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The General and Queen of Lumeria loved to waste her time away in the library, devouring each and every book on the shelves one by one. Language didn’t seem to stop her, something that awed Stiles to the last degree. He could sit with her between the shelves for hours, something awarded to him not only by his rank, but friendship with the young Queen.

                  His love for her seemed to diminish as he climbed in rank, starting as awe-stricken adoration when he first discovered her during his career as a page for one of the knights. It developed into a mission by his ascent into squire-hood, then into a slide-eyeing crush when he was knighted. Now, as her highest-ranking knight and best friend, his crush was replaced with reverence and complete platonic exaltation.

If he had to place a moment of realization, it must have been the moment she asked him to be her man of honor in her first wedding.

“Lydia?” Stiles asked her one day as they lay on their backs in the library, him with a book held over his face, her with a scroll pinched between two fingers. “You keep humming. It’s It pains me to hear your tune again and again.”

“My apologies, sire.” She taunted him, not looking away from the parchment above her. “But these records are fascinating.”

Stiles sat up, huffing. “Fascinating? You’re sure? For one, they’re so old they’re written in Saxon, and for another, they’re so old they’re written on scrolls.

“I’m aware they’re old, Stiles.” She rolled her eyes and sat up with him. “They’re the records of Benedictine the fifth.”

“Am I supposed to know who that is?”

“He was the eighth ruler of Lumeria, so yes. Do you listen when I speak?”

“In general?” He contemplated it. “No.”

She slapped him with the records of Benedictine V. “Listen to this.

 

The vault lies under the citadel

Unopened

Behind the door, treasure lays wait

Unused

A destiny chosen by bloodline

Unfulfilled

Isn’t that wonderful?”

“I don’t know what it’s supposed to mean.” He sighed.

“Benedictine V was a seer. Many genealogists believe he was the source of my power. Or, his son was.”

“Benedictine VI?”

“No, Rodger I, how do you not know this? His father a seer, mother a witch? The boy was constantly spouting out bits of prophecy in his postnatal years.” She pointed to a bit of the text. “This was said by him.”

Stiles began putting away the books that they’d scattered about them. “Well? What does it mean?”

“Not sure.” She hummed again. That was seriously getting on his nerves. “Something about treasure, however the location is up in the air.”

“Treasure, you say?” Stiles’ eyes brightened.

“Lumeria was a war Kingdom before Ambroise The Immortal married Lakya III and brought her wealth into the land. That was a century after this was even written.” She rolled the scroll back up and tucked it into its holder. “It was probably a weapon, not chests over flowing with gold coins, like you’re probably thinking.”

“Lydia?” A voice interrupted, blonde locks swinging around the shelf and the face attached beamed. “Finally. My Alpha is here, for the signing of the treaty? Are you ready, my love?”

Lydia stood and brushed dust off of her dress, fixing her hair. “Thank you. I am ready, and I’ll receive him in the dining hall.” Erica darted off, hair bouncing.

“You have to sign the same treaties again because of your marriage with Erica? Jackson’s treaties weren’t enough?” Stiles helped her pack up the mess they’d made, and then fix her girdle, something he surprisingly hadn’t done only once. “That’s a little tedious, what with writing up new treaties for essentially the same marriage.”

“The Hale Kingdom has a new King, after the tragedy that befell King Peter.” She sauntered out of the library with the posture of the Queen she was. “Death following the betrayal of one’s own King can never be recovered from.”

“Who has replaced him?” Stiles followed her like a duckling.

“A different Hale.” The doors opened for them to present a sullen, dark haired mass of a man. Stiles’ mouth dried out.

“King Hale, this is Stiles, the highest knight in my order.” Lydia sidestepped to present him to this… Adonis. Stiles found himself extending his hand without thinking. His Highnesses’ leathery hand, dried by the sun, enveloped Stiles’, his own calloused by war.

“Pleasure to meet you, your Highness.” Stiles managed to get out. The King just nodded.

“Derek.” Erica distracted him by calling his name. “A great delight to see you again.”

“I trust this partnership has treated you well.” Derek indicated Lydia with a head-nod.

“Her highness treats me with the greatest respect and honor.” Erica smiled at her wife, earning her a kiss in exchange for the quill Lydia then signed with.

“I trust this is the same agreement as with my husband.” Lydia said as she scanned it post-signature for any changes she and her massive brain would notice amidst the cramped script.

“The dates have been changed as well as pronouns accounted for.” King Hale was still staring at Stiles, the younger suddenly self conscious about how much of his tattooed skin was showing. He crossed his arms and tugged on his short sleeves, or tried. He’d ripped them off that morning in a fit of rage in trying to get the damn thing on, a decision he regretted at that moment. King Hale broke eye contact to sign the papers. “Congratulations on your union.”

“Alpha Hale!” Erica yelped when he started to leave. “Why do you hasten away? You should stay! It takes days to get from the Hale Kingdom to Lumeria, and I am sure you are exhausted.”

Derek swallowed, contemplating the offer in full. “Your Queen does not object?”

“I would never object to a wish from my sweet blushing bride.” Lydia smiled and laid a series of kisses on her wife’s cheeks. Stiles rolled his eyes. The Married Ones were really repulsive sometimes. “I’m sure Jackson would be delighted to see you as well.”

Derek glanced at Stiles, nostrils flaring. Or perhaps he was smelling him. Stiles wasn’t sure. “Than may I request a private meeting with the three of you?”

“Of course.” Lydia beamed and motioned at Stiles. “Stiles, could you fetch Jackson?”

Stiles grumbled and threw his hands up in surrender, marching out of the room to find wherever the Duke was lurking.

Luckily for Stiles, he wasn’t far from the dining hall. He was just outside, alternating between hissing orders and yelling expletives at a smaller man, and judging by the emblems on his clothing, a member of King Hale’s entourage.

“Jackson!” Stiles barked, gaining the man’s attention. “Lydia wants you for a private meeting with your Alpha.”

Jackson huffed and brushed past him, shutting the door behind him. He never liked taking orders from the young Stilinski, but he’d rather not chance another yelling spell by her majesty.

The man who’d been talking to Jackson went stiff, his ears perking. “Stiles?” He turned slowly to face Stiles, his smile slowly growing.

Stiles beamed back. He remembered that crooked jaw, slumped shoulders, and hair that couldn’t stay still if it tried. “Scott!” He leaped into the other’s arms after a heartbeat of hesitation. “Hey, buddy! I thought I’d never see you again!”

(The two had grown up together, but one night, when the two young boys had wandered to the border of the Hale Kingdom with promise of dead bodies and fame, Scott suffered at the teeth of one of the Hale’s rogue wolves. He had since moved to the Kingdom to learn the ways of the wolves.)

“I said I’d visit, I told you!” Scott put Stiles down before he fell over.

“You promised me that three years ago! Where have you been?!”

“Alpha Hale’s been riding us hard, trying to negotiate peace with the Argents, and then his General left to marry, so we’re down a man or two.” Stiles nodded towards the doors, indicating Erica. “Stiles, I think… I think he wants me to be the new General.” Scott’s smile grew even bigger, offsetting his jaw even farther.

“That’s wonderful, Scott!” Stiles slapped his friend’s arm, who winced. Stiles pulled back. “Are you hurt?”

                  “Oh, nothing, just… I wouldn’t stop talking about you on the journey here, and Derek may have punished me.” He raised his sleeve to show his friend the linen bandage with tiny pinpricks of blood leaking through from the wound. “Alpha wounds take longer to heal.” Stiles tried to touch it; Scott slapped his inked-up wrist away, then grabbed it again when he noticed said ink. “Your tattoo collection has grown since last we spoke…”

                  Stiles nodded silently and turned his wrist over, allowing Scott access to his whole arm.

                  “I thought you only got these when you wanted to remember something or some-“ Scott stopped and swallowed. “I’m sorry.”

                  “The battle was long, and wore on everyone’s spirits. Many were lost.” Stiles shook his head to will away the shaking that started each time he thought of Lumeria’s last war. Scott’s thumb was under Claudia, the name of his mother, in calligraphy, followed by his father’s in similar font.

                  “Why didn’t you tell me in your letters?” Scott whimpered.

                  “It wasn’t important.” Stiles sighed. The boys stood in frigid silence for a long moment. “We could listen in, if you would like.” Stiles pointed to the closed dining hall and effectively changed the subject. “There’s a side door that’s not made of oak, if you know what I’m getting at.”

                  Scott beamed and nodded so wildly his hair assumed a new position, and he followed Stiles with the same vigor.

                  King Hale was speaking when they tuned in. “-If you don’t mind.”

                  “Not at all.” They could hear the strained smile in Lydia’s voice. “I’m sure he’s about here somewhere, you said one of your wolves knew him? He’s most likely meeting with the boy as we speak.”

                  “I’ll be able to find him.” King Hale assured her. The main door creaked to indicate his exit.

                  The moment the King left, Erica bit into an apple, obnoxious and loud enough to hear from the hall. “Why Stiles? He’s at least mildly entertaining.”

                  “Erica…” Lydia chided, borderline menacingly.

                  “Send Danny to follow Alpha Hale around for his stay. I want to keep Stiles.”

                  “Stiles is going!” She screeched, voice escalating with a dramatic acceleration. Stiles flinched. That one he heard from his side of the door properly.

                  “Why?” Erica whined, stretching out the word to at least five syllables.

                  “Stiles is going by order of the King.” Jackson hissed.

                  Derek wants me to join him? Stiles’ eyebrows rose. Scott bristled at the mention of Derek wanting Stiles. It was probably some territory thing. A wolf-y best friend thing.

                  The pair were heaved away from the door by the scruffs of their necks, held aloft by a ridiculously strong Alpha. “What do you two think you’re doing?”

                  “If you were thinking we were listening to her majesty and yourself without permission, I would bring your trail of thinking elsewhere.” Stiles attempted to grin his way out of it.

                  “Yet, that is exactly what it happens to look like.” The King arched a thick eyebrow.

                  “What? No…” Stiles glanced at Scott for help, but the traitor already had his head bowed in submission. “We were just… bonding! Male bonding! I mean, we haven’t seen each other in three years, right buddy?”

                  Scott said nothing. Stupid deserter-wolf.

                  “I’ve heard…” King Hale growled. “Stiles, you’re coming with me, Scott, back to our chambers.”

                  “Yes, your highness.” Stiles grumbled submissively, following the other in the direction of the courtyard.

                  “Derek.”

                  “Pardon?” Stiles stared up at the King curiously.

                  “Call me Derek. ‘Your highness’ always sounded pretentious.”

                  “Yeah, heaven forbid you should be thought pretentious.” Stiles snorted. Derek literally shoved him through the doors to the carriages he came in, so Stiles could assume he didn’t think it was all that funny. “Am I expected to unload all of this?” He pointed to the trunks stacked on the top of the carriages.

                  “Unload it.” Derek stood back, watching.

                  “I’m sorry, I think you misunderstand. I’m not a servant or a page, nor am I one of your wolves. I’m the highest knight in this Kingdom, and I am not here to serve you.”

                  Stiles could have been mistaken, but was that a smirk on Derek’s face? “What are you saying?”

                  “I’m saying you should treat me with a little respect.” Stiles snapped.

                  Derek blinked at him, and his expression changed to one of surprise. “Where are the kitchens?”

                  “I’m not making you lunch, if that’s what you think.”

                  Derek shook his head. “I don’t propose you making me anything, I propose that we make lunch together.”

                  “Together?”

                  “And then eat it.”

                  “Together?”

                  “Have you been hit over the head?” Derek crossed his arms. “Perhaps after lunch, you would consider training with me today? Being the knight highest in the Queen and General’s order, you should offer me some challenge.”

                  Stiles cocked his head and held back a smile. “Love to. The kitchens are this way.”

                  Stiles led him to the kitchens, as promised, and greeted each and every servant, maid, knight, or lady they passed. By the fourth person, Derek’s permanent frown had turned into a scowl.

                  “Stiles?” He grimaced and tapped the man on the shoulder, interrupting his conversation with such-and-such the maid, whom he’d not even bothered to introduce to Derek. “Sorry to be so rude, but we were going for lunch?”

                  “Right, Right, Sorry Giselle.” He apologized to a young lady before Derek, then walked right past Derek and straight into the kitchens. “This way, Derek.”

                  “We’re to eat… in the kitchen?”

                  “What were you expecting?” Stiles swiped two rolls from a cooling rack and smiled at another young lady, who blushed and gave him two plates. “To go back to your room and enjoy it?”

                  “We could at least go outside.” Derek rolled his eyes. “You know, in the sunshine?”

                  “Now that you mention it…” Stiles handed the food to Derek and kept talking. “Follow me. I know the perfect spot for a picnic.”

                  “And you expect us to picnic with the royal flatware?” Derek raised a skeptical eyebrow.

                  “Correct again.” Stiles took the plates from him and snatched up a bottle of wine before dashing out of the kitchens, Derek hot on his trail.

                  “Where are we going?” Derek followed him with a slightly more careful step, watchful of the food precariously balanced on top.

                  “Just outside the castle walls,” Stiles beamed back at him. “There’s a pond in a quaint meadow… it’s breathtaking, trust me. Lydia showed me when your Duke, Jackson, was…” Stiles cut himself off there. Derek peered at him curiously, but still followed silently.

                  “Is this it, then?” Derek asked when Stiles stopped and plopped down on a patch of grass.

                  “It is indeed.” Stiles grinned at him and pried the cork off of his bottle. “Are you going to stand there all day, or can we eat now?”

                  Derek sat beside him and handed him a plate. Stiles pulled some silverware from his tunic. “I’m not eating off something that’s been in your shirt.”

                  Stiles sighed and wiped it on his pants. “Happy?”

                  “Not really.” Derek grimaced, but took a fork anyway, before Stiles could do something particularly awful with them.

                  The two ate in silence for awhile, listening to the bubbling of the brook before them, until Derek broke it with a long scrape of fork-on-plate.

                  “Are you alright?” Stiles asked through a half-full mouth.

                  “Of course.” Derek set his plate aside and reached for the wine bottle. “I was only thinking of something you said. Or, rather, nearly said.” Derek looked at him inquisitively. “You were going to say that this is where Jackson took Lydia while he was courting her.”

                  “I wasn’t.” Stiles insisted, taking the bottle back. “Perhaps you’ve had too much wine, Sire.”

                  “Derek.” He corrected. “I told you to call me Derek.”

                  Stiles took a swig and smacked his lips loudly, making Derek flinch. “Shall I call you ‘My lord’, then?”

                  Derek snatched the bottle from Stiles and corked it. “You’ve had too much, Sir.”

                  “You, my lord, have permission to call me Stiles.”

                  “Is ‘Stiles’ your official rank?”

                  “I consider my rank ‘advisor and knight of the Queen’, but that’s the trouble with having two titles.” Stiles said cheekily. “My Queen is not only that, but also the General of an army. So choosing what to call her, and also choosing whether I am an advisor of the court or another faceless knight in the crowd, is quite difficult.”

                  “You don’t actually consider yourself ‘Just another face’ do you?” Derek asked, scandalized. “The Queen informed me personally that you were her greatest ally, and her most trusted friend. You are more than a mere knight.”

                  Stiles smirked. “I’m aware of my current position in the court. I simply wanted to hear you say it.”

                  “You’re drunk.” Derek laid back in the grass and stared up at what little sunlight trickled through the branches above him.

                  “I am not.” Stiles protested. “I could spar with you right now if I chose.”

                  Derek sat up quickly with a disbelieving laugh. “I doubt you could best me.”

                  “I would lay a wager on it if the Queen would not frown upon me later.” Stiles poked Derek’s chest.

                  “Never mind money.” Derek shoved his hand away. “If you win, I’ll let you have boasting rights.”

                  Stiles bit his bottom lip to hide his smirk while he toyed with the chain around his neck. “Then, Your Highness, you have a wager.” He leapt up, picnic supplies forgotten. “Best hurry, Sir, or I may beat you to the fields!”

                  Derek growled and chased after him, heavy boots struggling for purchase in the dew-slick grass.

                  Stiles only made it a few yards into the training field when he finally slipped, limbs flailing and knees twisting in an attempt to catch himself. Derek tripped over him in his distraction, too focused on withholding a howl of laughter at the expression on the young man’s face to plan the placement of his footsteps. He landed perpendicularly over top of Stiles, his stomach, rumbling with laughter, pressed against Stiles’.

                  “You mock me.” Stiles shoved at Derek impetuously, attempting to get a man twice his size off of himself with little to no avail. “Remove yourself, My Lord, you crush me.”

                  Derek rolled off of Stiles to lie beside him. “Your will be done, of course.” Derek teased. “Am I not the master here, or are you?” He shoved at Stiles’ shoulder, forcing Stiles a few inches across muddy grass. “Go to. Go to, ‘tis well away.”

                  Stiles rolled his eyes. “Perhaps you should draw your nose from the Bard long enough to look where you’re going before poor schoolboys and helpless knights are crushed by your stumbling gait.” Stiles leveed himself up enough to spring to his feet. “Perhaps, in our duel, we should keep ourselves to the staffs. I don’t know if I could control myself with a sword in your presence.”

                  “Are you threatening a King?” Derek hoisted himself up and followed him. “That is a punishable offense in my Kingdom.”

                  Stiles armed himself with a long wooden staff, provided by a young page standing nearby for that exact purpose. “We’re not in your Kingdom, Hale.” He waited for the pageboy to arm Derek before attacking. “This happens to be my domain. The only two to have bested me being the Queen and her wife.”

                  “You seem to be ignoring the fact that I trained your Queen’s wife to be what she is today.” Derek replied, taking a swing at him and knocking his staff from his hands. “Come along, Stiles.” He taunted. “Pick up the staff and Attempt another blow to me!”

                  “Oh, ho, ho, someone wants to be a brave little soldier, do they not?” Stiles shot back, scrambling for his weapon and bouncing back like a cat.

                  “Yes, of course, my greatest wish is to see how I’d fare against the likes of you. ‘Tis indeed my life’s only purpose.”

Distracted by each other’s staffs and meaningless banter, neither noticed a new carriage pulling in, carrying the King of a neighboring Kingdom.

                  His audience was not with Stiles or Derek, but with Queen Lydia about the proceedings into battle. Unknown to the entirety of the Kingdom, a pack was approaching the boarders.

                  A pack not the Hale’s.

                  “Gerard.” Lydia plastered on her ‘public smile’ when the aura of the older man stirred her psychic field. She opened her eyes and turned to face him, arms wide. “You should have written, I wasn’t expecting you today. I’m afraid I was just having lunch with Erica and Jackson.” She gestured to them, both seated on either side of the head of the table, where her place was all laid out. “Have you met my new wife?”

                  “Quite stunning.” Gerard took a moment to kiss Erica’s hand. The girl shuddered in obvious repulsion. “Another one of the Hale’s wolves?”

                  “Yes.” Jackson pulled Lydia’s chair out for her, and she began to eat. A servant came from the hidden door to set another place for Gerard without being noticed. “She’s the General of his army, isn’t that wonderful?”

                  Lydia picked up the hand Gerard had touched, stroking it softly with both of her thumbs while Jackson spoke. Erica grinned and shifted forward, taking one of Lydia’s thumbs in her mouth and giggling under her breath.

                  Gerard contemplated Jackson’s words as he let his wine -freshly poured by the young serving woman- breathe. “I have a granddaughter you could have married. Your ties to the Hale Kingdom are strong enough, don’t you think?”

                  Lydia dropped the hand of Erica she was molesting. Erica pouted. “Are you insinuating our alliance has weakened?”

                  “Merely stating you have a taste for wolves. Was that Derek Hale’s horse and carriage I saw when I arrived?” He smirked to hide his disgust. Surely Queen Lydia wouldn’t invite the young King to stay before Gerard.

                  “That depends,” Lydia speared a grape on her fork and plucked it off with threateningly pursed lips. (Threatening, yes. The last time Erica was faced with that expression, she found herself engaged, the same could be said for Jackson.) “On if my servants had put his horses to stable yet.”

                  “Derek Hale is staying?”

                  “I thought it would be nice for my lovely spouses to re-connect with their Alpha.” Another grape disappeared. “What are you doing here, Gerard?”

                  “I brought you information, wouldn’t you like to hear, Your Highness?”

                  She tilted her head, hair cascading off to the side. “That’s curious. I thought we’d established mail routes on our last visit.”

                  “Information and a chance to strategize.” He glanced at the two wolves flanking the Queen, each staring at him intently. “Perhaps your wolves should go… roll in the mud, or something of that sort.”

                  “Might ruin my hair.” Jackson said around a bite of ham.

                  “You don’t want to see him with a mess in his hair.” Erica nodded, twirling a bit of her own blonde curls and swallowing whatever was in her mouth menacingly. “He acts all pouty, like he’s royalty or something.”

                  “Erica has a point.” Lydia silenced them, just with her voice. “They are royalty, and they are privy to all that happens in my Kingdom. So let’s talk. The four of us.” She sat up properly, at attention.

                  “There’s a pack-“

                  “The Hales?” Erica interrupted. “We know about them.”

                  “A pack of Alphas. Not the Hales, no one you’ve ever seen before.” Gerard finally finished.

                  “A pack of Alphas is impossible.” Jackson cut his speech short. “Pack dynamic could never work like that.”

                  “That is exactly the point. This… ‘Pack’ is hardly a pack at all, but they’re stronger than anything I’ve ever seen.”

                  “In all of your years?” Erica smirked.

                  “If that was a blow about my age, young lady, I suggest you think on it.” His voice remained calm, steady. “I have been on the throne since before you were born, and hunting before your parents were born. I’ve seen everything possible, only to be taken a fool when something I’ve never encountered before comes out from the shadows to kill an entire garrison of my men in one fell swoop.” His voice descended to a hiss by the end of his speech.

                  “You think they’re on their way here? To Lumeria?” Lydia leaned so far forward, her elbows had to rest on the table, something so un-ladylike the Queen had never actually done it before. “How do you know?”

                  “I’ve barely beaten them here. My men are willing to fight with you, Queen, if you would only see sense.”

                  “See sense? Gerard, to what are you referring?”

                  He stood and leaned over his plate, whispering like the wolves couldn’t hear him. “Leave the wolves. Send these two back to their Kingdom, as well as their King. Then we will fight by your side.”

                  Lydia balked. “Are you suggesting I destroy my marriage?!” She took a breath, calmed. “You know an unmarried Queen of my age could never survive.” She smiled politely at him. Erica and Jackson shared glances over the table. She could never betray them, they knew.

                  “I still have a granddaughter, and an unmarried daughter. I wouldn’t leave you unmarried, if you would consider what I’ve said.”

Lydia brushed off both her husband and wife’s hands from her arms, standing to meet Gerard’s gaze. “I’m so sorry, Gerard. I will fight with you, but under no conditions. I will fight with my wife by my side and my husband waiting at home, or not at all. Whether that scenario includes you and your armies is solely up to you.” She seethed.

                  “I suggest you asses where your loyalties lie.” Gerard growled.

                  “My ‘loyalties’,” Lydia spat, leaning impossibly farther forward. Her hair brushed the mahogany table, luckily avoiding any food or drink. “Lie with the Kingdom of my husband and wife!”

                  Even Erica and Jackson sunk in their chairs, feeling ashamed by proxy; but Gerard didn’t budge.

Lydia pursed her lips and nodded. “Alright.” She murmured, extending her arm to the side. Gerard did nothing. “Whittmore!” She screeched, and her hawk landed gracefully on her outstretched arm.

                  “Oh no, a bird.” Gerard taunted, voice devoid of any true terror.

                  “I suggest you leave my Kingdom.” Lydia stroked Whittmore’s beak fondly with one finger. “Tear his horses’ eyes out.” She cooed just loud enough for Gerard to hear. The bird flew out the open window. “Might I also suggest you see a man about a horse?”

                  Gerard stood and passed by her on his way to the door. He bent to kiss her hand. “Keep your friends close, Milady.” He muttered under his breath. “And your enemies closer.”

                  “How close should I be keeping you?” She hissed. He didn’t reply. Merely straightened and retreated from the hall to seek out his belongings. “Stiles!” She snapped the moment Gerard was gone. “Someone get Stiles!”

                  Erica sat up straight. “He’s on the field with Alpha Hale, do you want me to-“

                  “Go!” Lydia roared. “Get them both! I want you and the both of them on patrols immediately. Take a squad.” She sat down in her seat heavily, dress wrinkling around her frame. “I’ll stay here with Jackson and the McCall boy to strategize.”

                  “Your highness, I can’t tell Alpha Hale what to do.” Erica shrunk in her seat.

                  “Than simply imply it would be in his best interest to go with Stiles, seeing as after our Kingdom is done for, his won’t be very far off.” She spat the last part at her wife, the other scampering from the room.

                  “Stiles!” Erica was out of breath by the time she reached the two on the field. “Stiles!”

                  Her call distracted him, allowing Derek a blow under his arm.

                  “Shit!” He collapsed, curling up at the pain. “Erica, what the hell?!”

                  “Sorry.” Derek grunted, once again winding Stiles, only with words. He helped the younger man up.

                  “Lydia wants you both on an emergency patrol with me. She’s staying here with Jackson and Scott to strategize. The meeting with Gerard… it didn’t go well.”

                  “Gerard was here?” Both men took a second to wait for Erica’s nod.

                  “He came to tell of a pack… more of a group, really, of Alpha werewolves.” She swallowed nervously.

                  “That’s impossible.” Stiles whispered.

                  “It’s perfectly possible.” Derek growled. “Just extremely difficult. You’d have to kill your entire pack to be a lone Alpha. The power that would give you would be sensational.” Erica choked down a sob. “I know.” Derek squeezed her shoulder. “It’s sad, and the toll that would take on an Alpha would be… tremendous.”

                  “The patrol could run into them.” Erica sighed, tightening the gauntlets she was being handed by a squire that appeared to help her dress.

                  “I’ll need better weapons than this.” Stiles swallowed and nodded, throwing his staff aside, his lead followed by Derek. “Someone get me my sword.”

                  A second, timid squire approached him. “Which one?”

                  “The deadly one! I’m not using plain iron on a pack of Alpha werewolves!” He shouted at the boy, making Erica cringe. “What? The boy’s skull is thicker than his ass.”

                  He wasn’t sure if the snort he heard came from Derek or Erica, but he couldn’t find it in himself to care when the group started tearing into the woods at the edge of the training field.

                  Dusk had fallen by the time they were allowed to stop, an opportunity only afforded them because of the rain. Erica tied her hair up to avoid getting wet. “Days like these I remember why I married Her Majesty.” She grumbled.

                   “Are you sure?” Stiles stood behind the maid that was tightening Lydia’s corset. “Our ties with the Hale Kingdom are strong already. Your marriage with Jackson ensured that.”

                  Lydia flicked her hair over her shoulder. “Leave us.” The maid obeyed immediately. “Erica is strong in their military. Jackson was a Duke, and as a Queen it was logical to marry him. As the General of Lumeria’s army, it is logical to marry with their General.” She turned her back to Stiles and pointed to it. Stiles scoffed. “Don’t even pretend you don’t know how to lace it.” He groaned and began meticulously threading it.

                  “Or you love her.” He muttered slyly. Lydia gasped, though it could have been because of the sudden force he had yanked back the strings.

“I would never...”

                  “Marry for love?” Stiles teased.

                  She harrumphed. “Stupid reasons to marry include love. It is a fiction.”

                  “I’ve noticed something majesty. Each time you know I’m right, you only fight the harder.”

                  “And perhaps when you win that battle, you may have a tattoo of that victory.”

                  “And may it say: ‘the battle of wits to the Stilinski boy, and may the Queen Martin ever kiss his feet.”

                  She laughed.

                  The door to her chambers creaked open and a petite hand maiden entered. “I’ve brought you your veil.” He nearly whispered, holding up the sheer fabric sewn to a thin gold band. Lydia let the maiden put it on her. “And they are ready for you.”

                  Lydia nodded and took Stiles’ arm, allowing him to lead her to the great hall, and then down the aisle, where a similarly dressed Erica was waiting, smiling brilliantly under her veil.

                  Stiles let her go to stand beside her betrothed with a kiss to the cheek.

                  The priestess they had chosen took one hand of each of each of them. “Are both of you, Queen Lydia of Lumeria, and General Erica of the Reyes, of proper age to wed?” Both answered with a nod.

                  “And are you of the same bloodline?”

                  “My blood has never left Lumeria.” Lydia said confidently.

                  “And mine has never entered.” Erica followed.

                  “Do your parents, Erica, consent to this union?”

                  Two adults from the front row nodded vigorously.

                  The priestess joined their right hands and laid hers atop.

                  “Do you each vow to always love each other, in prosperous times and through famine, in war and peace, until the gods take your souls away?”

                  “I vow on Lumeria.” Lydia said with a smile.

                  “I vow on the Hale Kingdom.” Erica returned it, her eyes crinkling.

                  Stiles looked around while the priestess gave her short homily. He couldn’t find King Peter, and was filled with a sense of relief.

                  He was brought back to attention when the priestess dipped their rings in a goblet of blood from the other priestesses in her order, blessing them according to the gods and for good fortune.

                  Erica took her ring and slipped it on Lydia’s thumb, saying “In the name of the Maiden,” Then on her first finger, “The Mother,” then to her middle, “And the Crone,” She finally let it rest on Lydia’s ring finger. “With this ring, I thee wed.”

                  Lydia repeated her actions and vows, and with a peck of their lips, they were wed.

                  Stiles watched them walk out of the great hall, hand in hand with overjoyed smiles on their faces.

                  Stiles chuckled at the memory. Erica sidled up behind him and slapped him upside the head. “Spread out.” She hissed to the other warriors, sniffing the air momentarily and shouldering her axe. “I must return to my love before our bed runs cold.”

                  Stiles branched off with her, sword sheathed. “Runs cold?”

                  “Obviously by ‘runs cold’ I mean to say Jackson has stolen the last orgasm from our lady’s lips.” Erica rolled her eyes as Stiles’ eyes drifted to the sky, a faint smile on his face. She slapped him again. “Stop imagining it. Her majesty receives more pleasure than you would believe.”

                  “Surely you jest! We have shared a room before, all four of us. Are you implying-“

                  “Stiles, cease your speaking. We all know your marriage bed yet remains empty.” She sneered and dragged him along with her.

He mimicked her behind her back, getting a rare snicker out of Derek. “Is that true?” Derek nudged Stiles as they walked. “You’ve never…?”

“I never… had an opportunity.” Stiles blushed and shook off Erica’s grip.

“No barmaids? Prostitutes on a long journey?” Derek pressed the subject farther.

“Is that how your first time went? Dirty and fast and n’er to return to their side?” Stiles turned the interrogation on the King.

“Not exactly.” Derek avoided his eyes. Stiles drew closer to him, intending to weasel out some more information, when lightning struck. A wolf howled in the distance. They leapt apart; Stiles began pulling his sword out, but was stopped by a hand from Derek.

                  “Your weapons smell like Wolfsbane.” Derek whispered.

                  “What do we do then?” Stiles gestured at his otherwise-weaponless body.

                  “We run.” He gripped Stiles’ elbow and tugged him in the direction they’d come. “Stiles, go!”

                  “Not without you!” Stiles slipped his hand into Derek’s and pelted in the direction Derek indicated. “Erica!” He screamed. “Retreat! Everyone back to the boarders, before-“

                  “Stiles!” Derek’s grip left his, and the younger man stumbled. “Run!” Derek’s voice sounded strained, and Stiles could hear the ripping of flesh, the snarling of two wolves in deep combat, but kept running. He stopped at the tree line, the first wink of sunlight breaking over the spires of the castle.

Stiles gasped for air, the sounds of the other soldiers breaking through the line and trampling the dewy grass under his hands. A cry sounded from deep in the woods, like a howl, but somehow even more broken.

Stiles swallowed. He’d made a mistake by running.

He picked up his forgotten sword and darted back through the trees, dodging branches like a rabbit on the run. You can’t run forever, he knew. That was something his mother taught him, both literally and figuratively. You can’t run from Death, your fears, or yourself, Stiles. The best thing to do is to come out swinging, my love.

He obeyed, catching one wolf in the side with his blade, the other standing over Derek, a foot planted on his bleeding, unarmed chest, and his teeth drawn. Stiles caught the tail end of what he was saying.

“…So endearing, Alpha Hale… giving up your life for someone who will never return your affec-“

“Oi!” Stiles interrupted the Alpha’s bone chilling speech. “Get your grimy prints off my friend!”

The Alpha looked to face him, eyes glazed over and tinted red. “You must be the one. Here to save your friend?” The Alpha emphasized the last word, to no notice of Stiles. He was too busy staring at Derek, blood dripping onto wet leaves too quickly to be healing.

Stiles growled when The Alpha left Derek and crossed the space between them. He raised his blade, swung, only to be caught by the Alpha.

“Silly boy. I’m a Werewolf.” The Alpha’s grin quickly faded the longer his hand kept contact with the blade. It wasn’t long before he hissed and withdrew, stumbling back.

“It’s called Wolfsbane.” Stiles cocked his head and landed a blow with the impressive blade. “Maybe you’ve heard of it.”

The Alpha howled and clutched at his neck and chest, new sizzling wound forcing him away and into the trees. The second he was gone, Stiles rushed to Derek’s side.

“Milord.” Stiles assessed the damage, then decided to just start dragging him. “How do you feel? Not injured, I hope?”

“Attempting to recover from the worst retort in the history of man.” Derek smirked up at him, bloody teeth exposed. “Stiles, leave me. I’m bleeding out, I’ve only got-“

“Don’t instruct me, majesty.” Stiles snapped. “If I have a witch for a Queen, what do you think I have as a physician?”

Derek shut up after that, and for a horrifying moment near the gates, Stiles thought he’d actually died. He had to lay the Alpha down and resort to punching him until he woke (one did the trick). After a bit of struggling with the guards, one of whom was Scott, he was given help to take him to Deaton’s quarters.

“Stiles?” Deaton glanced over his bloody, bruised body. “What’s wrong? The sun has barely risen.”

                  “I need your help, Deaton, it’s King Hale-“ Stiles was interrupted when a perfect explanation in the form of the guards carrying Derek into the physician’s room showed up.

                  “I see, Stiles. I’ll fix him, don’t worry. I’ll have him to you soon.” Deaton winked. The guards were ushered out after laying Derek out and a dumbstruck Stiles gawked at them.

                  Stiles started for the door, only to have Deaton shove him away and shut the door behind him, locking Stiles out.

                  “No, Deaton, you don’t understand!” Stiles leapt at the door, but it shut before he could walk through. He pounded on it desperately. “Deaton!” Scott tried to pull him away, but he struggled. “Scott, stop, I need to be in there with him, Deaton!” One last thump to the door, and Stiles was on his knees. “Let me in! Deaton, he’s my friend!” There was no answer. Stiles whimpered. “It’s my fault…”

                  Scott pat his friend’s shoulder, pulling him back into a hug. “He’ll be okay, Stiles. He’s an Alpha.”

                  “Those wounds were from an Alpha, Scott.” Stiles rubbed his temples. “Deaton has his work cut out for him.”

                  “You…” Scott struggled to pull the conversation back to a few minutes before. “You called him your friend.”

                  Stiles blinked and nodded. “We talked this morning- yesterday, over lunch. He seemed as though he was… pretending? To be a brave little soldier; tough.”

                  “You mean his personality?” Scott scoffed. “I should think not. He really is as such.”

                  “Tough?”

                  “Another word may be mean, if one so chose.”

                  “Anyway, he tried to push me around then, and so I pushed back, yelled, told him I wasn’t one of his dogs, and demanded his respect.”

                  “And he did?”

                  “Of course. He asked me politely where the kitchens were.” Stiles blushed.

                  Scott caught the reddening in his friend’s cheeks and marked up neck. “Did he make you sausages for lunch and wink seductively?” He snickered. Stiles punched him.

                  “No, you perverted twat. He took some rolls for us and we went to the fields.”

                  Scott grinned and raised both of his eyebrows in quick succession. “Did he let you touch his-“

                  “I swear unto the gods, if you say sausage, I will personally castrate you.”

                  The two young men stared at each other for a full minute before they dissolved into laughter, curling up on the floor. They digressed when a throat above them cleared.

                  “I have a letter for Sir Scott.” The young page girl held out the parchment, expecting one of them to take it. “Sir Riddock said I might find him here.”

                  “Thank you, Nora.” Stiles took the letter from her and held it away from Scott. “Now, Who’d be sending you letters?”

                  “No one!” Scott lunged for it, only to be pushed away. “No one important! It’s probably just my mom!”

                  Stiles sniffed the page before tearing it open. “Does your mother wear rosemary and mint water?” Scott huffed and scratched Stiles’ hand, forcing him to give it up.

                  “It’s from Allison.” He cooed at the page.

                  “Who’s Allison?” Stiles loomed over his shoulder, trying to catch a glimpse.

                  “Only the young lady I met when in the Argent Kingdom.” Scott flushed as he read what she’d written.

                  “Young lady? Bar maid or Milk maid?” Stiles smirked.

                  “Princess.” Scott sighed wistfully.

                  “Pardon?!” Stiles choked out.

                  “No one else is privy to this information!” Scott covers his friend’s mouth hastily, like anyone in the empty hallway would hear. “Not even Derek!”

                  “And you think he’ll be okay with this?” Stiles hissed.

                  “Tensions are high with the Argents, you know that. And she loves me, Stiles!” He shook the page in front of Stiles’ face, showing him the ‘With all my love, AA.’ Scrawled at the bottom. “Our marriage could bind the Kingdoms together!”

                  “Wow, Scott, I am impressed.” Stiles smacked his friend’s shoulder. “You’re actually thinking about the greater good with this!”

                  “Allison always says to think about the others involved, and not just myself.” He blushed and returned his gaze to the page.

                  “She sounds like a good person.”

                  “She’s the best.” Scott yawned and clutched the page closer, protectively. “I’m off to bed, will you be alright to wait here?”

                  “Of course, buddy.” Stiles hugged his friend farewell, then slumped against the door. He was finally let in three hours later, after he fell asleep on the floor outside.

                  “Stiles, you can see your friend now.” Deaton kneeled to shake Stiles when he said this. “He’s awake, but not for long.”

                  Stiles scrambled to his feet and through the door, coming to a halt before the bed.

                  “Nothing to say?” Derek smirks. A few of his wounds are still bandaged bloody, but the scratches on his face are gone, and he seems to have re-gained all motor functions in his left hand.

                  “You… you look awful.” The edges of Stiles’ lips quirk up.

                  “I’m so glad my pain brings you joy.” Derek tried to sit up, a feat ended by Stiles’ hand on his bare, bandaged chest.

                  “Don’t sit up, you’ll only injure yourself farther.”

Derek’s grip on his wrist made him look down. “Why don’t you join me, then?”

“What?”

“Wolves will make little piles on an injured pack mate to heal them, supposedly.” Derek’s rough grip on his arm softened, his smile widening.

“I’m not a wolf.” Stiles mumbled, surprised by this sudden change in attitude.

“Doesn’t matter. I’d still like you to join me.” Derek said tenderly. Stiles sighed and literally climbed over Derek into the spot between his massive shoulders and the wall. “You should get some sleep, as well. I’m not the only one who was up all night.”

Stiles nodded and laid his head on the pillow, trying not to touch Derek. “You really are a brave soldier.” He admitted softly.

                  Derek rolled his eyes and pulled at Stiles’ limbs until they were cuddling properly, Stiles’ leg wrapped around his, as well as an arm. Stiles hesitated in settling his head on Derek’s chest, but finally did it anyway. “Thanks.” He grunted.

                  “For cuddling with you or saying you’re-“

                  “All of it.” Derek cautiously pet Stiles’ hair, decided that was awkward, and stopped. “Thank you.”

                  They fell asleep shortly after that, Stiles snoring softly every tenth breath, Derek shifting every once in a while. Amazingly, neither woke the other in all that time, but woke at a knock on the door.

                  “Alpha Hale?” Jackson poked his head in the door and immediately dissolved into hysterical laughter at seeing Stiles, one eye glued shut and the other blinking blearily.

                  “What.” Derek growled, not sitting up for fear of his wounds.

                  “Uh, Erica.” Jackson gasped out. “Erica needs you.”

                  “Why.” Derek huffed, still facing the ceiling.

                  “Lydia hasn’t left her room in an hour, and Erica’s just… sitting there. I thought you could help.”

                  “Are you actually asking for a favor, or demanding assistance?”

                  “Asking.” Jackson chose quickly.

                  “Fine. Give me a few minutes.”

                  Jackson obeyed, leaving Stiles to help Derek out of bed and into a fresh shirt. He was right, the cuddling seemed to help. All of his wounds were pretty much healed at that point.

                  Stiles helped him down the hall, to where Lydia’s room was shut and locked tightly.

                  “She’s thinking.” Erica said while she paced outside Lydia’s study door. “The Queen needs to think.” At that point, she wasn’t talking to anyone but herself. An assurance to herself that her wife wasn’t going to remain forever in the tiny stone room.

                  “Erica, the table’s been set.” Stiles took her hand and tried to pull her away from the door.

                  “I have to stay. For her.”

                  “Erica.” Derek growled. “It’s time to eat.”

                  She bowed her head in submission, then nodded. Derek laid a hand at her back, and together they escorted her to the dining hall, Stiles still holding her hand. Jackson met them at the door, taking Erica’s hand from Stiles. He smiled gently at her, and Stiles could have sworn ‘She’ll be fine. She does this every once and awhile.’ Come from him.

                  Stiles tried to help Derek into his chair, but he waved him off. It didn’t stop Stiles from noticing his wince as he sat.

                  The table was silent without Lydia, awkward reticence stemming from tension between Derek and Stiles, met with a worried hush from the other two. Everyone ate slowly, hoping Lydia would come down soon.

                  “I’ve been working a few spells.” Lydia announced when she barged into the dining hall. Everyone’s heads snapped up, surprised and joyful.

                  “Did you call on any nice woodland creatures to help you?” Jackson asked, his mouthful of pork.

                  “Bite your tongue.” Erica snapped. “Darling, wife, sit and eat something. You look pale.”

                  Jackson pulled out Lydia’s chair, and Erica presented her with a plate. “Thank you, both of you.” She smiled at them lovingly.

                  “So, about these spells?” Stiles looped them back towards the intended route of conversation, seeing as the displays of actual affection in opposition to lust coming from The Married Ones was making him uncomfortable.

                  “Yes, the spells.” She took a sip from her wine chalice. “One of prophesy, and one of seeking. The first foretold a mighty warrior, one of power greater than King Arthur of legend. They will save us in our time of need.”

                  “You keep saying ‘they’.” Jackson pulled his head away from his plate long enough to interrupt. “Will the warrior be male or female?”

                  “I know not.” Lydia assured them. “I could feel their aura, young, determined. Their face was not granted to me.”

                  “Was your seeking spell to find them?” Erica asked.

                  “No, not the Warrior, but the weapon. If we can find the weapon, we could use it to discover who should wield it.”

                  “You say ‘if’. Did you not find it?” Derek finally spoke up, actually having the courtesy to look up from his plate.

                  “I didn’t try.” She slumped in her chair.

                  “Exhaustion has riddled the poor Queen.” Erica cooed, kissing her wife’s cheek. “One spell was too much.”

                  The table was blessed with silence, interrupted by Lydia humming.

                  “Lyds?” Stiles perked up.

                  “I’m only thinking.” She swallowed. “About the prophesy itself. It said… destiny.”

                  “Alright?” Derek arched an eyebrow to convey his apathy.

                  “A destiny chosen by bloodline.” Lydia repeated the words with reverence. “Unfulfilled.”

                  “So the treasure- weapon- can only be found by an heir.” Jackson nodded. “That’s wise of you, Lydia. For now, eat, rest, plan.” He turned his attention on the rest of the table. “Her majesty has planned a ball.”

                  “Jackson!” Erica snapped. “We’re to engage in battle in a few days, and you’re excited for some drinking and dancing?”

                  “It will raise moral.” Derek pointed out. “My men would certainly enjoy it.”

                  “As will I.” Jackson smiled over his wine at Derek. Derek didn’t return the expression.

                  “When is ‘her majesty’ thinking?” Stiles actually looked up from his food to ask. He hadn’t eaten since lunch with Derek the day before.

                  “Tonight.” Lydia interrupts their banter. “I’m planning it for tonight.”

                  Stiles spits out his food all over the table; Erica stands. “Well, I think that was a delightful conclusion to our evening.” She says through her teeth. “I think I speak for everyone when I say we should excuse ourselves to dress. Darling?” She looked to Lydia, who was still staring at Stiles. After a long moment, they all stood and exited, one by one.

                  Stiles cornered Lydia on their way out of the dining hall, waiting until everyone was gone until he spoke. “A ball? This is your way of assuring the knights they’re not all going to die?” Stiles jeered.

                  “Yes.” Lydia huffs. “And try to wear something that shows off your tattoos.”

                  “And you want me there nude?” Stiles rolled his eyes.

                  “Not all of them. Maybe just that one below your ear.” She tapped the same place on her own body. “I think that one’s Derek’s favorite.”

                  Stiles blushed and stuck out his tongue. “Derek doesn’t have a favorite tattoo, that’s moronic.”

                  “So is your ridiculous affection for him, and yet, it continues.” She smiles knowingly.

                  “I don’t have a-“ He stops mid-sentence to laugh. Lydia hasn’t moved. “Alright, yes, but you gaze upon him and tell me you would not want to make your ties to the Hale Kingdom a little stronger.” She shrugs.

                  “Granted, his body is worth the eyes it draws, but I don’t know anything about his personality, like you do.”

                  “He happens to have a great personality, once you get past how he always looks as thought he’s to eat my face.”

                  Lydia’s smile grew. “You want him to eat your face.”

                  Stiles groaned. “I give up. There is no pleasing you!”

                  “Actually, my spouse may-“

                  Stiles covered his ears. “No, no, stop!”

                  “You could please me by… oh, going to the ball with the King of the most powerful Kingdom in the lands?” Lydia sneered.

                  “I will go to your frivolous ball.” Stiles sighed, resigned. “But under no circumstance am I going with someone. Particularly if that someone has a Kingdom and enjoys horseback riding.”

                  “Now, Stiles,” Lydia chided. “Aren’t you going to regret saying that when some Northman King appears on your doorstep with the indent of taking you a pleasant ride?”

                  “You know exactly of whom I speak. Get thee gone.” He shooed her away petulantly.

                  His harsh words to his Queen all went to hell when Derek showed up outside his door just as he was buttoning one of his many good waistcoats, in fact it’s the only one he likes. “What are you doing here?”

                  “Lydia gave the impression I was meant to show you to the ball. She said it would look good if we walked in together.”

                  “I would expect nothing less from her.” Stiles grumbled, struggling with the middle button.

                  Derek walked in Stiles’ room without asking. “She did. If you don’t believe me-“

                  “I know, I meant… Never mind.” He fumbled with the button one last time before finding Derek’s hands on his, fixing it quickly.

                  “There.” He mumbled, not meeting Stiles’ eyes. “You look very refined tonight.”

                  “Are you saying I should dress like this more often?” Stiles laughed.

                  Derek shook his head. “I’m saying it is a luxury to see you looking so striking.”

                  Stiles swallowed. “Oh, thank you sir.” He tried to meet Derek’s eyes, but failed. “You look quite striking as well.”

                  “Perhaps we should go.”

                  “Perhaps.” Stiles collected his small dagger before leading Derek to the ballroom where most of the armies were already gathered.

                  “Here.” Derek took Stiles’ hand and arranged it in the crook of his arm. “We should enter properly.”

                  “I didn’t know you to be so formal.” Stiles smiled shyly up at him, letting Derek led him in and straight to the floor.

                  “Are you much of a dancer?” Derek asked, hands hovering hesitantly near Stiles’ waist.

                  “When led, I can do most things.” Stiles boldly took Derek’s wrists and repositioned them to his body. “Would you be willing to lead?”

                  “Of course.” Derek shuffled for a moment before regaining his regular heavy poise, leading Stiles around the dance floor in something resembling a dance.

                  Stiles let out a sigh of relief when the orchestra segued into a slower song. Derek adjusted their hands to a slightly more comfortable position and tucked his head next to Stiles’. They danced in silence for a while, just enjoying the music and the presence of the other.

                  “It’s a tree.” Derek said out of nowhere.

                  “What?” Stiles’ head shot back so he could look Derek in the face.

                  “Your tattoo. It looks like a tree.”

                  “It’s not.” Stiles scowled. How insulting to his tattoo artist. Derek must be blind. “It’s a word. Means ‘Monster’ in Ancient Saxon. The script is small, you see.”

                  Derek didn’t let his hands go, nor did his grip on Stiles’ waist loosen. “Why ‘Monster’? Such a hateful word, on your skin forever? It doesn’t make sense to me.”

                  “It was a story my mother read me when I was a little boy.” Stiles admitted. “’The Little Monster’.”

                  Derek nodded slowly. “Tell me.”

                  “Tell you what?”

                  “The story.” The music around them changed, but Derek didn’t let him go.

                  “Now, I would have known that if you used your words, my lord.” Stiles swatted his shoulder.

                  “The story. Tell me. Now.” Derek grunted. Stiles gave him a harsh look, and Derek added: “Please.”

                  “Better.” Stiles took a deep breath before beginning.

                  “There once was a little monster, brown all over, but white in the middle. His fur was soft and his heart was warm. He spent his days in the sunshine, naming the flowers and chasing the sun.

                  But one day he chased the sun too far, and it out ran him. Suddenly, the light was gone, and even his white middle seemed black. There were no flowers for The Little Monster to name; He was lost.

                  He wandered this strange, flower-void place, poor stomach making it known he hadn’t eaten since the morning. The Little Monster curled up beneath a tree, hungry and alone, and he began to cry.

                  His wails attracted the attention of a band of men, one’s with shining branches that they wielded as branches should not be. The Little Monster cowered, afraid of these men and the darkness of this strange place. He stayed completely still, but his wailing stomach betrayed him.

                  ‘It’s a monster!’ One man shouted upon hearing the noise.

                  The Little Monster perked up. ‘They know my name!’ He said aloud. ‘They must be friends I have forgotten!’

                  But the men ran at The Little Monster, holding their branches high. ‘Kill it!’ Another man shouted. ‘Kill the monster!’

                  The Little Monster’s eyes widened in shock. Never had he heard his name uttered with such anger and hate. He ran from the men, ran so fast and so long that he came back to his field of flowers, and the sun was just coming up to meet him.

                  But The Little Monster was ashamed. He didn’t deserve to name the flowers anymore, and the sun was too great a light for him to chase. He found a cold cave, and curled up in its darkest corner, where his white middle would always appear black.”

                  Stiles opened his eyes. Somewhere in his story, Derek had sat him down in the corner of the ballroom. He swiped at his cheek where a stray tear had fallen. “It means that… that what’s on the outside doesn’t always reflect what’s on the inside, but we can become the things people call us if we let them.” His shoulders were shaking.

                  “Your mother?” Derek asked timorously.

                  “Gone.”

                  “Mine too.” Derek confessed.

                  “What?” Stiles stared at him incredulously.

                  “People don’t just become King at my age, Stiles. People have to die.”

                  Stiles swallowed nervously. “We should go.”

                  “Where? My Kingdom?” Derek laughed hollowly.

                  “The Hale Kingdom, the woods, the hallway, anywhere.”

                  Derek let his hand fall to Stiles’ waist and he drove the smaller man out of the ballroom and the castle altogether, coming to a stop by the outer wall.

“Here?” Derek asked politely.

“Here is fine.” Stiles shrugged, looking up at his friend. Derek suddenly pushed Stiles against it and seized his lips without preempt. “Your majesty?” Stiles said between attempts to free himself.

                  “Derek.” Derek growled in correction, not ceasing his attempts to engage Stiles in any sort of affection he could.

                  “Derek stop.” Stiles fastened a hand around Derek’s throat and pushed, using strength he thought he wouldn’t have to use around the older man. “What are you doing?”

                  “You said you wanted to come outside.” Derek stepped back sheepishly, his eyes cast to the shadows littering the ground and avoiding Stiles’ enraged features.

                  “Are you actually so emotionally dense that you think both a pleasant moment and a request to leave are part of an advance?” Stiles laughed humorlessly. “I am not your eleventh hour fuck, Derek.” He could probably smell everything on Stiles in that moment, embarrassment, arousal, anger. Stiles was sickened by the second in particular.

                  Derek avoided eye contact. “My apologies, Stiles.”

                  “Don’t patronize me! Is that what you’ve wanted from me this whole time?”

                  “No!” Derek barked. “No, not at all!”

                  Stiles’ nostrils flared in anger, and he snatched Derek’s hand. “Don’t yell at me.” He hissed and dragged Derek off in any direction other than the castle.

                  “Where are we going?” Derek allowed himself to be tugged into nowhere.

                  “The orchards. The trees are a good place to talk when you want to be alone.”

                  “You want to be alone with me?” Derek smirked and found himself being pushed in the direction of a tree trunk. “I’m sorry Stiles, I’m confused. Do you hate me, or are you actually making an advance now?”

                  “Shut up and climb, you ass.” Derek followed instruction without hesitation. Stiles struggled at first, but finally lifted himself onto the branch.

                  “Need help?” Derek chuckled, attempting to lighten Stiles’ mood.

                  “Shut your gob.” Stiles grumbled. “Good to get away from the chaos, right?”

                  “Right.” Derek agreed stoutly. A moment of silence hung between them. “My men know what this ball really was.”

                  Stiles shook his head. “Lydia didn’t disguise it very well. It means something that she tried.” He shifted on his branch, uncomfortable.

                  Derek reached over the space between them and found Stiles’ hand.

                  “Derek?”

                  “If we live through this… I will ask the Queen her express permission for your hand in marriage.”

                  “Derek.” Stiles sighed, looking at their hands. “What if we don’t live? You could die. I could die.”

                  “Stop, Stiles.” Derek growled. “I try not to think about who else I could lose. I just have to believe you’ll fight your hardest to stay alive.”

                  “Are you trying to entice me to stay alive?!” Stiles yanked his hand away from Derek. “Your enticement means nothing to me! I don’t need false hope.”

                  “Stiles!” Derek snapped. “I’m trying to ask you to marry me! Gods, no matter how much you think no one loves you, you still can’t accept the one that does!”

                  “Am I interrupting something?” Lydia’s voice came from below them.

                  “No, your highness.” Derek withdrew the hand that was going to grab Stiles, instead situating it in his lap.

                  “How’d you find us?” Stiles climbed down with ease. That part he was good at.

                  “Whittemore.” Lydia raised her arm to show them the bird. “Stiles, I’ve done it. I’ve traced the bloodlines.” She smiled widely, extremely proud of herself, even if the mud was ruining her new gown.

                  “Well? What does it say?” Derek dropped to the ground behind Stiles. “Who is it? Where is the warrior?”

                  “Here. The bloodline is one of two, I’m afraid.” Lydia sighed. “The only two families that have been in this Kingdom far enough back for that to have been written would be-“

                  “You or me.” Stiles finished for her. She nodded solemnly. “What are we waiting for?”

                  “What?” Derek nearly stumbled while trying to keep up with the other two, those of which already running for the castle. “Where are we going?”

                  “Lydia’s chambers.” Stiles called over his shoulder. “She has the locating spell all laid out. She never finished it.”

                  “So far we’ve been unable to find any entrance into a supposed room under the citadel, the only thing there being the mountain.” Lydia added.

                  “But if the mountain had a cave system-“

                  “Exactly. There must be somewhere our patrols haven’t checked, somewhere holding this… treasure.”

                  Derek rolled his eyes. The two were like children when given the prospect of ‘treasure’. “You mentioned King Arthur that night you started this business.” He followed them through the twisting hallways until they arrived in the Queen’s chambers. “You think it’s a weapon that only one person can use?”

                  “Yes, do try to keep up.” Lydia moaned her aggravation with the elder King, making a beeline for her desk. She mumbled some words and loomed over the map. “Found it.” She beamed.

                  “Where?!” Stiles crowded in behind her, looking over her shoulder. “I can’t read that.”

                  “The door in the storage room? That serves a purpose?” She tilted her head. “Stiles? Have you ever been in there?”

                  Stiles shrugged. “It was always locked.”

                  “That’s never stopped you before.”

                  “Locked with magic.” Stiles made a face at her.

                  “Lucky for you, I have magic.” She smiled sarcastically at him. They shared a look before both running for the door and down the steps, towards the storeroom. Derek rolled his eyes and followed.

                  Stiles found it quickly, like he’d been there every day. Which, knowing Stiles, may very well have been true.

                  “This one. This is the door.” Stiles pushed aside a crate with strength Derek didn’t know he had.

Lydia approached it and placed her hand flat against the wood, inches shy of the doorknob. “I am Queen Lydia of Lumeria, and I command you to open.” The door clicked, and she opened it with ease. “Easy.” She grinned.

“Too easy.” Derek grimaced.

“Perhaps your bloodline allowed you to open it.” Stiles suggested.

                  Lydia nodded, and led them through the doorway. She hurried down the dingy corridor behind the door, tripped up on the hem of her ball gown, and landed on the grimy floors with a wheeze.

                  “Lydia, your dress!” Stiles whined as he followed.

                  “Oh, please. I was planning on having Jackson rip it off my body later tonight at the least. I can’t even imagine what Erica will want to do.” She brushed herself off and kept running.

                  “There are times, your majesty, when I don’t need your exact brand of storytelling.” Stiles groaned. The man behind him snorted, pushing at his back to urge him along.

                  The walls crowded in close to the trio, torches lining them seeming to flare alight of their own accord.

                  “Are you doing that, Lyds?” Stiles asked, chills shooting up his spine with each new puff of flame.

                  “It’s not me, but they’re definitely enchanted.” She confirmed. “Maybe they recognize our blood?”

                  “Very possible. If this weapon only recognizes one of our bloodlines, there’s a world of possibility for what else will recognize it.” Stiles came to a halt suddenly by way of running into Lydia, who’d stopped in front of a door he would have missed.

                  “This is it.” She breathed.

                  “How do you know?” Stiles stared into the darkness past her; the rest of the hall.

                  “The center of the castle is the great hall. If we walked from the store rooms, it would take this long to get there. Logically, this is the center.”

                  “It smells heavily of magic.” Derek said by way of agreeing with her. “Open the door, Lydia.”

                  “Say please.” She taunted. He just huffed at her, and she rolled her eyes. “Fine.” She muttered a spell and there was a soft click followed by a loud creak, signaling the door opening on it’s own.

                  The trio entered cautiously, Derek’s hand circling around Stiles’ arm, as if that would protect him if he was suddenly hexed or something equally outrageous. Stiles smiled anyway at the sentiment.

                  The room lit up immediately, displaying four walls filled with every kind of weapon imaginable, and when observed closer, were decorated with tiny runes inlaid with gold. Lydia gasped. “I can feel the magic here.”

                  “Is it dangerous?” Derek’s fangs were already protruding from his lips. “Stiles, don’t touch anything.”

                  “You’re not my King.” Stiles said, just to be an ass, and stepped out of Derek’s protective circle towards a large chest in the center. “I think that’s it.”

                  “Don’t touch it.” Lydia commanded, and Stiles -very audibly- reluctantly stopped. Lydia stepped forward and holds her hand over it, checking for dangerous magic. Finding none, she opened the chest to reveal an iron flail, one long chain connecting the bar to a spiked sphere.

                  “You first, your majesty.” Stiles bowed his head and stepped back until he bumped against Derek’s solid chest. “Do try not to get yourself killed.”

                  Lydia made a face before spinning on her toes to glare at the flail.

                  “Milady?” Derek said cautiously, one hand gravitating to Stiles’ hip. Stiles let him, this time. If it offered the majesty brief comfort, he would give it to him.

                  Lydia took a deep breath, closing her eyes. Her hand hovered over the creased leather of the handle before she finally clasped it firmly and tugged upwards.

                  The flail didn’t budge. She let go instantly without a disappointed sigh or a disgruntled rumble and turned on her heel, giving Stiles a curt nod.

                  Stiles nodded in return. This only meant one thing. He gripped the handle after Lydia paved the way, and lifted cautiously.

                  The mace fit in his hand perfectly, leather wrapped handle instantly forming to cushion his hand. Stiles smiled as the bar was followed by each link in the chain, then finally the spiked ball lifted free of it’s velvet home.

                  “It’s… perfectly weighted.”

                  “Enchanted, too.” Lydia murmured. “It will never strike its master.”

                  Stiles tested its weight again by giving it a swing. It’s sound was nearly silent, and when the spiked end approached his back, it only gave a soft push, without any pain whatsoever. “Incredible.”

                  “I assume you’ll use it on the battle field.” Derek asked from his place in the doorway, not moving a muscle aside from those used to speak.

                  “Of course.” Stiles grinned over at him. “It was destined to be used by me. It’s also an additional advantage I’ll have over the Pack of Alpha’s, and increase my statistical likelihood of returning home to you.”

                  Derek stared at the packed dirt floor, eyes traveling to the nearest thing of interest. (My, Lydia’s shoes were lovely this evening.)

                  “Unless,” Stiles lowered the flail and crossed his arms. “You only proposed to keep me alive.”

                  “You proposed?” Lydia laughed. “My god, you are smitten.”

                  “Smitten? With me?” Stiles’ head whipped around to the young Queen. “You’re sure.”

                  “Stiles, darling, you should have seen him the day he arrived, forcing you out into the hall and then insisting I hand you over? It was only after several straight minutes of blubbering that I took pity on the poor King and allowed him your company these last few days.” Her monologue ended with her hair being flung over her shoulder triumphantly.

                  Derek begrudgingly sent a glance Stiles’ way. The other man was grinning at him. “You truly wish to marry me?”

                  “Not if you run off and die at the hands of a greedy Alpha, or better yet, a hunter who’s seen more winters than your pallid- mmph.” Derek stopped speaking when Stiles’ mouth forced him to do so.

                  “Marry me.” Stiles said quickly, thumbs rubbing behind Derek’s ears.

                  “Now?” Derek laughed softly.

                  “Now.” Stiles insisted. “Lydia. You have the authority to perform the right.”

                  “I cannot wed you now, that’s ridiculous.”

                  “Handfasting, then.” Derek suggested desperately. “Please, Lydia.”

                  She sighed, but nodded. They stepped back until they were a few feet apart, right hands clasped together. Lydia extracted a ribbon from her hair and tied it ‘round their hands, lying her own atop.

                  “Derek,” Lydia looked to him. “Do you promise that you will take this man as husband, if the Holy Sisters consents?”

                  “I promise.” He squeezed Stiles’ hand as a private reassurance.

                  Lydia asked Stiles the same, to which he agreed, and she asked for some form of exchange between the two of them. “Because you obviously didn’t plan this and you don’t have rings.”

                  Stiles removed the chain around his neck immediately and offered it up to Derek. “This pendant is of my mother’s Kingdom.” He explained. “I hope you will wear it with the same pride I have all these years.”

                  “I only have an ounce of the pride you must have for your mother.” Derek took the necklace gingerly and looped it around his neck. He then removed a wide bracelet from his left arm, nearly three inches in width and constructed of dark, supple leather. “My father gave this to my eldest brother when he ascended the throne, as a token of his success. Just before he left to his final battle, my brother gave it to me.” Derek ran his thumb over its crest, presumably the one of his family. “Deep in my heart, I’ve always known he had a sense of death that day, and knew I’d be the only one left to rule.”

                  “But your uncle…?” Stiles said softly. Stephen, Derek’s older brother, along with most of the rest of his siblings who decided to go with him, had died almost seven years ago, leaving the throne to Peter.

                  “My Uncle stole the throne from my sister.” Derek frowned and took Stiles’ wrist to attach the bracelet. “I can only assume Stephen knew this was to happen, and knew that I would have to realize my place and avenge her by taking the throne for myself.”

                  “I’m sorry you were forced to grow up so quickly.” Stiles tugged Derek close by his shirt. “I know precisely how that hurts, you understand.”

                  “Of course.” Derek managed to get out before they were kissing again, long and slow and passionate.

                  They only broke apart when bells rang through the castle, causing the walls of the foundation surrounding them to tremble.

                  “They’re here.” Lydia said, horrified. “It’s too soon…”

                  “Regardless of timing, we must go.” Stiles strapped the flail to his hip and grabbed Derek by the hand, running for the door as quickly as possible.

                  Lydia beat the two of them down the hall against all shoe-related odds, nudging open the ancient door with her shoulder.

                  “I’ll rally your troops.” Derek let go of Stiles’ hand and nudged them in the direction of the stairs. “You two need armor.”

                  “We’ll meet you in the courtyard.” Stiles grabbed Derek by the front of his shirt and dragged him into a short, bruising kiss, before following Lydia up the steps to their chambers.

                  Lydia changed faster than Stiles, and ran into his room when she was finished.

                  “It begins.” He said softly, buckling his armor together and retrieving his new flail.

                  She led them down to the courtyard, where Derek’s men were waiting.

                  “We don’t have time for a speech, if that’s what you were planning.” Erica piped up, making her way to the front to stand between her Alpha and her Queen. “They were spotted in the woods, fifteen Acres from the castle walls. We attack on your command, Milady.”

                  Lydia nodded and drew her sword, before running towards the tree line with a victorious cry. Derek and Stiles fell into step with her, the armies following, each man and woman echoing her cry.

                  The squall only turned to pained wails when their enemies finally emerged from their dens moments after the onslaught began.

                  Derek kept close to Stiles, fighting through lesser wolves the Alphas must have recruited, tearing them apart with a ferocity Stiles had never thought possible of his betrothed.

                  Elbow to elbow they fought; Stiles’ flail landing each blow with fatal force. Blood, sinew, bone, nothing stood in the way of his new weapon. It glowed faintly with a magical ambiance, something Stiles would only notice later when not in the heat of battle.

                  He took a moment to catch his breath, sending a glance Derek’s way. He smiled, but the other jerked his head in the opposite direction, silently telling him to go before sinking his teeth into a female wolf.

                  They were everywhere. There were only five leaders, yet their lesser wolves attacked in great numbers. Stiles caught glimpses of leaders between his kills, but they seemed to duplicate in number each time Stiles laid eyes on them. Their eyes glowed like embers when their fangs sunk into one of Lydia’s soldiers. Stiles knew him, he was nice.

                  Stiles let out a cry and lunged, mace swinging. It connected with a crack, blood spewing all over Stiles’ skin and his friend. He took a heartbeat’s time to check if he was alive, to no avail, before darting off.

                  Derek was here somewhere. He had to be. The woods weren’t that big, only stretching until they reached the fields on the other side, where poor farmers raised cattle and wheat.

                  Trumpets sounded in the distance, nearer to the castle. Stiles spun round, panicked breaths coming in short gasps. That could be for anyone.

                  Erica.

                  Lydia.

                  Derek.

                  Stiles’ heart skipped a beat at a howl nearby. Too close. He wiped blood specks from around his eyes and readied himself for the impending-

                  A hulking half-wolf tore through the brush and tackled Stiles, his hand holding the mace meeting claws and giving way. He cried out, the sound coming out a horse growl.

                  The wolf bared his teeth and dug Stiles deeper into the soft mud beneath him. Briefly, Stiles wondered if it’d rained. “I am astonished...” The wolf said, bits of the beast clinging to his voice, but Stiles still recognized it. This was the man that had Derek pinned down the day of that first battle. “The Hale boy won you over.”

                  “What are you talking about?”

                  “I can smell him all over you.”

                  “We danced.” Stiles simplified. There was no way this guy was going to get under his skin using Derek of all people. “His majesty wouldn’t grant someone like me more than that.”

                  “I think you’d be surprised what the little Hale will do for you, young warrior.” The wolf nipped at his neck, drawing a tiny prick of blood. “The McCall boy told him all about you on their journey; by then the seed was already sprouting.”

                  “How do you know about Scott?” Stiles blurted in a moment of weakness.

                  “Who do you think we followed here?” The wolf sneered. “Oh. Hello, Hale.”

                  Stiles’ head jerked to the side to see Derek standing between two dark oaks. “Derek…”

                  “Stiles, when I tell you to run, I want you to run. Don’t look back. Do not falter. Tell who you find to turn back.” Derek’s eyes sparked red.

                  “Derek, what’s-“ Stiles squeaked as the Alpha cut him off with another nip. Derek growled.

                  “He’s the last. I need to kill him myself.” Derek lunged forward, forcing the wolf off of Stiles. The younger grabbed his mace and leapt to his feet, ready to attack the half-man under Derek, struggling for dominance. “Stiles, run!” Derek barked.

                  He obeyed.

                  Leaves and twigs extending from the branches nicked his cheeks as he darted through the quickly darkening woods, shouting at anyone who he passed to turn back and get medical care.

                  He was still running by the time he reached the courtyard, his knees shaking.

                  The courtyard was empty; the only sound the gurgling of Lydia’s great fountain.

                  Blood pumped through it, its pungent odor lying tactile on Stiles’ tongue. He rubbed his head slowly. Derek could be anywhere. Derek could be dead.

                  His head snapped up at the slightest movement from the edge of the courtyard. “Derek?”

                  It was. Stiles broke out into a grin, rising from the fountain edge to greet his- now that they’d survived- husband to be.

                  Derek staggered towards him, and Stiles realized a second too late that he was bleeding. Heavily. Stiles extended his arms, catching him. Derek’s shoulders slumped as he fell into the smaller man. He dropped to his knees, sliding down Stiles’ body until he was clutching his waist.

                  “Derek?” Stiles’ smiles melted. “Derek!” He screamed around the empty courtyard for help from someone, anyone. Someone to help his brave soldier.

~*~

                  Three weeks later

                  Stiles spent his time picking out flowers from Lydia’s lush garden. He was careful to pick ones with little to no toxins, but made sure they were still beautiful. Derek would have thought that was girly, but Stiles didn’t care. (He would have insisted they looked like his own eyes, just to piss Derek off.)

                  Three weeks. He hadn’t seen Derek’s face in three weeks. He missed his smile the most, he thinks.

                  Lydia said he was crazy, still pining like this. He should move on, find some other unlucky bastard he could trick into spending the rest of his life with. He always said she was stupid. He’d need at least ten years to get over Derek.

                  She spotted him as he was leaving. “Where are you going with my bluebells?”

                  He stopped and took a deep breath, the scent of the flowers wafting up. “I’m off to the graveyard.”

                  “Derek won’t be there. He went back to the Hale Kingdom with the rest of the bodies.” She said, not unkindly.

                  “I know.” He took the last step into the courtyard, then hung a right and made his way to the graveyard to give his first love the flowers he’d picked.

                  His silent conversation with the headstone was interrupted by a hand on his shoulder nearly an hour after he had arrived there. “Scott said I’d find you here.”

                  Stiles’ head whipped up, catching an eyeful of the sun and not of the owner of the voice. “Derek?! What the hell are you doing here?”

                  “I told you it’d only be a few weeks.” Derek grinned and sat next to Stiles, already out of his royal clothes. “I only needed to pack for the wedding and arrange for my younger sister to keep an eye on the Kingdom. Who are you talking to?”

                  “My mother.” Stiles fiddled with the petals on the Bluebells.

                  “They say a boy’s mother is his first love.” Derek said softly, taking Stiles’ hand.

                  “They’re not wrong.” Stiles grinned, but his eyes didn’t follow the motion. “Why did you come back?”

                  “Our wedding.” Derek rolled his eyes and leaned over to kiss, then nip Stiles’ cheek. “Have you already forgotten?”

                  “Lydia said you weren’t coming back.”

                  “I told her to say that. I thought you’d be happy to see me when I got back.”

                  Stiles smacked his chest, then punched him for good measure. “You’re an ass.”

                  “Ah, but now I know you’ll wait for me when I go on long journeys. I don’t have to worry about someone wooing you away from me.”

                  “You’re not taking me with you?” Stiles glared at him. “I thought I was to have you whenever I wanted, not just as often as you like.”

                  “You may have me any minute of any hour of any day you wish.” Derek kissed him again, this time in a much more intimate spot on his neck. “I’m yours.”

~*~

                  The wedding took three months to pull together, all of which Stiles insisted they not share quarters.

                  (“Why not?” Derek asked outside Stiles’ door one day, lips pressed to his neck.

                  “Because I have made it this long, I may as well wait until our wedding night.” Stiles pushed at his chest, chuckling.

                  “Whether you wait or not, it’ll still end sticky and disappointing.”

                  Stiles kissed him softly. “I’m sure you won’t disappoint me.”)

                  Lydia made it known that even though she wasn’t one of the people getting married, she was to have everything in this wedding come by her first, including what clothes were to be worn. Stiles’ choice was turned down, so he was forced to wear something of Jackson’s that barely fit his slim exterior.

                  Lydia had been trying to tie up the sides like a corset, which, as they were clothes for men, didn’t work. “Wait here, Stiles. I’ll off to search for one of my handmaidens, surely one of them hold the solution.”

                  “I’ve always admired your penchant for ladies who know what they’re doing.” Stiles wormed his way out of the shirt and threw it aside.

                  “I said I was getting a handmaiden, not Erica.” Lydia rolled her eyes and flicked his ear.

                  “I spoke not of Erica, yet of your darling Duke of a husband.”

                  That earned him another flick before she flounced off in search of someone competent.

                  Stiles stood before the mirror and prodded at his cheeks. So preoccupied was he that he nearly missed Derek prowling through the open door.

                  “And what, exactly, is your aim in coming here?” Stiles smirked at the reflection.

                  “I wanted to see you.” Derek explained, coming up behind Stiles and wrapping his arms around the slight waist of his betrothed. “Is that so wrong?”

                  “Lydia will have your head if she knows you’re here.” Stiles smacked Derek’s cheek gently when he started his kisses at Stiles’ ear and continued a trail of them down his neck. “Stop that. You can’t wait another few hours for us to be properly wed?”

                  “A moment feels an hour in sight of you.” Derek whispered, hands roaming down Stiles’ front. “Therefore our honeymoon night is days from now if I must keep my hands from your skin, my lips from yours.”

                  “If I had one wish, it would be that you were this romantic before our engagement rather than after.” Stiles rolled his eyes.

                  Derek sighed and stepped back a single pace, looking over Stiles’ bare back with an inquisitive look on his face. “What is the meaning of these?” One finger trailed over several designs at once, causing Stiles to shiver at the touch. “They’re quite intricate.”

                  “Every battle I’ve won, every person I’ve lost, every event, I choose to commemorate on my skin.” Stiles explained, watching Derek explore his back through the reflection in the mirror.

                  “I like them.” Derek admitted, stroking Stiles’ back longingly.

                  “They all have a story. Like scars, with color.” Stiles tensed at Derek’s continued touch. His hands were warm, and not unwanted.

                  “You have wolves.” Derek caressed his shoulder blades wistfully. “What is their story?”

                  “When I was younger, my father took me into the woods.” Stiles began dressing again, buckling his trousers and swatting away Derek’s other hand. “We were attacked. Those two were my first kills.”

                  “Were they…?” Derek left off werewolves.

                  “I don’t know. They attacked my father, I didn’t think twice.” Stiles stiffened at the feeling of Derek’s lips on his back, tenderly trailing kisses from one wolf to the next.

                  The door slamming open interrupted them, each leaping apart from the other. “Derek! Out!” Lydia demanded.

                  “What? Why?” Derek’s back shot straight, but he clung to Stiles. “I’m not allowed to see my betrothed on my own wedding day?”

                  Lydia looked gob smacked. “Hell no.” She said, like it was obvious. “Get out! Go wait while we get ready! You’re not allowed to see him until the moment he walks through that door.”

                  Derek smirked. “But I’ve already seen him.”

                  “Yes, yes, I’m sure you have. I’m sure you’ve counted his tattoos with your tongue. Now get out.”

                  Derek’s shoulders slumped and he stalked off, presumably to find one of his knights to harass in order to relieve some of the tension from wedding-day plans.

                  “I happen to like him.” Stiles inserted one of his shirt’s ties into his mouth. “I’d appreciate if you didn’t ruin this for me. He’s a King, I can’t move any higher up on the chain.”

                  Lydia yanked the string from between his teeth. “I’m just preparing Derek for a lifetime of being bossed around. Hopefully by you.” She threw an over-shirt at him. “Men are easier to control when you not only have sex in the cards, but food.”

                  “Derek and I aren’t having sex.” The shirt muffled Stiles’ voice when he pulled it over his head.

                  “Really now? That explains why Derek’s so willing to do your bidding.” She inspected his outfit as he slowly pieced it together. “He really wants you.”

                  “Or he’s in love with me.” Stiles shrugged. “Alright. I’m ready to tie myself to a person for the rest of my life.”

                  “Love is silly.” Lydia reminded him, but kissed his cheek anyway. “But it’s the greatest thing you could ever do.”

                  He grinned at her, and let her lead him away and into the great hall where their friends and allies waited.

                  Their ceremony followed similarly to Erica and Lydia’s, the same vows and promises, even the same priestess overseeing their union.

                  Derek took the ring he’d chosen for Stiles from the priestess after it had been dipped. “In the name of the consort, the father, and the elder, with this ring, I thee wed.” Derek said, slipping the ring on each of Stiles’ fingers before settling it on the third.

                  Derek repeated Derek’s actions and words, only stumbling over ‘father’ and ‘wed’ for the reason that his words seemed to flood out of his mouth before he could fix the ring properly on his husband’s third finger.

                  “In the presence of your subjects, and with permission from the Gods, I do pronounce you wed.”

                  Derek closed the space between them as soon as he was granted allowance, kissing Stiles deeply and passionately with a fervor he’d clearly had welling up inside himself since the night he’d returned from his kingdom for the wedding.

                  Stiles’ fingers curled and scratched the shortest hairs at the back of Derek’s neck, reassuring him silently that he wasn’t going anywhere, and if anything, they would be closer than ever from that point forward.

~*~

                  “You’re sure you don’t want to stay for the rest of the party?” Derek passed Stiles another glass of wine, accompanying it with a kiss to his cheek.

                  “You’ve clearly never been to one of these.” Stiles rolled his eyes. “The reception for Jackson lasted a whole six hours into the next day, and I’m not sure the one for Erica actually stopped, or if we just took a break to do this whole war thing and this is it picking up again.”

                  “If these parties last so long, when do the newlyweds leave?” Derek picked absently at his food while listening.

                  “Lydia usually leaves between the first and second courses. No one notices until-“

                  One of the servants interrupts him. “Cake?”

                  Derek rolled his head around to grimace in Stiles’ direction. “You were saying something about leaving between the first and-“

                  “Do you want to leave?” Stiles’ hand dropped to Derek’s arm, finally getting the hint.

                  “Hell yes.” Derek practically dragged Stiles out into the hall and towards his room. “Fuck, how many layers did she put you in?” Derek growled when stumbling upon the grueling task of undressing his new husband.

                  “Like three, I don’t know.” Stiles tugged Derek’s shirt off in one swoop, tossing it on the floor. “Hurry up, have you never seen a clasp before?” Stiles taunted. Derek rolled his eyes and let his claws grow out. “Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to make you angry-“ He was interrupted by the tearing of Jackson’s wedding clothes oh my god.

                  “Fast enough for you?” Derek growled, throwing Stiles backwards onto his bed, their bed. Stiles grinned and his legs fell open, welcoming the bigger man. Derek’s wandering eyes stopped. “What’s that?” His eyes were caught on a new tattoo, still a little raw, on Stiles’ inner thigh.

                  “I thought you’d recognize your own family crest.” Stiles grinned cheekily. “You can lick it if you want.”

                  “Why did you get that?” Derek stayed where he was, just staring.

                  Stiles rolled his eyes and stood to meet him. “Each and every one of these means something. That means that I’m a Hale now.” He tilted his head up to kiss his now-husband’s shocked face.

                  “You became a Hale this afternoon. When did you get that?”

                  “A few weeks ago.” Stiles smirked. “I wanted it to heal enough that you could touch it.”

                  Derek grabbed him and flung Stiles onto his freshly cleaned sheets, crawling over him quickly and nipping his neck. “I love it.”

                  “I love you.” Stiles retorted, forcing Derek’s pants open and off.

                  “That too.” Derek’s lips were already working a new kind of mark into Stiles’ neck, his hand trailing down Stiles’ spine to prod gently at his entrance.

                  Stiles licked his lips. “You cannot know the extent I’ve been waiting for this.” He rolled his hips, encouraging Derek’s ministrations.

                  “I do happen to know, for it is all you speak of when we’re alone.” Derek mouthed down to Stiles’ naval.

                  “Fuck.” Stiles grunted at the sensations shooting through him. “Shouldn’t you be glad I think about your manhood so often? Think about all the things I want you to do to me?”

                  “I am glad.” Derek grinned up at him. “I’m glad I can finally give you what you want.”

                  Stiles hooked a leg around Derek’s waist. “Take your time.” He said gruffly, not wanting to sound as though he was pleading.

                  “Tell me when you feel ready.” Derek added a third finger cautiously.

                  “Be slow with me, alright? Gentle. Even if it drives me a little mad. I want this to last.”

                  “As you wish.” Derek kept his fingers inside and slid up Stiles’ body, engaging him in a gentle kiss. Stiles kissed back, hands cupping Derek’s face while he made small, pleased sounds in the back of his throat. He made sure to stroke Stiles’ prostate every once in awhile, simultaneously flicking his tongue into Stiles’ mouth. Stiles moaned, getting increasingly louder every time he did that. Derek Eskimo kissed him and smiled to himself. “Gods, Stiles, you sound so tantalizing. Like a wanton lady in her prime.”

                  Stiles hummed and smacked at him playfully. “Der… Der. I need you. Want you. Love you. Please,” Stiles’ hand made its way out of their entanglement and fixed it in Derek’s hair. “Make love to me.”

                  “Only if you do the same.” Derek muttered in return, slipping him fingers out and prepping his cock.

                  “Of course.” Stiles kissed any bit of Derek he could reach. “Der, Der, tell me what you need.”

                  “You. I need you.” Derek kissed his bottom lips while he started the slow slide in.

                  Stiles’ hands roamed and he sucked on Derek’s neck. “You have me, Der. Now and forever.”

                  “For that I am grateful, because I love you, and I’m not letting you go.” One hand found its way to Stiles’ hair.

                  Stiles moaned softly. “Gods, I love it when you get possessive.”

                  “Of when do you speak?” Derek laughed softly. “Darling, my possessive behavior around you will forever be present.”

                  “But when you get rough and growly…” Stiles trailed off, smiling dazedly. Derek replaced the smile with his lips. Stiles hummed and chased his lips. “I love you so much…”

                  “I love you too…” Derek sighed as he finally slid all the way in, and hovered there. “I love you more than anything, Stiles.”

                  “I love you so much, Der. My Der, My King.” Stiles smiled and lightly brushed a hand across Derek’s cheek. “I’m so glad I get to spend the rest of my life with you.”

                  “I wouldn’t give you another option.” Derek nuzzled him. “I love you too much to share.”

                  “I’m just fine with being greedy.” Stiles kissed him softly.

                  “All for the better, because I’m. Not. Sharing.” Derek punctuated each statement with a biting kiss. “Tell me when you’re ready.”

                  “Ready whenever you are.” Stiles said, breathless from kisses and what Derek was doing.

                  “I love you.” Derek said while slowly rolling his hips, entwining their fingers and squeezing.

                  Stiles gasped. “Fuck, that feels good.”

                  Derek mouthed hollow kisses along his jaw. “Goddamn, you feel fantastic, Stiles.” He shifted on his knees, getting more comfortable for longer, harder thrusts. Stiles arranged his legs around Derek’s waist, hands on his sides. Derek moved one hand for balance, and drove his thrusts in deeper, trying to get those sounds out of Stiles again.

                  Stiles started moaning again, legs tightening around him. “Fuck, Der, you feel so good…”

                  “You’re amazing, Stiles, you’re amazing, I love you so much…” Derek was cut off with a groan, his hips stuttering forward. Stiles moaned loudly when he hit his prostate. Derek grinned and aimed intentionally this time, anything he had to say being cut off by a loud moan. Derek smiled and nuzzled his neck while gradually speeding up. “Stiles, darling, I’m going to...”

                  Stiles nodded, hands rubbing over Derek’s back and neck, legs tightening further to help him thrust up. “Me too, Der. Nearly there.” He murmured.

                  “What do you need, darling, tell me. Tell me what you need.”

                  “Touch me.” Stiles gasped out. Derek moved his hand from Stiles’ side and curled it around his erection, stroking him at half the speed of his thrusts. Stiles quivered and whimpered, quickly being driven over the edge. “Derek!” He cried out as he came.

                  Derek buried his face in his neck and came with a moan. Stiles stroked his back and sides, muttering sweet nothings as they both calmed down. Derek kept his face in Stiles’ neck, breathing in his scent and making a few aborted thrusts as his knot swelled up to its full size. Stiles whimpered as it began to pain him.

                  “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I should have prepared you better.” Derek peppered kisses over Stiles’ face. “How does it feel?”

                  “I feel… I feel contented.” Stiles assured him, catching his lips any time he could reach them. “Perhaps you could have informed me of the genital irregularities of your kind.”

                  “Perhaps I assumed that Lydia and Jackson would have filled your head with all manner of folk tales about the post-coital swelling we Weres experience.” Derek nibbled at his jaw.

                  “I am in awe, husband mine.” Stiles mocked. “I don’t think I’ve ever been privy to so many words coming from you.”

                  Derek rolled his eyes and kissed the corner of Stiles’ mouth. “I hope you’ll be hearing many more words spill out of my mouth in all the years I plan to be together.”

                  Stiles blushed and cupped his cheek. “I love you.”

                  “I love you too.”