Stiles hesitates as he approaches the red painted door.
He stops; smoothing his sweaty hands down his best suit and tries to breath.
This was supposed to be easy. Just a short visit to wish Capt. Hale luck. To wish him a safe return home from the chaos that has become this unavoidable war.
His hands tighten around the bind of the thick novel in them as he turns his back to the expansive house surrounded by trees. He takes another breath, head tilted to the blue sky, eyes closed, listening to the quiet calm of the Beacon Hills forest…
He can do this. He’s not declaring his undying love.
But he is making a declaration.
There’s no such thing as a simple, polite gesture in their world. Everything has meaning. Everything has purpose. Even Stiles driving out to the preserve, unchaperoned, and calling on the captain unannounced as the drum beats of war sound in the distance has meaning. And definitely a purpose.
He can hear the distant rhythm of the parade making its way down Tower Rd., calling its soldiers headed for the front lines.
He doesn’t want Capt. Hale to go.
He doesn’t want anyone to go. But its war. A war for freedom and independence and all eligible humans and werewolves are required to fight.
His own father is bound by his duty as duke, and rode out to the edge of the county a fortnight ago, tasked with the burden of commanding their army, sending brave men and women off to fight, to die, for their sovereignty. And the sovereignty of Beacon Hills.
Stiles will miss the bloody battles, having to keep rule over Beacon Hills along side his werewolf counterpart, Lt. Col. Laura Hale, while their parents brace themselves for combat.
He has yet to determine if such a duty is fortunate, or unfortunate.
He cares very little for ugliness of conflict, but understands that the forging war is one of necessity.
He just wishes his best friend hadn’t been the cause of it…
Stiles turns back toward the house. The sprawling neo-Georgian of red brink and a thousand windows stands before him in the morning sunlight. The Hale House may not be the 15 bedroom, gated mansion he resides in, but it is just as impressive and iconic in the hearts of Beacon Hills’ citizens. It stands beautiful and majestic within the green woods, old and proud, more a part of town than the church on Main, or the city hall in the centre of their small corner of earth.
He can do this. Declaration or no declaration. His father is the crowned head of Beacon Hills, and he his son, the next autocrat and current ruler. He is the Marquess of Beacon Hills. He can talk to a boy. A man. A wolfman.
Stiles squares his shoulders and walks toward the front door. He knocks lightly, losing his nerve slightly, before knocking again, with purpose.
He swallows hard, waiting with trembling hands for the door to be answered…
The crimson red door swings open abruptly. On the other side is Capt. Derek Hale, shirtless and wet, hair damp and combed back, with a large, white towel held around his waist, covering his modesty.
Stiles gasps, having caught sight of the beta wolf undressed and sprinkled with water that rolls down the hard muscle of his bare chest and stomach.
Capt. Hale’s eyes widen and the wolf slams the door in Stiles’ stunned face!
Stiles says not a word, turning on his heel toward his car—
“My apologies, Capt. Hale. I should not have appeared unannounced,” he regrets.
“My Lord, stop! Please,” Capt. Hale calls after him.
Stiles’ feet halt in the grey gravel road before the porch steps.
“It’s me that should apologize for being indecent when called upon by company.”
Stiles turns, facing Capt. Hale, haphazardly clothed in his uniform pants and dress shirt.
“You weren’t aware you would be entertaining company, Capt. Hale. No apology is necessary. Forgive me.”
“You are forgiven,” Capt. Hale assures him.
Capt. Hale’s green/gold eyes bore into him as a flash of heat rolls through Stiles’ body, recalling his near-nakedness on display.
“I should have recognized your scent,” Capt. Hale regrets.
“...How could you have," Stiles asks, taken aback. "We’ve only crossed paths but twice, Capt. Hale.”
Capt. Hale steps closer. “Yet, I know you smell of summer rain, violets, and fresh pears,” he says.
Stiles’ breath catches in his throat. Scent is beyond important to wolves. And it’s forward behavior for a wolf to scent someone, let alone tell them they have and describe it so vividly.
“You’re unchaperoned,” he observes.
“…I am, Capt. Hale. Should I be worried for my safety? …Or my virtue?”
He can’t believe he just said that. He closes his eyes a moment, embarrassed by his own candidness. He opens them to catch the heavy, yellow orbs of Capt. Hale’s stare pierce into him.
Capt. Hale steps closer to Stiles, closer than what’s allowed. “Your safety is of no distress in my presence, My Lord. And your virtue… I should never hope to put you in an uncompromising position. Or at least one you wish not to be in.”
Stiles licks his lips, his mouth suddenly dry with Captain Hale’s innuendo. He’s sure the werewolf can no doubt hear the rapid beat of his heart though.
“I-I came to give you this.” Stiles displays the book in hand out toward Capt. Hale.
“The Count of Monte Cristo,” Capt. Hale reads the title.
“You said you were fond of literature when we last spoke. This book happens to be a favorite of mine, and I would like for you to keep it safe as you join the rest of your family in battle.”
The edges of the book are frayed, the spine cracked and floppy from numerous reads, and page corners smudged with fingerprints and small, written scribble in Stiles’ disorderly cursive.
Capt. Hale gently runs his fingers along the gold-print title. “Thank you, My Lord.”
Stiles blushes. He reaches into his pocket and pulls out a small envelope. He hands it over to Derek. “I’d… I’d like for you to have this as well, Capt. Hale.”
Derek takes the envelope. He opens it to a picture of Stiles.
“I’m not smiling in it… I-I don’t know how to do that. Hold a smile that is. A friend of mine, The Earl of Cyber, Lord Mahealani, enjoys photography as a passionate hobby of his. He took that picture.”
Capt. Hale is still staring at the photo. His expression blank, unreadable. The odd silence is not something Stiles feels entirely comfortable with. They both know what him giving such a token to Capt. Hale means; the gesture implying such intention. A forwardness not presumably taken by someone of Stiles’ status. But his father’s adviser, and one of Stiles’ most trusted friends, Lady Martin, suggested he be bold when in a courtship with Capt. Hale.
“He’s a soldier, Stiles. A decorated military man that has seen far more violence and bloodshed than either you or I have ever or will ever see. His formality with you is out of sheer etiquette and respect for your title and position. His experience is profound, in all manner of unsheltered life. I doubt a token will seem too forward in his eyes.”
But Capt. Hale hasn’t said a word. Has yet to meet Stiles’ eye and thank him. Or furrow his brow in confusion.
“I’m so sorry, Capt. Hale if my presence and my gift are inappropriate. Perhaps I may have misjudged our last encounters,” Stiles apologies, feeling rejected. “It’s very unbecoming of me. I’ll take me leave.”
Stiles makes to sprint back to his car when a strong hand grasps his bicep and spins him back around. Soft lips and bristled whiskers brush his mouth and scratch his cheek. He lets a surprised squeak muffle behind his occupied lips before feeling warm arms like hard rock close around him. He gives into the kiss completely.
His first kiss.
His knees quiver and go weak, pulling him to the gravel, taking Capt. Hale with him as his mouth parts and Stiles moans, opening his own mouth, granting permission for Capt. Hale’s wet, warm tongue to slide inside.
Stiles boils into a fever as Capt. Hale’s large hand runs through his walnut-colored hair. He wants the werewolf to kiss his neck, run his fangs down the expanse of pale flesh and draw blood. He wants him to lick his pulsepoint and leave teeth marks for everyone to see.
He wants to be marked and claim. Right here. Right now. By this man. This wolf.
Capt. Hale breaks their kiss suddenly, leaving Stiles dizzy. He stands then pulls Stiles to his feet quickly.
1st Lt. Vernon Boyd, Sgt. Erica Reyes, and Sgt. Isaac Lahey stand open-mouthed on the steps of Hale House. Sgt. Erica Reyes isn’t without her trademark smirk of sultry and impressed.
Stiles turns three shades of pink under the judgmental eyes of the Hale Pack betas. He clears his throat and dust the chalky powder from the knees of his suit.
The noise of the marching parade has grown closer, merely a few feet away.
1st Lt. Boyd hands Capt. Hale his uniform jacket and cap. “We gotta go.”
Capt. Hale nods. “Right.” He takes his clothes and dresses hurriedly, managing to look commanding, brave, and ready, in a matter of seconds.
Stiles watches the captain slip Stiles’ picture into the breast pocket of his uniform, right under the surname stitched into his jacket. He tucks the book Stiles gave him into the duffel bag 1st Lt. Boyd dropped at his booted feet.
Stiles’ heart pitter-patters in his chest.
The betas run toward the marching parade as they approach Hale House, falling in line.
Capt. Hale quickly pushes Stiles onto the porch, hiding him from the coming soldiers. He kisses him swift and absolute. “I’ll be back to you. Soon. I promise.”
“I’ll write you. Every day. I swear it.”
Capt. Hale smirks. “Noblemen shouldn’t swear.”
Stiles frames Capt. Hale’s face with his long, lean fingers, staring deep into the kaleidoscope of his eyes: “I swear it, Capt. Hale.”
“...Derek, My Lord.”
Stiles smiles wide. “Stiles.”
Derek kisses him hard, once more, before running toward his fellow soldiers.
Stiles watches as he falls in perfect harmony with his brethren as they head for the trenches.
His heart sinks, and a dreadful, shaky feeling crashes over him like a wave, making him feel nauseous, as though he were at sea. It’s the same polluted feeling he had when he watched his father and his best friend march off to war.
He’s never been much for prayer. Or simply belief, faith, at all. But he finds himself asking for hope, begging for safety, and pleading they all make it home in one piece.
“Godspeed,” he whispers softly.