“Stiles! It’s 9:30, go home!”
Scott let out a disappointed noise and whipped his head away from the TV screen to glare at his bedroom door, like maybe his mother would be able to see his face from downstairs and feel properly contrite about interrupting their fun. While he was distracted, Stiles took the opportunity to freeze Scott’s character and hit him with a punch that knocked him across the screen and caused the narrator to announce “Finish him!”
“Dude!” Scott protested, looking betrayed. Stiles just smirked and hit the proper combo, watching with satisfaction as Sub-Zero punched a hole through Scorpion’s chest and ripped out his spine in a burst of blood and gratuitous violence.
“Sub-Zero wins,” the game told them solemnly. “Fatality!”
“You cheated,” Scott said with feeling.
“You looked away from the screen,” Stiles shrugged.
“Stiles, I mean it!” Ms. McCall yelled.
He tossed the controller down on the floor and stood up, swaying just slightly with a head rush. Scott glared at him like a disgruntled puppy for a long moment, like he was thinking about demanding that Stiles sit back down for a rematch, but then his eyes flicked towards the door again. Clearly he decided that he’d rather not piss off his mom, because he just sighed and shooed him away.
“Rematch tomorrow, and no cheating.”
“Using someone else’s distraction to your advantage is totally not cheating,” Stiles insisted, grabbing his backpack from where he’d tossed it on Scott’s bed hours ago. “Sun Tsu said so. Probably.”
“Whatever, man,” Scott grumbled. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“Yeah, don’t forget we’ve got that quiz in World Civ.” Scott’s horrified look said that he clearly had forgotten, and Stiles just snorted at him. “See ya.”
He thundered down the stairs, peeking into the living room to say goodbye to Ms. McCall on his way to the front door. She was watching the news with a tablet in her lap, checking emails, but she kept frowning up at the television.
“Hey, what’s up?” he asked, because curiosity had always been his fatal flaw.
“Some European king died in a freak accident yesterday,” she said, nodding at the television, where a reporter was standing in front of a bunch of flashing police lights, looking appropriately sad as he spoke. “Every station is covering it. It’s like Princess Diana all over again.”
“Huh,” Stiles said. “That sucks.”
“Yeah,” she murmured thoughtfully before looking at him with a frown. “Get on home, Stiles, you’ve got school in the morning.”
He made a face at her, but waved goodnight and headed out the door all the same.
His house was dark and quiet when he got home, which wasn’t entirely surprising. His dad was the local Sheriff, and he worked a lot. After his mother had died eight years before, he’d gotten used to having the house mostly to himself. He let himself inside and flipped the deadbolt behind him, heading up the stairs without bothering to turn on the hall light. He considered, for a moment, actually studying for his quiz tomorrow, and then brushed the idea off.
Surfing Reddit was probably a much more productive use of his time.
The next morning, Stiles went out of his way into the Preserve to pick up Cora Hale, as per usual. Her parents were a pair of internationally lauded wildlife activists and they were loaded, but they had a very firm belief in making their kids earn everything they got, so Cora didn’t have a car. Since it was cruel to make anyone over the age of fifteen take the school bus, Stiles always went and picked her up before school. Often times, her older brother Derek caught a ride too.
Derek was a senior, super smart and generally considered pretty cool, if only because he didn’t care if people thought he was cool or not. He was hot like burning, but he didn’t seem to notice it, not the way that Jackson Whittemore, Stiles’ arch-nemesis, did. Derek was incredibly chill, kind of quiet, and Stiles liked him. He was a good dude.
“Don’t think you can just bum rides off Stiles just because he gives me a ride,” Cora was telling Derek snottily as she slid into the front seat. “Because he’s my friend, you know. He didn’t sign up to be dragging your loser ass around town.”
“We’re all going to the same place anyway,” Derek sighed, rolling his eyes so violently that it looked sort of painful.
“Mi carro es su carro,” Stiles added magnanimously, and Cora huffed and rolled her eyes just as viciously as Derek slid into the car, kneeing the back of Cora’s seat accidentally-on-purpose as he got comfortable. Cora whipped around in her chair to glare at him, and Stiles just bit down a grin as he pulled out of their circle driveway and headed back towards the main road.
“Ugh,” Cora groaned when she finally turned back around in her seat. “Did you hear that they’re having swim tryouts after school today? Like, can you believe that?”
“Uh,” Stiles said slowly, dragging out the vowel sound. Cora always had a cause, and she was usually pretty vocal about her viewpoints on them. If Stiles didn’t know why she was making such a big deal about something, he could easily give non-committal answers because he knew she would explain it. In detail. “How unreasonable of them?”
“Damn right!” Cora agreed. “Like, seriously, we’re having a fucking drought, everyone’s saying we’re all going to run out of water, and they’re filling the pool for recreational sports? Really?”
“Oh, yeah,” Stiles said, frowning. He flicked on his blinker and then turned right. “I guess that is bad.”
“Of course it is. I’ve made a petition, I’m going to have people sign it and we’re going to get that wasteful bullshit shut down…”
“Do you really think that they’re going to cancel a seasonal sport because you have a petition?” Derek demanded sardonically. “Do you really think you’re actually going to get anyone to sign your stupid petition?”
“It’s not stupid, Derek, these things are important!”
“No one is going to be willing to fight the administration over swimming…”
“They might,” Stiles spoke up, glancing at Derek in the rear-view mirror. He was looking down at his phone, probably texting his friends about how ridiculous his sister and her friend were. “I mean, let’s be real, Cora is kind of terrifying, and it’s not like she’s going after lacrosse, so they might sign it just to get rid of her.”
“The apathy of our generation is horrifying,” Cora lamented, and Stiles didn’t argue with her. Not necessarily because he agreed, but more because arguing with Cora was kind of like beating your head against a brick wall over and over again. It was easier sometimes to just smile and nod.
She kept talking the rest of the way to school, not even noticing that he’d tuned out for most of the ride. He only picked up the thread of her ranting again as he was pulling into her parking space.
“And I mean I’m not saying that I have an issue with swimming as a sport, or whatever, but when the administration decides that it’s more important to let Jackson Whittemore show off his gigantic head than to ensure that people have water to drink-and therefore live- we’ve obviously got a huge problem!”
“Totally,” he agreed.
“Just because he wants to prance around in a speedo in front of his prissy little girlfriend…”
“Lydia’s not prissy,” Stiles defended immediately, making Cora scowl at him. “She’s gorgeous and smart, and sure she cares about how she looks but why shouldn’t she, she’s perfect…”
Derek got out of the car quickly then, slamming the door shut behind him with a little more force than was absolutely necessary. Admittedly, that was a fairly common reaction from anyone when he started on his Lydia-Martin-is-a-goddess tangent, so he wasn’t too offended.
“Yes, yes, she’s perfect from her strawberry-blonde roots to her Jimmy-Choo-clad toes, I know,” Cora huffed. “You’re blinded by infatuation.”
“I’m not blinded,” Stiles insisted stubbornly. “And it’s not infatuation. Ours is a lifelong love, and one day she will see that.”
“Sure she will,” Cora said, ruffling his hair like he was a cute-yet-clueless toddler.
He scowled at her raking his fingers through his hair to try and make it lie flat again. It was getting way too long, and he needed to get it buzzed again. She laughed at his attempts and slid out of the car, leaving him to scowl at himself in the mirror and hopelessly paw at his head. As usual, it was a hopeless endeavor, and he resigned himself to going through his day with a ridiculous cowlick.
“Need you to come straight home after school.”
Stiles frowned down at the text from his father, wracking his brains to try and remember what he could have done. He was pretty sure he hadn’t done anything too awful lately, or at least not anything worthy of making him skip lacrosse practice.
“What’s up?” he sent back, looking up from his phone when Scott settled his tray down.
They had their own table at the edge of the cafeteria, a small one that they usually shared with Cora, when she wasn’t stalking around the cafeteria bullying people into supporting her latest crusade. That was what she was doing today. Stiles could see her from across the room, brandishing a battered yellow clipboard at people while they shrank away from her and looked terrified. They were lucky that the administration had outlawed the use of bullhorns after the Fair Trade incident the year before.
“Why do you look so pinchy faced?” Scott asked, digging right into the mess on his plate that was meant to be chicken and dumplings but really kind of just looked like cat vomit.
“My dad wants me home right after school and I’m trying to remember what I did,” he admitted, glancing at his phone again and frowning when he saw no response.
“Do you think he found out about you keying Jackson’s Porsche?” Scott asked, his mouth half-full, which really made the food look all that more appealing.
“Say it a little louder, why don’t you?” Stiles grumbled, looking over his shoulder nervously, like Jackson might appear there and punch him in the throat. He’d bitched loudly for weeks about getting revenge for the damage done to his car, but he’d never found out who had done it.
He ended up catching Derek Hale’s eye from across the cafeteria, where he sat with his leather-wearing posse of seniors. He was smiling at something Erica, a gorgeous blonde who liked to wear her hem lines quite a few inches above dress code regulations, was saying. Stiles felt his breath catch just slightly in his chest, because even though he’d known Derek since he was six and had seen him at home in his natural habitat, Stiles still had eyes, and he was aware that he was breath-takingly gorgeous. Derek nodded at him, and Stiles whipped back around, a little spastically, and focused back on Scott.
“There’s no way my dad knows about that,” he said. “I was very careful. You were the only witness, and anyway if it was that he would be here murdering me right now in front of the whole cafeteria. He might even let Jackson help.”
“You’re probably right,” Scott mused. “Well, I’ll tell Finstock. Hopefully your dad doesn’t lock you up in the attic or whatever.”
“You’re a true friend, Scott,” Stiles simpered, and Scott flung a spork full of peas at him.
“So what’s the deal, Daddio?” Stiles asked when he got home from school that afternoon.
His dad was seated at the kitchen table with a finger of Scotch in front of him, which was never a good sign. When he looked up, though, his eyes were clear and he seemed pretty lucid, so Stiles didn’t worry about it too much. His dad was a grown ass man, and he could drink if he wanted to. As long as he never fell back into the patterns he’d had right after Stiles’ mother had died, at least. He had changed out of his uniform and into a pair of jeans and a black sweater, and the sleeves were pushed up just below his elbows, which betrayed his stress. He always got hot when he was worrying.
“We’re going to Sacramento,” his dad said, which was honestly the last thing Stiles had expected.
His dad hated all big cities, but especially Sacramento. He’d gone to college in Sacramento and had packed up and moved the moment he graduated because he thought big cities drained the soul right out of you. Stiles could count on one hand the number of times they’d actually gone to Sacramento, and they’d lived half an hour away his entire life.
“Uh, all right. Why?”
“Your grandfather is in town, and he’d like to visit with you.”
“My...grandfather?” Stiles repeated slowly, confused for a moment because his grandfather was definitely dead. And then he realized. “Mom’s dad? The European guy who I’ve literally never met before? The one who said that you weren’t worthy of mom and is basically a gigantic dick?”
“That would be the one,” John sighed tiredly.
“Uh...how about no?” Stiles suggested. “Why do we have to go out of our way to go see some stranger?”
“He wants to see you,” his dad explained. “He has some important things he wants to tell you.”
“And I’m supposed to care?” Stiles asked.
“Listen kid, I know it sucks,” John said, knocking back his scotch. “But I already told him we’d go. Just hear him out.”
Stiles wanted to argue, to bring up a hundred thousand points and talk in circles until he convinced his dad to just blow the old guy off, but the dark circles under his eyes and the exhausted set of his face made him pause. He didn’t want to be the reason his dad looked like that, not if he could help it.
“Yeah, okay,” he agreed reluctantly. “I’ll be right back.”
“Thank you!” his dad called to his back as he trotted up the stairs. “And don’t wear that shirt! Be presentable, please!”
Stiles glanced down at his shirt, a black one with a silhouette of a stripper that said "support single moms" on it, before rolling his eyes and yanking it off. He exchanged it for a gray t-shirt and his maroon BHHS LAX hoodie with his last name and jersey number on the back. If he was going to the devil’s house, he might as well be comfortable.
His dad heaved a sigh when he saw him, but wisely chose not to argue. Stiles got that he was trying to prove to his father-in-law that he hadn’t done a bad job raising his kid, but there were only so many hoops he was willing to jump through. He wasn’t a show pony.
They took Stiles’ Jeep, since John wasn’t technically supposed to use his cruiser as a personal vehicle. He grimaced when the radio came on to some Top 40 pop song, hitting the scan button to skip to the next station.
“...unfortunate deaths of the ruling monarch and crown prince of Genovia, a tiny European principality. The Genovian royal family is in crisis, since these deaths and that of Princess Clarisse…”
John reached out and changed the station again, moving so quickly he almost punched the dashboard. Stiles raised his eyebrows questioningly as the sounds of REO Speedwagon filled the car. His father gruffly cleared his throat, the way he did when he was embarrassed, and then shrugged.
“I’m sick of hearing about it,” he explained. “It’s been the only thing on every station all day.”
“Okay,” Stiles said doubtfully, and then, “Isn’t Genovia where mom was from?”
“Uh, yeah,” he said, and then went totally silent. It wasn’t necessarily a strange reaction, since they both had trouble talking about Stiles’ mom sometimes, but still, something about it triggered his suspicious nature, and he filed the short response away to poke at later.
Since it was clear that there wasn’t going to be much conversation had, Stiles popped in his earbuds and slumped down in his seat, wiggling around until he found a comfortable position. He fell asleep in less than five minutes.
He woke up to a gentle shake from his dad, which had him flailing in surprise. If he hadn’t been wearing a seatbelt, he probably would have ended up on the floor.
They were parked next to a guard house in front of a huge wrought-iron gate. Behind the gate was a driveway that curved around a bright green lawn and a sprawling sandstone mansion with an elaborate curved balcony sheltering the front door and a covered breezeway that curled around the edge of the property. He let out a low whistle as he took it all in.
“He wants to see your identification, son,” John prompted, and Stiles flailed again, trying to dig his wallet out of his back pocket while still seated and belted in. He let out a triumphant little noise when he finally managed to wiggle his wallet- an awesome Batman mighty wallet that Scott had given him for his last birthday-out of his pocket and produced his ID.
The guard looked over their licenses and then raised his eyebrows slightly and looked back up at them, and then down at the IDs again. Finally, he handed them over and gave them directions to follow the driveway around until they found the sheltered parking spaces.
“What the hell, Dad?” Stiles demanded as soon as the window was rolled back up. “Where are we?”
“Uh,” John said, hesitating. “The Genovian Consulate.”
“Okay,” Stiles said slowly. “Why are we at the Genovian Consulate?”
“This is where your grandfather is staying,” he said. “He’s uh...a politician.”
“Right,” Stiles said slowly, suspiciously. “He’s a politician. Who is staying at the Genovian Consulate, out of absolutely nowhere, nearly ten years after his daughter died because for some reason he now wants to get to know me.”
“I know this probably isn’t what you wanted to be doing with your afternoon,” his dad sighed, rubbing his temples like he had an oncoming headache. “And I know this is weird and overwhelming and you’re not happy about it. Believe me, I’m not either. But you know I wouldn’t make you do this if it wasn’t important, right?”
“Yeah,” Stiles grumbled, slouching in his seat. “I know. But I would just like to file a complaint: this is bullshit.”
“Noted,” John sighed. “And watch your mouth.”
They had to go through a security check at the door, letting the suited security guards at the door sweep over them with hand-held metal detector wands. His dad wasn’t happy about having to give up his gun, and he watched closely as they locked it up behind the desk and put away the key.
They were then led into a fancy little sitting room, tastefully decorated with cream-colored settees that matched the curtains and a plush oriental rug. There was a white statue of a dancing woman in one corner and a huge fireplace against the far wall. Above the marble mantlepiece was a painting of a dark-haired man, seated regally on a throne with a crown on his head.
Before Stiles could make a snide comment, a dignified looking man in an expensive-looking suit entered the room. He was tall, about Stiles’ height, but he held himself like he owned the world and everything in it, so Stiles felt rather small next to him. His hair and thick mustache were both snowy white, but his eyebrows were still dark, which created a weirdly dignified sort of contrast. He looked like he belonged in an old-fashioned picture, like the ones of old generals that they stuck in history books.
“You must be Maczysz,” the man said, and for a moment Stiles was surprised at his perfect pronunciation. Then, he realized that this man must be his grandfather, and that they shared a name.
“You can call me Stiles,” he said, offering his hand for a shake, because that seemed like what he was supposed to do.
“I most certainly will not,” he said, shaking Stiles’ hand. “Your mother gave you a perfectly respectable, strong name, and you chose to disgrace her memory by taking on some foolish nickname.”
“You wait one second!" John started hotly as Stiles recoiled at the slight. “Not even Claudia called him Maczysz, and how dare you speak to my son that way...”
“John Stilinski,” he interrupted, a sneer on his lips. “You are the same as ever, I see.”
“You mean that I still don’t believe that you’re better than me?” he asked wryly. “Because you’re damn right about that. Now, I believe you wanted to have a conversation with my son. I’d suggest you make it quick, because I’m running pretty low on patience.”
“Very well,” Stiles’ grandfather sighed. “Have a seat, then. May I offer you anything to drink?”
“No, thank you,” John said stiffly, but Stiles shrugged and asked for a Coke. A man in a starched white shirt that he hadn’t noticed before swept from the room at his request, like his life’s only goal was to make sure that Stiles got a Coke right away.
“What do you know about your mother’s family, Maczysz?” he asked, settling into his seat with perfect posture, like he was afraid the whole thing would fall apart if he didn’t hold himself just right.
“Um,” Stiles said, giving up on getting him to drop his real name. “I know you’re my grandpa…”
He wrinkled his nose in distaste and waved away Stiles’ words.
“Absolutely not,” he interrupted. “I will not have you calling me that vulgar American gram-paw! You may call me Grandpère, in the proper French of your mother’s country. You do speak French, don’t you?”
“Well, mom and I used to speak French all the time,” he said, realizing suddenly that he’d forgotten the soft lilt of his mother’s accent until Grandpère brought it up. “But it’s been a while.”
“So you’ll need French tutoring,” Grandpère said thoughtfully, and another white-shirted man began taking notes on a tablet. “Michel, make a note to contact Paolo, something needs to be done about that dreadful mop on his head.”
“Uh,” Stiles objected, glancing at his dad, but John was just massaging his temples in exasperation. “I don’t need French tutoring because I’m taking Italian now? Also I really don’t need you to make a hair appointment for me. I’m almost seventeen, I can handle calling Supercuts.”
“Supercuts,” Grandpère said, shuddering. “No grandson of mine is going to be seen in a Supercuts, I can assure you of that.”
“Do you seriously think you can show up out of nowhere and decide to run my life?” Stiles demanded. “Because I don’t know how they run things over in Europe, but here in America we get to choose where we get our own hair cut, so…”
“Do you know,” Grandpère interrupted, as if he didn’t even hear Stiles protest, “Who Jean-Philippe Grimaldi Renaldo is?”
“Uh, no?” Stiles said, surprised enough at the random misdirection to stop mid-rant.
“What about Fabian Nicolas Grimaldi Renaldo?”
“I have no idea,” Stiles snapped. “I don’t see what any of this…”
“Or Clarisse Claudia Grimaldi Renaldo?” He asked loudly, speaking right over Stiles’ protests.
“No!” Stiles snapped. “I don’t know who any of these people are!”
“Of course you don’t,” Grandpère scoffed contemptuously. “Because you have received an unfortunate American education, and you’ve been raised in ignorance…”
“We all agreed it was for the best!” Stiles’ dad interrupted. “You especially!”
“What the hell is going on?” Stiles demanded, not sure if he was talking to Grandpère or his father or both.
“Clarisse Claudia Grimaldi Renaldo was the Princess of Genovia,” Grandpère explained impatiently. “She was the younger sister of Prince Jean-Philippe and the aunt of Crown Prince Fabian, both of whom died rather tragically two days ago, leaving Genovia without an heir apparent.”
“That’s super unfortunate,” Stiles said slowly, looking between his dad, who looked angry and stressed and sad, and Grandpère, who looked bland and emotionless. “I’m very sorry for Genovia, but I don’t understand what this has anything to do with me.”
“Oh, but it has everything to do with you,” Grandpère said, looking as though this very fact pained him. “For you see, Clarisse Claudia Grimaldi Renaldo chose, eighteen years ago, to move to the United States to go to university. It was there that she met a man and chose to shirk all of her responsibilities to her country in order to stay with him. When they married, she changed her name to Claudia Stilinski.”
The room went utterly silent then, or maybe Stiles was just so surprised that he could only hear his own blood rushing in his ears. He knew his jaw was dropped open, but he didn’t care to close it. Instead, he looked at his dad, not sure what he was looking for, but knowing that he wouldn’t find it. John just looked back at him, guilt and uncertainty warring over his face. Finally, he looked back at Grandpère, who was sipping, unconcerned, on his whiskey neat. A coke, poured into a tall glass, appeared on a coaster on the table in front of Stiles. He just stared at it for a long moment before managing to choke out,
“Your mother was the Princess of Genovia,” Grandpère explained slowly, like he thought Stiles was stupid. “Despite her gross misconduct in abandoning her post to cavort with her lessers, you are her trueborn son, and that makes you Maczysz Philippe Grimaldi Renaldo, Hereditary Prince of Genovia.”
“You forgot Stilinski,” he offered, because his brain was too busy buzzing in giant, panic-driven circles to think of anything else.
“I certainly did not,” Grandpère said firmly. “Now you understand, this was completely unprecedented. Fabian was meant to ascend to the throne, and you were meant to stay here in America, to live out your life in anonymity, sparing the Renaldo family from shame…”
“We didn’t hide it from him because he’s shameful,” Stiles’ dad spat. “We hid it from him because it wasn’t relevant, and we wanted him to grow up a normal, happy kid. He didn’t need to live his whole life with cameras being shoved in his face!”
“Of course, now everything is different,” Grandpère continued as if John hadn’t spoken. “Now, you are the last legitimate Renaldo blood relative. If you refuse the throne, it will pass along to the Von Trokens, and Genovia will cease to exist as we know it.”
“He’s sixteen years old!” John protested angrily. “How can you put that on his shoulders?”
“It is not I who puts that weight there, but the terms of his birth-right!” Grandpère insisted. “As of two days ago, he is the Hereditary Prince of Genovia, and so he shall remain until he abdicates or is coronated…”
“Wait,” Stiles said, his brain suddenly catching up with all the implications. “Coronated? You want me to be king of a country?”
“Of course not,” Grandpère snapped. “Genovia is a principality, there are no kings. You will be a prince, but you will be the ruling monarch of the nation.”
“But...it’s just like a figurehead thing, right?” Stiles asked, panicked. “I don’t have to actually rule a country.”
“Michel, make a note, the prince will also need lessons in Genovian history and politics,” Grandpère said, sounding bored. “Genovia is ruled by its prince, you foolish boy, of course you will rule. True power is derived by divine right.”
“Divine right,” Stiles repeated hysterically. “Like...God wants me to rule a small principality in Europe. Okay, sure. Yeah. That’s not insane at all.”
“As unbelievable as you may find it, you are the Hereditary Prince now,” Grandpère said firmly. “And it’s high time you start learning to act like it. I will not have Genovia be humiliated...”
“I want to abdicate,” Stiles interrupted him, totally aware that his voice was squeaky with hysteria and not caring a single bit.
“You can’t do that!” Grandpère gasped, like Stiles had just slapped him in the face.
“Well, I can’t be a prince!” Stiles insisted.
“You are the only option,” Grandpère said irritably. “As much as I wish that weren’t the case, there is no changing that.”
“What about those other guys?” Stiles demanded. “The Von-Whatevers?”
“I will be cold in my grave before I let Siegfried Von Troken sit on the Genovian throne, I can assure you of that,” Grandpère growled. “The Renaldos have held the throne since Genovia’s conception and I will not allow you…”
“I can’t rule a country! I can’t even keep a hamster alive! There is a pet embargo at the Stilinski house!” Stiles insisted. “Wouldn’t you rather have someone who knows what they’re doing over someone with the right last name?”
“If you abdicate the throne, you are condemning your people-your mother’s people-to a political upheaval to the likes of which Genovia has never seen. You are too young to make such a foolish decision.”
“It is his decision to make, though,” Stiles’ dad spoke up, staring down Grandpère with hard eyes. “If he doesn’t want to rule, he doesn’t have to, and you’ll force him to over my dead body…”
“The boy can’t be trusted…”
“You’ll trust him to rule your country but not to make his own decisions?” John interrupted. “That’s bullshit. You’re just trying to do the same thing you always did to Claudia. You smothered and controlled her until she ran away, and I won’t let that happen to my son.”
“You would put your son before the needs of an entire country?”
“Damn right,” Stiles’ dad barked. “Come on Stiles, we’re going home.”
He was still too shocked and numb to do much more than follow his dad quietly out of the consulate. No one tried to stop them as they headed out the Jeep, but the security guard at the door bobbed his head in a bow and said, “Have a nice day, Your Highness,” as they left, which was weird and also kind of horrifying. Apparently everyone had known but him.
They were nearly to Beacon Hills before he remembered how to properly execute a sentence, which really said a lot about his state of mind. Stiles was a world-class talker.
“Have you always known?” he asked hoarsely.
His father tightened his hands on the steering wheel, keeping his eyes firmly on the road, but Stiles suspected that that was more of an excuse to avoid his eyes than about making a good example as the sheriff.
“Of course I knew,” he said finally, his shoulders dropping as he let out a sigh. “I mean, when I met your mother I thought she was just an international student and nothing more. I followed her around like a puppy dog for a few weeks before she got tired of waiting for me to ask her out and did the asking herself.”
He smiled then, the soft, fond smile that Stiles always associated with good memories of his mother.
“So...at what point did she tell you she was a princess?” Stiles asked.
He was suddenly struck with a memory from his childhood. They had, as a family, sat and watched the Princess Bride. Stiles had been enraptured with Buttercup, declaring her to be the most beautiful lady he’d ever seen, and then he’d declared that his mommy was so beautiful that she must have been a princess too. She’d laughed until she cried, and Stiles had never quite understood why until now.
“After she got pregnant, she told me,” John said. “She sat me down all seriously, and I was just sure she was going to break up with me. And then she told me all about it, and how she’d felt so smothered her entire life. How she loved her country, but she could never just be Princess Clarisse, and that was why she’d gone to school in the United States in the first place. She wasn’t first in line for the throne, of course, so it was much easier for her to break ties.”
“I’m surprised Grandpère let her go,” Stiles mused. “He seems really intense.”
“He didn’t,” John admitted with a frown. “Your grandfather is the Dowager Prince. He was born into Polish aristocracy, he’s not Genovian by blood. He gave up his Polish citizenship in favor of Genovian when he married your grandmother, but she was the ruling monarch. When she died, he took up the throne, but only until your uncle turned eighteen. When Jean-Philippe ascended to the throne, he gave your mother permission to move the US to go to school. Your grandfather wasn’t happy about it, but he also couldn’t openly contest Jean-Philippe without offending his authority.”
“This is crazy,” Stiles insisted. “Absolutely insane. Didn’t you ever think, ‘hmmm, maybe one day my spastic son will have to rule a country’?”
“Not really,” he sighed. “We knew you were, technically, third in line for the throne, but we never thought that it would really impact your life. We never expected this to happen.”
Stiles had to admit, it was pretty unlikely that the monarch and the first two in line would all die within ten years of each other. It was real life, after all, not Game of Thrones. Still, he should have known it was a possibility. He should have known at some point Genovia might come knocking.
“Were you ever going to tell me?” he asked.
“When you turned eighteen,” John said. “But we’d never planned on going public with it. It didn’t really seem...relevant.”
“Not relevant,” Stiles snorted. “‘Oh hey, son, welcome to adulthood. Also you’re a prince of a small country, happy birthday!’”
“We thought we were doing what was best,” his dad sighed. “We just wanted you to be a normal kid."
"Well apparently I'm not a normal kid," Stiles snapped. "Apparently I'm Heir Apparent to the throne of Genovia, and I have no idea how to even begin to process that information."
John sighed and hit his blinker, pulling into a gas station at the side of the road. Stiles wanted to complain about avoidance, but he also wanted his dad to put gas in his tank, so he held his tongue and glowered as his dad pumped the gas and then went inside to pay.
He was just so angry and confused and he felt betrayed. He hadn't gotten nearly enough time with his mother, and now he was finding out that he'd never even really known her at all. His whole life had been built around a bunch of secrets and a huge lie, and now he wasn't sure about anything. Suddenly, compelled by his anger, he got out of the car and started off down the side of the road. He didn't want to even look at his dad, and he certainly didn't want to talk about Genovia anymore.
He needed time to think.
It was only a few minutes before his dad called, but he let it ring through to voicemail. He did send a text, though, just so his dad would know he hadn't been kidnapped or something. He was pissed off, but he didn’t want his dad to worry. It wasn’t good for his heart.
He powered off his phone and then ducked into the tree line that marked the edge of the Beacon Hills Preserve. If he stayed on the road, his dad would surely see him and make him get in the car, and he just didn’t think he could deal with that. He was fairly certain he could find his way through the woods, since he had a general sense of which direction the Hale house was in.
He walked slowly, focusing on the ground so that he wouldn’t trip over anything and hurt himself. It would be just his luck to run off into the woods in a fit of pique and then fall and kill himself. Sure, he was kind of freaking out about his life being turned on it’s head, but he didn’t think getting terribly injured and being trapped in the woods until hypothermia or a wild animal came to claim him was a particularly good coping mechanism.
Neither, probably, was getting overly dramatic about the dangers of the Preserve.
He wasn’t sure how long he walked before he realized that he actually had no idea where he was. All he could see in every direction was trees, and as far as he could tell he’d only been walking in a straight line, so by all rights he should have reached the Hale house already.
He was just about to turn his phone back on and try to google map his way out of there when he heard the tell-tale sign of something moving through the undergrowth towards him. He prayed that it wasn’t a mountain lion or something equally as capable of killing him.
Just as he was beginning to work up a really good panic, though, Derek Hale appeared around the bend of the trees. He was wearing a pair of basketball shorts and a tight under armour t-shirt that highlighted all of his assets in a truly glorious fashion. He had an iPod strapped to his bulging bicep, and even though his hair was matted down with sweat, he still looked like a sex god.
It was so unfair.
He came to a stop when he saw Stiles, yanking his earbuds out and tossing the cord over his shoulder as he took a couple of deep breaths.
“What are you doing out here?” he asked, looking around in confusion like he expected someone else to step out of the trees and provide an explanation. Stiles tore his eyes away from the beautiful contrast of the black iPod strap against his tanned arm and stared at him stupidly for a moment before he remembered that people usually answered when they were asked a question.
“Oh, uh...got in a fight with my dad and decided to walk home.”
It wasn’t entirely true, but it wasn’t totally false, either. And like hell he was going to tell Cora’s brother that he’d just found out he was actually royalty and heir to a throne. If he even actually believed Stiles, he’d definitely tell Cora about it, and then the whole world would know in about three seconds flat. Cora was a lot of things, but quiet certainly wasn’t one of them. Stiles was still kind of hoping that he could quietly abdicate and move on with his life without anyone knowing about it.
“You got in a fight with your dad?” Derek asked, sounding like he didn’t believe it.
“What, it happens!” Stiles insisted stubbornly. He knew that he and his dad were closer than most teenagers were with their parents, but that didn’t mean they didn’t still argue about stuff. Sometimes it was stupid and pointless, and other times it was because of lifelong lies. Whatever.
“I believe you,” Derek shrugged. “But that doesn’t really explain what you’re doing here. You’re about two miles from the highway.”
“I was trying to find your house so I could figure out how to get home,” Stiles admitted, and Derek snorted with laughter.
“Well, I can tell you you’re about half a mile away and that my house is that way,” he said, pointing in the opposite direction of which Stiles had been heading. Stiles scowled at him, like it was his fault, but Derek just kept grinning. “Come on, I’ll show you.”
Stiles thought, for a moment, about protesting and insisting that Derek finish his run, but then he realized that it was just stupid to wander around in the woods by himself when someone was offering to show him the way, so he just nodded and started walking. Derek fell into step beside him, like they casually saw each other outside of school all the time.
Well, Stiles supposed, they did, because he spent almost as much time at the Hale house as he did at Scott’s. But that was with Cora between them to act as a buffer, where Stiles was the annoying friend and Derek was the hot older brother. It wasn’t like they took strolls through the woods together, like friends.
“So why are you pissed off at your dad?” Derek asked as they crunched over leaves that had fallen recently enough to still be red and orange and yellow instead of the dull gray they took on after the first snowfall. The air smelled like mulch and tree sap, and the wind was starting to take on a slight chill as the sun lowered towards the horizon, filtering through the trees in blasts of blinding orange light. Stiles stuffed his hands into his hoodie pockets and shrugged.
“It’s kind of hard to explain,” he said. “I guess...I just found out that he’s been lying to me about something for a really long time, and it’s kind of having a huge impact on my life. I’m just angry, at him and at my mom, which is so fucked up because she’s dead…”
“Sounds pretty heavy,” Derek offered awkwardly.
Again, Stiles shrugged. He knew he probably wasn’t making much sense, and that Derek had never lost anyone, especially not a parent, so he couldn’t really understand. But he gave him props for at least trying.
“Yeah,” he agreed with a frown. “And I know that I’m gonna have to get over it, you know? This lie was so huge that it’s literally impossible for me to ignore it, and I love my dad so it’s not like I’m never gonna speak to him again. But I just kind of want to be mad at him for a while, even though that sounds kind of stupid.”
“I think it makes sense,” Derek said, ducking under a low-hanging branch. “I’m always pissed off at my mom about stupid stuff, because sometimes it’s the only way that I can feel in control sometimes. She can make me do what she wants, since she’s my mom and I live in her house, but she can’t make me not be mad at her if I feel like it.”
“Yeah,” Stiles said slowly, thinking about that. He could see the Hale house now, rising up over the tops of the trees rather suddenly, like it had just appeared there. “Thanks.”
“No problem. Everyone’s gotta have teen angst bullshit, right?” he asked, glancing sideways at Stiles with a tiny smile on his face.
“Yeah,” Stiles agreed, knocking their elbows together. “I guess so.”
Mrs. Hale was sitting on the front porch with a book when they broke the tree line and entered the yard. She looked up at them and called hello, and Stiles waved back dutifully at her. Derek’s mom was super intimidating, exactly the kind of woman that he imagined Lydia would grow up to be like. Except she was a mom, so it was less arousing and more terrifying. She was a nice enough lady, but she always made Stiles feel vaguely like she could kill him with her pinky finger without breaking a sweat.
“It’s getting a bit late to be playing in the woods,” she admonished when they got close enough. Derek scoffed and rolled his eyes at the idea that they’d been playing.
“I was just going for a walk and got kind of turned around,” Stiles told her, rocking back on his heels under her piercing stare. “Derek helped me find my way back.”
“Well,” she said, her eyes drifting out towards the trees. “It’s getting late. You should get home, your dad will worry.”
“Yeah,” Stiles said noncommittally. “Sorry, Mrs. Hale.”
He gave Derek an awkward wave, suddenly remembering that they weren’t really friends, exactly, and so not sure how he should say goodbye. With Scott, he would have gone for a high five or a fist bump, or sometimes even a hug, but Derek was super hot and a senior and Cora’s older brother and Stiles was...not. Derek offered him a nod-which was so much cooler than a wave, why hadn’t he thought of that?- and Stiles turned on his heel and started down the long driveway.
“Stiles, honey,” Mrs. Hale called. “Why don’t you wait a minute and Derek will give you a ride? It’s going to be dark soon and there aren’t many streetlights between here and the edge of town.”
“Um, sure,” Stiles said, drawing to a stop and waiting while Derek went inside to grab his mother’s purse for her.
Within a few minutes they were in Derek’s mother’s SUV, Derek glancing wistfully at his dad’s gorgeous black Camaro as they pulled out of the garage, and making their way down the long driveway.
“Do you want to go home?” Derek asked him, glancing away from the road to stare at him for a long moment. “I don’t have long but I could…”
“Could you take me to Scott’s?” Stiles interrupted him gratefully.
“Oh,” Derek said, planting his eyes firmly back on the road again. “Yeah, sure.”
“Thanks, man,” Stiles sighed, leaning his forehead against the window to watch the trees flash by. “I’m just not ready to go home and get reamed out by my dad yet.”
“I get it,” Derek assured him. “I mean, my mom’s scary, but she doesn’t have a gun.”
Stiles snorted softly.
“Yeah, my dad has a gun, but he would never use it on me. He’s a marshmallow, really. I’d rather go toe-to-toe with my dad ten times than take on your mom once. I’m pretty sure she’d eat me alive.”
“She’s not that bad,” Derek insisted, but he was smirking all the same, like he knew it was an utter lie.
“Your mom is terrifying,” Stiles told him solemnly. “Which probably explains your sisters. I mean, I respect the hell out of all of them, but I also think it’s healthy to be very afraid.”
“Probably,” Derek admitted, and the car went quiet.
“But I like that in a woman,” Stiles added quickly, afraid that it was going to get awkward. “Just like Lydia Martin, you know? She could literally use me as a footstool and I’d thank her for it.”
Derek made a noncommittal noise that mostly sounded like a grunt, and then the car really did descend into awkward silence, so Stiles pressed on, babbling about Lydia in order to fill the spaces. It was a good choice, because he could talk about her for hours. Derek, however, didn’t seem to agree, and he practically screeched to a stop in front of Scott’s house, and then peeled away with a squeal as soon as Stiles was out of the car. He didn’t even have time to close the door all the way, but it slammed shut with the sudden movement.
Stiles was still blinking in surprise when Derek tore around the corner. He knew his Lydia talk could get annoying, but he’d never quite gotten that reaction before.
“Okay,” he said, to the night air. “Bye.”
Scott, apparently having heard the screech of Derek’s tires, had his head poked out his bedroom window and was looking down at him, squinting slightly with his head cocked, the picture of a confused puppy dog.
“What are you doing here? Your dad called, he’s pissed.”
“Yeah, I kind of figured,” Stiles sighed. “Can I come up?”
“Dude, of course,” Scott said earnestly, like it was an absolutely ridiculous question. “Mom’s doing a night shift, so just come in through the front door. It’s unlocked.”
Stiles let himself in, flipping the deadbolt behind him, and he stopped in the kitchen to grab himself a Coke and a package of Oreos from the cupboard before heading up the stairs to Scott’s room. Scott was lounging on his bed, frowning up at his copy of Awakening that they were reading for English Lit, when Stiles let himself in to his room.
“I don’t get this,” Scott complained, looking bereft. “She’s just like...going to the beach and taking off her clothes and there’s a parrot…”
“It’s a feminism thing,” Stiles said. “Like she’s freeing herself from societal expectations by not dressing properly. And the bird is supposed to be her.”
“Oh,” Scott said with a frown. He still didn’t look like he understood.
“Just read the SparkNotes, that’s what I did. But later, man, I’ve got to tell you something.”
Scott apparently picked up on his seriousness, because he set the book aside and sat up. Stiles huffed a breath and threw himself down at the end of Scott’s bed, cracking open his Coke and taking a long drink. Scott helpfully peeled back the top on the cookies and grabbed a couple before pushing the package back towards Stiles.
“So my dad brought me down to Sacramento today,” he said, and because Scott was his best friend and totally awesome, he gasped appropriately and said,
“But your dad hates Sacramento.”
“I know!” Stiles exclaimed, throwing his free hand up for emphasis. “He brought me there to see my mother’s father…”
“The European guy who’s ignored you your whole life?”
“The very same!” Stiles said. This was why Scott was his best friend. He understood Stiles.
“So what did he want?” Scott asked.
“That’s the really fucking weird part, man. I get there and he starts going on about how I’ll need all these lessons and a haircut and stuff, and then he started asking me if I knew who all these famous Genovian people were, which, duh, I had no idea. And finally he basically just called me an idiot and told me that my mother was a princess!”
Scott stared at him, his mouth twitching uncertainly like he wasn’t sure if he was supposed to start laughing or not. After a moment, when he realized that Stiles was totally serious, his eyes got really wide and he leaned closer like they were sharing a super-intense secret.
“Dude, what?” he demanded. “Are you serious?”
“As a heart attack, man!” Stiles cried. “Like, for real, he showed up out of nowhere to tell me that a) my mom is a princess, b) my uncle and cousin-who I’d never met before, by the way-are dead, and c) apparently I’m the last person left to inherit the throne!”
“You’re fucking with me,” Scott said uncertainly. “Like this is just one of your weird jokes, right?”
“Dude, I wish it was,” Stiles grumbled, scrubbing at his face with his hand. “Like, I so wish I was.”
Scott continued to stare at him, eyes wide and mouth agape. He snapped his jaw shut and then it fell open again, over and over a few times until he looked like a goldfish gasping for breath. Finally, he seemed to get a handle on his surprise and shoved a whole Oreo in his mouth.
“Holy shit,” he said through a mouthful of crumbs. “You’re gonna be a king?”
“Genovia is a principality, there are no kings,” Stiles told him automatically, and then gave himself a mental shake. “But even if there were, no way in hell. I already told him I’m gonna abdicate.”
“Why?” Scott asked, and bless his heart he was actually serious.
“Dude, because!” Stiles said, “I can’t rule a country, are you crazy? I can’t even keep a hamster alive! My dad literally banned me from having any more pets because we’ve got an actual Pet Sematary situation in the backyard.”
“Have you even seen Pet Sematary?” Scott asked, looking doubtful. “Because I’m pretty sure it’s about zombies.”
“Not the point, Scotty.”
“Right, okay. So...I mean, are you sure you don’t want to be a prince? Because just think about how popular you’d be. Like, everyone would want to be friends with a prince.”
“Yeah, or it will totally cement my place as social pariah.” Stiles rolled his eyes.
“Lydia would probably be into it,” Scott wheedled, and Stiles took a moment to think about Lydia as Princess Consort, looking gorgeous in a ball gown with a sparkling tiara settled in her strawberry-blonde hair.
“You think?” he asked, even though he already knew she probably would.
“Totally, man,” Scott insisted.
He had to admit, the idea was tempting. Sweeping into school as Prince Stiles with all eyes on him. Lydia would drop Jackson in a hot second, he knew, and he’d get to lord around and hold court with her on his arm. She’d be a great princess, too. She was incredibly smart and could act as his most trusted advisor, and she could rule a country just like someone that glorious should.
The fantasy was ruined by the reminder that he’d actually have to rule a country, though. It was all well and good to imagine it being all tiaras and power and Lydia Martin finally realizing that they belonged together, but in reality it would be a shitton of work and politics, and Stiles was just so not here for it. Not at all.
“Nah,” he said. “I’ve still got my ten year plan. I’ll win Lydia over with that, and I won’t have to rule a country.”
“Okay, man,” Scott said doubtfully. “If you say so. Does anyone else know?”
“Dude, no!” Stiles said quickly. “Like, no, definitely not. No one can know about this, all right? You’ve gotta promise you won’t tell anyone.”
“Of course,” Scott said, because he was loyal and amazing. “Is that what you and your dad are fighting about?”
“Yeah,” Stiles sighed, stuffing an Oreo in his mouth and then talking around it. “He’s lied to me my whole life, you know?”
“Yeah,” Scott said, twisting his own cookie in half and licking the frosting out thoughtfully. “But I mean, he’s your dad. He’s a good guy. He probably thought he was doing the right thing.”
“Scotty,” Stiles sighed. “I’m not sure you’re picking up the flow of this conversation here. I’m mad at my dad, I really don’t need you defending his awful choices.”
“Sorry,” Scott said, contrite. “But I mean...he’s your dad.”
Stiles sighed, not wanting to press too hard against Scott’s daddy issues at the moment. He knew, logically, that Scott’s dad was spawn of satan and that Stiles had won the dad lottery, but he wasn’t looking for logic and reason, he was looking for commiseration.
“I know,” he said. “I’ve gotta talk to him eventually. But right now I kind of just want to pretend he doesn’t exist.”
Scott hummed thoughtfully, and they muched on cookies quietly for a few minutes, lost in thought. Stiles shifted uncomfortably, so not ready for any sort of heart to heart. He’d hoped that Scott could distract him from his troubles, not make him sit in silence and dwell on them.
“Wanna play Little Big Planet?” Scott asked abruptly, because he was the best best friend ever.
“Yeah,” Stiles said with as much enthusiasm as he could muster, stretching out to grab the Playstation controllers. “Let’s do it.”
Stiles put off going home until nearly midnight, so by the time he let himself in the front door, the house was dark and his father had already gone to bed. He knew it was going to be a really short reprieve, but he was thankful for it all the same. After the day he had, he really didn’t want to fight with his dad well into the night.
He didn’t bother to turn his phone back on, just plugged it in and shoved it under his pillow before stripping off his jeans and hoodie and crawling into bed. His problems could wait until tomorrow.
As it turned out, letting his problems wait until tomorrow had been a terrible plan.
It all started out fine. He woke up without his dad standing over him with a glare on his face and managed to get through a shower without anything horrendous happening. That should have made him suspicious, because there was nothing his dad loved more than a good scolding and a i’m-not-mad-just-disappointed face.
Stiles finally figured out what the deal was when he thundered down their stairs to grab some breakfast and found Grandpère seated primly at the dining room table. He was staring disdainfully down at the mug set before him, a large white one that read ‘Sheriff by day, zombie slayer by night’ that Stiles had gotten his dad about a million years ago. He looked up, though, when Stiles entered the room with a loud,
He turned on his heel and made to escape back upstairs, but it was far too late. His less than stealthy entrance had, of course, gained everyone’s attention, and Grandpère called for him to “come back this instant!” at the same time as his dad barked, “Stop right there, kid.”
Stiles froze with one foot on the bottom stair, contemplating just how much shit he’d be in if he ignored them and went upstairs anyway.
“About face,” his dad demanded, and his voice was super-serious, so Stiles sighed and turned back towards them with his very best pout. Neither of them seemed too concerned about it, so he rolled his eyes instead and slunk back to the table, taking a seat.
“Listen kid,” his dad sighed, taking his own seat at the table. “I know this whole situation sucks, but we’ve got to sort it out.”
“It’s sorted out!” Stiles insisted, while Grandpère muttered darkly under his breath. “I’m abdicating, remember?”
“You can’t just make such an irrational decision and end an entire dynasty!” Grandpère insisted hotly. “The Renaldos have sat on the throne of Genovia since the year 568 A.D.!”
“Well, obviously it’s time for a bit of a change then, isn’t it?” Stiles shot back, widening his eyes like he’d just had the best idea ever. “Time to shake things up in Genovia a little bit…”
“You insolent little brat!” Grandpère spat back. “This throne is your legacy. It is your mother’s legacy, and you are the only one left to carry it on!”
John groaned and buried his face in his folded arm on top of the table, shaking his head slightly as they argued back and forth. Stiles ignored him, because it was his fault he let the crazy European dude into their kitchen that early in the morning.
“I have no interest in carrying it on,” Stiles spat back. “Newsflash there, gramps. I’m an American. We’re super fond of democracy, not so here for the monarchy.”
“Well, of course, you’ll have to give up your American citizenship before you take the throne…”
“I’m not taking the throne!”
“You most certainly are!”
“Enough!” John thundered suddenly, making them both jump. “You two are going to make me crazy. I have a compromise.”
They both looked at him distrustfully, Stiles crossing his arms over his chest sullenly, and Grandpère narrowing his eyes as if expecting some sort of trick.
“Maczysz, when is the latest that you can put off coming up with an heir?”
“Prince Maczysz, to commoners,” Grandpère corrected haughtily, to which John rolled his eyes. Grandpère pursed his lips prissily and continued, “I can only put it off for so long. Rightfully, Maczysz should have taken up the throne as soon as Jean-Phillipe and Fabian passed. However, due to his age, that would be quite inappropriate. Of course, I would rule as Prince Regent until his eighteenth birthday, as I did for Jean-Philippe.”
“Of course,” Stiles muttered under his breath. Maybe that was Grandpère’s goal. To keep on ruling with Stiles as his little figurehead puppet. Grandpère shot him a dark, angry look and continued loudly,
“However, with no heir apparent and me having married into the Renaldo name, it will be viewed as quite improper. There is no way that I can keep his existence from the Von Trokens, but I suppose it can be kept from the media and the general public for a few weeks, if we are very careful. Perhaps until the Genovian Independence Day Ball in December. But the boy desperately needs instruction.”
“Okay!” John said quickly, latching on an answer. “So, until your ball, Stiles promises that he will attend whatever lessons that you want to give him that you think he’ll need to be a prince.”
“What?” Stiles cried, betrayed.
“And!” John interrupted loudly. “Stiles agrees that he will neither accept nor reject your offer of royalty until the ball. Okay?”
The sharp look he tossed them both had Stiles slumping in his chair, but he muttered out a petulant, “okay.”
“I suppose I have no other choice,” Grandpère sniffed. “These terms are agreeable.”
“Great,” John said, with feeling. “So, that’s settled. Stiles will meet with you after school…”
“Every day,” Grandpère interrupted. “I’ve got to mash a lifetime’s worth of etiquette and education into the boy’s brain in only a few weeks, so we’ll need all the time we can get.”
“Every day!” Stiles started to protest, “I’ve got a life, you know!”
“After the way you ran off last night?” his dad interrupted. “I don’t think so. You’re on lock-down, kid. School and prince lessons and that’s it for you for the next two weeks.”
Stiles opened his mouth to argue, but the dark look his dad shot him made him reconsider. Talking his way out of trouble was all well and good, but he knew that look. Talking would only make it worse.
“Lessons will be held at the consulate in Sacramento,” Grandpère continued, as if he hadn’t even taken notice of their conversation.
“Okay, and I guess you’ll be filling my gas tank?” Stiles retorted, partly because he wanted to be as difficult as possible and partly because gas really was expensive.
“That is acceptable,” Grandpère agreed, to Stiles’ surprise. “I’ll expect you promptly at three o’ clock, Maczycsz. Now I must go, I’m late for a meeting.”
“Uh, okay,” Stiles agreed a bit dumbly as Grandpère stood up and swept from the room, leaving the mug of tea totally untouched. A large man in a suit that Stiles hadn’t even noticed before stood up from the couch and followed him out the door. He was clearly a bodyguard, and it kinda freaked Stiles out, to think that someone that big and probably deadly had been sitting behind him the whole time and he hadn’t noticed.
“You know that I can’t do this, right?” Stiles asked his dad after they were alone. “Like… be a prince, rule a country. I can’t.”
“I think you sell yourself short,” his dad said, leaning back in his chair and crossing his arms over his chest. “But I know you’ve gotta make your own decision about this. I just want you to make an educated decision. I don’t think you should say no before you see what it’s really about.”
“I guess,” Stiles sighed.
“Besides, I think your mother would really want you to try…”
“That’s a low blow,” Stiles snapped, suddenly remembering that he was pissed off at his dad.
“I’m sorry, I’m not trying to manipulate you. Just that I know your mother…”
“Well I’m glad one of us did!” Stiles snapped. He pushed himself up from the table and headed for the front door, snatching his backpack up from the front hall as he passed.
“Stiles!” his dad called after him, sounding tired.
“I’m going to school!” Stiles yelled over his shoulder, letting the door slam, loud and satisfying, as he left the house.
Stiles sighed and slammed his locker door shut, turning to face Jackson Whittemore who was coming down the hall at him with purpose and a pissy expression on his face.
“Jackson,” he drawled. “Always a pleasure. What can I do for you this fine day?”
“How about you call off your dog?” Jackson growled, getting up in Stiles’ face, trying to be intimidating with his size even though Stiles was at least two inches taller than him.
“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Stiles admitted honestly, heaving an internal sigh of relief because apparently Jackson still hadn’t figured out that it was Stiles who’d keyed his Porsche.
“That petition to cut swimming that your little freak of a girlfriend is passing around? I want it dead.”
“Okay, firstly, Cora’s not my girlfriend. Secondly, I don’t know why you think I have any power to stop her from doing what she wants to do, and thirdly, you’re an asshole and your breath smells like stale cheetos so it would be great if you could back up off of me…”
Jackson slammed his fist into the locker next to Stiles’ head-which he hated to admit made him jump- and snarled at him. Like legitimately snarled.
“I already talked to Cora and she blew me off. You need to put a leash on your bitch, Stilinski...”
“I’m sorry, what was that?”
Jackson stopped suddenly at the voice and looked over his shoulder to find Derek Hale, standing with his posse like a leather-clad white knight. He was smiling pleasantly, but Stiles could see it was a forced look and that he was about three seconds away from punching Jackson’s face in.
“I, uh,” Jackson said, straightening out and trying to save face. “Stilinski and I were just having a talk.”
“Yeah, I heard,” Derek said, still pleasant. “About my little sister.”
Jackson stared at him for a long moment, like he was trying to figure out if there was anything he could say to salvage the situation. Finally, he seemed to decide there wasn’t, because he rolled his eyes and muttered, “Whatever” before stalking away. Derek let him go, even though Erica kind of looked like she wanted to chase him down the hall and kick him in the head.
“You okay?” Derek asked.
“Yeah, I’m fine,” Stiles said, feeling stupid that Derek had to come to his rescue. “He was just being Jackson.”
“You let me know if he bothers you again,” Derek said, and Stiles rolled his eyes.
“Oh my god, I’m not going to run to you and tattle every time Jackson’s an ass. There wouldn’t be any time left in the day for anything else. I appreciate you trying to help, man, but it’s really not that big of a deal.”
“I’m serious, Stiles…”
“I am too,” Stiles promised him as the bell rang. “I’ve gotta get to class. See you later.”
He hitched his bag up on his shoulder and took off down the hall at a quick jog. He had four minutes to get to chemistry, and he really wasn’t in the mood to deal with Harris’ special brand of asshole if he was late.
He slid into his seat with ten seconds to spare, receiving a displeased glare from Harris, who thrived on having reasons to give Stiles a hard time. He was one of those tragic cases, a guy who’d been bullied in high school and then went on to be a dick of a teacher to make himself feel powerful. For some reason, he’d picked Stiles to be his punching bag. It might, admittedly, have had something to do with Stiles’ complete and total inability to keep his mouth shut.
“Hey,” Scott whispered, leaning across the table towards him. “Did you want to come by after school? Deaton texted and…”
“Can’t,” Stiles told him mournfully. “I’m grounded, and also Dad is making me go see Grandpère every day after school.”
Scott’s eyes widened as he took that information in. He glanced around them and whispered, “because of the…” and made a few weird hand gestures that were probably supposed represent his princehood but mostly looked like he was trying to tug a giant leech off his head.
“Yeah,” Stiles sighed. “I’ll tell you about it later. But really, my social life is pretty much dead for the next two months.”
“That sucks, man…”
“If Mr. Stilinski and Mr. McCall would be kind enough to stop talking, perhaps we could get class started.”
Scott made a face at him and turned his attention back to the front, where Harris was scowling at them.
“Thank you so much for your attention,” he sneered, before addressing the rest of the class. Stiles just sighed and settled in for a long session of watching the way Lydia Martin’s strawberry blonde tresses swept over her back and shoulders when she moved her head.
The Genovian Consulate was just as big and grand as Stiles remembered it to be. He’d kind of been hoping that, amidst his shock and betrayal, he’d imagined the oil paintings and oriental rugs, but clearly he hadn’t.
It was one such oriental rug that he studied as he waited for Grandpère to make an appearance, slumped down on a classy cream-colored settee lined in dark wood. The rug was a deep red and gold brocade number, expensive and plush. Stiles kind of wanted to kick off his shoes just to see what it would feel like under his toes. Before he could give in to the temptation, though, Grandpère swept into the room with a man trailing behind him like an obedient puppy.
“Sit up!” he barked at Stiles. “Princes don’t slouch.”
“Apparently they do,” Stiles argued, but sat up anyway.
He thought bitterly of the invitation he’d received to Scott’s that he’d had to turn down for this. Hell, he’d rather be helping Cora gather signatures for her petition. He’d been a bit relieved, earlier, that he’d had a legitimate pre-made excuse when she’d cornered him to demand his help, but now he was thinking getting dismissed by the entire student body, one by one, was the better option.
Grandpère led him out of the parlor and down a large corridor with high ceilings and marble floors. They passed several closed doors, all of which were made of a beautiful dark-colored wood and carved with delicate designs. Stiles was sure they were worth more than his Jeep. He was led into a room at the end of the corridor, one that looked like it could have been an unused office. The walls were lined with bookcases made of the same dark wood as the door, but there weren’t any books on the shelves. There was a large desk and a small sitting area, along with a huge, full-length mirror set up against one wall. It didn’t look like it belonged there, as if someone had been carrying it through, and then set it down and forgot to bring it with them when they left.
“Paolo will be here shortly,” Grandpère informed him. “And then the personal shopper. We’ll get you fitted for some suits and a tux for the ball, of course, along with some clothing to replace those ill-fitting rags your father has dressed you in. I’m having some coronets sent from the palace collection so that you may choose which you prefer…”
“Coronets?” Stiles demanded, a little hysterically. Of all the horrendous things that Grandpère had just listed, that seemed like the worst.
“Honestly, Maczysz, a coronet is a kind of crown…”
“I know what a coronet is,” Stiles snapped. “But why do I need one?”
“As Heir Apparent, it is appropriate to show your status,” Grandpère answered stiffly. “Obviously you will not always wear a coronet, but you will at the Genovian Independence Day ball when you accept your title.”
“You mean when I abdicate,” Stiles corrected.
“Enough of this foolish talk,” Grandpère said, brushing Stiles’ protests away with a wave of his hand. “Stand up and turn, slowly, so that I may look at you.”
Stiles rolled his eyes, but did as he was told. He was all for fighting the power and challenging authority, but if he was going to be stuck doing this for the next six weeks, he might as well pick his battles.
“Atrocious posture,” Grandpère noted, and his little minion scribbled something down on his iPad. Stiles straightened up automatically, and then wished that he hadn’t. “That hair is an absolute mess, something must be done with it. Good height, but far too lanky. Complexion is passable…”
Stile stopped his judgment spin, opening his mouth to argue, but Grandpère continued as if he didn’t notice.
“He has his mother’s eyes and nose,” he said, and Stiles snapped his mouth shut. He’d known that, of course, but it was kind of nice to hear it from someone who wasn’t his drunk father lamenting about their loss.
“There’s a good foundation,” Grandpère decided, nodding to himself. “He needs a bit of buff and shine, but when we’re through with him, he’ll look very princely indeed.”
“Paolo has arrived, Your Highness,” one of the staff said, poking his head through the doorway. “Shall I send him in?”
“Yes, thank you,” Grandpère said. “Now, Maczysz, I know you get some sort of strange delight out of being contrary, but I’d like to remind you that you agreed to do whatever I said during these lessons, and that includes allowing me to improve your image.”
“You know, I’m pretty sure that’s not what I agreed to,” Stiles said. “But, I will admit that I do need a haircut, and as long as I get final veto on the clothes, I will let you treat me like your own personal life-sized Ken doll.”
“That sounds agreeable,” Grandpère said stiffly, in a way that suggested it wasn’t all that agreeable at all. Apparently he was picking his battles too.
A man came into the room then, dressed from head-to-toe in black. He should have looked like an undertaker, but the subtle silver patterns on his waistcoat took it from funeral-chic to something more stylish. He was balding on top and he had a thick silver ring on each one of his fingers.
“Principe!” he said with an Italian accent so thick that Stiles suspected it was fake. He rushed forward and took Grandpère by the shoulders, kissing both his cheeks with exaggerated “mwah!” noises. “Is wonderful to see you…”
“Yes, yes,” Grandpère said stiffly, taking a large step back out of Paolo’s reach. “Paolo, this is my grandson, Maczysz.”
Paolo turned his eyes on Stiles and looked him over critically from top to bottom. He noticeably winced as he did so, which, rude. Stiles scowled back at him, wondering where he got off judging people’s hair when he didn’t even have all of his.
“Ah, yes, Il Principe Piccolo!” he said, moving forward to grab Stiles’ shoulders and kiss his cheeks. He was at least five inches shorter and had to forcibly pull Stiles down so that he could reach. “Though perhaps not so piccolo!” he chortled.
“I trust you’ve signed the confidentiality agreements?” Grandpère interrupted, his tone edged with steel. It didn’t seem to detract from Paolo’s flamboyance and cheer one bit.
“Of course, Principe,” Paolo agreed. “Paolo would never betray…”
“Excellent,” Grandpère said quickly. “Maczysz, if you’ll excuse me, I am waiting on a call from Monaco.”
He swept quickly from the room without waiting for an answer, clearly ready to get away from Paolo as quickly as possible. Stiles took assurance in the fact that the guy must be good at his job for Grandpère to deign to put up with him.
“Sit!” Paolo declared, flapping his hands urgently at Stiles, ushering him towards a chair that had been wrangled in front of the mirror by one of the staff. “Tell me, Principe, do you always wear your hair in this fashion?”
“Uh, no,” Stiles said, settling gingerly on the chair. “I haven’t had the chance to get it buzzed lately…”
“Buzzed?” Paolo demanded, horrified.
“Yeah, I usually wear it in a buzzcut…”
“You are very funny,” Paolo said quickly, though he didn’t sound as if he thought Stiles were funny at all. “Very, very, funny. No worries, Principe. Paolo will fix for you.”
“I mean, I don’t know if it needs fixing,” Stiles insisted. “I actually like having a buzz…”
“Paolo will fix for you,” Paolo insisted loudly, and Stiles rolled his eyes and gave up. Maybe a change would be nice.
“Okay, but don’t do anything too fancy,” he warned. “Because I have very limited hair-styling ability.”
Paolo gave him a withering look, and then started spraying Stiles’ hair with a spray bottle without answering. Okay then.
He focused his attention on his phone instead, flicking through a few ranty texts from Cora and a snapchat of Scott taking a selfie with a big drooly bulldog and let Paolo boss him around. Apparently that was his life now. Being royal was just awesome.
The next morning found Stiles outside of the Hale house, glancing at the clock on his dashboard and wondering if it was wrong. Derek and Cora usually were nothing if not punctual, but Stiles had been idling in their driveway for nearly five minutes. Finally, he sighed, turned the car off, and headed for the front door. It swung open as he was heading up the porch steps and Derek came out, yelling over his shoulder,
“Cora, Stiles is here!”
Stiles backed up quickly as Derek kept going without looking, almost tumbling backwards off the porch steps before Derek finally faced front, saw him, and ceased his advance. His eyes went wide and his jaw dropped slightly, which admittedly made Stiles preen a bit.
“Wow,” Derek said. “You look…”
“Different, I know,” Stiles said, making a face.
It wasn’t as if his overall style had changed, really. It was still the same jeans-tee-plaid style he usually rocked (and thank god for James, the personal shopper who had assured Grandpère that it was very in-style and fitting for a prince), but it was a bit more...upscale. And by that, he meant branded. The jeans were Diesel, the plaid shirt was Gucci, and even the plain black t-shirt he was wearing was Armani. They were also all tailored. Really, he was wearing a tailored t-shirt.
A week’s worth of tailored clothes, all things he had picked out the day before, had appeared at his door at six o'clock that morning. The guy who delivered them looked kind of dead inside when he brought them up to Stiles’ bedroom and hung them neatly in the closet for him, which was seven kinds of awkward. Still, Stiles figured he should probably wear them, if only to honor the poor tailor that had probably worked through the night under the threat of Grandpère’s wrath.
Derek looked like he was going to say something else, his eyes flicking over Stiles slowly, but Cora burst through the door like a whirlwind the next moment, tossing her backpack-which looked like a stuffed wolf-over her shoulder. She came to an abrupt stop the same way Derek had, and then said bluntly,
“What happened to your hair?”
“Oh,” Stiles said, a little surprised at her bluntness, even though he should have been used to it by now. He actually thought that Paolo had done a good job on his hair. It was longer than he usually wore it, but still quite a bit shorter than it had been the day before, except for the front, which remained long enough to style. Paolo had shown him how to tousle it messily in the front with a bit of pomade, and it was easy enough that Stiles thought he’d pulled it off pretty well. Apparently not.
“I know it’s kinda different…”
“It’s weird,” Cora informed him. “Is this what you were doing yesterday instead of helping me with my petition? Getting all Queer Eye’d? Is that shirt tailored?”
“Uh, my grandfather kinda strong-armed me into it,” Stiles said, feeling himself deflate just slightly. Despite all his groaning and complaining the day before, he’d actually thought that he looked pretty good.
“Come on, Cora, we’re gonna be late,” Derek interrupted, heading for the car. Cora rolled her eyes but followed after him, Stiles bringing up the rear with slumped shoulders. He knew Cora’s attitude shouldn’t bother him, because she was like that with everyone, but he suddenly felt like a poser playing dress up.
He’d hoped that she’d get over his new look after the first few minutes, but that hope was crushed when she got in the passenger’s seat and saw his new backpack on the floor. It was actually a leather messenger bag that was probably meant to be used like a briefcase, but it was beautiful and it was the one thing he’d picked out himself and he kind of loved it.
“Holy shit, Stiles,” she said, lifting it into her lap. “This is a Saddleback. Do you know how much these things cost? You could probably feed a whole family for a year with the money your grandfather spent on this…”
She continued on and on, critiquing every aspect of all of his wardrobe choices, and even going as far as to shove her hand down the back of his shirt to read the label, despite the fact that it made him swerve into the other lane out of surprise. Stiles tried to ignore her, as per usual, but the more she ranted, the more pissed off he got, until finally they pulled into a parking space at school with a screech of tires and he snapped.
“Oh my god, Cora, shut up! Why do you have to be such a heinous bitch all the time?”
Cora’s jaw dropped in surprise, and Derek made a choking noise in the backseat that sounded suspiciously like he was forcing down a laugh. Cora’s surprise only lasted a moment, quick to be replaced by an icy glare.
“Go fuck yourself,” Cora spat, climbing out of the Jeep and slamming the door shut behind her with way more force than his baby should have had to endure.
“So,” Derek said a moment later, breaking the absolute silence that had descended over the car.
“Fuck,” Stiles sighed, rubbing a hand over his face. “I’m sorry.”
“She was kind of being a bitch,” Derek shrugged, not looking bothered, even though he’d been ready to punch Jackson Whittemore for saying pretty much the same thing yesterday.
“I shouldn’t have done that,” Stiles sighed. “She just…”
“I get it,” Derek assured him. “Cora’s...intense.”
“Yeah,” Stiles agreed.
He stayed quiet for a moment, not even reaching to unbuckle his seatbelt. Eventually, though, he heaved another sigh and slid out of the car, Derek following. The front steps were mostly deserted as they walked up them, since they were running so late, and the late bell rang as they reached the front doors.
“Shit,” Stiles sighed. “I’ll see you later Derek.”
“Yeah,” Derek agreed. “And, for what it’s worth, I really like your hair.”
Stiles spared him a tiny smile and resisted the urge to blush.
“Thanks,” he said, and they smiled at each other for a long moment before a teacher walked past and barked at them to get to class.
He made it to AP English nearly five minutes late, but Ms. Blake only shot him a warning look as he slid into his seat and dug his copy of Awakening out of his bag. He wasn’t quite sure what, but something caught Lydia Martin’s attention as he set the bag on the floor, and she looked down at it appraisingly before nodding approvingly.
“Nice bag,” she said casually, like it was totally normal for her to be acknowledging his existence. Stiles gaped at her stupidly, suddenly aware that he’d never actually considered what he’d say if she ever actually spoke to him. “Saddleback?”
“Chic,” she said, and then focused her attention back on Ms. Blake like nothing significant had happened.
As if she hadn’t finally acknowledged him after years of him trying to get even a hello out of her. He resisted the urge to flail, trying to stay cool and collected. He ducked his head and grinned down at the desk before resting his chin on his hand. So what if his elbow slipped off the edge of the desk and he almost face-planted? Lydia Martin had talked to him, and letting his grandfather bully him into a makeover was probably the best decision he’d ever made.
Approaching Cora at lunch with a huge specialty cupcake decorated like a werewolf was probably the scariest thing Stiles had ever done. Still, he’d skipped fourth period to make a quick trip to Night of the Living Bread-a bakery downtown that did all their wares in a monster movie theme-in order to pay six dollars for a cupcake, so come hell or high water he was at least going to try to give it to her.
She was sitting outside on one of the stone benches with her lunch and a laptop, designing a flyer to draw people’s attention to the swimming issue. Since it was the first week of November, most people had retreated indoors to the cafeteria to avoid the crisp fall air. Stiles was kind of relieved. At least if Cora shoved the cupcake in his face there would be less witnesses.
“Heeeeey, Cora,” he greeted, sliding onto the bench across from her and pushing the cupcake box across the table like an offering. Cora didn’t even acknowledge his presence.
“Come on, Cora,” he wheedled, rocking the box back and forth gently. “It’s carrot cake. Your favorite.”
“Go away, Stiles,” Cora snapped, her eyes locked stubbornly on her laptop screen.
“I’m sorry I was such a jackass, okay? I’m just really stressed out right now, my grandfather…”
“What, is your grandfather Stalin?” Cora demanded, slamming the lid of her laptop shut and turning the full power of her glare directly on him. “He’s turning you into some mindless wannabe Jackson Whittemore clone and you’re just letting him!”
“It’s not like that…”
“It seems like it is to me! Two weeks ago you never would have talked to me that way and all of a sudden…”
“Okay, you’re right about that,” Stiles sighed. “I shouldn’t have called you a heinous bitch, and I’m sorry.”
“You’re right, you shouldn’t have,” Cora sniffed. She traced her finger along the faded black sharpie marks of ‘GREENBERG WUZ HERE’ scrawled across the table’s surface and refused to look up at him.
“I was a dick,” Stiles wheedled. “And I’m really sorry. Just that, you were kind of making me feel like shit…”
“So you made me feel like shit back,” she said, her shoulders slumping just slightly. “I’m sorry, too, I guess. Just sometimes…”
She trailed off then, grabbing the bright green cupcake box and dragging it towards her. She’d gone quiet and a little melancholy, which was so unlike her that Stiles found himself actually worrying about it.
“Just sometimes what?” he pressed.
“Just sometimes I feel like I don’t really...belong. I know I’m not your best friend, but you’re mine,” she told him quietly. “Other people don’t really like me. They think I’m bossy and pushy, and I guess they’re right, but I never cared because I always thought you and me were pretty close…”
“Of course you’re my best friend,” Stiles told her, suddenly feeling like world’s biggest jackass. He knew what it was like to feel alone and friendless. He’d had quite a lot of that before he’d met Scott in second grade. “I mean, yeah, Scott’s my best friend, but he’s more like a brother. And anyway, who said you can’t have more than one best friend? You are totally best friend material, Cora Hale…”
“Then why are you hiding stuff from me?” Cora demanded, fixing him with a hard stare. He wondered if he’d just been duped by the threat of female emotions, or if she really had found his words meaningful enough to get her regular attitude back. “Something weird is going on with your grandpa and you refuse to tell me about it. Friends tell.”
“It...it’s kind of a huge secret,” Stiles admitted. There was no way he was going to convince her that he wasn’t hiding something, so it was better not to try. He’d just piss her off again, maybe even more than before.. “Like...super huge. You’re going to think it’s stupid.”
“Try me,” she challenged, finally opening up the cupcake box and smiling down at the frosted snarling werewolf.
“Okay,” Stiles sighed. “But really Cora, this is huge, top secret. You can’t tell anyone, even Derek.”
“Like I tell Derek anything,” she scoffed, and then upon seeing his face rolled her eyes and added, “I promise to keep your secret, Stilinski.”
He glanced around the courtyard, looking to see if there was anyone lurking within hearing distance, and then leaned towards her. She raised her eyebrows and leaned forward as well, and Stiles started in a quiet voice,
“Okay, so have you heard about that European king that died last week?”