“Just because you have to reside in the Underworld doesn’t make you a bad person,” the young boy stated, moving his hand among the flowers as he watched the wind sweep through them.
“That’s not the popular opinion,” the older boy replied.
The younger boy frowned, furrowing his eyebrows as he focused on the flowers around them. “Well, I don’t like the popular opinion,” he responded with a childlike huff, causing the older boy to laugh.
The older boy was unaccustomed to laughter, his life a constant parade of sorrow and gloom. But the younger boy had a way about him—a light that shone through the darkness.
“Here,” the younger boy caught the older boy’s attention. He was holding out a flower for the older boy to take. “It’s a Forget-Me-Not,” he explained as the older boy took the flower, his fingertips gently grazing the younger boy’s. “So you won’t forget about me.”
The older boy stared at the flower, the first gift he ever received from someone. His eyes wandered over to the younger boy, drinking in his appearance as he bashfully smiled up at him.
The younger boy’s auburn hair was haloed by the setting sunlight. The green of the field contrasted against the paleness of the boy’s skin. Dozens of speckles decorated his skin, creating small figures and constellations that begged to be traced. The boy’s small upturned nose and cupid’s bowed lips added to his look of innocence. His big, doe eyes smiled at the older boy on their own, swirling pools of honey and amber that easily held his attention.
“I could never forget you,” the older boy truthfully confessed.
The young boy ducked his chin as a blush spread across his cheeks, burning the tips of his ears pink. “I hope I get to see you again,” he stated through the blush.
“That would be the greatest gift imaginable,” the older boy uttered, unable to take his eyes off of the younger boy.
Stiles actively ignore Derek, often times turning a cold shoulder towards him whenever he tried to speak to him. He couldn’t keep himself from replying sometimes, Derek’s wit pulling him out of his vow of silence to remark. He scowled at Derek, trying to not show that he actually enjoyed Derek’s company. But it was Derek’s smile that made Stiles believe in his assessment that Derek meant him no harm.
The way Derek’s smile pulled at the corner of his lips, slowly revealing his teeth as he ducked his chin in an attempt to hide away the fact that he was enjoying himself. That smile—Stiles was positive that it was a smile that could light up the entire Underworld—belonged to the god of the Underworld.
Derek was a god that Stiles had heard terrifying tales of from fellow divines and mortals alike. Derek was a mystery, having never left the Underworld without expressed permission from Peter, the leader of the gods. He often times scowled at the meetings he did attend, never bothering to offer any advice. He would roll his eyes whenever another god made a stupid comment. He would sit at the meeting until it came his time to part, leaving to be in the Underworld once more.
Stiles was not privy to these happenings, having never attended a meeting on Beacon’s Hill. His mother had attended them when necessary, but once she passed, only some of her duties fell onto Stiles. He managed to care for the seasons, always puzzled when the leaves would wither and fall. He often cried, becoming melancholy when winter overtook the land, a hollowness taking root in his chest as he longed for something unknown to come back to him. Hope rekindled in his chest at the first sign of the snow melting away.
But no matter what Stiles found himself enjoying in Derek, he grew to miss Beacon with every passing day. He missed the sun, its light raining down on the vegetation. He loved basking in the warm light, often times falling asleep under a tree half way through the day.
The day Stiles had stumbled across Derek had been one of the brightest days of the summer. A small cloud seemed to hover over Derek when Stiles first saw him. Stiles didn’t realize that Derek was there to take him away—to the Underworld, the one place Stiles never wanted to go. When Derek first broached the subject of Stiles accompanying him, Stiles laughed. His laugh died in his throat when he realized the serious sorrow in Derek’s face. The way his brow constricted in a troubled way almost looked apologetic—an apology for coming to take Stiles from everything he knew.
Derek allowed Stiles to return to his father to speak with him about the arrangement as he promised to speak with Peter about it. He seemed almost hopeful that Stiles’ initial disgust for the Underworld was founded on the myths describing it. The Underworld was not as bad as Derek once thought it was, every day he loved spending on Beacon’s Hill were nothing compared to the times his mother would visit from the Underworld. Talia never forced her children to travel there, knowing that it was a bleak place, especially for children. She explained that the reason she didn’t mind being the ruler of such a dark place was because of the light her children put in her life—having loved ones made the Underworld that more bearable.
Stiles had argued with his father before realizing that he had to go with Derek, an order coming from Peter. As a human, there was nothing Stiles’ father could do for him—he had been granted a lifespan that rivaled that of a halfling, a blessing he received from Peter when Stiles’ mother expressed her love for him. Besides a prolonged life, Stiles’ father had not power in the divine realm. That was also how Stiles came to realize that even though Derek was a god, he was following Peter’s orders and couldn’t reverse anything even if Stiles somehow convinced him to.
All gods obeyed Peter, even the ones who elected to live on Beacon. Even halflings like Stiles, who took after their divine parents, obeyed him. Everyone was just obeying Peter’s orders when Derek took Stiles from Beacon to the Underworld.
Stiles had remained quiet as Derek escorted him, offering up no words to fill the gap of silence growing between them.
Derek wasn’t cruel like the stories portrayed him; something Stiles assumed was accredited to mortals fearing death, displacing their fear onto Derek. He didn’t force Stiles to share a room with him, putting Stiles’ fears at having to share a bed with him at ease.
Derek was handsome, but still a stranger to Stiles. Stiles was interested in the acts of lovemaking, having read more than one story about them. But he thought of the act as something between two people who at least trusted one another.
Derek mostly kept to himself, often times only seeking Stiles out to ask if he was comfortable with his surroundings. He looked after Stiles’ needs, seeing to them personally. He was almost like a child allowed a friend to visit for the first time—unsure and nervous, but equally exciting to be experiencing companionship.
Derek would offer a sad but understanding smile whenever Stiles rebuked him. He would state that he understood whatever excuse Stiles would give, informing Stiles that the offer still stood if things changed.
Stiles found it both endearing and annoying. He loved how kind and caring Derek could be, a constant eye kept on Stiles’ needs. He hated how Derek tried to hide how sad and melancholy he became whenever Stiles refused him.
Derek didn’t mean for his response to appear guilt inducing, but it was the only logical thing Stiles could think of. Derek couldn’t be as calm and kind as he appeared. He had taken Stiles from his home and brought him to the Underworld. He was the ruler of the Underworld. It seemed insane to think that Derek was the terror inducing ruler of the Underworld, feared by both mortal and divine, after seeing how soft and kind he could be.
Despite it all, Derek was trying to woo Stiles into staying with him. But the only thing preventing Stiles from leaving was Peter’s decree, and both Stiles and Derek were aware of that.
Things stayed much the same for a while—they would run into each other here and there, their conversations short and quick; Derek would ask Stiles to join him for mundane activities, Stiles would decline every request.
Everything changed a few months into the arrangement.
Derek found Stiles crying in the library. He noticed that Stiles curled his body around a book in his lap, silent tears streaming down his face as he feebly attempted to wipe them away.
Stiles startled when he noticed Derek, immediately turning his face away from Derek to dry his cheeks. The way his fingertips fondly traced the image on the book’s page didn’t escape Derek’s notice.
“I’m sorry, Derek, but not today,” Stiles quietly stated.
“I had a different request today,” Derek offered.
Stiles sighed, shaking his head slightly before he finally looked at Derek.
“If I could just show you something,” Derek started. “You can walk away if you wish, and I will leave you alone,” he explained. There was a small amount of hope in his voice, pulling at Stiles’ heart.
Stiles hesitated before he agreed, moving to deposit the book on the nearby table as he followed Derek out of the room. He nibbled at his bottom lip, thinking about telling Derek the reason why he was crying. His eyes carefully watched Derek’s back as they walked down the main hallway, Derek only a few steps ahead of Stiles.
“That book …” Stiles started as he continued to watch Derek’s back for a sign that he was displeased with Stiles’ attempt at conversation. “It had a drawing of my mother in it,” he explained. “It’s the first I’ve seen that truly looks like her.”
A small silence followed Stiles’ words, making Stiles believe that he had spoken out of turn with Derek—something Derek never seemed to mind previously.
“I know,” Derek finally replied, putting Stiles’ momentary fears to rest while piquing his interest. “My mother knew your mother—considered her a dear friend, actually. Ironically, a majority of the books written by and for us immortals are housed here. A gift from Peter to my mother, actually.” He was surprised at how much he just confessed to Stiles. It was probably more than he had spoken in the past few decades.
“That was nice of him,” Stiles commented.
“I … I met your mother as few times,” Derek uttered.
“You did?” Stiles asked in confusion.
“You weren’t born when I met her,” Derek offered.
It wasn’t a lie, the times Derek met with Stiles’ mother was previous to Stiles’ birth. Stiles was still growing within her belly when Talia dragged Derek with her to Beacon in order to speak about preserving the Wolfsbane growing in the caverns of the Underworld.
Derek remembered Stiles’ mother allowing him to touch her stomach, intrigued by the movement he saw when Stiles kicked. He recalled feeling Stiles kick against his hand when he asked if the baby was to be a boy or a girl. He was too busy staring in awe at where his hand met her belly to notice the knowing look his mother exchanged with Stiles’ mom.
“So you’re pretty old, huh?” Stiles teasingly stated.
Derek released a scoff in the back of his throat. Stiles was speaking with him, he wasn’t about to throw that chance away. “That depends, are you admitting that you’re a child?”
“Oh,” Stiles sung out in a low note of amusement. “I walked into that one,” he stated with a smile.
The air between them felt lighter, as if they managed to make unknown progress.
A small electrical change sparked between them when Derek halted before a large door, Stiles colliding directly with his back. Stiles briefly clung to Derek to prevent himself from falling to the ground, mumbling an embarrassed apology as splotches of red enflamed his pale skin. He turned his attention towards the door in hopes that Derek wouldn’t look at him for very long.
Stiles had seen the door before, many times, while on his self-guided tours of the castle. He had ignored his urge to snoop, knowing that curiosity was always a negative thing in the Underworld, and he would rather not take his chances.
The room hidden behind the door was ginormous. It was lined with marble pillars, with rows of vines and ghostlike flowers glowing in the center, brimming with life despite the floor of rock beneath them. Shapeless ethereal clouds bobbed throughout the room, whisking back and forth through the rows.
Stiles didn’t miss how Derek lingered in the doorway, refusing to step foot into the room.
“It’s called the Garden of Remembrance,” Derek explained as his eyes tracked the movement of the ghostlike shapes. “It uses your memories to connect with the souls of the deceased. It pulls at your strongest memories, which are often your most recent.”
Derek hated and loved the Garden of Remembrance. He loved watching his mother and sisters tend the Garden’s flowers, completely unaware of Derek’s eyes on them as they performed the mundane tasks—they too had grown accustomed to Derek’s small smiles and silent lurking in the shadows, knowing that they were unable to change it to a smile. He hated seeing their burnt figures, scars running along their bodies—the images from their deaths burned into Derek’s memory as it outshone every fond recollection. He spent decades sitting in the Garden, trying to will himself to see other forms—his mother singing, Laura playing the lyre, Cora dancing. He tried to remember the beautiful dresses that adorned their forms—the smiles that lit up their eyes. But every time the cloudlike figures morphed into his family, they were burnt, the sound of their screams echoing loudly in Derek’s ears as they took form.
“An illusion,” Stiles almost muttered, his hope slowly dying in his chest when he realized that it wouldn’t be real, just like the memories of his mother that he trapped in the flowers housed in his garden on Beacon.
“No,” Derek countered, his eyes still tracking the one constantly moving shape, knowing it was the one that always took on his mother’s form the minute his foot touched the marble floor. “Technically, it’s not physically the loved ones you are seeing. It’s a projection of their souls. Like looking through a mirror of your memories. They can’t hear you, and they can’t talk to you, but they can see you just as well as you can see them.”
Stiles nodded, holding back the soft sob choking its way through his throat. “Why do you have this?”
Derek finally tore his eyes away from the clouded figures, looking down at the marble as he studied it for what felt like the thousandth time. “My mother hated the idea of immortality,” he offered. “She didn’t like to think of people losing those they care about—especially immortals who come to love mortals. The idea of being forced to live an eternity without love—” He stopped himself turning his body to head away from Stiles and the Garden. “To my mother, this Garden was a blessing.”
“To you?” Stiles weakly asked when he noticed Derek linger.
“A gilded reminder of what I’ve lost,” Derek answered. “In any case, you are free to come here whenever you like. I won’t disturb you here.” He quickly moved, determined to leave Stiles on his own with the Garden, hoping it could bring him some happiness.
“Thank you,” Stiles softly called after Derek, his voice almost angelic among the screams Derek could still hear resonating from his own memories.
It was enough to bring Derek some peace.
It all turned around for the worst when Stiles asked to visit his father.
Derek was obligated to say no, not knowing when Stiles would be allowed to return to Beacon. He didn’t mention that he was afraid of Stiles not returning to him. He thought of offering to send letters with Erica the next time she brought word from Peter—but sometimes it took months before Erica would come back to the Underworld again.
The moment Derek started to form his response, a dark cloud settled over the both of them. Stiles sulked as a child would when told they couldn’t have something they desperately wanted. Derek figured it would be better to let Stiles sulk than to ignite a fight between them by pushing boundaries.
All fondness Stiles seemed to garner for Derek had evaporated. He turned back into himself, ignoring every single one of Derek’s attempts to converse with him.
Derek kept his promise to never bother Stiles while he sought solace in the Garden. He left Stiles on his own, barely seeing him in those somber days that followed Stiles’ request. His days started to feel as bleak and lonely as they were before Stiles’ arrival. He tried to ignore the sharp pain radiating in his heart, knowing that Stiles was suffering in silence. He tried to soften his somber mood by appearing more approachable, taking Erica’s advice by softly smiling when needed. He was surprised by the amount of shock his smile seemed to gain from others—even Stiles faltered when he offered him a small reassuring smile when Stiles rejected his offer for a tour of the Underworld’s caverns.
Derek eventually called on Peter for assistance. It was Peter, after all, who informed Derek that he was to have Stiles as his consort. Derek didn’t like the idea, only swayed when Peter mentioned that Stiles accepted Peter’s proposal, leaving Derek to retrieve Stiles from Beacon.
Deep down, Derek knew that Stiles couldn’t forgive him for taking him from Beacon, but he wanted to try, nonetheless. That was why, standing slightly slack jawed in front of Peter, Derek was taken off guard by Peter’s proposal to trick Stiles into ingesting some of the pomegranate seeds that took root in the Underworld.
“He’d be forced to be with me for eternity then,” Derek softly argued.
“I can only loom as an imposing threat for so long before he gets up the courage to go against me,” Peter drawled as he continued with his paperwork.
“I want him to stay of his own free will,” Derek replied.
“Sometimes the people we want to stay don’t want to,” Peter remarked as he finally looked up at Derek. “Do you honestly think the boy will ever see you as anything but a gatekeeper to his freedom?”
Derek looked away from Peter, a small attempt to hide away the hurt flickered across his face. “So, your solution to that is to … trap him?” He hollowly questioned, repulsed by his uncle’s suggestion.
“Don’t you want him to be with you forever?” Peter tiredly replied.
“Yes, but not like that,” Derek vehemently stated.
“Well, make the boy want to stay, then,” Peter offered as a final solution. “Court him. Give him gifts of things he likes. Music, literature, flowers.”
“I’ve tried. And flowers don’t bloom in the Underworld, you know that,” Derek grumpily replied.
“Wolfsbane does,” Peter answered.
Derek absolutely hated Wolfsbane. It was a curse of a flower. He never took a liking to it. But Peter was correct—Wolfsbane was the one flower in existence that managed to survive in the Underworld, thanks to Derek’s mother. And if it would cheer Stiles up, Derek could handle a garden of Wolfsbane growing within the palace.
Derek was met with silence once more when he knocked on Stiles’ door. He peaked his head in to spot Stiles perched on the window seat, his nose buried in a book. He gracefully moved across the floor, placing the pot on the table in the center of the room. He cleared his throat when he noticed Stiles didn’t bother to look up at him, nervously shifting his weight from foot to foot.
“I thought you might like something that is reminiscent of the flowers you once tended,” Derek started. He noticed the way Stiles’ muscles suddenly went rigid. He bit his tongue, chastising himself for even mentioning anything about Beacon. “It’s a Wolfsbane flower. They’re capable of surviving in the Underworld,” he explained.
Stiles sighed in defeat, knowing Derek wasn’t going to give up. He finally turned his attention towards the pot. “Thank you,” he deadpanned. “I guess,” he sourly added before turning back to his book.
“I wish you would tell me what I’ve done,” Derek finally stated. “I only wish to make your stay more comfortable.”
“My stay,” Stiles calmly echoed Derek’s words as he closed his book.
“Yes,” Derek confirmed, uncertain if Stiles was actually going to talk to him for a change.
“Stay implies that I want to be here,” Stiles icily corrected him.
Though it was not the type of conversation Derek wished to have with Stiles, he had at least managed to get the younger man to speak to him.
“Your uncle forced me to accept this arrangement,” Stiles snapped, standing up as he tossed his book into his abandoned seat. “He has been a constant burden in my life! He gave me an ultimatum, accept this union with you, or accept disownment by the rest of the gods.”
Derek ignored the way his stomach dropped, some unknown force quickly unraveling it without his permission. “I didn’t know,” he honestly replied, his voice quiet as he started to fold in on himself. He felt like an idiot for trying to please Stiles now that he knew the truth: Stiles didn’t want to be here, and he never would. “I only wished to make you more comfortable.”
“If you wish to make me comfortable, then let me go home,” Stiles nearly begged.
“What?” Derek asked, confused as he looked up at Stiles.
“Let me go,” Stiles stated. “Tell your uncle that you don’t want me, and let me go home.”
“I …” Derek hesitated. He didn’t wish to force Stiles to stay, but he didn’t want him to go. If he spoke truthfully, he wanted Stiles to stay. He enjoyed having someone present at all times—it made living in the Underworld’s palace a little less empty. Even though Stiles had barely spoken a word to him, his presence alone was comforting. “Could you not be happy here?”
“No,” Stiles curtly replied. “I’m not like you, I don’t belong here!” He stated in haste, immediately silencing himself when he saw the way Derek flinched away from him, as if he had been burned.
The words stung worse than they had the times his uncle had uttered them. At least Peter and the others were consistent in their distaste for Derek. Derek had not expected Stiles to share those sentiments. But in reality, how could Derek ever ask someone to share in his own personal hell. He had been lying to himself for the past few months, taking a happiness from someone else’s misery without realizing it.
“I … I didn’t …” Stiles stammered, trying to find the right words.
“No. It’s—it’s fine,” Derek stiffly replied as he took a step backwards, towards the doors, his eyes refusing to look up from the floor. He was uncertain what to do with himself, his body feeling too large and imposing in Stiles’ space. “I apologize for bothering you,” he quietly added before quickly turning to take his leave. He rushed from the room, leaving Stiles alone with the Wolfsbane—the last gift he would force upon him.
“What?” Peter asked in confusion.
“Give him back to his father,” Derek stated once more.
“I thought you liked the boy,” Peter replied in confusion. “I distinctly remembering you taking an interest in him during your younger years. Why do you think I did this?”
Derek was stunned into silence. “You … you said this was a necessity.”
“A necessity for you, Derek,” Peter sighed. “You’ve been living in that palace alone for so long now. And it’s my fault you’re stuck there to begin with.”
Derek looked down, not wanting Peter to catch any emotion crossing his features.
“I thought you liked the boy enough to get along with him—to finally have someone,” Peter explained.
“Your thoughts were wrong,” Derek replied.
“Derek,” Peter sighed.
“I don’t want to discuss this any further,” Derek finally snapped. He took a deep breath before explaining, “I’ve done everything you’ve ever asked of me—without question I’ve done it because you are the last of my family. You can do this one thing for me and give him back to his family, without the gods disowning him.”
Peter studied Derek for a few seconds, unsure what to make of it. “If he’s the one forcing you to—”
“Peter,” Derek sternly spoke. “Please,” he softly begged. “I’m content with an eternity of solitude.” It was so much easier to say that than admitting he would be alone for eternity.
It took a few moments before Peter finally agreed. “I’ll send Erica to collect him.”
Derek nodded, turning to leave. He couldn’t thank Peter. He couldn’t show any form of gratitude when he knew he’d go back to being alone—that Stiles’ comforting presence would soon be nothing but a shadow lingering over him.
“So, I’m just supposed to whisk him away?” Erica questioned as she placed her hands on her hips.
“Just take him home to his father, why is that so hard to understand?” Derek irritably sighed, trying to focus on his paperwork.
“Oh, I don’t know, maybe you trying to woo him for the past few months makes this all confusing to me,” Erica replied.
“He’s not happy here,” Derek stated.
“You’re not happy here,” Erica replied. “Nobody is happy here,” she stated as if that was the most ridiculous thing she ever heard Derek utter.
“Erica, please,” Derek almost begged as he looked up from the papers scattered across his desk.
“What happened?” Erica earnestly questioned, concern covering her features.
“I realized that someone like him could never belong down here with a monster like me,” Derek finally replied in defeat. “Now, please,” he softly pleaded. “Bring him home to his father.”
“Derek,” Erica fondly said his name, tone saddened by the realization that Derek didn’t want Stiles to go, but was letting him go all the same.
“It was stupid of me to think that he’d be happy to be down here,” Derek replied. “To be stuck with me,” he released a small, sad laugh. “I am a loveless creature, Erica, doomed to an eternity of loneliness.” He paused, opening the top drawer of his desk. He pulled out a perfectly preserved flower, fondly inspecting it as he made his way over to Erica. “After you bring him to his father, give him this.”
Erica took the flower from Derek’s outstretched hand, closely looking at its petals.
“Tell him that I’m sorry, and that I’ll try forgetting.”
“This is a Forget-Me-Not,” Erica stated as she looked up from the flower.
“It’s something I’d rather forget,” Derek corrected her.
Stiles was pacing when the knock on the door jolted him to attention. He moved to the door quickly, pulling it open as he called out, “Derek!” He paused when he noticed it wasn’t him. He frowned at Erica, leaning to the side to look down the hallway in hopes of catching a glimpse of Derek.
“Sorry, just me,” Erica offered a small, unapologetic shrug. “Are you ready to go?”
“Go?” Stiles asked in confusion.
“Yeah, up top,” Erica pointed up towards the ceiling in reference to Beacon.
“No,” Stiles honestly replied, shying back into the safety of his room. “I’m supposed to stay here.”
Erica shook her head. “Peter told me I was to come and get you. Take you back to your father.”
Stiles eyes widened. “Did he say why?”
Erica placed her hands on her hips. “He mentioned Derek said something about not wanting you around anymore.”
“May I speak with Derek?” Stiles asked.
“Nope,” Erica curtly replied. “You’re headed up top, immediately, and not to come back here. Peter’s orders.”
“Stop, Stiles,” Erica finally snapped. “You had your shot.”
Stiles absentmindedly blinked at Erica, uncertain what she meant.
“You don’t belong here, remember?” Erica replied, using Stiles’ own words against him.
Stiles ducked his head, knowing she was right to be stern with him. “I didn’t mean to hurt his feelings.”
“Just because you didn’t mean to, doesn’t mean you didn’t crush them,” Erica replied as she crossed her arms over her chest.
Stiles silently nodded in agreement.
Stiles closed his eyes and welcomed the sunlight’s warmth with outstretched arms. The breeze was cool and refreshing as it gently kissed his skin. He deeply inhaled the smell of changing leaves and wilting flowers, making him frown as he realized autumn was coming.
“I have something for you,” Erica’s voice broke him from his trance, causing him to turn and look at her. She was holding out the Forget-Me-Not Derek had given her.
Stiles took the delicate flower in his hand, the preservation magic Derek had previously cast on it wearing off now that they were no longer in the Underworld. “It’s a Forget-Me-Not,” he commented.
“It’s from Derek,” Erica explained.
Stiles looked up from the flower, surprised. “But I thought Derek could only leave the Underworld with Peter’s permission?” He questioned. “He said that it was his first time leaving the Underworld when he came to retrieve me.”
Erica shrugged. “He had it in his office. He told me to give it to you, and tell you that he was sorry,” she explained. “And that he’ll try to forget.”
Stiles furrowed his eyebrows. He didn’t know what it all meant, unsure what Derek was trying to say. He twirled the Forget-Me-Not, startled when it started to wither between his fingertips. It sparked a familiar memory from his childhood, one he never recalled having before this moment.
“Peter says everything I touch withers,” the older boy frowned as he placed the flower on the ground.
“Everything withers and dies some day,” Stiles answered.
“I suppose that’s why I have to live in the Underworld,” the older boy released a sorrowful sigh. “I can’t leave without his permission, either.”
“Can’t you have visitors?”
The older boy shook his head.
“That’s terrible,” Stiles replied, frowning.
“The Underworld is full of monsters—beasts and humans … Which makes sense why Peter wants me to go there,” the older boy sorrowfully replied.
“Just because you have to reside in the Underworld doesn’t make you a bad person,” Stiles stated.
“That’s not the popular opinion,” the older boy replied.
“Well, I don’t like the popular opinion,” Stiles huffed. He looked up at the sound of the other boy laughing. He smiled when he saw how bright the boy’s smile could be—proof that he didn’t belong in a dark and gloomy place like the Underworld.
“Here,” Stiles said as he held out the flower for the older boy to take. “It’s a Forget-Me-Not,” he explained. “So you won’t forget about me.”
Stiles knew he should have explained the importance of the Forget-Me-Not when it came to remembrance between two people. It formed a bond to the person that kept it, always a constant reminder of a promise made between the giver and the receiver. It preserved the memory, to be replayed for the receiver whenever the flower was looked upon.
“I could never forget you,” the older boy admitted as he held the flower close, looking down at it in complete and utter wonderment.
“I hope I get to see you again,” Stiles replied, a blush decorating his cheeks.
“That would be the greatest gift imaginable,” the older boy uttered, unable to take his eyes off of Stiles.
Stiles turned his head to look at his mother when he heard his name being called, catching sight of her waving to him in the distance.
“I have to go,” Stiles frowned as he moved to stand, the older boy following suit.
The other boy nodded, looking down at his flower as a small smile graced his lips.
Without thinking, Stiles darted forward, placing a quick, chaste kiss just on the corner of his mouth. (He blushed more when he realized he missed his cheek). “Until we meet again.” He quickly darted off before the boy could react.
“I’ll try not to forget,” the older boy called after him.
“By the gods,” Stiles breathed, hand covering his mouth as the Forget-Me-Not disappeared in the wind. He looked up and noticed Erica walking away to head for her next objective. “Erica, wait!” He called after her, running as fast as he could.
Erica turned to face him, quizzical expression as she watched him run towards her.
“You have to take me back,” Stiles panted.
“What?” Erica questioned.
“You have to take me back to the Underworld. Back to Derek,” Stiles explained. “I have to talk to him. I didn’t mean what I said. And if the Forget-Me-Not means what I think it does—”
“Stiles, I can’t,” Erica replied, cutting Stiles’ rambling off.
“Erica, I know I hurt his feelings. What I said was wrong, I know that. I was hurt and wanted someone else to hurt, so I lashed out at Derek.”
“I can’t bring you back,” Erica calmly explained. “I can only travel to and from the Underworld when I have orders from Peter. I’m only ever there with Derek because I linger … I’m sorry, but I can’t bring you back.”
“Please,” Stiles pleaded.
“One minute, he’s happy you’re there. Next, he’s telling me to send you back to your father,” Peter sighed. “Tell me, Stiles, do you find a twisted joy in tormenting others?”
Stiles darted his gaze away from Peter before looking back. “I never meant to hurt him.”
“Yet hurt him you did,” Peter stated, finally relaxing in his chair before looking at Stiles. “Did he really give you a Wolfsbane flower?”
Stiles held Peter’s gaze as he answered, “Yes.”
Peter sorrowfully smiled at the knowledge. “Lovesick boy.”
“Please, Peter, I am only asking to see him again,” Stiles started.
“Did he tell you the significance?” Peter questioned as he ignored Stiles’ previous statement.
“A Wolfsbane flower is the only flower that can blossom in the Underworld,” Stiles sighed, knowing that Peter already knew this.
“My, what a naïve child you are,” Peter stated in amazement. “Your father kept you that hidden from your own realm that you don’t know the simplest of tales?”
Stiles hesitated. “I don’t know what you mean.”
“Derek hates the Underworld, and he hates the Wolfsbane flower just as much,” Peter started to explain. “His mother, on the other hand, loved the flower. She thought it was beautiful—deadly, but beautiful.”
Stiles furrowed his eyebrows, confused with what Peter was saying.
“It’s the same flower Kate used to murder my sister and nieces,” Peter bitterly stated. “The same flower Derek naively traveled all the way into the deepest cavern of the Underworld and picked to give to Kate as a symbol of his affections because she asked for it.”
Stiles closed his eyes, biting back his tears when he realized just how painful it must have been for Derek to pick the Wolfsbane flower to present to him. How hurt Derek must have been when he said he belonged in the Underworld—with the same flower that killed his family.
“Kate used the flower to poison my sister and nieces, paralyzing them before she burned them alive,” Peter remarked, his eyes clouding over at the memory of finding his family that way—the anger and vengeance he unleashed that day had the other immortals cowering in fearful awe. “My nephew believes he belongs in the Underworld because of this crime,” he paused as he collected his thoughts. “When his only crime is loving too easily.”
“I didn’t know,” Stiles admitted.
“How could you?” Peter questioned. “You two were but children when you officially met.” He shook his head as he lost himself in thought. “I can’t believe I listened to your mother’s thoughts that you were meant to be together.”
Stiles’ head jerked up at the mention of his mother, staring at Peter in hopes of further explanation.
“Your mother was the one that arranged for you to be with Derek,” Peter wearily stated. “You father reluctantly agreed when I spoke with him about it. He didn’t want you to know your mother had anything to do with the arrangement, because he knew you’d go through with it just to honor her wishes.”
“I lied to him,” Peter almost snapped as he finally looked at Stiles. “Derek has been alone for decades to live with his guilt. He’s never once complained of being lonely, thinking he deserves it. He was barely a young man when I sent him to be overseer of the Underworld—”
“He was fifteen,” Stiles interjected, a faint scowl crossing his features.
“And the only Hale left to overlook the Underworld and all its needs,” Peter stated with a scowl of his own. “I told Derek that you had accepted that you were to live in the Underworld—that you agreed to become his consort, willingly.”
“How could you do that to us—to your nephew?” Stiles immediately questioned.
“He was reluctant to even consider it, until I reminded him of who you were. The young boy who captured his heart all those decades ago,” Peter almost rolled his eyes at the thought. “And honestly? Your father and I both thought you’d remember Derek—or that you’d see in him what you saw in him as a child. I didn’t realize you’d make him even more miserable.”
Stiles winced, knowing he deserved that harsh remark.
“I didn’t remember him because I gave him a Forget-Me-Not,” Stiles finally explained.
Peter turned his gaze on Stiles, giving him an incredulous look. “You gave Derek your memory? What the hell is wrong with you?” He demanded.
“I was a child at the time!” Stiles snapped back. “I didn’t know I gave him that memory when I gave him the Forget-Me-Not.”
“And you want it back now?”
“I want to see him. I want —” Stiles paused, running a hand through his hair. “I want to be with him.”
Peter looked bewildered by Stiles’ answer.
“Send me back to him,” Stiles pleaded.
“To have you torment him more?” Peter questioned.
“To stay with him,” Stiles answered. “It’s where I belong.”
Derek spun the Wolfsbane flower in circles, examining it with a previously unknown fondness. He knew the fondness wasn’t for the flower itself, but only because Stiles had cared for it—regardless of how brief that care was.
The petals were beautiful compared to the other Wolfsbane flowers decorating the Underworld. The flower had thrived under Stiles’ care and it was the only trace of Stiles left in the Underworld. Derek couldn’t bring himself to destroy the flower, a sentimental pull forcing him to keep it close. He didn’t mind the Wolfsbane staring him in the face, its former meaning being replaced by everything Stiles.
“Do you know why summer yields to winter?” Stiles’ voice startled Derek, pulling his thoughts and attention from the Wolfsbane.
Derek turned to look at Stiles, shocked to see him standing in front of him, lingering in the doorway as if to ask permission to enter. He quickly stood, his fingers leaving the Wolfsbane behind.
“Why the crops die and the flowers wither,” Stiles continued as he took slowly calculated steps towards Derek.
“Why?” Derek finally asked, his voice hoarse but filled with both hope and fear as Stiles continued to move closer.
“Because you left me at the end of summer,” Stiles answered.
Derek looked confused as he shyly snuck quick glances at Stiles’ face, almost like a child in need of a guiding explanation. He thought Stiles would have been happy with Peter’s pardon from internment. He never thought Stiles would be walking back into the Underworld, of what seemed to be his own accord.
“When I gave you the Forget-Me-Not, I gave you that memory—our first meeting. It was as if it never happened for me,” Stiles explained. “My mother never explained the Forget-Me-Not’s promise until I was older, but by then, I had already forgotten you.” He took the last few steps until he was standing in front of Derek. “I forgot you, but somehow I knew you were missing. I warped the seasons—I created winter because …” He took a deep breath, barely able to believe it himself. “Because I was sad—because I missed you.
“If I knew the Forget-Me-Not would make me forget you, I would never had picked it, Derek,” Stiles explained as he ignored the tears burning his eyes. “I would have chosen a different flower—rosemary, violets, heliotrope —”
“‘Eternal love’?” Derek’s voice broke Stiles’ rant, the sound of hope evident as he reached out for Stiles, overjoyed when Stiles immediately moved into his arms.
“You know what heliotropes mean?” Stiles shyly questioned, shocked that Derek both knew the flower’s meaning and his intentions.
“I’ve been in love with you for decades,” Derek confessed. “You honestly think I wouldn’t learn which flowers meant what?”
Stiles released a fond laugh as he pressed into Derek’s embrace. “I thought you were as grumpy as you looked and just sat in silence while scowling.”
“Decades alone makes for time well spent on reading,” Derek answered, a small sadness in his voice as he recalled the countless times books became his only source of companionship.
“I’m afraid I’m going to be cutting into your reading time,” Stiles countered.
“I think I’ll manage,” Derek answered with a fond smile.
They shared the spring and summer together, Stiles parting from Derek in the fall to oversee that the harsher climate wouldn’t harm the springtime blossoms. Stiles, as well as Derek, often fell into a gloomy mood during those times, missing the other terribly. Stiles would often sneak away from his charge, spending a week here and there with Derek, forcing an almost summerlike haze in the midst of winter from his overflowing joy. Stiles always brought Derek one of the last flowers of the season, preserving it as best he could against winter’s cold. He always presented it to Derek upon his return to the Underworld.
“I picked you a flower,” Stiles stated into their kiss.
“Please not a Forget-Me-Not,” Derek partially laughed when Stiles smacked his shoulder.
“No,” Stiles smiled as he presented the flower in between them. “Heliotrope. Now you’re stuck with me.”
“For eternity?” Derek questioned.
“For much longer than that,” Stiles softly answered against his lips.
“Good,” Derek whispered as he smiled into their kiss.