Stiles put down his tea cup and walked over to where Prince Derek was trapped talking to the Master Weaver. Not that Stles was ungrateful for comfortable clothes, but the man could not talk about anything but clothes. After ten minutes, it was painful.
"Excuse me, Prince Derek. Would you like to take a walk?" Stiles asked Prince Derek. "The gardens are lovely this time of day."
Prince Derek looked faintly grateful, but quickly schooled his face. "I have been wanting to see your gardens," he said smoothly. "I have heard many wondrous things about them."
Stiles nodded to the Master Weaver. "If you would excuse us?" The man nodded vaguely and looked around for another victim. There were plenty of options since all of the local and various nobles were at the afternoon tea.
"Come with me," Stiles said. He held a hand out to Derek.
The walked together in silence, ignoring the familiarity that holding hands implied. They also ignored the guards posted in the castle and at various locations in the gardens. Being the Prince of Beacon and the Prince of Hale, guards were a part of their life that they grudgingly accepted and largely ignored.
Neither said a word as Stiles deftly guided them to a bench under an apple tree. It was too early in the season for the fruit to be ripe, but the heavy branches drooped toward the ground, affording a semblance of privacy.
Stiles waved a hand and Derek felt a small 'pop' that indicated Stiles had set off some sort of magic around them.
Flopping on the bench, Stiles gave a sigh. "Silencing ward. They can see us but not hear us." He groaned. "Oh. My. God! That was awful."
Derek sat heavily on the bench.
Stiles turned to the other man, "How are you? I'm sorry this had gotten so out of hand!"
"It's not your fault," Derek sighed. "It's just... not fair!"
"Don't I know it!" Stiles whined. "How your father and my mother thought we'd do well together, I'll never figure out!"
"Exactly!" Derek agreed readily. Although it wasn't a new discussion between them. From almost the start, they knew they could be great friends -- but not more. Both of their interests lay toward other people.
"Damn treaty... I don't know what our grandparents were thinking, promising marriage between our families!" Stiles protested. "It probably sounded like a good idea at the time."
"Well, I suspect we could salvage something between our families," Derek said slyly. "We just need to find a way to get them allow us to pick our partners."
"Oh, yes!" Stiles smiled dreamily.
"Ugh!" Derek groaned. "If you start drooling over Uncle Peter again, I'll... I'll tell Erica!"
"No!" Stiles gasped in pretended horror. "You wouldn't!"
"In a heartbeat!" Derek promised.
"You're no better when Cousin Kira is around," Stiles countered.
Derek got the same silly face Stiles just had. "I know!" he admitted.
"We're screwed, aren't we?" Stiles asked.
"We are!" Derek sighed.
They sat in silence.
"I suppose we need to go back," Derek said sadly. "We have that ball to go to tonight."
"Ugh. Don't remind me!" Stiles said. Then he looked at Derek. "We're desperate. Want to try something?"
"Like what?" Derek asked, cautiously. Stiles had come up with some... interesting suggestions since they had met.
Stiles outlined what he had in mind. "I know Erica will help," he added. "She's a sucker for romance."
Derek considered. "It can't be any worse," he admitted. "At least it's a way to make everyone pay attention to what we want, and not what they think should happen."
"Exactly!" Stiles said, bouncing in place. "If nothing else, it will make them talk to us."
"If you think you can arrange it, let's do it!" Derek agreed.
Stiles dropped the silencing ward around them and stood. He held out a hand to Derek. "Shall we return?"
"As you wish," Derek gave a small smile.
Stiles rolled his eyes, but they sparkled.
They returned to the tea, which unfortunately had not ended, and they were forced to make more small talk with those still present. Most of whom were maneuvering for a position in the King's cabinet or to give their advice to the King. Stiles loved his dad, he really did, but dealing with the politics of ruling a kingdom gave him a massive headache. Good thing he had some plans to deal with some of his current problems.
In his room, he called for a light meal before the ball. He had learned early not to start anything that required alcohol without some solid food in him.
As he had hoped, Erica brought the meal to his room. Originally a Housegirl, she had proved herself reliable and was moved up to be part of Stiles' personal staff. Stiles had found a fierce friend in Erica, despite their differences.
"Erica, my sweetness!" Stiles called as she came in.
She looked at him warily. "Now what?" she asked.
"How would you like to help me... play a small prank tonight?" Stiles asked.
"How much trouble will you be in?" she demanded.
"Oh, probably a lot!" Stiles grinned.
She grinned back. "Okay, I'm in!"
Stiles told her what he needed her to do. Mostly to pass a message, and to encourage the others to play along.
"Will that work?" Erica asked, frowning.
Stiles shrugged. "If nothing else, it should make someone pay attention!"
"You got that right!" she cackled. "Good luck tonight!"
"Thanks!" Stiles said. He had to hope for the best.
It technically wasn't an Engagement Ball, but there was an air of anticipation among those attending. After the meal and the -- thankfully brief -- speeches from his father and Derek's mother, the dancing started. His father escorted Derek's mother onto the floor to open the dancing for the evening.
Stiles stood and held a hand out to Derek. "Would you join me?" he asked.
Derek nodded. He stood and took Stiles' hand. "I would be glad to!"
They moved to the floor and Stiles could feel the eyes on them. He and Derek danced for a few minutes as a handful of other couples also moved to the floor. It was considered rude to crowd the floor too much when the King was dancing, and only a handful of others were allowed to join them.
"Ah! We're on!" Stiles murmured to Derek. He could feel Derek tense. "Ready?" he asked softly. "It's not too late to back out."
Derek shook his head. "No, I'm ready!" he assured Stiles.
Stiles eased them across the floor, Derek following easily. When they reached their objective, Stiles stopped and took a half step away from Derek.
"Change partners?" Stiles asked of the other couple.
Kira looked at them with hope and Peter grinned.
"Of course, your Majesty!" Kira smiled prettily. Stiles took her hand and handed her off to Derek, who took the hand gently. They were both blushing as Derek guided them away.
"I seem to be in need of a partner," Stiles said to Peter, holding out a hand.
"We can't let that happen!" Peter agreed. He took Stiles' hand and placed his other hand on Stiles' hip.
"Kira hinted that you'd like to... speak to me?" Peter asked softly.
Stiles nodded. "Derek's a great friend, but, well, we're not a match," Stiles admitted. "He and Kira are obviously in love with each other and I'd like to give them a chance together."
"And what about you?" Peter asked gently.
"Well, if I can be forward, I want to get to know you better," Stiles replied.
"Oh, you do, do you?" Peter grinned. He guided Stiles around the dance floor.
"Don't think I haven't watched you lurking about," Stiles smiled. "And how your sister has worked too hard to keep you in the background. I've heard some of your suggestions and think we can... work well together."
"What if I want to do more than just work with you?" Peter breathed into Stiles' ear.
"Oh, that was part of my plan," Stiles admitted. "I was looking to see if -- " he took a breath -- "the attraction I felt was mutual."
Even though the music didn't call for it, Peter brought Stiles closer. It was scandalous, and Stiles loved every moment of it. "I think we can say it's mutual," Peter admitted.
"Then, I think it's time to do this," Stiles said.
Without stopping their dance, Stiles closed the distance between them and lightly kissed Peter. Without hesitation, Peter held Stiles close and deepened the kiss.
It took them a moment to realize that the music had stopped. Footsteps approached them quickly.
"What are you doing?" Her Majesty Queen Talia of Hale hissed at them. "That is entirely improper."
Stiles' eyes fluttered open. He looked at Peter and raised an eyebrow in question. Peter nodded.
"I'm kissing my fiance," Stiles said calmly. "After all, this was to be an Engagement Ball, isn't it?"
"Stiles..." he father, King John, said in a long-suffering tone Stiles knew well. "Now? Really?"
"What? And not take advantage of everyone being here tonight?" Stiles answered guilelessly. "I don't want to send everyone home tonight and then drag them all back in a couple of days to do it all again!"
"Peter," Queen Talia commanded. "You are to leave, and I want you out of Beacon inside of an hour."
"Okay!" Stiles chirped. "I'll just grab a bag and we can go wherever you'd like."
"I have a lovely apartment in New York," Peter offered. "We could take in some shows, and I know an excellent deli..."
Talia stamped her foot. "That wasn't what I meant!" She turned to Stiles. "You're going to marry Derek, you have to meet the terms of the treaty!"
Stiles turned to face her. "You've mistaken me for someone who cares what you think," Stiles said coldly. "And, if you go back and read the text of the treaty, in its original -- but tedious -- Ancient Latin, you'll find that someone from my generation of the House of Beacon is to marry someone from the House of Hale. Importantly, there is no specification of who in the House of Hale it needs to be."
"But Peter is entirely unsuitable!" Talia said.
"He is my choice," Stiles said steadily. As she drew a breath to speak, Stiles held up a hand. "Be careful of what you say next."
Could see the rage in her eyes that she swallowed before turning to stalk away.
"Ancient Latin?" John asked.
Stiles shrugged. "I had Lydia double check me," Stiles admitted. Lydia, being the High Librarian to the Court of Beacon, had helped him find the original transcript of the treaty so they could go through it with an eye to finding a suitable loophole. It was Lydia who had found it, and he owed her for that.
"You could have come to me," John suggested.
"And you would have talked to Talia and she would have sent Peter off on some dangerous 'errand' before I'd have a chance to talk to him," Stiles said. He looked around at all of the listening court members. "I suspect that any further discussion should be held somewhere else."
"Agreed," John said, also looking around. He drew Stiles in for a warm hug. Then he brought a startled Peter in for his own hug. "Hurt my boy and you'll look fondly on what Talia would have done to you," he said lowly into Peter's ear.
"I suspect Stiles would beat you both to it," Peter admitted with a wry grin.
"Can we get back to the... dancing?" Stiles whined.
"Of course!" John agreed. He signaled to the musicians to start playing again.
Under the cover of the music, Peter whispered, "Clever boy! Talia never even wondered where Derek wandered off to."
"He and Kira are too cute together," Stiles admitted. "And they really aren't cut out for Court politics." Like we are, went unsaid.
"Interesting that you let the Court hear all of that," Peter commented. "I understand you have some... magic."
"And Derek tells me you can do a full shift," Stiles countered. "You haven't even told Talia, but Derek figured it out."
"He is quite the nosy puppy," Peter grinned, neither confirming nor denying Stiles' statement.
"Well, the good news is that we can talk them all down from a huge wedding," Stiles said. "Talia won't want the wedding between Derek and Kira to be overshadowed by ours, so her annoyance with you can be to our benefit."
"Oh, poor Derek!" Peter said. "Too bad for him."
"We can't elope, but we don't have to have an overly grand wedding. Although we do need a public event. Crown Prince and all," Stiles admitted. "Sorry."
Peter leaned in for a soft kiss. "As long as I get to keep you, I won't mind."