Derek Hale had never wanted to be royalty. In his opinion, royals should no longer exist. It was the 21st century, and to pretend that one royal family could rule over a vast area such as North America was ludicrous. It was the reason so many revolts happened on the regular in Europe, because one family who lived in Russia shouldn’t dictate what happened in Spain. And yet...
Derek thought it was ridiculous and stupid and all-around selfish for one family to rule everything, but that was how it had been since the beginning of history. Yes, there were wars, and conflicts, and bids for power, but overall the seven royal families of the world had remained somewhat unaffected. To date, only the royal family in some part of Asia Derek always forgot about had ever been overthrown and replaced, but that had happened in the fourteenth century so he didn’t care to remember it.
Of course, they still had dukes and barons and various other nobles and influential families ruling over smaller areas who reported back to them, but that wasn’t the same thing as the people being able to elect their own state representatives, something his sister Laura had heavily argued with their mother when she was being raised to take the throne.
None of the politics had ever mattered to Derek, mostly because he was the second born and thus never had to worry about taking over. That was the comforting thing about royalty: regardless of sex, the first born always got the throne. So with Laura around, he was always going to be safe.
He had to learn stuff, just in case, but he never had to truly worry about being in the big chair. Instead, he got to just travel around with his uncle and do meet and greets with the various nobles of the country. Not necessarily a fun job for him at the age of twenty-two, but at least he got to leave the castle, which was more than he could say for Laura.
And Cora, when he thought about it, but she was the problem child, rebellious and completely out of control, so it made sense to keep her close to home.
The only complaint he had with regard to all his travels was missing his family, missing his bed, and the innumerable marriage proposals he got from virtually every family he visited. The downside of it being public knowledge he didn’t discriminate against gender, so he had every available man and woman from a noble family looking to get involved with him.
He wasn’t interested. He didn’t want to be with anyone who only wanted his title and the wealth of the royal family that came with him. He often wondered if Laura would just end up settling for the least obnoxious suitor who found his way to the castle.
A sad thought, really. His parents had been lucky, given his father had literally been the son of his mother’s tutor, and they’d grown up together and fallen in love.
His grandparents had not been happy but had eventually allowed it when it became clear it was that or Talia would elope and leave the throne. As their back-up was her brother Peter, who was known for his cruelty and political manipulation at the time, losing Talia would be catastrophic for the Hale bloodline. So, they’d allowed it, his father had taken his mother’s name—a requirement when the party of royal blood was a woman—and now they were here. With three children, thank God for Derek, because he didn’t want the throne. That was probably the only thing that would ever save him if Peter decided to take the throne: he knew how badly Derek didn’t want it, so he would likely spare him if he wiped the family out.
Which he probably wouldn’t, he’d given up years ago. Talia still didn’t trust him very much though, which was why she didn’t like having him around the castle, and instead sent him out to do what he liked, which was lord his royal power over the people. He liked feeling important.
And that was how Derek found himself in the back of a limousine, sighing with relief at finally having left the fifth house in five days of a noble trying to set him up with their child, Peter sliding in beside him.
“Well that was fun,” Peter said with a grin once their door had closed, their procession beginning to move forward.
“For you,” Derek muttered. “The wife kept trying to play footsies.”
“Ah, to be young, attractive, rich and powerful. How troublesome for you.”
Derek just glared at him and slumped in his seat, staring out the window and feeling homesick. He liked to travel, but he missed being at home where he could bug Laura and hang out with Cora. He knew this was a necessary part of his royal duties, but he still missed home.
“Well, good news,” Peter said, tablet in hand and swiping his fingers across the screen, “looks like we’re done for the next week. We’ll head for the palace in Knoxton and take some time to relax. You can recharge your batteries and get your charm back up, it was lacking during this last visit.”
Derek gave him another look but said nothing. A break, finally. Thank God.
They were both silent while Peter continued to play around with the schedule, likely unhappy with some part of it that his aide had completed, and Derek pulled out his phone, texting Cora.
I got hit on again
Can you stop being a shit so we can trade off every now and then?
And have me stuck with our creepy uncle?
I think not
Don’t worry, my tears at your funeral when he finally murders you will be genuine
I know, why do you think I have my own YouTube channel?
Didn’t mom and dad make you delete that?
As if I only had one
You’re the reason we’re all gonna get murdered one day
When the car slowed, Derek looked up and Peter frowned. It came to a complete stop and one of the guards appeared at the front passenger side window, speaking to Peter’s aide. After a moment, he walked away and the partition that separated the front and back of the car lowered.
“Forgive me, your Highness. Your Grace. The guards just wanted to inform us that we will be crossing through Beacon Hills. We have heard reports recently of a known group of anti-royalists taking up residence in town, so we will have to proceed with caution. Local law enforcement has already agreed to provide support.”
“Yet have done nothing about the terrorists,” Peter commented coolly, eyes on his tablet and fingers moving across its surface. “What use are they to us if they can’t do their jobs?”
Derek ignored his uncle, thanked Marin Morrell, and went back to looking out the window while the partition rose again.
They moved forward once more, picking up speed, and Derek watched as they drove past a sign that read, “You are now entering the township of Beacon Hills.” He didn’t feel as though he remembered this place, he usually tried to keep track of all the places that didn’t like the royal family, mostly so he could try and change their minds and promise that reform was coming.
Which it was, with Laura almost at the helm. Their mother still argued it, but Laura was stubborn and Derek knew she’d eventually get her way. And both he and Cora supported her, so that wasn’t helping their mother.
But it was time to let go of the dark ages. Change was badly needed, and people should be allowed to be unhappy without getting arrested for it. Not that they did on a regular basis, but it had been known to happen.
His eyes focussed back on his surroundings once more when they were out of the long stretch of woods and driving slowly through a town. A few people were lining the streets, holding up children and pointing at the car as it passed. Derek didn’t bother waving or smiling, since the windows were mirrored and no one could see him.
Peter didn’t even look up from his tablet.
There were a few officers interspersed at equal intervals in front of the barriers that lined the sidewalks, keeping people back. One rather intimidating-looking man was surveying the crowds, and Derek felt he was likely in charge.
They’d almost made it through the densest part of the area when Derek jerked away from the window, a brick slamming hard into the glass. It didn’t shatter, and barely even had a crack form given it was bulletproof, but it was instinctive to react.
“Down!” Peter yelled, grabbing at Derek’s neck and forcing his head down.
It was a ridiculous thing for him to do given, again, bulletproof glass, but it was also kind of nice to know his uncle cared. He was an asshole most of the time, but Derek supposed six years on the road together meant he’d grown fond of him and didn’t want to see him injured.
Derek heard screaming and gunshots outside, and hoped no one was hurt. He definitely hoped the gunshots didn’t mean people were getting killed. It was a fucking brick, nothing to kill a child over.
The limo sped off, a few of the escorting cars and motorcycles breaking off from the group to stay with them. Peter kept Derek’s head down the entire time, his own head lowered but raising every now and then to look around urgently for threats. Derek tried to be appreciative instead of annoyed, since the entire thing felt ridiculously overboard for a brick being thrown at his window.
After ten minutes, Peter finally let him sit up again, but he was muttering fiercely under his breath, stabbing furiously at the button to lower the partition. Once it was on its way down, he barked, “Marin!”
The woman had already turned in her seat before the partition had even fully lowered.
“Call Knoxton. Tell them we’re on our way and were just involved in an attack in Beacon Hills. I want whoever’s in charge contacted and brought to the palace immediately. This is unacceptable.”
“Right away.” The partition rose once more and Derek tried not to roll his eyes. Peter was blowing this completely out of proportion. The brick had barely even made a mark on the window, no one had gotten hurt—well, he and Peter hadn’t, anyway—and hopefully this was just a stupid teenager throwing things at an important looking car.
“Peter, it’s fine,” Derek insisted.
“It’s not fine, and it’s attitude like that that’ll get you killed,” Peter informed him, turning to give him a look. “No wonder your mother sent me with you.”
Derek didn’t respond to that and just looked out the window again. It wasn’t a big deal, people were allowed to hate them.
As long as this didn’t get out of hand.
Sheriff Noah Stilinski was a large, imposing man, with a hard expression, stocky build and carrying voice. He was an honest man of the law, knew when to be harsh and when to be lenient. He was well respected, well liked by all, and kind to everyone who deserved it.
Peter Hale did not deserve his kindness, but he knew he would get it because of who he was. The sheriff would treat him with respect and likely apologize profusely for what had happened, but Peter wasn’t going to tolerate it.
He remembered Beacon Hills. It had been a long time since he’d been there, but he recalled—or rather, his tablet did—at least twelve visits in his lifetime, from his younger years to adulthood, and every time the royal family went through the town, something happened. No one had ever been held accountable, or punished, and that was likely why they were how they were. They didn’t care because there were no consequences.
Peter was going to give them consequences. Let this be a lesson to them all. And he might even use the sheriff for what he was planning, it depended on his opinion of him.
Glancing up at the knock on the office door, Peter straightened slightly and closed the cover of his tablet.
The door opened and his aide stepped into the room, inclining her head.
“Sheriff Stilinski of Beacon Hills is here to see you, your Grace.”
“Send him in.”
The woman inclined her head respectfully once more and ducked out. A few moments later, sheriff Stilinski entered the room. It was obvious he didn’t know how to act in front of royalty because his head was bowed and he did a weird knee-jerk action, like he was going to take a knee but had stopped himself at the last second. His hands were folded in front of himself, and when he spoke, it was to the ground.
“It is an honour to meet a member of the royal family. I first wanted to sincerely apologize for the actions that occurred while you were driving through our town, and let you know that the parties responsible have been found and dealt with. We take actions against The Crown very seriously.”
“Do you?” Peter asked, surprised. His eyebrows rose to emphasize his surprise, and the man finally looked up at him, worry etched into every line of his face. “Why don’t you have a seat, Noah. It’s okay I call you Noah, isn’t it?”
Peter smiled to himself, knowing based on the tightness of his mouth that it wasn’t really okay, but he wasn’t going to argue with a member of the royal family. Peter was purposefully making him feel like less than he was. A normal man as opposed to a powerful member of law enforcement. Peter enjoyed having the ability to diminish someone’s worth without them being able to say anything about it.
Once the sheriff was seated, Peter flipped open his cover once more and went to the file he’d had open labelled “Beacon Hills.”
“Did you know I’ve been here before?” Peter asked, swiping across his tablet, then looking up and gesturing towards the sheriff. “Beacon Hills, I mean.”
“I recall seeing you come through with your sister when I was younger,” the sheriff confirmed warily.
“Did you know the royal family has come through your town twelve times in my lifetime. Funny thing, something has happened all twelve times. Now normally, that would’ve been reported immediately and action would’ve been taken against your leaders, but because your town is so small, it kind of just fell by the wayside.” Peter fluttered the fingers of one hand, denoting something fluttering away. “But small or not, the actions of your town are unacceptable.”
The sheriff shifted uncomfortably in his seat, licking his lips and evidently choosing his next words carefully.
“Perhaps I should call a meeting with the mayor to discuss such things.”
“Isn’t security your job as sheriff?” Peter asked curiously.
The sheriff’s expression hardened at those words, and Peter could tell his jaw was clenching before he responded. “Yes, security falls under the sheriff department’s jurisdiction, however funding has been cut and we have far less officers than—”
“That isn’t my problem, now, is it?” Peter asked, folding his hands together and gazing steadily at the sheriff. “Actions have consequences, and your town has gotten away with a lot over the years. I think it’s time the people of Beacon Hills learned that they’ve treated the royal family poorly for the last time.”
He could tell these words concerned the sheriff greatly, but he said nothing. Peter said nothing for a long while, either, wanting to build up the suspense. He expected the sheriff to crack first, but the man was good and he just waited patiently. Peter finally grew bored of the game and leaned back in his chair.
“This trip with my nephew has been enjoyable, but he needs someone to handle his day to day things. We have servants, of course, but they are only permitted near him when we are stopped somewhere, not all the time on the road. I think it would teach your town a lesson if we were to take someone well-liked and respected to act as his aide. Someone like you, for example.”
The shift in his features made it very clear this alarmed the sheriff, which wasn’t the reaction he’d been expecting. Something about his life made him worried to be taken away, and that interested Peter a great deal.
“This is our decision,” he said. “We will be taking someone from your town into our employ, and for the town’s sake, you better hope they perform adequately, and heaven forbid they should harm myself or my nephew.”
The sheriff licked his lips, eyes shifting rapidly from side to side in thought. “Wouldn’t that be dangerous? What if you were to accidentally choose one of the radicals?”
“For your town’s sake, you better hope we don’t.” Peter smiled pleasantly at him. “We’ll come by tomorrow to pick up our new employee. I would suggest informing the population to be ready for it, though I’m leaning more towards you overall. So maybe say goodbye to those close to you, we won’t be lingering for any heartfelt farewells.”
The sheriff looked crossed between furious and devastated, but he just nodded, thanked him for his time, and left the room. Peter frowned in thought, thinking on his reaction. Evidently he had a reason to be horrified at being pulled away from home.
Calling Marin back into his office, he asked for all records of the Beacon Hills population to be sent to his tablet, and then waited.
He busied himself with other tasks, reviewing their agenda for the coming month, moving meetings around, sending suggestions to his aide and generally ensuring everything was on track and in order when his tablet dinged to notify him of a completed download. It also warned him the available space was dangerously low, but he didn’t care because he would be deleting everything about Beacon Hills’ populace once he was done with it.
He went into the folder and immediately sorted it for parties with criminal records. Those he deleted immediately. He also deleted any people fourteen and under, as well as those sixty and over.
It still left him with an impressive list of people and he went through it quickly to the sheriff, wanting to know why he’d reacted the way he had. When he opened his file, he frowned slightly reading over everything about him.
Most of it he already knew from Marin, but the more he read, the more concerned he became. He wanted to take the sheriff to teach the town a lesson, but he was quickly learning that taking this man would be a mistake. People would revolt, they would fight. They wouldn’t lose someone like Noah Stilinski without a fight, he meant too much to the town. Successive wins as sheriff, running unopposed. Numerous medals and awards, honoured multiple times by the city. He was someone they would not be willing to lose and Peter wanted to teach them a lesson, not start a war.
He needed someone who was well liked, but whose absence would cause those in power to keep the town in line. Someone important to a higher up, maybe, which reminded him of the expression on the sheriff’s face during their discussion.
He scrolled to the family information, noting the man was widowed—Claudia Stilinski had died of cancer nine years ago. But then, his eyes fell on something that met his requirement perfectly. He couldn’t take the sheriff, but there was someone he could take that would ensure the sheriff’s compliance. That would ensure the sheriff did everything he could in his town to stop the anti-royalists and fix the broken system that allowed for such nonsense.
“Dependents,” Peter said with a malicious grin, “one.”
“They can’t do that,” a low, broken voice insisted. The sheriff avoided his eye, playing with the potatoes on his plate. “Dad, they can’t! That’s illegal! It’s slavery! It’s—”
“It’s the royal family,” the man said quietly, still not looking at him. “They can do as they please. He is the Prince, and Peter is his uncle.”
“This is bullshit!”
“Stiles.” He turned to the woman seated beside him, who grabbed his hand tightly and squeezed it. Her smile was sad, her eyes shining as though she would cry at any moment, but her grip was strong. “Whatever happens, you know you have a place here.”
Stiles Stilinski felt like his world was falling apart. He stared at Melissa McCall, his best friend’s mother, and thought he might be sick.
When the announcement had been made a few hours ago, about the royal family having been insulted because Jackson fucking Whittemore had thrown a brick at their car, no one had expected the bomb his father had dropped. They would be coming to collect a new employee—slave, more like, since employees were fucking paid—and whoever was chosen would not have a choice in the matter.
It had seemed surreal, hearing that on TV, but Stiles hadn’t given it much thought. He figured whoever they took, hopefully it would be someone who’d wronged them, like fucking Jackson.
But then his father had come home, hugged him, and driven him to Scott’s house. They’d waited for Melissa to come off shift at the hospital, and while seated together at the dinner table, he’d dropped the biggest bomb of Stiles’ life.
Peter Hale wanted his father to be the Prince’s new aide. It wasn’t set in stone, but it was heavily implied, and Stiles couldn’t handle that. He couldn’t.
“Don’t they know you’re a single dad?” Stiles demanded.
“They would argue that you’re eighteen and capable of looking after yourself,” his dad whispered.
“Dad, we can’t just let this happen! They can’t just take you!” Stiles had already lost one parent. Now the royal family was going to take the other.
Stiles didn’t used to have an opinion on them, but as of now, he hated them. If they took his dad, they would rue the day they ever drove through Beacon Hills!
“Stiles, listen to me.” His father looked up at him for the first time since they’d sat down to dinner, reaching out one hand and gripping Stiles’ free one, since Melissa still held the other. “Whatever happens tomorrow, I need you to be strong for me. I know you’re angry, and I know it’s unfair, but when they come for me, please, don’t make things worse. This is the consequence to what happened. If people get out of hand tomorrow, Peter might decide to wipe Beacon Hills off the map.”
“People won’t take your departure sitting down, Noah,” Melissa said quietly. “People are scared and angry. When they come for you, a lot of people are going to fight back.”
“I know, and I’m going to need all the help I can get keeping them under control.” He tightened his grip on Stiles’ hand. “It’s gonna be okay, son. We’ll figure this out.”
Stiles shook his head, glaring down into his plate. This wasn’t right. It wasn’t fair! Jackson threw a brick, and Stiles lost his dad?! What about Jackson’s dad?! Why couldn’t they take him?! Why Stiles’ dad?!
He glanced up, still livid, and his heart broke at the expression on his dad’s face. He felt tears in his eyes and hastily turned his head to wipe his face along his sleeves, both hands still clenched tightly in his dad and Melissa’s. He felt like Scott would’ve grabbed one, too, if he had the chance but since he didn’t, he just gripped his shoulder tightly.
“It’ll be okay,” his dad promised.
“I can’t lose you, too,” he insisted, feeling a tear slide down his cheek. “Dad, it’s not fair.”
“I know it’s not, kiddo.” His gaze shifted to the woman seated beside him. “Melissa, I know it’s a lot to ask, but—”
“Stiles can stay as long as he needs,” she cut in. “He practically lives here already.”
The rest of dinner was conducted in silence, save for Stiles’ occasional sniffs and the clatter of cutlery. He didn’t finish his meal, brain going a mile a minute at the realization that he might never see his dad again after tonight. The thought terrified him, and he wanted to run with him. Just get in the cruiser and drive until they were far, far away from here. Change their names, change their appearances, and just be other people.
When they left to go home, his dad hugged both Scott and Melissa tightly, thanking them again for everything, and he and Stiles headed for the car. They drove home in silence, Stiles staring out the window and trying to keep his panic at bay. He brushed an angry hand across his face when he felt moisture spill over his lashes, but his father didn’t say anything.
They entered the house a few minutes later, Stiles locking the door while the sheriff headed further into the house. He stopped in the living room, standing in front of the shelves there, and stared at the family photos. There weren’t many, since they’d stopped taking them after his mom had died, but there were still three or four from recent years, including one of Stiles and his dad together at last year’s Lacrosse finals. His dad had painted his face with the school colours and he looked ridiculous. Stiles himself still had his buzzcut and looked twelve instead of seventeen. He was glad he’d grown it out.
When his dad turned to look at him, hovering in the doorway, Stiles quickly closed the distance and wrapped his arms tightly around his father, holding him desperately. His dad held him back just as tightly.
He was crying again, face buried in his father’s shoulder, holding onto him like doing so would save him from all this. It wasn’t fair that the Hales wanted to punish his family because others didn’t like them. Didn’t they understand that Stiles and his dad didn’t have an opinion of them until now? And that opinion was dark, and evil. Stiles had never hated anyone more than he hated the Hales in that moment.
“I know, son,” his dad whispered, holding him more tightly. “I know. It’s gonna be okay. We’ll get through this. I need you to be strong. Whatever happens tomorrow, we’re gonna be okay.” He kissed at Stiles’s head, lips pressed against his hairline near his left temple. “I love you, Stiles. Don’t ever forget that.”
“I love you too, dad.”
They stayed in front of the shelves, hugging tightly for a long while. When it was finally time to turn in, Stiles didn’t want to lose even a second with him. They ended up staying in the living room, his dad in the recliner and Stiles on the couch.
Stiles didn’t get much sleep that night, eyes locked on the father he was a few hours away from losing.
When he saw Jackson at school, he was going to break his face with a Lacrosse stick.
He wasn’t letting them take his dad. He would rather die than let them take his dad.
Royals or not, his dad wasn’t going anywhere.
Morning was extremely difficult, because Stiles was meant to go to school like nothing was wrong. He was actually expected to leave the house, leave his dad, go to school, act like nothing was wrong. But everything was wrong. He couldn’t just go and act normal right now.
He stood at the door with his bag over one shoulder, staring at his dad, who was grabbing his keys and making sure he had everything.
“You’re not even gonna see me graduate,” Stiles whispered, his dad turning to look at him. “What if I beat out Lydia and end up Valedictorian? You’re never gonna know.”
“Stiles.” His dad grabbed his shoulder and pulled him into a hug. “It’s gonna be okay. We’re gonna get through this.”
He clung to his dad, burying his face in his jacket. He didn’t want to let go, ever. He wanted to hold onto him, force the people coming to take him along with his dad. He knew that would only cause more problems, but he couldn’t help it. He wanted to stay with him. They couldn’t take him away from Stiles.
They stayed holding one another for a long while, and when the sheriff finally pulled away, Stiles saw him wipe at his face, the older man sniffing. It killed Stiles to think that this might be the last time he ever saw him.
“Go to school, Stiles.” He patted his shoulder before opening the front door. “I love you, kiddo.”
“Love you, too,” he said quietly.
He stood on the porch, watching his dad walk away. The man climbed into his cruiser, started it, and then sat there staring up at the house, at Stiles. After what felt like forever and yet not enough time, he waved and backed out. Stiles watched him go until he disappeared down the street.
Wiping at his face, and really hoping he didn’t see Jackson today—he was liable to get arrested for murdering him—Stiles climbed into the Jeep and slammed the door.
Going to school took an almost herculean effort, but he somehow managed to park his Jeep in the lot and head inside. Everyone looked scared and upset, though Stiles just glared at them all bitterly. They had nothing to worry about, because the only family being broken here was his.
“Hey.” Scott appeared beside him, placing a hand on his shoulder and squeezing. “I didn’t think you’d be here today.”
“Dad made me come,” he muttered, reaching his locker and switching out his books. “He went to work.”
Scott said nothing, but he didn’t remove his hand. They both just went through their usual morning routine, getting their books, walking to class, and taking their seats.
Jackson wasn’t in class, and Stiles hoped he was rotting in jail. He deserved it for what he’d reaped on their small town. Stiles was willing to bet he’d had to be protected from others because even inmates had families. This was the absolute worst.
Their usual homeroom teacher called roll, and it was amazing how normal everyone was trying to be. It was obvious everyone was nervous, but nobody acted like today was any different from any other day. They all taught classes like normal and everyone took notes as normal.
Around mid-day, Stiles heard people whispering that some of the royal guard had made it into town, but so far no word on who they were after. His stomach was in knots at the mention of it, but he tried not to have a panic attack in the middle of the corridor.
Jackson had shown up at school around that time, and his usual arrogance appeared to have taken a vacation because it looked like he was trying to disappear into the scenery.
After lunch, everyone was tense, because there was still no word on who had been taken, which suggested that nobody had. Stiles felt sick while working on his English quiz and when he’d just about given up even trying, there was a sharp knock at the door.
All heads rose as one, eyes locked on it when it opened, the principal walking in. He looked pale, and like he would rather be anywhere but there. A moment later, one of the royal guards walked in, followed by another four. The one at the front wore a slightly different outfit, which meant he was likely in charge.
The lead guard surveyed the classroom slowly, and nobody breathed. After a moment, he finally spoke.
All eyes instantly turned to Stiles and he felt his stomach drop. They’d taken his dad. They’d actually taken his dad and were here to tell him so.
“Yeah?” he asked in a small voice, feeling ready to be sick.
The second he spoke, two of the four regular guards moved through the rows, the lead guard speaking.
“By order of his Grace Peter Hale, you have been selected to begin your employ under the royal house of Hale.”
The guard who’d stopped on his right grabbed his arm and wrenched him out of his seat. He was still trying to get his brain to figure out what the fuck was going on when he realized he was being led out of the room.
He instantly slammed on the brakes, the other guard grabbing his free arm and both of them pulling him roughly forward. He didn’t care, he’d go without complaint, but not before he said something.
Turning his head, his eyes found Scott, who looked pale and horrified.
“Scott,” he called, feet sliding along the floor from his attempt to stay put while the guards tugged him forward. “Scott, tell my dad not to do anything stupid! Tell him not to be stupid! It’ll be okay!”
One of the guards stopped and grabbed him under the armpit. He waited for the other to do the same and they forcibly lifted Stiles clear off the ground.
“Tell him I love him! It’ll be okay, Scott!”
He went through the classroom doorway, heart pounding in his ears and brain going a mile a minute. He stopped struggling, having gotten what he needed out, and the guards seemed to recognize that because they put him back down. The lead guard was in front of him, walking purposefully down the corridor. The other two guards were taking up the rear behind him.
Classroom doors had opened at the shouting and people were looking out. He saw Lydia out of the corner of his eye, and she actually looked horrified. He figured she was going to miss having someone almost as smart as her to compete with. A few guys from the Lacrosse team looked like they were going to be sick, and most of the teachers had their hands over their mouths or grim expressions.
He turned his head, but kept walking when the guard on his right shoved his shoulder, hard.
Scott was running after them, breathing hard and holding his inhaler in one hand. He tried to reach them, but the two guards at the back stopped and pushed him back.
“You can’t! You can’t take him!”
“Desist,” the lead guard snapped. “Anyone attempting to stop us will be arrested and tried for treason against The Crown.”
“You can’t take him!” Scott repeated, breathing ragged. Danny had appeared behind him and was trying to pull him back.
“Scott, it’s okay,” Stiles insisted, still being shoved forward, a huge space between him and the other two guards stopping Scott.
His friend continued to try and push past them, and it looked like Danny was starting to size them up, too. When he glanced at Lydia, he saw her shifting her weight forward, and even Jackson—rat bastard—looked like he was ready for a fight.
Scott was starting something that they couldn’t finish. This was happening because Beacon Hills rebelled against The Crown, however small that rebellion was. This wasn’t helping, it was only making it worse.
“Stop it!” he shouted, and everyone froze, including the lead guard, who turned to cock an eyebrow at him. “Scott, it’s fine,” he insisted. “Just take care of my dad.”
He turned his back on him, fists clenched and teeth gritted.
“Let’s go,” he said to the guards. The lead one gave him a calculating look, then turned and headed for the exit.
This time, nobody tried to stop them, and Stiles left Beacon Hills high school for the last time.
Every time someone knocked on his door, the sheriff’s heart leapt into his throat and he thought, “This is it.”
Every time, he was wrong. No one came for him from the royal guard, but he knew it was still early. Barely one, which meant they had tons of time to show up for him.
He felt guilty every time he thought about wishing this fate on someone else. He wouldn’t want this for anyone, but he was all Stiles had.
And Stiles was all he had. He couldn’t get taken, he needed to be there for Stiles. He’d lost his mother, the royals couldn’t honestly be so cruel as to take away his father, too, could they?
He didn’t know. He hoped not, but he honestly didn’t know. He just wished they would get the choosing over with so he could figure out whether or not to get back to work.
Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out two folded photographs, unfolding them slowly and staring down at them. One was an old family photo, back when Claudia had still been alive, and Stiles had been grinning toothily at the camera.
The second was more recent, a picture of him and Stiles at the Beacon Hills annual chilli cookoff. Stiles’ smile was still bright, but it didn’t reach his eyes anymore. Noah knew it didn’t reach his own eyes anymore, either. Claudia’s death had killed a piece of both of them.
He felt bad when he thought about how he’d taken the pictures out of their frames from the living room, but he didn’t have time to search for copies, or the negatives to make copies. If they came for him, he wanted to at least have this. He wanted to remember what his son looked like when he was happy.
Putting the folded photos back into his pocket, he picked up his pen to attempt to get some work done when his phone rang, making him jump. He rubbed at his face with both hands, pen having clattered back onto the desk and rolling across the surface, then reached for the phone.
“Sheriff’s Department, this is Stilinski.”
“Sheriff Stilinski? This is Marin Morrell, his Grace Peter Hale’s aide. I am calling to inform you that the individual who is to be his Highness’ aide has been chosen.”
The sheriff knew he shouldn’t feel as relieved as he did, but he thanked the Heavens for having spared him, leaning his head back and closing his eyes in silent thanks. It was a terrible thing, to be glad someone else had been chosen, but all he could think about was the destroyed look on Stiles’ face the night before. He was so glad he wasn’t losing his son.
“Thank you for informing me,” he managed to get out through his relief. “Would you mind giving me the name of who was chosen? I’d like to notify the family.” He pulled a notepad closer to himself and grabbed the fallen pen.
“I believe there has been a misunderstanding, sheriff. You see, I am informing the family.”
His hand paused in what he was doing, the words slow to sink in, and he frowned, straightening in his seat.
“I don’t follow.”
“Sheriff, the individual his Grace Peter Hale has decided on is Mieczyslaw Stilinski. If I am not mistaken, my records list that he is your son.”
For a moment, the world stopped, and Noah was positive everything was about to be destroyed before his very eyes. The calm before the storm. But then time started again and everything was exactly the same, the woman on the other end of the line reassuring him that his son would be well cared for, his education would be completed because, despite being a servant for the foreseeable future, the Hales believed in a good education. The sheriff didn’t hear any of it, not really. He hung up the phone, stood from his desk, and went quickly to his door. He wrenched it open, heading for the exit, and saw Parrish look up at him from his desk, phone at his ear. He instantly dropped it and stood, rushing to him.
“Sheriff, you need to stay calm—” When he tried to get in his way, Noah shoved him aside roughly and hurried for the building’s exit.
“Sheriff! Haigh, they took Stiles!”
He had never hated his deputies so much in his life, because the instant Parrish said this, the deputy closest to the door threw his coffee aside and grabbed at Noah before he could exit the building. More hands appeared, pulling at his shirt, wrapping around his torso, wrenching him back.
He didn’t remember deciding to struggle, but suddenly his fist was bloody and the people around him were shouting and trying to restrain him.
Nothing was penetrating the mantra going through his head. It kept repeating, over and over. They took Stiles. They took Stiles. They took Stiles.
Someone slapped him, and when his eyes focussed, he found Melissa standing in front of him. Her hair was a mess, and it looked like she was in her pyjamas. Her eyes were red and tear tracks were visible on her cheeks.
Scott. Scott had likely been there when it had happened. He’d called his mother, who had called Parrish on her way there to make sure he didn’t leave.
“They took my son,” he said hoarsely, feeling multiple hands still on his person, holding him back from the door. “Melissa, they took my son!”
“And what do you think storming out there and starting a fight is going to do for him?” she demanded, fresh tears in her eyes. “If you do anything, anything right now, they are going to hurt him. They might even kill him.”
The sheriff flinched violently at the words. No. No! They would not kill his son! He would murder all of them if they even touched him!
“Do you know the last thing Stiles said?” Melissa whispered. “He told Scott to tell you not to do anything stupid. He said that everything was going to be fine, and that he loved you.” She touched his face. “Noah, he needs you to be as strong for him as he was going to be for you.”
He couldn’t handle this. He couldn’t handle having lost his son. He knew if he’d been taken, he would never see Stiles again, but Stiles would’ve been free. Stiles would’ve had the ability to grow up, go to college, have a family. He would’ve been able to do what he wanted with his life, and while it would’ve hurt being away from him and missing the amazing things his son would accomplish, at least he’d have known he would be happy and free.
But now? Now the sheriff was here, free, and Stiles was gone. Stiles was going to serve the Hales for the rest of his life. All that potential, all that fire, everything. Stolen. He would live alone and unloved in a small room, serving the royal family until the day he died because Jackson Whittemore had thrown a brick at a limousine.
It was too much. It was losing Claudia all over again, only worse.
The sheriff fell to his knees, and sobbed into his hands like the broken man he now was.
Stiles was gone.
He felt like the only reason he wasn’t completely freaking out was because he was too busy focussing on his breathing to think about what was happening.
After exiting the school, Stiles had been shoved into the back of an extremely nice Mercedes, one guard on either side of him and a driver in the front. The other guards had gone in another car, and the two had pulled out of the lot to begin the drive to the palace just outside Knoxton.
He kept waiting to hear sirens, knowing his dad wouldn’t take this sitting down, and that terrified him. He didn’t want anything to happen to his dad because of him, so he kept praying for nothing to happen, and so far, his luck was holding out.
He had no idea how to feel right then. A part of him was relieved his father was safe, but another part of him was devastated because he’d lost him anyway. He’d lost his dad.
And he didn’t even have anything on him right now. No pictures, no mementos, nothing. He only had his wallet—which held his driver’s license and a few bank cards—his keys, and his phone—which would likely be taken away the second they realized he still had it on him. His Jeep was still sitting in the school lot. He hoped his dad would know to give it to Scott, not like Stiles needed it anymore. Scott could use a vehicle, and his dad wouldn’t need it. Besides, leaving it in the garage would likely just be a painful reminder, it was best for him to get rid of it.
His chest felt tight when he thought about his dad. He was going to leave the station to return to an empty house. He would have to box up all of Stiles’ things, same as he had his mother’s. He’d probably start drinking again. He wouldn’t watch what he ate. Stiles worried.
He worried a lot. Most of the drive was him just worrying about his dad.
What if Scott didn’t keep his promise? He knew his mom would be on top of it, Melissa had always cared about them, and Stiles was positive she would keep him in line diet-wise.
Parrish would help, too. And Tara. People would make sure he followed his diet, they’d hopefully keep him company, make sure he was doing okay.
And Scott... fuck, he’d been so worried about his dad he hadn’t even said anything to Scott except tell him off for causing a scene. Stiles hadn’t been resisting, not really, he’d just been trying to buy time to get everything out. Once they were in the corridor, he’d behaved, but Scott had almost ruined everything.
He got it, of course he did. If their roles were reversed, Stiles would’ve started punching people to get to Scott, but this wasn’t helping anyone. All it would earn Scott was a night in jail, and possibly a hefty fine he and his mother couldn’t afford to pay. It was better that he just keep quiet.
But now Stiles worried about him. Scott didn’t have many friends, and most of his free time consisted of playing video games with Stiles. But now that was over.
Stiles didn’t even know what this job entailed, what he was expected to do. Was he just going to live in the Knoxton palace and have to deal with the Hale family whenever they dropped by? If so, it wasn’t far from Beacon Hills, surely he could visit home.
Or maybe he was going to have to, he didn’t even know, clean the toilets? Run the bath? What did servants even do for the royal family? Get their dry cleaning? Make their food?
Well, they definitely shouldn’t ask Stiles for that last one, unless they wanted him to kill them all. And not even on purpose! Stiles was just a terrible cook.
He kept his mind off Scott and his dad by focussing on what he might be asked to do, and that kept him occupied for a majority of the remainder of the trip. When they reached a long winding drive that led upwards, he leaned over one of the guards slightly to look out the window. The palace wasn’t anywhere near as large as he knew the castle the Hales lived in was, but it was still huge. They could probably fit eight of his high school in the damn thing, and that wasn’t including the courtyard he was sure it had.
When they reached the top of the hill, they stopped the car at a gate, and new guards appeared at the driver’s side door, guns on their belts and looking more like military than anything else. It was kind of daunting, and made Stiles really feel like trying to make a break for it would be the last thing he ever did.
The driver and one of the military dudes had a brief conversation, then the man looked back at Stiles, sandwiched between two guards, and he leaned back, motioning behind him. The large gates in front of them began to creak open, and the cars drove through them. They passed through a large, intricate garden, Stiles annoyed that he was so impressed with the animal-shaped bushes.
What was this, Edward Scissorhands?
When they reached a small roundabout by the door and stopped at the bottom of a flight of stairs leading to the entrance, the door on his left was opened and the guard stepped out. He wasn’t even fully out of the car when the other guard shoved at Stiles to follow.
“Yeah, I’m going, I got it, Jesus,” he snapped, shifting over and climbing out. The first guard who’d exited stood close to him while he looked around, as if ready to grab him if he tried to make a break for it.
He didn’t. He knew he wouldn’t get far. Also guns. Men with guns. He liked breathing through two functioning lungs.
Apparently he’d lingered too long, because the guard shoved his shoulder and he turned to glare at him, annoyed. He wasn’t being problematic or anything, he was just looking around, could they maybe cut him some fucking slack?
He obediently walked around the front of the car towards the front steps, climbing them with the lead guard in front of him. He noticed the other four remained by the cars, but didn’t say anything about it.
“Here he is.”
Stiles faced forward again when the lead guard spoke, and saw him standing beside a beautiful dark-skinned woman, one hand on the butt of the gun he had on his hip. They both watched Stiles while he climbed the last two steps, shoving his hands defensively in his pockets while the woman surveyed him.
“Thank you, Deucalion. I’ll take him from here.”
The lead guard—Deucalion, apparently—inclined his head and headed back down the steps. The woman watched Stiles, saying nothing, and they stood staring at one another until car doors slammed and Stiles heard them drive away behind him.
“You must be Mieczyslaw.”
“Stiles,” he corrected. He didn’t want these people calling him by his real name. Even his dad didn’t call him by his real name, so he definitely didn’t want them to.
“Stiles,” she amended with a small quirk of her lips, as if she found him funny. “I am Marin Morrell. You may call me Marin. His Grace Peter Hale would like to see you before setting you to work. This way, if you please.”
She turned on her heel and headed into the palace. Stiles stumbled after her, pulling his hands from his pockets and looking around. The place was bustling with activity, people cleaning and airing the place out and bringing food from one room to another. It was all kinds of disorienting, and every time he walked past someone, they stopped to stare at him as if he were the most interesting thing on the planet.
You’d think they’d never seen a small town kid before, he thought to himself after the twelfth once over from an older man holding what looked like a tray of metal teacups.
“Keep up, please.”
Stiles turned and had to jog to catch up to Marin, but he didn’t stop looking around. They were moving into an area with less people, mostly just guards and the occasional maid dusting. He figured the people had to keep busy somehow.
“So,” Stiles said, keeping up now that there was less to look at. The corridors all looked the same, which would be killer on his sense of direction. “I’ve never been in the presence of royalty, and to avoid getting beheaded, am I supposed to like, bow or avert my gaze or what?”
Marin turned to look at him, surprise on her face, and he scowled, feeling defensive again.
“They don’t teach you royalty etiquette in high school, okay? I’m doing the best I can.”
She gave him an amused smile, then faced forward, continuing on her way. “Incline your head unless he tells you otherwise. When you are in the presence of his Highness Derek Hale, you are to take a knee and bow your head. In both cases, do not speak unless you are spoken to, and always do as you’re told. As long as you don’t disobey, you have nothing to worry about.”
They stopped outside a set of large oak doors, Marin turning to face him.
“Your room will be located in the general vicinity of his Highness’ room, but not so close that you can get away with attempting to harm him. Your clothes have already been purchased, and you will begin your lessons in the morning to ensure your education does not fall behind.”
“Education?” Stiles asked with a frown.
“You are still in high school, are you not?”
“Yeah,” he said uncertainly. “So you’re getting me a tutor?”
“The Hales are firm believers of everyone being entitled an education. Regardless of your employ, you will be expected to maintain your studies in your free time. Whenever his Highness leaves the palace, you are to accompany him. Anything he asks of you, you shall provide. Any questions?”
Can I go home? burned on his tongue, but he bit it back so hard he tasted blood in his mouth.
“We shall continue our discussion once his Grace has finished speaking with you.” She knocked twice on the door, and when someone called for them to enter, she pushed it open. Before Stiles could follow, she turned back to him and motioned for him to wait right where he was. He rocked back on his feet, hands still in his pockets, and listened to her speak.
“Mieczyslaw Stilinski has arrived, your Grace.”
“Excellent. Send him in. You’re dismissed.”
She said nothing in response, but when she exited the room, she gave him a sharp look.
“Be polite. Be respectful. Do not anger him. This is your only warning.”
Stiles really didn’t like the sound of that but he just pulled his hands from his pockets, tilted his chin upwards, and strode into the room.
It wasn’t at all like he’d expected. He was picturing a kind of Beauty and the Beast feel, with walls of books and an endless amount of tables. Instead, he just walked into a room that was bigger than his whole freakin’ house, and all it had was a couch with a coffee table in front of it, a desk, a chair, and a cabinet with a coffee maker and what looked like Scotch on top.
The door was a good fifteen feet away from the desk, and Stiles had no idea why anyone needed an office this flippin’ big.
Stiles’ eyes focussed on the man seated on the other side of the desk. He’d seen pictures of Peter Hale before, and he’d always found him to be somewhat unsettling. Being in his presence now didn’t lessen that feeling and he had to force himself to remember what Marin had said, lowering his gaze and feeling like a fucking loser for doing so. It was such a submissive action, and it chafed.
“Or Stiles, isn’t it?”
His gaze shot back up to Peter’s at that, wondering how he’d known that when his own aide didn’t. The smile he got in return was cold and malicious, and Peter made a motion with his hand.
“Shut the door, Stiles, and have a seat.”
Stiles hesitated, but did as he was told, shutting the door and stepping forward until he’d reached the desk. He chose a seat at random, falling down into it and slouching slightly, trying to make himself smaller. Maybe if he curled up into a ball, Peter would forget he was there.
“Interesting name, Mieczyslaw. And quite the mouthful, don’t you think? Your parents must not have liked you very much to name you as such.”
Stiles knew he had to watch his mouth, he knew it was in everyone’s best interest—his, his dad’s, the town’s—to keep his mouth shut. But he didn’t tolerate bullies, and he never had, so even while he reminded himself to ignore it and just keep his mouth shut, words were already spilling over his lips uninvited.
“Yeah well, at least my parents loved me enough not to kick me to the curb like yours did.”
He wished he had a brain-mouth filter. If only he had a brain-mouth filter, maybe he would be able to stop things like that from escaping him, and he wouldn’t have to worry about getting his head chopped off or his fingers broken or his town burned to the ground.
Wincing slightly, and expecting a horrible reaction, he cast a nervous glance at Peter, but the man was just watching him in amusement, hands folded together on the desk and a small smile curling the corners of his lips.
“Well, aren’t we bold?” He lay his hands flat on the desk and Stiles did his best not to flinch. He’d gotten way too used to mouthing off at virtually everyone, but that wasn’t going to fly here and he had to remember that. “I imagine you’re wondering why you’re here.”
“Because Jackson threw a brick at your car and instead of punishing him, you’re punishing me?” Stiles asked, attempting to keep his tone polite.
“Punishment does reap the best results. Actions have consequences.”
“Do you think Jackson learned anything?” Stiles asked dryly, desperately trying to reign himself in.
“No, he likely didn’t, but that wasn’t the ultimate goal.”
Stiles stared at him for a moment, then it clicked and he felt anger race through him. “You took me because it’ll make my dad stricter. Someone attacked your car, and his son got taken away, so he isn’t ever going to let something like that happen again.”
“Oh, you are smart.” Peter leaned forward, giving him an interested once over that had his skin crawling. “I like it when people are smart. Tell me, do you like chess?”
“You’re going to learn to like it.” Peter smiled viciously. “I rather enjoy a game of chess, but it’s difficult to find a challenge. It’s a shame I chose you for my nephew, I’d much rather keep you to myself. Then again, I could always reassign Marin.”
Stiles’ skin prickled at the thought. He didn’t know much about the Prince, but he had to be better than this creepy old guy.
“What exactly am I doing here?” Stiles asked, then hastily added, “your Highness,” at the raised eyebrows he got for his tone.
Peter began to laugh then, shaking his head and smiling at him. “Oh no, no. I am but a Duke, not true royalty any longer now that my sister has heirs. I am ‘your Grace,’ not your Highness. That title is reserved for the Prince or Princess. It is what you will refer to my nephew as. Provided I decide to give you to him. I don’t know that he would have any idea what to do with someone like you.”
Stiles tried not to let his panic show, and instead just asked again, “What exactly am I doing here, your Grace?”
Peter smirked at him. “Careful, little boy. If you give me lip, I might follow through with my threat of keeping you. It’s so hard to find people like you these days, you see. Everyone is always so scared of us.”
“You take people away from their homes because someone threw a rock at your car,” Stiles informed him. “Of course we’re scared.”
“You don’t seem scared.”
Stiles just held out one hand, Peter glancing down at it. His entire body was trembling, and while Stiles knew a part of that was rage, a larger part was fear. He wasn’t good at keeping his mouth shut, it was something he’d struggled with his entire life. He was trying to behave right now, but it just wasn’t in his nature.
He saw injustice, he was going to voice it. It didn’t matter who he was talking to, he couldn’t just let this drop.
“Have you ever played chess, Stiles?” Peter asked.
“A few times,” he replied. “Are we back to chess again?” Peter stared at him, and he hastily added, “your Grace.”
“I do like a challenge, you see. Marin is so obedient, it’s almost boring. You would give my nephew a hard time, it’s hardly worth it. But if I kept you...” he eyed Stiles again.
Stiles really wished he’d stop doing that.
“What are you proposing, your Grace?” he practically sneered the last word, but that just made Peter smile.
“A game. I recognize I told everyone you were for my nephew, but I’ve grown rather fond of you these past few minutes, Stiles. I’d like to get to know you better. I propose this: we play a game of chess, and if I win, I reassign Marin and get you instead.”
Stiles’ heart began to thump wildly in his chest. Somehow, he didn’t think being Peter Hale’s aide was something he wanted.
“And if I win?” Stiles asked quietly. “I get to go home?”
“Nice try, but no. You will go to Derek, as intended.”
“Unfair advantage,” Stiles said. “You’ve already admitted to being a prolific player. I’ve played a handful of times.”
“A handicap, then.” Peter smiled and reached into one of the drawers of his desk. He pushed aside the tablet and papers that were on the wooden surface and pulled out a marble board, setting it between them on the desk. He then pulled out two small cases, and tossed Stiles one of them. He caught it and opened it, seeing all the white pieces inside.
“I will begin the game without a queen, a rook, and four pawns. Sound reasonable to you?”
Stiles thought about it for a moment. This wasn’t really a choice, and he knew it. Peter would just assign him however he pleased if Stiles refused to play. At least by playing a game, he had the perception of a choice, not to mention a higher chance of getting his way. The queen was by far the most coveted piece on the board, with the ability to move in all directions, forward and backward, side to side, diagonally. If Peter was giving her up right at the start, it meant he was confident he could get a pawn across the board to reclaim any piece he wanted.
Stiles’ main strategy would have to be taking out the pawns. Without pawns, he couldn’t reclaim a taken piece, and by giving up four of them, it only left him with four on the board.
Chess was all about strategy, and while Stiles wasn’t a fan, he played a lot of strategy games. If he was careful, and he thought everything through, he could probably beat him. The worst that could happen was he lose and end up this guy’s aide, but if he refused to play, he’d end up as his aide anyway. Lose-lose.
At least with the game, he had a chance.
Holding out the case, he said, “I would like to be black.”
“Oh?” Peter smiled, but took the offered case and traded it for his own. “And why is that?”
“White goes first,” he said, opening his case and beginning to set up his pieces. “I’d like to see what kind of moves you make.”
“You are smart,” Peter said again, grinning broadly. “I made the right choice when I took you. And to think, I could’ve been sitting here speaking to your father instead. While an interesting man, I much prefer you.” Peter began to set up his pieces. “Has anyone ever told you that you’re very good looking, Stiles?”
“No,” he said immediately, keeping his eyes on the board he was setting up and violently squashing the panic rising in his chest.
“Well, I didn’t know what you looked like when I decided on you, but I seem to have made a good choice.”
Stiles said nothing and flinched violently when his chin was grabbed and his face raised.
“When someone compliments you, Stiles, you generally say thank you.”
“Thank you,” he bit out, pulling himself free. He didn’t think he so much succeeded as it was that Peter just let him go when he started pulling back.
They finished setting up without another word, and when they were done, Peter picked up his queen, one rook, and four of his pawns. Stiles noticed he picked the pawns up so that he had four empty spaces with a pawn on either side. Pawn, space, pawn, space, and so on. He found that interesting, and tried to determine what his strategy was.
“Let’s play, shall we?” Peter grinned. “Try and keep me entertained, Stiles. I don’t like being disappointed.”
If Stiles ever got out of this mess, he was going to fucking murder Jackson Whittemore!
Derek knew he should change positions, because he was quickly starting to fall asleep. He mostly blamed it on the book, it was fairly boring. He’d heard such good things about the series, too, but he was having a hard time getting interested. He didn’t feel connected to any of the characters, so when one of them died, he felt nothing and just flipped the page. He hated that. He liked that moment of surprise, the sharp sting in his chest, the realization that the character was well and truly gone.
None of these deaths so far had made him feel anything aside from boredom, because they were repetitive and he cared very little about virtually all of them.
He got through two more chapters before giving up, tossing the book aside as a lost cause and sitting up in bed, throwing his feet over the side. He padded across the room to the shelf there, perusing the titles, fingers brushing along the spines. When he found one that looked interesting, he pulled it off the shelf and flipped it over to read the back.
He was halfway through doing so when there was a knock at his door.
“Come in,” he said absently, frowning a little at the summary. The cover looked intriguing, but the words he read sounded kind of boring. Did nobody know how to write a decent book anymore?
Derek’s brain took a second to register the word, mostly because it had been months since anyone had said something so informal to him, and it had been Cora. Looking up, he turned to glance at the door, and was surprised to find what looked to be a lost teenager standing in his doorway. He was wearing faded jeans with his hands stuffed into his pockets, a graphic tee and a plaid overshirt. He was shifting his weight from foot to foot and his eyes darted around the room, taking everything in. His expression was a mix of delight and disgust, which was an interesting mix, in Derek’s opinion.
“Hello,” Derek said slowly when it became clear the other was too distracted to speak.
The teen looked over at him, and then his face fell.
“I was supposed to like, kneel or something, right? I’m still learning, sorry.” It looked like getting to one knee was the last thing he wanted to do, all of his muscles tight and his jaw clenched, but he eventually fell to one knee and bowed his head.
Derek just kept staring at him. Had he gotten lost on a tour or something? Clearly he wasn’t a threat, or the guards outside would’ve stopped him, but he wasn’t wearing a servant’s outfit, and he looked like he was only fifteen or sixteen, so Derek had no idea who he was or why he was there.
“Are you lost?” he finally asked.
The kid looked up, but stayed on one knee. “Are you Derek?”
Wow, it had been a long time since someone had said his name so easily like that who wasn’t family. It was kind of nice.
“You don’t sound sure.”
“I’m Derek,” he said. “Who are you?”
“Stiles.” The kid stood, seeming to have had enough of being on one knee. Derek was really surprised at how bold he was being, but not entirely displeased. It was weird being treated like a normal person. “Did you need anything?”
“If I needed something, I would call for someone,” Derek informed him, confused.
“Okay. Cool. I’ll just...” The kid—Stiles—motioned behind himself. “I’ll be out here, then.”
He started to leave, turning his back on Derek—and wow was that ever a faux pas, but also kind of crazy and he figured Stiles didn’t know better—and made to close the door. Something about his words bothered him though, and Derek set the book down.
The kid turned back to him and Derek moved closer. Panic flickered across Stiles’ face and he hastily got to one knee, bowing his head again.
“Who are you?” he asked again.
“No, I got that part. Why are you here?”
“Because I won a game of chess?” Stiles chanced a glance up but quickly looked back down again when he saw Derek watching him. “Also because I have to be?”
“A game of chess?” Derek asked, then a second later it clicked. “Peter,” he growled. He dragged one hand down his face, annoyed, and scratched at his stubbled cheek for a few seconds. He didn’t know what was going on, but if Peter was involved, it was nothing good.
“Get up,” he snapped, not meaning to take his anger out on him, but annoyed at his presence. Stiles got to his feet, shifting away from him slightly and Derek motioned for him to stay. “Stay here, and don’t move. I’ll be right back.”
“Sure, not like I’ve got a busy schedule or anything.”
Derek gave him a weird look, then brushed past him out the door—and what the hell, he smelled good—and headed down the corridor. He glanced back every few seconds to make sure Stiles hadn’t moved, but he was still hovering awkwardly in the doorway, hands in his pockets and looking around.
Derek had just turned the corner when he heard Stiles say, “Sup?” to one of the nearby guards.
He walked quickly towards his uncle’s office, people practically flinging themselves out of his way. Normally, that annoyed him and he rolled his eyes and insisted to the staff that he wasn’t going to bowl anyone over, but right now, he was just thankful because it allowed him to reach his uncle’s office more quickly.
He opened the door without bothering to knock and found Peter sitting at his desk, hands folded together against his mouth, and frown on his face. He was staring down at a chess board, most of the pieces gone, and the white king knocked onto its side.
“What are you doing?” Derek asked, moving up to the desk.
“Trying to figure out how I lost this game.”
“Yeah, speaking of lost chess games,” Derek thumbed over his shoulder, “why is there a fifteen year old kid wandering around the palace?”
“Are you sure?” Derek asked, eyebrows shooting up.
“Nineteen in four months.” Peter picked up a bishop and held it in his fist, eyes still on the board. “He’s your new aide.”
“I don’t need an aide,” Derek said immediately, knowing that was coming the second Peter confirmed Stiles was legal age. “I told you, Peter, I’m perfectly capable of taking care of myself.”
“Then I suppose he’s going to be extremely bored working for you.” Peter sighed and leaned back in his chair, finally looking up at him. “I tried to win him over, I would’ve given you Marin. But he won the game, and I can’t go back on my word. Maybe in a few months I’ll ask for a rematch.”
“Peter, I don’t need an aide, send him back to whatever hick town he came from.” Derek turned to leave the office, but froze at Peter’s next words.
“I’m afraid I can’t do that, because he isn’t here willingly.”
Turning slowly, he frowned at his uncle. “What did you do?”
“I told you, Beacon Hills had to understand there are consequences to actions. So I told the sheriff I would be taking one of their people to be an aide to my adorable little nephew. Conveniently, the sheriff had an adult son, so I decided to take him.” Peter spread his hands wide and shrugged, as if bored with the conversation. “If you send him back now, you’re condoning what they did, and if you condone what they did, they’ll do it again. Besides, it took very little work getting your mother to agree to this, so he stays. If you don’t want him, I’d be happy to take him off your hands.”
The lecherous grin that accompanied that statement made Derek very glad Stiles had beaten his uncle at chess. He had no idea how he’d beaten him, because Peter was an expert strategist, but at least Derek wasn’t going to look at him the way Peter was.
“So what am I supposed to do with him?” Derek demanded, frustrated and fairly annoyed. He liked to be left alone—already a difficult thing to accomplish, given who he was—and having an aide meant he was never going to be alone ever again. It was the main reason he didn’t want one. He didn’t need someone waiting on him hand and foot, he already had enough people tripping over themselves to do his bidding, he didn’t need a kidnapped, unhappy eighteen year old following him around.
He was liable to get stabbed in the back with scissors or something. This was a terrible idea.
“Send him on errands. Make him clean your room. Order him into your bed.” Derek gave him a disgusted look. “It doesn’t matter, Derek. He belongs to you, do whatever you want except send him home.” Peter leaned forward again, eyes back on the board. “And make sure you keep his mornings free, he has class with Harris.”
“He’s not even done school?” Derek demanded, horrified. “Jesus Christ, Peter! Couldn’t you have taken someone a little older?”
“He was the best piece to take,” Peter said coldly, eyes raising to look at him, “strategically speaking. I was going to take the sheriff, but if there’s one thing I know about parents, it’s that they’re far more compliant when you threaten their children.”
Derek hated his uncle sometimes, and this was definitely one of those times. He just scowled at him for his lack of tact and then stormed out of the office. He had half a mind to send Peter back home, but even if he did, his mother would just send him right back out again. There was a reason Peter didn’t stick around the castle very much, and it was because Talia liked it that way.
He started to head back for his room, but Stiles was still there, and he didn’t know what to do about that, so he just ended up stopping in the middle of the corridor.
Thinking for a moment, he turned and headed for the east wing where Peter’s room was. The guards straightened when he approached, but he ignored them and went to the closest door to Peter’s room, knocking once only to be polite in case Marin was changing, and then opening the door when she called to enter.
“Your Highness,” she said, bowing her head and bending her knees slightly. It was more of a bow than anything, but Derek had often told her not to bother, only needing her to really show respect in public. He knew she was more relaxed back home at the castle, and could only assume that she was like this on the road so she didn’t accidentally show him any disrespect that would require a reprimand.
“I need you to tell me exactly what happened that led to Stiles showing up in my bedroom.”
Marin nodded and Derek took a seat in the available chair. She sat on the edge of the bed and told him everything she had been asked to do, from the meeting with the sheriff, to the collection of Stiles at the front doors of the palace. When she was done, Derek felt sick, and while he wanted to say he couldn’t believe Peter had done this, he really could.
Stiles had been taken away from his home and family, he hadn’t gotten to say goodbye, or pack any belongings, or even go home one last time. He’d been taken from school, his phone, wallet and keys had been confiscated by Peter, and he was now supposed to be Derek’s aide when he didn’t even want to be there.
Maybe Derek was wrong and Peter was trying to kill him.
“What does an aide even do?” Derek demanded, standing and raking a frustrated hand through his hair, somewhat ignoring the fact that Marin had been Peter’s aide for years and he knew most of what she did.
“Whatever you want him to do,” Marin advised him, watching him pace back and forth. “He is like an assistant and a servant all in one.”
“You mean a slave,” Derek said bitterly, continuing to pace. “He’s going to hate me. I’m the reason he’s even here, and I don’t even want him to be.”
“He knows that,” Marin said, making him pause and turn to her. “Peter was very honest with him about it. He mentioned you didn’t have an aide because you didn’t want one, but that he didn’t care and he was giving you one anyway.”
“Does he ask you to go to bed with him?” Derek asked, eying her with concern.
Marin shrugged. “Sometimes.”
“I don’t mind, your uncle is very handsome.”
This entire thing was making him feel sick. He’d always known there was a darker side to his family, but he’d never actually thought that Peter assumed he would go down that path. He didn’t want an aide, he didn’t want to rip this poor kid away from his family, and he definitely didn’t want him in his bed! That was disgusting and unacceptable.
Marin seemed sincere in her response, and she and Peter had known one another for almost twenty years. They’d practically grown up together, so Derek supposed, to Marin, she and Peter were more friends than employer and aide. Maybe she truly didn’t mind sleeping with Peter when he asked her to, but he was never, ever going to ask that of Stiles.
He didn’t even know what to ask of him! Christ, this was a fucking nightmare! He almost wanted to call his mother and demand to know what she’d been thinking siding with Peter, but when he really thought about it, his logic was sound.
Beacon Hills had been a problem for a while, but nothing had ever been done. If Stiles truly was the sheriff’s son, then this was as good an incentive as any to turn the town around.
Still... this didn’t sit well with him.
Rubbing at his mouth, he cursed under his breath, thanked Marin for her time, and then left her room. He headed back towards his own wing, ignoring the man who rushed past him, nodding his head to Derek with respect on his way by.
Derek had almost reached the end of the long corridor when the man hurried past him again going the other way, Marin following behind him quickly.
“What’s going on?” Derek asked with a frown.
“The sheriff is at the gates,” she informed him, disappearing around the corner.
Derek didn’t think about it, he just hurried to catch up, following the pair until his long legs caught up to Marin. She didn’t acknowledge his presence at first, but when they reached the doors, she stopped the man before he opened them and turned to Derek.
“Your Highness, it would be best if you remained inside. He’s likely armed.”
“My uncle took his son, I’m going to make sure he knows I won’t abuse him.” Derek turned to the guards at the door and snapped for them to get them open. They exchanged nervous glances, but did as they were told, opening both doors. Derek stepped out, Marin following close behind him. There was a car waiting at the bottom of the stairs, and the driver tripped over himself saying he would get the limo, but Derek told him not to bother and climbed into the back of the Mercedes. Marin took the front seat, like she always did, and the driver got back into the car, looking pale and nervous.
They drove the short way down the hill to where the gate was and the car stopped. Derek looked out the window and saw a man standing on the other side of the gates, four guards surrounding him on the outside, and an additional six on Derek’s side of the gates, aiming their guns at him.
“For fuck’s sake,” Derek muttered, climbing out of the car and ignoring Marin’s insistence that he stay in the vehicle. “Put those down,” he ordered the men on his side of the gate. “This is ridiculous, put those down, now.”
The guards started at the sight of him and hastily lowered their weapons, though he could tell the four on the other side tightened their ring around the sheriff.
He wasn’t even armed, and they were acting like he had a bomb strapped to his chest!
Derek knew he didn’t because he was wearing a tight white shirt and ripped jeans. Under one arm he was holding a pillow, and in his other hand he had a backpack that had already been unzipped so it could be examined.
The sheriff’s eyes hardened when Derek approached the gate, but he didn’t say anything and attempted to respectfully give a small bow. Derek didn’t like the anger and resentment he found there, and it took a conscious effort not to snap at him for being disrespectful. He just tried to remind himself the man had just lost his son.
“Your Highness,” he said stiffly, straightening once more.
“You must be sheriff Stilinski.” Derek stopped a little ways from the gate, not entirely stupid. “I just met your son.”
He could tell the older man was struggling to bite back a comment, and Derek rushed on before he said something he regretted.
“I want you to know that I had nothing to do with my uncle’s actions. I had no idea what he was planning, and I’m truly sorry for what has happened.”
“Then give him back,” the sheriff said, his voice cracking slightly. Derek saw moisture collecting in his eyes and felt uncomfortable. “Give me back my son.”
“I wish I could, but that isn’t an option. My mother backs my uncle’s plan, and her word is law.” He took a cautious step forward, hearing Marin make a noise behind him, but he was still far enough away from the gate, and the guards were virtually right on top of him. “I promise he will be well cared for. I will make sure he’s happy.”
The sheriff grunted something under his breath and one of the guards shoved him roughly for it, but the man just scowled and then turned back to Derek.
“They took him without letting him pack any of his belongings.”
“We can provide for him, he doesn’t need anything,” Marin said, moving a step closer to Derek.
“He takes medication.”
“Adderall. We know.”
The sheriff frowned, obviously displeased with how much they already knew about Stiles.
“Stiles can’t sleep without his pillow,” he insisted, starting to take a step forward, but one of the guards shifted closer to him and he stopped himself from doing so. “He’s had this pillow for as long as I can remember. He won’t be able to sleep without it. Please, just...” he trailed off, looking like a desperate man, holding the item out in front of himself.
It seemed like such a ridiculous thing to drive all the way up here for. To risk his life, since he may have just gotten shot on sight for daring to appear here unauthorized. But this man was desperate, and he was a father who needed to do something for his son.
Despite thinking it completely ridiculous, Derek looked to the closest guard and nodded. The man left his side and moved forward, reaching out one hand between the bars on the gate and taking the pillow.
“I brought some clothes—”
“He won’t need those,” Derek said, patience wearing thin. He’d allowed the pillow, clothing was out of the question. He didn’t want Stiles being seen with him wearing faded jeans and a plaid shirt.
“Then just one item?” The sheriff reached into the backpack and pulled something out. It looked like a picture frame, one of the double-hinged types that had a spot for two pictures, and could fold closed in the middle. Derek almost told him to get out before he had him escorted away, but something about the look on his face was causing his chest to ache. This man was broken, and Derek worried that refusing his request would have him shatter into a thousand pieces right there on the other side of the gate.
He nodded his head at the same guard with the pillow, and the man reached forward to take the picture frame. The sheriff looked so relieved, it was actually physically painful for Derek to look at him. He didn’t want him here, because he was making him feel guiltier than he already did for what had happened, and this wasn’t his fault!
Turning his back on the sheriff, Derek stopped beside Marin. “Get him off my property.”
“Yes, your Highness.”
Derek climbed back into the car and slammed the hell out of the door. The driver drove him back up to the palace, and Derek hoped Marin threw out the pillow and picture frame.
He didn’t like the hollow ache in his chest, and wished he’d never gone down to see the sheriff.
Stiles stared up at the intricately designed ceiling in complete and utter boredom. He’d tried making friendly with the guards when Derek had walked off to find his uncle over two hours ago, but the men hadn’t been particularly chatty.
He’d gotten tired just standing there, so he’d moved to the wall across the hall from Derek’s door and had slid down so he was sitting, knees bent and elbows resting on them while he stared at the ceiling. His fingers tapped an unknown rhythm against his leg, and he was positive he would die of boredom long before he died of old age in this place.
He reached for his phone for what felt like the millionth time before remembering it was gone. Peter had taken away everything in his pockets after his loss at chess, so Stiles couldn’t even see what time it was.
“Hey, you got the time?” Stiles asked the guard stationed to the left of Derek’s door. The man said nothing, acting like Stiles wasn’t even there. Sighing, he turned hopefully to the one on the right.
He seemed to have some pity for him, because he checked his wrist and answered, “Almost six thirty.”
“Great.” Stiles sighed and let his head fall back against the wall, still staring at the ceiling.
He was bored, he was hungry, his ass was numb and he kind of needed to piss. If this was his new life, he was going to die within a week. Two, tops.
Stiles sat staring at the ceiling for another ten minutes, at least, when he finally heard footsteps approaching. Not wanting to get excited, since the last twenty times had been staff, he just turned his head to see who was coming. Once they rounded the corner, Stiles hastily got to his feet, Derek striding towards him. He took one look at Stiles, and his expression darkened.
“I don’t need you right now, go do something else.”
“Like what?” Stiles demanded, a little angry since he’d fucking waited two hours only to be told to piss off.
“I don’t care, just get out of my sight, I’m tired of looking at you.” Derek slammed his door loudly, Stiles staring at it incredulously.
Letting out a scoff, Stiles flipped him off through the door, noting the left guard stiffen angrily while the right didn’t seem to care either way.
Turning on his heel, Stiles headed down the corridor, not really sure where he was supposed to be going since he literally had no idea what the fuck he was meant to be doing!
“Be an aide to his royal pain in the ass, Stiles,” he muttered to himself while rounding a corner. “Hang out and do what he asks, Stiles. It’s all good, Stiles, don’t worry.” He hated everything about this situation, and he hadn’t even been there for twelve hours yet.
When he rounded another corner, he almost walked into Marin, who gave him an annoyed look.
“Where are you going?”
“Derek told me to piss off, this is me pissing off.”
“You’re not to get too far from him, he might need you.” She walked past him and motioned for him to follow. Stiles rolled his eyes, head going with it, and then turned to follow after her, walking back the way he’d come. She stopped at a door that was four down from Derek’s, pushing it open and motioning him inside.
He stepped through the door, looking around. He was in a large bedroom—almost bigger than his dad’s back home—that comprised of a bed, a desk—complete with laptop and printer—a dresser, a closet, a television, and a nightstand. There was also a shelf by the window with a few books, and a small nook that allowed for someone to sit and look out the window while they read. Another door near the back of the room likely lead to a bathroom.
“Your lessons start tomorrow between six and ten in the morning. The tutor will come to you, and you’ll alternate what he teaches you based on your progress and his Highness’ schedule. After ten, you are to remain within his Highness’ immediate vicinity should he require anything.”
She pulled open the closet, and then the top two drawers of the dresser. “Your clothes are not suitable for your new position, so you will never be seen in those again. These have all been purchased in your size, be sure to look presentable tomorrow.”
Stiles wandered over to the closet, scowling at all the pant-suits and button-downs. This was his wardrobe now? Uncomfortable pants and choking shirts? Awesome. Just what he always wanted.
“This is for you,” she said behind him, and he turned to see her holding out a phone. “Before you get excited, it’s only connected to his Highness’ phone, as well as his Grace’s and my own. You cannot make any outgoing calls, and you can only receive them from the three numbers programmed into your phone.”
“Because who would I have to call, right?” Stiles asked bitterly, taking the phone. It was a nice phone, too. It looked like an Iphone, but like none he’d ever seen before. He wondered if it was a new model that hadn’t been released to the public yet.
“You’re going to have to stow that attitude of yours,” Marin said, frowning at him. “You can give me attitude all you want, but I’d suggest you learn to treat me with respect so that it helps you learn to treat his Highness with respect. Today’s your first day, so he likely forgave your ignorance, but you can only claim ignorance for so long. Do not forget why you’re here.”
“How could I?” Stiles asked with a fake smile. “I’m here to keep my father in line.”
“Your entire town is on thin ice. If you’d like for it to still exist ten years from now, I’d suggest you work on your attitude problem.”
Stiles just grunted and shoved the phone in his pocket. He glanced at the television, then the computer. “Do I have free reign of those?”
“Television offers all channels on cable and satellite, you’re free to watch it during your down time. Computer is for school work only, there’s no internet connection.”
“Of course there isn’t,” he said bitterly. Heaven forbid he should want to email his father to let him know he was still alive.
“You seem to misunderstand your position here,” Marin said coldly.
“Bottom of the food chain,” Stiles snapped back. “I got that pretty clearly.”
“This isn’t a vacation,” Marin informed him. “Internet is not available for someone like you. Free reign of the phone is not available for someone like you. You may be an aide, but you didn’t apply for this position.”
“Like you did,” he bit back.
“I did, actually,” Marin said, making Stiles’ head snap back. “Your presence is a nuisance to me, but his Grace is right. An aide is required for his Highness whether he likes it or not. While you wouldn’t have been my first choice, at least you’re still young enough for us to mould you into something less abrasive than you are now. When you’ve learned your place, maybe you’ll have earned the right to a phonecall with your incompetent father.”
Stiles’ hand moved before he could stop it. He’d never hit a girl before, because it wasn’t polite, and he was a gentleman. But he had had a really rough day, he’d lost his freedom, his friends and father, and this bitch was mouthing off about his rights to a phonecall with the one person in the world that he cared about most.
So, yeah, his mother would be ashamed of him, but he fucking smacked her.
Marin kept her face turned away, and a horrible silence fell over them both. Stiles’ heart was pounding in his chest, and his breathing was coming faster and faster, but he didn’t regret what he’d done.
“I might have an attitude problem,” he forced out, entire frame shaking, though he didn’t know if it was from fear or anger, “but I can reign that in if I try hard enough, I’m sure. But you talk like that about my dad, and we’re going to have a serious problem.”
For a few horrible seconds, she said nothing. Then, she slowly faced him again, offered him a tight smile, and turned to the door.
“Breakfast, lunch and dinner are available whenever you like. Just go down to the kitchens and someone will make you something. You can use your phone as an alarm clock for tomorrow, but Harris will make you regret it if you’re not up when he arrives.” She turned at the door, still smiling. “His Grace has also requested your presence tomorrow afternoon. He’d like to play another round of chess with you, so make sure you’re available to accommodate him.”
“I’ll clear my busy schedule,” Stiles spat.
“Welcome to the family, Stiles.” She shut the door and Stiles listened to her walk away before slumping heavily against the dresser.
His hands were shaking and he stared down at his right one, palm red from the hit. He clenched it into a fist and cursed himself for having lost his temper. He knew he had to be better, she was probably going to tattle on him right now, but he couldn’t help it.
It had been a stressful day!
Leaning back against the dresser, he slid to the floor and pulled his knees up to his chest, wrapping his arms around them and burying his face in them.
“This is okay,” he told himself. “This is fine. You’re a prisoner here, but at least you’re a well cared for prisoner.”
He felt like Belle in fucking Beauty and the Beast.
Stiles hated Disney.
Derek tossed down his book in aggravation, Peter not even looking up from his tablet at the action, continuing to swipe at whatever was on his screen. Getting to his feet, Derek raked a hand through his hair, annoyed, and turned to his uncle.
“I’m going into town.”
“Why?” Peter asked calmly.
“All the books here are terrible, I need something better to read.”
“That’s why you have an aide.”
“I’m not sending him to get me a book,” Derek snapped. “He probably wouldn’t even get me a good one.”
Peter sighed explosively and glanced up from his tablet. “Derek, all he’s done in the three days he’s been here is watch TV and do homework. Harris said he’s already two weeks ahead on his assignments, and he’s been here three days. You’re wasting him.” A smirk played on his lips. “If you don’t want to use him, I’d be happy to take him off your hands.”
“You’re a disgusting old man, you know that, right?” Derek asked him, since this was literally the thirtieth time Peter had brought up trading Marin for Stiles. “He’s eighteen years old. You’re almost fifty.”
“I’m only forty-one, don’t be rude, Derek.” Peter set his tablet down so he could stretch and Derek got a good look at it. It looked like an electronic game of chess, and he had to wonder just how many times Stiles had beaten his uncle since his arrival to make him practice on his tablet.
“Send him on an errand. It’ll do him some good to get out of the palace for a little while.” Peter picked the tablet back up, returning to his game.
“You’re not worried he’ll run?” Derek asked, trying and failing not to be surprised.
“He knows there’s too much at risk,” Peter insisted, frowning at a move the computer had evidently made. “He’ll be obedient.”
Derek didn’t want to send Stiles out on an errand, but he also didn’t feel like leaving the palace. He knew that one of the nobles in Knoxton was eagerly waiting for him to show himself so he could pounce on him and introduce him to his twin daughters. Derek didn’t want twins, he wanted a book that could hold his attention for more than ten minutes.
Growling in frustration and standing so he could pace, he pulled out his phone and, for the first time, tapped on the icon in the top corner. The screen went black for a second, then began to ring. After the third one, the screen flickered and Stiles appeared, hair a dishevelled mess and deep bags under his eyes.
“Yeah?” Stiles asked.
Derek scowled. “That isn’t the proper response when you receive a call from me,” he informed him coldly. “Isn’t Marin teaching you manners?”
“They’re not sticking,” Stiles muttered, dragging a hand down his face and clearing his throat. “How can I help you, your Highness.”
Stiles managed to make “your Highness” sound like a swear word, and Derek didn’t like it. He’d thought Stiles was an adorable little teenager back when he’d first met him, but that was before he fucking owned him.
Now he just hated him and hated Peter, but he wasn’t willing to give Stiles to Peter, because Derek wasn’t an asshole and he would never do that to anyone. Marin was different, she wanted to work with Peter. Stiles didn’t even want to work for Derek, and Derek was nice!
“I need you to go into Knoxton and find me a book. Something interesting that can hold my attention. And preferably new, so that you don’t get me something I’ve already read.”
“Your wish is my command, your Highness.”
Derek opened his mouth to snap at him not to say his title in that manner, but Stiles had already disconnected the call. It took a conscious effort for him not to throw his phone at the wall. Anyone else would’ve been reprimanded severely if they acted like Stiles. Derek felt like the only reason he was letting him get away with it was because of guilt.
Also, Stiles was a fucking child, so really, he should’ve known.
“If you don’t reprimand him soon, he’s never going to take you seriously,” Peter informed him from his seat at the table, eyes still on his tablet. “You’re letting him get away with far too much. Actions have consequences, Derek. Perhaps it’s time you remind him of that.”
“He’ll calm down,” he insisted, moving back to the table and falling into his seat once more. “He’s still upset about his lot in life. Which is your fault, by the way.”
Peter looked up at him. “Actually, I believe it is Jackson Whittemore’s fault.”
Derek frowned. “Who’s Jackson Whittemore?”
“No idea, but Stiles has wished his death many times since his arrival.”
Leaning back in his chair, Derek tried to get comfortable, closing his eyes and listening to the sounds of the palace. Peter said nothing across from him, continuing with his game, and Derek snoozed while he waited for Stiles to come back.
After twenty minutes, Peter kicked his shin and Derek peeked open one eye, which only invited his uncle to start going over their schedule since they would be heading out in just under four days. Derek wasn’t looking forward to it, he’d enjoyed lazing around the palace for the past few days.
But the schedule also reminded him that he would need to sort things out with Stiles sooner rather than later. If they went to a noble’s house and he started mouthing off at the wrong people, that would be dangerous.
They’d finished their discussion and Derek had gone back to snoozing when he heard footsteps heading in their direction. There was a brief knock on the door to the study, and Peter hadn’t even had the chance to finish calling for whoever it was to enter before Stiles wandered in with a plastic bag in his hand.
Derek frowned when he saw him, because he’d looked bad on the phone, but much worse in person.
The bags beneath his eyes were almost purple, they were so dark. His skin was pale and drawn, and it looked like he’d lost some weight, which made no sense because Derek had heard from Marin that Stiles definitely liked to eat. He looked like he might be getting sick.
“Still not sleeping?” Peter asked, more kindly than Derek expected.
Stiles shook his head in answer and headed for Derek, reaching into the bag and pulling out three books.
“This was the best I could find. This one is kind of obscure, but the back sounds interesting and it’s the first in a series of twelve that’s already complete, so hopefully it’s good.” He put them down in front of Derek. “Is there anything else I can help you with?”
“No, thank you.” Derek eyed him with concern, but didn’t ask. Stiles just nodded, then started to turn on his heel before seeming to remember he shouldn’t do that. He backed out of the room slowly, only turning once he reached the door and shut it behind him.
“What’s wrong with him?” Derek asked.
“Pay attention, Derek, he’s been like that since the day after he got here,” Peter chastised, still scowling at his game. Derek wondered if he was still playing chess, and if Stiles was beating him looking like he did, that was extremely impressive.
“I haven’t been paying attention. So, what’s wrong with him?” he asked again.
“Can’t sleep,” Peter informed him, cursing and rubbing at his chin, eyes still on the tablet. “Something about his pillow. I had Marin buy him a new one, but he says it doesn’t feel right.”
Peter just shrugged at his own words, but Derek felt his stomach bottom out, turning to look towards the door again. Stiles’ father had driven all the way out there with a pillow and a picture frame. At the time, Derek hadn’t really thought much of it. He’d agreed to allow the pillow, only because he didn’t know how to say no to someone who looked so desperate, but he hadn’t honestly thought he was serious.
He felt like maybe he should have, because why would someone risk getting shot by driving all the way out here just to deliver a pillow? And looking at Stiles, it was clear he was having trouble sleeping.
Realistically, Stiles was probably upset, stressed, homesick and unhappy, so that was likely already making it difficult to sleep. But if the sheriff was telling the truth, and Stiles was being honest with Peter about why he wasn’t sleeping well, then Derek had the solution to that and he’d been too stubborn to fix it.
Getting to his feet, he strode towards the door, pulling his phone out. He had to find Marin’s contact, since he’d replaced her with Stiles, but he found her heading for the kitchen, chatting with one of the maids, before he’d even called her.
She turned when he called to her and the maid scurried off like she thought Derek might hurt her for speaking to Peter’s aide. He really wished they’d stop running away from him like he was a leper.
“Your Highness. Can I help you?”
“You know Stiles’ pillow?” Derek asked, stopping in front of her. “And the picture frame from his dad? Whatever happened to them?”
“I believe they’ve been stored in one of the spare rooms. They were unnecessary items, so they’re being held until our departure and then will likely be disposed of.”
“Have someone bring them to me,” Derek said. “I’ll be in my room.”
Marin gave him a calculating look, but said, “Of course, your Highness.”
He nodded to her, then turned and headed back for the study. He grabbed the books off the table, ignoring Peter, and headed back through the palace to his room. He slowed on his way past Stiles’ room, trying not to make it obvious to the guards that he was trying to listen in. He heard nothing but the soft tap of a keyboard on the other side. Since he knew Stiles had no internet, he was likely doing homework.
Derek entered his room, shutting the door behind himself, and frowned. He went to lie on his bed so he could look at the books Stiles had gotten him, reading the backs of them. All three sounded interesting, but so had the other ones Derek had been attempting to read.
He decided to go with the twelve-book series, just so that if he did like it, he could get all the others bought before they left the palace and have something to read in the car.
That reminded him of the fact that, now that he had an aide, Marin wouldn’t be riding with them anymore. The highest ranking royal’s aide always took the front seat of the vehicle the royal family was in. Usually, Alan Deaton always sat at the front when he was back home, having been his mother’s aide for as long as Derek could remember, though he’d been fairly sick when Derek and Peter had left earlier in the year.
Whenever Derek and Laura were out together, Laura’s aide Erica sat in the front. Despite that mostly being because Derek didn’t have one, even though he now did, Stiles still wouldn’t be allowed in the same car, because Laura outranked Derek in the hierarchy.
Before, Marin rode with them because Derek didn’t have an aide, but as the Prince, now that he had Stiles, Marin was no longer eligible to ride with them. She would have to go in another car, and that realization was... strange. Derek was so used to having her there that he would likely be disoriented the first time the partition dropped and Stiles turned around instead of Marin.
If he turned around at all, since he didn’t seem to be taking this whole aide thing seriously. Then again, he’d backed out of the room before, so that was progress, but Derek was starting to worry that maybe he’d have to actually reprimand him the next time he stepped out of line.
“I’m too young to be a dad to a rebellious teenager,” he muttered to himself.
There was a knock at his door a second later, and he only knew it wasn’t Stiles because it stayed closed until he called for whoever was on the other side to enter. One of the maids stepped into his room, holding the pillow flat in both hands, the folded over picture frame on top. She set it down on the end of the bed, bowing deeply on her way back out before shutting the door.
Abandoning the books, Derek sat up and grabbed the corner of the pillow, tugging it closer. He pressed his palm flat against it, but it didn’t feel any different from a normal pillow. He didn’t get what the big deal was.
Moving the picture frame off it, he lay on his back, head on the pillow and stared at the ceiling for a moment.
It literally felt like every other pillow he’d ever put his head on. A pillow was a pillow, this was ridiculous.
Rolling over slightly so he could sit up again, he paused when he caught a whiff of that same smell he’d gotten when he’d walked past Stiles that first day. It smelled like apples and allspice and sweat, and it smelled good.
Shifting onto his stomach, Derek buried his face in the pillow and inhaled deeply. How did Stiles get himself to smell like this? It couldn’t be body wash or lotion or anything, because Stiles hadn’t brought any of that with him, and the few times they’ve been close to one another, Derek could smell that same scent wafting off him.
It was something that was just purely Stiles, and he loved it.
Jerking up and away from the pillow, Derek realized what he was doing and how fucking weird it was and he hastily shoved the pillow to the end of the bed, sitting up and shifting away from it. He was not Peter, dammit! Sniffing Stiles’ pillow was fucking weird!
“If I turn into Peter due to exposure, I’m going to have to have words with mom,” he muttered to himself, raking a hand through his hair. He started to turn back around to fall on his stomach against his own pillow when his eyes caught sight of the picture frame.
He hesitated only a moment, then reached out to grab it, opening the two parts, the hinge creaking slightly.
On one side of the frames was a picture that looked like it had been folded into quarters and then flattened back out. It showed a picture of the sheriff and a much younger Stiles, along with a woman who must’ve been his mother. They all looked happy, laughing and holding each other while looking into the camera. Stiles had the biggest shit-eating grin Derek had ever seen, and it suddenly occurred to him that he hadn’t once seen Stiles smile since he’d arrived three days ago.
Ignoring how much that made his chest hurt, he looked at the other side of the frame. It was a picture of a dark-haired woman with her arms wrapped around two boy’s shoulders. One of them was Stiles, and the other had curly black hair and tanned skin. The woman wasn’t his mother, since that was clearly the woman in the other picture with the sheriff, so Derek figured she had to be the mother of the other boy. He and Stiles looked to be about the same age, so they were probably close friends. They had to be, otherwise the sheriff wouldn’t have put a picture of him in the frame.
Derek stared at the two pictures for a long while, studying every line of Stiles’ face when he smiled, memorizing the spattering of moles along his cheeks, the brightness of his brown eyes. The boy in the picture looked nothing like the boy a few doors down, and Derek really didn’t like that.
He shoved the picture frame into his laptop bag, not really knowing what else to do with it, and then stared at the pillow. To avoid shoving his face in it again—seriously, he was not Peter!—he stood and headed for the door, opening it and looking out at the guard closest to him.
“I need you to do something for me.”
“Of course, your Highness.” The guard followed him into his room when he motioned for him to, and Derek picked up the pillow, handing it to him.
“Give this to my aide. Don’t tell him where it came from.”
The guard looked confused, but nodded and left the room, shutting the door behind him. Derek stood beside it, listening hard, but Stiles’ room was decently far down the corridor, so he barely heard the guard knocking. There was silence after that, but he did hear when the door shut, and hoped Stiles realized that the pillow was his.
Derek went back to his bed to start reading one of the books, ignoring how good it felt to do something nice for Stiles.
Even if he was a little shit who didn’t really deserve it.
Stiles had no idea how his pillow had come to be in his room, and to be honest, he didn’t care. All he knew was that he wanted to fucking kiss the guard who’d knocked on his door because this was the best night’s sleep he’d gotten since arriving in this stupid place. He’d literally skipped dinner and gone to bed at seven, and had slept through the night until his alarm went off at five thirty.
Getting up had been the easiest it’d been all week, he actually felt rested, and like he was human again instead of some mindless zombie.
After showering and grabbing breakfast, he had his four hour school day with Harris—who he didn’t like—and then sat and did homework until lunch, despite being way ahead. There wasn’t much to do in the palace except watch TV, and Stiles never thought he’d get bored of TV, but apparently it was possible.
When he went down for lunch, Marin caught him on his way back and said Peter had free time around two and wanted a rematch. Stiles had just agreed, because he had nothing better to do. Besides, it was kind of fun watching Peter’s face go purple when he got really annoyed.
They’d stopped with the handicap after their first ever game, and Stiles had still creamed Peter every time. He didn’t so much think it was because he was good at the game, but more that Peter was easy to read. When Stiles looked at the board, he could see what Peter was planning on doing, and he basically won just by hindering Peter. The more he stopped his moves, the more pieces he took. He was sure Peter would kick his ass one day, but so far so good.
He was halfway to his room with a bowl of soup and some orange juice when his phone went off in his pocket. He paused in the middle of the hallway, looking around for something to put his stuff down on. There was an expensive looking table to his left that was probably more for decoration than anything else, but it was put his food down on the table or ignore his phone.
Somehow, ignoring his phone seemed like a bad idea.
Setting his food down, he pulled his phone out to check who it was. The majority of the time, it was Marin, and occasionally Peter. To date, it had only been Derek once.
And now twice, apparently, because that was the name flashing back at him. Resisting the urge to groan, since there were people around, he answered the call.
Derek’s grumpy face appeared on his screen.
The scowl deepened at that and Stiles had to again remind himself that this was the fucking Prince and he needed to stop talking to him like that before they pulled out the guillotine.
Sure, the whole beheading craze was more of a Europe thing, but still. Stiles liked his head where it was.
Namely, attached to his body.
“Come to my room. Now.” Derek hung up and Stiles made a face at the screen.
“Come to my room,” he mocked in a childish voice while putting his phone away. “I’m Derek, and need help reading my books because the words are too big.”
He heard someone clear their throat while he reached for his soup and offered a sheepish, uncomfortable smile to the woman who was glaring at him, obviously having heard him.
Picking up his food, he headed back for his room quickly. He dropped his lunch off in there before moving down the corridor to Derek’s, knocking once and opening the door.
Derek was sitting in a plush, comfy looking chair by the window, book on his lap and scowl on his face. He always looked at Stiles like he smelled bad, and it made him want to tell him that if he hated him so much, maybe he should just send him home.
“That isn’t going to be acceptable anymore,” Derek informed him coldly.
“What isn’t?” he asked, confused, then let out a startled shout when something hit the back of his right knee. He fell to one knee, barely avoiding hurting himself, and turned to look at who’d hit him. He found Peter smiling down at him with a cane in his hand.
Uh oh. This didn’t bode well.
“Your attitude was cute when I thought you were a lost child wandering around the palace. It isn’t acceptable as my aide. We are going to be leaving soon to continue our trip. There will be high ranking officials and nobles meeting with Peter and I. Your attitude is unacceptable, and you are going to begin treating me with the respect I am due.”
Stiles bit back a rude comment, scowl on his face and eyes lowered. If they weren’t going to let him get away with this, why had it taken them four days to stop him? He was used to this now, it would take him an eternity to remember to take a knee and call him “your Highness” without lacing the words with sarcasm.
“Do you understand?”
Forcing himself to take a slow, calming breath, Stiles said, “Yes, your Highness.”
“Oh, so he can learn,” Peter said with amusement. “Or maybe it’s the cane. Not a fan of pain?”
“No one is a fan of pain,” Stiles muttered, then hastily added, “your Grace.”
“I’m going to miss that smart mouth, I think.” Peter was lightly tapping the end of the cane against the base of Stiles’ spine. “But it’s for the best. Do try to keep yourself in line, I’d hate to have to ruin that pretty face of yours.”
Stiles just scowled harder at the floor, somewhat glad his head was bowed so he could sport any expression he wanted.
“Was there anything else you needed, your Highness?”
“No, that’ll be all.”
Stiles stood, bowing his head slightly while backing out of the room.
“Chess at two, Stiles. Don’t forget.”
He nodded in confirmation, and once he was out of the room and the door was closed, he very maturely blew a silent raspberry at it, hearing the guard on the right chuckle, which earned him a scathing look from the one on the left.
“Like you’ve never done that,” Stiles hissed at the left guard, then turned to head for his own room.
His soup was lukewarm at best when he finally started eating it, but he was too lazy to reheat it so he just ate it as it was. When he was done, he pushed his dishes to one side of his desk and dragged his computer forward.
He’d already done as much of his homework and lesson plans as he could without Harris giving him more—he was pretty sure Harris was holding out on him so he could stay employed and keep getting paid, considering Stiles was pretty much teaching himself, at this point. It was funny, because his ADHD was terrible, but he was so bored it wasn’t affecting his ability to concentrate or do his homework. Obviously he got distracted every now and then, but without the Internet or video games, entertainment was lacking.
Punching in his password—because he’d be damned if he didn’t have some semblance of privacy, given his fucking bathroom door had had the lock removed—the screen opened on his background, and he double-clicked on a word document he’d saved on his desktop.
It was titled “Daily Rambles” and was basically just him writing down everything that happened on a daily basis in the form of a letter to his dad. Maybe one day, when he’d earned the right to send a fucking email, he could send this to him so his dad would know he wasn’t being treated poorly.
He couldn’t even count what had happened just now as him being treated poorly given he was definitely towing the line right now. He knew he was being disrespectful for the most part, but he was still pissed about his lot in life.
He started typing, getting everything out in the word document and then going off on a tangent about his homework which led to another tangent about the price of coffee, for some reason. He didn’t bother checking how he’d jumped topics like that, he just finished up, saved the document and closed the file.
He watched TV until close to two, then headed for the study to play chess with Peter. He still had a hard time finding specific rooms in the huge place, but normally he could figure out how to get anywhere from the kitchen so he went there first, grabbed an apple, and bit into it while finding his way to the study. He finished it before reaching the door and tossed the core out in a random room’s waste basket.
Knocking once, he started to reach for the knob before remembering the cane Peter had been holding earlier. Derek may not use violence against him, but Peter seemed not to care so much. He had no doubts he’d get smacked after just being told to behave, so he waited with one hand on the knob.
Pushing it open, he wanted to scowl at Peter’s amused smile, but he instead just lowered his gaze to the floor, the submission chafing as badly now as it had the first day. Stiles wasn’t really a submissive type.
“Someone’s learning,” he said, motioning the seat across from him. “I see you’re looking better. Sleep well last night?”
“I did, actually,” Stiles said, falling into the chair and taking the chess pieces handed to him. When he opened the case, he saw he had white today. “A guard came by before I headed to bed and he gave me my pillow. No idea how he got it, but best sleep I’ve had since I got here.”
He noticed Peter pause in setting up his pieces, but paid him no mind, continuing to put his own in place.
“Is that so?” Peter’s hands began to move again. “Interesting.”
“Why is that interesting?”
Peter cocked an eyebrow at him and Stiles resisted the urge to roll his eyes.
“Why is that interesting, your Grace?”
“You might as well get used to it now,” Peter said, finishing up with his pieces. “It’s not a problem in the palace among our staff, but once we’re in public, any disobedience has to be met with harsh punishment. I’m sure you’d prefer not to endure that.”
As much as he hated it, Peter was right, and Stiles knew it. He’d seen news stories of some of the people who’d dishonoured the royal family or shamed them somehow, and while they weren’t cruel, it still wasn’t something he wanted to endure.
He’d seen Derek’s muscles, and he definitely didn’t want him smacking him across the face. It would probably break his jaw.
“Shall we play, your Grace?”
Peter’s lips twitched in a smile and he motioned for Stiles to begin, so he moved one piece.
The game lasted thirty minutes.
The last few days at the palace passed by in much the same way they had since Stiles had arrived. He rarely saw Derek, and even when he did, the guy made sure to keep a large distance between them whenever they passed one another. It made Stiles wonder if he hadn’t been showering properly and he even sniffed himself one day, positive something on his person was causing the disgusted and/or constipated look on Derek’s face whenever he was in the vicinity.
The day they were scheduled to leave, Stiles’ class with Harris was cancelled, but the man would be following them to their next destination so Stiles couldn’t escape him. He spent the entire morning with Marin, the woman handing him his very own tablet—oh joy!—so he could keep track of Derek’s schedule and book him rooms and announce his impending arrival. All that fun stuff.
The tablet had a SIM card and WiFi but Marin had disabled virtually all social media sites, as well as every available email site. He couldn’t even access Google Docs, for fuck’s sake.
That entire experience had been a treat, and the two of them went through Derek’s schedule together and booked hotel rooms—royal suites, of course—for Derek and Peter. Stiles was extremely unhappy to learn that the royal suites had rooms attached to them for the aides and any applicable guards, so Stiles was going to be stuck much closer to Derek than he was used to.
This whole thing sucked, Marin had been booking rooms for Derek for years, why couldn’t she just keep doing that and let him go home?
“You’ll be riding with his Grace and his Highness,” Marin informed him while descending the stairs to the cars, tablet tucked under one arm. “All of your things will be packed for you and will meet you at the hotel.”
“What about my pillow?” Stiles asked, unintentionally cutting her off. He’d slept better than ever the past few nights, he couldn’t handle losing it again.
It was the only thing he still had from home.
“I’ve already alerted the staff of your... obsession.” Stiles scowled at the word but said nothing. As long as his pillow followed. “It will not be forgotten. The same people pack and unpack all of our things, so there is no risk of it being left behind anywhere we go.”
“Okay,” he said, not knowing what else to say. “So when are we leaving?”
Marin checked her watch. “That is up to his Grace, for the most part. That being said, if we begin to stray too far off schedule, it will cause problems. We have dinner with Chris Argent and his family in the next state, so we will have to ensure we arrive on time.”
Stiles recognized the name, mostly because Peter hadn’t stopped complaining about it the past two days while they played chess. Chris Argent was some kind of Baron? Stiles didn’t know, he wasn’t familiar with the hierarchy, he’d purposefully ignored that lesson in high school, and he certainly wasn’t interested in it now when Harris tried to teach it to him.
Either way, apparently Chris’ father had attempted to court Talia for a number of years, borderline obsessed with her—or the idea of being king. When she repeatedly turned down his advances, he’d tried to kill her before the royal guard had intervened. While his children hadn’t been striped of their titles as children cannot control their parents, despite Peter’s vehement insistence that they be, they weren’t permitted to leave the state they were resident in for the next ten generations.
Stiles thought that was insane, but well, the two royals he’d met so far seemed pretty insane so he supposed he shouldn’t be surprised. The family was just lucky it had been the father to lose his mind, because apparently the other way around—namely, a disobedient child—was often met with much harsher punishments, up to and including a family being striped of their title.
Apparently Chris lived in a large, lavish mansion with his wife Victoria, his daughter Allison, and his sister Kate. Stiles didn’t know why his sister lived there, but it wasn’t his business. He didn’t care.
He lingered out by the car on his tablet, reading up on the route Marin had chosen for them to take and trying to figure out what exactly his job as an aide was. Peter and Derek travelled together, so really, if Marin was making all the schedules and planning all the routes and choosing all the hotels, what was Stiles meant to do? Knit?
That would be a bad idea, considering he’d tried to make a scarf once and almost stabbed Scott with the knitting needles, choked himself with the yarn, and reduced his Home Economics teacher to tears. Knitting was better left to people who actually had talent.
At quarter to two, the doors opened once more and Peter stepped out in a fitted black suit, pulling at his cuffs and walking down the steps. A driver had already opened the back door of the limo and Peter slid inside.
Derek was slower to follow, seeming to be speaking to the head of the household, thanking them for everything and promising to be back soon. Stiles felt like everyone would probably prefer he didn’t come back, but he said nothing.
When he stepped out, he was wearing a form-fitting navy suit with a white tie and an off-white shirt. He actually looked fucking amazing, considering Stiles usually just saw him in tight jeans and a Henley, so this was a new experience for him.
And what an experience it was.
Marin dropped to one knee when Derek approached. It was the first time Stiles had ever seen her do it, but he realized they weren’t going to be in the palace anymore, and while he’d gotten better at everything, he was going to have to try harder. He hastily dropped to one knee, wincing slightly when he knocked it against the hard ground, but Derek didn’t slow on his way by, climbing into the back of the car.
Stiles noticed the driver had also knelt at his approach, but he stood now and slammed the door shut. When he moved around to the front, Marin tugged at Stiles’ arm to get him up. She was already back on her feet.
This was going to be a killer workout for his quads.
“Get in the car before they leave without you,” she snapped.
“Sorry, no one tells me these things,” he shot back, hurrying to the limo and pulling open the front door. He slid into the seat, pleased with how roomy it was and shut the door before buckling himself in. The driver was arranging his mirrors and getting comfortable in his seat.
“Hey.” Stiles grinned at him. “I’m Stiles.”
“I am aware,” the man responded, not even looking at him.
Well. Wasn’t this going to be a treat.
Stiles was going to lose his happy-go-lucky personality being stuck with downers all the time. Peter might give him creepy looks every now and then, but at least he spoke.
Slouching in his seat, Stiles crossed his arms childishly, tablet in his lap, and scowled out the window.
“What route are we taking?”
“What?” he asked, turning back to the driver. The man looked annoyed, which only annoyed Stiles himself.
“The route. Have you shared it?”
“Uh... Marin didn’t tell me I had to?” he asked uncertainly.
The driver looked like he wanted to kick him out of the car. Hey, Stiles would’ve been more than happy driving in another car, he didn’t want to be this close to Peter and Derek anyway!
When the man snatched his tablet off his lap, Stiles let out an indignant shout, but the driver simply tapped an app on the tablet and began swiping things around on the screen. Stiles watched so he would know for next time, and the in-built GPS on the dash dinged. The driver tossed the tablet back at him impatiently, pressed a button on the GPS, and Stiles saw two small columns appear on the side of the screen.
He realized it was all of the other cars involved with the motorcade. The route was chosen by the aide, and input in the main car. The main car—the limo he was currently in—communicated the route to the rest of the motorcade.
“That’s kind of cool,” he said, impressed. “You know that’s hackable, right?”
“Why do you think we have so many hackers under our employ?” the driver asked, giving Stiles a disgusted look for not having known that.
Rolling his eyes and deciding silence would be way better than dealing with this jerkwad, Stiles rested his chin in his hand and stared out the window, the limo slowly pulling out behind the motorcycles, SUVs, and sedans. There were an equal number of each both in front and behind them, and Stiles really wished he wasn’t in the main car. It would totally be the easiest target, hadn’t they ever heard of using a decoy?!
Too late now, Stiles thought while they eased past the gates and made their way down the hill. When they reached the bottom, they slowed on their way through Knoxton, people having come out to watch the procession go by. Everyone looked so excited and happy to have the chance to see two members of the royal family pass through their town, and Stiles didn’t get it. When Derek and Peter had gone through Beacon Hills, he and Scott had been playing video games. For one thing, the windows were mirrored so it was impossible to see through them, and for another, who the fuck cared?
He spent the entire ride through town staring down at his lap with a scowl, annoyed these people were so excited. All he could think about was the knot in his stomach at the realization that he was now moving further and further away from home. Any delusions he’d had that this would just be a temporary, week-long thing to teach the town a lesson died the moment they hit the highway and headed for the state line.
The drive was boring, considering Stiles would get carsick if he read—not that he had anything to read—and the driver refused to turn on the radio. The one and only time Stiles had attempted to turn it on, he’d gotten smacked so hard his hand stung for a good twenty minutes. Apparently working for the royal family turned everyone into an asshole, because so far the nicest person he’d met was the guard who hung out outside Derek’s room, and he only considered him nice because Stiles had asked for the time and he’d actually answered.
Which was a sad and pathetic average for him to be using to determine whether or not someone was nice.
Four hours into their drive, Stiles turned to the man seated beside him, shifting uncomfortably in his seat.
“So,” he said slowly, and saw the driver glance up, as if praying for patience. Stiles got that a lot. “If I needed to take a leak, when would we be stopping somewhere for that?”
“We wouldn’t,” he informed him. “Hold it.”
“Yeah, see, the thing is, I’ve kind of been holding it for like, an hour, so...” he stretched the last letter out, the driver turning to glare at him.
“Hold it longer.”
Stiles gave him a look, but the man had turned back to the road, so he missed it. Sighing and looking around, Stiles said, “Well, I’m sure there’s a water bottle around here somewhere.”
He saw the driver’s head whip in his direction before he reached for something. Stiles jumped and turned slightly when the partition behind him lowered, connecting the front and back of the limo.
“Apologies, your Highness. Your Grace. It seems your aide requires the use of the facilities.”
“Hold it,” Derek said, eyes on the book he was reading.
“Yeah, kinda have been,” Stiles insisted, then hastily added, “your Highness.” He was never going to fucking get used to that.
How did no one else find it awkward and embarrassing to say? It was so fucking awkward.
Derek’s head rose to glare at him but Peter just laughed, and jovially said, “I actually need to stretch my legs. What’s the next town?”
“Uh...” Stiles quickly unlocked his tablet and opened their route, looking over the map and awkwardly announcing the next major city, probably butchering its pronunciation.
“We can make a pit stop there, get some fresh air, allow for some potty breaks.” Peter grinned at him and Stiles felt his neck flushing.
“Very well. I apologize for disturbing you.” The partition rose once more and the driver turned to glare at Stiles. “Plan the route.”
“Calm down, I’m doing it, Jesus,” Stiles muttered, attempting to figure out the best way to make said pit stop.
Stiles felt like he was never going to get this whole aide thing down.
Derek had never thought he could hate being on the road, but Stiles sure proved him wrong. Every few hours something happened that made him need to go to the bathroom, which Derek didn’t understand because the driver had confirmed Stiles wasn’t drinking anything, and Derek had ensured he didn’t have any water with his lunch, but still he had to pee all the time!
And Peter kept pretending he also needed to stop for whatever reason, just so that they would and Stiles could use the facilities. It was annoying, and it made Derek want to kick him out of the car. His uncle didn’t technically have to ride with him, Derek just let him, but if he kept trying his patience, he would kick him out.
“And what would you prefer?” Peter asked after stop number five. “That he do his business in the car?”
Derek ignored him and just tried to focus on his book instead of his anger. It was the sixth one in the series of twelve, and as much as Derek didn’t want to praise Stiles, he’d chosen really well. He was going to have to send him out on book errands more often.
When they crossed the state line, Derek put the book away and sulked for the rest of the drive. He would deny it if anyone called him out on it, but he was most definitely sulking. Because they were less than an hour away from the Argent house.
And Derek hated the Argents.
Maybe that was unfair. He didn’t hate them, per se. He just hated Kate.
Of all of the nobles he knew trying to win his favour for their own gains, Kate Argent was by far the worst, with Jennifer Blake being a close second. Kate was pushy, and rude, and very clearly only interested in Derek because he was rich and attractive.
She was also fourteen years older than him, and if he wanted to date someone almost as old as his mother, he would choose many other people before he chose her. She always threw herself at him, and after every visit he had to report back to his mother because Kate was starting to act a lot like her father. Derek didn’t want to end up bleeding on the ground because Kate had tried to kill him for rejecting her advances.
They reached the large estate before nightfall and Derek sulked harder while they headed up the drive. Chris and his family were waiting for them on the front porch and Derek’s eyes found Kate immediately. She was wearing a gold dress, skin-tight and extremely revealing. Her eyes sparkled at the sight of the car and he let out a groan.
“It’s once a year, Derek,” Peter reminded him, though he was also frowning out the window, not any happier to be there than he was. “They’re an old family. We can’t insult them.”
“With Stiles around, we probably will,” he muttered, but he obediently slipped a smile onto his face when the driver opened the door.
Derek stepped out first, and everyone immediately took a knee. He was pleased to see Stiles had done the same a few feet from him by his door at the front of the limo, but Derek had no illusions that his good behaviour would last long. He would just have to make sure he promised to punish him and then leave quickly before Chris made him to it in his presence.
Stiles was definitely more trouble than Derek wanted to deal with.
“Your Highness,” Chris said when Derek approached. He motioned for him to stand and Chris did so, but kept his head slightly bowed. “It has been a long time.”
“Yes it has,” Derek agreed, silently wishing it had been longer. “Are you well?”
“Quite, yes.” Chris’ gaze swept behind Derek and he bowed slightly. “Your Grace.”
“Chris,” Peter greeted, taking his spot at Derek’s side and pulling at his cuffs.
They exchanged pleasantries at the door, Derek pointedly ignoring the gaze he could feel burning into him from his left. Kate was probably staring right at him, but he didn’t turn to check. He just made polite small talk with Chris for a while longer until the man motioned into his house. Derek walked in first, and he heard shuffling behind him, suggesting everyone had gotten back to their feet.
He went to the living room first, taking a seat on the couch and allowing the others to file in. Peter sat beside him, acting as a buffer between him and Kate, but the woman just moved to his other side and perched on the armrest, bending down so a generous amount of cleavage showed.
“Good evening, your Highness. You’ve grown since I last saw you. The beard looks good on you.” She ghosted her hand over his jaw, being careful not to touch him, and he turned to look her in the face, hoping his expression was polite since it was the last thing he felt right then.
“Laura suggested I grow it out.”
“It suits you. You look very handsome.” She leaned forward more, practically pushing her chest into his face. Peter very kindly shifted over a seat and Derek did the same. He knew it invited her to sit beside him, but at least when they were on the same level, she couldn’t shove her tits in his face.
“I see you’ve finally caved to your uncle’s persistence and gotten yourself an aide,” Victoria said, her gaze on Marin and Stiles, who were standing off to the side by the door.
“Yes, I thought it was time,” Derek lied. “He’s been very useful.”
“I can imagine.” She eyed Stiles with interest, then asked, “How long have you had him?”
“Oh, Victoria.” Peter wagged his finger, smiling at her. “Are you trying to poach my nephew’s aide already? He’s been with us long enough, let’s leave it at that.”
Derek had forgotten that Victoria liked attractive young men. It was the worst kept secret in the inner circle of nobles. Chris didn’t seem to mind the infidelity provided she never conceived with them. He’d even had Allison take a paternity test when she was a child to ensure she was well and truly his.
Derek assumed Chris had his own lovers on the side, so what his wife did was of little concern, but somehow knowing that Victoria had the gall to suggest she might be interested in taking his aide really bothered him.
He’d never really thought of it before, having grown up around Marin, but it suddenly occurred to him that people treated aides like property. Derek himself had referenced Stiles’ unique situation as slavery, because he was different from the other aides—meaning, they had chosen to work for the Hales, and Stiles hadn’t had a choice—but he had never really considered that even those who worked for the nobles willingly were also traded around like property.
Well, if Stiles was property, he was Derek’s, and he wasn’t going to tolerate someone treating him as such.
Thankfully, the conversation moved away from Stiles as quickly as it had in his direction. Chris started discussing his work, hinted at Allison’s single status, and not so subtly inquired about the travel ban. Derek promised he’d discuss it with his mother, but he and Peter never did.
None of them trusted this family, and Derek didn’t want Kate to turn into Gerard and come and stalk him at the castle. It was bad enough he saw her once a year.
They retired to the dining room after an hour and a half, and Derek’s eyes followed Stiles while he obediently went to sit across the room from him by the wall, Marin beside him. They both sat with their tablets screen down in their laps, and neither said anything.
He noticed Stiles shifting every now and then, but he didn’t complain and he was actually behaving himself. Derek was pleasantly surprised. He honestly hadn’t expected Stiles to show him any respect, especially in front of others, but maybe he was just a disrespectful shit in private because it was private.
Honestly, sometimes Derek kind of liked it, and then got mad at himself for liking it which made him take it out verbally on Stiles. The guy was just really good at getting under his skin.
And why the fuck did he have to smell so good? Derek didn’t even have a good sense of smell, but somehow Stiles just reeked of all the good things and it was making things weird.
They were halfway through the main course, Derek always hating that they all ate while Marin—and now also Stiles—had to sit by the wall and watch them without a word, when Victoria spoke and Derek froze.
“We heard about what happened in that awful town you passed through a few days ago. What was it called?” She turned to Chris. “Bacon Mountain?”
“Beacon Hills,” Peter offered with a kind smile.
“Yes,” Victoria said, turning back to Derek. “Horrible thing those people did. I’m surprised they weren’t punished for their heinous crime.”
Derek’s eyes shifted to Stiles. He’d stiffened, but so far his mouth was staying shut. Derek hoped he kept it that way.
“It was nothing, really,” he insisted. “A prank from a child who didn’t know any better.”
“Really, the incompetence of the police is astounding,” Victoria snapped, cutting into her meat with passion, as if truly offended on Derek’s behalf. “What were they doing that allowed for that to happen? Not their jobs, clearly. You should’ve had the entire force arrested by the neighbouring county and replaced. The incompetence of the sheriff is unacceptable.”
Derek’s eyes never left Stiles. He was looking down at his lap, hands gripping the tablet so hard that his knuckles were turning white, and Derek noticed Marin had one hand on Stiles’ leg, nails digging into his skin.
“Actually, I rather liked the sheriff,” Peter said, Derek turning to him, startled. “I met with him after the incident. Wonderful man, very kind. Polite, honest, well respected. He was very sorry for what had happened, and I believe he was sincere.”
When Derek glanced at Stiles again, Marin hadn’t removed her hand, but his grip on the tablet had loosened so colour returned to his fingers. Derek had heard about Stiles smacking Marin for insulting his father, and the only reason he hadn’t paid for that was because Marin herself had admitted she deserved it for what she’d said.
But that action had shown them all that there was one thing Stiles didn’t tolerate, and that was insults directed at his father. Peter was doing a great job with damage control, and Derek just prayed for Stiles to hold out.
“You’re too kind, your Grace,” Victoria said. “I’d have wiped the town off the map.”
“That would’ve been a shame,” Peter insisted with one of his terrifying smiles. “I am actually rather fond of Beacon Hills. It has produced some rather interesting characters. Very smart ones, too. Did you know I’ve never lost a game of chess in over twenty years, and I’ve been playing against someone from Beacon Hills this past week and haven’t managed to win one game?” Peter laughed, reaching for his wine and taking a sip. “I suppose this is why the younger generations always surpass the older ones. Every year, they get smarter and smarter.” He turned to Allison. “How have your studies been going?”
Derek let out a silent sigh of relief when Allison began talking about her schooling, Chris and Victoria jumping in to praise her as much as possible. Peter had effectively moved the conversation into safer territory.
Just before he took another bite of his food, Derek stiffened at the feel of a foot rubbing against his right inner thigh. His gaze rose slowly, a scowl on his features, but Kate didn’t seem to be deterred by this. No one could see her touching him, and while he could say something and make a scene, if he couldn’t prove it and this caused a breakdown in their relationship with the Argents, his mother wouldn’t be happy. She’d worked hard to maintain this relationship after the actions of Gerard Argent, and she would probably reprimand him for reacting without proof.
Even though she knew that Kate was inappropriate with him.
He endured it as long as he could, then eventually pulled his chair out a bit more so that she couldn’t reach past his knee. He had to admire her boldness, but the idea of being with her disgusted him. He didn’t want her touching any part of him.
Dessert was slow-going, mostly because Peter and Chris got into a debate about the success of Bitcoin, and everyone else at the table politely listened, despite clearly being uninterested. When Derek finally excused himself to go to the bathroom, he shut the door and leaned back against it, sighing deeply and closing his eyes.
He felt exhausted and drained from having to keep a smile on his face and pretend he was happy to be there. And if Chris didn’t stop trying to upsell his daughter, Derek was going to force an arranged marriage on the family and have her reproduce with some low class idiot who wasn’t worth the air he breathed.
And if Kate fucking touched him one more time, he was going to flip the table and storm out of the house, politics be damned. If his mother wanted to maintain this relationship so badly, then she could come down and deal with them.
Moving to the toilet, he did his business and then washed his hands, splashing water on his face and drying it off with one of the soft towels left out on the counter. He stared at his reflection, always surprised by how different he could make himself look just by forcing his lips to curve upwards so it looked like he was always smiling.
He couldn’t wait for the night to be over and head to the hotel. At least tomorrow they were visiting the Yukimuras. He enjoyed their company a great deal, and saw them often when he did these trips. They travelled a lot, so whenever their paths crossed, Derek always asked if they would like to have dinner, making it clear to them they didn’t have to accept just because he was the Prince. Thankfully, they seemed to enjoy his company, as well, because they always accepted with the caveat Peter didn’t come.
Derek thought that was fair. Not many people liked his uncle, and his uncle didn’t like many people.
He liked Stiles, though, which was weird. Derek hadn’t really spent much time with him, but the last two days in the palace at Knoxton, Peter and Stiles had spent almost all their spare time together playing chess and having long conversations about Derek didn’t know what. While Peter was still inappropriate about Stiles, making lecherous comments and giving him looks, Derek could tell he genuinely liked him and found him interesting.
It made Derek wonder what he was missing by avoiding him.
Sighing and deciding he’d stalled long enough, Derek turned to the door and had barely opened it when a body pushed itself into the room and shut it quickly. Derek took a step back to put some space between himself and Kate, who was giving him the same lecherous looks he sometimes saw Peter give Stiles.
At least Peter had the decency not to touch.
Kate had no such reservations. She moved right into his space, hands out and hovering down the length of Derek’s arms. She wasn’t touching him with her hands, but her boobs were squished against his chest, and Derek had never found women so unattractive as he did in that moment.
“You’re growing up nicely, Derek.”
He scowled at the use of his name. “Don’t forget your place, Kate.”
“Oh, but you used to like it when I called you that,” she insisted, leaning closer, breath ghosting across his cheek and up to his ear. “Don’t you remember, back when you were younger?”
“I was sixteen and horny, I liked all the attention I got regardless of where it came from.” He took another step back, but she just followed him, and he was soon going to run out of steps to take.
“Not enough to give me a chance, though.” She very boldly wrapped her arms around his neck and Derek stiffened. “But you’re older now. You’ve probably had your fair share of bed partners. Tell me, Derek, have any of them satisfied you? You should know that an older woman would treat you right.”
“You forget your place,” Derek repeated coldly. “I would suggest you remind yourself of it before you regret it.”
“If you were going to tattle, you’d have done it by now,” Kate bit at his earlobe and Derek flinched away from her, disgusted. Her arms around his neck stopped him from going far. “I think you like the attention. You just like playing hard to get, don’t you?”
Derek was ready to throw his mother’s wishes out the window and shout for a guard when there was a sharp knock at the door and it flew open before he could say anything.
Stiles was on the other side, dropping to one knee and bowing his head.
“I apologize, your Highness, but we are going to be late for our next scheduled appointment if we do not leave.”
Derek stared at him. Next scheduled appointment? What next appointment? They didn’t have anything after this dinner, just—
Stiles’ gaze shifted up to look at him and Derek understood.
Holy shit, Stiles was trying to save him from Kate!
“Thank you, Stiles, I’d completely forgotten.” Derek forcibly removed Kate’s arms from around his neck and moved past her, Stiles standing but keeping his gaze lowered. “Tell the driver to bring the car around.”
“Yes, your Highness.”
Derek’s heart pounded in his chest at the save, Stiles heading for the door while Derek hurried back to the dining room. Peter was in the middle of telling some ridiculous hunting story that the Argents had heard a hundred times—since he told it every time they came here—and Derek put his hand on his shoulder. He smiled at the people seated at the table before speaking.
“I apologize, but my aide has just reminded me of another appointment.”
He saw Marin look alarmed and then glance down at her tablet, but Peter picked up on the lie immediately. It probably helped that Kate had just sauntered back in, looking put out and annoyed.
“Of course! Good grief, is that the time?” Peter checked his watch and smiled at the Argents. “Our apologies for cutting this wonderful evening short. A Prince’s duty is never over.”
“Of course, we understand,” Chris said, getting to his feet. Marin did as well, hurrying for the door, likely to find Stiles and ask what the fuck was going on.
He and Peter made friendly on their way to the entrance, promising them once again that they would talk to Talia about the travel ban, and they were seen out. Stiles, Marin and the driver had all taken a knee when he exited the house, but the Argents just bowed their heads respectfully and thanked them for their visit.
Derek bid them farewell, pointedly ignoring Kate’s annoyed look, and slid into the back of the limo. Peter slid in beside him and the door shut. They both watched the Argents stand on the porch, waiting for the limo to pull away. Derek heard two doors slam, and then another a few cars back, likely Marin, and then the limo rolled forward. When they were on their way down the drive, Peter let out a loud bark of laughter and turned to Derek.
“That was brilliant thinking! I was getting tired of pretending to care about anything they were saying to us. Why haven’t you ever thought of pretending we had another appointment before? Last year’s visit was painful, it would’ve been the perfect time to throw that out there.”
Derek’s eyes strayed to the raised partition, wondering how Stiles had known to go and check on him. “I didn’t. Stiles did.”
Peter laughed harder and the partition lowered. Derek saw that Peter was the one doing it, and Stiles turned immediately, cocking an eyebrow.
“Uh, everything okay?” He paused, then added, “your Grace.”
“I would give you a raise, if we paid you, but sadly all I can do is clap for your genius.” Peter slow-clapped, still laughing, and Stiles frowned. “How is it we’ve endured so many dinners with the Argents and not once it occurred to us to pretend to have another appointment? Better yet, next year, let’s actually have another appointment! It’ll get us out of there faster!”
“How did you know I needed help?” Derek asked, interrupting his uncle’s continued hyena impression.
“You looked angry through all of dinner, and I noticed you push your chair out halfway through the main course.” Stiles shrugged. “When you went to the bathroom and she followed, I waited for a minute before deciding you were likely being ambushed.”
“Like I said,” Peter turned to grin at Derek, “Beacon Hills gifted us with a smart one. Are you sure I can’t have him?”
Derek eyed Stiles for a moment longer, the other staring right back. “No,” Derek said. “I think I’d prefer to keep him.”
“Spoilsport,” Peter teased, and the partition rose once more.
Derek and Stiles locked eyes until the separator cut them off.
By week three, Stiles felt like he was doing pretty well at this whole aide thing. He’d gotten used to making the routes, though Marin had helped him a lot in the second week, and he was an expert hotel booker now. It had gotten easier remembering to address Derek and Peter by their official titles, and he’d stopped barging into rooms after knocking before he got a response.
He still forgot about the kneeling thing every now and then, but mostly in private, which wasn’t as bad. Overall, he was quite pleased with himself.
School sucked right now, because he did most of his lessons either late at night when he was exhausted from a day of being a gopher, or early in the morning after only a few hours of sleep. He was just thankful he’d already been ahead when they’d left Knoxton or he would’ve fallen really behind the two weeks they were on the road.
Once they hit Washington, they would be staying in one of the palaces for three days before heading further north into Canada. Stiles had never been to Canada, so he was kind of excited to see what it was like, and if they were all as nice as people said they were.
Harris had just left his room at quarter past midnight and Stiles almost fell asleep in the shower from exhaustion. The only upside was his next class was in the morning at ten, so he got to sleep in a little, but still. This was exhausting, and he kind of hated Marin for being able to just do her job and then shut down. Stiles did his job, and then had to take lessons, and then do homework. Thank God for the next three days of privacy in one of the many palaces.
He fell face first onto his bed, and was pretty sure he was asleep before his head even hit his pillow.
It was short lived, because he found himself stirring at the sound of something buzzing. At first, he tried to ignore it, thinking maybe a fly had gotten into his room, but the buzzing persisted and his brain eventually clawed itself back to consciousness. He blinked up at the dark ceiling, frowning when he noticed something illuminating his room from the right. When he turned his head, he sat up quickly and scrambled for the phone, Derek’s name flashing on the display.
He managed to answer it before it went to... whatever it would go to if he didn’t. Did video calls have voicemail?
“Yes, your Highness?” he asked, voice thick with sleep and dragging one hand down his face. Derek looked pissed on the other end, and Stiles hoped it wasn’t at him. He’d been polite, and maybe it had taken him a while to answer, but he’d obviously been sleeping.
“Come to my room, now.”
Derek hung up.
Stiles sat staring at his phone, blinking in confusion. His eyes found the time, seeing it was just past three in the morning. What the hell did Derek need him to come to his room for at three in the fucking—
Instantly, Stiles’ stomach bottomed out and he was wide awake. His mind went back to a conversation he’d had not too long ago with Peter. It had been while they’d been in a hotel in Oregon, playing chess as they so often did—Peter seemed determined to beat him, for some reason.
The two of them had somehow gotten around to talking about Marin and her job as an aide, and Peter had offhandedly mentioned that he asked her to bed sometimes. Stiles hadn’t really thought much of it when he’d made the comment, but after their game ended and they started a new one, Peter told him that if he ever managed to win a game, he’d ask for a rematch with Stiles on his position as Derek’s aide.
Stiles had just laughed and said he’d miss out on Marin crawling into bed with him. It had been a complete joke, because obviously Stiles being his aide wouldn’t stop Marin and Peter from sleeping together, but Peter had just smiled creepily and asked him if Derek hadn’t yet asked him to join him in bed.
That had instantly taken all of Stiles’ attention, and the game lay forgotten while he argued that no one could order someone else to sleep with them. To which Peter had replied with,
“Of course we can. Derek is the Prince, and I am his uncle. Do you think Marin comes to me whenever she pleases? No, she comes to me whenever I please. When I call for her. If Derek hasn’t called for you yet, he will. He’s young, and he has needs, and you’re very attractive. We don’t discriminate in the royal household. If Derek has an urge, he will call for you, and you won’t have any grounds to refuse.”
Stiles covered his mouth with one hand, feeling ready to be sick. He’d thought Peter was fucking with him, but when he’d spoken to Marin, she’d confirmed what he’d been told and had also pointed out that if Derek called for him, he better damn well go to him.
Sex was a foreign concept for Stiles, because he was a fucking virgin. He was all awkward limbs and annoying personality, nobody wanted to sleep with that, and he’d only just grown into his body so that he didn’t look like a fucking beanpole. Maybe if he’d been allowed to stick around Beacon Hills, sure, he might have gotten laid before graduation, but as it stood, he hadn’t.
He was a fucking virgin about to pop his cherry with the Prince on an order.
“It could be worse,” he insisted to himself in the darkness. “It could be Peter.”
At least Derek was younger. He was twenty-one or twenty-two, so not much older than Stiles. And he was good looking, so there was that. He was probably good in bed, too, and it wasn’t like Stiles hadn’t been admiring his muscles or his ass the past few weeks.
Sadly, none of these thoughts were making Stiles feel better, and he knew he’d stalled long enough. He didn’t want Derek to send a guard in to get him, so he threw his legs over the side of the bed and shuffled towards the door. His stomach ached at the thought of what was coming and he wrapped one arm around it, trying to calm himself down. It would be fine. He could do this. It was all good.
He stood staring at his doorknob for at least thirty seconds before finally reaching out and opening the door. When he exited his room, the guards in front of Derek’s door turned to look at him, but said nothing when he approached. He clenched the material of his shirt in the hand wrapped around his middle, struggling to stay calm and not have a panic attack.
Then again, maybe a panic attack would get him out of this. He doubted it, though, Derek might just fuck him through the panic attack.
He stopped in front of the door between the two guards. He raised his hand, closed in a fist so he could knock, but he didn’t move. He couldn’t make himself do it.
Asshole guard on the left—whose name was Ennis—reached over and knocked for him. Stiles turned to him horrified, but before he could say anything, the door opened and Derek scowled out at him.
Stiles was too terrified of what was coming to drop to one knee.
“Took you long enough, what kept you? You’re only one door down.” Derek turned his back on him and stormed back into his room. He was wearing low-riding sweats and a wifebeater and looked pissed as all hell.
Stiles stood frozen at the door, and nice guard on the right—whose name was Boyd—gave him a gentle nudge to get him moving. Stiles managed to step into the room and one of the guards closed the door behind him.
Derek had taken a seat on the end of his bed, and Stiles worried he was about to ask for a blowjob—Stiles definitely didn’t know how to give a blowjob!—when Derek suddenly picked up a controller and turned to thrust it in Stiles’ direction.
“You’re good at video games, right?”
Stiles’ brain broke at that one sentence.
“Hah?” he asked, rather rudely, but unable to form a coherent response.
“Video games.” Derek scowled. “Peter said you played them often, you talk about it all the time. I can’t beat this level of Donkey Kong, I’ve been stuck on it for an hour.”
Stiles managed to get his feet to move forward and he turned to look at the TV directly across from the bed. Sure enough, an old school Donkey Kong game was on the world screen. It looked like the third one, because the world screen showed Dixie and Kiddy, which meant it couldn’t be the first or second.
His rapidly beating heart seemed to have completely halted in his chest, and all he could think about was the fact that Derek had ordered him to his bedroom at three in the morning because he couldn’t beat a level in a video game.
He was kind of in a daze when he sat down on the bed beside Derek, taking the controller and staring down at it.
“Video games,” he said, still somewhat in shock. “Of course. Video games. Why else would you ask me to come to your room in the middle of the night?”
“What?” Derek asked, frustration making way for confusion, but Stiles didn’t answer. He just hit the start button and when the level commenced, the controller was taken from his hands, Derek pausing it and turning to him. “Stiles, what did you think I was calling you here for?”
He had no idea what his face looked like when he turned to Derek, but it must’ve shown exactly what he was thinking because Derek looked horrified. Not even disgusted, for once, just horrified.
“Stiles,” he said, turning even more so he was fully facing him, “listen to me very carefully. I will never, ever ask that of you. I only even recently found out that Peter asked that of Marin, and while Peter is a disgusting old man, he and Marin have been friends since before I was born, and I honestly don’t think she even minds. But this,” Derek motioned between him and Stiles. “This isn’t going to ever be something I order you to do. I am not my uncle, and I never will be. You might hate me for your new lot in life, and you might not trust me, but believe me when I tell you I would never, ever order someone into my bed. Whoever ends up in my bed is there because they want to be.” Derek raised his eyebrows. “Okay?”
Stiles just nodded, not trusting his voice. He didn’t believe Derek, not entirely. It was hard to believe him after only three weeks, but he hoped he was telling the truth.
Derek nodded back and handed the controller over. Stiles unpaused it and started the level, jumping into yellow goo and immediately going in the opposite direction of the button he was hitting.
“Oh, I remember this one,” he said, startled. “Scott couldn’t beat this one, either.” He hit the back button to move his character forward, and the up button to make it go down further into the pipes.
Derek shifted beside him while he played, and after a few seconds he said, “Who’s Scott?”
“Hm?” Stiles asked, distracted. There were annoying moving clam things trying to kill him. “Oh, he’s my best friend from back home. He and I grew up together, I’ve known him since I was a kid.” Stiles stuck his tongue between his teeth and angled himself to the side, as if it would help the character on the screen move better. “His mom and my dad have been friends forever, she’s like my second mom. She’s a nurse at the hospital, so she works long hours, like my dad. Scott and I kind of raised ourselves, for the most part, which means we got into tons of trouble. My dad used to joke that if he wasn’t sheriff, I’d have gotten arrested years ago.”
Stiles hit one of the buttons repeatedly to force Kiddy to move faster, almost getting hit by an enemy. It wouldn’t be a big deal, since he still had Dixie trailing behind him, but he was competitive and didn’t want the game to best him by taking out one of his characters.
He continued rambling about Scott, Melissa and his dad, not even paying attention to what he was saying while he played. When he reached the top of the goo tube, he jumped out and instead of heading to the right towards the exit, he went left. He remembered there being one of the DK coins over there, and he wasn’t disappointed in his memory. He managed to get it without wasting the barrel, then went to the right to finish the level. He grinned when the little flag raised, turning blue and they were spat back out into the world map screen, Kiddy and Dixie moving to the next level on the screen.
“There you go.” He smiled at Derek, holding out the controller for him to take back.
Derek made no move to grab it, staring at Stiles like he was an alien from another planet. Stiles just stared back, smile falling off his face.
“You just beat that level effortlessly on your first try without getting hit once by any of the bad guys.”
“I’ve played this before,” Stiles insisted with a shrug.
“Still. I’ve played video games before, too, and even ones I know like the back of my hand I couldn’t beat the way you beat that one.” Derek turned to glare at the television angrily. “I wasted an hour of my life on that level.”
“Wanna know a trick?” Stiles asked with a grin.
When Derek turned to him, eyebrows raised, Stiles reached out and took his hand, slapping the controller into it. Derek instantly tensed, but Stiles ignored that reaction, figuring he’d just broken another one of those million royal family rules, and closed Derek’s other hand around the controller so that he was holding it upside down. Derek stared down at it, then looked at Stiles.
“It’s how Scott ended up beating it.” Stiles shrugged. “If you flip the controller upside down, it makes the arrows face the right direction for the backwards part of the level.” He nudged him. “Come on, give it a try.”
Derek scowled, clearly not amused, turning the controller right side up. Stiles thought he was going to ignore him and start the next level, but he instead moved the characters back down to the one he’d just beaten and started it. He kept the controller right side up until he hit the goo, then reluctantly turned it upside down. He seemed to struggle for a bit at first, the bulky item difficult to use upside down, but eventually he got the hang of it. He lost Kiddy fairly early on, but managed to get to a barrel to get him back before he lost Dixie. Derek didn’t beat the level on his first try. Or his second.
Or his third.
He finally got to the end on his own when he attempted it for a fourth time, and Stiles couldn’t help but smile at how adorable it was for Derek to leap to his feet and thrust both hands in the air.
It was weird when he was reminded of the fact that Derek was a normal person, too. He just happened to be royalty, was all.
“Good job.” Stiles slapped him on the shoulder when he got to his feet. “I think you’ve got the hang of it, so if my services are no longer needed, I’m going to head to bed. I’ve got class with Harris tomorrow.”
“Oh.” Derek turned to him. “I forgot about that.”
“It’s cool. But I’m gonna header, then.” He grinned. “Good job, your Highness.”
Derek snorted at that, as if he thought Stiles were teasing him, but he really wasn’t. Derek could’ve just given up and gone to the next level since Stiles had gotten it for him, but instead he’d persevered until he beat it on his own. Sure, he’d needed a cheat to beat it, but at least he hadn’t given up.
Stiles backed away to the door, but before he could open it, Derek blurted out, “How’s that going?”
“What?” Stiles asked, frowning.
“Class. Your school stuff with Harris.” The Prince shifted his weight, looking uncomfortable, controller held tightly in both hands. “How’s that going?”
Stiles was honestly surprised he cared enough to ask. “Good, I think. I fell a bit behind while we were on the road, so Harris is really burning the midnight oil right now, but I’m hoping three days here will let me catch up a bit before we head off to Canada.” Stiles grinned. “I’ve never been to Canada, I’m kind of excited. Are we going to go anywhere near Niagara Falls? I don’t know where they are.”
“They’re on the east coast. We’ll likely pass through town, but we won’t stop. I’ve seen the Falls.”
Stiles deflated. Obviously, this wasn’t a fucking vacation, what had he been thinking?
“Right. Yeah, of course.” He rubbed awkwardly at his arm. “Anyway, good night, your Highness.”
“Good night Stiles.”
Stiles exited the room and closed the door behind him.
Derek stared down at the book in his hand, pretending to read it while actually listening in on the conversation happening across the room.
Stiles had been with them for just over a month and a half now, and to date, Peter still hadn’t beaten him at chess. They were now sitting in one of the nicer palaces they had in Ontario—they had three because one of Derek’s ancestors really liked Ontario—and Stiles was once again whooping Peter’s ass.
He didn’t brag about it, though. Whenever a game concluded, he and Peter just reset the board while Stiles rambled away about something or another. It was strange, but ever since the night Stiles had come to help him beat a level of Donkey Kong, Derek had been interested in what he had to say. Stiles had been rambling during the game, too, but Derek didn’t think he even knew he was doing it, and if he did, he probably wasn’t even aware of what he was saying.
He just spoke. He filled the silence. But it wasn’t annoying like Derek thought it would be, it was actually really interesting. Stiles was interesting, and when he found out that he was heading to play chess with his uncle the morning after their gaming, he’d tagged along and had taken a seat in a chair to listen in.
Then he’d done it again the following day.
And the following day.
And now they were almost three weeks later and he was still doing it.
There was just something about Stiles that he found he really liked. Aside from smelling amazing—which had almost killed him when Stiles had been right beside him on his bed—he was just... there was something about him. Derek didn’t know what it was, but despite still not utilizing Stiles to the fullest as his aide, he spent more time around him because he followed him to Peter, and he liked listening to him.
He never complained about being there, which Derek had actually found surprising. He talked a lot about his dad, but never his mom. His best friend Scott seemed to be as important to him as Laura and Cora were to Derek, and apparently he was really hoping his dad had given his Jeep to Scott.
Sometimes he and Peter talked about weird things, like whether the Titanic really sank or it if was all a conspiracy for insurance money and it was actually another ship called the Olympic, and whether or not the supposed ‘proof’ of the Trojan War having been real was actually believable or not.
Other times they talked about politics, or history. Peter told him about the royal families of the world, including one day where he’d recounted in excruciating detail everything he knew about the ancestry of the Hale line. Derek had gotten bored and tuned out to legitimately read his book, but Stiles had sounded extremely interested and had asked a lot of questions.
Stiles was just... he was Stiles. Derek felt like he understood now why Peter liked him so much, considering Peter didn’t like anyone.
He also got to glare at how often Peter tried to poach Stiles, which Derek would definitely not allow, considering how fucking terrified Stiles had looked when he’d shown up in Derek’s room in the middle of the night.
Every time Derek got turned on by anything and contemplated calling for Stiles, all he had to do was remember the look on his face—along with his promise, which he would never break—and he instantly just took care of the problem himself.
It was strange though, because a few nights ago he’d had an urge, and he knew that Braeden lived near enough that he could’ve gone to her or asked her to come to the palace, but the moment he’d gone for his phone, he’d stopped himself. He didn’t know why, Braeden was great for one night stands. Well, multiple one night stands, considering. She didn’t get clingy, she didn’t want anything from him, she didn’t make a big deal when he put on a condom. She was a good fuck, and yet he hadn’t been able to bring himself to call her and he didn’t know why.
“Okay!” Stiles suddenly said, making Derek look up. “Well, that was fun, but I’m starving and need to take a leak. Did you want me to bring you anything?” he asked Peter.
“I’m fine, thank you.”
Stiles nodded and turned to Derek. “And you, your Highness?”
Derek had started getting annoyed hearing that come out of Stiles’ mouth. He’d noticed that when they played their games of chess, somewhere along the line before he’d started showing up, his uncle had told Stiles to call him ‘Peter’ and to drop the ‘your Grace’ unless they were in public. Derek kind of wanted that, too, but considering he’d made a big deal of Stiles not referring to him as such, it seemed impossible to insist Stiles just call him ‘Derek.’
“No thank you.”
Nodding, Stiles exited the room, and when the door shut, Derek turned to face Peter, somewhat startled to see him staring right back at him.
“Good book?” he asked.
Derek had finished the book back in Knoxton, it had just been the closest thing for him to grab the first day he’d followed Stiles to the study, and he’d just gotten in the habit of taking it every time.
He wasn’t going to tell Peter that, though, so he said, “Yeah, it’s interesting.”
“Must be,” Peter said, smiling slightly, “you’ve been reading it for three weeks.”
The two of them stared at one another for a long while before Derek finally said. “I really like it.”
“Nice try. It’s cute, really, that you think I’d believe that. Or that I wouldn’t notice. Or that he wouldn’t notice.”
Derek’s face fell. “He’s noticed?”
“He thinks you ran out of books and are just re-reading the same one over and over again.” Peter turned back to the board and started resetting it for another epic defeat. “Perhaps it’s time to send him out for new books you can pretend to read.”
Scowling at Peter, Derek actually felt like that wasn’t a terrible idea. It had been a while since he’d sent him out on an errand, and a thought occurred to him.
“How far are we from Niagara Falls?”
Peter looked up at him, arching an eyebrow. “A few hours, I’d say. Why?”
Derek thought for a moment, remembering something Stiles had said a while back about never having seen them. He wondered if he could find a way to get him out that far with his errand, and was still thinking it over when Stiles returned with a bowl of grapes and a banana.
Peter made lewd comments the entire time Stiles ate the banana, but Stiles took it all in stride, called Peter a gross old man, and proceeded to kick his ass again.
Before they could set up for their next game, Derek said, “I need you to run an errand.”
Stiles turned to look at him, a little startled, and Derek saw him deflate a little bit. “Sure, what did you need, your Highness?”
For you to stop calling me that, for starters, Derek thought, annoyed, but he didn’t say it aloud. “My sister’s birthday is coming up, and I wanted to get her something special. She’s a huge fan of Niagara Falls, so I was thinking maybe I could get some photos.” Derek motioned Stiles away with his hand. “Find Marin and take her with you. Get some nice shots for me so I can get her gift together.”
Stiles looked confused and delighted at the same time.
“Sure, of course. That sounds great. I’ll take the best shots I can manage, I promise.”
“And get me some new books on your way back.” Derek waved the one he held. “I’m growing bored of these ones.”
“Yes, your Highness.” Stiles stood and started to leave, but he paused and turned back to him. “Um, your Highness?”
“What is it?” Derek asked.
Stiles shifted his weight uncomfortably, eyes skirting to Peter, who wasn’t looking at them, and then back to Derek. He licked his lips, then offered an awkward smile.
“Never mind. I’ll talk to you about it later,” he said, and promptly left the room. Derek cocked an eyebrow, but shrugged it off and hoped Marin was smart enough to find the best camera to take with them.
He went back to the book, re-reading the same page for what felt like the millionth time. When he looked up, Peter was smirking at him.
“What?” Derek demanded.
“Curious,” Peter said, still smirking. “I don’t think either Laura or Cora’s birthday is coming up. And I don’t recall either of them showing any interest whatsoever in the Falls.”
“I’m being pro-active, and Cora loves the Falls.”
“Mmhm.” Sometimes, Derek wanted to wipe that smug smile right off Peter’s face. “Come play with me, nephew. Let’s see if I’m losing my touch.”
He sighed in annoyance, but it beat reading the same book for the twentieth time, so he stood and took Stiles’ seat across from his uncle.
Derek was decimated in under ten minutes.
Derek was in a colossally bad mood. At first, he honestly wasn’t sure why, but he felt like it had something to do with the last noble family they’d visited. Something about them had just pissed him off, and considering they’d spent the night in their lavish mansion, he was stuck with them for both dinner and breakfast, and had found it incredibly hard to remain civil.
Peter had dug his nails into Derek’s leg under the table a few times during breakfast, and once they were done, he very quickly got Derek out of there. They ended up having to wait in the car for an exceptionally long time, because one of the daughters wasn’t letting Stiles leave, and it was as Derek watched her hug him tightly at the door and kiss his cheek that he realized why he was so mad.
Stiles was flirting. Stiles was fucking flirting with that girl! What, did he think Derek was just going to let him leave? He was there as a punishment, he was stuck with the Hale family until Derek said so, and he wasn’t going to let him weasel his way out of this arrangement!
He glared angrily through the mirrored window while Stiles hurried down the steps. He was wiping his cheek off with the back of his hand, but that didn’t mean anything to Derek and he silently fumed while the door at the front opened and then shut.
Peter was smart enough not to say anything to him, but every time Derek looked at him, the asshole was smirking knowingly to himself, scrolling through their schedule on his tablet. They were still in Ontario, the province massive and nobles spread out all over the place, but they were a good three hours at least from their closest palace which left Derek with tons of time to fume in silence in the back seat.
He was thankful they’d left early, because it meant they arrived at the palace before noon. Derek normally waited for the driver to open the door, but he needed to get away from Stiles and his fucking abhorrent behaviour so he kicked the door open himself, startling Peter and most of the staff collected on the steps and stomped out of the car.
He made it through the palace and to his room in record time, slamming the door angrily and going straight to the bookshelf, looking at all the titles before snatching one at random and hoping it would calm him down.
He’d barely fallen onto his bed to start reading when there was a knock at his door.
“What?” he snapped.
For a few seconds, nothing happened, and then the door finally opened, Stiles walking into the room. He fell to one knee, eyes lowered, and said, “Is everything okay?”
“Peachy,” Derek bit out. “What do you want?”
Stiles hesitated, but after a moment he shook his head. “I’ll come back later.”
“No,” Derek snarled, sitting up. “You won’t. You’re here now, so what. Do. You. Want?”
He saw Stiles’ chest rise and fall rapidly, the action shifting his shoulders up and down, but he eventually looked up and licked his lips. He didn’t get to his feet though, he stayed on one knee, as if hoping that show of respect would earn him what he wanted.
“I just—I was hoping I could get tomorrow off. Just the one day, and then I promise—”
“No,” Derek said, cutting him off. “You’ve been working for me for, what, two months now? Marin’s been here for longer than I’ve been alive and she’s never asked for a day off.”
Stiles licked his lips, averting his gaze and eyebrows drawn. “I understand, and I know I don’t have a right to ask, but—”
“You’re right, you don’t,” Derek said coldly. He was still so mad at him for his actions earlier, and even though he didn’t fully understand why he was so mad, it felt good to deny him something he obviously wanted. “I have things for you to do tomorrow.” He fell onto his back, opening his book. “Get out of my sight, I’m tired of looking at you.”
For a moment, he heard nothing, and then Stiles very slowly got to his feet and exited the room. He slammed the door a little harder than he should have, and Derek sat up, glaring at the door before deciding it was more trouble than it was worth to go after him for that.
Laying back down, he started reading the book, and tried to push Stiles from his mind. It was hard to concentrate on the plot, because he couldn’t figure out why he was so angry, and he eventually gave up and watched some cooking shows on TV. He had food brought to him for both lunch and dinner, and took a shower before retiring early, trying to calm himself down.
When he woke the next morning, he was less pissed, but still annoyed. He was going to talk to Laura later about what was bothering him, but before doing that, he grabbed his phone and called Stiles, not having seen him since he’d grovelled at his feet the day before.
He answered on the first ring, and Derek was a little surprised at how terrible he looked. He was sitting up in bed, obviously hugging his pillow to his chest, and it seemed as though he hadn’t slept.
“How can I help you, your Highness?” Even his voice was subdued, almost hollow, and Derek found himself frowning.
“What’s the matter with you?” he demanded.
He saw Stiles’ jaw clench, but his free arm just tightened around his pillow and he repeated, “How can I help you, your Highness?”
Fine, if he wanted to play that game, Derek was going to play that game. He wouldn’t bother being concerned about him anymore.
“Get me breakfast. Something sweet. French Toast, maybe. We’re in Canada, they have real maple syrup here.”
“Yes, your Highness. Anything else?”
Was he trying to piss Derek off? Because it was working.
“Actually, I’m bored with the video games I have, and would like a new one. After you bring my breakfast, go into town and find me something new to play.” He realized how childish that sounded after he said it, but it was too late to take it back.
“Yes, your Highness. Anything else?”
Oh, Derek was going to find something else, if Stiles kept pushing his buttons! “Not for the moment, I’ll call you when I need you.”
Stiles hung up.
Derek scowled down at his phone, annoyed, and tossed it onto his nightstand. He pulled the covers over his head when he lay back down, scowling at the inside of his blankets. Was Stiles going to be like that all fucking day because Derek hadn’t given him time off? Marin never asked for time off! Deaton never asked for time off, being critically ill didn’t count! Stiles was literally the only aide he knew of who’d asked for time off, and he had the audacity to do so only two months into his employ!
“Unbe-fucking-lievable,” Derek muttered to himself.
He was still angrily staring at the inside of his covers when there was a knock at his door.
“Come in.” He threw the covers off himself in time for Stiles to walk into the room. He was balancing a tray that had French Toast, coffee, juice, fresh fruit and maple syrup.
He was also dressed, and looked like he’d slept in his clothes, they were so wrinkled. His shirt wasn’t even tucked in.
Stiles set the tray down on the edge of the bed where there was space and dropped to a knee, head bowed.
“Clean yourself up before you go out, you’re a mess,” he snapped, pulling the tray closer.
“Yes, your Highness.”
Derek grabbed his coffee, taking a sip and staring down at Stiles. He hadn’t moved from his position and Derek frowned.
“Well? Are you going?”
He heard a sniff, and when Stiles stood, he kept his face averted and quickly left the room, shutting the door behind him.
Derek’s frown deepened, wondering what that was about, but he didn’t concern himself with it and started eating his breakfast. He was still trying to think of things to make Stiles do for being a little shit, but it was proving difficult. He found random errands for him to run while he was in town, and called him every time to tell him so.
Stiles just replied with a, “Yes, your Highness. Anything else?” each and every time. It made Derek determined to make his entire day full of stupid little requests, he just had to think of them.
Actually, Peter was good at that, so he figured he’d ask him when he finally decided to roll out of bed. Which was two hours later, because his bed was comfortable. But, he eventually dragged himself out of it and got dressed. He nodded hello to his guards on his way through the door, and then started hunting down his uncle.
Surprisingly, he found him wandering the corridors as well, frown on his face.
“Where’s Stiles?” he asked. “I went to his room, but he wasn’t there.”
“I sent him into town on an errand,” Derek said. “Speaking of which—”
“I thought he got the day off,” Peter interrupted, which was doing nothing for Derek’s darkening mood.
“I said no,” he bit out, narrowing his eyes. “He doesn’t get to ask for time off.”
Peter stared at him for a long while, then pulled out his phone. He hit something on it, staring at his screen, and after two rings someone picked up.
“Hello, your Grace.” It was Stiles. He’d obviously gone for ‘your Grace’ because he was in public. “How can I help you?”
“Stiles, come back to the palace. You have the day off.”
Derek bristled and opened his mouth to argue, but Stiles beat him to it.
“His Highness refused to grant me the day off, and I have errands to run, so—”
“Stiles,” Peter said, expression hard and voice commanding, “come back to the palace and take the day off. I’m overruling him.”
“You do not have the authority—”
The sharp look Peter gave him had the words sticking in his throat. Peter didn’t often get mad like this, not this silent rage boiling just beneath the surface, so he said nothing when Peter ordered Stiles back to the palace a third time and hung up.
“Did it not occur to you, nephew, that Stiles would never have asked for today off unless there was a reason?” Peter pulled his tablet out from where he’d tucked it under his arm, never going far without it. He swiped a few times until he got to a screen he wanted, then shoved it into Derek’s chest. “Maybe do some research on your aide before acting like a jealous boyfriend for something he had no control over with a fawning little girl.”
When Derek opened his mouth to argue, Peter turned on his heel and stormed away, the guards nearby physically stepping back at the rage he was emanating.
Derek just scowled after him angrily. He wasn’t a jealous boyfriend, what the hell was Peter even saying? His bad mood and anger towards Stiles had nothing to do with jealousy! It had everything to do with Stiles letting that girl hang all over him. He could’ve pushed her away, told her to leave him alone, but instead he’d let her do it. He’d been enjoying it!
Though he had wiped his hand across his cheek after she’d kissed him. And Derek supposed Stiles had been ducking out of her hugs and hurrying to follow him when he wandered past to head somewhere else in the house.
And Stiles had been hiding in the kitchen that one time Derek had called him...
“Whatever,” Derek insisted to nobody, “I’m not a jealous boyfriend!”
He turned on his heel and stormed back to his room, pissed at both Stiles and Peter, now. Slamming his door before falling onto his bed, he scowled at the tablet’s black screen, the device having gone to sleep. He tapped it to bring it back to life and frowned at what it opened up on.
It was a file on Stiles—or, he assumed it was Stiles, it had his picture in the corner, but the name staring back at him was Mieczyslaw Stilinski. He knew the sheriff’s last name was Stilinski, so even without the picture, he’d have known this was Stiles.
No wonder he went by “Stiles.” How did one even pronounce Mieczyslaw? Did his parents hate him?
He didn’t know why Peter had shoved this at him, but he rolled onto his back and started reading. It was all fairly boring and generic. It gave his date of birth—in two months—along with his current age, height, weight, features. It had details on his schooling, who his parents were, where he lived—though the file currently said, “Under employment with the Royal Family” where his current address should’ve been.
Derek didn’t really understand why Peter had shoved this at him, and he re-read the file four times trying to figure it out. He caught the fact that Stiles’ mother had passed away on his second re-read, but it wasn’t until he was on his fifth that he actually looked at the date beside her name. It listed her date of birth to her date of death, and Derek stared at her date of death for a good few seconds before slowly closing out of the file to check the date on the main screen of the tablet.
“I am a ginormous, insensitive asshole,” Derek said quietly.
Stiles had started to say something the day before, when he’d been asking for the day off. He’d said he understood, but.
But today was the anniversary of his mother’s death.
And Derek had been a complete asshole to him since he’d woken up. Stiles looked like he hadn’t even slept, and he’d been hugging his pillow, and his clothes were wrinkled, and Derek had been desperately trying to find things to occupy him with all fucking day just to make him miserable.
Tossing the tablet aside, he stood and hurried to his door, wrenching it open.
“Is Stiles back?” he asked the guards while walking out of his room and towards the one next door.
“A few minutes ago,” one of them confirmed.
Derek stopped in front of his door, raised his hand to knock, and froze. He had no idea what to say to him. Somehow, saying “Sorry I was a dick to you the day your mom died, but I got jealous of that noble girl yesterday and took it out on you” didn’t seem like an acceptable response.
And that was when he realized he’d admitted to being jealous. He had been jealous. He’d been jealous of the girl hanging all over Stiles, hugging him, kissing him, spending time with him. She was the younger daughter of the family, so the parents had been pushing their eldest towards Derek. The youngest had probably seen Stiles, figured he was cute, and decided he was worth pursuing. And instead of acknowledging that Stiles had valiantly been trying not to be rude while also maintaining his distance from her, Derek had snapped at him and treated him like shit for two days.
It was times like this he remembered he was still a spoiled little rich boy, despite how much he tried to convince himself that he wasn’t.
Letting his hand fall, he went back to his room. He stood in the doorway a long while, chest aching and not even able to imagine how Stiles must be feeling. His family was far away, but they were alive and well. He spoke to his mother at least once every other day, and he and Cora texted all the time. Laura was harder to pin down, but they texted on and off every now and then, and they called one another when their schedules aligned.
The only person he never really spoke to was his dad, but that was mostly because his mom always relayed everything about him to Derek, and about Derek to him. Even if he didn’t speak to him, he still knew how he was doing and what he was up to.
Not wanting to be in his room alone, Derek grabbed Peter’s tablet and left once more, hunting his uncle down. He found him in the study, playing a game of chess against himself. He didn’t look up when Derek entered, setting the tablet down on the edge of the desk.
“Figure it out, did you?” Peter asked, frowning at the board.
“I didn’t know,” he insisted defensively, crossing his arms over his chest. “How did you know?”
“I chose him, remember?” Peter moved his white rook and took the black knight, setting it down on the desk before turning the board around to play from the other perspective. “And I like him. He’s a good kid. I pay attention when he talks.”
Derek paid attention when he talked, too, but he didn’t remember hearing about this. He wondered if maybe it had been before he’d been hanging around, or even when Stiles and Peter randomly went out on errands together. They did that sometimes, it was kind of weird. Derek figured Peter just really liked Stiles.
He didn’t have kids of his own, and while he still made rude comments every now and then, he’d stopped making them quite as often, and he didn’t look at Stiles like he was a piece of meat anymore. Derek actually wondered if, in some weird, Peter-y way, he saw Stiles as his own. Stiles seemed to mean something to him, which was weird to think about, but it was true. Derek had known it for a while, but it was this moment that really cemented it.
“What can we do?” he asked quietly.
“Nothing.” Peter moved one of his black pieces and turned the board around. “Support him. Offer comfort. As someone whose mother has also passed away, I can tell you with certainty that it doesn’t get easier.” Peter’s eyes moved around the board for a few seconds, and then he knocked the white king over before leaning back in his seat. “Leave him be. He’ll be all right in his own time.”
“I can’t just leave him be,” Derek insisted. “I need to apologize.”
“I need to apologize now.”
“And what about what he needs?” Peter asked, folding his hands together and raising his eyebrows. “Does what Stiles need matter? Leave him be, Derek. Let him grieve in peace, it’s what he wants.”
For some reason, Peter’s words made him remember something. What did Stiles need? His family. He needed his family.
And Derek had that!
Turning on his heel, he rushed out of the study. He tried not to run back to his room, but it was hard and he ended up doing a weird half-jog thing that had some of the guards he passed give him weird looks. He ignored them all and headed into his room once he reached it. He walked over to his laptop case, unzipped the front, and reached inside.
The picture frame he’d gotten from the sheriff was exactly where he’d left it, and he opened it to make sure the glass wasn’t broken. He started to leave the room, then his eyes fell on his phone on the nightstand.
He knew Stiles couldn’t make outgoing calls from his own, and he couldn’t receive incoming calls from anyone other than him, Peter and Marin. It was part of the punishment for what had happened in Beacon Hills.
Derek’s phone didn’t have that restriction. And Stiles needed his family. It had been two months, he was hurting, his dad was hurting, the sheriff probably didn’t even know if Stiles was still alive—which, why wouldn’t he be, but he could imagine the thought going through the man’s head.
Detouring, he grabbed his phone off the nightstand and figured for one day, just one day, he would break Peter’s rules.
Peter liked him, anyway, he’d probably be pissed he didn’t think of this himself.
Walking to the room next door again, Derek reached up and knocked before he lost his nerve. He heard nothing from within for a long while, so he knocked again. This time, he heard fabric shift and soft footsteps padded across the floor.
When Stiles opened the door, he was in his pyjamas and he looked even worse than that morning. His eyes were puffy and red, and his hair was sticking up in every direction. He started to take a knee when he saw him, but Derek hastily grabbed his arm with one hand and stopped him.
“I’m sorry,” he said quietly. “I should’ve known, and I didn’t, and I’m sorry.” He hesitated, knowing Stiles would be aware that he’d been holding onto it, but sucked it up and figured if Stiles wanted to be mad at him, he deserved it.
He held out the closed twin picture frames. Stiles frowned down at it, obviously confused, then looked up at Derek. Slowly, he reached out with both hands and took it from him, opening it and flipping it around since it was upside down.
Derek’s chest ached again when tears immediately spilled over his lashes and Stiles hugged the frame to his chest, looking up at Derek again with tears sliding down his cheeks.
That was it.
No “Where did you get this?”
No “How long have you had this?”
No “Why didn’t you give this to me sooner?”
Stiles just accepted that Derek had it and had chosen to give it to him, and said thank you.
Before Stiles’ expression completely murdered him, Derek held out his phone. “You can call your dad, if you want. I won’t tell Peter.”
Stiles stared at him, more tears sliding down his face. He let out a sharp exhale, and it looked like he couldn’t speak. He reached out and squeezed Derek’s wrist tightly, which he interpreted as a thank you, and then took the phone. Derek stepped back, staring at Stiles awkwardly, then reached out and shut the bedroom door for him.
He didn’t hear Stiles move on the other side of the door for a long while, and when he heard a thump, he realized Stiles had sat down on the floor, leaning against the door. Derek started to walk away, but he paused when he heard Stiles say,
The sobbing that followed was almost too much for Derek to handle, and he turned to go somewhere else in the palace, needing to get away from the pain Stiles was in, and wishing his chest would stop aching.
Stiles felt like it took a long time for Derek to go back to normal after his day off. Speaking to his dad had almost hurt more than if he’d kept living without the ability to do so, but he was glad he got to talk to him. It was hard, and they both spent most of the call crying, but at least he’d gotten to speak to him. He’d heard his voice for the first time in two months. His dad was okay, he was surviving, he was getting by without him.
He felt like, as hard as the call had been, it had also been good for them both. They got to know that the other was doing all right, Stiles was able to reassure him that he wasn’t being mistreated, that he was finishing high school, that he was apparently really good at chess.
All in all, a hard call, but a good one. He hadn’t given Derek back his phone until later in the night when it had started ringing with “Laura” flashing on the screen. Stiles had actually panicked a little at the name and had run to Derek’s room to return the phone so he could answer the call, but he wasn’t there. He just left the phone on his nightstand and crawled back into bed to sleep.
When he’d gotten up the next morning and gone to find Derek, he was told he wasn’t needed and ended up spending the day doing homework and playing chess with Peter—who still hadn’t beaten him. Where had this knowledge of being amazing at chess been when he needed an extracurricular activity for school?
They stayed in the palace for a few more days, and then were on the road again. They visited more nobles while they slowly moved their way back down Canada towards the United States, beginning the trek home to New York. Stiles had been a little excited when he’d heard that, because the province of Ontario actually bordered the state of New York, but apparently they were taking the long way home.
Namely, they were going to drive back across Canada, cross over in North Dakota, drive through the United States down to Texas, and then zigzag their way back to New York from there. Stiles hated that, but at least the driver was a little chattier, now.
Which was more than he could say for Derek, who seemed to want nothing to do with him. Not in a mean way, just in a general “I was an asshole, I don’t think you accepted my apology, and I’d rather avoid you than find out you hate me” kind of way. It was actually starting to get on Stiles’ nerves.
He’d given him photos of his loved ones and let him talk to his dad on the hardest day of the year. Stiles didn’t care that he’d been an asshole, he’d made up for it a hundred times over.
They had just left a noble’s house on the border between Ontario and Manitoba, having driven a ways down Highway One, when the GPS beeped and both Stiles and the driver looked at it. The words “Pull over” were flashing back at them. Stiles immediately panicked, but the driver’s calm reaction of easing them to the side of the road alleviated some of his worries.
Once the car had stopped, the partition behind them opened and Stiles turned around, Peter smiling and waving at him while Derek glared out his window, chin in his palm so that he was half covering his mouth with the position, elbow resting on the windowsill.
“Is everything all right?” Stiles asked uncertainly.
“Everything is great. Would you mind coming back here for a minute?”
Stiles stared at him, then—very stupidly—motioned himself with one hand. “Me?”
Stiles was almost worried that the moment he stepped out the car was going to speed away and leave him stranded on the highway, but it would be stupid of Peter to go through all the trouble to take him away from his dad, only to abandon him on the side of the road in Canada. Slamming his door, he headed around the car so he was on Peter’s side and the man opened his door, motioning Stiles in. Frowning, Stiles hesitantly climbed into the back of the limo, not entirely sure what he was doing there and whether he should kneel or sit on the floor or what.
Peter closed his door, motioned the side-facing seat, and waited for Stiles to sit.
“Thank you, driver, you can continue onward now,” Peter said, reaching out to hit a button so the separator was back in place.
Stiles looked between Peter and Derek uncertainly, the car easing back onto the road and continuing on its way. Peter was still smiling pleasantly, and Derek was pointedly ignoring him, staring out the window, but in the fading light of the sun, Stiles thought he saw his cheeks turn pink in colour. It could’ve just been the light, but Peter looked way too happy for it not to be a blush.
“Is something wrong?” Stiles asked slowly, still shifting his gaze back and forth worriedly between the two men.
“No, nothing’s wrong. Derek just had some things to ask you, and I figured instead of me answering all his questions, wouldn’t it be better to get it from the source?”
Peter looked way too happy right now, it was really freaking Stiles out. He slowly shifted his gaze to Derek, who was still staring out the window at the passing scenery.
“Oh, your Highness,” Peter said emphatically, turning to Derek. “Did you hear that, Derek? Your Highness. Why don’t you tell Stiles what you told me. Go on, don’t be shy.” He was poking at Derek, and after a few seconds, the Prince turned and violently slapped his hand away.
Stiles jumped, startled, but Peter just laughed, clearly enjoying his nephew’s discomfort.
Derek glared at him angrily, then turned to Stiles and snapped, “Don’t call me that.”
Stiles blinked. “Don’t call you what?”
“What my poor, inarticulate nephew is trying to say,” Peter jumped in, pinching Derek’s cheek. He got another violent swat for that. “Is that he would like you to adopt the same arrangement you and I have. In public, he is his Highness, and in private, he is Derek.”
“Really?” Stiles asked, surprised, gaze shifting back to Derek. “You were pretty specific about me not calling you Derek.”
“I just needed you to get into the habit for when we were in public,” Derek muttered, a flush creeping up his neck. “It’s been almost three months, I think you’ve got it figured out. And stop kneeling every time you see me, you only need to do that when other people are around.”
“Okay,” Stiles said slowly, finding this to be a complete one-eighty from his first week with the royals. “Sure. If that’s what you want, your Hig—I mean, Derek.”
Derek wasn’t looking at him, gaze still focussed on the passing scenery, but Stiles saw the corners of his lips curl upwards when he said his name. Stiles grinned and looked over at Peter.
“So what do you guys do back here, anyway? The driver’s not exactly super chatty, I don’t even know his name, and I can’t read or I get carsick. Makes for boring road trips.”
“We entertain ourselves somehow,” Peter said, grabbing his tablet from where it was resting on the seat beside him. “Derek’s been entertaining himself by harassing me about you, so maybe with you here he’ll leave me in peace.”
Stiles looked at Derek again, but he was still just resting his chin in his hand, staring out the window. He had no idea Derek and Peter talked about him. He couldn’t hear anything from the front, and didn’t consider himself interesting enough to be worth talking about.
Actually, now that he thought about it, he didn’t really know anything about Derek, either. He and Peter chatted all the time when they played chess, but Derek just sat there and read. He didn’t really know anything about him, and he’d been his aide for three months.
The most he knew was that Derek wasn’t a morning person and he hated brussel sprouts.
He figured if Derek wouldn’t talk, that was fine, but he was going to try and change his lack of knowledge.
“Are you twenty-one or twenty-two?”
Derek turned to him, as if wondering who he was talking to, and seemed startled to realize he was talking to him.
“I thought so. I’m turning nineteen next month.” Stiles grinned. “Still too young to drink, but old enough to almost be out of my teens!”
“You can drink in all Canadian provinces at nineteen,” Peter informed him, playing some kind of game on his tablet.
“What, really?” Stiles demanded. “Why are we leaving Canada then?! I feel so jipped.” He whined and slid down in his seat, grinning at Derek when the other snorted and rolled his eyes.
“Alcohol’s not all great,” Derek informed him.
“Beer’s pretty good,” Stiles said. Derek raised his eyebrows at him and Stiles quickly added, “Or so I’ve heard. Because I’m underage. And my dad is the sheriff. And I would never, ever drink while under the age of majority.”
“Nice save, Stiles,” Peter said.
“Go back to your Tic-Tac-Toe and leave me alone.” Stiles stuck his tongue out at him and Peter’s lips quirked upwards, but he didn’t take his eyes off the tablet. Stiles instead focussed back on Derek. “Did you go to university? Or is there a kind of tutor for that, too?”
“We have a special in-house learning experience,” Derek told him, seeming a little more at ease now that they were talking about something relatively mundane. “Depending on our majors, we have different people come in to teach us. My sister Laura majored in BioChemistry. I majored in Architectural Engineering. My other sister Cora is currently dragging her feet and delaying her graduation as much as possible. She’s kind of rebellious like that.”
“That’s really cool.” Stiles grinned. “I was originally going to go into Computer Sciences after I graduated.”
“Well, why don’t you?” Derek asked.
“Uh...” Stiles didn’t know how to politely tell him that university wasn’t really an option while he was stuck working for him.
It probably showed on his face, because Derek scowled. “Just because you’re with me doesn’t mean you can’t go to university. Marin did the same thing we all did alongside Peter, utilizing the in-house system. If you want to do Computer Sciences, once Harris graduates you from high school, we can start shopping around for some good professors.”
Stiles shifted uncomfortably. “Isn’t that reserved mostly for, you know, your family?”
“It’s reserved for whoever we want it to be reserved for,” Peter said, frowning at his screen. “What’s an eight letter word for adventure?”
“Escapade,” Stiles said immediately.
Peter pointed his finger at him without looking up from his screen. “A mind like that is not going to go to waste under our roof.” He tapped the answer out, suggesting he was playing a crossword. “You wouldn’t happen to know a three letter word for a building extension, would you?”
“Ell,” Derek and Stiles said at once. Stiles grinned at him and Derek laughed, shaking his head.
“Sorry,” Stiles said. “Didn’t mean to cross over into your domain.”
“How do you know so much?”
Stiles shrugged. “I had a boring childhood. My dad tried to get me tested once to see what my IQ was, but my ADHD made the results inconclusive. The guy doing the test figures I’m pretty high up there, though.” He frowned. “Not that I’m bragging or anything, I don’t know my score, it’s just what he said.”
“Well you seem pretty smart, and anyone who can beat Peter repeatedly at chess is someone to be feared.” Derek smirked at Peter. His uncle just flipped him off.
“Just wait, the day I beat him, I win his services as my aide.”
“Over my dead body,” Derek informed him.
“Don’t tempt me, nephew.”
Derek laughed and Stiles couldn’t help but smile. Derek actually kind of liked him, which was a nice thing to find out. And he seemed better now than he had in days. He was actually laughing, and wasn’t avoiding Stiles anymore, and joking around with his uncle.
He didn’t know why the population wasn’t allowed to see this side of the royal family. All they ever got was the stern-faced, angry-looking royals, or the smile-plastered faced royals. There was none of this easy banter and joking remarks. No teasing and conversations about chess and strategy and crossword puzzles.
They were just people, same as everyone else, but nobody got to see that.
And it was times like this where Stiles found he didn’t mind so much having been forced into their employ. They were interesting people.
“So, Stiles, important question.” Derek’s face turned serious and he leaned forward in his seat. “DC or Marvel.”
“Oh man!” Stiles blurted out, and then started laughing, Derek’s face breaking out into a brilliant smile that had Stiles’ stomach flutter with butterflies.
That could be a problem.
Derek hated chess. He hated it with a hot, fiery, burning passion. He knew he hated it because he was bad at it, but he especially hated it now, staring down at the seventh lost game in a row.
In twenty minutes.
“You’re taking your turns too fast,” Stiles insisted, leaning back in his seat and pulling one leg up so he could tuck it beneath himself.
“What does that even mean?” Derek muttered while Stiles reset the board with practised ease.
“Peter and I always go relatively fast because we’re used to playing each other. And he’s like, a chess master so he can afford to go quickly. You seem a little less sure of your moves, so just take your time to survey the board before making one.”
Derek watched Stiles’ hands deftly move all pieces back where they belonged. He quite liked Stiles’ hands, all long fingers and fluid movements. He hadn’t really noticed before he’d started playing chess with him.
Which was today. Just now. Because Peter was off doing a Duke thing and Derek had noticed Stiles wandering around in boredom. He’d wanted to spend some time with him, but not knowing how to ask, he’d just blurted out that they should play chess.
A terrible idea, evidently, since he was getting his ass kicked. His only solace was that Peter, who really was a master at chess, was also getting his ass kicked.
“Has Peter really never won a game against you?” Derek asked.
“Nope.” Stiles finished setting up the last piece and sat back, pulling his other leg up and sitting with his legs crossed beneath him, resting his elbows on his knees so he could lean forward. “Peter makes really obvious moves he thinks are subtle. For example, he’ll move his bishop to a location, and not touch it for a few rounds, and then just move his other pieces around in an attempt to trick you into walking right into his bishop.” Stiles shrugged. “I don’t know, I think he just makes his end goal too obvious and it backfires. I don’t worry about boxing him into a corner, I just spread my pieces out and move them where they’re needed.”
Derek had never realized that Peter played like that, but he knew he wasn’t good with strategy games so he likely hadn’t played him often enough to notice. Stiles and Peter played daily, and had been doing so for months. It made sense it was something Stiles would’ve figured out.
“Do you like chess?” Derek asked, watching Stiles make his first move since he was white.
“I didn’t used to,” Stiles admitted, leaning back and gripping his ankles with both hands. “I think I didn’t play against anyone worthwhile so I found it boring. Peter offers a challenge, though, and turns out I’m pretty good at it.”
“There’s definitely that,” Derek admitted, taking his turn.
They played in silence for a few moments, Derek attempting to take his moves more slowly and try and figure out Stiles’ next one. When he moved his knight on his next turn, he saw Stiles frown and lean forward, chewing on his bottom lip. Derek had obviously unintentionally done something to stump him. It was a complete fluke, but he wasn’t going to admit that, so he just watched Stiles and waited for him to play.
Stiles kept chewing on his bottom lip, worrying it between his teeth, and Derek couldn’t help but notice that it was extremely sexy. Which came out of nowhere and he blinked, surprised at his own thoughts.
It was true, though. Stiles was effortlessly attractive, with his smooth skin and bright eyes, and God, the way he smelled. He moved so fluidly, even when he flailed, and Derek kind of loved the way his hair fell into his eyes every now and then. His hair looked soft, too, like he didn’t use any product in it, and his lips were full. Derek imagined they would be nice to kiss.
He found himself leaning forward unconsciously, Stiles hovering over the board, eyes on the pieces. Derek realized what he was doing a split second before Stiles reached out and took one of his pawns.
“That was a much better move than usual.” Stiles leaned back and grinned at him, and Derek was relieved he hadn’t noticed him lean forward.
What had he been thinking? It wasn’t like he could just kiss Stiles because he wanted to. He’d promised him he would never order him to his room and while this wasn’t really the same thing, it made him uncomfortable to realize that if he kissed Stiles, the other wouldn’t have the freedom to push him away.
Even though Derek had been trying to give him a bit more of it lately. Freedom was earned, and Stiles was almost four months in. His birthday was in three days, and he hadn’t once mentioned anything about wanting a day off. He worked and did his job without complaint, he treated Derek and Peter with more respect than they deserved for their essential slavery of him, and he was just an all-around good person.
If Derek ever showed his interest in him, he would never truly know if Stiles reciprocated because he was the Prince, or because he liked him back. And if he kissed him right now, what guarantee did he have that Stiles wouldn’t believe it would lead to something more in the bedroom? Derek felt like he would never be able to erase the terrified look on Stiles’ face back when he’d thought Derek was ordering him to his room for a booty call. He never wanted to see that expression on his face again.
Lifting his gaze from the board, he saw Stiles frowning at him.
“Are you okay? It’s just a game, you don’t have to look so nervous.”
“I’m not,” he lied, grabbing a piece at random and moving it to a free spot on the board without any thought. “Just plotting your downfall in this round.”
Stiles let out a laugh, head thrown back and column of his throat exposed.
Derek knew he had a big problem when he wanted to lean forward and suck on it.
This was bad. Very bad. Extremely bad.
I think I’m in love with Stiles.
“I can’t believe you have gorgeous men and women throwing themselves at you on a regular basis, and you end up falling for your aide. You know that’s sad and pathetic, right? Didn’t Peter like, kidnap him or something?”
Derek scowled up at his ceiling, annoyed at Cora’s words despite how true they were in virtually every way.
“He didn’t kidnap him, he forcibly enlisted his services.”
“Oh, so he enslaved him. Sorry, my bad, kidnap was the wrong term.”
Sometimes, Derek hated his sister. Other times, he couldn’t live without her. This was kind of a mix of the two.
Cora hated their status more than anyone in their family, which was why she was so rebellious. She’d calmed down a bit in the last few years, but she was still too out of control to be let loose on the world.
Which explained why their parents kept taking down her YouTube channels, though for every one they took down, Cora made five more. Really, they needed to ban her from the Internet but Derek would never suggest that because Cora would murder him.
He liked being alive. It was a good way to be.
“How does this even work?” Derek muttered. “I mean, I can’t tell him, he’ll feel obligated to do anything I want.”
“I don’t know, he sounds a bit less tolerant of you and the creeper’s orders. I mean, he kind of acts like he’d murder us all in our sleep, if he could.”
“He used to,” Derek agreed quietly. “But he isn’t like that anymore. You’ll see when we get home next month. He’s just... I don’t know.”
“Well, anyone who can make you actually want to get involved in a relationship is definitely worth meeting. Also, Peter likes him, so this I gotta see.”
There was a knock at his door and he called for whoever it was to enter. Marin opened the door, inclining her head slightly.
“Apologies, your Highness. We have been unexpectedly summoned to City Hall for an honorary dinner. His Grace has agreed to attend and asked that you be informed.”
Derek groaned, reaching up with one hand to drag it down his face while he still lay back on the bed. “Right. Thanks, Marin.”
He heard the door close with a soft click and sighed.
“No rest for the wicked, Derek,” Cora teased. “Maybe I’ll try and go on these adventures next year. Think if I behave enough mom will let me?”
Derek frowned, pulling his hand away from his face. “What? You never want to do these trips, it’s why I got shafted the moment I turned sixteen.”
“Well, if someone like you can find an aide and a love interest, maybe it’s worth it. Or I could just steal your aide, I guess, if I like him enough. Does he like dicks or boobs?”
Derek scowled at her comment, told her to find her own crush, and hung up on her cackling at him.
Sighing, he pulled his phone away from his ear and hit the button to video call Stiles, wanting to make sure he was aware of the plans and if he was getting everything organized for it. The call rang, and rang, and rang. Derek started counting after a few seconds and on the twelfth ring, he hung up, frowning. Stiles always answered his phone, this was unusual.
Climbing off the bed, he strode to his door and pulled it open, poking his head out to look at the closest guard outside his room.
“Is Stiles in his room?” he asked.
“I haven’t seen him leave, your Highness.”
“Huh.” Derek frowned and stepped out of his room, walking next door and knocking. Silence from within and for one ridiculous moment, Derek had visions of Stiles creating a rope ladder from his sheets and escaping out the window. But that was stupid because, for one thing, Stiles wouldn’t do that and for another, they were really far from Beacon Hills, it would be ridiculous of him to attempt an escape now.
He listened at the door, very aware of the guards watching him, then scowled and started to knock again before deciding to check in. It was weird for Stiles to ignore his phone, but downright worrying for him to ignore his door.
So, Derek grabbed the knob and threw the door open. He looked up in time to lock eyes with Stiles, who had just walked out of his bathroom while towelling his hair dry.
For a beat, neither of them moved, and it took all the will power Derek possessed not to let his eyes stray downward. Stiles slapped both hands over his crotch relatively quickly, anyway, towel falling to the ground. Derek hastily looked to the side, feeling his neck burning and a problem starting in his pants.
“Can I help you?” Stiles asked, clearing his throat uncomfortably.
“You didn’t answer your phone, or your door,” Derek said in way of explanation.
“Oh. I was—well, obviously. Um, can I...?”
“Yes! Right! Of course.” Derek shook his head, trying to clear the foggy haze of lust from his brain and hastily stepped out of the room, shutting the door.
He stood on the other side of it, staring at the wooden surface, and then covered his face with both hands. Why did God hate him? Why was he being punished? Had he done something wrong to deserve such treatment? Was he forever going to suffer with wanting Stiles and not having him for keeping him away from his friends and family?
It would figure the day after he realized he was in love with Stiles, he would walk in on him naked. Couldn’t have happened back when he hated him, oh no, that made way too much sense. No, had to happen right now, when Derek’s self-control was wavering and he had to remind himself of the promise he’d made to Stiles all those months ago over Donkey Kong.
He heard one of the guards by his door clear their throat and glanced over at them. The one on the right was staring past Derek and he turned to look the other way, seeing Peter walking down the corridor, giving him an odd look.
“Everything all right, nephew?”
“Fine,” Derek said quickly. “Just waiting for Stiles.”
“And he’s keeping you waiting?” Peter asked, eyebrows flying upwards in shock. “That isn’t like him.” He’d reached Derek’s side by now and started to lean forward to knock on the door when it opened.
Stiles started at seeing them both on the other side, but he was quick to focus on Peter. Derek noticed his face was a little pinker than normal, and he realized he was embarrassed. That was kind of adorable, actually.
“Ah, good. Everything ready for tonight then?” Peter asked, letting his hand drop.
“Yes, I planned the route and talked to the guards and got our men in touch with the Head of Security at the location. Marin’s just putting together the legal papers for the evening.”
“Legal papers?” Derek asked with a frown.
“You know, the usual,” Stiles said, looking at Derek’s shoulder instead of his face. “Non-solicitation, no media coverage, no politics, that kind of thing.”
“Do we always do that?” he asked, surprised.
“Yeah, it was one of the first things Marin taught me when I started taking this aide thing more seriously.” Stiles shrugged. “We only do it when it’s a big event like this, not when you visit nobles.”
“Can we draft one up to have people stop throwing their single children at me?” Derek asked, and he was pleased when he got a laugh from Stiles.
“I don’t think that’s legally binding.”
“It might be if it’s on fancy paper with a royal seal,” Peter considered.
“True.” Stiles checked the time on his phone. “I should meet with Marin, we still have some things to finish. We’ll be leaving close to six, if that’s convenient for both of you.”
“Fine with me.” Peter turned to smile at Derek. “Derek?”
Derek didn’t like the way Peter was smirking at him. It spelled trouble. “Yeah, it’s fine.”
“Cool. Okay. We’ll touch base in an hour.”
Stiles hedged his way around Derek, shutting his door, and inclined his head before backing away a respectable distance, then turning away from them to hurry down the corridor.
“What happened?” Peter asked, making Derek turn back to him.
“Nothing,” Derek insisted.
Peter gave him an unimpressed look. “You were covering your tomato-coloured face with both hands when I came around the corner, and Stiles opened his door looking freshly fucked and wouldn’t meet your eye.”
“He did not look freshly fucked,” Derek insisted, scowling. “We just—I may have entered his room unannounced while he was coming out of the shower.”
“Good for you!” Peter slapped him on the back. “Nice view?”
“I didn’t look,” Derek bit out.
“It’s adorable how hard you’re trying to fight this attraction of yours,” Peter said with a cruel smile. “How much longer do you think you can hold out? Just order him into your bed, you’ll feel much better.”
“I would never do that,” Derek spat, narrowing his eyes at Peter.
“Why not? He thinks you’re good looking, you know.” Peter smiled when that got the desired reaction, because Derek unintentionally let his anger drop from his face and straightened slightly.
“He’s told me as much.” Peter shrugged. “I forget how we got onto the topic, but he mentioned you were a good looking young man. If you ordered him to bed, I don’t think he’d mind.”
Derek felt ashamed when, just for a moment, he considered it. He considered calling Stiles tonight to join him in his room. But he couldn’t do that. He wouldn’t do that.
He wasn’t like Peter.
“Don’t you have a dark corner to go creep in or something?” he spat angrily.
Turning on his heel, Derek headed back to his room so he could find something suitable to wear, and if he decided to take a shower at the last minute so he could beat off, nobody needed to know about it.
The second his alarm went off, Derek’s eyes snapped open and he hastily shut it off. He sat up in bed, rubbing tiredly at his face, but forced his legs over the side and stumbled to his feet. He was too lazy to change, especially since he might head back to bed in a minute, so he grabbed one of the many bathrobes all the rooms had—and that he never used, it made him feel weird—and pulled one on over his sweats.
Pulling it closed and tying it off, he headed for the door and almost gave his guards a heart attack when he opened it.
“Your Highness. You’re up. Before ten. On a non-travel day.” The guard on his right looked extremely alarmed.
“Try not to have a heart attack,” he muttered, shutting his door and wandering down the corridor. He knew it was unusual for him to be up early, but he’d been trying to catch Peter alone for the past two days, and something kept coming up. It didn’t help that he spent as much time as possible with Stiles, and this wasn’t a conversation he could have with Stiles present.
Walking around the corner and down another corridor, he nodded to the guards stationed outside Peter’s door and then pushed it open. Peter let out a loud snort at the noise, but shifted in bed and continued to sleep. Derek walked right up to him and grabbed his shoulder, shaking him.
“Peter, wake up.”
“I’ll have you arrested,” he muttered in his sleep, rolling over.
“Peter.” Derek shook him harder. “Peter, wake up.”
One hand came out to bat him away, but Peter rolled over a moment later, eyes open to slits.
“Derek? What time is it?” He rubbed at his face with both hands, inhaling deeply. “Is someone dying? Please tell me someone’s dying, I need the entertainment.”
“No one’s dying,” Derek said, frowning at his callousness. “Peter, we need to talk.”
“Come back during my regular waking hours.” Peter rolled back over, snuggling into his pillow. Derek just grabbed his shoulder and shook him roughly once more.
“Well, I guess it’s regular waking hours,” he muttered, sitting up and raking a hand through his mussed hair, turning bleary eyes on Derek, expression betraying his annoyance before he could school it. “What is it, Derek? What is so important that you’re not only awake before me, but also forcing me back to consciousness?”
Derek shifted his weight uncomfortably, but he licked his lips and said, “It’s Stiles’ birthday today.”
“I know,” Peter said. “And?”
“And I wanted to do something for him.”
“And you woke me up for what reason?”
Giving him an annoyed look, Derek sat on the edge of the bed, Peter shifting up a bit so he could lean back against the headboard, looking like he was regretting his entire existence.
That, or regretting Derek’s.
“What do you usually do for Marin on her birthday?”
“I get her to buy herself a card and gift from me.” Derek scowled at that, finding it a bit rude. “But that’s different, because I’m not in love with her.”
Derek was positive he’d managed to hold his expression steady, but his heart stopped in his chest for half a beat.
“What are you talking about? I’m not in love with Stiles.”
The look Peter gave him said, “Do you think I’m an idiot?” more clearly than if his uncle had spoken the actual words.
“I’ve been watching the progression for a while, now. If you’re not in love with Stiles, then you have an extremely weird obsession with him for someone who’s not in love with him.”
Derek wanted to deny it. He wanted to tell Peter he was seeing things, insist he was being annoying and to just help him out with Stiles’ birthday, but he didn’t see the point in pretending. Peter knew him extremely well, and even if he denied it, his uncle would just roll his eyes and not even pretend to believe him.
“How obvious is it?” Derek asked instead.
“Not enough for him to notice, but enough for Marin and I to notice. And some of the guards. And our driver. And probably Harris.”
“So, everyone, basically.”
“Pretty much, yes.” Peter looked amused, now. “I’m starting to hate you less for waking me, this is rather fun.”
Ignoring his comment, Derek just said, “What do I do for him? I want to do something. Should I give him the day off, or a card or what?”
Derek never usually had to think about things like this. Whenever someone’s birthday came up in his family, he just got someone else to buy them a gift on his behalf. The Niagara Falls lie had been exactly that. A lie. His sisters wouldn’t care about any pictures of the Falls, he’d just wanted an excuse to get Stiles to see them—and now that he thought about it, holy shit, he’d liked him back then, too.
“He likes pancakes, you could always have the kitchen send some up for him.” Peter shrugged, crossing his muscled arms and frowning. The fact that he was legitimately giving this some thought proved to Derek how much Peter liked Stiles. He wouldn’t even get his own aide and closest friend a gift for her birthday, she had to get it for herself on his behalf. But here Peter was, thinking about what would be appropriate for Stiles.
“You could allow him a conversation with his father,” Peter offered.
“I was already planning that,” Derek said. “And that’s not really a gift, that’s common decency.”
Peter shrugged, apparently not seeing the difference, and returned to thinking.
“What about a game console?” Derek asked after a moment. “He’s really good at gaming, and he’s usually bored with TV.”
“If you get him one of those, he’ll stop playing chess with me and it will make my present for him worthless.”
Derek’s eyebrows shot up. “You got him a gift?”
“Marin got him a gift on my behalf, but I told her what I wanted.”
“I’m guessing it’s a chess board.”
“It’s a Star Wars themed chess board.”
He hated to be impressed, but he was. Stiles talked about his love of Star Wars frequently, so it was actually somewhat ingenious to buy him a game he enjoyed in the form of something he loved. Derek wished he’d thought of it, but chess wasn’t his thing with Stiles, it was Peter’s.
He and Stiles didn’t really have a thing. They talked a lot more than they used to, sure, but that was just regular conversation. They didn’t play chess every day like he and Peter did.
“What about an Ipod?” Peter asked after a long silence. “He has nothing to do during our drives, and reading makes him carsick. We could always set him up with an account maintained by Marin and he can get music and audiobooks.”
“Maybe.” It wasn’t exactly what he wanted, but at least it was practical. Stiles literally did nothing while he sat in the front seat of the limo, and more than once he’d mentioned how long and tiring the drives were because he had nothing to do since the driver was pretty tight-lipped.
He sat and tried to think for an additional ten minutes, but when nothing came to him, he just went with Peter’s suggestion and thanked him, leaving the room. He went back to his own and grabbed his phone, video calling Marin. She was already wide awake, showered, and ready for the day.
When he explained to her what he was looking for, and why, she confirmed she would head out immediately to get it for him and that she would try and find some Star Wars related cases for the Ipod. Derek thanked her, and was ready to hang up when he saw her hesitate to speak. He frowned, and said, “What is it?”
“I don’t mean to overstep, your Highness,” she said slowly, “and while I think your present idea is very good and thoughtfu—”
“The idea was Peter’s, if you have a better one, I’m all ears,” Derek said.
She seemed relieved to hear this, and continued. “I don’t think he realized it until joining us, but Stiles appears to have a strong passion for photography. Ever since Niagara Falls, every time we’re gone out together, I’ve seen him attempting to take scenic photos on his phone. He never seems happy with them, which is understandable given the camera we used at the Falls is an impressive piece of technology, so perhaps a camera might be a better option.” She offered him a small smile. “Truth be told, I was going to buy that for him myself, but given how much I know you care for him—”
Derek hated that Peter wasn’t lying about everyone knowing.
“—I would be willing to purchase the camera on your behalf, and gift him the Ipod from myself instead.”
He felt kind of bad to be stealing away the gift idea she’d had, but in his defence, he never really got to spend time with Stiles in a personal way outside the privacy of their various residences, so he had no way of knowing that he liked taking photos. He also didn’t realize that even Marin was getting him a gift, which meant Stiles was really doing a number on everyone.
He was kind of scared to bring him home, now. If his mother liked him enough, she might try and steal him, or worse, try and get him to marry Cora. Derek would murder his sister if it came to that, he’d seen Stiles first!
“I would very much appreciate that, thank you, Marin,” he said in response. She smiled at him, promised she would get what he needed along with a card, and then hung up.
Derek called down to the kitchen next using the landline phone on his nightstand and asked for breakfast to be brought up for both himself and Stiles. They brought the food to his room ten minutes later, and Derek asked the guards stationed outside his door if one of them could go and get Stiles for him. The one on the right was the first to move, heading down the hallway to the next door down and knocking.
It took Stiles a few seconds to open the door, and the guard’s deep baritone said, “His Highness would like to see you.”
“Oh, sure.” Stiles sounded startled, like he didn’t know why Derek hadn’t just called him.
Derek was actually wondering that, too, but it was too late now. He just stood in his doorway, waiting for Stiles to come out, and when he did a few seconds later, he was pulling a sweater on over his pyjamas. He looked tired, but likely because he’d just woken up rather than because he was being worked to the bone.
He blinked owlishly at Derek when he saw him standing in the doorway, stopping in front of him.
“Is everything okay?”
“Come in.” Derek moved aside and Stiles stepped into the room.
Shutting the door, Derek moved past Stiles to the couch and coffee table set up in the corner of the room. All the food was laid out on the table, so he took a seat and motioned for Stiles to join him. When he finally did, sitting down slowly and eying Derek with concern, the Prince just smiled and said,
“Oh.” Stiles looked startled. “Thank you. I didn’t know you remembered.”
“Of course I remembered,” Derek said with a laugh, motioning the food. “I had the kitchens make you a bit of everything that you like, and after we’re done eating, I thought you might like to call some people back home.”
“Really?” Stiles looked like Derek had just told him he could go home with how excited he got. “So my dad and Scott and Lydia?”
“Whoever you like, just don’t tell Peter. He thinks you’re only calling your dad.”
Stiles obviously got a little overexcited because he threw his arms around Derek and pulled him into a tight hug. For a second, Derek didn’t move, because he’d never been hugged by anyone outside his family before. When he finally managed to get his arms to cooperate, they wrapped around Stiles and he pulled him closer, burying his face in his neck and closing his eyes.
God he smelled good.
“Thank you.” Derek reluctantly let Stiles go when he pulled away. “This means a lot to me, you have no idea.”
“I have a bit of an idea,” he insisted with a smile. “Happy birthday.”
Derek wasn’t sure what time it was, but he knew it was extremely late or extremely early, because it was still dark out when he was slowly coming back to consciousness. He didn’t know why he was slowly waking up, but when his brain began to focus, he realized someone was crawling up the length of his body.
For a moment, he panicked, ready to shout for the guards, but then his eyes focussed in the darkness and he realized it was Stiles, the other hovering above him with a smirk on his face, brown eyes sparkling.
“Stiles,” he said, voice thick with sleep. “What are you doing here?”
“Isn’t this where you want me to be?” Stiles asked, voice low and positively sinful. “Or maybe...” He lowered himself, body pressed against Derek’s, and slowly slid down, kissing and licking at Derek’s chest on his way down his body. Derek let out a groan, arching his hips slightly and eyes sliding shut.
Stiles’ fingers slid beneath the hem of Derek’s sweats on either side of his hips, slowly tugging them down until his cock popped free. He was already standing at full attention, which didn’t surprise him in the slightest, because he had Stiles on top of him, kissing and sucking at his skin, and now dangerously close to his dick.
Leaning back, Stiles seemed to examine it, then reached out one hand and slid one finger up along the underside, Derek groaning again and lifting his hips insistently.
“Stiles,” he practically whined.
“So greedy. You should really be more patient, your Highness.”
Derek whined again at that, not wanting to be referred to as that while they were being so intimate. He let out a shaky exhale when he felt lips wrap around the tip of his cock, tongue coming out to tease the slit.
Stiles took his time taking Derek into his mouth, sliding down slowly, tongue flat and pressing against the vein on the underside. Derek thought he would lose his mind before Stiles had him all the way down his throat, but finally, finally, the head of his erection hit the back of Stiles’ throat, and the other’s nose was buried in his crotch.
“Stiles,” he moaned, reaching down with both hands to bury them in his soft hair.
Slowly, Stiles pulled back up, almost all the way to the tip before lowering his face back down. He’d set a torturously slow rhythm and Derek felt as though he was trying to kill him. He tugged harshly at his hair, head thrown back and lips parted while he panted. Stiles hollowed his cheeks, sucking hard, and Derek came without warning, letting out a shout and arching his back off the bed.
Stiles still had the tip of his cock in his mouth, cum shooting into the back of his throat and tongue prodding at the slit again to collect every last drop.
When he pulled his lips away, Derek lay panting for a few more seconds, trying to catch his breath.
After a moment, his eyes opened slowly, sun filtering in through the curtain and his sweats sticky and uncomfortable. He frowned, turning his head to find Stiles, and realized he wasn’t there.
Stiles had never been there.
He’d been dreaming, something made explicitly clear when he realized the stickiness in his sweats was cum. Great, he’d have to work at cleaning that out of the inside of his sweats before putting them in the laundry, because he didn’t want anyone to know he’d creamed his pyjamas in his fucking sleep.
It had felt so good, though. Stiles’ lips on him, hands on him, body pressed against his. He wished he could touch Stiles in real life like he did in his dream, but every time the thought crossed his mind, Stiles’ terrified face always came back to him and he realized he could never do that to him.
And now he was disappointed, because it had been good. Really good. Dream Stiles had probably been more experienced than real Stiles, but it wasn’t even about that. It was just being able to touch him, and Derek wished things weren’t so fucking complicated.
Derek sighed, rubbing his face with both hands. He should’ve known it was a dream when he didn’t question why he wasn’t stopping Stiles. Not to mention the guards would never have let Stiles into the room if Derek was asleep. He should’ve known better, and now he was going to feel disappointed all day.
He’d probably alleviate some of his disappointment by trying to get closer to Stiles whenever he had the opportunity, like when he played chess with Peter—he was obsessed with the Star Wars themed chessboard he’d gotten for his birthday, and seemed to play it even more, now.
They would be home in just under a week, having been on the road with Stiles for just over six months. It was crazy when he realized how much his life had changed since Stiles’ arrival. He couldn’t remember functioning without him, which was ridiculous, but true.
Stiles was always there, now, and Derek wanted to keep him close all the time. Hell, he’d even arranged for them to have an actual outing the night before—with Peter and Marin, of course—because Harris had proclaimed Stiles had officially graduated high school and provided him with an official diploma and everything.
Actually, now that he thought about it, that was probably where the dream had come from, because Stiles had ordered a dessert the night before and had been licking and sucking chocolate sauce off his fingers rather lewdly. Even Peter had been staring, and he’d stopped making inappropriate comments months ago, so it wasn’t just Derek’s libido talking. Stiles was legitimately being lewd.
Climbing out of bed with a grunt, Derek winced at the discomfort in his sweats and headed for the bathroom to clean up.
Things were starting to get really complicated. He didn’t know how much longer he would be able to hold out.
Stiles shifted his weight uncomfortably while he stood outside the passenger side door of the limo, eyes shooting down to the end where Marin was standing with her hands folded together. The family currently waiting on the porch seemed nervous, but patient, and Stiles didn’t understand what the hold-up was.
This was the last noble family they would be visiting before returning on the road the following morning to finish the last stretch back to the castle. Stiles was nervous as shit at the realization that he was going to be meeting the fucking Queen and her husband in just under two days, not to mention the heir to the throne and Derek’s younger sister, as well. He was having trouble sleeping, imagining that the Queen would take one look at him and shout for the guillotine. He knew it was ridiculous, and that as long as he didn’t do anything to offend her, she wouldn’t order his death, but it was still fucking terrifying.
Either way, the sooner they finished this last dinner, the sooner they could head back to the castle, so Stiles didn’t understand why Derek and Peter hadn’t exited the vehicle yet. Usually the driver opened the door for them upon arrival, but when they’d been pulling up, Peter had sent them a message through his tablet, the words appearing on the GPS, saying to leave them be in the car and they would exit when they were ready.
Stiles looked at Marin again, trying to convey his confusion with his facial expressions alone. It had obviously worked because she gave him a sharp look, and one hand shifted slightly, motioning for him to wait.
Well, waiting was all they could fucking do, so he stood there feeling anxious, and they all continued to wait for the door to open.
After an additional ten minutes, it finally did, Peter stepping out first. The second Derek appeared, Stiles and Marin—along with everyone else in the vicinity—dropped to one knee. He slammed the door hard, and when Stiles glanced at him, he saw Derek looked unhappy, angrily tugging at his suit jacket and moving after Peter up to the family kneeling by their front door.
It occurred to Stiles that this was the first time Peter had exited the car ahead of Derek.
The Prince exchanged pleasantries with the patriarch, like he always did, and then moved into the house. Stiles and Marin stood then, following the family through the door. A servant shut it once they were inside and they made their way to the living room. Stiles and Marin took their usual spots by the far wall, watching the nobles try and butter up Peter and Derek.
Honestly, the only thing that made these evenings tolerable for Stiles was Peter. He was always so passive-aggressive, and he very obviously mocked people with his responses sometimes, but the nobles were so desperate for validation that they took everything he said like it was gold and asked for more. It was kind of pathetic, and it made Stiles realize why it was sometimes hard for him and Derek to go through small towns like Beacon Hills.
They were used to people like this, not people who were mostly indifferent to their existence.
Sure, having the royal family roll through town was kind of neat, and it was worth watching if you had the time, but it wasn’t like anyone in his town had been tripping over themselves to impress them. They’d shown up to see the motorcade pass, and would’ve gone back to their regularly scheduled lives had Jackson not thrown a fucking brick at the limo.
Stiles started when the words met his ears and he focussed back on the present, seeing the daughter of the family looking right at him and holding up her wine glass, giving it a little shake.
“Well? Are you going to stand there?”
He had no idea what he was supposed to do, because Marin had always told him to just blend into the scenery unless Derek needed him, but this woman was clearly calling him over. He shot a look at Marin, who was staring back at him. She seemed somewhat conflicted for a second, but eventually gave the smallest of nods.
Stiles moved forward, stopping beside the woman and inclining his head respectfully, but not so much that it rivalled what he would do for Peter. Marin had taught him the difference, and it had taken him weeks to get it right.
“Get me a refill, would you?” She gave him a fake-smile, holding her glass out more insistently. Stiles had never been asked to do something like this before, and he could tell by the scowl on Derek’s face and the hard set of Peter’s jaw that she should not be ordering him around.
But, Stiles just nodded politely, took her glass, and moved towards the exit of the living room to find the kitchens.
“Please refrain from ordering my aide around,” he heard Derek say while heading out of the room.
“Why? Isn’t that what he’s for, your Highness?”
He didn’t get to hear Derek’s response, but it didn’t matter. He didn’t really care. I mean, yeah, it kind of chafed to be treated like a waiter when the family clearly had their own hired help, but at least he could walk around and get rid of some nervous energy. It had been torture standing and sitting still the past few months, his ADHD had almost fucking killed him.
Finding the kitchen, he entered the room and people stopped moving and talking immediately. He awkwardly asked for a refill to the drink and the woman nearest him had rushed to comply, pouring a generous amount of alcohol into it for him. He thanked her, but before he could go, she lightly touched his arm.
“Do not get close to her,” she warned. “Ms. Blake is not fond of you.”
Stiles stared at her, surprised. He’d never in his life met this family, so how on earth could the woman not like him?
“What did I do?” he asked, confused.
The woman just shook her head, repeated her warning, and then returned to work. Stiles stared after her, utterly confused, and then moved to head back for the living room. He entered it while the patriarch was laughing at Peter’s hunting story—Stiles had clued in a long time ago that he only told the story to families he disliked visiting—and moved to the daughter’s side.
He held the glass out to her, being sure to do so in a polite fashion, and when she turned to smile at him, she was all teeth.
“Thanks.” She reached for the glass with one hand, and his wrist with the other.
Stiles tensed and almost cried out when he felt a sharp sting along his wrist, but he managed to refrain. He glanced down when she pulled her hand away and saw that she had some kind of small blade, like a scalpel, tucked between two of her fingers.
The bitch had fucking cut him!
He struggled not to react, since he didn’t think anyone else had noticed, and turned to head back towards Marin. He could feel blood sliding down his hand, and wasn’t sure how much damage there was. He didn’t look until he’d taken his spot beside Marin again, his hand shaking despite his best efforts to stop it. When he glanced down at it, he turned his wrist and saw that the daughter had cut into the inside of his wrist, almost directly on top of his ulnar artery, missing it by the smallest margin. Blood was flowing steadily down his hand and sliding off the tips of his fingers.
When he looked up at Marin, he saw her eyes on his hand before they shot up to his face. She looked pissed, lips forming a thin line and her breathing extremely deep, inhaling loudly before exhaling through her nose.
Stiles just clenched his hand into a fist, wondering what he was supposed to do about this. He couldn’t just stand there and bleed all over the floor. Would it be rude to excuse himself? He’d never had to do that before while Derek was still in the room, he didn’t know what the etiquette was.
When Marin inhaled deeply through her nose once more, Stiles turned to look at her, but she was staring straight ahead, jaw clenched and eyes locked across the room.
After about thirty seconds, when there was a break in conversation, Peter leaned forward to set his drink down. “Excuse me, if you would. I need to use the facilities.” He stood, heading out of the room, and motioned for Marin to follow. She did so immediately, and Stiles realized only once she’d left the room what had happened.
She’d been breathing like that for a reason. Stiles had never heard her do something like that before, it had been extremely loud and obvious, and he realized that Marin was trying to get Peter’s attention. Stiles didn’t know what he would do about it, but maybe they would be able to send Stiles out of the house to tend to his injury.
It was bleeding quite heavily, he was actually getting concerned, and when he glanced down, he saw a small stain forming on the carpet.
Peter and Marin were gone for maybe a minute, and when they returned, Peter stormed into the room like a thundercloud, marching right up to the daughter who was laughing at some comment Derek had made.
He grabbed her wrist and wrenched her hand up, causing her to cry out and her father to ask what was going on.
Stiles had actually thought she’d have disposed of the weapon by now, but it became clear when Peter wrenched it free that it had actually been part of the jewellery she was wearing.
“Stiles, come here,” Peter barked.
He was actually almost scared to, because Peter looked so livid he was worried he would get stabbed with the small blade he was holding in his hand. A ridiculous thought, considering the thing was literally the length of a scalpel’s blade and probably wouldn’t do much more than hurt as opposed to actually kill, but he had never seen Peter so mad before.
Moving forward slowly, Stiles shifted his injured hand behind his back and kept himself angled so that it stayed hidden from sight.
“Yes, your Grace?”
Peter turned to him and grabbed at his arm, wrenching it forward. He cursed when he saw how much blood there was and Derek jerked to his feet instantly.
“What happened?!” he demanded, grabbing at the closest piece of fabric he could find and striding across the room to stand in front of Stiles and Peter, quickly wrapping it around Stiles’ wrist.
“This is quite possibly the most unacceptable action I have ever seen in my entire life of meeting with noble families,” Peter said to the patriarch, looking murderous.
“I don’t understand,” the man insisted, horrified. “What—”
Peter cut him off, throwing the daughter’s ring at him and shouting while jabbing his finger repeatedly at him. Stiles wished he could’ve stuck around to listen, but Derek had pushed him out of the room, one hand on his shoulder and the other holding the fabric he’d wrapped around his wrist tightly in place. Marin was beside them the moment they exited the living room, Peter’s voice carrying down the corridor.
“How bad is it? Let me see.” Marin prodded lightly at Derek’s hand to make him let go and pulled back the white fabric—Stiles thought it was some kind of cloth napkin or maybe a table runner or something.
“Is it bad?” Derek asked, looking crossed between pissed and worried.
“It’s deep, but she didn’t nick anything crucial. I’ll get him back to the hotel and call for Lahey to stitch it up.”
“I’ll wait for Peter,” Derek confirmed.
“We’ll leave the guards. I’ll send Boyd and Ennis in.”
Derek nodded, stopping by the door, and scowling. Stiles wanted to apologize for obviously having ruined their night, but in his defence, he hadn’t exactly asked to be sliced open like this.
Marin replaced Derek’s hand around Stiles’ wrist, keeping the cloth firmly in place. They hurried down the steps and she told Boyd and Ennis to stay with the Prince. Stiles didn’t know people so big could move so fast, but they were inside the house in seconds.
He was pulled along the cars to the Mercedes Marin usually rode in and she pushed him into the back seat before climbing in the front.
“Get us to the hotel. Quickly.”
Stiles stared out the window while he pressed hard at the injury. It still hurt, but he felt like it wasn’t bleeding quite so badly anymore. He had to wonder what the girl was thinking, doing something like this. What if she’d actually caught an artery? What if Stiles had started to bleed out right there in the living room? He was the Prince’s aide, was she stupid?
“Are you okay?”
Stiles turned to look at Marin. She had turned in her seat so she could look at him, eyebrows down in an unhappy frown and worry etched on her face.
“I’m okay,” he confirmed. “It hurts, but I think the bleeding’s slowed, so that’s good.”
“I’m sorry,” she said, as if the entire thing was her fault. “That’s why Derek and Peter took so long to get out of the car.”
“Because the daughter has hidden scalpels in her rings?”
“Because Jennifer is obsessed with Derek.” She sighed, shaking her head. “Kate Argent is turning into a problem, but there are already restrictions in place for her, and while obsessed with Derek in her own right, she is so focussed on him that she doesn’t even notice anyone else is around. Jennifer is different. She is extremely observant, and Peter and I actually discussed whether or not it would be a better idea to leave you behind. You might be Derek’s aide, but you have to remember that Derek has never had one before, so to her mind, there must’ve been something special about you to make Derek choose you.”
“But he didn’t choose me,” Stiles insisted.
“Jennifer doesn’t know that.” Marin sighed and ran one hand through her hair. She looked tired and upset. He wondered if she was actually mad at herself for not having followed her gut instinct and left him behind at the hotel. “To her, anyone who can catch Derek’s attention, no matter what capacity it’s in, is a threat. She’s been violent towards others in his employ before, but never anything like this. If she’d nicked an artery, things would’ve been much worse for her.”
“Is she gonna be okay?” Stiles asked, feeling weird for being worried about someone who’d literally almost tried to kill him.
“Probably not.” Marin scowled. “Like I said, this isn’t the first time something like this has happened, but it’s definitely the most severe, and I’m sure Derek only managed to keep his temper because he was worried about you. Now that we’ve left, things are not going to go well for the Blake family. She damaged royal property, and Derek is not going to let that stand.”
Stiles winced at being called property, but he supposed that was what he was. Property. He belonged to Derek, and while he was treated well and everyone was nice to him, he was still essentially a prisoner. Kind of like Belle in Beauty and the Beast, though he hated the comparison. But it was true, wasn’t it? She’d had free reign of the Beast’s castle, could do as she pleased, enjoyed her time there, but in the end, she was still a prisoner.
Stiles couldn’t call home, he couldn’t send his father emails or letters, he wasn’t allowed to have any contact with anyone he knew in Beacon Hills. Sure, he’d been allowed an exception on the day of his mother’s death, and on his birthday, but it wasn’t the same as truly being free to call whenever he wanted.
He turned to look back out the window, wondering how many other crazy women were in Derek’s life. He kind of liked Kate, by comparison.
And he still didn’t understand what Jennifer was hoping to accomplish. Like, seriously! What was she thinking was going to happen? She could slit his wrist and he would just bleed out and die with no consequences?!
Well, Marin made it sound like she was sick, so maybe she honestly hadn’t considered the consequences. Maybe her obsession with Derek had just made her completely focussed on getting rid of Stiles without considering what consequences her actions would bring about.
He tried not to dwell on it too much and they reached the hotel while he was still talking himself out of asking Marin if Jennifer was going to get beheaded or something.
He knew that was a European thing, but he couldn’t help think about it every time something bad happened.
When they reached Derek’s room—Stiles’ room connected near the back of the royal suite—there was already someone there waiting for them. Stiles had seen him in passing every now and then in the various palaces they’d stayed at, but he’d never spoken to him.
The guy wasn’t much of a talker, anyway. He just led Stiles quickly into the bathroom and sat him down on the toilet lid.
He worked quickly and efficiently, wearing latex gloves and carefully cleaning the wound. He scowled down at it, like he was just as offended by the sight of it as Marin, Derek and Peter had been, which was weird, because Stiles didn’t even know this guy.
“We need to give you stitches,” he said, sounding unhappy. “Derek is not going to like that.”
“Does he have a thing against scars?” Stiles asked, half-smiling.
“He has a problem with people he cares about being hurt,” the other replied seriously.
“Oh.” Stiles didn’t know what to say to that, so he just kept his mouth shut. Marin was hovering in the doorway and Stiles focussed on her when the guy—Isaac Lahey, was his name—began stitching up his wound. For some reason, it made his teeth ache the same way nails on a chalkboard did every time he felt the thread pull through his skin.
He just kept his eyes on Marin, who was watching Isaac work, a scowl on her face. Her phone rang after a few moments and she hastened to answer it.
“How is he?” Peter’s voice asked. He still sounded ten different levels of pissed, but he wasn’t rude to Marin.
“Lahey is stitching him up now.”
“What?!” Derek’s voice demanded.
“We’re on our way back, we’ll be there shortly.”
The call ended and Stiles suddenly felt extremely uncomfortable. Everyone was acting as if Jennifer had taken a pickaxe to a member of the royal family’s face, not like the Prince’s aid had gotten cut with a scalpel.
“I’m fine,” he said insistently, Marin’s eyes shifting from his hand to his face. “Really. It’s not that bad.”
“It’s pretty bad,” Isaac corrected, but Stiles just rolled his eyes.
“I mean it’s not the end of the world. I got hurt, it’s not a big deal. Jennifer obviously needs help, it’s not her fault.”
“Her parents are going to wish she’d gotten it,” Marin said darkly.
Stiles chose to just keep his mouth shut going forward.
Isaac finished up with the stitches, cleaning the wound carefully and then wrapping his hand up almost uncomfortably tightly in gauze. He packed everything away, threw the soiled items he’d used into a biohazard bag at his feet, and then gathered everything up. He told Marin they should stop at a pharmacy first thing in the morning so he could get some antibiotics, and she thanked him before he left the room, the main door closing behind him.
Stiles tested the movement of his hand with the gauze wrapped so tightly around it. At least it didn’t hurt much anymore, there was just a dull throb in his wrist right where the injury was.
“Are you sure you’re okay?” Marin asked, moving into the bathroom and taking a seat on the edge of the tub. “I’m sorry this happened. I should’ve expected something like this after what happened to Erica.”
“Who’s Erica?” Stiles asked, never having heard the name before.
“Erica is her Highness Laura’s aide. She accompanied us once at her Highness Laura’s insistence, wanting to ensure that she learned from me so that she would know how to do this job should the Crown Princess decide to travel as his Highness Derek does.”
“What happened to Erica?” Stiles asked uncertainly.
“Jennifer stabbed her in the leg with a dinner fork.”
“Wow.” Stiles didn’t know what he’d been expecting, but it sure wasn’t that. “No wonder Derek and Peter wanted to hide out in the car. How did she not get in trouble for that?”
Marin shrugged. “She insisted it was an accident, and Erica was causing a scene. She’s a little energetic, not unlike you sometimes.” Marin smiled fondly at him and he grinned. “Her reaction was causing problems, so rather than pursue the matter, we left before Derek was forced to publicly reprimand his sister’s aide. It was best for everyone.”
“That sucks. I hope she’s okay.”
“She’s fine, Erica’s a spitfire, it’s why Laura likes her so much. Speaking of spitfires, you handled yourself extremely well this evening, considering how badly you were injured. Colour me impressed. I guess there’s the makings of a real aide in you, after all.”
“I try.” Stiles grinned.
Marin smiled back at him fondly, then reached out to lightly touch the bandages on his wrist. She retreated her hand when the suite door banged open and Derek shouted his name. Both he and Marin stood, moving into his room from the small en suite they’d been in. Derek was at the door in seconds, Peter behind him with his face pinched in concern.
Derek’s eyes found Stiles’ wrapped wrist and he was across the room so fast Stiles wasn’t sure he hadn’t flown across it. Derek reached out and carefully lifted his hand, scowling down at the bandage.
“Are you okay? How bad was it? How many stitches did you get?”
“Derek, it’s fine.” Stiles felt weird having the fucking Prince freaking out over him. It was nice, and he appreciated it, but it was fucking weird.
Hell, even Peter’s shouting back at the house had been weirding him out. He knew they liked him—they wouldn’t have kept him around this long if they didn’t—but he supposed he hadn’t realized how much they liked him until tonight. They actually truly, honestly cared about his well-being.
He should’ve figured when he’d gotten presents for his birthday from the two royals and Marin, but it was still kind of a crazy thing to realize, that these people, who were born into royalty, who were so much higher in the hierarchy than he was, actually legitimately cared for him.
“It’s not fine,” Derek snapped, eyes shooting up to his face. “I can’t believe she did this!”
“What happened after we left?” Marin asked. Stiles could tell she’d done so to try and stop Derek from exploding, because he looked on the verge of it.
“Jennifer was taken by the royal guard to the sheriff’s department,” Peter said, voice hard and eyes locked on Stiles’ wrist. “She will be dealt with accordingly. The Blakes have been stripped of their title.”
“Isn’t that a bit extreme?” Stiles asked, shocked. “Because their daughter cut your aide with a hidden scalpel?”
“Their daughter damaged something that belongs to the royal family,” Peter said coldly, but somehow Stiles felt like he was more angry at the fact that Stiles didn’t understand his own worth. “They knew she wasn’t well, and they did nothing. They allowed her to continue on with her obsession over Derek, and this is the result. They should have been more mindful of their daughter’s actions.”
Stiles remembered the conversation about the Argents. The children hadn’t been stripped of their title, because they couldn’t control their parent. But if a parent doesn’t control their child, it’s a different story entirely.
“What’s our scheduled departure time?” Derek asked a moment later.
“We’re leaving at eleven tomorrow morning, your Highness,” Marin informed him.
“Push it up, I want us out of here by eight,” he snapped, eyes raising to look at her. “I don’t want us to stay a second longer than we need to in this fucking place.”
Stiles wasn’t entirely positive, but when he glanced down at Derek’s hands, which were gingerly holding his injured one, he could’ve sworn that Derek’s hands were shaking.
Stiles was going to throw up. He was going to vomit all over the floor, slip in it, and brain himself on the gorgeous marble beneath his feet. He felt like his heart was going to beat itself right out of his chest, and he was positive he was leaving a trail of sweat in his wake, he was so fucking sweaty.
The last few days had been awkward, his injury still at the forefront of everyone’s minds, and Derek kept taking his hand carefully whenever they stopped to inspect it, even though he couldn’t see anything through the bandages. It still throbbed every now and then, but it wasn’t very painful. He had to take antibiotics twice a day for at least a week, but otherwise it didn’t affect his day to day life.
He wished things hadn’t been so weird on the last stretch to the royal residence of the Hale family in New York. The castle was fucking massive, and the surrounding grounds even more so. It was beautiful, but ridiculously lavish, and unnecessarily huge. Still, it was kind of cool seeing it in person, and Stiles managed to catch some great shots on his new camera on the way in.
It wasn’t until they were out of the car and he was walking behind Derek that it suddenly hit him that he was about to meet the Queen. He was literally walking into the castle that housed the entire Hale family, walking towards the royal hall to meet the motherfucking Queen.
And he was going to throw up, he was so nervous. He kept smoothing out his shirt, reached up to fix his hair, his breathing erratic and his vision swimming because he wasn’t getting enough oxygen to his brain. Derek and Peter didn’t seem to notice, chatting with one another easily, but Marin kept casting him worried looks, like she thought he was going to pass out.
When they got through the main part of the castle and into what looked to be a more residential wing, there were less guards around and Marin leaned closer to him.
“Am I supposed to like, bow so low I’m kissing the floor when I see her?” he asked, tugging at the collar of his shirt. “Is it hot in here? It’s really hot in here.”
“Stiles, it’s going to be fine. Just breathe.”
Marin had fucking grown up in this place, of course she was fine! Stiles couldn’t just breathe because she told him to!
He started fanning his face, trying to calm down, and hoped he didn’t open his mouth at all when they met the Queen. She couldn’t kill him if he didn’t speak, right?
Stiles felt his heart hit his throat, because the Queen was hurrying down the corridor, a bright smile on her face and the King a few steps behind her.
He didn’t stop to think about it. He just fell right to his knees and almost slammed his forehead into the ground, bowing as low as he possibly could.
“Mother,” Derek said, fondness in his voice. “How are you?”
“I’m very well. Hello, Peter.”
Derek’s father had reached them, voice low while he greeted his son, and the Queen moved a few steps past him to where Stiles and Marin were. He noticed Marin wasn’t kissing the floor beside him, she was still on her feet, head inclined politely.
“Marin. It’s nice to see you. Been keeping Peter out of trouble?”
“Actually, Stiles has been doing that for me.”
“Good heavens, what are you doing down there?”
Stiles felt hands on his shoulders. He assumed it was Marin, but when he hesitantly looked up, he was practically nose to nose with the Queen.
He wondered if direct eye contact would earn him twenty or thirty lashes.
She smiled kindly at him and practically hauled him to his feet. He stood on shaky legs, and almost died when the Queen—the fucking Queen—wrapped her arms around him and hugged him so tightly all the joints in his spine popped.
“Oh, it’s lovely to meet you! I’ve heard so much about you, Stiles. I almost went out to meet you myself, with how much my son and brother have been talking about you.”
“Mom,” Derek insisted, and when Stiles shifted his eyes towards him, he saw that the Prince looked embarrassed and horrified.
Stiles realized he wasn’t hugging the woman back, but he was kind of scared to touch her. He thought he might have pulled some stitches in his hand with how hard he’d hit the ground, and if it was bleeding through the gauze, he really didn’t want to stain her dress.
“Stop being so stiff,” the Queen insisted, pulling away and rubbing at his arms, still smiling. “We’re in private, you’re free to be yourself here.”
“Whatever Derek and Peter have told you about me isn’t true, I swear,” he blurted out before he could stop himself. Peter barked out a laugh and Derek actually face-palmed. Marin was chuckling beside him and the Queen just offered him a kind smile.
“So you haven’t beaten Peter at every game of chess you’ve ever played?”
“Oh.” Stiles didn’t know what to say. “I guess some of it is true, then?”
“Oh my God, is that him?!” a new voice demanded, and Stiles saw a girl in ratty jeans, a ripped metalband shirt and a baseball cap come racing down the corridor. She practically shoved the Queen aside and gave Stiles a once over, grinning.
“Derek, he’s fucking hot, dude! Damn! What do they feed you guys in Beacon Hills?”
“Back off,” Derek insisted, grabbing the back of her shirt and pulling her a few steps away from Stiles. “He’s not for you.”
“Says you.” The girl waggled her eyebrows at Stiles. “We’re gonna chat later, new meat.”
“Cora, behave,” Talia warned and Stiles stiffened when she wrapped an arm around his shoulders. “You must all be tired from the long trip. Let’s go to the study.”
They all began walking, Derek and Cora bantering while Peter and the King spoke in low tones. Marin and Talia were speaking over Stiles’ head, the Queen’s arm still wrapped around his shoulders, pulling him into her side.
Stiles felt like he’d entered the Twilight Zone. He didn’t know what to do, he just blindly followed along with everyone, trying not to freak out because the Queen had her fucking arm wrapped around his shoulders!
“Is Deaton still away?” Marin asked. Stiles recognized the name, but it wasn’t until the Queen replied that he placed it as her aide’s name.
“Sadly, he is. The doctor says it’ll be months before he’s well enough to return to us. I’m hopeful for a speedy recovery, but I want him to rest and take all the time he needs.”
“Knowing him, he’ll try and come back to work as soon as possible whether he’s better or not.”
“I would never allow that. I’m sure I can manage without him for a few months. Michael’s agreed to step in and assist me, and I know I can always count on you and Erica. And now Stiles.” She pulled him into her side once more and he thought he was going to die.
When they reached the study, a guard opening a set of double doors, Stiles almost fell over when he walked in. He’d once thought that Peter’s office at the palace in Knoxton should’ve looked like the library in Beauty and the Beast, and had almost been disappointed when it didn’t.
Apparently it was because the main castle’s study looked like the library in Beauty and the Beast. The entire room could fit six of Stiles’ houses in it, and three walls were absolutely covered with shelves and shelves of books. The last wall had floor to ceiling windows overlooking the vast expanse of the grounds behind the castle, and Stiles had to do a double-take when he thought he imagined the hedge maze but nope, there was a fucking hedge maze!
He was led numbly through the large room, a new voice shouting Derek’s name and he saw another girl—likely Laura—bouncing towards her brother. She wrapped him in a tight hug, which he returned, the two of them tilting from side to side and laughing.
There was another blonde girl sitting on one of the large couches by a fireplace. She was filing her nails, and looked like she was bored. Marin wandered over to her and fell down beside her, the blonde looking up for the first time and half-smiling before they began to chat.
“This way, come along,” Talia said to her rowdy family, pulling Stiles along to the couches. She sat down on the end of one, pulling Stiles down beside her, and Derek took the seat on his other side. The rest of the family slowly sat, still chatting to one another. It looked like Peter and the King were having a heated debate about the flowers lining the gardens outside.
“Sunflowers are ridiculous, Michael, they’re too tall!”
“I rather like them. They’re bright and colourful. They make people happy.”
“Not when they hit you in the face as you walk past them!”
Stiles jumped when he felt a hand on his wrist and looked down. When he glanced at Talia, he saw her frowning down at his bandaged injury, fingers ghosting over the gauze.
“Peter told me what happened. I’m very sorry, this isn’t acceptable.”
The Queen was apologizing to him. The Queen was actually apologizing to him—him!—because he’d been injured. He didn’t know what to say so he just stared at her with his mouth hanging open. When she glanced up at him, she let out a small laugh and turned to look at Peter.
“I thought you said he was talkative.”
“He usually is, I can’t believe you managed to shut him up,” Peter said with a grin at Stiles. “She isn’t going to bite, you know. Relax a little.”
“And maybe breathe?” Laura offered, smiling kindly. “You’re part of the family now, there’s no need to be so scared. Look at Erica.” She thumbed at the blonde girl, who’d slouched in her seat with her feet on the coffee table in front of her, texting on her phone.
“Perhaps somewhere in between Marin and Erica?” Talia offered with a small laugh.
Stiles heard what they were saying, and he knew they were trying to get him to stop being so terrified, but he was in the presence of the entire royal family right now. He was allowed to be a little freaked the fuck out!
They all began to speak once more, Talia absently rubbing at Stiles’ back for some weird reason—probably to calm him down, but it was doing the opposite, really—and he listened to them all converse. Derek kept shooting him nervous glances, but he didn’t say anything. Stiles noticed him and his younger sister, Cora, sharing looks and after almost twenty minutes, Peter let out a large sigh.
“All right, this is ridiculous. Stiles, the tension emanating from you is starting to annoy me, so let’s nip that in the bud, shall we?” He offered him a wicked smile. “Did we ever tell you about the time Cora met Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher when they were about to begin filming Star Wars: Episode Seven?”
Stiles instantly forgot who was sitting beside him and whipped around to look at Cora. “You what?! Oh my God! What were they like? What was Harry like? Does he like being called Harry? Is it rude to call him Harry? Was Carrie Fisher amazing? Did she put glitter on your face? Did you get to pet her dog? I love dogs, dogs are amazing, do you like dogs? Did you get to see the set? Oh my God, did you go into the Millennium Falcon?! Tell me everything!”
Everyone had gone silent and Stiles instantly felt his stomach drop. He’d fucked up. Oh God, he’d fucked up big! He was going to get beheaded!
Then, Laura turned to her mother, pointed at Stiles, and said, “I like him. Can we keep him? He’s flippin’ great!”
Talia just laughed, still rubbing his back, and leaned over to nudge him lightly with her shoulder.
“Welcome to the family, Stiles.”
Derek had known there was nothing to worry about when he’d brought Stiles back to the castle, but for the first few weeks, he got nervous every time Stiles wasn’t in his immediate line of sight. Not because he thought his family wouldn’t like him, but because he’d known that they would.
Stiles had almost hyperventilated himself into unconsciousness multiple times the first day they’d arrived, and while he was mostly better, he still had moments when Derek’s mother was around where it looked like he was going to wet himself. They were happening less frequently now, after two months of exposure, but he could tell his mother was a little sad that she scared him so much. She was an amazingly kind and wonderful woman, and she just wanted Stiles to realize he was no different than Marin or Erica. Yes, this was the royal family, and yes he had to be respectful, but when they were hidden away in the residential part of the castle, they were just like everybody else. They bickered, and fought, and teased, just like any other family.
The only thing Derek could think of to help their relationship was to tell his mother to challenge Stiles to a game of chess. He went with Stiles so that at least he had someone there with him and didn’t pass out playing against his mother, but as the game wore on, Stiles started getting more comfortable, and the panic at the sight of her lessened.
Again, it still happened every now and then, but it was far less frequent than it had been the first month or so he’d been there.
He’d also thoroughly creamed his mother four games in a row and she’d been thrilled about it. Derek found it cute that both she and Peter loved that Stiles could beat them at their best game, probably because it was more challenging being pitted against a strong opponent. Derek had to wonder if Stiles ever got bored of always winning.
At the end of his first month in the castle, Stiles’ tutors for his chosen major had been hired and brought in to start his courses, and Derek spent the majority of his time during the second month wandering around the castle and hanging out with Cora. They mostly talked about the trips and what he did while he was on them, and sometimes they talked about Stiles.
Cora and Stiles had really hit it off, which would’ve concerned Derek more if he didn’t catch Stiles occasionally watching him out of the corner of his eye. He’d always thought Peter had been lying about Stiles finding him attractive, but he’d once returned to his room after a workout, shirtless and sweaty, and Stiles had stood frozen at the opposite end of the corridor with his mouth hanging open.
Derek may have pretended not to notice and made a big show of stretching in the middle of the hall with his back to Stiles. It was extremely satisfying to know that someone he was interested in was, at the very least, attracted to him. It’d be better if Stiles liked him, though.
“Just ask him out already,” Cora had insisted, texting away on her phone, but Derek just insisted that it wasn’t that easy.
And it wasn’t. Especially considering how Stiles had come to them.
Especially considering his social status.
Which was how he found himself standing outside his mother’s office door on day sixty-eight of having been home, waiting for her meeting to finish so he could speak with her. His father was off doing kingly things, Cora was hanging out with Erica, Stiles was in class, Peter was being Peter and Laura was in the room with his mother. It was really the best time for him to speak to her, so he waited patiently for them to finish, and nodded politely to all the officials who walked out of the room. Talia and Laura were last and they both started at seeing him.
“Derek.” His mother’s face lit up at the sight of him, and he felt his chest ache slightly. He’d missed her while on the road, and was so glad he was home.
“I was hoping I could have a word with you.”
“Of course, honey.” She handed her tablet to Laura. “I’ll see you later.”
“Sure. Bye Derek.” Laura elbowed him lightly in the side when she passed him and he turned to tug playfully on her hair. She stuck her tongue out at him, then disappeared down the corridor.
“Let’s go out into the gardens,” Talia suggested, holding one hand out. Derek moved closer to her so she could loop her arm through his, and she rested her head on his shoulder while they walked through the castle towards the back exit.
It took them almost ten minutes to finally make it outside, and even after living there his entire life, Derek still sometimes forgot just how huge the castle was. It explained why Stiles still got lost on his way to dinner. Derek had ended up just waiting for him every day, taking pity on him.
Also, he liked waiting for him and walking down with him, so there was that, too.
When they finally made it outside and into the gardens, his mother lifted her head from his shoulder, but kept her arm looped through his.
“I love this garden,” she said with a smile, looking around. “I know your uncle hates the sunflowers, but I find them quite charming, actually.”
“They’re nice,” Derek agreed. “But I can see how he’s concerned about getting hit in the face by them.”
“He’d probably deserve it,” Talia teased, the two of them laughing.
They walked a little further in silence, Derek trying to collect his thoughts. He was nowhere near being ready for this conversation, so he switched gears to try to buy some time.
“I’ve been speaking to Cora lately,” he said. “About the noble visits. She’s actually been showing an interest in them.”
“She mentioned as much to me while you were still away,” Talia said, sighing slightly. “I don’t know, Derek. Your sister is very unpredictable and hard to control.”
“I was introverted and grumpy, but I managed to make it work,” Derek argued, the two of them stopping by one of the many outdoor gazebos and climbing the steps into it, taking a seat at the small table.
“You get along with your uncle, Derek, something the rest of our family still struggles with.”
“I think it’s more I’m used to him now.” Derek shrugged. “Peter just knows how to control a situation. The trick is not to let him take too much of it.”
Talia gave him an interested look at that, as if wondering where he’d come up with that idea, and Derek realized it was something Stiles had told him in a different way back when he’d explained why he kept beating him at chess.
“I worry that your sister isn’t ready for something like this.”
“She’s never going to learn if you keep her cooped up in here,” Derek insisted. “Besides, there’s no harm in having her give it a try just once. It might do her some good. It did for me.”
“True, but I think you fail to realize how much you’ve changed just this year.” Talia’s lips curved slightly. “I don’t think it’s just the travelling that’s improved your character.”
Derek felt his heart slamming against his ribcage and he wondered if Cora or Peter had told her how he felt about Stiles. The look she was giving him made him feel like someone had spilled the beans.
Those fucking traitors. He’d been planning on telling her when he knew how to!
“Who told you?”
“Nobody,” she insisted, looking offended. “A mother always knows, Derek. Besides,” she smirked at him, the look almost identical to Peter’s, “you stare at him an awful lot.”
Derek winced, shifting in his chair. “I didn’t exactly plan for this to happen, it just kind of... did.”
“Honey,” she reached over and placed her hand on his, “no one ever plans for this. Do you honestly think I planned to fall for your father? These things just happen, whether we want them to or not.”
He pressed his lips together, frowning at their hands, and asked, “Are you mad?”
“Why would I be mad? Derek, Stiles is a wonderful young man. I can understand why you’re smitten. I think Cora is quite taken with him, too, but,” she said emphatically when he opened his mouth to speak, “your sister is respectful and she knows how you feel. She would never think to pursue him knowing you’re interested in him.”
That, at least, he knew was true. As much as they joked and bickered about things, Derek knew Cora would never go behind his back like that. She wouldn’t go after Stiles unless she was absolutely sure Derek didn’t like him anymore.
“I don’t know what to do,” Derek admitted.
“Regrettably, this is a complicated situation,” Talia admitted. “He isn’t here of his own volition, so I can understand your hesitance. Coupled with him being your aide, if you were to begin a relationship with him, he wouldn’t be your aide anymore. And if he isn’t your aide, then what is truly keeping him here aside from you?”
Derek felt like a part of him hated Peter for having chosen Stiles all those months ago. He’d had an entire town of people to choose from, and of all of them, he’d chosen Stiles. He had made it so that it was virtually impossible for Derek to be with him, because he would never know if Stiles was with him because he wanted to be, or because he had to be.
It wasn’t enough to know Stiles found him attractive. Marin and Peter would never be together, and had both admitted as much multiple times whenever Talia joked and hinted that they should get hitched. They didn’t have that kind of relationship, but they still slept together, and Marin admitted Peter was attractive.
It was possible to love someone in a platonic sense and find them attractive or enjoy fucking them. There didn’t need to be any deeper feelings involved.
Talia let out a sigh and reached up to brush hair off his forehead. “My beautiful boy,” she said sadly. “I wish you had found him under different circumstances.”
“What if we sent him home?” Derek asked quietly.
Talia sighed, dropping her hand. “Derek, we’ve discussed this.”
“I know,” he said, because they had discussed it. At length. Multiple times. “I know we’ve discussed it, but don’t you think this is enough? It’s been eight months, his father thinks he’s never going to see him again. We wanted to teach them a lesson, don’t you think it’s been taught?”
“For a lesson to stick, you cannot return what was taken to begin with,” Talia said, putting her hand on Derek’s once more. “Derek, returning Stiles is like forgiving what their town has done.”
“But it’s not,” he insisted. “It’s a reward for good behaviour. Ennis and Boyd said that the place is completely different, now. They’ve been doing well, their funding is up, there’s less crime, and most of the people against The Crown have almost all been arrested and sent to federal court. Mom, the sheriff did that. He fixed what was broken in his town. Don’t you think that warrants a reward?”
His mother stared at him for a long while, then inhaled deeply through her nose. “I’ll think about it.”
It wasn’t a no for the first time since his return home, so he would take it.
Derek knew it was a risk. Sending Stiles home might mean never seeing him again. Stiles might jump at the chance to go back to his dad and never even look back.
But Derek knew it was the right thing to do. Stiles hadn’t asked for this, and while he’d been a shit his first week with them, that felt like a lifetime ago. He was an amazing aide, and an even more amazing person, and he was worth the risk of losing him forever just to see him happy. Derek spent most of the year away from his family, and it hurt to be apart from them. He missed them so much that he sometimes hated what he had to do.
Just the thought of how it must be for Stiles was painful to imagine. Stiles wasn’t used to spending time apart from his father like Derek was with his family. Stiles had already spent eight months away from him, and had only spoken to him twice in that entire period of time.
Derek couldn’t even imagine how that must feel. He was used to being away from his family, he got to talk to them whenever he wanted, he knew that after the trip ended he would be home again and spend time with them.
Stiles had none of that. All Stiles had was a lumpy pillow from home and a picture frame with a folded photograph and another faded one. That was all he had of his life before all of this.
Thinking about it was actually making Derek’s chest ache. His mother smiled at him, patted his cheek and stood. She waited for him to join her at the base of the stairs out of the gazebo, and then looped her arm through his again while they headed back for the castle.
For the first time since Stiles’ arrival into Derek’s life, Derek actually wanted to cry for him.
Because it wasn’t fair.
None of what had happened to him was fair at all.
Stiles let out a loud, pitiful moan, leaning back in his chair and letting his head fall back, whining loudly.
“You sound like a dying giraffe,” Cora informed him, seated across from him with her cheek resting against her fist, turning the pages of the magazine she was reading.
“This is hard,” he whined.
“That’s what she said.”
“Cute.” He lifted his head to give her a look. “Never heard that one before. Bravo. Much awesome. Gold plus. A star.”
Cora paused in her flipping, looking up at him with her eyes, and he just grinned, grabbing his pen and hunkering back down over his homework.
Honestly, he didn’t know why he was doing this to himself. His brain felt like Jell-o most of the time, and because he wasn’t on the road with Derek, he spent eight hours a day doing classes for his major and actually felt like this was worse than high school.
At least he had weekends, even if he spent most of them doing homework and trying not to drown in all the assignments he had. It was a good thing Derek didn’t really call for him anymore, because Stiles literally didn’t have time. Which was sad, actually.
He missed spending time with Derek. The only reason he spent so much time with Cora was because she just came to the library and read while he bitched and moaned. He kind of wished Derek would do that, too, but he seemed to be busy lately. Stiles didn’t know what he was doing, but he really only ever saw him around dinner. Sometimes breakfast, if he was lucky.
“Mm?” he grunted, pen scratching against the surface of the page.
“Are you happy?”
Stiles looked up, frowning at Cora. She was still staring down at the magazine, but her eyes had stopped moving.
“I’m happy,” he confirmed. “Why?”
She shrugged one shoulder, turning the page, but he noticed she still hadn’t moved her eyes, meaning she wasn’t really looking at anything.
“I’m taking Derek’s place next month. For the noble visits. Derek’s been talking to me about it to get me ready for it.”
“That’s really great.” Stiles grinned. “I didn’t know it was coming up. I guess he’d already been gone for a while before reaching Beacon Hills though, so it makes sense.”
“Yeah,” she sat back, scowling at the magazine and crossed her arms. “Nine months on the road, three months home. Next month is the beginning of the new cycle, so I’m going to head out with uncle Peter.”
“That’s gonna be really fun,” Stiles promised. “Really. Derek didn’t mind it so much, he just didn’t like certain places, but that was like, three or four in the six months I was on the road with him. It’s really not that bad.”
It was crazy for Stiles to realize he would have been with the royal family for a total of nine months in just two more weeks. Time was flying past, and at the same time, crawling. It had been so long since he’d seen his dad. Since he’d seen Scott.
Everyone must’ve graduated by now. He hadn’t really thought about the timing, but graduation would’ve passed by now and his classmates would’ve been heading off to university soon. He wondered if Scott had gotten into his first choice.
Stiles wondered if he’d have gotten into his if he’d stuck around.
“He says it’s hard,” Cora said, snapping Stiles out of his thoughts, one hand having shifted to play with the edge of the magazine.
“Being away from home.” She said this so quietly that Stiles almost missed it. He said nothing to that, putting his pen down and leaning back in his own seat. Cora still wasn’t looking at him, and he felt like he knew why she was asking if he was happy.
Because she was going to be gone for nine months—almost the exact same amount of time Stiles had been away from his own family—and she was now realizing how hard it must be.
“I miss my dad,” Stiles said softly and he saw Cora’s eyebrows turn down into a frown, her lips curving downward. “Sometimes I miss him so much I can’t breathe.”
“It’s not right,” Cora admitted, glancing up at him with her eyes. “What Peter did. What my mom let him do. It’s not right.”
“I don’t really have a say in the matter.”
She hesitated before asking, “Did you even get to say goodbye?”
Stiles felt his chest clench at the question. “No. I didn’t.”
Cora was frowning down at her magazine again, still playing with the edge. She had always been the most vocal about hating the way things happened with the family, but she was also the least likely to be able to do anything about it. The third child of the royal family. She was practically nothing in the grand scheme of things.
Stiles figured that was why she was so rebellious. Had to get her parents’ attention somehow. Then again, the King and Queen were very present, and they were always equally interested in all three of their children’s days. Every night at dinner, they spoke to all three in turn, and never showed favouritism.
He didn’t like how upset she looked, because he knew she wanted to change things for him, but didn’t have the ability to. He didn’t want her to be sad for him.
“I got to speak to him,” he said, making her look up again. “Derek let me call him twice. Peter only knows about one of them, though, so maybe don’t advertise it.”
“That was pretty ballsy of him,” she said with a small smile. “Mom could’ve reamed him out for that.”
“Yeah.” Stiles played with his pen, letting out a small sigh. “I’m happy, though. I promise. I like being here. With you, with Derek. With your family. You’re all amazing people. So I’m happy, I just... I really miss my dad. And Scott.”
“Can I...” she trailed off, winced, then tried again. “Can I do something? I’ll be on the road, I’ll pass Beacon Hills. Can I give your dad something?”
Stiles was really touched that she would ask, and he said he would really like that if she could. Cora smiled at him, beginning to rip the edges of the page she was holding, and the two of them went back to what they were doing.
He was happy Cora was going to have the chance to go out and experience what it was like to travel around, but he was also going to miss her. She was the only one with enough time to keep him company, and aside from her and the occasional chess game with Peter—and the Queen, though those were less frequent—he didn’t really see much of the rest of the family.
Once she left, he would be spending a lot of time alone. That probably wouldn’t be good for him with how much being around this family made him miss his dad.
“Can you teach me how to play chess?” Cora asked. “You and Peter bonded over chess. He’s a creepy asshole, but he’s still my uncle. I’d like to not spend the whole time plotting his murder.”
“If you can’t beat him at chess, I don’t advise plotting his murder,” Stiles teased. “But sure. Whenever you want.”
“Cool.” She was silent for a while once more, then said, “Stiles?”
“If you were told you could go home, would you ever come back?”
Stiles looked up at her again, frowning and wondering why she was asking that. He wasn’t going to be allowed to go home. Everyone had made that pretty clear fairly early on. He sometimes felt like that was why Talia was always so touchy-feely with him. He was missing his family, and she wanted him to feel like he had a new one. She was always rubbing his back and wrapping her arms around his shoulders and giving him brief hugs. The only times she didn’t acknowledge his presence was whenever they were in the front part of the castle, but she didn’t acknowledge anyone’s presence aside from her family’s.
And even Marin and Erica got to their knees in the main hall when she entered.
“I don’t know,” he admitted quietly. “I want to say I would. I want to say I’d visit my dad for a few weeks and come back to be with Derek, but I can’t promise that. I lost nine months of time with my dad, and after my mom died, I just...” He let out a slow breath, because crying in front of Cora would be embarrassing. “Make sure you appreciate every second you have with your family. Because they won’t be around forever, and you’ll regret it once they’re gone.”
Cora looked extremely upset by this comment, but he didn’t know if it was because of what he’d said hitting home, or because she was thinking about how much time Stiles had lost with his only remaining parent.
“I’m going to go for a swim,” she said after a moment, getting to her feet. “I’ll see you at dinner.”
He watched her leave, and knew she was running away from him. He hadn’t meant to upset her, he’d just been honest. Maybe he shouldn’t have been.
“Interesting phrasing,” a voice said and Stiles jumped, whipping around to find out where it was coming from. He eventually saw Peter materialize from between the shelves, and had to wonder how long he’d been there. He had a book open, holding the bottom with one hand while the other slid his index finger slowly down the page. He walked forward while he read, and took the chair Cora had just vacated.
“What phrasing?” Stiles asked.
“To her question,” he said, looking up at him, but kept his finger pressed against the page so he didn’t lose his spot.
“That I didn’t know if I’d come back?” Stiles asked with a frown.
“No, that you would come back to be with Derek.”
“Why is that interesting phrasing?”
Peter studied him for a long moment, slowly closing the book and folding his hands on top of it before leaning forward.
“I can’t decide if you’re being purposefully ignorant, or if you’re really that obtuse.”
“Pretend it’s the latter and enlighten me.”
“You would come back to be with Derek?” Peter asked.
Stiles shrugged. “Like I said, I don’t know. Maybe. I mean, I like working for him and being around him.”
“Mm.” Peter nodded slowly, lips pressed together. “So you would come back to be with him?”
This time, with the emphasis, Stiles understood. He stared at Peter for a long while, not saying anything. Had that really been how he’d worded his answer to Cora? He hadn’t realized that. She obviously hadn’t caught it, either, but Peter was a master at the awkward and uncomfortable, so he caught everything.
Stiles leaned back in his chair, homework forgotten, and frowned down at the table. Peter seemed satisfied with having given him food for thought and went back to reading his book. Stiles kind of wished he hadn’t, because that was definitely something to think about and he’d have loved a sounding board.
What even was he to Derek, anyway? Sure, he was his aide, but Derek acted very differently with him than Peter did with Marin, and Laura did with Erica. He didn’t really treat him like an aide anymore. He had at first, for a long time, but somewhere along the line something had changed and Stiles hadn’t realized it.
And he’d thought it had changed on Derek’s side, but maybe it had changed on his. Maybe it had changed on both, he didn’t know. He just remembered Derek’s panicked reaction when he’d been hurt, how his hands had been shaking, how angry he’d gotten.
He remembered Derek apologizing to him on the day of his mother’s death, giving him the photo frame, handing over his phone so he could call his dad.
He sat in the back of the limo once because Peter said Derek had been asking about him and he didn’t like playing middle man. And Derek had started coming to their chess games, even though he never said anything. He just pretended to read the same book over and over.
Stiles had read that book, it wasn’t something to re-read more than once.
And his birthday. Derek had actually gotten him something thoughtful. He’d gotten him something Stiles would actually like. And he’d given him his phone again. Stiles had been starting to forget what Scott sounded like. He’d been allowed to call people from home. His dad, Scott, Melissa, Lydia, Malia.
Derek was nice, and he was considerate, and Stiles was...
“I’m in love with Derek.”
“You don’t say,” Peter drawled, giving him a look. “I had absolutely no idea.”
Stiles didn’t know what to do with this information. Was he even allowed to be in love with a member of the royal family? He was the equivalent of a medieval peasant to the royal family. He was Derek’s aide, his assistant, his personal gopher. He wasn’t allowed to be in love with him.
“What am I supposed to do with this knowledge,” Stiles asked quietly.
“Whatever you like,” Peter informed him, flipping a page in his book. When it became clear Stiles was not going to be able to focus on his homework anymore, Peter closed his book and smiled at him. “How about we play a game of chess?”
“Okay,” he said numbly.
For the first time, Stiles lost.
Derek was doing his best to pretend he was reading his book, but in actuality he was watching Stiles do his exam from over the edge of it. It was his last one, and then he was free forever.
Because he was an idiot.
Stiles had crammed three years of school into five months, and Derek honestly didn’t know how he’d done it. He supposed Cora and Peter leaving had given him a lot of free time, and with Derek and Laura attending a lot of meetings with their mother, he really didn’t have anyone to spend time with.
It made Derek feel a little guilty, and he figured he hadn’t been a very good friend. Employer? No, he preferred friend.
He hadn’t even known Stiles’ final was today until he’d gone to find him in his room the night before to play video games and had found Stiles passed out at his desk with two books, a binder and his notebook open, drooling all over the page and smearing the ink.
Stiles was amazing. Derek already knew that, but he always did something new to impress him, and every day, he fell harder and harder to the point where it was almost intolerable.
It had been one year and two days since Stiles had entered his life. One entire year of having him so close, and being unable to touch him. Stiles was going to turn twenty in four months. He was going to have to live through the day of his mother’s death again soon. He was going to go back to being Derek’s aide in nine months when he rotated back on the nobles travels with Peter so Cora could have the next year off.
And still Derek was going to sit there and want him, but know he could never have him. And still, he would sit there, wanting to send him home, but knowing that he couldn’t.
Stiles had his tongue stuck between his teeth, scratching his head with the end of his pen and frowning angrily at the page. Derek really hoped he passed. For how hard he’d worked this past year, he wanted Stiles to pass. He deserved to have accomplished something amazing in his time with the Hales, and Derek felt like having Stiles graduate from high school and a three year Computer Science program in just one year would be something pretty spectacular.
Stiles had started chewing on the end of his pen, and Derek was so distracted watching him, his book tilting downward, that he let out a shout when Laura appeared beside him. She rolled her eyes at him, Stiles having jumped at his shout and looking over to glare at him.
“Where are we going?”
“Just come.” Laura grabbed at his arm and tugged insistently, so he sighed and closed his book, setting it on the table and turning to follow Laura. He knew Stiles would grab the book on his way back to his room, so he didn’t worry about it.
Erica was standing just outside the library, scowling at her phone and following absently behind Derek and Laura when they passed her.
“Your mooning over him is actually depressing me. Can you imagine?” Laura asked with a snort. “You being so head over heels for Stiles is actually depressing me.”
“It’s complicated,” Derek muttered, shoving his hands in his pockets.
“I know it is. Let’s uncomplicate it for you.”
“What does that mean?” he asked, cocking an eyebrow, but Laura didn’t answer. She just kept walking, and he obediently followed.
They ended up out in the gardens, heading towards the small pond in the left half of the area. His parents were sitting in the closest gazebo having coffee. It was one of those cute things his parents always did, namely make time every day for just the two of them to sit and enjoy each other’s company.
Normally no one interrupted them, but Laura didn’t seem to care right now. She walked right up into the gazebo and plopped down in one of the empty seats, smiling at her parents.
“Hello,” Talia said politely, but Derek could tell she was guarded, because Laura clearly had an agenda. “Is everything all right?” she asked, setting her coffee down on the table.
“Peachy.” Laura motioned for Derek to stop hovering at the bottom of the stairs and he sighed and climbed them, nodding to his parents while taking one of the other available seats.
“This is unusual,” their father said, sharing a look with Talia.
“What’s wrong with us wanting to come out and visit our parents?” Laura asked. “Are we not allowed to?”
“Of course you are.” Talia smiled and reached out to rub Laura’s closest arm. “We love it when you come to us unexpectedly. You rarely do anymore.”
“It’s nice, right? Having me visit. Having Derek around. I miss Cora.”
“I miss her too, sweetheart.” Talia smiled. Derek could tell she was still somewhat guarded, but she seemed to be thawing a little.
Derek didn’t know what was going on, he just sat there and watched Erica text on her phone, popping her gum loudly and unconcerned with what was happening with the family.
“Hard, isn’t it?” Laura asked with a sigh. “When Derek’s gone, it’s so painful, too. I mean, it’s nice I can call him and video chat whenever I want, but when he’s not here, it’s just so hard. It’s nice being able to just walk into his room, see him, spend time with him.”
“Where are you going with this, honey?” their father asked.
Laura turned to him, a look of fake surprise on her face. “Whyever would you think I was going anywhere with it? Can’t I say how nice it is to see my family on a regular basis? Can’t I comment on how hard it is when one of us is gone? It’s so hard. Did you know sometimes you can miss someone so much that you can’t breathe? Can you imagine?”
Talia looked completely lost now but Derek was starting to realize what Laura was doing. He sat up a little straighter, and she looked at him, half-smiling, as if happy he was finally cluing in.
“Laura, are you—do you miss Cora that much?” Talia asked, concerned.
“What? Oh, no, of course not.” Laura waved one hand and laughed. “I mean, I miss her, of course I do, but not enough to feel like I’m suffocating. But you know, speaking of suffocation, and Cora, do you know who does miss someone so much they sometimes can’t breathe?”
It was clear from his parents’ expressions that they thought she was about to say Cora, which probably explained why they looked so shocked when she instead said,
“Come again?” Talia asked.
“Yeah, apparently Stiles has moments where he feels like he can’t breathe because he misses his dad so much. Did you know that?” she asked, feigning surprise. “Isn’t that wild? Cora told me that. They had a heart to heart before she left. Apparently uncle Peter was there. Isn’t that so ridiculous? Not being able to breathe because you miss someone.” She let out a humourless laugh. “I mean, it’s not like he can’t visit him and—oh wait. That’s right. He can’t. Well, there’s always calling him when—oh. Oh, no. Right. That isn’t allowed either. Hm.” Laura frowned, pretending to think, and then looked at Derek. “What would someone that lonely and upset do with all their free time, do you think?”
“Study,” Derek replied immediately.
“True, but I mean, it’s not like Stiles is so desperate for a distraction that he just completed a three year course in five months.”
“Sure he did,” Erica said absently from the bottom of the gazebo.
Laura slammed both hands on the table, turning to Erica with the loudest fake gasp Derek had ever heard. “What? He did? Amazing!” She turned back to their mother. “That’s amazing. Maybe we should kidnap more children, it’d do wonders for their education.”
“That’s enough, Laura,” Talia said sharply, clearly having heard more than she cared to.
“Why, am I making you uncomfortable?” Laura asked innocently. “Am I making you think about how hard life would be for you if Cora, Derek and I suddenly just vanished from your life? How we could be so lonely and upset that we would pour all of our energy into school and homework just so that we wouldn’t have to think or acknowledge how lonely and upset we were?”
“Laura,” their father said quietly.
“Is this really how you want to be remembered?” Laura asked. “Do you think anyone in Beacon Hills is ever going to forget about what the royal family did?” She held her hand out and Erica let out an almost aggrieved sigh, but she climbed the steps and pulled a tablet out from under her arm, dropping it into Laura’s hand, then went back to her texting.
Laura set the tablet on the table and unlocked the screen. Derek recognized the format of the file it opened on, because it was the same one Peter had opened to show him about Stiles. This one wasn’t for Stiles, though.
It was for his father.
“Oh wow, look at this. Honoured. Honoured. Awarded a medal. Oh, two medals. Voted in as sheriff year after year unopposed. Impressive track record. And look at all the amazingly kind things people have had to say about him.” She scrolled down, showing attachments to the file. Derek didn’t think they’d been there before, and when she scrolled past one, he saw the date was for last week.
Cora had been in Beacon Hills last week.
Holy shit, Derek realized. Cora got people to write up their opinions about the sheriff and sent everything to Laura.
“Look at how respected and loved this wonderful man is in his town,” Laura said, still scrolling. Derek wondered how far down it went.
He wondered if Peter knew about this.
Hell, he wondered if Peter had helped. Sure, he’d been the one to start this, but Derek knew how much Peter cared about Stiles, so it wasn’t impossible to think maybe he’d also tried to get Stiles sent home, and it hadn’t worked.
“This is so impressive, wow.” Laura still hadn’t reached the bottom. “This man has so many people who love and care about him. Oh, but you know what?” She stopped scrolling so she could look at her mother in surprise. “Funny thing, I’m sure they’ve all noticed how broken he’s been the past year. I’m sure all these people, who love and respect this wonderful man, have noticed how unhappy he’s been.” Laura looked at Derek. “Who made him so unhappy, do you think?”
Derek shrugged. “I don’t know, but I’d hazard a guess that it might have been the royal family.”
“No,” Laura said, slamming her hands on the table again. Derek saw his mother close her eyes briefly, obviously trying to find patience. “The royal family? Well, as someone who loves and respects this man, who’s been broken because of the royal family, do you know what?” She turned to their mother. “I am now going to hate the royal family. I am going to be a small town person in Beacon Hills, and I am going to support the sheriff and hate the royal family. Because they took his son away a year ago, and this poor broken man has had to live with that for an entire year. So screw the royal family.”
“Are you quite done?” Talia asked, tone cold.
Laura stabbed her index finger against the table. “This wasn’t right when it happened, and it’s not right now. Some punk ass kid threw a brick at Derek’s window, barely even making a mark on it, and you and Peter decided a suitable punishment for that was to kidnap someone’s kid?” She motioned Derek. “What if someone kidnapped Derek? What if someone kidnapped Cora?” She pointed to herself. “Or me? What if someone took me? What if you knew exactly who had me, but you couldn’t do anything about it? How would you feel?”
Talia didn’t answer, and for the first time since Derek had been home, he felt like maybe Stiles had a chance. He straightened in his chair, eyes on his mother. She was very carefully schooling her features, but she glanced across the table at her husband.
“Mom, it’s been a year,” Laura said quietly. “Lesson learned.” Talia looked at her and Laura’s face softened. “Mom, just let him go home.”
Talia looked across the table at her husband again, then cleared her throat and smoothed out her skirt, glancing down at what she was doing.
“If he passes his studies,” Talia said, Derek’s heart leaping into his throat, “He can go home. If he doesn’t, he will stay until he does pass, and then he can go home.”
The only reason Laura didn’t jump to hug her was because Derek beat her to it. He was probably crushing his mother’s throat the way he was holding her, but she didn’t seem to care because she just let out a slightly annoyed sigh and hugged him back.
“Thank you,” he whispered. “Mom, thank you.”
Stiles stared up at Derek from where he was sitting at his desk, the other smiling sadly down at him. He wasn’t sure he understood. He felt like he had to have misunderstood. Because this didn’t make any sense.
“I don’t...” Stiles trailed off, trying to figure out what he wanted to say. “I don’t understand,” he finally decided on.
He was holding a framed diploma in his hands. He’d gotten it less than an hour ago, his exams having been graded over the weekend. He’d spent the entire time hanging out with Derek, playing video games and reading and just enjoying his free time. If he failed, he knew it’d be back to the grind for at least two weeks, but less than an hour ago, he’d received his diploma, and he’d excitedly informed Derek of this on a video call.
And now Derek was in his room, staring down at him like his heart was breaking, holding out a plane ticket.
“I said you can go home,” Derek repeated, but the words still sounded like a foreign language to his ears. “You’re not my aide anymore. You’re not a prisoner anymore. You graduated, you have a diploma, a good education. You can take that, go home, and find yourself a great job.”
Stiles didn’t understand. A part of him wanted to jump up and snatch the ticket from his hand, then run all the way to the airport. Another part of him was numb.
“Did I do something wrong?”
“What?” Derek asked, frowning, his hand lowering slightly. “No, of course not.” He hesitated. “I thought you’d be happy.”
“I am happy,” he said immediately, no hesitation whatsoever.
“You don’t look happy,” Derek said quietly.
“I am,” he insisted, swallowing hard. “I want to go home, I want to see my dad, and Scott, and Melissa, and everyone. I want to sleep in my bed, watch TV with my dad, go to the movies, hang out, do things.” He exhaled sharply, but didn’t continue.
Derek stared down at him, and it felt like his eyes were burning into his forehead.
“But?” Derek asked.
“I like being here,” Stiles whispered. “I like being here. With you.”
He saw Derek’s throat working at that, but he just held the ticket up once more. “You need to go before I don’t let you.”
When Stiles didn’t take the ticket, Derek dropped it on his desk. He turned to leave the room and Stiles leapt to his feet.
Derek had opened the door about halfway before pausing, back still to him. Stiles didn’t know what to say. He didn’t know how he felt. He wanted to go home to his dad, but he didn’t want to lose Derek.
He didn’t want to lose Derek!
Before he could decide on what to say, Derek turned abruptly from the door, strode across the room, buried one hand in Stiles’ hair, slid the other up along his cheek, and crushed their lips together.
The kiss was urgent, and desperate, and seemed to be Derek trying to convey everything he felt in that one action. His hand tightened in Stiles’ hair, tugging harshly, and the thumb of his other hand was brushing against the skin under his eye tenderly, in stark contrast. His tongue was in Stiles’ mouth, and it was like he was trying to memorize everything about him.
Before Stiles could raise his arms to grab Derek back just as desperately, the Prince pulled away and stepped back.
“Get out of my sight,” Derek said, turning his back on him. “I’m tired of looking at you.”
He left Stiles’ room and slammed the door.
Stiles stood in the middle of his room, lips swollen and breathing ragged, staring at the door Derek had closed so hard there was a sliver of light coming through a crack on the right panel of the wooden surface.
Get out of my sight. I’m tired of looking at you.
Stiles had heard that many times before from Derek, but this was the first time he understood what it actually meant. Derek said that to him, because he needed Stiles to disappear from his immediate line of sight before he did something he regretted.
Derek had just kissed him. And now he was telling him to go.
There was a knock at his door, and Stiles felt like he’d swallowed his heart. He rushed to open it, Derek’s name on his lips, but it was just one of the housemaids. She smiled at him and walked into his room rolling a suitcase. Then, without a word, she neatly and methodically began packing away his things.
Stiles watched her, unable to speak, unable to even do anything. It took her less than ten minutes to fit the entire last year into the bag, setting his new diploma between a layer of clothes, his high school one further down between another layer. She set the picture frame down last, and then put his pillow on top before zipping the bag shut.
“The car will be ready in fifteen minutes to bring you to the airport. Her Majesty the Queen would like to see you before you go. She is in the main study.”
She left the room without another word, taking his bag with her.
Stiles stood there for a few long minutes, staring down at the ticket on his desk. An hour ago, he’d been watching TV and waiting for his test results so he could tell Derek. Now, he was standing in an empty room with a plane ticket and a goodbye kiss on his lips.
It felt like the world had just tipped sideways and Stiles was still trying to find his footing.
Turning, he walked out of the room and headed for the main study. He stopped outside the doors, staring at them, and then finally knocked when the guards were giving him weird looks.
“You don’t need to knock, Stiles,” Talia called.
He opened the door, the room just as breathtaking this time as it was the first time he’d entered it. It was funny to realize this room was the main study as opposed to the library. The library was set up more conventionally, but Derek had said it was to give the kids a more “school-like” feeling.
It seemed fitting that this would be the first and last room he would ever see in the castle.
Talia, the King, Laura and Erica were all sitting on the couches. Derek was nowhere to be found.
He approached them slowly, still not sure how he was feeling, and Talia smiled at him, getting to her feet.
“I hear congratulations are in order.”
“What?” he asked unintentionally.
“You passed all your courses.” She pulled him into a hug. “I’m very proud of you. Very impressed, too. That’s quite an achievement in such a short time.” She released him and leaned back, but kept her hands on his shoulders, smiling sadly. “You are an amazing human being, Stiles. We are very lucky to have met you, and I can honestly say I am going to miss you greatly.”
“Make sure you come visit us, okay?” Laura said, jumping to her feet with a huge grin and crushing him in a tight hug. “Don’t be a stranger. You’re allowed to come by whenever you want.”
“But maybe call first,” the King suggested with a smile, pulling him into a less painful hug. “We’ll always make time for you.”
“I won’t,” Erica said from the couch, texting on her phone. “I’m just gonna go visit him in Beacon Hills.” She didn’t even look up, giving him a half wave. “Later loser, I’ll come see you sometime. I’m due vacation soon anyway.”
Stiles still felt like this wasn’t happening. He didn’t understand, was he being fired or something? And why the fuck wasn’t he more excited? He got to go home! To his dad! But he was losing Derek. And Peter. And all of these amazing people, who were more than just royalty, but were actually people.
“Take care of yourself, Stiles.” Talia smiled, then turned and held out her hand. Stiles didn’t see what Erica put in it, but when she turned back, she was holding his wallet, keys and phone.
“I thought Peter got rid of that,” he said quietly, taking the items when she held them out to him.
“He was going to, but I think something about your first meeting made him decide to hang on to them.” She smiled slightly. “Would you believe he was one of the most vocal people involved in sending you home? Curious, given he was the one who chose you in the first place.”
“Stiles is just that awesome,” Laura said with a smile, kissing his cheek. “But seriously. Visit us.”
“The car’s waiting for you up front,” Talia said, folding her hands together and smiling. “You’ve got your ticket.”
“I don’t have my passport,” he said numbly.
“Members of the guard will be escorting you there. You don’t need a passport. The advantages of being close with the royal family.” She winked at him.
“Oh. That explains Canada,” he said lamely.
Talia laughed, hugged him again, and then they led him towards the door. They walked him all the way out of the castle, Talia’s arm around his shoulders the entire way. It was the first time they’d left the residential area without the aides having to show respect for the royal family.
When they reached the car, he got crushed in three more hugs, Laura insisting Erica give him one until she finally gave in with a roll of her eyes. The King’s hug was, once again, less bone-crushing.
Talia ushered him into the car, one guard already in the front seat, and another in the back, but Stiles didn’t climb in yet.
“Derek,” he said quietly. “Where’s Derek?”
Laura and Erica shared a look and Talia smiled sadly at him.
“He’s not very good with goodbyes. He wishes you well. Peter and Cora said they would stop by to see you, either before they leave Knoxton or on their way home in the spring.”
Stiles nodded, his chest aching, and opened the door. He turned back before entering, licking his lips.
“Thank you. For everything.”
Talia smiled. “Goodbye, Stiles.”
Stiles climbed into the car and slammed the door shut.
It was almost two in the morning when the cab eased to a stop outside a dark house. Stiles stared up at it, almost having forgotten what it looked like, and felt like he couldn’t breathe. He was home. He was actually home. It had been just over one year since he’d stared up at this house, seen the cruiser in the driveway, driven down this street.
He felt the car jostle when the trunk was shut and started, climbing quickly out of the car. He paid the driver with the money he’d been given by the guards at the airport, then stood on the sidewalk and watched the cab disappear down the street. Everything was silent when the car rounded the corner and he turned to look at the house again.
Grabbing the handle of his bag, Stiles rolled it up the driveway, picking it up so he could climb the porch steps, and then stopped in front of the door. He didn’t know how he should do this. Should he just go in and wake his dad up? Should he knock?
Feeling like he might give his dad a heart attack if he just walked into the house, Stiles reached out and rang the doorbell. He heard it sound inside, echoing off the walls, and waited. When silence stretched on for too long, he rang the doorbell again. This time, he heard movement within, his dad grumbling angrily on his way down the stairs.
The porch light turned on, Stiles wincing at the brightness of it, and he heard the lock click. When the door opened, the second his eyes found his dad, he immediately teared up. He looked older, his face more lined and his hair greyer. He’d let a bit of a beard grow out, and he seemed to have lost some weight.
But it was his dad. It was him.
That was all he got out, because the second recognition hit, the sheriff grabbed him by the back of the neck and crushed him against his chest, holding him so tightly that it physically hurt, but Stiles didn’t care. He buried his face against his dad’s shoulder, arms aching with how tightly he was holding onto him, and tried to breathe through his sobs.
“Stiles. Oh my God. Am I dreaming? Am I dreaming? Oh my God. Thank you. Thank you. Please. Please be real. Oh my God.”
Stiles just tightened his grip on his dad, listening to him continue to ramble, and they stood there in the doorway hugging for what felt like forever, but it still wasn’t long enough. He’d missed him so much, he never wanted to leave him ever again. He could hardly stand how much time had passed.
“Oh God, Stiles.” His dad started to pull away, but he didn’t go far, hands shifting up to his face, cupping it and staring at him. He had tears running down his cheeks, but he was smiling so widely that it looked like it might break his face. “Oh God, look at you. You look so good. You look so good, kiddo.” He kissed his temple and hugged him again. “I can’t believe you’re here. I can’t believe you made it back to me.”
Stiles buried his face against the man’s shoulder again, hands clenched in the material of his shirt. It hurt so much listening to him, but he was so happy. He was home, and he had his dad, and everything would be okay.
They stayed out on the porch for a long while hugging, but eventually the sheriff pulled away and gripped his shoulder tightly, practically yanking him into the house. Stiles barely had time to get his suitcase in before the older man shut and locked the door behind them.
They went into the living room and Stiles looked around, as if he’d never seen the place before. It looked almost the same as it had when he left. The only difference was that more pictures of him had been added on the shelf. The photo he had in his picture frame had been replaced, his father obviously having found the negative for it. He was glad.
It occurred to Stiles that he didn’t remember seeing the maid pack his camera, but he’d been so numb at the time that he was sure she had. Still, now he was a little panicked at the thought of not having the one thing Derek had given him and he quickly lay the suitcase flat and unzipped it.
His dad sat down on the coffee table in front of him, obviously not wanting to go far, and watched him pull the flap open.
“What happened?” he asked softly, Stiles pulling his pillow out and setting it on the recliner. He put the picture frame on top of it carefully.
“They sent me home,” Stiles said quietly, pulling the clothes out slowly since he knew there was more breakable stuff in there.
“Just like that?”
“Yup.” He pulled his new diploma out. “Probably sent me home for good behaviour,” he teased, holding it out to his dad.
The sheriff let out a snort, but it was rather wet sounding since he was still crying. He took what Stiles offered him and looked down at it. Stiles was still digging through the suitcase, his dad silent, like he didn’t understand.
“Is this—what is this?”
“My diploma,” Stiles said, finding his high school one and setting it beside him on the ground.
“University. I graduated yesterday.”
“What?” his dad asked incredulously. “Are you serious? Stiles, that’s amazing.”
“I had a lot of free time.” His hand closed around something and he yanked on it. He let out a relieved sigh when he pulled out his camera, securely stowed in its case. He held it against his chest, feeling the ache coming back at the thought of Derek, but he pushed it aside.
Now wasn’t the time to think about Derek.
“Stiles, what happened?” his dad asked.
“I’ll tell you tomorrow,” Stiles promised, closing the flap of his bag. “Right now, all I want to do is go up to my room, lie down in my bed, and get some sleep. You look like you can use some, too.”
He grabbed the diploma from his dad, setting it beside him on the coffee table, then turned to grab his pillow, putting the picture frame up on the shelf with the others. He led the way up the stairs, his father so close on his heels he actually stepped on the back of his feet a few times on their way up.
When he reached his bedroom door, his dad pulled him into a hug again, holding him tightly.
“What if you’re gone when I wake up? What if this was all a dream?”
“I’m right here, dad,” Stiles promised. “I’m right here, and I promise I’ll be here when you wake up.”
It took his dad over half an hour to actually go back to bed, but Stiles could kind of relate. He also felt like this wasn’t really happening. Like he was going to wake up in his room at the castle, climb out of bed and get lost on his way to the kitchens.
Months of living in that place and he still couldn’t find the fucking kitchens.
It was weird to get ready for bed on autopilot. Nothing had been moved. His toothbrush was still where it always was in the bathroom. His pyjamas were still tucked under his pillow. His phone charger was still dangling off the end of the nightstand.
He pulled his wallet and keys out of his pockets, setting them down on his dresser. When he reached for his phone, he pulled out the wrong one, and stared down at the phone he’d been given while working for Derek.
He’d forgotten he even had it, and hadn’t turned it off on the plane back home. Good thing the plane hadn’t crashed because of it, wouldn’t that have been ironic?
Stiles stared down at it, the battery at sixteen percent. He didn’t have the same kind of phone charger, so once the battery died, he couldn’t use the phone again. Unless it was out now, since it could very well be, but he knew it hadn’t been out when he’d first gotten it.
Without thinking, he brushed his thumb across Derek’s name at the top of the phone, and it instantly began to ring. Stiles dropped it, the phone landing with a loud thud, screen down, but it continued to ring.
“Shit, shit!” He bent down to grab it, turning it around to hang up, and froze.
Derek’s face was staring back at him. He looked like he was half asleep, frowning at his phone like he didn’t know what was going on. The second he realized it was Stiles, he jerked up, lying on his stomach and using his free hand to hold himself up.
“Hi,” he said, finger still hovering over the hang up button.
Neither of them spoke for a few long seconds.
“You didn’t come and say bye.” It was all he could think to say.
“I don’t like goodbyes.”
Stiles didn’t know how to respond to that.
“How’s your dad?”
“He’s good.” Stiles finally let his other hand drop back to his side. “Happy. You know, thinks this is all a dream.”
“Is that your room?”
“Yeah. Um, it’s—I mean, it’s not much, but it’s mine.” He tilted the screen slightly and turned in a circle so Derek could see it.
“It’s nice. Very you.”
“Yeah.” Stiles licked his lips and he didn’t miss the way Derek’s eyes followed the movement. “Derek why did you kiss me?”
“Because I wanted to.”
“Is that all? You wanted to?”
“You were leaving, and I wanted to. What else do you want me to say?”
Stiles shrugged. “I don’t know. I guess it doesn’t matter.” He sat down on the edge of his bed, raking his free hand through his hair.
They didn’t speak again for a few minutes, but neither of them hung up. They just stared at each other on the small screen. Stiles’ battery was at four percent by now. He was going to mention it, but Derek spoke.
“I wanted to order you.”
Stiles frowned. “What do you mean?”
“I wanted to break my promise. I wanted to order you into my bed. That’s why I kissed you. Because I wanted you, but I couldn’t have you.”
Stiles felt like someone had just injected him with adrenaline. “What?” He had to have misheard him. “What?!”
“Why are you so surprised I was going to break my promise?”
“That’s not why I’m surprised,” Stiles insisted, voice rising and a little shriller than normal. “What the hell is wrong with you?! What do you mean you couldn’t have me, I was right fucking there!”
Derek scowled. “You don’t have to pretend it’s what you wanted. You’re back home now, you can get on with your life.”
“What are you talking about?!” Stiles demanded. “Derek, did you completely miss the fact that I’m in fucking love with you?!”
Derek stared at him for a long moment. “What?”
“Dude,” Stiles said, so stressed right then he forgot who he was speaking to, “in what universe would you not have been able to have me?! Derek, what is wrong with you?!”
“How was I supposed to know if you wanted me or were just following orders because it was what I wanted?!” Derek snapped. “Stiles, Peter took you away from your home and made you work for me. Why would I ever possibly think you gave two shits about me?!”
“Are you serious right now? Do you honestly think—”
The screen went black. For a second, Stiles thought Derek had hung up on him, but then he realized the battery had died.
“No.” Stiles tapped at the screen. “No, no! Come on! No!” He shook the phone, as if that would get more juice into it, and then still tried to see if his usual charger would magically fit into this phone.
It obviously didn’t but it was worth a try. He dropped the phone onto his bed and buried his face in his hands, groaning.
Derek was in love with him.
He was in love with Derek.
And they were now separated by an entire fucking country.
“You fucking idiot,” Stiles muttered, despite Derek no longer able to hear him, then stood up to get ready for bed.
When Stiles woke up the next morning, it was to his dad sitting at his desk, scaring the unholy shit out of him. They had another long moment together, his dad crushing him to his chest, because he’d obviously though he’d dreamt Stiles’ return.
They went down to the kitchen and had eggs—Stiles let his dad get away with eating bacon and the egg yolk, because he was feeling generous—and started talking about Stiles’ time away.
Cora had kept her word about delivering something to his dad, and Stiles appreciated that. He’d given her a thumb drive with all of the pseudo letters he’d written to his dad. He’d always taken time out of every day to write something, and his dad had received what he’d written up until Cora’s departure from the castle.
He hadn’t gotten through very much of it, because he’d admitted to crying a lot, and that made Stiles a little sad.
He tried to give him most of the highlights, but had to unfortunately give some of the bad parts, too, especially when his dad noticed the raised scar on his wrist from Jennifer’s crazy knife trick.
While he could tell his dad was relieved it wasn’t Stiles himself trying to escape a horrible life—which, really, come on, Stiles wasn’t like that—it still showcased that not everything was great while he’d been with the royal family.
Around lunchtime, after his dad had hogged him enough, Stiles had left the house to head over to Scott’s. He saw a few people on his way there who did double-takes at the sight of him, and had to stop every now and then to tell them what happened.
Some people he knew fairly well, and they hugged him and exclaimed how good it was to see him. Other people he knew only in passing and they tended to just wave, tell him they were happy he was back, and continue on their way.
Stiles reached Scott’s place much slower than he normally would have, and he smiled at the sight of his Jeep in the driveway. He ran his fingers along the side of it while he passed, and looked through the windows. It had been well taken care of and he couldn’t help smiling at the realization that Scott had probably been keeping it running out of hope that Stiles would come back for it.
Climbing the porch steps, he could hear movement inside the house, suggesting Melissa was up and doing housework. It occurred to him that he had no idea what day it was. He thought it might be Tuesday, but so much had happened since the weekend, it could’ve been Friday for all he knew.
He knocked loudly on the door, Melissa calling that she was coming. She pulled it open after a few seconds and stared out at Stiles.
“Hey,” he said with a small smile.
Melissa blinked, and then realization seemed to hit. “Oh—my God! Oh my God! Stiles!” She grabbed him by the shoulders and pulled him into the tightest hug he had ever received from her. “Oh my God!”
Stiles laugh and hugged her back while she rambled, continuing to repeat “oh my God” interspersed with questions, like if his dad knew he was home, when did he get back, how was he, and so on.
She pulled him into the house, tears in her eyes but the brightest smile on her face and he realized how much he’d missed her.
“Is Scott here?” he asked while following her out of the entrance.
“Still sleeping, but I think he’d forgive you for waking him up.”
Stiles grinned. “Me too.”
He started up the stairs when Melissa called his name and he turned back to her. She smiled fondly at him and said, “It’s good to see you.”
“You too,” he admitted, then continued on his way up the stairs.
Scott was sprawled out on his bed, lying on his stomach with all his limbs all over the place and snoring loudly enough to be mistaken for a freight train. Stiles laughed and moved up to the bed, poking at his shoulder.
His friend let out a loud groan, batting him away with one floppy hand, but Stiles just stood there and kept poking at him insistently. Scott groaned again and kept trying to slap at him.
“Dude, it’s like, one in the afternoon. Get up.”
“No,” Scott whined, trying to shove Stiles away. “Go away, Stiles.”
He kept poking at his shoulder, knowing it would click soon. As predicted, fifteen seconds later, Scott’s eyebrows turned down into a frown and he sleepily opened his eyes to slits, staring up at who was poking him.
Stiles had never seen someone propel themselves out of bed so fast.
“Stiles! Holy shit! Holy shit!” Scott threw his arms around him, hugging him tightly enough to bruise a few ribs. “Holy shit, Stiles! How did you escape?!”
“I didn’t escape, are you crazy?” He rolled his eyes. “They told me I could go home.”
“Seriously?” Scott pulled away, wiping at his eyes and grinning wide enough for it to look unnatural. “Are you back?” Then his face fell. “This isn’t just a visit, is it?”
Stiles hadn’t realized that question could hurt so much, but he just smiled and said, “No, it’s not.”
“Oh my God, Stiles!” Scott laughed and hugged him again.
He wanted to stick around and spend time with Scott, but he also wanted to see his dad so they ended up going back to Stiles’ place with Melissa. She took her car, but he and Scott took the Jeep.
“It’s your car,” Scott had told him, handing back the keys despite Stiles’ protests. “I was just keeping the battery running for you.”
It felt good to be behind the wheel again, and he and Scott laughed on their way home. They went inside and sat in the living room with his dad and Melissa, ordering pizza and talking about the past year.
Scott had graduated and gotten into his second choice university, which he was starting in a few months. Melissa promised she’d been keeping an eye on his dad’s diet and they all joked about how unhealthy he’d been since Stiles’s return.
It was nearing dinner time when the doorbell rang and the sheriff stood to get it.
Stiles didn’t really pay attention at first, until his dad’s voice hardened and he said,
“Can I help you, your Grace?”
Turning towards the living room entrance, despite not being able to see the door, Stiles grinned.
“Yes, I’m here to see Stiles.”
“Stiles who? There’s no Stiles here.”
He noticed Scott and Melissa tense when they realized who was at the door, but Stiles just rolled his eyes and got to his feet. It looked like Scott wanted to stop him, but he just waved him off and headed for the entrance.
His dad had the door closed as much as he could to avoid anyone seeing into the house and Stiles rolled his eyes again, moving up behind his dad and looking out over his shoulder.
A genuinely pleased smile crossed Peter’s features at the sight of him, and Stiles felt his dad tense against him.
“Stiles! Well,” he gave him a once over, “don’t you look like a hobo.”
Stiles grinned, seeing one of the doors to the limo open behind Peter, Cora stepping out with Boyd right at her elbow, looking around nervously.
“Nice to see the year you spent with us did nothing for your wardrobe,” Peter continued.
“There’s nothing wrong with my clothes,” he insisted with a sigh, Cora climbing the steps onto the porch, grinning.
“You spend too much time with Erica,” he sighed.
He noticed his dad make a weird aborted move at the sight of Cora, like he was going to bow or something, but Stiles put his hand on his shoulder and squeezed.
“Clark Kent called,” Cora said, giving him a once over as well. “He wants his clothes back.”
“Are you calling Superman a hobo?” Stiles’ eyebrows shot up.
“Maybe.” She grinned. “This your house? Looks neat.”
She held out one hand, pushing at the door to get it open, since his dad was still keeping it as closed as possible. Stiles had to pat his dad’s shoulder and pull him back to get him to let the door go so Peter and Cora could come in.
They moved easily through the house and into the living room. The sheriff’s jaw was clenched but Stiles just patted his shoulder and shut the door, then followed them. His dad stuck so close behind him he almost tripped him.
When Stiles walked into the living room, Scott and Melissa were on their feet, eyes wide and looking lost, clearly not knowing what they should do.
“Sit down, what is this? Don’t look so scared.” Cora waved her hand impatiently at them and then fell heavily onto the recliner, sitting sideways so her legs dangled over the armrest.
Peter had gone to look at the shelves, hands behind his back while examining all the photos.
Scott, Melissa and the sheriff all stared at Stiles, two looking terrified and one looking somewhat angry. He just shrugged and sat down on the couch closest to Cora, leaning back into the cushions.
“You in Knoxton right now?”
“Yeah, for three more days. Mom told us you went home so we thought we’d come by while we were still around.” Cora glanced at the coffee table and perked up. “Is that Hawaiian? I love pineapple!” She reached out for the pizza box, managing to grab the corner without getting up and snagged a piece, stuffing it into her mouth.
She chewed her bite while looking around the room and when her chewing slowed, Stiles turned to see why and noticed his dad, Scott and Melissa staring at her.
They were all still on their feet.
“What?” Cora asked, wiping at her mouth with the back of her hand. “Royals eat pizza, too, you know.” She emphasized her point by shoving another large bite into her mouth.
“Cora, behave,” Peter said with a scowl, moving away from the shelves and taking a seat beside Stiles on the couch. “I hear congratulations are in order.” When Stiles gave him a confused look, Peter smiled. “Your graduation.”
“Oh. Yeah.” Stiles actually forgot about that, but he grinned at Peter’s words. “Thanks! Not sure what I’m gonna do with it, but it’s nice to have.”
“You graduated high school?” Scott asked hesitantly, eyes skirting between Cora and Peter, neither of which were looking at him. Cora was staring out the window, still eating her piece of pizza, and Peter was watching Stiles.
“No,” Stiles replied, then frowned. “Well, yes. But no, uh, Peter’s talking about university. I graduated yesterday.”
“What?” Scott demanded. “Seriously?”
Stiles just shrugged and motioned for the others to sit. Their standing was making him uncomfortable.
He also noticed that Peter and Cora were acting extra normal, talking to Stiles like they weren’t part of the royal family and occasionally trying to include Scott, Melissa or his dad—who had all, thankfully, taken a seat. He figured they were trying to make a good impression so that Stiles’ friends and family liked them, considering he’d been essentially forced into slavery for the royal family for a year.
Scott seemed to be pretty forgiving, but Melissa and his dad just looked half angry, half terrified.
“Oh!” Cora waved one hand in Stiles’ direction insistently. “Oh! Oh! Oh! Guess what?”
“Do I have to?”
She threw a piece of crust at him and he snatched it off his lap to pop it in his mouth. Cora grinned at him.
“I won against Peter!”
Before Stiles could even think of congratulating her, Peter leaned into Stiles’ space so he could point one accusatory finger at Cora.
“Once,” he insisted emphatically. “You won once! Don’t go around sullying my good name!”
“Won what?” Scott asked, almost looking nervous to ask, but considering no one had come in to murder him yet, he seemed to be trying to pretend they were just normal people.
“Chess.” Cora beamed at him. “Did you know Peter’s never won a game against Stiles?”
Stiles opened his mouth to correct her, but Peter wrapped his arm around his shoulders and dragged him into his side.
“Not my fault the kid’s a genius. The only way to win against him is to cheat.” Peter winked at him and Stiles frowned, confused.
Peter hadn’t really cheated that one time. He’d just dropped a bomb on Stiles that turned his brain off for a few hours. It wasn’t cheating, it was taking advantage of an opponent’s weakness. Stiles still considered it his loss and Peter’s win, even if Peter didn’t seem to think so.
For some reason, thinking about chess made him think about Marin, because she’d been the one to buy him the dope Star Wars chess set—which he had in his suitcase upstairs—on Peter’s behalf and that was when he realized she wasn’t there.
“Where’s Marin?” he asked, frowning at Cora.
“Oh, she’s running an errand.” Cora waved her hand impatiently. “She’ll be around soon.”
She grinned almost ferally at him and Stiles cocked an eyebrow but didn’t press the issue. He instead asked Cora how she was liking the travelling and the Princess moaned and groaned like it was the worst thing to ever have happened to her. Peter piped in to say he missed Derek and Cora flipped him off.
“I think I miss you the most, though,” Peter admitted, arm no longer around Stiles’ shoulders but instead resting against the back of the couch. “It’s quite boring without you around.”
Before Stiles could even think of a response to that, his father’s voice spoke loudly, and very coldly.
“I’m sure you’ll survive.”
Stiles winced at the tone, but Peter just turned to smile at the sheriff.
“I imagine I will, but it doesn’t mean I’ll miss his presence any less.” He gave his father a look. “I understand why you are unhappy with me, but perhaps you should recognize that, while I may have been the one to choose your son, I am also the one who fought to have him returned to you. Why do you think Cora and I requested that meeting with the mayor to have a banquet in your honour?”
“You had a banquet in your honour?” Stiles demanded, turning to his dad. “Why didn’t you tell me?!”
“I thought they were rubbing it in my face,” his dad muttered grumpily, arms crossed over his chest.
“We used it as a means to request letters of recommendation from as many people in town as we could,” Cora informed him. “We attached them to your file and sent the whole thing to Laura. According to Derek, she made quite a scene to get Stiles home.” Cora shrugged. “It’s cool if you want to hate us, but we’re gonna be around whenever we want to visit, so you might as well get used to us.”
The door suddenly opened without warning and Stiles turned to look at it. He figured it was likely Marin, but when the door shut and footsteps moved forward, he realized there were two sets and he jerked to his feet when Derek walked into the living room.
He wished he hadn’t, because Cora cursed and Peter grinned, holding out his hand. Stiles could see them exchanging money out of the corner of his eye, but he couldn’t tear his gaze away from Derek.
Marin was behind him, smiling slightly and inclining her head at Stiles in greeting, but he barely saw her. He wished they weren’t in a room full of people right then, because he desperately wanted a moment alone with him.
“Hello,” Derek said stiffly, shifting his weight.
“Hi,” Stiles replied quietly.
Silence. Stiles could see Scott looking back and forth between them, obviously confused, but his dad had turned to give Derek a dirty look, obviously catching on. That, or he’d heard the conversation from the previous night, which was entirely possible, given Stiles had kind of been shouting.
“My battery died,” Stiles finally blurted out.
“I figured that out for myself.”
Peter looked pleased as punch, shifting his head back and forth to watch them both, discomfort mounting between them. Stiles really wished they didn’t have an audience, and wondered if he could manage to excuse himself and have a private conversation with Derek in the kitchen.
“So,” Peter finally said when the silence seemed to be too much for even him, “Stiles. We were thinking, Derek and I. You did such a great job as his aide, we thought maybe you’d like to come back and work for him.” He turned to hold his hand up at the sheriff, the man having whipped around, mouth opening and eyebrows down in an angry frown. “In a purely professional capacity, sheriff. He would be allowed to call and visit whenever he wanted. This is a choice, not mandated.”
Stiles didn’t know how to answer that question. A part of him did. It really, really did. But another part worried about leaving his dad alone, especially if Stiles was working with Derek from the castle. It was so far, and he didn’t want to do that to him.
“The other option is you can come back as Derek’s boyfriend,” Cora piped in when Stiles was silent for too long.
Stiles turned to her, startled, and he saw Derek gaping at her out of the corner of his eye.
“Are you hitting on him for me?!” he demanded, appalled.
“What?” Cora threw her arms into the air. “It’s not like you were doing it! Isn’t that why you flew all the way out here to begin with?”
Stiles looked back at Derek, whose neck was turning red, a flush creeping up his skin. He motioned Stiles.
“Can we maybe talk without an audience.”
“Please, can we?” Stiles asked, hurrying through the living room. He started to leave, then turned back and pointed at his father, then Peter. “Behave. We’re all friends here.”
Peter smiled sarcastically and his father scoffed, but Stiles hoped he didn’t come back to a fistfight.
He motioned for Derek to go up the stairs, but when the other didn’t, Stiles shifted his weight uncomfortably and led the way. It was weird walking ahead of Derek, he usually never showed his back to him.
Leading the way into his room, he shut the door once Derek entered and then crossed his arms. Derek looked around, eyes scanning everything slowly. He moved up to Stiles’ nightstand, reaching out and touching the screen of his useless phone with two fingers. Because the battery was dead, it didn’t turn on, but Stiles didn’t think that was why Derek had touched it.
“So,” Stiles said uncomfortably.
“So,” Derek repeated, turning to face him and shoving his hands in his pockets.
They said nothing for a long while, then Stiles sighed and raked one hand through his hair.
“I didn’t know you were coming out. Sorry the place isn’t, you know, nice or anything.”
“I like your house,” Derek insisted, a small scowl forming. “It’s bright and inviting. Like you.”
Stiles nodded, biting at his bottom lip. He noticed Derek’s gaze lower, but he quickly returned it to Stiles’ eyes, probably hoping he hadn’t noticed.
“Did you really think I wouldn’t be honest with you?” Stiles finally asked. “If you told me how you felt, and I didn’t feel the same way, did you think I would lie and just pretend?”
“I don’t know,” Derek admitted. “I was too afraid to risk it.”
Stiles could accept that answer. It wasn’t what he wanted to hear, but it was acceptable.
“I miss you,” Derek said quietly.
“I’ve only been gone one day. I don’t even think I’ve even been gone twenty-four hours,” Stiles insisted, pulling his phone from his pocket to check the time.
It wasn’t like he was going to admit he’d missed him, too.
“I want you to come back.” Derek looked almost like a child when he said this, shoulders hunched, head slightly bowed, gaze on the ground, and hands still in his pockets. “I want to spend time with you.”
Stiles sighed, reaching up so he could rub at his face with both hands. “Derek, I liked being your aide. I liked spending time with you, getting to know you and your family. It actually hurt to leave, but I can’t leave my dad right now. He just got me back, it would destroy him. And I don’t think I could stand to leave him after having been away from him for so long.”
Derek’s frame stiffened but he nodded, and Stiles noticed his expression had closed off. That wasn’t what he wanted and he let out a frustrated sigh, trying to figure out how to have them both right now.
He took two steps forward, closing the distance, but still decently far away.
“Derek, I like you, okay? Like, want-to-kiss-your-stupid-face-repeatedly like you. And to even imagine that you like me kind of blows my mind.”
“Why?” Derek scowled at him. “You’re smart, and funny, and nice, and caring, and—”
“I got it,” Stiles said, holding up his hand to stop him and feeling a flush rising in his cheeks. “Thank you. My point is, I want to be your aide, and I want to be with you, however you’re willing to have me, but my dad...”
Derek frowned, and slowly took a step forward so he and Stiles were closer together. “What if... What if I spent the year at Knoxton?”
“What?” Stiles asked, startled.
“It’s right outside town, so I’d be within driving distance, and you could stay here with your dad. Cora and I are going to rotate the noble visits for the next couple of years, which means it’ll be my turn next. What if I stayed at Knoxton for the year, and we tried this.” He motioned between them. “We can do this the way it’s meant to be done. Slowly. Not as the Prince and his aide, but as Derek and Stiles.”
Stiles felt a ridiculous grin slowly trying to take over his face, and it must’ve made Derek feel better because his shoulders relaxed and he almost smiled.
“I want to get to know your dad, anyway. I need to help repair the damage taking you created. But I think this could work. I stay here, with you, and you get to keep your dad close. We do this for the year, and when the next noble visits start, if you’re willing, you can come with me again. As my aide, my boyfriend, my annoying and persistent roommate, whatever you want. Just—just stay.” Derek winced, then frowned, as if trying to find the right words. “Please just stay with me.”
“How is it someone who can literally order people to do anything they want be so damn scared of showing a little emotion?” Stiles asked with a grin. He was close enough to Derek now that he could reach up to wrap both arms around his neck, pulling him down to press his lips lightly against Derek’s. “I think that’s a great idea. And as long as I’m not cut off from my dad and Scott again, I’d be very willing to do the visits with you again.”
“Yeah.” Stiles smiled, Derek’s hands having moved up to wrap around his waist, pulling him closer. “I figure one year of sticking around here will help remind my dad why he likes having me out of the house. And if this works out, you and me, we can sort out what we’re gonna do after we’re done the next round of nobles visits. That’s two years away, so we’ve got plenty of time to think about it.”
Derek smiled then, genuine and happy, and pulled Stiles into a tight hug. It startled him, mostly because he’d been expecting a kiss, but he just laughed and tightened his hold on him.
“Thank you,” Derek said. “For giving me a chance.”
“You’re not so bad,” Stiles said teasingly. “But try not to call me in the middle of the night when you can’t beat a level of Donkey Kong, okay?”
Derek snorted, and leaned back, hands coming up to cup Stiles’ face and kissing him. It wasn’t the same urgent desperation as last time. It was slower, more confident, and when Stiles opened his mouth, Derek’s exploration was slow and really fucking hot, because he did this thing with his tongue that Stiles couldn’t replicate, and damn if Derek didn’t taste good.
They both jumped and pulled apart when the door opened, Peter grinning in at them, looking between them. They’d stopped kissing at his entrance, not wanting an audience, but Derek’s hands were still on Stiles’ cheeks, and Stiles himself still had his arms wrapped around Derek’s neck.
“We’re going for dinner at the palace. I invited your friend, your father and his girlfriend.”
Stiles frowned. “That’s not his girlfriend, that’s Scott’s mom.”
Peter gave him a look then rolled his eyes. “No wonder you didn’t know Derek was in love with you. Hurry up, let’s go before more people show up and invite themselves along.”
He shut the door behind him, but Stiles stared at it, one part of his brain dismissing Peter’s words because this was Melissa, and that comment was ridiculous. But another part of his brain went, “Oh my God, what happened while I was gone?!”
“Are you okay?” Derek asked, concerned.
“Huh?” Stiles turned to him and shook his head. “Yeah, no, I’m fine. Just... Peter likes to drop bombs on me.”
“He’s a dick that way.” Derek released him and took a step back, but he let one hand slide down Stiles’ arm, hesitantly touching his hand. Stiles just smiled privately to himself and laced their fingers together, Derek practically beaming at him while they headed for the bedroom door.
Before they opened it, Stiles turned back to Derek and reached up with his free hand to grab the back of his neck and pull him down for another kiss. He had to make up for the months of having missed out on being like this with him.
He didn’t know if this would work out between them, and he definitely didn’t know what would happen if he ended up marrying into the royal family, but he knew that he loved Derek, he loved his family, and he wanted this. Right here, right now, he wanted this.
He wanted to be Derek and Stiles.
When he pulled away, Derek smiling kind of dopily at him, Stiles laughed.
“I fucking love Jackson Whittemore.”
The smile dropped off Derek’s face and he frowned, almost looking jealous. “Who’s Jackson Whittemore.”
“The moron who threw a brick and hit the Prince’s car.”
Then he pulled Derek down for another kiss.