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Foolish devouring things, build your castle in me

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The King of Beacon’s armies are strong, but they cave to the Prince of Claws eventually. Derek’s armour is still wet with fresh blood when he fights through the castle walls and into the Hall of Kings.

The old man stands unattended, surrounded by other feeble old men as they consult maps set into the wood of the round table between them. Their age of youth has long since passed and he doubts they would hold a sword against him for long.

Only one soldier stands between him and a true victory, and his armour is a mess of mud, and sweat, so much that it obscures the youthful face beneath it.

He could cut the old man down where he stands but that would provoke retribution from his many allies. King Stilinski has ruled with a firm hand but a fair one, gaining respect and support from neighbouring kingdoms and clans far and wide. It would not do good to slit his throat without first attempting an accord.

But he does not doubt which would be the quicker and more satisfying undertaking of the two.

“You know who I am,” he says, sword sheathed at his hip for now as he steps forward.

The King bows his head, face inscrutable for a brief moment as if he was settling an internal dispute with the passions of anger and pride. His armies have been bested by a force of wolves, half their own, the loss has hit him hard. His stronghold, his castle, his men and his name have all been shamed this day.

“You are Derek, son of the Hales, Prince of Claws,” King Stilinski says around a weary sigh and the soldier is at his side before Derek can complete his next step.

He stands alertly and it is clear that should he unsheathe his sword or claws on the King of Beacon, the soldier intends to throw himself between them. A true sacrifice for his king. A meaningless sacrifice too. One soldier would not be enough to stop this death.

“I am willing to reach an agreement. By uniting our Kingdoms, you would still retain your men, your lands, what little dignity you may possess.”

King Stilinski raises his chin. “You have killed my men. Now you propose peace?”

“A bond,” Derek clarifies. “Forever binding.”

The King of Beacon is surprised, glancing surreptitiously at the soldier beside him. “My daughter is already wed to the Prince of Mons.”

This does not bother him. Women have since lost all charm to Derek. “You have a son, do you not? Mieczyslaw.”

The dirty soldier straightens and the King of Beacon drops the pretence altogether, turning to stare openly at the man beside him and Derek realises that he is not a mere soldier after all. Barely passed the last growth of boyhood, the princeling stands rigidly to hear his fate. He probably hasn’t even lived past twenty winters.

His features may be completely concealed with mud, but his armour is undamaged. Derek seriously doubts he was in the fighting at all, a pampered lamb, protected by the sheer chance of birth.

He is lean and defiant but that matters little. Any marriage will be in name only.

“He’s just a boy,” the King of Beacon whispers, and there is a dishonorable edge of pleading to his voice now.

Derek has since learnt to ignore the petitions of the weak, cutting them down if they get in his way, spilling the life from their bodies.

The King has lost this battle and must now concede the spoils, lest he sacrifice his own life to the fallen. Derek attempts this wasted diplomacy only at his uncle’s insistence. If it the outcome rested in his hands, they would already be drenched in royal blood, consequence be damned.

There is too much danger in discussions of peace when violence lives at the heart of men and women. There is only bloodshed and war, the never ending cycle of birth and death. But although marriage between men, men of royalty is not uncommon it is perhaps rarer. This future boy king would have had his share of offers. Even if an unsightly face happened to rest beneath the grime.

Derek has no interest in sparing his virtue.

“He will spread his legs just the same.”

He watches Mieczyslaw as the words leave his mouth, curious of his make and witnesses the precise moment his eyes flash. It is for that reason that he does not expect the blow from his left.

The King of Beacon strikes him in the face, knuckles sharp and with enough strength to turn Derek’s face sideward.

“You brute,” King Stilinski shouts. “You are nothing more than a barbarian occupying a throne of blood and bone.”

The other old men titter nervously, but their admiration weighs heavy in the air. A man past his fighting days challenging another in the prime of his life. It reeks of daring and foolhardiness.

Derek draws his sword. “Death it is,” he decides, before swinging the blade.

The boy king moves faster than he would have thought he were able, shifting between Derek and his father. He grasps the hilt of Derek’s sword, pushing back to slow the force of the strike before his other hand is seizing the edge of the blade, blood bursting out over the gleaming silver before wrenching it free of his grip.

In all his years of fighting, Derek has never been disarmed. And certainly not by someone foolish enough to take hold of the blade itself in order to wrest it from him.

“Stiles,” the King cries, rushing forward even as the princeling curls his injured hand into a fist, blood dripping and sword still raised, now pointed at Derek.

He watches the princeling impassively, muscles still warm from earlier exertion, prepped for a fight. Derek feels something akin to approval. He thinks he might enjoy killing this boy king. He is armed where Derek is not, but that is his only advantage. Derek has killed men with his bare hands. The little princeling’s neck is slender. It would not take more than a few minutes.

But to his surprise the boy king lowers his sword.

“I will marry you,” he declares. “But should any more harm come to my father or my people, I will raze the earth itself until I feel the lifeblood drain from your corpse and paint my skin with it.”

It is not an idle warning, but from the princeling it has none of the desired effect. His soft face is not the kind for serious threats. Derek feels no fear, but in this instance at least diplomacy triumphed over the spiling of more blood.

It is all the same to him anyway. But Regent Peter was most insistent they avoid a drawn-out, gruelling war.

“Then we have reached an accord.”


***

 

They are married almost immediately.

The princeling calls for a minister and the King of Beacon and his twelve advisers bear witness to the union. The old man’s mouth is pressed so tightly together that the skin around it turns white.

Their clasped forearms are bound in soft silk to symbolise the joining of their lives. Documents are signed, and it is made official. None could discredit their alliance now. Mieczyslaw’s blood drips onto the parchment from his injured hand as he signs his missive, Derek’s sword, resting on the flat of the table.

The princeling picks it up afterward before he pushes the sword flat against Derek’s chest, hilt and cross guard smacking hard against his sternum. Derek catches the hilt before it drops and impales his leather boot.

“My wedding gift, husband,” the boy says with a sharpness bordering on pure insolence as his muddied lip curls.

There are clumps of dirt clinging to his eyelashes. Did he flee from the battlefield like a coward? Is that why there is more mud than princeling at the moment? Derek has seen no other men from the fight who look as he does.

Derek lifts his fingers to the flat edge of the sword, deliberately sliding his fingers through the blood collected there. The princeling’s blood. Once gathered he draws matching lines across his cheeks, purposely painting his skin with it. Mieczyslaw’s eyes widen briefly as he swallows, struggling to hide the spark of emotion the sight provokes.

It is that attempt that brings Derek to smile, wide and sharp and savage.

“So obliging, little princeling,” he murmurs, sheathing his sword now that the real danger has passed.

None can contest his claims to the boy king and his lands now that they are bound together.

Mieczyslaw averts his gaze quickly, mortified and Derek cannot see beneath the muck, sweat and filth to be certain if his skin is flushed. But he senses that it is. The sound of the boy king’s pounding heart is a rhythm that calls for excitement.

The rest of Derek’s wolves enter the castle afterward, still covered in the blood of the princeling’s people before he sends those who are uninjured to the baths to clean themselves.

He turns to King Stilinski afterwards. “Make the announcements. To your people and your allies. Hale and Stilinski have been united.”

Derek leaves them both to patrol the castle, mapping out its weaknesses before locating the chambers that can offer the best protection and defensive position. “These are now my rooms,” he declares to a nearby servant who drops a pitcher of water at the sight of him.

He waits until they show the proper respect before returning to his men. He passes the princeling on the way back to the battlefield, surrounded by servants and advisers.

“Clean him up,” he mutters, without a glance, hand resting on the hilt of his sword in case they try anything unwise. “And see to the fool’s hand.”

The same sword that the boy king took from him and once returned.

The wolves outside are in high spirits. Erica is still swinging her sword about, crowing a crass tune about victory and fucking. Isaac is grinning helplessly at her performance while Boyd slowly but meticulously cleans the blood from his sword, ignoring their jests.

“All is well?” Boyd inquires at the sight of him.

“A union was made,” he mutters, scanning the rest of his soldiers for any urgent matters that need his attention.

But they are quite capable of not dying without him. Erica yanks at his wrist, lifting it into the air to show the golden circlet now covering his forth finger.

“The Prince of Claws met an honest woman,” she sniggers.

Derek wrenches his hand back.

“I thought the daughter was wed to the Prince of Mons,” Boyd says, frowning.

“The union was made with the princeling,” he says, pushing past them. “Send word to my uncle's men. Beacon is ours.”

He scans the soldiers for Kylion, surprised that he cannot find Regent Peter’s adviser among them. Though a fighter himself, Derek had appointed him a protection detail in the events that the King of Beacon’s soldiers proved too much for them.

Derek lets his senses guide him, sifting out Kylion’s scent amongst the blood and sweat and smell of fear. He finds him soon enough.

He is to the east, the angle of his body and the soldiers showing their attempt at retreat before they were slain. Their deaths were swift and merciless, Derek hovers over the open gash of Kylion’s throat and inhales. He catches mud on the air, and finds the print of a hand pressed against the soldier, Myrrdial’s clothing. It smells of the same source that covered the princeling.

Derek wonders how the princeling could have known Kylion to be the Regent’s man. The soldiers he appointed to protect him, good men, brutal fighters, have fallen around him. Was the princeling alone? Or did he split some of his forces to taking out the earpiece of the Regent?

Derek can’t smell other soldiers. He can’t even really catch the scent of the princeling, since the muck concealed it so well.

For now, this is all guesswork. So he abandons the dead and stomps back to find his soldiers to demand answers they might be able to give. He catches Isaac tending to a wounded man.

“You saw their men,” Derek says, without greeting. “We’re any of them unclean?”

Isaac raises a pointed brow. “Hard to avoid in a battle.”

Derek bares his teeth and Isaac ducks his head. “Were they covered in filth, pup. Did any of Beacon’s soldiers appear as if they had travelled through a mire?”

He thinks on the question now. Isaac knows that Derek will only tolerate insubordination once. “No, Prince,” he replies. “And none of them smelled of it either.”

Then what was the princeling doing? Derek does not like this. His adviser is dead, and the King of Beacon’s son seems to be enacting plots of his own. With the death of Kylion, he has been effectively shut off from Regent Peter’s cunning strategy and instruction.

Derek knows he does not lack intelligence, but he is not a man of clever conspiracies and intricate schemes. At least not the same as his uncle. He is more likely to punch through a wall than to search for a way around it.

Losing Kylion will bring trouble. But as long as Derek can still acquire what they came here for, then it should not cripple them completely. Beacon will belong to the Hales.

“Send word to the men that Kylion is dead,” he commands, thinking it best that he find this mire and inspect it himself. "I appoint Boyd as my new adviser in his stead."

“Kylion is-?”

Derek is already moving. “See it done.”

He finds the mire only a hundred yards from the castle itself. The princeling must have sprinted back to his father once he’d determined loss of the battle was upon them.

Derek paces about the muddy riverbed, but can find no other sign of suspicion. Whatever the princeling did the sludge has concealed all evidence of it. He turns back to face the direction of his men and their forces on the hillside and realises that Kylion could not have been seen from this vantage point.

He cannot spy any of his soldiers from this position. How was Kylion killed then?

It frustrates him to no end, standing amongst the marsh curbed by his own inadequacy. Regent Peter would have seen the answer to this puzzle almost immediately.

Discouraged for now, Derek heads back towards the castle, towards his unruly bride and the promise of victory that awaits them.


***

 

Derek returns quickly to his chambers and starts tugging off the armour weighing down his arms and chest. He could call for a servant to attend him, but he does not trust them to do so without attempting to end his life. He’s down to his leathers and undershirt when he hears the snap of bare feet against the stone.

His sword is lying against the table within reach but he does not bother with it. If someone is in here to kill him, then he will cease their efforts with his bare hands. It is the best way to deter other pitiless recreants in the future.

When he turns to face his challenger there is a man lounging on his bed.

He is dressed in a loose-fitting silk garment and trousers that are of a fine quality that even Derek has not seen the like of before. He’s got cupid’s bow lips, a spattering of moles across pale skin and a flush across his cheeks that reveals his nerves at being here.

He’s muscular and long limbed, the jut of collarbones visible beneath the shirt whilst his body is held in a state of artful repose. As if he’s spreading himself out on the bed in offering, but perhaps that’s more to do with the tension in his limbs.

Derek wants to know who he is and whether those moles cover the rest of his hidden flesh.

“Get out,” he says, hands curling into fists at the tantalising sight.

He knows better than to trust beautiful creatures anymore. Derek won’t permit them anywhere near him. They’re dangerous, just like this comely thing stretching himself out like a tempting gift. The man smirks a little, amused, but also uncertain. It is as if he does not truly wish to be here but something has tipped his hand.

“What, no consummation of our nuptials?”

Derek recognises his voice immediately even as his gaze falls to the man’s right hand where there are fresh bandages curled around it. It’s the princeling. He’s bathed and cleaned since they were married hours ago and he’s much less like a boy king than Derek first assumed.

He’s a young man. A rather striking one at that.

The heady flush of arousal building in his gut, announces that Derek has made a costly mistake. He should have killed the King and the princeling and been done with it. This does not bode well.

“I don't fuck pretty things,” he says bluntly, staring the princeling down and trying to ignore the steady rise and fall of his chest, the way the loose shirt shifts over the bulge in his trousers.

But fuck, he is pretty.

The boy king flushes. “Is that an insult or a compliment?”

“Neither. Get out, little princeling.”

“It’s Stiles,” he insists. “The least you could do is speak my name correctly.”

Derek catches hold of the scruff of his shirt, ignoring the princeling’s protests as he drags him bodily out of the room.

“Peter told you not to kill us, didn’t he?” the princeling says unexpectedly. “He forced your hand.”

It takes nothing to haul the princeling closer, enough that Derek can see the brown warmth of his eyes. The tiniest flecks of gold hidden among them. Oh, but this is dangerous indeed.

“You’re about to force my hand, princeling,” he snaps. “Don’t think I won’t kill you. Even now.”

Derek still has no inkling of what the boy king was doing out by the mire. Whatever it may be, his instincts bristle with the certainty that it will cause complications. The princeling, Stiles, narrow his eyes at him, his lush mouth curving with disfavour. Oh, but Derek has blundered tremendously to ever align himself in marriage to one so alluring.

“I’ll leave you to your victory, Prince Hale,” he says, in such a way that means anything but commendation.

A mouthy one is it then? Derek knows best how to rob them of speech once they’re naked and on their backs. But he will not allow this enchanting creature beneath his sheets. Derek might not understand the complex schemes of Kings and territories and struggles for power, but this he knows for certain.

The princeling brings nothing but misfortune.

 

***

 

Derek learns the measure of such misfortune before evening sets in. There is a knock at his door and he invites the wolf in, catching Erica’s scent in the hallway.

“The castle is empty.”

Derek jerks upward from his seat at the table by the window. “What?”

“Most of the servants, the cooks, the maids, all gone.”

They could not have vanished. For a castle this size they’d need three hundred at the least to keep it running. There’s no possible way they could have-

“And the guests here?” he demands, realising how treacherously they have been deceived. “What of the guests?”

Erica hesitates and Derek can hear from her heartbeat alone that they have failed. Their prize, the real reason for attacking this kingdom to secure its lands has escaped. “The Lady Lydia is gone,” Erica admits. “She fled with the Princess of Beacon.”

All those months of Regent Peter’s careful planning now wasted. Beacon is not a small kingdom by any means, but it pales in comparison to the might of Martin. This was the first kingdom in many seasons where Lady Lydia has travelled that Regent Peter supposed could be exploited. With the Lady Lydia in hand, Martin would be forced into negotiations of their land in the north, on the border of Hale, in order to see their princess delivered home safely.

But not if the Lady Lydia is no longer present to be captured and used as such a tool for bargaining. This is a failure of dire proportions.

“How is this possible?” he shouts, kicking angrily at the wooden chair he was seated in moments before. “We surrounded the castle, blocked off every possible route of escape-“

The princeling’s muddied face comes freshly to his mind.

“The mire,” he realises. “Send soldiers to the mire at once. There must be a hidden entrance there, some manner in which they fled.”

Erica obeys the order without question. Derek follows her out, scenting the air with the intention to track down the source of all this disturbance. The destroyer of Regent Peter’s carefully executed plans.

He finds the princeling in the Hall of Kings, sitting on his father’s throne, long, muscled thigh resting comfortably across the arm. He is both thoroughly pleased and confident in his own efforts, enough that Derek knows there is more mischief he has wrought today.

“Boyd,” he growls, catching sound of the soldier’s light footsteps outside. “Find the King of Beacon.”

The princeling only sprawls out more indecently, comfortable in his own schemes. “It is quite unlikely that you will ever see him again.”

Derek advances on the boy king. “Is it now? Do share your expertise.”

The princeling inspects him with an indolent expression. “I had intended to distract you with our enthusiastic lovemaking, but when that was of little interest and you seemed quite content to brood in your rooms otherwise, I enacted my own plans.”

“I sent soldiers to the mire,” he says. “If your father tried to escape there he will be caught.”

The princeling smiles at him, slow and satisfied. “Oh, dear husband, my father was ferried to safety well before I had even entered your chambers. Though I do admire your attempts at scheming.”

Heat boils beneath Derek’s skin, the bright flush of anger and the urge prickling underneath his nails to extend claws and sink them into the princeling’s flesh. But that’s not what Regent Peter wants. That’s not why Derek came here and took Beacon for himself, took a husband for himself.

And the princeling knows it.

Derek steps forward anyway, between the improper spread of the boy king’s legs as his claws slip free and his jaw begins to ache with the yearning to bite.

Only once again, the princeling does not do what Derek expects. There’s a sharp, interested glint in his eye when he glances at Derek’s hands before resting on his face again, seeing the burning red of his pupils. The princeling’s smile does not waver. Not even when he tilts his chin up and bares his throat.

Derek falters, a different instinct overriding his rage. The princeling lets his legs fall open a little wider, invitingly so, as he exposes more of his throat. It might be a submissive gesture but it is a very distinctive one. An intimate act between a wolf and his mate.

“What are you doing?” Derek demands, once he rediscovers his voice.

His teeth still ache, but now there is no murderous intention behind it, just the need to mark, to stake a claim. They are married after all. Some part of Derek’s instincts recognises that as something more than a practical arrangement. Even if it should not.

The princeling raises an eyebrow, unperturbed. “It is the custom of wolves, is it not?” he wonders, with an air of innocence that Derek no longer believes.

He does not consider the complexities of it, how dangerous being swept up in this tension of wants might be. Derek reaches out and drags his hand across the back of the princeling’s nape, before gripping him tight there.

The tips of his fingers feel the beat of the boy king’s pulse under his skin, fast as a rabbits, like some manner of prey. Derek’s eyes travel along his bare throat before hauling him upward, closer to his mouth. His teeth. The princeling’s eyes betray no fear but Derek observes heatedly the way his throat moves as he swallows.

The abrupt and overwhelming scent of the princeling’s lust takes him by surprise.

If this is all a game to the princeling, his arousal might be the only truthful thing about him. Whatever he truly intends to gain from this exchange, he cannot lie about that. Derek stops before his teeth sink into the princeling’s pale skin. He sees the way that his mouth falls open expectantly, issuing a shuddery exhale.

“You want me to hurt you,” he realises, dropping his hold abruptly and stepping back.

The prince slumps back onto the throne, but there is a telling heat about him, a fleeting expression of disappointment. “No,” he disagrees, bored again. “You cannot hurt me.”

Derek lifts his claws towards the princeling as if to prove that he can but the boy king’s mouth merely curls in amusement.

“Physically I suppose you could make an attempt but you would have to be creative. The only people you could have hurt me with have long since left Beacon.”

I would have to be creative?” Derek repeats, incredulously.

The fear he strikes into men is nothing to sneer at. The arrogance of this little upstart. Derek could break him apart so easily.

“You know of the nogitsune?” the princeling asks, and an involuntary shudder works across Derek’s spine.

Yes, he knows of the creature. Of the destruction it wrought across the land before it was destroyed. “I know it,” he says. “I am the one who found its den in the sallow woods and slaughtered it.”

The princeling laughs then and Derek does not like the abnormality of the sound.

“I was its captive,” he declares. “It possessed me for a time, enjoyed wearing my skin with the knowledge that my father would never harm it, harm me. But it soon grew bored of that and turned to… other pursuits. I was there when you slaughtered it. By killing it you freed me.”

Derek had not sensed another when he had torn the nogitsune’s head clean from its body. The princeling must have been very weak, or close to death.

“I should have killed you then,” he says.

The princeling snorts. “Heroism not to your taste?”

“Strange things happen to men who are the playthings of monsters,” Derek says, watching the princeling closely for some hint of it behind the eyes.

But the princeling only blinks. Long eyelashes fluttering. There is much that he underestimated here.

“So, what was your plan then, princeling?” he demands, taking a step back when it’s clear the boy will not be moved. “You would remove your father, empty your castle and sacrifice yourself to my wrath?”

The suggestion appears to bore him somehow. “You won’t kill me.”

Derek moves closer again. “Oh? Tell me why.”

“Kylion is dead,” the princeling reminds him. “You might have a mind for strategy in battle, but you have a child’s understanding of the politics of court. You need me to keep you from starting a war.”

The arrogance of such a thought. “And what if I want war?”

The boy king is untroubled.

“You don’t. You want Lady Lydia. To ransom her to her family in exchange for land. You want the power to expand your borders but you don’t have the soldiers to take them by force. Wolves seldom live long. You cannot form a united army long enough to achieve your plans before petty squabbles between packs tear you apart and weaken your numbers again.”

It is some shock to be described as such. Derek does not know how Stiles came by this information but it speaks of fact. “And why would I believe anything that comes out of that mouth?”

The princeling pauses as if Derek has told him a great secret and in the next moment his fingers are pushing against the fullness of his bottom lip, drawing out the red blush of its colour.

“This mouth?” he wonders, innocently as Derek’s cock stirs. “Do you like it?”

Such cheek.

“What are you doing, princeling?”

“Stiles,” he repeats. “And I should have imagined it would be obvious. I’m seducing you, husband.”

“Well stop it,” Derek mutters, turning away. “I already said-“

“So, you admit it was working?” the princeling demands, scrambling from his throne and rushing in front of Derek.

He blocks him before he can reach the chamber doors and he ponders the worth of physically moving him out of the way. The princeling seems to sense this because he places the palm of his injured hand flat against Derek’s breastbone.

“Are you firm in your resolution against fucking pretty things?” the princeling asks, licking his lips slowly.

Derek vehemently ignores the need stirring in his trousers and leans forward, staring into the princeling’s eyes. “So eager to lie on your back?”

The boy king flushes, but his eyes are wide and full of heat. “The longer you delay consummating our wedding bonds, the weaker your hold on Beacon becomes. Surely even you can see the truth in that.”

Derek takes hold of the princeling’s wrist and pushes him back until he’s no longer blocking his path. “You couldn’t handle me, princeling,” he murmurs, letting the red flare in his eyes, the promise of strength and ferocity.

But the boy king merely smiles lazily at him, white teeth dipped in venom. “I could say the same, barbarian.”

Derek refuses to think on the promised pleasure of proving him wrong.

 

***

 

Straightway he returns to his chambers and seats himself at the writing desk there to begin inscribing.

Boyd enters to inquire about the future plans of this castle without men and women to run the household, but Derek snarls in answer and waits until he turns on his heel and departs. He is not to be trifled with in this state.

Instead, Derek sets out ink and parchment and begins to write. The anger keeping his claws out allows for almost illegible penmanship but his uncle is used to such ways. He will know the meaning of his words.

Uncle, he writes.

What befell the pack here was not as you strategized. In absence of the Stilinski Princess I wedded the boy, but he has proven himself a cunning opponent. Kylion is dead. The King of Beacon has fled with his daughter and the Princess Martin and over three hundred of their household in a ploy long since settled by the princeling. He knows well enough of your plans. I welcome your advice, Uncle, but I caution not to miscalculate his insolence. He admits himself the last plaything of the nogitsune before I destroyed it and I do not doubt it has shown him many arcane arts.

I will kill him and be done with it should you wish it so. Send word of your instruction or I shall be forced to resolve the situation unaided.

Derek.

He rolls up the parchment and sets it aside, placing ink to paper once more. He writes three letters of no consequence, containing little information but makes certain to use similar wording in each so it might appear a code was employed.

The letters should arrive at the kingdom of Claws at the end of the month. Derek will have to keep Beacon under his fist until such a time as he can receive his uncle’s command.

Satisfied, he addresses each letter to Regent Peter in identical hand with his official seal and sends them off with three worthy soldiers as night falls should the princeling have plans to interfere. The false trails are sent in the direction of home and Derek waits until the soldiers have departed, in full sight of the castle before he goes off in search of Isaac.

He has plans to enter the central township of Beacon with a selection of wolves as the sun rises tomorrow to quash any rebellions that might have grown since their arrival. Derek hands him the first roll of parchment despite the knowledge that they intend to journey in the opposite direction.

“Wait until you reach the main town,” he counsels. “Then send a man to deliver this to the Regent. Instruct him to move through the forest, well away from sight of this castle and other men. He will travel through the night, without rest. This is a pressing matter.”

Isaac nods and stows the roll of parchment underneath the furs of his attire. “It will be done, Prince.”

Derek nods and removes himself from the men without a word. He should find the princeling, lest he be in the midst of darker mischief. Perhaps it would be more prudent to keep him under guard, until Regent Peter sees fit to respond to the tribulations that have befallen Derek and his army.

But the boy king is safely secured in the Hall of Kings for now, the war chamber where he first came to meet him. He sits not in the throne where he first prepared such a beguiling spectacle, but is bent over the wooden table, consulting the very same maps the old men had perused so determinedly.

He throws the bulk of his frame up against the boy king, relishing the way he startles as Derek traps him solidly against the table. But the princeling has the gall to relax once he realises that it is Derek behind him.

“So is this how we are to consummate our matrimony then?” he asks with some measure of enjoyment. “You needn’t be so shy, husband.”

The boy king arches his hips of all things, bracing himself soundly before pushing into Derek. He wrenches back with a snarl, violently impassioned by how steadily his cock rises to the occasion. The princeling is determined to have him in his bed. He cannot abide by such flagrant contempt of the fear in which his name alone instils in the hearts of others. Soon, the boy king will know true terror.

“What destruction have you wrought now?” he demands, maddened by how seamlessly this youth has ruined all that he and Regent Peter laboured so tirelessly for. Years of careful planning, obliterated by this arrogant thing, hardly past boyhood.

A smile curves at the princeling’s wicked mouth. “Think you know me well, barbarian? Do you still hope to restore some semblance of your uncle’s schemes and carry them to fruition?”

This is too much talk for his liking. He is not the type of man to confer with snakes and charm them in turn. The boy is much too clever for that and Derek is not so foolish as to coax him into his bed. The advantages of a consummated union would do little to assuage such misfortune.

“Enough,” he says, struggling to master himself. “You have already intruded upon such affairs, I will not allow more triumphs.”

The princeling laughs then, a challenging declaration of delight at his attempt to fasten such a wild creature to his will. But he has had enough of games and diversions this evening. A hard battle was fought and won today, and he has no intention of concerning himself with matters of a wilful royal bride.

He grips underneath the boy king’s arm and drags him boldly from the Hall of Kings.

“Oh,” the princeling says, with an edge of insatiability in his tone. “You wish to become more familiar in your chambers.”

The princeling is warm beneath his fingers, but his muscle is taut and solid, as deceiving as the rest of him. Derek does not speak until he has lead the boy king back to his own rooms.

Immediately the princeling rolls his eyes and jerks his arm free. “You have no intention of becoming intimate,” he sighs, as if it is causes some manner of regret within him.

He cannot believe such a contrary creature could ever exist. Two soldiers stand by his door, one of Derek’s own. And one he cannot identify. He must be one of the few soldiers left over from King Stilinski’s rule. A loyal one then.

“See to it that a meal is brought to his rooms,” he commands, nudging the princeling through the open door and disregarding his yelp of protest at such handling. The wolf soldier nods soundlessly and slinks away from his post, leaving the Beacon soldier to guard the door.

“If you do not wish to see your princeling dead,” he says quietly. “He will not leave this room.”

The soldier insolently meets his eyes, but when he allows red to bleed into them and his claws to extend, he acquiesces. “Yes- my King.”

An unyielding pause weighs heavy between them.

“I am not your King,” he says. “Your King fled and abandoned you. I am your Prince. And Peter is your Regent.”

He becomes aware of the princeling watching him in the doorway and sees the shrewd expression on his face for the danger that it is. He steps forward abruptly, seizing hold of the wooden edge of the door as the boy king stares defiantly back.

“You are woefully outmatched, husband,” he declares, diverted by the thought. “I will have my kingdom before-“

Slamming the heavy weighted door in the princeling’s face is wholly rewarding. As is listening to his infuriated curses as Derek turns and strides back from the direction he first approached.

 

***

 

Derek sleeps in short stretches during the first few days in Beacon castle. He trusts his soldiers, but even after the men Stilinski lost in battle, their soldiers far outweigh the number of wolves patrolling the halls.

Isaac takes a few soldiers to the main square and starts calling for men and women to fill the now empty household. There are more outsiders in the castle than Derek prefers and the air is crowded with their unfamiliar stench. But it is this or let the castle fall to disrepair as the soldiers starve and that is no alternative.

It is wiser not to drop his guard during such a volatile stage of the Regent’s plan as Derek comes to realise when he wakes up to the sound of an intruder entering his room.

He smells the man immediately, the excitement in his blood and the quelled rage within when he advances forward. His shape is clear in the dark, his senses awarding further warning at the glint of a knife-edge before the man lunges for the position he holds in the bed. Derek rolls to the side to swiftly avoid being stabbed in the throat and before he can make a sound the man lunges again.

“How I’ve longed to do this,” he snarls. “You mouthy little-“

Derek snarls and springs, claws slashing across the man’s belly, listening to him scream as warm blood rolls out onto his hands. The knife clatters to the floor forgotten and Derek rocks to his knees, pushing the man back on the claws he’s still impaled upon before wrenching them free of flesh and muscle.

It is a painful wound, and the man makes such things known as he screams, high and terrified as Derek’s eyes begin to glow in the dark. He slips off the bed and to his feet, advancing on the man as he scrabbles for the stone wall in search of some means of escape.

The dishonour of attempting to end him like this, in his own chambers with a pitiful knife instead of facing Derek on the battlefield inflames his resentment as well as reveals cowardice. Derek hauls the man into the air by the throat, trailing blood on stone as he leans out and swings the latch to open the window. The man begins to scream again, pleading, cursing and struggling and he tires quickly of this interruption.

There will be no need for questioning, he did invade this kingdom after all, the man’s reasons for attack are no secret. The Prince of Claws is not well liked anywhere, not even in his own lands.

The man scratches desperately at his forearm in an attempt to be released when Derek pushes him past the window and out into the void. When he apprehends the danger, the man attempts to latch onto the arm holding his life in his hands, but he is not quick enough.

For Derek has already let go.

The man shrieks on the way down, but Derek does not wait to listen to the rest. A pitiful death for a weaker spirit. What he no less deserved. He draws the window pane shut again and latches it, ignoring the mess of blood on the floor and the sheets as he climbs back into bed. His wolves will take care of the corpse.

He returns to sleep without a thought.


***

 

Since word has not yet reached him of Regent Peter’s scheming, Derek resolves it would be best to formally meet the advisers of Beacon. He must find out who are worth keeping alive and which would betray him and his uncle at the first opportunity.

When they gather before him in the Hall of Kings the atmosphere is subdued and the princeling’s mouth is pressed together tightly as if he fights to hold his tongue. Derek can sense his disapproval but that only assures him that this is the best course of action.

“Your names,” he says, without smiling.

From left to right, they are mostly old men, only some old women but not nearly enough to be worthy of note. The princeling is easily the freshest mind among them.

“I am Gutka,” the man with the longest beard declares.

And the other advisers present themselves. Marcinek. Darfur. Seweryn. Bendyk. Emmilian. Albinka. Iwona. Kaska. Piotr and Stanislaus. Such unusual names, but typical of the kingdom of Beacon. Their prince is named Mieczyslaw after all. No matter how often the princeling wishes to be addressed as Stiles.

But already there is one missing from their number. Regent Peter did not predict they would have defectors so quickly.

“You were twelve,” he says. “Where-?“

And the princeling finally opens his honeyed mouth. “Malbaras was his name. You tossed him from a window last night, husband.”

Anger inflames his blood for a moment before he can appear unruffled. “As I would for any craven who enters my chambers with a blade and fails to slash my throat.”

The boy king is not placated by such explanations. His dismay rests unquestionably in the knowledge that the old adviser failed in killing him.

Derek had not intended to set himself at odds with the advisers of Beacon so quickly. Isaac, who stands now at his back and assisted in disposing the corpse amongst the many fallen men from battle, steps forward as if anticipating his command.

“Bury the damn fool then,” he mutters. “But keep him isolated from the bodies of the dead soldiers. He was no warrior.”

Several of the advisers’ flinch, but he has little time to spare them for their softness. This is war and what comes after is inescapable. The boy king rushes out when Derek takes his leave, finished with the formalities of the day. He will discover which advisers are risks to the throne soon enough.

“If you have no intention of surrendering this kingdom,” the princeling snaps. “Perhaps you should cease killing my advisers.”

“My advisers,” he corrects, engaging the creature despite his better instincts.

The princeling reaches out rather daringly contemplating the recent violent death of his advisor by Derek’s hand, and moves into an intimate standing with him. “Our advisers, husband,” he simplifies somewhat prettily. “We now share all things.”

He pushes the princeling away, flouting the coquettish smirk upon his face in favour of distance.

“Not all.”


***

 

“You need to address to the people of Beacon,” Boyd says when they sit down together to discuss the future of this kingdom. “They cannot accept your rule if they do not know you.”

Of this he is increasingly aware. They have yet to have a ceremony for their union and Derek has not presented himself to the highborns of Beacon, nor their townsfolk. The rumours of his violence and reputation are rife within town and amongst the people.

And they must be won over if he is to proceed with Regent Peter’s plans. The gardens beyond the castle should do well to house so many guests, and his wolves will keep them under control.

“A celebration then,” he decides. “In the grounds of the castle before the whole kingdom. See it done. And keep word of it from the princeling lest he interfere.”

Boyd nods and disappears to carry out the orders. Their allies should have such an invitation extended to them also, but he knows better than to engage in such efforts with the kingdom so unstable. And the princeling has not since wavered in his determinations to sabotage Derek’s rule in Regent Peter’s stead.

Things will proceed smoothly if the boy king is not apprised of the celebration until it is too late for him to enact harm on the festivities.

Derek must also win over the rest of the Beacon advisers. This will be no simple task in light of killing one of their own and such outcomes are best achieved through the engagement of conversation. No matter how expertly he might swing a sword or win battles with nothing but a hunger for victory and the slash of his claws, men such as these will not be swayed by such feats.

Strength of the mind is his only ally, and he will prove such things during the celebrations. So long as the princeling does not attempt to impede these plans.

But such tasks will not be so straightforward.


***

 

The day of the celebration he locates the princeling in the Hall of Kings sprawled out on the throne. “Dress yourself,” he says, knocking his feet off the arm rest. “We are to revel in our union before the people of Beacon.”

The princeling smirks. “Yes, the festivities.”

Perhaps they weren’t so restrained in these plans after all. “You knew of this?”

“Oh, husband,” he says with a laugh. “Did you mean to conceal it from me? I have heard talk of the celebration for days.”

Who spoke of such things? He had intended for it to remain quiet until the right moment. Does that mean that princeling has had time to plan injury? There is little time to protect against such things now. “Go,” he says. “Ready yourself to receive out guests.”

The princeling stands up and bows obligingly but he knows already there is mischief afoot.

When the princeling disappears, Derek sets off in search of Isaac as he is the best wolf for unobtrusive tracking. He finds him in the soldier’s quarters, reclining on one of the beds there, eyeing the Beacon Soldiers warily from the other side of the room. The wolves have not yet abandoned their camp outside the castle, preferring to sleep under the stars than in a room full of Beacon soldiers. Isaac has been monitoring the men as ordered.

“Isaac,” he murmurs as the wolf jumps to his feet.

He lowers his voice, certain that the other men should not catch word of this. Rumours that he does not trust his princeling husband are surely to destroy any image of an alliance. If they seem as if they are at odds, enemies will view them as vulnerable.

“I need you to watch the princeling tonight,” he murmurs. “At the festivities. Ensure that he has no tricks planned for this.”

Isaac nods, confident in the task and he is able to depart the soldier’s quarters, feeling assured in the ability of his wolves.

Now he must wash and become presentable. It is time to introduce himself to the people of Beacon, as their prince and the loyal nephew of their new Regent.


***

 

“There is no need for nerves,” Boyd says when Derek adjusts his collar for the third time. “You will win these men over as you have done before.”

“That is not my concern,” he mutters, glancing at the guests milling about in the gardens with a carefully blank expression.

He has not glared at the highborns and advisers so far, which is all the kindness he can offer. Derek is not the type for agreeable smiles and pleasantries. His senses have been affected also. There is the faintest scent of something strange in the air that irritates his nose and he cannot hear as well as is standard. The servants have lit candles and there is a thicker scent of perfume from the flowers littered among them in the garden.

The conversation dwindles when the princeling arrives. He is distracted thinking of the stuffiness of his attire, how it limits movement and makes him feel foolish. These formal affairs are of no use to him.

But the sudden mark of arousal in the air turns his head.

The princeling is a vision moving towards him, as the men and women in the crowd part for his approach, their interest and admiration plain. He is dressed in the finest clothing but the fabrics truly pale in comparison to the princeling, merely accentuates what was already there.

The princeling is everything he wants wrapped in falsehoods, deceit and trickery. Everything he thought Kate was not, but what she was revealed to be after the deaths of his family. He stands frozen at the sight until the boy king is before him.

“Is it not to your liking?” the princeling wonders slyly, laying a hand upon Derek’s chest.

“No,” he lies, avoiding the flush of the princeling’s cheeks, the fullness of his lips and how he longs to drag the little fiend into his arms.

“You lie well,” the princeling says, amused. “But will that be enough to charm the people of Beacon?”

The music starts and he takes the princeling’s hand, leading them into the steps of the dance together, claws curling tightly into the princeling’s lower back.

“We shall see.”


***

 

They dance until he is able to make apologies, extracting himself from the princeling to mingle.

The people of Beacon await. The princeling is drawn into conversation with two higborns that he does not recognise and Derek moves about the crowd, presenting himself to the well-dressed guests, engaging in the conversation.

The night wears on slowly, until he notes that his mouth aches from placid smiles and expressions that he does not mean. The advisers, though old, have the wisdom of years at their backs and seem willing to support his leadership. They will grow to trust him in time.

The highborns are another matter, spoiled, decadent, and pompous and it is clear they have never seen battle beyond idle talk. He dislikes their softness, their feebleness but they are needed to ensure the Regent’s rule. And he knows how to charm when necessary.

Soon, the press of bodies and the flow of shallow conversation becomes too much. Isaac is still watching the princeling, so Derek takes his leave of the crowd, disappearing into the hedge maze beyond the gardens in search of solitude.

The seclusion does not last long.

“The Prince of Claws is handsome, is he not?”

“A monster in fine clothes,” a familiar voice sneers.

Derek steps towards the men, curious to know who they might be and what kind of talk must be conducted so far from the other guests. He peers through the border of the hedge and at once recognises the man who named him a monster. It is one of the advisers. He cannot quite recall the name, Sewelyn or Emmilor.

“And what of the Prince Stiles?” the highborn says. “I have heard talk he has the monster well under heel.”

His jaw clenches at the suggestion.

“The Prince is a fool,” the adviser retorts. “He may play at cleverness but he knows nothing of the ways of court. For a time at least he will keep the beast distracted between those princely legs while we enact our plans.”

They do not know the particulars of which they speak. That is enough to inform him of their distance from the princeling.

And now they have his full attention.

The highborn turns to scan the surroundings. “Speak carefully, Adviser Emmilian. These beasts have the hearing of dogs.”

The adviser, Emmilian, it seems, laughs scornfully. “I saw the monster lusting after the Prince earlier. It is certain that he will follow his cock all evening. And his wolves-“

“They are within reach.”

“But not within hearing,” Emmilian vows. “Prince Stiles ensured such privacy for the festivities.”

“Ah yes, the wolfsbane laced hedges.”

And now he understands what dulled his senses all evening. The princeling. For what purpose would he wish to ensure privacy tonight? Is this his attempt at reclaiming his kingdom? By speaking to the highborns and advisers? Starting an uprising from within?

“Did you receive my contribution?” Emmilian wonders. “I believe I have shown my support for your plans.”

The highborn reveals an exultant smile.

“As much as I appreciate your thievery from the King’s treasury, I caution against such frank conversation, even with the beasts otherwise employed.”

“The King and his brat are dullards,” Emmilian says contemptuously. “But they were useful tools. The Regent ruined my designs, my schemes, my future plans-“

“And here I thought your efforts were to secure my place on the throne.”

There is a very pregnant pause.

“But of course,” Emmilian continues, in a much oilier tone. “I merely seek to carry out your efforts. I will kill the Prince as promised and when all of Beacon revolts against his beastly husband, you will step in as the next in line and expel this animal filth from Beacon once and for all.”

All at once, Derek tires of this traitorous talk and finally steps around the hedges which previously concealed the adviser and highborn from view.

“Will you?” he growls, savouring how Emmilian stiffens in shock. “Well here I am, traitor. Tell me, adviser, how would you suggest I deal with two conspirators against the throne?”

While he faces Emmilian, the highborn who is fresh in manhood and bloated with boldness, draws a dagger from his coat and lunges for his throat, hoping to conceal their treasonous plans. Derek senses the attack and catches the highborn’s arm, twisting him mid leap so that the dagger strikes Emmilian instead, embedding straight into his chest.

The adviser’s eyes bulge in dismay as he glances down at the dagger unexpectedly protruding from his chest. The princeling cannot voice his complaints this time, for it was the highborn who delivered the fatal blow. The highborn staggers into the adviser and when he pulls away his hand is covered in blood.

“Guards, Guards,” the highborn shouts, high pitched and shrill as he backs away from Derek, falling against the hedge in his attempts to retreat.

Emmilian’s breath is laboured and Derek listens patiently to the sound of footsteps as the Beacon guards come running. Boyd enters the small area of the maze first, followed by wolves and soldiers, weapons drawn as they see the dagger in Emmilian’s chest and the blood on the highborn's hands.

The adviser gasps and curses when he yanks the knife out of his chest, hands shaking as he stares at the dagger unblinkingly.

“Adviser Emmilian-“ a Beacon soldier says, alarmed as he steps forward to attend the wound, but he is not a wolf, and cannot sense that the damage is fatal.

There is no need to explain such things further as the adviser’s heart pulses its last beat and Emmilian drops like a stone, eyes still wide with shock in death.

“The highborn killed the crown’s adviser,” Derek snarls, advancing forward. “He will be-“

“You cannot kill me,” the highborns yelps, finally regaining his footing. “I am of royal blood. Second to the Stilinski line.”

“You are a traitor,” he growls. “And I can kill all the traitors I wish.”

The pounding heart of the princeling advances in his ears. If this is to be done, it must be completed now before the boy king can interfere. “You there,” the highborn says desperately gesturing at the Beacon soldier. “Protect me. I am of royal blood.”

The wolves advance on him with a snarl but the Beacon soldiers stand to attention at once, blocking them from the highborn. It seems they are no closer to becoming a unified force, no matter how their kingdoms have since been connected.

“You conspire against the princeling to take the throne,” Derek says to the highborn, disregarding the tension between the guards for the moment. “Adviser Emmilian robbed the King’s Treasury to supply the gold for your coup and you commanded him to kill the princeling.”

The Beacon soldiers shift at the words, wavering in their stance but the highborn is not observant like the princeling. He does not see the danger. “You are a dog nipping at the heels of noble men,” the highborn jeers. “Others will succeed where I have failed. You and the wretched Prince will die soon enough.”

If the guards had compunction against the spilling of royal blood they do not now. More soldiers pour into the small space, weapons raised but when Derek moves towards the highborn the Beacon soldiers step aside without remorse. He reaches the highborn first and lifts him into the air by his throat.

“Husband,” the princeling shouts, having finally reached them. “Do not-“

He breaks the highborn’s neck, releasing his hold and turning to face the soldiers as the princeling pushes his way through the wall of amour they fashion. “Oh yes,” the princeling says, lip curling at the sight of so many dead at their feet. “Charming celebration of our union, husband.”

But there is a glimmer of fervour in his eyes. The princeling delights in the spilling of blood there is no doubt no matter how emphatically he might protest.

“Remove the bodies,” he instructs the soldiers. “Do not disturb the other guests.”

The princeling laughs then, wry and raving as he spins on his heel, disappearing into the gardens without another word.

Derek ignores the smell of corpses around them and finally accepts that the evening will not be salvaged.

He should have known any celebration of their union would end in disaster.

 

***

 

He summons the soldiers to the training field the next day after the tensions at the festivities. If they are to present a strong front, the men and wolves must learn to fight together.

So he partners the Beacon warriors with his wolves to train. He knows the minds of men and their formation in battle and sees this to be the simplest means of uniting them. By the days end they are too exhausted to be wary of the wolves around them, and there is Isaac and Erica, laughing along with the Beacon men to smooth over such strain.

His wolves were instructed to ease the tension between the soldiers and not to provoke enemies for threat of his wrath upon them.

The Beacon soldiers do not trust them as of yet, but Derek knows their hearts as that of their King’s. They are good men, fair and noble, and if he is sparing in mistreatment of their people and their prince, he is apt to earn their respect. Which is why the rumours of an unclaimed prince and an unfulfilled union are so troubling.

His ears prick at the first hint of it amongst the men.

“I’ve heard word of Prince Stiles' sustained virtue,” a young soldier mutters to his shieldmate as they spar. “They say the Prince of Claws has not touched him.”

“You jest,” the other soldier replies. “Remember the parade of suitors before the attack? Even touched by the nogitsune, Prince Stiles is a prized match for any man or woman.”

His wolves turn to watch him, and Derek is aware they can hear the disagreement as well as he. When he stalks back up the stairwell into the castle unheeded he wonders how word could have spread so quickly. When the maids and the rest of the household have long since departed.

He catches sight of the princeling, watching the men alertly from a hidden perch among the open columns that look down into the field. He turns at the sound of Derek’s footsteps.

“Shame,” he says lightly, having overheard the conversation. “That such gossip spread so swiftly. I do hope it does not weaken your foothold in this kingdom.”

And the trickster accountable for such rumours reveals himself with a parting smile. Derek catches at the boy king’s arm before he can make his escape.

“I would not fuck you for all the kingdoms in these lands,” he snarls, savouring how the princeling baulks at such vehemence in his voice.

He recovers impressively.

“Oh I think you will, dear husband,” the princeling says pleasantly. “You will take me in your chambers soon enough.”

The certainty in his speech is staggering. He’s helpless to prevent it when the princeling leans in and catches at his hand, slowly drawing upward until it’s placed against his throat where his pulse beats strongest.

“My King-“ Isaac calls, the footsteps of his trusted wolves approaching and Derek wrenches back as if burned.

When he faces Boyd, Erica and Isaac their expressions are impenetrable as the princeling releases a delicate laugh and takes his leave. It requires all of his restraint not to watch the boy king go.

“The Prince bemoans his chasteness,” Isaac says with some astonishment. “Surely he lies.”

Derek snarls a warning, and wishes the boy king possessed the timid virtue of an unclaimed prince. He smells untouched, but the filth constantly spilling from his mouth speaks of unfulfilled desire and a familiarity of flesh.

“If you do not intend to bed him,” Erica says. “Then make use of his lovely mouth. Such pretty lips cannot be for naught.”

Such an image, the princeling on his knees, using his bold mouth to bring pleasure is too agonising to bear. He banishes such enticements from his mind with only a small amount of reluctance. “I cannot,” he determines. “The temptation the boy king offers is too great.”

“And much too willing it seems,” Boyd suggests.

He sees the truth for what it is. Boyd is a level-headed warrior, well suited for battle and strategy. He makes a good adviser in the absence of his uncle. “It is but sport for the princeling,” Derek agrees. “My best course of action is to deny the things he sorely wants lest his ulterior motives bear fruit.”

“I doubt I would be so steadfast in the face of such a rewarding pursuit,” Erica parses idly, smirking at such lewd pastimes.

It is all but imaginary, she means nothing by it but Derek snarls savagely at the implication and advances forward despite reason. Boyd intervenes at once, taking position between them.

“Derek, my prince,” he says calmly. “What ails you? You are not mated. This union is of convenience nothing more.”

The words ring truth. But already the princeling’s scheming has brought about unwelcome confusion. “He exposed his throat to me,” he snaps, chest heaving with emotion. “He would spread his legs if I wished it. He would-“

“Slit your throat if it served him too,” Erica sneers, all humour gone and Derek can see their wisdom.

They are right. The boy king knows how to influence thoughts and feelings, how to appease the urges of his wolf. This is dangerous territory indeed. “He is too much of a threat,” he decides. “I want him under guard. I want him watched at all times and kept far from my chambers.”

Boyd nods. “Perhaps Jackson-“

“No,” he says. “You are my most faithful. I would entrust this task to the three of you and no one else.”

They accept the challenge readily, as soldiers should.

“We will see it done.”


***

 

It is some relief to have the boy king removed from his vicinity as he fights to hold the castle without Regent Peter’s instruction.

He establishes their army in the main square of Beacon and Erica discovers a rebellion of sixty men before they beset the castle. Those who cannot be persuaded from the cause pay with their lives. Derek realises the attack was paid with gold and furnished with weapons and their benefactor must be near or situated within the castle. It is no imaginative stretch to look to the advisers, when one has already made attempts on his life and another has plotted against him.

Of the ten left, only one is truly livid as the rest fall in line, cowed by the threat of violence.

Darfur stands at anger, full of twisted arrogance. But emotion is not a solid testimony and Derek makes no action toward him until Erica enters the Hall of Kings carrying a sword lifted off one of the dead rebels. When he examines the hilt, it bears the mark of a serpent which Derek finds fitting of such devious deeds. He strides past the advisers to inspect their own weapons, to perceive the marks of their houses and it comes to no surprise when Darfur draws a sword embellished with a serpent’s silhouette on the blade.

Derek does not draw his own sword, he is not in the habit of shaming old men for the pleasure of it.

“I was the King’s ear,” Darfur shouts, incensed with the hope of victory as he slashes out at him. “For years, I worked to bring Beacon under my control and you dare wrest it from my hands?”

A roar of anger breaks free of his throat, and the past warnings of the princeling go unheeded when Derek ducks beneath the swing of Darfur’s sword and embeds his claws in his throat. The man chokes wetly, drowning in his own blood but his eyes are wide and startled when life fades from them.

The sword slips from his grasp and Derek catches it by the hilt before dropping the man’s corpse like a stone.

“Bury this fool too,” he snarls, stomping out of the Hall of Kings, shaking blood from his clenched fist.

Shortly there will be no advisers present to keep Beacon under the rule of Claws.


***

 

The princeling is seated in the library, a heavy book resting in his lap and his men have once again been driven to distraction.

Derek perceives them sequestered behind the shelves, as if the boy king has bargained for privacy with his quick tongue, and he approaches the boy king’s unprotected back. He peers over the princeling’s shoulder to gaze upon what roguery he seeks now.

With a jolt, he recognises the three letters that were sent to his uncle, all laid out across one another and shielded from sight within the book. The princeling has left his mark all over it, circling common words, written notes and observations regarding the inane letters Derek has written.

For the princeling to have these letters means his messengers must be dead. The prospect that the fourth letter sent after these decoys made it safely to Regent Peter soothes his anger at such a discovery. If the princeling had the real letter it would be present now.

Victory stirs in his gut, and there is a pleased gleam in his eye as he leans down to whisper into his ear. “Enjoying such amusements, princeling?”

For once the boy king is completely off guard. He recoils at the sound of Derek behind him, but makes no effort to conceal the letters. He has already been caught. Derek appreciates the nerve of it since this time he has not succeeded.

One glance at his face, and the princeling knows it. “These aren’t coded letters, are they?” he grasps quietly, hands trembling with concealed outrage.

He cannot help it. The flush of humiliation to the princeling’s cheeks, the fire in his stance at being denied another triumph, a shrewd plot finally unmade before his very eyes.

Derek laughs.

“Completely meaningless,” he agrees, relishing this moment. “But I do hope you found it diverting.”

The princeling scowls and sets the book onto the table, rising steadily to his feet. “Perhaps you are not a reckless dog without its master, after all.”

Derek snarls and catches a fist full of the princeling’s tunic, dragging him forward. “I am no dog, boy. I am loyal to the Regent.”

A sneer curls at the princeling’s mouth as if he takes that to mean the same thing. Derek’s claws burst free and he should kill him, the princeling is a traitor and the evidence he is working against his husband and the Regent is spread out against the table.

But the princeling senses his own peril because he rolls his head back carefully, exposing the length of his throat without another word.

Derek’s rage shifts. And he leans in before common sense prevails, where the scent is most potent. He scrapes his teeth against skin, a warning, a promise.

The princeling shudders sweetly and presses closer for more. His cock stirs at the compliance, the willingness and his grip on his tunic loosens in favour of enfolding the princeling into his arms. His hands slide down the princeling’s spine as his mouth opens, panting hotly against the soft, yielding throat before his hands settle on the princeling’s ass.

He whimpers then, an amenable, hungry sound as he rocks his hips forward, pressing the line of his cock against Derek’s.

“My King,” comes a voice, foggy in the back of his mind. He cannot right now, not when he must breed his princeling, and claim the boy king as his own. “Derek.”

He drops his hold at once, sense overtaking desire as he shoves the princeling back, hard enough that he hits the surface of the table with a groan of protest.

“The princeling is no longer permitted to receive letters,” he pants, harassed and wanting for control. “Remove him from my sight at once.”

Erica and Isaac drag the princeling from the room and he cannot think past the need swelling in his blood.

“You are weakening,” Boyd notices quietly when they are alone together. “Once you bed him he will have you ear and you do not wish for a viper like that to have your ear.”

Of all this, he is well aware but Derek can sense how this scene of debauchery has unsettled his soldier, his trusted friend. Boyd need not show such concern. He will not abandon his goal for a mere temptation. Nor his men.

“I know,” he growls, infuriated by his own feebleness. “I know.”

 

***

 

It is dark in his chambers when he opens his eyes and senses someone on the bed beside him.

A maid has changed the sheets since the last attack, mopped up the dried blood and Derek wrenches into alertness at the presence of an unwanted foe managing to slip inside and into his bed unnoticed.

The figure holds no weapon, but is spread out languidly across the bed, the scent of excitement and arousal warm and thick in the air. And of this scent he is intimately familiar. How did he evade the guards posted at his door? How did he come to be here without Derek’s awareness?

“What do you want, princeling?”

The boy king strokes a hand down Derek’s bare chest, until his nimble fingers pause at the rise in his breeches. He quivers and catches at the princeling’s wrist before he can touch and Derek is astounded such a crafty escape could be performed for the mere prospect of their coupling.

But the princeling has never made this effort before.

“You mean to distract me,” he realises, throwing the boy king’s hand back and rolling to his feet at once.

“Wait- husband-“

In three strides, he reaches the door and shuts it behind him, locking the princeling in his chambers. The soldier, a wolf he identifies by scent but not by name, startles at his unexpected appearance.

“My Prince-“

“Did you let the princeling into my chambers?” he demands, fingers lengthening into claws.

The wolf’s shock is all the reply that is required. The princeling gained entry through some other means, none of which are less grim to his thoughts. “Do not permit him to leave,” he commands. “I intend to question him upon my return.”

He stalks off to commit a thorough search of the castle. It is no mere coincidence that the princeling has come to his chambers tonight of all nights. Particularly when he is known to use the appeal of his form for confusion and trickery to great success in the past.

He will not succeed this time. Erica finds him in the stairwell, sword drawn at the sound of all the commotion.

“What is it, my King?”

“The princeling,” he says grimly. “He was in my bedchambers while some other misfortune is undertaken within the castle I am certain. I want it searched.”

Erica blanches at the discovery of losing her charge. “But he was in his bed chambers. There was no sign worth suspicion.”

Next time perhaps he should place a guard within the princeling’s room. But perhaps then they would be in more danger of falling prey to the princeling’s whims.

“It is no matter now,” he says impatiently. “Search the castle. I wish to know what game the princeling has prepared for us.”

Erica keeps pace with him. “He is not so merciless, you know. He has a wicked tongue and some good humour.”

They have not kept the princeling under guard for long but already he has won their comradeship. “He is a snake,” Derek spits. “And you had best remember it.”

Erica nods, submitting to his will and sets off to search the west corridors. Derek attempts to predict the princeling’s movements but it is no easy feat. So far he has removed the household and his family from the castle, ferried them to safety, and who knows what precisely his plans were at the celebrations.

All in all, things have been proceeding well. The household is working adequately enough now they have new servants and the wolves have abandoned their camp outside to be sequestered in the same sleeping quarters as the soldiers.

The soldiers. The princeling has shown an unusual interest in their comings and goings of late.

Derek runs at full speed for their sleeping quarters but he finds the corpse first. There is blood running freely on the floor and the man has been slashed so thoroughly that not even a wolf could heal such wounds. He is a large man and Derek needs to utilise both hands to turn the corpse over onto his back.

The wolf smells familiar but he also reeks of woods and dirt and hard travel.

Derek wipes the blood off his cheek and sees the man’s face.

It is Ennis. One of the Regent’s men. But what is he doing here in Beacon? Why did he not announce his arrival as is the custom? He searches the body for any sign of a letter from the Regent, but Ennis has never delivered such messages before and he comes away empty handed.

Derek flicks the blood off his hands and steps over Ennis to approach the soldier’s sleeping quarters instead. Then he closes a fist and slams it against the wood of the doorway. The wolves sit up at once, though the soldiers of Beacon come to alertness more reluctantly. That will have to be drilled out of them.

He directs the most pressing question to the wolves first. “Did anyone sight Ennis in the castle tonight?”

Most of them exchange glances.

“Ennis?” Jackson demands. “The Regent’s dog? Why would he be here?”

“No, my Prince,” another wolf replies. “He has not been seen since we marched on for Beacon.”

Derek turns to the soldiers of Beacon next and spies Parrish, their highest in command. “Come with me,” he says gesturing him forward.

Parrish follows him out, dressed only in undergarments and doesn’t question the orders until he is standing by the head of Ennis’ corpse. “Have you seen this man before?”

The soldier frowns and peers closer, squinting to have a better look at his face. “No, Prince,” he replies. “And my men would have raised the alarm at an unfamiliar outsider roaming the castle.”

Wolves are better equipped in the art of subterfuge and stealing into castles unnoticed, so Derek cannot believe he was found and killed so easily. He is no mere opponent. Any wolf would have struggled to best him, and the sounds of such an encounter would have reached other sensitive ears.

He does not understand how Ennis came to be here, and how he did not bother to announce himself.

Strange tidings indeed.

“Have your men remove the body,” he decides. “Bury it.”

Parrish nods and returns to the soldier’s quarters to begin the task at hand. How could this have happened so quietly? Why did the Regent Peter not inform him of Ennis’ arrival? Could he have defected? Ennis was always a vicious man, more willing to act on his baser instincts than any other wolf Derek had encountered, but Regent Peter had only cultivated this savageness by sending him after their enemies.

Ennis could not have deserted from such circumstances richly designed to serve his interests. And suddenly Derek remembers what prompted his search of the castle to begin with. He returns back to the Hall of Kings where the soldiers he sent in search of the castle have returned to give their accounts.

They have found nothing.

Derek drags Erica aside after he has dismissed them. “Ennis was in the castle,” he says. “And now he is dead. Go to the soldier’s quarters and tell Jackson to keep an eye on the wolves and the men. Discreetly.”

She nods, and marches off in the same direction he just left. When he returns to his own rooms the princeling is banging on the door and the wolf standing guard seems to be doing his best to overlook such a commotion.

“You are dismissed for the night,” he tells the wolf. “I will not need a guard. Return to your quarters.”

The soldier nods and does not dispute the command. “Yes, my Prince.”

The banging has long since stopped and he is certain the princeling is listening at the door. He drags it open with a growl and tugs the boy king out by his undershirt.

“There you are- ow,” he complains as Derek slides an arm around his waist so that he cannot break free. “What is the meaning of this?”

“You are going to bed.”

“In your own chambers,” he clarifies when the princeling smirks. “And you will not come to my rooms again.”

“Why not?” he demands mulishly. “We are married, husband. And you desire me, I know that you do.”

Derek refuses to reply to such accusations. Not even when they reach the princeling’s chambers and Erica is again stationed by the door. Her eyes are narrowed when they pass and he is pleased to see that the princeling has lost an ally tonight.

He searches the room carefully when the princeling turns to face him, a direct challenge in his eyes. He steps forward and Derek’s nostrils flare before turning away and takes his leave, Erica shutting the door behind him.

But there is a scent on the boy king that he was not aware of earlier, beneath the smell of the princeling’s immense satisfaction.

It is the faintest trace of blood.


***

 

Regent Peter’s letter arrives some days later.

Derek, his uncle has written.

All is not yet lost. If you heed my advice and work in a timely fashion. Spies in Beacon tell me of the advisers who might be brought to our cause with the promise of gold, fucking and power. They are Darfur, Marlbaras and Emmilian-

He stops reading the letter at once, fury bursting forth as the parchment falls onto the table. Again, the Regent has been thwarted. Derek stalks off in search of his lovely bride who appears to have concocted more injury to Regent Peter’s campaign then he could have possibly anticipated.

But the boy king certainly did. The princeling would be well versed in the weakness of his advisers, and would have sought out ways to remove those from Beacon who would turn against him. Derek cannot understand how he finessed them into making attempts on his life. Unless, those attempts were orchestrated by someone else.

He finds the princeling in the library, as is usual, dismissing Boyd with a sharp slash of his claws through the air. The boy king shuts the tome resting in his lap with a degree of self-satisfaction.

“I did wonder when you would get your letter.”

“Stand up,” he roars, ferocity bleeding into his eyes as he snatches the heavy tome and tosses it onto the wooden table.

The princeling slides to his feet, easy as anything as if he’s been expecting this for some time. Derek cannot believe the boy king fooled him yet again. “You have been slaughtering my allies,” he says, fury curling within at the suggestion that he has been outmanoeuvred so smoothly.

The princeling smiles, bright and delighted, a mouth full of weapons.

“No, husband. You have been slaughtering your allies. And I am very grateful for your patronage. Zygmunt has been attempting to seize the throne since boyhood and I’ve been longing to eliminate those treacherous advisers from the court for years.”

Derek’s hand is wrapped around the boy king’s throat before his senses can uncover clear thoughts. “You sorely try my patience. Shall I kill you now and be done with it?”

His grip tightens in warning but the princeling merely laughs.

“But my love we haven’t cemented your claim to Beacon yet. Were I to die, these lands would be forfeit.”

He snarls and lifts the princeling by his slender neck, pushing him bodily against the table and holding him down. “I wonder if I fucked you like you sorely wish, would you still be so wilful?”

The boy king’s eyes are dark with desire, when his tongue emerges to lick at soft lips. Derek drops his gaze to the sight almost unwillingly but his body is hot and coiled with pleasure at the thought of fulfilling such promises.

“Shall we find out, barbarian?” the boy king murmurs, lowering himself into the position, luxurious and rich in his ambition for satisfaction.

Derek releases him at once. The princeling sits up quickly, panting only a little. He had not intended to choke the life out of him but the temptation had been great. Along with other baser desires. He will not fall prey to this. Not matter how strongly the boy king longs for it.

“If you are so desperate to be fucked, princeling, I have wolves who would happily oblige.”

He grits his teeth to avoid the feel of them sharpening once the words are spoken. No matter how he wishes to detach himself from the boy king, his instincts are firmly decided in his possession. He would not willing give the princeling up to anyone, wolf or human. They are bound together now for however long this game of wills shall last.

The boy king only smiles at such a suggestion.

“You play your hand at disinterest, husband,” he says. “But I sense you would dispatch any rivals should they attempt to bed me.”

He is much too clever for his own good.

“And you underestimate how long I can deny you.”

The princeling glowers at him then, not in the mind of being refused. Derek turns away from the sight of him sprawled across the table and intends to put as much distance between this place as he is able.

“I thought you feared nothing.”

The boy king is goading him. That is all it is, he has had weaker men try such tactics in battle in the foolish hope of gaining advantage. He slew them all. And he will not concede for the likes of a spoiled prince.

“What kind of wolf are-?”

He pushes the princeling’s legs apart with a snarl, dragging him bodily down the table until his hips line up with his own. The boy king’s mouth parts on a shocked gasp but his eyes are wild and raring when Derek fumbles with his own breeches.

The princeling tries to sit up and reach for him then, but he pushes him back firmly, pausing to catch at both hands to hold them down against the princeling’s chest. They stare at one another for a moment, nothing but heat, rage and desire twisted up together, before Derek returns to his breeches with his free hand, holding the princeling down with his other.

“Let me,” he gasps, sounding flustered as he struggles to get his hands free. “I want-“

“No,” Derek snaps, working his cock out. “You get nothing.”

The princeling’s eyes narrow, but his cheeks are flushed and his heart is pounding in Derek’s ears when he lifts head. The princeling tries to shift in order to better inspect the sight of Derek so unencumbered, but he doesn’t allow the chance, merely shoves the princeling’s tunic up past his ribs to uncover the soft underside of his belly. He takes himself in hand then, stroking the heat between his legs, feeling his thighs tense as the princeling attempts to rock against him, locking his legs behind Derek’s back to trap him there.

“Come now,” he says beguilingly. “Surely you wish to-“

“I said I would deny you,” Derek snaps, caressing himself in a rough grip, stroking harder when the princeling whines in frustration and tries to break free.

He watches Derek’s cock move with an expression of anguish as if not being permitted to touch is a torture in itself. Derek hunches over at the thought and startles when the princeling leans up to kiss him. His mouth is as lovely as it appears.

Derek feels his lips part and the warmth of the princeling’s eager tongue invading his own with a soft groan. The princeling’s hands flex in his grip, testing the strength there and he tightens the hold in reaction, firmly grasping him close. He rears back when the princeling’s heart beats too fast and Derek listens to him gasp for breath. Then he drops down to press kisses along his bare throat as he strokes himself unfalteringly.

“Please,” the princeling cries. “Please let me touch you. Derek-“

When he starts to come, splattering the princeling’s stomach with his seed, the princeling shudders at the sensation, legs clenching tighter around him as if to prevent retreat. Derek continues to stroke himself afterward until he is truly spent.

“Derek,” the princeling whines, sounding enraged and foiled by his own scheming when Derek still won’t reach out.

He recalls suddenly how effortlessly the princeling tricked him into slaughtering his own allies and drops his hold at once, releasing his hands. The princeling seizes his tunic and drags him back down to be kissed again.

Derek only allows it to keep him for a moment, until he can feel the bulge between the princeling’s legs moving slowly against him. Then he draws away with a sharp hiss, unlocking the princeling’s legs from his waist and stepping back. He tucks himself back into his breeches, astonished by what transpired as the princeling spreads his legs wider and sits up, resting his weight on his elbows.

“You really intend to leave me like this?” the princeling demands. “What kind of brute are you?”

Derek leans in and drags the tunic down to cover the princeling's stomach and the mess his come made of it. He pats the spot through the fabric and feels the princeling shiver responsively beneath him.

“The kind that tires of your games, princeling.”

It is not until he reaches the safety of his rooms, warm with pleasure and the victory of having the princeling under him, of having marked his body with his claim, that he realises the boy king did not address him as husband.

He called him by name.


***

 

When he returns to his chambers, he retrieves Regent Peter’s letter and continues to read.

The princeling must be killed at once and the body disposed of. Once the union is beyond question, the Kingdom of Beacon will be yours. You have bedded the imp, have you not? I have heard he is quite to everyone’s taste.

Rely on these advisers I have brought to you, but do not trust them, betrayal is in their blood, nephew and they would surely see us fall if it served them.

I await word of the Prince Stilinski’s death. Spare no detail.

Regent Peter of Claws.

Kill the princeling? The image of how beautifully he’d struggled to find the heights of his pleasure with Derek just moments ago comes to mind, revolting against such a command.

The people of Beacon would be devastated by his death and without an heir to pass on the bloodline, for the Princess of Beacon is not with child yet, those wounds would fester. But if Regent Peter has designed such a thing surely he has considered all angles, all outcomes.

Derek eats his meal alone, re-reads the letter from the Regent and thinks on what action would be best. The men Regent Peter was certain would betray the princeling to help their cause have long since been killed. The people of Beacon do not yet trust him as a ruler, and would not welcome the princeling’s death without suspicion. The Beacon soldiers would quickly turn against them and those men are needed to march on the kingdom of Martin before they set their sights on the Kingdom of Mons.

Regent Peter’s planning seems to unravel the deeper he considers such strategy. But he has been instructed to kill, not to question, so he finishes his meal in peace and waits for the protection of darkness to sink in before he makes his approach to the princeling’s chambers.

Only Erica and Boyd stand guard tonight. There is no Beacon soldier there with them, and at once it strikes him that having spent so much time together lately, that the princeling trusts his wolves not to harm him. Unsettled by such thoughts, he waves them aside to gain access to the room.

But Erica sees the determination in his eyes and hesitates. “You wished to resist his advances did you not?”

He stares resolutely until she backs down.

“You would kill him?” Boyd asks, recognising Derek’s mood for what it is.

Erica startles and her mouth sets into the beginnings of a frown. They will fight him on this, he realises, they do not wish the princeling dead any more than he does. “The Regent has demanded it,” he mutters keeping his voice low. “Are you not loyal?”

Neither of them answer at first and Derek wonders how they could have become so insubordinate in their short time here. Barely a season and thoughts of treason already rests in their minds.

“We are loyal to you, Derek,” Erica says finally. “Not your uncle.”

Their throats could be slashed for such sedition but he has little interest in punishing them for it. They would never betray him even if their loyalty is misplaced. When he waves them aside again this time they do not argue. He can hear the princeling’s heart, softer in sleep, and quietly lets himself into his chambers so as not to wake him.

The door closes behind him and he approaches the bed soundlessly, eyeing the figure the princeling makes on his back, the line of his unprotected throat. A flood of possession overwhelms him for a moment. Peter wishes for him to kill his husband, even if the princeling carries the title only in name.

But he carries Derek’s mark too, he realises. Any wolves nearby would be able to smell the seed on his skin, the resolve of his claim. His claws are out but they hang uselessly by his sides. He has not killed a lover before. And not so soon after coupling, even if the princeling gained no satisfaction from it. He smells of it now however, and Derek wonders how long after he left him in the library did the princeling take himself in hand until he was truly spent.

Regent Peter has not steered him wrong before. He is Derek’s only surviving family member. They are all that is left of the Hale bloodline. But should he give this up on the word of a man thousands of leagues away? The princeling’s chest is bare and even in the shadow of the room Derek can see how those moles litter his pale skin, how handsomely he moves even in sleep.

He hovers over the edge of the bed, poised to strike and finds that there is no lust in his blood for such a task. He would not kill a man connected to him in such a way, even if the boy king delights in unleashing new troubles for Derek and his men at every turn.

They are bound. The princeling will not die at his hand.

“Come to join me, husband?”

He jerks back at the saccharine lilt of the princeling’s voice. He was not aware that he had awoken, but perhaps he had never been asleep to begin with.

“No,” he grits out, infuriated at how the princeling toys with his desires so effortlessly even now.

“You would deny me forever then?”

And there is rage in his voice, no matter how sweetly the words roll off his tongue. It is not all games, Derek grasps, the princeling truly desires this coupling. But for what purpose? Cementing Derek’s claim to the throne would matter little to the princeling.

What could possibly be his goal? When he suggested other wolves the princeling had argued against his jealousy, but he had not threatened to search for fucking elsewhere. As if he had no intention of bedding anyone but his husband. Does such a union mean so much to him? Even if it is in the spirit of necessity and falsehood?

“No,” he says, surprising himself.

The princeling sits up eagerly, interest caught at the brief concession. “Oh? And what does that-?”

But Derek has already spun on his heel and left the room.

Killing one infuriating prince is surely not central to Regent Peter’s plans. But he will face the consequences of this decision if it comes to it.

 

***

 

The next morning is filled with tasks, training the wolves and the men, convening the advisers to discuss threats to the kingdom and how to improve upon the state of their lands and livestock. It is a time for single-minded focus and he barely has a quiet moment to himself.

It is only as the sun sets beyond the woods that Derek comes to think on how the day has passed without disaster or injury and he perceives why. For he has not seen the princeling all day. Derek starts his search in the most common places, the library, the Hall of Kings, the kitchens, the training field before he reaches the princeling’s bed chamber. But it is empty.

The sudden absence of the boy king is worrying.

“Where is he?” he demands of the soldier at the door, but he is of Beacon and loyalty to his prince comes first.

Which is why when he remains tight lipped even as his heart begins to beat faster, that Derek knows it to mean he has some idea of his plan. Where are Erica, Isaac and Boyd? They would never have left their post without fitting purpose. He discovers them in Hall of Kings after an energetic search of the castle.

“And why have you abandoned your position?” he inquires, descending upon them at once.

Boyd’s expression of stillness wavers. “You called us to these Halls. Devin sent for us.”

Devin is a high ranking wolf in his army, and a honest man. He would not have instructed them to leave the princeling’s rooms unless he truly believed that was what Derek had requested. But who could convince him of such a thing?

The answer is plain.

“Find the princeling,” he orders. “At once.”

They separate without a word, moving at speed to opposite ends of the castle. Derek does not waste time on such measures, he stalks towards the main gates and finds the soldiers posted there. Wolves and men and the like.

“You there,” he calls, striding up to the wolf standing at guard. “Did the princeling pass though here?”

The wolf nods. “He went into town as you requested some time ago.”

Derek stands frozen as he tries to decipher how the princeling could have achieved such a thing. “As I requested?”

The wolf detects the coldness in his voice and looks alarmed. “He had a letter, Prince. With your seal.”

A letter? How-?

The false trails he sent to the Regent. He had left the letters in the princeling’s possession and they bore the seal of the Prince of Claws. Derek should have killed the boy king as his uncle instructed.

“Apologies, my Prince,” the wolf says. “I should not-“

“It is no fault but my own,” he declares. “Send word to Boyd that I have gone to town and have him assemble a company of men to join me. I will retrieve the princeling myself.”

“Of course,” the wolf says, turning at once to dart off and relay his message.

Derek nods at the other men and takes off in the direction of town. He allows scent to guide him, and his attire permits him to go mostly undetected, just another wolf passing through. As they are common to do since the invasion.

The princeling’s scent is lost amid the crowd of townsfolk, the smell of smoke and cooking meat in the air. He lingers in uncertainty until he catches the end of two youth’s conversation as they pass by.

“Did you catch sight of Prince Stiles?” one whispers excitably to the other. “In the Queen’s Crown? It’s the first time he’s been sighted since he orchestrated the escape of the royal family and the entire household.”

His companion lets out gasp of wonder at the tale. “Oh I wish that I had seen him then,” he replies. “I wonder how he fares with that wolf prince.”

“I’ve heard they are animals in their coupling,” he replies with a whisper laugh that Derek hears clearly from several paces away.

He turns from them, having overheard all that is needed but the rest of their conversation still rattles in his ears. “The Prince is least of all to know,” one sniggers. “Have you heard the castle gossip? He has not been by claimed by the monster.”

“Well he’s welcome to sit on my cock if the wolf cannot rouse himself for the occasion.”

Their laughter echoes harshly in his mind.

Such untoward talk should be of no surprise, but Derek snarls and doubles back to rip out the man’s tongue anyway. That is before sense overcomes his anger. The tavern stands to his left, the golden lettering of the Queen’s Crown shining brightly above him and he decides the princeling will be the better prize. Curling his exposed claws into fists, he steps inside.

The tavern is full of patrons but the familiar heart beat stands out above the rest. He catches sight of the princeling isolated in a corner with a man in tattered clothing. It is a disguise for certain, as the man is too fresh for his unkempt attire. A drunken fool staggers past Derek and trips over a table, dropping his tankard with a large crash.

When the man besides the princeling turns at the sound, Derek recognises him at once. The Prince of Mons. Prince Scott. The princeling’s brother by marriage to the Princess Allison.

His eyes are wide with horror and the princeling turns pale, face losing all its colour as he spies Derek standing across the room. The door to the tavern opens and Derek turns at the sound of his men as Erica, Boyd and Isaac enter behind him.

“Did you find the Prince?” Erica wonders.

He inclines his head towards the boy king, where he is picking his way elegantly through the crowd to join them. The table he was seated at is now empty. Prince Scott has fled.

“The townsfolk are in uproar,” Boyd informs him. “And there is talk of the Prince of Mons being sighted nearby.”

Derek does not glance at the empty space where the Prince of Mons was sitting mere moments ago.

“They sighted the Prince too. Some said the Prince of Mons came for a secret audience with him,” Isaac says breathlessly as he reaches Derek’s side. “Did you see him? We could capture Prince Scott and ransom him off to his Queen for their kingdom.”

He glances over at the princeling who is finally within earshot before he reaches their party. For the first time since perceiving him, genuine fear ripples across the princeling’s face before he is able to conceal it. Derek recalls suddenly the princeling's boast of confidence that he could not be harmed, not when those he cared about had long since been spirited away.

He has placed himself into a most vulnerable position of danger then, to meet the Prince of Mons like this. The princeling meets Derek’s eyes then, accepting of what is to come and does not plead for his brother to be spared.

“There was no other Prince or secret audience,” Derek snaps, well versed in the art of deceiving other wolves. “The princeling merely tried his hand at escape.”

The boy king startles at the concession but dishonesty is second nature to him. “I thought I might try my hand at a brothel actually,” he offers airily. “Since my husband insists on leaving me untouched.”

Derek snarls and reaches out to take hold of the princeling but to his surprise the boy king steps towards him first, sliding his arm through Derek’s own, linking them together. “Shall we then?” he wonders formally, and Derek recovers his sense in order to drag the princeling out of the tavern before more damage can be done.

If the Prince of Mons had any sense he would never have come to Beacon to begin with and Derek surely does not hold much hope of him slipping away unnoticed. Not with so many wolves in the town. Surely the princeling could not have concocted such a reckless plan.

The townsfolk gawk at them as Derek leads the boy king back to the castle, flanked by a company of wolves.

The princeling does not speak until Derek has deposited him back in his rooms and they are well out of earshot of their men.

“Why didn’t you-?”

“I will encounter Prince Scott on the battlefield soon enough,” he says, without meeting the princeling’s eyes. “I do not need tricks and ransoms to secure my victory.”

Derek turns to leave just as the princeling starts to mutter to himself. “You are not like him at all, are you?”

He pauses in the doorway, mystified. “Who?”

The princeling startles as if he had forgotten that Derek was ever there. “Nothing. Good night,” he says quietly, cutting an oddly vulnerable figure by the window. “Derek.”

The air has changed between them but he cannot fathom how.

“Good night.”


***

 

He is out in the training field with some of the men, sword at the ready, chest slick with sweat when a howl splits the sky. A howl he knows all too well.

“Boyd,” he murmurs absently, dropping the sword and taking off towards the sound.

He howls back, just as Erica and Isaac answer the call, rushing forward to locate their fallen comrade. Years on the battlefield together have taught them to disseminate between howls but it is no effort to know that was a cry of agony.

In little to no time they locate Boyd, sprawled out on his back in a large patch of darkly coloured leaves that spread wide out around him. A strange scent reaches his nostrils first. Then he spots the purple flowers cleverly concealed among them.

“No, don’t!” Derek shouts, as Erica and Isaac reach the edge of the peculiar covering of plants.

They obey without question, pausing right at the unusual boundary and his heart pounds faster at the way Boyd begins to thrash, skin peeling off his flesh as if he is burning. “It is some form of aconite,” he says hoarsely. “Soldiers! I need a human at once.”

He sees some of them, having emerged at the sound of Boyd’s shrieking, but they hang back at his call, fearful of the howling.

“Help him!” Derek roars, desperation clogging his throat.

None come to his aid and at Boyd’s next scream, he steps past the boundary himself, prepared to save his friend and damn the consequences. But suddenly the princeling is there, shunting Derek back with an unusual amount of strength for a human. He steps through the leaves like he would through a garden of flowers and scoops Boyd into his arms as if he were nothing but a small child.

It should not be possible for a man his size to carry a wolf with such ease but he turns and strides out of the aconite, face alight with rage. “Who did not warn the wolves of the aconite field?” he calls in a sharp voice that carries across to the men.

He does not await their replies. The princeling strides towards the castle without another word, Boyd in his arms, and Derek finally jolts into awareness. “Spread word of this field to the wolves,” he instructs Erica and Isaac. “Keep them from it.”

They nod and he trusts they will carry out the warning as he sprints after his fallen soldier. The princeling transports Boyd into the kitchens, shooing away the cooks with a chilling stare before depositing the wolf onto the long wooden table. Derek reaches Boyd’s side at once, sees that whatever type of aconite it might be, the effects are quick and deadly.

Boyd cannot heal as rapidly as the poison peels the flesh from his skin.

The princeling busies himself about the kitchen pulling herbs and frantically mixing them into a bowl together. Boyd lets out a groan, before he shudders and grows still and Derek cannot touch him, lest the poison works it way into his flesh as well.

“Princeling,” he calls urgently, when he meets Boyd’s prone form and reaches into the bowl. Derek snatches at his wrist before he can apply the green paste to Boyd’s skin first. “What are you doing?”

The princeling’s mouth purses as he looks into his eyes. “Will you trust me?”

It seems he has no choice. If he does nothing Boyd will die. Slowly, he relinquishes his hold on the princeling’s wrist.

The princeling smirks as if this small action is itself a victory before he smears the green paste onto Boyd’s cheek. Instantly the salve disappears, sinking into his skin. With clever fingers he spreads more of it, onto Boyd’s bare arms, his chest, his hands and exposed legs. Once the salve has been completely absorbed, Boyd’s eyes flutter open and Derek reaches out to grip his hand tightly.

“Tell me,” he demands. “Are you well?”

Boyd’s forehead crinkles. “I- yes. How do I still live? The burning-“

A shudder works its way through him at Boyd’s words. “The princeling,” he explains, looking up and realising he is no longer standing there. “Rest a moment. I will return.”

He steps back and follows the scent of the princeling, passing the cooks hovering out in the hallway. “Attend to him,” he commands. “Alert me if his condition changes.”

They nod and hurry back into the kitchens to complete their tasks. When he finds the princeling again he is out in the training fields addressing the soldiers. Addressing the human soldiers. The expression of cold fury on his face is breathtaking.

“Who watched Boyd walk into the aconite field and gave no warning?” he questions them, eyes full of promised wrath.

“Answer me!”

A soldier steps forward, one that he has seen before on patrol of the grounds but Derek does not know well.

“It was I, my Prince,” he admits. “I saw the wolf and did not call out.”

The princeling holds out his hand. “Give me your sword.”

The soldier withdraws it from his scabbard and hands the weapon over without responding and the princeling turns back to address the other soldiers.

“Let this be a lesson to all of you,” he calls, voice travelling powerfully through the crowd. “Those who do not wish to band together with my soldiers because they are not human defy the crown and work against me. And I have no use for men who are not loyal.”

The soldier without his weapon lowers his gaze. “My Prince I-“

“Leave this castle at once,” the princeling says. “You are not fit to fight for this kingdom.”

The soldier pushes past the others and stalks off, his curses ringing in the air behind him. Derek watches as the princeling dismisses the men and reaches his side.

“Why did you do that?” he asks, warily, glancing back at the kitchens where Boyd now resides. It is because of the boy king that he still lives, Derek is not fool enough to deny it.

The princeling regards him thoughtfully. “What sense was there in letting him die?”

Derek cannot respond. It is such a stark change to the boy king’s conniving ways that he is astounded.

“Would you have truly entered the fields yourself,” the princeling asks after a pause. “Had I not arrived in time?”

After all that he has done today, Derek thinks he is owed the truth. “Yes.”

“I heard talk of how your family died at the hands of the Argents,” he says. “In fire.”

Derek will never forget the smell of burning flesh. It is some relief that Princess Kate died for her crimes, but the smoke still stains his heart.

“Boyd is fortunate,” the princeling decides after Derek does not answer. “To have a leader as loyal to his soldiers as they are to him.”

“They are loyal to the Regent,” he mutters, dismissing such claims as fiction. “I am merely their Prince.”

The princeling’s eyes narrow but he does not protest such statements. “Of course.”

He can sense how the boy king's eyes travel now that the danger has passed and Derek becomes aware of his absence of a shirt and the nakedness of his exposed chest. The princeling is not timid in his desire that is certain.

He stalks back to the castle to see to Boyd and prays no more will be said on the subject.


***

 

That night he wakes to the sound of footsteps in his chambers and sits up with a snarl, claws out, eyes red.

Until he recognises the heart beating away in the intruder’s chest.

“It is only me,” the princeling says unnecessarily.

If he has come for the purpose of tempting Derek tonight then his efforts are in vain. Not after the Prince of Mons came to Beacon for a clandestine meeting organised by the princeling himself. Not after so much trouble has been wrought. Not even after he saved Boyd’s life when he could have let him perish.

“What do you want?”

The princeling holds his hands out to show he carries no weapons, but that in itself bears no purpose. He is a weapon himself, just as Derek was born one. “To join you,” he says beguilingly.

The thought brings heat to his skin.

“No.”

But the princeling is already dropping onto the bed beside him. Derek startles when he presses up against his chest, curling onto his side. He reaches across to take his hand but Derek jerks away from him, dazed by such forwardness.

“You might deny me our coupling,” he says quietly. “But will you deny me this?”

When the princeling takes his hand again, drawing his arm around his waist, Derek is abruptly fearful. Because he does not let go of the princeling, does not return him to his chamber as he should. The princeling dropped boldly into his bed and falls asleep just as daringly, in the arms of a wolf no less.

One who has made threats to kill him in the past.

Derek did not think a human could be so fearless. But in slumber he seems harmless and vulnerable, a misleading attribute.

He stays awake and watches the princeling sleep for some time.

 

***

 

The sound of the door opening intrudes on Derek’s dreams and he hunches over the unprotected form of his mate, warning the rival wolf off with a snarl.

The princeling stirs beneath him with a filthy curse and he comes to realise what he is doing at once. He looks over his shoulder at Boyd standing in the doorway. The expression on his face tells all. An unbidden flush rises to Derek's face as he rolls off of the princeling.

“Do not speak your mind or you will live to regret it.”

“He did not fuck me,” the princeling drawls, curled up languidly in the sheets. “If that is your concern.”

He cannot be in these chambers anymore caught under Boyd’s judging gaze and the princeling’s expectant arousal lingering in the air. Not even his relief in Boyd’s recovery can overwhelm such discomfort.

Derek takes his leave at once.

 

***

 

The letter arrives just after dawn.

Nephew,
You have not responded to my letter in the expected time and I worry for your welfare. My spies have given word of the unrest in the kingdom. I ride for Beacon at once, in the hopes that I may find you well and instruct you of our plans for Beacon in person.

Regent Peter of Claws.

His stomach rolls at the thought. The Regent is coming and he has not killed the princeling as instructed. And what he has arranged for Beacon surely does not match with what Derek has done. What little he has achieved here.

“What is it?” the princeling demands, and he hears the scrape of the chair as he rises to his feet and stalks over to the other end of the table to reach him.

He bunches the letter up into a ball and stows it inside his jacket. The princeling comes forward and seats himself on the edge of the table right by the silverware, plucking a fresh strawberry off of Derek’s plate.

“Nothing.”

“Husband,” the princeling warns. “I can make my own assumptions.”

“The Regent Peter comes for Beacon,” he says, slowly, thinking quickly. “He has concerns for my welfare and the growing unrest of Beacon under my leadership.”

The silence sits heavily between them. Until the princeling clicks his tongue in an aggravated display. “Surely you are not this foolish,” he snaps, chest heaving with risk of such fairness. “These wars would not have been won without you.”

“The Regent planned-“

“He eased the way, that is certain but you ensured the victories, Derek. You are the true heir to the throne of Claws.”

The princeling is trying to deceive him now after everything. He would resent the arrival of Regent Peter to Beacon as it would impede his ability to fashion misfortune. Derek knows that he allows the princeling certain freedoms and with Regent Peter present those would be impossible.

The princeling merely wishes to save himself by turning Derek against his uncle. “The Regent stands upon the throne until such a time that I can hold it on my own.”

“When?” Stiles demands. “You are of age. You armies fight for you. Their loyalties are to you. You have proven to be a stronger warrior with a head for strategy in court. The Regent has nothing but old men at his back, and even they would secede their power to your ascension of the throne.”

He truly means it. He wishes for Derek to take the throne as it is. But why? “I am not yet ready-“ he says, fumbling with explanations now.

“And who determined such a thing?” Stiles demands. “Your uncle? Such a convenient verdict.”

He puts his hand to the princeling’s shoulder, hopes to drown out the words, to silence him, but Prince Stiles was never the type to be silenced. “You know I speak truth,” he insists. “You are the rightful king. The alpha. The Regent hopes to use you to gain lands and power for himself and once the land of Martin is yours he will surely kill you.”

He glares at the princeling, at the nerve of such an accusation.

“He is my uncle.”

“And what of Ennis?” Stiles asks. “The Regent’s bloodhound. Why was he in the castle, Derek? He did not come for me, Peter had already sent instruction for you to kill me.”

How could he know such a thing? Unless the princeling had found Regent Peter’s letter.

“That was-“

“Then who was he here for, Derek? Why did he not announce his presence to you? Because it was on Peter’s orders.”

He remembers the unnatural strength in the princeling’s arms, how easily he lifted Boyd from that aconite field. “You killed Ennis,” he says.

The princeling does not deny it.

“Think of all you have achieved without his influence these past seasons,” the princeling demands. “You brought an entire kingdom under your wing, you gained the faith of my people and our soldiers. All this you achieved alone. Do not assume yourself incapable purely because your uncle wishes it.”

The princeling speaks no falsehoods this time. Derek cannot apprehend what encouraged such honesty. “Why have you told me such things?”

He does not answer at first, and that is how Derek comes to think that this is yet another game. Until the princeling reaches out and strokes his cheek, tenderly cupping Derek’s jaw in his fingers.

“Because you are not your uncle,” he murmurs delicately, heart beat abruptly uneven.

Derek swallows and pulls away.

Regent Peter is coming. He must inform his men at once.


***

 

The castle is at ends to prepare for the Regent’s coming and he avoids the princeling during this time, lest he attempt to convince him of his uncle’s treachery.

It is another trick. He means to manipulate Derek into killing his flesh and blood. His last remaining family. The princeling has committed such feats in the past.

Derek requires careful thought to be certain of the correct course of action. He has no intention of killing the princeling but Regent Peter has made demands and his displeasure at Derek not carrying them to fruition will be plain. Derek knows it will take some time for his uncle to travel from their homeland to the kingdom of Beacon, so he holds the advantage of time for invoking a peaceable conclusion.

But it is only mere days after Regent Peter’s letter arrival that there is a commotion at the castle gates and Derek spies his uncle stationed on a white mare, Deucalion and Kali barefoot beside him.

He could not have arrived so quickly. Derek realises that the message must have been sent onward when his uncle was in the midst of his journey, to prevent their preparation of his arrival.

He recognises the back of the princeling’s head as he stalks out to meet the Regent, and the air freezes in his lungs. Derek leaps out of the window, trusting his instincts to ensure safe landing as he sprints towards the company of wolves with the express purpose of saving the princeling.

If only to wring his neck later.

“Ah husband,” the princeling says, a dark glitter of triumph in his eyes as he inclines his head in welcome. “You have joined me to greet our guest.”

He glances at his uncle, heart beating soundly in his chest and cannot think of a lie to save them. Until he spots the smirk lifting the princeling’s lips in the beginnings of a perilous encounter.

“Stiles,” he says, half warning, half plea.

“The Prince of Beacon?” Regent Peter demands, mouth constricting as he stares at Derek’s husband. “I heard word that he had become- ill.”

Even the princeling can parse the meaning from such conversation. Derek can feel his uncle’s eyes boring into him and they are weighted with accusation.

“Oh, I am quite resilient, Peter,” the princeling replies, with all the insolence of the ages. Derek cannot conceal his grimace. “As I am sure your spies have well informed you.”

The Regent's teeth sharpen dangerously.

“You will address me as Regent, boy.”

“Perhaps if your claims were legitimate,” the princeling responds without a hint of fear. “But I bow only to the true King of Claws.”

He inclines his slender neck towards Derek and a burst of emotion overpowers his irresolution.

“You sent Ennis to kill me,” he says, just to see how his uncle will defend against such allegations.

Peter laughs at the suggestion but Derek knows when his uncle is being false. The sound is forced, and Peter's heart is unsteady. This was not the confrontation he was expecting when he came here in search of his nephew. Derek stares into his uncle’s eyes and for the first time perceives the greed housed there.

And he realises that the princeling was right all along. The knowledge must show on his face for Peter's mouth slants into a sneer.

“The boy has poisoned you against me,” he decides, sliding grimly off his horse as his eyes flash cruelly.

But they are blue, no matter how his uncle has proceeded as if they were the red of an alpha. Deucalion and Kali shift faithfully at his side, prepared for an attack. “I am your alpha,” Derek growls. “You will give the kingdom of Claws to me and in turn I will spare your life despite your various misdeeds. Deny me, Uncle and I will take it.”

Peter laughs then, a brutal twist of humour and fate. “I suppose I knew someday, that you would come to realise Claws was no longer yours to rule.”

Derek straightens proudly.

“It is my birthright and I would see to it that it was restored to its former glory, not plundered for the sake of your wars and bitter ambitions.“

Peter’s fangs drop with a snarl. “The Argents murdered our family!”

“Princess Kate murdered our family,” he shouts back. “And she is dead. Your revenge is wasted on the innocent.”

Peter's eyes are wild and bloodshot as his claws begin to lengthen. He means to fight Derek when he is outmatched in battle knowledge and vitality. But there will be no victory here. His quest for blood has maddened him. Now Derek wonders how it had gone unobserved for so long.

Peter is not fit to rule, nor was he destined to.

“You always did possess too much heart, nephew,” Peter snaps, spittle flying from his mouth as he advances. “I had hoped the fire would burn it out of you well enough, but as always you disappoint me.”

He flicks his claws at his lieutenants. “Kill the princeling first,” he commands. “Make it slow so that my nephew can study the sheer imprudence of being seduced twice by our enemies.”

Derek’s heart seizes up as he glances over at the princeling, but all he does is laugh, long and audaciously, the delight of violence in his eyes. And once he is steadfast in the knowledge that the princeling is not in dire need of his help, Derek lunges for his uncle instead.

He pins him to the ground without effort, catches at his clawed hands and immobilises him, turning his uncle's head to watch the struggle.

There is the sickening crunch of breaking bone, the princeling’s laughter echoing in the air and a snarl that transforms into a whine of pain. Derek watches his uncle’s face, sees the fear in his eyes when he witnesses all that the boy king is capable of. His horror is magnificent.

“What monster is he?” Peter breathes, the acrid scent of his terror clogging Derek’s nostrils.

The princeling drops the corpse of Deucalion with a smile, stained with the blood of both wolves as he steps quietly towards them, an unassuming boy king in fine clothes.

“Shall I do the honours, husband?” he asks, lip curling with conquest as he peers down at Regent Peter in all his fruitless glory.

“Allow me,” he says, shifting his claws and burying them in his uncle’s soft throat.

He gurgles on his own blood, slowly, painfully, until his body grows still in death. Then Derek releases his hold and climbs to his feet, certain of the truth now.

Stiles had warned of a genuine threat against him. But why even now would he have done such a thing? After all that has transpired between them?

The princeling watches him.

“You ruined all of my carefully crafted plans,” Stiles mutters, glowering, still covered in the blood of their enemies.

For all his scheming, this admission is most unexpected.

“How so?”

“You were supposed to be like your uncle,” he sighs and reaches out for Derek’s face, stroking softly down his throat. “A tyrant. I never imagined it would be like this between us.”

He could not have imagined such things either. He has not felt as such in some time, nor has he allowed someone so close. Derek cannot answer.

“You do not fear me either,” he says, a quiet flush blooming on his cheeks as he steps closer, an act of intimacy. “I heard your uncle call me monster. I lost many suitors once they came to know of the nogitsune and its touch upon me.”

Derek peers down at him without horror or disgust.

“It nurtured your bloodlust,” he says. “The nogitsune helped shape the deadliness that was already within you. It made you strong.”

The princeling is speechless for a moment, and Derek determines that he has not been understood as thus before. But Derek has always comprehended the viciousness at the hearts of men, has learned how to wield it in battle.

Stiles is not the type of creature to be wielded, but gain his favour and his loyalty would outlast centuries. Derek knows that now.

“I think,” he says quietly. “That it is time we scoured this filth from our clothes.”

The princeling understands the meaning at once and brightens at the thought. “Come then, husband. Let us bathe.”


***


The baths sit well beneath the castle, supplied by natural streams and hot springs but all he can smell as they descend into them is the princeling’s readiness, his desire.

He stands silent by the pool’s edge and watches as the princeling undresses. Already his cock is hard and swollen, pressed to attention by the promise of more. When the princeling steps into the water, the layers of blood unspool from his hands and flesh like red string in the current, washed away in twirling ripples. Then he turns to greet his husband.

“Will you only watch this time?” he asks. “Or will you join me?”

“Stiles,” he growls, as the princeling’s gaze drops to his breeches and the hardness awaiting him there.

“You have teased me enough, I think,” Stiles continues. “Have I not proven myself a worthy mate?”

Derek yanks his shirt off with a curse, tearing at his breeches because he has not the patience to bother unlacing them. When his cock springs free the princeling opens his mouth involuntarily, his gaze hot and wanting. There are oils for such purpose, set out alongside the far wall but he has not the patience for that either. Once undressed, he reaches the edge of the pool and steps in.

The water is scorching but his need burns brighter. In two steps he has hold of the princeling and drags him against the stone bench carved into the rock for sitting. He drops down and hauls Stiles onto his cock, savouring how he gasps for it.

He nudges his cock between the swell of the princeling’s ass and lets his cheeks close around it, sliding his cock along the tight space.

“Derek,” the princeling complains but he is already in the midst of reaching around to grasp his reddened cock.

The princeling shudders in his sure hands and begins to rock back against him. The pattern of their moving hips is interrupted when the princeling reaches down to anchor himself on Derek’s thighs. His grip is strong, unyielding and Derek is startled by how greatly it hurts. The princeling will leave imprints of his fingers and a tender ache to Derek’s muscle and he thrusts harder at the thought.

The princeling’s breaths become laboured, as he increases the frequency of the stroke and when Stiles reaches out to grip the edge of the stone surrounding the pools, pieces of rock come away with his fingers.

Derek curses and turns the princeling's head towards him, kissing along his jaw until a warm tongue slides into his mouth and they are encased in heat. The princeling comes on a groan, cleaving more rock with his unnameable strength as his chest heaves and his mouth twists in pleasure.

Derek buries his face in the princeling’s throat as he need crests before he is spilling against Stiles’ lower back, his seed soaking the princeling’s ass with a heady claim. The princeling collapses against his chest with a satisfied sound, as his cock starts to soften. His seed washes away in the water and Derek allows a moment to regret that it did not find its way inside the princeling. But that is for another time. Soon perhaps with Stiles so amenable.

The princeling slides off his lap and into the water, content to clean himself fully now that his needs have been met. Derek watches him scour the rest of the blood from his flesh with a keen eye. At the sounds of footsteps Derek lifts himself out of the water, meeting the soldiers in the doorway to block the princeling from view, unashamed of his naked form and his soft cock.

“My King,” Boyd says, bowing low, a certainty that he has found the bodies discarded outside the castle.

“Bury Peter with the other traitors,” he instructs. “Send word to the soldiers of what has transpired. We will address the people of Beacon tomorrow.”

Erica’s nose wrinkles at the scent of their coupling, thick and rich in the warmth of the room.

Isaac possesses the beginnings of a frown. “We?”

“He means me,” Stiles says, appearing at Derek’s side just as naked and unashamed. He growls and goes to stand in front of him, even as Erica and Isaac’s gazes drop immediately to inspect the princeling’s cock.

“Leave us.”

The wolves obey and he catches the smirk curving at Stiles’ mouth. “Is it the custom of wolves to be so possessive?” he wonders.

Derek captures his mouth in a rough kiss, fingers trailing along the hard lines of the princeling’s body, locating where softness might have previously eluded his touch.

“It is my custom,” he mutters after he has withdrawn.

The princeling’s flush is pretty and more captivating than anything Derek has laid eyes upon.

“Then I think it best that you take me to bed, husband.”

He does not need further instruction then that.


***

 

The scent of oil and the princeling’s need floods his chambers, making Derek wild with the instinct to mate. To prove that the princeling is his alone.

“Should I find those other wolves then?” the princeling inquires with an innocence he knows not to trust when undue time has been taken with the preparation, teasing Stiles to draw the sensations out. “Perhaps they might fuck me faster.”

He pins the princeling to the bed with a snarl, drawing him open as his cock finds the place it was made to fill.

“I’m going to breed you,” Derek growls, pushing his cock in deep. “Watch your body swell with my seed.”

Stiles groans, throaty and overwhelmed and arches his hips to receive him better. From how the princeling’s body struggles to accommodate him, Derek can see that talks of his virtue were not exaggerated. But the battle to take his thick cock, it seems, only makes the princeling moan all the sweeter.

“That’s- that’s just talk, is it not?” he gasps. “You cannot actually-“

Derek renders him without speech after a particularly powerful thrust. He can feel the heat in his cock, the warning of more to come and lets out a pained sound at such a reaction.

“I can,” he promises, leaning in to slide his arm under the princeling’s chest, pulling him off the bed so that their bodies are sealed together. “Alpha will is beyond your human understandings.”

Stiles is openly panting now, but the rush of arousal stirring in Derek’s nose tells him the princeling very much likes the idea. Their pups would be smart and strong. Derek has never wanted such things before. Not even with the woman who betrayed him. Even then, his instincts had offered a warning.

But here and now, he can’t wait to see the princeling heavy with his offspring.

“Oh, do it,” Stiles whispers encouragingly, reaching back to grasp desperately at Derek’s hand. “I want you to.”

His body arches under his touch, straining desperately for his seed which will quicken inside him and bear Derek’s young.

Derek spills at the thought, groaning austerely as his cock starts to swell for the first time. It is the way of wolves, to secure offspring but he has never been able to perform such a feat. It seems like the princeling was intended to be his life mate. Stiles was always going to be his destiny.

“I told you that you would fuck me eventually,” Stiles pants, in a weak, whimpering kind of voice that reflects the state Derek has left him in.

His cock twitches at the sound, pumping more seed into the princeling’s shapely body as gratification peaks again.

 

***

 

The King of Beacon returns when the princeling’s belly has grown noticeable, and the confirmation of Derek’s claim can be seen by all.

He enters the castle with no trepidation, and the stiffness in his face only lasts until he sees that his son is flourishing and content. “Only you would seduce an invading Prince, befriend his armies, carry his heir and make the kingdom more powerful for it,” King Stilinski declares with a fond chuckle after they have embraced firmly.

The princeling smirks at such declarations. “Do not presume he made it a simple task, father. I wooed him quite tenderly.”

Derek laughs then, now skilled in uncovering the truth veiled among lies as his heart swells with satisfaction and his cheeks grow warm. “But not before he had eliminated your enemies first.”

The princeling leans into the touch when Derek steadies a hand about his waist, just to feel the life growing within whenever he can. He can hear its heart beat now and often spends the afternoons with Stiles in their chambers, head pillowed on the mound of the princeling’s stomach, listening to their heir.

“I was not certain of your character then, husband,” Stiles insists. “But we grew to know one another well enough.”

Well enough indeed. Derek can recall the frenzied way the princeling had ridden him that morning before idle thoughts of food and preparing for the King’s return drew them reluctantly from their chambers.

“And how fares the kingdom of Claws?” King Stilinski asks.

“Our kingdoms are one,” Derek explains. “But there is strain at the absent borders while our citizens adjust.”

Stiles reaches for him, fingers tightening on the knots of his shirt. “They will learn,” he vows. “As our soldiers did.”

“You have done well,” King Stilinski says. “I could not have left the kingdom in sounder hands. Your sister arrives tomorrow to bask in your success.”

“And Prince Scott?” Stiles wonders eagerly, interested to see Allison and his brother in-law.

King Stilinski nods as they move deeper into the castle.

“Shall we dine then?” Derek says, hoping to get the princeling off his feet before he complains of his aches again.

Stiles smirks but allows himself to be led towards the Banquet Hall where Boyd, Erica and Isaac await them. Now that the princeling carries his child, his wolves have not spared Stiles a single moment of peace, hoping to protect him at every turn from any and all sources of danger.

He has soon figured out how to evade them with ease but it is his husband whom he cannot quite elude. Ever since their first coupling, Derek has developed the unusual ability for locating his guileful husband wherever he may be and no matter what manner of mischief he might be conducting.

Stiles was not thrilled by the sudden unforeseen skill but Derek relishes it.

Together they are strong.

 

***

 

“I have heard talk,” the princeling murmurs at the feast in their Banquet Halls later that evening, his father seated at the left, with Princess Allison and Prince Scott beside him.

The Lady Lydia sits at Derek’s side and her sharp tongue is akin to the princeling’s own. It is no wonder that their kingdoms are allies.

He leans into Stiles and raises his brow. “Talk of what?”

“Of two female wolves, strong in bloodlust and name living in the Hills of LaBelle.”

He freezes at the princeling’s words. The Hills of LaBelle are just outside the borders of Claws. Two female wolves, strong in bloodlust and name, Stiles could not possibly mean-?

“Yes, husband,” he declares, with a smile that could burn cities and leave men trembling in its wake. “Your sisters.”

He observes the promise in the princeling’s eyes and feels his heart soften with hope, as his hand settles protectively over Stiles’ belly. He did not believe they had survived, but if the princeling is certain then it must be true.

The future sits clearly before them. They will succeed in joining their kingdoms and bring about an era of peace. His sister will be found and the Hale line finally restored.

Their child will be born, of Hale and Stilinski, a symbol of the union between their kingdoms. Stiles smiles again, reading the ambition in his eyes before beckoning him closer for a scorching kiss.

And Derek is helpless to deny him.