Stiles closed the door behind him and leaned back against it with closed eyes and a deep sigh. The day had been long and tiring – fulfilling and successful, of course, which were the most important things, but still a really long day. What he was looking forward to now was a hearty dinner, a long soak, and–
“Hello, my love.”
Stiles smiled, eyes still closed, but Spark immediately reaching out for the wolf approaching him. He smiled even wider at the warm hands that cupped his cheeks and the soft kiss pressed to the side of his face.
“Hello, Your Majesty.”
The amused huff and the grin pressed to his temple made Stiles chuckle.
“How many times will I tell you not to call me that?”
“At least once more… Derek.” Stiles opened his eyes, brown meeting alpha red. He leaned up, delighting in the soft kiss to his lips.
“How are you?” Derek asked, kissing him again.
“A little tired,” Stiles said, allowing himself to sag forward onto Derek’s warm body and warmer kisses. “But far less than you, I am sure.”
Derek shrugged, broad shoulders moving against Stiles. “There is no competition to be had in service to the country. And any weight off my shoulders is only because I have loyal Emissaries who share the burden, as well as the wisest and most talented lover to advise me.”
“Flatterer,” Stiles said, giving him one last kiss. “Now, as much as I adore you, where is my trickster trio? I have missed them today.”
On cue, there was a crash somewhere inside the quarters.
“It wasn’t me! / It was Irish! / They did it!” Three voices immediately resounded from the other room.
Derek sighed, taking Stiles’ robe off for him and hanging it with Derek’s own.
Stiles just laughed. “Home sweet home.”
Three pairs of bare feet slapped against wood and Stiles was greeted with three children crowding around the doorway.
“Papa, it wasn’t me. Enzo is lying.” Irish crossed her arms, pouting. Redheaded, green-eyed, and seven-year-old Irish was the eldest, usually a silent observer, but was also as mischievous and explosive as her younger brothers.
“I wasn’t! She pushed me!” Enzo protested, jumping up and down.
“Sorry, Papa. Sorry, Ada.” Levi shuffled over to them and held his hands up, showing them a broken mirror ball.
Five-year-old, dark-haired, blue-eyed, Levi and Enzo were twins. Levi was the calmer, shyer, older one and was a werewolf, while Enzo with the deep dimples, sunny smiles, and the loud mouth was human – a rare case for twins considering the dominant were-gene.
These were orphans Derek adopted after an internal war destroyed the children’s pack and territory. These were Derek’s children… and Stiles’ too, well, kind of, considering Stiles and Derek were courting.
“It’s fine, my darlings,” Stiles said, taking the broken ball and putting it to the side. It looked like a clean break anyway, easy enough to fix.
He pressed a kiss to Levi’s forehead then did the same to Irish and Enzo, the latter of whom immediately asked to be carried. Their sons were by no means little, but Stiles was not about to decline the opportunity to hold his child. Levi silently did the same to Derek.
“But why were you three roughhousing?” Stiles asked, sweeping Irish’s hair to one side as she curled up against his waist. “You know the rules. No arguing, please, and especially not this close to suppertime.”
“Because today’s the day!” Enzo cheered and Levi threw his arms in the air as well.
“…the day for what?” Stiles asked, turning to Derek.
Derek was rubbing his face with a hand and sighing greatly. “You three are hopeless.”
“I didn’t say anything!” Irish immediately protested.
“Derek? What’s going on?” Stiles asked, looking at all three children and his exasperated King.
“I… well, we had something to ask you tonight, but I had made it perfectly clear that we were going to wait until after supper for it.” Derek eyed the three children. “Didn’t you give me your words you will behave?”
“But why can’t we ask now?” Enzo whined, shifting in Stiles’ arms until he let him down.
“Ada’s here. We can do it now!” Levi said, jumping from Derek’s arms. He and his twin then proceeded to push their father into the sitting room.
Irish seemed to have gotten swept up in whatever excitement this was. “Yeah, yeah. We can do it before supper! Let’s not wait!” She started tugging hard on Stiles’ hand.
Stiles noticed Derek started to look a bit peaky. “Why are you worried? Should I be worried? What’s going on?”
“I am fine. I am just nervous.” Derek gave him a shaky smile.
Stiles sat down on the seat Irish pushed him towards none-too-gracefully and watched as Derek stood in front of him, flanked on both sides by the children, and a hand very obviously holding something in his trousers pocket.
“Derek, what is this about?” he asked.
Derek took a deep breath and got down on one knee.
I. A Title Fit for A King
Stiles hummed softly under his breath as he walked down the hall towards the royal throne room. He smiled and greeted the people he passed, occasionally stopping to make conversation and see how everybody was doing.
Despite the fact that his back was turned, Stiles’ Spark reached out behind him in delight at a familiar friend.
Lord Knight Vernon Boyd stepped up behind him. Tall, dark-skinned, strong, and brave, Boyd was a lone wolf Derek’s parents had taken into the castle when Derek was very young and the two of them grew up to be the best and closest of friends. Boyd was serious, loyal, and protective of Derek, and Stiles had always considered it an important triumph to have won Boyd’s favor as Derek’s friend.
“Morning, Boyd,” he greeted, reaching forward to shake the man’s hand. “On your way to the sitting room?”
Boyd had pledged his loyalty, life and service to Derek, but after Derek became a father, Boyd had shifted his priorities to the little ones and usually accompanied them in their day-to-day lessons and mischief.
To his surprise, Boyd stopped a few feet away, clicked his heels together and bowed to him. “Yes, I am… Your Majesty.”
Stiles raised an eyebrow. “What are you talking about?”
Only the Royal Family was greeted in that manner. The Royal Emissaries, especially Stiles, usually did away with any formalities. Nonetheless, that was not a title Stiles or any Emissary had.
Boyd straightened, hands crossed behind him and back straight. His face was still set in its usual passive, serious tone, but there was something in his eyes. “Just greeting the, ahem, Royal Intended in a proper manner,” he answered, eyes bright with rare mischief.
Stiles’ mind sputtered to a halt.
He was… he was engaged to be married.
To the King, their King, his King – His Majesty Derek Hale.
Boyd let out a chuckle, shedding all faux formality. “Did you forget?”
Of course Stiles didn’t. How could he? A month ago, in the Royal sitting room, just before supper, in front of their three children, Derek had presented Stiles with a gold chain woven through a black coin bearing the triskele, the Hale family crest, and asked for his hand in marriage. The same chain Stiles now wore around his neck and under his clothes, never taken off since the moment Derek put it on him.
A formal declaration was not made, not yet, but it was not a secret to all in the castle.
Boyd was a wolf, and while Stiles’ spark hid signs of his basest reactions, he was a friend and knew him well. There was no doubt, he could read Stiles’ face easily.
“I’m… Boyd, I don’t… I’m just…”
“You are not just anything,” Boyd said gently. “And for what it’s worth, you have my support…” He gave him a small smile and stepped back, bowing his head, “Your Majesty.”
Stiles pressed a hand to his chest, heart beating a fierce tempo and fingers tracing the coin under his tunic, feeling both pleased and shy in equal pleasures. “Don’t call me that. I don’t have any such titles.”
“Oh, but you do, and soon enough, to me and all your people you will be…” his face softened with fondness, “Our Majesty.”
With a parting bow, Boyd left, leaving Stiles reeling.
II. Hale as Hales
Nearly three months to the day of Derek and Stiles’ engagement, Derek asked Stiles for permission to formally declare their engagement to the kingdom… coincidentally when the members of the Hale Royal Family had come home.
Derek’s grandparents and parents had long since passed, the former from long and painful territory wars and the latter from maintaining their fragile peace. The aftermath of generations of conflict and the desire for rest, repair, and reconciliation was a burden Derek would bear all throughout his reign, a burden shared by the Royal Emissaries, Derek’s subjects, and the few remaining members of the Royal Family.
Derek’s older sister Laura had taken herself out of the running for the throne many decades ago in her desire to serve as Lord Commander of the Royal Guards. She usually remained at the castle by Derek’s side, but had spent the past months surveying a growing situation in the South.
Their other pair of Royal Twins, Derek’s younger siblings, Cora and Cameron, both loved to travel and served as Royal diplomats and envoys. They were the ones who did the legwork and met their allies and neighbors to broker deals and negotiate trade and contracts in the Royal Family’s name.
Peter, Derek’s uncle, served as Lord Admiral of the Royal Fleet, overseeing their port cities and sailing around their territorial waters. He visited the castle the least, but sent letters the most. Stiles himself made it a point of updating Peter as often as possible about the goings on around the castle and with Derek and his children.
“I have missed you, my little flower!” Peter swept up an excited Irish and spun her around.
“Oh, my dynamite duo. You have both grown taller!” Cora gushed, rubbing their heads and pressing dozens of kisses to the twins’ chubby cheeks.
“Brother, good to see you are well,” Cameron said, exchanging a tight embrace with the man.
“Stiles!” Laura walked up to Stiles and hugged him, her knight’s armor digging into his flesh. “Oh, I am glad to hear about your engagement! How exciting this is for the family!”
Stiles’ eyes widened and he immediately flushed, glancing over at Derek. It wasn’t as if he thought Derek would hide this from his family. He had been there when Derek penned and sent the letters to his family about his and Stiles’ courtship, but they had only been betrothed for a handful of months. Considering how long each Hale family member took to travel here, Derek must have surely told them the news mere days after the proposal.
Derek smiled, not at all apologetic.
“You’d better inform us as soon as possible when you plan to hold the wedding,” Peter commented, Irish already perched atop his shoulders. “But I personally think the Fall would be the best choice.”
“I’m excited for the ceremony,” Cora piped up as she and Cameron let Enzo and Levi dangle from their arms. “It has been far too long since we had held such a happy celebration!”
“Papa gave Ada the family coin!” Enzo shared, as Levi also said, “The one with the Hale triskele.”
“The same ones Papa gave us when we were adopted,” Irish added, beaming.
“Oh… I… um… we…” Stiles sputtered.
Derek stepped up behind him, an arm snaking around his waist and fingers of one hand gently pulling Stiles’ engagement chain from the cover of his tunic to show it to his siblings and uncle.
“We’re happy for you both,” Laura said, smiling and sincere.
Surrounded by his betrothed and the excited and supportive faces of his children and the Hale family, Stiles held Derek’s hand and tilted his head to kiss his cheek.
“Yes,” he said, voice shaking, not with nervousness but with overwhelming love, “Yes, we’re… Derek and I are engaged.”
Two weeks later, in front of the Hale Royal Family, the Royal Emissaries, Stiles parents John and Claudia, friends, allies, supporters, and all of their people, Stiles stood beside Derek and held his hand, clothed in the royal colors of red and black, his chain and the Hale crest proudly on display around his neck.
Derek held Stiles’ hand tightly and warmly and pressed a kiss to his knuckles. Stiles could hear the crowd and the entire castle go wild with excitement, but his eyes were all for Derek.
“It is with great pride, greater honor, and… and so much love that I, Derek James Hale, present to you all…” Derek paused, smile wobbly and eyes teary. Stiles reached up to thumb away a stray tear.
“…my Intended, my Betrothed, the love of my life, Genim Mieczyslaw Stilinski.”
According to tradition, they had to face the crowd and wave and walk through the small procession to show themselves to everyone, but Stiles could only lean forward and kiss Derek softly, traditions be damned.
III. One of Us
It was an oft forgotten fact about Stiles’ lineage that despite the many titles, status, and power his family and ancestors had held over the years, they were not in fact descended from royalty. They were not noblemen, nor borne of money or gold, with no dukes or queens or majesties for ancestors.
Their family tree was bathed in blood, sweat and tears – legions of soldiers and commanders, of faes and druids, of magic and nature and sparks and humans weaved together in a tapestry that had never been crowned, only wrapped around the queens and kings of Hale who they had served loyally over the generations.
Stiles had always been proud of that fact. His people never sought the crown nor the gold. Their riches came from their lands and the peace they had only ever tried to protect. Those were values he grew up with, ones taught to him by his parents – Lord Janusz ‘John’ Stilinski and Lady Claudia Scheim of Witcinder, Wardens of the South, the human Sheriff and the Lord Protector of the South Border, and the Druid ambassadress of the cities that made up said Border.
However, the idea of only serving from the sidelines seemed to finally be ending with Stiles, with his betrothal to the Alpha King and the merging of their families.
Stiles had been busy observing the tall, cool trees as they walked, but he couldn’t help noticing Derek's fidgeting and felt deep amusement. “Are you nervous?” he asked, laughing.
Derek straightened his tunic, glaring sullenly at Stiles. “Of course, I am.”
“You know my mother and father,” Stiles said, stepping over tree roots and unable to help his grin. “You’ve met them numerous times.”
“As a Prince, yes. As a King, also yes. As someone courting you, again, that is a yes. But as your future spouse?” Derek let out a deep breath, and Stiles could see that he really was nervous, very much so.
“Is there a difference?” Stiles asked, taking Derek’s hand in his, squeezing them tightly and swinging them so as they walked from the castle towards the lake.
“Of course there is.” Derek brought their hands to his lips, pressing kisses to Stiles’ knuckles. “They might not be able to deny me as their King, but…” he looked at Stiles, his smile resigned. “They could still deny me as they are your parents.”
Stiles faltered, almost tripping in his steps. His fingers touched the coin hanging from his neck, a sight he never hid after their betrothal had been proclaimed.
“It is about earning your family’s favor.” Derek turned to him. “If they see me unfit to marry you, they could protest our betrothal, and they should if that will be their impression.”
“But my opinion is all that matters here, doesn’t it?” Stiles watched him.
“It does,” Derek agreed readily. He pressed a last kiss to Stiles’ hand. “And you know I will always listen to what you have to say. But I know very well how much you love your mother and father and I would never want any cause to divide you, least of all myself.”
He led Stiles past the end of the tree line and came out to the lakeside where their children, the Hale family, John, and Claudia were all gathered, some of whom already in the water.
“Sorry we’re late,” Derek called out.
“Slowpokes!” Cora called out from where she and Cameron were paddling in the water with the children. Laura waved a lazy hand from where she was soaking her feet in the water. Peter looked up from his conversation with John and Claudia.
“The meeting ran a little longer than expected,” Stiles said, leaning forward to kiss Claudia’s cheek then John’s. Stiles’ parents opted to stay at the castle for a while after Stiles was formally declared the King’s Betrothed.
“Lord John, Lady Claudia.” Derek bowed his head to Stiles’ parents. “I would like to–”
There were screeching and bare feet slapping on the ground before John, Claudia and Stiles found themselves pounced on by three soaking, slippery, squirmy children.
“Nana, did you see me dive?” Enzo asked Claudia, scrambling up her lap and getting her dress soaked.
Claudia just laughed, wiping the water off his face. “You did so well, darling. Remember to be careful of your head.”
“I can swim in the deep end, Popo!” Irish was saying to John, who didn’t even mind the fact that her long hair was making puddles on his lap. “I don’t even need Uncle Cam to hold my hand.”
“Well done, beautiful,” John said, taking some of her hair and squeezing the water out, not minding how much wetter he got. “Make sure not to go too far. The fishies might get you.”
Irish giggled. “Fishies don’t eat werewolves, Popo.”
Peter winked at Stiles and he chuckled under his breath at the dumbfounded look on Derek’s face at the absolute ease between his family and Stiles’.
Levi was trying to scale Stiles like a tree. Stiles swung him up into his arms, unmindful of the lake water. He flapped a hand towards Derek.
“Ada! Papa! Come swim!” he invited them excitedly. “Watch me paddle!”
Derek shook off his surprise. “Um, of course, son. You’ve already gotten Ada wet, we can– what is that?”
“This one?” Levi looked at the chain around his neck. “Nana and Popo gave it to us!”
Stiles already knew, so he mostly looked at Derek’s face as he looked at his children, slack-jawed and wide-eyed. He set Levi down and reached for his pocket and while his betrothed was far too busy gawking, Stiles slid a chain around his neck.
Derek jerked in surprise.
While Stiles’ family was not of royalty and they did not carry the golden family coins that the royals and majesties did, they had their own. It was rare to be seen and not even Derek knew exactly what it was or what it looked like. He inspected it now with slightly shaking hands and awe in his eyes.
It was a wooden coin bearing the mark of the Nemeton and hanging from a simple silver chain, identical to the ones his children now wore.
Claudia hummed, amused by Derek just as much as Stiles. “The Nemeton has always been the mark of the Royal Emissaries, but it has also been, for generations, the mark of Beacon Hills, our homeland.” She smiled, touching the one around Enzo’s neck. “Our coins are not made from gold. That is not something we value. Our coins are made from the wood of the Nemeton tree, carved by our own hands and imbued with magic, secrets we teach only to our kin.”
“Secrets?” Irish perked up. “What secrets? What are those, Nana?”
“I’ll teach you and your brothers all about it, darling,” Claudia said, kissing her cheek. “But you’re going to have to come to Beacon Hills so we can show you.”
“I wanna go!” Levi shouted, hustling over to her as Enzo also gamely screamed, “Me too!”
“Nana and Popo, eh?” Stiles glanced at his parents and the enthusiastic children.
“We were named,” Claudia said proudly. “And we are honored.” She pressed a kiss to Enzo’s temple.
John let out a huff. “I finally have grandchildren. Frankly, that’s all that matters to me.” He wiggled his fingers in a parting wave, and he and Claudia walked off, shedding some of their own robes and herding the children over to the lake.
“Guess… um… I…” Derek floundered. “I guess we’ll have to take them to Beacon Hills then. Make a trip of it,” he finished weakly.
Stiles laughed, slipping an arm around his king’s waist. “Good idea.”
Every three years, the castle held a Peace Summit, inviting all of the sixteen Lords and Ladies of the Hale territories to come together to discuss the state of affairs of the kingdom. It was as much a political move as it was a policing tactic – for the King or Queen to get updates from their allies and to reassert their authority, for the other territories to size each other up and establish any new contracts or trade and, in most cases, to court the favor of the Royals.
Honestly, Stiles got the best and worst kinds of headaches during this time because, and this was a well-known fact in Derek’s court, Stiles relished kingdom politics. It was hard to explain his fascination with it, but part of Stiles’ duty and pleasure at serving the Royal Council of Emissaries was making sure their King always came out on top and to crush his enemies before they even became a threat.
To be fair, not everyone had it out for their King, and as far as the assessment of the Emissaries went, some of them were loyal, others were loyal enough, and the few remaining were no real threat, though they certainly tried.
“I assume congratulations are in order then, Your Majesty?”
Stiles’ lip twitched in amusement. The room was arranged in a circle, allowing everyone to see one another, but he kept his stance relaxed as he continued the notes he had been writing for the Summit.
Representing the Royal Family for this Summit were Derek, Peter, and Laura, accompanied by two other Emissaries and Stiles. Stiles was seated behind Derek, but he knew him well enough to imagine the passive and unreadable face his betrothed presented.
“Congratulations regarding what, Lady Rolfe?” Derek asked.
“Regarding your engagement, of course,” Lady Katherine Rolfe said, fangs flashing across the room as she grinned.
Derek bowed his head. “Thank you for your regard, Lady Rolfe.”
“And to you as well, Lord Stilinski,” Lady Katherine Rolfe added, perfect eyebrow raised at Stiles. “Engaged to the King, who would have thought?”
“Thank you, My Lady.” Stiles nodded his head respectfully. He was hardly worth his status if he didn’t have a damn good poker face, and he smiled at her placidly.
Lady Katherine was a very beautiful woman, with a royal lineage documented nearly as far back as the Hales. The Hale Court secretly referred to their family as frustrated rulers, always with the crown in reach but never having it in their grasp. It was also why the Court was wary of them and their tactics, from political moves to double-edged dealings to possible coups and even marrying into the Hale family.
That last one was coincidentally the red flag the Court, and Stiles specifically, was expecting to be waved in their faces today. Lady Katherine had always been aiming to be on the arm of a Hale. Peter and Laura were not options as they were not in line to rule, and she would be a fool to face Cora’s wrath by going for her twin, Cameron. So Derek was it.
But Stiles got him first.
“I have to admire your moxie though, Lord Stiles,” Lady Katherine said, voice demure, but her intent anything but. “From Lord Heir of the South, to Druid Ambassador of the South, to Emissary of the King, to the King’s Betrothed. Quite a rise in status and ambition.”
There was a soft tug against Stiles’ Spark, always so attuned to Derek and his wolf and their emotions. Now wasn’t any different. He sent back a soothing hum to calm him.
“Being Lord Heir was only a happy coincidence of my birth,” Stiles said, face and voice giving nothing away. “And the word ambition implies a goal to be attained. There is no more room for ambition when I have already earned them.”
Lady Katherine hummed, tilting her head to the side, as if peering right through Derek to eye Stiles closely. “That last one is more of a temporary status, isn’t it?”
“Yes, it is.” Stiles smiled. “A temporary step to being the King’s Anchor.”
At that, it was as if a ripple went across the room. It was the first time those words had been used and even Derek couldn’t help rolling his shoulders, his pleasure evident to all.
“Fighting words,” Lady Katherine said, voice a low rumble, fangs still flashing.
“Of course. My status and ranks were all earned. And rightfully so, if I may be so bold as to proclaim.” Stiles allowed a little steel into his voice. “If anyone tries to take them though… well, they could always try. They won’t succeed.”
Her eyes flashed red, an instant reaction it seemed, but Lady Katherine immediately schooled her face into calmness.
“I’m sure the King would… ah, rush to defend your honor.”
Derek laughed, loud and full and full of mirth, a rare show of emotion that surprised most of the people in the room. He tilted his head back, catching Stiles’ eye.
“Oh, Goddess no. Stiles doesn’t need my help. He’s come to my aid more times than I could count. Especially with the children,” that last part was said with so much warmth Stiles wondered how and why in all the territories people would still try to get between them.
Lady Katherine cleared her throat loudly. “I just never expected it though, if I may be honest, Your Majesty.”
There was a loud laugh, like a sudden burst of emotion, and all eyes turned to Lady Lydia Martin, beautiful and deadly, the young leader and sole Heiress of the mountainous Southeastern territory, and also one of Stiles’ closest friends.
Her laughter petered off. “Oh, I apologize. Wasn’t that meant as a joke?” The grin that followed was brutal. “If you find this surprising, you need to read more romance stories, My Lady, or better yet, be more observant. If you’ve got eyes, you’d have seen that it was a long time coming.”
“Thank you, Lady Martin. I’m rather pleased about the outcome myself,” Derek said graciously, grinning.
Lady Noshiko Yukimura of the far Western forest tribes, and a dear friend of Derek’s late parents, raised a delicate hand. “I, for one, offer my sincerest congratulations, Your Majesty and Lord Emissary. I have always thought you a good match.”
“I mean, we can congratulate them all we want, but I will admit that I personally don’t mind the political clout.” Prince Danny Mahealani, Heir Apparent of the Mahealani Family, winked at Stiles. “It is a good message to the kingdom and beyond, our esteemed King and his faithful Emissary.”
Stiles faced his friend, remembering all too fondly their brief flirtation during their younger years. They were not meant to be in the end, but a sincere friendship had bloomed that Stiles knew they both held in high regard. To hear his heartfelt support was moving.
“The fact that you consider my engagement a strategic move and not a love match says so much about you, my friend.” He laughed.
Lady Katherine’s face was a mix of emotions, ones she tried to control, but even she wasn’t able to fully hide her rage. Yet, she stayed her tongue, and for good reason.
Derek reached out, holding Stiles’ hand gently in his.
Stiles might have spent his life thus far serving for the strength and dominance of the throne, but the rule of thumb in any political game, if you want to remain at the winning side, you have to make sure you win.
Stiles smiled at Lady Katherine.
This one wasn’t even a challenge.
V. A Call to Arms
A rising power from their territorial neighbors in the far Southwest had been spreading unrest throughout their lands.
Cora and Cameron had exercised as much political, skill, power, and ingenuity as they could to open negotiations, but even as their most capable diplomats, they had been nastily turned down. Derek himself even extended a peaceful hand, but even he was swiftly declined.
At this point, if they wanted to avoid an all-out war across all the territories, they had to cut their enemies off at the knees.
And the ones in direct line of fire was the South Border.
Stiles’ home, his parents, and his people.
“Here’s what we have so far,” Laura said as they gathered around the War Room. “We’ve already sent word to Admiral Hale and he’s primed the Fleet to guard our closest waters. Lord Boyd has already directed part of our offensive towards the South Border. I will be riding come dawn with the remaining contingent to meet with them.”
“And I will be coming with her.”
Stiles’ words were met with dead silence. He ignored the eyes trained his way and kept his attention on the map spread out between all of them. Most of all, he ignored the King’s gaze and his wolf reaching out for Stiles’ Spark.
“Lord Stiles–” Derek started.
Stiles ignored him and while he would ordinarily would never do anything that disrespectful to their King, he didn’t really give a damn today.
“I have been corresponding with Lady Martin and Prince Mahealani and they have both pledged to send support to the South Border depending on if the situation escalates. They know to keep the fighting contained and secure the nearby territories, should it come to that. My father, Lord John, is also collaborating with their forces.”
This time Laura tried. “Lord Stiles, we could–”
“I have talked to the Druids and Magical Congress of the South, while my mother, Lady Claudia, has already reached out to the Fae Queen, who’s a personal friend. We’re all set to meet to discuss any magical assistance they could provide.”
Stiles looked up at Derek standing across from him. Derek was leaning forward, hands braced on the edge of the table, and eyes a stormy gray. He opened his mouth, but Stiles was not having it.
“We have determined their target,” Stiles hissed, hands curling into fists. “We know why they’re attacking the South first despite the fact that the Border alone has almost three times their forces, despite how well-protected it is, despite the fact that the South is nigh unconquerable. This is an attack against Beacon Hills – Beacon Hills, which has the largest concentration of Nemeton trees in the world, the center of our magic. This isn’t just an attack against one of the most important Hale territories. This is an attack on both our soldiers and our magic, my magic.”
An arm was wrapped around his waist and a warm hand pressed down on the back of his neck. Stiles only then realized that his Spark had been shaking hard enough to rattle the entire room, much less the war table, sending the little statuettes of the soldiers and wolves skittering across the surface. In Derek’s presence, he calmed down, but only just so.
The other Emissaries bowed their heads and promptly left. Laura was last to leave, placing a kiss on Stiles’ cheek before walking out the door.
“Do not stop me,” Stiles said.
Derek pressed a long kiss to Stiles’ temple. “If you want to go, I will let you, and I–”
“Will remain here.” Stiles leaned against him, pressing his face to Derek’s chest. “You have to be safe if worst comes to worst and this escalates into a war.”
Derek’s hold on Stiles tightened. “The only way this will turn into a war is if they get past Beacon Hills, and the only way they’ll get past Beacon Hills is…”
“Is by going through me.” Stiles’ voice hard as steel.
Silence descended, heavy and cloying that Stiles couldn’t help clinging to Derek.
Dawn arrived and Derek was there when Stiles saddled his horse beside Laura’s and got ready to leave.
What he did not expect was Boyd carrying two bundles in his arms and a third child fisting his trousers and following after.
“Children, you should be in bed,” Derek said, though his heart was obviously not with it as he took the twins from Boyd’s arms.
Stiles swung Irish into his arms, letting her curl up against him, her face wet and her little form shaking. He pressed her between himself and Derek and tucked his body close to the twins as well.
With Derek’s steady support, Stiles had already explained the situation last night, in very specific words and with as much control of his emotions as he could, and with as many hugs and kisses as he could ask for that he was sure was still not enough to tide him over in the how many months he was going to be gone. Their children had already lost their family, their entire pack, once, and Stiles was not about to leave without telling them how much he loved them.
This was breaking his heart, all their hearts, but there was no other choice.
There was a loud cry, loud and heart-wrenching, from Enzo first, and then Levi joined a heartbeat later. Stiles mustered up every strength he had not to join them.
“Ada, don’t go! / Ada, Stay here!” Variations of the words came tumbling from the twins’ mouths and Stiles had to press as many kisses as he could to those tiny cheeks.
Over their heads, Derek looked back at Stiles. He looked broken, but steady. He understood. He would be strong. Stiles knew.
“We will wait, Ada,” Irish spoke up, voice shaky, but strong. “We will wait, ‘cause you’ll come home.” She repeated the words again and again, wrapping slim arms around Stiles’ neck and speaking again and again until even Levi and Enzo started to say the same thing.
And Stiles could see a glimpse of the future Queen she was destined to be.
He could only hope he would be there to see it.
Stiles gave Derek one last kiss and rode off, head held high, back straight, and heart and Spark aching for the family he left behind.
VI. The End of an Era
The Battle for Beacon Hills, as it had been named thusly, had lasted only two months. Surprisingly quick by most standards, but still with ramifications. Some of the Nemeton trees had been destroyed and many people had lost their homes, perished, or both.
Laura had a scar across her face, a remnant from a head-on encounter with an enemy. It had taken John weeks to recover from his various wounds, but except for a few scars, he ended up relatively unscathed. Stiles and Claudia, on the other hand, bore the brunt of the injuries and the magical assault that had threatened their forests. Stiles had lost sight in his left eye completely, and while he could usually count on his Spark to help fill his blind spot, his magic still needed six to eight months to recover… and that was already on top of the five months Stiles had been resting since the Battle. Claudia had lost her right leg down from the mid-thigh. What had started out as a wound on the shin from a necromancer in the midst of the fight had ended up being an infection. Better to lose a leg though than lose a life.
Stiles was unable to return to the Capital after the Battle, not just due to his injuries but also to help his land and people recover.
So instead, his family came to see him.
It wasn’t quite what Stiles imagined when he thought of the children seeing his hometown, but he would make do.
“Are you nervous?” John asked.
Stiles smiled, looking away from the second floor window from where he had been watching the preparations for next weeks’s ceremony going on in the town square just across the way.
“I’m not nervous about the ceremony. To be frank, I’m more excited than nervous,” he admitted. “And I’m also a little bit relieved I don’t have the trickster trio attached to me today. Where are the children?”
“With their Nana taking a tour of Baker Street. They’re all taking turns pushing her.” John gave him a wry smile. “And she is just loving all the attention. And Boyd’s with them, before you start getting nervous.”
Stiles smiled sheepishly. “I know they’re safe as can be here at our home, but considering what just happened…”
“We’ll all probably be dealing with our fair share of nightmares and paranoia after this. Not just us, but the ones who hold us dear,” John said.
Stiles sighed. “I just wish the children didn’t have to deal with all this, not a second time. They already lost their families once and I don’t want them living in fear that they’d lose their family again.”
“It is the reality of the world, I’m afraid.” John grunted heavily as he stood up. “We can only persevere and heal with time and remember the reasons we can still look forward to tomorrow. I find that the children most of all are better than us old folks at that.”
He leaned against the other side of the windows, looking out at the excited twittering of the people as Stiles was doing.
“And the celebration next week will be a reminder of that. It’ll be good for all of us, most of all for you.” He winked at Stiles. “And honestly, it’s about time.”
Stiles shrugged. “I wouldn’t have mind waiting longer.”
John rolled his eyes. “Maybe you would have. I’m not so sure about Derek and the children. They almost lost you to this.” John leaned forward and stroked Stiles’ temple close to his blind eye. “So I’m not surprised they insisted.”
Stiles chuckled. “Still, a Royal Wedding here and not at the Capital? It goes against tradition.”
“Well, you have a King willing to go against tradition for you. You could do worse,” John teased. He squeezed Stiles on the shoulder. “I’m going out, going to look for the children and your Mother. These old bones need the children’s laughter.”
Stiles remained by the window, leaning against the side and watching in a sort of daze.
It spoke a lot about his quieted Spark and his blind spot, not to mention his flitting thoughts, that he didn’t notice a new presence in the room until said person knocked on the open doorway.
Stiles jumped up in surprise.
“Sorry,” Derek said, smiling. “Didn’t mean to scare you.”
“It’s fine, Your Majesty.” Stiles chuckled when Derek rolled his eyes.
Derek walked in, face relaxed and dressed down in a tunic, trousers and bare feet, looking completely at ease in Stiles’ childhood home.
“I love you.”
Stiles smiled as the proclamation was accompanied with a warm body against his back and arms around his waist. The kiss to his cheek was another pleasant touch.
“I love you too,” Stiles said, angling himself to the side so that he could see Derek with his good eye.
They looked out the window together, the breeze cool against their faces and the silence between them comforting.
“You ready?” Stiles asked.
Derek grinned. “I’ve been ready for more than a year.”
Stiles hummed. “It has taken us a while to get here.”
“And I almost lost you in that time,” Derek murmured, his arms tightening around Stiles.
Stiles leaned back against his betrothed, letting Derek take his weight.
It… it took them far too long to get here.
And Stiles wondered – as he blinked his blind, milky eye and felt Derek’s wolf curl around his tiny, tiny, incredibly tiny, recovering Spark – why he was still waiting.
“Let’s get married now.”
He felt Derek jerk in surprise.
Stiles turned to him, sliding his arms around Derek’s neck and gently leaning his forehead against his. “Let’s get married now. You’re here. The children are here, and so are my parents. Laura is recuperating still, but she is well enough to join. Peter arrived yesterday and Cora and Cameron will arrive by tonight. We’re all here. We’ll all be here. It can just be us.”
Derek looked awed, wide-eyed and lips blooming into the most beautiful grin. “Truly? You will marry me now?”
“I wanted to marry you so long ago and I don’t…” Stiles laughed ruefully. “I don’t even know why we’re waiting.”
“Yes. Yes. Let’s do it. Now. Tonight. Be mine.” Derek kissed him, hard and passionate and shaking, and Stiles pressed close to him, filled with just as much love and longing and joy.
In the end, it wasn’t a ceremony in the Capital as Stiles was expecting. It wasn’t even the small, yet zealous and hopeful celebration being prepared at the Beacon Hills town square. There were no flowers, no Royal regalia, no crowds, or buffet tables groaning with food. There were no guards – save for Boyd, of course, though he was more family than guard – no other Emissaries, and no other Royals or guests with political agendas.
It was a secret, spontaneous, mishmash of a gathering held in front of the Nemeton in Stiles’ childhood home’s backyard, surrounded by his family and the people who mattered. It was with the Mother Moon bright and fat over their heads, lights from the few lamps and the tiny Fairy friends that came to spectate, and baskets of what food and drink they could sneak from the kitchens on short notice.
It was with Derek’s hand in his, and Levi, Enzo and Irish holding onto their wrinkled tunics and trousers, and their families gathered around them with excited faces.
It was with Derek’s heartfelt, shaky vows and Stiles’ stuttering, honest words.
“I want to promise you the world. I want to promise you forever. I want to promise all my riches, my crown, my throne. But I know you have never been selfish to ask for those and you will probably hit me over the head and call me ‘Your Majesty’ for even daring to try.”
Tearful laughter and childish giggles erupted all around them, but Stiles could only lift their joined hands and press his lips against Derek’s knuckles.
“What I promise you is my world and all that is in me to give – my love, my support, my understanding, and my respect. I promise you a life of wealth with an abundance of love and passion and adventure and three bothersome children who don’t know the meaning of the word ‘No.’”
“Hey, take that back! / Don’t say that, Papa! / He’s lying, Ada!” Three put out little faces looked up and them and Stiles laughed, pressing a kiss to each cheek.
Derek smiled. “I promise to love you – not for an hour, or a day, or a year, but for every moment of my life. I promise you my heart, because it is yours, has always been, and will only ever be yours.”
Stiles squeezed Derek’s hands tightly in his.
“I don’t know what I can promise,” Stiles admitted softly. “Honestly, I can’t even promise not to hurt you with how often we argue and debate. And I can’t even promise good times more than bad, because I’m the kind of person who always thinks about the next ten steps, both optimistic and bleak.” Derek smiled at that.
“But I will promise you the things I can give – I will be steady. I will be sure. I will always reach for you over my pride. I will cherish and share in everything, in your victories and your defeats, in managing our crazy families who don’t know the meaning of personal boundaries.”
Laura and Peter applauded, Cora and Cameron cheered at that, while Claudia laughed and John gave a loud whistle.
“I will share bedtime stories and bathroom duties and tying Irish’s hair and making sure Enzo eats his vegetables and making sure Levi doesn’t break all the mirrors in the castle.”
The three children giggled.
“I will carry you and let myself be carried by you, to live a life of adventures together. I will share in your dreams and hopes, and as you carry the weight of the kingdom on your shoulders, I vow to always stand shoulder to shoulder with you.” Stiles grinned through teary eyes. “No matter where life leads me, I know that as long as you are there, that is where I am meant to be.”
Peter cleared his throat, sniffing very obviously. “Well, those aren’t at all sweet sentiments.”
“I think it’s all so romantic,” Claudia said, wiping her tears with a cloth.
John cleared his throat. He placed a hand on his chest. He smiled.
“By the Grace of the Mother Moon and the Blessings of all those who came before… It is with the greatest honor and happiness, that I hereby declare thee – Derek James Hale and Genim Mieczyslaw Stilinski – I declare thee fathers and husbands.”
Cheers erupted all around as Stiles was immediately swept up in Derek’s arms and kissed with much love and passion and joy. Stiles wrapped his arms around Derek and kissed back, relieved and happy and thankful.
Stiles sometimes contemplated his life.
At the age of twenty-three, Stiles first met His Royal Highness Derek Hale and became a candidate to be a Royal Emissary.
At the age of twenty-seven, he was inducted into the Council of Royal Emissaries to the King.
At the age of twenty-nine, he was frequently called upon to look after said King and his three newly-adopted, adorable, trouble-making children.
Now he was thirty-two. He had fought a war, lost his eye, and almost lost his Spark, but he had gone from Lord to Emissary to the King’s Intended, and now the King’s Anchor and his children’s Ada.
And Stiles finally understood that he was never meant for anything else.