(sterek week day 4, mates, 5k, some language and vague references to past unhealthy relationships)
Derek doesn’t tell anyone at first, both because it seems crazy and also it would cause problems that he’s not quite ready to deal with.
Generally mates only realize they’re mated when they touch for the first time. Sometimes when they’re in the same room for the first time. That’s less common, but still not so rare that people regard it as strange. Occasionally there have been reports of people feeling a tug from across a town, across a campus or building, and upon following it they found their mates. It’s never been scientifically supported though, and while romantics like the idea, most people tend to scoff at it being true.
Derek’s parents discovered they were mates in college, like so many people do. They were lab partners and had spent the semester brushing arms and hands against each other but their skin had never touched, a layer of plastic gloves or lab coat fabric between them. At their final exam, right before the papers had been handed out, Talia had finally reached over and squeezed Dominic’s hand and they knew. When telling the story Dominic always likes to jokes about what a miracle it was either of them passed their test, with how distracted they both were with this new realization.
Derek is twenty-five years old and has not found his mate. Most of the time he’s fine with that. People find their mates at all ages, and it’s not at all unusual for people not to meet them until their thirties or forties, it’s not like Derek is an outlier here. Sometimes, when Derek is feeling particularly lonely or self-pitying he wonders if he’ll ever meet his mate, or why it’s taking so long. His dating history has been…not great, so it’s been a while. The best relationship he’s had to date was his high school girlfriend Paige, but she’d found her mate the summer between junior and senior year, and it hadn’t been Derek. He’d been gracious about it, but occasionally when they get together for lunch or text he still gets a small ball of jealousy somewhere deep in his chest. Not of her mate, Derek loves Paige but he’s not in love with her, he knows the difference. But just that Paige found her mate so early, has had a loving supportive partner all this time while Derek has dated a series of increasingly manipulative and unstable women. It hasn’t been a hardship, really, to stop dating entirely. He doesn’t miss the feeling of being used or gaslit, but yeah he does get lonely sometime. Sometimes he wonders if something is wrong with him, to always attract the kind of people he does. But he’s okay. His mate is out there somewhere, and someday they’ll find each other.
He’s twenty-five when he finds his mate. Maybe. Either he’s found his mate, or he’s lost his mind. Just in case it’s option two, he keeps it to himself.