Stiles is a klutz.
That much is well known.
What is less known is how only about half of the scrapes he gets into are his own fault- if that! Because in this universe you are lucky enough to share every injury with your soulmate - even if you don’t yet know the bastard.
With the amount of injuries they amass in a week, Stiles’ soulmate is either an even worse klutz than Stiles himself, part of a circus troupe (probably the always stumbling and falling clown), or a spy - James Bond style. Stiles would of course prefer the last option - purely because of the coolness factor. Who could resist James Bond?
When Scott gets bitten, a whole new world of options suddenly opens up. In Stiles’ newfound experience, supernatural beings spend most of their time injured in some way or form. To add insult to injury- literally!- they barely even notice it most of the time!
It would be just like Stiles’ luck: having a werewolf for a soulmate who spends most of their time getting injured - and probably doesn’t care to think about how that affects him. Ouch.
Soulmates aren't a very well studied phenomenon.
It is not known what percentage of the population has a soulmate, mostly because most people don't even know it themselves. You don't get a neat tattoo of your soulmate’s name or of the first words they say to you or anything helpful like that. Stiles wishes he lived in a universe like that. Instead he gets soulmarks - literal marks appearing on his body, reflecting the injuries of his soulmate.
Soulmarks can be anything - from light bruises to red scratches to even the occasional sprain. There's some stories about people breaking bones, but Stiles doesn't give any credit to those - he certainly hasn't ever broken a bone because of his soulmate and he has carried just about every other soulmark known to mankind on his skin.
Hence the thinking his soulmate was a super spy before realising werewolves were a thing.
Thankfully soulmarks are usually less severe than the original injury and never fatal. So instead of the deep scratch your soulmate has, you might end up with a heavy bruise, or a sprain instead of a break. But that right there is also why most people never even realise they have a soulmate. How many bruises do you discover on the regular without remembering how you got them? How would you ever know which came from knocking into the corner of the kitchen cabinet and which appeared because your soulmate accidentally dropped a hammer on their foot?
You see, most people don't suffer from severe injuries on the regular, and thus neither do their soulmates. Unless your soulmate is a werewolf of course.
It took cataloguing all of his cuts and bruises very meticulously, while also keeping track of which scrapes his friends got into, but the evidence finally seems to suggest that his soulmate is one of the pack. That's as far as Stiles has gotten, though. The only one he can rule out for sure is Scott and thank God for that. Stiles loves that guy like a brother, but that's just it - like a brother . Allison can keep his dick, as far as Stiles is concerned.
Everyone else is fair game though, even Jackson, perish the thought. He has mellowed out somewhat after his stint in good, old England, but still, the universe would have a very sick sense of humour if Stiles’ soulmate turned out to be Jackson Whittemore of all people. Stiles wouldn't mind any of the other betas, but really, there's only one member of the pack he is truly interested in.
That's the crux of the matter with soulmarks: How do you know you’ll even like your soulmate? What if you don’t? What if you love someone and they aren’t your soulmate? Or you aren’t theirs?
All of those are reasons why a lot of people do not actively attempt to search out their soulmate.
There are of course those who do - ritualistic woundings are a thing that unfortunately still exists, and pricking the fingers is a wedding rite that is occasionally celebrated, too. Hollywood loves the soulmate trope of course, soulmarks front and centre on posters even if they barely play a role in the film. Whole rows of bookstores are filled with soulmark romances - from Ancient Rome to outer space and everywhere in between. The question whether Cleopatra’s true soulmate was Caesar or Antony is a hotly debated one in certain circles.
Stiles himself has always dreamed of finding his soulmate.
His parents had been soulmates, though they only realised it years after being married, when his dad got shot on patrol by the only bank robber Beacon Hills has ever gotten and his mum bruised like a peach in the same place his shot wound was. Stiles has gotten his delicate complexion from her.
And the hopelessly romantic streak apparently.
His mum had loved that his dad and her had turned out to be soulmates after they married; it made her believe in fate she used to say and that “you'll find your soulmate, too, kochanie , and they’ll leave an even deeper mark on your heart than on your skin. Just be patient, baby.”
Well, Stiles has certainly got the marks on his skin, and someone has also left his mark on Stiles’ heart, but he's not sure those belong together. So, rather than risking learning an answer he doesn't want to know, he stops searching for an answer all together.
He'd like to imagine that his mother would approve of him being patient and waiting for whatever will happen. She'd probably just scold him for giving up, though.
The thought is not enough to make him risk his heart however.
Over the last few years, a tradition of pre-Christmas pack dinner has developed. Christmas is spent with their respective families, but the last weekend before Christmas is for the pack. It’s done potluck style - everyone likes different things, so instead of trying to find a compromise everyone’s happy with, they had decided to just let everyone bring what they want to eat. Stiles has learned to make an extra large batch of his pierogi , because that is eaten by just about everyone, whereas Lydia’s kale salad goes largely ignored by everybody but her and Jackson (the poor guy really is whipped).
Another tradition that has grown out of that one is the decorating the day before.
That’s not a pack tradition, though. This one is just for Derek and Stiles.
Because while pack dinner happens at Derek’s loft, it has long been decided that Derek is not to be trusted to decorate appropriately for the occasion. So Stiles always comes over the day before to help, and afterwards they order in and watch at least one Christmas classic. In a way it feels like their own little Christmas tradition, and Stiles has grown very protective of it. It’s when they reminisce about the past year and plan ahead for the next. Derek told Stiles about his plans to go back to uni while hanging up tinsel and Stiles spoke about his fear of losing his dad while spraying fake frostwork onto Derek’s windows. It’s as if no secrets exist between them when hanging up Christmas decorations - none except for Stiles’ soulmarks. Those he hasn’t dared to bring up yet.
This year’s decoration theme is definitely forest-y - gnarly roots as candle holders, cones and acorns instead of golden stars and red baubles, and even some mistletoe. According to Derek, Laura hated the artificiality of most Christmas decorations, all those garish colours, plastic-y scents, and the glitter that sticks to everything until Valentine’s Day comes around and covers you in more glitter, just this time in pink. Apparently the Hale siblings used to take turns decorating the house for Christmas, and when it was up to Laura, she did her best to bring the forest into the house.
“When I saw that mistletoe in the Reserve on my last patrol, it made me think of her, and how much she loved hanging them over every single door frame in the house. We never got anything done when Laura had decorated for Christmas because everyone was too busy kissing everyone else,” Derek says, a small smile on his face while his eyes show that he is far away, lost in memories. “I thought it would be nice to remember her through this - decorating like her,” he adds, and then asks, suddenly sounding very unsure: “Unless you think the pack would prefer more traditional decorations?”
“There’s nothing more traditional than mistletoe,” Stiles replies firmly. “And if Lydia says anything, I’ll remind her of the year she thought burnt orange and dark teal would make good Christmas tree colours.”
Derek smiles softly in response, and Stiles would have liked to blame the answering flutter of his heart on heart burn but he has long ago learned that lying to himself is of no use.
So, rustic decorations it is, which brings Stiles to the predicament he is currently in: balancing precariously on one of Derek’s bar stools, mistletoe in one hand, hammer in another and four, no three nails in his mouth. One nail just slipped out and possibly scratched one of his toes on its way down. Stiles doesn’t trust his balance enough to dare look down to check for blood. He’d call for help, but he’s honestly afraid of accidentally swallowing a nail if he opens his mouth. His genius idea to nail the mistletoe to the ceiling in the middle of the room, so that everyone ends up stuck under it again and again suddenly doesn’t look so genius any more.
Carefully, Stiles switches the mistletoe to his other hand, and takes one of the nails out of his mouth with his now free hand. So far, so good, but when he attempts to hammer the nail into the ceiling, he slips, and loses his balance.
Strangely enough, his last thought as he falls goes out to his soulmate. Maybe he’ll feel that.
But instead of hitting the hard floor, Stiles is caught in two strong arms, which break his fall. Somehow he even manages to spit out the remaining nails instead of swallowing them and killing himself that way. When he looks up, Derek’s face is dark with anger and white with fear.
“What the hell were you thinking?” he scolds and shakes Stiles slightly. “You could have broken your neck!”
“You caught me, though, didn’t you?” Stiles says, smiling angelically and tries not to feel disappointed that he didn’t at least break a leg or something. Surely his soulmate would have noticed that .
“And I’m starting to regret it already,” Derek snarks back, but his hands are gentle as he makes sure Stiles has regained his balance enough to stand on his own two feet again.
“Liar, you love me,” Stiles singsongs, and tries to ignore how much he wishes that were true.
“I hate you,” Derek throws back at him over his shoulder, having already turned away, so that Stiles can’t even see his face. And he doesn’t have a built in lie-detector.
“Hate to love me, you mean,” he still needles, and follows Derek, drawn like the moth to the flame, as always.
“If you say so,” Derek replies noncommittally, and Stiles forgets the snarky retort he’d had on the tip of his tongue, because he had been too focused on Derek to look where he was going and had run into the coffee table. Hard. Ouch.
In front of him, Derek stumbles.
Stiles’ shin throbs, and his thoughts are running wild.
He knocks his shin against the coffee table once more, and Derek stumbles again.
Elated, Stiles keeps kicking the coffee table, until Derek finally gets a clue and turns around. His eyes are wide and the look on his face is one of pure astonishment and disbelief. Stiles on the other hand can’t feel his cheeks anymore, he’s grinning so widely. Derek’s gaze caught in his, he deliberately kicks out one last time and his heart jumps when Derek flinches in reaction.
“I was hoping it was you,” he breathes, but at the same time, Derek says: “I was hoping it wasn’t you.”
Stiles’ stomach is suddenly a ball of ice, all the elation he was just experiencing gone like a tendril of smoke in the wind. But Derek shakes his head hurriedly and steps closer, hand stretched out towards Stiles.
“No, that’s not what I meant! It’s just - I’m so broken, literally , and I couldn’t bear the thought of having inadvertently hurt you. Hurting you is the last thing I want to do. I know I don’t experience soulmarks the way you do, but the pain I must have caused you!”
The ice in Stiles melts as suddenly as it appeared and he steps forward in turn to take Derek’s still outstretched hand.
“I was hoping it was you,” he says, but then amends: “Well, actually, I was hoping it was James Bond for quite a few years. But once I knew werewolves were a thing, it was always you I was hoping for. I couldn’t know for sure, and I was too scared to ask, so I just kept quietly hoping. My soulmarks didn’t cause me pain so much as they gave me hope!”
Derek is obviously still sceptical and not convinced yet, so Stiles decides he has to haul out the big guns. Pun intended. He squeezes Derek’s hand in reassurance before dropping it and whipping off his shirt. Werewolves run hotter than humans, so the air in Derek’s loft is cool on his skin. The urge to cross his arms in front of his chest to hide himself is almost overwhelming, but the whole point of this exercise is to bare himself to Derek. So he gathers his courage, pulls his shoulders back and stands proud and tall.
“See this?” Stiles points towards a white scar on his right side. “That’s from when Scott fell off his chair in maths and I let myself fall off my chair, too, so he’d not be so embarrassed. Only I managed to cut myself somehow and bled all over everything, so then he was embarrassed for us both and worrying about me to boot.” He points towards a greenish bruise on his hip next. “I got that when I ran into our dining table earlier in the week. No particular reason why, I’m just spatially challenged apparently. I’ve got countless more marks like these, some visible scars, some fading bruises, most gone forever. I only remember the very visible ones, like that scar, or the most recent ones, like that bruise.”
He swallows and then turns half away from Derek.
“See my right shoulder blade? You see nothing, right? That’s where my first soulmark appeared. Or well, it probably wasn’t actually the first one ever, but it was the first one I noticed and recognised. It was just a small scratch with a pale purplish bruise. But I kept looking at it in the mirror because I was so happy. It was proof I had a soulmate, someone just for me. Someone who’d love me for who I am, because, not in spite of. That mark is long gone, but I’ll never forget about it. I’ll never forget about any of them. Like here,” he says, turning back around again, drawing a finger down his stomach and then repeating the motion on Derek’s clothed stomach.
“That’s when I knew for sure it was someone from the pack. That’s when I really started hoping it was you. But you all heal too quickly for me to properly catalogue your injuries, so I couldn’t ever be quite sure. Until now.”
Derek doesn’t immediately say anything. Instead he gently traces the path Stiles’ finger took, stroking across the skin on Stiles’ stomach, which breaks out into goosebumps at the touch.
“I don’t want to hurt you,” he repeats, voice barely above a whisper and Stiles admits: “You probably will. But I’ll heal - not as quickly as you and the rest of the puppies, but I’ll heal. And I’ll treasure my soulmarks even more than before. But you can always mark me up in more pleasurable ways, too,” he adds with a wink and tilts his head to the side, hopefully revealing his throat in a tantalising way.
“You are the worst,” Derek replies, but there’s a twinkle in his eyes and a smile on his lips that lets Stiles repeat, this time with conviction: “And still you love me.”
“I do,” Derek acknowledges, and then curves his hand around Stiles’ shoulder, palm touching where his first soulmark appeared. The touch seems to shoot sparks through Stiles’ body, electrifying him. Gentle pressure on his back encourages him to lean in and then Derek’s other hand comes up to guide his chin up, so their lips can meet in a soft, careful kiss.
Before his attention is entirely consumed by Derek and his kisses Stiles thinks: “I didn’t even need the mistletoe.”