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I Know What a Prince and Lover Ought To Be

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The VIP room of Club Eichen was surrounded by white gossamer curtains that were lit from the floor, streaking them in shades of violet and azure. Thick black leather couches wrapped around the space, wide flat tables of the same dark shade were covered in glasses—some empty, some half full—napkins and crumb covered saucers from h'ors d'oeuvres, ice buckets holding Dom Perignon with drained bottles around it. Music from the main club area was played at a lower volume through the hidden speakers, something thumping, bouncy enough to dance to but slow enough to grind up against your partner of choice. Bodies were strewn about the place, some regulars, some who'd been invited by those who needed their egos stroked—among other body parts—and all the conversations, laughter, and boasting melding together into one loud cacophony that was hard to decipher and thankfully kept within the room thanks to the closed door.

Prince Derek Theodore Anthony William Hale sat back in one corner of the large semi-circular couch, frown pulling down his brow, squat glass of Jim Beam and Coke held on one leather covered knee. He should've gotten the bourbon straight up, the carbonation and bubbles of the cola making it harder to chug. Which wasn't the cause of his glower but certainly added to it.

Ordinarily he'd join in the conversations. He'd exchange witty barbs with Erica Reyes, heiress of the Reyes fortune, whose family owned a chain of high end resorts around the world. He'd talk sports with Vernon Boyd—just Boyd as he preferred—Prince Derek's personal bodyguard and the only one capable of wrangling the loud blonde celebutante. He'd make remarks at his cousin Malia as she flirted with their usual VIP waitress, telling them to get a room and laughing loudly at the glare from her and the flush on Kira's face. He'd argue with Jackson Whittemore, son of a billionaire who believed himself to be more important than he was, trying in vain to knock the douche down a few pegs.

Not that night.

Really, he should've stayed in his suite at the castle getting drunk for all the fun and sociability he was, but he needed out of that place, out the centuries old brick and mortar with its baroque eaves and French inspired columns and marble imported from wherever that was feeling a little too much like a prison. He'd gotten yet another reminder that as royalty, he had no say in his own future, his own life. The fact that he was also an Alpha and that stereotypically they had more power and influence meant absolutely nothing there, except to make him all the more appealing as a... a trade chip? A bartering tool? A pawn used to broker a peace treaty?

Fuck, he didn't know exactly what he was, other than someone's damn fiancé now. He honestly thought that shit only happened back in medieval times when one kingdom needed an heir and the other needed an army or supplies or whatever. He didn't think it still took place in the modern era, where women could become the ruling monarch and Omegas were seen as more than just a breeding vessel for the next Alpha to run the country.

Except apparently the Omega he was set to Mate—and goddamn did he hate that phrase—their kingdom wasn't quite as old fashioned. Omegas could rule just as Alphas could, but the current heir to the throne was an only child and in order to keep things within the direct lineage, they needed to get Mated and bred so there could be a next generation in their family to take over.

And apparently Derek was the Alphan Prince for the job of helping produce said next generation.

Fuck his life.

He'd somewhat known about this arranged Mating since he was a kid, had a vague memory of meeting a baby swaddled in royal blue and silver—the country's colors—and being told this was his future Omega bride but he'd be damned if he could remember any of the details—like their primary gender identity for starters, but being pansexual, that didn't really bother him beyond being curious over details like that. Then again, he'd been about five so it wasn't like he could recall a whole lot about that time in his life.

Point was, he'd mostly forgotten about it, and when he did have a vague, fuzzy memory about it, he didn't really think it was serious or that he'd be forced to follow through. After all, that was over two decades ago. Times had changed. Things like arranged Matings had been phased even further out. Even his older sister, the Crowned Princess and future ruler, had been allowed to Mate who she'd wanted and loved. Seemed even more unfair that he wasn't granted the same freedom.

Honestly, being second born and "The Spare", he should've had more leeway since there was less expectations placed on him. Apparently not.

And now he'd been reminded earlier that day that he was, in fact, technically engaged and that his wedding would be taking place in roughly a year and that he'd be meeting—or re-meeting, more accurately—his fiancé(e) in a few months when they hosted the royal family.

Derek honestly felt like a death row inmate who'd just been told his execution date.

Glancing around the VIP room, Derek caught sight of Erica and Boyd making out, Malia wrapped up in Kira whom she'd managed to coax into her lap, Jackson with a gold digger in training on either arm as he sprawled out and bragged, Jackson's best friend Danny flirting with some guy and his hanger-on Theo working on the scantily clad women Jackson had rejected. There were others of course, people hoping to bask in the glory of the rich and infamous, become best friends so they can take advantage of the perks.

Derek was alone. Figuratively. Possibly literally, too, as he noted how no one was paying him any attention. Then again, he'd been ignoring people all night, only speaking when placing his order, his resting grump face warning people off even when he was in the best of moods. Still... part of him wished he had someone he could rant to, someone who could relate and would understand what he was going through. Even Theo as the son of a duke or some such bullshit wouldn't fully get it, able to Mate whatever bimbo or himbo he chose. Hell, even Derek's own siblings wouldn't be able to relate. He was utterly alone.

Shit.

Tilting his glass up, he drained what was left in it, the ice clinking as he struggled to get every last drop. Not nearly enough. He was buzzed, not drunk, and he honestly wanted to be shit-faced. He'd always been the well-behaved child, avoiding the front page of gossip rags and websites with pictures or headlines detailing his latest affair, party, drama, or antic that any other young person out there usually participated in with less attention drawn to it. He'd kept his head down—sometimes quite literally, baseball cap pulled low over his head so the paparazzi that seemed to always be there couldn't get a good shot—studied hard, did as he was told, set a good example as he acted as the perfect representative of his country, his lineage, and the crown.

And as his reward, he was being Mated off to some stranger.

Beyond unfair.

So in retaliation, he was letting himself have one night of stupidity where he drank too much and woke up somewhere he didn't remember going to, possibly with a hangover.

Although hangovers with bourbon weren't all that bad. At least that's what he'd heard. He'd never drunk to that level before.

First time for everything, Derek figured, leaning forward to put his glass on the table before him. Getting a refill would definitely help.

Rising to his feet, he made his way around the table, drawing the attention of Boyd and Kira, both of whom he waved off. He needed to get out this room full of people who unintentionally reminded him of his current situation and status. Getting lost in the throng of civilians in the main room of the club sounded weirdly appealing.

So he didn't need the VIP hostess to fetch him anything or the bodyguard to follow his every move. He wanted to blend in and pretend he was normal—or at least pretend as though he could pretend to be normal—and he didn't need either Kira or Boyd shattering that illusion for him.

Ignoring the disapproving looks coming from both of them, Derek exited the VIP room, stepping out onto the landing and over to the metal railing to take in the rest of the club. The walls were painted black, same as all the furniture, floors, ceilings, the mezzanine where the DJ was stationed. But neon lights brightened the place up, bright violets and pinks, lining the metal spiral stairs that led to where he was, another set leading presumably to offices. The neon also lined the bar counters, the DJ's table, the landing he was currently standing on. Streaks of bright colors shone down from the ceiling, flashing over writhing bodies on the dance floor, over drunken fools crowding the bar for more alcohol, over wallflowers sticking to their tables and stools.

Ordinarily this wasn't Derek's scene, but considering what his usual habits and behaviors had gotten him, he was ready to say “fuck it” to his usual haunts. Hence him being dragged here by Erica's whims, followed by the usual hanger-ons hoping to get their own indulgences on his name.

Staring down at the faceless crowd below, Derek wondered what it would be like to just be anonymous, another body in the mass, another random person looking to lose their inhibitions on a Friday night. He wondered what it would be like to make a decision for himself for once, to be able to let go the way those moving to the music were, the way those throwing back shots without cares were. Sure, being born royal afforded him a lot of advantages. He didn't have to worry about money—even if things weren't being handed to him for free solely because of who his family was—or getting a job. He didn't have to settle for a subpar education or lose out on his top choice of university—although in his own defense, he did in fact study his ass off and had the grades to get in on his own accord. He didn't have to worry about where to live or what to eat or any other trivialities that most folks fretted over.

He did, however, have to worry about the invasion of his privacy and the motives of those around him and the path that had been laid out for him. Sure he could have his choice of designer suits and expensive cars and high end restaurants, but he didn't get to decide on his own goddamn Mating, who he would be spending the rest of his life with.

Shit. He really needed that damn drink.

With a heavy sigh, he headed down the landing, down the stairs, the throng of people already pressing in close. Walking around them would take as much time as trying to fight his way through and with a mental “fuck it”, he went with the latter, winding his way around writhing bodies that paid him no mind, too lost in the bass shaking through his body from the floor beneath his shoes and the beat threatening to deafen him. He didn't recognize the song, although that didn't mean a whole lot. He wasn't much for contemporary music or the radio in general, something Erica liked to make fun of him for, but it wasn't his fault that the pinnacle of good music took place in the 1980s and nothing worthy had been produced since.

The bar was densely populated and Derek searched to find a less tightly packed space he could squeeze into, only...only for his eyes to freeze on one particular patron. He could only see the man's profile, a sharp upturned nose and strong jawline and teeth sinking into a tempting bottom lip. His hair was dark though it was hard to tell what color, styled in a similar fashion to Derek's, eyes seeming dark as well. Bright pinks, purples, and blues played off his skin, shone in his eyes, and Derek wondered if all those clichés about lights shining down from Heaven had been wrong, that it wasn't a white clear light but shades of neon because...because this certainly seemed like a gift. And in that moment, Derek was feeling greedy and bratty enough to decide he fucking deserved a present like this.

Without a single conscious thought, he moved forward, moved towards this man, taking in everything he could. His t-shirt was white, simple, black hem at the color and sleeves. Moles dotted his cheeks, jawline, neck, arms, probably even more of his body. He was leaning on the counter so it was hard to tell his height, but he was lean, long, and Derek wondered how he'd feel pressed against his broader frame.

He made his way behind the stranger, a tantalizing scent hitting him out of nowhere. It was like his favorite bourbon mixed with the pancakes his favorite chef makes every Sunday, drenched in maple syrup for a sweet tooth that never seemed to be satisfied. And Derek found himself suddenly ravenous, saliva pooling in his mouth as his teeth ached to sink into the flesh of this man...this Omega he realized now he was close enough, that distinct sweetness to his scent giving it away.

The Omega seemed to freeze, to tighten up, and Derek wondered if he'd been noticed as well, if the scent of Alpha had hit him. He knew his own scent held a stronger note of his dynamic thanks to royal blood, generations of strong Alphas breeding with generations of strong Omegas to create the perfect rulers. Archaic, yes, but it was just how things worked in his world, for better or worse.

Worse really, he mentally noted, remembering his own current situation.

Which promptly flew from his head the second the Omega before him turned and straightened up, nostrils flaring and eyes widening. But not in recognition, no. This was something else, something more like...arousal, the Omega's scent blossoming and growing stronger, his eyes flashing gold, his head subconsciously tilting just enough in submission and to put his scent gland on display. Tempting, so very very tempting, and if Derek hadn't suffered through years of etiquette lessons teaching him how to behave as both a royal and an Alpha, he'd haul the Omega in close and bury his nose right in his neck, inhaling nothing but that maple bourbon scent he was putting out, sink his teeth into that gland so all he encountered knew not to touch.

Hell, even with those stupid lessons taught by that old bitty who stank of cabbage no matter what, Derek was finding it hard to stay in place, hands shaking to reach out and touch, jaw grinding to keep his teeth to himself. The Omega's tongue darting out to lick his bottom lip didn't help and Derek found his eyes locked onto the movement, imagining that wet muscle on his own lip, his own body, wrapped around his cock or his knot or both. He imagined his own tongue tasting the Omega all over, grooming like cave-people days, marking, eating him out and taking in that scent where it was strongest: his groin, his hole, his cock.

And just like that he was hard as a damn diamond in his jeans, hips jerking minutely, like a divining rod pointing to where it wanted to be.

But there was an etiquette to all of this, a ritual, and even if Derek's romantic history was severely lacking in anything close to success—save for maybe the puppy love he'd experienced as a teen with Lady Paige, who'd eventually left for a music conservatory and Mated a civilian she'd met there—he still knew not to try and mount this Omega in public, regardless of his own social status. God knew what his mother would do to him were that to hit the public.

Hating himself, Derek thought of what Theo or Jackson would do in this situation, deciding it wouldn't hurt to take cues from their habits as a jumping off point. So he let a smile form on his face, friendly, engaging, feeling slightly less false than the ones he was forced to put on when making public appearances. He leaned closer to be heard, the Omega inhaling sharply at the proximity, at Derek right by his ear, that sweet scent of his growing stronger once more.

“Buy you a drink?” He pulled back to see a slightly dazed expression on the Omega's face, his mouth hanging open and head nodding almost dumbly, like he wasn't even aware of it. But then he shut his lips together and his adam's apple bobbed as he swallowed.

“Please.”

Derek's grin grew, became more genuine, and he squeezed in between the Omega and whatever random Beta was next to him. His heart felt light, pounding away, mind racing and barely aware of the fact that he'd raised his hand to get the bartender's attention. The Omega was right up against him, pressed in close due to all the bodies trying their best to be at the front, to get served next. His side was warm where it lay along Derek's front, his fingers tangling on the bartop, long and lean, head fixed straight ahead but his eyes kept darting to peek at the Alpha out the corner. Derek gave in to temptation, putting his hand on the Omega's lower back and relishing the shiver it elicited against him, cock throbbing against the Omega's hip.

The Omega finally turned, meeting Derek's eyes, his sharp features painted in shades of violet. Purple suited him, Derek thought, the royal colors of his family, and he wanted nothing more than to see this Omega dressed up in the shades of eggplant and amethyst and indigo that decorated the palace. He'd be beautiful in it, with Derek's large ring—the one declaring his status as a royal, the one he'd left at home that night—on his delicate finger.

The bartender broke the spell by approaching, the Omega ordering some vodka thing, Derek requesting a bourbon straight up. The Omega watched the man in all black leave to fulfill their order, turning back to Derek and extending his right hand.

“Stiles,” he stated and it took the Alpha a moment to realize it was his name, that he was introducing himself. He'd gotten so used to someone informing him of who everyone was, of being greeted with bows and curtseys, that he'd forgotten how regular every day people did this very thing. Not to mention it was an unusual name.

Then Derek realized he'd have to introduce himself as well. So far this Omega didn't seem to recognize him or know who he was and he was sure the dim lighting of the club helped with that. Giving his name, however, would possibly change that, especially if the Omega were to get curious and look him up.

He was probably being paranoid but being paranoid also meant being safe. So he slipped his wider hand into the Omega's, into Stiles' more slender one and smiled through a lie that came way too easily.

“Eric,” he fibbed, figuring it was close enough to his real name that should it be called, he'd still manage to respond.

“Nice to meet you, Eric.” Stiles grinned, eyes crinkling with it, and Derek fought to keep his own in place, the Alpha part of him hating the fact that this Omega he was admittedly attracted to was calling out some other man's name.

But the feel of Stiles' skin on his own sent a buzzing through his arm and the sound of his strange accent struck his soul and the scent of him made his head feel clear and foggy all at once. Derek knew there was no letting go of this Omega, that he'd fight for him, to keep him close.

Their drinks arrived, Stiles' some blue concoction with an orange slice garnishing it and a tiny straw. The bartender gave Derek a nod, recognizing him but saying nothing and the Alpha returned the gesture in thanks before turning to Stiles, who was taking a sip to taste test and ignoring the exchange.

“Wanna go somewhere and talk?” Stiles suggested and the smile that came to Derek's face was easy and relieved, eyes locked on to the dark ones of the Omega.

“Was just about to ask you the same thing.”

Stiles grinned wide and led the way, Derek keeping a hand on his lower back as protection and to keep track of him. They avoided the crowd, stuck to the side of the dance floor, made their way to a back corner booth. The two sat close together, turned to one another, leaning into one another's space as they spoke. Turned out Stiles was visiting the country with a group of friends, all of whom were paired up and off making out in various areas of the club they'd dragged him out to. Derek could relate, sharing that his own crowd were off doing the same in another part, leaving out the fact that they were in the VIP room. Stiles had no idea who he was, it was obvious, and he was gonna ride this wave of anonymity for as far as it went. He was enjoying the ability to sink into a conversation with someone without questioning their motives, wondering why they were talking to him, why they were asking what he did for a living and if he could recommend any cool places to visit in the city and giving just as much information about themselves.

Sure, Derek had to lie a few times, or at the very least omit a lot of stuff. He did in fact work with charities so saying he worked with non-profits wasn't a lie. He kept his recommendations to things he knew were cheaper and more affordable for a recent college grad—which Stiles apparently was, hence the celebratory trip with his friends—and didn't share what his family members did, only that they ran a business that had been founded generations ago. He was, however, honest when he shared that the palace tour was totally overrated and not worth the long lines. He lied when it came to any knowledge of the royal family, though, stating he didn't really follow that sort of thing that close.

It helped that Stiles said he was the same with his own country's ruling monarchy, rolling his eyes at royalty in general and going off on a long rant about how outdated the whole thing was and what was the point when they had elected government officials anyway. Derek found himself joining in, able to rid himself of his own issues with the whole system without giving away too much detail that would make it obvious he had first hand experience with all of it.

They talked until their drinks ran out, bodies moving closer together as time wore on and the alcohol loosened them up. It wasn't long before Derek found himself with Stiles' leg draped over his lap and his own hand on a very nice thigh, his other arm wrapped around slender shoulders. It was too easy to lean in close and breathe in Stiles' scent right from his lean neck, the Omega tilting his head back to give him more access, his sentences getting slower and more slurred. But it wasn't the drinks that made him that way, but the sexual tension Derek was feeling as well, the scent of Stiles thick and heady, sweet and sharp with arousal. His hand moved up to cup the Omega's groin and Stiles let out a groan that Derek could hear over the thump of the bass and the pounding of his heart, Stiles' head falling completely back onto the seat.

The hard bulge beneath his hand pulsed and Derek pressed against it, rubbing with the heel of his palm as he tried to cup lower, fingers pressing into the Omega's perineum and making him whine. Stiles' hips began to roll, silently asking for more, and Derek was weak to give it, lapping at Stiles' scent gland where it had swelled up. A hand clutched at his hair, tugging and pressing, like it couldn't decide between needing to grip onto something or holding Derek closer. Another pressed against his own, creating more friction against the trapped cock buried beneath dark jeans, making the Omega pant and whine, making him smell so goddamn good that Derek was literally drooling onto the white cotton of his tee.

Dragging his mouth up, Derek nipped at Stiles' earlobe, lapped at it in apology, then rumbled right into the shell of it. “You have no idea how bad I wanna fuck you.”

“Please,” Stiles whined, that accent of his more pronounced, and Derek felt his own dick jerk, precome leaking out to soak his briefs, knot pulsing below the surface.

Stiles hand moved to his own zipper but Derek still had enough cognizant thought to stop him, ignoring the protesting whimper he received. Not here. Here was too public. Here anyone could see them, could see Stiles in a compromising position, and the possessive part of Derek refused to allow anyone to see any part of this Omega like that.

Swallowing hard, he tangled their fingers together, held them aside, and fought to ignore the way Stiles' hips were still rolling in need, in demand. “I have a place not too far from here. We could walk if we wanted.” He lifted his head after the suggestion, met Stiles' half-lidded eyes, let him know it was up to him. They could leave things as they were or they could continue this elsewhere.

Stiles didn't even hesitate to nod, already sliding out of the circular booth and damn near dragging Derek along in his haste. Not that Derek cared. He'd follow this Omega to Hell and back and not complain once.

Something nagged the back of his head but Derek ignored it, choosing instead to lead Stiles out the side door by their joined hands, slipping down an alleyway then racing off in the direction they needed to go.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Oak Creek Tower was a high-rise located in what would be considered downtown, comprised by condos all occupied by folks of varying ages and careers but all valued privacy and discretion as possessing net worths of at least eight figures. Derek owned the penthouse suite under a false name more creative than the “Eric” moniker he'd given Stiles and while members of the staff recognized him, all had signed NDAs in order to work there, meaning none could ever say anything, further meaning absolutely no one knew Derek kept a place here. Not even his family was aware of his escape home, Derek knowing it would defeat the purpose of having a hideaway if they were able to easily find him there.

He barely remembered the journey through the maze of alleyways in order to get to Oak Creek Tower. Not that it mattered, not when the only thing he could think about was what was gonna happen when he and Stiles arrived at his apartment. Reaching the building, he watched as Stiles' eyes widened and his jaw dropped at the sight, gaping as they used the service entrance that Derek frequently took. Yes, the front had security and would be faster but he couldn't chance anyone on the street recognizing him, of being caught by some paparazzo out and about in the hopes of getting a shot of someone rich and/or famous stumbling home drunk or hooking up with someone they weren't actually in a relationship with. No, word of this could never get back to his family, especially not his mother, especially after that morning's meeting regarding his future Mating.

Or rather, the meeting that had taken place the previous day, considering it was now close to one am. Yeah, Derek sneaking into an apartment building with a random tourist when he was technically engaged to someone else would not go over well.

But luckily for him, the hallways were secluded and sneaking into an elevator was a non-issue. He used his key in the elevator cart, inserting it into the appropriate slot below all the numbered buttons, Stiles' still gaping at the luxury and pretentiousness of the building. He didn't comment though, no questioning Derek about how a man who supposedly worked for a non-profit could afford to live in a place like this, much less in the penthouse apartment, and Derek found himself eternally grateful he didn't have to come up with any sort of lie. Maybe he could just claim he was a trust fund brat who balanced his obscene wealth by helping those in need—which was somewhat close to the truth—but he'd once again be faced with the worry that Stiles was only interested in him for his money or status.

No, it was better to keep his mouth shut.

The elevator opened up into his apartment and Stiles stepped out with a whistle, looking around, Derek following. The condo was sparsely decorated, Derek always more of a minimalist than anything else, not to mention this wasn't really a place for living but rather for escaping palatial life. There was no brocade or filigree or paintings of ancestors, antiques from centuries gone by, shit that made it feel more like a museum than a home. No, this place was bright and airy, more modern with sharp angles and clean lines. White walls and carpets, chrome fixtures, black furniture. Open concept with a large kitchen he never used, an entertainment center he frequently used, a pool table he challenged himself on or played against Boyd with, the bodyguard the only person who knew this place existed.

Stiles spun around, taking in the recessed lighting, the glass railing of the spiral staircase that lead upstairs, marble counters and six-burner range of the stove. When he paused, it was to look at Derek, the brighter lighting of the condo allowing the Alpha to truly get a good look at him. Stiles' skin was paler than Derek had imagined, a shade or two above “milky”, making those moles stand out even more starkly. His eyes weren't as dark but rather a warm brown that reminded Derek of the bourbon he'd been imbibing that evening, that he'd wanted to get drunk on and the Alpha had the cheesy thought of wanting to get wasted on this Omega instead, closing the distance between them in long strides.

A sharp inhale was all Stiles did, standing his ground and meeting the impact of the broader male as Derek practically grabbed his face and crashed their mouths together. Derek had the absent thought that maybe he should be more gentle, should take it easier, but the Alphan part of him wanted to stake its claim, to thoroughly ravage and let the Omega—and everyone else know—who he belonged to. And it wasn't as though Stiles was complaining or fighting him off or trying to slow things down, meeting the ferocity of Derek's kiss with a fierceness of his own.

Nimble fingers immediately set to work on Derek's buttondown, parting it down the middle then shoving it down past his shoulders. The Alpha worked it off to the best of his ability while trying not to part his mouth from Stiles', hands roaming his torso, the kiss ending when they reached his abdomen so Stiles could look at what he'd been touching.

The Omega said something in his native tongue that from the sound of it was a swear, his scent growing strong with arousal, and Derek puffed his chest up in pride, grinning at the fact that this Omega so clearly approved of how he looked. Not wanting to be outdone, he hefted Stiles' shirt over his head, Stiles' eyes still fixed on his torso, fingers trying to map him out. Derek took advantage of his distraction and attached his mouth to the Omega's scent gland, sucking hard and groaning as his mouth filled with the taste of his maple bourbon scent. His eyes rolled to the back of his head as his knees went weak and he damn near came from it, cock throbbing and hips jerking to meet with Stiles' and the hard bulge he was still sporting as well.

“Touch me,” Stiles demanded breathlessly and Derek didn't hesitate to do just that, undoing the other man's belt, his pants, shoving them and his boxers down in one swift push. His hands immediately went to grab his ass, two perfect globes that filled his palms, Stiles' slender ones taking hold of Derek's face and directing him into another hungry kiss. Tongues tangled, the sharp taste of vodka buzzing in his mouth, soon overwhelmed by that of Stiles' himself. Shoes were somehow kicked off, Derek led them somewhere blindly, pausing when Stiles bumped into the back of the couch, and he flipped the Omega around, pushed on his shoulders, Stiles willingly draping himself over the furniture.

Derek dropped to his knees faster than he had ever done anything in his life, worshipful and greedy and needy. Stiles was trembling, panting, whining, his inner-thighs glistening and his scent a goddamn tractor beam that lured the Alpha where he most wanted to go. Gripping his ass once more, Derek spread Stiles' cheeks then dove in without pause, making the Omega cry out, voice echoing in the large space. His taste exploded on his tongue, Derek growling as his cock pulsed angrily and he had to reach down to grip himself to make sure he didn't shot inside the cotton of his briefs.

Fuck, this was amazing, so fucking good, the best thing he'd ever had in his mouth. And he'd had the absolute best his entire life, gourmet cuisine and five star restaurants and Michelin rated chefs and the best of the best of the best no matter where he went. Even growing up, the palace cooks were all experts in their fields, all trained at top culinary schools.

None of it compared to the taste of Stiles though and Derek grew greedy for it, ravenous once more. His tongue plunged into the Omega's hole and Stiles went limp, rim loose and welcoming as Derek lapped up everything he could. He used his fingers to spread him further, to get easier access, to get more of it on his tongue and down his throat. He wanted to fill his stomach with this Omega, wanted to feast on him the rest of his life, wanted to know only the taste of him and nothing else for all of his existence.

God, please, let him just have this.

Stiles certainly seemed to be amenable to that plan, reaching back to hold Derek in place, his other hand clawing at the couch as he panted and keened. He swore in English and his own language, rocked his hips back to get more of it, arched his spine in perfect presentation. His scent only grew stronger as his passage grew wetter, feeding Derek more of what he wanted, as sweat coated his skin. He was shaking and shivering and crying out demands for more, demands for stopping, demands to never stop, demands to make him come, please make him come, oh god make him come he was so close so close soclosedontstopalmostthere...

With a quick flip, Derek had Stiles facing him, ignoring the confused and protesting whine that came out in favor of lifting one of Stiles' legs and placing his foot on a broad shoulder. Stiles gripped at the couch as Derek slid two fingers on each hand into his hole, causing his knees to buckle, then the Alpha swallowed his cock straight down. Precome coated his tongue, the taste of sweat and need and Omega and Stiles and now the sound of him crying out and moaning, swearing, muttering nonsense Derek couldn't understand regardless of the language. His hips rocked and Derek had to free his own dick, had to wrap his hand around the base in a tight circle to stave anything off as Stiles...as Stiles... as Stiles yelled out one last time, a litany of swears as his cock pulsed. Derek had just enough time to pull back to the head so he wouldn't choke as he let Stiles flood his mouth, swallowing it all down. He wasn't allowing any single drop of anything Stiles made go to waste, groaning at the taste of him as his come thickly slid down his throat, his own hips thrusting up in need and impatience.

Fingers pulled at his hair, yanked, and Derek let himself be pulled away only when he was sure Stiles was empty. Hungry eyes met his and he was pulled up to his feet, teeth clashing as their mouths ate at one another. Stiles shoved down Derek's pants, the leg that had fallen from his shoulder now wrapping around his waist as the Omega took hold of the Alpha's cock and lined it up.

“Fuck me,” he demanded, breathless and wanton, and Derek couldn't deny him anything on the best of days. “Fuck me, fuck me, fuuuuu—” His last word was stretched into a scream as Derek breached him in one hard thrust, completely engulfed in wet heat.

Fuck, it had never been like this, never this tight, never this perfect. Stiles clenched around him beautifully, like he was made to take it, made to take Derek, his passageway rippling around him and massaging all the right places, slick dripping out and soaking into Derek's pubic hair.

“I'm not gonna last,” Derek admitted, forehead pressed to Stiles', his hands holding onto the Omega's hips as one wrapped around the back of his neck.

“We have all night. Give it to me.”

And once more, Derek couldn't deny him, pulling back and slamming into Stiles once more. And, once more, Derek didn't hesitate, didn't pause or second guess or build up or any of that other time wasting shit. They may have had all night but chances were it would be the only night and he was gonna take full advantage, was gonna have this Omega as much as he could, was gonna fuck him and fill him and carve out his passage so deep inside that no one else could ever fit, would ever work, would ever please him like this.

Stiles began chanting out a “yes” over and over and over, head falling back, making Derek realize he'd been saying this out loud, growling out how he was gonna own this Omega and ruin him for everyone else. And Stiles was begging him for it, just as greedy and needy as Derek felt, digging his nails into Derek's neck and shoulder, leg clutching onto him as though they could somehow be pulled apart.

Never gonna happen. The apocalypse couldn't stop Derek from fucking his Omega.

It didn't take long for his knot to start forming, for Stiles to start demanding that as well, his hole clenching down every time Derek tried to pull out and bearing down whenever he pushed inside. Their lips collided in a messy kiss they tried to keep up as Derek continued to try and pound into the Omega to the best of his ability, as Stiles started stroking himself in a rapidly increasing pace, as they both careened towards the inevitable end. Soon, soon, so fucking soon, Derek practically bruising Stiles' hips and Stiles practically clawing at his back and the two of them crying out, swearing out, calling out...

Derek slammed inside one last time, his knot filling and expanding and locking him inside. Stiles worked it with inner-muscles that had the Alpha whining and groaning, and before he knew it, Derek's eyes were going wide, his spine jerking and body tensing and mouth snarling around a growl as he shot inside, as he filled his Omega up with his seed and his scent, Stiles spilling between their torsos in response and coating them both. Hips twitching and cock pulsing and balls throbbing, Derek kissed Stiles like he was oxygen deprived and the Omega was the first source of clean air he'd come across, wondering if there wasn't a deeper hidden truth to the metaphor than he realized.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Derek carried Stiles to the couch, still locked inside of him, when they'd come down from their orgasms. They lazily made out sprawled across the furniture, the Omega perfectly fitting his lap, lips moving together as though they'd done this countless times before.

They fucked again when Derek's knot was halfway deflated and Stiles was able to lift himself on and off it, getting off on the way it stretched his rim, coming again when it was full by working it against his prostate. They fucked again in the shower, after Stiles had given Derek the best blow job of his life and the Alpha decided any seed coming from him belonged in the Omega's hole, not his mouth. Then they fucked in the kitchen during a three am snack run, once more in the bath this time, then a final time in the bed, Stiles falling asleep draped over Derek, knot tucked tightly inside as they both finally passed out.

They woke up to the room lightening up, greeting the morning with yet another round, this time slower and lazy, Derek still half-asleep but too greedy to not fuck into this Omega one more time. He was addicted to the feel of him, hot and wet, squeezing perfectly around Derek's cock; to the taste of him, maple bourbon sparking on his tongue and buzzing in his brain; to the sight of him, pale skin flushed and shining with sweat, neck bared and eyes glowing gold, the bruises and marks Derek sucked and bit into his flesh; to the scent of him, sharp and sweet and tooth-aching, invading Derek's lungs with every breath, nose damn near pressed to his scent gland as he fought to memorize it for the lonely nights ahead; to the sound of him, breathless moans and sharp keens and careless cries and the way he whined out “Eric” in such a way that Derek could almost imagine a “D” at the beginning, could trick himself into believing it was his actual name.

Yeah, Stiles had managed to capture all of Derek's senses in a few hours time and Derek was so caught up in the Omega, in the little world they'd created inside of his condo, the rest of the universe entirely forgotten about. He forgot all about his role as a royal or the fiancé(e) waiting for him or that Stiles was a tourist who would be heading home at the end of the week. He was no longer Prince Derek Theodore Anthony William Hale, but just regular Derek, an Alpha totally enraptured with the Omega writhing beneath him, ready to offer up his life, his heart, his neck for a Mating mark.

But with forgetting came the harshness of reality when it came crashing in. Or rather, when it arrived in the elevator, a loud ding signaling its arrival as Stiles tried to find something for breakfast in the fridge and Derek tried to distract him by wrapping his arms around his waist from behind and nibbling on his scent gland, a move he'd quickly learned would bring the Omega to his knees in nanoseconds.

The sound of the elevator's arrival, however, had them both freezing, Stiles tensing up and his breathing stopping, his scent turning sharp with anxiety. Right. Omega in a new environment, arrival of an unknown stranger, yeah. That would make anyone nervous.

Which had Derek curling his lip back, threatening growl rumbling up from his throat as he hunched his body over Stiles' to protect him. His head turned to watch over his shoulder as the elevator doors slid open and...

And his bodyguard Boyd stepped through, eyebrow raised as he took in the scene before him.

Which...

Okay, fair.

Derek was royalty, second in line for the throne, first in line to marry some random Omega from...wherever. And now he was currently naked in the kitchen of his secret condo with...some other random Omega. One he wasn't engaged to. Shit.

Clearing his throat, Derek straightened up, moving in front of Stiles to protect him, to save his dignity, to cover him...to make sure no one else could see what only Derek was allowed to.

Right, that sounded totally possessive and obsessive and insane considering he'd known the guy less than twelve hours. And yeah, okay, they'd had amazing sex—a lot of truly amazing mindblowing hot as fuck sex—but that didn't mean anything in the long run, didn't mean anything beyond that single night, didn't mean that Derek had any sort of claim over any part of Stiles.

Unfortunately.

Wow. His heart suddenly hurt at that epiphany and he did his best to ignore it.

That task was made easier by the sharp wave of anxiety rolling off Stiles and Derek did some serious Alpha posturing in response. He made himself appear bigger, narrowed his eyes at his bodyguard, and let out a gruff "Boyd" in greeting.

Boyd in turn cocked that eyebrow further as he drew to a stop several yards away. His eyes pointedly flicked to the tuft of hair peeking over Derek's shoulder and the Alpha shook his head almost imperceptibly, not taking his own gaze off the new arrival. Having grown up together, Boyd part of a long line of royal guards, the two could perfectly interpret facial expressions and the brief flick of the bigger man's eyebrows meant Boyd wasn't about to ask any questions or make any comments.

Well. Except one.

"You guys wanna get dressed or are you just gonna let it all hang out all day?"

Derek knew his own preference, how he'd rather hang out in his hidden condo naked with an equally unclothed Stiles. However real life had come crashing in via the elevator and they unfortunately had to rejoin the world now. Meaning clothes.

Shit.

Foreign muttering was breathed against the back of Derek's neck before Stiles peek his head out and gave Boyd a wave. "Hey, hi, what's up? I'm gonna just. Grab my pants. So. Yeah." His embarrassment was astringent in Derek's nose but Boyd was decent enough to turn around to give privacy. Stiles took advantage, darting out from behind Derek and rushing around as he...

Shit. Right. They'd left their clothes scattered around the living room area.

Didn't that just add to the obviousness of what they'd gotten up to during the previous night?

Stiles raced up the stairs with his clothes in hand and when the door slammed behind him, Boyd turned to Derek with an eyebrow raised once more. Derek simply sneered and muttered at him to shut up before following his... Hook-up? Date? Soul mate?

Closed inside the bedroom, he found Stiles already half-dressed, khakis zipped and buttoned back up, as he sorted his shirt the right way out. Fuck. This was it. Stiles was gonna finished getting dressed then walk out the door and Derek was never gonna see him again.

Shit. Fuck that.

"I don't want you to go," he blurted without thinking, watching as Stiles breathed out a humorless laugh then turned to him with a sad smile.

"Don't really wanna go," Stiles admitted, even while still sorting his shirt and pulling it over his head. "Definitely need to though. My friends blew up my phone last night.”

Ah. Right. Derek's phone was probably full of missed calls and ignored texts from countless people in his own circle, having been too preoccupied with the Omega before him to care about or even remember the fact that the rest of the world existed.

Hence Boyd showing up first thing.

Hell, Derek was surprised Boyd hadn't shown up in the middle of the night. He wondered if the guard had been that preoccupied with Erica and simply lost track of time, before figuring he must've received a security alert on his phone when Derek entered the condo. Shit, he'd totally forgotten about the cameras and alarms Boyd had insisted be installed, all hooked up to his phone. Guy must've had quite a show given what Derek and Stiles had gotten up to.

The Alphan part of Derek was actually pretty proud of that. Probably some caveman trait, proof of his virility and therefore his superiority.

Fabric rustling caught his attention and Derek focused on Stiles, who now had his tee over his head and was working on shoving his arms through the sleeves. There was no hesitation in his motions but he wasn't rushing either, his face fallen and showing the reluctance he was feeling. But his friends were waiting and he probably had plans and Derek...

Derek had his own life, his own things he had to deal with. They had to say goodbye, Stiles had to meet back up with his friends and eventually go back to his own country, Derek had to return to the palace and pretend he was happy with how his life was going.

Over two decades of good behavior and this was his reward. One night of being carefree and slightly rebellious.

Although really...

Who was to say it had to be only one night?

This wasn't medieval times when the only form of communication was letters sent by horseback. They had phones, texting, calling, FaceTiming. This didn't have to be it. Really, it should be, considering the circumstances surrounding Derek's life, but he was being greedy and admittedly a little spiteful over his choices being taken away.

So with that in mind...

"Can I get your number?"

Stiles' head jerked up where he was turning his socks the right side out, eyes wide. In this light they appeared more amber, bright and sparkling, and Derek felt even more assured in his decision to try everything to keep Stiles in his life somehow someway.

The shock of his request had Stiles gaping at him, scent a rush of emotions mixing and melding so much that Derek couldn't decipher any of them. The lack of response however lead him to believe that maybe he'd asked too much, maybe he was the only one wanting something long term, something longer than one night. Sure, things had been said the night before, comments over knotting Stiles forever and being made to fit inside him and possessive growls staking claims on one another, but all of that could've just been heat of the moment stuff. It could've just slipped out while they were both too turned on to think straight and their hormones and pheromones and loud moans had them rambling nonsense that, in the light of day, no longer seemed truthful.

Which... Ouch. Because thinking back on it, Derek had meant every word, for better or worse.

So screwed. And not in the fun way of only hours before.

Because Stiles still wasn't talking and it was becoming more clear something was holding him back from agreeing.

"Unless you don't want to," Derek backtracked, wringing the back of his neck with a grimace that was meant to be an easygoing smile. "I mean, I'd like to get to know you better, but it's fine if you don't feel the same or maybe you even have someone back home. It's totally up to—"

"No."

Oh. Right. Shit.

Derek's arm fell, along with his face, and he felt naked in more way than one. Of course it had been one-sided. He was dumb to think otherwise. What redeeming qualities did he actually have when he put away the royal jewels and hid the bank account?

"Right." He chuckled awkwardly. "That's fine, I totally respect your de—"

Stiles rapidly shook his head and flailed his arms around, scent sharpening with panic. "Wait, no! I meant 'no, I don't have anyone back home'. I wouldn't have slept with you if I did, no matter how gorgeous and orgasmic you look and how mind-numbingly good you smell."

Oh.

Oh!

Oh, fuck, he was preening again, grinning wide and puffing out his chest and his cock was stirring like it hadn't spent the majority of the previous night buried inside the Omega.

"Good," he breathed out in relief. "Sooo about your number?"

Biting his lip, Stiles glanced around the room as though considering before shrugging and turning back to Derek with a smile. "Yeah. I wanna get to know you, too."

Derek rushed over, taking hold of Stiles' face and kissing him, hungry and desperate and afraid that this would wind up being the end anyway, that Stiles would leave the condo and Derek wouldn't see or hear from him again. But the way Stiles kissed back, held on to him just as fiercely... Yeah, Derek knew there was no way this was it.

A ringing interrupted them and Stiles pulled away with a exclamation in his native language that Derek was beginning to recognize. Definitely a swear, given the way the Omega glared at his phone and the ferocity with which he spat the word out, interspersed with a rant Derek couldn't translate. He made a mental note to try and learn it, knowing through experience it wouldn't take him long. Linguistics was something he excelled at, something that helped him during goodwill trips to other countries.

"I really gotta go," Stiles muttered in English this time and Derek's downturned mouth must've matched the other man's. His fingers slide across the screen before he held the phone in the Alpha's direction. "Put your number in. I'll text you so you can get mine."

Derek did as suggested, faltering when he typed his name in, belatedly realizing he was supposed to be "Eric". He also belatedly realized he hadn't given Stiles a surname and decided just to forgo it, pretend he forgot to give it should he be asked later on. He should be able to come up with something better by then. He hoped.

"Want me to call you a cab?"

Stiles shook his head from where he was seated at the end of the messy bed, adjusting his sock around his ankle. "It's fine. I told my friend Scott to meet me back at the club so I'll just walk there. I remember the route we took."

"Okay," Derek replied even though it was the furthest thing from that. Everything in him was yelling to escort Stiles everywhere, to protect and watch over the Omega. It was the Alphan thing to do, the gentlemanly thing. Only...

Only now it was bright outside and the photogs and public were more prevalent than last night, meaning his chances of being caught with this unknown random Omega were significantly higher. It would hit social media pretty much immediately, trend within the hour, and reach his mother moments later. And considering he was technically engaged...

But worse than that would be the affect all of it would have on Stiles. His privacy would be invaded, every detail of who he was splashed across the Internet, his every waking moment watched and cataloged as paparazzi began to stalk him, too. It was too much to ask of anyone, especially someone who had only been looking for a hook-up with a guy he'd been attracted to and had no idea was actually an important public figure.

Still... Letting Stiles go like that... Alone... Maybe Boyd could walk him. Or one of the guards who worked at the condo...

"You sure?"

More nodding from Stiles as he rose to his feet and took his cell from Derek, who'd totally forgotten he was even holding it. "I'll call you later," he promised lowly, pressing a kiss to Derek's cheek.

Derek's hand twitched to grab hold of Stiles and keep him there, to keep the two of them locked in that condo forever. Boyd could fetch them groceries—or hell, they had delivery apps for that now, right? They didn't need anyone when everything they could ever require was available at the touch of a button and brought right to them.

But they couldn't. And Derek was really fucking hating how often he was remembering that fact.

One last smile and Stiles was walking around Derek, walking out the room, walking out his life. Derek heard his footsteps descend the steps, awkward pseudo-small talk aimed at a silent Boyd as Stiles presumably put his shoes on, then the ding of the elevator doors opening and Stiles disappearing.

Goddamn Derek's chest hurt and he rubbed between his pecs as though it could ease the tension strangling his lungs and heart. Everything felt wrong and he had to fight to stay in place, to not chase after the Omega, to not howl like some abandoned animal left alone.

Because he wasn't alone, heavy footsteps on the stairs reminding him of that. Boyd. Right. Derek should put on some clothes.

"You should probably shower before you do anything," Boyd suggested without prompting and Derek turned to find his guard and friend standing in the open doorway, lips curved minutely in amusement. "In fact, you should just flat out drown yourself in neutralizer, otherwise your mother will immediately know what you got up to last night. You reek of that guy."

Well fuck. Mid-coitus, the idea of being covered in Stiles' scent—and vice versa—seemed like the most important thing ever, an absolute need he caved into every time. Now however, it was something that was clearly gonna get him in a shitload of trouble.

Shit.

"Mm-hmm."

Oh. He'd said that out loud.

Derek roughed his hands over his face. "You're not gonna say anything, right?"

"About my 'roommate's hook-up, who clearly has no idea who he'd fucked in multiple rooms of this condo?"

Derek narrowed his eyes. Boyd knew him too well.

"Lemme guess, you gave him a false name?"

"Eric."

Boyd cocked an eyebrow. "Your name basically, just without the 'D'."

Derek smirked. "Oh, he got the D. Several times."

Now Boyd was grimacing and turning his head skywards as he let out a long suffering sigh. "Please leave the crass jokes to Erica. You're terrible at it." He scrubbed at his face as though wiping the bad joke away and Derek just continued to grin.

Until the next comment his guard made anyway.

"Hurry up and shower. There's only so much time I can buy to cover up your one night stand."

Well...

Clearing his throat, Derek winced, looking around the room at anything that wasn't Boyd. "Yeeeaaaah, about that," he began, wringing the back of his neck.

An eyebrow raised in question, then both in surprise, then Boyd huffed a laugh through his nose and grinned in amusement. "Not one night then? Should've figured by the stench."

That was a comment Derek should've further thought about, should've looked at deeper. But instead his mind was full of whirling worries over his mother finding out, the public finding out, any and all consequences, especially those that would affect Stiles. So far they'd been lucky, had managed to avoid any prying eyes—as far as he knew, although the relaxed demeanor of Boyd meant there were no rumors or publicity—and the only person who'd found out was someone Derek literally trusted with his life.

Although...

Yes, he trusted Boyd and considered him his best friend, but the man technically worked for the palace and the monarch, meaning Derek's mother. Boyd could be coerced into telling her, could feel obligated to disclose to her out of a greater sense of loyalty.

Or maybe he was being extremely paranoid.

"You're not gonna—" he began then paused at the snort and eye roll Boyd gave in response. "Didn't think you would. I'm sure you're gonna advise me about what a terrible idea it'll be to sneak around behind my mother's back in order to keep seeing an Omega I'm not engaged to, though."

Boyd seesawed his head, arms folded casually, lips pursed like he was thinking about it. "You're obviously aware that it's a terrible idea and there's no way this will end well. However," he grinned wide, "this is the first time you've done anything even remotely rebellious and you've gone to extremes for it. You just made my job a lot more interesting."

A frown formed on Derek's face and he crossed his own arms in a more defensive manner, tipping his chin up. "So, what? I'm boring?"

Hands were raised in supplication. "I didn't say that. Also didn't say you weren't."

Well shit.

Boyd chuckled then turned to leave. "Shower. Now. And scrub hard. I'm serious when I say that you reek." With that, he exited the room, shutting the door behind himself.

Still frowning, Derek raised his arm and sniffed at himself, catching traces of Stiles' scent still clinging to his skin. His head buzzed and something inside him warmed pleasantly at the thought of wearing the Omega's scent like a tag or claim.

Shame Boyd was right about having to wash it all away.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Triskele Palace was located north of the country's capital city. Large fences surrounded the grounds, security guards constantly roamed around, and no one got through the gates without some sort of clearance, whether it be with a tourist group, delivery to the kitchen, or staff who actually worked there. The special license plates that were exclusive of the Royal Family meant that Boyd was able to pull through the service gate with only the briefest of interruptions, armed guards nodding at the sports car as it passed them by. Derek wasn't sure if they knew he was in the back, the tint on the windows quite possibly illegal, but he figured they probably recognized his personal car.

Sneaking around inside the palace walls was nothing new for Derek, who'd long since memorized secret doors and hidden passageways from a childhood full of hide and seek with his sisters and watching Laura duck out of lessons she found boring. He was able to slip into his suite without being seen, taking another shower despite having scrubbed himself nearly raw at his condo, not wanting to chance anything with his mother's super nose.

Clean and dressed in slacks and buttondown he knew his mother would approve of, he made his way downstairs to the smaller dining hall where meals usually took place when it was family only. Breakfast was already underway, judging by the sounds of silverware and chatter, as well as the scents in the air, and he sped up his steps, knowing he was in for some serious questioning.

As expected, his family was already gathered, already eating. His mother sat at the head of the long table, his dad on her right, his younger sister Cora next to him. On her left was Derek's older sister Laura, then her Mate Braeden, and surprisingly enough, his uncle Peter. Last Derek had heard, the man had been vacationing somewhere off coast of Monaco, enjoying life as "The Spare" since it allowed him to take advantage of the perks of being Royal without any of the pressure or constraints of having to rule. Derek found himself glaring at the man, suddenly incredibly pissed off with his carefree lifestyle and the fact that he was able to do what he did.

Not that Derek wanted to go gallivanting around the world, chasing the sun and some Omega in a tiny swimsuit, sowing his wild oats well into his forties. But the fact that Peter had the freedom to do so, wasn't saddled by an engagement he didn't want, wasn't about to be shipped off to some foreign country to be Mated in an archaic form of a treaty, it all made Derek even more upset and angry that he was doomed to that fate. Seemed even less fair now that he was thinking about it more, now that he was faced with how his life could have gone as second born.

Curious eyes turned to him upon Derek's entry and he shoved the green eyed monster ruling his thoughts back into its cage, schooling his features into a small semblance of a smile. He refused to give them anything more than a slight upturn, still salty over the news that his parents had broken to him the day before.

"Nice of you to join us, Derek," his mother greeted with a pointed look and he refused to take the bait, instead moving towards the place a maid was currently setting for him beside his younger sister. "Have fun last night?"

Immediately his face flushed and he found himself glad he was moving into a seated position, cloth napkin spread over his lap, able to hide any other reaction. As it was, the red in his ears could easily be explained by guilt at having unsuccessfully snuck out and going out clubbing with his friends, after having walked out in the middle of an important discussion regarding his future of course.

Whoops?

"It was fine," he replied flatly, ignoring the pinched look on her face, the nervous one on his father's as he glanced at his Mate, the cocked eyebrow from Laura and the up and down from Braeden, the amused smirk Peter wore. Instead, he focused solely on thanking the maid who set his usual breakfast in front of him: the heaping bowl of oatmeal, the side of bacon and sausage, a single banana. A second maid set a glass of fresh squeeze orange juice in the left uppermost corner then filled the coffee cup on the right one, and he expressed his gratitude towards her as well, all the while wondering who in that room knew.

Obviously his parents were aware, having brokered the deal—so to speak—then breaking the news to him. Laura had been in the room, too, continuously peeking at him out the corner of her eye as his anger climbed but otherwise silent throughout the whole thing. And if Laura knew, then so did Braeden. It was fifty-fifty on whether Cora knew but he was leaning towards her being blissfully ignorant. Even if she'd been told, chances were she hadn't looked up from her phone long enough for the words to register, currently eying the device as it sat facedown on the table per their mother's rule after Cora had been caught secretly texting during meals. Odds on Peter knowing were even as well, but him being there that morning felt like too much of a coincidence.

Which...

Derek glared at his uncle once more as he sat back in his seat, still smirking at his lone nephew. His lips were pursed as he sipped what appeared to be a mimosa, skin more tan than Derek remembered it being, hair frosted from a combination of the salon and the sun, white linen shirt unbuttoned lowered than was appropriate for his status as a royal.

But that smug look glistening in icy blue eyes had Derek's hackles rising and scent growing suspicious. Yes, Peter acted like a know-it-all practically twenty-four/seven—because Derek wouldn't put it last him to be a cocky asshole in his sleep—but this time, he seemed especially pretentious.

Meaning...

"You know," he accused, glaring across the table, and Peter flipped his free hand nonchalantly as he sipped his drink.

"I'm quite certain I have no idea what you're inferring, dear nephew," Peter quipped with a smirk and a few seats away, his own older sister sighed deeply, groaned his name in warning. And Peter just continued to smirk as he place his glass down delicately, turning an innocent look on her that fooled no one. "Oh, come now, sis. Did you really expect me to just sit here silently and not congratulate my only nephew on his upcoming nuptials?"

Derek gaped at him. Cora choked on her bagel. Laura dropped her utensils onto her plate. His father uttered a swear unbecoming of the Queen's Mate. And the Queen herself echoed it as she rubbed at her forehead in frustration. The only one without a reaction seemed to be Braeden, who simply popped a blueberry in her mouth, unaffected. Hell, even one of the maids on standby had let out a gasp, quickly shushed by someone, and with a flip of the Queen's hand, they all quickly exited the room, door closing behind them.

Not that it would do much. Derek wasn't naive enough to think that they had any true privacy in the palace, especially not in common areas such as this one and especially not when news like this was announced. It was gonna be major gossip within the castle and by the end of the hour, every single person who lived and/or worked there would know Prince Derek was off the market in a major way.

Fuck.

Peter kept smirking, scent light and amused by the reactions, and Derek fantasized about stabbing his stupid crinkled eyes out with his fork.

The asshole.

"Wait," Cora began, coughing, glass of orange juice being placed back down. "I missed something. Since when was Derek dating someone?"

Stiles' face came to Derek's mind but he quickly shoved it away before he remembered the more X-rated expressions it had worn, before his scent shifted and his family caught on. Instead he focused on who he was technically engaged to, brow pulling down into a deep scowl.

"I'm not." He wasn't sure if it was a lie, since he and Stiles hadn't really established anything beyond an exchange of numbers and a mutual desire to get to know one better. He supposed maybe it was the truth.

Cora frowned in confusion, head titled to the side as she stared at him, brown eyes roaming his face like she could find the answers she wanted written on there. "But you're engaged?"

"Allegedly."

Another maternal sigh and now she was rubbing at her temples, elbows on the table as she clearly ignored every etiquette lesson she'd ever had. "Not 'allegedly', Derek. You are officially engaged, have been practically since birth. You've known this the entire time. Our talk yesterday was a reminder of your status and to inform you that your Mating was taking place soon."

Derek rolled his eyes and snorted, a loud, ugly, obnoxious thing that set off all kinds of warnings in his head, reminding him he was being rude to his mom, his Alpha, his Queen, a ruler over him on three levels. But his current salt levels rivaled the Dead Sea and he no longer cared about being respectful to people who couldn't offer him the same in return. "So glad to know that I've had no say so in my life since the moment you gave it to me. Fabulous."

His mother glared and growled his name in warning, causing his two sisters and the one in-law to slightly sink down in their seats, his father looking torn between calming his Mate and chastising his wife, and his uncle to grin manically, feasting on good drama the way he did caviar, Bellinis, and barely legal Omegas.

"I gotta wonder though," Derek continued, ignoring the small voice in his head telling him to shut up, ignoring the dangerous note in his mother's scent. "What was the point of forcing me to take all those lessons growing up if I was doomed to a life of being a trophy Alpha to some foreign Omega ruler I don't even know? Then again, I guess it'll make them look better, right? Definitely makes you look good. You can hand me over and brag about how well-educated and well-raised I am and what a fantastic showpiece I make to stand beside them at galas and diplomatic visitations. Don't have to worry about me embarrassing them at the big state dinner, right? I know which fork to use, how to kiss ass in six languages, and how to tie a Windsor knot, not to mention the good genes I bring to whatever pup we'll be expected to breed. Ah yes, you shaped me into a real fine jewel to add to their collection. Thanks for that, Mother. It'll keep me warm for the rest of my days as I live out a life I had no say in with a Mate I didn't get to choose."

Silence.

Complete, utter silence.

Cora was pressing her lips together as though hiding a smirk at her brother's sass while Peter was outright chuckling and saluting him with what was left in his mimosa. Braeden and Laura were exchanging awkward glances as though they had no idea how to react and his dad was watching his Mate, ignored as she chose instead to glare fire at her only son, eyes bright Alpha crimson.

But she quickly composed herself, closing her eyes and taking several deep breaths, clearing her throat. Looking at Derek once more, her eyes were their usual hazel, her features flat, and her scent emotionless. Not even a single hair was out of place as she sat up perfectly straight, the cool professional Queen once again.

"I'm going to pretend you didn't say any of that to me," she stated flatly, lifting her teacup—pinky out, of course—and sipping delicately.

Derek repeated his previous snort and eye roll combo. "Of course you are. Because God forbid you actually think about your son as a human being rather than a bartering piece or take into account his feelings regarding the suffocating control you have over his life." Rising to his feet, he slammed his napkin onto the table and stormed out, ignoring his name as it was called out.

He didn't stop until he was back in his suite, with the painted blue walls and gold filigree and brocade curtains, antique four poster bed and matching armoire, oriental rug and all the other fancy, old, expensive shit his room had already been decorated with when he'd moved in. He couldn't even decide his own damn linens, stuck with some satiny duvet and five thousand pillows he didn't use.

Another reason why he had the condo. It was the one time he got to pick something for himself, choose his own surroundings. Hell, even when he went out with his friends it was always whatever club or bar or latest hotspot they wanted to go to. Even going out period tended not to be his decision. The only time he actually chose to do so was the night before and it was only because he was feeling claustrophobic within the gargantuan dimensions of the palace.

The fact that going out had allowed him to meet Stiles was either proof that good things happen when he's allowed to think for himself, or that he was being punished for doing so by being given someone so perfect for him while knowing he couldn't keep him.

Fuck that. They'd have to pry Stiles from his cold, dead hands. He was ready to pull a Romeo and Juliet and off himself.

Or not. That seemed overdramatic.

Fake his death could be an option. Maybe some plastic surgery to change his appearance while he disappeared. Maybe he'd even grow a beard, a fully bushy one like he'd always wanted.

His phone vibrated on the pansy night table that didn't suit him in the slightest and he rushed over before the device fell onto the floor. Looking at the screen, Derek caught sight of a new text alert from an unknown number and he cocked an eyebrow at it before his heart began racing at the message itself.

'It's Stiles. Made it to hotel. Thought I'd let ya know :)'

A smile formed on his face and Derek felt some of the tension leak from his shoulders. Knowing the Omega was safe and sound definitely helped him feel a whole lot better about his world and he realized that faking his own death to be with this guy wasn't an overdramatic as he'd thought it was.

Maybe a little soon but...

No. Laura had said she'd fallen for Braeden at first sight at a charity event they'd both attended. And his mother had always told all three kids that she'd known their father was the one when he'd asked her to dance the first time when they met at the annual Triskele Palace Christmas Gala. Derek's own thoughts regarding how important a person Stiles was to him were highly likely to be just as accurate as those same thoughts by his family members regarding their own Mates.

Not that Stiles was Derek's Mate.

He wanted to add a "yet" to that thought but honestly wasn't sure he could. And not just because of an uncertainty of Stiles' feelings towards him or his stance on getting Mated.

Fuck.

Sinking onto the edge of his bed, Derek unlocked his phone and quickly added the new number to his contacts, resisting the urge to add some cheesy emoji lest he give anything away. Rather than letting himself think about the murkiness in his future, he focused on the warm fuzzy feeling blooming in his chest at having Stiles' number, at knowing he was okay, at remembering the sound of his voice and how he threw his head back when he laughed and how his eyes crinkled when he smiled. Derek's heart began pounding in his chest and the Alpha part of him wanted to be next to the Omega, holding him close and breathing in that intoxicating scent of his.

He settled for the next best thing and sent him a reply text.

'Glad to hear. What do you guys have planned for the day?'

The 'read' notification popped up immediately, as though Stiles was sitting there with the text thread open, waiting for Derek's response, and Derek smiled widely, picturing it in his head. Stiles gnawing on the side of his thumb, fiddling with his hair, staring over the screen, tapping it when it threatened to lock on him. He imagined Stiles jolting in surprise when the new message came through, or maybe he noticed the bouncing dots the way Derek currently was, his own heart racing and grin growing and stomach fluttering as he waited.

And waited.

And waited.

Damn was stiles writing a novel?

'I think we're having a cultural day, as Lydia called it. Couple of museums, buncha boring shit.'

Okay. Not that long. Maybe there was a bunch of typos or his autocorrect kept fighting him the way Derek's did to him.

Derek thought of his own day, realizing he hadn't bothered trying to find out his schedule. Maybe he could play the 'ignorance is bliss' card, actually ignore it.

Seemed like his rebellion wasn't limited to a one night thing because all he could think about was joining Stiles and his friends, touring boring museums he only got to see during big fundraiser events or the opening of new exhibits.

But... forcing himself upon a group of strangers was rude and despite his earlier attitude with his mother, he was trying to be polite. There had to be a way he could word this, ask to come without making it awkward or difficult for Stiles to turn him down if he truly wasn't wanted there. His thumbs danced above the screen, trying to figure out which letter to hit on the touchscreen keypad...

A new message had him jolting and its contents had his heart speeding up once more.

'Wanna come with?'

Oh? Oh fuck yes, he wanted to come with. And he began typing out that response as another text came in.

'Gotta warn ya, the girls are curious ab ya and will pry into your personal shit'
'and Scott is stereotypical overprotective Alpha best friend and will prob try to glare ya to death.'
'But he's a puppy. Not much of a threat TBH'

Okay a whole flurry of texts.

A flurry that had him a little worried. Not about Scott, because puppy or not, Derek was sure he could handle anyone else—unless they were built like Boyd of course. It was the prying female friends that had him concerned. He'd gotten away with being fuzzy on the details with Stiles the night before, but having three sisters now meant that Derek was well aware of how they operated and were more astute. They'd dig claws in and pick him apart, notice little clues and tells he wouldn't be aware of, catalog everything and use it against him later.

It was worse when they were Alphas.

Shit, didn't Stiles mention one of the girls was an Alpha?

But even then... Even then, his desire to see Stiles and spend time with him outweighed everything else, even his fear of being caught. It was gonna blow up on him, there was no way it wouldn't. The girls could find out who he was and leak it, or he'd be busted the paps while out and about with the group. After going off on his mother, now was not the time for more rebellion and stupidity and getting into trouble.

But on the other hand... Stiles.

Mind made up, he quickly typed up that he'd meet them at Theodore Square in twenty minutes and Stiles sent a flurry of smiling excited emojis that had Derek grinning so wide, he promptly forgot all about the reasons why this was a bad idea.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Theodore Square wasn't actually a square but rather a hexagon with roads splitting off at each corner. The open area was a good two hundred yards in every direction, covered in tan cobblestones, with various features on each side, including a couple museums, the courthouse, and places to shop and dine. Smack dab in the center was a statue of Theodore himself, a former king and a distant ancestor of Derek's—hence the man's name being part of Derek's—alongside three wolves he was rumored to have as pets. Stone benches were set up for sightseers to rest, artists set up to draw or paint or sell caricatures or portraits, pigeons strolled around hoping for dropped popcorn or pretzel pieces from the vendors, and countless people were milling about.

Derek pulled the lid of his baseball cap further down, grateful for the sunny day so he didn't stick out too much. He'd also opted for a matching plain black tee and blue jeans along with a comfortable pair of sneakers, hoping the ensemble seemed casual and reflected what everyone else wore.

Glancing around from his spot under the original Theodore's feet, he felt like he'd been successful in that venture.

Pulling his phone out, he checked the time, noting it was still a few minutes before the previously discussed meeting time. Derek had made good time getting changed and sneaking out, getting in his less conspicuous Camaro—one with plates that matched the general populous—and driving out the underground tunnel that only the royals and guards were aware existed. Traffic had been relatively light, the lull between morning rush hour and lunch making it easy to navigate, and it wasn't long before he was parking in one of the lots outside the square.

Now it was just a matter of waiting and trying to find Stiles. Downside of his terrible half-assed pseudo-disguise was that it would not only—hopefully—hide him from public recognition, but Stiles' recognition, too.

"Eric!"

It took him a moment to remember that was the fake name he'd given and that he was the one being called. Slipping his phone back in his pocket, he glanced around, finding Stiles waving wildly as he rushed over. A grin formed on Derek's face and he pushed away from where he was leaning back against the square base of the statue, the podium a good couple feet taller than him, and he walked forward several steps, staying in the shadow of the stone former king.

Which felt strangely metaphorical or symbolic or both.

Whatever. The only thing that mattered was how Stiles' scent was finally reaching him and how the Omega didn't hesitate to throw himself at Derek, the two crashing together in a fierce hug. Derek buried his nose in Stiles' neck as arms wrapped around his own, remembering once more how perfectly Stiles fit against him. Immediately, Derek's body ramped up, fingers clutching at the back of Stiles' tee, cock twitching as it stirred to life. Stiles began to purr, scent bursting, and Derek tried to figured out how far it was to the Grand Capri Hotel or if his condo would be closer or—

Or what idiotic Alpha was encroaching upon his territory with such a ridiculously possessive scent. Derek was gonna kill them, rip his throat out with his teeth.

Lifting his head, he snarled at whoever it was, letting red bleed into his eyes.

The approaching Alpha was glaring but Derek was distracted by his uneven jaw and the urge to fix it for him by breaking it into several pieces—which... Damn, he'd never been so violent before, what the hell?—as well as the fact that he was dressed in camouflage leggings, an olive hoodie, and tan work boots. He wasn't gonna survive the humidity to come. Derek wouldn't have to lift a finger, just wait.

"Scott, chill," Stiles stated gruffly as he turned and Derek was forced to loosen his hold, to drop it, hiding a pout.

The other Alpha—Scott, Derek figured—didn't bother to disguise his own upset, appearing miffed that he'd been told to stand down, but Stiles was unwavering, fixing him with a hard look.

"Dude, I told you—"

"Yeah, but that do—"

"No 'but's, man, just accept it."

"But he's—"

"Dude, what did I just say?"

"Oh my god!" a new voice groaned and Derek switched his focus to three new arrivals. In addition to a fashionably dressed petite redhead who was currently rolling her eyes in a long-suffering way was a slender brunette in a sundress and sneakers and a muscular Beta with short hair and bright green eyes, hovering close to the redhead.

Lydia, Allison, Parrish, in order, Derek figured as he remembered the info dump Stiles had given him the night before. And sure enough, the brunette Beta female was stepping over to Scott, commiserating smile on her face as she squeezed his shoulder.

"I am not listening to you two idiots bicker all day," Lydia continued, tone authoritative and attitude reminding Derek of his older sister Laura. The circle of braids on her head resembled a crown and if he didn't know any better, he'd swear she was royalty, too. She smoothed out her peach dress before turning harsh green eyes and a warning finger on Stiles. "And what have I told you about running off alone like that?"

The way Stiles rolled his whole head and gave an ugly snort meant he'd been told it a lot.

Lydia pursed her lips in obvious displeasure before turning to Derek with a more saccharine smile, her eyes shrewd and analytical as they sized him up, as they looked him up and down. Derek felt exposed, his heart thudding, especially as those astute eyes narrowed on his face—or what was visible of it, hoping he was half-hidden enough to not be so easily recognized.

"You must be Eric," she stated firmly and Derek got the impression that even if it wasn't the false name he was going by, he'd agree to the incorrect moniker anyway, nodding and giving a "yes, ma'am". She crossed her arms and cocked a hip, still analyzing him. "You have a last name?"

Shit.

Technically the Royal surname was "Hale" and while this was a group of tourists, he wasn't sure how much they knew about him and his family, meaning he couldn't give that. So he blurted the first thing that came to mind.

"Theodore."

A manicured eyebrow was cocked as Lydia's eyes flicked up to the statue still towering over them.

He forced out a laugh, faked an easy grin, and gestured to said statue with his head. "No relation. As far as I know anyway."

She let out a noncommittal hum, not believing but not dismissing either. He felt even more nervous, scared he was about to be exposed as a fraud, as a royal, worried Stiles would leave because of those things.

But fingers laced with his, a supportive squeeze to his left hand, and he peeked to find Stiles glaring at Lydia. Whatever nervous scent Derek was letting out was apparently interpreted as an uneasiness at her prying and interrogating and disapproving and Stiles was having none of it. The two had a conversation full of pointed looks and raised eyebrows before Lydia huffed and turned her head away, the assumed loser of whatever silent argument had just taken place.

"I'm Allison," the brunette Beta greeted in a more friendly tone, hand stretched out in an offer Derek took. She made the rest of the introductions: her Mate Scott who only offered a grunt, still unsure of Derek, and Jordan, who gave a handshake and an affable grin.

Derek returned all greetings, ignoring the strangeness of introductions being made with no bows or curtseys aimed his way. He had to admit, he like this a whole lot more. He felt human, normal, not like an exhibit at the zoo or a deified object meant to be given special attention solely for the family he was born into. It was a lot better this way.

Lydia took charge of the group, laying out the plans. First the history museum, then the art, since art would be appreciated more once one was informed of the time period when it was created, lunch eaten at a nearby cafe between the visits. Stiles didn't let go of Derek's hand as they set off across the concourse, Lydia in front with Jordan or Parrish or whatever he went by, Scott and Allison in the rear with Allison chastising her Alpha Mate in what Derek supposed was meant to be hushed tones but his ears still picked it up anyway.

Stiles leaned closer to him as they walked, speaking at a low volume of his own as he apologized for his friends. Derek simply smiled at him, squeezing his hand in assurance.

"It's fine, I understand," Derek stated honestly, knowing it was just an Alpha thing that had Scott glaring daggers at the back of his head and Lydia not so subtly peeking behind at him despite Jordan's hand between her shoulders in an attempt to keep her facing forward. "They just wanna make sure the strange Alpha who hooked up with their Omega friend isn't some creep or serial killer or whatever."

Stiles snorted and seesawed his head in concession. "I honestly wouldn't be surprised if Lydia Googles you when we get back to the hotel tonight."

The throwaway comment that was most likely half joke/ half serious had Derek's heart seizing and he forced out a laugh to play all of it off. "Good luck. Not much to find about me," he replied, proud of his voice for remaining steady.

Stiles gave him a suspicious look out the side of his eyes, lips twisted, and Derek wondered if he wasn't caught already. Except...

"Really? Because Facebook tells all."

Oh. Right.

Derek snorted. "Not one for social media to be honest. No Facebook, Twitter, any of that stuff."

Now Stiles was looking shocked. "Wait, seriously? I thought everyone had a Facebook or Twitter. Even people's dogs have their own Instagram."

Derek snorted again as they ascended the steps of the history museum, a large building of Grecian influences, with marble columns and white stone everywhere. "Not a dog. And I prefer to keep private stuff private. The world doesn't need to know my business, regardless of who shares it."

An agreeing hum was let out as they reached the apex and the ticket booth and Derek was glad he'd had the foresight the previous night to grab some cash. Whipping out his credit card would be a dead giveaway of who he was.

Luck seemed to further be on his side when the Beta behind the glass window didn't recognize him or react to his presence in any way and again when he won a debate with Stiles over paying his ticket, the Omega grumpily giving in with a threat to pay for Derek's entrance to the art museum. Derek ruffled his hair as he placated the other man, joining the group and entering the building.

They opted for a self-guided tour, Lydia wanting to take her time appreciating and reading and learning. Derek didn't mind, knowing it was one less person to possibly recognize him. He did, however, add his own commentary and additional facts to various exhibits, feeling as though it was his job as a host of sorts to these visitors from another country. Lydia softened around him as time went by, relieved he wasn't an idiot, yet still kept eying him suspiciously in a way that made him paranoid. He ignored it, focusing on Stiles instead, opening doors for him, keeping a protective hand by his lower back, making jokes and apologizing to docents who glared when the Omega laughed too loud. Apparently it was the right thing to do in Scott's eyes as the Alpha warmed up to him, becoming chattier and the defensive posturing disappearing.

They wasted the morning slowly meandering around the museum and it was only when Scott and Stiles began to gang up on Lydia about being hungry that they left, walking to the café situated between both museums. Tuesday afternoon meant it was a slow time for the little diner, Derek relaxing at the half dozen or so people milling around, once again feeling assured he wouldn't be caught. Still, he suggested eating outside since the weather was so nice and they'd spent all morning indoors. The group agreed and pulled together a couple of the iron bistro tables so they could all sit together.

Conversation was easy, flowing between all of them as they chowed down on freshly made sandwiches and homemade potato chips. Stiles stole from Derek's plate and Derek retaliated in kind, prompting jokes from Scott and warm smiles from Allison and laughter from Jordan. Only Lydia seemed to be continuing in keeping Derek at arm's length, still unsure about him. But he kept ignoring the way the paranoia prickled at the back of his neck over it, pretending like everything was fine and that he was Eric Theodore, regular every day citizen and employee of a nonprofit aimed at wildlife conservation.

It wasn't until the food was eaten and Derek had snuck inside to pay for it all himself then use the facilities that it came to a head. Exiting the bathroom, he found Lydia waiting for him in the small alcove, arms folded, lips pursed, eyes narrowed.

"Any particular reason why you're lying to us about who you really are, Derek?" she demanded to know, putting extra emphasis on the D in his name.

Fuck, shit, and fuck again. He'd been right to be paranoid. Lydia was too smart, too astute, and had seen right through him. But he'd been so desperate to see Stiles that he honestly hadn't given any thought to his friends figuring him out, hadn't ever considered that possibility and what would happen. Chances were Lydia and her overprotectiveness would tell Stiles the truth, Stiles would get pissed at being lied to, and...

No. Nope. Not thinking about that.

Still, being busted like this had his skin going cold all over and his heart thudding wildly in his chest. He fought to keep his scent neutral and face expressionless—no, he put a confused smile on there as he made an ugly laugh, acting as though the girl had lost her damn mind.

Better than facing the consequences of people knowing the truth.

"I genuinely have no clue what you're talking about. And it's Eric, no 'D'."

Lydia scoffed and rolled her eyes before glaring at him once more, agitation making her scent thicker and spicier. Despite having nearly a foot of height and a hundred pounds of muscle on her, as well as a shitload more authority than her, even Derek felt intimidated by the tiny Alpha, making him wonder if his earlier halfway serious thought about her being royalty of some form wasn't closer to the truth that he'd originally considered.

"I'm a huge fan of gossip, especially of the celebrity kind, and the royal family are this country's biggest stars," she informed him, voice harsh but low, those narrowed eyes of hers staring him down. "Despite the fact that you have some semblance of a beard, which you usually don't wear in public, and the shoddy excuse of a disguise that cap makes, I recognized you immediately. You're just lucky no one else follows Royal News the way I do."

Fuck. She was right. And he swallowed the lump of fear her words had created, terrified of what was gonna happen next, if Stiles was gonna leave now.

"I just wanted to escape my life for a night," he confessed lowly, and Lydia tilted her head in curiosity. "Then I met Stiles and he didn't know who I was so I thought this was my chance to just be normal, to have a normal conversation with a normal person. But then he and I had so much chemistry and it was the absolute best night of my life and I genuinely think he may be it for me, but—"

But he was engaged and technically cheating on his fiancé(e), but he couldn't say that to the guy's friend. She'd rip him a new one the way she'd presumably been wanting to all morning.

So he needed something else to say, another excuse, another reason for lying.

"It's not that I don't trust Stiles," he tried, scratching at his jaw. "I mean, I don't know him well enough to go either way to be honest, but I like how I feel around him, how easy it is to just be me and not Prince Derek Theodore Anthony William Hale with all the expectations that come with it."

Lydia twisted her lips around as she chewed on his words, as she considered the man before him. "Are you planning on telling him the truth?"

No, Derek thought. If anything, he was planning on a week of fun being Eric Theodore, having a fling with Stiles, who would return to his country with memories of the guy he'd hooked up with on vacation, while Derek got Mated and moved away and kept his own memories to warm him through why was sure to be a cold, miserable, lonely life.

Again, not something he could share with the guy's best friend.

But he thought of earlier fantasies of running away with Stiles, escaping his life as a royal on a more permanent basis. Maybe at the end of the week, Stiles would see how meant to be they were—if he didn't already see it the way Derek did—and ask Derek to come back with him. And Derek wouldn't hesitate to pack a couple bags and run, leave behind some bullshit letter about being unable to handle the suffocating route his life was heading down and to not look for him. In fifty, sixty, a hundred years, he'd be another Hale legend, the prince who ran away from an arranged Mating and disappeared.

All fine and well and romantic but... Could he really spend his life lying to Stiles? Could he handle the deceit and the guilt that came with it? What would happen if and when Stiles learned the truth, whether it be stumbling upon Derek's face in some news piece about a missing prince or another person recognizing him and outing him? He got the feeling Lydia wouldn't approve of the falsehood and would tell Stiles if Derek didn't.

Shit. He didn't really have a choice now that he was thinking about it.

But still..

With a sigh, he peered down at the hard stare of Lydia, the fierceness on her face and in her scent. She was not one to be fucked with, regardless of who she was associated with. That much was clear.

"I'll tell him before you guys leave," he promised. "Just. Chances are he'll hate me for lying and never wanna talk to me again so I wanna spend as much time as I can with him before that happens. Please?"

Lydia sighed, long and hard, rubbing at her forehead before throwing her arms in the air in defeat. Then she stepped into his space, shoved a finger in his face, and practically growled through gritted teeth. "Fine. But so help me if you don't tell him by week's end."

She didn't even finish the threat really, but it was enough for Derek to raise his hands in supplication, promising he'd tell. Satisfied, she nodded once, then turned on a heel and sashayed out. Derek had no choice but to follow, back to their outdoor table and Stiles' curious frown as watched the two retake their seats.

"What were you two up to?" he asked, more curious than accusatory, trusting nothing inappropriate had gone down between Derek and Lydia.

Feeling her hard eyes on him once more, Derek shrugged a shoulder and played it off with a smile. "Just the usual 'you hurt my friend, I hurt you' speech."

Stiles groaned, buying it, head flopping onto Derek's shoulder. The Alpha breathed out a laugh as he wrapped an arm around the younger man and kissed his head, breathing in that intoxicating maple bourbon scent. He caught Lydia's eyes and silently hoped she'd keep her own promise to let him have this. There was already an expiration date on whatever this was. Derek didn't want her speeding it up.

~*~*~*~*~*~

The art museum was more modern in its design, standing out amongst the more classical architecture of the other buildings encircling Theodore Square. It was comprised of sleek lines and mirrored glass, uniquely shaped like squared off pixelated ocean waves.

Inside was standard, multiple rooms set and designed to walk through in order so one didn't miss any exhibits. Derek pretended as though it wasn't dredging up Pavlovian boredom, his every visit here some stuffy gala celebrating a newly acquired classic piece or the latest installation by whatever native artist or the opening night of a traveling exhibit showcasing whomever. He'd always been more of a history fan than art, preferring to know the story behind pieces than the pieces himself. Growing up, he'd constantly bugged his father or butler to tell him about the antiques around the palace, not caring who created it but rather why and when and what else was happening and where else the piece had been.

Still, he was able to use some of his knowledge to try and impress Stiles as they perused the art and exhibits, the Omega calling him a nerd and a dork with a smile, good-naturedly jabbing at him. It was worth the quips to see the grin on Stiles' face and breathe in the contentment and joy in his scent.

One of the exhibits on display was a series of portraits of the royal family throughout history and Derek had to hide his anxiety at anyone making the connection. The closest he came was Stiles commenting on how former King Alfred William Charles the Third looked a lot like Derek "but with normal people sized eyebrows" and Derek gave him a noogie as he played the remark off. Lydia had caught it and gave him a curious look but thankfully said nothing. So far she was holding up to her end of the deal and keeping quiet about who Derek really was. The suspicious looks had disappeared, too, and once they left the royal exhibit, Derek was able to relax once more.

Dinner was enjoyed in a restaurant on the top floor of the art museum, surrounded by modern art installations. Derek shared his little knowledge about the local art school and how the Crowned Princess was "apparently" a big patron of the arts, funding scholarships of all mediums, regularly attending operas and ballets and such. Allison cooed over how giving the royals were rumored to be, Derek played semi-dumb, and Lydia shot him knowing looks when no one else was paying attention.

Dusk was settling in by the time they made it outside and Derek felt his heart slow in his chest, everything getting tight as his stomach churned in dread. They'd be parting ways now. The group would be off to their hotel and Derek would be heading back to the palace and maybe he'd see them the next day but nothing was certain, especially given current circumstances. He wasn't naive enough to think his absence hadn't been noticed by that point. Chances were his mother had gone to his room to chew him out over his attitude to find him gone, or maybe it was made obvious he was missing when he didn't show up for whatever bullshit he'd been scheduled for that day. He'd probably be stuck under some intense lockdown tomorrow, his security heightened and tightened.

Poor Boyd, he thought. Guy was probably getting his ass handed to him for losing the prince for the second time in as many days. Derek really owed his friend at that point.

Jordan arranged for a rideshare on the museum steps and Derek commented that he'd offer a ride but his car wasn't big enough for all of them.

"But it's big enough for one more person, right?" Scott questioned, shooting a wink in Stiles' direction.

Okay. Apparently Derek had won Scott over at some point during the day.

Stiles flushed, scent tinged with embarrassment but also excitement at the prospect of being around Derek. It hit him then that they hadn't been alone all day and suddenly he itched to have the younger man to himself. The Alphan part of him wanted—no, needed privacy, just the two of them, so he could mark the Omega as his once more. He needed to erase the scents of others, of where he'd been, remind everyone of who Stiles belonged to. He needed to bury himself inside Stiles and fill him with his knot and his seed and fuck them both stupid once more.

His thoughts must've leaked into his scent because suddenly he was hit with a rush of aroused Omegan scent, warm maple bourbon tinged with the spice of desire, and Derek's body responded in kind, hardening inside his jeans.

"Where's your condo at, Eric?" Lydia questioned and the fake name along with the fog of arousal made Derek slow to realize it had been aimed at him.

"Oak Creek Tower. Penthouse."

Scott gaped, impressed, while Allison kept her surprise to raised eyebrows. Lydia nodded in consideration then waved a hand in dismissal.

"Just so we know where Stiles is spending the night," she clarified, turning her interest to her nails. "Text us in the morning to let us know you're alive and we'll all meet up to go shopping."

Now Stiles was looking surprised, shocked by Lydia's approval as well as her practically instructing him to go sleep with Derek. Which...

Goddamn. Derek owed her, too.

The Omega turned to him with a questioning look and Derek shrugged a shoulder. "If you want," Derek offered, leaving it up to Stiles.

The answer was his hand being taken and Stiles yelling the fastest goodbye ever to his friends before demanding Derek to tell where he parked. Derek just laughed and led him in the right direction, excitement speeding up his own steps and desire bubbling in his gut. His luck was sure to run out at some point—by the end of the week at the latest—but for now, he was taking advantage by stealing another night away with the Omega he was falling for.

~*~*~*~*~*~

The service entrance of the Oak Creek Tower was more populated than the previous night due to the earlier hour but Derek paid it no mind, rushing past the various employees, hauling a willing Stiles behind him. Every red light he'd come across had been accompanied by heated make out sessions that ended with the poor driver behind him hooking when the traffic signal turned green. Stiles spent the time between trying to get them to crash, fondling Derek's inner-thigh then his crotch, huffing against his neck as he scented him, whimpering in his ear as he begged Derek to hurry. Derek was dying to break every traffic law they had and use his royal immunity to get out of any and all tickets but he didn't wanna get busted by an officer with a strange Omega in his car or by Stiles finding out he was a prince.

Finally in the penthouse, Derek had Stiles pinned against the wall before the elevator doors had even shut, kissing him hungrily and getting just as good as he gave. Stiles shoved the hat off his head and wrapped a leg around his waist as he moved his hips in a dirty, needy grind, fingers tangling in Derek's hair and digging into his shoulder. Derek let his own hands grip into Stiles' hips, grinding right back as he felt himself harden in record time, growls swallowed by the Omega.

All too soon Stiles pulled his head away, huffing and panting, and Derek dove down to begin the process of leaving more marks on his neck, hips still moving. Whimpers left Stiles, breathless whines, soft swears in English as his hands gripped the back of Derek's shirt and tried to pull it up.

"Need you inside me," he begged, tensing his leg to try and pull Derek impossibly closer, and all Derek could do was moan.

Fuck, he needed that, too, so bad he could hardly see straight. His hands dropped down, fumbling with the fastenings of Stiles' khakis, shoving them down in the back when they were finally open. He didn't waste any time, grabbing hold of the most perfect ass he'd ever had the pleasure of holding, seeing, being inside. His fingers drifted toward the split, already feeling the dampness of slick that had leaked out. Stiles arched his back into his hold, entrance open and greeting him, eagerly taking one index finger inside, then the other.

"Oh fuck, Er," he groaned loudly, head falling onto Derek's shoulder as he shuddered in pleasure.

Derek ignored the hot lead in his stomach, switching it up so three fingers of his right hand were thrusting inside his Omega. His left hand tugged at the neck hole of his tee in order to sink his teeth into Stiles' trapezius and hide any objections or corrections of his name. It was close enough, it would have to do. Besides, this was still his Omega crying out for him, panting and whining and begging, slick leaking out to soak his fingers and palm as his body got ready for him.

"Hurry up and fuck me," Stiles demanded with a snarl and Derek growled in warning.

"Don't wanna hurt you," he pointed out, pinky playing at his rim, trying to relax him.

Stiles lifted his head, grabbed hold of Derek's face in both his hands, and stared him down with glowing gold eyes. "It's fine. Need you inside. Make me remember for days to come."

Oh fuck that. Derek was gonna make him remember for years to come.

Slipping his fingers free, he made quick work of yanking Stiles' pants off one leg then undoing his own jeans, cock springing free immediately. Lifting the Omega's leg back up, knee hanging off his elbow, Derek easily lined himself up and thrust inside with one hard push, grunting as Stiles cried out then swore.

"Holy Jesus, you're so goddamn big," Stiles groaned, head falling back against the wall, hands falling down onto Derek's shoulders.

Derek breathed out a laugh at the blasphemy and compliment in one as he immediately started a harsh rhythm of fucking up into his Omega. The air was filled with the heady scent of sex and slick and sweat, with the melody of grunts and moans and slapping skin. Stiles gripped him just as perfectly as he had the night before, wet heat clutching and reforming to hug Derek's cock as the Alpha carved his place inside him. His dick rubbed against Stiles' prostate, making him keen, the Omega's cock pressed between their abdomens utterly forgotten about.

"I'm close," Stiles huffed out unnecessarily. After all their previous rounds, Derek was well aware of the tell tale signs of the Omega's impending orgasm, well aware of how to make it come faster.

Well aware that his own knot was forming faster at the knowledge that his Omega was getting off thanks to him, that his body was accepting him once more.

Stiles could tell, too, lifting his head to glare at Derek—although the expression was missing a great deal of heat behind it due to the pleasure making him shake between the wall and the Alpha's broad frame. "Don't you dare fuckin' knot me here in this position."

Derek grinned, feral and amused. Silly Omega, thinking he could tell an Alpha what he could or couldn't do. Besides, Derek couldn't control that thing even if he wanted to, not with Stiles. Another sign that this Omega was meant to be his really, the inability to hold back his knot and the primitive part of him telling him not to bother, that the Omega needed to be bred and reek of his seed.

"Eric," Stiles growled in warning and Derek kept grinning.

"I'll carry you," he promised, thrusts more forceful as he tried to push his knot past a tight rim, head ducked down to suck at Stiles' scent glands in apology.

Stiles whimpered and panted out a "you better", fingers clawing at the back of Derek's shirt and Derek wished he'd had the foresight to take it off so Stiles could scratch him up, leave his own mark there.

Later, he knew, focusing on circling his hips just right, knot too big to pull out but just big enough to...

"Fu-fu-fuuuuuuck!" Stiles panted then keened, his entire body tightening up, rim so tight it about cut Derek's cock off, as he shot between their bodies and stained both their shirts.

Worth it, Derek thought, wondering if he could get away with stealing Stiles' for help during upcoming Ruts. Or just for sniffing because the guy seriously smelled too damn good.

Stiles went limp, huffing and puffing, only to get a second wind mere moments later. Arms wrapped around Derek's neck, he hauled him in close to kiss him hard, trying to find leverage to wrap his other leg around him. After some quick maneuvering, Stiles was completely wrapped around Derek—who managed to rid them both of their pants and shirts—and the Alpha was making his way to the stairs, knot and cock throbbing inside the slick clutch of Stiles' body. The Omega was moaning into Derek's neck as the movements jostled him, rubbed his knot against his prostate.

In the bedroom, Derek dumped Stiles on the edge of the bed then planted his feet to grind into him. Legs were splayed wide and he reached down to massage at Stiles' perineum, pleasuring his prostate through two angles. Stiles was arching beautifully, crying out as his lower half writhed and used Derek to get off, hands fisting at the still messy linens of his bed. Fuck, so beautiful, Derek thought, committing the sight to memory, wishing he had some way to take photos or videos of this, glad he didn't since he refused to allow anyone to see this.

Stiles looked up at him, reached for him, breathed out a needy "my Alpha" and Derek damn near collapsed over him from the force of his orgasm, hand shooting out to catch himself before he crushed the leaner man. His hips thrust as much as they could, pressed as far as they could inside as he filled his Omega once more, and Stiles cried out as he came from the sensation, their moans blending together in a perfect harmony of pleasure and ecstasy.

~*~*~*~*~*~

The Shiprock Zoo was located just outside the city and was, in Derek's opinion, a far better way to spend time than shopping.

After another night full of mind-blowing sex all over the bedroom and bathroom, interspersed with lots of cuddling and talking, Stiles had been woken up by an agitated Lydia calling and chewing him out over no text the night before. Stiles had talked her down then informed her that no, he wasn't joining the group for shopping. During one of their nighttime conversations, Derek had talked about his work with the conservation group, playing down his roles in various campaigns, bringing up his work with the local zoo. Stiles' entire face had lit up at the mention of various wild canids and promptly decided Derek needed to take him there.

Obviously Derek had no objection, eager for more time with Stiles and a need to ignore his family longer. Or rather, ignore the massive amount of trouble he was sure to be in. So after Stiles explained to Lydia that shopping was a half-step above water boarding and therefore he was spending more time with Derek, the two got dressed with clothes the Alpha happened to have in the condo—luckily nothing too fancy or expensive, his plain black tee looking completely in place on Stiles' smaller frame, the Omega's khakis still wearable after escaping the mess they'd made the night before—then headed out in his Camaro.

Summer meant bigger crowds but luckily for Derek, everyone was caught up more in their own world and the animals so he was able to blend in, his baseball cap helping once more. Stiles held onto his hand the entire time as they meandered through the vast zoo, the animals in large open enclosures where they had plenty room to roam, swim, or fly.

The two chatted the whole time, commenting on people they saw, the animals they were able to spy. Stiles was disappointed it was too hot for the arctic foxes to be out and about but amused at the tortoises they saw mid-coitus, commenting that he always wondered how they mated. Derek wasn't sure if he as serious or not.

A bench was situated before the gray wolf enclosure and Stiles dragged Derek down to sit, wanting to watch them for a while. Derek grinned widely at the knowledge that the wolves were one of Stiles' favorites, along with foxes, and he had to bite back the Alphan need to brag by bringing up how he was the one to spearhead the campaign to ban fox hunting in their country, stating instead that he helped spread word to gain support. Not technically a lie, he thought.

Lunch was at one of the zoo's restaurants and they took advantage of the AC and a break from the humidity. Stiles remarked on how hot it was and how he was more used to being cold all the time due to his more northern country's chillier climate. Derek remarked that he could keep Stiles warm if he wanted and Stiles grinned wide despite the sadness in his eyes.

Because this was a vacation fling for him, Derek knew. They weren't permanent. They never would be. They never could be.

Derek shoved the melancholy aside, cheered Stiles up with a quick game of footsie under the table, bringing a more genuine smile to his face as he ignited the Omega's competitive side.

Food eaten and enjoyed, they explored the rest of the zoo, both ignoring the circumstances of their pseudo-relationship. Derek let himself get lost in being Eric Theodore once more, just a regular guy on a date with the Omega he was really into, trying to outdo each other with random obscure animal facts.

Just a normal date with two normal guys, even if he had to steer Stiles away from a wall of donors that happened to feature Derek's face. Easy enough to distract him with a trip to the gift shop and the promise of buying him anything he wanted, which happened to be a giant stuffed fox that was nearly as big as Stiles himself. But the way he lit up as he hugged it close, Derek knew he'd buy it regardless the size of his wallet.

Their day drew to an unfortunate close but not before grabbing a take-out pizza and making a call to Lydia that he'd be staying with Derek again that night.

Their freshly baked pepperoni pizza was freezing cold by the time they got around to eating it, Derek feasting on Stiles slick and trying to fuck him into the couch first. They ate after multiple orgasms, Stiles on Derek's lap with his knot tucked neatly inside, and the Alpha got the overwhelming feeling that it didn't get any better than this.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Oak Creek Tower was perfectly built so that the windows of Derek's bedroom faced west, meaning sunrise didn't bother him.

Stiles trying to get out of bed however...

Major damn bother.

Derek shifted over to where Stiles was currently seated on the edge of the bed, attention on the phone in his hand, sheet strategically placed over his lap. Because Stiles had this weird quirk where he was embarrassed about being nude—or at least being seen naked. It was fine when he was turned on and they were fooling around and fucking, but when his mind cleared of arousal, he was modest and shy. It was equal parts adorable and annoying and Derek wished the Omega would believe him when he said he was drop dead gorgeous.

That was a mission for another time, Derek decided. At that moment he needed to focus on dragging Stiles back into bed. He hadn't gotten nearly enough of holding the Omega close, smelling him, warming him up with just an Alpha's higher body temp. Hell, he just hadn't gotten nearly enough of Stiles period and he greedily wrapped his arms around a lean waist, nuzzling his head into Stiles' side.

"Back to sleep," he mumbled, feeling fingers sink into his hair and scratch at his scalp. He hummed happily at the sparks of pleasure they created, eyes fluttering closed and mind beginning to drift away.

"I gotta go," Stiles said lowly, reluctantly, and Derek tightened his hold.

"Gotta go back to sleep, absolutely."

Stiles huffed out a laugh, locking his phone and still scratching Derek's scalp. "I gotta go meet up with my friends and spend time with them. As much as I'd rather spend the day in bed with the most ridiculously good looking Alpha on the planet."

Said Alpha rumbled a purr at the compliment, shifting so he was nuzzling into Stiles' stomach this time. "I like that plan better."

Another laugh. "I bet. But I really do gotta go. Besides, don't you have work?"

With his sleep addled mind, Derek almost blurted out that he was more of a figurehead and didn't technically have a job only to remember...

Shit. What would be a good excuse here? How could he get out of work without rousing suspicion?

"I'll call in sick," he lied, figuring he could go on the balcony and pretend to text someone or something. "I've got a bunch of days accumulated."

"I'd rather you save those for when you're actually sick."

Shit again.

Derek just hugged his waist tighter, nuzzled his face further into Stiles' stomach. "Do you at least have time for a shower and breakfast?" he whined, hoping the answer was yes so he could try to squeeze in another round with Stiles, maybe wear him out even more so he couldn't leave.

"If I shower alone while you cook, sure," Stiles replied and Derek turned his head to pout up at him. The Omega smiled down softly before tweaking his nose playfully. "I know you. Shared showers lead to shower sex which leads to me being knotted for half an hour and leaving late. Not happening."

Damn. Foiled.

Stiles smiled and kissed Derek's forehead before patting his shoulder. "Be a good Alpha and provide your Omega with sustenance. I'm starving."

And goddamn him if that didn't get Derek moving, even if it meant Stiles leaving sooner. He placated himself with the fantasy that this was everyday life, making breakfast before separating for the day, only to come back together that night. Dangerous, he knew, but it was all he had and more than likely, all he was ever gonna have.

~*~*~*~*~*~

The secret entrance to Triskele Palace was off a side street off a side street off a side street off a private road off a side street... It was a maze to get through to the main roads or back but luckily Derek had long since memorized the way, as well as any necessary passcodes and which parking space was his.

And his was currently occupied by a bored guard who quickly snapped to attention at the rumble of Derek's Camaro, speaking into the walkie-talkie attached to his shoulder.

Fuck. Derek was in for it.

Not that he didn't already know that. He'd had an idea about that since the moment he left two days prior, was aware that every moment that passed without him heading home was just more trouble he was in, had known from the number of missed calls and texts that his mother was absolutely furious.

And that was without actually reading or listening to any messages. It was just common sense.

Derek wondered if maybe his history as the good, well-behaved child who'd never gotten in trouble would work in his favor then promptly decided that no, not in this instance. He didn't just go out drinking for a single night. He'd smarted off to his mom then disappeared for two days.

He'd be lucky if he could see the light of day outside of forced public appearances—with increased security so he couldn't slip away again, of course.

Starting now apparently.

The guard moved out of the parking spot then began to wave him in like one of those airport Tarmac people, minus the glowing batons, and Derek rolled his eyes. The grumpiness had set in the moment the elevator doors had shut behind Stiles and it had only gotten worse in the half hour or so since. Being on palace grounds definitely didn't help, the walls closing in on him once more. He began to wonder if this place ever really felt like home or of it was a new sensation, that maybe he'd found a new one in Stiles and as a result had become less attached to this place. Or maybe it was because he was leaving and he'd already begun to dissociate from it in a sense, shutting down any emotional connections so it'll hurt less when the physically one was broken.

Not that the reasoning mattered. All he knew was that he felt absolutely miserable, had ever since he'd been forced to watched Stiles leave, worse now that he was there.

Suffocating.

Pulling into his space, he killed the engine and let out a long sigh, slamming his head against the back of his seat and closing his eyes. God he needed out of here, out of his life. It was another thought that he wasn't sure if it was recent or if he'd always felt that way. He'd been fairly happy, right? He didn't really know any better though so who could be sure?

The engagement thing he'd definitely wanted out of. He could've lived a long happy—or happy-ish—life as a royal within Triskele Palace, but having that part of his life controlled wasn't something he was okay with. And that was before he'd met Stiles. Finding the Omega, his Omega really, that just solidified his stance. He just wished his mother would understand.

Maybe he could—

A tap against his window made him jolt in surprise and he turned to find the guard bending down to peer inside.

"Your Highness? Her Majesty is waiting for you in her private study."

Of fucking course she was.

Or more likely, she'd been in the study working and when the guard announced his arrival, he'd been told to escort Derek there.

Whatever. Semantics.

Getting out the car, he braced himself for the shitstorm that was coming, heading to the study as instructed. The guard following him was totally expected, any trust Derek had earned over the years totally blown during the past couple days. Part of him wondered if it was worth it, to be treated like a prisoner in the place that was technically home, only to remember how he'd woken up to Stiles' smiling face two days in a row, holding him close all night, talking to him all day.

Yeah. Totally worth it.

Besides, he'd already been a prisoner in here, he just hadn't realized it.

The study doors were closed and he knocked loudly, a maid on the other side opening it seconds later. Derek stepped inside, peering around at familiar dark shelves full of countless books and purple couches that matched the curtains, the grandiose desk with matching huge chair, upon which his mother sat. She was dressed in yet another regal pantsuit, hair perfectly coiffed and make-up professionally done, but as Derek drew closer, he could tell there was more of it caked under her eyes, most likely to cover up heavier than usual bags.

Guilt was a heavy ball of lead in his gut and part of him really wanted to bare his neck in submission and apology...

But...

But it was hard to feel bad for upsetting people who didn't respect him or treat him like a human being with his own thoughts and feelings and desires. Sure the Queen was the most important piece on the chess board but that didn't make her kids the pawns she could move as she pleased and sacrificed to suit her own needs, protect her own ass.

Not that she even needed protecting. Queen Talia Marie Georgina Elizabeth Hale was beloved and respected, ruling over a peaceful and prosperous country. There was no need to marry a kid off, send them away for any sort of peace treaty or to acquire soldiers or money or supplies. The whole thing was insane.

Raising her head from what she'd been writing on, Derek's mother fixed him with a hard look, muscle in her jaw twitching. He'd seen the expression before, controlling her anger before she blew up, but it had never been aimed at him. Nerves had his skin prickling and his throat closing but he remained firm, standing with his back straight and chin held high.

Movement sounded out behind him and he caught the scents of his father and older sister before the door was closed over, shutting the four of them inside. It was just like the other morning at breakfast though, Derek knew, that just because the help wasn't in the actual room with them didn't mean they had total privacy. He had to be careful about what he said and how he acted.

Unlike the other morning at breakfast.

Damn. He wondered if there weren't rumors spreading across the Internet and gossip magazines about discord within the palace walls. Wouldn't surprise him. Also wouldn't be the first time, but it would be the first time that said rumors were actually true.

His mother sighed long and hard as his father and sister got settled somewhere behind him but Derek kept still, kept staring straight ahead. It was silent, just the ticking of an antique clock and the sounds of wildlife drifting in from outside, crickets and cicadas and birds. The tension was thick, choking, and Derek had to swallow hard against it, palms starting to sweat where he held his hands clasped behind him.

"I have. So many questions," his mother began, rubbing at her temples before dropping her hands into her desk. "But I don't have all day to ask them so I'll start with a simple what the hell is wrong with you?"

Fair enough. He couldn't exactly fault her for wondering that, since he'd be the same way if the situation were reversed. However, he figured he'd already let that be known with his little outburst the other day but apparently not. And wasn't that just frustrating as hell?

"I don't wanna get Mated to some stranger."

His mother rolled her eyes. "I'm fairly certain that I've made it clear that you are, in fact, going to get Mated to whom I tell you to Mate and there's nothing you can do or say to stop it."

Derek doubted that. He'd could throw himself off the palace roof, slit his wrists, go full Romeo and Juliet and drink some poison. He could go a less extreme route and empty his bank account before running away and disappearing. He could make a complete ass of himself in front of his fiancé(e) and have the wedding called off on their end. There were plenty things he could do that would result in him not Mating who his mother ordered him to.

Not all would result in him being with Stiles though and honestly, that felt like the most important part of all of this.

"I'm in love with someone."

Laura gasped from the back right—presumably the couch—and his father inhaled sharply from the back left—presumably an armchair—and his mother somehow managed to sit up even straighter as the scent of surprise filled the air, coming from all three of them. His mother's eyes narrowed as they stared him down, searching, for a lie or the truth or some tell that would give something away. But Derek knew there was none to be found, staring right back at her with an expressionless face as he waited for her to speak.

And after a pregnant pause, she did, accusatory and sharp, eyes still cutting into him. "You aren't even seeing anyone, so how you—"

"I am," he interrupted, her jaw snapping shut with a click as her gaze turned deadly. "That's where I've been the past couple days, why I was gone all night on Monday. I've been with him."

She rubbed her forehead, sighing again, then gestured at him vaguely. "And how long has this been going on?"

"Three days," Derek winced, knowing the answer would do him any favors and the dubious laugh that burst out of her proved him right. "I'd like to point out how you knew Dad was the one on the first night and the same with Laura and you didn't judge her."

Another disbelieving scoff. "Laura's situation is different, Derek, so don't compare—"

"Why? Because you didn't sell her future the second she was born?" he interrupted again and that was really becoming a habit, huh? "I know that you're the Queen and you have to think about your country and its citizens but. Could you just. Please remember that you're also a mother, in more than just name, and think about your child's happiness for once?"

The request actually had his mother looking away, eyes softening some, shoulders slumping minutely. She didn't look thoroughly chastened the way Derek hoped she would but there was a hint of guilt leaking into her scent, enough for him to hope that she was human like the rest of them, that his words had gotten through to her at least a little bit.

With a small sigh of his own, he let the bravado slip away, body slumping, getting smaller rather than large and defensive. He looked upon her with pleading eyes, let the desperation overwhelm his scent, and spoke at a lower volume rather than the loud abrasive tone he'd used before. "I love him, Mom. I know things won't be easy between the two of us but I also know that he makes me happier than I thought possible and he always will. But if I have to Mate some random Omega I don't wanna be with, I'll be more miserable than words can describe and I swear to god I will never speak to you again."

He didn't bother adding in that he wouldn't be speaking to her because he'd run away or do something more extreme. It was enough to threaten cutting off communication as it was, judging by the twitch of her brows and the way her eyes turned down at the corners. She knew it wasn't a bluff or the bluster of an angry man who won't actually follow through. She knew he meant it.

Letting out a long sigh, his mother turned to him with sorrow filled eyes, wane smile on her face. "I'm so sorry, Derek."

He inhaled sharply, panic seizing his throat once more. She never apologized, not recently and definitely not for something like this, where she was convinced that she was completely right in her assertions and commands and there was nothing anyone could do to change her mind or convince her otherwise. Meaning...

Meaning she was apologizing because his pleading meant nothing, would change nothing. She was sorry that he was about to have his future stolen even more than it already was and would be miserable for the rest of his life. Miserable and motherless.

"I'm so sorry," she repeated, voice more watery than before, scent salty with upset, and while Derek was feeling slightly guilty over causing such an emotion in his mother, the other, much bigger part of him was glad for it. Glad to see she was human, glad she was experiencing a small fraction of what he'd be going through.

"I'm sorry I never listened, not really." She paused to sniff and Derek held his breath, uncertainty tilting his head as he tried to figure out where she was going with this. "You're right. I treated you like a pawn rather than a son and I had no right to. Sometimes the crown gets so heavy it slips over my eyes and prevents me from seeing what's in front of me." Another wane smile and shuddering breath then she looked up at him. "You truly love him? This person you've secretly been seeing?"

Derek nodded automatically, absently, heart thundering in his chest. God he hoped she wasn't setting him up for disappointment, wasn't about to offer another apology, this time because she was about to tell him to break it off with Stiles. The nod she gave in response offered him no clues either way, neither did the way she pressed her lips together or glanced towards her own Mate. Another loud sniff then she stiffened her spine, pulled back her shoulders, and tipped up her chin once more, back to the regal authority figure she always was.

Shit.

"I'll offer you a deal then," she began, looking Derek dead in the eye. "If this person loves you back and wants to be with you for life as well, then bring them here so I can give you both my blessing. I'll explain to his Majesty that the Mating is off and offer some sort of recompense. If your person doesn't feel the same or can't commit to life as a royal, then you'll go through with the engagement as planned. Deal?"

It wasn't the ideal plan... But it was better than nothing. At least his mother was offering a compromise in the first place. He couldn't really be mad about that. Besides, from what he could tell, Stiles loved him back, felt the same way.

Although that could all change once he learned the truth.

Yet the possibility was there. The chance that Stiles would understand and forgive Derek for his lies, would be open to trying a relationship despite their circumstances. Maybe a slim chance but he'd take it.

And with that chance, he felt hope spark in his chest, warming him up all over and bringing a smile to his face. He wouldn't think about the flip side, the downside, the outcome where Stiles rejected him and he ended up Mated to that Omega anyway. He'd only think of the best possible scenario and let that power him through the rest of his days.

Or at least the rest of that day.

"It's a deal," he told his mother and they shook on it before Derek rushed out, determined not to give her the opportunity to change her mind. He had witnesses though, people to back him up should she act as though it never happened, so luck seemed to be shining on him favorably.

For once.

No, not for once. He'd had it since the moment he'd laid eyes on Stiles at Club Eichen the other night.

Slipping his phone out his pocket, he expertly weaved his way around the halls and stairs, avoiding antiques and people, as he sent a quick message to Stiles to meet him at the condo later that night. It occurred to him then that his mother hadn't said anything about his disappearing act or ditching security, hadn't given him any sort of punishment or told him he couldn't go out. Maybe it was due to his reasons for sneaking away, or maybe get guilt over how she'd been treating him, but no matter the case, Derek was gonna take advantage.

It wasn't long before Stiles was agreeing, setting a time that he could be there and Derek replied with a promise to let the concierge know to expect him. As excited as Derek was at the possibility of being able to keep Stiles in his life and as anxious as he was to start said life together, he knew this would be a conversation best done in person. He could spend the day getting his thoughts straight and figuring out what to say, how to say it. After all, his entire future was hinged on that one conversation. It had to go perfectly.

~*~*~*~*~*~

The front entrance to Oak Creek Tower—the one Derek never used—featured heavy glass doors protected by a doorman and a security guard inside the marble foyer, a lot like a nice high end bank. A front desk with a concierge was located several yards in, blocking the way to the elevators, and every guest and visitor had to sign in.

Derek had never met the concierge or doorman or guard. He knew they had no clue who resided in the penthouse, only that he was incredibly important and wealthy and their lives—not just their jobs—were on the line should anything happen to him. He figured Boyd made a very good impression on all the staff, his size able to drive home any point he needed to make.

Meaning Derek got the best security, the highest priority in any request, and absolute privacy. Also meaning that when he personally called down to the concierge to alert him about Stiles imminent arrival, the man sounded as though he was having a heart attack. He probably didn't even know Derek was in the building at that moment.

Oh well. As rude as it sounded, that wasn't Derek's problem. He just had to be sure Stiles was able to get to his floor—and his condo—without any issues.

And sure enough, not long after eight—and Stiles' previously given arrival time—the elevator dinged with a new arrival. The doors slid open and the Omega stepped into the condo, dressed in his usual khakis, this time with a plain black tee and a matching cap with a blue and orange overlapping "NY" logo Derek was pretty sure belonged to an American baseball team.

The cap came off almost immediately, tossed onto the kitchen counter, giving Derek a good look at his face. Fuck, Derek felt like he got punched in the chest at the reminder of his beautiful Stiles was, that pale skin and those moles, upturned nose and sharp jaw, Bambi eyes and messy hair. And then that scent, swirling in the air, filling Derek's lungs, drawing him in. Derek'd had all kinds of plans to offer food, drink, ask Stiles to sit then confess everything: the fake name, his royal status, the engagement he didn't want, how madly in love he was with Stiles and the offer his mother had given.

All of it went out the window at the first hint of maple bourbon, Derek practically stalking Stiles as he made his way over. And Stiles just smiled wide and braced himself, accepting Derek's ferocity as always, kissing him back.

In now well-practiced motions, clothes were shed on their way to the bedroom and Derek's mind completely lost all track of plans or talks or confessions. All he could think about was how smooth Stiles' skin was, how well they fit together, the taste of cola on his tongue. All he could think about was making sure he didn't hurt Stiles against the door, where the bed was, insuring the Omega was perfectly placed and comfortable. All he could think about was the inebriating taste of his slick as Derek went down on him and ate at him, stretching him open with precise movements that had Stiles coming dry from his prostate, how fucking perfectly he took Derek's cock inside that wet heat, squeezing and convulsing and keening and arching as he shot off just from being filled.

Stiles rambled a litany of unknown words in his native language, legs wrapped around Derek's waist, toes curled. And Derek tucked his own legs in tight as he started a slow fill and retreat, a long patient drag that had them both shuddering. Gasps and groans filled his ears, arousal and sweat filled his nose, but his eyes were locked solely on Stiles' face, the way his orbs flashed gold and his brow pulled and his mouth hung open and his lips twitched. Kissing was near impossible but Derek felt that now familiar desperation clawing at him, an overwhelming need to be as connected as possible. Didn't matter that he was buried inside in the most primal of ways or that he was curled atop his Omega, Stiles wrapped around him like a monkey. He needed more.

He needed a lifetime.

He needed Stiles to need this, too, and to know Derek meant it.

"I love you." The words slipped out between one breath and the next as Derek grazed his nose against Stiles', but he couldn't bring himself to regret them, not when they rang so true. He watched golden eyes burn brighter, go wider, shock bursting forth in the Omega's scent and he still didn't regret it. He also didn't still his hips or play it off or hide, looking Stiles right in the eye as he continued to thrust inside him, punctuating his actions with his words. "I love you. I love you, I lo—"

Lips pressed to his were the only thing to stop him yet he still managed to groan, to whine. Stiles trembled beneath him, hands clutching at Derek's whiskered face, keening himself before pulling away for air, panting as he said the one phrase Derek longed to hear more than anything in the world.

"I love you, too."

Tears sprang to Derek's eyes and he let out a wet laugh before kissing his love, his Omega, the man he wanted to spend his life with. Hope swelled in his chest, believing the love shared between them bode well for their future, for Stiles' forgiveness after Derek's confession, and along with all of it came the swelling of his knot, too.

"Oh fuuuuuck, love this, too," Stiles groaned, head falling back on the pillow, hands slipping to claw at Derek's shoulders. "Give it to me, give it to me, give it to me."

"Anything," Derek promised, motions speeding up, thrusts more forceful as he pushed his expanding knot inside. "Everything. All of it's yours. All I have, all I am, it's been yours since the beginning."

Stiles cried out, clawing Derek's back, passage fluttering and convulsing around Derek's cock. And it was mere seconds before Derek was pushing his way in one final time, spilling inside his gorgeous Omega as Stiles shot between them, a final "I love you" expressed before they shared a kiss Derek felt down into his soul.

~*~*~*~*~*~

The grand salon of Triskele Palace was done up in shades of burgundy and gold and dark wood. It screamed of excess and money and regalness, especially with the giant portrait of some great-great-however-many-great-ancestor of Derek's hanging above the mantle of a fireplace taller than he was. Leather couches, mahogany end tables, heavy curtains, oriental rugs, Derek ignored all of it in favor of the fully stocked wet bar to the side.

Usually a butler would serve but he was in a shit mood and wanted to be left alone, helping himself to his favorite flavor of Jim Beam. Well, second favorite. He wasn't sure how he felt about the maple flavor at the moment so he'd opted for the Fire, hoping for the burn of cinnamon to take his mind off the fact that it was ten am and he was drinking.

Whatever. Wasn't like he had a job to go to. Or any sort of responsibilities. Or even a fiancé(e)—whom he really needed to figure out the gender identity of.

Grabbing the bottle, Derek refilled his glass, wishing manners hadn't been drilled into him so well that he could go ahead and just drink straight from the source. He had a good idea he'd be finishing the thing off anyway, despite having just cracked the seal.

He'd woken up alone in bed that morning, nothing but a note from Stiles saying he had to meet up with Lydia and he'd explain everything later. Although Derek wasn't sure what needed to be explained. Everything seemed to be pretty much perfect between them, the two having spent yet another all-nighter fucking on practically every surface of the condo.

Although "fucking" felt too crude. "Making love" all over the condo felt more appropriate given their confessions during the first round.

Which had been the only thing Derek had confessed to.

Sure, he came home and told his mother that Stiles admitted to being in love with him, too, and that he hadn't come entirely clean about who he was and where he lived. He was hoping to, whenever Stiles called to explain whatever needed to be explained on his end, and while Derek fully believed it wouldn't be enough...

He'd stood there and watched as she called whoever "His Majesty" was and ended the engagement.

Derek was free to be with whoever he wanted.

If Stiles ever called back.

All calls, all texts went ignored, unanswered, not even read. He'd ghosted and Derek felt nauseous with fear that Stiles had gone back home without telling him, severing their ties in some ill-informed but well-meaning attempt to make shit easier.

Hence the day drinking.

A commotion broke out in the hallway, loud authoritative voices echoing off the vastness of the space, and Derek turned to cock an eyebrow in the direction of the door as he lifted the glass to his lips. Sounded like security was pissed at something—no, someone, Boyd's voice joining the clamor as they all yelled at someone to halt, don't go in there, he doesn't wanna be disturbed.

Goddamn right he didn't, Derek thought, taking a deep pull. It was why he'd stationed Boyd right outside the door, so no one would bug him. It was also why he wasn't hiding out in his room, since that would be too obvious, although now that he was thinking about it, having Boyd stand guard made shit obvious, too.

Oh well.

Someone yelled out a "fuck you!" to the guards that had Derek choke on his drink as he snorted a laugh and he was forced to lower the glass as he coughed, barely picking up the aggressive tone of a man screaming, the doors being shoved open.

Yeah, he should've hidden in his room. Those doors had locks, unlike this one.

"The asshole is my fucking fiancé!" the angry voice continued and Derek felt a chill race up his spine as he dabbed spilled drink off his buttondown. Shit. He'd been caught.

He honestly hadn't given any thought to what the Omega he'd been supposed to Mate would think of their deal or of Derek breaking it off. He'd been under the assumption the Omega had been just as pissed at having his life stolen from him and wanted out just as badly. Derek had never given a thought to the Omega having accepted the arrangement then getting upset when it was reneged.

Then again, the Omega was supposed to become ruler of his country, right? He probably couldn't succeed the throne until he was Mated and he'd need an heir—or two—to keep the family line going, keep them wearing the crown.

Shit. Now he felt like a dick.

"I demand to know why you called off the—holy shit." The voice lost its volume, its bravado, its anger and morphed into... into something familiar.

Derek lifted his head, taking in expensive loafers, pressed slacks, open suit jacket with a navy blue buttondown—the national color of Nemeton, he belatedly remembered—and no tie... Slender neck with... moles and... patches of skin the wrong shade as a tell-tale sign of the wrong make-up used to cover hickeys and bite marks that...

That Derek had left the night before.

Wide eyes the color of his favorite bourbon were staring at him from above a gaping mouth, familiar pale skin and patterned moles and upturned nose and usually messy hair that had been slicked back and gelled within an inch of its life.

"The fuck'd you do to your hair?" Derek blurted out, the half bottle of Beam he'd already consumed loosening his tongue and he snorted at how ridiculous Stiles—no, not Stiles, Crowned Prince Mieczyslaw Claude Jonathan Alexander Gideon Of Nemeton...

Whatever his name was, his hair looked dumb.

Stiles glared, mouth snapping shut audibly and jaw working. He crossed his arms, foot tapping the ground in agitation, and Derek grinned in amusement before drinking. The irony...

"Seriously? That's what you have to say?" Stiles barked incredulously, throwing his arms in the air before gesturing wildly at Derek. "I spent the past few days thinking you were some regular dude named Eric and trying to figure out how to tell you I'm engaged so nothing between us would ever go past a week and you're, you're, you're—the whole damn time!"

Derek's grinned turned sheepish and he shrugged a shoulder. "Oops?" he offered before taking a deep gulp. He needed it even more now.

"Oops?!" Stiles practically squeaked, arms flailing again. "Oo—are you drunk?"

"Fuck, I hope so," Derek muttered, getting another glare in response. "Would explain why I'm being yelled at for lying about my identity by a hypocritical hidden prince." He shot a pointed look and watched as Stiles' cheeks got ruddy in adorable little patches.

God Derek wanted to eat him up. Figuratively and sexually of course.

"You know, this actually works out in our favor," Derek grinned, dropping down into a nearby bar stool and taking in the dubious sneer on Stiles' face. "I was scared shitless over how you'd react to me hiding who I am, but here you are, lying about who you are. So the lies basically cancel each other out."

A giant eye roll was sent his direction and Stiles snorted so hard his head rocked with it. "What kind of drunken logic—"

"Slightly intoxicated logic," he interrupted. "And I'm right and you know it."

Stiles sharply turned his head away, teeth working his bottom lip a dead giveaway that Derek was in fact right and Stiles did in fact know it and the Alpha grinned again.

Only for the expression to fall and his brow to furrow in a grave manner. "I called off the engagement because I'm madly in love with you and want to Mate you. The Stiles you. And I didn't wanna spend the rest of my life with some stranger when I know that you're the one for me."

A small laugh gusted its way out Stiles' nose and the corner of his lips turned up in a sardonic smile as he turned back to Derek. "And I ghosted on you this morning because I couldn't bear to see how hurt you'd be when I told you I was going through with this engagement because it's what my deceased mom wanted. Hence me being pissed Prince Derek called it off."

That secret smile Stiles kept special just for the Alpha returned and Derek found himself falling even more in love with the man—as well as found himself walking over. Out the corner of his eye he noted that the doors had been shut, most likely by Boyd in order to give them a semblance of privacy, and he made a mental note to thank the guard later before setting his sights solely on Stiles. The Omega was standing up straighter, tense and waiting, his breathing tremulous. But not out of fear. No, his scent was pure desire and want and Derek found his body echoing in kind, cock twitching and knot pulsing and teeth aching to sink in.

First things first though.

He stopped a foot away then bent at the waist, bowing lowly as he'd always been taught. "My name is Prince Derek Theodore Anthony William Hale, Alpha." He raised himself back up before dropping straight down onto one knee. "And I'm so fucking in love with you that it makes me do dumb shit, like hiding who I am in the hopes of getting to know you better on a personal level. Will you do me the honor of forgiving any past transgressions and Mating me?"

Stiles practically beamed at him, lips spread in a wide smile and bright eyes twinkling. "Only if you do the same."

"Already forgiven, my—"

He didn't get to finish. Stiles grabbed him by the shirt and hauled him to his feet, kissing him hard, greedily, hungrily, and sure.

And as they affirmed their engagement in front of the roaring fire, Derek felt a peace he'd never known settle inside his heart as he finally found a place to call home—as well as got the chance to mess up Stiles' stupid hair.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Beacon Palace was located roughly twenty kilometers northeast of the capital city of Nemeton. It wasn't as big as Triskele Palace, but considering the colder climate of Nemeton, it was probably for the best.

It was still large enough for Stiles to have a rather spacious suite—larger than Derek's old one, but the Alpha figured it was perks of being first born and heir to the throne—as well as have enough rooms to house all of Derek's family comfortably, in the country for the Royal Mating Event of the Decade, including his Uncle Peter and his latest boy toy—who was surprisingly Jackson, something Derek was curious about but also really did not want to know the details over. There was also a suite that'd been set aside for Derek when he moved to Nemeton not long after the engagement had been finalized but after three nights of sneaking into one another's rooms via hidden panels and passageways, King Jonathan V—who insisted Derek simply call him "John" since they were about to become family—gave up and allowed Derek to move into Stiles' suite before the Mating officially happened, forgoing tradition.

Although they were supposed to have upheld the tradition of spending the night before in separate rooms but Stiles had spent approximately ten minutes luring Derek in with a series of increasingly explicit texts and photos before the Alpha snapped and snuck his way inside.

And promptly fulfilled the requests Stiles had diligently typed out for him.

Repeatedly.

And now the little Omega was purring and squirming under Derek's weight once more, pinned onto his stomach in the middle of the gargantuan bed as Derek ground his knot inside him for the fourth time that night, as he dragged his teeth along the bite mark he'd left hours prior.

The Mating Bite.

The one he was supposed to give in front of a cathedral full of royals and dignitaries and important figures from around the world, as well as cameras televising and streaming the event live for all to watch.

The one Stiles had begged him for the night before and Derek had been weak to deny when his Omega pleaded so prettily and squeezed around him so perfectly.

Stiles let out a satisfied hum as he turned his head to the side, giving Derek more room to nuzzle, to lick, to press his teeth into the mark he'd already left. A swear in his native language left Stiles and Derek felt a new excitement about learning it, if for no other reason than to know what Stiles was saying during sex.

"We're gonna be in so much trouble," Stiles commented in English, breathing out a laugh that Derek echoed. King John was rather laid back, apparently used to Stiles' shenanigans, and most likely would accept the whole thing with a sigh and a pinched brow—like he had when Stiles told him the whole story over how he and Derek had met—but Derek's mother on the other hand...

Probably a good thing he no longer lived at Triskele Palace.

"Worth it," he murmured against Stiles' scent gland, tasting it once again, feeling how warm from irritation it was due to Derek messing with it all night. His hips rolled as he ground inside Stiles, as he let loose another burst of come, wondering how it was he hadn't been wrung dry yet.

Stiles turned so he could smile up at Derek, cupping his face and kissing him, melting Derek's brain once more. It was strange really. A mere month ago, he'd been dreading this, feeling as though his life was over and future stolen from him as his Mate-to-be was chosen for him. Now, he'd gotten Mated in the privacy of his own bedroom to the Omega who'd been chosen for him and he'd ironically chosen for himself, not knowing they were one in the same.

No matter what, Derek finally felt as though he'd found his home and a future he couldn't wait to see unfold.