about it, but after a long talk they made peace with the idea (even if Scott had whined about it for another two weeks after their talk). The Sheriff, Stiles' father, had been surprisingly understanding while not being happy with it, and only demanded that his son had be careful on choosing the right shop and tattoo artist to avoid infections or ink disasters.

So, basically Stiles had the blessing from all the people he cared about in his life and couldn't be happier with it. He still had no clue about what he was going to get inked on his ribs, though. However, he was sure that he was going to do that first thing after getting his PhD, as a sort of reward to himself. Then, after sending curricula everywhere Stiles thought he might find a job, he was going pay visit to the several clubs and pubs popular in the NISC (Not Interested in Soulmates Community) that Stiles had found online and then if he felt like, he was also going to apply on one of those meeting website suggested by the NISC.

It was conforting to know Stiles wasn't the only one who didn't care if he fell in love with his soulmate or with someone else. It was less conforting to know that, statistically, half ot the people who attended those places where there because their soulmate died. Stiles already felt guilty and unconfortable at the thought.

Still, he was sure on his resolution, so he started to scroll throug pages and pages full of tattoos on Google and bought a pile of tattoo related magazines to have actual paper material to start working on (maybe working was a stretch, more like doodling like a four year old was more appropriate). 

While Stiles was forming an approximate idea of what he wanted to get inked, he set his father on looking for tattoo parlors. Having near to zero experience in piercing and tattoos and everything that came along, Stiles decided to use his father's resources to find a parlor with a legitimate license, guaranteed suitable sanitary conditions, and a nice set of positive review from their clients.

Leaving the research to his dad also left Stiles with the time and tranquility he needed to finish his PhD the way he wanted. 

(To be honest, Stiles' first choice for this research would have be Danny, but he was also engrossed in his own PhD, so Stiles had to ask his father. As a Sheriff, he was going to use the lawfull way, but Stiles was sure his father was going to do an amazing job nonetheless.)

True to his name and position, Stiles' father presented him a list of ten tattoo parlor in a matter of days. List that, once printed, set on Stiles' desk for nearly a month. As soon as Stiles finished his PhD, he took the document and read the accurated and detailed list: five of the recommended tattoo parlor were in NYC, two of them actually pretty close to Stiles' apartment, other two shops were within the borden of the NY State, and the last three were in California, one of them in the Beacon County.

All of them had glowing reviews, mostly effordable prices, and with good artists capable of covering soulmate marks, but only one of the tattoo parlor's reviews catched Stiles' attention. Stiles read the document multiple times to make sure he was going to do the right choice, and of course in the process he asked Scott and Danny for advices, and then took a final decision. 

Stiles was going to go back to Beacon Hills and check out the "Wolf Parlor".

Chapter Text

Everybody in Beacon Hills knew the Hales. 

The couple at the center of the family was Talia and Robert Hale. They were a respectable lawyer and a valued teacher, a middle class couple who resided in a majestic house near the Beacon Hills reserve. The couple lived there with their large, chaotic family composed of a dozen people, several cats, a handful of dogs, and countless birds.

There were people who knew them because of their professions, people who knew them since kindergarten, people who knew them because of their charity work, and people who knew them because of their children. The couple had three kids, two girls (Laura and Cora), and a boy (Derek).

Laura was the older one, a witty and kind-hearted woman who was magnetic to people. She was a liable daughter and loving sister who was lucky enough to marry her soulmate (Marco, an exchanged student from Italy) in her early twenties. She was also a gifted baker who worked and then owned the most famous bakery in town. Her cakes and muffins were known and appreciated around the whole county.

Cora was the youngest one, a fierce and smart girl who loved her family among everything else, even her own 'calling', the stage. She was one of the most promising new generation ballerinas in the U.S.A., and that caused her to move a lot around the country and the world. Nevertheless, she always managed to spend time in her hometown. It only helped that she'd found her soulmate in one of her hightschool friends that still lived in Beacon Hills, Kevin.

Derek was the second born, younger than Laura and older then Cora. 

As a teen, he used to be more outspoken and cheeky, but now he was a mature and clever man. Looking at the him, a close minded person would've said he was the black sheep of the family for sure: a bearded, muscular man covered in tattoos who had a living for the black and leather combo. Derek was, in fact, an fairly good tattoo artist and proud owner of the ''Wolf Parlor'', a tattoo parlor in Beacon Hills. And loved his family as much as they loved him.

The ''Wolf Parlor'' was one of the best shops in the entire Beacon County, in addiction to being the only tattoo shop in town.

See, even if the tattoo parlor was located in a small town like Beacon Hill, it had a really good reputation in the entire county and was well-known in the whole State.

It wasn't just a manner of speaking, nor something the owner and the workers said to pump their own egos or to spread rumors as form of advertisement. It was a solid fact stated by the glowing reviews of their costumers. The numerous qualifications obtained by the tattoo artists who worked there thanks to their ability and professionality and all the articles featuring the shop and the artists on specialized magazines, plus the decor and cleanliness of the store, did the rest of the job.

Admittedly, at the beginning it took time and hard work to gain trust and clients, even if the owner (Derek) and the other artists (Boyd and Erica) were born and raised in the very same place that housed their work place and the citizen knew them since they wore diapers. But as times went by, the word (and the pamphlets) spread around the town, then across the county, and now the "Wolf Parlor" was one of the reference points of tattoo and piercing passionates and curious beginners on the west coast.

And, of course, it was also Derek's baby.

Derek had decided to become a tattoo artist the moment the soulmate mark started to show on his body. 

Like it always happened with soulmate marks, Derek's one started to make its appearence slowly and grey-shly, nothing more than a shapless blur on his right side, but the darker it got the more Derek couldn't wait to see it finished. And when it came to an end, oh boy, Derek was nuts.

And not necessary 'nuts' in the positive way.

For one, the mark started to appear well after Derek's nineteen birthday, later then both his sisters and generally later then it was expected to show ( the usual age gap was actually narrow, between the fourteen and the eighteen year of life), when Derek was starting to wonder if the soulmate mark was actually going to show or that maybe he happened to be one of those human being who didn't develope the soulmate mark at all.

Secondly, his soulmate's name was a literal mess: Derek had stared at it for hours during the months that the appearence process took, wondering what kind of name his soulmate had. It didn't took long to figure it wasn't even an English name. Derek's sisters had laughed at first, looking amused at the name written on their brother's abdomen, and his parents had exchanged a worried look when he'd shown them the full soulmate mark.

Derek himself didn't know how to act at first: it was both a letdown and intriguing, finally knowing his soulmate name but having no clue how to even pronunce it. He had waited so long to finally find out the name of his soulmate, so long, and it turned out Derek wasn't even sure he could learn the proper pronunciation without learning an entire different language. 

But it was visceral, solid and real, the feeling the dark mark on his skin gave him. He adored it, and it didn't take long to figure he wanted more. Rationally speaking, he knew nothing was even going to compare to the feelings the soulmate mark gave him, but Derek always liked the idea of tattoos, the designs that drew on the body, the said and unsaid meaning that carried with them, he just never thought it would have been something he was going to like to see on his own skin.

So he talked about it with Laura, who had been immediately on board and supported Derek's idea, and figured he had to start with baby steps since the whole tattoo world was still quite obscure to Derek: he started to search the internet for tattoo patterns and it didn't took long for him to figure out his tastes, doodle his own tattoos, and eventually get his first one done, a triskele between his shoulder blades.

When Derek broke the news of to his parents, they rapidly overcame the initial surprise and cheered their son's decicion.

As a boy, he'd alway being a good student, a straight A's and basketball scholarship kind of guy. A jock, one might have said. Truth be told, Derek's favorite subject had always been Art. But that was a piece of information Derek and Derek's only exclusively owned for a very long time; so much time it took even the people closer to him by surprise. As much as the boy might have been looking (and acting) like a jock, Derek'd always been shy about his artistic side, carefully keeping a thin wall up as a protection so that no one could see it. It was only with the permantent appearence of the soulmate mark that Derek felt like that wall had done it's job for long enough.

His family helped him throught college, supported him both economically and emotionally while he was searching for someone how was willing to take him in as apprentice (a research that took almost six months and had Derek almost giving up in frustration at least a couple of times), and then helped him settle down.

Derek on the other hand had spent years saving money to start his own activity, working his ass off with as many part time jobs he could manage and putting aside as much as he could, all of this without compromising his time at the apprenticeship, his grades, and his own well-being. He would never admit it out loud, but Derek was quite proud of how he handled the whole thing.

Derek remembered fondly the road so far: the list of potential tattoo parlor (mostly his personal favourite and the ones that had artists who's style Derek liked and admired particularly), the months he spent going from a tattoo parlor to another, portfolio under his arm and a hopefull smile on his face. Some said they didn't wanted apprentices; others plainly rejected him, saying they didn't like his style or didn't have the time or bother to teach him (and Derek never admitted it ouy loud, but it hurt an awful lot); others asked him for a few weeks of trial, to see if he'd 'fit in'.

And after a couple of failure, where all of his determination and hard-working weren't enough to fit with the other artists and to gain him an apprenticeship, he finally landed in Los Angeles where he met who was going to be his mentor and then boss for five years.

When Derek first met Alan Deaton, the man had look at him like Derek was a mosquito on the windscreen of his life.

Derek had met tattoo artists like that before, but none of them was as well-known as he was. ''The Magic Trail'' was one of the most famous parlors in L.A., and Alan Deaton was his enigmatic and talented owner. Derek knew it was going to be a long shot, to try out at one of the most hight high profile parlors, but he figured it was worth giving it a shot. At least, he'd tried.

During their first meeting, the man then proceeded to examine Derek's portfolio, slowly and meticulously, wearing a blank expression that sometimes veered from boredom to disbelief. During the twenty-three minutes interview with Deaton, Derek had been sweating like he used to do on the basketball field back in highschool.

Then, after what Derek felt like an hour, Deaton had closed the portfolio, looked at Derek and flatly told him:

"In my tattoo parlor we don't usually get apprentices. Mostly because their style or behaviour doesn't suits ours. Black work, wood cut, mandalas, geometric tattoos, dot work, that's what we do here. Not many people can manage the same precision and accuracy. Nor the level of seriousness and professionality I require. Your style is still developing and you have no practical experience, but for what I see I think that maybe we can give you a chance. So, your going to start next week as unpaid part time apprentice for two month, then we'll see."

Two months apprenticeship turned out to be a permanent contract that Derek broke to go back to Beacon Hills and open his own parlor, after he had Deaton's blessing.

Five years had passed since Derek left ''The Magic Trail'' to start his own business.

During the first one, Talia and Robert had helped Derek buying a small but suitable place in one of Beacon Hills main roads, Laura and Marco (and Luna, their daughter) had assisted him during the redecoration, Derek was able to buy most of the required instruments and he even obtained all the qualification he needed for his place to be considered legal and safe, and Cora had been Derek first costumer at the ''Wolf Parlor'', followed closely by three of their five cousins and even his uncle (Peter) and his aunt (Janette).

During the second year, most of the time was spent trying to make himself a name and starting a word of mouth through his family and friends (and even Deaton, who sent him a handfull of his own costumers that lived near Beacon Hills because ''I'm to busy and I trust you can do the job''). Halfway through the year, a young man named Boyd came knocking on his front door and asking for a job, which Derek couldn't really garantee him as his activity was still new and didn't exactly gained him enough for two people, but all it took to convince Derek was taking a look at Boyd curriculum and chat with him for the better part of an hour. The following day, Boyd had started his apprenticeship at the shop.

During the third year, when Laura and Marco had their second daughter (Selene) and decided to get the birthdates of their kids inked as a celebration, Derek was more then happy to oblige. The ''Wolf Parlor'' had gained a fair number of regular customers, coming in from all over the County, and Derek and Boyd now worked, attended tattoo exhibitions and updating courses as owner and employee. Around the end of the year, Derek and Boyd started calling each other 'friends' and hang out outside their work schedule, and that's how Derek met Erica, Boyd girlfriend, soulmate, and unemployed piercer.

During the forth year, Erica became the newest addicition to the ''Wolf Parlor'' work team. She was the professional figure that was missing in their shop, and her outgoing and fierce personality was a nice compensation for Derek and Boyd's quiet attitudes. Her presence also encouraged a growing number of girls and women to come to their tattoo parlor, so the clients who were once intimidated by the exclusively male staff felt now more confortable visiting the ''Wolf Parlor''. It took time for Derek to adjust to Erica's presence, but soon enough they started to get along. It may have helped (in some hawkward, umpredictable ways) that Erica had befriended Cora the moment they met and pierced both of her nipples in the process.

During the fifth year, things were starting to turn into a pleasant routine.

Derek was an unapologetic lover of quietness: he loved having free weekends so he could spend Saturday chilling in the woods and Sunday with his family (that now counted fifteen people and almost as many animals, birds excluded), he liked having regular costumers, cared about the feeling of trust and intimacy they built, he liked working with Boyd and Erica in their naturally developed rituals and was quite pleased with the relationships he had developed with his employers-now-friends.

His day usually went like this: on week days, Derek would arrive at the shop at seven a.m. in the morning and start to clean the place, then Erica or Boyd (depending on their appointments) would come in bringing donuts and cupcakes and then help Derek finish the cleaning and preparing the instruments, then they would open up the parlor at eight a.m.. After two p.m., the missing employee of their team would come to the shop and take over the other employee's work while the other one would go home and throw away the garbage on their way, so that both of them would work six and half hours a day each.

On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday Derek would take a break at half past one p.m. untill half past two p.m., to have lunch and take a quick nap, and then go back to work untill half past five p.m.. He would usually leave Erica or Boyd to close the shop at eight p.m. On Tuesday and Thursday Derek would take a longer break mid day to be able to hit the gym and be the one who closed the shop on those days. On Saturday, Boyd and Erika would open the shop in the morning and then close it at two p.m..

Sunday, they were closed. No work for Derek nor his employers. Sunday was meant to be spent away form the work place. It was almost a tradition.

As owner of the parlor, Derek was the one who used to arrange his employers time to his own liking, even if he'd always tried to let Boyd and Erica have at least half daytime free, at the beginning so they could learn both the practical and the theoretical part of the job and still have some time to spend together, and then so they could rest and take care of their dog (Daisy Duke) and keep remodelling the new apartment they just moved in.

Sometimes Derek looked up and thanked all the deities he knew that he'd been able to have Boyd and Erica as apprentices separately, because the two of them together would have been quite an handful to manage. Not in a negative way, because both of them had always been professional and serious about their duties (even Erica), but because Derek had to learn how to look after each one in a completely different way and multitasking in between supervising their work and his own wouldn't have been easy at all.  

He wanted them to enjoy their time working with him and still be able to spend time with each other, so after they'd been officially his employers for one year Derek talked with them and they agreeded that when their schedule where less full of appointments or their clients had flexible schedules, Derek'd let Erica and Boyd handle their own appointment so that they could arrange them freely and make plans to spend time together or just, do whatever.

Erica always looked like she wanted to say something about it, how Derek was always so accomodating and sacrificed his time like it was no big deal so that Boyd and her could spend time together, and Boyd always looked in a way that made Derek break eye contact, dip his chin, and hide his face so that nobody could see.

How could Derek work such awfull schedules? How could he manage sudden changes so well? Didn't he have something else to do outside the ''Wolf Parlor''? Didn't he have any relationships? What about his soulmate, Derek hadn't found them yet?  , where just a few of the many questions Derek knew his employers had but couldn't muster the courage to ask.

Truth was, Derek was pretty much resigned he was never going to find himself someone he was going to have an happy ending with, let alone his soulmate.

Paradoxically enough, he had had a string of serious relationships during his early twenties but the older he got, the less he was interested in people who obviously weren't his soulmate. He might have been conditioned by the soulmate marks, but Derek was pretty sure it wasn't all of it. All of his past relationships had featured women with unmatching (or lack of) soulmate marks, and even if he knew that love and marriage could happen between couples whom tattoos didn't match, at the wise age of thirty-three years old Derek was fairly sure that he was going to get his happy ending only with his soulmate.

There was a reason why Paige and him worked better as friends than lovers and it had nothing to do with the lack of mark on Derek behalf; Kate had been bad to him even since the very beginning, and the soulmate mark still hadn't shown on Derek skin by then, and he knew for sure Kate didn't had one as well; Jennifer was good to him, but as the time went by Derek realised how mentally instable she was, and he was the one who convinced her that breaking up was the best thing for the both of them, and that the next best thing for her was starting a therapy. Breaden had been more in love with the idea of him than with his actual self, and in the long run she got bored and left him for a road trip to Mexico. Derek couldn't say he was surprised.

After Breaden, Derek had a brief relationship with a bartender named Erik, and after that a few hook ups here and there, nothing that was feeling like it was worth it. Rationally, he knew it was half due to his bad luck and half because of his soulmate mark. His beloved one, were on this Earth, wherever they was, and Derek had no idea how to find them. He had tried, for years. He found out their name was Polish, so he learn the whole language to be able to pronunce it correctly and so he could talk to them, in case they didn't speak English at all.

Derek had travelled around the U.S.A., searched on the Internet; he even went to freaking Poland twice in six years to try and find his soulmate, but came back home alone both times. He literally had no idea what he could do to 'create more chances' or 'help his destiny', as the Governament pamphelts said. He was just tired of meaningless relationships, and tired of travelling aimlessly around the globe. 

He didn't felt like bothering anymore, he just wanted to live his nice, simple life. If he was going to met his soulmate, that was a question only the time was going to be able to answer.

The thing was, Derek was okay with the way his life was.

He had an amazing and loving and overly large family.  He had two trusted employers-turned-friends. He was friend with a couple of guys at the local gym (Jordan and Isaac). He did the job he loved, he was quite good at it and was in fact able to make a living out of it - and even better! He was able to get new inks for free every once in a while. 

Derek was able to admit it, thirteen years later and after an undefined amount of tattoos; getting inked didn't felt like getting his soulmate mark. No powerful sensation, no sense of accomplishment, no strong bond, and undying veneration; none of his other tattoos have ever felt like that, not completely. Sure, Derek loved every single one of them, he was fond on their meanings and cared about the memories the meaningless ones had, but nothing ever compared to the first tattoo he ever had.

He realised it as soon as he started getting inked, while he was still in college. And it was partially because of it that Derek decided he was going to pull a double Major one way or another: Art and Psichology.

And that was one of the peculiarity of the ''Wolf Parlor'': if a client felt the need to talk about a tattoo he wanted to get (or wanted to cover), if they weren't sure and required it, Derek was the one who was going to make sure they had everything clear before they did the deal. It actually happened that a few client had walked out of the shop without a needle touching their skin, because Derek talked out of it (might sound counterproductive, but every once in a while those very few almost-clients came back to thank him and bring food at the parlor, so Derek counted it as a win).

They had a special code for the client who wanted a counseling, one that could be easily found on their website (run by Erica) and on their business cards, that had rapidly become one of their signature features: all the client had to do was to ask for ''Alpha Council'', no context needed, and Boyd, Erica, and Derek knew how to handle it.

It was on a usually organised morning that Erica came through the parlor and announced, with a wide grin on her red lips and a box of donuts in her hands, that an email had came throug asking for an appointment for a tattoo coverage preceded by the ''Alpha Coucil'', saying any day of the following week would do.

So Derek took his notebook and searched for an empty spot that could leave him enough time to spend talking without rushing things. He took a yellow sharpie and highlighted a gap he had on a late afternoon and threw the pad at Erica.

In a matter of minutes, Erica had a reply e-mail ready and sent to their new future client, 'Stiles Stilinki'.