No one really understands why, or how it happened. All they knew is that it did.
Stiles, despite his overwhelming curiosity about most things, didn’t care much either way. All that mattered was that when he wrote on his skin, his soulmate always wrote back.
It was an amazing, indescribable phenomenon, and it had baffled great minds as far back as they had recorded history. There were entire fields of study dedicated to finding out how such a thing could happen. The theories abounded; possibilities were almost endless.
In fact, there was only one limitation when it came to skin-speaking. You couldn’t write your own name on your skin. Well you could, but it just wouldn’t go through the way everything else did. Again, no one knew why, but it was hypothesized that it had something to do with pre-destination and timing – about people only meeting their soulmates when they were ready. There was no evidence, of course, no definition of ‘ready’, but mostly people didn’t question too much. There wasn’t a single recorded instance of a person going without meeting their soulmate, whether romantic or sexual or platonic. Things always worked out, eventually, so for the most part, the phenomenon was left alone.
Stiles had been told by every teacher, every adult, every sentient person he knew, to be patient, that he’d meet his soulmate eventually, that it was bound to happen. None of that made the waiting any easier.
At least his soulmate, Bear (as he’d been nicknamed by his sisters), was a good one. He’d known people in school whose soulmates refused to speak to them, members of a handful of cults that believed the phenomenon was unholy, or corrupting; children whose parents wouldn’t let them speak to their soulmates unless they’d been pre-approved for their station in life; children whose religions didn’t allow same-sex pairings and the such. It felt like people hadn’t learned from history that interfering in soulmate bonds never worked out well for anyone.
Bear had comforted Stiles when his mother had died. He’d helped Stiles when his father had fallen into the bottle. He’d advised him when Stiles found out that Scott’s father was hurting him, and when Lydia Martin had loudly and publicly denounced him, even though he’d only been trying to return the notebook she’d left in class.
Bear had been there for Stiles, the way Stiles had been there for Bear, day-after-day, every single day, in a way that even Scott hadn’t been able to manage. They understood each other intrinsically, and that made his relationship with Bear the most important relationship he had, except for the one he had with his Dad, and even then he wondered.
Stiles knew he was lucky. He knew he’d find Bear, or Bear would find him, and that some way, one day, they’d be together. He had absolute faith in the notion that Bear wouldn’t reject him, when they met. They were perfectly suited, and they loved each other, in as much as you could love someone whose name you didn’t know. It hardly even mattered. He knew Bear. He was confident.
But that hadn’t stopped him from playing the most elaborate and protracted game of Marco Polo ever. He was pretty sure Bear was in the United States, so he’d started on the West Coast and worked his way East, state-by-state. Bear had played along, letting Stiles know when he was getting nearer, and when he was moving away.
Once he’d figured out that Bear was in New York City, he’d started narrowing down the streets, and he expected it would have taken him a very long time to get through the blown up map of New York pinned to the corkboard in his room.
And now, it didn’t seem like he’d ever get the chance.
Everyone – his Dad, Scott, Danny, Allison, everyone had said that his jeep would be the death of him, someday. He supposed it would be little comfort to them that it hadn’t been his Betty, but another driver in a black SUV, barrelling through a red light, that would be the ultimate COD.
He’d braked hard to avoid the collision, but the road had been wet, and Betty’s balding tires had been no match for the slick tar. The SUV was long gone when he came to, and at two in the morning, he doubted that anyone would be driving past that road anytime soon. It was raining heavily, and his cell-phone had absolutely no service, and something was broken. He was bleeding, and even though he knew head-wounds tended to look worse than they actually were, the ringing in his ears and his swimming vision told him he wasn’t okay. That he wasn’t going to be able to walk away from this one.
There was only one choice, really, and he took it, rules be damned. Getting the cap off the sharpie that was somehow still miraculously in his cup-holder was harder than it should have been. His handwriting was slanted and drooping. His arm hurt.
911, he wrote, because he could think of no faster way to get Bear’s attention.
Bear responded immediately, as if there was no time difference between NYC and California. What happened?
Crash, Stiles wrote back, struggling to focus through the ringing in his head. It was getting worse. Head.
Where are you? Came the instant reply.
Beacon Hills, NoCal. Andersn St. Bear kept writing; Stiles could see black script appearing and disappearing on his arms, crawling all over his fingers in an achingly familiar way. He wanted to know what Bear was saying – he always wanted to know. But he was so tired, and his head hurt, so he closed his eyes. Just for a little.
“911 Emergency, Operator here, how may I help you?”
“My soulmate’s been in an accident. Please, I need you to transfer me through to Beacon Hills, California. He’s lost consciousness.”
“Just one second, sir. Putting you through to BHPD.”
“BHPD, You’re speaking to Sheriff Stilinski.”
“Sheriff, my soulmate has been in an accident. I’m in New York and I can’t get there. He’s in Beacon Hills, North Cal. He’s crashed off Anderson Street. He drives a blue jeep.”
“Did you just say – blue jeep?”
“Yes! Yes please go find him! He’s bleeding and passed out, and he’s not responding to me!”
“Understood, son. We’re on our way out now. Do you want to stay on the line?”
“No, it’s okay, I’m going to find a way to get there. My name is Derek. He knows me as Bear. Please sir, help him.”
“We will, Derek. Thank you.”
Stiles woke up in what was unmistakably a hospital bed. He knew, mostly, because of the way his back hurt. Though, he wasn’t entirely sure if that was because of the bed, or because of the accident.
The accident, he thought, images suddenly pouring into his head, like a dam had burst. He jerked and tried to sit up, but groaned instead, every muscle in his body protesting the movement. The beeping of the heart-rate monitor near-by intensified to a near-shriek in his ears, and the door to the room burst open. He was out cold before he could see who it was.
The next time he woke up was much better. His body didn’t hurt, and his Dad was sitting right there, dozing on the chair beside him. He wriggled his hand out from underneath the constricting covers and put it on his Dad’s hand, and the Sheriff startled awake instantly, blinking the sleep out of his eyes. His tight expression cracked into a relieved smile, and he beamed at Stiles, who couldn’t help but beam back. “It’s good to see you up, son.”
“Yeah, it’s good to be up, Dad. It was a black SUV that ran the red light. I braked and—”
His Dad stopped him from completing the account. “It’s okay kid. I know what happened. There’s a decent traffic camera installed at that junction, it caught everything.”
Stiles grinned. “Great,” he said, before he remembered, and the smile left his face. “Shit, Bear. I need a marker, to let him know—”
His Dad interrupted him again. “No, kid,” he said, speaking over Stiles’ protests. “No listen. He knows. He’s the reason we found you. He’s here.”
Stiles froze for a second before his heart kicked into overdrive. He looked a mess, he knew he did. Hospital gowns flattered no one, and white lights had always made him look sallow and drawn. He had a bandage around his head, and cuts and bruises all over his body, judging by the way his skin pulled and itched when he moved. He was a mess, and this was not how he’d wanted to meet Bear. He felt the panic rising up into his chest, his breathing getting faster and faster, white spots swimming in front of his eyes because nononononono…
Thankfully his father was an old hand at dealing with Stiles’ panic attacks. He knew exactly how to stroke Stiles’ back and to hold his hand to get him to calm down.
Logically, he knew it was silly. Bear didn’t care, wouldn’t have given a damn how he looked the first time they met. Logically, he knew Bear would just have been grateful that he was okay, especially after the last few messages Stiles had sent him, when he’d thought he was dying.
Finally the anticipation overwhelmed the anxiety, and he nodded at his father. “Can I see him?”
The Sheriff didn’t smile, but the crinkle at the corner of his eyes gave him away. He was proud and happy, and Stiles had the best Dad in the world.
“I’ll give you twenty minutes with him. Don’t do anything I wouldn’t,” he said, walking towards the door of the tiny ward room.
Stiles scoffed. “Mom told me exactly what happened when you first met her…” His Dad grinned, but didn’t say anything, and just let himself out.
There was a gentle knock on the door not seconds after it had clicked shut. Stiles didn’t even have to say anything before it was opening again, to let in possibly the most gorgeous man Stiles had ever seen.
He looked to be about a handful of years older than Stiles but not much taller, broad in the shoulder and strong with muscle. His face was covered in dark stubble and his eyebrows were thick, drawn threateningly into a “V” above his eyes. Stiles would have shaken to pieces from nervousness if he hadn’t seen the anxiety in the other man’s eyes too. The way he moved gently, like he didn’t want to impose. He was wearing a soft-looking green Henley, and Stiles understood all of a sudden why he’d been nick-named Bear.
“Bear?” he asked, and a small smile slipped through Bear’s eyes, lips twitching gently.
“Derek,” he corrected, in a voice that was softer and sweeter than Stiles would have expected.
“Derek,” Stiles repeated, like he was a particularly slow child. “Derek,” he said again, rolling the name on his tongue, tasting it for the first time. “I’m Stiles.”
Derek’s lips twitched again, and he took another step towards Stiles’ bed. “I know.”
Stiles huffed a laugh, because of course. Stiles was the nickname he’d given himself, because his first name defied pronunciation by mortal tongues. He’d told Bear—Derek often enough. “You saved my life,” he said, imbuing the words with as much gratitude as he could.
Be-Derek looked distressed and worried and grateful all at the same time; his eyebrows were a miracle, really. “Of course,” he said, instead of ‘you’re welcome’, which just wouldn’t have been enough. Of course he’d saved Stiles’ life; he could have done nothing else. He looked at the seat beside Stiles’ bed and Stiles jerked.
“Yes, oh my god, please,” he said, waving at the chair jerkily; he’d completely forgotten.
Be-Derek grinned slightly, and sat, arms neatly rested on the arms of the chair. Stiles couldn’t look away from his hands, from his fingers, calloused and rough and strong. He reached out and took Derek’s hand in his, almost like he couldn’t help himself. Derek let his fingers tangle with Stiles’, let Stiles pull his hand in between two of his own, let him trace patterns on the back of Derek’s hand and around the bones in his wrist, before pulling it to his mouth and kissing it.
The touch of his lips on Derek’s knuckles was what broke the levee, and the next thing Stiles knew, Derek was kissing him. It was exceedingly gentle, like Stiles’ injuries were still at the forefront of Derek’s mind. Stiles didn’t mind. He could have done with more tongue, more heat, more pressure, but this was nice too. Like a first meeting, but not. Soft, and gentle, and perfect – not awkward, because Derek knew him – Derek knew him.
“It’s really good to see you, Derek,” Stiles said finally, after Derek pulled away and sat back into his chair, now much closer to Stiles’ bedside than it had been before. His lips were slightly chapped and dry, but Derek’s had been soft and warm, and his stubble had prickled gently, eminently touchable.
Derek smiled, showing adorable bunny teeth, and Stiles wanted to kiss him until they couldn’t breathe. “I’m glad you wrote when you needed me. I’m glad the Sheriff got there on time. I was worried he wouldn’t listen to some random stranger on the phone.”
A thought struck Stiles, and he barked out a laugh. “Babe, you know ‘the Sheriff’ is my Dad, right?”
Derek’s smile faded into a look of dismay, and he blanched, because clearly he had not realised. “I shouted at him outside,” Derek whispered, horrified.
Stiles laughed even harder, but didn’t let go of Derek’s hand. “Don’t worry, Der. He loves you, just like I do.”
Derek still looked a little worried, despite Stiles’ reassurances, but his eyes smouldered a little. “I hope not in the exact same way?” he asked.
All Stiles could do was to shake his head, and squeeze Derek’s hand tighter. There was a lot to think about; his recovery, the distance between New York and California, their ages, Derek’s job and Stiles’ degree, amongst others.
But he knew one thing; it was absolutely going to be okay.