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Wedding clothes were uncomfortable. This, Stiles thought, was an established fact. They were heavy, itchy, and tight in all the wrong places because they'd originally been fitted on someone else entirely. At least, that was the case for omegas. Wedding robes were handed down through generations, pinned and let out in a hundred different places so that the next poor soul could either squeeze into them or be drowned by them.

Stiles felt like he was drowning, but that had nothing to do with the robes. Or perhaps everything to do with them, and what they represented.

His arms were bent backward behind him, his fingers groping for the fastenings that marched up the middle of his back. He could call a servant to help him, he thought, absently, but he dismissed it as soon as it popped into his head. If he asked for help, it would certainly be given, and then he wouldn't have any excuse for why it was taking him so long to undress.

He cursed and let his hands fall from the fabric. He was being stupid. He'd wanted to take the wretched thing off for hours, and now that it came to actually getting undressed, all he wanted to do was keep it closed. Keep himself hidden away.  

"Could I help you with that?"

Stiles jumped and tripped over the floor length robes, knocking into the stand that held the basin of water and nearly spilling it. Sir Peter--his husband, he must get used to the new title--stood in the doorway that led to his own rooms. Stiles had been more relieved than he dared show when Queen Talia had told him they wouldn't have to share one bedroom every night. The adjoining door even had a lock, though Stiles hoped he'd never have to use it.

Steadying the bowl, Stiles turned around fully and stood up straight and tall. His father had always taught him that a strong bearing made a man seem strong, even if they felt their weakest. Stiles was not at his weakest, but by the end of this night, he might be.

"I'm fine," he said, and he turned away from Peter to finish undoing the robes himself. His skin prickled as he pulled at the button closest to his neck, despite the fire cheerfully burning away at the foot of the bed. He could feel Peter's eyes on him, and the heavy, hot presence of his gaze on the few inches of flesh revealed at his nape was beyond unsettling because that wasn't all they would see tonight.

Too soon for comfort, the buttons would all be undone, and the robes would fall to the floor. Peter's wedding clothes would follow, and then there would be nothing to stop them from doing what needed to be done to fully seal the treaty that was four years in the making.

"Here. Let me--"

Stiles jolted so hard he scratched himself on the back of his neck. He whipped around and faced Peter, who was now less than three feet away.

"Holy God, will you please make some noise when you move?" Stiles snapped. "You'll put me in the grave in a year if you keep startling me like that."

He regretted his words as soon as they left his mouth. The silence after them echoed, and he swallowed as his heart raced. Peter had seemed an even-tempered man in all of their meetings before now, but Stiles was well aware that they didn't really know each other at all. He had faith that his father wouldn't make him stay married to a cruel or violent person, but if they'd been wrong about Peter, he might have just made his wedding night longer and more unpleasant than it would have been if he'd kept his mouth shut.

But Peter only lifted an eyebrow and tilted his head in acknowledgement. "Alright, I'll try," he said, in his soft and strangely musical voice. "But you'll be working on those buttons at your funeral if you don't let me help."

Stiles let out the breath he'd been holding and looked down at his hands. They were visibly shaking, and he cursed inwardly. He'd never get a single button unfastened if he didn't manage to still them, and the longer he stalled, the less he'd be able to relax, so there was nothing for it, really.

He nodded and presented his back to Peter. True to his word, Peter's steps as he closed the distance between them were louder. Deliberate. Stiles' lips twitched at the way Peter managed to make simply walking an extension of his dry, mocking wit. He relaxed just a little, reasonably sure that Peter hadn't held his outburst against him, but then he tensed right back up when he felt Peter's fingers start to work at the bottom of the row of buttons, instead of at the top.

He squeezed his eyes shut and clenched his fists at his sides. He felt like a character in a ballad, the blushing virginal bride who fainted at the sight of the virile knight who swept them away. It was hateful and unnecessary. Nervousness would change nothing about the situation, and might actually make it worse.

Stiles had known from a young age that he would be married for political gain. Because Scott was an alpha, he would be the one who would sit on the throne when King John passed, even though he wasn't truly John's son, and he was younger than Stiles. With that position filled, what was left for the omega son of a king in fair but not excellent holdings?

He was a perfect bargaining chip, a living guarantee that the Stilinski kingdom would have a very good reason to be a good ally to whoever Stiles married. While it wasn't completely out of the question, it was still highly unlikely that John--or Scott, when the time came--would start a war with the husband of their dear omega family member.

He knew his duty, and he wasn't angry about it. In a way, he was marrying for love, because he loved his kingdom, and wanted his brother to have a long and safe reign when the time came. He was just as happy as his father--happier, even--when the Hale kingdom agreed to the marriage. He didn't mind, really, that he wasn't deemed fit to rule by the people who lived in the land he loved, simply because he was not an alpha. He was privileged and pleased to do what he'd been preparing for his entire life.

So why was he so terrified of what would happen tonight?

He was lucky that Peter wasn't as old as his father, or older, and he was undeniably handsome. All the mutterings Stiles had caught from the servants about Peter's habits were about his skill as a lover instead of the number of notches on his belt. Peter himself seemed...not nice, really. He was far too sharp and sarcastic for that description. But he wasn't churlish in polite company, and hadn't yet shown signs of a drastic personality change behind closed doors, so there wasn't really any reason for Stiles to be more nervous than any newlywed omega, and he should probably feel better than some, who had to bed disgusting alphas old enough to be their grandfathers.

Even the ceremony hadn't been as bad as Stiles had imagined it to be. It was no-nonsense and quick. They weren't made to recite vows to love each other until their last breath. Only to support one another as partners, which Stiles was more than willing to do. He would make a good husband, he was sure. He'd certainly had enough practice.

And when his heats started, which would have to be any day now, he'd give Peter children. He wondered if he'd still be so nervous when the fever his step-mother had told him about came. He'll have been through tonight, and perhaps many nights like this one. Perhaps many was an exaggeration. He was just past 18, on the late side for many omegas, but right on track for his own family, a long line of late bloomers.

Sudden cold, then searing warmth flared in the centre of Stiles' back. His quick intake of breath was loud enough for Peter to hear, surely, and Stiles clamped a hand over his mouth to stifle himself. The shocking band of heat--Peter's finger--paused, then continued its path on Stiles' back, down toward the end of the button placket, then up, slowly up to where a few were still not undone. With a wide enough space now to work, Peter slid his fingers underneath the fabric to best unfasten the rest, and Stiles was intensely aware of every millimetre of their hot skin.

Peter's fingers were callused. They'd been rough against Stiles' when they'd been clasped together at the ceremony, and Stiles had been surprised, though he didn't know why. Peter wasn't particularly tall, but he was stocky and muscled under his loose wedding clothes. He obviously wasn't an idle man, but somehow Stiles hadn't expected such a soft-voiced, flint-eyed alpha to have the calluses of a warrior.

Stiles couldn't suppress a shudder as a rough patch scraped gently over a sensitive area, just beside his shoulder blade. Peter's fingers stilled for a moment, then continued their work, inching up to Stiles' neck. The tremor seemed like it wouldn't end, jolting down his spine to his core, then easing into currents of sparks that flew over his skin. He pressed his hand tighter to his mouth and squeezed his eyes shut, but that didn't help. It only made it more difficult to concentrate on anything that wasn't Peter's rasping fingers moving inexorably toward Stiles' neck.

Finally, the last button popped free, and the robe sagged around Stiles' shoulders. Peter stepped away and Stiles could feel the barest breeze generated by his movement across the naked skin peeking out of the opening at his back. Stiles lurched away, putting as much distance as possible between him and where Peter was, while still avoiding looking at him.

He'd arrived at the point he'd been most scared of. The consummation would be what it was, and he was prepared to bear what he had to because he loved his kingdom and wanted it to thrive. Peter would take the lead, Stiles would only have to lie back and go to another place in his head, something he'd learned how to do with ease when he was a child, sitting at the left hand of the king during long, boring ceremonial dinners.

The hardest part wouldn't be that . The hardest part would be to drop the robe he clutched to his neck and bare himself fully to his husband.

Stiles had been a good omega all his life. Other second sons he knew had rebelled quietly in one of the only ways they could...by giving away the commodity of their virginity to someone of their choosing. There was no way to actually tell whether an omega was untouched when they finally made it between the sheets of their marriage bed, and as long as they found someone who was quiet as the grave about the rules they were breaking, there was no harm in spending a few years before--or after--getting married playing at being in love with a pretty or handsome person who wasn't their intended.

But there was always the chance, however small, that the omega would get pregnant, even though most weren't married until their heats started. Or perhaps a jilted lover would decide to take their revenge by spreading rumours. No matter how outlandish, some people would always believe the lies, and that could mean disaster for a generation of nobles. Stiles hadn't taken the risk, because he couldn't stand the thought of his father's disappointment if he were found out, or even suspected in any way of not being a virgin. So when he shrugged the robe off his shoulders, he would show Peter--a stranger, essentially--parts of himself that only two other living people had ever seen, and his father and brother hardly counted, because the last time they'd seen him unclothed was when he and Scott were children and bathed together.

He was bare underneath the robe and had been all night. It was supposed to be some sort of symbol of coming to his new husband with nothing but the mantle of his family, or something like that, but really, it was just uncomfortable. Peter was supposed to have worn no undergarments as well, but at least he'd gotten to wear pants, however loose and unsupportive. Stiles had been feeling the breeze all night, and every time he did, he was reminded that at the end of the night he'd end up here, where he was now.

He looked down at his hands, which were bone-white against the yellowed cream cloth of the robe, and willed them to unclench because putting it off would only make it worse. At least if he did it quickly, Peter would only be disappointed, rather than disappointed and impatient. But his knuckles were solid rock on the fabric, and his lungs felt like they were taking in smoke, thick with ash, instead of clean air--

"Stiles."

Stiles didn't turn around. He looked over his shoulder instead and looked at Peter and his placid face.

"I've already helped you once," Peter said, his head leaning to one side as he studied Stiles like he was a particularly interesting butterfly under glass. "I could do so again."

For a moment, Stiles thought he was being threatened. He wasn't sure why, because when he repeated the words back to himself, there wasn't anything inherently threatening about them. That was simply Peter's way, he supposed, having seen his husband flay a courtier where they stood without his victim even knowing because the killing blows were delivered in the same languid, unassuming drawl Peter used to deliver compliments and extend social niceties.

Help. Did he need help? He looked at his hands again and a fantasy played out in his head where a servant had to come in and pry each of his fingers away from the fabric with their full strength because he'd held onto it for so long that they'd frozen in place.

"Please," he said. He wasn't even sure what kind of help he was accepting, but anything would be better than the limbo he was caught in now.

He expected Peter to approach him as before, but he didn't move right away. Instead, he plucked at the strings at the top of his wedding shirt, undoing them with a single tug, then loosening the opening so that he could take it off completely. Before the shirt had even started to lose the warmth of Peter's skin, the wide-legged pants joined it on the floor, and Peter stood naked in front of him.

Stiles couldn't have looked away if he'd tried. Peter was about as different from himself as possible, with his thick limbs, corded with sinew. He was furred in places Stiles was bare, and he looked solid and unyielding where Stiles was, if not soft, then certainly not as rock hard as Peter's body seemed to be.

As Peter walked toward him, Stiles tried to look anywhere but at Peter's groin, but he saw enough to be impressed and a little intimidated. He didn't have a wide range to compare to, but he'd seen enough to know that Peter was far from the low end of the scale when it came to his...endowments. He wasn't completely innocent.

No one had ever monitored him in the library at home, so he'd read history, strategy, biology, anything that caught his interest. The medical textbooks he'd found, with their chapters on reproduction, were definitely interesting. In the Hale library, which he'd had free access to from the moment they'd started negotiations four years ago, long before Stiles' virginity was on the table, he'd found a slim volume with writing in it that he didn't understand, and those pictures had been even more compelling than the textbook had been. He'd stolen that book and felt little guilt about it since it'd been abandoned on the wrong shelf and forgotten long enough for white dust to be layered on it. He still had it, hidden inside the hollowed out pages of another book about the mating habits of sheep. (It had made him laugh to picture sheep being flexible enough to employ some of the positions he'd seen in the book, and his hiding place had remained untouched because the nearest sheep to Beacon was three realms away.)

He tried to picture the book now, as Peter drew closer, his eyes hooded and bright, like a predator. He'd studied the faces of the omegas printed on those pages, and it had taken him weeks to figure out that they weren't in pain. Their faces were drawn in the same rictus of pleasure as their alpha, even though the translation of the symbols told him that the positions they were tangled in were not for use while in heat. They were strictly for non-reproductive relations, and still, their cheeks were rosy and their mouths were open in forever silent sighs.

Stiles didn't think he would ever be like those omegas. He was too skinny, too fidgety. He'd seen the surprise on his father's face when he'd presented, putting an end to any games of pretend he and Scott played where he'd be cast as anything other than the rescued damsel.

Peter lifted his hands cautiously when he'd reached Stiles' side, and Stiles whipped his head back around, giving Peter his back. Peter didn't actually ask permission to move the robe; He merely moved the two sides of the wide neck apart slow enough that Stiles could become used to the change in temperature inch by inch.

Finally--or already, Stiles couldn't decide--he moved the robe moved far enough off Stiles' shoulders that it slid off the rest of the way, pooling in a nest of stiff wool at their feet.

"There," Peter said, drawing away and leaving Stiles naked at the edge of the room. "That wasn't so hard, was it?"

No, it wasn't. Not really. Stiles thought he would feel colder with the extra layer gone, but the change had been so slow that he wasn't feeling it as harshly as he'd expected. His hands  trembled anyway, without the fabric of his covering to hold on to.

"My dear." Peter's voice was quiet. Stiles looked up to see him on the other side of the bed, standing with his hand on the top of the blanket. "It's time."

Stiles could do nothing but stand and stare for a few moments, but the longer he looked at Peter, the less he wanted to put this off. Peter was notoriously hard to read, and Stiles hadn't known what to make of him all those months ago when he'd suddenly spoken up after years of negotiations with the idea of an alliance through them both. He hadn't thought he'd gotten much better at interpreting what Peter's sharp blue eyes were saying, but if he had to guess right then, he'd probably say that they were speaking words of encouragement.

You can do this, Stiles read, while knowing he could be completely wrong. Can't you? There was a challenge there, Stiles was almost certain, and it couldn't have come at a better time.

Stiles was never one to back down from a challenge.

He drew himself tall and nodded, dropping his hands to his sides even though every part of him was screaming that he should cover himself in front of this predator. It was only a few short steps to the side of the bed, which felt as long and arduous as a desert trek. He hesitated at the edge of the bed, out of sorts because he never slept on that side when he was in his own bed at home.

He shook off his discomfort--Everything was different here, why should a small thing like that bother him?--and hitched one knee onto the bed, then sighed his frustration when he found himself stalled again. Should he lift the covers and slip under them or leave them be? Was it naive of him to think that the deed could be performed to Peter's liking while still under the summer-weight blankets?

"On top," Peter instructed, reading his indecision like a book. Stiles' stomach swooped, but he did as he was bid. He longed for the protection of another layer, but at least Peter didn't seem to expect him to know what to do, beyond the obvious.

He felt clumsy as a puppy, all huge paws and gangly legs as he climbed into the bed. He had another moment of indecision over whether to lie in the middle or to one side, but chose the side quickly, because he wanted a pillow. If what followed when he was lying on his back was as distasteful as some of the kitchen maids said, then at the very least, he wanted his neck not to hurt.

Would it be as unpleasant as they'd assured him it would be when he'd asked them about mating outside of heat? Images flashed in front of his eyes of their sneers, alongside the faces of the omegas in the stolen book.

The bed dipped beside him and he flinched with his whole body. He snapped his eyes shut, and lost the battle with himself not to cover his most vulnerable parts, but as soon as his hands met, he felt another hand on his wrist, pulling it back to the mattress.

"None of that, now," Peter murmured, and Stiles couldn't hold back a soft, guttural sob. His body was so tense that he could feel his abdominal muscles twitching, but he was helpless to stop it. Helpless in so many ways, now that he had willingly and gladly pledged away his autonomy to an alpha so that his realm could prosper. It was the best tactical decision, he reminded himself as hot tears slid down the sides of his face.

"Sh," Peter whispered, drawing it out so that it felt less like censure, and more like the taming of a wild animal. "You have nothing to worry about, dear one. I wish you wouldn't cry."

His eyes popped open before he could wonder if he wanted them to. He'd never heard Peter speak so sweetly to anyone, least of all him. Peter could be charming, that was for certain, but any sweetness he employed was thick, treacle-y poison he used on those he had little patience for. Stiles had heard it many times at the negotiation table when the Hale kingdom's advisors spoke too hastily, but that was nothing like this.

He blinked, sniffed, and chanced a glance at his husband, who was still holding his wrist in his grip. As soon as their eyes met, Peter's not-quite-smile bloomed into a full-on grin, and if Stiles didn't feel like prey being stalked before, he certainly would now.

"That's much better," Peter said, then he leaned closer. As he neared Stiles' face, Stiles felt his thumb start to stroke the beat of his pulse on the inside of his wrist. "I'm proud of you, sweet," Peter whispered into Stiles' ear, his breath stirring the small hairs on his neck.

Stiles had no time to even process the sudden fluttering in his stomach before Peter's hot, wet mouth had latched onto the side of his throat. His quick intake of breath was ignored by Peter, who continued to press sucking kisses down his neck to his collarbone. He lingered there, dipping his tongue into the hollow of Stiles' clavicle, then abandoned it, leaving it damp and shining. He kissed down Stiles' chest instead, paying particular attention to the faint crease that bisected the center, outlining meager muscles.

When Stiles had pictured this in his mind, he'd first imagined viewing it from outside, watching himself and his husband--a faceless, nameless alpha until the moment Stiles' name was brought up by Peter himself at the bargaining table--consummating their marriage like he would watch a puppet show play out. Then he would remind himself that that was impossible, and he'd instead try to picture what the ceiling might look like from his marriage bed, and if he'd be able to keep an impassive face while his husband rutted on him like they were the one who went into heat.

He didn't look at the ceiling now. He watched Peter make his meandering way lower, breathing open-mouthed, so hard that his lips were dry. He licked them just as Peter arrived at his navel, and Peter froze with his mouth still puckered over an inch of pale skin, his eyes snapping up to see Stiles' tongue disappearing. Alpha greediness glowed in pale ice blue, and Peter changed his course.

"Again," he demanded, leaning down into Stiles' face before Stiles could even register that he was moving. He obeyed immediately, but had barely wetted his lips when Peter's mouth was on them, claiming them with startling force, then a scrape of teeth, then pointed strokes of his own tongue.

Stiles lay there and let himself be kissed, not quite motionless. His body was still trembling like a line held taut, and he was wringing the blanket in his fist next to his hip. Peter drew back a bit and peppered Stiles' lips with smaller kisses, tiny sucking pulls, but still slow and thorough, until Stiles was mirroring them, almost without realizing it. Peter hummed in approval and deepened the kisses again, coaxing Stiles' lips and tongue to move in the way he wanted them to.

Stiles' panic abated slightly as Peter's hand cupped his jaw, and his weight covered Stiles, pressing him into the soft bed, and they were warm, together like this. He started to drift drowsily, letting Peter set the rhythm of the kisses, and lead them in a slow, wet dance.

His lips were raw and tingling when Peter let up, and he blinked, surfacing languidly from the bottom of the swirling, muted sea Peter had sunk him in. Peter sat up on his knees, straddling one of Stiles' legs and looking down at him like a cat contemplated a mouse he'd already caught. Dinner? Or entertainment?

Stiles' body had ceased its quaking, but he felt a sort of numbness wash over him. It was different from calm, but not as severe as catatonia. He only felt an odd sort of detachment when Peter began an all-encompassing mapping out of his skin. Fingers walked up the spaces between his ribs, wrapped around the jut of the place where his neck met his shoulder, and pressed into the soft underside of his jaw, all at a glacier-slow pace. Peter ran his palm from the top of Stiles' shoulder down the inside of his arm to his wrist, then followed the same path up, then down again, but this time with the bite of his nails. Not hard enough to really hurt, just enough to tingle and leave trails of white, then red. Stiles watched the curl of a smile tease Peter's lips as he watched his marks bloom and fade, then bloom and fade again.

The peace he'd found started to dissipate when Peter's attention focused on Stiles' chest, and his nipples, which had tightened up in the cool air. He gasped when Peter's thumbs brushed across them, then fidgeted when he kept doing it, starting from the lightest brush to firm, torturous strokes that almost tickled. His breath punched out of him when Peter plucked them. It didn't hurt, but still made him want to close his eyes and run away, but at the same time...he wanted more. He thought if Peter applied just a little more pressure, then...he didn't know.

The breath he'd gained back left him on a rough exhale when one of Peter's hands was replaced by his humid mouth, while the other continued to tug and torment. Shock made him arch and Peter hummed again, sending vibrations through the delicate, inflamed skin of his nipple and drawing a cry from his very depths.

Before he could recover from that, Peter was moving on, switching the places of his mouth and hand, and not starting gently as he had before. His teeth made an appearance, scraping lightly over Stiles' nipple as if testing the pliancy of the skin. Peter's palm curled around the barely-there mound of Stiles' chest as he did so, while the other hand continued to prod and pinch and tickle. Stiles' head lolled from one side of the pillow to the other. He couldn't keep still, especially not when he noticed the rich, squirmy feeling building in his abdomen, where Peter's thigh kept rubbing against his groin. He couldn't tell if it was accidental, but a bolt of panic struck him regardless.

When he was young, and he woke from vivid dreams, he felt the same tightening in his belly--though this was a hundred times more powerful--and when he got out of bed, he had to clean away a dampness from the inside of his thighs. He was embarrassed every time it happened, even though he knew what it was from the textbooks he'd read. The book hadn't gone into detail about it--or anything else, really, outside of babies being a byproduct--simply mentioning that it was something that could happen to young people. It didn't say how often it was supposed to happen, or how many people didn't experience it at all. He could never tell if he was somehow made wrong, made more wanton because it had happened so often, and he'd always wanted to chase the fading dream, get it back, be awake for whatever it was that left the tingling feeling in his soft, sticky cock.

What if it wasn't supposed to happen right now, when he wasn't in heat? What if Peter noticed, and was disgusted, and put a stop to what they were doing because Stiles was too lewd and base to be married to someone of such a high station? He took a deep breath and tried to rub his legs together as unobtrusively as he could, but Peter still had one of them trapped. He managed to move just enough to feel the slickness, however, and he turned his head into the pillow in shame at the very same instant that he hissed from a particularly vicious twist of Peter's fingers on his now swollen and sensitive nipple.

Peter chuckled and his hand abandoned its work to tilt Stiles' face back to the centre of the pillow. Stiles looked into his eyes, and the heated possessiveness he saw there frightened and entranced him.

"So lovely," Peter crooned, then he traced his finger in lazy patterns over Stiles' cheeks, which were blazing hot and likely as red as an apple. "You are amazingly responsive. I had such high hopes, and you are surpassing them in every way."  

Stiles felt like a starved stray dog, begging in the lap of a man he'd been terrified of moments before. He was still scared, but with every minute that passed and Peter still found him acceptable, he came closer to being able to think again, without the haze of low-grade dread and tingling fever.

"Hmm," Peter said, his smile turning sharp. "Let's speed things up a bit, shall we?"

This time, Peter's hand didn't follow the path of Stiles' body to where it wanted to be. His fingers were wrapped around Stiles' cock within moments, and Stiles cried out at the shock. His hands leapt up to his mouth to stifle the noise, but at the last second, he caught Peter's eye and saw the admonishment before it even left his mouth. Stiles returned his hands to his sides, tangling them in the sheets once more to keep them in place.

A scarcely-voiced moan leaked out of him as Peter continued to stroke his cock, not with any particular intention, it seemed. Just...learning it. Coaxing it to full hardness with light touches. Making it jump against his belly with a coil of his fingers.

No hands had ever touched him there, not even his own, save to piss and keep himself clean. That was completely different from this. This felt like a growing flame inside him, that could be persuaded into a roaring blaze with just a few more gusts of air. His hands tightened against the onslaught, and even his ankles were taut with tension, flexing and rolling on the blanket. He wanted to slap Peter's hands away, or cover them with his own and make them do something other than torture with whispers of touch.

"Why are you doing this?" Stiles groaned after Peter licked his palm and encircled his entire prick in his moist grip. "Why don't you just…"

Just do it , is what he wants to say. Get it over with, so he could stop living with a sword over his head that would bring pain and humiliation when it came down. This easy exploration was so far from that, but it was another kind of agony that he couldn't have ever prepared himself for. The kitchen maids had cackled when one of them told him it would at least be short, and that had been his comfort for these last weeks when it had become clear that it was really happening. That negotiations were finally over and his piece on the board had been the tipping point.

Peter blinked up at him and tilted his head like he was deep in thought. It took only a moment for a devilish look to come across Peter's face. "Why? Because I can," he drawled, and Stiles' heart stopped. Peter continued, running his fingers up and down Stiles' shaft so that the backs of them were tickling Stiles' lower belly. "Because you are ripe. This skin...it's been begging me to touch it for months, so I'll be damned if I'll do only a half decent job of it."

"Wasn't," he protested, through dry, sluggish lips. He had never begged any alpha for anything.

"Yes, it was. But only to me, because no one else could see it. You might not know it, but these lips," Peter rose onto his knees and swooped in for another kiss. "This pale flesh." He sat back and gripped both of Stiles' hips, squeezing shallow dimples in his skin. "Your scent, getting richer every day. They were calling me to you. And I am going to make you so happy, Stiles, if only you would let me."

Let him? As if Stiles would choose to be miserable? He was here, wasn't he? Not begging for one more night of reprieve so that he could bask in his virginal state for a few more hours. That was ridiculous.

As if sensing that the part of Stiles which was still reluctant was easing away, Peter retreated back to the end of the bed by Stiles' feet. All this while, Peter had guided him, led him to where he wanted Stiles to be, but this, he didn't help him with. He placed his hands on either side of Stiles' shins and waited, staring him down, unwavering, but not intimidating.

Stiles drew his knees up slowly by inching his feet up the mattress toward his thighs. When his legs stood perpendicular to the bed, he felt more protected and covered than he had since he took off the robe, but he knew he was about to be more exposed than he'd ever been. It took effort, like his knees were pressing open against a heavy weight, but he let his legs fall open in invitation.

Peter licked his lips, but did nothing else but stare, leaving his hands where they were. Stiles kept still while Peter looked his fill, worrying again that the wetness he could feel seeping out of him would disgust Peter so much that he'd stop.

But when Peter finally moved his hand and touched his fingers to Stiles' opening, he showed no signs of disgust. Only fascination, and incendiary lust. He dipped inside, then withdrew immediately, rubbing the pads of his fingers and thumb together, spreading the moisture that had gathered there, and smiling at it like it was gold dust. When the finger returned, Peter sank it deeper, still unhurried, but firmer in his exploration. Then, he began to pulse it in and out in a steady rhythm until the intrusion didn't feel so very large, but no sooner had Stiles gotten used to the feeling when another finger was joining the first, widening him further.

There was pain, but only a little bit, and the stretch was more of a burn than an ache. Manageable, because it didn't last long. Every time Peter curled his fingers to a new angle, or farther inside, Stiles gasped, but he was soothed quickly because the full, weighted feeling was so consuming.

Soon after Peter added a third finger, shushing Stiles when he whined from how burdened he already felt, his fingers brushed over a place that sent a bolt of sensation straight up his spine, and he yelled, clamping his legs around Peter's wrist by instinct.

This seemed to be some sort of signal to Peter, because he stopped, pulled his hands back and ran both of them down the sides of Stiles' thighs, reassuring him with touch. Stiles blinked rapidly and tried to ignore how Peter's fingers on one hand glistened in the candlelight. When the jolting feeling had passed completely as if it had never happened, Stiles obediently opened his legs again, and Peter knelt up between them.

So many times during this long evening, Stiles had thought to himself, this is it. When he dropped his robe. When he climbed onto the bed and laid down so that Peter could start.  When he spread his knees so that they could get on with it. But when Peter took himself in hand and lined up with Stiles' entrance, he thought it again. There would be no going back after this. If fingers and lips didn't count--and the kitchen maids were adamant that they didn't--he would no longer be able to call himself untouched.

He thought he would've been more upset by it since he'd so firmly decided that that was the way he'd remain until marriage. He'd expected to be more attached to his virginity than he was, but all he felt when Peter guided his cock past his opening was surprise, which made no sense, given how long it had taken for them to arrive at that point.

Peter made a space for himself in Stiles by millimetres, slow as a glacier, but unremitting. Everywhere they touched--from Peter's hips flush against the insides of Stiles' thighs, to the searing heat of Peter's cock on his walls--was tingling like blood rushing back to trapped limbs. In the many times he'd washed himself, he'd never felt the zing of pleasure he did now. Peter withdrew as slowly as he had entered after reaching as far as Stiles' body would let him, then repeated the pattern, bolder than before.

On one of the next times Peter thrust in, the jolt came back, and again, it marked a change. Peter sped up his movements, making contact with the place that produced the feeling over and over, on nearly every shove of his hips, and each one was like a piece of ice on his skin on a scorching afternoon. Like he wanted it to stop because the relief was almost as unbearable as what he was suffering from, but that intensity was what made him crave it in the first place.

Peter was quiet as he laboured, and the only sound was their breath, sawing out of their labouring lungs, so Stiles' whimper, when it came, seemed louder than reality. His hands, which had been twisting, wrists taut and fingers spread wide, in the sheets, unstuck themselves, but they never made it to his mouth to muffle the sound. They hit Peter's arms on the way and latched on, digging into the skin with a painful edge. Peter huffed, but grinned, showing permanently pointed predator's teeth.

That smile was printed on the back of Stiles' eyelids even as his head snapped back, digging into the pillow as the electric charge that'd been building since the instant Peter had touched him sparked, and built and then, keening, Stiles--

Stopped. Collapsed his bowed back to the bed, dazed, still buzzing with energy and almost certain that he hadn't quite made it to whatever it was he'd been reaching for. Peter had frozen, his cock just barely touching Stiles' entrance, until the cresting sensation completely ebbed away. Stiles' breath hitched as it returned to a normal pace, and still, Peter didn't move.

"Did you feel that, Stiles?" Peter rumbled, just when Stiles had started to wonder if he'd imagined the whole thing, the swelling of pleasure he could hardly describe.

Stiles nodded, unable to trust his voice.

Peter smiled approvingly, then stroked a sweaty piece of wayward hair off of Stiles' forehead. "Did you like it?"

It felt like a trick question one of his old schoolmasters would have used. Would any answer be the right one? Did he like what he felt? The answer was yes, he had, in the moment. But he hadn't liked the end because it hadn't felt completed. Had it?

"Uh huh," he forced out.

Peter leaned down and captured Stiles' mouth in another bruising, consuming kiss, then broke it off and said, "Good. Well, that was only the beginning. The real thing is even better, and I'm going to take you there, but not yet."

Still on his knees, Peter leaned back, leaving enough room to reposition Stiles' legs. Stiles let himself be placed, carefully and deliberately on his stomach, mostly, with one leg hitched up by his hip. He was guided to brace himself on his elbows, which he was thankful for because it meant that he could easily look behind himself to see where Peter was and what he was doing.

"There's a good boy," came Peter's silky voice from above him.

Stiles' lax body tensed at the endearment. His already overheated face burned, and he imagined he looked like he was in the midst of a deathly fever. He grabbed the nearest pillow and buried his head in it, hoping that Peter wouldn't notice the flutter of pleasure that lanced down his spine at the effortless praise.

Peter stilled for a moment on his way to his destination, but he didn't say anything about it. But when he lined up again, and entered Stiles from behind, quickly finding again the place that made him moan every time it was touched, he leaned into Stiles' ear and whispered soft things to him. Tender things that made him tremble: How he was doing so well, that he was a good husband, that he was sweet and lovely and delicious.

Peter nudged his hips forward in a firm, relentless cadence, and Stiles was rocked into a stupor that wasn't even close to sleep. He was too alive for that, even though his eyes had fallen closed against the soft fabric of the pillow, and he could no longer hold up his head. He didn't have to, because Peter had done everything, leading him to where he needed to be, and allowing Stiles to have these things happen to him, rather than having to fend for himself, lost in the wilderness of his unfamiliar marriage bed.

Simmering, unsettling anxiety was still fisted in his gut, but it was overpowered by ripples of sweet agony from Peter's driving, circling movements that shifted Stiles' loose-limbed body against the bed, but soon that wasn't enough. Stiles' hips started to convulse against the bed, rubbing his prick into the sheets as he chased something he didn't understand, whatever Peter had been talking about before, the place he was going to take him--

"Ah, ah, ah. None of that," Peter said, pulling out and tugging Stiles' hips up and away from the friction he'd found for himself. "There will be nights when I'll make you come so many times you'll beg me to stop, then beg for it again when I do. But tonight is not that night. Tonight, I have so many things to show you."

Peter adjusted him, pushing Stiles' knees up so that he was balancing on all fours. Stiles found a shaky balance with Peter's help, then yelped when he felt Peter's hand close around his prick, squeezing it, just on the right side of painful. The feeling subsided a bit, but he didn't have long to recover. Peter slid inside him again, skipping the gentle introduction this time around.

It felt animalistic, like this. Peter held him tighter, thrust harder, setting a punishing pace. Stiles could hear the slap of their skin over the sound of their panting breath. Peter's alpha side that he kept so closely guarded when out in the world beyond their bedroom door was establishing itself. What they were doing was not simply "consummating," this Stiles knew enough to be sure of. This was fucking, and the kitchen maids would squeal if they could see.

It was excruciating bliss. Stiles' throat was sore from how close he came to yelling each time Peter found a new angle to torment him with. Two more times, Peter brought Stiles close to the edge of a precipice, only to bring him back by stilling completely, waiting until the fire died down and the ache would begin to set in, then he'd start again, building it up and taking him closer every time. But always, Peter would tell him, not yet, darling, not quite yet.

He started losing awareness to the pull of the molten void. It was comfortable there, and easy to let himself drift in the tide of Peter's will. He surfaced only after Peter had already flipped them over, and he had to support the weight of his own torso again. Peter laid his head on the same pillow that Stiles had and arranged Stiles' legs to either side of him, aiming his every move so that Stiles could simply sink down onto Peter's cock without having to think.

Every inch of Stiles' skin prickled. He whimpered with each shove and drag, and his mouth fell open on a moan when the sensation spiked again. He couldn't go even a few minutes without bumping up against the brink by this time.

Distantly, as if through a gauzy sheet, he saw Peter's hand touch his knee, then felt it in a delayed reaction as the backs of Peter's fingers brushed his skin. This touch was what crippled him, rather than Peter's cock pistoning in and out of his opening. He broke, his sobs tearing out of his throat. He'd felt so painfully exposed since the moment he'd put on his wedding robe and left behind the version of himself that was son and brother and stepped into husband and lover, but that touch, casually owning and yet gentle, brought down the cage that he'd attempted to build around himself, that Peter had systematically torn to ribbons.

He folded in on himself, crossing his arms tightly over his chest and clutching his ribs with his hands. Lukewarm tears hit his forearm with a pit-patting noise. Or maybe that was sweat? He was exhausted, his thighs burning and his core strength used up. While he was moving, it was a good, clean hurt, but the longer he kept still, the more barbed his cramps became.

It didn't take long for Peter to realize that they were no longer moving together but stalled while Stiles fell to pieces. Peter sat up, gathering Stiles into his arms and shifting their position, and Stiles gasped and cried harder at the small but devastating shocks the motions sent skittering along his nerves.

"Oh, my darling," Peter said, leaning his forehead into Stiles'. He was sweating too,  breathing just as quickly Stiles was, though he sounded much more composed. His fingers glided down Stiles' back, through the sheen of perspiration that had gathered there. "I'm sorry. I've pushed too hard. You're beautiful when you strain like that, so I couldn't resist."

Stiles twitched his face away and buried it in Peter's strong shoulder instead. "Not," he mumbled, tears still leaking from his eyes.

"What?"

"I'm not--not beautiful." He never had been, and he certainly didn't feel so now, sweaty and flushed and clinging, his voice hitching like a child's after a tantrum.

Peter laughed. A dark, rumbling chuckle that plucked on the taut strings of Stiles' body and he tightened his grip, holding back a ruined wail.

"Oh, yes, pet, you are," Peter purred in his ear. "I've had omegas paraded in front of me that were objectively better looking. They had perfect tits, or long, silky hair to get lost in, or faces to start a war."

Another sob ripped out of Stiles' chest, and he wanted to sink into the ground and disappear. He didn't have any of those things. He never had, which was one of the many reasons why he'd resigned himself, happily, to a political marriage. He'd known he'd never have alphas lined up out the door to court him and offer his father money and land in exchange for him, so his best and most useful purpose was always going to be as the final signature on a merger. He'd accepted that years ago, but it didn't mean that sometimes, he didn't look at his mother's portrait and wonder what it would have been like to have the luxury to marry for love.

"Shush," Peter said, sharply, then cupped the back of Stiles' neck to soothe the shock of the rebuke. "I didn't choose any of those omegas. I chose you. And not because your realm is so very rich. It isn't, is it? Come on, Stiles, you know this." He squeezed Stiles' nape, his grip solid and encouraging, clearing Stiles' head so that he could think again.

Stiles' kingdom wasn't as large or easy to get to as others. They had plenty of good crops and clean water, but no more and no rarer than any of their neighbours'. What they did have was a vulnerable, landlocked state with a pitiful army and a shared enemy with the Hales. Stiles had wondered, tried to calculate what advantage the Hales could possibly gain from joining with them, except another ally, when they needed none. He hadn't said anything because no one listened to the omega second son, and his father had been so sure. He'd said over and over that they just needed to wear the Hales down, and they'd done it, over four years, meeting every three months until they came to an agreement. He'd never argued with his father's stony, knowing look, and he supposed he was glad because it had worked.

"You were 14 when your father first approached us. Do you remember?" Stiles nodded, letting the vibration of Peter's voice calm his hitching breath. "He's a smart man. It'll probably be a couple of years before Deucalion makes his move, even now, but he could see it coming years ago. That's the kind of foresight I like in an ally, but still, my sister wanted to visit once, then let him down gently. Better right away, so that he could look for other people to help him than string him along and leave you sitting ducks."

Stiles frowned. What Peter was saying didn't fall at all in line with what had actually happened. He fidgeted harder into Peter's neck to get away from having to make sense of the words, but tired as he was, he couldn't let the thought go. They had been strung along for years, and it had been a huge risk. Stiles had laid awake many nights, worrying, and wondering if his father had known something he didn't about the reason why the Hale kingdom would give them the time of day.

"You know, Talia brought me along as a punishment, of sorts," Peter continued. "I can't even recall, now, what wrong she thought I'd committed. Probably challenged her in public, knowing me."

Stiles' lips quivered into a wet smile against Peter's neck. That did sound like Peter, and he was surprised at himself that he recognized that, and even more surprised that he felt the glow of something like fondness for Peter's stubbornness. Peter lifted a hand to Stiles' cheek, using the pressure of his thumb to tilt Stiles' face up, unburying it. The faintest of pleased smiles tugged at Peter's mouth, then it went away as he started talking again.

"It was boring. Watching a king too good for the realm he was given try to convince us that he had more to offer than he really did. Talia almost turned on her heel the very first day. But I persuaded her to stay. Do you know why?"

Stiles knew what the answer would be, but he refused to say it out loud, because even though it was the most logical response, he wouldn't believe it was true until Peter spoke it himself. He shuddered instead of answering and attempted to hide his face again, but Peter held his jaw in his grip, keeping it in place so that he could stare down into Stiles' eyes with his own piercing blue stare.

"It was you," Peter said. "This bratty little upstart omega, who stuck his nose in where it wasn't wanted and managed to keep it there for the entirety of the first treaty proposal."

Stiles froze mid-sniffle. He remembered that day. He'd stolen a place in a chair at his father's left side by pretending to need affection, looking needy and throwing himself into his arms, playing at being frightened by the new soldiers. His father did exactly what he wanted him to, sat him down in the chair next to him and told him stiffly that he needed to be strong. Then, when he'd dried his crocodile tears, he'd simply stayed where he was, ratcheting up his fake anxiety every time someone tried to suggest that he leave since he hadn't been invited in the first place. Few alphas could say no to an omega in distress, even one they didn't like because he was too loud, too nosy, and too plain.

"You were--" Peter broke off, shaking his head, with a wide delighted smile on his face. "You were perfect. You barely knew it yourself, but I could see that you were ruthless, even then. I could have told Talia to end things right there, make an offer for you that your father would never refuse, but you were too young. I didn't want a child. I wanted a partner."

Stiles wasn't overheated anymore. He wasn't cold, either, or wracked with shivers. He felt calm and focused for the first time in what felt like hours. He couldn't have taken his eyes away from Peter's face if he'd tried, and he soaked up every word like he was dying of thirst and they were sweet water from a clear, running stream.

"It took Talia some convincing, but she agreed to draw it out. Make the negotiations last until you were old enough to be put on the bargaining table. For four years, I've watched you growing up, making yourself useful. And they never saw it." Peter's smile twisted cruelly, and Stiles felt his heart bend with it. "Your brother will be a fine ruler, I'm sure. He'll be fair and kind, and his people will love him, but the wolves will circle his door, waiting for the first bad harvest or rough winter. He'll never be feared , so he'll never be safe."

Stiles flinched away from Peter's callousness, and his belly clenched from worry that he already felt every day that Scott came closer to being named their father's official successor. Peter felt him shrink away, but didn't coddle him, or pull him close and pet the anxiety away. He pushed Stiles back, out of the safety of his embrace, just far enough that he could seize Stiles' wrists, holding them up between them in a tight grip and giving them a small but powerful shake that Stiles felt in his whole body. Stiles was jolted enough that he clenched down on Peter's cock, and moaned almost before he was finished gasping from Peter's rough handling.

Peter's eyes were bright with a slightly mad gleam, and Stiles' were drawn to them like a moth plunging to its death. "But you will be frightening," Peter growled, a demand as well as a declaration. "You're small and soft. Pretty in the right light. I've seen you charm the guard's watch schedule out of a desperate old alpha just by asking him if he was tired. People underestimate you. I will never be stupid enough to make that mistake. I can promise you that. I'm going to teach you so many things. You'll learn them well, and I'll know better than to try to keep you under my thumb, at home like a good little breeder." Peter curled his lip, but his hand spoke his desire, freeing Stiles' wrists and feeling down Stiles' sides until his thumbs were perched on jutting hipbones. "You'll be by my side, at my left hand and we will rule together, Stiles. Like we were meant to."

Standing before the priest that morning, Peter had made vows to him. They'd felt empty, meaningless and vague. Here, now, both of them as naked as they could possibly be without flaying open their skin, Stiles felt more than married. He felt joined. These vows were blood oaths, though they were clean. They were written in skin, instead of on a flimsy piece of parchment produced when the priest asked if Peter would take Stiles for the rest of their lives. Salt-sticky paths just beginning to dry were renewed again as scalding tears streamed down Stiles' face.

Peter dipped his head and kissed away one of Stiles' tears. "When Deucalion finally attacks," he said, his warm breath damp on Stiles' cheek, "we will be ready, and we will win the war for them. Then we will carve out a kingdom of our own from their ashes."

Stiles unclenched his fists, ignoring the tremors in his fingers. Tentatively, he took Peter's face between them and moved it so that he could see directly into Peter's blue eyes again.

He hadn't been able to read them, before, but he knew he could now. The artifice, the smirking, shiftless mask was gone. Instead, Stiles saw the impotent rage that built in a person when they sat at council meetings and were ignored, talked over, sent out of the room when a fuss was made. For Stiles, because he was an omega. For Peter, because he wasn't, and he was too close in age and power to Talia for her to let anyone think that he would have been the better, smarter choice, had their births been on the same day.

They were the same, Stiles thought, with a sense of wonder he hadn't felt since he'd been a child. He'd believed this whole time that he was chattel, no more or less useful than the stores of grain Stiles' father had spoken so proudly of to try and entice the Hales to an agreement. He'd believed that Peter wanted their marriage for the same reasons Stiles did: Duty. Advancement. Uniting both their kingdoms for the betterment of them both. His convictions were crumbling down around him, and instead of feeling scared, he felt alive .  

The moment Stiles leaned in and kissed him, Peter's arms tightened around him inescapably, then bore him down onto the bed, on his back, and on the pillow, like they'd started. Stiles clung on as Peter snarled and pounded into him harder than ever before. The blaze that had died down to embers flared again, roaring through him and licking up his spine.

There was no teasing this time. When Stiles arched and tensed and felt the oncoming wave, he wasn't yanked back to low tide. The ecstasy built and built, overriding any twinge of pain or exhaustion he might have felt. Digging his fingers into Peter's back, bowing up into him, Stiles reached a shimmering, keen-edged plateau, every fibre of his being drawn tightly and quivering with the need to push off into something that Stiles had never felt before. The stinging bite of the glorious edge forced another long, laboured cry.

Peter's constant, vibrating growl swelled to deafening volume at the same time as his knot expanded inside Stiles, catching on his rim until he couldn't pull out anymore. Peter's circling motions slowed to grinding, putting constant, insistent pressure on places inside of Stiles that lit him up like whiskey on a bonfire.

Stiles was pushed over the edge he'd been reaching for, and he fell, his scream rising to the rafters of their bedroom as the sensations exploded through his body. After they peaked and began to dwindle, he was conscious of Peter stilling and warmth flooding his passage, but it was nothing like the dispassionate exchange the books had told him it would be. Peter's rumbling ended with a grunt, then a lingering, reverberating hum, which shivered across Stiles' awareness.

Stiles barely flinched when the bite happened. After everything, the pain almost came around to pleasure again. The heat was the same, and the violence, and the knowledge that he wouldn't stop it even if he could. Peter didn't make Stiles bite him in return, which he was thankful for. He doubted he could have lifted his head to do it, and they had time. They had every night from now until one of them died to complete the cycle. Peter would take care of it, Stiles thought, absently. Before his heats started.

He felt Peter's tongue laving the wound, but he didn't think there was much blood to wash away. It hadn't felt like the skin had broken very much. It would bruise, with dark pockets of purple and angry red for everyone to see. It was possession, at its core, but along with it, a declaration. This one is mine, find your own. I chose him, because he is perfect. Stiles squirmed, and not just from the tickling brush of Peter's mouth. He wanted to look at it, prod the edges with his fingers to test how deep the pain went into the layers of his skin.

Peter kissed and sucked at Stiles' skin until his knot went down, widening the bite mark with constellations of smaller bruises. Stiles floated, too stimulated for sleep, but not aware enough for full consciousness, either. When Peter was satisfied with the mess he'd made of Stiles' neck, he kneeled up, slipping out of him and leaving an emptiness that threatened to pierce his cloud of aimless contentment. He must have made some sound because Peter made a shushing noise, then manhandled him so that he was held against the solid warmth of his chest, but not before extinguishing the lamp beside their bed.

With the last of his physical strength, Stiles grabbed Peter's arm from where it had been lying between them and wrapped it around his waist, so that he was surrounded by Peter. In the darkness, on top of the covers while his skin was still cooling, he didn't feel trapped. By the bedclothes or Peter's grasp, or what was expected of him when they left this room in the morning. He felt treasured.

When Peter's breath slowed, and his body was a warm weight half on top of him, Stiles drew increasing circles on the back of Peter's hand with his fingers. He wanted to join Peter in sleep, but his mind was still busy. Everything Peter had said revolved and reiterated in front of his eyes, painting pictures of what their life might look like if Peter did what he set out to do.

He'd never given any real thought to what it might be like to rule a realm, even from beside the throne. Since he was old enough to know that not everyone lived as he did, in a castle, with servants, and a father who was often absent to deal with problems his citizens had, he'd known that there was no real use in dreaming. He was an omega, and he'd never be more than a second son, perfect for an advantageous match to another second son.

Peter wouldn't settle any longer for being second. Stiles had tasted the anger on Peter's tongue, and it burned going down his throat to his own belly, but now it wouldn't leave.

There was a candle on the other side of the bedroom that they hadn't put out. It was nearly at the end of its life, flickering against the stone wall, weak and small as it blazed valiantly in its last moments. Stiles watched it, Peter's dangerous, frightening words still whirling, but starting to settle, writing themselves on Stiles' bones in a mark as indelible as the bite on his neck.

Stiles took Peter's wrist in his hand and wrapped Peter's arm tighter around himself, tight enough to hurt when Peter, still sleeping, crushed him so close that Stiles felt like they could become one. As the little flame snuffed itself out in its own wax, another fire kindled.

Stiles smiled as he eased into sleep.

A kingdom of their own from the ashes.