Stiles couldn’t believe what he was reading. His eyes dashed over the ink scratched across the parchment. It was the treaty his father signed before his return from the kingdom of Triskelia—a treaty that would end a multiple decades long war; a war his father inherited when he took the throne. His eyebrows furrowed when he read the conditions for the unification of the two kingdoms.
“Marriage,” Stiles finally stated.
“Yes,” the king confirmed as he carefully watched his son.
Stiles placed the parchment down, running his hands across the rough material before he looked up at his father. “You didn’t even ask me,” he started.
“The Court is talking, Stiles,” his father begun. “They speak behind your back the minute it is turned. You’ve passed your prime marrying age, yet you’ve rejected every offer you’ve been given.”
“As is my right as long as you do not argue against it,” Stiles immediately stated, prepared to pull up the necessary documents to prove it.
“They think you’ve been promiscuous—or that there is something wrong with your fertility,” the king answered, agreeing that he did tolerate Stiles’ rejection of suitors.
“So you marry me off?” Stiles asked in bitterness.
“I signed a treaty that has ended the war and secured a reassurance that the kingdoms would remain allies,” the king tiredly corrected Stiles’ assumptions.
“I won’t,” Stiles quickly stated.
“You will,” the king firmly stated. “There is more riding on this treaty than our own personal feelings, Stiles,” he sternly added. “Don’t think I signed that treaty lightly. I gave up valuable land in order to guarantee that you control every aspect of the politics that will affect our kingdom—as well as guaranteeing positive treatment of your wellbeing. I signed it with a heavy heart, Stiles.”
Stiles frowned, feeling guilty for blindly accusing his father. He softly nodded, looking back down at the parchment. “Who … who am I to wed?”
A small flash of guilt covered the king’s features before he was able to recover. “Your union will join the royal families—joining our family to the Hales.”
Dread and sorrow sunk in Stiles’ stomach as he closed his eyes.
There was only one Hale left unharmed by the great fire that nearly wiped out the entire royal family—the Crowned King, Derek Hale. His reputation on the battlefield preceded him in every social circle, particularly in the Court, nicknamed by the soldiers as the Dread Wolf, leaving nothing but blood and carnage in his wake. He never met an enemy in battle that he didn’t defeat; he never invaded a kingdom he didn’t conquer. He was a soldier before he was a politician, and it showed in his kingdom’s relations with others. No kingdom wished to meet with Derek, fearing his temper and cold demeanor—they just surrendered instead.
“That was why you were in Triskelia,” Stiles stated.
“The Argents wouldn’t listen to reason,” the king sighed, leaning forward to rest his face in his hands. “We’re not as strong as we used to be, Stiles,” he started as he looked up at his son. “We’re weakening. We need a military—Derek is an exceptional leader.” He shook his head, a look of amazement crossing his features. “His uncle practically forged him in battle.”
“He agreed?” Stiles asked, uncertain if he wanted to know the answer.
“He did,” the king answered. “Deaton spoke of your political intelligence. It will be welcomed by Triskelia.”
Stiles sighed, solemnly nodding in acceptance.
“I am sorry, Stiles,” the king offered, uncertain how he could possibly comfort his son when he was the one that sealed his fate.
Stiles tried. He would state until his dying day, he tried. It was not his fault his husband-to-be was selectively mute. He had tried to talk to Derek on multiple occasions, making attempts at small talk, offering a faint smile, cracking a joke.
Derek would stare at Stiles, his eyes practically boring a hole into him before he would offer a small huff of annoyance as the only indication that he heard him.
Stiles hated him. He did his job and smiled when other members of the Court would approach them, being the friendly greeter as Derek ignored the other guests. He was obedient in front of others, mainly in front of Derek’s uncle Peter who held the titled of Advisor to the King. He let Peter degrade him, testing to see how far Derek would let him get before he would come to Stiles’ defense.
Derek never came to Stiles’ defense. It made Stiles bristle in his seat.
Stiles married Derek, making sure the treaty held against any loop holes that would allowed Triskelia to turn their back on Beacon. He stood silent beside Derek as the Arch Deacon bonded them for life, the crown of the King Consort was heavier than Stiles remembered when he held it but a few days prior. He let Derek remove his cloak and place it around his shoulders, an archaic symbol that he would provide for him and any heir Stiles bore him. He stubbornly stood still when it came time for them to kiss, daring Derek to expect him to bend to his will.
Derek didn’t bother to even roll his eyes at Stiles’ game. He reached his hands out, clasping Stiles by his biceps as he pulled him forward into a searing kiss. He finally recanted when Stiles suppressed a soft whimper of discontent, his body pulling away from Derek’s embrace. He offered his arm to Stiles, waiting for him to take his lead. He was aware of Stiles’ nails subconsciously digging into his arm as they walked down the aisle, both of them aware of the way the Court kept their eyes on them.
Stiles couldn’t focus the entire reception. The food was tasteless, the wine doing nothing but dull his senses some. His stomach was souring, churning as he caught more than one member of the Court staring at him. It was a certain pair of eyes that unsettled him the most.
Derek was lounging in his throne, his fingertips running around the lip of his wine goblet. His crown was slightly lopsided, balancing across the top of his head as he leaned his head against his propped up hand. He looked like a predator at rest, completely at ease but ready to pounce when needed. There was a glint of something in his eyes when they landed on Stiles—an understanding that their obligations to their marriage was going to start this night, after the ball disbanded.
Stiles was a little relieved when Peter leaned over to whisper something in Derek’s ear. He caught the look of surprise on Derek’s face before he nodded, standing to follow after Peter. He stayed in the courtyard until the night grew old, retiring to his designated rooms. He inspected them for a sign of Derek, releasing a sigh of ease when he determined that he was alone.
Stiles undressed, wearing a larger nightshirt than necessary as he hugged the material around himself, crawling under the covers. He must have fell asleep, because the next thing he knew, he was waking up to the sound of the door opening. He lifted his head to catch sight of Derek’s illuminated form walking towards the fire.
Derek added another log to the fire, watching the flames flicker and grow in appreciation as it consumed the log. He lingered by the fire, closing his eyes as he drew in a deep breath. He silently pulled his shirt up over his head, tossing it off to the side. He leaned against the lounging couch, undoing the laces of his boots, dropping them to the ground with heavy thuds.
Stiles shifted, turning onto his side as Derek made movements to enter the bed. He curled around his pillow, hiding his face as he listened to the rustling of the blankets. He closed his eyes, taking a deep breath before he turned onto his back, looking up at the ceiling. He felt the way the bed was dipping towards Derek’s side, the weight of them both changing the way the mattress settled.
“What now?” Stiles asked, not fully expecting an answer.
“We could get away with avoiding it for a few months,” Derek offered, his voice unchanged from the rare times Stiles heard him speak in the past months.
Stiles released a soft huff of laughter as he thought about the rumors that were likely to spread throughout the Court. “How long do you think it will take the Court to fabricate some ridiculous rumor?”
“About you being infertile or about me not being able to maintain an erection long enough to last through foreplay?” Derek questioned back.
Stiles couldn’t help the small smile that tugged at his lips. Maybe being married to Derek wouldn’t be as bad as he thought. Derek knew the rules to the Court’s game just as well as Stiles did—and he mocked them all the same. It was exciting to think about all the chaos and scandal they could create for their own amusement.
But the question still hung in the air—when do they consummate their marriage bond?
Stiles silently sat up, slipping his shirt up over his head before dropping it to the floor, leaving himself naked and exposed in the bed. He avoided looking towards Derek as he spoke. “The earlier we start, the sooner I can give you an heir.”
Derek didn’t reply, merely moving to push back the blankets covering them. He eased himself out of his trousers, only pausing a moment as they remained still now that they were both naked in the bed.
“I’ve never—” Stiles stopped himself. “Which way is easiest?”
Derek turned on his side to look at Stiles, his body appeared to be relaxed. If Stiles was to be stuck with a husband, Derek wasn’t difficult on the eyes—to say the least. He was far more handsome than the men and women who originally propositioned Stiles. Derek was wanting for not—he married Stiles for the political advantage, and as far as Stiles knew, that was where Derek’s interests in him ended.
“On your hands and knees,” Derek instructed.
Stiles nodded, turning to roll onto his stomach and hoping that Derek knew what he was doing, or at least cared about not hurting him. He relaxed when Derek placed his hands against his skin, thankful they were warm against the sudden chill hanging over the room.
Afterwards, Stiles laid on his back in order to stare up at the ceiling. His breathing had returned to normal, his skin still flushed. His fingers felt weak from how tightly they were clasping at the sheets, trying to find purchase. His entire lower back hurt, and he knew he wasn’t going to be able to walk without a slight hitch in his step for the next day. He knew the Court would talk, murmuring about why Stiles was in such a condition.
Because my husband has a giant cock. He imagined the Court’s reaction if he dared to announce that. He snickered at the thought, wincing when he moved too quickly, the angle pulling on his already sore muscle.
“Are you okay?” Derek’s voice broke through Stiles’ thoughts.
Stiles turned to look at Derek, about to ask him what he was doing when he noticed that he was pulling his boots back on.
Derek was precariously dressed, his trousers still loosened around the waist, his shirt untucked as the neckline hung low enough to expose a good portion of his chest.
Stiles felt foolish. It was a business arrangement—the final way to bind Triskelia and Beacon. The unification of their families into one bloodline. Derek was just being a good leader by sharing Stiles’ bed.
“I’m fine,” Stiles barely uttered, pulling the blankets up around him in order to cover himself from Derek’s sight completely.
Derek continued to sleep in separate quarters from Stiles, both of them agreeing to have sex at least once a week, periodically checking until it was confirmed that Stiles was with child.
Stiles hated every moment of it. He hated that he actually enjoyed it, before reminding himself that Derek was only performing an action out of obligation. He thought that he could grow fond of Derek, small gestures throughout those moments made him think that maybe Derek too felt the same way. He always felt that he was guilty of taking advantage of Derek’s deceptively kind nature towards him in these interactions.
The brush of Derek’s lips against his shoulder, the way his hands softly stroked at his sides to put him at ease. The fact that Derek almost always over-prepped him, careful to never intentionally hurt him. But he never over touched Stiles. Derek always kept his caresses short, brief and fleeting before they even begun.
Then there were the nights that they were rougher with each other, an unspoken need to resolve the fight that always preceded it. Once, Stiles outright questioned Derek’s plans for fortification, much to the shock of his generals. The men and women merely stared at Derek, waiting for something catastrophic to happen. Derek glared at Stiles, holding his argument at bay as he turned to look at his generals, silently commanding them to leave.
The next thing Stiles knew, Derek was kissing him. The kiss was rough, demanding all of Stiles’ attention as he fell pliantly against Derek’s body. He fisted the material of Derek’s shirt, his fingers moving quickly to unfasten the buttons and laces in the way. He opened his mouth to Derek, rolling his tongue against Derek’s as he tried to focus on something besides the worry of being interrupted swimming across his mind. He released a wanton moan, gasping in pleasured surprise when Derek’s hands grasped at his ass. He pulled back, staring down between them as Derek moved his hands to undo Stiles’ trousers. He watched in anticipation as Derek’s fingers made quick work of the laces, pushing the offending material down Stiles’ legs.
It was all a whirlwind of heated passion and carefully restrained anger. They both needed the friction of their bodies against each other. Derek easily spun Stiles around, bending him over the war table, not caring about the disruptive chaos it put the maps in.
Stiles had loved every second of it. He didn’t know if Derek kept a mistress, or even just visited the brothels. But in those moments, when Derek acted out—when he manhandled Stiles—Stiles knew that he was paying attention to him. Just him. That he was the only one who could infuriate Derek to his breaking point.
Derek would actually touch Stiles then. He would keep a sure grip on his hips as he pistoned into him. His thrusts were always fast and sure, bringing them both quickly to completion. Sometimes a hand would wander, moving across Stiles’ body before wrapping around his throat—Stiles loved that most. He would clasp his hand around the delicate flesh of Stiles’ throat, his large hand merely encasing it as he pulled Stiles flush against his chest.
Stiles loved it. Every moment of it was driving him to irritate Derek until his breaking point. He tried to pretend that he didn’t enjoy it, that it was just another means of releasing build up energy. He hoped Derek would have an easier time buying his lie than he did.
When Stiles pushed Derek away or locked his door and refused to open, Derek let him. Derek would act as if he was disinterested whenever Stiles locked his door to him, their fights being solved by silence rather than sex.
Everything flipped around when Stiles pushed his bounds too much. He wanted to see how far Derek was willing to go—how violent the Dread Wolf of Triskelia truly was. He knew he would be ridiculing Derek by allowing the Court to discover that he overturned Derek’s order for money to be routed from Beacon’s treasury to fund resources for Triskelia’s army. He figured that they were bound to snap at each other at some point, and Stiles would prefer it be now instead of months later. He would prefer it be before their child was born.
Stiles leaned against the table, idly flipping through the crop report. He didn’t startle when the door to the room slammed open, knowing it was Derek.
“Get out,” Derek loudly barked at the guards, his anger evident.
Stiles rolled his eyes when the guards scurried out, not bothering to look up from the paper. “You don’t have to speak to them like that,” he stated.
“You proud, foolish child,” Derek viciously stated. “Do you have any idea what you’ve done?”
“I don’t do anything, dear husband, remember?” Stiles sparked back.
“This is not a time for your immature endeavors to irk me,” Derek fumed.
“I rerouted a senseless cost to—”
“You vetoed my command to send coin from the treasury—”
“—From Beacon’s treasury,” Stiles chimed in.
“From the treasury,” Derek growled. “Do you think that will gain you some sort of power play with the Court? Showing them that you can control me.”
“I don’t control you,” Stiles finally turned to face Derek, digging his fingernails under the lip of the table as he held himself back. “And you don’t control me or my kingdom. The next time you wish to spend money from my kingdom to fund your army, you will inform me first.”
Derek released a laugh as he moved forward, looming over Stiles’ body as he rested his hands against the table, imprisoning Stiles between his arms and the table.
This is it, Stiles thought.
“You like to boast about your intelligence, dear husband,” Derek stated in a low voice. “What do you think will happen when your kingdom is invaded?” He arched his eyebrow, receiving a pleased amusement from Stiles’ momentary silence. “You have no army—you need me. So remember that the next time you see fit to publically insult me.”
“Or you’ll what?” Stiles dared him to make a threat.
“Or I’ll ship you back to your father,” Derek flatly answered.
“That would break the treaty and—”
“And what?” It was Derek’s turn to dare Stiles to make a threat. “Your father has no army. You’re right in thinking that your father could fight me on it—completely in the right to declare war. But I’d tear your kingdom apart like paper in one battle. You’d be a sullied, former King-Consort—the heir to a broken kingdom. You’d have nothing without me.”
Stiles bit down on his tongue, ready to scream at Derek—to tell him he’d be glad to return home. Instead, he settled for a simple sentence. “You’re a monster,” he practically whispered, his fury trembling through his body.
“And you’re married to me,” Derek stated, appearing to be unaffected by Stiles’ comment. He leaned closer, his breath ghosting over Stiles’ ear as he spoke. “Be careful of the line you walk.”
And with that, Derek was gone. Stiles took a moment in order to recover before he turned, angrily sweeping the papers, including Derek’s precious maps, onto the floor. It wasn’t until he threw the decorative glass wine jug across the room, watching it smash on impact, that Stiles finally felt better.
“You’re drunk,” Stiles stated when he opened the door that night to find a disheveled Derek standing there, wine bottle in hand.
“Observant of you,” Derek deadpanned as he pushed by Stiles, more than accustomed to the routine they had set.
“It’s not necessary,” Stiles finally stated, still lingering by the door as he watched Derek.
“What, telling you that you’re observant?” Derek questioned.
“No,” Stiles firmly stated, his hand subconsciously running low across his lower abdomen. “Tonight isn’t necessary,” he explained, waiting for Derek to reply.
Derek’s eyes moved to follow Stiles’ action, realization covering his face. “How long?”
Stiles offered a small shrug. “A few weeks along—maybe a little over a month,” he stated. “It’s hard to tell.”
Derek nodded. “Well, congratulations is in order,” he uttered, moving to walk out the door. His steps slowed as he stood by Stiles and the door. “If you need anything,” he paused, watching Stiles for a reaction. “Don’t hesitate to ask.”
The pregnancy was a lonely one, Stiles keeping Derek at a distance as he worked on the plans of keeping the Argents at bay. It made Stiles miserable, almost every day spent feeling ill—every meal was a battle to keep down. He spent most of his days in his private rooms or the library, avoiding all public outings as he grew increasingly protective. He grew protective of himself and the baby, noticing the way some of the others suspiciously eyed him, as if they were planning something.
The birth was more problematic than the pregnancy. He remembered standing by the throne during the ball. He remembered his body feeling weak, a cold sweat falling over him. The guards and guests all sounded distant and muffled. He suddenly lost the strength in his legs, collapsing to the floor as his vision blurred. He felt strong, familiar arms wrap around him, jostling him into consciousness. He called out Derek’s name, staring up at him. He remembered feeling weightless as he was carried back to his room. He screamed in pain as the contractions came in waves, the voices of the others fading into the background before everything went black.
When Stiles awoke, his whole body ached. His mind was groggy, his mouth dry. His abdomen hurt, catching sight of a giant horizontal cut still healing as he peered beneath the blankets. He scanned around the room, looking for any signs of life, bile rising in his stomach when he couldn’t spot his child anywhere. He thought he was imagining it, but he caught a glimpse of Derek sitting next to the window.
Derek’s arms were cradling a small bundle, his eyes fixed on it. He slowly rocked the bundle when a small cry rang out, offering a small humming as a way to soothe it.
Stiles carefully watched Derek, surprised when he turned to look at him as if he knew he was being watched. He ignored that small feeling, his eyes honing in on the bundle.
“Is … is he okay?” Stiles asked, slightly concerned that he no longer was able to keep the baby to himself.
“Fine,” Derek answered, looking back down. “She’s fine.”
“She?” Stiles asked, dread welling in his chest. “It’s a girl?”
Derek looked up, catching the sight of concern flashing across Stiles’ face. “Yes.”
Stiles’ eyes focused on the bundle, slightly anxious the longer she wasn’t in the protection of his arms. “I … I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be,” Derek answered as he moved forward, coming to stand by the bed.
“I didn’t give you a son,” Stiles finally uttered his concern.
Derek’s eyebrows furrowed in confusion. He looked down at their daughter before answering, “You gave me a family.” He moved to place the baby in Stiles’ arms, allowing him to hold their daughter for the first time.
Derek looked up when the door opened, immediately realizing that it was Peter. He turned his attention back to Stiles and the baby, leaving a lingering hand cupping along the baby’s head. “That’s more than enough,” he uttered before abruptly moving to leave.
Stiles stared after Derek, his eyes lingering on the door until he felt his daughter wiggle back and forth in his arms. He looked down at her, smiling at the life he helped create. “Just you and me, huh?” He softly spoke, a small smile pulling at his lips. “I’m glad to finally meet you.” He held back the watery laugh that bubbled up in his chest as the baby yawned, smacking her lips as she turned inward, towards Stiles’ chest. “Just you and me, kiddo.”
Derek was wonderful with Natalia. He doted on her more than anything, and Stiles couldn’t stop himself from enjoying it. He was an exceptional father, but his relationship with Stiles remained cold and distant. They nearly stopped having sex, the pressure of appearances no longer haunting them now that Natalia was born. They had sex here or there, quick bouts of exchange that often ended in them silently parting from one another.
It had been almost three month since they last had sex, Natalia almost reaching her first year. Derek was rarely present in the castle, leaving Stiles’ mind to wonder at where Derek was spending his time.
They were both silently sharing dinner one night, as had become custom between them, when Stiles finally asked Derek.
“Have you taken a mistress?” Stiles didn’t bother to hide the fact that the question had been eating away at him for some time.
Derek looked up from his papers—the reports coming in from the troops. He stared at Stiles before furrowing his eyebrows in disbelief. “You’re serious,” he uttered when he noticed that Stiles was intensely waiting for his answer.
“Have you?” Stiles demanded once more.
“Why do you care?” Derek challenged as he relaxed in his chair.
“Just answer the question,” Stiles replied.
“If I tell you I haven’t, you won’t believe me,” Derek started as he reached out for his goblet. “And if I tell you I have, you won’t believe me.” He had become accustomed to Stiles’ distrust in his answers. “So tell me, dear husband, how am I supposed to answer?”
“Truthfully, if you can manage that,” Stiles bit out.
“No,” Derek answered. “I don’t have a mistress. Satisfied?” He carefully watched Stiles.
Stiles turned his gaze away from Derek. “You don’t have to lie to me,” he vehemently stated.
Derek scoffed. “Of course you don’t believe me,” he uttered under his breath.
“How can I when I hear noises coming from your rooms in the dead of night?” Stiles challenged.
Derek narrowed his eyes on Stiles. “First, I would call you foolish,” he began. “Then, I would tell you that your ears must be hearing things, considering that I haven’t been in my own rooms for the past few weeks.”
Stiles slightly startled, looking up at Derek in uncertain surprise.
“I’ve been in the barracks, training soldiers,” Derek offered in explanation. “I think I’d rather know why you are wandering the halls at night,” he countered.
“Restless nights,” was all Stiles offered, completely unwilling to admit that he actually sought out Derek’s company that night.
A few weeks passed, Natalia was the only driving force that brought them together. Stiles hated how his heart swelled whenever Derek held Natalia close, pressing delicate kisses into her hair, just above her ear. He hated that he loved the sound of Natalia’s laughter whenever Derek would gently rub his beard against her stomach, blowing soft raspberries into her skin, a small smile befalling his lips as he looked at their daughter. He hated the way Natalia would stuff her hands into Derek’s beard, smiling and cooing at him as she pulled at his cheeks.
After Natalia’s first birthday, the Court called a Council meeting—a political gathering of the neighboring kingdoms to attend in order to perfect treaties and negotiate at least another decade of peace. It was all a gilded move for kingdoms to show solidarity and compliance when in reality they attending to gain some profit from the weakening kingdoms.
Stiles feared the Argents would be present, putting both Beacon and Triskelia in danger of being disinvited. If the Court rejected either Stiles or Derek, it meant to reject their kingdoms, which in turn meant their once allies intended to enter alliances with the Argents. To Stiles’ surprise, Derek and Stiles had been invited on Triskelia’s behalf, Stiles’ father being invited on Beacon’s behalf. Despite his dissatisfaction with being disassociated with his kingdom, he was happy that he would be seeing his father.
Stiles and Derek both agreed that leaving Natalia behind was in their best interest, knowing that she would be safe behind Triskelia’s walls. Stiles held her the hours leading up to their departure, gently rocking her in his arms as he hummed different lullabies to her.
Natalia now looked more like Derek than before. Her features were sharp, even for a baby. Her hair was dark, falling in soft curls, making Stiles curious if she was going to keep them. Her eyebrows were as expressive as Derek’s, making Stiles laugh whenever she made funny expressions that mimicked Derek.
Stiles was reluctant to give her up, setting her down in her crib when Boyd informed him that it was past their time to depart. He paused when he almost ran into Derek in the doorway. He silently moved aside, allowing Derek to enter. He lingered, catching the protective hand Derek settled over Natalia’s torso as he leaned forward to place a kiss on her forehead before uttering a few words. He noticed that Natalia stirred in her sleep, a small response to hearing her father’s voice.
The trip was short, the actual meetings unfortunately being long and tiring. Stiles spent most of the meetings between Derek and his father, another instance of him being the physical embodiment of the bridge built between Triskelia and Beacon.
Stiles wasn’t surprised whenever he had to subtly grab Derek’s hand under the table, a calming action that kept him from actually standing and ripping another kingdom’s monarch in two. Stiles spoke when needed, often times out maneuvering another leaders’ attempts to advance on Triskelia’s holdings. As pleased as it made him, he wasn’t ignorant of the mocking looks the others gave Derek—as if they were amused to see someone arguing on Derek’s behalf.
Derek had never been a politician. The others could outwit him with treaties and exchanging of holdings, but they couldn’t beat him on the battlefield, and they knew it. But now that Derek had Stiles to handle them, Triskelia became even more of a threat. Stiles unfortunately managed to realize that too late.
It was one of the several days they broke from meetings, a type of break from having to speak politics with one another. A calming break that involved horseback riding around the gorgeously manicured grounds the Court called home.
Stiles carefully watched a few of the other monarchs he had marked as potential threats. He remained by Derek’s side, offering him his own opinion of the men. He noticed that Derek was silent, a scowl consuming his features for the past few days.
“What’s the matter?” Stiles finally asked, not caring if someone overheard them.
“Nothing,” Derek answered too quickly.
“That was in no way convincing,” Stiles replied.
“I don’t need to bother you with it,” Derek coldly stated.
“No, you’re only my husband and king,” Stiles began. “Why should you bother your silly husband with your concerns.” He noticed that his father was watching them, a concerned arch of his eyebrow asking him if everything was okay. Stiles offering him a smile in return, a faint nod of his head.
“I don’t need you to fight my battles for me,” Derek finally snapped in a hushed tone.
“Fight …” Stiles turned to look at Derek. “You think that’s what I was doing in there?” He incredulously asked.
“I can handle them,” Derek stubbornly stated, turning to look away from Stiles.
“Clearly,” Stiles sarcastically replied. “You do realize that your terrifying reputation will only keep you safe for so long, don’t you?”
Derek turned to look at Stiles once more.
“They fear you, not respect you,” Stiles stated. “I was attempting to make them realize that they are unable to continue their delusional ways in trying to best you through flowery speech and backstabbing in written documents.”
“Handle them, I know,” Stiles sighed in aggravation. “I don’t want you to have to handle them on your own,” he softly explained. He paused, turning his complete attention towards Derek. “You don’t have to anymore. I’m here to help you, Derek, not to do the fighting for you.”
Derek carefully watched Stiles, his eyes evaluating his husband. He offered a small nod, not knowing how to respond. He made a move to finally speak when his head perked up, his eyes snapping to attention at the bushes in the distance.
Stiles suppressed the laugh that tickled his throat, seeing how Isaac, Boyd, and even Erica could joke that Derek was part canine. He turned on his horse, trying to see where Derek was looking. He turned back to Derek. “What is it?” He asked, his eyebrows furrowing in concern when Derek remained frozen, his eyes fixed on that one spot. He let out a surprised yelp when Derek quickly reached an arm out, shoving him off of his horse and to the ground.
The horses startled, rearing up in surprise at the sudden motion. The other monarchs yelled out in confusion at the disarray.
Stiles landed on his side, the wind almost knocked right out of him. He blinked several times, uncertain what happened. He was happy that his father was almost instantly by his side, helping him to sit up. He turned his attention to Derek, prepared to demand what the hell he was thinking. His eyes widened in surprised when he noticed that Derek was no longer on his horse.
“Derek?” Stiles weakly called his name, having noticed that Derek was in a crumpled heap on the ground—he must have fallen off the other side of his own horse. “Derek?” He called in concern when he realized that he wasn’t moving to get up. He scrambled out of his father’s arms, falling over himself as he scurried to Derek’s side. He pulled Derek onto his back. “Oh my God,” he quickly cursed when he saw the arrow lodged in Derek’s chest. He panicked, his hands making an abortive motion to grab the arrow.
“Dad!” Stiles yelled, not knowing what to do. “Dad, what do I do?” He hurriedly questioned, refusing to take his eyes off of Derek. He tried to move Derek’s clothes enough to see the wound, startling when Derek jerked awake.
Derek’s hand snatched Stiles’ wrist, holding it in a way that forced Stiles’ hand to hover over the arrow. Derek quickly looked from Stiles to his father, his breathing heavy now that wind was coming back to his lungs. “It’s not safe—”
“Of course it’s not, you idiot!” Stiles yelled, knowing that he was crying even as he smacked Derek’s good shoulder, a small part of him needing to touch Derek in any way possible. “Someone shot you! You shoved me off my horse and got shot!”
“Get him out of here,” Derek barked at Stiles’ father, moving to sit up.
“Don’t tell my father what to do,” Stiles sharply snapped as he moved to look at his father. “Dad, we have to get him out of here.”
“Stiles,” Derek growled, trying to get his attention as guards scrambled in attempt to find whoever shot the arrow. “Stiles!” He almost yelled, forcibly making his husband look at him. “Listen to me,” he started, partially wincing as he sat up completely. “I’m fine,” he stated when he noticed Stiles’ eyes glued to the arrow.
“You’re not,” Stiles argued. “Derek, you have an arrow in your chest.”
“Shoulder,” Derek replied. “And I’ve had worse.”
Stiles’ gaze flickered towards Derek’s eyes. “That doesn’t make me feel better!” He yelled. “We’re getting you back to the castle.”
Derek made a move to protest before silencing himself when he saw Stiles’ displeased look. He wrapped his arm around Stiles’ shoulders, leaning only some of his weight on Stiles as they cautiously made their way back, the manhunt for the shooter already begun.
Stiles, to his credit, remained silent while the doctor inspected Derek. He sat by the fireplace, his legs anxiously bounced as his eyes remained fixed on Derek.
Derek, however, glared at the doctor the longer he rattled off the reasons to be cautious about removing the arrow.
“I’ve torn arrows like this out of my own body while on the battlefield,” Derek growled at the man. “If you’re not going to help me take it out, leave and I’ll do it myself.”
The man made a sputtering noise of disapproval, looking to Stiles in hopes that he was the more reasonable one. When Stiles made no move to protest Derek’s statement, he turned back to Derek. “Your majesty, with respect, if you pull that arrow out, you could cause irreversible damage.”
“And I’m sure bleeding to death won’t cause irreversible damage,” Derek snarled. “Leave, I’ll have one of my men help me.” He moved to scoot towards the edge of the bed, looking down at the arrow and paying the doctor no attention.
Stiles stood, offering to show the doctor out.
“Please, speak to your husband,” the doctor pleaded. “I don’t think he fully understands his decision.”
“I’ll try,” Stiles stated as he all but pushed the man from the room. He motioned for Isaac to come into the room from his position in the hallway.
“That wasn’t a good idea,” Stiles tiredly sighed to Derek. He made a displeased look at the arrow, coming to stand in between Derek’s legs as he looked at it. “That man is called a healer for a reason.”
“That man’s an idiot,” Derek replied. He shifted his weight, placing his wounded shoulder on better display for Isaac. He wrapped his free arm around Stiles’ waist, his hand resting on Stiles’ hip. He pressed his face into the crook of Stiles’ throat.
Stiles pressed into Derek’s embrace, his own arm wrapping around Derek’s back. He looked at Isaac, giving him a faint nod to do whatever it was he could to rid Derek of the arrow.
Derek let out a low guttural growl of pain when Isaac managed to pull the arrow out in one swift motion. He tightened his grip on Stiles, his curse muffled against Stiles’ skin before his body relaxed.
Stiles was the one that cleaned the wound, as best he could, when everyone realized that Derek was too angry or violent towards anyone else. He wrapped Derek’s shoulder, trying his best to remember the way his mother cared for his own small childish cuts and bruises, or his father’s rare battle wounds.
Derek slept for the rest of the Council, his body practically shutting down in order to heal from all the exertion. He grumbled whenever Stiles pestered him about eating more, or attempted to air him out. He looked completely harmless, despite his displeased disposition—Stiles accredited his harmlessness to the adorable bedhead that twisted his hair into comical dishevelment.
Stiles was disappointed when he discovered that the assassin was not found. He wished that their own men were allowed to conduct the search, having faith that they would have found the would be killer.
The carriage ride home was equally as stress inducing, Derek wanting to ride his horse despite Stiles’ protests. He gave into Stiles’ demands, riding in the carriage beside him.
Derek turned his attention towards Stiles when he heard him beating the feathered pillow meant to accommodate his injury. “Stiles, if you don’t stop—”
“You’ll what?” Stiles challenged as he stuffed the fluffed pillow behind Derek’s back.
“I’m healing fine,” Derek stated in reassurance, a small look of surprise falling across his features. He never expected to see Stiles feeling concern for him, especially his wellbeing.
Stiles made a disgruntled noise, reclining next to Derek as he turned to look out the window. He tapped his foot, still anxious from the days’ previous events. He nervous tapping stopped when he felt a hand slip into his own. He looked down, realizing that it was Derek’s hand holding his. He kept his smile to himself, but left his hand in Derek’s.
Derek only spent the following day after they arrived home in bed, Natalia crawling around and cooing at him before she moved to sleep against his chest.
Stiles grew tired of the war room planning, not knowing how Derek would proceed. He released a sigh of relief when Derek finally arrived.
Derek didn’t bother paying attention to the looks his generals were giving him. He moved to stand beside Stiles, looking at the reports. He turned his attention towards Stiles, a curious look crossing his features when he noticed Stiles hovering closer than necessary.
“I’m glad to find you up and about,” Stiles commented, his eyes scanning Derek’s face for any size of discomfort.
“Glad,” Derek echoed, a faint smile pulling at his lips. “I see that I have to take an arrow to the chest for you to feel glad.”
“The shoulder,” Stiles corrected him with a similar smile crossing his lips. He lingered, briefly debating on staying when one of the generals asked Derek if he was ready to begin. He released a small laugh when Derek gave the general an exasperated look. “I’ll leave you to it,” he softly stated, his fingers gently brushing against Derek’s hand as he moved to leave.
Derek easily took Stiles’ hand into his own, causing Stiles to turn back and look at him. He made sure to lean in, close enough that only Stiles could overhear his words. “I’d do it again.”
Stiles stared, wide eyed, at Derek. He parted his lips to speak, uncertain what words he could use to answer. Instead, he made the quick decision to push forward, brushing his lips against Derek’s. It was soft and timid compared to the previous kisses they shared, both of them welcoming the other’s lips.
Stiles was the first to pull back, his lips hovering close to Derek’s. He slowly opened his eyes, aware of the warmth of Derek’s breath still caressing his skin. He waited for Derek’s response, anxious to see if his kisses were welcomed. He smiled when Derek pressed in for one final departing kiss.
“I’ll see you tonight, then,” Derek uttered, a small twinge of hope accenting his words.
Stiles shyly nodded, conscious of the blush burning his cheeks after realizing that they were still in a room with Derek’s generals. He released his hold on Derek, making a move to leave. He tried to ignore the look he caught Peter giving him—a disapproving look that spoke levels of Peter’s unkind feelings towards him.
Derek didn’t come to Stiles that night.
Stiles fell asleep across the furs lavishing his bed. He dreamed of Derek’s kisses. Of Derek’s hands moving across his body, perfectly teasing him until the point of painful denial. He stirred when he dreamed of fire, smoke and screams consuming his senses. He saw a chaotic battle, Derek falling to the ground, his helmet lost in the battle. He felt himself screaming in pain, a surgeon’s knife cutting his swollen belly, producing a baby’s screams.
Stiles screamed himself awake, startling one of the guards to barge into the room in search of a threat. He tried to calm down, attempting to tell the guard that he was fine—it was just a nightmare.
Stiles had been plagued by nightmares since before his mother’s death. He dreamed of the night she would die, the manner in which she would pass from this world. His stomach was twisted in knots as he thought about what the dream could mean. He remembered Deaton telling him that the dreams didn’t have to predict the future, but the risk of his horrors becoming a reality were always there.
Stiles asked to see Derek. He was denied.
“The King is busy, your majesty,” was all the guard offered in explanation.
Stiles angrily nodded in bitter acceptance. Derek was acting like his usual distant recluse, and it was eating away at Stiles. He wanted to talk with him—to discover what kept him from his very presence.
Stiles didn’t see Derek for weeks after that; his first time catching a glimpse of Derek’s retreating form was during the first ball of the season. He quickly followed him down the hallway, refusing to call his name out of suspicion that he may run away. He snatched Derek’s bicep in his hand, surprised that Derek didn’t snarl at him to release him.
Derek refused to look at Stiles, his hand still perched on the door handle that would give entrance to the ballroom.
“Husband,” Stiles softly stated, a small attempt to gain his attention. He hoped it came across kinder and more playful than their normal use of the nickname. He had hoped to one day call Derek something more tender and meaningful. “I haven’t seen you in weeks,” he started when Derek remained silent.
“Busy,” Derek curtly answered. “That all?”
Stiles’ eyebrows furrowed in confusion. “No. No, that is not all,” he firmly stated as he moved in front of Derek, creating a block between Derek and the ballroom. “You’ve left my presence with no other explanation besides being busy.”
“I’m not moving until you tell me what is wrong,” Stiles childishly remarked as he crossed his arms over his chest.
“Very well,” Derek started. He easily reached around Stiles, opening the door, which prompted Stiles to almost fumble from the loss of his balance. “Stay out here for the entire ball, then.”
Stiles’ mouth dropped open, his protest caught in his throat as Derek disappeared into the ballroom. His anger caused him to seethe, only ridding himself of his glare when Lady Lydia asked him what was wrong—she was hiding beneath the sanctity of her embroidered fan as she spoke in hushed tones.
“My husband is a vile creature who ignores me at every turn,” Stiles found himself confessing as he watched Derek conversing as little as possible with the others.
“Creatures are easy to stir jealousy within,” Lydia offered as she bowed to people passing them. “Which often leads to attention.”
“Jealousy?” Stiles questioned. “I could sign my death warrant with that.”
“Smiling and laughing with another person doesn’t mean anything,” Lydia countered. “I do it all the time when I feel like Allison isn’t showing enough attention on me.”
“Allison dotes upon you,” Stiles argued.
“Exactly,” Lydia answered, finally folding her fan. She smiled when she saw Allison enter the ballroom. “Food for thought, darling, that is all.” She parted from Stiles, leaving him with his thoughts.
Stiles tried to pretend that he wasn’t even entertaining Lydia’s idea of flirting with others to cause Derek jealousy.
Stiles was speaking with one of the diplomats, laughing and smiling when appropriate in an attempt to create a friendly dialogue. Lydia’s words were lurking in his mind, a feeling of dread being conjured up with them—he could never do that to Derek, to them.
It was no secret that many members of the Court still favored Stiles, finding him attractive as well as a force to be reckoned with—the only obstacle in their way was Derek. Some thought that Stiles would leave Derek behind if he had an escape from his marriage. Some thought they could persuade Stiles to leave Derek.
Stiles offered a friendly smile when one of the diplomats touched his hand. He didn’t think anything of it, until he realized that it was lingering touch. He began to pull his hand away from the diplomat when he felt a firm weight pressed beside him, the diplomat’s hand being snatched away from him.
Derek released a faint growl, cursing low and under his breath. He tightened his grip on the diplomat’s arm, slightly pleased when the man winced in pain. He released his hold, not bothering to be gentle with shoving the man.
Stiles kept his eyes on Derek. He wanted to laugh in Derek’s face. It took another person—a threat—hitting on Stiles for Derek to bother with finally paying attention to him.
“Forgive my husband,” Stiles started, turning towards the diplomat in favor of ignoring Derek’s glare. “Sometimes he forgets that I’m a human, and not property to be claimed.”
There was an awkward laugh that fell across the others gathered in their small group. Stiles gave the others a curt bow of his head before moving to depart. He pretended to be ignorant of the fact that Derek was following behind him. He calmly walked out of the hall and away from prying eyes, slipping into Derek’s room. He told himself it was because it was closer, not because he wanted to see inside it at least once before Derek banished him to the deepest pits of the castle.
“You move to insult me at every turn,” Derek challenged as he carelessly slammed the door shut behind them.
“You insult yourself, husband of mine,” Stiles snapped in response. “You snatch another’s hand away from me for fear that I welcome the touch—suggestion that there is a possibility that I would allow such vile things to happen.”
“You act as if there aren’t rumors,” Derek scoffed. The amusement in his voice was bitter and short lived.
“Is that what has you riled up?” Stiles questioned, his emotions completely twisted from the whiplash Derek was causing him. “Has your own stupidity kept you from my bed because you think that I am allowing another to share it?”
“I don’t know what you do in your spare time,” Derek hurtfully uttered in a dejected tone.
“Do you realize that it’s not just me you shame with that accusation, but our daughter as well?” Stiles demanded, hot tears prickling his eyes, because how dare Derek expect him to stand still and accept such a damning accusation. “I don’t know if the rumors are what is causing you to act like this—”
“Like what?” Derek dared Stiles to elaborate.
“Like a savage animal trying to lay claim to his territory,” Stiles nearly yelled. “I’m not territory. I’m not one of your soldiers that you move around on one of your precious maps. I’m not a servant that you bark orders at. I’m not some mistress you can dismiss when you’re done fucking me.” He held back the small sob building in his chest, knowing he would sound no better than a small wounded animal. “I am your husband.
“And the sooner you learn that, the sooner you’ll understand that those rumors are exactly what they seem to be. Rumors.”
Stiles refused to stay, not wanting to listen to Derek speak anything else that could hurt him. He was surprised when Derek grabbed his arm, quickly being spun around to face him. He paused his words, stopping himself from uttering anything when he saw Derek’s face—he looked apologetic, somewhat hopeful but equally determined to scowl. He relaxed against Derek’s grip, waiting for him to speak.
“My uncle,” Derek began, his voice unsure of himself yet mesmerized by Stiles’s willingness to listen to him. He shook his head, as if he didn’t want to remember what Peter had said to him. “He … he said—forget it,” he uttered, releasing his hold on Stiles as he moved out of his space.
“No,” Stiles firmly countered, taking a step towards Derek, scooping up his hands with his own. “What did he say?”
“To remember what I am,” Derek stated, his voice gruff with distaste for repeating his uncle’s words. “That I’m a king who took you from your father, nothing more. And that you can easily find comfort in a number of other’s arms.”
Stiles slowly slipped his hand from Derek’s grip, seeing the look of resignation crossing Derek’s features. He moved to closer, reaching a hand up to touch Derek’s chin. His fingers easily grazed across the short hairs of Derek’s beard, moving to lift Derek’s face in order to see his eyes.
“You’re mine,” Stiles firmly stated. His hands firmly cupped Derek’s cheeks in his hands, preventing him from shying away. He paused, his nerves lighting up as he thought about finally admitting it—to someone other than himself. “And I’m yours.” He released a sigh of relief when Derek’s hands settled on his hips, their foreheads moving to rest against one another. “We’re each other’s. Derek, I’m sorry you thought—”
Stiles was unable to finish, his words halting against Derek’s lips. He didn’t care about the words falling from his lips, knowing that no matter how ridiculous they were, nothing compared to the soft murmurs of apologies Derek was showering across his skin. He pulled and clung to Derek, overjoyed to feel Derek’s hands roaming his body, cupping him in a chance to keep him close. He lost track of time, his senses overwhelmed by Derek.
Derek spread Stiles out on the bed, worshipping his body.
All gentleness melted away after that.
Derek’s thrusts were deep and hard, verging on savage as his hips snapped against Stiles. His fingernails bit into Stiles’ hips, small crescent shapes decorating the soft curve of the inside of his hips as Derek yanked him back.
Stiles’ breathing was labored, his arms giving out as he crumpled against the bed. His fingers twisted around the furs, his hands fisting the blankets as he presented his ass for Derek. He knew he was babbling, words falling from his lips in pleas for Derek to keep going. He released a displeased moan when Derek suddenly stopped. He pushed up onto his hands, bracing himself as he tried to push back against Derek. He let his head hang low in disappointment when Derek’s hands prevented him from moving.
“Say it again,” Derek uttered, moving one hand to smoothly move along the curve of Stiles’ spine.
Stiles groaned, snapping his head around to glare at Derek. When Derek didn’t make any sign of committing to pleasing Stiles any further than he already had, Stiles took matters into his own hands. He moved fast enough to take Derek by surprise—Stiles liked to think he surprised him, instead of Derek letting Stiles surprise him. He placed his hand against Derek’s chest, pushing him down onto the mattress. He moved to straddle Derek, a soft moan of delicious satisfaction escaped his throat as Derek slipped back inside him.
Derek moved his hands to cup Stiles’ hips, his thumbs tracing the furrow of skin running from Stiles’ hip to the base of his cock. He smiled when Stiles shuttered from his touch, hearing the soft mutter of ‘bastard’ under his breath. He enjoyed the way Stiles’ fingernails dug into his chest—sure and strong reminders that this was happening.
Stiles leaned down, running his lips from Derek’s collarbone to his Adam’s apple, giving an experimental roll of his hips. He smiled against Derek’s skin, hearing the moan escaping Derek’s lips. He braced himself against Derek’s chest, working himself over Derek’s body, joining together in slow building pleasure. He captured Derek’s lips with his, one final taste before he leaned his body back, arching his back as he rode out his own pleasure.
“You’re mine,” Stiles breathlessly uttered, a series of hitches continued to build in his breaths with every one of his movements Derek’s thrusts managed to meet. He smiled down at Derek when he felt Derek’s hands trail up his body. “And I’m yours.”
Derek jolted at those words, sitting up right to wrap his arms around Stiles’ torso, kissing him with intent—with what Stiles believed to be love.
Hours passed, their bodies tired but sated as they cohabitated the same room for the first time in the afterglow.
Stiles curled onto his side, using Derek’s arm as a pillow as he traced patterns across his forearm. He enjoyed the way Derek’s fingers traced along his spine.
Derek committed to memory the details of Stiles’ moles, the way they connected into various shapes—even constellations. He smiled when Stiles pressed into his touch, even scooting his body back into Derek’s side.
“Why did you sign the treaty?” Stiles finally asked, glad that he wasn’t facing Derek. He pressed the heat in his face into Derek’s bicep, hoping he wouldn’t pull away from him or the question. He felt the bed dip from Derek shifting his weight, the press of Derek’s lips against his shoulder blade.
“Why did you accept?” Derek countered, his words nothing more than simple breaths warming Stiles’ skin.
“Because my father signed the treaty,” Stiles ruefully answered. “He signed it, and like a good son, I followed through with it because I knew my father believed this would work. He believed that the Dread Wolf of Triskelia could scare our enemies from our walls.” He relaxed into Derek’s embrace, smiling when he heard the amused rumble of laughter purr through Derek’s chest. “I hated him, you know. For a long time.”
“He still hates me,” Derek answered. “He hated me the minute he saw the treaty. He didn’t want to force you into anything. Peter made it difficult for him to decline.” He took a deep breath before continuing. “I’m not going to lie to you and tell you that I’m blameless in all this. But I gave your father as much as I could in the treaty.”
Stiles held his breath, clinging to every one of Derek’s words.
“Because I wanted you,” Derek finally uttered. “For years I heard nothing but your wit and intellect. Your loyalty and honor outshining the rest of the Court. You’re everything I’m not—everything I want.”
“I was scared of you at first,” Stiles offered.
“Everyone always is,” Derek answered.
“Did you really give Kate Argent a golden crown?” Stiles questioned, his brain curious for years as to whether Derek had. He tried to make himself feel repulsed to think that Derek poured molten liquid gold over the head of a woman he once thought of marrying. But when Stiles learned of what she did—of how she was the one who set fire to the Hale castle, murdering nearly all of Derek’s family, Stiles thought Derek was kind in his punishment.
Derek was silent, unsure of how to answer.
“She deserved it,” Stiles found himself saying, hoping it was a comfort to Derek.
“My uncle said it was the fitting punishment,” Derek explained. “She took everything from me, and even in the end … she said I deserved to be alone—that I didn’t deserve a family.”
Stiles reached behind him, grabbing Derek’s hand. He pulled his arm across his body, forcing Derek to envelop him in his embrace. “She was wrong.”
Their happiness, like everything, had an expiration date. Neither of them could do anything to counter it. The Argents were moving in on Beacon, making their intentions known when there was an attempt made on the King’s life.
Even with Scott’s word that his father was well, Stiles was terrified. He knew that the Argents wouldn’t stop until they had conquered all they could. He was also scared that Derek would leave—that Derek would go to defend Beacon as was expected of him in the treaty.
And being the noble man Stiles knew him to be, Derek was going to.
“Tell them to evacuate,” Stiles offered as he followed beside Derek.
“The minute your father leaves the safety of the kingdom’s walls, the Argents will descend like a pack of hungry wolves,” Derek countered, having had this argument with Stiles earlier. His armor felt heavier than normal, the weight of both kingdoms bearing down on him. He didn’t like leaving—he didn’t want to leave. More importantly, he didn’t want to leave Stiles or Natalia. It wasn’t easy for him to leave Natalia, crying and screaming in her nursery—not understanding why her father was leaving her behind, claiming that she could fight by his side.
Stiles nibbled his lip as they reached Derek’s horse, knowing that he would have to find a better solution if it was to keep Derek from the battlefield.
“Derek, don’t do this,” Stiles urgently stated, begging for more time to think of something.
“I have to be there to lead the charge,” Derek answered, moving to fasten his horse’s saddle.
“You know the Argents better than anyone,” Stiles finally stated. “You know their trickery and deceit.”
Derek paused, turning to look at Stiles, waiting for him to continue his point.
“They don’t have an army,” Stiles stated, moving in close to Derek in hopes that he would not be overheard. “So why would they meet you in open battle unless they have a final trick up their sleeve?”
“They’re desperate,” Derek countered. “Desperate men do stupid things—Gerard was never bright.” He sighed as he took hold of his saddle, ready to mount his horse and ride off, despite his desire to stay. “If I don’t go, the Argents could gain a foothold on Beacon’s borders.”
“Or they could be waiting for you to come out of the safety of your kingdom’s walls,” Stiles argued, watching in near horror as Derek finished fastening his saddle.
“I’m sorry, but—”
“Don’t go,” Stiles pleaded as he grabbed Derek’s arm, stopping him from pulling himself onto the saddle. “Please, not now, of all times.”
Derek turned his body towards Stiles, his hands moving to hold his hips as he drew their bodies together. He reached a hand up to cup Stiles’ face, running his thumb over the curve of his cheekbone.
“I’m coming back,” Derek surely stated. “And when I do, I expect to find my husband waiting for me—with dry eyes.”
“Derek, I’m serious. This isn’t—”
Derek pressed his lips to Stiles, silencing his protest.
Stiles knew Derek would let him argue with him later, but this moment was theirs to share—in all its perfection. He pressed into Derek’s body, angling his head to the side to better accommodate him. He closed his eyes, picturing the look on Derek’s face when he returned to find another child waiting for him. He imagined the way Derek would dote on this one, reminders flooding his mind as he recalled the moments Natalia all but stole Derek away for herself.
For how perfect and loving the kiss was, something melancholy seeped in. An understanding that this could be the last time he felt Derek’s skin against him, his arms holding him close in a desperate embrace.
Stiles was in a haze as Derek pulled back, their lips barely touching when he let the surprise go. “I’m pregnant,” he whispered against Derek’s lips, a secret for him to know—to think about as he fought to survive another battle. He moved Derek’s hand to press over his stomach—above the scar Natalia’s birth left.
Derek answered with a soft smile, stealing another kiss as his thumb gently trailed along the contours of Stiles’ clothed stomach. “You keep gifting me with a bigger family.”
“You’re partially responsible,” Stiles fondly replied.
Derek lightly laughed, the sound vibrating from his chest and straight through Stiles’ fingers.
“Stay,” Stiles pleaded one last time.
“I’d love nothing more,” Derek started, a frown tugging at his lips. “But I can’t protect you, Natalia, or the baby by staying here.”
Stiles closed his eyes, moving to rest his forehead against Derek’s shoulder. He wanted to hide away, Derek being everything that made Stiles feel safe. For Stiles, Hale castle was just another castle. It wasn’t home. It wasn’t safe. It wasn’t Derek.
“I understand,” Stiles reluctantly uttered, his words almost lost against Derek’s chest. He finally looked up, determination in his eyes. “Promise me you’ll come back.”
“Promise me, Derek, or I won’t let go of you, and make a scene in front of your generals,” Stiles mockingly threatened, needing to hear Derek promise him. Because Derek always kept his promises to Stiles.
“I promise,” Derek answered. “I’ll always come back to you.”
Stiles nodded, looking down in an attempt to hide his tears. He pulled back, out of Derek’s arms, allowing his husband to go. He tearfully looked up at Derek, biting down on his bottom lip as he watched him press the horse into turning and galloping away.
Stiles stomach started to swell, announcing to the world that he was with child once more. He ignored the looks some members of the Court gave him, knowing that they thought he had been unfaithful to Derek—that he carried another’s child inside him. He took solace in exchanging his letters with Derek, Natalia sometimes offering her own input by babbling the word ‘Dada’ endlessly whenever Stiles tried to write with her in his lap. He smiled whenever the letters indicated that Derek was in a good mood, meaning the battles were going well—or as well as Derek had hoped they would.
‘It’s a boy,’ Stiles wrote, his quill pausing over the parchment. He was uncertain how to explain it—some part of him just knew.
Stiles’ nights were restless, his body tossing and turning as nightmares plagued him. He often awoke in a sweat, his pulse hammering loudly as he stirred. He would place a hand to his stomach, his fingers tracing the curve of his belly as he wondered if Derek would be present at the birth. He felt a small pull at his heart the first time he felt the child move, wishing Derek was here to feel it. He always felt guilty for never offering Derek a chance to feel Natalia move.
Stiles assumed the worst when Derek’s letters suddenly stopped. He hadn’t received a word back since his last letter, making him worry that something must have happened. He ignored the comforting words his friends tried to offer, often times locking himself away with Natalia—a pathetic attempt to pretend that they weren’t alone in the world.
His dreams grew worse, until one night, he awoke screaming.
The flaming arrow burned brightly in the darkened sky.
But no reinforcement wave came.
Confusion broke out among the soldiers—angry yells, swords clashing.
They were being overrun by a surprise attack—a new wave of enemy soldiers.
Derek was still among the others, doing his best to remain calm as he fought off the oncoming enemies. He turned to catch sight of the flaming arrow falling beyond the trees, disappearing from the sky. He knew, without doubt, that the reinforcing wave wasn’t coming.
The sound of the retreat trumpet started.
Derek turned, a foreign force slamming against his head. His helmet was ripped from his head. Disorientation clouded all his senses as he stumbled, a few of his men trying to help him—his vision blurred; his ears rang. He stumbled to the ground, pain ripping through his back and abdomen. His knees scraped across the ground, his ability to breathe hindered by the agony radiating through his body.
Derek released a small, choked-off noise, catching sight of his blood staining the ground. He closed his eyes when he saw the tip of the blade emerging from his abdomen. He drew in a steady breath, his thoughts drifting back to Stiles. He remembered the way the sunlight streamed through the window, bathing Stiles in its light.
His hair, a red tint of amber highlighted throughout it.
His eyelashes, long and dark compared to the paleness of his cheeks.
His lips, soft and plump from the way he nibbled them out of habit.
Lastly, his eyes. His eyes, wide and welcoming, holding a secret laugh of joy in their depths as he stared back at Derek.
‘I love you.’
Stiles knew it was going to happen within the next few days. His dreams always preceded the pain. He just wanted to pretend that for once, he was going to be free of it—that Derek was strong enough to survive.
The hall fell into silence, all eyes turning to look at the rider that came speeding through the kingdom’s streets.
It was Isaac. He was out of breath, covered in dirt and blood. He must have ridden right from the battle, unable to stop because of the urgency of his news.
Stiles shook his head, backing away from Isaac, as if distancing himself from the man would change the fact that he could see him carrying Derek’s helmet. He knew the minute he didn’t see Derek’s horse galloping towards the castle—bringing Derek closer to him—that something was wrong.
Lydia moved to stand by Stiles’ side, taking his arm in hers as she chained him down. They both knew that Stiles couldn’t run from it—that running would hurt not only his reputation, but Natalia’s as well. That running would imply he cared more for Derek than Triskelia.
In that moment, Stiles didn’t care for Triskelia—he actually hated it. He’d burn it to the ground if it meant Derek would rise from its ashes. He was grateful Lydia fastened her grip on him when Isaac finally reached them. He would have bolted for Natalia’s room, otherwise.
“The King fell in battle, your majesty,” Isaac’s voice sounded raw and hollow, as if he screamed his pain away. He tried to steady his hands as he presented Stiles with Derek’s helmet, kneeling before Stiles as the rest of the Court bowed in respectful mourning. “Long live the King-Consort, and all hail the future Queen, Natalia Hale.”