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Have Courage, Be Kind... and Get Revenge

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As always on his trips to town, his first stop is the blacksmith.

Not because he ever needs a blacksmith but because Deaton opened his own shop when he was fired from the Stilinski estate and Scott is now apprenticed there.

“He’s just finishing up something,” Deaton tells him as he enters. He doesn’t quite look up from his work but his face flickers into a smile. “Go wait in the back.”

Stiles nods agreeably and heads to the back room. The one time he’d tried to talk to Scott while he was working, they had both ended up with pretty horrific burns. And there may have been a small fire. Granted, they had both been twelve at the time, but five years later, Deaton still doesn’t risk it.

Stiles doesn’t blame him. The small fire had been fairly large.

“Jeez,” Scott says, swinging into the room a few minutes later. He’s already frowning. “Stiles, you look terrible.”

“C’mon,” Stiles replies. “Is that really how to greet your dear friend who you’ve not seen for almost a month?”

Scott pulls him into a rough hug but when they break away, he is still frowning.

“Has she been feeding you at all?” Scott demands and Stiles shrugs one shoulder but doesn’t stop Scott from reaching up to where he keeps his lunch on the top shelf.

“Technically, yes,” Stiles offers. His stepmother always makes sure to leave him enough food so that he won’t technically starve. Just not enough that he hasn’t dropped a considerable amount of weight in the eight months since his father had died. Not enough that he doesn’t dig into the half of a sandwich the instant Scott waves it in front of his face.

“I still don’t think you should stay there,” Scott grumbles, eating his own half at a much slower pace. “You know that you could stay with me and my mom. She worries about you.”

“You know I have to,” Stiles replies. He doesn’t bother to elaborate. They’ve had this conversation before. First, when his ever-so-lovely stepmother fired the entire staff (which at that point, had already whittled down to Scott, his mother and Deaton) and then every time Stiles manages to sneak away for half a day or his chores actually gave him a valid excuse to be in town.

Today it is to collect new parasols for his stepsisters. They apparently don’t have enough money to pay for any repairs to the house or to buy a sufficient amount of food so that he can eat properly three times a day but clothing and accessories, they can afford. His stepmother has a very selective idea of poverty.

“It’s my house,” Stiles finishes, as he does every time. “If she wants to stay there, she’s going to pay a price.”

“And the price is you,” Scott says and he’s smiling a little bit now. Stiles grins.

“Exactly.”

On the surface, it may appear that Stiles isn’t exactly a price to pay, considering it took Ms. Blake all of a week after his father’s death to establish that Stiles was now in charge of cleaning, cooking, gardening, and repairing everything in the house. It may appear that the fact Stiles often stays up well past midnight to finish his chores means that she is taking full advantage of having a stepson-turned-servant. It may seem, based on Stiles’ underweight, ragged, dirty appearance, that the Blake family is winning and Stiles is losing.

But they aren’t winning. Because Stiles has become a master at finding some little (and some not so little) ways to slowly drive the three insane. There’s the carefully placed air holes in his old bedroom window that magnify the sound of the rooster every morning. There’s the carefully hidden animal poop underneath the floorboards of their rooms and the cutting of the legs of all the tables so they’re uneven and, really, the amount of Stiles’ spit that they eat with every meal is almost uncalled for.

And, then of course, there is the outright theft. The wonder of having three individuals all equally obsessed with material goods and all equally messy is that is it almost too easy for Stiles to grab bracelets and necklaces and weird god-awful statues and sneak them out to sell to the highest bidder.

It’s slow work but eventually he’ll have enough to buy the house from them. Because the house belonged to his mother and father and he’ll be damned if he doesn’t get it back. Someday.

All he has to do for now is look beaten down enough that they don’t suspect and keep it small.

“My new favorite thing to do is cut a hole at the bottom of their stockings,” he tells Scott. “Apparently, it’s awful. Something about cutting off toe circulation.”

“Oh god,” Scott says, but his smile grows. “And did they ever find out the bugs in their room were because of you?”

“Not yet,” Stiles says. “I planted entirely flowers that are supposed to attract bees outside their window too. I hope that one pays off.”

Scott outright laughs at that and Stiles is about to tell him about his latest attempts to train the Goose to attack his stepmother on sight when there’s a commotion outside the shop and after a wordless glance, they both rise and head outside to see what’s happening.

“By the order of Queen Talia of the Hale Dynasty,” a man is saying with some degree of importance. “All maidens and young masters, regardless of whether they are of noble birth or common, are invited to a Royal Ball to be held in two weeks’ time at the Royal Palace-”

“What other palace would it be?” Stiles mutters to Scott. Scott shushes him.

“At which his Royal Highness, Prince Derek, will select a-”

“Perfect,” Stiles breathes, stops listening, and pulls Scott back into the shop.

“I am going to that ball,” he announces. This is perfect. This is the greatest thing to ever happen to him.

“What?” Scott says. “Wait, really?”

“Obviously!” Stiles replies. He can totally do this. He just needs some clothes that aren’t… basically rags. Pockets! He’ll need lots of pockets. And-

“This is awesome!” Scott interrupts his thought process. “I think you could totally win over the prince if you wanted! You’re like the most handsome guy I know!”

“Agreed,” Stiles says. Then Scott’s words actually catch up with him. “Wait, no. I’m not going for the prince. Why would I care about the prince?”

“Because… true love?” Scott tries. “Because that’s the point of the whole Ball?”

“God, no,” Stiles says. “There’s going to be a thousand people there and I’m sure the inviting commoners gag is just to make us feel better about a system that is inherently unfair. There’s no way I’m even meeting the prince. Yeah, no. No prince-hunting for me.”

“Then why do you want to go?”

“Because,” Stiles says. Honestly, sometimes it’s a bit embarrassing that Scott is his best (and only) friend. “Think of it. All the nobles of the world. Under one roof. Drinking. Dancing. Leaving their expensive items lying about.”

“You’re going to steal things,” Scott sounds disappointed. Scott is almost always disappointed with Stiles’ life choices. At least before Stiles convinces him it’s a great idea.

“Of course!” Stiles says. Scott’s face doesn’t change and he feels guilt settle in his gut. Despite it all, he hates making Scott’s face look like that. “And the food, Scott. Imagine the food. You’re the one who’s always telling me I need to eat.”

“Well you are too thin,” Scott mutters.

“I’m only taking trinkets,” Stiles promises. “Nothing major. They won’t even miss it.”

“It just…” Scott struggles for words for a second. “It doesn’t seem to be following your mom’s last advice. You know: ‘Have courage and be kind.’”

Stiles rolls his eyes. He loved his mother but her words of wisdom were much more easily applied when he wasn’t living with his evil stepmother, horrific stepsisters, and struggling to keep the house from falling apart around him. Plus, by the end, she didn’t exactly recognize him so who’s to say if those words were even meant for him.

“You know, she also thought the mice were people,” he tells Scott with a shrug. “They had names. The fat one was Gus.”

His smile doesn’t fade into something small and fond and sad. It doesn’t.

“You still feed those mice every day,” Scott points out. Stiles scowls at him. Sometimes he forgets that Scott knows entirely too much about him.

“And I need food to do that,” he tells Scott, going for a grin again. “This is gonna be great.”

A glance at the clock tells him that he has to get a move on. He still needs to find at least two parasols, convince whoever’s selling to sell them to him cheap so he has enough money for chicken feed (something his stepmother consistently forgets about) and then rush home in time to make dinner. Then there was cleaning up and laundry and he was researching new ways to make shoes particularly uncomfortable and-

“Gotta run!” he smiles at Scott, snagging his bag from where he’d dumped it. “I’ll see you in two weeks.”

“You’re crazy,” Scott tells him.

“In all the best ways,” Stiles replies. “Oh and Scott? Find me something to wear!”

“I’m not helping!”

“Please!”

“I hate you!”

Stiles grins and runs out. He has no doubt Scott will find him something.

*^*^*^

“Dude!” Scott hisses as he opens the door two weeks later. “You’re so late!”

“It’s only nine o’clock,” Stiles says, hoping he’s right. “My freaking lunatic of a stepmother convinced herself I was going to go to the Ball and seduce Prince Darren.”

“Derek.”

“Sorry, Prince Derek,” Stiles replies. “She actually locked me in the attic!”

“She still doesn’t know you can pick locks?” Scott asks, waving him in. “C’mon you gotta take a quick bath. You stink.”

“They took the horses! I had to run!” Stiles whispers. “Did you get the clothes?”

“Yes, yes,” Scott replies. “And don’t bother keeping it down. I think my mom knows what we’re up to. At least, she randomly decided to go to dinner with some friends tonight and isn’t back. Go wash up!”

“God, your bossy when you’re stressed.”

“Just go! I’ll get the clothes out!”

Stiles takes what amounts to little more than a quick dunk and then gets glared at so much by Scott that he has to go back and actually wash.

“Alright,” he says as he exits for the second time. He feels raw. Ash is not easy to get out of your hair. “Now am I clean enough for you?”

Scott looks him over before nodding.

“Yes,” he says, sounding pleased. “Now check out what I got for you!”

Stiles directs his attention to the bed.

And stares.

And then blinks.

And then stares some more.

Scott,” he finally manages. “What did you do?

“I got you clothes!” Scott’s tone doesn’t change. Still inordinately pleased.

“That is- those are,” Stiles squawks. “I can’t wear those!”

Because Scott has not gotten him a nice pair of pants and a top that would allow him to blend in. No, Scott has somehow gotten him rich clothes. Clothes that look like they belong to a Lord or maybe even a Duke. Or, hell, a Prince.

The pants are a dark gray and the jacket is a dark but royal green and there is a cream shirt and-

It honestly doesn’t even make sense.

“Isn’t it awesome?” Scott says, sticking one elbow into Stiles’ side. “I called in a few favors.”

“You- you called in a few favors,” Stiles repeats weakly. He knew Scott was popular but really. This is ridiculous.

“And Deaton said you can borrow his horse!”

Stiles is still stuck standing and staring.

“I think I should wash again,” he says.

“Oh, come on,” Scott groans, shoving him forward and then, really, thank god the old seamstress loves Scott because Stiles isn’t exactly sure how to even wear most of this stuff but between her instructions and Scott’s persistence, they manage it.

The McCalls are nowhere near rich enough to have a mirror in the house, but Stiles can tell just from looking down that he looks ridiculous. The pants are tight for one and the sleeves of his shirt widen in a way that is entirely distracting and it all just feels so very, very wrong. Plus he’s pretty sure he’s choking to death.

“You look awesome!” Scott assures him for tenth time.

“Ugh, alright,” Stiles says. He’s come this far. And he needs the money. And Scott had been kind enough to ask someone to line the jacket with pockets so he is ready to go. “Let’s do this.”

“Wait,” Scott says. “One last thing.”

He turns to grab something from his bedside table and continues talking: “I hope I made it small enough. You have really scrawny wrists.”

Stiles holds out his hands. He doesn’t not have scrawny wrists! They are a bit on the slender side maybe (and again, he would like to blame his stepmother for his general figure at this moment) but-

“Here,” Scott says. “Check it out!”

And then Scott gives him… well…

Stiles would say it’s a bracelet but it’s not just a bracelet. It’s a combination of leather and metal and - is that a circle of glass in there? - and he can’t even tell how it all weaves together except it’s beautiful.

“Scott,” he says. “How did you-?”

“Made it myself,” Scott says, blushing a bit. “I wanted to make sure you fit in with all the rich people.”

“Holy shit,” Stiles says. “Dude, you-”

“Don’t tell Kira,” Scott interrupts. “I sorta showed her the designs and she wanted me to make her one first.”

Stiles barks a laugh.

“I promise,” he says. “I can’t even tell how to get it on.”

“Here,” Scott offers and then it’s latching around his wrist and Scott’s right, it is small enough to be snug but not painful and it looks awesome.

“Ugh,” Stiles says. “We have to get rid of these sleeves! They’re going to cover it the whole night!”

“That’s fine,” Scott says. “It’ll still look cool if anyone sees it. Like if someone holds your hand or something.”

“… you still want me to get with the prince, don’t you?”

“It’s romantic!

“If you didn’t just give me the coolest thing ever, I would hit you,” Stiles tells Scott honestly. “Alright, now am I ready?”

Scott gives him another once over.

“Yes,” he says. “But, remember, we agreed that you have to leave by midnight.”

“Ugh,” Stiles says, waving a hand. “Yes, yes. By midnight, enough people might realize that there stuff is gone that the guards might start searching people as they leave and it will be dangerous and you will never forgive me if I end up in jail.”

“Stiles, seriously,” Scott says. “Midnight gives you two hours to rob people. You’ll have more stuff than you can even carry by that point!”

“That’s the plan!” Stiles winks. That and to stuff his face so full of food, he doesn’t even want to eat for the next few days.

“And don’t fiddle with the bracelet too much,” Scott says as they both head for the door. “The clasp isn’t that secure – I’m still working on how to fix that and midnight is the latest you can stay until. You could leave earlier. Remember, you have to get home before your stepmother too!”

“Scott, don’t worry so much,” Stiles says. “It’s going to be fine!” And then there’s one last hug before he hops up on the horse waiting outside. He’ll have to thank Deaton next time he sees the man.

“Remember to be home by midnight!” Scott calls after him. “And find true love!”

Stiles scoffs. True Love. As if he has time for that.

*^*^*^

Derek would like to state, for the record, that although he does not want to be that guy who complains about being rich, powerful, and, you know, a prince, being a prince certainly has it’s downsides.

There’s a lack of privacy and a lack of freedom and, above all, there is a severe lack of acceptance when it comes to bachelordom.

Which, also for the record, he would like to note should not be that big a deal because Laura is in line for the throne and she is happily engaged to be wed to a perfectly nice fellow and so the argument that he has to carry on the Hale Family dynasty is a bit weak. Laura doesn’t have any kids yet but she will and even if Laura doesn’t, Cora and Isaac will doubtless get married the second they are both of age and so this entire thing is ridiculous.

Of course, his continued repetition of this very argument had only led to the concession that he could also invite men to the ball and that he could marry a commoner if he so chose. Hence the problem. Because a Royal Ball is still somehow involved.

And Derek is probably the least likely person to meet someone at a ball. He actually doesn’t mind the dancing bit – he’s had to take dance classes since he was seven and it’s the only form of social interaction which actually doesn’t involve talking, which he appreciates – but he hates everything else about balls. Namely, having to talk to people he doesn’t know, sip fancy wine in between dances when everyone knows he prefers mead or beer, and smile every so often across the room.

There is absolutely no chance that he is meeting his future partner in this environment. They never should have advertised this ball as such.

But his mother insisted and his sisters found it too funny to help him in his quest for cancellation and-

Here he is.

It’s almost eleven and he is already bored and tired and frankly a little bit willing to stab anyone who comes up and touches him again. Because everyone is doing that. Every ten seconds. Even the people who are pretending to play it cool and ignore him are inching closer and glancing over to make sure he notices them playing it cool.

Which, of course, is still better than the people who are throwing themselves at him. And the mothers. Dear god, the mothers.

“-like to introduce you to my daughters, Anastasia and Drisella,” a woman is saying. Derek blinks and attempts to refocus. He’s supposed to be nice.

“Wonderful,” he says and then because her daughters appear to be wearing every color known to man and he can already smell the perfume from an arm’s length away, he forces a quick smile and then continues. “I’m so sorry, I have to run. Perhaps I can make your acquaintance later?”

He moves before he can hear their replies. Moves and heads towards the buffet table because he may die of boredom but he’s not going to starve. As always, his movement causes a stir of people both clearing a path and trying to follow him without seeming obvious and a few of the dancers hurriedly stop dancing with their partners so they are free as he approaches and-

There.

There is a man standing by the food, wearing a gorgeous almost-emerald jacket that stands out from his pale skin and he is tall and slender and his hair is sticking up a little, but it seems to be doing that naturally or like maybe he’s run his hands through it enough that that’s where it ended up and-

He is not paying any attention to Derek.

At first Derek thinks he is one of those who is pretending not to pay attention but as Derek stares, the man never looks over, not once. He seems perfectly content to make his way around the buffet table and try one of everything and is actually so focused that he bumps into more than one person.

He is beautiful.

He is beautiful and he is ignoring Derek.

Finally, Derek thinks.

At least he seems interesting.

*^*^*^

Okay, admittedly, Stiles is a little distracted.

Maybe even very distracted. Because, one, he is pretty sure he has somehow forgotten what food is supposed to taste like. Eight months of living off scraps or literal chicken feed (that was the glorious week when Jennifer had actually caught Stiles taking a bath first and purposefully using up all the hot water) have really changed his perception. So he’s a little worried he is going to be horrifically sick at any moment but more concerned that he’s going to get full before he gets to try absolutely everything on this table.

And he’s also distracted because there are literally rich people everywhere. Rich people who are wearing gold watches in their front pocket and ladies with loose dangling earrings and bracelets and honestly, it’s almost too easy. Scott was totally right. He isn’t even going to need until midnight before his pockets are too full to carry anymore.

Finally, he is smart enough to know that he has to keep tabs on where Jennifer and the twins of terror are at all times. Thankfully they are wearing colors bright enough that he can spot them from a mile away so…

So, he’s feeling good. He’s alternating between eating and arranging to bump into people and taking their things and he’s just pondering the problem of how to try to sneak some of this food back for Scott and Mrs. McCall when suddenly there is a tap on his shoulder.

He can’t help it. He flinches, already ready for whatever guard has caught him to grab him and pull him out. But then he turns and-

Well, it is not a guard. No, it is a gorgeous, gorgeous man with dark hair and a neat beard and he’s wearing a rich, royal blue and wait, that actually is the royal blue.

Stiles freezes.

Prince Derek is standing in front of him.

(Thank God, Scott had reminded him of his name.)

“Uh,” he says. “Your Highness! Er, hello!”

Dammit, the prince has beautiful eyes. Someone should have warned him about this.

“I was wondering,” Derek starts – Prince Derek, in his head Stiles really should remember to call him Prince Derek. “If you would like to dance?”

His voice is beautiful too. For the record.

But the end of it is drowned out by a collective gasp and then murmurs and Stiles manages to blink and stop staring.

“Oh,” he says. “Oh, no, no, really, I’m sure someone else would be much better than me.”

He has to get out of this situation. Theft is hard to do when your dancing. With the prince.

Derek’s face falls into a frown.

“Like her!” Stiles points to a girl at random. Derek’s face falls further. He changes tactics. “Or him!”

He isn’t up to date on his Prince Derek rumors. He doesn’t know what the man prefers.

“You don’t want to dance?” Prince Derek says. Around him, the murmurs turn to whispers.

Crap, he’s getting even more attention from this.

“Um, no, it’s not that,” he starts. “I mean… who wouldn’t want to dance with you, right? Uh, it’s just that…” he glances towards the dance floor. “I can’t!”

It’s a relief to finally have a good reason. And it’s true. Maybe his mother had taught him a few of the choreographed dances when he was younger but he barely remembers them and he is also pretty sure they were of the “Commoner Barn Dance” variety. Not exactly the graceful floating action he sees going on here.

“These are all very fancy,” he continues. “Where I come from, we don’t have them. We don’t dance at all in fact.”

“Then why come to a ball?” Derek asks.

To eat your food and steal people’s shit.

“I just like watching. To learn,” he says, nodding towards the dance floor.

Suddenly Derek- Prince Derek- is smirking at him.

“Wonderful,” he says, holding out a hand. “I’d love to teach you.”

And then Stiles is out on the dance floor.

There are multiple issues.

First and foremost, Stiles really doesn’t know how to dance. He steps on Derek’s feet multiple times. He is also quite certain his palms are sweaty and his nervous laughter is entirely too loud for the vibe of the ball and he can literally feel the glares he is receiving as Derek’s frown finally breaks into a smile at his antics.

There’s also the issue that whenever he manages to trip over his own feet, Derek is somehow there pulling him up and whispering encouragement in his ear and Stiles is positive he has ever been more red in his life.

And, of course, there is the problem that whenever Derek tries to pull him in close (which he seems to be doing more than the choreography suggests), Stiles is acutely aware that he has a fairly large amount of stolen goods in his pockets.

Still, despite it all, he has… well fun might be too strong a word but he laughs a lot. And he finds himself smiling whenever Derek smiles at him and he forgets about being nervous halfway through and when they finish their third dance and Derek asks him if he’d like to go grab a breath of fresh air, Stiles says yes.

“So… sorry about that,” Stiles says as they exit the ballroom. “I told you I wasn’t a good dancer. Your Highness.”

“You were fine,” Derek replies and he looks sincere enough until Stiles raises an eyebrow at him long enough and he blushes. “Okay, so you weren’t great.”

“Aha!” Stiles cries, pointing a finger in Derek’s direction. “The truth comes out! The gloves are off! No more trying to protect my feelings!”

“I would protect your feelings more if you didn’t step on my feet every five steps,” Derek grumbles.

Stiles can’t help it. He laughs. He laughs because Derek is cute and funny and it’s been months since anyone besides Scott and his mother treated Stiles as something other than an expendable servant. And Derek must know he’s a commoner, judging by his dance abilities and his general persona and the fact that despite washing twice, Stiles is positive there are still smudges of soot on his neck somewhere. So Derek must know. And he must not care.

The thought puts a warm feeling in Stiles’ stomach.

“Fuck, it’s hot,” he grumbles and he has his jacket halfway off before he realizes that that might not be proper. “I mean, uh, do you mind if I take off my jacket, your highness?”

It’s Derek’s turn to laugh.

“Please,” he says and then he is shrugging out of his own. “And you don’t have to call me that, you know. Especially considering you’re a prince too.”

Stiles nods agreeably before his brain realizes what has just been said.

“I’m a what?” he blurts.

“No point in hiding it,” Derek tells him, he makes a gesture to Stiles’ left hand that Stiles doesn’t understand. “I saw your ring.”

Stiles blinks. Looks down at his hand.

Right. He had stolen a ring as he was introduced to someone earlier. And then to conserve pocket space, he’d simply crammed it on his own finger.

Derek thinks he is a prince.

Well, that explains things.

“Oh,” he says. He should get out of here. Dancing was fun and Derek is hot and this has all been very nice but he’s not a prince. He’s barely even a commoner at this point. But he can’t exactly explain that to Derek considering that would require also explaining why he has a signet ring on his finger so- “Right. Yes. A prince. That’s – uh – that’s me.”

“I would love to know your name,” Derek says.

“And ruin the surprise?” Stiles asks, throwing a smirk in Derek’s direction as he takes off his jacket. He sees Derek frown but then his eyes catch on Stiles’ wrist and his face is softening.

“Can I?” he asks softly and for a moment, Stiles is confused but then he remembers: Scott’s bracelet.

“Yeah,” he says, holding up his hand. He shivers when Derek gently takes hold of his wrist, dragging it closer to his face to see. This is bad.

“It’s beautiful,” Derek says but his eyes leave the bracelet to focus on Stiles’ face as he says it and Stiles feels himself flush. This is really bad.

“Thanks,” he says. “My best- uh, my blacksmith made it. He’s totally awe- talented. Very talented young blacksmith.”

Derek nods.

“So… your name? Are you really not going to tell me?”

Stiles sighs. A part of him would love to tell Derek his name. Would love to just tell Derek that he is a commoner who lives about five miles away, that he has a house in the woods that he loves, and that he likes farming and talking to the stupid animals because there is no one else for him to talk to on a daily basis. He would love to just come clean but-

But this is just one night. It’s just one night and in the morning he’ll go back to being just Stiles who has to clean up after his stepmother and feed his stepsisters and also try to move the stolen goods he managed to steal in the hour or so before Derek distracted him.

And things like this… well, they don’t work out.

“Let’s not,” he says, trying for a grin. “If I tell you my name, we’ll end up talking about kingdoms and then politics and other… stuff like that. Let’s just skip it for now.”

He forces the lie to come out smoothly. Like this is a real problem for him. He can act when he needs to.

Derek stares at him for a second and then smiles.

“Okay,” he agrees. “No politics.”

Stiles should leave. He should make up some excuse and maybe grab a few things on his way out and make a dash for it.

“What was your favorite part of the buffet?” he asks, striding forward to sit on the railing of the balcony. “I’m torn between the weird tomato-cheese thing and the shrimp. Or the spinach dip. That was good too.”

It can’t hurt to pretend. Just for a night.

*^*^*^

The Mystery Prince is the strangest prince that Derek has ever met.

He moves as if he has never been taught how to hold still and laughs as if he has never been hushed at an important state dinner and waves his arms around as if he’s never had to worry about knocking over pieces of art worth thousands of gold pieces.

He also sits on any flat surface he finds as they move through the Palace grounds and seems to delight in swinging his legs so that they are thumping out a beat against the ground. His fingers then join in and it sounds beautiful to Derek but he outright laughs when Derek asks if he has ever had any music instruction.

When they find an abandoned tray of food, he falls on it as if he’s starving and then lights up when Derek tells him they can sneak to the kitchen. And, really, the kingdom he is from must be the strangest place ever, because he moans into his food and tells Derek that he simply has to learn how to make this, as if he is the one who cooks the food in his household.

When Derek mentions this, Mystery Prince goes bright red and stammers something about liking to cook and Derek finds himself just smiling fondly because Mystery Prince is also the most wonderful man Derek has ever met.

He talks too much and too quickly and often doesn’t wait for Derek to answer his questions, almost as if he is used to talking to himself. His eyes scan every room he enters as if looking for something and he never lets Derek take his coat for him as they move from room to room and looks honestly surprised every time Derek offers and that is to say nothing of the fact that when they enter a room where the fire has died, he rolls up his shirt sleeves, bends over, and coaxes it back to life as if he does it every day.

Derek is positive he has never smiled more in his entire life.

“Holy shit,” the prince breathes as they step outside into the gardens. That’s another thing Derek likes about him. He curses all the time. “This is…”

The prince is looking around at the garden as if it’s the most wonderful thing he’s ever seen. Derek just stares at him.

So he notices when the amazed smile drops for just a millisecond into something smaller.

“My parents would’ve loved to see this,” he breathes.

“They are more than welcome to visit,” Derek replies quickly. Maybe too quickly. He blushes. He probably sounds entirely too overeager.

“Oh, no,” the prince replies and his gaze drops to his hands as he fiddles with his bracelet. “No, they- they’re both dead, actually.”

It doesn’t make any sense, but Derek feels something in his own chest splinter. Partly out of embarrassment because he should have known that, but mostly because the prince suddenly looked smaller and fragile and it was Derek’s fault and-

“I’m sorry,” he says, taking a step closer instinctively.

“Don’t be,” the prince tells him, one side of his mouth twitching up into an imitation of a smile. “I mean, it’s not your fault. Just… that’s life, you know?”

Derek frowns. It isn’t even hopelessness in his voice. More like… casual acceptance. Acceptance that life isn’t fair and it isn’t fun and there is no reason to think differently. And Derek hates it. Because the man standing in front of him is funny and wonderful and beautiful and his life should be the same way.

“It shouldn’t be like that,” he tells the prince seriously, still moving closer. “Yours shouldn’t be like that.”

He is standing too close now but he can’t stop himself, just like he can’t stop himself from thinking of all the ways he wants to make this prince’s life better, of all the things he could do to try to make it perfect, of all the things he wants to share with him even though he’s only known him for maybe an hour and-

The prince’s eyes – which are the most incredible shade of amber Derek has ever seen – are huge as they lock with Derek’s and Derek wonders if he looks as flushed and this time he is ready for the slight shiver when he wraps his hand around the bracelet the prince wears and he realizes that if he can just make the prince quiver like that once a day for the rest of his life, he will be happy.

Derek hadn’t been planning on kissing a prince whose name he doesn’t even know when the night started, or even when he started moving closer but he’s going to. It seems inevitable.

And the Mystery Prince isn’t stopping him. His eyes are wide and nervous but he isn’t moving away and then they flicker down to Derek’s mouth and there’s a clang from the distance that Derek doesn’t bother to identify and then-

“Shit!” the prince is flinching back, eyes flying around the room. The clanging continues. “It’s midnight!”

“Umm… yes,” Derek agrees. The world seems to be moving too fast. Or maybe that’s just the Mystery Prince, who is somehow already halfway across the room.

“Oh god,” he mumbles, his arms flailing in panic. “I- uh- I’m so sorry. I have to go.”

“What?” Derek says. What is going on? What’s happening?

“I have to go,” the prince repeats. He’s halfway to the door when he realizes he’s left his jacket and darts back for it. Derek still hasn’t managed to even move. “I’m sorry. I- uh- this was… this was- I have to go.”

And then he’s practically out the door.

“Wait!” Derek calls, finally pushing his legs into action. This can’t be happening. He doesn’t even know his name. “How do I find you?”

“Don’t!” the prince yelps. “I can’t- I’m so sorry. I really gotta- Scott’s gonna kill me. This was such a fucking bad idea.”

He pauses for a split second and his eyes go warm and soft and Derek thinks for a second he’s going to stop moving and explain.

“This was great,” he says, his voice dropping to something sincere and honest. “Thank you. Really. For everything.”

“What’s going on?” Derek asks. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing!” the prince says, but the panic is back in his eyes . “Nothing’s wrong. I just- don’t follow me!”

And then he is running away.

And Derek stands there, feeling lost and confused and already oddly empty and-

He takes a few steps towards the door because this can’t be it. It can’t be over. Not like this.

He’s about to break into a sprint when his foot catches on something and kicks it across the floor.

It’s the bracelet. The odd mix of dark iron, leather, and glass that seems impossible and-

He’s going to find him. Somehow.

*^*^*^

“Dude!” Scott cries as Stiles bursts in the door. He’s still panting and sweating. “It’s after midnight!”

“Not my fault,” Stiles pants. “I totally left at midnight. I just had to – run more than anticipated.” Who knew that the Palace gardens were so freaking huge?

“Did they catch you?” Scott sounds frantic. He goes so far as to pull Stiles into the house as if that might help.

“No, no,” Stiles says, shaking his head. “Help me out of this get up. I still have to run home.”

“Right,” Scott says and starts on the myriads of buttons. “So… how was it?”

“It was,” Stiles starts. And then stops.

He doesn’t know what to tell Scott. His haul was pretty good considering half of his time there was spent wandering the grounds and talking with the prince. But already it seemed like a surreal experience. Like something that was too good. It could not possibly have happened to him.

Princes like that didn’t exist. Princes who didn’t seem to care about Stiles’ horrific excuse for dancing or mind Stiles’ near constant babbling, or who actually seemed to delight in sneaking Stiles into the kitchen and eating food directly from the stove. Good lord, he is pretty sure servants and cooks were supposed to hate princes, not grin happily when they walked into the kitchen.

And princes definitely weren’t supposed to have strange moments with Stiles where Stiles thought that they maybe, sorta were about to kiss.

Prince Derek is weird. This whole night is weird. Stiles should forget about it.

“Oh my god,” Scott says suddenly and Stiles flushes automatically. “You met someone!”

“I- I did not!” Stiles tries even though his face is already red. “I- um- I just- er.”

“Tell me who!” Scott chirps. “Tell me or I’m not helping you out of these clothes.”

“No,” Stiles groans. “You have to! I have to get back! She’ll kill me and you know it.”

“Tell me,” Scott says.

“Ugh, okay, okay,” Stiles says. “It was… well, it was the prince. Derek.”

WHAT?” Scott shouts.

“Dude,” Stiles mutters. But he is smiling. He can’t help it. “It’s not a big deal.”

“Not a big deal?” Scott sounds horrified. “How did this happen? When did this happen? WHAT HAPPENED?”

“I dunno!” Stiles replies, feeling too warm. He can’t do this. “It just… I was eating food at the buffet table and stealing shit and then he was just… there. And then he asked me to dance-”

“He asked you to dance!”

“-and I said I didn’t know how-”

“You said what?

“-and then he said he’d show me how-”

“He did what?

“Seriously, dude,” Stiles says, grinning. “You gotta stop doing that.

“Right, right,” Scott replies. “I’m sorry. My bad. Please. Continue.”

“That’s it really,” Stiles says. “We danced for a while. I was awful and so eventually we just went and walked around. And talked. He took me to the kitchens and let me eat all the food I wanted. It was…”

He struggles to find the words.

“It was fun,” he finishes lamely.

“Oh my god,” Scott says. “You are the worst at telling stories. You’re supposed to tell me the details! What did you guys talk about? Was he nice? How was the food?”

“I don’t have time!” Stiles argues, bending down to grab his old pants and drag off his fancy pair. “Forty minute run home, remember? Evil stepmother? Might actually kill me if she finds out I was gone? And you wouldn’t think it, but locking a door from the inside is actually harder than getting out!”

“Ugh,” Scott says but he starts unbuttoning the weird loops of Stiles’ shirt again. “At least tell me what he was like.”

“He was…” Stiles flounders for a moment. And then because it’s Scott, he settles for honesty. “He was awesome, Scott. He was kinda frowny and grumpy but he was totally cool. You would have liked him.”

There is more than that though. There’s the fact that he smiled whenever Stiles did and that Stiles thinks his laugh is perfect and that Stiles had told him about his parents.

He’s never told anyone about his parents before. Mostly because everyone he knows was there when the news came but, really, even he and Scott avoid the subject.

“So,” Scott says, cutting through Stiles’ thoughts before they can go down that path. “When are you going to see him again?”

Reality hits Stiles like a rock.

“Never,” he says. He makes it firm. Like a promise.

“What? Why?” Scott asks, stepping back as he finishes with Stiles’ shirt.

“Because he’s a prince,” Stiles replies, pulling the shirt over his head and exchanging it for his old one. “He’s a prince and I’m a commoner. Not even. A thief.”

“So?” Scott says. “He already knew that! Well, maybe not the thief thing but you’re not really a thief.”

“No,” Stiles sighs. “No, he didn’t, Scott. The whole night he thought I was a prince. Because of my clothes and the fact that I stole this ring and crammed it on my finger.”

“Oh,” Scott says. His smile drops. “Well-”

“Well, nothing,” Stiles says. “He was only hanging out with me because he thought I was also rich and powerful and even if he didn’t care, he’ll care that I lied to him for a whole night.”

Scott frowns but stays silent.

“Look, it’s for the best,” he says, pulling on his worn out shoes. Maybe he should use whatever money he made tonight to buy new ones. “He’s… he’s a fucking prince, Scott and I’m just an orphan who steals shit and cooks and cleans. He’ll find another prince. A real one and marry him.”

“But,” Scott starts.

“Don’t worry about it,” Stiles says. It only takes him a minute to transfer the stuff from the pockets into his bag. “He thought I was a prince and I’m not. No big deal.”

“Stiles.”

“I gotta go, Scott,” Stiles interrupts. He pulls Scott into a quick hug. “Thanks for everything.”

Sometimes Scott is good at sensing when to stop. It’s a relief when this is one of those times.

“No problem, bro,” he says. “Get home safe.”

“Will do!” Stiles calls and then heads out into the night.

What he told Scott was true. He has to forget about this.

*^*^*^

“So… your only description is ‘pale, dark hair, moles, and pretty,’” Cora says, frowning.

“Pretty tall,” Derek corrects. And then considers. “Though he is pretty too.”

“Okay, we are still going to need more than that,” Cora replies.

Derek sighs. After four days of telling himself that maybe he should just forget about it, that mystery man wasn’t a big deal, or that maybe he could find him on his own, he had finally broken. And told his sisters. Who are now at least attempting to help.

“He was wearing a green jacket!” he adds. He doesn’t need the look on their faces to tell him that this is practically hopeless. He knows that. He knows his description skills are severely lacking. He knows that the mystery man could be anywhere.

“And you think he’s a prince,” Laura adds. The judgement is very clear in her voice. It is also very unhelpful.

“Yes,” Derek says. His hand clenches the bracelet in his pocket. It’s way too small for him but he carries it around everywhere now. “I mean… I guess he doesn’t have to be. But he was wearing a ring. Though I didn’t get a good look at the crest.”

“I’m sorry, Derek,” Laura says. “I just don’t see how we even have enough information to go off of. I mean, we can arrange for the royalty and nobility to send portraits for you to look at but if you’re not even sure he is a noble then…”

She shrugs. Derek glares. Twists his fingers around the metal once more.

“I have to find him,” Derek says tightly. He has to. He doesn’t care what it takes.

It doesn’t make him feel any better when Laura’s eyes go soft and pitying at his tone.

“Okay,” she says. “Okay, we just need a plan. Or something. Did he have any distinctive features? Or did he say anything about where he was from?”

“No,” he grunts. “Nothing, he just-”

His fingers curl around the bracelet.

“He had this,” he says, pulling it out. “It’s super small for a man. I can’t even get it on. It- this is it!”

Laura looks doubtful but this is it. The solution. Derek knows it in his soul.

“Get the Royal Guard,” he tells them. “Send them out. Tell them to bring back any man- noble or not – who can fit this bracelet around his left wrist.

Cora’s eyes light up first.

“Oh!” she says, snagging the bracelet to inspect it. “Oh, that just might work.”

“It is tiny,” Laura says as Cora passes it. “It has to at least whittle down the pool to choose from.”

“And in the meantime, we can send for portraits,” Cora adds. “Just in case he is royalty somewhere.”

“Okay,” Derek says, feeling calmer now that there is a plan. “Okay, let’s do this.”

He is going to find him.

This is going to work.

*^*^*^

He’s still thinking about the stupid ball and the stupid prince almost three weeks later.

He’s thinking about Derek stupid smile and his stupid beard and the way his mouth quirks right before he laughs as if he can’t really believe he’s about to do it. He thinks about all the beautiful rooms of the palace and how huge the kitchen was and how much his parents would have loved the gardens.

At night, on the nights when he is too exhausted and cold to walk back up to the attic and he curls next to the fire, he finds himself humming the tune of his first dance with Derek. He finds himself desperately trying to remember the steps that Derek tried to teach him. He finds himself missing Derek no matter how often in the light of day, he tells himself to get his head on straight.

He’s not an idiot, he knows it’s not going to happen, so he doesn’t imagine a future with Derek. But he doesn’t stop thinking about their past either. Even though it was just one night. Even though most of it was a lie. Even though every time he remembers, it fades a little bit.

Still, as always, life goes on.

His stepmother and stepsisters return from the ball furious that none of them had received the proper attention and it would be more enjoyable to listen to them bitch about the “young trollop” who stole Prince Derek away for most of the night if their bad moods didn’t also manifest in giving him a thousand more chores to go along with it.

He’s not sure it qualifies as “Spring Cleaning” if he is the only one doing the cleaning. Still, the house needs it and he does recall happier times when both his mother and father would help with washing the windows and clearing out the gutters and so-

“THIEF!” the shout nearly has him tipping backwards off the ladder. When he twists around, it’s to see his stepmother and what looks to be a guard of some sort racing towards him. “You dirty, disgusting, thief!

In her hand is a truly horrific statue of a butterfly that Stiles hated.

Hated and had stolen… two months ago.

“Look what we found in a shop in town!” She hisses, shaking it at him. “Guess who they said sold it to them?”

“You’re under arrest,” the guard tells Stiles.

He nods.

Well, fuck.

*^*^*^

Derek has almost lost all hope.

It’s been almost two months. They’ve tried everyone. He’s sent the guard out to the furthest reaches of the kingdom and looks at hundreds of portraits of nobles from all across the land and-

It’s so hopeless that now he is just repeating the nearest village to the palace. Because the guard came back with the bracelet last night and Derek doesn’t have anything better to do and-

He can’t give up. Not yet. Not even when they find an old farming house about five miles away and it turns out it is just a widow and her two daughters (one of whom attempts to claim she was dressed as a boy on the night of the Ball and it was her the whole time).

“We could try the blacksmith,” the Captain suggests. “He’s an older guy so we may have skipped him last time…”

“Alright,” Derek sighs and they head over.

The blacksmith stops working and sketches a bow and-

“Do you have any apprentices?” The captain asks. Derek keeps his eyes on the street, as if the man will just appear if he keeps staring. This isn’t going to work. Maybe he was a figment of Derek’s imagination the whole time. “We need them to try on this bracelet. By Royal Decree.”

“I do have one apprentice,” the blacksmith assures them and, despite it all, Derek feels hope rise in his chest. This has to be him. It’s the last place left to check. “McCall! We need you out here!”

And then McCall comes out and Derek’s heart falls. Because that’s not him. This man is shorter and darker and his smile is friendly but it’s not him.

“These men here need you to try on this bracelet,” Deaton says as McCall steps forward.

“No,” Derek says, waving a hand. The whole ‘trying on the bracelet’ thing is good for when he can’t be there to see the men but they certainly don’t need to waste any more time. “No, that’s okay. It’s not him.”

The young blacksmith steps forward anyway and holds his hand out for the bracelet. Derek is about to groan, already preparing himself for another desperate man who is ready to break his own wrist trying to force the thing on when McCall’s eyes are suddenly on his face. He frowns and stares as if he can read Derek’s intentions.

“This won’t fit me,” he says. Derek nods. Obviously. “But- but you’re checking blacksmiths?”

“His Highness is checking everyone,” the captain of the guard states. “So if you could at least try to-”

“You don’t care if he’s not a prince?” McCall interjects. His eyes still haven’t left Derek’s face.

“No,” Derek replies, frowning in confusion. They’ve figured out weeks ago that the mystery man must not be a prince after all. Derek now thinks he’s an idiot for ever assuming the man was. The ring must’ve just been a family heirloom and he must’ve been too embarrassed to correct Derek and obviously Derek doesn’t give a rats’ ass if the man is of noble blood or not.

“So you don’t care what he is?” McCall presses.

“No,” Derek says, allowing some of his annoyance to seep into his voice. The blacksmith sounds surprised as if he actually assumed that Derek would be upset if mystery man was a commoner. “No, I just need to find him.”

He tries to keep the desperation from his voice, but he is not sure it works. Regardless, McCall’s face turns to one of pleasant surprise.

“Oh!” he says, stepping forward and giving the bracelet back to Derek directly with a small smile. “Well, if you don’t care then…”

He hesitates and Derek is practically vibrating out of his skin but he doesn’t want to rush him so he settles for just holding his breath until McCall decides to continue.

“Then I would check the jail,” he finishes. “If I were you.”

Derek stares at him and he is sure his mouth is hanging open and McCall’s smile turns into more of a smirk and-

“Come on,” Derek orders. “To the jailhouse!”

*^*^*^

As usual, Stiles doesn’t bother standing up as he hears the creak of rusty hinges that signify someone is coming up to his section of the jail. It’s been over a month now. He can’t even be bothered to move his arm from his face. He’s spent the past few weeks experimenting with comfortable positions to lay in when your hand are manacled together and this is the best one.

“Hey!” the guard yells at him. He still doesn’t bother moving. They don’t feed him enough for him to risk wasting the energy.

“For the hundredth time,” he says, probably literally for the hundredth time. “I could not steal anything because I technically live there. The goods belonged to my stepmother! For all we know, she asked me to sell them. Moreover, I put all the profit back into the household – namely, feeding yours truly which is something you’ve yet to do today – so there is absolutely no basis for a theft charge.”

“Shut up!” the man yells.

“Furthermore,” Stiles continues without looking. He really shouldn’t bother wasting his time on this but he has to get out of here sometime and his stepmother’s unwillingness to call for a formal trial tells him that this line of defense might actually be working. Or she just wanted him to rot in there. Either way. “Even if I am not considered part of the household, then by law, I was a servant. A servant who was not paid ever during my time of employment so the stolen articles can really be viewed as a form of payment. Either way, I’m innocent.”

“On your feet, prisoner,” comes a voice. And Stiles’ frowns. That’s a new voice. He sighs. This better be worth it.

He keeps his eyes closed as he stands because his vision always blurs out anyway and keeps talking because why the fuck not?

“And, another thing,” he says, flinching as his bare feet hit the cold stone. “I’m sure if you go over to the house right now, you’d find some severe cases of animal neglect, including, but not limited to, the horses, chicken, and one goose. And mice, if you count those so-”

He finally opens his eyes midsentence and then stops because.

“Derek,” he breathes. Derek Hale is standing in front of him. Wearing what must be considered casual clothes for a prince and his hair is just as dark and his beard is still neatly trimmed and-

He is just as beautiful as Stiles remembers. His eyes are piercing and he is looking at Stiles like he can’t quite believe what he’s seeing and Stiles watches as his eyes roam over him.

And Stiles realizes that he is wearing the clothes he was arrested in, which means they were already dirty and worn and now he’d been living in them for god knows how long. He’d technically had a bath yesterday but that was literally just dunking as much of his body as he could in a single bucket of water and Derek is a prince.

Fucking shit. Derek is a prince.

“Uh, I mean, Your Highness,” he sputters. And, oh god, oh god, princes do not just turn up to prisons. Hurriedly, he bows. Then contemplates kneeling. He doesn’t know the rules for meeting royalty.

He manages to keep his eyes on the ground for all of a second before he can’t resist looking up again.

What are they going to do? Arrest him?

Derek is frowning at him, his face a picture of displeasure. He waves a hand and then the cell door is being opened. Instinctively, Stiles takes a step back.

“Take those off him,” he grunts, gesturing to the manacles around Stiles’ wrists and it’s a tone he’s never heard Derek use before. It’s all anger and power and Stiles starts talking before he realizes that’s probably a bad idea.

“Look,” he tries as the prison guard steps forward. “I don’t know what they’ve told you but, technically, I did not steal anything from the royal family. I mean, okay, there was a fork but that was only because I didn’t want to put it down and make a mess and, actually, I still have that so I can totally return it. It wasn’t theft. More like a… keepsake.”

He actually knows exactly where it is. Its’s hidden under the floorboards of the kitchen. It is with the two small portraits he had of his parents and his father’s old captain’s pin and his mother’s favorite paintbrush and oh my god, he is about to be arrested for stealing a fork.

It’s not even a nice fork!

“Give it to me,” Derek orders as the chains slide from his wrists and Stiles doesn’t know what that means but he’s a little busy trying to rub his abused skin while he still can, wondering at how light his arms feel without being weighed down by iron, and hoping he can maybe clean out the open cuts before heading to Royal Jail.

Clearly, he’s not going to get the chance because the prince is stepping forward and Stiles hadn’t thought he could feel any more embarrassment but then Derek comes into his cell and reaches for Stiles’ wrist.

And Stiles tries to shrink back but Derek grabs it firmly and Stiles isn’t about to resist and so he just sort of stands there, trying not to move at all when something cool slides around his wrist.

“There,” Derek says. He sounds satisfied. “It fits.”

Stiles blinks and then looks down.

Scott’s bracelet is around his wrist. Maybe a little looser than it was a few months ago but…

It finally occurs to him that he has no idea what is going on.

When he looks back up, Derek is staring into his eyes steadily. Stiles wants to move away but can’t. Because Derek hasn’t let go of his hand.

His hand, which is dirty and calloused and belatedly, Stiles tries to pull away but Derek’s fingers tighten ever so slightly and he doesn’t.

“What’s your name?” Derek asks.

“S- Stiles,” Stiles replies. “Uh, Stiles Stilinski.” And then, just because he has probably already lied to the prince enough. “I’m not a prince.”

Derek snorts.

“Yeah,” he says. “I gathered.”

For some reason, it makes some of the tension drain from Stiles’ shoulders. Even if he is being moved to the Royal Prison, maybe Derek will visit him.

“I’d- uh,” he starts, trying not to look too giddy. “I’d really appreciate it if you didn’t order me to be put to death. Your Highness. Sir.”

“Hmm,” Derek replies. His hand is still curled around Stiles’ wrist. “I guess I won’t.”

Stiles breathes a sigh of relief.

“Great,” he says. “That’s awesome. That’s just really, really fan-”

“Stiles,” Derek interrupts. “Will you marry me?”

Stiles’ heart stops beating. He stares. Derek looks back at him.

This is crazy. It’s absolutely insane and it makes no sense and he knows he is grinning stupidly despite all of that.

“Yes,” he says. It’s stupid and he’s stupid and Derek is definitely stupid for asking him but he’s not about to give this up. Not again. “Yes, I will. Your Highness.”

“You have to stop calling me that,” Derek grumbles. He’s smiling too.

“Wait!” The prison guard sounds horrified by what is happening in his prison. Stiles can’t really blame him. He hasn’t exactly been a model prisoner. “This is- Sir, you can’t marry a known thief!”

Stiles flushes because, well, the man has a point, but Derek’s face goes stormy and-

“Did you just accuse my betrothed of theft?” he demands, turning to face the guard without letting go. His Captain barks a laugh and then attempts to turn it into a cough.

“Uh, um, no, your highness,” the jailer says. “But- but I’m just not sure it’s proper for a royal-”

“I’ll show you proper,” Derek growls and then Stiles is being kissed.

It’s nothing like their first almost-kiss. There’s no slow build up or gradual closing of space between them or slightest bit of hesitation.

Instead, it’s all desperation of two months spent searching and joy and passion and Stiles goes light-headed for an entirely new reason and it’s all he can do to throw his arms around Derek and attempt to remain standing. He gasps as Derek’s hands flex into his back and Derek licks into his mouth and holy shit why had he ever thought that he should forget about Derek?

“There,” Derek declares, pulling away suddenly. Luckily, he doesn’t let go of Stiles. Stiles would definitely fall down. “Now, I believe we have places to be. Good day, gentlemen.”

And then Stiles is being led out of the cell.

“To the Palace,” Derek orders the driver as he helps Stiles into the carriage. “At once.”

“Um,” Stiles says. “Actually, uh, I need to run a few errands first.”

Derek looks over at him and blushes.

“Right,” he says. “Sorry. Got carried away. Where do you need to go?”

“Well, I should probably swing by the blacksmith and let Scott know I’m out of jail,” Stiles offers. “And that I’m getting married.”

Derek nods and waves a hand and then they’re moving. Stiles can’t stop the burst of disbelieving laughter that rises from his chest. This is ridiculous.

“And then I gotta head to my house,” he says. “I have some mice that I’m sure need feeding.”

“And you need to tell me about this stepmother,” Derek replies. “Because I’m pretty sure we need to arrest her.”

“Oh!” Stiles says. “Do you think we can behead her?”

Derek laughs.

“I don’t know,” he replies. “We’ll see.”

“If I can’t at least banish her, I’m changing my mind about the marriage,” Stiles says. He’s too happy, too hyper and for a moment, he’s worried he’s gone too far. He squirms for a bit and then risks glancing over at Prin- at Derek.

“Already with the threats?” Derek’s eyebrows are raised but he looks entirely fond.

There’s a pit of warmth in Stiles’ stomach that he doesn’t quite know what to do with.

“Yeah,” he says, smiling. “I like threats.”

“Okay,” Derek says and then he hooks a finger through Stiles’ bracelet and pulls the top of Stiles’ hand to his mouth for an instant. “I promise we’ll at least banish her.”

Stiles wants to tell him that kissing the back of someone’s hand is cliché and cheesy. But he doesn’t.

Because just for the first time, it’s kind of nice.

He’ll tell him later.

*^*^*^