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The Gentleman And The Fox

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Derek reads the morning paper over his breakfast, taking his time on the front page article about the larger-than-life exploits of the Red Fox. Apparently the thief struck again last night, making off with three trunks of gold and jewels from Lord Whittemore’s estate. The loot has not been discovered as of yet, but Derek has a feeling that a few more families may have been just lifted out of poverty. The civil unrest that plagues the township of Beacon is no different than the rest of the country; the rich tax the poor heavily, and class divides get worse and worse.

But Beacon has the Red Fox.

No one has ever seen his face, and the few eyewitness accounts that do agree paint him as a handsome figure, face partially obscured by the signature fox masquerade mask he wears.

The lords and ladies of Beacon gossip heavily, decry him as a public nuisance.

Derek thinks he’s amazing.

He wishes he could do more himself. He donates regularly to the Beacon Children’s Home, of what funds he does have, but the estate is in his husband’s name. He could account for more charity in their budget, but he’s nervous to approach his husband about it.

Derek married to save his family from poverty; they’ve only been married for three weeks. The Hale name has power and political well-standing, but Derek’s foolhardy uncle gambled his and his sisters’ inheritance away, and it was up to Derek to make a good match. The wealthy but titleless “Lord” Stiles Stilinski was a perfect solution.

At first Derek thought he was lucky as far as arranged marriages go. He blushed at their first meeting, overwhelmed by how young and handsome Stiles was, imagining kissing those pink lips and calling him “my Stiles” in the soft glow of their future bedroom. He’d introduce Stiles to his interests, like gardening and chess, and happily learn of Stiles’ own, and they’d at the very least be friends, if not lovers.

But Derek soon learned that Stiles Stilinski is a laughingstock among the high society circles of Beacon. He came into his wealth rather suddenly, from a clever investment in the printing press. However, it seemed to be the only clever thing about him because the young lordling is lazy and boring. During the betrothal, every time Derek saw him at a party or another, Stiles’ eyes were always unfocused if in a conversation, not even keeping up with the topic at hand, and more likely than not, he was sprawled out asleep somewhere on a chaise lounge.

They’ve exchanged one brief, perfunctory kiss on the lips on their wedding day, and since moving to the Stilinski estate Derek’s rarely seen his husband. They have separate bedrooms and sitting rooms, and when Derek has seen him, it’s only at meals, where Derek has given up trying to entice Stiles into conversation. Stiles responds with one or two word answers, sometimes completely missing what Derek asked, and never initiates the conversation, never asks Derek any questions of himself.

From what Derek can observe, Stiles doesn’t appear to have many interests of his own. Whenever Derek has seen him in the manor, Stiles is always… asleep. The man takes three naps a day, at least, seems content to let the world pass on without him.

“Good morning, my lord,” Derek says politely when Stiles walks into the room.

Stiles is wearing a dressing gown, loosely tied, revealing the pale expanse of his neck and collarbones, and for a moment Derek is wistful for when he thought moments like these would be the core of a soft, domestic bliss. He stiffens, adjusting his own cravat and feeling uncomfortable in his day’s attire already.

“Good morning,” Stiles drawls in that strange deep voice of his, and sits at the other end of the table.

Stiles immediately starts stuffing himself with food, gorging on scones and cream. White smears all over his lips, and some on his cheek, and Derek can’t help but stare. He coughs. “The Red Fox was spotted last night,” he says, trying to make conversation.

“Oh?”

“Yes,” Derek says, disappointed in Stiles’ non-reaction. Anyone else would immediately want to hear the gossip and start speculating with him.

Stiles reaches for the teapot and pours himself a generous cup, slurping noisily at it.

“The weather is fine today,” Derek says.

“Indeed.”

On impulse, he asks, “Would you like to go riding with me today in the fields? We could pack a picnic, if you like.”

Stiles sets down his teacup and looks over the long, long dining table filled with fine china and delicious breakfast dishes.

Derek knows for a fact his younger sister dines with her wife at a small table, sitting next to each other.

“I have plans today,” Stiles says finally, blinking slowly.

Derek nods, swallowing his disappointment.

They finish their meal in silence, and Derek doesn’t bother trying to engage Stiles in conversation again. He barely tastes the rich meal at all, and finally when the last of the trays are taken away, he excuses himself from the table.

Derek sighs as he walks to his chambers. He suppose it could be worse. An indifferent husband is better than a hateful one, and Stiles is at least pleasant, if predictable.

He dresses for riding, putting on a smart pair of breeches and a new hat. He could go and visit Cora, he supposes.

Downstairs, he passes through the parlor and spots Stiles sprawled out on the chaise lounge, legs dangling akimbo over the edge, sound asleep. Still in his dressing gown.

Big plans.

Derek huffs and heads out.

 


 

Cora and Lydia’s cottage is a two hour’s ride from the Stilinski estate, through lovely green fields and on the outskirts of the bustling Beacon town center. It’s a nice ride, and Derek enjoys the wind on his cheeks and seeing people walk about the square, enjoying their day. His mare Orliane is enjoying the excursion as well, and Derek has to keep her from running off into the fields. He shakes his head in amusement as she calms down; he really should get out more.

Cora welcomes him with open arms, and invites him in for tea. She and Lydia curl in close together, conspiring over the morning paper, giggling over some secret. “I hear that the paper underreported it, and the Red Fox made off with thousands of gold coins,” Cora says, delighted.

Lydia sips her tea. “The Reynolds family just bought their tavern back.”

“Oh, that’s wonderful,” Derek says. “Anyone else?”

“Little Marie Schoon is going to the Capitol to study astronomy at the University,” Cora says.

It’s fun, going through the day’s town gossip to try and figure out who the Red Fox has redistributed the wealth to. Derek finishes his tea, and he and Cora talk a bit about Laura and her venture in the Americas, and Lydia shows off a new invention of hers. It makes Derek happy to see that his own marriage match went to some use. It actually had been Cora’s name that the matchmaker had suggested to Lord Stilinski, a smart pairing for the destitute Hales and the wealthy but nameless lord. But Cora was already engaged to Lydia, and there was no way Derek would have asked her to leave her sweetheart. At least one of them should marry for love.

Cora and Lydia were wed just a week after Derek’s own wedding, and with Derek’s newfound wealth he was able to buy them a lovely cottage just out of town. He’s never regretted it, and he smiles, watching the way they smile at each other, basks in the happy ease that flows throughout their home.

Derek stays at there all afternoon, and eats dinner with them as well. He knows he’s avoiding going back to his own estate, but the thought of being in the same room with Stiles and not being able to connect with him fills Derek with dread.

It’s late when he leaves, and the street lamps are almost out, small flickering flames in little pools of spent oil.

Derek takes a shortcut through the town, Orliane’s hooves clattering on the cobblestones. In the distance, he can hear a bawdy chorus coming from the Reynolds’ newly reopened tavern. He smiles to himself, and urges his mare on. They trot through the dark streets, and Derek winds around the path, almost to where the town gives way to the outer greenery of the wealthy estates.

The trail is lit softly by moonlight, and a small animal skitters across the his path, spooking Orliane. She bucks and Derek is tossed off, landing in a pile of shrubbery, and he watches her neigh and start running down the trail towards his estate.

Derek scowls. Orliane will get home fine. He guesses he’ll just have to walk.

He dusts himself off and starts the journey. It’ll be past midnight by the time he gets home, but it won’t matter. It’s not like his husband will notice or care if he returns tonight.

He remembers the brief, stilted conversation they had after the wedding, after Stiles had shown Derek to his own private chambers. It’s not like Derek was expecting Stiles to fall in love with him immediately— but he had hoped to try to get to know one another. And Derek found Stiles handsome— he wouldn’t have minded being intimate, not at all.

But Stiles had nodded stiffly at him and gestured at the finely appointed bedroom and joined sitting room and dressing rooms. “These are yours,” he said. “My rooms are in the other wing of the manor, so you don’t need to worry about noise, or anything, if you bring your paramours back here. I won’t hear a thing.”

Derek sighs, continuing on the path. It’s a normal enough arrangement, especially for those whose marriage isn’t a love match. But many matched couples do fall in love, and at the very least are friends.

He trudges along, ignoring the way his imagination plays up the shadows in the trees, the sounds the wind makes as it rustles through the leaves, strangely ominous.

The trail crests at the top of a hill, and Derek stops. In the distance he can see a carriage being driven by a standing figure, their overcoat flapping wildly in the wind. The carriage is coming from the Raeken estate, and rattles as it gets closer, heading back towards town, and the cool night breeze carries the sound of delighted, pleased laughter.

Derek tries to disappear in the trees, but he’s not fast enough, and he hopes whoever is in the carriage doesn’t see or recognize him; he doesn’t need the town gossip speculating why he was walking home covered in dirt and leaves.

The carriage is being driven by only one horse. Both horse and carriage bear the green Raeken livery, but the man driving it is clad head to toe in scarlet, his face partially obscured by an ornate mask that ends in two ears, like a fox.

Derek’s heart goes still.

The Red Fox turns to look at him as he drives past, and Derek catches a glimpse of warm brown eyes peeking mischievously through the mask. Pink lips curve into a curious smile before the Fox and the carriage (full of stolen money, no doubt) rattle past him.

He’s handsome, Derek realizes, at least of the half of the face he could see. It’s dark, but Derek can fill in with his imagination how soft those lips must be, how full of passion the Red Fox would be in a secret tryst.

He blushes, continuing on his walk, watching the moon slowly rise, loosening his cravat as he fantasizes more and more about the Red Fox, the way his long, nimble fingers clutched the reins, how noble his mission, how brave he is.

Derek is so caught up with his thoughts that he’s startled by the sound of hooves coming up behind him.

“Good evening, milord,” the Red Fox says cheekily. He must be just returning from town after leaving carriage and money behind. “Out for a midnight stroll?”

“I— yes,” Derek says, fumbling over his words. “I was riding home and my horse was surprised by a hare or something, threw me and took off running.”

“Oh?” The question is lighthearted, teasing, filled with interest.

Derek feels lightheaded. He can’t remember anyone who claimed to have seen the Red Fox ever having talked to him.

“It’s dangerous, to walk alone,” Fox says, winking at Derek. “You never know who you might run into.”

The Fox’s voice is lilting and light, like a melody, and Derek feels like he’s in a dream.

The scarlet-clad rogue extends a hand to Derek. “Would you like to ride back?”

Derek’s mouth falls open, and he nods yes. The hand is warm and solid, and Derek can feel his stomach fluttering as he climbs up and settles in behind the Red Fox. He tries to ignore the instinct that wants to wrap his arms around the Fox’s waist. He clutches the shoulders of the Fox’s cloak instead, feeling the warmth resonate through his back.

The position is extremely suggestive, and there’s something thrilling at being on a horse with the town’s most heinous bandit.

The Fox nudges his horse, one of Lord Theodore Raeken’s finest stallions, into a fierce gallop, and it’s all Derek can do to hang on.

“You may hold me, if you like. No need to stand on propriety here,” the Fox says, turning to whisper in Derek’s ear.

Derek shudders, feeling those lips graze his ear, the softness of his breath.

“Very well,” he says, looping his hands around the Fox’s waist. He’s hard in his breeches, and if the Fox notices, he doesn’t say anything.

The horse gallops faster, and it’s like a dream, riding through the night through the rustling silver-green fields.

He’s at the front gates of his home before he realizes. They both dismount, and Derek stands on the threshold, looking down at the long cobblestone path through the overgrown gardens in front of the elaborate manor. He looks back at the Red Fox, whose eyes are twinkling at him. His cheeks are pinked with a generous amount of rouge, and Derek wonders who this man is, why he chose to speak with Derek tonight.

 

 

 

“May I…” Derek lingers, not wanting the moment to end.

“Yes?”

“May I have a kiss?” he blurts out. It’s impulsive, he knows, but despite that strange conversation in the beginning of their marriage about taking on lovers, Derek’s never done so. He’s never thought of anyone he wanted to pursue. But now with the handsome man that has captured Derek’s imagination for so long, right in front of him, real and stunning in the soft moonlight, he doesn’t want this opportunity to go to waste.

The Red Fox grins at him, slow and anticipatory. He leans forward and pulls Derek in by the lapels of his shirt, works his fingers in his cravat until it’s hanging loosely around his neck. This kiss is sudden and hungry, and Derek is consumed by it, the hot wetness of his mouth, the insistency of his tongue.

Derek kisses him back, kisses with all the passion and fervor he’s ever imagined, feeling his body go hot and wanton at the man’s touch, the cold edges of his mask a sharp juxtaposition against the soft curves of his mouth.

 

 

 

Derek groans, pulling the Fox closer, running his hands down the length of his back, pausing before he reaches the supple curve of his ass. He’s so aroused he can hardly think, and he wants, he wants

The Fox pulls back, panting, and he winks again. “Have a good night, Derek,” he purrs in a sultry tone, and then climbs back on the horse and disappears into the night.

Derek walks up the path towards the manor in a daze, and it isn’t until he’s inside when he realizes he never told the Fox his name or where he lived.

 


 

Derek draws back the brocaded curtain and eyes his empty bed. Despite the warm embers flickering in the grate, the room seems austere and cold. His heart is still racing with the encounter with the Fox, and it’s been a long while since Derek has been this aroused. He wants to be held, to be kissed, he wants more.

He’s married. To a handsome husband. Who briefly mentioned Derek should be free to take on lovers, yes, but surely if Derek asked…

He thinks of Stiles’ lips, and the Fox’s merry eyes, alive with excitement, and makes a decision.

He leaves his chambers, his dressing gown trailing on the marble floors as he walks swiftly through the manor towards the other wing he’s never stepped foot in before. It’s chilly in his nightshirt, but his body is warm enough with the memory of the Fox’s kiss, and his heart is beating quickly, thinking of the possibility of sharing Stiles’ bed.

Derek knocks on Stiles’ bedroom door, waiting raptly for a response. He imagines Stiles coming to the door, hair sleep-mussed and eyes lighting up when he sees Derek. Maybe he’s shy, maybe he didn’t expect anything from this arranged marriage either.

There’s no answer, so Derek tentatively opens the door a crack to peek in.

Stiles’ bed is empty, and it looks undisturbed. The fireplace is cold and dark, and it does not appear that Stiles has been in his rooms at all this evening.

Derek bites his lip and tries to tamp down on the strange, swirling bile of jealousy that swells within him. It doesn’t matter, he tells himself.

He goes back to his own chambers and gets in bed, taking himself in hand and finding release to the warm memory of the Fox.

 


 

The next morning at breakfast Derek keeps looking at Stiles to see any sign of where he spent the night, and with whom. According to their agreement it’s none of his business, but he wants to know all the same.

Stiles is taciturn and dull as usual, and eats like a slob.

“Did you have fun last night?” Derek blurts out, with much less tact than he would have liked.

Stiles looks across the table at him, his eyebrows raised high. His eyes glimmer with an unreadable expression, and he opens his mouth, and then closes it. “I did,” he says carefully.

“Good,” Derek says, looking at his plate and not at Stiles. He takes another spoonful of bread pudding and swallows slowly. “I have a lover as well,” he adds.

Stiles’ face does something strange then, but it’s only for a flicker of a second before his eyes glaze over in that usual bored expression. “Congratulations,” Stiles says, and he picks up the paper and starts reading.

Derek sighs. So much for a reaction.

 


 

Saying he has a lover is one thing, but actually finding someone to start an affair with is another. Derek isn’t interested in any of the people in his social circles in that way, and to be honest, no one piques his interest like the Red Fox. And the fact that the Red Fox is interested as well and kisses like a dream is more than alluring.

Finding him again proves difficult. Derek stays out all night, riding about town, hoping to catch a glimpse, but he never sees him. He’ll hear about robberies that took place, sometimes in town and sometimes in neighboring areas, but Derek seems to be always just missing him.

He mentions his late-night rides off-handedly at his next dinner with Cora and Lydia. Cora giggles, insinuating with her eyebrows about lovers and moonlit romance. Lydia pats his arm, a worried furrow between her eyebrows. “You should take caution, there are many thieves and ruffians about who, unlike the Red Fox, have no qualms about hurting anyone.”

Derek takes her advice to heart and carries his sword when he goes; he hasn’t had to use it yet, but he did once send a pack of would-be thieves running with just a lift of his eyebrow and a gesture towards the hilt of his sword.

One evening Derek has about given up and is riding home when he sees the swish of a scarlet cloak. He urges his mare on, pursuing the glimpse of the Red Fox riding off into the shadows. He rides harder than he has ever before, and to his great luck, the Fox’s stolen steed tonight is no match for Orliane’s swiftness.

He catches up with the Fox in an open field, once again lit by moonlight. Derek can see those plush lips curve into a smile, and he instantly feels hot all over.

“Good evening,” he says.

The Fox tips his hat at him, the long, extravagant red feathers shimmering in the night. “Derek,” he says.

The familiar address makes Derek shudder. No one calls nobles anything but their title, no one except family and loved ones. It’s intimate and impertinent, and Derek can feel heat rush to his cock.

“Would you like to— do you—” Derek falters, unsure of how to begin. I would very much like to take you to bed, he composes in his head, but he has no idea how one would even start an affair.

“Are you having a good evening, Derek?” The Fox asks, amused, but there’s an interesting edge to his smile. “On your way home from visiting a paramour, perhaps?”

“No, no.” Derek shakes his head. His mare whinnies, impatient to move, and he stills her, patting her mane. “I was hoping to run into you. I can’t stop thinking about that kiss.”

For a moment the Fox’s mouth falters in what almost looks like guilt, but then it falls back into a cheeky smile. “A kiss, really? Care to remind me what it was like?” He winks through the mask, teasing.

Derek nudges Orliane to step closer, and realizes with a shock that he recognizes the horse the Fox is riding— and his mare does too, stepping up to sniff at him in greeting.

If Derek had to say Stiles had a favorite horse on those rare days he felt like riding, Roscoe would be it. He’s an old stallion, and probably should be put out to pasture. Derek’s surprised; of all the horses in their stable, why this one?

“This horse belongs to my husband,” he says, instead of the poetic prose he’d been practicing earlier in an attempt to seduce the Fox. “I hope you aren’t planning on stealing it.” Derek places a hand on the hilt of his sword.

Derek has no idea why he said that— he’d been looking for the Fox for so many nights, trying to see him again, and the first thing he says is a vaguely veiled threat? He relaxes his hold on his sword, but doesn’t let go.

“I was merely borrowing. I was on my way to returning him,” the Fox says.

“Oh.” Derek isn’t quite what else to say. He drops the sword and brings his hand back up to awkwardly scratch at his ear.  “Would you like some company? I am...heading home as well.”

The Fox nods at him, and the two of them trot companionably in the moonlight. Derek pauses every so often to steal glances at him, admire the shape of his mouth, and he wonders if the Fox is telling the truth, if he is planning on returning Roscoe after all. Then again, it’s not as if Roscoe would fetch the same price as one of Raeken’s pureblood stallions.

But the Fox has made do with what he’s stolen before. Roscoe would fetch a decent amount of silvers, enough for a few meals. Coin that would benefit some troubled family, coin that the Fox would surely want.

Derek doesn’t owe Stiles any loyalty, and yet… Roscoe is his favorite horse. Derek knows so little about the man that the few things he does know seem all the more significant.

Roscoe is a stubborn stallion, a dusty old palomino with a temper, and took a long while to warm up to Derek. Derek thought the horse hated everyone except for Stiles, and tolerated Derek on a good day, but Roscoe, for his part, doesn’t seem to notice or care that a stranger is riding him.

The Red Fox probably has a way with charming horses; he steals so many of them.

“I don’t always steal, you know,” the Fox says, like he’s reading Derek’s mind.

He turns to Derek, and the moonlight illuminates his skin; pink cheeks, mischievous eyes, and Derek can still remember the taste of his lips. He hasn’t stopped thinking about the Fox since they met, and how much Derek wants to kiss him again.

“Perhaps,” Derek says, wondering how to say that the Fox has stolen his heart.

They ride in silence, Roscoe and Orliane whuffing at each other and trotting alongside each other like old friends.

The Fox is a capable rider, gentle with Roscoe, barely needing to nudge him to guide him where he wants to go. They’ve already ridden more than three-quarters of the journey back to the Stilinski estate; surely the Fox was sincere about returning the horse.

Derek sighs, thinking about the reason why he was out tonight. His tongue feels heavy, and he wants to start a conversation. He should. When would he have this opportunity again?

But every time Derek wants to broach the subject of an affair— a physical one— the Red Fox surprises him, talking about the weather. And then the new tavern. It’s easy, lilting conversation. Friendly, almost flirtatious.

Derek is… enjoying himself.

He hasn’t had a conversation like this with anyone who wasn’t his sister or her wife in ages. He doesn’t have many true friends in high society here; he knows people, certainly, and would play cards occasionally with a few of them, but as far as company goes, he prefers his own by far.

They arrive back at the Stilinski estate far too soon; Derek could have easily talked with the Fox all night. They come to a halt, and the Fox dismounts, landing neatly on the path, stroking Roscoe’s nose. Derek follows suit, admiring the silhouette of the man in the soft moonlight.

The Fox hands Roscoe’s reins to him and gives him a crooked little grin.

“Would you like to—” Derek falters. He doesn’t know how to do this; he’s never done this before. He makes a vague gesture with his hands, and then raises his eyebrows a bit.

The Fox just stands there, slightly amused.

“Bed. Me? You?” Derek manages, and can immediately feel the heat rushing to his face. He’s not a forward man, he doesn’t know how to properly seduce anyone!

The Fox stills. “What?”

“Would you like to bed me— I, um, am inviting you to my bed,” Derek says awkwardly, and immediately chastens himself. What a terrible seduction.

The Fox merely cocks his head. “As pleasant as that sounds, I have other matters to attend to. Goodnight, Derek,” he says, and takes off his hat, bowing gracefully.

And then he turns around on foot, dashing off down the trail.

Derek watches him for a moment, confused, then a little heartbroken.

He should have known that kiss was too good to be true. Maybe the Fox doesn’t bed nobles, maybe he doesn’t consider Derek attractive enough. He unlatches the gate, and then turns around to look at the Fox in the moonlight once more.

The Fox is gone. The road is empty. Either the Fox took off on a side path, or he must be gifted with sorcery, because there is no one on the road, in the bright moonlight, all the way back to town.

 


 

Derek is eating breakfast with a heavy heart, not even bothering to try and engage his husband in conversation today. He’s poking halfheartedly at his scone when he hears a tentative—

“My lord?”

“Yes?” Derek looks up to see Stiles studying him over his plate.

“Would you like to go riding with me this afternoon?”

“Riding,” Derek repeats, surprised. “I— of course. I would be delighted to, dear husband.”

Stiles nods stiffly at him, and excuses himself from breakfast.

Derek isn’t sure what just happened.

Twenty minutes later he’s in the stables with Orliane, when he sees Stiles stride into view.  Derek stops himself before he gasps fully— it’s been a long time since he’s seen Stiles in their home wearing anything other than a dressing gown.

Stiles is wearing a cream-colored shirt and matching cravat, and a long, attractive navy blue coat and black breeches. He looks absolutely stunning, and Derek stumbles, walking forward.

“My lord,” he says, bowing his head. “Husband,” he tries, the title fitting oddly in his throat. He wants so badly to call his husband Stiles, as he does in his head, and for Stiles to call him Derek, as if he treasures him dearly, but he knows that it’s nothing but a foolish dream.

“You’re looking well,” Stiles says. “I’ve packed a picnic. That is what you suggested, last time. Is it to your liking?”

He sounds different, Derek realizes. His voice has lost that strange, theatrical heaviness and feels lighter, more relaxed.

Stiles coughs and tilts a picnic basket at Derek, opening it so he can see its contents.

Fruit.  A rich, nut-studded bread. Cake. A bottle of wine.

Derek feels lightheaded. It looks like the makings of a romantic outing, like one out of courtships from the romance novels Cora likes to read. “That looks— that looks lovely, my lord.”

Stiles makes a soft, pleased noise, and looks up at Derek— his eyes are a soft, luminous brown, and for a second they are standing quite close to one another. As close as the day they were pronounced wed.

Derek— Derek doesn’t move.

“Shall we?” Stiles says lightly. He walks into the stable, goes ahead for Roscoe’s stall, despite the fact that the stallion is the oldest, the slowest, and the most temperamental of all the horses in the Stilinski stable. He pats Roscoe’s nose fondly and saddles him up, waving off the stable hand.

Derek hurries to catches up, and takes Orliane’s reins from the stablehand to meet Stiles outside.

Orliane noses Roscoe with a friendly huff in greeting, and Stiles turns to Derek and gives him a small smile.

Derek isn’t sure what to do; he smiles back; Stiles has never initiated so much as a conversation with him, and now, this outing— Derek doesn’t know what to make of it.

Stiles starts them off on a slow trot, with Roscoe leading them off on the trail through the estate and the surrounding woods. They ride in silence, and Derek is still mulling over the strangeness of it all. He isn’t sure what to say, if he should try for conversation. The fact that Stiles asked to spend time with him is so new, so precious, that Derek wants to file every moment away, from the way Stiles glanced at him to the way he dressed to the way that he’s riding alongside Derek right now.

The silence isn’t new; Derek is used to it after countless meals of one-word answers and conversation that could hardly be counted as such. But there’s a different feel to this; the way Stiles keeps looking over at him, quirking his mouth like he wants to talk.

Derek keeps composing possibilities to say but discards them one after another. There’ll be wildflowers soon, if there’s rain seems boring, and to remark on how fine Stiles’ backside looks in those breeches seem crass.

He’s still trying to come up with something clever when they come to a halt.

“Is this to your liking, my lord? We can see the entire valley from here.”

Indeed, the view is spectacular. Derek didn’t even know there was a trail that came this way.

They dismount and Derek watches, amazed, as Stiles pulls a blanket out of his saddlebags and spreads it out on the grass, gesturing for Derek to sit.

Derek does, watching as Stiles pulls wine glasses out of the picnic basket and pours him a glass.

“Thank you,” he says.

Stiles clinks his glass against his own and takes a sip.

Derek follows suit; the wine is sweet, flavorful, familiar. It tastes like a Samwall vintage, one of Derek’s favorites. He remembers talking about it with Stiles in one of their few conversations they had when they were betrothed— but it must be a coincidence.

He glances at the label, and the bottle indeed has the Samwall crest. Derek is so lost in thought of what this means, that Stiles remembered this one minute detail, that it takes for him to realize Stiles is talking to him.

“Strawberry?”

“Oh. Of course,” Derek says.

Stiles holds the fruit out to him, and Derek reaches out and takes a bite, licking his lips and savoring its ripe sweetness.

Stiles stills, a blush starting in his cheeks, and Derek realizes what he’s just done. He shouldn’t have assumed Stiles wanted him to eat it out of his hand— how improper, how scandalous— Derek may as well have kissed him, if he was going to lick his fingers.

And now Derek is thinking of Stiles’ mouth, of kissing and licking and everything in between, and he manages to stammer, “I, ah, sorry, I thought—”

“No need to apologize,” Stiles says quickly. They stare at each other for a moment, and then Stiles lifts another strawberry out of the basket to him. “Would you like another?”

Derek takes the invitation and bites the strawberry carefully this time, so his lips don’t even touch Stiles’ fingers.

He finishes the fruit and meets Stiles’ eyes, and his lips touch the warmth of Stiles’ skin, barely enough to register, but Stiles inhales sharply.

The moment hangs in the air, and Derek has a mad fantasy fueled by every wicked thought he’s had about Stiles’ mouth since the moment they met, to hell with the if I may be so bold, my husband on the tip of his tongue and to bridge that gap between them and just kiss him—

The basket of strawberries is set down in Derek’s lap.

Stiles stands up abruptly, smoothing down his jacket. “I, ah, I forgot to bring out all the fruit for the picnic,” he says hastily, rummaging through the saddlebags. He procures a basket of blueberries and raspberries, and sets them down on the blanket next to Derek.

“My lord—” Derek reaches out, hopefully to take Stiles’ hand, to tell him how much he’s enjoyed this outing, how much he appreciates it—

Stiles grabs the bottle of wine next to Derek’s hand. “Just a moment, I’m going to chill this in the stream. I’ll be right back.”

And with a quick rustle of his cloak he’s ambling down the path, lighter and more graceful than Derek’s ever seen him. It’s hard to think of him as the same slovenly man in the dressing robe, clumsily tripping over his own feet.

Derek helps himself to the food, picking at the fruit, savoring the sweetness. He admires the beautiful view, the sunshine warming his skin; it’s a wonderful afternoon. Especially as he’s come to expect nothing from his husband, the fact that Stiles seems to want to spend time with him is a gift in itself.

Stiles returns a moment later, boots muddied, and a rosy sheen on his cheeks from exertion.

“My lord, are you alright?”

“Fine, fine… it was a lot steeper down than I thought,” Stiles huffs, sitting down on the blanket.

The silence washes over them for a moment; unlike all their previous silences, this one feels new to Derek. Like a beginning.

Stiles turns to him, a determined glint in his eye. He takes Derek’s hand and presses a soft kiss to it, murmuring something Derek cannot hear.

“My lord?”

“I wish to declare my intentions for you,” Stiles says.

Derek cannot help the grin that leaps to his face. “We are married,” he says, amused.

“I know, but we never courted. And I know during our engagement we discussed this marriage as a business partnership, nothing else.” Stiles bites his lip, deep in thought. “And I thought simply going about our own affairs would be best, but if you are amenable, I would like to get to know you, Lord Hale.”

“Lord Stilinski, now,” Derek says gently.

“Indeed it is,” Stiles says, his lips quirking up in a mischievous grin.

 


 

Stiles is true to his word about his intent to court Derek. Suddenly the quiet breakfasts are no longer. They talk for hours, sometimes arguing over mundane points from schooling long ago, histories and economics and politics and things Derek used to delight in debating over in his schoolboy days, but Stiles is quick and sharp of wit and fun. In fact, it’s difficult to get him to be silent.

Derek wonders how anyone ever thought of Stiles as dull or boring; he’s anything but.

They walk in the gardens, or what could be gardens. The Stilinski estate is largely overrun by weeds and the forest is encroaching upon it; it could be a handsome property, if given attention. Stiles admits he bought it because it was expensive, gaudy, and the farthest thing from town.

“I don’t like the company of most people,” Stiles says.

“Neither do I,” Derek agrees, and it’s at that moment Stiles takes his hand for the first time, and they continue strolling along the overgrown path, both smiling and neither acknowledging it, but holding hands all the while.

It becomes routine; after Derek reads the morning paper, either he or Stiles will suggest an activity, or they retire to the library together and read quietly in each other’s company.

Most often they go riding, Roscoe barely keeping up with Orliane as the two horses canter through the fields, Stiles laughing joyfully as Derek teases him.

It’s the happiest Derek has been in a long time. Even Laura picks up on it from her letters, and she makes all sorts of silly insinuations about him about finally bedding his husband. Derek doesn’t bother to clarify that they haven’t made love; she’d only tease him harder.

He doesn’t mind, actually. Derek appreciates the time getting to know Stiles, that they didn’t just fall into bed together simply because they exchanged vows. He’s heard of more than enough marriages that started hot and fast and then went cold even faster. He doesn’t want that with Stiles; he wants this to last.

They even attend a concert together, linking arms as married couples do. Stiles doesn’t speak much at the event; but the music is enthralling. Derek sighs happily, getting drawn into the concerto. The audience breaks out into rapt applause, and then people are milling about, exchanging pleasantries.

Derek nods at a few people he knows but as far as he can remember Stiles has never stayed long at social engagements, when he did attend them. He looks around for their carriage, ready to return home, when Cora appears in a rustle of blue satin.

“Derek! How good to see you!” she exclaims, greeting Derek with a hug and a kiss on the cheek. Derek returns the gesture, and kisses Lydia on the cheeks as well.

“Lady Hale,” Stiles says graciously, taking Cora’s hand and kissing it. His voice seems heavier, although Derek may be imagining it.

“Lord Stilinski,” Cora says, grinning at Stiles and then at Derek with an impressed, pleased face. “How wonderful it is to see the two of you. My wife and I have been attending this concert series the entire season and my brother has so longed to come.”

Stiles glances at Derek with an unreadable expression, and bows his head. “I’m honored to be here with my husband,” he says.

“It was an incredible show,” Derek says, easing the conversation back towards the music. They discuss it for a few minutes, but he notices that Lydia keeps giving Stiles a scrutinizing look. It’s true, his husband rarely attends society events, but surely it’s not that strange, is it?

Cora and Stiles seem to be carrying on a conversation, something about the latest gossip. She’s touching upon the subjects that are usually the most interesting, and Derek hears the Red Fox’s name mentioned.

Derek used to keep up with the rogue’s exploits almost on a day-to-day basis, but he doesn’t miss it. He’s sure the man is inspiring many fantasies; one less won’t matter.

“Don’t you think it’s strange how there haven’t been any sightings of him?” Cora asks.

“I haven’t heard anyone reporting anything stolen for at least a fortnight,” Lydia muses.

Stiles shrugs. “Maybe they’re too embarrassed to admit they’ve been robbed.”

Derek changes the subject, bringing it back to the music; he doesn’t want Cora and Lydia to overwhelm his husband, they can talk for hours on so many subjects, and Stiles has already interacted with so many people today for Derek’s sake.

Cora laughs, agreeing with him about the final movement in the concerto, and nudges Derek fondly. “It’s been some time since I’ve seen my brother! He usually calls upon us at least twice a fortnight, if not more. You must be keeping him busy,” she says, winking lasciviously at Stiles.

Stiles seems to miss the innuendo, but instead looks at Derek, aghast. “You are more than welcome to call upon us at our home,” he says. “Please, anytime you wish.”

 


 

And this is how Derek finds himself having dinner with his husband, his sister, and her wife.

He’s always found this table too large for himself and Stiles, but with four people it seems much less daunting. Cora is laughing at one of Lydia’s jokes, and it feels comfortable. Familiar. Like family.

Stiles seems nervous at first; stiff and uncomfortable, his words heavy like a burden. It’s strange how the witty, quick talkative Stiles Derek has come to know has so easily regressed back to the one word answers and glassy-eyed stares.

Lydia pointedly looks away when Stiles starts chewing with his mouth open.

Derek gives him a sharp, cold look. Stiles was the one who invited them here; Derek thought this was a step forward, where Stiles wanted to know his family. It’s one thing to be indifferent at social gatherings, but this is unacceptable.

Stiles blinks, and then it’s only for a slight second— if Derek hadn’t been watching him at that moment he would have completely missed it, but somehow Stiles completely changes; he sits up a little straighter, tension rolling off his shoulders, eyes sparkling with interest.

“Tell me more about these innovations you’re doing with the steam engine,” Stiles starts, picking up the conversation Lydia had started. Derek didn’t really understand all the technical details, but he was excited to hear her talk about it.

“Of course,” Lydia says, and then Stiles asks her about combustion and the two of them start talking animatedly about her research.

Cora grins at Derek. “I had no idea your husband was this quick-witted,” she teases. “You must be keeping this sharp tongue all for yourself.”

Derek is in the middle of drinking his wine and he coughs, spluttering and grabbing a napkin. He feels his face heat, and looks over at Stiles, who is giving him a fond look.

“It’s true, it takes me some time to warm up to people,” Stiles says. “I’m quite shy in crowds.”

“I can’t say I’ve ever seen you actually at an event other than your wedding where you weren’t asleep,” Cora muses. “It was so refreshing to see you at the concert.”

Shy, Derek thinks, is his old friend Isaac, who took months to build up the courage to approach Erica and Boyd, and even then didn’t declare his intentions for a year. Shy is not Stiles, kissing his hand and openly initiating conversation. Even if they’re talking about Stiles’ behavior at past events, it’s not so much shyness as deliberate avoidance.

The next course is served, and Cora is laughing, and Derek has all his favorite people in the room with him, and his husband, whom he never thought he’d get the chance to know, slowly opening up to him. He’s probably just overthinking it.

 


 

Every morning Derek’s stomach flutters when he sees his husband walk down the stairs; his pulse quickens when Stiles kisses his cheek. He knows what he feels is true, but every time he wants to tell Stiles, to declare his affection, he stumbles on his words. Maybe it would be too soon, maybe it would put pressure on Stiles, surely they have forever to say it.

I love you, Derek wants to say, but doesn’t.

It is fine, though. He is content to wait. He’s lucky, after all, that his arranged marriage is working out so well, especially from where they started. They play chess and talk for hours, and share all their meals together. They hold hands, too, walking along the newly budding roses in the gardens. Derek is in no rush to hurry things; he’s quite happy as is.

They’re in the library, and Stiles is dozing off, his head on Derek’s shoulder. Derek had been reading to him from The Three Musketeers, when Stiles’ breathing had slowed to a steady rhythm.

Derek keeps reading until he finishes the novel, very quietly closes the book and sets it on the table. He savors the moment, watching Stiles’ chest rise and fall, the play of Stiles’ dark lashes against his pale cheek.

Stiles yawns and stirs, reaching out, clutching at Derek’s chest. He opens his eyes sleepily, and then smiles, and makes no motion to move away from their intimate position.

“Up late?” Derek asks, amused, thinking of those times long ago when Stiles seemed to nap every day. Although it could be something else—someone else, he realizes, jealousy stirring inside him. Although they’ve been spending so much time together, they’ve never explicitly discussed lovers since the early days of their marriage. Derek isn’t quite sure where they stand now.

“Reading,” Stiles says quickly. “The International Politics of Agriculture. It’s quite riveting. Only available at the Greenwood library. They had the latest edition and I just had to see it. I… I used to steal away and read in the evenings. I never actually had a paramour, you know.”

Derek did not, and he feels strangely pleased by this news.  “There was one night,” he offers shyly. “I had come to your bedroom and knocked at your door, hoping to share your bed.”

“Oh?” Stiles’ eyes light up in interest.

“You didn’t answer, so I opened the door, hoping to satisfy myself with a glimpse of you asleep, but you weren’t there,” Derek says.

Stiles’ eyes widen. “I was reading,” he says. “I didn’t— were you jealous?”

“Yes,” Derek admits.

“And what did you do then?” Stiles asks. They’re so close here, Stiles’ lips an inch away from his.

“I took pleasure in my own hand,” Derek admits, captivated by the way Stiles’ eyes seem to burn amber, dark and rich.

“Thinking of me,” Stiles breathes.

Derek blinks. It had been of the Fox, that night. He’d kissed that man for the first time that evening, emboldened by the thrill of the tryst. How long had it been?

Derek shoves the guilty thoughts aside. That was before, when they said they would take on lovers. It matters not. Stiles is who he cares for, who he wants, who he loves.

“Yes,” he says.

Stiles kisses him then, fierce and passionate, an untamed hunger that Derek feels down to his very core. It isn’t like any of the quick, chaste kisses they'd shared before, on the hand or cheek, or once on the lips on their wedding day— this is Stiles kissing Derek without abandon, climbing into his lap and Derek kissing back and losing himself in the warmth of Stiles’ mouth, the press of his chest against his, the feel of Stiles’ firm thighs on each side of his waist.

“Stiles,” Derek breathes, holding him close.

“I’ve wanted you to say my name for so long,” Stiles whispers, as their foreheads touch.

It’s a thrill and a relief, to say his beloved’s name, and Derek pours all his sincerity and affection into the words. “My Stiles,” he says, softly.

Stiles kisses him, slowly, an affirmation, a question, and Derek answers in kind, shamelessly asking with his lips, his tongue, for more.

“Yes, yes,” Stiles murmurs, his hands already untying Derek’s cravat, unbuttoning his shirt.

Derek trembles at the first touch of Stiles’ fingers on his bare chest, and gasps when he grazes his nipple.

“Stiles,” Derek moans. “Do you… you want to … bed?” he asks; it feels like every nerve of his body is alive, hot blood running through him, begging him for more, more touch, more Stiles.

“Here, take me here, Derek,” Stiles demands, his eyes blazing hot.

Derek kisses him again, furiously undressing as much of Stiles as he can without moving them from their current position— Stiles is distracting him, rocking his hardness against Derek’s own. Stiles’ jacket falls to the floor, and his cravat, and Derek is almost done unbuttoning his shirt when Stiles impatiently kisses him again.

Derek rips the last of it, buttons scattering to the floor, and Stiles laughs, a bright joyous sound.

Derek kisses Stiles’ collarbone, down his chest, and is surprised to see a number of fine scars, long healed, on his torso.

“Old dueling mementos,” Stiles says. “I can tell you all about them later.”

Stiles pulls him close for another kiss, hard and demanding, and they tumble off the couch and onto the rug, knocking aside a table, but it doesn’t matter because there’s Stiles’ mouth and hands and his lovely flushed skin and pink lips and—

“My lord, an urgent letter—!”

Derek sits up, trying not to look guilty. This is his home and he and his husband can make love wherever they want; he has no need to be embarrassed.

Stiles’ mouth falls open. “It’s the—”

The servant, a nervous youth named Trevor, nods, eyes darting from Derek’s undone shirt and Stiles’ bare chest, the clothes scattered on the floor. “It is, my lord.”

Stiles hastily stands up and gives Derek an apologetic look. “I’m so sorry, Derek, this is an urgent business matter. I have to go take care of this.”

“Of course,” Derek says, accepting the soft kiss Stiles presses to his lips. He watches with frustrated arousal as Stiles leaves, admiring the lines of muscle in Stiles’ bare back as he leaves the library. It’s fine, he tells himself. They have all the time in the world to make love. But he knows what Stiles tastes like now, the way he feels in his arms, and he hungers for more.

 


 

The next morning Stiles does not come to breakfast. Derek starts to read his morning paper, but he can’t bring himself to care. He grabs a few scones and a jug of coffee and puts them all on a tray from the kitchens, telling the cook and the maid that it’s fine, he just wants to carry them.

Stiles’ chambers are on the far end of the manor, and Derek tries not to let his nerves get the best of him. He knocks on Stiles’ bedroom door, and enters with the tray.

Stiles is in bed, hair mussed, snoring loudly.

Derek sets down the tray on Stiles’ bedside table, sits on the edge of the bed. “My lord? Are you feeling well?” He gently strokes Stiles’ hair. “My Stiles?” he whispers.

“Nnnnn,” Stiles mumbles, and turns over.

Derek kisses his temple. Probably stayed up late working on his investments or something.

 


 

Stiles finally emerges for lunch in his dressing gown, but only briefly to stuff an entire sandwich in his mouth, nod at Derek, and then wander off again. Derek finds him splayed out on the chaise in the sitting room, sound asleep in a strange position, holding a pillow to his side.

For the first time in forever, Derek spends the day alone. He works in the gardens for a bit, then reads in the library, and dresses for dinner, hoping Stiles is feeling better by now. Perhaps a romantic stroll by the lake after dinner in the sunset, or maybe Derek can read by his bedside if he’s feeling ill.

At dinner, Stiles is distracted, reading and perusing over written logs before hastily putting them away and eating quickly.

“Are you feeling better, my lord?” Derek asks hopefully.

“Yes, thank you,” Stiles mumbles around his mouthful.

They eat silently, other than the rustle of Stiles’ papers, and finally Stiles finishes reading what appears to be the last of them. The servants clear the dishes away.

“Would you care to join me in the library?” Derek asks, trying one more time.

“That sounds nice,” Stiles says, giving him a small smile.

Derek heart leaps at the gesture and the affectionate way Stiles takes his arm, walking with him through the halls. Perhaps Stiles was just tired from all his reading and paperwork, but he’s leaning into Derek now as they walk, a good sign perhaps.

“You were reading to me,” Stiles murmurs. “We were almost done?”

Derek chuckles. “We finished. I don’t mind going back a few chapters. You fell asleep.”

They step into the library, and Stiles winces as he sits down.

“Are you alright?” Derek turns from the shelf, holding the book.

“Fine, fine,” Stiles says, yawning.

Derek sits next to him, guesses where Stiles started falling asleep last time and starts from there. He can feel Stiles relax next to him, and it feels all too natural at a pause to turn and press a quick kiss to Stiles’ lips.

Stiles makes a small noise of surprise, but he kisses Derek back, easing into the intimacy with care. His lips part, and Derek drops the book, bringing his hands up to stroke Stiles’ cheek.

There should be little chance of being interrupted again, Derek thinks, and he gets bolder, reaching to unbutton Stiles’ shirt. He’s undone two buttons and just started to trace the hot bare skin on his husband’s chest when Stiles pulls back as if he’s been scalded. “Wait, Derek, I—”

Derek freezes. “I’m sorry,” he says immediately. “I thought— you would— we could start where we were interrupted last time.”

“No, I can’t— that’s not— I’m sorry, my lord,” Stiles says, stumbling to his feet.

The distancing title catches Derek off guard, and he watches in dismay as Stiles leaves the library without another glance.

 


 

“I don’t understand,” Derek says at Cora and Lydia’s cottage. “I thought things were going so well, and now everything is back to the way they were when we first married. He sleeps during the day and barely says a word to me at meals. It’s like he’s a stranger again.” He wondered if Stiles even was taken ill. Derek wants to do something, say something, be a comfort and a friend at least. Derek the other day saw Trevor walking to Stiles’ rooms with an armful of something— fresh linens, maybe? And the boy took off running as soon as he saw Derek, as though he had been told to avoid him.

Derek is hurt, and confused. Does Stiles think that it would be a problem if he doesn’t want to have sex? Derek honestly does not care, he just wants to have Stiles in his life. He’s hurt that Stiles assumes this of him, and won’t even talk to him about it.

“Maybe you were going too fast,” Cora teases. “Perhaps he’s a virgin, and you scared him off.”

Derek considers this. “He practically demanded I ravish him in the library the last time, though. I thought I was— ” Derek pauses, and sighs. Stiles hasn’t really talked to him since that moment, and he wonders if Cora is right, and he was going too fast.

“He could still be a virgin. Maybe he wanted to make love then and changed his mind,” Lydia muses. “Declaring his intention to bed you, but then when things came down to it, got cold feet and decided otherwise.”

Perhaps so.

Cora and Lydia try to take his mind off it with the latest gossip. They start with a few small things like the new fountain being built in the town square, and then quickly move on to juicier tidbits like the return of Scott McCall. Not only were his expenditures a success, but the former merchant is also betrothed to royalty. Fourth in line for the throne, but still, Princess Kira Yukimura is a beautiful enigma that everybody cannot wait to meet.

Derek vaguely remembers McCall as a youth, apprenticed to a Master Deaton, the print master and bookmaker in Beacon. He didn’t interact with the boy much, but recalls him as a kindhearted sort. Deaton had long since moved out to the country to spend his aging years with his husband and children after McCall left to make his way in the world, so it’s unlikely that he would know anyone in town still.

Derek’s a bit worried that Beacon society will eat him up alive; the lords and ladies of this town are a vicious sort, always ready for gossip and scandal. Cora says she’s heard at least half a dozen people declare their plans to seduce either the wealthy new lord or the princess away from each other.

“They’re going to be making their first appearance in Beacon society at Lady Smythe’s garden party!” Cora says excitedly. “Are you planning to go?” Cora’s heard from Lydia’s sister — whose lady-in-waiting is a cousin of one of Princess Kira’s ladies-in-waiting —that the mysterious couple will in fact be attending. It will be their first appearance since Lord Scott McCall has moved into the estate neighboring them on the east, and Princess Kira and her parents have taken up residence in one of the more extravagant inns. Derek has been curious; it would make for an excellent distraction.

Derek remembers receiving the invitation to the annual garden party. He finds it when he gets home, running his finger over the heavy parchment and exhaling. He hasn’t been to any parties since he and Stiles got married; it’s no fun, people asking after your husband and you having to explain that he’s asleep in the sitting room instead of mingling with guests. With Stiles becoming more and more comfortable with him in recent weeks, even going to that concert together, Derek had hoped Stiles might join him at a few events. He isn’t sure about now, though.

Still, he should try. At dinner, Stiles isn’t moving, barely even twitching as he holds his spoon aloft, and Derek coughs once, then twice, without Stiles looking up at him.

“Stiles,” Derek says.

“Huh,” Stiles jerks up; there’s a drop of gravy running down his chin. He actually fell asleep at their dinner table.

Derek takes a deep breath. “Tomorrow is Lady Smythe’s annual garden party. Would you like to attend with me?”

“Garden… party,” Stiles repeats. He frowns. “That ridiculous one where she invites practically everyone in Beacon society?”

“The very one,” Derek says.

“Ah,” Stiles says. “Do you know who is going? So I can avoid the boring ones,” he adds, with a touch of his old humor.

Derek’s heart leaps in hope. “The usual crowd,” he says, starting to list nobles’ names, and then stopping himself and having to go back. “And Lord Deucalion, I believe. He’s just returned from his travels.”

Stiles nods, furrowing his brow in thought.  “I’d like to go with you,” he says after a moment. “I usually don’t find Lady Smythe or her friends particularly riveting, but you can entertain me, won’t you?”

Derek swallows nervously. “Yes— yes, I can.”

 


 

The party is lovely; Lady Smythe has excellent taste in roses and fountains, and everyone appears to be having a good time, trying to curry favor with Lord McCall and Princess Yukimura. They’re the life of the party, although a fair bit of gossip revolves around the Red Fox. Apparently Lord Deucalion is boasting he’d killed the man after an attempted robbery, but there are a few conflicting stories.  A pang of worry courses through Derek, and he’s relieved to hear multiple people saw the Red Fox in town that very night, but without any stolen goods, nursing a grievous wound. There’s a cousin of one of Deucalion’s guards that swears that the Fox was hit by one of the bullets at least, they had shot so many into the dark.

Derek’s glad the thief isn’t dead, and hopes he recovers soon. It’s strange to think of him now, and Derek almost laughs at himself at the unadorned fantasies he had about the man.

Derek turns to his husband, watching him watch the revelry, his lips quirked up in amusement. Derek had made a comment earlier when they were passing through Lady Smythe’s manor about her sitting room, how comfortable the chaise lounge looked. It wasn’t meant to be a joke, Derek genuinely wanted to Stiles to know that it was fine if he wanted to nap.

Instead, Stiles laughed and took Derek’s arm and followed him out to the party. They’re sitting in a gazebo now, still close enough to the revelry to be considered socializing, but far enough away that it isn’t overwhelming. It was actually pretty enjoyable, eating lunch and saying hello to a few people before Derek suggested he and Stiles relax away from the party. Derek can still hear Scott’s bright laughter as Princess Kira tells a joke, and see the people fluttering around them like brightly colored butterflies.

Strangely enough Stiles is still awake this late in the afternoon, drinking champagne with Derek, watching the party-goers with a scrutinizing eye.

Derek manages a conversation with him, even if it’s short. He’d been commenting on the roses, how lovely they were, and Stiles had lingered on one set of blooms, a sunset-gold. “Those were my mother’s favorite,” he says.

“They’re lovely,” Derek says, surprised that Stiles is sharing. Maybe those few days where he was ignoring Derek were a fluke and he’s opening up again. Derek wants to continue the conversation, hopeful that this might mean they could begin again, and then Stiles’ eyelids started to droop and he lies back in his chair.

So they sit in the gazebo, Derek waiting for the commotion to die down so he can introduce himself to their new neighbors, when something unexpected happens.

The Princess and her fiance are walking along in the gardens when McCall catches sight of the two of them in the gazebo, and his mouth falls open. He whispers something to the princess and then the man is running towards them.

“Stiles! Stiles, I didn’t know you were in Beacon!” McCall is exclaiming, grinning wildly.

Stiles jolts awake, practically leaping out of his chair, a grin stretching from ear to ear.

Derek watches his husband and McCall throw their arms around each other and embrace.

Stiles’ shock at the embrace is genuine, as is the affection that blooms across his features. A quick coil of jealousy unfurls inside Derek at the easy regard with which this man says his husband’s name.

“I moved here last year,” Stiles says. He pulls back from the embrace, and gestures at Derek. “My husband, Lord Derek Hale.”

Derek’s never seen Stiles regard anyone with such care so easily. It’d been a month before Stiles ever so much smiled at Derek with so much fondness— who even is this man?

Stiles continues, clapping McCall on the back and turning back to Derek. “This is my good friend Scott McCall; we practically grew up together in Whilesworth and then I thought I’d never see him again when he left our town for his apprenticeship in Beacon.”

A childhood friend, Derek thinks with some relief, but the jealous part of him starts to plant questions and doubt in his mind, watching how close Stiles is standing to him.

“I’m so glad to see you again.” McCall beams, and then embraces Derek as well. Derek pats his back awkwardly.

“And you’re married?! When did this happen?” McCall asks excitedly, looking from Derek to Stiles.

“Two months ago,” Stiles says, and he gives Derek an unexpectedly warm look and takes his hand, squeezing it.

“A love match!” Scott proclaims with delight.

Derek and Stiles exchange a look; Derek meant to share a private amusement, of sorts, for their marriage was arranged like so many others, but he’s caught off guard by the way Stiles’ eyes crinkle up at the corners and how he smiles slowly at Derek.

“Oh, I am so happy for you, to be reunited and for us both to be lucky in love!” McCall is beaming, and he gestures for them to follow him.

Derek and Stiles are promptly introduced to Princess Kira and her retinue, and end up spending the rest of the party talking and dining with them. Derek can see Stiles is overwhelmed with the sheer amount of conversation that is happening, but despite seeming to sincerely want to catch up with McCall earlier, he withdraws even more once he’s surrounded by the others.

“Why are you talking like that?” McCall asks, after Stiles mumbles an uninterested reply in his usual heavy tone to Lady Smythe about the salmon puffs.

“Tell me more about how you met the Princess,” Stiles says, not answering the question.

McCall eagerly complies, regaling the tale for all the surrounding nobles. Derek listens for a few minutes, but doesn’t have anything to say, so he ends up circling the party. He lets the other conversations drift in and out around him, and he takes sips of his champagne, making sure to keep a polite detached look of interest on his face.

Apparently Lord Deucalion is throwing a lavish spring party next weekend. As usual, he’s trying to outdo Lady Smythe with his own display of wealth. In addition to food, music, and drinks, Lord Deucalion is boasting he’ll be displaying a new collection of artifacts from his travels abroad.

“Plundered from the locals, no doubt,” Cora says disapprovingly from next to Derek.

“He’s had two run-ins with the Fox already,” Lydia says. “Apparently the Fox made off with a few chests of silver and made a fool of him last week, but Lord Deucalion hired more guards to protect his new artifacts so that they’d be impossible to steal and the Fox would be a fool for trying.”

Cora laughs. “And somehow he still made Lord Deucalion look the fool! I heard he hired practically a small army.”

They debate a little over the rumors of the Fox’s death, and Derek offers his bit of gossip confirming the sightings of the Fox injured and in town after the incident.

Even Derek has had his fill of socializing at this point. He’s met the new neighbors, saw his sister and Lydia, and even spent some time with his husband. He’s ready to retire, and looks about for Stiles, who will probably be grateful to be leaving as well.

However Derek can’t find his husband in the crowd. He says goodbye to Cora and Lydia and scans the party-goers in the gazebo, the gardens, the field, the banquet hall...  and nothing. Finally he spots Stiles off by the hedge maze, talking animatedly with someone.

By the time he gets there, he can hear the tail end of the conversation. “And you’re sure you can get me those schedules?” Stiles asks, eager.

“Absolutely, I still have my contacts with the Merchant’s Guild. Oh, this is going to be so much fun, I can’t wait!”

“I told you, it’s too dangerous for you and— oh, hello.”

Derek nods at his husband. “Are you ready to leave the festivities? I’m rather tired.”

“Absolutely,” Stiles says, glancing back at— McCall, waving sheepishly at Derek from the hedges.

“Business?” Derek asks, curious.

Stiles takes his arm as they walk out of the estate and towards their carriage. “Yes, yes, nothing to worry about. Just growing our coffers.”

“I wasn’t aware that Lord McCall still worked with the Merchant’s Guild,” Derek says.

“He doesn’t,” Stiles says simply. “He was putting me in contact with some of his former associates for some investments of mine.”

“Right,” Derek says, climbing into the carriage. He tries not to let the hurt show on his face; he doesn’t expect Stiles to tell him every detail of his business, as he’s no genius entrepreneur, but it had been something that Stiles had started to talk about offhand in their many conversations, asking Derek for insight on whether he thought tea or coffee was a more sound investment or whether this merchant seemed trustworthy. Maybe those were trivial matters, and Stiles just doesn’t trust him with the larger details.

Stiles steps in neatly after him, and the door swings shut.

Derek wants to say how much he’s missed Stiles, how much he’s come to enjoy courting him and now to see it move backwards hurts in an entirely new way. Maybe if he never knew how it would feel for Stiles to return his affection, he wouldn’t have to carry this pain.  Derek isn’t sure if it’s because he’s tired and it’s been a long day, but he just wants things to go back to how they were going.

“My lord,” he starts. “I wanted to apologize. For the other night. I hope you know that I would never ask of you more than you wanted to give. I hope you—”

Stiles presses a finger to his lips and gives him a small smile. “Thank you. I was abrupt and…It’s not that I don’t want to…” He winks at Derek, and the small gesture makes Derek’s heart quicken. “But I had a lot on my mind. Business, you know. With all the renovations we talked about for the gardens and the estate, I’ll need to be quite clever with my investments.”

“Oh,” Derek says, surprised and pleased that Stiles actually wants to renovate the grounds. They’d talked about it in their many walks, but he always thought it was just conversation.

Stiles shifts closer to him, his shoulder touching Derek’s, the warmth of his body finding Derek’s despite how many layers are between them. Emboldened, Derek takes the liberty of throwing his arm over Stiles’ shoulders.

“My lord,” Stiles says, smiling at him. He takes Derek’s hand in his own, lacing their fingers together.

Derek fights the blush on his cheeks and rubs his thumb across the back of Stiles’ hand as they ride back. He doesn’t dare do more, doesn’t want to shake the foundation of their growing intimacy again.

A bump in the road sends Stiles falling into Derek’s lap; Derek catches him easily, laughing as he helps him up.

Stiles’ eyes are alight with mirth, and there’s a sharp intake of breath as he pauses, an inch away from Derek’s face.

Derek’s heart is pounding, and Stiles very slowly reaches out to cup his face. “Derek,” he says softly.

“Stiles, I…” Derek leans forward without thinking about it.

Stiles kisses him, softly, like a question, and Derek can feel the warm press of Stiles’ lips kissing him back, answering with lips and teeth and tongue. He clutches at Stiles’ coat, drawing him closer, and Stiles makes these soft little noises of pleasure that Derek just wants to keep hearing.

Derek wishes the carriage ride could last forever; the little bumps from the road, the way Stiles all but climbs into his lap, claiming kiss after kiss. They arrive at the estate far too soon, and Derek’s heart is racing as he watches Stiles exit the carriage, the way those tight breeches cling to his body, the flush racing down Stiles’ throat.

Stiles had initiated the kiss, Stiles had climbed into his lap… the other night Stiles’ mind was preoccupied, but now might be perfect.

He follows Stiles into the manor, ducking his head shyly as he tries to gesture towards his rooms. Derek can still feel the blood pounding in his veins from the intimate kisses in the carriage but somehow here, in their home, he’s nervous again, that they’ll just go back to routine and retire to their separate bedrooms.

Stiles moves to kiss him on the cheek— a goodbye for the night, probably— and Derek shifts, catching the kiss with his lips.

“Stiles,” Derek says. “Will you— would you like to—” he flushes, watching Stiles, and gets distracted by the pink of his mouth. “Bed. Me?” Derek rubs the back of his neck self-consciously. Why is this so difficult? He takes a deep breath and tries again, but it sounds more like a squeak. “To my bed?”

Stiles’ eyebrows lift just a little, and he’s grinning, fond and amused. He steps forward, like he’s about to follow Derek down the corridor and then he stops, glancing at the grandfather clock behind Derek.

Stiles holds his gaze for one long, tantalizing moment before taking Derek’s hand and bringing it to his lips. “Another night, my Derek,” he says. “Goodnight. Sleep well.”

Derek exhales.

He gets undressed for bed and tosses and turns until finally taking himself in hand, jerking his cock in quick, frustrated strokes. He can’t focus, can’t bring himself to release, can’t stop thinking about Stiles mouth, his hands, the warmth of his skin.

Finally Derek gets dressed again and he’s in the stables before he realizes what he’s doing.

“Just a midnight ride,” he mutters to himself. That’ll be good for him. Cool air and the stars above will cool him off in no time.

He saddles Orliane and rides off into the night.

 


 

It’s late as Derek rides past Lady Smythe’s estate; her manor lights are dark, the vast expanse of gardens empty, a stark contrast to the revelry just hours before. He keeps going to town, then past it, until he’s well on the other side of Beacon, where a few of the other nobles live.

Orliane seems exhausted, so he dismounts and leads her to water outside a tavern, and pats her gently. Derek is tired as well; it’s been a long day. Between the party and Stiles he’s just so overwhelmed. He takes Orliane by the reins and starts leading her back slowly home on foot. It’ll be better for him to clear his head this way.

He’s passing by the road that leads to Deucalion’s estate when a carriage bursts around the corner, and Derek steps back, startled, as Orliane and the other horses whinny. The Red Fox driving a carriage, holding the reins of Deucalion’s stallions, and he looks every bit as surprised as Derek.

“Why hello,” the Fox says, bringing horses and carriage to a halt. “Whatever are you doing out of bed?” The question is light and flirtatious, his voice just as lilting and melodic as Derek remembers, but tonight there’s only one man that’s on Derek’s mind.

Derek inclines his head in greeting, just barely.

The Fox dismounts his horse gracefully, landing on his feet and sauntering up to Derek. “You know, I’m just about finished with this,” he purrs, stepping close enough for Derek to see just how pink his rouged cheeks are. “How about you wait here a moment and I’ll be right back, and you and I can—”

Derek steps backwards. “I’m married,” he says coldly.

The Fox raises his eyebrows. “That didn’t stop you before.”

“That was— my husband said we would take lovers but— but that was a long time ago!” Derek splutters. He shakes his head. “It doesn’t matter. I don’t want to be with anyone but him. I love him.” Derek takes a deep breath and buries his face in his hands. He can’t believe he’s confiding in this man— practically a stranger, a debonair fantasy Derek once had.

“You love him?” The Red Fox steps back, a little dazed. His mouth falls open in wonder. “That— slovenly, lazy bore?”

“He’s not what everyone in society thinks he is,” Derek huffs. “He’s gallant and brave and witty and I think people think he’s boring because he wants them to think so. He’s quite wonderful, actually. I— I’m just happy that we’ve started to get to know each other. And yes, I do love him.”

The wind whips at the Fox’s cloak, and he stands there with his broad shoulders and pink mouth and tight breeches, every inch a dashing fantasy. Anyone would be lucky to be asked for a kiss, and yet Derek can only think about Stiles.

For a moment Derek thinks the Fox is going to push him for more information about Stiles, or even to laugh at him, but none of that happens. Instead, the man takes off his hat and bows to Derek, grinning broadly. “Well, I will bid you farewell, then.”

“Goodnight,” Derek says, smiling in spite of himself. It’ll be a good story one day, he thinks. The dashing rogue and the gentleman who loved his husband more.

“Goodnight, my Derek,” the Fox says, turning around and starting to walk away.

Derek freezes. The voice is pitched different, but the cadence, the affection in it— the Fox has called him Derek before, but never my Derek— that’s something only— it can’t be, can it?  His heart pounds as the memories of the past few months come into a new light, and he watches the way the Fox favors his left side, and thinks of Stiles asleep with a pillow clutched to that same side.

He has to know. He can still feel the taste of Stiles on his lips from earlier, remembers exactly the way his lips parted and invited Derek in— surely he would be able to tell.

“Wait,” Derek says. “ I will take one kiss, my lord,” he says. “A memory of this fine affair.”

The Fox lifts an eyebrow, but he doesn’t move as Derek steps closer. Every step feels irreversible; there will be no going back from this.

“You just took offense at the very idea of us together because you loved your husband so— wait, what did you call me? You know I’m nothing but a humble thief…”

The Fox’s words trail off as Derek takes his cravat, pulling him closer.

The kiss is soft but sure, and Derek knows as soon as they touch, the way he melts into his arms. Derek takes advantage of the surprised sigh to untie the mask, and he whispers without opening his eyes, “You have stolen my heart, more times than I can count.”

The mask falls to the ground, clattering in the dirt. The night is silent aside from the wind, and the world seems both impossibly large and small in this moment.  

“Hello, my Stiles,” Derek says softly.

“Your eyes are still closed.”

“I already know what I feel in my heart,” Derek says, and then finally opens his eyes.

Stiles looks nervous, like he’s going to bolt at any second. “So, look, I started this long before we ever got married, and it’s important to me, okay? I didn’t know what kind of man you were, just your name and those old connections and everyone in high society thinks so little of the poor…and then when I did know you, I thought you’d be angry with me for not telling you sooner… and it just got harder and harder to say...”

“I understand,” Derek says, and wraps his arms around Stiles in a tight embrace. “I would have been hesitant to trust my secret as well, if I were in your place.”

“Oh,” Stiles says, starting to blush. The coloring is barely visible at the start at his neck, the way his cheeks are covered under all the red rouge.

Derek takes Stiles’ face gently in his hands, rubbing at the rouge. Beneath it he can see the distinctive moles on his husbands’ cheek, and he chuckles to himself.

“Hey, hey, careful there,” Stiles says, catching his hand, his eyes sparkling with affection and amusement. “I still have to finish this, you know.”

“Do you need any help?”

Stiles laughs, the joyful sound echoing into the night. “I’ve got a few other masks in that trunk there, for the other thieves that help me sometime. You can take your pick.”

There is indeed a small trunk at his feet, and a number of masks there. Derek grabs the first one he sees, a black one that also ends with ears. “We can be foxes together, then.”

Stiles nudges him playfully with his shoulder. “I think that one’s actually a wolf, but we can work on your title.”

It takes them the rest of the night to distribute the stolen goods. It’s a new kind of thrill for Derek, and his heart floods with joy everytime he sees someone being helped. There’s the Clearwaters’ young girl who looks up at them in awe as Stiles hands her a sackful of gold coins and then presses a finger to his lips.

“I won’t tell anyone it was you, Mr. Fox,” she says, wide-eyed, curtseying to them both. “And thank you as well, Mr. Wolf.”

Derek laughs and rubs the back of his head, and is about to respond when Stiles pulls him away to deliver more goods.

The last trunk is full of the artifacts Stiles wants to return to their owners, so they bring it back to the estate with them to hide for now.

Soft rays of sunlight are starting to streak across the sky from the east, and Derek yawns as he pats Orliane and gives her fresh water and hay. She’s had a long night, as well, carrying the both of them back.

Stiles is stretching, his cravat untied and shirt already undone, and he rubs at his eyes sleepily.

Derek laughs. “Bed?”

Stiles’ lips quirk up. “You are so adorable when you’re flustered,” he says. “I thought you just wanted to bed the Red Fox—”

Derek shrugs and thinks about that night he first met the Fox— maybe when he first met Stiles for the very first time. The flirtatious irreverent man he’d kissed in the moonlight was much more Stiles than the man he’d kissed on the day of his wedding. And if he’d wanted to bed Derek that night, he would have been happy to.

And yet, when Derek came to know Stiles— all thoughts of the Fox had vanished, remained only a fantasy. Stiles was flesh and blood and real, and Derek loved him.

“I admit I did find the Fox attractive,” Derek says. “But as I got to know you, you were the only one I cared about.”

Stiles steps forward and gives him a soft, awed little kiss. He pulls back and rests his forehead on Derek’s own. “I love you,” he says.

“And I love you,” Derek says.

Under the softly lit foyer of the manor, they hold each other, tired and a little bedraggled from the night. There’s mud on Derek’s boots, and Stiles’ cloak is ripped, but under the arch of their home Derek feels the weight of their words settle in around them, more poignant than the brief, stiff vows they’d exchanged on their wedding day.

They stand there for a long moment until Stiles gives Derek a shy smile and takes his hand, leading him through the eastern wing to his bedroom.

Derek’s never been invited here, and he follows Stiles through the halls and the expansive sitting room, taking note of the little details he’s never noticed before, little bits of Stiles’ personality flitting through; the touches of scarlet fabric on all the upholstery, the bookcases in each and every room, the stack of maps clumsily leaning in the corner.

Stiles’ bedroom is dark aside from the softly glowing embers in the fireplace, and he turns around, fidgeting with his hands. “This is my bedroom,” he says. “Tomorrow, or well, later today—” Stiles corrects, looking out his window at the dawn breaking through the sky. “We can move your things in here, if you would like to. Or we can move my effects to yours. Or any bedroom in the manor, for that matter.”

Derek laughs, taking Stiles by the chin and drawing him in for a kiss. “I would love to share a bed with you for the rest of my days.”

“Good,” Stiles breathes, fumbling at his cravat.

“Let me.”

Stiles looks up at him through his lashes and he’s so unabashedly beautiful like this; eager and unsure, and Derek has to kiss him. He gets distracted untying the cravat, and has to do it three times to get it unknotted, and finally drops the scrap of fabric as Stiles’ throat is bared. Derek kisses the hollow of his throat, feels it in his lips when Stiles moans and tilts his head, allowing him access.

Stiles’ hands are moving too, deftly undoing Derek’s cravat with ease, then pushing his jacket off his shoulders. Derek is busy tasting the salt on Stiles’ skin, too caught up to notice the chill of the room’s air as Stiles unbuttons his shirt, walking them both to the four-poster bed.

Derek looks up at Stiles’ hungry gaze as he falls back onto the soft sheets. Stiles runs a hand down Derek’s chest, and Derek has to bite his lip to stop himself from trembling as Stiles’ fingers dip below his navel, tracing the line of hair that leads lower.

“Yes,” Derek says, just as Stiles opens his mouth to ask. Yes to everything, yes to Stiles, yes to a lifetime with his husband.

Stiles undoes his breeches with ease and tugs them down, kissing Derek’s bare thigh as he exposes more and more skin. The friction is torturous, and Derek’s cock springs free.

Derek swallows in anticipation as Stiles kneels between his bare thighs. He’s never felt so vulnerable, so exposed, and Stiles is teasing him, kissing his abdomen, his hip, his thigh, watching his cock twitch with a devouring gaze before reaching to kiss him again.

The kiss is filled longing and hunger, every emotion Derek’s had bottled up for so long.

“I never thought you’d want me,” Stiles sighs.

Derek kisses him and draws him close. “I’m never going to let you forget that I do.” He pulls Stiles close, and their cocks brush together, Derek naked and wanting, Stiles, still clothed aside from his undone cravat.

He pauses, hesitant, his hands shaking as he undoes his own buttons.

“You are beautiful,” Derek says, reaching for him. He undresses Stiles reverently, kissing each new inch of skin, touching each scar on his chest with gentleness and appreciation. He lays Stiles on his back, slowly and thoroughly making his feelings known with his tongue and lips.

On Stiles’ left side is an angry looking stretch of red skin above a bandage wrapped around his abdomen. Derek traces the edge of the bandage and looks up at Stiles.

“It was just a graze,” Stiles says. “It only really bled on the first night.”

“Does it hurt, still?”

Stiles shakes his head. “It’s been aching all day but I can’t feel a thing right now.” He gives Derek a meaningful glance. “I think my body is more preoccupied.”

Derek laughs and kisses Stiles with sheer joy.

“I’m serious. I think I’m in danger of serious pain if you do not touch my cock right now.”

“Hmm, like this?” Derek dances a teasing touch at the front of Stiles’ breeches, barely flitting over the hardness there, and then, bolder, squeezing the promised length. He feels a coil of satisfaction as Stiles groans in appreciation. He makes quick work of the fabric, pushing the breeches down and nuzzling in the soft hair at the base of Stiles’ cock.

Stiles is pink down here, flushed with arousal, and his cock is pretty, not as thick as Derek’s own but longer, with a pleasant curve to the left. The tip is wet, and Stiles makes a low, pleased sound when Derek takes him into his mouth.

“Derek.”

His name is a plea, sweet and demanding all at once from Stiles’ mouth, and Derek swallows him down, coaxing more noises from his husband. “Derek, please,” Stiles says, trembling as Derek holds him in place. The pale creamy skin of Stiles’ thighs blossoms bright red where Derek’s fingers hold him, and slowly fade as he moves; Derek watches the patterns in fascination, watches Stiles’ nipples stiffen and turn rosy and pink, watches the red hot velvet of Stiles’ mouth as his lips part. Stiles is gasping for breath, begging for more, and Derek wants to give him everything.

He takes a moment to breathe, admiring how Stiles looks against the sheets, all flushed and disheveled, his chest heaving, cock heavy and dripping on his belly, his legs parted just for Derek.

“Bedside table,” Stiles whispers, jerking his head towards the furniture.

Derek tears himself away from the sight of Stiles and opens the drawer in the bedside table. There’s a vial of oil there, half empty.

“You are taking forever,” Stiles says impatiently, seizing the vial from Derek’s hand and pouring it onto his fingers. He teases his hole with practiced ease, working his fingers inside and stretching himself. Derek swallows, watching as Stiles groans, wondering how many times he’s pleasured himself like this, if this was happening while Derek was asleep on the other side of the manor.

Derek kisses him, trailing a line of kisses down his neck, his nipples, being careful of the wound on the side. He holds Stiles like he’s precious, and he is.

“Come on, your fingers are bigger than mine,” Stiles says, grabbing Derek’s hand and guiding it between his legs.

“My cock’s even bigger,” Derek says, smirking, but he follows Stiles’ lead and gently eases his finger inside along Stiles’ own.

Slick heat awaits him, and soon Stiles just lets his head fall back and lets Derek have his way with the preparation. He’s up to three fingers, admiring the way the blush travels all the way down Stiles’ chest, the way Stiles arches his back, trying to get more and more of Derek.

Derek twists his fingers, finding that sweet spot that’ll make a man keen with pleasure. Stiles’ eyes widen and his breath quickens, and suddenly his hips are working back and forth, trying to find purchase on Derek’s fingers.

“Derek, I’m going to… please…”

With his other hand Derek works Stiles’ cock, stroking the length of it, his hand slick with the oil.

“Derek.”

It’s all the encouragement he needs. Derek eases his cock inside that hot slick heat waiting for him, and Stiles cries out, already on the edge for so long. He’s shaking with pleasure, tightening around Derek in quick spasms as he comes in quick spurts.

“Stiles,” Derek breathes, leaning down to kiss him, thrusting forward. It’s a mess of sensation, the hurried breath of Stiles encouraging him, the feel of Stiles around him, the warmth of his arms pulling him closer; it doesn’t take long for him to reach the height of pleasure as well.

Stiles kisses his brow, then his nose, then his lips, and Derek just beams at him, because he’s so incandescently happy he doesn’t know what to say.  

They untangle from each other and Derek lays on his back, catching his breath. Stiles curls in close to him, and Derek pulls him to his chest, marvelling at how easily they fit together.

“Honeymoon,” Stiles says sleepily after a moment.

“What?”

“We should go on a honeymoon,” Stiles says, kissing Derek’s chest. “I’m thinking the south coast, perhaps. We do have to return all those artifacts.”

“Mm. Travel.”

“Yes. Lots of food and wine and making love.”

Derek laughs, and presses a soft kiss to Stiles’ head.

 


 

 

One Year Later

Derek finishes reading the morning paper, noting the headline with a wry smile. He hands it to his husband, sitting next to him, and very neatly steals the last rasher of bacon off Stiles’ plate.

“The Wolf and Fox Strike Again!” Stiles reads, spluttering on his coffee. “They always put you first, never mind that the Fox has been operating in Beacon long before the Wolf ever showed up, and was quite renowned as a master thief!”

“You’re very talented, dear,” Derek says smoothly.

Stiles turns the paper towards him, where an artist has drawn renderings of the two of them. “Look at this. They’ve drawn you taller than me.”

“I am taller than you.”

“By this much!” Stiles says, holding his fingers close together.

Derek laughs as the last of the breakfast dishes are being put away.

Trevor pops into the dining room. “Excuse me, my lord, I have the research you wanted on the Clementine estate…”

Stiles makes a noise of interest and reaches for the paperwork, and Derek lifts his eyebrows.

Stiles coughs. “Yes, put them in my study. We’ll go over them later. My husband and I have plans today.” He beams at Derek, who smiles back at him as he takes his arm.

The gardens are coming along. Nowhere near rivaling the lush expansiveness of Lady Smythe’s estate, but there are green fields and neatly paved paths and roses just starting to bloom. They stroll the half-finished pond, arm in arm, and finally get to the vegetable beds.

Stiles’ laughter is as bright as the morning sun, and they talk about everything and nothing at all (Stiles complains about the article at least three more times before the day is out), tending to their vegetables and pulling weeds. Their clothes are covered in dirt already, and Stiles points out, it will not make a difference if they get a bit more dirty.

Derek lets Stiles tackle him to the ground, and kisses him there in their garden, surrounded by the welcoming blush of spring.